I’m Giving Up!

Standard

Warning: This post is raw. Maybe one of my most vulnerable yet. But the overwhelming positive response I have received from those who have read my posts has inspired me to keep writing. Keep being vulnerable. Because I am finding that I truly am not alone. Each time I push the blue Publish button, I pray that at least one person be impacted by the words that the Spirit tells me to write.  And I hope that this post may resonate with that one person out there.

I am a wife. I am a full-time homemaker. I am a stay-at-home-non-working-homeschool mom. Everyone has a different story to share, different callings, and different convictions.  This is my perspective, my struggles, and the lessons I am learning through my lens.

The last few months have been rough. And that’s a big understatement. It’s been a really difficult time for Brett and me with changes in our current situation and the unknown of our future. Brett is seeking the Lord for direction but getting hit with brick walls and more unanswered questions. I am trying to be a supportive and an encouraging wife (which is not always the case). Then we have two little sinners in our house that thought it would be perfect timing to make Mommy miserable.  In fact, they thought it would be awesome to figure out how to push each other’s buttons so all Mommy hears all day is the older one constantly scolding and the younger screaming back. And the older….she’s 5 going on 15 with her attitude.

BCV_7595

I’m exhausted. Oh, I sleep through the night unlike my friend with twins who looks at me with envy because she knows my kids sleep until 8 am.  Or my other dear friend who has 3 children of her own, one being a newborn, while being the guardian of her two nieces. She had been taking care of 5 kids 6 and under.  They are exhausted.   But I’m not only talking about physical exhaustion, but mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion.

This wife and mommy stuff is hard.  No one can truly prepare you for it. You can read every marriage and parenting book. Read the best blogs. The 10 tips. The 5 must haves. The 3 don’t ever do’s. But when real life hits you between the eyes and you feel like you are drowning (and actually have tormenting dreams of drowning and waking up yelling for help), you have to somehow make sense of it all.  And it would be easy-peasy to be a wife and mom if life were not complicated.  No. It’s full of burdens, trials, temptations, sin, fear, disappointment, insecurities. The list could go on.

Am I doing enough? Is what I have to offer as a wife and mom adequate? Am I failing? These questions quickly turned into lies and twisted half-truths that Satan whispered in my ear. The conversation sounded a bit like this:

Serpent: You aren’t a good wife. Look at how you treated Brett when you……   You don’t seem to be a very good helpmate if everything you try to do does not encourage him.

Christina: Yes, I’m failing as a wife by focusing on myself when he needs me most right now in his own struggles.

S: Your kids are being disobedient and do not listen to you. You must be doing something wrong.

C: Yes, and they are driving me crazy. I feel like a broken record. I’m burnt out and about to check out.

S: I mean is this really what you want?  You are around them 24/7… oh look at another mom who is posting about her home business again…maybe that’s what you need. You need to do something for yourself! You are servant all day.

C: Yes, there has to be more to life than being a wife and mom!  Other moms got it figured out how to be wife, mom, and this #girlboss stuff. That’s what I need.

S: Yesssss….Because you are more than a wife and mom, right? You have goals and dreams and passions!  You need more to make you happy and satisfied. Being only a wife and mom will never…be…enough. 

Sadly, I caved into Satan’s lies.  And being deceived I took a bite of the darn apple by fantasizing a life of “what ifs”.  “What if I didn’t finish college in such a hurry and pursued more education or worked with my professor in nutrition research like he encouraged me to do? What if Brett and I waited to have kids so I could explore life more, travel more, be “myself” more? What if I worked at least part-time? What if I give up on this homeschool thing and put Kherington in school next year; then I really wouldn’t have to hear her attitude all.day.long and could do more of what I want to do!”   The what ifs kept playing on and on in my head.  Satan dangling the shiny apples of a “better” life.

The root of this apple tree was discontentment. And the bitter taste permeated my soul.  I wanted to give up. I lost hope. I was tired of fighting the spiritual race and wanted to hang up my running shoes. I was done waiting on the Lord and His timing for Brett’s and my life.  After crying and silently yelling at God in the shower one day, the Spirit revealed that deep down I was angry at God. Angry that we’ve been waiting for 3 years for something that we were 100% sure that He had called us to do: be missionaries who make movies.

Last fall, we had the “green light” on a film project that we had already been waiting for 2 years to be funded, that would have moved us for 7 months to a different country. I had the house half packed up and pulled us out of ministries, my part-time job, Brett’s freelance business, children activities, everything. Brett and I were pumped for the awesome opportunity to be Jesus’ light on a secular film set. However, the “green light” turned red when the investor didn’t pull through.  And now it’s June. And we are still waiting. We decided to stop living in suffocating “wait mode” and live in the here and now. I just put my house decor back up last month. Yet I still have an open moving box in my bedroom taunting me that I have yet to unpack.

IMG_4189

My heart turned ugly.  Discontentment had made it black. Blinded me from Truth. Entangled me in deeper sin. Fortunately because of the grace of God and His Spirit, I finally heard His warning over the lies that Satan was drowning me with. I needed to change my heart or I was headed for destruction. So I pulled out my journal and wrote a 12-page honest prayer to God. Here is a small part of what I told Him…

“I have been tired of feeling like a wife and mother isn’t good enough for not just the world’s standards but even Your standards. Because I believe the lie that I have to do more for You. My biggest fear is standing before You someday and I didn’t do enough. I don’t believe that I am doing enough as just a wife to Brett and a mom. Because it doesn’t seem very radical. It’s boring and mundane some days. I see people do amazing things and other women given platforms… And I feel like I’ve been asked to do nothing but be a wife and mom.”

