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

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

New Story Charity

A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to sit in on a TedTalk and later meet with the Co-Founder and CEO of our next organization of the week. This is the last organization that I’ll be highlighting. So without ado, the organization for this week is:

New Story Charity.

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The vision of New Story started in Haiti in 2014. When Brett Hagler, the CEO of New Story, wasn’t okay with what he saw. Thousands of were people living in tents. Young girls getting snatched in the middle of the night. Mom’s having to stand the entire night holding their babies in their arms because rain water and sewage flooded through their “home.”

Brett teamed up with few other 20 year olds (Matthew Marshall, Mike Arrieta and Alexandria Lafci) to start New Story Charity.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, watch this video, because they can tell you this story better than me.

Incredible, right? Well, it gets even better. New Story Charity has joined up with a company called Icon and they are planning to build the first 3D printer community. See a 3D printed house. This project is set that start in early next month.

The thing that I so appreciate about Brett and his team is that they shoot for the moon. Shooting for the moon means overcoming a lot of obstacles that most people don’t want to push through. But, New Story Charity thrives on overcoming obstacles.

After I heard Brett speak, he graciously gave me an hour of his time to pick his brain on his organization and to ask him what fears he had to fight since starting New Story.

This is what he shared:

“At the beginning, I had a lot of things go our way. It was a unique situation. I was more excited than anything.

But one fear I fight is not feeling qualified for my job. I’ve never run a company of 30+ people with a 15 million dollar organization. I’m constantly trying to deal with things I’ve never dealt with before.

My current fear is “what if” we aren’t able to deliver on this 3D printed community. That would be a huge hit for my organization.”

I couldn’t help but walk away inspired and encouraged when I finished my time with Brett. He is a remarkable man. He is kind, humble and ambitious. I think we all, at one time or another, look at problems in our world and think, I wish I could do something, but we rarely do. Brett and his team decided to not stop at that thought, but actually do something about it.

I think the thing that’s stuck out to me the most in interviewing the CEOs/Founders of organization’s is that every single CEO/Founder at some point in our communication has expressed their inadequacy. So, I think it’s safe to say that if there’s something burning in your heart to do— you can’t wait until you feel adequate. You just have to do it. Don’t let fear hold you back. God has given us each gifts that He wants us to use. For you it may not be starting a nonprofit. It might be writing a book, starting a Bible Study, networking, building a business. My encouragement to you is this:

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C.S Lewis

And

Live your life in crescendo. Your most important work is in front of you.” — Stephen Covey

In closing, I want to leave you with two points Brett shared in his Ted Talk:

1) Dream big — start small.

2) Work hard — never give up.

Please take a minute to check out New Story Charity I know you will be encouraged by what you see. Thanks for being with me on this journey!

Hope Women’s Centers

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

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

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

Hope Women’s Centers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Ariana is the beautiful woman center sitting down

All Things Possible — Victor & Eileen Marx

It was early in 2015 when I happened to tune into one of my favorite radio programs. Within a few minutes, I found myself frozen at my dining room table with tears streaming down my face.

Some of these girls have been raped 30x before lunch.” The voice on the other side of the radio said.

The voice was Victor Marx. He and his wife Eileen were not just saying this because they were raising funds to give to someone else. They were sharing because they were going into the thick of the battle themselves. They were running “High risk mission operations in Iraq.”

After hearing Victor and Eileen Marx on the radio, I knew I had to get in touch with them. Later that year, we had the privilege of having them on the TV Show I was working on.

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

Victor & Eileen Marx | All Things Possible Ministries

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Victor Marx began his ministry in 2002. His ministry initially started because he had a passion to help kids who society had given up on. He began speaking inside juvenile detention centers. Since Victor has an extensive background in martial arts (and is the fastest gun disarmer), he’d display some of his talents.

Victor’s deep seated compassion comes from deep wounds. If I’m not mistaken, Victor had to go to 140 counseling sessions to help him process his PTSD all from childhood trauma.

As a child, Victor was severely abused on multiple levels. Before that, he is was conceived by rape. His father, who had not really been in the picture, showed up one night raped his mother.

To learn more about Victor’s story watch his story here.

As for Eileen and her support and steadfastness has also been a huge part of Victor’s wellbeing. She is a mighty woman of God who also has an impressive background in martial arts. They really make an incredible team.

It was both their decision to go to Iraq when ISIS decided to go on a rampage. They went in when everyone else was fleeing. I’m sure they had to fight fears, but they didn’t let that stop them.

Victor and Eileen have helped over 25,000 kids with their trauma from ISIS. They have done 8 high-risk missions to Iraq and now are working on helping a young girl who was raped and left for dead. Victor and Eileen fight for those who can’t fight for themselves— many of those who they have helped were left for dead.

Victor and Eileen are the real deal. They don’t sugarcoat anything and they are quick to fight for the justice of those who have been wronged.

Unfortunately, because of their schedules right now, they were unable to share some of the fears they’ve had to overcome. So, instead of hearing from them, I want to leave with a personal story about them:

Without going into too much detail, the ministry I was with when I met Victor, started to take a shift. A lot of things were happening that were confusing. There was some very painful and hurtful things that took place and I decided it was no longer healthy for me to stay. I decided the best thing for me to do was to resign. I didn’t know what was next. I didn’t have any answers just a lot of questions and a lot of wounds. A few months after I left, I got a text from Victor. He asked if I could call him when I was free. My stomach turned into knots.

Oh no! He probably wants to schedule a call with my former boss. I wondered what I should do. What should I say? There were so many thoughts going through my head.

He probably doesn’t know I’m not with that ministry. I continued to think. I’ll just tell him I no longer work there, and maybe that’ll be the end of it.

“Hey Victor, if you want to talk to _____ you’ll have to call this number. I am no longer working there.”

My stomach eased a bit until my phone vibrated again a few minutes later.

“I know. I heard. I’d like to speak with you when you get a chance.” — Victor

Now I really didn’t know what to think. I set up a time anyways and prayed for the right words.

A few hours later I was on the phone with Victor. Long story short, he was concerned. He called me to find out why I left — figuring there might be a problem. He spent the next 30 minutes to an hour on the phone with me listening to me and then praying for me.

I was so touched. This man who is running a large ministry took the time to talk with me and make sure I was okay. Then he spent the remainder of the time encouraging me. When you are wounded by leaders in the Body of Christ, it can be easy to just walk away. Not many people came chasing after me to see if I was okay— a few did and to those I am deeply grateful for. But Victor, who I only met in person one day, took time to find me out and encourage me. For that, I will always be grateful. He and Eileen are truly some of the most remarkable, genuine and truthful people I have ever know.

Please be sure to check out the incredible work Victor and Eileen Marx do at www.VictorMarx.com. Be sure to also check out their movies on PTSD (Triggered and Triggered Too).

Alhadaf

Exciting things are happening! Kevan’s book — We Carry Kevan was JUST released yesterday! Please go to your nearest Barnes and Nobles and buy his book! You will find it in the new release section!

This week’s organization is: Alhadaf

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It was almost exactly three years ago when I receive this text:

“While you’re in Jordan, you should meet with Allen with Partners and Maran. She is a friend of [your coworker].

This message came as I was feverishly working to compile our travel schedule to Ammon, Jordan. My team had back to back conferences on opposite coasts, and another oversees trip two weeks after our Jordan trip. I was overwhelmed but I knew the importance of these meetings.

The trip to Jordan was life altering on several levels. One because that trip personally caused me to evaluate my job, and because meeting Maran and seeing her organization permanently marked me.

Maran ma’ay’ah abujaber is the founder and CEO of Alhadaf. Alhadaf’s mission is: To inspire children and their families, placed in the Kingdom of Jordan and are affected by the world’s injustice, to achieve positive change in their lives.

Alhadaf does just that. They work primarily with Iraqi refugees who had to flee because of ISIS. They do art therapy, offer limited medical assistance, provide meals, haircuts and opportunities to learn and grow. Ultimately, they help reestablish dignity after many of the refugees were left with just the clothes on their backs.

Here is some of their art therapy. The picture on the right is what the one child drew right after they escaped ISIS. The left is what that same child drew several months after doing art therapy and working with some of Alhadaf’s employees. Each employee is a certified PTSD counselor.

Maran and her team breathe compassion. They strive to be a firm foundation. A stepping stone towards healing for each person who comes to Alhadaf.

While I was in Jordan, Maran took us to an apartment where (if my memory serves me right) five refugee families were sharing one apartment. Their faces are ones I cannot forget.

There was a hollowness in their eyes — a hollowness that I had never seen before. They were still in shock, numb, seemingly lifeless. But, they were grateful for Maran. Alhadaf was their only silver lining.

