enough

'Daring to Hope' Book Brings Personal Revelation

Breathe, Allison.

In, out. In, out.

I wiped away tears with the back of my cardigan sleeve and held back my sniffles. I glanced over to my right, where the lady in the middle seat of the airplane row peered down at her book, politely pretending she didn't notice the woman in the window seat had become an absolute mess.

I looked down at the pages of the book again, and then up at the seat back in front of me, and then back down at the book. I stared at the page until the words appeared blurry from tears. I read and reread it:

"As humans, each of us just as lacking as the next, I think the most powerful thing we can do for another person is not to try to fix his or her pain or make it go away, but to acknowledge it. I cannot heal. I cannot perform miracles. Even for all my trying I cannot make sure that someone will receive salvation from Jesus. But I can be a witness.

I can look at another's broken, bleeding mess and I can say, 'I see you. I am with you. I will not turn away.'" - Katie MajorsDaring to Hope

Stock photo from Pexels.com

Stock photo from Pexels.com

These words transported me back to a hospital on the other side of the world, where three summer ago I met Cambodian patients and a searing sense of helplessness as I watched suffering and active dying. I remembered how these experiences had opened my eyes to the Lord's precious, comforting and healing presence.

"I see you. I am with you. I will not turn away."

This is what Jesus had done for me and for the patients, and this was enough. It was enough to fill me to overflowing and to bring tears of relief to my eyes.

But Katie wasn't talking about Jesus in this paragraph. She was talking about humans. She was talking about us. 

Something magical happened in my heart in that window seat on the plane that day. For the first time, I was able to believe that perhaps my presence was a gift, too. Perhaps my presence was a valid contribution; perhaps my presence meant something and made a difference.

Could it be that my presence was enough? For most of my life, I found my identity in being a caretakerA caretaker, I learned, fixes problems and meets needs and gains a sense of identity from it. In contrast, caregivers act from an overflow, with an identity rooted deeply in confidence, humility, and unconditional love for self and others. Caregivers give care without needing anything in return—no recognition or contribution to a sense of identity.

I mulled over these thoughts, and I wondered. In that rural Cambodian hospital, I had believed I had nothing to offer; I had no magician's hat or Mary Poppins purse from which to pull antibiotics or an MRI machine. Yet here, in the pages of Katie Majors' book, I discovered perhaps I had given an offering of the utmost importance to those beloved patients. I had given my presence.

It had nearly killed me on the inside to show up day after day to Kratie Referral Hospital, but show up I did. I could not offer resources or cures. I watched when it pained me, when I wanted to run from the building crying and screaming. I offered up prayers as I passed by beds with children with malaria and mothers, brothers, and sons in a coma. I stood beside an infant in a crib, alone in an empty room. I watched her tiny toes wiggle and adjusted the pulse oximeter and served as a witness to her condition. No more, no less. A witness.

For all these years, I thought I had given nothing. But what if I had given everything? What if my presence was the ultimate gift I could give, and what if this gift made a difference?

In that that airplane window seat, I let the tears stream down my face. I knew I was not having a breakdown but a breakthrough. 

As an introvert, I already know that my presence at a party or event is usually the only gift I can muster. Perhaps though, presence is also the gift of highest value we have to offer, anytime and anywhere. To show up, to engage, to be present and to be a witness. Perhaps this is not only of great value in situations where we have nothing else to offer, but perhaps it is the greatest gift at all times. Perhaps it is more valuable than our entire bank accounts or the most thoughtful gifts or the ability to fix everyone's problems and bring physical healing.

Perhaps the worth of our presence outweighs all these things and more, for we are made in the image of God.

When I first learned I would have the opportunity to be a part of the launch team for Katie Majors' new book, Daring to Hope, I thought I'd be inspired and maybe humbled—and I did find these things in her book, but I also found much more. In an unexpected move, the Holy Spirit showed up in the pages and brought healing and revelation. He brought me to tears and whispered I had not failed in that hospital all those months ago. I had offered all I had, and what I offered was enough. His presence is enough for me, and at times my presence alone is enough for others. He will take care of the rest.

 

Katie's book comes out on October 3, 2017, and I highly recommend it!! You can preorder it here. Katie has a way of weaving vulnerable, honest stories with Scripture in a unique way that opens the door for the Lord to show up and speak to each reader in a personal way. In other words, her writing invites us into His presence, the greatest place to be.
 
Special thanks to Waterbrook & Multnomah and Katie Majors for welcoming me onto their launch team. For full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of Daring to Hope, and the Amazon links to the book are affiliate links, which means I might get a small commission if you purchase using the link (which will probably go to pay for the official copy of Daring to Hope I just preordered!). Let me know if you end up reading the book; I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!
 

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Beyond the Smiles (Part II)

(For Part I, click here.) 

I remember him laying there. The bare white mattress in the Emergency Ward. The blanket stained with sweat and dirt wrapped around his waist. His ribs protruding from his thin, malnourished frame.

