When You Don’t Want The Good

I’m sure you’ve heard the verse, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28. Christians normally quote it to other Christians when they’re facing a rough time, but my question is: what if don’t want the good?

What if the good still hurts? What if the good alter my life in a way I don’t want it to?

Nearly two years ago, I had those closest to me essentially then their back on me. I was accused of awful things. Most of the “gifts” and “responsibilities” I was given had strings attached. It was unhealthy. One that left me with a lot of working through to “get back” to normal. It took 5 months of being home for my Mom to say, “She’s back.” As if someone had carved a piece out of me that I had to grow back. To this day, there are still things I have to fight because of that relationship. To this day, I will look back at pictures and feel sucker punched. To this day, I still get tears in my eyes because of the loss of so many who I considered my “Second Family.”

And then, I lost my Dad. I lost the rock of my family. I lost the one I would write with. I lost the one who I discussed Theology. I lost the one who would stop what he was doing to let me process. I lost the one who would edit my pieces. I lost the one who I’d dreamed since I was little, would walk me down the aisle and perform my ceremony. I lost my Dad.

To be honest, I don’t care about the good that will come out of this. I just want my Dad back. And I know, the person I was before the accident on July 16th, will never be again. That girl had a Dad. The girl after July 23rd doesn’t and has to live the rest of her life without one.

I didn’t want my life to change by rejection from those I loved and the death of my Dad. I never prayed for this. In fact, I prayed for the opposite. I prayed for reconciliation and got rejection. I prayed for a miracle and got a grave.

If there is good, I honestly cannot see it. I just see a lot of broken pieces and I have no earthly idea how they will all fit. My heart is so broken it doesn’t even have a shape. The broken pieces keep breaking. I feel like pain and grief has blocked my vision and I only see out of one eye and live out of half of my body and half of my mind.

But, this week, I heard a podcast and was reminded of a verse. The person on the broadcast was Josh McDowell. If you don’t know his past, he was sexually abused by a hired hand for 7 years of his childhood. He was raised in a home where his father beat his mother repeatedly to a pulp. He was neglected on several accounts. Although he is a very successful individual, you know what he said? Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I don’t still feel the pain. He shared of some of the things he still has to fight against decades later. He said God never promised a pain-free life. But, He did promise not to leave me.

Then, I was reminded of Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.”

Jesus didn’t say we’d float on top of the water. Or, that we’d paddle over the river. Or, that we’d go around the fire. Every. Single. Time. It says through. I have to walk through the grief. I have to walk through the pain. I have to walk through the loss. Every loss, trial, and suffering that may come, I have to walk through, but Jesus says, “I will be with you.”

This week, since I got hired at the same organization my mom works at, we went to our Christmas work party. I stepped into the bathroom soon after we got there. For a brief second, I looked in the mirror. As I saw myself standing there, I thought, had Dad not died, I wouldn’t be here. I nearly had a job in Virginia and had that not come through, I had another prospective job in North Carolina. But, I knew, I needed to stay put. It was too much to move. That night at the bowling alley was a complete gift. My Dad was not far from my Mom’s and my memory, we miss him every day, but we had so much fun and we were together.

And then last night, my mom and I went out book shopping and to get coffee. It was another gift. The loss of my Dad has brought about a lot of family time and although we all want my Dad back and would give everything to have him back, we have become so much closer. I just want to be around and with my family all the time- it doesn’t matter what we are doing as long as we are together.

So, I think I’m starting to see a little twinge of the good. The good does not erase the pain. But the good is a cup of coffee with my mom. The good is a night of basketball with my sisters and brother-in-law. The good is getting frosty’s on a night when we all miss dad. The good is watching a movie with my sister, or a hug from my nephews, or a little niece following me around before work to make sure she’s ready too.

And, I’m sure there will be other good in the future that I cannot see right now, but for now, this is the good I’m holding on to.

 

Advertisements

A Disciple’s Life

I was one of twelve chosen, I still don’t know why I was picked. Some were related and others complete strangers. Some had a radical turn around and some just quietly left to follow. But we were a force to be reckoned with.

I have never felt so passionately about anything in my life, which is probably why it was easier for me to say goodbye to the life I once knew. Being with these men made me feel alive. I had a purpose. I had a reason to live. Sure, some of the things our leader said were different. A lot of things I didn’t understand, but he was patient and he cared. Besides, I saw so many things I never even thought were possible. Food overflowing from a simple basket, water being turned into wine, lepers cleansed, the blinded eyes restored, the deaf able to hear and the dead being raised.

I knew I was headed in the right direction. I felt as if I were born for this. I could never grow tired of this life. I never knew what was coming next. I’d sometimes be frightened that things wouldn’t pan out; like the one time we crossed the sea and the storm rolled in, but then HE walked on water! Or, that time when we had fished all night and caught nothing to eat. I almost lost it when HE told us to throw the net on the other side; like we hadn’t done that 100x already! But, true to HIS word, we had more fish than we knew what to do with. I don’t know how HE did it.
IMG_5335

Then there was that day that HE called us together and said:

Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  As you go, proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker, is worth his keep.  Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town (Matthew 10:5-15)

 

Heal the sick? Raise the dead? Cleanse the Leper? Drive out demons? I thought that was HIS job. I thought only HE could do that. But, we went out anyways. HE didn’t really negotiate with HIS commands.

