It is the same with Mandela as it is with pretty much everything:
There is always more to the story than most of us want to acknowledge.
There is much that can be said about Mandela’s past (and while we’re at it, much can be said about mine and yours as well). His life wasn’t one that always stood for peace, yet that is what he is most known for now. He is an undeniable example of the power we each have to change our own story. A life surrendered and transformed has unrivaled potential in the hands of our Creator.
Brené Brown said it perfectly:
“Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. If we own the story, then we can write the ending.”
Yesterday we mourned the loss of a great man who rewrote not only his own story, but that of the entire nation of South Africa. Mandela drew a line in the sand that forever changed the trajectory of a continent and inspired hope around the globe.
His life makes it impossible to deny the far-reaching ripple effect of even one solitary life, and his legacy reminds us that no one is ever too far gone for a second chance.
Farewell, Mandela. The world stands grateful…
I stand grateful…
While I wish it weren’t so,
I know that it wouldn’t really be grace
if it were as easily dispensed as PEZ candy.
If it felt good
and made me smile
and came as naturally as a hearty laugh,
it wouldn’t be grace.
It couldn’t be grace—
not the genuine, utterly needed and utterly undeserved kind of grace,
which is really the only grace there is,
because it’s the need mixed with the undeserving
that makes grace grace.
We call it ‘amazing’,
but it feels anything but amazing in the moment it’s given.
It feels grueling
It tastes like swallowed pride
and bitter tears.
It’s as exhausting as going the extra mile
and then another
and then another.
It feels like forgiving 70 times 7,
and turning the other cheek,
and kissing Judas right back.
It’s nothing like a dinner table prayer
and everything like a wilderness experience.
It’s the 40 long days and 40 long nights
of saying and wishing and hoping that I can do this,
but feeling like I can’t.
It’s the heaviness of one foot in front of the other
when there’s no end of the road in sight.
It’s enduring the heartache of betrayal,
the sorrow of loss,
the pain of deception,
and the humiliation of being made a fool—
and still locking eyes
‘I’m not going anywhere.’
It’s what sets apart not only Christ,
but also Christ followers.
Without it, we are but hardened hearts
and ungrateful, calloused souls.
We are blind eyes and deaf ears and unfeeling hands.
We are amnesiacs,
quickly forgetful of our own need and undeservedness.
Oh, but with it—
with it, we are extensions of His likeness,
reflections of His character,
bearers of His light,
glimpses of His face,
beats of His heart.
When we extend grace,
when we offer it—even through tears—
like a beautifully wrapped present held out in our hands,
our hearts stoop low,
remembering the gift that’s been extended to us,
and over again.
I’m still caught off guard at times.
A memory will rise to the surface, seemingly out of nowhere, bringing with it fears and doubts and insecurities and tears. I question everything, wondering about hidden motives and looking for anything I missed the first the time around. There isn’t anger—not really. There is distrust. There is hurt. There is grief. But no anger. At least not toward anyone other than myself. Feelings of foolishness spiral into “How could I be so stupid?” Inevitably, as the emotional dust settles, I’m left with a deep missing of all the people who were once my whole life who are no longer even a part of it. I hunt for pictures, and sit mesmerized by how grown up my nephew is. By how tall my honorary nieces and nephews of old have become—tall not only with stature but with personality and vivaciousness. Smiles mix in with the sadness, and I take a deep breath…
I’m still caught off guard at times.
I walk through the arched doorways of my home, past the wainscoting in the living room, and all I can do is shake my head. Moving about the beautiful kitchen, shuffling around the mess on my office desk, sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee… over and over again, it hits me: This is my now-life. This is my new life. And I smile—the kind of smile that erupts from deep down inside, that sacred place for which there are no words. I can’t believe I get to live here. That I once again have a place that looks like me and feels like me. That I once again have a home. Because as much as I know that home isn’t about a house, I’ve discovered there’s something uniquely incomparable about a four-wall refuge. It’s anchoring, and rooting, and settling in all the best ways. And the past 6 months of living life unpacked have been better for my heart than I ever anticipated.
