OK in the middle of brOKen

IM-OKI’m currently attending a class at church called Hiding From Love. Tonight we talked about the splits in our lives–the areas where we are broken–and how that brokenness keeps us from loving God and others.

 

We started to share the ways we try to hide our brokenness–putting up facades, rejecting others, turning to addictions or pornography, isolating . . . and the list went on. People started talking about how they wanted healthy relationships, and some talked about past relationships that failed and why they failed, and why they are better off now without the person they used to be with.

I stayed quiet for the most part throughout the first part of the class. I didn’t have anything to say for a while. There was only one thought in my mind, and it was about the relationships I have and have had–the broken relationships, with broken people, and a broken me. Finally, I shared my thoughts.

14-14-1-15-19-56-48m.jpgI can’t cut off my family just because they aren’t perfect. I can’t stop all relationships because they aren’t healthy. So what if I love someone who isn’t the best for me? If I love them, I love them; there’s no turning it off.

The goal isn’t for me to get better so I can be in a perfectly healthy relationship. The goal is to love, to stay, to be present, and to be active in the midst of the brokenness. There’s going to be brokenness in every person and relationship; we can’t let that stop us from living and loving now.

I have friends who are committed to their marriage even though one person has an addiction. I have friends who stay even though their loved one is fighting cancer and it is painful to watch. I have a friend who keeps living life to the fullest, even though he was in a terrible accident that cost him the use of his legs. I personally have anxiety, bouts of crying and panic attacks, but I’m still taking risks and living my life.

love-quotes-22I have come to the place where I know I’m going to have times where I cry and am angry and feel hurt, and that is okay. I’m going to face difficult times, and I’m going to be able to live through it and love through it, even though it hurts.

We don’t have to hide from love because we are broken, or because the person we love is broken. We don’t have to wait to live until there’s a better moment or a more ideal situation. Today is the day to live and to love.

If we continue to seek something “better,” we will constantly pass up love while we wait for “the best” for our lives. Why not be content now? Why not have fun now? Why do we have to keep grasping for a better job, a better person, a better life? We have the life we have now, and it’s ours to live, with all of its brokenness.

We can seek perfection, or we can seek contentment. Perfection will cost us our relationships, and being present in the moment. But with contentment, we can live and love today, in the midst of brokenness.

We have a choice, we can harden our hearts to protect ourselves from the hurt life brings, or we can allow God to give us a heart that is full of passion, the ability to feel, and, yes, vulnerability to pain.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:26

Lord, help us to see beyond our brokenness. So many of us seek “better” things . . .  accomplishments, jobs, a person to be in a relationship with, more money, beauty, or even a quest for emotional health . . . But all that really matters is that we love right here and right now. Thank-You for loving us in our brokenness, and for giving us the capacity to love others in the midst of theirs.’ 


Rachael

Rachael Hartman is a 30-something with two dogs, and a passion for writing. She owns Our Written Lives, LLC an independent Christian publishing company.

She wrote this piece to share with the San Antonio CBC Young Professionals class, of which she is a part.

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My Journey to Emotional Sobriety

8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:8-11

4-ways-to-turn-weaknesses-into-strengthsA wise man once explained to me that the word sober in 1 Peter 5:8 not only refers to refraining from drunkenness, but also to staying sober from anger, greed, and other emotional, and spiritual issues. There are so many things we can be drunk on. “Love” for another person being one of those things. There are so many experiences and emotions that can inhibit our ability to be “sober-minded” and avoid the lion who seeks to destroy our souls.

By God’s grace, I personally have never been drunk with alcohol. I’ve never had a desire to drink at all. But I have had problems with anger and selfishness and lost my emotional sobriety. My anger and unforgiveness turned to bitterness and brokenness. It was so bad there seemed to be no way for me to stop the rage that began to boil inside my heart and mind.

The person who was hurt the most was me. I have implosive anger… Instead of tearing a room apart, I would keep all the anger inside and it began to destroy my self-worth and peace of mind.

The only thing that began to help was, ironically, The 12 Steps. I started to attend Life’s Healing Choices and other Celebrate Recovery types of programs like Changes that Heal, Boundaries, Hiding From Love, etc. I started to apply the 12 Steps to help me seek emotional sobriety from anger, bitterness, fear, rejection, panic, anxiety, depression, and emotional highs and lows.

I’ve heard people say that deliverance can come in two different ways: instantaneously, or through a process. For me, remaining emotionally sober has been a process of deliverance, one I have to remain committed to, just as my brothers and sisters who are recovering alcoholics and addicts.