 

It was incredible! We did those things. I actually did those things. I was so tired when we returned, but it was exhilarated. I felt invincible. I couldn’t believe I was chosen to do this. This MAN had changed the course of my life forever.

 

But after we got back, things started to change. I had learned to love our leader like I never loved anyone in my life. I loved to hear him teach. I tried to protect HIM at any costs. But HE started saying things like, I must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and raised the third day” (Matt. 16:21)

 

I didn’t understand why He’d say these horrible things. Suffer? Be killed? Was this a new parable? I thought to myself. HE must be using those words in a different way than I think.

 

Tension started rising among the scribes, elders, and priests. I knew they didn’t like what HE was doing… But I thought they would come around. How could you not like this MAN? But, the more time passed, the more the tension grew. I was growing a little more concerned, but then, I’d witness another miracle, or have another long talk with HIM. HE knew just how to settle my uneasy heart.

IMG_5340.png

Then, the most wonderful thing happened! HE was given a King’s welcome! The moment we all had been waiting for. We knew HE was going to reign; and now, it was coming to pass!  People were throwing down their tunics so HE could ride on something other than the ground. The people were shouting. I had tears in my eyes from the sheer joy of it all. Our King is here. It was such a wonderful day. I never knew so much joy could be contained in such a short amount of daylight.

 

A week passed and I still felt like I was floating from all that had transpired a week prior. HE decided to have a dinner with us all. It was a quiet night, but it was nice for it to just be us. It seemed we always had others around. But something was different about HIM. HE looked sad. HE and Judas had a brief discussion and then Judas left. I didn’t think much of it because it was Judas. He always had his own ideas about things.

 

But HE started worrying me. He made sure we had wine and bread and HE said, drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matt 26:227-29)

 

His blood? The phrases He spoke months earlier came flooding into my mind: I must suffer, and be killed. It’s just a parable, it’s just a parable I continued to repeat to myself.

 

Later that night, we went to the garden we sometimes went to. I was so full of dinner I fell fast asleep. HE asked us to stay awake, but I didn’t think it was that important. We prayed all the time. I think we had enough prayer to cover us that night.

 

But then something woke me up. I heard a crowd. I immediately woke the other two disciples with me. I saw Judas, but he was with the scribes. Whatever this was, didn’t sit right with me. I was too fearful to stand beside our leader, so I hid not too far away. I couldn’t hear very well, but I saw Judas kiss HIM.

 

Suddenly, the soldiers, who had accompanied the scribes and Judas, bound HIS hands. Nooooo, I wanted to scream, but I didn’t want to be heard. I knelt down and wept. I was so angry at myself for not staying awake to pray… Why are they taking HIM?

 

Eventually, I learned where they had taken my beloved leader. I went there immediately. HE was being question, accused and then they took HIM outside to be beaten and whipped. Tears poured out of my eyes and down my cheeks. Why? Why is this happening? Why don’t they believe HIM? HE’s the most compassionate man I have ever met. One lash turned to two, two lashes into four, four into thirty-nine. I couldn’t watch anymore. HE was barely recognizable.

 

I found a place to cry until I felt as though I had nothing left in me… I decided I needed to go back. When I did, I found my beloved friend and my hero hanging, like a criminal, on a cross. People were shouting at HIM, “Save yourself.”

 

I prayed to God, HIS Father, to give HIM the strength to get off that cross. It wasn’t too much. I still had hope, despite the fear. I’d seen HIM do miracles on top of miracles. Time pressed on and still, HE hung there.

 

The sky began to grow dark, it felt like I was watching a picture of my own heart. I saw HIM struggling to breathe. The ground began to shake and HE cried out, My God, My God Hey have you forsaken me. (Matt 27:46) Never before had I ever heard HIM say anything close to this. HE was always talking about how HE and HIS Father were one and that if we knew HIM, we knew the Father. I couldn’t understand what I was seeing.

 

My heart was breaking in me; yet, I had seen this same man bring back others from the gripping hand of death. I couldn’t make sense of it.

 

Then HE said, it is finished and HE breathed HIS last. A groan from the deepest part of my soul came out. I fell to my knees, NOOOOO, Jesus, Noooooo…. This cannot be…. Please, God, you can’t take HIM!

 

It all moved so quickly; yet, it also felt like time stood still. HE was taken down and buried. I couldn’t grasp what was happening. It felt like a nightmare. I couldn’t connect my mind with the reality in front of me. The tears came easily as my heart was broken into a million pieces, but my mind was still not able to process it.

 

This MAN was my life. I left everything to follow HIM. Everything I believed in revolves around HIS words. How could we do all that we did and the outcome be standing at HIS grave? So many questions flooded my mind. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t get out of my cot. Fear encompassed me. The moment HE died, something inside of me died.

 

I don’t remember much of that Saturday. But Sunday I heard a stirring of women…
He’s alive!

 

What? I questioned.
HE died, I saw HIM, don’t mess with me, I already have enough to process. I said.

 

No, HE’s alive they insisted.

 

I ran all over looking for HIM. When suddenly, HE found us… I couldn’t believe my eyes! He was here. One day turned into two, and two into four, and four into forty. HE was with us for forty days. But, this time, it was different.

 

Part of me doubted. I knew HE was the way to eternal life but so much of this MAN I just did not understand. HE did everything backward. Why did HE have to die? Why cause all of us and HIS own mom and family so much grief? Why couldn’t HE just saved Himself, and not put all of us, including HIMSELF, through that agonizing situation?

