Grandpa Roy

The rush has finally slowed down, and for the first time all evening, I can breathe. I’ve survived another Monday of frantically making mini pizzas for the almost 1000 students who funnel through our cafeteria on a weeknight. As I am collecting my thoughts, I look up to see a welcome and familiar sight: Grandpa Roy has arrived!

For those of you who don’t attend my school, Grandpa Roy is a wonderful elderly man who has adopted our campus. During most weekday lunches and dinners you can find him sitting in the cafeteria at the same round table, reading the newspaper or talking to students. He is known for being a good listener, having an infectious smile, and giving away hundreds of flowers from his garden.

Every Monday night at seven, Grandpa Roy comes into the part of the cafeteria where the food is served and gives each of the workers a flower. At the end of a long shift, it never fails to make my day. I always pin mine to my name tag until I get home, and then I put it in a little dish of water. By Tuesday morning, the tight bud will have opened, and for the next few days the cheery little blossom will brighten my bedroom.

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Every time I see Grandpa Roy, I think to myself, “I want to be like him when I grow old.” So many elderly people in our society are grumpy or bitter, but Grandpa Roy is exactly the opposite, a bright spot of joy in a weary world.

I truly believe Grandpa Roy has found the secret to aging gracefully: keep pouring out. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with retiring from your job, I also don’t think there ever comes a point when you should retire from your calling, or “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner) The Bible never says to love your neighbor until you turn sixty-five and start collecting social security, and I think Grandpa Roy beautifully exemplifies loving well until the end. Someday your time on earth will end, but until then, you have a reason to be here. Whether you’re twenty, or eighty, God wants you to be his agent of redemption in the world.

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Mary

She was an ordinary young woman, following the life she was supposed to live to a T. Grow up learning how to be a wife and mother – check! Get engaged to a righteous man – check! The only thing left was to marry this man and secure her future. But then something happened that broke her life from its prescribed mold.

annunciation                             The Annunciation by Henry Tanner

God stepped in to Mary’s world and changed the nature of life, not just for her, but for every person who would ever walk the earth. In her youthfulness and normalcy, God chose her to give birth to His son.

So often the focus is placed on what the angel revealed to Mary, and that is not to be minimized. To bear the Son of God, Mary would have to endure the shame and ridicule of unmarried pregnancy. To bring him into the world, she would have to travel to a distant city and give birth to him in a stable.

Even this though, was just the beginning.

On that silent night in Bethlehem, as Mary tenderly held her firstborn son, she could have never known what lay ahead.

Raising the Son of God would often be frustrating (Luke 2:41-50) and sometimes downright dangerous (Matthew 2:13-16). Mary and Joseph were commonplace people, but Jesus was anything but your average boy. Parenting him would have been unlike any other parenting experience. And the worst part of Mary’s reality was that, unbeknownst to her, she was preparing a sheep for the slaughter. At the end of her son’s earthly life, she would have to watch him suffer and die for the sins of the world.

Throughout her life, Mary’s trust, compassion, love, and courage would be tested and tried, pushed to the breaking point.

And yet, when asked to bear God’s son, Mary said yes. Through the fear and apprehension she said, “I am the Lord’s servant,” and with those words, an ordinary woman became the mother of God.

What does God want to do with your ordinary life?

Will you say yes when He calls you to do the impossible?

You never know what significance your obedience could have to future generations.

I Saw What I Saw

Dear Word Made Flesh Romania and Moldova Staff,

You have changed my life.

When I think of my three weeks in Chișinău, Galați, and Tudor Vladimirescu, I see your faces and hear your words of wisdom. Although the children you work with did have an impact on me, you are the ones who deeply inspired me, and rocked my world to the core.

IMGP0667Chișinău.

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Galați.

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Tudor Vladimirescu.

As I was unpacking my suitcase a few days ago, the song I Saw What I Saw by Sara Groves began to play on my computer. When I came home from my trip to Honduras four years ago, the lyrics of this song put words to how I felt, what I had experienced, and who I had met. It became an anthem of mine.

Here are the lyrics:

I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it
I heard what I heard and I can’t go back
I know what I know and I can’t deny it

Something on the road
Cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face a memory
Your hope a fire
Your courage asks me what I’m afraid of
And what I know of love

We’ve done what we’ve done and we can’t erase it
We are what we are and it’s more than enough
We have what we have but it’s no substitution

Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face a memory
Your hope a fire
Your courage asks me what I’m made of
And what I know of love

Something on the road
Cut me to the soul

I say what I say with no hesitation
I have what I have and I’m giving it up
I do what I do with deep conviction

Something on the road, cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me
Ooohhh…
Your dreams inspire
Ooohhh…
Your face a memory
Ooohhh…
Your hope a fire
Ooohhh…

Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face a memory
Your hope a fire
Your courage asks me what I am afraid of
Your courage asks me what I am made of
Your courage asks me what I am afraid of
And what I know of God,
And what I know of God.