There’s some honesty for you.  And as I was honest with God,  I finally shut out the lies of Satan and let the Spirit, whom I had been ignoring, speak to me.  I journaled His Truth as I sat and listened…

You have an identity crisis (Ephesians 1). You are being selfish and prideful (Prov. 16:18). You have not been willing to drink the cup I have given you right now in your life (Mark 10:38). Everything you have and these circumstances are divinely from Me (Colossians 1:15-18). Nothing is accident (Jeremiah 29:11). You are who I made you to be and where you are is where I want you to be in order to be who I created you to be (Psalm 139).  You have been deceived into looking for joy, happiness, acceptance, importance in other places. 

“Yes, you want me to be pleased by you but it’s not by selfishly being noticed or being used in a “big” way that you Americans like to categorize ministry. Any selfish motive will be burned away (1 Cor. 3:12-15).  I am the opposite of Satan’s counterfeits in this world.  The first shall be last (Matthew 19:30).  The cup and baptism is suffering, not always pleasures and happiness in this world (Mark 10:35-45). You must lose your life to gain it. Take up your cross and carry it. Die to yourself (Mark 8:34-38).  Be willing to be used, but be poor in spirit always before Me (Matthew 5:3).” 

I was immediately broken and responded to the Spirit…

“I have to give it all up, Jesus. I have to surrender everything. The question is: am I willing? To take the cup and drink it whole-heartedly, no matter what? Yes, I surrender to what you have asked me to be right now in this moment: a helpmate to Brett, mother to Kherington and Damon, a friend to those around me, and to just write.  No promoting my blog or trying to be “someone.”  I hear You telling me…’just write as I tell you to.’

“My identity is who You say I am. Nothing and no one else in this world can define me. I can be free to be nothing else. You made yourself nothing! Became a servant. Humbled. I now become nothing. I am Christina Varvel, Your servant daughter. I am done trying. I am done living “for” You. I need to live with You.  Seeking You, wanting nothing else but You. To be satisfied in You, hungering and thirsting for the rest of my days.”

IMG_4174

I posted this picture and the following on social media regarding what the Lord was asking of me:

“Life is heavy. It’s full of burdens. And if you are a driven person like myself, you tend to keep pushing through the pain, worry, and unknown. Can’t give up. Can’t give in. Pull it together. Muscle through it. Keep trying. Don’t let anyone know you are struggling.
Yet, there comes a breaking point. I can’t do it. I’m weak. I’m not strong enough. I need help.
I carried this 40 pound baby down a mountain. I wanted to prove I could do it. But I came to a point where if I kept trying I’d only hurt myself and drop the camera I was holding onto for dear life. So I handed it to someone else. I gave it up to someone stronger. And I walked down the rest of the mountain free. No fear of dropping what I was trying to hold onto because it rested in someone else’s arms. My arms were sore still with some pain of letting go, but in the end it was worth it.
So in the heaviness of life, I’m letting go. I surrender. I’m done trying to hold onto the things in life that only weigh me down. I hand it to Jesus. Because He said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” I want to run down the mountain free with Jesus and experience all He has for me. What are you holding onto? What you think may be helping is actually hurting. Stop trying so hard. Surrender. Jesus is willing to carry it all for you because He carried a cross to die on to save you from yourself.”

Give it up Mom, friend, wife, Dad, lady boss, homemaker, whoever you are.  That was my first step. Then to praise Jesus for who I am and what I have instead of drowning into discontentment and the comparison trap.   I wanted to give up being a wife and mom, but I gave up my selfish desires in order to be a wife and mom. Because this is my highest calling and where I will have the most eternal impact.

So if you are looking for me right now, I’ll be at home.

IMG_3871

 

The Poor in Spirit is Next Door – My Neighbor’s Story from Desperation to Hope

Standard

Where are the poor in spirit obtaining the kingdom of heaven?  Heidi Baker has found the poor in spirit in the hearts of the physically starving and orphaned people of Mozambique. Yet, where are the poor in spirit here in America?  I have found one …next door.

On the outside, this one poor in spirit wouldn’t look exactly poor.  She has a nice house, clothes on her back, a car. Food each meal. A hot shower. Dogs to keep her company. However, on the inside she was desperately needy. Hungering for something more than what her life had given her in 50 years of living. A starving beggar crying out for the Bread to give her life in the now and forever. Insecure in her future, finances, and failures.

Heidi Baker mentions in her book, Compelled by Love, how in Mozambique the poor are so desperate for simple food to survive that God shows up to multiply a small portion of chickens or bread to feed the masses.  People are miraculously healed, raised from the dead, and released from demonic torment. While the power of the Spirit is still evident in these ways here in the West, God sometimes uses different methods to open our eyes by bringing us to our breaking point of desperation.

My neighbor came to that breaking point in the form of banging on my door at 10 pm one night. Brett and I were watching a movie and I looked over at Brett thinking, “Who in the world?” I immediately thought of Tracey, our next door neighbor, but she usually texts me before coming over. I open the door to find her panicked with her phone to her ear barely able to get words out. The 911 dispatch was on the line. Tracey was afraid for her life.  Two hours and four cops in and out of our house later, she stayed the night with us.

That night was a turning point in her life. Let me start from the beginning of our relationship. Brett and I moved into our house almost 8 years ago.  We met Tracey, but we didn’t have much contact because she kept to herself and I was working and gone most of the time.  At this point in my life I was apathetic to sharing my faith and the gospel of Jesus.  Then I had Kherington and since I stayed home with her, I started seeing Tracey more, especially when we were out playing and she was walking her dogs, which Kherington always wanted to pet or hold a leash.

Over the next few years, little by little Tracey started opening up more about herself and her life. I tried to empathize with her even though there is an age gap and we have different life experiences. But I mostly listened. I discovered quickly that she was very alone and needed a friend.  More importantly, she needed Jesus. Jesus to be her source of joy, security, and identity. Tracey has lived a really hard life mostly of rejection.  She didn’t know her father and has a strained relationship with her mother, resulting in her grandmother raising her. She’s been divorced twice, had a traumatic experience with her son who is in prison, and tries to see her daughter and grandchildren as much as allowed.  She’s been verbally, emotionally, and physically abused. Suicide attempts have been a part of her past.  There’s been little hope.  When I looked in her eyes, I saw a soul who was hurting, alone, hopeless, lifeless, and trying to survive each day.

