First of all, I would have never imagined being in urban ministry and working to end human trafficking in Houston, Texas. Guys, I was living in an old church filled with bunk beds and showers that sometimes didn’t work for days. My clothing in a suitcase under my bunk and a bus pass in my pocket. So let’s just consider how crazy the last season of life had been for me when I discovered that I would be starting 2015 in South Africa-literally landing on January 1st. The adventures with PLAY were incredible and I consider it a blessing when I can be a part of all that Lisa is doing. While I was in South Africa, I prayed about and considered deeply the next steps for my future. I love ministry. I love traveling. I love missions. I adore people. So I thought hard about what should be next. I knew that I once was an unhealthy mess in a pit of bondage and Jesus radically redeemed and rescued me. I knew I had to use that. I knew I loved serving others. I knew that I see the world through specific and unique lenses, but that was where it ended. After great prayer and deliberation, I realized my heart and passion for people has always been one of healing, wholeness, and peace. I see and understand the difficult things people deal with. I pick up on and sense the hurts. I intuitively know about the hard things that aren’t usually seen and the hesitation to talk about it. Particularly when one is in a position of ministry and put on a pedistal. So I swallowed hard, made a very difficult and concrete decision to go to school for a degree in Psychology, and returned home.
Here’s the part where I stop painting some exciting and glorious picture and talk about truth. Coming back was tough. IS tough. Reintegrating is different for everyone but is always a very hard thing. For me, it’s much harder to stay put in Modesto than to be in ministry and missions. With the decision to return, I lost my support system overnight. One day I was in South Africa at camp in the bush with the kids, and several days later I was in Modesto enrolling at MJC. The interactions I had with people changed. I was suddenly less interesting to many. I went from being a missionary to being stripped of all titles and support overnight. Finding my way into community has not proven to be as smooth as I hoped and I’ve been learning how to be in solitude and okay with it. Being single at my age and switching from missionary to student is rough and isolating. I am desperately trying to pay of debt, afford school, keep a very old car going, and get up at 4am daily to work without being unhealthy. I often run into people I know and get very interesting reactions when they hear I am making coffee at minimum wage. Your skills in ministry and missions don’t always transfer to much in this environment, and there isn’t always too much to choose from. But here’s where the hope comes out to shine like a summer day:
In the midst of some depression and exhaustion, there have been moments and days of incredible and intense beauty, an irreplaceable joy, and the knowledge that even when things get ugly, I can see the purpose in it all. Without these experiences-all of them-I would never be able to relate to and share in the knowledge of what it’s like. Whether it’s being on staff at a mega-church and experiencing relational hurt and high expectations or living in poverty to serve others right in your community who are unseen. Sometimes it’s working for a corporation that’s not turning out to be as glamorous as others see it or dealing with difficult customers each day. What about being in a society that is pushing a certain amount of materialism and you’re struggling with decisions over your future path? Maybe it’s navigating the ins and outs of living overseas and having given up all of your wealth and close relationships in the name of giving others the hope of Christ. Perhaps you’re returning home from one of these things and are worn and hurting and feeling so lost but afraid to talk about it because everybody seems to think you are someone who’s especially spiritually wise and put together. Maybe you’re single in a church world that caters to young marrieds having families and all you want is to not feel ashamed and to figure out how to flourish right where you are. Whatever the case, our King in His infinite wisdom has chosen to allow me the very incredible pleasure of knowing on a deeply personal level what each of these things is like. It’s been exhausting, but yes, it’s a pleasure. Because down the road, for years to come, I will have the unspeakable joy of relating to others and helping others and connecting to others who need hope and an ear. I will be able to say “I understand. Truly, I have literally been there” in a moment when someone desperately needs to know they are not alone. And that is gorgeous. That is worth all the tears and hurt and uncomfortable moments. To consider it brings me to my knees in awe and I am rendered speechless. Speechless at His perfection. At the way He is constantly weaving things together when we can’t see for the life of us what is going on. For the way it’s always so specific and with purpose and never overlooked or flippantly allowed or unseen. For the way every little detail is cared about deeper than we can imagine and for the way He loves us and has a plan that is extravagantly more than we deserve. He is mighty. He is beauty. He is purpose. He is healing. He is rescue. He is the answer. He is everything and so much more. The more we throw ourselves at His feet, the better it’s going to get. I hope that as you look back on your 2015, you see these things as well. He’s been there every moment. Can you find it? Do you see it? It’s woven into the fabric of your year. Blessings on you and yours as we journey into the next chapter of our stories.