Life Sucks Sometimes

It’s a privilege to have my sweet little sister, Jessica, be a guest writer this week!

I have seen her grow leaps and bounds through one loss after the other. She really has been like an perfume bottle that has been shattered and leaves it’s unmistakable and beautiful fragrance at the feet of Jesus. I have seen her grace towards others abound as well as her kindness despite the jabs she’s endured.

She has taught me a lot by how she lives and I’m grateful to have her in my life. I know you will be encouraged by what she has to say.

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I remember saying as a little girl, “that isn’t fair!” But my Dad would calmly say, as most parents do, “Life isn’t fair.” That never made me feel better as a child and quite frankly, it makes me feel even worse as an adult. Why do we think life is supposed to be fair? Why do we expect others to treat us as we ought? Why do we think bad things should never happen to good people?

Life isn’t fair. I’ve experienced its unfairness closer than I would like. Way too close. Actually, it’s cut my heart pretty deeply this past year. Not only have I experienced it but so many precious friends and family have too. You hurt for yourself but your pain is doubled when you see other struggling through their own trials; and, you can do nothing to fix.

Friends turn on friends. Significant others choose to not only walk away, but hurt you. As if you never meant anything to them leaving your heart utterly confused and in pieces. Others twist the truth and even discredit your character despite how much you try to make amends. Illness and emergencies hit the families who deserve the best. Instead, they have one trial after another. You’ve tried for a baby for so long and you see other mothers aborting theirs. No matter how hard you fight to get ahead in life, get the job offer, get the raise, get the promotion. You’re overlooked and brushed aside. Again. There have been many prayers that were only one sentence: God, I’m so tired of losing.

In the moments where you feel so low… do you ever crave justice? Crave for life to be fair? Crave to win one? There’s something in our inner gut that is screaming out for justification. For our situation to work out right. But knowing you’re powerless to ever make that happen? It doesn’t matter if you’ve done everything you possibly could to change the situation. You still want the person who hurt your heart so effortlessly to feel every bit of bitter pain they caused. Or, you’d like for the healing to finally come from the hundreds of prayers said in tears bellowing from trials you’ve experienced. That would make everything fair, right?

I wish I had a nice neat bow of happiness to wrap up this blog, but I don’t. Life doesn’t always give that gift. Praise God for the times and seasons of blessings and comfort. If anything, I’ve learned to appreciate it now more than ever. But sometimes life just sucks. I’ve come to realize I can give all of it to God while still saying I don’t know why it’s happening. In the midst of the unfairness and the ache, in the middle of the night, in the worst of storms, in the hours spent by the hospital bed. Do we believe God can truly work it out? And much more than that, can He work it out for our good? Is our God capable of doing that? To be honest, I’ve struggled with believing it. That’s where faith becomes action. Its where the rubber hits the road.

Pain brings faith to life.

Friends, I have no other hope than that. Is He able? If He is, take a breath, and remind yourself of that truth.

Even though I feel he was taken too soon, I’m glad I can still hear my Dad’s voice in my head. Especially when I’m tempted to get angry or bitter over life’s unfairness. Yes, life sucks and it’s not fair. Sometimes just saying life sucks while biting into a Klondike bar is healing in itself. Life can suck while God is still good and in control.

Listen: Life Keeps Moving On, Ben Rector

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Certain Aspects of God

“God is Love” 1 John 4:8
“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous” Psalm 116:5
“God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

I like these aspects of God. But, what my humanity struggles with are verses like these:

“For he wounds” Job 5:18.
“He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship.” Lamentations 3:5.
“All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me.” Job 16:12.

All these verses are in the Bible. I’ve read them, but being wounded, shattered, and torn apart (Hosea 6:1) is not something I really understood until the past two years.

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If I’m being honest, I have been struggling with these aspects of God. And let’s just be real, it says He. The capitalization in the Bible is a reference for God.

Sometimes it is our own sin that causes wounds. Sometimes it’s the enemy that causes the damage to our soul. But what do you do when it’s God who allows it and God orchestrating it?

I don’t like a world where we are crushed. I don’t like being shattered, broken and torn apart.

You may think I’m out of line. But let me remind you of a verse (which keeps coming to my mom’s memory). Isaiah 53:5, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.”

God the Father, allowed His own Son to be crushed. In fact, God sent Jesus to be pierced, beaten, forsaken and subject to a criminal’s death. What do you do with that?

