The airplane wheels bump hard on the runway, and we touch down for the ninth and final time in over two months. We’re back. The thought lands comfortably in my mind with a sigh of relief. True to Central Asian form, all the seatbelts clatter in unison long before the seatbelt sign is turned off, and our fellow passengers are up blocking the aisles, retrieving coats and luggage before the plane has stopped rolling. The cold trickle of inconveniences and frustrations of life here seeps back into my consciousness-- and yet, embers glow in my belly. We’re back.
In a warm welcome gesture, the same fellow passengers who had blocked the aisles now usher us generously to the front of the passport line, and we collect our mountain of luggage, teeter precariously out the doors to the waiting sea of faces. My belly warms. We see the two company workers who’ve driven two hours in the freezing pre-dawn to come to pick us up, we speak to them easily in their language, my mouth rejoices at the feeling. The embers pop and crackle, begin to leap. We’re back.
It feels like plunging back into water, like slipping on an old familiar coat. The feel of the sounds in my mouth, the easy banter, the ride over cold bumpy roads in early dawn hours, arriving at our blue gate, stepping into our bare, chilly house… outside is all frigid, could be frightening-- but in my belly, hot flames leap joyful. We’re back.
What is this fire in me? This hot joyful leaping of familiar flames, this odd, warm comfort in being stranded on the other side of the world, far from loved ones? Am I so strange?
Or is this how it feels to be in the center, the very center of God’s plan and desire? This comfortable safeness, leaping hot and joyful in my soul, is how it feels to be right where I belong?
I wake up at 5am, after a night disrupted by jetlagging children, lie there flat in the dark composing this post in my head for an hour before I finally get up at 6. I wrap up warm, put the kettle on, choosing a mug that says Trust, Stash Chai. I type, a candle lit, my fingers chilly, my heart hopeful.
Our first day back.
How do I choose which threads to weave into this year? So many good things unstarted, unfinished...
Project threads [a prayer map for our kitchen. art for our bare walls. covered bulletin boards for pictures, words.]
Child threads [a Russian tutor for Will, weaving him into life here. preschool options. quality childcare I can trust. time every day to connect one-on-one with each boy. a verse with Jesus each morning.]
Habit threads [verses to be memorized. daily prayer rhythms. a pocket of quiet time carved out each day. floss every night. exercise.]
Friendship threads [gifts to be given. words to be said. doors to be opened.]
Culture threads [Russian to learn. meals to serve. teammates to love.]
I add milk to my tea, take a sip, select a ponchik (deep-fried donut) covered in powdered suger, a gift from sweet friends the night before.
How do I choose? How do I prioritize? How do I make my life as good as it can be? How do I choose best out of good? I am swirling, full, hopeful. Not a little bit overwhelmed, slightly panicked-- my perfectionism says seize every moment and you must do it ALL….
A child cries out. I go in, he’s sitting cross-legged, wide awake. No more sleep this morning, I invite him to the kitchen with me. He notices the candle, smiles. I warm milk in a pot, add a donut, another smile. We sit together, eating donuts. I whisper, “Hey William, I love you!” He whispers back, through a mouthful of donut, “I yuv you too!”
And this is how to live. Moment by moment. Donuts and warm milk at 6am with my son. He tries to blow out my candle, laughs, shoots conspiratorial glances at me. Thrilled to be here, just the two of us. Sensing celebration.
I pull out the verse calendar from my precious Aunt, the same calendar she used with her three children, now grown, the one they all chose to take with them when they left home. I read the cover with William: “Big Promises for Little People”.
“Are you a little person?” I ask. He smiles, nods. “Then God has lots of Big Promises for you!” His smile widens, deepens.
I turn to January 22. I read,
“The Lord is always with you.
He will make you strong
And keep you safe from the evil one.”
My belly-fire glows warm.
I’m doing it. The first, needful thing-- helping my son learn how to spend time with Jesus. By not resisting the interruption, by loving welcoming my son, I’ve chosen my first thread and started weaving.
“Mommy, who is the evil one?”
“Satan, our enemy,...” The one who distracts us from the best. Clouds our minds with superfluous, tempts us to despair. “Remember the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, and the snake who wanted Eve to eat the apple?” He nods, questioning. “That’s him, the evil one, the one who wants us to disobey God, wants you to disobey Mommy & Daddy.” The one who wants to steal my year of here and destroy it, moment by moment, into a year of fear.
“And we don’t have to be afraid of him, because Jesus is always with us, to make us strong and keep us safe.” To tell us what is best-- what is the only necessary thing.
Sit at My feet.
Listen to My word.
Stay in each moment.
Commune with Me.
This is how to live: Always with the Lord. Always being made strong, kept safe from distractions. This is how to live: One moment at a time, joy-flame springing from always being with the Lord.
I start my day of moments, my flames leaping bright.