I remember him turning onto his side, obviously in pain. I remember his mother standing at the bedside, anxiety and fear written clearly across her face.

A group of American healthcare workers, part of a medical mission team I was working with, flocked around him and hooked up an ancient ECG machine to confirm a diagnosis of pericarditis—a diagnosis for which nothing more could be done in this rural Cambodian hospital. 

As they gathered around the bed adjusting ECG leads and talking among themselves, I stood in the back. Listening, observing, and praying.

I took in a deep breath, and I let it out. This young man was dying. There was nothing we could do about it. With all our knowledge, with all our experience, with all our compassion and good intentions, there was nothing we could do to prevent this man’s suffering and death. 

There was a time when seeing a patient like this young man broke me. It led me on a journey of desperate brokenness and incredible healing. It led me to face truths concerning what I believed about God and myself. Ultimately, it led me to rest in knowing I don’t have to be enough.

This time, as I stood near the patient's bed, everything was different. Outwardly, I was surrounded by Americans, and I was grateful to be with so many whose education and experience exceeded mine. Things had shifted inwardly, too; I found I had courage to reach out to this patient in a way I was too timid to do before but was incredibly important.

When I close my eyes, I am back in the hot, humid, Cambodian Emergency Ward. I breathe in deep, and I choose to rest in this truth: I don’t have to be enough, for Christ is enough. When I stop worrying about how much I can’t do because I am not enough, I hear Jesus’ quiet invitation to sit in His presence, even in the midst of such deep suffering. And I accept. 

I sit in His presence and bring this young man to Him, praying he would know the peace of Jesus’ presence, too. I sit in His presence and bring myself and my broken heart to Him, finding space to grieve and freedom to be sad because when I’m with Jesus, the lie that “I have to be the strong one” crumbles. Jesus is the strong one. I never have to act like I have it all together—because I don’t. Jesus knows this. He's okay with this.

The Americans clear out, and it’s just my dad and me left. With the help of our friend and translator, Dad explains why the American team is there, to teach and work with the local doctors. The patient’s mother looks up tearfully and asks if her son will live.

All our knowledge, all our diagnostic powers, all our education and good intentions—it means nothing in this moment. We have nothing to offer this woman and her son. Nothing except Jesus. So we ask if we can pray, and I reach out my hand to touch this patient’s dirt-smeared blanket and lift him up to Jesus.

And I know in all our heartbreak, in all their heartbreak, Jesus is enough, and He is with us. 

His presence is so strong. It always is, if we'll just acknowledge it. If we'll just accept His invitation and stop our striving to be everything, fix everything, and know everything. Perhaps this is the most important thing I’ve learned about poverty in the past few years. Poverty and suffering highlight our sense of helplessness, and so often our response is to push this uncomfortable feeling down and ignore it or to grit our teeth and take it upon ourselves to eliminate disparities. Yet I’ve found no freedom there. 

No, freedom is found in Jesus' presence, in trust. It's found in trusting God is enough, trusting He cares and is big enough for all the hurts in the world and my grief over poverty and suffering and death, and trusting God is, indeed, good.

He is good. Even when everything around us seems to be wrong and impossible and heart-wrenching and clouded with evil. He is, indeed, good, and He is enough.

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Insta Authenticity (On Integrity & Social Media)

It’s no secret social media can be somewhat misleading when it comes to an accurate portrayal of our lives. Facebook and Instagram have been labeled “highlight reels,” but that’s not a bad thing. I prefer highlights over every single detail of people’s lives.

Yet because social media are geared toward showcasing highlights, they can easily become comparison traps (everyone else is always having more fun than I am) or self esteem damagers (either promoting sky high egos or tearing down healthy self confidence). We’re all about the number of likes, and we're all chasing that quick “double tap” to get more red hearts on Insta.

Since I’ve been overseas, I’ve started utilizing social media more in an effort to stay connected with friend and family back in the States. I’ve found I have to double check myself before posting in order to avoid the comparison and self esteem traps of social media. Here are some of the questions I ask myself before posting to Instagram.

To filter or not to filter? That is the question...

To filter or not to filter? That is the question...

1. Is this post accurately portraying my day/life?

Have I had a terrible week and avoided posting, but now that I have ice cream I want to show the world how happy I am? There’s nothing wrong with being pumped about an exciting event (ice cream definitely makes the list), but is all I’m posting those exciting moments? If so, maybe I’m not giving an accurate portrayal of my life to those viewing my posts. I’m not saying I want to read sob stories or posts about how miserable you are. Really, I don’t. I’m saying if I only leave my house once a week but post pictures with dozens of friends each time, people will think I’m a social butterfly, which would definitely be misleading (and that’s a nice way of putting it). On and off social media, I’m a proponent of authenticity, meaning an accurate portrayal of life. There has to be a balance somewhere.


