I met Moses this week.
His eyes danced with joy as he recounted story after story of transformation in the lives of people in Mbale, Uganda. Moses is the Area Program Manager.
But one story stood out.
A bright, elementary-aged girl became sullen and withdrawn. Her teachers’ concern increased when the child confided that her parents were pressuring her to marry. They desperately wanted one less mouth to feed.
Food for the Hungry staff encouraged the little girl to tell her parents she was not yet prepared for marriage. They supported her and helped her secure a place in a trade school where she learned to sew.
Upon completion of her program, and still elementary age, the push to marry returned. Once again, FH staff coached her on how to address her parents and connected her with a local seamstress. The child worked diligently at learning all aspects of the work, including the financial dealings.
Around age 17 this young woman, with the coaching and encouragement of Food for the Hungry staff, bought her own sewing machine and struck out on her own. Today she has a flourishing business. She is not yet married.
And Moses beamed at her success.
There are so many elements to this story that make my heart sing.
This child’s courage to stand against her parent’s strong wishes inspires. Throughout Moses’ recounting he emphasized how respectful she remained in relationship with her mom and dad all the while maintaining her resolve not to marry. She was likely ten or eleven years old. Such bravery.
And resilience. Obstacles abounded for this young one and yet she worked hard and found a way…but not alone. The coaching and care she received from FH staff empowered her to stand strong and see options in the midst of dark times. They believed in her and she, in turn, believed in new possibilities for her own life.
And she is achieving them. This young teen honed her entrepreneurial spirit in a safe place, watching and gleaning all she could from her seamstress mentor. At the right time and with the support of good people, she branched out. Again, such bravery.
This scenario played out in Uganda but I find myself asking how can this work be done in Canada as well? We have different issues but the principles are universal. People need others to believe in them, provide them with options rather than solving their problems for them. In short, we need our dignity preserved, even in the bleakest of times.
So I’m asking, who can I mentor today? Who will I walk alongside and invest my time and energy in to help increase their ability to move ahead?
With love and gratitude,
I’m paying attention again.
I’d like to think that over this last year I looked both ways before crossing the street and shoulder checked prior to a lane change. But that’s not what I mean.
About two months ago I sat with my trusted counselor and recounted the flurry this year has been. I commented on the high pace of life and wondered aloud of its sustainability long term. After listening attentively he asked a couple of questions and then came a zinger – you know, the kind of question that seems so simple yet rocks your world. “Are you in a storm or is this a season?” he asked quietly.
To be sure, there have been elements of the last twelve months that qualify as hurricanes or cyclones – those times that are short lived and highly intense. But as I processed more deeply, I began to recognize that much of the year has been about re-entry adjustment. This is a season of being “in life” again and I’m figuring out what will be a maintainable pace.
I noticed that while many lovely people and opportunities have entered my world, one area has greatly diminished. Not surprisingly, the solitary, stay home activity that saved my sanity through the pain years lessened as my capacity to go and do flourished. Writing went from daily nourishment to a weekly post.
And I missed it more than I recognized.
So I began to pray and ask God to show me how to construct my life so that time with the written word could find it’s appropriate place in my new world order.
I’m not sure if God used this process to prepare me for the writing opportunities that are coming my way or, if my desire to write more consistently has heightened my awareness. Either way, I am putting fingers to keyboard more routinely and the benefits astound me.
I see things differently. My mind whirls with metaphors and thesis statements, sees life applications in tulips and weather patterns, and I look forward to word-smithing ideas again. I feel grounded and more clearer headed, like my thoughts and emotions are freed, leaving me lighter and focused.
And, writing is reinvigorating me because I must sit quietly in order to do it. I am forced – by choice, of course – to slow down, be alone, and quietly commune with God as I create. I am grateful and find it fascinating that everything else is still finding its place.
Writing won’t be life-giving for everyone (although the benefits of keeping a journal are impressive). Some paint. Others make lists. Many take pictures. But I wonder, do you know what it is that brings you stability in a storm? Do you have regular, life-giving activities in your particular season? I hope so.
With love and gratitude,
Twenty adults, each respected professionals, took turns with spoon handles clenched in teeth, to move small brightly-colored balls from one bowl to another. Blue, green, and red teams wildly cheered their members on to “world” records.
The same people donned harnesses, cinched buckles and secured tether lines before stepping onto wet logs, thin cables and wobbly wooden paths suspended high above the ground. Deep breathing and encouragement of fellow risk-takers spurred even those afraid of heights through the ropes course and down the zip line.
Not everyone did everything on this Food for the Hungry staff retreat, but everyone did something.
On the ride home from our two-day adventure, I asked my two carpool buddies to share their opinion of the time. Team spirit, great costumes, healthy competition, varied activities, inspirational speaker, and beautiful location topped the list. They concluded that the retreat committee had “knocked it out of the park”.
And then I added, “I agree with everything you’ve said. But let’s not miss the fact that we could have taken that same retreat agenda and, with a different group of people, come away from an average or even unsatisfying event.”
The success of the FH staff retreat certainly had something to do with the organizational work prior to the days, yet equal credit goes to the spirit of participation and involvement. Who wouldn’t love working with a green team member who shows up in a lime cape, gloves, and tulle hair bow? Or someone willing to sacrifice their body to get the blue six on the stack of giant Dutch Blitz cards in the middle of the room? The commitment to entering in and engaging astounded me.
And it reminded me that life is rich and full when I buy in, when I’m sold out for the cause and hold little back. That doesn’t mean going 100 miles an hour all the time but rather being fully present to whatever I’m doing, even if it’s being quiet.
I also took away the importance of play. My cup filled as we laughed, adventured, talked, and risked together. Being in God’s glorious creation as we hiked Teapot Hill brought perspective to issues, afforded time to ask about vacations and family, and satisfied the competitive souls as we searched for hidden teapots and cups along the trail.
Are you holding back? Are there places you can choose to engage more fully, sharing who you are and the gifts God has given you for the benefit of others and team? I would highly recommend it.
And, don’t forget your green cape.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst