Remembering

“From God…to me…to you…to others.” 

My thoughts roll over each word like pearls on a string….precious, and costly…said with so much effort, and I choke up thinking about that moment. Said with so much love, so much passion,  as some of the last words I would hear from a man who taught me so much.

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Dad I miss you here in Peru. Speaking Spanish… remembering the Spanish classes we took together and how you loved to communicate with the locals on your rare trips to the Dominican or Mexico. Spending time at the Children’s Home here…and remembering how you loved to take a wiggling, restless little person in your arms, and hug them tight till they felt safe and cared for. Being invited to so many homes for Peruvian dinners…remembering how you and Mom loved to open your home to others, to share their cultures and try new dishes.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 4 years. 4 years of missing.

And yet I am thankful for the 28 years before that. For every day that I woke up knowing I was loved. For the way you taught me, encouraged me, loved and cared for me. I know you weren’t perfect, and you felt your imperfections…thank you for being honest about that. For reminding me of the perfection of my Heavenly Father…of the trueness of His love.

1604522_10153863013835584_1065654502_nThank you for pointing me to the Source of Love…that is still there even though you had to leave. Through your  words, your life…through cards like this one.

“From God…to me…to you….”

Dad, I felt that love. So many times over. One of the girls asked today where I got my ring.
” It’s my birthstone…My Daddy gave it to me.”  I said.  ( I remember…you wanted to give me a necklace, but took me to the store and let me choose what I would most like to wear. And looking back…the gift of your time was even more precious than the aquamarine stone.)

“….to others.”

And with every beat of my heart, every moment I’m gifted…may that love continue to flow…

“We Love…because He first loved us…” 1 John 4

 

A Giving Love

It’s February 14th. I wasn’t reminded by hearts and Valentines chocolate in the aisle of every store here in Pachacamac. They didn’t get the put-out-valentines-candy-the-day-after-Christmas-memo here. In fact yesterday my walk in the 30 degree sunshine to 4 different tiendas in search of anything red or pink to decorate sugar cookies…proved fruitless. ‘No, no tengo.’  So our Valentine cookie project at the Juniper Tree Children’s home turned into gingerbread, stars, and bells,  with blue sugar and grey candy to top them off. …and what did it matter that there wasn’t hint of pink? What a fun project to get to roll and squeeze and cut out your very own cookie shapes, maybe for the first time ever. No importa! that they weren’t hearts, that the dough was too sticky in the hot, humid air…there was love in that kitchen as little pairs of hands rolled and sprinkled and tried to wait their turn.

Little Micah* who had not too long ago been sleeping in a park, fending for himself, proudly held up his completed star and placed it on the cookie tray. He was carefully and patiently coached by his new ‘Mama P’ and this ‘gringo’ helper, how to share the rolling pin, to take turns with his brother, to not go too fast or add too much flour. Ooof so much patience needed for those little people.

After cookie making and a craft they headed out to play and I chatted with ‘Mama P” as s16736239_10158275550730584_1658252360_nhe supervised the playground. Asking her how she came to add 4 extra to her family of one, and how she manages it all. Hearing how she and her husband had the same heart in wanting to move from their jungle home to step into the gap for these children at the Children’s Home. Every few sentences we were interrupted with hot little arguments, a shoe being thrown, a tumble and bumped knee. Patiently she encouraged, corrected, mediated, and managed the conflicts. 

“Love is at its most necessary when we are weak, when we feel incomplete, and we must show love to one another at those points.”  a friend shared in a facebook post this morning.  It may not be the kind of love celebrated in store windows,   it may not be the kind of love that first comes to mind with the word ‘Valentine’.

But this is the kind of Love that shines the brightest and most beautifully.

A giving Love.

And it points us to the Source and Author of Love. The One who is there to meet us in our weakest, in our greatest need.

