Look up in the sky and you’ll notice a show, Of the stars gliding by and the moon’s soft glow. Who scattered them there? From Whose hands did they fall? And why would He even bother at all? The Maker of Lights spun this world into place, to begin His Story of love, hope and grace. All creatures He formed by His pleasure and will; Calling each by their name, now MAN’s task to fulfill.
Over thousands of years, God sent people to slowly reveal, that a Savior would come, for the world to be healed. Because of the Fall, all were dead in their sin, but just like Adam, Jesus brought life to all men. Like Moses, Jesus RESCUED people out of sin’s way; Like David, Jesus came as a WARRIOR to save the day. Like Esther, Jesus was a PEACEMAKER for man; And like Daniel, Jesus came as a HERO, fulfilling God’s perfect plan.
God’s Story is full of people, and they all point to the One, who died on a cross and again will come. The friendship that was broken, Jesus eternally mended, And we’ll live with Him forever, just as He intended.
God graciously asks you, now, only one thing: To have faith in your heart that Jesus is King. Because God wants you, too, as a piece in His Story, To love you forever and show you His glory!
Do you believe this is true? God calls you His friend! His grace is enough; His love never ends. And when Jesus rose, God’s Spirit was given, to remind you each day that, indeed, He is risen! And if you believe, in your heart He resides, to be your Friend, your Teacher and Guide. And God’s people, the Church, have been given His Word, to tell this Love Story to all who’ve not heard.
Story credit given to One Hope (customized by First Assembly of God Church, Rapid City, SD)
2019 was a whopper of a year…very tough to say the least. Lots of losses in so many ways. Many deaths and good-byes, broken relationships, mental/emotional battles…depression, anxiety like I’ve never experienced in my life. Health battles of both old and new, attacks from others, major fear, brokenness…completely at the end of myself, on my knees, no will to fight- brokenness. That is hard for me to admit. I’m often the person smiling and cracking jokes, it’s just easier that way. Smiling on the outside because I don’t want to face what’s on the inside.
That’s when God stepped in more real and ready to save me than ever before. I don’t mean salvation as in from my sins…he has already taken care of that, but I mean salvation from myself. From misery, hopelessness, a black cloud that wouldn’t budge, fear that was paralyzing, chaos, confusion, others treating me outright ugly. Exhaustion. Complete exhaustion because I was trying to do everything and make it all work, on my own strength. It was like being stuck in this horrible dream that I couldn’t wake up from. I felt so helpless
Yep…but God, in all of his glory, infinite wisdom and overwhelming, reckless Love, reached down and grabbed my hand. He pulled me out of the mirk and quick-sand, like that of a drowning victim and he set my feet on a rock. He reminded me not only WHO I am, but WHOSE I am. He showed me that I am worthy of love. Worthy of happiness. Worthy of kindness and good things. He blew the dust off of me, like an old item that has been up on a shelf. He woke me up from a state of numbness and sleeping because it was just more comfortable and easier to be in that state than to have to feel. He gave my heart a new song. He breathed new life into me and filled me with the new light of hope and joy. Joy to give me a new strength. Hope and expectancy that I don’t have to stay stuck in despair. That hearts can heal from loss. He has and continues to use others to do this. He used every source possible because he is God and he has every resource at his fingertips to use and he just does things like that because he loves us so much. He wants us!
He set my feet on a new path. One that shows promise and good up ahead. One that makes me want to get out of bed and see what he has for me that day. One that makes me feel like I have purpose and value and worth again. He showed me how to DREAM once again. Like truly, child-like dreaming about the future!
Is it perfect? Nope. Do I still have days when I struggle? Yep. It takes time. I’m not fully there yet. Are we ever? I still have hard days. I just know that I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel; like I’m coming out of the fire. Refiner’s fire. It hurt while being in the fire. It is not a place that I would want to return to, yet looking back with hindsight, it is not a place that I would avoid if I had to do it all over again. Refiner’s fire makes us more like Jesus. It cuts off the dead branches and chisels away at the muck, destroys the infestations and polishes us up so that we can be like new again; whole, prepared and ready for the next step that God has for us.
So again, I ask my self…would I do it all over again? The answer is “yes.” A thousand times, “yes.”