I had the answer to her desperation, loneliness, rejection.  I started sharing the gospel with her. Planting seeds of who Jesus is and what He has done in my own life. Telling her I was praying for her. Sending her encouraging Bible verses.  Gave her a copy of our film The War Within. Then one day last summer of 2016, I was enjoying peace and quiet in the sun at my parents’ house while the kids napped when I received a text from Tracey. She was done living this life of pain and loneliness. She was hungering and thirsting for what I had in Jesus.  She told me she wanted to pray and give her life to Jesus Christ. I asked her if she wanted me to call her but she said that she wanted to do it alone. I made the gospel clear to her again, told her she needed to confess and repent of her sin, acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God and Lord of all, and to surrender her life to Him.  I stared at my phone waiting, praying, crying.  She responded back and said she had finished praying.  She was filled with joy. She immediately told me that her room had become brighter and could feel a heavy darkness lift.  Praise God for another soul saved for all eternity!

However, her ex-husband who lived with her came home soon after and the darkness appeared again.  The following few months were very rough for Tracey.  Even though she was free in Jesus from her sin and past, she was trapped and controlled in her daily life. Then that day in November came when she banged on our door frantic for her life like I had never seen before. Something needed to change. The next few weeks, Brett and I encouraged her to make changes in the relationship with the ex-husband.  It was not healthy. Brett became mediator and tried to reach out to him, but he resisted.  God was telling me to love Tracey like Jesus loves her.  So I got up a few times a week to sit with her early in the morning while she got ready to listen to her, encourage her and pray over her, especially against the dark spiritual warfare. She needed a reason to get out of bed and live that day.  I told her over and over again that she’s worth something, she’s loved, she’s not abandoned. Jesus will never leave her or forsake her even when she feared she would lose everything: her house, her finances, her dogs, her sense of purpose.

Then finally it was over.  He was gone.  And then the pain of being torn apart from the soul tie she had with her ex-husband hit her like going through withdrawal from a drug. She knew she needed to do it because it was unhealthy, yet she was desperately crying out to Jesus to help her.  I always tried to be a text or phone call away to help speak Truth into her against the lies of the enemy, Satan.  Or I ran over to continue to sit with her, listen, hug her, and pray.

We encouraged her to come to church with us and since she was finally free to do as she pleased, she started coming.  Week after week, Kherington and Damon anxiously waited for Tracey to come to our door Sunday morning so she could ride with us and then eat Mexican with us after church (Kherington and Daddy’s favorite, of course).  Although Kherington was excited to have a friend come each week, Brett and I were overjoyed to notice changes in Tracey’s demeanor and spirit instantly.  It was evident: the power of Jesus Christ changed her soul.  He took her broken, desperate, poor spirit and gave life, hope, and wholeness.  A once anxious and fearful spirit was renewed with joy and peace.

A few short weeks ago I was on a flight to Florida alone to care for my grandparents. When I landed, I turned off the airplane mode on my phone to see I had a missed call and voicemail from Brett. My first thought: “Oh no!!! Why would Brett be calling me in the middle of church?!” I listened to hear Brett excitedly tell me that Tracey was getting baptized right then and wanted to FaceTime me.   I immediately called him as I was still sitting in my seat.  There was Brett and Tracey on stage while someone held the phone.  I literally was walking off the plane crying and trying not to bump the person in front of me to watch Brett baptize Tracey.

Our pastor had given an invitation that morning for anyone who needed to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives and/or for those who have already chosen to follow Jesus to then make a public declaration of their faith by being baptized.  Brett felt a tug of the Spirit and he had no idea why. Right then Tracey grabbed his arm and said, “I need to do this. But I’m afraid.”  Brett said, “That’s the Spirit. Let’s do this.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”   I didn’t have to go to Mozambique after all, even though I hope to someday.  I found the poor in spirit next door. And because Tracey was broken enough to realize…

her need for something more than herself…

her need for Bread that is fulfilling and sustaining when everything else she was striving for left her empty and wanting…

her need for security and peace when her world was crashing down…

now… hers is the kingdom of heaven. Where she will experience Jesus for all earthly and eternal time.

The desperate, broken, poor, insecure are all around you. You don’t have to go far. In fact… a few steps is all it takes to show someone where to find the kingdom of heaven.

img_3892.jpg

*Written with permission from Tracey.

 

 

The War Within on Amazon Prime

Standard

With an Amazon Prime membership, you can now watch our latest movie The War Within for FREE!!! Please help us out and support by watching on Amazon Instant Video. If you have seen it, it’s a great movie to watch over and over to soak in the biblical truth! If you haven’t seen it, here is your chance to watch it for free.  Leave a review and share it with your friends. Help us get the word out and continue to see God move in the hearts of those who watch the film.

WATCH IT NOW by clicking here:   http://amzn.to/2qwShLt

 

Check out The War Within Facebook Page, Brett Varvel’s Facebook Page, and Gary Varvel’s Facebook and Twitter Pages for the latest content.

Blessed are the starving beggars…even in the rich land of plenty

Standard

I’ve been desperate for more of Jesus and in order to know Him better, I am reading through all 4 Gospels chronologically and in harmony with one another.

IMG_3858

Recently I read Matthew 16:5-12 and Mark 8:14-21. Here is Mark’s version:

“The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. Be careful,” Jesus warned them. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

“Twelve,” they replied. And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.”

He said to them, Do you still not understand?

