Catch the wind in your sails…

I was scrolling through my emails trying to find a link when I came across this quote:

God relishes surprise.

We want lives of simple, predictable ease — smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see — but God likes to go off-road.

He provokes us with twists and turns.

He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension — and yet don’t. By his love and grace, we persevere.”

Tony Snow (1955-2008).

Ironically, my Dad was the one who emailed us kids this quote. My Dad was always up a for an adventure. I believe that’s where I get my love for travel. My Dad didn’t care if it was a road trip to North Carolina or a missions trip to Brazil. He was totally up for wherever and whatever the Lord wanted him to do — even if it came with challenges.

My Dad was the most confident man I know. He was so sure in God that it didn’t matter what the storm blew in. He knew God had his back.

I just recently returned from a trip to England and Ireland. Some of you might know that I used to travel extensively; as it was a part of my job. But, I was always a little nervous to travel on my own. The way this tripped worked out was that

I’d be traveling solo the first few days and then meet up with friends.

Some of you might think this isn’t a big deal and it’s not. But, to me, I was a bit nervous going by myself. I’m so used to people being around. But, I knew I should go.

Traveling is also expensive. I had enough for my ticket, but when it got closer to the trip, I was starting to worry a little about lodging because things hadn’t lined up as I had hoped.

Call me crazy, but I felt like the Lord told me, “Don’t you think I can afford this trip?” And I was like yeah, but how are you going to get that money to me. I’m such a skeptic sometimes.

A month or so before my trip, a family friend wrote me a check for this trip which covered all my lodging cost and some. I couldn’t believe it… Then when I had a few extra costs I wasn’t counting on, another friend sent me a check. I kept thinking, “God, why are you doing this? I’ve hardly talked to you this year. And most of the year I’ve been mad and confused by You.”

But, on this trip, I felt like the weight of life that I’ve been carrying fell off somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve felt dead inside since last summer and this trip felt like CPR for my heart and soul.

Sometimes, I think we do need to go off-roading. It’s in the off-reading we finally are able to break the deafening silence between our Maker and us. It’s not like things make any more sense, but there is a sense of grace and understanding that God understands and I’ve got to persevere.

I want to leave you with a few quotes from one of my hero’s — Elizabeth Elliot:

o The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.

o Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ‘ashes.’

o It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while he is the end of our journey, he is also at every stopping place.

And as Mark Twain said… “Catch the trade winds in you sail… Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Advertisements

What if there isn’t a “Happy Ending”?

You know what really bothers me? At least it has lately… The movie reel for nearly every Christian movie…

You know what I’m talking about? Before God — awful. With God — rainbows and butterflies… Close movie happily ever after.

I’ve noticed a trend in testimonies being that way too. I don’t know that we even realize it. We want to end on a good note. We want a happy ending… but what if there isn’t one? At least, not in our lifetime.

I got thinking about this… And I get it, a lot of times there is a happy ending and I’m glad for those testimonies. But lately, I haven’t been able to resonate with them. Maybe it’s the grief.

But, can I be honest? Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we hoped they would. I decided to follow Christ as a six year old and then started to grasp what that meant at 14 years old. I’ve always attended church and lived the best I knew how to.

But what happens when abuse comes WHEN you’re following God? What happens when relationships are shattered WITHIN a “Christian” setting? What happens when death snatches away your father, child, sister, mom, friend? What happens when you are diagnosed with a terminal disease while you’re in Christian leadership? It’s not like you walked away from God. In fact, you were FOLLOWING him.

I’m writing this in hope of being able to process the scattered thoughts in my own head. I recently read the book, called “Hope Heals.” It’s a story of a young couple (Jay & Kathrine Wolfe) whose lives took a dramatic turn on April 21st, 2008. Kathrine suffered a massive brain stem stroke out of the blue, from the rupturing of an AVM, a rare congenital defect she didn’t even know she had.

The doctors operated on her for 16 hours; removing over 60% of her cerebellum. A lot of intra-cranial nerves where sacrificed. They had no clue what her condition would be when she woke up.

She survived, but the life she once knew was gone. She is blind in her right eye and deaf in her right ear. Her ability to walk and function on her own is also gone. She had to relearn how to walk, read, write and swallow among other things.