“This is Love…not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and gave His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John :10

In her Nobel Lecture in 1979  Mother Theresa said it so beautifully and challenges my heart with these words…

“…God loved the world so much that he gave his son – it was a giving – it is as much as if to say it hurt God to give, because he loved the world so much that he gave his son, and he gave him to  Mary, and what did she do with him?

As soon as he came in her life – immediately she went in haste to give that good news, and as she came into the house of her cousin, the child – the unborn child – the child in the womb of Elizabeth, leapt with joy. He was that little unborn child, was the first messenger of peace. He recognised the Prince of Peace, he recognised that Christ has come to bring the good news for you and for me. And as if that was not enough – it was not enough to become a man – he died on the cross to show that greater love, and he died for you and for me and for that leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person lying in the street not only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and New York, and London, and Oslo – and insisted that we love one another as he loves each one of us.

And we read that in the Gospel very clearly – love as I have loved you – as I love youas the Father has loved me, I love you – and the harder the Father loved him, he gave him to us, and how much we love one another, we, too, must give each other until it hurts. It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbour. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbour. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live.

And so this is very important for us to realise that love, to be true, has to hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him. And to make sure we remember his great love he made himself the bread of life to satisfy our hunger for his love. Our hunger for God, because we have been created for that love. We have been created in his image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then he has become man to make it possible for us to love as he loved us. He makes himself the hungry one – the naked one – the homeless one – the sick one – the one in prison – the lonely one – the unwanted one – and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home.”

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*Not his real name

Beauty in Manchay

28 times in the past 3 weeks I have bumped up and down the road through Manchay.  50 speed bumps for 50 minutes…(they’ve counted.) But I’m told the road used to be completely dirt and potholes, no guard rail to keep cars from heading down the cliff into the valley. So I’ll take the speed bumps…and be thankful they at least slow the speed of the colectivos, and busses narrowly missing us as they pass.

I’m also told that ‘Manchay’ is a Quechua word meaning ‘Fear’. ‘Horror’ and ‘Panic’ were  in the online definition.20170118_124305

Maybe it was a trepidatious traveler on the rocky cliff that gave Manchay it’s name. Maybe the refugees fleeing the militant ‘Shining Path’ in the 1980’s precipitated the name…or maybe it stems from the precarious ownership of land. There seems to be many reasons for fear to reign on these dusty hills.

Small shacks sprawl far up the mountain sides. The view has become the familiar
backdrop to our drives each day…but still  we wonder why. Why are the arid hills, so far from the road and the city a desirable place to live? The bumpy miles of dirt road, the hike when the road ends, the heavy loads that must be carried up daily.

But the Kids Alive staff have explained to us that the land is cheap or free for squatters coming from the outlying and jungle areas…looking for more opportunities in Lima, a better life.  And in some areas, if they stay on the land for 7 years…banding together as families to guard the land 24/7 and make it too much of a fuss  for the police to chase them off, it will become theirs.

7 years. For a few square feet of dusty ground, smaller than my bedroom and a small shack with no running water, and no electricity.

So much effort. Because there is Hope for new opportunities.

But is there opportunity? Or is it a mirage? These hill sides tell the story of so much fear…the kind of fear that invades a family broken by poverty, by alchohol, by abuse and neglect.

And that’s why the colourful mural announcing the Oasis School and Care Centre stands out on the road through Manchay. 20170124_114620The rainbow arch declares that there is Hope, and the scrolling letters at the top remind us that ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me’. 

This is a  place where real-Love-in-action is working to cast out Fear.

As we tour the grounds I see a swing set,  a covered volleyball and basketball court, and a big a wooden boat inviting imaginative little minds to sail right over those dusty hills into the blue of the Pacific ocean.

Bright pink geraniums against a sky blue backdrop stubbornly refuse to let the brown take over the color palette, and the room behind us is full of dedicated teachers taking a hot summer picsart_01-26-02-42-09morning to learn about the benefits of physical education.

