Beautiful.

2015-07-20 06.08.54In 2005, Justin, the youngest of my three sons, was 5 years old. Their dad and I had divorced in 2002 and we both were remarried. We had joint custody, so the boys would split their stays between their dad’s home and mine.

One of the hardest parts when going through the divorce was realizing that the boys were not going to be with me 24/7. As any parent would, I had a difficult time adapting to the constant goodbyes and separations. My boys were having the same difficulty since they were the ones that had to go back and forth between homes and adapt quickly to the change of dynamics between families.

I always wondered how much the boys missed me and how much they understood about parents having to compromise and to give-in, even if they wished they didn’t have to when a divorce happens.

One Friday as I picked them up from their dad’s place, Justin said that he had a song for me.  He told me that the day before, he and his brothers were riding in the van with their dad and their new family, when a song came on the radio and made him think of me. He was very excited to show me the song and could hardly wait to get home. As soon as we arrived, Justin got on the computer and searched for the song. He wanted to play it for me. He sat on my lap, held my face and sang along with the song. He knew the words by heart.

The song he was singing to me was the song “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. 2015-07-20 06.10.01It was brand new on the radio at that time.

The song lyrics tell the story of a man who sees a woman in a crowd from a distance. They made eye contact, smiled, but nothing else. He mentions that his love for her is pure, that she looks like an angel to him. In the song, he repeats that she is beautiful.

The song meant a lot to Justin, and from that point on, to me, as well. In many ways, it reflected a part of the life that Justin and I were living. The fact that a five year old could identify with the meaning was impressive and touching to me.

As Justin was singing this song, every time he sang the refrain of “You are beautiful”, he would hold my face and look directly into my eyes. He made sure that I was looking into his eyes as well. Listening to little Justin sing those words while looking at me with so much love in his eyes…I was overwhelmed with his demonstration of his love… I started crying. My tears were pouring down my face like a broken faucet!

Justin was shocked to see my reaction. He thought that his song had made me sad. I reassured him that his song and singing hadn’t made me sad. I explained to him that his actions had moved me deeply, that he made me so happy, and that what I was feeling was his intense love and gratitude. I gave him a storm of kisses and hugged him so tightly. As soon as I released him from my embrace, he assumed a proud satisfied attitude and was radiating a feeling of accomplishment… all so cute to me!

20160428_160729Justin realized, that his actions had created a beautiful emotion in me and it made him feel good. He liked it! In the weeks that followed, Justin would try to recreate that moment we had shared.

I would be vacuuming or sweeping the floors, while he and his brothers were playing. If the song started playing on the radio, within seconds of hearing the opening bars of “You’re Beautiful”, Justin would recognize the song, stop whatever he was doing, jump up and run to find me.

He would come to place himself right below my nose intently staring up at me with his big brown eyes looking straight into my eyes. Those two gorgeous and innocent brown eyes, as big as they could get, would dart back and forth between my right and my left eye…back and forth…back and forth. He was completely fixated and analyzing mine, waiting, looking, searching for my tears, hoping for my emotions to show again. It was so innocent and cute to see him looking for that moment in my eyes that gave my emotions away. I adored it.

For sure, every time that Justin did this, he gave me an emotion, although each time it was different: the first time there were abundant tears from experiencing his overwhelming love, the second time it was amazement and joy looking at his anxious face, the third time I would laugh and giggle to see him trying again. Regardless of how many times he tried and how different I reacted, the feeling of love was always present.

Because of this experience with Justin, I am more careful now with my actions and my words . I consciously do my best to use them to lift up friends and family. Just like Justin made me feel with “his” song, I want to make people feel valued, loved and beautiful.

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Photos by Sandi Gamblin

Editing by Randall Gamblin.  For editing info and work please email randallgamblin@gmail.com

The Egg

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In my early twenties, I had the great opportunity of serving a year and a half welfare mission among the K’ekchi. The K’ekchi are a Mayan tribe who live in north-central Guatemala. I was assigned a companion to go with me. She was a beautiful American woman,the same age as me. She was tall with fair skin, freckles, long wavy red hair and startling green eyes. Because of potential illnesses and political conflicts, there had not been female missionaries in the area in a long time. We were the first ones to return. So with this privilege, we felt a great responsibility, for which we were nervous and excited at the same time. During this journey, I was challenged, but I was also blessed. I was blessed to experience, what I felt, was the purest form of love.

Besides teaching families the essentials of reading and writing, my companion and I spent many hours instructing people on the basics of good hygiene and nutritional habits. We also delivered medicine, and taught scripture. To do that, we were constantly hiking and traveling through the 100 plus miles of mountains and villages along the Polochic River. 20140524_094543_LLS

The mountains in the area were impressively tall, with 50 degree slopes that were covered in rain forest and jungle vegetation like I’d only seen in movies…think 1984’s Romancing the Stone. The villages were spread through those mountains. Some of them were within walking distance from towns and main roads. Others were almost impossible to reach, even by horseback. It was in this gorgeous, but taxing setting, that I learned their beautiful Mayan language. I also learned to live without electricity and all other modern conveniences.

