When Love Indoctrinates
In order to see just how personal God got with me in Africa, I want to give you some background:
You see, when there is any serious stretch of time between visits to the beach, I can’t smell saltwater for the first time without thinking of my Dad.
He indoctrinated me to a love of the ocean.
Not one summer passed between when my feet first learned to walk and I hit my twenties that we didn’t go to the beach. Though it was just one, sometimes two weeks a year, those memories are louder than most others of my childhood. More times than I can count, since he’s died, I’ve had flashbacks to the sun setting over “just one more wave, Daddy??” as we rode a surf that was enormous to my little-tike mind but probably only came up to his waist. My dad valued family in a generation which mostly didn’t and those beach trips are a piece of my inheritance.
When we made plans to leave for Uganda on a week’s notice, the elephant in the room was the likelihood that a hasty departure may mean forfeiting the first family beach trip since my dad died. I couldn’t even talk about this possibility without crying. This was my dad’s legacy trip and, though he wouldn’t be there to participate, this tradition was golden.
We left, and I prayed the impossible to the God who, I sensed, kept saying: ask of Me what you want. And that’s advice which is especially hard for this little rule-follower, who still wrestles to wrap her mind around the God who engages, all the time. And the God who allures, at times, by treating.
Resting in the back of my mind was a dream my sweet Lily had shared with her foster mom months earlier. She dreamed that she was on the beach with her mommy and daddy. “But then I woke up,” she said. Still underneath Ugandan bedcovers, of course.
Was He whispering an early promise to me … to her?
My summer in Africa cataloged more of the “impossible” than I’d seen in my lifetime. We packed for the potential of staying six months plus and less than six weeks later we found ourselves at the embassy with the chance of making the one flight out in early August that was accessible to all of us. It was this flight — or one nearly three weeks later, after my dad’s legacy trip. We’d held onto this one until the last minute and thus missed our chance at others.
It was now or never.
So, two days before our scheduled departure we went, weak-kneed, to the embassy, praying that the girls’ visas would be ready in time. Nate, who finds a friend in any stranger, struck up a conversation with a British gentleman and his American wife waiting for an appointment, while I chewed my lip and tried to pray. We were called into our appointment and met with the news that the medical reports for Lily and Hope, necessary for our visas, had never arrived. My heart sunk.
So close to returning for the trip which I had given my little girl’s heart permission to want.
A day earlier, we’d moved our flights from “on-hold” to in-hand. In faith, we said, knowing full-well that the Father determines the ultimate outcome.
Nate commiserated with the strangers-made-friends, while I swallowed this new reality and prepared to go back to our guest home which might be home to us, now, for weeks longer. The wife of the gentleman quietly, subtly jotted Lily and Hope’s names on a piece of paper.
While Nate was waiting to pay the cashier for services not yet rendered, he casually asked his new friend what exactly he did for this NGO he’d described. The man stumbled over his words to admit what he clearly had concealed minutes earlier. “Actually, well, I’m the Head of Mission for the medical facility where your children’s reports seem to have been lost. I plan to make a phone call when I leave here,” he said.
God is so kind.
Before close of business, that very day, the reports were found by this new friend. (They had been misplaced by one of the clinic’s contractors.) And the next morning they were couriered to the US embassy so that our visas could be processed. The following break of dawn, we were checking in the bags we had packed for a potential six-month (plus) stay, back at the airport.
A week later my little girl smelled saltwater for the first time.
She found herself at the beach, just as in her dream. Her daddy taught her how to ride waves and I stifled tears as I watched her little-girl eyes sparkle with delight over that which my daddy taught me to love.
This summer, I fell hard. For the first time, and all over again. With the Father who engages in His children’s desires. He created us with hearts that beat hungrily for connection and eyes which see in color.
There are always stories to be had, friends. He is always weaving a story — of beauty. And glory. His glory. The best kind of glory. In every seeming setback, there is glory to be had. And when our hearts receive even just one touch from the Father who seeks to captivate His children, the byproduct is radiant.