Darkness cannot destroy me….

I wanted to get a tattoo that said “WARRIOR” but I decided that it might seem a little too Gladiator or  Braveheart which was NOT what I was going for. In fact, my husband would testify that those are the best movies ever and I would safely say they are awful.

When it comes down to it, here is what I am working with:

I get angry.  I am determined. I am not content to sit and watch the darkness creep in.

I have a creed I live by that goes something like this:

I will fight with those who are in the battle of overcoming. I will walk with those committed to the cause of finding their own freedom. I will not engage with people who want me to work harder at their lives than they do.

If we love by those standards the expectations are set and it simplifies life greatly.

I think of darkness in this way. You know that early morning fog that comes on you while you are driving on the interstate? At first it seems manageable but suddenly you realize you cannot see just feet in front of you? By the time you are in it that deep you don’t know what cars are around you and how long it will be before you get out of it because you are blinded by the fog.  You don’t know how you got there and you aren’t sure how long you will be stuck in it. That is how I see darkness.

When we walk in the light we can easily avoid dealing with the darkness most of the time. We can numb the reality of our own brokenness. We can shop, drink too much, watch tv, scroll through Facebook and never once think about our “stuff.” I know because I do it  too.

How can we give what we don’t have?

So if we are virtually unaware of our own issues of greed, selfishness, pride, lack of faith….we cannot possibly be available for anyone else in their time of need. Think about it- when you are going through something, do you call the person who lives in their own little box- insulated and protected with little insight? Of course not. You call the one who will get real and enter into that pain with you. I am not saying it is easy to do. It is so hard. It is exhausting. It is an opportunity to die to self which is almost impossible for us sometimes. But we are called to push through and dig deep and step into the pain alongside someone else.

I know how difficult it is. Last October I went to Haiti a week after the devastating hurricane. Crops and homes were completely destroyed. People were desperate for shelter and food. I was only there a brief time but what I saw changed me. I came home discouraged, undone. I went into a numb phase that I am barely pulling out of. I remember seeing my friend Courtney right after I got back and she told me she would pray that I could do the next thing.  At that point I was not even sure what that was. It took me a while to figure it out. I decided I did not want to go back to Haiti and have to face that kind of loss ever again. But I leave in a  few days and will have to face my fear of what I will see and how guilty I will feel that we have not done more. Everything in me says run and God says go. So it is a done deal.

When we say YES to God and  reach out to love people well, we make ourselves vulnerable….and then the potential to get hurt is pretty high. Ok let’s face it- pain is inevitable. We get our feelings hurt, we are misunderstood, and we are rejected. That is just reality. So who in their right mind would continue to try? It seems almost crazy to keep going back into the hurt and opening ourselves  up. But….there is a reason. And it’s an amazing reason. It is called fulfilling our PURPOSE. And it will make us come alive.

The “me” a few years ago would have taken about 5 seconds of being misunderstood and tapped out. Run as far away as possible and then be too hurt to put myself back out there.

The “me” now has a totally different understanding. I know without question that I do not serve man. If I did I would be crushed. Done. And the wall around my heart would get thicker and if anyone tried to look in to find me they would see me curled up in the corner. Meanwhile, I would justify why I got that way and begin to insulate my life more and more because that is what people in pain do- they run from anything else that will hurt them.

At least once a day someone asks me WHAT I do or WHY I do it. It really is simple. It is what the Bible calls us to do.
“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19:17

It is not my job to fix anything. God just says to show up and He is sufficient.

We recently took someone into our home, converted my office into a bedroom, threw a baby shower and made her a part of our family. After some time, she began to heap accusations on me that could not even possibly be true and the end of that arrangement came. How did I deal with that? People ask me all the time.  It is  like when Jesus hung on the cross and pronounced “It is finished.” We have to know with our boundaries in place when our role is finished and be ok with it. We cannot carry another person’s brokenness and when it gets to that point we have to lay it down. We can walk with them but  we cannot protect them from the demons that haunt them and their unwillingness to go deep and battle them.

I remind myself that I am not in the business of transforming people and change takes time.

We all want the story of the stripper who loves Jesus and never struggles again or the student who lives in poverty in the third world and makes it to law school. The reality is that those changes come over time, the obstacles are enormous, and learning an entirely new way of life is never easy.

I have watched women struggle and often return to their old ways. Back to the abusive boyfriends and back to the drugs.

I have watched children in Haiti excel in school one year and fail the next. I have seen healthy people get deathly ill with no explanation. I have seen parents pull their teenaged boys out of school to work the farm and we lose them forever.

Most people ask, “Isn’t that discouraging?” and the answer is a resounding YES but it is not an opportunity to quit. See….I am a fighter. A scrapper. I am not ok with injustice and I can’t tolerate people being victimized. I cannot sit and watch darkness take over even the smallest amount of light. The Jesus I serve calls me to be brave. In Creole it is Ou dwe brave- be brave. I live by those words.

In Matthew 25, God talks about the sheep and the goats. All week I have been telling God, “I don’t to be a goat!” This is what Jesus says to the goats (those who did not give to those in need):

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

YIKES!!

So here is the good news…..

There is hope! The Ashleys, the Ambers, the Veronicas. The Willems, the Vilias, the Jelins. God working in the moments when no one is looking. God providing when it all seems hopeless.  The decision to go to school in Haiti when they have not eaten for a day or two. The choice to not darken the door of a strip club and allow men to be abusive to make a few bucks.

As long as there is darkness, we will be called to it.

John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

We have the light. Light in a lit room is not needed.  Face your own brokenness. Dig deep.  You will come alive. And God will give you opportunities to love people and you will never be the same.

