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Writer of fiction that reflects the light of Jesus. Sometimes the grit mixes with beauty to make up a picture of this life. That's where my fiction lives.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Restored Life

Today I had the opportunity to participate in a forum on human trafficking. It was extremely exciting to have such a conference in my own town.





I arrived at Kentwood Community Church to set up my display in room 115. The room was lined with 6 foot tables, each covered by black cloth. I found my "booth" and put out fliers and business cards, purses and necklaces. I was looking forward to meeting new people, all who had a passion for the modern abolitionist movement.





I scoped out the tables near me. On my right was the International Jusice Mission (the IJM...they are an amazing organization and I recommend you check them out). On my left was Sacred Beginnings. I knew nothing about that group.





Well, I went about my business, found the snack table and got ready for a great day.





After scarfing down my Bugles and Diet Coke I went back to my display. The ladies from Sacred Beginnings had arrived while I pigged out. I had a chance to look at their materials.





Among the information were two newspaper articles. One recognized the founder of the organization for her work advocating against criminal sexual exploitation in the Grand Rapids area.





Wow! That's huge, extreme, amazing work! I was so pumped to meet her. I couldn't wait to learn more.





Then I looked at the other article.





It featured a picture of her. She was mentoring a few women. Then there was a photo below where the newspaper would have folded.





It was a mug shot. The woman in the photo had stringy, yellow hair. Her face was thin and sallow. Her eyes...oh, her eyes...they were scared, angry, hurt. I was haunted by her eyes. I got goosebumps from the expression of the woman who the caption said was arrested over and over and over; larceny, assault, sexual solicitation, drug possession...and on and on and on.





Then I realized something. This sad, empty face belonged to the same woman who was fighting for the rights of others. I discovered that this prostitute, drug addict, thief had transformed into an advocate, mentor, servant.





As I marveled over the article I realized that the woman, Leslie, was nearing her table. She was chatting with the two friends she brought with them. All three ladies were dressed beautifully, smiles brightly and walked with confidence.





With much humility I introduced myself. I was half tempted to say "Hi, I'm Susie. Nothing has ever happened to me that comes close to what you've endured. I can't understand how you survived."





But instead I said "Hi! I'm Susie." (when I'm nervous sometimes I say dumb things...that's why it's really an accomplishment for me to NOT say something stupid).





I learned that Leslie became a Christian after an attempted suicide. She did everything to end her life, but "God wouldn't let me go that way". She has been "clean" for over 10 years and touched the lives of hundreds of prostitutes in Grand Rapids.





One of her friends was on the streets, selling her body for over 20 years. She was incarcerated for 6 months and at the end of her time in prison had no where to go. She contemplated going back to a life of prostitution. "It was the only thing I knew how to do", she said.





That night Leslie visited the prison. She took the woman home with her. She taught her about all the possibilities she had. She showed her the road that leads to life. This woman is now months from receiving her certificate to become a hair stylist. She loves Jesus. She has hope for the first time in over two decades.



The other friend was quiet. She was observing, looking at everyone's faces. She was checking everything out. She has been free from the bondages of prostitution for only half a year.



But in that 6 months she has enrolled in college and is averaging a 4.0. She has hope.



I looked into the eyes of these three women and saw joy. I saw three humans, made in the image of God who now realized their worth. Three ladies who have been redeemed from a place I will never understand.



And all I want to hear is about the stories of who they are now. Who God has made them to be. The old is gone. The new has come. Never before did I understand that concept as well as I do today.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Faith, Doubt and Canned Corn

I'm reading this really great book. It's called "O Me of Little Faith" by Jason Boyett. It's all about doubt within the Christian life. It strikes a chord with me because I have struggled with doubt throughout my years on earth...even though I grew up in the Church and have loved Jesus all the while. How could I doubt? Well, I don't know. How do I have faith? I don't know that either. But I possess both of them and they both make me a stronger believer...because they both keep me searching for the Truth.



