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“Lord, I don’t trust you…”; retirements, cancer & Psalm 27:14

Last weekend our family celebrated my Dad’s work retirement. zippo Words cannot explain how prideful I felt celebrating that accomplishment with people that came out to honor my dad’s years of hard work. He has always been a great example of many things to us kids, but to show us first-hand what it means to work hard & provide for others is a lesson that I’ve only grown to appreciate as I’ve got older.

I’ve touched briefly on my dad’s cancer in previous blogs. Close friends & family know of his progress & I’m blessed to have so many that pray for us & keep positive vibes afloat as we journey through this tough stage as a family. That made the retirement party even more special as none of us know what the future holds for him, or for that matter, any of us.

Several months ago I decided to do an in-depth self-study on the book of Psalm; containing 150 chapters & (around) 2500 verses, I knew this was going to be quite the undertaking. I gave myself through the summer to complete, but that has now been extended through the winter since the supplemental reading & note-taking is just as time consuming. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, because I secretly am a know-it-all (okay, maybe not so secretly) & “learning” means a new batch of knowledge wrinkles in my brain.

While I pretty much picked Psalms because so many verses contained are dear to my heart, what I’m finding to be the overlaying theme is “trust”….trust.

Trust…

Wow! If ever a time in my life I needed to lean on trust it’s now.

There are moments when I think I’m doing okay about my Dad’s diagnosis & then there are moments when I’m out on a hiking trail & I’m so overcome with emotion thinking about it that I literally sit down in the middle of the woods & bawl my eyes out. It’s in those moments that my faith is the weakest & most tested. Gratitude for a God who has sent me a one-eyed dog that understands my breakdown & will sit down next to me with his head on my lap until the tears start to dry up.

Twice within the last several weeks I’ve had two different people, on two different occasions mention the word “dying” when asking about my dad. Needless to say my response wasn’t the classiest (“He’s fine. And mind your own *blankety-blank-blank -business*”…okay, maybe my response wasn’t that bad, but that’s what I was saying in my head). “Dying”, what a harsh ugly word. And not a word I want spoken in the same sentence as my Dad’s name. But as he just finished yet another several months round of chemo treatments & has begun the next series of testing to see if the cancer has spread or tumors enlarged, these “dying” comments keep popping back into my head & the possible reality hits me full on.

Trust…

Before I begin my nightly (okay…”nightly” is a stretch) Bible-Study I do prayer devotionals, my hope is that I will find answers to whatever is on my mind at that moment. Sometimes it works out that way…sometimes it doesn’t. On this particular night, it was answered. With my dad’s bible versehealth on my mind I opened up my section of Psalms to read & was surprised to find, not only this verse, but also to discover that 3yrs. ago on that exact date, I had also been led to that same verse. During that time our family was grieving over the unexpected loss of a beloved uncle only a few short weeks prior & in the midst of making serious decisions over my Grandma’s own struggle with cancer.

“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”-Psalm 27:14-

Both of those situations ended painfully & the loss of hope I felt deflated me like a balloon.

When you feel you’re at the end of your rope, sometimes all you can do is hold on. The theme of Psalms kept repeating in my head,”trust…trust…trust”. For the first time in my life, I actually admitted out loud to God that I didn’t trust him.

“Lord, I don’t trust you. Help me believe that your ways are best.”

When you’re in a strong “relationship” with someone you can freely admit, with raw honesty, that you’re confused, hurt, angered…distrustful. And you know in your heart that it doesn’t change the dynamic of the relationship, you’re still loved & not abandoned. That was what I felt by the admission & a flood of relief overcame me.

I’m reminded of the unbelieving father in the book of Mark. He had watched his son struggle with inner-demons his whole life & the reality looked grim. As a final resort, he brought him before Jesus to be healed.