 

But, I noticed one thing. After HIS death, I listened more carefully to what HE said. HE had allowed a great wound in my heart to awake my ears and heart to listen more intentionally. Losing HIM once made me more grateful for the time I had with HIM and the people around me. I was also grateful for HIS love for me. One breathes more deeply and feels more intensely when pained.

IMG_5339

HE told us He’d have to leave, and this time I knew it was not another parable. HE would really be leaving and handing us the mantle.

 

So, the day came. Before HE left, He instructed us to, go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the earth.

 

HE said HIS goodbyes and ascended to heaven. To be honest, the mayhem from all the chaos in the past month or so caused us a lot of fear. We all were a little lost after HE left. He’d left us with more instruction than the first time, but we were hoping HIS next return would be around the corner, but as time passed we realized we had a mantle to carry and a gospel to spread…

 

After a large gathering, known as the Day of Pentecost, the church began and the gates of Hell have not and will never prevail against it!

 

Until Then, I’ll hate You

You violated me.

You violated my family.

You came into our lives roaring and plummeting. You ripped off the protection we once felt.

You tore through each one of us like lion attacking its prey.

The damage you’ve done is beyond repair…

You stole our feeling of safety. You stole a piece from each of us; a piece that we can never get back.

You have forever left your mark tattooed into our bleeding hearts.

I wish you had a face so I could dismantle it with every drop of being I have left.

Every punch I throw would be for all the people who were left torn apart with only the remnant of your hideous aroma… whose lives will never be the same..

If I had the chance I’d make you drink your own poison.

If I had the chance I’d annihilate you from the face of the earth.

But, I do not have the power. I am, like so many others, a bystander. And one day I know I will be your victim.

For today, I have to deal with the wrecking ball that you are. And try to pick up shattered pieces of my heart…

I hate you with the deepest hatred I’ve ever known. You demolished my heart and soul.

I wish your existence was never created….

You entice people to like you. You entice people to accept you, but I cannot stand to even say you name…

But I must, to prove that I can… You are death and I hate you…

I cannot eliminate you, but I would do it in a heartbeat if I could.

You’ve crippled, deceived, and destroyed so many lives. You leave casualties wherever you are, and you walk away with no remorse. You leave people so broken they’ve in turn wished for you…

You are wicked the very essence of evil itself…

But one day, you will be silent. One day, you will have no more victims… you WILL be silent, sniffed out like all the ones you took beforehand. You are worthless and you will taste the bitterness that you’ve ensued on so many… you will pay for what you’ve done…

I cannot wait for that day…

Until then, I will continue to hate you.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and DEATH SHALL BE NO MORE, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. -Revelation 20:4

Black Hawk Down VS. Life

“Good luck, and be careful.” Their commanding officer said as they headed out on their mission.

They went in thinking they’d be on their way in 30 minutes.

Little did they know it would be one of the most grueling 15-hour-fight many of them had ever seen. They essentially had stirred up a hornets’ nest. Many of their fellow men would be coming home in body bags.

After so many lost life you’d think the outcome was a success. However, Nothing changed that day. Yet, so many men walked away changed, forever.

I watched Black Hawk Down partly because I just finished a book by Dr. Nik Ripken called The Insanity of God. Nik was an aid worker in Somalia before (and after) the UN sent troops in.

It was hard to watch, but It got me thinking.

The spiritual life is a battle. We are in a war that has already been won, but we still have to do our part. We are soldiers in the midst of a very dark world. We receive fire from a very real enemy.

In Black Hawk Down Major General William F. Garrison commanded that no one was to fire unless fired upon.

How many times in life have you been doing life and suddenly you realize you’re being fired upon? Your kid gets bullied, your spouse leaves, your health plummets, you’re falsely accused, you or your family are victimized, a natural disaster hits, you or your loved one get caught in a “random act of violence”, your house floods, your car gets totaled,  you get fired.

All of a sudden, nothing matters anymore. You are in shock, watching and hearing bullets whiz by your head. You knew this could happen, but maybe you thought It wouldn’t really be like this. You knew there “would be trouble” but this is not the trouble you foresaw.

You’re scared. You hate it. You want to get out, but you’re in the thick of it, and the only options you have left is to leave your fellow soldiers and be labeled AWOL or fight.

As this battle rages in your mind, you see one of your fellow comrades drop to the ground snapping you back to reality…. NO, you scream. Heart pounding, anger pouring through your veins. They will pay…

You pick up your gun and you blast the area where the bullets came from…The bullets that claimed the life of your friend…

We may not be facing literal bullets, but we are in a battle. There’s no denying it.

After experience a very hard “battle” I had someone say to me, “Christi, what you experience was friendly-fire. Instead of helping you, they left you to bleed out” Have you ever felt as though you’re bleeding out? You feel like your life is draining out of you?

In battle, we need our fellow comrades. We need them to cover us to get to shelter. And we need to cover them so they can get to shelter. As we are being fired on from multiple directions, we need someone at our back. If we are hit we need someone to drag us to a safer place. After being hit, sometimes you have to keep going. And other times, you need a medevac to get you out to recoup.

Each battle you and I face is different. Because there is another training God wants to teach us.

