Sunday, June 28, 2015

Christmas in June

Last July we were in Cairns and as we wandered around the shops and looked at all the things it is possible to buy for a baby, we felt overwhelmed! How did we know what Reuben would like to play with this time next year? It was hard to choose and I remember thinking, "We live in PNG, we need to get this right now! Who knows when we will be here again!" In my 'I want my child to have the best of everything' head, it felt like anything less than instant access to a toy shop was a sacrifice.

So fast forward a year and as I have already written about, it's June and some dear friends and neighbours have just returned to their passport countries. I think I established in my last blog that this is a sad time. But this year, we have experienced a very surprising silver lining. The truth is that people who are leaving need to get rid of most of their things and Reuben (and we) have been the recipients of some incredible generosity.

Reuben is now the proud owner of his own little table and chairs, new books, a huge crate of 'Thomas the Tank Engine' Duplo, a box of about thirty cars and a bag of shoes in the next few sizes. I look back at myself feeling sorry for him and laugh. As he played happily with a friend in a muddy ditch this afternoon I laughed again. Covered in mud and grinning from ear to ear he did not look like a child suffering from lack of proximity to shops. So thank you, friends - for your willingness to share toys and things that have been precious to your children and yourselves. You have made a little boy and his parents feel loved by you and by a God who provides in ways we rarely have the faith to imagine.

Friday, June 19, 2015

For Kate

I woke up this morning with a familiar ache spreading across my face. Ah yes, I thought. Of course. From time to time this memory of old tears comes back to remind me that I'm grieving, even when I think I'm doing rather a good job of pretending I'm not.  It is hard not to marvel at how my body tells me what my mind is blocking and I know from experience that this is not a reminder to ignore. Perhaps you think that this is too personal to share with the world, but if you are really interested in what it means to be a missionary then talking about loss is essential.

One of my very best friends left Ukarumpa today and she is not coming back. Before she left, I considered publishing a blank blog. I thought the white space might serve well as a picture of how I feel - empty, unable to find the right words, but also hopeful for possibilities to fill and find. Yet today, having stood in drizzle and watched the plane taking them away disappear, I find that in place of the blankness I thought I would encounter, there is instead a surge of something else. As we said our goodbyes I felt my body literally convulse. Frankly, it was not very British. I barely held it together. It was overwhelming, intense, physical.

Before she left, my friend instructed me not to turn to chocolate and I will obey. So what now? What do I DO? I remember when my brother died, that I turned to a friend and asked her to tell me the procedure. I wanted to know how grief worked and what to expect. In this case, my friend has not died - God willing, I will see her again. But I know enough about different types of losses, to know that the days ahead will be unpredictable and there is no point trying to pretend otherwise. There is no procedure and everywhere there are reminders. My plan is to feel what I feel and try not to be too hard on myself, or those around me - we are all navigating our way though the same sea after all.

Do you know what the best thing is though? As I watched her walk away my arm was linked through the arm of another beloved friend. As I felt the physical wrench of separation, I felt the joy of connection at the same time. How's that for God providing in every moment and in every way?

So...for all the world to read: Kate, you are wonderful. You have lovingly encouraged me through my early days as a missionary and a mother. I will miss you dreadfully, and will pray for you every day as you walk through your new beginnings and beyond.