Reborn Love

I have been in hiding. I have retreated from the world to lick my wounds and mourn in self-pity. I cast myself down the darkest cave I could find. I spend weeks and months and yes, even years, berating myself as only the worst bully or skilled torturer could. And when I couldn’t handle the words I was saying to myself anymore, I drown my self-pity in a bottle and the pledged my soul to the gods of the sea of forgetfulness.

It has been ugly.

Confessing the degree of my darkness to you is scary. Admitting any weakness is like lying down a welcome mat on the fragile points in my fence and saying here- attack here. But three years after my move back from Haiti and it is time for me to stop playing the victim and start defining myself as the Victor. So it starts first with the admission of blackness.

Put back on your armour baby girl, there is a fight out there that needs you. You have ignored the cry long enough. Stretch. Do you feel that? Put blood back in your feet- rise, take your mat and walk.

Spear in one hand, hammer in the other, I will drag my ugly, broken body back out in the sunlight. It looks different from the beaten warrior who entered the tomb. But my God says all the dead shall arise. I’m sure Lazarus smelled too when he left his grave.

Death shall not overcome me. I have been called. I have been claimed. I have been Reborn in Love.

 

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Hard words

Command presence. Show them that you are in charge. It is for your safety and their comfort. People feel secure knowing who is in charge. Having someone take lead is releasing. Practice that authoritative voice. Practice the confidence. Even when you do not know what exactly to do, be confident, you’ll figure it out. 

I am finally graduated. I was able to stand on stage in front of my family and community and take my oath and pledge. Honor integrity and respect are never betrayed, I will always hold myself and other accountable for having the courage to do the right thing. I raised my right hand, and in my newly pressed and never worn before uniform, I pledged myself to a cause greater than myself.

Today, I am in field training. We call it FTO. It is a three month process where they take all the foundations the academy taught us, and mold it to how they want it to look. How does it all apply to my city? It is also a process by which we are graded daily. At the end of each shift, my Field Training Officer writes about a 2 hour report on my progress or lack there of that he has seen over the past twelve hour shift.

I have never been one who does well with constructive criticism. I want to be perfect at everything the first time. Or at least as close to perfect as I need to be to convince those around me. Field training exposes my raw nerves. Shift by shift my arrogance is stripped away and someone peers inside my words and actions and speaks hard words.

Hard words. The ones that should inspire and challenge, but when said just right can deflate my spirit and crush my confidence.

God sometimes says hard words to me. Sometimes he tells me where I am falling short. Where I am screwing it up. And where I should have had a softer heart. Those words are tormenting. Even writing this my face is cringed and I have one eye closed. Just thinking about it causing a physical reaction.

I seek out others approval. I want to please. I want others to like me. I seek the worlds approval and when I fall short of obtaining it, I second guess who I am.

How does one become okay with hard words?

This is the lesson I am learning right now. God has brought me to the place where I must deal with judgement in a healthy, self-respecting way. I must be able to decipher who’s words are important to my life. My field training officer is set on helping me become a fine-tuned officer. He is not out to crush the life out of my dreams. Similarly, my God does not wish to crush me. But to keep me from my own destruction, he must correct me. He must call out my bad behavior, my negative spirit, my intolerance and judgment, and give me the opportunity to turn these things back to him.

I am not of this world, but I was made to be part of this world. I must learn to seek approval only from my God. How is this done? I haven’t the foggiest clue. Save me from myself Lord, I belong to you. Lead me.

Standing in the six

I have tried so many times to write something while I have been here at the academy. Something to explain the transition. A great metaphor to reveal my inner workings of my spirit. Each time I sit down I write several lines and then it all falls apart. The words no longer make sense. The concept disjointed. In frustration I will push my laptop away and declare another day I will try again. I have so many words to say, but together they just do not do this justice.

Today I will try again.

I am a cop because I do not know how not to be. It is not just that I am most comfortable in tactical pants and combat boots. It is not that the shine of my badge makes my heart flutter like a little school girl. It is because when I dig deep into my core, the aspects of me that I cherish most, are that of a Guardian and a Warrior.

