Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Driving Down a Different Street

If you were to drive down my street today you'd probably think it looks just like streets you've been down before. Some of you might recognize it as a glimpse of home - the neighborhood from your childhood, or the one your kids will look back on one day.

You might notice the way the houses change as you drive south, some almost caving in on themselves, marked by decades of unremarkability until what's left is the wish that you'd just look away.

Maybe you would notice the trees, their limbs reaching up like a legacy, like life and growth and promise.

You could count the trash and broken bottles, wondering how many bags they would fill. Maybe I'll come back later and tidy up, you might say.

It's a bit cold right now, but time your visit around 3 pm and you'd hear the laughter of children.
There's a good chance you'd smell dinner cooking, see smoke praying up from silver chimneys.

Your eye could be drawn to the porches with defunct appliances growing rusty in wait.
Or you'd latch on to my neighbor's front stoop, meticulously scrubbed with a bucket of soapy water almost every day.

No matter what you took away from your visit to my neighborhood, it would be true.
But there's just no way you could carry it all with you. So you can drive through, I hope you do, but please understand there's so much more. I'm just starting to understand the fullness of its rhythms. I find it increasingly difficult to talk about the truthful beauty and depth of my place. I'm not sure I've earned the right, and besides, every story is just a fraction of the whole.

On January 30th, I'll board a plane to Ecuador along with Ashley and Ruth. We'll be traveling with Compassion International as writers, sharing the mission of their work to release children from poverty in Jesus' name.

My family has sponsored children through Compassion for almost a decade. A few months ago we received an updated photo of John Freddy, our first Compassion child, and we all sat and stared at it a while. Somewhere over the past year, he seems to have made that leap from little boy to young man.

I hold great respect for the work Compassion does and making this trip with them is an honor, one I don't take lightly. It's difficult to imagine how this might all shake down, how I'll feel when I stand in the home of our newest sponsored child and imagine watching him grow over a span of years to come. I'm not sure what layers will be added to this journey with my ten-year old in tow, he, an international traveler at the age of four months old.

It's impossible to know if walking foreign soil will crank the spigot on my words, saturated from the inside out with the urge to take note, write it down, memorize this moment in front of me. Maybe my soul will fall hushed. Either way, I hope I'll remember North 5th Street.

If you were to drive down my street, it would be naive and unfair of me to ask you not to notice our scars, but there's the park under the canopy of walnut trees and the teenager who drives smaller neighbors to school when it's dark outside and cold. There's the shy woman next door who sometimes delivers a pile of tamales then retreats back to where she feels safest. There's the revolving-door rental, now a permanent home with its trim freshly painted a bright, happy blue. There are the cracks. And then there are the flowers growing up between them.

My prayer is that I'll share the stories of Compassion Ecuador - the lives and homes, the streets as we drive through - with great dignity and care. I hope to be a good neighbor while I'm there.

I would love for you to follow along.

While in Ecuador, I'll be blogging here daily. Calvin has plans to commandeer the laptop and share from his perspective a time or two. Just show up, however you get here, and we'll talk like we do. I'll also be sharing smaller bites on Instagram and Facebook and I'm excited to share from my teammates' perspectives as well. If you'd like to follow the trip in whole, you can easily do that on the Compassion Bloggers Ecuador '16 page.

Friends, thank you for traveling with me.
It's such a privilege to pour my heart straight out to yours.


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