I recently had the opportunity to take a walk with and also photograph my old pal, Sam. Sam and her husband, Bryan, like my hubbs and I, are currently living with their parents – more specifically, his parents. Living with their folks has given them liberty to pursue careers and interests in a way that they might not be able to do otherwise, so although the situation comes with it’s struggles, it is very helpful. Sam shared with me that her in-laws recently wrote up their Last Will and Testament, and they included her in it as if she were one of their children. I asked her to please take a bit of time to reflect and  write about what this recent display of love has shown her:

I always struggled with the concept of unconditional love and full acceptance in my relationships with both friends and sometimes with my own family. Like most who try to earn this love, I thought the integrity of these relationships was always contingent on my life choices or accomplishments. After my grandfather and great aunt passed away in the past few years, I took the time to reflect on how they had truly supported me during my upbringing despite some of our ideological differences at the time; how my mother had sacrificed time, energy, and funds in ensuring my well-being and a good education; how my father tried to provide or parent the best way he knew how. I always knew they loved me despite whatever disagreements we would have, but I was born into this family and almost figured that that was expected of a family if you ultimately do what was expected of you.
Until this season of reflection, I had always felt distanced in most of my relationships, seeking approval through my achievements. I had always known of the love of Christ for those adopted by Him, and until recently, only related to it as if I was still an outsider earning her way into an existing family. After my grandfather and great aunt had died, I felt overwhelmed by the love and comfort that my mother and father in law had bestowed upon me. I started to realize that since our wedding they had considered me as one of their own-protecting, providing, and supporting me as one of their own flesh and blood. It was never a question of should we include her in our plans or our family decisions, but it was assumed that I was already going to be part of them. I was already part of their family. It was then I truly understood Romans 8:15-17. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Their full acceptance of me despite my faults helped me understand that unconditional love that awaits those adopted as heirs of Christ. – Sam L.


My Family, Experiencing Sorrow and Peace

We mourned the passing of my aunt this last month. With all the sadness that it brought, my family also experience the love of God in a profound way. Below is the speech that my 10-year-old cousin wrote and read on the day her “Mommy Loren” was buried”:

“Thank you all for being here today. My name is Sophia Wambaa. We are all gathered here today to celebrate Mommy Loren’s life. She was always there for my gamily and I, babysitting me and my other 3 siblings. Whenever she smiled, whatever room she was in got a little brighter. One fond memory of mine is how Mommy Loren would celebrate her birthday every month each year. At the rate she went, I couldn’t even tell how old she was!
She was like a second mother to us. She loved us so much that she got up every morning to pick us up so my mom could go to work. For those who were very close to Mommy Loren, you know she loved getting her mack massaged. If you were in close proximity to Mommy Loren, you would most likely be asked to rub her back. Mommy Loren loved to travel, and she even went on a couple of adventures with us. During some of our travels she held a giant snake around her neck and even kissed a giraffe! Oh, by the way, have you ever heard of Mommy Loren’s “Famous Chicken Soup”? It’s very simple: thrown in chicken, veggies and canned broth. The secret? She never cooked it! Another memory that we all shared was how we all would visit her at the library where she worked. She let us play on the computers, read and check out movies to watch at Mamita’s house.
I will always love her. Her memory will live forever and I will always cherish her for the rest of my life. May God bless you all.”

The day my aunt passed away, I wrote a letter to the young ladies in my church describing my family’s experience at the hospital.  Here is an excerpt from that letter”

Along with that, the Lord also gave me a better understanding of Philippians 4:7 ”the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. To “transcend” understanding is to surpass or go beyond the limits of understanding. The verse is talking about a “peace” that just does not make sense to us – our minds cannot comprehend it, and this was exactly what I saw that my family experienced on Monday. In the midst of immense of pain and sadness, there was peace and tranquility. Julie, who lost her mom, said to me just a few hours later that she felt peace, because she knows that her mom is home. I could see it in her face and in Charlie’s face and hermana Tita’s and everyone – there was sadness, but there was a spirit of peace that just does not make sense, because how can you be so sad and have peace at the same time? It was truly amazing to see this peace (that is not of this world) in my family – it is true and tangible evidence that there is a God who is greater than all of our fears and sorrows.  Someone that Ben and I saw later that day asked us “is the family devastated?”, and I responded, “No”, because “devastated” means “destroyed”, and we are not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”