We have 2 1/2 weeks left here in Academy County. It seems everyday we have another “final test” in some major aspect of our training: knife defense, firearms, defensive tactics, interview skills. These lessons are important and surely they will save lives. Over the course of the past 15 weeks something else has developed in my class. A deep sense of purpose. We have seen videos of some terrible things. We have seen what the ultimate sacrifice looks like. We pull together and understand what it means when you tell someone you have their back in this job. It means you stand at their back and you do not flinch. You do not turn around even if the gunfight is behind you. You maintain your position because that partner is relying on you. Trusting you with their life.

What does that look like in relationships? A good friend once came to the realization that in the bible it is said we should put on the armor of God. As the armor is described, she realized nothing was stated for the back. Warriors do not retreat, she declared, so we have no protection over our back. The only way a Warrior can rest, she went on, is when another Warrior takes up position behind them and uses their body armor as cover. Standing at their six, a Warrior can finally take a breath.

We learn support positions in building clearing and active shooter situations. One is always rear guard. Only when “support!” is cried out, can that rear guard turn and face the force in behind them.

We are called to cover one another. Called to stand in the gap between life and need. Stand in a support position covering each others backs. Without it, the enemy will have a place to attack. Slithering up behind us, he will climb us and sneak into the spaces between our armor. He will invade our head and bring the battle to a whole new front. Like a schizophrenic, we will begin hearing voices not our own. Taken as truth we will accept them. The game is nearly won then. An infection can kill a person just as easily as a knife wound. No need to create a scene when you can kill from the inside.

We are all called to be Guardians. We are our brothers keeper. We are called to call out the lies in one another. Call out the chinks in each others armor. And most importantly, we are called to stand in the absences, taking each others backs and saying, here I will stand. Here I will remain.

There is something terrifyingly wonderful about standing in that position and hearing your partner fight a battle, while remaining steadfast in your position. You are trusting them as much as they are trusting you. Your body armor protecting each other. Your trust protecting each other.

The trouble it might drag you down

When you live life loud, you need people who are willing to shout above the lies.

I held on to the phone tightly, cradling it against my cheek and ear, listening to the soothing balm of my best friend tell me everything was going to be okay. She heard the battle dripping from my words.

I feel like a failure.
I am not sure I can handle this.
What if this is the end.
What if I was wrong and wasn’t supposed to leave…

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
they fill you with fear

The silver wings jetted out from the side of the steal bird. Below was buildings with tin roofs spread out like a broken picnic surrounding the landing strip. A country unknown to me. New risks, new failures awaited. Inside my ears the song “home” by Phillips Phillips was blaring away my fears. A I stepped off the plane, I stepped into the unknown.

the trouble it might drag you down

I remember those picturesque evenings growing up. The potlucks with neighbors. Pick up games of baseball in the empty field. Firefly catching after dark. Fire pits and belly laughter.

Do you remember the moment that home no longer became home? Sure, you always have a place to put your stuff. Drop it on a known floor surrounded by known people. But somehow the childhood home can change dramatically and no longer felt like home. My parents sold our childhood home recently. I had long moved out, been to two different colleges and lived in three cities (one in a different country) since then, but still it felt like ripping a piece of reality and placing it firmly in the memory category.

if you get lost you can always be found

Four years had passed. Getting back on the plane was more numbing than I realized. I walked towards the gate; Phone clutched like a lifeline in one hand, ticket in the other. I wanted to bolt. My feet walked towards the line and my mind slipped further and further out of sync with my heart. Disconnect. Abyss. Move your feet, move your lips. Say the words that need to be said. Yes, thank you. I think that my seat. No, I’m fine. No peanuts please. Just heading…. my words failed me. A stout man looked back at me puzzled. I had stopped mid-sentence. How do I describe to this man that I am leaving home and heading home? How do I….?

I turned away in silence and fear. Go numb again.

just know you’re not alone

I snapped out of my daydream, pulled back from the edge of my memories, as she spoke again. It is all a mind game. When you live life loud, expect the attack to be louder. I had heard the idea about living such life that when you awoke the devil trembled. My mom had talked about how the devil had little use to attack those that presented him no harm or foul. But rather the vicious attacks must be slew at those who presented the most danger.

War is a series of battles. All loud. All gruesome. Not all are fought on the same field however. Most of my battle are fought between the spaces of my ears. Where there is the most echo and the least likely to be heard and challenged by others.

