Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fragments

It is over 8 months since I held our dying daughter in my arms and kissed her goodbye into eternity. I have considered writing blog posts to record my personal process of grief but have for now kept the scrambled scribbled paragraphs privately in my journal....perhaps to be shared sometime....when I am ready?

One reason for refraining from public disclosure is the unpredictability of loss. Although my heart was somewhat prepared for the inevitable, I had not anticipated the depth and extent of the impact on my own children or how difficult the road of heart recovery would be.

Their unexpected presence in the moment of last breaths, witnessing life itself dissolve before innocent eyes was both powerfully significant yet entangling and I have honestly struggled to help them unpack their own experience and fears transparently alongside the vulnerability of my own.

Walking them through deep, crushed questions, endless inner interrogations of their own beliefs and reconciling their fledgling hearts and faith with the ragged emotions that swoop down without warning unravelled me to my core.




Repeated replays of the last days and hours of life countless times have been both helpful and hurtful.... remembering and cherishing....but wanting to forget.....yet afraid that memories will discolour and fade with the time slipping by. 

I have subsequently wrestled unworthiness with a frantic soul grapple for meaning in the tragedy of beautiful potential erased. Sleepless confessions in long nights of self analysis recalling my personal failures; Insomnia.....prayer.....tears.... weighing the internal investigation against my wasted hours of meaningless self sufficiency. 

An urgent need for purpose among the questions that remain unanswered but heard in the dark silence eventually releases a humble admission of the insignificance of so many fleeting moments; just tiny grains of sand among infinite unknowns and a quiet longing for something more.

While dear friends and family around me also struggle with their own losses and battles, instead of trying to fix the unfixable I am at last OK to surrender the shards that may never fit together. I have abandoned the rescue effort and acknowledged it as futility, not as a victim but an intentional decision to grow steadfastly in and from the things that I cannot change and still choose love without measure......again!

This daily acceptance of ways beyond my own allows my soul to make peace with the pieces and let grace be enough for each moment. Growth is a choice and I still say YES to life.....whatever it holds......unreservedly......


" For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds. " Jeremiah 30:17

" He restores my soul. " Psalm 23

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A time for everything!

SAYING ‘YES!’

Today is my 37th birthday!
Just over 14 years ago I was given a choice….I said YES to a man’s question…to share life on an adventure thousands of miles away …I also said YES to a 6 year old little boy who became my beloved first son….conceived not from my womb but from within the depths of my heart. I said YES to a life that I could never have dreamed of or imagined….a road and journey with a lot of heartache, a lot of stretching but no regrets.

Decisions for comfort, self-preservation and convenience usually miss the real opportunity to grow, be changed and make a difference….It takes so much risk to allow ourselves to be stripped back and yet made whole by the road less traveled.

Last month we lost our beloved HOJ daughter to cancer….a girl with no shared DNA or bloodline,  but born out of our hearts. We were given the opportunity to choose her –We said YES to 14 kids on that day, 3 years ago – children who needed a home, a family, to belong, to be loved….

I didn’t count the cost or measure the bank account – I didn’t look at what we didn’t have or what we failed to be – For me there was no choice to make…..It had already been made……years before…..If I had counted the cost or anticipated the possible or actual loss and heartache ahead we would have missed out on so much….. 

A repeating YES pattern continues appearing. Emerging roads laid out before me – What will I choose?...
The answer always brings more change, and growth....often more difficulty too...but with it so much life......

Easy choices and attractive paths are like sugar coated candies –  sweet and enticing, but they swiftly dissolve as nothing for lack of substance…..


So today at 37, I renew that commitment  - for my life and this year to count.....for something....for someone...(most especially children) without reservation, without calculation, without measurement.....because now I am starting to understand even more....after staring death eyeball to eyeball...that life is a gift....
To be shared....not possessed...
To be honoured and treasured...and imparted to others....

One of the greatest gifts I have been blessed with is family – the greatest gift I can offer and share in return is family……


CHANGING SEASONS:
Today I also share part of my 'LOSS STORY' – because it marks the end of one journey and the start of a new season now unfolding.....

