A Single Challenge

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“It’s wicked to throw away all your other gifts because you can’t have one”- Little Women

On long road trips, I like to listen to audiobooks. It has become a tradition that I listen to Little Women at least once. I grew up watching the movie dozens of times. Since I have four sisters, it was like watching us (a century behind and one less sister).

As I was driving from Virginia to Florida, I heard this quote by Amy: It’s wicked to throw away all your other gifts because you can’t have one. It hit me so hard that I rewound that section of audio and listened again. Conviction set it.

How many times have I done this? As a single person, there is a tendency to throw away our other talents and gifts because we can’t have “the one”. We sit around doodling while waiting for “the one”. I am talking to myself here. I have been there and done that.

At one point in my life, all I did was work and waited for someone to come along. Call me crazy, but I thought it would only be a matter of time until he came around. Well, after about 3-4 years of “waiting”, there was no one even “on the horizon”, as my dad says.

I took a leap of faith and decided to do something else, besides work and wait. When I took that step, it was a whirlwind of an adventure. I was using gifts that I didn’t know I had. I was learning new things left and right. I was going places I never dreamed were possible. It was an exciting time and challenging time.

That time created a hunger to learn more. Life can be extremely challenging, but it also can be absolutely amazing! God is greater, kinder, more beautiful than we can imagine.

Just last week I was listening to the audio book by Steven Curtis Chapman, Between Heaven and the Real World .  After the death of his daughter, Maria, his wife asked them to remodel the house. It was too hard to live in after Maria’s passing. Steven struggled with the idea of how much money it was going to cost, and if it was a waste of money because their house was fine.

He prayed about it and felt like they should move ahead with the idea. The day came and the demolition crew started their work. Steven looked over at his wife, Mary-Beth, and saw tears running down her face. He walked over and asked her if she was okay. “I needed to see this”,  she said. “This is what happened to our family the day Maria died”. Their family took a devastating blow. Yet, through the tearing down and building back up, Steven saw God’s love. He felt the Lord told Him that sometimes His love appears extravagant and wasteful.

Isn’t that true? I was pining away for a marriage when God wanted to show me more. He literally allowed me to travel around the globe. It was extravagant and sometimes it seemed wasteful. Because I had the budget information, I would often say, I can stay here. However, God allowed me to go on one trip after another. I learned so much not just on the trips but over that span of 3 years, I saw God in ways I never knew I could.

My encouragement to you who are single comes from a 10th-degree black belt: Act on life. Don’t let life act on you. You are not a victim to life or anyone.

Use your gifts. Use your time wisely. Live well. Love fervently. Give fearlessly. Life is short and we only have one life to live.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Don’t let the enemy steal any more years. Don’t let him steal your joy, your affection, your devotion, your desire to grow and learn.

There is a 2nd-degree black belt I work out with in a group, who told me, “I’m trying to help you be the best you”. Sometimes it feels like he is trying to kill me, but he is pushing me to be better. Isn’t that what God does for us? He allows challenging things because He is strengthening us. Elisabeth Elliot once said, “God will not protect you from anything that makes you more like Jesus”

Life is meant to be lived, not just survived. Sometimes surviving is the only thing we can do. Other times, surviving has become our comfort zone. Living on purpose often takes us out of our comfort zones. But today, remember to thank God for all that He has already given you. Thank Him for the friends you have, the job you have, and the opportunities He has opened up for you. Instead of focusing on the one thing or person you don’t have.

Sometimes, when I wish I had someone, I remind myself that I do have someone. He is my closest friend. He says that He is my husband. So, instead of wasting time wishing I had someone else, I try to look for ways to love Him. I do not do this as much as I would like.

We are God’s children. He knows we are incapable. He wants to make us laugh, and wants to spend time with us. He wants to be close, but often times, we are so preoccupied with other things or wishing for the one thing we don’t have.

Think a friendship that may be morphing into something else. Think of the little glances shared back and both. Think of the sweet gestures: a hand to the side as he walks behind you, a gentle touch to the elbow, a goodbye hug, exchanging eye contact and a laugh over an inside joke.

