Snap – Flash – Click. Shutter opens. Closes. Flash of light. Click. Click. Click. The weary buttons beg for reprieve as the merciless index finger presses down with vigor. Breath catches and together we are caught between capturing and savoring the moment. When my eye lands on something that sparks my heart, my hand involuntarily lifts my camera to capture the moment. Through the years, my heart has been gathering snapshots that mark my trail as breadcrumb snippets that lead me back to the memory. As a child, the sweet joyful moments speckled in through the dark chaos. The snapshots I took were mostly those imprints that warmed my heart. These shots were few. Bare, sweet stolen moments of wonder sprinkle the pages of my childhood album. Memories of my childhood are slim. Though frustrating at times, I have come to recognize this as a gift to not dwell on the darkness of the past but instead, bring to recall the good things. Homemade bread, fantastic home sewed Halloween costumes, warm dinners and books aplenty are some of those good things.
One memory is tucked away as one of my most cherished. At the end of the aisle, my future husband stood with tears perched on his lower eyelid. A quivering solid arm is extended to me and together my Dad and I walk towards my future. Walking down the aisle, we clumsily reach for each other as husband and wife with all the flaws and imperfections within that grasp. Days into our marriage we basked in the sunlight of Hawaii being tossed about by the waves of building a relationship, learning to communicate and walk in synch with each other. We had begun that awkward journey of becoming one. We were two colliding into one another to become one. It was a messy business. The waves continue to roll in and the sun set for almost thirty years in this journey. Now, almost 30 years later we are en-route to Hawaii once again. This time, we fill two rows and we are surrounded by three of our daughters and looking to reconnect with more family when we get there. The journey has picked up other travelers along the way and we continue to become one in the midst of the clutter of daily life. Looking out at the expanse that is below I catch my breath at the beauty of the fuzzy pink cotton candy sky, cuddling with the periwinkle saying its goodbyes to the resplendent glory of the dazzling golden beams that had just stretched across the skies and reflected off the hard metal of the wings of the plane. The reflected glory of the sun slowly slips off the cold, hard wing. I smirk as a thought crosses my heart as I gaze on this picture. We are the reflected glory of our Savior. My hand rises to take the picture. It is a joining of my senses. From behind the camera that specific frame is exactly the state where I want to remember it. My fingers are eager to bring to permanence the beauty and the memory of this moment. Drinking it in, we are all snapping pictures in our row.
Saved for Instagram, filed away to share on FB or simply for our own enjoyment, we snap.
My heart is taking snapshots through the lens of my camera. It is irresistible for me. Longing to embrace and hold onto each moment to savor richly and deeply ~ I immobilize the picture. Turning to Mikayla and Meghan I try to explain why it is that I love to apprehend this beauty and God’s glory in His creation. “ I love capturing His beauty.” The words sink into my soul as I look at two of our girls. It dawns on me and I speak it out loud: “That’s why I love taking pictures of all you guys. You are all so diverse in your beauty and a total gift from God. Strikingly beautiful and it catches my heart and has me longing to seize that moment.” They smile. They understand.
I can’t even describe the overwhelming ache that rises up within me when I revel in the gift the Lord has given to this becoming one thing with Kevin. We are becoming one and in doing so, we have made a measure of many who will one day become one with their own soul-mate. I love each frame of this journey together and look forward to each snapshot yet to be taken. As with photographs, some pictures are taken out of focus or not enough light and those ones don’t need to be prominent in our lives but will serve as a reminder for how we WANT to frame our lives. The pictures we will keep in our memory will chart our course in days to come.
As we step onto the soil of Hawaii yet again, I join hands with Kevin looking back over those almost thirty years and sigh deeply and contentedly even as I look over the waves of doubt, hardship and angst. Together we have traipsed, stumbled, wrestled and sauntered through many sunsets and countless waves. My hand stays still within his IN His. I can’t take a picture of that. I can’t capture the joy that springs eternal when I look back on our years and see the faithfulness of our God. Every step of our journey, we are in the palm of His hand and He has delivered us safely back to revisit our honeymoon island to the place where we began our journey of becoming one. Some things a camera can’t capture. I close my eyes and with a flutter, I allow my mind to rest in this contentedness of His irresistible grace and faithfulness to inscribe deeply in my heart.
