Chris: I am 25 years young. I work in private wealth management as a financial advisor for a large financial institution in Boston, where I currently reside. My whole family was born and raised in the Greater Boston Area. I have three younger brothers and sisters that are all in middle/high school. I have greatly enjoyed watching them grow up and transition into adolescence. At heart I am still a kid, with them. I take off days of work to play in the snow, and make igloos, or play hooky to go check out the penguins at the aquarium. This summer I jumped out of a plane, and am still alive to tell it down. Next time I hope to do it in the mountains with a snowboard attached to my feet! I played soccer at a pretty high level after college, and still play competitively on two club teams in Boston.
C: I love that you take time off to have FUN! Self-care is so important. You’re also ridiculous at soccer, as if you didn’t already know. When did your faith move beyond just knowing God to experiencing God?
Chris: I always considered myself a Christian. For a very long time that meant that, I believed there was a God. There seemed to be too many coincidences in life for there to not be some higher supernatural power. I knew right from wrong, I was educated enough to make good decisions...but I can't say I often chose to do so. I went to church on and off growing up, between a divorced family where one side went to church and one didn't. I picked and chose when I wanted to go. Attending a Christian college, by choice...I did in fact choose to go there, and was aware of what I was signing up for, I attended chapel services regularly, but my heart was definitely disconnected and disengaged from God. My priorities were drugs and drinking, girls and soccer. Probably exactly in that order. After graduating college, sobriety was not something I was very familiar with. I could probably count on one, maybe two hands, the days in a year I was sober for a 24 hour period. Those were painful days. Loud days. The noise of the world was deafening. The first year or so after graduating college, I was only sober to go to work and make money...and that wasn't even a guarantee. But you could guarantee I was not sober as soon as I took off my suit and tie. I had a girlfriend of almost 4 years who would continuously request my sobriety, and I did not change. I would hang out with her and friends high, go to soccer games high. Christmas dinner with the whole family high. Sneak drugs on to a plane to travel the country, while doing it already high. When I thought of hell, it was fire and flames. Burning…and a scary look red demon with horns. I was challenged recently to think of hell as nothing more than the complete absence of God, a place where God does not reside. I was during my ages 21 to 24 in hell. I was in a living hell. Or so I thought. I now realize Jesus was not far away, but I never had any desire to look for him.
I am going to share an excerpt of Tim Keller's book The Reason For God (which is a great book BTW)...in this book he is writing about and sharing about CS Lewis' book The Great Divorce. "...CS Lewis describes a busload of people from hell who come to the outskirts of heaven. There they are urged to leave behind the sins that have trapped them in hell - but they refuse...The people in hell are miserable, but Lewis shows us why. We see raging, like unchecked flames ,their pride, their paranoia, their self-pity, their certainty that everyone else is wrong. that everyone else is an idiot!...The people on the bus from hell in Lewis' parable would rather have their "freedom" as they define it, than salvation."
I wanted to get out. I wanted salvation. I didn't know how. I desperately wanted to be sober. I tried many times and couldn't go more than a week before falling deeper into more drugs and more drinking. Every step forward was followed by leaps and leaps backwards. God does let us choose where we want to go in life. But he does know our hearts and he does pursue us.
The summer of 2014 was where I started to know God and be aware of him. However I didn't have much to say in the matter. I traveled to Honduras for a missions based service trip which was truly a life changing experience. A friend of mine told me once, sometimes when God wants to get our attention he speaks with a soft whisper and sometimes he comes with a loud gong. Upon returning from Honduras, within hours, came the gong. My girlfriend of four years had left me, due to my actions. I was not faithful. Shame, guilt, disappointment filled my days, along with many many tears. Within that month I was informed that there would be another divorce in my family, stemming from an affair. My family would be breaking up again. I was also on the verge of being fired from my job and being without work. I was left with my job to fight for, and drugs to be there for when I get home. So I did just that. I threw myself into my career and into my mistress. For the next year I tried to fill the void in my heart with different kinds of drugs, random girls, and money. God never left my side, as much as I was running from him. He shook my world, in so many ways...and I still ran.
The summer of 2015 was where I truly experienced the grace of Jesus Christ. I returned to Honduras for the second year, to continue with the missions trip, with the same group of people. Within hours of being in Honduras I was already in possession of enough weed to get high for weeks. I do remember saying to myself, how I so badly wanted this trip to be life changing. During this trip I was presented with the opportunity to participate in smoking in front of my volunteer group that I traveled with, and our leader along with other locals from the area. Some group members participated. I couldn't do it. For the first time in years maybe, I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to get high in front of my group leader. I felt as if I was sinning directly in the face, in the presence of God. I hadn't said no to my addictions before in many moons. It felt liberating to do in front of this leader that I look at as a walking soldier of the kingdom of God. I finished the rest of the week three days sober. The longest all year.
