Why Are You Here – A Christmas Post

christmas-card-2016_sm

This year, Christmas has eluded me like some sort of convoluted puzzle box. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to put this specific season into words; because Jesus. But to be honest, it wasn’t until just now that everything hit me. I’m sitting here, really listening to Christmas music for the first time, thinking of what Jesus did, and what I want to say to you, my friend. The one I love. The person who knows me and sees me live life.

A majority of my friends aren’t believers. They don’t believe Jesus needed to take their sins on Him when He died on the cross because they don’t believe that God is holy and demands holiness. Most don’t believe in God at all. I live in a very Orthodox culture, and while most people will say they believe, they’re struggling to stay positive this holiday season. Hope is missing. Is that you this Christmas? Maybe you’re struggling to find hope. I used to feel the same way.

People ask me this question every single day, “Why are you here?” It isn’t obvious to them. Why would anyone with three kids leave their home country for a different country where things are pretty much falling apart and they can’t communicate well? It makes little sense. And the answer I give is always the same, “We’re here to help.” And I say that sincerely each time. I think many Christians would be disappointed that I don’t at once launch into the gospel message but I don’t, because I care. If I did, one of the two things would happen. The first is that I would lose this new person’s trust forever. The second is that I would lose their trust for an unknowable span of time. So I leave it. I let them watch me. I know they’re watching.

I know you’ve been watching. And I want to tell you that Jesus is the reason I can love you the way I do. Jesus is the reason I can care about you and make you feel like you’re important. You are, but I wouldn’t know or understand that without Jesus. And when Jesus came, I feel like His answer was the same as mine, “I’m here to help.” It didn’t make sense for Him to come, did it? He left perfection for a place that was falling apart. And He couldn’t communicate well. No one understood Him. Really understood. But He came. And in that same spirit of love, He sent me. That’s why I’m here. To tell you about Him. And I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment, and if you’re reading this right now, then I feel like this is it. Jesus can only be one of four things… a lunatic, a liar, a legend, or the Lord. I believe there is overwhelming evidence that the last is the right answer, but if you’re unconvinced and you want to talk about it… let’s talk. I won’t get mad, no matter what you say. I won’t stop loving you, even if you choose not to believe. I just want to talk to you, because I care about you, and Jesus came to save you from your sin. Jesus loves you, and if you were the only person He needed to die for on the cross, He still would have done it. But because I know how powerful the gospel is (infinitely more powerful than any personal testimony I could give you), here is the gospel. For your consideration:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” -John 1:14

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” -Mark 10:45

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” -Romans 8:1

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” -Romans 8:32

“For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” -2 Corinthians 5:21

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” -2 Corinthians 8:9

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” -1 Timothy 1:15

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.” -1 John 4:10

Merry Christmas.

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin

 

The verses listed in this post were featured in the post linked here:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/ten-gospel-verses-to-keep-warm

The Basics: Two Types of Hope

As I grow and mature in my walk with Jesus, I learn new things. Over the last two years I came to the realization that there are two different types of hope. Let’s look at each one in depth.

hope-sincerely-adorned

Hope Born of Desperation

Have you ever been in what seemed to be an impossible situation? Maybe that is where you are now. This theme must be set on repeat in my life. There are usually three things that happen at once to create a horrible stress bubble that only God can fix: we run out of money, we are on the verge of getting kicked out of the country we serve in, and some health crisis surfaces. When all three of these unfortunate events take place concurrently, desperation takes hold of my heart. Over the last seven years, the three difficulties have made their appearance four times. Though they have appeared more frequently as individuals. In my heart, I have grasped on tight to the truths found in God’s word, but there is a certain desperation to that hope. Instead of peace, I find anxiety. Instead of trusting God, I find that I question His motives and abilities. This type of hope is hard won, and lacks the consistency which should be evidence of my faith. These seasons often leave me exhausted and useless. What do I do when this kind of desperation invades my sanity? I remember these verses:

“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

“Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ Selah. But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” -Psalm 3:2-6 

“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” -1 Corinthians 16:13

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” -1 Peter 1:3-6

“The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” -Psalm 147:11

Isn’t it wonderful to hope in the mercy of the Lord? The truth is I don’t deserve to be free from difficulties in life, and the price I should pay for my sins is eternal separation from God. But because of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, I can find hope in the fact that God shows me mercy. He doesn’t give me the eternal consequences I deserve.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5:3

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed.” -Luke 4:18

Hope Resurrected

When we go through the hope born of desperation, and things don’t come to a tidy conclusion, we often find that our hope has died. Is it possible for a Christian to experience the death of hope? Well, if we are talking about the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ, no… that hope cannot die. But what about other hopes we have? It is very possible that hope regarding specific desires that go unmet will die. Circumstances may be that God has said, “No,” to our intercession. It is natural that hope for that desire or need would die. There is no reason to keep hoping for something that God has clearly said “no” to. But then there are those prayers that don’t have a distinct no, but they also haven’t been answered with a yes. What then? I believe it is possible for those hopes to all but die. Is there a hope that you have that’s buried deep in the recesses of your heart? Has God promised you something that doesn’t seem possible, and still hasn’t come true? What is the point of this type of suffering?

“Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” -Romans 5:2-5

When you have been through seasons of hopelessness, one of the results is (ironically) hope. When you go through the process mentioned in Romans 5:3-4, it starts with tribulations which produces perseverance, a better personal character, and finally, hope. In my relationship with God, I can see this finish line. No, not all of my tribulations have been solved (not even close!), but instead of the hope of desperation that I tried to grasp with all my might in the past, I have developed a quiet trust in the Lord which produces a confident hope; I now experience hope resurrected. My hopes have become a sanctum I can retreat to when the weight of my impossible circumstances press my spirit to the ground. And even though common sense tells me that what we face now is by far the biggest and scariest reality we have ever faced, I don’t feel desperate. And when the panic of common sense pursues and taunts me with the infinite uncertainties in my life, I choose to retreat to that sanctum, where I can remember all of the times when God provided a solution. In those moments I can face common sense and proclaim, “I have hope, and this time, it brings me peace in the midsts of this dark storm. I will stand, brave and strong, no longer desperate in my attempt to grasp hope as if it was something distant or evasive.”

This is the journey you are on, and if you persevere, you will also level up to a hope that is resurrected where it was once desperate.

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin

Eric Metaxas, You Broke My Heart

Today’s post was born of out of my daily habit of looking at various Christian book blogs, and seeing that Eric Metaxas wrote a review for a book I was interested in. Interest gone, I decided to publicly air my grievances with the way Christian Americans are handling politics at present.

Christians and The Presidential Race

This year’s presidential race can be described in one word: terrifying. As a young girl growing up in Southern California I can remember watching in a school assembly as President Bill Clinton was sworn in for his first term in office as the President of the United States. Rocking frizzy blonde hair and a dental appliance, I never dreamed that one day we would be choosing between a compulsive liar that happens to be sexist and racist, and a hypocrite that used to get men off for sexual abuse and at the very least committed a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material while performing her duties as Secretary of State. If you had a friend of family member that worked for any American Embassy around the world during the Benghazi attack, you witnessed the wave of grief, shock, and terror that tore through those communities.

Say It Ain’t So, Eric

What does this have to do with Eric Metaxas? When other Christian leaders started to give Donald Trump their undeserving support, I became concerned. I talked to friends and family back home about the race to gain some perspective. As an expat, it seems clear to me that voting for someone who uses hate to motivate fear and panic is not a responsible choice for Christians to make. “How could Christians possibly vote for a man with such deplorable character?” became a common question from European friends. The days rolled by on my digital calendar, and I started to see and hear family members support Donald Trump as their candidate. It was like a living nightmare. I don’t know how else to describe it. How can people that exhort others to love as Jesus Christ loved reconcile their beliefs with supporting the human embodiment of selfish ambition? Hashtags like #neverhillary started appearing as more Christian leaders jumped on the Trump Bandwagon. These bandwagoners were men and women I used to respect, like Franklin Graham and David Barton. My writing group was over at my flat for a write-in (Camp NaNoWriMo stuff) when one of them said, “Who is David Barton, and why does it matter that he’s supporting Donald Trump?” My immediate reaction was to choke down the vomit that crept up my throat. Say it ain’t so David Barton! My husband and I have been unsure about him because of a few weird things here and there, but this was too much. I have heard him speak countless times at various churches, and he understands the complex political history of our country and claims to love Jesus Christ. According to Right Wing Watch,

“The listener asked Barton if there is anything that delegates can do to stop the nomination of Trump, to which Barton replied that Christians should simply accept that Trump is ‘God’s guy’ in this election.”

What?! Am I the only one who appalled by this? God’s guy? Really? No, David Barton, I do not simply accept that.

Ironically, this was the banner that greeted me when I went to read about David Barton's recommendation for Christians to vote for Donald Trump as president.
Ironically, this was the banner that greeted me when I went to read about David Barton’s recommendation for Christians to vote for Donald Trump as president. LGBT is the one minority community Trump tries to avoid insulting, though he often fails.

