Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Light in the Darkness

How do you celebrate Christmas when things aren't as they should be?

How do you experience joy in Christ's birth when there is pain he has not yet relieved?

Christmas Eve is the answer to these things. It is the anticipation of the miracle.

For me, there has always been such a mysterious and beautiful quality to the night before Christmas. The snow falling in the dark, the call to fall on your knees as you sing and realize it is a Holy Night. I have to admit that the anticipation for me as a child is different now that I'm grown, but it is no less intense. Instead of longing for a morning of material presents under the tree, I now long for the morning of a long, dark, and hard night of trial.

The promise of presents was nice back in childhood, but eventually I stopped playing with all those toys. They got old, broke, or turned out to be less fun than the commercials advertised. But this miracle I'm leaning into now-- this miracle of hope that I'm clinging to in the darkest times of my soul--- This Jesus will not wear out or fade or be destroyed. I will be increasingly be captivated by him, and his deliverance is certain, sure, and trustworthy because I've placed my faith and trust in him.

Why is it that we all have such a hard time having faith in him when the bottom drops out? It's easy to say "I believe in Jesus" when the world's turning our way, or even when we have inconveniences. But when everything you once held as certain becomes uncertain-- when God lets tragedy not only strike but also linger in our lives, do we still have the courage to say "I believe" and mean it? We have certain expectations of God-- that he will make our lives comfortable, our friends and family blessed, and our prayers answered within a reasonable time. But God makes no such guarantees. "Unfair!" we cry in reflex-- without even thinking we react to loss and sorrow with a whiplash of faith that can catch our minds and emotions off-guard. We expect joy and peace to mean everything in its place and circumstances lining up. It has never occurred to us that joy can choose its home in the broken body, or peace lay covering the heart shedding tears.

Who is this man Jesus who said "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."? He's the one who holds his hand out to you today and says-- "Will you take it?" Will you take his hand knowing he could take you to the depths of some of the most painful places but promising that he will never leave you or forsake you?

I ask tonight if you believe in the hope of tomorrow. Do you believe that "to us a child is born, to us a son is given"?

He is our Wonderful Counselor when we can't understand.

He is our Mighty God when we can't defend ourselves.

He is our Everlasting Father when our earthly fathers die or fail us.

He is our Prince of Peace when we are hit hard in a world full of chaos, sin, and darkness.

Take heart, you who are in pain-- you who hurt and feel like it will never end. Take heart when you look at others and see that they have everything you want but can't have right now. God is gracious, and he remembers you.

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
Isaiah 9:2

Monday, December 8, 2008


The last entry I wrote didn't have much of "me" in it. I sat down to write it because I've been so plagued by fear, doubt, despair... seeing my loved ones suffer and suffering myself for a long time has done a number on me, and it's hard to keep going.

When I was a kid and my parents would take me to an educational historical village, I'd start to get tired of learning on my vacation about halfway through the day. My feet would hurt, and I'd be hungry, and no amount of tractors, train cars, or weaving loom demonstrations could rekindle in me the excitement I needed to go on. I'd glare at the video camera, and when I had finally had it, I'd just sit down and refuse to move.

I had that moment yesterday with God.

I am no "super-Christian" and the truth is, in between these blog posts, I struggle so desperately to cling to what I know in my head to be true. The feelings aren't always there. I'm weary and worn out from years of enduring. I'm waiting for the heavens to part, for the blessing to rain down, and for things to start going our way.

But that doesn't happen.

And I have to continue on somehow.

I told a friend recently that I had always thought that faith in Christ protected me. I thought God would shield me somehow from the deepest pain, or soften it, or somehow keep the worst from happening. The fact is I've seen some of the worst things happen to my family, and felt them happen to me. They are deeply personal and things I haven't been comfortable sharing on here for everyone to read, but the past several weeks have been devastatingly difficult for me. I've used up what little emotional and physical strength I've had on tremendously stressful situations, and I've had nothing left to fight the spiritual battle. I've physically been so run down and off track that I haven't been able to get out of the house, to even attend church, and that has contributed to my feelings of isolation.