During the battle for Mogadishu, the US soldiers hid out in buildings trying to hold their position. As I was watching this movie I thought of how sometimes, even if it’s just for a little while, God is that shelter for us. If we go in deep enough we can catch a short break and recoup a little bit. Sometimes, in the middle of a life battle, we come across a song or a passage of scripture and holding on to that gives us the courage to press on.

So whatever your battle may be, make sure you’re not fighting It alone. You and I desperately need each other and we desperately need God’s strength and the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Stand your ground. Guard your fellow soldiers back. Be strong and courageous.

Song of the Week: Shelter , by Carrollton

NOTE: For those of you who are in the military and have served, I want to say that I am deeply grateful for your service. I also cannot fathom all that you have endured and I do not want to make light of the war zone and how horrific things are on the front lines. Watching this movie helped me keep in perspective that we are in a spiritual battle. I hope that what I wrote was not disrespectful in any way. And once again, thank you for your service!

Entrusting Our Tears

If I’m honest with myself, I don’t want to struggle, so I’ve been ignoring it.

You may ask what I’ve been ignoring… Feelings, emotions, certain things that I know I need to process through. But, part of me is just focusing on the happy because I am weary of the emotions that will ensue.

At the beginning of October, I learned I’d be unemployed by the end of that month. I immediately started applying anywhere and anywhere that was relevant to the experience, skills or gifts I have. Did I cry when I found out? Yes, and part of me was relieved by the tears; since I had kind of chosen not to cry anymore.

There have been a lot of tears shed from me personally. Honestly, I am tired of crying, but that news made me cry. So many doors had been shut when it came to finding work. Four interviews that lead to nothing. Job application after job application filled out and sent only to never hear back. People changing their minds over the weekend. Meetings being canceled, you name it.

I was worried. I already had been looking and the results all came back negative. Until someone asked for an interview and then another and then another. I was relieved and, finally, I got a job and started this week!

I’ve been focusing on the good. Because finding this job, which also allows me to go back to school, has been a really bright spot in the midst of a really hard time. I feel torn because part of me just wants to rid myself of all sadness. I only want to be happy and make others happy. I’m tired of seeing my family hurt, my friends hurt and others around my community hurt. But that also feels like I’m pushing my Dad’s memory out of the way and I hate that feeling.

These thoughts are coming because I read a verse that I’ve quoted, wrote memes about, and used over and over again. But this time it stuck out for a reason I had not noticed before.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18

I get the part that God is close to those who are broken-hearted, those who are crushed in spirit, but what if we don’t want to be crushed or broken-hearted?

I guess what I’m saying is, that what if I don’t allow myself to be broken. What if I’m trying to hold myself together and focus on the good because I don’t want to be crushed by the bad? I think I’m doing that now. I’ve had to work through so much stuff already that I just want a break from it all. I just want my life to not have so much heartache. I just want my Dad back.

But, if I’m not broken-hearted and not crushed in spirit and trying to keep it all together, I’m essentially only asking God to only be involved in certain parts of my life.

I once heard someone say, “The Lord knows the quickest way to our heart is through a wound.”

But, I’m tired of having wounds.

This week, I’ve been wrestling to trust God. I’ve had two big answers to prayer, but I still feel on the defensive. Thanks for this, but what else will go wrong? I fear being far away from my family because what if? I watched my Mom go through Security on her own to go out of the country and I cried as she walked out of sight.

I hate change, even though it’s necessary. Although I have a great job now, I left the people who have become some of the closest to me. I’m tired of losing things, people. I am tired of processing all the loss.

But just the other day, I was reading a book for homework. My head was spinning. I was trying so hard to make sense of the topic. And, although I had made a dent in my reading, I still had over 50 pages to read. After a grueling 2 hours and only 19 pages in, I took a break.

I prayed and asked God to help me understand this concept and what I was reading. When I picked up the book after my break, I started to get it. Things started making sense.

I think this is what I need to do now with God except, with my heart. There’s a Dad in Mark 9:24 who says (about his son’s healing), “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I’m asking God to help me with my unbelief. To help my lack of trust in Him. I know I can’t see the whole picture and I’m dealing with a very heavy and broken heart, but God can help my unbelief. He can help me process the emotions. He can help me to become broken so that He can be close. Although I know, none of it is easy and the easier thing would be to ignore it all…

He wants to be that shoulder to cry on, but He can’t if I refuse to cry. By shedding tears and working through the grief, It’s an expression of trust. If I didn’t trust a friend, I wouldn’t open up and I think that’s where my problem lies.

I don’t really have a closing for this except that I’m asking for your prayers. That God would help me sow the tears, to open up and lay it all down instead of ignoring it. As I was typing this, I came across an article and the author challenged the reader to:
Cry. Lament to God. Say to him: I don’t understand, but I am committed to trusting the rock that is higher and wiser than I (Psalm 61:2).”


Thank you for being here and allowing me to process the ups and downs. I appreciate every single one of you whether or not I have met you. Thank you for being apart of my journey and allowing me to be part of yours.

Much Love & Appreciation,

Christi

A Broken Ankle and a Dark Pit.

I looked at my phone and saw a message come in through my family’s group chat. It was from my older sister. She had been in a position where her kiddos could reach her and one of them landed on her ankle. Now, if you don’t know the back story you’d probably be confused and ask what the problem is.

Last summer, my sister, who was eight months pregnant went to a church event. She was chatting with some other moms when one of her kids asked her to tie their shoes. She bent down, tied it and trying to stand back up, she lost her balance and fell backwards on her ankle. It broke.

