Miracles in the Pocket

Peering out the airplane window, all I could see was glaring, sear your eyes white. The morning sun stood high above miles and miles of clouds, completely obscuring the world below. With no real marker below to give away our speed, it felt as though we were floating. Were it not for the man crammed very snugly against my side, I think it would have been the most serene and peaceful I’ve felt in many months.

The bell chimed and the captain’s voice broke through the speakers. “Folks, we’re making our initial descent into New Orleans. We have a bit of weather ahead of us, so I’m going to ask that you return to your seats and put on your seatbelts as we make our way down.”

And still I watched, my forehead pressed tight against the cool glass, as we slowly drifted down, closer and closer to the white peaks below. The clouds were thick and full, a world of shapes dancing beneathe me, all waiting to be discovered. Just beyond the horizon of white stood the vibrant blue sky and a perfectly round sun beyond that. And still we dropped until…

 

Read the rest at Kelli Stuart.com

A lesson learned and learned and learned again

20121231-090810.jpg We close out 2012 in Arkansas. As I look out the window at the snow, which slowly melts on the ground, I feel a similar thawing in my heart. It’s grey and gloomy, but the hope of Spring calls with promise. There are a few months before the grass will begin to green and the flowers bloom, but I know it’s coming. The snow and ice provide a necessary fertilizer. I just have to wait for the beauty to bloom.

It has been a hard week in more ways than one. My heart has been broken and twisted and squeezed and tugged. I have mourned mostly in secret because who wants to be around a killjoy at the holidays, right? But I’ve been sad.

You see, I have been to the orphanages. I know what they’re like. I have seen the children. And for more than half my life I have been waiting for the moment when I could bring one home. So this week has been a punch in the gut. Had we begun the process six months earlier, things might be different, but we didn’t and God had a reason for that. I don’t know what that reason is, yet, but I trust His timing even if I don’t like it.

As I enter into 2013 I believe God has laid the word “Wait” on my heart. This will be my challenge this year. I will wait upon The Lord. Hope is not lost. There is a chance the adoption will be able to proceed. But there’s a better chance that it won’t and I am waiting for God to tell me what He has planned.

I am praying for the little girl that is supposed to be ours. I have even begun praying for her by name. A name has been on my heart for some time now, but I haven’t had the guts to say it out loud. But this week changed that. I am crying out for her by name. I will share that name with all of you when I feel the time is right, but just know that I believe she is real and I believe she is out there waiting for us.

I haven’t written much in the last few weeks. Usually at the end of the year I post my top posts from each month as an end of the year recap, but I don’t have the heart to do that this year. I did, however, receive a report yesterday that revealed my top post of 2012. This was my most viewed post and it surprised me.

It didn’t get the most comments and it wasn’t passed around more than the others. But it remains my top post.

The title of this post? Hope is Slow.

I needed that reminder yesterday and today and for the rest of my time here on Earth. I will always need to be reminded that the hope that I long for is slow, but IT IS NOT DEAD! Hope is alive. Hope is real. Hope is here.

But hope is slow.

It’s fitting that that very post would be revealed as my top post in a time when I feel like hope is dying. It is right that it was revealed to me yesterday when I needed it most. It makes perfect sense that the words I needed to read again would come from the very trip and experience that pushed Lee and I over the ledge of doubt and gave us the courage to step forward toward adoption in faith.

Hope is slow, friends. But it is not dead.

Happy New Year.

To read all my posts from my trip to Tanzania with Compassion International, click here. This was the defining moment of my year. I will carry those lessons with me for life.

Hope is Slow

As we ambled back up the rutted dirt path it finally happened. I knew the emotions would take over at some point, but I honestly didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed my second day here. On both sides, children scrambled about watching us with bold curiosity.

“How do you handle seeing this all the time?” I asked Shaun as we stepped gingerly over a stream of muddy water flowing through the red soil. My throat burned and eyes watered as the images of the family we just visited ran through my mind. It wasn’t the condition of their home that left me so affected, though the small, concrete structure that housed two adults and nine children did leave me a bit shocked.

The situation this family lives in is dire in more ways than just physical. There was a hollow emptiness in the eyes of the mother that struck me. A desperation in the grandmother’s voice that tore through me. Abandoned and alone, these women now work only when they can and pray for daily bread in the most literal sense.

Currently, two of this young mother’s five children are being served by Compassion – twins, Doto and Kuluwa. One is sponsored, the other is still waiting. They were all quiet, eyes downcast, shy. When asked what she hopes for her children, this mother replies, “I hope that they can grow up and do business so that they can take care of me.”

Doto is sponsored. Her twin brother, Kuluwa is not.

I left this home with a quivering chin. “How do you see this all the time and not feel overwhelmed?” I asked. “It just all seems so much, like it’s impossible to ever meet all the needs.”

“Hope is slow,” Shaun replied softly.

There is hope for the family we visited thanks to the Compassion center in Buhongwa, Tanzania. But what about the others? There are so many needs. So much that can leave you feeling hopeless, but…hope is slow.

There is more need in this world than any one person or group or organization can handle. When we’re far away from these situations it’s so easy to keep an emotional distance from the desperation. But even being here and seeing it firsthand, I find myself shutting down a bit. It seems impossible, insurmountable.

