twenty-twenty vision

I think of it as the summer I learned love. My move to the little house with the apple tree and lilac bushes was marked in my mind for a reason far deeper than a change of residence. It was the summer the doctor looked at me sadly and said that children would never be mine. It was the summer my mother-heart broke and bled and dreams crumbled in heaps around my feet. It was the summer life grew and blossomed and the inside-me finally understood.

I met them one afternoon. My feet were aching from hours in heels and my eyes were tired from working at a computer screen. A knock at the door and I looked down into the purest chocolate eyes I had ever seen. Not just one pair but three. Stepping stones of little girl smiles.

They walked into my kitchen and into my heart. I knew all about love. It was how I felt for these neighbor children who filled up the empty places in me. Silvery laughter and chubby arm hugs that gave me the courage to clean up the mess of broken dreams that were building up dust at my feet.

I bought toys and dolls and hung framed Crayola works of art on my living room wall. We made cookies, played Candyland and danced through sprinklers. Somewhere in the moments of childhood joys and squeals of laughter, I found the healing my heart needed and tears at night stopped staining my pillow.

Yet all was not well at the house beside mine. Sometimes the yelling lasted late into the night and the little girl smiles couldn’t reach their tired eyes come morning. I hurt for my darlings and gave out more hugs and candy and songs until the smiles sparkled gaily in the chocolate eyes once more.

I grew frustrated at mama’s who don’t cherish their babies. I grew angry at daddy’s who stomp through the house or stare at TVs. Could they not see the little angels around them? Did they not know that I could never have the treasure they possessed?

I kept silent knowing it was not my place to speak and opened my door wider and my heart overflowed as afternoons were spent on my front porch steps with little girls who I thought would only ever live in my buried dreams.

The day when life tilted came on a mid-summer’s eve. My bare feet were curling in lush green grass as water sprayed from the hose in my hand. My garden was flourishing, the tomatoes blossoming. Cabbages were forming. White jalapeño flowers covering small green plants. The shouting rose over the sound of the liquid splashing the ground.

I turned and saw the daddy yelling and my darlings huddled together with great tears and heart-splitting pain. I burned with white-hot anger. What was wrong with this man? Mama gathered her little ones and with screams that she would never return, bundled them all in the car, girls staring out glass with tears still dripping from chins.

I curled the hose, feeling the loss of the little ones who had healed up my heart. Would they come back? Would they truly be forever gone from me? My mind beat with fury at the daddy standing there pounding the porch with his unloving fists. I wanted to say so many things. His gaze met mine and I turned away, shutting the door between me and my horrible neighbor.

On the breeze that ruffled my white sheer curtain the sound entered my living room. It made my heart squeeze. I knew it so well. Anger simmered out and I pulled back the curtain and stared at the man who knelt on the steps with the piercing sobs of broken dreams. How many times had I cried those same tears? How many times had my heart bled that same deep gut-wrenching pain?

I glimpsed a snapshot of a hurting little boy with arms stretched wide, searching for love. Perhaps when he was a small child, with a daddy who yelled and a mama who did not understand the precious gift she had, there was no neighbor lady with open doors and bowls full of peppermint sticks. Perhaps when his chocolate eyes were sad no one bothered to make them smile again.

And then I understood. Finally. He was still a little boy deep inside. And I had been one of the people who turned away in disgust. So there he sat bleeding and crying in pain.

I watched him cry out his tears and promised myself that never again would I shut doors on hurting people. Never again would I miss the crying child for the angry man. My eyes had been opened to see what was real.

Always the goal is the same. To love deeply and truly with everything in me. To see the real things not the physical. To be in this world a fresh glimpse of joy because I know the sorrows so very well.

That was the summer I learned love. Not just from the sweet girls who offered sticky candy-kisses and dandelion bouquets but also from their daddy who yelled and swore and pounded fists into porch rails. Because true Love is not when you just love the precious and pretty and nice, true Love is learning to love the nasty and dirty and sad.

The love I possessed at the beginning of summer, I learned as the fall brought orange leaves and cool nights, was blind and shallow and small. The Love that I found corrected my vision as I glimpsed past the pretty and ugly and saw instead the same hurting hearts in all. 

