Let's just stop this....

Can we all just agree?  Can we just extend honest, thoughtful, prayerful, grace?  Instead of looking at others sin, can we please acknowledge we have a tree growing out of our own head that needs working on?  I am not perfect, far from it (all fall short).  Sin is rooted in my mind and goes down into my heart and I don't think I am alone in this.  Sure it may not be that evident (or maybe it is), but it is there; pride, rebellion, judgment, bitterness, fear, anger.... I could keep going but I think you get the picture.  I am working on these things, cutting them off at the root in a bit by bit process.  Maybe, when we see something in someone else instead of gossiping, whispering, pondering, complaining about, we should look deeper into our hearts and ask "what log is in our own eye, what tree is growing out of our own head?".  I am tired of apologizing for the hurtful words that have been spoken to our brothers and sisters, words that have wounded them and made them withdraw from the body.  Can we all just agree?  Can we just extend honest, thoughtful, prayerful grace? We have a healer His name is Jesus, we have one who's very job is to convict of sin, His name is Holy Spirit.  We have done enough damage, hurt enough people, let's just stop this stuff.  We are all on the same team.  The church doesn't need more criticism and harsh judgement we get enough of that from the world.  We can be fruit inspectors and celebrate the fruit that is growing in peoples lives but let's stay away from criticism masked as spirituality.  When we truly love(kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, patience, authentic relationship, etc.) we will be filled with the ability to minister wholeness and encourage fruitfulness, without hurting others and that is what I believe Jesus wants from us. I can honestly say, I love the body of Christ but sometimes I hate what it does to one another.  Let's just make love the priority, after all that is the greatest commandment.

Matthew 7:1-5 (HCSB)
1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

What are you wearing?

A reminder that the character of God is what I desire to wear in my life....that strength and nobility are what I put on every day and then I add a little "character" of my own to that. No matter how old I get, I am still a princess, still His daughter and I have a destiny!

Each of us carry that title, that role, as children of God we are those that have an inheritance and a destiny....so put on your Royal garments and step into your destiny.  
He has given us everything we need.  

This is joy....

Yep, I said it.  This full messy sink is joy.  It didn't start out that way.  I looked at it this morning and considered leaving it one more day, after all I have another sink in my island.  Then I rolled my sleeves up and decided to resentfully tackle it.  By resentful I mean, why does it have to be me?  I was the one that did all the cooking.  But as I washed I had a revelation, this was a milestone.  This was a breakthrough.  Grief has a way of making everything so difficult and cooking has been one of those difficulties.  My family has been the recipients of meals for months but they had finally dwindled down to rare.  These lovely people will never really understand what a blessing it was to have those meals delivered. However, I couldn't "not cook" forever, there had to come a time where I got back into cooking for my family.  
So that's what happened this weekend.  The house was full of some of my favorite young people and I cooked and cooked.  Cookies, beef tips, noodles, brownies (well I facilitated that one), tacos, beans, grilled onions and peppers.  It was only a weekend but it was so much more.  It was joy.  Everyone of those dishes represented breakthrough.  Every dish represented laughter and fun as these kids filled our home.  Was it a mess?  Yes, a beautiful mess of love.  So, as I washed those dishes I thanked God for all those that had passed through my home over the weekend, the motorcycle grime that was on door handles and dusty boot prints on the floor, the laughter that had filled the kitchen, the honest conversations that happened, the movies watched, popcorn popped, late night video games, working on trucks and all the other stuff that comes with these boys and their toys.  I thanked God because He brings me joy in the most unexpected places, like a sink filled with dirty dishes.  I thanked Him because if felt like a new place.  Yes, it was just cooking but it was also so much more...It was joy.  

Sacred tears

Sacred Tears
I hope for relief, as pain leaks out of my eyes.  I am embarrassed that I can’t overcome my emotions, but even Jesus wept.  He wept with abandon over the death of Lazarus even though He knew he would soon raise him from the dead.  So then why the guilt over tears?  These tears spilling down my cheeks represent a love, a statement of my loss.  They reveal my humanity, my frailty but also my hope.  For every tear that falls there is a release of pain.  The pain spills down my face, races down my neck and reveals my heart….There is hope in sight, one less tear is yet to fall.  The count of tears that the Lord keeps is being added to and it simply must stand to reason that I am clearly filling up my bottle.  At some point no more tears will fall.  It won’t be soon, in fact it won’t be in this lifetime at all.  We will all continue to reveal our humanity in tears as we suffer in this world.  These wet, little tiny messengers will reveal to the world that we have sorrow and we have compassion.  We will invite others into our tears and sometimes we will join in others tears, it is called the fellowship of suffering.  It is humanity at its best, if we do it well.  If we will invite others into that sacred place of tears and fears, and if we will not run from that place when we see others struggling there.  These sacred tears can be shared tears filled with hope as we walk this journey together with our eyes on heaven. 
I am not hopeless because I know that the God of hope has assured me of this….
 Revelation 21:3-4 (ASV)
3 And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: 4 and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.

My favorite place is grace!

My favorite place, grace.

My Jesus is the gospel of grace.
Grace in my life, in my heart.
My Jesus is the gospel of grace.
Grace pours out, overflowing.
My Jesus is the gospel of grace.
Grace gives hope, in the midst of pain.
My Jesus is the gospel of grace.
Grace buzzes all around me.
My Jesus is the gospel of grace.
Grace covers me and hides me in the secret place.
My Jesus is the gospel of grace.
Grace strengthens me when i am weak. 
My Jesus is the gospel of grace.
And that is my favorite place, the place of grace.

A "Curve Ball" Kinda Life

So strangely, I wrote this "not so" short story back at the end of May.  When I re-read it after Justin went to heaven I found it so strange that I would have written about something so dark and yet beautiful in it's own way.  Life imitating art, I suppose.  Prophetic possibly.  I share it because like all creative people, we just want someone to share in our work. To feel what we  feel, I hope you find it encouraging in some way. 
That you would see how beauty can come out of ashes.

P.S. the characters are all completely fictional...don't read anything into it!  

