What’s a Man

Several months ago, I went to see a movie in theaters. It impacted me so much, I went back to see it again with my mom and sisters. The movie was Harriet. If you haven’t seen it, rent it when it comes out!

The whole movie is one challenge after another as you see Harriet live her life counter to everyone around her. She doesn’t stop because of fear; instead, she uses her fear as a platform to push herself to greater lengths.

Spoiler Alert: There is one scene in the movie that keeps playing over and over in my head. Harriet has come back from her first “rescue”. She hadn’t planned on bringing anyone back with her except her husband. But, due changes in his life, he tells Harriet he won’t be going back with her.

After Harriet returns to safety, she tells her new-found friend, Marie, who is helping Harriet navigate what life looks like to live free, how torn up she is without her husband. And that’s when Marie says something along the lines of:

What’s a man to a woman, who has the call of God on her life…

I could hardly breath when I heard that. I felt glued to my chair as the lump in my throat began to rise, pushing tears out of my eyes. The truth of that statement arrested my soul.

Around the same time I saw this movie, I was at a FAM (Family Advocacy Ministry) event. FAM is a ministry that creates support systems around a foster family. This means bringing meals to the foster family, babysitting, or doing household chores. If you want to know more about this please send me a message. It’s a wonderful ministry!

While I was at this event, they highlighted a long-time friend of mine. She and her husband stood side-by-side, arm-in-arm as they announced that they are working towards their 6th adoption. That’s six kids in our community whose lives have been re-written. These kids will know what it means to have a loving home. To have a mom and dad who fights for them, and loves them unconditionally.

You may be wondering what I’m getting at. And this is it: If you’re single, live out the life God has given you for His glory and the good of others. And unless you can do more married, like this couple at the FAM event, then don’t worry about it. God has amazing things He wants to do through each one of it. That may be through singleness or it may be through marriage. The couple I talked about are able to fight for their kids because they’re fighting together. Harriet was able to fight for those in slavery because she was single.

A lot of us miss out because we are aren’t comfortable with God’s plan. Why? Because most of the time it isn’t easy. It means dying to self. Serving others and getting out hands messy and our hearts broken. Elizabeth Elliot said it well when she said:

“The will of God is always far different from what we imagine, far bigger, far more difficult, but unspeakably more glorious”

So, my prayer for myself and for you is that we will be generous with our time and money. That we will be courageous for the things that need to be fought for and spoken up for. And, that we would love deeply and speak truthfully. I fall so short every single day. But, as Anne of Green Gables says, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes”

And for the single that may still be waiting for someone to fight beside you… Remember this:

“To love God is to love His will. It is to wait quietly for life to be measured by One who knows us through and through. It is to be content with His timing and His wise appointment.” — Elizabeth Elliot

New Year’s Eve

Fireworks explode in the neighborhood as the clock struck 12. I walked into this evening with the utmost trepidation. Like Cinderella waiting for her beautiful dress to turn rags and her carriage to collapse. I, on the other-hand, was not wanting to catch a prince, or concerned with the fraying of an outfit. I was worried about the fraying of my soul. Walking into another year is painful.

Every New Year’s Eve for the past three years I have had company— whether I wanted it or not. It’s the company of my own grief. It sits with me latching on to my heart as the minutes climb closer and closer to the new year. It sits silently but ever so deafening. It weighs on my heart like a millstone. Tugged me down to a place I would never tread if it were my own choosing.

New Years is supposed to be a joyous time. But for me, it just represented the glaring unwanted fact that my Dad is one more year farther away from me. The only thing I could think to do to escape this night was to go to bed early and try to make the best of New Years Day. But it all hurts. Every year I wish I could rewind to a moment with him. Like last his last Father’s Day. He was so thrilled with the tools we gave him. And he couldn’t get over the fact that my sister and her husband had given him the trip to Grenada to see my brother. He never made it down there and he never used his tools.

For me, New Year’s Eve just makes another gash at my already wounded heart. This day, just uncovers the gaping hole in my heart that I normally cover up with a smile or a helping hand. But New Year’s Eve reminds me I can never outrun the pain. Part of me is dead and can never be revived.

But, tonight, I faced it. I acknowledge the pain and my unwanted companion. For the first time in a long time the tears flowed … and flowed steadily revealing the fountain of loss that will, in fact, always be there. And, as I sit on this hard floor wiping snot on my nightgown, I know my Dad would be proud. Because he never ran from pain or opposition. He took it head on. So, whatever your New Year’s Eve looks like, don’t be afraid to face it head on. To be fully alive means to fully feel. Which also means to fully grieve.

Dad:

I don’t even have the words to express the emptiness now in my heart. I miss you so much. But, you’ve left me a heck of legacy to follow, and for that, I’ll plod on. Happy New Year. You’d be proud of the sibs and mom. We all miss you like crazy, but we are pressing on. Grandmom celebrated a milestone birthday… and get this… the Dolphins beat the Patriots last week! And Ezra got married. It was a great way to finish the year. Love you so much, Padge. Don’t have too much fun without us— just kidding I know you already are 💕!

Discovering Dimple

Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt-out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti-filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!

The girl took two steps back, wiped the sweat of the late August heat and the salty tears of her eight-year struggle off her face, and admired her work. The words glistening wet in the afternoon sun and trails of red paint ran slowly down like blood – the fresh, healing, life-giving kind – staining the bears and flowers. It made sense to her now, and the corners of her mouth turned up in a hint of a smile and she stared at the stuffed animal, Binky, that she had laid there years ago, a symbol of the death of her innocence and carefree childhood. Its pink furry head had been dabbed with drips of paint over the years, but this red was its crowning glory and her latest declaration to life. From this moment on, she would still cry, still scream, and still beat the walls of her bedroom and the door of heaven, but like a defiant battle cry against despair, she would also choose to rejoice.

