I am back from ten days of stepping through the looking glass.  Africa was magical and difficult as I knew it would be.  I am thankful to have been a part of something truly special during the time I was there and hope to be able to return soon.  Somehow–and really, I know it was grace from God–I managed to endure heat, humidity, different foods, travel, sleeplessness, and culture stress without so much as blinking.  This was not the case when I lived in Asia where, for the first six months, every rumble in my belly was a portend of doom, and constant power outages felt like God’s divine discipline.  Of course, this was a short-term thing and I did not have my children with me.  Now I love my kids, but I could not BELIEVE the ease of traveling with only myself to worry about.  It was ridiculous how streamlined everything felt and I think I wore a bewildered grin on my face the entire trip.  I was probably a little obnoxious.

I am in my bed at the moment, eating Grape Nuts which are my passion.  The dogs are at my feet, both of them curled like medium-sized caterpillars.  I think they’re glad the lenient owner is back.  Daddy has his rules, you know.  Apparently, I slept hard last night.  I don’t really know as I have no memory after eating welcome-home-cake for dinner.  But they tell me I slept.  My daughter came in this morning and informed me that she’d carried on a conversation with her father about emotions in the middle of the night.  She said she looked at me lying there on my side of the bed and could tell I wouldn’t wake up, whatever that means.

It’s good to be back.  I will never stop loving the world and its corners.  Each time I travel I leave my heart on some shore.  But I know that this is my home for now.  I am thankful to be reunited with my family, my church, my dogs, and Grape Nuts.  Now I think I’ll drink some East African coffee and take a little nap.  Talk soon.


Soft Like Rice

I got a phone call today from a dear friend.  She and I lived in India together for three years.  We weren’t working in the same city, but we saw each pretty frequently and talked or Skyped in the off times.  She’s back in the States for six months before returning to a city that our family has come to love.

Her voice sounded faded and small on the phone.  She’s only been back in the country for a week and she described to me the familiar ex-pat feelings of fatigue, emotional isolation, and being overwhelmed inside malls.  She’s finally able to sleep until 4:00 a.m. every morning, and she considers that an accomplishment (so do I).  Together we celebrated stable Internet connections, perfect soft ice from Sonic, and clean streets with wide, paved lanes.  We commiserated with one another about having to put on our happy faces and employ our spiritual one-liners for people who ask, How was your trip over there?

In India women cook rice with pressure cookers.  I suppose people use them here, too, but in India they’re ubiquitous.  They save cooking time by creating an unbelievable amount of pressure and steam inside their cauldrons.  What would normally take a long time is accomplished in minutes.

Today my sweet friend and I mused that life in India has been a pressure cooker for both of us.  The Lord has allowed an unbelievable amount of pressure and steam to build into our lives, such that we’ve sometimes felt that we couldn’t stand it any longer.  Spiritual impurities have risen to the top in our hearts and we’ve been left tired, yes, but also softer.

I’ll admit that I didn’t like life in a pressure cooker.  I did love aspects of living overseas and some of my dearest friends are from India.  But the stress was overwhelming at times.  We were only there for three years but it felt like we experienced life in dog years, twenty-one diwalis packed into three.  That’s hard to explain to people who haven’t lived in developing countries, but of course my friend understood perfectly.

And while rice that’s been pressure-cooked can’t truly grow hard again, human hearts can.  So I am asking the Lord to keep my family and me soft, to keep bringing up the impurities in our lives, to keep us from unlearning what we’ve already learned in the pressure cooker, at  sometimes-painful personal cost.