My amazing sister in Christ is writing for me today. I’m in awe of this woman. I don’t know what I did in life to deserve to have women like this call me their friend.
Here’s Brandi’s story.
“Everything has been taken away,” I remember groaning the words with tears running down my face. “I have lost e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.” I uttered, barely able to speak a word through my tears. My body racked with sobs as I journaled the things and people I had lost over the last months, soaking the pages and smearing the list. The list numbered into the dozens. I was sure life was over. The relationships I had held dear, the ministry I had built, the marriage I had thought was forever — crumbling around me.
Fast forward 5 years and the redemption that swirls around me is breath-taking. On almost every level and in almost every area of my life, God has “restored what locusts have stolen” as He promises to. I have amazing friends, both locally and around the world. I have 3 non-profits where I get to be involved in grand adventures of serving others around the world. I have life – full and abundant. This healing wasn’t automatic, this freedom wasn’t free and this redemption can cause temptations of its own — but it’s all worth it. Worth it to do everything in my power to pursue healing, hold redemption lightly and do the hard, beautiful work of believing He is bringing beauty.
So what do we do with all of that loss and then with all of that redemption and all of those places still to be redeemed?
When I was in the midst of loss, I was tempted to despair. Oh believe me, I argued with God about why I even had to be on this earth. I could see NO redemption possible. I remember weeping over the 1,500 kids in the sponsorship organization I was leaving, sure I would never have ministry like that. 5 years later, we have 1,153 mamas in our program and over 7,615 precious souls. I remember weeping over brokenness that felt too deep and too dark to ever be put back together. 5 years later, I spend a good portion of my days walking women through their deepest, darkest memories. My healing is being used (by the grace of God), to be a part of others’ healing around the globe.
So if you find yourself in the LOSS part of the story right now….what I would love to do is lay down in the dirt right with you, tell you that your wounds and your losses are so painful and its ok to cry and then gently whisper to you that it’s not over yet. What is today is not what will always be. Despair doesn’t have to win. Beauty can still come. I know it’s hard. Oh how I know it’s hard. I know pain so deep it can take your breath away…..but I also know that healing is possible. It is possible for you, for your wounds, whatever they might be. Believe me, I have heard wounds and stories that might make some people’s heads spin. And I have seen the healing that can come from even the darkest places. Have hope. Perhaps today it’s not the kind of hope that makes you dance, but just the kind that makes you sigh and try again. You are so loved. Believe in healing…and then pursue it with a passion. Do the work of healing. It is worth it. You are worth it.
What do we do when God redeems? I mean, the obvious answer is praise Him. Yes, this we do. But what do we do with our hearts? Do we cling to those areas of redemption like a toddler clinging to a lollipop? Do we know what it is to be without, so we hold on tightly to what has come so as not to lose it?
That is surely the tendency for many. I have met people who are determined to never be poor because they grew up poor. People who have lost things and once found, they hold on with an iron fist.
But that doesn’t seem like actually learning the lesson I was given. Want to know what I found out when I lost everything? That it would be ok. I lost friends and then found new ones. I lost my work and then God gave me new, beautiful work. I lost all of the boxes that had defined life for me and God gave me freedom. What this means though is that I know I’m ok! I can hold loosely to the gifts given because I know, if stripped away, I will still be ok. I have had new friends that hear my story and respond with, “well I will never walk away from you like your old friends did.” Instead of sighing with relief, I usually respond, “No, I don’t think you will. But if you do, that’s ok too. Friendships change and evolve. And if for some reason, we are not friends at some point in our life, this time was still beautiful.” Now that I have Beauty for Ashes Uganda, its tempting to wonder what it would be like if it were stripped away. I have had people who I wondered if they would start a campaign to ruin me (it’s been threatened). I have had friends whose board of directors (because boards have a lot of power in non-profits) completely stole their organization out from under them. I have seen organizations ruined by a partnership gone wrong. Could this happen? Yep. And guess what? I would still be ok.
Do I cherish what I have now? Most assuredly! I cherish it and I ask Jesus to protect my friendships and my work. But I also know that if I were to lose it all again, that would be ok. I would be ok. It is well with my soul.
So if you find yourself in a space of redemption, I would ask you….are you holding too tight to the redemption? Would it be wise to perhaps consider if you have done the healing work after loss to get to the space where it is well with your soul – no matter what?
On things still to be redeemed…
While there is a WHOLE lot of redemption in my life, there are still some areas left to be redeemed. There are promises left to be fulfilled. My love life is one of those areas. I have friends galore, healing in mad doses and a life’s work that thrills me —- but I still await having a partner to walk life with. I still await the promises of God that say I am not meant to live alone forever. I still await the redemption of this area that the locusts have stolen. I have seen healing in many of these areas, but am still awaiting the redemption of living out a life with someone who adores me and treats
me well. My heart longs for this redemption in groans that words cannot express.
So it is here where I remind myself of the truth I mentioned above — what is today is not what will always be.
Just because you or I don’t see redemption right in front of us, doesn’t mean that it isn’t coming. Just because no one is here tonight to hold me, doesn’t mean I will be alone forever. God is at work. He is crafting my redemption even now. He is preparing the way. It could be tomorrow that He redeems! But today, it’s ok for it to be hard and painful and for me to trust that redemption is coming What I know to be true is that my God is a God who redeems and crafts beauty beyond my wildest dreams. So I will trust that He is doing the same in every area not yet redeemed.
Whether you are in a place of deep loss, a place of crazy redemption or some place in between where some is redeemed while you still wait for more, may we walk together reminding ourselves and others so gently that our God is one who creates beauty from ashes. We can trust Him. Walk forward, dear one, in healing and in trusting. It’s going to be beautiful.
I little bit about Brandi Lea
Brandi Lea is a single mama to 3 amazing humans – 1 adopted from Liberia + 2 biological. She is the founder / executive director of 3 non-profits: She’s Worth It (a campaign to fight human trafficking), SoulCare (pouring into non-profit leaders) and Beauty for Ashes Uganda (working with single mamas across the Teso region of Uganda). She is absolutely passionate about promoting justice and championing value. She spends her days raising money for mamas in Uganda, encouraging non-profit leaders and walking with dear women who find themselves healing from trauma — all from the comfort of her home in beautiful Southern Colorado. She loves healing and fighting for beauty and hopes you will do the same.
Instagram: @brandilea + @beautyforashesuganda FB: Brandi Lea + Beauty for Ashes Uganda beautyforashesuganda.org + brandilea.me + soulcareretreats.org Download the app “Beautiful and Beloved” to get weekly videos of Brandi Lea and Amber Newberry (Beautiful and Beloved founder) discussing what it means to live as beautiful and beloved in our world sent directly to your phone every Friday