Do you have your hands full?
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed or under water as a mom of little ones, dear soul, you are not alone. I am right there with you; so is our Father in Heaven. This 30 Day devotional for moms with their hands overflowing, is full of real life experiences and hope in the One who rescues us from them all: Jesus.
I wanted to run today. Or should I say walk? Because let me be real, there are literally 1,000 hills in Rwanda and so a run inevitably for me, at some point, ends in a walk. If I’m lucky, it will end in a sort of run-walk-run kind of a thing, but that is now besides the point because this morning I had too much coffee and not enough peanut butter. You know the feeling? When you are jittery and weak and need to sit down because there is this substance full of caffeine and sugar coursing through your veins? Yes, that is me right now. So here I am forced to sit when I really wanted to run. Well, actually, I wanted to write too. There are so MANY things I want/wanted to do today.
Today is my day off.
Hallelujah. I need it. We all need one of those now and then don’t we?
But the tendency, or at least mine, is to fill it with a million things. Errands, a run, a coffee date, etc. etc.. And while none of those things are bad things sometimes they are not THE thing. The thing you really need. Like rest, and writing. Like reading or journaling. Like staying home or staying in bed. Like things that your soul desperately needs at the moment.
I read a book recently where the author described the Sabbath day of rest like having a snow day in the middle of the week. You wake up and suddenly all your responsibilities are wiped away. You have no where to be, no where to go, no need to get out of the house. You are free to sit in bed and drink your coffee all day long (just make sure you eat some peanut butter toast). You get to read a book and there is no NEED to take a shower or change your clothes. There are no expectations of you. Your only goal is to do nothing–save a few simple fun things you feel like doing.
A snow day in the middle of the week. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
That is how I am trying to view today. No duties, just be present and rest.
We have lived in Rwanda for nine months now. In many ways it feels like much longer. But I would say gladly, nine months in, we have moved from surviving to thriving. Most days, anyway. I am grateful. Life is good here. Full in different ways, but very, very good. Not always easy, but good. Funny how often I thought things had to be easy in order to be good. That isn’t the case at all.
I read a great quote by my new favorite person, Henri Nouwen, and I feel in many ways it sums up what we are doing here in Rwanda–or maybe more accurately what the Lord is doing in my heart through being here in Rwanda. He says:
“You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.”-Henri Nouwen
I can’t wait to meet Henri in heaven. What a man. What a wise man. What a man I want to learn from. Maybe THIS is why God led us to Rwanda. Maybe this is what God has been after all along. Moving us to step out into a new kind of living, so that He can teach us a new kind of thinking.
I am all ears.
At least that’s my goal.
Speak Lord, and I will listen. Teach me Lord, and I will learn. Show me, and I will do. Lead me, and I will follow. May this be my heart’s desire. Always. On work days and rest days, on good days and bad days. On days when I see glimpses of His glory and His unfathomably good plan, and on days when the clouds fog it up. And yes, on days like today when I’ve had too much coffee and not enough peanut butter, because sometimes these are the days when plans change and I have to sit still–and listen.
It was almost all I could think about when we moved here. The Genocide Against the Tutsi. Everywhere I went it seemed dark brown eyes stared back at me from hollow looking faces as I passed them on the street. Eyes that seemed full of pain. Eyes that seemed to have seen terrible things. Eyes that had looked in the face of Evil–and lived. A great, great Evil. And I did not know, nor could I ask, just what those eyes had seen. What kinds of pain and tragedy they knew–indeed, still know.
I thought often of the valley of dry bones and Ezekiel, and that here in Rwanda, there were many, many valleys filled with them. Although they wouldn’t have been dry. They would have been wet bones. April, they tell us, is “rainy season.” Torrential downpours flood the streets, homes, and valleys. Usually the rains stop everything. People don’t leave their houses when it rains here. But not that April. In April of 1994, not even the rains could stop the madness.
After living here for eight months, I’ve somewhat lost sight of this great Evil. I am not quite sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing–or a little bit of both. I have met so many joy-filled people since we moved here. So many bright white smiles meet mine. Everywhere we go this country is bustling with life. At least five new houses in our neighborhood have been built since we moved in. Construction is happening all over the city. People are everywhere: walking, driving, riding, talking. People who are very much alive and living and well and working.
Dry bones, walking again.
The longer we stay here the harder it is to imagine this place a wasteland. This green and growing world, a place of death and destruction, reeking with the stench of rotting bodies. Harder still to imagine the Evil that paraded through the streets waving machetes and shouting obscenities. It’s not possible. Not here in this beautiful place. How could it have been?
And yet, for those horrid 100 days from April to July when ONE MILLION Tutsis were killed, it was very much a reality. A terrifying, obscene, incomprehensible reality. One that so many still live with today, 28 years later. Those big brown eyes live with scars. Scars that I can only imagine break open and bleed every once in a while, especially in April.
There is a genocide memorial at the entrance to our neighborhood. Unlike so many memorials you visit elsewhere, there aren’t any names on this one. They do not know exactly who, nor how many, are buried here. It is simply a mass grave covered with a cement platform. The final resting place for too many bones.
Our neighborhood, once just a field and a few mud homes, became something no human eyes should ever see.
A field, a slaughterhouse, a wasteland, a graveyard—-a neighborhood. It is hard to imagine now.
