blessed assurance

I moved to Africa with a couple of very-full suitcases, $200 in my pocket, and a heart-cocktail of faith, naivety, passion, and foolishness.

I was only 19.

younger me

I didn’t know much, but I knew that I loved Africa and her beautiful people. I didn’t set out on any grand mission or with any huge goals. I just wanted to meet needs where I could, and see what God would do with my meager fish-and-loaves life. I was hopeful that He could write a magnificent story for me and with me.

In the chasing of my dream, I found love. I got married, and together we pioneered a nonprofit that trained leaders and taught AIDS prevention in the poorest region of South Africa. God did astounding things. Constantly.

I watched Him open blind eyes, show up with eleventh hour provision, stop wildfires from destroying our mission base, and radically transform lives. After a decade of ministry, our team had grown to over 60 staff members, primarily African nationals. We trained over 100 pastors a year and taught 4000 public school students each week about living lives of purpose.

God was writing a story I never could have imagined.

Wedding

He truly multiplied our fish and loaves to nourish the masses. He created something out of our nothing. He made life out of our brokenness.

Then everything crumbled to pieces when my husband finally confessed what I already knew to be true: He had been unfaithful. For a year and a half. With a friend of mine.

The pieces shattered even further when he announced he was done—with me and ministry. No matter how tightly I tried to cling to it all, I couldn’t hold any of it together. Not my marriage or my ministry or even my life… Everything seemed to unravel out from under me.

After 13 years of ministry in Africa, I was forced to close down our operations. I permanently relocated back to the States, walking away from my home, my work, my community, my vision, my history.

I fought both my story and the Story-teller. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!

It felt as though the narrative had come to a screeching halt. But He kept writing…

I’ve been divorced for a few years now. It still feels strange to say, and even stranger to truly accept at a heart level. Losing someone by their choice evokes a grief deeper than death. There is sadness and anger and mourning and relief and remorse. Sometimes all in the very same breath.

And underneath it all is the hole left in my everyday by the loss of someone I’ve lived one-third of my life with. The missing is deep. It’s a missing of what was. A missing of who was. A missing of what could’ve been.

A missing of the story I was once living…

IMG_1624

Photo by Daniel C. White


It’s as though I lost not only my future, but also my past.

In so many ways, I lost my own history. I don’t have a single person left in my life who walked that African road with me from start to finish. No one who was with me for all the memories, all the provision and lack, all the joys and heartaches. No one to corroborate what happened, to fill in the blanks where my memory fails, to simply remember with me.

There is a unique loneliness in that.

And even as I type these words with no clear end in mind, I hear Him whisper: I was there. Sigh… To be honest, it is so hard to feel content and satisfied in that. But I know it’s true. He was there with me. In Him I still have history.

His. Story.

My history is more His story than mine anyway.

typewriter

Even if no one else knows the details, and my fuzzy brain loses track of it all, and I never get to speak it out loud ever again, my history is still there. Still making up the fabric of my present and holding up the foundation of my future.

My story is more than the sum of my experiences. It is more than what I have seen and done and endured. It is more than what has happened to me.

I, too, am more than the sum of my chapters. I am more than my past or my present or my future. I am more than my history, forgotten or remembered.

I am His.

No matter what.

And that is my story.

Tell me your story »

Comments

104 Responses to “blessed assurance”
  1. Sarah says:

    Beautiful…as always. <3

    So glad I know you. It'll be amazing to see the next leg of the journey; the good that unfolds for you in the years to come.

  2. Lindsey
    @
    says:

    I’m learning to cherish the deepest aches and joys in my life as holy sacred ground between God and I — all the beauty, the heartache, the pain, the glory. For me, that is comforting – assurance that He alone knows every single part of me that has raged and fought and let go and surrendered.

    Love you and your heart!

  3. Leslie says:

    What a story, though. So. Much. Story. And your sharing it (I really believe this, even though it sounds super-trite and church-lady-ish) ministers to so many – your honesty, your eloquence. Hopefully your sorrows shared are lessened. My story seems pretty small by comparison, but it’s not about comparison is it? So thankful for a creative Author who knows the end from the beginning.

  4. faith says:

    Somehow Alece, this is a beautiful story. A love story like no other. An adventure not yet over, not by a long shot ;-)
    But like any good story there are tear filled parts, loss and mourning. Those parts bring even more beauty to the next chapter, like sunlight after a storm is all the more beautiful.

    I pray for an ease in your grief and an abundance in joy and gain.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story- I love your wedding picture too. You are just too beautiful and I don’t think I had ever seen them before.

  5. And your beautiful story is still being written. Grateful for you.

  6. Alysa says:

    You are beautiful. Your words encourage me, friend.

  7. I’m so grateful that you share your story with us. It breaks my heart, it inspires me, it moves me – and I love seeing how God continues to write His story on your life and how you are faithful to keep following Him even when the story changes so dramatically.

    Also? This post made sure I started my day in tears. So thanks a lot for that. ;)

  8. Jessi Lehman says:

    Sometimes the state of this fallen world slaps us in the face and shreds our hearts to pieces, but somehow God gets us through. I pray He will put the pieces of your heart back together and even though they might not be in the same places you are whole with Him and can still do amazing things for His purpose.
    I know I was truly blessed by your ministry in Africa when I was there for such a short missions trip. Truly amazing and life changing!
    Praying God will use you here in the same way He did in Africa and go even beyond that to bless you and your new ministry.

  9. “Losing someone by their choice evokes a grief deeper than death. There is sadness and anger and mourning and relief and remorse. Sometimes all in the very same breath.”

    YES.

    “My story is more than the sum of my experiences. It is more than what I have seen and done and endured. It is more than what has happened to me. I, too, am more than the sum of my chapters. I am more than my past or my present or my future. I am more than my history, forgotten or remembered.”

    YES. YES. YES.

    Our stories are so different, yet so very much the same, too. It’s a privilege to have “met” you as we are walking down this new road.

  10. Drew says:

    “Blessed Assurance” indeed.
    So thankful for your writing, your insights, your vulnerability.

    Your ministry of long ago — that I was so fortunate to participate in one summer — was used by God as a healing-point in my life.

    My life, at its lowest point (ever) at the time. I was where you are, on the other side of a divorce and a cheating spouse. And in that summer, the He imparted this poem on my heart that he brought out through my pen.

    God’s Timing Is Always Perfect

    Though I wonder sometimes in dismay, and I don’t yet fully understand;
    I just rest in the fact that all things, are working together for God’s plan.

    I know I’d certainly do it different, if it were left up to me;
    But “you’re not God” I’m reminded, and I return to my knees.

    So on my knees before the Father, I ask for His strength yet again;
    To once more die-to-self, and to keep living faithfully for Him.

    I ask for His discernment, that I might see my life through His eyes;
    And for trusting acceptance that His timing in everything, is indeed perfect for my life.

    :o)
    Thank you for sharing my Friend!

  11. In July of 2011 I was four months removed from my wife telling me she was having an affair and deeply in love with the other man. And for the next four months I fought like hell to save my marriage. I know I don’t have to mention the details of what that experience was like for me, to you, Alece…I know you know how during that time the word “helpless” becomes so very real…as well as the invisible weight on your chest that just won’t go away….and all the emotions that torture you at all times of the day.

    But it was in that July that she finally told me she was done and wanted to be with the other man…and it was in that July that the failure of my second marriage was solidified by my moving out of our house and never going back. Of course those that know my testimony know that in my first marriage I WAS the one that cheated…I left my first wife and married the woman I had an affair with. But I can honestly say that any pain I felt as a cheater, was nothing compared to the kind of pain I felt when I was cheated on.

    Needless to say, I was a wreck….and scared of the unknown of my future…I just wanted to know that life wasn’t always going to be like that moment in time. I wanted to know that I could find some peace but most of all purpose in life again. And it was during that time that I found your blog, Alece. And your experiences resonated with me like no other…following your journey (and others) has caused me to know that God can use the broken parts of our lives for His glory. The good, bad, ugly, and heartbreak of our lives can be redeemed into the beautiful story of grace and love that God has for all of us. We just have to be willing to grow through the process, because there’s no quick fixes with God…it’s about becoming whole again. I’ve learned that from you, Alece.