*Insert sorrow filled sigh* As bad as that was, things got worse. Eric Metaxas is was one of my heroes. He is an acclaimed author that has written biographies for human rights frontrunners like abolitionist William Wilberforce and spy against the Nazi’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer. My husband doesn’t like to read. It’s ok, I still love him. But my husband reads Metaxas’s books. He finds them inspirational and full of difficult truths. Eric Metaxas is also Greek American, which inclines me toward him, since many of the important people in my life are Greek. Eric Metaxas is now campaigning hard for Donald Trump, stating in a TheDCFN interview that “Donald Trump is not some great man of virtue, but this much I’ll say for him,” Metaxas told TheDCNF. “I think he loves America and I don’t think he wants to line his own pockets. At this point, that is the kind of virtue that we are talking about.”

According to an article interviewing Donald Trump’s former Ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Donald Trump’s main goal is to line his pockets, and the only person or thing he is capable of loving is Donald Trump.

In his journal, Schwartz wrote, “Trump stands for many of the things I abhor: his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.”

“I don’t do it for the money,” Trump declares. “I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.” Schwartz now laughs at this depiction of Trump as a devoted artisan. “Of course he’s in it for the money,” he said. “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’ ”

Whenever “the thin veneer of Trump’s vanity is challenged,” Schwartz says, he overreacts—not an ideal quality in a head of state.

The other problem is that Trump not only lies, but becomes convinced that his lies are true. In The New Yorker article, Schwartz reveals:

“Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said.

And

“More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

Schwartz’s Warning

There are many important points in the mentioned article, and I am inclined to believe Schwartz. He has nothing to gain from speaking against Trump. It is clear that this tell-all is an attempt to appease his aching conscious. Schwartz states his regrets over connecting his life with Trumps in any way, and I wonder how similar American voters will feel after having voted for someone who displays all the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Christians in the US seemed to willfully ignore the presence of decent human beings during the primaries like attorney and politician Ted Cruz. Libertarian Candidate Governor Gary Johnson seems much more ethical than a vote for Trump, but as I’ve seen over and over people I love and admire are saying things like, “A vote for Johnson is a vote for Hillary Clinton.” This type of thinking goes against the attitude our founding fathers attempted to establish when they created the Republic.

Trump’s Message to America’s Daughters

Just for the sake of irony, I want to mention the fact that American Christian’s were so against Romney for being Mormon, but they accept all of Donald Trump’s anti-human rights rhetoric. Do we really want someone running our country that shames people for their physical appearance? Stop lying and saying that Trump is a good person when ALL of the evidence is to the contrary. Tell me one good thing he has done. If you think I’m being fanatical, click here for a list of seven respected Christian leaders who agree with me including Max Lucado who wrote that

“Trump would not make it through the “decency interview” he requires for those who date his daughters.”

Speaking of daughters, would you feel ok with anyone teaching your daughter that

“It doesn’t really matter what the media writes as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass?”

Or that

“You’re disgusting!”

…if you choose to breastfeed your child? Check out this article for more gems of wisdom Trump wants to instill in our nation’s daughters. And don’t forget about Trump’s public shaming of Ted Cruz for having a “less attractive” wife. That is the kind of man you are choosing to vote for as President.

I encourage you to read “Trump’s Boswell Speaks,” in The New Yorker and form your own opinions.

In Conclusion

To say that my heart is grieved that people teaching this

“And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” -Mark 10:44-45

support someone who says something like this

“The point is, you can never be too greedy.” – Donald Trump

would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin

SA Book Review: Ante Up by Chautona Havig

ante up cover chautona havig

Category: Contemporary Fiction :: Target Audience: Christians

Ante Up,” the final installment in the Aggie’s Inheritance Series is frustratingly real.

I have been an Aggie fan since I read the first book several years ago, and I was ecstatic when I read that author Chautona Havig was going to write a fourth book for the series.

If I’m being completely honest, I would say that this book is not at all what I expected. I wanted to see Aggie and Luke together, overcoming problems, and living in victory over their past difficulties. I know real life isn’t always like that, and I think that was what the author was trying to portray in this book. Although I found this story heavy and depressing, I don’t think that means you shouldn’t read it. It is well written and deals with difficulties that every family faces at one time or another. Aggie’s struggles broke my heart for her and the rest of the family. Sometimes I just wanted to shake her. But that is how life can be.

We all have seasons of joy, and sometimes we indulge ourselves in dangerous seasons of pity and bitterness. God is always there waiting. I will say that I hope we get another book where we get a version of Aggie that is more familiar, but has also grown through her struggles. There are important story lines for the other characters in the family, especially Vannie, Tavish, Kenzie, and Laird. Plus we get a hint as to what is going on with Tina and William, which I found exciting. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that lives in the real world, where God is constantly making us into vessels for His honor.

