Don’t Ask for Cuts in the Starbucks Line at 5am in the Indianapolis Airport: Accrued from a Three Week Book Tour
The last few years, oh gosh, the last fifteen years have been different, and in many ways, a book tour is the most different thing that has ever happened to me. The book happened in the same way that so much has happened; out of nowhere. I was speaking in Rome, Georgia many years ago and Gregg Lewis came up to me and said, “I was the co-author of Tom Landry and Ben Carson’s autobiography, and we should do a book together.” There were a myriad of delays, but the book finally came out in March. It was during the RVA break, and the publisher picked up my flight, so we went back to promote the book.
It was lots and lots of radio interviews, and nine 6am flights in a three week period. 6am flights play to an international traveler for about nine days, because you wake up early. After that, you conclude you ate LOTS of stupid pills when you booked the flights. Highlights included:
- The first radio interview threw me for a loop. I think I am capturing the spirit of the first interviewer when she introduced me by saying, “The purity and nobility of his most holy mission has save untold millions of African children.” Since nothing about that statement is true, I learned that most radio people have LOTS of time to fill and couldn’t possibly read all the books that are being promoted. Therefore:
- I learned the politician’s trick: Answer the question you wish you were asked. I really feared that senior citizens would hear the interviews, and believe that the book was written by a mature learned Christian, and when they hit the chapter about junior high gas, they would all perish from heart attacks. So I told stories I thought were funny instead, and that was probably a more honest picture of the book.
- My last 6am flight was out of the Indianapolis airport. I was waiting in line at Starbucks, and I told the guy in front of me, “I’m really thirsty. Can I have cuts in the line?” I honestly think that is the closest I have ever been to being murdered, and in the midst of much yelling, I muttered, “Sorry, I was just trying to be funny.” The guy stopped yelling and started laughing, but I’m telling you: it was CLOSE.
We learned who our friends are. The only book signing we did was at Mardel’s in Texas. It doesn’t make sense for an unknown author to sign books in a new area, unless he craves rejection. But we had the largest book signing in the store’s history, which included selling more than a Dallas Cowboy, which helped me conclude that the Super Bowl is in my future.
So many people put the book on their Facebook wall, contacted media outlets and churches, wrote reviews, and did everything they could to help us. We are so grateful.
The next part of this is hard to write. We’ve been in Kenya for 14 years, and we fully expected to stay here until the twins graduated from high school. But the last few months helped us realize that the twins really needed more time with us and more of our emotional energy. There were no discipline issues, and both are great students, but when you are adopted you have another layer to your identity to wrestle with – a huge layer. There are questions about your birth family, there are conflicted feelings about being adopted, and all of the emotions connected to being adopted are like a big, swirling mass that is so hard to figure out.
We love RVA, and it has been a wonderful place for our family, but it became clear that Ben and Katie need more of us than we can give here with all of our other responsibilities. This is nothing against RVA; they have been so supportive of us in the process. But it became obvious that we needed to take an extended break from Africa. We will be leaving in mid July.
We weren’t planning this. I brought back FIVE bottles of barbecue sauce, which indicates you are settling in for the long haul. But it became clear that the best thing for the twins was to return to the states for a season.
I’ve struggled with this. Some of it has been honest pain from leaving a place that I love and that has been such a blessing to our family. But God has revealed some tough things to me in this process. I was talking to one of my students, and she feared that she would lose her Korean identity if she went to America. I think that is a legitimate fear, and I tried to let her know that I was empathetic. After a bit of time, I felt like He led me in the conversation:
Me: You are not a Korean.
Her: How can you say that?
Me: Your identity needs to come from one thing: you are a daughter of Jesus. All the rest isn’t eternal. You can be proud that He made you Korean, but all your intelligence, all your gifting, all your beauty, even your Korean heritage will burn off in the end. All that you need to be is a child of Jesus.
God: Do you EVER listen to yourself?
Because of the many underserved supernatural ways He has blessed us in the past few years, it has been easy to let that slide, and take my identity from awards and recognition and other stuff than what I am: I am a son of the living God and that is all I am. It is time to take get back to that in a less public role for a season.
