June 16, 2017

On Mandrakes, Harry Potter, and Transplanting

I have recently had an epiphany of sorts. A most unexpected one. But it's funny how God speaks sometimes. I've realized just how close I am to being a Mandrake (or Mandragora).

If you're not a Harry Potter fan, the Mandrake is a plant with a root that looks like a human.
I don't see myself as that ugly. It's more about the properties of the Mandrake.

In their second year at Hogwarts, Harry and the crew learn about Mandrakes during their Herbology class with Professor Sprout. For the lesson, they're tasked with transplanting the baby Mandrakes into larger pots so they can mature. Once mature, the Mandrake has the power to kill because of it's horrid scream when uprooted. But as babies, they'll only cause someone to pass out for a bit, so the kids can get away with wearing some ear protection during the transplant process.
Note how pissed off that Mandrake looks.
He's just been uprooted.
Ripped up from the warm, cozy soil he's called home.
He's confused, frustrated, cold. And screaming his head of because of it.
Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say I was screaming my head off at a decibel that would cause someone to pass out.
But I haven't been far from it.  
Our move from Tanzania to Australia came as a shock to us. It's left me confused, frustrated and even cold (literally). And a part of me imagines God as Ron Weasley in the above photo. Perhaps minus the red hair. But as he pulled us up from our comfy, warm soil in Tanzania to transplant us in a much bigger pot of the fresh soil that is our new home in Australia, I imagine he made that face too. Because I'm sort of -- okay, I'm definitely-- screaming inside. And he's probably like, "Woman, would you just stop that horrible noise!?" Hahaha.

But seriously though, Australia was nowhere on our radar.
(Other than a "it'd-be-a-cool-place-to-visit-one-day-but-what-are-the-chances-of-that" list).

Then in November, when I was busy planning (what I thought would be) an early trip home to Tanzania from our furlough in America in December, there was a tug at our roots. God whispered, "You're going to need a bigger map." I went on merrily, in my comfy, warm, Tanzanian soil, listening still, but content.

And then a couple weeks later he said, "You've done your work in Tanzania, it's time to move on." The topsoil got loosened, like a mini-earthquake happening in our cozy little pot. I dug my roots in deeper, my own little form of protest. I justified it by looking for clear signs from Him. But I was looking for signs to be given in the same way they were when he told us to move to Tanzania. Because, deep down, I didn't want to look for other signs. I didn't want to expect him to speak in a new way. Because I was comfortable. After nearly four years of life in Tanzania, I had finally become comfortable (most days). I knew how to cook everything from scratch, I knew how to stop the ants from getting in the butter - or just rinse them off when they did. I knew how to scare the tail off a gecko. How to function by only the light of a torch or lantern when the power was out. How to place our clothes and linens strategically around the house to get them to dry in less than 48 hours in the rainy season. I could MacGyver almost anything. I had friendships that ran deep, tastebuds for chai & chapati on a cool rainy day, and dirt on my feet and I didn't even care.

He replied, "There is something for you in Australia. Go now, or disobey." And that's when the earthquake came on full-force. In December I booked our tickets to Tanzania from our furlough time in the states. And when I did, I knew that we would only have three months there on our tourist visas. Our residency had expired, and the most logical thing to do was go in on a 90 day tourist visa. Three months to pack. Three months to say goodbye to friends that were more like family. Three months to transition. Again. Three months to help our 5 year old understand that the only home he'd known was about to become a memory he'd likely not see again.
Three months to prepare ourselves for life in a developed country. Living with a couple we had never met before. Serving a country we (or at least I) thought wasn't worth the craziness of moving trans-continentally because Australia may as well be America, but without all our friends and family!
And so I screamed.
Well. Not literally. But certainly figuratively.

Don't get me wrong, there was certainly a roller-coaster involved as we said our goodbyes but also looked forward to life in Australia. Roads! Sidewalks! Grocery stores! Parks! Movie Theaters! The BEACH! KANGAROOS!  KOALAS! I mean, the excitement abounded! Sure, we were sad, deeply, but there was something to look forward to. And so many signs that this was exactly what God wanted. It felt good to be in his will, following his plan, even though there were so many unknowns.
We love our ministry partners, and what we're doing here. The partnership is great and there are a lot of exciting things happening with the ministries we're working with/on. (more on that in another post!)

But as far as life? Every-day-life in Australia? Well, it's pretty much like life in America on the surface. But the part that got me screaming like a Mandrake? Because it's not America! We still have to learn a new culture, learn where to buy what, find a church, find new friends, not get run over on the M1, find a new rhythm, find Owen a school, find a visa to be allowed in the country with - I could go on. But I think you get it.
And the other day when I was complai- er... conversing with God about this, he spoke to me about the Mandrake.
Like most plants, the Mandrake will only continue to grow and mature if it's put in a larger pot with fresh soil. And until it grows and matures into a fully-grown plant, it will never be strong enough to defeat the enemy. And it's ability to heal will never come to fruition because it hasn't been allowed to grow completely.
So I stopped screaming. I may have hunched my shoulders in a defeated pout. But I stopped screaming. Because I know that this is where we're meant to be. We're in a (much) bigger 'pot'. We've got lots of fresh soil to sink our roots into. And we've got room to grow. Room to mature. Room to become fully potent and strong enough to defeat the enemy.
Admittedly, I haven't been feeling like digging my roots down too deep here, for fear of being transplanted again. It hurts! It's scary! It's cold! It's confusing! But I know that if we're going to stand up to the winds of change (life on the missions field) I'm going to need to put down roots where we are. Get planted. And enjoy this pot of soil for as long as God has us in it.

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