Tag Archives: Pain

The Struggle is Real

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I’ve been slowly making my way through the Old Testament. I say slowly because if there is one thing I’ve learned about this whole parenting thing is that everything has a way of changing especially those precious few moments of quiet available (or should I say not so available). So, reading smaller chunks it is. But, maybe that is not such a bad thing because I find that I take a bit more time to really process what I am reading and do more meditating as opposed to just getting through the reading and on to the next part of the day.

One theme that continues to jump to the forefront as I have been reading is the idea of struggling. It first hit me with the meaning of the name Israel. The name given to Jacob after he physically wrestled with God. “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, (which means he struggles with God) because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (Genesis 32:28 NIV).  As a society, it seems that we frequently shy away from struggle. We love to overcome, but we don’t often want the struggle that goes with it. I remember hearing a pastor preach once and saying, “don’t pray for me to have more patience because I don’t want the trails that I will have to go through in order to be more patient.” He was joking, but was he really? Why is it that the minute that hard things come into our lives there is a tendency to pull back from God, to feel that we are being treated unfairly, to wish that we were not walking the rough path. It reminds me of a quote from the movie Fiddler on the Roof  when Tevye says to God, “I know, I know we are your chosen people, But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”

“Please, God, choose someone else.” We might not admit it freely, but I think many of us think that in the back of our minds when it comes to walking a painful road. We often don’t care that it will make us a kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, more mature, more patient person. We would rather just stick to the soft grass.  But, the Old Testament is full of story after story of struggling—Abraham and Sarah’s struggle to have a child, Leah and Rachel two sisters struggling one because she did not feel loved by her husband and the other because she desperately wanted children and she wanted them now. Joseph was sold into slavery and then thrown into jail all because of a lie. Then, the growing nation of Israel struggled in slavery to the Egyptians for over 400 years. Clearly, struggle is a necessary ingredient for growth and character development.

But, we live in an Instagram, instant messenger society where we want the abs without the sweat of exercise, a magic pill to lose weight instead of the hard work of diet change. We want to be able to potty train a toddler in a day. We think we should have an amazing marriage but would rather walk away when things get hard instead of struggling through the hard work of learning to communicate properly, working through our own selfishness and learning to love when it is not easy. The idea of the importance of struggling is just not valued enough in modern society. But, any Olympic athlete will tell you that triumph does not come without struggle.

Maybe it is time to welcome more struggle into your life. I say this as much to myself as to anyone else. Instead of avoiding the hard stuff or camping out where you feel comfortable maybe God has something to teach in the midst of the struggles that come. The purpose of struggle is not to destroy or to overwhelm, but to take you to that next level in life that can only be reached through hardship. As the psalmist so eloquently puts it in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (NIV). God promises not to leave us alone in those valleys. He does not want to bring us to a point of breaking or shutting down emotionally when those hard days come. Instead, He longs to comfort, to lead, to bring us through the struggle stronger and triumphant.

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The Church on the Mountain

20171203_105237There was jumping, dancing and singing—the kind of singing that springs from the joy of the soul. People waved branches and pieces of cloth. The atmosphere was infused with a feeling of genuine joy. A smile crept across my face as I thought; “I’ve never seen an offering with so much feeling take place in an American church.”

It was thanksgiving Sunday, a Sunday to come and thank God for His faithfulness over the past year; a time when people brought special offerings, sang songs in their local languages, performed cultural dances and just spent time celebrating. The last group offering seemed to peak with a new level of joy. It touched me so much because this was the group who, as a congregation, had lost the most. The church we attend is made up of three separate fellowships that meet individually on a weekly basis but come together once a month and celebrate communion as one body.

The last group to give their thanksgiving offering was from the church on the mountain. The church that had their building bulldozed to the ground. I happened to be there the day it happened. A road was coming through. Most people in the area were given eviction notices. We had dropped by the pastor’s house on some quick errand, and he was heading up to the church because some people who had been given eviction notices had moved their things to the church property.

There was a feeling of chaos and helplessness on the mountain as people stripped tin sheets off the roofs of their buildings and threw them into the back of pickup trucks. I met the pastor’s wife from the church at the bottom of the mountain. Their church, even though it was not in the direct path of the road had been told to move.

Then the shock—bulldozers drove up and started bulldozing the trees around the mountain church as well. Even though no eviction notice had been given and the church was well off the path of the road, the mountain church somehow also fell in line for destruction.

