Desta was given a book for her birthday from my parents- Swirly by Sara Saunders. I read it while she was sleeping that night and found myself softly crying by the end. This simple child’s book spoke my heart.
“Did you ever wish you could belong somewhere?”
When I first moved to the USA at 19 years old, the easiest way of dealing with my toe touching North American soil after years of life in Africa was to put aside all things Africa. I didn’t talk about Africa. I swung 180 degrees away from all things Africa. I tried my best to integrate into the new college world of the USA.
Honestly the journey to becoming North American took a long time. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally felt comfortable saying I was from the USA. I find many of the things of this land peculiar and odd. I judged a lot. I pointed my finger at all the things I knew were better or could do better, in my opinion. I struggled to find where God fit in this culture.
I had it all figured out. Then I took my job with Compassion International. All my neat little boxes I had created and lined up in perfect formation began to get ragged on the edges. The organized life I had worked so hard to create began to get messy.
I leave my family on regular intervals. My husband, Matt, takes over as single Dad. He does it well – in fact, exceptionally well. He feeds the kids vegetables and keeps smiles on their faces. He runs around the city taking them to events. The neat little box called “Motherhood” no longer is just mine. Instead, when I’m gone, this box is completely dismantled. “Motherhood” when I travel is my daily Marco Polo video messages. It’s a fraction of what I used to hold as my sacred job and duty.
The “wife” box has been broken wide open. I pour myself into my trips; giving my heart to those I’m with. We cry, we pray, we laugh (oh boy do we laugh!), we travel and we experience things that my family won’t ever know or understand because they are not physically present. When I come home, I’m drained physically. My soul has been filled to the brim with these life changing moments for people. I desire, deeply, to translate this travel language to my family but it’s not always a word for word translation.
“Where do I belong?”
Just as that teenager Melody longed to know where she fit, I’m in that stage now. Where do all these emotions, feelings and experiences fit with my regular life? How do I translate the experience – the home visits to small shacks lived in by 16 year old single moms? Or the 500 kids singing praise welcoming us into their church? The long hours of bus sitting and talking, the unique and glorious food of South America or the heart gutting that happens every time I see HOPE in the midst of great poverty? How do I bring all this home with me, trip after trip, and let it bring joy to my family?
Instead, more times than it should, I bring home the worst of me – the fatigue, short temper, selfish Melody who just wants to be left alone. My introverted self takes over and I don’t want to do any more.
When I’m traveling, we have translators with us. They speak our words, back and forth, communicating our hearts. Oftentimes the words translated are not word for word – in fact most of the time, it’s a summary of multiple thoughts.
I’ve thought about that coming home this trip. Our family is learning a new language. We are summarizing thoughts and emotions. Sometimes the translation is 100% right on. Sometimes we have to ask “Can you repeat that?”
The last page of Swirl caught my heart.
I’m talking about Jesus! He left His first country and family in heaven to grow up in a country on our earth. When He was very little, His earthly family moved to another country on earth, and then back to the first one.
Being swirly like Jesus is a special blessing. Being swirly sometimes helps us understand people and ways from all colors countries better than people who have grown up to be all one color.
Where DO you belong?
Right next to Jesus’ heart, that’s where!
I’m working on throwing away all the little boxes I had created. We were never meant to live a life of control. God knew the time had come for me to ditch the ways I’d “healed” my heart. I’m learning new ways to communicate. I’m not very good at it right now. But if we started our journeys being experts, there’d be no need for the journey right? I’m so thankful for the patience of my family, my husband who continue to cheer me on when I’m gone but also WELCOME me home.