Home always looks good after being away, even though the body wants to rebel against frigid January temps and the need for bulky, warm clothes.  Sunshine, amazing experiences and new sights are logged along with the 24+hours it took to return from Africa.  I’ll admit that I welcomed hot showers from an overhead source, my own bed and pillow (!), complete bathroom niceties and accessible food in my own refrig—even though I rarely thought about them while away.  Driving my car over mostly smooth roads (no spring thaw yet) with predictable road-rules is always a pleasure after entrusting my life to good drivers, albeit on scary roads.  Kampala, Uganda is the worst with more people, bota-bota taxis (motor bikes), and cars cramming the roads than you’d think possible.  I’ll miss our gracious hosts in remote villages, the curious and clamoring children, the local cuisine and waking up to unique birdcalls.

Yesterday at church the contrast was stark.  The furnace boiler in our old church building gave up just before the service began so we were reminded to keep our coats on and sit close together.  Last week we were seated on wood benches in a thatched roofed church with open space above the walls and some small openings for ventilation.  In 90-degree heat we were amazingly cool as we watch eager adults in a literacy class followed by a drama about the importance of being able to read. 

I thank God not only for chances to leave for far away places but also the special joy of returning. 

Thatched Roof Church - Uganda
For some, leaving cold, gray Michigan in January sounds like a great idea.  Today the soft snow that greeted me on the morning walk has turned blustery.  Those tracks in the fresh snow Jake and I left have blown over as if we had never been there.   In the past week we have gone from very cold temps over the frozen prairie with its beaten down grasses to rain that raised them up to light snow accenting each stalk and denuded flower stem.  If we time our early outings just right, we get to watch the sun rise bravely and brightly over the trees.  Same walk, same place, same weather challenges—but new every morning.  So, I’ll miss this place as we travel to the other side of the world, where heat is the challenge and the unexpected is waiting.  Jake will get to romp with his cousin-dog, Buckeye, while we follow other paths.  But we trust that the road will lead, twisting and turning, through other beauty but then back to this place we call home.

A Blue Lake in January
January reminds me of mortality. A new year-of-days stretches out as it has in my life for almost seventy years. At the dawn of the year, as I put away the Christmas ornaments, an undefined hope seems to glow. I hang up a new calendar with its bright images on twelve pages, each appropriate to the seasons in this part of the world. So many days ahead—surely this year I will use them wisely, make better decisions, and never put off for tomorrow what can be done today. But these days, like others before them, with all of their hope of change, seem to tumble by like dry weeds. Even as the year begins, I’m confronted by the futility of trying to catch them and hang on. 

Days are like grass or weeds—but they are also like snow. Outdoors, I see a new covering of the white stuff under sunshine, accentuating the brilliant effect. Dried grasses and flower stalks bend over under the weight, leaving bumps that in certain light remind me of waves on a blue lake. Snow covers much of winter’s dullness here on the prairie in the same way as it makes picture postcards of abandoned, crumbling farmhouses. The cover of snow is as deceptive as that calendar of pages; one unseasonably warm day melts beauty to slush and then to mud. Days pass, whether or not we want them to, and we know that all our days will eventually be used up. My walk through a year of days in this book helps me savor them, knowing full well that they are numbered.  (from All Nature Sings - January)