Beauty In Suffering

Laundry Day.

In Haiti there are greater needs than I can explain. There is poverty and sickness and desperation. There are children without parents, there are parents with no resources and there is extreme need from coast to coast. Some days, as these people become my neighbors and my friends, that I just look around me as I walk through the village and know that there is no way that I could ever understand what this life is like. To only know a life of constant struggle.

For 10 months I have not been able to accurately convey the essence of what remains in this land of suffering that I live in.

Until last month while I was in Texas visiting my family. I was rather anxious, knowing that on Sunday I would be able to visit a church that has remained a significant part of my “story” of walking with Christ.

My family was a part of this community at it’s inception – when service was in a home, and then later when it was in a room that is probably now a nursery or storage closet or something. I hadn’t been there in, gosh, ages… 13 years at least. However, for all those years in between, anytime I was among anything resembling ministry, it always had big shoes to fill, from my warm memories of this gym turned church.

Even when I was in my late teens, moved to Florida, and found the community that changed every piece of who I am, and that I now call my home church, I remember describing this place to my parents as – “It reminds me of Grace.”

Okay, so sorry for the nostalgic rabbit trail, but the point is that more than 13 years later, after I found God to be my own, I was returning to this place that I always identified Christ in, even before I truly knew what I was identifying.

As Steve opened the message, he shared this story about a man who called him merely months into his position as pastor, and told him that a little girl just passed away at five years old and they needed his help. He went on to discuss how, as a new pastor, he had no idea how to handle the situation, but that he has since learned that there is a certain sweetness in these moments of tragedy that are only captivated when compassion is the only answer.

Of all the days for me to visit, it was this day that he shared this story about the man and the little girl and the sweetness. All of it actually ironic because this man, the one in the story, is in fact my family, and the little girl, who died of pneumonia at five years old, is my cousin, and the rest of the message – about the sweetness in moments of tragedy was exactly the words that I have been trying to convey for 10 months, about my life in Haiti.

Junette, one of the children at our orphanage, visiting the elderly community.

Truly, there is something to be said of this poverty and suffering, as there is an emmense beauty that we lose at home when using Jesus only as an option. However, it is in suffering that we have the honor of seeing the hand of our God at work. We see His great compassion through those who labor in His name, His promises are kept to His children and His faithfulness is revealed. Everyday.

In the big things.

In the little things.


So everyday, as I am surrounded by great suffering, I choose to count it as beautiful, because it is in that suffering that there lies a sweetness of God’s provision, that is so easily overlooked when we have other options.

Remember that next time you come upon a situation of suffering, and you have the opportunity to make it a little more beautiful.

And to anyone looking for a church to call home in East Texas, please visit Grace Community Church in Greenville. Even 13 plus years later, I can still clearly identify God there – among the lights and the smiles and the electric guitars. And thanks Steve, for helping me find my words.


The Night Sky: It’s telling a beautiful story.

Pleiades – a star cluster that covers an emmense span of more miles than we can count in 43 years.

With stars big enough and bright enough for humans to see from earth, yet it is one of the newest star constellations in the universe (not even 100 million years yet… pshhh, baby.)

It is one of the greatest marvels of the known universe and yet God says of it simply, “Can you hold Pliates in your hands, Job? Or unloose Orion’s belt…”

To what I can imagine was returned with a humbling reply of, “well.. no.”

These always remind me of my Dad. When we were young and had to be silent on our sailboat and look into the night sky and find these specific stars.

“Well then there… because I can.”

He goes on to put His ability into perspective by saying:

“ Then go ahead and man up and answer me this… (Literally, he says it, verse 3)

…Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Go ahead and answer since you have it all figured out…

[Who knew God could get such an attitude?]

…Have you commaned the morning since your days?… Can you guide Arcturus with his sons?…

Try guiding that bad boy.

 …Can you lift up your voice to the clouds and make it rain? …

better yet…

…Can you simply put wisdom and understanding inside of a person’s heart?   Because, I can.”

 As if He knew there would be a confused little girl in 2011 with so many questions who would read that statement in all of her frustration and searching for direction, and He would call her by her name in her spirit because He knew that she needed something to cling to and He would say… “But, Hope… I can.”

“So stop worrying about what will happen. Cus i can.”

“Or how it’s gonna work out, because, I can do all of that and more.”

Isaiah 40 says that He measures the entire universe in the span of his finger tips.

And yet we continue to so easily doubt if He is able.

 He measures 46.6 billion light years in the span of His hand and yet His eye is on the sparrow.

