In the Middle

Today I’m going to go out on a limb and say something that often gets left unsaid.

Life sucks sometimes.

And I’m not saying that to be pessimistic or garner your pity. No, I’m saying that because I’m in a hard season of life right now, and I’m done pretending to be ok because I know that some of you reading this are also in a hard season of life, and you probably need someone to gently remind you that it’s ok to not be ok.

Have you ever noticed that people are reluctant to share a story unless they know how it ends? They say “I dealt with depression for four months, but I went to counseling and I’m better now,” or “we knew that God was calling us to move to a different state, and we didn’t yet have a house or know a soul, but now that we’re settled in, we can totally see God’s provision in this move.”

Don’t get me wrong, stories like these are incredible testaments of God’s faithfulness and absolutely should be shared! But what about the stories that don’t yet have neat or tidy endings? And what about the ones that may never have a resolution on this side of heaven?

The danger in only telling our glossy, polished stories is that when our story isn’t pretty, we feel like we’re the only ones not living in a fairytale.

When I only hear the completed stories, my sense of aloneness even extends to what I read in the Bible. I begin to see David, and Paul, and Noah’s stories as flawless, forgetting that they lived messy, imperfect lives. I forget that Abraham, a man known for his faith, doubted God’s promise of children, and even slept with his wife’s servant to produce an heir and regain control of his story.

Here’s what I like to imagine. Abraham has been given a promise from God that he will have descendants too numerous to count, but as the days of waiting for the fulfillment of this promise turn into weeks, months, years, Abraham has mornings when he wakes up and says, “No, God, I can’t. What’s the point in believing in your promises when my daily reality doesn’t match what you’ve told me? Can I just be a bear today and hibernate until this is all over?”

Ok, maybe the bear part is more how I think than how Abraham would’ve thought, but I’m sure Abraham had days of doubt, confusion, frustration, even despair.

And that’s ok.

God does not call us to pursue perfection. He knows we can never be perfect, because if we were, we’d be God. But while God does not call us to be perfect, He calls us to be brave.

So here’s my challenge to you today – step out in courage and share your unfinished story with a trusted friend.

It takes bravery to look at your life and admit that “what now?” lies much closer to the surface than “happily ever after.” But who knows – maybe your brave act of vulnerability will grant someone else the permission they need to be raw and honest about the unresolved stories in their life.

And maybe, just maybe, by sharing from the middle of the story instead of only from the end, you’ll find some freedom to live your life as it is, instead of how you think it should be.

 

Three Little Girls

A few weeks ago, my school’s Latino Heritage Club sent out an email inviting students to perform in the next Spoken Word Night, which would be on the topic of social justice. For the past year I’ve contemplated performing in one, but I’ve never had the courage to actually do it. As I read through the email, however I started to seriously consider performing, and when they said the topic was social justice, it cinched the deal. For better or for worse, I was in! And I immediately knew that I needed to write my piece for the three little girls I met in a village in Nepal. So without further ado, here’s the written version of my spoken word piece.

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Three Little Girls

Houses

made of nothing more than stones and mud

lie flattened

unable to withstand the quaking that occurred.

Young children with ripped pants

climb the trees like mischievous little monkeys

while women work the water spigot.

Most schoolchildren have already marched down the mountain

in their light blue uniforms

but three young girls linger.

They’re 8, 10, 12 at the most.

Slender bodies, undernourished.

Bright undereducated minds.

Underappreciated beautiful souls.

The epitome of vulnerable.

Every year,

10,000 girls are shuffled across the porous border between Nepal and India,

undetected,

unaware.

And you could be 1 in 10,000.

Your parents are desperate.

The vistas may be stunning

but you can’t eat the view.

“See that man over there?

He’s a friend of your uncle, and he says he can give you a job in India.

Be a good girl and go with him.

You may be a bit young to work,

but at least you’ll have food in your belly.”

It’s a way out,

an escape,

no wait, it’s a trap!

10,000 girls per year?

That’s nearly 30 a day!

Numbers don’t have faces.

But girls do.

And I can’t seem to erase your face from my mind.

So little sisters, please listen.

Your body is not a commodity.

That man with the job in India

is a fake.

The stranger who wants to marry you,

he’s a sham.

To the pimp

you’re just property. And if you die,

it’s nothing more than a bad day on the job.

They will measure your value

by what your body can do for a man.

And in selling your body,

they’re stealing your soul.

But you were not made to be bought and sold

used and abused.

And at the end of the day,

money can’t buy happiness,

and it shouldn’t be able to buy you either.

In Need Of Encouragement

Stories are powerful. They linger, they challenge, but above all else, they encourage.

It’s no secret that the past two weeks have been brutal. For whatever reason my transition back to school after Christmas break has felt so much harder than my initial transition to school in the fall. It doesn’t make any sense, but some combination of factors has left me in a very rough spot.

Last night, however, I felt like my soul could breathe. God has blessed me with an amazing small group connected to my church, and this group has welcomed me with open arms. In the few months I’ve known them, they’ve become family. For our gathering last night we made breakfast for dinner and talked about life. Somehow Mandee, Maddy, and I started telling each other stories of difficult times in our lives when God has come through in amazing ways. Their stories were exactly the encouragement I needed.

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Shauna Niequist has a quote that addresses the power of stories perfectly. She says, “When we, any of us who have been transformed by Christ, tell our own stories, we’re telling the story of who God is.”

One of my biggest struggles is having faith that God has a plan that is better than mine. Wholeheartedly trusting him is a battle I fight every single day, but when I hear people’s stories it helps me surrender control of my life to him. A story is typically told from beginning to end, and when I can see how someone’s difficult situation worked out far better than any solution they could’ve orchestrated, it reminds me that God will do the same in my life. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28) is a verse that is frequently quoted. While that verse does carry power by itself, it takes on new meaning when I can see it play out through people’s stories. So today I would encourage you to share your stories. You never know when they will be exactly what someone needs to hear.

Haven

We all have those people in our lives who inspire us. One such person for me is my friend Haven. Haven and I were in band together in high school, and that’s where our friendship began. You, as my reader, are probably wondering why I would write an entire blog post about a girl most of you will never meet. Today, I am writing about Haven because I believe there is good in our world that needs to be highlighted. We need to tell stories of people who are living inspiring lives. Our culture loves to criticize people for what they’re doing wrong, so I am going to do the opposite. So without further ado, let me show you why Haven inspires me.

Haven is a fighter. Satan is always trying to harm people. He doesn’t want us to succeed. Every time he tries to knock Haven down, however, she comes up swinging. Just last night, someone broke into her car and stole her stuff, but I can tell you for a fact that while this will be a setback, she won’t let it stop her.

Brave

Haven is courageous. This year she is attending a culinary school hundreds of miles from home. She could’ve chosen to go to a local community college. That would’ve been the safe, easy option, but Haven knew what she wanted. Instead of staying in her comfort zone, she packed up her car and moved far away so she could pursue her passion.

Haven is passionate. She loves to cook. She has found something that makes her come alive, and she is pursuing it. She is throwing herself into her studies, and pushing herself to make her dream a reality.

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Haven is determined. Moving away from home was not easy for her, but she knows it will be worth it. Even on the days when she wants nothing more than to give up and go home, she grits her teeth and pushes through.

So Haven, when you read this, I want you to know you inspire me! I greatly admire your perseverance and spunk! I love you, and I truly believe that you can accomplish ANYTHING you put your mind to!