So, in situations like that, or maybe in your case; whatever that might be, signing divorce papers, changing your marital status to widow or widower, finding yourself in a hospital with your child whose sick and not given a good prognosis. I think sometimes we can get lost. I think sometimes we question if we have any faith left; because, all “this”, whatever that means for you, took place while you were following God. It’s tempting to say, what’s the use? It’s too painful and somehow all this pain was allowed by a sovereign God. It went through His hands…

I was reminded of the disciples in Matthew 14. John the Baptist had just been beheaded. The disciples had seen Jesus feed the 5,000 and cast out a demon and heal a man’s wrinkled hand. Jesus tells the disciples to go to the other side. During their boat ride to the other side they encounter a storm. Jesus sent them and they faced a storm. Jesus SENT them and they faced a storm.

But the thing the words that keep coming back to mind are those of a disciples: “Who else can I go to? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66).

I don’t understand it all… My mind cannot wrap around the life that I’ve been given. One day my Dad was healthy on the mend from a knee surgery. The next laying in a coma in ICU and a week later forever gone from this world.

If I’m being honest, lately, it’s been hard for me to hear stories of people who made it, or survived. Because, although it’s probably selfish, I think why didn’t my Dad survive? He was healthy. He lived his life well. He devoted his life to helping others.

But then I think of my friend’s Dad who suffered with an illness for over 12 years until he caught a cold and passed away 2 weeks later — never being healed. Or, my friends who are wheelchair bound. Or, my other friends who struggle with infertility … So forgive me if I have trouble accepting the cliché that most Christian movies portray.

Nothing in this life is guaranteed: Not marriage, not health, not financial ease. But, that’s when I need to remind myself that I am not supposed to be living for this world anyways.

As I’ve wrestled with this question, I thought back to Jesus’ time on earth. This world tore him to shreds on every level. Physically he was beaten beyond recognition. Emotional He went through excruciating loss and turmoil. He grieved his cousin’s death, and his friend’s death. He was verbally attacked on multiple levels and spiritually he had the devil riding him, essentially, the whole time He was here.

This world brought him to his knees in grief. It brought him to sweating blood and it brought him to beating and then ultimately death. This world killed him…

I think we do a great disservice to everyone by painting an “everything will work out — in this life time” picture after you give your life to Christ.

John was beheaded, Peter was crucified, Stephen was stoned….

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11:32-40

I think the heartache is once again a reminder that we can only see one piece of the puzzle while God is orchestrating the rest.

I still don’t understand it all… I just know that sometimes it turns out and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s really hard and I think it needs to be okay that it’s not okay. I wonder what Jesus would say, if he were here in person, to the one whose lost a loved one… Or to the one who’s not able to have children… Or to the one whose stuck inside a body that won’t function without assistance… I don’t know what He’d say, but I bet you He’d sit down beside them… and listen. He’d listen as you explained your frustration and hurt… and I bet He’d cry with you as mourned the life you thought “should be” and I bet He’d even let you beat on His chest as you questioned over and over and over why this had to be this way….

I once heard a quote that I’ll leave you with…

“The world is full of evil and lies and pain and death, and you can’t hide from it; you can only face it. The question is, when you do – How do you respond? Who do you become?

– Phil Coulson

A Mysterious Letter

Sometimes life is frustrating…

It can feel like one closed door after another. And if you’re single, it can feel like that a lot.

You meet a guy, you get your hopes up and he disappears … the only thing you is crickets.

Or, you meet a guy, you date and it feels so forced so it crumbles into nothing.

Or, you meet a great guy, you totally click but you don’t share the same beliefs.

I could go on, and on about the different scenarios but I think you get the point. It’s easy to lose hope. It’s exhausting to try, but you feel like you have to keep trying.

A few days ago, I was reminded of a letter I received. About four years ago, I came home from the office and saw a letter for me from someone with a Georgia address. I thought it was from my sister Rachel, but it didn’t look like her handwriting. I looked at it again and saw a name I didn’t recognize — as in never saw it before in my life. Yet, my name was on the letter.

I dropped my stuff beside my bed and quickly jumped in bed to read the letter from this mystery person.

