I was cleaning earlier today (yes, I truly was cleaning!), and in the process I picked up the books beside my window seat chair and propped them on the sill.
- the Holy Bible
- In the Skin of a Jihadist by Anna Erelle
- Inside ISIS by Benjamin Hall
- From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman
- A Chance to Die-Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot
Later, I came walking back past the window, and I noticed the titles. It made me think of my upcoming trip to the Middle East, and I grew a bit somber.
You see, I love my house. I love the wide, old trim, my newly positioned window seat, the tile floor that I just washed by hand (yes, I really did!), my wide front porch with a place to hang a basket of flowers, the lighted alcove someone cut into the wall during remodeling, the beautiful cabinets. My upstairs bedrooms are still painted the brilliant kid-friendly kids club colors and the stair posts are still mostly bright yellow, but I still love them.
I love “the hole” with its packs of screaming boys on bicycles, it’s tiny girls stepping cheerily across Brady Street, its alley cats inviting themselves everywhere, its squirrels leaping onto impossibly slender twigs and not falling. Sometimes the cats sleep on my porch chair cushions, but I have to admit, I still have a little affection for them.
I love Elkhart with it’s warm breakfast joints full of old men, it’s exuberant Main Street flowers, its artwork on the ancient sides of brick buildings, it’s uneven sidewalks and brand new cement, its swinging bench beside the river walk, which I have claimed, its hordes of arrogant Canadian geese, its scandalously radiant sunshine falling through the leaves, its catalog-perfect house on Laurel Street with the couch I’ve claimed, which by the way, doesn’t require wearing a seat belt when it’s time to descend for the landing (I can promise you I will think of that couch when I’m vomiting on the plane). The Elkhart McDonald’s have possibly the worst service I’ve ever experienced at any fast food restaurant anywhere, but I still love them.
I love Elkhart General Hospital, with its intestinal basement hallways, its brilliant cardiologists and surgeons grumping about their long hours but taking excellent care of the patients anyway, its stainless steel food carts bumping and clanging from carpet to tile, its elevator doors closing in, its teal-uniformed housekeepers saying “Good Morning”. From the moment I started working on the Progressive Care Unit on the 6th floor, I concluded that the floor looked like an old nursing home and was in need of remodeling, but I still love it.
I love the Midwest. I love its perfect enunciation, where people talk English accent-free, effortlessly. I love my aunt’s house, my church, my Dad’s farm full of memories. I love my nieces and nephews, and how they always come running to the windows and doors when I arrive. People make jokes about corn fields and Eskimo winters, but I still love it.
I love America. I can count probably on one hand the times I haven’t had access to electricity, water, gas, or a telephone. I don’t recall ever seeing windows broken by violence, or rubble from a car bomb, or militia check points. I’ve never heard of 70 migrants dying in a smuggler’s truck here in America, although it perhaps has happened. When I drove home from Mishawaka yesterday, there were working stoplights controlling huge multi-lane intersections, and the cars were obeying them. People say America is toppling, and perhaps it is, but I still love it.
The Middle East seems very far away sometimes, and very devoid of the things I love. But I love adventure. I think part of what makes me sentimental, looking at my windowsill and thinking of my September 9th departure, is just what a war journalist once said: Life is somehow made richer by the ease with which it might end. Whether this means death, or simply separation from “normal” we realize best what we have when we are about to leave it behind, even temporarily.
Yet most of all, I love the presence of the Author of that first book on my window sill. He is the Healer of all, the Creator of all, the Restorer of all. He is not geographically nor culturally bound. He has been my anchor in my house, in the hole, on my swinging park bench, in the hospital halls, on American interstates.
I have no reason to doubt his presence on my flight to Lebanon, or anywhere I may find myself there.
He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only. –C.S. Lewis