Summer has been busy. Many travels. Many days of busy-ness. Nothing ever seems to get completed. The house is never quiet...except when we are asleep. Working from home has its benefits, but I expect that they will be more evident when our kids are back in school ;-)
I think about time. Time is elusive. I cannot seem to capture it, or have enough of it. I remember the feeling of being stuffed into a challenging role that I refused to refuse and accepted without exception. When my understanding of life took a very different turn from my expectations I had one perspective that held me fast: HOPE. Romans 5:3-5 says: "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
I remember assuming the role of the one who would offer hope to my husband who was suffering. I remember offering hope to Daniel, even though he was only 3 when his Dad got sick. I remember offering hope to Dylan and Olivia that God loved them with an IMMEASURABLE love and would restore their joy and put a smile on their heart that would be evident and contagious.
I am thinking about this this evening because I am reflecting on the adolescents they have become. They are kind and thoughtful. They are helpful and satisfied. They have joy. They have opportunity. They have dreams. They have a family that loves them and values what they have added to our lives.
Without them I would not be who I am. I would not have grown into understanding how adversity enables your dreams to be bigger and your hopes to be higher and your expectations to be exceeded...even in the darkest of days.
This month, Dylan and Olivia had an opportunity to visit Jamaica on a mission's trip. In fact, I just paused in my writing because I remembered that she had something for me to share with all of my facebook friends and I have been spinning since I got home from Utah 2 days ago trying to catch up. When I read her letter...it is the SAME THEME as this post!! I am overwhelmed by God's promptings of His children who desire to follow Him for GREAT-ER things!!!
I will attach her letter to this post so that it is always connected to this writing. Her heart is so connected to His. I remember our vacation that we took them on just 6 weeks after they came to live with us. We went to St. Martin each year for 2 weeks and 2004 was no different. It was just that we took 2 more kids with us. Traumatized kids. I remember giving Olivia an iPod with Christian music on it. She used it often. While we were there, she was outside one day and the way our condo was built, there was a set of steps that from the ground floor appeared to just stop in the middle of the air with only the sky beyond them. The clouds were puffs of cotton against the Carribbean blue sky and there was Olivia with her hands stretched wide and high as she talked to God about her parents. She praised Him by doing this. She praised Him as she sang. She sought Him. He was there. At that moment I knew that she had a gift of faith that would enable her to thrive in life amidst such difficult circumstances. I realized at that moment too how blessed I was to watch her grow as He satsified her soul through her trust in Him and Him alone.
And now today, more than 7 years later, I see God in every aspect of her life. She chooses her friends wisely. She does not engage in petty nonsense as is easily part of a teenage girl's life. She is a great friend. She is honorable. She is loyal.
And now today, she is beginning her second week in Florida with a family that has remained steadfast in their support of both of them through the years. They were the next door neighbors of theirs at the time of the tragic event. Today, they are the best of friends and strongest of supporters but they no longer live next door. They are the kind of friends that feel the sense of obligation and responsibility but above all else a call to love these kids and keep them connected to their past life. It blesses me to see how God works, how He heals us, how He lifts us up when we are down.
As Dylan left to meet Olivia in Florida today, I saw the incredibly independent and cautiously confident young man he is becoming. I saw his excitement and yet his gentle approach toward his experiences when they are not as predictable as the day-to-day routine. That is another comfort to me...to watch him step out when change is not something he looks forward to. He has learned that in ALL things he possesses the ability, through the grace of God, to grow...and heal through every new adventure. His journey has created a quiet confidence and a solid peacefulness that is comforting not only to him, but those who are close to him.
For me, this day, I had recurring thoughts of my own journey. I thought of the challenges of our lives. I thought of the unfairness. I thought of the meanness that has reared its ugly head and spews venom whenever possible. Forces with presence always exist, but power does not have to be given to them. Then I realized what it is that God keeps revealing to me and that is the beauty that has been birthed out of the ashes. And that brings this verse in Isaiah to mind: "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." Isaiah 61:3.
No other words are necessary.
Dear Friends and Family,
As many of you already know, last week, Dylan and I went on a mission trip with Mission Discovery to Montego Bay, Jamaica. It was a great experience and I was blessed to be able to go. While we were there, we worked 7-hour days, building and repairing a deaf school, played with kids at Vacation Bible School, and also we got to spend a day at an orphanage. Meeting Jamaican children at the deaf school and the orphanage was one of the coolest things that ever happened to me. I wish I could have done more to help them.
Before the trip, Dylan and I had sent out letters asking for support for the trip. We did not get as much financial support as we had hoped, and we are hoping to be given the opportunity to be asked to go next year. I just wanted to thank those of you who did send in donations, but if you would like, we would greatly appreciate your donations for Dylan and I.
Dylan and I have been through something that most people I know have never experienced and most likely will never, but God has made it all good. My family and I have been through even more challenges in the past few years. This trip has impacted me. The orphanage showed me how lucky I am to be blessed with parents that God chose to love me, but these kids may never know what it feels like to be loved, only to not have the hope of love. Going there and spending time with those kids let them know that we are there to provide a hope and a future, and I would love to offer them the hope like I have again next year. Again, I wanted to truly thank those of you who did decide to support. Those of you who did not, this is your opportunity to bless others! Donations, even now as they will be applied to the trip we just took as well as the one we plan to take next summer. It is very expensive to be doing God’s work so far away!