9000 miles from home

January of 2015 stole my words and broke my heart. For three months, our little family drew in tight together and stripped life down to the essentials: be together, be kind, be safe. No more, no less.

I am not free yet.

In late April, Curt and I found ourselves hours away from a trip across the ocean that had been planned for 2 years… South Africa. It was a massively orchestrated ordeal involving 8 plane tickets, 5 caregivers, color-coded schedules, power of attorneys, and 2 weeks of vacation. My suitcase was still empty with 6 hours until boarding. Campbell said, “Go. You can stay here and hurt or you can go and hurt. Go.” I packed half-heartedly for a trip I did not want to take.

My anxiety began leaking out of my eyes at midnight about 18 hours later. We were 30-thousand feet high somewhere over Africa. ‘We are too far away,’ I thought. ‘It would take days to get back to my Littles. IT IS TOO FAR. It’s not familiar and it’s not safe. I’m not funny and I’m not sure. I don’t have anything left. I can’t small-talk my way through a week of riding through unfamiliar territory with strangers. Give me my kids, my farm, my space. Let me be in the weeds, but at home. This… this is a mistake.’

But the plane continued south over the equator and I wrestled with God above the clouds.

After 2 days of traveling and changing gates and navigating grumpy airline employees, we found ourselves standing at a check-in desk 9,000 miles from home. “Be out front tomorrow at 6am,” Angel said. “Your guide will be waiting for you.”

South Africa, day 1

The sun was inches from the horizon as I climbed into the back of a truck with 8 other guests. Our guide began to ramble down the road, and I saw the land shake off its sleep. Shadows became green leaves and brown bark. I saw a zebra and her calf scoot across the main road. I sat for 30 minutes and watched a cheetah look for a place to sleep.

As we drove, the gray sky swept into pink and orange and red. ‘This looks like Texas,’ I thought. ‘Sharp aloe and rocks, cracked earth and endless sky… this looks like home.’ I saw the woman in front of me lean over to her neighbor. “This looks like home,” she said, “This reminds me of Texas.”

Something inside me broke. It was Africa, but I was not in strange country. “See?” God whispered. “This is familiar ground.”

The truck rounded another corner and we found ourselves staring at giraffes. “A bunch of giraffes is called a journey,” our guide yelled back to us. “A leap of leopards, a pride of lions, a crash of rhinos, a journey of giraffes.”

“Or a trip if there’s just a couple… like now, right?” I heard myself throw out there. Our guide caught my eye in the side mirror and started to laugh. “Oh, but see?” God whispered. “There is still some mischief left in you.”

Our group would prove to be instant family. We represented every generation from retirees to middle-school… and we were very much able to laugh. We would voluntarily eat meals together, yell at each other to duck down for photos, carry each other’s beach gear, and beg to have schedules changed so excursions could be taken together. Our guide would prove to be an expert in land-management and conservation, and I found myself dusting off my outdoor education muscles again after 10 years of time-out. “Oh, but see?” God whispered. “These people are safe.”

And that was Africa.

Familiar and brand new and chaotic and easy. Why would God bring me to the other side of the world at the most difficult time in our family’s life? To show me how far He would go to bring me back home. To let me laugh again. To give me space. To have me see impossible animals in unbelievable proximity. To stand in awe. To prove, in ways I could completely understand, that He never changes.

We are never prepared for what we expect.

-James Michner

[I feel like I’m teaching myself to tell stories again.

It’s going to take a bit to find my rhythm again.]

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About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

20 responses to “9000 miles from home

  • Phil Warners

    True. True. There is something about Africa…(insert a big sigh here). I have visited a lot of places in my life. Some are curious, others are entertaining, still others invigorate and rejuvenate in different ways. But there is something about Africa (sigh) that changed me from the inside out, from the upside down. Once one visits Africa, life in America should never be quite the same. It never has been the same for me.

  • nicole

    So good to hear your voice!

  • Shanda

    God is so very faithful and so very surprising and so very amazing and caring and and and. . . . God’s whisper to you and His encouragement to me through His whisper to you. I love it that He works like that. I’m so thankful that you are where you are.

  • Jen

    My mantra lately “Always be suspicious that God is up to something good.” Most days that requires more suspicion than I care to muster and, although my heart KNOWS it’s true, it’s taking my head a while to come around. So happy for this “journey”–for your body AND your heart.

  • Monica

    Oh our God…He is so good. I loved reading every word of this. So thankful for the trip you had. ❤️

  • Chad

    This is so good to read. I’m stuck in an endless winter myself at the moment…this is a ray of sunshine. Thank you.

  • Christy Fitzwater

    I knew it. I knew from out of your deep pain would come beautiful stories of who God is.

  • Kimberly

    Kate…so good to hear you write again. Thanks for sharing God’s whispers. I am thankful for the reminder that he speaks like that sometimes. 🙂

  • Chelsey Meek Carr

    Yesssssssssssssss.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  • Susan

    “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. ” Habakkuk

  • barb nichols

    Oh Kate, how I love to hear your heart through your words! God is good! I needed your words today.

  • jujugraham

    Wow. I have really missed this…missed you. I know we’ve never even met in person, but I want you to know that the stories of your life make mine better. Your beautiful faith and honesty and view of the world touch my heart, make me think, help me grow, and very often bring healing to my broken heart. Thank you for your honesty and your courage and for reminding me to look up out of the crazy mess of life. And thank you for sharing your children. The stories you tell of them bring much-needed smiles and laughter to my life. You are a treasure, Katie Mulder. A beautiful star that shines brightly in the midst of our broken world. I pray that this journey you are on will bring healing and rest to your precious soul.

  • Mandi

    Oh, how I’ve missed your cyber-presence and your beautiful words! I’m so glad you had the opportunity to get away like that, and to find laughter and peace in an unexpected place. I love you, Friend, and I’m sorry it didn’t work out for me to hug your neck in The Netherlands!

  • steph

    Tears. Mine. I read redemption in your words. God knew what he was doing. love you

  • Steve Sheldon

    I miss your voice–haven’t heard from you in months. I hope all is going well.

  • Zoë

    Beautifully written as always. So nice to read your words again. Love you friend.

  • Hailey Hudson

    I just sat here and read through the last couple of years of your blog. I hope one day your kids know and appreciate the kind of great mom they have.

  • Margie

    And, gosh, I’m crying on this one. I see I need to read even when I’m not writing. Achingly good ~ and somehow, in the chaos of life, I hadn’t realized you’d gone to SOUTH AFRICA. I can’t wait to read more.

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