Tag Archives: Hope

Even So… He Sees

We got up before the sun, even though our flight left in the afternoon. An hour hike up the mountain, waiting for a bus that ran on a sporadic/no schedule, a half hour bus ride into town, and then another bus out to the airport left me feeling exhausted long before the plane’s tires   kissed the runway goodbye. I stayed awake for the two complimentary cookies and plastic cup of juice before my eyes closed for the rest of the 45 minute flight.

During our three week stay in my husband’s village, our landlady had sent us a text saying that her house, where we had been renting a room, was currently under foreclosure. “Please send someone to collect your belonging and pick up your car.” So we did, and kind friends allowed us to keep our things in their house until we made it back to the capital city.

We’ve been working with widows in the city of Port Moresby since April seeking to encourage them and help with their physical needs as we are able to, but it’s ironic how often the widows we work with end up helping us. Before we left to visit my husband’s village, one of the widows we had recently connected with offered to let us stay in one of her rental properties. A god-sent, as it turned out, since apparently our current housing accommodations were no longer an option.

We arrived from the airport to our new home which had been furnished with new sheets, pillows, dishes, some cooking pots, and even a warm meal of chicken and chips (French fries) from Big Rooster (Papua New Guinea’s version of KFC). After an overly steady diet of sweat potatoes that meal tasted heavenly.

I recently finished reading, “The God Who Sees You” by Tammy Maltby. I didn’t even know I owned the book. My husband must have downloaded it on to the kindle during the days when we had high speed Internet and downloading free kindle books was a fun rainy day activity (those were the days…) I never cry when I’m happy or when something really just touches me. Ask my sister. One of my favorite activities is making her cry during those happy/sweet movie endings that bring softer souls to tears. Not me. I’m a die hard dry eye, but this book literally made me weep in spots (I blame pregnancy hormones of course).

Taken from the story of Hagar in Genesis chapter 16, the idea behind the book “The God Who Sees You” comes from Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the Lord in the desert after she ran away from her abusive mistress Sarai. The angel meets her in the dessert, acknowledges her pain, promises that the baby she is carrying will become the father of a great nation, and encourages her to return to her mistress. In response, Hagar refers to God as the God who sees saying, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13 ESV). From then on the well where she encountered God was called Beer-lahai-roi which translates—the well of the Living One who sees me.

It’s interesting to note that God did not remove Hagar’s difficult circumstances, in fact He told Hagar to return to her far from ideal life, but He promised hope. First, he showed her that her circumstances had not gone unnoticed; and secondly He promised that good would come to her life. Her descendants would be so numerous that they would be uncountable. Not a smooth ride, her future. It required returning to a hard situation, but now it was a situation with purpose and promise in the midst of difficulty.

Sometimes all we want is the smooth ride, the easy “blessed” life, but, God, He wants more for us. He wants to write a story in our lives. He wants to build a nation and our little troubles are just a part of the bigger picture designed to bring Him glory. But, that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t see us in our struggles, from little things like exhaustion to bigger things like abuse and sickness. He sees us. He knows us. He carries us through often using small gestures like a meal of chicken and chips as a reminder that He’s got us. We did not know that the house where we had been staying would be taken over by the bank while we were away, but He did; and He already had a perfect solution in place through one of the very ladies who He had sent us to this country to help. It’s mind blowing sometimes to take a step back and look at all those “little” things. They aren’t little of course. They are big reminders in an often unstable world that He is God, and He is the God who Sees.

So lovely to finally have a home to hang up this precious engagement gift. It has traveled from Northern Ireland to Kenya then to the US and Australia. Now it is finally out of its box and on display in Papua New Guinea. It is hand painted and made from slate from Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland the place where my husband and I first started to get to know each other.

