“You shouldn’t do that”

I was having a conversation with a former co-worker, when I finally asked his opinion.

“You shouldn’t do that.” He said.

“Why?” I asked (with a little bit of an attitude)

“Cause you’d be too comfortable. You’d get stuck.”

I stood there shell shocked. He totally nailed the truth into the deepest part of me. I knew he was right, but I didn’t dare admit it.

I decided not to do the comfortable thing. The route I decided to take demolished my comfort zone. It opened up my eyes to so many new things. Things and experiences I would have never been able to see and do had I stayed with the comfortable.

This conversation took place over 6 or 7 years ago. But, I remember my exact frame of mind. It’s a mindset that I’ve heard several others express. It’s the frame of mind that says, “I’m waiting to do this or that because I want to enjoy it with my future husband.”

Looking back, I realized I wasted a lot of time there. I know in church, we are taught to wait for our husband, but that doesn’t mean I wait on living the life God’s given me.

I used be hesitant to join anything because I’d want to experience it with my husband. But the reality is, I may never get married.

I used to be hesitant to get too attached or involved or try new things because “maybe my husband and I can do them together.” But, the honest truth is, he may have completely different interests than I do. I may love to travel and he could be a total homebody.

I finally realized, I was just missing out on other gifts God was offering. Sure it wasn’t marriage but the gift of family and friendships have become priceless to me. The ability to get alone and write— it gives me breath! The ability to fiddle with a camera, run a few miles, learn martial arts, travel for fun are all gifts. Gifts that before, I never even thought about. Gifts that I absolutely love.

So, if you’re single, stop waiting! Go try something new, get involved in church, plan a trip, or do something you’ve always wanted to do. Because, if you do meet your husband you’ll have a lot of great conversations. If you just wait around, and he starts to ask about you… All you will have to say is: well, I was waiting for you.

Your life doesn’t begin when you find a husband. Your life is here and it’s meant to be invested. If not with a husband than your family, nieces and nephews, friends, church family, friends, your neighbors.

You only have one life to live. Don’t buy the lie that you’re not someone because you don’t have someone. Or you’re not as loved because you don’t have a spouse. Your life can be just as meaningful without a husband. And if and when he comes along, you will realize you’ll have a better relationship because he’s not your end all. Keep in mind, “The best of men are men at best.” The same is to be said for the ladies.

There is a woman I know who never got married. But she gave her life to serve at a crisis pregnancy center. She served 20+ years. There are still women who come in to those centers saying, “that woman helped me choose life for my baby.” Or “That woman lead me to the Lord.” Can you imagine the impact she’s had on the kingdom of God because of her service. Can you imagine how many people she will meet in heaven because of her investment?!

And did you know it was a single woman who was so burdened for young married couples that she helped make “Family Life Today” a reality. Imagine all the families who made it through the rough patches because of a SINGLE woman.

My challenge to you singles is to ask God to open your eyes to see the other gifts that He’s placed in your life. When you stop focusing on what you do have, you’ll start seeing what you do have.

You have no idea what God could do with your singleness— until you let Him take the reins. And if God chooses you to have a partner in this life, cherish them. They are a gift.

Happy Valentines Day, Single. Go change the world!

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Be still… Stay Silent… A Psalm of Trust.

I was called disrespectful.

I was called untrue.

I was called untrustworthy.

I was called a manipulator.

I was accused of being a seducer.

I was accused of being an adulterer.

I was said to have no friends and said I’d have many problems in the future.

I was accused of being a helpless victim.

I was verbally flogged.

Each word hurt more than the next

“You’re undermining me”, “You’re Judas to me.” The painful words flowed as each one ripped into my deeper into my heart and soul.

I am not perfect, but I meant no Ill will. I repeated to myself.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” was my echo trying to figure out why I couldn’t keep it together anymore.

Everything was unraveling… I’ve failed… I’ve corrupted all of this… Maybe I am cursed… Maybe I will always end up in these situations… Maybe this is why I’m not married… Maybe all these problems are because of me…

I questioned myself over and over and over again… I’ve failed… How could I not have prevented this? How could I not see myself as all these things? “You are wicked” I condemned myself… as I was being condemned…

Such hopeless days… I spent more days in tears than with a smile…

When life as I knew it was falling apart… I was being held… So close was His touch, his heartbeat, his whisper…

“This is not your battle… Let me handle it…”

Be still… Stay silent…

Don’t retaliate… Don’t talk back… So, I held my tongue…

Accusations still flew… Lies spoken over me… Physical reactions became undoubtably noticeable…

Be still.. Stay silent…

I cried night after night…

Be still, stay silent…

I packed up my life… Tears pouring out of my eyes… no clear direction to be seen…

Be still, Stay silent…

Friends started calling… Be still stay silent…

Until a call… A safe place for me to share my story… Stay still… BE honest…

I cried and nearly trembled as I shared … recounting the stories… Watching the dismay on the man’s face… I couldn’t read it… Maybe he thought I was making this up… My emotions had no where else to go… I felt torn apart… so vulnerable no longer knowing how to protect myself.

I finished and waited for his response…

“You did nothing wrong… I hope you walk out of here with your head held high…”

Words can pierce so deeply and heal profoundly… the same area damaged by the reckless words of an unstable person, began mending through a stable, faithful, kind man…

Words can tear apart a soul. Words can mend a soul. It can filet a heart beyond recognition , and yet somehow make it stronger than ever before. The deeper the wound, the greater capacity for compassion…

To the one who broke me— I don’t ever wish to see or hear again… But I am grateful for all the damage… because through it… I learned to be still to be silent and hear the One whose words spoke over me are more powerful than yours. And it is His words, not yours that brought me back to life.

