June 23, 2012

'Cause maybe you needed this too ...

I know you. I know your heart. I made it.

I know your struggles, your deepest desires, your most honest thoughts.
I know how you sometimes wonder 'why.'

But I am weaving, child. 
And waiting can feel like a death, like you are missing an entire portion of yourself ...
a whole part of your person.

I am stoking a fire. I am always in process.

Child, stop moping. Stop mourning. Stop flashing ahead.
I can't take you there until you are faithfully and obediently here.

Be holy, as I am holy. Be excellent. Persevere.
Allow me to weave and grow you, grow the others I will entrust to your care.

Show me, by faith, that you can trust.
Show me, by grace, that you can be trusted.

You say you feel fragile?
Then break wide open into me.

You say you feel tired?
Then fall hard into this net of mercy.

You say you are disappearing slowly?
Then fade right into the shadow of these wings.

You say the walls are closing in?
Then run headlong into my freedom.

Stop criticizing who you are.
Stop confusing what is good.
Stop controlling how you are perceived.
Stop clarifying what is already clear.

I won't leave you to yourself.
I won't let you fall apart.
I won't forget that I called you.
I won't give away your place at the table.

Stop looking back, stop glancing ahead. And for goodness sake, stop flailing.

Live now, by faith, in joy.

I want to see you smile.
I want to give good gifts.
I want to be your helper.
I want to show you extravagant love.
I want  you to be brave, courageous.

I want you to use your gifts ... for my glory.
This is reasonable worship.

Do you see it?
I want to make you more like me.

This life of yours is yours alone to hand over.
I know how costly this can be.
But lay it down anyway.

Then lay it down again. And then again.

Give it away here and now.
Stop preserving, stop holding back.
Stop saving up your energy.

Live loved.
Love others well.
Spend yourself on their behalf.
Open up your hands.
Only "do the next thing."

Receive my love.
Then let it spill over.

Whatever I give, you give it too.
Mercy. Pardon. Refreshment.

Keep walking straight ahead.
Don't slow down. This is the way, walk in it.

Stop calculating, orchestrating, solving.
Stop adding me up.

I am mystery.

And my puzzle is made of a million intricate pieces ...
all different shades of the same color called Grace.

I am the beginning.
I am the end.

And you?
You fit beautifully into my story.

You bring me joy.
I am singing over you.

So relax your shoulders.
Exhale that stagnate air.
Do only what I've given you ... today.

Look for me.
Thank me often.

And then wait in joyful hope.

'Cause I've got this.

June 16, 2012


He took his first ride ever on the merry-go-round, picked his own horse and waved to the same stranger with each orbit.

Then he stood firm on the pavement and gazed straight into the sky. He watched the tracks spiraling straight down ... all those g-forces weighing in. And I don't know who squealed loudest, him or the daredevils up above.

Later, she peered over the edge of her blue gondola on a wire and announced, "I think the Sky Ride must be the best thing in the world. I can see everything from here!"

The clouds were overhead and the train whistled below. We hovered in between, suspended with delight and a bit of fresh perspective.

Here's to great moments, no matter how small or fast. Here's to being in the present tense.
Here's to having eyes to see ...

Peace today, friends.

June 14, 2012

Footloose and free ... part 2

We rolled out from under mosquito nets and into our scrubs, into shoes that had straddled pit latrines the day before. We woke up with the sun and a sip of dark coffee, peanut butter on toast. We piled into vans with armed guards and boxed lunches. We hoisted pills, braces, crutches, and creams onto van roofs. 

Each day, the clinic sites varied while the set-up remained routine. Start with triage, then the doctors, then physical therapy. Finish up at pharmacy.

And I've never seen, in all of my life, a more patient and dignified crowd: quiet, gracious, and waiting from dawn to dusk under an African sun. Hungry babies. Strong mamas. Men in best dress. Their eyes told soul stories.

They waited outside while I stayed in. One by one, they stepped into a dirt-floored classroom with posters on the walls, all in English. They came with fevers and questions and heart pains. We listened and narrowed down, taught on-the-fly and rapid tested for malaria. We de-wormed and counseled and auscultated. Occasionally, we moved someone small to the front of the line.

And the lines were long, snaking through Uganda's red dirt and lush green with bikes and jugs and wash basins. Some days we turned hundreds away.

"We are so sorry," we said.

Just not enough hands, not enough hours in the day. In Uganda, the second fastest growing country in the world, there is 0.001 doctor for every one thousand people.

And for the little ones in the crowd each day, we had one box of shoes to share. Just one.

They were placed in the care of the physical therapists, an extraordinary group of young professionals with immediate and practical skills. They taught body mechanics and dressed wounds. They fashioned braces right on site from boiled plastic, old neoprene. They shared knowledge and hope.

"Do these exercises, wear this brace, bend your knees while you work ... your boy will walk."
They cut off casts, sewed belts, arranged an amputation.

And each day they put little shoes on little feet.

I didn't work with them directly- always a few doors down- but I knew they had been up to some good. Each day at clinic's end, I stepped out of my tiny triage space and into open air. I greeted darling faces, grabbed hands and sang songs, helped the pharmacy distribute long awaited meds.

And each day, without fail, I wrapped up our clinic time with delight over little feet. Just as soon as I shook my last limb to the Hokey Pokey and turned myself around, my eyes caught a glimpse of  little shoes.

And the first time I noticed? I cried.

