THANKS

When I was young, one of my favorite books was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  I was a serious child.  I identified with Alexander on somewhat of a regular basis, as he and I both had two brothers.  So I anticipated the worst, pretty much all the time.  I remained cautious and pensive.

Last Wednesday I had a bad day.  I was finally on my way to the grocery, since we were out of all sensible food (kids wouldn’t eat canned black beans for breakfast), when I got a call from the school that Josiah had thrown up in the classroom and needed picked up.  I can’t tell you how much that ripped my heart out.  Josiah is my most private child.  He’s my pensive, cautious one.  To have thrown up in front of his peers must have added considerable insult to injury.  This was my sentiment as I walked into the nurse’s office, where he was laying so pitifully on the plastic cot.  She told him to stand up and walk because he was certainly too big to be carried.  I tried my very best not to glare at her as I responded as nicely as I could, “he most certainly is not”, then scooped up my 6-year old baby boy and carried him to his seat in our van.  On our way home he threw up two more times, into his sweatshirt, causing Zachary to dry heave beside him, and Nolan to lecture all of us on the importance of immediately using hand sanitizer.

There were spills, schedule rearranging, extra laundry, extra worry, extra cleaning. Just…..extra.

You’ve probably survived much darker days than this one.  This may have been the day you started chemotherapy.  Or the day your child started chemotherapy.  This may have been the day you had to walk away from the cemetery, leaving behind a piece of you.  This may have been the day you have had to endure the darkness of divorce, or deception, or dependence.  This may very well have been your terrible, horrible, no good, very, bad day.

I’ve had some dark days.  Days when the bottom fell out.  Days when my typical exaggerated anxiousness was legitimate fear that drove me to action.  Days when the world was so obviously the world.

But as I laid my head down last Wednesday (on the couch, right next to my sick, feverish baby), all I could say in my prayers was “Thank You.”

Thanks.

Thanks.

Give thanks in all circumstances…

How could I say anything else?  I could I be anything but grateful?

I effortlessly walked over to the sink and poured my son a glass of clean water from our working faucet.  I sauntered over to the medicine cabinet and grabbed the thermometer, tylenol, and cooling cloth.  I sat with him and tended to him all evening, while my husband managed the other children.  I stayed by his side and let him rest in our heated home, on our clean sheets.

Thank you.

Thank You, Father.

Even on days that seem so long.  Even on days when hope seems gone.  Even on days like yesterday, when the cold relentless rain fell for hours and hours on end reminding us of the coldness and relentlessness of the world.  Even on days when the hope is gone…

This year two of my ‘sisters’ walked through the darkness of miscarriage.  I was a blubbering mess for weeks after each one.  I cannot express to you how connected I felt to those particular babies.  And because geography can be so cruel, I was unable to stand physically beside them through it.  So, I wept inexplicably and at inappropriate times, just releasing my grief onto whomever asked me how my day was. (Sorry, Aldi checkout lady.)

During those dark times, my sisters blew me away.  They so bravely and rightly “chose joy” and proclaimed “the goodness of God,” as they put it.  IN their hour of darkness.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thes. 5:18

Tomorrow has been set aside for a day of Thanksgiving.  Most of you have cheated and been grateful all November long.  (I’ve enjoyed your daily posts on Facebook.)   I want in on that.  I want to cheat all year long.  I want to express authentic gratitude from the depths of my soul as a rule, as a way of living, a way of thinking, a way of being.  I want to give thanks in all circumstances.  Not just the great times, the good times, or the even the dark times.  But in the mundane times too.

Like today.  My cup runneth over sharing conversation with my brother over a cup of coffee and nacho dip rather than over the phone.  Be still my heart as I watch my nephew devour an un-iced cupcake (y’all…I fed him one when no one was looking…sorry! but you didn’t see his face! he reallllllly wanted it. I’m probably not ever going to be able to resist that, just so you know. I am my mother’s daughter….) Could any more joy flood my soul as I tuck my children into bed, or see my husband return home safely from work, or feed my family from our plenty?

