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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-

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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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And yet another example of why people should never attempt at turning an exotic animal into a “pet”…

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The good thing about having a blog is I can voice my opinion in a controlled environment in an attempt at a well-thought out debatable essay, especially when the topic is controversial & most people like the sound of their own spouting rather than say something worthy & substantial. Which is why I urge everyone to start a blog, it’s much cheaper than therapy & you reduce the number of people you want to shake & say, “really???” Everyone has an opinion, however, not everyone’s opinion is informative. Most are emotional & not factually based.

Recently in my hometown a spider monkey was euthanized after biting a human, without getting into specifics (you can look it up on Fox 8 Cleveland’s website) the outrage is getting a little ridiculous & in my opinion, the anger is severely displaced. I have worked in the animal industry for 12 years professionally & have earned several degrees over the course of that time all animal related (with the exception of a Business degree thrown in). While I by no means claim to be an expert, in fact, I’m humbled & excited by how much I have yet to learn, I do have a little more experience with the industry than most people voicing an emotional opinion. I have worked with horses, livestock, reptiles, domesticated, avian, wildlife, aquatics, pocket pets, & exotics. I have personally worked with spider monkeys both in a zoo facility & an exotic animal rehabilitation center, not to mention the rotation I did during college where I worked in the vet department of an animal testing facility that tested on Spider & Capuchin Monkey’s (don’t get me started on that!) When I say that these animals are NOT meant to be pets, that’s not an exaggeration.

I’m not here to bash the owner or all the supporters of the owner, their actions (or lack thereof) speak for themselves. It was an unfortunate situation with heartbreaking results & I’m sure after the emotion has died down, the owner(s) will realize the role they played in this situation & I’m trusting will not make the same decisions again. Whether it’s a domesticated animal or an exotic animal, when you choose to bring one into your home you have a responsibility to that animal to keep it safe. That includes obeying all laws, following all regulations & being knowledgeable about the animal that trusts you.

As I’m sure most of you amazing readers know, several years ago a guy let loose dozens of exotic animals onto the streets of Zanesville, Ohio. After that incident people were OUTRAGED over the destruction & mass killing of several of these animals…all senselessly. There is always good that can come from every situation and Ohio started adapting stricter exotic animal laws to more safely regulate what people can own & the standards by which they have to house these animals. Ohio went from being the worst (no exaggeration) state to being one of the most regulated. Ohio even created a whole department within the Department of Agriculture to regulate, monitor & fine private & public organizations and owners who have chosen to own exotic animals. While it has been costly for owners & organizations it also has cut down on people owning exotic animals & regulates how many animals a rescue can financially support. I know it may seem like another Government interference but (to me) it’s common sense to monitor this trend that is way out of control & long overdue.

People should not own exotic animals to keep as pets, ever! And you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that works in the animal field to disagree. God created all things for a very specific purpose & when people try to change that purpose, senseless things like the recent Spider Monkey euthanasia happen. Love plays a big part on why people decide to incorporate an exotic animal into their home; they “love” a certain animal species, so naturally they want to own it. This doesn’t make sense to me. You “love” something, so you decide to keep it from living out its God designed purpose? Not to mention it’s a selfish way to think. Because YOU decide that YOU want to own an exotic animal YOU get one. You’re putting your needs before the welfare of the animal. The very essence & definition of love is putting somebody else’s needs above your own. The very animal that you decide to own can teach you that lesson by observing it in a natural environment; a mama bear will always protect her cubs before thinking about her safety.

My best-bud & greatest workout personal trainer I’ve ever had is my dog, Waylon, an Australian Cattle Dog. This dog loooooooves to be outdoors & is the epitome of energy! And I adore him for that. But Australian Cattle Dogs are designed to do exactly what their name implies. They herd cattle. This is their purpose in life, their instinct. What God has created them to do. I’m responsible for stealing his joy, on a daily basis, because I don’t fulfill that need in my dog. Is my dog happy…absolutely. Is he well taken care of…you’ve never met a dog more spoiled. But the level of happiness Waylon would achieve if getting that need met daily is nothing that I can provide him right now. He gets spurts of that activity; many chances to “herd” horses around the farm, squirrels & chipmunks are a daily roundup, he even “herds” me when we’re out on our daily walks/runs. As his owner, someone who he puts his trust in, it is my responsibility to make sure that instinct is met…and I fail at this, I’m 100% to blame & it is a selfish act on my part because I wanted this rescue dog. Just like other fellow dog owners who fail at this if they don’t provide the same opportunity with their dogs & their instinctual purposes. The difference is, these are “domesticated” animals. Through years of evolving, dogs are no longer wild & now know their place within the hierarchy of a human family unit. Exotic animals will never be domesticated, it’s a scientific fact. And even if some mutant gene forms & they do become domesticated, it will never be in our generation or in our great-great-great-gazillion great grandkid’s generation. When humans interfere too much with changing Mother Nature, we do more harm than good. She’s been around a lot longer than we have & is a hell of a lot smarter than we are. Believe it or not but humans are not entitled to own everything on this planet just because we “want” it, there are some things that don’t belong to us. Every time you support a company that does research using animals by purchasing their products, every time you buy an animal from a breeder instead of adopting or not spaying/neutering your pet, every time you pay money to watch animals being put on display (circus’s, rodeo’s) you are selfishly contributing to the destruction of mother nature. I’m guilty of this as well, it will forever be a lifetime of choices that you have to make. Not one person can save the world, but everybody can do their small contribution & that does add up.