When you live life loud, expect the battle to be louder. Your screams for victory or calling defeat are only a single voice in the tribulation of the battle you are in. Surround yourself with people who are able to recognize the battle and are willing to shout above the lies.

“Failures make the victories worth celebrating,” my sister messaged me. “You have got this, do not second guess yourself.” No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.

Change is difficult. I sleep, I eat, I pray, I practice, I fret, I study, I move and function like most other humans on this planet. My story intersects with many other people. I am not alone in this. I am surrounded by people willing to shout above the loudness of my life.

I’m going to make this place your home.

Phillips Phillips was on repeat the day I landed, the day I boarded and many days in the four year span in between. Now he is currently serenading me with the same tune and the same promise from God. Settle down, it will become clear. That noise and battle? Thats the demons, trying to take away my peace from you. Just know my baby girl, you are not alone. You are going to hate this for a moment, but trust me with this. I am going to make this place your home. You will be safe here too. In my arms you are kept. Forever and for always.

Adjusting

I have to wear a jacket. Inside. At. All. Times.

Many people have asked me, “April, how are you adjusting to being back in America?” Though I know they mean well, most often times I will start to cry. So I guess that is a good indicator of how I am adjusting.

I sat with a coworker yesterday at an delicious pizzeria. She was talking, and I was trying to pay attention, but my focus kept drifting out the window. Behind this tiny pizzeria was a beautiful landscape. Despite the fact that it feels like winter, there was bright green grass that looked healthy, and some radiant flowers still in full bloom. I thought, “how beautiful is America .” We keep our lawns manicured. We plant beautiful flowers. We strive to keep our land clean. I contrasted it with how barren Jubilee is. We would cheer when weeds would sprout. Everything is brown and dusty.

I was riding along with another coworker just a few days earlier. He asked about Haiti. What was it like? He wanted to know. Was it really as dirty and ugly as all of the pictures? I just got a huge smile on my face and said “It was so beautiful.” Yes, Jubilee has barren ground, but how much more precious is a single tree then? The flag hanging off the world trade centers, after the collapse, was so beautiful because of the barrenness all around. That is what Jubilee is. A backdrop to what may be the most beautiful story every written in the history of mankind. The story of God’s love, etched in the fiber of each of our students; A Joseph’s coat of colors against a dirt backdrop. How much more radiant is that?

In Jubilee it was easy to see the beauty. For the comparisons were little. In America, it is much harder. I have chosen to get into a line of work were I get to see people at their ugliest. People do not call the police when good things are happening. They call them when guns, violence, destruction of property or soul are happening. I must go rushing in. In the barrenness of Jubilee, I got to be part of the beautiful moments. In the beauty of America, I am part of the ugly moments. What a switch is that.

I am adjusting. I am picking up the pieces of my broken heart. I am placing them on the foot of the cross, You asked for this Papa, so here it is. More broken than before. Make something beautiful out of this dust.

He calmly scoops up the dust of my heart, and holds it close to his own, as if it were a prized possession. He whispers a promise I cling to: I Am.

Be strong

I sat in the plane on that tarmac. I opened the window and gazed out at my view. It was one with which I was familiar. I could see tin roof houses in the distance. Mountains nearby. Brown everywhere. The airport was being renovated and signs of construction were still dotting the building. I prayed the plane wouldn’t start. I prayed the pilot wouldn’t be able to fly. The engine slowly roared to life as tears stung my eyes once again. We began to chug forward, full weight of a hundred people dragging our planes belly to the ground. The engine struggled, my heart did too. The plane took off, my heart sunk.

Over the next twelve hours, I had two layovers and landed in three different states…and one different country. I was in a fog, when I wasn’t crying. I was numb, when I wasn’t feeling the weight of my decision suffocating my tiny lungs. My plane touched down. The flight attendant announced we had arrived in Omaha. “If Omaha is your final destination, welcome home,” she chirped.

Papa, papa, please please don’t let this be permanent. I told you I would come. I said I would follow you. Please don’t let this be home for long. Please Daddy, I can’t handle this.

