Dry land and love

A few days into our month long trip to Chile, I saw this patch of ground.  It was a long ways away from the house.  And I never had my phone with me (glorious, let me just say that…) so I never got a picture of it, but it is permanently written into my memory.  It was bone dry.  Completely parched.  You could tell it hadn’t seen a drop of rain for who knows how long.  Like none.  It was beyond a little dusty and more like just hardened, packed, totally broken ground.  It wasn’t comfortable to walk over.  It was uneven and awkward. It was ugly and lifeless.   As I walked across it and Finn saw fit to explore every crevice and bump in the ground, my heart breathed a deep internal sigh.  I would walk past it many times over the coming weeks and it wasn’t until the second week that I was struck by why I felt attached to this little stretch of dirt.  Why I felt compelled to look intently at it every time I passed.  Why I was drawn to it.

There were parts of my life that felt just like that patch of arrid soil.  That might sound hard to believe.  Somehow though, its possible to have certain aspects of life feel rich and blessed and thriving while others are crumbling and impoverished.  Maybe your life looks good on Sunday at church because parts of life are truly, genuinely wonderful and you think no one notices the part of your heart that is thirsty and desperate for water, for life.  I used to believe that if you felt that way, lived that way, it meant your life was fragmented, too compartmentalized, maybe even hypocritical, couldn’t possibly be authentic and real.  How everything had to be connected and in sync and crap like that.  But that was a younger, quicker to judge, slower to give grace version of myself.  With every passing year, I understand a little bit more how blistering hard life can be.  I watch my friends bear up under unspeakably difficult things.  I listen to their stories and I read books and I see with my own eyes incredible, searing pain and heartache.  I yell and weep and scratch in my journal and read the only Book that brings peace in dark nights.  And woven in to every one of those hearts, those lives–mine included–is a myriad of lovely things in the midst of pressing in, hard life.

Water is a big deal in most of the world.  Ours is one of a precious few nations where water is really a given wherever you may be.  Our children don’t grow up thinking about it, lets be honest, neither do most of us grown ups.  They take for granted from toddler-hood that when they turn a faucet on, water will come and out and they can drink it, wash with it, do whatever they want with it and there will always be more.  When we arrived in Chile, there was immediately talk of the canal that ran right through our friends’ land and how their neighbor had built a dam, illegally, to provide him with an overflowing abundant source of water for his late-planted potato crop.  There was less rainfall than normal and the countryside was dust laden and scorched.  So dry.  One day we drove by the gypsy tents near town and there were flames leaping two stories as their little temporary dwelling places caught fire.  Something had sparked a fire and everything being so dry the flames were out of control very quickly.

There were neighbors across the road whose well ran dry a few weeks into our stay.  What it feels like to have no water for cooking, drinking, bathing, livestock….I cannot begin to understand.  They had to come fill jugs with water at our house and ended up paying a truck to come bring them a tank of water.  Cows wandered fields that looked devoid of any living thing, no green grass.  Trees with deep roots provided lush shelter and respite from the blazing afternoon sun were their saving grace no doubt.  The cars we drove were covered in thick layers of dirt and dust.  But it seemed terribly wasteful to use such a commodity as water to clean them.  So we didn’t.  More than once we ran the water tank all the way out of water.  If we forgot to fill the tank up twice daily, it could run out.

All this talk and thought of water was not lost on me.  When some parts of your life are okay or good even, I think it makes it easier (not easy) to keep moving forward.  It can make life more doable in the short term to just forge ahead.  But as we faced a dry, water-starved land alongside our beloved friends of nearly two decades, the reality of our own thirsty places stared back at us.  And it became clear that Chile held more for us than a cross-cultural learning experience, more than the many (amazing) new encounters and adventures, more than family bonding and unending Daddy time.  In my shortsightedness and near panic preparing for such a monumental trip with six young children, I had no time to take inventory of my own heart before we departed.  We took each simple day as it came to us and were fairly swept away by laughter and life and love.  Love that we might have lost sight of in these past couple of years.  Love that we had to go to Chile to find again.

My forever reminder of the covenant we made 16 years ago.  That we are Mr & Mrs.  Always.
My forever reminder of the covenant we made 16 years ago. That we are Mr & Mrs. Always.

Thoughts on adventure

We’ve been home five days.  The running list in my mind of what I will remember from our four week stay in south Chile with friends keeps getting longer so I thought I’d write it out for myself here…

