Series on Suffering #2 – “A Container for an Ocean of a God”

Suffering an ocean of a God

Suffering : A container for an Ocean of a God! by Robynn. Find all Robynn’s posts here. Find a quiet spot with a cup of tea or coffee to read this one. You’ll be glad you took the time….

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When I was 9 and she was 8, in the quiet of a boarding room, while helping each other make a bed, I asked Amy Jo Inniger if she’d be my best friend. She said no. I was heartbroken but I accepted the rejection bravely. A year later she asked me if I remembered the question I had asked her a year before. Of course I did. “The answer,” she said, “is now yes!”

We were kindred spirit friends of the Anne Shirley and Diana Barry variety. She was the wind beneath my wings. When I graduated from high school a year ahead of her she loyally wrote me each week. When she ended up at Wheaton College and I was in the middle of the desolate Canadian prairies we made a way to see each other. She took the train up. I drove down (twenty-four hours straight with a brother and another friend!). She was in our wedding. I was in hers. She and her husband followed us to India and stayed in our town for nearly six months. Amy Jo was in the delivery room when Connor was born. She sang over him his first lullaby. She crocheted his first blanket and matching hat. Eventually her and her beloved husband found themselves in the slums of New Delhi living and working among the poor. Her house was the size of some king size beds. She cooked as the poor did, over a one burner stove. She washed clothes as they did, under the tap. Every Thursday they’d escape to a nicer part of town and stay one night in their “team center”. Every Thursday she’d call me on the phone.

A prayer letter we wrote in January 2000 tells what happened:

                When I was 29 and Amy Jo was 28, I stood by her hospital bed and watched her enraptured face as she saw her baby daughter for the first time. It was 11 pm, 6 hours after her surgery. The hospital was asleep and quiet. Amy had awakened and asked to see her baby. A nurse and I wheeled baby Kiran Hope’s cot down three floors to the Neuro ICU. When Amy focused on my face she smiled in recognition. When she saw the baby she beamed. “Oh Kiran, you’re so pretty.” She listened with pride as I told her about her new daughter, how healthy she was, how she had scored a 10 on the Apgar test. “Kiran, I’m so sorry that I can’t be with you these first few days,” she apologized, “but I’ll have the rest of my life to make it up to you.”

                Those were some of the last words Amy Jo ever spoke. She slipped into a coma at four the next morning and died four days later.

                The symptoms were sudden and simple: an intense migraine that started on November 11th. After pregnancy related causes were ruled out she was referred to a neurologist. The first MRI was done on November 27th and was inconclusive. Further tests, done on the 28th and the 29th revealed she had a large malignant brain tumor. On November 30th at 1:30pm they began two operations, first a C-section and then brain surgery. Kiran Hope was born at 1:45pm. Amy Jo came out of the OR at 5:10 pm. I had the blessing and privilege of introducing her to the little girl she had longed for years later that night.

                Amy Jo was a loyal kindred-spirit friend. She loved Jesus and wanted to be like Him. All she ever really wanted was that He be glorified. She was convinced that it was more important to Be than to Do. She was frugal and enjoyed simplicity. Little things were Big treats for her. She loved beauty and colour and texture and saw it all around her, in vegetable carts, bright saris and children’s faces. She was a well read, intelligent woman with opinions that would have shocked some! She was extremely uncompetitive and couldn’t hold her own at Scrabble for the world! She was generous and wanted those around her to be happy.

                I loved her. And the missing ache is still quite sore.

Amy Jo died. Even now as I type those words, it’s still so hard to believe.

Understandably, those were hard days. It didn’t make any sense. God had every opportunity to answer the prayers of hundreds, maybe even thousands who prayed. We asked Him to heal Amy Jo, to restore her to life, to give Kiran the mother she deserved. But God didn’t come through. For months afterwards my faith was shaken. I couldn’t understand it all. We had prayed. Emails went pouring out soliciting prayer from literally around the world. Mega churches in South Korea prayed in unison, smaller groups of more reserved people prayed together in the UK. They prayed in Pakistan, they prayed in Canada and the US, they prayed in Germany. And we prayed in India, fervently, sincerely, desperately. But still God did not heal. And Amy Jo died.

