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.

How to Heal a Shapeless Heart

It was just a few weeks ago, as my Pastor spoke in church, that I thought about a feature of God that I haven’t really thought about before.

I don’t really know how to jump into this, but I’ll start with asking you a question. Have you ever been so hurt, you either couldn’t speak, or speaking caused more hurt?

Maybe you’ve suffered through an abusive relationship. And you’re the only one of your group of friends who’ve experienced that. Maybe they don’t know how to help or try to justify the abuser’s actions — not to hurt you but because they are trying to understand it.

Or, maybe it’s a a medical diagnoses that you’re tired of explaining. Or, the loss of job, and you’re having a hard time telling your wife you can’t provide. I don’t know what your pain is, but I know my own. We all wish pain wasn’t a part of life, but it is. We have to figure out how to handle it without letting it cripple us.

But harder than the pain, sometimes, is figuring out how to share that pain. How to speak of it without falling a part. Or how to share it without being hurt by someone’s “well-meaning” but very hurtful comments.

Some pain leaves our hearts completely shattered. Kind of like The Shapeless Heart:

The Shapeless Heart

I once had a heart: beautiful, fully shaped,

beating strong and true.

Until I met him…I hadn’t felt more alive.

Til’ my heart felt hurt and grew dim

For I saw a knife thrusted inside… Pulling it out slowly,

Bleeding profusely, angry, mad, hurt, yet I had to forgive … Slowly …

I felt worthless.. Over time my heart grew.

I could feel it heal…

Beginning to feel free.

I started again…

I felt like I could soar, conquer, live fully.

My heart didn’t see it coming…it was sliced and diced.

Vicious words cutting chunks out every chance it got.

Stabbed, betrayed from all sides..

I could feel my very life start to drain away… How could this happen

Why?

I stared at my heart and had no idea where to begin again.

Slowly… over time…

My heart started to heal…

It wasn’t the same though. The shape it once knew was no more. It didn’t beat as strong, but it still beat… Yet, still quite disfigured…

But, it is only heart I have to work with… I hated seeing my heart in this condition.

I could not tell what form it resembled… It was a mess: mushy, draping, struggling for any shape.

Angry at the sight of something once so strong — now so weak.

When I thought my heart couldn’t take one more blow, it then, was torn apart. Ripped in two. Lifeless, left bleeding out on the floor…

You, world, have won… I have no desire to try again. This heart is done… completely without shape… Flat lined… I heard a whisper…

“Beat again”

“I can’t… There’s nothing left….My heart’s been stabbed, broken, punctured, torn in two.”

“Give it to Me.”

“It’s useless… Use someone else. My heart is unrecognizable … Why would you want this?”

“It’s the broken and disfigured hearts that I use… perfectly formed hearts cannot recognize other battered hearts… The ones that have been torn, stabbed, and chipped to pieces are the ones that became a balm that reaches out to other. The tears that come from a broken heart are the tears that comfort the next. It’s the shapeless hearts that bandage wounds. It’s the shapeless hearts that help shape other shapeless hearts. Your shapeless heart is my gift to the world”

But when our hearts are shapeless before they have been reconstructed, that is when they need the feature I realized that God has… gentle hands.

When you’re wounded, you need gentle hands. Any sudden movement will cause shooting pain. Gentle hands can slowly… ever so slowly reshape and construct the heart that once was full. But without those gentle hands, the heart will remain shapeless, bleeding out and unable to function.

I want to learn this lesson because I want to be the gentle hands and moldable heart for someone else. God binds up the broken hearted, but oftentimes He uses the broken-hearted to bind up another broken-hearted. His heart was broken for us; yet, He still bound up our hearts.

I realized after this thought about God’s gentle hands popped in my head that I had witnessed gentle hands in my physical presence. It was the hands of my family and friends, and my Pastor and his wife who have all had heartbreak, but faithfully turn around and help the broken hearts in their community. It’s their broken-hearts that reached out to mine. And for that, I will forever be grateful ❤️!

