I was thirty-one and recovering from a hysterectomy that I didn’t want to have and my husband was in Africa just two weeks after my surgery. (Sorry, this is a blog for women. I have no problem talking about mammograms and the fact that I don’t have a uterus.)
The reoccurring nightmares that I had been having finally stopped, the ones with a faceless man standing in the doorway leading into my room trying to hurt me.
I stopped fighting in my dreams. I stopped writing and hiding behind fiction because I was too afraid of the faceless man. I started the brave act of telling my truth and writing about the jacked-up, messy side of healing from years of emotional baggage and dragging deadweight from yesterday.
I was ready for whatever. But I had no idea what that would look like.
I was on my knees crying in surrender, terrified of the unknown and what was next for us as a family. I just knew in my heart that my husband would come home and that we would be on the mission-field next with my miracle babies, ages three and one. I would be in a tiny hut with no Wi-Fi trying to speak Francais Afrique and have to bake my own bread. And let me just add that my accent is strong and southern…and I would need language school for years just to help me change my bad habit of chewing on words and adding extra syllables that are unnecessary. Sometimes I talk like Reba McEntire sings and I don’t think it’s cute when it comes out of my mouth. But, she’s cuter, smarter, and can pull it off and make a lot of money from it.
My overactive imagination was playing tricks on me. I was a hot-mess trying to surrender to the unknown while on pain meds and trying to figure out which part of my surrender was Jesus…or maybe I was just high.
I felt like crying and reading my Bible would be the sane thing to do, so I turned to this passage and God whispered words to my mending heart.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27 NKJV)
My husband was building an orphanage in Africa while God was rebuilding my heart.
When we are in recovery, both physically and spiritually, the ugly rises to the surface of our hearts and it looks a lot like fear and trying to control the unknown. Which is not possible, in case you haven’t figured that out.
In that moment it wasn’t about finding ways to control my life, it was about finding a way to lose it. It was about the laying down of my selfishness to find a life worth writing about and living. It was about the crucifying of this flesh and learning what dreams were worth entertaining and which ones that were selfish pursuits and vanity-induced ambition.
I cried and asked God, “What does this scripture really mean?
And answered, “…Of course my answer is yes to whatever you are asking of me. Even if it scares me silly and is messy.”
In my heart I felt like God was saying this…
“If you take care of and tend to the orphans and widows…and all those in between, I will take care of you.”
So, you want me to take care of the messy middle girls?
God did not spell out my next step. At all. He just told me to leave the light on at the door of my heart and make room for the wounded wanderer and all those who might come to me for a little while. And so I did. I focused on the widow and opened my home and my heart for a little pint-size prince that I didn’t get to keep.
And late at night I would write for my messy middle girls and found my tribe and my un-muted voice. I allowed my heart to gravitate to the strong women in leadership, kicking against transition, and I knew my job was to hold her hand and let her know that she was my kind of crazy and that eventually, she would be okay too. I knew that if she could be brave enough to surrender to living life upside down, counter cultural, and set apart…she would be free and happy and fulfilled for the first time in her life.
I am the Ruth to a bunch of Naomi’s wrestling with bitterness and finding the courage to go back home changed and softer, not just used up and mangled on the inside.
I was the woman with her hand outstretched reaching for the hem of His garment; reaching so hard I knew that in time I would have it some kind of healing.
Days unfold and we feel ourselves at the stretching place where we wait and hope in things unseen. We want to become better at the waiting and allow room for hope in the unseen. And then think we are crazy for actually thinking that it will rise from the dusty ashes of having what we thought we wanted taken from us. We are a little spoiled and a little too calculated. And we are definitely way too comfortable, we sit on padded pews and we never have to wonder where we will sleep or if we will have three square meals and all the snacks in between.
We want safe and easy. A, B, and then C.
We want plan A and stomp our foot telling God what plan B should look like.
As if we know better.
We wrestle with people instead of wrestling to be an un-muted voice for those waiting for us to get our crap together and realize that life was never meant to be all about us.
We ask for red flags and warning signs and sometimes we see them waving and know that God calls us to a messy kind of love that hurts and costs us something, if only our need for control.
What God does not need is another controlling woman. He needs a Spirit-controlled woman with an untamed fire inside of her that spurs her to action and getting her hands dirty.
Our bodies fail us, our minds find less space for trivial things like where you put that long list you needed to make to help you stay on track and the even larger task of being all things to all the people becomes less important. Your “people group” becomes smaller even if the number of people that you have been called to serve enlarges.
If we can’t remove some distractions from our life…He will love us enough to remove them for us. And sometimes breaking up with our former life is exactly what we need to usher in change that sets us all the way free.
Lately I have been wrapped up in this passage in Isaiah 61: 3-7 (NKJV) for weeks and these words are impacting me:
He has sent Me:
“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall rebuild ruined cities…instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.”
Maybe all you see in your life is ruins and ruined cities…but God is rebuilding something inside of all of us right now. We trade up with God every time. Instead of shame, double the honor. Instead of confusion we find ourselves rejoicing. Everlasting joy is ours because He wins and we win with Him. Don’t go by what you see, God is in the rebuilding business. Stop fighting with people and start fighting for them. Be the Ruth. Go find the next Ruth. Be the Naomi who refuses to have her named changed to “Bitter”…and give birth to sometime new from what you thought was dried up and in ruins.
Much love to you.
Photo cred: Chelsea Rustad, my incredibly gifted friend with a heart for adooption.
Will you pray for our Ruth and her family waiting for her to come home? Click on the link to find out more about Ruth’s unfolding story. She has a Mom, Dad, and siblings that ache for her to be home. It’s been a long wait and they need you to bombard heaven for them. Let’s fight for our girls.