I received a free copy of this book so that I could write an accurate review based on my personal opinion.

Happy reading and sincerely adorned,

Kristin

Why Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense

Are you suffering? Have you suffered? Things happen in this life that are unfair and wrong. As a Christian community, I feel like most of the time we push past suffering. We don’t want to know the details. We don’t want to share in the suffering. We explain suffering away using two or three well placed Bible verses out of context as painful jabs. I’m not saying you, or me, I’m saying we. I’ve done it. When we follow God, we experience a strong craving for everything to make sense.

why suffering doesnt make sense

Why Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense

The problem is, the world doesn’t make sense. This world is full of sin and pain. It’s full of joy and life and peace and love too, but you can’t ignore the evil things just because the good things exist. I know that many Christians believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will fall apart when people ask, “If God is so good, why do bad things happen?” if we agree that they are asking a valid question. Instead of glossing over it why don’t give them an honest answer… Bad things happen because sin exists in our world. Sin wasn’t part of God’s plan, and sin has started a powerful wave of consequences that weren’t part of God’s plan. Suffering is one wave of consequence I am referencing. Suffering doesn’t make sense! It doesn’t make sense to non-Christians, and it doesn’t make sense to Christians. We can agree about this, and it doesn’t change our faith. It doesn’t change who Jesus is, or what He did. I was reading this yesterday, and I felt such a kinship with how Dr. Langberg describes suffering in light of Jesus Christ. She doesn’t take the easy way, as so many others do…

“For most of us suffering remains an awful problem and essentially an explainable mystery. In spite of its mysteriousness, we can say several things about suffering:

1. Suffering rarely makes sense. We know that suffering is unreasonable; it is irrational. We work very hard to make sense out of it. We write books and give talks that attempt to make suffering reasonable. Although such attempts can be very helpful to us, I often think that the ability to explain suffering is the clearest indicator of never having suffered. Who can give a rational explanation for why two parents are, for the third time, burying one of their adolescent sons? How can we make sense out of the death of a thirty-year-old mother? Who of us can look the Holocaust full in the face and adequately explain it? It does not make sense. It seems incomprehensible.

2. Suffering rarely seems just. How many times have you encountered suffering in your own life or another’s and thought it was truly fair? We try hard to balance it out. The disciples did too. When they passed a man blind from birth, they asked Jesus, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ (John 9:2). Balance it out for us. Tell us it is fair because of something someone did. Jesus was not very helpful in this regard. He said, ‘No one.’ You can rarely balance it out. There is no balance for the gang rape of an eleven-year-old-girl. There is no justice in the brutal molesting of a child. It is not fair that a boy’s trusted youth director should involve him in sexual activity. There is no fairness in the suffering of an AIDS baby. You cannot make suffering fair.

3. Suffering in and of itself is not good. It is wrong. It was not intended to exist. Death is not good; abuse is not good; violence is not good. Sometimes as Christians we sound as if we think it is good. We sit across from indescribable suffering and glibly pronounce that “all things work together for good to them that love God’ (Rom. 8:28, KJV). Now do not misunderstand. I believe that verse with all of my heart. But it is not a glib verse, and it does not say that suffering is good. It does not say, ‘Don’t worry about what you are enduring; it will all turn out nice in the end.’ It does say that the God we worship is capable of redeeming the deepest agony, the most hideous suffering, the pain beyond words, into something that gives life to others and brings glory to him. But make no mistake, the transfiguring of agony into redemption cost Jesus inestimably. Death does not normally transform into life in this dark world. God’s redemption worked out in the life of one of his children always costs. The beauty of redemption in a life never comes easily. Whenever it does come, we can be certain we have stepped into the realm of the supernatural.” -Dr. Diane Langberg from “Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse”

To sum things up, Dr. Langberg says that suffering rarely makes sense, and is rarely fair. She also reminds us that just because God can bring good things out of suffering (which is His nature), doesn’t mean that suffering itself is good.

There are still a million unanswered questions we have about suffering, the main being, “Why does God allow suffering?” But these complex questions need messy, complicated answers.

Let’s pray…

Dear Father, 

Thank You for sending Jesus Christ to redeem our lives. Help us to know that You love us, and that you will never leave nor forsake us. You promise that when troubles come, You are there. Thank You that Jesus joined in our suffering to better understand us. Help us to know suffering was never your plan.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Do you have questions about suffering? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll try my best to answer what you ask. I hope you all have a good week, I’m praying for you.

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin

God Doesn’t Want You To Cut – Part 2

In my first post titled “God Doesn’t Want You To Cut,” I discussed how we all use different coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Sometimes the mechanisms we choose are harmful. I also talk about what the Bible says in regard to self-abuse.

God doesn't want you to cut.

I recently found a very informative quote about cutting (or other self harm such as binging) in Diane Langberg’s book “Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse.” I know the book says it’s for people that have been sexually abused, but this quote is for everyone. Trust me.

“I find it very important to educate those clients who self-mutilate about the biochemical changes that accompany post-traumatic stress disorder and what role those biochemical changes play in the survivor’s vulnerability to self-abuse. The endorphins (endogenous morphines) released into the bloodstream at the moment of trauma have a tranquilizing and antidepressant property. The self-mutilation occurs in order to relieve the survivor from unbearably pain internal states, not because the client is “sick” or “weird” or “likes pain.” As clients comet understand this mechanism, they can begin to see the benefit of regular aerobic exercise of some kind because such an activity is also known to release endorphins. The gradual release of endorphins during aerobic activity contributes to a longer lasting sense of well-being and a reduction in stress, elimination the urge to self-abuse.”

So you see, it isn’t that you actually want to harm yourself. It is a temporary reprieve from your intense emotional pain that you are after. Langberg suggests that you take up exercise, which will release those same endorphins, but in a much healthier way. Exercise is also part of your well-being, and an improved well-being will help you take control of your life. Well-being also includes creating healthy sleep patterns and eating healthy foods.

And remember that God wants to give rest to the weary…

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28

May the Lord continue to keep you and bless you on your journey (or as you walk alongside someone else in their journey) to healing.

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin

Aggie’s Inheritance Series – My Favorite Christian Fiction

Aggie's Inheritance Series by Chautona Havig

I don’t normally promote fictional books on this website, but I decided to make an exception for my favorite fiction series, as a fourth book is coming out in several weeks. I adore this series by author Chautona Havig. The main character, Aggie, inherits 8 children after her sister and brother-in-law die in an accident. This faith filled adventure shows that God is constantly with us in our struggles, although He doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we expect Him to. These books have ministered to me in such an intense way. You will laugh, cheer, and cry as Aggie makes progress daily, and the children grieve and realize that their Aunt really does have their best interest at heart. I also love the supporting characters in this book. It definitely takes an army, and Aggie knows and meets plenty of people that are willing to help. Although, some of them cause more complications for Aggie than she can handle. Before the fourth book comes out, I encourage you to catch up on the first three (You can get all three together for Kindle for only $9.97). Here are the links, and descriptions for each.

Ready or Not (Aggie’s Inheritance Book 1)

Fresh out of college, Aggie Milliken thinks she’s prepared for anything life can throw her way. Think again, Aggie!

After the abrupt loss of her sister and brother-in-law, Aggie is stunned to find herself the sole guardian of their eight lively children. If learning basic parenting skills wasn’t complicated enough, she must also battle the children’s half-crazed grandmother, survive a massive remodeling project, and navigate the waters of new friendships-alone.

She has little experience with children and none with housekeeping, and it shows. What she has going for her is grit, a double dose of determination, and the confidence that this is exactly where the Lord wants her to be. With an unlimited P-mail account and enough hymns to keep her spirits bolstered, she tackles one catastrophe after another.

It seems like nothing Aggie does is right, but ready or not, here she comes!

For Keeps (Aggie’s Inheritance Book 2)

Her first six months of “motherhood” included an ant infestation, a major move, house renovation, and lessons in how to be a mom to eight lively children. Now that the house is nearly complete, her children are headed back to school, and she has a few tantrums under her hymn-singing belt, Aggie is certain life will settle down. Poor Aggie… William makes his intentions known, Luke and his mother are always there for her, and between a new kitten, a box full of puppies, and chicken pox, Aggie’s home begins to resemble the local zoo! Her children keep testing the waters, the unrealistic budgets she makes refuse to balance, and she learns that life with children means that nothing stays done and perfect for long. Add Geraldine and her histrionics to the mix and it’s no wonder she’s ready to run away from home. When a surprise letter arrives, everything could turn upside down. Relief is in sight, but can she bring herself to jump to plan B? Has this just been a practice game, or is she playing for keeps? Will her household shrink drastically, or will it expand?

Here We Come (Aggie’s Inheritance Book 3)

In the hubbub of wedding preparations, Christmas celebrations, and a house full of lively children, Aggie is feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated. Add to that two puppies who are growing faster than she can replace chewed shoes and fix dug fences, it seems like things just can’t get any worse. Then, as she should be enjoying the most exciting time of her life, she’s faced with her worst nightmare.

Ante Up (Aggie’s Inheritance Book 4) is coming in just a few short weeks! I can’t wait to read it, and I hope you are just as excited.

