(I welcome my dear friend Kim Van Brunt. Savor her words, learn from them, and share. Thanks for your gorgeous post, Kim. Traveling mercies.)
When a Mother Leaves, By Kim Van Brunt
Today, I am over the Atlantic.
I’ll be here for hours, flying through the silent deafening darkness, and when tomorrow dawns too early I’ll land in another continent, then fly to another. When tomorrow is done, I’ll set foot in Africa again, and it will be so far away from familiar, and it will be like coming home again.
When I look over my shoulder, my three beautiful children will be nowhere I can reach.
I will count the hours at first, wonder after them, it’ll take a while to shake plate-balancing mode but then I will begin to forget them, for a moment, for longer. The work and stories and faces in front of me will blur the ones back home.
How can a mother do this to her children?
* * *
We talk about Africa all the time.
(“Ag-a-kah,” Benjamin calls it.) They know where I’m going and why, and I know this time apart stretches us, all of us, into a wild unknown, but then, we’ve done it before. When I tell the older two that I was gone nearly a month to get Benjamin, they don’t believe me. It’s shrunk down to a moment in their minds, a fun afternoon with grandparents, a flash and it was over.
To me, it’s an eternity, a shift so drastic and complete in my life it’s like the lights were off, and now they’re on.
And that’s why I have to go back.
And this is how I can do this to them: Because I want them to go, too. I want them to try and search and ask.
I want to show them what to do when you’re afraid.
They will watch me through their childhoods, and I have vowed that I will be worth watching. They will see me write books, fly to Africa, take risks big and small, they will witness me daring greatly and saying yes and making no earthly sense.
I promise them this. With trembling hands and an unsure heart, I promise.
While they sleep, when they’re dreaming their big dreams, I whisper, I promise to be brave. I promise to live this wild beautiful life in a way that makes you proud. It’s the life God calls us to live, little loves.
* * *
I’m terrified, of course. But I’ve learned the opposite of bravery isn’t fear. Being brave is diving straight into the fear, going all the way in. I’ve learned it begins with turning to face that Thing You Could Never and taking the first step towards.
I go for them. I go for more than them, because I am more. Because God is more.
“Our family cares about this. This is our mission field, and you are our missionary,” my husband told me three days ago, strong and sure, in the middle of my afternoon meltdown when the baby was sleeping, when I didn’t know how I could do it either.
And so I go trembling, because that’s the only way to go. I’m afraid to leave my children. I’m afraid to have my heart-broken apart by the women I’ll meet and the lives that will change me. I’m afraid to see my poverty, my brokenness of spirit, all the bullshit in my heart and my head that seems so big now— I’m afraid to see it shrunk down, afraid of what will be left of me after.
But I dive in anyway.
I go for me. I go for them. I promise to be brave.
Kim Van Brunt is a writer, wife, mother and world-changer. Follow her blog to read the inspirational stories of Ugandan women, which she’ll be writing over the next 10 days during the trip. She’s also writing a book on the importance of honesty during adoption, which is currently under consideration at several publishing houses. Follow her on Twitter @kimvanbrunt or like her on Facebook.