God Exists

First.

I have to tell you a little story. Completely true.

I am in the Holy Land. We are handing out wheelchairs and eyeglasses. I am running around, taking pictures, sewing vinyl wheelchair footrests, counting rolls of velcro for inventory and sorting gifts for gift bags for our local volunteers for the end of the week.

I am the pop-fly shagger. The gopher. The water boy girl for the team.

I don’t mind. I’m happy and humble to do it. I have no idea what I’m doing, but as with improv, you simply accept what someone says and build on it.

“Martha, will you…?”

YES! Would you like fries with that???

I was not perfectly humble. Sometimes I grumbled. But then I would just pout in private, pray and move on when I could smile again. In the Holy Land, my butt-hurt recovery period was very short. Thank God! That 4:30 AM call to prayer came early and loudly. Right into my hotel room from the neighboring mosque. Punctuating the snores of my roommate. I would say my own prayers when I woke to those pre-dawn mournful meditations. I prayed. A lot. All day. For everything. Trying to incorporate that into this American life.

It also helped that I was witnessing miracles on a daily basis. Here’s just one. A tiny miracle that sows seeds of faith.


I was mostly in the wheelchair clinic. We were in a very large community center divided into two sections by a beautiful, dark red tapestry. The wheelchair clinic was about 2/3 of the space and the eyeglass clinic was on the other side of the curtain. Because I was helping with the sewing/upholstery department, I didn’t see but a few glimpses of the eyeglass clinic. I took many pictures, but I didn’t get to know the volunteers or patients very well.

They had a young man helping during the week with eyeglass distribution. He was a local tween or teen. Maybe 11, maybe as old as 13 or 14, I’m bad at carnival-guessing anyone’s age under 18, especially boys. I didn’t really notice him until the final two days.

Before the banquet on Friday, we were cleaning up the facility, putting things away, packing up our gear and returning the space to the condition we found it. Perhaps even cleaner!

I had brought several kid-centered trinkets from my home in the States. We had received an email before the trip about all the families and children that come to the clinics and how they might appreciate games, more interaction, activities and attention. I decided to pack a few things that my daughter didn’t want, we couldn’t use or that were cluttering our overfilled home. Things that kids would love. Stuff for bracelets. Pins for older kids. And a pair of neon sunglasses that were given to us. No one in my family wanted them and they were cool, but a little too…bright for us. 🙂 Perfectly good pair of sunglasses.

Well. They were sitting on our small utility table Friday as we were packing up. I never found a kid to give them to. They just sat all week. I looked at the sunglasses. I looked at my overfilled bag of cameras, computer and sewing accoutrements. Looked around the room and saw Swoopy-bangs Kid.

He had curly bangs. A little too long. Swooped to the side. Cool.

Maybe he wants these shades.

As I walked over to Swoopy-bangs, I had a sudden, slight sinking feeling of “do kids still like things like neon sunglasses? Am I the dorky old lady who offers the nerdy object to the cool kid and is totally oblivious to my own ridiculousness?”

Just ask.

“Hey man, do you want these sunglasses?” in as cool a voice as this 45-year old white lady could muster.

He looked surprised. I couldn’t tell if it was disgusted or thankful surprise, so there was an awkward pause.

He asked with a slight accent, “Who are these for?”

I pointed to him. “You! If you want them.”

He cracked a broken smile, averted his eyes sheepishly and heartily accepted them. Phew! Yay!

Sunglasses given! Smile achieved! Backpack and heart loaded for bear. Cool status confirmed.

What I didn’t know until later that night at the banquet…

Final banquet. Dinner. Speeches. Pats on the back. Gift bags!

Can I just say? As the Gift Bag Coordinator for 2019 Holy Land Trip, stop giving gift bags!

Or, buy one thing and give it. Don’t weigh down your luggage from America, burn jet fuel to get it there and then make some hapless pop-fly shagger distribute your American trash. I mean–Merry Christmas.

Fine. Praying over here.

Gift-bag giving was hell. Not one person was happy with the way I distributed gifts to the local translators. I relinquish my duties as the Gift Bag Chairman for 2019 and may all future gift-giving souvenirs burn on the Gehenna piles of Jerusalem. Ahem. Sorry. I’m still bitter. Still praying.

Anyway. Let us not dwell. LOL

Before the gift-bag portion of our evening, one of the directors of the clinics summoned me. “Martha, do you have an extra bag for this guy?” The director pointed to Swoopy-bangs.

Crap!

