Dear mommy - a Letter of Hope

Dear Mommy – A Letter of Hope

Dear Mommy

It is my day off, and I’m supposed to be cleaning the house; but the water-pump broke down, and there isn’t a drop of water in the house.  I also know it’s going to be a crazy hot day because it’s the middle of summer in a country where summer is the only season.

So, I cleaned up as much as I could without water, ignored the overflowing laundry bin, packed a beach bag, put the little one in a sling, waited at the bus stop for over an hour for the public transport, and now I’m sitting in the back of a tuk-tuk with the little one asleep on my lap on the way to a small coastal town… and I’m thinking of you.

The mommy who has just been through the crazy experience of giving birth, the overwhelming emotions, the swollen breasts, and the realization that life as she knew it will never be the same.

I think of all the mommies of newborns and toddlers who are counting the minutes until daddy comes home so she can hand over the baby and finally go to the bathroom in peace for ten minutes.

I think of the mommy who slept on a chair in a hospital room next to her sick baby, exhausted, but not willing to leave her baby’s side to go home.

I think of all the second and third-time mommies – experiencing all of the above – only this time, while also caring for a toddler or two.

I think of the special mommies of children with disabilities I’ve met in the years I worked in hospital and pediatrics.  They always impressed me that God really picked them out from the best of the mommy bunch.

And finally, I think of the mommies who have gone through it all and watched their little ones grow up to become mommies (and daddies) themselves.  I also think of those who have endured the sorrow of outliving their children.

Sometimes, it feels like the very same thing that makes us all mothers also isolates us from each other. It is ironic that the past year felt like the loneliest season of my life, even though I probably never had more in common with other woman across the globe:

  • Feelings of pride and joy
  • The discouraging realization of our personal selfishness
  • Extreme exhaustion that goes bone deep

So much about ourselves can be revealed by such tiny human beings.

When I finally reached the beach, I saw my little one throw his hands up in the air in pure delight, running fearlessly toward the water as if he knew he could swim.  I grabbed him to coat him with layers of sun block and put his hat on before picking him up.  Then, wrapping my arms around him, I carried him into the deep water to enjoy it with him.

Then, it hit me.  I heard the whisper of my Heavenly Father saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

And somehow I knew that the reason this season has been so hard is because I’ve been trying to do it myself.  Like a stubborn toddler, I was trying, but simply not capable, to do everything on my own.

The thing about growing up in faith is that instead of becoming more independent you simply become more aware of how much you need God.

I may be a mommy now, but I will always be His child. The only way to be restored is to find my rest in Him, to be nurtured by His Word, and to draw close enough so that I can hear His heartbeat.

The only way I can run fearlessly into the unknown and live abundantly in the moment is if I know that He is right there next to me. He will pick me up when I fall, and He will hold me up even when the waves come crashing down all around me.

He will also take delight in my attempts to do things that other people might view as foolishness, because He knows my heart, and He loves to watch me learn.

And yet, sometimes, it feels like the only reason I’m aware of His presence is because I hear the same firm “no” I repeat so often to my child each day. Little did I realize that it was a warning to also stop me from doing something that would end up hurting me if I did not learn to listen and obey.

He rebukes us because He loves us and cares for us, though we prefer to avoid his displeasure and welcome grace. We often forget how much we need correction if we are truly His children.

”For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” – Hebrews 12

He rebukes, but He also guides, protects, and carries us in so many ways we take for granted or are completely unaware of.  Just like my little one who has no idea why I put sun block on him and keep carrying him away from the water and into the shade, we fail to understand God’s goodness in all that He does for us.

I pray that in the middle of whatever season of motherhood you may find yourself in, you will know you are not alone. I pray that you will run into His open arms and find your rest in Him, fully knowing that you are loved far more than you will ever be able to love your own children.

Love

Another child and mommy

 

When everything is not okay

When Everything Is Not Okay

“Everything will be okay in the end;  if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

This used to be my mantra:  the words I kept telling myself in the hard places.

The words I kept on telling others in hundreds of ways every day. Living in this “hope” was my way of coping.

I kept telling myself, “Tomorrow will be better.” Tomorrow the situation will change, other people will change into what I want them to be, or I will change and then I will be happy.  

But more often than not, today’s problems sneak into tomorrow which will usher in her own new troubles. And somewhere, while placing my hope in tomorrow, I’m procrastinating today’s grief and allowing small frustrations and anger to accumulate.

Waking up day after day only to realize that not much came of yesterday’s hopes can get really discouraging over a long period.  And at some point, you come to ask: have to wake up to the reality:

What if everything is not going to be okay tomorrow (or,as I expect things to be)?

What if it’s okay for everything not to feel okay today?

What if it’s okay to allow myself to go through these emotions?

Emotions are not a reflection of the true state of the world but simply indicators of what’s going on in our own hearts and minds.