Her new family stood behind her in silent solidarity, her parents, Rainbow and the kid who was now a man. He stepped forward and put his hand on her shoulder. He didn’t have to say anything, for his motion spoke for the whole group and was understood by all. They knew what it cost for her to write that word; they had known the same loss, walked through the same valleys, and fought the same fight together, and they had agreed to this same conclusion. Life was worthless if they could not find joy and purpose if they couldn’t see beyond their pain. This lesson was not one that they accepted easily or naturally but through the extraordinarily faithful and loving examples of others.

There are three main reasons children are placed in foster care: abuse, neglect, or abandonment (voluntary or involuntary). For her, it was neglect. She’d been in and out of foster care due to her mother’s negligence. That is, until one Christmas Day when her relationship with the state was solidified. Twenty years ago, the Department of Children and Families found her sitting alone in her soiled outfit, murmuring and moaning for sustenance. She had been locked in an empty apartment. The apartment was so bare even the walls remained empty. Despite the smell, one would never know that this apartment was someone’s home. To this day, DCF is unsure how long she had been alone. She was only four at the time.

It took her nearly two years after that Christmas Day before she began to speak. When she did, she quickly gained the nickname Dimples from her caseworker, for she had the most adorable dimples on both of her cheeks. It took her years in therapy and a steady home for her to find out what “family” actually meant. And there was one special person with one little creature who’d be just the right duo to help her with the loss of her mom and her childhood.

The kid was also an only child but his home was a happy one. His grandparents died before he was born. And although his Dad worked very long hours, leaving lots of time with his mom, they both loved him dearly. He and his mom were two peas in a pod. His mom walked him to and from school each day. One day right before the school bell rang, the principal called the kid to his office over the loudspeaker. He never got in trouble so he wondered what this call meant. The principal’s

bewildered face told him that whatever words he heard would not be good ones. His mom has been struck by a car while walking in a crosswalk. His world came crumbling down.

At the hospital, while his dad was trying to finalize the paperwork and getting information about his mom, his dad collapsed. A nurse ran to his side to check his vitals. She quickly discovered his thready pulse and called for more assistance. In a matter of seconds, his dad was rushed into a makeshift room, the kind where there’s only a curtain separating patients in need. An oxygen mask was put on and tests were run… the staff did as much as they could. In the middle of the chaos, a nurse turned around, looked at the boy, and said to her colleague, “get that kid out of here.”

All he could hear was “1, 2, 3, CLEAR” *shocking sound* None of this made any sense to him. He stood aimlessly and completely shell-shocked in the long, sterile, uninviting hallway, waiting for news of his dad. He started to feel faint, so he found a corner to hide in… First, his mom; now, his dad.

An hour passed and still no word. He didn’t hear the chaos anymore and one by one the medical team left his dad’s makeshift room. No one came to talk to him. He felt that if he moved everything – including the hospital – would collapse around him. If he could just get as small as physically possible and stay like that, he might be okay. That’s until a nurse spotted him. Their eyes locked. He didn’t want to talk to her. He wasn’t strong enough to hear more bad news. Maybe it would be good though, he tried to convince himself, but the sinking feeling in his stomach was relentless.

That day was a blur. He was taken by DCF because he was officially declared an orphan. His Mom and Dad had died within 6 hours of each other. He woke up that morning to what he thought would be a normal day, only to be completely abandoned by evening. He was not able to go home that night because there were papers to process. He was, officially declared, a child of the state. Little did he know; the state would be the only family he would know; unless someone intervened.

Over the next 10 years, he’d be in over 25 foster homes, multiple schools, and nowhere that felt like home. He felt like an unwanted vagabond, a nomad with no roots. No one to check in with or to check on him. His heart always ached for a longing to belong and be seen. There was a throbbing wound in his soul. He missed his parents and had no one with whom to remember them.

Never once was he the only foster child in a foster home. The state had too many kids. So, he was always thrown into a mix of other kids, most of which had lots of behavioral issues. He pretty much kept to himself. He carried so much pain he felt like if he opened up, a dam would break loose and he wouldn’t be able to contain his emotions… so he remained silent.

There was only one girl he’d met along the way that was as quiet as he was. They called her Dimples. She didn’t say much but would often find the kid and sit beside him. They both knew they had a lot of pain, but having someone to sit with in the pain was a strange comfort. After about six months, of being with Dimples and that family, he had to move. That’s just what the state decided.

Since no one ever chose to adopt him, the kid would age out of the system at 18. When he knew he’d be aging out, he figured out how to support himself. While in foster care, he saved up enough

money to get a car by 16, just shy of his 17th birthday he began delivering pizzas. He had a good boss who was a kind man and took him under his wing.

He rang the doorbell and savored the warmth of the pizza box on his hand while he waited. He heard laughter from inside, and a lady with a ponytail and designer workout clothes opened the door. “Oh great, pizza’s here everyone!” she announced, and several childish voices cheered from behind her. The kid could see over the lady’s slender shoulder that the house was full of kids, parents, and grandparents. A giddy little boy came tromping toward the entrance, riding on the shoulders of a man who had a beard and a balding spot on top of his head… possibly from where the boy was bopping him constantly with his palms.

“It’s our son’s 8th birthday,” the fashionable lady explained as she took the pizza boxes. She passed the boxes off to her husband who paid her with a flirtatious peck on the cheek. She giggled. “And here’s a tip,” she said as she smiled and held out a crisp five-dollar bill with her soft, manicured hand. The kid forced a smile in return, stuffed the cash in his pocket and quickly ducked back into his car.

