Shattered Dreams

The book SURRENDERING TO HOPE is a compendium of chapters by several different authors, each identifying how a relationship with God helped them through the worst of circumstances. If you think that sounds trite or easy, read through some of my posts as I have blogged through this book. I am truly stunned at the experiences of these authors and how they managed to hang on to faith when there was nothing less. When all their dreams were shattered, they still knew that God was with them.

Shattered Dreams is a chapter written by my friend Bobby Valentine. He begins his chapter by relating with enthusiasm the time he met his wife and the beautiful daughters that they enjoyed. They moved to Arizona to work with a church. They moved into a house that they had built. His wife took a class at the local college that Fall. It all seemed so perfect.

One Sunday morning in December, my wife and I went to church early so that she could email her final assignment from the office computer. Between Bible class and the worship assembly, she left. … I discovered on my computer her unclosed email to her professor with whom she had run off.

As Bobby writes, “The dream was over.” He shares vividly the painful feelings and consequences of his wife’s departure. “Shattered dreams hurt like hell. They are, in fact, hell.” Those who have suffered through the hurt of divorce can relate, I’m certain of that.

In a search for God’s wisdom grace in all of this painful experience, Bobby found that through ‘glimpses of God’ he could see the ‘gifts of grace’ that would help him move forward. These included the church.

When I literally had no place to stay, God reached out through Christ’s body to pick up my broken pieces.

Other gifts from God included Solitude and silence, friends, and the fellowship of tears.

God has not chosen to reveal to me why hell invaded my family. I have not discovered secret insights from church, solitude, or friends. What I have found is the communion of broken hearts and the fellowship of tears. My own tears are reflected in God’s pain, suffering, and tears.

Scattered throughout Bobby’s chapter are somber but helpful Scriptures that remind us that God suffers as we suffer. In many ways he discovers that after Shattered Dreams, “God raises up new dreams.”

I invite you to get a copy of Surrendering to Hope and read in much greater detail Bobby’s journey through the pain of divorce. Especially if you have been left behind by someone you once loved, I believe it will bless you.

Bobby Valentine is the minister for the Eastside Church of Christ in Anitoch, California. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter. You can follow his blog Stoned-Campbell Disciple. 

Surrendering to Hope is published by Leafwood Books and is edited by John Mark Hicks, Christine Fox Parker, and Bobby Valentine.

 

Restored Identity

I think one of the great values of a book like SURRENDERING TO HOPE is to gain insight into the struggles of others. This can lead to greater compassion as well as an ability to understand, to some degree, the depth of pain that someone is going through.

In Lee Ann Foster’s chapter, Restored Identity, a painful path of abuse, trauma, and recovery is revealed. At the center of this story is the fact that Lee Ann was adopted at two weeks of age. When she was eight years old, her adoptive mother died. Her adoptive father remarried quickly. But she was already living in a cycle of abuse began that had a significant impact on the rest of her life. She writes, “...I endured physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of many different people from the time I was four years of age until my early teen years.” Living in this hostile world of abuse and distrust had a significant effect on Lee Ann’s life.

…I chose another identity. I would become the invisible one. I would live life under the radar. And it worked! Well, it worked some of the time. … I never felt safe.

After some turbulent experiences in college and graduate school, she met Jesus and her husband! “...I experienced several years of spiritual and emotional growth. I dove into the Scriptures and grew in my ability to enjoy human relationships. We had two children...”

This could be the end of the story, but we should know that surviving traumatic abuse isn’t solved in a few easy steps. As Lee Ann’s daughters grew older, she began to suffer from ‘invasive visions of violence and tragedy overtaking’ her girls. I can only imagine how her childhood experiences were repeating themselves mentally. Only someone who has been through it can truly understand.

Using the trauma of childhood abuse is one of the enemy’s most prized strategies for disempowering God’s kingdom on earth. 

This is not a hopeless story at all, but in keeping with our theme of SURRENDERING TO HOPE, Lee Ann experienced some profound healing. I hope you will buy the book and read about how she found hope and healing through counselors, mentors, retreats … and an amazing blessing from God when she found her birth mother. That wasn’t the end of her struggles, but ultimately hope has found its way into Lee Ann’s heart.

