Don’t Miss The Strangers In Your Path

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It was a very cold December night and some nasty weather and ice forecasted to move in soon. We drove to the hospital because we were quite sure Caleb had appendicitis… Definitely bad timing being my brothers wedding was 2 days away!  We got to the ER and there were tons of people there, some seeming like they needed to be there but most just seeming like they wanted an excuse to get out of the weather or get some attention. We got signed in and the lady told us it might be a while. We sat down and got ready to wait awhile.

After not long a couple in their 30’s  that had the cutest little boy who was probably not older than 2 came and sat down across from us. He happily ate his goldfish crackers and giggled about stuff. Caleb laid his head on my lap and tried to find a comfortable position while I sat up and just had this waiting room of people to stare at for hours.  I couldn’t help but keep noticing this couple and the little boy sitting across from us. I smiled at the little boy and he waved at me. His happy little innocence in this very unpleasant germ infested place cheered me up.

I couldn’t help but wonder what this couple who’s little boy melted my heart was here for. But as the minutes and hours ticked by I couldn’t help but notice how concerned the mom seemed to be. I don’t know if it was God or just the fact that I work around pregnant ladies all the time, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about her and wondering if she was in for something related to a miscarriage. The dad seemed concerned but he was trying not to think about whatever it was or at least not show it to anyone around him. Or maybe he just figured he needed to act like everything was fine to keep his little boy from being worried.

The hours ticked by and we both sat there waiting. Then out stepped a nurse and called out “Susan Roberts” in their very curt way. She jumped out of her seat as if she’d been on the edge of it the whole few hours we’d sat and never relaxed! I couldn’t help notice how worried, scared, and anxious she looked and I ask God to be with her and whatever was going on. My heart started to hurt for her as she walked back through the doors. I wondered if I would ever find out for sure what was going on or if this waiting room friend was gone for good.

A little while later they were escorted back to their seats across from us by the nurse and I could see that Susan was clearly trying to hold back tears and having a very hard time. After they were seated the nurse said “The report will take up to 2 hours to get back.” They both nodded their heads and the nurse walked away. I couldn’t help but be almost positive that she was indeed in because of something miscarriage related. She sat there biting back tears and trying to smile at her sweet little boy chattering away. Sometimes she would just look away and the tears would roll down her cheeks, my heart went out to her and all I could think was – somebody please just hug her, somebody please just hold her and be strong for her while she feels so weak! Her husband seemed busy with taking care of their little boy and like he just didn’t know what to do or say so he didn’t say anything. She just seemed so alone in her pain.

Finally after sitting there wondering why someone wasn’t hugging her or doing something to acknowledge her pain, it was like God spoke to me and said – Why don’t you be my hands and feet tonight and go hug her! I shook my head just thinking of how crazy that would seem! Two perfect strangers hugging in the middle of the packed ER! She would probably think I was crazy I told myself, she wouldn’t want me bothering her. But I knew deep down inside what I needed to do… I needed to be God’s hand and feet and Susan NEEDED someone to hug her or at least acknowledge her pain! I finally couldn’t take seeing her just sitting across from me sobbing anymore and I decided it was time to put away my worries of what she or anyone else might think of me. I walked the 6 long steps over to where she was sitting and told her I couldn’t help but overhear what the nurse said and asked her if she had come in because of a miscarriage, she said yes she had been having a lot of bleeding and they were afraid that the baby wasn’t okay anymore. I ask her if it was okay if I gave her a hug and she nodded. I couldn’t help but feel her pain so deeply! How I would feel if I was probably loosing a baby I had looked so forward to! My heart literally hurt for her and I started crying myself.

There in the middle of the Emergency Room packed with people, stood two perfect strangers hugging and balling their eyes out together over a little life so desperately wanted but maybe already gone. We were perfect strangers but somehow I felt her pain so deeply! We just stood there for a while hugging as the tears fell. I held her tight and her whole body almost seemed to go weak, in that moment she needed someone else to hold her up, to be strong for her when she was weak! In that moment it didn’t matter how weird we may have looked, it mattered that this sweet lady know that someone cared, someone felt her pain and she was not alone! In that moment of raw pain and tears with all our thoughts of pride and reputation put away, God gave us his presence of love and strength. He gave a little haven of strength and care in that very sterile, cold room.   She told me thank you so very much and I told her I’d be praying for her and she sat back down.