‘There is a time for everything and a season for every purpose under heaven – a time to be born…and a time to die…a time to mourn and a time to dance…. Ecclesiastes 3

Rayziel – her name means ’the secrets of God’ –  I held her in her last 2 days; fragile but fearless, a fading swollen  body but soul stirring. An unseen disease had gradually consumed and invaded ravenously from within, but could never penetrate her warrior spirit.

Restless and heaving breaths – pain rising and falling….massaging…comforting….sleepless, no comfortable position…lifting her, repositioning, encouraging, stroking…... 

Those dwindling hours and slim minutes ticking – Seconds of stillness followed by agitated discomfort. Weeping wounds, darkening bruises, and blisters bursting open, signalling the finish was approaching….

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I will fight Ate’….she gasped between breaths, mid afternoon,  refusing to give in. 
 (*Ate pronounced ‘Ar-tay’ )

‘You are definitely my daughter!’ –I laughed, ‘ you just keep fighting and don’t want to give up!’  She smiled in agreement yet gasped out in pain – begging me to massage her heart again– skin to skin…..Mother to daughter….nothing with-held…no barriers….just us!

At one point she suddenly started praying - loud and clear...I joined her in one voice and together we prayed...not for healing, not for anyone...just thanking God for who he is....for his love, for his faithfulness, for his presence, for never leaving us....for holding us close....her heartfelt words tumbled out effortlessly....I felt us rise upwards together....then settle back down....my hair felt like fire tingling on my head, knowing that we were not alone....but held...right in that moment....known and cherished.

 I silently cried to ‘Jehovah Rapha’ – in acceptance of his will - if not for his miracle healing of her body then a plead for his shalom peace for her heart. Wholeness,, completeness….My hands trembling, my leaking eyes dripping on my aching arms as I rubbed her back.

‘She’s yours I wept…realising that her warmth was weakening beneath my touch…..and only hours were left together....

Her approaching release, HIS quiet, gentle sovereign answer to what was now my tearful accepting goodbye.

A bird in the trees outside called out, like a shofar horn.announcing, beckoning –not much further to go. I watched the green light through the leaves fading as the sun dropped lower in the sky….tears flowing, holding her heart in my hand, beating rapidly….life gradually sliding through my fingers like the funneling sand in the timer.

By evening, her brown glassy eyes had widened and with dry lips she unexpectedly and beseechingly rasped
‘Ate it’s time!!’…..

"Time?...." I could hardly speak the words that stuck jagged in my throat….(Time to go???? my own heart questioned?????)

‘I think God will get me now' she exclaimed…."Ate, call everyone…call them all – I want to tell them that I love them.’ she pleaded urgently....

Hurriedly I called first her siblings and my own children rushed in together too….as I gently explained that Rayziel felt that God was now calling her – it was time for her to go….

The goodbyes poured out as love was exchanged – she called each by name with her love….In perfect English she told me her instructions….to tell others she loved them, her Kuya and Ate (elder brother and sister) , her cousins, her teacher and classmates ‘Tell them I love them’……Kuya Ramil, (My husband)  ……‘You know how much Kuya Ramil loves you! ‘ I smiled….’so much’….she nodded, her mouth parched – He was out still, rushing back to bring her an oxygen tank from the hospital….’I promise I will tell them’ …..
A few more instructions to give her things to the girls….

 ‘ I will wait Ate’……she gasped for a few more light breaths….Her beloved house parent and 'sister of heart' was also rushing back – travelling on the bus to make it back to her side…
She had been waiting and fighting, holding on by each hour to be reunited again.....as I had urgently texted during the afternoon to check how close she was to making it home  in time.....but the battle was finishing faster…..

‘Ate, I cannot wait’…she whispered again after a few more laboured moments….exhausted and accepting…….’Please can you call her?'....I reached for my phone and dialed……
’Rayziel wants to tell you that she loves you…..its your time to tell her you love her too…..’ No more explanations...

Only goodbyes left…..

‘Ate – please can you pray…?' Her last request....

My heartbroken words stumbled out…

‘Father we are here together – loving you ….and loving Rayziel….we know you love her more….her heart is here laid open before you….pure  - nothing is hidden….…..she is yours – she belongs to you and we commit her to you….’

‘Ate I will go to heaven now!."
No resistance…..just simple assurance of faith and declaration of fact…

‘Ok darling….wait for me there hah??’…She nodded with a smile again…
.’Don’t be afraid….I added gently, recalling our previous conversations of her fears….of death….of her questions....the unknown….of losing....