I know for me, I think about each thing over and over again. I think of what they said or re-read a sweet message they sent. Imagine if I thought of God that way.

Imagine if I mulled over in my mind the MANY things He has done: The opportunity to travel, learn all kinds of new skills, learn martial arts, write, be near family, and have amazing friends. I should be on cloud nine all the time.

So, I am challenging myself to think on Him this week. To think of the ways He has blessed me. He is too good and has done too much for me to waste more time.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

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Song of the week: King of my heart, by John Mark McMillan & Sarah McMillan 

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The Four Frightful F’s

There are “The Four F’s” for blogs, photography, life, relationships, you name it. I got to thinking of the F’s that often come to my mind: Failure, (not) Fitting in, Fear, and Feelings. I’m sure I could list more, but these are some of the F’s that I wrestle with.

Failure – When it comes to a lot of areas in my life, I feel like a failure. I feel like I am never making progress. I feel like I never will make any progress. And, I sometimes listen to that old familiar lie that says, “No one will want you” “You’re not going to get anything done”

(Not) Fitting – I have amazing friends, and a wonderful family. But, sometimes, I wrestle with knowing where I fit. I will come back to this thought.

Fear – This has been a lifelong struggle. I fight it often. I fight the fear of never measuring up. I fight the fear of being different. I fight the fear of living life in total abandonment. I fight fear of actually stepping out. I fight the fear of failure.

Feelings – I often have arguments between my logic and feelings. I find myself saying, “Christi, you’re overthinking this”, “Keep your head”, “These are just feelings”, “Get a grip”.  I am so grateful for my Dad because he is so logical. I will never forget the time I came home from work after my manager flipped out. When this particular manager left the store, to run an errand, he was fine. When he came back, he was throwing boxes around and mumbling under his breath. I could almost see the steam rising off his bald head. I came back and told my Dad:

Me: Dad, I think he’s mad at me

Dad: Did he tell you that you upset him? Or can you remember doing anything wrong that would upset him?

Me: Well, no, but …

Dad: If you can’t remember doing anything wrong, and he didn’t tell you he was upset with you, you have nothing to worry about.

But, on the days I’m not pleased with my performance, or I’m feeling super insecure, I have to fight to get back to “logical” or “sane” ground.

These four F’s often come unannounced and have a tendency to stay longer than I care for them to stay. As I was thinking on these F’s, I remembered four other F’s:

Faithful – I am inadequate, but my God is not. What He says, He will do. I need to cling to Him, because He is the essence if life. He is faithful and what He wants from me is to be faithful. I cannot be faithful in my own strength, but with Him, I can. Faithfulness isn’t about knowing everything or being perfect. It’s about showing up every day and refusing to give up. If you break this word apart it’s FAITH (which is unseen) and FUL (if we added another L it would be full). Imagine having faith and allowing God to fill us to full. I think He just wants me to trust Him and let Him fill me –daily!

Fulfillment – Jesus came to fulfill the law. He fulfilled the wrath of God for my sin. He fulfilled the requirement for me to have a relationship [access] with God. God doesn’t start something He won’t finish. Although I am still in process, when He looks at me, He sees the finished projected. Although I have bumps and times of defeat on earth, God sees me as finished. So to Him I am complete. I cannot fail because He has already taken my failure and paid for it. I don’t have to carry that around anymore.

Fearless – We can only be less fearful when we are with the one who casts out fear. He holds not only our finite world, but also the future. A.W. Tozer once said, “While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority”. We have a loving heavenly Father who loves His children and cares for us. Matthew 6:33 says to seek Him and His righteousness and all these things WILL be added unto you. God is able. He can do more than we can even ask or imagine.

*** I must break here to tell you that as I am writing this, I am preaching to myself. I process things through writing them down. I feel like I need to write things down to solidify these things in my own life. I am fragile and broken and I need God’s mercy every single second of every single day…

Fitting –  “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world” C.S Lewis.