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin

My Friend Was Abused. How Can I Help?

Last week we were privileged to stay at CCBCE in Vajta, Hungary for five days. It is always a refreshing stop for us when we travel because our best friends live there. It’s a safe place. We can be ourselves, and if that means we’re broken piles of sadness, that’s ok. That is a rare kind of friendship from what I have experienced in my life.
While we were there, the director of the school graciously allowed us to teach his final class of the semester, as he had been teaching about counseling and addiction. He told us to share how God was using counseling in our ministry. We talked about a lot of different practical problems and approaches to counseling in ministry, and shared about how Jesus meets us in the dark places where sin is perpetrated against us. Afterward, there were a lot of great questions, and I thought I would blog about one that a few people had.

my friend as abused
“My friend was abused. I’m not a counselor. What can I do to help?”
That is a really important question. I wish there would have been more time during our session to talk about that, but it was an hour long. God knows. His timing is perfect. But this blog doesn’t have a time limit, so we can talk about it here.

How to Become A Support Person

If you know someone that has experienced trauma or abuse, and you want to help them, the best thing to do is learn about abuse and trauma. There is a term for a friend that walks through the after effects of abuse or trauma with someone else. This person is called a support person. You don’t need to be a counselor in order to support someone as they journey toward healing in their life. However, there are a few steps that will help a friend become an effective support person. We are going to look at them here.

Get Educated About Abuse

The most important step is to become educated about what people feel and experience after abuse or trauma. Here are two wonderful resources that will help you on your way.
On the Threshold ff Hope,” by Diane Mandt Langberg
Good News About Injustice,” by Gary A. Haugen
If you read these two books, you will be so much better prepared to support a person that is struggling to trust another person. There are several mistakes that people who don’t understand trauma make quite often, and Diane Langber and Gary Haugen do a good job of dispelling myths that lead to these mistakes.

Be Willing To Feel Uncomfortable

It is tempting to tell someone you’d rather not hear about horrible things that happened to them when they make you feel personally uncomfortable. Some of the things I’ve heard made me nauseated and disturbed. However, Jesus didn’t shy away from the sins He faced on the cross. In Isaiah 63 we see that Jesus was afflicted in all of the affliction of God’s children:
“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presences saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old.” -Isaiah 63:9
Sometimes the truth is very hard to hear, but we must. If we want to be like Jesus, we must allow our own notions of what is comfortable to be shattered. Horrible, unthinkable sins exist in our world, and if we refuse to acknowledge them, we are taking away the survivor’s voice just as much as their abuser did. They need a safe, nonjudgmental place to be heard. You, through the strength imparted to you through Jesus Christ, are able to be that safe place.

Listen & Don’t Act Without Prayer

When we hear that someone has been through something difficult, our first instinct is to try to fix things for them. That instinct itself isn’t bad, it is what leads us to help others. However, we must be very careful HOW we attempt to help. Sometimes we assume jobs that God never wanted us to do. We must pray and fast, and wait on the Lord to tell us what to do in each individual case. For example, if someone has told you something in confidence and they are an adult, it is not your responsibility to tell their parents. They must decide whether or not they are ready to do that. You may also think, “If I could just do this… or that… then things would be better for them.” Be very careful! I am speaking from personal experience when I say that you must be specifically called by God to do whatever it is for that person. Our good intentions can be unwise, but only God sees the outcome of drastic situations. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t help. If someone in an abusive situation needs a place to stay and you have room, it could be that God is calling you to have that person stay with you. However, it could be that He wants you to help them find a different place to stay. You have to be sure what His will in situations like this, because there has to be accountability and safety for them and for you. Remember that anything you do should answer the question, “What is best for them?” instead of “What solution will make me feel better?”

Trust

The concept of trust fights against everything a survivor of abuse has been taught. They have usually be threatened so that they will not talk about what happened to them. Many abusers threaten bodily harm (including murder) and also tell survivors that if they say anything to anyone, that the abuser will be instinctively know. When someone has been manipulative and used power in an abusive way, it creates a tendency for the survivor to believe the abuser automatically. If you have earned the trust of a survivor, make sure you do everything you can not to violate that trust. If you want to talk to a pastor about the situation, first ask the survivor. The only time you should go for help behind their back is if they are sinning in a harmful way against someone else (such as abusing others themselves), you have confronted them about it, and they refuse to get the help they need. You should also reach out to others for help if your friend is suicidal, or involved in self-harm (purging and cutting are two examples).

