Souvenirs

We packed her up again this weekend. In the past 5 years she’s moved between home, 2 dorm rooms, 2 college flats, 2 grown up apartments, several housesitting gigs and a fair amount of begging and borrowing couches and beds from hospitable friends.
God’s written her story with transiency in almost every chapter and this time she’s about to move far, far away.
4,875 miles to be exact.IMG_0749

This apartment–it was my favorite.
I think I made 13 trips here this year and grateful I could.
There was move in day and a couple of sibling visits, our adventure to Scotland together that departed from O’Hare. A mama-daughter weekend at the Nutcracker by the Joffrey Ballet, a winter zoo adventure and then multiple trips related to her car crash. After that, she got bronchitis and I kept her company while she convalesced. We hosted our buddy from Scotland at her place and wrapped up the year by taking a day excursion to the city with two of her sisters plus one.
Now, we’re packing it up and leaving the keys.
There’s her wall of happiness.
Her bookshelf—of which she claims every single acquisition has a story.
There are the dishes passed down from Grandma.
And Grampsy’s twin bed frame.
Her great-aunt’s old kitchen table with the chair cushions I reupholstered.
And lots of chocolate I’ve given her that she says she forgot about. How is that even possible?
I guess she forgot about the vitamins, the probiotics and the frozen food I left too.IMG_7644

It’s been a big year for her.
She needed a restart, a vision for a beautiful future after the closure of a significantly defining relationship.
She pulled up her big girl pants and made courageous choices to forge a path, one next step after another toward  brighter tomorrows.
She opted to immerse herself in contemplative prayer and form new spiritual rhythms.
She taught herself additional skills to add breadth to her project palette at work.
She connected with new friends.
She travelled to Europe twice in addition to  jetsetting around the US.
She mentored and chaliced and volunteered.
She even ran in a 5K fundraiser. You go girl!

And that brings us right here to this moment, to this sharp turn on her life map.
Destination Africa.
She’s admittedly addicted to passport stamps and plans to add several to her book this next year.

Summer 2019 project #6—Tidy up my writing files.
It’s like opening my Christmas decoration bins and finding nice things I forgot I had.
Ironically, I came across the entry written above. I typed it in almost a year ago.
And today, she’s packing up again. About to make another move. This time it’s just two suitcases after you add the gifts and mementos. She left with only one and tucked her computer, the work horse for her volunteer commitment, between a bunch of loose fitting long sleeved shirts and below the knee skirts. Hardly a fashionable wardrobe by American standards. Next week, she’ll board a plane that she swears will depart on North African time resulting in a missed connection in Europe. After two weeks of gallivanting around Britain with her best buds, she’ll fly home.
“God willing” or “In’shallah” in Arabic, as she says.

As I type, the tears involuntarily hide in the corners of my eyes. The last time I put a hug around her neck, we stood in O’Hare airport and she walked away from me. Toward the gate. I waved and cried– quiet, private drops falling down my cheeks like a leaky faucet. In 19 more days, she’ll walk toward me instead and I expect that I’ll need more tissues then too. I wonder, will she kiss the ground or hug me first? She says she intends to do both.IMG_1836

Unpacking.  It’ll be so much more complicated than laundering her clothes, moving in to the next apartment, starting a new job, and dispersing her souvenirs.
It took courage to move to Africa, to live in another culture with a foreign language and  a different religion.
And it required an extra measure of fresh daily mercies to fight anxiety and homesickness,
Invisible protections by God’s angels to jaywalk across streets with confident determination ignoring catcalls from the locals while dodging traffic, not to mention navigating public transportation safely alone.
And nothing other than supernatural strength got her out of bed each morning to the sound of roosters crowing and the Adhan echoing across the city in order to teach a classroom full of international students, none of whom share her native language, while tackling an 800 page peace curriculum design project under a hard deadline.
Her experience also invited her to wonder and delight in seaside landscapes and blue keyhole doors, fresh bread and homemade hummus, learning Arabic and new Muslim friends. She took hikes and rode a camel in the Sahara. She slept in a cave and visited ancient historic ruins.

There was a fair amount of bitter and a whole lot of sweet, a broad brush stroke of emotions and experiences anchored in the love and faithfulness of God, which makes for the most multi-dimensional life, really.

Now, she’s coming home.
And that will take courage too.
Courage to start new in old places. Courage to pursue ethnically and religiously diverse relationships where she’s in the majority.
And she’ll be needing an abundance of fresh mercies to process cross-cultural reentry, adjust to Amercian cost of living and to love her family for who we are instead of who she wants us to be.
Continued on duty angels to protect her as she navigates life in the burbs of Chicagoland.
Supernatural strength to get up and live in the mundane grind—every single day.
And she’ll be invited to wonder afresh at the country that authorized her passport, the one she checks the “citizen” box next to. To appreciate the freedoms and prosperity we enjoy here, the equal rights and opportunities for women. To exercise communal faith and worship at church in a language she understands without security guards posted nearby for surveillance.
To delight in Chick Fil A and gallons of fresh, cold milk, in lazy summer swimsuit beach days and shopping at superstores. To meander through the aisles of bookstores or libraries and drive her Subaru with the sunroof wide open.

I remember the first time I held her in my arms.
She was 9 lbs. 1 oz. and 21 inches long.


The love– it defied description or explanation. If you’re a parent, you get it, but kids, they just don’t.
I had no idea what the terrain would look like travelling this journey of life in her squad.
And with every single daughter, the path has been individually contoured.
All of us, we’ve been on our own uniquely courageous adventure._DSC0421 copy

I’m writing my list, checking it twice. Picking up her favorite chocolate. Planning a purchase at  the local cheese shop. Got her a few cute clothes to bridge the gap until she can shop. Scheduled a quick family vaca to Mackinac Island. Opening up my schedule to be available for de-briefing and hearing her stories of memories straight out of Africa while she’s right here in Pure Michigan.
And hoping we make a boatload of our own.
Because really, memories are the best souvenirs.

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