I asked Maran to write on what fears she has faced since starting Alhadaf. This is what she shared with me:

Christi, the fear of failure is something I’ve struggled with especially coming from a household of all girls, as well as living in an Arabic country. I always had this feeling my sisters and I were not strong enough because we are women. So, I always feared that.

That feeling was overwhelming. Several times, I had to go to the people around me to encourage me to try my best to fight that fear. That is until God talked

to me through the story of Ruth. He told me not to worry about being a woman,

or belong to a certain tribe, or, about coming from a house of all girls. He said, “You are strong in Me! Like Ruth and Naomi. When Ruth went to another place, she began to understand her identity: Your God is my God and that’s where my strength is — in my God.”

I would say that my continuous fear is that because I work among orphans and refugees — specifically Iraqi refugees— The funds are very low and limited. There are lots of times that I fear losing my vision because I need funds. This is something I always struggle with. But eventually I came up with a strong strategy that God called me to. And just because I have limited funds— God reminds me that in my weakness He is strong. This

helped me worked around my fear— knowing that God will provide.

I have another fear. The fear of

not being there for my kids because of the number of hours I need to put in because of the amount of work there is to do. The fear of not being the

perfect mom. So, I’ve lowered my standard a bit, and it’s okay if I am not perfect all the time. I realized I don’t have to be perfect. That helped me deal with that particular fear.

As you see, I have lots of fears that I had to go through. I also struggle with anxiety. I do all I can to lower my anxiety. But I just take step at a time, one day at a time, one year at a time, and in my weakness, I remember He is strong.

Maran is truly the real deal. She has the biggest heart. She gives all she can to everyone around her no matter what they might look like, or what their status is. She is a woman of conviction and of action. It is truly an honor to know her! To learn more about Maran and her work, please go to www.Alhadaf.org.

Maran and her husband Emil, have three beautiful boys. They currently live in Jordan and have dedicated their lives to others. If you would like to help Maran and her organization, she will be in the States later this month so she will be able to receive donations easier than a wire transfer. Please contact me via email or via the comments so I can help arrange this. Thank you!

Agape International Missions

This week’s organization of the week is Agape International Missions.

In 2015, I had the privilege of speaking with the president of Agape International Missions, Don Brewster. I was working in TV Broadcasting at the time. I had no idea of the history of Cambodia; or, what it was like to be a girl in that country. After hearing Don share as a guest on the TV show I was working on, my heart broke. From then on, this organization has never left my heart. I hope to visit one of their facilities at some point.

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Don and Bridget Brewster went to Cambodia on a pastoral missions trip in 2005. After returning to the states, Bridget said she never wanted to go back there. They had no idea of what was going on under the surface.

Shortly after returning to the states, Don and Bridget happened to be watching the TV when Dateline aired a program called, “Children for Sale.” In this segment, Dateline reporters discovered the horrifying atrocities happening to children.

In 1975-1979, 1.6-1.8 million Cambodian’s died under the Khmer Rouge regime which was being lead by Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge regime killed scholars, government officials and the “intellectuals” of their country. Today this is know is known as “The Cambodian Genocide.” Because of this, the Cambodian people were left without direction, no leadership, and in dire straits. So, in order to survive, they began selling their children.

After Don and Bridget learned about the issue of sex trafficking in Cambodia, they sold their home. Don gave up his position as Executive Pastor of Adventure Christian Church in Roseville, CA, and they moved to Cambodia to lead Agape International Missions (AIM).

Since 2005, Agape International Missions has been focused on stopping the cycle of sex trafficking and exploitation in Cambodia by preventing human trafficking and rescuing, restoring, and reintegrating survivors.

Their first project was focused on restoring girls who were rescued out of sex trafficking. Today, they have 12 programs that stop human trafficking through a holistic strategy.

AIM’s US staff are based in California and support our 300+ local Cambodian staff.

To learn more about AIM please watch this short video.

The thing I most admire about Don Brewster is the fact that because he is a father with daughters, his heart couldn’t not take seeing other daughters being trafficked. This man speaks as act as a human representation of our Heavenly Father — Who rushes in when the darkness seems to be too much. Who prosecuted the abusers and is a voice for those who have been silenced. I know when Don and Bridget get to Heaven, God will say, “Well done my good and faithful servants.”

Because of Don’s schedule I was not able to get him to share on his fears, but please keep this man and his wife and this ministry in your prayers. They are doing incredible work!