Where is the Miracle?

They were with him during the wedding at Cana when He turned water into wine. They were with Him when He healed a blind man from Bethsada. They were with Him when He fed the four thousand and then the five thousand. They walked with Him for years. They’d seen Him raise the dead, walk on water, and calm the waves. So where was the miracle now? On that dark Friday afternoon? Surely it wasn’t really finished. Like He said, as He breathed His last breathes. He was the Messiah, the ONE they had waited for. He was going to be their ruler, their king. But instead, He was being carried to a grave.

I came across a verse today that echoed in my soul.

“…And where are all His miracles?!” Judges 6:11.

Gideon is the one asking the Angel of the Lord this question. The Midianites had overtaken and been ruling Israel. Gideon, being brought up as a good Jewish boy, would have known the stories of the Red Sea parting, the provision of water, food and clothes for 40 years in the wilderness, and of the miracles that took place in Noah’s, Moses’ and Joseph’s life… But Gideon questioned: Where are the miracles now? If You are who You say You are… Why haven’t You shown up?

I’ve asked this a couple times in my life. “God, why did this hurt have to take place? Why couldn’t You have had me go another route in life?” or “Why didn’t you save my Dad. Where was the miracle then?”

As Easter approaches, I am reminded that Friday was not only an earth shattering event but also faith shattering week. I wonder if the disciples asked themselves, “Were we all deceived? Were the ones who mock us all along actually right? Because, He’s gone and so are our dreams of a new kingdom.”

I just want to pause here… Because, if we are honest, we have all had times when the dream in our heart died. The trajectory of where we thought our life would go, or what we thought it’d be, died. Every loss has to be fully felt in order for it to be unshackled from our hearts. We will always feel the ache but we don’t always have to carry the full weight of it. That was the disciples. They had lost their friend who was, up until this point, immortal. No one could touch Him. He was invincible until He succumbed to the cross .

So where do we go after we experience our Friday afternoon? The moments when our life seems to be crumbling and our faith is shaken. After you grieve, and you must grief. And after you question, because you will question. And after you wrestle… You get up and let God use you to be a miracle in someone else’s life.

What do I mean? Gideon, although scared out of his mind, obeyed God. He let God used him to bring liberation to Israel. And as I was looking up the name of the town Gideon came from, I learned this was the SAME valley where David would later take down Goliath.

God used the disciples to turn the world upside down, but it wasn’t until they surrendered their grief, and what they thought their lives would look like. And acknowledged that His Kingdom was greater than theirs— no matter how well intended.

So, what does a miracle look like today? It looks like girls in India who had been sold into slavery, being freed and then raising enough money to rescue another girl. It looks like individuals stepping up to take a child in who has been removed from their home due to abuse or neglected. It looks like volunteering in your community. It looks like a bone marrow or kidney donor. It looks like walking down a hospice hallway to be with someone whose about to lose their loved one. It looks like a million different things in a million different ways.

But, before we rush in, let us be very aware that the only reason we are able to be a miracle in another’s life is because of the miracle Jesus did in our life. Maybe it wasn’t the miracle we asked, begged and petitioned for, but it far outweighs the one we were or are asking for here. His miracle is the fact that we can spend eternity with Him. God whose ways are perfect, who is always kind. Who is good beyond measure and abundantly gracious. Who is just and true and pure. Who does not waver but holds steady. Who is our Rock, our Fortress and our Defense, Who is present, and sees us as He created us to be. Who has our names engraved on the palm of His hand. This is a the ultimate miracle. The fact that a perfect and holy God would bring heaven to earth to save a wretch like me. I am once again humbled and amazed all over again.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.

Click image to hear “Glorious Ruin”

Discovering Dimple

Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt-out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti-filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!

The girl took two steps back, wiped the sweat of the late August heat and the salty tears of her eight-year struggle off her face, and admired her work. The words glistening wet in the afternoon sun and trails of red paint ran slowly down like blood – the fresh, healing, life-giving kind – staining the bears and flowers. It made sense to her now, and the corners of her mouth turned up in a hint of a smile and she stared at the stuffed animal, Binky, that she had laid there years ago, a symbol of the death of her innocence and carefree childhood. Its pink furry head had been dabbed with drips of paint over the years, but this red was its crowning glory and her latest declaration to life. From this moment on, she would still cry, still scream, and still beat the walls of her bedroom and the door of heaven, but like a defiant battle cry against despair, she would also choose to rejoice.

Her new family stood behind her in silent solidarity, her parents, Rainbow and the kid who was now a man. He stepped forward and put his hand on her shoulder. He didn’t have to say anything, for his motion spoke for the whole group and was understood by all. They knew what it cost for her to write that word; they had known the same loss, walked through the same valleys, and fought the same fight together, and they had agreed to this same conclusion. Life was worthless if they could not find joy and purpose if they couldn’t see beyond their pain. This lesson was not one that they accepted easily or naturally but through the extraordinarily faithful and loving examples of others.

There are three main reasons children are placed in foster care: abuse, neglect, or abandonment (voluntary or involuntary). For her, it was neglect. She’d been in and out of foster care due to her mother’s negligence. That is, until one Christmas Day when her relationship with the state was solidified. Twenty years ago, the Department of Children and Families found her sitting alone in her soiled outfit, murmuring and moaning for sustenance. She had been locked in an empty apartment. The apartment was so bare even the walls remained empty. Despite the smell, one would never know that this apartment was someone’s home. To this day, DCF is unsure how long she had been alone. She was only four at the time.

It took her nearly two years after that Christmas Day before she began to speak. When she did, she quickly gained the nickname Dimples from her caseworker, for she had the most adorable dimples on both of her cheeks. It took her years in therapy and a steady home for her to find out what “family” actually meant. And there was one special person with one little creature who’d be just the right duo to help her with the loss of her mom and her childhood.

The kid was also an only child but his home was a happy one. His grandparents died before he was born. And although his Dad worked very long hours, leaving lots of time with his mom, they both loved him dearly. He and his mom were two peas in a pod. His mom walked him to and from school each day. One day right before the school bell rang, the principal called the kid to his office over the loudspeaker. He never got in trouble so he wondered what this call meant. The principal’s

bewildered face told him that whatever words he heard would not be good ones. His mom has been struck by a car while walking in a crosswalk. His world came crumbling down.