‘I’m not afraid Ate…." She beamed knowingly…..pale but illuminated by
this secret of God: Perfect love casts out all fear….

‘I’m so proud of you darling– I love you so much….you have fought so bravely –you have run a good race, you have kept your faith – you have fought the good fight…never giving up…..now there is a crown for you…’ 

As her body and organs hemorrhaged, heaving a final farewell – her head tilted upwards. I stroked the tufts of her hair gently….’It's OK….It's OK….You are OK.’ I soothed as I wiped her bleeding lips softly.....you.go...my heart whispered.....

‘Well done good and faithful servant’….. I told her....
She gasped in response….’Well done’ …. I proudly declared again....

Well done good and faithful servant…I reassured her again…..another weaker breath…..

Well done good and faithful servant!'….Tenderly spoken.....My last stroke with my left hand, her last heartbeat in my right  ..... My last words....

With a final sigh she opened her heart and her mouth willingly releasing... and let go of her spirit, freeing the precious pearl jewel of her love back to her heavenly Father.

That last exhale unexpectedly catapulted my own soul upward….as a song erupted and shot out of some unknown deep place within me….the melody roaring upwards as a cradle beneath....carrying her home….echoing through the house..... declaring in complete surrender….

‘Faithful God…..Faithful God,
All sufficient one, I worship you.
Shalom, my peace
My strong deliverer,
I lift you up…..FAITHFUL GOD….’

The last song for my daughter to hear, a true worshiper…who continually gave a sacrifice of praise from such broken places….who refused to give up and loved her Father unwavering to the end….’ 

As her last flickering lights went out I closed her eyes completely…..

 In that song I reached a place I had never been to…..
My closest encounter with expansive holiness….vast...wide....
The edge of eternity….

I had walked her to the end ...and beyond…..our last journey together...xxx

The secrets of God….revealed.....


'Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven....' Matthew 18.3



'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' Matthew 19: 14

CHALLENGE: To become more like children......!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Repairing With Gold


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We have walked this journey now for 14 years and each path has been uncharted - unknown territory,  strewn with uncertainty and unpredictability.

Just when you think you are understanding how to navigate the terrain, an unexpected trail emerges...(so many 'uns'...uncharted, unknown, uncertain, unpredictable....!!???)

Right now we are stepping out a very painful walk - stepping without knowing if there is even another one ahead...?

Walking as a family with a very precious girl in her battle with cancer -  each step of fear, anxiety, grief, loss flip-sided with it's corresponding desperate grasp on hope, faith, trust, longing....

Walking alongside her closer to an impending end fills me with so many emotions -
I want to believe in miracles and hold out for them but the pungent taste of reality stings me to accept that just being here is a miracle alone.....Should I ask for anything more!?

Slowing down each wavering print in the path doesn't alter it's direction - 
The unavoidable....
There is no reverse gear anymore...there never was....for any of us!

I'm searching the horizon - straining to see the distance left ahead?
How much time? How far to go?
How close is terminal?
The questions that resound like an irregular rhythm drawing us closer...
This was not in my plan....off the chart I had unconsciously mapped and constructed....
A way I never anticipated to turn into.....
No return!



Yet faith remains unmoved - a heart that in its brokenness still trusts....
Eyes that pour with liquid prayers watching a child we love gradually fade....
Holding hands together......capturing smiles to keep them as treasures,
The richness of love immeasurable,
The power of gratitude,
The extent of sacrifice,

Somehow I am praying that these pieces will be 'Kintsukuroi' - REPAIRED WITH GOLD -  and someday I will look back and see this journey with eyes of understanding;
Although it was not my chosen direction, that it was made more beautiful for having been a broken road.











Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Love Transfusion

I was young, enthusiastic and somewhat naive when I first began working in this intense ministry field. An unpredictable and volatile territory where I sincerely believed without a doubt that we were (and still are) mandated to respond and try to make a difference among vulnerable children – Perhaps it was a factor in my favour which kept me optimistic and prevented discouragement from turning me back on my steadfast resolve….???
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I still shamelessly have that childlike and seemingly stubborn heart – that refuses to give up or surrender – that sees the cup as half full or the challenges as the potential and opportunity rather than the obstacle ……but the journey has definitely dented, bruised, tainted and crumbled the ‘Disney’ dream of happy endings, where those you reach out to, love and give your life for ‘all live happily ever after’……..