He introduced himself in the letter and shared a little bit about himself. He was in the army. I later found out He graduated from a very prestigious military academy and was being training to be a platoon leader.

He attended my sister’s church and in Rachel like fashion, she saw that he was single and asked if he wouldn’t mind writing a letter to me to encourage me. And to mine and my sister’s surprise, he did.

In the letter he shared the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. It’s when Elijah is running from Jezebel because she’s killing prophets left and right. Elijah was on the run, afraid and prayed to die. An angel came to him and brought him food and led him to the cave.

It’s in that cave that the Lord reveals Himself, but not before Elijah is essentially crying out to God saying, I’ve done this and that for you and now I’m being hunted as an animal. I am the ONLY ONE LEFT. Can’t singleness can feel that way sometimes? I’ve been waiting and served you and others and I feel like I’m the only one left.

Then the Lord appears to Elijah in a still small voice and then says, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (Verse 18)

So, this mystery man wrote me this letter to let me know there were still good guys out there that were seeking the Lord’s will. They weren’t all married yet and they hadn’t fallen for the culture’s lies.

I got to meet this man during one of my overseas trip as he was stationed in a country I happened to be visiting. He was a great tour guide. He has a big heart and ambitious dreams. He is now married and plugging away at his many hobbies. But it truly was a privilege to meet him. I mean what guy would take the time to write a letter to a complete stranger just to remind her that there are still really good guys around.

Lately, that letter has been on my mind. I went through my stuff to find it but I had no luck… I’m sure it will turn up some day. But until then, I’ll remember his words— There are still 7,000 that haven’t bowed to Baal.

Unlikely Revival?

I finally laid down on the floor after hours of walking followed by packing my suitcase. I would be leaving in the next morning. I had been overseas for three grueling weeks. In all honesty, it felt like the longest three week of my life.

I hit shuffle on my iTunes. The song that came on was, “Call it Grace.” Almost as soon as the song began, I felt tears falling from my eyes… Grace…

I recently had a conversation with a friend which spurred me to write this blog. Our conversation was on revival.

I told my friend that when I hear that word, I want to run for the hills. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for revival, but the “preaching of revival” that I’ve witnessed caused a lot of damage.

I am bracing myself as I write because I have a feeling I will not receive the nicest comments from writing on this topic, but I also feel like I have to say something.

I was once very involved with a ministry that wanted revival. I was 110% on board. We would pray for hours. We wanted to serve those who needed it. We wanted to see change. None of this is bad, in fact, these are ALL great things. But somewhere along the way something changed. Fear, condemnation and judgment crept in. We HAD to read our Bible for extended periods of time or else bad things might happen. We NEEDED to fast because that’s what brought revival. We HAD to have more prayer. Somewhere along the way the desire for revival became something WE had to bring about. It was up to us and only us. And when one of us weren’t keeping up with the amount of prayer and the amount of Bible reading or the way we chose to live, we were suddenly on the outside and we needed serious help to get back in to the group.

Suddenly, we had to follow a regiment no one could keep up. Again, I am NOT against prayer. I am NOT against revival, but I’ve noticed that the people who often preach revival the most are the ones on display.

Before I explain further, I believe God can use one man or woman to lead a revival — look at Billy Graham, Jonathon Edwards, Billy Sunday.

I almost gave up completely on the idea of revival because of the enormous amount of pain that ensued from it. I went from being on the inside to suddenly being on the outside accused of horrible things. I felt no grace. It was as if the very presence of grace was snuffed out by the intense regiment of work needed to bring about revival. Others were looked down upon because they couldn’t keep up. Judgment, condemnation and fear of not measuring up swallowed the space for grace.

I was beginning to think revival was just another thing people used to stir emotions, raise support, or gain power…

Until, I started to get plugged into my community. There was a big initiative when I moved back called #LoveSoFla. There was ways to get involved in serving the community. At first I thought that it was just my church and their satellite campuses doing this initiative. But during one of the services I realized this was NOT just an initiative by my church but over 50 churches in my community.

You see in 2014 and 2015, the city I grew up in, had two pastors resign due to moral failures. Those pastors lead the two largest churches in the city. It was devastating for many people. A lot of people doubted that either church would be able to come back from such a loss. But late in 2015, pastors and key leaders in the community began to meet and pray with each other for our community and for direction.