Months later Lowell preached a sermon that I hated. He entitled it Who Forgot to Pray for James? The text was from the book detailing the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 12, “About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had James killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. Then he imprisoned him…. while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him”. Most of us know the story: the prayers of the church swayed God and He arranged for Peter’s miraculous deliverance! But was not the church also praying for James? Is there any reason to think they weren’t? Of course they were. Believers are being persecuted, the faithful rise up with prayer and power to beseech the Great God of the Universe to put an end to it. It’s what the church does! There is every reason to believe that the believers also prayed for James and others who were equally brutally treated, and yet God allowed James to be murdered and Peter to walk free. It doesn’t make any sense. Who can know how God figures these things out?

During that sermon Lowell used an illustration that communicated powerfully to my battered faith. He explained correctly why I don’t like swimming in the ocean: there are living things lurking beneath the surface, the waves are unpredictable and splash my face, it’s cold and deep, there are undertows and pulls that frighten, it’s salty and sandy and alive.  I do not like swimming in the ocean. I much prefer a swimming pool, a heated pool at that. The temperature is controlled. You can enter at your pleasure either the deep end or the shallow end. You can go in as far as you like and then climb back out. Blow up a floating device and float on the top if you choose! The bottom is level and smooth. There are no surprises. Nothing lives in a swimming pool.

And that’s the kind of God I prefer as well: one that is controlled and moderate; a God who I can measure and understand. I can enter His depths but only as far as I am comfortable. However that’s not the kind of God we have. Our God is an ocean of a God. He is alive and dangerous. There are forces at work below His surface. He alone controls the depths, the sprays, the splashes of His personhood. He woos us to the bottom and the water may appear murky and mysterious. Our God is wild and untamable. He is expansive and unpredictable. When we say he is Holy, we mean he is strange and weird and we do well to take our shoes off. The ground is Holy and the Water is deep.

After his horrid sermon Lowell asked that we sing a particular song. The words to that song, now old and rarely sung, still alarm me, “It’s all about you Jesus. And all this is for you, for your glory and your fame. It’s not about me, as if you should do things my way. You alone are God and I surrender to your ways.”

Suffering gives us a container to somehow hold this unholdable God.  Suffering reminds us that he alone is God. There is a humility that shakes our knees, we are overwhelmed by our smallness, our fragility, our mortality in the face of it all. And although we are wiping the Wild Salty Wonder out of our eyes, in some ways it’s never been clearer, we’ve never seen things as poignantly as we do now. It’s all about Jesus, his glory, his fame. Who are we to think that He would do things our way? He alone is God and so we do, we surrender to Him and to His Holy, Weird, Strange, Wild ocean-like ways! Suffering does this for us: it allows us a glimpse at how strange and weird he really is, it lets us see his holiness up close.

Much of this post was adapted from Chapter 9 of Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission written by Robynn Bliss & Sue Eenigenburg

Exiting the Noise

Around noon yesterday the electricity went off in our cottage in Rockport. The dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, and lights all stopped. Suddenly it was silent. And it was so welcome. 

If it hadn’t been for friends coming to stay and wanting them to have a good time, with lights and all appliances working properly, I could have sat in the quiet for hours. It was a gift to be free of the hum of background noise.

I realize how much noise is in my life, and how much I need to escape this noise. 

Last week I thought I would scream for the voices raging all over social media. I thought I would explode if I saw one more essay on how someone was going to commit suicide but they didn’t. How the pills were counted, the day was set. It’s not that I don’t care. I deeply care about mental illness. As someone who has sat beside loved ones in psychiatric emergency rooms my heart stops every time I hear about someone struggling, someone who doesn’t want to live, whose depression is so thick that they can’t see through.

But it felt like so much noise. How would knowing a stranger’s methods for taking her own life help me cope with the suicide of a well-loved Hollywood comedian? The answer for me was easy – it wouldn’t. The noise continued through all the tragedies and issues. The verbal sparring, a hallmark of today’s online communities, was non-stop. Like heavy traffic after a car accident so that you no longer care about the accident that took someone’s life – you just want it all to end. You want the traffic to stop, you want to get home so you can cradle your head in your hands and think.

I don’t want to be fed reactions 24/7; I want to be able to quiet the noise, escape the crowds, and think.

I want to go away to the mountain and pray.

“Think about it, Mom” says my son “prayer is the highest form of empathy, the greatest act of compassion.” 

This son of mine, nineteen years old, yet so wise, so beyond his years in wisdom and compassion. And he’s right.

So I need to exit the noise. I need to remove myself for a bit. I want what I write to be meaningful and to connect us, to start dialogue and promote thought and healing. I don’t want what I write to be the noise of one more opinion.

So today I’ll exit the noise for a bit. I’ll try to figure out what I think and feel. Most of all, I will pray. I will learn to pray more. I will seek to have the highest form of empathy and live out compassion for those far removed from me by geography, race, and circumstance.

Thank you for connecting in this space! I pray this week is one of peace and grace, that in the midst of the noise of a million opinions, you know who you are and what you think. Because sometimes I think I’ve forgotten.

Three essays that I would recommend this week: 

  • A Life of Prayer Amidst News of Death” recommended by my friend LaraQuote: “Neil Postman introduced the idea of the “low information to action ratio,” the concept that technology has made it possible to know details of suffering so remote from our everyday lives that we seemingly can do nothing in response—we have information without any clear action with which to respond. A low information to action ratio leads to callousness—we desensitize ourselves to suffering—or to despair because we are overwhelmed by the scale of world-wide suffering. We are small people who, for the most part, live quiet lives, but we have access to endless stories of pain and brokenness.” 
  • The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail” by Christena Cleveland. Quotes: “Can you see the Imago Dei in these young men? Can you see the suffering Christ in their rage?” “And make no mistake, our God is a God of justice. The young black men who launch Molotov cocktails at the police are misappropriating God’s justice by taking it into their own hands, but the rage they feel is the rage that God feels towards injustice. In a sense, they are imaging forth God’s justice to an unjust world.Seeing the suffering Christ in these young men isn’t achieved by theological gymnastics, deep pity, or altruism. It’s done by listening to their stories, sharing life, standing in solidarity with them, and experiencing their rage.”
  • An Allegory of Faithfulness” at She Loves Magazine by Rachel Pieh Jones. Quote: “The man who covered her turns away from her, for a time. But he does not forget the covenant he made, his oath that bound him to her, and her to him. She turns away from her sin, back to the one who had saved her before and he receives her again. He once again, washes her, restores her and dignifies her. He bestows his splendor on her so that again, she is beautiful.”

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A Common Prayer

I’m struggling these days. I’m trying to process the attack last Sunday at All Saint’s Church in Peshawar. The news reports are still trickling in. It’s not being widely reported on here in the US. Most of my news is coming from others who love Pakistan. We are sharing what we can piece together. Others who’ve grown up in Pakistan, or those who’ve grown a heart for Pakistan, are also trying to come to grips with it all. I have this stir fry of responses going on inside me….a collage of sorts….a patchwork of griefs so deep, so difficult to articulate.

And the weird incongruences of it all are never more apparent than they are in my facebook newsfeed. The discordances are perpetually in my face! My emotions are yanked violently as I read everything from extreme compassion to uber-ignorance; from hyper activism to naïve self-absorption. It’s more than my mind can manage; much more than my heart can reconcile.

I find myself wanting to scream at my computer screen, “Do you people not care?”

A church full of people went to services last Sunday to worship. I’m sure their motives were as varied as the shoes they took off at the entrance to the building. Some went because they always have; some went because their mothers told them to; others went to catch a glimpse of the young handsome medical student who sits quietly on the other side of the room. Others sincerely went to worship, to remember their God, to give honour and praise to His name, to tell him thank you for his faithfulness and His presence with them. Whatever brought them there, to the ancient old white building in the heart of that ancient old city, Peshawar, they were there, participating with the world wide Church, worshiping God.

And what happened after Church last Sunday is incomprehensible. A pair of suicide bombers met them as they filed out. Over 80 people died. Many more were seriously harmed.

It’s too much to understand. It’s too painful. There’s too much loss, too much sorrow.

However life goes on. And life here, on this side of the ocean, is really unaffected by what happens in other places, no matter how tragic. Innocent worshipers are sacrificed senselessly, window shoppers in a mall are murdered, an earth-shifting earthquake kills many, wounds more.

