Monthly Archives: November 2012

My Brokenness: A Billboard of His Grace – Part 2

Part 2

My sense of independence, strength, and ability had been completely rattled.

And then the ground of Haiti shook.

I felt the Port-au-Prince earthquake and aftershocks from over one hundred miles away.

My trauma was nothing compared to those in the epicenter. Why were they dealing with life and death, and I was dealing only with fear?

And yet… it was one more thing.

One more thing on top of past events and on top of my recent anxiety.

One more thing rendering me helpless — completely dependent on God’s grace.

And the shaking of the earth that left me — and Haiti — even more fragile…

…was the parting of the seas.

Just like the Hebrews, I trembled in both fear and awe as miracles happened

in the face of disaster:

Our three Haitian children and hundreds of other orphans,

held “captive” by years of paperwork, were

released

by the Haitian government to their American families.

That’s grace.

In the face of all that’s horrible, unfathomable, and terrifying, there was beauty.

That’s our God.

It was the “fullness of time” for our family. I brought the kids to the U.S., while Jarod worked to bring relief to Port-au-Prince.

I had just recently been reduced to nothing. And yet God enabled me to travel through Haiti under conditions I would never have agreed to on my best day. Literally every breath was a prayer. And every prayer was answered. God was there, correcting every anxious thought, showing me His grace.

He was present in every dramatic moment.

And then?

The drama finally ended.

But the anxiety did not.

For over two years I looked normal. Most everyone believed I was fine. I kept expecting my fears to subside, but they only grew.

I refused to drive. I managed to manipulate schedules and plans to avoid being the driver.

I hated confining spaces. In church or public places I made sure I had an exit strategy or sat by a window.

I hated being alone. I was afraid I’d go completely crazy if there wasn’t someone else around to interact with.

I was certain we were on the verge of another catastrophe – I kept waiting for “the other shoe to drop.”

I hated the way my heart thudded, even hurt, as I drifted off to sleep and as I awoke. I hated the wave of panic that hit me every time I braved Wal-mart or a restaurant.

But the derealization was the worst. The sense of detachment — of feeling dissociated from my own self and my own life completely terrified me. And that caused my heart to pound and hurt and a new wave of panic to wash over me.

I slept to temporarily escape from fear, from the weird dream-quality my life had taken on.

I took vitamins to build myself back up from the stress of the past years.

More significantly, I reached for my Bible again, again, again, and again.

I could perform Martha’s duties no more.

I sat, like Mary, hungry for hope, for encouragement, for truth.

I questioned.

I knew my pain was so small compared to the millions still suffering in Haiti. I knew millions more suffered around the globe. I hated sin and evil and their consequences. I found myself wishing along with Job that I had never been born. After all, “…man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). If I was miserable in the comforts of the U.S., how did anyone in the face of true suffering find the hope to continue on?

But I haven’t been the first one to ask those questions.

“… the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Ps. 103:13-14)

“I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord.” (Ps. 118:17)

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” (Ps. 46:1-3)

On a plane one day — nearly overcome by panic, I found Psalm 34.

I prayed that it would eventually be my testimony.

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.

17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Advertisements

My Brokenness: A Billboard of His Grace — Part 1

Part 1

Part of me would love for the billboard of my life to dazzle you. There would be a beautiful (airbrushed) picture of me in the background and then tasteful, humble summaries of my wisdom, endurance, brilliance, strength, talent, and godliness.

Such a billboard of me, however, would only disgust you, and rightly so.

The truth is, I am nothing, absolutely nothing, except by the grace — the undeserved favorof God.

If my life is a billboard, it is a billboard of God’s grace. He is dazzling.

—–

But he said to me,

 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,

 

so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

(2 Corinthians 12:9)

—–

I was a pretty strong person. A pretty good Type A missionary… by God’s grace.

I lived in Haiti for eight years, in a constant state of smelly, humid drippy-ness, where there is no air-conditioning, electricity is sporadic, and food has to be bought in the open market and made by scratch.

