birds and lilies


Worry eats away at us.

We worry about our hair.  Our clothes.  Our jobs.  Our friends.  Our enemies. We worry about our bodies.  We even worry about worrying.

A week or so ago, I had a day where my worries got the better of me.

This is a story about how I was reminded not to worry, but rather to live at peace at all times and in all circumstances.

The day started like any other.  Wake up.  Shower.  Make lunch.  Eat breakfast. (I’ve gotten into eating boiled eggs smashed on a piece of toast with salt and pepper.  Gotta get me some protein!!)  Leave house.  Walk to the metro.  Avoid stepping in large mud puddles.  Count dead frogs.  I can usually count about ten of them, squashed completely flat and dried by the sun.  It’s pretty gross, but I’m used to it now.  Sometimes they lay there with one hand over their chest, as if they were clutching their heart in a dramatic fashion.  I can imagine them giving out one last croak…ok enough about dead frogs.

I take the metrou (subway) to Piata Unirii.  This station reminds me of Yonge and Bloor.  A lot of commotion.  People rushing to work.  But instead of musicians with open guitar cases there are little stands selling pretzels.  I like pretzels. From Piata Unirii I change lines and go to Mihai Bravu where the church we are using for the centre is located.  I like to get their early and read as I wait for the church staff to come open the gate.

Children usually arrive at 9:25 and charge the doors with open arms, eager for a hug.  They like to greet me by saying “Hello Becca.  How are you?  Comment ca va?”  It’s great!  Monique, our awesome French teacher and volunteer that was with us in July did an amazing job of teaching them French.  For the few weeks after she left, they would continue to greet me by saying “Bonjour Monique” as if the name “Monique” was always to follow the word “bonjour.”  She definitely impacted them in a great way!

The thing that set this day apart from others was that it was my first time being on my own with the children.  Jenn had a packed day of important administrative work, and the volunteer wasn’t able to come in.  I felt my heart start to race, thinking about how I was going to manage watching six children that I couldn’t fully communicate with.  But then, there was God, reminding me to take it one step at a time.

We had English class.  We sang songs, some in Romanian and some in English.  We played a game or two, drew some pictures and had outdoor recess.  Lunch time came and I handed out bread with salami and squeezable cheese.  The ate and ate and ate some more.  Then it was bathroom time.   This is a very important part of the day because not only does it help get rid of sticky, cheesy fingers and faces, but it also helps us avoid pee soaked pants during nap time.  These children live in neighbourhoods and homes that don’t have showers and baths, so washing their hands in the cool running water is a source or joy and pleasure for them.  This means we must be strict and careful to watch them as they wash their hands because it can easily become a giant water fight play session.  One time, I sent a boy into the bathroom on his own to wash his hands and he came out soaked, later telling his mom proudly that he had a bath.  Fun times! haha.

Then it was nap time.  The act of putting children to sleep is an art.  Because these children do not have enough sleep at home, they usually fall asleep after being read a story or two.  But on this day, my patience was tried.  I laugh at it now, but at the time I was ready to flip out.  Two of the children slept while the others tossed, turned, and even flipped.  It seemed that no matter what I did, they had decided they were not sleeping.  I know that they were trying me out…seeing how far they could get.  As I prayed to God to help me, and bring peace to the chaos, I hoped to see all the children lie down and fall asleep in an instant. Unfortunately the children did not all fall asleep like I was hoping, but I did feel better.  I was humbled, and reminded that even though I may have years of experience working with children, I still have much to grow in. Also, coming into this experience, I didn’t fully realize how much of a challenge the language barrier could be.  But recognizing my weaknesses is good because it helps me to depend on God more for strength, and not become prideful.  While it is great to succeed and do well in something, there is also a beauty in our failures and shortfalls.  It is at these times, when we admit to our lack that we can be shown God’s abundance.  He designed us to rely on Him, and to work together in unity…a lesson I was reminded of this past Sunday. Pastor Brent preached on the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), beautifully illustrating the way in which God created us to work together as one body, each bringing something of value.

After “nap time” I brought the children downstairs for snack and quiet play time before their parents arrived.  One of the church volunteers, a sweet and funny, and very chatty woman was there making jokes with the children and offering me more food.  She loves to feed me.  Even though i don’t speak Romanian well yet, and she doesn’t speak English, she doesn’t hold back in chatting with me.  So there she was, in the room with the children and I, chatting away, when I realized I missed a call.  One of the parents was locked outside the church gate and had been waiting there for some time. I quickly rushed out there to let him in, unaware that the gate had been locked.  I felt terrible, and I could see that he was not happy, understandably.  I apologized in Romanian, praying that he would understand.  As I ran to get his son’s bag and lunch, there was the funny church volunteer, offering me more food. Great food.  But my mind was racing, my emotions were at full force, and I needed to get back quickly to the father who had been locked out.  Thank God, when I got back to him, he was smiling, reassuring me things we okay.  I turned around and there was a flood of emotions. Relief mixed with frustration mixed with “ahhhh” – I wanna run away and cry.  There I was, ready to break down.

But this is not where the story ends.  After a nice dinner with my new friend, Mikaela, ice cream and a movie with Jenn and Raz, I headed home feeling better, but still not at peace.  I asked God to help me, to be there for me in such a tangible way, and I told Him over and over that I needed more of Him.  I am happy to share that as always, He heard my cry, and God does not disappoint.

The next day I was taken aback by two amazing acts of kindness and generosity.  I received flowers from the father, bright pink lilies that made my heart so happy, and a little bird figurine from two of the children who were giving me a hard time during nap time.  I was left speechless, and so grateful for these beautiful gestures.  Feeling so in awe, I didn’t even realize that God had hidden a little sign of His love, and a lesson for me in these gifts.

My devotion a few days later featured this favourite passage of mine,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labour or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them. But seek first his kingdom and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  - Matthew 6:25-34.  

How cool is that!  God is so funny, how He speaks to us in mysterious and beautiful and magical ways.  He speaks to us as individuals, knowing what will capture our hearts.  I had become so consumed with worrying about what was coming, worrying that I was going to be in that situation again with the children.  I love to think ahead, and plan and guess at what is coming.  But I also love to be surprised, and take unknown paths of adventure.  So my mind is often in this battle between thinking ahead and letting God have full reign over my life.  But God knows me, and He loves me even though I often try to figure out His plans, or connect the dots before He has even laid them out for me.  I am thankful for His patience, and I am learning to continually give Him more of me so that He can lead me in the best way, not my way.

This lesson of lilies and birds captured my heart in such a personal way.  But I know that it is not the last time I will be reminded of it.  It’s a process of daily recognizing God’s place in my life.  Choosing to live at peace because He has already gone before us.  Each day has enough trouble of it’s own, so there is no need to worry about tomorrow, or tomorrow’s tomorrow.  As new worries creep in, and thoughts of five year plans, and careers and schooling and relationships and on and on…take a step back and rejoice in the day at hand.

Enjoy your today.  

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

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Originally posted to Stories