Today is day of rest for me. I am soaking up every minute as I lay in my bed listening to the sounds of Addis outside my door. What an amazing gift I’ve been given to be able to reflect on my life, what it has been, and what I hope it to be in the next coming years. I went into this trip preparing my heart and eyes for the worst. I automatically assumed I would be broken and that I would return to the US feeling down and depressed for the things I would see here. The truth is I have been blessed beyond words. My heart is so full. Yes, I have had moments when the tears could not be held back from some of the sights outside my van window from various trips to and from the orphanage. Especially when I saw several women in a row on the sidewalk all holding their babies; looking as though they were sick and struggling for every breath. And several times the lump in my throat made its home as I played with the older children in Yabsira’s orphanage. Oh but how these children I get to hug and kiss every time I visit have blessed me so. I can only beg, plead, and pray with tears pouring out to the Lord that every one of them would be placed with a FOREVER FAMILY. Their faces and laughs will forever have a home in my heart. Please pray with me that they would be met with grace, love, and mercy because that is what they have shown me. They deserve it. Sad does not even begin to describe the feeling I will have when it is my final goodbye to these precious children.
Like I said my time here has forced me to reflect. The last two nights by myself I’ve had moments to think about the kind of person I have been, and I can feel the Lord changing the areas that I desperately want to hold on to. Things that have been a god to me. Things that the Lord is saying its time to let go of. So here it goes. Here is my confession that has been holding me back for years. Friends, I’ve struggled with being comfortable in my own skin for as long as I can remember. I’ve had an image in my mind of what beauty is to me and wondered how or if I ever could achieve it. My mind, like so many other women, has been misguided to believe the lie that beauty is on the outside. I’ve known in my head that beauty is in the heart, but for years I chose to ignore and focus only what is on the outside. I’ve been a gym rat to keep my body looking a certain way. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to exercise and I will continue, but I am being challenged to look deep inside the insecure places that have a hold on me so I can walk in a beautiful freedom. Being here has caused me to rest, eat good food, and enjoy life without that voice in my head telling me “you’re gonna get fat from eating this.” It has been an amazing freedom.
I come from a line of women on both sides of my family that have a certain body image in their minds. It breaks my heart when I think of them and the lies they have been told, but I was headed down the same road. Oh the freedom we all could have if we just choose to embrace true inner beauty. Kara Tippetts just wrote a book called the Hardest Peace. In it she says, “What God has patiently taught me over the years is the difference between pretty and beautiful. Pretty is what was valued in my childhood home, something that involves primping and painting and covering over so as to be acceptable in society’s eyes. Beautiful, on the other hand, is the revelation of what is truly and naturally there, often through suffering.” The other night I found myself in tears thinking about what I’ve been teaching my girls. Many mornings I remember my Isabel coming downstairs, fully dressed in an outfit she had picked out. She would be so proud of it and with one look from me, she knew I didn’t approve. I have wept over this realization. I, her own mother, have taken some of her confidence away. Now I must undo what she has learned. Teach her how to have fun with clothing, give her some modest guidelines, but let her lead to help her develop her own confident style. I can’t wait to hold my girls, tell them how beautiful they are, and how I love every part of them.
The last few days I have had an amazing opportunity to visit a few ministries here in Addis. A new friend of mine, who has a wonderful heart, started one in Korah (near the dump) called Carry 117. His vision is to help single mothers who survive by eating, selling, and finding anything from the dump by teaching them how to make things like wine bags, ipad cases, purses, and more. In doing this, they learn to be confident women who make beautiful items, while earning a living for herself and her children. I got to meet 2 of the women. True beauty shown as a result of their suffering. I visited a place called Women at Risk yesterday. This ministry transitions women out of prostitution by first working with them for 6 months, helping them heal and restore their hearts, and then teaching them how to make the most beautiful scarfs. I actually got to see their place of work. As I walked in, I saw each woman with scars of their past, carefully creating a new story with every weave they made. They greeted me with their beautiful smiles and laughter. There it was, true beauty displayed right in front of me. Those moments will be ones that I will forever hold on to, because right there I learned what inner beauty looks like for He has given beauty from Ashes.
It is very uncomfortable for me to be open about this insecurity, but I know I’m not the only one who struggles in this area. If I can help another with my story, then the vulnerability is worth it. I am a work in progress but that is ok. Allowing Him to work in my deepest hard areas creates the true inner beauty that has been waiting to come out and shine.