08 March 2016

undiminished radiance

I'm that mom in pajama pants with a skirt over them at the curb on school mornings, coffee in hand, crazy hair, snotty (lately) baby on my hip, waving good-bye over and over as the truck full of braids and ribbons pulls away...heading back to the whirl-winded house begging Nora never never to grow up as I shower and get ready for work.

I like being that mom.  You know how I feel about mornings.  

But that mom only exists when Dad is here.  When Dad is gone, I'm that mom that can't hit snooze, feeds the baby, gets ready for work while it's still dark, then gets everybody up and going and fed and braided and then kisses snotty baby goodbye and piles everybody in the car with me.  I dodge the millions of muddy potholes on the road, being careful not to splash all the kids marching off to school on the side.  

Monday morning, my heart was already on the edge of overcast...both girls have testing every day this week (read: lots of extra school runs), I had to be back for class at 8, I'm still not feeling well and Nora is not only still sick, but somehow seems to be even worse, and Junior came by while we were braiding to give his final goodbye, leaving me with weepy girls. on Monday morning. in the car. dodging bottomless pot-holes.  before testing.  at 7:10.  

There is just nothing as raw to life in Haiti as taking your kids to school.  

You are taking your kids to school and it seems that everyone is taking their kids to school.  Motos whizz by with ribbons of every color, older siblings pull younger ones by the hand along both sides of the road.  Kids who do not go to school are all at the pumps, watching their friends in uniform go by while they throw their weight onto the long handle, collecting the water for the day and then helping each other hoist heavy dripping buckets upon heads.
All the mamas look like me when Matt's home...standing out on the road in sweatshirts with crazy hair, babies on their hips, watching their children walk to school,  their little ones occasionally turning around for one last wave.  Men are out moving their goats, one man already hard at work and glistening with sweat in the garden, the local coffee stand and its one cup has a small line of regulars waiting their turn, the milk men pedal their bikes laden with old oil jugs filled with warm creamy white, pulling off the path when called to ladle out a cup.

It's morning in Haiti and we're right in the middle with leaky eyes, Lily and friends all chattering about their upcoming tests, quizzing each other and calling to friends out the windows.

We pull up at Lily's school and walk her to the gate.  I'm uncertain what to do....this is Dad's job...but Lily's confidence astounds me.  A woman with empty eyes is pacing back and forth in front of the gate, calling out nonsense and pounding on her bony chest, but everyone around her continues as if she were silent and still.  

Ladies sell fried spicy peppers and packets of crackers, and Lily goes right to one and starts bargaining out a red and white candy ball, making change and chatting with the woman she knows...I don't.  She calls Sofie over and Sofie picks a bright yellow gumball, and Lily maneuvers her around the yelling woman and back to me, pulls me down for a quick kiss and then charges through the gate with her friends, testing on her braided brain, never looking back.  

My heart hurts and my eyes water up again--leaving her is much harder than picking her up!!-- but there is no time, because Sofie is tugging and she has testing today, too.  We dodge our way back past the seminary and keep on going while I rest in her chatter.  No one says anything as funny as half of what Sofie says, and it's common now for me to see her running past and think that she is Lily.  They grow.

Dropping Sofie is easier because I get to walk her in and help her hang up her backpack and settle her in before I go.  She adores her friends and the love is so obviously mutual, they greet each other around the drips while cracked buckets and cups propped throughout the classroom and on the desks catch more of it than not.  The rain lands loud upon the tin speckled roof, and I can't imagine being the teacher dodging drips and overcoming the melody of the tin and the excited voices of 10 four-year olds.  Note to self : bring the woman a trophy tomorrow.
Still no time to soak it in, my own students are gathering in the library back at EBS and I have 15 minutes to get back and get to class.  

I pull back out onto the main road, childless, and with no little ones to listen to I talk to the One who keeps me from ever being alone.  