How can we wrap our souls around the extremes of such devastation when all the while we sip our lattes, adjust our thermostats to accommodate the arrival of Autumn and scroll through facebook?

With childhood friends quoting scripture about martyrs and other friends boast cooking chicken and noodles; others remind us to pray for the yet grieving in Kenya in light of the situation at the Westgate Shopping Centre; while still others quip on runs and marathons and vacations and back to school lunch ideas….it seems to me the world no longer makes any sense.

And yet life does go on. Perhaps my facebook friends are in just the same soul space I’m in—maybe they too are agonizing over the injustices and evils in the world. Perhaps this is their way of coping with the unbearable weights of mercy and empathy. I think Hope demands that life goes on. Hope longs for chicken and noodles. Hope is comforted by the idea that normal life can still happen somewhere. Hope delights in grandbabies being born, six year olds starting school and lovers marrying. It helps to know that, by God’s grace, we can continue living, in the face of the dying—not without caring, but almost because we do care and we’re trying to fan what little Hope that we can.

The only place I dare unburden my soul in all of this is in prayer…but I don’t even trust myself to begin to utter those prayers. My petitions are gibberish. Father forgive me, I know not what I do nor what I say.

During times like this I turn to the ancient, foundational, solid prayers that the church around the world prays. I turn to the Book of Common Prayer and I join in with the many across countries and over the march of time. I pour out my soul, with its confusions, and internal chaos, with its doubts and questions, with queries and suspicions, with judgments and deep despair –and I pray:

In Times of Conflict

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,
in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront
one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work
together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen

For the Oppressed

Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
(world) who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

For those we Love

Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy
never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come,
knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we
can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And this Sunday I’ll pray for courage for those who wish to worship again….

On Sunday

O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to
flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all
our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears,
make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us
to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last
great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Egypt – a Call to Pray

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Egypt, Cairo, Minarets

My love for Egypt is no surprise to Communicating Across Boundaries readers. Despite no longer having a vicarious presence in the country through our daughter, we keep up regularly through friends and acquaintances.

As our newsfeeds fill with news from Egypt, it is hard to know what is really going on. With the west condemning Egypt and shaking their heads in despair I am glad to pass on an article written with clarity and wisdom. One of the authors is head of the Bible Society in Egypt and a long time friend of ours.

Here is an excerpt:

“In the past 6 weeks the Muslim Brotherhood has occupied a number of public spaces, to demonstrate for the reinstatement of the former President (currently being held by the army and facing charges related to abuse of power, including substantial material and intelligence support to Hamas). Unlike the peaceful occupation of Tahrir Square by demonstrators in January 2011, and again at the end of June 2013, these Muslim Brotherhood occupations were dominated by calls for violence against the army, the police, the liberals and, specifically, the Coptic Christians in Egypt – all resulting in the violence witnessed on August 14th, when police stations, hospitals, private and public property were destroyed. Many Christian churches (at least 40 so far), homes and businesses were also attacked, as well as a monastery, three religious societies, three key bookshops belonging to the Bible Society in Egypt, three Christian schools and an orphanage.”

You can read the entire article here.

He ends the piece with a Call to Pray.

Prayers for Egypt:

  • The current violence will end soon.
  • The effective rule of law and order will be re-established for the benefit of all citizens.
  • There will be effective protection of church and other property against attacks by extremists.
  • Egypt will be governed for the benefit of all its citizens, with people of different persuasions able to live alongside one another peaceably.
  • Egyptian Christians will have opportunity to play an increasingly prominent and effective role in addressing the needs of all Egyptians and helping to bring healing and reconciliation in the country.

Permission to Embarrass

Fridays with Robynn

Recently I gave God permission to embarrass me!

I know that might sound odd and even somewhat sacrilegious. But it helped me to relax. It helped me let God be God.

Let me lay it all out for you…and you can connect the dots.

*Every Tuesday evening this summer we’ve been attending the Alpha course. Alpha is an introduction to the Christian faith. It’s a safe place where conversations happen. I love it! I love the honest interaction, the laughter, the agony that’s shared in a circle with new friends.