Thank You, Father!

Thanks.

Thank You!

I identify less with Alexander now.  I will have bad days, of that I am sure.  I may even have some terrible, horrible, no good, very, bad ones.  On even those days, instead of wishing I could move to Australia (that only makes sense if you’ve read the book) let my heartcry be the 100th Psalm:

‘Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.’

Amen.

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AUTUMN


I knew I was getting older the last time I went to Forever21 and the sales associate asked me if I was lost and then called me ‘ma’am’.  I quickly darted out of the store, pretending like I had wandered in by mistake.

Then, I heard on K-Love that women who dye their hair blond look older.  I immediately quit dying my hair.  I decided to find out what my natural color was, since no one really knows.  That was about six months ago.  I’ve been really obnoxious about it too.   “I’m going natural,” I keep telling people.  “I’m going to quit spending so much money on my vain attempt at looking young and give to the poor.”

So, I’ve been working the ombre style until Michael changed the 3 out of 4 burnt-out light bulbs in our bathroom.  I was so thankful until I looked in the mirror and noticed millions of white hair attached to MY HEAD!!!!  Ok, not millions. But definitely more than two, which might as well be millions.  PLUS, less than 12 hours later, Michael and I were driving down the road in the daylight and I made the egregious mistake of looking at myself in the mirror…..and I noticed a wrinkle where I’ve been smiling too much.

Obviously, I

1. had a nervous breakdown.

2. apologized to the poor.

3. scheduled a hair appointment.

4. stopped smiling. Ever.

Wrinkles and grey hair?  What in the youthful world is happening to me???

Am I growing up? So much evidence suggests ‘no’!  In my profession, I am still a teeny tiny infant.  As a mother, I have little bitty children.  I’m not yet responsible for a turkey at Thanksgiving.  I still have slumber parties with my friends.  I even know how to hashtag….

But. I guess I have a ‘profession’. I am a mother. I do make the dressing for Thanksgiving, and the world has to be realigned and meticulously organized and prepared for a slumber party to actually happen.

Maybe I am growing up?

We have had the most gloriously spectacular autumn here in North Carolina.  The trees have been the most brilliant shades of crimson, gold, and fire orange that I ever remember seeing.  My super smart science friend says it’s because we had a relatively dry September and some frosted but not frozen mornings.  I’ve nearly run off the road staring at/Instagramming them with my (hip) (smart) (i)Phone….because I’m young like that. Michael reminded me as I was admiring them on a family outing, that the the chlorophyl has been keeping them green since spring, and that just now their true colors are beginning to show.  That as they come into autumn, they are really coming into their fullness, into the pinnacle of their magnificence, into the truth of what they were created to be.

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And then I remembered my grandmother talking about the autumn of her life.  She shared about what a full and beautiful season it was.  And then she shared about how she knew it was slipping away and how she was easing into the winter season.  She talked about the peace she had as she braced for the winter.  She didn’t fear it, she embraced it.

Before the sun finally sets, the frost begins to squeeze the color from the blue of autumn’s skies and the brilliant colors of spring and summer turn from scarlet red to softer hues of gold.  As age begins to wrinkle our skin and greys our hair, we look forward to living our final chapters.  As we join the vast caravan that marches toward the west, we shall first behold the winter “sunrise” which brings with it tiny hints of lovely pastel shades.  When winter sunrise begins to paint its dawn upon our lives, we shall not fear what lies ahead. 

She was so wise.

Our culture would have us to believe that the summer of our life is to be preserved at all costs, and, by the way, at all costs is the precise and only motivation.  While I am still far from shopping in the “Ladies” section at Belk (sorry, but the only way I am buying a sweater with a turkey  embroidered on it is if I wear it as a joke), I am coming to the realization that there is real value in each season of life.  Could it be that ever so softly, ever so slightly, my autumn is creeping upon me?

