“Around the Campfire” is a new feature in which our very own readers swap stories about having an encounter with God. Today’s post was provided by Amy Wardana. If you have had an encounter with God, I encourage you to share it with us. Your past run-in with God might very well be someone’s next encounter with him. You can use the form on the “Contact Us” page, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few weeks ago my husband Paddy, my daughter Tia, and I were joined by two of our friends, Arkok and Irwan, for a day of fun at East Tennessee’s most famous amusement park named after Miss Parton herself—Dollywood. Tia ran toward all the little rides with absolute delight. A bouquet of curls framed her sienna colored face as she fearlessly climbed aboard tea cups and duckies, piggies and caterpillars. She showed no reservation whatsoever, only joy and wonder. Paddy and I stood in the mommy/daddy area waving at her like crazy every time she circled by us.
Dollywood and motherhood. Both have the potential to put you on a ride that will take you up and down and around and around as you beg for mercy. Both can make you throw your hands in the air and scream. And both can make you search out a cool spot to lie down and collapse from exhaustion. Motherhood has overwhelmed me in almost every way. In an attempt to neutralize the chaos of a two year-old, I spend the day bustling around trying to keep everything clean and orderly. To my dismay Tia came out of the womb strong-willed and angry that she couldn’t already play on the monkey bars. My baby girl had so much she wanted to accomplish, that by nine months she was already walking. She has proven very hard to satisfy and keep occupied, and by the end of the day I am usually worn and frazzled praying for the patience to not scream orders at her. Some days the prayers are granted. Others, they are not. But on this day at Dollywood, I could actually back out of the eye of the motherhood storm and see my daughter. She rode atop a giant bumble bee all by herself with her caramel kissed hair blowing all around and a sense of adventure on her face. I was smitten.
After the park, the five of us went to a small Thai restaurant to eat. The adults sat down while Tia squirmed out of her chair to play under the table. At a corner table sat our server’s young daughter. She too had sienna skin and wild curls pulled back into a pony tail. Her well-prepared mother had filled her table with Barbie dolls to keep her little hands busy while she worked the dinner shift. Some of the dolls had red hair; some had blonde; one had brown hair. They all had beige skin. In an effort to lure Tia out from under our table, I took her over to the little girl and introduced them. Her mama came out of the kitchen with her arms full of plates of food. “Share your toys with her, Angela,” she said. I asked her where she was from. “I’m from Honduras,” she smiled as she walked away to deliver the food that was weighing down her arms. The girls played with the Barbies as we continued to order our food.
The men spoke in their native Indonesian tongue as they decided upon their order. In the Asian world ordering food is a joint effort. They wouldn’t just order one dish for themselves the way most westerners would do. Instead, everyone gets a clean plate, the server fills the table with the various dishes, and all the table occupants share all the food. When the server asked what meat we would like, Arkok told her any meat except pork. I then remembered that Irwan was Muslim. I looked around the table. There I sat with my alabaster skin among three other shades of brown. There was Paddy’s mocha skin, Arkok’s mahogany, and Irwan’s chestnut hues. We were a kaleidoscope of melanin surrounded by a room of beige, a rainbow of pigments eating curry and ginger.
A few days after our meal, I began to listen as God spoke to me about rainbows. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not one of those fortunate people to whom God speaks in audible voices and clear sentences. I usually hear and see my surroundings and then intuitively sense that the Spirit is communicating to me. God took my mind back to the most significant rainbow in my life. It appeared in the sky the morning my daughter was born. It had stormed the whole night I was in labor. I thought to myself that God must have been sad to let one of his little ones go, so he cried all night through the storm clouds over East Tennessee. After a long night of heavy rain and even heavier contractions the rainbow appeared in the grey morning sky. My parents photographed it and showed it to me after Tia’s birth.
It seemed appropriate that God would put his most colorful and diverse creation among the clouds the day of Tia’s birth. She was, after all, my rainbow. Paddy had come to the US after a Muslim terrorist attack on his tourist town devastated the economy. After the bombs exploded, he landed on a roller coaster in Southern California. Because that’s what bombs do, they blow us away. It’s not just debris and fire that go flying through the air. Human lives that can no longer live the way they once lived, they go flying through the air too. So while there were hundreds who died during the days of the Bali bombs, they were not the only lives lost. Hundreds of other lives were catapulted in various directions all over earth. Paddy was still among the living, but he had lost his life too. His days of waking to the light of the South Pacific sun, eating his mother’s babi ketchup, and falling asleep under the Balinese moon, those days were over now. When there were no more tourists to take to see the jumping dolphins in the Bali Sea, Paddy found himself loading passengers onto roller coasters at Six Flags. He had never even seen a roller coaster before he arrived for his first day of work. A few years later, we had both found our way to a Japanese restaurant where we worked together and fell in love. Just like rainbows are made of the opposite elements of rain and sunshine, Tia was made after east met west among the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. She was a miracle, a mixture of bitter coffee and sweet cream, tears and smiles, darkness and light. She was the hot color red and icy cold violet and every color in between. East had met west in the face of a child. Two hemispheres crashed together, and out popped a Balinese-Appalachian beauty. A rainbow came through my body and landed on the earth the day my daughter was born.
As I thought more about rainbows I remembered the rainbow covenant in Genesis. After God flooded the earth, he put a rainbow in the sky to promise Noah and his family that he would never destroy the earth again. I thought about my own life and how, at times, I had felt that almost every part of me had been destroyed. After Tia was born, I went through an intense season of confusion and paranoia. At times there was no light in my thoughts, only black. I feared that the waters would cover me and I would be destroyed, but like Noah, God had left an ark of survivors in my heart. A tiny boat full of hope floated in the sea of madness. After the storm in my heart subsided, and the ark landed on dry ground, I could see the survivors as they came out of the boat single file. They were hope, restoration, creativity, reconciliation, and love. God was showing me how to live a life that paints rainbows. I emerged wanting to connect colors and bask in the beauty of diversity.
As I thought about the people who made up the table at that little Thai restaurant, it was clear that God had created a picture of harmony. There were two Hindus, a Muslim, a Christian, and two sweet little girls not old enough to know the difference. I thought if the six of us can do this, maybe one day the whole world can do this. Maybe one day our leaders can do this. Maybe one day our religions can do this. Maybe one day our governments can do this. Maybe it’s possible that we will learn that every human heart wants and needs the same things: love, acceptance, peace, good tasting food, and happy babies. I know it’s more complicated than that. I know that we fight over resources. I know that we fight because we have been hurt. We fight because we are scared of each other. We fight to defend what is ours, whether it be land, oil, or beliefs.
But on that day no one was fighting.
Opposites met and painted a rainbow. Red did not try to become blue. Yellow did not try to make violet look yellow. Every color shined brightly, independently, contrasted vividly, and packed together tightly. The rainbow only lasted for a few moments in time. They shoot across the sky creating their arc of beauty and vanish quickly into the clouds from which they are born. But to everyone who has Noah’s story embedded in their memory, they echo the same promise: No. More. Destruction. God whispers his most beautiful vow through the rainbow. It’s a vow of peace and hope. I believe the more rainbows we make, the more we can hear that faint voice from within—the voice that can only be God—I believe it always says, “Let’s destroy no more.”
About Amy: “I stay home to raise my two year-old daughter. (She’s center stage right now.) I am Appalachian born and raised. I grew up “Baptecostal” (Pentecostal and Baptist). I graduated from Johnson University. I love learning how to use my life to blend cultures and things that seem “unblendable”. I am a yoga enthusiast. Hiking is my Heaven on Earth. I adore my husband of three years. Most importantly, I am learning how to love.”