July 6, 2011

letting go

"lead me in YOUR truth, and teach me, for YOU are the GOD of my salvation; for YOU i wait all the day long." psalm 25:5

the lessons of GOD are discovered when we least expect them yet right when we need them. whether it's a random conversation with a friend whom you just happened to run into. whether it's a verse you just stumbled upon when opening your bible. whether it's a billboard on the side of the interstate or a commercial that caught your attention, the subliminal messages of GOD are everywhere we look.

yesterday morning i started summer school, an event in which i was not just terribly excited. i went to class expecting to learn all about approaches to research in order to begin my thesis for my capstone project. there was only one word in my mind to describe the amount of reading, researching, and working in my future...disgusting.

if you know me, you know that i like structure. i like independence and doing things on my own time. i like formulating my own, little plan and executing it perfectly into a great big ball of success. and when things go my perfectly-planned, little way, i like to celebrate by letting out a long, verbal "cha-ching" and doing a short but meaningful dance of victory.

but right as i was anticipating my approach for all of this work in front of me and formulating my excellent plan, a stack of cards was placed in front of me on my desk. my professor told me to pick a card, any card, and so out of the stack i picked one, and this is what it read:

"lead me in YOUR truth, and teach me, for YOU are the GOD of my salvation; for YOU i wait all the day long." psalm 25:5..."i can let go and let GOD."

can anybody say "obvious-apparent-and-needed-wake-up-call-from-the-little-index-card-in-the-middle-of-the-stack?" i was instantly covered with chills, realizing once again that i am never in control. that i am never the director or the play-maker. that the best decision i can ever make is to let go.

to follow GOD is to fall freely. to let go and dangle faithfully, knowing that you are securely attached to HIM. to skydive through the unknown knowing that HE'S got your back. and to take the dimly-lit path one step at a time letting HIM be the light.

GOD is the orchestrator of my life, and HIS plan is the only perfect one. HE is constantly bringing my life together for me, completely without need of my assistance or opinion. HIS ways are higher than mine, and they are good and true. and what HE brings together fits together better than anything i could ever try to build.

and so today i choose to let go and to let GOD, freely falling and patiently waiting on HIM.

July 2, 2011

where YOU lead: no "good" byes

"saying good-bye to the times we've had is the same as saying hello to the times to come." unknown

my final week in africa was definitely not what i expected it to be. after making it through 5 weeks without losing any of our children, i thought that we were certainly home-free and wouldn't suffer any loss. but to lose a child with 2 days left of our journey and to experience an african funeral on our final day in namwianga were 2 events for which i could never prepare.

andrew's funeral was perfect. typically zambian children are not buried in caskets. usually their bodies are placed in bags, and that bag is placed in the grave to be covered by layers of sticks and dirt. but andrew deserved to be buried in a casket, and he was. they placed the casket on a table, and the african people walked around it, chanting and saying their final goodbyes. and we also walked around it, getting to view the sweet face of our little friend one last time.

we then all moved to the graveyard which is several hundred yards behind the haven. the aunties alternated from singing to wailing, and it was unlike any sound i've ever heard. the power of their cries sent shivers down our spines and brought immediate tears to our eyes. but andrew was then buried in the ground, and his grave was covered with the 3 most appropriate items: flowers, his favorite toy, and an extra-large bag of tomato puffs in his honor.

goodbyes are just never easy, whether they are permanent or only temporary. and i thought i had prepared my heart for my goodbyes. i knew i'd be in africa for 6 weeks and then it would be time to come home and return to normal life. i knew we might lose a child and have to say goodbye to him or her forever. and i knew that i might form a great friendship that would have to be temporarily broken and that it might be hard to bear. but i did not realize the extent of the emotions that i would feel.

saying goodbye to andrew was extremely hard, but saying goodbye to my best friend beatrice was just as difficult. as i was packing to leave i removed my favorite skirt (the one with all of the colorful flowers) from my bag to give to her as a gift. when i gave it to her, our eyes met and in the same moment filled with tears. she told me how much she loved me and how much she would miss me, and her final words to me were, "twalumba maningi"..."thank you very much."

walking the final path home from the haven was a challenge. hearing the cries of our babies as we walked out the door not to return again was indescribable. i didn't know that it was possible to love something that wasn't mine at all as if it absolutely were. i held hamilton in my arms for a solid hour with tears rolling down my cheeks. i sang to him. we talked. he played with my hair. i pushed him in the swing. i lifted him in the air. we took a video. we did all of our usual things, but they just weren't enough.

i drank my fill of africa. i soaked up every second. i made the most of every experience. but there are simply no "good" byes. some byes are permanent. some are temporary. some come after a long time. and others after just a short. some byes are quick. and some are never-ending. some seem necessary. others are completely unwanted. but no matter what type of bye it is, no bye is ever good.

but as hard as my goodbye was, i am choosing to view it as the next hello. a hello to the future. to the times to come. to the next adventure. to returning to africa. to more knowledge. to more experience. to being more prepared for the next hello and more prepared for the next goodbye. and thinking of the next hello gives the next bye a little hope of being good.