Tonight, as I was rocking Micah to sleep, this was playing on the radio:
Amazing love, how can it be – that you my God should die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true – and it’s my joy to honor you –
In all I do, I honor you.
I am overcome by the consistency of God’s grace, love and parenting of Pete and I over the past decade +. It’s been 15 years since I left South Africa and 12 years since Peter and I first met in Washington, DC as idealistic students sure they would change the world. And since then we have been given amazing opportunities to experience so many corners of God’s beautiful, dynamic world, so many people, and places and languages. And while at times the experiences were painful or challenging, and when often we felt homesick or lost, we were always rooted in the Amazing Love of a Father who is at home everywhere, who understands the cultures we oftentimes could not and who doesn’t think only in English, but is fluent in Russian, Zulu, Arabic and Afrikaans.
Only now, as parents ourselves, have we understood the courage it must have required for our own parents to wish us bon voyage time and time again; to be left behind as our PO Box; and to try to relate to our experiences second-hand through faulty phone lines and mail lags. But God provided surrogate families wherever we traveled – we were welcomed by the Purifoys and South Side Vineyard Church in Chicago, we were adopted by the missionary families Wright and Skinner while in Ukraine and walked through the all important transliteration of ordering pizza in Russian; we were mothered and loved by the Skjaerlunds and Armstrongs and Rileys in Owosso and have always had my brothers Josh and Luke looking out for our travel plans and Pete’s sister Kim providing pediatric advice from a distance and his brother, Christiaan offering sports updates no matter where we were located or how long since Pete had actually watched a football/basketball game or ice-skating tournament (oh wait, that must’ve been me!)
And the beauty and ache of travel is that no matter where you are – you can no longer be completely at home anywhere. There is always a part of you that lives on in the country you left and with the friends that remained behind. There is a constant, gnawing ache of homesickness that never quite quits. People you think you recognize in the train station turn out to be strangers because it’s the wrong country for that old friend to turn up in. And every new season, city or smell easily reminds you of somewhere else and the wave of longing to return, to be re-united and to re-live those memories can take your breath away.
My father first said it when I was a homesick sophomore – consider yourself blessed! Blessed to live out in real time the sense of displacement, of not belonging that vies with the desperate longing for home that is never quite satisfied. Consider yourself blessed to have this literal taste of how Christ calls us to view our time on earth – strangers in a strange land. Pilgrims. Gypsies. Passing through. IN (oh yes, each friendship, each journey, each homecoming is a deep and profound connection IN the time we have been given here) but NOT OF (no, not of the rift between humanities caused by apartheid, not of the horror of human trafficking, not of the disease of cancer or aids or addictions). In the world but not of it. Homesick. But surrounded by Amazing Love on the journey home.
Pete’s grandma and grandpa Hamilton pray for us at 7:15 am each and every morning. Because they know that’s when we are trying to get both our boys out the door, off to daycare and ourselves to work on time. When we are at our most vulnerable and homesick for the days when I used to be able to stay home with the boys full time – they are interceding for us. If that isn’t a testament to the Lord’s Amazing Love on the journey, I don’t know what is!
Thank-you Grandpa and Grandma! Thank-you Bakers and Rouses for surrounding us with your unfailing, undaunted-by-the-distance love and support and encouragement. Thank-you to our culture criss-crossing circle of friends. Thank-you to all who have joined us on the journey that seems to have come full circle in so many ways. Thank-you for being with us both