His heart was pounding and as he turned onto the main road, he turned up the radio and pushed his sneaker hard against the gas pedal. Houses, trees, and mailboxes flew past, but the images remained – burned and taunting in his brain. They looked so happy – a mom, a dad, a son… For his 8th birthday, this kid had been shuffled to a new foster home and no one knew or acknowledged that there was anything to celebrate. His parents had been dead for 3 months by that time. And while that was almost ten years ago now, the pain still seared white-hot. Anger and pain forced him to blindly drive on and on until he came to a dead end on an abandoned street. He parked and turned off the radio, breathing heavily and beating the steering wheel. When would this grief end? When would the sight of a happy family stop breaking him into pieces?

Then the kid heard a faint rustle and realized he wasn’t alone. He got out of the car and cautiously moved to a pile of rubbish in the shadows. There he found a young cat that looked almost dead – almost, but not quite. She was shabby and skinny and appeared too weak to stand up. It cried pitifully, barely loud enough to be heard at all. The kid knelt beside the creature, and she blinked its dimming eyes at him… eyes that told him she knew what it felt like to be abandoned, helpless, and alone. The anger that consumed him just moments before swelled into a passionate urge to do something good. “I’m gonna help you,” he whispered, and he gently scooped the creature into his arms. “You’re not alone anymore… and neither am I.”

With that, he put the cat in his car and slowly drove home. He left the radio off, and all he thought about the cat beside him. It didn’t have anything… no family, no home, not even a name. Maybe he could provide all three? “Rainbow,” he called her out loud. Between her calico fur, her deep and iridescent eyes, and the hope that she somehow offered to him, the name seemed to fit. He smiled to himself and nodded, “Rainbow.” She watched him for a minute, then rested her head on his leg.

When the ride ended, she was lifted again. The kid slid her body onto a soft pile of clothing among the boxes in the garage. He pulled an old coat over the top, creating a cave that emanated the sweetness of old ladies who frequently powdered themselves—a light rose motif that played

ironically well in the deep recesses of Rainbow’s ancestral brain. The pizza kid lifted her head to help her lap water from a hubcap. He broke bits of pepperoni and crust into bite-sized pieces and left them where her tongue could reach them. Much later, she heard him practicing his orations like songs. Like monks chanting in the distance, they were a comfort.

The kid had almost forgotten the orations his mom gave him to help him fall asleep. His mom was a public speaking tutor. She used to recite all the great speeches to him from “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King to the “Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln. He’d almost forgotten how hearing his mom recite speeches would lull him to sleep. The weird thing with grief is sometimes you block memories. If you remember them all at once, your heart couldn’t take it. Speaking to Rainbow not only was a comfort to him but also her. For the first time, he began to see what healing might look like.

It was a Friday night. Rainbow had grown a lot in the last two months, and so had the kid. They were best of friends. For the first few weeks, Rainbow was so weak, she had to be held in order to fall asleep. Her fragile body was not producing enough heat to keep her warm on her own. Rainbow went everywhere with the kid. And for the first time in a very long time, the kid, although an adult in the eyes of the law, didn’t feel alone. He found a place where he could talk about the pain of his childhood, missing his parents and aimlessly wandering through life trying to make heads or tails of it. Whenever he would get sad, it was like Rainbow knew to snuggle next to him. He’d almost forgotten what the goodness of life looked like until Rainbow reminded him. It was about relationships.

Dimples spend most of her growing up years in therapy. Never knowing her biological dad, losing her mom to drugs, alcohol, and men; and, then being found by perverts, not to mention being moved constantly by the state, kept her on a regular schedule for her therapist… although, even the therapists would frequently change. Her life felt like a revolving door; people in and people out, leaving as quickly as they came. Steady was not a word she could easily describe.

It was a Thursday night in the middle of a hot summer. The humidity stuck to him like saran wrap. Every time he’d step out of his car to make his next delivery he felt blanketed with a hot rag that inevitably fogged up his glasses. He wiped off the fog, check the house number again, popped the trunk and pull out the pepperoni pizza. And then, as he did every time, after ringing the doorbell, he’d look back to see if Rainbow was still waiting on him.

Two little ears popped up in the passenger side window; smiling, he turned back to the door that was now open in front of him. But this time, instead of a stranger, he saw Dimples.

“Dimples?! Hi! I didn’t know you lived…” before he continued he re-evaluated what he was saying. Of course, he wouldn’t know where she lived, she was in foster care, basically a homeless person staying with strangers for a while.

“I, uh, how are you?”

“I’m alright… You…” she paused as her attention was drawn toward his car. “Is that a cat?!”

“Yeah… you want to meet her?” he said.

“What’s taking so long?” They both looked inside the house, where the impatient voice growled. Panic filled dimples eyes as she turned back to look at the kid. Concluding that it was the foster dad, the kid quickly finalized the transaction and said, “Here’s your change, ma’am,” as he quickly scribbled with his pen on the receipt. Glancing down, she saw that he’d circled the number to the pizza joint. “Thanks,” she said. Her eyes relaxed as those faithful dimples slowly reappeared as she smiled back a goodbye.

The rest of the night, the kid couldn’t stop thinking about Dimples. It wasn’t in a way that a guy pines over a girl, but in the way, a brother is protective of his sister. Of all the kids he’d met in foster care – and there were many – Dimples was the only one he felt a kindred-ness with. Their unspoken pain and their ability to just be present with each other even in silence bonded them in a way neither one expected. For some reason, they felt safe with each other.

A busy week went by at the pizza shop. His boss was out of town for a family emergency and they were already short-staffed. The kid would oftentimes find himself scrambling around in the kitchen, then ripping off his apron to run the deliveries, and then jumping back in the kitchen again. Although the week had been a long one and he was tired, he was grateful for the extra hours. He’d been saving money to get a place of his own.

“Hey, kid! It’s for you,” yelled Pablo, the assistant manager.

Forgetting about last week, he wondered who’d call him.

“Hello?” he said with mild curiosity.

Someone sniffled on the other end. He immediately pressed the phone closer to his ear as he frantically searched for some privacy in the walk-in pantry.