Despite documents being shown by the church leadership that talks had been happening between the University (who were said to own the land) and the church, the documents and pleas were ignored. There was no official land title (something very difficult to obtain in PNG). No verbal or written evacuation notice had been given; but, while many congregation members watched helplessly, the building was demolished.

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We did not stay to watch. It hurt too much. I thought of the first church service I ever attended in PNG at this very church. The children welcomed us with flowers sprinkled along the walkway and colorful leis. I thought of the little boy Bradley that we took care of for nine months and how he loved climbing those beautiful trees surrounding the church building. I thought of one of the widows that we worked with and how her husband had been the one who did all the masonry work on the building.

The next Sunday, after the building was destroyed, we met in the hot sun with just umbrellas for protection. A few reporters from one of the local papers stopped by to take some photos of the rubble.

That Sunday now seems like ages ago. The road is nearly finished now. Both the church at the bottom of the mountain and the church at the top of the mountain still meet under makeshift tarps and temporary structures. My husband preached there yesterday to the faithful congregation that a week ago sang and praised God with their whole bodies as they gave their thanksgiving offering.

What a year they have had. It is humbling to see that in spite of unforeseen circumstances, injustice, and pain they still meet. This is their fellowship. They meet with the sun beating down on the wind blown tarps. They meet in the rain (like yesterday) pulling the wooden benches back out of line of the drips. They meet with a generator buzzing in the background to provide power for the sound system.20171203_103543

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They meet with gladness among the rubble and it is a beautiful testimony—thanksgiving and genuine joy in spite of hardship.

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The Story I couldn’t Write (Part II)

It’s indescribably hard to trust strangers with your child. But, he needed the medicine, the care that I was unable to give. So, with struggling hearts, we left. The nurses told us visiting hours started at 7 a.m.

Back across the road we went to the private hospital where I had given birth and was yet to be discharged. The evening is mostly a blur. Two friends from church stopped by with some bags of fruit. Trevor’s first official visitors, except Trevor wasn’t there. Later, Rachael, one of the widows we work with came with her daughter and ten month old granddaughter Mya. They brought a delicious dinner for us. I just held on to little Mya. God knew I needed a baby to hug right then since I couldn’t hug mine. Rachael told us that Mya also had to stay for a few days in that same intensive care unit—calming news to my anxious heart.

I slept. The first real sleep I’d had in three days. Simon slept on a mattress on the floor next to my hospital bed. At 4 a.m. I woke up. I couldn’t think about anything but Trevor. I got myself ready and packed up a few things to take over to my little guy. As soon as the sun started to peek up, we headed back across the road. It wasn’t visiting hours yet. The nurse allowed Simon just a few minutes to look in on Trevor before saying that only the mother was allowed in the intensive care unit in order to protect all the sick babies there.

Trevor’s neighbor to the right was incredibly tiny barely over a kilo. On his left was a little guy born the same day, but well before his due date. Across the room was a set of twin boys so thin that they reminded me of the pictures you see in National Geographic of severely malnourished children.

I looked down at my son lying there under those bright hospital lights. His face was all smushed up, and he had so many tubes connected to his tiny person. As I held him, I didn’t feel that instant connection. Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was the fact that this whole motherhood thing hadn’t had time to really sink in, but then Trevor looked up at me with those precious little eyes. The way he looked at me right then seem to say, “Mom, I need you.” In that instant, my heart melted. He was mine. There was that deep connection and it stuck stronger then any glue ever could.

Those five days of caring for Trevor felt like five weeks. To write down everything would take a small book, so highlights will have to suffice—the moments that stick most deeply in my mind.

I went to change Trevor for the first time and realized the diapers were still in the car. I asked the nurse for one and was told that diapers were available for sale in the hospital store. Buy enough, I was told, so that the nurses could change him when I was away.

I tried to feed Trevor for the first time holding him while he was still connected to oxygen and an IV. The oxygen tube kept falling out of his nose. I kept having to go and call someone to put it back in again. His little cheeks were chaffing red from the tape holding the tubes down.

Trevor’s first bath wasn’t exactly a proper one. A nurse handed me a silver bowl, a handful of cotton balls, and showed me where the sink was. Because he had been put on oxygen right away, Trevor never got a real bath after he was born. I tried my best to wash his hair out with that handful of cotton balls.

That first morning one of the nurse told me not to hold him for too long because they didn’t want him to get too used to being held all the time. That made me blink back tears. All I could think of was a study I had read about how babies in a Russian orphanage had a lower mortality rate after volunteers came in just to hold the babies. That little bit of physical love ended up saving some of those tiny lives. I told myself this was only for five days.