My companion and I were stationed for part of our mission in the beautiful community of Senahu, in Northern Polochic. Senahu is the name of the town, but also the name of a collection of 41 small villages surrounding it. The main plaza is located at the center of the town, with the municipal buildings, the main market and the Catholic church building surrounding the plaza. The town had no electricity except from 6pm to 8pm, when a small generator got turned on. The generator was able to provide energy to the center of the town and light that wasn’t much stronger than a candle, but good enough to help us get ready for the night. We rented a room in one of the best homes in town and we also paid for the cooking and laundry. A little K’ekchi boy, Puk, would fill a bucket of water for us in a tiny room where we “showered”. Taking a shower was not one of my favorite things to do, since I generally had to share this room with a few tarantulas.

One day, my companion and I decided to venture to a part of the mountains where we had never been before. This area seemed uninhabited to us and we had always ignored it, but this morning we decided to hike up hill and look for families anyway.

20140524_165920After hiking for many hours and not finding any homes or families, the temperature and humidity were sapping our strength, and it was getting late. The rules for all missionaries was to never be out of the main city or village after 5 PM. It was too dangerous to be out in the dark. There are too many wild animals and the K’ekchi are very protective of their territory. We didn’t want to break any rules or to get into any trouble, so we decided to head back to town. At that point, we realized that we had been wandering around, without paying attention to where we’d been. We had lost track of the way back. We could see the town from the top of the hill, but we were not able to find the trail that we needed to take to get back to it.

My companion and I were getting worried and frustrated. We were very hot, getting hungry and needed water. We didn’t know what to do. Then, we heard giggles coming from the trees and as we looked harder into the area where the giggles were coming from, we realized that there was a little hut inside a group of trees and the family that lived in that hut had been observing us. They thought it was so funny that we were lost.

The hut was a small, clean, 10’ x 10’ structure made out of sticks and tree branches, dirt floors and a fire-pit in the middle. It was hidden so well that it looked like it was just a big tree. The family included the mom and dad , two daughters and a son. The children who were about 11, 12 and 13 years old, seemed to be much smaller, more like 7-8 years-old. The parents were not that much taller. They all all had big black eyes, the biggest smiles and cute giggles. They all were happy and seemed to have no worries at all.

They welcomed us with so much love and attention. The two little girls, after inspecting us with their eyes, playing with our hair, holding our hands, and touching our clothes and all the ornaments we were wearing, ran out of the hut. They had been instructed by the mom to go pick the tips of some tender plants that were growing right outside of the hut. The mom placed the trimmings inside a pot of water and placed it on top of the fire. She also started to make corn tortillas. A few minutes later they handed us a bowl that contained broth and the tortillas for us to eat. Of course, we were grateful for the meal, but as welfare missionaries, we were analyzing the nutritional value of that meal and the impact of that type of diet on their health. After visiting with the family, they showed us the trail that would lead us back to the village and we said goodbye. The trail entrance at that point seemed so obvious. It was hard to believe that we couldn’t find it earlier. Like it had been hidden purposely, so that we could meet that family.

20140525_184058As a way to thank the family and to help them improve their nourishment, my companion and I decided to buy a couple of chicks and some chicken feed. We hiked a few days later to deliver our gift. It was very touching to see how happy, excited and grateful they were to have something that they’d never had before. I was humbled, realizing that there are people who had never eaten an egg. Up to this point in my life I had thought nothing of waking up every morning in my own comfy bed, with a soft mattress, warm blankets, with a bedroom to myself that even included my own bathroom. I thought that a warm, steamy and delicious breakfast of eggs, beans, bread, cheese, coffee, cream, sugar, fruit was the norm and my right. I had always taken those simple blessings for granted. Many times, I had complained because something was not cooked exactly the way I liked it. How different it was for this family. They had little, and yet they were absolutely happy.

We kept on visiting and checking on them through the following months. As time went by, we got other assignments, other villages to visit and we didn’t see the family for a while. With time, they went out of our mind and I’d forgotten all about the gift of the baby chicks…until one morning.

As we were leaving our home to go do our service projects for that day, we noticed that the family was waiting for us outside. The moment they saw us coming out of our house, their smiles became so big, their big black eyes sparkling with excitement, joy and happiness. One of the little girls had a piece of cloth in her hands. It seemed like she was guarding a treasure. The little girl came towards me and placed the little packet in my hands. I carefully unfolded the corners of the cloth…an egg!

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As they explained to us, one of the chickens had lain her first egg early that morning, and they wanted us to have it. They had walked since dawn, waited outside our home to show us their treasure and more special … to give it to us!!!

It was just an egg, but it was the first egg they’d ever “owned.” Instead of eating it themselves, they gave it to us. They had big smiles on their faces. They had a light and a glow that showed pride in their precious offering. They were giving away something so precious, and all I saw was gratitude radiating from this beautiful family towards us.

They eagerly watched for our reaction. I can’t tell you what my companion was feeling or thinking. I can only tell you what I felt.

I felt a love so powerful radiating towards me, that no words can describe it. There was a sense of humility, a deep love and so much gratitude. With the simple gift of an egg, I experienced a moment in my life that awakened me. That wonderful family gave me much more than an egg. They gave me a deep sense of what the truly valuable gifts are in this world..the feeling of being valued, cared for and loved.

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Photos by Sandi Gamblin

Edited by Randall Gamblin (randallgamblin@gmail.com)