The first time we moved I was too young to know anything but the slope of my mother’s collarbone, the way my dad’s laugh jumped under my palms, how my whirling dervish of an older brother–barely more than a baby himself–would pause mid-destruction to pat my nose, then bolt for adventure again. This was the whole of my knowing: mother, father, brother; the skin of my cocooned existence diaphanous but strong.
The second time I was something like eight and we moved two blocks down the street. From a townhouse complex where I’d once gotten chicken pox and a baby brother in the span of a week, to a house as yellow as summer. We had paper trees. A swing. A dog named Casper who bounded through the cane fields framing our walk to school.
At seventeen I left for college 4500 miles east, and I’d fly back home but never again to stay. South Bend had inhospitable weather: snowstorms in April, humidity that undid your will to blink in July. Todd and I married and moved to a little farm town with a maple syrup festival and jelly beans as big as your thumbs. At Christmas, they stuck an evergreen smack-dab in the middle of main street. It was quaint and maddening and enchanting.
We moved from an apartment to another yellow house with a happy, peeling porch, then to Michigan (a borrowed double wide, then the bungalow with polished hardwood, a claw-foot tub, a garden with thyme and peppermint), then back to Indiana again (rental, then the brick ranch with warm neighbors and candy-pink peonies). From there we trekked to Kenya and on to CAR, so in sum: fifteen houses, eight towns, five time zones, three countries.
These are the places where my kids leaped from couch to pillow to blanket in order to avoid the lava floor, where they wiggled molars loose and promptly lost faith in the world’s most unreliable tooth fairy. These coordinates know each iteration of me and my family for the past four decades, and here we are, in the thick of moving again.
I’ve never felt so keen a loss as I do right now.
To be fair, I’ve fallen hard for every place and people we’ve called home. It’s just that this time around, I’ve barely begun to learn them. This time I haven’t had a proper go at it. This time we left in a way that gutted us.
In Sango, I can say: my little chair is here, behind the house. I can say: this morning I drank coffee, washed clothes, carried firewood, baked mango bread. I can say: I will give you a cup of water to drink?
I don’t know how to say: I see how life keeps handing you more to carry–bricks, cassava, water, children. Fear. Grief. You are a faithful and kind mama. I think we would have become great friends, the kind that keep a light for each other in the dark.
From the start, none of this CAR business has gone how I’ve planned–and I had such clever plans, y’know? :) But mercifully, God has His own, better plans, and He only asks us to come along. To be still. To worship in the unknown and the waiting.
Yet this I call to mind
And therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
For his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
Therefore I will wait for Him.’
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him,
To the one who seeks Him;
It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Right now we’re in Uganda, alternating between numbness and acute feeling. I need to say a few things here. A boatload of folks worked swiftly and tirelessly to extract our team and then feed and house us. Four pilots dropped everything, including any regard for their own safety, to fly from Loki, Nairobi, and Arua to come get us. Their wives and children let them go. And then there’s all of you, who pray even before we know to ask; and God, whose mercies are new.
Thank you, all of you.
Please, pray that Zemio will know the weight of God’s glory. Pray that He will accomplish His purposes for the Zande and the Mbororo of CAR. In the core of my being, I’m convinced their story is far from over.
And in all things, may God be lifted high.