It was out of that meeting that a mission was launched. Soon after an organization called Church United was established. The community needed a guide and a name was needed for clarity, so Church United began reaching more and more pastors, key leaders and congregations.

By the time I started plugging into the community, I saw pastors and churches praying with each other and serving our community side by side. It wasn’t one denomination. It wasn’t one racial color. It wasn’t only pastors or only the congregations— It was all inclusive. And the ONLY name that was used in the name of this service was Jesus. We were just being Jesus’s hands and feet. Titles didn’t matter, denominations didn’t matter, age, race or gender didn’t matter, we were just God’s children doing what He asked us to do: serve and love.

Because of the unity of our churches, it was the church who responded first to the victims families during the FLL Airport shooting in 2017. It was the church who beat FEMA after Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma. And it was the church who orchestrated a vigil and served the victims families after the Parkland shooting.

This past week I had the honor to attend the quarterly gathering for Church United. I could not help but cry during the portion of the meeting I attended. I saw pastors who serve in Parkland being prayed for by pastors in other cities. I saw a young Pastor from Pines being prayed for by the other pastors in Pines because of the extraordinary loss this particular Pastor was dealing with. Mostly, I saw united pastors and key leaders humbling themselves and seeking ways to be a beacon on light in our community. We have a large homeless population, we people struggling with addictions that often take their life, we lose approximately 35 unborn babies daily to abortion. We have 17 families now left with unimaginable grief because they lost their loved ones February 14th, 2018. Our community is broken. We, as the church, do not get everything right— who does? We make mistakes, we fall, we get discouraged, we are human, but we know that we are here for today and we want to make today count.

As I looked around the room last week, it dawned on me… This is what revival looks like. It’s not flashy. It’s not about one church, or one Pastor, or one organization. It’s every day people living the life God gave them for His glory. It’s not about Church United, they just needed a name. It’s about seeing Jesus change on community using broken yet hopeful people to reach other broken people with hope.

That to me is revival.

A Revolutionary View of Love

Introduction: I decided to attend my first writer’s conference last year. I didn’t know anyone there. I was super nervous and had no idea what to expect.

Before the opening session began, a lady came up to me and introduced herself to me. She asked if I had ever attended. When I said no, she decided to take me under her wing. She connected me with other non-fiction writers and made me feel so welcome.

Kristen is someone I admire. She is always setting new goals and achieving them. She also so kind, caring and hospitable.

Kristen’s SECOND of three book just came out this week. Check out The Revolutionary .

Without further ado, here is a snippet of Kristen’s writing 💗! Enjoy!

Love perseveres in spite of obstacles. Love gives without any guarantee of receiving. Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

If I told you those themes are part of my latest novel, you might guess I’m a romance writer, right? Well, they are, but guess again. The Revolutionary is a dystopia.

Wait. Dystopia? You mean one of those futuristic novels so dark they make the problems of our own world look like a walk in the park? Yes and no. Though dystopian novels have certain bleak characteristics, I think that setting paints the perfect contrast to the hope characters are fighting (and sometimes dying) to gain.

How can a dystopia present an accurate view of love? I’m glad you asked.

#1 – Love perseveres in spite of obstacles.

Obstacles are everywhere in dystopian novels, and The Revolutionary is no exception. The first chapter in this sequel to The Revisionary opens with my heroine Portia in a satellite slave camp where prisoners die like rabbits, and no one cares—no one but Portia’s protector Gath. Whether he’s trying to shield her from the freezing wind or take a lash for her, he selflessly destroys his own health to preserve hers.

As a result, Portia struggles with guilt. Surely, he has already done enough for her. How can she ever repay him? But then, there are those horrible rumors about Gath. Does he feel he owes her a debt because the accusations are true?

But that’s the thing. Love doesn’t keep score. Whether or not Gath is as guilty as people say, Portia resolves to rescue him and the other prisoners.

#2 – Love gives without any guarantee of receiving.

When a spy ringmaster helps her escape the satellite, Portia could try to run and get her life back. But the reality is that without her new role as a plant inside the capital of Crystal, her brother and friends won’t have any chance of learning why the ruling Dome wants to execute prisoners in mass.