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

The brain processes traumatic memories much differently than normal memories. Because of this, survivors often seem confused, or like they aren’t sure exactly what happened to them. If the person you are supporting is confused when trying to remember their abuse, remember this is normal. Please, please don’t accuse them of lying. That will set you back in your relationship, and it isn’t actually true. Survivors of abuse may also suffer from Fragmented Memory (where events are split into different memories… locations, feelings, and actions are often disjointed). This condition must be treated by a licensed counselor.

Suggesting Counseling

At some point in every journey as a support person, it is important to tell the person you are not qualified to help them the way they need to be helped. Survivors of abuse need to go through counseling. Forgiving their abuser isn’t enough. It is a great step in the right direction, and it pleases God when we forgive, but counseling is a very important step. You should suggest they find a licensed counselor that has experience counseling survivors of abuse. If the counselor is Christian, that is ideal. However, you cannot make someone get the help they need if they do not want to. Being pushy won’t help, either. Be patient, and continue to support them in a healthy way by being honest, and listening to them when they want to talk about the abuse. If you notice sin on their part, narcissism being the most common, it is ok to point it out in a loving way. Keep in mind that they have to work through their trust issues with God in counseling before there is usually progress in this area.

His Blood Purifies

We know that Jesus’ blood has cleansed us from our sin, but did you know the purification properties of His blood don’t stop there? Jesus’ blood has cleansed us from all sin, not just the sins we commit.
“But if we walk in light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” -1 John 1:7
This means that when we witness atrocious sin through listening to the testimony of survivors, that Jesus’ blood is powerful enough to cleanse us from the sin that our friend experienced in the form of abuse. After I talk with someone and they share hard truths with me, I spend time praying. After I have prayed for them, this is what I pray for me:
“God, I know that your Son’s blood is powerful enough to cleanse me from all sin. I pray that you would bathe me and clean me so that I can continue on now that I have the knowledge of these sins that were committed against your child. Please make me white as snow, and help me not to become bitter toward other people because of the things I have heard. Thank You for your love for me. Keep me close to You, Lord. Amen.”

Spread Awareness

Does this article stir your heart? Do you feel that God wants you to become a support person for survivors of abuse? Awesome! But don’t let that stop with you. This is a huge area of need in the church. Tell your friends what you are learning and do your best to spread awareness. The statistics indicate that 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual abuse, and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse (although this number is estimated to be underreported due to stigma about being a male survivor). That means that in a group of four girls in your church group of friends, it is likely that one of you have experienced some type of sexual abuse.
I appreciate your heart in reading this article, and I pray that God will bless all of your efforts on behalf of His kingdom and His hurting children.
Sincerely adorned,
Kristin

Newfangled – Free Today!

Newfangled Mock Up Updated

I’m really excited to announce that my newest book, Newfangled, is free on Amazon today. The reviews have been really encouraging, and I’ve decided to move the next book in the “Decisions & Desires” series up in my writing schedule. I was going to wait until next November to start writing it, but now I’m thinking I will start sometime this summer.

If you haven’t already joined Olive in her adventures in Normandie, California, today you can get your own copy for free 🙂 (any downloads help my Amazon ranking, so please consider sending this link to anyone you think may like this book). I want to thank Jacky and James for helping me iron out the last few errors, inconsistencies, and typos. Thank you, friends!

Happy reading,

Kristin

The Basics: I Can’t Please Everyone

This post is part of The Basics series, where we talk about the basics of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Last night I woke up after having one long, extended nightmare, full of all the difficult relationships I have been through in the last several years. It felt like in the dream, I was being pulled apart. I wanted the freedom to choose things for myself, but several people kept demanding that I do what they said I should do with my life. The dream bothered me so much because it was based on real conflict I have had, some of it recent, some not so recent. It’s embarrassing to admit that I am finally beginning to understand that I can’t please everyone. But that’s what grace is for.

can't please everyone

Compliance

I’m what you would call compliant. That was my coping mechanism for growing up in a verbally abusive environment. What does compliant mean? Let’s look it up:

compliant: adj. complying; obeying, obliging, or yielding, especially in a submissive way.

That sounds right. Compliant people often approach uncomfortable situations out of fear, because in the past their honest feelings have been met with anger or rejection. These three quotes from “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend do a great job of explaining why compliant people, like me, avoid setting healthy boundaries in their lives.

“Because of these fears, we try to have secret boundaries. We withdraw passively and quietly, instead of communicating an honest no to someone we love. We secretly resent instead of telling someone that we are angry about how they have hurt us.”

“Jesus refers to it as the ‘narrow gate.’ It is always easier to go through the ‘broad gate of destruction’ and continue to not set boundaries where we need to. But, the result is always the same: destruction. Only the honest, purposeful life leads to good fruit. Deciding to set boundaries is difficult because it requires decision making and confrontation, which, in turn, may cause pain to someone you love.”