At the hospital, while his dad was trying to finalize the paperwork and getting information about his mom, his dad collapsed. A nurse ran to his side to check his vitals. She quickly discovered his thready pulse and called for more assistance. In a matter of seconds, his dad was rushed into a makeshift room, the kind where there’s only a curtain separating patients in need. An oxygen mask was put on and tests were run… the staff did as much as they could. In the middle of the chaos, a nurse turned around, looked at the boy, and said to her colleague, “get that kid out of here.”

All he could hear was “1, 2, 3, CLEAR” *shocking sound* None of this made any sense to him. He stood aimlessly and completely shell-shocked in the long, sterile, uninviting hallway, waiting for news of his dad. He started to feel faint, so he found a corner to hide in… First, his mom; now, his dad.

An hour passed and still no word. He didn’t hear the chaos anymore and one by one the medical team left his dad’s makeshift room. No one came to talk to him. He felt that if he moved everything – including the hospital – would collapse around him. If he could just get as small as physically possible and stay like that, he might be okay. That’s until a nurse spotted him. Their eyes locked. He didn’t want to talk to her. He wasn’t strong enough to hear more bad news. Maybe it would be good though, he tried to convince himself, but the sinking feeling in his stomach was relentless.

That day was a blur. He was taken by DCF because he was officially declared an orphan. His Mom and Dad had died within 6 hours of each other. He woke up that morning to what he thought would be a normal day, only to be completely abandoned by evening. He was not able to go home that night because there were papers to process. He was, officially declared, a child of the state. Little did he know; the state would be the only family he would know; unless someone intervened.

Over the next 10 years, he’d be in over 25 foster homes, multiple schools, and nowhere that felt like home. He felt like an unwanted vagabond, a nomad with no roots. No one to check in with or to check on him. His heart always ached for a longing to belong and be seen. There was a throbbing wound in his soul. He missed his parents and had no one with whom to remember them.

Never once was he the only foster child in a foster home. The state had too many kids. So, he was always thrown into a mix of other kids, most of which had lots of behavioral issues. He pretty much kept to himself. He carried so much pain he felt like if he opened up, a dam would break loose and he wouldn’t be able to contain his emotions… so he remained silent.

There was only one girl he’d met along the way that was as quiet as he was. They called her Dimples. She didn’t say much but would often find the kid and sit beside him. They both knew they had a lot of pain, but having someone to sit with in the pain was a strange comfort. After about six months, of being with Dimples and that family, he had to move. That’s just what the state decided.

Since no one ever chose to adopt him, the kid would age out of the system at 18. When he knew he’d be aging out, he figured out how to support himself. While in foster care, he saved up enough

money to get a car by 16, just shy of his 17th birthday he began delivering pizzas. He had a good boss who was a kind man and took him under his wing.

He rang the doorbell and savored the warmth of the pizza box on his hand while he waited. He heard laughter from inside, and a lady with a ponytail and designer workout clothes opened the door. “Oh great, pizza’s here everyone!” she announced, and several childish voices cheered from behind her. The kid could see over the lady’s slender shoulder that the house was full of kids, parents, and grandparents. A giddy little boy came tromping toward the entrance, riding on the shoulders of a man who had a beard and a balding spot on top of his head… possibly from where the boy was bopping him constantly with his palms.

“It’s our son’s 8th birthday,” the fashionable lady explained as she took the pizza boxes. She passed the boxes off to her husband who paid her with a flirtatious peck on the cheek. She giggled. “And here’s a tip,” she said as she smiled and held out a crisp five-dollar bill with her soft, manicured hand. The kid forced a smile in return, stuffed the cash in his pocket and quickly ducked back into his car.

His heart was pounding and as he turned onto the main road, he turned up the radio and pushed his sneaker hard against the gas pedal. Houses, trees, and mailboxes flew past, but the images remained – burned and taunting in his brain. They looked so happy – a mom, a dad, a son… For his 8th birthday, this kid had been shuffled to a new foster home and no one knew or acknowledged that there was anything to celebrate. His parents had been dead for 3 months by that time. And while that was almost ten years ago now, the pain still seared white-hot. Anger and pain forced him to blindly drive on and on until he came to a dead end on an abandoned street. He parked and turned off the radio, breathing heavily and beating the steering wheel. When would this grief end? When would the sight of a happy family stop breaking him into pieces?

Then the kid heard a faint rustle and realized he wasn’t alone. He got out of the car and cautiously moved to a pile of rubbish in the shadows. There he found a young cat that looked almost dead – almost, but not quite. She was shabby and skinny and appeared too weak to stand up. It cried pitifully, barely loud enough to be heard at all. The kid knelt beside the creature, and she blinked its dimming eyes at him… eyes that told him she knew what it felt like to be abandoned, helpless, and alone. The anger that consumed him just moments before swelled into a passionate urge to do something good. “I’m gonna help you,” he whispered, and he gently scooped the creature into his arms. “You’re not alone anymore… and neither am I.”

With that, he put the cat in his car and slowly drove home. He left the radio off, and all he thought about the cat beside him. It didn’t have anything… no family, no home, not even a name. Maybe he could provide all three? “Rainbow,” he called her out loud. Between her calico fur, her deep and iridescent eyes, and the hope that she somehow offered to him, the name seemed to fit. He smiled to himself and nodded, “Rainbow.” She watched him for a minute, then rested her head on his leg.

When the ride ended, she was lifted again. The kid slid her body onto a soft pile of clothing among the boxes in the garage. He pulled an old coat over the top, creating a cave that emanated the sweetness of old ladies who frequently powdered themselves—a light rose motif that played

ironically well in the deep recesses of Rainbow’s ancestral brain. The pizza kid lifted her head to help her lap water from a hubcap. He broke bits of pepperoni and crust into bite-sized pieces and left them where her tongue could reach them. Much later, she heard him practicing his orations like songs. Like monks chanting in the distance, they were a comfort.