Scheduled feeding times were 4am, 6am, 8am, 10am, Noon, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm, 10pm, and midnight. Nurses took care of the 2am feeding. We live about a half hour drive from the hospital. There was a place where the moms, who weren’t already staying in the hospital, could stay. Location was great—just one building over from the baby nursery. But, the rooms had no doors. They did have ceiling fans installed, but they didn’t all work. No men were allowed to stay in the building, so that meant that Simon wouldn’t be able to stay with me.

Thankfully, my parents were staying at a missionary guesthouse just down the road from the hospital. Originally, we had planned for them to stay at a guesthouse close to where we lived. But for the first part of their stay, that guesthouse was overbooked; so they ended up at the one near the hospital. Thankfully, that guesthouse also had a room free for us.

So we went back and forth, back and forth—hospital, guesthouse; guesthouse, hospital. We got to know the names of all the security guards that worked at the missionary guesthouse front gate. Although sometimes in our sleep deprived state we would call them by the wrong name.

By the third day, Trevor was off oxygen and the feeding tube. The nurses even let me take him out to the hall to spend a bit of time with his daddy. On the fourth day, he was moved out of the intensive care unit and into the recovery room. A clear Plexiglas window separated the two sections, so I could still wave to Trevor’s neighbor’s mom (the baby to the left of him). She came so faithfully every feeding. Her husband even started to join Simon in the hall. Their baby was their first child as well. The husband told Simon that they didn’t have a watch, but every time they saw us coming they knew it was time for a feeding. The husband had been sleeping outside the hospital at night. Simon actually ran into the couple and their little boy a few weeks ago while at the store. He is doing well and they asked how Trevor was. Sadly, the tiny baby to Trevor’s right passed away the second day we were there.

The twins moved over to the recovery side as well. Their mom was still in recovery herself. The nurse used to scoop them up and tell them, “Your mommy is doing better, but for now I’m your part-time mom.” The twins were still so, so tiny but starting to eat better. It made my heart happy to see them in the recovery room. When their mom was finally able to walk over and visit them, she held those tiny little boys both in the same arm and sang to them as she walked back and forth up and down the room.

On Monday we were told that once Trevor got get his last dose of antibiotics on Tuesday, he could come home with us. It felt so good to be on the recovery side one step closer to the door.

I sat on the white plastic chair that was provided feeding Trevor and chatting with one of the other moms. She was new and worried that her milk hadn’t come in yet. I told her mine took a few days too. That seemed to give her some comfort.

Through that Plexiglas window I saw one of my favorite nurses standing with one of the mothers. The mom’s face was twisted the saddest expression of pain that I have ever seen. She wasn’t crying, as if the pain was too much even for tears. The nurse swaddled the baby lying in the incubator in front of her in a fuzzy blue blanket with yellow flowers. But, this time she swaddled the child’s head as well. Right in front of me, a mother was having to say a final goodbye to her child. I felt utterly helpless. Tears welded up in my eyes. I wanted to go to her, say something, but what? Here I was holding a healthy baby about to be discharged.

That night I had terrible dreams. I woke up at 1am and felt an overwhelming need to go and check on Trevor. I woke Simon up and told him we had to go over to the hospital right now. We talked, prayed, and finally I felt settled enough to wait a few hours and go at the normal time.

I held my breath, as I always did, walking through the front door and turning the corner to go and see Trevor. A bright colored quilt that my grandma had sent lined his little basinet, so I could always pick out his little bed quickly even if he had been moved. There he was— fast asleep. The nurses told me he had a very peaceful night and could be discharged at 10am after his final dose of medicine and once the head nurse had a chance to clear him. Sweet words and even sweeter the feeling when we finally got to carry him out of the hospital and to the car.

I’m thankful for each one of those nurses. They work so tirelessly and really have a heart for what they do. Talking to one of the head nurses she said that they are often understaffed and the nurses work long hours on days that the nursery is especially full, which is frequent. They have a great need for more equipment, but do the best with what they have. Trevor’s care was completely free of charge.

It wasn’t an easy road to walk, but God was there each step of the way. I learned so much about trust, taking one moment at a time and finding strength within yourself when you feel like you have none.

Sometimes when he’s asleep, I just look at my little guy’s sweet little face and my heart wells up with a mixture of gratitude and joy. He’s here. He’s safe. He’s such a wonderful part of our little family. Every single day is a gift. A gift I can never take for granted.