In the book, Boyett discusses some of his "experiences" with God; times when he knew that God was real.



His accounts made me think, "What are some of the touchstones of my faith? When have I known without a shadow of doubt that 1) God is real and 2) in His realness He cares for me? One occurrence in my life popped right into my recollection.



When I was a kid we were pretty bad off in the money department. I was the little girl who, in the 1980's, was wearing brown polyester and bell bottoms when the other kids were wearing florescent nylon and tapered leg jeans. Hand-me-downs were my personal style.



We were also the "scholarship kids" at a Christian school. All of our friends were pretty well off. The day after Christmas break was always torture as the other kids talked about Santa bringing Nintendos and Reebok's and about 500 other gifts. Our Christmas' were about Jesus, family and cookies...not so much about toys. But when you're in 2nd grade you want it to be about the presents.



One day at that Christian school we were challenged to go home and collect food for a poor family. The Hippie in me said "Right on!" and got all excited about helping this poor family.



"MOM! Can we take some stuff for the food drive at school?" I asked, climbing all over myself with enthusiasm.



"Well, let's see." My Mom was a teacher at my school (she taught art...how cool is that?). She had to know this was coming. "We have a can of corn and a box of corn cereal. That's it."



And she was right. That was all we had. Payday was coming. But not really as soon as the food was going.



I deflated.



"But, let's just trust God." She said this with a beautiful smile spread across her face. "We can always go to Grandma's for dinner."



So, we put the can of corn and box of corn cereal (yup, not even the brand name of that one) in a bag. We were trusting God.



That night, after school we did go to my Grandma's house for dinner. She had cookies...never ending cookies. Just like a Grandmother should.



When we got home and started doing our homework we noticed a huge van pulling up to our house. The doors swung open. Out stepped a few of the teachers from our school. They started unloading boxes upon boxes and bringing them into our home.



The boxes were full of food.



We had no idea that the food drive was for us. We were the poor family. But far more importantly, we were a family that God cared about.



Would we have been blessed by the gifts of our friends even if we hadn't put forth our contribution? Yes.



Would we have starved to death if we weren't showered with cans of soup and boxes of jello? No.



Were we blessed with a need so that we could be the recipients of God's mercy through others? I really think so.



This event shaped my belief in God. It taught me that He cares about the needs of His children.



And yet I still doubt? Yeah. Sometimes. Sometimes I forget that God can possibly love a worm like me. Sometimes I question certain things in the Bible. And every once in a while I wonder if it's all true.



But in those moments I turn my brain to thinking about the food drive. God really did and does care for us. And you. And me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Feeling

My long time friend Russ has gotten me thinking today. Russ and I grew up in Boyscouts together. Yeah, that's right...I was in the Boyscouts. I know I'm a girl. Don't mess with me...I'll tie you up in a knot, put a splint on your leg and get you lost in the woods.

That's not the point of this anyway.

Russ wrote on his facebook status about feeling emotions of loss and sadness. And about really experiencing those emotions. And how it's okay.

Do you even know how hard I have worked my whole life to NOT feel those things? To push the grief down, to put the anger away, to hold the tears in...even when alone. It's not an easy thing to do. To avoid emotions is unnatural.

So, why do I do it?

Because I want to be strong. I want to be in control of myself. Because I want to prove to everyone else that I can handle all that life can throw at me. Because I am afraid deep down that if I let others see my weakness that they will chalk me up to having a weak faith.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

God created me in His image (and you, for that matter). He created me to feel anger, grief, joy, sadness, laughter, disappointment, etc. And they are His emotions. He has felt all of those things. He knows what my heart feels. He has experienced all that I have.

So, for me to deny myself these aspects of my Creator is the lack of faith. It is me telling Him that I don't trust how He made me. That I don't know that He will lead me through those shadows of death and doubt and fear. But when I allow those pieces of me to work I am trusting Him and His purposes for all that I experience.