Soon after that they were called back and then we were called back and I didn’t see them again. I wished so bad I could see her again and see how she was. I couldn’t get her off my mind and prayed for her as I sat up through the night waiting for Caleb’s testing and surgery etc.  Now, months later I still can’t forget Susan, her pain, and her tears! I wish so bad I could somehow run into her again or had gotten her contact info to check up on her… but I didn’t. So I can just keep praying for this dear stranger who I came to care so much about in such a very short time, and who reminded me that God can come down and breath grace and strength into our painful situations when we put our pride and fear of people aside… Yes, even with a perfect stranger.

 

As you go about your life don’t get so distracted with the big things happening that you forget to keep your eye out and your heart soft to the strangers God might bring across your path. They may need to be hugged, prayed with, or shown that someone sees their pain and they are not alone!

Tattooed Pharisees…

So I’ve never shared links to other articles on my blog before. But since I’ve been on an extended break from social media I decided to share it with all of you here. 🙂

This article puts into words so many things I wanted to say and write down but just never could get out right.

“Yes, legalism still exists in those “right-wing” places the modern church has “progressed” beyond. But it also exists in skinny jeans and a Hebrew tattoo. It hides behind your Bethel Music and your electric guitar. It fills conversations with judgment and gracelessness, adding man’s requirements to a gospel of freedom – a freedom that includes both suits and skinny jeans.”

“Like tattoos were in yesteryear, the “telltale signs” of legalism draw a collective murmur from the modern church: long skirts, head coverings, the King James Version. And yet in condemning the people who practice these things, we do the very thing we claim to hate: judge by appearance. The truth? A head covering does not equal legalism. A long skirt, a suit, a KJV sermon – the Spirit of God can motivate such decisions with as much authenticity as the Anthropologie-clad girl on her YWAM mission.  In confining God’s work to the limitations of an ideology, we don’t beat legalism – we become it.”

Below is the link to the entire article. I highly recommend reading it, it’s definitely worth your time and thought. 🙂

http://phyliciadelta.com/tattooed-pharisees/

 

Blessings,

~Joanna W.

Sometimes You’re An Unknown Mama…

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I’ve heard a lot about the great impact of the prayers of a mother. Do you think it’s because she’s the biological mother that God somehow listens to her prayers more? No, I think it’s because a godly mother will care so deeply about her child that she will pray with a passion and fervency that not many Christians have in their prayer life.

 I think a child that has a godly, praying mother is one of the most blessed children ever! But what about all those children out there who don’t? What about the hundreds of children who have a mother that barely even takes care of them and only keeps them so she can get money from the system for them? Who will pray for them?

 Two years ago on a warm sunny Monday afternoon at camp a little girl was dropped off at my cabin door. There she stood with a large black suitcase almost the size of her. She looked up at me with big blue eyes and  said her name was *Sadie. I welcomed her into the cabin and introduced her to the other campers. We were doing baggage check so I asked her to open her suitcase. She opened the big black suit case and down at the bottom was a small pile of clothes that would fit into a grocery bag. She needed lots of different items for her week at camp and right away I knew this dear girl didn’t have a lot of responsible adults in her life. I proceeded to try to make pleasant conversation and asked her when her birthday was, she just quietly shrugged and said “I don’t know, we’ve never done birthdays.” I just said okay and tried not to act surprised so I wouldn’t make her feel bad. She said she was pretty sure she was 9.

 The week was an amazing one and a week I will never forget! I connected fast with Sadie right from the beginning and she rarely left my side. She just wanted so bad for an adult to love her, to care, to notice, to say “good job!” She had a lot of deep questions for a 9 year old and wondered why God let bad things happen and she wondered why God let her parents make the choices they did that made her end up in the foster care system. One day while sitting down for a break I asked her if she had any heros or anyone she looked up to. She said she couldn’t really think of anyone in her life that she’d want to be like except her case worker, she said that she was always very nice to her and took her out to talk and do fun things sometimes and she liked that. She asked if I had people I looked up to and I kinda shifted in my chair thinking about how many, many good examples I had in my life and how many amazing people inspire me and I can look up to. I told her yes, I had quit a few and told her a bit about a few of my favorites. She smiled and said “Wow you know a lot of nice people!” I began to realize how blessed I am compared to so many and began to wish I could be that person to children who had no one to look up to.

