a daddy's love

I answered the phone knowing what he would say...

"I found Lily" and then, voice cracking, "she's gone."

Details, question- where, how, are you sure? How does she look? Can Tali see her? What should I do?

"I will have her on the back deck, Tali can see her."

The walk to Tali's room filled with prayer. And she knew the minute she saw my face. She had just been helping her daddy look for her Lily, he had just sent her inside...

"No Mommy, no..."

And then she ran outside... to her daddy... to her beloved pup... to a scene that broke this heart wide open.

Jim stood on the steps, cradling the ball of fluff that was our Lily girl in his arms... sobbing. The voice that had cracked on the phone, was overcome when his little girl came bursting through the back door in search of her "little ball of love" (as Tali once described Lily in a school paper).

We all loved Lily. but I knew standing their that Jim's grief came more from seeing his baby girl broken as anything else.

That's a daddy's heart.

It's a heart that seeks to protect and guide and care for... it's a heart that breaks when his children's breaks. It's a heart that will sit on the back deck, cradling the lifeless body of a dog, for as long as his little girl needs to say goodbye.

As I stood there in the cool of the night watching the scene unfold... my heart was wrecked. It was wrecked for my little girl, grieving. It was wrecked with love for my husband, such a good, good daddy. And it was wrecked with a vision of how our own Daddy God loves us.

Jim's construction green shirt showing the evidence of a long days work, hands stained from an evening repairing his truck... and his strong arms gently cradling the eight pound dog he just carried from the highway.

And I thought... This... this is how our Daddy God carries OUR grief.

Despite the big things going on in the world... our Daddy captures every one of our tears in a bottle. Each is precious to Him. He meets you in your grief. And He will sit with you, on the back deck, for as long as you need to work through it.

He will enter into your grief with you. Not a distant being gazing at you, watching from afar... a person, there, holding your grief in His strong arms. Present... in the moment. Grieving with you.

I think about Jesus as He made His way to Lazarus's tomb... when Mary threw herself at Jesus's feet, wracked by grief over the loss of her brother... Jesus wept.

Jesus joined her in her grief... even though He knew He would be bringing Lazarus back... Why? Why would Jesus cry? He wasn't grieving because He would never see Lazarus again. He didn't cry because He was late to the funeral. He grieved because the one He loved grieved. He hurt because she hurt.

He hurts when you hurt.

I saw such a beautiful, heart wrenching picture of this on Monday night.A daddy's tears shed one for one for the tears of his daughter. Strong arms carrying her affection and grief. Not rushing her to move through her emotions... but joining her in them. Processing with her. The utmost of respect given to a grave, a dignified spot in the yard, a stone to mark a little life full of love. And later, when sleep would not come, pulling his little girl onto his lap. Validating her brokenness and in doing so, beginning the fine work of putting her back together again.

Such a good, good daddy.

So much like another Daddy I know.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1a

[You can read about the day we found Lily here]

Also- to update, Tali is processing her grief well. She still has tearful, "Lily is really gone" moments... and I certainly have never seen her grieve so deeply, but am proud of how she has leaned on us and her Daddy God to comfort. 


a canvas on which He can paint

I walk through the park, the first real evidence of autumn crunching softly beneath my feet. I am here to meet with a client, to capture her beauty in this beauty, but she is blessedly late and so I have time to walk. To meditate.

This is my season. My favorite.  With crisp air and bright blue skies I begin to watch anxiously for the majestic works of art our Creator puts on display. Splashes of red and orange and yellow infiltrating the green of summer. 

Camera in hand I walk and muse. Peering through the lens His art becomes my art. Everywhere I walk I find the sun piercing the canopy, a fire igniting color, changing from green to orange. I praise Him for His beauty, the intricacies with which He has painted the landscape. Each exploding in color in her own time.  He invites me to sit. Listen. 

And He crushes my heart with the beauty of His plan.

How He has created each tree, just so. Some will gain color and lose leaves before the first tinge of orange kisses the leaves of others.

And that’s okay. Each in its own time.

The grass is soft beneath me as I sit. I gaze upward and take in one who is young, yet boasting the most stunning array of color.  Although youthful compared to the giants that surround her, she reflects His glory beautifully.  She is no less in the landscape although roots still reach for depth in the soil beneath her.  Her exuberance evident in reds and oranges and yellow.  Her color not a reflection of her maturity, but His beauty and who He created her to be.

Oh, the spiritual giants that stand to her left and her right. Tall graceful necks boasting a canopy of green stretch toward blue.  Enough light bursting through their branches to nourish the young one beneath.  It is not their responsibility to cause her to grow. No, they are just conduits for His light to shine through. It is His light that grows and matures and changes. They shelter, protect, and show her the way, leaning into the sun. But the growing, that is between her and the Father.

