He loves anyway

Some days the cold presses hard.
From without, sometimes from within.

We reach for warmth, and find he is there, waiting for us. Thawing our frozen edges, melting what was icy and hard.

17457272_10210307070545158_1434743508519920686_nAnd I stand there, in front of his piercing but inviting heat, in silence. And I’m struck at the acceptance. In all my needs, in all my sharp icy edges, in all my needs, I’m loved. 

I’m cherished.
I’m forgiven, even before I find the right words. Before I’m able to articulate my needs, he knows and loves anyway.

This is our God.

Faithful, gentle, patient, understanding. So much more than we could ever deserve. He is abundance in the moment of our deepest need. 

Resting in the now

I drank my coffee coldish on the couch as I nursed the baby and tears blurred. Letting go of a dream – of a part of me – so that I can fully embrace today is salty hard. I realized it’s hard because it is the grief of a loss. It is forcing my fingers to release the grip on something that I thought was me. I owned it. I had a right to it. It was ME.
My husband sat quietly, and kissed me goodbye as he headed to work.
He didn’t try to fix it. He knew he couldn’t.
 
This morning reality slapped me in the face and I knew my dream will most likely wait.
These moments when we choose to surrender with a peaceful heart aren’t all glorious.
It is the hard thing.
 
Jesus asks us to follow. To leave things behind in exchange for better things. For things we cannot even see.
 
Who am I? Am I just a mom?
Do I push the laundry through, make meals and sweep the floor, just to do it again tomorrow?
Is it what I DO, or is it who I AM?
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Mothering is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It scrapes off my surface again and again and shows me what’s underneath. There is no hiding the selfishness that could stay in the shadows before.
Mothering reaches into every area of my life, into each moment of my day.
 
“We cannot give our children what we ourselves do not have.”
 
I read the words yesterday and they followed me around, whispering in my ear as I folded laundry, watched a squabble break out, laid the baby in her bed.
Do I have what I want my children to have?
Am I living what I want for them?
 
I can work till my day is all used up, I can chide and correct till I’m blue in the face.
But if it’s not deeply engrained in my own heart, there is no way they can see it walked out.
Words are not reality until they SEE them…
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No, the work will never be done. And I will never be perfect. But if I live out today with my heart leaning hard into Jesus, they will see Truth. They will taste the peace that comes after a heart struggles and then rests.
 
It is like the joy of an ocean wave coming in, splashing and laughing, and bubbling around my toes.
But as it goes out again, it leaves shells and round pebbles behind, sanded soft and smooth by endless scraping against the abrasive sand. The constant wearing away produces deeper beauty.
More beauty than was there before.
 
The waves going out are just as beautiful as the ones coming in.
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REST. It’s my word for this year.
It’s not rational in this season, but God doesn’t choose the rational way.
He chooses the best way.
 
So in the face of my deepest need, and of dreams drifting away, I am held.
And there is deep rest.

(Photo credits to my dear grettagraphy.com)

He sees

It was over. She knew it.
Life had spat in her face, and she had spat back, once.

Only now, her mouth was too dry to even swallow.
Her lips were cracked and her throat was raw as sandpaper.
The scorching sun beat down on her head and she collapsed under the dried little bush that offered no shade at all.
No hope.
Her life, as hard and shattered as it had been, would end here, in the cruel desert.
Alone. Her child, the pride and joy of her life, lay wilting under the glare of the sun just over her shoulder, but out of sight.
She had looked away.
She could not watch this.

A slave, bent under the burden of a life of endless tasks.
Of water to be carried, tents put up and taken down, animals to be fed, the master and his demanding wife to please. Even her child had been a target of her mistress’ jealousy; the joy of his presence turned to resentment and anger.
All her years of service had meant nothing.
Nothing.
The gritty sand slipped from between her fingers and tears too dry to reach her eyes burned deep.

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What did she do to deserve this?
What kind of God would promise love and then lead one here, to die of thirst?

It’s a dry, desolate place. You have been here.

Where the wind howls lonely and rustles the dead grass at your feet.
Sand gets between your toes and shade is nowhere to be found.
But the worst thing is, you are alone.

Alone with your fear.
With your failures.

They mock you and spit condemnation at you. Again.
This is who you are. You have become your failure.

Or maybe it is your loss that shatters you.
The grave hasn’t settled yet, but the world keeps going.
People talk too loudly next to you about the weather, or their upcoming vacation.
The world mocks your grief by daring to go on.
To live and laugh each day, when all you can do is breathe and try to survive.
You wish life would end. Being alone is worse than you ever imagined it could be.

Then He comes.

In the moment when you have no strength to speak or faith to pray, He is suddenly there. Perhaps without you even calling his name.
He is just THERE.

His presence in shocking. He knew where you were. He takes in the stark surroundings in a flash, and looks deep into your eyes. And you know what He says?
“Do not be afraid.”

The fears crumble and courage rises. Fresh air fills your lungs.
The story isn’t over after all. He was watching the whole time. He knew.

