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Bruce and Kate Dahlman, serving with Africa Inland Mission
August 10, 2015 9:12 am
Published in: Ugali

I’ve been packing up the house, “slowly by slowly” (a favorite Kenya expression of ours, comparable to the American “little by little”). It’s “that time” again, to pack up the stuff, “this American life”, into boxes and containers, to be stored in various places around our property: the shed, the Taj, the “secret spaces” above the laundry room and bedroom closets (oops, guess they’re not so secret anymore…).

Here we go, again. Once more into the “breach”, i.e., once more into the world of missions, one more time to move from our lovely, idyllic, lake-side home in northern Minnesota to go half-way around the world to Kenya, Africa. Paradoxically, this part never gets any easier, and yet, it doesn’t seem all that difficult. After all, it’s not my first rodeo, folks; I’ve been there, done that; and I have the “Mzungu” t-shirt, somewhere, to prove it…

I know how to do this packing thing. I know to start early, organize by categories, do the knick-knacks and pictures first, then the various drawer spaces (who remembered there were all those tapered candles in the living room cabinet?), the books, the office, the Christmas dishes and glassware that only get used once a year.

And the clothes: easy to pack the winter things that won’t be required in the equatorial African sun. All the bulky coats, the sweaters, and the seven pairs of boots (yes, seven; I live where it’s winter 5-6 months of the year, people). Harder to know which clothes to take and which I will need to get me through the autumn season until I fly out in late October. I take one look into the closet and decide to decide on this, “later”…

Bruce, already in Kenya for a few weeks, did his part before he left, all the “big stuff” like fixing the roof leak, cutting up the dead, felled tree, and cleaning out the garage to make room for the furniture that our renters will not use or don’t want.   He is doing well so far, loving his new life at Kabarak University (see if you can spot him, late in this link, depicting the launch of the School of Medicine that recently took place): http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ktnnews/video/watch/2000096569/-kabarak-university-has-launched-two-new-schools-at-the-university).

And, I don’t really mind, all this packing. I have the time, the whole month, to get it all done, to enjoy these last few weeks by the lake during the best time of the northern Minnesota summer. It’s beautiful and lovely, with all the trees in their greened out lusciousness, the rock garden plants giving pops of color here and there, the two Adirondack chairs down by the water’s edge inviting me to linger, the nightly call of the loons back and forth across the water, lulling me to sleep.

I am so blessed to have this place to call home; it has been a true sanctuary for me.



View from House



Morning Coffee with Chloe


And yet…it’s time…to pack it all up and go.

Because, the reality is that this place, with all of its “treasure”, is only so much space, so much stuff. And, quite frankly…it is not even “ours”. Not really.

…For a moment, we are here together
And it hits me that this won’t last forever

We can’t own it
We just get to hold it for a while
This Life.
We can’t keep it
Or save it for another time.
This Life…

What we give is all we have
How we love is what will last
And this Hope we know will carry us through this life.

            (“This Life” by the Afters, 2013)

One thing I know (although with each successive move I must learn it again): as much as possible when I pack, it’s best to hold things lightly, with open hands and heart.

 “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”

(James 4:13-14)

 “I’ve learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me”

(Corrie Ten Boom)

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”

(Matthew 6:19, 21)

 So, as poignant and bittersweet as it always is, I am glad that I have this time. I will wander around our house and property to soak in the ambience of it all, the whimsical beauty of the northwoods, while I say goodbye.

I will savor each special object, every unique treasure that we’ve collected over the years as I pack them away, one by one, until I see them again, “next time”.

And I will hold them all, fondly but lightly, in my heart.

Because the true Treasure, the Hope who holds my heart, is here to carry me through.


3 Responses to “Packing it Up”

  1. Julie perlinger Says:

    Thank you for this timely entry! Kevin an I are packing up to sell the house and make a downsized move to Wisconsin this Fall.

    Hold things lightly, indeed. Apparently if you don’t, tossing heavy things with effort is the result!
    (I find myself wondering how many cookie cutters one needs if she has no grandchildren!)

    22 years this beautiful place on earth called Duluth has been our home. Our children are off In flight and we are left holding the blur of memories and wondering why it all went so fast.
    We hope we loved enough, gave enough, prayed enough and played enough to have done this leg of the journey justice.
    Godspeed to your other home, to join your wonderful husband and co-adventurer.
    Thanks for putting some of your heart on paper so we can better love and pray for you both.

  2. Andrew James (Mediquest 2012) Says:

    Hi Bruce and Kate!

    I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your posts. Kate, you really captured what it must feel like to pack up everything and leave (yet again). I feel a little sentimental and bittersweet myself after reading this! Erin and I are praying for safe and smooth transition back to life in Kenya for you and Bruce.


  3. LeAnne Hardy Says:

    We have had two chimney fires over the past thirty years–reminders of how easily God could take this place form me if I became too attached. Hold in an open hand and enjoy every moment. and revel in your Kenyan home as well!