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  • Kacie

In the wind

A sliver of light pierces through a small opening in the curtain. The first sign of morning. Miraculously, my three children are still asleep. They must be tired from the travel. An overnight flight from Kampala to Istanbul. Then on to Antalya by a small plane and taxi. The hotel we've arrived to sits right at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.


Oh, the sea.


I miss the sea right now the same way I miss God.


Something deep inside me pangs for both. It is an actual hunger for these loves that pulls me away from my dozing husband and out of bed this morning. I want to submerge and be enveloped by the salty water, to float effortlessly in the rhythmic flow just beyond the crashing waves. But it’s May, and cold out, so I quietly slip out of bed, and put on my running clothes instead of a bathing suit.


I try to keep the heavy hotel door from slamming shut behind me. I walk past the pool, with all the red umbrellas in their sleeping positions too. A set of crows high-step through the dewy grass, looking down for their breakfast. It’s early morning quiet, and no one is around.

When I get to the beach, my shoes crunch across the sand as I walk towards the edge of the water. There are a lot more shells than on my San Diego beaches.


I bend down and pick up a rock the size of a tangerine. Its grey and cold and fits in my palm perfectly. When I wrap my fingers around it and squeeze, I feel calm. I think about one of my daughters, the way she gravitates towards certain objects, especially ones that can soothe her. When we make bread together, she spends an extra amount of time with her fists sinking deep into the wet dough, smiling.

She’d like squeezing this rock too.


The waves are small and the water strains through the shells loudly. I take a cool, wet breath and relax my shoulders. The water hits the ground again, and pulls away, exposing the mosaiced earth below it.


I live in rural Africa, far from any ocean. But I am from California. I’ve spent my entire life on the beach. And this is the sound of home to me.


I guess I’ll just walk today.


My body needs to soak it all in, this reunion.


I walk with the morning sun on my back. I pass rows of empty lounge chairs, each demarcating the hotel directly behind it. All the hotels have a complicated web of water slides, sky-high, fluorescent colors, screaming ‘your family will love ours the best!’.


I clamber under the dank underbelly of a dilapidated pier and when I emerge, I start to talk. To God.


I talk to God often, but I do it amidst a chaotic world around me, which makes the listening part hard. How long has it been since I’ve had a calm moment like this?


This is one-on-one. Open-ended. Vulnerable.


But I have a lot of questions on my heart. About our life. The future. My kids.

I am unsettled. Anxious. I want to know the plan. I want to see the roadmap. I want things to fit like a puzzle, but I am holding mismatched pieces looking around and entirely uncertain of where to place them.


And I’m tired. I’m tired of strategizing, of wondering. Of talking.


I want to just, be.


These are the things I say out loud to Him.


And then I finish it all off with a laugh.


I laugh because standing here at the water’s edge, what am I expecting to hear?


I want answers. I want a voice. It’s part of the reason I came to Turkey. Part of the reason I’m standing here, right now. I know my prayers are being heard, Jesus has proven himself to be trustworthy since the moment he arrived, on earth, and in my life personally.


But it’s the space between the words coming out of my mouth and the silence beyond. Without any distractions around me, that space seems to grow, hanging heavy there like a tree full of overripe fruit. Except the fruit are my prayers, breaking apart with their seedy intestines exposed, gathering flies.

I look out towards the furthest reaches of the ocean and wonder what part of Africa lies just beyond. Is that a fog bank or land? Libya? I reach into my geographic bank and come up empty-handed.


For all the familiarities around me, the seagulls and tangled balls of seaweed… I am reminded I am still far from home. I am just a foreigner strolling down a beach in Turkey. My smallness, and aloneness this morning is exemplified by these thoughts.


I continue my walk.


Yet on an otherwise very still and calm morning, I am suddenly surrounded by an unusual gust of wind. It seems to emerge out of nowhere and is only around me. It has such force, rushing past like a band of invisible horses. It is robust, and embodied, and takes my breath away.


I have never felt wind like this.


And then, it is gone.


I look in a circle. My mouth, agape.


What just happened?


I laugh again.


Speechless.


And shocked.


What WAS that?



***



The kids are hungry, it’s lunchtime, we’re in the dining hall. We plan to find a patio seat, put our backpacks down, then come back inside for plates. “Not just mashed potatoes guys,” I say. Mike and I have been giving them free reign at the buffet, which has been insightful into their palates. But how many meals can kids just eat mashed potatoes? Or I guess the question should be, how many meals will we let them?


As we place our bags on the seats, a string of bubbles floats past.


Bubbles?


“BUBBLES!” The kids yell.


More come streaming through. Different sizes. Some the size of pillows or basketballs, others as tiny as m&m’s. Oblong. Perfect circles. Firm, wiggly. Pairs piggybacking one another. They are everywhere. Engulfing us.

The kid’s arms are stretching as high as they can go, swatting in all directions, creating soapy explosions. I look around and see that on the other side of the railing, across a lawn, is a bubble station. Flags labeled “Bubble Fest” flap in the breeze, beckoning for us to join in. A light-hearted song is playing across the speakers in American English, something that always sounds out of place to us now, especially here.


