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.

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…

THE BARNABAS AWARD

A big thank you to Hepsibah Garden and Raising Zion for nominating me for The Barnabas Award, which is a first. Thank you so very much.

I just recently started following this blog and have been really encouraged by the blogs they share, so thank you for encouraging me. 

THE BARNABAS AWARD is presented in recognition of the encouragement and inspiration a blogger brings to their readers.

How This Award Works:

Thank the person who nominated you, and share their blog. Think of five bloggers that encourage and inspire you and nominate them. Answer the five questions you were asked. Lastly, I ask my nominees five questions. Why five? Because it is the number that signifies grace.

My five questions:

1. What inspired you to start blogging, and what is the central focus of your blog?

I realized writing was a way for me to process. The main focus of my blog is fighting fear.

2. When you are in need of encouragement, what encourages you the most?

Sometimes I’ll look up encouragement messages, Bible verses, or stories online … other times, I’ll write someone a note or check up on someone I care about.

3. What is the best way you feel that you can be an encouragement to others?

Through my words or actions.

4. In what ways do you feel that your blog can offer words of hope, encouragement and inspiration to others?

I’m just a fallen human being trying to live well. I hope that in sharing my vulnerabilities and weaknesses it’ll in turn help someone else who is struggling as well.

5. In what ways can we, your fellow bloggers, encourage you?

Comment or share how something helped you. As a writer it’s a struggle to not second guess yourself. But honestly, I’m just encouraged by so many people who follow so faithfully. It blows me away.

My Nominees are:

1. Kristen Hogrefe

2. Words by Andy Lee

3. In The Image of My Creator

4. Rethink Now

5. Flourish

My five questions:

1. How long have you been writing and why did you start?

2. What’s the hardest thing about being a blogger?

3. What do you wish others knew about you and/or your writing?

4. If you could be known as having one characteristic what would it be?

5. What’s your biggest fear?

To my nominees: Please do not feel obligated to participate. I nominated you because of the encouragement that you have been to me and I wanted to acknowledge that. Blessings!

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

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.

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