Before this conversation the disciples sat and watched Jesus perform the amazing miracle on two different occasions of taking a small amount of bread and fish and multiplying it to feed thousands upon thousands with food leftover. The disciples didn’t get Jesus’ point here. It wasn’t even about the bread yet that was their focus.  Many times in my pride I read about the disciples and think, “Duh!!! Don’t you get it! Jesus is right in front of you! You can see His miracles, touch Him, and yet you still don’t trust Him or have faith?! C’mon!” Oh and then I immediately hear the voice of the Spirit in me…”Um…Christina? This is you. Don’t YOU get it? Don’t YOU understand what I’m doing? Don’t YOU see Jesus? I AM in You. Oh, YOU of little faith.”

Ouch. I hate the conviction but love when the Spirit speaks to me. Yes, I am the disciples in so many ways. When I am in one trial after another, I forget what Christ has done for me through the previous trials!  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has never left me. Even in times that I have strayed from Him, He was always there. He will supply all that I need, and not necessarily what I want in this life. Even when it hurts. But the bread that He offers me over and over again, Himself, the Bread of Life, is more than I could ever imagine. It’s more than anything I would ever desire on this temporary earth. Oh, why does my heart long for the things of this world?  Why can’t I see that Jesus is enough? That even when I don’t understand like the disciples…when I miss what He is trying to teach me to change my heart…when I take my eyes off Jesus and onto the storms of life like Peter….when I can’t seem to have enough faith that Jesus is the One that can help me conquer my temptations….Jesus has always been and always will be enough Bread.

I have to be humble enough to desperately need this Bread. But that’s the problem isn’t? We don’t know what it’s like here in America to be so needy for physical bread to the point that we are starving beggars; we can’t comprehend being that needy for the Bread who supplies the bread. Have you noticed that it’s hard to show people how needy they are for Someone to save them when they don’t believe they need to be saved from anything? It’s common to hear, “Look at my life. Why would I need God?” And for American Christians, we acknowledge that we need Jesus to save us from sin and hell, yet we are guilty of living the rest of our lives like atheists. We got the “get out of hell” card and don’t live each day desperate for Jesus.

What a complete contrast to what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It’s only taken me 26 years of being a Christ-follower to comprehend what this means.

As I’m passionately studying the life of Jesus, I am also reading the book, Compelled by Love by Heidi Baker. I read Always Enough last year and pretty much wept through it from conviction.compelled by love Heidi and her husband, Rolland, have a ministry called Iris Global. If you want to be so heavily convicted by our apathetic Western Christianity and your eyes open to the love and compassion of Jesus, you need to check out their ministry and read their books.  The first chapter in Compelled by Love is on the verse above about the poor in spirit. The Bakers minister to orphans and the poor in Mozambique, Africa (and their mission has spread globally). These people have nothing. And I mean…nothing from war, famine, floods.

Heidi asks the question that I started asking a year ago, “Many ask why Jesus reserves the kingdom of God for the poor in spirit. Why is it that the wealthiest people and cultures experience fewer miracles and less of the supernatural? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? There is something about the poor that delights the heart of God. They are contrite. They know they are in need. But what is it about them that draws the kingdom of God to Earth? The answer to this lies in their dependency, hunger, need, and desperation.”

What does that look like in Mozambique? She continues, “If God doesn’t show up, no one else will either. If God does not heal, we will be dead. If God does not deliver, demons will torment the people to death. Every day we depend on Him for our daily bread to feed the multitudes. We rely on God. In Jesus we have all that we need. He died that there would be more than enough. We watch God multiply food to feed the masses, just as Jesus took a few fish and loaves of bread to feed the hungry.”

DO8R0483

Picture from Iris Global. Click here for more.

What does this look like in America?  I pause. I pause at my keyboard because I’m perplexed. What does it look like to be poor in spirit living in the richest land of the world? Ask Brett, and he will tell you that some days I wake up and want to give away everything we own, and then other days I remember that God has blessed us with what we do have and we are to be His stewards. God in His sovereignty created me to be born in this century in upstate New York to a mid-class family. Raised in the Big Valley of Pennsylvania and corn fields of central Indiana. Not an orphan in Mozambique. I am in the land of the free and plenty. And God has placed me right where He wants me.

Many of you reading this may have a similar life. We have never had to live meal to meal wondering if there will be enough bread. I’m convicted: are we truly thankful for the food in front of us?  We ramble out a quick prayer of “God thank you for this food that we are about to eat” before our kids start to devour their plates. Oh and as a dietitian, my favorite is, “God bless this food that we are about to eat for the nourishment of our bodies.” I usually take a peek at the actual food we are about to eat and silently laugh with God when it’s pizza or some other type of food that barely has any nutritional value in it except for a bunch of empty calories to grow our waistlines or satisfy our food addictions. Here me out; I ain’t hating on pizza. Just making a point hey.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 9.06.09 PM

We don’t take the time to look at the food in front of us and weep over the fact that we don’t have to worry about our next meal!  I don’t have to beg for food so that my kids can eat!  Or God forbid, sell myself so that my child doesn’t have to die or be sold herself.  I shudder at the thought, but it’s happening to other moms somewhere.  Or we are too busy worrying about which diet works best, try this new product or nutrition phenomenon, whether we should or shouldn’t be eating gluten, organic, or GMO foods when we’ve missed the point of eating and WHO the Bread is that supplies the food.  If you’ve read my previous blog posts that I am linking throughout this (which I hope you do to hear my whole heart), I’m all for eating healthy. I mean, I kinda went to 4 years of college, finished a certified internship, took a national exam, and take continued education to keep my passion for nutrition alive. However, I can’t help but think that the people in Mozambique wouldn’t even know what the word “organic” meant. (Do YOU even know what it means? Because the food industry, media, wants you to be confused. Ok…I regress…a topic for another day).  Someone puts food in front of the poor, they won’t care if it’s gluten-free, all organic, non-GMO, etc. It’s life-giving food. That’s it. It’s.that.simple. Just like the gospel is eternal life-giving food. Jesus really is.that.simple. Maybe we’ve complicated Him like we’ve complicated our food.