Just like last time, when I heard this song on Sunday, it resonated deeply. But this time, instead of thinking of the kids I met in Honduras, I thought of you. Your pain has changed me, your dream inspires, your face a memory, your hope a fire, your courage asks me what I am afraid of and what I know of love and God.

At our final debrief meeting, David asked us, “What were the strongest impressions you felt on this trip?” While I’m not yet sure how to put words to the strong impressions I felt, I do know that you have left a very pronounced mark on my life.

I am inspired by your generosity and hospitality. You took such good care of me! You were very in tune to my needs, and made me feel so welcome. From the minute I met you, I felt like I was among friends. I love how you genuinely wanted to share your lives with me! You opened your homes and your hearts to me, even though less than a month ago I was no more to you than another college student from the states. You answered my endless questions, and put up with my ridiculous ability to step on cultural toes. You have given me much to ponder. Spending time in your community has made me reexamine if I present myself to others in an open manner, or if I tend to close myself off from friends and strangers alike. Thank you for blessing me with your radical hospitality and generosity.

1901246_10202688934278529_1207280378046185158_nSharing a meal.

I am inspired by your joy. You work in dark and difficult situations, yet my best memories of you involve sharing laughter. One of the many unexpected gifts I received on this trip was laughter. Your jokes, teasing, and genuine smiles warmed my soul. Being among you helped me realize that part of fighting the darkness is learning how to smile. Thank you for sharing your joy!

IMGP0687Laughing with Rachel.

Above all, I am inspired by your dedication and willingness to follow God, no matter the cost. You choose the hard road every single day. I can’t even put words to how much I admire your commitment to the vulnerable people you live among, and to each other. My three weeks with you taught me so much about living in community. You demonstrated both the difficulties, and the vast beauty that come from truly being the body of Christ.

There was one day in Galați when your dedication and willingness really hit home. David took us on a tour of the city, and showed us the entrance to the sewer where the street kids used to live. He told us about how he would go with some of the other (now) staff members and spend time among the street gangs, sometimes even spending the night with them. The mere thought of doing that terrifies me! I can not imagine going with the street kids down into the sewers at night. But between seeing the entrance to the sewers, and hearing David’s stories, reality began to sink in. This isn’t about some of us being brave enough to spend time with some of them, because this isn’t about us and them, period. This is about all of us, doing life together, as a family, for the simple reason that this way of life is what God intended for His children. We were MADE for community. Not I was made for community. Not they were made for community. WE were made for community.

IMGP0804The entrance to the sewers where the kids used to live.

Later in the day, we went to a cemetery where the Word Made Flesh community has buried friends and family. You have buried many dear people, including kids with HIV, friends who died in terrible accidents, and miscarried babies of several staff members. Standing in that cemetery, I realized that your community is in it for the long haul, through thick and thin, in life and death.

IMGP0816The cemetery.

I want to end this letter with a painting my pastor shared in church on Sunday.

10446313_10152499261414709_941672676191370751_oA place at the table.

Looking at it helps me remember that everyone is welcome at the table. You have shown me that Jesus has truly given each of us a place. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus and welcoming me. You remain in my thoughts and prayers!

Much Love,

Kelly

Haven

We all have those people in our lives who inspire us. One such person for me is my friend Haven. Haven and I were in band together in high school, and that’s where our friendship began. You, as my reader, are probably wondering why I would write an entire blog post about a girl most of you will never meet. Today, I am writing about Haven because I believe there is good in our world that needs to be highlighted. We need to tell stories of people who are living inspiring lives. Our culture loves to criticize people for what they’re doing wrong, so I am going to do the opposite. So without further ado, let me show you why Haven inspires me.

Haven is a fighter. Satan is always trying to harm people. He doesn’t want us to succeed. Every time he tries to knock Haven down, however, she comes up swinging. Just last night, someone broke into her car and stole her stuff, but I can tell you for a fact that while this will be a setback, she won’t let it stop her.

Brave

Haven is courageous. This year she is attending a culinary school hundreds of miles from home. She could’ve chosen to go to a local community college. That would’ve been the safe, easy option, but Haven knew what she wanted. Instead of staying in her comfort zone, she packed up her car and moved far away so she could pursue her passion.

Haven is passionate. She loves to cook. She has found something that makes her come alive, and she is pursuing it. She is throwing herself into her studies, and pushing herself to make her dream a reality.

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Haven is determined. Moving away from home was not easy for her, but she knows it will be worth it. Even on the days when she wants nothing more than to give up and go home, she grits her teeth and pushes through.

So Haven, when you read this, I want you to know you inspire me! I greatly admire your perseverance and spunk! I love you, and I truly believe that you can accomplish ANYTHING you put your mind to!