“If you can?” said Jesus. ”Everything is possible for one who believes.” The child’s father cried out at once,” I believe! Help my lack of faith”

– Mark 9:23-24-

It’s okay to have unbelief. It’s okay to be distrustful. You can be a follower of Christ & still be uncertain that your prayers will come true, but in those moments it’s important to pray that your unbelief be healed. Just be honest, He already knows what you’re feeling anyways, why not just admit it??? Allow God to open the door of unbelief so that what’s behind it can be reached.

“Sometimes you just have to smile in faith…”-Joel Osteen-

smile

 

 

 

 

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Ready for a slow down…reflections from Psalm 90.

I’m learning to thin my plate. Trust me, this irony is not lost on me as I’ve been changing to a healthier eating lifestyle over the last 2yrs., but in eating & in my personal life…my plate is getting thinner.

I’ve always said that when I have too much time on my hands I tend to make foolish, destructive decisions. That fear has caused me to go 900miles a minute and since I’ve never been really good at relaxing I have a bad habit of taking on too much. A habit I’m trying to break.

During this past summer I could feel myself getting burned out. Between working 3 jobs (sometimes 4), worrying about family health problems, staying active in my church & community, plus the pressure (self-inflicted) that I put on myself to spend so many hours reading, working in the garden & house, writing, hiking, blah blah; my candle was burning up quickly & activities that used to bring me joy began to feel more like a chore. I started to have horrible stomach pains & my suspicions were proven true when, for the second time in less than 10yrs., I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. The threat of a possible surgery caused me to examine my lifestyle & how I can de-compress, de-stress, & handle my behavior in a less-destructive way.


I took a 30-day hiatus from all social media, quit one of my jobs, cut back on a busy social calendar, took a vacation (days of drinking, nature & laughs) and got back into reading the Bible regularly. At moments I’ve loved having a thinner plate; I’m reading & writing more, I’ve finished “one day” projects around the house, & I’ve met up with friends for lunch instead of saying, “we should totally get together” via text. At other moments I’ve hated it; extra time = my mind over-thinking & worrying about things that don’t matter, having to re-budget after a loss of income, & guilt over sitting down to watch a movie (I know some of ya’ll can relate). It’s been a roller-coaster of highs & lows.


I’m studying the book of Psalms this year. Even though I’ve read countless verses here & there, I’ve never studied it as a whole. Very fitting that Psalm 90 happens to be the chapter I’ve been studying during this season of my life (isn’t it amazing how God does that?). Psalm 90 is written by Moses; a man chosen by God to lead His people out of slavery & the wilderness to the promised land of milk & honey. After freedom from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites spent the next 40yrs. wandering the desert wondering when the promise of their “promised land” was to happen. Boy, can I relate to that! Psalm 90 is Moses’ prayer for strength, that the anxiety he feels during the “waiting” will be a character builder. That the Lord will teach him to “slow down” & value his days, trusting that the Lord keeps His promises & is re-focusing him to be better equipped for the day that promise comes to pass.

Something that I struggle with, and I have throughout my whole walk with Christ, is I don’t feel like I “hear” from God. Like my prayers fall on deaf ears. I’ve got many journal entries asking God why He’s ignoring me, however, many scriptures throughout the Bible refer to God speaking in a “still small voice”. If you know me personally, then you know that the concept of a “still small voice” is foreign considering I’ve never been quiet about anything! In the past, when God has needed to get my attention, he does it brick-wall style, by something so dramatic that I have no choice but to pay attention. I feel this slow-down phase He’s bringing into my life is so I can become better attuned to his direction & voice (and I just now realized that this very moment while typing out this paragraph).

At some point maybe I will learn that I can cause myself so much less-stress if I just trust in the Lord in the first place.

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Some God in my Gardening

The older I get, the more settled & *cough…ahem…cough* domestic I seem to become. My nightly Google searches have switched from, “what bars are closest to this bar I’m currently at” to, “easy sewing patterns…how to make a pallet dog bed…how to decorate outdoor patio using concrete, rubber bands, & beer tabs.” Okay, maybe the last one is a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.