But…um…for now God, for now, please lead me to green pastures where I can sit beside still waters. Let me be refreshed and renewed. Give me peace and rest so that I can be ready for whatever waits up ahead.
Hello 2020. I’m ready to see what God has in store for this year. For all of us, may it be a year of blessing and peace!
Mama, I see you. Yes, you. You’re brand new at this, aren’t you? You’re driving that sweet bundle home from the hospital. Wide-eyed. You are in awe and amazement. Those tiny fingers and little lips. You can’t believe that just days ago…hours really, that little person was living inside of you, feeling her kick. You gave that tiny being life. You brought that perfect little human into this world. There is also another part of you that is silently terrified. “What have I done? You mean…I’m 100% responsible for this little person?”
I see you, Mama. Yep. You. You’ve been up all night with a sick child. Rocking her. Telling her that everything is going to be alright. Your body aches from exhaustion. You can see the first glimmer of daylight starting to peek through the curtains. You know that in just a short period of time the other kids will be waking up for the day. If only you could catch a few minutes of sleep. Perhaps extra coffee can help you make it through the coming day.
And you, Mama…you’re a single mama. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Everything your kids need is all on you. You’re working two jobs, trying to provide. It’s hard to find much time where you can recharge your own battery, let alone stay on top of all the housework, help with homework and be everything to everyone. There is no back-up or extra hand to give you assistance at night when you’re putting the kids to bed or having to discipline behavior that you have had to deal with umpteen times. You’re trying to make decisions and navigate your little family through this world on your own. I see you too.
Mama, I see you. Your child has special needs. You’re doing the best you can. Learning and planning and adjusting life to help both you and your child; to make the days go just a little bit smoother. You call ahead to a location before your first visit in attempt to plan for anything that could “throw him off.” You know…loud sounds, long lines…simple stuff. All those over stimulants. You ask about a bathroom that can accommodate his specific needs. Every part of your day seems to revolve around this child. The slightest thing can make a good day turn bad. The public tantrums that make you want to run and hide. You watch other parents and their kids play. They move through life with such ease. They play and interact with their children in what appears to be so care-free in comparison to you.
What would it be like to simply have your child be able to carry on a conversation or reciprocate love back to you? What is going on inside of that child’s head? You know there are thoughts. How can you draw them out? Every once in awhile, there is a glimmer of hope. A smile or eye contact. You love your child so much. You don’t want to change your child yet sometimes you just wish that he could be…well…”normal.” Yet, you realize and are strangely thankful for the great lessons in life this pure, innocent little person has taught you. Lessons such as kindness, compassion, enjoying the simple things, loving others with nothing but pure, unadulterated love. Inclusion, “not judging a book by its cover.” The list goes on.
It can be easy for dark thoughts to loom. What will it be like when he gets older? Will he make friends? Will he be able to care for himself and live on his own as an adult? What about college? Is a career at all possible? You push the questions aside and resolve not to entertain them for now.
And Mama. Stay-at-home Mama. I see you too. You’re feeling a little lost in the piles of laundry and dishes and the endless messes. Every time you finish a job you turn around and it’s already undone. It’s the simple things that you desire: to use the bathroom without an audience. To sit and eat a hot meal all the way through or drink a cup of coffee without having to microwave it 17 times before it’s gone. To go to an appointment without juggling and entertaining a child by your side. If only there was a reason to fix your hair and dress nicely. You know…an outfit that doesn’t work boogers and spit-up into the dress code. Those days you long for adult conversation. Days at home with little ones often leave you feeling lonely, unappreciated, depleted and questioning if you have a “greater purpose.” Oh, you know deep in your heart that your job is a high-calling; that you are molding and shaping little lives and not just any lives, but those of your own children. Those judging comments from the world that leave you feeling less-than. Remarks that conclude the misperception about what your day entails. “Do you work or just stay at home with your kids?” You do not sit and eat bonbons and watch soap operas all day! You work hard at your “job!” I see you too, Mama. Your work is valuable.
Then there is you, Mama…you put in well over 40 hours of work per week at that career you’ve spent years aspiring to achieve. Years of school. Piles of student loans. You’ve moved up the ladder to a head position. You have worked and worked and it feels good. There is a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You’re doing what you love, right? But you’re also tired. Very, very tired. You’re trying to do it all and you are spread so thin. There is so much “mom guilt” resting on your shoulders. How can you be everything to everyone? You had to miss your daughter’s softball game last weekend. She still hasn’t forgiven you for missing her dance recital last spring because you had to travel out of town for a conference. No matter how hard you try, you still feel like you’re coming up short. Cutting back hours on the job doesn’t feel like an option. You feel torn. Many days you feel like you have to pick a team. Career or family?
