What leaving feels like

I leave tomorrow. I’m excited and almost ready. But right now, Spain seems far away. Maybe life as it is now will go on forever: me almost leaving, a surgery here, a new job there, a new baby a state or two or three away.

To not be part of this ever-changing cycle at home is unfathomable. And when I do fathom, I burst into tears. My nostalgia remembers the days, weeks, and maybe even months that used to pass dry-eyed.

The other evening, I stretched out on the carpet with my head next to Clark’s. I stared into his bright face and could not cherish the moment. Neither could I reject the moment to protect my heart. The moment just was and I watched it pass.

Later as my nephews were leaving, Albert got zipped up in his too-big, puffy coat. Soon he will fill up that coat and I will not be here to see him do it.

I made gingerbread cookies. My sister made coffee. We hung out with Christmas music. And at night when I crawled into my own little bed, all I could do was cling to the ghosts of those memories and cry my tears of regret that I hadn’t experienced them more fully. Or sealed off my heart from loving.

And I cried out, “Oh God, why do I have to follow You?” There was no answer. I knew, and He knew that I knew. There was no warm, fuzzy peace either. Just a calm that felt more like resignation as I braced myself for more goodbyes.

I hope tomorrow things will look different. But this is what leaving looks like today.

Every nation, tribe, and tongue

When I heard that a nearby university was hosting a Christmas carol festival, I didn’t need any other motivation to jump in a taxi and go. After all, North Africa isn’t the easiest place to celebrate Christmas. There are no Salvation Army bell ringers, no Christmas flyers or billboards announcing unbeatable sales, no Christmas lights, no store aisles filled with Christmas candy, hardly any Christmas shopping at all.

You may write off those things as obnoxious, an assault to your everyday life. But for me, those little things help remind me of God’s greatest Gift to mankind. This year I don’t have those reminders, and it’s hard to fully enjoy the season.

But now, in this university auditorium, I could overlook the giant poster of the country’s king on the wall and remember the coming of another King.

There were beautiful classic carols, contemporary carols, worship songs, gospel songs, touches of opera, and Bible readings. Children and adults took turns on stage, representing the evangelical churches of the country.

Some songs filled the auditorium with life, eliciting applause and cheers. In the wake of one particularly lively group, a Spanish monk walked up to the podium and read the Christmas story. The irony of the moment was stifled by the beauty of it.

Is this what heaven will be like?

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

(Rev. 7:9-10)

Worship isn’t uniformity, but it is unifying. The variation of style, genre, and the mix of at least eleven languages was remarkable…but inconsequential. We were there to celebrate the birth of the Savior. 

30

Turning thirty is means that I have a fair amount of life under my belt. Instead of being sad that I am leaving the 20s behind, I’m pondering the things I would like to do during my 31st year. You might call it a bucket list. You might not.

  • See more parts of this North African country
  • Finish language and culture study (well, the official stage anyway)
  • Learn how to cook North African food
  • Spend lots of time with family
  • Meet my nephew and make him fall as in love with me as I am with him
  • Renew friendships and relationships at home
  • Gather the required paperwork for my Spanish residence visa
  • Daily recognize my reliance upon One who loves me completely

Judging the radical

There is someone I regularly pass judgment upon. I try not to. But he has a way of deflating my perceived piety because whenever I am around him, I feel myself judging him. He just doesn’t fit into my spiritual box.

Nearly every time I see him, God teaches me the same lesson: “Stop judging, my child.” And I am convicted once again.

Spirituality isn’t confined to what I think it should look like. And when I’m not so busy being full of myself and how I am doing spirituality perfectly, then I see how God displays His attributes differently in different people. So how can I put His personality in a box?

And I think of the people in the Bible who more focused on God than on themselves. They had to do some pretty radical things: leading an entire people group out of slavery, taking messages of judgment to God’s people, marrying a prostitute, living a wild desert life, and giving up normality to have a child out of wedlock…a child conceived by the Holy Spirit.

So how can I say that I know what a relationship with God looks like for every person? He doesn’t give us all of the same callings or the same gifts. And I am thankful that not everyone is as closed-minded as I am about following God radically.

We interrupt programming…

…to bring you some special news. Yesterday, on the other side of the Atlantic, a little boy was born.

Long before he was born, he had staked his claim on our hearts. We interceded for his life and his future as we prepared for him to counterbalance our adult world with the innocent perspective of a child. In anticipating a fresh, unsoiled life, it was easy to see how jaded we had let the world make us.

I started to look for baby things as soon as I heard he was coming. I could picture him snuggled in sleeper pants, sucking his thumb and hugging his stuffed Pooh bear. I could see him flipping through books, absorbing pictures and words in his brilliant little brain.

Now he is here and he has made me an aunt. Welcome to our world, Albert Harris!

Refugee

Specially selected Friend,
Can you find a way to live?
To take advantage of every day
and be the first to make a home
inspired by your history?
To dare to dream of beauty?
To save your child- your perfect baby-
and to offer the gift of security?
Can you manage
to live better next year?
And is there a way to forget
this black adventure?

This is a work of appropriation (the art of intentionally altering or borrowing words from a pre-existing source). Pre-existing source: a department store’s Black Friday website page.


Photo by Julie Ricard on Unsplash

No longer practical or safe

I needed guidance so I asked for a sign. He showed me Gideon’s life: how a normal man became radically obedient to God and consequently did things that didn’t make sense. Neither would my life make sense, He said.

Then He took me through the woods to a clearing overlooking the water. The sweet musk of rotting wood and damp leaves pervaded the quiet space. There He told me that in staying safe, I would miss a deeper relationship with Him.

I came home, burdened with thought. Isn’t it natural to want to be practical? After all, God gave us brains with the intention that we use them.

Gideon’s army was about 1/6 of the Midianite army; using every available man would have been the only practical thing to do outside of waving a flag of surrender. Yet God said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me'” (Judges 7:2). Like the children of Israel, am I boasting my own strength? Dare I weed out my self-sufficiency to see that it is not I who prevails but He who is within me?

And as for safety, it’s second from the bottom in the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Humans need to feel safe even before love, esteem, and self-actualization. Of course, I’m not acknowledging Abraham Maslow as the expert on all things psychological; however, his study reveals the human desire for safety. We rarely put ourselves in danger’s way unless we somehow feel in control. To always be safe is like the fetus who never exits the mother’s womb. Never will he grow and mature into a child, teenager, adult. Never will he taste life’s richness unless he becomes unsafe. Am I ready to face the world outside of the womb?