I’ve taken up gardening…

By “taken up gardening” I really mean, “I’ve developed an obsession for gardening…”

Thanks to Pinterest, a father who has always had a vegetable garden & a plethora of Twitter-communities where gardening is cool again, my obsession has been even more fueled. This is the first year that I’ve had a real decently thriving garden in my yard. I moved to my house about 3yrs ago; a big metropolis village of 300 people. Not that I lived in a real big city before, but a city of 100,000 compared to a village of 300 is a big difference. Trust me, I’m not complaining. AT ALL! I’m a country girl with country roots & cities are not my thing. Now I live smack-dab in the middle of the woods, with a long driveway & land for my dog to run around un-fenced. That also means I have land to plant an outdoor herb & vegetable garden.

While I’ve always had a love for gardening, it was pretty limited when I lived downtown in the city. I had no yard & my “garden” consisted of tomato plants growing in flower pots on my deck. One year my tomato’s seemed to come up missing, while I thought it was a stray raccoon or cat stealing them (cats eat tomato’s???) I later caught my neighbor plucking them off my plants…it did not end well. Another year I bought a “Topsy Turvy” plant from a

my $400 upside down tomato plant

my $400 upside down tomato plant

commercial on TV. This product was made for tight-space living; was hung upside down from a hook & tomato’s grew downward. I thought “perfect” & couldn’t wait to expand my deck garden. Well, the commercial didn’t lie! This plant took off! It grew so well & contained so many tomato’s (definitely factory-produced seeds that grew low-quality, abundant tomato’s) that one day I came home from work to find that my upside down tomato plant had grown into the gutters & the weight had ripped them down & half of my neighbors gutters. A $19.95 product ended up costing over $400 to fix. Nice!

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Green onions & romaine lettuce started from seeds.

So fast-forward a few years & my 3rd season of planting at my house & the soil finally seems dense enough to support a healthy, full garden.
I started my plants from seeds back in March. March, 7th to be exact. As told by the dates I had sharpied on the egg-carton starters. My sunroom had turned into rows of seeds that rooted & bloomed into tomatoes, onions, lettuce, eggplants, dill, chives, parsley & lots more! I had containers on my fireplace mantel, Hearst & brickwork, on my fish tank, on the floor, behind the couch…you name it & it had a vegetable or herb. Ohio also had a late spring, so I didn’t get outside to plant until the beginning of June. By that time I had lost some of my vegetables & they had to be replaced with plants purchased from greenhouses. Quite the ordeal of tilling the garden, pulling weeds, planting, mulching, weeding again, watering, weeding again….and again…and again…but they’re a’growin!!!

This may seem like a huge, detailed backstory to someone who has little to no interest in gardening. But those that enjoy it will understand when I say what therapy my little garden has been. The last few years have been very hard & stressful in my personal life. While I have found ways to relieve that stress (I’m a big outdoorsy-girl), there’s a different kind of therapy that comes from working the land & watching something grow. There’s something different about getting your hands dirty, sweating, tending, & then reaping the benefits of something you’ve put your time into.

I listen to music a lot, I rarely watch TV but I always have music on. When I’m out hiking-headphones on, when I’m cleaning the house-music playing in background, when I’m running (okay, let’s be real. When I’m out one-step-up-from-walking)-headphones on. However, when I’m working in the garden…no music. I’m on my hands & knees, digging in the dirt, my dog at my feet, & I’m thinking…figuring stuff out, praying, having conversations in my head. I’m going through an especially hard time right now, making some big decisions & stressing out over what is the right path; in addition to stresses that life already has me boggled down with. Yesterday while in the middle of planting squash, the story of the Israelites popped into my head. God delivered the Israelites out of slavery from the hands of Egypt, however, he didn’t take them to the Promised Land right away. They wandered around in the wilderness for 40yrs; they couldn’t see past their own stubbornness, unforgiveness, frustrations, situations & attitudes. They never even realized how close they were to their promised land until they gave up even more control. This is me, I’m currently in the wilderness. Even though I’m delivered from the bondage I was in, I’m still “wandering” around in the desert until my promised land. Have I done anything wrong?? No. In fact, I’ve done everything right (mostly). I’ve obeyed. I’ve listened. But the reward hasn’t come yet. Is it frustrating? You bet’cha! Especially for someone like me who lives by day planners & loves schedules. Do I feel forgotten? Ignored? Un-worthy? Yes, Yes, Yes. But just like my garden, the harvest will come. The reward will come because I’ve been working the land, planting seeds, watering, & weeding. Is there an area of my life that God is trying to get me to focus on before the harvest can come??? I believe there is. I can only pray that He will reveal that to me so I can move on.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”-Galatians 6:9-