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This weekend I was invited to a retreat. I struggled to go. I know there’s a lot I need to wrestle through in my own heart and mind. Things that I haven’t been able to talk about because they are simply  too painful. It feels like I’m going to fall apart if I talk about it.

But, like my mom always says, “If you don’t want to go, it probably means you need to go.” So, I went.

While I was there I was given Genesis 22 to read. It is the passage of scripture where Abraham offers Issac to God in the alter and where God provides another sacrifice.

All three times Abraham was called, He said, “Here I am.”

It struck me in a whole new way. Being available to God means being available to breaking. Being available to being shattered. Being available to being torn apart.

Following God has broken me more than I ever thought possible.

But, while I was on my own at this retreat, I felt like God said, “Christi, don’t you think the same heart I broke, I can heal?”

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When things are broken, it’s in our nature to fix them, right? We have a falling out with someone and we want to fix it? We have an broken plan and we want to mend it. We want to be the fixers.

But what if God is just asking me to be the patient? To walk through the painful steps to healing? To press through the pain to obtain a greater prize? To be able to look back and see that none of it had anything to do with me.

Because the whole verse in Job 5 says this, “For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal.”

And the ending of Lamentations 3 says this:
“21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22 The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.

This road is not easy. I don’t like being broken, but I have to continue to trust that it is for a greater purpose.

“Weeping lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Sometimes that night is a few weeks, sometimes it is longer. But, God has our healing and joy will come in the morning.

I don’t know what road you are on. It may be incredibly painful, but this year, I want to be a good patient. I want to be available- even if it hurts.

 

 

When You Don’t Want The Good

I’m sure you’ve heard the verse, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28. Christians normally quote it to other Christians when they’re facing a rough time, but my question is: what if don’t want the good?

What if the good still hurts? What if the good alter my life in a way I don’t want it to?

Nearly two years ago, I had those closest to me essentially then their back on me. I was accused of awful things. Most of the “gifts” and “responsibilities” I was given had strings attached. It was unhealthy. One that left me with a lot of working through to “get back” to normal. It took 5 months of being home for my Mom to say, “She’s back.” As if someone had carved a piece out of me that I had to grow back. To this day, there are still things I have to fight because of that relationship. To this day, I will look back at pictures and feel sucker punched. To this day, I still get tears in my eyes because of the loss of so many who I considered my “Second Family.”

And then, I lost my Dad. I lost the rock of my family. I lost the one I would write with. I lost the one who I discussed Theology. I lost the one who would stop what he was doing to let me process. I lost the one who would edit my pieces. I lost the one who I’d dreamed since I was little, would walk me down the aisle and perform my ceremony. I lost my Dad.

To be honest, I don’t care about the good that will come out of this. I just want my Dad back. And I know, the person I was before the accident on July 16th, will never be again. That girl had a Dad. The girl after July 23rd doesn’t and has to live the rest of her life without one.

I didn’t want my life to change by rejection from those I loved and the death of my Dad. I never prayed for this. In fact, I prayed for the opposite. I prayed for reconciliation and got rejection. I prayed for a miracle and got a grave.

If there is good, I honestly cannot see it. I just see a lot of broken pieces and I have no earthly idea how they will all fit. My heart is so broken it doesn’t even have a shape. The broken pieces keep breaking. I feel like pain and grief has blocked my vision and I only see out of one eye and live out of half of my body and half of my mind.

But, this week, I heard a podcast and was reminded of a verse. The person on the broadcast was Josh McDowell. If you don’t know his past, he was sexually abused by a hired hand for 7 years of his childhood. He was raised in a home where his father beat his mother repeatedly to a pulp. He was neglected on several accounts. Although he is a very successful individual, you know what he said? Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I don’t still feel the pain. He shared of some of the things he still has to fight against decades later. He said God never promised a pain-free life. But, He did promise not to leave me.

Then, I was reminded of Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.”

Jesus didn’t say we’d float on top of the water. Or, that we’d paddle over the river. Or, that we’d go around the fire. Every. Single. Time. It says through. I have to walk through the grief. I have to walk through the pain. I have to walk through the loss. Every loss, trial, and suffering that may come, I have to walk through, but Jesus says, “I will be with you.”

This week, since I got hired at the same organization my mom works at, we went to our Christmas work party. I stepped into the bathroom soon after we got there. For a brief second, I looked in the mirror. As I saw myself standing there, I thought, had Dad not died, I wouldn’t be here. I nearly had a job in Virginia and had that not come through, I had another prospective job in North Carolina. But, I knew, I needed to stay put. It was too much to move. That night at the bowling alley was a complete gift. My Dad was not far from my Mom’s and my memory, we miss him every day, but we had so much fun and we were together.

