Dark Circles

The skin underneath my eyes is purple.

This week, I’ve studied for a total of about 78 hours. Apart from those 78 hours, I have also practiced and led worship, hung out with a friend who’s visiting me, and gone on outreach in the middle of the night to women being sexually exploited on the streets of LA. This week, I have run into a brick wall with my knee, a wooden post, and I’ve jumped and NOT stuck the landing, tearing up my knee. Needless to say, I’m tired. The purple skin underneath my eyes has been earned.

And you know what? I love it.

There are some mornings I look at that purple, and I just smile, because I think of all the reasons it got that way, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

On Friday night, I got to go on outreach to women being sexually exploited for the first time in a year.  I got up at 3:30am (I completely missed my alarm, whoops) on a night where I knew I would have a ton of homework the next day, and honestly wasn’t sure how my body and mind would react to it. All I knew was that it was worth it.

For the past 6 years or so, the fight against human trafficking has been my mission. I would research for hours on end. I would watch documentaries. I would go to conferences. And I wouldn’t shut up about it either. I told God that I would never do a DTS unless it had to do with human trafficking.

And so I found myself in LA, being trained and reaching out to women being sexually exploited on the streets of LA. I found myself in Cambodia holding and playing with children under the age of five who had already been sexually abused and exploited. I found myself in Thailand, building relationships with the girls being sold in the bars. This was 6 months of my life.

And then I went home. I was hit with what seemed like a massive wave in the weight and intensity with the realization that no one else, or very few people, in my hometown had seen what I had in the past 6 months. Faces and stories would flood into my mind. People would make comments. I would hear or see or smell something. And I would burst into tears. I have never cried like I have for these women and children whose faces I saw, whose voices I heard, and whose stories were shared with me in this tiny 6 month portion of my life.

Those 6 months ended, and I found myself back in my “normal”. Except, my normal had changed. I couldn’t go back to what I once knew as normal. I had seen and experienced, and I had changed.
I wasn’t sure what outreach would be like, after not doing it for so long. I wondered if I had lost my passion. That thought scared me. I wondered if this was still what my heart burned for. I wondered if it would be natural. I wondered if I was holding onto something God was asking me to let go of. There were so many questions going through my head as I fell asleep on Friday night.
Well, I woke up Saturday morning, 3:30 am. I put on jeans and a hoodie. I hopped into a van and watched the familiar city lights. We pulled onto a familiar street. We stopped to give the first girl we saw a gift bag, and my heart was overwhelmed. She received it, and she had a conversation with us. She was so kind and had such a beautiful heart.

We met a total of 6 girls this Friday night. We gave out a total of 6 gift bags, each with a message of hope and love. We saw 6 faces, heard 6 voices, got pieces of 6 stories.

With each girl we met, with each face we saw and with each voice we heard, my heart burned more and more. This is what I love to do. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Those girls are so precious.

There was one woman who we asked if she was doing okay, and she kept telling us she was doing good. She said she had read a book that evening, she did laundry, took care of her family, she was doing good. We met her at 4am on the streets, and she was just at work. That was her normal. In the time we were talking, 2 cars stopped, and this was just her normal.

It made me so sad to think of what must have to happen for her to be bad. But this woman, during the day, her normal is just like any of ours. She’s a woman we would meet at Starbucks, or see in a library or grocery store.

The tiny glimpse I got into her story, it makes me wonder what the rest of it is. It makes me wonder how she got to where she is. It makes me wonder what her hurts are, and what her biggest dreams are.

So this Friday, I went to bed at 10pm. I woke up at 3:30am. I went back to bed at 6am. I woke up at 8am, and I did homework all day long. I’m sure the purple underneath my eyes did not get any lighter, and I would not change it for the world.

I would choose this life again, and again, and again.

I woke up on Saturday morning, and my heart was so full and breaking so much all at the same time. I fully embraced that feeling. I allowed myself to remember the women I had met the night before, and to just feel.

It brought me back to that place of being in Cambodia and hearing the story of one of the children we played with every night, coming home and bursting into tears because I felt the pain of her story deep in my heart. It brought me back to the place of coming home and remembering all of the faces, realizing that no one in the room I was sitting in knew or understood, and bursting into tears, because it was in my heart.

This is my heart. This is my life.

I will wear my dark circles proudly, because there’s a story behind them, and it is a beautiful one.