Chosen

So many times, I’d made the trip to Haiti with the mindset that I was the one helping; the one who was going to make a difference…the one doing the choosing. I was choosing to be there. I was choosing which projects to be a part of. I chose when to engage, and when to distance myself. It only took a handful of times stepping foot onto the orphanage campus for God to shake me awake to the truth that I was never the one in control. Sure, I was there by choice…but long before I became a missionary, I had been chosen. God knew all along exactly how the story would unfold and He chose me to play a part that, years ago, I would have disqualified myself from playing. Not knowing how deeply loved I was by my Heavenly Father, I had taken myself out of the race. When, all along, He was training me for victory.

Raised by two people who didn’t know how to love me, meant I didn’t know how to be loved. I sought it out in all the wrong places, people, and things. I gave myself away until I reached the dark place of being taken, without permission. I lost so much of myself in desperation to feel wanted and cared for. I tried to take my own life in desperation to end the feeling of being alone.

But God had chosen me. And He wasn’t giving up.

Years later, when I began doing missions work, I still didn’t understand my worth. I could lovingly tell others how cherished they were by God but couldn’t seem to comprehend that I was equally as loved as those I was serving. I operated as though I could give something to others that I didn’t have. I tried to speak life into traumatized children when I was still reeling from my own trauma, and didn’t see myself as worthy of my calling. It worked for a short time. I was able to put forth truths about identity as I knew it from God’s Word, all the while not believing I counted as someone it applied to. I had heard The Gospel most of my life, yet still believed the lie that someone like me, who’d been through what I’d been through and done what I’d done, couldn’t possibly be worthy of such unending, relentless love from God. As I got to know the kids more and we formed deeper relationships, I realized I couldn’t speak life into them when I didn’t feel alive. I had to learn who I was in Christ, believe that it was truth (no matter what my past looked like), and then walk it out in everyday life. I needed to be healed.

So many of the children in Haiti hold a special place in my heart and I see each moment with them as an undeserved gift. Slowly, as more of my heart took up permanent residence in this country so far from home, I began to see the calling on my life unfold and grow more comfortable with myself as a daughter of The King. I began to spend more and more time alone with Jesus, studying the meaning behind all the verses I had memorized years before. I began opening myself up in His presence, laying out all the uncomfortable, painful experiences that had built walls between us. Eventually, I was able to see that God had gifted me in ways specially made for the work I was doing. He was taking all that had been broken and was making it beautiful; giving my past pain a purpose. Yet, there were still chains that needed to be broken before I could walk boldly, without fear or insecurity, onto the mission field.

The final shift in my perspective came a few months after meeting Aslin. It started as many relationships in Haiti do for me – through time spent talking and praying, sharing experiences; serving him and his family as best as I knew how, and in whatever way God led me to. What I didn’t see coming was Aslin’s perspective of me…

The young man is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Despite living in poverty all his life, working to take care of his father since the age of twelve, and being traumatized over and over again by things I’ve only seen in nightmares…his faith is the strongest of anyone I know; focused, unwavering, whole-hearted, pure faith that I have always aspired to have. For him, The Gospel isn’t just a story. It’s everything. Jesus is everything. No terror distracts him from his end goal of knowing God more today than he did yesterday. Watching this kind of faith in circumstances so much more devastating than my own…nothing has ever humbled me more. Until the day Aslin called me Mom. 

He chose me. 

Me, who has such little faith; such huge flaws. Me, who is often such a mess on the inside. Me, who has taken for granted the gifts of the shelter, food, and family I come home to after every mission trip. Me, who is still very much in process and doesn’t have all the answers. Me. The same me that had found myself in a car with a bottle of pills and nothing left to give…had just been given one of the most precious titles in life, by one of the most beautiful souls I’d ever met. In that moment, Aslin had shown me Jesus. This undeserved love, this gift of being chosen just as I am, for a position of such honor in the heart of another…this moment took down the walls around my heart and allowed the truth to fully settle in that I am worthy of love. Love without shame, guilt, or condemnation; love without limits and beyond all expectation. 

On the mission field of life, we are chosen. Not because we are smart enough, fast enough, beautiful enough, or pure enough. We are chosen because we are loved. 

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An Honest Conversation

We’ve made it this far. You did it all; picking up my pieces. Every time I fell apart, You were there, steady and full of compassion…even when I was the one causing the hurt.

My heart bears the scars of lies. Yet, my spirit knows Your truth. My mind races as we face another battle; each mountain somehow steeper than the one we last climbed. I am weak. Weighed down by the fighting, I see now that I should have let You fight for me.

You’ve seen it all along, the wall I’ve been building. You knew it was forming long ago; watched as I let fear come between us. I’ve never known the words for it before; the hard to swallow truth: I am angry. Hurt by what I don’t understand.

