I have a dozen posts in draft form and a million photos worth sharing, but life these days seems to move at the speed of a freight train and there are so few minutes to write. Things are easing up because our adoption paperwork is completely done and our dossier has been in China since March 22. I have new photos of our precious daughter waiting on the other side of the world and I will try to post soon just about our little Xin Xin. But today I want to share a story--just feel I need to write these thoughts down after a week of tragedy and heartbreak--nationally and locally.
When bad things happen I typically hear the same comments from people who aren't Christians--usually along the lines of: "If there is a God, why did he allow this to happen?" In their minds, there are only three answers: 1) God doesn't exist 2) God exists but didn't care enough to intervene 3) God exists but doesn't have the power to stop such evil.
I've had people personally ask me those questions after the loss of our first son and then weeks later my mother. My simple answer when my children ask me this question is: "We live in a fallen world. It started with the original sin of Adam and Eve and continues today. We have a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to die--as a loving sacrifice for our wrongs and as a redemptive act so that we could be pardoned from what we deserve. Just because we are followers of Christ, we aren't exempt from trials. If we never saw evil--if we never felt the consequences of sin--we would never see the need for a Savior. " (A link to a great article with supporting scripture of why our loving God allows suffering is here .)
But you may notice that Christians go through these trials in a very different manner than those who don't put their hope in Christ. It's remarkable how the same tragedy, the same loss, the same pain can cause one to be angry and bitter and fearful and the other to have peace and joy and hope. And I believe the reason is that our God loves on us in such a way during these times as if to say, "I know you don't understand why I've allowed this to happen and why I didn't answer your prayers as you had wanted, so I am going to care for you in such an intimate and detailed way that you will see that I am with you through this great hurt."
That is my truth and my testimony. At the time that I should have questioned my faith, my faith has never been stronger. It is simply because of a million little ways that He showed me His great love.
I find it interesting that Christ's first miracle was turning the water to wine at the wedding feast. One of my "When I Get to Heaven" questions has been why didn't Jesus start His ministry with something with a bit more wow--something showing the full extent of His power like raising Lazarus from the dead or healing the blind? But I do think that first miracle speaks volumes that He cares for even our basic needs and wants. I think it also shows us that sometimes we have to wait till we are completely empty before He will fill us--that every last drop must be gone for us to fully appreciate and acknowledge His provision.
I have one such clay pot that has been bone dry for nine years. My mother's name is written on it.
When my mother found out she had advanced cancer, she had one wish--to live long enough for her grandchildren to be old enough to remember her. At the time there were only four--my oldest two daughters and my sister's two girls. Ava was the youngest of this cute quartet. My mom and dad would have "Gigi and Popo" camps with them--sleepovers with movies and ice cream and singing and dancing. My mother always loved the theater and it was a love she passed down to my sister and me and our girls. (Here's a photo of my mom with her granddaughters--Ava is in the middle.)
Her love of the stage began as a little girl. She had a hard childhood and she loved being in plays because it gave her the chance to be someone else with a better life. So when I grew up, there weren't many memories she wanted share so instead she talked about the plays she had been in. Her favorite part was playing Annie in "Annie Get Your Gun." It's not a musical you see often these days, but it is such a sweet story based on the inspiring real life of Annie Oakley. I was perhaps the only child growing up in the 70s that knew every word to "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun." (Here's a copy of the write up from her school newspaper.)
My mother battled cancer for 6 years and her granddaughters knew her well and loved her dearly. But Ava was only 4 when she died and I knew I'd have to be diligent in keeping my mother's memory alive, especially with her. There have been many Christmases and family trips to the beach that I wished we could borrow her from heaven for just a few days. I've given birth to two children since her passing and ached to have her by my bedside. When we brought Daniel home from Guatemala I grieved that she wasn't at the airport to welcome him home. But the silly thing is, some of the times I've wish her here the most have been when the four oldest granddaughters have been in plays. (The eldest of them is currently in college as a theater major.)
And so I thought it amazing when the auditions for Ava's school play were announced and, out of all the possible options for the spring musical, the director had chosen . . . "Annie Get Your Gun." I didn't let Ava know when she auditioned that my mom had the lead role in that same show--didn't want her to feel added pressure and that she had disappointed me if she wasn't cast. There is such talent at her school, she didn't think she would even be considered for the lead, thus there were many happy tears when the cast list was posted and we saw Ava had gotten the same part my mother had in November of 1960.
(These pics were taken at a dress rehearsal. No flash photography--I promise.)
The play is this week. There have been two wonderful performances already and the last is tonight. I've watched some of it from the balcony--the closest seat in the house to my mama. I expected to be crying ugly tears throughout this very funny show--but God has taken all the bitter from this wine and left only the sweet. My cup . . . my clay pot . . . it overflows. God has connected my mother and my daughter in a way that I thought was gone and when Ava takes her final bows I can almost hear her shouting: "Ava, I'm so proud of you!"
They will strike the set minutes after the curtain call. Within an hour the sets and costumes will be taken down and packed away. But my daughter will have shared this with her grandmother--like a family heirloom, this torch has been passed down. And she will look back on this week and never forget that her grandmother was there in spirit.
And I have once again been reminded that my Great God cares about little things like wedding feasts and middle school musicals, that He will love us through every hurt and every trial, and He will fill us till our clay pots overflow.