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Norris Burkes: A wing and a prayer

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Chaplain Norris Burkes. File/Staff

I returned home from Honduras last week with the nagging suspicion I was missing something.

Turns out I was. And I still am — my wife, Becky.

As you may know, Becky and I took a group of 24 Chispa Project volunteers to establish a library in an inner-city school of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

I returned with the volunteers to U.S. airspace last week, but Becky remained to help our daughter, Sara, establish another library.

As it turned out, Honduran officials closed their borders the next day.

As I write this, Becky and Sara have bought tickets on four different carriers. Three flights were immediately canceled. Their homecoming could be days, weeks or unknown months away.

Late at night I toss in bed, trying to sleep. A muscle twitch turns me to see if Becky has come home on a late-night flight. She hasn’t.

The whole thing keeps me humming Larry Norman’s lyrics in the Christian apocalyptic song, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.”

"A man and wife asleep in bed. She hears a noise and turns her head, he's gone. I wish we'd all been ready."

Still, it’s amazing what I’ve learned in the past 10 days without her.

First, the house gets dirty all by itself. I know this because I’m the only one here and it can’t be me.

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Even though I manage to sweep every other day, the floor remains a mess. I’m wondering if it’s because Becky’s not here to give me the stink eye when I drip water or track dirt in from the patio.

Second, I’ve learned what sympathetic neighbors I have. One woman brought me some chili and cookies. Another gave me a beer. Wait, don’t get the wrong impression. I needed it for my corned beef recipe.

Fortunately, I have daily talks with my sweetheart of 40 years. After we finish, I continue the conversation with myself.

Some of you might interpret talking to oneself as “losing it,” which is why I prefer to say that I’m “self-narrating.” This is what writers do. It’s perfectly normal.

Kidding aside, I have discovered two fairly important truths.

First, sympathy is a good trait, but it comes best with experience. This separation is similar to what Becky experienced during my three military deployments. Prior to those deployments, I often told her not to anticipate my homecoming until my replacement arrived in-country.

Now I await news that United Airlines has sent a replacement flight. I’ve literally tied a yellow ribbon around a tree in my front yard.

Second, talking to God is much better than talking to myself. God and I had a little convo today. I began my prayer with the bargaining stage. That’s the part where I said, “Please, God, bring them home and I promise that I’ll….”

I don’t remember my promise because I just started crying. Then I prayed again. Then I cried some more. In the end, crying felt like the best prayer ever. I know God heard Jesus each time he cried, so right now, all I want to know is that God hears me.

I think he does. And I’m comforted to know that you care, too.

Fortunately, I did manage to bring a piece of very good news home with me. My daughter, Sara, the Chispa Project director, is pregnant with a boy. His name is Lucas Clay and his arrival has been predicted for late August.

In the meantime, please know that Becky and Sara are now boarding a last-minute flight. We will look for their return on a wing and our prayers.

Contact Norris Burkes at comment@thechaplain.net or 10566 Combie Road, Suite 6643, Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail 843-608-9715.

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