Mama, I see you. You are trying to just have a fun outing with your kids. You know, be “fun mom.” But the oldest won’t stop picking on the youngest. Every time you blink, middle child turns up missing. Getting everyone safely from point A to point Z feels like an ultra-marathon. That walk across the parking lot, purchasing passes, the summer heat, the toddler meltdowns. Is anyone having any fun? What? Baby just blew out her diaper and your package of wipes is almost empty? Who came up with this bright idea anyway? Next time you all will just stay home and take a walk around the neighborhood.
And you Mama. You’re just trying to take a walk around the neighborhood. You’re pushing that big ol’ double stroller with two crying little ones while big brother is following behind, army crawling across every yard. I see you too, Mama! I’m cheering you on! Go! Go! You can do it! Uh-oh…brother just army crawled through dog doo-doo. You got this Mama! I’ve been in those shoes too!
I see you, Mama. You’re the one down the grocery store aisle. It’s been a long day. Everyone is tired, but your fridge is empty and your cupboards are bare. You just need a few things to give you something to eat for a few more days before payday. I hear your kids arguing and crying. You lose your cool. It has been a hard day. Actually a hard year. All eyes are on you. One lady makes a sharp remark towards your child and gives you some unsolicited parenting tips. You about come unglued. Hang in there, Mama. They don’t know what you’re going through. It will get better. The pendulum has to swing to the other side at some point, right?
And over there. You. Mama. You are sick and tired. And so tired of being sick and tired! Trying to care for your babies when you yourself need someone to care for you. You spend your days pouring into others from what is oftentimes an already empty cup. You don’t feel well. At all. You’re so used to not feeling well that you wouldn’t know what it felt like to feel healthy. To have energy. To smile and love life and feel blessed by all of these great blessings because there is constantly a weight on your shoulders and a dark cloud hovering over your mind’s eye. Mama, I see you and you are doing the very best that you can! Hang in there! Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
And you, Mama. Yes, you truly have earned the right to be called “Mama.” I know it may not feel like it to you, but truly, you have! You’ve tossed out more “negative” at-home pregnancy tests than you can count. Each month brings you new hope and added disappointment. And the positive tests? Well, you’ve seen those too. Each one makes you want to hold your breath and brace yourself for what may lie ahead. The letters D & C have brought on a whole new meaning to you over the past few years. Dashed hopes and dreams. You feel your heart becoming calloused. Can it take any more loss, hurt and pain?
And that one time…remember…you knew your baby’s gender. You had a name all picked out; a closet full of infant clothes. You thought this time…THIS was going to be it! Holding that baby in your arms felt so real, you could just taste life as a Mama, that life was so close. Now your baby…well, never did you imagine that you would be picking out a coffin and paying for funeral expenses. Your baby was born early and stillborn. How can a good God allow this to happen? Where did you go wrong? What did you do to deserve all of this? Mama…I see you. Despite not having those babies to hold and rock in your arms…you too are a Mama! God’s shoulders are big enough to handle your hurt and anger. He feels your pain. He catches every tear that you cry. He desires to wrap his big arms around you and hold you. We live in a fallen, imperfect world. Death is just as sure of a thing as life. God sees the desires of your heart. Don’t lose hope!
Then there is you, pretty Mama. Oh, I think I may hurt most of all for you. Your life looks perfect on the outside. You have it all, or so it seems. The big, beautiful house, the nice vehicles, closets full of name brand clothing; your hair and makeup and kids always look so put together. You are the president of the PTA and first to volunteer in your child’s classroom. Make cookies for the bake sale? No problem! Your kids all get straight A’s and excel in every, extracurricular anything, that they pursue. And your husband, he has that high-paying, prestigious career. You get invited to all of the fancy parties by everybody who is anybody. Yep, you’ve got it all together and life is perfect. Right?
