There is just something about this place.
This island. These islands.
I know that I can’t claim them as “home.” I’m not a local. I’m not even kama’aina any longer. We moved away from Oahu almost 11 years ago, if I’m doing the math correctly.
But there is something about being here, on this rock in the middle of the Pacific, where I can see the sky and the vast ocean and the mountains, that makes my often restless soul more at peace than anywhere else I’ve found.
It is so good to be here.
We’ve talked about and dreamed about and have planned for this trip, for years. It’s hard to believe that it is actually happening; that we are here. It’s been a wonderful time so far–exhausting, but in a very good way. The only “bump” in the road is a frustrating case of bronchitis that has knocked me for a bit of a loop—darn airplane germs. But I’m not letting it slow me down…much.
We’ve been to a couple of beaches. We’ve harvested a banana stalk in the backyard of the kid’s auntie/uncle’s house. We’ve eaten ourselves silly. We’ve been to the aquarium and walked around Ala Moana park. The kids are out hiking Diamond Head right now, while I try to kick this cough to the curb.
We are burnt, tired, and happy.
Last night, friends from our former church got together under the Manoa sky, to eat poke and shave ice, and to talk story and catch up. Lifelong friends. It was as if I had never left. In fact, one of the guys I was chatting with–Dexter Yamamoto–said to me, “You know, I look back on the time when you guys were here, and the friendship/camaraderie that we all experienced in those years. I’ve never found anything like it since.”
It was good to be with them. It was good to be “home.”
It is a gift of God’s mercy and grace, to be here.
Truly, God “restores my soul.” Psalm 23:3
The most fun has been listening to my boy, Mark. He was six years old when we left Hawaii. Bethany was five. It’s interesting–he remembers so much, and so vividly. For Bethany, her memories are a bit more blurry. But Mark? Every car ride. Every activity. Every thing we’ve done….almost every other sentence from him has been, “Oh look! I remember that building!” “Mom! Remember when we went to that park??” “Mom! There are my AYSO soccer fields!” “MY SCHOOL–why did they tear down the dodge ball wall??”
It has been, oh, so fun–seeing the island through his eyes.
It is so good, to be here.
There is much, much joy.
But, there is some grief, too. It is not sharp grief. We have known sharp grief; the kind that buckles your knees and removes the breath from your lungs. We have known that grief and have reeled in that grief, as we watched our world disintegrate following my ex-husband’s imprisonment. But the grief we have bumped up against here is different. Not as sharp, not as jagged. Not prolonged.
It is more of a dull ache. A longing. A sadness.
It caught me off guard yesterday afternoon. I think it caught all of us off guard. We had finished our time at the beach, and were hot, thirsty and hungry. The kids asked if we could drive up into Manoa Valley, to their favorite McDonald’s. They had been anxious to get into the valley as it was, because they were eager to see the home they grew up in, and the school and church they attended.
As we drove up Manoa Road and Oahu Avenue, toward the back of the valley, the familiar mountains that I loved so much loomed ahead of us. And out of the blue, a deep ache set in. We all became very quiet. I could sense that both of my smalls were struggling. And as we approached our old home and stopped in front of it, I found it hard to fight back tears. And when Mark said to me, “Why did we ever leave? We should have never left. Things would have been so different, if we had never left.”, it nearly killed me.
They miss their dad.
The deep sadness quickly subsided, as we drove on after taking a few pictures, and moved on to drive through their school parking lot and on to the McDonald’s. But oh, how it hurt during those few moments.
At first I was frustrated by the pain. Angry, even. I don’t want my kids to feel any sadness, or any pain. And I wanted to ask God the same thing: Why did we ever leave? Why did all that happened, happen? Where was God? Why did He not stop our lives from falling apart? Why did He allow us to ever move away from this lava rock that we love?
But, today as I think back over it, I am not angry. I am grateful. No, I am not grateful that the horribleness of what happened invaded our life. I will never be grateful for that. However, I am grateful for all that He has done.
I am grateful, that He taught me the truth of who He truly is, in the days prior to Jack’s arrest…because I never would have survived it, had He not done so.
I am grateful, that He has poured out such intense grace and mercy in our lives through the provision of jobs, of a home, and of our church family at Seaford Baptist (along with others in the community) who have surrounded us and cared for us and who have been our shelter in so many ways.
I am grateful that my kids are well–when they very well might not have been. Sure, it has–and is–not easy. But overall, they are so, very good. I am incredibly proud and honored to be their mom.
I am grateful that he has and is and will continue to restore us; and in doing so, He continues to teach us who He is. Grace upon grace.
I am nearly overwhelmed. He has been, oh, so good to us.
However, it hurts to see them hurt, even if momentarily, as they long for what should be. But while I wish I could take that ache of grief away from them permanently, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing.
Because that ache will hopefully always point them toward the only one who can comfort that ache and longing in their soul.
And the ache in my own soul will hopefully always point me to the only one who can comfort that ache and longing in my soul.
I think it is why, so often in scripture, we are told to “remember.”
And that’s exactly what we are doing, in the gift of these days, here in these islands.
And though sometimes that brings pain, it brings far more joy.
Mahalo e ke Akua.
Thanks be to God.
He restores my soul.