I pulled out the note and read it again.

“Sandy, I love you so much. I pray for you. Please come to me. Please give me hope.”

Oh, Sophonie, don’t you know that Jesus is your only hope?

I’d considered not going back. We’d had a busy year, and I was feeling my years, and there was so much to do and so many needs right here at home. And the holidays were coming. And winter. And I was tired.

But the orphans had had a hard and transitional year, too. I was pretty sure they were tired. And they had so many needs, not the least of which was to know they mattered, that they were—are—loved. That someone else (like me) could set aside their own needs for a week and go to where the need was greater.

And that’s how I I found myself at the airport in Nashville, Tennessee, again this past December, dragging heavy, gift-filled, yellow-taped duffle bags to Delta’s check-in counter. It’d be my fourth year of joining a team headed for Haiti to carry Christmas to an orphanage. We were going to be Jesus with skin, to carry a little winter hope, to tell the story of hope, and to hopefully tuck a little dose of hope in little hearts. I didn’t know how much hope I’d carry home in my own heart.

Winter Hope

Many of the children I’d loved on before were gone. We don’t know what happened to all of them, but some had returned to families, and others had aged out. Some of the older ones had moved to transitional homes such as the House of Hope and the House of Grace, but we didn’t know the whereabouts of some. All the members of my previous little “posse,” including 14-year-old Sophonie, remained though, and I was able to connect with some new kids as well.

There’s a “big mama” and “big papa” now who live on site and help supervise the house mamas and other workers as well as lavish love on the orphans. In fact, the kids didn’t seem quite as clingy this year, as if they felt more secure. The cooks prepared food in the new kitchen and set out huge bowls of rice for lunch topped with hunks of meat in place of a thimbleful of beans.

And then there was Ray. This was his first visit to the orphanage, and he informed me he was two years my senior. Unbelieveable! I lost my standing as the oldest team member. Ray took time to listen to and encourage everyone. He did everything the rest of us did, though he did pass on the climb down the rocky path to the beach on our morning off—which I suspect I might be wise to consider since I do tend toward klutziness. He also dressed up like Santa on an 80-plus-degree day and personally greeted each of the 150 children as they were called to receive their gifts.

Yes, life around here has been busy lately—even a trifle chaotic, and I’ve been feeling my years. But it’s folks like Ray and the creative later bloomers that Debra Eve celebrates and Louise Trotter whose 91-year-old fingers still fly across her harp strings (I get to meet and learn from her in May) who remind me that even though I’m turning 67 this month, I’m not yet “fully baked.” They give me hope that I can still have several more fruitful years of serving with a purpose—maybe even with a little wisdom—ahead of me. And I’ve already signed up to return to Haiti in December.

Note: The word of hope in this graphic was created out of recycled oil tin drums for Vibella Jewelry by a Haitian artisan. Vibella brings healing to their artisans, families, and communities by giving them hope for beautiful lives of purpose. When I look out through the window at the winter landscape, this piece of metal art reminds me that hope for a purpose sits at the forefront of my own coming winter years.

How are you feeling as your approach the later years of your life?

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Once a nurse, always a nurse,” some say. But these days Sandra cares for (and cares with) words. She lives in Michigan and writes from a 150-plus-year-old family farmhouse. SHK is a wife to one, mom to two, and nama to four. She’s passionate about steeping in stillness and extending hospitality to oneself in order to serve others well. She writes at sandraheskaking.com, creates mischief and pours tea as a “poetry barista” and social media associate for TweetspeakPoetry.com and serves as a host at GraceTable.com.

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