We arrived in Kenya earlier than I usually get out of bed. Now, I’m a night owl who resists the morning like a champ, so that’s not saying much. But it was first thing in the morning when we began our first day in Africa, which means we hit the ground running in an attempt to stick to our itinerary and beat jet lag.
My first reaction when we walked off the plane (in addition to appreciating the cool air and being thankful our trip was taking place in the African winter) was to think, “I’m here! What? Am I here? How did this even happen? WHAT IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW? I’m here! (I’M HERE!?!}”
And then, of course, I immediately felt the tears start. No surprise, given my tendency to cry about every single thing, every single day, but I couldn’t bear to let my new friends see me break down — even in wonder — quite so early in the trip. I should’ve known better. Because they’ve now seen me cry about twelve thousand times in the two days since.
Before we left Houston we spent some time with Kristen (founder of Mercy House), and she said something that has stuck with me. She said that we should be patient with ourselves on this trip. Of course, that could be true for any number of situations, including jet lag that won’t let go or feeling overwhelmed by all the things we’re seeing and learning.
I realized this evening, though, that I need to be patient with myself as I process everything. I’ve been staring at this blank post, at the blinking cursor, at the photos I’ve taken, at the notes I wrote last night when we got back to our cottage. I have lots of thoughts and feelings and memories and impressions. And questions, so many questions. I’ve cried and I’ve laughed, I’ve been uncomfortable and I’ve been overwhelmed. And I don’t know which part to tell you about.
What do I say? How do I describe what I’ve seen here? I can’t even form words, really, except to say that I think there’s something wrong with me.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel or do or think on this trip, but I am certain that I’m doing it wrong. (And yeah, yeah, go ahead and remind me of my blog’s title [yes, I love it when people do that!], but sometimes you just can’t take the perfectionist out of the girl.)
Can I tell you something? My heart didn’t feel moved one tiny bit when we first saw the adorable babies at the Mercy House home. I’m not blind; I am well aware that they are cute and sweet and wonderful gifts from God. But I’m not really a “baby person,” no matter what continent I’m on, so I was the only one in our group not oohing and aahing over these precious babies. I tried faking it, because who wants to be the awkward weirdo in the group, but that didn’t feel right either.
I thought, for a tiny split second, that “perhaps this just isn’t my thing.” Maybe, I thought, poor pregnant girls in Kenya isn’t the thing for me, it’s not my passion. (Because it makes total sense that God would make the way for me to come on this trip just for me to cross something off my list of possible causes to care about, right?) Like I said, this line of thought was short-lived.
Partly because it doesn’t ring true with anything I know about myself or God, but also because the next thing I knew, I was the awkward weirdo in the group BECAUSE I was crying. Over something that either nobody else noticed or that moved nobody else’s heart the way it did mine. At least I’m comfortable with this end of the Incongruent Mission Trip Response spectrum. I’m well-known as a crybaby, and mostly just accept that about myself.
As a matter of fact, I just sat and cried and Devil’s advocated with three of my new friends about everything we’ve seen so far and about WHAT IT ALL MEANS — even though I know their explanations are true and believe all the same things they shared. Processing and understanding and responding are, apparently, not going to happen tonight. And as I shared with my friends, no, I do not want to be patient with myself because I hate uncertainty and the in-between and the figuring it out stage of things. It’s how God made me.
Or maybe not all of that was God’s intention. I don’t even know anymore. It’s easier not to think about all of this, but I know that if I don’t think about this now, day by day, it will be too much for my heart to hold when I get home. And I know how fast and hard I can run from hard heart work, so the temptation is already there, to get to the end of this trip and remain the same.
It’s late in Africa, and I need to go to bed. Don’t tell the others, but I’m totally using the mosquito net in my room EVEN THOUGH I HAVE YET TO SEE A SINGLE MOSQUITO HERE. It’s just that, it seems like something I should do and so I’m doing it.
Later I will have funny stories and [hopefully] moving lessons I’ve learned. But tonight I’m not sure how to tell you anything. So, stream of consciousness it was! I hope you’ll keep tuning in for more coherent reports from Kenya. Remind me to tell you later about the missed flight and the goats and the braids and the potholes and the singing, okay? Until then, I’m signing off and brushing my teeth with some bottled water.