I wish I could say I’m completely healed now, but I am not. There seem to be layers of healing that the Lord reveals as I journey through the seasons of life … What I have now that I did not have before I addressed my trauma is a deepening, conversational relationship with Jesus … What I have now is a better sense of my true identity.

In our next chapter, we meet a Korean-born son of a soldier who was stricken with polio, given up for adoption into an abusive family. Then one day he met a student from a Christian University.

______

Lee Ann Foster is co-owner of Neurosource. Lee Ann’s passion is to help people learn how to live the healthiest, happiest, most fulfilling lives possible. As a Master’s level psychologist, counselor, a Wellness & Epigenetics Coach, a Neurofeedback provider, a Stress Resilience expert, a Psych-K Facilitator, and a lover of God and people, Lee Ann gives her clients the type of care that is well rounded, holistic, and evidence based. Even more importantly, she helps people learn how to take care of themselves and become their own healers.

SURRENDERING TO HOPE: GUIDANCE FOR THE BROKEN is Edited by John Mark Hicks, Christine Fox Parker, and Bobby Valentine. It was published this year by Leafwood Publishers.

Hope Renewed

When the book SURRENDERING TO HOPE came out, I started blogging through the chapters. There were a few reasons for that. One, I wanted to share the diversity of subjects and authors found in this book. Also, I wanted to reach out to those who were going through various experiences so they would know that there are Christians who understand…they are going through them as well.  Somehow, I got sidetracked and didn’t blog for a bit, but I did want to get back to making my way through this book. 

Hope Renewed is the appropriately titled chapter by my friend Paula Harrington. She begins by sharing, “I’m drawn to the survivor stories of the Bible.” When you read her chapter, you won’t wonder why: Paula is a survivor. Her dad was a preacher who died at a too-young 30 years old, a victim of the terrible disease known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Paula remembers that this was a catalyst for very dark times in her family. In her struggle to cope, Paula’s bi-polar mother wrestled with addiction that spiraled out of control. The death of Paula’s mother created more difficult situations that she outlines in this chapter. Eventually, she writes…

“I had a two-year-old and a two-week-old when I became a single mother. I was twenty-two with no place to live, no car, no job, no money, and no parents.”

Did I mention that Paula is a survivor? Through her disappointments and discouragements, she remembered her childhood spent listening to her father talk about his faith. Like many others in SURRENDERING TO HOPE, she ultimately found hope in the One who offers it to all. By turning to Christ she found she had the power to rebuild her broken life.

“Every time I see myself as a failure, I remind myself that God calls me chosen. Every time I remember a sin, God whispers ‘You are forgiven.’ When I dwell on my faults and weaknesses, God covers me in grace and calls me beloved.”

Looking back over the circumstances that defined her young life, Paula can see that God was at work in unexpected ways. Because of her specific struggles, she can identify with others who are going through the same things.  Paula has used her survival skills to bless in a personal way those who suffer through the hardships of life.

“I finally appreciate that there is peace, joy, and hope in the midst of turmoil and dysfunction. I learned firsthand that God is the father of the fatherless and will not leave us as orphans … Hope has a name and its name is Jesus.”

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of SURRENDERING TO HOPE in either paperback or ebook for your Kindle. I know I was blessed to read through Paula’s story, especially when I notice how she continues to amazingly extend herself to the impoverished, imprisoned, and those in impossible situations. 

Paula is a public school teacher in Paducah, Kentucky.  She writes a column for the Marshall County Daily. Paula and her husband, John, are the parents of five children. She is compiler and editor of the books, Once Upon a Bible ClassA Common Bond, and Sunday Afternoon with the Preachers’ Wives. Her work has appeared in Christian Woman magazine, the Christian Chronicle newspaper, and numerous other sites and websites. A preacher’s kid, grand-kid, niece, and sister, she enjoys speaking at ladies events, workshops, and lectureships. You can connect to Paula on Facebook. Read her BLOG.  Follow her on Twitter (@paulaharington).

Surrendering to Hope is edited by John Mark Hicks, Christine Fox Parker, and Bobby Valentine and is available from Leafwood Publishers and other booksellers.

