Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bits of Heaven on Earth & Accompanying Restlessness

The saying is true, isn't it? A picture is worth a 1,000 words.

Since our arrival home it seems we're fumbling forward. At times blatantly failing forward. People ask us, "How was your trip to Africa?" Our smile and casual niceties, "Wonderful!" or "Amazing!" or even, "Phenomenal!" don't come close to describing the experiences. Twice, we've done an "Africa presentation" of sorts. Twice, we've failed in our attempt to connect.

What is this lonely feeling? It came from out of nowhere. How do I describe this... the disconnect.

And so, like the boy in the picture above all dressed up in his school uniform, all smiles. I continue to go forward in this my life full of niceties, pleasantries, deeply grateful. And deeply ruined.

My dear friend, Kimberly, has always had a way of saying one little statement that will have me thinking and pondering for years after. Recently, she wrote me an e-mail, "So, would you say that Africa has 'ruined' you for simply enjoying the good life?" Yes, something like that... (I'm pondering that...)

Our family is reading Just Courage by Gary Haugen. He describes the relentless restlessness that invades my heart. The "vague discontent" that keeps me awake in the wee hours of the morning.

The scent of sunshine and dirt is still fresh in my memory. The children so easily contented with a smile, a song, an occasional game of tic-tac-toe in the dirt. So easy to love. Amazing how this spending of one's moments fills restless voids. How exceedingly glad I am for these moments, these bits of Heaven on earth!

I find myself pausing to pray more often -- for friends on the mission field, those who are going home on furlough, (and those about to enter the mission field). For my children. For my marriage. For the beautiful people in my life who amaze me, inspire me, challenge me. For the stranger who I exchange pleasantries with along the journey. Restlessness poured into sacred moments... sacred bits of Heaven on earth.

This precious boy's face has found it's place in the front of my mind's album. How he greeted me everyday in Dzuwa with his unconditional smile. How he wore the same tattered shirt every day -- yet always clean, freshly laundered... the fragrance of sunshine and April breeze. How I've stood in front of my wardrobe since, a sigh, corners of mouth turned up slightly in reminisce, selection to choose from on what to wear... blessed bits of Heaven on earth.

The plethora of children who filled the Trading Center. The aroma of citrus as three little girls stood eating a fruit, its skin dark green and prickly, sweet juice running down their arms. ...The delicious egg and sausage casserole I made for breakfast this morning. ...The comfort food Potato Soup I made for dinner (in the blessed, blessed Crock Pot!) on yesterday's chilly, rainy day. ...The yummy Breyer's Reese's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream for dessert. My taste buds loving edible comforts, bits of Heaven on earth.

And while I live grateful, content, simply overwhelmed by all the little ways God demonstrates His love and care for me everyday... there's that part of me that's been stirred... the part of me that the Potter has softened, remolded... enlarged...

...the part that's ruined me for simply enjoying the good life and stirred up restlessness in its place...

So, I guess I'll keep fumbling along. Failing forward when necessary. Loving recklessly. Following in my children's footsteps -- these people who love and live so freely. Spending their moments seizing bits of Heaven on earth.


  1. Oh, dear friend, you have enlarged my heart also and I long to throw my arms around you.
    You have "dangerously surrendered" like the book you read by Kay Warren. My soul longs for that surrender and looks forward to the adventure to which my Creator calls me.

  2. Beautiful pictures and post (as always). I find it interesting that you say that your experience in Africa ruined you. I know when mom came home from Malawi, and even now she said that it forever changed her. That somehow her soul was tranformed by walk under that sky and on that dirt.

    I can understand what you mean, but this is life. It changes us and you are blessed with so many amazing ways to be changed and to choose to be changed. From your trips to concentration camps to the streets of Rome to the dirt roads of Malawi. Life changing experiences all.

    What my mom always said most impressed her about the people there was the depth of their gratefulness for the littlest things and how much of themselves they will give for a stranger. Which is a stark contrast to the corruption and violence that happens elsewhere on the continent. You are not ruined - you are revived, reformed, and renewed!

  3. YES, revived, reformed, renewed!

    I love this post. As you fall forward into His grace, you bring us all with you. A miracle. Thanks.

  4. I've been waiting for these words and more.....I sensed last week as you talked about your trip that there just weren't enough words.....Thank you for being willing to go and see and expand, for taking off blinders that sometimes we as Americans (namely me) have for our world, most of which is so different from what we know. Oh the joy of being broken...

  5. Thank you for taking us to Africa as you have to so many other distant places. I love seeing it through your eyes.

    I once heard Bill Hybels, of Willow Creek church in Chicago, speak on finding our "holy discontent;" that thing that will not let you rest until you answer it somehow. This post reminded me of that.

  6. Thank you for this post. I want to be "ruined" as well.

  7. Just beautiful, Sharon. You do such a good job of taking us along on your journeys - the ones that require a plane and the ones that delve into your heart. I've read a lot about the discomfort people feel when they return from this kind of trip. Sounds like God's up to something - I pray it touches me as well!

  8. We understand. We had Malawi imprinted upon us when we returned. We will have a bit of Malawi with us this next year with Tina living with us while attending Whitworth and then we are going back to Malawi for a year. We are so excited to be apart of what God is about in Malawi. I found that as we glowed when we talked about our time in Malawi that people understood how wonderful our time was there. Barb

  9. I've been reading this every day since you wrote it, friend. I keep hoping for some brilliant inspiration or words of wisdom to pass on to you. All I can think is that maybe, just maybe, this is the way it's supposed to be.