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live out

YOUR influence

Fall+Winter 2013


editor’s letter


“You’re Forgiven.” {PUBLISHER} Elisa Morgan, M.Div. {MANAGING EDITOR} Mary Byers, B.A., CAE {ART DIRECTOR + GRAPHIC DESIGNER}

Forgiveness. The word has been on our theme list for some time. But it was such a complex concept. For most, a difficult struggle. To be honest… we haven’t been sure just what to make of it. So forgiveness stayed on the “potential themes” list issue after issue. Despite its power. Despite the fact that it’s freeing. And despite its life-changing, life-giving nature. Was it because it’s easier said than done? Because tackling it would force us to take a long hard look at how it’s affected each of us? Because it just seemed to be a really hardto-grasp-and-get-your-armsaround notion? Actually, it was all three. We knew it was time to dive into forgiveness as a theme when we received an e-mail from Laurie Coombs detailing her quest to forgive her father’s murderer. I’ve always been stunned by people who can do this. How can you forgive someone who takes a loved one’s life? I can’t even comprehend that—let alone see myself doing it. Thus, we decided, it was time to forgive. Or write about it, at least. In this issue we hear from women who grew up in difficult homes and/or circumstances or who have been through the painful experience of divorce. We ask questions regarding what it means—and what it takes—to forgive. And we gently encourage you to think about who you might need to forgive, even if that person is yourself. Where have you fallen short or disappointed yourself? More importantly, how have these disappointments chained you to the past?

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Choosing to forgive ourselves doesn’t mean ignoring our shortcomings or pretending they don’t exist. It does mean we’ll carry on in spite of them. In the Bible, the word for forgiveness means, “to abandon, send away, or leave alone.” When we forgive ourselves, we choose to abandon the chokehold our mistakes have on us. We agree to move forward, as Paul wrote about it in Philippians 3:13-14: “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” On a lighter, but no less meaningful note, we also have a delightful story about how God used a sewing machine and an obedient woman to start to a ministry. (I’m so glad it wasn’t me! It still smarts when I think about the dress I made in home economics in seventh grade. One sleeve was longer than the other, prompting my teacher to grab a pair of scissors and cut them both off, declaring it would be “better as a no-sleeved dress anyway!”) Chained to the past or freed for the future? Ultimately, that’s the decision we each have to make. And forgiveness is how we make it. Sincerely,

Mary Byers

Cynthia Young, B.A. {ADVISORS}

Tracey Bianchi, M.Div. SPEAKER AND AUTHOR












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Leaving One Place to Find Another by Suzanne Eller

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“As I worked through what it meant to forgive growing up in a

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home marked by rage and sorrow, this shift in thinking offered me what I needed to heal.”

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To Love My Enemy by Laurie Coombs


Forgiving is Forgetting by Janice Gaines


When Forgiveness Doesn’t Come


by Elisabeth Klein Corcoran


Forgiveness: For My Safety by Pam Lau


Fall + Winter

2013 columns

32 Think Ezer-Warriors Won’t Back Down by Carolyn Custis James

Spiritual Formation

36 Worldly Women People Live Their Theology by Shayne Moore 40 Male Box The Family Crazy Cycle by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs


The Seasons of Suffering by Trina Pockett

Woman of Influence


Why Curse the Darkness? An Interview with Patti Garibay by Mary Byers

41 My Fill The Give and Take of Forgiveness by Elisa Morgan


30 Resting Place

500 Dresses

34 Overflow Open Hands by Caryn Rivadeneira The Never Forsaking God by Oswald Chambers 38 Quick Fill


The Next Thing by Kim Harms

39 Four-Letter Word Hurt FALL/WINTER 2013




in focus }

By Suzanne Eller

Leaving one place to find another.








I held my newborn daughter in my arms. She was beautiful. As I held her that first day of her life, I prayed two prayers. “Thank you, God, for this beautiful little girl. What a miracle!” The second was just as heartfelt. “Lord, please help me not mess this up.” In my childhood, my mom could only be described as broken. She was pretty on the outside. Fragile inside. One day she might grab me or one of my siblings and beat us with a hairbrush or with a decoration pulled off the wall. The next day my mom sat on the edge of the bed, tears running down her face as she asked for forgiveness. One day she might grab a gun and threaten to shoot herself. The next she would leave an all-day sucker on our beds. I wondered if other children in the neighborhood held secrets, like we did.

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Leaving one place to find another. As I held my baby, Leslie, in my arms, I struggled. How can you be a good mom if no one showed you how? I longed to draw a line in the sand. I wanted to break the cycle of generations of broken women having babies before they were ready, of alcoholism, of abuse, and mental illness. I wanted to give this baby something greater than I had received. My faith had held me close from the age of 15. A friend invited me to church and I fell in love with this God who went to the cross for me. Now, as a young mom, my desire to leave generations of brokenness drove me to my knees. In that place of prayer, the word “forgive” surfaced over and over. I wasn’t sure how, or what it might look like, but sensed this was key to healing and a fresh start for me and my family tree.

Leaving one place to find another

Today, as my fingers rest on the keyboard where I am creating this article, I await the arrival of my fifth grandbaby. I have three grown children, and three in-law children I treasure. My “baby,” Leslie, is now 32. She’s a strong, fierce woman of faith, and mother of two. Her blue eyes light up with laughter often. I am amazed at her patience and the joy in which she approaches motherhood. Forgiveness gave us this gift. When I first began to explore forgiveness, it seemed simple: Somebody hurts you. You need to let go so you can move on. What I discovered is that forgiveness is a diverse word. When you dig deep, you find that it means: to get out of the debt collection business; to allow God to move into the raw and wounded places; to start fresh; to receive a new identity. These are just a few of the meanings in scripture. The more I learned, the more my perspective shifted. I thought I needed to forgive, but I began to realize that I get to forgive.


in focus }

By Suzanne Eller

As I worked through what it meant to forgive growing up in a home marked by rage and sorrow, this shift in thinking offered me what I needed to heal. It helped me to fully embrace another meaning of the word forgive, which is aphiemi, one of the most common words that describe forgiveness. It means: to leave one place to find another.

When we forgive, we leave anger to find joy. We leave hatred to find love. We leave dysfunction to find stability. We leave judgment to find compassion. We leave our identity of a neglected child to walk into our identity as God’s girl. In Matthew 5:24-25, Jesus says, “…if you are offering a gift at the altar, and you remember that a brother has something against you, leave your gift there and go and be reconciled to them. Then come back and offer your gift.” Jesus was telling the disciples to stop what they were doing if there was aphiemi work to be done in your heart. Why? Because he cared more about the disciples’ wellbeing than their sacrifice. Just as he cares about me, and you.

