“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❤️.

—————————————————-

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}}
Advertisements

Elaina’s Story

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

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

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

—————————————————-

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Fighting Fear: The Fear of Depression


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

________________________________________________________________________________

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

FullSizeRender (6)

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

FullSizeRender (5)

Song of the week: Fearless, by Ginny Owens

Fighting Fear: Through Surrender

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

______________________________________________________________

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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!

______________________________________________________________

 

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
Listen Here

 

Fighting Fear: With the Opposite of Fear

FullSizeRender (5)
Introduction:
This month’s theme has been Fighting Fear!  Today, my dear friend, Connie, is sharing her thoughts on fear. Connie is one of my heroes. No matter what she goes through, she strives to be more like Christ and it is evident. To be truthful, she is more like a sister to me than anything else. I know you will enjoy her thoughts today :)!
___________________________________________________________________________________________
I’ve been thinking about fear this week, and how my sin is often rooted in fear. And do you know that the Bible commands – commands – me to not fear, not be afraid, and fear not over 100 times? So, fear is a sin, and apparently, one that is common enough and serious enough that God reminds us over and over again to just NOT DO IT. And I think one reason for that is that fear has a lot of power to cut us down, cripple us, and make us forget who we are. It’s a stronghold that has a very… strong hold.

So what’s the opposite of fear? If I choose not to fear if I give my fears to God and sacrifice them on the altar of my heart, what will replace it? One of my craziest fears is that if I let go of my fear, I’ll not have anything left… but I know this is a lie because God never leaves a void in us. Emptiness is meant to be filled by him. So how does he fill the newly-vacant throne of fear? The words that He revealed to me were these: Joy, Trust, Hope, Grace, Peace, Freedom, and Love.
So this week I feel like my prayers are stronger… instead of just asking God to wrench fear from my hands, I’ve been asking him for an exchange – my fears for his hope; my fears for his joy, my fears for his peace… It seems like an unfair trade, but his resources are endless and he is so generous, I don’t think he minds. In fact, I get the feeling he is pleased… And guess what is starting to fill up my heart?!

Connie Chandler
Website: conniesbowlofcherries.blogspot.com

Read my book, Tales of the Great King: Click Here

 

IMG_1234
Song of the Week: Overwhelmed, by BigDaddy Weave
Listen Here

Fighting Fear: The Power of Truth

Introduction:
This month I have been focusing on the topic Fighting Fear.
Today’s blog comes from one of my dearest friends. She and I met in Bible college, and have remained dear friends. Our main communication has been through handwritten letters- yes, letters! We have written back and forth for over 10 years now. We have seen each other through ups and downs. I am so grateful for her. She has been someone who has always spoken truth to me, even if it hurt. Here is Lyndi’s story on fighting fear.

_________________________________________________________

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

My fear may seem silly to you, or maybe it is quite common –childbirth.

The fear was not there at first. It was slowly confirmed after having three kids.

When we had our first child, my husband and I walked into the hospital (induction appointment) looking like we had just left the wedding chapel and we were going on our honeymoon (complete w/ family snapping photos of us) Oh, so naïve – right?

A lot has happened since that day so let me just say the main “birth” events following. I have fast labors; no drugs or epidurals by choice and large healthy babies. I have nothing worth “complaining” about, but I honestly HATED having babies and would tell all young women in earshot to “never have kids!”

For our 3rd child, I thought water therapy was my ticket. “If I’m not going to have any drugs I may as well try something natural,” I thought. Nope – still had fear when it came time to have the baby and it was still a terrible experience. I wonder if fear is worse than pain. I’m not sure…

One thing I know now is: You may not be able to hinder pain from entering your life – pain comes from without (even if it’s inside your body like giving birth). But FEAR comes from within. Aha! There is something you can do about that.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” If you are born again, you have the power to overcome fear.

Baby #4

God so graciously introduced me to a book about childbirth. It educated me on what happens to my body during birth, how women gave birth in previous centuries and other countries. How birth has changed over the centuries. I read lots of birth testimonies, many different scenarios. All sorts of information (truth) were in this book! I sure was enlightened! (And then I enlightened my husband) I didn’t feel anxious about the approaching birth anymore. I was actually excited!! What??

