Friday, June 15, 2012

What we've been up to...

It is a bit overwhelming to realize that you have bled your whole heart – the ugly sin, the raw emotion, the unbridled truth – out on paper for the whole world to read.

It is a bit exhausting to hear over and over again how “awesome” you are when you, in fact, know very well that you are not.

People expect romantic, and all I have is a wildly disorganized bookshelf and dirty children shrieking with too-loud laughter. People expect that the days all hold life-saving medicine given to children on the brink of death and profound revelation and while some do, most consist more of peeling potatoes and wiping spills and listening to recited memory verses and biting my tongue as spaghetti sauce splatters everywhere and I light the pot holder on fire, again.

I believe the lie that I must meet expectation, and I try harder. I stay up later answering emails and I desperately try to finish a book that I said I would endorse and I organize the bookshelves and wipe down the counters again. I brush past the children who hold my heart in order to be a “good mother” who has homemade food on the dinner table on time. We finish lessons and recite Psalms and fold laundry and welcome visitors. Life gets too busy, it gets so fast and so full that at the end of the day it can feel just empty.
* * * 

This was not the first time I had been here and I knew what to do. I pull back, I dig into the Word and I listen. The lesson whispered in the quiet is always the same. My friend Sara calls it Adoration. My friend Ann counts it all up as Eucharisto. Paul says it’s the secret of contentment, hands full or hands empty. Whatever we name it, it is astounding Truth: Communion with the Savior is the only thing that makes anything matter.

I choke because my every day life begins too feel small compared to the expectation. And He breathes truth that a life is not made by lives saved or bellies fed or words written. To adore the one who created the Heavens and the Earth, to give thanks for who He is and all He has given, to worship and commune with Holy God, whispering in the quiet, clinging in the noise, believing in all circumstances – this is what makes a life large.

The miracle is joy in Him in a day that goes all wrong. The miracle is standing in awe of abundance as I chop carrots and bathe babies and fold laundry. The miracle is a Son sent to die for the very likes of me and His ever-pursuing love for me still.

Paul knows the secret, and even when I think I learned this lesson already Jesus teaches me again: we can live a full life wherever we are – even in the days that seem to small – when we live in communion with the Savior. We look up, praise on our lips, and as we worship Him for all He has done our hearts open wide to more. We wait, expectant, for all that He is doing and this is it, this is life to the fullest.

Foster babies go back to their families. How do you raise a child as your own and then say good-bye? I guess because you know that God ordained their family to be another one, but that doesn’t make it easy. My baby will start therapy before she starts kindergarten. I do not like the idea of a child having to endure trauma so that one day she may learn from it, or teach another about it. But I still believe He has purpose, even when I can’t see it. I look outside at the insanely noisy game of tag taking place in my yard: 4 Hindu neighbors that my children are praying desperately to reveal Christ to, 2 little girls off the street who lost their mother 2 weeks ago and passed by for a drink of water, 13 little girls that have walked through hell and made it out on the other side with a family. Is there anything my lips could say but thank you? I don’t know what to make of it all, but I can’t think of anything to do but praise the God who is always working and will not leave us here. Where I end, He is only just beginning.

Paul says he strains to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him and isn’t this why He took hold of us -that as we open our lips to praise Him for who He is, He opens our hearts to be transformed in His likeness. He trades my dirty rags for the splendor of Him, breathes new life into dry, dead spaces.

We know the secret: Christ Jesus crucified and risen from the dead reaching out for relationship with you and with me. And a heart turned toward Him is the only way to live full of joy.

On the days when children run around the yard happy and the bread rises warm in the oven and those we’ve been nursing return home with new life in their veins, and on the days when the reading doesn’t get done and I half carry a mother up the hill to the place they will lower her 3 year-old’s body into the ground because of a fever – a fever! -  and life seems too unjust and the head wants to shake “no”, my lips will say yes to all that is Christ and I will adore my Savior.

Communion with God is what we are standing up under here – on the days that go as planned and on the days that don’t. On the days with expectations left unmet and dinner running late because of an extra game of hide-and-seek, on the days that seem mundane and the days that seem magnificent, we are saying yes to all He gives and we are saying thank you.

O God, you are my God,
I earnestly seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, 
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is not water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the 
richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you. 

Psalm 63:1-5

Awesome photos by my awesome friends Jackie and Kate

Friday, June 8, 2012

The scene played out as it has so many times before – a late night phone call and I jump into the van and race toward that little slum and the people that my heart so loves. People step out of the street as I bounce and bump through the dirt road – if you can even call it that. I park and jump out in only the light of the moon, expecting the worst. So many times, it has just been too late to help.

This time, something is different. I can see the woman who is sick, the one they have called me about. But instead of lying alone on the dirt per usual, she has been placed on a mat and is covered with a blanket. Neighbor women – my friends – stand all around her and Scovia puts a cup of water up to her lips. She sips. She is very sick, but stable now, and I whisper thanks.

I ask questions about her illness and her family, and women turn to go get her husband. Moments later they return, one holding her child, another carrying a basin, blankets, soap and some food – all the things needed for admittance to the local hospital. I briefly think that I haven’t even asked her to bring them. A weary looking husband follows, and without missing a beat, Angelina volunteers to accompany her to the hospital to care for her through the night and Sarah steps forward offering to babysit.

“Thank you for calling, Lillian,” I squeeze her neck tight, “and for helping her.” She doesn’t hesitate and says it so simply, “The praise belongs to God,” and she slips into the night. 

It isn’t until after I have slid the van door shut and jumped back into the driver’s seat that the full weight of what has just transpired hits me. My mind flips through the recent scenes, the faces of all these people who have captured my heart. For the first time, the only thing these friends needed me for was my car. They had done everything else themselves. In this place where child sacrifice and alcoholism are more common than friendship, in this place where consideration for a neighbor is so foreign because one must protect herself at all costs, right here in this place God was changing hearts.

They had done everything they could to help. They had kept her warm, hydrated and comfortable while they waited. They had gathered her things, encouraged her family, carried her children and shared of their time and their resources. They had loved so well.

Tears of praise streamed down my face as the van jostled back out toward the hospital. I wanted to stand on the roof and shout it into the dark, loud for all to hear, but instead whispered to the only One who made it possible: The people of Masese are learning to love their neighbors. Are loving their neighbors.

The praise belongs to God.