A Curve Ball kinda life

I pushed my toes deeper into the sand as the cool wind blew through my hair.  What has happened to my life, I sighed deeply.  The waves pushing forward and pulling back from the shore remind me of a life that was lived going forward and retreating, sorrow upon sorrow.  Who is this new woman, I think.  Who could have imagined this?
I am a Mother but not a very successful one.  Oh sure my boys have turned out well, I can’t complain but it hasn’t been easy.  I wanted it to be easy.  I think back on tball and little league and the suburban stupor that I had been living.  A stay at home Mom, that’s what I wanted to be and then suddenly a curve ball nearly knocks me out.  My husband of sixteen years decides he doesn’t want to be married anymore.  Remembering back, I think of the boy I saw get hit right in the head by a high and tight curve ball.  They had to call an ambulance for him as he lay there motionless and every mother in the stands fought back tears of compassion because it could just as easily have been their son.  Fear gripped us all as every Mother’s nightmare was flashing before our eyes.  They took the boy away in an ambulance and I had heard that he had swelling on the brain and that he was going to struggle with recovering his cognitive ability.  That’s how I felt, knocked out by an unsuspecting curve ball, but no one came to take me away in an ambulance.  There were still boys to be cared for, shopping to be done, laundry to fold but inside I was knocked out, comatose unsure if I would ever recover.  The toil of life as I knew it pressed in on me with a force that was nearly unbearable.  My husband, the man that I had trusted with my heart, partnered with for sixteen years now happily playing house with a woman ten years younger than me.  I was alone, deserted.  So what’s a woman to do? I was a woman who only knew her own life by the definition of wife and mother.   I was paralyzed with the thought.
Months went by and my teenage boys became restless and angry.  My Mother offered advice, they need structure, they need discipline, they need their Dad, they need more activities.  Thanks Mom, because I was thinking of giving them no structure, I’ve decided on no discipline and oh yeah I thought I would drive their Dad away and I think I will have them drop out of every activity they are in and just laze around instead.  I think of telling her I will run an ad in the paper for a new Dad, one who will sit through endless baseball games and long exhausting nights hoping they come home safely from the school bonfire and after parties.  The bonus for the position will be the obstinate, arguing they will get to engage in with angry hurting boys that just wish life would have stayed the same.  They got a curve ball too.   I am sure men would have lined up around the block for that job, and don’t forget the bonus of a “middle aged” wife with the ample backside and perky smile that can barely drag herself out of bed to care for her boys and has no financial security and has no idea what she wants to do with the rest of her life.  Yep, that is a job they will be lining up for, thanks Mom for the wisdom
We got through it but not without the pain of disappointments and some ridiculous fights.  It was senior year for the twins and their Dad had decided to move away, as if leaving us wasn’t enough.  He needed a fresh start and he reminded me that I needed one too.  Funny how easy it was for him to say that as he started over somewhere else and I stayed put with our boys.  Same house, same neighbors, same grocery store, everywhere I went I was reminded of our old life.
Fights with teenage boys are interesting, girls talk but boys well….they just sulk.  You get mad because they miss curfew and they freeze you out.  I loathed it and I became my Mother; Screaming, “talk to me” at the top of my lungs.  Begging them to follow rules; crying and screaming intermittently.  I became the crazy mother I never wanted to be.  The worst part was that they had discovered it too.  They played on it, accusing me of being crazy to my face.  I would go to my room and think about what my life had come to, a single mom who is pushed to the brink of insanity by a life not planned for and the difficulties of teenage boys.  Lord, just help me get them through high school in one piece.  And we got through it, but not without battle scars.  One son angry and full of bitterness blames me somehow for his failure to get a college baseball scholarship and somehow his ongoing use of marijuana and half-hearted attendance at junior college is a reflection of my failure as a Mother.  Go figure.  The other boy, the happy go lucky one gets a scholarship has a girlfriend and no time for the “crazy” Mother I have become.  They love me and I love them but it has been a battle and it will take time to heal the scars. 
My man-boys with their lopsided grins and their baseball gloves leave home and I am empty and lonely and can’t decide if I am a failure or a victor.  Parenting was just not what I thought it would be, I had been so diligent and still they went their own way.  Control was merely an illusion and as they grew older the illusion disappeared and I was forced to trust that what I had done right would outweigh what I had done wrong.  I hope that when they get older, when they look back they will understand how hard it was for me.  How scared I was, how unprepared I was for my little boys who used to sit in my lap and tell me they wanted to marry me, these sweet little boys that would tell me how pretty I was, would turn into teenagers that would want to leave me just like their Dad had done.  I knew it sounded crazy but just maybe, they would understand when their children started to grow up.  Maybe their disappointment that I wasn't perfect would be overcome with the realization that no parent is. 
And then they were totally gone.  Just like that.  Another curve ball, low and inside.  What had the coach yelled at the boys about curve balls?  I couldn't quite remember.   I had no one in the house and it was time to find a job and well a life.  I get up and start looking online for a job.  Qualifications; crazy Mother, excellent laundry folder, taxi driver, adept worrier, lazy church goer, baseball team mother, college graduate that never worked, I don’t see any jobs looking for these qualifications.  My Mother calls, oh the dynamics of Mothers and daughters, she reminds me to get dressed and go and do something.  She chatters on about my brother who lives in Africa as a missionary and his lovely wife.  They have a baby I have never met.  A niece, the only granddaughter for my Mother and as you can imagine the joy of the family.  I look forward to seeing her but I rarely even leave my city, my suburban castle with its well-manicured front yard.  I barely make it every month with the alimony that the ex-husband  reluctantly pays.  Our agreement is for him to pay the house payment for another eighteen months and then what will I do?  My Mother rambles on, giving voice to my fears.  She gives me the count down, don’t forget honey you don’t have much more time in the house if you don’t get a job.  Thanks Mom.  I know she means well, just like I mean well with my boys.  It’s just something that happens to you when you are a Mom, the words come out and they sound good in your head but when your kids hear them, well it sounds all wrong to them.  I love my Mom, she means well.
Still no job.  Another mind numbing day in suburbia and I go through the motions of finding some sort of meaning in my life.  I go to Bible study at my church and listen to everyone’s stories.  We all have them I realize. ..Stories.  Some worse and some better, but each one a story that they have lived through.  I would survive, heck I was surviving.  I am a survivor, I would think…. but then I would feel guilty.  Cancer patients are survivors I am just a wife that was left, and a Mother that screamed and now an empty nester with no job.  And another day in suburbia passes me by without much difference.  I lay my head on my pillow to sleep and I think about who I am.  I think about baseball, which has become the context for my viewing life.  I have lived baseball for the last twenty years, first through my husband who played at college then in a league after college, then through the years of ball with my boys.  Baseball not played but watched has filled my life and now well it is the context through which I view my life.  So I lay in the bed watching the game films of my day.  I struck out today, I think.  I’m not even sure I got up to the plate.  Tomorrow I need to at least get up to the plate, but where is it? I drift off to sleep in the land of bleachers, watching my life pass by with no hits, no runs, no anything.  Tomorrow I will get in the game, I whisper to myself as I drift off to sleep.
I wake up with pep in my step.  That’s right I said it, pep in my step.  Into the kitchen I go looking for the plate, not a kitchen plate but a plate to hit a home run at.  Silly girl I think, getting excited about life as a baseball game.  Oh well, whatever keeps me going, and so I go.  I knock on doors and hand out my resume.  I am the crazy screaming Mother, our sons played baseball together I remind them.  They look at me with understanding.  The Mother whose husband left her for the girl that worked at Dairy Queen.  They are sorry but they don’t have any work for my qualifications.  The job market is fierce right now they tell me.  I walk out into the bright sunlight and can’t help but scream out, strike three you’re out!!  I meander back home, taking the scenic route through the little town.  I eat my lean cuisine in front of the television and watch the soap opera I have watched since I was a teenager.  Their lives all seem so exciting and mine; well I am living in a baseball game of my own imagination.  Something seems wrong here but I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Maybe I am crazy, maybe my boys were right.