I returned from Honduras and read a book called Same Kind Of Different As Me (also an incredible book), which pointed me more towards God and the power of the Holy Spirit. The book also dug deeper into some of the doubts I had previously about God and His mysterious works. A month later I went to church for the first time in years. Within minutes of the first worship song, I wept. I did not know why at first, but I wept. I felt warmth and peace. I felt a hug from God, and he said to me "You are home." Like a Father holding a child close after being away and lost.
This is the first time I ever experienced the grace of Jesus Christ, the living breathing God. Since returning from Honduras for a second time, for going to this church and getting involved in a community group, asking Jesus to break me of my addictions and struggles...my life has been drastically changed.
C: I am literally crying reading your story. I can’t even. All I keep thinking is how amazing God is and how, if we allow Him, He redeems us in the most beautiful ways. It's like I always say, God is in the business of making people UN-broken. Okay, What would you say God is currently teaching you in this season of your life?
Chris: My goodness. So much. If I were to just say one thing, because you asked for one thing...Seeing with eyes that are of God, that are for the Kingdom. God has redeemed so much in my life in such a short time. I have learned, and am so much still learning and growing in what it means to be a man of God. A warrior for the kingdom. People listen to me. I don't know why. People seem to follow me. I don't know why. God is using every little ounce of me that may have been of this world, of flesh and not of Him, and is using it to bring glory to His Kingdom. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:30 "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness" God has put people in my life, and He is teaching me how He wants me to be a warrior. I am learning how intentional the placement of where I am in life, the people that surround me. How can my body, my words, my story be used to glorify God. I can be passive, or I can stand alongside and be vulnerable and real and a living testimony. I believe God is teaching me to see the people in my life, the circumstances in my life, where He has me, as an opportunity.
Mathew Chapter 5:14-16 says “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” I believe this is one thing God is teaching me and developing in me right now.
C: I love that "He wants me to a be a warrior..." How do you keep your eyes fixed on God during the storms of life?
Chris: I remember this...I keep my eyes on this-->my story. The movement of the Holy Spirit in my life: God has never left my side. Jesus has always been there. It is so clear to me now that I can look back and see. When storms come, as they have, I look and see that the Holy Spirit has guided me and believe that He will never leave me, He will never forsake me. God has put so many, so many people in my life to lead me. People for me to follow. People that would lead me to Him.
I felt like I should go to ENC, that it was the college that I was supposed to spend my time at. There I met a girl that I dated for 4 years, and although it did not work out, I met through her family's friends, one of my now dearest friends who is a spiritual mentor to me (Andrew). Because of the location of the college, I ended up working at a financial firm in Braintree, MA...minutes from the college. There I met one of my now closest friends in Christ (Travis), who has also been a mentor to me, and was the one who brought me to Honduras. Both of these men of God coached me through my hard times two summers ago. While in Honduras, I met an incredible woman and second mother to me (Robin). She is the person that resembles the loving image of God. It is because of her presence that I was able to for just one day, so no to my terrible addictions. This woman introduced me to a beautiful single lady that I am now madly in love with and is an incredibly captivating woman (Alissa). One of the strongest, most committed and intentional woman I have ever met. A true blessing to my life, to my soul, to my understanding of what it means to walk with the Lord. This woman by her actions alone encouraged and motivated me to find a church. My friend Andrew, soon after returning from Honduras, asked if I would volunteer at a local kids carnival for a day. After saying yes, the organizer took me to lunch and asked if I was going to a church (a timely question). He recommended I go to a church in Boston. That next weekend, the woman that has my heart, Alissa, just happened to be visiting Boston. She accompanied me to my first time in a church in years. There was where I first can say I experienced Jesus Christ, where I was overcome with emotions during worship. I soon joined a community group there, and am now very involved in my church community. Alissa invited me to a Jesus Encounter weekend, where I truly felt the loving grace of Jesus. I truly experienced how much God loves us. I would have never been able to experience such a thing without all of these events happening above. They are all intertwined; God weaving and knitting a story, a beautiful story. During this Jesus Encounter weekend, I was given a new name...that was discerned by a prayer leader on my behalf. He gave me the name Paul. Who I still don't know much about, as I am new to reading the Bible...but if you noted above I was just quoting Paul in his boasting of his struggles are a glorification of Christ Jesus himself, and that is one thing I am learning from God. I received many words of affirmation from close friends and recent acquaintances during this weekend. Robin, my dear friend in Honduras, and a recent acquaintance I had met once for about 5 minutes, both discerned the same verse for me from the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 3:17-19. "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge. That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God"...These two woman that happened to write the same verse to me, don't know each other and also live in two different countries. A few days after returning from this Jesus Encounter weekend, a few people I had met that weekend were discussing Christian worship bands, artists, etc and sharing Christian music with each other. I didn't think much of it. A few weeks after I get an email from a long lost friend asking if I wanted to go to a Jesus Culture concert. The name sounded familiar. It was in fact one of the artists that this group of people was discussing after the Jesus Encounter weekend. I said yes, seems like a funky coincidence, I will go. The night I went to the Jesus Culture concert, my future wife, Alissa, happened to be flipping through journals from many years ago, and found a journal entry to her "future husband" about how when she meets her future husband she hoped that he would like Jesus Culture and they could listen to it together...I was not a part of her picture yet when she wrote this... we had not met...yet, while she was re-reading this journal entry, I was already currently recording live the concert for her to listen to Jesus Culture with me...not knowing what she was reading in her journal at that same moment... I wouldn't have known who Jesus Culture was without going to Jesus Encounter weekend, if I didn't meet Alissa, if I didn't go to Honduras...and the timeline continues.
