Her name is Aleksandra and I am hopelessly and forever in love with her. She changed my life when I realized how much she loved me. Suddenly the goodness of the entire world was bound up in the strength of her eyes locked onto mine. Making this girl cry feels like the greatest wrong I could ever do. She looks to me for her place in the world. My steps matter far greater than I had ever imagined. She is beautiful and I want to give her the best shot at life possible. She is somehow altogether my daughter, my muse, my salvation, and my Mona Lisa. She is the masterpiece that I am desperate to protect.
This past October she took the knife in her hand and carved her own pumpkin. I was thrilled with her initiative and terrified by the possibility that she could slice her hand. I showed her the safest methods, told her of the risk, and then handed her the instrument. Her creativity seemed to flourish as she held the knife and began to carve her jack-o-lantern. She impressed me with her imagination and her safe behavior. I was ready to bandage and compress... but she kept the blade away from her skin.
I thank God daily for my children. They keep me focused during these days of waiting. God kept Ezekiel waiting in the wilderness, in a cave, and on the edge of a cliff. Ezekiel had to wait while the winds blew, the earth shook, and the fires raged. As his life seemed to shake apart all around him... Ezekiel simply was asked to wait. As all this chaos swarmed... the still, small voice of God spoke to him in the wind.
I feel the wind softly blow across my back now.
This is a critical time for us. We are nearly 6 months away from our one way ticket to Guatemala. My hours at work are long and they have given me unexpected opportunity to touch lives. When I have a day off... I am exhausted and I feel guilty that I am not out pounding the pavement for our mission. And yet... I have seen that I can not force the timing of God. When I have listened to His Spirit, He has moved mountains. The timing of God has been astounding.
Kroger was meant to be simply a method for me to get through the remaining months... and yet God had other plans. I am being challenged and stretched in ways that I never foresaw. Hours of my days are spent pouring into the lives of others. Somehow... beyond my own control, God has saw fit to send many my way in order that they can unload their burdens on me. I have seen God work in lives already. I am honored to be here to be a part.
This time has become a proving ground. It is a time that I am being shown like the Jimmy Stewart character in It's A Wonderful Life that my days matter. My family is a treasure in my life and the contacts I make with those I encounter ever day are the testimony of my faith that I must live without fail.
He is teaching me patience, compassion, empathy, and showing me how much He love us each and every one. I sit in the basement of my parent's home on my day off and I worry that I am not doing enough to forward our ministry... I should be on the phone or in someone's office... but then I look down to my arms that hold my infant daughter Sterling and I know that these days are indeed well spent.
I am learning to wait on the lord.
God places tools in our hands like the carving knife I gave to Aleksandra. He instructs us how to use it and then he steps back ready with gauze and band-aids, waiting for us to sink the blade into our own flesh. He knows that I am not perfect, and yet he loves me. He finds me to be a worthy canvas on which He can lay down the first strokes of His masterpiece.
God cares for me even more than this knowledge that I would die for my daughter. He hands me the tools that I need to succeed and then he watches as I began to make my way through my proving ground. He has given me a goal and a worthy cause... and yet, He also places a path for my feet to follow today. I will not reach my goal unless I make the necessary steps along the way. The man whose soul bleeds with the pain of his lost love from his wife, the lady who struggles with deep depression, the young man who wrestles with self-control and anger, the mother who is faced daily with the stark reality of the loss of her daughter and first grand-baby... all these are needs that God has placed in my path. All these are moments for me to show if I am willing to simply stand where I am.
Am I willing to remember who I am, what is important to me, where I am going, and whose I am? I have a daily reminder.
The eagle is Caleb, my son, my first-born, a spitting image of me who will carry on the Shepherd name with his children. He is compassionate, intelligent, and a deep thinker. The bear is Aleksandra, from Russia, my strong-character daughter who will move the world to chase her goals. She is loving, charming, and persistent. The dragon is Sterling, from China, my odds beater. She survived a premature birth, an abandonment alongside a road, a 3 month stay in a incubator, and against all the odds she is a person who embraces everyday life with a smile, an laugh, and an undying enthusiasm that gives us all hope. The large bird is a Quetzel, the national bird of Guatemala. This is the place where I found faith reborn. It is the place where God got a hold of me and reshaped the way I saw life.
God has made me a new creation. He has lit a fire deep in my core. He has given me a mission to pursue. And He now calls me to be patient and wait on his timing. He calls me to be on mission even now. He sends people my way and they unload their burdens on me daily as I strive to point them to Him. I simply am aware of the incredible miracles around me and also make an effort to be a compassionate, empathetic ear to those who need to find their way.
This is my proving ground. I see the miracles. I am strengthened by the beauty. I am stretched, challenged, and made better by the needs that pour down like rain on my head. I am humbled by the nature of searching people. I am given hope with the realization that God's plan for us all has been in place since the dawn of time.
Our hope is built in His love for us... and who we can touch along the way. A life spent in service for Him is better than a life spent chasing empty goals. This is the ground that we show our metal. Let it be known that God carries the load that is needed.