“Can we?” My 5-year-old asks, with excitement spring loading his feet.


“Go!”


And they all run off.


It’s the beginning of our week at this conference in Turkey. The conference is for international medical workers, and addresses issues specific to the challenges we face as people of faith working in low-resource, cross-cultural environments. It’s the place I was bringing some bottled up frustrations, confusions and lament. And also, the break our family has needed.

But what I was mostly finding in this place was… a lot of laughing, and a lot of joy. (A free, all-day ice cream shop helps the family with that).


Mike and I follow our kids to the bubble stand, but I get lost popping them all in the middle of the lawn. The music, and the sun, and the screams of delight from all the children had me feeling like I was 10 again. I poked, and popped, and headbutted any bubble in my vicinity. Then I went over next to where my daughter was dipping a long wand into a pool of soapy water.


I grabbed a wand too and went to the stand next to hers. I dipped the spherical head into the water and pulled it out, then slowly waved the stick forward and backwards, like I was wielding a flag in a parade. The soap bubble inside popped without ever taking shape.


I dipped it and tried again.


A half-formed bubble slipped out and dribbled down the handle.


The third time, I gripped the handle and frustrated, moved it faster. It exploded out the sides, leaving me staring at a wide gaping hole.


Then I heard a voice of a loving father, speaking to his child, but the words changed shape in the wind and sounded as if they were being whispered directly into my ear.


“Nice and easy, let the wind do the work”.


Nice and easy and let the wind do the work?


I shot my head to the left and saw Mike, behind our 8-year-old daughter Winnie. He was positioned just behind her, and they held the wand together up towards the sky, waiting patiently. My eyes fell back to Winnie’s toothy grin, and the peace that she emanated.


A gust of wind came through and caught their soapy wand just so, blowing an enormous perfectly shaped bubble into the sky.


“Whoa! Daddy look,” she said, pointing as their creation floated upwards.


Nice and easy, let the wind do the work.


I think about that morning walk on the beach.


Two new puzzle pieces from this day, seamlessly interlock and fall into place.


God is speaking to me.


I can relax.


I am his daughter, and I can let him do the work.


I look down to my tight grip on the wand, and to this season of my life of striving to come up with answers for things I don’t know. I see my waving to and fro, trying to make order out of chaos. I see my anxieties, and my impatience.


Then I compare it to what I have just witnessed, and to what I interpret now as God speaking to me.


They are worlds apart.


Authors Juliani and Knaak write in their book Psalms: Real Prayers for Real Life, “from time to time we all think our world has spun out of control. Whether it’s economic upheaval, political unrest, relational brokenness, or a health crisis, none of us is immune from feeling overwhelmed or at the mercy of those with power over us. And when that happens, our hearts can follow one of two paths: (1) we can run to our King and find refuge in him, or (2) we can rebel against him and trust instead in our own strengths and abilities.”


Letting the wind do the work doesn’t mean you don’t do anything. Winnie dipped the wand, and had her arms up. She was actively engaged with the world. Holding your arms above your head is tiresome, but less so when you aren't alone. She was hoping for a bubble, and hoping as she simultaneously rested in her earthly father’s arms.


And the bubble, well, the bubble can be different for everyone. It may be as simple as a childhood wish of water and soap joining into a mixture of shape and flight and slippery beauty. Or it could carry as much weight and be as big as all your perceived future hopes and dreams; the school you want to get into, the person you’d like to marry, your career or retirement plans, your children’s health.

Or is it the soul-ache of wanting to witness the time when all oppression and injustice ceases and peace pervades, where we bask in the glory of Christ forever, and where we search in the here and now to find our small part in making that come? Could that be a tiny reason we blow bubbles in the first place? To partake in a tiny slice of ethereal in the here and now?


The bubble could be eternity.


Either way, I stand there. My brow unfurled. A weight removed, replaced with something that resembles trust.



***


Before I go to bed, I decide I want to read a Psalm. I don’t know which one, but I know that if I crack the pages open directly in the middle of the Bible, I will land in Psalms. I smile because this is the way I first read the Bible as a new Christian. It feels childish, and fun. The spiritual equivalent of approaching a meal but starting with a Shirley Temple with a cherry on top.


My eyes land on Psalm 104. And I read it, and feel God is helping me understand his ways.


Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great;

You are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment;

He stretches out the heavens like a tent

And lays the beams of his upper

Chambers on their waters.

He makes the clouds his chariot

And rides on the wings of the wind.

He makes winds his messengers,

Flames of fire his servants…


I laughed on the beach thinking God couldn’t speak to me there. And through a series of events, he showed me he did. Like I so often do, I forgot the magnitude of who he is. He can show his power and speak to you, or to me, through any means he chooses; a burning bush (exodus 3), a thick cloud (exodus 19:9), a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12), or a donkey (numbers 22:21-39) just to name a few.

In the book of Job, it says that “The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1). These are all things that are standing out to me more after my experience on the beach. And while my whirlwind didn’t follow with an answer as extensive as Job’s, it was exactly what I needed to bring my heart back to him.




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