I talk to Him about my girls, about the rush, about the kids still walking, still heading to schools on the left and right in the mud, about the kids still pumping, pumping the water that will quickly run dry, about Matt a world away and I talk to Him about Junior.  It's more than I can take, and my damp eyes finally spill over.  

I don't want children pumping water when they should be able to be in school.  I don't want the classroom dripping cold water on its' students.  I don't want mud splashing on all the littles, and I don't want children walking on the road with barreling trucks and winding motorcycles.  I don't want the lady at the gate to have her mind so lost, and I don't want her to be yelling and beating all alone.  I don't want Lily to be so grown up, and I don't want Sofie to be, either.  I don't want no more Junior at dinner, no more Junior laughing with the students, no more Junior for my girls, and I don't want Nora to be sick anymore.  

I don't want anyone or anything to struggle any more.
I pull around a sharp bend, almost home now, and off to the right there is a mama sitting in a tiny wicker chair by her hut, her knees higher than her seat.  Her ankles and feet are streaked with mud, and she's bundled up in dirty layers, trying to keep warm and dry like everyone else, and on her lap lays a chubby little girl with crazy tiny braids, just Nora's age.  

Mama is completely oblivious to the splashing cars and whizzing motorcycles, blind to the rain and the children marching past, deaf to the pulling goats and the call of the milk men.  

She is holding chubby hands and bent over her child, enthusiastically blowing raspberries into the little one's round neck, and as I pass I can hear baby girl squeal with laughter.  

Mama smiles the universal mama smile and dives again, sweet baby laughter drifting in my window as I fall out of reach.

And suddenly all is right with the world.

"The things we try to avoid and fight against--tribulation, suffering, and persecution," O. Chambers had told me just 90 minutes earlier, "are the very things that produce abundant joy in us.  'In all these things we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us.' Romans 8:37.  Not in spite of them, but in the midst of them.  A saint doesn't know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it."

"Paul said, I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulations (2 Cor. 7:4).  The undiminished radiance, which is the result of abundant joy, is not built on anything passing, but on the love of God that nothing can change.  And the experiences of life--whether they are everyday events or terrifying ones-- are powerless to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:39.)

Here I am spilling over again.

All is right with the world.  All mud turns back into well-founded hope.

Abundant joy, the undiminished radiance I just saw, is not built on anything passing...not the puddles, not the children, not the plans, not the circumstances...but on the love of God that nothing can change.  

That mama's sweet love for her child, in the middle of struggle and suffering, pales in comparison with His sweet love for each and every all around me.  Pales in comparison with His sweet love for ME.

And all the everyday of Haiti....all the everyday of anywhere, and all the terrifying heartbreaks of Haiti...all the terrifying heartbreaks of everywhere, are powerless.

Powerless to separate us from the Love of God, the love of God, which fades away all splashing cars, the whizzing motorcycles of life.  It blinds us to the rain and the others marching past.  It silences the calls of the world, the torrents of pain and suffering and death and dying.  

And I am built on that love.  on THAT love.  

And THAT love pursues my people, my people far and wide, my people this morning.  THAT love answers the questions of today.  THAT love trumps the worries.  THAT love renders all the pains, all the tribulations, all the suffering, all the persecutions, into that which produces abundant joy.

It is the mystery, the mystery everyone who comes to Haiti proclaims, solved.   

How is there so. much. joy. in the midst of so. much. suffering?  How is sweet mama blowing raspberries when her belly is empty and her legs are caked in mud?  How are we able to radiate joy when trials are ours in abundance, family?  How is it that abundant joy might be ours, when so much is overcast and dark?

Because our undiminished radiance is not built on anything passing, but on the love of God that n-o-t-h-i-n-g can change.

amen and hallelujah and living in the reality of THAT love



  1. Thanks for your words of encouragement Stacey

  2. Man, Stace. You are a phenomenal storyteller. You really need to think about writing a book! I know I would buy it :)

    - Molly