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.

 

Loving without agenda

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We all want to love and be loved….we were created to cherish healthy relationships. The ones that make us feel safe, secure, and worthy.

But what about those who cannot love because their past keeps them trapped? Entangled in bitterness. They have witnessed too much disappointment. Betrayal. Too much loss.  Many hold their hearts at a distance because love is too good to be true. For them love is vulnerable and can be used as a dagger pulled out of someone’s arsenal at any moment.

To my dear friends who feel this way, accepting and giving love just is not possible. If you have ever watched someone try to love you but can’t, you know what complete helplessness feels like. You can hear their hearts screaming, “When are you going to leave too? When are you going to take advantage of me? Why would you love ME?” and they push you away, sabotage the relationship, and heap anger on you for all the other people who have hurt them and are not around to take the lashes. In these relationships, we are called to love deeply…..just as we love those who reciprocate. If we don’t, who will break down the walls? Who will chip away at the hardened heart?

We want to sit and wait to be APPRECIATED. We want our love to be accepted, nurtured, and returned. But what about those who cannot? The children in foster care who have been taught by life that being loved is not possible EVER. The children who were raped and are now prostitutes because they were taught that sex is all they have to offer and continue to be beat by their pimps and johns. The children who were given crack for their tenth birthdays by their drug dealer parents and have learned that if your parents won’t protect you, who will? The moms raising special needs children who have been shunned by the playgroup because “that kid” throws too many tantrums and “that mom” is too needy and now she drinks too much and turns off her phone. The shallow, materialistic prima donna  who degrades the manicurist and the grocery store clerk out of her own brokenness because she knows her husband is cheating on her but she won’t walk away because it would be an end to her extravagant lifestyle. The teacher who went from encouraging and uplifting to mean and stern in one year because she is taking care of her dying husband and resents her job because she has to stay to keep her insurance. The child sitting at his mom’s bedside while she takes her final breaths and is screaming inside  that God sucks and this is too hard. The CEO who was told by his dad his whole life that he was worthless and now takes advantage of people to make lots of money and earn the respect of his father and who is repeating the cycle with his own children.

What about them? Do you run the other way? Do you refuse to look them in the eye? Do you gossip about them with your acceptable friends?

The kind of love that Jesus talks about is sacrificial, often painful, and always inconvenient.

And how do we continue to give and not grow weary of rejection? How do we not take it “personally” when we feel attacked? We cry out to God and He hears us. We stop making it about us and realize that the other person’s heart is more important than our own need to be accepted. We love like Jesus loved and expect nothing in return. And we decide that we will do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. Jesus will so fill our emotional tanks that the constant withdrawals by others won’t deplete the resources. Our cups will overflow because of what HE has done. And when people tell us we do too much and that we need to rest and take care of ourselves, we will smile inside because we know where our strength comes from and who the Giver of Grace is. We will know that if we are connected to the Source of our strength, we are unstoppable.

And once we have loved like that, we will never be the same. The gift is not in the giving but in how it changes us.

“Weeping can stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. ”  Psalm 30:5

 

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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