In all of the constellations, and galaxies, and all the other things that man has not yet been developed enough to see, God sees you and He sees me.

We are known and prized by magesty.

He knows us, and He loves us, and He cares about our fears.

Even the little ones.

How undeserving and how small we are in that spectrum.

We live on earth. Not the biggest or grandest planet. Not in the middle of our solar system, not in the middle of our galaxy, not in the middle of our universe.

Just a small, pale, blue, dot.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

When looked at from a far there is no awareness of our posessions, our cars, our homes, glamour or fame. There is no sight of the great need that exists. Merely a mote of dust suspended in a sun beam.

And each of our lives have been lived out on it. Every war been fought on it, brother killing brother.

A tiny little blimp on the radar of history.

 A vapor.

I can’t help but conclude that maybe we’re just not that great in ourselves after all.

And yet he knows every hair that just fell out of your scalp.

I think the Psalmist got it right when they said, “When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You ordained; what is man, that You are mindful of him? and the son of man, that You care for him?”

I can’t help but be consumed with the beautiful cluster of stars called pleiades that is 43 light years wide, yet is held in His palm, and the story that it is telling in the night sky, in the spectrum of who we are in relation to God.

Put into perspective by a single conversation with Job, where God identified the significant insignificance of our lives – how important we are and yet how it’s really just not about us after all.

Just in case you were wondering.

So the next time that you look into the sky, remember the Psalms and give thanks for the heavens, “which are declaring the glory of God… Day after day they utter His words, and night after night they show His knowledge… (V. 26) Lift up your eyes unto heaven, and remember who created them and know them each: He calls them by name and by the greatness of His might, not one has failed.”

Grace, Gratitude and Punching People in the Nose.

“Be faithful in small lessons because it is in them that your true strength lies.”
– Mother Teresa

My heart is overwhelmed – truly overwhelmed – with gratitude today. Tears have filled my eyes because my soul is so stirred with gratitude – I feel grateful again – and I have nothing but a joyful heart, because that hasn’t been genuinely and truly felt in a long time.

I haven’t mixed tears with smiles in quite a few months, and the past two or so years have been the hardest and darkest place that God has walked with me through in all of my young years. Was I depressed? No, I don’t think so. But, just another chapter in a cycle of my story that has been in rotation for most of my life. I always hear that hind sight is 20/20, and I also always thought when I heard it, that I didn’t want to hear that cliche crap in the middle of my mess.

However, I guess I owe those people an apology, because each day in the after-math of this tornado, I am seeing effects of my decisions and purpose in the lessons (most of them anyways… they continue to come to pass, good days mixed with bad, as a situation struggles to take it’s last dying breaths; it brings such a new meaning to “where sin abounds, grace that much more abounds” and I am believing that God is sovereign and brings restoration to all things).

So, with that being said..

When I have one of these moments, I cry almost every time; and when I say almost every time, I mean absolutely every time.

I cry because I never thought it was possible.

I never truly believed that there would be a day when I was grateful for the pain of people walking away.

(Even when a certain person would tell me it would be different eventually.)

I didn’t think I would ever see the purpose in it, and

I didn’t understand why I had to experience this pain to such an extreme.

I don’t want to discuss the pain, because you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. You would think I was exaggerating, or that something so complex could happen to one person, at one time; but mostly because that’s not the juicy part of the story. The best part, what I want to talk about, is about God’s grace, and how He has allowed me to see with His eyes, just a little bit – to extend grace and forgiveness – and even more so, to actually feel it in my heart, and to actually want the best for a people who, to say the least, did not consider the best for me.

To be honest, for a long time I had to dig to a very deep place in my spirit to find grace… fake it ‘til you make it, I guess, because most days – I wanted to punch someone in the nose.

I never openly shared (see #7 – even only a month ago this blog post would have read VERY differently… isn’t it funny how God can truly turn the heart of kings like a river? Must work for young girls, too.) but finally I am to a place where my heart has some perspective.

And this is what I have learned:

1. People are people. They are made in the image of Christ, but they are not Christ. They are human and will always reflect human characteristics (aka will ALWAYS mess up) and fall short of the glory of God… just like me. That is humanity.

2. God loves them just as much as he loves me. (hard to believe, I know.)

3. Give people the benefit of the doubt… even when they use and abuse it… 7 x 70. Let them spell it out, and when they still do, allow God to do the fighting. He will certainly do so, AND he will bring people around to genuinely protect and cushion the blows, with no benefit to themselves. (hard to believe, I know.)

