Entering into the darkness….

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We spend a lot of our lives thriving for “success.”  We brag about successful children. Successful husbands. Successful businesses. But what is success really?

Many Americans have sold out to the idea of “success” as looking a certain way on the outside, regardless of how it looks on the inside. Monetary and superficial standards dictate where someone or something falls on our “success continuum.”

Successful=========================Unsuccessful                pretty, rich, follows social rules            unattractive, poor, outsider

We gravitate toward the successful and try to emulate them for many reasons. To make ourselves look better by association. To gain something. To feel acceptable.

What if we were drawn less to the powerful and more to the powerless? Isn’t that what Jesus did?

We like to watch shows that depict darkness- don’t all the Disney movies have some sort of dark side? What about CSI? Batman? Very few forms of entertainment lack a good/evil theme. And we pay to see it. But then we look at Scripture and realize that God calls us to live in a way that shines a light in the REAL darkness and what do we do? Flip on the TV, grab a bag of chips, and watch another episode of Criminal Minds.

I challenge you with this idea……you will find more “success” in the seemingly “unsuccessful” than anywhere in the Fortune 500s or the beautiful people on Wall Street.

But first we have to define “success” in a true and authentic way.  I believe that where we have gone wrong is to think that “success” is ever really achieved. In the world of ministry where seemingly spiritual people enter into the lives of people who have been broken by drugs and domestic violence, we count them a success when we can parade them around cleaned up, oh-so-spiritual and what appears to be a life void of problems. That is not success- that is a lie. Life is messy and every day brings challenges and temptations. I know it does for me and for the mom who has years of prostitution, drugs, and domestic violence.

If we judge people as acceptable when they “get it all together” we give them no room to fall. As a result, they prop themselves up to please us and not themselves or they lie to us so that the image we have of them is not shattered and they have to face FAILURE. I have seen many churches parade around their new Christian as some kind of poster child of spiritual perfection- like a before and after that leaves no room for failure.  At times, the church has prostituted people the way pimps do on the streets.

The reason I know? I struggle with it. I want to believe if I offer and addict or a stripper or a foster child a beautiful home, a family, and a stable life that they will fall down in gratitude and realize what they had been missing all their lives. Unfortunately that does not happen. Why? Because change is slow and difficult.

So what do I think the answer is?

I have learned to cherish the small wins. The daily victories.

In the past 3 days, two people who were both in my life for different reasons went back to a way of life that is familiar- drug use, abuse, and all that comes with that lifestyle. Am I discouraged? No. Am I hopeful?Yes. Is it well with my soul? Absolutely. Why? Because I know that a person’s choices are not a reflection of how “good” I was at loving that person. I know people go back to what they know until they are ready. And I definitely know that a childhood full of egregious abuse causes a person to struggle to cope with life’s challenges.

In the last three days,  I have also met with women who are being reunited with their children after really hard work, dedication, and grit when it all seemed impossible. They live day to day knowing that life is fragile and temptati
on is real. I know to embrace them during their victories and embrace them during their struggles.  I cannot have a barometer of “success” and “failure” because all of us face daily doses of both…..at least if we are honest with ourselves and others.

DSC_1317To say I am proud of the overcomers is an understatement. To say I deeply love the ones who have fallen is more than the truth.

Love does.

Light Breaks Through- WHAT IS THAT?

IMG_0678For those of you who see my post about Light Breaks Through and wonder what in the world I am up to now….I can explain!

About a year ago, I made a friend who I consider a “lifer.” We talked on the phone and I knew immediately we had a lot in common- our lives, loves, and laughter brought us into an instant friendship. We had this idea that to #lovewithoutagenda was an idea that was worth giving our lives to so we began to discuss what that would look like.  A lot of phone conversations, several meetings later, and a lot of prayer- Light Breaks Through was born. I actually think it was in existence for many years in Jerriann and me but we became an official 501(c)3 a few months ago.

Because she and I both don’t think God belongs in a box, we have simply taken this organization one small step at a time. We had a women’s encounter in Lakeland over the summer that went really well and then decided to host another one in Madison, Jerriann’s hometown, on October 3rd.  As we see needs in women, we want to meet them. If that means traveling internationally, going into strip clubs, or sitting with women in the streets- we want to be present. Fully present.

For now we feel that women getting together in community for one day to talk about real issues and hear stories from women who have overcome great obstacles is a way for God to use us…..so we are focusing our attention on these gatherings.

As women, we take care of needs of others, we work hard, and we neglect ourselves spiritually and relationally.

How many of us have taken the time in the last several months to focus for more than five minutes at a time on our mental and spiritual health? Probably very few of us- me included. And we make excuses- the kids, our schedules, or our jobs….. but deep down most of us are just scared. Scared to put ourselves out there. Scared to show up. Scared of how God will speak to our hearts. And we stay STUCK.

We certainly do not have all the answers but when we felt there was a need we wanted to do something.  Here is how we tell our story on our website:

Light Breaks Through began as a simple idea…..that God has a plan for all women and their stories matter. As it began to unfold, God gave a clear message that we are to embrace women from all walks of brokenness because we each have value and worth. 

As the leaders of the organization, we have experienced our own brokenness and know what it feels like to struggle with insecurities that we are too damaged to be used by a perfect God…..but as God has arrested our hearts, we are learning that we have purpose and importance because that is how we were created.  

As we are changed, we have a vision to see women across the globe experience the wholeness and freedom in Christ that we have experienced. We invite you into a community of women who know what it is like to be lost and then found. In bondage and then free. Enslaved to sin and on the road of a new way of living.

 We are not an organization of quick fixes and religious testimonies. We believe in the honest gathering of women sharing their struggles, their stories and their lives as they seek Christ and do it imperfectly. 

We are all saved by His extravagant grace and we want to share that with you. If you are looking for perfect people, we are not it. If you are looking for a place to belong and be known, you are welcome among us. If you are hungry for something other than the sitting in the church pew surrounded by people and feeling like you are on the outside, you will find a home in the work of Light Breaks Through. 

We host “women’s encounters” that are one day events where we gather, learn, grow, and share in real life community. We ask women to take off their masks and JUST BE. That is where God will meet you. We pray that you will be led to see your value, your worth, and your identity and not settle for a life of mediocrity and shallow relationships. 

We hope you will join us. The journey of redemption is waiting- we just have to say YES.

For more information, you can go to LightBreaksThrough.org or contact Jennie at jensellis624@gmail.com.

 

 

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