We sit on cushions on the floor around a tablecloth spread out in the middle. Plates, dishes, bowls, bottles, thermos flasks, trays, all laden with food and drink. A feast laid out for all guests who may come, laid out in order to share our celebration of the coming of that baby who became our saviour. Conversations are going on around the room, some deeply involved, some producing laughter, and others simply commenting on the food. I look up as she comes into the room, and walks sedately to the nearest seat. My face lights up, and my heart expands with joy. I am so glad to see her, having been unsure whether she would have permission to come or not. I run over to her.
Meeting her where she stands I kiss her on the cheek several times over and hug her tightly. “I am SO glad you came! Thank you so much for coming! I wanted to see you so much since I have been back.” She turns so her back was to the crowd and I see a tear roll down her cheek. She takes my hands in hers and says to me with disbelief in her eyes “No-one has ever wanted to see me that much. You are my sister. Thank you.” Words fail me, I hug her again. As we part I invite her deeper inside the room to sit at the place of honor.
I pour her tea and offer her cakes, and nuts and fruit, I ask her how her life is, how she is finding being married, if she is happy. She does not look directly at me but answers my questions in the way she should “Life is good, it is good to be married, I am happy, thank you, how are you?, God is kind.” I look at her, really look at her, as she answers me and I see sadness in her eyes and brokenness. We continue talking, all sorts of meaningless topics are covered, I encourage others to join our conversation. We drink tea and eat snacks.
The afternoon moves on and we play games. In a culture where games are seldom played, where the concept of doing something for pure enjoyment is foreign, we spend time playing, spend time ushering joy into their lives. I watch as her sadness slowly melts away, if only for the moments she is with us. I hear all the laughter, the squeals of delight, the excited chatter, a sound and sight so alien from these people, and my own heart is filled with joy. To see them forget about all that is outside that room. To see them feeling comfortable, safe, peaceful, joyful, excited, happy. I am overwhelmed that He has given me the privilege of helping His joy touch their lives, of giving me the opportunity to see this moment, to have this memory.
The afternoon comes to an end. I find that girl, young lady now. There are remnants of happiness written in the lines of her face, there is still a sense of relaxation and peace about her. I hug her and kiss her goodbye. This time the tear is mine. A tear of knowing that as she walks out of the door her face will soon begin to tell a different story again.
She takes my hand and pulls me into a side room. She rolls up her sleeves and lifts up her top just enough for me to see the bruises that riddle her body. She says no words but looks at me. Words fail me also, I look back into her eyes. I wish there was something I could do, but there is not. She speaks “Thank you for today, will you come and see me another day? Please?” I promise nothing but I say I will try. I take her face in my hands and look at her and say all I know to say, “I will pray for you, God is kind.” She thanks me.
I watch as she walks away and do just that. I go before her maker, and her saviour, and ask him to be merciful, to be her saviour, to rescue his creation.
I’ve not posted much the past week, other than FMF. I am still writing, and maybe one day it will make it up here. I’ve been reading lots of Gitz’s writing this week, and it’s been feeding my soul. Some days choosing joy is much more of a hard choice than other days. Sometimes I need this reminder more than other days:
Today I need to list things I am thankful for. I need to focus myself on joy. Here we go:
I am thankful for…
- Christmas lights that make houses and shops and streets feel so warm and welcoming.
- Christmas candles that sparkle and bring quiet to my soul.
- Friends who come over simply to chat and chill.
- My little kids club group who remind me what it is to have child-like faith and trust.
- Rainbows which remind us of God’s unfailing promises.
- Friends who welcome me into their homes at all hours just to lie and be.
- Central heating to warm my house.
- Hot water for long showers.
- The internet.
- All of you who read, comment, email, and be a part of this blog.
- My local church, who opens its doors to everyone and anyone.
- The community at my local church who love well.
- The youth here,who model so well what it is to be vulnerable, open, and honest.
- The youth here, who strive after Gods heart, who choose his joy in the face of hardship, and who are desperate to go deeper.
- My housemate who stays up to all hours with me when I’m feeling less than great.
- My sister who is always at the end of a phone, and always brings a smile to my face.
- Music, energizing, calming, joyful, expressive, music.
- Comfort from Him.
- The FMF community, what lovely, loving, welcoming, encouraging, ladies.
- Lindsey – I am so thankful (in)courage bought her into my life. Always a kind word, always joy, usually crazy, mostly fun, full of love.
