You as You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protection

Today’s post is brought to you by my friend, Rachel Story. She has been a guest contributor before (See here). I hope you will walk alway feeling a little more like you’re seen after reading what Rachel has to share on Protection.

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I have the tendency to become consumed by seemingly small stories in the Bible. I want to read the story over and over again in multiple different translations. I want to use Halley’s bible handbook as a jumping point to research the archaeology and culture of the time period. I want to understand every detail about the story so that I can know the context and know how to apply it to my life. Sometimes it is easy to find the information I am looking for and sometimes it is not. I am no Bible scholar however, so please understand that I am approaching this as a regular human being that has the honor and distinction of being able to expose herself to God’s word daily in ways that humans in history have not always been able to. 

 

I have been spending the past year reading through the old testament, piece by piece, story by story, account by account. I am currently in 2 Samuel and I read a story that has resonated with my life and my story in ways that seem shocking, but I find comforting when I read it – eventually anyway. It all has to do with the idea of protection and how I see that playing a role in my life.

 

First and second Samuel are all about the rise and fall of two Kings, Saul and David. Even if you didn’t grow up in the church, you have probably heard about David and Goliath before, this story gets used as an allegory in many other pieces of literature. I’m talking about that little guy David who becomes king. He is described frequently as a man after God’s own heart, but boy does he mess things up frequently too. It is after he commits adultery with Bathsheba (which I have thoughts about, but I will save for later) and gets her husband killed to cover up his sin, that the story I want to talk about takes place.

 

2 Samuel 13: “Amnon Rapes Tamar”

 

Side note: Some translation like to either not title this chapter at all, or give it a misleading title such as, “Amnon and Tamar” as if it is some romance to emulate or something. This is not something to mislead people about, and it is not something to be quiet about. That is just one reason why you should expose yourself to as many different translations as possible.

 

It is in the middle of 2 Samuel that we see how David’s sin continues to catch up with him. David had many children by many wives. Amnon was the son of one wife, while Tamar and her brother Absalom were children of a different wife. Tamar was beautiful and Amnon was obsessed with her, and felt he loved her. He was so obsessed that it changed his demeanor. Amnon received advice from a crooked cousin that noticed his change and he suggested that he pretend to be sick. That’s a big deal, because Amnon is the oldest son of the King, which you know, means that he is next in line to be King.

If he is sick, David’s lineage is at stake. So King David visits his sick son and asks him what he needs. Amnon requests that Tamar come tend to him and cook for him. David grants this request.

 

Can I interject my own thoughts here for a moment? Women have what I like to call a creep radar. When I have been uncomfortable around someone, it usually ends up being for a reason. Some commentaries like to say that because of the type of cooking she was requested to do, she was flattered that she was asked to attend to him and went willingly. I think a man who has never paid attention to women wrote that. There is no way that a cousin notices Amnon’s obsession with Tamar, without Tamar noticing herself. If he was close enough to her to be obsessed, she was close enough to know it and feel alarmed by it. So to me, she is probably alarmed that her father is sending her to him, but she goes because he is her father and he is the king. 

 

Tamar goes, and her presence overwhelms him. To the point that his lust, not love, reaches a boiling point and he sends all servants out of his house. He grabs Tamar when she is close enough and forces himself on her. She tried to delay him by remarking that the King would surely let them marry if he only asked (although that would have never happened because Leviticus clearly states that brothers and sisters not marry), that he is not a scoundrel, and that he remember she is a sister. Nothing she says stops him. He overpowers her and rapes her. 

 

As soon as he has finished with her, what he thought was love was gone and replaced with misplaced disgust. He was disgustedwith her now, when the disgust was truly for himself. He immediately requests that she be removed from his presence and locked out of the house. She begs him not to do this, and reminds him that by law he is supposed to marry her now. He refuses.

 

As she is thrown out of the house, she tears her garment and covers her face with ashes. She is mourning what was taken from her. It is unclear about how much time has passed when her brother Absalom finds out and when her father does. To me, this is the saddest part of the story.

 

Her brother tells her to be quiet, to keep it a family matter.

 

Her father is angry, but does nothing. 

 

Tamar spends the rest of her life as a desolate woman in the house of her brother. Not much else is known about her and the story moves forward from that point. 

 

How many other women are forgotten about? How many other women are left unprotected? How many other women do not receive justice? 

 

Some say that Absalom avenged his sister later when he had Amnon murdered. I am not sure about that. His actions after the fact lead me to believe that Amnon’s murder was just a stepping point to his rebellion against his father and that it had little to do with defending the honor of his sister. 

 

Remember that I have been making my way through the old testament, and know that I read this story in the midst of pondering the idea of protection and its role in my life. I also found myself relating to Tamar’s story just a little too much.