I have to always remember that I’m a sinner in need of a Savior. I find that when I think things are becoming “right” in my life, and I start to slack in knowing my need for Jesus, that’s when my emotions begin to flare up again. I find myself emotionally overpowered by depression, anxiety, fear and anger . . . and then back to the realization that I am not God, not in control, but that God loves me and cares for me. I’m learning my life is and will be a constant surrendering dependence on God.

As I release my emotions to God, He fills me with forgiveness, peace, and joy. I share this testimony of the power of Christ with you to give you hope. Whatever it is you are fighting, turn to God, turn to Christian support, and seek sobriety.


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Rachael Hartman is a 30-something with two dogs, and a passion for writing. She owns Our Written Lives, LLC an independent Christian publishing company.

She wrote this piece to share with the San Antonio CBC Young Professionals class, of which she is a part.

Victory

Nine days into 2018.

For the past three days, the word Victory has unwittingly come into my life. I didn’t realize it until today, as I drove to work listening to a CD I recently purchased. There it was in the first song, VICTORY. As the music played, my mind drifted to the book I began reading last night, Chosen for Victory, by James Holland Sr. I brought the book back to Texas with me from my parents’ house after Thanksgiving and hadn’t touched it until last night.

As I read the first chapter of the book last night, I recalled the story of Alexander the Great was featured in the Sunday school class I had attended the day before. To add to these three instances, the word Victory was the theme of a sermon I happened upon on Facebook earlier today. My pastor often says, “We don’t fight for Victory, but from a place of Victory . . .” That was the concept presented

It seems everywhere I turn, Victory is calling my name, whispering in my mind, beckoning my heart to believe.

What has me completely in awe is the fact that the word Victory has been the last thing on my mind over the past year. I felt more defeat last year than I have my entire life. I have not been seeking out Victory, nor have I even thought of the word. I haven’t prayed particularly for Victory, or even felt as if it were possible.

What I have been seeking is God. I have been pushing aside my selfish desires and asking God to enter my life in a more full way. I’ve asked Him to lead and guide me. I haven’t done much talking. I haven’t asked for anything specifically. I haven’t been obsessed with anyone or anything.

I’ve just been quiet. I’ve been working. I’ve been waiting.

I’ve been speaking to God, but I haven’t been really crying out to Him so much, though I have a bit these past few days. I have just talked to Him. And I haven’t really heard much of anything. Until now.

Victory. It’s been a quiet word. I’m not sure how or when it will manifest. All I know is that is that when I silence all the word around me, that word is all I hear.

 

Anger and Anxiety

I’ve been aware I struggle with Anxiety since the first time I learned what the word meant. Anger kicked in when I was in my mid-20s. I never considered a link between my anger and anxiety before tonight.

I don’t know why the thought came to me. It just sort of clicked. I mean, I’ve known about “fight or flight” forever. And I’ve known I have a problem not being able to let go of cycling thoughts of self-defending anger. I just never linked the two before now.

My anger was implosive for several years. I slowly self-destructed as I blamed myself for everything in my life that was wrong. As I started working on my self-esteem, my anger began expressing in different ways – usually in confronting authority figures who abuse their power.

I don’t know much else to write at the moment because I don’t want to go into telling the story of my current battles, as it will spiral me into anger and anxiety again. I just felt like I wanted to share about this topic and give an opportunity for others to share their thoughts.

He Loves a Cheerful Giver

It’s my birthday! I was on Facebook a few nights ago and I noticed I could dedicate my birthday to a cause and raise funds for a related non-profit. I chose to dedicate my birthday to a group that provides humanitarian aid to persecuted Christians in the Middle East, the Iraqi Christain Relief Council.

God has placed a great love and compassion in my heart for persecuted people around the world, particularly in the Middle East and Iraq. I’m a monthly financial supporter of the Hatune Foundation, which provides humanitarian to help Christian and Yazdi women fleeing ISIS.

When I saw I could raise a little bit of money through Facebook, I jumped at the chance. I set a goal of $340 for my 34th Birthday. It only took a few days, and so many contributed, we surpassed the goal! So far $420 has been donated! It’s pretty awesome! I have a feeling we are going to make at least $100 more than the goal.

fundraiser-goal.pngI want to thank everyone for their support. Among those who gave include my Dad, Mom, Sister, close friends, and even a single mother with a son who was recently diagnosed with cancer. When I look at the sacrifices each person made, my heart is stirred with compassion. I know the heart of God is stirred as well, and that He will multiply our gift to bring aid to people in need.

I thank God for another year to live, and another year to give. I want this year to be the year I give more than I have ever given to help people in need, both in the U.S. and around the world. Thank you all for making my birthday so special, and thank you for supporting me by supporting this cause that I care so deeply about.

