Hello Goodbye

I felt her almost before I saw her—a little girl blur running to wrap her 4-year-old arms around my legs and snuggle her cheek against my skirt. Taking in her bright pigtails and Sunday best, I greeted her softly, grateful for her warm welcome and the fact that I knew her name.  With Hogar de Vida’s fluid population of 35 children, I am always learning names.  Always messing them up, too.

My hands hugged her close as my heart came a little undone.  People milled around me, exchanging good mornings with tico flair.  They kissed to the side of one another’s cheek and asked about family members while I tried to freeze time.

We were freshly returned to Costa Rica, our new home.  For the 3 weeks prior, we had whirled through our first visit back to the states.  The dust of the Heartland was still clinging to my sandals.  Driving the smooth, well-marked roads had made it feel like our year of language learning and cultural adjustment never happened.  I found myself stepping lightly, holding on to the glow of seeing friends and family, of being fluent in the words on the street.  I was feeling strange again in the place we were called to.

Then this little butterfly of a child launched herself into my lap.  She stayed with me as worship cascaded around us, amusing herself with the buttons on my watch, the freckles on my arms.  The presence of the Lord was richer that morning.  I leaned with my whole spirit into prayers for her heart, her life.  Her giggle sang sweeter praise in the heavens than my voice lifted up.  She wasn’t the first at-risk child to warm my heart, but she was the first to reach so deep that I didn’t want to let go.

In the handful of weeks since, she often greeted me with light in her eyes and a leap into my arms.  I was her cradle as she drifted to sleep while Matt and I prayed over her.  We asked the Lord to break off the trauma of the past and lay a foundation of blessing in her life to grow on.  I assumed we’d have months if not years.

Looking AheadYesterday we said goodbye.

She was sweetly excited to go live with another family member.  Her little feet flounced her dress as she gave hugs and climbed into the cab.  And just like that, the butterfly took flight beyond my reach.  I probably won’t ever know if the bad dreams keep coming or if she feels safe in those new arms.

So this is what it feels like to put your love in a basket and send it downstream.  This is our calling:  to open our hearts and do what we can in the time we are given, then to trust the rest in prayer to the one who sees the bigger picture.   To embrace the hello, and live so that we can grieve the goodbye.

 

    . . .He will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and for evermore.  Psalm 121:7-8

 

Entering Free Fall

Two years ago I had the opportunity to jump off of a 15-foot cliff into a Guatemalan river pool.  Knees all trembly, I didn’t let myself linger up there on the edge.  It was heave-ho and go.  The free fall was glorious.  And terrifying.  Then the water caught me, and I was reoriented with gravity, with the beautiful normality of swimming to shore.  Security feels sweet after the risks have paid off and fear has been conquered.

Today is Matt’s last day of work with ProCare3, the therapy company that hired him out of grad school and never looked back.  For 14 years he has healed patients, cracking jokes as he encouraged them to tough out exercises that made their lives better.  He’s learned to smooth feathers, to finesse situations, to call out the greatness in those around him, and unleash his own.  For 14 years the Lord has used this work to provide our roof, our daily bread, and our dreams.  And today we say a “Thank you” that doesn’t come close to expressing the blessings we’ve received, and a “Goodbye” that feels like leaving behind half of yourself.  Today our feet leave the ledge and we enter free fall.

In five weeks we fly literally.  An airplane will carry us to Costa Rica, to the beginning of 5 years spent serving children who weren’t safe living with their families, and hosting teams of people who want to make a difference.  Until then, we press through a melee of packing, planning, document gathering, house selling (please, Lord), friend raising, and praying.  This is a true leap of faith.  Our roof, bread, and dreams are now in the hands of the Lord who put those brown eyes on our hearts.  He is able.

Window Framing

At some point, the river of “normal” will catch us again.  We will learn the walk to the language school, park, and grocery store.  I’ll organize our rented kitchen and fill the freezer with meals.  The fragrance of baking cinnamon rolls will waft through a new house and embellish the laughter we’ll share with new friends.  In the hang time, we’ll keep our eyes fixed on His light and continue to pray through the veil:

Let us, your servants, see you work again;
    let our children see your glory.
And may the Lord our God show us his approval
    and make our efforts successful.
    Yes, make our efforts successful!  Psalm 90:16-17