He feels the pain, He knows about the warm tears that drip silently into the pillow at night, the pang deep in your heart that cannot be expressed. He sees the way you look in the mirror, the ways you kick yourself for failing your children again. Again and again.

And Hagar suddenly remembers her own words, “You are the God of seeing.”
She was shattered and alone before, and He came to her then, too.

He knows.
He sees.

Don’t believe the lie that you are abandoned.
That you are alone.

‘Cause right now, in your hard place, He sees.
Not in a cold, unfeeling way, but with deep love and excitement, because He is preparing you for something big. Something much much greater than you can imagine.
So even in this blind moment, take heart.

He sees.

 

 

(Photo credits to the amazing grettagrapy.com)

Retrospect

Sometimes I see God’s provision best in retrospect.
The story seems clearer from the next chapter.
And today I am reminded to sit still and wait.
To trust, knowing that He sees all, and does it well.

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It’s a crazy season here in our little world.
Last night I was exhausted. I felt like I had corralled a herd all day and come evening time, the stampede simply ran wild. I thought of sipping a quiet cup of coffee alone at the local coffee shop- but knew it would be too lonely. I thought of ten years from now when the high pitched squeals of delight will be matured into intellectual conversations instead of the tussling and tattling. And then, I surprised myself by missing these blender like moments. Well, almost.

Then Daniel set his books aside and prepared a pot of hot chocolate and we all sipped and savored his break from books. It was like slipping down deep into the depths of a hot tub, the tired muscles relax and everything that was strung too tight loosens. Breathes again.

Blankets are strewn chaotically around the fireplace where sleepover #39 happened last night, and countless books were read by the white Christmas lights on the mantle. When Daniel left at 4 AM this morning for another weekend lab, I stuck a pot of steel cut oats on the fireplace ledge to slowly cook while the munchkins slept. This morning it was perfect.

Alannah just brought her doll to the oatmeal breakfast around the cozy fireplace.
“My baby was missing out on the party!”
Just like that, I knew her words were for me. I don’t want to miss out on the party.
I’m checking back into this crazy life of ours.

“God knows the itch in your shoe…”

Cool water laps over the smooth stones and dances at her feet.
Her fingers grope blindly at the rocks, her eyes lost far beyond the glittering horizon.
She draws back and throws another stone, and it splashes and then is lost in the clear ocean waters.

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These waves seem playful today, but it is these same glittering waters that have claimed the lives of countless people, desperate to survive. No one steps into a rubber dingy because they want to. Absolute desperation presses the throngs to shove children and women on board in hopes of freedom.

Wind rustles the olive trees and the silver underside of the leaves adds color to the brown landscape. A thousand stories are whispered in the wind, too vast to be spoken audibly. Too many lives have passed through here,
too many tired orange life vests to count are piled in a heap,
too many tears to be numbered.

A woman’s eyes stare vacantly into the distance, her runny nosed toddler clambering for attention and pulling on her shawl. Her hand mindlessly grasped his small arm, but her face was frozen, too traumatized to be able to converse with her children.
“She is a good mother,” my sister tells me, “but she is shut down by the horrific things she saw.”
People beheaded by the terrorists, men mowed down, children abused.
Women raped on the shore and then forced into overfilled rafts when they had paid for a ferry. Papers stolen, passports gone.
Education and hard earned livelihoods simply vanished, and now, they are stuck behind chain link fences.
Waiting, waiting, waiting to get out. To get back to real life.
Hoping that tomorrow promised something better.

Every day is the same.
Waiting in line for papers that were promised months ago, but never appear.
Everyone is restless. Going crazy. Desperate.
This could be you.
This could be me.

“I do not think of the war,” Adnan’s words in heavily accented English speak softly.
“It is too much, I… I cannot, or I will…” The words stop, but his fingers trace the worn trail of tears down his young cheeks.
His family gone, his girlfriend murdered.

She came back, this sister of mine, but really she didn’t.
Her eyes carry a touch of that far off look, now.
Her life, too, has been shattered, and her dreams changed.
Refugees are no longer strangers; they are her friends. They have voices and stories and hands that held tightly to hers.
“Take my children to America,” they begged, desperate to give their children something, anything, better than what they are experiencing. It is not crazy parents that push their child into a rubber raft, and stand watching him until he is out of their sight; it is loving, desperate ones that cannot afford the voyage themselves.
They give him hope when they themselves have none.

The image of the small body face down at the water’s edge, someone’s child.
Someone dressed him in that red shirt, someone loved him.
There are so many lives, so many people.

But today even the small huts are no refuge.
A protest broke out yesterday, and fires were lit, quickly spreading to tents and small huts. Thousands were evacuated to the outside, while what little belongings they had burned before their eyes.
When you have lost all, to loose all over again is simply staggering.

Blessing, from Nigeria, messaged my sister, “My clothes… All burnt.”
Her small corner and bedding charred. She has nothing.
Again.

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Gretta had taken Blessing to the ocean, to get out of camp for the day.
And she had grasped the stones and thrown them one by one into the ocean, releasing the pain and bitterness life had handed her. They have tasted so much bitterness.
So much loss.