Pushing the needle in over and over again to fill each square with the designated color. Changing colors on the needle over and over again and watched the needlework design emerge. Turning the embroidery over, the back was scarred with knots and frayed ends and crossed over edges. Much like our lives, our “private” side can be scarred and broken with the marks of failures and hardships deeply embedded into our hearts. Turning the work over, I marvel at the canvas before me. Gorgeous strokes flow to produce a lovely landscape, muted and joyful in a kaleidoscope of colors. The thoughtful blues, the flamboyant mahogany, the effervescent golden, the deep flowing emerald, the melancholy periwinkle, the soft pinks flood my visual senses. A sigh of contentment rushes involuntarily to my heart. In this moment I want to stay.
Pain comes, hard dark times threaten, money is tight, loved ones die, relationships are confusing, emotions swirl, hurtful and angry words ensue and darkness sets in to try to steal this colorful moment that I try to cling to. In these moments, I begin to understand the beauty of pain. The dark threads weave in and out of the color-filled canvas framing each intricate detail causing boldness and richness not seen before. As the threads of pain and darkness outline the joy and beauty of our lives, we are reminded that we live in a world of mountains and valleys. The Master Weaver uses the pain and tragedy in the wisps of our frail human days to outline the beautiful moments to bring vivid contrast in order to see the hand of His glory in our lives. To fully appreciate the joy of our days we must experience loss. At times we are a pendulum of laughter and tears. Our lives are woven in an eclectic mix of colorful and exciting bursts of mountaintop experiences, muted shades of the ordinary and outlined by tragedy in the valley of darkness to reveal a remarkable work at its completion. When we look at our lives, do we only see the dark threads, or the messy scattered hopelessly fragmented underside? Or do we gaze upon what is being woven in His timing? Guilty of all three and my prayer is to posture my heart to accept the threads that are woven on my canvas with His grace and look to Him with abundant joy for the hope that is set before me. What compels me to hope is the love of my Father in Heaven who holds me in the very center of His palm as together we weave the life that is mine.
This life that is in Him. This broken, fragmented, messy life brought to the cross where He saw beauty in the ashes. Tears of thankfulness wet the canvas when I realize that while I can only see the masterpiece He is weaving in my life in the moment, He sees the finished work of His grace in my life.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
To live is to love, which is, to know. The innate desire to be known and loved resides within us all. If we are familiar with the words of Christ, this shouldn’t surprise us:
“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing
with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which
commandment is the most important of all?”Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O
Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your
entire mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You
shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater
than these” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV).
Humans were made to love; this is our purpose: to love Christ with the entirety of our being…
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Love the thoughts of my daughter as she travels the world!
Day Three . . .
Kigali Genocide Memorial.
It’s hard to believe that this horrific event occurred only 20 years ago. There is not one person who is not affected by it.
The museum is well put together and succeeds at educating visitors of the progression, the event, the aftermath, the stories, and preventative actions.
One quote I read was saying that genocide doesn’t just happen all at once. It starts with one death at a time.
A book that was recommended was “Shake Hands With the Devil” by Romeo Dallaire.
The people here are dedicated to moving forward by educating others about he past so that we may all learn from it.
After a sober morning, we transition to the Akilah school for women (www.akilahinstitute.org) whose goal is to connect young women to economic opportunity. Nadine, a recent graduate, shows us around and tells us how Akilah has changed…
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A dance hall. A clutched purse. A handsome young soldier. Eyes meet across the hall and he saunters over to the lovely vision. Asking her to dance, she protests with a “can’t put my purse down” excuse. He alleviates that excuse and tucks in her purse under his uniform jacket and whisks her onto the dance floor and into his life for the next 68 years. The war expedited love. The brisk wind of death had fallen upon many and life was grabbed at every opportunity. With the cold bony grip of death so close, love was forced to make quick decisions. Love. A “promise” of marriage wasn’t enough to carry this bride to another continent. Once again, this dashing soldier tucks in the purse of commitment under his uniform and produced a ring and a covenant to his beloved to love, honor and cherish her all the days of his life. Plot twist. She would be moving to Canada.