Being in the wilderness stinks, big time. But it will make the harvest that much sweeter. And all these thoughts came because I decided to plant some tomatoes.

My first tomato has arrived! Will turn into a Indigo Blood Rose tomato, black & a sweet salad tomato! Can't wait!

My first tomato has arrived! Will turn into a Indigo Blood Rose tomato, black & a sweet salad tomato! Can’t wait!

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2013: Cancer & Closure…

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As 2013 draws to a close I’ve been thinking about what this year has brought; the ups & downs, regrets & opportunities. A lot has changed this year & a lot has remained the same. Around this time last year our family found out that my Dad had cancer & the year started off with a series of multiple surgeries followed by chemo & radiation treatments. What we’ve been praying for was a healing in 2014, but about 6wks. ago we learned my Dad’s cancer has spread & with that news we face another year that, health wise anyways, could be more of the same.

From the outside you would guess that the year was marked by my Dad’s cancer struggle, but 2013 brought a closure to me that I was not expecting. For several years now I’ve been healing from guilt about deceit I was involved with a few years ago. Even though I thought I had moved on from it, in a quiet way The Lord brought this guilt back to the surface & really made me deal with it. What I had placed in an envelope sealed with,”to deal with later” The Lord showed me that “later” was 2013. After an 11wk. intense Bible Study on Beth Moore’s Breaking Free that culminated in me delivering my testimony at our church’s Woman’s Retreat; where I confessed the deceit, lying & manipulation I was involved in & I finally knew that chapter of my life was closed. Not to be forgotten, but to remind myself that I’m not that person anymore & I was created to be better than the person I used to be who chose that route.

My relationship with God has changed in ways I’m not sure I even understand yet. I’ve been angrier at Him more this year than I ever can recall being, yet simultaneously I’ve also relied on Him more than I ever have. The enemy has fought hard for me this year & he won more times than I’d care to admit. He dug into my insecurities, weaknesses & temptations and I willingly allowed those thoughts & actions to steal my joy. I’m not afraid to admit that following The Lord was hard this year. The closer I seemed to draw to God; getting & studying deeper into His Word, changing patterns in my life that line up more with His plan & will than my own, Bible Studies, church leadership roles & enrolling in an in-depth discipleship program, the heavier stresses seemed to come my way. Working through pain is never easy, but I think God makes you deal with painful shit because He knows the amazing work you’re going to do for His kingdom because of where you’ve been & where you stand now. Plenty of times this year I lacked faith & plenty of times The Lord revealed Himself to me in the midst of my doubt. I think The Lord deals with us in stages because we couldn’t handle a clean sweep all at once (as awesome as that would be). If The Lord came in & cleaned house for us, without any work on our part, how long would it take for us to trash it up again??? Not long because we would never appreciate how truly muddied up our lives really were unless we got our own hands dirty cleaning it.

This was the year He laid the opportunity at my feet to start cleaning up that specific mess. And I obeyed even though it was painful. This prayer of closure that I prayed years ago, has been answered. The harvest can now come.