I’m still caught off guard at times.
And I’m learning to give thanks in it all…
Would you share some of your own highs and lows?
What are things that have caught you off guard lately—for better and for worse?
“Let us live up to what we have already attained.“ (Philippians 3:16)
What I hear in that verse is this: Act on the truth you know.
I may not feel ready to do the next-right-thing that’s in front of me. I may feel as though I lack the knowledge, skills, or sheer courage to put one foot in front of the other. I may not know the fullness of what to do in any given situation. But I typically know enough to start. I can act on the truth I know. I just usually don’t.
It’s easier to wait for God to lay it all out. Because then I can blame my paralysis on Him, instead of myself.
When I feel overwhelmed by a situation or an aspect of myself I need to work on, the enormity of it all makes me shrug. “I just don’t know where to start.” Because I don’t know how to do it all, I do nothing.
I call it “waiting on God”.
Meanwhile, He’s waiting on me.
Why should I expect God to show me the whole plan when I’m not being obedient to the small thing He’s already shown me? Why should I expect Him to keep speaking when I haven’t acted on what He’s already said?
As small and inconsequential as it may be, I need to do the bit I know to do. Take that first step. And trust that His light will shine at the exact moment I need to know what to do next.
Two verses earlier in that Philippians passage is the more familiar encouragement and challenge to “press on”: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
But it finally clicked for me that, as I read on, the following verses continue the thought. It’s as though the next part tells me how to press on: By living up to what I’ve already attained.
So the challenge stands for me and you today:
Press on. By acting on the truth you know.
Our culture has a skewed perception of what it is to be a hero. Images of caped crusaders, sports icons, and action movie stars come to mind. We picture big names in bright lights, known around the globe for their accomplishments.
What we don’t picture is a surrendered heart dreaming big dreams for the betterment of others. Or the faithful and obedient stepping of one foot in front of the other in the face of great adversity, far away from the limelight. Or the blood, sweat, and tears shed by persevering souls to advance a cause that will outlive them, even though no one knows their names.
But those are the truest heroes, and the ones most deserving of honor.
When they set out to celebrate those unsung missional heroes at Epoch 2013, the response was staggering. People around the world paused to shine a light on those who seek faithfulness over recognition. They received nearly 600 nominations from 33 countries, 32 states, and 6 continents! Clearly, we are eager for a different kind of hero.
Over 400 people gathered last Monday night at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia for the red carpet, black-tie event. The evening was truly one of celebration and inspiration as six social innovators were awarded grants totaling $50,000. In tuxedos and gowns, we recognized those working to solve some of the most complex challenges around the world, such as poverty, the need for clean water, HIV/AIDS, and sex trafficking.
It was a night to joyfully and extravagantly honor not the achievements of man, but what God is doing through our collective lives. Organizations, businesses, churches, and individuals rallied together to recognize the often-unnoticed champions who daily lay down their lives to fight injustice and bring hope to hard places.
Together, we declared to those laboring in the trenches, “You’re not alone.” We showed them they’re seen, valued, and embraced. Their work matters and we will no longer let it go unacknowledged.
Nations are being transformed by that roomful of sacrificial servants in evening attire, and it is an honor to stand with them in their open-handed and open-hearted work.
I don’t get dressed up very often, but I’ll be pulling out a dress and heels in a couple weeks for an event in Atlanta. And I think you should join me.
Epoch 2013 is honoring unsung missional heroes—those who cross the world (or even just the street) to restore broken places and broken lives through creative, God-honoring initiatives.
They are giving away awards totaling $50,000 at their one-of-a-kind Gala, a night to celebrate those who are bringing innovative solutions to the challenges of poverty and suffering in the world. That is a worthy reason to don some heels!
One of the incredible nonprofits I work with, Hope Africa Collective, is a finalist for an Epoch Award.
