diary of a mzungu: part 1

Part 1 – June 21

This is a little story about Africa, and it’s also not about Africa.

This is a little story of a girl sitting in a bright red dress with a big turquoise chunky necklace on and curled hair, face plastered in makeup today — and that same girl who was a mosquito net princess, perfumed in bug spray and burnt by the African sun, just a few weeks ago.

It’s a story of how that girl’s heart was cracked open a few weeks ago, and how she hasn’t been able to pick up the pieces and stitch it back together yet. Maybe she never will, and maybe that’s the point of the story. But I’m not sure yet.

I don’t want to be cliché and say that nine days in Africa changed my entire being. But I also don’t want to brush it off and say it didn’t. The point is that something changed, and I can’t quite figure out what or how, but I feel like on more than one night there, God set to work fixing my eyes to see things differently from now on.

Ask me to coffee to hear about my trip, and I promise you we will end up talking about something else the majority of our get-together. Because I’m still in a boat fishing for words to describe what I saw and felt, smelled and tasted. And I’m not winning with finding the words, at least not yet. I don’t know how long it will take to be able to honestly answer, “How was your trip?” but for now, all I can say is, “It was great and pretty overwhelming; I’m still processing it.”

And today, I added another sentence to the short-answer story – “I miss it a lot.”

Because it hit me this morning how much I miss it. I miss the green and the humidity, and the clouds (trust me, you ain’t seen clouds till you’ve seen ’em in Africa). I miss the food and eating lunch with the kids. I miss having my hair braided by six little pairs of hands all at once, and I miss kids running at me, ready to play. I think seeing kids running towards you with big grins on their faces is the best depiction of what it will be like when Jesus welcomes us into heaven. He’ll look over and see us with great recognition, and start running toward us and he won’t stop running until he practically tackles us and we fall into his arms. The kids grab you in a way that says, “You’re here. I knew you’d come see me. I’ve been waiting for you.” And I think Jesus will say things very similar.

I was baptized again in an African rainstorm. My first baptism was pretty awesome – my sister-in-law baptized me in a hotel swimming pool, surrounded by family. It was a peaceful and joyous ceremony, carefully planned and thought over for years. This time, it was a spontaneous reaction to the feeling that I just needed more Jesus. More and more and more. So I ran out into the rain and asked for more.

Some of the memories and the names are fading, and things come in flashes.

And the week I got back, emotionally wrecked Claire got physically wrecked in a car accident. A wet road and old tires do not mix well, let me tell you. It was a scary moment because I was watching the road the entire time – I wasn’t distracted, I wasn’t texting, I wasn’t even daydreaming. I was alert and fully aware that my brakes were not stopping my car, that I did everything right but everything still went wrong. That’s life sometimes. It wrecks you even when you feel most prepared.

So then my weeks back have been filled with insurance policies and phone calls to strangers and chiropractor appointments and shuffling cars around in the family and a few tears — okay, maybe more than a few. Because this was just a reminder that life can feel really overwhelming.

But I went and saw this awesome movie about emotions, and was reminded that this life is such a mix of feelings, a watercolor painting that only looks beautiful and complete once every color has been added.


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