My boy-man calls, he is the one that is so sensitive and melancholy.  He seems lonely and I listen to him talk about his part time job and his classes.  He seems to want to talk about something more but never quite gets around to it.  We go to hang up and he tells me he loves me, swing and a hit.  The crowd goes wild; well ok I go wild inside my head. He loves me, he said it first!   That is surely worth a first base hit.  Clearly, I am in the game.  I tell him how much I love him and then he tells me I should get a life, a hobby something to make me happy.  I tell him that he makes me happy and he chuckles and says goodnight. 
Another day, another week, another month, another phone call from my Mother, let’s go to Kenya she says.  Let’s go so you can meet your niece.  I consider it; she is the cutest thing in pictures.  She has a bright white smile of tiny little baby teeth, amongst a beautiful brown skinned face with startling blue eyes just like my brothers.  How did she end up with those eyes I wonder, how did she win that genetic lottery.  Her mouth thrown wide open, head tilting back I can almost hear the laughter rolling out of her mouth.  I imagine the type of laughter that I used to love when my boys were little.  I would tickle them mercilessly just to hear that laughter roar out of them.  She was my flesh and blood, my brother’s daughter and I had never even met her.  Yes, I said to my Mother and that was the beginning of something.  Something different than my suburban living, my mothering identity, that was the beginning of something new.
I grab some sand and let it drift slowly out of my hands it is caught in the breeze and blows away from me in a tiny stream….yes, that was the beginning of something new….I look out to the water and think back to that moment, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  None at all.
So that’s how it started.  The playing field changed that moment.  I applied for a passport, began gathering clothes appropriate for Kenya, and told my Bible study group about my trip, told my boys who were excited for me.  Good, my happy go lucky boy said, you need to get out of town and enjoy life. So I put on my game face, we set a date and got the tickets and before you knew it we were on the plane.  I had only flown twice before both short flights but now I was traveling for twenty four hours.  Twenty four hours with my mother, what had I done?  She is funny and we laugh.  I can tell she is trying not to push any of my buttons.  No talk of the future, no talk of the ex, no talk of the house, she just chatters on about Letty, the precious girl born to my tow head (well not anymore now it was more dishwater blonde), blue eyed brother and his beautiful  dark skinned Kenyan wife.  She talks of their work there in Kenya with orphans and I think of how I never hear of orphans in America.  Of course, I rarely hear of anything in my suburban castle.  Just the complaints of too much noise coming from leaf blowers, yes I signed that petition.  Every once in a while I heard people talking about evangelizing down at the park where the homeless people hang out, that is definitely not for me I would think.  Scary people.  Yes that was the beginning of some sort of shift in my game.  My mother continues to talk about the great work, the love my brother has for these Kenyan people.  My brother, the one that tortured me by burning my favorite Barbie doll is now in love with a country and its people that I have never even seen.  Hard for me to imagine from my ivory tower. 
We fly lower and lower until I can see the landscape, flat with stripes of greenery.  Getting lower I see fields of brown waving in the breeze and giraffes grazing in trees.  Right there by the airport, I scream like a school girl for my Mother to look.  She laughs and grabs my hand, this is going to be a great adventure she whispers and for the first time I see my Mother as my co-conspirator, as my friend.  We are on the same team and we climb off the airplane together, stepping into our adventure.  I hit the tarmac and think to myself ok, game on! 
At the baggage claim I see my brother and his beautiful wife.  I run to hug him and see hiding behind them the precious Lefty.  Three years old, she is small enough to hide behind her mother but once she sees Nana she jumps out and throws her arms around Nana.  She repeats her name over and over, nanannanannannana….puts her hands on either side of her face and looks right into my Mothers face and plants a big wet messy adorable kiss on my Mothers lips.  It has been a long time since I have seen this kind of love.  I have forgotten the joy of that kind of abandoned, reckless love.  My niece throws herself backward out of my Mother’s arms knowing full well her daddy will catch her.  So he does and I introduce myself to her, this stranger that is family smiles the biggest smile she could possibly smile and leans into me and says hi and my entire world melts away into that smile.  Why hadn’t come sooner, I think.  Then we load our bags up and head for their home. 
I have never seen anything like this.  Poverty, intense horrible poverty and standing on corners begging for change young starving children.  Not the kind we see in America that don’t look like they are starving, these children they look like they are literally starving.  Houses built out of mud, shacks really.  They are lined up for miles one on top of another.  Like a snake winding its way through a city it flows along the outskirts.  I am overwhelmed with sadness as I view the scenery, this scenery that is nothing like my suburban fortress.  My city is like a Disneyland compared to this.  My city that keeps all the dirty stuff locked behind gated communities and closed doors, my house that has carpet and wood floors and has always had running water.  My brother’s wife gives me a narrative of where we are and how the people live here in the city, that they pay rent to live in the slums and many can’t even afford to bathe.  She tells of the children that can’t go to school because they don’t have the fees that it cost just to go to elementary school.  My children had gone to school and we had never batted an eye, it was their right.  My children that had never wanted for anything, never gone hungry and now I looked at these children waving as we drive by, they look hungry and at the same time they look happy.  Happy in this life, this squalor?  I am curious as to how that is possible.  I can’t even be happy in my castle at home, how can they be happy in this squalor?
We pull up to a gate with a guard.  Letty is clapping her hands and singing a song to my Mother as my brother waves at the guard and he lets us in.  In we go, to a compound of a few homes, we pull up in front of the largest one and park.  My brother announces that he will get our bags and we should follow my sister in law, Anna into the main living area.  This is all new to me; my Mother looks completely at ease I however am finding myself at a complete loss.  My brother has left a good job, a successful life in America for this.  A house of concrete block bricks with cement floors, no dry wall just brick.  I am relieved to see a sink that clearly denotes running water.  I ask for the bathroom and Anna points the way.  What have I got myself into I think.  I glance into one of the rooms, a bedroom with a net over the bed.  I have a moment of sheer terror as I imagine dive bombing mosquitos carrying malaria attacking me.  Hold it together, I think to myself.  What was it the coaches would say to the boys about baseball, the game is all played in your head?  Don’t let anything get inside your head that doesn’t belong there, keep your head in the game!  Ok my head is in the game, I refuse to be scared of the mosquitos.  I go to the bathroom; I can live with the layout there.  It flushes and really that is all that matters to me.  I wash my hands in the drizzle that comes out over a shallow bucket that I assume is to keep the left over water for reuse. 
We join together for dinner, happy conversations drifting around the table.  Little girl laughter pierces the night as we make our way over to the couch and chairs.  No television to gather around and so we talk.  My sister-in-law unfolds her story of the uprising after a bad election, of the death of many of her family members and the heartbreak that it had brought into the nation.  Parents that lost children, children that lost parents, a nation divided and destroying itself.  I think of a verse I had heard recently, something about a house divided against itself cannot stand.  This is what it sounds like had happened in Kenya; the Kenyans turned against one another and destroyed their own people and tore apart the nation.  Now they were slowly restoring and there was a quite peace among the tribes but still a lingering suspicion of one another, life as she had known it was still not restored.  In all the mayhem that had ensued the economy had been decimated and poverty escalated.  The hungry were everywhere and parents who could not feed their children were turning to orphanages out of desperation. 
