What Grief Has Taught Me…

What Grief has taught me is that you’re never ready for its arrival.

Grief is more than a human heart can bear.

You never get over it, but somehow you move forward.

The only way forward is through it.

Grief is intimate. For me, sharing certain aspects of it seems wrong because it is now connected to the deepest part of who I am.

Grief strips away any part of you that cares what others think…

And although grief has ripped me apart like nothing else has in life, it has also been my teacher.

It has taught me to hold a breaking heart full of sorrow and a heart full of joy simultaneously.

It has taught me to laugh through tears.

It has introduced me to the deepest kind of friendships. It the kind of friendship that meets you at a bedside, or catches you as you run away, or finds you curled up in a hospital hallway.

It has taught my to hold on for dear life the examples of those who’ve experienced grief before me. And hold on for dear life for the ones recently acquainted with grief behind me.

It has taught me to live presently in the moment because there is only enough grace for today.

It has taught me to slow down, to take a moment to appreciate people and nature.

It has taught me to give as much as I have today because tomorrow is not promised.

It has taught me to speak kind words to everyone I meet because they might be hidding their own grief as well.

So although I met grief kicking and screaming, cussing and flailing… It has been one of my most hated companions and one of my greatest teachers.

I never wanted it to come, but I refuse to see it wasted.

Life’s Not Fair: A Biblical View of Financial Integrity

Today’s post is brought to you by my friend, Chris Free. I had the privilege of working with Chris for about one year until God called him somewhere else. Chris is genuine, humble, selfless and kind. Characteristics you rarely see in a selfie world. I have been challenged multiple times by Chris’ compassion. It is an honor to know him and his wife Jenna. They make a dynamic team, and their daughter Lizzie just adds a whole other level of dynamite to their family.

In addition to his most important role as a husband and father, Chris is a videographer, producer, professor and a marathon runner. He has run in the Boston Marathon, and Chicago Marathon and will be running in the New York Marathon in November. See how you can partner with Chris at the end of this blog. Without further ado here is a blog from my friend, Chris Free.

—————————————————-

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

‭‭James‬ ‭1:2 NIV‬‬

Life is not fair. It’s not even equally unfair to everyone; not even close. That’s a tough reality. Some people will be born without a parent. Some will be born without an arm. Some will be born, only to die a few hours later. Life is not fair.

I have a hard time with all that. It’s not fair that I was born in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It’s not fair that I have parents who love me. It’s not fair that I live in a country that gives certain inalienable rights. It’s not fair that I live in a sturdy house instead of one made of sticks. I recognize all that. One or more of these things probably apply to you as well.

So how do we balance being thankful for our privilege against the mandate to love our neighbor who has far less? Is it true that God intentionally gives more to some than others? Take this parable as an example:

“”Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:14-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

One way to read this is that not only are we going to take from this poor person, we are going to give it to a rich person. I’m not exactly sure that’s the entire lesson. I think this means we are asked to take the gifts that God has given us to bring Him the most glory. It goes along with the scripture that says, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). So what does that look like with the state of poverty around the world? Pray for that wisdom in your own life.

Unfortunately for the poor, wealth is not God’s ultimate goal for humanity. However, fortunately for humanity, wealth is not God’s ultimate goal for humanity.

So, again, what am I to do with my resources, my gifts? What did Jesus have to say about all this? Why has God entrusted me (read: us), with many resources?

Every good and perfect gift comes from God and he can take it all away. He has done that to many a Christian to teach them a lesson. So what’s our mandate with this resource? Well, let’s consider one thought that seems counter-cultural…

Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.’”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:20-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Wait, what? That’s not fair. I can’t control where I was born. I can’t control who I was born to. Didn’t God give these gifts in the first place?

I’d like to share my personal conclusions on how to respond to these passages in a Biblically-sound way. However, another area where I struggle (and this passage almost kept me from writing this, but I felt God’s prompting to address the topic) so hopefully what is seen, moreover what God sees in me, is humility in my position. Consequently, I submit the following passage for your consideration before we move on:

““Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How do we spur each other on to love and good deeds, to give to the poor, to serve our neighbor, without boasting in what we have done?

1) We boast in the Lord, not ourselves.

2) We give, give, and give some more—as the Church.

3) We show mercy as the Church.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:36-38‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We should constantly seek to be more like Christ, asking God to refine our hearts and replace selfishness with pure motives in our souls. What does that look like in the context of a society where the sin nature is greed?