 

I was abused and it was kept quiet.

 

I was abused and my father did nothing.

 

I was abused and my brothers did not react. 

 

Please keep in mind that this is my side of the story and that my instances of sexual abuse happened when I was under the age of 5. I am reflecting on who I am now as a result of what happened to me as a young girl. There are many people and feelings involved that I know nothing about that play a part in this story. This is no way makes what happened to me, and other people like me, right. I want you to know that I understand that there are other perspectives that are not being represented here.

 

But I also want you to know that I am confused that the people, the men, given to protect me, chose not to do that, in the way that they could. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Stand up for the people we love and protect them? Why wasn’t Tamar? Why wasn’t I? 

 

Probably because of sin that was not overcome. The idea of his son taking a woman for lustful reasons probably hit a little close to home for David who lusted after Bathsheba (and as I said, I have so many thoughts and questions about that, but I digress). He saw his sin in his son and he looked away, though he was angry it happened. I know that my father experienced abuse as a young boy that was similar to my own. Maybe because he had not overcome it, he allowed himself to turn away from mine. As for my brothers? They were young, and they watched my father not react, so why should they?

 

Protection, and feeling protected is a huge deal for me. I asked a lot of friends about this and I got a lot of interesting answers. My friends who have experienced abuse and loss have a high need for protection and security. They need to know that someone will protect them and looks out for them. My friends who have not experienced this kind of abuse and loss, are of the normal variety of friends who choose a well-lit gas station over a dark one when traveling at night. I take it a bit further than that. 

 

I plan enough in advance that I don’t have to stop at a gas station late at night. 

 

If I have to stop at a store at night, I park as close to the building as possible. 

 

I carry my keys in my hand in case I need to punch someone with something somewhat sharp.

 

I look in and around my car before getting in.

 

I stay up late, waiting for friends to text me when they get home, and I text them when I get home.

 

I only let approved people hug or touch me.

 

I avoid unknown white males, going as far to tense up when they are too close at the gym and even take note of ways to describe them.

 

This may seem like I live my life in fear, but I think I am actually finding ways to protect myself since I was not. And yeah, I definitely have control issues! A male friend pointed out that he thinks we all want to be able to protect ourselves. That we all desire the ability to discern situations and know whether or not they are safe. Most of the men I asked said they even desire to know that they have the ability to protect if needed. 

 

I found myself mad at God (how many times have I typed that in my writings?). I was angry for Tamar, who disappears. I was angry for myself because I don’t want to disappear like that. I don’t want what happened to me to affect my sense of justice the way that David’s sin affected his sense of justice for his own daughter. I told God this and He reminded me of that quote attributed to Mr. Rogers and to look for the helpers. Instead I chose to look for the protectors.

 

Aaron, who drove me to and from places and one time couldn’t but he felt responsible to make sure he found me a ride home (this is before uber ya’ll). Mannie, who gets visibly upset at the mention of abuse of disadvantaged people. Tyrone, who took drinks from my hand and gave me water (I’m just being honest okay). Julie and Sara, who know my anxieties and don’t make fun of them and support me when I get a little neurotic. Matthew, who pays just enough attention to know when you need a hug. Rebecca, who comes out swinging a baseball bat when the dog that bit you is in the streets again. David, who listens and assures and stands outside my car when getting gas late at night. Becky, who loves me and supports me even though she is hurting too. Nicole, who listens to me ramble about anything and everything. Friends who don’t invite you on a trip because they know it could affect your reputation. Friends who know enough about you that they want to protect your innocence. A God who wants to protect me. The list goes on. 

 

I count myself lucky. There are many people who experience the same kind of abuse I did, and it has torn them apart. My abuse has definitely affected me, and I wish it on no one. But I know that it could be so much worse. I could have made so many choices that would have wrecked my life. But God protected me by allowing me to think my abuse was some weird nightmare, and allowed me to process it when I was older. I don’t think abuse should be hidden like this, but I know that this is something I was chosen for. 

 

I know it sounds crazy to take comfort in that, and I know it sounds crazy to take comfort in the story of Tamar. But you know, it is comforting to see yourself in God’s story. It’s like He is saying, “I see you. I know you. You are important to me.Because we are.

 

Her story could have easily been removed and not told at all. My story could have easily been removed from my memories and forgotten from my life. Tamar’s story was included, and in a way, is a part of the lineage of Christ. My story is revealed and I have been protected by God in ways I may never understand. 

 

I have been chosen for this life, not rejected. I was chosen to experience every bit and piece of my life, even the bad parts. I firmly believe this. I will not allow Satan to have power in these memories of my life, especially the bad ones. He does not get that control, God does. I know that God takes our broken pieces, even the seemingly impossible to put together dust, and creates beautiful masterpieces from them. I will give my broken pieces to Him and allow Him to create a masterpiece out of my life.