I think of my own children, could I have ever turned them over to someone else to care for because I couldn’t?  What horror that must be to see your children crying in hunger and be able to do nothing.  My heart is tattered and beaten with the thought of this.  Crocodile tears run down my face as I feel a deep longing to hold my own man-boys in my arms.  My own boys that had never known hunger for days, rarely even for hours.  I think back on a time when the youngest had cried in the back seat because he was so, so hungry and that if I didn’t stop and get him an ice cream he might just die.  True story.  This is my experience with hungry children, a demand for a McDonald’s ice cream cone.  How can one place be both beautiful and brutal at the same time?  Kenya with this beautiful, laughing, bright-eyed little girl and Kenya with its stories of murder, starvation and AIDS.  Beautiful and brutal.  The room grows quite, the dogs bark a mournful contagion of sympathy and I shiver at the thought of a beautiful land turned so brutal.  It is time for bed, with no television to watch conversation and early bed times are the alternative.  My Sister in law with her warm inviting smile kisses me on my cheek and tells me how glad she is to have me in her home and how excited she is to share her Kenya with me.  I try to imagine her without that bright, warm smile.  How long had she lived in those days without a smile? How long had depression and despair hung over her heart?  How deep were the scars that are left from such loss?   How long had it taken to find laughter again after such tragedy?  Little Letty throws her arms around me, puts her hands on my face and kisses my face with giggles that force a smile out of me, even though I feel sad.  Suddenly my brother grabs her and throws her up in the air, she laughs and laughs and he grins.  It is the happiest I have ever seen him.  I want to capture that moment and hold unto it forever, a snapshot of what life is supposed to be, a life full of laughter and joy not hunger and pain.  So we say goodnight and we all march to our respective rooms.  I put on my pajamas, take my malaria medicine and crawl under the mosquito net.  I feel sure I can hear the buzzing as they try to infiltrate my net and I say a quite prayer for the Lord to keep my safe, and by safe it is a multi- faceted prayer.  Safe from mosquitos and the brutality of this land, but also safe from the tsunami of emotions that are washing over me as I am faced with a world that I have never known.  This world that is my brother’s world; a world that I have never known and yet am somehow connected with.  As I drift off to sleep, I hear the cry of a baseball coach somewhere in my mind saying, watch out it’s going to be a curve ball.  Silly girl I think, still with the baseball thinking…..and I drift off.
I sleep surprisingly well all things considered.  I wake before it is light and listen to the birds chirping and some Muslim chanting somewhere in the distance.  I sit up in my bed and try to decide what to do, finally I decide to pull a chair over and watch the landscape change as the sun comes up.  The sky changes color and the lush landscape of the compound we are in shines brightly.  The sky is like a brightly colored watercolor.  Orange, pink, purple and black and then the sun crest over the horizon.  I can’t remember ever being able to watch the sun come up over the horizon, too many homes or buildings but right here and right now I could see the horizon.  In view a field of blowing grass and a few scattered trees and the sun.  Out of the corner of my vision I see a man pushing some cows along, the skinniest cows I have ever seen.  He is dressed in some type of traditional clothing, almost looks like an Irish tartan plaid.  I smile thinking this must surely be a poor assessment of the situation and remind myself to ask my sister in law over breakfast about this man herding the cows.  A humming bird comes and dances in front of my face, looks right in the window at me as if to remind me of how lazy I am being, its wings beating so fast that I cannot even see the movement and its little body darting back and forth and all around the window.   Look at me, she cries out.  Look how hard I work to ensure my babies get fed.  I wonder to myself if hummingbirds die when there is a famine.  Sadness envelopes me for this land and its people. 
I venture out into the kitchen and see my brother there with a steaming cup of coffee.  He offers me a cup and I gladly accept it.  No creamer, I assume since none is offered and I grin to myself.  What was I thinking going to a third world country and expecting creamer?  Out strolls a sleepy headed little Letty, she stumbles along as though she has weights attached to her feet.  She crawls up into her daddy’s lap, lays her head on his chest and pops her thumb in her mouth.  She rest there for a little bit with her eyes half closed and I sit quietly not wanting to disturb this beautiful sight.  My brother and his baby a glimpse into heaven I feel sure.  I think of my Father gone for many years now, I think of his frail body at the end of his life and I think of his strong body when I was younger.  I think of a Father-Daughter dance in which we danced all night long.  Me with my feet placed on top of his while he spun me all around the dance floor.  The joy of being the princess for the night with a Father that I just knew could fix any problem and take me to a castle one day.  My Daddy, my hero.  My brother would hopefully have some moments like that with precious Letty.  I wonder if he thinks about our Dad now that he is a Dad.  Does he feel the sadness like I do, lurking behind the scenes.  Dad the missing person from the picture.  Our Dad had died of a sudden heart attack ten years ago and the ache and sadness was still there.
Letty suddenly perks up and grabs her Daddys coffee.  I start to protest and then realize this is his daughter and he gets to decide if she can have some coffee.  She sips it just like a grown up, sighs deeply and sets it down.  She looks at me and grins, pushes her curly hair back off of her forehead, turns her head slightly and ask me how long I have known her daddy.  I grin back and say all his life, to which she breaks out in a huge laughter and calls me silly.  I repeat that I have always known him because he is my brother and I am older.  She looks at him and looks at me and then loudly proclaims that she will be my sister too!  My brother laughs and explains that I am her aunt not sister.  She just argues, noooo she’s not, she is my sister and thus became my journey of being called “sitter” instead of aunt.  My sister in law hears all the commotion and comes to join us.  We make a leisurely breakfast and then get dressed.  Nana joins us late, she is adjusting to Kenya time she tells my brother.  I think she may be fibbing, trying to give my brother and I time to reconnect.  Her plan has worked and I feel comfortable with him once again.  Time passes and sometimes years can go by between seeing each other but we still always manage to feel like family again, easily stepping back into the rhythm of older sister and younger brother only now he is experiencing something I have known for a long time-parenthood.  It suits him well and I am proud of him. 
I hear children playing outside and Letty grabs my hand to take me outside into the courtyard.  Standing in the sun I watch as at least a dozen children come streaming out of the few houses there on the compound.  They are fascinated with me and my white skin and blonde hair, my brothers skin is tanned and his hair what we sometimes affectionately called dog vomit brown.  I was something they didn’t often see, blond and blue eyed with long straight hair.  They spoke heavily accented English as they greeted me and touched my hair.  A chorus of “how are you” rang out all around me and these smiling happy children greeted me over and over again.  My brother comes out and stands beside me, they are so beautiful he says leaning over into me.  When I look into their happy faces I believe I see Jesus.  I look closer at them.  Why do we always paint Jesus as white?  I think to myself, He may have looked just like these children.   These are orphans he tells me, they live on the property with us, in the other homes.  It is as close to regular family life as we can get for them he says.  They live with a couple and their own children along with however many children they can reasonably fit.  I think to myself how small the houses look.  My brother sees the wheels turning and fills me in; he tries not to put more than twelve children in one house.  I am astounded, twelve children?  I can’t even imagine, but of course I can’t.  I live in a three thousand square foot house with two children and apparently a man that didn’t even love me.  We stayed in our separate corners and separate beds and separate rooms until finally we couldn’t even do that.  Maybe I should have seen that curve ball coming. 