And sometimes we find ourselves in seasons of loss, loneliness, and hardship. Everything will certainly not be okay at all times in this life. The truth is that we sometimes need to cry and allow ourselves to grieve all that is lost and broken and hard to bear…to let the tears come down…like clouds releasing rain when they become too heavy…to relieve the tension. We need to cry out to God and admit that we need Him. We need Him like we need air to breathe and fresh water to sustain our lives.  We need Him to be our strength today and not the granter of our wishes tomorrow.

It’s okay not to feel okay. It’s okay to have a rainy day. And it’s okay if you finally have the courage to admit that ‘everything is not okay’, only to discover that the last thing on earth you need to hear in that moment is “everything is going to be okay” and that “the sun will shine again tomorrow” even though it will.  

To know God is to know that He is good and His goodness doesn’t depend on our feelings. He never promised that we will never go through the shadows of the valleys of death, only that He will be with us.

In the same way we simply need to be there for each other, to be “safe places” for others where they can receive comfort through the “not-okay-days” and find an oasis void of words to “detox” the emotional overload.

Rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep.

There is a hope that is better than thinking everything is going to be “okay” tomorrow. It’s the grace of God that keeps showing up in the middle of today’s mess, guiding us through life storms, and creating a safe place and a holy space where tears can freely fall and water the soil of our souls.

And this place is where we learn to let go of all our distorted expectations that will make tomorrow “okay”.   This is where we simply learn to pray: “Not my will but Your’s be done.”   

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 

A note to myself

Remember – A note to myself

Take note dear heart

So quick to forget

The promises fulfilled

The words He said

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Remember the cross

Remember the cost

The price that was paid

To save the lost

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Remember ‘the lost’

Included you

And His love does not depend

On anything you do

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Remember to pay forward

This never-ending grace

As you learn to walk in love

At an unhurried pace

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Remember all He has

Is already yours

No need to compare

– Or pretend –

To compete for attention

With brother or friend

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Remember the wine,

The fish, the bread,

Always more than enough

There is no shortage in Him

He is love

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Remember how He

Always came through

For all of His people

And also for you

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Remember to choose

The best part

To give Him your time

And all of your heart

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Remember it is worth all

This Kingdom pearl

To lay down your life

And do His will

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Take note dear heart

So quick to forget

Remember the prophesies fulfilled

When Jesus was raised from the dead

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Linking up over at Velvet Ashes again: this week’s prompt in the light of Easter is “remember.”

The Story of Racism

The Story of Racism

“Where do you come from?”

“South Africa”

“South Africa!?!” (pointing to my skin or making a rubbing gesture on their own) “Why aren’t you black?”

If my language skills were good enough, I would probably have answered in all honesty: “God only knows.”

After all, I could very well have been born to a family living in Bangkok, an Indian slum, a Chinese mega-city, a village in Egypt along the Nile, or Jamaica. Why South Africa? None of us chose when or where we would come into this world or what our skin color would be.

The color of my skin doesn’t even tell half of my story…being white may even seem contrary to my national identity… but I can assure you that not everyone who comes from Africa is black.

My story is one of a white farm girl who grew up in the middle of “apartheid” and ended up living in Asia. I truly believe that life is about more than the way we look or where we come from. And yet, during our journey on this earth, we are all but flesh and bones wrapped in skin of various colors. We all come from “somewhere”, and our features and skin color often give clues to where that might be, that is, to the origin of our life’s journey.

The other part of the story of racism has everything to do with history and belief systems that go much deeper than “the color of the outer wrapping”. It is the story of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers’ fathers who made decisions long before we were born…decisions that affect us. Whether it was their intention or not, their decisions often led to division and separation for their descendants just as our decisions today will affect our children.

In South Africa, we refer to our story of racism as “apartheid”. Racism, however, is not a story restricted to a single country: it is the story of the sinful humanity evolving from the very root of disobedience in the beginning in the Garden of Eden. That root of sin thrived on selfishness, stubbornness, and pride.

New chapters in this story of racism are yet to be written for generations to come if we keep on refusing to break with the past. However, the decision to allow God to change our hearts is all it takes to change what will be written in the future chapters of racism.

It is certain we cannot change what happened in the past, but we can choose to let go and forgive instead of holding on to hatred and grudges which will be passed on to our children and to our children’s children. We have the power to break the curse through God’s love.

Skin color is genetic, racism is a choice.

We can choose to love – even our enemies – and pray for those who hurt us.

 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43 – 48

We can choose not to be intimidated by those who are different from us. Isn’t it a form of pride to assume we know it all or that we are better than others? It is human nature to fear the unknown, so we need to seek understanding to gain tolerance for the differences which might even show us “a better way” than “our” way. And perhaps we can then find the love to choose forgiveness instead of revenge.

I know my story and my world view have been changed by so many encounters. From little black hands who reached out to me in Malawi to wonderful conversations with some of my black patients during the years I worked in hospitals and life abroad, I have made friends who are different from me from all over the world.

It has opened my eyes to see that one’s outward appearance may give an indication of where one comes from, but it can never reveal who he really is. Where you come from is nothing more than a place on a map which conjurs up a stereotype image to those living elsewhere.

Listening to – or even reading about – others’ stories doesn’t change our stories: it changes us, and when we change, we get to live better stories.