The truth is…inside those walls…behind closed doors…you are crumbling. Not just you, but your entire family. You have turned a blind eye to all of those “late nights” and “out-of-towns” your husband has “career obligations.” Your kids…well, you give them anything they want so that they will see you as the “cool mom” and “favorite parent.” It’s often so much easier to just give them things instead of saying “no” and hearing their snarky comments, back-talk and teenage tantrums. Your Ladie’s Night Outs are just another opportunity to compare and compete and downsize anyone who may closely “measure up.” Mama, I see you. You are hurting and not ready to see your life for what it really is. Healing and change cannot come until you are ready to be honest with yourself and those you love.
Mamas. I see you. All of you. If there is one thing that I can say that I want you to walk away with is this…You are NOT a failure. You were chosen to be that baby’s Mama. It was no accident. God gave you that child or those beautiful children because he sees you as fit…able…capable for the job! He hears those guilty thoughts that so easily get stored up inside. The questions that ask, “am I able? Am I good enough? Will my babies somehow turn out lacking in some way?”
Mama, I see you. For many of you, I have walked in the same shoes. If only I could give you a hug. Tell you that everything is going to be alright. Tell you that you…just being you; being present and loving on those babies every chance that you get…speaks volumes to their hearts. Your actions say to them “You matter. I’m here for you.”
Mama, when God placed that tiny little baby into your arms, He…the Creator of the universe. The One who spoke, “let there be light” and established day and night. The same God who hung stars and galaxies and told oceans where to start and stop; that same God wove your child’s figure together in your womb (or into your heart, adoptive mamas). Those perfect toes and nose and tiny little fingers, He had it all planned out even before time began. He knew that child would be yours! He breathed the breath of life into your baby’s lungs and set her rhythmic heartbeat. This is the same God who ever so gently cradles your face, Mama. He wipes every tear and gently lifts your chin so that He can stare into your beautiful eyes. The ones that He too created.
He says, “Mama. Precious Mama. I love you. And…you…
YOU are doing a GOOD job!”
I believe that there are no mistakes or coincidences with the people we cross paths with in life. I also believe that there is something we can learn from everyone. Everyone has a story to tell and gifts to share; a purpose to fulfill. Many people have been beaten down by life and lost sight of who they are, or perhaps they just haven’t ever figured out who they are and what they have to contribute to others. We have to choose whether or not we will learn and grow from those people and experiences along life’s journey.
I am only human. I fail every day. My choices and actions can unintentionally hurt others. When I fall short, I have to choose to pick myself back up again, brush myself off and keep going. Looking for people and opportunities in which I can serve and impart my gifts and wisdom into and share what I’ve gained through my personal life lessons.
None of us is done growing or learning until we have breathed our last breath. Even with the best of intentions, I make mistakes, hurt, and offend. Often my desire is to just be authentic, transparent or helpful and to do what is right, according to my personal convictions.
I cannot undo what has been done or change how others might perceive me. I can keep going and keep trying my best! Keep loving those who God puts in my path. Keep praying for and blessing those who no longer are in my life. Forgive myself. Forgive others. Move forward. Choose joy. Choose to love. Choose to bless; help and serve where opportunities arise. Choose to persevere. Choose to be all God is calling me to be. Choose LIFE. Life is a choice. I choose to LIVE!
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Cor. 9:24)
In May 2011 I trained for a 10k race called the Bolder Boulder, held in Boulder, Colorado. Being the last minute person that I am, I decided 8 weeks before the race, that I was going to do it. “Couch to 10k” is the name that I gave to the training program that I put together. I would not recommend such a short training period to anyone. It’s probably a miracle that I didn’t gain an injury from this attempt. I made the decision and set this goal because 8 years prior from this date (2003), at the age of 22, I was told by a rheumatologist that I would no longer be able to run. I wanted to prove that statement wrong. Not to give myself the credit, but to give God the glory. (Also, I’m kind of stubborn and don’t like to be told the words: can’t, won’t or never).