 

I want to be brave…..

Whirlwind of emotions. That is what the past three hours have
been. My iPhone calendar told me it was a day void of appointments,
distractions, or to-dos (except for buying Jordan almonds and crackers for an
upcoming trip). Sounded simple to me.
Backing up a bit…..I spent the day yesterday with my
adorable 14 year old eating wings (blek!), shopping for socks, and getting him a
much needed haircut. Before we hit the mall, I ran into the Christian bookstore
to find a good book for my trip. I, of course, got sucked into the rows of
catchy titles and tag lines that hook me at first breath. Should I go with a
light fiction, an old favorite? Then I saw it….the title the hardest peace by Kara
Tippetts. It was the one- never heard of her or seen the book but the back
described a mom battling cancer. Since I lost a close friend to cancer 2 1/2
years ago, I always seek out reading more about walking through cancer with
other people I know who are sick. I picked it up and walked out, joined my son
who was sitting in my running car blaring the air conditioner and classical
guitar. We were off on the sock hunt.
I did not think much about the book- the afternoon got busy
and there were 20 inch trout to be seen in the cooler after a boy’s fishing
excursion that day and later to be enjoyed at the dinner table. There were
friends to come by bearing gifts for my precious children in Haiti, and
just-like-daughters to be hugged and encouraged. Just a normal Sunday
afternoon.
After everyone went to bed and the house was eerily still, I
picked up the book to look it over. I was ready to dig in and hear how she had
kicked cancer’s butt and was now encouraging everyone around her to fight the
good fight. That was the story line that fit in my little, limited box of
perfect reading. The box- tied with a big burlap bow and a little vintage bird
ornament attached. That was my box. And God and this book and the rest of my
life needed to all fit in that well adorned package. Period. 
After about 10 minutes of skimming, I put down the book and
suddenly out of what seemed to be NOWHERE, this burning, yet cold sensation
spread all over my body and I started to panic- I am going to die one day. And worse, my kids are
going to die. I birthed
them for LIFE and one day they will die. I prayed I was never around to see
them leave this earth. Then I was enveloped in another round of gut-wrenching
fear…I thought if my husband died, I would be ALONE, missing the absolute
love of my life, getting parenting all wrong, and not even know where he kept
my passport or how to book tickets to go to Haiti. OK- THAT did not fit into my
box. YUCK. SUPER YUCK.
As the panic subsided, I drifted off to sleep. Then this
morning I awoke, listened to the same fish stories again that never get old,
and sat with my cup of coffee and the local news show. Last night’s experience
was not fresh in my mind because I was only on coffee cup #1 1/2 and no clear
thoughts come until after coffee cup #2 is indulged. I then open my Facebook
and there in front of me is: HOMECOMING…Kara Tippets dies on March 22, 2015.
WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? The day I buy the book, skim it, have this extreme
fear of dying experience? I am undone. The story was not supposed to end like
this. I am crushed to lose someone I only “knew” for 12 hours.
So I spent part of the morning chatting on the couch with a
sweet friend, Lynn, and told her about buying the book, seeing the post, etc.
She started reading the blog aloud- I had only made it past the fact that she
had died. One excerpt said:
“As the cancer spread, Kara courageously embraced
her situation, trusting in a Sovereign God. She believed that cancer was not
the point, but Jesus was; how she responded and trusted Christ in the midst of
this hard was where she would find Grace.”
She sounded just like
my friend, Kristen, who lost her fight to cancer- courageous and brave. Lynn,
Kristen’s mom,and I had a moment of silence, reminded that we miss
Kristen, who lived courageously and died courageously. Then Lynn left so I could get
at least a few clothes put away and bags packed. I plugged in my new speaker
and hooked up my iPhone. I started to play my new playlist and the first song is
“You Make Me Brave.” I was busying myself with the laundry and the
morning’s sticky counters and I suddenly just fell into a heap on my bed…..again undone.
The fear of dying episode from last night finally came flooding back to me.  I screamed in my head, “GOD!
I am not brave! I am not brave like Kara or Kristen! I am scared and frail and
a big mess!” I weeped and cried for a few minutes. I then picked up my limp body with red, blotchy eyes and smudged glasses, and walked to my computer with a mission and started writing this
blog. I like to write before I have a clue what something means. It helps me and I hope it helps you know you are not alone with the world of ANSWER VOID…..and still with no answers. 
I love Jesus…..like REALLY love Him. I pray. I
read. I serve. I love (the best I know how). And I am still not brave. WHY?
What is wrong with me? I love life- I don’t want to leave. 
I know that eternity
is perfect, beautiful and forever. But what about….and I start listing off
all the names of people who I am convinced NEED me. 
So what do I do now?
Pray Scripture to wipe away the fear? Done that. I feel like crap that somehow Scripture did not fix me. What does that say about my faith? Self condemnation starts to heap itself on my shoulders. I am a Jesus following failure. Everyone else gets it but me. Shame. Guilt. I try to put the brakes on that train that is headed nowhere very quickly. I decide 3 things that are all I know right now:
God will honor
honesty- we fear talking about death and we fear worse that we are Christians who fear death in the first place.
God will grow me- and
if I stay connected to Him I will get a little braver as time goes on.
God will love me through my
brokenness- He loves when we are desperate and we will turn to Him instead of hiding in distractions. Busyness is the biggest killer of maintaining relationships,
dreaming big dreams, and creating a life of purpose. 
There is no cool
ending to this blog. Nothing in a cute little box with a burlap bow and vintage
bird ornament on top. But I know that I WANT to be brave….and I think that is
a great place to start.