More children pour out of the homes and suddenly I am surrounded by an army of love.  Their wide open faces smiling at me, hands touching my hair, little dark hands ringing my fingers all pushing and pulling me along towards the gated opening out onto the street... They are all in school uniforms with their faces scrubbed clean and their eyes shining brightly with excitement.  My brother is walking behind the small army formation of some thirty or so children.  At the gate I hesitate and the children sing out their goodbyes to my brother and me.  They skip, jump and run away up the street.  The older ones holding hands with the younger ones, and one little boy walking slower than the rest turns around and waves at us while screaming out that he loves us.  He has two different socks on and his shorts are cinched tight with a piece of rope, but he seems to be the happiest little boy I have ever seen.  I feel somehow different, different than I felt just twenty-four hours ago.  I feel happy and I am acutely aware of this new joy.
My brother nudges me; I must have been standing there in the bright sunshine just watching them travel down the road like a little swarm of bees.  He grins at me and explains that they will walk three miles to get to school.  Three miles, sheez can't they take a bus?  He laughs and tells me they are happy just to get to go to school, many don't.  If you can’t pay school and uniform fees you can’t go to school.  Because of the fees many of the kids are very behind, before living with them they had not been in school for several years.  Many have spent years begging or caring for sick parents.  For several years most of these kids have been just barely surviving.  Several years, I thought to myself….I had been in a spiritual coma for several years barely surviving too.  How interesting that my life could somehow run so parallel to these precious little children’s.  They live in a world of physical famine and I had been living in a world of spiritual famine.  Shame on me for my self-absorption, I think to myself.
My brother walks me into one of the homes where six toddlers are gathered around a table coloring as the “house mother” is teaching them to say the colors in English.  They all look up with bright shining faces and say, “how are you?”.  I reply that I am fine and they echo my “fine” six more times.  Little precious voices filled with hope and joy as they giggle and talk to one another around the table, I can’t help but smile just looking at them.  My Mother walks in and stares at me with her head cocked sideways and a smile tickling the corners of her mouth.  We all walk outside into the bright sunshine and my Mother wraps her arm around my waist and whispers in my ear, “It’s good to see you happy.”  Happy, why yes I think I am happy.  I am happy, I say out loud and then I smile and laugh and grab my brother around his waist and hug him tight.  Thank you,  is all I can manage to say.  I am strangely choked up and my context for life seems to be changing drastically.  Baseball seemed like a ridiculous luxury and an even more ridiculous context for my life.
For the next few weeks He drags us around to different areas of the city to feed children and visit sick Mommas.  We take food as we weave our way through small little corridors between one room tin homes.  Starving dogs watch us as we move through their territory.  Children come running to us with their hands out.  Oh how I wish I could feed all of them.  But we can’t, my Brother reminds me we can only help those that the Lord is directing us to.  And so we trudge on through dirty trails and into homes that are filled with children that haven’t eaten for days.  Homes where the Moms are dying of AIDS and the children are starving.  We bring hope in the form of food and clean water to remind them of Jesus “living water”.  We share a brief Bible Study in each home and before you know it my Brother has me sharing from the Bible myself.  Wouldn’t my friends back home think this was funny?  The woman whose husband left her for the girl that worked at Dairy Queen, now teaching Bible Studies in Kenya?  How they would marvel at this turn around.   No makeup, my hair pulled back off my face and dressed in a long skirt, well they would probably say that is exactly why my husband left.  I have no style.  Truthfully, I have some style but it seems rather unimportant now in the scheme of things. 
In the evenings we tutor the kids and get to know them by name.  I fall in love with each one of them and wonder what the future will hold for them.  I strive to teach them well, for I know their futures will be tied to their education.   Little Letty has taken to crawling into bed with me at night and I welcome her tiny little body pressed up against mine.  Her hair that is a combination between her Kenyan heritage and her American heritage smells like the earth and her breath reminds me of my man-boys when they were little.   I pray over her as she sleeps and I think that Kenya may be one of the poorest countries but to me it is one of the happiest places, much happier than Disneyworld. 
And now it is time to go home, back to the uncertainty of life as I know it.  Back to life in my brick castle; with all my luxuries, to my few friends, to strained smiles at the grocery store and too much time on my hands.  I cry as I say goodbye to Letty and I promise I will be back soon.  She says good I will see you next week then, with her little arms crossed and one foot splayed out to the side.  Toddler attitude looks so different on a niece than it did on my own children.  I bend down and put my hands on either side of her shoulders, it won’t be next week I tell her but it will be before Christmas.  Her face lights up at the mention of Christmas, a good diversion I realize from the sadness of the moment.  I will bring you presents I tell her and her face breaks into a huge smile and she throws her arms around my neck and showers me with kisses.  Yes, I will bring her presents because she has already given me one.  Herself.
I cry some more on the plane and my Mom cries with me.  She holds my hand and we sit in silence as I try to digest what has happened to me over the past few weeks.  I am different, my Mom is different.  My whole world seems different somehow.  My perspective has shifted, value has been redistributed and hope has been stirred up within me.  There is more to my life than just my suburban slumber.  My Mom and I begin to hatch a plan to raise money for my brother’s orphanage; we talk of a University fund for the children that will finish school at the Orphanage.  We plan and dream for the rest of our trip of how we can help and how soon we can get back.  I will have to get a job but it will have to provide me with plenty of time to travel.  This could be tricky, I think to myself and then we land. 
My man-boys are there to greet us.  They haul our luggage like it is weightless and they are kind enough to say they missed me.  I smile because I know that despite my failures they are good men with good manners.  They drop me at my suburban castle and leave to drop their grandma off promising to come have dinner on Saturday with me.  I wander around my large, carpeted, expensive home with its fancy television and its surround sound system and I feel slightly sick at the thought of how much excess I am living in.  My suburban dream home feels more like a prison as I settle in for the night.  I crawl in my King size bed and flip on the television with the remote.  The bed feels massive and only seems to emphasize my aloneness.  I watch mindless television and feel guilty about the cost of the cable television.  I think of how I should simplify my life as I drift off to sleep.   
My suburban slumber begins again, day after day I live my inconsequential life.  They hire me at my church and I enjoy the ability to help them with bookkeeping and organizing.  I initially share my Kenya stories with everyone I meet and hope to draw them into my excitement about the children there.  No one seems to get as excited as me and over time my excitement wanes as I begin to forget their little happy faces and their sing song voices.  My Mother and I plan our next trip but it seems far off and the day to day of everyday life seems to wash it away from my mind. 
Until that night.
I am asleep in my brick castle, my giant bed that feels as empty as my heart when suddenly the doorbell rings.  I incorporate the sound into my dream and then it rings again and again, I am shocked awake.  I sit straight up in bed and look at the clock, it is 5am.  I throw my robe on as fear grips me, it must be the police I think.  Please don’t let one of my boys be dead, God please don’t let it be death.  I throw open the door and it’s my Mother.  Red-eyed and shaking, she is wearing sweats and looks completely disheveled.  She walks straight in and sits on the couch, I know this is terrible news.  I start to back away from her, I don’t want to know.  I find myself whispering that I don’t want to know, don’t tell me its one of my boys I tell her.  She shakes her head and motions me to sit down, its not one of your boys she says calmly, its my boy.  It’s Jakey, she says.  He has been in a terrible accident and he is on life support and his wife is dead.  No, no it can’t be?  Are they sure?  What about Letty?  I think of Letty, the beautiful bright eyed laughing bundle of joy and I choke on my sobs.   What about Letty?  I scream at my Mother.  She shakes her head and says Letty is in the hospital and they won’t give her any other information than that. 
