I had rough year last year. Like some people, I was thrilled at midnight of December 31, 2016. The year was over. I wished away the sadness of that year as the clock struck 12! We all know that wishing away anything doesn’t work, nevertheless I tried.
It was a year full of sad surprises that took my heart by storm. It was a year that forced me to take a painful look at my life and to accept the realities therein.
The year was full of heart wrenching confessions from those I love, backstabbing from those I had helped the most, loss, and lies about me that tore at the very core of my reputation. Needless to say, the year felt like ash.
The residue of what was burned was my life.
I was burned. I felt abandoned. I suffered in silence.
Sometimes it hurts too bad to talk. Sometimes the words just won’t surface. When I began to communicate, the words wouldn’t come out right. I couldn’t figure out how to share my pain, so I stuffed it.
I smiled. I pretended. I put up a front. Life had to continue.
In the midst of my facade, God sent us a team of young ladies to host retreats for the ladies at our churches. My goal was to fake it through their time on HOPE Mountain. Their four month stay with us was the medicine my weary soul needed.
They used a tool called, Beauty for Ashes. It’s not complicated. It’s a straightforward system of sharing your truths with a group of women as we walk towards freedom together.
I was the interpreter for this team. Imagine, session after session of translating things like, “Share your story”, “Shame can only reside if you let it,” “God restores,” “There is hope.”
Here I was, leading these women. We held the retreat on HOPE Mountain for the ladies in our Lajas community. They cried as they shared their stories and gained support from one another. The ladies in our Los Cerritos church laughed and cried so much because we all know one another so deeply. Most of us in that church are related. Then on to Cien Fuegos where the women who have poverty at levels most reading this may never know. I was inspired by their sincerity. They poured HOPE into my dismal soul.
Moca surprised me the most! The room was full of women. They intently listened and shared from their hearts. We all learned things about one another that we never knew. We held up one another as we shared our journal entries and life’s stories.
Four months of this.
I am the leader, yet I struggled deeply. I felt like an impostor. I wasn’t living what I was teaching them. I knew that something had to happen, so I sought God for help.
During my daily bible reading time, I read the story of Mary and Elizabeth. Mary found herself with child and went to a woman that she felt would relate. She went to Elizabeth and stayed with her until she was ready to face the world. I believe that Elizabeth poured strength into Mary’s heart during that visit. Strength she would need in order to fulfill this purpose that was sprung upon her.
I realized I needed an Elizabeth.
I thought of my sister in laws. Each of them happened to be in the country at the same time, which is a rare occurrence. My sister in laws and I did not always have a great relationship, but we each made a decision to love one another and that choice caused us to look beyond our differences and to accept the complete package of the other. They have truly become my sisters.
So I called them. Each of them.
They realized how deeply I needed them, so they cancelled all of their plans to meet with me. We met the next morning and talked. I flooded their ears and souls with my agony. They listened. They cried. We laughed. Then we cried again. They gave me advice. They promised their support. They were my Elizabeth’s that day. They reminded me of the beauty that can come from ashes.
I went back to work. Leading the groups of ladies at our churches to come to the place of freedom that I now possessed. It felt different this time. I didn’t feel like an impostor. Though I couldn’t be as transparent with them as I was with my sister in laws, I could at least be vulnerable. I could at least let them know that I was walking through a process of forgiveness that felt like death.
I’m still walking. I’m still processing. I’m still on my journey, but I’m closer to my destination than before.
A special friend asked me to lead her women’s retreat a few months ago. I was still on my expedition towards vulnerability. I was honest with the ladies which led to their honesty. God performed beautiful surgery that weekend. A ripple effect of generational healing began because I was willing to share.
We can’t tell it all to everyone. I know. We can’t expose ourselves completely with all, but we can at least let those around us know that we are on a journey towards freedom. You don’t have to pretend anymore. You really can tell the truth.