The road of reality has been strewn with messy lives, tears, frustrations, fears and shared brokenness…..an unyielding fight to hold fast to hope and a sometimes daily battle for each step that this restoration process involves for every child…..

A courage contest to believe…..

A perseverance struggle to find (and keep) staff who are committed for the long haul, without glamorous results, rewards or compensation….who have both the character and determination to really stick it out and love unconditionally without measuring the sacrifice….
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This challenging year has brutally stripped my own simple heart bare and exposed afresh the rawness of love….uncovering the vulnerability of opening up myself further to pain…to loss….to more disappointment. 

 Self-preservation dangerously erects walls of limitation that inhibit transparency and prevents growth. The protection becomes a division and a barrier to authentic relationship.
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Hollow attempts to conserve our inadequate core resources backfire through detachment and self inflicted isolation....disconnection from ourselves and those around us.

A sweet, wise friend once told me that pain is the evidence of life….if there is no pain or bleeding then life has already gone….

 Pain is confirmation of life still pulsating through my soul….through the veins of this daily work….an active transfusion through us and out into these kid’s lives….as long as we remain connected channels without blockage.

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It is the thread woven through and holding a messy, broken, hurting, vulnerable family together, the magnet that draws the prodigals back home…… It is the only answer I can give and the only source that sustains each moment
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Although I am severely lacking.....the real and only supply is immeasurable.....




Thursday, May 26, 2016

Walking With The Broken

THIS POST IS IN HONOR OF OUR HOUSE OF JOSHUA STAFF:

Over the years we have faced so many trials in this ministry with children. We have also seen such accomplishment, laughed and celebrated with joy as they move forward with hope and expectation.

Each one has their own story....ones we have listened to....wept over and with.....

The child who was hung in a rice sack over an open fire for punishment,
The child who was raped when they were 5,
The child who was continually violated by those entrusted to protect,
The child who scavenged garbage bins for food to feed his brother,
The child afraid of their drunken father's violence,.....

Two days ago I had to explain to a frightened and confused young girl that she has cancer.......

Just a month ago she was running, playing badminton, laughing, singing.....and in such a short time she is now facing a much greater trial than any of us could anticipate. Silently and undetected the tumors have grown and multiplied and now as a family we are faced with so many questions and unknown territory ahead.

These times that challenge us most to our very core are the moments that determine who we really are.

They give us a choice....

Our response reveals the honest contents of our heart, its motives and who or what we are ultimately rooted to....the choices that really matter.

Although walking alongside our kids is often painful and raw, unexpected and unpredictable it is also an incredible responsibility entrusted to us....... and an honor....
We have been entrusted with the incomparable task of being part of a very wonderful and unique family....to love and shepherd each one...and learn from and with one another in weakness and in strength.

We are not assured of what lies ahead, but as we walk with these children..... perhaps to the end and beyond........even though the steps may wrench our hearts and flood our eyes, I will still consider it a joy and privilege to love them through it.


And I will give you the treasures of darkeness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
In order that you make know that it is I,
The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
Isaiah 45: 3

Our staff who give beyond their time and energy are investing themselves in the lives of others. The salary is limited and the persistent tests are sometimes a strain on even the strongest of heart (mind, and will)....yet love remains......sacrificial, messy and relentless...Their choice to love and to give and to not hold back when others can and have walked away measures who they really are......

It may not fill their wallet....but it certainly counts for eternity!





Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Measure of Mercy

After many months of not writing here.....not for lack of stories to share but an inward struggle to word them in line with my heart.........I am finally back!

Last night has unexpectedly propelled the pen back into my hand hence my sudden return! (with the intention to stay and be a voice once more!)

TO THE MAN WHO HELD UP MY SON 
AT GUN-POINT LAST NIGHT:

THANK YOU!

Thank you for sparing my eldest - my beloved son!

THANK YOU for offering him a chance ....to live, to breathe....to grow and become a young man!

The small measure of mercy that you held in your hands before him is a seed which will return back to you!

WHY?

