Woven

I swing the curtains wide open and pull the most annoying stunt known to children.

“WAKE UP! IT’S GOING TO BE AN AMAZING DAY!”

They are less than thrilled.

A few minutes later we stand in a row, all watching our toothbrushes move in the mirror.

“Where are we going today?” Abby asks.

“Today is the day we get to meet Fernanda!” I’m substantially over-emoting, but we’re a little road-weary and I think if I act as tired as I feel we might be in trouble.

Ellie spits out her toothpaste, wipes her mouth, and leaves the bathroom without saying a word.

A few minutes later I ask her what’s going on and she tells me she doesn’t really want to meet Fernanda.” I can tell she’s nervous.

“You know, I think you’re going to have a really special connection with her.” I say, rubbing her back while she stares at her hands.

“Well, then you’re going to be disappointed.” She answers.

Both of my girls have this part of their personality, where they will do almost anything socially unless they sense its forced. I don’t blame them, honestly. I knew without her explaining that she had a couple different fears going on. On top of the basic, “We don’t share a language or basically anything else” thing, she doesn’t do well in situations where there is an expectation she feels like she won’t be able to meet.

She doesn’t do the whole “connect because I think you should” thing. If she’s not ready, she isn’t budging.

So the fact that she knew this “meeting” was a big deal was starting to shut her down emotionally. I remind her that there is nothing expected of her, and she should act however feels comfortable. She nods, worry still clouding her eyes.

As we arrive, our trip guide steps off the bus and calls out Fernanda’s name. I’m walking in her direction as a teacher leads her to the front of the children and encourages her to come to us. I see the teacher’s arms push her in our direction, and then she claps and celebrates in spite of the fact that Fernanda has clearly been more “propelled” than she was “actively choosing direction.”

She tucks her head and hugs me, but as the cameras flash and people cheer, the irony doesn’t escape me.

We are strangers.

She is a nine year old girl whose teachers are urging her (lovingly, of course) to hug me and speak to me. She does as she is told, but she’s scared, and I know it.

She’s digging her feet in the dirt the same way Ellie is.

“It’s okay, it’s okay!” I say, waving my hand and smiling at her teachers. “This is so weird for her…don’t worry!” I shake my head at her as if to say, “No problem!” and she smiles a little.

I point to the twins, telling Fernanda their names and she smiles a tiny bit more. Her teachers both speak at the same time, no doubt telling her to greet Abby and Ellie  properly out of respect.

All three move toward each other, not out of love, but rather obedience. They embrace tentatively, unsure of what happens next.

A voice tells us to come inside the church, and we settle in the sanctuary as the toddlers perform routines and the Pastor welcomes us.

I am sitting by Fernanda, but Abby and Ellie have chosen the other side of the church, and I wave to let them know they are free to stay there and don’t need to feel bad. It’s okay, I say with my eyes.

Fernanda’s teachers sit nearby, and they explain that she is very, very timid. She was transferred from another program in August so she’s relatively new to this one. She is sweet, they say, but she doesn’t express emotion.  Fernanda’s eyes study the floor and her feet swing back and forth from the pew while she listens.

I watch her shoes move while her teacher talks, and I am suddenly struck by the deep affection I have for her.

It’s beautiful to just be in her world, and I want to see what she sees, take in the spaces that make up her days. I feel a protectiveness over her, an affinity that makes me feel inexplicably knitted to her. I expect nothing in return, and mentally acknowledge that I will likely not win her over today. It doesn’t matter…I’ve fallen for her.

As we stand to leave the church, I giggle and call the girls over so we can get a picture. I tell Fernanda that we bought these shoes for the trip, and she tells us that she got hers three days ago.

They’re just laces, but they bring me a smile as I imagine each of the girls here pulling their new shoes onto little feet this morning, looping them one lace over another, until they’re woven tight, tied, and ready to meet a stranger.

They don’t share a language, a country, or a worldview, but in this moment they share shoes.

We follow Fernanda as she disappears down corridors that would have made my kids cringe a few weeks ago. In her classroom, Fernanda’s teacher is holding her recent artwork up for us to see and I tell her she’s a very good artist. Ellie tells her she wishes she could draw that well and Fernanda appreciates the compliment. She speaks quietly to her teacher and her hand points to a table behind us.

“She would like to show you her chair.” The teacher explains.

She walks in the direction of her seat and I look at Abby and Ellie to see if they are going to move. They take a few steps closer to her, but stop short of her chair.

They show her that they are paying attention, but they aren’t ready to sit where she sits.

It’s no problem, my hands translate. Go as far as you feel you can.

We’ll get there, loves.

I’m busy making sure Fernanda has a toothbrush in the cabinet, scouting the walls for her projects, and wondering where she hangs her coat when she gets to the center. Clearly I have some control issues. Noted.