We sit heartbroken for a moment, my Mother shaking uncontrollably and then I fly into action.  I put on coffee and ask my Mother, What do we do now?  My Mother sits in shock, I can barely believe she drove herself over here.  She pulls her phone out, and mumbles that she has to make some calls.  Who called you Mom?  I ask her.  The American Consulate called her and we need to call them back within a few hours she tells me.  I drink the coffee.  I listen to my Mother make a few more calls.  She hangs up and breaks again, tears rolling down her face and a mother’s wail for her boy escapes her lips.  I run to her and hold her and think of how much I have always loved my brother no matter the distance of time, he was and will always be my brother.  The one who built tents with me in the back yard, who teased me when I first liked a boy, who told me I was beautiful when my heart got broke by that boy and who I drove to and from the skating rink over and over again.  We cry together and I recognize this is harder on my mother than me and I am going to have to be strong.  She wails a cry that is full of nothing but pain, she screams and eventually quiets down.  I say a quiet prayer for the Lord to give me strength.  I ask my Mother for phone numbers and I begin making calls, first the consulate.  They suggest we travel there to say goodbye to Jakey and make arrangements for Letty.  This sounds hopeful for Letty, my ears perk up a momentary happiness in the darkness.  They don’t know anything they tell me, except she is expected to make it.  Her car seat saved her, they tell me.  I hang up the phone and tell my Mother, Letty is going to be ok Mom.  She cries.  She cries the tears of someone who is barely holding on, teetering between grief and relief but with no hope of escaping the grief.  We have to go, she says. 
I begin calling the airlines, with each call I have to explain our circumstances.  Asking for discounts and arrangements to be made for us to be escorted through lines, the consulate helps.  Once the arrangements are made, we begin calling friends and family.  It is an overwhelming task.  My pastor shows up, he prays with us and his wife stays.  She makes breakfast; she puts on laundry as we begin packing.  One of my friends from Bible Study shows up, she brings cash.  You will need cash to travel she says as she stuffs money into my purse.   This is why church family is important, I think to myself.  Moments like these when you can’t seem to move because your body becomes so heavy with grief that if won’t work. 
 It’s only six hours since my Mother showed up at my door, my pastors wife is making calls in the background from a list my Mother gave her and we are sitting silently on the couch both thinking of my brother.  To one he was a son; to one he was a brother to both of us it is a loss.  It is three hours to till our airplane will take off, now what I think.  Time seems to be the enemy, sitting still is the only option but I am terrified to feel the full effect of grief.  I get up, my Pastor’s wife materializes out of the background, I have to finish packing I say.  She follows me to the room and helps me go through my suitcase to be sure I have packed well.  I get dressed, no makeup today.  I pack some just in case I decide to wear it.  She checks my suitcase and asks if I should pack a sweater or raincoat, so practical I think to myself.  Yes to both I say.  She diligently grabs some more things out of my closet and closes the suitcase for me; she lugs it out to the front door.  My mother is right where I left her, sitting quietly on the couch. 
Mom, we have to go to your house and pack.  She stands up dutifully and we head out the door, the phone rings and the Pastors wife runs back in to answer it.  I hear her quietly explaining what has happened and saying there is nothing anyone can do right now because we are leaving for Kenya in just a few hours.  She drives us to my Mothers.  My eyes keep leaking what my heart is feeling, I am not sobbing it is just a stream of tears that won’t cease.  We pull up to her house, something about this house that my brother and I grew up in makes me cry even more.  Memories well up inside of me and a well of regrets come to my mind.  I should have spent more time with him, I should have gone to his wedding in Kenya, I should have held his hand when I saw him, I should not have let him cover for me when I was in college and wrecked my car, I should haves fill my mind as we walk through the door. 
My pastors wife goes to work, finds a suitcase and helps my Mother pack.  I grab toiletries from the bathroom and then I step into my old room which is now a guest room that has some of my stuff and some of my brother’s stuff.  I see his baseball glove and I grab it, I open the closet door and there on the floor is a collection of my Barbie’s and a few dolls.  I pick out a few and come into my Mother’s room and drop them into her suitcase, the pastors wife looks at them but doesn’t say a word.  I think to myself that she is wonderful and later I will tell her how much I appreciate her, but right now I can’t talk.  Any words spoken my break open a dam that I won’t be able to contain.  Right now, I have to be about holding it together.  Right now I can’t think about the pain, the loss, the disbelief.  We close the suitcase together.  She seems comfortable with no talking, and I am glad. 
We head to the airport, we go through security, we board our plane and then we hold hands.  We wish we could sleep, but we can’t.  I can only imagine my Mothers grief, it’s different than mine I know for sure.  I can’t even imagine life without my man-boys, they are from me, a part of me.  It would be like having a limb amputated, every moment of every day something would be missing.  I think about my brother’s wife, so beautiful and now just gone.  I think about her family suddenly and their involvement with Letty.  I feel fear creep in as I imagine Letty living somewhere dangerous or being very poor without proper nutrition.  I can’t stand the thought.  Thankfully we eventually fall asleep, but even sleep doesn’t bring relief from the grief.  I find myself dreaming of my brother and crying in my sleep.  Jakey, I am saying to him, come back and He is standing in the sunlight with children all around him smiling back at me with no reply.  I awaken with a start, jarred back to my sad reality.  My Mother is awake, drinking a coca cola with swollen red eyes she is staring straight into the back of the seat in front of her.  Lost in thought, I can only imagine what she is thinking of.  My mind drifts to all the change in the last few years, my divorce and the boys moving out….but this, this was a curveball I never saw coming.  I imagine that curveball and my falling to ground in an attempt to not be hit by the ball.  I imagine my boys High School coach shouting….c’mon get up, he got you on that one but you’ll get the next one, swing hard!  I imagine hitting the coach in the face, I imagine my brother is the pitcher, I wonder how my mind got to all these thoughts.  I shake my head, what a mess I am inside of this head.    
We land and the consulate has someone waiting for us, they steer us to a vehicle and get our luggage and we head to the Hospital.  My Mother and I sit silent in the back seat of these strangers.   There is a supernatural grace that has enveloped us as we go about the business at hand.  We hear them call ahead for the Doctor to be available.  I feel a deep sense of dread, I want to go back in time, I don’t want to do this.  We are greeted as we walk in by a hospital administrator who escorts us through a maze of hallways.  I glance into a room and see an old man lying in a bed.  All alone, his eyes are open wide and they lock with mine.  He seems to be saying, get me out of here.  I break eye contact with him and feel sad for him and his all aloneness.  Then I think about my brother being all alone too.  I walk faster and encourage them to walk faster my brother shouldn’t be alone another minute.  And then suddenly we are there. 
The Doctor is outside of his door.  He greets us and tells us that my brother is not really there, he suffered a traumatic head injury and his body is all that is left.  He is so sorry.  I think to myself, how sorry can he be this isn’t his son or his brother.  We step across the threshold into a room filled with machines and tubes.  My brother is not alone to my surprise, I don’t know who the man is but it doesn’t matter in the moment.  My Mother and I go to each side and hold my brothers hands, it crosses my mind to pray for a miracle but instead I cry.  We cry.  The Doctor was right, my brother is not there.  He is lifeless, his spirit gone.  Machines are making him breathe but suddenly I think of my dream of him standing among all of those children in the bright African sun.  He is in heaven already and it is full of bright shining faces and the beautiful son.  I don’t pray for him to come back to us, that seems selfish in light of where he is.  I pray for us, I pray for those that loved my brother.  I pray that we would know what to do now.  I pray that we would know how to live well without him.  We sit with him for hours like this, I think I have fallen asleep with my head on his bed.  Finally we get up, my Mother kisses his face, I hold his hand up to my face and whisper his name.  The nurse tells us it won’t be long and we stand and watch him breath his last breath.  He is at peace, my Mother says.  We cling to one another and weep and then the man that had been in the room with my brother ask us if we would like to see Letty.