Goodbyes. Stepping onto the train. Traveling across the world to meet up again. The young thoroughly modern Millie embarks to embrace her new life with her dashing soldier in Canada. Many stops were made along the way with war brides shyly meeting up with their husbands. Uniforms now exchanged for farm work wear and dusty boots, the image was dauntingly unfamiliar. Breaths caught up in throats and fear clutched at some. Down to a few. The train stops and Millie looks out to see her dashing man in a suit alongside a car. Smiling to herself she thought, “I got myself a rich one!” Johnny looks up to see his thoroughly modern Millie with a wave of white cascading through the front of her black tresses and a jaunty cigarette at her red lips. Thrilled to see one another again, they jaunt off home to his mother’s home in his rental car to meet Johnny’s two conservative and wonderful sisters. Johnny had wanted to bless Millie and rented a car for the day from his wages. Life was meager at times but their love was rich. Memories of having to hitchhike a ride to the hospital and scraping money together to pay for their first property. Building their home brick by brick by hand and not going into debt to get ahead was Johnny’s standard. Millie was the spice that kept life sweet and flavorful.
Into their marriage a bit, Johnny came to know the Lord and wanted desperately for his new bride to know His Savior. Night by night, they would get tucked into bed and he would read the Bible aloud to her until it became a reality in her life and she too surrendered her life to Jesus Christ. Together they forged through life with joys of daily adventures and life itself and hardships of barrenness, financial loss and death of friends. After many years of not being able to have children naturally, they began the process of adoption and had two lovely girls Diane and Joy. Through this, they were able to pour their love for each other and for the Lord into these two little ones and now many more to follow in grandchildren and great grandchildren. Through the years, the Lord has prospered this lovely couple who have daily forged through life with tenacity, with zeal, with hospitality, with joy, with PURPOSE.
We had the privilege of meeting this couple about 18 years ago and delighted to spend time with their wisdom, their humor and their complete surrender to the will of God. Never have I failed to walk away from any conversation with either one of them but have been filled to the brim with thanksgiving that the Lord has gifted us with such treasure for friends. Tomorrow is their 68th Wedding Anniversary and I am struck once again at the faithfulness of God unfolded in the marriage of these two. Together, they have took hold of the very hand of God and walked through life leaning on His word. Together, they have met adversity, lost friends to death, watched churches split and countless painful moments where their recourse was to pray, to trust God and move forward. I learn so much from both of them. I learn that life is short. That moment in the dance hall is etched in their minds…..it echoes on their hearts still. They are youthful in their hearts, wise in their speech and they feel the pains of their age creeping into their bodies. We learn from it all and feel as though we are immersed in a pool of gold and wisdom in their midst. At 90 and 91…..they are together, they serve the Lord, they fill each other with God’s word, they go about their day with thanksgiving and very occasionally I hear a complaint and when I do, it is likely turned around into something to laugh with. They apologize for their shakiness or their age at times and I am astounded. All I see is bedrock strength, stunning beauty, ageless wisdom and an outpouring of love. They make my heart sing. My hero couple, my couple who prays diligently for our children, my couple who demonstrates to me daily what it is to love unconditionally, my couple who loves to laugh, my couple who still manages to bless all those in the wake of their kindness and generosity….I love them.
Daily routine. Daily pain. Daily prayer. Johnny daily “tucks Millie’s purse” in his uniform by caring for her needs, being a provider, loving her dearly every day. Every day is a gift and it had been from the time they were young. Now they know it more than then…every day is a gift. Now instead of jauntily tucking a purse into his uniform to whisk his lovely off for a spin, Johnny tucks Millie into bed and he kisses her goodnight every night and says, “see you in the morning”. Millie responds with, “I hope so.” The light is turned down and evening sweeps in with quiet and the peace shatters the air. Life well lived.
Coming into motherhood, I was sure I was going to have the same kind of “brown thumb” I had with plants. We would walk through Art Knapp’s Plantland in PG and there was a shrill howl among the terrified ones. These timid plants would shiver and push themselves up against the wall and close their eyes, pretending to be invisible in the hopes they would not go home with us. The braver ones stood staunchly at the front, ready to meet their grisly fate of slow death by alternating drowning and starving until the last bit of green was drained out of their very veins. Brown and withered, the valiant plant would be thrown into the garden and a new victim would be sought out. I clearly did not have a green thumb in the arena of gardening. Would mothering be the same? It takes a nurturing soul to raise up these human young plants. They would need soil and roots and tender pinching off of deadheads, watering and misting and sunlight and so much more. I was not up to the task. It frankly terrified me. I did the only thing I knew to do. Pray. Read and read and read about parenting…and pray some more.
