I just finished reading a novel last night by one of the best and most popular authors of our time. It was beautifully written, had me in tears. My spirit was doing summersaults as I gobbled down the language unashamedly like it was a giant piece of triple chocolate cake. The author played my emotions like a piano. So, my reaction when I finished surprised me. I threw the book down in frustration.
The book is called Getting to Happy. It’s a sequel to the infamous novel turned film Waiting to Exhale. This was one of my favorite movies growing up. Fav.or.ite. I have watched it at least a hundred times. So, I thought reading the sequel would be fun. I used to love that movie…
[insert 2 hour break from writing to re-watch Waiting to Exhale]
It’s just as good years later. I think I’ve got it now. I realize why I was so pissed off when I finished the book…well, am so pissed off. Disturbed actually. Maybe disturbed blanketed by pissed-off-ness. It’s not about the book or the movie. It’s about the fact that in life we don’t get to go back and change the story once it’s already written. When God makes a beautiful story through our lives we don’t get to go back and change it just because we get our feelings hurt. When the story is over, when the party around the campfire is finished, no matter what happens after that, the story was still beautiful. We still loved who we loved, even if they left us after. The moments inside the love were still beautiful. The laughter still happened. It still made us double over in joy, even if afterwards we were doubled over in pain. It still happened…and it was still beautiful. We don’t get to make edits after the final cut has been released.
That’s what is making me so pissed off about this damn book, and the reason it’s hitting so close to home for me. The author wrote a beautiful story in Waiting to Exhale (both the book and the screenplay). The moments were raw and lovely. The smiles those ladies had on their faces as they hugged and laughed and counted down to the New Year around that campfire have been imprinted in my memory since the first time I watched the movie. Now I know this is very presumptuous and I could be completely wrong, but I think something happened to her after Waiting to Exhale. Something happened that broke her heart, and it made it hard for her to look back at those moments and see them as beautiful… so she changed them. She wrote a new book where she changed the story. She went back and she erased the happy marriage and replaced it with divorce. She edited out abundant life and replaced it with death. She put out the fire because she didn’t believe in it anymore. Heartbreak stole her happy ending.
I refuse to allow it to steal mine.
The year I spent in Kenya with some nation shakers who became sisters raising our six beautiful girls was the happiest time in my life. I got to watch six hearts blossom because of His love. It was filled with surprises and laughter and cuddles and heads leaned against my shoulders. I also made friendships with the people I was working with. We parented together, made decisions together, shared secrets. But after we all “exhaled” things changed. And I’m tempted to want to go back and make edits to the story because how can such a beautiful story have ended in such heartache?
But, no. Love was still love. Laughter was still laughter. Friendship was still friendship. And we aren’t at the end yet.
In my pain I want to go back and taint that. But maybe that is what hope is for. Maybe that’s what it really means to “get to happy”. Maybe it’s not about taking a once beautiful experience, dunking it into a pool of pain, allowing all the hurt to be highlighted and the good to be blacked out, and then moving on and trying to find something else to make you feel happy again. Maybe “getting to happy” is about allowing the beautiful to be beautiful, and if pain comes after beautiful not allowing it to rob you of the beautiful… being able to tell the difference between the two. Knowing when one ended and the other began. Or when they were dancing with one another being aware of where each one was in the room at all times. Maybe “getting to happy” is being able to look back at a significant experience and remember both, but allow each to exist where it belongs. And after the beautiful, and after the pain, maybe “getting to happy” is being courageous enough to step right back into beautiful again. After all, life doesn’t stop after we exhale. It takes trust to exhale, but it takes brevity to choose to inhale again. Maybe we never really arrive at happy. Maybe it’s not about us striving to get there. Maybe, just maybe, God is good enough to bring happy to us.
Ethiopia– I spent 11 incredible days in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last month with some crazy Jesus loving friends of mine named Nick and Jess Lowe. They were the most selfless Jesus-like hosts and friends ever! During that time God knit our hearts together and allowed us to dream for what the Kingdom coming to Addis looks like and what our roles are in it. He took me on a tour of the sex industry in Addis. There are about 150,000 prostitutes in Addis Ababa. 90,000 of them are children under the age of 14. That’s not okay. I was able to go out on the streets and meet some of the ladies and hear their stories and love on them. I was also able to make connections with people actually doing something about this. The most impactful being a lady named Aster who has a ministry called Love Holistic Center. She rescues women off of the streets and rehabilitates them by supplying in-depth counseling services and spiritual, emotional and financial support for six months. After that phase is completed she provides skill training and job placement. Her heart and what she does is absolutely beautiful. I will be returning to Ethiopia for three months to work alongside Nick and Jess and to serve Aster as her assistant director as we restructure her ministry and work together with the rest of our team to rescue as many of those 90,000 children trapped in sex slavery in that city as God allows us, as well as providing transitional housing, counseling, skill training, and job placement services for new women coming out of a lifestyle of prostitution.
I am looking to put together a very small team of people to come with me and serve as volunteers at Love Holistic Center during this time and simply be a part of a community of people who love justice and think Jesus is the answer to it all. If you want to come do life with us in Addis for three months email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cameroon– I am currently in Beau, Cameroon and plan to be here until the beginning of December. I came to be with a friend of mine from Atlanta named Sherri who has a school of ministry here, but God surprised me and provided a whole family of people who have been listening ears, shoulders to cry on, and wells of laughter and support. I have been welcomed so warmly and loved so well already. It’s really a blessing! I am taking some classes at the school of ministry as well as receiving counseling and inner healing at the Transformation Center. The last few months were quite traumatic and I am using this time to heal and work through it all before continuing in ministry. I am enjoying having time to process through a lot of things in my heart with God and with my community here. It is a very sweet and intimate time for Jesus and I.
Kenya– I left Kenya about a month ago. I will be away from Kenya until mid-December. The girls are now in boarding school, but have a break in December/January. During that break we will be attending one of my best friends’ weddings and celebrating Christmas together in Nairobi. We are all very excited about it!