*We’ve been taking our neighbours: confirmed atheists, Adam and Theresa. And they’ve enjoyed it. They keep coming back. The discussions we’ve had with them have been crazy intense. It’s been revealing and riveting.

*This past Tuesday the topic was two-fold: the problem of evil and healing. According to the Alpha tradition we eat dinner together, watch a video on the topic at hand and then break into small groups to discuss what we’ve heard.  But the healing night is a little different. On this particular evening we don’t break into small groups, rather, we offer an opportunity for people to ask for prayer. You can ask prayer for anything but the assumption is that you might want prayer for healing of some kind.

*It’s amazing! God loves to heal. He’s kind and compassionate…and He loves to heal.

*But sometimes he doesn’t heal.  And I find that a little embarrassing.  And when there are those on the fringes of belief, or outside belief, it feels even more embarrassing, almost a putting God on trial. If he fails, what then?

*Tuesday I was nervous to think that Adam and Theresa might come, they might experience the awkward moment when people are asking for prayer, they might even risk asking for prayer themselves and then what if God didn’t do anything.

*As it turned out after the video Adam and Theresa asked some mutual friends, the leaders of our Alpha small group, if they would go into another room with them and discuss it! They wanted to think more about the problem of evil. They wanted to hash that out some more. It was hard to put that huge problem up against God’s longing to heal souls and bodies, hearts and wounds.

I have no idea if anyone was healed last night. But somehow it helped that I had already given God permission to embarrass me. I had let him off the hook. I said it’s ok for You to do things Your way. You are God. You can be in charge. I felt more relaxed. I felt my faith increase. Prayer is a vulnerable thing. Asking for prayer is risky.

Letting God do His thing meant I could stand back. I didn’t feel the need to explain Him away, or defend Him in any way.  God is God. He can be Weird and Wild; Awesome and at times, Awkward. But when I give Him permission to embarrass me, I’m letting Him be Himself. And it was freeing and foreign.

Maybe a little of me was quietly healed in the process…!

“Embrace the Chaos”

Lowell used to tell visitors to “Embrace the Chaos” when we lived in India. Anyone who’s ever been to India can quite quickly agree that there’s always so much going on! Just stand on a street corner in Old Delhi and try to identify all that you see and smell and hear and you’ll be hard pressed to not admit that it feels a little chaotic, a little out of control!

I guess this week I’m feeling some of that sort of chaos…but of course we’re still far from India!

When my dad comes to town we find projects for him to do. He loves to stay busy and we love to have the work done. Dad can do anything really. He works with wood, electricity, plumbing, tinkering, motors, moving parts, engines, paint! You name it, my dad can do it!

This visit we thought he and Lowell would build us a deck. The back porch has been precarious since the day we moved in. The plan was to knock it down and build a new porch with an attached deck. Being good citizens meant applying for a permit. There was some confusion about the placement of the posts and the size of the porch. The permit people took some time in approving our plan.

Meanwhile dad destroyed, at my request, our ancient box style closet in our bedroom. Our bedroom is small and it seemed to me that we should knock out the closet and put up one of those more streamlined, tidy looking, “easy to install” closet kits you see all the time on TV. But then the permit for the porch arrived. All work on the closet came to a screeching halt.

All of our closet stuff was in our son’s room. Our son was all over the living room floor. Mom and dad stayed in our room. We slept in Adelaide’s room. Adelaide slept in with Bronwynn. And we still have a guest who’s staying in Lowell’s office.

Nothing was where it should be.

Lowell went out to borrow his dad’s truck so he could load up the lumber they’d need. On the way home he discovered he had forgotten his phone. On the second attempt back toward home the old truck blew a tire. His dad had neglected to throw in the spare.

This week we’ve also had dance rehearsals and recitals. Adelaide auditioned for a specialty dance company earlier in the week as well but yesterday I got a phone call from the dance school that Adelaide hadn’t made the dance company she had auditioned for. I knew I’d have to break that news to her later in the day.