But hope is slow.

The hope to eradicate extreme poverty is not unrealistic. But it’s also not going to happen overnight and it absolutely won’t happen without the mobilization of masses. Hope is real. It is alive. But it is slow.

I will be completely honest with you. I felt a little hopeless this afternoon as I walked through the back alleys. This country, along with the people that inhabit it, is beautiful and stunning, but the dichotomy of how so many people live against the backdrop of brilliant rock formations, mountains and a lake that gleams like a million crystals in the sunlight leaves me with a bit of vertigo.

But…

Back at the Compassion center at the Africa Inland Church I saw hope. I saw it and I heard it. I hugged it and let it play with my hair. Hope revealed itself in the form of giggling faces, curious stares, sweet songs and a sermon from a ten year old named James that would put the greatest communicators of the pulpit to shame.

Hope. It’s slow. But it’s there.

Currently there are roughly 1.2 million children sponsored worldwide through Compassion International. That’s 1.2 million families who now have a hope for the future.

For the children who are sponsored with Compassion, hope is real. It means a future. It allows for more than just a meal now and then. It means education, health care, spiritual and leadership training. Sponsorship with Compassion is the birth of hope.

So far it appears that the theme of what I will learn this week is what it means to hope. I so often lose myself in the big picture. I see the need and feel paralyzed because how can I possibly do anything that will produce any kind of lasting effect? But though the need is great, hope is greater. It’s easy to get discouraged, but we cannot give up. I cannot give up.

I won’t give up.

Because hope is slow…but it’s also real.

Will you join the fight?

Sponsor-Compassion-International-Tanzania-500x70

Clicking the above photo will lead you to a page where you can sponsor a child from Tanzania. If you are interested in sponsoring a child from the specific project center we visited today, there are 53 still waiting. You can click this link where a few of those children are listed as available for sponsorship.

There were so many experiences that we all had today. It seems every blogger gleaned a little something different from this visit. To see this experience through their eyes, click here.

All photos courtesy of the lovely and incomparable Keely Scott.

The sliver of light

When I arrived home from Cali the other night, it was wickedly late.  I stumbled to bed and switched off the lamp that my husband had so thoughtfully left on for me.  Though I was tired to my core, sleep was a bit elusive.  The impending move out of our house has proven to push my mind over the edge.  But there’s more than that.  My mind was full of details that began to oppress my already fragile emotions.

As I lay in the darkness, I willed myself to fall asleep.  I watched the clock slowly tick the hours away.  1:30. 2:30…I finally started to drift off when I felt the room go from darkness to light instantaneously.  I opened my eyes in a bit of a panic to see Lee’s iPad, which was sitting on his bedside table, illuminated.  I figured he must get some kind of notification for emails and closed my eyes again.  Five minutes later the room lit up again.  And I got annoyed.  Who emails at 3:00 in the morning?

Then I marveled at how bright the room was from that one tiny light of the screen.  Turns out he gets weather notifications and his iPad was warning us of the impending storm that rolled through ten minutes later.  But the visual of the light piercing the darkness stuck with me.

As already mentioned, I had a wonderful time in California, but it was hard too.  I was processing a lot of emotions.  And on top of that, the subject matter of the novel I’m writing is oftentimes hopeless and desperately sad.  As I researched the events surrounding World War II, I found myself terribly sad.  The darkness of that time is so deep and as I read story after story of heartache, my stomach turned into a tighter and tighter knot.  I wondered how I would portray the characters in my novel with any sort of redemption, any sort of hope.

And then I saw it.  That one sliver of light that pierced the darkness.

Hope.

As I read the personal accounts of survival during those heinous years of war, I saw a thin trail of Hope.  One woman described seeing a tiny sprig of green growing from the frozen ground as she marched to the concentration camp.  Why did that small plant stick out in her mind?  It was Hope.  It was the knowledge that after winter, spring arrives.  After death, life springs forth.  A sliver of light in the pitch black can illuminate a whole room.

I read an account from a young mother whose infant was killed at birth by her Nazi captivators.  And she rejoiced, because a swift death was better than a slow one behind the barbed wires.  Did her heart ache?  I imagine it tore into a thousand tiny pieces and was never fully reassembled.  But she saw the sliver of light and sometimes that’s all we need to guide us through the darkness.

I read story after story like this.  Some of them were so horrific, I didn’t see how there could possibly be any hope – any redemption.  But many of the stories had a sliver.  Enough to give me the emotional strength to keep reading.  It was the same when I went to Ukraine nine years ago.  I interviewed veteran after veteran and saw so much Hope.  They were happy, jovial and so full of light that I wondered how they possibly survived such horror with their spirits in tact.  That’s the redemption of so many of their stories.  And that spirit is what I hope to capture in my characters.

A blade of green amidst the rubble.

Darkness is repelled by light – even the smallest sliver of it.  Sometimes the darkness is still oppressive and the pain remains ever constant, but that tiny bit of Hope is what keeps us going.  For me, that tiny sliver of Hope is the thing that keeps me moving forward with this book project.  It’s the tiny bit of light in an otherwise very dark story.  I am reminding myself to focus on Hope as I continue to research and write.  If I don’t, I fear the heartache will become too much.