“You are a writer, Auntie Ronne? I love stories – what stories do you write? Will you read me a story?” To even be introduced as a writer still causes me to take a step to steady myself. The small voices and eager eyes are little encouragements to a woman who would rather encourage their dreams than tell them her own.
“I write stories about real things. I write stories about the best things.”
The real things are coming, in words about Burmese refugees and Mizoram aunties who care for the discarded and renegade nuns who believe every human being is worthy of great love. I will write about those things soon.
But first, this. This, my little loves, is a story about the best things.
I think there are three times we come face to face with our longing for our homeland. For Eden. That place of rich, unmirrored conversation with God and walking in the cool of a day that never ends. The space without the dust of frailty, the place before the brokenness, the space where we and the universe are one in our reflection of a Creator who hand-stamped us with “It is good. It is so very good.”
When we cradle our newborn and the questions of a lifetime come crashing in, and we feel so small to own the responsibility of tending to the breathing in and out of another in a world that was never supposed to slither like a snake.
When we carry someone’s weight into eternity, and in their death we feel the ache of a fellowship that was never designed to end.
And when we are held together by the vulnerable.
I used to think I was meant to crumble in broken places like third-world countries or ramshackle streets, that my heart simply shattered into a million pieces to be picked up by tiny hands and then given to God to repair. But now I’m seeing something beyond the shards. The ache I feel when I am with you isn’t breaking at all. It’s my heart tasting eternity. I ache for Eden because I feel its breath on my skin every time you hold my hand.
I have heard it said – what place or time I do not know – that those we love gather round us like stars in the sky so we are truly never alone, even in the darkest of nights. Though it’s only folklore, I find myself longing to believe that it just might have a sparkling thread of truth. Because if there is any substance to the stars at all, I have felt it in places where clouds puddle and the clay stains skin. And if there is any glow, I have seen it in the faces with names like Zela and Mauii and Ruatfela and Dawngi and Tashi . I’ve most certainly held the hand of a Star and walked on moss and rock and mist.
I have seen the stars in you.
You have shown me how to shine. You have shown me how to have breath even as I struggle to breathe through tears that fall indiscriminately while I lift hands to give thanks to Abba Father for your songs and your smiles and your tenderness. You have allowed those tears to fall without questioning – as if you know every salty drop is washing away the rough edges of my story and leaving a glittering stone for all to see. A stone that says I am strong with hope.
You, little ones, are the Church. The Bride. You are the ones dressed in glorious white on a wedding day unlike any other. The world may have delivered its unseemly death sentence, but you have come alive and you now pour life into others. There is no holding back, no coming in first. You are Acts 4, holding all things in common and finding your greatest joy in helping others find theirs. You are John 15, laying down your life and laying it down again.
And it is you who shine brightly on me. In this place of simpler things, of bamboo thatching and homemade brooms, of peeling paint and yesterday’s clothing, it has all become clear.
You are a picture of Eden, my loves. Your story is worthy of leather bound and gold novels.
You are the best things. And I can’t wait for you to shine on this world.
I would love to tell you more about the children of DUF Home in Manali and of Gan Sabra HIV Home in Aizawl – and I would love even more for you to join me on a journey to see the stars that live there. Send a message to me and let’s talk.