4. Never retaliate – When someone chooses to hurt (intentionally or un) turn the other cheek. Even when there are things to be said that are deserved to say, and have every right to be said, and would be justified, and no one would be mad if it were said, because they all want to say it too. These Biblical principles have never been so practical and/or real to me. Almost makes me laugh. Because how many times have I heard ‘turn the other cheek’, and when it comes to it, I have to remind myself (aka force myself) to walk it out.. call it spicy or just human, but it is definitely not in my nature… then read Genesis 38, and fall into line, because truth will ALWAYS be revealed, and where you fall within that is up to you.

5. Speaking of cushioning blows – it is in these dark moments that true character is revealed (personally and in others), true relationships are made, and people are qualified, as they see a very intimate and raw place. It is to these people, that I am so truly and beyond words grateful for; and can honestly say, without a doubt that it would be worth walking through the deepest depths if that means creating those relationships again in such an intimate place.

6. In every hard day – every night that I cried, every morning that I cried, every time I wanted to punch someone in the nose, every time someone gossiped about me, hurt me (intentionally or un), hurt people close to me, used me or blatantly took the sharpest jabs into my heart – there was a lesson for ME to learn about ME, about ministry, about people and about the world we live it. So, to but it simply, it is not about me at all (hard to believe, I know) It has been a series of heavy crash courses (to say the least) and, like much of my life, deserving or not, it just takes learning the steps of this new dance.

7. Qualify people – Be careful where you bleed. Even when things are good. It’s a small world. Allow your relationship with Christ to become your refuge. It will strengthen it, which may be a lesson in itself.

8. Be grateful for the trials. If there is always something to be learned, then that means – the bigger the trial, the bigger the necessity that the lesson is learned. There is a song we sing, “For every mountain, you brought me over.. for every trial, you’ve seen me through.. for this I give you praisssseeee!” and I would reach for every spec of thanks I felt (or didn’t feel) and force myself to say these words, crying or not, out loud.

9. No matter how bad it seems, His promises really are true.. yes and amen.. absolute.. all the rest of the ways you wanna put it – He really will give no more that what can be handled (His eye is on the sparrow type thing..), He truly has our best interests at heart, and it WILL all work out for the good of those WHO DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM. Because He promised.

10. Although you know what you have in people determined by the fruit in their lives, give them the grace that you consistently ask for. I saved this one for last, because I want it to be the last point you dwell on. And because it is when I truly grasped this, that my heart was set free. It will allow for restoration to take place (don’t determine what this will look like) and my mind is absolutely – absolutely – boggled at the fact that when I pass these people in the world, I smile, my heart is warm, I want good things for their lives, and I feel so grateful for being a part of a continuum of great days that I get to call my life.

I know what it’s like to not notice the brightness of the sun anymore, to not smell the sweetness of the flowers and to not marvel at the stars. to wake up each day to another battle with people who are supposed to love you. To feel hurt and betrayed and confused. I get it. And on those days when you want to punch someone in the nose – when you’re over it, you’re sick of fighting it, sick of holding it, sick of being the responsible one, sick of not replying back, sick of not calling people out, sick of not getting in your say so, sick of people lying, sick of watching people believe the lies, so sick and darn tired of having to hold it all together when you feel like your falling apart – go grab a treat from Starbucks and a pedicure (or whatever boys do to relax, watch ESPN or something?) and remember these things:

You want more from your life, and I’m telling you like I know my name – It gets better. Just hold on. With tears in your eyes every time you hear it and frustration in your heart because you don’t deserve it. Hold on. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but when it does, the sun is so much brighter, the flowers are so much sweeter and the stars are like a blazing glory. This I KNOW to be true; and from that day forward, the good always seems to out weigh the bad, and every other trial that comes after that first, just seems like softball.


just for what it’s worth – not only will you have cute toes from all of “those” days, but you will be so much more grateful, even if just for the fact that when it’s all over you aren’t standing in the ruins with your foot in your mouth. Humble pie is not very good in that moment, and it’s served in large portions.

P.S. There is a handful of people (one in particular, you know who you are) that walked with me through these life lessons, pointed them out when I couldn’t see them, kept things in perspective, spent too much time allowing me to hurt, didn’t let me feel sorry for myself and stepped into the ring when my burden appeared too heavy. To them (and you in particular – you taught me so much about grace and what that does not have to look like), I would like to say thank you and what you mean to me will never remain the same.