What Grief Has Taught Me…

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

Grief is more than a human heart can bear.

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

The only way forward is through it.

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

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

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

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

It has taught me to laugh through tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Finish: A Reminder for Myself

For the past five years or so, I’ve set yearly goals for myself. My goals vary each year. Some goals I hit and other goals get rolled over into the next year.

This year, I decided not to set any new goals because I was falling behind in finishing the ones I already set for myself. I wanted this year to be a year of finishing.

I was told by someone who had a big influence on my life, good and bad, “You never finish anything you start”.

To be honest, it struck a chord with me. I want to be a person that not only starts but finishes. And not just finishes but finishes strong. It is easy to start projects but finishing them takes grit and sheer determination. When you’re half way into your goal and growing weary, it’s easy to think, “Is this really that important?” Or “Why am I doing this again?” That’s when you have to dig deep.

As many of you know, I recently earned my black belt. But, when I was two months away from my test, I struggled to persevere. I was tired. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to become a black belt. The material felt like it only stayed in my short term memory. So, every time I trained I felt like I was starting at square one. It was frustrating and discouraging.

I felt like I hit a wall. I decided to take a moment away from training in order to pin point why I was struggling so much. I wrote down why I wanted my black belt, and why I started in the first place. One of the reasons was to prove to myself that I could finish and finish strong.

Sure enough, when test day came around, I felt ready. Why? because, I pushed through the days I didn’t want to train. I pushed through the excuses. And I pushed through training while fighting off a cold that kept coming back. I realized during those months that the mental battle was harder to overcome than the physical.

I once heard a marathon runner say that in order for him to finish a race, he had to look for outside motivation. Which makes sense why marathoners often raise money for charity. Or, they dedicate their race to a loved one.

As I thought about this I had two verses comes to mind:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

So, here are some points I needed to be reminded of when I’m growing weary and feel like I’m not going to finish my race:

1) I can do all things through Christ.

2) I am only required to run my race — not anyone else’s.

3) I am surrounded and cheered on by a great crowd of witnesses.

4) Jesus is a finisher and teaches His kids to finish through His example.

5) What Jesus has started in me, He will finish it.

So, if you’ve ever been told, “You can’t finish anything”,or maybe you’ve said that to yourself, I want to remind you, in your own strength you will fail and fall short. But we have a Father in heaven who doesn’t let His kids quit. He exemplifies what it means to finish and finish well.

What He started He will finish!

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

Happy Father’s Day, Dad 💕

I woke up at 3:45am and drove south without looking back. The only breaks I took were for gas, bathroom and food. I arrived at home 15 hours later— exhausted but so grateful to be held by people who loved me.

The transition home was not an easy one. I spent a lot of time lost in my own head. Setting up my things and having no idea what was ahead or when and how to take the next step.

One afternoon, I found myself at my Dad’s computer. He always shared it when he wasn’t working on a sermon, or a talk or a new book.

I spaced out and analyzed every book on his bookshelf and every trinket in front of those books. He had his MacArthur Study Bible and commentaries closest. Then he had little nicknacks from all over the globe (given to him by people who lived all over the world). He had artwork from one of his 3rd grade students and love notes from us kids and grandkids. And proudly displayed on his shelf was the “Best Dad” trophy we got him for Father’s Day one year. Although he was a remarkable man, that was the only trophy he ever received.

I sat there and thought, “What a great man.” I told myself that I needed to write a blog on him, but I got sidetracked. Time passed. And then, suddenly, the same office and bookshelf I had admired just a few months prior was being disassembled. And as we disassembled it, it proved to me again that my Dad was a great man.

I wished I had written this blog when he was alive, but I know he knew exactly what I thought of him and how much I loved him. So Dad, this is for you.

My Dad. He wasn’t a flashy guy. He was the most steady, driven and disciplined man I have ever met. He loved my mom and us kids well. He always made time for us. If I ever needed him, he’d finish what he was doing and give me his undivided attention. He loved his sports, his popcorn, and his peanut m&ms. He was the smartest and the wisest man I’ve ever known.

And there was a side of my Dad that a lot of people didn’t see and I think my Dad was misjudged a lot because he was ridiculously confident. The side that speaks volumes to me and will for the rest of my life is how no matter what, my Dad never would retaliate. There was a season in my Dad’s life when he had some people against him. It tore him apart on the inside, but he persevered. I’ve never seen such a pain in my dad’s eyes. But, my Dad never spoke ill of them. Instead he just showed up day after day, week after week even though he was misunderstood and hurt by the things being said.

There was also a side that not many people saw. It was the “Doctor Dad” side. He may have lectured us on how we should have avoided getting hurt, but while he was lecturing, he’d be bandaging us up. And there was the side of my Dad who invested in us once a week during our “one on one time.” And there was the side that showed up for all the games we had that he could attend. You could never say that my Dad wasn’t present. And it’s his lack of presence that I miss every single day. But I hope that in my choice to show up every day, I honor his legacy.

You may not be able to pick my Dad out of a crowd, but you could never pick his place out of my heart. He was the greatest man I’ve ever known. He was a man of great character and integrity. Happy Fathers Day. I love you so much and I miss you terribly! And don’t worry you’re not missing anything with the Dolphins— they still stink.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Um no, no one had mentioned this.

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

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

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

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

Psalm 27:1

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

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

Psalm 139:16

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

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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