Besides the physical calamities I am enduring, I’ve noticed other changes too.  Ten years ago if you had asked me to give you a 10 year plan, I would have gladly blurted out my pretty little plan tied with a pretty little bow.  I have learned the value of being open to God’s plan. I have learned the value of sitting at the beautiful feet of my elders.  I am learning the value of saying ‘no’ to things that don’t align with my priorities.  I am learning that some things matter, and other things, simply…..don’t.  I am learning that I have so much to learn.   Maybe, ever so slightly, ever so gently, my true colors are beginning to show.  Maybe, despite my initial repulsion, I can find beauty there.  Maybe, as I come into my own, I can even embrace it….the way my Grandmother embraced her winter.

We will quietly stand and behold the majesty and wonder of a sunrise that will lead us beneath the open sky, under its glorious arch to walk among God’s creation and all His peaceful works.  ….together we can share the calm that dawning brings and welcome release from relentless busyness.  Between the winter sunrise and sunset, we know that Jesus will be with us. 

Because the wisdom of her words, which she shared through her wrinkled lips, made her more stunning and more beautiful than any attempt at holding onto the evidence of her youth.

Wasn’t she beautiful?

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Frances, easing into winter

(Quotes by Frances Pierce, from her autobiography Why Not Us?, the chapter entitled “Winter Sunrise”)

(Image of Photographic Oil Portrait by Gaye Frances Willard. For more information on photographic oils, click http://www.portraitartistnc.com/GWbrush.html)

SHINE

My phone calendar starting buzzing yesterday morning at 5:50 with all the reminders I had.

‘Send salty snack with Zachary.’

‘Send cookies/drinks with Josiah’

‘Nolan and Josiah wear orange for Anti-bullying campaign.’

‘Zachary dresses up for class party – nothing scary’

I have to include really specific notes like ‘nothing scary’ for obvious reasons.

We turned in the school parking lot on 2 wheels, like always, and hopped out of the van.  As I loaded up my arms with 3 boxes of capri-suns, a bag of animal crackers, and a tray of store-bought (because we CANNOT send anything homemade…..(pre-made cookies are $6.00)) cookies and started across the parking lot with 2 older orangely dressed children and 1 younger power-rangers mega force guy with a green lantern cape and sword, I realized how ridiculous I may have looked.  Suddenly Nolan yelled,

‘MOM! You have to hide that sword!  We are not allowed to have ANY weapons in school’.

So, I shoved it under the tray of cookies and took them to the school classroom.  I then dropped Zachary off at preschool and planned my almost immediate return so I could watch, photograph, and enjoy ‘Halloween 2013’.

Halloween has never been my favorite holiday.  It’s just not my thing.  It may have to do with my parents not putting a particular emphasis on it either.  I don’t remember any of my costumes.  I just remember one year my brother wanting to be a skeleton.  My mother would not hear of buying a pre-made costume from the store and attempted to create a skeleton out of panty hose, a pillowcase, and magic marker.  My mom is many things, but an artist is not one of them.  The thing I remember about that costume is how sorry I felt for Jeremy having to wear it in public.

So even though it’s not my thing, I do it.  I just fall in and go with the flow and participate and dress them up and set reminders about who is supposed to be what when and where and get the pumpkins and mums and so on and so forth.  This morning, I asked my husband if we could carve our pumpkin tonight, since we only have 2 days to let our light shine before I dispense of all things fall and get on to real holidays, like Christmas and well, just Christmas.  He responded like this, ‘how about we ask the boys what they would rather do, blow up the pumpkin or make a cutesy face on it.’

So, pumpkin bombs are a thing at our house.  Michael makes them explode.  So, obviously, I was outvoted and vetoed.

Cut to the preschool party.

After the parents arrived with cameras to photograph their children eating cheese doodles and candy-corn cupcakes, we filed out to the pumpkin patch to hear a pumpkin story by a precious elderly church lady.  After she finished explaining to the children how God makes pumpkins just like he makes children, that each is special and unique no matter what they look like, she asked them, “Do any of you have a special pumpkin with a face on it at home?”