I’m very passionate about animal rights, especially on rescue/rehabilitation work (not buying from breeders, spaying/neutering, etc.) & exotic animal rights. When you work in the industry you see the effects that human’s selfishness & stupidity can cause. If I was friends with myself, I would be annoyed with myself when I get on a soapbox about it. I know that I can nag about this topic, but it’s because it’s so important. Think about something you’re passionate about, something you’re willing to fight for…can you really nag it enough? I would rather beat this topic to death than know it’s going on & remain silent. Many times I’ve prayed to not know some of the things that I know & to not have seen some of things I’ve witnessed because the weight of the problem can seem overwhelming, especially when people don’t seem to care or heed your advice. But in those moments I’m reminded of the animals I’ve seen emaciated, beaten, left to freeze to death on frozen ground, of the animals I’ve personally had to put to death because people have chosen to buy from a breeder and/or not spay & neuter. The exotic animals behind cages who were meant to roam freely, the lab animals injected with cancer-causing agents so humans can get the right scent of body wash & the poaching of game who were unfortunate enough to be born with a much desired delicacy. If people are made aware of the problems, they cannot claim ignorance. Whether or not they choose to do something about their contribution to the problem is up to them & therefore the responsibility of that decision, good or bad, also falls on them. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
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Book Report: Radical by David Platt

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“Jesus apparently wasn’t interested in marketing himself to the masses”

This was the first line that I had underlined in the book, “Radical” by David Platt. A book that I was roped into reading by deciding to join the 2013/14 MTI (ministry training institute) program at my local church.

This line rubbed me the wrong way & thus started a love/hate relationship with the novel.

While the author, David Platt, had a lot…A LOT of ideas & key points that I agreed with, he equally had a lot that I didn’t. For me, the over-riding tone of the novel was how arrogant the author came across to me. I wouldn’t say that I’m a defensive person; I’ve accepted my strengths & weaknesses and when they’re pointed out to me, it’s often a trait that I’ve already realized I have. But I’ve never had somebody, especially an author that I haven’t met, so “in my face” & “you’re doing Christianity wrong”. In other words, he’s telling me that I’m loving Jesus & representing him wrong.

Not a fan of that!

I will admit, I am FAR from the model Christian. And I don’t strive to be. What I do strive to be is somebody that God can be proud of & that I represent Him well. Imperfections and all. This novel made me feel that unless I’m selling all my stuff & living a nomad lifestyle, floating between society to society spreading the gospel that God will look at me one day & say, “you’ve failed me”.
And I don’t believe that to be true.

While I do agree in living with LESS & giving MORE, I don’t think that God wants us to struggle in order to help others. If we did that, then we (in turn) would be the ones struggling & would need the help. And I also agree, big time, that God does want us to travel; to get out of our comfort zone and spread the gospel, however, I don’t necessarily think we have to go to foreign countries to do that. And somebody shouldn’t feel bad about not having a calling to go on an extended Missions trip. Personally, I would LOVE to go on an international Missions trip & I know that I will one day. But I also know that plenty of people are hurting in your own country, town…family. Sometimes things don’t have to be big & extreme, sometimes you can start small with the people closest to you.

David Platt, oftentimes, came off pompous to me. And that’s exactly what he’s trying to tell us NOT to be like, his whole novel was about humbling oneself & being a servant. And I agree with that, completely. But throughout the whole novel he told us what his church was doing; how his followers were making a difference, the letters he was receiving from those that have heard him speak…his, his, his. Yeah, we get it. You’re trying to be “Radical” & it’s working in your awesome Mega-church. But how about you leave your mega-church, donate all the proceeds from your book sales & live on the $10,000 that you’re preaching most of the world lives on (which I believe to be wholeheartedly true), uproot your family & lead them into dangerous & uncharted territories. My guess is he wouldn’t do that, and who can blame him? God hasn’t called him to do that. And he shouldn’t be faulted for living a “comfortable” lifestyle & not living a life that would make people question if he was homeless. However, my impression is that he wants his church-goers & readers to do that because that’s the only way you can be a true disciple of Jesus.

And maybe he’s right. I’m very limited on my understanding of God, Jesus & the Bible. God does want us to trust Him, have faith in Him beyond measure. And I know that I, personally, struggle in that area BIG TIME. However, I don’t think I’m less of a Christian or God is disappointed in me & thinks I’m a bad disciple because I take a step back & question things. If God chooses to bless me financially where I don’t have to struggle to pay bills, then I know he’ll bless me with knowledge on how/where He wants me to spend it. But until that time comes & I don’t have to pray ferociously that my income will cover basic needs I refuse to feel guilty that I don’t give enough. The season of my life that I’m currently in, is one where I’m learning to give up control & walk in faith. This is the season that God has decided I need to be in at the moment, I don’t like it. But I accept it.

