Looking for Your Story

Have you ever needed to hear a great story? When I found “I am second” videos on YouTube, I devoured them. I distinctly remember where I was and what I was doing.

I was in a very intense job at the time, and it was my day off. I was cleaning the house where I was living. When I heard the first story, I listened and cleaned the entire afternoon and into the evening. As soon as one ended, I’d click to listen to the next one. Mind you, these videos are, on average, 7 minutes. I just needed encouragement, and they were just what I needed.

From time to time, when I feel discouraged, I will scour the internet to find a good story. There’s nothing like a good story to lift your spirits. A good movie can do the same.

Recently, however, I found myself looking for another good story. I started listening to one, and instead of finding encouragement, I found frustrated. I think because as the woman (in the video) was telling her story, it was the story I wished/prayed would have been mine. I turned it off and then felt like the Lord was saying, “Why are you looking for your story in someone else’s story?”

That hit me like a ton of bricks. Honestly, how many times have I just blindly followed a narrative without considering where God might want to take me? Do I care what story He wants to write with my life? Or am I trying to write my own story and then try and fit God into it later?

Your Story

Do you know how incredibly creative God is? I don’t, but the bits and pieces I see blow my mind! He doesn’t have a one size fits all formula when it comes to our lives. He is intimately acquainted with all our ways (Ps 139:3). Your story might look different. Everyone might not understand it, but God knows the desires of our hearts (Ps 37:4). His ways are not our ways (Is 55:8-9).

I was reminded of this a few months ago as I was thinking about a book idea. I paused for a moment and thought how incredible it is to have the privilege of writing a book and have it published by a traditional publishing house. I mean, how many people would kill for that opportunity. The crazy thing is I can take zero credit for it. I thought back to when I graduated from college and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I never thought I’d graduate from college. I always assumed I’d get married and start a family.

But that day, as I thought about my book coming out, I realized if I had gotten married, I probably never would have pursued writing. I wouldn’t have the time to write. Plus, only the Lord knew that I had always wanted to write a book. I remember thinking as young as 12 that I wanted to write a devotional someday. I might have forgotten that for a few years, but He didn’t.

To wrap this up, I want to pull from the story of Ruth. She’s someone who didn’t quite do things the way she was expected to. After she was widowed, she was supposed to remain in Moab (modern-day Jordan) with her people, with her family. Instead, she left with her mother-in-law (Naomi) to go to a foreign country with no real prospect or direction. She knew that Naomi’s God was real and worth following, even if it meant a different narrative than what people expected her to have. Am I willing to do the same? To set aside what I think should be. To stop looking for my story in someone else’s story. To embrace the story God wants to write in my life. I can guarantee it won’t always be easy or comfortable, and people won’t always understand, but you won’t be alone, and it will be worth it.

So if you’re like me and scouring the internet to find a good story, let it encourage you, but we must try not to look for our story in another person’s story. Because ultimately, our stories should not be about us but reflect the creative, kind, good, intimate, gracious, just, and true author of the story.

July Showers

July showers may not be something you think much about. Who would? It’s just a few minutes of crazy weather that eventually passes. It might delay your plans or mess up your hair, wet your shoes, but that’s it.

 

This week, of July showers, just seems angry. Crazy wind. Lightning out of nowhere. Huge raindrops. Dark skies. And I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t messing with me.

 

I ended June in the best way. I flew again. I took a road trip. I saw one of my best friends. I met a bunch of really amazing individuals. And I got to be a part of an unbelievable organization. One that I think is going to turn the world right-side-up in its own way. All weekend we discussed what it meant to carry each other.

 

But, this crazy weather has been a really crummy reality check. It’s like the dark clouds, and nasty rainstorms were a reminder. A reminder that said, “Welcome, again, to the most painful month of the year!”

 

This month marks three years since my Dad left this world… For those who don’t know, it was partly because of the “crazy weather” he was driving through.

 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve driven through the rain with knots in my stomach while fighting the grief that wants to suck me into a dark hole. Or, how many times I’ve tried to wrap my head around the fact that my Dad, who was the best driver I knew, was taken in the way he was. My head would spin around and around, but each time around, it never got any clearer. And, with the coming of July, sleep has become difficult.

 

While running an errand for work today, lightning struck very close to me, and the sky opened up. Facing the elements of July is exhausting. Driving a single mile sometimes feels like 100. But as I drove, a song came on, and it was just what I needed…

 

“White lights and desperation

Hard times and conversations

No one (No one) should ever love me like You do….

 

Last night, confidence was shaken

My wounds and my past was saying

No one should ever love me like You do 

 

Oh, while I’m on this road, You take my hand

Somehow You really love who I really am

I push You away, still You won’t let go

You grow Your roses on my barren soul…

 

The way I push You through it what You had to see

I’m a train wreck, I’m a mess, You see the best and the worst in me

Still I can’t imagine that I’ve learned Your trust

I don’t understand where Your love comes from…

 

Who am I, who am I, who am I, to be loved by You?”

 

Hearing the lyrics made me cry. Because the day, I heard my sister say, “I don’t know if Dad’s going to make it.” My world, as I knew it, shattered in a thousand pieces. My heart became unrecognizable. I didn’t know how to react. It was too much to process. So much hurt. So much confusion. I was angry. And for the first time in my life, swear words seemed to be the only way to express the pain now deeply etched in my soul. For months I couldn’t cry. I told God to stay away from me. I told Him He had nothing to say to me. I told Him He’d done enough. I questioned if following Him was worth it. I didn’t see a purpose for it. Why give me a good Dad and take him so unexpectedly and make my Mom suffer… again. Taking one husband wasn’t enough for Him?!

 

Hearing that song reminded me that over the months and years, He waited… patiently for me… He waited to pursue. He found a way to get through to me despite the agony I was in. He loved me even though I tried to throw my pain back in His face. Still, His love slowly broke through. And somehow, He’s used it all. Don’t misunderstand me; if I had the choice, I would choose my Dad back every time.