Within a short period of time, the pastor’s wife had taken the rest of the kids home, a couple was taking her to the hospital and her husband was on his way to meet her.

She had to have surgery on her ankle and a metal plate was implanted for stability. A few weeks later, she gave birth (in a cast no less) to a sweet little boy.

You may be wondering, why am I going on about my sister’s ankle? Because, to me, it’s a powerful picture.

You see the same summer, I may not have broken my ankle, but I was deeply wounded. And this summer, my family suffered a very deep wound. So, when my sister said, “One of my Little’s fell on my ankle” we understood how that would hurt. But had you not known my sister endured a broken ankle, and that there is a piece of metal in her body; her doubling over in pain wouldn’t make sense.

I feel like the longer we live and the trauma we face, life leaves us with metal in our heart. From the outside, just like my sister’s ankle, she looks fine. She doesn’t walk with a limp. But when someone hits it unexpectedly, it sends sheering pain up her leg.

A few days ago, I saw a picture of my Dad. To be honest, I can barely look at pictures. It hurts too much. As more time goes by, I miss him more. I saw the picture and tears brimmed my eyelids- just waiting to spill over. It reminded me of my sister’s ankle, except the sheering pain was in my heart.

Life knocks us over sometimes. We get back up and we may seem like we are fine. We may not be walking with a limp, but we know there is metal in there and any given day, we could be doubled over in excruciating pain.

My family and I know any given rain storm could end with one of us in tears. It hurts. Life without my Dad hurts. Yes, we may look okay. And, we may act okay. We may seem like we may be “handling it well”, but what you don’t see is the times we are doubled over… Crying ourselves to sleep just like any very painful physical injury.
I wonder how many people are walking around seemingly “normal” but have pieces of metal in their hearts. Part of me is tempted to just sit on a bench in public somewhere and see who might come along to share their story of when a piece of metal entered their heart.

I don’t really have a spiritual application to this… Maybe there will be a part two to this blog and maybe not… Life hurts and sometimes it feels like we are in a dark pit. A few weeks ago I came across a verse that struck me.

Psalm 88:6, “You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.”

It doesn’t say you fell in a pit, or satan put you in a pit. He’s talking about God. It doesn’t even say, “God allowed me to be put in a pit” No, it says, “You have put me in (not just a pit) THE LOWEST PIT”

Later on in this Psalm in verse 18 it says, “darkness is my closest friend”

I don’t understand why God sometimes places us where darkness becomes our closest friend. I don’t like the thought of that. I don’t like being in this pit I am in right now. Lately, things have just been hard. I’m not writing to get sympathy. I really don’t want it. I’m just writing because seeing this picture helped me and I thought it might help someone else…

Another verse that has been coming to mind too is Jeremiah 29:11… It’s says, “I know that plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future”

Lately, very little has gone “right” nothing seems to be “prospering” or even “hopeful”. However, as I was thinking about this, I realized what this verse doesn’t say…

1) YOU have the plans… No, God has the plans. If I had the plans, I’d have something lined up by now.

2) That God will prosper your career, or your health, or your family. No, He says He will prosper you. And isn’t it true we often grow, learn and prosper during adversity? I mean, if Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered (Heb 5:7-8), what makes me think I am exempt from diffilcut times?

So, I still don’t know why so much brokenness has accrued the past two years and, quite frankly, I may never know… But I’ve got to hold on to the fact that there is a purpose. There is a bigger reason than I can see. And that even if I don’t know the plans and the purpose, God does. Is knowing the Plan holder and the purpose holder enough for me? Is it enough for you? I think this is something we each need to wrestle through in or own time.

Song of the Week: I Don’t Have the Answers by We Are Messengers 

A Wedding to Remember

We scurried down the stairwell and waited for the guys to walk past. I saw the last pair of shoes walk forward. The hallway door opened, “Okay, you’re up!” I carefully made my way to the other set of sanctuary doors. The doors in front of me opened as the music changed. I walked one foot in front of the other as the eyes of the wedding guests looked intently, anticipating the bride who would soon follow. I took my place on stage and waited as one by one each bridesmaid made her way.

It was a beautiful service. The pastor did an amazing job honoring my former roommate and dear friend as well as her now husband. When I first found out about their engagement, I couldn’t have been more excited. I was so happy I felt like I was the one getting engaged!

The day wore on and there were pictures, the announcing of the bridal party, the first dance and the cutting of the cake. I’ve attended a lot of weddings but this one struck me differently.

There is a huge difference in attending a wedding and being in the bridal party. When you’re attending you come and go and you don’t have any real obligations. But when you’re in the bridal party, you are on the inside track. It’s your job and privilege to serve the bride the best you can. It’s your job to help make it easier on her as well as support her by standing on stage. It’s a representation that you will stand alongside the couple through their thick and thin, through their sickness and health, until death do them part. You have a part to play when you’re the wedding party. Another thing is people recognize you. There is an authority that comes with it. If I were to walk up to someone and say the bride needs this, or can we have some of this or that to someone who is there to help, it gets done.

This struck me because I thought, isn’t this what we are supposed to be doing in the family of God? We have the privilege to stand beside her in the good and bad, through the thick and thin. The church is called the bride of Christ, so although we are a part of the same body, we are also to be standing with the church and serving her. And we have been given authority to do so.