He was still and was led silently a sheep to the slaughter… so that when He had defeated the grave… His words would hold the power of life and death… He speaks life… He hates death…

Life As We Know It…

We celebrated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on January 20th, and just 48 hours later, the World Trade Center lit up in pink to celebrate… a law that allows full term babies to be aborted.

This issue is personal for me because from 1984- 1993, the United States experienced the highest number of abortions. It was during those years, that me and my three sisters were born. It was also during those years that Hope Women’s Centers began. The place I now work. The place my Dad helped start 30+ years ago.

I cannot help but look at the number of abortions during those years and feel a deep sadness. Those babies were not just a “blob of tissue.” They were my generation.

They should have been my colleagues.

My friends.

My teammates.

My partners in ministry.

On average, from 1984-1993, every year 1.3 million children were aborted.

Before I continue, I want to say, I know this is a very personal and tender issue for some. I am deeply sorry if you happen to be post abortive. I know that is a deep wound, and maybe you didn’t have all the facts you needed to make an informed decision. You are not alone. I am hurting with you, and If you need someone to talk with, please click this Hope Restored Program.

Francis Schaeffer once said, “Every abortion clinic should have a sign in front of it saying, “Open by the permission of the church.”

You may be wondering why I’m using this quote. It’s because 54% of women who get an abortion identify as “Christian.” One in every four women in the church have an abortion. The number is equally as high for men. Roland Warren, the CEO of CareNet, who Hope Women’s Centers is affiliated with said, “We have women at church on Sunday and in the abortion clinic on Monday.”

This issue is not at our doorstep. It is an issue that had taken residence in our pews.

The Dalai Lama said this:

We are killing off the future.

We live in a society where life is no longer precious. We pass laws to take the life of not only a child, but also those who are disabled by assisted suicide. And Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, 1.3 million individuals attempted to take their own life. 50,000 individuals succeeded in that attempt.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to STEAL, KILL and DESTROY”

Let me tell you, he is SERIOUS about all three. But, the last part of that verse says this?

“I [Jesus] have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.”

That is our desire at Hope Women’s Centers (and should be of the church) We want women and men who find themselves in despair to know that LIFE IS PRECIOUS. Their life is precious and SO is the child inside.

Our God is the author of life. His name is Creator. He is the Way the Truth and the Life. That is who He is!

My challenge to every single one of us is that if you haven’t joined the fight for life that you would do that. Maybe it’s through volunteering or giving. Maybe it’s through praying for pregnancy centers and churches all across the world to fight for life. Maybe it’s to help someone who is struggling with mental illness. Or, maybe it’s to find healing from your own wounds, so that eventually you can help someone else with their wounds. There are a ton of ways to be involved.

My prayer for 2019, is that we would make God’s name remembered in Broward County by fighting for life. Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” We either serve the God who created life, or we choose the god of this age whose sole purpose is to, steal, kill and destroy. I pray we are a people who fight for the life of the unborn, the weak, and the outcast. I pray that we are a people who are known for their love. We have a hurting and broken community and world that needs the support of the church. Let it be said of us that we love, sacrifice and promote life wherever we are.

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A year or so ago, I was struck by the fact that there was a woman I knew very well whose life was wrecked by abortion. I wrote this to help me see those who also might be dealing with their own heaviness for their abortion. I wrote this with all the love in my heart. I would be honored to help anyone carry their burden. It’s too heavy to carry alone ❤️.

She is

She is your boss, your neighbor, your friend.

She wonders why and how she could put a life to an end.

She was not in a good spot financially when she decided.

Suddenly, she realized the lies she believed she’d been blind-sided.

She’s held this secret for far too long.

Silence is her cover and also her drinking song.

She cannot speak of the event that caused her excruciating pain…

The day that her baby was slain.

She walks around feeling not even half a human being.

She robbed a life from laughter, love, hearing and seeing.

The trauma of that day is seared into her soul.

Her heart once plenteous and abundant is now not even half full.

This wound is one similar to those in combat.

In theory, one solider returns unscathed and the other forever lost, but here is a fact:

That unscathed soldier is never the same. From death he may have been saved.

But it led him to consider his own encounter with the grave.

She is broken – a mother without a child.

She is depleted and the joy she experiences is so very mild.

She is hiding in plain sight.

Finding God in the Dark

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at a woman’s fellowship. This was the talk I shared. Given that, this reads a bit differently than a blog, but I hope it encourages you.

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Before I begin my message, I would like to tell you my testimony. I think it’s important to understand people’s stories.

I was born into a Christian home. My mom was a missionary to Turkey for nearly three years until her first husband was martyred there when she was 8 months pregnant with my older brother. She came back to the States and a year later married my Dad who was a pastor of a local church. My Dad pastored that local church for over 30 years. Together, they worked with International college students for over 25 years.

So I grew up in a home that was very mission oriented and local church focused. Which I am grateful. I prayed that prayer of salvation with my Dad when I was six, but as I got into my teen years, I became very depressed and had suicidal thoughts. I knew enough to know that drugs, drinking, and guys were not the answer but I didn’t know what I was missing. I contemplated how to take my own life, but I didn’t ever want to hurt my parents. I felt stuck.

At that time, my Dad was taking our youth group to a youth event. I basically walked in the first night and said, “God, if you want me than you’ve got to do something.” The conference lasted three days and on the third day, during the last speaker, something became so clear to me. I was missing a personal relationship with Jesus. I was doing all the things my family was doing, but I didn’t have my own time with Jesus. So, I decided that day to get to know Jesus for myself.

My perspective and outlook did a 180. I was learning new things every day and would find so many treasures in my personal time with Jesus. About six months after I made my faith my own I lost a mentor of mine in a car accident. She had been someone who I considered an outlet. Being a pastor’s kid, it’s hard to know who to talk to in the church. This woman was outside of that circle because she lived in another state. I knew that day, I had a decision to make. Walk away from God or walk towards Him. I decided to walk towards him.

Over the years, I’ve had to make that decision over and over and over again.

I’d love to say that, losing my friend was the only loss I’ve had, but I would be lying if I did.

In the summer of 2017, my Dad was in a terrible car accident. He suffered severe head trauma. The doctor called my mom and siblings into a small room and said, “The Bill you knew this morning, is not the Bill that’s here today. On a scale from 1 to 5 … 5 being the worst, your dad, husband, grandpa is at a level 4.” It was only seven days after that, that my Dad passed away.

I’ve titled this message… “Finding God in the dark.”

I came across a verse after I losing my Dad that has stuck with me. It’s an aspect of God that I’ve wrestled with. The verse is in Psalms 88. Before I get to that particular verse, I’d like to share the whole Psalm.

Psalm 88 (A song of lament)

1 Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.

2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.

3 I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.

4I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.

5I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.

6You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.

7Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.

8You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape;

9 My eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.

10 Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?

11 Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction?

12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair.

16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.

17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.

18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.

The verse that stuck out to me was verse 6:

You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.

When I first read that verse, I went back and re-read it. Surely, the “You” cannot mean God, right?! But, I went back, read the context, read commentary. And, yes, it is talking about God putting us in a pit.

Have you ever felt as though the darkness is all encompassing? Like you’re surrounded by darkness? Maybe it’s because you are in a pit.

There are certain aspects of God that are too much for us to understand. I once heard a godly woman say, “If I knew everything about God He wouldn’t be God.”

There were others who had their pit moment — like Jeremiah…

Lamentations 3:1-20 says this:

I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.

2 He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;

3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones.

5 He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.

6 He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.

7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains.

8 Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.

9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked.

10 Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding,

11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help.

12 He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.

13 He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver.

14 I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long.

15 He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink.

16 He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.

17 I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is.

18 So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

Did you notice verse 2?

He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;

The reality of life is that there are times that God either places us in a dark pit, or makes us walk in darkness.

Walking through the dark is never fun. It’s hard. Figuring out how to continue on, especially after a loss seems near impossible. So, how do we find God in the dark?! Is it even possible?

Luke 23:44-46 says this:

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Verse 44 says, DARKNESS came over the whole land. This DARKNESS CAME DURING Jesus’ Crucifixion. I’ve read some historians who’ve reported that there was actually an eclipse that happened at the time of Jesus’ Crucifixion.

BEFORE I comment on these verses in Luke, I’d like to share a story.

As I was preparing this talk, I came across an article in Readers Digest about a man named Joe Serna who had served 17 as a Green Beret in the Army.

He shared one of his traumatic experiences:

There was one incident that caused the majority of his nightmares. As part of a convoy, he and three other Special Forces soldiers were inside a 19-ton RG-31 mine-resistant truck, driving through Kandahar, Afghanistan, to recover a fallen brother who had died after stepping on a mine. Just after midnight, as they were driving along a pitch-black dirt road that was flanked by a canal, the narrow road gave way. The massive armored vehicle fell sideways, slipped down the bank, and toppled into the canal.

“The truck started filling with water, and I couldn’t release my seat belt,” remembers Serna. Helpless, he felt the water rising over his feet, then up to his knees, then his chest. His heart pounding, he heard his team members screaming for help as the water swallowed them up. This is it, he thought as he struggled to free himself. I’m going to die.

But then one of his brothers came to the rescue. “When the water had reached my chin, I felt a hand come down and unfasten my seat belt and release my body armor,” Serna says. “Sergeant James Treber picked me up and moved me to a pocket of air.”

The truck’s hydraulic system had been knocked out, so the doors wouldn’t budge. The soldiers were trapped. Because there was not enough space for both of them in the small air pocket, Treber dived into the water to find a larger one. Suddenly some fuel cans broke and contaminated Serna’s air pocket with gasoline. He passed out.

“I thought I’d died,” says Serna. “Someone pulled me out of the truck. When I came to, I saw three bodies lying on the ground. Everyone else in the truck, including Sergeant Treber, had died.” To this day, being stuck in a confined space can trigger flashbacks for Serna.

Serna turned to alcohol to cope with his post traumatic stress. He ended up in a treatment program, which required him to be tested for alcohol several times throughout the year. During his time in the treatment center, he got to know a judge who helped with the program.

A few months into the program, Joe tested positive for alcohol. He lied to the judge but then felt guilty about it. He went back to court and told the judge the truth. The judge sentenced him to one night in jail. The trouble was, tight spaces would trigger Joe’s PTSD. The judge remembered Joe’s story of the convey and the canal the minute he saw Joe’s Face after sentencing him to one night in prison.

The judge pulled some strings and had Joe sent to another jail where he would at least be alone but the cell space was still the same size.

Joe arrived at his cell and within minutes, he felt as though the walls were closing in. He was about to freak out when he heard the jail cell unlock. It was the judge with two trays of jail food.

“Here” the judge said.

Joe was baffled. He asked the judge what he was doing. The judge responded. Staying with you.

Joe didn’t know how to respond. True to his word, the judge stayed the night. The judge was a former veteran himself. He knew where Joe was coming from. That night they both swapped stories of their deployments, and Joe slept like a baby that night.

At the end of the article, the Judge tells a story that he once read about a veteran who was suffering from PTSD:

“The veteran was in a deep hole. First his family threw down a rope, but he wouldn’t come out. Then his therapist threw down a rope, but again he didn’t come out.

Then his minister, with the same result. Finally, a second veteran came by, and he, too, threw down a rope. But this time, he climbed into the hole with the first vet. ‘What are you doing down here with me?’ the vet with PTSD asked. The second vet answered, ‘I’m here to climb out with you.’

Now I’d like to comment on the crucifixion of Jesus in Luke. Because of the crucifixion of Jesus, because He came to earth as a man and yet fully God, He experienced darkness. He experiences being in the grave for three days. If anyone knows darkness it would be Jesus.

And when we first heard the story of Jesus we might have been tempted to think, why would He come the way He did? Why would He suffer the way He did? Why would he die the way He did?

And I realized it’s so that when we find ourselves being placed in a pit. When we find ourselves surrounded by darkness and people are throwing their ropes at us calling for us. Jesus gets into the pit with us and says, I’m here to climb out with you.

Hebrews 6:19- 20 says this:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

As I read this, I was reminded that you can’t see the anchor in the midst of the storm. You FEEL every wave of the storm you’re in. You SEE the dark clouds, but you CANNOT SEE the anchor. But the anchor is STILL THERE. It’s the anchor that holds us steady, even when we feel like we are going to get swept away. Jesus is our anchor. He stays with us through our storm and in our dark season. He will never let us go.

So, Finding God in the dark is not really about finding Him. It’s more about remembering He’s there.

Remember were we left Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:20? His soul was downcast within him?

Let’s read more of that chapter starting in verse 21:

21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions NEVER FAIL.

23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him.

29 Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope.

30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For NO ONE is cast off by the Lord forever.

32 Though HE BRINGS GRIEF, he WILL SHOW COMPASSION, so great is his unfailing love.

33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.

34 To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land,

35 to deny people their rights before the Most High,

36 to deprive them of justice — would not the Lord see such things?

37 Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?

38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

39 Why should the living complain when punished for their sins?

40 Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.

SKIP DOWN TO VERSE 55:

55 I called on your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit.

56 You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.”

57 You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”

58 You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.

So, my encouragement to you and myself, is that, if you’re in a pit season, a season of darkness, depression or grief, that you would remember that God is right there with you— even if you cannot feel or see Him. He’s waiting with you. He will help you when you’re ready.

And when you’re out… You’ll know how to help someone else out of their pit like Jesus helped you out of yours.

“There is no line…”

Disclaimer: I wrote this a few months ago. I wrote it to help me process my own feelings. For whatever it’s worth, I hope it helps someone else❤️.

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I have been watching a show called, “Burn Notice.” It’s about an ex-spy, named Michael Weston. Half of the time you can’t tell who he’s being used and manipulated by. People have threatened his family, friends, and very existence of who he is. He’s stuck in this trap of trying to be free. Every time he gets close, the target changes, or the carrot he’s been chasing get replaced, or jerked just out of reach.

As the series continues, the closer the fight gets. If you plan on watching it, you may not want to continue reading this….

Michael and his friends have been through everything together. They become more than friends. They become each other’s family. They all get into risky and questionable situations, but there is always an underlying trust. Even if the team doesn’t understand what’s going on, they trust the one calling the shots.

One sentence in this series won’t stop playing in my head… Michael is gaining ground on the person trying to take his life away, but it requires him to sacrifice some of his newer friends. His girlfriend (Fiona) decides that if she doesn’t take herself out of the equation, Michael won’t be able to make the right call. Since, Fiona has become the leveraging tool used by his newest adversary. He rushes to find her. When he does, she says, “I’m surrendering. I’m taking myself out. You’re losing yourself.” The reality of the situation starts to sink in for Michael. He is about to ruin other people’s lives to save Fiona. She speaks again and says, “Where do you draw the line, Michael?” And this is the part that keeps playing in my head… he says,

“There is no line when it comes to you.”

As I thought on what Michael said, I realized something. God is never going to stop coming after me. To you this may seem like a “no brainer” as my Dad used to say. But, after experiencing abuse from individuals claiming to be serving God coupled by the loss of my Dad… I’ve felt like Michael. I’ve felt lost.

In the midst of the fighting, Michael had lost sight of who he was. I know that Michael said, “There is no line when it comes to Fiona.” But it was Fiona who proved it.

Later on, when Michael is about to essentially “sell his soul to the devil” because he’s gotten so confused. He wants freedom so bad and there have been so many people after him. In the process, he’s lost so much that up he’s gotten to the point where up is down and down is up.

Fiona know he’s fallen prey due to everything he’s been through and he’s in the “enemy’s camp” . Walking in there could mean sudden death for her — That doesn’t stop her. She walks right into the enemy’s territory and right into Michael’s confusion — not knowing how he will respond to her.

In the aftermath of grief, there’s a lot of confusion and you feel lost. The normality of having your loved one is no longer there. Your mind keeps wanting to see them back at “their place”. Like at the end of the dinner table, at his work desk, or the rocking chair where he used to watching football. But, I’m slowly beginning to realize that I have to relearn the life I live. I have to relearn how to continue with a hole in my family and in my heart, and honor him and God in the process. I have to relearn who I am. The fact is, I’ve been changed. The Christi before losing her Dad is not the same Christi after losing her Dad. The same is true for each one of my family members. But, there’s still a piece of me that is there, and that’s the piece that I’ve got to find.

And, instead of Fiona rushing in, I can picture Jesus rushing in . When everyone else is running for cover. He crosses the line into my lostness. I can picture him saying, “Christi, look at me.” And just like Michael did, it takes a while because maybe you didn’t understand all that “the plan” called life entailed…

But at some point I’ve got to ask for the strength look up and find His eyes again. Somehow, I’ve got to walk towards the voice that’s rushed in to pull me out. It starts with a look up. He will help me relearn who I am and how to move forward, but not forget.

*Pictures taken from: https://www.pinterest.com/chompie97/burn-notice/?amp_client_id=CLIENT_ID(_)&mweb_unauth_id={{default.session}}

Elaina’s Story

In mid-2011, I moved to Virginia. I found a church but it was larger than the video and website lead on. I went week after week and met no one.

One day, I went to a church connecting event and sat across the table from this couple. “Hi, my names is Elaina. This is my husband Asquith or A.Q.” Once we started learning about each other, we became fast friends. There was also another couple in our church. We became a close group of 5. Standing outside of church well after service dismissed talking about theology, or life. Sitting at the coffee bar hashing out ideas. It was a highlight in my life for sure.

Life slowly changes for all of us. Elaina and AQ were called to another church. Then, I moved, then the other couple moved. However, Elaina will always be the type of friend anyone would wish for. She is fiercely loyal, straight to the point and eager to seek God’s will in any matter. It is truly an honor not only to have her as a friend but to be able to have you hear from her! Without any further ado, here’s Elaina’s story.

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My husband and I met in Miami while working for a community development ministry. After a year of friendship, we choose to commit our lives together before God and our families. Now if you knew me, you’d know I wasn’t the type of girl who longed for marriage or children. I never saw a healthy marriage and used my parents’ divorce as the picture of what the Lord called it to be. I was also told it would be extremely hard for me to get pregnant. I believed what the doctors said over what the Lord could do in my life. And because of all this, I made it very clear to my husband that children were not going to be in our future. I’m sure God laughed at me because He had some very different plans for us.

 

In November 2011, only 1.5 years after we’d been married, I found out I was expecting. I couldn’t believe it! Even with the fear and ‘what ifs’, I could feel the Lord working on my heart, filling me with a desire for children. I was reminded of something a dear friend said to me. She heard from one of our professors at Moody that, “Children are the best form of discipleship.” Those words rung in my head until I finally realized I was both happy and humbled that my God saw it fit to make me a mother.

 

I wish I could say the story ends here with a happily ever after, but it doesn’t. The day before Thanksgiving I felt some deep pain in my stomach, and my husband rushed me to the ER. After some testing and being able to hear the baby’s heartbeat, the doctors were convinced that I was ok and sent me home. I went home relieved and thanking God. The doctors weren’t right. The next morning, I woke up to find blood on the bed. Once again, we rushed to the ER. I remember the hours spent waiting were torture. I prayed and cried out to God in agony, begging Him to save both of our lives. The only option to stop the internal bleeding was to complete a D&C. I had lost my baby, and everything was a blur after that. People kept telling us you’ll get pregnant again. Another person asked me what sin I was in (*that was cruel*). A brother at the time encouraged my husband and I to get away, so we went to D.C. and stayed with a friend. It was a refreshing time for me and my husband to reconnect, for us to cry out to God. The thought of children was pushed to the back of my mind, AGAIN. But God had other plans.

“Meanwhile, my insides were screaming with pain and guilt. Pain from losing my daughter and guilt for feeling angry towards a loving God. I buried my feelings deep down and never talked to anyone about it.”

Our miscarriage made me numb towards children. My heart was cold towards God, other women who were pregnant or any person that mentioned they wanted children. Meanwhile, my insides were screaming with pain and guilt. Pain from losing my daughter and guilt for feeling angry towards a loving God. I buried my feelings deep down and never talked to anyone about it. We were serving in a church at the time that did not welcome showing any form of weakness. They thought Christians should bring it to God, leave it alone and NEVER speak of it again. Nobody asked me about the miscarriage, and I never brought it up.

 

Fast forward three years, and I found myself pregnant again. This time I was so careful. We didn’t tell anyone until I was about 20 weeks. It was an easy pregnancy considering I was a high risk due to my age (38), but when it came time for me to deliver, there were a few complications. Again, I found myself crying out to God to save this life He gave me. After 32 hours of labor, 3 epidurals that didn’t work, 2 rounds of Pitocin, my blood pressure continued to be too high. I was on the verge of having a stroke, and my son’s heartbeat was dangerously low. They rushed me back for an emergency cesarean. Within thirty minutes I was able to see my son and hear his first cry. I don’t know who cried more… me or him! I kept thanking God for this healthy baby boy, Asquith Malachi Thompson. In the hospital I felt good. There were nurses and doctors everywhere to help, and I had a room filled with family and friends.

 

But things changed when I went home. For the first two weeks I couldn’t walk because my legs were extremely swollen due to medication and the fluid I retained. I was unable to hold Malachi without my husband handing him to me. Nursing him was a struggle. Sleep was a struggle. I was tired all the time, and my son had his nights and days confused. It was overwhelming, as I battled with my own healing and taking care of my son.

 

I knew a week into being home something was wrong with me. When I looked at my son while breastfeeding, I felt nothing. No goo-goo ga-ga. No joy. Nothing. All I felt was sadness… all the time. And I couldn’t focus on anything. I went weeks and months feeling like I didn’t deserve to be where I was. I felt like a bad mother. I felt like I couldn’t care for him the way someone else could, and I couldn’t be a wife the way my husband needed. I feared if I shared my feelings with anyone, social services would take my son away, and my husband would leave me because he would think I was an awful mom. On top of everything, my grandmother was going through cancer, and I couldn’t be there to support her. I felt useless, fearful, anxious and panicky all the time. I questioned God for every emotion or lack thereof, and then felt shame for questioning Him. The cycle was endless, and it was exhausting. I remember several times sitting in the car, with my son in the backseat, thinking he’ll be ok with someone else. I’ll just drop him off with a friend and go end this pain. But the wrestle was always, “I’m a Christian. I’m in church leadership.” And even though we had changed churches and the leadership was very different, I kept telling myself I still shouldn’t be feeling this way.

“…this was going to be the day. After the appointment I was going to drop my son off with a friend and end it all. I was going to walk away from my life because I was sure everyone would be better off without me. But my good God had other plans.

One day I was headed to Malachi’s appointment and decided this was going to be the day. After the appointment I was going to drop my son off with a friend and end it all. I was going to walk away from my life because I was sure everyone would be better off without me. But my good God had other plans. As I was driving to my friend’s house after the appointment, for some reason He reminded me of a task my Pastor asked me to do. I turned around and headed back home. I’d do this final task and then go finish my plan. While I was completing my task, my husband called to check up on me. Before he hung up he said, “Babes, I love you…very much.” After we hung up I wept so hard. Face down on the floor. “Why God? Why have you given me so much pain? Why is this happening to me?” I cried myself to sleep on the floor, with my son in his swing. I woke up to my son crying, and as I breastfed him, I looked down at his face and cried some more. All I wanted to do was cry the pain away. When my husband got home from work that day, I said nothing to him. I couldn’t bare the shame of telling my husband I was set to walk away from everything and end my life.

 

A few weeks went by and my pastor called to see if I had sent an email to a couple at church. I told him yes, and he asked me to forward it to him. When I went to forward the email, I saw it sitting in my inbox… it had never been sent! I broke down sobbing. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me! I was constantly forgetting things, unable to finish tasks on time. Afterwards, I called my pastor and told him what happened. He asked to meet with me that day, and as he came to my house, he gently asked, “Is everything ok with you?” I broke down and confessed I was struggling with postpartum depression (PPD), and I needed help.

 

At first, as the words came out of my mouth I felt like I was being a false Christian. Was I betraying God? My family? My friends? Was everything I knew to be true about God a lie? How could I even feel this way? No good Christian should feel “this way.” Christ had done so much for me… My head was a fog of lies that I had believed for almost an entire year. As my pastor listened, he suggested I step down from my role at church and focus on getting healthy again. I was open to ALL help, whether it be medical or spiritual. I met with a biblical counselor, and she told me to try the counseling for three months and if at any time I wasn’t getting better to go see my doctor for medical help as well. She also connected me with another lady who was going through PPD. Together we started reading a book called Depression: Looking up from Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch. That book gave me categories for my depression. It gave me hope when my life seemed so dark and lost. Counseling, my local church, a community of patient sisters and, most of all, the Word of God helped me face many struggles and lies. God used a misplaced email to help bring my depression into the light. And I was brave enough to cry out for help. The grace of God kept me alive, and the grace of God keeps me fighting for my life every day. For me bravery is confessing… Confessing shame, guilt and my hearts darkest fears. Most of all, as I acknowledge my need for my Savior, my courage grows.

For me bravery is confessing… Confessing shame, guilt and my hearts darkest fears. Most of all, as I acknowledge my need for my Savior, my courage grows.”  

I still struggle with my depression, but I have been shown healthy ways to live with it. It is a temporary form of suffering I endure on earth that daily draws me nearer to Jesus. Each day I have to speak Gospel truths to myself. When I start believing lies and I begin feeling my depression, I have to reach out to others. I am grateful for our church and the security I feel within. We have a saying we live by, and it can be found here: Gospel, Safety & Time.

 

Throughout it all, depression has brought me into a deeper faith and trust in my Heavenly Father. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Elaina has been blessed with a wonderful, patient, loving, humble husband; Asquith (AQ) Thompson and a very vibrant, intelligent and energetic son Malachi. They are truly the best gifts her Heavenly Father has seen fit to give her. She received her Masters of Urban Ministry from Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago in 2008 and soon after moved to Florida to serve as a Community Development Missionary in Miami, where she met her husband while serving together. Their family now lives in Newport News, VA, where she is currently studying for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors Certification. She also serves as the deacon of hospitality at Hampton Roads Fellowship. Asquith & Elaina desire to grow in the knowledge of the Gospel, church planting and the importance of the local church.  They hope to plant a church in 2021 in Barbados. To connect more with Elaina contact her through Facebook @facebook.com/elainav.

Eleven Letters

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I stared at the blinking curser. I reread the text message. I put my iPhone down. I had to pray because I couldn’t handle the hurt. I picked up my phone and wrote eleven letters. I never knew eleven letters could be so hard to write.

Before I was able to write those eleven letters, my mind, and emotions went on a roller coaster ride. Why would this person even write me? I thought. They haven’t written, texted, called in over a year and suddenly they feel bad when I lost my Dad? This person obviously still had my number. When I was hung out to dry, where were they? When I sent the goodbye email to them? Where was their response?

I could feel the anger, frustration and hurt rising up. I wanted to put my fist through the wall. But then I remembered something… I quickly looked up the passage of the Bible that was brought to mind. I counted the letters and realized that Jesus spoke eleven letters that I’m sure took every ounce of strength to say… He said, “Forgive them.”

I looked down at my phone and saw all the letters I managed to piece together “Thank you _ _ _” There were eleven letters. I knew I had to hit send. I hesitated for a moment, but was able to send it.

The person on the other end of the text wanted to continue the conversation, but I didn’t feel the need to respond.

This blog was started a year ago, but I remembered it tonight because this individual reached out for a second time.

I don’t feel the need to get into all the details, but I think it’s important to understand that when boundaries have been crossed, confidentially broken and an alignment is made with the side that is not trustworthy, or truthful, one needs to keep his/her own boundaries.

I had a very godly leader tell me that just because he’d forgiven someone who had crossed boundaries with his family (multiple times) that individual was not to be around his family. Every situation is different.

However, I think it’s important to understand that forgiving doesn’t mean allowing the one who has not sought reconciliation to walk back into your life. Quite frankly, they could do more damage.

I really wrestled with what to do with that text message. I cried from a deep part of me that still is tender to talk about at times. It’s a place that unless you’ve been through it, you can’t understand. The pain goes so deep. It’s hard to know how to explain it. I’ve never been hurt as badly as I have by those few people. But time, and healthy relationships have helped more than I could have imagined.

Writing those eleven letters, took a lot of pray and supernatural strength. I could not do it on my own. But, if I believe in grace and have received grace then when someone is showing a glimmer of remorse, I need to extend grace. This does not mean I open my life to them, but I can be kind. God is love and love is kind and because God loved me, and was kind to me, I can love and be kind to others. But, I cannot do this on my own.

Forgiveness is a process and a powerful tool.

Lessons From Migraines

I was at work when the headache I had kept intensifying. I thought I would be okay to hold off a little bit longer on taking something for it. I was wrong.

By the time I took pain relief, I could hardly keep my eyes open. Everything sounded 100x louder than normal. I kept checking the clock waiting for it to be 6:30 so I could leave. When the arrows of the clock fell in place, I knew I wasn’t headed home.

I made it to the bathroom and threw up several times. I called my sister and asked her and my mom to come pick me up— there was no way I could drive the 20 minutes I needed to get home.

I got out to my car blasted the cold air and threw a jacket over my eyes. It was already dark but the little blue lights in my car felt like a cop light searching for a man on the run.

I reclined in the driver seat chair hoping the jackhammering going on in my head would stop. It didn’t matter my position, the pain was persisted.

My mom and sister got me into their car. My sister drove my car home. The drive felt so long. I felt every bump. By the time I got home, I tried to lay down, but I ended up in the bathroom throwing up a few more times. I couldn’t tell you what time the medicine kicked in, or what time I fell asleep. I was done for, until this migraine passed.

I don’t know exactly when I started getting migraines. I remember one time when I was young that I couldn’t go to a soccer event because of a severe headache.

As I got older, they would sometimes come frequently. Other times, I’d go for a long time without them. Migraines don’t really have much rhyme or reason. They just tend to show up. I will do my best to eliminate triggers but sometimes even with all the triggers eliminated, I end up in my bed unable to do anything , sometimes even sleep, until the migraine passes.

A thought occurred to me as I was thinking about migraines. I think sometimes God gives us migraine seasons in life. Let me explain. Sometimes things happen to us in life that debilitate us like a migraine. The things we used to have no problem doing are impossible. The little things that weren’t an issue before suddenly become unbearable. We just have to hunker down until the migraine or the season passes and I think that’s okay.

You know why?! Because for me, the day after I have the migraine I am very flat. I don’t have much energy. I feel exhausted. I try and take it easy, and eventually, I feel fine. Something about migraines tends to balance me out.

Normally (not always) before I get a migraine, I’ve tend to be on the go non-stop. Then, the migraine hits and makes me stop everything. I can’t do anything until it passes. I think the same is true for our migraine seasons, sometimes they come to recalibrate us. Recalibrate our spiritual lives, our emotional wellbeing and even our physical wellbeing.

I think this is similar to desert seasons. Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and many of the people we look up to had their desert seasons. They couldn’t do much if anything in the desert until their season was up. I think the same is true for our migraine seasons.

In those seasons, you’re not any less than you were. God isn’t disappointed because you may not be able to do what you used to do. He cares enough to allow a migraine season, as painful as it can be, to work for your ultimate good.

I share this because I have felt as though I am in a migraine season. I’m beginning to realize it’s okay. It’s a part of the journey.

Let’s hear it for the boys

I’ve been thinking a lot about the different guys I’ve talked to over the years… I think because recently, I experienced another let down.

This is by no means a blog to bash men. Thanks to the good men in my family and the good men who’ve I’ve met along the way, I appreciate men and know this world needs you.

But, sometimes, I know as a woman, I wish I knew things I could work on to be a better sister, friend and possibly spouse one day… So here’s a blog to the single guys.

I’ve talked with guys who I’ll call Mr. Stuck. They are great guys who want to get married, they work hard, they know the things they need to get in order before seriously dating someone, but they seem to be stuck. Instead of trying new things or plugging into a community, or taking a missions trip or a trying things to see what they might like or not like, they seem to be stuck. My encouragement to this guy would be to wait for your spouse actively. Try things, make new friends, ask God for open doors and take them. Life is too short to stay stuck.

I’ve also talk to guys who I’ll call Mr. I Can’t Commit. Sometimes this isn’t even intentional. They are really striving to do things right, but somewhere in their past, they never let something go (ex-girlfriend, their own singleness, etc) they by default choose something over you because what they had is “comfortable” and you’re an unknown factor so they stay with the familiar. My encouragement to you is a quote by C.S Lewis, “There are far greater things ahead than what you leave behind.”

Then there are the Mr. Hesitation. I’m just going to say this because I needed to hear it at one time too. One date or coffee DOESN’T mean you’re obligated to marry the girl you take out! I once turned a dinner with a guy down because I was so paranoid I’d have to make a commitment that night. It takes time to get to know someone, so if you go out a few times and it doesn’t work out — It’s okay! Let it go and move on. I once had someone ask if they could give my number out to a guy and I said sure and he never called or texted. He was sure that I’d say no. But the fact is, I GAVE my number willingly. I was already saying “I’m willing to give this a shot.” So, guys, give her a shot. Sometimes girls will say no, but in the words of Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

And then, Mr. Where’d-you-go? I have had some situations where the guy just disappeared. To this day, I still don’t understand it. If you decided to go a different direction or you don’t think it’s working out, just tell the girl. Even if a girl is confident in who God made her to be, pulling a disappearance act will cause her to question herself. Just tell her you’re headed in a different direction and you wish her well.

Lastly, to the guy who I’ll call, Mr. Keep My Cards Close… who holds back information, this goes both ways. If there is something that you need to discuss that could harm the relationship, just say it. The thing is, if you’re contemplating doing life with this person, you need to be upfront. If they can’t handle the information you share, then you shouldn’t be with them anyways. Relationships are built on trust and if honesty isn’t mutually shared, you will have a ton of issues in your future.

So, those are my few tidbits on relationships. I don’t know a lot but what I’ve experience has helped me define more who I shouldn’t date and who I should give a chance to. Overall, I’m grateful for every guys that has crossed paths with me— good and bad.

Life is about learning, so whatever relationships you’ve had, learn from that and while you’re waiting, learn to be active.

So to recap:

• Don’t get stuck

• Give the past up

• Give her a shot

• Give her an explanation for your disinterest

• Don’t withhold your secrets If you’re wanting to share your life with her.

Hope this helps! And guys… we really do need you!

In a world full of protests…

This week was full of unexpected things. Things were rough personally, the goals I’ve been pursuing were greeted by road blocks, and there were protests taking place on one of our work properties.

We live in a very polarized world. It’s almost like the Red Sea has parted (again). But, instead of walking through dry land, there are one set of people in one side of the waves; and, the opposing side in the other wave. The line is drawn and no one is meeting in the middle.

I once heard a very wise man say, “You don’t win anything by stating what you’re against. You win by stating and exemplifying what you are for.”

I thought about that for a while. I had to let it sink into my brain. What does that mean?

I think I understood it a bit more in light of this week. Before I get there, let me explain what I do for a living. I am the Executive Assistant| Grant Writer for a non-profit pregnancy center. This week, we had protestors in front our one of our clinics saying that we were a “fake clinic” and that we “coerce and shame women” into having their babies and a slew of other things. The thing is, they don’t know us.

First of all, the women come to us come at their own will. We do not drag women under false pretenses to come to our clinic.

Second, we have filed all the necessary documents needed to operate a state qualified medical clinic as a legal non profit organization.

Third, we simply give the women the medical information about either birth or abortion. We also tell the women we do not refer for abortions. If someone were to call as ask, we would tell them we don’t. We offer early pregnancy verification which every woman will need regardless of her choice.

The thing that makes me sad is that we have become a culture that just screams at each other. We don’t take the time to get to know how the other-side thinks and acts.

This week, in the midst of the chaos and confusion and accusations, a beautiful thing happened. I have a really good friend, who if you looked at us, you’d probably think, “how are they friends?” We don’t always see eye to eye on everything but she has been such a good friend to me. For example, she drove over to my house to help alleviate a task I needed to do when I was scampering to get to my Dad after the accident. She sent cards, brought me gifts and just listened to me when I felt like I was going to lose my mind.

When it comes to certain topics, we have different viewpoints, but this week, we said and talked about our differences on a certain topic. She shared her viewpoint and I shared mine. We weren’t trying to jam information down each other’s throat, we just talked and we listened to each other. This… This… is what I wish the rest of our country could do.

I realized the statement that the wise man said pertains to this… My friend and I may disagree on more than we may agree on but what we agree on allows us to discuss what we disagree on because we are for each other. She has my back and I have hers.

I know that if I opened my own non-profit that she didn’t agree with, she wouldn’t come protest in front of it… Because she knows me and if she opened a business that I may not agree with, I wouldn’t protest her because we know each other. We can talk to each other about our differences.

My Dad used to say, “Build a friendship strong enough to handle to truth.”

I think if we saw the story of the person holding the protest sign, we’d understand their need to be heard. People go through situations that often shape their viewpoint. I hope I learn to look beyond the sign and listen beyond the yelling to hear what that person’s story is. Everyone has a story and instead of protesting or getting angry at one another, I hope I find the opportunity to hear their story.

This is how Jesus treated people. When everyone saw a prostitute, he saw a woman with pain. When everyone saw lepers, Jesus saw men who were desperate for healing. When everyone saw Matthew, the tax collector, Jesus saw someone who could be a writer, disciple, teacher.

So, in a world full of protests, I pray we have ears to hear and eyes to see that those people are each uniquely made. They have a story and they’re longing to be heard.

Strive be the ears so that one day, someone will trust you enough to ask you for your voice.