A couple of things I did that I had not done before are: walked through the birth experience in my mind and prepared myself to accept the pain. I was going to look at it as my body doing a beautiful work instead of as a semi-truck coming to demolish me. I was going to speak truth to myself during hard moments like, “God designed you for this”, instead of being silent and actually losing my mind. Of course, I spent much time in prayer in the months and weeks approaching the birth. And…..

It was perfect. It was wonderful! My husband and I were alone in our camper laboring quietly together before the midwife arrived. When she got there, there were 45 minutes left of pushing before we met our beautiful 10-pound daughter. I never felt rushed or scared. Did I achieve the euphoric painless birth like some women have?? No! It still hurt really bad, but that is not what stands out in my mind anymore. What do you think made the difference? I know the truth is what made the difference. It helped me approach and be in the situation in a completely different way.

I hope that this encourages someone to identify any fears in your life. And ask God to shine the light (truth) on those situations so you can view them differently.

“The truth shall make you free”

Song of the Week: Fearless, by Jasmine Murray
Listen Here

Fighting Fear: When I Walk Through the Valley

Introduction:
I do not remember the day I met Katie. So many of my childhood memories have her in them. We grew up in the same church. Our parents were in leadership. Katie and her family have impacted me in ways I never knew possible. Their faith through the hardest of times challenged me. They suffer well and love well. It is truly an honor to have her write a piece of her story for us.

________________________________________________________

There are times in life when your circumstances can become overwhelming; when it’s easy to lose sight of the things you’ve always known to be true, and fear comes rushing in to fill the void.

February 11th, I went to surprise my mom at her house. My dad was sick, so I just wanted to pop in and see if she needed any help. My dad suffered a disease that was an autoimmune vascular illness that attacked his organs and severely compromised his immune system, so every cold or flu he got had to be taken seriously. By the time I reached their home, it was clear we were going to have to take him to the hospital. I stayed with them for a couple of hours until other family came to be with my mom, and then I left for home. We’d been through this many times before, so I was confident that once my dad had gotten some liquids and the antibiotics he needed from the IV that he would be fine.

I was wrong. Two weeks later, he was dead.

The night I got home from taking him to the hospital, my sister called me around midnight. Not only was the IV not helping him bounce back like usual, but his test results were so bad, they immediately intubated him and rushed him to the Critical Care Unit of the hospital.

I didn’t sleep after that. I wanted to go back to the hospital, but it was a forty minute drive, and my kids were sleeping, and what was I really going to do? My mind was racing. Was this it? Was this the time I had been fearing since I was fifteen when he was first diagnosed? Was he in pain? Was he aware of what was happening? How was my mom?

Most of those thirteen days were sleepless for me. When I did sleep, I just had nightmares about what was happening. It felt like a rollercoaster; up and down, slight improvement, then a setback, constant nausea in the pit of my stomach. All I wanted was for him to be healed or for God to take him home. I didn’t want to put him in hospice. I didn’t want to make that choice. Would he even want the extreme measures we were already taking just to keep him alive? How could we possibly know what to do? I had so much fear in my heart. Fear that he would die, fear that he would live but as a vegetable, fear that we would have to decide to put him in hospice.

It became clear that my dad was not going to recover. He hadn’t been conscious once since we brought him to the hospital, his heart was damaged, his kidneys weren’t working, his lungs had multiple infections. One night as I was home, my brother, Billy, called me. He told me that the doctors set up an appointment for our family to speak with the hospice center the following morning. It was time to make that decision. The thing about it was, if we chose to do this, they would extubate my dad. They would take out the machine that was giving his lungs breath. I didn’t want to do it. It was too awful. Billy knew that I was struggling, and so he spoke truth into my life. He reminded me of the God we serve. He reminded me that if God wanted my dad to keep breathing, if there was more for my dad here on earth, that He would give his lungs the air that they needed. He also spoke about how there was nothing my dad wanted more than to tell others about God, to point them to the God that we all so desperately need, and that if he could choose a way to go, he would have chosen a way that made all of us lean into God and come to understand Him in a deeper, more meaningful way, exactly like what was happening right now.