- Libby – Always right at the otherside of my inbox, twitter feed, facebook page. Always hugging me with her words. Full of love, Thankful she is a new addition to my life. My life is so much richer.
- Stefanie – Thank you Lindsey for connecting us. Always full of joy, always pointing me to Christ, always gentle yet full of truth, a little bit of crazy in there too.
- For each of my CrossPoint peeps – for all they add to my life, encouragement, fun, support, challenges, love. You are so special to me.
- For CrossPoint the way it loves people, welcomes people, lives Christ, reaches out to all people around the world. The dedicated people who make the online campus happen each week.
- For airplanes that allow us to travel across the world in a day.
- For my car which gets me all over the country to see all sorts of people.
- The finances to go on my upcoming trip.
- God’s control over timing and visas to allow me to be where I need to be when I need to be.
- Finances generally. Provision to buy food, clothes, have a house, pay the bills.
- My godkids. I don’t get to see them much, but each of them are so incredibly special to me in unique ways.
- The work God is doing in me.
- Christmas – that God would become a tiny vulnerable baby, and choose to live, here, on earth, with all this crap, simply to show us how much he loves us, and to make a way for us to be together, forever. To choose to live in this broken place, with the ultimate goal of dying. Amazing.
- Friends who feel comfortable enough in my home to nap on the sofa whilst I blog.
- Pebbles – a very special baby on the verge of being born.
- Leaders who support, encourage, and value me.
- Doctors who help our bodies heal when they are broken.
- Drugs that make our body well, keep our bodies well, and reduce pain.
- Worship, sweet worship.
- Gingerbread lattes.
- My uncle – bringer of fun, laughter, silliness, love.
- My parents – who love me well, sacrifice for me, always make time and space for me.
- My brothers – who lived my childhood with me. Made memories, and still making memories together, despite the miles that separate us.
- My other parents – who have loved, cared for, provided for, encouraged, blessed, included, me – their adopted child.
- The Spirit who intercedes for me when I simply cannot find the words.
- Stillness – quiet – time – to be, with my saviour. Just be.
- His faithfulness. Always faithful.
I hadn’t planned to go as far as 50! But I couldn’t help myself. There is so much to be thankful for, from the tiny things, right up to the big big things. Even when we have to make a conscious effort to see the blessings around us, and be intentional about giving thanks, there is still SO much to be thankful for.
Won’t you add to my list?
What are you thankful for?
UPDATE: #37 Pebbles, is now even more on the verge of being born. She was due any day, and now she is literally coming as we speak. Her beautiful mother is in labour! I am SO excited to meet this precious girl.
This week I have been doing a lot of driving. Each day I’ve had to re-fuel, turn on the GPS, and get myself settled for a long journey. Thankfully I enjoy driving, I enjoy the time and space it gives me, I enjoy the feeling of being on a journey, I enjoy speeding along the highway, I enjoy lots about it. A long drive each day however, does get a little tiresome. My legs are feeling the hours of being sat in one position, and as I climb out of my car each stop my legs object a little more.
In my drives I have had some fun moments, and I thought I’d keep a track and share them with you at the end of the week. So here are my moments of fun and joy as I was driving this past week:
#1 Seeing a “Downton” lorry, that someone had graffiti-ed “Abbey” below the”Downton” – It made me chuckle.
#2 Overtaking an ambulance which had it’s lights flashing and sirens going off. Don’t worry it wasn’t dangerous – it was, however, fun!
#3 Taking an unintentional 1.5 hour detour into the middle of Wales and back, which led me to see Mount Snowdon.
#4 Trying to mop up a heavy nosebleed whilst driving a manual car, on the highway, and going round many round-a-bouts. I got out of my car miles later with blood smeared across my face, and drops all over my top! It was an experience.
#5 Reading a book whilst driving on the motorway. There was a stand-sill traffic jam. So I got out Crazy Love and just started reading away in between the crawls!
#6 Seeing smoke billowing, and then getting a glimpse of fire. Being stopped by the fire crew, and my first reaction was to ask “Has there been an explosion??” REALLY need to re-train my mind, they laughed at me! Forest fire.
#7 Seeing, and having time to appreciate, some STUNNING sunsets.
#8 Turning off my lights and driving in the dark, down the part of the road with LED cats-eyes. Feeling like I was in space, just darkness and little blue lights.
#9 Someone letting me skip in front of them in the fuel queue.
#10 Parking up at home, behind that little Punto that tells me Lauren is home.