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!

Fighting the Fear of Living a Life You Didn’t Expect

I am so grateful to have my friend, Mary O’Brien, share with you today. Mary will forever be one of my saving graces because when I first met her, she came to my rescue!

I was at the National Religious Broadcaster Conference trying to carry 6 foot banners and a box of things for my boss’s book table. Suddenly a woman comes right by me, pulls on my dress and nicely said, “I’m sorry your dress was riding up, and your hands were full.”

How can you not become friends after that! I met up with Mary again at a conference her church where my boss was speaking. Mary is someone after being around her, it makes you want to live better. It truly is an honor to have her as a guest blogger today. I know you will enjoy what she has to share!

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I grew up in a loving yet dysfunctional home. As I have aged – I realize that my younger years were wrought with fear of outcomes I could not control. If I could control a situation, then it hurt less or caused less stress. But that simply was not often possible in my home.

Faith was ever present, but it was not until college that I came to have a personal relationship with Christ. I came to know that God wasn’t a far off God, but a God who loved ME and was intimately involved in my life. He used a very traumatic incident in my 20’s to break me free of my false sense of control and fear of “what ifs”.

I was a single 27 woman when out of the blue I was diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis (an infection in the lining of the heart) and hospitalized. A few days later I was told I would need open heart surgery to repair the damage. I was in shock. I had gone from a normal, healthy young woman to being told I would have congestive heart failure within the next year if I didn’t have this surgery. Within a few days came another blow:

“Did we mention that depending on the outcome of the surgery you may not be able to have children?”

Um no, no one had mentioned this.

My mind was racing. Who would want to marry me if on the first date I had to tell them: Oh! By the way, I cannot have children and I have a foot-long scar down my chest.

I went into control mode. How can I be sure to manage the options so that is not the outcome (there were a few extreme options available to me that might have prevented this possible outcome).

As a believer who had just begun studying the Word seriously for a few years, I knew enough to know I needed to run to God and His promises. But this was so hard (I was still learning about God’s sovereignty and His goodness).

I thought maybe I could handle this better. There were several Scripture passages that really ministered to me at this time…

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 139:16

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

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

As I explored my options, the Lord confirmed to me that what I needed to do was let go and trust Him. Trust that whatever the outcome of the surgery was – He was good and faithful, and nothing was outside of His plans for me.

I recall kneeling by my bed a few nights before surgery and through tears just telling Him that I was giving this to Him. I was trusting Him. I knew that He loved me deeply and no matter what happened, He would see me through it and had a plan.

I woke up to good news- the valve had been repaired perfectly and there was no need for the strong medications that may have altered my health and ability to have children. I was so comforted in many ways by this. And, in my limited vision, I saw this as His promise for what life would hold for me.

However, years later, at around 39, I was in a place of striving against where the Lord had me as a single woman with no children. I just didn’t understand His plans or why my life didn’t look like I thought it was going to. In a place of fear – what if what I always thought my life would be doesn’t happen – I recall saying to the Lord that I felt a little bit tricked by Him. Why did you do that with my surgery only to NOT give me children. And in such a loving way I recall Him revealing to me that what He did was for my good, for my best. He took the best care of me with an outcome that allowed me to have a perfectly healthy life with no further concerns or issues. He never said it was about kids and marriage, but I had wanted it to be about that. He was simply taking the best care of me as a loving Father and blessing me with that outcome.

Around 42, he did a big work in me. He released me from the striving, and frankly the shame I had of being an older single woman whose life didn’t look most everyone else’s. I began to see His sovereignty and faithfulness in a new way.

Fear is natural, but the more we recognize the character of God the more we rest in knowing we have nothing to fear. He gave His Son for us. He knows every hair on our head. He knows the ugliest parts of us and loves us, graciously working to refine us and call us out of shallow waters into deep ones with Him. I love that I can look back on these times in my life when I start to get anxious about a situation and recount His goodness and that I have nothing to fear when He is in control.

“There is no line…”

Disclaimer: I wrote this a few months ago. I wrote it to help me process my own feelings. For whatever it’s worth, I hope it helps someone else❤️.

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I have been watching a show called, “Burn Notice.” It’s about an ex-spy, named Michael Weston. Half of the time you can’t tell who he’s being used and manipulated by. People have threatened his family, friends, and very existence of who he is. He’s stuck in this trap of trying to be free. Every time he gets close, the target changes, or the carrot he’s been chasing get replaced, or jerked just out of reach.

As the series continues, the closer the fight gets. If you plan on watching it, you may not want to continue reading this….

Michael and his friends have been through everything together. They become more than friends. They become each other’s family. They all get into risky and questionable situations, but there is always an underlying trust. Even if the team doesn’t understand what’s going on, they trust the one calling the shots.

One sentence in this series won’t stop playing in my head… Michael is gaining ground on the person trying to take his life away, but it requires him to sacrifice some of his newer friends. His girlfriend (Fiona) decides that if she doesn’t take herself out of the equation, Michael won’t be able to make the right call. Since, Fiona has become the leveraging tool used by his newest adversary. He rushes to find her. When he does, she says, “I’m surrendering. I’m taking myself out. You’re losing yourself.” The reality of the situation starts to sink in for Michael. He is about to ruin other people’s lives to save Fiona. She speaks again and says, “Where do you draw the line, Michael?” And this is the part that keeps playing in my head… he says,

“There is no line when it comes to you.”

As I thought on what Michael said, I realized something. God is never going to stop coming after me. To you this may seem like a “no brainer” as my Dad used to say. But, after experiencing abuse from individuals claiming to be serving God coupled by the loss of my Dad… I’ve felt like Michael. I’ve felt lost.

In the midst of the fighting, Michael had lost sight of who he was. I know that Michael said, “There is no line when it comes to Fiona.” But it was Fiona who proved it.

Later on, when Michael is about to essentially “sell his soul to the devil” because he’s gotten so confused. He wants freedom so bad and there have been so many people after him. In the process, he’s lost so much that up he’s gotten to the point where up is down and down is up.

Fiona know he’s fallen prey due to everything he’s been through and he’s in the “enemy’s camp” . Walking in there could mean sudden death for her — That doesn’t stop her. She walks right into the enemy’s territory and right into Michael’s confusion — not knowing how he will respond to her.

In the aftermath of grief, there’s a lot of confusion and you feel lost. The normality of having your loved one is no longer there. Your mind keeps wanting to see them back at “their place”. Like at the end of the dinner table, at his work desk, or the rocking chair where he used to watching football. But, I’m slowly beginning to realize that I have to relearn the life I live. I have to relearn how to continue with a hole in my family and in my heart, and honor him and God in the process. I have to relearn who I am. The fact is, I’ve been changed. The Christi before losing her Dad is not the same Christi after losing her Dad. The same is true for each one of my family members. But, there’s still a piece of me that is there, and that’s the piece that I’ve got to find.

And, instead of Fiona rushing in, I can picture Jesus rushing in . When everyone else is running for cover. He crosses the line into my lostness. I can picture him saying, “Christi, look at me.” And just like Michael did, it takes a while because maybe you didn’t understand all that “the plan” called life entailed…

But at some point I’ve got to ask for the strength look up and find His eyes again. Somehow, I’ve got to walk towards the voice that’s rushed in to pull me out. It starts with a look up. He will help me relearn who I am and how to move forward, but not forget.

*Pictures taken from: https://www.pinterest.com/chompie97/burn-notice/?amp_client_id=CLIENT_ID(_)&mweb_unauth_id={{default.session}}

A Disciple’s Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, HE’s alive they insisted.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Fighting Fear: The Fear of Depression


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

         Watch: Kristi literally catches a shark!

Song of the Week: Not Backing Down, by Blanca

Fighting Fear: The Fear of the Unknown

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I got out of bed to do my quiet time, feeling depleted. My “prayer” sounded more like a complaint and a pitiful plea.

“I can’t do it. I’m overwhelmed. I’m tired and I just don’t know if I can keep up”

I had a lot of responsibilities awaiting me at the office. I had reports to finish. People needed their schedules. Facebook posts to create, the endless to-do list always present in my mind. These things were piled on top of the project deadlines, many of which were overdue. Even when I was off I was thinking of the amount of work left unfinished. I almost didn’t like having time off because I knew I had more to do. So after my pitiful prayer, I was surprised to have this thought, I believe from the Holy Spirit, pop into my head:

“Just focus on loving me, today”

“Just love you?” I thought. “You don’t care if my to-do list gets done? You just care that I love you as I’m doing my to-do list?”

“Yes…”

Suddenly, the weight I felt from thinking about the day crumbled! Like Jesus was taking my load, and just asking me to walk with him. Asking me to hold His hand as a child would her Father while navigating through a busy street.

I don’t remember if my to-do list got done that day, but I remember the pressure I had the majority of the week dissipated. It was simply my job to love him. To love him by making a good post, to love Him by creating a solid report, to love him as I scheduled meetings and production times, to love Him while I worked with my other co-workers. My to-do lists won’t even be a thought in heaven. However, the person I loved well might very well be standing next to me there.

God reminded me of this lesson again but in a different way. My life lately has been and felt a little unsettled. I have so many questions: Should I do this? Should I do that? What interests should I pursue? Should I be more ambitious? Should I wait? What about this prospect? How open should I be?  In life, there is so much to think about. One day can hold a basket of questions that need to be answered.

If I am being honest, the past few weeks have been really difficult. Not because of anything in particular, but because it seemed like nothing was happening. I feel like I’m waiting but I don’t really know what I’m waiting for. The nothingness became wearisome. But then I heard a message by Dr. Michael Youssef. He said when you remember you’re up. When you forget you’re down. I realized my hopefulness had a slow sprung a leak. I was beginning to lose hope. Maybe I was forgotten. Maybe my desires and dreams are just that a dream. Maybe my life will amount to nothing.

After listening to that message by Dr. Michael Youssef I wanted to write a letter back to God. Because, at the end of the day, my purpose in life is not about having a career, having a comfortable life, or having a bunch of letters after my name. My purpose is to love God and love people. As I began thinking on this, I wrote this prayer:

God,

I know I rarely get it right. I know I judge too quickly, rush impulsively, and try to control
everything. I think too highly of myself. I am selfish and get wrapped up in my own insecurity. I go from thinking I can do it all; to thinking, I’m incapable of doing the most menial tasks. But God, I’m asking that you would use me. I know I don’t get things right, but I want to serve you. I know I am not the smartest, but the little I have I’m asking you to use. God, I know I’m not good at showing it and I fail daily, but I do love you. I know I doubt you way too much, but I trust you. You’ve proven yourself time and time again. You’ve loved me past my deepest wounds. You sat with me on my darkest day. You held me as I cried out. You provided when I had nothing. You cherished me when I felt worthless. God, I only have one life and I want to live it for you. Help me to love you. Help me to love others. Those are the most important things you ask. Thank you for loving me enough to come rescue me. God, do the impossible through me for your glory. I am nothing, but with You, I have all I need. Use this life for your purposes.

Love, your girl,
Christi

In life, the unknown is daunting: unknown relationships, unknown diseases, unknown treatments, unknown financial burdens, unknown hardships, unknown life changes. We know nothing about the future. Everything could change in a split second. But one thing I know is that whatever is ahead, my purpose is the same: Love God and love people. Perfect love casts out fear…

Because God fearless loves us, we can fearlessly face this life. Remember: He has already overcome it, and He who is with us is greater… Greater than anything we face.

I’d like you to watch a short clip of a dear friend who is living fearlessly now: All Things Possible: High Risk Missions to Iraq

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Song of the week: Fearless, by Ginny Owens

Fighting Fear: The Fear of Failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of the Week: I Have This Hope, by Tenth Avenue North
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