  • the logistics of traveling with six children under 12 for nearly 30 hours
Karissa's iphone pics 2014 778
  • the way we could hold our breath and not move when Liberty would actually sleep
  • how ridiculously heavy and full our kids carry on bags were packed – totally unnecessary
  • Finn walking shirtless through the LA airport like he owned the place
Karissa's iphone pics 2014 775
  • seeing my beloved friend through the glass walls at the tiny airport in Temuco, Chile
  • realizing we would be cramming 12 people into a truck and a Subaru for a month (turns out it costs $300 a day to rent a van, insane!)
  • the moment when I realized when she said she lived five miles down a dirt road, she had actually meant it
  • how fast she drove on said dirt road
  • the taste of the dust coming through the vents
  • the vibrant yellow wheat fields rolling over hills
  • dogs, lots of dogs everywhere
  • how kind and warm their two children were to ours, sharing their rooms and space and entire life with us day after day
  • trying to wrap my mind around neighbors who build dams in canals and steal water
  • learning to wash dishes in such a way that water doesn’t get wasted
  • how brown my bath water was, me thinking it came out that way, but realizing it just was dirt color instantly because my feet were filthy…how this confirmed my strongly held belief that dirty bath water is an excellent indicator of good times had 🙂
Chile - 2 weeks - 2015 042
  • good but cheap wine (no sulfites), no place to go and nothing but time
  • palta…smashed avocados and salt – best avocados we’ve ever had
  • white bread, fresh every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • choripan – delicious fresh sausages with mayonaise inside soft bread
  • nescafe took some getting used to, not the same as a strong pot of freshly ground coffee, strangly satisfying however
  • shelf stable milk in boxes…I knew this was the case but still, its a long leap from fresh daily goat milk
  • ox carts in the Wal-Mart parking lot
  • realizing the ramifications of that Wal-Mart on small, family business’ is so devastating
  • how often the truck didn’t want to start….how hard on vehicles such monumental dust and rough roads are
  • runs into town to try and blog or check email – the reality of life with no internet at home and how it was actually quite wonderful
  • how even in town there was sometimes no internet at the cafe so blogging time turned into long talks of the deepest sort
  • what it felt like to wake up next to my husband every day for a whole month
  • what waking up and going to bed together does for the heart
  • countless hours on the trampoline with Liberty, it was like her giant playpen
Chile - 2 weeks - 2015 014
  • watching our friend pull his cell phone out of the BBQ and watching God provide him a new one
  • moonlight and no curtains and birds that call out in the night
  • wondering how fields of cattle could eat on such sparse land and still live
  • how the lamb we bought to roast was small because “there hasn’t been enough water or food”
  • rationing out bath time…amazed how long they are happy to not take a bath!
  • hours long reading marathons, kids strewn everywhere with their noses in books
  • dishes.  wow.  the dishes.  our kids asked a few days in why we were washing so many.  I laughed and pointed out the empty spot in the kitchen where someday a dishwasher might be…
  • forts in the forest, inspired by Little House on the Prairie
  • swimming in lakes and in the Pacific Ocean
  • such a hot sun
  • reading good quotes from fantastic books to eachother at the kichen bar
  • going through pounds of white nectarines every single day
  • people everywhere doing whatever they could to make money…selling water bottles in the streets, doing tricks at red lights, selling jewelry on any open piece of sidewalk, selling anything just about anywhere
  • paying money for bathroom use – with eight of us, we figured out quick that 200 pesos was a bargain but if it was 500 pesos we needed to conserve trips
  • boys filling the water tank every day, twice, so we would have water in the house
  • thinking about water.  a lot.  realizing I’ve never had to think about water.  so many things we take for granted.
  • merluza – a white fish I’ve never had or heard of… flaky and perfect and so delicious
  • how happy and content our kids were without their rooms full of legos and toys and comfy beds…they are so strong, so resilient
  • the struggle to be a part of a group of kids when you don’t speak their language…I won’t ever forget Rylee crying.  it is hard to be the odd one out.  hard to hear chatter around you but not understand.  and hardest to pull yourself up and go back in knowing it will still be hard.  so proud of that girl.
  • church, I didn’t go.  but Chris and the older kids did.  the message was on marriage.  and the passage of scripture they used was David and Goliath.  still don’t have that one figured out.
    Chile weeks 3&4 008
  • taking risks.  doing scary things.  hard things.  not knowing how something would end up but doing it anyway.  this sums up our trip in many ways.  packing up our six children and heading thousands of miles from home to live in someone else’s space and land for a month wasn’t a lap-of-luxury, beachfront sort of vacation.  it was an eyes-wide-open, cross-cultural, rich beyond measure sort of time.
  • what it feels like to have someone else see your life, day in and out, to live in community, to hold each other up and wash each others dirty clothes and dishes…and to still call each other friend at the end
  • how when people come over to hang out, they would just stay.  for hours.  and they would always help in the kitchen, hand washing, drying and putting dishes away constantly.  and if they were tired they would simply take a nap.  on your couch.  and it was more than okay, it was good.
  • slower, less driven, frenetic life.  a pace that felt so far removed from American life.
  • the magnetic, magnificent personality of my friend Tina – the way she draws out people, loves deeply even in a land and with a language not her own…it amazes and inspires me
Chile - 2 weeks - 2015 020
  • the volcano that erupted two days after we had stayed in the town near it.  if we’d beeen there, we’d have had to evacuate our family at 3 AM when the sirens went off.  thankful to see its beauty but safely so.
Chile - 2 weeks - 2015 040
Chile - 2 weeks - 2015 034
Chile - 2 weeks - 2015 038
  • much more…another day