“Oh Yes!!” they all excitedly share.

‘Mine has a funny face!’ -one kid yells.

‘Mine has a scary face!’ -says another.

‘My dad explodes our pumpkins!’ – says Zachary.

And the perimeter of parents, in unison, turned their heads to look at me.  The moms in shock, the dads in curiosity.  And I just nodded that yes, we do blow up our pumpkins.  I know, the swords and bombs sound so violent, and, I mean, we don’t even hunt for crying out loud.

‘Did you say explodes?’ answered the sweet little story teller.

‘Yes!’ he replied.

‘Uhm. Hmm….” was all she could say as she finished with the song “This little light of mine”….you know for those who put candles in their pumpkins….which don’t get blown up.

So we happen to live in a culture which has this tradition of dressing up like someone/something else, knocking on doors, and expecting candy when the phrase ‘trick-or-treat!’ is excitedly shrieked.   Historically there are some questionable practices also associated with this day.  And I certainly understand and respect any Christian who has the conviction to abstain from its participation.

But, after some very casual google research, the holiday is also historically known for community gatherings in which the harvest is celebrated around a big bonfire.  Last Friday night, we had 40 of our closest friends to our home for a bonfire.  The idea was to have a relaxed agenda, enjoy one another’s company, paint some pumpkins, and ok, blow up some pumpkins.  In our individualistic, me-focused culture, I am all about spending time in community.  False connectivity via social media is a great tragedy of our generation.  If having a bonfire and blowing up a pumpkin brings people together, then I’m about it.  And I don’t think that puts my Christianity in question.  In fact, if anything, being in community greatly enhances my walk with Jesus.

And I think that any time Light shines in the midst of darkness, that is a good thing too.

So, tonight, as we head out, dressed as various superheroes and such, I hope that we the church can let our little Lights shine.  That can look like a million things.  For the Coats family, it was a bonfire.  For another, it will be serving food at their church.  For another, a literal front porch light on that beckons others to come and be welcomed into their typically individualistic space.  Because we are called to let our Light shine every day (Mt. 5:16), including (and perhaps especially?) Halloween.  May we shine in such a way that we represent Christ to a world who so desperately needs Him.

<ENTER CUTE PICTURE OF SOFTLY SHINING FAMILY JACKOLANTERN>

…..alas, I have only pumpkin fragments.

Happy Halloween.

CAST

Yesterday Josiah had a stomach ache.  And because my mom was in a meeting, Michael was working, and there was no one to talk me off the cliff, I was 100% sure his appendix was rupturing.  I hastily put on my shoes while calling the doctor, telling the kids to get ready because we were probably going to take an ambulance ride.

The sweet nurse started asking rational questions that come from the minds of rational people, not giving any attention to my appendicitis rant.

Nurse – ‘Have any of your other kids been sick recently?’

Me – ‘Uhm. Oh, well, Zachary threw up all night Saturday and part of Sunday.’

Nurse – connect the dots, lah lah lah….  ‘It sounds like he has what Zachary had.’

Me – ‘um hmm.’ I say slowly removing my shoes.

Nurse – speaking in a very calculated manner ‘I would let him reeeest and drink lots of gat-or-ade’ nice and slow for me so I can make sure and geeet. it. all.

I struggle with anxiety.  (I’ve told you that before).  It’s a little battle I’ve had my whole life.  When I was in 3rd grade, our family doctor told my mom I should avoid caffeine.  I cried for days.  When I was 8, coffee was everything.  Also now.  The past 25 years since have been a learning process.  I have learned what coping mechanisms work, and which ones don’t.  Prayer works.  Allowing my mind to run wild with irrational thoughts….sort of aggravates it.

