“Te quiero. Y no hay nada que puedes hacer o decir para ganar o perder mi amor para ti. Te quiero porque eres tú. Voy a quererte para siempre.”
Translation: I love you. And there is nothing that you can do or say to win or lose my love for you. I love you because you are you. I will always love you.
This is something I first said to Jeshua around this time last year. We had built a good relationship at this point, but he was still constantly seeking my approval through his actions. If I sat down for a meal without a drink of water, he would get up from his seat to get me one without hesitating or being asked. If I was carrying a heavy load, without delay he hurried over to help me. He has a huge servant’s heart, but it is often directed toward gaining or maintaining favor instead of out of pure selfless love.
One day I felt the Holy Spirit impress on my heart that I needed to express how much I love him… not for what he does, but because of who he is. I put my arm around his shoulder and said, “Jeshua, I want you to know that I love you. There is nothing that you can do or say to win or lose my love for you. I love you because you are you. That’s it. I will always love you. Do you know that?” He looked into my eyes with a smile and nodded. Then, he gave me a quick hug and ran off to play. Just as casual as that. I wondered… Does he know that I mean it?
I’ve found myself telling this to the kids from time to time more recently, hoping to solidify in their little brains how loved they are. This month, I’ve felt a profound heaviness in my heart to make sure that our kids know how loved they are… and as a result found myself telling this phrase to the kids often. One of the sweetest moments was more recently with my girl Reyna.
After school last week, Reyna came into the office like clockwork for her pre-lunch hello/hug/kiss routine. I’m usually right in the middle of something, but I do my best to prepare for a long pause when I hear the bus pull up.
On her way out she noticed a children’s book sitting on one of the tables and opened it up. It was “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. I smiled to myself remembering the cherished memories of sitting on my parent’s lap and reading that very book when I was little. I listened and watched out of the corner of my eye as Reyna stumbled through the first few sentences… and then shut the book with a huff. She stared at the cover in deep in thought, then turned to me and asked if we could read it together. I gladly accepted her invitation followed by “but only after you finish your homework.” At that she smiled confidently and bounced off to do her work.
NOTE: Now something most people don’t know about Reyna, is how behind in her education she is. She was never enrolled in school until last year when she came to live with us. Sadly, this is not uncommon in this country for families living in poverty. Her help was required at home taking care of her younger siblings while mom and dad worked, so she was not allowed to attend school. Therefore, at the age of 11 she is in the Kindergarten class with Elda (6 years old). Learning how to read has been very challenging for Reyna, but her eyes have been opened to the exciting adventures or moving dramas she could experience with this basic skill we all take for granted.
A few hours later we settled onto the trampoline to read together. I felt in my spirit this needed to be one-on-one, so when other kids asked to join I smiled and said, “Not right now. I’m going to have some special time with Reyna.” They walked away disappointed, but I’d do it 100 more times to see her face light up like that again. I knew I’d make it up to those younger ones with some play time later… this was a worthy cause. She’s got three younger siblings who are constantly chasing the spotlight in our home, and often get it because they are just so darn cute!! (See “You Had Me at First Squeeze” from August 2018 for evidence). But Reyna, is not a beggar for attention. She can fade into the background unnoticed easily. Also as the oldest, she’s been expected to help corral and care for her siblings for most of her life. She’s had a lot of responsibility placed on her shoulders, but for that moment she had my undivided attention and was free to be a child without responsibility.
Now if you haven’t read this precious story, here’s a detailed summary:
There was once a village full of unique wooden people called Wemmicks who were made by one creator named Eli. Every day, the Wemmicks would assign stars or grey dots on each other. The stars were given for talents, beauty, and other positive traits. The grey dots were given for messing up, ugliness, or other negative characteristics. One of the Wemmicks was named Punchinello, and he had many grey dots. He tried to act as one with many stars, but he would always fall. And when he fell, the other Wemmicks would assign him more grey dots saying, “he deserves a mountain of grey dots” or “he is a bad Wemmick.” Punchinello heard these comments so often he began to believe they were true. Until one day, he came across a unique Wemmick of pure wood to whom grey dots and stars alike did not stick, and he wanted to be pure wood too. She told him that she visits Eli every single day, and that’s why nothing sticks to her anymore. Punchinello was hesitant but went anyway to see for himself. Upon arrival, he was intimidated by the grandness and large size of Eli’s workshop table and tools. He turned around to leave but Eli called him by name. Punchinello was stunned that Eli knew his name, and then they proceeded to have this beautiful grace and truth filled conversation:
Eli: “Hmm.. It seems as if you have received some bad marks.”
Punchinello: “I know, but I really do try hard not to receive them Eli.”
Eli: “Oh, you don’t have to defend your actions to me. I’m not worried about what the other Wemmicks think.”
Punchinello: “…You don’t think it’s important?”
Eli: “No, and you don’t have to either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They are Wemmicks just like you. What they think is not important Punchinello. It is only important what I think. And I think you are very special.”
After Punchinello tried to help Eli understand all the reasons why he is actually NOT special… he finally asked, “Why do you think I’m special?”
Eli: “Because you are mine. That is the reason you are important to me.”
Punchinello did not understand this, and Eli continued exclaiming that he has waited every day for Punchinello to come. Punchinello expressed his desire to be like the Lucia – without any mark from the other Wemmicks.
Punchinello: “Why do the marks not stick to her?”
Eli: “Because she decided that what I think is more important than what they think. Those marks only stick if you permit them to. They only stick if they are important to you. The most important thing is to trust in my love, and leave behind your worry of how these marks define you. You will try to do this, but it will also take time. You have many marks, but for now, just come to see me every day and let me remind you how much I love you. Remember, you are special because I made you. And I do not make mistakes.”