My own childhood is a blank spot in my life. I don’t recall much and the memories I do have are wispy and gray and usually recalled through some of the photographs in the family album. What propelled me into motherhood was necessity. I was pregnant. Baby was coming. Period. No longer did we have the five planned years to pay off our house and get debt free. We now had just under two years as two and only one income before our firstborn entered the world.
Our sleep or lack thereof lasted only minutes after she came into the world. A bright spot of sunshine, she craved someone standing over her smiling and cooing every waking moment. Sleep became a luxury and we were deprived of it often.
Knowing we were very ill equipped at this parenting thing, we wrestled with the idea of having another when we could barely manage with one. The decision was made for us. Another was on the way. This sweet little bundle arrived and was doted upon immediately by all three of us. Our hearts grew and we made room for this little rosebud in our lives.
A move many hours away from the only place I truly knew as home came and we left. My heart was shredded and overwhelmed with finding schools, doctors, dentists and friends.
One by one we added to our family until we reached the capacity of our quiver. No longer brown thumbs at this parenting, we were developing a rhythm where the Lord was growing us in our capabilities and flexibility. We were in a parenting greenhouse.
We operated with the seven of us at dinners and learning at home and running errands and experiencing new things as a family for many many years…a season of constant. Kevin would ask the kids at the dinner table, “What is our family mission?” The kids would echo, “to be a blessing.” My heart was embedded in this constant. There is just something about familiarity that makes my heart nestle in and sigh with contentment.
Then it happened. Someone came walking through our nursery and spotted a plant that he set his eyes on. He knew that was the one he wanted and he prayed and waited and visited us often to know his little treasure. One day in May, we gave a precious part of our heart’s garden to a wonderful man who had promised to love, honor and cherish her all the days of his life. He has purposed to do just that. We gained a son and an empty room and a shifting of the family and a nightly ritual of tears and memories.
Emails and Facebook messages from an uprooted plant that was sent out to the East Coast speak of amazing opportunities, new family and friends, bubbling over with excitement of what is to come. Anticipatory of the upcoming travels with her team, the sunshine traveled through the telephone wires and lit up the continent from coast to coast. Things would not be the same again.
The only thing that was sure was there was sure to be change.
This has always been a hurdle for me. After a perfect family holiday, I would be hesitant to plan for the next one because I wanted to savor the last and hold onto the memories and I feared the future one would not hold so many beautiful treasures. In the same way, after a particularly lovely family season, it is hard for me to embark on a new journey feeling like I am leaving behind the old memories. What I have come to realize is the NEW adventures and memories do not make the old ones fade away. Change does not erase the loveliness of yesteryear…it fertilizes it. It propels us forward into new adventures and fresh waters. Every season of our lives is like a flower that has been brought to its fullness. There will be no more growth in that particular season and the winds shift to a new season, a new purpose. The garden is always being grown…expanding and filling the earth with its fragrance. God, in His kindness gives us change to grow us. We can always trust His hand to be firmly in our through all changes in our lives.
My mind wanders back to Mikayla in Kindergarten belting out a song that spoke of being a flower being planted in God’s Word. Her little chubby fingers framing her face and searching the crowd to catch a glimpse of us. The memory is embedded on my heart while the words are vague and I cannot recall them. My heart sees the moment and begins to grasp the wisp of our moments.
Moms, let’s remember to hold onto the moments and not hold THEM in the moments. We can hold those precious moments in our hearts as we embrace the change and thank the Lord for the opportunity He has given us to be stewards of such precious gifts. As a mom, that is our gift to the world while it may bring temporary pain and longing to our hearts. We send our children forward to be a fragrant offering to the gardens they visit. May they each be a scent of kindness and a covering of refuge, a vibrant array of green life as they venture forward.
We can fight it or we can embrace it and continue to water the soil of our lives and continue to produce fruit of the Holy Spirit. LOVE. JOY. PEACE. LONG SUFFERING. KINDNESS. GOODNESS. FAITHFULNESS. GENTLENESS. SELF CONTROL. It is through this that we are being pruned into the express image of our Lord Jesus Christ who longs to transform us. In this transforming, may we be filled with the desire to continue to pour our hearts into the task at hand, knowing the path is steep and sometimes filled with bramble bushes and will result in some pain and separation. Alongside there is a deep residing joy with the amazing reward of knowing that our children are making an impact for His Kingdom and in this hurting world as a balm of His grace, a fresh breeze and sunshine to the soul.