To top it all off I was scheduled to speak at a live webinar with a friend on expectations and burn out. I discovered that our headset was broken. My computer is still dead (did I mention the hard drive expired while I was away?). Thankfully I could use Connor’s new machine but it has a new fandangled version of windows on it and it seemingly does random things at odd moments. After getting kids out the door, painting two walls in our bedroom (because since the closet is down it would make sense to paint now!), and settling everyone else, I zipped over to Best Buy to purchase a new headset. With a new headset in hand, Connor’s machine, my notes, I drove through the drive through for a sandwich (I forgot to eat!) and raced to the church in search of some quiet. I couldn’t figure out how to navigate the internet but one of the pastors quickly helped me sort it out.

It was a day!

It was chaos!

And if we’d been in India Lowell would have said to embrace it!

When I was preparing to speak on the spiritual habits of Silence and Solitude for the retreat I was just at (the irony is not lost on me!) I happened upon these verses in the gospel of Mark,

“That evening after supper, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And he healed many who were ill; and cast out many demons…and in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place and was praying there”.

Talk about chaos: “And the whole city had gathered at the door!” That’s how I felt yesterday. The whole town was banging on the door of my sanity–paint buckets and stacks of stuff, daughters and dance rejections, the truck and the tires, piles of wood, piles of clothes, piles of people, electric drills and saws and hammers, broken headsets and dead computers. Mom can you take a look at this new game? Robynn can you run to the store and get? Where do you want me to put this? Mom I need you to remind me. All of it banging at the door.

How did Jesus respond? He had already had a full day….his chaos continued on into the evening, after supper, in to the night. Jesus responded to each person. He healed and ministered to the hurting, the sick, the confused, to the oppressed. He brought freedom and peace. But in the morning, knowing his own soul and his own needs, he woke early and went off on his own to pray.

When I arrived at the church, my phone buzzed with an incoming email. I paused and took the time to read it. A friend had emailed me the prayer she had prayed for me. The words for peace and rest and restoration, in the midst of the crazy, washed over me. I sat in the car alone and breathed. I shed a few tears. I let those wash over me too. There was a moment to stop and I did. I sat quietly and prayed out my own heart’s prayer: for endurance, for joy, for the capacity to embrace it all!

I survived yesterday’s chaos. Today will have its own share, I’m sure. When it’s all gathered at the door, I hope, I’ll remember to pause, breathe, pray. I think that’s the way we embrace it.

A text message I got yesterday from a friend read, “Just lean into chaos and find shalom”. That’s what happened when I sat in the car. I found a small piece of shalom.

An Ode to the Well-meaning and the Clueless

As a child of missionaries growing up in the sixties through the late seventies, I have more than a few funny stories about some of the things that were sent our way — clothing and such sent to the “poor missionaries” in Pakistan. This post is an ode to those who sent them – but before you judge my heart and attitude, please read through to the end.

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quilt

You tried so hard!

You went through your children’s clothes, certain that you could find something, anything really, that you could send to the children of missionaries. You pictured the huts we lived in, the threadbare tunics we wore, the lack of stores and supplies.  You thought we would never know the difference between Levis and no name jeans.

You advertised and arranged special drop off times so those clothes could make their way from your basements to our homes, our bodies.

You packed up oatmeal, and flour, thinking that surely we would use these products and be so excited. It never entered your mind that chocolate chips and taco mix were what we craved.

You really did send teabags to the part of the world that invented tea.

You sent pants with no zippers and old-fashioned dresses, all with love and a pure heart. And we mocked with hearts that were mean and not pure.

And I thought you were well-meaning and clueless. And I laughed.

And then I began meeting some of you. And you really didn’t know. You really were giving us gifts from your heart. You were taking time and energy that could have been used in a hundred other ways to care for us so far away.

You put little stitches on big warm quilts and sent them our way so we could be warm. And with each stitch you prayed for us. You prayed. And prayed. And prayed.

When my mother and I went over a cliff in the mountains, with only a barbed wire fence separating us from certain death – you were praying. When my brother got in a near fatal accident in Turkey, you were praying. When we faced illness, and sorrow, and separation, you prayed. When babies died, and boarding school was too hard, and people hurt us, you prayed.

You were so much better than me – with my arrogance and my “well-meaning but clueless” song and dance. You prayed with a fervor and love that I never had. You knew what it was to care for people you had barely met.

I still have two of your quilts. And when I look at them I think of how much I judged – and how wrong I was. And I thank you in my heart.