Manifesto

It feels like holding one’s breath. I’ll inhale, see it all, feel it all, and wait for something beautiful to happen, or wake up enough to see that the beauty is already happening.

“You wake up, and you trust me. You go to sleep, and you trust me.”

I asked him—that inconsolable secret— what my vision was for the year. I didn’t intend to perish, and I needed to know. That is all he said.

Wake up and trust.

Go to sleep and trust. 

What a lame manifesto. There is no action and reaction, no problem and solution, no input and output. It’s so happenstance.

It feels like holding one’s breath. I’ll inhale, see it all, feel it all, and wait for something beautiful to happen, or wake up enough to see that the beauty is already happening.

All I can think about is Brene Brown’s words from Daring Greatly,

“To let ourselves sink into the joyful moments of our lives even though we know that they are fleeting, even though the world tells us not to be too happy lest we invite disaster—that’s an intense form of vulnerability.”

To let things happen to me, to sink into the joyful moments, to analyze less, and drift off to sleep in trust…what a dangerous, dangerous thing.

So, I hold my breath and hold on tight.

Manifesto

Risk: Anything Can Happen

Risk. I love the word. It makes me have the feeling that I had as child—anything can happen. And so, I jump into risk with abandon. I make a choice and go for it. How glorious it feels! To be on the dawn of something unknown is fantastic! It feels like leaning out on the prow of a ship. And so I lean, wind in my face, salt in my hair, and the horizon in the distance.

“Sink or swim, I’m diving in.”  -United Pursuit

Risk.

I love the word.  It makes me have the feeling that I had as child—anything can happen. And so, I jump into risk with abandon. I make a choice and go for it. How glorious it feels! To be on the dawn of something unknown is fantastic! It feels like leaning out on the prow of a ship. And so I lean, wind in my face, salt in my hair, and the horizon in the distance.

Anything can happen. 

Anything can happen.

Anything can happen. 

“Anything,” in reality, means sink or swim. When I first make a risky choice, however, I am quite optimistic. I think my odds are probably 90% swim and 10% sink. My earnestness has to be rewarded, right? I will more than likely succeed in my risky venture.

But, it is not true. The odds are 50/50. I could swim or sink. Sometimes, I jump and it ends up a success, and I glow with joy. Sometimes, I end up heartbroken. Sometimes, I look incredibly foolish. Sometimes, I rue the day I ever decided to risk.  Sometimes, I just plain fail, and that is that.

That is what risk is. It’s not 90% swim and 10% sink. It is either/or. It is sink or swim. 

I whine and lament after a risky venture goes south. Why didn’t the stars align? Why didn’t God help me out? Why wasn’t I warned? Why is it so hard to deal with? Why does it take so long? Then, I become Aristotle and philosophize it. Maybe this was all a lesson. I had to risk, so I could fail and have a good story in the end. Maybe God willed it, so I could become wise.

These are all foolish musings. There is no sense in them. Here is the truth:

I risked, and it didn’t work out.

Isn’t that gentler on the soul?

I risked, and right now, I am dealing with the repercussions.

When I believe this instead, the Aristotle in me quiets down. It doesn’t matter anymore if God willed it or not. I am dealing with a consequence of my actions. I am reaping what I sow, and if I truly reap what I sow, I could risk again. I could risk and still live. I’ll be just fine. It will be hard work, and I’ll have to outlast the sinking feeling in my gut, but maybe, just maybe I could believe again that…

anything can happen.

And so, hope awakens again.

Risk: Anything Can Happen

One for the Victimless

Rio

We were all playing a card game, happy. There were seven to eight of us crowded in a small room when our dear friend came in. He had just gotten off work, and we asked him how it was.

“It was intense. Today, the we pulled off the prostitution sting.” Our friend works for the police station, and that very day, the local police had arrested about six men for soliciting a prostitute.

“What kind of sentence do they get?” I asked.

“A night in prison, a fine, their picture in the newspaper, and a court date. According to law, it is considered a “victimless crime.” My attention veered from the card game to his face.

