Tuesday, March 12, 2013

for when you're feeling weak and heavy-laden

Have you ever been giving advice to somebody, and as it’s coming out of your mouth you realize you need to take your own advice?

It happened to me yesterday. 

I’ve been feeling really tired and discouraged.  Lack of routine, coping for almost five months on broken sleep, clusters of things swirling around in my head that I want to do, be: memorize Scripture.  Exercise regularly.  Drink more water.  Read a verse with the boys in the mornings.  Be more patient.  Serve my husband better… the list goes on.  

I just plugged in to the ScriptureTyper community a couple days ago, and yesterday, I quietly posted my first prayer request, timidly stepping out into this new community.  

Thirteen people responded.  

Thirteen people I’ve never met.  Thirteen hearts are graciously lifting up my quest for routine, my sleep depravation, my walk with God.  Thank you so much.    

During my naptime yesterday, I couldn’t put this down.  I checked email (bad idea at naptime), and my Dad had sent this pre-Easter link.  I was supposed to be sleeping, but I just couldn’t stop scrolling.  The words held me all the way to the very end, scrolling down through pure Truth.  It was like my soul took in great draughts of fresh, clean air.  By the end, Jesus was pulsing in front of me in all His glory.

I got up with my heart full of Jesus.  (Probably more refreshed than if I'd slept!)  I made a cup of tea, went out in the hall to let housekeeping know we were up from our naps.    

Now, not all of the Thai cleaning ladies in our hotel can speak English, but yesterday the lady on duty could speak more than most.  As she came into our room to make up our bed, I was sitting down changing Ruby on the floor.  She smiled at Ruby, so while she was plumping the pillows and changing the sheets, I asked her if she had any children of her own.  Just making conversation.

She said, “Yes, one.”  

“Boy or girl?” 


I asked how old he was.  

“Fifteen,” she said, glancing over at me as she snapped the sheets into place.  

“Wow,” I said, “he’s a big boy!”  

“Yes,” she said, a little sadly.  Before I could ask if she wanted to have more children, she filled in the gap.  “His father leave when he one month old.  I no know where he is.  Like... dead.”  

My heart nearly stopped.  

She doesn’t know where her baby’s father is.  She raised him all by herself.  

She keeps talking, the words stumbling out of her.  “Your country not same.  Your husband, he take care baby for you.”  James had been holding Ruby until I was ready to change her.  “He help you.  He good man.  Not like our country.  Woman do everything.”  

The thought flits through my mind: How. blessed. I. am.

I ask if her son lives with her.  She says no, he lives with her mother in North Thailand.  She only sees him for his two-month summer break every year.  Her son can’t live with her.  She only sees him two months out of twelve.  She has to stay in the big city to earn a wage that’s enough to support all three of them: herself, her son and her mother.  So she works and lives alone, and sends money home so her son can eat and go to school.  

“I worry because... my son no speak English.”  English is the ticket to a good future.  She makes a wry face.  “He have many girls talk to him.”  She laughs, shrugs her shoulders, but there’s a tinge of frustration.  Helplessness.  She’s not there to do anything about it.  

I nod.  Listen.  Ask simple questions.  I fight the urge to offer platitudes, try to fix her life.  I can’t fix anything.  I can just be here with her, sitting on the floor with my baby, while she makes the bed.  I’m feeling a little helpless myself.

She coos at Ruby, makes her smile.  “Your baby very cute.”  She’s not bitter at me for having three children.  For having a loving husband.  For being from a country where life is relatively easy.  My heart is breaking for her, but she’s resigned.  This is her life.  It’s just the way it is.  

I go into the other room, ask James whether I should tip her.  I’m longing to help her in some tiny way.  He agrees, and I pray, bide my time, wait until she’s done mopping the floor, pick my moment.  I pray again.  Lord, give me Your words.

I follow her to the door.  I make eye contact, ask her name, avoiding a glance at her name tag.  I’m asking her as a person.  As a woman.  

“Hom,” she says.  Home, without an ‘e’.  

Her name is Home.  

I look her in the eye and slip a small bill into her apron pocket.  “Khap-kun-kaa,” I say, “thank you.”  And then, I go on, my words tumbling over each other.  

“You know,” I say, “I want to tell you something.”  I hold her eyes, bravely.  “God sees you.  And He loves you.  He loves you.”  I try to hug her with my eyes.  Something wobbles behind hers.  

“And when you feel… weak,” I drop my arms limply by my side, charades, “He is strong, for you.”  I make muscles, laugh.  Still holding her eyes with mine.  I want her to know, really know.  

“Do you… have you ever read - the Bible?”  I’m hesitating.  Unsure of her English level, unsure of myself, out on a limb.  

“We believe Buddha,” she says simply.  “We good people.”  How can I argue with that.  I  can simply offer what I know.

“We believe in Jesus,” I say, “and he says in the Bible, when you feel weak and have heavy burdens - “ more charades: I mimic a heavy load on my shoulders, point to her.  I know she’s carrying a load.  She knows I know, nods.  Smiles.  “Jesus says, ‘Come to Me and I will give you... rest.’”  I slump my shoulders, close my eyes.  “You can read His Words in the Bible…”  

Just then, another foreigner walks by in the hall, en route to his room.  I’m suddenly acutely aware of my non-PC-ness.  Standing in the doorway sharing the gospel.  Who really does that?  And how shallow am I that I can be suddenly flooded with shame over offering this Most Glorious Gift to this needy heart?  

She’s meant to be cleaning his room… she blushes, thanks me, nods, bows, smiles again apologetically… I ask her quickly if she’ll be cleaning our room again next week, and she says she switched shifts with someone just for today.  Just today.  

I smile at her, say goodbye, close the door quietly.  Let my breath out.  Thank God for Hom.   

And she stays on my heart.  The boys pray for her at bedtime.  “Dear Jesus, pray for Hom, pray that she would come to know you, Jesus…”

This morning on the treadmill, finally getting up early enough to exercise, I have a new lease on life.  The encouragement of my new friends at Scripture Typer and the words of Romans 1:16 are racing through my brain:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, 
because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”

Lord, bless Hom.  Water Your seeds.  Make them take root in her heart.  Forgive me for being ashamed of you in front of that foreigner… maybe he needs You too.  

Gungor’s music accompanies my beating heart, and I realize: I've been needing to take my own advice.  Come to Me, and I will give you rest.  

When I get back from exercising, the boys have finished breakfast.  I dole out vitamins, flip the kitchen verse calendar I dug out of the suitcase last week to the page for today.  My heart skips a beat.

March 6

I will refresh the weary

and satisfy the faint. 

Jeremiah 31:25

A promise for Hom.  And me.  


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