The days flew by way too quickly and she spent most of her days on my back getting piggyback rides everywhere or hugging me. She was definitely making a spot for herself in my heart that would always be hers!  I started wishing there was a way I could take her home. I was only 18 but all I knew was I wanted to somehow show this girl love and give her hope! Before I knew it, it was Friday morning and I knew in a few hours we’d have to say goodbye. I was so torn up at the thought of saying goodbye, how could I ever let her go. She hardly let me out of her sight that morning and said she didn’t want to go. Finally the dreaded time came for her to get in the van and leave. She hugged me so tight I thought I was going to fall over. She started sobbing and begging me “please don’t make me go, please let me come home with you, please please please adopt me!” I couldn’t take it any longer and stood there sobbing and said, “I’d love to take you home but I just can’t, I wouldn’t be allowed to take you home, it wouldn’t be legal.”  She looked up at me with her big blue eyes in pools of tears and said, “well then promise you won’t forget me!” I promised her that and said I would pray for her and come visit if I could.

After we said goodbye that sunny afternoon, her face was forever imprinted in my memory and she took a piece of my heart. A day has hardly passed since that day that I haven’t found myself thinking about her. She’s written down in my prayer journal and I have done my best to pray for her every day since then. A few days she’s been on my mind so strongly that I just have to keep praying for her till I get peace. I never was able to work it out to go visit her in all the business of my life and it was extremely hard to stay in contact with her while she was bounced around to different homes. I was able to keep up with her some and about every 4-6 months we’d talk for a while on the phone.

I knew she made an unforgettable impression on me and I knew that I was called stand in the gap for her where she didn’t have a stable mother to love her and pray for her and lift her up to God. But what I didn’t know was that I had made a huge impression on her. I knew she liked me a lot and she obviously put effort into keeping my number as she was bounced around and often the number I had for her would no longer be working and I’d just have to wait for a day when she would call me.

Two years after saying one of the hardest goodbyes of my life, I got to see my dear Sadie again. I was up spending the day as an aunt at Camp David and desperately hoping and praying that Sadie would be there so I could see her again!  But first I saw her sister Sara who had also came as a camper 2 years ago but was assigned to a different team. I was helping each of the girls pick out their dress for the princes dinner that night and in walked Sara and her team. I told her hi and asked if she remembered me. She looked at me for a second with a puzzled look then looked shocked and said “Are you Sadie’s Jo-Jo that she always talks about?” I said yes, I was Jo-Jo and Sara let out a gasp “Wow, Sadie is sure going to be excited to see you, she talks about you all the time! 2 Years ago when she got home from camp she wouldn’t come out of her room for 3 days and just cried her eyes out because she said she wanted to be with you and missed you!”  I was taken back at how much this little girl loved me too! ❤

Not more than 20 minutes later I got to see my dear Sadie. She ran up to me and I wrapped her up in a big bear hug. I finally got to see the dear girl I’d prayed for daily and thought about so often! The whole rest of the day she wanted me to be with her every chance possible. It was the most amazing day to finally get to see again the dear girl that God had given me so much love for!

God laid that little girl on my heart two years ago and I’ve done my best to pray for her everyday and I intend to keep pray for her everyday! Sometimes I didn’t even know where she was living, but her face has been forever been etched in my mind, her picture has been the background of my computer screen the last 2 years, and her name is written places where I’ll notice it as I go about my day.  If I don’t stand in the gap for Sadie then probably no one else will.


“Whether you have biological children or not, we are all spiritual mama’s to somebody and we can be praying single women, childless women, women with a quiver full of children, women who have never had any children. God has put us in the position of being warriors for children through prayer. And I think only when we’re finally in glory will we be able to meet the people we’ve been praying for steadfastly.”

