The One Where We Talk About Home Again

twilight in the kenyan bush


Occasionally life rears up and swallows you whole. You wake in the early dark of January, blink approximately three times, and the sun’s slipping into middle-May.


Time flies when you’re having a blast. (And maybe also when you’re up to your eyebrows in All The Things.) I can’t begin to cover it, but here’s an abbreviated list of stuff that has snagged my heart this year:

1. A dormful of wild & sweet freshman boys
2. My footballers and their zest for the beautiful game
3. Near-death experiences on tall, cold mountains
4. Fabulous students (SIDENOTE: for the first time in ever, I had a student voluntarily sit himself at the Table of Loneliness so he could finish his work without distraction)
5. Our kids in the valley, in perpetual states of boisterous disarray


Also, copywriting + photography + design = happy place, so a ways back I volunteered to help with a website project. Come February, this turned into a full-time job, which is great except for oh wait. I already have one of those.


All this to say, I’m sorry for my absence on the internets. Mnisamehe, tafadhali.


Mt Kenya

[Mt Kenya: equal parts beautiful and terrifying.]


Before we moved to East Africa, I nursed an ardent and highly idealized fondness for this place. I’d been to Ethiopia twice, so this sentiment wasn’t entirely blind. Still, it might have squinted a lot and walked into the occasional wall.


Now that we’ve lived here a few years, my feelings have gathered substance and weight. It’s an informed love, made fiercer for the knowing. Electric skies, bitty chirping frogs, volcanic craters nestled in the seam of the Rift Valley. High-altitude mornings with purple porridge, hot and thinned with water. Kenyan belly-laughs, plus the way our friends rename us into things more easily pronounced (McAlhaney = macaroni). In the interest of full disclosure, my leanings toward this country are a clouded brew of love and exasperation, but all of it means I care.


As we near the brink of switching fields, I’m back to square one, this time eyeing Central Africa from a distance that makes everything gilded and luminous.


I understand that this is unreasonable. I know, for instance, that monkeys are maybe the most annoying creatures on legs, and yet I’m crooning over snapshots of the adorable guys that frequent the trees of our soon-to-be-village. I understand that fetching water and cooking over fires with a side of malaria is maybe my least-favorite version of Life on Earth. Still in my head it’s all Little House on the Prairie: Africa Edition.


zemio neighborhood


The thing is, while I’m not crazy for prehistoric bugs or air gone limp with humidity, I do love Jesus, and (usually) people.


In the words of Samuel Zwemer: “The great Pioneer Missionaries all had ‘inverted homesickness’ —this passion to call that country their home which was most in need of the Gospel. In this passion all other passions died; before this vision all other visions faded; this call drowned all other voices.”


Now, no one with their eyeballs on is liable to mistake me for a great Pioneer Missionary, but still I get it. I know this pull toward the least-reached, the slow burn that compels us to share the best news we’ve ever known.


I am head-over-heels for my current place and peeps. I am giddy with the promise of seeing ALL MY PEOPLE back in the States this summer. And bigger than anything, I’m homesick for the folks and the days soon to come. Zwemer’s right about this upside-down yearning, how it’s inexplicable and cavernous.


The people who know things, they say home is a complicated concept for third-culture-kids. AND ALSO ME. All these homes belong to me, own me, call to me, define me, and yet none are mine to hold.




In the end we go to places uncharted not because we’re brave, or unusual, or even crazy. (The crazy is independent of the going.) We go because God has brushed this place and people in every color of home, and the only thing that makes sense is to follow Him there.

Author: nic

saved by grace.

4 thoughts

  1. Your writings are inspirational and create a desire for me to take a leap of faith in my own life. May God bless you, your family, and your mission.

    In His Grip,
    Taryn DelaSierra 😊


    1. Taryn, thank you. It’s an enormous and very real gift to have so many friends walking beside us as we all follow Jesus, however that takes shape in each of our circumstances. I’m praying that God will continue to clearly lead you, and to pour your life full of His grace and redemption so that it can’t help but overflow onto the people around you. 🙂


  2. A taste of home – a-SALTing African snails in my yard as I sit on my porch and read your post. 🙂 It’s so good to read how God is at work in you and in your family! Any chance you’re coming to Hawaii?


    1. YES, and we’d LOVE to see you and Dave!! We’ll arrive on Oahu Aug 9th. I don’t know what your schedule is like mid-August, but we hope to insert ourselves in it! 🙂


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