How do you forgive without change?

Maybe forgiving is something you long to do also, but change hasn’t occurred in your relationship. My journey to forgive came long before my mom started healing. I could have waited for her to say she was sorry, or to make amends. If you ask a thousand women why they don’t forgive, it is usually because they want the other person to make the first move. But God knows something we often do not. When you have been raised in dysfunction or CONTINUED ON PAGE 8 Æ abuse, it can mess with your identity. You may





Suzanne Eller is the author of The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness and a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker (Proverbs31. org). She’s also

struggle in your faith because you think it’s impossible to please God. You may live in fear that the good times are going to go away at any moment. You can carry trust issues into your closest relationships. The God who loves us has better things than this for you and me. When we leave one place to find another, we learn how to think differently. I am not just the daughter of a broken woman, or a biological father who never showed up. I am Suzie. An adventurer who loves roller coasters and who always thinks that cheesecake is worth the calories. I am not the unchurched teen anymore, but a Bible study teacher, speaker, mom and wife and grandma. I can continue to see myself, and respond, as if I were that little girl, or think of myself as who I am. We break the ties to the past. When we break the ties to the past, we give the next generation stability so that they don’t inherit the legacy of a bitter woman. We no longer hand down old behaviors or excuses. We become scholars and learn how to love without fear of abandonment and to recognize the miracles of today without peering through a mirror of the past. We leave behind our childhood to fully step into our role as an adult.

This allows us to see our childhood in a new light. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. So you accept what you cannot possibly fix, and hold your hands open for all that God is holding out to you.

What if forgiving is messy?

Forgiveness is rarely tidy. It’s simply a gift offered. If there is continued addiction or words or actions that are destructive, then you love from a distance. Forgiveness isn’t allowing abuse to continue. We aren’t responsible for forcing others to receive our forgiveness or even acknowledge it. To aphiemi forgive we acknowledge that this person, with debt so deep that a lifetime of apologies won’t suffice, is valuable to God. That’s what took place in my relationship with my mom. Even if she chose not to change, I found a different path. The hold of dysfunction was broken. Compassion entered the way I saw her for the first time. It didn’t excuse the past; it simply moved us from a wounded child and a broken woman to two people in need of God’s mercy. When you leave one place to find another, you pass down a powerful gift. A new legacy! Your past shaped you, but it no longer defines you. With God’s help, there’s no limit to what he can do with a forgiving heart. n

radio co-host for Encouragement Cafe (encouragementcafe. com), wife, mom, and “Gaga” to five babies under the age of three! You can connect with Suzie at

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Don’t stop here. Click on the “Get More” button to link to resources to help you think deeper and take the next step. For this article, you’ll find: Ì Think it Through: discussion questions Ì Play it Out: watch “Doorways of Forgiveness” with Elisa Morgan. Ì FullFill Store: read an excerpt of Suzanne’s book The Unburdened Heart. Purchase the book through our store and support FullFill.

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Find hope by facing the messiness of family life.

“The Beauty of Broken defies categories and breaks new ground as a raw account of a family that has been through everything—and in the process learned just how amazing grace is.” Philip Yancey, Best-selling author, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

In The Beauty of Broken, Elisa Morgan, one of today’s most respected female Christian leaders, shares for the the first time her very personal story of brokenness—from her first family of origin to her second family made up of her husband and two grown children. Over the years, Elisa’s family struggled privately with issues many parents must face, including alcoholism and drug addiction, infertility and adoption, teen pregnancy and abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and death. Each story layers onto the next to reveal the brokenness that comes into our lives without invitation. Elisa learns it is only by owning our brokenness that we are shaped into God’s best idea for us and enabled to discover the beauty in ourselves and each member of our family. Available wherever books are sold

To Love My Enemy Piecing Together Forgiveness After a Devastating Loss by Laurie Coombs I knew something happened. Shaking my head, I adamantly whispered, “No. No. No. No....” But with tear-filled eyes they told me. “Laurie, your dad was murdered last night. He’s dead.” Startled, my eyes began to dart around the room, not knowing what to do with what I had been told. Shackles weighed me down with no escape. I wanted to run away. I wanted to scream. I wanted to hit something, throw something. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening, I thought. But it did happen. And in that moment, my life was forever changed.


t’s time to forgive,” Jesus whispered nine years later. “I want you to love your enemy.” I was a baby Christian at the time—having come to Christ only one year before— and there were so many unknowns. Questions riddled my mind as I attempted to make sense of what I was being called to. How do you forgive the unforgivable? I thought. How do you love the unlovable? I wanted to forgive, but at this point, I had tried to will myself into a place of forgiveness for years, with little success. The pain—though dulled with the passage of time—still ran deep, but for the first time, I brought my pain and bitterness to Jesus, allowing him unhindered access to the darkness within my soul. “Heal me, Lord. Show me how to forgive.” I prayed, not realizing this very prayer was the beginning of my journey toward forgiveness and healing.

I grabbed my Bible and read the account of Jesus dying on the cross, hands and feet pierced only moments before, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” and was amazed by his mercy to forgive those who were in the process of murdering him. This is why we forgive, I thought. This is the example we must follow. I have to be honest. I knew I needed to forgive Anthony, the man who murdered my dad. In fact, I wanted to forgive. The thing I did not want to do, however, was love my enemy. The word “love” in the same sentence as “enemy” didn’t seem to make sense to me. What’s more, the word “love” in reference to Anthony was repulsive. Still, Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” so I began to pray (Matthew 5:44). I prayed good for Anthony, though it was counterintuitive to all that was inside me. I prayed that God would change him. I prayed that God would heal him. I prayed that God would bring him to complete repentance. And I even prayed that Anthony would be transformed by the gospel to the extent that he would be motivated to live to the glory of God in prison, bringing many prisoners to know and serve Jesus. But still, it felt wrong, praying for Anthony—like I was betraying my dad—but I knew the ways of God are always right, regardless of our feelings. At God’s leading, Anthony and I began corresponding through letters. As we worked toward forgiveness, we hashed out every detail of the events surrounding the murder. I knew my perspective was skewed by my biases, my anger, and my loss. So, I began to pray to see as I ought—to be given new eyes to see the situation anew. Not as an embittered murder victim’s daughter, but as one transformed by grace. Soon, these prayers were answered, and I was given greater understanding, which slowly shifted my perspective toward truth. Jesus brings good out of evil, love out of hate, and peace out of despair. All too often we see forgiveness as a burdensome command, when it is intended to be a gift and a blessing. The moment our hearts are open to forgiveness we begin to see redemption happen. Jesus is our Redeemer, and it is his desire to lift us out of our despair and our pain and bring us to a new place. A place rich with beauty and blessings. n

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because

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going deeper }

Laurie Coombs is a writer who encourages others to follow Jesus despite their fears or their feelings of resistance. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband, Travis. They have two little girls and are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. To read more about Laurie’s journey toward forgiveness and the redemption she’s experienced, visit

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Click here to watch Laurie in “Pipes and Wires,” talking about her life-changing correspondence with the man who took her father’s life.

God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” - C.S. Lewis FALL/WINTER 2013

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Finding, understanding and using your unique voice is a lifelong process.

Forgiving is Forgetting By Janice Gaines

“I’ll forgive you, but I’ll never forget,” is a

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Janice Gaines is a Bible teacher and worship artist with a heart for seeing people’s lives changed by experiencing God and understanding his Word. She attends Grace Chapel in Franklin, Tennessee, where she resides with her husband.

phrase I had used and practiced for years. I didn’t make it up, but I sure employed it without challenging it along the way. It’s a popular phrase that I’m sure you’ve heard and at least considered living by a time or two. The problem is that to live by this mantra means to commit to never being free from the pain caused by others. To never forget forces you to actively remind yourself of not only the injury, but also the pain it caused. It’s like continually picking a scab on a wound you’re hoping will heal soon. You’re interrupting the very process you need to be at work. As it turns out, the phrase hastily combines two very separate processes—forgiveness and reconciliation—into one. Reconciliation requires gathering useful information and looking ahead to some form of a healthy relationship. It’s something to consider after you have forgiven someone. Forgiveness is first, though, and it requires letting go of any sense of entitlement to retribution. Forgiveness is a choice that you decide to live by for the rest of your life. There will be times when emotions threaten this choice, but we must be in control of our actions—not our emotions. Walking in forgiveness and letting someone off the hook is not easy, but it’s an ongoing process that promises freedom in the end. n

Read as these women share their voices and then consider your own.

Get More! Click here to link to Elisabeth’s website.

When Forgiveness Doesn’t Come


By Elisabeth Klein Corcoran

Being a divorced Christian woman means that I have asked pretty much everyone I have ever met for forgiveness. And I have done that because I have felt that I have let every single person down that I know. I failed my church family. I failed my friends. I failed my parents, my siblings. I failed my children. I failed my ex-husband. I failed myself. I failed God. Because I messed up. I didn’t choose to just hold on to my marriage no matter what. I daringly asked for help, shedding light on our disintegrating marriage as opposed to staying quiet. I signed the divorce papers as opposed to fighting it in court. That’s a lot of amends to make, a lot of forgiveness to wait for. From most of these people, I have gotten the all clear. The we’re good’s. I have gratefully—and somewhat surprisingly—experienced deeper grace and compassion since my divorce than any other time in my life. But then there are some others who just can’t—or won’t—offer their forgiveness to me. In those instances, I must sit with the weight of disapproval over my life, knowing that in some people’s eyes, I don’t only not measure up, I have sinned too much for their liking. This has been my greatest lesson on forgiveness through this entire painful process: I cannot get everyone’s approval or forgiveness or grace. But I also must learn to live without it. And the way that I can is because I choose to believe that only one opinion of me matters. “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (I Corinthians 4:3-4, NIV) n

Elisabeth Klein Corcoran is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage and speaks several times a month to women’s groups. She is a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild and has traveled to Haiti and Sierra Leone, and led a team of women to Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse doing AIDS work. She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online at elisabeth


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))) Get More! Click here to link to Pam’s website.

Forgiveness: For My Safety By Pam Lau

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the sun go down on my anger. Desperate to get Jesus’ take on the painful scenarios, I pleaded with him to help me forget. Instead, he directed me to slow down and pay attention to his parable on the unmerciful servant. There, he showed me how living within the limits of forgiveness isn’t a passive, kind, mindless act that lets another keep wounding me. Once I experience an injustice, I can’t forgive until I’ve faced it, named it, and talked about it. Talking about it is painful and risky. Then, I can forgive from the heart; somehow God frees my spirit even when I’m still hurting. I’ve stopped letting too many suns go down. That used to make me feel powerful—like when I’m driving ten miles over the speed limit. Today I live within the limits of forgiveness for my own safety. It’s a decision of the will and one that I have to make every morning. n


Pam Lau is the author of Soul Strength and her work has appeared in Christianity Today’s Her.menuetics, FullFill magazine and The Christian Scholars Review. She lives near Portland, Oregon with her husband and three daughters. Visit her website at

Recently, I made a sixty-day commitment to follow all the driving laws. This decision came after a friend asked if getting speeding tickets was “habitual” with me. She was just asking. The honest answer is I’m a passionate woman who can go from zero to sixty, fast. This whole-hearted approach to life spills over into my driving, convincing me I can live without limits. The thing about limits is with too many I can feel controlled, without them I lose control. Living within them? I feel free. Today, my driving habits resemble a driver’s education manual; this is a decision of my will and one I must make everyday. It’s the same with forgiveness. I’m a woman with a few complicated close relationships—I often ask Jesus, “How many times do I forgive?” I experienced trauma at a young age. Now as a mom of three daughters, when I push past the limits of forgiveness, it not only affects me but them as well. I was experiencing regular times of breaking the forgiveness laws: avoiding confrontation, reliving conversations, habitually letting