I write all this not to whine, but to "keep it real."

A friend of mine recently posted pictures of her new home, beautifully organized and decorated for Christmas. The last 2 pictures showed the room that still had all her boxes, baskets, and bags of unpacked things. She called those pictures "keeping it real," and that's what I need to do here.

I need to be real about my weakness and my baggage so that Christ's strength can shine through me. That way you can see that these verses and entries come not from any great power on my part, but from the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within me and guides me through the deep, dark valley.

So here is my picture of the messy room-- the one that no one usually sees:

My father is no longer living with us, as of a few weeks ago. This is deeply painful to me and I feel betrayed, as if I have lost my father completely. This man doesn't act or sound like my dad. I don't know what has happened, but he is cold and unfeeling, even when confronted with my pain. He left because he was caught lying about some serious matters, and still remains uncaring about our physical safety or well being, preferring to blame us and say there is nothing he can do.

We have experienced continued harassment, home intrusions, theft, and often hear/record loud bangs and crashes in our garage, attic, and basement at night. The smell of cigarette smoke often permeates our bathroom and bedrooms, even though none of us smoke and we live in a freestanding house. We see footprints in the snow coming from the street, and going around our house.

Our cable, phone, and Internet have all been disconnected, interrupted, and problematic repeatedly, with no apparent cause. In addition, our toilets literally exploded sewage water all over our bathrooms, for no apparent reason.

My grandmother's condition following her stroke continues to deteriorate, and not only does she require care, but she has become difficult and angry-- making it almost impossible to do any basic hygiene care simply as she is always ready to fight, shake her stubborn fist, and defiantly proclaim her infamous phrase, "I'm not going to do it." It's so painful to see her once beautiful and gracious "old self" slip away into this angry shell of an old woman.

I have a new job that I do for a few hours from home at night, and someone else's mistake was blamed on me after only a week of training. I've also been so exhausted that I've been making mistakes of my own that don't look good for me.

I was the victim of credit card fraud last week.

To top it all off, I had to have a sexual assault examination after Thanksgiving due to vaginal trauma that I woke up with after being asleep in our home. This isn't the first time we have all woken up with injuries to our bodies, headaches, dizzy, nauseous, and no idea what has just taken place. I'm left with not only no validation for this traumatic experience, but also knowing I'm not safe to go to sleep in my own bed.

We're being victimized by some serious crime, and the people who we've gone to for help have either abandoned us, brushed us off, or backed away in fear-- including the police. For protection, we have only the work of my own inexperienced hands, and what I can order off of the Internet. It seems that the newest cameras I ordered last week have given us a short reprieve from the banging and thuds and nightmarish pain. I'm just not sure how much longer I can make it with these burdens on my shoulders. I'm so scared, and I have not felt or seen God's powerful intervention in a long time. He hasn't changed my circumstances. They've only gotten worse the more I've prayed.

I hunger for him to change this situation where we have been targeted, and I cannot bear to see my family hurt, to be hurt, and then to be victimized by unbelief on top of everything. I know what I've seen, and the harassment we've experienced has been real, vengeful, personal, and caused our family deep hardship and loss (relationally and financially). It began after we were robbed by a ring of caregivers-- at least one of which turned out to be a convicted felon, married to a rapist, and still they were not even investigated as a part of the ongoing harassment that began shortly after that original crime.

I had never heard of anything like this before it started happening several years ago, and even what I witnessed firsthand, I didn't want to believe at the beginning. But when I read accounts of others-- others who are stalked, harassed, robbed, and hurt through some sort of organized campaign, I realize we are not an isolated case. It's intense and something I usually never discuss in detail, but in all honesty, if I don't say that I fear for my safety, for my life, for my mother's life, then I may always regret that I kept this secret. I'm ashamed to tell people and embarrassed. I'm mortified that this has happened and that we have lived like prisoners this way for so long. But it is what it is, and I'm barely making it.

And that's my brokenness through which somehow, someday, I am convinced that Christ will display his glory.