Waiting for the Lord

In Mary Chisolm’s chapter of Surrendering to Hope: Guidance for the Broken, readers come face to face with a hurtful drama that unfolded throughout her life. And continues still.

“My father abandoned our family when I was eleven to marry a woman half his age. He was manipulative, narcissistic, and abusive. And he left destruction in his wake. It is no surprise that since my home was broken, I was broken too.”

Though Mary faced heartbreak early in life, she also found a relationship with God that gave her some reassurance from Psalm 27. Though that did not resolve the struggle within, it was a source of strength. In college, she met a young man who seemed to her to be “Mr. Right”. In every way she could imagine, he was the kind of man she wanted to marry to have the kind of family she never had as a child. However, problems developed early on.

“He was rarely where he said he would be when he said he would be. He never let me know when his plans changed, and he worked long hours. Whenever we argued about it, he twisted the facts so it seemed my fault. Even if it was his fault, it wasn’t his fault. … Then, with baby number three, a bomb exploded. Our third baby was full-term stillborn. I was completely devastated.”

The grief over this loss and the ongoing manipulative behavior of her husband sent Mary into a spiral of depression. She did the right thing by seeking out professional help. She found a Christian counselor that administered tests to both her and her husband.

“He expected her to figure out what was wrong with me. The testing diagnosed him with a narcissistic personality disorder. When she shared her findings with us, he stood over her, cursed at us both, and walked out.”

Even after a year of counseling things did not get any better but got worse. Mary was learning about codependency and ultimately as her husband’s narcissistic behavior intensified she felt unsafe. I imagine there are many people who are resonating with this story and would need to read Mary’s chapter in full to get the larger picture. Through the divorce and ongoing issues, her children grew up to refuse to have a relationship with her. The loss of her stillborn baby, her living children, and the marriage she longed to have did challenge her faith. But she kept waiting on the Lord.

Through the pain of her losses she now works in supporting women who experience stillbirth, miscarriage or early infant death.  She prays that her children will one day seek a relationship with her. And she waits on the Lord.

“I believe I will see the Lord’s goodness through the redemption of my children, in my work with families, and in ways yet unknown.”

Mary Chisolm’s story of endurance and faith through the pain of loss is just one of many stories in Surrendering to Hope. This book is now available in Kindle format as well as paperback. Each chapter demonstrates that though we can face some struggles that break our hearts, there is hope to be found in God alone.

If you know someone who is hurting, this would be a good book to share with them. Even if they have not experienced the exact situation as described in the chapters, they will find encouragement and hope in the way that faith found its way into the hearts of the broken.

Thanks for reading. John.

Hope Deferred

As I’ve blogged through the chapters of Surrendering to Hope: A Guide for the Broken, I’m reminded that there are many kinds of struggle and pain that Christians go through. As we enter chapter seven we have explored themes of the loss of an infant, murder, racism, same sex attraction and how each of these people of faith have found hope in Christ in spite of the pain they suffered. Chris and Leisa are no different … but their pain is different from any that has been expressed so far. 

“We married in our thirties. … If God gave us children, that would be wonderful. If not, we could accept it. Two years into married life, we were thrilled to learn we were expecting our first child. We built many hopes and dreams on that news…”

In spite of the enthusiasm the Kinnins experienced at the thought of having a child together, it was not to be. The miscarriage led to doctor visits, searches for reasons why, and ultimately there were no medical answers.  And there were no more pregnancies. Leisa shared, 

“We continued to pray and kept trying. We experienced the monthly roller coaster of emotions that so many couples live with for years and years. Nothing. No pregnancy. Only disappointment. So much of that time was characterized by silent, hidden sadness.”

This made it hard to rejoice when others experienced new life in their families. Both Chris and Leisa expressed concern for how to support one another during these trying circumstances. Though they considered IVF and attempted adoption (even when it was approved and seemed to be an answer to prayer, it fell through several times). 

I know there may be someone reading this who can identify with Chris and Leisa’s struggle with faith and the pain they felt. I hope you will get a copy of the book to read this chapter. As Chris and Leisa take turns sharing from their own experience one can see the sorrow and hurt they felt, as well as the faith and hope.

Among the many valuable things they shared, I thought this was so important:

“Many of the ways God led us through the desert of grief and loss can only be seen in hindsight. We were blind to God’s working at the time, and we still are today as God continues to use this for divine glory and our refinement. There were many days when we couldn’t even pray about it.”

One answer from God was the way he used them as mentors to young adults at their church. Because of their situation they had freedoms of time and opportunity to connect that busy parents of children wouldn’t likely have. “We began sharing our home and our lives with the future of our church.”  Listen to this testimony:

“In some ways, and by God’s grace, we parented those precious souls without the diapers or teenage curfew battles. We became their family and walked beside them as they began their adult lives.”

Leisa and Chris Kinnin

There is much more in the chapter to this incredible testimony. It doesn’t deny their lament and it doesn’t deny God’s provision.  Thank you, Chris and Leisa, for tenderly and courageously sharing this journey with the readers of this book. I know it will bless many who will walk in those same paths. 

In the next post we will explore the chapter written by a lady who lived through the terror of being married to a narcissistic personality disorder. Though it appeared to be hopeless, she did turn to God and found she could surrender to hope and find a way out.

It’s true. Out here, hope remains. Thanks for reading. John

Keeping Secrets

“I swore I’d never tell a soul. This was a secret I’d take to my grave, so I believed. Because I also believed that every aspect of my life would change if anyone knew. I kept it to myself, and I prayed.”

Sally Gary begins her chapter in Surrendering to Hope: Guidance for the Broken with the confession that she kept a secret for a long time. There were many reasons why she kept her secret. At first there was some confusion about why she felt the way she did. Also, she knew from conversations at home and at church that people who confessed to her secret were “worthy of total rejection from friends, abandonment by family, and eternal damnation” – which is a pretty good motive for keeping a secret. 

Over the years Sally continued her service to the church in attending worship services every time the doors were open. She taught classes and was involved in all of the activities of the church. She studied and memorized Scripture and prayed often.  All the while keeping her secret. She even prayed about her secret, hoping God would change her feelings.

“‘This was our little secret, God’.’ I will carry this one to my grave, because no one must ever learn that Sally Gary, the good little church of Christ girl, is attracted to girls.”

Sally’s struggle is not a new one, nor is it uncommon. I appreciate that Sally turned to God during all the years she kept her secret and sought out His guidance and help. But he didn’t take away her feelings. 

“And I never believed God didn’t love me because I was attracted to girls. I always believed God is a loving God. I had no idea how to resolve this crisis of my sexuality with my faith that said it was wrong for me to e attracted to my own gender, but I believed in a God who wouldn’t leave me alone to figure that out on my own. I had no idea how god would resolve this conflict of faith and sexuality in me.”

There is much more in Sally’s chapter in this book of ‘guidance for the broken’, so I encourage you to get a copy and check it out. Sally did go on to create Centerpeace, a nonprofit organization to help parents and church leaders be more open to conversations about sexuality and faith. 

“Twenty years ago, I never would’ve dreamed that I would soon found a ministry that would require me to share the deepest, darkest secret of my life on a daily basis around the globe.”

Sally and Rudy

I wish Sally well, as she is a recent victor in a cancer battle! You can find out more about Centerpeace by visiting their website. You can follow her on Twitter.   Bookmark and subscribe to her BLOG. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram. Of course you should buy her 2013 memoir, Loves God Likes Girls. At the end of this post is a video interview with Sally and Oklahoma Christian President John deSteigue.

As I continue giving you a peek into the amazing stories of brokenness and recovery found in the pages of Surrendering to Hope. In the next post Leisa and Chris open up their heartbreak of miscarriage and infertility and the path of faith they chose to walk.  Thank you for reading. If you have missed any in this series, here are some links:

Rex shares about the loss of his infant son.

Les shares about life after the murder of his wife and son.

James shares about the experience of racial prejudice.

Eric shares about the pain of childhood abuse and pornography addiction.

Those are sobering topics, but the tone of the book is positive because each struggler found faith to be the answer.

 

Sally Gary – Oklahoma Christian Q&A from Oklahoma Christian on Vimeo.