Yet, how many places are like this in Rwanda? Life where there had been death. Joy existing with pain. Present mixed with the past. I am guessing most. They all speak this same story.
As we enter this season of remembering, mourning, promising never to repeat, and looking hopefully to the future, would you remember to pray for the wounded? Those living with unimaginable scars from the ravages of Evil. Pray for healing, for unity, for forgiveness and for Jesus to continue to make His presence known in the darkness and among the suffering. He is the Only One with the power and ability to Redeem.
And as I think about what this land was and now is, I am reminded of these wonderful words that Jesus spoke. The Light Who came into the darkness. The Light that cannot be overcome by it. He said:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3
Oh thank you Jesus! Oh may these things be true of Rwanda. A redemption story revealing His love and glory. A display of His splendor.
This is Esther. She is 8 years old and has no legs. I met her several weeks ago in the courtyard of her very humble home, shared by two other homes.
I have hesitated sharing this picture because I don’t know what to do with it, or her. And maybe by sharing this photo somehow it looks like I do, or like somehow I am helping. Really, all I did was visit Esther and bring her some goldfish crackers in a zip lock bag. Two treasures from America that she probably didn’t even realize as such. I do hope she liked them though. I told her they were my kids favorite snack.
When we walked in the small cement courtyard, Esther was sitting with her mom, little sister, and a young neighbor boy. Our ministry partner, Jules, and I both gave her a hug. When I reached down to pick her up to give her a hug, I was surprised how light she was. It made my eyes water. I have never hugged someone without legs before. It was a privilege.
We sat down and began talking through Jules, our mutual friend and translator.
She was very shy, but she showed me how she liked to run, using her hands of course, which have taken to looking more like feet since they are often used that way. On the way to see her, Jules told me she was very outgoing and loved to be active. Until, apparently, this strange white lady showed up with crackers in the shape of little fish and asked her questions in a different language. In her shoes, I would have been shy too.
I asked her about school, her hobbies, and what she wants to be when she grows up. An eye doctor, she answered. I asked a few more awkward questions met with more shyness, and then eventually after 20 minutes or so, we took a picture and we said goodbye, and walked back up the clay road littered with broken flip-flops and rags caked in mud. And that was it.
But I haven’t stopped thinking about her and wondering what it is that I/we can DO for her. I don’t really know the answer to that question yet.
A wheelchair seems like an easy answer, but if you walked that red dirt road with me to her house, gauged out by monsoon rains that wash down the hill like chocolate milk, you would see what I mean. Rwanda is not wheelchair friendly, even in the more sophisticated parts. Jules has tried to convince her family to move to an easier place to access, but they want to stay where they are.
Sweet Esther is sponsored through Jules’s ministry, Shelter Them, which covers her school fees and supplies. (She attends a school for the disabled an hour outside Kigali). Her dad has a job and her mom stays home. But her family is obviously still poor, and she still has no legs, no great way to get around, and a desire to be a doctor.
And this is how it seems with so many people I meet or see in Rwanda. Obviously poor–but making it. In need of better clothes, or house, food or more money. But also, in need of so much more than that.
What we “do” can feel like a drop in the bucket. Insignificant, insufficient, and fading fast.
I am learning, the needs we are surrounded by are much much deeper than they appear at first glance. It isn’t just new clothes or food or a few hundred francs that they need.
I am starting to think, their greatest need isn’t physical at all. Their needs are tied into generational poverty, a country recovering from genocide and civil war, the colonization of Africa and the results of brother against brother and the dark forces that rule this world.
There isn’t much I can do to change that.
But Jesus didn’t ask me to change that. He has already taken care of it. Yes, it still looks pretty ugly down here in many parts of the world, yes we still suffer and go through many different kinds of trials, but that’s when we remember we have hope in the midst of the darkness. We have Good News. We have a Father who looks after us and takes care of us. We have a Savior, who took on darkness and put it to death. We have a God on our side who leads us by His Spirit and is active and moving and working at all times everywhere. In spite of, in the midst of, the really ugly things in life. We have a Father who cares.
No one can ever care more than Him. And He invites me to follow Him, to love Him, and to learn how to love like He does.
And so, when I get overwhelmed by the needs I see around me, I need to remember who I am–but more importantly, who He is. Savior. Redeemer. Friend. Teacher. Shepherd. King.
Me? An object of His love and mercy, and an evangelist of His great love.
So while we wait for Heaven to come again, I can wave and smile and hand out bananas and goldfish crackers, and do what Jesus did and sit and talk with people. I can learn to give my presence and share the love of Christ.
These may be little things, but that is okay. We may do greater things in the future, and that is okay too. I definitely don’t have it all figured out.
But, again, slowly by slowly, as they say in Rwanda. One day, one step, one person, one meeting, one smile at a time. May He lead us onward into the work He wants us to do.
Also, would you join me in praying for Esther and about the ways in which we can be of help? So very much appreciated.
Lots of love my friends. 🙂
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the FULLNESS of God.”
Hi! I'm Brooke
Brooke lives with her husband and their five energetic children in Kigali, Rwanda; following Jesus after a fairly radical call out of business and into missions. She loves Jesus and pizza, and has a thing for throw pillows. Her dreams are big, her God is bigger, and yes, her laundry room is a mess.