“Did you just say a victimless crime?”

“Yeah, dumb, huh?” My face glowered. My brain raced. Like heck…. I thought.  Like heck. Why do we still believe this? Why? I happened to glance over to my friend, and her face looked like mine— steamed and cross. It was affecting her as much as it was affecting me.

Then I realized it was because

 
we had seen it.

 
I have been to two red light districts— one in Rio de Janeiro and one in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, I talked to the girls, but in Rio, I just stood there like an American gimp. In Rio, it is one long street, lined with dirty bars, and mysterious alleyways made up of bared rooms and clubs. I walked while a Brazilian introduced me to the women in Portuguese. My translator did all of the talking, and she invited the women to a lunch they host every week. As I stood there like an innocent home schooler, she would say,

“This is my American friend, Marissa.”

The girl looked at me, and she was beautiful. Perfect skin. Makeup flawless. I held out my hand to give her a good handshake, and smiled my babyfaced smile. The girl’s eyes lit up. She smiled right back at me, and I saw a row of metal braces in her teeth. This startled me, and I thought,

“How old is she? Seriously, how old?” The pimps pay for braces, because to them, it’s a business investment. What a juxtaposition it was! A girl in a dominatrix outfit, smiling with a mouth full of metal. It clears all the fog of the scene. All the nonsense that this is “a victimless crime.” This girl is a baby looking for a job, and somebody lied to her. And now she’s gone too far, she can’t go back. And now, they’ve got her addicted to something, so she can’t go back. And now, she’s making enough money, so she can send some home.
She smiled a long time, as the translator talked to her. I smiled back, and kept thinking,

“She’s me. She’s me. She’s me.”

 
She could be me. 

 
The prostitution zone in Hong Kong is different than Rio’s. In Rio, every person is in a daze. People trapeze throughout the place, stumbling, because they are SO drunk or SO high. It is a mass of confusion and haze. Hong Kong’s red light is different, because it’s made for Expats. It’s made for Americans and Europeans.  It’s made for us.
It is clean. It is a few blocks of orderly streets. There is good cheer in the bars. The nightclubs have live bands, and old bartenders. We entered a club, that our guide told us to go to.

“What do we even do?” we asked.

“Just talk to them,” she replied, “They all speak English, and nobody ever talks to them or is kind to them unless they want something.

So, we walked into the club. It looked like a normal night club to me—a huge bar in the center, a live band and people dancing,  but a few things are off. There are WAY more women than men, and the men are considerable older than the women. Some men are in suits and ties. They are leaning on bar tables with a drink in hand, and girls who are considerably younger are leaning into them.

“Gross,” my American self thought, “That guy is WAY TOO old for you.” But, this isn’t a game they’re playing, and that is why these men come. They come so a pretty girl wants them. As I stand in the bar and try to start conversations with “what drink is the best,” I see a 50 year old man lead a 20 year old girl out of the club on his arms. I sit down, bewildered, and a beautiful girl sits next to me, and says,

“I like your sweater.”

“Thank you,” I reply, “I got it at a thrift store.” She squeals with delight, and says,

“Oh! I LOVE thrift stores! I can find the best things there!”

“I know!” I reply, “Rich people give away a lot of stuff!”

“It’s so true. Some of my best clothes are from second-hand shops.”

She’s me.

We exchange small talk. I ask her how long she’s been in Hong Kong and how long she will be staying. She pulls out her phone and shows me a picture of her daughter.

“She’s my everything. I do all this for her.”

All this. She is the friendliest person I’ve ever met. She’s asking me about my life, my home, and if I had a boyfriend. I tell her, and then she says,

“Yeah. I just broke up with my boyfriend. He lives in Japan, and I’ve been with him for two years, but he just broke it off. It is so weird, because I am so much younger than him. He’s like 70, and I’m like—it just doesn’t make sense.”

