In a few days, we'll be leaving on a jet plane. I will get to return to the beautiful pearl of Africa for an unbelievable (to me) seventh time and Mark will be going for his third. However, this time we're taking along someone who will be going for her first visit. (Of how many, I wonder?) You guessed it... Petunia is going to Uganda with us!
She has wanted to go for a long time, enduring many departures and homecomings of her parents while waiting her turn. I have known for a long time I've wanted to take her, but we were waiting for her to reach a certain age before we brought her along.
For one thing, we know we are going to be around some difficult things on this trip and we wanted her to be old enough to begin to understand the complexity of, for example, spending time visiting a clinic that serves severely malnourished babies where death is, unfortunately, a possibility. Gratefully, most of the mamas or caregivers who do come to Serving His Children, leave with much fatter, much healthier babies and more knowledge about how to care for them. It has blessed my life to cross paths with that organization and I am thrilled that I will have days to spend being with them, attempting to help if I can, but mostly learn from and encourage my friend Renee who founded it.
Another reason we waited is the several vaccines that Petunia had to take in order to go safely on the trip. She has been blessed with pretty amazing health and we hated the thought of filling her small, young body with lots of medicines at once. Just as we suspected, despite taking the shots and pills like a champ, she did suffer some fever and ill-feeling.
Of course, there are other concerns, too. Will she drink the water and get sick? Will we be able to keep her safe? How will she endure the 16 hour flight?
These concerns are valid and we could have decided to let them keep us at home.
But this is where our family philosophy meets the fork in the road and makes a definite, intentional choice. What we want for Petunia are the same things we want for ourselves: to be brave, to make friends all over the world, to constantly challenge herself to learn new things and to have the confidence to march to the beat of her own drum, which we pray will always be kept in tune to the Spirit's leading.
If those are the aspirations we really hold for all of us, and they're not merely words that look good doodled in a dream book, then our decisions are going to sometimes be difficult, costly, and scary to us and dramatic, odd and maybe even dumb to others.
If you are wrestling with such a decision and wondering if it's safe enough or smart enough to make, try this little trick that I sometimes use: imagine yourself in your real life sometime in the future...the bigger the decision, the farther in the future I go. Fairly significant? Try 5 years from now. Picture you and your family at that stage. Are you there? Ok. Looking back, what decision will the future you wished the current you would have made?
Sometimes there's a reason to play it safe, but remember...
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.”