And now here I am writing to you Caren, someone I had very little interaction with during my years in college. I would not be writing this story of Jesus' work in me, the redeeming work he has done in my life, if I had not gone to ENC and met you. For the past week I have very much been struggling with wanting to get high again. It still floods my brain. I still have to fight every day. God has sent people in my life to help me with the fight this week. The warriors have been a text message from my family, a phone call from Alissa, an email from Robin and now a facebook message from you.
You emailed me yesterday and I wanted to get high during the day. But when I got your email I immediately knew it was the Holy Spirit. I am so thankful for the strength to fight this week, so that I can write this email honestly of my struggles...but also the successes of God's strength, his love for his children and his continued grace as a Father.
How do I keep my eyes fixed on God? By remember how much God loves his children, and the lengths he will go to fight for his sons and daughters. Like I said, your facebook message was timely.
C: We serve an intentional God who meets our daily needs...daily. He will not fail you. I am so thankful you could share your story. What are some verses that you often cling to as a reminder of His goodness?
Hm. This is tough for me to answer as I am really beginning to read through the Bible for the first time.Two that come to mind:
Proverbs 27:19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. Since I have given my life to Christ and consider myself to not just be a Christian, but a follower of Jesus, it seems that no matter what my past is like, people that I interact with, see me and my heart, not my past. It is something I am very thankful for.
I also really like Matthew 6:25-34
"There I tell you, do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor father into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life (Love that verse)...and it goes on. It's long...that's another thing God is teaching me right now. Don't be so anxious. I am growing in my release of my daily anxieties and trusting God more.
I have recently been listening to this song Let Go by DeWayne Woods. the chorus starts off with "As soon as I stopped worrying, worrying how the story ends...I let go and I let God, let God have his ways. That's when things start happening, when I stopped looking at back then. When I let go and let God have his way."
C: If you could encourage those out there who are fearful of letting go and trusting God, what would you say?
Chris: I will share two things to this that have stuck with me.
1) If a person wanted to know where all their food came from, how it was handled, how every detail was made and cooked, prior to it arriving on their plate...they would starve to death. If we waited to have every answer to our circumstances, and every bit of doubt answered before we decided to give our lives to God...our spiritual lives would die. "I know therefore I believe....or, I believe therefore I know" One requires faith, one does not. Letting go requires faith. Also, I would encourage everyone to watch Francis Chan's sermon on eternity...where do we place our priorities on this earth?
C: I must say that reading your testimony has been so inspiring for me. God is going to use the painful chapters of your story to reach hundreds of people who may feel "too broken" to ever "earn" God's love. YET, you discovered it's nothing you can earn, but receive. I appreciate you and your humility, vulnerability, and authenticity. Truly I thank you for being with us.
The race isn't just about how you start, but how you finish, especially in God given assignments! I am finding that it's usually when we are on the last lap that temptation to quit grows. I just keep thinking about Nehemiah. You remember Nehemiah 6:11? "Should such a man as I flee?" It was during the moment where he was nearly done rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. At that time, his enemies entered the scene in chapter 6 with a final effort to distract and discourage his strong finish. He, however, kept the goal in his sight and that's what helped him stay focused and remain faithful. Too often I am tempted to flee and run from responsibilities and away from risks. Have you been there? God calls you into a new job, new friendship, new hobby, or new commitment and as the season wraps up, you want to throw in the towel. Maybe you convince yourself you've done enough and yet deep down you know you're not done yet. My friend, finish strong. How you finish really does have greater impact than how you start.
I can't be the only one but if I were, so be it. My name is Caren and I am a people pleaser.
Am I working out to receive the attention of man or to honor God with this vessel He gave me and keep it in tip top shape to serve Him with my BEST?
Am I posting things on social media to receive praise from man or to be an example of humility and reach out to those who are broken and extend a helping hand?