The kid had almost forgotten the orations his mom gave him to help him fall asleep. His mom was a public speaking tutor. She used to recite all the great speeches to him from “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King to the “Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln. He’d almost forgotten how hearing his mom recite speeches would lull him to sleep. The weird thing with grief is sometimes you block memories. If you remember them all at once, your heart couldn’t take it. Speaking to Rainbow not only was a comfort to him but also her. For the first time, he began to see what healing might look like.

It was a Friday night. Rainbow had grown a lot in the last two months, and so had the kid. They were best of friends. For the first few weeks, Rainbow was so weak, she had to be held in order to fall asleep. Her fragile body was not producing enough heat to keep her warm on her own. Rainbow went everywhere with the kid. And for the first time in a very long time, the kid, although an adult in the eyes of the law, didn’t feel alone. He found a place where he could talk about the pain of his childhood, missing his parents and aimlessly wandering through life trying to make heads or tails of it. Whenever he would get sad, it was like Rainbow knew to snuggle next to him. He’d almost forgotten what the goodness of life looked like until Rainbow reminded him. It was about relationships.

Dimples spend most of her growing up years in therapy. Never knowing her biological dad, losing her mom to drugs, alcohol, and men; and, then being found by perverts, not to mention being moved constantly by the state, kept her on a regular schedule for her therapist… although, even the therapists would frequently change. Her life felt like a revolving door; people in and people out, leaving as quickly as they came. Steady was not a word she could easily describe.

It was a Thursday night in the middle of a hot summer. The humidity stuck to him like saran wrap. Every time he’d step out of his car to make his next delivery he felt blanketed with a hot rag that inevitably fogged up his glasses. He wiped off the fog, check the house number again, popped the trunk and pull out the pepperoni pizza. And then, as he did every time, after ringing the doorbell, he’d look back to see if Rainbow was still waiting on him.

Two little ears popped up in the passenger side window; smiling, he turned back to the door that was now open in front of him. But this time, instead of a stranger, he saw Dimples.

“Dimples?! Hi! I didn’t know you lived…” before he continued he re-evaluated what he was saying. Of course, he wouldn’t know where she lived, she was in foster care, basically a homeless person staying with strangers for a while.

“I, uh, how are you?”

“I’m alright… You…” she paused as her attention was drawn toward his car. “Is that a cat?!”

“Yeah… you want to meet her?” he said.

“What’s taking so long?” They both looked inside the house, where the impatient voice growled. Panic filled dimples eyes as she turned back to look at the kid. Concluding that it was the foster dad, the kid quickly finalized the transaction and said, “Here’s your change, ma’am,” as he quickly scribbled with his pen on the receipt. Glancing down, she saw that he’d circled the number to the pizza joint. “Thanks,” she said. Her eyes relaxed as those faithful dimples slowly reappeared as she smiled back a goodbye.

The rest of the night, the kid couldn’t stop thinking about Dimples. It wasn’t in a way that a guy pines over a girl, but in the way, a brother is protective of his sister. Of all the kids he’d met in foster care – and there were many – Dimples was the only one he felt a kindred-ness with. Their unspoken pain and their ability to just be present with each other even in silence bonded them in a way neither one expected. For some reason, they felt safe with each other.

A busy week went by at the pizza shop. His boss was out of town for a family emergency and they were already short-staffed. The kid would oftentimes find himself scrambling around in the kitchen, then ripping off his apron to run the deliveries, and then jumping back in the kitchen again. Although the week had been a long one and he was tired, he was grateful for the extra hours. He’d been saving money to get a place of his own.

“Hey, kid! It’s for you,” yelled Pablo, the assistant manager.

Forgetting about last week, he wondered who’d call him.

“Hello?” he said with mild curiosity.

Someone sniffled on the other end. He immediately pressed the phone closer to his ear as he frantically searched for some privacy in the walk-in pantry.

“Dimples? Is that you?” he asked, knowing how often she used to sit by him with tears streaming down her face. He never knew what to do with them but he’d always find something to help her dry them. A couple of times he had to use the sleeve of his shirt.

“Yeah,” was all she could seem to muster.

“Are you okay?” he asked gingerly.

“Not really,” she said as she tried to pull herself together.

“Listen, I get off in an hour, I think I still have your address from my last delivery.” He said planning as he was speaking.

“I’ll park at the neighbor’s house and if you can sneak out, there’s a park not far from there.” “Okay…” she said weakly.

He was about to say don’t worry but realized that’s impossible for a kid of the state. Most kids have parents to do the worrying for them. Foster kids don’t have that luxury.

“See you tonight,” he said as he hung up the phone.

The kid plowed through the rest of the orders, deliveries and the closing checklist. He scrubbed the floors with the built-up aggression of what he had suffered, and the continuing suffering he saw in Dimples and other kids like her. He thought things might get better for her after they’d parted ways. The family they had both been assigned to was one of the better foster homes he’d encountered. He wondered what had happened. Yet there was something inside him that was troubling: the tone in the foster dad’s voice when he delivered the pizza.

Under the cover of darkness, she slipped into the passenger side door of his car. Silence hung between them. It had been years since they’d last seen each other. She wondered if he was still safe. A sudden movement in the backseat had Dimples spinning around in a panic until she saw that it was the sweet kitty that she wasn’t able to meet last time. She’d forgotten all about it. “Can I hold it?” she barely whispered.

“Of course! She’s good company,” he said. Rainbow went to her easily, nestled right up to Dimples, and fell asleep.

Since Rainbow was more than content in Dimples’ lap, the kid decided to park the car in the parking lot just outside the park. “She’s a really good cat. I’ve never been an animal person, but when I found her, I couldn’t leave her. I didn’t know if she’d make it, to be honest. But she has, and I’m better for it.” He thought about asking her what was going on, but the knot in his stomach deterred him. He had a feeling he already knew and wasn’t sure he could handle hearing the ugly truth.

She’d never spoken to anyone about this, not even her therapist. She’d mentioned to her therapist some of the things she’d experienced, seen and lived with. But for some reason, she knew she could trust him with what she was about to share. Life has taught her that if you can trust someone with your pain, you can trust them with your life. “I guess you might be wondering why I called…” her words trailed off as her brain searched for the words to tell him.

“Listen Dimples, you don’t have to tell me anything,” he said reassuringly.

“I know, but I’ve got to tell someone and I don’t know who else to tell…” The tears slowly began to roll down her face. “I’m pregnant.”

The words hit him like a bombshell. He wasn’t expecting her to say that, but he tried to keep a poker face. Why had she called him? What could he do? He lived in a garage with his boss. Who was the father? Questions flooded his mind. Dimples wasn’t the little girl he had known; she was a woman and was in desperate need.

“It’s not my fault.” For the first time in her life, she actually believed herself when she said this. Every other situation she’d blamed herself: her mother abandoning her, the state constantly moving her, the gossip from the other kids, the lack of friendships, but this… this was something different. “I was raped.”

Another bombshell. He didn’t want to ask, but he couldn’t keep it back any longer. “It was him, wasn’t it? It was your foster dad.” He asked but couldn’t look her in the eyes.

Her head sank as low as it possibly could… her shoulders higher than her head. “Yes, it was him.”

The next eight months were full of doctor appointments and meetings with her social worker. The kid and Rainbow were with Dimples every step of the way. For the first time since his parents died, he was finally able to see someone else’s concerns above his own. The loneliness was still

there, but it had diminished greatly, first by Rainbow’s need of him and now by Dimples. He began to see that his pain had a purpose. His pain was like a radar for other people’s pain.

Dimples had been placed back with the foster family where they initially met. The family had gotten out of fostering, but after being asked by the state, they said they’d be happy to open their home to Dimples. The foster mom was a nurse, so she could monitor Dimples’ health during her pregnancy. Although it was hard on so many levels, Dimples handled her pregnancy with grit and grace.

The day came when Dimples gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, whom she named Andriette, which means “strong, brave, and fearless.” Dimples knew how cruel this world was and she wanted to remind her daughter every time she wrote her name of what she needed to be and could be. Then a caseworker walked into the room.

“Are you ready?” Inside Dimples was screaming.

How can you ever be ready to let go of a child? How did my mom let go of me…? She stopped herself from going there.

“I guess I have to be,” Dimples said.

Andriette was placed in the arms of a young woman who was unable to have children. Her doting husband had his arms wrapped around his wife and she had her wrapped around Andriette. Dimples felt a warm sensation slide down her cheek, but she quickly wiped the tear away. She signed the remaining papers and asked to kiss her baby one last time. The grateful parents agreed and then looked up with tears in their eyes, thanking her for her sacrifice. All Dimples could do was half- smile and nod her head. Her heart was broken yet again, but this time it was different.

It had been several weeks since the kid had seen Dimples. He’d lost track of time. He wanted to let her recover, but this seemed a bit long. He finally decided to show up with pizza after one of his shifts. He knew her foster parents would welcome him and Rainbow with open arms. His concerns were accurate; she was suffering from postpartum depression, and the hardest thing was that she didn’t even have a baby to hold. After he got her to eat something, he decided to leave a little helper behind. Rainbow had helped pull him out of a dark place, and he had a feeling that Rainbow could do the same for her as well.

Each morning, Rainbow would wake Dimples up by massaging her face. At first, Dimples was irritated. She was not a morning person and it felt like a cloud had parked over her and covered any glimmer of hope. For the past 9 months, she kept fighting because she had to for Andriette, but now Andriette was gone.

Little by little, Rainbow worked her way into Dimples heart again. The kid came by faithfully every couple of days with pizza. Those first six months crawled by. Dimples had a lot of grieving to do, and thankfully her foster family gave her space and the freedom to do just that.

At the one year mark, Dimples decided to honor and grieve her daughter, and also honor and grieve her own childhood. She knew just the place to do it. A ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint situated by a patch of dry brown grass. There were all sorts of things painted on that wall: people, words, symbols. It was chaotic, much like her own childhood. She decided to place a candle and a small teddy bear: the candle for the flame that slowly was returning and the teddy bear for her sweet Andriette Joy.

Year after year, she’d come back and place another candle and another teddy bear. She didn’t know what to do to celebrate such a bittersweet day. So many emotions were running through her the day Andriette was born. She was conceived in a horrible way but it did not make her any less of a gift, but that gift had to be given to someone else. This day was always hard, and not only was it hard because it was her daughter’s birthday, but it was also hers.

Slowly, Dimples got stronger, her disposition lifted little by little. She worked hard at ending the legacy – or lack thereof – that her mom left her. The kid and the foster parents poured into her. He and Dimples put themselves through college and remained study buddies, pizza lovers and the best of friends. Of course, Rainbow was their noble steed and their ever-faithful third wheel.

Just shy of Andriette’s eighth birthday, Dimples received a call from the adoptive parents, asking if she’d like to see Andriette. They told her all about how amazing her biological mom was. Tears poured out of Dimples eyes, not only during that phone call but also when she saw her baby girl again. She had dreamed of this day every day since Andriette was born. A huge piece of Dimples’ shattered heart found itself a home. For the first time in Dimples’ entire existence, she was able to taste a glimpse of what it meant to be whole.

On that late August afternoon, sweat was dripping down her face and paint was dripping down the wall, some falling on Binky, the stuffed bear she placed there on her daughter’s 1st birthday. She looked up again at the word “Rejoice,” knowing Andriette was not lost to her and that she’d actually be able to have a role in her life. She didn’t know how to do it then, but through the help of her foster parents, Rainbow and the man-kid, she learned to appreciate the struggle of life… because with it came some of the most beautiful relationships one could ever dream of.

Written by: Christine F. Perry

What are we building?

I was listening to someone speak about giving. Those messages are always fun, right?!

As the man went on he made a big deal about building the church. As he was speaking I had an epiphany. We (the people) are the church. You’re probably thinking, you just figured this out? No, but in the aspect of building the church — yes. If we are the church, we are supposed to be building it, right? I know this too, but I saw it in a different way.

I have nothing against buildings. But, sometimes, I think we put too much of our resources, time and energy into a building rather than people. What would it look like if we spent more of our time and energy pouring into each other? As I sat there contemplating this, I thought of a verse that says, “build each other up”. I decided to google it and suddenly, I found lots of verses on this; take a look:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:12

From Him the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:16

This then reminded me of what our BSF group just went over:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Acts 2:44-46

Their property was secondary to the people. What a foreign concept to us living in an “American Dream” society. I’m not saying we can’t have nice things or even nice churches. I’m just asking myself and the church to take note of our priorities. To take note of the people in our lives. Are they okay? Are they weary? Do they need encouragement, hope, practically help? Do they feel like giving up? We/I should check and be looking after the people in my life. We have to. Because when we are being poured into and vice versa, the world takes notice.

I had the privilege of growing up in a small church where the roof may have leaked a little more than we would have liked. The women’s bathroom had a habit of overflowing every few weeks. There were marks and dents on the walls from the kids flying around playing tag. We had more holes in the wall for different signed we put up for different events we’d partake in our community. But the people inside those walls, did a good job taking care of their people and building each other up. Sure there were some quarrels and differences, but the people within those walls were treasures.

They stayed ready to serve and give. They stood by my family through our darkest days. When our life got put on hold they choose to put theirs on hold to serve us. They brought us meals and poured into us and still do. When you build into each other, you don’t have to face crisis alone. When you build into others you don’t have to celebrate alone.

So, as I walked out of that service my heart was full thinking of the amazing church God has. Being in that service also challenged me to pour into and foster and learn from the newer relationships God has placed in my life now.

I know the church gets a bad rap and gets really messy at times. And I am well aware that oftentimes people within the walls of the church building can break you unlike anything else. But the beauty far outweighs the broken. So until Jesus comes back, let’s look out for our people and build them up.

How to Finish: A Reminder for Myself

For the past five years or so, I’ve set yearly goals for myself. My goals vary each year. Some goals I hit and other goals get rolled over into the next year.

This year, I decided not to set any new goals because I was falling behind in finishing the ones I already set for myself. I wanted this year to be a year of finishing.

I was told by someone who had a big influence on my life, good and bad, “You never finish anything you start”.

To be honest, it struck a chord with me. I want to be a person that not only starts but finishes. And not just finishes but finishes strong. It is easy to start projects but finishing them takes grit and sheer determination. When you’re half way into your goal and growing weary, it’s easy to think, “Is this really that important?” Or “Why am I doing this again?” That’s when you have to dig deep.

As many of you know, I recently earned my black belt. But, when I was two months away from my test, I struggled to persevere. I was tired. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to become a black belt. The material felt like it only stayed in my short term memory. So, every time I trained I felt like I was starting at square one. It was frustrating and discouraging.

I felt like I hit a wall. I decided to take a moment away from training in order to pin point why I was struggling so much. I wrote down why I wanted my black belt, and why I started in the first place. One of the reasons was to prove to myself that I could finish and finish strong.

Sure enough, when test day came around, I felt ready. Why? because, I pushed through the days I didn’t want to train. I pushed through the excuses. And I pushed through training while fighting off a cold that kept coming back. I realized during those months that the mental battle was harder to overcome than the physical.

I once heard a marathon runner say that in order for him to finish a race, he had to look for outside motivation. Which makes sense why marathoners often raise money for charity. Or, they dedicate their race to a loved one.

As I thought about this I had two verses comes to mind:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

So, here are some points I needed to be reminded of when I’m growing weary and feel like I’m not going to finish my race:

1) I can do all things through Christ.

2) I am only required to run my race — not anyone else’s.

3) I am surrounded and cheered on by a great crowd of witnesses.

4) Jesus is a finisher and teaches His kids to finish through His example.

5) What Jesus has started in me, He will finish it.

So, if you’ve ever been told, “You can’t finish anything”,or maybe you’ve said that to yourself, I want to remind you, in your own strength you will fail and fall short. But we have a Father in heaven who doesn’t let His kids quit. He exemplifies what it means to finish and finish well.

What He started He will finish!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad 💕

I woke up at 3:45am and drove south without looking back. The only breaks I took were for gas, bathroom and food. I arrived at home 15 hours later— exhausted but so grateful to be held by people who loved me.

The transition home was not an easy one. I spent a lot of time lost in my own head. Setting up my things and having no idea what was ahead or when and how to take the next step.

One afternoon, I found myself at my Dad’s computer. He always shared it when he wasn’t working on a sermon, or a talk or a new book.

I spaced out and analyzed every book on his bookshelf and every trinket in front of those books. He had his MacArthur Study Bible and commentaries closest. Then he had little nicknacks from all over the globe (given to him by people who lived all over the world). He had artwork from one of his 3rd grade students and love notes from us kids and grandkids. And proudly displayed on his shelf was the “Best Dad” trophy we got him for Father’s Day one year. Although he was a remarkable man, that was the only trophy he ever received.

I sat there and thought, “What a great man.” I told myself that I needed to write a blog on him, but I got sidetracked. Time passed. And then, suddenly, the same office and bookshelf I had admired just a few months prior was being disassembled. And as we disassembled it, it proved to me again that my Dad was a great man.

I wished I had written this blog when he was alive, but I know he knew exactly what I thought of him and how much I loved him. So Dad, this is for you.

My Dad. He wasn’t a flashy guy. He was the most steady, driven and disciplined man I have ever met. He loved my mom and us kids well. He always made time for us. If I ever needed him, he’d finish what he was doing and give me his undivided attention. He loved his sports, his popcorn, and his peanut m&ms. He was the smartest and the wisest man I’ve ever known.

And there was a side of my Dad that a lot of people didn’t see and I think my Dad was misjudged a lot because he was ridiculously confident. The side that speaks volumes to me and will for the rest of my life is how no matter what, my Dad never would retaliate. There was a season in my Dad’s life when he had some people against him. It tore him apart on the inside, but he persevered. I’ve never seen such a pain in my dad’s eyes. But, my Dad never spoke ill of them. Instead he just showed up day after day, week after week even though he was misunderstood and hurt by the things being said.

There was also a side that not many people saw. It was the “Doctor Dad” side. He may have lectured us on how we should have avoided getting hurt, but while he was lecturing, he’d be bandaging us up. And there was the side of my Dad who invested in us once a week during our “one on one time.” And there was the side that showed up for all the games we had that he could attend. You could never say that my Dad wasn’t present. And it’s his lack of presence that I miss every single day. But I hope that in my choice to show up every day, I honor his legacy.

You may not be able to pick my Dad out of a crowd, but you could never pick his place out of my heart. He was the greatest man I’ve ever known. He was a man of great character and integrity. Happy Fathers Day. I love you so much and I miss you terribly! And don’t worry you’re not missing anything with the Dolphins— they still stink.

Hope Women’s Centers

This organization is near to my heart for a few reasons:

  1. My Dad was on the founding board
  2. It’s always been a part of my life
  3. It’s so incredibly needed

So, without further ado the organization of this week is:

Hope Women’s Centers

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Hope Women’s Centers (not original name) was founded in 1987 by several Pastors in Broward County who wanted to help women who found themselves in unplanned pregnancies. They wanted a safe place for women to come to be heard and helped — not shamed and harmed.

A few years later they merged with another clinic that also had the same desire to reach women.

Currently, Hope has three clinics. They offer free pregnancy tests, STI testing, options counseling and ultrasounds. They also offer nutrition classes to help new moms know how to take care of their bodies when carrying a baby. Once they complete the two session class, they are given a brand new car seat and headrest.

Everyone who works (and has worked) at this organization is passionate about what they do. They serve sacrificially and with all their heart. They show up every day no matter what’s going on in their personal lives. When women and men come through the doors scared, confused, anger, and whatever other emotion each patient has, they are greeted with an understanding staff member or volunteer.

This organization has been protested against, slandered and berated by those who oppose them. But I can tell you one thing, the staff is there because they care. It says a lot about a place that women come back even after they’ve decided not to initially receive the help offered by Hope. Patients come back because they know this is a safe place. I say this because I have the incredible opportunity to work here.

Ironically, 30 years ago, my mom went to get a pregnancy test from Hope. She found out she was pregnant. That pregnancy test read positive. That baby was me.

Hope is not only full of incredible staff, but also incredible volunteers who come in week in and week out to help us serve women and men in our community. They are our unsung heroes.

I asked my boss, Ariana Reid, who recently took over from my former boss, Nancy McDonald, to share her thoughts on fear. Here’s what she shared:

It is truly humbling to oversee an organization that is standing for equality in and out of the womb. It has been a lot of hard work and determination.

When I found myself in an unplanned pregnancy everything in me cried for help. And from my experience I knew I was not the only one. I was determined to help encourage and equip women and men who found themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.

All I wanted to do was help one person. The next day I woke up, I wanted to help one more. I desired for our organization to be the best and provide valuable services to help women and men, and their families.

Becoming the Executive Director of a million dollar organization was overwhelming to say the least. I am a woman, of color, and a millennial, because of that my biggest fear was rejection and feelings of inadequacy. How would I be received by our donors, staff, and the community?

Fear is false evidence appearing real, it isn’t real. And love cancels that fear. Every day I do my best, I love, and the feelings of inadequacy diminish, but I know it’s because God is adequate. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead and for the Lord’s faithfulness. Each day is an opportunity to push past the fear, love, and do something big and bold!

I realize the work we do is an incredibly polarized and political issue. More than that, it is deeply personal. I want to say that if there are anyone reading this has experienced the pain of abortion (physical, psychological, or emotional) I am deeply sorry. I once heard one of our volunteers say, “My abortion didn’t take my motherhood away, it just made me a childless mother.” I also know several women who have told me, “I didn’t have all the information. If I did, I wouldn’t have had an abortion.”

I don’t know what your story is, and I am sorry if this is a hard post to read for you, but I want to share that Hope also offers a post abortive Bible study where you have compassionate and confidential meetings. If this is something you feel like you need please email: info@thereishope.org or call 954-372-7089 to learn when the next class is. You don’t even have to say your last name on the phone. We understand this is a very personal, private and hard issue.

I want to thank Dottie Wobb, Margy Richardson, Nancy McDonald and now Ariana Reid for helping fight for life with grace and grit. It has been an honor to serve alongside (most of) them and to see the integrity, compassion and excellence in their work and in their lives. They are all heroes in my book. Thank you!

*Ariana is the beautiful woman center sitting down

Elaina’s Story

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Fighting Fear: The Fear of Depression


INTRODUCTION:
When I started writing on Fighting Fear , one of the first people I asked is my friend, Kristi. I have only known Kristi for a year and a half, but I cannot imagine life without her. She has become one of my dearest friends. The one thing I love about Kristi is how quick she is to listen, and to speak truth. Not only do we share the same name, but we both are Pastor’s kids. We both have been Personal Assistants, and share similar ups and downs. It is honestly a joy to have a friend like Kristi. It was during one my hardest seasons that God allowed Kristi and I to meet. If every dark season brought a friend like Kristi, I have little to complain about. Thank you, Kristi, for sharing your heart with us today!

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Depression is like a cancer to your soul, one that comes like a thief in the night.  It steals all joy and light in its path, leaving behind a complete and utter darkness that embodies your very being.

In my very dark and lonely season, I was experiencing a world of confusion. On the outside, my life was full, filled with beauty, and people who loved me.  On the inside it was like my soul was raging war against my mind, breading lies into the deepest part of my soul. “You’re worthless ” it spoke. “No one sees you” it whispered.

The voices without became drowned by the voices within. I could no longer hear the messages that spoke life into my soul, I could only feel a voice within, beckoning me to believe that my life was worthless and void of purpose.

I didn’t choose depression.  I never thought a woman who loved God with all of her heart could struggle with such a dark and deep “thing”.  I didn’t even know what to name it at the time. I struggled to believe I was facing depression until I went to my doctor and licensed therapist. I was diagnosed with major Depressive Disorder.  I took the diagnosis as it was my new identity and wore it like a jacket. Each feeling I felt in the carousel of negativity, circling around me, I began to wear it like an article of clothing.  It felt heavy. Every day I woke up, I chose to put on those same articles of clothing, until one day I realize how much weight I was carrying.

I allowed myself to sit in a state of depression for so long that I eventually believed that’s how I would always be.  Medicine scared me, the therapists made me face my worst fears head on and the people around me didn’t understand. I felt trapped… totally and completely alone. The worst part about it all was that no matter where I went, it was there too. I was stuck with this deep voice that rang loud in my spirit of worthlessness.  My pillow became my daily resting place to cry and moan, yell and groan.  I needed help, I longed to be saved, and I only had one place to go… my room.

One early morning while the sun was still coming up and the light streamed through the curtains in the window, seeming to dance on the walls in my room.  The light was radiant, bright and almost appeared to be glowing.  For the months leading up to this morning I had hibernated in the darkness of my room after work and classes. I found safety in what seemed like shadows and dim lit places.  I hadn’t yet realized that I was entertaining the light dancing across the walls because it seemed so majestic and brilliant.  The more I sat there watching the light, the more I became intrigued at how it moved across my room.  I felt a breeze move through my room suddenly. I quickly glanced over to the window to see if I had left it open. To my surprise, it was closed.  I felt it again.  I turned to the other side as if I had felt it brush against my back. Again, there was nothing.

Then, there in that moment, I heard him speak. “Out of the ashes and the dust you will rise, my daughter”. It was as clear as day, the voice of God rang out in my room and I audibly heard Him speak into my very soul. I fell to the floor and cried out to the Lord, who I thought had long forgotten me. He spoke again. “Awake, oh soul. I AM your victory. I AM yours and you are mine”.  It was there that God spoke life into my being. It was as though He was speaking life into my depression. I felt the weight and burden and voices lift off me, and at the very same moment felt a surge of joy and peace, and renewal enter my body.  Christ had redeemed me once again. He stepped in rescuing me out of the mud and the mire, and releasing me from the snare that so closely entangled my very existence.  Freedom rang loud in my soul that day.

The enemy is cruel isn’t he? He thinks of himself as powerful and crafty and has a soul purpose of devouring any lovely, joyful, happy Christian. I mean, how dare he mess with me for two years!

Fighting depression is a lot like fighting a shark when fishing.  When at first the shark bites the bait on the end of your line, it runs, and I mean hard. If you’re not in good shape or workout you can forget it and call it a day! He will give you a serious run for your money, and you won’t get it back. You’ll likely get dragged into the ocean and eaten alive. Okay that’s a bit dramatic, but go with me here for just a minute.

It’s not a matter of if, but when the enemy will show up. If you’re not ready, conditioned and alert, you too will be dragged out and enticed (not literally eaten, don’t worry).  When shark fishing, you can almost guarantee that every shark has about 4 to 5 minute run in them until they finally tire out.

Let me break this down for you even more.  The enemy is so devious.  He will come at you every which way and doesn’t tire easily, so you have to be prepared to fight through at least a few runs before you can be sure he is long tired out and has decided not to mess with you anymore.  Do you think if you had to reel in a 6-foot Black Tip shark today that your body is well conditioned to handle it?  Well, you don’t have to worry right now if you haven’t made it to the gym in the last couple of months.  The type of conditioning I’m talking about right now is spiritual.

It’s often the battle over your mind that the enemy will target first. Once he has you where he wants you, he will then target your inner core by trying to get you to believe the lies are rooted deep in who YOU are as a person.  It’s all rubbish!  The enemy can’t win!  God is more victorious and will deliver me! These are things I hoped to believe after I was redeemed out of the pit of darkness and depression. I quickly learned that I couldn’t just stop there. This wasn’t a one shark kind of fight. I soon realized that if I was going to do this Christian life well, that I needed to be better spiritually conditioned and on guard for the next time.

For months after I feared I wouldn’t be ready or even strong enough to combat the enemy once again. I was tempted to run and hide all over again and thought maybe the shadow thing would be better. It would maybe be easier to just hide! I was so totally and completely wrong.  The life God intended me to live and the one He is beckoning you to live is one that is FULL of life!  I decided that no matter how many runs the enemy would try to make in my life that I wanted to be ready and totally capable to ward off his crazy nonsense.  I wanted to be fully armed for the next time he would make his attack on my life.  So, I did what I knew God was asking me to do. I got serious about knowing and speaking out God’s truths. I mean, I would daily walk around speaking out scripture. Sometimes I looked like I was talking to myself and I’m sure some people thought I was crazy.

You need to take every thought captive and immediately release it to Him who breathes truth and life so He can replace and renew your thought life.  Lastly, just like when shark fishing how you need at least a partner or three to help you reel in the wild beast of an animal and bring it on shore, you’ll be needing the same in this game.

It’s time we come together and join forces. We are only so powerful and effective alone, so we need to round up some of our most trusted, loyal, and truth-speaking friends.  Invite them on the journey with you.  Doing life together will be one of them most powerful and life giving decisions you can ever make!  I choose three girlfriends who I knew could battle the storms with me and who I could equally influence as well.  Together we decided it was time to take a stand and live the life that God called us to, living like the fearfully and wonderfully made prized daughter of the one true King!

         Watch: Kristi literally catches a shark!

Song of the Week: Not Backing Down, by Blanca

Fighting Fear: The Fear of Failure

INTRODUCTION:
As you all know, I decided to spend the month of June focusing on fighting fear. I think fear is something we all struggle with. Today, my oldest sister, Rachel, is sharing her thoughts. Rachel has always been not only one of my closest friends, but she also was like the second mother to my siblings and I. It is no surprise that she would have five adorable babies of her own. As I read her blog, I appreciated her transparency. Rachel is one of the most thoughtful and kind people I know. She will stop to check on literally anyone. She always puts others first. I am so grateful that she is not only my sister but also my friend and role model. Love you dearly sis <3!

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My name is Rachel. I am almost 32 years old. I am married and live in a nice house and I have a job. Most days I get out of bed because someone tells me too, or pulls on my clothes to force me to get up. Let me add here, that I am a mother of littles, as I like to call them. And, I struggle with fear.

