Sunday, July 6, 2014

Community - Grow Where You're Planted

I think it was the assortment of dainty delicacies on my plate – small, triangle-shaped sandwiches; pesto, crackers, and cheese; chocolate chip cookies.  Maybe it was the lovely home that smelled good and looked pretty and that had a yard with a swing set.  A swing set!  I could almost imagine I was sitting just down the street from our old address, 154 Clement Dr.  Actually, though, I’m fairly certain it was the circle of women that I was sitting among.  They were all white like me, foreigners like me.  It occurred to me that it had been a long time since I had been surrounded by so many white women!  Really, they were the main reason I felt a catch in my throat.

We had all gathered on that afternoon in Kampala a few weeks ago to celebrate a new, precious, little life.  I had not been to a baby or bridal shower since before we moved here 3 yrs. ago.  As a pastor’s wife, there were times I belly-ached about having to go to showers out of obligation, but the truth is that I really do enjoy them.  They are part of the rituals of womanhood in my culture.  I love them because, even if you aren’t a bride or a new mother, you can still enter into the joy of it and feel that bond of sisterhood pull around you a little tighter.  

So, I was delighted to be there… and I was over-the-moon to be eating chocolate chip cookies!  I was thrilled to celebrate with my dear friend who is now a mommy and excited to make new friends.  Still, I couldn’t help it.  As we went around the circle and shared Scriptures and prayers, I couldn’t help but remember another circle I used to sit among – a circle of different faces and different accents. 

And how many times we had sat in a circle together - not just for the special, grand occasions, but for the simple, sweet occasions of just doing life together.  For the occasion of an impromptu play-date at the park with our toddlers running between our legs.  For the occasion of our thoughtful husbands putting the kids to bed so we could go eat late-night dessert at our favorite restaurant.   For the occasion of meeting in each others homes to pray together, to share funny stories about life, to carry a burden too big for just one.  I let myself feel the ache of missing.  And knowing.  I know we can never really re-create that community we shared when our babies were actually babies.  We’re too scattered now – to the West Coast, to Norway, to Saipan, to Uganda.  

My community has changed a lot.  It was hard at first to get used to my new Ugandan community.  They would often laugh about things that I didn't find funny.   They always seemed to come by my house unannounced while I was still in my pajamas and our dirty dishes were scattered everywhere.  How embarrassing!  They asked to borrow our stuff, and always expected us to give them rides in our vehicle.  They kept giving my kids “sweets” to eat without asking me, and took it upon themselves to make sure my kids were playing properly.  And they were just always around!  The American in me has had a hard time giving up her “personal space” – such a completely non-existent concept in an African community.  

But my new community has grown on me. 

Or, rather, I have grown into my community. 

My fragile, exposed roots finally began to seek a new home.  I became attached.  I became convinced that my family would not just survive but that we would thrive here.  I have learned to appreciate this community and the beauty of what it offers.  

For example, how life here spills out of the home and into the open-air sunshine.  Ugandans come out their front door to wash and dry laundry, make tea over their charcoal stove, peel potatoes, bath their babies, wait for a friend to pass by and chat.  They have taught me that the deepest form of hospitality isn’t about presenting a clean home and a perfectly prepared meal right on time.  True hospitality is inviting someone into the mess, into the undone.  I’ve learned that the most considerate neighbor is the one who comes by uninvited (because they’ve heard I’ve been sick), so they can make me some fresh juice and mop my floor.  I have been challenged to rethink my system of entitlement – that he with the greatest need feels entitled, not he with the most possessions.  

"If you want to travel fast, travel alone.  If you want to travel far, travel together." ~ an African proverb

I don’t know when, but I know that someday I will transplant my roots yet again.  And I know that in time I will sit among a circle and unexpectedly experience longing - for this place and these beautiful faces.  I’m sure someday I would gladly trade a privacy fence to again have my well-trafficked veranda with its million-dollar view.  I would give up dryer sheets to have sun-dried laundry that perpetually smells like brush fire.  I would probably give up anything to stand in a circle with my Ugandan family and worship acapella once more. 

Whenever that someday comes, I hope I have no regrets of wishing that I had lived deeper here.  Living in the present is admittedly not one of my strengths.  I’m much better at being nostalgic about yesterday while daydreaming about tomorrow.  But I’ve felt challenged lately to fully embrace what is around me.  As long as this red soil is under my feet I want to take in all that it has to offer me.  I pray to not become indifferent to the privilege we have of calling this place home. 

I want to grow where I am planted now.  Not where I was or where I will be.  

I can't entirely say why I've been carrying this theme with me so much lately... BUT -I'm sure some of it has to do with the fact that we were recently able to buy tickets to come home for a visit!  We've started the countdown.  We land in the US on Sept. 5 and will spend 3 whole months home this time!!  Can you tell I'm excited?  It will be two years at that point since we've been home, so we are all definitely ready for a visit.  Thoughts of all the friends and family that we will soon re-connect with are never far from my mind.  (As well as thoughts all the yummy food we will soon over-indulge on!)  So, perhaps I'm just encouraging myself to stay focused.  And, if I may encourage you along with me - to be content.  In whatever space or season you are finding yourself today, may we truly live where God has placed us.

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