Ah, but this other, I know her. She stands, arms outstretched among the giants. She longs for the deep roots they have.  I know her desires. I see her wondering how she fits into the landscape. Neither young and full of color nor mature and stretching toward the sky. Tips of her branches just beginning to show the flair that is autumn. She stands insecure, not seeing how she fills in the space in the landscape perfectly. How her head of just-changing color fills makes the transition from the green standing above her to the fiery red below seamless. Beautiful.  Painted by a Master Artist.  

She doesn’t wonder. He says to my heart.

She doesn’t wonder what her role, or when her own branches will spread far as the mature trees around her, or her roots tap into the richest of soil beneath. She doesn’t wonder. Do not put those insecurities on her. Those are yours, my child.

She knows who she is.

(And He CRUSHES my heart with the beauty of His plan.)

They do not compare their color. Their height. Their role in the Kingdom.

They just allow me to paint. To make their lives a reflection of my glory.

They do not strive.

They do not market their grandeur.

They merely reflect my glory. It is all I created them for.

To be my canvas.

And so I lean back. I look at my feet stretched before me, surrounded by the beauty of the fallen.  A hole worn into the toe of my shoes from many steps taken. Steps on the path He has painted before me.

The promises He has spoken over me, into me, make their way through my head.  The branches He has pruned away so that His glory can be ever more revealed.  Those branches He continues to prune.  My heart beats wildly.

All that I want is all that You have for me.

That I may have roots reaching ever deeper.

That I may be marked by the colors you paint onto me. Exuberant. Joyful.

That I may be a conduit for your light to shine onto others.

That I may be a shelter.

That I may be a canvas on which you can paint.

This is my desire for you, child.

Not that you would be as tall as her. Or as loud as her. Or as meek as her. Not that your colors would look like hers.

That you would be a canvas on which I can paint
                                                                                                                (your own story)
                                                                                                                (your own color)
                                                                                                                (your own timing)
                                                                                                                (all for my glory)

A car pulls up. My client is here and so I stand, wiping bits of earth from my legs and hands.

I glance over my shoulder. One last look at His glory revealed.

(And He crushes my heart with the beauty of His plan)

A glory revealed not in the individual leaf, or branch, or tree.
But a glory revealed in the landscape. Each singing the colors He has given them individually.

This is not about me.

This is about me taking my place in the landscape. Reflecting His glory so that the whole is covered.
This about being a canvas on which He can paint.
A conduit through which His light may shine through.

All I want, Lord, is all that YOU have for me.

Lord, have your way in me. In us. Pick up your brush… and paint...


two little men

Isn't it strange how God can use the most common things... things that may seem so insignificant to others... to speak directly to your heart?

He did that to me on Saturday night as I was scrolling through my Facebook wall on my phone. I came across this check in at Mi Pueblo, where a small group of us had gathered to discuss the Micah 6:8 Project...

Had she tagged us in a different order, I wonder if I would have even noticed. I wonder if I would have stopped. I wonder if I would have cried...

But tagged as we were, my heart was assaulted by the vision of two little boys, both on the water... 

One, my son. My very own profile picture. I love this picture of Zach, such JOY, such ABANDON, such FREEDOM. He was at the lake with friends, a place of recreation and fun and laughs and adventure. 

But not for the little boy in the next picture. Not for the little man captured by Christy Farhar. The lake for him... a place of bondage. Work. Pain. Enslaved in Lake Volta's fishing industry along with 7,000 other children. The joy of the little white boy next to him, surely a distant memory... if he has ever known it

And as I thought about this... 

Oh, how I wept. 

I wondered... what would I do, if it were my Zach enslaved on that lake?. What ends would I go to rescue him, to bring him home, to let him know that I love him... to make sure He is safe and secure? How much money would I spend? What sacrifice would I make? My very own son, the one whom I love from the depths of who I am... how far would I go?

But the truth is, friends, the little man in Christy's picture is no less our son. He is no less our flesh and blood. He is no less valuable. No less in need of a hope and a future. No less in the eyes of God. Just because I have not yet put my arms around his little brown body... He is no less mine to care for. 

He is no less yours.

Think about your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews... if they were trapped in slavery, forced to work fourteen hour days, fed one inadequate meal, uneducated... how far would you go? What sacrifice would you make?

I challenge you... to let your mind go there. Really rest in that pain for a moment. Because in the Kingdom, he is ours. And if you would go to the ends of the earth to rescue the one you love, should you not be willing to do the same for the one He loves? Should our hearts not break for the things that break His? How far would you go?