~Janet Parshall

What child do you know that needs a spiritual mama (Or spiritual dad for you guys reading)? Will you just think about it and then forget about it? Or will you stand in the gap for that child like they are your own, the one who is in desperate need of a spiritual mama, even if they never know that it’s you!

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~ This post is dedicated to the many women who may never be thanked this side of eternity but have prayed and interceded for children not their own! ~

*Names changed for privacy

Marry a Kind Man…

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When Caleb and I were courting last year I asked many people for advice and what they thought was the most important thing in deciding who you would marry. Besides for being a Christian which of course is the most important. A lot of them said the same thing – marriage is work but if you marry someone kind you’ll never regret it! I of course had always wanted a kind guy, but kind was always on my list of 20 other things I wanted too. It seemed to go along with romantic, a gentleman, adventurous, determined etc. All those positive things that each person wishes their future spouse would be, but people are flawed humans and you’re never going to find everything you want (or think you want) in one person.

 

Over the next months I thought about their advice a lot. It seemed to make more sense to me and my priorities seem to be a little more clear. And I could definitely say that Caleb was one of the kindest guys I’d ever met! Then he asked me to marry under a full moon and I said yes, wedding planning was all a blur and we had a fairytale wedding. Everything fell into place on the day just like it was supposed to. We got married on the warmest day in February with sunshine and all! It was all a perfect dream.  

 

But after we got married a lot of things did not go as planned. Caleb got mono and ended up in the hospital. He was sick and totally out for a few weeks about the time he was better I got sick and have been sick off and on the last month. I’m currently laying in the hammock feeling like puking trying to distract myself. We’re remodeling our house which hasn’t went exactly as planned. My house is currently a mess (I thought kids were to blame for making a house messy) there are piles of dishes waiting to be done and I forgot to make Caleb a lunch last night so I ran around this morning while coming down with the flu trying to throw a haphazard meal together for him to take. Did he complain that I forgot? Nope, he just said thank you so much and gave me a huge hug and a kiss like I’d just made him his favorite meal.

 

I’ve thought a lot about marriage and kindness lately. I sat talking with a friend right before I got married as she told me about her boyfriend she was pretty serious about. She said what she loved about him was that he wanted to go conquer the world and always was doing big things. I ask her if he was kind, she said he wasn’t mean but wasn’t super kind. She said that doing big things and always keeping her amazed by what he was doing was more important to her than a guy that was kind. She wanted someone who would captivate a room and could get everyone on board with his idea. I cautioned her that probably someday once she had a few kids that she’d care more about how kind he was than what big new thing he was doing. She thought about it and said maybe but she wasn’t sure and didn’t I used to want to marry a guy who wanted to get into politics and do big things and conquer the world. I said yes, but now my priorities for a guy had changed.

 

Now I’ve been married for a few months and a lot of unexpected things have happened. I can say now that more than ever I think one of the very most important character qualities in a guy when you think about marrying him is that he’s kind. When the house is a mess and you’re puking your guts out and have laid around half of the last 2 weeks sick with every kind of sickness  and he’s kindly taken care of you and not complained… Somehow right now that means so much more to me than if he’s out doing some big huge thing and he’s super popular!

 

Never underestimate the quality of kindness. Life almost never goes quite as planned and if you have a kind person at your side it makes it SO very much better! I’d much prefer a man who captivated people with his kindness than grabbed the attention of every room he walked into. Somehow giving big elegant speeches seems lame when you see him get a cart for the person in aldi’s carrying around an overflowing box because they didn’t think they’d be grabbing that many groceries. Or kindly bend down and fix a toy for a toddler who’s favorite toy just broke. My husband may not be on billboards, but through kindness he’s etched on more people’s hearts than I could count.  

 

Some people seem to think that being kind is being weak, but I actually think being kind is one of the strongest character qualities. It takes strength to still say a kind word even when you’re sad or disappointed or your expectations have not been met!

 

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” ~Ephesians 4:32

 

In life kindness makes everything a little sweeter, but for a good marriage, kindness is essential! If you’re looking for a spouse, look for someone that’s kind. If you want to have a good marriage someday, cultivate kindness. And if you’re married and want a sweet marriage, cultivate kindness.