So lovely to finally have a home to hang up this precious engagement gift. It has traveled from Northern Ireland to Kenya then to the US and Australia. Now it is finally out of its box and on display in Papua New Guinea. It is hand painted and made from slate from Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland the place where my husband and I first started to get to know each other.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Contemplations, PNG, Travel

Keep Me Safe

IMG_66366 a.m. the sun barely tinting the sky. The more light appeared the more ice appeared. Elsa’s dreamland, but not conducive to carrying overweight suitcase from our little cabin in the woods to where the car was parked. I wouldn’t have been up if the plan hadn’t been to start our trip that morning from my parent’s house to Chicago (which on a sunny day is a 6 to 7 hours drive). The sun had a way to go before it would win over the ice, which left us no choice but to delay our trip until the roads cleared enough for safe driving.

In spite of the ridiculous cold, something in that icy early morning air felt a bit magical. The world lay in a stunned sort of silence. The beauty of winter frozen in time, but just for a moment. The morning sun threatened to melt the spell.

Since the trip was delayed, I grabbed my camera and stole a pair of my dad’s rubber boots. It’s hard to take a bad picture in the middle of so much beauty. As I snapped away, I spotted a tiny nest dripped in icicles tucked safely in the branches above. “That,” I thought, “is a picture of refuge, a picture of resilience.”

IMG_6614

I’ve been reading through Psalms again. Somehow I always seem to come back to reading the Psalms especially when starting a new phase in life or when going through a difficult period. There’s something so raw and honest in the words of the Psalms. Deep cries for justice and honest searching for life’s meaning. There are also tremendous amounts of hope on each page of poetry. Such beauty in word choice, and deep meaning in each line.

As I’ve been reading, the word refuge keeps surfacing. I love the idea of God as the one safe place in the midst of life’s uncertain, icy storms. He is a shelter when challenges seem overwhelming, a rock of hope when injustice overwhelms. There are no promises of an easy life, but like the nest high up in that tree there is always a place to go for shelter. There is always a place to stay until the sun melts the icy night. “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.” –Psalm 16:1

“Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” –Psalm 5:11-12

IMG_6606

1 Comment

Filed under Contemplations, Photography

Just a Page

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 9.09.43 PM

I was still a bit jet lagged, sitting at my sister’s bridal shower party focused on rediscovering the sensation of flavorful food, when a friend of mine turned to me and said, “so what did you bring back from Kenya?”

“Ringworm,” my jet lagged brain replied. We both laughed and then went on to talk about her daughter’s current trip to Honduras and the joys and pains of living outside your home country. What did I bring back from Kenya?—memories of emotional highs and lows, stories that probably wouldn’t make much sense to someone who wasn’t there at the time. I brought back the burden of the hurt that I saw but couldn’t fix. But, I also brought back feelings of unexplainable joy from being a part of a community that loved God and sought Him constantly.

I think the question is more how have I changed as opposed to what did I bring back. Because I have changed—so much sometimes that I don’t know how to explain it. Travel does that to you mostly because of the incredible people that you meet along the way. There is some sort of desperate connection that can take place where two people who have never met suddenly find themselves thrown into circumstances so overwhelming and unfamiliar that fast, almost unexplainable friendships happen.

Maybe it’s the type of people that travel attracts, but I think it has more to do with the layers that are torn off when you leave everything that’s comfortable and enter somewhere where you can barely communicate, break cultural norms on a daily bases, and become completely dependant on people who yesterday were total strangers. It’s completely petrifying at times, and once you live through it you leave changed.

I think that’s why travel is so addicting. Once you find that yes you can survive outside the “safe” the “comfortable” of what you know, so many incredible doors are open to you, so many adventures, so many amazing new people that you never would have met if you’d stayed safely in your own home. Yes, sometimes you come back with ringworm, or other unwelcome side affects, but it’s worth it for the way that you are molded into someone new—someone who sees more then just the familiar.

I’m getting ready to get on a plane again. I’m trying not think too much as it’s a bit scary standing, once again, on the edge of the unknown. What’s it going to be like this time? Is it safe? Will I have enough resources to make it? What will the day to day look like? I have no idea. All I know is that this is where God wants me. He has given me that peace. He has given me this opportunity to travel, and it’s all in His capable hands. So here we go. One more page, one more chapter to a story that I never could have written for myself.