I became the mother of five children in three years:

One child talked non-stop.

One had special needs and asked for water every five minutes, needed help going to the bathroom every fifteen minutes, and wanted a toy re-tied to a rope every three minutes.

One enjoyed emptying lotion and soap bottles.

One dipped her lollipops in the dog’s parasite-ridden water bowl.

And the last one wailed whenever I set him down.

I home schooled for a while.

I hosted interns, groups, and American, Canadian, Venezuelan, Dominican, and Haitian friends anywhere from days to years.

I was involved in children’s ministries and a Bible study with deportee families. I did lots of extra things that took on lives of their own.

Due to an adoption process that stretched into its ninth year, “furloughs” or extended breaks in the U.S. were not an option.

God called me to most of those ministries and circumstances, and He gave me the strength and grace I needed to serve.

When I became too “Martha-like” and crossed the line from being called (doing what God wanted me to do in His strength) to being driven (doing what I wanted to do in my own strength), life was even more difficult.

Too often I sacrificed the well-being of myself and my family for the sake of my Type A pride.

Through the good and the bad though, God poured out His grace. The truth was, I couldn’t have done any of it, were it not for the power of His Spirit. He enabled me to be strong.

—–

Until He allowed me to become weak.

His grace remained, but the way He manifested it changed completely.

It was time for me to hang on His every word beside Martha’s sister, Mary.

—–

January 1st, 2010, after an ordinary phone conversation with my family in the U.S., I felt a bizarre feeling flood my entire body.

Panic.

I sank onto my bed.

I had been acquainted with heart-pounding, stomach-knotting fear of real danger, but this was my first encounter with irrational fear.

I had no choice but to let the feelings wash over me. After several minutes I was left in a cold sweat, breathless, and weak.

I begged God to lift the lingering feeling of doom, but minutes and hours turned into days, and the heaviness remained, the “attacks” continued. I felt like I’d been abducted and placed in a strange new world, where something horrible was lurking behind every corner.

Despite my prayers, my heart continued to pound. My anxiety began to debilitate me. Driving scared me. Being home without my husband worried me. Music in a minor key filled me with dread. Nighttime overwhelmed me.

I was helpless. All I could do was sit at the feet of Jesus.

His words were life.

He was the Solid Rock.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

(Psalm 139: 7-12)

I didn’t know that my darkness would grow heavier before it lifted.

I didn’t know that it would last for over two years.

I didn’t know that the Port-au-Prince earthquake was only days away.

I didn’t know that everything in my life was about to change.

—–

But I did know that His right hand was holding me.

I did know that darkness and light were both alike to God.

I would learn that His grace was sufficient.

Your Grace Still Amazes Me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNClAJO2tnQ

On Being “Type A”

“There are NOT enough hours in the day!” — Me, everyday.

Can you relate? Have you ever thought of yourself as a “Type A” person? I never did. But then I took a revealing quiz in the book, The Hidden Link Between Adrenaline and Stress by Dr. Archibald Hart. (Sounds thrilling, I know.)

Well, it turned out that I was Type A and the use of that little phrase was part of the proof.

I always thought Type A people were the very best kind of people. They were the ones I looked up to and strove to emulate. They were busy saving the world. But Dr. Hart’s perception was not so complimentary. He brought up the point that Martha in the Bible was a classic example of Type A. Jesus wasn’t.

I have learned the hard way — not just from Dr. Hart’s book — that living on adrenaline has some serious consequences. My payback — Adrenal Fatigue, resulting in:

– Panic attacks

– Anxiety

– Derealization  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derealization)

Now, granted, I spent eight years in Haiti, and some fairly traumatic events came into play leading up to my adrenal fatigue, but when I stop and look back at my tendencies, I can see that my choices and my perspectives as a Type A person kind of propelled me off the cliff. The cliffs of insanity? (Thanks, Princess Bride) Yes, that’s what it felt like. It was terrifying.

My advice to you (and me) today? Read the story of Jesus, Mary, and Martha beginning in Luke 10:38. Don’t be like Martha and me.