 

But, because He never left me, He somehow grew His roses on my barren soul. He gave me a voice that I could have never known was there. He’s helped me understand that when He sent Jesus, He sent Him to suffer with us so that I could learn how to suffer with others, which is a part of carrying each other. He brought me, people, to help carry my pain, so now I can help carry other’s pain. 

 

Brokenness

 

He taught me that I am not a product of my own. No one is. I would not be who I am today if it had not been for those friends who showed up at the hospital. Or, for the friends who showed up at the service. Or, for the friends who reach out every Father’s Day to let me know they’re thinking about my family and me. Or, for those who say, “One thing I always appreciated about your dad is…” or for those who didn’t get to meet him who say, “I wish I could have meet him” or that “if he were anything like your family I know he was amazing.” And he was… it’s because of my family who taught me to be brave, and the friends who allowed me to talk through tears that I am still standing today. 

 

I have been waiting for inspiration to come for a blog for weeks. For whatever reason, it came today. And, although I really didn’t want to share this, I hope it helps at least one person.

 

Because no matter what condition your soul, heart, or mind is in… God is still there. Not prying. Not condemning. Not angry. But hurting with you. And even if you feel like a “train wreck” or “a mess” He sees the best and the worst. He can handle our anger and frustration. He stays. He never runs away from us. He runs towards the ones who suffer. He’s not scared of our brokenness. He’s not scared of our emotions, and He’s not scared of pain. In fact, He carries us when we can seem to get out of bed. He sings over us when we can’t sleep. He cradles us and holds our broken pieces together. Because we are His creation, and it is who He is and what He does… He loves us for who we are… the good, the bad, and the ugly. He carries us, so we know how to carry others… 

 

Listen to “Who I am” by Need to Breathe

Fighting the Fear of … What if?!

I’m so thrilled to introduce you to my beautiful friend, Sarah! Sarah and I met through our mural friend Connie. We both were invited to go to The Rabbit Room’s annual conference called Hutchmoot. We quickly became friends. Sarah is a total gem. She is incredibly kind, thoughtful and honestly so beautiful inside and out. I am better for having her in my life. I didn’t know she had her own blog until just a few weeks ago and I asked her to be a guest on my blog and she graciously accepted!

So without further ado , please welcome, Sarah Rooker :)! To learn more about Sarah, I will post her website at the bottom of this blog.

Yeah, I get that. But, what if?”

My clammy palms were clenched in my lap as I precariously perched on the edge of my counselor’s sofa.

But I wasn’t there for my sweaty hands or my pounding heart. I was there because of my lungs. Well, actually, my throat.

Some mix of college woes had brought me to this deceptively comfy couch for the past few months. Roommates. Stress. The future.

But, on that day, there was a greater darkness that threatened to suffocate my thoughts- fear. Fear of death.

It had been five years since I had stopped breathing. Five years since my lungs had begged for mercy as my throat swelled shut.

Back in the room of a Peruvian clinic, my body had succumbed to an anaphylactic reaction of unknown origin. Spanish and English words flew around the room as I struggled to maintain consciousness. The darkness eventually won, and my mind faded to black. But kind and quick hands provided lifesaving measures, and I lived.

An experience like that changes a young woman. For years afterwards, I was lost in the throes of fear. I often quipped, “God gives me my breath. So, I’m good!” While secretly stuffing my epi-pen into my pocket, calculating the fastest route to the hospital, and keeping a finger on my pulse. I wish I was kidding. 

Fear had consumed me. 

Death was not the culprit of my frantic thoughts. The process of dying was. Or so I told myself. 

Because I knew and believed that I would see Jesus at the end of my dying. But I wasn’t so sure about what would happen in the midst of my dying. The thought of again going without the oxygen that my body craved, terrified me.

So, there I sat, propped between throw-pillows, my fears bubbling in the back of my throat. Shortly I would be traversing with professors, professionals, and peers deep into a Guatemalan jungle to provide medical care to indigenous people. 

After my anaphylactic emergency I had continued to travel. To Peru. Haiti. China. With my epi-pen close at hand. But, I had yet to go eight hours over mountains and rivers, deep into the heart of a jungle where plumbing did not yet exist, and satellite phones were spotty at best.

So, what if it happened again? What would I do if my unknown allergy came roaring back and I had to see death again? And what if, instead of just tasting it this time, death won? 

My sweet counselor taught me a very useful coping mechanism. Just stop. Literally. When the swirling thoughts would come, all I had to do was imagine a stop-sign. And it worked. Temporarily.

Loaded with supplies, I timidly (and rather nauseously) rode that bus straight into a Guatemalan jungle. And then, I rode it back out. I had lived. 

However, as it often does, fear continued to sneak up. Poking its poisonous head out at the most inopportune moments.

Often to fight those thoughts of fear we slap a Band-Aid of reassurance over it with a quick statement- “That’s highly improbable. No reason to fear that.” 

So, what do you say to the girl who randomly had a reaction in the middle of a foreign country and tried to see Jesus? The chances of that are so improbable that I should buy a lottery ticket. 

So, when I faced a fear, I could no longer use reason. Unreasonable had found me. And eventually the stop-sign method stopped working. Because stop-signs can’t really slow down a steam engine powered by fear. 

Over and over, my heart and my mind were asking the same question. What happens when my worst fears come true? 

Because they had. Death had found me. And regardless of how many epi-pens I carried around or how cautious I was, I knew that no amount of preparation or caution would prevent my fears from becoming reality.

I sat in that space for a while. Wondering how to calm my racing heart and quiet my screaming fears. Deep and dark. Unsure of how to live life when fear was strangling the very breath from within my lungs. 

But then. Someone found me. Came to me. Rescued me. From every single fear. 

His name is Jesus. 

He came because of love. But, to be honest, I don’t understand why He came to me. He had given me extra years of life that fateful night, and I had squandered much of it away worrying.

So to know more of this man, who came to me despite my entanglement with anxiety, I have been reading of His life.

And lately, Jesus’s words in the book of John have taken my breath away. But this time, it’s a breathlessness that’s filled with hope.

Jesus tells His disciples that His Words would bring them peace and joy. Why? Because He had overcome the world and the day was coming when He would overcome death. 

