One thing that I am going to miss about this house is the sound it makes when it rains.
We do not have an attic here, so when I am sitting at my desk upstairs, I am literally a foot away from the rooftop. The constant pecking at the roof is very soothing to me, as I combat a sore throat, impending essay deadline, and the anxiety of handling all of the logistics and financials in relocating this week.
I have always been drawn to storms.
Our first winter living on the Oregon coast was during 1996 and El Nino storm pattern. We lived in a 2-bedroom house on top of a hill that overlooked the ocean (for anyone who went to our wedding, it was between the hill we sat on and the field we had people park in). This sounds like a peaceful, relaxing setting, except when you factor in 90 mph winds, inches of rain daily, and a house which was built/maintained with a lot of "volunteer" labor. We had two sliding glass doors (which the wind blew around), an opening underneath the house facing the ocean (which the wind blew up through the flooring), and a wood-burning, iron fireplace (which the wind blew down and suffocated any fire).
Still, I would love to go running down the hill in the face of the rain and wind and be pummeled by nature. I would come back home muddy, swollen, red-faced, dripping wet, and exhausted. There was some comfort in being able to interact with nature as a tangible force. The earth is not simply scenery to be observed, but has a life unto itself that is meant to be explored.
We would have storms every winter and I would enjoy them, but none were ever quite as thrilling as those when we lived in the little shack on top of the hill. It was only two winters before we had out house built in Cloverdale, inland from the ocean bluff.
The other storm which looms in my memory is a stretch of the rainy season when I was living in Kenya. It was a bit out of season as it usually runs roughly March-May and this was in July. The building that I lived in was completely covered with metal roofing, and my door faced into the center of the building, creating a cacophony of sound from each drop that fell. With regularity, the entire sky would light up with a flash and the rumble of the thunder would shake the night air. Even the crickets would stop their chirping to respect the sky.
This storm was a reminder of my insignificance.
I had come to Kenya with wide-eyes and an open heart to do something (anything, really) to address issues of HIV-AIDS within a community. I had become involved with an organization doing a phenomenal ministry of rebuilding ruptured lives and was thrilled to be living an adventure in ministry. In the months leading up to this storm, I had been teaching at the high school, presenting curriculum in the Democratic Republic of Congo, walking the streets of Mathare in Nairobi, guiding teams from the US, coordinating a VBS, preaching a circuit of local churches, and loving the kids and families who we were able to serve.
For as much as I was able to do, however, this rain did so much more.
In a district dependent upon the cultivation of maize, beans, and peas, the rain is a necessity for the presence of life. What I was doing with a small handful of people, the rains were doing for an entire region. Not the same, I know, since rain cannot pay school fees or provide medicine, but it does give the tangible reminder of the provision of God, and in turn, hope.
Even though I was not a farmer in Ukambani, the rain gave me a reminder of home. A mother and father on the other side of the earth in Oregon, a wife living in Central America. A brother studying in Oxford. All of us separated by distance. Yet God's provision is to bring them all near to my heart. To establish community among his people in whatever locale I may find myself. To be reminded that I am never alone, because ultimately he is with me. This awareness of God's provision is laying the groundwork to be able to withstand future adversities. Knowing God is with us, we have ridden the swells of graduation, marriage, new chapters in life, new jobs. We have plunged the depths of estrangement from family, loss of work, unknown illnesses, and death.
At the dinner table, we pray thankfulness for the meal which we have, conscious of how God continues to provide. On most nights, it feels like an hollow repetition, a ritual phrase, but the awareness has penetrated my mind and allowed me to see God's faithfulness in so many ways in spite of the challenges which we face.
On most nights, my prayers coil like smoke and vanish into the night. But, on nights like tonight, the rain answers back.