19 Aug On Assignment In Tikhvin, Russia
[Friday, August 18th, 2017, Day 18 of a 26 day, 11 flight and 4 country adventure through France, Ukraine, Russia and Spain.]
Christina loved celebrating life, she lived life like it was something to be treasured, never wasted and she loved what we called “magic moments”.
Following her path for twenty seven years here on earth was one of my greatest joys. Starting when she was just a toddler I referred to it as “following her little magic trail”.
On August 18th, 2013, I thought the trail had come to an end. Four years later, I am grateful to God for allowing it to continue instead, ever changing in it’s brightness, purpose and meaning, so grateful for the relationship to continue and her story to live on.
Each year this anniversary date has brought about a supernatural event that has revealed itself like a love letter from God. In my minds eye, I see Jesus taking Christina by the hand and leading her to the edge of heaven, blowing a little puff to clear back the clouds and then saying to her, their is your dad Christina, he still loves you more than he knows how to say. I am going to let him know that you still think he’s very special and that he is loved.
Three years ago God revealed himself to me in a unforgettable helicopter flight over the jungles of Guatemala with a very personal reverberation of Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Two years ago, this date found me standing on a fourth floor balcony in Istanbul, Turkey. Gazing out over the Hagia Sofia as the sun rose over this historic city, I felt a closeness to Christina, much like our experiences when she still graced this earth.
A year ago today I had just summited Mount Kilimanjaro and experienced a divine path that only God could have orchestrated.
Today on August 18th I am in Russia and full of joy from the divine appointments that defined this day. I felt the unmistakable presence of God as I shared Christina’s story with my new friends over lunch in the countryside of Russia.
On assignment for a US based ministry that has global impact, I sat with their local director, our driver and a psychologist who counsels the aging out orphans who’s lives I came to Russia to document. They are mine and Carissa’s companions for four days and today was special.
The spirit of God touched down on our table as I shared about heartbreak and loss and how that is not the end of the story. The hearts of my lunch companions were visibly moved as we enjoyed sharing stories over a lunch of local cuisine.
At the table next to ours was a group of elderly Russian ladies who were so filled with joy. The lines etched on their faces blended beautifully with the sparkle in their eyes and the songs on their lips. I was enamored by their joy as laughter and tears were shared at my own table.
As if on cue, the self appointed cheerleader at the adjoining table was moved to singing a song just as my story concluded. Everyone at the surrounding tables were treated to this Russian folk song that was a testament to the human spirit. My lunch companion translated the words to mean “as the years are going by, just enjoy every breath that you take”.
As a photographer I could not resist capturing this unique moment and shot the photographs that accompany this story. The dear lady that sang showed her approval, visibly encouraging the photos.
After the song I learned that this little group is part of a Russian choir who was returning from a performance in Moscow. She said “I love Americans and want us all to be friends”. My heart echoed back her sentiments as she dashed off momentarily, returning with flowers she was given at there Moscow performance, asking me to take yet another photograph.
This divine appointment was followed up with a tour of a holy place in Tihkvin Russia. There in the Tikhvin Formation Monastery, my new friends and I lit candles for Christina and celebrated her life.
There in this place of deep spiritual significance, it’s walls dating back to the 1400’s, I felt suspended in time and history. With God revealing himself to me through the sun rays that streamed through these ancient windows, I could here him say once again the words I heard on a little dairy farm in Thailand… “I see you, Chistina see’s you and you are loved beyond your ability to comprehend.”