It was an ordinary night at the Allison house. And by ordinary, I mean loud and rowdy. Voices belting out at completely unacceptable decibels and body appendages flailing around in some semblance of a wrestling match. Eventually, I heard the crash. And the silence. And the “ohhhh… mom’s going to be SO MAD.”
I walked over to see the wreckage and the four sheepish members of my family who were now waiting for my reaction to my precious, now-shattered fresh-off-the-crate home decor. I looked at that Pottery Barn bird thing that my mom bought me a few years back for Christmas and that picture frame and that candle, and I had one option and one option only. I cried. “I can’t replace any of this here!” I lamented. “Are you telling me these managed to survive a boat trip across the flippin’ globe, and they can’t survive my living room for a few weeks?? Can’t I just have a FEW NICE THINGS from America?” I went on. Sometimes you can’t anticipate the straw that’ll break the camel’s back. That day? It was the dumb bird.
It’s funny. I don’t even like birds. I blame Alfred Hitchcock and that ridiculous movie of his that forever scarred me in middle school. And still, I chose to crate this bird all the way from North Carolina. For years, it sat on those pretty built-in bookshelves in Wake Forest as it stared in on our perfectly “normal” life in our pretty house in our suburban neighborhood. I never thought twice about our little bird-statue-friend, and I’m fairly certain that my decision to crate him was an afterthought. But all of a sudden, on that fateful night here in Malawi, that afterthought of a bird statue was suddenly A Really Big Deal.
All of a sudden, for better or for worse, that bird represented my ties back to America. There was just something about this mass-produced Pottery Barn accessory that granted me a sense of home. And now, those pieces that were scattered across my living room floor confirmed what we all knew anyway: things were different now.
What followed that evening could either be described as sacrificial love OR the desperation of the husband of a couldn’t-decide-whether-she-was-sad-or-mad wife. Whatever the motivation, it didn’t matter. Matt dropped everything he was doing in that moment to carefully gather up every last piece and painstakingly superglue and restore what he could. It was touch and go for a while but, all things considered, his labor of love proved worth it. And is now sitting back on our mantle in all of its cracked and broken glory.
Now, when I collapse onto our couches after another long day and glance up to our mantle, I feel like giving a head nod of understanding to that bird. Because a few years ago, we were both doing JUST FINE. Minding our own business. Comfortable. Living a relatively neat and tidy existence. But then, this whole process of uprooting and refiguring out life in a new place with new people and new everything- it has a way of stripping away pieces of us. Pieces of us have been broken. And sometimes we don’t even recognize what’s been broken until we look at the remnants we’ve left behind.
But then, God steps in and does that thing he always does as our Redeemer and Restorer. Do we feel like we’ve had so much stripped away in this season? Over the course of the past few years? Good gracious, yes. And it’s hurt. A lot. But just as my affection for Matt grew as he carefully glued my bird back together that night, it’s straight up impossible not to feel an ever-swelling appreciation and love for our God who’s faithfully cared for US in this season of being broken, stripped, and remade again.
So, as an almost nine-month-in update, let’s just imagine you could hop on over to Lilongwe to hang out in our living room. Cup of coffee in hand. Shrieks of wild kids in the background. If you were one of those people who once filled our living room back in the States, I bet you’d sit back and reflect on the strange mixture of familiarity and complete foreignness. And then, right as you start thinking “huh. same but different…”, I’d direct you to our mantle. And I’d turn the bird around to reveal his gaping holes and carefully glued-up imperfections.
And then, then, I’d proceed to tell you a story about this heart of mine that’s also been stripped and remade. And about this life of ours that feels the same but different. But mostly, I’d scoot a little closer and I’d look you in the eyes and I’d tell you of the faithfulness and kindness of the One who’s been holding us through every single second of it all. And the One for whom we’d do it all over again and again and again in a heartbeat.
The beauty of being broken and put back together again is that if you just open up your eyes and lean in a little, you’re granted this crazy opportunity of an up-close and personal glimpse of the character and ways of your Restorer. So, yeah. Maybe we might look a little different nine months in. Maybe we’ve seen some things, heard some things, learned some things, and UN-learned some other things that have wrecked us. But if being wrecked means having the chance to lean in and lock eyes with the One who has promised to make all things new again both here in Malawi and all across this great big globe? I’m in.