“Dimples? Is that you?” he asked, knowing how often she used to sit by him with tears streaming down her face. He never knew what to do with them but he’d always find something to help her dry them. A couple of times he had to use the sleeve of his shirt.

“Yeah,” was all she could seem to muster.

“Are you okay?” he asked gingerly.

“Not really,” she said as she tried to pull herself together.

“Listen, I get off in an hour, I think I still have your address from my last delivery.” He said planning as he was speaking.

“I’ll park at the neighbor’s house and if you can sneak out, there’s a park not far from there.” “Okay…” she said weakly.

He was about to say don’t worry but realized that’s impossible for a kid of the state. Most kids have parents to do the worrying for them. Foster kids don’t have that luxury.

“See you tonight,” he said as he hung up the phone.

The kid plowed through the rest of the orders, deliveries and the closing checklist. He scrubbed the floors with the built-up aggression of what he had suffered, and the continuing suffering he saw in Dimples and other kids like her. He thought things might get better for her after they’d parted ways. The family they had both been assigned to was one of the better foster homes he’d encountered. He wondered what had happened. Yet there was something inside him that was troubling: the tone in the foster dad’s voice when he delivered the pizza.

Under the cover of darkness, she slipped into the passenger side door of his car. Silence hung between them. It had been years since they’d last seen each other. She wondered if he was still safe. A sudden movement in the backseat had Dimples spinning around in a panic until she saw that it was the sweet kitty that she wasn’t able to meet last time. She’d forgotten all about it. “Can I hold it?” she barely whispered.

“Of course! She’s good company,” he said. Rainbow went to her easily, nestled right up to Dimples, and fell asleep.

Since Rainbow was more than content in Dimples’ lap, the kid decided to park the car in the parking lot just outside the park. “She’s a really good cat. I’ve never been an animal person, but when I found her, I couldn’t leave her. I didn’t know if she’d make it, to be honest. But she has, and I’m better for it.” He thought about asking her what was going on, but the knot in his stomach deterred him. He had a feeling he already knew and wasn’t sure he could handle hearing the ugly truth.

She’d never spoken to anyone about this, not even her therapist. She’d mentioned to her therapist some of the things she’d experienced, seen and lived with. But for some reason, she knew she could trust him with what she was about to share. Life has taught her that if you can trust someone with your pain, you can trust them with your life. “I guess you might be wondering why I called…” her words trailed off as her brain searched for the words to tell him.

“Listen Dimples, you don’t have to tell me anything,” he said reassuringly.

“I know, but I’ve got to tell someone and I don’t know who else to tell…” The tears slowly began to roll down her face. “I’m pregnant.”

The words hit him like a bombshell. He wasn’t expecting her to say that, but he tried to keep a poker face. Why had she called him? What could he do? He lived in a garage with his boss. Who was the father? Questions flooded his mind. Dimples wasn’t the little girl he had known; she was a woman and was in desperate need.

“It’s not my fault.” For the first time in her life, she actually believed herself when she said this. Every other situation she’d blamed herself: her mother abandoning her, the state constantly moving her, the gossip from the other kids, the lack of friendships, but this… this was something different. “I was raped.”

Another bombshell. He didn’t want to ask, but he couldn’t keep it back any longer. “It was him, wasn’t it? It was your foster dad.” He asked but couldn’t look her in the eyes.

Her head sank as low as it possibly could… her shoulders higher than her head. “Yes, it was him.”

The next eight months were full of doctor appointments and meetings with her social worker. The kid and Rainbow were with Dimples every step of the way. For the first time since his parents died, he was finally able to see someone else’s concerns above his own. The loneliness was still

there, but it had diminished greatly, first by Rainbow’s need of him and now by Dimples. He began to see that his pain had a purpose. His pain was like a radar for other people’s pain.

Dimples had been placed back with the foster family where they initially met. The family had gotten out of fostering, but after being asked by the state, they said they’d be happy to open their home to Dimples. The foster mom was a nurse, so she could monitor Dimples’ health during her pregnancy. Although it was hard on so many levels, Dimples handled her pregnancy with grit and grace.

The day came when Dimples gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, whom she named Andriette, which means “strong, brave, and fearless.” Dimples knew how cruel this world was and she wanted to remind her daughter every time she wrote her name of what she needed to be and could be. Then a caseworker walked into the room.

“Are you ready?” Inside Dimples was screaming.

How can you ever be ready to let go of a child? How did my mom let go of me…? She stopped herself from going there.

“I guess I have to be,” Dimples said.

Andriette was placed in the arms of a young woman who was unable to have children. Her doting husband had his arms wrapped around his wife and she had her wrapped around Andriette. Dimples felt a warm sensation slide down her cheek, but she quickly wiped the tear away. She signed the remaining papers and asked to kiss her baby one last time. The grateful parents agreed and then looked up with tears in their eyes, thanking her for her sacrifice. All Dimples could do was half- smile and nod her head. Her heart was broken yet again, but this time it was different.

It had been several weeks since the kid had seen Dimples. He’d lost track of time. He wanted to let her recover, but this seemed a bit long. He finally decided to show up with pizza after one of his shifts. He knew her foster parents would welcome him and Rainbow with open arms. His concerns were accurate; she was suffering from postpartum depression, and the hardest thing was that she didn’t even have a baby to hold. After he got her to eat something, he decided to leave a little helper behind. Rainbow had helped pull him out of a dark place, and he had a feeling that Rainbow could do the same for her as well.

Each morning, Rainbow would wake Dimples up by massaging her face. At first, Dimples was irritated. She was not a morning person and it felt like a cloud had parked over her and covered any glimmer of hope. For the past 9 months, she kept fighting because she had to for Andriette, but now Andriette was gone.

Little by little, Rainbow worked her way into Dimples heart again. The kid came by faithfully every couple of days with pizza. Those first six months crawled by. Dimples had a lot of grieving to do, and thankfully her foster family gave her space and the freedom to do just that.

