[And now, the post you’ve all been waiting for–if you knew to wait for it–a guest post by Kim!]
Probably not a big surprise to many of you, but there are aspects of life on the mission field that take some getting used to. One of these, as my beloved friend Kelly and I have termed it, is the Black Hole of Nicaragua. Into this Black Hole disappear a good many things that you may have felt were rightfully yours: money, electronics, shoes and purses lost to the creeping mold of the rainy season, spare tires, pleasant and efficient customer service, appliances that die a shockingly early death… Now you might think, given its function, that the Black Hole is a negative place. But as we journey on here, learning to keep a light grasp on the non-essentials, we have come to regard it as a rather peaceful conspirator in our education. Rather than waste a lot of time and emotional energy fretting, “Who was over recently who could have stolen that? I could have figured out how to build a phone from coconuts and pipe cleaners in the time it is taking you to fill out those papers and sell me that phone! How in the name of all that’s holy did so many tiny flying ant-things move into my computer overnight?” we are learning to give a slight shrug, maybe even a kind smile, and accept that Black Hole of Nicaragua as a caretaker of things that we really can live without.
Which brings us to the latest (that we’ve noticed, anyway) additions to the Black Hole: all but one of the butter knives from our kitchen. We came to realize it gradually, for a time wondering if maybe they were all dirty? Or in the dish drainer? Or being used for swordplay or smashing insects in the driveway? But no, they really truly were actually just all gone. All but one. By the time my step-mom, Karen, and my dad came to visit at Christmas, we had acknowledged this. I had even looked for some at the mercado, but the lady near the fruit vendors was only selling random mismatched forks and spoons. With eight of us in the house, Grandma Karen really felt like we ought to broaden our search and actually go purchase some butter knives. And I agreed with her…
…I had been out near the kitchen and heard not one, but two original songs being sung by my offspring; one acknowledges the plight of the lone knife, another is a joyful ode to its usefulness. I have heard my youngest child, on more than one occasion, exclaim in loud celebration when he is fortunate enough to find the knife in the silverware bin —at the precise moment he wants to spread his peanut butter! Needless to say, these were new musical compositions; celebrations that had not been present when a dozen or so butter knives had circulated around the kitchen. There is some joy, some gratitude, that seemingly is only found in scarcity.
Ironically, when I am surrounded by abundance, it is harder to feel grateful for any of it. I mean, I vaguely liked having more butter knives. It was convenient. Sometimes I looked at the heavy-handled, matched sets at friends’ homes and felt a bit discontent at the thrift store, hand-me-down menagerie in my kitchen. But mostly I didn’t give butter knives much thought. Now, though I stop short of singing out, I do feel grateful when I am making sandwiches and find “our knife.” I am not saying we will never buy more silverware, and certainly not saying there was anything wrong with having a full set, back when we had one. Just that I appreciate that Jesus was on to something when he said that our lives do not consist in the abundance of our possessions.
I imagine that you all have your own Black Holes, down into which many things have fallen. Some rather painlessly and some wrenched from your grip. When this happens, I do hope, in the empty space where it used to be, that you can find some celebration, some joy, as you look on what remains. Perhaps, if you are very lucky, you will encounter a child who will compose a song of gratitude just for you, a song which proclaims, “what we have here is enough.”