I don't want to write this blog. In fact, my stomach kind of hurts thinking about the words that I know will have to come out.
I've been trying to talk myself out of it, trying to fast-forward through this part of the testimony of how God has worked in my life and in Luz Maria's. To do so would dishonor God and cheat Him out of the glory He deserves.
I have learned something. God doesn't like us to hide our scars and our skeletons. Hidden away, the worst things in our lives molder and rot--evidence of the death that sin brought into the world. But I am not dead. I am alive, and Christ is alive in me. My God is the God of the resurrection, and all the death that was in me, He wants to restore to life. He wants me to allow Him to restore and redeem all the ugliness, all the hurt, all the everyday-dying, all the pain.
Romans 8:28 lets me know that ALL things work TOGETHER for good to those that love God, to those who are called according to HIS purpose. I can gather several things from this verse...
1. All things are not good. No argument there.
2. God can work all things--good and bad--out for my good.
3. Every part of this process works together to accomplish the specific purpose that God created me for.
So this is a call to haul out your skeletons, and in the light of the Lord's mercy, see new life breathed into the darkest corners of your being. See your life redeemed, see the Lord give you beauty for your ashes.
I am not trying to be poetic in this post. I am afraid it will turn out awfully raw, because what I have to say has to do with some very real, very painful experiences.
But this story does indeed have, if not a happy ending, a redeemed one--a glorious testimony of the grace of God in my life.
So here it goes.
When I went to Honduras in June 2012, I packed work gloves and bandanas and plaid shirts. These gifts were for the father of Luz Maria, the precious little girl that we had sponsored to celebrate the day my life changed--the day Christ became my Savior.
I envisioned that the day I met Luz would be all joy--and indeed our first moments together were all I had hoped! Her hug was warm, real, enthusiastic.
It was not until we stood together and poured over the photo album that I brought that I began to sense that everything was not what I thought it was. Her mother had said something that confused me. She had said, "Now that I have to be father and mother too..."
Luz's father was dead.
Questions...when, where, how? This wasn't right. Luz's information sheet clearly showed that Luz was now and had always been living with both of her parents. In Luz's letters, I had never heard of such a thing.
The work gloves and the bandanas and the plaid shirt burned in the bottom of my tote. I had brought gifts for a dead man.
Luz told me that her father had become sick and wandered away. They found him dead.
Just 4 months prior to our visit day.
And for a horrible, sickening, moment, I was 16 years old again, finding my own mother dead on the floor.
We spent our visit day in laughter, hugs, and precious moments. I had no idea how timely this visit was. I believe God ordained this visit as a gift for Luz and her mother. What a treat for them to have a vacation from the burdens and memories of home...2 nights in a hotel, first time in a bath tub, first time at a restaurant.
When gift time came, I pushed the gifts for the father to the side. I think they got taken home to Luz's older brother instead.
My heart became heavier as our time together came to a close. I am not a crier--but as we crossed the last bridge on our way out of the water park, I could feel the emotion welling up. We walked out of the gate, and my Luz and I clung to each other...the flood gates burst, and I wept for my girl. I wept to send her home to a life of responsibility, a life where she was forced by circumstance to take on so many duties at such a young age...caring for three younger siblings, washing laundry, helping in the fields. I cried because I could feel the freshness of the loss. I cried for my own mother. And in fact, I cried for days. I wondered why Compassion had not notified me before this. I don't know if I could have been prepared for the news, but I could have at least not been surprised by it.
So I called and made an inquiry the minute I got home.
Six weeks later, an answer. It reminded me of the time after my mother's death when we had waited for the autopsy results to tell us how she had died.
The Compassion Project reported that the death of Luz's father was related to alcohol. If God had not been a part of my life, I would have thought it was all a cruel joke...because you see, my mother died of a drug overdose.
I wrote to Luz, not mentioning what I now knew about her father's death. Perhaps she had been ashamed to tell me how he died. I shared with her about my mother's death. More letters came from Luz, but to this day, she has not mentioned her father's death.