At the one year mark, Dimples decided to honor and grieve her daughter, and also honor and grieve her own childhood. She knew just the place to do it. A ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint situated by a patch of dry brown grass. There were all sorts of things painted on that wall: people, words, symbols. It was chaotic, much like her own childhood. She decided to place a candle and a small teddy bear: the candle for the flame that slowly was returning and the teddy bear for her sweet Andriette Joy.

Year after year, she’d come back and place another candle and another teddy bear. She didn’t know what to do to celebrate such a bittersweet day. So many emotions were running through her the day Andriette was born. She was conceived in a horrible way but it did not make her any less of a gift, but that gift had to be given to someone else. This day was always hard, and not only was it hard because it was her daughter’s birthday, but it was also hers.

Slowly, Dimples got stronger, her disposition lifted little by little. She worked hard at ending the legacy – or lack thereof – that her mom left her. The kid and the foster parents poured into her. He and Dimples put themselves through college and remained study buddies, pizza lovers and the best of friends. Of course, Rainbow was their noble steed and their ever-faithful third wheel.

Just shy of Andriette’s eighth birthday, Dimples received a call from the adoptive parents, asking if she’d like to see Andriette. They told her all about how amazing her biological mom was. Tears poured out of Dimples eyes, not only during that phone call but also when she saw her baby girl again. She had dreamed of this day every day since Andriette was born. A huge piece of Dimples’ shattered heart found itself a home. For the first time in Dimples’ entire existence, she was able to taste a glimpse of what it meant to be whole.

On that late August afternoon, sweat was dripping down her face and paint was dripping down the wall, some falling on Binky, the stuffed bear she placed there on her daughter’s 1st birthday. She looked up again at the word “Rejoice,” knowing Andriette was not lost to her and that she’d actually be able to have a role in her life. She didn’t know how to do it then, but through the help of her foster parents, Rainbow and the man-kid, she learned to appreciate the struggle of life… because with it came some of the most beautiful relationships one could ever dream of.

Written by: Christine F. Perry

The Letter I Wrote to Myself…

A few years ago, in Fall no less, I found myself just outside Los Angeles, California. The team I worked with had a conference there and I was the keeper of the schedule, merchandise table, and other things.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. We would be meeting people from famous TV shows, people who make films, Congresswomen and more. I asked a friend if I could borrow some clothes before I went. Silly, I know, but I desperately want to “fit in” while I was there.

We were picked up in an incredibly nice Mercedes and chauffeured to our hotel where our arrangements had already been made.

Yet, regardless how excited I was to be there, the trip for me, was awful. So awful, in fact, I never wanted to go back to California. The mention of the state would remind me of all the things that went wrong. I was also reminded of the dark pit I went into after the trip.

Soon after connecting with my team, I found myself slumped into a corner of hotel bathroom bawling my eyes out. Why? Because I had an important lesson I needed to learn and learning it would not be easy.

After returning from California, I called out of work, it was the only time in my life that I was so depressed I could not will myself out of bed. I felt like if I stayed in bed that day, I would die. My thinking was not very rational but I knew I needed to physically move. I got out of bed, grab my sneakers and suddenly, the verse Philippians 4:8 popped into my head.. Whatever things are true whatever things are lovely, think on these things… then I thought, “what thoughts have I been thinking?”

As I went for a walk, it quickly dawned on my that I had been believing things about myself that were lies. I kept telling myself “I can’t do this!” “I’m not like so-and-so or so-and-so.” “I’ll never be able to do this” “This is too much for me to handle” “So-and-So should have this job”. On top of all this, my identity had become one with my work. So, when my work was criticized— I felt like I was being criticized.

When I got back to my room, after my walk, I decided to write the most important letter I’ve ever written to myself.

I reviewed this letter on a daily basis for several months. Suddenly when my work was criticize, I felt like I had tools to combat the negative thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong, this by no means happened overnight. But I knew I had to believe what God said. Without His Words in my life, I would have not only been fired, but also left in a very very dark pit.

Looking back now, I realized how important that lesson was in the long run. Eventually I got to a place in that job where not just my work was called into question, but also my character. Because God helped me differentiate the criticism of my work and an attack at my character, I knew when I needed to leave. That lesson as hard as it was, was actually a saving grace.

I was reminded of this lesson again as I was talking to a friend. It’s so easy to let what we do become who we are. And although we should do our work with excellence, it is not who we are. We are so much more than a 9-5.

We are made in God’s image. He is a creative God. He is an intelligent God. God has a will. He has emotions. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. He made us each with incredible gifts that He wants to use. So let me say it again because I need the reminder too. You and I are more than what we do. We are spoken for, died for, loved on and fought for. You’re not a number in a million. You’re unique. You’re special and I am anxious to see what God does with each one of His children.

What are we building?

I was listening to someone speak about giving. Those messages are always fun, right?!

As the man went on he made a big deal about building the church. As he was speaking I had an epiphany. We (the people) are the church. You’re probably thinking, you just figured this out? No, but in the aspect of building the church — yes. If we are the church, we are supposed to be building it, right? I know this too, but I saw it in a different way.

I have nothing against buildings. But, sometimes, I think we put too much of our resources, time and energy into a building rather than people. What would it look like if we spent more of our time and energy pouring into each other? As I sat there contemplating this, I thought of a verse that says, “build each other up”. I decided to google it and suddenly, I found lots of verses on this; take a look:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:12

From Him the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:16

This then reminded me of what our BSF group just went over:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Acts 2:44-46

Their property was secondary to the people. What a foreign concept to us living in an “American Dream” society. I’m not saying we can’t have nice things or even nice churches. I’m just asking myself and the church to take note of our priorities. To take note of the people in our lives. Are they okay? Are they weary? Do they need encouragement, hope, practically help? Do they feel like giving up? We/I should check and be looking after the people in my life. We have to. Because when we are being poured into and vice versa, the world takes notice.

I had the privilege of growing up in a small church where the roof may have leaked a little more than we would have liked. The women’s bathroom had a habit of overflowing every few weeks. There were marks and dents on the walls from the kids flying around playing tag. We had more holes in the wall for different signed we put up for different events we’d partake in our community. But the people inside those walls, did a good job taking care of their people and building each other up. Sure there were some quarrels and differences, but the people within those walls were treasures.

They stayed ready to serve and give. They stood by my family through our darkest days. When our life got put on hold they choose to put theirs on hold to serve us. They brought us meals and poured into us and still do. When you build into each other, you don’t have to face crisis alone. When you build into others you don’t have to celebrate alone.

So, as I walked out of that service my heart was full thinking of the amazing church God has. Being in that service also challenged me to pour into and foster and learn from the newer relationships God has placed in my life now.

I know the church gets a bad rap and gets really messy at times. And I am well aware that oftentimes people within the walls of the church building can break you unlike anything else. But the beauty far outweighs the broken. So until Jesus comes back, let’s look out for our people and build them up.

Growing Pains

Perseverance and discipline have been on my mind the past few months. It’s easy to do something a few times. It’s a lot harder to maintain consistency. My weakness is never starting something new. My trouble is finishing what I start. Discipline and perseverance are a huge part of that. My prayer has been, “Lord, please help me to love discipline.” Because the Bible even says, “He disciplines those He loves.” ( Heb. 12:6).

I heard a message by Elisabeth Elliot in which she said, “If I didn’t practice discipline, I wouldn’t get much praying done.”

While on my journey to be more disciplined I came across these verses:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.

2 Peter 1:5-6

I decided to delve into these verses a bit more. I looked up the characteristics in Greek. This is what I learned.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness [virtuous thought, modesty, purity, moral excellence];

and to goodness, knowledge [general knowledge, understanding];

and to knowledge, self-control [the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites];

and to self-control, perseverance [steadfastness, constancy, endurance, in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings ; patiently, and steadfastly

a patient, steadfast waiting for; a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance];

and to perseverance, godliness [reverence, respect piety — FERVER, OBEDIENCE, DEVOTION— towards God, godliness];

Is it me or do these things get harder to do?

Goodness

Knowledge

Self-Control

Perseverance

Godliness

Each characteristic seems to be the foundation for the next characteristic. It reminds me of Romans 1:17:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Each characteristic is a step of faith. Seeking goodness in a world that feels so dark and evil takes faith.

Searching for the knowledge of God in a world that wants nothing to do with Him takes faith.

Self-Control in a world where everyone self indulges takes faith.

Perseverance regardless of the results takes faith.

Godliness in what often feels like a godless culture takes faith.

So, if you find yourself with growing pains, take heart. We might just be going from faith to faith. It reminds me of the song that says:

“We will go from faith to faith until we see you face to face”

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Colossians 1:23

Calmed, Reassured and Steadied

“He knows how to calm me… to reassure me… without Peter, I’m lost”

These words have been on my mind for the past few weeks… They are the words of Princess Margaret from The Crown on Netflix (although I can’t recommend the second season).

I watched this series months ago. Yet there is a scene that keeps coming to mind. It’s where Queen Elizabeth tells her sister, Princess Margaret, that she can’t marry the family bodyguard (Peter). Elizabeth after a long and arduous struggle realizes the crown could be harmed by her approval of this marriage. Queen Elizabeth inevitably has to tell Margaret that she would be disowned if she choses to marry Peter.

So, in a difficult heart to heart talk with her sister, Margaret says of Peter, “He keeps me calm. He reassured me. I’m lost without him.”

Have you ever felt that way? You feel lost in the midst of the mundane. Or you feel on edge because every time you turn around you hear of more bad news, more heartbreak, more illness, more pain. Sometimes, life is just chaotic. Sometimes you don’t have time to get away to think. You don’t have time to clear your head. Sometimes you just need someone to be steady for you. You need someone safe to tether yourself to.

For me, this is a beautiful picture of Christ. The crown has the final say. Everyone in the royal family must sacrifice to maintain the integrity of the crown. All eyes are on them. Peter’s assignment is to keep the family safe, to protect them at all cost. Instead of being deeply in love with just one of the royal family, Jesus is desperately in love with each of His children.

In the series, Peter sacrifices everything. Jesus sacrificed everything. And whenever Margaret feels like the pressure of being in the spotlight is too much, or being held to a different standard feels as though it might break her, or having to keep things close to their chest might just make her crack. Peter is there. He is always available to her. She still has to persevere in the every day things, but when she gets overwhelmed or feel like she can’t hold it together anymore Peter reassuring her to stay steady. He reminds her of her calling. He shares in the sacrifice and keeping as much chaos and worry, as possible, away from her.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

Psalm 18:2 NLT

So, when this life feels too overwhelming; when you just can’t take one more doctors visit, or phone call with bad news; when you’re growing weary of the mundane; when you’re desperately searching for what the next season might hold; or you’re tired of waiting, remember… Jesus is the one who calms us. Jesus is the one who reassured us. Jesus is the one who never loses us.

His arm is not too short to grab hold of us to keep us steady. His thoughts are always towards us. He sings over us. And He prays for us. He most certainly knows how to protect us.

He sits…

It was a quiet day and He came like He did every day.

He never knocked. He knew the door was open, but these days is was only cracked… So, He cautiously peered in before opening the door all the way.

She was too out of touch to see Him. But every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday Saturday and Sunday He was there.

Had anyone else walked in, they may have commented on the unassuming man sitting on the opposite end of the sofa where she sat.

But no words were exchanged. Utter silence filled the room.