Plus, unless she takes this job, she’ll never learn if her long-time friend Luther is on her side and cares about her the way she does for him. But when she sees him again for the first time in months, her blood curdles. He keeps company with the ruling echelons, the very people who want her dead.

They seem stuck on two different ends of a pendulum, never knowing when their paths will cross and if they have the same motives. Yet they desire the other’s good, even when they don’t know what that will mean for them.

 

#3 – Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

When God reaches into someone’s life, He can transform even the cruelest person into a new creation. In Acts 9, the Bible tells the true story of the transformation of persecutor Saul into the Apostle Paul.

Gath’s character arc in some ways parallels that of Paul. His faith enables him to love others—even his tormenters—in a way few people understand.

And though he’s merely a shell of his old self, he volunteers for a one-way mission, even when he finally has a chance at his own happy ending.

True love is sacrificial, not thinking of its own interests but of “the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 ESV).

Closing thought

Whew, heavy stuff, right? I didn’t say dystopias are all sunshine and roses, but even they can present a beautiful, though battered, representation of what true love looks like.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s all well and good for make-believe, but that’s not real life.” If fiction doesn’t mirror real life, then there’s no point in reading it.

Besides, real life offers its own examples. Just look through the Bible for story after story of sacrificial love in action.

• Jonathan willingly gave up his right to the throne for his friend David.

• Ruth turned her back on her own people to care for her mother-in-law.

• Esther faced the king on behalf of her people at the risk of her own life.

• The Apostle Paul endured unspeakable torture for the gospel’s sake.

• Then, there is the ultimate example, Jesus, who died on the cross for thankless sinners.

Sure, there are many failures in Scripture as well, but I find those examples encouraging, too. (And trust me, my characters make their fair share.) However, through mistakes, we can discover second chances. In spite of past hurts, we can learn to love well.

Now that’s a revolutionary view of love.

~ By Kristen of KristenHogrefe.com

Author Bio

Kristen Hogrefe is a Florida girl who says yes to most adventures involving sunshine and prefers to start her day with Jesus and coffee. She is a multi-published novelist of young adult fiction, including The Rogues trilogy (Write Integrity Press) and Wings of the Dawn trilogy. A life-long learner, she also has a heart for teaching and speaking in academic settings and professional conferences. You can find her blogging at KristenHogrefe.com where she challenges young adults and the young at heart to think truthfully and live daringly.

When Love Isn’t Enough

“Maybe I just need to love ______ more.” I thought to myself as the tension between us continued to rise.

“Love is patient… So I could be more patient. Love is kind and I could be more kind. Love believes all things, so that’s the answer, more love.”

That’s what I believed until I found myself with an irreconcilable relationship. Broken with very little hope of it ever being repaired, and it has to be that way for numerous reasons.

I didn’t really realized I’d hoped love would solve all the problems until I was in another situation.

At my Dad’s bedside. I thought that if I kissed him enough, held his hand long enough, love on him enough, he would wake up. I thought if I told him I’d make him cheesecake, key lime pie and all the popcorn he wanted if he would just wake up from his coma. But then, he died.

I was driving for several hours one night with tears pouring out of my eyes asking God why my love wasn’t enough…

I loved that person who I no longer talk with. I loved with everything I had.

I loved my Dad as best as I knew how. I truly believed with all my heart that the love of not just me but my entire family would wake him up.

But my love wasn’t enough…

I was thinking this week, maybe you have felt the same? Maybe your love wasn’t enough to keep your spouse from leaving? Maybe your love wasn’t enough from keep someone you loved from having to suffer from cancer? Maybe your love wasn’t enough to hold on to the person you cared about? Maybe your love wasn’t enough to protect your child from being hurt.

Love is powerful, but sometimes it is not enough…

This week I came across 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”

I read that and to be honest, I don’t like the word “compel.” Another translation said, “Controls.” I didn’t like that either. Maybe it’s because I knew someone who would say if you love someone enough they’ll do anything for you. This person used “Love” as a manipulating tool.