Because they were my baby's shoes- the little green sandals with the flowers- and there they were, all those miles from home. The moment caught me off guard, and then it bowled me over with delight.

Her mom said they were her first and only pair.

And I didn't need to see them. Bringing your shoes and mine was never about seeing who received them. When we are called to give, we simply give. We don't get to calculate or manage or oversee.

But suddenly, there they were. Everywhere I looked, my shoes and yours were running to and fro nearly half a world away.

I thought of that big box in my attic, all the hanging on and what-ifs and just-in-cases ... how sometimes the clinging can stifle, take on a life of its own. Suddenly, we become hoarders of blessing never meant for the keeping.

And in the letting go of things, we grow a size or two.

These shoes were just bits of rubber and leather after all. But suddenly my heart was laced up in a new way ... this little life all tied to theirs somehow.  

Like when I saw him in my boy's first shoes and how my eyes welled up. I held my breathe for just a moment. Because my Ben learned to walk in those shoes. Then he ran down our street like he'd been born to fly.

And now? 

Here they were.

And I watched this little guy run right into the wind, and thought of my own blue-eyed boy back home ... all of his busy steps.
And two worlds really can collide, if we'll let them. If we'll give a bit of ourselves away... make some room to see.

You did the giving. And so I really wanted you to see too.

Thank you again, friends. For sending along some joy and for meeting a very practical need.

(I'd like to talk more soon about how so many are learning to meet their own needs in long-term, sustainable ways. Through vocational training and hard work, many are providing for themselves and for their families- not merely relying on gifts from afar. And isn't this really the goal? Why not send boxes and boxes of shoes several times a year? What then of the small business man who fashions and sells rubber-soled shoes from discarded tires, hemp ... for his village and for his income? These are things  worth thinking about. Plus, I'd love to introduce you to some of the folks I check in on from time to time.)

Friends, here's to running fast into Him today. Here's to letting go of the obstacles. Here's to giving with joy, so that His joy might travel far.
photo credit: Chris Kundrock

June 9, 2012

When giving is good for your soul ... Part 1

Our packing list was really pretty basic. Bring only the necessities.

Scrubs, Cipro, malaria prophylaxis. A journal ...

Do not bring a hair dryer. We will know who you are ... that's what the note said.
Quite frankly, I've never seen a more darling group of gals with messy hair.

I was an out-of-towner and couldn't drop donations by the office. They said we would keep our Cipro and undies close, but all donations would go under the plane. I wasn't flying out with the group. I hadn't planned on donating this time. 

Five days before we left, I had my little crew in the attic. Ben was playing trains the way he does- pushes one solitary boxcar from the back with just two fingers. He goes steady, around and around that table.

And that particular day, he just kept walking around that one storage bin-  filled to the brim with little shoes.  Big memories.

They were my babies' shoes and I could see all three of my children in those tiny soles. Even now, I know they are just things ... just rubber and leather all bound together.

But it can be hard to give away sentiments ... and my mama-heart is bound up in all their running and climbing and fast out-growing.

I had tried before- to give them all away. Some little person could use these, I would say.

But I was holding onto every footstep. I had grown up right alongside them, after all.  Three babies later, I'm standing a little taller in my own big-girl shoes.

But we were upstairs and Ben just kept walking into that box and it was clearly an obstacle.
I wondered if it was an obstacle for me too. There was the box and then there was me, holding on tight to things instead of giving away what was never really mine.

I wondered. Can I give away rubber and leather? Can I create some space here in this attic,
here in this heart?

The next day I put out a quick word, barely audible.
"Hey all, if you have little people shoes- I'll take 'em with me. Next week they'll be on little feet."

And then the text messages came.

I overnighted a box to you.

These were hard to give away, hope you can use them!

Made my heart sad to remember my babies  ... but happy to think of these on new feet. 

I told them all how I could relate. I had done my share of hanging on too.

The next afternoon my door bell just kept ringing. Sweet mamas on my doorstep with bags of tiny soles for tiny people. Little shoes covered my little floor. As the momentary clutter grew, I could feel how the giving away was already making new space on my inside.

My middle gal, and best helper, joined me in the sweet chaos. We sat in the center of it all, held hands and whispered big prayers over little feet ... little lives so far away.

At the end of the day, my doorbell rang one last time. Through channels of mail and people, my
heart friend had sent a tiny gift bag with a sticky note. All of the other generous women had done what I had done ... given from our excess. But my friend had gone shopping.

I sat at my kitchen table and I opened her bag and I had a little cry.

And inside that little bag? She sent just one. perfect. pair. of shoes.

They were brand new and picked out and paid for with one little soul in mind.
And on the sticky note? Just this:

The night before I would fly, my Todd and I kept each other company. I stalled and stared into my tiny suitcase and shifted my protein bars that required way too much space. He encouraged. And he sorted and matched and tied together and packed a gillion little shoes.

I was stressed and afraid to fly so far away. He lined them up in rows ... told me to take a few pics.

A few days and a few thousand miles later, I helped unpack onto hot pavement.

And right there, I knew that all of the miles these little shoes had traveled were just a glimpse of what will be.

And all of the milestones and grateful mamas here at home? Oh friends, now there are many more of those too.
Because in the giving away we get to watch the blessings grow, multiply, travel.

So, to you-- my sweet mama friends-- thank you. Thank you for giving.
Right now, a lot of little somebodies, and their mamas, are thanking you too.

     photo credit: Kris Kundrock

And by the way, I can't wait to share Part 2 with you. Oh my...