 

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” 

 

 

~Blessings

Joanna W.

Musings on a Mundane Sentence

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“This morning my husband left for work.” That seems like the most normal sentence ever to come out of a ladies mouth. Some say it sounding frustrated and are annoyed how much their husband works. Some say it sadly wishing they couldn’t spend more time with their husband. Some say it gratefully glad they have a hard working husband to provide even though they miss them.  And a few say it happily because they are glad he’s gone for the day and won’t bother them.

  It’s funny how the exact same thing can mean totally different things to different people.
This morning I said goodbye to my husband as he headed off to work with a very grateful heart! No, just so you know I wasn’t happy/grateful that he was getting out of my hair because I don’t like him around, I love having him around every bit possible! I was grateful because it was like a step to coming out of a seemingly long journey God had us on. A journey that has taught me so much and is still teaching me!
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 It seems that sometimes it takes the absence of something to give you a proper view and appreciation for it. Caleb has always been a super hard worker and loved to work hard. As long as I’ve known him he’s always had work coming out his ears and always working long days etc. I used to sometimes get annoyed that he had to work so much and have such long days, and thought about the sad day after we got married that he’d have to go back to work. Well today I was instead happy. It wasn’t his first day to go to work since we got married, but his first day in a long few weeks. Between breaking his heel before we got married and after we got married getting mono along with many other things, he’s been able to work 3 weeks out of the last 5 1/2 months or 15 days out of the last 165.
 Today I’m grateful to God for being so very faithful to us,  for teaching us so much through all of this,  and for the fact that my husband went to work this morning! 🙂 
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Blessings,
~Joanna W.

Love Until It Hurts

Since my life has been calming down in the last few weeks and not so insanely busy I’ve been hoping to get back to my long forsaken blog. It’s going to take a long post to catch you up on almost a year of my life. I’ve written multiple drafts but they only get half done and then I decide it’s not right. So maybe one of these days I’ll write down my catch up post, but until then I decided to break the silence and start posting again. Just a hint, on February 20th, 2016 I got a new last name! 🙂
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This morning I was scrolling through Instagram looking at random pictures of cute babies, friends hanging out together, spring flowers and all the normal Instagram pictures. As I scrolled, I came across a quote.  Naturally the quote loving person I am, I stopped to read it. I’m not even friends with the girl who posted it. I met her one time at an event and I’m not sure why I followed her, she normally just posts pictures of her and people I don’t know, but this post of hers caught my attention.

 

“Good Friday… Reminds us that the good is often painful; That God’s will for our lives demands that we love until it hurts.”  ~Unknown.

 

I paused and read it again letting it sink it. And I’ve been reading it every few minutes all morning. It’s so very true and powerful.

 When we think of good we often think of something happy and easy. We don’t often think of pain when we think of good. But good and pain almost always go hand in hand. We often are scared of pain and try to avoid it at all costs. But it’s the pain that often shapes and molds our character. It’s pain that squeezes us, and what’s really inside comes out. I have come to think that pain is the most powerful tool God uses to build our character and make us Christlike.  I heard it once said the best person to minister to someone in great pain is someone who has experienced great pain. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that almost every single one, if not all of the great hymn writers, missionaries etc. experienced some very deep pain and sorrow in theirs lives. And God used that pain to make something beautiful out of their lives, no their lives weren’t easy, but they were beautiful.  God uses pain to give us a compassion, a understanding, and a love for people that we could not otherwise have had.

Jesus came down from a perfect heaven to live as a man. To experience what we experience, to feel pain, to be tempted, to be tried, to live life in this very broken world. He experienced the most extreme pain anyone could and he was tempted like none of us have ever been tempted before. He knows our pain, He knows our sorrows, and He knows our temptations. He did it all not because we deserved it, but because of his incredible love for us.

I love the second part of the quote too – “God’s will for our lives demands that we love until it hurts.”  So often we don’t fully love people to the potential we could because we’re afraid we’ll get hurt. And I’ll say it right now, if you love anyone or anything, you will experience pain. And you will never not experience pain until we no longer live in a sin broken world. But is pain really something we should avoid at all costs, is it really the thing we should dread most in life?  True unconditional love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, suffers long and is kind. Every single Christian is commanded to love, without conditions, without selfish little clauses to save themselves from pain or rejection. The most powerful thing we can ever do is to love someone unconditionally with the love of Christ! To serve someone, be patient, be kind, even when they’re causing us pain, even when it hurts really bad.

