When we first moved here I could not believe the dirt. I mean everything is dusty, dirty, and gritty. And it drove me crazy. I felt disgusting and I washed my feet constantly. But somewhere over the last 2 years the dirt has become more normal. Not so noticed. Not such a bother. And surprisingly quite dear to me.
I know some people focus on “all we gave up” to live and work here but I have a secret……
We traded up.
Our family is right where we are supposed to be and I have peace about that. Even on the rough days. We really are blessed, privileged, and I know that He knew we needed this. To be sure there are lots of trials in living here, some trivial, some monumental. It is hard. And different. And stretching. And the pain of being so far from family and friends is real. And we feel it. And we miss you so. But last night as I was taking laundry off the line and folding it I looked down at my dirty feet and just thought “this is how life is supposed to be.” Not so sterile, not so protected, not so clean. It is though through this experience I have been stripped down and although; I guess, I really have covered up (in terms of clothes) I have gotten to see myself in a more real way. To evaluate. To learn how selfish I am. To see what I am made of. To learn how much more there is to life than my corner, my piece, my problems, my views. To learn that a life that is so scheduled, so planned, so routine, so scripted may not have room to see what He is doing.
This week Jason came home after meeting with a friend and as he told me everything God is doing he had tears in his eyes. It is overwhelming to know that God is affecting eternity and that He chooses to use us; His fallen, crippled, saints to accomplish His work. That is what is important. That is what I want my life to be about.
Maybe it is because I am stubborn, maybe because I was too comfortable but whatever the reason I know for me I needed to be removed from the known. To be shaken out of my comfort. To venture out to fail, and learn, and grow. To learn what I am capable of through Him who gives me strength not to survive but to thrive. To Be Still enough to listen to the Spirit’s whisper more.
To live abundantly.
This place has been part of our journey. This little island and its people have affected my life so that I struggle for words to explain it. Africa has many crippling problems: poor infrastructure, horrible corruption, devastating disease, lack of access to water, medical care, education but she also has within her a Beauty that swells. A sense of optimism against impossible odds. A grabbing and clasping with everything to hold on, to move forward, to have life. A welcoming, communal spirit that refuses to allow people to live in isolation. A place where age lines are earned and respected. A grime of life lived in gritty reality. A reality that once gets into your nostrils and under your fingernails can never be forgotten.
Life is supposed to be lived, dirt and all, and for me I needed this experience to really allow that truth to settle into my soul. I just am learning more about really living in the moment. Bargaining for tomatoes at the market, watching my daughter with the neighborhood kids try to climb a fruit tree with no shoes on and then proudly eating their bounty, visiting neighbor to tell them you are sorry for a death of a loved one, boiling milk straight from the cow that was delivered in an old water bottle, celebrating and getting glammed up for a wedding, sitting on a mat cooking and talking and not caring about what time it is, learning to share what you have with opens hands knowing that it may come back broken or not at all but that is ok…it is just stuff, visiting friends and watching as Evy gets kisses on her little bald head while being passed from person to person is the stuff of a life well lived. I also am keenly aware that while my life here is very different I am still far removed from the reality of the people here. If my child has a life threatening emergency I can rustle up the money to fly out. I have more options, more fall backs, more cushion. But relying on God should never be dependant on those things. It is a heart issue. Where do I place my trust? Africa has taught me to live more. Breath deeper. Pause and reflect. Pray more.
Even when we return to the U.S. or wherever God takes us next I will never get the dirt of this island out from under my finger nails or fully off my feet. And I never want to. I am changed. And I am profoundly grateful for everything God has done in taking our family on this adventure. And I have a sense there is more. Challenge. Abundance. Joy. And for sure lots more dirt.