Then I can’t help but think, why can the poor who have no food be able to eat what is put in front of them without fear of the food damaging their bodies? I mean that is why we are trying figure out which foods are “good” and “bad” so that we can be healthy rather sick and miserable, right? Their bodies have not been fed the vast variety of what we have put in our bodies. They have nothing and are fed and healed by a small portion of bread that was multiplied. Why? Because they have faith in the One who supplies the bread to live and heal them from physical AND more importantly spiritual death. It then hit me. We in the West are actually killing ourselves with plenty. We have obesity, immune disorders, inflammatory diseases and many other preventable disease because of plenty. Because of too much of a good thing. Because the snack aisle has 1000 choices. Because of lack of self-control. Because of addictions. Because we act like we do not.need.Jesus.

Our lack of desperation for Jesus is not only spiritually killing us but may actually be physically killing us.  “Ok, Christina. You are being so extreme.” Yes, maybe I am but you know…maybe I’m not. God has tremendously blessed us with plenty, but we have taken for granted the bread He has provided rather than glorying Him with it, taking care of our Temples with it, giving it away, blessing and discipling others around the table with it, multiplying it rather than wasting it. Instead of using the bread for God’s glory, we’ve become sluggards, addicts, food snobs, made our bellies our gods, shortened our life expectancy, given into what tastes good at the expense of our health and pocketbooks, and even judged, secluded, and inflicted on others our own opinions on food.

And Heidi agrees with me: “The challenge in the West is that many are too full. We have smorgasbords, buffets, and restaurants at almost every corner. So, people in the Western world are often just not hungry…I see that the church is often surviving on spiritual crumbs…I was looking out on a conference crowd of people who all seemed to be well fed. But superimposed over these people, I saw bloated bellies like my malnourished African children. I saw these people scavenging in the garbage like our homeless children, barely surviving off crumbs under the table. Now, we need to get them to understand how God teaches us that He can feed all the hungry, both rich and poor.”

three_boys

Picture from Iris Global

We’ve missed the point. We are like the disciples and really don’t understand. We forget and have to be reminded over and over the reason why Jesus is the Bread of Life. That His body was broken for us, like He broke the bread to feed the masses. The miracle was in the breaking of the bread. The miracle is in Jesus’ body breaking on the cross so that we can find forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life. And when we are distracted by the bread that this world offers and are not desperate for the eternal Bread, we miss the miracles that Jesus wants to display in our lives every single day. He is the Bread that fills me so that I can be a miracle that overflows with His love. As I desperately eat, I am filled to pour out to others. To help feed the rich and poor alike who are starving for more, even in the land of plenty.

Looking deep in the waitress’ eyes, she is hungry because when we ask to pray for her, she says “that I’ll be happy.”  That neighbor is desperate for something more because after asking her to come to church she replies, “Maybe I will. I need to do something different.”  That dancer wants someone to love her and is doing whatever it takes to provide for her children.  That co-worker needs to be invited over for dinner to show him how to feast on the Bread of Life instead of sharing coffee and donuts in the break room.  And it doesn’t stop there as Heidi continues: “God calls us to the emotionally poor and broken….those who are hungry, sick and needy, the old and the forgotten…the latchkey children and the fatherless….prisoners, felons, the homeless, immigrants, addicts, and those in great pain. Those who know they need help and are desperate for God and hungry for His presence will be satisfied, as this beatitude promises.”

Bread

Therefore, to answer my question: what does it look like to be poor in spirit living in the richest land of the world?  Heidi answers, “Poor in spirit is a posturing of the heart other than an economic position… I believe being poor in spirit is a choice – a decision – we all have to make to go low still, fully dependent on the One who is always dependable.”

Your belly is full and your pocketbook has plenty (don’t kid yourself…if you have a roof over your head, food on the table, and clothes on your back you are wealthy), but are you poor in spirit? Are you desperately depending only on Jesus?  In America, we sure don’t look hungry on the outside, but we are starving beggars inside.   Maybe it’s a trial you are facing and you are focusing on the storm rather than the One who says, “Be still.”  Your health is suffering and you are looking for the magic nutritional supplement instead of the Healer. Your finances are running out and you need the Provider. You’re under spiritual oppression and you need the Deliverer. You are in bondage to that sin when you need Freedom. You are running away rather than into the Arms of Grace. You are anxious about your children, marriage, job, [fill in the blank] and need the Prince of Peace. You are fighting depression and looking for happiness in your false idols instead of the Ultimate Joy. Your identity is in  _______ and not the One who purchased you with His blood. You are chasing the fleeting American Dream rather than the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

Regardless of who you are, where you live, what storm is in front of you, how much bread you will or will not eat today, Jesus is speaking to YOU not only the disciples! And wants to bless YOU not only the physically poor… but only if you are poor in spirit; spiritually needy, desperate, insecure, and dependent only on Him.  I want more of this Bread. I don’t want to miss Him and His miracles in my life, even in my Western worldview and the land of plenty. I don’t need to fear tomorrow’s bread, so I surely don’t need to fear the next trial, temptation, and storm that comes my way. He is with me. He supplies everything I need to then go feed the spiritually hungry that I meet every day.

Oh, my heart’s cry is that we will finally understand. It gives me hope that the disciples finally understood; they all died as martyrs so the gospel of the Bread of Life will continue to be multiplied so the masses can eat this Bread and live for all eternity.

My desire is to someday go to Mozambique and look into the eyes of the poor in spirit there. I have been told that is one place where you will find the kingdom of heaven. But until then, I am striving to find the kingdom of heaven right where I am at so I pray…

“Oh, Jesus, help me with my unbelief and to understand how to be poor in spirit so mine is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Snapshots of the Christian Worldview Film Festival

Image

Here are snapshots of our broken journey at the Christian Worldview Film Festival. To read the powerful story behind the pictures, click here.  To view just a glimpse of what happened and a few of the many people who blessed us tremendously, keep scrolling.