Part 1 of this missionary’s tale coming soon…

Do You Need A Listening Ear?

redchairs

I wish I could pull up a chair and listen to what’s on your heart. Chances are, it’s something pretty big. And chances are, you’re having trouble finding someone who’s willing to listen, empathize, and share in your pain.

I’ve been there… a few times.

One such time was after Brendan, our fifth child, was born to my husband and me in Haiti, where we’d been missionaries for three years. I was already managing our twin seven-year-olds, one with special needs, our four-year-old, and our seventeen-month-old.

Brendan was colicky and demanding, the weather was unbearable, and I experienced a sense of oppression (or depression) like never before. I felt completely trapped. I felt claustrophobic, even outdoors. We couldn’t leave Haiti for a break, because we were in the process of adopting our oldest three children, and their paperwork was forever stuck.

I despaired. All I could see ahead of me were years of exhaustion.

For the first time in my life I felt no hope that tomorrow or the next day, or any day after that would be any better. For the first time ever, I understood why people would consider suicide. That sounds melodramatic from this point of view seven years later, but back then I had lost perspective.

SONY DSC

I longed for someone to listen to me. Really listen.

Not just listen for two minutes and then offer advice and cheery words like, “Oh, just enjoy these years with your little ones!  They will fly by!” I wanted someone to get it. The funny thing was, I was surrounded by wonderful people. I did have a community of friends, a husband who loved me, and family in the U.S. praying faithfully for me. I wasn’t alone, yet I didn’t feel understood.

I began to grow bitter, wondering why people weren’t helping me. But if they did help, I found myself thinking, “Too little, too late!” When someone would have only five minutes to talk on the phone, instead of being grateful for their gesture of love, I was angry that they could not give more.

I placed heavy expectations on those around me and enjoyed a perverse sense of satisfaction when they failed to meet those expectations. I was miserable.

And in my misery, God reached down to me with a Psalm I had never yet really understood, for all its popularity.

Psalm 23 (NIV)

1) The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

 

2) He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

This grabbed me. The idea of someone letting—no, making me lie down sounded too good to be true!

 

3) he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Here I stopped and cried. My soul was completely dried up. There I was in Haiti as a missionary no less, supposed to being walking “in paths of righteousness,” but unable to do anything to please God because I was so depleted. I begged God to restore my soul.

 eyeofstorm

4) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

I wasn’t dying (except to self), but I perceived my surroundings as the “valley of the shadow of death.”  There was plenty of evil around me to fear. Our nights were serenaded by voodoo drums — part of the neighborhood voodoo ceremonies inviting demon involvement and even possession.

5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

God would prepare a table for me? All day long I was preparing the table for our family of seven. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner — everything was made from scratch, because that’s the only way to cook in Haiti. Every meal was me serving them: cutting their food, giving them seconds before I’d taken a bite, spooning things into their mouths, wiping up spills, listening to complaints about the food!  The idea of God preparing a table for me to feast at — even the figurative picture of it — humbled and amazed me.

 

6) Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I had been completely convinced that “burdens and weariness would follow me all the days of my life and that I would live in Haiti in misery forever.” But God offered me goodness and love and His house.

Change was not instantaneous. I had established a pattern of thinking negatively, and I still had a lot of stress in my life, but God was at work. I meditated on Psalm 23 day after day. When I was tempted to despair, I would come back to Him again, pleading with Him to restore my soul.

And He did.

boatinwater

Over the days, weeks, and months, His Holy Spirit restored my joy and peace.

God proved to me that His ear was always listening.

I began to realize that no one on the face of the earth could have listened well enough to satisfy me.

Yes, anyone who did listen was a blessing and helped point me to the One Best Listener, but no one else could have restored my soul.

Do you need a listening ear? Like I said, I would love to offer mine—and if you really don’t have a person you can talk to, write me and I’ll listen to you and pray for you. But the Lord’s offer to listen is even better.

Not only will He listen, He will restore your soul.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8)

%d bloggers like this: