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When Hope Is Too Heavy

My mother came into my room on May 2nd, 2000. She gently touched my shoulder to wake me from a nap. As I rolled over and caught a glimpse of her face, I immediately knew what had happened. “Big Grandpa died, didn’t he?” I watched a tear roll down her face as she said, “Yes. He’s gone.” Big Grandpa Earl’s passing started me on a course I never expected, wanted, or realized I would have to walk. The day of his funeral, my cousin Chelsea and I stood by our parents alongside his casket and greeted the hundreds of visitors flowing in to say goodbye to their friend. For me, that was the day my mind started to turn towards the reality of life on this earth.

Cinnamon Rolls, grilled cheese sandwiches, pie crust rolled out with cereal bags and endless games of marbles. Nana died in 1988, but our family was given a great gift four years later: Grandma Edith. Gram. She loved us as her own and we loved her back. She was always willing to be silly and never said no to, “Grandma, can you make me a grilled cheese?”, even IF it was 10:00pm! We had 20 years with Gram. On November 1st, 2011, I stood by her bed, held her hand, told her it was ok to go, and watched her leave this place of pain. It wasn’t an easy passing, to say the least, but that is all behind her now. She will never suffer, mourn, or cry again.

Every morning was the same. As he drew back the covers and slid his legs off the bed so his feet were firmly planted on the ground, he started his prayers. We heard and listened every morning. His words were muffled so that only God could understand him, but we could hear his voice rise in his bedroom as he praised the Lord for another day. When his prayers were finished, he would shower and usually put on the same jeans and pearled button farm shirt he wore the day before. It was probably a slow fade we knew was coming, but his passing still felt so fast. I called his sons on Wednesday and he was gone by the weekend. I sat by his bed as much as I could. He was frail and confused. The last word out of his mouth was my name. I had stepped away for a reason I can’t remember today, but was immediately drawn back as he yelled, “Megan?!” The family sat down for the eldest grandson’s birthday, but my heart knew he was leaving. I stood at the counter, watching him. In the blink of an eye his breathing changed and as I got closer I could hear the dreaded “death rattle”. I held his hand, the family gathered around his bed, and we sang some of his and our favorite songs. Before he left us, we watched him see Angels, Jesus, wives, and friends. On March 10th 2012, he breathed his last as we sang, “sweet Beulah land”. We had him for 55 of his 80 years, but my heart broke feeling as though it wasn’t enough. Grandpa Paul changed my life in ways I can never explain and while I know I will see him again, hug him again, kiss him again, the pain remains……until we meet again on the far side banks of Jordan.

His whole body shook as he laughed when I said, “Grandpa, you have hair up your nose.” He was kind, smart, inquisitive, brilliant, and funny. He loved deeply and almost always spoke in kindness. Grandpa Sharp’s final days weren’t easy on anyone, but as we held his hand, sang his favorite song, and assured him it was ok to go, he exhaled into the arms of Jesus. We kissed his cheeks and whispered we would see him again. He was a carpenter, just like The God he worshipped. The spice rack he made me is hanging in my kitchen with the roosters that hold recipes cards on top, waiting to be used. The polished lazy susan sits on my table holding succulents, napkins, and salt&pepper. The oval, velvet lined keepsake box sits on my dresser, and his tulips are scattered around the house- a reminder of his love for the craft, Jesus, and me. And his final collection of funds for missions sits on my dresser, taped shut so that his gifts would remain the same as the day he died, August 13th, 2012.

Dishpan cookies, a giant amount of quail, Pepsi, and the lake. Before “Big Earl” died, Great-Grandma Catherine was the queen of cookies, comfort, fun, and learning in the garden. I will forever remember those summer days with her in the garden snapping green beans. Such a simple task that meant so much to me. Even after she left the farm, she remained family. I am so thankful I was able to see her many times before she died. My father and I sang, “One Day At A Time” at her funeral while we mourned our loss and celebrated her gain. As we all laid her to rest, we asked Jesus to give us the strength to press on, one day at a time, just as she had until November 18th, 2012.

The children were rescued from the brothels, the ladies were, too, and the teenagers carried the weight of rape and loss every minute they breathed. There was neglect. Abuse. Anger. Violence. Pain. Investigations. But there was also joy, laughter, music, dancing, acceptance of Jesus, fun, beauty, and peace. October 7th, 2014 changed my life forever. In the shadows of the valley, we had to leave behind the women and children we loved and lost. And to this day, we grieve of the great loss we are not permitted to share. We said our final goodbyes in May 2015, but the stories and smiles hang on the walls of our home so that we will never, ever forget.

For the majority of her life, she wasn’t the greatest mother nor always the kindest of women. We learned too late in life why she was the way she was. She had an undiagnosed and completely untreated mental health disease. Once identified and continually treated she still had moments of anger, but for the most part, she was the grandmother I had always hoped she would be. We talked, we laughed, we cried, we cuddled, and we said our goodbyes every time I left. It hurts to think about how her life could have been if Mental Healthcare had not been such a taboo in her generation. She could be so cruel, but she was also so very loving in the end. Grandma Nora “Lottie” met Jesus face to face on June 27th, 2015. We wore our black dresses and southern hats the day we laid her to rest in a Veteran’s cemetery with the husband she adored.

She was the one everyone admired; the one who understood more than most. The one who seemed serious but in reality she was hilarious, adventurous, down to earth. This friend was deeply grounded in Christ. With her surgical skills, awards and accommodations, she could have had ANY job in the country. She could’ve been a real life, Meredith Grey. But instead of taking a high-paying surgical attending position, she moved to Zambia and filled an empty spot around an operating table in a place that really needed her. She was incredible and everyone loved her. A few days after I moved to Charlotte, we all got the news. Cancer. She fought so hard and continued to encourage the people who loved her. Even as her body began to shut down, she sent updates that went all over the world. Her heart for Jesus as she performed surgeries and then as she laid in bed waiting for eternal healing, saved hundreds if not thousands, of lives. People ran to Jesus because she did. After 6 months of her battle, Jesus took her Home in January of 2016. We all cried and we all mourned, but we also rejoiced that she wasn’t in pain and she never would be again. We knew Sweet Sarah was still singing, smiling, and at total peace with the God she faithfully served for so many years.

It started with terrible exhaustion. She had to be careful at every red light or she would fall asleep. From there the symptoms started to pile up. Her legs stopped working, her body began shutting down, and her quality of life was quickly rolling towards her grave. Lyme disease came like a thief in the night. It came. It attacked. It stayed. It ruined. It almost won. In some ways it did…..She used to be organized and the one with the reminders stored in her brain, but now information slips from her grasp and she’s left with questions she knows she already asked. She used to sing. She used to sing really well. She was highly trained in vocal performance, but music was more than that for her. It was the way she processed, expressed emotions, grieved, rejoiced, and felt peace. Now her lungs won’t allow a full song. Her throat rebukes the range she used to have. Her eyes can barely see the music and her brain forgets the lyrics. Many believe it will come back, but she knows the truth… *

A friend described him as wildly inappropriate, but wise and kind. He was the tallest man in the department and maybe the whole campus. He seemed to rarely be at his desk, but that usually meant he was off gisting with colleagues- encouraging them to press on. We talked here and there about our desire to come together and help usher in a new approach of racial reconciliation. We shared notes and emails of articles we had found and the things we took away from it. He asked for my thoughts of the continuing divide between white Americans and black Americans and the apathy many churches have settled into. Although we still had so much more to talk about, we both knew we wanted to be in the fight towards reconciliation. An older black man and a young-ish white woman. When I came into the office on Monday, July 17th, 2017 he came over to me, said we still had so much to talk about and kissed me on the cheek. The following Friday he died in his sleep.  We never got to finish our conversations, but even in his dying and the service his family planned, my dear friend showed us how the African/Black American community shows up in death. One week of mourning followed by a day of pure celebration. While we wore black, his family wore white. I will never forget that stark contrast of black and white- skin and clothes- all crying, singing, and worshipping together as the body of Christ- the Church in Her perfectly designed colorful form.

*Sepsis came faster than any of us could understand. First Malaria came to kill, but she survived. Next, her lungs developed an unidentified infection, but she survived. Then Chronic Lyme Disease came out of remission, Late-Stage, but she survived. And finally, sepsis came. But again, she survived. She survived it all, but she never felt lucky or blessed or “needed more than others”. How could she when someone she loved died every time she survived….*

Blonde hair, a trampoline, pop-up camper, races across the parking lot between my house and Aunt Betty’s, countless sleepovers, Ace of Base, Dixie Chicks, TLC, Destiny Child, Mariah Carey, and Space Jam’s, “I believe I can fly!”. It was 1996 when I gained not only a best friend but a sister. We went through so much together; holding on to promises, rescuing one another from the clutches of bad men, keeping sisterly secrets, like most teenagers do with their best friends. Love, honor, respect, empathy, laughter, and heroism. Twenty-two years together. Twenty-two years of “defending” our sisterhood. Only twenty-two years. And then in a flash, she was gone; taken from us in the worst way on March 26th, 2018- just a few days after my battle with sepsis and my 32nd birthday. Now we live with our memories of her and the lives she changed. Her laugh still rings in my ear almost every hour of the day. But if I remember that she is still laughing and eternally at peace, a smile will form across my face instead of tears down my cheeks. She was the love of my life and I was the love of hers. It may sound strange to some, but we didn’t care. There was a bond between us that could never be broken. I’ve heard it said, “When you’ve lost the love of your life, you love life, less”. Thankfully, joy can be found even in sorrow. My sister taught me that.

A cowboy, rancher, son, brother, husband, father, uncle, and friend. He and Uncle L were my father’s best friends for 43 years. So he was always Uncle to me. He smoked like he drank and he smiled like he didn’t have a care in the world. Every November he would help run the Junior Collegiate Livestock Judging Contest alongside a team of men and women he loved and trusted; my father, uncle L, and I included. All three of these men helped me navigate the world of livestock, contest rules, reasons for the rankings, and cowboys who had a few too many. Some of my favorite memories with him will only be shared with those who were there or those I know he’d tell anyway. Mint Juleps, Ponies, Angus Cattle, Elvis, Christmas Tree girl, late-night Meyers runs and jokes that I either smacked him for or laughed till I almost peed. He was a very curious man, but it wasn’t until his deathbed that he gave his life to Christ. So many of us breathed a sigh of relief when we heard the news. It meant this wasn’t our final goodbye. Uncle T died just a short while later, June 21st, 2018, but because of Christ, it isn’t final. On a Wednesday afternoon, a man showed up to visit Uncle Tom. As he walked into the hospital room, Uncle T raised his hand so he could speak before the visitor did. “You’re too late. It’s done”, he said. The visitor told my father this story about a month after the funeral. He said, “You don’t know me, but I knew Tom. You got done what I had come to do.” The man was there to share the gospel with his old friend one last time, but by the time he got to the hospital, Uncle T had already asked for and accepted forgiveness in Christ that very morning after one last “spiritual” meeting with my father.

*…While she was in the throes of treatment and continued uncertainty of her future, she never had the capacity to hold on to hope. So others carried it for her. Although she still feels completely alone most days, she knows she now has the ability to reach for hope. She’s recovering, in fact, she’s on her way to remission, but she isn’t the same woman she once was. Trauma and tragedy change everyone, but there has been too much loss in the last 6 years of her life to ever fully be the woman others remember.


 

A few days ago I read the passage below for what was probably the 500th time I recited the verse, I absorbed something from it I had never noticed before.

“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

So many times in my life, especially the last 6 years, hope has been too heavy to carry. So heavy in fact I couldn’t even bear to think about hope. But in this passage from Romans 5, we are shown HOW to hope when our hope is gone. We rejoice, boast, turn, look to the hope of GOD while we suffer, so that hope will be formed into our personal character. In other words, we cannot find hope or be hopeful people in times of trauma, tragedy, or crisis, if we do not FIRST simply turn towards the hope God promises we will see in Him. Hoping in Him, or even acknowledging that He Himself holds out hope for us, is the only way we will ever be able to carry the weight of hope while living in a world that feels hopeless.

For the first time in 6 years, hope doesn’t feel as heavy as it once did. Because now I understand, in order to press on, we must turn towards the One who GIVES hope so that we might find it.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” -John 10:10

A Letter To Me

Dear Me,

I know you’re ready to quit. I know you want to give up. I see how hard you’re fighting just to make it through one more day. I see the pain, the deep, debilitating, horrendous pain. I see your joints swell up and your muscles fill with fluid. I see the unknown phantom pain that cripples you when it hits. I see the dark circles of exhaustion hiding underneath your eyes, the red rashes on your bruised skin, your pixie hair fighting to stay on your head. And I see how you walk. You stumble and stay slow. I hear the imperfections in your speech, the loss of comprehension, and I see how many words and ways you have forgotten. I see you wake in the morning, your brain slowly and then suddenly realizing the pain in your body. I see you pause at the bedroom door, gripping the doorknob, disappointed that Jesus didn’t come for you, knowing you have to go on another day. I see you stretching in the kitchen, your muscles shaking under the weight as your pray they hold on long enough for the coffee to brew.

And I know you’ve lost hope. I know how scary and painful it is to even try and hope right now. But I also see how much you want to have hope. You want to believe there is more than suffering in front of you. Even now you think, “But what if there is not?”

But dear hurting girl, I am you. I am the part of you that believes. I am the girl who remembers. I am the girl who loved to sing. I am the girl who knew life was hard but believed it could still be good. I am the girl who lived in Nigeria, ate street fish, walked the brothels of Jos, climbed the rocks to see the city at sunset, helped deliver two babies to girls I loved, and made the angry military guards laugh. I am the girl who loved to laugh. I am the girl who would dance with her friends at weddings, who made a fool of herself in public just for fun. I am the girl who was learning to play guitar. I am the writer. The one with the words sewn up in my soul. The author of children’s tall tales and short stories from the field. I am the portion of your heart that hasn’t let go of the hope. I have rooted my hope in Jesus Christ and even when you have not been able to hold on, my foundation has never been shaken.

Dear girl, there are better days ahead. I know your unbelief but my faith is strong enough for the both of us. There are days ahead where you will feel great, you will do great, and you will be great. There are days ahead where your arms will hold the children you dream of, where you sit with broken-hearted women and tell them about Jesus, and where You see first hand the work of the Lord all over the world. There will be days where pain doesn’t greet you in the morning light. Where your body can move and dance and exercise. Where you can lift your hands in praise without worry of falling.

It’s true, I don’t know when these days will come, but I know they will. Please don’t give up on me. We are worth the fight. And please remember we do not fight alone. The Lord is on our side. Even when You doubt, He battles for you.

Keep going dear one. There are better days ahead.

Love,

Me

My Conviction and The Election

I had just flown in from Indiana back to my home in Charlotte and I was lost in long-term parking. This was the first time a friend wouldn’t be picking me up; the first time I felt strong enough to drive myself home. After I used the majority of my energy walking up and down the lower alphabet of parking aisles, I stopped to catch my breath, and grab my phone to make a call. It was well after midnight so when the flashing lights came on behind me, I have to admit I jumped a little.

A man slowly pulled up next to my luggage and asked if I needed help. I knew immediately from the man’s accent he was from West Africa, but I could not place the country. After driving me through more car lots, finding my car, and loading my suitcases into my trunk, I asked him where he was originally from.

“Ghana,” he said, “West Africa. You know it?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I lived in Nigeria for awhile.”

“Oh!! Igbo or Lagos?!” He asked.

“Haha, no no, I was in Jos, Plateau State.”

“Oh yes!” He said. “But don’t they do a lot of killing there?!”

My new Ghanaian friend and I jisted for a few minutes more about language and culture. I thanked him profusely, gave him a tip for his troubles, and was on my way. It wasn’t until I was almost to my front door when it hit me. That uncomfortable, nauseous feeling of conviction. I’d done it again. I wanted to kick myself. Standing there in the parking lot in lane 3 of section W, I had been given a great opportunity to tell someone WHY I was in Nigeria and WHO I believed in. I had the chance to talk about Jesus with someone that might not know Him, who has likely been the victim of hateful speech, and I didn’t take it. It wasn’t that I thought about doing it and didn’t. It was that the thought didn’t even cross my mind until it was to late.

Last night our nation elected a 45th president. The winner wasn’t who was expected to win. And he certainly wasn’t the one I wanted to win but, I do not feel defeated today. If anything I am only more convicted.

I am more impassioned to speak out against hate.

To my friends who are Latino or African American, your life matters. To my friends and neighbors from war-torn countries, refugees and immigrants, I hope you are able to stay. To my gay friends and straight friends, you are worthy of love and friendship. To my strong female friends, you are not too much or too little. You are just enough. To my friends with disabilities, you are deserving of respect and kindness. To my dear friends who have walked the road of sexual assault, our pain and our healing matters. It was never okay.

And because these things may not be common knowledge in every home, city, school, or workplace, I am more determined to speak up about Jesus.

To those feeling we are without hope, take a breath and dry your tears. To those losing heart: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  2 Cor. 8-9

The death of this nation, of this world, and of our sinful hearts has already been overcome. Jesus won it all so that you might know how high, how wide and how deep is the love of God for you.

My prayer for those of us surprised by last night’s finale is that we would turn from any anger or sorrow and instead tell our friends and neighbors more of Jesus. May we not walk away from any conversation feeling conviction or regret for not sharing the gospel message.

 

 

 

 

 

Is He Really Good?

I’ve had this conversation more times than I can count with people from all walks of life. The Optimistic Pastor, The Grieving Friend, The Dying Healer, The Strong-Minded Professor, The Grace-Giving Therapist, The Angry Teenager, and The Abused Woman.

When there is nothing good in your life, when it has all fallen apart, when everyone has walked away, or everything you once knew taken away from you, does God remain to be good?

I believe too many of us raised in the church are too quick to jump in and say, “Of course He is!” and usually add the comment drenched in shame, “How could you ask such a thing?!” We place blame on the suffering mother instead of listening to her story; finding out why she is asking the question in the first place.

To be completely honest, I have been struggling with the realities of the life I have been given to live and my belief in the goodness of the Creator. I think of the story when John the Baptist was in prison. John was feeling alone, abandoned, and was suffering unimaginable things in a cold, dark cell away from anyone of comfort. So he reached out to the One whom He has trusted all along.

Matthew 11:2-6 says, “When John who was in prison heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is proclaimed in the port. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’ “

If you are like me, you were hoping for a rescue mission to end the story. Maybe something out of the latest Jason Bourne movie or Mission Impossible. But that’s not what happens. Jesus doesn’t come for John. Jesus leaves him there. And tells him not to fumble. How do we find the goodness of God in situations like this?


 

My family and I were staying at the farmhouse a few weeks ago. My Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Siblings were in town to attend an awards ceremony for my father the night before. I had tried to stay downstairs as long as I could. I tried to pay attention and enjoy the laughter and stories of my cousins. The boy who is headed to Greece this summer, the girl accepted to a medical program in Asia next year, the woman signing the lease to her first apartment, and the young married couple flying overseas, as they do most summers. But the fatigue was too great and I had to take to my guest bedroom.

My Aunt climbed the stairs to my bedroom at the old farm house. An activity that was just as hard on her as it was me. Before we even said hello, she crawled into bed with me. As she settled in she snapped her Cochlear Implants into place, making sure she heard every word I said.

She knows what pain is, what life looks like when your body betrays you, when you lose pieces of yourself suddenly and slowly. She knows it. Yet all she wanted to do was encourage me. She said in times like this, it’s impossible to hold on to things you once believed; things you once hoped for.

She said, “So when everything else is gone, cling to what you know. God loves you. You needn’t believe anything else but that. He loves you, Meg.” 


 

There are going to be times in our lives when we can’t see the goodness. When all that looms in front of us is darkness, despair, and pain. There may be times even where we can’t find God. Some would argue we’re not looking hard enough, but I might ask those well-meaning people, “How dark was your darkest moment?”

It’s true, the Lord’s light will always overcome the darkness. But if we can’t see it, how do we pass through?

I believe it’s by clinging to what we know. This is different than what we believe. What we believe has feeling behind it, passion, hope. What we know are things we refuse to let go of, even if we have little proof left in our hearts. These are truths that the thought of life without them scares us more than the darkened road we’ve been asked to trod.

My mind may be screaming chaos at me every moment of the day and night. And my heart might feel colder than an Indiana winter, but I know that if loosen my grip on what I know to be true, that God loves me deeply, my mind and heart may never be restored.

I was reminded in my quiet time this morning that the Lord’s presence is not dependent on our awareness of Him. We do not have to feel He is near, for Him to be near. So I tighten my fingers around His love. I squeeze until my knuckles turn white. And I promise myself I will not forget. When I can’t see goodness, when I can’t feel His love, when I can’t hear His voice, I cling to what I know, that He loves me.

And if today you are like me, you are weary. You feel like you have searched and searched for Jesus so long your legs feel broken, your arms to weak to reach out, and your heart far to wounded to hope again, then I urge you to stop. Don’t tell yourself to keep going. The truth is, when you are sick with fatigue and maybe even despair, you do not have to go find Him. The unmatchable love of God promises that if we simply say, “Jesus, please come find me”, He will come running. He will leave the 99 to search for the injured one.

Jesus may not have rushed to John’s prison cell, but He did not ignore John’s cry. He answered with assurance He is who He says He is. John clung to what he knew and he died confessing the love of God. If you are the one injured sheep today, or the suffering believer, cling to what you know and ask Him to come find you. He will come to you one way or another. But He will come.

You Were Always The Girl

I’ve been thinking of this post for a quite few days now but I haven’t been able to start it. I was hoping I’d be farther into the “lesson learned” stage, rather than “learning the lesson”. However, I’m starting to realize if I wait until then, I will never write what I am now.

I’ve said so many times that things of this world should not, and do not matter when we look through the eyes of eternity. But when everything I had known, everything I thought I was, started coming apart at the seams and falling out of my hands, I grieved for what I had said did not matter.

I started feeling pretty ill in December but I was able to muster up just enough strength to continue on in my work in ministry. I even traveled home to visit supporters for two weeks, and attended a large conference for college students at the start of the new year. But come January, everything changed.

In just one weekend, while traveling for work again in Atlanta, GA, I went from holding a conversation with an eager new missionary, to collapsing in a fetal position behind our display booth unable to move or even communicate well. From that weekend on, life looked a lot different than it ever had before.

First, my driving privileges were revoked due to uncontrollable fatigue and loss of consciousness. Then my legs became too weak to walk long distances and a wheelchair was added to my car’s trunk for outings or doctor visits. Next came the pain, insomnia, hair loss, confusion, neurological malfunctions, shaking, and increased weakness. And this month, I lost my hair.

Some might say the pain would be the hardest to manage. But honestly, it was my hair. I thought I was strong enough for the cut. I believed it could empower me to feel ok about myself at a time I had zero independence. But when it all came off, I felt like all my dignity, and not to mention beauty, was taken from me.

This is the “lesson learning” part of the story. After 8 days of hair less than one inch and months of continual care, I’m still wrestling with and grieving the loss of my self-declared dignity.

Author Thomas Chalmers said, “Such is the grasping tendency of the human heart, that it must have a something to lay hold of-and which, if wrested away without the substitution of another something in its place, would leave a void and a vacancy as painful to the mind, as hunger is the the natural system….The heart must have something to cling to…”

I have heard the phrase, “You were always the girl with gorgeous hair”, more times than I can count. But now, while on this road of treatment and recovery, I am not that girl anymore. And while I know as a child of God my heart should not cling to things so worldly as hair or even independence, I must confess finding a “substitute” has been much harder than I would ever like to admit.

And yet, I know when our identities are stripped, when our life is dramatically changed, when our hearts are broken, and our spirits wounded, it is then that Jesus most loudly whispers, “Cling to me! Allow me to be the vacancy.” After all, we can know Jesus best in our suffering because He knows our suffering.

The Lord longs to fill in the old words, “You were always the girl with gorgeous hair”, with “You are the woman with her heart on fire. You are the woman with big purposes now and ahead of you. You are the woman with a spirit of compassion and empathy. You are the woman whom I love now and forever. You are the daughter who carries Good News. You are My child who brings delight to me. You are, and that is more than enough.”

This world brings pain, sorrow, death, and destruction. Jesus brings joy, peace, and everlasting life. It’s our choice what we allow our hearts to cling to. I choose the side of eternity. I bet I’ll get new hair in Heaven anyway…

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Only Five Minutes

We pulled up to a left red arrow. I saw her out of the corner of my eye. The sun was bright and hot as she entered my view of sight; a thin, dark, tired figure holding a bag and a sign. I’m not sure what I saw first, the belly or the words, but when I read “Pregnant and Homeless”, I couldn’t hold back my groaning. My friend driving turned and rolled down the window.

We asked the girl her name at the same time the small, blue, flashing sirens came shooting toward us through the red light.

“Andréa,” she said, voice low, quiet, soft and scared. Her eyes were deep, dark pools of murky water, full of memories, yet void of hope. Her breasts were low, carrying the marks of motherhood. Her arms, too thin and long. Her belly swollen with life. Her ebony skin aged from sun, but not years.

“So young”, I thought.

An aura of ache and longing surrounded her and I thought back to Nigeria. I thought back to my morning in the brothels; to the eyes of the girls who had just arrived and the ones who called the hotel “home”. I looked at Andréa and saw there was no difference in the need.

We shared our names and tried to ignore the annoyed man in blue behind our new acquaintance. He wanted her off the curb. He wanted her away from our car. I wanted her in my backseat, on the way to my home, with food in her belly, truth in her ears, and love in her heart.

My friend handed her a little money and said, “We want you to know you are valued. We value you and your baby. We love you and Jesus loves you. He values you both.” 

The officer sat poised on his motorbike and continued to shoo her away from us. My blood boiled. But we all obeyed.

Before she walked away I grabbed the pink compact Bible I had in my glove box and handed it to her through the driverside window. I looked her in the eyes and repeated all my friend had said, “Andréa. You’re treasured and we will be praying heavily for you.” I normally would never give a Bible to a perfect stranger without first holding a conversation; an explanation of what I was sharing and why, at the very least. But I was desperate. My passion for restoration screamed in my head telling me she needed to know more. She needed to know Love.

She gently took the Bible from my hands, thanked us for the gifts, and followed the officer’s order to the other side of the road, far away from us. The officer drove away and our left arrow turned green.

My skin flushed red in anger, and I prayed. I prayed she would believe what we said. I prayed she would find refuge somewhere safe. I prayed she would find truth in the Words I gave her. I prayed I had highlighted verses and written notes in that pink scripture book; notes she could decipher and apply to her own life. I prayed she would find Jesus.

Could she have been lying for money? Sure. Could the officer have known something we didn’t? Maybe. But you didn’t see the eyes I did. You didn’t see the scars on her chest or the excruciating story playing just behind her lashes.


 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently that we are not careful enough with our time or our words. We may never really know a person’s full truth; what they’ve been through, what they’ve witnessed, what was taken from them, or what was done to them. Yet we make assumptions and accusations. We spit judgement and hateful rhetoric out of our mouths before we learn a person’s name. And we waste precious time placing human beings into categories based on their appearance, belief, ethnicity, career, or gender instead of reaching out and offering a hand through the grace of Jesus Christ; of which we are ALL unworthy.


 

Andréa keeps me up at night. For months she’s haunted me. Those five minutes with Andréa were not enough.

But they were all we were allowed.

……Dare I say we be more careful with our minutes?

 

 

Returning

The pain was far too great. The fatigue, too heavy. So I gave in. I lied still underneath the sheepskin blanket and stared out my window. My mind was spinning, yet numb and empty. All the questions swirled through my head. None of the answers.

I don’t know how, but the levy broke. The salty seas buried beneath layers of prideful self-rooted strength washed over me and drug me into the darkness. I soaked my mother’s sleeve, I ruined a hand towel, and I screamed at the air around me.

The tears eventually stopped. But the darkness, the hopelessness, lingered; into the evening, midnight, and morning hours. Nothing changed.

I didn’t know what else to do.

So I sang. I sang the song I always sing when I need to believe.


 

“I don’t understand Your ways” 

Is this Your way, Abba? If so, Your child is suffering.

“Oh but I will give You my soul….”

I’ve promised before. Here I am again.

“I’ll give you all of my praise”

My fingers nails dug into my palms.

“You hold on to all my pain. And with it you are pulling me closer….”

You feel so far away, Abba.

“Pulling me into Your ways.”

Keep going. 

“Now around every corner and up every mountain, I’m not looking for a crown or the water from a fountain.”

My fists got tighter.

“I’m desperately seeking; frantic believing..”

This is TRUTH.

“That the sight of Your face, is all that I’m needing.”

The salty waves crept up.

“And I will say to You…”

Will I really say this, Lord?! Please assure me!

…….

“It’s gonna be worth it. It’s gonna be worth it. It’s gonna be worth it all.”

“I believe this..”

…….

And finally. After two rounds,

I believed. I had returned.


 

In this broken world of suffering and pain, it’s often times so easy to forget the very truths we ourselves proclaimed just days ago. But what I have learned is this, even if you start the song in unbelief, sing it anyway. In doing so, you will have returned to Him.

“Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and abounding in love.” Joel 2:13

 

“Worth It All” by Rita Springer

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Life or Death, No Matter Where

A few weeks ago I posted about the departure of my friend, Sarah, and about my current struggle with my own health. Today I wish I was writing about a full recovery and a new fun story from the offices of SIM. Instead, since that post, my health has continued to decline; my quality of life very, very low.

I’ve met with every doctor in Charlotte but still no one can tell me why my body is breaking down. I sat in a wheelchair in my Primary Doctor’s office, head dropped to the left, as she teared up and said, “There is something horribly wrong. I see your slow and steady decline and I know we have to stop it before it…….gets worse.”

I knew what she meant. I am dying. Slowly and steadily and for no reason man can see. She was so apologetic. She’s been hurting for me while I hurt at home. She’s been a medical heart that truly cares.

I’ve been on a slow decline since August but it wasn’t until January of this year that I took a turn. And then again in February’s beginning, my body stopped functioning correctly and forced me to my bed. Since then, it’s been a bit of a faster decline; a daily battle to not lose the footing I had the day before.

But the pain has become mostly untreatable. My weakness unfathomable and my overall state of health rushing down the river headed to the waterfall’s edge.

It’s been a very surreal couple of days walking out of the appts that I have had. Hearing things like, “slow decline…..must stop this….or else…..death”. How does an almost 30 year old hold those words in her hands when she can’t even hold the comb up to her head? I don’t know. I’m still struggling to grab hold of those facts. And the few moments I have been able to I end up in obnoxious tears in my mother’s arms crying out, “I have plans! I made plans! My year of 30 was supposed to be preparation for my year of 31…”

I haven’t lost hope yet. I don’t think. But I also realize I have to accept the possibility this is it. It’s such a hard inner war; clinging to the hope we have in Jesus Christ and staying grounded in the current reality in front of me.

One day before my health took the big downhill turn, I shared my huge, scary, impossible goals for my year of 30 with a friend. I was so energized just by sharing my heart’s agenda that I believe came from the Lord. And my friend was equally pumped up feeling the same way, these were plans purposed and made for me by my Father. The next day I crashed unexpectedly and it’s been downhill since then.

So how do we stay grounded and walk into what has been laid before us and have hope in the Lord? How do we pray for a miracle but also the Lord’s Will at the same time?

Goodness I wish I knew! But I’m trying. I’m trying to pray and accept it all; the prognosis and the Lord’s impossible miracles. I’m praying for a name for whatever is killing my body. I’m praying His Will be done. I’m praying I would still find ways to glorify Him while I am in this season. I’m praying I will lead someone to Jesus through this journey. I’m praying for a miracle, and an answer. And I’m still praying He would let me stay and live out the goals and plans He Himself has set before me.

And yes, there’s still a lot of tears and frustration. But the only thing I have to cling to right now is my Abba and His Peace. So even in my groanings, I’m praying and reaching out to Him; as my Comforter, Peace-Bringer, Shepherd, Healer, and perfect Father.

A kind co-worker called me this morning and poured a verse over me that left such comfort in this time of uncertainty. Proverbs 20:24 says, “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord, How then can anyone understand their own way?”

How silly am I try and understand the Almighty’s ways! This doesn’t erase all my feelings of confusion, but it does point me back to the One who’s directing them all. And if I say I believe in Him, then I must believe in His leading as well.

I want the goals laid before me to come to pass. More than I want almost anything in the world! But I asked myself last night before sleep, “Meg, what do you really want more? To live a life not meant to be lived, a life without the presence and hand of God directing it? Or to be with your Abba forever, no matter where?”

My answer was immediate, clear, and even a little painful.

“With Abba. No matter where.”

Hesitation Before the Throne

A few weeks ago I had to take my car into the shop for an oil change, some tire care, and new rear brake pads. Months before this I extended my factory warranty on my trusty Toyota Camry and so believed the warranty would cover the brake pads. A day after I dropped my car off at the dealership, I got a call that all of my needed fixes were considered routine maintenance and so would not be covered under my warranty. Translation: I would be paying for this all out of pocket, almost $500. I took a breath and said “That’s ok, everything will be fine.”

The next week as I laid in bed unable to walk and barely able to form a sensical sentence, I tried to pay for my car costs on the phone with my debit card so that friends and co-workers would be able to swing by and grab my car for me when I could not. I give the numbers to my Mechanic once. Declined. Twice, Declined. Three times, Declined. I immediately asked to call him back and checked my bank account. My concerns were true. The cost of my medical bills, ministry travels, medications, supplements, and specialty foods had almost drained my account. I was deeply upset, and even felt a little ashamed. Here a nearly 30 year old unable to pay some of her own bills.

But I didn’t hesitate. I knew what I had to do.

As soon as I said the words, “I can’t afford my car repairs”, my father responded. “Of course, Honey. I’ve got it covered. Love you.” And immediately my father hung up the phone and called the dealership to give them his own credit information. Just like that. Done.

I didn’t hesitate. He didn’t hesitate. I asked. He answered.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and I’ve found myself comparing my approach to my Daddy here, and my approach to my Abba on His throne.

My earthly father, although wonderful, is not perfect. He struggles with sin just like the rest of us. So if I find it acceptable to approach my earthly father, who is full of sinful nature, without hesitation, what stops me from approaching the throne of my Abba Father, who is perfect in every way?

The Word of God is riddled with truths about Abba’s character. In Pslam 23 we read “The Lord is my Shepherd”; my protector, my provider. In Lamentations 3 we hear of the cry of tortured souls and are then met with “Because of the Lord’s great love for us we are not consumed. Great is His faithfulness”. And in the gospels we are shown through the life and death of Jesus that Abba’s children are far more important to Him than His own majesty. He gave up His one and only Son to come to earth in human form, yet perfect in nature, by society’s standards live a life of uncleanliness, and die a disgraced, sinner’s death. For one reason alone: His love for His children. We are told and shown that He is the perfect Father who will sacrifice His best for our best. If we look, we will find love and perfection in Him and from Him.

So if we believe this, if we believe what we say we do, that He is a perfect Father who loves His children deeply, a perfect Father who wants only good for them, and will always answer our prayers with mercy and justice, why do we pray with hesitancy in our requests?

I believe we do this out of fear. We hesitate in our requests to our God by only asking for His will be done. Our Abba wants relationship with us! He wants to hear the desires of our hearts that He already knows come from our lips. He longs to meet with us in the secret places and brush the hair back from our face as we ask for big, bold, impossible things. He’s a perfect Father. A perfect Shepherd. A perfect Comforter.

This is not to say that when we come boldly before Him that He will grant us our requests. If that were the case, He wouldn’t be perfect. He’d be a magician. We can crawl in His lap, weep violently, and beg for that one thing that we want so bad, and still not receive it from Him. Approaching Him with boldness is not assuming we will get the answers we want. It’s stepping out in faith knowing He will answer no matter what. The answer just may be different than what we imagined or even wanted. And it’s in THOSE moments we can then pray, “Your Will be done, Abba. I still trust you.”

This has been a deep place of growth for me in my prayer life these past few weeks; as most of my Queen City Tribe deals with deep grief, loss, confusion, and desire. but I’m tired of hiding my face from Him and covering my requests in “but only if You Will it to be…” Of COURSE only if You Will it to be! OF COURSE. But I have chosen to believe that Yahweh is the one true God. That Abba is my one perfect Father. That Jesus is my Savior who gave His own life for mine. That the Holy Spirit is my advocate and my prayer warrior when my own words turn to moaning. And if I believe the things I say I do, I must approach my God as who He says He is. I must trust He will not turn away or hide His face from me.

