It’s “Tell Me More Tuesday” and I am so excited to introduce you to today’s guest blogger, Shelley Lowery!
God used a Facebook “For Sale” posting to bring me to Shelley Lowery, which affirms for the millionth time that God knows my heart and He knows my Facebook habits. He knew that we needed to meet, and though the vehicle was unconventional He definitely got my attention. Once Shelley and I started messaging each other about when and where to pick up the jewelry holders I was selling, and she mentioned she needed them for her non-profit, I knew that I had to learn more about her mission and her story.
We met for lunch the very next day (thanks for not thinking I was crazy, Shelley!), and from the moment we started talking I was mesmerized by the story of her journey. I couldn’t wait to share her story with you, and am honored that she was willing to tell it in her own words for this week’s “Tell Me More Tuesday.”
Walking across the tarmac in Abu Dhabi, I could feel waves of heat rising from the runway at 9 o’clock at night. It was still 95 degrees and I had tried to prepare myself for the thick tropical humidity that would accost me the moment I disembarked the final flight to Sri Lanka. The 28 hour journey into South Asia had begun months before. And even after the ticket was purchased I struggled to face my fear of going. But somehow I knew that God had a plan to move me forward by taking me back.
I first went to Sri Lanka full of passion and zeal in 2002. An ambitious overachiever; relentless about holiness and the level of commitment and sacrifice that I lived by. I finally moved there two years later with my family. I worked hard and preached harder; preaching and leading meetings nearly every day for six years until my voice was gone and my body exhausted. And if this were not enough, my emotions were frayed and my mind traumatized from living in the midst of a terrorist war and an environment of Christian persecution and martyrdom.
Terrorist bombings and attacks against the pastors I trained and mentored were nearly daily occurrences. Four of my pastors were martyred during this time and many others were being threatened and brutalized. But when the war hit its peak in 2009 even my husband and I were taken in for interrogation by the government. Although the US Embassy got involved, the harassment went on for nearly three weeks. They eventually released us from questioning but it was not without its deep effects on us.
I continued to travel into the jungles, teaching and encouraging my pastors but I was struggling with signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome. I was emotionally exhausted and sick in body. It was only when I realized my marriage was completely broken that I could take no more. Thoroughly crushed in spirit, I boarded a plane for America.
For three long years after returning home, I felt like I was looking up from a deep dark pit that the devil was trying to bury me in. My 23-year marriage had ended in divorce. I missed my beloved friends in Sri Lanka and India. My son and daughter had both “left the nest.” And, in addition to this I had taken a sabbatical from ministry. I felt such great loss and the lack of direction and value tried to swallow me up in depression.
“Who am I NOW?” That was the looming question. I knew what I had done with my life. I knew I had traveled the world from the time I was 15 years old and had taken my charity work to 23 nations. I knew I had led a prayer movement in the midst of a terrorist war. I knew I had helped to rebuild after the world’s worst recorded tsunami. I knew I had raised two amazing children and had been married for 23 years. ”But who am I now and what is my purpose?” I’ve been digging my way to the light ever since.
And God has been helping me to find my way and myself as I go. On this journey, I have discovered that life doesn’t play fair, good doesn’t always win (until eternity), and life can be devastating and glorious all at the same time. I have also learned that I am loved and valued by God and others even if I don’t do everything perfectly. My value and love does not come from my works but it comes by my birthright. I was created by my Father in Heaven. Therefore, I am loved by my Father in Heaven.
That’s been a hard revelation to truly believe. As a child that was passed through the foster care system and grew to believe that I had to “perform perfectly” to be loved and I needed to be “useful” to be of value. What I preached my whole life was now the message I must listen to and embrace. “Jesus loves ME this I know.” I sang it countless times throughout the years and I had preached it to the multitudes around the world. I had believed it for them but at my core could not believe it was mine to embrace.
That day on the tarmac in Abu Dhabi, I started finding my way forward by going back. It was a moment of bravery. A moment to face one’s fear and break its grip. And what I found there in South Asia was mercy. Grace and Pardon. And the truth that I’m loved and valued.
Today I am walking in a greater sense of my identity and I minister out of a deep found gratitude for God’s rescuing love for me. I work as hard (or harder) then I ever did before but for a more balanced reason. After four years of rest and healing and wrestling with God over whether or not I was still qualified to be a minister, I started a nonprofit called Beyond My Borders. Beyond my Borders is about taking ordinary men and women and using them to make a difference in the world. Men and women disqualify themselves based on what they feel they lack. Some say, “I’m too old while others say they are too uneducated, too sick or too poor.”
We all have an excuse. A reason why we feel our lives cannot make a lasting impact. We think we don’t have any skills but we have talents, hobbies and passions that we have been fine-tuning our entire lives. Why not use that passion to do something to help the poor? I bet I could find a way to use what you LOVE to do and use it to make a difference in the world.
Beyond My Borders can take your hand and help you find a way to an extraordinary purpose! Beyond My Borders is building an orphanage in Pakistan this year. This orphanage will be home to children that we are buying out of slavery (that is right…that’s what I said) as well orphans taken off the streets.
In order to raise the money required to bring these children to their new HOME we are hosting a children’s event on June 2nd called “UNITED: Superhero’s and Princesses Unite”. This event will held at the Blue Springs Marriott ballroom. Tickets are available by clicking HERE or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be skits and a message on identity and our uniqueness. Children are encouraged to come in costume and be ready to dance and sing to their favorite songs!
I don’t know what you feel your borders are: unqualified, wrong gender, lack of money & resources, no reputation, uneducated, family limitations, too young or too old. Regardless of the limitations…I’m calling you out of your boundaries. I‘m asking you to believe in the dreams, desires, and passions that God has placed within your heart. I’m calling out the adventurous one inside of you. It’s time to do something so BIG and BEAUTIFUL that you can’t do it in your own strength and skill!
If you are wondering how you can make a difference, I encourage you to take my hand. Let me lead you beyond your borders. I’ll guide you on the adventure of a lifetime. To a life-changing place where you become God’s hands extended in mercy. We all have excuses why WE CAN’T. I simply choose to believe that WE CAN!
Thank you, Shelley, for sharing your incredible story of bravery, of changing lanes and going beyond your borders. I can’t wait to take my daughter to the UNITED: Superheroes and Princesses Unite event on June 2. I encourage everyone who reads this and lives in the Kansas City area to bring your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews and their friends! What a wonderful way to help children in Pakistan while celebrating the magic of imagination with your family!