When the proverbial plane crashes

I knew the Lord had brought me to Alaska, but the end of first semester was a train wreck. (Or to be more “bush-correct”, you could say it was a proverbial plane crash.) By the time it was over, I was beyond burnt out. I was struggling with what I can now recognize as compassion fatigue and PTSD. I was spiritually overwhelmed, constantly feeling like I was losing the battle against the strongholds of addiction that raged in my house. By the time I’d realized just how far in over my head I was, it was too late. My little TLC plane had fallen out of the sky and was in flames around me.

I sat in our house with my face down on my kitchen table and my hands entangled in my hair, sobbing at one in the morning. Every few minutes I would catch a word or two from the serious conversation between my boss and one of my students in the other room.

I pulled my face up off the table and caught a glimpse of myself in the window. The woman staring back at me was gaunt; the way her black mascara had dripped over her sunken-in cheeks scared me. I stared in shock. Who is that woman in the window? That can’t possibly be what I look like. I tried to turn my head to examine myself from another angle but my muscles were so tense my neck wouldn’t turn. Instead I laid my forehead back on the table and ugly-cried until my stomach hurt. What are you doing Lord?

Eventually I ran out of tears and simply stared at the grain of the wood in my table. I couldn’t figure out where my “good” God was. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that He would ever lead me (or had actually led me) somewhere that felt so unsafe.

Lord, have mercy. Please. Where are you? I pleaded on repeat, as if those were the only words I knew. The first half of David’s Psalm 77 rang in my ears.

My boss eventually emerged from the other room. Lowering himself into the chair next to mine, he asked how I was doing. Unhealthy. Unsafe. They were the only words I could choke out, even though I knew they didn’t make sense as an answer to his question. I tried to focus on the logistics of what I needed to do with my student, but as his lips moved, my brain wandered. I’m ‘doing Your work’, Lord. You brought me here. You gave these girls to me, and me to these girls. Yet I feel like I’m dying. How could you let this happen?

It’s every missionary’s worst nightmare—that moment when the prayers for protection and safety, the ones that people back at home prayed over you before you left, seem to have worn off.

In that moment I was left to wrestle with the fact that because God is sovereign, that this was exactly where He wanted me. He knew this would happen. He knew I would feel unsafe. He knew it would be dark and I wouldn’t be able to sense His presence, but somehow I had to trust that He was still there…

He had called me to the depths of myself—my deepest fears and wounds—in His loving goodness, for His ultimate glory. I knew the theology, yet there I was, weeping, begging God to show up and replace my suffering with a feeling of safety, even though I’d always said I would do whatever it took for the people around me to know the love of Christ…

~~~

Around these parts, we pray for our pilots in church on Sunday and before almost every meal. To us they’re not just pilots—they’re family, my friends, my friends’ husbands, my bosses, my students, me.

I’ve learned a lot about trusting the sovereignty of God from hearing pilots and their loved ones pray. Our pilots all have their fair share of plane crash stories—some minor, some major, all mildly terrifying. Yet when they pray, they ask for wisdom as they fly, not for safety, even though many of them understand what it feels like to be in a plane that’s going down.FlyingSidewaysThese men and women have been there; they’ve felt a complete lack of safety akin to what I felt in December.

They’ve all said, “Yes Lord, I want to follow you. I want to serve the people of Southwest Alaska by bringing them their groceries, the fuel they need to survive, and their loved ones, no matter the cost.” (After all, none of us could live and minister where we do if it wasn’t for our valiant bush pilots.) And thus, we cover our pilots in prayer, just as my church family in Colorado prayed for me as they sent me out as a missionary.

But even within that covering of prayer, many of them have walked away from a plane with it’s landing gear folded or it’s wings ripped off.

They know what it’s like to question God’s plan with every fiber of their being while simultaneously fighting to trust the theology and truth of His sovereignty. They’ve managed to praise God just moments after feeling the least safe they’ve felt in their lives. And they still wake up every morning and fly despite all of this because that’s what God’s called them to– even when it feels dangerous.

The prayers of our pilots have challenged me to stop praying for safety, and instead pray to be exactly where God wants me to be— even if it seems horrible and hard, maybe even traumatic at times.

What if we all prayed that way? For wisdom rather than safety, for His will rather than our own? It seems strangely reminiscent of The Lord’s Prayer if you ask me…

After all, Jesus never promised His disciples they wouldn’t suffer or be unsafe (Look at the life of Paul if you doubt me.) Similarly, the Lord never promised David that life, even life as a king, would be easy. (The beginning of Psalm 77 is pretty solid evidence that it wasn’t.) But God did promise He would be David’s refuge when the excrement hit the stone-age ventilation system… He never promised me that living in Alaska would feel safe, but through His word He has promised to be my refuge and physician when my proverbial plane crashes and I’m left climbing from the burning wreckage.