After a few minutes, Ellie starts asking questions about her school and the translator works her way back and forth for a few minutes, both girls now openly smiling at each other and making eye contact. They are learning each other’s ways, and for a moment I forget we don’t understand her words. Suddenly one of my girls jumps in the air and says, “Jump! Jump!” and Fernanda giggles tentatively. They point to her and repeat the jumping.

In an empty classroom. in a desperate corner of Peru, a little girl begins to trust us.

They’re all legs and gasping giggles and I watch it like I’m watching a favorite movie.

Moments later, a woman peeks in to tell us we need to move into the next area together, and Fernanda makes a beeline for the door. She stops abruptly as she gets there and turns her head to Abby and Ellie. Her teacher listens and then translates what she says to them.

“She wants to know if she may take your hand.” She says.

Fernanda looks shyly, hopefully at Ellie.

Ellie nods and I watch tiny brown and white fingers intertwine as they leave the room.

I can only see the backs of their heads as they walk, but I believe they’re smiling as they  go. I take a few photos because it strikes me as a significant moment, only to realize my eyes have teared up and I can’t see them through the lens.

We end up in the area where moms and teenage girls are completing training in cosmetology, and they are mesmerized by the intricate braids they are able to do. One of the women asks Abby if she would like her hair braided and she nods yes while Ellie shouts, “ME TOO!” While the girls do a dance of excitement over their soon-to-be hairstyles, Fernanda laughs and laughs. I see a dimple in her right cheek for the first time and I celebrate another milestone. We all squeeze in the tiny room and watch as a woman creates the most intricate, beautiful braid I have ever seen. I ask the translator to tell her I want to learn, so she instructs me as she goes.

“This one to this side, but not too much…” Im watching her fingers and I know mine will never be able to recreate it. “And then this one over, then this one, then this…”

The teachers are whispering and pointing to me and the kids, so I ask the translator what she is saying.

“They are saying they have never seen Fernanda show this side, and they believe that you all have brought out a special kind of affection. They are saying they are so happy to see her laugh and smile.”

I turn, tears stinging, and watch as the hairdresser holds three separate lengths of hair and then begins to braid them together. The symbolism makes my knees weak, and I thank him in advance for what He is making one.

I don’t want to push you while your feet dig into the dirt, and I promise you I have no intention of making this choice sound like a “photo-op” for your faith.

I’ve seen enough in one day to pen volumes about what love really looks like when it bends toward another.

 

It loops, one lace over another, until what was once foreign feels familiar.

It intertwines heart and hand, and what seemed an impossible path simply becomes the only way.

It weaves our very lives, and what was separate is more beautiful whole.

 

It blurs the line between grace and glory, and it lives only to bring life.

Risk is relative when the hours are this short…

We can continue as we have been-that’s always an option I suppose.

Or, we can jump in an empty room, knot our lives with the lives of others, and finally understand the power of being woven by the hand of the Lord.

I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

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  • Susan

    I’ve been following your journey, enjoying your posts all along – but this one really stands out for me. Thanks for going and sharing with us your experiences. I’m grateful for Compassion, and to be part of it all, in a small way.

  • http://twitter.com/emilypfreeman emily p freeman

    oh, those beautiful girls – all of them. My twins are nearly the same age as your girls and this trip I keep imagining them there with me, what that would be like. Thank you for doing what you’re doing, Angie.

  • Helen Murray

    Wow. What a wonderful story. Thankyou.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1335961726 Megan Swafford McGhee

    I am so enjoying your posts about your trip – they are real and probably describing the way I would feel/act if I was following along.. Thank you for your inspiration – I am thinking of and prayig for you on your journey.. I know God will do amazing things! ~ Meg

  • SouthernGalThoughts

    The weaving of your story, the laces, the braids. It brings tears to my eyes. Beautiful.

  • Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm

    “…The symbolism makes my knees weak,…” and I was already in tears. This week, God brought to mind South America and helping. Your post confirms; thank you.

  • Sarah{Handbags*N*Pigtails}

    What a blessing that the girls are able to be there with you, experiencing all of this. God is so good Angie:)

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.greendavis Laura Green Davis

    Beautiful (said as a tear slips down my cheek) Just beautiful.

  • Lori H

    Thanks for being the hands and feet of Jesus. I teared up reading this post (actually, all your trip posts).

  • Kim VanDis

    Angie…God created you for many things…especially giving you the gift of writing. I have never read anything more beautiful than ALL your blog postings. I feel as if I am there with you, hangin out & experiencing everything you write about..Tears & all! You & your family are a huge blessing to your “family of God”. Kim from Starlight Ministries (from Hudsonville MI-the one who bought your favorite Michigan made chips & salsa ;)

  • http://www.bloggingfromtheboonies.com/ Michelle Wright

    This made me tear up… Such beautiful words to go with the images. Moments like this are exactly why I would love to bring my Kaya with me when I travel with the Compassion Bloggers next year.

