Saturday, October 29, 2011

Memos from a wreck

I’d taken my mom out for her birthday: falafel and jasmine rice at this great new Mediterranean place with only a handful of tables. She had received a gift card for Barnes & Noble from a friend, and me being the bibliophile I am, I was more than happy to top off the night poking around the aisles. So we headed out, chatting and laughing. At a stoplight I glanced at the clock on the bank across the street, marveling at how fast time passed when we were together. When the light turned green, the minivan gathered its strength for the uphill left turn.

It’s then that I saw the headlights in my peripheral vision. I gasped. Braked. Then braced myself as a Corolla barreled into the front of our van. (Barreled it off, it turns out.) My head and shoulder hit the door. We spun about 90 degrees. 

Mom and I sat there, stunned, assessing each other and ourselves—unhurt, except for what would be a goose egg tomorrow. Quizzed each other: I had the green, right? Yep. Still green. Did you see him? She wanted to know. Because I didn’t see him. Looked into the car that was now adjacent to us, where thankfully driver and passenger were conscious, certainly shaken.

In all the ensuing chaos of lights, paperwork, and metal, many little gifts from God began revealing themselves. They piled themselves around us in so many heaps: My mom and I stepping out of the van, virtually unscathed. A sober, insured, and humble driver who admitted fault, along with a witness who heard him. My four kids sleeping at home with a trustworthy babysitter. Fast, insightful emergency personnel. Responsive insurance companies. Kind, intuitive friends to pick us up since my husband and father were out of town together. Even free drinks at the nearby Starbucks when at last we walked in to use the bathroom, dazed and scattered.

But my greatest revelation didn’t show itself until the next morning on the phone with my very relieved grandma. I was attempting to explain the damage to our van—how it had shook and lurched when the tow truck separated the two vehicles so crunched together, our grill and fender now gone, wheels cocked sideways. (The speed limit on the cross road is 45.) I was telling my grandmother how I braked, and then…

I braked.

What if I hadn’t braked?

That smashed front end that groaned when it was separated would have been—my door.

I had not just walked away unhurt. I had walked away alive.

In a split second, God had possibly saved not only my health, but my life. Mine. God seemed to make it very generously, kindly clear that He still has plans for me here on terra firma. When I put down the phone, I went over and kissed my daughter’s head, suddenly hugely, somberly thankful to be making her oatmeal as she waited there in her pink flannel nightgown, wrapped up in her quilt.

In this whole journey to Africa, I have increasingly felt like a spectator, in a good way. God’s plans seem to whirl around me in gracious and powerful ways that open my eyes to how I am part of His plans, and not the other way around. It was a feeling of Psalm 91: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty…under his wings you will find refuge.”

As I have watched God work powerfully around us—this little family way in over our heads, running like hamsters on a wheel trying to get ourselves out of the country—I have felt covered.

Side story: Retrieving some medicine from the pharmacy the other day, my kids were bouncing up and down like little pogo sticks. “We’re moving to Uganda!” one of them brightly announced to the pharmacist. She probably thought something like, What a nice story. Where did you hear about that place? Isn’t that in South America somewhere? So I offered a lopsided grin. “Actually, they’re telling the truth. We’re moving to Africa.” She looked at me, then glanced at the kids who were racing around me. Her eyebrows lifted.

“Are y’all nuts?”

Good grief. I didn’t even have all my kids with me.

The comforting theme of that story to me, which surfaces in little vignettes all over the place: Apart from God, yes, this is pretty close to bonkers. But with God, we are covered by Him. It’s as if our family keeps doing our little part, working and working away at all the strange and widely scattered details of immunizations and lists of items to bring and pricing garage sale items. Things are careening at breakneck speed and even crashing around us. But over all these things that are so far beyond what we’re capable of, my family hears, Just watch. I’ve got this one.

Be still.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

And--we're on our way

Arriving in Uganda last June
I'm guessing that most of you have gotten wind of our new direction. But just to get it all out there:

We're moving to Africa.

As in Kampala, Uganda. As in January. As in all six of us.

And baby, it is already one wild ride.

There are a thousand stories to tell you already about this crazy adventure God is writing--and a dream He's fulfilling. These stories find me swerving deeply into faith, and sometimes back into fear, too.

At the recommendation of a friend, I began a list last week of the definitive ways God's encouraged us and communicated so clearly to us, from our perspective, that this is where He's directing. There were already 25! Some of them are uncanny:
  • Finding eMi from a Google search, and upon clicking to contact for more information, it's an old family friend (close enough that my parents were his godparents). 
  • The eMi World Staff Conference that hasn't happended in five years but was held in August in Colorado--so my kids got to meet all of their new missionary kid friends from Uganda right here in the States. 
  • The woman who offered to pay for our plane tickets before we sent out our first letter.
  • This position with eMi that combines some vastly different areas of John's gifting into one occupation crafted for him--that fuels both of our passion for helping the oppressed.
  • John's recent connection with the deputy ambassador from Uganda regarding Peacemaking there.
Watching God work has been breathtaking. I keep verbalizing things like, "Seriously?!"

And still, I find myself mentally dashing back to Hebrews 11 as step after step closes doors and opens others toward January 30, 2012. With God's grace, I screw my courage to sticking places like this:

If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (vv. 15-16)

Verses like these--and especially those that remind me of God's character--comfort me as we've said some quiet but significant goodbyes lately. Like to most of our stuff at a garage sale. Like hearing that my son's friend was crying about him leaving. Like my sister wondering again how she'll explain to my two-year-old niece that her cousins/best friends won't be coming around anymore. Or our closing chapter to another faith journey that was FamilyLife, one that was so far beyond what we could ever ask or imagine or think. We have been deeply blessed here. And we're not moving because we think we would be more blessed somewhere else, but because He's asking. So as I walked out of the building alone after a horde of friends prayed for us, the door thumped shut behind me on a place where I've felt respected and that my input and gifts were desired and used. As I think of that, each time I have to decide: Faith, or fear?

We have seen God blow our minds too many times to doubt this journey. He has been good, good, good even in times of great pain for us, and even now, the countless little (and big) generosities are humbling, even mind-boggling. They are, and He is, around every corner, encouraging us and calling us on. But would you pray that in every small moment, we would not just be pulled along, but be more than conquerors?

My other request is this. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tasks, and simply the emotion of this road that is separating us from things and opportunities, but more importantly people, who are dear to us. I find myself crying at random times; praise songs take on these new shades of meaning; and circumstances often require I pray in lieu of freaking out. I'd ask you to pray for our strength, and that we'd know--and do--the good works God's prepared in advance for us.

The great thing about a time like this in which you're completely in over your head (!) is that success can only mean one thing: It wasn't you.
A sweet moment: Holding a (sleeping) fellow Ugandan traveler on our extended layover last June