The mission of Kids Alive and the Oasis Care Centre is to be present in this poverty, and to rescue children from abuse and neglect. Over time they’ve seen that the most long term benefits come from mentoring and supporting the student’s families . And so the ‘FE’ program exists, ‘Familias con Esperanza’  or ‘Hope’ to mentor, teach, support and counsel the families…and provide a way out of poverty and hopelessness.

The ripple effect is evident.

Last Wednesday we had the privilege of meeting Lina. * She took us up a winding road on the20170118_124918 hill behind the Oasis to visit her rented home, a temporary one till her own home becomes habitable. She led us even farther up the hill in the hot sun to her new house, only reachable by foot. She shared her dreams for the future, a new home where she, her husband and two children could live. They were waiting for the road to be built so a  water truck could drive up and deliver water for them.

Lina is one of the local Manchay moms who has been impacted by the Oasis school and Care Centre.  Her 5 year old girl came bounding out of the house with as much energy as the puppy she was squeezing tightly.  She is one of the students at the Oasis kindergarten program where she is fed, taught, and cared for.

Lina had been struggling to raise her children, when the Oasis came alongside her.  She learned about a God who offers Hope for this life…and beyond. She learned parenting skills,  and sewing skills , in a self sufficient program that makes uniforms and resources to sell to the community. She discovered a talent in working with the students at Oasis and now is studying to be a Speech Therapy Assistant. Even though she has to stay up till 3 am studying in her little 2 room shack  and go to school on Saturdays she is so thankful that so much in her life has changed.

And she gives the credit to her God, and to the Oasis Care Centre.

20170118_123613She asked if we would like to listen to her 11 year old sister play the violin.

There we stood, surrounded by desert and dust… in a humble, hot, kitchen-library-dining-living room and listened to the beautiful notes of a violin piece.  My eyes were drawn to a ‘picture gallery’ of proudly displayed school photos and artwork on the wall.

And a shiny heart with the words ‘Luz del Mundo’ ‘Light of the World’…caught my eye.

Way up on a hillside in Manchay a place called ‘Fear’, in this hot little house, the beauty of the music and the beauty of those words were not obscured by the surroundings.

They were even more beautiful because of them.

*Not her real name

Joy in the Morning

“Joy happens where two poverties meet” I read posted under a Facebook photo.

I think for a while, and nod my head in agreement. I see it happening here in Lima, Peru.

And I felt it last Monday at Cerro Azul beach, jumping into the chilly waves with the
children from the Juniper 20170116_102417Tree Children’s Home, watching them enjoy the cold of the Pacific ocean.

‘Maia’ and ‘Lila’ holding hands and jumping in the waves.

‘Lucas’  having races to see who could stand up first and longest on the surfboard.

‘Milan’  content to just  lie on the surfboard and be pushed again and again into the rush of the wave. ‘Otra vez! Otra vez!’ She pleads, till I’m sure my sunscreen has worn off hours ago.

‘Victoria’ timidly watching from a safe distance, and finally convinced to get on a board and give it her best try.

I stand with the cool waves lapping, the midday sun keeping the perfect balance between 20170116_143058hot and cold.  Pushing surfboards out to the waiting instructors, cheering wildly at the success even if it was a split second before the wave knocked them over. A more picture perfect day South of the Equator there could not be.

Joy is spilling all over this beach.

Just the night before we had been listening to the stories of these children’s lives…filled with neglect, abuse, sadness. Such a contrast to the laughter and joyful shouts all around me.

‘Amy Jo! Go for it!’ I hear. And the instructor is motioning me out. It’s been 3 years since the last time I went out alone with a board. So much waiting and falling and I barely got up. Can I do it?  But the instructor tells me exactly where to position my toes, paddles me out over the breaking waves, and positions me for the perfect run in. ‘Wait’ he says’till I say ‘Ya’, then you go! I look back, see the wave coming and start paddling…ahhhh too soon! And I miss it. But he patiently repeats ‘Wait till I say ‘Ya!” y tu puedes!” The wave is coming, I hold onto the board with tight grip, listening and resisting the urge to look. ‘YA!!” I feel the push, stand and sail in toward shore to whoops and cheers, several of them my own.