My Dad’s a smoker. He’s seeing the consequences of years of abuse. As a child I used to pray to a God in my Children’s Bible that once delivered 3 teenagers from a fire, Jonah from a whale & Daniel from a lion’s den that He would get my Dad to quit smoking. Fast-forward several years & a Doctor telling my Dad he wouldn’t even do surgery to remove the cancerous tumor unless he quit smoking & my Dad has finally quit. God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we want him to. Sometimes He makes us get our hands dirty; by having our lungs grow tired, our body ache from chemotherapy & the possibility of years being taken away for us to realize we don’t ever want to be that person again. We don’t get to choose how or when God answers our prayers, but if having cancer- regardless of the outcome- is how God chooses to work His hands in this situation, I trust that.

I come into 2014 hopeful. Hopeful that this is the harvest season for so many long- prayed-prayers. And I’m so grateful that God hears those prayers even when I think He doesn’t. And the promise that He will reveal His answer when the timing is absolutely perfect.

Blessings to you & yours for the promises to be revealed in 2014!!!

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My top 10 favorite books of all time!

….Disclaimer: this list is subject to change at any given time without notice depending on my mood & not-yet-read books… 😀

So this marks my first blog post that is being done entirely on my smartphone. I’ve always seen the WordPress blog icon on my home screen, but have yet to try it. Weather outside is reminiscent of the Great Flood, so seemed like an appropriate time to try it out. Considering my blogs are usually novel length I figure typing it up on my smartphone might shorten this one up. But since I’m talking about books I have big doubts!

My friend Stephanie recently posed this question to me asking me to name my top 10 favorite books of all time. Even though she told me not to put much thought into it & just spout them off, that wasn’t likely to happen since I over-think most everything especially when having to choose “favorites” #lifedecisions 😉

After much editing I feel pretty (fairly) confident in my chosen top 10. Honorable mentions go out to: The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson & The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (wow! That’s a lot of Nicholas’ in one category). They were all so close to making the list, but sadly ended up second strings. Maybe next year boys!

In no particular order:

1) The Bible, by some dude I can’t remember his name 😉– within these pages I have found comfort, answers, tears, questions, confusion, anger, sadness, forgiveness, love, joy, peace & many other emotions. All spoken to me by God himself. The living Word that I turn to almost daily.

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2) The Loop by Nicholas Evans–my all-time favorite author. This is the story of a wolf biologist who is observing & monitoring a pack of wolves in the mountains of Montana & her fight against a town that wants to extinguish this pack out.

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3) The Cross Gardener by Jason F. Wright. About a guy who loses his wife & unborn child in a fatal car accident. One day he takes a cross to the accident site where his wife died & meets The Cross Gardener, a guy who travels roadways caring for crosses & memorials that people have placed at loved ones accident sites.

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4) The Tale of Three Trees by a Folklore– Kids book about 3 trees that each have dreams they want to grow into. Their dreams don’t turn out how they planned, but God uses them in mighty ways for His greater purpose.

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5) The Pillars of the Earth & World Without End by Ken Follett–these are two seperate books about the village of Kingsbridge, England during the 1100’s-1300’s. Pillars is about the building of the Kingsbridge Cathedral & World is about the village. Be prepared to devote some time to these novels, each is about 2000 pages long!

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6) Steve & Me by Terri Irwin–Terri Irwin’s autobiography chronicling her life with late husband, the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. I was such a big fan of Steve & Terri even before I read this novel, but after reading it I gained even more respect. Such an adventurous life & I laughed, bawled & was humbled by this couple.

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7) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell–I have read this novel so many times that I can quote lines from it. First read as a kid & broke my heart so much that it stirred in me a deep passion for animal rescue. The whole novel is told through the eyes of Beauty & you go from loved beginnings to a life of abuse & neglect. Classic that everyone should read at least once!

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8) In the Presence of My Enemies by Graicia Burnham– true story of missionaries in the Philippians who are kidnapped & held hostage for several years. The grace, humility, & forgiveness that got them through their ordeal is such a testament to faith in God. After reading this novel it made me appreciate missionaries more & opened my eyes to how desperately I want to be a part of that front line of ministry.