Am I constantly asking credit for my "good" actions and praise for my "amazing" ideas or am I content with being a silent giver and stay behind the scenes, receiving praise from God?
Tough questions. Convicting answers. The journey of humility and authenticity continues.
I would pass by the mirror, stop, and look at myself. I never had a good thing to say...it was either "Look at those thighs...ugh my stomach...no matter what I do I can't lose my butt!" I tore myself apart for years trying to mold and force my body into a shape that the world defined as beautiful. The opposite happened. My body gave out on me. Certain things that should happen monthly stopped for a year. My hair started falling out. My body was shutting down. I would pass by the mirror again. I was still dissatisfied...there was always more to critique.
Now I walk by the mirror and I intentionally find something to be thankful for. I asked God to give me His eyes so I can see myself the way He does and over time my perspective has indeed changed. Today I love my body and what it can DO. My thunder thighs help me hike, squat when I drop my keys while carrying groceries, and my bum cushions my falls when I fall. I have learned to fight the automatic negative thoughts and replace them with words my husband speaks to me and what God sees in me.
Now what? Now I want to challenge and walk with you. The Love Your Body challenge starts February 1st. Not sure what a challenge group is? Check out my video here! Daily devotionals are posted each day in our private group as we learn to love ourselves because He first loved us. Exercise and nutrition are absolutely part of the deal. It's truly amazing how you begin to crave movement and nutrient dense foods to honor the vessel you are given once you appreciate it and treat it with gentleness.
Will you take the leap? Will you allow me to invest in you and walk with you in this? I would love the opportunity to share with you my story and watch yours take a new turn filled with gentleness, love, appreciation, and hope.
Leave your email below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration closes 1/25!
So often I think that I have to be "fake" and unreasonably perfect to be accepted when in reality it is authenticity that brings acceptance. I look in the mirror and ask whether I real show the world exactly who I am. When you have several social media fronts, it becomes easy to hide behind the highlights of life-to ensure the world sees me at my very best.
I find I struggle with authenticity at times because I fear rejection. NOW, I am convicted and have a new mindset. I am not going to try so hard to hide any of my blemishes. You will actually find that most people will like you just the way you are! They actually might even be MORE drawn to you if they knew some of your failings and your struggles.
It's a risk. It's a risk I am willing to take. Kyle Idleman says, "Fear is the enemy of transparency" and he is right. I don't like my flaws and don't expect anyone else to. What did Jesus say though? "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God"-Matthew 5:8
PURE in heart. Did you know my name (Caren) means pure? Ironic? Getting to the end of me meanings I am not worried about performing for anyone anymore. I am no longer interested in faking it because I understand that God is looking for the real me.
Hi. My name is Caren and I refuse to allow 2016 to have the same defeated crap as 2015.
Things are getting hard. Work is becoming more challenging, we are anticipating our next move (new state, new jobs, new everything), uncertainty is growing, and it becomes easy to let the cares of this world dull HE who sparkles in us, through us, and before us.
I am reminded of the verse above from Matthew. I refuse to allow satan to dim this light of mine and deceive me into believing that the cares of this world are more important than the mission I am here for. What is that mission? To love the Lord with ALL my heart, and His people. To let His love drive me, not fear. To surrender to HIM that He may be my EVERYTHING so when all the external temporary things around me become more difficult and seem hopeless, I remember that my identity and worth is not built on those things, but Him. I pray that you be encouraged if you are reading this today. Discouragement has been a powerful weapon that the enemy has been using against me but I am leaning on the promise I made for this new year that I would trust in God with all that I have and seek Him FIRST. "Zip it, satan, I am not listening to you."
It is also a place where performance takes the stage often times forgetting that Jesus looks at the heart, which is the true measure of who we are. You see, performance is way too easy to fake.
I spent time this morning studying the heart of a Pharisee so bare with me because there may be another follow up post about this. All I kept seeing was hypocrisy and pride. Warren Wiersbe wrote, "Their religion [The Pharisees] was external, not internal; it was to impress people, not to please God. They bound people with heavy burdens, while Christ came to set people free. They loved titles and public recognition and exalted themselves at the expense of others."
I am not going to deny the Pharisee inside of me that seems to relentlessly come out. Pride is a struggle and I am not going to hide it. My prayer today is to follow Jesus' example in that greatness is found in humility; the way up is down. May my confidence be found only in Him. I pray that social media (my blog, Facebook, instagram, etc.) would only be gateways to exalt His Name and not my own. I certainly have a long way to go, but am ready to make a change.
A Bit About ME!
Hey friend! My name is Caren and I am so glad you stopped by! This blog is a bit of my corner on the internet where I share honest thoughts about my faith journey, fitness journey, doctor wife journey, and motherhood journey. ALL of it! The good bad and ugly! I pray that something I share encourages you today!