And I think back to a journal entry I wrote 3 years ago.

“Surfing…so like waiting on life, needing to be ready, positioned, watching for the opportunities to come, ready to throw everything into ‘catching the wave.’ And all that waiting…so worth it when the power of the wave comes.’

20170116_144257So hard to wait. But so worth it. I am so thankful for this moment, for these children who have been rescued from so much pain, who have been given the gem of a day at the beach. I know that this day, and the  joy they share even through their own poverty are  a gift to the lonely places in my own heart.

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”Mother Teresa once said. And there at Cerro Azul beach, I saw so many letters being written. From house parents serving picnic lunches, instructors patiently teaching, big siblings helping little ones.  From the children, their courage to try new things, their laughter,  their discoveries, and their joy.

amy-jo-and-macarenaFrom God Himself who whispers to my heart:

‘Weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning’ 

I have stepped for the moment into their world and their lack..and they have stepped into mine. And maybe that’s where the morning dawns.

 

 

Broken Balloons

We sat on the covered canvas swing, trying to avoid the middle-of-the-day heat from the South American sun. I had the privilege of spending the morning with Danielo, my little20161227_122641 charge, who had a hesitant smile that I was trying hard to coax out of him, little by little.  He had been born pre-maturely, with only 5 months of development before he entered into the world, one he would have to navigate with out hearing, or speaking.

I was learning some sign language that he knew…and also that when he wanted to make himself understood  (for instance when he didn’t want to give up his place behind the wheel of the little plastic car.)… he had a stubbornness that would put a ‘burro’ to shame.

A friend had counselled me as I packed for Peru, ‘Bring balloons, there will always be birthdays to celebrate when you’re there!‘ And as I got to know Danielo, I realized that a balloon was one of the things that made his little smile appear. Perfect! I  also learned that it was of utmost importance to have multiple balloons in my bag, or my policing duties on the playground would scale up a notch. Yesterday I may have had to run up a slippery metal slide at lightning speed to separate two little boys (but not in time to stop a bloody nose)…when one communicates only in sign language, and the other arrived the day before from a neglectful family situation and doesn’t know sign language, there’s bound to be some frustration.

But at this moment I was enjoying a moment of calm with Danielo on the swing, showing him a puzzle to coax him out of the heat of the day.

POP!!! The green balloon he was clutching tightly exploded and he looked down in dismay. His lips pursed together stubbornly and he quickly held up the balloon to my mouth with the clear-as-day-message ‘My balloon!! Fix it please!!! Put the air back in!! ‘

Oh Danielo! I can’t! I smiled at his quick thinking solution to the problem and his determination.

If only I could. If only broken balloons were that easily fixed!

20161228_134829But wait! I signed to him. (That’s one sign I quickly learned.) I have another one in my bag…just a few puffs and voila, you can hold a brand new balloon.

If only I could. If only I could fix your broken world Danielo. If only I could put the ‘pieces’ back together and give you a family, a mom , and a dad, that would welcome your birth with joy and provision for all your needs, all your many challenges.

But sometimes things are so broken…they cannot be put back together the way they were. I can’t ‘fix’ the broken balloon. I can’t give Danielo back his Mom and Dad.

‘The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me…he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted”

Jesus came to do what I cannot. To put the pieces back together…to mend what was broken. No, here in this life, everything will not be like it was. It will not be exactly as it should be… but one stroke at a time on the canvas of our lives,  as we offer the pieces to Him, He restores and mends what was broken.

‘All these pieces, broken and scattered, in mercy gathered, mended and whole…’

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He came to heal , to add beauty where there was brokenness.

And  He calls us to join Him, to follow the strokes of His brush on the canvas of the
lives around us. I see it happening here, at a children’s home in Lima Peru.  Smiles are coaxed out, one hug, one cup of ‘jugo de mango’, one brightly coloured balloon at a time. A signed conversation, help with a hard task, a  celebration of accomplishments. And with the touch of the Master Artist, all together these strokes will make a beautiful canvas.