You experienced it with me; sitting in the basement, waiting for their storm to pass. Listening to the bottles hit the floor, shattering alongside my dreams.

You held my hand when darkness hovered above me, dried my tears at innocence lost. You were there when his hands were around my neck, giving me back my breath at the very last second.

You watched as I sat holding my first baby; heard my voice as I pleaded for mercy…witnessed the same breaking of my heart over my second, third, and fourth children.

You were there for every agonizing moment. You were there. And, every time, You allowed it…You asked me to trust You, as You allowed me to be broken.

I am angry. Hurt by what I don’t understand. Yet, because I know You as Father, as King of my heart, as The One who formed me; who loved me before the earth began. Because You have taken every darkness and turned it into light. Because You have used everything meant for my destruction to build me up into more than I imagined I could ever be. Because You took what my enemies meant for evil and somehow used it to do something good. Because You suffered and died just so that we’d never be separated…

I choose to stay here with You. I choose to believe the unbelievable. I choose to blindly trust. I choose a plan with an ending I can’t yet see; a purpose I don’t yet understand. I choose You, Jesus.

I realize now that there is room in our relationship for these dark and ugly feelings. For my doubts and fears. For my wandering. You can handle it all. You will continue to love me, even when it hurts us both. And You’ll never allow me to settle for less than Your best plans for my life. That kind of love is worth any suffering this life may hold. Nothing can compare to that kind of love. Knowing You is worth it all.

Until my anger subsides and I come to understand…I choose us. It’s time for the wall to come down.

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When Mommy’s On The Mission Field

The dust is still settling on another mission trip to the orphanage in Haiti. Your emotions run high; my heart has been brought low. This is a side of our lives very few understand.

People have been talking (I’m sure you’ve overheard) about Mommy’s choice to work as a part-time missionary, while I’m busy raising you. Not everyone likes my decision to follow this call God’s placed on my life. Not everyone understands how I can manage to serve both you at home, and the children of Haiti, well. I’m here to tell you where my heart is at, though some people may never understand it. I want you to hear it from me…

I live and breathe you. You are my greatest calling; to care for and nurture, not just your bodies, but your hearts…to mold them into hearts after Jesus. I’m called to love you so much that it hurts, to give selflessly in order to equip you; lead you into the life God’s called you to. You are my greatest adventure and my wildest dream. You are pieces of my heart walking around outside my body, and nothing could ever stop me from fighting for you. I have dreamed of and longed for you since I was a child myself, and no one else will ever take your place in my heart.

My life before you was dark. Without Jesus coming to my rescue, I would not have survived it. Today, all that I do for others is the least I can do for Him. Serving my family, my friends, His children near and far…it is one small way I can give back to a God who’s never let go of me. I owe Him my life, and I will always strive to live it for His glory…because He loved me when no one else would.

Because of all that I went through before you were born, I know that the only way to find healing and deep, real joy is to open up your heart to The One who created it. This is why I do what I do. This is why our family makes the sacrifice of my time at home when I am on the mission field: The hearts of the world are hurting, longing to be noticed and cared for, just as I was when He found me. For some children, children just like you, the only chance they may have to feel that life-giving love is through us. We are His light in the darkness.

When I am away from home, my heart remains with you. Nothing can separate my soul from yours; we are intertwined in a way that distance could never impact. Yet, I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. It hurts me too. I miss you terribly and worry about little things I normally do for you when I’m at home. I cry all the way to Haiti, never wanting to be so far away from my babies. The pain can be big. Our God is bigger.

I don’t want to raise you to believe the lie that a mother is “just” a mother. Mothers are capable of so much more than they’re given credit for. It is the most important “job” in the world and, as your mother, I need you to understand that you can be my everything…and I will still have love left over. God’s love, through us, is endless. It covers our family at home, and our “family” in Haiti. It’s because I love you that I want to show you what it means to be compassionate, understanding, charitable, and open-minded. I love you enough to make you aware of the pain and suffering of the world, along with the truth that we, not only can, but need to do something about it. We can make a difference. All we need to do is step out in faith, choose love, and watch God do the rest.

Because I love you, I give you my testimony and my lessons learned. I give you my time and my strength. I give you all that I can and then a little bit more. Because I love you, I give you Jesus…and I try my best to live a life modeled after His love for the lost and the broken. I pray that you will find joy in serving others, that you will see the blessings that come from obedience and determination. The world may never understand or support you when you step out in faith. Don’t be afraid or discouraged…the reward is greater than anything this world can offer.

We never leave the mission field. It exists at home and across the world. When I see you share what you have with the needy so willingly and watch as you comfort those in pain… it fills my heart with indescribable joy.

You are my reward. I love you fiercely, no matter where He calls us.

