A week before we flew to the UK, Murray bought himself a new watch, to replace the Polar I gave him when Cam was born. It’s a Suunto something-or-other. It can take over a small country. He felt it was prophetic because, he said, ‘It’s a new time.’
A few days later, at our 3Ci farewell with the staff and leadership, Mitch Dyer gave Cam his watch. Because, it’s a new time.
The day before we flew, my friend Carin messaged to say she and her son, Jason, wanted to come for last hugs on the driveway. Jason is one of Scott’s closest buddies. Carin had felt for months that Scott needed a watch. Then Jason told her he wanted to buy Scott the same watch he has – so they could be watch twins – in this new time.
We flew Ethiopian Airlines. It was brilliant. The flight attendants literally said, ‘Chicken or beef?’ (No one is ever going to write poetry about the chicken or the beef. But I get excited every time I’m asked for my preference – like it’s the first time – and a new time.)
I also love watching the tiny plane flying across the tiny world on the tiny screen on the seat in front of me. I love knowing we’re flying over places I’ve heard of, and places I haven’t, and knowing that far below my seat lies a real world with real people all inhabiting the times of their own stories.
At midnight in Addis Ababa, I said to the boys, ‘Hey guys! Right now we’re actually homeless. We no longer have a home in South Africa! We don’t yet have a home in England! How crazy is this!’
We laughed and made jokes about being a homeless family who sleeps in airports. And beneath the laughs and the jokes a tide of uncertainty washed over my time-warped soul because oh my freakin’ word. This thing we’ve done. It’s the biggest.
We’d been warned it would take at least three hours to get through passport control at Heathrow. The queue slowly snaked. At last we stepped up to the official and handed over our passports.
He said, ‘Oh no.’ Exhausted and defeated. ‘Please don’t tell me you’ve just come from South Africa.’
We were herded to a cordoned-off area along with all the other Third World People from Red List Countries where Covid Variants are rife. But not before our weary-yet-polite official spotted the guitar in Murray’s hand. Questions ensued. Bonding took place. They connected over twelve-strings and makes and models and I sensed our destiny had been secured.
For a few minutes we watched as other dangerous passengers like ourselves were called forward for questioning and document-checking. And then our guitar-loving chap came back. He handed me four passports and said,
‘They’re stamped. You can go now.’
In under an hour the red tape had parted like the Red Sea. We were free. It was over. It had happened. God had done it. And again, the time warp. Because months and months and mountains of planning, preparation, proof, and a painful tearing away of our lives had all just culminated in a small stamp.
We ordered coffees and waited for our friends Stuart and Tracey to find us in Terminal 2. We drove out of Heathrow in the snow. It snowed all that day. Overnight, Cyclone Eloise had been replaced by Storm Darcy. We’d been dropped out of the sky into a new time.
For the first surreal 36 hours it felt like my feet were still hovering half a meter off the ground. We’d narrowly missed the fate of mandatory hotel imprisonment and the relief actually made me sob. We’re still under quarantine (five days down, five to go) but we have our own cottage just off the main house, and three and a half acres of farmland and garden in which to roam free.
The time warp of quarantine has given us space to go nowhere and do nothing.
It’s given us space to recalibrate. Our souls are slowly catching up with our bodies in readiness for a new time.
It’s given us hours to trawl websites and school admission forms and order things online which arrive the next day because, Amazon Prime and the Royal Mail!
It’s given us time to allow emotions to run their parallel courses through our hearts and minds.
Because simultaneously we feel lost and found. There’s peace and uncertainty and excitement and the sense that we’re the random chargers you pull out of a drawer only to realise you no longer own the device the charger used to charge. The charger is meaningless – untethered – sans the device that gives it purpose.
But even that is right and good and just as it should be because God knows when and where and how He’ll plug us in again to new communities where we will charge, and be charged, for a new time.
For now, we rest, and enjoy the warmth and lavish love of generous friends.
Even amidst anxieties, we’re expectant. Even in the strange grief, we’re grateful. My three men’s new watches are set to Greenwich Mean Time and it reminds me how God orders our days and how every dawn marks the beginning of a new time with new mercies and the same sun that melts the ice on these fields each morning shines in Africa and everywhere, and God governs its rising and resting.
Our times are in His hands, and there is hope.
. . .
So thankful to connect with you here!
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