Today was one of “those days” – days when one feels overloaded & overwhelmed.
I travelled back on Tuesday from a week of vacationing out at Musana Camps, NHU’s beautiful property on the shores of Lake Victoria. But by this afternoon, any rest during that week seemed hardly worth the piles of work I came back to.
So many things to do, chiefly reading & processing 300ish letters from our primary & senior students to their sponsors. But so many other things too, pressing things that I just can’t seem to make time for. Budgets & emails & new sponsorships, and a pile of Christmas packages for kids just waiting to be opened & checked.
I was tired and frustrated and on edge this afternoon. One of my friends had stopped by several times to do various things at the admin offices. So we had greeted & chatted a bit, and she could see I was tired.
Trying to get some of the letters read, I could just feel my frustration building. A class where the teacher had written a letter and just had all the students copy it (true, it’s a young class, but they should still be able to answer simple questions for themselves). Other things that hadn’t gone quite like I expected.
I was about ready to throw in the towel and go for a run to vent my pent up feelings, even though it was 3 p.m. and I was nearly sweating just sitting still in my office.
Then my friend showed up again. She handed me a manila envelope, strangely shaped. Inside was a box of cold mango juice she had bought for me.
Such a seemingly small thing – but to me it was not a small thing: it was a big thing.
Because as she turned and left before I had even finished opening it and thanking her, my mind flew back to Tuesday night.
That night, we women here at Kasana had started a video-based Bible study: “Walking with God in the Desert,” by Ray Vander Laan. He’s a Bible teacher who takes people out to the Holy Land and creates studies about Christian history & heritage and lessons to be learned from that.
There have definitely been times in the past year and in the past months when I have felt the blasting heat of a metaphorical desert wind. Moving & living half way around the world from everything familiar isn’t easy. Carrying a lot of responsibility for months can be a draining challenge.
But, as Ray reminded us, it’s in the desert we often are reminded that it is God who is faithful and sufficient, and it is in the desert times that we can learn to fall in love with Him all over again.
In the second video lesson we watched, Ray talked about the concept in the Bible of God being the shade at our right hand. He said the Hebrew word refers to what we call a broom tree. It’s more like a shrub or a bush: something which can give relief from the heat, but not like an oak tree that more completely blocks out the burning sunlight.
God doesn’t promise us that He will magically make all of our problems disappear! But He does promise us that He will give us the shade and relief at all times when we need Him. And His grace is sufficient for us to take the next step, to make it through the next challenge. What’s more, God often uses the community of His people to bring that shade to one another.
This afternoon, God used my friend to remind me about what I had already so quickly forgotten. That box of mango juice was my broom tree for the afternoon. I thank God for my friends here, including this one who’s “small” act of kindness honestly turned around my whole frame of mind.
The only way to explain it is God. A box of mango juice doesn’t really turn me from someone who’s frustrated and fed up into someone who can take the next step and the next step and make progress in reading letters. It was just a practical object lesson & reminder that God is enough and He will provide the strength I need. I had written those same words just a couple hours before, because I knew with my head they were true. But God in His grace sent my friend with a box of mango juice because He knew I needed to remember and feel it with my heart this afternoon.
Because of what my friend did for me, I was also able to reach out to other friends and hopefully be a bit of God’s shade for them too. That’s how God’s grace works. It’s not just something I take and keep for myself. It’s something that I receive in order to pass it on to others – for the glory of our loving Father.
So as you go about your day, maybe think about how you can be God’s broom tree for others in their struggles. And don’t forget that God is always there for you in your desert, no farther away than you can reach your right hand.