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The Why: My Heart For Haiti

I’ve always admired missionaries; anyone really, who’s willing to leave the comfort of home and serve the lost and forgotten in places the rest of the world would rather forget. I always longed to be one of those people myself, but I grew up believing I had no place in that world because I wasn’t good enough. I was raised to believe I was a worthless burden and continued to be treated as such well into adulthood. My believing that that’s who I was meant I also believed there was no way I could bring any kind of goodness to anyone. I prayed constantly that God would free me from the abuse and, in exchange, all I’d ever ask for is a healthy family of my own. Today I’m able to say, out of His deep love and tender mercy, He’s given me all I’ve asked for and more.

With that being my background, when I went on my first trip to Haiti, I fully believed I was doing it for my daughter, who had joined our team. In my mind, I was simply giving my child, who has a heart for serving others, the opportunity to learn and grow in that passion. I had no idea that God was going to use my plan for my daughter to reveal His plans for my own life. During that first trip, I had all the joy that comes with serving the kids at the orphanage, but I also had a deep terror knowing that I was being called to more. (Leaving my own family at home is torture, every time.) I could see the same pain in the eyes of those children that I’d lived with my whole life. The more I learned about their stories, and the more I discovered about how they see themselves, the harder God pushed for me to commit to action- Because He’s not a God who sees devastation without building something new out of the ashes. If not for Jesus, my past is just an evil mess. It’s just pain and darkness. But, because He works all things together for the good of those who love Him, my past is now a weapon against the evil that seeks out the souls of the children in that orphanage. My experiences put me in the position to reach these kids for Christ through the power of “Me Too”.

…And that is my heart for Haiti…

God has instructed me to take the trauma I suffered, combined with the trauma training I’m engaging in now, and use it to draw these kids to Himself through relationship. Through connection on an individual basis. Through prayer and play and teaching and suffering alongside them.

In the past, even as a Christian, I had suffered a pain so deep that I felt the need to take my life. And the root of that pain was loneliness. I felt so utterly, completely, hopelessly alone that I wanted to die. There is nothing quite like the pain of feeling unseen, unheard, and uncared for.

Most of these children feel that, in some capacity, every single day.

Knowing what that feels like, and the possible results of that going unchecked, I refuse stand by and do nothing. Especially when God’s commanded I take the leap of faith and dive into the messiness of their situation.

All of Haiti is traumatized. Traumatized parents raising traumatized kids, generation after generation. Much of the reason for this being that the research and knowledge on trauma and it’s effects has not been shared or is unavailable there. If we go in and teach on trauma, educate the staff and caregivers of the orphanage, and help them apply what they’ve learned to how they interact with the children in their care… it would change the lives of the 130 children who live there, who would then grow up to change the way they’d interact with their own children. There’s a ripple effect of healing that could be felt across the entire country, if a few people would simply take the time and effort to invest in caring for God’s people there in this specific way.

Of course it seems like I’m not doing much now… but my hand is in God’s and He’s guiding my steps, one at a time. I’m likely to never see the ripple effects God’s plan for trauma care in Haiti will have, and that’s okay. Faith means trusting in what I cannot see; leaning not on my own understanding. Being in a faithful relationship with Jesus means I walk out on the water, even if my own storm is raging, and trust that He will not only catch me, but will use the storm to further His Kingdom in the lives of those around me.

To Him be the glory.

My heart for Haiti is aligned with God’s heart for all of His children: To see them. To serve them. To love them…because that’s what He did for me.

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When Healing Doesn’t Come

Every test on spiritual gifts I’ve ever taken has resulted in the same answer for strongest gift: Faith. So, when something shakes my faith…it shakes the core of me. It takes me down. Not for long, but it hits hard. Like an ocean overtaking me, there’s a pain inside that colors my whole world dark. I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I can really only cry those tears that burn from the inside out with one question: “Why?!” 

I let my guard down very rarely, if at all. A lifetime of abuse and trauma have built walls I have yet to learn how to tear down. (I’m working on it. Baby steps.) I don’t trust people. But I trust Him. Not because He is God and I should; because He’s earned it.

He held my hand through the fire.

When Dad came home drunk again, Mom took our her rage on me, and I hid in the basement crying with my baby sister…He was there.

When my boyfriend dragged me to the middle of a field, took my clothes from me and abandoned me, naked and alone in the dark of night…He was there.

When my next boyfriend shoved my face into a pillow and raped me…He was there.

When my Dad died of cancer…He was there.

And when I later found out that my family background- my entire origin story- was formed in the midst of unspeakable evil…He was there then, too.

God is the only One who NEVER. LET. GO.

His presence and His word have been the only constant in my life; all that is trustworthy and pure. He holds the entire world in His very capable hands so, if He’d really wanted to, He could’ve left me where He found me. He could’ve turned and walked away when He saw me making bad choices over and over, or when He found me drowning in the choices of others; the ripple effect of sin visible from Heaven. But He didn’t.

