This country has stolen my heart – and when a heart becomes connected to a person or a place or a cause it means there is the potential for that heart to be broken. To be busted wide open. When you love something, it has the power to hurt you too and Mexico has brought me much love along with some pain. As I grow closer to the children of Manos de Amor, I see the suffering they carry. Two new little boys who are so malnourished, their shoulder blades stick out like sharp knifes pushing against their t-shirts. A sweet little 10-year-old girl who was so excited to meet the dad she hadn’t seen in years and instead found herself being repeatedly raped by him. Three little girls whose mom promised to pick them up on Christmas Eve and then disappeared for 6 weeks. Just. so. much. pain.
I thought carefully about my word for this year. My guiding value. The one thing I want to focus on, remember, search for, chase after. At first, I thought compassion would be my word. More love for the people I rub shoulders with. But as a difficult December moved into January, I noticed something happening in me. I was getting discouraged and a bit cynical and even a bit hopeless. The stories were piling up and my heart was getting bruised.
That’s when I read a Scripture verse and found my word – well it’s actually a phrase – for this next chapter.
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV
Whatever is lovely. I get to choose to think about what is lovely. Yes, there is pain and suffering and injustice here. Too much. I have chosen to spend each day grabbing it and fighting against it. But I know that the way to keep my heart soft is to train my mind to think about what is true. To look for what is noble. To overcome the crap by embracing the lovely.
So I have started looking and counting and recording. How many good and lovely gifts can I see around me? How many will there be in a year? Here is just the start:
- The sunrise and palm trees framed in my bathroom window every morning
- A fountain garden oasis in the middle of an office complex
- A coconut that broke a headlight but didn’t smash a windshield
- Breakfast with a view of bobbing boats
- Immigration card ready just in time
- A tiny orphan falling asleep in my arms
- Buttery popcorn
- Hot coffee and a good book in bed
- A husband who gets up at 5:00 to sit with little girls
- A home with extra rooms for the broken children who need a family
- Long distance friends who still love us
- A few unexpected moments of sleep
- Bacon and eggs and perfectly ripe avocados for breakfast
- A tiny “I’m sorry” from a little one who strayed from love
- A glass of wine at the end of a full weekend
- The smell of bleach and ajax in an almost clean bathroom
- I’m so Happy” sung by children who have little reason to be
- Sound of a marching band going by at midnight
- A giant pot of tamales followed by little laughing dancers
- My tiny garden oasis – torches and candles and fountain and wine and a wooden saxophone
- A goat and a turkey and a tuba – fun afternoon ride around town
And at least 40 more so far. Honestly, I’m finding it harder than I expected. I forget to look. I forget to rejoice. I forget to be thankful. Complaining is way easier. But that’s the whole point of the ‘word’ – to embrace a new thing and to grow. So for this year, I choose to focus on whatever is lovely. What’s your word for 2018?