What broke through to me the night Billy and I were on the phone was that the entire time my eyes were in the wrong place. I wasn’t thinking about who God was or what He could do, I was thinking about the doctors and the machines and trying to simply weigh the pros and cons of our choices. I had become myopic, only able to see what was right in front of me. God never promised us easy, pain-free lives. What He promised was to always be there and to work good from each situation, and as devastating as this situation was, He was there bringing us peace and comfort. He was there when people brought us food at the hospital. He was there when my friends were texting and calling, checking in on me. He was there by giving us each other, a family strongly knit together, who know how to be each other’s shoulders to cry on and also how to joke until we’re crying from laughter.

My family knew I was the last one to be okay with hospice, so they were talking about how to approach me. Billy spoke up and said that he felt God was telling him he needed to be the one. God was there as he orchestrated the conversation I was in need of to go forward with making the right decision.

The following night we put my dad into hospice. Two days later, February 24th, he passed.

My dad always told me that every good gift in life is from God and that God only gives good gifts. When I focus on that, on my good God, is when I can have peace in the worst of situations. The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear, and the more that I lean into His love, remember how He has been good to me in the past, look at the ways He is currently blessing my life, and expect Him to do the same tomorrow, the more my fear fades into the background.

Song of the Week:
God of the Hills and Valleys, by Tauren Wells
Listen Here

 

Fighting Fear: My Greatest Fear

Introduction: 
For the month of June, I decided to launch a series called Fighting Fear. Each week you will hear a testimony from one of my friends. Today, you will hear from Paula Denny. I have known Paula as long as I can remember. We were both Pastor’s kids. I believe I was Paula’s Awana Leader when she was a Spark. We didn’t talk much as we got older. However, our friendship has changed drastically over the past year. Paula and her husband have walked through some painful experiences. I never knew how painful experiences can morph two people who would not necessarily be close friends into dear sisters. We have had some very real and honest talks about each other, ministry, and life. It is truly a privilege to have Paula share today!

______________________________________________________________

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

I cannot think of the exact moment or ways in which I recognized and faced my greatest fear, I do know that the process began in the summer of 2014.  I was working for a mission camp, and during that time, I learned so much about myself and faced many fears, however, one stands out.

My greatest fear was allowing the Lord to expose himself through my flaws.  The verse above was presented to me by a camp leader and it hit my soul like a ton of bricks.  We are simply clay pots, we as Christians, are plain vessels, filled with something so much greater than ourselves, but in order for what’s on the inside to be exposed, it must have a passageway. I already knew that the Lord wanted to expose himself through me, and honestly, I believed that he already was.  I never understood the level of vulnerability that was necessary in order for him to be truly seen from within me.

I was afraid to let the Lord shined through my cracked pot because my cracks were my imperfections–Imperfections that we all have.  Every crack in my pot represented sin, sorrow, shame, fear, or anything imperfect that had been or was currently a part of me.  With each strike of imperfection, came a crack to my clay pot.  The flaws that covered who I am show: my shortcomings, my failures, my sorrow, and my shame.  I spent so much time trying to distract from my flaws, why would I want to bring attention to them?  I spent so much time and effort shielding my cracks, because I did not want others to know of their existence, much less put them on display.

This verse kept coming up throughout the course of the summer and it continued to burden my heart on a daily basis.  I was afraid, that in showing my blemishes, I would distract from the beauty of God within me.  I was afraid that my cracks and scratches would be far too ugly for others to see. I was afraid to surrender my current and past shame and sorrow to the Lord allowing him to do whatever he wanted with them.  I wanted my pot to look put together, I put so much effort into making my pot look as though it had no cracks.  In doing this, I was hindering myself from being used by God, because in our weaknesses, he glorifies himself in a mighty way, if we will only share with him our greatest shames and most sorrowful failures, he will use them and take something so disgraceful in our eyes to be transformed into something adorned with beauty and grace.

Little by little, I began to share my deepest failures, the ugliest parts of my inmost being.  I began to recognize their existence and shared them with the Lord, though he already knew they were there. I became more vulnerable with fellow believers. Allowing myself, and everyone around me to see my clay pot for what it truly was. All of my flaws were no longer hidden, I was free from the burden of hopelessly covering and hiding my cracks without an end in sight.