To think, God has commanded us to love people unconditionally. Yes, even the mean ones, the ones that lie about the people we love, the ones that are rude to us, the ones that always look out for themselves, and the ones who hurt us the deepest. But in our own strength it’s impossible for us to love people like that in our own flesh. It’s impossible for us to truly unconditionally love our enemies or those who hurt us like Christ told us too. But He can give us the power to love unconditionally and let His unconditional love flow through us!

True, Christlike, unconditional love is bold, unconditional love is brave, unconditional love stands courageous and un-moving like a rock in the middle of a hurricane and will not budge no matter how much pain the one being loved throws back at the one loving.  Love is not fuzzy feelings and heart flutters, love is bold, love is fierce and love is brave when everything else backs down and runs for safety from pain, love doesn’t! Unconditional love never stops giving and unconditional love never ends.

“Good Friday… Reminds us that the good is often painful; That God’s will for our lives demands that we love until it hurts.”  ~Unknown.

 

May we ask Christ to give us that kind of Christlike unconditional love.

Blessings,

~Joanna W.

 

The Hardest Kind Of Pain

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The other week I was driving home from work–the time when I have an hour to my thoughts to just think, think, and for a change of pace, think some more. 🙂 I started pondering life, people, relationships, and pain…how they are all somehow woven together in such a complicated way!  I started thinking of some of the things that have hurt me the very most. No, it wasn’t when someone hurt me deeply or when I ran a 5K race trying to beat my PR while I had the stomach flu. It was when I knew that something I had to do was going to cause someone else very much pain. It’s a terrible feeling and sometimes you wish so bad you could just take their spot so they wouldn’t have to go through it. Sometimes knowing something you have to do will cause pain is the very worst pain of all!


It was then that the death of Jesus came to mind. I’ve heard many many sermons and people’s thoughts on the great pain that Jesus suffered for us and they are all so true. But I have heard much less about the great pain God the Father must have gone through watching his Son go through such horrific pain! God the Father knew that it had to take place but it didn’t make it any less painful.


“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  ~Matthew 27:46


I’m not a parent so I’m sure I can’t comprehend this nearly as well as you who have precious little people that you sacrificially love and lay your life down for everyday. But can you just imagine your child experiencing the most horrific pain, shame, and weight of sin that has ever been experienced before in this broken world? They are completely innocent and undeserving of it but you can’t be there for them and you have to turn away! You have to turn a deaf ear to their pleading cry as your heart inside is torn into a thousand shreds.


Tonight I am forever grateful for a Savior who experienced such horrific pain we could never come close to understanding, and to God who suffered more than we will ever know, watching his Son go through such unspeakable pain!

Never Once

Last week a friend of mine posted the lyrics of a song I hadn’t heard before. I looked it up and immediately loved it! This week has been kind of a unique week in my life and it was like God put it there at the perfect time just for me!  I hope it blessed you as much as it’s blessed me.

“Never Once”

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

This is my favorite version I’ve found yet.
Have a blessed weekend!

When You Have No Words

My ear was numb from the phone pressed tightly against my ear as I heard the words spill out: “It’s awful, Jo, they don’t think he’ll make it. If a miracle doesn’t happen, he won’t make it.”

What do you say to a friend who is probably going to say goodbye to her 16-year-old brother in a matter of days?

What do you say to a friend holding your hand, shaking with such deep pain it cannot be uttered?

What do you say to a friend who is aching because those who were supposed to protect and support her aren’t doing so?

What do you say to a friend who has tried so hard and seemingly everything in his life is going wrong?

What do you say when you look into the eyes of a teenager lying in a hospital bed trying to fight the cancer overtaking her body?

What do you say? WHAT?!

Continue reading on the Rebelution Blog – Here

Mandy’s Story – Senior Girls Week Camp David

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I had plans for my summer, I was going to get out of my comfort zone and spend 2 months in another state working on a project. Well, God had completely different plans, but they still included getting out of my comfort zone!