For me and my family, this has manifested itself as only investing financially in Kingdom work. There are a lot of noble pursuits in the world, but even with as many resources as God has entrusted us with, we want to be wise with how we invest. We want to throw our seed on fertile soil. We want to invest where there is a Kingdom return. This is a big reason why I’ve moved my career down the path of Christian humanitarian endeavors. That is why we only give to Christian organizations. I don’t believe this is a Biblical mandate, instead a personal conviction for me.

There are a lot of convicting passages in the Bible, and most of them reveal my inadequate nature apart from Christ. I need to remind myself that I am not the judge and juror. There are plenty of passages that illustrate that principle.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Luke‬ ‭6:42-45‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So my rhetorical question to you: where have you chosen to invest the gifts and resources that God has given you? If you are interested in finding a place to invest your resources, Charity Navigator is a great place to start your search.

Until next time, love like Jesus! If you want to make a difference in this way now, you can sponsor a child through World Vision for $39 a month here.

How to Finish: A Reminder for Myself

For the past five years or so, I’ve set yearly goals for myself. My goals vary each year. Some goals I hit and other goals get rolled over into the next year.

This year, I decided not to set any new goals because I was falling behind in finishing the ones I already set for myself. I wanted this year to be a year of finishing.

I was told by someone who had a big influence on my life, good and bad, “You never finish anything you start”.

To be honest, it struck a chord with me. I want to be a person that not only starts but finishes. And not just finishes but finishes strong. It is easy to start projects but finishing them takes grit and sheer determination. When you’re half way into your goal and growing weary, it’s easy to think, “Is this really that important?” Or “Why am I doing this again?” That’s when you have to dig deep.

As many of you know, I recently earned my black belt. But, when I was two months away from my test, I struggled to persevere. I was tired. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to become a black belt. The material felt like it only stayed in my short term memory. So, every time I trained I felt like I was starting at square one. It was frustrating and discouraging.

I felt like I hit a wall. I decided to take a moment away from training in order to pin point why I was struggling so much. I wrote down why I wanted my black belt, and why I started in the first place. One of the reasons was to prove to myself that I could finish and finish strong.

Sure enough, when test day came around, I felt ready. Why? because, I pushed through the days I didn’t want to train. I pushed through the excuses. And I pushed through training while fighting off a cold that kept coming back. I realized during those months that the mental battle was harder to overcome than the physical.

I once heard a marathon runner say that in order for him to finish a race, he had to look for outside motivation. Which makes sense why marathoners often raise money for charity. Or, they dedicate their race to a loved one.

As I thought about this I had two verses comes to mind:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

So, here are some points I needed to be reminded of when I’m growing weary and feel like I’m not going to finish my race:

1) I can do all things through Christ.

2) I am only required to run my race — not anyone else’s.

3) I am surrounded and cheered on by a great crowd of witnesses.

4) Jesus is a finisher and teaches His kids to finish through His example.

5) What Jesus has started in me, He will finish it.

So, if you’ve ever been told, “You can’t finish anything”,or maybe you’ve said that to yourself, I want to remind you, in your own strength you will fail and fall short. But we have a Father in heaven who doesn’t let His kids quit. He exemplifies what it means to finish and finish well.

What He started He will finish!

You as You

This past week, I’ve been listening to a podcast on the enneagram. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a personality test.

A few things came to mind as I was listening and studying up on some of my personality traits, so I wanted to share with you.

Several years ago, I severed a relationship that was extremely toxic. Some would say abusive. A month or so after that relationship ended, I took a personality test because the toxic individual used to tell me “who I was.”

By the time I cut off the relationship, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. Was I aggressive? manipulative? difficult to be around? rebellious? Thankfully, I had my family and sincere and genuine friends who helped me walk back into healing.

Back to personality tests. Since I took a personality test right after I severed the relationship I got one result. A year later, I retook the same test and got a completely different result.

As I was reminiscing on this, I thought, “Isn’t that exactly how the enemy works?” He tries to manipulate you into something you’re not because you won’t be able to function at max capacity. You’ll burn yourself out trying to be something or someone you are not meant to be. You feel immense pressure trying to keep up when in reality you’re trying to be someone God never intended you to be.

Another thing I was reminded of during this podcast was that God knows our strength and weaknesses long before we take a test. I listened to some of the weaknesses of my personality trait and realized that long before I took a test, God allowed me experience some difficult situations. Those situations taught me lessons I needed to be become a healthier individual. Lessons on people pleasing, dealing with rejection and separating my identity from my work.

We are incredibly complex and beautiful. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. He has incredible things He wants to do in each of our lives. He will grow us in ways we never thought possible. Soften us in areas that once were hard as stones. He is a gracious and compassionate Father who knows how to guide His each one of His children.

1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 139:1-3, 13-16, 17-18

Let’s not let the enemy force us into a mold that we were never meant to be in. God made us and knows how we were meant to be shape and how we are meant to function. He can strengthen the areas of weakness and soften the areas that need to be softened. You are you! There is not a carbon copy of you. You’re unique. You’re beautiful. And the world needs you as you.

Protection

Today’s post is brought to you by my friend, Rachel Story. She has been a guest contributor before (See here). I hope you will walk alway feeling a little more like you’re seen after reading what Rachel has to share on Protection.

—————————————————-

I have the tendency to become consumed by seemingly small stories in the Bible. I want to read the story over and over again in multiple different translations. I want to use Halley’s bible handbook as a jumping point to research the archaeology and culture of the time period. I want to understand every detail about the story so that I can know the context and know how to apply it to my life. Sometimes it is easy to find the information I am looking for and sometimes it is not. I am no Bible scholar however, so please understand that I am approaching this as a regular human being that has the honor and distinction of being able to expose herself to God’s word daily in ways that humans in history have not always been able to. 

 

I have been spending the past year reading through the old testament, piece by piece, story by story, account by account. I am currently in 2 Samuel and I read a story that has resonated with my life and my story in ways that seem shocking, but I find comforting when I read it – eventually anyway. It all has to do with the idea of protection and how I see that playing a role in my life.

 

First and second Samuel are all about the rise and fall of two Kings, Saul and David. Even if you didn’t grow up in the church, you have probably heard about David and Goliath before, this story gets used as an allegory in many other pieces of literature. I’m talking about that little guy David who becomes king. He is described frequently as a man after God’s own heart, but boy does he mess things up frequently too. It is after he commits adultery with Bathsheba (which I have thoughts about, but I will save for later) and gets her husband killed to cover up his sin, that the story I want to talk about takes place.

 

2 Samuel 13: “Amnon Rapes Tamar”

 

Side note: Some translation like to either not title this chapter at all, or give it a misleading title such as, “Amnon and Tamar” as if it is some romance to emulate or something. This is not something to mislead people about, and it is not something to be quiet about. That is just one reason why you should expose yourself to as many different translations as possible.

 

It is in the middle of 2 Samuel that we see how David’s sin continues to catch up with him. David had many children by many wives. Amnon was the son of one wife, while Tamar and her brother Absalom were children of a different wife. Tamar was beautiful and Amnon was obsessed with her, and felt he loved her. He was so obsessed that it changed his demeanor. Amnon received advice from a crooked cousin that noticed his change and he suggested that he pretend to be sick. That’s a big deal, because Amnon is the oldest son of the King, which you know, means that he is next in line to be King.

If he is sick, David’s lineage is at stake. So King David visits his sick son and asks him what he needs. Amnon requests that Tamar come tend to him and cook for him. David grants this request.

 

Can I interject my own thoughts here for a moment? Women have what I like to call a creep radar. When I have been uncomfortable around someone, it usually ends up being for a reason. Some commentaries like to say that because of the type of cooking she was requested to do, she was flattered that she was asked to attend to him and went willingly. I think a man who has never paid attention to women wrote that. There is no way that a cousin notices Amnon’s obsession with Tamar, without Tamar noticing herself. If he was close enough to her to be obsessed, she was close enough to know it and feel alarmed by it. So to me, she is probably alarmed that her father is sending her to him, but she goes because he is her father and he is the king. 

 

Tamar goes, and her presence overwhelms him. To the point that his lust, not love, reaches a boiling point and he sends all servants out of his house. He grabs Tamar when she is close enough and forces himself on her. She tried to delay him by remarking that the King would surely let them marry if he only asked (although that would have never happened because Leviticus clearly states that brothers and sisters not marry), that he is not a scoundrel, and that he remember she is a sister. Nothing she says stops him. He overpowers her and rapes her. 

 

As soon as he has finished with her, what he thought was love was gone and replaced with misplaced disgust. He was disgustedwith her now, when the disgust was truly for himself. He immediately requests that she be removed from his presence and locked out of the house. She begs him not to do this, and reminds him that by law he is supposed to marry her now. He refuses.

 

As she is thrown out of the house, she tears her garment and covers her face with ashes. She is mourning what was taken from her. It is unclear about how much time has passed when her brother Absalom finds out and when her father does. To me, this is the saddest part of the story.

 

Her brother tells her to be quiet, to keep it a family matter.

 

Her father is angry, but does nothing. 

 

Tamar spends the rest of her life as a desolate woman in the house of her brother. Not much else is known about her and the story moves forward from that point. 

 

How many other women are forgotten about? How many other women are left unprotected? How many other women do not receive justice? 

 

Some say that Absalom avenged his sister later when he had Amnon murdered. I am not sure about that. His actions after the fact lead me to believe that Amnon’s murder was just a stepping point to his rebellion against his father and that it had little to do with defending the honor of his sister. 

 

Remember that I have been making my way through the old testament, and know that I read this story in the midst of pondering the idea of protection and its role in my life. I also found myself relating to Tamar’s story just a little too much.

 

I was abused and it was kept quiet.

 

I was abused and my father did nothing.

 

I was abused and my brothers did not react. 

 

Please keep in mind that this is my side of the story and that my instances of sexual abuse happened when I was under the age of 5. I am reflecting on who I am now as a result of what happened to me as a young girl. There are many people and feelings involved that I know nothing about that play a part in this story. This is no way makes what happened to me, and other people like me, right. I want you to know that I understand that there are other perspectives that are not being represented here.

 

But I also want you to know that I am confused that the people, the men, given to protect me, chose not to do that, in the way that they could. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Stand up for the people we love and protect them? Why wasn’t Tamar? Why wasn’t I? 

 

Probably because of sin that was not overcome. The idea of his son taking a woman for lustful reasons probably hit a little close to home for David who lusted after Bathsheba (and as I said, I have so many thoughts and questions about that, but I digress). He saw his sin in his son and he looked away, though he was angry it happened. I know that my father experienced abuse as a young boy that was similar to my own. Maybe because he had not overcome it, he allowed himself to turn away from mine. As for my brothers? They were young, and they watched my father not react, so why should they?

 

Protection, and feeling protected is a huge deal for me. I asked a lot of friends about this and I got a lot of interesting answers. My friends who have experienced abuse and loss have a high need for protection and security. They need to know that someone will protect them and looks out for them. My friends who have not experienced this kind of abuse and loss, are of the normal variety of friends who choose a well-lit gas station over a dark one when traveling at night. I take it a bit further than that. 

 

I plan enough in advance that I don’t have to stop at a gas station late at night. 

 

If I have to stop at a store at night, I park as close to the building as possible. 

 

I carry my keys in my hand in case I need to punch someone with something somewhat sharp.

 

I look in and around my car before getting in.

 

I stay up late, waiting for friends to text me when they get home, and I text them when I get home.

 

I only let approved people hug or touch me.

 

I avoid unknown white males, going as far to tense up when they are too close at the gym and even take note of ways to describe them.

 

This may seem like I live my life in fear, but I think I am actually finding ways to protect myself since I was not. And yeah, I definitely have control issues! A male friend pointed out that he thinks we all want to be able to protect ourselves. That we all desire the ability to discern situations and know whether or not they are safe. Most of the men I asked said they even desire to know that they have the ability to protect if needed. 

 

I found myself mad at God (how many times have I typed that in my writings?). I was angry for Tamar, who disappears. I was angry for myself because I don’t want to disappear like that. I don’t want what happened to me to affect my sense of justice the way that David’s sin affected his sense of justice for his own daughter. I told God this and He reminded me of that quote attributed to Mr. Rogers and to look for the helpers. Instead I chose to look for the protectors.

 

Aaron, who drove me to and from places and one time couldn’t but he felt responsible to make sure he found me a ride home (this is before uber ya’ll). Mannie, who gets visibly upset at the mention of abuse of disadvantaged people. Tyrone, who took drinks from my hand and gave me water (I’m just being honest okay). Julie and Sara, who know my anxieties and don’t make fun of them and support me when I get a little neurotic. Matthew, who pays just enough attention to know when you need a hug. Rebecca, who comes out swinging a baseball bat when the dog that bit you is in the streets again. David, who listens and assures and stands outside my car when getting gas late at night. Becky, who loves me and supports me even though she is hurting too. Nicole, who listens to me ramble about anything and everything. Friends who don’t invite you on a trip because they know it could affect your reputation. Friends who know enough about you that they want to protect your innocence. A God who wants to protect me. The list goes on. 

 

I count myself lucky. There are many people who experience the same kind of abuse I did, and it has torn them apart. My abuse has definitely affected me, and I wish it on no one. But I know that it could be so much worse. I could have made so many choices that would have wrecked my life. But God protected me by allowing me to think my abuse was some weird nightmare, and allowed me to process it when I was older. I don’t think abuse should be hidden like this, but I know that this is something I was chosen for. 

 

I know it sounds crazy to take comfort in that, and I know it sounds crazy to take comfort in the story of Tamar. But you know, it is comforting to see yourself in God’s story. It’s like He is saying, “I see you. I know you. You are important to me.Because we are.

 

Her story could have easily been removed and not told at all. My story could have easily been removed from my memories and forgotten from my life. Tamar’s story was included, and in a way, is a part of the lineage of Christ. My story is revealed and I have been protected by God in ways I may never understand. 

 

I have been chosen for this life, not rejected. I was chosen to experience every bit and piece of my life, even the bad parts. I firmly believe this. I will not allow Satan to have power in these memories of my life, especially the bad ones. He does not get that control, God does. I know that God takes our broken pieces, even the seemingly impossible to put together dust, and creates beautiful masterpieces from them. I will give my broken pieces to Him and allow Him to create a masterpiece out of my life.

 

I brought you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners. I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you.”

Isaiah 41:9

Happy Father’s Day, Dad 💕

I woke up at 3:45am and drove south without looking back. The only breaks I took were for gas, bathroom and food. I arrived at home 15 hours later— exhausted but so grateful to be held by people who loved me.

The transition home was not an easy one. I spent a lot of time lost in my own head. Setting up my things and having no idea what was ahead or when and how to take the next step.

One afternoon, I found myself at my Dad’s computer. He always shared it when he wasn’t working on a sermon, or a talk or a new book.

I spaced out and analyzed every book on his bookshelf and every trinket in front of those books. He had his MacArthur Study Bible and commentaries closest. Then he had little nicknacks from all over the globe (given to him by people who lived all over the world). He had artwork from one of his 3rd grade students and love notes from us kids and grandkids. And proudly displayed on his shelf was the “Best Dad” trophy we got him for Father’s Day one year. Although he was a remarkable man, that was the only trophy he ever received.

I sat there and thought, “What a great man.” I told myself that I needed to write a blog on him, but I got sidetracked. Time passed. And then, suddenly, the same office and bookshelf I had admired just a few months prior was being disassembled. And as we disassembled it, it proved to me again that my Dad was a great man.

I wished I had written this blog when he was alive, but I know he knew exactly what I thought of him and how much I loved him. So Dad, this is for you.

My Dad. He wasn’t a flashy guy. He was the most steady, driven and disciplined man I have ever met. He loved my mom and us kids well. He always made time for us. If I ever needed him, he’d finish what he was doing and give me his undivided attention. He loved his sports, his popcorn, and his peanut m&ms. He was the smartest and the wisest man I’ve ever known.

And there was a side of my Dad that a lot of people didn’t see and I think my Dad was misjudged a lot because he was ridiculously confident. The side that speaks volumes to me and will for the rest of my life is how no matter what, my Dad never would retaliate. There was a season in my Dad’s life when he had some people against him. It tore him apart on the inside, but he persevered. I’ve never seen such a pain in my dad’s eyes. But, my Dad never spoke ill of them. Instead he just showed up day after day, week after week even though he was misunderstood and hurt by the things being said.

There was also a side that not many people saw. It was the “Doctor Dad” side. He may have lectured us on how we should have avoided getting hurt, but while he was lecturing, he’d be bandaging us up. And there was the side of my Dad who invested in us once a week during our “one on one time.” And there was the side that showed up for all the games we had that he could attend. You could never say that my Dad wasn’t present. And it’s his lack of presence that I miss every single day. But I hope that in my choice to show up every day, I honor his legacy.

You may not be able to pick my Dad out of a crowd, but you could never pick his place out of my heart. He was the greatest man I’ve ever known. He was a man of great character and integrity. Happy Fathers Day. I love you so much and I miss you terribly! And don’t worry you’re not missing anything with the Dolphins— they still stink.

How to Heal a Shapeless Heart

It was just a few weeks ago, as my Pastor spoke in church, that I thought about a feature of God that I haven’t really thought about before.

I don’t really know how to jump into this, but I’ll start with asking you a question. Have you ever been so hurt, you either couldn’t speak, or speaking caused more hurt?