Oasis

Several days ago we bumped down a rutted dirt road towards one of the poorest areas of Lima. Dust, dirt, garbage, shanty’s…mangy dogs were everywhere. The neighborhood was called ‘Oasis’…and that seemed almost a cruel reminder of what it was not.

The van jolted to a stop several times at piles of garbage and rocks so high it was impassable, and a sudden detour was needed. (These kinds of things aren’t cause for frustration around here….just need a little friendly yelling out the window and some creativity, and you’ll find another way;o)

20161215_181304_000Pastor Walter, a new contact to the Christmas dinner ministry, led us to a look out over the water front…and the same dusty roads and shantys lined the grey ocean lapping at the shore far below. No umbrellas, no sandcastles, or picnickers at this beach. He told us about a little boy who had suffered brain injury from a car accident on the road below us and survived for only two years. So much sadness.

He shared about a church down the road, about the people who came into this neighborhood and others,  because they care about the children. And as we talked more I discovered that he knew a Peruvian lady I had met through my Joni and Friends trip in 2012…and was teaching in ‘Beyond Suffering’ in Spanish, the course I’ve been taking this fall.  As we walked and the dirt worked its way into my shoes…I had a feeling this was not a chance encounter.

‘God, give me eyes to see what you want me to see ‘ …this has been my prayer. 

He shared how he has a son with special needs himself, and because of his son, his eyes were opened to see the need and his heart was moved to care. As he took us out onto the balcony of one of the churches, purposely placed on the hill, he explained that it was called ‘Mirador (Lookout) de Cristo’ because, he said, God is looking out over the neighborhood. He sees the hopelessness. The many children with out a future…girls who become mothers while they are still children.20161215_174259
And in Pastor Walter’s voice I heard the compassion of God’s heart for these children, the same compassion that brought Jesus to this earth, to be ‘ God with us’.   The compassion that has made him willing to drive here, and hike up a dusty road to share the view with us, the urgency in his heart to call others to care. To share the fact that the 700 children they will reach out to this Christmas is not enough. There are so many more who need Hope.

“Through the Tender Mercy (the compassionate, steadfast Love) of our God, the Dayspring from on High has visited us…’

Yesterday we left the dirt roads of Lima and drove 350 kim south of Lima on the highway, passing mile after mile of sandy hills, shacks perched on the hills or nestled in valleys, hardly a tree in sight. (This was my impression when I wasn’t too busy holding my breath as cars and trucks passed a hairs breadth from each other at break neck speed. This trip made Lima roads seem tame and relaxing. Oof. )

Coming over a bend we viewed our destinaton , Huacachina.  A small natural desert lake measuring about 200-metres in diameter had bubbled up from the dry earth. Someone had discovered it years ago, and now a picturesque village flourished here. Lush green trees, palm fronds, brilliant bouganvilla. Feathery lavender blossoms and the bright orange  of the ‘Flamboyant’ trees stood out against the blue sky.

THIS was an oasis.

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Hotels with airy verandas…restaurants with candles and inviting tables. Walkways around the water and boats to enjoy it up close. But all around surrounded by sandy hills, rising up into the sky, scorching under the South American sun.

Just like the green grass at the special needs school…my eyes were in shock taking in all the beauty. I sat on a rocky ledge  by the water and rested my eyes on the calm lake.

20161220_114256_001‘You lead me beside still waters… you restore my soul’

And  I think back to walking that dusty road through ‘Oasis’… and
hearing the heart of Compassion of a man who so desperately wants to bring beauty into that dry, dusty, place….and share the water of Life with those who are thirsty.

A year ago I wrote these words in my journal…

‘I will make rivers flow on barren heights,and springs with in the Valleys…’

This year 2016, this past week,  I have experienced those ‘springs’ of joy. Those ‘rivers’ of love in unexpected places.  Despite the dry places, the deserts…or maybe because of them.  And I want to trust with all my heart that these rivers can flow through the neighbourhood of Oasis….that there are ‘springs’ of Hope waiting to burst forth.

