I wrote this one week ago while flying home from my grandma’s funeral. I feel like there is so much I should share – the Dorrell family (our friends from the U.S.) did an incredible job of ministering to each Watoto village while I was away. I flew back to Uganda with Pastor Carter and Nancee, and we just spent a wonderful week enjoying their company. Each of these events deserves its own blog post, but I will begin here and hopefully catch up later.
I’m about 30,000 ft. over the Sahara Desert right now- 5,000 miles from one home and still 2,000 miles from my other home. I’m contemplating, as I often do, what that means – for my heart to live in two places. And I’m trying to process this very demanding, difficult, yet wonderful week that I just had.
I start by remembering the week of July 4th, 2010. Thomas was at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota on a mission trip with our teens, so the kids and I had gone to spend a few days with my Mimi and Pappy in Loretto, TN. It was a great week. We shucked (and ate) lots of corn from Mimi’s garden, played board games, had a cookout at my uncle’s house. Reynah was only 4 mo. old, so Mimi loved cuddling her and singing to her every chance she got!
One night that week I stayed up late after everyone had gone to bed. I sat at my grandparents’ kitchen table and wrote my second post of this blog (this one) where I “announced” we were moving to Uganda. That blog remained unpublished for 4 more months though, because I couldn’t really announce it yet. So, that week with Mimi and Pappy was great but also hard. They didn’t know it, but I understood very well the significance of that time with them. I was soaking up every precious moment, and already grieving at the same time. I was grieving that I wouldn’t be able to share my children with them and they couldn’t share with me this last season of their lives. I was “counting the cost” of moving to another continent - and this specific cost was tallying up to be one of the greatest. Of course, I’ve been able to see them since then, but the visits have been few and brief. And every time I’ve hugged them goodbye, my stomach has knotted in fear that it would be my last time.
Eleven days ago my fear was confirmed. We had all just recently found out that Mimi had cancer. Before anyone could expect it, she was in ICU with only quantifiable hours left to live. She passed into eternity last Sunday. That weekend before she died, I was more torn than I’ve ever been since moving to Uganda, trying to decide/justify whether or not I should go home. I won’t explain all the reasons of how and why I decided to come home. And, as much as I’d like to, I’m not going to make this post a tribute to Mimi and what she means to me. I can’t unpack all that from my heart in such a public place. That would just be a mess.
But I do want to share some beautiful moments that God has handed to me -like gifts- in the last few days. The first one has a bit of background information to it, so stick with me. It is very cool. Back in March of this year, Watoto Choir #59 visited my parents’ church. My mom had told me that she gave one of the Uncles (a leader of the choir) something small to take back to Uganda to give to me. I never knew what it was, and I didn’t really have much confidence I would ever see it. The choir returned in July, but I had not seen this uncle yet. On Friday a week ago (2 days before Mimi died and the day after I found out that she was going to), I was in Kampala about to teach my English class for Living Hope. I was trying to stay focused on my responsibilities…but a dam of tears seemed ready to burst at any moment. My constant thought was – I wish I could just hug my family. “Uncle” Michael walked into the room as class was beginning. He called me over and said, “I’ve been meaning to give you this.” He handed me a small ziplock bag with a white handkerchief inside. I could smell my Daddy’s cologne before I even opened the bag. It was just the handkerchief (with cologne) and a tiny note from mom that read, “I thought this might be the next best thing to getting a hug from your Daddy.” I felt so overwhelmed with affection from my family. But, mostly, in that moment, I felt overwhelming affection from God. I knew that HE knew 7 months ago that I would need to know He was near me on this particular September day.
My other moment came two days later when I was sitting in the Brussels airport waiting for my flight to Newark. I had thought I would enjoy traveling solo without the kids to look after. But in that cold, lonely airport, I decided that chasing after them would have been a welcome distraction. It is a weird feeling of suspension to suddenly be in a different time zone and space with no one to talk to. I didn’t even know if Mimi was still alive or not. So in that moment, I began thinking about my dear friend Beth, who does missions work with her family on the island of Saipan in Asia Pacific. I was empathizing with how very painful it was for her to travel home alone to the US last year - and how she was sitting all by herself in an airport in Hawaii when she found out her mother had passed. I decided I wanted to pay the money to connect to the internet just so I could send her a msg and tell her that I now understood a bit better. Before I could even begin to write a single line, a message from her popped up - “are u there??” How amazing is God that He reconciled the time between Europe and Asia so that we could chat for just 10 min! I knew that He knew I needed a friend right then.
There were so many other beautiful moments in the following week that comforted me in ways I wouldn’t have expected – picking some of the remaining vegetables in Mimi’s garden and making a bouquet of her last flowers; reading her Bible; drinking coffee with Daddy and Pappy before sunrise; walking late at night with my sister and cousin and reminiscing in the dark.
I was able to spend a day and a half in Jackson, TN and attend Missions Sunday service at my home church. This was always my favorite Sunday on the church calendar. I knew it was pure, undeniable Providence that I could be there on that day. Then, the most unexpected blessing of all came through the different individuals who placed money in my hand at different times… enough money to cover ALL my expenses of a last min. plane ticket! I am still just overwhelmed by this. I don’t deserve such favor and extravagant generosity.
So, I am quite a package of emotions. In fact, the old guy across from me looks slightly disturbed that I keep wiping my eyes and sniffling. I have a heart that is grieving … but that is also very full. God has been reminding me in some very tangible ways that He loves me. He knows how to give peace when I face things I fear. But I think the most comforting thought of all is this…
I now know that He knew.
When I was “counting the cost” three summers ago, He was counting too. There is always a price to obedience. Sometimes I act like God is ignorant or indifferent to that, but He isn’t. He knows. He sees. When I compare my “price” to the price others pay, it seems so inconsequential. Why should God notice or be impressed? But it’s not about comparing or impressing, is it? We are each on a uniquely personal journey, learning to let God be our only reward. And right now, I am so glad to know that He is taking every step of this journey with me. And that He's writing in every thoughtful detail of our story.