I wonder if sometime you'd tell me what it's like to stay--to be grounded, to keep roots in one place instead of ripping them out over and over in thick, messy clumps. In the meantime, I'll tell you what it's like to leave: it hurts like hell. There's nothing romantic about feeling the solid ground torn from under your feet and having sown in your chest a constant overwhelming ache that leaves you on your knees sobbing in the shower, begging for the pain to ease. What have I done? you ask. And, My power is made perfect in weakness is the reply day after heavy day.
That heart-wrenching walk out the door is paramount, and yet, I still wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t left. What if I hadn't divided and folded my entire existence into a suitcase and a 46-liter backpack and headed south? Would I be less of a girl (the word woman still sticks in my throat) than I am now? Would I be weaker, more dependent, more unsure? Or would I be stronger, more independent, and more sure?
For 17 years my soul searched for home and the second it left, it realized it'd been at home all along. The other night I skyped with my German professor—she’s more my friend and mentor than professor, really—and I told her about my life and she told me about hers and I’m so dang far from home but I’ve never felt closer. Picturing my life in the future isn't something I've ever been much good at, but becoming an adult in Africa certainly wasn't part of those imaginings. They say truth is stranger than fiction and "they", whoever they are, are right. 17 felt like a hundred years, a thousand fragments stitched together into a lifetime.
Still, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Tonight I blew out the candles and I didn't make a wish. Life is ferocious and ugly and dismal and hard and messy but without the downs there couldn't be the rich and joyful and dazzling ups. I miss home like you wouldn't believe but all that is left in me is gratefulness. My Jesus has helped me through these past 18 years and I'm confident he won't ever stop helping me through the next 18 years.
My cup overflows.
(But I still wish you were here)
"A man does not always say to himself, 'Hullo! I'm growing up.' It is often only when he looks back that he realises what has happened and recognises it as what people call 'growing up.' You can see it even in simple matters. A man who starts anxiously watching to see whether he is going to sleep is very likely to remain wide awake. As well, the thing I am talking of now may not happen to everyone in a sudden flash--as it did to St Paul or Bunyan: it may be so gradual that no one could ever point to a particular hour or even a particular year. And what matters it the nature of the change in itself, not how we feel while it is happening. It is the change from being confident about our own efforts to the state in which we despair of doing anything for ourselves and leave it to God.
I know the words 'leave it to God' can be misunderstood, but they must stay for a moment. The sense in which a Christian leaves it to God is that he puts all his trust in Christ: trusts that Christ will somehow share with him the perfect human obedience which He carried out from His birth to His crucifixion: that Christ will make the man more like Himself and, in a sense, make good his deficiencies."
Mere Christianity / C.S. Lewis
A month later and yes, I'm still thinking about Madagascar. There was one week, following a 16-hour trek from Antananarivo, that we stayed in a little treehouse-like cabin in the coastal town of Manakara. No internet, no phone service, power only when it was dark out (and sometimes not even then, depending on how the generator was feeling that day).
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner was in a hut on the beach, walled in only on two sides. In great gusts the salt blew in and found its way everywhere, touching everything with the taste of the sea.
I wrote a lot in my journal that week (which, by the way, found its way back to me). It was good for my soul.
At night, tucked on my thin mattress draped with a mosquito net, I could hear the ocean ebb and flow and the palm trees rustle. When I couldn't sleep, I'd lie on the cold concrete of the balcony and lose myself in the night sky. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Without the blue tinge of a metropolis, it was black and velvety. The stars shimmered and stretched across the vast expanse, clear as could be, was the Milky Way. Listen, I thought I’d seen a night sky, but my definition of "night sky" was altered forever in Madagascar. I couldn’t stop staring at it. I’d walk at night with my head completely tilted up, pick out constellations and just look and look and look. It was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my short life.
Dusk on one of the last days. Because the beach faced southeast, there were no magnificent sunsets over the horizon, and instead a gradual fading to night.
When buying a coconut from one of these ladies, they take a machete and chop viciously away the top. Straws are optional.
Fishermen battle the waves every morning in these canoes, even on the choppiest waters.
Elijah looks in the cabin to see if the baby is awake.
Cozy treehouse bedroom. Light floods the room at dawn and it's especially snuggly when it rains (except for when water leaks in).
Krista walks Isaiah to sleep on the beach. A baby carrier isn't readily available, so I help her tie the baby to her back with a sarong, Liberian style.
Maybe the salty air makes me extra ravenous, but I could eat a whole loaf of the banana bread served at breakfast.
John explains how vanilla is grown and harvested. He's downsized his plantation in recent years, preferring to invest his energy into producing a high quality crop. In May he harvested his pods and in early August they're nearly finished drying.