So, I decided to look it up in the Greek and what I found was not what I was expecting:

1. To HOLD TOGETHER

1. any whole, lest it fall to pieces or something fall away from it

2. To HOLD TOGETHER with constraint, to compress

1. to press together with the hand

1. to hold one’s ears, to shut the heavens that it may not rain

2. To press on every side

1. of a besieged city

2. of a strait, that forces a ship into a narrow channel

3. of a cattle squeeze, that pushing in on each side, forcing the beast into a position where it cannot move so the farmer can administer medication

3. To Hold Completely

1. to hold fast

1. of a prisoner

2. metaph.

1. To be HELD BY, closely occupied with any business

2. in teaching the word

3. to constrain, oppress, of ills laying hold of one and distressing him

5. to be HELD WITH, afflicted with, suffering from

6. to urge, impel

1. of the soul

So, my love may not always be enough. It wasn’t enough to keep a relationship. It wasn’t enough to keep my Dad here. But God’s love is ENOUGH to hold me together even when I am utterly broken apart.

His love can hold my pieces together until they come together again. His love can resurrect parts of my soul that have died.

My love is not enough, but His Love is and until I can feel it again— his love will be.

Will Love Ever Come to Me?

I’ve asked myself this several times. I’ll meet someone, get my hopes up and nothing happens. Sometimes, I get a red flag and decide to move on. Other times, the guy I like will stop contacting me. So, here I am still single, but does that mean I am without love?

Over time, I have met several types of girls. I’ve met the girl who is just “waiting” for the “right one” to come along. I have been that girl too. We tend to fantasize in our mind how “perfect” it will be when we meet “the one”. I have also met the girl who settled. Neither one seems to be very happy though. Why? What is missing?

First of all, I think expectation has a huge role in our unhappiness. We expect him to look like Channing Tatum and act like Ryan Gosling in Nicolas Sparks’ The Notebook. But in reality, men are not women. Most men like men things: sports, making money, fishing, action movies, and spending time in their man cave. Not necessarily candle lit dinners with Frank Sinatra playing in the background, although some do. Most men don’t like talking and chatting for hours. The simpler the better. They’re very logical and fact oriented. Us women have a tendency to have a backstory to our backstory which is a backstory to our actual story. We are different.

Secondly, we need to ditch the lie that says, “we can only feel loved when we have a significant other”. I have been incredibly blessed with an amazing family and amazing friends who have become like family. I know I am loved, but sometimes I get stuck with what we think “love is” or what “love should be”. We can experience love and receive love without a significant other.

For me, the past two years have rested my resolve, but I have felt more love than before. I fled the state I called “home” to get away from a toxic relationship. That meant saying goodbye to a job I loved, an apartment, and lots of great friends. A year after that, I lost my Dad in a car accident. As if that weren’t enough, a few months after that, I lost my job due to the business closing.

After experiencing so much loss, I feel like I have a greater appreciation for what others have been through or are going through. The more loss I experience the more I am learning how to love others and how to receive love from others.

The week I was packing my things to get away from a toxic relationship, I had a sweet friend pay my portion of the rent. I did not tell her why I was leaving. I was scared to tell this friend because she knew who who the toxic person who hurt me and could have been upset about my silence, but she did the opposite and helped me. During that same week, I also had my roommate tell me they’d cover my portion of the rent as long as I needed her to. I had a family, who did not have much, give me $100 for gas. Lastly, I had two other friends who gave me a substantial amount of money so I could take time off and recalibrate.

Each one of my family members and my friends have taught me how to love better. The week my Dad was in SICU fighting for his life, I had two friends who gathered money and sent me two cards. Inside the card were kind words, thoughts and prayers from all my old co-workers as well as $500 gift card that they all pitched in for. If that is not sacrificial love and abundant kindness I don’t know what is. I don’t know one of my friends and coworkers that live in abundance. They all gave selflessly.

Everyone is in need of love. My grandpa once said, “Love is not only a feeling but also a warmful act.” Sometimes our feeling betrays us. But if we choose to love the ones we have around us and expect nothing in return, it will slowly change how we feel. It truly is better to give than to receive. The same is true for love. A lot of the time we are sitting around waiting for someone to love us, but what if we decided to love others how we wanted to be loved.