Let me explain by first giving a little of my history:
Growing up in a Christ-centered home, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of four years old. I grew up knowing and loving the Lord. As I matured in my walk with Christ, my relationship with Him became more of my own and less of my parents’ influence. At the age of 15, I recall fully and completely dedicating my life to Christ, to follow him no matter the cost. I claimed for myself:
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”
At the age of 22, I was completing my second to last semester of college with plans to become an elementary teacher. I was dating Jeff, who is now my husband. Life was good! My whole future was ahead of me! Jeff and I loved to hike, bike, run and just be active together. Running had become one of my hobbies while in college. I averaged around 24 miles per week just because I enjoyed pushing myself and reaching new goals. An hour-long 10k (6.2 miles) was an average workout for me that I would do about 4 days per week, just because I liked to do it. One beautiful, spring day in April 2003 I decided to go for my usual run. Little did I know that when I went out for a run that day, my life would never be the same. That run marked an event that changed the course of the rest of my life.
Upon returning back to the college house where I was living with roommates, I noticed a itchy, red rash on my face, neck, and arms. It felt much like a sun or wind burn. I thought that it probably was just that, and it would go away in a day or two. It didn’t disappear. Instead, the rash continued to spread and eventually went from my scalp to my toes. It was painful (causing open sores all over my body) and a deep itch to which no creams or lotions could bring relief. Days later, I finally saught medical attention. I was put on oral steroid medication and still my skin condition did not change. I was referred to a dermatologist who took one look at me and said, “you either have lupus or dermatomyositis or both.” The doctor said that it is common for the sun to trigger these diseases. Onset is commonly seen in the springtime, when people are just getting back out into the sun again (photo-sensitive diseases). She said that I would have to see a rheumatologist for further testing and a final diagnosis.
The doctor proceeded to explain the symptoms and inform me about each disease. Scary descriptions of symptoms began to fill the exam room, many of which sounded foreign to me at the time. Phrases such as: severe fatigue; muscular weakness, stiffness, pain and atrophy; lesions, ulcerations and scarring of the skin, difficulty swallowing, digestive issues, shortness of breath, calcinosis, kidney, heart, lung and pancreatic problems; glandular (endocrine) disfunction. I thought that surely the doctor was mistaken. I was young and healthy. How could I be sick?
Two months later, in July 2003, I was finally seen by a rheumatologist. By this time I was experiencing a lot of debilitating symptoms. I was too weak to sit-up from a lying down position or roll over in bed; too stiff to reach my feet to tie my own shoes. Simple daily tasks like turning the keys in the ignition of my car required two hands for strength and a lot of focused effort.
I was experiencing debilitating pain in my skin and muscles throughout my body. A pain that I could best describe as how a person would feel if he or she ran a marathon and then lifted heavy weights afterwards. I was also constantly fatigued. A fatigue where lying down in a dark, quiet room was the only rest I could find. Watching TV felt like too much “work.” I experienced trouble bathing and dressing myself. I was so tired that I had to lay down and rest after doing simple tasks such as taking a shower, getting dressed or simple housework such as doing the dishes. Even holding my head up or picking up my feet to walk took concentrated effort; my extremeties felt so heavy. I would easily trip and fall. My body could not do what my mind was telling it to do. It was so frustrating and scary! I also faced a lot of mental fog and difficulty thinking clearly. I struggled with thought processing, internal tremors and episodes where I felt like I was going to pass out. There are just so many areas I could touch on. These are the main ones, in order to paint of picture of what I was going through.
The rheumatologist told me that tests confirmed a diagnosis of dermatomyositis (also known as DM or the juvenille dermatomyosits form also called JDM). Dermatomyositis is a rare and debilitating, chronic autoimmune disease. The diagnosis ratio at the time was 1 in a million. Without treatment the disease would be fatal. Some people experience remission, while others battle dermatomyositis their entire lives. There is no cure and…I would no longer be able to run.
I immediately began oral chemotherapy and steroid medications to help alleviate the symptoms. Less than a month later, Jeff and I got engaged. Symptoms began to lessen, I started my last semester of college. Other than being concerned about how much hair I would have remaining for my wedding day, and having limited energy, things were going well overall. I graduated from college in December 2003 and Jeff and I got married a week later. Little did we know the challenges that waited ahead of us. When a person’s health is compromised, the impact isn’t just in the physical. Every area of that person’s life is affected including their closest relationships.
Over the past 16 years I have endured many ups and downs with my health. Flare-ups of symptoms, followed by periods of calm, and then more flare-ups. Besides the on-going physical difficulties I have experienced from the broad range of symptoms from this disease, the emotional impact has been extreme as well. To live with a condition that is chronic requires a lot of mental strength. One feels much like a prisoner trapped inside of their own body to which there is no escape. Establishing a healthy mindset and perspective has taken me years of hard work and determination. I still struggle and experience seasons of depression, especially when faced with physical set-backs, chronic stress, or difficult life events that affect me emotionally, such as loss and grief.
