All it takes is one lyric or a deep bump in the road. All it takes is one message that says, “Sent from Kampala, Uganda” to take me there. In an instant my heart and mind are together in Uganda, smelling it’s uniqueness. I’m there at the guesthouse archway breathing in raindrops and twirling my wavy hair. I’m there handing my cup of instant black coffee to a godly man. I’m there, hearing the songs of the children and the unity of the church. I’m still, somehow, there… praying for God to fill the gaping holes in my life, to give me a gentle spirit instead of one that responds in such bitterness, and leading crafts with an interpreter to kids that don’t know my language or how to use a glue stick. But kids that are so dear to me and to God’s heart that I could burst at the seems – either from my splitting headache from being uncomfortable or from my overflowing love.
If you’ve been my friend for any period of time, you know I talk about my travels more than the average person. But here’s the thing: when diversity and unity in the body of Christ come together under one roof, you should never stop talking about it. When the Holy Spirit reveals Himself to you in new ways, with new people, or the same way every single day – your life should speak of those volumes.
That’s why I write.
That’s why I step out of my comfort zone, even when I feel like God might have to physically drag me out there.
It’s about sharing manifestations of Christ in my life. Sometimes it’s in Kansas. Sometimes it’s in memories of kudzu or polar bears or one of my ten – yes, ten – childhood bedrooms. Sometimes it’s in Africa, South America, or landing in Miami, Florida. It’s between the lines.
We’re meant to be totally present. But the Israelites? They sinned and turned their back on God because they forgot how closely He revealed themselves to Him. Over and over and over again. I believe that the reason they turned their back on God was not because they were blasphemous – maybe some of them were – but it was because they forgot how faithful – and good – there God was. Is.
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. -Judges 2:7
They whored after other gods. They forgot.
So, friends – be present enough today that you are continually listening for new words and urges from the Holy Spirit.
But be mindful enough to know that if you don’t look back at the good or the ugly in your past, you may begin to whore after your own gods.
Don’t waste your attention on lesser loves. Don’t be afraid to let silence in, to be emptied, and to be filled.
Be right where you are, but don’t stop looking there. Where has God met you? Thirty years ago, a decade ago, six months ago, and yesterday. Don’t lose sight of where He’s touched you most intimately like a Groom and convicted you most like a Father. That’s the only way we can keep the joy of our salvation.
So tonight I’m remembering orange muddy flip flops, dark latrines with countless crawling bugs, and deep Ugandan accents. I’m remembering learning to sob silently in Ecuador next to a candle-lit dinner, a library in Tennessee that allowed me to read books that changed my life, an orange folder full of Scriptures given to a stranger, and moving out of a town that is named the definition of loneliness in my life dictionary. I’m remembering sledding on tiny town hills when I still didn’t know how to pronounce my R’s, watching the stars after chapel at summer camp, and what it first felt like to weep over a handsome guy all night long. I’m remembering those days when I felt like I belonged when I went to public school basketball games and drama on That’s So Raven was the plot twist of my day. I’m remembering feeling heavy spiritual warfare in gazes from men that are hungry for something much more fulfilling than what they think they’re looking for in a group of young girls. I’m remembering fearing for my life during turbulence in every flight, not being able to let go of my seat, but then seeing the ocean for the first time or listening to music that soothed my dread. I’m remembering bright operating rooms with masses of interns chatting about romantic comedies, mean surgeons, and cute anesthesiologists.
I’m doing my best to use these stories to apply nuggets of truth to the here and now – the Tuesday afternoon Bible study, the late night messaging, and the tough Sunday morning greetings. I’m scraping away romantic nostalgia with a hundred sharp tools and digging to the roots. The grass isn’t greener over there, Emilee. But what was God sent in that season and what thoughts needed to be forbidden? How can I look back at yesterday’s failure and see present victory? How can I look at yesterday’s goodness and not look sparingly at what I could learn in today’s desert? I’m doing my best to remember the people between every line, complicated layer, and long story. Because I don’t want to ever forget the grace that God has given in those dark, tiny, and abundant places – all these places that rid me of ever saying that I have one hometown – because I consider them all home.