She sat with her eyes glazed over. Unable to communicate her unspeakable pain. If tears came, they were a gift… for a least it was a little escape of the pain she felt inside.

Weeks passed and still He showed up. Rarely acknowledging His presence she often wondered why He was even there. Didn’t He know she couldn’t give Him anything. She didn’t have anything left.

Weeks turning into months and months turned into a year. Until finally she made herself look up. She saw flowers. And immediately she quizzically look at the man.

He nodded as if to say, “yes, I’ve brought flowers every week.”

A tear slipped out of her eye and rolled gently down her cheek.

She’d known this man longer than most of the people in her life and at several points throughout her life, He had been the center and more important than any other person in her life…

But in the turmoil and heartaches in the recent years, she’d become despondent. She had so many questions. Like why didn’t He fix the problem she asked Him to? Why didn’t He show up like she asked? Why didn’t He answer her like He had in the past? Why didn’t He hold her like He had in the past? And why on earth didn’t He protect her from all the heartache?

These questions spun mercilessly in her head like a merry-go-round. But every week, He showed up and He sat.

He sat in the room with her questions. He sat in the room with her hurt. He sat in the room with her grief. He sat in the room with her despondency. He sat in the room with her depression. He sat in the room with her anger….

Just like He sat in the room with her purpose. Just like He sat in the room with her calling. Just like He sat in the room with her laughter. Just like He sat in the room with her love. Just like He sat in the room in her good times…

He sits during the ups and the downs. He may not answer all the questions, but He’s not leaving… And until she’s ready to speak… Patiently and lovingly He sits…

And they shall call Him Immanuel…which translated means,God with us.”

Matthew 1:23

Read “He is Here” poem from What does the Christian walk look like when…

Scarcely Living By Faith

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

I was doing a cool down walk after a quick run to get some of my frustration out. It was the type of frustration you feel when you know where you want to be, but you have no idea how to get there.

Frustration is a part of life. There are women who desperately want to be a moms, but their bodies are unable to have children for one reason or another. Or there is the frustration of wanting a different relationship status. Or, there is the frustration of a mom who desperately wants her kids to do well and the she’s not seeing any progress. Or the frustration of a man (or woman) who has massive dreams in his hearts but he don’t know what steps to take next or how he will end up there.

It can often feel like we are banging on doors that just won’t open. That’s how I feel. The two doors that I’ve been knocking on have not opened.

So, after my cool down, and after making a pit stop at the newly named nature preserve in my neighborhood, I looked up at the sky. It reminded me of how small and limited I am. And how my limited view is often what I project on God. Immediately a word of truth, from a message I had heard a few years ago, came to mind.

“God is not a God of scarcity.”

You see, recently, I was presented with two amazing (or so I thought) opportunities. After the initial introduction to both opportunities, I said to myself, “This is it! This is what I’ve been waiting for.” The knocking began immediately after. “Yes, Lord, please make these things happen”.

Trouble is, the doors have not opened. They have hardly cracked. I’ve been asking and asking and asking for them and praying and praying and praying for them. But, the only answer I have right now is wait. Each day that goes past without a yes or a no brings me closer to discouragement. I don’t know if these things will happen and I want them to so badly.

Walking (also translated living in Hebrew) by faith doesn’t mean open doors. Sometimes it means waiting and waiting, and waiting some more; without trying to manipulate whatever I want into being.

Trusting/Living by faith means knowing God knows what’s best even if it doesn’t make sense. It means trusting when I feel behind, or out of place. It means trusting Him to be steady enough for you when I feel unsteady and very uncertain. Trusting means waiting on Him to act and not take matters into my own hands. Trusting means knowing that God, regardless of what I want, is good enough and will always be good enough.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 84:11 which says:

“For the LORD God is a sun and a shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; He withholds no good thing from those who walk with integrity.”

If God says no to these two scenarios that I’m praying for, it doesn’t mean He’s withholding good from me. The times in the past when God told me no, I wasn’t any less crushed. But, eventually I saw those no’s were actually for my benefit and or for my protection. Many times, God’s no’s only make sense in hindsight. Other times His no’s will only make sense from heavenly viewpoint— one we can’t see this side of eternity.

Either way, I am called to live by faith and not by sight. This means things won’t always make sense to me, but this is what my God asks of me. He sacrificed so much more for me than a few opportunities that I think are perfect. So, I don’t think He’s asking too much of me to trust Him. He knows how to get me where I need to be. And make me into who I need to be.

So, as I stared up at that sky feeling very small, I thanked God that He had countless opportunities even though I could only see two.

What’s Stopping You?

Today’s post is brought to you by my dear sister-friend, Kristi. When I first met Kristi, this is how the conversations went:

“Hi, I’m Kristi. What’s your name?”

“I’m Christi”.

“No way! What do you do for work?”

“I’m a personal assistant”.

“Get out, me too!”

We quickly found other similarities like we were pastors kids, we moved to Virginia to be with our older brothers, and the list goes on. I am deeply grateful for Kristi’s friendship because we have been in such similar tracks when it comes to our lives. We challenge each other, pray for each other encourage one another and knowing her has challenged me to live better and be more like Christ. She has been a friend that has been in the trenches with me. She is truly a gift to know and have as a friend. So, without further ado, here is a word from my friend Kristi ❤️!

—————————————————-

What’s stopping you?

This question is easier said than done. For starters, I can think of about 10 reasons why I can’t for every one reason why I should. A rolodex of reasons start running through my brain of things that are in the way, mountains that won’t move, or people who are more capable.  It’s like our minds are programmed to hold us back when all our hearts want to do is run forward. Maybe they are limitations or maybe they are excuses, but either way, they are what’s holding you and I back from our real potential, our dream out of the box dreams, our reach for the stars over the fence, world series kind of stuff.  I might have just pulled that last part out of an old favorite movie, can you guess? Yep, you got it! The classic 1995 movie with Kirstie Alley “It Takes Two”.  It’s time for us to take back our dream big dreams, think bold, live brave, and allow the word fearless to be our new mantra! Let’s put aside that thing that has been holding us back for so long, that thing that has kept us stagnant, always playing it safe, and has kept us from really dreaming. Actually, let’s do it one further because putting it aside just doesn’t cut it. Something in us has to die before something new is reborn.  Are you ready?

