Sunday, December 13, 2015

24 Names

A list of 24 names. All dear friends. Some are older than me, and some are younger, and some are just my age. And I have to say goodbye to all 24. Some of them I may never see again.

And so I write, pouring out my appreciation of their friendship and how much I’ll miss them. Trying to describe seven years of friendship in a few words…just fitting my life on a page. I try to capture all those songs sung at practice, all the laughter, all the walks, all the basketball watching, all the mistakes made in primary school. I try to hold onto all those moments of fun, and the hard ones too, because this is my life, and it’s some of these people that make it so special.

I tell them that friendship crosses oceans. I tell them I’ll pray for them. I tell them God is with them and with me too. I tell them I hope to be back someday. I write it, in case I don’t have time to tell them. In case when I’m hugging them goodbye, my words are stuck in my throat. I hope they’ll read my words and they’ll understand how much they mean to me.

I hope they’ll be waiting for me when I come back. But the truth is time goes on. They’re growing up. And they’ll graduate and go on to courses, or universities. And some will get married, and even have children. And they won’t be quite the same, but still just as special.

But what gives me hope truly is that even if I don’t see them ever again here, I will see them in heaven. And that still seems too far away for me, but it helps to know that we’ll sing more songs, and laugh some more minus the mistakes!

And then I deliver the letters. I smile as I say, “I have something to give you!” And I squeeze them in a quick hug as I hand it over. I don’t wait for them to open and read it. In fact, I walk away quickly. And some of them aren’t even around right now so my letter is specially important. I hand it to their sister or friend and pass on the hard job of delivery.

And then come some replies. And I smile and fight tears as I read sweet words of friendship and appreciation. I laugh as I remember old jokes they retell and old events they mention. I’ve never felt so loved. As I read I know I’ll never be able to repay them—every time I try they just overwhelm me with more and more.

I love them, these friends of mine: three girls two grades ahead of me who befriended me in primary school and never forget my birthday; one girl whom I met through email but soon became a close friend in the flesh; a girl whom I call sister and she always introduces me as such; a sweet neighbor lady who let me help her in the class she teaches…and so many more.

So I’ll leave. And I’ll change. But these 24 names will always be special to me, because of the people and memories they represent. And as I go I hope that our words will live on, that our friendship will not rust over years, and countries, and changes. Regardless, packed away, there sits a list of 24 names: 24 people who have changed my life and whom I will never forget.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Be. Thankful. Always.

Golden spheres holding memories slowly freeze to blue. Tears stream down the girl’s face as she finally voices her longing for better times. My face is also wet as I watch the exchange between her and her parents, because the truth behind the scene reflects the state of my heart exactly in the past few months. Happy memories are slowly turning sad, because soon the people and places in them will be gone. Pixar did it again. (the scene is from Inside Out, the newest Pixar movie if you hadn't guessed)

But I think I’ve discovered a way to keep these memories from turning completely blue.

“Be thankful in all circumstances.” Yep. That’s my secret.

Be thankful, whether sharing a funny moment with a friend, or watching a family member deteriorate from a sickness, or hitting that high note perfectly, or leaving your home in Africa after living there for almost six years.

Whether happy or sad, be thankful, “...for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  I fully believe God cries with us when we cry out of genuine sadness. And I fully believe He laughs hysterically with us (oh what I would give to hear what God’s laugh sounds like!) when we can barely breathe because we’re laughing (or cry-laughing?) so hard.

We just finished celebrating Thanksgiving last week, and we’re already moving on and looking forward to Christmas. What happened to being thankful? Do we really limit it to one day a year, a week a year, or a month a year?

Or do we limit it to happy times? Do we limit it to the people who gave so much of their lives for us?

Some of my friends in Uganda (2010)
Some of my first friends in Uganda (2010)

Here’s something to chew on:
Can we be thankful for not getting that perfect gift on Christmas?
For realizing we may not have enough money to last us through the month?
For a miscarriage...
For a friendship turned sour…
For a person we despise?

You know what, I’m choosing to be thankful for every moment, every second I got to  spend here in Africa; and still get to! I still have a little more than five weeks left to go!
I’m choosing to be thankful for every cultural misunderstanding, every tear I’ve cried or caused to cry, every drop of sweat accumulated in a stuffy building during a long, African event, every bump and bruise… I’m choosing to be thankful for those. And I’m so so very thankful for the amazing times as well, so many I can’t even begin to write here.

Some of my besties (2015)
Though my memories of this place will always be tinged with blue, they will stay golden.

Because, for them,