8 Comments

Filed under Kenya, Photography, Travel

Under Acacia Trees

Restless—it seems to be the only consistent thing. Exhaustion—attempting to go to bed early only to lie awake for hours staring at nothing, and thinking about everything. At first I was just numb, now I find myself almost frantic, desperate to process all of this but not sure how to begin. I’ve avoided writing, but I can’t any longer. I have to process. I have to “move on” but how?

Yesterday I plastered my wall with pictures—smiling faces, precious memories, moments that I will never ever forget. Nineteen children who touched my life. Nineteen children that I’m no longer able to kiss goodnight. Nineteen children who each stole a piece of my heart.

It was abrupt and painful having to say goodbye. For reasons I still don’t understand the woman who started the children’s home where I volunteered for the last year decided to take the project back, move into the children’s home, and run it without the help of the American team that had been working there. So we packed, said goodbye, and returned “home.”

Easter Sunday after leaving the home, I attended a church which chose to celebrate Easter with an outdoor service. As I sat surrounded by acacia trees, trying to feel (but not feel too much) life- giving words soaked into my soul. It was an informal service that day. Several members took turns sharing a scripture reading, poem, or word from their heart. One woman talked about the loss of a dream, something that she had recently experienced in her own life. “It’s like a broken branch,” she said. “You can take that branch and keep trying to put it back on the tree in order to revive the dream you held on to so dearly, or you can let it fall to the ground. As the branch lies on the ground, in time, it will decompose. In time, a new shoot will rise from the death of that dream. In time, a new tree will break from that decomposed branch. A new seed will fall. A new dream will take root but only if we stop digging it up and trying to resurrect something that is no longer meant to be.”

A new dream, direction, purpose. What once seemed so sure and beautiful is no longer there. What once looked so permanent is gone. What once fulfilled me has been taken away leaving me restless, but not empty. There is a purpose, and there are plans far bigger than the ones I plotted out for myself. I look to the Creator, my Healer, my Constant in a world full of change. Nothing surprises my God. No problem is more than He can handle. No person can take away my joy because my joy comes from serving my King wherever He takes me. He has already begun to open new doors, and lead me into a new beautiful chapter, and while I still feel restless at times, this hurt has already begun to heal. This pain is not to be wasted. God is growing me, stretching me, holding me as others disappoint. Leading me when plans fall apart and dreams are taken away. My restless soul finds peace in His sovereignty. My dreams are gifts from Him as He grows new purpose and life from this pain.

I'll always love these smiles. No one can take the memories away.

I’ll always love these smiles. No one can take the memories away.

2 Comments

Filed under Contemplations, Kenya

Your Red Dirt Has Forever Stained my Heart

If you dig down deep inside of yourself and find a desire to come to Africa,

Please do.

The red dirt will stain your feet.

The people will grip you in such a way that you will be forever changed.

But, I don’t want to sugar coat anything.

There will be days that you’ll cry,

Feel inadequate,

Used,

Exhausted ,

And just in dire need of an honest to goodness hamburger with real beef.

But, at the end of the day chances are you’ll experience life at such a different level that you won’t want to ever return to “normal.”

You’ll see joy in the midst of poverty.

True, deep joy.

Courage in the face of daunting circumstances.

Community in a world full of selfishness.

Yes, the giraffes walking against sun tinted plains will stir your heart, but what will really change you is,

The people you encounter.

The stories that break your heart.

The people with nothing who welcome you ready to share everything that they have with you.

 

Bring a scarf, a jacket, leggings, whatever  you need to stay warm because the African sun doesn’t always shine.

When it goes down for the night the air will chill your bones.

 

Learn to love the rainy season.

Even when flood waters block you in and force you to wade through muddy, make shift streams.

Learn to love the sound of rain dancing on a tin roof.

 

People will call you “brother,” “sister,” ‘auntie,” “mama.”

They will help you when you’ve lost your way and try to sell you everything from bananas to peanuts.

 

The languages that at first sound like music will become a complete puzzle often leaving you tongue tied and

happy to sound like a two year old as long as you are able to communicate.

But, try.