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The Seasons of Suffering


by Trina Pockett ’ll never forget the words that changed my world forever. “You have cancer.” I was a twenty-two year old woman, four months pregnant with my daughter. I had an annoying lump in my neck that wouldn’t go away. I chalked it up to pregnancy hormones. The doctors were alarmed by it and wanted to do a biopsy. I was picking out baby names while they were discovering cancer cells under a microscope. In those three words, my world shattered. Everything I knew as true and safe vanished. I was in shock. There were so many questions to answer. How? Why? What about my unborn daughter? Where are you, God? Instantly I was pushed into a season of life that I wanted no part of—an instant world of appointments, specialists, and tests. Everyone was trying to figure out how to treat a pregnant mom with cancer. After all of the tests and specialists, the news was grim. Masked by the pregnancy, my cancer had spread from my neck to my chest, and into my stomach. I needed to start chemotherapy right away. I was heading into the hardest season of suffering, but what I didn’t know at the time was that I was also heading into an incredible season of spiritual growth. We all encounter suffering in life. It doesn’t have to be cancer. It might be divorce, sickness, depression, loss of a loved one, a broken relationship. The question that we must ask is, “How does suffering change us and our relationship with God?” These are three (out of thousands) of lessons that I learned about God through suffering. God is present in suffering. One of the verses that I hold onto during seasons of suffering is Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Before I became sick with cancer, I didn’t truly

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understand how close and intimate God is in our daily lives. During the cancer, my prayer life became raw. I was honest, broken, mad, confused, and tender. Every time, God met me right where I was and gave peace that only he can give. God shows his love through people. During a tenmonth window, I was diagnosed with cancer, started chemotherapy, stopped to deliver my daughter, restarted chemotherapy, and finished with radiation therapy. I could barely take care of myself, let alone my toddler son and a brand new baby. God worked miracles through my friends and family. People prayed for our family, brought meals, watched my son, drove me to treatments, and so on. Through a season of suffering, God showed me the beautiful gift of community. Before I was sick, I rarely asked people for help. The season of suffering taught me about the humility to accept help from others. Friends and family showed me God’s love through showing up! Suffering reminds us that we need each other. We are meant for community. God is Sovereign. When I was first diagnosed, I tried to make ridiculous deals with God. If he would cure me, then I would pray every morning at 5:00 a.m. During the suffering I had to ask myself if I still believed in his sovereignty. Through a time of crying out to God and praying I realized that my having cancer didn’t change God’s love for me. Whether I lived or died, he is still God and he is still sovereign. We can’t always make sense of life and why suffering happens, but we can always trust in the grace of God. Life is messy but God isn’t caught Trina Pockett is an off guard by our circumstances. inspirational speaker Through suffering we are able to exand writer with over perience an incredible intimacy with ten years experience in God, community with people, and women’s ministry. She amazing grace in our lives. n encourages women

Click here find questions, helping you to Think it Through.

to press on through adversity. Connect with Trina at trinapockett. com or @trinapockett

spiritual formation




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of influence

You see a problem. Something broken that’s worth fixing. You want to do something. How do you start? Here’s how she did it. An Interview with

Patti Garibay

Founder of American Heritage Girls by Mary Byers





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What’s the problem?

American Heritage Girls (AHG) Committed to building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country, AHG offers badge programs, service projects, girl leadership opportunities, and outdoor experiences to members. It serves as a catalyst for building young women of integrity and faith. Essentially, it’s a Christ-centered alternative to Girl Scouts.

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The year was 1995. The place was West Chester, Ohio. Existing programming for girls was becoming increasing secular.

Where did the vision for AHG originate? I loved leading our Children’s ministry at our church, volunteering in my kids’ classrooms and served for 13 years as a Girl Scout leader in my three daughters’ troops. Prior to motherhood, I majored in Education and teaching youth was my passion. God had placed a love for kids on my heart. When the Girl Scouts USA, an organization I loved and served for over a decade, decided to allow “God” to be optional in their program, I knew there was Patti no way I could continue Garibay to serve, nor be an ambassador, for them. As a result of this change, my husband’s coaxing, and my beloved, disabled father’s encouragement—“Why curse the darkness, when you can light a candle? Start something new!”—the idea was birthed. I spent much time in prayer over this as I was SO busy with four young kids and a husband working full time and earning his MBA—I truly had NO time to do this. But when it is in his will, God provides all of your resources. What do you do to grow yourself in life and leadership with others and with God? Prayer for me is a lifeline. Truly, Abba

Father is consistently in my mind and heart. I strive to be like Jesus and working and playing with fellow believers strengthens me and striving to love my fellow man sharpens me. I read a lot! I read the Scriptures for sustenance and leadership books for great ideas and new best practices. The Christian Leadership Alliance and Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability have been manna for the AHG ministry. And I would be remiss not to mention the thousands of AHG volunteers who share encouragement, stories and truths with me to help me grow in ways I could never have imagined, and neither can my husband! What mistake have you made and what has it taught you? Oh my, so many! But I am blessed that God has allowed me to have a lot of skinned knees and no face plants! I have learned that AHG is all God’s and has nothing to do with me—I am simply a willing vessel. Knowing this, owning this, and believing this has arrested the stress I used to endure daily. There is no way I can possibly do this alone and I rest on his promise and my life verse, “Be still and know that I am God” — Psalm 46:10.

Is it worth fixing?

Yes. The girls of today grow in to the women of tomorrow. My heart is just full of concern for girls. Every time I am privileged enough to meet a Troop of girls during my travels, my heart is filled with hope and promise and a deep desire for each of them to know that they are beautiful and talented and designed to be a difference maker because they are made in God’s image. I often think, if only this young lady knew she was perfectly woven in his image—there would be no bulimia, no cutting, no suicide, no promiscuity—so many ills confronting girls would be non-issues because she knows that she truly is the daughter of the King of Kings! — Patti

I have also learned the importance of conflict. I used to avoid it at all costs. I was raised in a home in which conflict was avoided, which often allowed problems to grow. But I have learned some conflict is good—it shows passion. Apathetic people are rarely in conflict. I like passion. God can use it for great things and he can use conflict to humble us. And finally, I have a learned an amazing truth that I love to share love with the AHG girls: it is a greater blessing to serve than be served. How has God surprised you in your ministry and how have you responded? I look at AHG’s finances and remember when we took turns paying the phone bill. Now to see the membership grow at such an incredible rate (48% in the last two years) and to have the privilege of serving tens of thousands of families

while helping them grow in love for each other and for God—it just makes me cry with gratitude. I consistently say, “Why me Precious Father? Thank you!” Many times we had a financial need and a check would come in for exactly the amount we needed for a bill or a project. Or most recently, our need for enhanced IT infrastructure due to growth resulted in the offer of a most qualified, retired IT architect agreeing to help us—these are just a handful of “Godincidents,” I call them. They can only come from him and his amazing plan and they have helped me become the woman I am today. Where do you turn for mentoring? Iron sharpens iron and my fellow managers and I have a great rapport and a sense of accountability. I am actively seeking a mentor whose has wisdom and has been where I have been. I pray

that God reveals that person to me soon. I am serving as a trusted advisor to the interim executive director of a new Christ centered boys’ group, Trail Life USA, that will launch its program in January, 2014. What have you learned about yourself as you’ve led? That God has given me the gift of strategy and vision along with the ability to motivate others to do great things for his Kingdom. I never knew this before the AHG ministry. Although “strategy” and “vision” sound so adult, I also have learned that I can maintain a child-like wonder and amazement over the very nature of our Savior. I want to continually experience surprise and appreciation over his provision.




