what am I doing here?

I had my first wave of real homesickness last week. You know what I mean. That sick-to-your-stomach feeling that grips you, forcing you to experience the gut wrenching grief of all you’ve left and cannot hope to touch again. (Because though we might return, we can never go back.)

We hadn’t even reached Dubai, but were visiting friends in England on our way to our new home. Even amidst Oxford’s green hedges and glorious history I was distracted, disconnected, dismayed. (It probably didn’t help that it was my birthday. I never expected to be en route to a place like Dubai at 53!)

Decades ago I had dreams of living and working in the Middle East. But that was then. Now I had other plans in mind. Other geographies. But a week after my first pangs of homesickness, here we are. And I can’t help but wonder what in the world are we doing here.

A couple of nights ago we went out to dinner with my husband’s brother’s family. (They’ve lived here in Dubai for 13 years.) As the heat waves rose from the pavement beneath me and the fabulous cars of Dubai’s wealthy and wannabe’s whooshed alongside me, I looked in front of me and caught a glimpse of an answer to my question.

There it is: my husband and his 2 brothers talking animatedly in Tamil; my son and his 2 cousins jostling each other and laughing their little heads off. Watching our “men”, hearts are full of love and gratitude, my sister-in-law grabs my hand with affection and says, “Chechi (big sister), now we’re all together.”

Yes, we’re together. It’s what we’ve prayed for. Dreamed of. Hoped for. What are we doing here? We’re here to be family with this family. To belong. To be a blessing. I know this is not the whole answer to my question. But it’s a starting point.

That in itself is odd for me. I’m used to having a focal point: an ideal to fill my vision of the future, a purpose to run towards. But I am adjusting to this new reality, not just of a new city and a new extended family, but of a whole new perspective on what life is about. A starting point at 53. Feet on the ground. Standing at the ready. Slowly moving forward as we have light.

Pulling out the chair
Beneath your mind
And watching you fall upon God –
There is nothing else for Hafiz to do
That is any fun in this world!
Shams-ud-din Mohammed Hafiz
Muslim mystic (1320-89)

You don’t have to move to another country to be uncertain about life, unsure about what you’re doing or confused about how you got there. We all question circumstances and relationships when people don’t meet our expectations, or life takes an unexpected turn.

In what circumstance or relationship are you asking, “What am I doing here?”
Direct your question to the One who knows. He may not (and probably won’t) make the whole answer clear to you. (And doesn’t need to.) But He can (and probably will) reveal a starting point. A place for you to stand and get your bearings as your perspective shifts.


goodbye green

Rising up over Madison, filled with grief of all the leaving, gratitude for all we’ve been given here, I was flooded with green. Fields, lawns, tufts of trees. And I began to weep.
O Lord, we’re leaving Green for Desert. Trees for Sand.
And the phrase came to me: “Springs in the desert”.

I closed my eyes, heart full of glad wonder and the kind of disbelief that children might have if their parents ever gave them a surprise party just because or let them skip school just to tag along on some grown-up outing that’s beyond their comprehension, but fun nonetheless.

I opened my eyes to see the Madison lakes spread out beneath me.

“Springs in the desert”, it repeated.
Not that Wisconsin was ever a desert. But it was “formless and void”. And by the Word it was made. And it is good. So very good. That same Word has promised to create something new now for us. Springs. In the Desert.
It’s not Green. But it sounds good to me.

From the beginning, the “leaving-cleaving” pattern of life has been ordained for our good, our wholeness, our joy. We human beings seem to think that we can just keep on gathering more and more, embracing everything we see. And we try. To fill the void. To become more. To fulfill some (false) notion that we can have it all and that we'll be something when we do. But without leaving we end up chronically dissatisfied, longing for more. Without leaving we are left with all the internal and external baggage of our past and our pride, unable to really embrace anything new because we've cushioned ourselves into a comfortable (or at least known) prison that distances us from all that's life-giving. It’s in the the letting go and turning away that we see what there is to live for and are free to embrace it.

On a piece of paper, list your recent losses, large and small. (Don't rush. As you sit with your list, you may see other losses you've been hesitant to face or simply in denial about.)
Allow yourself 5 minutes, if you dare, to feel the pain of those losses. Open your heart to God about your losses.
Ask God to walk with you through the leaving, to lead you through the turning away, and to give you hope for a life that is only possible if HE makes it happen.