Updated to add: less than 24 hours after publishing this post, Cindy had a beautiful baby boy. 6 pounds, 2 ounces of perfection!
She had the focused look of concentration as she held the tightly rolled paper with one hand, glue in the other, applying. Squeezing. Creating.
We were in Africa, teaching our Mercy House girls their first skill: rolling paper. Recycled magazine paper that would become jewelry, home decor, art.
It’s surreal. The memory.
Their hard work is producing beautiful products now.
Volunteers pack my cold garage and we line up order after order to fill from the exported items. Shelves are stacked with creations from our girls. The scent of varnish is heavy. It’s one of my favorite places to be.
I was filling a few orders the other night: paper coaster sets. It was late and I was tired, but that’s when I noticed the colors.
The first couple of months, the coasters made by still-learning hands were a work of art, in progress. Constantly improving, all one thing in common: muted, dull colors. When rolling the paper that is to become a coaster, each girl chooses a piece of paper from a used magazine. Sheet after sheet, our girls chose the drab colors.
I didn’t realize this at first. I just assumed the oil-based varnish muted the colors of the paper and gave our coasters a dark tone.
I didn’t realize it because I didn’t know what hope could do.
Something deep within me began to stir. I began pulling the older coaster sets from the back of the shelf, the ones that hadn’t sold from our first couple of months.
I lined them up next to the new sets of coasters we are now receiving each month. The difference was unbelievable: The small, dark coaster sets are lovely. But compared to the larger, brighter newer coaster sets, there is no comparison.
My eyes pooled and I heard the soul-whisper: This is what hope looks like.
Staring at the shelves, I saw a rainbow of hope, a constellation of promise.
My oldest child opened the door to the garage. She found me in tears. She wasn’t surprised (what can I say? This is emotional business).
I showed her the difference in the colors.
She said, “Mom, I was just reading an article about how color affects us. It was saying that we choose colors based on how we feel and what’s happening on the inside.”
I picked up the bright yellow coaster set. I fingered the tag with Cindy’s name on it. I closed my eyes and pictured her wide smile and the baby she carries. I remember watching her eat. She had only been in the home a few weeks when I met her face-to-face. She was so tiny, malnourished. I watched her begin to gain weight with every healthy bite.
I know her story well. It’s a heartbreaking tale of being used and abused. She’s sixteen. She’s a new believer.
I imagine her sitting on the wood floor in the living room at the maternity home. Papers scattered. Glue in hand. I see her open the magazine, pass the brown and black pages and choose the bright yellow.
She is what hope looks like.
Cindy is due this week! Please pray for a safe delivery and a healthy baby.
Buy your own coaster set and spread the hope.