Yesterday in church, Seth shared the story of the Grapevine Faith football game against the Gainesville State School in Texas. How the whole town of Grapevine rallied around the boys from Gainesville- the boys brought in on a maximum security bus with twelve armed guards. How the parents of the Grapevine players sat behind the Gainesville boys, cheering them on to hit their very own sons. How the cheerleaders stood in a line and cheered on the Tornadoes, even though the front of their uniforms said "Lions". How they rooted for the Gainesville boys instead of their own kids... because that's what Jesus would have them to do. 

And the whole time he was talking, as the tears made their way down my cheeks, I thought of the picture of two little men on my Facebook wall. One I do not know, and one that I would die for... and the Lord challenged my heart... would you root for this little naked child over your own? Would you cause your own son to sacrifice from abundance, so that this one could have the most basic of necessities... food, clothing, freedom.

photo by Christopher Knopf, September 2012
That is my challenge for you today, friends. Look into these eyes... and see the one you love. Wrap your mind, even if just for a moment, around the kind of life these children in Ghana know. 

And then resolve in your heart to do something to help. Don't just look in his face and then closing your browser window, forget. What does the Lord require of you? But to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 He requires us to look into this face... and then to reach down our very own hands to help. He requires it, friends. Acts of justice are not something the Lord takes lightly... and when He called us to be His hands and feet, sometimes it will look just like this.

I realize that not everyone will walk in this dusty African soil, take the broken by the hand and lead them into a new life. But there are ways you can help from right there, where you are... whether you are on your couch or at your kitchen table or sitting at your desk at work or in your car... There are ways that you can reach out a hand to the least of these. To the ones who can never repay you. To the ones whom, if you would bend your knee and look in their eyes you will realize look an awful lot like the ones you love the most. Wherever you are, whether you have much or little, there is something that YOU can do. 

You can partner with us at the Micah 6:8 Project to build a residential and vocational center so that more children can be brought home off the lake. Our partners promise a monthly gift of any amount, and will be the backbone of this project, sustaining it for years to come. Bringing a hope and a future.

Or you can join us in our first annual Prayer 5k. For gifts of $35 or $50, you can join us in our goal of raising $5000 and 5000 prayers for this project... making a way for a mission team to travel to Ghana in November to look at land that has been provided by the very hand of God, land that is ours for the taking if it meets our needs. Land that will allow us to build the orphanage to house kids who deserve the same education, freedom, love, hope that we desire for all of our own children to have.

Are you willing? 

Are you willing to sacrifice from your own child's abundance, so that the children of Ghana may have the most basic of necessities? Is it worth $50 to look into the eyes of this little boy and know you have done something to help? Oh, if that were my Zachary wrapped in brown skin... oh, there is no sacrifice that would be too great... am I willing to open my eyes to the truth that this one I have never met, is no less mine? No less a part of my heart? 

I see it now. I see it in a whole new way. Two pictures of little men on lakes, lakes that are a world apart geographically and emotionally... a casual scroll down my Facebook wall... and my heart is wrecked. I can't stop crying. I can't stop wondering what more can I do? 

If you feel as helpless to help as I do, I would ask you to visit The Micah 6:8 Project to see how you CAN help. Give a financial gift of any amount. Join us in our Prayer 5k (a 5k that involves no walking or running, instead 3.5 days of prayer for this project and the lives it will touch). There are only five days left to register, and we are only a third of the way to our goal of one hundred people to participate... one hundred people. Surely there are one hundred of you whose hearts will break for the things that break His? Surely there are one hundred of you who are willing to sacrifice $35 or $50 to bring freedom to the lives of children... surely...surely there are.

I am willing. I have looked into those dark brown eyes and seen my own children. Are you willing to do the same? Are you willing to love on Jesus the way He really asked us to love on Him, not through arms raised or voices loud... but by loving the very least of these? Pray about it friends... and then do something...
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
Father, would you move our hearts? Lord would you break our hearts for what breaks yours? Will you bring each of us an individual revelation of that which you've required of us... what it really looks like to act justly? to love mercy? to walk humbly? Would you open our eyes to the needs of this world and show us, Father, that if we sacrifice for you, that if we give in the way you have asked us to give... that we will not have to worry about a thing. That you are the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and that you have us covered? Move on hearts today! Father I ask that you bring abundant support for the Micah 6:8 Project, that you would continue to confirm your will for this home in Ghana by bringing the project exactly what it needs! Lord I thank you that you are a God who is able... a God who is able to humble my heart and show me where I have failed to break, a God who is able to do this incredible thing in Ghana, a God who is able to use something like a check in at a Mexican restaurant to challenge my heart and change my mindset... I love you so much... Let us do this for YOUR glory!