The “Radical” challenge presented I like. And I’ve been giving it a lot of thought & praying very hard over it. I have not signed it yet because I’m not sure if I can give up a year to that dedication. Again, reading the Word, praying…no issue with that at all. But the giving up money for a specific purpose/going on a “missions” trip. I just don’t know if financially I can afford to do that. And I also feel there’s things that God is still weeding out in my own life & this might not be the right time to focus on a “Radical” challenge. If he calls me to do it, then I will. If I make a commitment to accept the challenge, then I know I’ll give 100% & I have no doubts that I will see dramatic changes, however, I’m just not sure if this is the right time.

In conclusion, this book gave me tons to mull over & think about. Which is, I imagine, the author’s main point. To get us “thinking”, which he has succeeded in. Tough book to get through and even though I never threw it across the room in frustration, I did roll my eyes at some statements. At a different point in my life, this novel could really spark a positive change in me, but at this point it only sparked me feeling defensive & closed minded.

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When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

I started the novel with huge expectations. I didn’t know anything about it, but found it on Book Sneeze & thought I’d give it a try. The description sounded awesome; spiritual but with a supernatural twist. I even found a YouTube video promoting the novel & it really peaked my interest.
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At first I couldn’t put the novel down! Loved it! It’s not a long read (about 330pages). The chapters are fairly short & divided up by “days” leading up to a town carnival. The main character is a child named Leah; an only child, introvert, with a stutter. The novel centers around her & her relationship with an imaginary character she’s named, “The Rainbow Man”. Through her The Rainbow Man tells her things & gets her to do things that are a little off-the-wall; she paints a picture with hidden numbers that cause a town member to win the lottery, she approaches an abusive husband at the mall & tells him things that nobody else could possibly know, etc. Every main-character in this novel is pained in some way; her father is a psychiatrist who escapes into his work, therefore, neglecting his wife & child causing problems at home, her good friend & elder, Barney is struggling to take care of his wife’s failing health, the town minister is lacking in his faith & finding it impossible that God would speak his Word through a un-“religious” child with no formal Biblical training & her best friend Allie wants to believe her friend, but when it gets personal for her, she fights with unbelief. Not to mention the town, Mattingly, is full of supporting characters each with their own demons & secrets.

After the initial excitement & allure of the first few chapters wore off, I found this novel…well, kind of boring. I hate to admit that “hearing” Leah’s stutter was a total put-off for me. She has quite a bit of dialogue in the novel (obviously) & I found it annoying the way the author wrote her lines (“It’s nuh-no-ttt-not a h-h-h-ho-hole Mr. Bu-Buh-Barney”) I know that it was used for descriptive purposes because Leah has a stutter, but it added quite a bit of un-necessary paragraphs. Seemed to take a long time for the novel to actually take off. I also didn’t like the introduction of so many sub-characters, too many to keep track off! And I got so confused when the author started talking about a town called Away, had nothing to do with the actual storyline. “The Rainbow Man” character was never really settled for me; was it God, was it an Angel, perhaps even the Devil??? I’m sure that was the author’s point, that we draw our own conclusion, but I’ve got this “thing” about wanting a novel to be “closed & finished” when I’m done reading it. I really didn’t get the whole “Rainbow Man” concept. Reverend Grogginess was an interesting character. While I did agree with some of his ideals & beliefs, he was a little to Bible-Thumping for me. If the author’s point was that through Reverend Groggins’ character people would be introduced to God I think he turned people off more than he led. Barney’s character I did really like. Every small town has that one old guy who is just a good man. Little rough around the edges, but loves the Lord & lives his life very simply. Things are black & white for Barney & I love that! The chapters that tugged at my heartstring most were the ones where he took care of his ailing & disabled wife, Mabel. During her passing, I wished the author would’ve focused more on The Rainbow Man being present at that time. He did focus on it somewhat, but it seemed a little under-developed to me (and forgetful). Leah’s dad, Tom, the town psychiatrist was an interesting guy. It’s not that I disliked his character, but I didn’t necessarily like it either. I never really understood what his deal was. For being such a main character, he seemed a little confused to me. Like the author didn’t really know what to do with him. He left me feeling a little…blah. Leah’s best friend, Allie, was cute as a button. She was the typical bubbly, funny little kid that you can’t help but fall in love with. Again, her character seemed a little undone & I wasn’t sure what the author’s intent was with her.

The storyline was weak. The big event that the whole novel alluded to (as the chapters were all labeled: Chapter 6, 4 days before the Carnival….Chapter 9, one hour before the Carnival…etc.) that I was expecting something huge to happen. It was a tornado. True, a tornado that ripped the town apart but I was left feeling a little disappointed. To be honest, the whole novel & storyline reminded me of a movie I saw a few years ago (that scared the beejeebees out of me) called the Mothman Prophesies. I just didn’t get it….

I wouldn’t recommend this book to a friend. It’s a fast read, even though it took me 7months to get through it. But mostly because it bored the snot out of me. “When Mockingbirds Sing” turned out to be a big disappointment.

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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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