It is only when I am spending time with God that I remember where I fit. I fit. He accepts me whether or not I am having a good day or a bad one. He accepts me whether I am killing it that day or barely surviving. He accepts me when I am feeling confident or I’m falling apart. Apart from Him, I am nothing. When I haven’t spent enough time with Him I begin to feel like I’m spiraling into endless questions. I feel completely lost, out of place, and confused. When I’m with Him, He makes me at peace. I may not have all my questions answered, but I know He’s in control. My perspective gets realigned.  I remembered I’m protected and secure because He is unchanging. He is the cleft that my soul longs to hide in.  Our moments of “not fitting” might be there to create a longing to fitting in, and that’s with our Creator. He is the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. He can direct us better than we can.

I know I said Four F’s but as I was thinking on this topic I remembered this word:

Favored – Psalm 5:12 says, “For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield”.

I don’t understand it, but God loves us so much more than I can understand. I try to, but I can’t. He, for some reason, has favored me and you. We who are from dirt, sin daily, forget His promises and doubt His ways; Yet, He has granted us favor. He has granted us access to His thrown of GRACE to find mercy in our time of need. We have a VIP pass, but often pass on using it to “earn” our own VIP status. Again, preaching to myself! We are feeble; yet, favored. His strength and source is the one that sustains us.

So, if you’ve struggled with the first four F’s this week, forget them! Focus on the last five: Faithful, Fulfillment, Fearless, Fitting and Favored! God does not lie. He keeps His promises. He is with us on the mountains and in the valleys. He is with us in the wet seasons, and the dry seasons. He is not scared or weary of our human conditions. He welcomes us into His presence. It is there that we find help and courage to press on in this world while waiting for our final destination –Heaven!

Song of the Week:
Yes and Amen
, by Housefires III
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My Mom

Last Mother’s Day I had just arrived in Switzerland. I specifically remember taking pictures and sending them to my Mom and sisters as I wished them a Happy Mother’s Day.

Little did I know, in a matter of a few days, it would be my mother that I needed to help me get through.

It’s hard to put into words, everything that eventually unfolded. At one point it felt like I was waging war on many levels: spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I felt like everything was crumbling around me and if I could just make it back home, I would be okay. But I didn’t know how I was going to make it.  Words were thrown like daggers and everything I thought I knew to be true about myself began crumbling. Her words helped me to hold on to hope. “Christi, I know you.”

To hear those words, was like someone breathing hope back into my soul. She would send me texts every morning to check on me. “How are you doing sweetheart” “I’m praying for you”. Her texts and the time I spent pouring through my Bible were my lifeline.

My mom would listen and talk to me for but long I needed. Whenever I called or texted, she was there. Because of the time difference, I once called her at four in the morning. She picked up. That period of about a month was the hardest thing I ever faced. I felt hurt so deep I would sit and weep. I didn’t know how long.  Time seemed to stand still. But my Mom’s support was exactly what God knew I needed.

At one point my mom said, “Do you want us to fly you home?” I know she and my dad would have, even if it took them a long time to pay off the ticket. Knowing she was accessible was what I needed. I needed someone to stand by me and she did, and just like it hurt me, it hurt her. She lost too. She lost a friendship, but she didn’t focus on that, she made sure I was okay.

For those of you who don’t know my mom, her world fell apart when she was Twenty-six years old. She was eight months pregnant with my older brother when she awoke to gunshots. She ran out of her bedroom to find her husband slumped  against the bed. He’d been shot. She rushed out to find help, and help carry him downstairs to find transportation to the hospital. A neighbor told her to go change, she did, and they took off without her. He died on the way to the hospital. There my mom was in a foreign country, eight months pregnant and now widowed. She had to leave the country within a week and was unable to return until thirty-five years later.