Maybe you’ve suffered through an abusive relationship. And you’re the only one of your group of friends who’ve experienced that. Maybe they don’t know how to help or try to justify the abuser’s actions — not to hurt you but because they are trying to understand it.

Or, maybe it’s a a medical diagnoses that you’re tired of explaining. Or, the loss of job, and you’re having a hard time telling your wife you can’t provide. I don’t know what your pain is, but I know my own. We all wish pain wasn’t a part of life, but it is. We have to figure out how to handle it without letting it cripple us.

But harder than the pain, sometimes, is figuring out how to share that pain. How to speak of it without falling a part. Or how to share it without being hurt by someone’s “well-meaning” but very hurtful comments.

Some pain leaves our hearts completely shattered. Kind of like The Shapeless Heart:

The Shapeless Heart

I once had a heart: beautiful, fully shaped,

beating strong and true.

Until I met him…I hadn’t felt more alive.

Til’ my heart felt hurt and grew dim

For I saw a knife thrusted inside… Pulling it out slowly,

Bleeding profusely, angry, mad, hurt, yet I had to forgive … Slowly …

I felt worthless.. Over time my heart grew.

I could feel it heal…

Beginning to feel free.

I started again…

I felt like I could soar, conquer, live fully.

My heart didn’t see it coming…it was sliced and diced.

Vicious words cutting chunks out every chance it got.

Stabbed, betrayed from all sides..

I could feel my very life start to drain away… How could this happen

Why?

I stared at my heart and had no idea where to begin again.

Slowly… over time…

My heart started to heal…

It wasn’t the same though. The shape it once knew was no more. It didn’t beat as strong, but it still beat… Yet, still quite disfigured…

But, it is only heart I have to work with… I hated seeing my heart in this condition.

I could not tell what form it resembled… It was a mess: mushy, draping, struggling for any shape.

Angry at the sight of something once so strong — now so weak.

When I thought my heart couldn’t take one more blow, it then, was torn apart. Ripped in two. Lifeless, left bleeding out on the floor…

You, world, have won… I have no desire to try again. This heart is done… completely without shape… Flat lined… I heard a whisper…

“Beat again”

“I can’t… There’s nothing left….My heart’s been stabbed, broken, punctured, torn in two.”

“Give it to Me.”

“It’s useless… Use someone else. My heart is unrecognizable … Why would you want this?”

“It’s the broken and disfigured hearts that I use… perfectly formed hearts cannot recognize other battered hearts… The ones that have been torn, stabbed, and chipped to pieces are the ones that became a balm that reaches out to other. The tears that come from a broken heart are the tears that comfort the next. It’s the shapeless hearts that bandage wounds. It’s the shapeless hearts that help shape other shapeless hearts. Your shapeless heart is my gift to the world”

But when our hearts are shapeless before they have been reconstructed, that is when they need the feature I realized that God has… gentle hands.

When you’re wounded, you need gentle hands. Any sudden movement will cause shooting pain. Gentle hands can slowly… ever so slowly reshape and construct the heart that once was full. But without those gentle hands, the heart will remain shapeless, bleeding out and unable to function.

I want to learn this lesson because I want to be the gentle hands and moldable heart for someone else. God binds up the broken hearted, but oftentimes He uses the broken-hearted to bind up another broken-hearted. His heart was broken for us; yet, He still bound up our hearts.

I realized after this thought about God’s gentle hands popped in my head that I had witnessed gentle hands in my physical presence. It was the hands of my family and friends, and my Pastor and his wife who have all had heartbreak, but faithfully turn around and help the broken hearts in their community. It’s their broken-hearts that reached out to mine. And for that, I will forever be grateful ❤️!

A Different Memory of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is forever seared in my memory for other reasons than taking the day to remember those who lost their lives. But before I go into this story, I want to thank the families of the men and women who did lay down their lives for my freedom. Their sacrifice gave me a choice. In my case, a choice to leave.

It was on Memorial Day exactly three years ago that I made a decision to literally uproot my life. Part of it felt like my choosing. The other part felt very much like a door slamming in my face. So forcefully, I could almost feel the wind on my face.

It took the morning and into the afternoon to get to myself into my office cubical. I knew no one would be there— which is why I was going in. However, I delayed going because I knew when I left my office that day, I would not return.

I scanned my badge for the last time and walked in the door I’d walked in and out of hundreds of times. I walked up to the third floor and down the hall to my cubical taking everything in.

I sat down at my desk and saw a note from my friend who had been transferred to another office while I was gone. Although I knew she’d be leaving her words of kindness brought me to tears. She had no idea I’d be leaving when she placed that note on my desk. Quite frankly, neither did I.