Over the past 16 years, I’ve endured countless hours of doctor exams and medical tests including: skin & lymph node biopsies, colonoscopy, CT scans, x-rays, pulmonary function tests, echocardiograms, bone density tests, a variety of cancer screenings, and the never-ending array of blood work. Traveling to see specialists throughout the country, nearly 2000 hours of expensive introvaneous medicine treatments (currently $45K/month…thank God for health insurance), pills, medication side-effects, all-night stays in the ER, endless sleepless nights, the list goes on. The financial and relational strains that have resulted throughout this journey carry a weight of their own. It can be so lonely. Most people my age can’t relate to what I go through and therefore, don’t understand me or my life; how my family and I have to navigate in order to function along this life’s path.
Different facets of my personality and life have been forever changed from the constant enduring of a battle that has gone on for almost half of my life now. My quality of life has been drastically affected to say the least! I have had to grieve much loss. Loss of dreams and goals and plans. Loss of once close relationships because someone just didn’t understand and therefore distanced themselves.
Everything in my life that I once held dear, I have learned to hold loosely; with open hands to my God. To learn to trust Him again and again with my life. To trust that the One who holds tomorrow, also holds my hand. That he is a good, good Father. That my suffering and trials have a purpose and He is working them out to be a part of His good plan.
This is a path that I would not have chosen for myself, but God is turning it around for good and ultimately for His glory! Faith, trust, hope and perseverance: these are all on-going qualities that God is deepening and instilling in me over and over again (James 1:2-4).
I give you a glimpse at the depth of this valley so that you can understand why today I’m in humble admiration of my God. The physical, emotional, financial, and relational struggles that my health problems have produced over the past 16 years have seemed at many times relentless. But, I could also go on for a long time about God’s abundant blessings, grace, provision, and goodness that he has poured out upon me and my family. How he has made a path where there was none. How He has not only met our needs but, often, greatly exceeded them, meeting many desires.
One of the great blessings that the Lord has given to us is our healthy children. All children are miracles, but my two biological children have beat a few extra odds in order to become a part of our family (technically, so did our adopted daughter, but that is a whole other story)! We lost a pregnancy to a miscarriage (in 2007) before my oldest child, Aaron was born. It was a painful and devastating loss, but it made me appreciate the gift of being a mother that much more. My kids give purpose to each day and provide extra motivation for me to not just survive, but to thrive!
I recall when my son was an infant and weighed around 12 lbs. My health conditions were majorly flared due to all of the stress and complications that came from his delivery. Plus the added stressor of him spending 8 days in the NICU. I endured three major cases of mastitis within his first 6 weeks of his life. My doctor wanted to admit me into the hospital. I pleaded to first try oral antibiotics at home. I did not want to have to re-enter the hospital after just spending over a week going back and forth, with a baby in NICU. I was exhausted and physically broken down; complete survival mode!
God helped me to get over the on-going infections. I felt like such a failure at the time, having to stop nursing my baby, as I had hoped and planned to do. The choice came down to him having a mom who could care for him or not. I could barely lift or carry my infant son. I remember being so weak that I was concerned of dropping him when I would carry him around in my home. I had a large quilt that I would often lay him on and gently pull him on in order to get him from room to room (a stroller was too large for the home we lived in at the time). I could hardly take care of myself, let alone my child. I was determined to improve so that I could not just exist, but be all that God called me to be…that included being a mom!
Fast forward to recent years, my health has improved to heighths that I haven’t experienced since pre-diagnosis. I currently undergo on-going medical care and treatments, but a lot of the symptoms have been greatly reduced compared to my previous state of health. I am under the constant monitoring of specialists and daily have to balance my activities with rest to ensure that I don’t overdo myself. Having a busy family of five members (counting me), this nearly feels impossible.