Letty, yes we would like to see Letty.  Letty with the open bright smile and the sing song voice, Letty who could snuggle in bed beside me perfectly.  Yes, take us to Letty.  We follow him to the children’s ward, my mother and I like walking zombies we trudge along hoping to find something to bring life back into our bones.  We walk into the room, there are beds lined up and Letty is in bed with another child playing with paper dolls.  She turns to look at us and screams with delight!  She has stitches in her head and her arm is in a cast but she is well.  Well enough to jump off the bed and into my arms calling me her sister that she loves.  She jumps from me to her nana, and grabs my mother’s face in her hands and tells her not to be so sad.  Letty this little impishly perfect child with an imperfect scar across her forehead and the light of Jesus shining out of her comforts us.  She looks right into my face and tells me Mommy and Daddy are with Jesus and all the little children. She says to me the bright sun is shining on them and they are happy.  I know tears are running down my face, but I can’t help it.  She sees the same thing I saw in my dream.  I lock eyes with my mother who nods her head up and down.  We tell Letty we are happy for Mommy and Daddy but sad for us, we will miss them.  That is the truth.
We sit and chat with Letty.  She tells us how she woke up in the hospital and how the doctors were very nice to her.  She tells us the other children’s stories that she is with, one is from an orphanage and one is from the streets and got very sick because he didn’t have a mommy or daddy.  She boldly tells us we should take him home with us.  His name is David, like King David she tells us.  We explain that right now we can only take her but maybe later.  The Doctor comes in and tells us we can take her.  The man that had been in my brothers room appears again and tells us he worked for my brother.  I look at him again and remember him from the grounds and one of the houses.  We will stay in my brother’s house he informs us with authority.  They will help us, he says in broken English.   
We go, we travel at night which I think we are not supposed to do but we do.  We are exhausted, tomorrow there will be arrangements that need to be made but for now we will sleep.  Letty crawls into bed with me and her sweet smell fills my heart with a brief moment of happiness.  At least we still have Letty I think to myself as I drift off.  I awaken to the sound of children in the courtyard, they are playing and laughing preparing to leave for school.  I look out the window, my brother gave his life for these children.  They are happy and beautiful and I understand why he lived here, why he built this place and why he said he would always live here.  He loved the people and he loved the land. 
Letty and I walk out hand in hand, her feet scuttling on the floor.  My Mother is already at the kitchen table with coffee in her hands, I fix myself a cup and sit down.  Letty crawls up into my mothers lap and grabs her coffee.  My Mother who wouldn’t even let us drink soda as children, let’s her granddaughter drink coffee and Letty sighs deeply after she swallows it.  A sigh that seems to old for her little three year old frame.  My mother says, we will bury him here in Kenya with his wife.  I know this voice, she is certain.  I think about my boys and getting them to Kenya.   People come and go through the house, people that loved my brother and his wife.  Many Americans that he had relationship with through ministry that have become friends bring food and make calls to let others know they have passed away.  His missionary superintendent comes, he offers to help and we let him make arrangements.  We wait to hear from my brother’s wife’s family.  Our hearts desire is to bury them together.
Finally, we are told that both Lettys parents are dead and only her brother is alive and he will not be taking custody of Letty.  He cannot travel from Uganda for any services.  We add her to the services , it will be a double service.  Arrangements are made, we go through the motions.  I assume it is nice, the place is packed, and we are numb.  The children from the homes sing a song at the very end, I cannot understand the words I only know that it makes me cry.  The walking dead, in a sea of faces we wander aimlessly thanking people for coming.  This must be God I think, this must be grace that is carrying us through.  We leave and go to the gravesite; it is beautiful on a hill with a large tree shadowing it.  My man-boys are with me, guiding me back to the vehicle.  My ex-husband is here.  An uncommon truce between us.  A sadness seems to float all around us, only Letty seems to be all right.
I awaken the next day to hear my boys laughing outside, I open the curtains and find them playing baseball with the kids.  They don’t have gloves, just a wiffle ball set and some paper for bases, but they are teaching them the game.  I go to my Mothers room and grab my brothers glove out of her suitcase, I run out in my pajamas to play with the kids.  We throw the ball around, we teach them how to hit, I am good at this, I have had lots of practice throwing baseballs.  Then it is time for them to leave for school, they laugh and sing and kiss me goodbye.  They call me Momma and my heart melts.  My boys watch all the commotion with wonder and then we all go in for coffee. 
We sit at the table, my family.  My man-boys and my Mother and sip our coffee while Letty sits on the floor playing with my old Barbies.  My white, shiny, skinny Barbies.  I wonder if she thinks they look weird.  I look around the table and state matter of factly, I am not leaving.  My Mother looks at me, my boys look at me and then suddenly they all break into laughter.  I am indignant, what are you laughing about?  My mother says, they placed bets on me staying.  I ask her what she bet and she says, she took their bet but knew she would lose.  Letty should grow up here, I respond.  Her parents work should continue.  I don’t know how I will do it, but it is the right thing to do, I state.  My Mother puts her hand on mine and says she will help me.  That easily, everything was settled.  My Mother would go home, put my house on the market, pack my stuff and send it and my man-boys would plan on traveling back and forth several times a year.  My mother would come for two months and go home for two months at a time.  It was settled.  
And now here I was sitting on the beach, who would have thought that broken woman from years ago would end up in Kenya.  No more retreating like the waves, no more sorrow upon sorrow, I am only moving forward.  I let the sand drift out of my hands and catch in the wind.  No one really ever knows where the wind will blow them.  What God will do, if we give him the chance?  Who could have known that heartbroken woman of six years ago would end up on a beautiful beach in Kenya on Holiday with her new family.  I have taken a break from the work at the orphanage homes to get away with my new family.  The wind blows my hair into my eyes and for a moment I think I see my brother on the horizon.  I often see him here in Kenya, in the eyes of a child in the warm greeting of another American he seems to be everywhere I experience love.  I suppose that is because he personified love, a great love for Kenya and its people.  I smile as I realize it is not my brother towards me, it is a boy named David, the boy from the hospital and trailing behind him is a little girl named Letty.  They have clothed themselves in seaweed and are laughing hysterically.  Their laughter is battered by the sound of the waves and together it makes a delightful sound.  They run to me and throw themselves down on the ground beside me.  Letty places her head on my shoulder, I love you sitta she says.  My heart swells with a love and contentment I have not known for years and years.  I was made for this moment I think to myself.  My man-boys are yelling for help as they lug a cooler down to the beach from the hotel and the moment is broken but the feeling remains.  God has changed me through sorrow and pain, he broke me and remade me and this person that I have become, this woman well she can take a curve ball and turn it into a home run.   The man-boys arrive huffing and puffing from their work with the cooler, my Mother walks behind them with a bag of toys and now my family is complete.  Complete for now, there is always someone missing, a father and a son but it doesn’t rob us of our joy it just reminds us of how much better it will be when we get there, together.  After all this isn’t our home, we belong to heaven.  Our broken and tattered, different colored family shines brightly for Jesus and somewhere my Father, brother and his beautiful wife are surrounded by children and they are laughing at our love for their people that have become our people.  I suspect they knew it all along, it was a curve ball that they somehow saw coming.  I sigh a happy sigh as my man-boys start throwing the ball around with their new brother and sister, this is my life and I love it.  My mom places her hand over mine and we smile with a shared understanding that pain can usher in joy,  if we will take the chance and swing the bat. My oldest son places the bat in Letty’s hands and gives her instruction on how to swing the bat and I lay back in the warm Kenyan sun and allow happiness to fill my heart as I drift off to sweet sleep.  This is my life and it is just what I wanted even though I never knew it. 

