Last night, I had a panic attack in the middle of the night. In Kenya.
I fell asleep in a jet-lagged exhaustion after a busy first full day on the ground and after a couple of hours of sleep, I sat straight up in bed in sheer terror.
I was scared and I didn’t know why. I scrambled to find my glasses and clawed my way out of bed and turned on a light in the kitchen, trying to calm my thundering heart.
I whispered the name of Jesus with every breath until I stopped shaking.
Then I sat down and I cried.
I’ve been making these overseas trips for so many years and I thought I was past the panicky place. I was so disappointed at my weakness.
I was afraid to go back to bed and so I quoted Scripture and asked myself what I was afraid of and I couldn’t really put a name to it, but it felt like this burden–this impossible task of providing jobs for women, keeping Fair Trade Friday memberships full, might just suffocate me.
But then I remembered the 5th grade. I had transferred to a new school from a small Christian school where we wore school uniforms, sat in cubicles learning at a self-pace and called our teachers “Brother Smith and Sister Davis.”
Besides the challenge of making new friends, catching up with a harder curriculum, I also accidentally (and repeatedly) called my teachers “brother and sister” to the laughter of classmates.
It was the year I couldn’t see the blackboard, got glasses and realized I was afraid of everything new and hard.
So, yeah, 5th grade was awesome.
It was the first time I remember looking for the good right in front of me. I spent a lot of time that year trying to see the good. Her name was Lori. She was from a broken family, she said a lot of bad words and she was sort of the class bully and a stretch for this awkward new girl. She was the last girl I thought would become my best friend.
Because sometimes the last place we look for good is right in front of us.
As I recovered from a panic attack in the middle of Africa, I thought of the teen moms who are in front of me this week. When you walk into a maternity home that holds abused and traumatized teen moms, you might think it would be hard to see the good. The collaborative pain their eyes have seen is unfathomable.
They are the product of a world that oppresses girls, yet they are the result of a God who heals and transforms lives.
They are jewelry-makers. They are worship leaders. They are mothers. They are cooks and creators, sisters and seamstresses. They reflect who they are, not what they’ve been through. They magnify who He is instead of who she was.
They remind me that Jesus is in control of my life and this yes.
One of my friends is here with me in Kenya this week–seeing my life’s work and these miracles for the first time in person. She sent me her thoughts on our first day and this quote from When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story, “If I were stuck asking why this happened to her, I’d never see how God is working through her.”
We cannot get stuck in the suffering of our lives. “Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain God is for you and with you,” Tim Keller
It is such a simple truth that has the power to change the world–and us: It’s so easy to focus on why God would allow so much suffering in innocent girls and hardships in our own lives instead of asking how He can be glorified through it.
It’s the first question on our lips when pain knocks at our door. But the why’s never changes the Who.
Because God always, always redeems what the world takes from us. We may not know how or when, but we can trust the Who.
Sometimes I still feel like that 5th grade girl trying to see the good–in my life, in this world, in the eyes of teen girls in Kenya.
I don’t know why God has asked me to be here and to do this. It is so hard. Crushing at times. And I am still so afraid.
As I sat on that kitchen floor, I remembered Who was with me, in front of me and I started with Him.