Which is probably only to be expected, seven thousand miles from where I grew up, and a country away from where I spent the most significant portion of my life since. And after leaving our only home as a family. And after being on the road and in transition for the better part of a year. And ascribing to a theology summed up in the antique cross stitch over my Virginia bed: Heaven is my Home.
But it is creeping into my heart anyway, in spite of my guard. I must confess, I love this little house at Kijabe. As I write now I've just cleaned up from a Sunday post-church chocolate-chip-pecan waffle brunch with neighbor's kids whose parents are traveling, a lovely hour of family and fullness. Fragrant, exuberant lilies and bright yellow zenias explode from a beautiful blue vase that Pat gave us: a perk of living near the massive flower farms that supply Europe from Africa, one can buy spectacular flowers cheaply, year-round. My dining table and chairs match, an island of harmony. There are wide bright windows that overlook a yard with a poinsettia tree, sparse dry-season blooms and grass. We have two comfortable couches that turned out twice as nice as I expected. The floors are a wooden parquet or tile, no exposed rough cement. All three kids are quietly reading or studying or playing guitar, in three separate bedrooms, instead of piled on top of each other. We have hot water for washing, electricity most of the time, and the most awesome washing machine for clothes, with a sturdy line out back for drying. We have two bathrooms for the first time ever, a perk when we're all trying to get out the door by 7:30. Not a single rat spotting since we moved, nothing worse than the occasional roach or harmless small spider or fly. I'm told there are no snakes at this elevation, either. Books and pottery on the shelves, and photos of Uganda and family on the walls. I really like it.
Yesterday, I was walking back from early morning Saturday rounds at the hospital. . . .I had just spent a couple of hours in the NICU, making the difficult decision to pursue comfort measures and time for her parents to hold her rather than aggressive intervention for an infant born with such severe hydrocephalus at another hospital that the OB's had to literally pop the balloon of her head to get her out and save her mom. This sweet baby had minimal and abnormal brain tissue on CT, and after a week of care was only getting worse, with periods where she stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. We have one of the premier pediatric neurosurgeons in the WORLD here, but even he could not recommend any surgical help. I had also just gone over plans for another infant with another experienced pediatric surgeon, this one born with no anus and a confusing perineum, unclear male or female. On another baby we were increasing our oxygen and pressure to maximum levels, her lungs and body damaged after being born at home with a difficult labor, choking and aspirating, limp and uncrying, and five hours later landing in our care with a temperature of 33 degrees (that's very cold) but alive. We have darling preterm twins whose mother was just released from the adult ICU herself, narrowly surviving and ecclamptic pregnancy. We're filled pretty much to our capacity with 17 babies in a small space. Scott ended up managing the adult ICU for part of the weekend too, when it turned out that all the docs who usually cover (the most experienced handful here) had an unusual intersection of travel and he was the last man standing. . . . Anyway, as I walked back home about 9 am, the sun was warming the air. I had handed over to the on-call doctor for the day. I looked up and saw our little cream-colored house, waiting.
I was glad at that moment to have been a small part of the care of all these little lives, and glad to be back out in the sunshine, and glad to have a home to return to. My heart was filled with thanks because we had just talked to Luke on the phone, and his Global Health Fellowship for the summer was approved by Yale. He worked hard with his friend Thomas at Princeton to design a research study, to be interviewing Maasai in two areas of Kenya about their traditional medicines, so that medical personnel can be aware of possible effects of these herbal treatments when the Massai come to the hospital. It is a good, solid project, but my heart was particularly relieved because he is now funded to return to Africa! It is odd to be living in a home that 1/6 of our family has yet to even see. So the news that he gets to come back here, even gets his costs covered to do so, was sweet.
Which then made me wonder, why should I be surprised that God gives me a home, and brings my family to it? Why do I keep wondering when it will all fall apart, again? How do I revel in this place of beauty and significance, and yet not hold on to it too tightly? Another missionary mom rode to the girls' football game with me this week (I drove to Nairobi, thanks to Scott's prompting, another milestone of actually beginning to LIVE here, but I digress). In the car she expressed the same thing, having moved here from a very harsh and hostile environment in northern Kenya, from a place where the local kids threw stones at hers to a place with a good school and kind people and useful work and kids on sports teams that we can cheer, she asked God, is this OK? Are we allowed? Yes, I thought, i am asking the same thing. Are we?
As I said, I'm wary. I believe in the all-out lay-down-your-life mode of going through this world. I believe in eternity, and the perspective it lends to daily life in hard places. But I also believe in a Father who does not give a stone when we're hungry for an egg. For this season, He seems to be allowing us to take a deep breath, to learn from others, to have friends, to sit around a table with our kids, to have curtains that match fresh sheets and cozy beds. He seems to be giving us a taste of the eternity we long for, allowing for our finite, concrete, in-body experience.
To be at home.