It is early dawn in England on June 26th 2000.
My footsteps echo on the kitchen floor—the way they do in an empty house. Our cupboards are bare; the furnishings gone. Our parsonage is empty, its walls waiting patiently for the cheery new coat of paint that will greet the new pastor and his family.
In the front room, twenty boxes stand in wobbly stacks waiting for the moving truck—the four tall ones carry favorite toys, and games, and books.
Choose wisely we had told our four young sons. Take only what is precious.
And in those boxes labelled Kalamazoo, Michigan lie their precious things—teddy bears with one eye, and books with tattered corners, and favorite family games in boxes repaired with tape several times over.
It would be three months until we saw inside those boxes again.
Late last night I had actually knelt by my bed, seized with a sudden fit of panic. And I prayed hard. I pleaded with God to take care of us in this foreign land, and I wondered what on earth had possessed us to leave.
But leave we do. And I am half way over the Atlantic Ocean before I stop crying; thirty thousand feet above the waves; soaring high through blue; on my way to a new life. And there is no going back.
I cry for my red bike that was my 40th birthday gift. I cry for our antique hat and coat stand that greeted visitors as they came through our door. I cry for our Ikea furniture that sits alone in empty rooms. I cry for my sisters, and my brothers, and my dad.
And the air hostess interrupts my thoughts to ask if there is anything I need. But there is nothing in her cart that can take my sadness away. I can still see my brother as he waves goodbye at the airport, and my sixteen year old son as he clings to his cousin, not knowing when they will see each other again.
I close my eyes and try to imagine our new home. Its rooms will be empty. No furniture accompanies us on our journey. We will be sleeping on the floor tonight.
But God will take care of us my husband had said. I know it’s true. But it can’t take my sadness away.
And we fly 4,000 long miles, and leave love behind.
But in the little town of Schoolcraft, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, love had flown ahead of me and was waiting to greet me there. Love would be there as I opened the door to my new home and stepped onto the rug that said:
Welcome New Friends.
Love whispered its presence in every bed that was made; in every cushion on the sofa; in the fruit that sat on the cloth covered table; in the fridge full of food; in the lawn that was mowed; in the pots filled with pretty petunias; and in the car waiting for us in the garage…love was there.
And I learn a marvelous lesson…
I learn that no matter how far I fly, I can never fly away from love.
And no matter how wide the ocean, God’s love is wider.
And no matter how great the distance, nothing can separate me from God.
If I take the wings of the dawn, and settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139: 9 &10