What Grief Has Taught Me…

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

Grief is more than a human heart can bear.

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

The only way forward is through it.

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

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

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

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

It has taught me to laugh through tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life’s Not Fair: A Biblical View of Financial Integrity

Today’s post is brought to you by my friend, Chris Free. I had the privilege of working with Chris for about one year until God called him somewhere else. Chris is genuine, humble, selfless and kind. Characteristics you rarely see in a selfie world. I have been challenged multiple times by Chris’ compassion. It is an honor to know him and his wife Jenna. They make a dynamic team, and their daughter Lizzie just adds a whole other level of dynamite to their family.

In addition to his most important role as a husband and father, Chris is a videographer, producer, professor and a marathon runner. He has run in the Boston Marathon, and Chicago Marathon and will be running in the New York Marathon in November. See how you can partner with Chris at the end of this blog. Without further ado here is a blog from my friend, Chris Free.

—————————————————-

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

‭‭James‬ ‭1:2 NIV‬‬

Life is not fair. It’s not even equally unfair to everyone; not even close. That’s a tough reality. Some people will be born without a parent. Some will be born without an arm. Some will be born, only to die a few hours later. Life is not fair.

I have a hard time with all that. It’s not fair that I was born in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It’s not fair that I have parents who love me. It’s not fair that I live in a country that gives certain inalienable rights. It’s not fair that I live in a sturdy house instead of one made of sticks. I recognize all that. One or more of these things probably apply to you as well.

So how do we balance being thankful for our privilege against the mandate to love our neighbor who has far less? Is it true that God intentionally gives more to some than others? Take this parable as an example:

“”Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:14-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

One way to read this is that not only are we going to take from this poor person, we are going to give it to a rich person. I’m not exactly sure that’s the entire lesson. I think this means we are asked to take the gifts that God has given us to bring Him the most glory. It goes along with the scripture that says, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). So what does that look like with the state of poverty around the world? Pray for that wisdom in your own life.

Unfortunately for the poor, wealth is not God’s ultimate goal for humanity. However, fortunately for humanity, wealth is not God’s ultimate goal for humanity.

So, again, what am I to do with my resources, my gifts? What did Jesus have to say about all this? Why has God entrusted me (read: us), with many resources?

Every good and perfect gift comes from God and he can take it all away. He has done that to many a Christian to teach them a lesson. So what’s our mandate with this resource? Well, let’s consider one thought that seems counter-cultural…

Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.’”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:20-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Wait, what? That’s not fair. I can’t control where I was born. I can’t control who I was born to. Didn’t God give these gifts in the first place?

I’d like to share my personal conclusions on how to respond to these passages in a Biblically-sound way. However, another area where I struggle (and this passage almost kept me from writing this, but I felt God’s prompting to address the topic) so hopefully what is seen, moreover what God sees in me, is humility in my position. Consequently, I submit the following passage for your consideration before we move on:

““Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How do we spur each other on to love and good deeds, to give to the poor, to serve our neighbor, without boasting in what we have done?

1) We boast in the Lord, not ourselves.

2) We give, give, and give some more—as the Church.

3) We show mercy as the Church.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:36-38‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We should constantly seek to be more like Christ, asking God to refine our hearts and replace selfishness with pure motives in our souls. What does that look like in the context of a society where the sin nature is greed?

For me and my family, this has manifested itself as only investing financially in Kingdom work. There are a lot of noble pursuits in the world, but even with as many resources as God has entrusted us with, we want to be wise with how we invest. We want to throw our seed on fertile soil. We want to invest where there is a Kingdom return. This is a big reason why I’ve moved my career down the path of Christian humanitarian endeavors. That is why we only give to Christian organizations. I don’t believe this is a Biblical mandate, instead a personal conviction for me.

There are a lot of convicting passages in the Bible, and most of them reveal my inadequate nature apart from Christ. I need to remind myself that I am not the judge and juror. There are plenty of passages that illustrate that principle.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Luke‬ ‭6:42-45‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So my rhetorical question to you: where have you chosen to invest the gifts and resources that God has given you? If you are interested in finding a place to invest your resources, Charity Navigator is a great place to start your search.

Until next time, love like Jesus! If you want to make a difference in this way now, you can sponsor a child through World Vision for $39 a month here.

You as You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Heal a Shapeless Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shapeless Heart

I once had a heart: beautiful, fully shaped,

beating strong and true.

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

Til’ my heart felt hurt and grew dim

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

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

I felt worthless.. Over time my heart grew.

I could feel it heal…

Beginning to feel free.

I started again…

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

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

Vicious words cutting chunks out every chance it got.

Stabbed, betrayed from all sides..

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

Why?

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

Slowly… over time…

My heart started to heal…

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Beat again”

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

“Give it to Me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Different Memory of Memorial Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can’t stop crying”. I wrote back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And

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

We Carry Kevan!

I was thinking for new ideas for my blog. And I realized I know some incredible leaders of amazing organizations. So, I decided over the month of April to highlight some of my favorite organizations. Some organizations you’ll will hear directly from their founder/leader and others more indirectly.

This week’s organization is:

We Carry Kevan

The first thing you should know about Kevan was that he was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Shout out to my fellow FTL-er!

Before Kevan was a toddler he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy— leaving him wheelchair bound.

In 2015, Kevan decided to test the limits. Instead of writing about it I’ve linked a video to show you — Watch this!

So now that you know a little more about Kevan, I’d like for you to hear directly from Kevan. He is a man of integrity. He is genuine, incredibly gracious, and kind. I know you will be blessed by him sharing his acquaintance with fear:

“Christi, I have struggled with writing this—even starting it—for the past few weeks. Divulging fears is no small matter, you know. I had a revelation this morning, though. I was laying in bed, thinking of what fear to share. It needs to be something I’ve worked through, or at least *am* working through. It needs to be (I thought to myself) vulnerable, but not too vulnerable. And most of all, it needs to be a good story, with depth, a fall and rise, so on. Then, suddenly, the Lord said, “What are you afraid of?” A question I’d asked myself a dozen times in light of this task, but it sounds different coming from God. It pierces more. When he asked, it wasn’t, “What in your repertoire of experiences can you present as an example of fear?” It was, instead, a pointed question, “What are you so afraid of? What’s keeping you from writing this?”

My friend, I’m afraid, and I’m afraid of others knowing just that. I’m vulnerable up to a certain chalk line and then that’s it. People can see enough of my weaknesses as is—they’re plain as day. Why do they need to know my sinful, broken heart as well? I’d rather tell stories of my friends and me having crazy adventures, staring the impossible in the face, bla-bla-bla. It’s a lot easier than sharing about sitting in my dining room with no idea who’ll put me to bed that night; or the screaming matches I’ve had with Abba Father on long walks alone about everything from romance to disabilities; or the countless calls I’ve gotten over the years about friends passing away, and the whole gamut of reactions I’ve had to the news. Talk of my crew’s plans to hike this or that in two years is a lot more fun than the constant whisper in the back of my head that says I’ll be all alone in five.

I feel trimmers of fear in my gut every day. Fear of being abandoned, forgotten, let down. At least twelve times a day, I’m lifted out of my wheelchair and carried somewhere by friends, and every single time, no matter who it is, I have a fear of being dropped. So, there is the literal *and* metaphorical “drop” I struggle with. And what do I do with that? How do I deal with that fear every time I’m picked up? I let them pick me up and up and up again. And they don’t drop me. Even if they did, I’d have them pick me up again.

I settle into the fear, like sitting in a dark room and realizing everything’s still okay. Fear is just fear. It’s not a bear attacking you. It’s not a house burning down on your head. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just fear, with no substance or sway. So, I have my friends pick me up, again and again, because it’s needed for living. And I confess to my friends, I allow them to see my heart, because that’s also needed to live fully and freely. And they remain. When we decided to travel with me in a backpack (which was in itself the handling of fear), I had to open myself up to the public in interviews, films, and a published memoir—nothing to hide behind. And I write this blog, to be a little more vulnerable than before I wrote it. It terrifies me, but I’m doing it and thus giving fear less footing than an hour ago, when I started. Fear might still be there, but it’s not in control. It’s just a bug in the corner, and eventually, by the grace of God, it shrivels up and dies.”

Kevan’s book “We Carry Kevan” is available for pre-order until April 23rd. Please support a fellow author and pre-order his book, I know you will be encouraged by it.

To check out more about Kevan you can go to: http://www.wecarrykevan.com

In a world full of protests…

This week was full of unexpected things. Things were rough personally, the goals I’ve been pursuing were greeted by road blocks, and there were protests taking place on one of our work properties.

We live in a very polarized world. It’s almost like the Red Sea has parted (again). But, instead of walking through dry land, there are one set of people in one side of the waves; and, the opposing side in the other wave. The line is drawn and no one is meeting in the middle.

I once heard a very wise man say, “You don’t win anything by stating what you’re against. You win by stating and exemplifying what you are for.”

I thought about that for a while. I had to let it sink into my brain. What does that mean?

I think I understood it a bit more in light of this week. Before I get there, let me explain what I do for a living. I am the Executive Assistant| Grant Writer for a non-profit pregnancy center. This week, we had protestors in front our one of our clinics saying that we were a “fake clinic” and that we “coerce and shame women” into having their babies and a slew of other things. The thing is, they don’t know us.

First of all, the women come to us come at their own will. We do not drag women under false pretenses to come to our clinic.

Second, we have filed all the necessary documents needed to operate a state qualified medical clinic as a legal non profit organization.

Third, we simply give the women the medical information about either birth or abortion. We also tell the women we do not refer for abortions. If someone were to call as ask, we would tell them we don’t. We offer early pregnancy verification which every woman will need regardless of her choice.

The thing that makes me sad is that we have become a culture that just screams at each other. We don’t take the time to get to know how the other-side thinks and acts.

This week, in the midst of the chaos and confusion and accusations, a beautiful thing happened. I have a really good friend, who if you looked at us, you’d probably think, “how are they friends?” We don’t always see eye to eye on everything but she has been such a good friend to me. For example, she drove over to my house to help alleviate a task I needed to do when I was scampering to get to my Dad after the accident. She sent cards, brought me gifts and just listened to me when I felt like I was going to lose my mind.

When it comes to certain topics, we have different viewpoints, but this week, we said and talked about our differences on a certain topic. She shared her viewpoint and I shared mine. We weren’t trying to jam information down each other’s throat, we just talked and we listened to each other. This… This… is what I wish the rest of our country could do.

I realized the statement that the wise man said pertains to this… My friend and I may disagree on more than we may agree on but what we agree on allows us to discuss what we disagree on because we are for each other. She has my back and I have hers.

I know that if I opened my own non-profit that she didn’t agree with, she wouldn’t come protest in front of it… Because she knows me and if she opened a business that I may not agree with, I wouldn’t protest her because we know each other. We can talk to each other about our differences.

My Dad used to say, “Build a friendship strong enough to handle to truth.”

I think if we saw the story of the person holding the protest sign, we’d understand their need to be heard. People go through situations that often shape their viewpoint. I hope I learn to look beyond the sign and listen beyond the yelling to hear what that person’s story is. Everyone has a story and instead of protesting or getting angry at one another, I hope I find the opportunity to hear their story.

This is how Jesus treated people. When everyone saw a prostitute, he saw a woman with pain. When everyone saw lepers, Jesus saw men who were desperate for healing. When everyone saw Matthew, the tax collector, Jesus saw someone who could be a writer, disciple, teacher.

So, in a world full of protests, I pray we have ears to hear and eyes to see that those people are each uniquely made. They have a story and they’re longing to be heard.

Strive be the ears so that one day, someone will trust you enough to ask you for your voice.

A Wedding to Remember

We scurried down the stairwell and waited for the guys to walk past. I saw the last pair of shoes walk forward. The hallway door opened, “Okay, you’re up!” I carefully made my way to the other set of sanctuary doors. The doors in front of me opened as the music changed. I walked one foot in front of the other as the eyes of the wedding guests looked intently, anticipating the bride who would soon follow. I took my place on stage and waited as one by one each bridesmaid made her way.

It was a beautiful service. The pastor did an amazing job honoring my former roommate and dear friend as well as her now husband. When I first found out about their engagement, I couldn’t have been more excited. I was so happy I felt like I was the one getting engaged!

The day wore on and there were pictures, the announcing of the bridal party, the first dance and the cutting of the cake. I’ve attended a lot of weddings but this one struck me differently.