And as Punchinello left to return to his home, a grey dot fell to the ground.
MIC DROP. WELL DONE MAX LUCADO. You’ve brought me to tears (which I must confess, is not a difficult task… I cried three times yesterday before 5pm.)
As I was reading this with her, I thought about all the ways she probably relates to Punchinello… so we began to process the symbolism in the book together. “Who are we in this story?” I asked her. “Wemmicks!” She said confidently. “Good. And who is Eli to us?” I continued. She sat in silent confusion for a moment, obviously uncertain. “Who is our Creator Reyna?” I prompted. “God…” She pensively replied. “Ok, then if Eli created the Wemmicks, and we are like the Wemmicks. Who is Eli to us?” Recognition dawned in her eyes, “God!” “Right! And what do the grey dots and stars mean for us?” Another moment of silence, followed with “I don’t know.”
“When someone says nice things to you like ‘you are smart’ or ‘you are kind,” I explained, “that’s like them giving you a star.” And with each example of a compliment I pressed my thumb to a part of her face as if I was putting on a sticker. “And when someone says mean things to you, like ‘you’re ugly’ or ‘you’re worthless’ that’s like a grey dot.” And again, with each comment I did the same action. She looked at me still confused.
“So if we are made perfectly by our Creator, God, do dots or stars make you a better or worse person?”
“No…?” She replied, still with uncertainty in her voice. “That’s right! They don’t matter! He made us perfectly, and so we don’t need any additions to the perfect work he has already done in making us. And He loves us, because He made us… and that’s why we are special to Him. And there is nothing that you can do or say to gain or lose God’s love. You will always have it, because He made you.”
She smiled at me, but there was still hesitancy in her eyes. Maybe it’s because she saw the tears forming in mine, or because she didn’t quite believe me. And truthfully, if it’s the latter, that’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and understanding God’s love and the Gospel is a whole lot bigger of a deal than Rome. We’ll take it one step at a time.
Since that day she’s asked me to read the book with her several times (once we even read it twice in one day). I see her hunger to understand the truths so beautifully displayed in “You are Special”, and I’m honored that the Creator called me to be a part of her journey of recognizing what it means to be a Child of God.
I don’t believe that gospel transformation (conversion) happens with a single scripted prayer. Yes, most often there is a moment where the puzzle pieces click, and a sinner recognizes their need for a savior… but those pieces are given to the sinner over a period of time. We are justified in the moment we surrender everything to our Creator, but sanctification is a life-long process I’ll be in until the day I die. Right now, I think she’s still working on that puzzle toward salvation, and I’m thrilled to help her in that process.
If you’ve been following my social medias within the last 24 hours, you know we had two huge court cases today. The first was at 9am, with Lucrecia and Elda. I really like this new judge, but for some reason he’s really pushing forward with the girls going to live with Lucrecia’s 19-year-old brother. He showed up super late with sagging pants and his father in tow, and all I could think was how much of a child he still seemed to be. How could he possibly take care of two children if he can’t go out and buy himself a belt? Okay… so maybe the sarcasm is unnecessary… but also a valid question right??? Things started looking like they were going to send the girls with this young man today, but we were able to advocate for 12 weeks to make the transition process smoother. At this point it really seems like he is going to win the case, even though the girls are terrified. I am most concerned that this will be an abusive relationship, and the girls will get trapped in it. So please pray that if any abuse does (or ever will) occur, that it is during the 12 week transition plan. It makes me sick thinking of somebody hurting my girls, but I’d rather it happen while we still have guardianship and can help. Also, pray that if this new placement is the Lord’s will, that we and the girls would have peace about it.
Second, we had Brenda’s court case at around noon. Her mom showed up, along with her 19-year-old sister and husband. We were hoping that her aunt and uncle would come, but alas they did not. (I think they may have decided against adopting her, because they also haven’t visited… so I don’t know.) Anyway, I guess the PGN had investigated and approved this sister as a placement for Brenda. Things also seemed like they were going to send Brenda with them today, but then her sister and husband stated that after weighing all the costs they don’t think they can take her right now.
For all three girls, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what their near future will look like. The next court hearing may be their last in our home, but we will continue to fight the good fight until the judge says otherwise. Please pray as we prepare for the next court cases (October and November) that any evil motives, substance use, or abusive tendencies are brought into the light during the next couple of months.
CAR FUND UPDATE:
I’m am thrilled to share that through y’alls generosity, I have the funds needed to purchase a vehicle!! I’m so excited to start car shopping (hopefully next week!) and use this vehicle to further the Kingdom. Thank you all SO SO much! I could not have reached this goal without y’alls generosity and prayers. Thank you thank you THANK YOU!
-Right now, we have a Punchinello of our own. He uses his pride and anger to veil the brokenness and shame he feels inside. He believes all the grey dots people in his life have given him, and he carries the weight of them everywhere he goes. I am utterly heartbroken for him and have spent many sleepless nights wondering what I can do to help him. Some difficult things have happened with Punchinello recently, and I feel at a bit of a loss with him. I know that God is in control and still good, and I see him moving in Punchinello’s heart through these difficult circumstances. But our Punchinello is so hardened. Please pray for a softening and humbling of his heart toward Jesus, and that he would be open to releasing the grey dots that he’s carried his whole life. I see that he wants to heal, but the painfulness, difficulty, and length of the process scares him. All that to say, please keep my pal Punchinello in your prayers.