~~~

I woke up the morning after our proverbial plane crash, disheartened and dehydrated from crying every spare ounce of fluid out of my body. But being the stubborn woman I am, I was determined to salvage something (anything) from the wreckage. I threw my Bible and journal on the table I’d wept on just hours before, and got brutally honest with the Lord: “I don’t feel safe. I need to feel safe if You want me to stay here.”

Do you? Is safety the call I’ve put on your life, Kacy?

Etched below God’s rhetorical question in my journal are the words that I pray I’ll be able to live my life by, everyday–

Alright Lord, things might not “get better”. I’m coming to terms with that. It’s a very real possibility that You’ll continue to ask me to walk into (and live in) places that are hard and desolate, almost completely devoid of light, and call me to expose all of my pain so Your light might shine through this brokenness.

You might not deliver me from living in an unsafe environment, but I know this mess is a part of Your plan. And Abba, if You are going to use this hot mess to draw people in and glorify Yourself, then dammit, this is exactly where I want to be; safety or no safety…

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsake; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in You.”

(2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

 

Muddy, messy, and grace[full]

It was one of those days from the second my feet hit the floor… ten minutes late.

I shot out of bed after realizing that I’d slept through my alarm. I sprinted for the shower, then ran downstairs, tossing on clothes and running a brush through my sopping hair. I couldn’t find my glasses, and well, without my glasses I couldn’t see to find my glasses… (Life is full of vicious cycles such as this at 5:45 in the morning.) I felt through my blurry medicine cabinet, popped contacts in my eyes, and flew out the door.

I was late to Bible study (barely, but none-the-less). From Bible study I raced to work where I sat in a classroom of screaming little ones– all sick from the cold going around the Street School. After a few hours of cranky babes and being thrown up on twice, the dismissal bell rang and I left as quickly as my frazzled feet would carry me.

I dropped off one of my students on my way home and raced inside to change into my running clothes. Two miles later, I was happily out of breath, running just barely behind schedule. I ran inside my front door and grabbed my water bottle, remembering that I needed to get to the bank before they closed. After digging through my purse for a minute, I realized I’d left my wallet in the car earlier in my haste to change out of my work clothes.

I glanced at the time. 4:45. Perfect. I’ve got 15 minutes to get 3 blocks to the bank before they close. Easyyyyy.

I ran out the back door of the Yarrow House, locking it behind me. Just as I slammed it shut and took a step off the porch, it hit me.

My keys were inside the house… the house that I’d just locked myself out of.

After a few frantic texts to my roommates, it became apparent that I wasn’t getting in the house or into my car for at least an hour.

Well, the garden needs to be weeded and at least the shed’s not locked today… I thought. If I’m not gonna make it to the bank, I might as well be productive in a different way. So I sat and dug dandelions out of the little fenced off dirt plot in the yard, laughing out the majority of my frustration.

As I laughed and yanked the weeds out of the earth, my wild post-run hair fell down over my eyes. I attempted to sweep it out of my face with the back of my hand and I realized I’d made a mistake just as everything went blurry.

I’d swept my contact right out of my eye, into the dirt. With no way to make it inside to rinse it off, I declared it a loss and buried it with my finger.