I had a friend tell me, “I wish I was appreciated more.” Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she decided to tell her closest friends that she appreciated them. And in return, each friend reciprocated their appreciation of her.

So, instead of asking if love will come to you, how about asking: will I be love? will I be (a representation) of love to my family? will I be a (representation) of love to my co-workers? will I be (a representation) of love to my neighbors, friends, and my community?

Love comes in many forms, be creative. Love might look like a cup of coffee for your tired co-worker. It may look like an old-fashioned handwritten note to your friend encouraging her to keep pressing on. It may be an act of selflessness to your family. Maybe spending time listening to someone hurting in your community. I try to remind myself that no matter where I am there is always someone who is doing better and always someone who is doing worse. This helps me keep perspective. It helps me to help those who are worse off and strive to be more like the one who’s doing better.

Life is short, and we only have one life to live, we might as well spend it loving others well. Sure, we will get hurt sometimes. In the case of my toxic relationship, I gave all that I had and was left broken and beaten down. But, having a broken and scarred heart is not the worst thing that could happen, being bitter and callous is.

Love is not selfish it is selfless. Don’t sit around expecting things; instead, spend the time to connect with others. Life is hard and we need each other. And, the best way to learn how to be in a healthy relationship with a significant other is by learning how to love those around you now.

Choosing to be selfless and loving others expands your heart. Being single, I never know what to do for my birthday. So, I decided, instead of feeling sorry that I don’t have anyone to celebrate with, I decided to pick a cause to be a part of. Two years ago, I was a part of an “anti-sex trafficking walk” with an organization called A21. This past year, I volunteered to do relief work for those who have been impacted by hurricane Irma and possibly those impacted by hurricane Maria. This year, I’m raising money in a half marathon for a charity that I love.

So instead of pining away waiting, or settling and not being very happy, how about we choose today to change our perspective. Loving someone around you will make it hard to feel sorry for yourself. Being grateful that you have more than someone else might help open your eyes to how much more we can be grateful for.

As I said before, life is short. Although I miss him dearly, I had peace when my Dad passed away because I told him the week before the accident that I was proud of him. I loved him the best I knew how when he was here, and I know he knew that. I also know he loved me. So, today, do not waste any more time. Choose to be the love you want to see.

So, to summarize I’d like to leave you with 10 tips on to love:

1)    Leave your expectation low and keep your giving high

2)    Keep perspective: Strive to help the person worse off than you and strive to be more like the one who’s better off than you.

3)    When you’re feeling down, text someone else to ask how they’re doing

4)    When you’re feeling lonely, write a handwritten note to someone who’s been a good friend.

5)    Do something this year to help others around the time of your birthday- it may end up being the best birthday you’ve ever had, and you never know who you might meet.

6)    Be grateful for the people currently in your life instead of the ones who aren’t.

7)    Don’t expect anything and spend time to connect. Be there. Show up.

8)    Life is hard, choose to invest in friendships that will help ease your load and will help ease their load.

9)    Always be kind, the world is full of too much hate as it is.

10)    Life is short, tell those around you how much they mean to you. Don’t let things be unsaid.

For “Them”

I don’t know how to start this. But my heart is hurting for them, so this is post is dedicated to them.

Them? Yes, the ones who’ve been wounded deeply, but not by who you think. I think when we think of someone hurting us, we think of an “ex” or “dysfunctional family member” or “bi-polar boss” or even someone you thought was a friend but had their own agenda. But it’s not often that we think of another person in ministry or in a church setting. That is, until you’ve been the one hurt. And that’s where I begin.

This past week, I’ve run into several what I call “wounded warriors.”

For one reason or another they’ve left the church or the ministry they were involved with because something or someone went too far.

I want you to know that every time I hear of someone’s story whose been hurt. It’s hard to hold the tears back. Maybe it’s because I recognize and feel their pain. Recently, A wounded warrior, who did not know me until that day, prayed over me and I could no longer hold the tears back. She said, “Please comfort Christi because what she gave freely was used against her.”