So we are going to take a compassionate leave from RVA. That means we are going for an open-ended amount of time. We have this hope that we may be able to come back someday, but our priority is our children, and we can’t timeframe these issues.
I thought we would go back to Texas, and the opportunities I thought might open didn’t, and the ones that did were great but involved lots of evening work, which sort of defeats the point of trying to be more engaged and involved with the family.
An amazing position in Florida opened up, but I struggled with the location. I really am not an audible voice of God type of guy usually, but during a sleepless night, I was calling out to the Lord:
Me: Why Florida? We don’t really know anyone in the area we are going. We don’t have a house, a car, a place to live or any furniture. I don’t even know how we will get home from the airport.
God: I wanted you in Florida so you would trust ME, not your friends.
A real missionary would have responded with joy for His clarity, but my response was different:
Me: I’m TIRED of personal growth. I’m almost 58! It’s time for me to sit on the porch and talk about the ways things used to be, not start over. I’M DONE GROWING!
His silence was clear: He hasn’t given up on a wretch like me. And as I’ve embraced this the best I could, I feel His peace and clarity. And as part of us is so sad to leave, we are elated to be on the same continent as the older kids.
What does this mean for our projects? A few years ago, I knew it was time to step aside and start letting the Kenyans lead. My head of the projects is a Godly woman who has done an excellent job, and I know the projects will be in good hands with her. The other day, one of the best teachers at RVA told me that he was interested in working with the projects, and he already has ideas that can take them to a much higher level than I ever could.
We would ask that if you are supporting us, to continue supporting us through the end of this year. That will help a challenging transition be a bit easier. With the new year, we would ask that you stop supporting us and transfer your support to the food project or the computer project. Do what He calls you to, and we will be grateful for all you have done with us.
We are concerned that people will think we are crazy for leaving during a time of great success, but I am reminded that people thought we were crazy for COMING to Africa in the first place, so I take comfort in the fact that at least we are consistent.
I’m not sure about the future. Part of us hopes we will be able to come back to Africa at some point, but at this point, what we are clear about is that we are Ben and Katie’s parents, and for their sake, and in obedience to Him, we are laying down Africa for a season.
Thank you so much for all you have done for us all these years. We are so grateful, and we hope we can reconnect when we return to the states in July.
A Note from Nancy …
God really got my attention last January when I became so exhausted and depleted. I spent much of the last 4 months, when I wasn’t teaching, either sleeping or seeking God. It was an amazing time: a time of being humbled – I’d always been able to manage everything that came my way before, it was a time of learning more about His infinite grace, it was a time of getting to know my Father more deeply, and it was a time of feeling like big changes were coming, but not knowing what they were.
During that time God began to open my eyes to see the needs of my children (all 4) more clearly. All of them, in different ways, needed more of Steve and I. Our older kids, although they are adults, need and want more connection with us. Facetime is wonderful and phoning is now cheap, but time zone differences give us a narrow window of time to connect well. As Steve has written, Ben & Katie need a lot more of us. I began feeling like I needed to be a full-time mom again, but didn’t see how that could work here. Then, unbidden, came this job offer for Steve that will afford me that sweet privilege.
We are in awe of the way God is working things out and providing for our needs as we transition. As we begin to close things up over here and as we look back over these past 14 years we are also in awe of you all, our faithful, faithful friends and supporters. We can never fully express how grateful we are to each and every one of you – but we can try. With hearts overflowing with gratitude, appreciation, love and awe, we humbly thank you for your trust in us, your wonderful kindness to us and all those whose lives we connect with over here, and your incredible generosity. May God bless you as you have so richly blessed us.
We do covet your prayers for the next 3 months. It is not simple to relocate when you can’t take much with you. It is not easy to say goodbye to folks you may not see again this side of heaven. And it is complicated to continue responsibilities here through the end of the school term when half your attention is necessarily on the next destination. Then there is the small matters of a house, cars, furniture, new school for the twins, new church, new friends, new everything … but we do know that things will come together, because we can “trust in His unfailing love.”