My heart breaks, and words unspoken press hard. Bitter.
My happy children run and play, carefree and alive.
I wish we could go, and do something, anything.
Take clothes. Hand out food, offer to hold small ones…
What can I give? How can I ease her pain?

Her eyes look into the video camera and she says,
“In my country we have a proverb dat say, ‘God know the itch in ya shoe.” Nobody else can know the itch in ya shoe, but God, he know. He cares about you…”

God cares.

We can all pray. We can all love. We can all offer hope.
Perhaps you can help send someone who can touch in a tangible way, these dear people. Maybe you can give financially.
Or maybe you can go, and touch lives yourself…

But risk your heart to love. Give, for we have received so much.
Join me, and love them.
Perhaps it is for such a time you were created.

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If you feel like you want to go, or help others go, or even support the effort financially,
you can find more information here: http://i58greece.com or http://eurorelief.net/donate/

(photo credits go to Gretta at grettagraphy.com)

Being community

The weekend is over, and my little sister is happily married off and far away in honeymoon land. But last night we filled my house to the brim with happy chattering people who were sweaty and jolly after several great games of ultimate frisbie, or just “ultimate” as it gets called around here. We laughed and talked and sliced into the left over wedding cake and slurped melting ice-cream and sipped Honduran coffee… People were in every corner of the living room and kitchen.

Lots of them. Dishes and popcorn were everywhere.
I couldn’t get through my kitchen without stepping past half a dozen sweaty people. I counted and we had over 30 of them in here. It was messy and loud and happy.

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The wedding went off without a hitch, and countless hands pitched in. Family drove all the way from Texas a week early and made things possible. Babysat for me while I did one last minute run to town to find the much needed black pants for the ring bearer.

Flowers were picked up in DC and brought down, and arranged.
Corsages and bouquets put together, garland and sheers carefully tacked up.
Lights and bunting were hung in the simple pavilion and it was transformed into a lovely, romantic celebration of life and love.

Sometimes we get on each other’s nerves.
We are all human, really.
We talk too loud, or not enough, or don’t understand other’s opinions.
Sometimes we hurt each other. But when it boils down to it all, we need family.
We need people.
I need you.

Community. A village.

I don’t know how people do it, without a community.

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Thank you.
For being there.
For folding laundry.
For cleaning up after the reception in the dark hours of the night.
For doing the lovely jobs or the messy ones.
For making the stunning cake and for helping us eat it.
For washing dishes after the party last night and letting it be clean and fresh for me this morning.

Sometimes I reach out my hand and pull you up, and encourage you.
Sometimes you lend me the strength I need for today.
We need each other.

Take the risk

It’s a hard day today in the camp.
His bright smile, his sunshine and support, his depth and strength through the pain is gone. His papers finally came, after weeks of lines and waiting and uncertainty. His journey finally led him beyond the camp gates.

He wept as he left his close friends behind. He had already lost so much.
His girlfriend tried to protect a family from ISIS’ hand and been ruthlessly slaughtered. Most of his family is on the other side of those beautiful but angry waters, a rubber raft and orange life vest and world separate them now. He will never see many of them again.

Today is a new day for him, full of opportunity and hope.
But it is mingled with pain. With loss. With sacrifice.

Camp life goes on.
My sister reaches for a child and holds her close, watching the mother smile in gratitude. The courage to still smile after having lost all. Giving, giving, giving when you know these faces will leave, and a new wave of stories and souls will arrive tomorrow.
It takes courage to love again, to pour into a bottomless ocean of needs.
It takes courage to give.

“I could never do that.”
Foster. Adopt. Advocate for people. Stand up for the unseen. Speak to a crowd.
The list is endless. Things that the risk of failure is too high.
But in the light of Jesus’ love, His grace that reaches past my inabilities and makes Him tangible.

One friend waits to meet her daughter from China, her heart already burning with mother love for a child she has never met.
Another is in the long process of getting cleared for fostering, for holding close children that come from turbulent waters and broken homes.
New chapters, big risks, everything at stake.
This is our life, if we dare to move past the numbing state of our comfort zone.
That place that feels so safe yet lulls us to sleep and keeps us from really living.
Living on the edge looks so precarious and dangerous, when really it is the only way to really live.

Risk your heart today. Invest, even when you know there will be no return.
Maybe it is pausing at the grocery store and looking into the eyes of the cashier, and seeing the person, not the employee.
Perhaps it will mean pulling your child closer and taking the time to hear their heart, and the words they might not have spoken.
Maybe your hand will be the one to reach through the darkness and bring light to some hopeless soul.

Offer hope.
Extend love.
Take the risk.
Love is worth the sacrifice.
Jesus led the way.

We cannot change the world on our own.
But by taking the risk, we can change this moment.
We can offer hope that is bigger than we could have imagined.

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A small gift of love (chocolate, Olive branch and a note that my sister is giving one of her friends who lives in the camp)

” Alone I can’t change the world, but I can throw a rock in water, which will cause many ripples” – Mother Teresa