We get to be part of the bigger story written by a God who loved the world, the WHOLE world, not only one people, group, or nation. This love was manifested when Jesus came to His own Jewish tribe first, but then opened His arms to receive the Gentiles who received Him by faith.

How can we “go to the nations” if we hate them? How can we love our neighbors and be racists at the same time? It’s a contradiction. When it seems hard to love where we are, it is an opportunity to grow in love as true Christians.

Perhaps for our stories to change we need to be able to look past ourselves first, embracing who God created us to be.

I chuckle about the hours I spent lying in the sun or even on a sunbed to get that “perfect tan” for whatever occasion, only to move to Asia where almost every beauty product – including deodorant – contains “whitening ingredients”. Not only that, but women generally go to extremes to avoid the sun to look as powder-puff white as possible.

We can choose to accept our histories and genetic predispositions for what they are and start living with an eternal mindset instead. God knew exactly what He was doing when He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, when He chose the time and place and every other detail surrounding our births.

It might take longer for some than others, but truly walking with God always leads us away from racism and towards love. It has to.

I know there is hope for the story of racism to be rewritten one life at a time because my own dad is a living testimony of how it’s never too late to have a change of heart.

And I cherish this beautiful story of how a black ‘muruti’ (the Sotho word for pastor) walked into my mom’s office one afternoon to ask a question about fridges next door, while my dad happened to be there too. He ended up sharing the story of how God changed his life and held hands with my mom and dad as they prayed together. It is the story of a special friendship and mentorship that was forged that day, beginning a chain reaction of changes in attitudes toward racism.

The only way we can ever break down the barriers is to reach across them by joining hands and closing our eyes so that we can see what really matters. And as we gain sight, may we be diligent in praying for our nation, our leaders, and for each other.

Because the story of racism is still being written.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Traveling light

Traveling Light Through Life

I love “people watching”; especially at airports. To sit back and enjoy my observation of the diversity of cultures, skin and hair colors, facial shapes and features, physical statures, tattoos, and attire – from businessmen all dressed up in suits to the obvious tourists and families with little ones carrying their own backpacks – all on their way to some place for some reason, whether for a short time or a season.

One thing we all have in common is physical “baggage limits”. And, from my careful observation, it seems like few have mastered the art of “travelling light”. Bags are usually packed to the limit, often weighed beforehand to make sure one has succeeded in packing the maximum yet avoiding excess weight to prevent the last-minute hassle of down-sizing and having to leave something behind.

After years of flying, including three international moves, I admit that I was always guilty of packing to the limit. Nevertheless, I have learned three important lessons:

  1. We really do not need much on a journey.
  2. We usually use less than half of the things we take.
  3. The only way to travel light is to let go of everything we do not really need.

In a few weeks we will be traveling with a baby for the first time, and I’m sure it will complicate things a bit. However, I am also convinced that the above principles remain true.

Excess baggage is an extra burden for the traveler as well as for his/her traveling companions. It is cumbersome and takes space, and that applies to both our physical as well as spiritual baggage.

It got me thinking about the question: “If I had to check in at a “spiritual airport” today? How much “baggage” would I be carrying?

If I had to list every item I packed, what would I find?

Fear   □

Hurt   □

Anxiety   □

Regrets   □

Hate   □

Anger   □

Resentment   □

Disappointments   □

Addictions   □

Grudges   □

Emotional clutter   □

Misc. ………………………..

What would it look like for you?

I came to the conclusion that if we took an honest account of our “baggage”, we could quickly identify those items which are heaviest, holding us back and dragging us down. Those are things we should consider dumping.

Instead, we tend to buy bigger bags with numerous secret compartments where we tuck in even more things than we should. Likewise, we hide a lot of things which simply “weigh us down”.

Jesus said: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:30

This scripture never made sense to me because He never promised that the journey is going to be easy. In fact most scripture indicate the opposite. And then I realized:

Traveling light” makes traveling easier; it doesn’t make traveling easy.

In the same way, “Traveling light” through life, makes life easier, but it doesn’t make life easy.

And the only way we can “travel light” through life is by leaving all our heavy “baggage” at the cross where the price was fully paid for all our “excess baggage” and where we can trade in hate for love, anger for forgiveness, anxiety for trust, regrets for redemption…

“Traveling light” is a way of life that doesn’t change because of the weather or circumstances. There might still be storms, turbulence, delays, crying babies, and bad landings, but at the end of the day, it simply frees our hands to enjoy the journey and be able to do more for each other.

We will never be truly free unless we let go. And we will never be able to fully embrace the life and relationships in front of us if we cannot let go of what is behind us. We may be able to fool people – for a while at least – by pretending that our “carry-on baggage” is not heavy, but we cannot fool the scale at the airport and we cannot fool God.

I challenge you to “check in” today, to take the time and do whatever is needed to be able to say: “I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3

I hope that we will meet somewhere on this journey of learning the joy of “traveling light”. If not, I hope to see you at the final destination.

Image credit: Pixabay

Linking up to: Velvet Ashes