On September 18, twenty-three years ago, my oldest son was born. He was small, beautiful, and intense. He did everything full throttle. If he needed food or changing or sleep; was cold or hot, uncomfortable or bored, he didn’t cry or moan or whimper he screamed. A loud, piercing scream for every need or desire, no matter how large or small. He had four hours of colicky screaming every night for four full months. He was awake all day, refused naps in any format at any time of day, from birth onward; and when he finally fell asleep in the evenings, it was usually to pass out rather abruptly in his mashed potatoes at the dinner table. When he learned to kiss at three months of age, those were the most intensely wonderful open-mouthed, sloppy, wet kisses any baby could possibly perform.
With his little hands planted firmly on either side of your head, fingers twined through your hair for better leverage, he managed to swallow your entire face in his otherwise tiny mouth–wide open and smiling, laughing and enjoying every minute of his dominion over your life for that moment in time. You always came away overwhelmed, thrilled, laughing…and soaking wet. Becoming a mother opened up a tiny view of heaven into my earthly life, and his big wet kisses were the point of a very messy collision.
The day before my son’s 23rd birthday, I returned from the experience of a lifetime. I spent twelve incredible days in Kenya with six absolutely terrific women, on a “get-to-know the country and its people” exploration trip. That beautiful country touched me in a way I never thought possible. As I sat in my jet lag stupor, reminiscing about my handsome son’s birth, I realized my time in Africa had hit me just like my son’s sloppy wet kisses–profoundly messy; breathtaking; staggering and powerful in the force of passion, joy and innocent expectation. Once again, heaven and earth collided and again I was shaken to the core.
Yes, Kenya is an earthly place. An earthly country with earthly inhabitants, living very earthly lives. Like other places in the world, there is dirt and filth and corruption; and beauty and innocence and hope. There are good people with good motives doing good things; and bad people with bad motives doing very bad things; and some people with no motives at all, doing very little if anything most of the time. But my time there was marked by the moments when good and bad, earthly and divine came together in a breathtaking instant, filled with surprise and wonder. And most of all, my trip was one of relationship, a building of community and friendship, that I am praying will last for years. Relationship with the beautiful women I shared the journey with, relationship with the incredible people we met along the way. Relationship with a country and a culture that I now long to know better.
My twelve-day adventure to Kenya cannot be told in a few short paragraphs, so you’ll have to bear with me over the next several weeks while I process all that I have seen and experienced on this trip. I promise to share the good and the bad, as well as a little eye candy–the photographs of the amazing landscape and wildlife seen along the way.
Like my son’s incredible, baby kisses, my journey simply cannot impact you the way it did me. It is not in the tellling, but in the living, that our lives are changed. But maybe, in the telling of my journey, you too will choose to step out and discover the wonder of people different from you, to see the worth and the beauty in a culture not your own. Join me on a journey where heaven and earth collide, and may you, too, be changed to the very core of your being.
As I ready this post for publishing, there has been a tragedy in Nairobi–over 60 people have been killed and dozens more injured in a tragic and senseless shooting. My heart breaks for those involved and grieving, and my prayers go out to the families of those lost.