During those thirty-five years, she met my Dad, and raised six more children, while assisting my Dad, as he pastored a small church. After my siblings and I grew up, she started volunteering at a pregnancy center. She performs the ultrasounds on new mommas. She stands and fights for those yet to be born. She has never used her loss as an excuse, but always as a platform to help others who are wounded and hurting. Her loss has turned into life for my siblings and I as well and the countless babies now born because she helped support a new mom whose world seemed to be crumbling.

She is a remarkable, kind, compassionate and understanding woman. She is not perfect, and she would be the first person to admit that. But, she gives God and her family, and those who know her everything she’s got. Instead of being bitter from her losses, and there have been many, she decided to love more, give more and serve more.

I could never repay her for the time she has invested in me and the example she has been to me. But, I pray that I live my life in such a way that it reflects that I am her daughter and ultimately God’s child.

Mom, I love you so very much. Thank you for your love, support, your wisdom, your courage, your faithfulness, your service, your perseverance and most of all, your prayers. They mean the world to me and if I could even be a quarter of the person you are, I would have lived well.

The Ultimate Mosaic

Your deepest wound could be your greatest gift!

I found myself actually thanking God for the ones who left me wounded. Those wounds and the ones who left me wounded, actually expanded my heart. I never knew I could feel so much. I never knew I could hurt so deeply. I never knew that my shattered heart had more value than simply fragmented pieces. I may never know their intentions, but what they did was turned into a gift. My brokenness did not make me unusable, disabled or counted out. Through Christ, it made me more useful.

It’s like when you were a kid, and you see the kid who has the best painting. They go around showing their talents off. You may be happy he won the contest, but it also makes you feel a little timid to show your painting. Whereas the kid who says, “My painting is a messed up”. His admission brings a freedom for you to show a messed up painting too.

Life is full of trials, seasons, and circumstances outside of our control. We have all faced times where we need a rescue. Life breaks us. Sometimes broken and hurting people break us. Sometimes, we break someone else. The great news is, “There is a future for all these broken pieces” (See song of the week below)

When we are not broken and wounded, or have been, and try to come across as having it all together, I believe, we miss out. We have nothing to offer. Ann Voskamp, in the Broken Way, talks about how in Jesus’ brokenness, He gave. That is what we need to do as well.

My broken pieces are there to share with others, like your broken pieces are there to share with others. My one broken piece could be the piece your heart needed to carry on. Your broken piece could be the one I needed.

When “have it all together”, we are all show and have nothing to give. We don’t understand how to give. But, when someone else opens up about their brokenness, it creates a safe place for me to share about mine. We may have different experiences, but we both understand pain. We both know how it feels to be broken. Somehow sharing our brokenness makes both of our loads seem lighter.

God knew the minute sin entered into this world, brokenness would ensue. He is the author, perfecter and completer of our lives. I believe it’s when we turn our shattered pieces over to Him that He can use us the most.

One verse that comes to mind frequently is Revelation 12:11. “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death”

We overcome our brokenness by sharing it. We overcome by telling our story. Rebekah Lyons puts it so profoundly accurate, “It’s not our story of struggle, but His story of rescue”. It’s not about our “Woe is me” it’s about “Who He is”.

I think God like mosaics. Because that is how He’s built His church. He takes all the surrendered shattered pieces and then pieces them into a beautiful work of art. Then, as the Light of the World, He shines through it. It has nothing to do with us. We just have to surrender the brokenness and He is the one who gets the spotlight. We can’t pick up our broken pieces because when we handle broken pieces, we often get cut and cut others. We are all in need of a master designer who sees treasure in us when others only see trash. Inevitably, we are more precious broken than “all put together”. He takes the brokenness and makes us more equipped for life.

So whether or not you are in touch with the ones who left you broken, we can still give thanks. God is piecing us together. He is helping us to be courageous enough to admit our brokenness. He is shaping us into something beautiful where He gets the glory; where He and His artwork are on display. Without Him, we are just a lump of shattered pieces on the floor.

So ask for strength in your brokenness. It can be wearisome, but in our weakness He is strong! God is not done with us. There will be more breaking, and more making.

 

Song of the week
Help From Heaven by Matt Redman
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