“No. I’m sorry. If I didn’t have his name before tonight, I didn’t prepare a bag.”

This had become my script. Before Eyeglass Director had asked this specific question, I had been bombarded with questions over the gifts all week.

Did you get this person on your list?
Do you have an extra bag?
Did you put my souvenir in my translator’s bag?
When are we handing out the bags?
Did you get the tea bags I brought?

Can we hand out the bags:
Before?
After?
During?
In front of…?
Can I be in charge of my bag?

Gah!

*In the voice of Pontius Pilate* I wash my hands of this.

The spirit of Christmas was truly lost on this night for me (it was Christmastime for this part of the world). People were obsessed. It was not a very Christ-like environment and I really had to pray hard. Not judge these Americans for their entitled, demanding, materialistic behavior. I made it through the night. Dinged and daunted, but not broken.

But to refuse Eyeglass Director yet another time, I started to feel defeated. He immediately dismissed his last-minute request and understood my frustration. “Nevermind. He just really helped us out. It’s fine.” I felt bad though because I really liked Swoopy-bangs. We only shared a few words, but he seemed appreciative of such a simple thing like the glasses I handed him. Gratefulness, in anyone, is something I admire and appreciate.

Later on that evening, I was relaying my frustrations to a new friend. We sat at different tables that night, based on our clinic service assignment. So when we got to talk after dinner, she asked how my night was going. We had become fast friends, despite our age difference and geographic extremes. (We live on opposite coasts!)

I told her I felt bad about the kid. “I didn’t have a gift for him. Did I miss his name at the beginning of the week?” She was in the eyeglass clinic, so I thought she might know more.

“That kid?” She pointed to Swoopy-bangs. “Don’t worry. He was there part of the time and he was helpful, but it’s fine. I think (Eyeglass Director) felt bad because the kid wanted a pair of sunglasses from the eyeglass clinic and he didn’t have enough.”

WHAT?!

“That kid wanted sunglasses???” I asked. I was dumbfounded.

“Yeah. It’s no big deal. We just didn’t have enough and he seemed disappointed, but it’s fine.”

“No! You don’t understand. I just gave that kid sunglasses before we came to this restaurant. I had no idea.” I was shocked. Humbled. I just kept repeating, softly. “I had no idea.”

I wanted to run over to that kid and hug him. Throw my arms around his neck and scream “Hallelujah!” But I just sat quietly with shiny eyes pooling with tears and the overwhelming knowledge that God had orchestrated all those tiny, tender moments.

Giving me some pair of neon glasses.
Packing them in my overstuffed suitcase.
Traveling halfway around the world.
Preparing hearts.
Creating desire for sunglasses.
Fulfilling wants.
Planting seeds.
Watering my desperate heart with words from my new friend.

God whispers small urgings to our overwhelmed hearts on a daily basis and we usually drown out his pleas with doubt and busy-ness. But this time, because I was tuned to his grace, alone in a foreign country, relying completely on his protection and will, praying my keister off, I took a small risk and the dividend was immense.

There were so many miracles on this trip of people served. This is just one, tiny example of God at work. But this is a reminder to me. God exists and he knows the number of hairs on your head. In the middle of our struggle, pain, ramblings, writhing, he cares. He is at work. And he cares about a boy, on the other side of the planet, and where that boy will go. Who he will touch. Whether seeds are planted in his brain of kindness and love and providence. And if his eyes are protected and stylish. 🙂

Luke 12:22-27 NASB

…“For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? 26 If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.


As I was writing this, knee-deep in word construction and heart-pouring, my computer shut down, unexpectedly. Nothing was lost. Everything was saved. Thank you, God. Thank you, WordPress. Thank you, AutoSave. God exists.

If kind, loving people exist, then God exists. If the watch is designed, the Watchmaker designs.

 

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Jerusalem!

Here I am. Last night in the Holy Land. The old city of Jerusalem behind me. Just came out of the Jaffa Gate. So pretty at night. I was so sick in this shot, but so happy to have hoofed all over Jerusalem. I’m about to hop on the all-night flight home. Thanks, Roomie, for the pic!

martha in israel
Me, with my Dr. Who backpack that everyone asked me about. lol

 

Heart is a Gypsy

Perfume and spices on the air as I wait in the string-lighted courtyard of our final banquet dinner. There are fires burning in the metal stand welcoming street strays. The smoke in my clothes and tearing eyes might as well be from sycamore limbs back home in Missouri. My heart is full and oh-so heavy knowing I might not see my new friends ever again. Wishing farewells and whispering fevered fantasies about moving across the globe to adopt new customs, cuisines and children. This could be my home. My heart is a gypsy. A Native American warrior heart nomadic as a tornado.

