The supper bell had already rung and I began the walk to the opposite side of the pond where the meals are taken. I rounded the corner and found her coming out of the office and slipping into her shoes. She walked up to me and looped her arms around my waist.
"You is a good mom. Why God make you love children so much?" She's said and asked this many times and it's interesting how it almost always happens when I feel most like the exact opposite. Somehow I don't think that's coincidence.
I hugged her back and smiled down at her, this 15 year old who has come so far from when I first met her at 13. I told her what I always tell her when we have this exchange. "You're a good girl! God was so nice to let me have you."
She always squeezes a little tighter and says I love you before letting go. And I always walk away feeling a lot like it was God who just hugged me.
I know the incredible blessing that's mine because God has filled my life with so many people to love. Because it also means there's so many to be loved by. There's not a day, no matter how busy or discouraging, that God doesn't somehow squeeze my heart with the love I feel for these kids. They can be making me absolutely crazy and then one of them will come and do or say the sweetest thing and I'll be momentarily undone.
Sometimes I laugh when it's not appropriate. Other times I cry without warning. There's no rhyme or reason and my poor family struggles to keep up.
The other night I put the 6 littlest girls to bed in their brand-new room. I walked from bed to bed, tucking them in and planting kisses on their soft cheeks. I stroked hair back out of their eyes, and told them I loved them. I led them in prayer and shivered a little when half a dozen little voices repeated after me as we spoke to the God we so desperately want them to grow up knowing. What a gift to be that bridge.
What an opportunity we've been given to work for the salvation of these precious souls.
We said amen and I reminded them it was time for sleep and not chatter or play. I walked a few steps away to my own room to wait and listen if they were going to obey. And that's when I heard the quiet sobs begin. At first, I sighed with mild frustration. The days sometimes feel long and by nightfall we're so ready for a moment of nothingness.
For a moment when nobody is calling us, or climbing on us, or clinging to us. A moment where nobody is crying and we don't have to try to mend hearts that don't always even understand why they're hurting.
It took only a second to pull myself together with patience to match the need. I walked through the darkened room and knelt beside her bed. She pressed her tear-dampened face to mine. I asked her why she was crying and she didn't answer. Was she scared? She said no. Did she know what had her upset? She did not.
And so I hugged her and prayed with her and held her for a few minutes before settling her back onto her pillow and tucking her blanket up against the chilly air of a Thai "winter". Her sweet little voice peeped out, "Goodnight, mama" and I knew her need had been met.
She didn't have to understand why she was crying. She didn't need to be able to identify her own pain. She only needed to know where to go to have it soothed and then peace settled right over her and she slept.
I'm not so unlike these children that give me the run of my life. In fact, I'm more like them than I am different. I feel all the feelings and half the time I have no idea why. There are just times when my heart cries even when my eyes produce no tears, and I can't get the words out to explain it all to God.
But He comes and kneels right beside me, bringing the peace I'd be searching for in vain without Him. He doesn't need me to understand it, He just needs me to know He knows.
If ever I felt a moment of regret over this life He's given me here, it would be erased in a heartbeat as I realized all over again that I get to teach these big and tiny ones where to go with the confusion and questions and pain of this world. They don't have to endure the hard stuff alone because they're learning of the One who bears the load for them.
I'd choose this life again and again, every single time.