In finally releasing this fear to the Lord, something beautiful happened.  The Father took all of my cracks and scratches.  He took the sin, sorrow, hurt, and shame, that I had been hiding and he used it.  He used it to show himself through my shortcomings.  He displayed his beauty in areas and situations in my life that were damaged.  He showed himself to others through the cracks in my pot.  He brought me comfort and healing through the holy treasure of his grace.  He made my soul feel refreshed and beautiful among his eyes.

Within the cracks of my clay pot, his light shined, so that he was seen.  The attention was brought to him, not to my shortcomings, as I had feared it would.  No one was focused on my cracks, but rather, they were made witness to the glory of God that was shining through the broken pieces of my simple clay pot.  In surrendering this deep fear of my soul, I experienced joy and relief, so precious to my inmost being.

Remember: There is beauty in broken and flawed vessels. There is beauty because Christ shines through. When we are “whole” no one sees the Light. When we share our brokenness it gives other hope to continue on.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

I cannot think of the exact moment or ways in which I recognized and faced my greatest fear, I do know that the process began in the summer of 2014.  I was working for a mission camp, and during that time, I learned so much about myself and faced many fears, however, one stands out.

My greatest fear was allowing the Lord to expose himself through my flaws.  The verse above was presented to me by a camp leader and it hit my soul like a ton of bricks.  We are simply clay pots, we as Christians, are plain vessels, filled with something so much greater than ourselves, but in order for what’s on the inside to be exposed, it must have a passageway. I already knew that the Lord wanted to expose himself through me, and honestly, I believed that he already was.  I never understood the level of vulnerability that was necessary in order for him to be truly seen from within me.

I was afraid to let the Lord shined through my cracked pot because my cracks were my imperfections–Imperfections that we all have.  Every crack in my pot represented sin, sorrow, shame, fear, or anything imperfect that had been or was currently a part of me.  With each strike of imperfection, came a crack to my clay pot.  The flaws that covered who I am, show my shortcomings, my failures, my sorrow, and my shame.  I spent so much time trying to distract from my flaws, why would I want to bring attention to them?  I spent so much time and effort shielding my cracks, because I did not want others to know of their existence, much less put them on display.

This verse kept coming up throughout the course of the summer and it continued to burden my heart on a daily basis.  I was afraid, that in showing my blemishes, I would distract from the beauty of God within me.  I was afraid that my cracks and scratches would be far too ugly for others to see. I was afraid to surrender my current and past shame and sorrow to the Lord allowing him to do whatever he wanted with them.  I wanted my pot to look put together, I put so much effort into making my pot look as though it had no cracks.  In doing this, I was hindering myself from being used by God, because in our weaknesses, he glorifies himself in a mighty way, if we will only share with him our greatest shames and most sorrowful failures, he will use them and take something so disgraceful in our eyes to be transformed into something adorned with beauty and grace.

Little by little, I began to share my deepest failures, the ugliest parts of my inmost being.  I began to recognize their existence and shared them with the Lord, though he already knew they were there. I became more vulnerable with fellow believers. Allowing myself, and everyone around me to see my clay pot for what it truly was. All of my flaws were no longer hidden, I was free from the burden of hopelessly covering and hiding my cracks without an end in sight.

In finally releasing this fear to the Lord, something beautiful happened.  The Father took all of my cracks and scratches.  He took the sin, sorrow, hurt, and shame, that I had been hiding and he used it.  He used it to show himself through my shortcomings.  He displayed his beauty in areas and situations in my life that were damaged.  He showed himself to others through the cracks in my pot.  He brought me comfort and healing through the holy treasure of his grace.  He made my soul feel refreshed and beautiful among his eyes.

Within the cracks of my clay pot, his light shined, so that he was seen.  The attention was brought to him, not to my shortcomings, as I had feared it would.  No one was focused on my cracks, but rather, they were made witness to the glory of God that was shining through the broken pieces of my simple clay pot.  In surrendering this deep fear of my soul, I experienced joy and relief, so precious to my inmost being.

Remember: There is beauty in broken and flawed vessels. There is beauty because Christ shines through. When we are “whole” no one sees the Light. When we share our brokenness it gives other hope to continue on.

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

Listen Here