When Our Souls are Stretched to the Bursting

November 11 2015
November 11 2015
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By
“Transformation is not happenstance; it is a revolution of the soul. Doing something over and over, being somewhere again and again, saying yes and yes and yes to what we said yes to before, we find, is suddenly no answer to the questions of today for us. We stop being whoever it was who began this journey. We are not now who we were. We don’t want any longer to be who we’re supposed to be. Our souls stretch to the bursting point and home becomes foreign soil. Somehow, without ever knowing that it happened, we awake to find ourselves transformed.”

-Joan Chittister, The Story of Ruth

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When My Soul was Stretched

When Ruth, The Joy Village Program Coordinator, gathered all of us in the main foyer of The Joy Village living room, you could hear a pin drop. Six women standing in a semicircle, waiting, watching, and wondering what was about to take place.

“You will be spending the rest of the night with one of the mommas and her children,” she said.

And one by one, she introduced us to our momma.

“Janell, you will be with Momma Elizabeth,” she smiled. “Momma Elizabeth in the Love House.”

Her words took me by great surprise. I wasn’t prepared to spend the entire evening and night with one of the mommas and her children. I thought we would be visiting the families and then sleep in the rooms of the main building.

As we made our way up the stairs, I began to panic. What am I going to eat? Where will I sleep? How will I use the bathroom? Shower? How will I communicate? I didn’t bring anything for us to do.

And the greater question, what will I do with twelve children?

My mind raced with one very overwhelming  thought: I can’t do this. It seemed to be stuck on repeat.

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When My Soul was Silent

When I walked into Momma Elizabeth’s, she smiled, “Oh, it’s you!”

Unsure of whether or not that was a good, “Oh, it’s you,” we shared a Kenyan welcome that was real and raw and reticent, at first.

Two women. Two cultures. A Kenyan and a Mzunga (white woman).

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She offered me chai and made me feel as though her home was my home. The atmosphere of welcome filled every cautious corner of my heart.

Slowly, my fears melted in her Kenyan love, and two very different woman from two very different worlds seemed to find their way to one another.

When My Soul was Soothed

Within the hour, Momma Elizabeth’s twelve children began coming home from school.

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We shifted from women getting to know one another to mothers on a mission.

Dinner preparations. Homework. Chores. Showers. Evening prayers and devotions.

It didn’t take long before I was no longer a guest, but a real part of their family. Little nine-year old Salome used her persuasive skills and coerced me to help her polish  twelve sets of shoes, fold mounds of laundry, and organize the girl’s closet.

Five-year old Anastasia and seven-year old Naomi needed help with writing their letters.

Curious Danton and Francis were mesmerized by the fluorescent indigo light of my very basic Timex watch.

Immediately, I found myself teaching them the familiar chorus, “This Little Light of Mine”—and suddenly something very, very special began to happen.

I became a part of their “Love Family.”

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Five a.m. came very early. Momma Elizabeth hopped out of bed and began the day: preparing breakfast, packing snacks (which she had made the night before), administering medicine, making sure all twelve of her children were dressed and ready for the long day ahead. As soon as they all left, she once again poured me a cup of chai and we sat.

Words were few, but the bond between us had grown strong. I kept thinking, “Thank goodness I pressed through my fears and stepped outside of my comfort zone. I would have missed the most glorious, most precious, most beautiful experience.”

God is a soul-stretcher. He specializes in enlarging the souls of man so that we can taste and see the world through His eyes. The process will most likely be painful, but if we open our hearts and press through the initial panic of a new experience, it will be a powerful, transforming journey.


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