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Hanging with Daddy in the hospital hallway

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Perfect Love

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Sitting in a plastic chair trying not to think too much. Hospitals, pain, the unknown—sometimes I feel myself consumed by fear. I was barely showing but many of the ladies around me had huge bellies, and I thought to myself, “can I really do this.”

Fear—it’s no joke. Pain is hard to ignore. The unknown—how do you prepare when you don’t know what to prepare for?

But, as I sat there trying not to think too much the words—perfect love casts out fear popped into my head. Perfect love—love the opposite of fear.

Fear tears down.

Love heals.

Fear destroys.

Love creates.

Love gives confidence.

Fear debilitates.

It’s as simple as that.

“There is no fear in love.” 1 John 4:18 says. “But perfect love drives out fear.”

So that’s the answer. Not as much a change of circumstances, but a change of perspective—a change of attitude. The unknown, the pain, the reality of the future is still as real as it was yesterday but today, this year, this moment I want to choose love. I’m tired of being consumed by fear and things that I can’t change. This year I choose to let love get me through. Perfect love, the love of the Father. The love we can only know because He first loved us.

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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.

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Stealing my Joy

As I was hand-washing two large sinks full of laundry the neighbor started burning her trash sending a cloud of smoke billowing into our yard. “Oh joy,” I thought as I rung out a towel. “All this work washing the clothes, and they’re just going to end up smelling like smoke.”

But my mind wasn’t really on the laundry or even on the neighbor’s smoke. My thoughts swirled around a lady I’d never met who thought that my husband should be with her not with me. She took pictures off my facebook page, posted them on her own page and she and her friends proceeded to slam us, our marriage, and even our ministry.

To be honest my heart hurts for her. This particular lady says she wants to be a missionary, but has not yet been able to go. She seems to want what other people have, a happy marriage and an active ministry. Because that hasn’t happened yet in her life, she has allowed bitterness and jealousy seem to take hold of her stealing her joy, so in turn she wants to steal other people’s joy.

I share this story not to put her in a negative light. She is clearly a hurting individual. We have forgiven her written attacks and have prayed that God will bring people into her life to help her work through the pain that she is obviously going through. I share this story as a reminder that it’s so easy to let someone steal your joy. There are times that I have let her steal mine. In frustration over what she has said against my husband, I let her disturb my peace. At the end of the day, the truth is still the truth. God sees my attitude just as he sees hers. That’s what I’m responsible for, my attitude, not hers or anyone else’s.

This doesn’t mean that people should be allowed to get away with hurting others, it means that God is a defender. He is a God of justice. He sees people’s hearts, motives and actions; and He acts.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.” –Psalms 18:25-27

Having God as our defender doesn’t mean that Christians must be passive and let people stomp all over their lives. We can actively face our problems, but knowing that God is fighting for us our focus needs to remain on maintaining our own personal peace remembering that ultimately God is fighting for us. This week a wise friend of mine told me, “when people throw bricks at you to bring you down, collect those bricks and use them to build a firm foundation for yourself.”

Don’t let someone steal your joy. At times I’m tempted to take pictures down from facebook or just delete my account so that I don’t have to see the hateful posts that a small minority of people write, but doing that would be allowing someone to steal my joy. Facebook helps me stay connected to my family and friends even though I’m oceans away from so many people that I cherish. I love seeing my friends’ children growing up. I love hearing about graduations, birthdays, and even the little moments of life. As far as photos go, I love photography. Pictures have a way of bringing a smile to my face and pulling happy memories to mind. I’m not going to let someone I never met take that joy from me.

The smoke cleared just as I finished the last of the clothes. I hung them up in the clear, warm sunshine; and as I folded them later in the afternoon there was no trace of smoke on them. Trials come. Smoke stings your eyes and threatens your happiness, but it doesn’t last forever. The sun comes out, and it’s stronger then the smoke will ever be.

I don’t know who is trying to steal your joy today. Chances are someone is, but don’t let them succeed. It’s a new day, a fresh start and people can only steal your joy if you allow them to do so.

You can steal my photos but not my joy.

You can steal my photos but not my joy.

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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.

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You Wreck Me

Every time I think I have it figured out—

You wreck me.

God, every time I think this is it,

The wind whips in and flips the stableness into 62 different directions.

So I stand—teetering—balanced on my toes with my arms stretched out in the air

Groping for truth,

Groping for stability.

Teach me Father

For I try to do this on my own

And I feel myself falling.

Hold me God for you are the only stable thing in this life.

I slowly lower myself back on the ground.

The shaking starts to subside.