I sat with my bible in one hand and a wordless bracelet on the other, I was explaining the first bead on the wordless bracelet – gold, which stands for heaven. It wasTuesday night, the night I had so been looking forward to when us counselors would take time in the evening to share the gospel with the 2 girls on our team assigned to us.

I was at Camp David of the Ozarks, a camp for kids that have a parent currently in prison; it was senior girls week and my co-counselor Macy and I were assigned the oldest team, the 15-16 year olds. I was not expecting my campers to be that old, nor was I expecting the way my campers would respond to camp and certainly not the response I was getting from them right now. Papa Big Heart had said the first bit of camp normally went smooth before conflicts and problems surfaced; the minute our team of 6 were all together in our cabin, things had been rough, and it just went to from rough to worse!

I paused for a moment and silently begged God to know what to say and to give me wisdom! I had not yet finished with the gold bead, and Reta* was huffing and puffing in her chair and muttering about how she didn’t feel like this and to hurry up. Mandy* sat in the chair in the corner and had a pillow over her face and was clearly not interested when suddenly she burst out “I’m sick of this and it’s time you listen to me before I hurt someone or do something bad!” She proceeded to tell me how much she hated camp, how much she hated me and any other Christian there. She boldly stated “If God is anything like you or anyone at this camp, I never want to know Him!” I told her to never base her view of God off anyone’s actions, but to only base her view of God off of who God is and what the Bible says He is like.

Inside my heart broke, her words had cut so deep, I felt broken and raw, like a broken failure. All I had hoped for at camp was that I could give my campers a glimpse of Christ’s love, and it looked like everything was crashing down.  I was struggling so hard to stay positive, happy, and loving.  Reta then proceeded to tell me she didn’t want to ever hear testimony time again because no one here had any idea what she had gone through and nothing people shared even started to compare to her story! Mandy loudly said “Amen to that!”. Reta had lost her brother only 28 days ago when his girlfriend stabbed him to death. I told them I was sure I could never ever imagine what they had gone through, but asked if they would just let me walk through the gospel braclet for 5 minutes, then we could talk about whatever problems they had with camp or whatever they wanted. When I finished, Mandy said, “Wow, if God really came down like you said He did, He must have been a really nice person who wasn’t proud!” Even if she only remembered that one thing for that night I was completely thrilled.

Mandy and Reta then launched back into how I probably grew up with an absolutely perfect life, so why would I dare ask them if they wanted to share their stories. Mandy paused for a moment, then looked me square in the eyes and emphatically stated, “You do NOT deserve to even hear my story! I have more family members and friends that are dead than I have living. I don’t feel anymore and I certainly never ever cry about anything!” I sat there slightly stunned, these dear girls had expercienced so much pain in their lives and their solution was not to play the victim, but for every pain they added a layer of bricks to the walls that surrounded their hearts. For a second it was as if I was starring at walls built so high from pain that the Effiel tower seemed small in comparison. But I knew deep down under all those layers was a bruised and broken heart longing to be loved, longing to truly be loved, longing to feel again, but there was no way I could ever get there. I silently let a prayer slip up through the ceiling, begging God for a miracle in their hearts. I looked back at these two girls that I loved so much and they looked back at me, their counselor with the big yellow counselor t-shirt on that they disliked so much!

I then spoke as honestly as I knew how. “Yes,” I said, “I have lived an amazing life and grew up with an amazing family, and yes, you are right that I don’t have anything to complain about or a story half as hard as you!” Reta stared back at me with a shocked look on her face and said, “Thank you, Jo, for being honest. That’s my favorite thing I’ve heard so far!” I continued, “But when it comes to grief and losing someone I have experienced that. I lost 3 family members in 4 years and one of them was my mom.” Mandy looked up at me and simply stated, “Sorry Jo, can I give you a hug?” The three of us hugged and, even though it was brief, I could see a ray of feeling and compassion shining down on their wounded hearts.