Tomorrow, I am starting a drive at work to collect items for the Houston flood victims. Please pray that we collect a nice amount of useful items, which will be transported to Houston on Friday. Much love 

P.S. I want to share that for the past week, I’ve been praying for the Lord to help me regain a sense of happiness and joy. As I give to others, I realize I’m gaining much joy in return. God truly does love a cheerful giver. I also want to say that this effort was not without resistance. Within an hour of posting my online fundraiser,

I also want to say that this effort was not without resistance. Within an hour of posting my online fundraiser, one of my now ex-Facebook friends was very demeaning to me for donating to an organization that in his words “only helps other people in their cult.” I have to come against his statements

I have to come against his statements because of the following. #1, Christianity is not a cult. #2, Every humanitarian and human service organization has a target population to serve. #3, Christians in the Middle East are not the only persecuted people there, but they are a minority among the victims and sometimes victimized by other people who are also victims of the “really bad guys” like ISIS. #4, If you don’t want to donate, don’t. But you don’t have to be rude and discouraging to someone who is just trying to do something nice for someone else.

Be thankful I am helping others, regardless of who those people are. I chose this population because I relate to them. They are my brothers and sisters in the Lord, and that means they are family. In short, I lost a Facebook friend, but I gained a lot of support from people who love me and who love to help people around the world. Much love 

His Eye is on the Sparrow

It has been quite some time since I have had anything to write. Months. I suppose you could say my soul was ravaged and I’ve been struggling to pick up the pieces and move on, most of the time drowning my sorrows in work.

But today I have something to write.

A few weeks ago, on August 9th to be exact, I posted a short video of some baby birds squawking in their nest as their momma flew back and forth with dinner. It’s not unusual for me to share little photos and videos of the sweet things I happen upon. I’ve always been in awe of the beauty of nature around me. I particularly love animals.

After work on August 17th, I met a sad sight. One of the baby birds was dead on the ground outside the post office where their nest was under the awning. I was late to my next appointment, so I texted my coworker asking him to move it to the flower bed outside the building next door. No response. I honestly forgot about the poor baby bird until today when I saw it still lying there outside the post office door near the nest.

At the time I saw the bird I was feeling sorry for myself, alone, and forgotten. My heart has been missing my mother lately. She lives across the country. My heart has been grieving the children I have not born, and the love I have lost. My heart has ached for my friends, the mother who recently lost her baby at full term, another mother whose son was diagnosed with cancer, and others.

I couldn’t leave that baby bird there again. I kept thinking of the mother bird and the other babies, and if they had continued fly to the nest, passing over this lost one every day. Its life was too valuable; I would not forsake it.

I had received a letter in my post office box from a woman in prison that I stashed in my purse. She hadn’t sealed the envelope; a simple slice of tape kept it shut. I removed the letter, marked out our information, and added a new destination.

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I used a nearby leaf to cradle the baby bird into the envelope.

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As I stood, I peeled off the sticky and sealed the envelope. A song entered my heart. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me . . . There it was, the whisper from Heaven I had longed for all day. I began to weep as I acknowledged God’s presence. None of us are forgotten.

I walked over to the raised flower bed next door at the veterinarian’s office. There was a beautiful bush with blue flowers that caught my eye. I climbed into the flower area and began to thank God for the gift the baby bird had been to me. I remembered how much joy I had as I watched the mother bird feed the babies.

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I placed the envelope under the bush and climbed off the edge of the platform. I looked back; it wasn’t good enough. I could still see the envelope. I climbed back up and pushed the burial shroud further under the brush. It’s just the kind of mother I am, I thought. The baby must have a resting space.

As I walked away I noticed some baby birds hopping on the roof of the vet-clinic and flying through the garden area. I imagined they were the same bird family the little one belonged to. They sang their song as if all was right with the world now that their brother was where he belonged, safe, and at rest.

As I climbed into my vehicle, I felt a solemn peace wash through me. Though there was a pain in my heart, I felt solid strength holding up my soul. I sensed the presence of the Lord whispering that no matter how much we feel life is over, there is still something there–the love, the joy, the gratefulness. There is still something to be thankful for.

This evening I took my two creatures out for a walk. I brought my camera along and took pictures of flowers and trees, bunnies, other dogs, a mama deer and her babies, a bunny, and even some vultures camped out on their cell phone tower (or whatever it is). I just needed to be outside, to feel, to appreciate life.

I came home and read the beautiful letter I received from the woman in prison. I thought of my brother, in prison on the other side of the country. I thought of the thousands of incarcerated Americans who feel forgotten. I prayed for them all, and I prayed for me too.

And I remembered . . . His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches over us all . . . and . . .

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

Cross out chance.

Sharing some great thoughts from my friend!

From Nonsense To Sense

Recently I have been noticing that people almost always have something hanging from the rear view mirror in their car. Usually it’s either some form of a cross, or hanging dice. It got me thinking: People are either choosing Christ and the cross, or they are leaving their lives to chance… What a revelation!

