It's come to an end.
I sit on his bed typing these words as he sorts through clothes and shoes and memories.
We've agreed this last week (this whole month actually), we will stay close, no phones or emails are allowed to enter in to these last days together. All families have to say goodbye – goodbye is a part of hello – hello can only come after someone has said goodbye --- hellos matter --- but goodbyes do too.
Even when this youngest born son came to my arms those 22 years ago ---- somewhere in my heart i knew --- the Creator had likely hesitated as Heaven whispered goodbye to him. We can't be in Heaven and on earth at the same time.
And with the goodbye looming on our horizon, this Christmas i saw things in a different way.
Always and Forever we rejoice over the birth of the baby Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the One who willingly came to pay for our sins and show us the way of love. Christmas is a joyous time because it applauds the moment the Savior was willing to breathe air beside us.
But this Christmas i allowed my heart to feel the heart of the Father God – the “parent” of the One who would become God wrapped in flesh. For Jesus to be born of a virgin --- He had to step away for the arms of Heaven.
Did our Abba grieve over the step His Son took when earth received a babe born in a manger and the space beside Him in Heaven was silently vacant for the next 33 years?
This Christmas --- i was silent as i allowed myself to love my Father more deeply than ever --- asking Him to allow me to scoot up close beside Him ----- and cry ------ over the space He undoubtedly felt. In the “seeing” what i had not fully opened my eyes to before, something new slid into my heart...
He released His Son on Christmas morning into the hands of the unable and unworthy ----- for one reason alone. HIS LOVE.
He released what was His greatest treasure ----- because of His real love for those He would adopt into His fold.
Christmas is a time we celebrate with colorful lights, evergreen trees, carefully wrapped presents, and tables overflowing.
For me, this year, i allowed myself to weep over The Gift ----- that could only be ours because the Father gave Him up.
my dear son is not the Christ child ----- and i am not the Father.
But we are all made in His image, and He feels as we feel.
So this Christmas season, i've learned something new.
Because of love for another ----- we have been taught to release what we love most.
Our Yahweh taught it to us --- He did it for us.
And in the moments when we surrender what we love so dearly ---- our Abba meets us there. He's the perfect fit for the hole left inside. He knows what He is doing --- He knows.
So as i watch him pack, and we talk over the details of the next few days, i write.
And i want to share with you the amazing ways we have chosen to “paint the caboose” of his days beside us here in Kenya.
To tell it rightly, we must go back 12 years.
When Peter was 10 years old, Steve and i made a decision that was perhaps one of our best parenting moves ever. We wanted to give each of our children a special gift that would allow us time to invest in them personally. So as each of our children graduated from high school, we invited them on a “dream trip”. Rather than them heading to the beach with friends, we wanted to personally escort them from their childhood days and into the first steps of their future.
So when Peter was 10 years old, we began saving a small amount each month, preparing for the trip he would receive. We did the same for each of our 3 children.
Our oldest son Michael enjoyed a week in Scotland with his dad for his “senior trip”. Our daughter Maggie and i traveled for two weeks covering 3,000 miles from Yellowstone Park to the Grand Canyon for her “senior trip”.
Peter had always dreamed of going to Australia --- specifically, he wanted to go cage diving with great white sharks. What!!! Yes – that's just what his giddy-up looks like. :)
But when Peter was graduating High School, we were deep in the throws of selling our home and all that we owned, preparing to move to the mission field. We sat with him tearfully during those strained days and asked him to give us time... his father could not step away at that time to enjoy a special trip with him. With much grace (yes, even an 18 year old son can give beautiful grace), he said he completely understood, and that even if he was 30 years old before it happened, he knew, someday it would happen.
Now we sit over three years later and prepare to say goodbye to him. In four short days he will board a plane and fly home to America. We will remain here and continue in the work we are called to.
For all these years, we've held the money we had saved for his “senior trip”, wondering when we could bless him, how it would work.
Well ---- our hearts could not bear to watch him go without somehow showing him our love and gratitude over his willingness to wait ---- and even beyond that ---- his eagerness to support and love us as our calling has changed his world completely. He's not complained the first time --- but instead he's made the most of it. He's grown beautifully in ways that we don't believe he could have grown in our safe little haven on Mockingbird Road. He knows what it is to be the major minority. He knows how it feels to be discriminated against. He also knows what it feels like to know God is near and protecting and guiding and “speaking”. He knows what lonely tastes like, and he knows how God shows up with a feast in those moments. He has grown.
We are so thankful.
After much prayer, and some help from a dear friend --- we decided to surprise Peter and give him his “senior trip” before he returned home.
We couldn't swing Australia (round trip flights from Nairobi to Sydney are a whopping $2000pp), but we could still make shark-cage-diving with great whites become a reality for this last born one who drinks adventure in like it's morning coffee.
So on December 14th, imagine our JOY as cashed in the “senior trip” savings and boarded a flight to Cape Town, South Africa. It's arguably proclaimed the best place on earth to share smiles with the great whites. For 3 days and nights, the 3 of us celebrated Peter's high school graduation --- 3 years late. But IT HAPPENED!!!
While i perched myself on the top deck of the dive boat, father and son donned their dive suits and entered the cage. It wasn't Australia, someday that might happen, but it was the perfect way to say “Congratulations Peter” for high school graduation, and for working hard to make a success of your years in Kenya.
God gave us 3 perfect days.
And since He is the One who made the great whites, He proved His authority over them as He brought them to us, and they showed off.
It was a dream trip.
We'll never forget the moments of awe and laughter and even though there was a sprinkling of tears in the ticking away of our minutes together ----- what a gift to share such moments together.
We sat beside each other on the rocky shores of the Cape of Good Hope, we climbed the stairs to the lighthouse on the cliff at the southwestern most shoreline of Africa,
we looked out at the waves and knew ------ the One who controlled the rolling waters before us was in complete control of our lives, and peace washed over us.
Flying back to Kenya we couldn't stop smiling. That even though our lives have changed in ways we never could have predicted, we had still been allowed to enjoy a feast of moments with one another and accomplish something we'd dreamed of for over a decade with our last-born-treasure.
But the days of December were not finished with us ---- and we still ached to make the most of every minute of these last few days.
One week later it would be Christmas day. Living in Kenya, we have learned, there are few things we can “buy” and give as gifts. We've been blessed all our lives to have all we need, so for us, Christmas in Kenya is more than ever before a time to look at those around us and g-i-v-e.
Our little 3 foot tall Christmas tree held no gifts underneath, we needed nothing we did not already have, and the day means so much more than ever before. We did finally slide a few sweet presents under our tree – for the children who live two doors down and our dear Eve and her children.
We talked together of Christmas and decided that again this year we would give memories instead of gifts to each other. We have not given Christmas presents to each other since Mockingbird Road.
Being away from “home” at Christmas time is challenging for our hearts. We miss being with family, seeing friends, eating the wonderful foods of the holidays, and counting twinkling Christmas lights as we drive at night. Cold weather with warm scarves and steaming drinks in shivering hands. Christmas music played while cookie smells fill the house...
well... we had it so good for so many years. Memories fill our hearts --- and who wouldn't miss being in those kind of beautiful places. So --- for us --- we've learned, we need to do something “different” at Christmas time, if we don't, we set ourselves up for sadness.
So we packed ourselves up and for 3 days we visited Tsavo National Park on the western side of Nairobi. We've always wanted to visit this special park, where Mzima springs flow and extra big lions with no manes roam.
We drove our Lori-car the 6 hour drive and spent 3 days looking at what God had made and was now willing to share with us.
We visited the famous Tsavo bridge that Colonel Patterson built for the British in the late 1800's, where two man-eating lions terrorized his camp of workers and in the end killed over 100 men, reportedly eating over 30 of their victims.
We stood in front of the cave where those monstrous, mane-less killers stashed the bones of their victims.
Colonel Patterson killed both of the man-eaters who are now stuffed and on display at the Chicago Field Museum. We stood on their still present trails and took pictures at the mouth of their lair. The true story of the man-eating lions of Tsavo was portrayed in the movie, “The Ghost and the Darkness”. It was creepy ----- but also exciting. We love visiting places where history books hold true stories of living --- especially when good won over evil.
(As i share of our special month of travels ---- please know this, not a dime of ministry money was spent for one minute of either of these special December trips. When so many support our ministry work here, we feel compelled to be sure you know this.)
He's just finished packing his second bag.
It's really happening.
And we will find ourselves living on the other side of the world from each and every treasure of our hearts (except for the gift of each other).
How honored we are to be allowed to serve our Abba and minister to marriages, to pastors, to hurting women, to wounded homes. Each and every day we begin it by asking --- “Use us Lord, we are yours.” We are humbled that He is willing to let His truth and love flow threw us --- cracked vessels that we are. It's proof of His great God-ness --- if He were not GOD, we could do nothing.
And each day we work to remain diligent in our eagerness to obey Him and serve others.
Keeping our chins up and our hearts true (Kweli Moyo) --- we do the best we can to submit and stay.
But there are those moments when our hearts melt ---
and in truth we can only say ----
it is ever-so-hard to say ----
goodbye----NO – not goodbye --- rather --- we say --- see you later son
we will see you soon son ----
we will see you again ----
oh how we do love you -----