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Patti’s favorite leadership books include: Jesus CEO by Laura Beth Jones To the point and inspirational. Dreamgiver by Bruce Wilkinson Love the storybook feel. Just what I needed during AHG’s infancy and a difficult time of feeling alone. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels Idea of the sacred keys entrusted to each leader resonated with me. Despite various styles, we must treat this responsibility with intentionality. Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges Love the stages of leadership and use to raise up successors. AHG partners with LLJ and all staff go through an Encounter. We encourage our volunteers to do the same. Mastering the Management Buckets by John Pearson Provided a technical and necessary paradigm shift for me. She Did What She Could by Elisa Morgan A breath of fresh air for multitasking women. Sit at his feet; he will guide us.

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What would you change if you started American Heritage Girls all over again? I wish AHG was bigger and touching more lives. But God has a plan. I believe AHG’s slow, organic growth allowed for hearts to be molded and endeared to those beginning stages. The commitment of our volunteers is incredible—they know this ministry was birthed from moms who used to help cover expenses themselves and cover old, donated copy machines with blankets in their garage to keep them operational from the cold. The story of AHG is sweet. It is every woman’s story and I pray it remains that way long after I am gone from this earth. It is a story of what God can do if you allow him to interrupt your life. What’s the most memorable leadership motto you’ve incorporated in your leadership? For me, it is Romans 12:4, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so

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we, who are many are one body in Christ.” I have learned that each person is important to the body, to the ministry. Discovering each person’s gifts and allowing them to flourish is what true leaders do. True leaders help grow other leaders. Any advice to another woman who is just now starting a nonprofit ministry? Stress will eat you alive, particularly if you are juggling family and ministry. You must count on God’s promises and continually seek to be in his will through prayer and devotional time. If the ministry is truly of him, it is his. Realize this. It will not be easy but you will grow and you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams. Choose your life verse and refer to it often. Pick an accountability friend (I like to say a “coma” friend—the kind of friend that if you were in a coma, would pluck the whisker out of your chin), and meet with her often. Share the stress and the blessing. And always remain in child-like wonder at the resources he provides. n

Don’t stop here. Click on the “Get More” button to link to resources to help you think deeper and take the next step. For this article, you’ll find: Ì Play it Out: What do karaoke, canoeing and cupcakes have in common? Watch the “American Heritage Girls” video to find out. Ì FullFill Store: read excerpts of Patti’s top leadership books. Purchase books through our store and support FullFill.

Occasionally, just a drop creates a lasting change. For only $1, you can provide FullFill and The Weekly ReFill to one woman for an entire year. Please consider sponsoring a number of women to live out their influence. Go to and click GIVE HERE.



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by Kim Harms, Founder of 500 Dresses

She saw a need. She honed a skill. She taught others.

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She did …

The Next Thing




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And I’ve found when I obey in one thing, he reveals another.

Red bows bounce in her hair as she follows us along the dusty footpath. I feel like an intruder walking among the mud and thatch homes in the Port-auPrince neighborhood. A wealthy American outsider presuming upon the lives of impoverished Haitians. But when her hand slips into mine, suddenly we are not rich and poor but the same. “Bonswa,” is all I can say as her brown fingers mesh with mine. I reach for the bag on my husband’s back. It contains the perfect red and white polka-dot dress. My heart is simultaneously emptied and filled as I watch her hug the gift to her chest. When God prompted me to start sewing dresses with my mother three years ago I could not have imagined he would bring me to this place. The First Step of Obedience A 1997 trip with the organization Mission to Haiti birthed a passion in my heart for the country, but it was in 2010 that God used a coffee date with a friend in the process of adopting to impress upon me his desire for me to serve in a new way. After that coffee date, God kept leading me to Isaiah where he speaks these words through the prophet about true fasting, “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him…” (Isaiah 58:7). I knew God was going to call me to do something tangible. “You can sew.” The voice kept repeating in my head. “But I don’t even like to sew,” I’d argue and push the thought away. When I finally recognized this wasn’t about finding a way I enjoy serving, but about following God’s lead, I called my seamstress mom and she agreed to help me make a few dresses to send to Haiti. A few dresses

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turned into 121 with a goal of sending 500 more. At my son’s suggestion we started making shorts for boys, and to date have shipped over 1000 items to Haiti. Doing the Next Thing The ministry is called 500 Dresses, but it’s not really about the dresses. It’s about obedience. A number of great ministries deliver thousands more dresses than we do to impoverished children around the world. 500 Dresses was born out of answering God’s call to do “the next thing.” And I’ve found when I obey in one thing, he reveals another. Jesus’ words are reliable, “Be careful how you listen! Whoever has, to him will be given. Whoever does not have, even the little he has will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:18) When we follow the Spirit’s urging in one assignment, another is given. When we don’t, we can get stuck in a rut. My “completed assignments” have included sharing in the public school system, sewing with Sunday School classes and welcoming groups of women into my home for sewing days. A Bold Assignment Last fall I received a bold assignment. Mission to Haiti staff member Esther Giunta asked if I would consider traveling to Haiti to teach sewing classes. She was interested in expanding one of Mission to Haiti’s ministries to help widows and single mothers earn a living. Teaching women to sew would be a part of that. After much prayer, my husband and I committed to the trip. He served on a construction team while I taught alongside three other American women. Though I am a mediocre seamstress at best, God lovingly used me despite my shortcomings. Through those days of threading needles and explaining sewing basics there were several times I was overcome with a

Over time, success in those little steps softens our hearts to the bigger things.

rush of emotions from the realization that I was standing smack dab in the middle of God’s will. In his book The 10-Second Rule, Clare De Graff says, “Christian character is shaped less by our big dramatic decisions than by the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of obedience. Those small acts shape our character and prepare our hearts to accept more bold assignments from God. They are building blocks for a life that God blesses.” God gives each of us opportunities to take little steps of obedience—to do “the next thing.” Over time, success in those little steps softens our hearts to the bigger things. Because I obeyed in one little thing, God kept stacking up those building blocks as he gave me more opportunities to say yes. Until one day I found myself standing in a foreign country on a dusty road amidst dirt and tin homes with a sweet Haitian child beside me. As she held tightly to that polka dot dress, I had to wipe tears from my eyes. Filled to overflowing with a joy only God can give I thought, “Okay, I’m ready Lord. What’s the next thing?” n

Get More! Click here to link to the 500 Dresses site and to learn about Sevenly where your purchases support causes.

Kim Harms is a freelance writer who lives in Huxley, Iowa with her husband and three sons. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines and devotionals. You can learn more about her passion for Haiti and Mission to Haiti at and and keep up with her writing journey at


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resting place


“Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us.” — Richard Rohr, Falling Upward


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In Hebrew, the word ezer—often translated “helper”—actually means “strong warrior.”

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In 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani school girl and activist for education for girls was gunned down by the Taliban in an attempt to silence her for good. Instead, they gave her voice a global audience and drew people to her cause. On her 16th birthday, after an arduous but determined battle to recover, Malala stood before the United Nations General Assembly— poised and unbending—to reiterate her fierce commitment to education for all children. “The Taliban … thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were


Ezer-Warriors Won’t Back Down

A feature inviting you to think through your theology. By Carolyn Custis James

born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same.” The kind of tough-minded steely determination Malala displayed against repeated Taliban threats and the winds of powerful religious and cultural opposition is awe inspiring. In Christian circles, it’s one thing to admire women of strength and courage, but then female strength and stubbornness don’t make the list of appropriate attributes for a godly woman. We may admire (as biblical writers do) the strong and fearlessly determined women like Tamar, Rahab, Deborah, Esther, the Marys of Nazareth, Bethany, and Magdala, Priscilla, and Junia, but that doesn’t change the fact that their examples are typically not included in discussions of qualities we expect our daughters and ourselves to cultivate as followers of Jesus. It’s hard to understand how Christians can affirm the authority of the Bible and yet systematically remove the portraits of these strong women from the gallery of biblical role models for us. In the process, we are turned away from owning aspects of ourselves that God designed and means for us to cultivate and employ. It can cause us to be caught off guard instead of on the ready for the moment when God calls us to draw on that kind of fierce determination in battles we must face. In “All the Flinty Women,” author Brian Doyle reflects on the death of his grandmother and what his father had to say about women. “My father said the women in my mother’s family had wills so adamant and granitic that you could get a fire

started by using flint against their wills to get the necessary spark…. My father said Mary Magdalene was a remarkable woman with a granitic will and a love bigger than the ocean, and she ought to be acclaimed more than all the poor muddled apostles put together.” I have to ask myself, What legacy do I want to embrace and perpetuate as a follower of Jesus? How can any of us—from young girls to elderly women—imagine God would call us ezer-warriors and not also summon us to battles as fierce as these so-called “exceptional” women faced? In Hebrew, the word ezer— often translated “helper”—actually means “strong warrior.” What is the cost to ourselves, our brothers, and God’s mission in the world if we are reticent to own and exercise the gifts of strength, stubbornness, and courage that God has entrusted to his daughters? As we all become aware and better informed of the unchecked corruption of spiritual, verbal, domestic, and sexual abuse that fester within the Body of Christ and epidemic levels of rampant injustice in our own culture and worldwide, at what terrible price to others do we excuse ourselves from straightening our spines and stepping up? If the small but courageous voice of one wounded Pakistani teenager can stand so unyieldingly against such frightening odds, what potential has God entrusted to us? Are we even curious enough to find out? This is a day for God’s ezer-warriors to engage these battles with “wills so adamant and granitic that you could get a fire started by using flint against their wills to get the necessary spark.” n

{ think }

Carolyn Custis James is involved in mobilizing women through WhitbyForum and Synergy. Carolyn is the author of Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women.

Get More! Click here to watch Malala Yousafzai addressing the United Nations Youth Assembly.


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The stress thumped in my head and rolled toward my shoulders. I walked to the kitchen cabinet where a bottle of Ibuprofen offered a promise of relief. If not for this bit of news—that we owed more on a bill than we had thought, more than we had money to pay—than at least for the headache it caused. But as I shook the tablets into my open palm, the curve of my fingers and the lines on my hand froze my eyes for a moment as I remembered another time when my hand held this position. I’d been stressed about money then, too, and I’d prayed by clenching my fist tight, as if holding in the stresses that weighed me down. Then I opened my fist as I offered the weights of my world—the things I could do so little about—to the one who held the world, the one who held even my stressors. So I did it again: clenched up the stress and then prayed, paraphrasing personalized words from Psalm 34:17: “I’m crying out God, hear me. Deliver me from my trouble.” Then I opened my palms and released. The bill didn’t disappear—nor did the headache. But in that moment, my prayer reminded me of what I so often need reminding of: that stresses will come and pressure will mount. But I’ve still—I’ve always— got a God who hears me and delivers me, in all sorts of ways. n Caryn Rivadeneira is a speaker and the author of several books including, Known and Loved: 52 Devotions from the Psalms and the forthcoming Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed About God’s Abundance.

CLASSIC THOUGHT By Oswald Chambers


The Never Forsaking God


“He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5) What line of thinking do my thoughts take? Do I turn to what God says or to my own fears? Am I simply repeating what God says, or am I learning to truly hear him and then to respond after I have heard what he says? For he himself said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ” (13:5-6) “I will never leave you…”—not for any reason; not my sin, selfishness, stubbornness, nor waywardness. Have I really let God say to me that he will never leave me? If I have not truly heard this assurance of God, then let me listen again. “I will never…forsake you.” Sometimes it is not the difficulty of life but the drudgery of it that makes me think God will forsake me. When there is no major difficulty to overcome, no vision from God, nothing wonderful or beautiful—just the everyday activities of life—do I hear God’s assurance even in these? We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing—that he is preparing and equipping us for some extraordinary work in the future. But as we grow

in his grace we find that god is glorifying himself here and now, at this very moment. If we have God’s assurance behind us, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying him even in the ordinary days and ways of life. n Taken from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, edited by James Reimann, © 1992 by Oswald Chambers Publications Assn., Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved. Order My Utmost for His Highest at 800-653-8333 or


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An invitation to find your place in this world. By Shayne Moore