Not much later, Jesus died. The grave held Him for three days. But then, suddenly, it was empty.

That morning, a woman who had loved Jesus, Mary Magdalene, stood weeping by His empty tomb. But then the living, breathing Jesus approached her. And yet, she did not recognize Him. I imagine her distressed tears blinded her. Her worst fears had come true, after all. Her Lord was dead, and His body was missing.

But was He dead?

As her name left Jesus’s lips, she recognized who He was and fell at His feet. 

Her worst fears had been redeemed. Jesus was not only alive, but He had defeated the very thing that afflicts all of humanity- death. Suddenly, He was not only her Teacher and her Lord, He was Her Savior.

Hallelujah. 

There are days when the thoughts of my worst fears blind me. Tears stream. My throat tightens. But, then, a voice comes. 

“Sarah.” It says. That’s all it has to say.

Lifting my eyes, I see what stands before me. Not a stop-sign.Jesus. 

And suddenly I understand. Even if my worst fears come true. Even if I lose what I love. Even if my heart breaks into a billion pieces. Even if I am abandoned and alone. Even if I have no security.  Even if my throat swells closed forever. There is hope. 

His name is Jesus. 

Sarah’s site: https://thetruthofbreathinghope.wordpress.com/about/
I reached out to Hustle and Thrive after I saw this shirt. I’m stoked to be able to offer a discount on their merchandise.

Discount Code: CHRISTIROCKS
*They made up the code not me*

Where is the Miracle?

They were with him during the wedding at Cana when He turned water into wine. They were with Him when He healed a blind man from Bethsada. They were with Him when He fed the four thousand and then the five thousand. They walked with Him for years. They’d seen Him raise the dead, walk on water, and calm the waves. So where was the miracle now? On that dark Friday afternoon? Surely it wasn’t really finished. Like He said, as He breathed His last breathes. He was the Messiah, the ONE they had waited for. He was going to be their ruler, their king. But instead, He was being carried to a grave.

I came across a verse today that echoed in my soul.

“…And where are all His miracles?!” Judges 6:11.

Gideon is the one asking the Angel of the Lord this question. The Midianites had overtaken and been ruling Israel. Gideon, being brought up as a good Jewish boy, would have known the stories of the Red Sea parting, the provision of water, food and clothes for 40 years in the wilderness, and of the miracles that took place in Noah’s, Moses’ and Joseph’s life… But Gideon questioned: Where are the miracles now? If You are who You say You are… Why haven’t You shown up?

I’ve asked this a couple times in my life. “God, why did this hurt have to take place? Why couldn’t You have had me go another route in life?” or “Why didn’t you save my Dad. Where was the miracle then?”

As Easter approaches, I am reminded that Friday was not only an earth shattering event but also faith shattering week. I wonder if the disciples asked themselves, “Were we all deceived? Were the ones who mock us all along actually right? Because, He’s gone and so are our dreams of a new kingdom.”

I just want to pause here… Because, if we are honest, we have all had times when the dream in our heart died. The trajectory of where we thought our life would go, or what we thought it’d be, died. Every loss has to be fully felt in order for it to be unshackled from our hearts. We will always feel the ache but we don’t always have to carry the full weight of it. That was the disciples. They had lost their friend who was, up until this point, immortal. No one could touch Him. He was invincible until He succumbed to the cross .

So where do we go after we experience our Friday afternoon? The moments when our life seems to be crumbling and our faith is shaken. After you grieve, and you must grief. And after you question, because you will question. And after you wrestle… You get up and let God use you to be a miracle in someone else’s life.

What do I mean? Gideon, although scared out of his mind, obeyed God. He let God used him to bring liberation to Israel. And as I was looking up the name of the town Gideon came from, I learned this was the SAME valley where David would later take down Goliath.

God used the disciples to turn the world upside down, but it wasn’t until they surrendered their grief, and what they thought their lives would look like. And acknowledged that His Kingdom was greater than theirs— no matter how well intended.

So, what does a miracle look like today? It looks like girls in India who had been sold into slavery, being freed and then raising enough money to rescue another girl. It looks like individuals stepping up to take a child in who has been removed from their home due to abuse or neglected. It looks like volunteering in your community. It looks like a bone marrow or kidney donor. It looks like walking down a hospice hallway to be with someone whose about to lose their loved one. It looks like a million different things in a million different ways.

But, before we rush in, let us be very aware that the only reason we are able to be a miracle in another’s life is because of the miracle Jesus did in our life. Maybe it wasn’t the miracle we asked, begged and petitioned for, but it far outweighs the one we were or are asking for here. His miracle is the fact that we can spend eternity with Him. God whose ways are perfect, who is always kind. Who is good beyond measure and abundantly gracious. Who is just and true and pure. Who does not waver but holds steady. Who is our Rock, our Fortress and our Defense, Who is present, and sees us as He created us to be. Who has our names engraved on the palm of His hand. This is a the ultimate miracle. The fact that a perfect and holy God would bring heaven to earth to save a wretch like me. I am once again humbled and amazed all over again.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.

Click image to hear “Glorious Ruin”

What’s a Man

Several months ago, I went to see a movie in theaters. It impacted me so much, I went back to see it again with my mom and sisters. The movie was Harriet. If you haven’t seen it, rent it when it comes out!

The whole movie is one challenge after another as you see Harriet live her life counter to everyone around her. She doesn’t stop because of fear; instead, she uses her fear as a platform to push herself to greater lengths.

Spoiler Alert: There is one scene in the movie that keeps playing over and over in my head. Harriet has come back from her first “rescue”. She hadn’t planned on bringing anyone back with her except her husband. But, due changes in his life, he tells Harriet he won’t be going back with her.

After Harriet returns to safety, she tells her new-found friend, Marie, who is helping Harriet navigate what life looks like to live free, how torn up she is without her husband. And that’s when Marie says something along the lines of:

What’s a man to a woman, who has the call of God on her life…

I could hardly breath when I heard that. I felt glued to my chair as the lump in my throat began to rise, pushing tears out of my eyes. The truth of that statement arrested my soul.

Around the same time I saw this movie, I was at a FAM (Family Advocacy Ministry) event. FAM is a ministry that creates support systems around a foster family. This means bringing meals to the foster family, babysitting, or doing household chores. If you want to know more about this please send me a message. It’s a wonderful ministry!

While I was at this event, they highlighted a long-time friend of mine. She and her husband stood side-by-side, arm-in-arm as they announced that they are working towards their 6th adoption. That’s six kids in our community whose lives have been re-written. These kids will know what it means to have a loving home. To have a mom and dad who fights for them, and loves them unconditionally.

You may be wondering what I’m getting at. And this is it: If you’re single, live out the life God has given you for His glory and the good of others. And unless you can do more married, like this couple at the FAM event, then don’t worry about it. God has amazing things He wants to do through each one of it. That may be through singleness or it may be through marriage. The couple I talked about are able to fight for their kids because they’re fighting together. Harriet was able to fight for those in slavery because she was single.

A lot of us miss out because we are aren’t comfortable with God’s plan. Why? Because most of the time it isn’t easy. It means dying to self. Serving others and getting out hands messy and our hearts broken. Elizabeth Elliot said it well when she said:

“The will of God is always far different from what we imagine, far bigger, far more difficult, but unspeakably more glorious”

So, my prayer for myself and for you is that we will be generous with our time and money. That we will be courageous for the things that need to be fought for and spoken up for. And, that we would love deeply and speak truthfully. I fall so short every single day. But, as Anne of Green Gables says, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes”

And for the single that may still be waiting for someone to fight beside you… Remember this:

“To love God is to love His will. It is to wait quietly for life to be measured by One who knows us through and through. It is to be content with His timing and His wise appointment.” — Elizabeth Elliot

New Year’s Eve

Fireworks explode in the neighborhood as the clock struck 12. I walked into this evening with the utmost trepidation. Like Cinderella waiting for her beautiful dress to turn rags and her carriage to collapse. I, on the other-hand, was not wanting to catch a prince, or concerned with the fraying of an outfit. I was worried about the fraying of my soul. Walking into another year is painful.

Every New Year’s Eve for the past three years I have had company— whether I wanted it or not. It’s the company of my own grief. It sits with me latching on to my heart as the minutes climb closer and closer to the new year. It sits silently but ever so deafening. It weighs on my heart like a millstone. Tugged me down to a place I would never tread if it were my own choosing.

New Years is supposed to be a joyous time. But for me, it just represented the glaring unwanted fact that my Dad is one more year farther away from me. The only thing I could think to do to escape this night was to go to bed early and try to make the best of New Years Day. But it all hurts. Every year I wish I could rewind to a moment with him. Like last his last Father’s Day. He was so thrilled with the tools we gave him. And he couldn’t get over the fact that my sister and her husband had given him the trip to Grenada to see my brother. He never made it down there and he never used his tools.

For me, New Year’s Eve just makes another gash at my already wounded heart. This day, just uncovers the gaping hole in my heart that I normally cover up with a smile or a helping hand. But New Year’s Eve reminds me I can never outrun the pain. Part of me is dead and can never be revived.

But, tonight, I faced it. I acknowledge the pain and my unwanted companion. For the first time in a long time the tears flowed … and flowed steadily revealing the fountain of loss that will, in fact, always be there. And, as I sit on this hard floor wiping snot on my nightgown, I know my Dad would be proud. Because he never ran from pain or opposition. He took it head on. So, whatever your New Year’s Eve looks like, don’t be afraid to face it head on. To be fully alive means to fully feel. Which also means to fully grieve.

Dad:

I don’t even have the words to express the emptiness now in my heart. I miss you so much. But, you’ve left me a heck of legacy to follow, and for that, I’ll plod on. Happy New Year. You’d be proud of the sibs and mom. We all miss you like crazy, but we are pressing on. Grandmom celebrated a milestone birthday… and get this… the Dolphins beat the Patriots last week! And Ezra got married. It was a great way to finish the year. Love you so much, Padge. Don’t have too much fun without us— just kidding I know you already are 💕!

Discovering Dimple

Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt-out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti-filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!

The girl took two steps back, wiped the sweat of the late August heat and the salty tears of her eight-year struggle off her face, and admired her work. The words glistening wet in the afternoon sun and trails of red paint ran slowly down like blood – the fresh, healing, life-giving kind – staining the bears and flowers. It made sense to her now, and the corners of her mouth turned up in a hint of a smile and she stared at the stuffed animal, Binky, that she had laid there years ago, a symbol of the death of her innocence and carefree childhood. Its pink furry head had been dabbed with drips of paint over the years, but this red was its crowning glory and her latest declaration to life. From this moment on, she would still cry, still scream, and still beat the walls of her bedroom and the door of heaven, but like a defiant battle cry against despair, she would also choose to rejoice.

Her new family stood behind her in silent solidarity, her parents, Rainbow and the kid who was now a man. He stepped forward and put his hand on her shoulder. He didn’t have to say anything, for his motion spoke for the whole group and was understood by all. They knew what it cost for her to write that word; they had known the same loss, walked through the same valleys, and fought the same fight together, and they had agreed to this same conclusion. Life was worthless if they could not find joy and purpose if they couldn’t see beyond their pain. This lesson was not one that they accepted easily or naturally but through the extraordinarily faithful and loving examples of others.

There are three main reasons children are placed in foster care: abuse, neglect, or abandonment (voluntary or involuntary). For her, it was neglect. She’d been in and out of foster care due to her mother’s negligence. That is, until one Christmas Day when her relationship with the state was solidified. Twenty years ago, the Department of Children and Families found her sitting alone in her soiled outfit, murmuring and moaning for sustenance. She had been locked in an empty apartment. The apartment was so bare even the walls remained empty. Despite the smell, one would never know that this apartment was someone’s home. To this day, DCF is unsure how long she had been alone. She was only four at the time.

It took her nearly two years after that Christmas Day before she began to speak. When she did, she quickly gained the nickname Dimples from her caseworker, for she had the most adorable dimples on both of her cheeks. It took her years in therapy and a steady home for her to find out what “family” actually meant. And there was one special person with one little creature who’d be just the right duo to help her with the loss of her mom and her childhood.

