Monday, June 29, 2015

Cutting the cake--endless opportunity!

A few weeks ago I was flippling through Pinterest (a guilty pleasure) and I stumbled upon a beautiful wedding cake. Not caring too much for tradition, we had chosen a cupcake tree for our wedding (beautifully put together by my cousin and best friend). If only I had seen this cake before our wedding, that's totally what I would have chosen, I thought to myself. And then in that silly moment, I couldn't but feel a little disappointed at the missed opportunity. But then I felt God nudge me and say, 'But wait, it's not too late. It's never too late.'

And so in celebration of our two year wedding anniversary, I decided to make this silly cake I had fallen in love with on Pinterest. On Saturday morning I shoed a few girls out of our room telling them I had to go and make a cake. 'Why are you making a cake,' they wondered, 'and who are you making the cake for.' 'I'm making it for my husband to celebrate our anniversary,' I answered. 'Noooo,' they all echoed in unison, 'you can't make it for just him, Evan can't eat it all. We want a cake too! We want to celebrate with you!'

And so I headed towards the kitchen to make a true wedding-size cake, big enough to serve our seventy-three girls. And when the time came to celebrate, we called all the girls for a special garden party with dancing, cake, cookies and sweets. And it just so happened, we had a visitor from South Africa who offered to take some pictures for us--we found out later she also happens to be a professional photographer. Needless to say, the party was a blast. It was a beautiful opportunity to celebrate family and marriage with our girls--many of whom have never experienced having both parents alive and living together in the same house let alone celebrate an anniversary.

As we cut the cake, I thanked God for an amazing husband, wonderful girls, and a great start to our marriage. And I couldn't help but thank God for the opportunity to cut the cake of our dreams two years after our wedding. It seemed so silly and meaningless, re-creating a frilly cake off of Pinterest. But God knows the desires of my heart, even the ridiculous small ones. And He reminded me that it's never too late, that He is God of fulfilled dreams and endless potential. So often I look at our girls and I can't help but see years of missed opportunities. Missed meals that lead to severe malnutrition, missed school that lead to illiteracy, missed family that lead to heartbreak and abandonment....and the list goes on. At times, I find myself wondering whether they've hit a point of no return. Whether no amount of love, nourishment, or education could ever make up for the years of lack. And so God used this pink frilly anniversary cake of our to remind me that God sees the dreams and potential of all of our girls so much more than we ever could. And if He cares about an anniversary cake, how much more does He care about the magnificient futures of our girls. He knows their hearts and He knows their dreams. And despite what seems like a past of missed opportunities hovering over these little ones, He is the God of oppertunity and I can only press forward knowing that the best is yet to come!

...To my best friend, the guy so crazy in love that he jumped on an airplane for the first time in his life and followed me to the ends of the earth. Two years, two continents, seventy-three girls and a whole lot of love, it's certainly been an adventure of a lifetime.

Two years down, forever to go & I'm looking forward to every minute and every oppertunity. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sweaty dirty little palms

Sweaty little palms are always reaching for me, tugging at my shirt, asking for more, covering me with hugs and wiping their dirt on my clean outfit. Sometimes by the end of the day, I feel as though I have nothing left to give as though every bit of energy has been taken by these sweaty little palms. Otherdays, its barely noon and I already feel this way. And when I feel like I've given everything I've got, there always seems to be time to dig a little deeper and give a little more. But this week, in the chaos of it all, one of these sweaty little palms reminded me of how God wants us to give....

One of the other missionary's kid was celebrating their birthday today and some of the girls in our dorm were invited to the party. My girls came back beaming with smiles from ear to ear all wearing princess crowns and retelling their favourite memories from the party. They were each carrying a little party loot bag and couldn't have been more pleased.

Mia came to show me her crown and little bag of loot. Then unprompted, she reached her sweaty dirty little palm in the bag and pulled out two little gummies for me. In that moment she reminded me of what it means to give. She was giving out of such a pure and genuine heart. For one rare occasion, she had something to give. She had a little handful of candy and she choose to share it with me. She wanted me to partake in her joy and special treat. And she didn't just give me one gummy, as though out of compulsion or guilt, she gave me two. She reminded me of the way God wants us to go before Him and give. Not giving out of compulsion, giving out of joy and out of blessed abundance. 