On the day of my dear friend’s wedding, she was serving too. She was fixing her Dad’s suit, pinning a corsage on her mom and even putting flowers in her bridesmaid’s hair. She is so full of grace. She is so kind and always caring about others.

It was a beautiful challenge as well as encouragement to see how well things flow when we serve one another. When we put our priorities aside and help the person next to us, this honors one another as well as Jesus, our Bridegroom.

One reason I was so ecstatic to be there was that is what my friend did for me. I felt like in a small way, I was able to give back a little. She has been a constant support for me. I even had to bail on our living arrangements and she said, “It’s okay, you just take care of yourself” that meant she’d have to find someone to fill my spot or pay extra out of pocket, but she never complained or got upset at me. She was also the only person I was able to talk on the phone with when my Dad passed away. She inspires me to love, give and serve others as Christ has done for us.

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Today my challenge is to give, to serve and to love deeply. Look for someone who is growing weary, or pray for someone that you thought of, give a kind word or write a card. Life is short and it is only truly lived out as we give!

Song of the week (This song my family used to sing in our devotion time): Make Me A Servant

Who Is Writing Your Story?

I sat in church yesterday as the pastor stood up and gave an invitation.  He said, “When will your story become His?” That struck me. To me that sounded like an invitation for everyone.

Isn’t making His story our story an ongoing process?

I know I wrestle with how God writes stories. I have and do wrestle with how He’s been writing mine.

I can get stuck on asking “why?”. Why is this chapter of my life so difficult? Why can’t there be an end to this? Why has this or that not happened? I sometimes wonder if I am doing something wrong.

About a week ago, I saw a video by Michelle Qureshi. If you don’t know, she is the widow of Nabeel Qureshi, a well-known author, and apologist. He passed away last month at age 34 from stomach cancer. Together, they have a 2-year-old daughter. In the video, Michelle said, “I wrestle with why God chose this, but then I’m reminded that I probably still wouldn’t understand all this because I have a finite mind”.

Today I came across John 16:12. Jesus is telling his disciples about him leaving and how the Holy Spirit will come. But the disciples still don’t quite understand. Verse 12 says, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear”

Michelle was right. Oftentimes God’s story doesn’t make sense and we cannot bear it all at once. Because God created us, He knows how much we can handle.

Let’s be honest: God’s story often requires us to walk on difficult roads.

If we are called to walk as Jesus walked (1st John 2:6) our story will be hard. I’ve been reading the Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken and he frequently quotes Matthew 10:16, “”I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

“Sheep among wolves?? That sounds like a losing battle to me.

Jesus is described as the Lamb of God in John 1:29. Jesus is described in other names, but when it comes to being a sheep, He set the example for us. When tribulations come, when suffering comes, I can look to the Lamb of God who blazed the trail before me. This life is not easy and there will be trouble. There will be heartache. We will be sheep among wolves. Sometimes, part of me wants to be like Jesus, you could just take me out of here whenever (sooner often sounds better than later), but in John 17:12 Jesus prays this, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

There is a purpose for all this- even if you or I cannot see it right now.

In my search about the Lamb of God, I remembered in Revelation 12:11 it says, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

It doesn’t say, “And they (believers) overcame him (Satan) by the blood of Lion of Judah, or the blood of the King of Kings, or the blood of the Lord of Lords”. No, it says, “by the blood of the Lamb”

Jesus was gentle and kind in the midst of suffering. He, as the Lamb of God, set a precedent for us sheep to follow. His story looks like he lost. His story looks like life and people got the best of him. It looked like Satan won, but he didn’t.

Revelation 17:14 says, “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”

It’s by the blood of the Lamb that we overcome.

This side of eternity, our stories may look like we’ve lost. But in Romans 8:18 it says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” There’s a better story coming, that we cannot even compare to our story now.

So, as a human, I will wrestle. Yet, my prayer is for God to write His story for my life. As challenging as it might be it will be worth it. It will be a story of overcoming. Everyone loves the underdog story. Everyone loves a comeback story, and being a sheep among wolves would definitely fit into that category.

If we’re going to let God write our story, we’ve got to surrender the pen.

 

Song of the Week: Write Your Story, by Francesca Battistelli

Life Lessons From Sparring

I suited up as I do semi-frequently on Tuesday nights. I put on my chest guard, boots, gloves, mouth piece and helmet. I got out on the the floor and warmed up with one of the 2nd degree black belts.

It was sparring night. But this night left me with a picture that I can’t seem to get out of my head.  

After warming up with this particular black belt, I started sparring with her. I kept getting nailed in the head. I would try to block the hits, but after the first punches, I’d find myself a little discombobulated. I was having a hard time adjusting myself to get on top.

After this fight, my instructor said I should spar another 2nd degree black belt. I really didn’t want to because I find him intimidating.

The sparring began and sure enough I kept getting hit in the head- one hit, another, then another. I’d get to the point where I’d turn my head because I didn’t know what else to do. And, I was getting weary of getting hit. This 2nd degree said, “stop looking away, you’ll end up hurt”

I looked back to see everyone in my class watching this fight. My instructor spoke up and said, “Christi, when you keep getting hit, you have to lean in and grab your opponent”

It’s against natural instincts to lean into someone whose throwing punches. Our first reaction is to turn or to run away. However, since my instruction is a 5th degree black belt, I did what he said.