2. Do the filters make this scene seem more beautiful than it really is?

I’ll ‘fess up. I used to add filters left and right because hey, they really do make my pictures look better! Who doesn’t need a little Amaro or Perpetua in their life? However, recently I’ve stopped to wonder: am I adding filters because I’m afraid the landscape isn’t as pretty as everyone else’s #nature shots? If the filter brings out the true beauty in the scene or helps with the lighting—if it helps give the viewer a look that’s closer to reality—I’m all for filters and edits. But if the purpose is to impress, maybe it’s better to go filterless.

3. Is this picture offensive or harmful to anyone?

Especially overseas, we have a tendency to post pictures of the unusual, and those pictures may or may not include locals and their way of life. Those people may never see my post, but if I’d be embarrassed to show them or if the post (including the hashtags) is any way mocking their way of life, it’s time to close out my social media apps. Is our #winning making someone else feel like they’re #losing? In any community, I believe we should ensure our comments and posts are respectful and loving toward all those around us.

4. What’s my motive?

If my motive is to garner “likes” or, as I mentioned above, to impress, I probably shouldn’t post it. Mostly because it’s harmful to myself. It’s a red flag I’m feeling “not enough” and am looking for my value and worth in others’ opinions. It’s a setup for failure. In these cases, posts can very well be harmless to everyone except ourselves. We’re worth protecting, too; our motive is worth checking.

These are just a few of the guidelines I use when posting to Instagram. Often, I’m about to post a picture when I perform a quick mental review with these questions, and I imagine Fat Amy’s voice (from Pitch Perfect) commenting, “Mmmm…better not." And the post is discarded, edits and hashtags and all. Upholding my values must take a higher priority than the little red hearts. It’s simply the only way Instagram will ever be #worthit to me.

 

How do you decide what to post on Instagram and other social media mediums?

Are there any guidelines you go by, formal or informal?

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment or send an email over to my inbox!

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Scarcity and the Spiritual

Scarcity is a topic just making its way into the public conversation arena. It can be summed up as the belief there’s “not enough:" not enough time, not enough happiness to go around for everyone, not enough money, and the list continues. It can manifest as “I am not enough”—not pretty enough, good enough, nice enough, productive enough—a lie I faced head-on after an experience in a Cambodian hospital left me painfully aware of my inadequacies.

The scarcity mindset is rampant and often leaks unnoticed into all realms of our lives, including the spiritual. I’m sure scarcity manifests itself in different ways for different people, but here are three ways I’ve noticed the “not enough” mantra invading my spiritual life.

1) I’m afraid there’s not enough grace and mercy to cover my sins.

As someone who grew up in church, the gravity of sin was hammered into me from a young age. Add perfectionism to church legalism, and it’s easy to understand why it’s such a struggle to believe Jesus’ mercy is enough to cover me every time I sin. Time after time after time, I stumble and fall, and sometimes it just seems plain impossible that Christ has any mercy left. Questions such as “How can God forgive me even though I’ve fallen into this sin so many times?” and “How can God still love me after all I’ve done?” are birthed. Yet the Word clearly says His love endures forever, and His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22). Viewing this lie as a scarcity issue has helped me understand where these fear-based doubts come from and freed me to rejoice in the abundance of the Lord’s mercy.

2) I start believing there’s not enough encouragement for all the times I feel down.

Every time I serve overseas, my mom has this wonderful tradition of collecting notes from my friends and family and sending them with me for days when I need a little extra encouragement. It’s a great resource—except for several years I convinced myself the number of moments of discouragement I'd have would exceed the number of notes to read. I stockpiled the letters for times when I “really needed” them. I tried to muscle through the hard days because I was so afraid a harder time would come and no encouragement would be left. At the end of several summer trips, I had a dozen unread notes to read on the plane home. They were still fun to open, but I found I’d robbed myself of the encouragement God had provided for the hard times.

These days I push past my fears and reach out to others when I'm having a rough day, either by sending a text or opening a note (though I try to be careful I’m seeking hope first from the Lord and not from other people’s words). It’s been a source of encouragement and strength, and on days I have no letters and no signal, the Lord continues to provide. The interactions I find most encouraging are, after all, the ones pointing me back to find strength in the Lord Himself.

3) I’m afraid God’s gifts are limited.

Even when I pray, I fall prey to the scarcity mindset. I’m hesitant to ask the Lord for hope, encouragement, or a boost in mood. I act as though there’s a quota for the gifts He gives each of His children, and we must be wise about when and why we ask for them. However, when I look at the life of Jesus in the Gospels, His generosity cannot be measured, and Paul refers to the riches of Christ as unfathomable (Ephesians 3:18). I must ask myself, “Am I robbing myself of asking for and enjoying His gifts because of a scarcity mindset?”


The root of it all, I suppose, is a belief that God is not enough. It’s a lie that creeps into my heart and makes subtle but significant changes in the way I view God and myself. When I start believing God is not enough, I search for “enough” in other places: in myself, in others’ approval, in “success,” or in knowledge. Yet Jesus is enough is a fundamental part of the Gospel. There is no scarcity in His Kingdom. I have to remind myself of this every day. He’s enough to hold my fears, my failures, my future, my down days. He's enough for my scarcity mindset and all it entails!

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