Not in Kansas anymore.
First thing in the morning, we flick on lamps and part curtains to catch the sun’s waking. And never mind if it lets in birds and the occasional wayward monkey, we swing those glass panes wide to the rush of mountain wind.
Morning is the best time here. I solemnly swear that if you visit me I will shake you alive at the crack of before-dawn, and you will briefly hate me (unless you are The Ununcle, who invented rising early), but then we’ll walk with the clouds at our feet and the earth soaking in color and I promise your insides will be liquid worship of the God who dreams up this life.
Our oldest boy turned sixteen this month, and I forced a birthday photo shoot on him because these are the things that cause me great joy. If he were in the states he’d be up to scary enterprises like driving an actual car, but here he has no license, no family vehicle to beg after, and nowhere to go. Living in Africa has its perks.
He’s a great kid, easy and half-shy and all about taking care of people. He’s the one who made us think, for a blessed two years, that we are mavens at this parenting thing. (And then our second child arrived on the scene, and we were all, Oh. Right. Carry on, then.)
When B was two we were wandering the aisles of a craft store and he was playing with a sponge cut into a starfish, which I made him return to the bin. He did it right away, though with profound sadness, and ten steps later I was like, Ohmyword, Nicki, it’s a quarter. Buy your kid the starfish sponge.
I’d give all the quarters I’ll ever own to see his face wash golden with delight like it did then.
Last week we signed out the school car and drove to Nairobi for the first time, and it was Fun Times Everywhere. First off, all sides of the road feel equally wrong to me right now, which is actually okay because in Kenya your designated lane is the path around potholes. If that happens to coincide with the left side of the road, more power to you.
I feel like I spent the whole drive awarding Certificates of Crazy: Mr. Let’s-pass-two-trucks-on-a-blind-curve—you are crazy; and you, Sir, with the couch strapped to your piki are crazy; and you running your wheelbarrow across the highway: certifiable.
Also, intersections. We do not believe in traffic lights and stop signs in these here parts. Pretty much every intersection in the city looks like six and a half angles of traffic in an eighteen-foot square. The trick is to nose your way in so that oncoming vehicles are forced to either stop or hit you, and then you pray vehemently for the former.
This Christmas we didn’t have a tree or anything sparkly or blinking, but a friend of ours wove a wreath of greens, and we cut snowflakes and paper stars. Plus you know you’re not in Kansas anymore when you rejoice over Twix bars and gum and your fifth grader puts ‘a bag of carrots’ on his wish list.
We read from Luke 2 (For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel) and played games and piled up in the living room to watch a movie. It was a good day.
The highlight of this December was getting packages of sweet things from our church family back in the freezingest parts of Indiana, and Christmas cards from so many of our favorite folks. We have your smiling faces and notes on our computer screens and strung along our fireplace mantel.
One of our teens wrote Todd a card that still makes me laugh: “I hope you have seen an elephant and a lion and a cheetah. If you haven’t you’re living in Africa wrong.”
Goodness, I miss you people. We had no snow and no tinsel and no peppermint creamer (alas), but we positively had a Savior to celebrate. Hopefully we did Christmas right.
Come, O long-expected Jesus,
Born to set your people free;
From our fears and sins release us
By your death on Calvary.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope to all the earth impart,
dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Love you all, so much. Merry Christmas.