I have seen God’s hand at work in my life and it builds my faith. In 2008, I was having continual, severe digestive problems and through blood tests was diagnosed with a second chronic autoimmune disease called Celiac Disease, where the body can’t digest gluten. The treatment is to eat a gluten-free diet. For 2 years I followed this special diet. I was then retested after reintroducing gluten back into my diet and the blood tests revealed no sign of this disease in my body. My Mayo Clinic specialist was baffled and I was given the green light to add gluten containing foods back into my diet. I have not experienced digestive problems in previous years. To God be the glory!
I still daily swallow several pills and bi-monthly get hooked up to an IV machine…but my God is the Great Physician- Jehovah-Rapha: the Lord that healeth thee. From the physical difficulties I have endured, I have decided that if God can get me through this than God can get me through anything!!
No matter what I experience on this earth, according to Rom 8:39, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I will continue to press onward and move forward because I have nothing to lose and everything to gain for the Kingdom of God.
I do not always feel hopeful, peaceful, or joyful in the midst of these circumstances. It has been the slow, patient, and steady work of God in my life that has brought about fruit. The fruit of perseverance and a deeper faith as well as a broader understanding of who God is.
I stand on God’s word, his promises. My Bible says that “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) And “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). No matter what my situation looks like in the natural, I can be sure “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his good purpose” (Romans 8:28).
We all have to endure obstacles and trials in our lives. Mine may look different from yours, but the outcome can still be the same. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Whether or not you ever decide to run a physical race, we all have a spiritual race to run. I encourage you to “keep fighting the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
(Bolder Boulder 10k ran on 5/30/11)
When I chose to follow Christ, I counted the cost. I said “yes” to following Him no matter how my life panned out or how I felt; if it would be easy or what other people might think. The following is a statement that I had posted on the inside of my locker throughout my high school years. I hope it will spur you on…may we be faithful!
Creed of a Bold Jesus Follower
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure! I’m finished and done with the low-living, sight-walking, small-planning, smooth-knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap- living, worldly talk, and dwarfed goals. The decision has been made; I am a disciple of Christ!
Of course, we are a minority, but armed with the promise of God we can have a spiritual impact that is greater than our numbers might suggest. It may come down to a simple question: “Are we willing to pay the price?” or perhaps even reverse it. Stored up, and prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ.
January 8th at 12:02 a.m. a beautiful and dear friend to me drew her last breath on this earth and slipped away into eternity. She was 72 years old. “Grandma Carolyn,” a name that she gave me the honor of calling her, had never married or had children of her own. She had lived much of her life full of hardship, abuse, addictions, sadness, loneliness, poverty, and trials up until 2010 when she came to know the Lord. It’s not that every trouble just disappeared, but slowly as she grew in her faith and walk with God, He began to set her free. She began to experience a life filled with freedom from addictions, peace, joy, and contentment. For some of these bondages, she experienced immediate and miraculous healing. Other changes took time.
Carolyn was a simple woman. She lived with little…just the basics for survival and comfort. She didn’t own a car. Never owned a home. She never won a major award or found success as society defines it. Yet she was one of the richest people in my eyes. She was content, full of joy and a grateful person! She was a woman of unhindered faith and God’s love shined through her. Her smile would light up a room and her blue eyes had a twinkle. She loved others. She loved children. She was a prayer warrior. She invested herself in relationships. Time, prayer and encouragement were the gifts that she had to give to others. She invested her life in walking with God. She studied her Bible and “ate of its fruit.” This is a woman who had her priorities straight. This is a woman who stored up her treasures in heaven (where moth and rust cannot decay- Matt 6:19-20).
Three ladies and I worked together to clear Grandma Carolyn’s belongings out of her apartment. She had very little; just some food and personal belongings. She had lived there for 10 years. Those walls had witnessed the countless hours of prayer and praise and her transformation in Christ. With a few boxes, we hauled the remains of her possessions out. So strange to wrap my head around this occurrence. Everything there spoke Carolyn, yet she’s gone. Her legacy lives on because of what she poured into those who were around her.
I had the privilege of keeping her Bible. What a treasure! I am not exaggerating when I say that EVERY page, from cover to cover, was highlighted and marked up with underlines, circles, and notes written in it. She had studied and studied God’s Word. In the back note pages, she had filled it with dates and testimonies of God’s provision, miracles, answered prayers, and ways God had used her to minister in the lives of others. I will treasure this!!!