He held tight to my hand and whispered His love to my heart until the fire was behind us. He brought me through it all. Not only that, but He has (and is) using every bit of that pain to create a new, beautiful story of redemption and victory; one that enables others to reach out to Him in hope.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been angry with God. Very few times, when something big and painful has happened, have I felt like His hand has come out from beneath me and I have no place to land. I may not have liked what happened. I may have been devastated…But I didn’t blame Him. I trusted that He was there and, eventually, He’d use all that the enemy had planned to hurt me, for good. (Genesis 50:20) 

This past week…I found myself back in unfamiliar territory. Through hot, angry tears, I silently fell at the feet of The Faithful One and laid the pain in my heart before Him: Betrayal. I felt like He’d betrayed me. I took a step of faith, pushing fear aside and trusted that He would answer with a resounding “Yes!” in response to my belief. I had claimed healing…and healing didn’t come.

Where do I go from here? From this place of despair and loneliness; when I can feel the walls around my heart growing taller? How do I get back to my greatest spiritual gift?

I remember.

I choose to remember the truth that the same God who walked me through the fires of life, is still right here next to me when the answer isn’t what I’d expected. The truth that He’s still fighting for me, even when the enemy is trying to convince me that He’s given up. The truth that, every other time my faith was shaken…He brought me from darkness to light. The truth that, even though my mind is filled with fear, my heart knows that He’s never failed…and He’s not going to start now.

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What Now?

What am I supposed to do now?

The more I learn, the less I know you. The less I believe you ever loved me.

I want to scream in your face, let you know just how broken you’ve left every part of me; how you’ve pulled the ground out from beneath me…but I’ll never see you again.

So much lost; just an empty space filled with silent screams. Peace slipped out the door and now all I do is chase it, longing for memories of you to disappear. What felt like connection was just a sugar-coated lie. The truth is blackness, seeping in. You were supposed to protect me. Now I see that all I needed was protection from you.

I said goodbye; mourned and cried over an image of you that’s been shattered. Reality tore apart the truth I clung to; the truth that was never truth at all. Your lies and betrayal just get deeper and darker; I get sick at the thought of you being any part of what knits me together.

When you died, I thought I’d lost a part of myself. Turns out, I don’t know who I am…because of the monster you were.

What am I supposed to do now, Dad?

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Haiti And The Heart Of God

It was my third mission trip to the mountains of Haiti, where an orphanage full of children hold pieces of my heart that I know I’ll never get back. My specific reason for traveling there had been to continue my work individually with a group of children who not only have special needs, but have experienced trauma above and beyond our deepest fears and nightmares. I thought I was at least a little prepared for the week, having begun research on working with those affected by trauma and gearing up for official training on the subject. God had reassured me that, though I still have much to learn, the most important thing I can possibly do is to love them. To hold them and make sure that they begin to understand that someone sees their pain, understands their emotions, knows of their past…and still believes they are destined for greatness. One main goal was to start to build the bridge of hope and trust; to prove to them that I value them and am committed for the long haul. To begin to share bits of my own personal story of trauma and meet them in the pain. There are few words more powerful than, “You are not alone.”

I soon learned that there is no preparation for hearing stories of the devastation of those you love. Though I’ve been through abuse, rape and other physical and emotional trauma myself, nothing could have prepared my heart for what I’d learn about the people of Haiti. Stories of the past experiences of these precious children hit my heart with violent force and, even after my return to the states, have left me with pain that weighs heavy and often overtakes me. To go back to “life as normal” feels impossible. In a matter of moments, everything had changed. I had changed…and there’s no going back.

I have moved through the past few days in a fog. I go from desperately praying through tears, to becoming numb and not finding the words or strength to pray at all. The enemy’s been whispering temptations to fall into old habits of coping with this level of pain. More times than I can count, sudden urges to drink the pain away or put up walls of seclusion from family and friends have felt impossible to resist. Yet, I’m held by a God who is using this very pain to draw me to Himself. And so I remain still and focused on The One who’s called me from darkness to light.

I’m finding it hard to sum up this trip for those who’ve supported me; to express in words what happened and how God worked in and through me. All that I keep coming back to is the reality that, in feeling this ocean of pain for these children, I’m being given a small glimpse into the heart of God. The pain of His people stirring more and more compassion within and transforming me into someone whose past no longer defines her, but glorifies her Savior and brings healing to the hearts of others. This gift is beyond words and worth every sacrifice. I’m humbled that a calling like this would be placed on my life; infinitely thankful that His grace is taking what was once death and destruction and replacing it with victory. My heart will ever belong to Jesus…The One who loved me at my darkest.

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