The sparring resumed and the punches started coming. Before I got discombobulated, I leaned in, rested my head on my opponents shoulder and held on. By doing that, I could no longer get hit. The punches seized. But it was as though we were wrestling. This 2nd degree black belt didn’t want to be held down and I didn’t want anymore shots to the head. We were fighting for our own wills.

I felt like that has been a picture of the past few years. It has felt like one punch after the next. I want to flee , but I know I can’t, and yet, I don’t know how to respond.

If I’m being honest, my first reaction, to the loss of my Dad, wasn’t to lean into the punches. I believe everything that happens in life goes through the hands of a sovereign God. So the punches that have taken place went through His hands before they hit me.

The first reaction I had was shock. I was (and am) discombobulated by this punch. But before and after my Dad there have been more punches. But this picture of that night in sparring keeps coming back to me…

I need to lean in. I’ve needed to wrestle with questions. Why? What’s the purpose for all this pain? Why so much heartache? Why so many closed doors? Why the standstill? Whose benefiting from all this grief?

I feel as though I’ve been holding on trying to shake God for some kind of sense for the loss of my Dad. I haven’t been able to say much, and when you’re grabbing your opponent, you don’t speak. You’re just trying to regain your composure from the blows you’ve taken. You’re trying to survive. It’s your strength against your opponents.

This past week I also remembered the fight doesn’t end by hanging on. You cannot win a fight by clinging on to your opponent. You’ll get called out. You have to let go and get back into the fight.

But, hanging on and leaning in is still apart of the fight. Every relationship will go through ups and downs. The same is true for our relationship with God. Tough things happen and we need to wrestle through them. I would be lying if I said, I haven’t been struggling. I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t doubted that any good would come from this. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t felt like giving up. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t had some days when I don’t want to get out of bed.

As I write this I’m reminded of Peter in Matthew 26:35. “But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.” The next day, Peter denied Jesus.

Death and suffering changes people. Peter thought he could be a disciple of Jesus on his own. I think, subconsciously or even consciously, I did too.

Things started changing in my heart about a week ago when I realized I didn’t have enough to get me through. I was keeping God at a distance. Attempting to hold Him like I had in sparring. I don’t want anymore hits. I can’t take another blow. I was falling into a deeper and darker hole. Until the thought popped into my head, “You don’t have enough faith”.
And it is true…

1st Timothy 2:13
if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 
I can do nothing on my own, I cannot handle this loss alone. I cannot handle closed doors alone, but God never asked me to. He said to come to Him. Lay it down. Cry it out and walk with Him. So, I started waking up and asking for help. After that, I read one verse. My mind can’t process a whole chapter at the moment, bug I can hold on to a verse.

I also think it’s okay to wrestle with God and wrestle with the questions. Life is hard and this side of eternity some thing will not make sense to us. In Genesis 32 Jacob wrestled with God. In verse 28 it says, “Then the man said,’Your name will not longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome’”

  • I looked up the word overcome and it means: “to prevail, endure, have power, be able” 
  • I also looked up Israel and it means, “God Prevails” 

At the end of the day, I am human. I’ve struggled with being on this road that God has allowed me to be on. But struggling and giving up are two different things. Because God has not given up on me and gives me everything I need when I ask, I can keep putting one foot in front of the other.


“When God calls us to wrestle with him, there’s always more going on than we first understand and God always uses it to transform us for good.” -Jon Bloom

The truth of the matter is, I am in a battle and it’s not against God. Yet, sometimes I wrestle with God’s will because, if I’m being honest, right now, I don’t really like it. But the more I try and fight for my will the more miserable I become.

As hard as it has been I do pray that just like in Jacob’s case, God prevails in my life. He knows what He’s doing and knows the plans and I do not. For now, I will keep waking up and asking for help because I cannot do it on my own.
Song of the week: You Pursue, by Out of the Dust

You Are No One’s Number One

A few weeks ago my long time friend, Rachel Storey, asked me if she could write for my blog still. I believe I asked her a while back and because she is incredible (teaching full time, studying to get her masters, and very involved at her church) she didn’t have much free time. I said yes. One thing I admire about Rachel is that she is always striving to do and be better- wherever she is. She also has had a few tough blows and she keeps pressing on. She is one of my dearest friend and I’m grateful for her writing this blog. ______________________________________

You are no one’s number one. 

I can remember the exact moment this was whispered to me, by me, probably fact checked by Satan. My mother, my sister and I had just found out my father had died after being struck by a car. Within minutes, maybe seconds, of hearing the news I knew I would need to take care of my mom and sister and be strong for them. So that’s what I did. I hugged them, I prayed, and I began planning for our trip to South Florida for my father’s memorial service. All the while, this thought was nagging me at any open moment. 
You are no one’s first priority.
 The truth is, I’m not. I don’t have someone to share the journey of life with. I am single and I always have been. I’ve never been married, I’ve never had a boyfriend, I have never dated anyone, I’ve never been asked out on a date, and I have never been kissed. Seriously. Nothing. Did I mention I am 30? I’ve been waiting for quite some time now. All of this isn’t for lack of trying. I have tried my best to be available and give chosen men the greenlight, but they didn’t move forward. Some made a right or left at the intersection where we met and were polite and declined with kind words. The worst ones made illegal u-turn’s into the opposite direction and didn’t bother to respond at all. Even if the greenlight was in their face and people behind them were honking to let them know it was there. I have even tried online dating but nothing happened there as well. It didn’t seem natural and I received messages from creepy older men who I am not sure how they found my street at all.
This constant state of rejection leads me to thinking something must be wrong with me. Is it my weight? If so, how shallow are these men? Is my past of being sexually abused written on my forehead? If so, don’t they know it wasn’t my fault and God actually protected me and that I am not damaged because He is the one who redeems? Is it because no one would describe me as being meek and mild? If it is that last one, y’all need to read the Bible some more and discover all the loud and powerful women in it.
I write all of this because I need to show some vulnerability and be truthful for you to truly understand that my interests, feelings, concerns, hopes, dreams, good days and bad days are not on the thoughts of any man. This is most evident when various struggles enter my life. It has become more and more evident over this past year since my father died.

