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.

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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.”

A Risky Pursuit

I’m watching a series and it’s really got me thinking.

This series is based on a man. I’m not sure I can completely vouch for the whole series as there are some parts I do not agree with but here is the premise.

This man, born of means, comes back from being a POW and finds that the love of his life is engaged to his cousin and the only parent he had left has died — Rough start!

This man ends up taking a kitchen maid as his wife — unheard of for those times.

There is something very different about this man. He’s brave, fights for justice (no matter the class) and continually gets behind financially for helping the “common folk.” He risks breaking the law on account of a mans character and his desire to make sure those who are in need have food. He teaches his wife how to live in “society.”

There is so much about this series that I like and I stopped a second to think why.

Why do I find myself so caught up with this drama?

This is why…

It’s because this man, the one who took a maid as his wife, is an honorable man; who pursues his wife. He does not do it perfectly, but he knows he would not be what he is without her; and, she without him. He may not always be able to express it, but he tries the best he knows how to show her. No man has all the bells and whistles, and no woman has it all together. But trying, and looking out for one another… That is what matters.

I could go on, but I also want to focus on his wife. She chooses to change to be what he needs. That’s doesn’t mean she agrees with him all the time. In facts, she disagrees with him a lot. She gets frustrated with his decisions and his sometimes recklessness but she chooses to still support her husband. At one point she says, “I’m not going to tell you to not be reckless for that would be asking you to be less than who you are.” She knew he was born to risk much to help many. She doesn’t do this perfectly, but she continues to learn.

Of course this is only a drama, but it’s has got me thinking.

I believe too often we forget our roles. Bear with me as I say this, please.

In today’s world it is very rare to have a guy who confidently and continuously pursue. Women take time. We take a while to warm up, to be comfortable and to trust. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard single ladies (including myself) say, “He doesn’t pursue.”

I’ve had a guy nearly shaking of fear to take my arm. A guy threw away fresh flowers that he bought me because of fear. A guy nearly run away after making an effort to pursue.

Let me make this clear: this is not to bash guys. We all play our part.

I’ve met ladies, including myself, want to jump the gun. Meaning they start pursuing the guys because they’re tired of waiting and tired of guys not stepping up.

I’ve also seen girls shamelessly mock guys for trying. It’s a delicate matter. But I guess I saying is that it’s worth the risk.

Single guys, I know a lot of amazing single women. They are worth the risk. And ladies, I know a lot of amazing singles guys, they are worth waiting for and being open to. Just because one girl treated you poorly or rejected you doesn’t mean they all will. And ladies, just because a guy did you dirty doesn’t mean they all will.

I’m also not saying that you should say yes to any guy that asks you out. But, if he is a godly man, who loves the lord and is pursuing Him and starts to pursue you, be open. I’m preaching to myself. I used to think saying yes for coffee meant saying, “I do.”

And, as much as I’m speaking to singles, I am speaking to married couples. In this series, these two characters saw the damage that little secrets can be. I am not married, so I can’t speak much to this, but what I appreciate is that the guy admits when he’s neglected to see his wife. And the wife admits when she’s been difficult to be around. They also have built enough trust to handle each other’s struggles. Let’s be honest, just because you’re married doesn’t mean you don’t see another man or woman. You’re human and we are fallen. But at one point in the series, the husband says, “I know whatever life has ahead, I can face it with you by my side.” We need to be each other’s biggest fan and we need to be in their corner. They need to know (both husband and wife) they have each other’s back— in the Good and in the bad and in the suffering.

From observing several marriages good, bad and ugly, it’s hard. I’ve seen really good marriages and really destructive ones. But, I truly believe with all my heart that two are better than one…

Of course there are situations that can be out of our control. Abuse, neglect, endangerment, etc is in its own category.

But, I think, one of the most beautiful thing on this earth is a marriage. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it will break you. Yes, it is painful. But, more than that is so incredible powerful and there is nothing on earth that can be compared to a man truly loving, protecting and honoring his wife and a woman who respects, esteems and comes alongside her husband.

There are three things that are too amazing for me… the way of a man with a young woman.”

— Proverbs 30: 18 & 19

Those are my ramblings. Thanks for reading.

Certain Aspects of God

“God is Love” 1 John 4:8
“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous” Psalm 116:5
“God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

I like these aspects of God. But, what my humanity struggles with are verses like these:

“For he wounds” Job 5:18.
“He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship.” Lamentations 3:5.
“All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me.” Job 16:12.

All these verses are in the Bible. I’ve read them, but being wounded, shattered, and torn apart (Hosea 6:1) is not something I really understood until the past two years.

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If I’m being honest, I have been struggling with these aspects of God. And let’s just be real, it says He. The capitalization in the Bible is a reference for God.

Sometimes it is our own sin that causes wounds. Sometimes it’s the enemy that causes the damage to our soul. But what do you do when it’s God who allows it and God orchestrating it?

I don’t like a world where we are crushed. I don’t like being shattered, broken and torn apart.

You may think I’m out of line. But let me remind you of a verse (which keeps coming to my mom’s memory). Isaiah 53:5, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.”

God the Father, allowed His own Son to be crushed. In fact, God sent Jesus to be pierced, beaten, forsaken and subject to a criminal’s death. What do you do with that?

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This weekend I was invited to a retreat. I struggled to go. I know there’s a lot I need to wrestle through in my own heart and mind. Things that I haven’t been able to talk about because they are simply  too painful. It feels like I’m going to fall apart if I talk about it.

But, like my mom always says, “If you don’t want to go, it probably means you need to go.” So, I went.

While I was there I was given Genesis 22 to read. It is the passage of scripture where Abraham offers Issac to God in the alter and where God provides another sacrifice.

All three times Abraham was called, He said, “Here I am.”

It struck me in a whole new way. Being available to God means being available to breaking. Being available to being shattered. Being available to being torn apart.

Following God has broken me more than I ever thought possible.

But, while I was on my own at this retreat, I felt like God said, “Christi, don’t you think the same heart I broke, I can heal?”

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When things are broken, it’s in our nature to fix them, right? We have a falling out with someone and we want to fix it? We have an broken plan and we want to mend it. We want to be the fixers.

But what if God is just asking me to be the patient? To walk through the painful steps to healing? To press through the pain to obtain a greater prize? To be able to look back and see that none of it had anything to do with me.

Because the whole verse in Job 5 says this, “For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal.”

And the ending of Lamentations 3 says this:
“21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22 The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.

This road is not easy. I don’t like being broken, but I have to continue to trust that it is for a greater purpose.

“Weeping lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Sometimes that night is a few weeks, sometimes it is longer. But, God has our healing and joy will come in the morning.

I don’t know what road you are on. It may be incredibly painful, but this year, I want to be a good patient. I want to be available- even if it hurts.

 

 

When You Don’t Want The Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Disciple’s Life

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

No, HE’s alive they insisted.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Until Then, I’ll hate You

You violated me.

You violated my family.

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

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

The damage you’ve done is beyond repair…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wish your existence was never created….

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

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

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

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

You are wicked the very essence of evil itself…

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

I cannot wait for that day…

Until then, I will continue to hate you.

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