My girl, home is with me. Home cannot be taken away from you. You are not displaced. You are moving your feet as I lead. Follow me and you will always be home. You are not supposed to handle this baby girl, you are supposed to follow life and give me the jumbled pieces. I am the master weaver.

My family was running around the airport trying to find me. I was sitting by the baggage claim with no bags to claim. They ran upstairs and downstairs and outside. I was sitting right there all along. Neither of us noticing the other. Finally, I walked around a corner, and there they were signs held high, “welcome home april!!” Glitter signs decorated and smiling faces. It was past midnight and they had met me there.

Papa, meet me in my brokenness. When I cannot move, run around finding me. Meet me papa, for I cannot move past this moment. This breath.

Sweet daughter of mine, you have enough grace for this moment. Wrapped in my arms, I do not need to run frantically trying to find you, I see you sitting there. I witness your pain. I see the loss my asking has caused. I am with you. Just this breath.

It has been two days. I have tried to get up and move and participate in the world. But vertigo keeps me at bay. My best friend said, “It makes sense that your head is spinning…. your world is spinning too and your body is trying to cope with it.” So with tempered enthusiasm I venture from the house. I bought socks but forgot to buy a toothbrush. I visit my nephews, but can’t stay long. I try to cope with losing my school, my students, my tribe. I’ve sat down to write too many times only to come up empty. Words fail.

Write with your heart not your thoughts.

My family is outing on a “Welcome home” party for me this Sunday. My mom has asked me to share my heart with the people. I have a feeling I will just stand up there and cry. But maybe the tears are good. Maybe the tears say, ” I have invested this much. I have witnessed this much. I have lived with you this much.” I’ve been told time and time again that tears are strength. So maybe I will stand up there and just be strong in the only way my heart knows how to right now.

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Vital Pieces

I began applying for jobs in August 2014. I applied at Papillion Police Department sometime that year. I have flown home for each step of their 4 step process. Basic exams, panel interviews,  more exams, chief and deputy chief interview, followed by even more exams. I have spent thousands of dollar in plane ticket. Many a hours in prayer and probably an equal amount of hours in worry.

And they called. They offered me the position. A new recruit. I begin October 5th, with the academy beginning October 23rd. I am beyond excited to be part of the Papillion PD family. Everyone there has been beyond great and helpful. I cannot wait to serve this community with everything I have.

But I have to also admit my heart is crushed to leave Haiti. I feel God calling me back to America, but that doesn’t mean he is taking away the pain of the transition.

When you love something this much, it wraps itself around the very arteries in your heart. So taking yourself out of it, is like pulling out vital pieces of your being.

I often hear from people and teams how great it is that I have moved to Haiti. That I am serving here. What a sacrifice it all is. Honesty though, Haiti is not a sacrifice for me. Yes, I have left my family and that sucks. But I love what I do here. I love my teaching staff, I love my children. I love my american community who gets together and cries and prays. I love that I can sit on a rooftop and have a cold coke with soldiers and warriors of God. I love being able to walk over to my neighbors house and one of them will have a word from the Lord for me. I love my school, this passion, the idea of changing a community. I love tucking Youvendjy in to bed every night, and late night talks with the girls. I love living in rustic, without a real mirror, in hand me down clothes that are too big or bleached. I love being here.

Haiti is not a sacrifice for me. I begged God to be here. Moving back to America is me sacrificing for the Lord. I might have air conditioning and tastier meals. But I have begged God not to ask me to go.

He whispers, “You do not have to go, my precious daughter, but I am not done shaping you. I wont force you to go, but I will quietly hold out my hand and ask you to trust me. Follow me when it doesn’t make sense. Believe in me as much as I believe in you.

And with my head down and tears in my eyes, I hold out my hand and say, “Okay Papa, I do not understand, but I promised I would follow you to the ends of the earth. The end of the earth to me, is America. But if you want me even there, I will go.

So I am packing my bags. Booking a flight. Crying every couple of minutes. I am savoring these precious moments with my students, Youvendjy and my second family. September 31st I will board a plane and leave behind my heart.

Please be praying that leaving doesn’t tear out all the vital pieces. Pray that I am refined, not crushed. Pushed, but not abandoned. Pray I do not let go of my Papas hand as he leads me to another home.

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