Even if all I see right now are the barren heights.

“When there is no hope in sight, sometimes it’s good to know that our sight is limited”

Andy Gullahorn

 

‘Belen’

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‘Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to thee oh Israel.’

Trucks engines roar outside the Efata complex here in Lima, birds are chirping, and the strains of these notes on the piano are all fighting for attention as I sit here in the ‘dormitorio’ and type.

Just minutes ago I was sitting in the same spot holding little Belen, a 3 week old, beautiful little girl. She was found on a doorstep this December, wrapped in a blanket surrounded thoughtfully with some baby supplies. The police named her ‘Belen’ spanish for “Bethlehem.  She was brought here to the Children’s Home as a transition to a Home more suited for infant care, since they knew there were willing hearts to care for her here.  What a privilege to spend the morning with her.

I looked down at her perfect little hands, dark soft hair, and wondered what life would hold for her.

‘The helpless commits himself to you, You are a Helper to the Fatherless.’ Psalm 10:14 I had read a few mornings ago in Psalms.

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She is so tiny…so helpless. So beautiful and precious. ‘Lord be a Father to her.

And I thought of her mom….and what she is facing right now. What overwhelming situations led her to leave her baby girl, thoughtfully placed so someone would find her. What sort of hole is in her heart right now?

‘He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.’  Psalm 147:3 ‘Lord, be the Healer for this mother’s heart. The Provider for her needs.’

Belen finished her bottle and needed a change. Her tiny lungs let me know she wasn’t happy with the process, but soon she calmed, consoled by having her needs met. Moments later as I finished putting on a fresh clean outfit, Lisa arrived to say they were here to pick her up to process her information. ‘And when will they bring her back?’ I asked.

‘They won’t’ she said. She’ll go into the system to get processed to another home. ‘Belen, we’re going to miss you!’

And just like that, little Belen was carried out of the doors of the Efata children’s home.20161222_101834

And my heart is sad that my time with her was so short.

Today, families will gather in warmth, and light to celebrate with gifts, and food and laughter. What does Christmas look like for little Belen? What does it look like for her mom?

‘O Come, O come, Emmanuel…’ we hear the longing in the words.

And He has come. In the form of a helpless baby like little Belen. Who needed someone to meet His every need.  And through His coming, He chose to walk this earth, to feel our humanity, to feel the pain of our good byes, and to weep with those He loved. He came to meet us in our need…as our Healer, our Comforter,  our Redeemer, our Restorer, our Saviour.

‘Dios con Nosotros’  ‘God with us’

And He calls us to go and be present, He gives us the privilege to be His hands, and share His heart.

‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronmy 5:11

 

Autumn Reflections

Spicy Chai Tea to warm me from the inside out as I type.

Pumpkins stacked in the corner of the cafe, promising savory pies. (I don’t quite have my Grandma’s touch for pies, but I’ll try anyways…)

Soft rain making the turning trees bright against the dull background of sky.

October birthdays to celebrate some of the people I love the most…the promise of family coming together from far away.

So much beauty in this season of Autumn. So many things to give thanks for.trees

And yet, last night I lay awake for several hours, and in the darkness, my warm thankful thoughts were farther away than the anxious ones. Pressing in, reminding me of things I wish were different…and some I wish would stay the same.

This morning my thoughts trailed back to something I had written several months ago and the reminder of ‘The Greatest of These’ …something that doesn’t change. Even with the changing seasons.

February 2016

I reached for the silver heart lined with tiny crystals. The chain was tarnished…turning to a rusty brown color. Three other silver chains hung on my dresser, vying for my attention, more recent gifts from different friends. But I pushed them aside, reaching for the silver heart gifted from my Dad on a birthday several years ago. Remembering the love behind the gift.