Mia didn't have much candy, but she had enough to share. Her simplicity and purity could not have been more touching to me. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing left to give these beautiful little girls before me. But in these moments, God reminds me that I have everything to give and more. Sometimes a simple hug, a little kiss and a bit of love are more than enough because we don't give of ourselves but out of the abundance of love God has poured on us. 

And so these same sweaty dirty little palms that almost always seem to be looking for more love, more time, more snuggles, more laughter, more of me and taking everything they can from me, are also the most beautiful joyful giving little sweaty palms you'll ever meet. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

If only I could have my cake and eat it too

To our two amazing mothers who spent the last three weeks visiting us at our centre here in Mozambique,

The last three weeks have been like a dream, like having a taste of the best of both worlds. Having two of the people that we love and have missed the most here with all of our girls.

As we drove away from the airport, I sobbed. God, I can't take it anymore, I'm beside myself wrapped up in emotion. I'm not strong enough for this; I want to go back to Canada. I don't want to live in a country so far away anymore. Why did you choose me, why did you choose us? You must have made a mistake, we're just not cut out for this kind of work. I don't want to be thousands of miles away from the ones I love and the friends I cherish most deeply. I don't want to miss another best friend's wedding, family reunion or birthday party. I don't want to miss another simple coffee-date with an old friend or laughing with my sister.

But I want all my seventy-three little girls. I want to see their smiling faces everyday and be hugged by a crowd so big all I can do is fall to the ground as they push me over in every direction. I want to hear my name called by dozens of little voices every time I step foot on the playground. I want to feel alive and living everyday of our life to the extent God has purposed. I want to see broken, abused and neglected children loved back to life before my very eyes. I want to see the poverty cycle broken and families strengthened. I want to see faith break through in love, hope, peace and joy. I want to kiss our girls goodnight and cover them in prayers for a better tomorrow. I want to fall asleep in a sandy bed with dirty feet the second my head hits the pillow full of exhaustion from an incredible day of the broken made beautiful. 

In other words, I want my cake and I want to eat it tooHaving you here has been like having a cake and eating it too: living here in Mozambique where we know we have been called and getting to have some of those dearest to our hearts right here with us. 

Nothing has brought me more joy than getting to share our lives with you here. The girls were almost as excited as us getting to pick you up at the airport when you first arrived screaming "Vovo Judy and Vovo Margie" (meaning Grandma Judy and Grandma Margie).

We loved watching them get to know you as you led activities, helped me prepare snacks, planned parties, and just spent time with them covering them with grandma hugs and kisses. I'm not sure what was more touching and heartwarming, watching you fall in love with them or them fall in love with you. 

Watching you say your goodbyes this morning broke my heart many times over. And nothing touched my heart more than when some of my shy teenagers heard you were leaving today and made their way over to give you a hug goodbye and ask to pray for you.

It truly made for an amazing three weeks I could never forget. We couldn't help but string together a little video of our time here together:

Mom, thanks for staying up late and watching shows with me just to sneak in a bit of extra time together and for jumping out of bed in the morning even when you hate mornings just because you could hear me making noise in the kitchen and wanted to steal a few more minutes together. Saying goodbye to your mom is never easy, when she also happens to be your best friend, it feels like being run over by a six ton truck.

Thank you for showing our girls what a healthy example of family looks like, for showing them what love looks like. Thank you for raising us in such a loving way and setting such a high standard that we could only ever hope or dream of for our girls. 

Judy, as we sat in the car at the airport trying to hold on to the last few moments of fleeting time, you whispered the profound words, "Before I came, I didn't understand why you guys love it so much, now I understand. Now I understand." 

When we left Canada last August teary eyed and emotionally exhausted from saying goodbyes, I was somehow under the delusion, that as time went on, it would get easier to be away from home. Moms, family, friends, loved ones, we miss you now more than ever and yet with each passing day, we are reminded more than ever that God has called us here for such a time as this.

Until we meet again, with love always, 
Natasha & Evan

Ps. please come visit!

Pss. A few of my favourite pictures from when we surprised our moms with a trip to Swaziland