I had the title for this blog before I wrote anything. Stir-crazy came to mind because I am living on a compound of expats in Africa and it’s a lot like living in a small town in winter; there’s not too many places to go. Also, what I like to do with lots of down time are two things: write and cook. I am aware of grace so often in my life and that’s what I thought I’d write about, and I thought I might sometimes publish some cooking fun — recipes and photos — too.

I get stir-crazy, not because I can’t go out. It is just very difficult, time consuming and exhausting to go out. In general, life can be frustrating, horrifying, mind-boggling and mind numbing around here. So, while it’s safe to go out, a 6 mile trip to the school can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more. The day I discovered that the drive to school was only 6 miles, was a day it took 2 hours to get there! I was shocked to learn that this difficult, pot-hole filled experience was a mere 6 miles in length!

On another level, going out is often emotionally draining. You might see a schizophrenic walking around naked on the side of the road; you might see a dead body; you might witness a fatal car accident or a gang administering a punishing beating to a thief.

That’s one kind of “stir crazy”. Living with a limited population; a slightly larger population at school; limited number of shops for groceries and household items, and few places to stop in for a coffee. Added to this type of stir crazy is that it might take several trips to get what I need. I liken the experience of living in Lagos to my early adaptation to having my first child: while I now had all the time in the world at my disposal because I was not having to show up in an office at 8 am, and I thought I should be able to get so much done, the reality was quite different. I was doing well if I only got one thing done in a day. That is how it is here. I have to measure my success in the baby steps — if I have moved some project or task one step further towards completion, I pat myself on the back.

The other way in which “stir crazy” fits is that while I have always enjoyed cooking and, especially, baking, I have really had time for it here. To deal with location stir-craziness, I have taken up stirring like crazy! I have learned a lot about bread and pizza dough, all kinds of baked goods, can make my own tortillas, some of the best cinnamon rolls, New Orleans King Cake and Doberge cake, and ricotta cheese — have yet to try mozzarella. Turns out I am “stir crazy” in general; I love to whip up something in the kitchen.

Now we get to grace, or is Grace, more apt? Through being here in Nigeria, I have been deeply touched by grace. What I mean by grace is blessings, unasked for gifts. When I am aware of them, they always touch me deeply and contribute to my faith in a Higher Power that I do not understand, but that seems to invite me ever gently, and ever more deeply into a trusting relationship of deep acceptance of myself as I am and of the goodness and ….. love… that surrounds me, even in the midst of evil.

I like Scott Peck’s characterization of grace as related by a Southern waitress: Grace is like grits on a southern breakfast menu; it just comes. Grace has “just come” into my life on so many occasions that I could not begin to recount them. And this is no less true on this compound in Nigeria, a place I have felt I was in exile, a place I have wondered whether was God-forsaken, a place where I have dealt with fraud, theft, lying, and a potentially deadly threat against my child. I have been miserable here, and I have been happy here. And through it all, and even in the midst of the worst that I have experienced here — and some of what I have experienced here has stretched my faith and maturity as far as it has ever been stretched — I find that I have been blessed most mightily here. Grace has come, and has stayed, here in this place.

Grace can and does “come” anywhere — the most amazing experiences for me are those moments of Grace that touch me when it seems that what is happening must be so far from God that I have entered into hell. And there, I have found gifts, comfort, grace. It seems the farther I go, the more clearly Grace shows itself.

Stir Crazy Grace — a log of daily graces that I find here in frustrating, sometimes horrifying, mind-boggling, mind-numbing Lagos.