There is a huge difference in attending a wedding and being in the bridal party. When you’re attending you come and go and you don’t have any real obligations. But when you’re in the bridal party, you are on the inside track. It’s your job and privilege to serve the bride the best you can. It’s your job to help make it easier on her as well as support her by standing on stage. It’s a representation that you will stand alongside the couple through their thick and thin, through their sickness and health, until death do them part. You have a part to play when you’re the wedding party. Another thing is people recognize you. There is an authority that comes with it. If I were to walk up to someone and say the bride needs this, or can we have some of this or that to someone who is there to help, it gets done.

This struck me because I thought, isn’t this what we are supposed to be doing in the family of God? We have the privilege to stand beside her in the good and bad, through the thick and thin. The church is called the bride of Christ, so although we are a part of the same body, we are also to be standing with the church and serving her. And we have been given authority to do so.

On the day of my dear friend’s wedding, she was serving too. She was fixing her Dad’s suit, pinning a corsage on her mom and even putting flowers in her bridesmaid’s hair. She is so full of grace. She is so kind and always caring about others.

It was a beautiful challenge as well as encouragement to see how well things flow when we serve one another. When we put our priorities aside and help the person next to us, this honors one another as well as Jesus, our Bridegroom.

One reason I was so ecstatic to be there was that is what my friend did for me. I felt like in a small way, I was able to give back a little. She has been a constant support for me. I even had to bail on our living arrangements and she said, “It’s okay, you just take care of yourself” that meant she’d have to find someone to fill my spot or pay extra out of pocket, but she never complained or got upset at me. She was also the only person I was able to talk on the phone with when my Dad passed away. She inspires me to love, give and serve others as Christ has done for us.

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Today my challenge is to give, to serve and to love deeply. Look for someone who is growing weary, or pray for someone that you thought of, give a kind word or write a card. Life is short and it is only truly lived out as we give!

Song of the week (This song my family used to sing in our devotion time): Make Me A Servant

Fighting Fear!

Fear: A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

Fear can drive us to do all kinds of things: spend money we don’t have, isolate ourselves, and even stop living a full life. But, what if we chose to live fearless? How much greater would the impact be? What would our lives look like?

This month I decided to ask some of my dearest friends and family to write a blog on the topic of fear, and how they’ve overcome it. Fear comes in many different sizes, situations, and circumstances.

In a day with suicide bombing, “random acts of violence”, shootings, nuclear threats, terrorism on the rise, and diseases with “unknown” causes and “unknown” treatments, it is natural to be fearful. As believers, we are not GIVEN the Spirit of fear. Fear causes us to retreat, hide out, and stay quiet. Again, we are human. But through Christ, and Christ alone, we can press past our fear. We can overcome.

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12:11

Incredible power and strength come when we share our story. Because of Christ, we can brag in our weakness, shortcomings, humanity because it is Christ in us, the HOPE of glory! He is our only hope. It’s about His strength in our weakness that allows us to be overcomers and fight past our fears.

“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1

This is NOT about pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and being fearless in our own strength! We don’t have it in us, we are fragile, timid and quite incapable.

In the Bible, God refers to us as sheep more than 200 times. Why?  We are fearful, stubborn beings that need A LOT of help. Psalm 23:2 says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” I once heard someone say, it was quiet waters because the noise of a stony brook would have scared the sheep!

Fear is something we are born with; but, it is not from God. It is a part of this sin-cursed world we live in. But, we can overcome dear friends!

Sometimes, sharing our story is a very real fear that we have to overcome. But, when we share our stories we experience a strength we may never have known was there.  I like to think of a soldier on the front lines. When he shares his story, I picture him reaching down and linking arms with another soldier. We are a stronger force against the enemy when we link up. We need each other in this fight. We are not made to do this alone, we cannot do this alone without paying a higher price than we can afford. When you get knocked down, you need someone to pick you up. When I get knocked down, I need someone to pick me up. Maybe through some of these stories, you will be lifted back up. That is my prayer at least.

I hope these testimonies will bring courage to your hearts and minds! GREATER is He who is in us than he who is in the world. God is for us. He is with us. He is our strength. He is our fearless commander and we can trust Him to lead us in this battle called life.

“It’s not our story of struggle, but His story of rescue” – Rebekah Lyons

FullSizeRender (4)

Song for the week: Walking like Giants, by Stars Go Dim
Listen Here