Brett and I waiting for our flight to San Antonio.

Listening to phenomenal speakers.

Brett in his workshop on Directing Through Camera Angles.

Director’s Panel: Rich Christiano, George Escobar, Brett Varvel, Dallas Jenkins, Ken Carpenter

Love these actresses: Stacey Bradshaw, Leona Worcester, Heather Ricks, and Kari Fabian.

Brett had the privilege of praying over Stephen Kendrick‘s son on his 13th birthday.

 I had the opportunity to be on a panel about family and filmmaking and give my viewpoint as a filmmaker’s wife who isn’t in the film industry, but supports Brett in his passion.

Brett giving his speech on “What is Your Identity?” Click here to watch a quick video.

Brett was the MC for the awards ceremony. He totally surprised me by bringing me up on stage to film a fun video to put on social media to promote the CWVFF. Enjoy the video here.

With the girls and David Helling

Must give credit to these wonderful people from the Midwest Christian Filmmakers Academy for taking many of the pics above and throughout the festival.

“The Broken Way” at the Christian Worldview Film Festival

Standard

CWVFF_Pic“I’m not going down there, Christina.  I’m telling Phillip that I can’t come and speak. Why am I even a speaker? I made one feature film and it didn’t do well because we didn’t make our money back, which means no money to make another film.  I can’t look at these people and tell them that for the second year in a row Disciples in the Moonlight is not being filmed this year. What am I doing?  I’m a failure.  Everything I touch dies. I get a lead on project after project and they are taken away or pushed.  Maybe this is not my calling.”

Tears are streaming down my face as Brett stands vulnerable before me. I put the weights down and sit on the ottoman because clearly my workout can wait.  This man before me, the one who is strong for me, fights to protect me, prays over me and takes on spiritual oppression when I’m under attack by Satan’s lies and fears, is baring his naked soul to me.  Through the blurriness of my tears, I look him in the eyes. Those same eyes that I have looked into a million times since 16 years old. It is one of the features that I love most about him because even as we age, his eyes and that look of unconditional love he gives me will never change. I can see his soul, and in this moment, there is fear. Insecurity. Worry. Failure. Lies. Bitterness. Betrayal. Hopelessness.   This is not the man I know. Because that man I know is who Christ says he is, not these lies from Satan.

This was only one of a few broken moments that Brett had in the past several months.  I asked the Spirit to tell me what to say or do.  I have told Brett over and over in past occurrences that those are lies. I’ve spoken truth into his ears. Laid my hands on him and prayed warrior prayers over him when I have found him paralyzed on the floor of our bedroom unable to get up because the fears and lies had overtaken him.   But now, I use my exercise shirt to wipe away my tears and honestly don’t know what to do anymore to help him.  I wanted to yell, “Shut up!”  Yet instead, my own fears and worries rose up.  How can I be a helpmate to my husband when I myself am battling my own insecurities, shame of sin, fears of the future?  I didn’t say anything. We were both broken. I just let the tears come. I nodded my head to say I understand.  We went our separate ways.  I don’t even remember if I finished my weight lifting.

Now, I’m on a plane flying back home to Indianapolis from San Antonio. We went “down there,” way down south in Texas.  The place that only a few weeks ago Brett was dreading to go.  And now tears are ready to burst from the overwhelming joy of what took place this past week at the Christian Worldview Film Festival (CWVFF).   Last night after a wonderful time at the festival’s ceremony and after-party with so many friends, I looked into Brett’s eyes.  And this time I see joy. Hope. Encouragement. Peace. Security. Surrender.  That didn’t come from news that his film projects are funded and off and running. Or that he got a role as lead actor for a feature film. Or that he took home a prestigious award…because all those things didn’t happen.  This is how it happened…

Brokenness. Vulnerability. Surrender. Community.

The past few years, God has been breaking Brett and me. We asked for revival a couple of years ago, and God has been answering. But that revival could only start in our hearts. A quote I read on the plane down to San Antonio spoke loudly where we are at: “Before God can use you greatly, He will wound you deeply.  Are you ready to be pruned by the Master?”*  We have been wounded in different ways, separate from each other and together. Oh and how the pruning hurts.  But it is necessary.   A week before our trip to the CWVFF, I devoured the book The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp.  This book is one that I will buy and put on my shelf, and that says a lot for an avid book reader who doesn’t buy books unless they impact my life, and I will read over and over for the years to come.  The Spirit spoke through Ann right to my heart and where I am at on this broken journey myself.

In my previous post, My Friend, You Are Not Alone, I wrote about loneliness and how relationships and discipleship is crucial in this life.  In The Broken Way, Ann expanded on this concept, specifically how brokenness and suffering in community are the way to heal our broken hearts. I have experienced “the broken way” this past year with my three discipling relationships and even other relationships I did not mention.  Through my suffering I fought to isolate myself but instead became vulnerable. I poured out my heart, confessed my sin, and opened my hands to give to others.    And because of it I have known this to be true:  “The way through brokenness is, and always has been, to break the sufferer free from the aloneness of the suffering by choosing to participate in the suffering with them – [community] – choosing to stand with the suffering, stay with the suffering, and let it all be shaped into meaning that transcends the suffering.”  (I give you permission to read that again and let it sink in! It’s pretty deep!)

Brett and I went down to the CWVFF not knowing what to expect. We prayed and asked the Lord to use us. Use our brokenness. Vulnerability. No answers for our future. Open hands ready to give. Humbled hearts surrendered.  I walked into that place and it honestly felt like I was given oxygen to breathe.  The veil of loneliness and fear disappeared from surrounding Brett as the week went on. When someone asked how we were doing, we didn’t say “great” and a bunch of fake comments to appease the person. We were honest. “It’s been a really hard year, but this is what God is doing…”  On Friday night, the Spirit spoke through Brett as he gave a powerful message on how a wrong identity leads us to fear and worry, distracts us from the mission, and makes us question God.    He shared his journey through the past couple of years of having a wrong identity. He was completely vulnerable and even the end wasn’t tied up with a pretty bow, since we still don’t have answers for our future. (Click here to listen and watch a short video clip from his speech.)