Try to break the language puzzle.

Learn some phrases and be OK with not being able to say everything perfectly.

People will love you for trying.

 

It will change your very soul in a beautifully painful way.

So if you can.

If you want to experience a world of contrast and beauty then come.

Africa is waiting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Contemplations, Kenya, Travel

It Hurts to Love this Deeply

I woke up the next morning with a throbbing toe. That’s when I realized that I had kicked some of the loose rocks in the driveway a lot harder than I thought I had. I was heading to town when he called. “You have to let them go,” he told me.

Let them go! How do you “let go” of two of your kids? How do you go from kissing them goodnight, braiding their hair, and helping them with their homework to possibly never seeing them again? God, I’m just not strong enough for this.

We’d made an exception when a mother with a paralyzed husband begged us to take her youngest daughter along with her granddaughter who was being raised by a single mother with epilepsy. We don’t normally take children with parents at the children’s home where I work, but in this case Pastor Simon had made an exception. An exception that was now causing all of us a lot of pain.

A year later the mother changed her mind. She wanted the two girls back. She didn’t like the fact that she couldn’t come and take the girls whenever she wanted to. She was threatening to cause trouble if we didn’t return them that week so that they could start school where she lived. That’s when I realized that it’s possible to love someone so much that it hurts.

I wanted to fight. Take it to the courts. Legally the children were under our guardianship, and I didn’t want them to go back to a home where they wouldn’t be taken care of like they had been over the last year. But, the decision was not mine and while everything in me wanted to fight it deep in my heart I knew that a judge would end up rewarding the children back to their biological relatives, so was it best to go down that road?

I felt like a robot packing a backpack for Esther while Richelle packed one for Michelle. Their toothbrushes, dolls, jump rope, shoes, and clothes. This was it. Our family was being split apart. I tried to hold it together for the other kids , but I wasn’t doing a very good job. I love my girls. Sometimes when I would be cooking breakfast on a Saturday morning Michelle (who is usually very independent) would come up to me, jump into my arms and hold on to me like her life depended on it. Esther is not much of a cuddler, but when we walked down the road she loved to hold my hand and when I’d tell her that I loved her she would always flash me one of her beautiful, bright smiles. I loved her giggly laugh, her cute cubby checks, and her sweet personality. When I told her that her mom wanted her to come and live with her again her eyes immediately filled with tears, and then she got very quiet. The brightness in her eyes disappeared and was replaced with a vacant stare. How do you explain to a child that you have no control in some situations? How do you say goodbye to one of your children knowing that if you do ever see them again everything will be different. They belong to someone else now. My mind still can’t fathom that.

I cried a lot—confused, desperate, angry tears. I felt numb, powerless, and broken as I watched the car drive away. “I’ll come back when it’s over,” Michelle had said quoting a line from “The Call” one of her favorite songs.

“I hope so,” Richelle had told her.

“What is hope,” she asked.

“I want you to,” Richelle said.

Ruthann had the hard job of riding with the girls and Pastor Simon to give them back to their relatives, and then it was over. At least as over as something like that can be.

I sat with little Kevin and held him as he cried over the loss of his sisters. Later, I sat with my arm around Niko when I found him sitting on the edge of the driveway in tears. I had no words, no answers, nothing to give but my presence and at that moment it didn’t feel like enough. The rest of the day is a blur.

One of our older boys gave me a pep talk about how God sees everything and knows everything. “I know,” I told him, “But, I’ll never see them I again.”

“Two mountains never meet,” he replied, “but people, people will meet again.”

Maybe we will meet again. I have no guarantee but maybe. In the meantime we are all still praying for God to get us through this, to hold us, to bring some good from this heartache. He sees. He knows even when we don’t. That doesn’t lessen the pain, but as least it is a whisper of hope. Right now, by God’s grace, we’re surviving one day at a time. Sometimes people think that working in a children’s home in Africa is some kind of romantic adventure full of wet kisses and fun little adventures. Some days that is true, but other days it just plain hurts. It hurts to love this deeply.