(worldly) women

Living Theology I grew up in a home and in a community of theologians. Discourse about God, the Church, and koinenia (community) was certainly more commonplace than a debate over the Bears and the Packers starting line up. I went to a small, Christian, liberal arts college where I received a BA and an MA in theology. I’ve spent much time in classrooms (with mostly men) and participated, and kept up with, the allow-me-to-demonstrate-how-muchmore-I-know-than-you academic game. I have written enormous term papers on Holiness in the book of Leviticus and discussed dead German theologians ad nauseam. I have debated, written, edited, taken notes, ignored, argued, and participated in theological reflection until I have grown quite tired of it. I even flirted with the idea of continuing my education and studying toward a PhD in Church History. But something, perhaps God, redirected my love for learning to a love for doing. I’m not saying these things are mutually exclusive by any means. However, in my life, these two things had become unbalanced. I wanted to live it. I wanted to explore my theology of grace and mercy and compassion and justice. I wanted to experience what it all was like off the pages of history and away from creeds, endnotes, bibliographies and classrooms. I believe this is the desire of many Christians. To authentically live what

they believe. Much has been written and discussed on this issue. In our modern lives, sometimes engaging the world and those who are suffering can seem separate from us—because of political affiliation, faith differences, socio-economic reasons, location and culture—the list goes on of that which divides us from our neighbors. In this changing world of social media, constant news sources, smart phone apps, and easy travel, the answer to the age-old question, “Who is my neighbor?” can seem daunting. Yet if we look closely at the way Jesus defined a “neighbor” his answer fits even today. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus uses two arch enemies as the main characters in his story. Yet, the Samaritan helped the Jew in need even though it was extremely dangerous for him to do so (stopping on that stretch of road put him in harm of being attacked as well) and it was expensive. He paid for the man’s care until he was better. As pastor Timothy Keller points out, “Jesus’ answer is clear and devastating; it demolishes any limitation put on our mercy. We are to help people of other races and religions, even from a group we have a historical reason to distrust. We are to help, even when it is risky and costly to us.” (Gospel in Life, Grace Changes Everything, p 217) Do we place limitations on our mercy, compassion and justice? On our theology? Who do we help and why? I believe these are questions worth asking. People

live what they truly believe. Our presuppositions, our prejudices, our pride, jealousies and insecurities all affect our beliefs—about ourselves, others, and yes, particularly about God. Do we help others when it is dangerous to us not just by a physical threat but even when feeling threatened emotionally, socially, or financially? Do we help others even if we know it will be costly to us? I believe many think they will. However, as Jesus humbles us in this famous story, the religious leaders walked past the bleeding man. They crossed the road and got as far from him as possible as they could not be bothered with this neighbor in need. Our theology teaches that we are to draw near those who are suffering. By this simple and radical act, we live the gospel. We live what we claim to believe. We participate in authentic grace and mercy and move closer to God’s heart of compassion and justice. n

Shayne Moore, MA, is a singer/songwriter, speaker, and the author of two books. She is the president and co-founder of Redbud Writers Guild and co-founded the West Chicagoland Anti Trafficking Coalition. A member of the World Vision Speakers Bureau, Shayne lives with her husband and three children in Wheaton, IL. Shayne can be found at moore and on Twitter@shaynemoore.


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Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a great technique for reducing overall body tension. Here’s how to practice this calming art: • Find a quiet place to sit or lie down and make yourself comfortable. • Begin by tensing all the muscles in your face. Make a tight grimace, close your eyes as tightly as possible, clench your teeth, even move your ears up if you can. Hold this for the count of eight as you inhale. • Now exhale and relax completely. Let your face go completely lax, as

The number of though you were sleeping. Feel the tension seep from your facial muscles, and enjoy the feeling. • Next, completely tense your neck and shoulders, again inhaling and counting to eight. Then exhale and relax. • Continue down your body, repeating the procedure for each muscle group in your arms, legs and buttocks. by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. (Excerpted from

quickFill w

Percentage of adults’ daily calorie intake that comes from fast food in the United States. This is down from 13% in 2006. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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cars that kept the chain going when one customer paid for the car behind her at Heav’nly Donuts in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

One hug. The price 82-year-old retired barber Anthony Cymerys charges the homeless and down on their luck for a haircut.



Calm Down!

FOUR-LETTER WORDS are words constructed of four letters. They are perfectly good, usually innocent words. Some four-letter words come with baggage that weighs down their meaning. Often there is negativity, discomfort or stigma assigned to such otherwise interesting and usable words. As we reconsider these words and address them openly, perhaps we can reclaim these words for their contribution to our lives.

“To cause bodily injury or mental pain.”



four-letter word

We’ve all been hurt. And we’ve all hurt others. It’s unavoidable, inescapable and often, unintentional. We step on someone’s foot, hurt their feelings, or flatten their heart. Life is messy and in this messiness we often bruise another through our thoughtlessness, hurriedness or unwillingness. We blindly offend, inadvertently omit, or accidentally forget. As we plow our way through life we sometimes fail to take others along with us when we should. And sometimes we simply don’t want others along for the journey. Enter hurt. Whether it’s your heart or your head or a body part, hurting isn’t fun. But hurt can lead to healing and some of the pain we endure actually leads to greater health in the long run. An inoculation prevents disease. A broken arm heals. And a broken heart learns to love again. Fuller, stronger, more mature. The setbacks lead to strides forward and the misunderstandings lead to clarification and stronger relationships. There’s no denying that hurt hurts. There’s also no denying that hurt can heal. But what about the hurts that are too deep? The pain that’s too great to bear? The injuries that don’t heal? The damage that cripples? Where’s the good in this? Hurt holds lessons for us. Can we find the courage to dig deep enough to find what they are? To discover a resilience we didn’t know we had? To glimpse a tiny sliver of forgiveness pushing its way through the muck of disappointment and distrust? To learn what we do, and don’t, want in our relationships in the future? To discover the truth about ourselves? What’s our role when others hurt us? Is it best to remain quiet so that we don’t rock the boat? Should we scream, loud, so that everyone knows what’s happing to us? Do we take to social networks and Tweet and Facebook our way to a better place? The truth is, we train others how to treat us. When others hurt us, we have a responsibility to say, “Ouch! That hurts!” Sometimes it should be whispered. And sometimes it should be said more firmly. The situation dictates the response. But if we don’t stand up for ourselves, who will? Hurt may hurt. But it can also help. And heal. n


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male box

The Founder and President of Love and Respect Ministries, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is an internationally-known public speaker and the bestselling author of Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs— a Christian Book of the Year Award winner, having sold over 1.5 million copies. His new book is Love and Respect in the Family: The Respect Parents Desire, The Love Children Need.

