|New kind of plenty, one of my students, Lydia. '21|
This is part three of a blog series on building hope through remembering faith. See previous posts for background.
I knelt at the altar of a camp where my youth group was retreating after an invitation to break open our alabaster jar before Jesus. At 13, I was good at soccer. I had been asked to be on the varsity team at the local public school (though I attended a private school). I lived next door to my loving grandparents on our family farm and had deepening childhood friendships. I felt I had to give God my family, friends, and soccer as my alabaster jar. Not long after that, my parents told me we were moving to Alabama from Upstate New York. Our church family, New Life, was where I first asked Jesus to “drive my tractor.” The analogy was given by Pastor Jerry. He was close to our family, our farm being a place where a number of people had come to straighten themselves and their relationship with God out. We were sent by our church, a true family, to Alabama, a place of American football (they hadn’t yet discovered my international sport) and a whole new culture to adapt to. We lived in a mission center called SIFAT…my jar had been broken. I remember how the decisions God gave me to make, as stepping stones on a journey, bolstered my faith and carried me closer to God’s heart. I remember how release became rejoicing, pouring out, a redefined plenty, season after season in my walk with God.
|New kind of plenty, one of my students, Lydia. '21|
I was 10, seated at a lunch table with my classmates. Mrs. McCaslin was my first teacher apart from my mother. I don’t know why she chose me that day. She leaned over from the far end of the table, with all my classmates and their half-eaten lunches in between to ask me a question I have never forgotten: “Christy, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I had recently asked my mother what kind of people they needed in missions. Putting it simply my mom said, "They always need nurses and teachers." I heard myself responding to Mrs. McCaslin, “I want to be a nurse, teacher missionary.” It was the first time I remember saying what I wanted to be. When I said it, I knew it was true. I never really got the nurse part, but a teacher I am! I remember the teachers God used in my life, the moments they seized to ask me questions and teach me faithfully. I remember how firmly that calling settled in my heart.
|Loving Mommy before I became a mommy in Nigeria '15|
I have been challenged to remember. The kind of challenge that confronts a hopelessness that makes shadows stubbornly darken present joys. Despite the beauty of my world, my children, my marriage, there is a cold settling, making me brittle to gracefully combat difficult situations.
During our prayer meeting on Friday, I felt God was challenging me to confront my struggling hope with remembering faith.
My Cameroonian Father, who knew me during a very rich time when God was speaking, moving, transforming me in drastic ways, was present during the prayer meeting. His prayer was for his “little Christy” and it drew me back to that season, where I lingered with God in the quiet place.
The wife of the chaplain during my college years asked us to pray for college students during the prayer meeting, remembering my generation and how God called so many from Hope College at that time. She then read from Psalm 77:
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago
I will meditate on all your works
And consider all your mighty deeds.”
Another sister, Rudy, we met when we were newly weds in Dallas, spoke the worlds, “Neither the present, nor the future,” coming from Romans 8, “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
No one in attendance knew the heart struggle I’ve been having, and the way God ministered to me through them was so tender and gracious of him. I am going to write a blog series of remembrances. I will go through my story, and remember with you what God has done.
We have developed a meaningful yet somehow distanced relationship with a woman we call Kaka Asabe (The grandmother of Asabe). It's been nine years that we have received the occasional visit from this petite, solemn woman, years of hard living woven into her eyes, ground into her rough, thick hands. She lives in what used to be a village, enveloped by Jos city, across from our church in our former neighborhood. I have great respect for her determined, continuous efforts to raise and provide for her five grandchildren who are at our house daily for after school tutoring.
During this holiday, we had a great delight, truly one of the greatest joys I have living in Nigeria. Kaka came to the house to bring us Christmas greetings. Kaka speaks Berom, a language with over 100,000 speakers. The Berom audio Scriptures just became available, and Zach played the Christmas story from the Berom audio Bible. He asked, "Did you understand it?" "Very well! I understood everything!" I asked her if she wanted the Bible, and she said, "I can't read!" I told her this was one she could listen to. Her hand, leathery from hard labor her whole life, slowly learned to press the small buttons after lots of repetition. She returned the next day to practice again, bringing a younger girl with her so she could help her work the small radio in case she forgot how to use it.
We are praying that no one will take the Word from Kaka by removing the memory card with her language Scripture on it, and that the Word speaks into that darkness and draws everyone who hears it into his glorious light!
"We lost our baby girl," the text came just as I arrived at the hospital to meet a friend and colleague who's baby had come at 23 weeks. They were already on their way home. I arrived at the home to see baby girl still gasping for breaths occasionally. Not yet home with Jesus. These are my words to her in those moments.
|Baby Girl holding on to life|
Thank you for coming, for your fight.
16 hours in this dark world before you saw the light.
Thank you for staying, sweet, fragile girl.
For fighting so hard in this broken world.
Each breath of yours, made me stand amazed,
How easily it comes to me all my days.
I wondered, with your eyes closed if you were seeing him,
Taking baby steps into his arms, seeing his proud grin.
Still hearing us, tell your story again and again,
How you were going home to see your twin.
How every hospital said they were at capacity,
How you had held on with such tenacity.
You never cried, were calm and still,
But you did cause a stir as any baby will.
Your body was growing cold, though bundled tight,
Your daddy put you to his skin, it just seemed right,
And you made your first whimpering sound, his tears flowed,
The most beautiful gift, in our hearts forever stowed.
I dropped my milk into your mouth, your small lips respond,
After 20 minutes and a few more sweet sounds, you'd gone beyond.
Beyond our reach, beyond our touch,
beyond the pain, never beyond our love.
Your mommy and daddy will miss you,
The unfulfilled dreams, longing to kiss you.
Marvelous. In her first year, I learned to accept help from every woman on the street as they all corrected how I dressed, carried, fed, talked to, covered, and washed "our baby." I learned how having a child in a community knits you together with that community.
|My grandmother. |
Zestilacious! In her third year, her sparkliness and zest for life and learning were evident. She introduced her new sister to the world with joy.
Mariama has wonderful conversations with the gardener on our compound. She shows him around our yard, exposing the tender growth or unusual plants that she has recently discovered. When she was five, she attended a forest school, and her love for nature grew.
On her birthday we were having sparkling juice, and she said, "This reminds me of what I want to do when I grow up." "Really, how?" I asked. "Aunty Leah (that's my 36 year old sister who has Down Syndrome) loves sparkling juice, and when I grow up I want to teach people like Aunty Leah."
I can't wait to see what the future holds with this delightful human being that God has so graciously given us to steward and hold.
|Lake Michigan with my four beauties.|
I walked as quickly as I could, tears spilling down my face into the bathroom in my church, with the echo of those beautiful words, "I will rise, on eagles wings, no more sorrow, no more pain, I will rise," reverberating in my heart that spilled out in sobs.
|My parents and sister Leah |
I spent three weeks in the United States and am so thankful for the time I was with my family as they reflected on the remarkable life of my brother, Josh Watkin. There was more laughter than tears, as I think he would have wanted it.
I heard this song my last Sunday at church, two days before I boarded the plane to come back to Nigeria. I'm not sure, but I think what moved me so deeply that Sunday morning, was imaging my brother rising, and me joining him someday. And then comes the final, triumphant lyrics at the end,
|My dad with my nephew and my brother's chainsaw at the family visitation. |
Family '84 This is part three of a blog series on building hope through remembering faith. See previous posts for background. I knelt...