I didn’t know where to start clearing out my desk. How to you clear out nearly three years of correspondence, projects, productions, etc. How to you remove your own access from social media accounts, YouTube, Vimeo, the database and everything else I had full access to? But eventually I started—piece by piece, paper by paper, account by account.

About an hour or so in, my sweet roommate texted me and asked how I was.

“I can’t stop crying”. I wrote back

Within thirty minutes she arrived coffee in hand and helped me shred papers. As soon as I cleared my desk, sorted through and placed the necessary papers on my coworkers desk, I retrieved the email I had already typed up. I put in the contacts I needed in there including HR and clicked send. My resignation was sent. I took a sigh of relief, left my computer and badges on the desk turned around one more time to visualize what used to be my life and walked out. It was 2 am in the morning. After I left, I drove mindlessly for another hour or more. I can’t really tell you where I went that night, but driving wasn’t the easiest considering I had tears pouring out of my eyes.

You see, I never planned on leaving. And never without giving two weeks notice. I thought I would be there twenty years. But what had become clear to me is that there were too many unhealthy things going on. But even with all the craziness, I didn’t even think of leaving until I had multiple people I trusted tell me, “Christi, you need to leave. This situation is no longer healthy”. Never in my life have I ever been under anyone who made me doubt who I was and every action and thought I had. There were no boundaries.

I don’t need to go on. I’m pretty sure we will all met someone in our lives or worked at an organization at some point who fits the description above. I think a lot of it tends to be because they have unhealed wounds from their past. Someone may have treated them the way they may be treating you. I don’t know. But what I do know is that we all live in a broken world which means, we are ALL broken people. We will all hurt each other. The difference is that when we hurt each other, we should own it and then change from doing it again.

I write all this because this Memorial Day looks so different from the one three years ago. Today, I spent four hours training for my Black Belt Test. This Saturday is my test. It struck me today how far God’s helped me come.

From being so battered by someone’s words who told me, “You never finish anything”. To seeing one of the finishing lines right before me. So many times in training, it would feel like I wasn’t make any progress. But today, I took a moment to relish that I spent the day laughing not only with my Sensei’s but also dancing and laughing with my family. I am truly blown away by God’s Grace and encouragement through my family and friends.

And although I wish my Dad could see me test, I know he’s cheering for me as he has been my whole life.

So, my encouragement to you is two of (some of) my favorite verses:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10

And

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

New Story Charity

A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to sit in on a TedTalk and later meet with the Co-Founder and CEO of our next organization of the week. This is the last organization that I’ll be highlighting. So without ado, the organization for this week is:

New Story Charity.

————————————————–

The vision of New Story started in Haiti in 2014. When Brett Hagler, the CEO of New Story, wasn’t okay with what he saw. Thousands of were people living in tents. Young girls getting snatched in the middle of the night. Mom’s having to stand the entire night holding their babies in their arms because rain water and sewage flooded through their “home.”

Brett teamed up with few other 20 year olds (Matthew Marshall, Mike Arrieta and Alexandria Lafci) to start New Story Charity.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, watch this video, because they can tell you this story better than me.

Incredible, right? Well, it gets even better. New Story Charity has joined up with a company called Icon and they are planning to build the first 3D printer community. See a 3D printed house. This project is set that start in early next month.

The thing that I so appreciate about Brett and his team is that they shoot for the moon. Shooting for the moon means overcoming a lot of obstacles that most people don’t want to push through. But, New Story Charity thrives on overcoming obstacles.

After I heard Brett speak, he graciously gave me an hour of his time to pick his brain on his organization and to ask him what fears he had to fight since starting New Story.

This is what he shared:

“At the beginning, I had a lot of things go our way. It was a unique situation. I was more excited than anything.

But one fear I fight is not feeling qualified for my job. I’ve never run a company of 30+ people with a 15 million dollar organization. I’m constantly trying to deal with things I’ve never dealt with before.

My current fear is “what if” we aren’t able to deliver on this 3D printed community. That would be a huge hit for my organization.”

I couldn’t help but walk away inspired and encouraged when I finished my time with Brett. He is a remarkable man. He is kind, humble and ambitious. I think we all, at one time or another, look at problems in our world and think, I wish I could do something, but we rarely do. Brett and his team decided to not stop at that thought, but actually do something about it.