My no fear, give myself away... new year.

So it's been awhile since I wrote here...in this place.  So much has happened, the pain so deep.  But this is my no fear, new year, my put the fear away and give myself away... new year.  My look deep into the dark and see the light new year.  My stitched back together new year, as I had come undone last year and may again this year.  My hold unto the grace moments, my embrace the sad moments, my sorrowful yet always rejoicing year.  My walk through the valley but covered by His shadow, new year.  A new depth of understanding, a new depth of love, a new anointing born out of anguish as I walk through the valley.  A new ability to carry both grief and joy in the same heart.  To breathe in life in the simplest of things, to feel His power and sustaining grace, to know Him even in the sorrow, is to grow and be changed.  To surrender to the not understanding and just fall into the trusting. To have faith tried and still be standing in this new year. This is my let go of fear and love again year.  My learn to forgive and move forward year.  My I don't need to impress anyone year.  This is my year to breathe in His presence and be made whole in a different way a brand new way, to step into the miraculous with new eyes, to live in a new place, a deeper place that can only be learned in the darkest of places.  Because, there in the darkest of places, He surrounded me, He showed His power, His presence, His hope, His glory, there in the midst of the most pain ever, He was and still is. So this is my no fear, new year and this is how I am going to do it....authentic, anointed and fearless.  Will I fail?  Yes, probably some.  I will fight His grace, I will struggle to hold unto my own will, I will be angry and forget His peace.... but only for a moment in time.  When I do He will stand outside of time loving me anyway, and proclaiming my heavenly citizenship until the day I join Him.  So this is my no fear, new year.  I will risk it all for Him, the one whom I love and loves me. I will move forward into this new season with a sense of holiness in the midst of the valley, hope in the midst of pain, joy in the midst of sorrow, light in the midst of darkness and I will be authentic, anointed and fearless because this is my no fear, new year, my give myself away, new year.   Happy New Year friends, I love you.  

I see Jesus everywhere....here is His walkway into heaven.  

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