    • That means so much to hear, Jeremy. I am always overwhelmingly grateful for the glimpses I get of how God continues to make life out of my brokenness…

    • Nancy
      @
      says:

      Ditto. I’ll never forget the day I “found” this blog, either. It was May 18, 2012. My 16th wedding anniversary. Four weeks after my (now ex-) husband told me he was leaving (again) and two weeks before he actually packed his bags and left for the 3rd and final time. I realized I wasn’t alone, that other people had been where I was, and that my life wasn’t over. You inspired me to be honest and open in person with my church family and also on my blog. And I believe that chronicling my journey and processing honesty and openly instead of hiding and holding everything inside has greatly contributed to my healing.

      Thank you. Again.

  12. What a story. I love your heart. I pray and believe that God has great plans for you. Jeremiah 29:11 – - I know you’ve heard it, read it and likely memorized it but it is the verse that makes sense of it all ” For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

    He’s thinkin’ about you. He’s got a plan. You just need to hold on for the blessing!

  13. Chris Monahan
    @
    says:

    The simultaneous beauty and pain of your words reminds me (us) that as humans we feel and it isn’t always good. But we get better, at least in part.
    Hope you can remember that God works all things for good but ultimately it’s for His glory. At least we get to be part of the story.
    Remember that you were the hand and feet of Jesus while you were in Africa and your heart still is to be that.
    May you feel the joy that Paul felt, even while in prison, writing so many letters that became part of the Bible.
    Here’s to continued healing and many other blessings for you.

  14. Alece~~~
    I ache for this loss—the toughest loss of all in my opinion. So much is taken from you, Joy, Unity, Sadness—you know better than anyone how this hurts. How I wish this Pain had never come your way–but it did and after digging your way through TONS of Grief~~~perhaps you are finding ALECE–and GOD smiles with that knowledge! Your faith runs deep–and it will sustain you through the dark nights and long days. It takes tremendous courage to “put it all out there” and wait to see how the world will react to your story. Something tells me you are Pleased with this writing—Thats what you need! HE is beaming and just keep your feet on HIS path—I believe there is a TON of wonderful out there…. Bless you for sharing and I look forward to reading more of your amazing story!!!! my prayers are with you. Martha

  15. I so needed this today Alece. My ex-husband is remarrying on Saturday and that has stirred up so much doubt and so many questions in me. Thank you for the reminder that I am His, no matter what.

  16. Oh my friend. There is so much power in these words. I love you so dearly.

  17. Emily says:

    Oh Alece. Thank you for sharing this.

  18. I was just thinking …on That Day, when the unseen becomes seen and the eternal weight of glory becomes our reality… on That Day you will celebrate with Him all that those days brought to That Day. :)

    The cross is heavy…but for the JOY set before us. This reads a bit like a Psalm. The conclusion-it’s always about the Great Lover of our souls.

  19. corine says:

    What a precious love letter to our one and only. We should all be right where you are today. Not knowing the ending but knowing that we are safe with HIM, the who writes our story. You are a gem Alece.

  20. Pearl Kupe says:

    SO glad that God has already written the final chapter of your story Alece and that chapter is all about victory and testimonies about what God was able to accomplish IN and THROUGH you.
    The best chapters are still to come Alece, and we all look forward to witnessing the beauty of those chapters. You were a gift to Africa, and South Africa in particular and I believe God will bring you back to Africa in His own way and time.You continue to be an asset to the Kingdom of God and Body of Christ in general.I thank God for your life and for the things He will Still do IN and THROUGH you!

    • Thank you for this, Pearl! I love that perspective — being mindful of the fact that God has already written the final chapter of my story. He’s not making it up as we go along, but has a purposeful plan with where all this is headed… So much peace in that…

      Love you so much, and am ever grateful for your friendship. You have been a tremendous gift in my life!

  21. Jenny says:

    Brave. You are.

    Yes. *sigh*

  22. Katherine says:

    Alece
    Wow it’s as if your telling my story, with just a bit of a twist. My husband of 27 years fell in love with my best friend, although we were not in Africia. I was in the fight of my life with Cancer. After three months of trying to save my marriage and knowing he was still seeing her I did the worst thing ever thought I would get back at him and met someone too. I was in a horrible state of “who am I and my life is over!” This person let me convince myself I had to get out right away. I did and my ex stayed with my former best friend until just a week ago or so. That has all been a year ago. I am now on my 3rd marriage. I look at myself in the mirror and wonder who am I? I still love and miss him, I love and miss who I was, my younger children beg me not to ever go back to that life, but I know that comes from hurt and not from the truth. I ask God what could I have possibly done to deserve this? Does this pain ever heal? I love the man that I’m with, but some days I look at him and think your not the love of my youth and the one that knows all of my history the one who I vowed to when I was 18 and spent all of my lifetime making memories and having children. Lord help me to be more like you and help me to heal. The pain is almost unbearable. Thank you for sharing your story so that I know there are others out there hurting too and that understand what I’m going through it is the most lonely I have ever felt in my life!

  23. Hazel Moon says:

    Even though you say that your ministry in Africa was shut down – - the many you nurtured, taught and trained will go forward. Your covenant was broken which releases you from your vows to your husband. You are free to march forward and live and even love and minister again.

  24. Hi Alece

    This part ” No one who was with me for all the memories, all the provision and lack, all the joys and heartaches. No one to corroborate what happened, to fill in the blanks where my memory fails, to simply remember with me.”

    It happened to us and separately to our family. I keep thinking of Paul ‘I count all things loss compared to knowing Him”, sometimes said through gritted teeth, sometimes unable to speak, sometimes with joy :)

    I met your Mom through blogging and then for real in Long Island, she is a much loved part of the church my sister-in-law Pastors. She rocks and so do you!

    The Lord encourage you, comfort you, lead you and give you peace. Peace that the world cannot give.

    Much love, Claire

  25. Amie says:

    No words, just I love you!

  26. Mary G. says:

    Alece:

    As I read this installment of your blog, Carole King’s lyrics come to mind…

    “My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
    An everlasting vision of the everchanging view
    A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
    A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.”

    Your story and the Lord’s story are being woven together. So beautiful. So rich. So lyrical. Not without pain, but certainly not without purpose. You have such a wonderful history of walking with Jesus of intimacy and relationship and you are still yet young.

    Blessings on your steps forward.
    Warm Regards,
    Mary G.

  27. Mark Allman
    @
    says:

    Alece,
    You said “My story is more than the sum of my experiences. It is more than what I have seen and done and endured. It is more than what has happened to me.” This is so well said. Who we are is woven from all that we have experience; the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. What is weaved is much more than what it is weaved from. Even if we don’t remember our past it is with us and is part of our foundation. I am sure that although you shut down your ministry operation it is still working itself through the world for those things you started cannot be stopped. This side of heaven you may never know the tremendous affect you had. I think it would be awesome if you met someone who was a new christian and you could trace them back to yourself! I hope that happens one day. :)

    “Losing someone by their choice evokes a grief deeper than death.” I know somewhat this grief as my father chose to kill himself a couple of years ago. A hard way to lose someone.

    I also think it is amazing that your pain and the telling of it can help others through theirs. I remember some things in my life when they happened I thought nothing good would ever come from it. I was wrong as my sharing of some of my grief helped my child through some of theirs. Grief shared weaves our lives into others and strengthens both I believe.

    Thank you Alece for willingly weaving your life into others and blessing them as you do so.

  28. Joan says:

    Just.Love.This…….

  29. Vanessa says:

    Alece,

    My prayers are with you. FB brought me to this blog post today.

    As you wrote, about “His Story,” the thought that your story is His Story hit me in a different way than you wrote about. Maybe you’ve already reflected on this before… but not only was God with you in your past, but He knows intimately the pain you have/are experiencing of infidelity and loss (as pictured in Hosea) in His past.

    May the Lord continue to bring healing and hope to your heart and life.

  30. Laura says:

    where is the “love it” button!!

  31. I know this may sound strange, but your story gives me Hope … Because our God isn’t just tied into the pretty packages of ministry and “successful” lives. In my eyes, you are so gorgeous and God is still making miracles out of your loaves and fishes life. That says so much to me about God. And about you.

  32. You are beauty for ashes personified. I love your heart.

  33. Betty Draper says:

    Our feelings when we go through something as you have been and still going through are never a waste. So many have written just on this post of those same feelings..God has picked you up and put you back in the race to be used. And your Mom said you bought a house…that will keep you busy. Great post, thank for letting us in our your heart and see your wedding picture.

  34. Jana Lackey says:

    Alece, once again you have managed to share your experience in such a way that inspires others and gives hope. Your heart is beautiful and your journey is one that so many can relate to. Thanks for sharing what is often kept quiet by many who walk the same path. Your joy, fulfillment and pain were tangible through your writing. I love you my sis!

  35. Morgan says:

    Alece,
    You have done a beautiful job honoring God in your part of the telling of His story. You have chosen life when so many others would have chosen to numb. By choosing life, I mean you have chosen to be open to doing the work, to God, and to others. I believe that there is joy of an incomprehensible level in your future. You’ve done the work. You’ve felt the depths. It’s time for a little dancin’.

    Morgan

  36. talia says:

    beautiful alece. what a powerful blog.

  37. I have been learning lately that Plan B does not mean failure. Your story is so beautiful, I am always encouraged by your ability to move forward in the face of pain. A true testament to living in the strength of your Savior. Lovely post, Alece.

  38. Alece, I feel like I have nothing in common with you, but your story is so inspiriing to me as a young woman. I love that you are so transparent in your walk and you are unashamed to tell His story of you.

  39. Alece,

    Thank you for this genuine reminder that a pain like this doesn’t go away overnight, I can tell that you are still grieving in your own way. My story is somewhat similar to yours, betrayal after 9 years of marriage (that was 4 years ago) and I had a hard time trying to figure out why I didn’t seem to be “getting over” it as quickly as other people I had seen this happen to, but God is so faithful and patient and beautiful and is the Repairer of walls and the Restorer of what the locusts have eaten. There is healing and there will continue to be–I am so grateful for His faithfulness. Thank you for being so vulnerable for so many readers, truly, this blog is a blessing.

  40. jana says:

    Hi Alece,

    My sister and I were just talking about this aspect of being single…there are certain memories that no one shares with you over the long term, either because of geography or just relationship changes. There are a few years of life where I have stories, but no shared history, and it can really make me feel lonely; very few distant connections knew me then and now.

    Thank you for sharing the truth in this, “I, too, am more than the sum of my chapters. I am more than my past or my present or my future. I am more than my history, forgotten or remembered.”

    Thank you.

  41. Ayla says:

    I am so encouraged by how far God has brought you in this journey. I’ve seen you grieve and grow, and grieve and grow, and my heart has ached for you yet also rejoiced in the beauty God has made of the ashes. Every piece of your life; every relationship (broken and whole); every experience (painful and joyful); every storm and every rainbow is a culmination of your journey from faith to faith and glory to glory and I am so thankful that He has given you the strength to embrace it in its entirety. Your life (all of it) is beautiful, friend, and so are you. I love you.

  42. Gena says:

    “Losing someone by their choice evokes a grief deeper than death.”

    I’ve never read something that so perfectly describes how I have felt for so many years…it is something that I have felt but haven’t been able to express in words.

    Thank you for that.

  43. Cheryl says:

    I read your story this morning. I agree with so much of what you and others have shared. The pain is horrible. And, as many have shared, your story isn’t over. Our adversary may think he has won, but he is sorely mistaken. As painful as it is, we can rise above it by claiming the victory in Jesus. Your earthly husband may have left, but your Bridegroom is here.

    Get behind us Satan…in Jesus name, you have no victory here!!!!

  44. Cheryl says:

    I read these stories this morning. I know how painful they are. Our adversary may think he has won, but he is sorely mistaken. We can rise above this and claim the victory in Jesus. Your earthly spouses may be gone, but your Bridegroom is here.

    Get behind us Satan…in Jesus name, you have NO victory here!!!!!

    Father, finish our stories and make them Masterpieces! Amen

  45. lovely pics, yet bitter-sweet

  46. Kim Phillips says:

    Love you!! You’ve come a long way – whether you see that now or not.

  47. Ian Vorster says:

    Gosh! What a story. And look at the comments. Reams of them. And here I am adding to the list. God is so good. He is greater than the story. Look at how he has turned the grief to touch others – that’s the beauty of ashes. Thank you.

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  1. [...] matter if your story is rough, or boring or if you’ve forgotten half of it.  Read Blessed Assurance and be [...]

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