Tuesday, April 19, 2011

40!

It is with mixture of bewilderment, gratitude, solemnity, and hope that I celebrate my 40th birthday this month.

First off, I am just a bit bewildered as to how I got here so fast! Honestly, the last birthday I remember was when I turned 25. Of course, I became a mom later that year, so that could explain some of the blur in my memory banks.

Secondly, I am extremely grateful I am still around and able to be with my family. Having broken my neck and nearly died in a car accident in 1994, I count each extra day of life I've been given as precious, no matter how crazy it is.

Third, it is with a good deal of solemnity that I acknowledge the grim fact that I am now entering the latter half of my life. (Yikes!) Although, I realize there are no certainties in life, taking a closer look at my own mortality is sobering, nonetheless.

Finally, and this is really where I want to spend the rest of my blog time, I have renewed hope. With God as my guide and experience as my springboard, I should be able to accomplish more in the latter half of my life than I did in the first

As a young person (and by young, I mean any age under my present age of 40), I looked with admiration at Esther, Daniel, and Joseph. Their courage and faithfulness in the face of overwhelming odds inspired me to meet the challenges in my own life. Today, as my hair takes on a frosted look and my face loses its youthful glow, my eyes focus on a new set of role models. Biblical heroes like Caleb, historical examples of Christian courage, like Aunt Clara Brown, and modern miracle workers, such as Roz Carr, grab my attention as never before. I am awed by their legacy.

Indulge me for a moment as I share their stories:

Caleb
Caleb, as you probably remember, was one of the twelve spies sent to scout out the land God had promised Israel. Along with eleven other men, he snuck into enemy territory, took detailed mental notes of the land's bounty, and returned to share this knowledge with Moses and the nation. While all twelve of the spies agreed that the land was indeed overflowing with milk and honey, ten of the spies doubted a tiny kingdom, such as Israel, would be able to defeat such a well-armed fortress as Canaan. Caleb and Joshua thought otherwise.

Arguing that God would work miracles for them as He had all along their escape from Egypt, they urged the people to go forward. Instead, spurred on by the ten doubting spies, the multitudes sought to stone Joshua and Caleb. God intervened just in time and sentenced the entire nation to a 40-year-plus time-out. At the threshold of their promised home, Israel doubted God's ability and were required to turn back. Not only that, but all citizens 20 years and older would die before Israel was even allowed a second attempt at conquering Canaan again. All, that is, except Joshua and Caleb.

Caleb was 40 years old when that happened. Keenly disappointed at the failure of the Israelites, he spent the next 40+ years of his life encouraging, motivating, and strengthening the younger generation. When it came time to go back to Canaan. Caleb was ready.


At 85 years of age, he strode up to Joshua, the new leader of Israel, and boldly stated his request, "Give me the toughest, the scariest, the most difficult area to conquer, and I'll do it!" Caleb knew the battle wasn't his to win, it was God's. It didn't matter if Caleb was 40 or 85, God was still God. Joshua granted Caleb's request, and Caleb, through the blessing of God, soundly conquered his portion of the Promised Land.

Aunt Clara Brown
Hers was a difficult life. As a slave, she endured the pain of watching her husband and children auctioned away from her. She lived in constant prayer, crying out to Jesus when she felt her heart would break. Over time she learned of the deaths of her beloved husband, son, and older daughter.

Finally, when Aunt Clara was about 57, she was able to purchase her freedom. Aunt Clara had a single desire burning in her heart - to find her one surviving child, Eliza Jane. But how?


On a tip that Eliza Jane might be in Colorado somewhere, Aunt Clara hired herself out as a cook on a wagon train heading west. At 57, she walked and worked her way across the Great Plains and into what is now Denver, Colorado. There she set up shop as a washer woman and did quite well. Aunt Clara wisely invested her money and over time accumulated a savings of over $10,000. This she used, unselfishly, to help other freed slaves become established with careers of their own.

Aunt Clara also started the first Sunday School in Colorado and was always ready to help anyone in need, no matter if they were black, white, or Indian. Her network of friends was wide and Aunt Clara, as everyone called her, held the respect of her community.

But she still had not found her daughter. At age 83, a message arrived telling her where Eliza Jane was. After searching for 26 years, Aunt Clara could hardly believe it. However, the report turned out to be true. That little girl Aunt Clara had last seen frightened and sobbing at the auction block, was now a mother herself. Their reunion was emotional as mother and daughter wept and laughed and hugged. Of those who witnessed the occasion, not an eye remained dry.

Aunt Clara had spent her years of freedom helping all who needed it. Near the end of her life, God gave her the desire of her heart, her baby girl.

Roz Carr
Glued to her television set in America, Roz Carr, an American by birth, was horrified at what was happening in her adopted homeland of Rwanda. Although no one wanted to say it, it was genocide. A massacre of epic proportions was ripping through her country and she had been forced to leave. In America, Roz waited and hoped.

In its wake, the 1994 Rwandan genocide left approximately 95,000 orphans. Many of whom had seen their parents or family members butchered in cold blood. Disturbed, Roz, who had never had children of her own, decided she needed to do something about that. At the age of 82, she returned to Rwanda and brought some of those orphans to her flower farm there. Then she brought a few more. Later, a few more joined them until, at last, over 400 children had arrived. Imbabazi Orphanage was born.

Imbabazi (a Rwandan word meaning "all the love a mother can give") is home to both Hutu and Tutsi children. Roz didn't care. These were children in need of help and Roz was determined to help them. And help she did. Roz dedicated the last 12 years of her life to caring for the children of Imbabazi. When many people are enjoying retirement, she was fundraising, building dormitories, and hiring nannies.

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With these people to inspire me, 40 seems like a new beginning. In fact, I might just be at the brink of something wonderful!