The kid was also an only child but his home was a happy one. His grandparents died before he was born. And although his Dad worked very long hours, leaving lots of time with his mom, they both loved him dearly. He and his mom were two peas in a pod. His mom walked him to and from school each day. One day right before the school bell rang, the principal called the kid to his office over the loudspeaker. He never got in trouble so he wondered what this call meant. The principal’s

bewildered face told him that whatever words he heard would not be good ones. His mom has been struck by a car while walking in a crosswalk. His world came crumbling down.

At the hospital, while his dad was trying to finalize the paperwork and getting information about his mom, his dad collapsed. A nurse ran to his side to check his vitals. She quickly discovered his thready pulse and called for more assistance. In a matter of seconds, his dad was rushed into a makeshift room, the kind where there’s only a curtain separating patients in need. An oxygen mask was put on and tests were run… the staff did as much as they could. In the middle of the chaos, a nurse turned around, looked at the boy, and said to her colleague, “get that kid out of here.”

All he could hear was “1, 2, 3, CLEAR” *shocking sound* None of this made any sense to him. He stood aimlessly and completely shell-shocked in the long, sterile, uninviting hallway, waiting for news of his dad. He started to feel faint, so he found a corner to hide in… First, his mom; now, his dad.

An hour passed and still no word. He didn’t hear the chaos anymore and one by one the medical team left his dad’s makeshift room. No one came to talk to him. He felt that if he moved everything – including the hospital – would collapse around him. If he could just get as small as physically possible and stay like that, he might be okay. That’s until a nurse spotted him. Their eyes locked. He didn’t want to talk to her. He wasn’t strong enough to hear more bad news. Maybe it would be good though, he tried to convince himself, but the sinking feeling in his stomach was relentless.

That day was a blur. He was taken by DCF because he was officially declared an orphan. His Mom and Dad had died within 6 hours of each other. He woke up that morning to what he thought would be a normal day, only to be completely abandoned by evening. He was not able to go home that night because there were papers to process. He was, officially declared, a child of the state. Little did he know; the state would be the only family he would know; unless someone intervened.

Over the next 10 years, he’d be in over 25 foster homes, multiple schools, and nowhere that felt like home. He felt like an unwanted vagabond, a nomad with no roots. No one to check in with or to check on him. His heart always ached for a longing to belong and be seen. There was a throbbing wound in his soul. He missed his parents and had no one with whom to remember them.

Never once was he the only foster child in a foster home. The state had too many kids. So, he was always thrown into a mix of other kids, most of which had lots of behavioral issues. He pretty much kept to himself. He carried so much pain he felt like if he opened up, a dam would break loose and he wouldn’t be able to contain his emotions… so he remained silent.

There was only one girl he’d met along the way that was as quiet as he was. They called her Dimples. She didn’t say much but would often find the kid and sit beside him. They both knew they had a lot of pain, but having someone to sit with in the pain was a strange comfort. After about six months, of being with Dimples and that family, he had to move. That’s just what the state decided.

Since no one ever chose to adopt him, the kid would age out of the system at 18. When he knew he’d be aging out, he figured out how to support himself. While in foster care, he saved up enough

money to get a car by 16, just shy of his 17th birthday he began delivering pizzas. He had a good boss who was a kind man and took him under his wing.

He rang the doorbell and savored the warmth of the pizza box on his hand while he waited. He heard laughter from inside, and a lady with a ponytail and designer workout clothes opened the door. “Oh great, pizza’s here everyone!” she announced, and several childish voices cheered from behind her. The kid could see over the lady’s slender shoulder that the house was full of kids, parents, and grandparents. A giddy little boy came tromping toward the entrance, riding on the shoulders of a man who had a beard and a balding spot on top of his head… possibly from where the boy was bopping him constantly with his palms.

“It’s our son’s 8th birthday,” the fashionable lady explained as she took the pizza boxes. She passed the boxes off to her husband who paid her with a flirtatious peck on the cheek. She giggled. “And here’s a tip,” she said as she smiled and held out a crisp five-dollar bill with her soft, manicured hand. The kid forced a smile in return, stuffed the cash in his pocket and quickly ducked back into his car.

His heart was pounding and as he turned onto the main road, he turned up the radio and pushed his sneaker hard against the gas pedal. Houses, trees, and mailboxes flew past, but the images remained – burned and taunting in his brain. They looked so happy – a mom, a dad, a son… For his 8th birthday, this kid had been shuffled to a new foster home and no one knew or acknowledged that there was anything to celebrate. His parents had been dead for 3 months by that time. And while that was almost ten years ago now, the pain still seared white-hot. Anger and pain forced him to blindly drive on and on until he came to a dead end on an abandoned street. He parked and turned off the radio, breathing heavily and beating the steering wheel. When would this grief end? When would the sight of a happy family stop breaking him into pieces?

Then the kid heard a faint rustle and realized he wasn’t alone. He got out of the car and cautiously moved to a pile of rubbish in the shadows. There he found a young cat that looked almost dead – almost, but not quite. She was shabby and skinny and appeared too weak to stand up. It cried pitifully, barely loud enough to be heard at all. The kid knelt beside the creature, and she blinked its dimming eyes at him… eyes that told him she knew what it felt like to be abandoned, helpless, and alone. The anger that consumed him just moments before swelled into a passionate urge to do something good. “I’m gonna help you,” he whispered, and he gently scooped the creature into his arms. “You’re not alone anymore… and neither am I.”

With that, he put the cat in his car and slowly drove home. He left the radio off, and all he thought about the cat beside him. It didn’t have anything… no family, no home, not even a name. Maybe he could provide all three? “Rainbow,” he called her out loud. Between her calico fur, her deep and iridescent eyes, and the hope that she somehow offered to him, the name seemed to fit. He smiled to himself and nodded, “Rainbow.” She watched him for a minute, then rested her head on his leg.

When the ride ended, she was lifted again. The kid slid her body onto a soft pile of clothing among the boxes in the garage. He pulled an old coat over the top, creating a cave that emanated the sweetness of old ladies who frequently powdered themselves—a light rose motif that played

ironically well in the deep recesses of Rainbow’s ancestral brain. The pizza kid lifted her head to help her lap water from a hubcap. He broke bits of pepperoni and crust into bite-sized pieces and left them where her tongue could reach them. Much later, she heard him practicing his orations like songs. Like monks chanting in the distance, they were a comfort.

The kid had almost forgotten the orations his mom gave him to help him fall asleep. His mom was a public speaking tutor. She used to recite all the great speeches to him from “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King to the “Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln. He’d almost forgotten how hearing his mom recite speeches would lull him to sleep. The weird thing with grief is sometimes you block memories. If you remember them all at once, your heart couldn’t take it. Speaking to Rainbow not only was a comfort to him but also her. For the first time, he began to see what healing might look like.

It was a Friday night. Rainbow had grown a lot in the last two months, and so had the kid. They were best of friends. For the first few weeks, Rainbow was so weak, she had to be held in order to fall asleep. Her fragile body was not producing enough heat to keep her warm on her own. Rainbow went everywhere with the kid. And for the first time in a very long time, the kid, although an adult in the eyes of the law, didn’t feel alone. He found a place where he could talk about the pain of his childhood, missing his parents and aimlessly wandering through life trying to make heads or tails of it. Whenever he would get sad, it was like Rainbow knew to snuggle next to him. He’d almost forgotten what the goodness of life looked like until Rainbow reminded him. It was about relationships.

Dimples spend most of her growing up years in therapy. Never knowing her biological dad, losing her mom to drugs, alcohol, and men; and, then being found by perverts, not to mention being moved constantly by the state, kept her on a regular schedule for her therapist… although, even the therapists would frequently change. Her life felt like a revolving door; people in and people out, leaving as quickly as they came. Steady was not a word she could easily describe.

It was a Thursday night in the middle of a hot summer. The humidity stuck to him like saran wrap. Every time he’d step out of his car to make his next delivery he felt blanketed with a hot rag that inevitably fogged up his glasses. He wiped off the fog, check the house number again, popped the trunk and pull out the pepperoni pizza. And then, as he did every time, after ringing the doorbell, he’d look back to see if Rainbow was still waiting on him.

Two little ears popped up in the passenger side window; smiling, he turned back to the door that was now open in front of him. But this time, instead of a stranger, he saw Dimples.

“Dimples?! Hi! I didn’t know you lived…” before he continued he re-evaluated what he was saying. Of course, he wouldn’t know where she lived, she was in foster care, basically a homeless person staying with strangers for a while.

“I, uh, how are you?”

“I’m alright… You…” she paused as her attention was drawn toward his car. “Is that a cat?!”

“Yeah… you want to meet her?” he said.

“What’s taking so long?” They both looked inside the house, where the impatient voice growled. Panic filled dimples eyes as she turned back to look at the kid. Concluding that it was the foster dad, the kid quickly finalized the transaction and said, “Here’s your change, ma’am,” as he quickly scribbled with his pen on the receipt. Glancing down, she saw that he’d circled the number to the pizza joint. “Thanks,” she said. Her eyes relaxed as those faithful dimples slowly reappeared as she smiled back a goodbye.

The rest of the night, the kid couldn’t stop thinking about Dimples. It wasn’t in a way that a guy pines over a girl, but in the way, a brother is protective of his sister. Of all the kids he’d met in foster care – and there were many – Dimples was the only one he felt a kindred-ness with. Their unspoken pain and their ability to just be present with each other even in silence bonded them in a way neither one expected. For some reason, they felt safe with each other.

A busy week went by at the pizza shop. His boss was out of town for a family emergency and they were already short-staffed. The kid would oftentimes find himself scrambling around in the kitchen, then ripping off his apron to run the deliveries, and then jumping back in the kitchen again. Although the week had been a long one and he was tired, he was grateful for the extra hours. He’d been saving money to get a place of his own.

“Hey, kid! It’s for you,” yelled Pablo, the assistant manager.

Forgetting about last week, he wondered who’d call him.

“Hello?” he said with mild curiosity.

Someone sniffled on the other end. He immediately pressed the phone closer to his ear as he frantically searched for some privacy in the walk-in pantry.

“Dimples? Is that you?” he asked, knowing how often she used to sit by him with tears streaming down her face. He never knew what to do with them but he’d always find something to help her dry them. A couple of times he had to use the sleeve of his shirt.

“Yeah,” was all she could seem to muster.

“Are you okay?” he asked gingerly.

“Not really,” she said as she tried to pull herself together.

“Listen, I get off in an hour, I think I still have your address from my last delivery.” He said planning as he was speaking.

“I’ll park at the neighbor’s house and if you can sneak out, there’s a park not far from there.” “Okay…” she said weakly.

He was about to say don’t worry but realized that’s impossible for a kid of the state. Most kids have parents to do the worrying for them. Foster kids don’t have that luxury.

“See you tonight,” he said as he hung up the phone.

The kid plowed through the rest of the orders, deliveries and the closing checklist. He scrubbed the floors with the built-up aggression of what he had suffered, and the continuing suffering he saw in Dimples and other kids like her. He thought things might get better for her after they’d parted ways. The family they had both been assigned to was one of the better foster homes he’d encountered. He wondered what had happened. Yet there was something inside him that was troubling: the tone in the foster dad’s voice when he delivered the pizza.

Under the cover of darkness, she slipped into the passenger side door of his car. Silence hung between them. It had been years since they’d last seen each other. She wondered if he was still safe. A sudden movement in the backseat had Dimples spinning around in a panic until she saw that it was the sweet kitty that she wasn’t able to meet last time. She’d forgotten all about it. “Can I hold it?” she barely whispered.

“Of course! She’s good company,” he said. Rainbow went to her easily, nestled right up to Dimples, and fell asleep.

Since Rainbow was more than content in Dimples’ lap, the kid decided to park the car in the parking lot just outside the park. “She’s a really good cat. I’ve never been an animal person, but when I found her, I couldn’t leave her. I didn’t know if she’d make it, to be honest. But she has, and I’m better for it.” He thought about asking her what was going on, but the knot in his stomach deterred him. He had a feeling he already knew and wasn’t sure he could handle hearing the ugly truth.

She’d never spoken to anyone about this, not even her therapist. She’d mentioned to her therapist some of the things she’d experienced, seen and lived with. But for some reason, she knew she could trust him with what she was about to share. Life has taught her that if you can trust someone with your pain, you can trust them with your life. “I guess you might be wondering why I called…” her words trailed off as her brain searched for the words to tell him.

“Listen Dimples, you don’t have to tell me anything,” he said reassuringly.

“I know, but I’ve got to tell someone and I don’t know who else to tell…” The tears slowly began to roll down her face. “I’m pregnant.”

The words hit him like a bombshell. He wasn’t expecting her to say that, but he tried to keep a poker face. Why had she called him? What could he do? He lived in a garage with his boss. Who was the father? Questions flooded his mind. Dimples wasn’t the little girl he had known; she was a woman and was in desperate need.

“It’s not my fault.” For the first time in her life, she actually believed herself when she said this. Every other situation she’d blamed herself: her mother abandoning her, the state constantly moving her, the gossip from the other kids, the lack of friendships, but this… this was something different. “I was raped.”

Another bombshell. He didn’t want to ask, but he couldn’t keep it back any longer. “It was him, wasn’t it? It was your foster dad.” He asked but couldn’t look her in the eyes.

Her head sank as low as it possibly could… her shoulders higher than her head. “Yes, it was him.”

The next eight months were full of doctor appointments and meetings with her social worker. The kid and Rainbow were with Dimples every step of the way. For the first time since his parents died, he was finally able to see someone else’s concerns above his own. The loneliness was still

there, but it had diminished greatly, first by Rainbow’s need of him and now by Dimples. He began to see that his pain had a purpose. His pain was like a radar for other people’s pain.

Dimples had been placed back with the foster family where they initially met. The family had gotten out of fostering, but after being asked by the state, they said they’d be happy to open their home to Dimples. The foster mom was a nurse, so she could monitor Dimples’ health during her pregnancy. Although it was hard on so many levels, Dimples handled her pregnancy with grit and grace.

The day came when Dimples gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, whom she named Andriette, which means “strong, brave, and fearless.” Dimples knew how cruel this world was and she wanted to remind her daughter every time she wrote her name of what she needed to be and could be. Then a caseworker walked into the room.

“Are you ready?” Inside Dimples was screaming.

How can you ever be ready to let go of a child? How did my mom let go of me…? She stopped herself from going there.

“I guess I have to be,” Dimples said.

Andriette was placed in the arms of a young woman who was unable to have children. Her doting husband had his arms wrapped around his wife and she had her wrapped around Andriette. Dimples felt a warm sensation slide down her cheek, but she quickly wiped the tear away. She signed the remaining papers and asked to kiss her baby one last time. The grateful parents agreed and then looked up with tears in their eyes, thanking her for her sacrifice. All Dimples could do was half- smile and nod her head. Her heart was broken yet again, but this time it was different.

It had been several weeks since the kid had seen Dimples. He’d lost track of time. He wanted to let her recover, but this seemed a bit long. He finally decided to show up with pizza after one of his shifts. He knew her foster parents would welcome him and Rainbow with open arms. His concerns were accurate; she was suffering from postpartum depression, and the hardest thing was that she didn’t even have a baby to hold. After he got her to eat something, he decided to leave a little helper behind. Rainbow had helped pull him out of a dark place, and he had a feeling that Rainbow could do the same for her as well.

Each morning, Rainbow would wake Dimples up by massaging her face. At first, Dimples was irritated. She was not a morning person and it felt like a cloud had parked over her and covered any glimmer of hope. For the past 9 months, she kept fighting because she had to for Andriette, but now Andriette was gone.

Little by little, Rainbow worked her way into Dimples heart again. The kid came by faithfully every couple of days with pizza. Those first six months crawled by. Dimples had a lot of grieving to do, and thankfully her foster family gave her space and the freedom to do just that.

At the one year mark, Dimples decided to honor and grieve her daughter, and also honor and grieve her own childhood. She knew just the place to do it. A ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint situated by a patch of dry brown grass. There were all sorts of things painted on that wall: people, words, symbols. It was chaotic, much like her own childhood. She decided to place a candle and a small teddy bear: the candle for the flame that slowly was returning and the teddy bear for her sweet Andriette Joy.

Year after year, she’d come back and place another candle and another teddy bear. She didn’t know what to do to celebrate such a bittersweet day. So many emotions were running through her the day Andriette was born. She was conceived in a horrible way but it did not make her any less of a gift, but that gift had to be given to someone else. This day was always hard, and not only was it hard because it was her daughter’s birthday, but it was also hers.

Slowly, Dimples got stronger, her disposition lifted little by little. She worked hard at ending the legacy – or lack thereof – that her mom left her. The kid and the foster parents poured into her. He and Dimples put themselves through college and remained study buddies, pizza lovers and the best of friends. Of course, Rainbow was their noble steed and their ever-faithful third wheel.

Just shy of Andriette’s eighth birthday, Dimples received a call from the adoptive parents, asking if she’d like to see Andriette. They told her all about how amazing her biological mom was. Tears poured out of Dimples eyes, not only during that phone call but also when she saw her baby girl again. She had dreamed of this day every day since Andriette was born. A huge piece of Dimples’ shattered heart found itself a home. For the first time in Dimples’ entire existence, she was able to taste a glimpse of what it meant to be whole.

On that late August afternoon, sweat was dripping down her face and paint was dripping down the wall, some falling on Binky, the stuffed bear she placed there on her daughter’s 1st birthday. She looked up again at the word “Rejoice,” knowing Andriette was not lost to her and that she’d actually be able to have a role in her life. She didn’t know how to do it then, but through the help of her foster parents, Rainbow and the man-kid, she learned to appreciate the struggle of life… because with it came some of the most beautiful relationships one could ever dream of.