Fast forward to the first day of our visit last month. Luz had been with us at the center for most of the day as we worked painting. In the afternoon I sat down with her for a time. We stood together with Yessi, my translator/friend, and we just talked. We talked about life and our letters. I asked about her new nephew and niece.
I don't really know how it happened, but we began to talk of her father...and she told me the story.
Are you ready for this?
Luz, her older siblings, and her mother went to one of the 3 annual agricultural fairs in Santa Rosa de Copan to sell the produce from their small farm. The younger children were left at home.
When they returned, they learned that the father had gotten drunk. No one had seen him for days...little siblings alone.
After 8 days, they found Luz's father dead.
My heart hurt, screamed out in pain for my girl. I poured out my heart and told her in person about my mother. I told her that God is able to work all together for good. I told her that God is able to give her the life that she dreams of, a life that is not rocked by substance abuse and violence. Somehow, my words had an impact. She understood because I was there in front of her. I am evidence that God can do it. I lost my mother at 16 to drug abuse; I have 2 brothers in prison for drug abuse; I spent my entire life--until 28 years old--without even knowing my earthly father. I wanted a different life--and through Christ, it was possible. I have a husband who is faithful to me and my children. Our family is whole, untorn by abuse. My children will never, God willing, know from experience the life that I knew as a child.
I felt the Spirit of God stir in that moment. God was raising something from the dead in my life. He was giving my pain--the worst pain I had ever known--a purpose.
He wasn't done.
The next day, we visited Luz Maria's home. I have told you most of the story...but not all of it.
After lunch, we walked down to a stream about 15 minutes from her home. We had asked about the family's bathroom...well, we were now seeing it. We enjoyed the cool shade, the lush forest. We sat and talked, took photos.
"Do you want to see where my father died?"
The world started spinning. What do you say in answer to that?
No. NO. Because then it would all be real.
But somehow, yes. Yes. Because she wanted me to see. In some way, I felt the weight of this incredible offer. In its own way, this was a gift of intimacy I had never hoped for. We were not going to her father's grave. We were going to the place where he died.
We veered off the little footpath we were on straight into high weeds and bushes. We crawled under a barbed wire fence. More walking. Luz stopped to pull back some weeds. There was a little wooden cross.
I wanted to say all the right things. I wanted to hold her and cry with her...but I didn't. We stood for a few moments. Ants and stinging nettles pushed us away.
But in my mind I saw my mother. I saw her sprawled on the orange shag carpet, on top of her half-folded laundry. I heard my grandparents crying, heard the sound my mother's fluid-filled lungs made as my brother tried to give her CPR. I heard the wail of the ambulance siren, remembered begging God to save her--begging as I had for many years, in many times like this. I remember the hard soles of my mother's feet hanging off of the stretcher as she was carried out the door. I knew she was dead. I remember exactly how she was. How could I ever forget?
And in that moment, God raised something from the dead. He gave my pain a purpose.
The girl I had chosen to celebrate the best moment in my life--the moment of my new birth in Christ--God had chosen to celebrate the power of His redemption in my life, His "I am making all things new."
Friends, God can use your suffering for good. In my life, He is using my suffering to help heal the heart of a precious girl. Maybe my testimony has given her hope. I came from a world away to tell it to her-- and she invited me into her world to tell me her story.
God gets the glory, doesn't He? Because I know that He alone orchestrated this relationship, these moments, in His very own time. While it hurt, He was working out everything together for my good. He is working in my life, in my heart, pruning away the dead vines so that more fruit can grow.
Will you let Him raise some hidden part of you from the dead? Will you let Him use it to fulfill His purpose in your life? Will you live the truth that what was meant for evil in your life, God intends for good?
There will come a day when Luz and I can stand together with no memory of these things...a day when the redemption is made perfect...
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” --Revelation 21:3-5
I look ahead.
Headed back to Luz's home, I held her sweet hand and allowed her to half-drag me up the steep incline, past the cows and through the corn field and coffee. God is not done with us in this life yet. We have more heartache and trouble to face. But for now, we are a testimony that our God is still at work. That our God is a God of life. That our God is still raising the dead.