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Dear David,

I eagerly logged on to my friend’s computer this morning in her adorable clapboard house in North Carolina, hoping for an email update. Hoping to hear your voice breathe life through black-and-white words. Hoping to know how the Talibe street boy outreach went yesterday. Hoping to know how the team is handling the heat and humidity. I will check back later. Anxiously log back into my email account. Over and over again. ‘Till electricity, internet and time – three scarce commodities in Dakar – are all available simultaneously. It will be worth the wait.

Until then, let me share with you what I learned yesterday, cramped on an US Airways flight between Denver, Colorado, and Charlotte, North Carolina. A sweet older lady slept next to me, mumbling in her restless state. A baby gurgled . . . and screamed . . . across the row. Soldiers in uniform filled the aisles, the seats – going home. Home for the holidays. I fingered your solid ring, wrapped securely around my neck, my heart, my body. Encased in the promises it held, I twirled and twirled – shiny band too big for my own finger, but perfect for yours. Thought of you. Missed you. Prayed for you. Small smile crept over my face, sweetened my lips, as I dwelt on the bliss of you, carrying you with me.

As you probably expect, I snapped photos along my travel-worn way – Black Thai tea from Caribou Coffee, “Get Merry” coffee cup message, airport windows, airport views, trash bins. Very little escaped my camera lens. Later, I will tell the story of journey with photo pixels at the ready.

Yet, I learned something more important yesterday. I learned to be “surprised by joy,” as C.S. Lewis wrote. Do you realize that joy is birthed of surprise, birthed of opening your hands wide for whatever the Maker chooses to bestow? Good or bad. All gift. All grace. Children view the world with wonder, but have no expectations. They are always surprised, always filled with glee, always making merry.

“Let the little children come unto Me and do not forbid them, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven,” Jesus said.

Come as a little child. Come with no expectations. Prepare to be surprised by joy. What a message, but what a reality that might open up before us if we would humble ourselves, putting ourselves in the posture to taste and see that the Lord is good.

May I decrease, but You increase, Lord. May less of my expectations fill my heart and more of Your ecstasy ravish my soul.

I’m learning, Honey, while you are away. I’m learning to trust. Learning to open my hands wide to the Maker. White-knuckled grip must be pried off my desire to control, plan, pursue, enact. Not my will, but Your’s be done, Lord.

It is good to give thanks. It is good to dwell on mercy, dwell on grace.

I love you with all of my heart . . . my ever-opening heart. May You be surrounded by the Presence of Him who gives both good and bad, but calls all “Gift” and makes all “Good.” Name those gifts in Africa. Teach your students to name those gifts. I pray the miraculous over you.

Love You Forever,

Lauren . . . still as crazy as ever 🙂