My beautiful Esther

My beautiful Esther

My precious baby girl Michelle

My precious baby girl Michelle

Leave a comment

Filed under Contemplations, Grief, Kenya

Reactions

Hardly anything surprises me any more—not finding two bones in my slice of chicken pizza, not the fact that the lady in front of me on the bus is holding a bag with a live chicken’s head popping out of it, not the feeling when the bus we’re in slides completely sideways in the mud as we drive up the mountain. Things like that used  to cause a reaction, but now I barely blink. This is Kenya, you just have to go with it. Like when you’re told you are getting two four year-old girls and two six year old girls come instead. You just stick the clothes that you had pulled out for them back and try to find some new ones. Or, when you realize that you ruined the days milk supply by adding some old milk (which had apparently soured over night) to the new milk oops! Some day we’ll get electricity and then a fridge. When that happens, you just head to the duka (shop) to buy more and then realize when you get there that you should have brought a container with to carry the milk home in. Fortunately, the shopkeeper let me borrow his.

Life is eventful. Like on New Years when we waited for over an hour and a half for the bus that was hired to come and pick us up to attend some New Years field events in a town about an hour away only to find that the bus was stuck in the mud about a half a mile away. So, I grabbed a stack of baby wipes, changed shoes, and our small tribe headed down the road to help push the bus out of the mud. We finally arrived (a little muddy) and just as the majority of the games were finishing, but what is life without a little excitement.

Sometimes a healthy dose of excitement turns into too much, and I end up asking God “why,” and “how in the world do I handle all of this.” Like tonight when one of our boys flipped out over something small and punched his brother—hard. I separated them, sat on the floor in front of the door to the boy’s common area so that he was contained, and tried to talk to him while he screamed in Kykuyu. After about 45 minutes, he finally calmed down. I rubbed his back, told him that I loved him, and prayed one of those desperate “God, help” prayers. By devotions he had finally clamed down, and by bed time he had almost returned to his smiling self.

It’s during those moments that I’m reminded that the kids I help take care of aren’t exactly normal kids. They all have painful pasts, come from broken families, and sometimes don’t have the words to express what is hurting them. Sometimes they over react, get angry over something small, or cry for no apparent reason. I’m not a perfect parent. We’re not a perfect family, but God works even through our brokenness, and His perfect love always shine through.

I’ve been reminded of that so much this week as our kids welcomed their two newest sisters to our family. The transition has been amazingly smooth. No tears, only smiles hugs and laughter as Elizabeth and Ruthie have been taking in their new surroundings and enjoying playing with their new siblings. Yesterday as I was mixing up a pineapple upside down cake for John’s birthday. Ruthie came in the kitchen, ran straight at me, and gave me a huge hug. I just held her and thanked God for smooth transitions. It’s amazing what just a little bit of love can do in a child’s life.

About 15 minutes later our elderly neighbor came over to get her daily jug of milk and lectured me in Kiswahili about how I hold the children too much. I smiled inside and hugged Michelle just a little bit tighter as she rested her head on my shoulder. I don’t think there is such a thing as too much love. Some days these kids from broken homes just want to be held, and I’m happy to do just that.

So far 2014 (all two days of it) has been a year of surprises good and bad. I’m learning to react and take each situation and surprise as it comes. It’s a messy, confusing, heartbreaking, scary life at times, but I’ll take it. I’ll take it because God is moving in these kids lives, and it is a beautiful thing just being involved in that.

Richelle with one of our newest girls Elizabeth

On top Richelle with one of our newest girls Elizabeth and our other new girl Ruthie on the bottom

IMG_1744

 *    *    *

Since writing this blog. My small world has been shattered. Yesterday we had to give up two of our children and return them to their biological relatives who suddenly demanded them back. Sometimes you love so much that it hurts. Yesterday was one of those days. I feel helpless, and my heart hurts so much that I can’t wrap my mind around what happened. It this point as a family we are surviving but very shaken, so a blog of those evens will have to wait for another day. In the mean time everyone at Abba’s House would appreciate your prayers.

2 Comments

Filed under Contemplations, Kenya