A Holy Journey


"Oh, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be a stronger man. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks."

—Phillips Brooks

This ground I walk on—it is good. It is sacred. My “flesh gets numb, but the soul doesn’t.” * 

Home was a place to which I knew I would return—didn’t I?—and yet words betray the feeling of boarding my final flight home to Tulsa. Thirty hours of travel makes you think about much. Mostly about gratefulness, and grace. Contentment, too. I am happy, here at home. Have I said that before, I wonder? I was unsure how I would adjust to being home. There has been reverse culture shock to overcome, but mostly being home is safe and warm. For now I am back in the fold.

More clearly I am realizing the inevitable changes of being away. For myself, I know I am more appreciative. No, not simply appreciative—I am extraordinarily grateful, the kind that causes you to gather everything you hold dear and grasp it close close close. 

The end of this journey, I will never forget. What a gift, reunion. Beyond exhaustion, in need of a shower and a clean set of clothes, and yet there was unspeakable joy bubbling within. Smiling at the businessmen too busy to look up from their phones, smiling at the little girls clutching their mothers’ hand, smiling at the man selling newspapers. At first I walked fast to my family standing at the other end of the airport, then slowed a moment to take it in. A holy journey. Remember this, I told myself. This is sacred ground you walk on. 

*Book of Sketches,  Jack Kerouac

On my way


I didn't think much farther than the last hug. I said my goodbyes and left and now, with nine days remaining, I am on my way back to where I started.

I nearly wrote, "back where I belong," but that's not true, because I have found another home.

The weeks and months leading up to my departure this past June played out in a blur. Scared or Nervous were not words I allowed in my vocabulary until I was sitting at my gate in London waiting for my flight to Nairobi. There, the magnitude of the journey suddenly manifested itself and it took my breath away.

And it was hard, those first weeks. The last month I spent with my family and the familiar was spun out of magic, I swear, and the sudden change was rocky.

But oh, how faithful the grace of God was, and how worth it it all was.

And now, what were lasts are turning into firsts.

Lasts are funny, hard, and bittersweet things. Once you get over the initial sadness you feel excitement beginning to bloom over firsts that used to be counted as lasts: kissing your sisters' foreheads for the first time since leaving, first breakfast with your dad since coming home, first lazy Saturday at home with your mom in six months. It's enough to make me giddy.

Leaving is the hardest part.

The girl coming back is not the same one that left--but in quiet ways that maybe only I notice. A different sort of outlook, a clearer realization of what I hold dear.

To know me, you need to know my family. And yet, this is the first time my family can’t relate to my experiences, the first time I can’t say “remember when” because they weren't here. It’s not just people they’ve never met or a place they’ve never been to, but an entirely different world that, if you’ve never been, is hard to imagine, let alone describe.

(I say this in a matter-of-fact way, because I know I am not the first person to experience such a feeling, and because this is part of spreading your wings.)

Still, I wonder how I’ll adjust to being home. It’s nearly impossible imagine. I facetime with my family every Saturday and my heart races every time I think about seeing them at the other end of the airport terminal--and yet, I’ve gotten used to being on my own. I have made peace with it, grown to like it, even.

The last line of a quote by Nick Miller keeps looping through my mind: “Travel is ‘maybe I don’t have to do it that way when I get back home.’” And it’s true, you know--you get to meet all these wise and well-traveled people and somehow you get so lucky as to glean from their experience over a cup of coffee. After awhile you realize that there is more than one way to live life, and, not for the first time, you wonder: who says you have to abide by only one culture?

I feel so small compared to those aforementioned wise and kind and well-traveled people, but I'm learning as I go. I have to remind myself that I'm yet eighteen and trying to make sense of the world is what I'm supposed to be doing. There is still so much to see and do and learn...and Kenya? I'll be back.

Amboseli / Kilimanjaro


You know, it all pales in comparison. All the trials and hardships and aching sadness are suddenly dimmed when you stand under the vast dusky open sky watching elephants lumber along the base of Kilimanjaro, the wind whipping dust across the plain. Home is just the slightest memory but it's not as painful anymore. Nearly six months since I've been in my homeland and it's hard to believe that there really will come a day when I pack up and leave this wondrous place. Bittersweet.

Until then...Kilimanjaro and the surrounding park of Amboseli in all their glory.

The other big sky country

Josiah leans out the truck window to photograph an elephant.

Josiah's subject, deep in the marsh.

Josiah and Elijah have dinner with a view.

The coziest, loveliest tented camp at Tortilis.

Kilimanjaro comes out from the blanket of clouds.



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