Today is a special day for me. You know how some random dates stick with you? October 26 is an important one for me because my life changed drastically, never to be the same again.
23 years ago, my parents packed a gazillion bags, identifying them with cow tags (Texas through and through), dressed us all in matching turquoise sweaters (the girls anyway), ate our last American hotdog at the DFW airport, and loaded our family onto a plane for a new chapter in our life.
A really big chapter.
A chapter that took this girl who had lived in small-town Texas her entire life, all ten years of it, and moved her to Portugal for the language-learning phase of life that would then take them to live in a war-torn country in Africa. And we were so excited.
Excited in a way that glosses over all of the hard realities of what would come because if we were ever aware of all the future hard realities, we would never step out and DO anything. I’m so proud of my parents for stepping out boldly and taking our family on this adventure.
On this day, 9 years ago, Josh and I loaded up our infant son and our dog and a gazillion bags and a pack ’n play and a stroller and a carseat and headed to the DFW airport. Not sure if we ate a hotdog. I had too many butterflies in my stomach. This time, it was OUR turn. No longer the carefree 10-year old. Now we were taking our little family on an adventure, to move to Kenya to begin working with the same ministry that Josh’s grandfather had started 37 years previously.
Why would anyone undertake such a huge move, uprooting their entire family from a house, a community, friends, a church, a familiar language, a way of life… I could go on. Is it for the adventure? A sense of moral obligation to help the world? A holy desire to a missionary saint?
Not for us.
My parents have a story of worldly success turned into horrific personal tragedy turned into “nothing but the saving grace of God” which was more than enough. Material possessions had never satisfied, and then losing their young son led them to the rock-bottom of a pit of misery. But surrendering their life to Jesus gave them more joy and fulfillment than anything they had ever experienced, which means something in this world of “more is better.” He began the healing process for them, even in the face of such loss. For them, they wanted no more than the unsurpassable peace of knowing Jesus, and they wanted to share that with people who had never had the chance of hearing such Good News. It just so happened to lead them to Africa.
That’s a pretty amazing story.
I’m so thankful that they lived their life in such a way that I would know that NOTHING is as important as Jesus, and that I would know NO peace outside of being exactly where He wanted us to be. I’m so thankful that He brought Josh into my life, who shared a passion for the Kenyan people and being a part of the work that is sharing the Good News with all people here on the Coast.
At times I have struggled with wondering what life would be like if we lived back “home” and had a normal life like our peers. If I could have a nice clean house where soot and rust and dust did not destroy and power rarely goes out and Target can meet all my needs. I have wondered what it would be like to to have so many community options of Christian fellowship in my own home town, both for ourselves and for our children. I have wondered what it would be like to never worry about a shortage of friends for my children, not having anybody around to celebrate their birthdays.
At times I do wonder.
But I’m thankful. Some days I have to work a little harder to be thankful, ‘cause I am no saint. Far from it. My friend inspired me to start a thankful journal. Counting my blessings. Focusing on the good and special and fulfilled promises of God and the abundant blessings as well as the faithfulness of our God to carry us through the challenges.
I’m thankful for eyes that have seen the beauty and the tragedy in the world around us, that have seen abundant riches and extreme poverty, and yet, THROUGH IT ALL, that the joy of Jesus can reach into the hearts of anyone, and give them joy, regardless of ethnicity or material possessions or past. Because Jesus gives hope for a future.
I’m thankful for opportunities to live outside of our self-sufficiency, and fully in the promises of God’s provision because He always provides. I’m thankful that I can’t do it all and that He can. I’m thankful for the relationships we have made because He created us to need each other, and that the times we have depended on each other for our very life have forged deep bonds that cannot be broken by the vast distances of the ocean.
I’m thankful for our experiences that would never happen if we didn’t live in this part of the world. From the extreme amazingness of going on animal safaris to the simple joys of dancing in the rain and catching termites. And frying them up and eating them. From the amazing times in the ocean, watching dolphins spin in the air to the simple joys of catching sea creatures in the tide pools.
I’m thankful for friends of all colors and histories and languages and cultures. I’m thankful for the diversity I face and the things I can learn, and the humility I experience because sometimes I’m just a learner. And sometimes I get to be a teacher, and I love those times because I cherish this life I have and the peace I have in my heart, and I love that others can see that and ask me questions. I love getting to be a light. And light shines bright where it is dark. And I know that where it is dark is uncomfortable, and sometimes I don’t want to go there. But I’m thankful that I’m never alone. I’ve never been forsaken, even to the ends of the earth.
Today I’m thankful for October 26 and that my parents and my husband and I all have trusted this verse, Matthew 28:19-20— “Therefore, go and make disciples (followers of Jesus) of all the nations…. And be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth…”
(airplane photo courtesy of gbaa.org)
(cow tag photo courtesy of enasco.com)