Generally, I reestablish equilibrium fairly quickly.  I use my sane friends for talk therapy.  I pray.  I read.  I surrender.  There are times, though, when I roll around in my anxiety and just allow it to have it’s way with me.  Enter > last Thursday.  There are some unknowns in our life right now.  And I was allowing those unknowns to wreak havoc in my mind, body and spirit.  Ol’ ‘what if’ was spinning like a Tasmanian devil all through my mind and slowly creeped down through my digestive system, shredding it to ever-loving pieces.  I was a mess.  I was out of balance. Out of control.

And I was irritated with myself for having let it go so far.  That monster died when I surrendered to Christ!   How did it manage to weasel into my calm, rational spirit?

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:6-10, emphasis added)

I allowed it to, that’s how.  And just as I allowed it to creep inward, I had to spend some time casting it upward.  After some quiet prayer time and allowing every thought to surrender to the authority of Christ, I was restored.  As He promised.

Josiah shares my tendency to worry.  When he got home yesterday, I had to convince him he wasn’t dying.

‘Are you sure it’s not a heart attack, Mom? It hurts right here’ (pointing to his stomach).

‘I’m sure Josiah.’ but OMG what if? Didn’t I read an article about children as young as 6 suffering from heart disease??….

Talk about the blind leading the blind.

Stop.  Josiah does not have heart disease. He loves cabbage, for crying out loud and the American Heart Association.

CastLord, you know the drill.  My ‘sober of mind’ catapulted itself headfirst into a sea of ridiculousness. I need you to take this worry, and replace it with trust, as I am struggling in this moment.

Restored. ‘Josiah, here’s the TV remote, a gatorade, and a cold washcloth. Rest, buddy.’

Praise the sweet Lord Jesus my husband worries about nothing.  Never has he told me to be careful, called when I was late, or stressed a deadline.  Hopefully our children will be somewhat balanced creatures.

But if they aren’t, my prayer is that they would learn to cast their cares upon Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Even tame the cruel monster of anxiety.

SOULMATES

Recently, when I was brushing my teeth, Michael uncharacteristically leaned in very close to me, shattering my tooth brushing bubble of space, stared at my toothbrush and said,

“how long have you been using that toothbrush?”

“since I bought it a few months ago.”

“I thought that was mine.”

“It’s pink!”

‘What color is mine?’

“BLUE!”

I love being married to Michael.  We’ve been best friends for 16 years, married for 9.  We laugh so much.  I think almost everything he says is slap you in the face hilarious.  The other day he told me, ‘I hashtag at the END of my words’. Which I think is the funniest thing I have ever heard and I laughed so hard at that coffee shot out my nose.  I still think he’s the hottest guy in the room.  I still can’t wait until he gets home.  I still melt a little when his name pops up on my phone – ‘It’s him!’ 

But Michael is not my soul mate.

I don’t believe in soul mates.  I think that we met because we lived in the same geographical area, had a similar socioeconomic status, and several mutual friends.  I think we had a mutual attraction, and we made a decision, and so on and so forth, and it’s 16 years later and we’re still choosing each other.

Because all the gush.  But also…all the stuff.  There are days.  And you have them too, so you know what I mean.  Choosing self seems so enticing.  Because there are days, doggonit, when I am right.  And it would feel so good to waller in that.  Ok, and sometimes I do for a bit.  But I usually come around, or he does.  And there is forgiveness, there is seeking to understand rather than to be understood, and there is a continual melding into one flesh.  There is surrender to Christ out of reverence for the covenant we made August 21, 2004.

And it is darn hard honest to goodness bone fide work. 

Michael isn’t my soul mate.

I once had a friend who was in pain because of a broken heart.  She was seeking.  Seeking something.  She was seeking, but never finding, her identity through relationships with men.  She seemed so confused as to why she wasn’t able to find herself in them.   And I mustered up every ounce of my infantile wisdom that I had found in Christ and said to her, “you have a God shaped hole in your heart.  Christ is the only one who can fill that space.”