If we believe what we say we believe, must we not then approach the throne with boldness? And, of course, do this with open hands, and an open heart, knowing His answer might not be what we would’ve wanted. Yet finding comfort in the freedom we have of just asking? I believe we must.

Evidence, Illness, Glory

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what kind of legacy I would leave if my life ended today. I’ve come up with a list of things I hope the world would see. But I’ve also come up with a list of things I’m afraid the world would see instead.

A dear friend of mine lost her battle with cancer about two weeks ago. The legacy she left behind is absolutely incredible. She loved, lived, and served in many states, countries, hospitals, churches and small groups. As a young girl said at her memorial service, my friend lived and died saying to Jesus, “Over here, I’m open!”

My life hasn’t been what I thought it would be. When I was ten I thought I’d marry a farmer and live next door to my parents and our neighbors who were my best adventure buddies in the world. At age 16 I thought I’d marry the man whispering sweet nothings in my ear. At 18 I thought I’d go to college and start a new life, with new friends, new perspectives and set a new course. At 25 I thought my life was over and I’d die still living with my parents. At 28 I thought I’d live in Nigeria forever and make my home among the people I loved in the country I loved.

None of these came true. And most of them I believe did not advance because of the mighty angels who surround me and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Today I live in Charlotte, North Carolina and I work as a missionary with SIM USA in the recruiting department. I get to be a “friend” to missionaries, future, present and retired. It’s an amazing privilege and I love it. I really, really do!

Yet, I find myself looking for the evidence, the fruit of Jesus Christ, I have produced and in my almost 30 years. Yesterday I listened to another list of things my sweet friend, Sarah accomplished, took part in, or led in her 34 years. I could tell you how amazing she was but my words would be inadequate. Just take my word for it when I say, she was the epitome of a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.

As I sat at her local memorial service yesterday, I thought to myself, “Meg, if you died today, would the world see in you what they saw in Sarah?” This was my exact answer:

“No. There’s not enough evidence. I need more evidence. More glory belongs to the Father. More people need to hear the name of Jesus come from my lips. I must do more. Much more.”

And while this felt like an uplifting moment from the Spirit instead of a condemning one, there’s a catch.

I’m sick. Very, very sick. And although my battle looks nothing like what sweet Sarah went through, it is a daily war that prevents me from doing the things I believe I am called to do. For now, at least.

So yesterday after the service, as I climbed back into my bed, eating the dinner prepared for me by another dear friend who has been the best nurse/caregiver/husband/partner a girl could ask for, I cried and told her my heartache; that my life doesn’t hold enough evidence. That I need to do more, that I must do more, yet feel shackled to a bed that’s become my enemy.

I was in a slippery slope of comparison and because this friend loves me and Jesus, she pulled me out, brushed me off, and offered an alternative.

My platform. Sweet Sarah was a Medical Missionary in Zambia with a long history of service before she even hit the field. Her platform was huge! Global! Praise God! And my friend reminded me that although my platform isn’t necessarily global, or as wide a net as Sarah’s, it can be just as impactful.

And please don’t misunderstand me. I am not for one moment trying to lift Sarah up to the level of our Father. She’d smack me for even thinking such things, if she were still here! What I am trying to do is pay forward the legacy of glorifying God that Sarah left behind.

I know how to do that in private. I believe do it well; through prayer, worship, journaling, meditation, etc. But because of my physical limitations, I’ve been at a loss of how to do that publicly. Yet, the Lord has really been pressing on my heart to give Him more glory in the eyes of the public, and tell so many more of His precious Son, Jesus Christ.

My platform. I’m not exactly sure what that is but I think this site could be a great place to start. And there is no better time than now to begin. So if you’re still reading this, I want to share with you few things that I believe the Lord deserves glory for and a few desire/visions I believe He has called me to that He will accomplish in the future.


 

“Sometimes God allows what He hates to produce that which He loves.” I am very sick and the doctors are not exactly sure why my body is breaking down, but glory be to God! This is purposed. This is His doing. He will bring goodness and evidence from this!

I have been ordered by my medical team to take two full weeks off of work to allow my body to rest and hopefully heal completely. Honestly, this does not bring me much delight, but glory be to God! He knows what my body needs. He has these two weeks planned for us to grow closer. This, too, is purposed by Him.

I have experienced the responsibility and the actuality of motherhood many times in the past 15 years. It’s a major part of my heart’s design by my perfect Father. It’s a deep well that my Father knows longs to be filled. My illness and the Enemy says this will never happen again. But my God says, “Trust me. There are children ahead for you.” So glory be to God for His goodness. All glory and praise to Him for how and when He will bring this vision to fruition!

My mind says this illness will never be in remission again. The Enemy says I am doomed to live shackled to a bed that never allows dreams or adventures to take place. But my God shouts, “LIES!” My soul magnifies the Lord for His allowance of this illness! This is purposed and planned! This is His doing and He will use it for my good and His glory!

My heart has a large open space for Muslim and Indian women. And my apartment complex is full of them, what a coincidence! Praise God for the courage I pray He will give me to begin a relationship with these women and children. And glory be to Him for the work He will do in their hearts when they hear the story of His Son and discover their own worth in the eyes of their One True Savior!

Hallelujah, Glory be to our great God.