And then last night, my mom and I went out book shopping and to get coffee. It was another gift. The loss of my Dad has brought about a lot of family time and although we all want my Dad back and would give everything to have him back, we have become so much closer. I just want to be around and with my family all the time- it doesn’t matter what we are doing as long as we are together.

So, I think I’m starting to see a little twinge of the good. The good does not erase the pain. But the good is a cup of coffee with my mom. The good is a night of basketball with my sisters and brother-in-law. The good is getting frosty’s on a night when we all miss dad. The good is watching a movie with my sister, or a hug from my nephews, or a little niece following me around before work to make sure she’s ready too.

And, I’m sure there will be other good in the future that I cannot see right now, but for now, this is the good I’m holding on to.

 

A Disciple’s Life

I was one of twelve chosen, I still don’t know why I was picked. Some were related and others complete strangers. Some had a radical turn around and some just quietly left to follow. But we were a force to be reckoned with.

I have never felt so passionately about anything in my life, which is probably why it was easier for me to say goodbye to the life I once knew. Being with these men made me feel alive. I had a purpose. I had a reason to live. Sure, some of the things our leader said were different. A lot of things I didn’t understand, but he was patient and he cared. Besides, I saw so many things I never even thought were possible. Food overflowing from a simple basket, water being turned into wine, lepers cleansed, the blinded eyes restored, the deaf able to hear and the dead being raised.

I knew I was headed in the right direction. I felt as if I were born for this. I could never grow tired of this life. I never knew what was coming next. I’d sometimes be frightened that things wouldn’t pan out; like the one time we crossed the sea and the storm rolled in, but then HE walked on water! Or, that time when we had fished all night and caught nothing to eat. I almost lost it when HE told us to throw the net on the other side; like we hadn’t done that 100x already! But, true to HIS word, we had more fish than we knew what to do with. I don’t know how HE did it.
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Then there was that day that HE called us together and said:

Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  As you go, proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker, is worth his keep.  Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town (Matthew 10:5-15)

 

Heal the sick? Raise the dead? Cleanse the Leper? Drive out demons? I thought that was HIS job. I thought only HE could do that. But, we went out anyways. HE didn’t really negotiate with HIS commands.

 

It was incredible! We did those things. I actually did those things. I was so tired when we returned, but it was exhilarated. I felt invincible. I couldn’t believe I was chosen to do this. This MAN had changed the course of my life forever.

 

But after we got back, things started to change. I had learned to love our leader like I never loved anyone in my life. I loved to hear him teach. I tried to protect HIM at any costs. But HE started saying things like, I must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and raised the third day” (Matt. 16:21)

 

I didn’t understand why He’d say these horrible things. Suffer? Be killed? Was this a new parable? I thought to myself. HE must be using those words in a different way than I think.

 

Tension started rising among the scribes, elders, and priests. I knew they didn’t like what HE was doing… But I thought they would come around. How could you not like this MAN? But, the more time passed, the more the tension grew. I was growing a little more concerned, but then, I’d witness another miracle, or have another long talk with HIM. HE knew just how to settle my uneasy heart.

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Then, the most wonderful thing happened! HE was given a King’s welcome! The moment we all had been waiting for. We knew HE was going to reign; and now, it was coming to pass!  People were throwing down their tunics so HE could ride on something other than the ground. The people were shouting. I had tears in my eyes from the sheer joy of it all. Our King is here. It was such a wonderful day. I never knew so much joy could be contained in such a short amount of daylight.

 

A week passed and I still felt like I was floating from all that had transpired a week prior. HE decided to have a dinner with us all. It was a quiet night, but it was nice for it to just be us. It seemed we always had others around. But something was different about HIM. HE looked sad. HE and Judas had a brief discussion and then Judas left. I didn’t think much of it because it was Judas. He always had his own ideas about things.

 

But HE started worrying me. He made sure we had wine and bread and HE said, drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matt 26:227-29)

 

His blood? The phrases He spoke months earlier came flooding into my mind: I must suffer, and be killed. It’s just a parable, it’s just a parable I continued to repeat to myself.