It was a lesson I had to learn as well.  Because I don’t know how you fared in algebra, but 16 years together – 9 years of marriage = 7 long stinking years of waiting for a ring.

I don’t like to wait for things like the coffee to make, the microwave to beep, or the boyfriend to propose.   Just come on already..everything!  Obviously, I was impatient.  And you need to know that we weren’t one of those couples who talked about marriage all the time before we were engaged.  We literally never talked about it.  The subject was off limits pre-proposal.

So I was in a bit of turmoil, especially that last year of ‘dating’.  Finally, one day amidst the turmoil, I sensed God say in my spirit,

“Who do you desire more?”

Who, indeed.  I had some serious perspective shifting, prioritizing, and soul searching of my own to do.  And I am not going to tell you that God waved a magic wand over Michael to speed things up.  He didn’t.  Michael, my sweet tortoise, did eventually propose, and when he did I was ready.  But only because I had already found my Soulmate.   When I expect ‘man’ to fulfill a role only God can fulfill, man will fail every time.  Because it’s not his job, as popculture would have it, to ‘complete’ me.

My soul has a mate. Your soul has a mate. It’s Jesus. No one else will do.

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FIRST

I was in the middle of doing two good deeds.  Donating money to the Pregnancy Care Center and donating much needed bedding for incoming refugees to World Relief.  I was feeling so accomplished.  I had been meaning to do these things for several days and I hadn’t gotten around to it, but woah can I get some stuff done when my kids are at school.  My list was long that day, and I just killed the whole thing.  It was beautiful really.  And orderly.  And I was prancing to my car to finish my last errand before work when I was approached by a man.

‘Can you spare a few dollars? I am really hungry.’

Crap.  I don’t have dollars.  I never have dollars.

‘I’m so sorry, I don’t even have a dollar. I’m so sorry.’

He looked at me with disdain.  Like ‘whatever lady’.  He even said ‘psh’ as he walked away.

Dangit.  My do-gooder bubble was officially busted.

Suddenly, I remembered my lunch!  I had Josiah’s Thor lunch box full of homemade chicken-n-dumplings and green beans, which was to be my dinner.  So I hurriedly unlocked the car, reached over to get the lunch and thought,

‘I wonder if I should just give him the granola bar?  He has no way to heat these dumplings up (I know. Don’t even).  Plus is it weird  to just give him the lunch box? And what will he do with all these containers? I don’t even have a fork in here.’ My thoughts were racing at about 10,000/second.

I opted for the safe pre-packaged granola bar.  Additionally, I admit, I’m a scaredy cat.  This was not the best part of town.  I had already scanned the area, aware of all surroundings, in broad daylight.  There were 3 construction workers within spitting distance.  There were two people with a phone within yelling distance.  I had my keys between my fingers.  Public universities ran some sort of campaign in the late 90s that trained women to fear being abducted and tortured.  And because I was born nervous, I stay prepared.

This whole thought process took about 15 seconds.  I turned around with granola bar in hand and my best servant smile and started to yell, ‘you can have this!’

But he was gone.

He was nowhere.

I looked all around in every direction and couldn’t see him.  I got in my car and drove around and couldn’t find him.

Gone.

Gone the opportunity to serve.  Gone the opportunity to love.  Gone the opportunity to practice what I had literally preached just a few short weeks before.

For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink…..

UGH!  

I finished my last errand, and went to work.  I couldn’t get a handle on this.  I couldn’t shake it.  I couldn’t get centered even.  I failed that one.  FAILED. I could have taken him to get a meal.  Or the safer ‘wait there, I’ll be right back with a meal.’  I could have done a number of things.

I was feeling so defeated.  Like an utter failure.  For several months my heart cry has been, Lord! I want to love the least of these! the way you did!  the way you commanded us to!  Lord, I want to love my neighbor as myself and keep your commands!  I’ve been consumed with these thoughts. Consumed.

And in His infinite wisdom and abundant grace He whispered in my spirit,

First thing’s first.