Especially today…the day I had said good bye to him for the last time here on earth.heart

And I was reminded of another Father who has gifted me with His heart. “I have loved you with an everlasting Love ” says the Lord, ‘I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’ Jeremiah 31:3

So many things every day, vy for my attention. Newer, brighter perhaps, more eye catching. But will I push them aside, and reach for His Heart?  Accepting the Love offered, remembering the Great Love behind the gift. The motivation to push the other things aside.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Jesus chose to lay down His life for me. Not because I ‘have it together’. I don’t. Because He loves me where I am, calling my heart from the things that draw it away from His.

Taking the silver heart from the rusty chain, my eyes brightened with an idea. I restrung it on a newer chain, till it settled on the background, shiny with no rusty brown spots. ‘Behold, I make all things NEW’  Jesus declares in the 21st chapter of Revelation. All things. New. Like the new chain, shiny and untarnished, displaying the heart so much more beautifully.

And what a gift…that He would choose to gift His heart, His love, His presence, to us…to me…my heart so tarnished by self seeking. And through His coming, His presence, His Redeeming, to make us new.

As another author I read recently wrote:

“ But God. He is the God who penned redemption’s story, from the beginning of time all the way to the fingertips of eternity’s outstretched hand. He is the God who is not bound by my efforts nor held back by my doubt. He is the God who is Love infinite, Love perfected, Love inextinguishable. He is the greatest of these. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (v. 13 ESV)

I came to the Book for knowledge, but here I find that I am fully known.

I came looking for faith, hope, love, but here I encounter Love Himself.”

(excerpt from She Reads Truth)

And here my thankfulness can rest… His love will be there even when my Chai tea is drained. Even when the leaves have faded and fallen…or my family is far away. Whether I am given a gift…or whether something is taken away.

“They will all wear out like a garment…but You are the same…

Spring is Coming…

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The past few weeks I’ve heard a pretty strong consensus on the spring season…people of all ages are wishing it would come to Ottawa.

Although we marked our kindergarten calendar on March 21st with a ‘First Day of Spring’ sticker…the snow blanketing my car yesterday was doing its best to dampen our excitement. So was the thermometer dropping below zero…and the chilly wind blowing around my furry hood on my Sunday afternoon walk. (Yes, although my friend tells tales of daffodils and tulips in sunny New Jersey…I’m still wearing fur.)

“After winter….then a looong time…then it’s spring.” observed one of my 5 year old students.

And although I have woken to the cheerful chirping of birds on a few hopeful sunny mornings …they seem to have tucked their heads back into their feathers with the disappointment of dropping temperatures.

And life has a way of making me want to tuck my head in like those once cheerful songbirds…and hide from the disappointments. To give in to the bitter winds. To stop hoping for sunnier mornings to greet with song.

I read a quote this morning by Lysa Terkeurst. She was talking about the things of life that get us down…and how we need to open up God’s Word…and “Let Him finish your sentences…let Truth walk before you like a guide on a dark path.”

And the Truth about spring is… “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22

It’s coming.

So as I’ve joined in the hopeful chorus that the sun will soon warm the spring air, I remember a chilly fall day when the wind was bitter…bringing with it the falling of the leaves and bare branches. And I remember sitting down and writing the following words…the Hope of spring many months and many snowfalls away…but the Truth of the hidden life inside those branches just as real as the new spring shoots about to arrive on the maple tree outside my window.

The Wind

October 2015

The wind is blowing through the trees,
Branches start swaying, giving in,
Feeling the frosty nip of the breeze,
They can hold on no longer, and soon drop their leaves.

Once warm and balmy, gently moving,
Bringing relief from chill and cold,
Now wind just seeps in every space,
Making us long for sun’s warm embrace.

But in those bare branches, stripped by the wind,
Its cold cruel fingers, derobing their dress,
In limbs empty of color and vibrant beauty,
Reaching up to sky, A deep secret lies.

They whisper to me through the rustle of branches,
“The wind was so strong, We couldn’t hold on,
But we know that although our beauty is gone,
The Life inside us is sure as the dawn.”