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9) Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo– true story of Todd’s 3year old son Colton & his trip to heaven & back after he died for several minutes during a surgery. Only book I’ve ever read that I actually called in “sick” to work because I couldn’t put it down & wanted to finish (shhhh…don’t tell!). Changed & in some ways answered questions I had about what heaven’s really like. Heard Hollywood is converting this movie to the big screen, anxious to see how it transpires.

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10) Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls– another book I first read as a kid & have read countless times. Story of a boy who lives in the Ozarks during Depression-era. He saves his money to buy 2 Redbone Coonhounds & hand-trains them to be hunting dogs. Have the Kleenex in hand!

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There ya go fellow book-nerds, my top 10 (as of today any ways!). I’m always on the prowl for good books so pass your suggestions my way!

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Standing in a Cloud of Witnesses, BreakAway 2013.

Last weekend, November 7-10, I was part of a Leadership Team that hosted a Woman’s Retreat for my church. After a year of planning, organizing, & praying I spent the weekend with 84 brave woman who decided to “BreakAway” from bondage & find freedom through God.

That’s a really quick, simple, summary of an amazing weekend.

If I typed up all the incredible things, changing things that happened during those few days my fingers would grow numb & crippled from typing. I’ve struggled with this blog for a few days because I simply didn’t know how to put into words ALL the releasing things that happened. Resorting to my elementary math-schoolin’ days, I’ve decided to keep it simple. When you start to throw Algebra & Geometry into the equation, it gets way to mind-boggling and confusing.

I’ve decided to reflect on one incident that affected me personally.

I’ve been pretty open, but not too open, about my healing from a sin that I was involved in a few years ago. My good friend & Pastor asked me if I would be able to speak about it, candidly, at our retreat during a Saturday morning Panel Discussion; in which a few selected woman from the church would open themselves up & talk about hurts that God has walked them through. For me, this would mark the first time I had ever talked about my deceit to a large group (really, the first time I had talked about it at all!) not only would I be telling it to strangers (which is easier), but also opening up to close family & friends. I felt ready for it, I knew the time was right to share, however, I was NERVOUS. Petrifyingly nervous! Now don’t get me wrong, I love speaking in front of people. I was the nerd in school that always did a little happy-squeal whenever the professor announced we had to do a speech in front of the class. But this was different…this was displaying my own vulnerability, weakness & a time I majorly, royally, messed up! (another term would be appropriate, but I’m making a serious, conscious effort to control my swear-words *wink wink*).

The week leading up to our retreat, boy did the enemy win over my peace! I was grumpier, angrier, and more pissed-off (damn! Double-damn…I WILL win the battle over swear words!) than I had been in a long time. I didn’t want to socialize, I didn’t want to be outside, I was resorting back to my stress-eating behavior. Everybody & everything was bothering me. I don’t think I cracked open my Bible all week & I prayed with a ferocity to quench my nerves, to give me strength…and that prayer never seemed to be answered. I was such a B****! I found out later that every one of us on the panel had the same kind of week! You talk about the enemy fighting hard for our kept-bondage! He won, in all of us, that battle during the week! And Friday night, my brain & thoughts were wracked with such an intensity that I thought I was losing my mind. I’m a dramatic person & all I kept thinking was, “this must be how somebody on death row feels!”, as I would lie awake during the night & see the clock slowly ticking towards my own form of lethal injection. I went back & forth in my mind on whether I could go through with speaking and my prayers (again) for peace seemed to go un-answered. Needless to say, waking up Saturday morning after a very fitful night’s sleep left me with a nauseous stomach & bags under my eyes. Meeting with the other ladies on the panel & our pastor, prior to starting service you could see that we were all emotional wrecks. When a group of ladies have already shed oceans of tears, before 8am! Something’s up!

