Prior to moving to East Africa, I spent hours praying, seeking counsel, and preparing for a new lifestyle and ministry. Loneliness, limited amenities, leaving friends, and cultural adjustments were among the challenges I expected. Soon, however, I realized that while my love for the Ugandan people remained constant, the hardships, constant giving of my time and energy, and responsibilities of life in a foreign land were taking a toll beyond what I’d anticipated.
It hurts to be misunderstood, especially when we’re trying our best to love. We might go the extra mile to help, yet our co-worker suspects we have an ulterior motive. We share some hard truth, as kindly as we can, and our friend responds by shutting us out of her life.
My first car was a secondhand mini panel van. My dad spent hours fixing it, including the final touch of painting the hood a pretty powder blue. He didn’t want me driving the car yet, but I decided to take it for a quick spin. Dad hadn’t completely refastened the hood, and as the car picked up speed, it blew off and I drove over it! I couldn’t believe it—the hood of my beautiful “new” car was ruined. I tried to bump out the dents myself, but finally—tearfully—told my dad. He hugged me, said it would be okay, and we both worked on getting the dents out of the hood and respraying it.
Ever wanted to live like a monk? Thirty-four young adults did, accepting an offer from the Archbishop of Canterbury to embrace a countercultural, monastic way of life for ten months. From varied nations and denominations, the group formed a community that studied the Scriptures, prayed, and served together. At the end of their time, one participant stated, “We’ve spent time growing in intimacy with God, learning from Jesus and listening to the Holy Spirit.”
Four-year-old Seth had a penchant for adventure, and the sight of an empty laundry basket at the top of the stairs proved just too inviting. Climbing in, he launched himself down the sixteen steps, tumbling into the door beyond the landing. His mother raced to investigate.
Gales of laughter spill throughout the room as our daughter doubles over in delight after having bested her dad in their game of “got you.” Keeping points, they look for opportunities to scare each other. Though well into her teen years, my daughter finds great pleasure in scoring a point, while I find great joy in hearing the natural, unhindered delight of those I love.
While watching top athletes compete in a global event, my family and I marveled at their incredible feats. But as a relatively sedentary person, I was equally awestruck by their training regimens. In interview after interview, athletes would share how they woke up early every morning and did nothing but work out for hours on end. Every calorie would be counted, every movement analyzed for maximum efficiency. But they didn’t talk about their training as if it were a hardship—something negative. No, they described it with pride and passion because they recognized the privilege of being one of the few athletes in the world capable of competing at the very highest level.
During a major sports competition, a male sprinter jumped the gun, resulting in a false start and immediate disqualification from the event. His responses included tearing off his sprinter’s bib, writhing on the ground, and weeping in a curled-up position at the side of the track. A female sprinter was running well in her event when she slipped coming over a hurdle on a rain-slicked track and fell to the ground. Her race for all intents and purposes was over, but she got up and finished it with a look of calm determination on her face.
Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father said jokingly to his daughter, “I’m more famous than you are.” His comment was based on the media’s coverage of him and his wife Lynn’s nervous reactions as they observed Aly’s Olympic routines. Their emotions on display became an engaging sideshow. The couple swayed and rocked as they anticipated Aly’s complex flips and twists. Lynn reached over and clenched Rick’s arm and fearfully peered out from between her fingers. There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of a loving parent!
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables opens with the struggles of Jean Valjean, a man ostracized by society because he was an ex-convict. Myriel, the town’s bishop, gave him shelter one night, but Valjean fled with Myriel’s silverware. When Valjean was caught by the police, however, the bishop said that he had given the silverware to Valjean. He then gave Valjean two silver candlesticks, as if he had meant to give them as well. After the police set Valjean free, Myriel told him that he should use money from selling the candlesticks to make an honest man of himself.
As we drove past a semi on the highway, my father mentioned that some large trucks have an extra set of wheels. Heavily loaded trailers require additional weight distribution over an increased number of wheels. So, when needed, the retractable set is lowered. When the trailer is empty, however, the additional wheels are raised to improve fuel efficiency and decrease wear and tear on the tires. The wheels are always available, yet their true purpose and value is only revealed when the truck is fully loaded.
Most people would agree that mothers are very special people. In many countries, we even set aside a date on the calendar—Mother’s Day—to celebrate them. As I was thinking about my own mom, I remembered another mother who’s truly worth knowing. Jochebed protected her newborn—“a special baby”—because she loved him (Exodus 2:2). The law of a power-hungry king required baby Moses to be drowned. But due to her deep faith in God, she was “not afraid to disobey the king’s command” (Acts 5:29; Hebrews 11:23). Moses was saved in an amazing way! By God’s providence, Jochebed became Moses’ nursemaid. And when Moses was older, he was “taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). The infant in peril became a prince of privilege (Exodus 2:7-10).
Lilias Trotter had an unusual talent for painting landscapes. Born mid-nineteenth century, she acquired famous artist John Ruskin as a mentor. Ruskin believed her talent could dominate the art world. But as Lily’s art matured, so did her devotion to God. She began frequenting dangerous areas to help women in need, a practice Ruskin discouraged because he felt it kept her from perfecting her artwork. Eventually, Lily decided to spend her life serving others in Algeria.
She glanced at him with a tender smile and began reading the carefully crafted words held in her trembling hands. The vows revealed a deep love for the young man standing before her. Toward the end of her lyrical, beautiful expressions, she said, “I promise to love you under all circumstances, the good times and the hard times—whatever it may be—for the rest of my days.”
In the movie Frozen, a young princess named Elsa has the truly chilling ability to freeze anything she chooses. But then she accidentally harms her beloved sister Anna with her gift. Not being able to control her freezing ways, Elsa eventually hides in her own lonely ice castle. In the end, however, the princess finds that the personal touch of love allows her to see her gift reach its full potential—under control and as a blessing to others.