 

you can read more about my year as a hometown missionary in the series
In Jars of Clay {tales of a hometown missionary}
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47 thoughts on “twenty-twenty vision

    • This post is a piece of my heart. So glad that the feelings came through. So glad that there are other neighbor ladies out there to pour love onto hurting little ones.

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  1. You are an evocative writer. I hurt with you when I read this, and was brought (hesitatingly) to the redemption at the end. It’s hard to love people who hurt children, but you are right: they hurt because they are hurt.

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  2. thought is relinquished
    at the well of wisdom
    blossoms fall, fruit grows.

    Thanks to Five in Tow for her pointer, and to you for post full of wisdom and insight.

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  3. I have been the neighbor lady, and I probably have been the father at times. This was exquisitely sweet, and reminds me to take great joy in the blessings of my children. Thank you.

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  4. You transported us all to that summer, Natasha, letting us “feel” and “see” through your words. What a precious soul you are to be hurting so deeply and give so much at the same time. You are a rare gem willing to be molded and ground into whatever is most beneficial for the Lord’s use. Amazing! Touching and heart-opening. I must know, did you see those precious chocolate eyes and smiles again?

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    • I did. They came back and were there for the rest of the summer. I have a whole journal full of stories about them. I went to Brazil the next January to do mission work and at some point they moved for good.
      I hadn’t seen them for years when I ran across pictures of them on a friend’s facebook. I started crying the moment I saw them. (I’ve often regretted not owning a camera for that period of my life!)
      I still keep track of several of the kids that lived on that street but those three have disappeared again. I know where the dad lives, he doesn’t have or see the girls anymore, but I keep hoping that I’ll find them again someday. And I pray for them almost daily. 🙂

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  5. I have no words….absolute….beauty, perfection, pain, love. You have such a way with words. It breaks my heart to see those who cannot appreciate the glorious gifts they have been given…so many tears I’ve shed, for them, their mommies and daddies, myself, and those who would do anything, give anything to have those gifts themselves

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  6. Thank you for this post. I have been one of those children in my life and despite the pain that was caused to me by those that had not been loved themselves… I continue to go on loving them and trying to forgive them for what happened in my childhood. This post is amazing and should be read by everyone, because LOVE is not limited and you so clearly state that.

    Thank you ❤ Truly.

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    • Love is not limited. <– I like that! May you continue to love those who have hurt you and allow the limitlessness of His love to flow through you. ❤

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  7. You, my new friend, have a rare and precious gift! Vision. Love. Words. I’m so glad that you wandered my way so I could return your visit and find one of my new favorite bloggers! Praying that He makes Psalm 113:9 true for you!

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  8. I was directed to your blog post by my dear friend who writes Five In Tow. After a good long bout of tears, the following post came flowing from my heart. I wanted to share with you because I’ve been the child, and I’ve been the father. I’m learning to be a godly mother to my baby birds because I do see how beautiful and special they are. And you’re absolutely right. That father has a hurting little boy inside. God bless you.
    http://nestfullofbirds.com/2012/03/30/treasures-on-the-beach-my-treasure/

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  10. Pingback: Seeing True {tales of a hometown missionary} | embracing the miracle

  11. True-er than you know. Natasha…I see what God is doing here now. I was a “trailer park” urchin who traveled from door to door looking for the love I hoped was inside. I wrote about Elsie “Sparrows” [ http://dancingonthedash.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/sparrows/ ] in my blog about the door that stayed opened to me. There is huge-ness here. Huge healing. Because I am your brown-eyed angel of sorts…we are everywhere looking for you. I’m grown now but that’s how God raised me up for him–one sugar-cookie at a time, one smile at a time, one hug at a time. Jesus with skin on. That’s who we are.

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  13. Pingback: I think of it as "The Summer I Learned Love" - Kindred Grace

  14. I am a bit like that neighbour’s wife. We have three children also, and my husband acted out of his own hurt. We have wounds that hurt, but…in a couple of weeks I may be having him back into our home, after six months of separation. No-one understands why I would want him back, no-one seems to believe him capable of change. But I know our Saviour has the power to heal him,and to heal us. I often wonder, why me? We made vows and had Christian vision…why did it all have to happen to me and my little ones? Thankyou for reminding me to focus of the path I have to walk, not to compare mine to others. Tonight I as for God’s wisdom in this next step of faith…

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