 

I brought you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners. I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you.”

Isaiah 41:9

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 ❤️!

Hope Women’s Centers

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

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

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

Hope Women’s Centers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Ariana is the beautiful woman center sitting down

All Things Possible — Victor & Eileen Marx

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

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

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

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

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

Victor & Eileen Marx | All Things Possible Ministries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alhadaf

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

This week’s organization is: Alhadaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have another fear. The fear of

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

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

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

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

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

Two Words To Keep You Going!

I was sitting outside reading a book about how life rarely turns out as we plan.

When I couldn’t help but tear up. I wanted to pray, but at this point in my life, it’s still a challenge. If I am being honest, praying biblically hurts too much.

I remember praying hard for a specific thing several years ago. It ended with me sobbing in my closet. I met someone that I thought would be the guy for me. He was everything you would want in a husband. But, I knew the Lord was telling me, no. Why? I wish I could tell you. To this day, I still don’t know why God said no.

I wish I could tell you I understand it, but I don’t. So, asking God for something along the same lines, is a challenge. Why? Because I know if it’s a no, it will be one more thing to grieve. Can I be honest? I’m really tired of grieving and I don’t get much better at it as life goes on. In fact, it gets harder — not easier.

Occasionally, I think about getting a tattoo. I used to never care for them. But, then, after I lost my Dad, I’ve contemplated getting one.

To me, it would symbolize the tattoo that will forever be in my heart this side of eternity. I already have a mark on my heart, I might as well have a mark on my body. Since I love words, I often think what words I would get as a tattoo. Last week, I had two pop into my mind. I put them together and I realized that is the essence of the Christian life— no matter what the circumstances.

The two words are:

Persevering Faith

Life doesn’t stop. It doesn’t slow down in the good times and it doesn’t pick up in the bad times. It just keeps moving at the same pace it always has, and it always will.

In life, we have to keep persevering. It may not be pretty. In fact, we may stumble through it, but we cannot quit. Coupled with perseverance, is the need for faith.

Picture perseverance as your legs and faith as your mind. When you run, you need your legs and your mind to run a race. The mind will keep you going even if your legs feel like quitting. The same in true for our spiritual lives. We will hit walls that will feel like we aren’t going anywhere and other times, we will feel like we are going a million miles an hour.

So, whatever you may be praying for and holding out for, keep persevering and keep hanging on to faith because no matter what you may or may not have, you will be able to finish your race with those two things.

Life doesn’t always have a happy ending but that doesn’t mean we cannot finish our race strong and encourage others to to finish their race as well.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

“You shouldn’t do that”

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

“You shouldn’t do that.” He said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Valentines Day, Single. Go change the world!

Be still… Stay Silent… A Psalm of Trust.

I was called disrespectful.

I was called untrue.

I was called untrustworthy.

I was called a manipulator.

I was accused of being a seducer.

I was accused of being an adulterer.

I was said to have no friends and said I’d have many problems in the future.

I was accused of being a helpless victim.

I was verbally flogged.

Each word hurt more than the next

“You’re undermining me”, “You’re Judas to me.” The painful words flowed as each one ripped into my deeper into my heart and soul.

I am not perfect, but I meant no Ill will. I repeated to myself.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” was my echo trying to figure out why I couldn’t keep it together anymore.

Everything was unraveling… I’ve failed… I’ve corrupted all of this… Maybe I am cursed… Maybe I will always end up in these situations… Maybe this is why I’m not married… Maybe all these problems are because of me…

I questioned myself over and over and over again… I’ve failed… How could I not have prevented this? How could I not see myself as all these things? “You are wicked” I condemned myself… as I was being condemned…

Such hopeless days… I spent more days in tears than with a smile…

When life as I knew it was falling apart… I was being held… So close was His touch, his heartbeat, his whisper…

“This is not your battle… Let me handle it…”

Be still… Stay silent…

Don’t retaliate… Don’t talk back… So, I held my tongue…

Accusations still flew… Lies spoken over me… Physical reactions became undoubtably noticeable…

Be still.. Stay silent…

I cried night after night…

Be still, stay silent…

I packed up my life… Tears pouring out of my eyes… no clear direction to be seen…

Be still, Stay silent…

Friends started calling… Be still stay silent…

Until a call… A safe place for me to share my story… Stay still… BE honest…

I cried and nearly trembled as I shared … recounting the stories… Watching the dismay on the man’s face… I couldn’t read it… Maybe he thought I was making this up… My emotions had no where else to go… I felt torn apart… so vulnerable no longer knowing how to protect myself.