I strongly believe in Hope Africa’s strategy and vision, and am so excited for others to learn more about them through Epoch. And, of course, a cash award would go a long way to advance their amazing work in South Africa! My good friend and one of Hope Africa’s Founders, Jeremy Hilliard, is flying in from Africa for the event. I haven’t seen him since my trip to Cape Town last spring, so I’m really excited to see him again!
One of my greatest passions is to help nonprofits do strategic, effective, honest, and excellent work.
I never want to be a part of something that’s just about “doing good”. I always want to “do good” well. I believe that good work done well is honoring of God and those we serve, laced with integrity, and continually bearing fruit. That’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to Epoch—I’m excited to learn more about people and organizations doing exactly that.
If you live in or near Atlanta, join me for a night of celebrating Kingdom heroes who are doing good work well.
Add in the engaging group of presenters, speakers, and musicians, and the evening is guaranteed to be a blast! (Do you remember my crazy photo booth pictures from Epoch 2011?! You know you want in on that fun!)
Will I see you there?!
My 100 things post inspired a few friends to write lists of their own. So now it’s your turn!
Post a list of things about yourself that many of us might not already know. You don’t have to make it a full 100—you could do 50 things, or 25, or however many you want.
Then come back and link up so we can all get to know you better!
Tag, you’re it.
:: :: ::
- I lost my Long Island accent in Africa,
- but time with my family—even just over the phone—brings it right back.
- So does talking about things I’m passionate about.
- And driving in traffic.
- I blame my Sicilian roots for my loud talking and laughing,
- and, of course, for my inability to speak without using my hands.
- The word moist makes me shudder
- almost as much as ointment.
- And bars of soap just plain creep me out.
- I maintain a healthy fear of treadmills
- because of laughing-till-crying at countless YouTube videos of people completely wiping out on them. (Search it. You’ll thank me later.)
- I haven’t yet mastered the art of neatly applying nail polish or mascara. Both end up looking like a crime scene.
- And I’m the messiest teeth-brusher on the planet. Seriously.
- So I brush my teeth in the shower. It’s just better for everyone that way.
- I don’t really like water—either drinking it or being in it—
- but I absolutely love an ocean view
- and my perfect vacation includes a swim-up bar.
- I love not camping,
- hate wet grass,
- and generally have a “like to look, not touch” stance on all things outdoors.
- Although I’ve hiked Pike’s Peak,
- whitewater-rafted the Zambezi River,
- lived in a tent in the African bush for months at a time,
- and eaten Mopani (grub) worms.
- I don’t like bacon (I hope we can still be friends)
- or chocolate—
- except for dark chocolate with a glass of red wine (mmmm….) and the occasional M&Ms or Reese’s—
- but I can eat my weight in cheese
- and goldfish (the crackers, not the actual fish).
- I prefer to eat things from the inside out, not the outside in.
- So I cut things like burgers and sandwiches in half
- and rip apart cookies, so I can start on the inside.
- Yes. I fully own the fact that I’m weird.
- I am a walking musical,
- even though I can’t sing. At all. I’m not even kidding.
- But I love spontaneously interjecting off-key songs, usually remixed with whatever words come to mind.
- I don’t like talking on the phone
- and would choose text over talk any day.
- I have to constantly fight the urge to judge people who write in text-speak.
(BTW, c u 2nite! LOL!)
- I’ve got a severe case of wanderlust.
- I’ve spent time in 29 countries,
- and I really want to add a 30th to that list. Soon.
- And I’d love to spend more time in Italy. How about a month? In a villa. In Tuscany. Yes please.
- As much as I enjoy traveling, I equally love coming home.
- I can be quite the homebody when I let myself.
- I think that sometimes doing nothing is far better than doing everything,
- and my favorite friends are those who comfortably enjoy doing both.
- The tests say I’m an introvert,
- but I beg to differ.
- The mere thought of eating alone at a restaurant, watching a movie solo, or going on vacation by myself makes me want to cry.