What do you mean Lord?

First thing’s first.

What?

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? 

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 

This is the first and greatest commandment.

First thing’s first.

How can I love others well if I don’t love God more?  He is love. 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have [God], I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have [God], I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have [God], I gain nothing. 

Lord,

May my human doings be replaced with my human being.  May I be consumed with You, and only YOU.  And then, and next, and second, and only after I am filled with your all-consuming-fire, may I love others.  May I serve and love and help and witness and teach only from a heart that is so full of You, that loving others is the only possible existence.  But in so doing, may I never neglect to first seek You, to first know You, to first love You.  

Amen.

TREES

My attempts to solve the world’s hunger crisis have proven unsuccessful.  I have about given myself a pulmonary embolism trying to figure out why there are 25,000 deaths due to starvation every single day. There are enough resources in the world to feed the world.  And yet…twenty-five thousand. Yesterday. Today.  Tomorrow.  And the next day.  Why? Why is this true???

Political unrest. Power struggles. Greed. Gluttony.

I see the vast wheat and cornfields in our country.  I see the well-fed population of this nation.  And I gulp every time I scrape uneaten food in my compost.

Today as I explored in the woods with the boys, stopping whenever to investigate whatever, I noticed the trees.  I noticed the dark rough bark of the oaks and the smooth white bark of the birches.  I noticed the enormous leaves of the tulip saplings, waving about as proudly as their sisters who are towering above them.  I noticed the many trees that had fallen in a long ago storm. I noticed the complex root systems intertwined along the mossy ground.  I noticed the booming life in and around the trees, all sustainable by the ecosystems contained therein.

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Today, I noticed the tree in spite of the forest.

And I remembered Reina.

Reina is our ‘daughter’, whom we sponsor through World Vision.  World Vision understands the complexities of eradicating world hunger.  They understand that if a person is starving, he should be fed.  But they also understand that creating sustainability is imperative if hunger is to be tamed.  Creating healthy communities which self-sustain is a greater job than simply dropping off food rations, which can create dependence.  Creating healthy communities takes time.  Lots of time.  There is no quick-fix solution.  There is no convenient answer.

It’s a forest kind of project.

It makes your head spin, your heart burn, and your stomach ache.

World Vision uses sponsorship to foster sustainability by ‘planning and working alongside community members to help build healthy communities for children’.  They’re in it for the long haul.  They don’t miss the forest for the trees.  And they don’t miss the trees for the forest.

We mustn’t forget that within each forest, each community, are individuals.  Real people with real worth and real hearts and real lives.  You get to twenty-five thousand by counting one at a time.  When I was pregnant with our third little boy, it seemed I could do very little from my small American town to alleviate world hunger.  Child sponsorship compelled me.  I began searching online.  When I locked eyes with Reina through the computer screen, I was a blubbering heap on the floor.  I immediately asked Michael if she could be ‘our’ daughter.  (Michael cannot bear to see me cry.  I never abuse this power.  But I so could.)

World Vision also understands the worth of a person is fully realized when the Good News is shared with her.

‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ -Jesus

This is not justification for personal prosperity.  Can we stop mishandling these words?? Having life to the fullest is not having a white picket fence and a 2-car garage.  It is having life in a Living Savior.  Life, when death surrounds you.  Fulfillment, when hunger plagues you.  That’s an abundant life.  And it’s available to anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, or cultural condition.

The tree by which I was the most intrigued today was one bent so low to the ground, it was nearly fallen. It had undoubtedly been struck by a storm.  But there, coming out of the root system, were new little sprigs of bright green life.  It was life among imminent death.  It was hope amidst a broken, fallen world.

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I hope.  I hope that one day hunger will end.  And I hope that those who are fed will be eternally filled with saving grace of our loving Father.  And I pray that I am eternally compelled to do my part, never giving over my hope to apathy, indifference, or despair.

I hope I always see the trees, despite the great forest.