Tony comes around the corner, smile barely contained and shoulders shaking.
Elias grabbed something from Zee, he quietly tells me, and when I asked him, "Elias, did you take that from her intentionally knowing that would make her scream?", the lines around his eyes deepen as he starts laughing, Without missing a beat, Elias grinned at me and said, "Yes!".
Earlier, in the kitchen, after a dance party in the living room, he turns on one of the songs that I love to hear him sing and he holds out his hand and offers me a dance. Gently swaying on the tile, he pulls me close and I lean into the strength of him.
Kitchens can be incredibly romantic.
Olivia joins us within moments and starts chanting, Ewww!!! Brody!! Brody!!! Guys! Mom and Dad are kissing!! Brody!
I wait for a few moments for the song to end before I turn my head slightly to whisper that "Brody" is a boy's name...the word she wants starts with a "gr".
Oh...she grins, I'll remember for next time! and runs off to another room.
Even with the song over, the magic still hangs in the air and I don't want it to end.
The dishes can wait, can't they?
This past week has been record breaking heat-wise, temperatures soaring 20 degrees above normal and plants and people begin to wilt under the blanket of it. Last Monday, we escaped the furnace of Madison House and brought out the dishes and pans and served dinner out on the front lawn for the kids gathered for Sports Camp. The heat only seemed to intensify hunger and plates were heaped high.
I heard her voice before I saw her, insistent and pleading she kept calling out to see if she too could have some food.
Above the faces I was bent over serving, I looked up to see her face pressed up against the fence, hair wrapped up in a scarf and a face weathered and worn. She looked into my eyes and asked again, Could I get some food, please?
I looked over at Tony beside me and he smiled wide, Yes! Of course you can!, and I grabbed a plate of food and began to pile it high.
She stayed pressed up against the fence watching, remaining on the outside.
I look at her and I see Jesus as His words start running through my mind,
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty
and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was
naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me,
I was in prison and you came to me. Matthew 25:35-36
Tony, he's acting before the words are done rolling around in my mind and he is inviting her in, encouraging her to come near and get food.
And there is joy as she is telling us about the food she had smelled down street, how she had searched it out and found it here and as I ask if she wants tomatoes and jalapenos and onions and salsa, she just laughs and tells me that she'll take it all.
And I want to pile her plate higher.
Because yes, she's a stranger and a little quirky and yes, she had a little more than water to drink before she came across us, but she is made in the image of God and because of that alone, she has beauty and she has worth.
She takes that plate in her hands and smiles again and says a loud thank you before heading back out the gate and on down the street.
I think of her today, after I tuck small ones into bed and listen to them giggle...I wonder if there is a mama out there somewhere missing her. If there is a mama who holds memories close to her chest and aches over everything that seems lost. I wonder if there is a mama who had tender dreams for her girl and wonders over all that seemed to go wrong.
I wonder over her as a daughter and where she lays down to sleep tonight. I wonder if somewhere in the haze of what clouds her mind if she longs for home. I wonder over the choices she made and what path led her to us, if even for a moment.
I curled up in my green chair this morning before church and let the verses in Psalm 78 press hard into my soul, and I can't seem to get away from verses 38-39,
Yet He, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
He restrained His anger often
and did not stir up all His wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not
He remembered, and still remembers that we are all but flesh...that we are but a moment in light of eternity and that we only come this way once.
How beautiful that this stirs up His compassion towards us, us in all our sin and brokenness. It doesn't repulse Him,
it stirs up His kindness.
I think of my children, the ones who need me to remember this the most - to remember their frailty in the middle of mistakes and messes.
I think of the opportunities that He gives us everyday as we walk in the doors of Madison House, to remember His love for us as we see pain and fear and beautiful joy in the ones we get to serve.
I think of the sidewalk outside our home, the one that brings dear friends and gang members-turned-dear-friends and everyone in between up to our front door. I've purposefully marked the porch with reminders of love, not for beauty but for our hearts to remember why we are here.
We are here to love deeply, to see the image of God in each person we interact with. We are here to speak of His grace and His sacrifice to those around us. We are here to serve even the stranger because we are really serving and loving Him; seeing the unlovely places transformed to beauty because His love has been freely given for us.
He dances with me on kitchen tile and keeps his hand on my lower back while we sway. There are children scattered throughout our home yelling and reading and drawing and watching the way a husband loves his wife.
These are moments that are fleeting, moving so quickly, barely allowing my heart to catch up while bringing me one step closer to breathing eternity's air, and I don't want to waste them.
So, I'll love the ones that made me a mama and live alongside of me each day. I'll love them and serve them point them to Jesus, and when I mess up ~ which I do so very often ~ I'll point them to the wonder of grace and the beauty of the cross.
And for the ones who wander, who are lost and forgotten, who have a mama somewhere...or not; I'll love and I'll serve in the gaps where Christ allows, I'll love for the mamas who can't. I'll choose to see Jesus in the hardest of places and watch with faith to see Him bring beauty and healing.
And I'll keep dancing with that man of mine in the kitchen, until the wind of my life blows me Home...