“We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a ‘litmus test’ for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our no. They only love our yes, our compliance.”

Boundaries and Rejection

That last quote describes me exactly. I have let other people cross every boundary in my life because I didn’t want to say no. I didn’t want to risk more confrontation. I wanted to please everyone else, and left my family open to abuse because of that. A lack of setting healthy boundaries has proved to be a destructive pattern in my life that I don’t want to continue. But setting boundaries is really, really hard. Once you set the boundary, you have no control over how the other person will react. Here are two more quotes that illustrate why it is difficult to establish boundaries with others, but why it is extremely important.

“Setting limits has to do with telling the truth. The Bible clearly distinguishes between those who love truth and those who don’t. First, there is the person who welcomes your boundaries. Who accepts them. Who listens to them. Who says, ‘I’m glad you have a separate opinion. It makes me a better person.’ This person is called wise, or righteous. The second type hates limits. Resents your difference. Tries to manipulate you into giving up your treasures. Try our ‘litmus test’ experiment with your significant relationships. Tell them no in some area. You’ll either come out with increased intimacy—or learn that there was very little to begin with.”

“A common scenario is this: one spouse doesn’t have good emotional boundaries with the family he grew up in—his family of origin. Then when he has contact with them by phone or in person, he becomes depressed, argumentative, self-critical, perfectionistic, angry, combative, or withdrawn. It is as though he ‘catches’ something from his family of origin and passes it on to his immediate family. His family of origin has the power to affect his new family in a trickle-down effect. One sure sign of boundary problems is when your relationship with one person has the power to affect your relationships with others. You are giving one person way too much power in your life.”

It is depressing to find out that relationships you treasure are not as intimate as you hoped. The feelings of rejection associated with having your boundaries rejected hurts. The pain can be almost unbearable. Thankfully we have Jesus, and He can relate to us in our feelings of rejection because He also was rejected by the very people He was sent to minister to. People He loved dearly. When He went to Nazareth to share that He had come to fulfill the promises in Isaiah 61, their response was rejection.

“So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.” -Luke 4:28-30

I Can’t Please Everyone

Jesus accepted the fact that He couldn’t please everyone. For me, that is a difficult thing to accept, especially if the other person is a Christian. My thought process goes something like this: Well, they read the same Bible I do, they love the same God I love, that means they will be able to respect that I am trying to please God, not them, doesn’t it? But it isn’t that simple. I have to decide right now, who am I more interested in pleasing? Is it others? Is it my own flesh? Or is it actually God? And if it’s God, then what boundaries do I need to establish in my relationships with others so that I can communicate clearly what it is that God wants me to do? That doesn’t mean I impose my convictions on others, but that I expect them not to constantly argue to change what my convictions or non-sinful choices are. If I am in sin, I want to be rebuked, but if one person in my life constantly rebukes me for every choice I make (whether those choices are sinful or not) it is very unlikely that I will actually be able to feel conviction if they are warning me about a specific sin I have committed. My friend Joy (she’s amazing!) described it to me this way, “The best thing to do whenever you are accused of something is to take it straight to the Lord and ask Him if it is true. Always respond in humility. The second thing you need to do after praying is evaluate who it is that has rebuked you. Is this person regularly involved in your life? Do they know what is going on day to day with you? Has anyone else (or several people) talked to you about the same sinful behavior? These are important things to consider when you are trying to figure out what is true when people accuse you of sin. If we start with the assumption that it is very possible we have committed that sin, and then take it to the Lord, it saves so much time and heartache.” I told you she’s amazing. God has really gifted her with helping people understand what is righteous, and what is not.

So there you go, that’s where I am right now in my journey to establishing healthy boundaries in my relationships. It’s not fun, but I know it’s necessary. And now when I encourage other people to create healthy boundaries in their own lives, I understand how difficult it is, and I can be a better support person for them. God is good, and He is so patient with me as I learn how to better glorify Him with my life.

What are some ways that you can establish healthy boundaries in your relationships? Need some ideas? Check out this book for yourself. There is a reason “Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No” is a best seller, and it’s not because it is full of unhelpful fluff that makes people feel good to read (like so many other books on the market right now). The principles in this book are life-changing because they are based on the Bible.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for Your Word. Thank you for people that write books to help us understand Your Word better. Thank you that You have a plan for each of our lives, and that those plans are not dependent on us making others happy. Please help us to be righteous, and to please You above anyone else (including us). Thank You that Jesus understands us when we feel rejected, and that You always love us.

Amen.

I’m praying for you, dear reader! May the Lord strengthen you and encourage you as you seek to do His will.

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin