The post I’ll always make on June 3rd

IMG_4864Every June 3 I will make this blog post:

“XX years since I returned from living in Uganda.”

It’s impossible NOT to write about the year of my life that has had such an impact on who I am today.

This post today is 2 years since I got back from Uganda. The excitement has faded some, but is still there. The pain has faded some, but is still there. The scars are still pretty fresh, but I also know why I have them. God doesn’t want me to forget.

Only 1/35 of my life was spent in Uganda, yet I think about it every single day.

Seriously. Every. Single. Day.

How could I forget? It was best AND worst year of my life thus far.

So many of the memories were experiences that blew my mind. Washing feet at the jigger clinic. Visiting the babies at the baby home. The amazing chocolate cake at Cafe Javas. Stoney! Trips to Kenya. Late nights with my roommates dancing in our living room. Getting to teach the greatest teens from around the world. Going on safari. The list goes on an on.

IMG_20140307_172741Somehow, depression made its way in. Doubt made its way in. Insecurity took over my life, and I felt like I had no one, not even God, to save me. Few people know this about my time in Uganda, but it was the first time I ever seriously considered ending my own life, and that’s mainly because I truly believed that no one cared about me. I look back now and see how untrue that was, but you couldn’t have told me that at the time.

Needless to say, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” What ended up helping towards the end of my stay was learning that I wasn’t alone. Others were hurt. Others were struggling. But our school was less than supportive when we needed it most.

I’m working on having grace for the people who hurt me and others. It’s not easy, but who am I to judge them for not having grace on those of us who struggled? I should model what I preach. I need to forgive. Easier said than done.

Wow. Two years later and I’m still processing. Two years later and it still hurts. Two years later and I still miss Uganda every single day.

I wish had something more profound to say. Maybe it’s this: I wouldn’t change a thing.

Two years ago I stepped foot on American soil after a year in Uganda, and I was a totally different person. And I continue to change. God isn’t going to let my suffering be in vain.

10334337_10202468687703087_3077441966965500961_nMy prayer is that when I post my “3 years since I returned from living in Uganda,” I’ll have found the grace to forgive, not only those who hurt me, but also forgive myself for mistakes I made while I was there. I hope to have processed more, grown more, and accepted the fact that if I’m going to want people to show me grace, I’m going to have to show it to others as well.

I am a work in progress. I should probably walk around with an “Under Construction” sign around my neck. It’s a sign I would have to wear the rest of my life because I am so, so far from perfection or anything near it.

Most milestones in my life are now built around my year in Uganda because that’s when everything changed for me. And like I said, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Think I’ll stop drinking rat poison…

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”
– Anne Lamott

574986_poisonI have to be honest. I’ve been drinking a glass of rat poison every day for the past year or so. I’ve been waiting for the rat to die, but instead I’ve only been killing myself.

My spiritual gift is mercy, and I’m quick to forgive. We’ve all had to forgive people for hurtful, heartbreaking things they’ve done to us. But for some reason, there’s someone I just can’t bring myself to forgive.

It’s not the guy who broke my heart a few years ago after he claimed to love me and wanted to make me his wife someday. I’ve forgiven him. It’s not the guy who ripped my heart out of my chest repeatedly in most of 2012 and kicked it around, stomped on it and tore it to shreds. I’ve forgiven him.

It’s an ex-friend who deliberately deceived me for the year or so that we were close, close friends. It wasn’t one event that ended our friendship, it was more of a situation of, “I saw the light.” Others had warned me repeatedly that her motives are never, ever pure at heart. There’s always something in it for her. I didn’t see it at the time, but now I look back and see how incredibly manipulative she was with me- how our entire friendship was a lie.

Guys can be jerks. They break our hearts, that’s what they do. Our best girl friends? They are not supposed to break our hearts, but she broke mine. Once I learned many of the lies she had told me throughout our friendship, and the lies she told other people about me, I felt stupid. I felt like a fool.

Is it obvious yet that I am holding on to a lot of hate? I’ll be honest. I am. I couldn’t tell you anyone else on this planet who gets me more worked up than she does. I haven’t been able to forgive her. I can’t let go of that hate.

We are studying Joseph in the book of Genesis at Bible Study Fellowship. Last week we studied how Joseph forgave his brothers even after they tried to kill him, threw him in a pit, and eventually sold him into slavery. He forgave them because it was the right thing to do. It was what God wanted him to do.

941127_chained_loveI’ve felt chained up and trapped since the friendship ended. I read stories of people who forgave those who killed their family members or abused them. There’s no reason I should be holding on to this hate. No reason to not forgive her, even if she can’t see that she did anything wrong. I’m drinking the rat poison day after day expecting it to kill the rat, but it’s only killing me.

After Bible study I talked to one of the leaders about my situation. She suggested I pray for the ex-friend I can’t forgive.

Wait. What?

I flat-out told her, “I don’t want to pray for her.” 754548_lamb_of_god_1

She told me it’s not a matter of what I want to do. It’s a matter of obedience and what God REQUIRES me to do. If I pray for her, maybe I can eventually forgive her.

And it makes sense. Why on earth should God forgive me of my sins if I haven’t forgiven this person?

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.” – Mark 11:25

I’m done drinking the rat poison. I know I don’t have to like her, I don’t have to be friends with her or even talk to her, but I do have to forgive her. Hopefully I’ll reach that point by praying for her instead of holding on to all this hate.

A quick thought on forgiveness…

forgivenessIt’s a little random, but sometimes, out of nowhere, I’ll get really mad about something that happened quite awhile ago.

The person I’ve loved the most, also hurt me the worst nearly two years ago. I’ve moved on, so has he, and he’s now one of my best friends. While I’m not “in love” with him, I don’t think there are many people in this world who I love more than him.

But sometimes, for no reason at all, I remember what happened. And I get really, really angry and hurt all over again.

I’ve forgiven him, but I haven’t fully adopted “forgive and forget.” That’s when I realized the other day, that as humans, we CAN’T forget. It’s just not possible. But you know who DOES forget? God does. Isn’t that amazing? He can forgive AND forget. And that’s exactly what He does. He doesn’t hold a grudge. Ask for forgiveness and BOOM! You got it. And God won’t ever have a day when He thinks about that time you messed up.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:12

 

Let go or be dragged…

Ever make a mistake and want to just crumple it up and throw it in the trash can, wait for the garbage man to come and take it away so you never have to think about it ever again? Unfortunately, that’s not how our minds work.

I saw a magnet at the store the other day that said, “Let go or be dragged.” That can be applied to a lot of situations in our lives- especially mistakes we’ve made. You have to let them go, or you will be dragged around by them.

Sometimes we’re way too hard on ourselves. Instead of dwelling on mistakes we’ve made, we should learn from them and then let them go. One of the speakers at the women’s conference last weekend said something along the lines of, “Don’t put yourself on the cross- Jesus already paid the price.” How about we stop beating ourselves up for all the mistakes we’ve made?

I’m not perfect. Far from it. Don’t think that just because I’m a Christian or because I take mission trips to Africa that I think I’m any better than anyone else or that I am without sin. I never, EVER want to give the impression that I don’t make mistakes. I just hope I always learn something from each and every mistake I make.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Perhaps the number one person you need to forgive is yourself. Figure out what you can learn from your mistake, and then move on. God’s got a great life waiting for you, but you won’t ever see it if can’t forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.