"Maybe my story will also be one not only of redemption and healing, but that we don't always need to have the answers. Jesus is enough." - 5/21/15
During the spring of 2009, I spent 5 days down in Detroit doing mission work. I spent those 5 days sleeping in the basement of a church and working closely with a group of college students. We went through different neighborhoods, went to a therapy session to spend time with recovering addicts, and spent an entire day or 2 clearing out the inside of a house in Hamtramck that had been burned down.
That house had been purchased with the hope of being remodeled and restored to house women who taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to the women of the Muslim community in Hamtramck.
The last few hours we spent working on the house, the owners stopped by and asked if anyone was interested in teaching ESL that summer. Completely covered in ash and soot, I said, "yes."
Deep down, I didn't want to. But I knew I had to and that it would be good for me to be immersed in a culture totally different from my own.
So a few months later, there I stood, in the upper flat of a Hamtramck home, surrounded by women completely covered in black from head to toe, only speaking Arabic.
I had also dressed extremely modestly to be respectful of their culture and show them that I too was submitted to God.
I was so nervous my first day, but then it eventually came naturally to me. Teaching. I had finally found my passion through the unlikeliest of experiences.
During the fall of 2009, I taught math and science to the women who more advanced in their English and looking to obtain their GED. It was then that I got a vision that I wanted to fix up the school.
So I acted on that vision. Pulled the funds and people together. And spent 2 days working to fix up this school that I felt so passionately about. We worked on that place from top to bottom, putting in new light fixtures, a ceiling fan, painting the walls, replacing tiles. Cleaning...you name it, we did it. I was so proud. I was only 19 at that time.
Because of all my work in Hamtramck with the Muslim community that year, I was invited to be 1 of 5 leaders on an upcoming trip to the Mideast in June of 2010.
Jersualem, Israel. The place I arrived broken and left whole. The place that began to give my life more meaning...opening my eyes to the bigger picture. The Bible coming to life.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I was in so much pain at this point in my life. I struggled to see any hope for my current situation. I was grieving the loss of my childhood family. I was struggling to accept another divorce in my life. It was so hard not having control over so much in my life. It was hard giving up the control that I thought I had.
I arrived in Israel at the Tel Aviv airport on June 19th, 2010. I was no more than 100 pounds. I was anxious and depressed. I was angry and confused. I was wanting desperately to create space in my heart to do some soul searching, but my heart was cluttered by all the pain I was experiencing. I didn't even know where to start. But I knew I wanted to be healed.
I journaled a lot on this trip from the rooftop of the hostel I stayed at in Jerusalem, just outside the walls of Old Jerusalem.
I came looking for answers. Would I get them? How would God work in my life?
At every prayer site we went to, which were many, I would pray for healing for my family. Would it come?
The turning point on that trip for me came when I worked up the courage to share my story with the other leaders on that trip. Up until that point, I had kept my pain to myself. It was such a personal thing that I was struggling with, that it made me nervous to even think to invite anyone else into my pain.
We took a bus that night to the top of the Mount of Olives. We sat on stone benches that overlooked Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, the city walls...it was so surreal.
We all shared stories about where we were at in our faith. I waited to go last.
When it was my turn to share, I told them that I was honestly struggling and struggling to see any hope. I shared what had been going on at home with my mom and stepdad. I shared my grief, and I asked for prayers. I told them that I felt it on my heart that God wanted me to draw close to Him and to get to know Him through this season. I don't know why, but that is what I felt in that moment. And it felt right.
In sharing my pain, it helped alleviate some of the weight I had been experiencing. I wasn't alone. And the people who had made the long journey overseas with me were reflections of God's desire for me to draw in community with people during this time.
After I shared, the group prayed over me. I cried. Then one of the leaders started to play his guitar. We sang songs of worship to God while overlooking the Holy City. The city lighting up the nighttime sky.
It was possible to praise God while grieving? That was an idea that was totally foreign to me up until this point. But what would ultimately bring me peace in the storm.
I made a deal with myself that night at the Mount of Olives that I would stop regularly taking things at night to help me sleep. And that instead I would read my Bible more. If all else, I knew I wanted that much...to draw close to God. That was what He was asking of me. And I was ready to listen.
I came to Jerusalem hoping for a solution for my pain. Hoping for answers. Hoping for a miracle.
Did that miracle come? Did I get the answers I was looking for?
The answer is yes. What I found on that trip was God putting on my heart the truth that He is enough. Not only was He enough for me then, but that He would be enough for my future too. A lesson I wouldn't fully grasp until my dad got sick, 6 years later.
Yes, my biological parents had divorced, and I have no memories of them together. Yes, I had a dad who was wounded my whole life and needed help. And yes, my healthy parents that gave me a stable family did end up divorcing too.
But from June 2010 on, I learned to cling to the hope that through the brokenness in my life, that I served a God who was a provider of all things Good. A God who restores and makes all things new.
I learned that even though I could not control my circumstances and the hurt that surrounded me, I could control my heart and the direction that I wanted my life to go in.
I wanted to live a life of praise for the One thing who was unchanging before time and Who would continue to be for the rest of my life and for eternity. The One who would be unchanging through tough breakups, challenging therapy sessions, job rejections...and the One who stood unchanging when I got the phone call from my dad the he had terminal cancer.
Through the heartache and grief, there is and will always be more. I even want to believe that there is a purpose for my pain. Although God didn't create all the trials in my life, I do believe that He is using them to give me the courage to write and give people hope that there is One who heals.
He continues to pour is His Grace abundantly over my life. And I can promise that He is doing the same for you.
The first song we sang at the Mount of Olives - How He Loves by Crowder