I finished and waited for his response…

“You did nothing wrong… I hope you walk out of here with your head held high…”

Words can pierce so deeply and heal profoundly… the same area damaged by the reckless words of an unstable person, began mending through a stable, faithful, kind man…

Words can tear apart a soul. Words can mend a soul. It can filet a heart beyond recognition , and yet somehow make it stronger than ever before. The deeper the wound, the greater capacity for compassion…

To the one who broke me— I don’t ever wish to see or hear again… But I am grateful for all the damage… because through it… I learned to be still to be silent and hear the One whose words spoke over me are more powerful than yours. And it is His words, not yours that brought me back to life.

He was still and was led silently a sheep to the slaughter… so that when He had defeated the grave… His words would hold the power of life and death… He speaks life… He hates death…

Life As We Know It…

We celebrated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on January 20th, and just 48 hours later, the World Trade Center lit up in pink to celebrate… a law that allows full term babies to be aborted.

This issue is personal for me because from 1984- 1993, the United States experienced the highest number of abortions. It was during those years, that me and my three sisters were born. It was also during those years that Hope Women’s Centers began. The place I now work. The place my Dad helped start 30+ years ago.

I cannot help but look at the number of abortions during those years and feel a deep sadness. Those babies were not just a “blob of tissue.” They were my generation.

They should have been my colleagues.

My friends.

My teammates.

My partners in ministry.

On average, from 1984-1993, every year 1.3 million children were aborted.

Before I continue, I want to say, I know this is a very personal and tender issue for some. I am deeply sorry if you happen to be post abortive. I know that is a deep wound, and maybe you didn’t have all the facts you needed to make an informed decision. You are not alone. I am hurting with you, and If you need someone to talk with, please click this Hope Restored Program.

Francis Schaeffer once said, “Every abortion clinic should have a sign in front of it saying, “Open by the permission of the church.”

You may be wondering why I’m using this quote. It’s because 54% of women who get an abortion identify as “Christian.” One in every four women in the church have an abortion. The number is equally as high for men. Roland Warren, the CEO of CareNet, who Hope Women’s Centers is affiliated with said, “We have women at church on Sunday and in the abortion clinic on Monday.”

This issue is not at our doorstep. It is an issue that had taken residence in our pews.

The Dalai Lama said this:

We are killing off the future.

We live in a society where life is no longer precious. We pass laws to take the life of not only a child, but also those who are disabled by assisted suicide. And Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, 1.3 million individuals attempted to take their own life. 50,000 individuals succeeded in that attempt.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to STEAL, KILL and DESTROY”

Let me tell you, he is SERIOUS about all three. But, the last part of that verse says this?

“I [Jesus] have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.”

That is our desire at Hope Women’s Centers (and should be of the church) We want women and men who find themselves in despair to know that LIFE IS PRECIOUS. Their life is precious and SO is the child inside.

Our God is the author of life. His name is Creator. He is the Way the Truth and the Life. That is who He is!

My challenge to every single one of us is that if you haven’t joined the fight for life that you would do that. Maybe it’s through volunteering or giving. Maybe it’s through praying for pregnancy centers and churches all across the world to fight for life. Maybe it’s to help someone who is struggling with mental illness. Or, maybe it’s to find healing from your own wounds, so that eventually you can help someone else with their wounds. There are a ton of ways to be involved.

My prayer for 2019, is that we would make God’s name remembered in Broward County by fighting for life. Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” We either serve the God who created life, or we choose the god of this age whose sole purpose is to, steal, kill and destroy. I pray we are a people who fight for the life of the unborn, the weak, and the outcast. I pray that we are a people who are known for their love. We have a hurting and broken community and world that needs the support of the church. Let it be said of us that we love, sacrifice and promote life wherever we are.

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A year or so ago, I was struck by the fact that there was a woman I knew very well whose life was wrecked by abortion. I wrote this to help me see those who also might be dealing with their own heaviness for their abortion. I wrote this with all the love in my heart. I would be honored to help anyone carry their burden. It’s too heavy to carry alone ❤️.

She is

She is your boss, your neighbor, your friend.

She wonders why and how she could put a life to an end.

She was not in a good spot financially when she decided.

Suddenly, she realized the lies she believed she’d been blind-sided.

She’s held this secret for far too long.

Silence is her cover and also her drinking song.

She cannot speak of the event that caused her excruciating pain…

The day that her baby was slain.

She walks around feeling not even half a human being.

She robbed a life from laughter, love, hearing and seeing.

The trauma of that day is seared into her soul.

Her heart once plenteous and abundant is now not even half full.

This wound is one similar to those in combat.

In theory, one solider returns unscathed and the other forever lost, but here is a fact:

That unscathed soldier is never the same. From death he may have been saved.

But it led him to consider his own encounter with the grave.

She is broken – a mother without a child.

She is depleted and the joy she experiences is so very mild.

She is hiding in plain sight.