The Family Crazy Cycle By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

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and around it goes until it spins like crazy. The key to marital success is learning how to get off this Crazy Cycle and onto the Energizing and Rewarded Cycles. Women have significant wisdom and influence to stop the Crazy Cycle, whether at work, home or in leadership. But what about the Crazy Cycle in the family? If you are a parent (or an adult child, for that matter), you know there is lots of craziness between parents and kids too. We all need a game plan for raising our kids, no matter what our own childhood was like. Both my wife, Sarah, and I felt inadequate to parent due to our broken homes, so we turned to God’s Word. I eventually looked at every passage to parents. What I found blew me away! God has not only revealed to us how to parent, he has given us a blueprint for parenting that echoes what he has revealed to us about marriage: love and respect. The same Crazy Cycle that rears its ugly head between a husband and wife also interferes in the relationship between parent and child. Without love, a child reacts without respect. Without respect, a parent reacts without love…and the cycle begins to spin! Where are the crazy cycles in your life? And, more importantly, as a woman of influence, what can you do about them? In order to stop the madness, a woman often has to lead by example and decide to be the first one to change her actions, knowing that when you change one thing, other things change (even though that feels unfair). My Mom was not a doormat but through her demeanor and dignity motivated my Dad to receive Christ. Take a minute today to ask yourself where respect is lacking—and how you can help restore it. Examine your leadership to determine how a change in you might lead to a change in others. Most importantly, ask how helping create a stable environment (at home, work, church or your community) can help stop The Crazy Cycles in your life. Women are gifted at this. Don’t miss your opportunity! n


Do you have a story that immediately comes to mind when you hear the words “Family Crazy Cycle”? I do. In fact, I have several. At the age of 2, I witnessed my Dad attempting to strangle my Mom. I rushed at him and began pounding him with my little fists. He slapped me on the head, and I sank down crying. He let go of Mom, and afterward I saw her weeping. This episode, among others, often led me to ask myself as a young child, “Does my Daddy love me?” My questions about him made my relationship with my mother even more integral. My parents divorced when I was one, remarried a couple years later but then separated for six years. I remember throwing temper tantrums in my childish attempt to get love. As time went on and my Dad continued to react to me in ways that felt unloving, I acted disrespectfully many times. Things really peaked one day when I grabbed a butcher knife and told my Mom I was going to kill my Dad. Although I didn’t intend to follow through, this action was a pretty vivid indication of the anger that had built up inside me. I was actually trying to get my Dad to wake up to my need for his reassuring love. It didn’t happen. Instead, I heard words like, “You are useless!” I had some deep wounds as a result of feeling unloved by my Dad. My Mom, on the other hand, was a loving and strong woman who did her best to fill in the gaps, for which I’m very thankful. And I’m grateful that my entire family, including my Dad, came to know Christ a few years after my own conversion at the age of 16. Still, I was 29 years old before I ever heard my Dad say he loved me. I have had to deal with the wounds from my past. I recognize the importance my Mother played in my life. She’s living proof that the little things we do matter. There is a Crazy Cycle in marriage, too. It looks like this: without love from him, she reacts without respect. And without respect from her, he reacts without love. Around

my fill


The Give and Take of Forgiveness

Forgiveness—whether getting it or giving it—was not terribly hard in the first seasons of my faith. In my less-formed faith I leaned into a kind of simple obedience. If God said to forgive, then I forgave. My boyfriend when he disappointed me. A teacher when she mispronounced my name over and over, again and again. My brother when he forgot to give me an important message. But in my adult years, I’ve faltered in forgiveness. Maybe it’s because adult sins—both committed and incurred—have the potential of bigger consequences? I’m not sure. Hard-to-forgive moments have left me splayed out in the dirt. Even when I’ve thought wounds past were forgiven and forgotten, they have influenced and infected my relationships and choices. I’ve had to return to the basics of forgiveness again in my grown woman years. My remedial course (taken what seems like just about every “semester” in my grown up life) underlined what forgiveness isn’t—and what it is. Forgiveness doesn’t mean overlooking a wrong. That’s dishonest. It can also be damaging. Denial and rationalization don’t heal hurts. They just bandage infection. You can’t erase a wound by pretending you weren’t injured. Neither is forgiveness excusing a wrong. That’s removing blame. We don’t have that power. Forgiveness is looking square at an offense and seeing it for what it is. Hard stuff. For sure. Applying forgiveness—truly using it in my daily relationships—can be even harder. The process has taught me there are two dimensions of forgiveness – getting it and giving it. These dimensions come in a one, two order. First one. Then the other. You can’t give what you don’t have. So in order to give forgiveness you have to first get it. I come from a broken family. My parents divorced when I was five and then my mother slid—deep—into the mess of alcoholism. It didn’t seem to me that I had much to ask

forgiveness for when it came to my parents. At least on the surface of things. The issue was more about me forgiving them, right? I was a child that they didn’t love well. It wasn’t my fault that my father left or that my mother drank. What did I have to be forgiven for? Being born? Living? Yet in my adult years when I realized that I had formed a second family of “brokenness”—far from the myth of the perfect family—I began to uncover my own need for forgiveness with my first family. What had I done “wrong”? Well how about carrying hatred? Judgment? Anger? Resentment? Bitterness? Lifting the corner of the carpet, I discovered rotten planks in the knotty pine floor of my being. There was plenty that I needed to be forgiven for. And I couldn’t forgive my parents if I didn’t have access to forgiveness for myself. So I bend my posture toward the “sinful woman” in Luke 7 where Jesus is clear: “He who has been forgiven little loves little.” There’s a connection between our understanding of our need to be forgiven and our ability to love others. Who loves God and others the most? Potentially, it’s the biggest sinner! Who is best able to forgive others? The forgiven biggest sinner! Recognizing our sin doesn’t disqualify us from loving and life—it actually equips us. Real forgiveness—whether of someone who has wounded us or of our own sins—comes from God. He cracks open his very heart and carves forgiveness into existence through the death of his Son on a cross. Then he welcomes us into the very center of his heart creation. I can’t give what I haven’t received. I have to get in order to give. I need to be forgiven much in order to love much. In every season of faith.

Elisa Morgan PUBLISHER


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