Because I prayed for it!
I prayed for you, a stranger....a man I have never met and will likely never know.....or perhaps I have?
Perhaps I have stood with you in the supermarket line waiting to pay for groceries or have even been a former passenger in the taxi that you drive but I was fortunate to ride with you in better circumstances?
I will now never know who you are or what lead you to pull out your gun but I prayed for you.

I prayed at 4 am in the dark upon my bed with tears like I haven't  pleaded or prayed to God in months....

I prayed God's mercy to flood your life -
For you to encounter truth...for the dark places to be exchanged for light....
I prayed for your family, for your health, for YOUR LIFE!
For your personal situation to be changed...for your protection, for the provision you need.
For you to encounter a GREATER measure of mercy than you  had the courage to show by not pulling that trigger.

Again I THANK YOU....
Because as I held my son in my arms - weeping and trembling at your threats of death...I was not angry...I simply gave thanks that I could still hug him and wipe his tears.

AND in that moment I renewed my commitment.........and I intend to passionately keep it:

MY COMMITMENT TO:  my precious children, to the orphans and abandoned street kids in our care....to ones who have led a life like the one you have right now......

My commitment to love, and reach, and rescue and teach and train them....... TO BE SEEDS OF MERCY

They will be and are part of this generation rising....ones who love and respond with care, ones who exchange the fear and hatred for compassion with action, and forgiveness. Those who realise they can refuse to be imprisoned by circumstances or chained by their experiences, or abuse ....whose hearts are expanded with the capacity to move forward and upward and outward. The chance before them to break out AND from that place of newfound freedom  to then victoriously break into the desperate, broken places with active, beating, responsive hearts and hands that are open and ready to get dirty.....

You will not know what you started at 3 am this early dusky morning...but I will credit you as the one who planted a harvest far, far beyond anything you could imagine.....

....and I will continue to pray for you!

Mercy and Peace be yours today, tomorrow and in the days and months to come!

" Blessed are the merciful....for they will receive mercy!"






Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Kidnap Wish

Those who observe from the comfortable side lines have called her wild, immature, and manipulative and indeed she can be all of those things - 

It’s easy to judge a book by its cover, or a person by a moment; the way they eat, or talk or laugh or don’t meet an expectation or unspoken standard we have raised unknowingly against them.

Her name means ‘sweet’……and beneath the first impression rough exterior there is a vast and unfathomable capacity within her to love, a receptive and willing loyal heart that she alone is still discovering. 

Those rugged outburst edges are just a protective crust around the vulnerable and precious - A rough diamond for the shaping….. I’m convinced that as she continues to learn to channel the furious passion that drives her she can and will be unstoppable…..

 Usually when you ask a 12 year old girl what they want to be or dream of they answer with ‘A Doctor’ or an ’Actress’ reply or with an indifferent shrug of the shoulders that conveys ‘I don’t know or want to think about it’ response……

BUT when asked the other afternoon what she wished for her life, the simple and matter of fact request that spilled out so openly still has me reeling and processing its true meaning:


“I want you to kidnap my siblings and bring them here to House of Joshua”
(Translated into English)


Back ‘home’ on the street there are others……just like her, scavenging in garbage cans for scraps, avoiding clashes with intoxicated adults or drug high gang members, sleeping on the hard cement slabs in shop doorways, begging, stealing, surviving…….children who have seen and experienced things I will never comprehend. That was her daily life just 8 months ago –neglected, shirtless, alone, hungry and afraid.

And now her first Christmas is just around the corner among the many firsts she has experienced over the past few months. How easy it is to take for granted a bed with a pillow, or a shirt, own a towel, underwear or a toothbrush…..the chance to learn to read and go to school, eat 3 times a day, sleep in safety, have a birthday (with a cake)….

Of course, I’m not going to kidnap anyone! (Just in case you are worrying!) –

 BUT I am honestly captured by the simple realisation that there has been unmeasured worth to what has honestly been for us a weary and relentless year….

The doubts, confusion, tears and failings of trying to lead this family have filled barrels - but it has meant more than I really comprehended.

I found this note on my desk the other day from another of our adopted children....



They are just small little things.....but more than enough for me.....


This may have been a challenging year....however love is not wasted……and even if it were I would gladly squander it on these ones......NO REGRETS!