Written by: Christine F. Perry

A brief update on life

Hello Friends!

So sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted. There has been a lot going on! Most of November, I spent working on two different writing projects. Then, with the help of some friends and family, I built a patio. Then, there have been changes at my job, and lastly, my Grandmom celebrated a milestone birthday. Five of the seven siblings were together as well as my other adopted sister (not legally but we aren’t giving her up). We really missed Stephanie and David who weren’t able to come. We also celebrated my Mom’s birthday … I’m extremely thankful to be able to celebrate people I care so deeply about! Below are some pictures from my Grandmom’s party and my Christmas card for 2019.

As you can see, there has not been much time to write a blog let alone think about writing one. However, I wanted to share a short story (in my next post) that I wrote over the summer. I actually wrote this for a contest. The trick with this contest was the publishing house hosting this supplied the 1st and 20th paragraph. I had to work those paragraphs into my story. My friend Connie helped me tremendously with this story. She is in exceptional writer and I couldn’t have done it without her. So, in my next blog, I will be sharing this story.

Thanks for being with me this year. I am deeply grateful for you! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Letter I Wrote to Myself…

A few years ago, in Fall no less, I found myself just outside Los Angeles, California. The team I worked with had a conference there and I was the keeper of the schedule, merchandise table, and other things.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. We would be meeting people from famous TV shows, people who make films, Congresswomen and more. I asked a friend if I could borrow some clothes before I went. Silly, I know, but I desperately want to “fit in” while I was there.

We were picked up in an incredibly nice Mercedes and chauffeured to our hotel where our arrangements had already been made.

Yet, regardless how excited I was to be there, the trip for me, was awful. So awful, in fact, I never wanted to go back to California. The mention of the state would remind me of all the things that went wrong. I was also reminded of the dark pit I went into after the trip.

Soon after connecting with my team, I found myself slumped into a corner of hotel bathroom bawling my eyes out. Why? Because I had an important lesson I needed to learn and learning it would not be easy.

After returning from California, I called out of work, it was the only time in my life that I was so depressed I could not will myself out of bed. I felt like if I stayed in bed that day, I would die. My thinking was not very rational but I knew I needed to physically move. I got out of bed, grab my sneakers and suddenly, the verse Philippians 4:8 popped into my head.. Whatever things are true whatever things are lovely, think on these things… then I thought, “what thoughts have I been thinking?”

As I went for a walk, it quickly dawned on my that I had been believing things about myself that were lies. I kept telling myself “I can’t do this!” “I’m not like so-and-so or so-and-so.” “I’ll never be able to do this” “This is too much for me to handle” “So-and-So should have this job”. On top of all this, my identity had become one with my work. So, when my work was criticized— I felt like I was being criticized.

When I got back to my room, after my walk, I decided to write the most important letter I’ve ever written to myself.

I reviewed this letter on a daily basis for several months. Suddenly when my work was criticize, I felt like I had tools to combat the negative thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong, this by no means happened overnight. But I knew I had to believe what God said. Without His Words in my life, I would have not only been fired, but also left in a very very dark pit.

Looking back now, I realized how important that lesson was in the long run. Eventually I got to a place in that job where not just my work was called into question, but also my character. Because God helped me differentiate the criticism of my work and an attack at my character, I knew when I needed to leave. That lesson as hard as it was, was actually a saving grace.

I was reminded of this lesson again as I was talking to a friend. It’s so easy to let what we do become who we are. And although we should do our work with excellence, it is not who we are. We are so much more than a 9-5.

We are made in God’s image. He is a creative God. He is an intelligent God. God has a will. He has emotions. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. He made us each with incredible gifts that He wants to use. So let me say it again because I need the reminder too. You and I are more than what we do. We are spoken for, died for, loved on and fought for. You’re not a number in a million. You’re unique. You’re special and I am anxious to see what God does with each one of His children.

What are we building?

I was listening to someone speak about giving. Those messages are always fun, right?!

As the man went on he made a big deal about building the church. As he was speaking I had an epiphany. We (the people) are the church. You’re probably thinking, you just figured this out? No, but in the aspect of building the church — yes. If we are the church, we are supposed to be building it, right? I know this too, but I saw it in a different way.

I have nothing against buildings. But, sometimes, I think we put too much of our resources, time and energy into a building rather than people. What would it look like if we spent more of our time and energy pouring into each other? As I sat there contemplating this, I thought of a verse that says, “build each other up”. I decided to google it and suddenly, I found lots of verses on this; take a look:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:12

From Him the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:16

This then reminded me of what our BSF group just went over:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Acts 2:44-46

Their property was secondary to the people. What a foreign concept to us living in an “American Dream” society. I’m not saying we can’t have nice things or even nice churches. I’m just asking myself and the church to take note of our priorities. To take note of the people in our lives. Are they okay? Are they weary? Do they need encouragement, hope, practically help? Do they feel like giving up? We/I should check and be looking after the people in my life. We have to. Because when we are being poured into and vice versa, the world takes notice.

I had the privilege of growing up in a small church where the roof may have leaked a little more than we would have liked. The women’s bathroom had a habit of overflowing every few weeks. There were marks and dents on the walls from the kids flying around playing tag. We had more holes in the wall for different signed we put up for different events we’d partake in our community. But the people inside those walls, did a good job taking care of their people and building each other up. Sure there were some quarrels and differences, but the people within those walls were treasures.

They stayed ready to serve and give. They stood by my family through our darkest days. When our life got put on hold they choose to put theirs on hold to serve us. They brought us meals and poured into us and still do. When you build into each other, you don’t have to face crisis alone. When you build into others you don’t have to celebrate alone.

So, as I walked out of that service my heart was full thinking of the amazing church God has. Being in that service also challenged me to pour into and foster and learn from the newer relationships God has placed in my life now.

I know the church gets a bad rap and gets really messy at times. And I am well aware that oftentimes people within the walls of the church building can break you unlike anything else. But the beauty far outweighs the broken. So until Jesus comes back, let’s look out for our people and build them up.