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Wednesday, January 02, 2019

New Year, New Life, Same Grace

Ten days can feel like a lifetime.  We were in Sago, WV for only ten days but in that time we: opened up our farm, cut down a tree, put up all our decorations and lights, made umpteen traditional meals and baked treats, read books, floated down the river on an inflatable pink flamingo, hosted our family of SEVEN (see previous post) as well as nine other friends for various stays, fired up the pizza oven for homemade extravaganzas twice, played rounds of games, went on bike rides and jogs, spent two Sundays at church, washed sheets and remade beds and UNdecorated and stored everything and closed up. Not to mention keeping up with AD work.

It's been twelve days since one of our teams treated an Ebola patient with inadvertent exposure, and all the contacts (our doc and all the Congolese) remain asymptomatic, praise God. Having done the 21 day count more than once in our family, we know how long it feels, another short lifetime. Each day brings an increasing wonder of God's mercy, and gratefulness for prayers. Don't stop praying for the DRC.

In honor of new years and new lives, here is a piece New Growth Press asked me to write for Charisma Magazine.  It was published Christmas Eve.  You can link to the site or read the text below. We're on the road and making home as we go.

As I sit down to write, my faithful little laptop computer is one of the few things I own that is not in a box, a bag, or the give-away pile. It’s moving time, that unsettling transition when every closet must be emptied, every cabinet scoured, when there is no chair left to rest on and we bump over trunks and suitcases and dismantled furniture. I’m paralyzed by a cracked glass: useable, so keep, or damaged, so toss? My son’s yearbooks made the cut; the shoes the dog chewed did not.

As I suppose most humans do, I resist transition, and hope to make the chaos as short-lived as possible. And yet there is an uncomfortable awareness that most of the best stories of God’s mercy and grace happen to people off-balance, people in-motion, people who are shaken out of one place and way of life and set in process to another. Since Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden, we are a race of wanderers longing for stability.  Noah and family, Sarah and Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Zipporah, Joshua, Jonah, Rahab, Ruth and Naomi, Daniel and his friends, Mary and Joseph.  Even Jesus had less lair than a fox; and his followers scattered to the winds as storms of persecution struck. Though the prophets and poets sing of the vine and fig tree, very few get to both live a life both rooted in earthly place and time, and central to the coming of the Kingdom.  Maybe Solomon, but the exception may prove the rule.

Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I packed up a rented house in Baltimore, snapped an 8-month-old into a cotton onesie, and boarded a plane for Uganda. And we’ve been living the paradox of creating home and embracing journey ever since.

I say paradox, because I have found most of the things worth believing require the faith to hold onto two truths that appear contradictory on the surface. Creating home is deeply embedded in our DNA. As soon as we had a cement floor, a mud-brick wall and a tin roof, I was pulling out fabric for curtains and modifying traditions from our childhoods to our new normal on the equator. From rigging car speakers to a battery for music to killing cockroaches, we were intentionally and grittily laboring to create a space where our family would feel they belonged. Sure we had to hide under beds during rebel raids a few times, but mostly we just lived, and the more normal days of laundry and visitors and work and laughter one passes in a place, the more at home we felt. God surely smiles upon those labors.

And yet . . . all that effort to make a new home cannot preclude the embrace of journey. After 17 years in Uganda, we were asked to move to Kenya, and then a new place in Kenya, and now ironically we find ourselves packing up and heading back to where we started. But only temporarily, the horizon beyond six months is completely obscure. And even in the most settled spans, we have always been aliens and strangers, ever stumbling with language and insight. And even if we had somehow figured all that out, the settled arrival remains elusive as kids grow, families change, jobs evolve, friends come and go. The truth is that this life is a reflection, and a dim one at that, of our final true home and that we are continuously in motion towards a new heavens and new earth.

Home and journey are both worthy goals. We seem to need a measure of both for spiritual health. We come from home and head to it, and we reluctantly admit that most of what we learn about God’s faithfulness and power occurs in between. Comfort and routine might rob us of knowing God deeply. Periodically by mercy, we are wrenched away from order and set out in the desert.

So, deep breath, here we go again, off-kilter and unsure of most things. Except this: the God who called Abraham and Moses and Rahab and Mary out of their homes and onto the journey goes with us. So ultimately the paradox resolves into this tabernacle-in-the-wilderness-party: home cannot be taken away by journey. Praying you sense the reality of God with you, the paradox of home on the road.

J.A. Myhre
Author of the Rwendigo Tales, doctor, mom, who loves to put down home roots and just set back out on the open road.

Representatives of the three other families with whom I grew up, for the first major Advent traditional gathering in ?a decade or more.

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