I struggled with my grief a lot in the following months after his death. I was reminded of a lot of things my father wouldn’t have the opportunity to do like attending a possible wedding and husband or grandchildren to meet. I don’t express my emotions outwardly often, but experiencing a death so close to me changed that for a while. I found myself bothered by things that didn’t usually bother me and crying at the oddest moments in front of people I didn’t want to cry in front of. I joined a Grief Share recovery group to help with this but I was constantly reminded everywhere I went that I had no one who looked out for my needs or knew me so intimately the way a husband would. I had never felt so alone before, and Satan took advantage of that. He led me to believe I was unwanted, unloved, and uncared for.
On top of all of these emotions, I was dealing with what I have always dealt with. Desiring to be married and have a spouse is often seen as a selfish and desperate desire, especially in the Christian world. It is okay to desire a promotion, a new career, pregnancy, a baby, etc. It is not wrong or easier to desire those things. It is not wrong to desire anything God meant as good for your life. But when you say you desire marriage and the intimacy that comes with it, people often see you as weak and desperate and selfish and unsatisfied with your life. All because of the desire for something God designed and created. God is the one who decided that it was not good for man to be alone. And when Adam had seen Eve he proclaimed that she was the bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh. God had given him what he may not even be sure he desired. It is not wrong for me or for any other person to desire a marriage designed by God. But when I share this desire, I am met with these usual phrases:

 

“Oh trust me, marriage isn’t easy.” Well, duh.

 

“You’d want to be alone if you were married someone like my husband.” Did you really just say that?

 

“You’re better off single, trust me.” Why are you married?

 

“It will happen for you someday.” You should stop telling people that because you can’t guarantee it.

 

“Singleness is a gift from God.” Sure doesn’t feel like it sometimes.

 

Marriage isn’t for everyone. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul talks about what I like to call “Single Life Swag.” He advises the singles and widows to stay unmarried as he is because life is simpler that way. He also expresses that the same way marriage isn’t for everyone, single life swag isn’t for everyone as well. I have often wondered and prayed about if I have single life swag. I do know that being single makes life simpler. In fact, I remind myself of this when I begin to feel lonely or hyper focused on the fact that I am not married. Because I am single, I can spend all day Sunday serving the youth at my church. Because I am single, I don’t have to run any vacation or trip ideas by another person. Because I am single, I can devote a lot of time to students at work. Because I am single, I get to choose how to spend my days and devote many of them to learning more about God.

 

I have an amazing life as a single person, a life that I love. But because I am a human who can feel many things at once; those amazing things don’t negate my desire for marriage. I am not sure that I am destined for single life swag. God gave me this heart and He designed me to be romantic (I think I enjoy Christian romance novels and Jane Austen period pieces too much to be left single. I’m also writing this as I watch Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South for the 100th time. Oh that train scene at the end).

 

But I have to be patient and wait. Thankfully, I am in good company and I just blew my own mind thinking of these similarities. Guess who else never married and never dated at the age of 30? Guess who spent their single life pursuing the purpose and work God designed them for? Guess who else was able to travel? Guess who else was able to devote time to their students?

 

Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus has walked where I am walking, waited where I am waiting, and prayed where I am praying. I may not be a man’s number one, but Jesus has been and will always be MY number one. He is the One that matters most and He is no ordinary man. My interests, concerns, feelings, hopes, and dreams are always on His mind. He knows my heart and knows my desires. He has taken care of me and protected me in ways a husband never could. I just have to wait.

 

So what do I do while I wait? The same thing I have been doing. I pray and worship. I serve God in the ways He designed me to serve. I do my best to prepare myself for marriage by observing it in action (Trust me, if I know you personally and you are married, I have watched you and your spouse interact and I have taken notes. You have files. Just kidding. Maybe). All of these things have taught me not to settle and to keep my standards high.

 

I can know all of this and still desire marriage. I can be satisfied in and thankful for my single life and still desire marriage. I’m human and humans are sometimes contradictory. God is constant, even when I am not. I am not ashamed of wanting what God has created to be good. I am not ashamed of being single and inexperienced at 30. I am not ashamed of making Christ my number one. He has a plan for my life and I will follow that plan. He is mine and I am His forever – forever longer than any marriage made on earth.

 

“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in loving kindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” Hosea 2:19-20 (NKJV)

 

P.S. If you happen to know a guy willing to be the number two in my life, feel free to tell him to holler at your girl. I feel like I already have an army of more experienced women and mentors either praying for me or searching for me and more join the party whenever I share this part of my heart. Pray for your other single friends too. So much better than online dating :o)

 

Song of the week:  Not For A Moment, by Meredith Andrews