This week I’m happy to welcome my friend Suzann Moller to the blog. Suzann is the founder of Beirut & Beyond, a faith-based organization focused on bringing relief, reconciliation and relationship to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Suzann has worked with vulnerable populations around the world, including Africa, Europe, Thailand, the Middle East and the US. She has served people living with AIDs, the homeless, refugees, orphans and others marginalized by society. Her passion as a Christian is to be with those the world overlooks and to extend love, peace, mercy and justice to those very people in impossible situations. She’s one of my heroes, and is currently in need of more people like me to join her team. I hope you’ll consider becoming one of them.
I was lying in the bed the other night – OK, 3AM to be precise – with my mind racing. I was trying to put together a plan while I waited for bad news or not as bad news. I thought of an incredible blog post (I do my best creative thinking in the middle of the night) only to wake up a few hours later with the realization that what I thought was so brilliant was utter nonsense. My mind was just too cluttered.
The next day at the gym while on the cross-trainer, I found myself coming up with Plan A, then Plan B, then Plan C. All in sequence: if this happens, then this new plan needs to happen; if that doesn’t happen, then this needs to happen. Can you sense my inner chaos? All because I was stuck in an “unknown situation.” Not having certainty, not having a plan, being in limbo, is the absolute worst for me.
Earlier that week, I was told I need surgery, probably sooner rather than later. That in itself is bad news. I had plans to go back the Middle East this fall, not only for my work plans, but because that beautiful, chaotic, complicated place is where my soul flourishes. When I am there, I feel like I am living out who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to do with my life. I also was told I needed to get a MRI to rule out cancer. Mother flippin’ cancer. I have been diagnosed with cancer twice, thyroid cancer. Now, thyroid cancer is treatable; it’s not going to kill me but it does disrupt my life. It’s a severe nuisance and it alters my plans. And as you can tell I LOVE my plans! Dang it now!
I spent two agonizing days in my head, my mind and soul filled with questions, all impossible to answer. Anger. Sadness. Shock. All of this anxiety because it is so dang hard for me to stay present in pain and uncertainty. All of this because I know all too well that once my health is taken away, everything changes. When I got to the core, I was just so upset because I thought of the people I serve. Why couldn’t God use someone who has great health or power or finances to stand up for them? Not me. And once I got out of my stinking thinking of what a failure I am, I really got to the core.
I just kept thinking over and over and over that I wanted my life to matter, I wanted it to mean something. I come from a not-so-great family, I don’t have kids, and I am not married. Isn’t that everything society tells you matters or gives you value as a woman? And what I believe to be the core of my faith is that I, as a Christian, must give my life away to others. That’s what Jesus did. Literally. That’s actually what matters. This is where I found life, this is where I found Jesus, and this is where I truly found what matters. To love and serve people that the rest of the world considers to be the worst of the worst – to see myself in them, to see God in them.
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” ~Thomas Merton
Love renders us all worthy. I’ve seen this in my own life; love reflects dignity back to each of us. A friend who happens to be a rabbi told me that my work is deeply spiritual. Maybe because of how it has affected how I live out my faith or maybe it has just forced me to live out my faith.
The MRI didn’t show cancer. That’s beyond good news for me. The not-so good news is that I have to have a hysterectomy. It’s the worst best news I have ever received. I also need to have surgery ASAP. That will postpone work and postpone a trip back to the Middle East for quite some time. That’s disappointing.
Once the relief of “it’s not cancer!” wore off, the reality of losing my lady parts set in. I’ve never really wanted kids nor was I planning on it in the future. But, there is a finality to what is happening right now, something I didn’t foresee or plan for, and I need to explore how I feel about it. I need to process and mourn it. I will also need to heal from what appears to be a complicated surgery. There is an ending happening but there is also a new beginning. All of which is painful.
I know too well that if I really embrace my story, all the light and the dark, be vulnerable with it, I can move forward in love. It somehow makes me more compassionate. Someone asked me before this whole nonsense started why I keep doing what I am doing. Why don’t I give up? Seriously, people, why don’t I? After giving it serious consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I know too much.
I have embraced my Palestinian friends’ stories, the light and the dark, just as I try to do with my own. I know too much about their lives, I know too much about the injustice they live in, I know too much about the misconceptions facing them. I have experienced what Merton talks about above. I do my best to help and to love them and they seem to give me more than I could ever give them. Love renders us all worthy.
That’s why I won’t give up. That’s why I am as vulnerable as I am with my work. That’s why I am as vulnerable as I am with this post. I know it’s important, and I know when I am vulnerable and honest, it gives others permission to do the same. That’s how I have experienced it. So, for the month of August, I will be healing and processing. The surgery is scheduled for the beginning of the month. If I am quiet, that is why. I am taking space to own my story and be present and heal.
A good friend told me to heal and once I am better, to basically go kick butt. Do what I what I am called to do and give zero apologies. I like that idea because it means to me dealing with my own darkness and then going out passionately into the world. So, I will emerge, after walking through my own pain, hopefully stronger, focused, grateful, and unapologetic.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~ Brené Brown
From Michael: Will you join me in supporting Suzann and her work through Beirut & Beyond? You can do it online right now. It’s easy and takes just a few minutes. Here’s the link. Thanks!