The wind can take from us all of our color,
The shade that we offer, relief from the sun,
But the secret we keep deep down in our roots,
Is that when spring arrives there are sure to be shoots.

That life that is dormant for so many months,
With first kiss of sun will awaken and stir,
Bringing sap to each limb, and life to each bud,
And beauty more fresh in the newness of dawn.

And I hear in the message from branches so bare,
‘Don’t fear when the wind blows, don’t give in to despair.
It may shake you and strip you of things you once had,
But the Life that’s inside you is safe and secure.

And the Truth from Romans 8:38 is this…

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the (LIFE GIVING) love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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‘Behold…I make all things NEW.’ Revelation 21:5

 

Waiting in the Woods…

I crunched down the snow-packed trail, following my 4 year old friend Wesley. We wove here and there along the path…stopping to look at animal tracks and other interesting distractions. And to pick up a feathery pine branch and drag it along behind us because…well i’m not sure why…but i guess it was just too interesting to leave alone in the woods.

Then we stopped in a clearing and waited. Wesley stood very still, arm outstretched, bird seed resting on the palm of his mitten.

He stood very, very still.

And waited.

In case you don’t grasp the full weight of those words..maybe you haven’t spent too much time around 4 year olds. But in my daily kindergarten observations…there are not too many moments when ‘very still’ applies to a 4 year old body.

But I watched as he waited with hardly a twitch. And with a flit and a flutter, almost before my eyes registered its landing, a chickadee had come and dined and flew off again to a safer perch. Another one, watching the success of his feathery friend, dove down, and helped himself to the offered delicacies. Wesley was delighted with each visitor, thrilled to see the seeds and nuts disappearing off of his mitten. 20160227_124214

Catching his excitement,  I joined my little friend with an outstretched arm…and I waited. A black capped friend eyed me from his perch in a near by bush, not sure of the safety of this offer. But he took the plunge, encouraging another, and another, to enjoy the offered snack.

It was getting chilly, so we turned around and crunched our way back to the parking lot, leaving the chickadees to trill their thanks as we departed.

What a highlight to an otherwise grey February day!

When was the last time you really stood still? The kind of stillness where a chickadee could rest on your finger?  That moment in the woods reminded me how hard I find it to slow down. To really stop. And even when I’m encouraged to slow down in body by life’s interruptions…a wait in the grocery line…a doctor’s waiting room…my mind continues to race, anxious for things to hurry up, checking the clock, pulling out my phone to keep the minutes from dragging along.

But sometimes we experience things in a whole new way when we really stand still. We can see the charcoal feathers of the chickadee’s black cap up close, and feel the light ‘plop’ of his weight on our finger. We can listen to his song trill in our ears, if only for a moment, and imagine he is thanking us for stopping by with gifts.

I was recently reading the command that Moses gave to the people of Israel as they approached the Red Sea in Exodus 14. They were fearful of what was in front of them, an uncrossable expanse of water…even more fearful of what was behind them…being chased down by the entire Egyptian army, angry at the loss of their slave labor.  If there was ever a time to be anxious…I think Moses and the Israelites  would have had good reason to want to MOVE and DO SOMETHING.
But Moses tells the people…

‘Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord…the Lord will fight for you…and you will hold your peace.’

Stand still…watch and see. Hold your peace.

Watch…as God rolls back the waters of the Red Sea…making dry land appear. Watch…as He fights for His people and defeats the entire Egyptian army with one flick of a rod, and a strong east wind. Watch…and see…the Salvation of the Lord.

And I wonder if that time in the woods with my 4 year old friend Wesley was a whisper to my heart…a reminder to Be Still and wait. To calm my heart anxious for answers..and anxious for action. Wait for God to act on my behalf…on behalf of those I love. Wait for answers. Wait for hope…and healing. Wait for doors to open. Wait for clearer vision.

And be ready to see the seas part…or a chickadee come into view.

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