While everyone may battle many types of fears there is a fear that starts to take hold that first time you see “Pregnant” on your home pregnancy test. All of a sudden you realize how little control you have over the rest of your life. What if your child isn’t born healthy? What if your child dies before birth, during birth or even right after birth? Then again, what if there is more than one child?  These are a few the thoughts that hit first. There are, of course, lots of joy in these moments but lurking around the corner is fear. It doesn’t take much to go from the joy of becoming a mom; into fear of the unknown. Fear of not being enough, fear of not being able to care for your child, fear of not being in control of your body, or your child’s. In motherhood, there is a lot of opportunity for fear.

I struggle to get out of bed sometimes because I am tired, and didn’t sleep enough, and sometimes it’s because I am afraid. One of my biggest fears is failure. As I write that word I feel the heaviness in my heart. I love my children dearly and want to do the best I can for them. I am constantly reminded that my best is not enough. And as a believer in Jesus Christ, I know in my head that He saved me because I am a sinner and it’s not by my actions that I can be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9) but that doesn’t always go to my heart. I fight the fear of failing by looking at Christ and trying to remember the truths of the scripture.

Recently our associate pastor preached a message out of Isaiah 40. It blessed me so much. Chapter 39 ends with some bad news, guess what Israel, you screwed up and there will be consequences, but the first verse of chapter 40 starts off with the word comfort. God told Isaiah to comfort His people. It’s easy to forget that God is a loving God. I picture Him more times than not as a God that brings Justice to His enemies and destroys the wicked. But He also wants to comfort my heart and He knows what fears I have. Later in the chapter, He talks about leading those with young tenderly, again another mention that God knows moms need a little TLC.

You know what else I need? HOPE! Hope that we will make it through today. Hope we can make it through breakfast without spilling a whole gallon of milk. Hope that my children will have clean clothes to wear because hopefully, I finished enough laundry yesterday. Those are some silly examples, but let me tell you what I hope for my children. I hope they meet Jesus early. I hope they walk with Him all their days. I hope they know when life gets tough and lonely that He never forsakes His own. I hope that when I am no longer on this earth they have the hope they will see me again and I, them.

If you came over to my house (you are more than welcome, we have a pretty open home, just don’t mind the clean laundry on the couch and children playing blocks on the floor) you would see lots of quotes and verses taped to my kitchen cupboards. They are there because they remind me to choose God over my fear of failure. Hebrews 6:19-20 states “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast”. It is referring to Jesus Christ. I need that Anchor. When I get overwhelmed by the daily needs of my children, the feeding, clothing, changing, bathing needs. The loving, nurturing, disciplining, teaching needs that I am supposed to meet. It’s so demanding that you can hardly get out of bed in the morning.  I can’t do it again, not today, not when I am still tired and sore from yesterday and, yet, God meets me and with His grace, He leads me. I don’t get everything on my to-do list done, normally I can only get one or two of them done even if my list is ten items long. But God knows that and He isn’t basing my merit off my mom works. He gives me value and worth because I am His child through Jesus Christ. When I seek Him and ask Him to help set my priorities He meets me and the most important things get done.

As far as daily evidence of His help, I have started a little faith test. If there is something my child has a need for, some warmer clothes, a children’s Bible, or a school book. I have started to just ask God to provide it, not because I am worthy, but because He said to ask. He said to trust and He said He is my heavenly Father and He knows how to give good gifts. So far several things have been provided without the giver ever knowing I asked God for it. I am so grateful God loves me and will answer me when I pray. Even when I pray help my unbelief like the father in Mark 9:24. Whether you have one child or 20 you will probably struggle with fear. Keep trusting God, without Him as my anchor and my hope, fear would consume me.

Song of the Week: I Have This Hope, by Tenth Avenue North
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Fighting Fear: The Fear of Being a Parent

Introduction:
I met Emily through a mutual friend. We used to work at the same company. If I am being completely honest, I was a little jealous that she got to work on the same floor as my friend. They were always around each other, but they never made me feel left out. As we all started hanging out, I loved how down to earth Emily is. She also is a fan of Anne of Green Gables and that always means you know how to be a kindred spirit ;). Emily is someone who I admire a lot. She is courageous, kind, thoughtful, and beautiful in every way! Emily, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us!

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If you had approached me when I was a kid and had asked me, “What are you afraid of?” I would’ve responded in a snap with, “absolutely nothing.” Well, in all honesty, I might’ve said cockroaches! But that was truly about it!

Flash forward to now, and if you were to ask me again, “What are you afraid of?” I could give you a laundry list! An odd thing happened to me after my daughter was born… everything became scary. All of the questions, the potential for danger, it all started running through my head. What if she gets hurt doing this or that? What if something happens to me? What if I don’t meet all of her emotional and physical needs? The list is endless. It can be exhausting.

Recently, something happened with my daughter that really shook my core. I felt REAL FEAR. A fear of losing our bond, a fear of being inadequate, a fear of not being able to fix things. As I cried out and prayed to God, I was led to read a devotion. In this devotion was the story of Abraham and Isaac. A story that I have read and heard my entire life, one that has always been so abstract for me. However, this time it was different. God was using Abraham’s example to teach me.

Oftentimes, when people cite the story of Abraham and Isaac, they focus on the lesson of obedience and faith. Reading this story that night, I felt like I could understand Abraham for the first time in my life, I saw Abraham the man and father.  I can only imagine the fear Abraham felt, the fear of losing God’s greatest blessing to him, his treasured son. Yet despite being terrified of loss, Abraham faithfully presented Isaac to the Lord as a sacrifice. Abraham took his earthly fear, flipped it around for good and in that moment showed that the only fear a man can stand to have, is the fear of the Lord.

God moved me with this story. I’m tired of living a life of fear and limiting God. Every night now I pray to God and offer up my daughter to Him. I surrender my will for her and ask that only God’s will be done. She is His child. She is my blessing from God, but she is still His child. I don’t want to limit God’s power and provisions in our lives any longer. I’m on a crusade to eliminate fear from my parenting, reaffirming Psalm 91:1-2 every day.”

Song of the Week: 
No Longer a Slave to Fear, by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser
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