 
Now, she is not me, because I can’t relate. I can’t even come close, and I don’t know what to say, because girl talk never goes like this at home. For now, we are playing a game. She knows I’m not there for the drinks, and I know that man wasn’t her boyfriend. He was a client, a faithful client.  But, here we are sitting in a club together in Hong Kong talking about thrift stores, and families, and boyfriends. Cultures and my privilege collide at that moment, but then I understand.

 

I’d pretend, too.

 
See, I know prostitution is not a victimless crime, because I’ve seen it. She’s not some vixen prowling the streets at night. She is a girl with braces in a dirty bar. She’s wearing a thrift-store sweater and has a picture of her daughter on her phone. Some low-life told her that there was work for her. She went for the money, and now she’s making pornography and hanging on a 50 year-old married man, because she has to, or now because she wants to, because it’s better to pretend.
I see you. Government, money, and privilege kept me from your experience, and I don’t know what evil brought you to where you are, but all I know is that you are the bravest, strongest person I’ve ever met, and I see you.

 
P.S. Want to do something? Justice 61 is working to stop human trafficking in Colorado. It’s a good start.

One for the Victimless

Hold On Tight

Hold On Tight, Prose and Process

Sometimes, all I can do is grab your hand in the car and hold on tight.

 
Because, what else is there? I fight to believe that you make all things new, because this looks like continual rainy weather. Not the rushing torrent kind—the slow, hazy drip. What did I do? Did I actually hear your voice? Because right now, all I have is—

this is not the end

This is the beginning of something.

There is more time. More trips to around the world, more meetings and coming home agains.
But what if I’m wrong?

 
So, I reach out and hold your hand.

Hold On Tight

It Is That Simple

Quotes from Mother Teresa and Heidi Baker

I’m recently obsessed with missionary stories. Heidi Baker, Mother Teresa, and Amy Carmichael are the current favorites. I have honored and revered them. The world has “sainted” them. However, the more I learn about these epic women, the more normal they look, and it is giving me hope.

How did Mother Teresa start her outreach? How did she begin a hospital for those dying on the streets? How did she start a home for unwanted children and a city for lepers? It all began when Jesus said,

“You must do something.”¹

She saw the poor of India and heard the call. There was no commissioning. No trumpets from heaven. Just the simple voice of God to do something. How cool is that?

In her book Compelled by Love, Heidi Baker writes,

“Some of you may think ministry is a grand adventure. Ministry, however, is simply about loving the person in front of you.”²

Come on. That’s so simple. 

Amy Carmichael felt called to go to China. She got all prepped and put all her belongings in a ship sea chest. The last thing on her list–get approved by the mission organization’s doctor to go. She went to the appointment, and the doctor DIDN’T APPROVE HER. She had to pack her things, and go back home. The chest sat waiting in her room.³

She failed. Did she hear the voice of God in the first place? I don’t know, but isn’t that the best thing you have ever heard? It is so darn relatable.  My life is full of disappointed hopes and failures, and so is Amy Carmichael’s.

Mother Teresa didn’t start her actual calling until she was thirty-eight years old. Take that “28 year-old -I-am-doing-nothing-with-my-life-phobia!” I’ve got a good ten years until I need to get “going.”

So, I’M EXACTLY LIKE Mother Teresa, Amy Carmichael, and Heidi Baker. Ha! It’s hilarious to write that line. However, their stories are telling me that living for Jesus is A LOT more simple than I thought. It takes a lot longer than I’ve expected.

Yeah. Maybe, I’m like them. But then, I read this quote by Mother Teresa,

“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”¹

Yikes. This one too—

“A child is a gift of God. If you do not want him [the child], give him to me. I will look after him.”¹

Mother Teresa wasn’t kidding either. She took in any child that was unwanted.

Then, I think,

“Yeah… I’m not like them at all.”

P.S. The amazing and talented Mikelah Hammond wrote the hand-lettering featured on this post!

P.P.S. Here’s a bibliography.

  1. Teresa of Calcutta by D. Jeanene Watson
  2. Compelled by Love by Heidi Baker
  3. Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems by Janet and Geof Benge
It Is That Simple