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

 

It’s time to put a name to it and then put it to rest once and for all…let’s all say it out loud together, “fear”.  It’s the very thing that has kept us in chains, that has paralyzed and crippled our potential, and that has instilled some type of stronghold in our very being that simply makes us powerless. See, saying it out loud wasn’t too bad! Okay, now can we all take a deep breath…and another one. And instead of given that “thing” a name and a new home, we need to boot it right of our lives.  As Christians, we can claim the victory we already have over fear because it was overcome at the cross.  We can start speaking truth over our lives and situations, and redefining our lives in the light of Christ.  The good news is, we don’t have to keep walking around like the living dead, the walking wounded, the ones bound by fear.  As a daughter and sons in the one true living God, the old me is dead and gone. Back to the “What’s stopping you” question I started off with. We must obliterate fear continually from our lives, not giving in to its calling and regaining our power over our circumstances and future! Now that we’ve identified and have been able to name fear, we now know that it’s the same thing that has been making us feel like we are less than, lacking, not enough, the feeling of it’s too hard, I can’t, and on and on and on.  I wonder what narrative you’ve been telling yourself all this time. You know, the one that provides you the safety net to stay right where you are and the same one that prevents you from living in the space outside of the box.  Fear can sometimes be disguised and often does a pretty good job at fooling us too.  Totally not fair, I know!  Fear can look like a number of things, but it’s when it’s hidden and cloaked that you must be on guard of the most. This might look like complacency or what God refers to as lukewarm.  Fear can manifest itself in many different ways throughout our lives with a common goal of steering us away from our potential, living life to the fullest, and ultimately, away from being kingdom changers.

1 Peter 5:8 says it perfectly, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of giving up all my big dreams and someday adventures to the fear that speaks its power over me, and quite frankly, I’m over the reality that I haven’t been living life to the fullest because of it.  It’s taken me nearly 30 years to get to this place in my life, but I’m finally ready to kiss fear goodbye and say hello to living BRAVE!

My dream, big dreams, didn’t come until I was 27 years old. I thought I was late in the game and was just as skeptical as the rest.  “How am I supposed to jump into a new career at this age, and to make things worse, I’ve never done this before!” I was highly unqualified, unseen by the whole industry, and fear was plaguing me from thinking past all of my doubts.  I was jumping into a wild ride of pursuing a career as an angler, or as I like to say, a fisher chick!  

This new passion caught me like a deer in headlights but was a whirlwind and a dream all wrapped up together.  Chasing a dream to be a fisherwomen was not something I had on my agenda by a long shot, but it was the first time in my life I felt truly empowered, honing a new confidence out on the water, and finding real joy in literally, reeling in fish!  My husband and I together on this journey started a YouTube channel called 1Fish2Fish, a platform we used to bring anglers, community, and family together!  Deciding early on, we wanted to be like the Chip and Joanna Gains of fishing, passionately pursing our dreams and giving God all the glory!  We aren’t just fishing for fish, we are fishing for men, and this has been our focus since day one.

One thing I’ve learned on this wild journey is that it’s never too late to be fearless, and you’re always on time. There’s no time clock for this life so before I begin, let’s do us all a favor and get rid of that “clock” we all have ticking in our minds, of when we are supposed to be doing what it is we think we should be doing. When to marry, when to have babies, when to get a new job, when to move, when to go and when to stay.  

Ecclesiastes 3:11 eloquently puts it, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

When we start feeling the pressure that time demands, it’s a lie and it’s not how God thinks about us.  There is no perfect timing, just God’s time…and he sets it when he wants it to be set.  The reality and unknown of that might feel a bit daunting, but if you really let it soak in, it should actually bring us a huge relief!  God has this thing under control, his timing is perfect, and He is the one to set things in motion.  So as diligent and hard as we try to make things happen, to wield it our way, to set our plans, His ways trump all that. Every. Single. Time.

So now we can hold tight to the confidence that God has our back, and not only that, but He is literally directing our every step. Scripture says:

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you” Deuteronomy 31:8

He masterfully is crafting your past, your now, and your future, just as you read this.  Nothing surprises Him, nothing is too big for Him, and nothing, and I mean nothing is beyond Him.  He controls the universe in the palm of His very hand.  He has the hairs on your head counted, one by one.  The scriptures tell us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” Matthew 10:29-30.  Think about it, if He cares for the sparrows this way, how much more does he care for us!  With God on our side, we can do anything.  No more fear, no more holding back, it’s time to dream, and I mean really dream. If we want to walk on water, we have to get out of the boat! I think it’s about time we took back our dignity and claim what has always been ours.  It’s time to lose the chains of fear and say hello to freedom!

Whatever drives you, those things that bring you pure joy, that path less traveled you want to adventure down, the dream you always called just a dream, it’s calling your name.  It’s time to own our stories, to feel the fear and do it anyway.  Or better yet, let’s trade our fear in for faith and allow God to work out the unimaginable in our lives.  There’s a story behind every women who perseveres under trial.  For those who wield their fear over to God, a new courage will be forged by the fire, and for those who then rise, will find beauty in strength.  

 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

So let’s grab a friend and hang on tight, we are about to discover the impossible! It’s when we let go, and let God, that freedom and courage can give us wings to soar.  So what’s stopping you? It doesn’t have to be fear!

 

Sites:

YouTube: 1Fish2Fish

Website: Catch Fish Reports