 

Later that night, we went to the garden we sometimes went to. I was so full of dinner I fell fast asleep. HE asked us to stay awake, but I didn’t think it was that important. We prayed all the time. I think we had enough prayer to cover us that night.

 

But then something woke me up. I heard a crowd. I immediately woke the other two disciples with me. I saw Judas, but he was with the scribes. Whatever this was, didn’t sit right with me. I was too fearful to stand beside our leader, so I hid not too far away. I couldn’t hear very well, but I saw Judas kiss HIM.

 

Suddenly, the soldiers, who had accompanied the scribes and Judas, bound HIS hands. Nooooo, I wanted to scream, but I didn’t want to be heard. I knelt down and wept. I was so angry at myself for not staying awake to pray… Why are they taking HIM?

 

Eventually, I learned where they had taken my beloved leader. I went there immediately. HE was being question, accused and then they took HIM outside to be beaten and whipped. Tears poured out of my eyes and down my cheeks. Why? Why is this happening? Why don’t they believe HIM? HE’s the most compassionate man I have ever met. One lash turned to two, two lashes into four, four into thirty-nine. I couldn’t watch anymore. HE was barely recognizable.

 

I found a place to cry until I felt as though I had nothing left in me… I decided I needed to go back. When I did, I found my beloved friend and my hero hanging, like a criminal, on a cross. People were shouting at HIM, “Save yourself.”

 

I prayed to God, HIS Father, to give HIM the strength to get off that cross. It wasn’t too much. I still had hope, despite the fear. I’d seen HIM do miracles on top of miracles. Time pressed on and still, HE hung there.

 

The sky began to grow dark, it felt like I was watching a picture of my own heart. I saw HIM struggling to breathe. The ground began to shake and HE cried out, My God, My God Hey have you forsaken me. (Matt 27:46) Never before had I ever heard HIM say anything close to this. HE was always talking about how HE and HIS Father were one and that if we knew HIM, we knew the Father. I couldn’t understand what I was seeing.

 

My heart was breaking in me; yet, I had seen this same man bring back others from the gripping hand of death. I couldn’t make sense of it.

 

Then HE said, it is finished and HE breathed HIS last. A groan from the deepest part of my soul came out. I fell to my knees, NOOOOO, Jesus, Noooooo…. This cannot be…. Please, God, you can’t take HIM!

 

It all moved so quickly; yet, it also felt like time stood still. HE was taken down and buried. I couldn’t grasp what was happening. It felt like a nightmare. I couldn’t connect my mind with the reality in front of me. The tears came easily as my heart was broken into a million pieces, but my mind was still not able to process it.

 

This MAN was my life. I left everything to follow HIM. Everything I believed in revolves around HIS words. How could we do all that we did and the outcome be standing at HIS grave? So many questions flooded my mind. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t get out of my cot. Fear encompassed me. The moment HE died, something inside of me died.

 

I don’t remember much of that Saturday. But Sunday I heard a stirring of women…
He’s alive!

 

What? I questioned.
HE died, I saw HIM, don’t mess with me, I already have enough to process. I said.

 

No, HE’s alive they insisted.

 

I ran all over looking for HIM. When suddenly, HE found us… I couldn’t believe my eyes! He was here. One day turned into two, and two into four, and four into forty. HE was with us for forty days. But, this time, it was different.

 

Part of me doubted. I knew HE was the way to eternal life but so much of this MAN I just did not understand. HE did everything backward. Why did HE have to die? Why cause all of us and HIS own mom and family so much grief? Why couldn’t HE just saved Himself, and not put all of us, including HIMSELF, through that agonizing situation?

 

But, I noticed one thing. After HIS death, I listened more carefully to what HE said. HE had allowed a great wound in my heart to awake my ears and heart to listen more intentionally. Losing HIM once made me more grateful for the time I had with HIM and the people around me. I was also grateful for HIS love for me. One breathes more deeply and feels more intensely when pained.

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HE told us He’d have to leave, and this time I knew it was not another parable. HE would really be leaving and handing us the mantle.

 

So, the day came. Before HE left, He instructed us to, go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the earth.

 

HE said HIS goodbyes and ascended to heaven. To be honest, the mayhem from all the chaos in the past month or so caused us a lot of fear. We all were a little lost after HE left. He’d left us with more instruction than the first time, but we were hoping HIS next return would be around the corner, but as time passed we realized we had a mantle to carry and a gospel to spread…

 

After a large gathering, known as the Day of Pentecost, the church began and the gates of Hell have not and will never prevail against it!