I’m not writing this to demean anyone, but just to say that there is a real heartbreak happening not just outside our church walls but inside as well. It seems to be a topic the church remains silent on. I understand why. It’s very sensitive and we don’t want to be accusing our brothers or sisters. But at the same time, how does that saying go, “crap happens.” It’s hard to speak about it without doing more damage. However, there are a ton of “them” running around with a massive cannon ball wound in their heart. They have been so deeply wounded they want no part of church or ministry and I just want to say, I can understand where they, or you, may be coming from.

We are ALL a mess. The only difference between those inside the church and those outside the church is that we just admit we need a savior. Yet, sometimes, people in the church or ministry (me included) forget to admit that I need a savior and I try to do things on my own. I think this is where the hurting begins.

I am writing this blog to let you know that I am so sorry for the pain you’ve endured and I wish I could make it better.

I’ve seen first hand leadership that nearly destroyed those it was leading. I’ve observed unnecessary pressure that lead to physical ailments. I’ve seen those under leadership so fearful to make a move for dread of being chewed out. And also, fear of staying too quiet because that would be an issue too.

I’ve observed scripture thrown at people as a weapon. I’ve witnessed people’s character called into question and called traitors for no purpose at all except to usurp their power. And, I’ve seen people isolated and be called “out of Gods will” because they didn’t align 110% with the leader. I’ve seen false accusations of demon possession, seduction and adultery. All this for what? The sake the Gospel? The inflicted wounds were NOT coming from people who disagreed on beliefs but claimed to know the same God of love.

I’m sure you’ve heard “God told me this about you.” or “if you leave you won’t be under God’s blessing because God has blessed me and you’re under my umbrella.” “I’m your spiritual leader and your accountability so you need to tell me x,y or z.” You know what this is? Manipulation and an abuse of power and authority. And it is wrong!

I have never heard worse thing spoken about amazing people than when I entered the “ministry.” I have at times witness more support from those who didn’t attend church at all.

I get that there are some gray lines in ministry and in the church, but demanding information and using against someone else is wrong.

When someone allows you to pray for them, that is a PRIVILEGE and we should do everything within our power to PROTECT that person and that prayer request and deliver it safely to our Father, not to Julie or Jose.

I’ve heard a good leader is a good follower. Leadership should not be a dictatorship. We are one body with many parts. One part is not more important than the other. The people under a leader trusts the leader with information and that information should be protected and that person should be protected. Jesus shepherded his people. He was not a slave driver.

I still cry to this day because of some of the situations I faced. In fact, I cried just a few days ago. You know why? Because the situation that came about wrecked me. It was like a tsunami. It invaded and decimated my heart, mind and soul. A tsunami is a natural disasters and it takes a while for the place hit to come back from such devastation. And even after “coming back” it alters the landscape. The same is true for the warriors wounded by those in the ministry. I know I will never be the same person I was when I first was in ministry. I carry that wound with me.

I think the worst part about these situations and fall outs is that this is not the heart of God. In the midst of my situation, I got to the point where I’d cry (behind closed doors : the bathroom, hotel room, on lunch break) every day. It felt like my heart was pried open. It was one of the most confusing and conflicting times of my life. How could this be? We are all supposed to be on the same team.

But God was with me and I’ve never felt him closer than I did then — even with the confusion. I was reminded of his grace when the legalism was skyrocketing. I was reminded that only He is the judge — not them and not me. I didn’t even have the right to judge myself.

So my friends, I just want to say to the ones who’ve been hurt. I’m so sorry for what you’ve endured. I know no one is perfect, but we choose how we behave. And I believe the ones causing the most damage have unhealed wounds that are driving the hurt now inflicted on you and others.

So, my two cents is this: take time to heal. It will take time and perseverance. Get mad, take a few good licks on a punching bag, write your thoughts, share your story, get it out— don’t hold it in… And ask God to help you trust again. I know I need to do the same with other situations now. But give yourself time. It’s a wound and it’s a huge loss… and know that there are other wounded warriors that are here ❤️! I also want to add don’t give up on church and ministry. Take a break. But don’t give up. There are some amazing people. No one is perfect, but God can still use this pain as He uses all our pain.

Lastly, realize that restoration this side of eternity may not happen. Pray for it, seek it (if God is prompting you) but know we live in a fallen world and reconciliation might not happen in this life time.

“IF it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

And if it’s not possible, as Old Dominions says, “Love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.”