Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Pictures I Take

I have a sort of game I play in my mind. It's the #lifeinlebanon game. Every time I see a sight that would shock most Americans (and is shocking me all over again), I say to myself "Life in Lebanon". And I imagine posting it on social media.  I don’t actually take these pictures though…

The rats that scurry across our driveway.

The rat’s nest of electrical wires outside our window.

The rat poison in the food storage area of a restaurant where we just ate.

The dents and scratches that are multiplying on our car—we ask “where did that come from?!” and then we laugh at the insanity of our question.

The driving.

The driving.

The army with machine guns and sniper rifles just outside our door.

The men whose greedy eyes devour me like they own me.

The mosquito corpses on the bedroom ceiling who met their demise when I threw the Kleenex bag at them on my killing rampage—desperate for a night uninterrupted by buzzing and bites. Gotta get that ladder out soon to clean them off…

The mosquito spraying truck that assaults us as we walk along the sea—without warning—blasting its neurotoxins all over us, leaving us covering nose and mouth and running for cover.

The uneven sidewalks that will surely sprain my ankle one of these days.

The trash on the beach that I ask the kids to move before snapping a cute photo of them.

The photos I do take are of the sun melting into the sea, smiling kids, breakfast outings, and ice cream excursions. And I think that’s ok. Sometimes it’s harder to remember the good. Or maybe we just give it less attention. I need a photo of the good—maybe it is a way of “counting my blessings”.

Sour is the Arabic word for the city of Tyre

So we are adjusting to life here again, and it’s been a little more challenging than I thought it would be. Fifteen months the kids and I were away from our home here. And the sweet little house in Washington became quite home again, so the returning has been a bit jarring. Yet I have been, day-by-day, finding the joy (and sometimes the humor) in it all. 

The source of joy, though, is not in learning to make the best of things. Not even in finally being reunited with my husband. The joy comes from the total assurance that I am loved by my Lord and am exactly where He has placed me. And when my husband meets with soul-hungry, devastated people and tells them of Life and Hope… I absolutely know that I am right where I should be. I know that I get to be a little part of the work the Lord is doing in bringing His children to Himself.

So I think I will keep taking the pictures of the good. Because it is very good that we are here.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Five Years and the All-Sufficiency of Love

This five-year mark sort of tip-toed up and surprised me. Life is so very different than it was when he died. And so consumingly busy. 

Five years? That’s half the time we were married. I was a baby when I married Chris. Twenty-one. Na├»ve but so very in love. I didn’t know how painful life could get and believed truly that “all you need is love.”

And I’m here to say that it is all you need—I wasn't wrong! Because what I learned is that although it is sometimes sweet and easy, loving is a choice—it’s work. And receiving it the way it’s offered also takes determined effort—and in the exciting moments, it takes you so off-guard and surprises you so blissfully that you feel you might bubble over. Love is hard, and it's beautiful.

And how much I changed during those years of marriage to a good man! How I grew and understood life and love more deeply. He chipped away at my hard spots, and I filed away his rough edges. We fought and made up, cried and laughed. But always, we loved.

Then when God gave us another…
Erika was THRILLED to see daddy and keeps giving him the flirty eyes - the kind that melt his heart and make him want to wake her out of a sound sleep to get one more cuddle and one more giggle. This morning, I looked at Chris and Erika together and got choked up. My heart feels so full. The two people I love most in the world both in the same room with me. Nothing else seems to matter. God has blessed our family so enormously. We have grown spiritually in this, as well as together as a family. We have felt the comfort of our Father in many ways. We never felt alone.
(from a journal entry in August 2010, after a two-week separation)

But then he was gone. We were settled into life and ministry and family. It was all feeling natural and good and pure. Nevertheless, he was swept up into heaven itself on March 1, 2012—leaving me a single mother in a cold world. So very far from his sweet and gentle self.

Was it all over for me—for my daughter? Did I get the short end of the stick in this life? My friends still had their husbands and their 2.5 children. I wanted that too! Was Chris my soulmate and my one chance at happiness?

All you need is love.

The deep, deep love of Jesus swept over me and filled me up. His peace reminded me of all the promises to the broken-hearted. He counseled me so gently—it was as if he held me on his lap, smoothed my hair, wrapped His arms around me and whispered sweet comforts of His love into my ear. I collapsed and sobbed into Him. It was enough. And all I truly needed.

Then to top it all (joy of joys!) this Jesus gave me another good man—and more children. I am called to the sweet and hard act of love once again. It is not over! That death was an intermission. An imposed break and change of scenes—as devastatingly painful as it was. I am forever grateful for that first act.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 

And so today, I rejoice in love. Of my fellow mankind. But most of all, that of my great and loving Savior and Provider.