I think the thing that’s stuck out to me the most in interviewing the CEOs/Founders of organization’s is that every single CEO/Founder at some point in our communication has expressed their inadequacy. So, I think it’s safe to say that if there’s something burning in your heart to do— you can’t wait until you feel adequate. You just have to do it. Don’t let fear hold you back. God has given us each gifts that He wants us to use. For you it may not be starting a nonprofit. It might be writing a book, starting a Bible Study, networking, building a business. My encouragement to you is this:

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C.S Lewis

And

Live your life in crescendo. Your most important work is in front of you.” — Stephen Covey

In closing, I want to leave you with two points Brett shared in his Ted Talk:

1) Dream big — start small.

2) Work hard — never give up.

Please take a minute to check out New Story Charity I know you will be encouraged by what you see. Thanks for being with me on this journey!

Hope Women’s Centers

This organization is near to my heart for a few reasons:

  1. My Dad was on the founding board
  2. It’s always been a part of my life
  3. It’s so incredibly needed

So, without further ado the organization of this week is:

Hope Women’s Centers

—————————————————-

Hope Women’s Centers (not original name) was founded in 1987 by several Pastors in Broward County who wanted to help women who found themselves in unplanned pregnancies. They wanted a safe place for women to come to be heard and helped — not shamed and harmed.

A few years later they merged with another clinic that also had the same desire to reach women.

Currently, Hope has three clinics. They offer free pregnancy tests, STI testing, options counseling and ultrasounds. They also offer nutrition classes to help new moms know how to take care of their bodies when carrying a baby. Once they complete the two session class, they are given a brand new car seat and headrest.

Everyone who works (and has worked) at this organization is passionate about what they do. They serve sacrificially and with all their heart. They show up every day no matter what’s going on in their personal lives. When women and men come through the doors scared, confused, anger, and whatever other emotion each patient has, they are greeted with an understanding staff member or volunteer.

This organization has been protested against, slandered and berated by those who oppose them. But I can tell you one thing, the staff is there because they care. It says a lot about a place that women come back even after they’ve decided not to initially receive the help offered by Hope. Patients come back because they know this is a safe place. I say this because I have the incredible opportunity to work here.

Ironically, 30 years ago, my mom went to get a pregnancy test from Hope. She found out she was pregnant. That pregnancy test read positive. That baby was me.

Hope is not only full of incredible staff, but also incredible volunteers who come in week in and week out to help us serve women and men in our community. They are our unsung heroes.

I asked my boss, Ariana Reid, who recently took over from my former boss, Nancy McDonald, to share her thoughts on fear. Here’s what she shared:

It is truly humbling to oversee an organization that is standing for equality in and out of the womb. It has been a lot of hard work and determination.

When I found myself in an unplanned pregnancy everything in me cried for help. And from my experience I knew I was not the only one. I was determined to help encourage and equip women and men who found themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.

All I wanted to do was help one person. The next day I woke up, I wanted to help one more. I desired for our organization to be the best and provide valuable services to help women and men, and their families.

Becoming the Executive Director of a million dollar organization was overwhelming to say the least. I am a woman, of color, and a millennial, because of that my biggest fear was rejection and feelings of inadequacy. How would I be received by our donors, staff, and the community?

Fear is false evidence appearing real, it isn’t real. And love cancels that fear. Every day I do my best, I love, and the feelings of inadequacy diminish, but I know it’s because God is adequate. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead and for the Lord’s faithfulness. Each day is an opportunity to push past the fear, love, and do something big and bold!

I realize the work we do is an incredibly polarized and political issue. More than that, it is deeply personal. I want to say that if there are anyone reading this has experienced the pain of abortion (physical, psychological, or emotional) I am deeply sorry. I once heard one of our volunteers say, “My abortion didn’t take my motherhood away, it just made me a childless mother.” I also know several women who have told me, “I didn’t have all the information. If I did, I wouldn’t have had an abortion.”

I don’t know what your story is, and I am sorry if this is a hard post to read for you, but I want to share that Hope also offers a post abortive Bible study where you have compassionate and confidential meetings. If this is something you feel like you need please email: info@thereishope.org or call 954-372-7089 to learn when the next class is. You don’t even have to say your last name on the phone. We understand this is a very personal, private and hard issue.

I want to thank Dottie Wobb, Margy Richardson, Nancy McDonald and now Ariana Reid for helping fight for life with grace and grit. It has been an honor to serve alongside (most of) them and to see the integrity, compassion and excellence in their work and in their lives. They are all heroes in my book. Thank you!

*Ariana is the beautiful woman center sitting down