For the next two days I had to hold tightly to that single ray of hope I saw admits the forest of chaos! Our four campers fought with each other constantly and it seemed like there was never a moment without tension. They had moments here and there at craft time or with the horses when they would be calm and happy, but at any given moment they would let their tempers fly and often dump it all out on me. The worst times though were when they would just cut everyone off and not say a single word, acting as if no one there existed. On Wednesday Mandy didn’t say a single words to me or anyone else for 8 long hours, no matter what I would do or ask her, not even a nod when I asked if I could take her tray at lunch. She began to crawl deeper and deeper into her cold silent hole. I was so worried about her and sometimes had to step into the bathroom for a minute to just let it all out and cry, begging God to work even though I felt like I was failing as a counselor. I kept taking every possible chance to get to serve Mandy and Reta or to show them that I did care, but I got no response. The harder I tried and the more I sacrificed, the colder they became to me.

“Something is going to have to change or things are going to explode,” I kept thinking. Sure enough, Thursday morning, explode they did! A group of us were standing around talking when I casually made a comment to another camper about camp that seemed like just a random meaningless comment to me, but somehow it flipped Mandy’s switch and she let it all out – cuss words and anything negative imaginable sprayed out like hot lava all over me. One of the counselor coaches stepped in and helped remove her from the situation so more girls wouldn’t get involved and it wouldn’t escalate any more. She stomped off out into the open field and told everyone to stay far away or she would hurt them! Once again my heart broke for her, the walls around her heart seem so tall and impenetrable!

After walking around outside in the field for about an hour, Mandy came in for lunch and sat down my me and didn’t say a word. Inside I groaned, hoping this wouldn’t launch into another 8 hours of complete silence. Near the end of lunch she leaned over to me and quietly said, “Jo, can I tell you something?” I nodded and said, “Of course!” She stared down at her plate and continued, “I’m sorry for saying all those nasty thing this morning.” I smiled and said, “Thank you, Mandy, that means a lot to me!” She added quickly, “Should we go play carpet ball after lunch?” I told her I would love to! I felt like hopping right up on top of the table right then and there in the middle of the sea of people and screaming, “Praise the Lord!” but my senses came back to me quickly and I stayed sitting squarely in my seat. The game was awesome and I could see her opening up. She kept giving me hugs and always wanted to walk hand in hand everywhere we went. She went from never wanting to be with me to clinging to me like I was going to disappear if she let me out of her sight.

That afternoon we were sitting outside Fort Turley chilling while everyone else was running around that field doing an activity and she finally opened up and explained why she’d acted the way she had during her week at camp. She said, “Jo, I know I’ve said I hate you and never want to see you again and I’ve been as cold as I possibly could toward you, but why do you just keep being nice? I don’t understand why you do!” I then got to share with her about Jesus and His unconditional love for us. Mandy then looked at the ground and admitted, “I was so cold to you because I was scared to get close to you! Every adult that’s been in my life that was supposed to care just turned around and hurt me, took advantage of me, and left. I didn’t want to get close to you because I was afraid you’d leave like everyone else!” I sat there feeling like balling my eyes out at her honesty scarred by such deep pain. I told her it was ok and I couldn’t always be there for her but I would pray for her everyday and do my very best to keep up with her after she left camp. We hugged and I felt her relax, as if she felt like she could drop her walls just a little bit! The rest of the day we had so many meaningful conversations about life and she always wanted me right with her all the time.

Friday morning came and she held my hand whenever she could but would hardly speak a word to me. “I’m scarred to leave,” she whispered, “I want to stay here forever. I finally feel safe and I’ll never forget about what I learned about God.” When the time came to load up on the busses after lunch, we hugged for the last time and the 15 year old teen that had firmly stated she didn’t feel anymore and she never cried melted and broke down sobbing in my arms, I cried too. I quietly whispered in her ear, “It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to let it out and cry!” Tears flowed like a steady rain. Not tears that caused wounds and pain but tears that heal broken hearts dropped steadily, softly, on a battered heart, slowly starting to melt away a few of those deep festering scars that seemed so impossible to ever reach at first! I let go of her hand for the last time as she climbed onto the bus and silently begged God to hold her close, keep her safe, and help her realize it’s okay to cry…. that tears don’t always have to leave scars – but instead heal scars!

*names changed for privacy