When I speak of life – I am not just referring to this life. I mean the eternal life of your soul. Can we take a moment to comprehend the severity of this situation? Not through the filter of fear, but through a perspective that sobers us into an awakening. It scares me to think that some people are okay with rolling the dice, and gambling their salvation away for a few years of supposed fun.

On my birthday a few years ago, I went gambling for the first (and only) time. I hated it…

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Rachael and the “What If Monster”

 

whatifToday I received a What If Monster plushie and book from my friend, Naomi Havens. Naomi facilitates giving these books and plushies out to military families. It’s a therapeutic book that helps us deal with fear, anxiety, and other issues. If you’re nowhatifbookt familiar with the book, I highly recommend it. It’s great for everyone, no matter your age!

This gift was truly right on time. I have an incredible opportunity that I’m pursuing, and though I know it’s a great thing and I’m really excited, I’ve been dealing with some “what if’s” . . .  so, I’m going to write my own What If poem! It’s short, but here it goes!

Rachael and the What If Monster

What if you go and no one likes you?
What if you’re lonely and become unglued?
What if they think that you look really young?
What if they think that you’re not much fun?

What if you get stuck in traffic and come in late?
What if everyone around is filled with hate?
What if you get hurt and your heart gets broken?
What if your words get trapped inside, unspoken?

I’ve had a What If Monster talking to me for a while now.
It gives me a headache the size of a brown cow.
My What If Monster whispers words of fear all day long.
The thing is, what if he’s wrong?

What if I go and everyone likes me?
What if lots of friends invite me to tea?
What if they think I look great for my age?
What if they think my life is all the rage?

What if I’m stuck in traffic, but still get all the work done?
What if everyone around is filled with love?
What if I find happiness and my heart becomes full?
What if the truth I speak gives me lots of pull?

The What If Monster is always making sounds,
But what if I turn his “what if’s” all around?
What if the next adventure is really great?
What if good things are so close they can’t wait?

“You have Jesus’ personality”

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“You have Jesus’ personality,” she said smiling at me.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her how wrong she was, or how the thorn in my flesh had already confirmed the truth that day. So I smiled and accepted the best compliment of my life.

“I’ve never met someone with those personality letters, INFJ, but I always wanted to.” Z.C. explained how she read a book on the personality types from the library, and how she had all of her friends take the test.

She introduced me to some of her friends at the completion ceremony at the end of the Kairos weekend. “She has Jesus’ personality,” she said again, beaming.

I once again smiled as I shook her friend’s hands. They were excited to know I was a writer, and they told me how they are all writing books and planning their businesses for when they get out. They were all young, in their 20s, just a few years younger than I am.

“You have given me so much hope,” Z.C. said. The second day during our Kairos “thankfulness” prayer, she had thanked God for “yesterday being the best day of my life.” I have no doubt she touched the heart of every volunteer with that prayer.

I will never forget those words she spoke to me. You see, I know the truth, she is the one with Jesus’ personality. “. . . I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:36-40

God bless every volunteer who goes into prison. In particular, God bless the Kairos #40 ladies I had the honor to serve with, and all who donated to and prayed for our weekend.

“You smell like home. . .”

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“What is that smell?” She asked. S.I. was a resident participant at the Kairos ministry team at Pulaski State Prison I volunteered at last weekend.

“Febreze,” I said.

She looked around cautiously before starting to lean down to smell the arm of my sweater. I held it up for her and she took a deep breath in.” You smell like home,” she said. I could see the tears in her eyes. She has been in prison 8 years and has at least 8 years left to serve.

There are so many little things I take for granted. Febreze. Gum. Real food.

Two of the girls at my table kept a running list of the food we fed them, so they could cherish the memories.

We may think we aren’t doing much going in and providing a safe and hospitable place for four partial days for 36 women. But to these women, the little things can go a long way in reawakening the mind to what love, acceptance, and “home” feels like.

Jesus gave us His Spirit to comfort us. As we bring a small comfort to these women, we are facilitating the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The response might not always be an emotional, miraculous, supernatural “move of God.” But it might be just what the women need in the moment.

In return, the moments they give us make a lasting impact in our lives. I slept in a comfortable bed last night, with my two dogs. Today when my laundry is finished, my sheets will smell fresh. I have a private bathroom with a lock on the door. I was so grateful to clean my bathroom with Clorox wipes today. As I clean, my thoughts and prayers are with the women who are living with the loss of these freedoms and comforts.

I have no control over their situations. I can’t change their circumstances. But I can show God’s agape love for a few days. I can be a vessel to bring hope to their hearts that one day, whether in this life or the next, they can be “home” with the Greatest Comfort of all – Jesus.