What’s a Man

Several months ago, I went to see a movie in theaters. It impacted me so much, I went back to see it again with my mom and sisters. The movie was Harriet. If you haven’t seen it, rent it when it comes out!

The whole movie is one challenge after another as you see Harriet live her life counter to everyone around her. She doesn’t stop because of fear; instead, she uses her fear as a platform to push herself to greater lengths.

Spoiler Alert: There is one scene in the movie that keeps playing over and over in my head. Harriet has come back from her first “rescue”. She hadn’t planned on bringing anyone back with her except her husband. But, due changes in his life, he tells Harriet he won’t be going back with her.

After Harriet returns to safety, she tells her new-found friend, Marie, who is helping Harriet navigate what life looks like to live free, how torn up she is without her husband. And that’s when Marie says something along the lines of:

What’s a man to a woman, who has the call of God on her life…

I could hardly breath when I heard that. I felt glued to my chair as the lump in my throat began to rise, pushing tears out of my eyes. The truth of that statement arrested my soul.

Around the same time I saw this movie, I was at a FAM (Family Advocacy Ministry) event. FAM is a ministry that creates support systems around a foster family. This means bringing meals to the foster family, babysitting, or doing household chores. If you want to know more about this please send me a message. It’s a wonderful ministry!

While I was at this event, they highlighted a long-time friend of mine. She and her husband stood side-by-side, arm-in-arm as they announced that they are working towards their 6th adoption. That’s six kids in our community whose lives have been re-written. These kids will know what it means to have a loving home. To have a mom and dad who fights for them, and loves them unconditionally.

You may be wondering what I’m getting at. And this is it: If you’re single, live out the life God has given you for His glory and the good of others. And unless you can do more married, like this couple at the FAM event, then don’t worry about it. God has amazing things He wants to do through each one of it. That may be through singleness or it may be through marriage. The couple I talked about are able to fight for their kids because they’re fighting together. Harriet was able to fight for those in slavery because she was single.

A lot of us miss out because we are aren’t comfortable with God’s plan. Why? Because most of the time it isn’t easy. It means dying to self. Serving others and getting out hands messy and our hearts broken. Elizabeth Elliot said it well when she said:

“The will of God is always far different from what we imagine, far bigger, far more difficult, but unspeakably more glorious”

So, my prayer for myself and for you is that we will be generous with our time and money. That we will be courageous for the things that need to be fought for and spoken up for. And, that we would love deeply and speak truthfully. I fall so short every single day. But, as Anne of Green Gables says, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes”

And for the single that may still be waiting for someone to fight beside you… Remember this:

“To love God is to love His will. It is to wait quietly for life to be measured by One who knows us through and through. It is to be content with His timing and His wise appointment.” — Elizabeth Elliot

New Year’s Eve

Fireworks explode in the neighborhood as the clock struck 12. I walked into this evening with the utmost trepidation. Like Cinderella waiting for her beautiful dress to turn rags and her carriage to collapse. I, on the other-hand, was not wanting to catch a prince, or concerned with the fraying of an outfit. I was worried about the fraying of my soul. Walking into another year is painful.

Every New Year’s Eve for the past three years I have had company— whether I wanted it or not. It’s the company of my own grief. It sits with me latching on to my heart as the minutes climb closer and closer to the new year. It sits silently but ever so deafening. It weighs on my heart like a millstone. Tugged me down to a place I would never tread if it were my own choosing.

New Years is supposed to be a joyous time. But for me, it just represented the glaring unwanted fact that my Dad is one more year farther away from me. The only thing I could think to do to escape this night was to go to bed early and try to make the best of New Years Day. But it all hurts. Every year I wish I could rewind to a moment with him. Like last his last Father’s Day. He was so thrilled with the tools we gave him. And he couldn’t get over the fact that my sister and her husband had given him the trip to Grenada to see my brother. He never made it down there and he never used his tools.

For me, New Year’s Eve just makes another gash at my already wounded heart. This day, just uncovers the gaping hole in my heart that I normally cover up with a smile or a helping hand. But New Year’s Eve reminds me I can never outrun the pain. Part of me is dead and can never be revived.

But, tonight, I faced it. I acknowledge the pain and my unwanted companion. For the first time in a long time the tears flowed … and flowed steadily revealing the fountain of loss that will, in fact, always be there. And, as I sit on this hard floor wiping snot on my nightgown, I know my Dad would be proud. Because he never ran from pain or opposition. He took it head on. So, whatever your New Year’s Eve looks like, don’t be afraid to face it head on. To be fully alive means to fully feel. Which also means to fully grieve.

Dad:

I don’t even have the words to express the emptiness now in my heart. I miss you so much. But, you’ve left me a heck of legacy to follow, and for that, I’ll plod on. Happy New Year. You’d be proud of the sibs and mom. We all miss you like crazy, but we are pressing on. Grandmom celebrated a milestone birthday… and get this… the Dolphins beat the Patriots last week! And Ezra got married. It was a great way to finish the year. Love you so much, Padge. Don’t have too much fun without us— just kidding I know you already are 💕!

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

A brief update on life

Hello Friends!

So sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted. There has been a lot going on! Most of November, I spent working on two different writing projects. Then, with the help of some friends and family, I built a patio. Then, there have been changes at my job, and lastly, my Grandmom celebrated a milestone birthday. Five of the seven siblings were together as well as my other adopted sister (not legally but we aren’t giving her up). We really missed Stephanie and David who weren’t able to come. We also celebrated my Mom’s birthday … I’m extremely thankful to be able to celebrate people I care so deeply about! Below are some pictures from my Grandmom’s party and my Christmas card for 2019.

As you can see, there has not been much time to write a blog let alone think about writing one. However, I wanted to share a short story (in my next post) that I wrote over the summer. I actually wrote this for a contest. The trick with this contest was the publishing house hosting this supplied the 1st and 20th paragraph. I had to work those paragraphs into my story. My friend Connie helped me tremendously with this story. She is in exceptional writer and I couldn’t have done it without her. So, in my next blog, I will be sharing this story.

Thanks for being with me this year. I am deeply grateful for you! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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.

What Grief Has Taught Me…

What Grief has taught me is that you’re never ready for its arrival.

Grief is more than a human heart can bear.

You never get over it, but somehow you move forward.

The only way forward is through it.

Grief is intimate. For me, sharing certain aspects of it seems wrong because it is now connected to the deepest part of who I am.

Grief strips away any part of you that cares what others think…

And although grief has ripped me apart like nothing else has in life, it has also been my teacher.

It has taught me to hold a breaking heart full of sorrow and a heart full of joy simultaneously.

It has taught me to laugh through tears.

It has introduced me to the deepest kind of friendships. It the kind of friendship that meets you at a bedside, or catches you as you run away, or finds you curled up in a hospital hallway.

It has taught my to hold on for dear life the examples of those who’ve experienced grief before me. And hold on for dear life for the ones recently acquainted with grief behind me.

It has taught me to live presently in the moment because there is only enough grace for today.

It has taught me to slow down, to take a moment to appreciate people and nature.

It has taught me to give as much as I have today because tomorrow is not promised.

It has taught me to speak kind words to everyone I meet because they might be hidding their own grief as well.

So although I met grief kicking and screaming, cussing and flailing… It has been one of my most hated companions and one of my greatest teachers.

I never wanted it to come, but I refuse to see it wasted.

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!

You as You

This past week, I’ve been listening to a podcast on the enneagram. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a personality test.

A few things came to mind as I was listening and studying up on some of my personality traits, so I wanted to share with you.

Several years ago, I severed a relationship that was extremely toxic. Some would say abusive. A month or so after that relationship ended, I took a personality test because the toxic individual used to tell me “who I was.”

By the time I cut off the relationship, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. Was I aggressive? manipulative? difficult to be around? rebellious? Thankfully, I had my family and sincere and genuine friends who helped me walk back into healing.

Back to personality tests. Since I took a personality test right after I severed the relationship I got one result. A year later, I retook the same test and got a completely different result.

As I was reminiscing on this, I thought, “Isn’t that exactly how the enemy works?” He tries to manipulate you into something you’re not because you won’t be able to function at max capacity. You’ll burn yourself out trying to be something or someone you are not meant to be. You feel immense pressure trying to keep up when in reality you’re trying to be someone God never intended you to be.

Another thing I was reminded of during this podcast was that God knows our strength and weaknesses long before we take a test. I listened to some of the weaknesses of my personality trait and realized that long before I took a test, God allowed me experience some difficult situations. Those situations taught me lessons I needed to be become a healthier individual. Lessons on people pleasing, dealing with rejection and separating my identity from my work.

We are incredibly complex and beautiful. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. He has incredible things He wants to do in each of our lives. He will grow us in ways we never thought possible. Soften us in areas that once were hard as stones. He is a gracious and compassionate Father who knows how to guide His each one of His children.

1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 139:1-3, 13-16, 17-18

Let’s not let the enemy force us into a mold that we were never meant to be in. God made us and knows how we were meant to be shape and how we are meant to function. He can strengthen the areas of weakness and soften the areas that need to be softened. You are you! There is not a carbon copy of you. You’re unique. You’re beautiful. And the world needs you as you.

Protection

Today’s post is brought to you by my friend, Rachel Story. She has been a guest contributor before (See here). I hope you will walk alway feeling a little more like you’re seen after reading what Rachel has to share on Protection.