- 99% of my joy of experiencing something is having someone to experience it with.
- Otherwise, who would laugh with me? (Laughing’s my favorite.)
- So I’ve decided I’m a self-diagnosed extroverted introvert.
- I wish I had a poker face,
- but in a lot of ways, I’m glad I wear my heart on my sleeve.
- I’m working on growing thicker skin though.
- I never thought I would get a tattoo.
- Now I have three,
- and I don’t think I’m done yet.
- I’m ordained.
- I buy hats more often than I wear them,
- but I really want to be a hat girl. Someday.
- I frequently have to ask a friend if what I’m wearing “makes me look like a missionary”.
- Quite a few articles of clothing have been vetoed, but I can’t always bring myself to get rid of them.
- My wardrobe needs an extreme makeover.
- I’ve never been able to do a cartwheel,
- or whistle,
- or make my bed every day.
- I can, however, sock-skate across wood floors like it’s an Olympic sport.
- Autumn is my absolute most favorite time of year.
- This white girl can’t dance, but still loves to. Isn’t that what kitchens were made for?
- I’ve been known to one-person Conga-line through the house
- and bust out in my own version of a Touchdown dance for no reason at all.
- I love the first 20 seconds in a hot car after I’ve been in air conditioning. It feels like a full-body hug.
- I always lean my airplane seat back ever so slightly as soon as I sit in it—
- that extra quarter-inch of room makes me feel like a rebel.
- Sometimes I have to force myself to break the rules, even a little bit.
- I don’t enjoy reading as much as I used to,
- But given the right circumstances, I still love a book worth losing myself in.
- I firmly believe that food tastes better when someone else cooks it.
- And if my budget (and waistline) would allow, I’d eat out almost every day.
- I can be a bit of a food snob,
- but I also love ramen noodles, Kraft Mac & Cheese, and baseball game hot dogs.
- I do a happy food dance when I like what I’m eating—which is pretty often.
- Sharing an amazing meal with my family is one of my all-time favorite things to do. Ever.
- I think the saying “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” is a lie.
- In other news, I’ve been trying to lose 10 pounds for over a decade.
- I am ridiculously sentimental.
- Songs, smells, and places always carry memories,
- and pretty much everything I own holds some sort of significance.
- (Which is why my vetoed clothes just get relocated to the back of my closet.)
- I live perpetually tired,
- but struggle to fall asleep most nights.
- Mornings and I don’t get along very well.
- I dreamed I’d live in Africa forever.
- Though cut short, my 13 years there were a lifetime. This I know.
- I never ever ever imagined I’d live in Nashville,
- although there was my pre-teen Amy Grant-loving stage when I desperately wanted to.
- But I find myself loving this little big town.
- And I’m only half-joking when I say that living in Africa prepared me to live in the South.
Tell me something about you
that I probably don’t already know.
My depth of vision has changed.
Years ago, living in Africa, the future seemed clearly in focus. I was a farsighted dreamer, easily imagining how things would continue to take shape because of how much I loved the portrait of my life. I didn’t try to plan out the details or neurotically control the unfolding pages of my future, but it was there, ever clear in the back of my mind. Even without all the details, it was simply… there. A future I anticipated.
Now, I find myself much more nearsighted.
The horizon is out of focus, and I can’t see which way the road bends. Everything looks blurry, as though the future is blanketed in fog. It’s all just too fuzzy and uncertain and precarious. I can’t imagine any longer what I’d even want the end of the story to be. I no longer picture where I’m headed and how I’ll get there or who I might go there with.
It used to feel like hopelessness. Like a big piece of me that had given up still hadn’t sprung back to life.
But I’m learning to accept it as a good thing, or at the very least, as simply what is. Not as something bad, or wrong, or to be fixed. It’s just a part of my new normal that I need to stop fighting against and simply embrace.
The One who holds my past, holds my future as well. So it doesn’t really matter whether or not I can see it.
My depth of vision has changed.
But His hasn’t.