Getting through worship was a blur & being on the Leadership Team I was a “table leader” for my group, thankful to a dear friend who stepped in & took over that role when she could clearly see that I was a train wreck! For as nervous as I was, when we were called to approach the center and begin our discussion I felt very calm. Okay, maybe not CALM! But calmer than I had in days. I was the second person to speak & I was so drawn into what the first person was saying that my heart broke for her. It was in that moment that I truly realized how broken & hurting every one of us really is. When it became my turn to speak I can’t recall being nervous, in actuality I felt more empowered & strengthened as my story progressed. There’s something so freeing about not holding back. About being at the point where you say,” This is me. The good, bad & ugly.” Through my tears, to look out onto a sea of faces full of friends & family and see their own tears over my words is so humbling. To not only share the hurtful things you’ve done & caused upon others, but to then be standing tall & firm (even at times if it’s shaky) before your peers & God is such a testament to redemption. Everybody…EVERYBODY…has troubles. I don’t care how deep or how bad you THINK you’ve dug yourself…you are not alone, nor are you the first to go through it. The key is to not stay in your trouble, don’t stay in your bondage. For me, the process took 3yrs., but after I confessed & talked about my pain I truly felt a closing on my situation that surprised me. I felt a peace & a lightness that I wasn’t expecting. For the first time since my brokenness began, I was able to accept my faults & be thankful that I had gone through the pain. If I had not witnessed, first hand, the destruction that I was capable of I would never know how fragile I have to be with other people’s hearts, trust & how lying can be so damaging. I would also never know what true, deep forgiveness, by others & the forgiveness of yourself, feels like. This experience is what brought me back to my foundation of faith & grounded me in how much my family & true friends support and love me. The aftermath of sharing my story brought support, tears, & questions from friends. Questions & stories that I no longer feared answering & telling and what amazed me was how many people, woman, also had been tempted to act in the same behavior that I did. And some had! Some even were currently wrestling with living lives that were different from their truths. See, we’re not that different after all! Although, God didn’t answer my prayer for peace in the way I was expecting (flaming out the stress I felt BEFORE I spoke would’ve been nice!) He ultimately answered my prayer for peace in a way that surpassed my vision of how my prayer should work out. Isn’t that just like Him??? 🙂

I can’t brag enough on my God. The same God I was dedicated to as an infant, the same God that I accepted to follow at 12 years old & then who lovingly welcomed me back when, as an adult, I came crawling & broken into His arms. The same God that allowed hurts to come into my life, hurts I’ve caused & some I haven’t, because he sees a bigger picture for my life than what my limited vision can. A God that I’ve cursed, fought, sinned against, hurt, distrusted, lied to & many times only prayed to when I needed something from Him. A God that repeatedly reminds me that I’m better healed than I would’ve ever been whole. A God that, after my own confession of sin to a roomful of woman & the redemption He graced upon me, brought me to my knees in thankfulness during a quiet time in which He responded into my heart, “you already have”.

I fail my God daily & sometimes lack in my repentance, however, I serve a God who is a gentleman. He’s a man of His word, promises & never fails me, His favorite child.

Hebrews12-1-2

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Giving the Life List a Face Lift

Today’s my 33rd birthday!

I’m not quite sure what to make of my 32nd year on this planet. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a year of “change” like last year was for me, more that this year was a year of…closure.

I saw closure in a couple of areas, some brought freedom & some brought tears (and stress). But all of it brought a finality. I closed the door on a few chapters of my life & am (learning) to open new doors of trust & opportunity. This doesn’t come easy for me.

