The voice spoke from the desert darkness, “Pick up stones and you will be happy and glad.”
There’s a mythical story concerning a trading caravan traveling through the Sahara Desert. After a long day, they camped in a wadi, a dry river bed.
About midnight, the travelers were startled by a loud voice, “Pick up stones and you will be happy and sad.”
They huddled together in the moonless desert darkness.
The voice spoke even louder, “Pick up stones. And you be both happy and sad.”
It so unnerved the traders, they grabbed their bedrolls, loaded their camels, and fled. Only a few scooped a handful of stones.
They rode through the night, still fearful of the disembodied voice.
Pick up stones.
Happy and sad.
Daylight and distance brought relief. They stopped for breakfast, still discussing their strange night.
One of the men reached into his robe and pulled out the stones he’d gathered.
He was holding jewels and precious stones.
A second man discovered the same thing.
What they thought were stones in the river bed was really precious jewels.
And they were happy yet sad.
Happy, they’d picked up stones.
Sad they’d not gathered more.
It’s the perfect story illustrating my frame of mind on leaving Africa.
In so many ways, I am glad.
Who wouldn’t be to see seven grandchildren jumping up and down at the Alexandria Airport? Emma Iles, grandchild eight in absentia in North Carolina was jumping up and down on Skype with them.
DeDe and I are privileged.
We are happy.
Happily amazed at how God worked miraculously to send up straight to Tulane Medical in New Orleans.
In the care of a doctor who specializes in tropical diseases.
We are glad.
We are grateful.
We are privileged.
To be among family and friends.
To hear a Mockingbird for the first time in three years.
To listen to the wind in the pines as a storm moves in.
To sit at my Mom’s table enjoying a cup of coffee.
At the same time, we’re sad. Africa—and Africans—have been our life for this sojourn.
They became our family and we miss them.
I’m particularly sad about leaving them with proper goodbyes.
Greetings and goodbyes are an integral part of African culture.
We had planned for specific visits to say goodbye to the Kakwa, Madi, Dinka Bor, Nuer, Zande. Even our new friends in Chad.
I’m sad. Sad to leave them without thanking and blessing them.
Sad to not have the privilege of seeing the harvest taking place in refugee camps, bush churches, desert tukuls, and under Mango trees.
Of course, if I’d stayed twenty years, it’d be hard to go.
Sad to leave.
So today, in Dry Creek, Louisiana. I’m happy.
Glad to be under the pines listening to Louisiana’s birds of summer.
Happy to be in the pineywoods.
Yet sad to not be among the palms.
Wondering how the nest of hammerkop fledgings are doing.
Missing (kind of) the shrill call of the Hadada Ibis.
Happy but sad.
I once heard a speaker, Bill Thorn, speak of having a foot in two places.
“When we’re here on earth doing God’s work, we have one foot planted here and one already up in Heaven.
“Then when we leave this earthly body and enter into the Kingdom, we’ve got a foot firmly in Heaven but still have a foot back on earth.”
A foot planted in the lives and hearts of those we love and have invested in.
Two feet in two places.
Is it possible to have one heart in two places?
I think so.
Happy and Sad.
Sad and Happy.
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