Growing more frustrated with my situation, yet still determined to make the most out of my time locked out of the house, I shut my contact-less eye, squinted at the soil, and continued to pull weeds.

Alright God… Not funny. I have a million and one things to do to prep for Alaska and a million and two things on my mind, and now I’m essentially a prisoner in my own backyard– a sweaty, windswept, partially blind, mud caked prisoner.

That was not how I saw my Tuesday going.

The night before, I’d laid out my clothes with grand plans of being graceful, put-together, professional, and productive… the type of woman I usually feel like I should be. But my Tuesday had been a not-so-delicate reminder that that is not the kind of woman God has created me to be.

I’m perpetually late. My clothes usually don’t match. My glasses (if I can even find them) usually have tiny finger prints covering them from working with tiny humans and their mommas all day. I’m spacey and lose things more often than I find them. I’ve been described as a hail storm– wild, unpredictable, and noisy– when I sprint into a room just a few moments behind schedule. I’m a hot freaking mess, and most of the time I’m okay with that.

However, even on my best, most confident days, comparison can creep in and leave me feeling insecure and worth-less (not worthless) because I am not some put together, graceful princess.

As I sat, barefoot in my weedless garden that afternoon, aimlessly tracing lines in the dirt, I thought about all the people I consider to be graceful and it dawned on me that, dang it, I am graceful. Or at least I strive to be grace full; full of grace.

It’s an awkward kind of grace for sure, but it’s there. And it’s there despite all my clumsiness, tardiness, blindness, and well… general mudiness…

Grace is in there somewhere because Jesus is.

It’s not the type of grace that I could exude or perfect by being timely, well dressed, or less of an overall space case. No, it’s the kind of grace that is purely a gift from God because of who Jesus is and what He has done for me, for all of us, on the cross:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth... For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.(John 1: 14, 16)

Jesus came to this mess of an earth, lived a perfect life, died a death that I deserved, and then conquered death to raise Himself back to life. It’s the gospel of perfect love and grace that I hear all the time. Yet somehow I forget it’s just as true for me, (the one who simply can’t seem to get anything together, ever) as it is for the ones I constantly compare myself to.

I may not be able to get my ducks in a row or be graceful by the world’s standards, but I’m sticking to my revelation that I am indeed, full of grace because He has allowed me to live out of His fullness. Even though, I’m weak and a mess, in the awareness of my disheveled state I’m able to rely on His strength and perfection by and because of His grace to me.

Theodore Roosevelt wisely said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I know that to be far too true, but I’m slowly realizing that if I let it, comparison can also kill my awareness of His grace…

263 days after writing this, I found myself walking down an airplane runway in Port Alsworth with Kathryn. As we meandered our way to a friends’ house, we talked about the unpublished draft of this very blog, laughing at how dramatically different my life looks a year later, but how much of a mess I still am.

This draft mentally resurfaced on our walk because I was wearing contacts yet again, as I’d woken up that late morning (way after my four alarms) unable to find my glasses. (Which I swear had to have been stolen from my room in the middle of the night by gypsies or something, because their location still escapes me…)

The million and one things that were on my frazzled mind in that garden have all been worked out in the beautiful sovereignty and grace of the Lord. Clearly, I eventually made it back into my house that evening and to the bank sometime later that week. The million and two support letters that the Lord used to bring me to Alaska were sent out, perhaps a few days (or weeks) later than I’d intended, but that didn’t impede upon God’s faithful provision or plan.

Sure, I’m still a hail-storm of a human. And no, maybe I don’t have a car that I can lock myself out of these days, but I did almost back a 4-wheeler into a house last night… I digress to simply say (mostly to remind my own fickle heart) that there’s nothing I (or you) could ever do to disrupt the grace-full sovereignty of God in His bigger story or tiny details.

While I’m reminded daily of my shortcomings and weaknesses, that has never stopped God from reminding my hot mess of a self that everything is accomplished by His grace and goodness, not the world’s expectations of what grace should look like in me.

Glory be to God.

“For You are good, You are good, when there’s nothing good in me…”

(“Forever Reign”, Hillsong United)