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I have the tendency to become consumed by seemingly small stories in the Bible. I want to read the story over and over again in multiple different translations. I want to use Halley’s bible handbook as a jumping point to research the archaeology and culture of the time period. I want to understand every detail about the story so that I can know the context and know how to apply it to my life. Sometimes it is easy to find the information I am looking for and sometimes it is not. I am no Bible scholar however, so please understand that I am approaching this as a regular human being that has the honor and distinction of being able to expose herself to God’s word daily in ways that humans in history have not always been able to. 

 

I have been spending the past year reading through the old testament, piece by piece, story by story, account by account. I am currently in 2 Samuel and I read a story that has resonated with my life and my story in ways that seem shocking, but I find comforting when I read it – eventually anyway. It all has to do with the idea of protection and how I see that playing a role in my life.

 

First and second Samuel are all about the rise and fall of two Kings, Saul and David. Even if you didn’t grow up in the church, you have probably heard about David and Goliath before, this story gets used as an allegory in many other pieces of literature. I’m talking about that little guy David who becomes king. He is described frequently as a man after God’s own heart, but boy does he mess things up frequently too. It is after he commits adultery with Bathsheba (which I have thoughts about, but I will save for later) and gets her husband killed to cover up his sin, that the story I want to talk about takes place.

 

2 Samuel 13: “Amnon Rapes Tamar”

 

Side note: Some translation like to either not title this chapter at all, or give it a misleading title such as, “Amnon and Tamar” as if it is some romance to emulate or something. This is not something to mislead people about, and it is not something to be quiet about. That is just one reason why you should expose yourself to as many different translations as possible.

 

It is in the middle of 2 Samuel that we see how David’s sin continues to catch up with him. David had many children by many wives. Amnon was the son of one wife, while Tamar and her brother Absalom were children of a different wife. Tamar was beautiful and Amnon was obsessed with her, and felt he loved her. He was so obsessed that it changed his demeanor. Amnon received advice from a crooked cousin that noticed his change and he suggested that he pretend to be sick. That’s a big deal, because Amnon is the oldest son of the King, which you know, means that he is next in line to be King.

If he is sick, David’s lineage is at stake. So King David visits his sick son and asks him what he needs. Amnon requests that Tamar come tend to him and cook for him. David grants this request.

 

Can I interject my own thoughts here for a moment? Women have what I like to call a creep radar. When I have been uncomfortable around someone, it usually ends up being for a reason. Some commentaries like to say that because of the type of cooking she was requested to do, she was flattered that she was asked to attend to him and went willingly. I think a man who has never paid attention to women wrote that. There is no way that a cousin notices Amnon’s obsession with Tamar, without Tamar noticing herself. If he was close enough to her to be obsessed, she was close enough to know it and feel alarmed by it. So to me, she is probably alarmed that her father is sending her to him, but she goes because he is her father and he is the king. 

 

Tamar goes, and her presence overwhelms him. To the point that his lust, not love, reaches a boiling point and he sends all servants out of his house. He grabs Tamar when she is close enough and forces himself on her. She tried to delay him by remarking that the King would surely let them marry if he only asked (although that would have never happened because Leviticus clearly states that brothers and sisters not marry), that he is not a scoundrel, and that he remember she is a sister. Nothing she says stops him. He overpowers her and rapes her. 

 

As soon as he has finished with her, what he thought was love was gone and replaced with misplaced disgust. He was disgustedwith her now, when the disgust was truly for himself. He immediately requests that she be removed from his presence and locked out of the house. She begs him not to do this, and reminds him that by law he is supposed to marry her now. He refuses.

 

As she is thrown out of the house, she tears her garment and covers her face with ashes. She is mourning what was taken from her. It is unclear about how much time has passed when her brother Absalom finds out and when her father does. To me, this is the saddest part of the story.

 

Her brother tells her to be quiet, to keep it a family matter.

 

Her father is angry, but does nothing. 

 

Tamar spends the rest of her life as a desolate woman in the house of her brother. Not much else is known about her and the story moves forward from that point. 

 

How many other women are forgotten about? How many other women are left unprotected? How many other women do not receive justice? 

 

Some say that Absalom avenged his sister later when he had Amnon murdered. I am not sure about that. His actions after the fact lead me to believe that Amnon’s murder was just a stepping point to his rebellion against his father and that it had little to do with defending the honor of his sister. 

 

Remember that I have been making my way through the old testament, and know that I read this story in the midst of pondering the idea of protection and its role in my life. I also found myself relating to Tamar’s story just a little too much.

 

I was abused and it was kept quiet.

 

I was abused and my father did nothing.

 

I was abused and my brothers did not react. 

 

Please keep in mind that this is my side of the story and that my instances of sexual abuse happened when I was under the age of 5. I am reflecting on who I am now as a result of what happened to me as a young girl. There are many people and feelings involved that I know nothing about that play a part in this story. This is no way makes what happened to me, and other people like me, right. I want you to know that I understand that there are other perspectives that are not being represented here.

 

But I also want you to know that I am confused that the people, the men, given to protect me, chose not to do that, in the way that they could. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Stand up for the people we love and protect them? Why wasn’t Tamar? Why wasn’t I? 

 

Probably because of sin that was not overcome. The idea of his son taking a woman for lustful reasons probably hit a little close to home for David who lusted after Bathsheba (and as I said, I have so many thoughts and questions about that, but I digress). He saw his sin in his son and he looked away, though he was angry it happened. I know that my father experienced abuse as a young boy that was similar to my own. Maybe because he had not overcome it, he allowed himself to turn away from mine. As for my brothers? They were young, and they watched my father not react, so why should they?

 

Protection, and feeling protected is a huge deal for me. I asked a lot of friends about this and I got a lot of interesting answers. My friends who have experienced abuse and loss have a high need for protection and security. They need to know that someone will protect them and looks out for them. My friends who have not experienced this kind of abuse and loss, are of the normal variety of friends who choose a well-lit gas station over a dark one when traveling at night. I take it a bit further than that. 

 

I plan enough in advance that I don’t have to stop at a gas station late at night. 

 

If I have to stop at a store at night, I park as close to the building as possible. 

 

I carry my keys in my hand in case I need to punch someone with something somewhat sharp.

 

I look in and around my car before getting in.

 

I stay up late, waiting for friends to text me when they get home, and I text them when I get home.

 

I only let approved people hug or touch me.

 

I avoid unknown white males, going as far to tense up when they are too close at the gym and even take note of ways to describe them.

 

This may seem like I live my life in fear, but I think I am actually finding ways to protect myself since I was not. And yeah, I definitely have control issues! A male friend pointed out that he thinks we all want to be able to protect ourselves. That we all desire the ability to discern situations and know whether or not they are safe. Most of the men I asked said they even desire to know that they have the ability to protect if needed. 

 

I found myself mad at God (how many times have I typed that in my writings?). I was angry for Tamar, who disappears. I was angry for myself because I don’t want to disappear like that. I don’t want what happened to me to affect my sense of justice the way that David’s sin affected his sense of justice for his own daughter. I told God this and He reminded me of that quote attributed to Mr. Rogers and to look for the helpers. Instead I chose to look for the protectors.

 

Aaron, who drove me to and from places and one time couldn’t but he felt responsible to make sure he found me a ride home (this is before uber ya’ll). Mannie, who gets visibly upset at the mention of abuse of disadvantaged people. Tyrone, who took drinks from my hand and gave me water (I’m just being honest okay). Julie and Sara, who know my anxieties and don’t make fun of them and support me when I get a little neurotic. Matthew, who pays just enough attention to know when you need a hug. Rebecca, who comes out swinging a baseball bat when the dog that bit you is in the streets again. David, who listens and assures and stands outside my car when getting gas late at night. Becky, who loves me and supports me even though she is hurting too. Nicole, who listens to me ramble about anything and everything. Friends who don’t invite you on a trip because they know it could affect your reputation. Friends who know enough about you that they want to protect your innocence. A God who wants to protect me. The list goes on. 

 

I count myself lucky. There are many people who experience the same kind of abuse I did, and it has torn them apart. My abuse has definitely affected me, and I wish it on no one. But I know that it could be so much worse. I could have made so many choices that would have wrecked my life. But God protected me by allowing me to think my abuse was some weird nightmare, and allowed me to process it when I was older. I don’t think abuse should be hidden like this, but I know that this is something I was chosen for. 

 

I know it sounds crazy to take comfort in that, and I know it sounds crazy to take comfort in the story of Tamar. But you know, it is comforting to see yourself in God’s story. It’s like He is saying, “I see you. I know you. You are important to me.Because we are.

 

Her story could have easily been removed and not told at all. My story could have easily been removed from my memories and forgotten from my life. Tamar’s story was included, and in a way, is a part of the lineage of Christ. My story is revealed and I have been protected by God in ways I may never understand. 

 

I have been chosen for this life, not rejected. I was chosen to experience every bit and piece of my life, even the bad parts. I firmly believe this. I will not allow Satan to have power in these memories of my life, especially the bad ones. He does not get that control, God does. I know that God takes our broken pieces, even the seemingly impossible to put together dust, and creates beautiful masterpieces from them. I will give my broken pieces to Him and allow Him to create a masterpiece out of my life.

 

I brought you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners. I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you.”

Isaiah 41:9

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.