June 5, 2012

Homesick and Happy

I've been back in town for three weeks. It's been twenty-one days since I washed that red dirt out of my toes and out from under my fingernails. I stood long in the warm water here and I scrubbed really well.

But Africa lingers under my skin.

I can smell a world away in the quilt across my lap, but I won't be washing it under any water. I'm too afraid to blur the browns and reds and blues, too afraid to rinse away the scent of His "yes."

And I've been home longer than I was away, can't believe the moments came and went already. There are people, a world away, who have committed their whole lives to a country. A continent. There are new friends who stayed behind, forfeited the round-trip home in order to seek and serve ... indefinitely.

My abrupt arrival and departure barely feel noteworthy ... already back to taming the laundry, attending preschool graduation, blowing up pink floaties for the pool.

I want to multiply what happened three short weeks ago and the longer I am home, the more apparent the gift becomes: my feet were on that soil.

And people have asked if my desire has finally been quenched.

"Gosh, no!" is all I can say. Truth is, the whirlwind trip simply affirmed what I already knew: I love a place and a people now more than ever before. And dare I say it?

It felt a lot like home.

Back in January, over red wine and broken bread, we finally named the year ahead. We had pondered and prayed ... wondered if we were too presumptuous, trying to name a year that wasn't ours to claim.

We agreed on a name and 2012 would be our Year of Finding Home. Mostly, because we were feeling the squeeze ... these walls pressing in with three children and toys and squeals and life rubbing us all raw. We laughed occasionally, sang a little made-up ditty about how we'd been "struck down in the prime of life ... "

And we didn't really mean it, only we sort of did. That tune with just one line made us laugh hard and it lightened the mood when moments seemed bleak.  


The Year of Finding Home seemed to fit ... for months we had talked and prayed, felt like Jesus was inviting us into new spaces. And our address didn't change but heart walls were under construction.

Naming the year was like bringing life into focus. We wanted to really see, find out what our home on this side of heaven might really look like. Could we look for Him, see Him, join Him in the now? Could we be at home in Him even when being at home in general was wearing us down?

All the while He was redefining home. When we named our year, we were planning a simple sun-room addition, a quick porch make-over. We thought we might bring in some light.

But He was reworking the foundation. 

And home has a particular scent. It lingers on your clothes and greets you square when you pass through the front door. We were walking into all new territory that felt strangely familiar ... like He had been there before us-- inviting us into safe, sweet smelling space.

We spoke of adoption. We wondered, in barely-there whispers, if a child could find a home in ours.

We held on to our people while bravely branching out to new family. We walked through new doors and looked new brothers and sisters in the eyes ... humbly asked to drink from their cup too.

We committed to homeschooling this little crowd, committed to learning how to live and love well within these walls ... for better or worse.

And the home we spoke of suddenly had many new rooms ... held more than one shade of paint. We spoke of finding home just as the walls were closing in. Suddenly, they began to expand.

So when I cried over Africa again and he said "It's time for you to go," I  thought it odd. Why, in this Year of Finding Home would I fly so far away on my own?

When that 747 touched down in Entebbe I knew:  this too was part of our heart-home expansion.

And I caught His sweet scent there in that Ugandan breeze. Over an ocean and a continent away, I tilted my head back with a quiet laugh. Oh there You are. Of course You are here too ...

Todd had said it before: "You know this trip you're going on? You need to know it's a family affair. We're all in this ..." He had meant it and I had believed him.

Just a few nights later, I pushed back a chair in the open-air dining room. I told new like-minded friends how I named my years and how I felt at home right there in that space, with all of them and with all of that dirt in my toes.

I wondered how. How does a girl feel at home a world apart and under a mosquito net? Away from a man and the babies she named ... the babies who named her? I wondered it out loud to new family in the dark, over lentils and warm Fanta with a straw.

And really, I already knew. Isn't home wherever He is?

So I'm home now and He is here but He is there and so am I. I am here under my quilt with my purple watch still ticking loud. I am there with friends who stayed behind and I am there with women and children and their stories that go on.

And perhaps that sweet scent of home has nothing to do with an African quilt or the breeze over a continent.

Perhaps that scent of home is really just Him--  the sweet Savior who is for all, in all, and through all.

And when we make our home in Him, we too become a sweet aroma to the world. And all those lovers of Him? Don't they fill our lives with His sweet aroma too? And regardless of the soil we're standing on, we can be at home. Him in us. Him through us. Him all around us.

I'm so glad to be home with these expanded walls. And I'm more homesick than ever before.

"You have been our dwelling place, through every generation ..." Psalm 90:1

Friends, interspersed among the rambling are pictures depicting a typical clinic day. Forgive me if you had trouble focusing. I did. Later this week, I'll share some of the sweetest faces you can imagine. I'll also tell a story of shoes ... the shoes that you sent along. Have I thanked you? :)


  1. My heart hears your heart - and understands as much as possible without having walked the walk. Thank you for being transparent so we can see Him working ...
    Love you.
    Grandma C

  2. Abby, oh sweet Abby. Many of the tears that I've suppressed since stepping off the plane on this side of reality have made their way to the surface tonight as I read this post. Homesickness and longing are the words I've used to attempt to explain, as well. Thank you for sharing so transparently. The Lord has His hand on you in such a mighty way and it's wonderful to see how He's using your words and photos to tell His story. Love you and miss you so, Megan

  3. You write exquisitely and my heart beats louder, stronger.

    I love you deep and wide and long.

    Us both with Uganda under our skin.

    And, by grace alone, Jesus.