I Was A Jonah
Just so we are clear on the front end, none of this was my idea! I was a Jonah.
How this all got started...
In January of 2017, I got on a plane with my 14 year old and we headed south to Guatemala...the great unknown, an adventure, following a dream and a calling.
By Wednesday, day 5 of our trip, I was pretty sure we would write this off as a "learning experience." An amazing time but I was ready to be back home, back to my comfort zone, back to my own language. I wasn't sure we would be back. And then this happened...
Sponsorship…and this…something so much bigger…
I can only tell you that in the moment that he hugged me something happened. A hole that I didn’t even know was empty was filled. My heart was wrecked and overflowing at the same time by this young man who has never known a family outside of the children’s home. His, a heart-wrenching story that we didn’t know until after the fact. At a point when I was wondering what I was doing there, feeling like I was floundering, to get an answer to prayer, and be an answer to prayer…God is so good! I didn’t go to Guatemala thinking this would happen. I would have not believed that a 13 year old boy would so capture my heart in the span of seconds. I would not have thought that now I would worry for him, worry for his future in a country that is so poverty stricken. (excerpt from An aching heart)
And then we were home and time passed, and normal-ish resumed it's dominion. We wrote letters, mailed gifts, and sent prayers heavenward. We nurtured and fostered a relationship despite the miles and language barriers. We were also smack in the middle of navigating having a senior and a freshman, our lives full of wonderful teenage fueled chaos. And then, because God has a sense of humor we moved for the 2nd time in 3 years. (The sight of moving boxes now causes PTSD and I am pretending our storage unit full of I don't even know what doesn't exist.) Smack in the middle of state playoff football, and just weeks before Christmas I was offered an empty spot to go back...
“I’ll go.” “No, I can’t go.” “Ok, I will go.” “No, it’s just not going to work.” This was the back and forth of my recent decision to go back to Guatemala. I had said no to this trip at least 5 times for very valid reasons and yet the opportunity and question “Will you go?” continued to come back around. And then I got an early Christmas gift from Guatemala with a note that read in part “May God bless you for all you have done in my life. I love you very much.” And suddenly none of those reasons mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was this boy. (excerpt from On Again, Off Again, On Again)
Wheels downs in Guatemala just one year after my first visit...and my number one priority was sitting at the top of the hill. My reason for returning. I couldn't wait to see him. When he came to the door, here was this grown boy, looking eye to eye with me. Still shy, but with a smile for me that made his eyes shine and my mama-heart melt. As the week went on, from across the church or the campus, his eyes would seek mine out and a smile and wave were quick to follow.
What can I tell about this place except that it will break you. This sickening feeling of broken-hearted-joyfulness is one that I just want to hold on to, to not forget, to not let fade, even as the cover lays closed on the photo album and days turn to weeks. God is doing a mighty work within the walls of this place and the walls of my heart. I cannot escape being overwhelmed by that. This is the collective experience of two trips and many a servants’ heart, not only mine. Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Not sweet, leaking eye tears but ugly, crying sobs. Broken hurts but broken heals. My heart has been mended back together, stronger and patched with the tapestry of this beautiful country, the smiles of a group of boys and love from this woven together family. It changes you, being broken, and not everyone will understand it. This shy boy, who’s simple words have shattered me has also shown me a love within myself that I don’t understand. A love I didn’t know I was capable of, a love that is bigger than me and hopes in the impossible. A love that I wasn’t looking for but now can’t imagine living without, whatever that ends up looking like. (excerpt from How Was It?)
And then a door opened, an opportunity to do what I love, a chance to advocate for all of the children living within the walls of the children’s home, a new job, a new adventure, and another trip south only 3 mo after my last visit. God had been busy in that short span of time. Working overtime on the hearts in our household, moving mountains, opening doors before we even had a chance to knock, doing the things that He does best, and the things that only He can do. And of course, my heart almost bust, when once again I laid eyes on this smile.
In the months since, my love for one still shines brightest but my momma heart loves them all and just as I continue to leave little bits of heart in Guatemala every time I visit, I also carry each and everyone of them home with me along with the question, “What’s going to happen to them?”
This is “heart work” and at its very core it’s hard. The uphill battle that these kids face is one that causes me sleepless nights. I want to wrap them all up and level their path, take away their uncertainty of the future. But, I can’t so I do the only thing I know how to do. I just keep showing up.
And on this day we just laughed...it’s the best heart medicine I know. My own little orange shirted entertainer sang a little opera and Nick Jonas (ha!!!) and danced like Micheal Jackson. It had been a long time since I laughed this hard. Life is hard but oh so good.
I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me today would look like it does, not with the way this story started. Just be prepared if you decide to raise your hand and say “Oh, oh! Pick me! Send me!” Chances are good that you will get picked, but it will look nothing like what you think it will. I can assure you that when I first stepped foot on Guatemalan soil back in 2017, I had no idea where this train was headed!
And that brings me to the second part of this. If God has been tugging at you to do something but you’re hesitant because you aren’t “ready,” it doesn’t make sense, or you don’t have your 36 point plan drafted, proofed and put into place with the end game strategy fully defined, welcome to the club. John Ortberg says, “…’feeling ready’ is not the ultimate criterion for determining the places you’ll go. God says, ‘I have set before you an open door,’ not ‘I have set before you a finished script.’ An open door is a beginning, an opportunity, but it has no guaranteed ending. It’s not a sneak peek at the finish. If it is to be entered, it can be entered only by faith.” We have had more than our share of raised eyebrows and whispered suspicions from others as to what we were doing and why.
I will tell you though, from my very type-A personality, it’s ok not to have all of the answers. It isn’t easy, but it’s ok. This is just the beginning and I have absolutely no idea what tomorrow is going to look like.