Recently one of my favorite people on this planet (ego-boost to her!) Pastor Heidi Strickler wrote a blog about her vision for Women’s Ministry at our church, Oasis (http://livinglovedlivingfree.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/oasis-making-time-to-sit-on-the-curb/) & how it came to fruition after the idea first appeared on her top 10 list. This, of course, got me reviewing & revamping my own Life List; something I first started working on when I was 16.  lifelist1 My Life List would contain the top 100 things that I wanted to accomplish/do/see/invent/visit with my time allotted on this planet. As of today, my list has 73 items & I’ve checked off 34 of them. Not to bad! If I was better at math I’d figure out the percentage or do a pie chart (mostly because I like to make things colorful & pretty), to fluff up the completed items. Heidi’s list, however, only contained 10….10. 10 seemed like such a small number to me. 10 things that you REALLY wanted to accomplish during your life…in the course of your WHOLE life??? Only 10??? Now that seemed to be unrealistic to me, to have to narrow down my potential 100 to only 10. I could NEVER do that!

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I’ve reviewed my Life List more in the last few days & weeks than I have in the 17 years since I first started keeping it.

Once I started looking over my Life List & questioning if I really thought my life wouldn’t be of value unless I visited New York City at Christmas time (#23) or if my life would be considered a waste if I didn’t attend a taping of a movie or television show (#47). The answer was a definite NO!

While I’d love to see Paul McCartney in concert (#6) & a dream would be to see whales swimming in their natural oceanic habitat (#17…of course, that also involves my get over water fear, #4. Double-check-off-whammy!), am I really going to think of my life as stamped with “Failed” if those don’t happen?

NO!

I started narrowing my list down to things I felt I HAD to do & that was when I realized that nothing on my Life List I HAD to do because in the grand scheme of my whole life, none of those petty things matter!

top10What I ended up doing was a top 10 list that didn’t include anything on my original Life List (except travel to Africa on a missions trip). In fact, it ended up not even being a list of things to “do”, but a list of what I want to be known for; how I want to be remembered because of the way my life was LIVED & not from items checked off. Even though it does include things I hope to accomplish, those things are not active/physical things, but spiritual things. When my time on earth is over & I stand before God, I want to be able to stand before him with a clear conscious knowing that I represented Him & the family I came from, well. Surprisingly, what began as being a little overwhelming with deciding to narrow down 100 items to 10, I ended up rattling off my Top 10 in about 5 minutes; after I realized that what I wanted to do with my life wasn’t “stuff” but a “legacy” that’s left.

This is a very fitting lesson for me right now.

I can feel God doing something in my life. Something big that He’s working on. I’m not saying this to be pompous or to elevate my ego, but I can tell he is. Just from what he’s working on in my life; the bondage being broken, the “issues” I’ve had to work on & through. And from past experience in learning to recognize His direction & voice more & more (even when I think it’s not there!) its guiding me away from my comfort zone. I’m learning that God doesn’t like me “comfortable” & every time I start to get “comfortable” He begins to make me “uncomfortable”. This isn’t a bad thing & I’m finally at the point in my life where I don’t view it as a bad thing. Change is good! And when its God-Change you can move forward in confidence that its going to turn out great. I don’t know what adventure he has me moving towards, but I know that I’m not where He wants me to stay. And I’m okay with that…well, semi-okay 😉

god's plan

I’m not quite sure what send-off to give my Life List, its been deeply personal to me for almost  20 years. But now I feel like it’s constricting; a road map with specific destinations & that’s not what I want in the next leg of my journey. Just tossing it in the trash or shredding it seems to diminish the important significance its had in my life, but I know if I keep it I’ll fall into the same old trap of fulfilling the desire to check things off (fellow obsessive List Makers will understand).

Even though I’m pretty open & try to not keep things hidden, my Top Ten is probably the most personal thing I’ve ever written for myself. So personal that I won’t even share it in my blog. Nothing against you lovely readers (whom I love & appreciate) but its something that is between me & God. I’m hoping that when he created me, this list is what his intentions for my life were. It’s a list that I’ve prayed over & asked Him to let me know if anything on the list is something that I should not focus on & so far nothing has been brought to my attention. It just feels right!

I come into my 33rd year full of expectancy, hope & faith that this is my “peace & settling” year.

rvtraveling

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