A Different Memory of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is forever seared in my memory for other reasons than taking the day to remember those who lost their lives. But before I go into this story, I want to thank the families of the men and women who did lay down their lives for my freedom. Their sacrifice gave me a choice. In my case, a choice to leave.

It was on Memorial Day exactly three years ago that I made a decision to literally uproot my life. Part of it felt like my choosing. The other part felt very much like a door slamming in my face. So forcefully, I could almost feel the wind on my face.

It took the morning and into the afternoon to get to myself into my office cubical. I knew no one would be there— which is why I was going in. However, I delayed going because I knew when I left my office that day, I would not return.

I scanned my badge for the last time and walked in the door I’d walked in and out of hundreds of times. I walked up to the third floor and down the hall to my cubical taking everything in.

I sat down at my desk and saw a note from my friend who had been transferred to another office while I was gone. Although I knew she’d be leaving her words of kindness brought me to tears. She had no idea I’d be leaving when she placed that note on my desk. Quite frankly, neither did I.

I didn’t know where to start clearing out my desk. How to you clear out nearly three years of correspondence, projects, productions, etc. How to you remove your own access from social media accounts, YouTube, Vimeo, the database and everything else I had full access to? But eventually I started—piece by piece, paper by paper, account by account.

About an hour or so in, my sweet roommate texted me and asked how I was.

“I can’t stop crying”. I wrote back

Within thirty minutes she arrived coffee in hand and helped me shred papers. As soon as I cleared my desk, sorted through and placed the necessary papers on my coworkers desk, I retrieved the email I had already typed up. I put in the contacts I needed in there including HR and clicked send. My resignation was sent. I took a sigh of relief, left my computer and badges on the desk turned around one more time to visualize what used to be my life and walked out. It was 2 am in the morning. After I left, I drove mindlessly for another hour or more. I can’t really tell you where I went that night, but driving wasn’t the easiest considering I had tears pouring out of my eyes.

You see, I never planned on leaving. And never without giving two weeks notice. I thought I would be there twenty years. But what had become clear to me is that there were too many unhealthy things going on. But even with all the craziness, I didn’t even think of leaving until I had multiple people I trusted tell me, “Christi, you need to leave. This situation is no longer healthy”. Never in my life have I ever been under anyone who made me doubt who I was and every action and thought I had. There were no boundaries.

I don’t need to go on. I’m pretty sure we will all met someone in our lives or worked at an organization at some point who fits the description above. I think a lot of it tends to be because they have unhealed wounds from their past. Someone may have treated them the way they may be treating you. I don’t know. But what I do know is that we all live in a broken world which means, we are ALL broken people. We will all hurt each other. The difference is that when we hurt each other, we should own it and then change from doing it again.

I write all this because this Memorial Day looks so different from the one three years ago. Today, I spent four hours training for my Black Belt Test. This Saturday is my test. It struck me today how far God’s helped me come.

From being so battered by someone’s words who told me, “You never finish anything”. To seeing one of the finishing lines right before me. So many times in training, it would feel like I wasn’t make any progress. But today, I took a moment to relish that I spent the day laughing not only with my Sensei’s but also dancing and laughing with my family. I am truly blown away by God’s Grace and encouragement through my family and friends.

And although I wish my Dad could see me test, I know he’s cheering for me as he has been my whole life.

So, my encouragement to you is two of (some of) my favorite verses:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10

And

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

“You shouldn’t do that”

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

“You shouldn’t do that.” He said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Valentines Day, Single. Go change the world!

When You Don’t Want The Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fighting Fear: Through Surrender

INTRODUCTION:
As I began thinking of this topic, I knew I had to ask Linda. To me, she is a quiet warrior. She loves her husband and family well. There are things she faces that often times, heaven is the only one to hear of it. One Sunday, I was able to sit next to her during worship, and I opened my eyes, I can’t remember why, but I’m glad I did. I saw Linda with her hands raised. She was worshipping with her whole heart. She probably hates that I’m writing this, but time and time again, I have been challenged by her faith. I have also been lifted back up through her encouragement. This post was a challenge for her. After reading it, I know you will understand why. However, I could not hold back the tears after I read it. We serve an amazing God, and He truly is worthy of every breath we are given. Thank you, Linda, for being an amazing sister, friend, and encourager.

______________________________________________________________

 

I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to look back. It still hurts, the tears might come back.

 

I remember that night. Everything was quiet and dark: a few footsteps in the hall and sleep nowhere to be found. I had asked the nurse earlier what all the numbers meant. I needed to know which ones were important and which ones were not. 93. Her coloring was good. She finally calmed down. 92. She looks so peaceful. When is that tech coming back? 91. Has it been 4 hours yet? Wonder what they can give her next. 90. That nurse told me she would check on her. Where is she? 89. Do I dare leave and get the nurse? What if she needs me?

I left and got the nurse. They came and gave my baby some oxygen to get her levels back up to a safe range. They never reached 100 but at least she was getting what she needed.

 

The next 2 years were spent with daily breathing treatments, ER visits, and weekly doctors’ appointments. Some days I lived in 4-hour windows. Treatment to treatment, praying she would make it and not need to go to the ER. I blamed myself. Maybe I ate wrong, maybe my house was too dirty, maybe there was more I could do. I feared losing her. I feared that it would be my fault.

 

During those times, I cried out to God. My hands were in fists, ready to fight the next asthma attack. But over time, I learned you can’t get oxygen into your lungs when you panic and hyperventilate. I also learned you can’t accept God’s gifts with clenched hands. I learned to let go. I let my heart tearfully worship that we had another round of medicine available to us even when healing didn’t come. I learned to enjoy THIS one and only day because tomorrow was never promised.

 

When the dark nights came and my daughter would be fearful, we memorized “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power (Make a muscle), love (cross your arms over your chest) and a sound mind (point to your head)” 2 Timothy 1:7 I had to take this to heart as well because so many days I was crumbling inside. My faith in God grew stronger in this season. I came to realize God loves my little girl so much more than I can fathom. He has numbered her days. My job is to care for her until His plans take her elsewhere. Peace came in trusting Him.

 

Amazingly, 2 years after she was diagnosed, we go the OK to take her off all medicines. I was excited but nervous. We had a family trip planned to out of the country. 2 weeks would be fine, I thought, but packed all her medicines and machine just in case. A few days into our trip and I knew she was struggling. I pulled out everything and got her set up. I flipped the switch on and the machine started smoking and quit working. The adapter we brought failed. In a moment where time freezes, I just prayed. “Lord where in the world do we find a doctor to order a machine in this country we don’t belong to without insurance? And in enough time before she is in a full blown attack?”

 

I got my husband and he headed off to find a pharmacy. I did something I had never done before. I crawled into bed with my daughter and opened my Bible. The only thing I could remember was Psalm 139. Instead of reading it normally, I added my daughter’s name. I told her these were written for her.

“Oh Lord, you have searched Abi and know Abi. You know when she is sitting and rising up.(1)… You formed Abi’s inward parts: you covered her in Mommy’s womb. I will praise you, for Abi is fearfully and wonderfully made (13)…” We read it all. I held on to those words like I never had before. They were words of life, truth, and hope. We had just finished the passage when my husband walked in. He was back so soon, I thought it was bad news. Instead, he held out his hands, and in them was a brand new machine! Unlike the USA, with insurance, regulations, prescriptions, in this country, you could walk to the pharmacy and buy a new machine no questions asked! God’s provision blew me away.

 

My fear of losing her and “what if?” still pops up. But over and above those fears are the stories of God’s faithfulness. I would have never experienced His love and compassion and purpose if we hadn’t walked through the trials. I struggled to walk back to this season. I didn’t want to bring up those old fears but it reminded me of His steady hand through all of it and His eyes who see what lies ahead.

Song of the Week: Spirit of the Living God, by Vertical Church Band
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