My heart so fragile. Powerful. Chaotic. Ready to rope out and lose its whirl at any moment. Yet overeager to jump and pump arteries-first into strange territory of emotion and relationship.

What to do with all this feeling? Love? Raw force of nature?

I love this country. I love these people.

Purple Balloon Boy.
Yellow Chair Girl.
Red-nose Rudy.
Pink-Jacket Joy.

I hope to share eternity with you, Friends. Stay with God and send Him with me and we shall meet again on different, distant shores. Still bright and glistening.

I saw a young girl in a hot-pink jacket take her first steps with the help of a pediatric walker. She strolled straight through our hearts with smiles and laughter into the outstretched hands of her own mother’s love. I got to see what love can do.

Physical therapists seating kids who need wheelchairs. Nurses treating gunshot wounds. Kind people ready to laugh and bring joy, handing out glasses.

Make the sick well. Give sight to the blind. Bind wounds. And make the lame walk to mother’s waiting arms. Miracles. In the land where Jesus walked.

Love did that. Love changed their world. My world. THE world.

“For God so loved the world…”

Please let me see this place again. Please let me feel this love again. This beautiful lump in my throat. Jumping unrestrained from my lashes. Down my cheeks in rolling, fat tears.

Don’t let me pass from this valley without your love, God.
How do I take this with me?

my prayers are

for i am gentle

103

sink stones

yellow chair angled

Dreamy Muffins

I had a dream the other night about one of my teammates from my Holy Land mission trip. I dreamed that he was running a charitable food pantry. They were offering a warm cup of coffee and a chocolate muffin cake for breakfast. It was a treetop cafe with high-top tables.

He welcomed me, asked me why I needed food from the food pantry and I explained. “We’re just having hard times right now and we need a little extra help.” (We’re actually doing okay right now! Not really working poor any more, but we are about one paycheck away from disaster if we had a medical emergency, yikes!) He understood.

He told me, “(Your roommate from the trip), has been praying for your return next year on the mission trip. She hopes you can come.” This man knows my roommate in real life. They attend the same church

It was a sweet dream of help and hope. With cloud-like, fluffy muffins! Best dream ever when chocolate’s involved.

*Harry, let’s call him* is certainly a Christ-like man who is kind, patient and gentle. He talks to anyone and welcomes everyone. He just has a peace about him and I appreciate his kindness and generosity, even in my dreams. He gave me a chance to share my story with the team since he was in charge of morning devotionals. He was so supportive on our trip. He gave everyone honey in the morning for their tea or bread at breakfast. Love you, Harry-bear! You’re as sweet as the honey you shared. [He used to own an apiary (bees! honey!)] We were definitely in the land of milk and honey when we traveled with Harry.

The Lonely Bird

When I was lonely and missing my family while I was overseas, I read this verse from the NASB.

Psalm 102:7

I lie awake,
I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop.

When you flap your feathers about, you risk being alone in the sky.
So we must call out to God. And wait upon his eagle wings.

sunset on carmel

Where in the world?

Terribly sorry. I’ve not posted in January. I was a broad abroad.

First, I went to the Holy Land. I’m supposed to call it that. To protect and ensure the safety of the team and those who are working with us, referring to this region as the Holy Land is hopefully less offensive. It is a holy land to most living there.

Second, I went home to KC! That didn’t go so well. :/ There was less tension in the Holy Land somehow? Unexpected.

While in the Holy Land, I worked with a humanitarian aid group (cannot name) to distribute wheelchairs and eyeglasses. So many people (cannot name) were helped. As you can imagine, most recipients did not want to publicize their need or charitable receipt. Understandable! Plus, advertising our help could jeopardize the team’s return.

There are so many stories. These stories have buried themselves in my dreams and burn like the Bedouin campfires hidden in the steep hills of the Middle East. Herding my heart toward grace and deep compassion for the people living there. I fell in love with the land, culture and most of all, the people. Their love and embrace–salvation from cold desert winds. There is hope for those that yet live. Strive. Hunger. Wander. Discover.

I will share some of these stories in the coming days as discreetly as I can, while still conveying the deep need and buoyant hope. A delicate endeavor. I am wholly changed after traveling so far. Thanks for reading!! And thanks to the team on which I served.