It was a cool, quiet evening. My belly full of delicious injera and all types of lentils. My heart being filled with sweet words from friends. I was recalling the kindness I have experienced, that has not let up, in spite of my silly defiance. I was packing my bags full of gifts for the ones I love. I couldn’t sleep. I was excited, repentant, grateful, and looking at a video of a little boy jumping into his daddy’s arms over and over.
The hours turned to morning, and my sweet friend, Jen, and I met at the airport to make our way home. I was blessed with conversation I will cherish, and evening of laughter, delirium, great food, and prayer in London. No sleep.
Soon enough, I was home, for the first time in a year. Fire up the grill, sisters and brothers laughing, friends frisbee-ing, blueberries, cut a twelve inch ponytail off my head, nice long trail runs along the lake, and lightning bugs.
I had some precious Daddy time, which, even at twenty-four is not lost on me. Dad was finally introduced to my boyfriend, Menchie. Unfortunately, later, Jess explained to me that Menchie is a girl.
I had a four hour drive to Omari and Jess’ new home in Atlanta. We ate, listened to each others’ stories, explored, and ate some more. Glory. After another longer drive, I found myself in the sunshine state, giggling with Tampa family, going for bike rides to drink horchata, rowing the river Hillsborough, eating tacos from a bus, playing with some of the cutest babies ever, sharing with the most incredible high school-now-college friends, and enjoying the Bayshore. I also got to share in the delight that is… Legoland! (Which I highly recommend, whether or not you have kids.) Whole cities made out of Legos, people! A Lego safari- yes, giraffes and elephants made ENTIRELY from Legos! There are even roller coasters, which, as I was informed later, are kiddie coasters, but you TOTALLY can’t tell. End endorsement for Legoland…pure delight.
My time in Florida culminated with some quick visits with the Price family. The little time we had was filled with catching up, remembering my Aunt Wendy, real talk, and (surprise, surprise!) good food. So thankful for family.
After a quick adventure in Chicago, and a not-so-quick plane ride, I got to hug my dear friend, Niamh, and spend a week in Ireland with her family. A week before I moved to Dar, Niamh’s amazing Dad, Joe, passed away suddenly. It was an honor to spend time withtheir family, hear stories, share joy and pain. We also got to frolick through castles, jump on trampolines, and I had the distinct pleasure of a week of straight sleepovers with one of my best friends.
Back in Nashville, I got to enjoy simple rest, late night conversations with my Mama, early morning conversations with my Dad, delicious green spinach salads, precious time with girlfriends, a surprise visit from sister-girls!, glowstick frisbee, sharing stories from the past year with various people, including the congregation I grew up in, loving on our friends without homes via Peoplelovingnashville, and Mat Kearney with the windows down and sunroof open. It’s the little things.
But soon enough, Jess and I found ourselves running around Target with a cart full of crayons, stickers, and other random things I know the sweet babes at Kurasini will enjoy. I caught Andrew praying a prayer thanking God for our time together and asking Him to keep me safe, and keep working. This time was enjoyed so SO quickly. I remembered myself in a similar position a year ago, except I had no idea what was ahead…
I just thought I was giving up everything- my loving family, sweet relationships/friendships, a job with the most marvelous kids around, coaching a nationally competitive team of incredible high school girls, community, comfort…the list goes on.
Pause here. Because on top of the giving up, there has been intense loss. Do you remember Daddy O’Toole, Grandma, Aunt Wendy, Baby Monica, or Baby Christian? It’s hard to forget an evening in which sweet Mary was medevac-ed to South Africa, and I skyped my family looking like a monster. There are butterflies here, and ice cream is available, but the power still goes off unexpectedly, and there are still centipede friends who come to visit me when I’m brushing my teeth.
But oh, what I’ve gained. Family who love well from ten thousand miles away, and friends who are going to Him on my behalf daily. New family who invite, inspire, and encourage. A job in which I am constantly being stretched, learning, and growing. Friendships with sweet Gifti and the Sala Sala kids, laughter (or lessons on patience) when things don’t go as we expect they should, middle and high school friends who are relentless in a game of four square or football. Conversations with deadly bugs. A compassion and passion for the fatherless and forgotten. Sunday afternoons with kids who can’t wait to hear the words “Nukupenda sana”, “I love you so much”, roll off the lips of those who can’t wait to see their beautiful faces.
This is just the start of it. The funny thing is, when I think I’ve given it all to my King, He, in this amazing way, gives me more than I could ever imagine possible. It’s not like He hasn’t done this before… why don’t I expect it? And so I pack my bags, and remind myself to expect His goodness. Already I am experiencing more loss, as a woman who held me as a baby and made sure I new I was “magnificent” has been told she has only months left on this earth, and as I read a message from Erin, letting me know that wonderful Ame, our friend with very special needs at Kurasini, has gone home to be with Jesus. I know the same is true of a very sweet and special student from HOPAC. I miss my family and friends. I wonder why three homes are all so far. At all this (and the delirium) I sob for a while, ask Him what’s up, and then He reminds me that He is good. Even when so much is in question, and so much looks uncertain, His goodness is tried and true. Unfailing.
It is a cool, windy evening, and I am looking out, once again, onto the Indian Ocean. Ah, hello conversations in Swahili, stand still traffic for no reason, East African sunrise … I am once again delirious, excited, repentant, grateful… I am watching a video over and over again of a boy, bound to a wheelchair, being fed ice cream. He is now dancing with Jesus. A large tribe of children, their parents, a new friend, and I have already gone to work, painting the fingers and toes of every child in Kurasini (yes, boys included… :)), blowing bubbles, and giggling. I have already been the joyful recipient of late night heart to hearts, loads of laughter, and windy bajaj rides…
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever. (psalm 107)
**For my praying friends, as a new school year begins, please pray for the family of Mekdes, a HOPAC student who passed away this summer, and for Ame’s friends and the workers at Kurasini. Please pray for me as I begin teaching Art and P.E. full time. Please pray for the ministry of YoungLife and the hearts of teenagers in Tanzania.
And thank you, for the great work you’ve been doing in prayer the past year! Your work is invaluable, and is not forgotten…