    I love reading these posts and am sharing so many of them!

    ~Michelle~ BloggingFromTheBoonies.com

  • http://twitter.com/AnnVoskamp Ann Voskamp

    Tears.
    Beauty:
    God,
    Girls,
    The future.

    Thank you, heart-sister.

  • Dianne S

    I ache with joy for Fernanda … oh the beauty God brought into her life this day through the girls and you … she will never forget. praise Jesus.

  • http://twitter.com/karenzach Karen Zacharias

    We should all come with a tag that identifies us as “Woven by the Hand of God.”

  • Jean Marie

    Beautiful, Angie. You have such a way to write life with meaning and compassion. Thank you!!

  • Linda

    This was a beautiful story of how God works…and I loved seeing the progress as the girls were drawn to each other, step by step, through God’s gentle leading! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1004043267 Kristen O’Neill Strong

    Oh girl. The way God uses you to share His stories? Nothing short of remarkable.

    And those daughters of yours are stunning. Just like their mama. My daughter is their age, and so I doubly love reading and experiencing this trip through their eyes, too. I’m sharing your words with her and my sons, and we are all the better for it. Thanking God for all the Smiths right now…love you!

  • Marcy Hanson

    What a beautiful story! It is amazing how God brings us all together, even when we dig in our heels. We adopted our oldest daughter just after her 8th birthday, and I recognize all three of the girls in her actions initially, and even still to this day. Children are so amazingly firm, yet pliable. Thank you for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/lisalundy Lisa Lundy

    Angie, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, but God is really using your blog this week in my life. We sponsored our first child in recent months – the same age as my daughter. I’m realizing this week the importance on lifting her up in prayer with my daughter every day. The weaving together of lives through prayer. So amazing. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  • Pingback: The Compassion Bloggers in Peru… « Looking after the little ones.

  • Amanda

    Thank you for sharing your journey. With your posts and photos this week, I have been imagining what my Compassion daughter’s life in Nicaragua may be like, and your powerful words dispel any anxieties to meet her this June. We are all woven together despite countries and miles and borders and languages, and what is more beautiful in that? Praying for Fernanda when I pray for my Julenia. How special that your girls now have a life to put to their letters. You’ve helped give them a gift that will work in their little lives long past childhood. There’s no way they’ll forget Fernanda and these families they’ve met. What a blessing!

  • marlen816

    Amazing!

  • AnnKC

    I love this post. We sponsor 3 compassion kids (one for each of my own kids) and someday I hope to be able to bring them on a compassion trip. My oldest (5) acts just like your girls did when nervous – grumpy and uninterested. I am so impressed at your gentleness towards them and I am so happy they didn’t let their nerves steal a joyful opportunity from them!

  • http://1plus1plus1equals1.blogspot.com/ Carisa

    tears flowing. You have brought me along on this journey like no other Compassion blogger has. Your girls make it so real for me, as my son is 10 and wants to travel with me to Rwanda one day to meet our Compassion and World Vision sponsor children. Thank you for being honest with the difficulties as well, it makes the joy in the end so much more emotional. Thank you for being brave and bringing your sweet girls along for this journey, it has been a joy to follow along with you all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patricia.tayco Patricia Mucci Tayco

    I have greatly enjoyed reading all of the Peru blogs this week. That last photo of the three girls holding hands on tip toe is one of my favorites! THANK YOU!!!!

  • http://www.lauraodom.com Laura

    What a blessing for your girls to be able to go with you on this journey. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart with those of us still at home. Such a talent you have, and you’re using it in the best way possible!

  • Melissa Hutsell

    I love when we get to really hear your heart this way. I have missed it. Thanks for sharing what your daughters are processing. I see that you see Jesus in every little detail and it spurs me on to see Him too. He is there. Weaving the details so we can see HIM if we choose to really see. Thanks!

  • Steve Jones

    Oh…my…goodness. Lady you turn me to mush. What an amazing exclamation point that last photo is. Beautiful!

  • Plcraft

    What precious hearts your girls have! Remind them that true bravery is not about not being afraid/nervous, but about being brave when you’re scared. :) . This post makes me sick with desire to go see my John Dave in the Philippines or my Latifa in Tanzania. Maybe….one day. I hope. My preacher’s family adopted a little girl from Peru this April. Camila just turned four and is a JOY! :)

  • Coby

    Amazing and beautiful. I love how God shows up and speaks to us in the details (woven braids)! My heart is melted.

    This was also encouraging to me on a motherhood front – my twin boys act the same way when nervous. I need to be gentler and more patient with them in this area. :-)

  • Launa

    Beautiful!! All I can think is that these sweet girls are building something amazing and are going to be missing each other something fierce!!

  • Christine

    Beautiful. My 7 year old triplets are Abby, Ella, and Josh……

  • Christine

    Beautiful. My 7 year old triplets are Abby, Ella, and Josh……