I woke up to sun streaming into the bedroom and blue skies visible through the hall window. Getting up wasn't difficult, and settling down with a cup of coffee and the book of Isaiah in a quiet window seat was perfect. I love home.
Soon we were all up and heading to meet with the church for breakfast. With the worship team practicing in the background, we enjoyed our Family meal with each other in the school cafeteria, meeting new brothers/sisters and checking in with the old ones; seeing the people who have known me for years, the people who prayed for me last Monday, and the people who have never met with us before. Moving into the dozen rows of folding chairs, we worshiped God together and heard teaching from God's own Word about what it means to thrive as a Christian, not just survive.
Mom and Dad went to get hay for the sheep while the four of us girls had lunch at home. Then we played cards and sang Disney songs and laughed and laughed.
Dad and I drove up into downtown Portland to get a new laptop from a guy on Craigslist. We met him at Starbucks, and behind us there were two old men playing chess. One was a giant black man, the other a tiny Chinese man, and they were talking about God as they played. Turns out that the guy we bought the laptop from lived in Beijing too. He worked just blocks from the church I went to.
We walked a few blocks to Powell's; it was time for the coffee/book date that was supposed to be my Valentine's Day gift to Dad over a year ago. We wandered the photography section in the Pearl Room and mused over the various kinds of art, then browsed the theology section in the Red Room. After grabbing two photographer biographies for Dad and two New Testament Greek books for me, we settled in the coffee shop over an au lait and an iced mocha and were quickly enthralled by the ease of understanding the Greek in my book.
A middle aged woman sat down across from us, pulling out her reading glasses without really making eye contact. She had two books: Love & War, and a paperback copy of the Bible.
"Oh, that's a great one," I smiled, pointing toward my favorite. "It was the deal of the day," she replied. "Only seven dollars." Dad asked about her other book, and out conversation began. He asked if she was from around here. "No, my husband and I live in Dubai. We teach in the United Arab Emirates at an American school for special needs children." "Oh, really? Wow! So, what are you doing here?""Well, my husband is receiving medical treatment at OHSU. He has cancer, and the prognosis is good, but it's really hard right now." We talked a bit more, and then we prayed together. She was amazed. "You have no idea how these things just keep happening to me," she said. "I'm Catholic, and I have a group of Bible study friends that I send updates to, and I'm going to go home and write to them about this." I'm amazed too. The more we live in expectation and just step out, the more natural it becomes. How amazing to be a part of this woman's God stories. Pray for Mary Ann and Bob.
We bought the photo books and headed back to the parking garage, talking about the beautiful things in Portland, the people we've met, the places we've eaten, the places we'd like to eat. There were a number of people needing money on our way; luckily I had some extra cash. I knew they'd be there. One was a woman named Heather with her little redheaded son, Jay. He was eating some blueberry pancakes someone had just given them. Thank you, blueberry-pancake-giver. When I gave her the money, she said, "Are you sure?!" I told her yes. And that Jesus loves her, and that's all I want her to know. I wish I could have done more. But I hope she believes it.
Dad dropped me off to meet up with friends and go back downtown for church. This week it was Adam and Macaela; we got there just in time as the music started playing. I was so excited about what God has done that day through Mary Ann, Heather, and others unmentioned. But I felt pride looming over me, coming in like a dark fog. And I knew the only way to ward it off was the gospel. Ephesians 2 reminded me:
As I stood to my feet, thankful for the Word of God and ready to worship the God who "made us alive together with Christ," the church was together singing the words, "Let your Word move with power, let what's dead come to life." Welcome, God of love. Praise Him.
In our quick break to greet those around us, I met Marianna, a fifteen-year-old who comes to Bridgetown sometimes, but usually goes to a Russian church with her family. She speaks Russian, and loves to draw.
A young man, Josh, taught us truths from Mark 14, from Jesus' trial and Peter's denial. He pointed out the irony that while Jesus was being accused of being a false prophet, His prophecy of Peter's disownment was being fulfilled just a room away. He encouraged us to remember that disobedience has consequences, but that even those consequences can be swallowed up in God's unfathomable and unconditional love for His children. Peter is perhaps the best example of complete denial, complete forgiveness, and complete transformation. (Mark 14, John 21, and Acts 3, respectively.) We prayed together in groups of 5 or 6, Adam and I with Katelyn, Max, and Alex, and took the bread and cup together. We praised God together more, and then headed back out into the city.
Outside I found Michelle, the woman on the corner every week who sells paintings to try to get a few dollars for groceries and to help buy her husband's medications from his nine back surgeries. She asked how my work was going since last week, and told me not to forget to write to her while I'm in China. I won't forget. I picked out one of her paintings tonight. I'll take it to China with me and tell my students about her.
The three of us stopped at Wendy's for a quick dinner, talking of what we'd learned and laughing over jokes and quirks. Macaela and I dropped Adam off where we'd met, and drove home watching the pink and purple pastels paint the sky. We arrived home just in time for Destiny to show me the song she wrote about our cat, to the tune of "What Child is This," and to get a hug from Jasmine before they headed to bed.
So now I sit here with an open computer and open Bible. In a few moments, I'll close the computer and end my day the way it began.
God, thank you for every day. But today, I especially thank you for days like this.