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Shattered Dreams

Even a month ago, I would never have dreamed that I would be sitting at my parents’ kitchen table and sleeping in my old high school bedroom. But here I am. One decision and one long plane ride robbed it all away from me. The first time I visited Ethiopia I knew our family would one day live there. The past two years have been a dream come true. It was the very best time of my life, and it was the life that I had never known that I had always wanted. It wasn’t glamorous, and there were hardships unspeakable, but it was everything that our family needed, and it was filled with immense joy, contentment, and such abundant living.

Now, here I sit, in my childhood home 7000 miles away from that life, looking out the window at the trees that line the back yard. The leaves on the trees that were so vibrant just a short moment ago have now dulled and are falling to their death. And I can relate. Satan is right here whispering insults and slick lies that speak of failure and a wasted two years and ‘what will people think?’ and children that will grow bitter and a mama that may never recover from this heart ache. Perhaps I have a flair for the melodramatic, but the truth is that I feel everything so, so deeply, and this I am feeling to my core. We certainly did not sell our home and everything that we owned three years ago with the thought of living in Ethiopia for such an extremely short amount of time. We definitely did not prepare for martial law, or situations that jeopardized the safety of our children, or for such life-changing decisions to make. Our dreams were long-term and wide, and they did not encompass a sudden move back to the states. While the ministry continues, and I firmly believe will flourish, and our tiny seed of a dream will come to fruition, it is not going to happen the way we wanted it to happen. And that is awful. It hurts.

But I am proud of the team we left behind in Ethiopia, local men and women who have the same dream and passion as we have, and who work to accomplish that dream. I know this was never really about us. I know, despite Satan’s whisperings, that this is one thing that we did right. I am thankful for that.

“He [the missionary] can live his live amongst his people and deal with them as though he would have no successor. He should remember that he is the least permanent element in the [ministry].He may fall sick and go home, or he may die, or he may be called elsewhere. He disappears,the [ministry] remains.The native Christians are the permanent element.” Roland Allen

I am trying to lean into God and His plans. I am trying to get on board. I find momentary delight in things like finding a home, only to feel sudden guilt for being excited about a fireplace and large back yard and dreams of decorating a house. Should I feel excited? Is it okay? If I get excited will God just take it all away again? I am in this soul-searching wrestling match with God and honestly questioning Him and His plan for us. That doesn’t sound very spiritual or missionary-ish. But it is the raw truth. Every time I wrestle, I notice that God doesn’t push me away, He draws me closer and embraces my flailing, my wailing, and my angry questions. He is big enough to handle my hurt and to let me wrestle. It doesn’t phase Him or threaten Who He is. To leave the mission field and go back to America, is hands-down the hardest thing God has ever asked me to do. In so many ways this feel more foreign and uncertain, and maybe this is exactly the way it is supposed to feel to remind me of where my real home is. Home is everywhere and nowhere at all, because home can never really be here. Maybe this weird and wacky America is our new mission field. Maybe just maybe there is a purpose in this mess, and the shattered dreams will be rearranged into something new.

Deep breath. Here am I God; send me. This new mission field is terribly frightening.

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The view out my kitchen window in Ethiopia. I am going to miss this.

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Finding Home

It still fit. Well, kind of fit. The fit was like an old sock, that was familiar and worn, but stretched out and frayed thin in weird places. Or maybe like an old pair of jeans that did not quite slide up over the hips and button at the waist the easy way that they used to. That is a little how America felt on our latest trip. It was our first time back as a family since moving overseas to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2014. And it was all so familiar, but the fit, while still workable, was not quite the same. For months we had dreamed together of what it would be like to re-enter our passport country, so much nostalgia and memories – what we would do, who we would see, what we would eat, how much easier things would be. And it was what we had imagined. And it wasn’t. Something was missing. It didn’t quite feel like home, and I didn’t quite belong. I was out-of-step, and couldn’t quite figure out how to get the steps right again.

It’s a strange feeling to no longer belong to a place you have belonged to for the majority of your memories. I think it took this trip to realize that we really do have a new home. I think for a very long time we have been wandering and searching and waiting to find this very place. I enjoyed our time in the states and seeing loved ones was exactly what our souls needed, and I am thankful for the break from daily life in Ethiopia, but the truth is that my heart wasn’t at peace until we walked back into our house, and I knew that I had finally come HOME. Jim and I both remarked at how much this place felt just like that – home, and I think we breathed a collective sigh of peace and relief to be back in a place that fits us and this moment in our lives. Driving from the airport we were bombarded with the typical erratic vehicles mingled with cattle, colliding with people, and chaos – a chaos that somehow oddly made sense and overwhelmed me with a sense of belonging. This is home I realized, as our van was jostled over the pot-hole ridden roads and my eyes were heavy with sleepless travel.

When our van parked in front of our gate we were greeted with squeals of excitement and hugs and kisses. Walking through our iron gate, into our little compound, up our marble stairs and over the threshold of our home made me realize how right it is that I am exactly where I am right now. It fit. I belonged. It is where we are supposed to be. I walked from room to room, touching our beds, looking out our windows at the breathtaking view of the mountains, breathing in the scent of home, and thankful to be back.

Home, where the sun sets and rises at the exact same time everyday, Home, where going to the grocery store is a wild adventure. Where water is never guaranteed, and power is out as much as it is on. Home, where the language dances over me in that familiar unfamiliar way. Where the aroma of roasting coffee beans mingles with frankincense and spicy berbere. Where the music is loud and beaty, and the laughter is louder. Where we cannot brush our teeth with tap water. Where my cheeks are kissed, and touch is a language all its own. Where my house is wild and loud and filled with life – it is perfectly us. Home, where a soccer ball is dribbled inside on rainy days, and a bicycle speeds in and out of rooms, and both are so okay. Home is where memories and people matter more than the things I have accumulated. Where people are free to be who they are and to disagree and to argue and cry, and to forgive and wrap arms around each other. Home is where bread bakes, and coffee brews, and the fridge is small, and laundry takes an entire day to finish. Home, where intentionality is found in every little thing, because without it, one cannot carve out a life here. Where relationships matter more than any other place I have ever visited, and where there is always, always time for them to blossom. Where produce is soaked in bleach. Where every meal is made from scratch and takes effort and creativity. Where clothes hang all around our house to dry. Where afternoon rest and tea and conversation is expected, and meals are a real thing at the table three times every single day. Home is where family time is enormous, and we have truly learned to know each other. Home is where there are no short-cuts or easy way outs. Where life is slower and more basic and where life is also chaotic and always an adventure. Where no two days are exactly the same. Home is where I fall into bed every night knowing that this life I was given matters, and I have so much purpose here.

If home is where the heart is, than my heart is completely present right here. Maybe this is true for the first time ever. I have always wrestled with ‘living in the moment’, and not being present in the here and now. Or maybe this is what I have been waiting for for my whole life, and I am just finding home, in the most unexpected place, for the first time. Some say Africa is the cradle of humanity – where we all belong. Maybe that is it. Maybe not. But this continent, this country in this continent has given me a haven – a place where I really belong. This fits. This is home. And there’s really, truly, no place like home.

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