night

image

Night brings quiet.

Night brings peace.

Night has an unmistakable, crisp scent.

Night brings darkness and fear, but night brings stars. A light in the darkness.

Since I was a little girl, as soon as the sun disappeared my lips could not contain the endless flow of words. My best conversations have all taken place in the dark of the night.

Life choices. Friend despair. Kingdom thoughts. Beautiful dreams. Revelations.

All under the cloak of night.

I’m not sure why daylight brings mistrust and suppression of words. You would think it would be the opposite, but not the case for me. Night has brought some of the most profound conversations I’ve ever had.

Under that deep cloak of night where others feel fear and oppression. I feel freedom, clarity and safety.

Deep breathes of night air fill my lungs, and wonderment of what’s beyond stars ignite my imagination. Suddenly the veil between God’s kingdom and earth becomes thinner.

Even phenomenal, spirit saturated worship experiences seem to fill the dark of night. Last summer on a youth trip we were on top of Mt. Evans near Denver…it was one of the most memorable times of worship many had ever experienced. At one point the moon broke through cloud cover, and flooded the mountain top with light. Every person there will tell you they felt the presence of God. A moment marked on each soul blessed to be present.

All under the cloak of night.

leave

There is one place on this earth that rips my soul in two to leave.

It is a palpable sound to God’s ears because after all, he is the one that sends me.

The echo of that rip haunts me when I leave. A good haunt though, a reminder that things are not right in this world, and that I’ve been chosen to make a small difference for the life of a child. A reminder that God is working long before me, all around me and staying after I leave…that it is never about me, and always about him.

I never would have imagined my soul would be so closely tied to an orphanage…let alone one in Russia. It wasn’t too long ago that I couldn’t even deal with being around kids. But to speak God’s love, worth, hope and community into the life of an orphan is the greatest privilege there is in this world.

It used to be the hardest thing I’d ever done to leave the orphanage on the last day. The emotion of leaving is overwhelming to even the hardest of hearts. We would lose whole days to the kids acting out or withdrawing. We eventually amended trip schedules so that we went back for a ‘last’ morning so the kids wouldn’t be as emotional on the last day. It helped everyone take the leaving part in slower steps.

Some trips the kids would hang on to the back of the bus, it didn’t matter how seriously we told them it was dangerous. It was as if they were clinging to those last precious moments, too.

What I love most, though, is it rarely happens anymore. It isn’t as emotional when we leave as it used to be. Why? They know their friends, or friends of their friends, are coming back. We’ve crossed the line of dismay and sorrow into this beautiful place of deep love and trust. It’s amazing the strength of the ties that God creates in his mission fields.

image

But this is what happens when you surrender your heart…soul…life…God leads us to unimaginable, beautiful, Kingdom places.

The hardest part for me is leaving those places, and holding on to that Kingdom life.

The beauty of it is the places God sends you is where you find the person he has created you to be. The best of you and worst of you collide, and his heart is ignited in yours. Your soul finds itself overflowing, all because you willingly surrendered.

And when that happens, no one wants to leave that behind.

chosen

Just before leaving on our first visit.

I’ve spent many years in orphanages…I’ve spent a lot of time with orphans. But I’ve only been chosen three times…the third time was 2 weeks ago today in Haiti.

The walk to the orphanage was brutal. The sun was so bright my sunglasses barely cut it. I’d burnt myself earlier in the morning, and with sun beating on it I thought my legs were on fire. Note to self: redheads while on antibiotics should never wear shorts in Haiti.

‘Bonsoir!’ We were so proud of ourselves…being polite to everyone we passed!

We meandered around lots of cows, goats, chickens…led by Patrick, one of the lay Pastors at the Methodist Church of Mellier.

Once we got there, all of the kids came out, shaking our hands and saying ‘Bonsoir!’

I should probably give the disclaimer now that I never used to like being around kids…surprised? Well, it’s true. It wasn’t until I started following where God’s heart led me that enjoying being around kids changed for me.

While others succumbed to the babies wanting to be held, I started joking around with some of the teenage girls who were playing jump rope. I even got some jumps in, and then graciously took one of the ends to twirl. (sarcasm intended J)

As we walked around the orphanage grounds on a tour a small boy took my hand. All of the kids there wanted to be held. The other Americans around me were carrying the much younger ones…Julia was holding one that had fallen asleep on her. Soon the young boy by my side wanted up too…then he spied the kite!

Mel’s photo of Jules.

Another small boy had been trailing us, and as soon as the first was out of my arms the other wanted up. He was about 4 or 5, so I quickly shifted him to my back…and then the giggling started.

Oh, my little friend, Etae…who despite all of my failings saw something. In Russia we used to call them ‘cling-ons,’ but I like to think of it as being chosen…what one soul sees in another.

Pretty soon after that our time was up, and we needed to start walking back. Someone wanted a photo of all the kids, and some of the babies were not happy to be put down. Then we got in the photo and all of the kids that had been standing around Etae were back into the arms of those who had been holding them.

There stood little, bony Etae, now a mini island where several kids had been standing. Staring at me with this look of ‘Me, too? Will you take me back?’

In all of our humanness, in all of the love that we receive from our Father…how do we resist that? The ache of a child who just wants to be held, and looking at the one he’s chosen to hold him.

So there he was again, in my arms. And then the unbearable signal that it was time to leave…

You can imagine our team’s response when we realized our work the following Tuesday wouldn’t go past lunch. “Orphanage?” Someone piped up…no question…we knew where we wanted to go.

As we walked back to the orphanage, I was completely lost in my thoughts. Would any of the kids be remotely excited that we were back. We’d come with stuff to play with last time. Bubbles, jump ropes and a soccer ball to break the ice. And without a doubt they couldn’t possibly remember our names.

‘Stephanie!’ I hadn’t even gotten five steps inside the gate, and it was two steps inside the shelter when Etae leaped into my arms. I managed to ask in French if he wanted to play. I was rewarded with a huge smile and a finger pointing to the swing set.

After the swing set, the entire time we were there he wouldn’t leave my lap. Tickled, bubble blowing, squirming, cuddling…it all happened in my lap. He loved looking at the photos on the camera, and taking them too. He is the one who took the photo of our feet, which will be in my office soon.

Mel’s photo on our 2nd visit.

And ornery…whoa! I was telling this story to a friend last night, and her immediate response was, ‘How are ALL of the ornery kids attracted to you?’

Well…ornery attracts ornery.He started the game of grabbing the sunglasses off of Derek’s forehead. Even then, still all on my lap. At one point I realized I was sweating all over him…did he care? Nope.

As we left that afternoon…that’s when I realized one of the things God has been trying to speak into me. It’s been years of going to third world areas, and coming home to feelings of restlessness and unworthiness. Accompanied by the frustration that Americans think their culture is the one to measure all others against, yet stuck in a cycle of materialism and escapism. It’s hard to return, and find a balance in your life again….and a constant struggle between blessing and worth.

It’s also about realizing…it’s when you have nothing to give when you give everything. That’s when you give part of yourself…the very soul that God breathed into us. And that is exactly what God is calling you to share with others…whether you find yourself in your neighborhood, your work…or a tiny orphanage in rural Haiti.