My pounding heart begins to quiet.

 

I’m here God

 

In spite of it all.

In spite of people and their opinions.

In spite of people’s expectations.

 

I’m here God

 

In spite of the crazy, chaotic, the unknown.

Hold me Father

In your steady, stable hands.

You’re all I need.

 

I wrote this a little over a month ago, but it’s been the theme of my life this month. So many changes that I’m not sure where to begin. So much that I’ve had to let go of and give to God. But, I’m here wrapped in God’s presence, thankful for this last year, and hopeful for God’s future plans

The children’s home where I have worked for the last 10 months is now being completely Kenyan run. I’ve said bye to the kids, and in ten days I’ll be back on US soil. I’ve had such an incredible year here in Kenya that I’m almost not sure how to return “home.” I’m excited to see family and friends but not sure how much reverse culture shock is going to happen when I step off the plane. Life here is so simple. I feel so close to God here. I’ve learned so much. I’ve changed. I’ve grown.

Of course I’m looking forward to hot showers, tacos, catching up on the last season of Psych, and turning on a light switch whenever I want to. But, I already miss the kids. I already miss the feeling of riding on the back of a motorbike with the wind whipping through my hair. I already miss the ladies who work at the supermarket. They would tease me about getting lost if I missed coming into town on a Tuesday and would make me order my food from the café in Kiswahili even though I sounded like a two year old. I haven’t even left the country, and I already miss it so much.

I do plan to return to Kenya in the fall although, I’m currently praying about different ministry opportunities. I know that God has a plan, so I’m trusting Him to show that to me in His perfect timing. In the meantime, I’m spending a couple days in Mombassa processing everything and enjoying some time on the beach. Then I’ll be packing and on a plane before I know what happened.

So many things have happened this year that it would be impossible to fit it all into one blog. I made a short video (which I will post below) of some of my favorite picture just to capture some of the memories from my time here at the children’s home. As this door closes I’m lingering a bit in the shadow almost ready to take the next step, but already missing what I’m leaving behind.

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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

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Filed under Contemplations, Grief, Kenya

Some Days it Just Hurts

Nothing is normal about our family of seventeen kids, three “aunties”, one “uncle”, a cat, two Germany Shepard’s and puppies on the way. We had to say goodbye to our uncle this week as Jeremy returned to the US. Goodbyes are never easy, but they are even harder for a child who has seen too many people in their life come and go. But God calls different people to come for different amounts of time. As hard as it is for the kids to say goodbye, it is beautiful to see that even though goodbyes get messy (literally) with tears, wailing, and snotty noses. It means that the kids have opened up their hearts and let in love—a risky thing to do when you’ve been abandoned, abused, and neglected.

I start to feel physically sick when I think about having to say goodbye to these kids in May even though I’ll only be gone for a short time. They have wrapped their fingers so tightly around my heart that it hurts to think about being separated from them even if it is only for a couple of months. But, I miss my family too. I can’t wait to go home for a visit to catch up with friends and  to spend time with the people I love in the US. I just wish there was a way to be in both places at once. When I booked a plane ticket back to the US, I didn’t realize at the time that I would be leaving on Charity’s birthday. Charity, the one who sobbed when I took a weekend trip to Uganda and begged me not to go. The one whose eyes teared up yesterday when Richelle asked me what time I was leaving in the morning (she was asking about my trip into town to buy school shoes for the boys). Charity panicked for a second thinking I was leaving, leaving.

God help me. As much as I love my family and can’t wait to see them, I don’t know how I’m going to have the emotional strength to do this. I love these kids even with their off key singing, mood swings, and muddy shoes. We’re a family. An odd family, but a family still and every day I thank God that He has allowed me to be apart of helping raise these kids. Some day in heaven there will be no more heart wrenching goodbyes. God will wipe our tears and our snotty noses and all the pain will dissolve into joy. That will be a beautiful day. Until then, we have to survive this emotional rollercoaster of life; and get used to the fact that our hearts will often be left in multiple places. But, as hard as goodbyes are they show that love exists. If you never had to say goodbye it would mean that you never met anyone new or that you never traveled outside of your own small world. Yes, goodbyes hurt; but I’ll take the heartaches along with the adventure.

I don’t want to stay so safe and protected that I become stagnant. I want our kids to know that God brings you through the hurt of goodbye and adds new people and experiences to every day He gives you. It hurts, but it heals, and until we reach our final home in heaven goodbyes are going to have to be apart of this process we call life.

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Filed under Contemplations, Grief, Kenya