We found “the broken way” right there at the CWVFF.  As our walls came down, others’ walls came down too. My heart wanted to burst with gratitude for every person that came up to him and told their own story of fear and loneliness.  Others suffering alongside Brett in the filmmaking world. We are not alone. There is no judgment. This is community: Those who prayed with him. Hugged him. Cried with him. Gave written and audible words of encouragement.  And all those who engaged with me in conversations that touched me deeply, whether sitting at a table, the couch in the hallway, on the floor, mealtimes, crammed in our rental car, and even the bathroom. Talking to other filmmaker wives who really do understand me. Laughing with friends like we’ve known each other for years. You will never know how desperately I needed to hear your words: “Thank you for all you do for your husband. You probably are behind the scenes but your role as his wife is most important.” “Thank you for your vulnerability. You are a warrior princess. We need to be mentoring more warrior princesses.”  “Listening to how you have supported Brett has inspired me to find a wife like you.” (Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that one! I had to fight to shut up Satan from reminding me of all the ways I have failed Brett through this journey.)

Many filmmakers went “down there” to the CWVFF hoping to bring back an award. Yes, some did, yet most all of us went home Spirit-filled, encouraged, and rejuvenated to continue the mission God has called us to in filmmaking.  If you want to find Jesus in filmmaking…come to the Christian Worldview Film Festival and Filmmaker’s Guild next year.  That is where revival is. That is where suffering happens together in community to bring about a purpose far greater than we expected.

As I was leaving the after-party to get to bed since we had an early flight home, I said goodbye to the founder’s wife. She told me what spoke to her the most this week was experiencing blessing through others’ suffering, which doesn’t seem right! I hugged her and said, “Oh I know. I really do know. It’s the broken way.” And Ann says it better than I can: “The fellowship of the broken believe that suffering is a gift He entrusts to us and He can be trusted to make this suffering into a gift.”

Flashback to a few weeks ago, I sat on that ottoman and at one point couldn’t look Brett in the eyes anymore because it was too painful. I stared at my weights feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders questioning, what was God doing?  We’ve been waiting for answers for a couple of years now. What more does He want with our brokenness?   Now, I know. I really do know. God has turned our suffering into a gift.  If God allowed us to suffer all this time so that Brett would share his vulnerable heart to all who heard him this past week so that lives could be impacted…then it was worth it all.  And now we come home still unsure if God will or will not allow answers for our future to come soon. Regardless, we will remain….

Broken. Vulnerable. Surrendered. Suffering with Community. A Gift.

Follow CWVFF on Facebook and check out more pics and videos from last week’s guild and festival: https://www.facebook.com/cwvff/

*From the book, The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance

My Friend, You are not alone

Standard

“No one understands you, Christina. You’ve always been different.  If other women really knew your heart and struggles they would reject you. Just stuff it down, put on a good face, and keep going through life. It’s better to be alone anyways. You survived high school, college, and all the years up to this point with only a couple of close friends.  Stay hiding. Again, no one really understands.”

Sadly, those are real thoughts.  The oxymoron is that in the moments I listened and believed those thoughts, I felt so alone when reality is that I was the farthest from being alone in those thoughts.  Have you ever heard yourself say something similar?  Maybe different words but the same conclusion: I. Am. Alone.  And in a twisted way my loneliness drags me down to further isolation rather than reaching out to someone. If this is you, my friend, pull up a chair.

I was drowning in those thoughts a little less than a year ago. I felt like no one could relate to me as a filmmaker’s wife and watching my husband wrestle with God’s will and waiting on His timing to fulfill his calling as a “missionary who makes movies.” There is no other woman in my church that is a wife to a filmmaker so of course no one understands, right?  In addition, there are sins and idols in my heart that I’m always dealing with and who likes to confess sin, especially to other women who appear to have it all together, right?  So it’s easy to just try to deal with it alone. Fake it until you make it somehow. Isolate. Yet choosing to isolate myself kept me in bondage to the lies.  And worse, in my loneliness, fears, and a wrong identity of who I am in Christ, I was keeping the door of my heart wide open, resorting to my idols for a sense of comfort and control.

But my God is good and gracious, and He opened my eyes and did something miraculous. The Bible says, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)   So I cried out to Jesus in my loneliness, since He of all people understands what it is like to be alone and misunderstood. I prayed many of David’s Psalms, and He answered by bringing 3 very different yet life-impacting relationships into my life.  Let me share how these relationships have changed me and brought me from isolation to extending my arms out and loving others even more without fear of rejection.


The Friend: One day I got on Facebook and had a new message from a woman I knew of but never met.  Her message was short and simple. She told me that God had laid me heavily on her heart and that she was praying for me. Completely unexpected and it touched me significantly in that moment when I needed someone to show compassion. I thanked her and told her how much her prayers meant to me.  As our conversation continued, we shared more about ourselves and we soon realized that we are very similar in our personality and struggles as wives, mothers, and even ministry callings for our families. Our friendship deepened as we encouraged each other in our faith and pursuit of Jesus, held each other accountable to our idols in life, and even vented or laughed about our daily grind as moms.

Fast forward: it’s been 7 months and this girl has become an anchor in my life holding me down with Truth.  I don’t know where I’d be without her. Our friendship has displayed Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  And man is she sharp!  She calls me out when she perceives my heart wandering, she listens to the Spirit when praying for me and tells me exactly what I need to hear, and she encourages me to keep pursuing Jesus no matter the cost. I pray I do the same for her.  God heard my cry of loneliness, the Spirit spoke to this woman to send a simple message to tell me that she cares, and my life has been changed because of our friendship.


The Older: I’ve always desired an older, wiser woman to mentor me. Someone to take me under her wing, teach me from her life experiences, and pour Truth into my life as a young wife and mother. I didn’t know how to go about finding this mentor.  I prayed occasionally that God would just send someone to me. That this woman will walk right up to me and say, “I’m going to disciple you.” Well, it wasn’t happening.  Last year Brett and I started attending a church whose mission is “to make disciples who make disciples.”  It only increased my desire for someone to come alongside me that has already walked in my shoes as a wife and mom.  Again, in my loneliness I begged God to send someone who could disciple me.

One Sunday morning I was praying as I got ready for church. I asked God to show me that morning the woman who could disciple me.  With faith, I walked into the church building and my eyes started scanning like a hawk looking for food. A few women caught my attention yet I didn’t feel the Spirit tug. Brett and I dropped the kids off in their classrooms and we found a seat. We were early that day, so I kept scanning as women came and sat down.  Then I saw a man standing in the back that caught my attention. I faced forward again and spoke this man’s wife’s name to God. Within 5 seconds, Brett turns to me and says, “What about _____” It was the woman I had just spoke to God.  I had overwhelming peace from the Spirit.

The service couldn’t get over soon enough.  Brett went to get the kids and I eagerly sought out this woman. She was speaking to someone else, so I anxiously waited off to the side trying to still figure out what I was even going to say. She acknowledged me, finished her conversation, and smiled brightly as she made her way to me. It didn’t take long; I was babbling and crying like a baby as I told her, “I desperately need someone to help me!”  Her compassion was overwhelming as she hugged me and said, “Yes. Let’s meet up as soon as possible. I am very available.”

We started meeting up every other week. I talked, I cried, I confessed sin and struggles as she listened and constantly took me to Scripture. The Truth of God’s Word filled me as she shared exactly what I needed. I would leave my time with her energized, satisfied by the Word of God, and encouraged. She never judged me. She listened. She understood. She was used by the Spirit to speak to me right where I was in that moment.  Here is the best part:  Within the first couple of times together, she opened up and shared what God was teaching her. God had been telling her to stop being afraid and reach out to more women.  The very day that I walked into church by faith looking for her to disciple me, she walked into church with her hands held out asking God, “Who Lord? My hands are held out to serve someone. Show me who.”  Like me, she was scanning the women who came and went. Then when I walked up to her, both our prayers were answered.  I just got the chills writing that out.  Again, God heard me. God heard her. He doesn’t want us alone.

For several months now we have met on and off. Our relationship has displayed Titus 2:3-5, Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”   This woman is not only older than I am, but more importantly, she is much wiser and has been teaching me through her own life experiences.  The humbling part is that God has also used me to encourage her and her pursuit of Jesus. 


The Younger: Around the same time these two women came into my life, God still wasn’t done answering my cry for help and was stretching my heart even more.  This time though, I became the “older woman” to a high school-aged girl.  Like my desire for an older woman to disciple me, I have prayed for a younger woman to disciple, but the same frustrations came with pursuing this relationship. Just like I was waiting for someone to come up to me and announce boldly that she will be my mentor, the thought of me picking some girl out of a crowd was frightening and just plain awkward.

However, it wasn’t needed because this girl came to me first for nutrition advice.  What started out as dietitian-to-patient relationship blossomed into a deeper discipleship relationship.   As this girl shared her heart with me, I looked across the picnic table and could see myself, 13 years ago. Many of her struggles were similar to mine at that age. I am excited for the opportunity to share with her what I wish I would have known when I was 18 years old. We met recently and she updated me on a significant idol she had overcome which has drawn her closer to Jesus. She eagerly asked me questions and sought more of my advice. I cherish our conversations and walk away greatly humbled that even in the midst of my own struggles, God is using my life experiences, successes, failures, and the lessons that He has taught me to impact someone else.


My friend, we need each other. Stop isolating yourself. Stop telling yourself that you are alone and no one understands.  Since there is nothing new under the sun, I guarantee you that there is another woman going through a very similar experience or battling a particular sin or idol like you are right now.  Pray and beg God like I did to send you a friend and/or someone to disciple you. He will listen because He made us for relationships. He doesn’t want you fighting alone.

Let’s also stop making assumptions.  That woman at church or in the moms’ group that appears to have it all together? She is struggling in some way too.  Don’t be afraid to go to someone like I did. Be honest and confess sin, and I promise instead of more pain you will find immense healing take place. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16). We also need to stop judging other women, leading to gossip. (“Oh! We should pray for so-and-so! Did you hear…?”)  No wonder we are afraid to open up and be real about our burdens and sins; it may be next on the “prayer request” chain. And just because we don’t struggle with a particular sin doesn’t mean that we are better than that other woman struggling with her sin. Let’s get the plank out of our eyes and see that we are all sinners in need of the gospel daily, no matter what the sin.

Since we are flawed humans we cannot expect perfection in each other.  I have regretfully made my share of mistakes in relationships, and also have been on the receiving end of being hurt.  In my own failures and rejection by others, I have a tendency to go back to isolation. I don’t want to cause or receive any more pain. In fact, I wrestled with the Spirit on publishing this post. Those lies crept in again telling me to isolate myself and not be vulnerable.  However, I instantly realized they were lies from Satan trying to shut me up because he knows the spiritual impact of discipleship and doesn’t want you to experience it.  These women in my life have taught me that blessing only comes when I come out from hiding. And that the most wonderful thing about friendship and discipleship is when we pour into each other, we can continue to pour out more to others.  It’s a beautiful cycle.  It’s a God-ordained cycle, and He wants you to be a part of it.

You are not alone in your feelings of being alone. You really are not that different. You are understood. You are not rejected. Now get up off your chair, get out of hiding, and ask God to bring a woman you can open up your heart to. And if you are an “older” woman, go reach out your hands to a “younger” woman who desperately needs the Spirit working through you. It’s better to do life together, I promise.

bcv_6174tonedsun