Expecting the worst….

Have you ever been reading along in the Bible and came along a verse that changes everything?  One that suddenly jumps out and lets you see that you have had all the dials set wrong, the controls are in need of an adjustment…

1 Peter 1

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. 

Wait!  Hold the phone!   Did Peter really just say that expecting to get your own way is actually a sinful habit?  Are we really then to expect to not get our own way, to expect first that things are to go wrong?  Is that what learning to think like Him is?    I don’t know about you but this one hits me from an angle I did not expect.  There is a lot to learn from this one.

Levi

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Looking Deeper

Deep colored curls pile high up on top of his head, his round eyes are big and dark brown. He is wearing a shirt that looks like one day it used to be white, instead now its covered in dirt and has holes all across it. He is small, seven or maybe eight years old. Too small. I think to myself. His face shows a sort of depth that is far to great for someone his age, his are grown up problems. I don’t really know his story but as I sit waiting for the light to turn green I try for a moment to understand the life that is his. He holds his hand out to me and in broken English gives me the usual street kid line. “Hungry, very hungry” He says gripping his stomach in mock pain. It’s an act, one that I know well, but for some reason this time it’s different. This time I look into his eyes and see something else, I see past the sayings he has learned, past the contrived look of despair that he puts on for foreigners to get sympathy from them. This time, instead I see a little boy, a boy who has been forced to grow up to fast. I realize as I sit with the car idling that I have forgotten that these children are real people too, I have heard all their lines, had them steal money from my pockets and watched them swarm around tourists with their sad stories and moping faces, and I forgot the most important thing about these kids. None of them chose to be here. Yes they are learning to cope, yes they have come up with ways to steal and cheat their way through life, but did they ever really have a choice?

The light is still red, and I look deeper at this boy and try to understand more about him. What does he go back to every night? I wonder to myself, as I look into his eyes, searching for answers. It’s not good, he seems to answer back to me, truthfully. It’s not good. I know its true, I know that this boy likely has no mother or father to care for him, his house is probably a cardboard box underneath an overpass somewhere deep in this massive dirty city full of countless tens of thousands just like him.

The light turns green and I pull away, wondering yet again how many times I will be able to leave another child behind without doing something other than handing him a few coins to help with his next meal.

These kids are getting to me. These problems they face, the situation they find themselves in but never asked for. They are getting to me, tearing at my soul and burrowing deep inside.


Moving

We spent the afternoon with Jerry and Christy at their recently opened day-care project and fell in love with the beautiful children they care for.  Before we went we spent some time on their website and looked through the families they have that need sponsoring and let our kids pick a little girl out who they want to sponsor.  And the good thing about living in Ethiopia is that just an hour after we picked out little Farituna we were able to meet her in person!  She is wonderfully adorable.  We were in love!   Farituna has Down Syndrome and they are working with her mother to get her medical care for a hip dislocation that has been that way for more than a year.  Its so easy to see that these kids are going to finally have a future because of the work that Jerry and Christy are doing, a future that they would have never had without this program.  You really need to watch this video and then go check out their site.  www.embracinghopeethiopia.com

Embracing Hope Ethiopia Day Care Video - Short Introduction - Kore Addis Ababa Ethiopia from jerry shannon on Vimeo.


The back side of the painting (or, Life: The rough draft)

“In times of great change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists” Eric Hoffer 

I have long been a fan of putting it all out there, a believer that each of us is better of if we are open and real with each other.  I think you would agree that looking back on your life, and examining the relationships that you have had, the ones where your friends were honest and real with you, are of the most value.

As Jessie and I talk of what we want this blog to be and communicate, we keep coming back to the same truth, self evident in our lives over the years; communication without honesty is worthless.  So its with that belief that we commit to be real, we commit to talk of both our mistakes and our successes with equal depth and clarity.  We will process the raw, together, and hopefully discover more about this great journey God has us all on this earth to enjoy.

I am almost sick of saying it, wishing that it were over already, but this is truly a time of transition for us as a family. We put our lives towards and devoted everything we had into caring for an orphanage full of kids, but in the past month its all fallen apart, it was taken from us and there was nothing we could do.  In the time since that all happened we have tried to communicate the future, to cast vision and step up to the plate and lead. But what we should have done is talk about the pain, and be honest with how hard of a hit it really was, and stop for a minute in the middle of it all to take the time and really process it ourselves.

We loved each of those children dearly and cared about each and every one of them as if they were our own.  Letting go, walking away, and trying to focus instead on the future, that hurts.   It was painful, yet we did not want to spend weeks licking our wounds and asking others to walk through that pain with us.  We wanted to stand up and look strong.  But the truth was, it hurt, and this long later, after processing more and coming to terms with the reality of all that happened we can see that the pain was far deeper than we wanted to admit even to ourselves.

Yet in the middle of all this change, while we face the pain, we also seek to learn, we seek to understand who it is that we are and who God is calling us to be.  We want to be learners and not those who are beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.  We believe that life is a rough draft, an un-completed work and its full of us, people who are far from perfect.

Won’t you join us?  The imperfect people, struggling to make the world a little better by learning from our mistakes and staying committed to keep moving forward.

Levi


This is real grocery shopping

For a minute here I need to just say that I love shopping like this. This beats Costco any day of the week.


Where do you find peace?

Its early, the sun is just waking up, to be honest though, I am normally not awake at this hour so I guess its more accurate to say it feels early.  Either way, I am the only one up in the house and its quiet, peaceful, an eerie kind of peace that this house with its four boisterous kids rarely enjoys. All across the floor are signs of life lived to its fullest, bits of food crunch under my feet, toys strewn in every corner, piles of papers filled with artwork adorn the dinner table. But for now, for another moment or two, its peaceful. I am deciding to take this bit of peace to write something, to communicate a bit on our new blog here in hopes that we might create something lasting between you and us.  Its the first time we have ever had a personal blog for our family, its new. For the past 6 years I have written something every few days on a blog, but its always been an organization blog of some sort or another.  Now though, its interesting to sit down and write like this because there is so much more to write about, so much more freedom when you are out on your own writing on a personal level… And yet, here I find myself writing about, well, writing.  Hmm.  Perhaps I need to get used to this new found freedom a bit more.

Lets talk about peace you and I, lets take a moment and dig into what it means to embrace a moment of peace.  Not that I am the expert or anything, but I have been learning some on the topic, or rather I have been going through a lot of experiences lately that are trying to teach me about peace, the learning is a process I am far from finished with.

If you have been reading the Drawn From Water blog in the past month you will know that this is a time of transition for our family and if you have been around the block a few times yourself, you will know that transitions are never easy times.  This transition seems to be teaching us about peace more than anything, and I have to be honest with you, its not the easiest topic to embrace. Its one thing to enjoy a moment of peace like the one I am enjoying right now, the kids are all fast asleep in their beds, and the world it seems has stopped spinning for a little while to let me rest, but thats not the kind of peace that takes practice to put forth, its the peace in the middle of the storm that we are learning about, the ability to slow down, to embrace the good in the middle of a bunch of bad, and to know that God is good, still good. That is true peace.

One key it seems to truly embracing peace is to realize the fact that we are all far from perfect. That goes for both our view of ourselves and our view of others.  To allow yourself the space to be honest about your shortcomings and allow others the same.

To stop looking for perfection, and stop acting like God promised any of us a life without struggles and start embracing the less than perfect for what it is, a chance to develop character.  If we know they are coming, and prepare ourselves for the inevitable let-downs in life, embrace the reality that we are all human and to be human means we all fail and all fall short, than isn’t it going to just be that much easier for us to have peace in the middle of it all?  Perhaps the first step to embracing peace is stepping away from perfect in our expectations.  I know it sounds simple, but its what I am learning today, its what I am embracing and finding that its helping invite peace to come in the door and stay permanently.

Three times in the past two days I have heard the same verse quoted to me, and it was not until the third time that I actually heard what it meant in my life.  Or, I should say that I finally truly recognized its value in this season, I am still processing what it really means.

1 Peter 1:7

Pure gold put into the fire comes out proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps all this up its your faith, not your gold that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

How do you open the door to peace in times when the fire is raging around you?

Levi


The weight of my discontent

So here I was, practically fast walking my way down the sidewalk, the scorching Ethiopian sun beating down on my head, grumbling inside about how my feet hurt and how I was having to walk yet again the two miles from our house to drop off some documents for our residency, something that we have been working on for almost years….

And I pass him.  At first I am a bit annoyed that he is meandering across the sidewalk and that I have to step out into the road to avoid hitting him…

Then I hear him. He is singing, and not just any sort of singing, its beautiful, almost like a child’s lullaby, but incredibly in tune and, well, angelic sounding.

Then I look at him.  He has a pair of ripped and stained pants on, his shirt is hanging off of him, torn and grubby looking, like he has not taken it off for years.  He has a crooked stick in his hand and is waving it in front of him, feeling his way across the rocky earth in front of him.  And his eyes are gone, not closed, not covered up by something, gone.

And he continues to sing, its beautiful.  I slow my pace to match his, and walk next to him for a while, enjoying his song, feeling the weight of my discontent pulling me down like a bag of cement that needs to be dropped before I can take another step.

We walk together he and I, and I begin to notice the world around me, the green grass, the blue sky, the beautiful sun that shines down to make the rows of maize reach out towards the heavens all bright and green. Its different somehow when you look at it through this man’s eyes, its more beautiful, and yet he can not even see it.  He is singing about what he can not see, and he is describing it all in more vivid detail that I could ever do on my own.

We walk further this contented man and I, him unaware that I am even there, singing, penetrating my soul, changing me, helping me.

I want to thank him for showing me what I could not see in front of me, I want to tell him that he did not need eyes to see beauty and that he did not need to even speak the same language as me to talk to me about it.

We come to a street and he continues on, I need to go left, I pause and consider walking with him for a while to see what else it is that he has to teach me.  But I turn, changed.

Levi