I share this to honor Carolyn’s life. She did not have a funeral service or even an obituary written in the paper. I share this in hopes that it will spur other believers on. Help those whose lives have gotten off track. Those who have been devoting everything they have to earning the next dollar, award or success. It’s not that these are bad things, but they don’t last and they don’t satisfy for long.
Folks, in the end, it doesn’t matter. You can’t take it with you. As you breathe your last breath, what matters is what you invested into eternity and the lives of others while here on earth. The rest just fades (James 4:14).
Carolyn passed in complete peace. In the days leading up to her death, she lived at the hospice house, she was full of peace and joy and thankfulness. There was even a glow about her that was noted by many. God gave her a platform (as she had been praying for) and he used her mightily in the lives of all who were in contact with her, including several medical staff. Carolyn knew that God could miraculously heal her just as He had done in other ways in the past. She was also ready and anticipating seeing God’s face. She would tell everyone “whether I’m healed and dance out of this place or I die and I’m dancing at Jesus’ feet, either way, I’m a winner-winner!” (see Phil. 1:20-21).
So, Grandma Carolyn, I honor you. Your life. Your hope and unwavering faith. Your continued prayers and love for me and my family. May we strive to pick up your torch and carry out your legacy. To impart into others God’s truth, that you instilled into us. May we fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith! (2 Tim 4:7-8)
“I’ll see you later.”—
#winnerwinner #livealegacy #humblelifehappylife
Grandma Carolyn’s Story/How We Met:
Grandma Carolyn battled many health problems in her life and particularly in her last 12 to 18 months before she passed away. She found it difficult to leave her apartment for errands or go to church (in her final months). She greatly depended upon friends to help her with many of these tasks.
One of the highlights of her life was being able to share her personal testimony of God’s salvation, deliverance, goodness, and faithfulness. She loved having the opportunity to go down to the local Hope Center and share her story with those who are struggling with many of the same problems that God had helped her to overcome. I think that she would be pleased and excited that her testimony continues on through this writing.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Carolyn was introduced to Christ and the good news of His love, forgiveness, mercy, and freedom. She was so deep into her addictions that they were slowly killing her. God was like a hand reaching down to her and pulling her out of the destruction and messy life that she was in. Although God’s forgiveness of our sins and salvation is instant when we call out to Him, it sometimes can take some time for our lifestyle to change. This was the case for Carolyn.
I can’t clearly recall the order of how everything happened. I do remember her saying that one morning on November 5th, 2010 (I think this was the year) she popped open a large beer and sat down to read her Bible. She said that she heard the Lord’s voice clearly speak to her in her heart, “Today is the day.” She had been praying for deliverance from her addiction to alcohol. She described to me how much she would drink throughout the day. It was a large quantity. When she heard Him speak to her, she went and dumped her beer down the sink and proceeded to open up the entire new pack of beer and dump it all down the drain. She poured every last ounce of alcohol down the drain that was in her house. She never had another sip again. She claimed God’s healing and freedom in her life. She celebrated this date, every year after that as her “Freedom Day.” It was two months later (January 15, 2011) that God set her free from her addiction to cigarettes, in which she had smoked for most of her life. That was the last of her addictions. She worked hard to pay off her thousands of dollars of credit card debt that was from gambling. She had gotten it down to about $1000 remaining when she passed away.
Although we become a new creation in Christ, at the point of salvation it can take time for our minds to be renewed and transformed. (Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17). Learning God’s word (the Bible) and claiming his promises as truth in our lives begins to give us a new mindset and fill us with His hope and peace as we discover who we are in Christ (who He says we are). God is such a good, kind and loving God. He is not waiting to strike us with lightning for making a mistake or wrong choice. He is also near to us and wanting to be in close relationship with us. He says that we will seek Him and find Him when we seek Him with all of our heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.”
Carolyn’s life slowly began to change. She found a church to call “home.” She got plugged into a Bible study and began developing friendships. I didn’t meet Carolyn until she had been a born-again Christian for about 7 years. The person I knew her as was very different from the person she described herself as in her earlier years of being a Christian. She was so “on fire” for Christ because of the work He had done in her life; the things He had rescued her from. She was living a life full of freedom, joy, peace, and purpose.
She spent a lot of time in prayer for others. I believe her prayers played a big part in our adoption process going as smoothly as it did with our daughter. When she was able to, she would walk miles of neighborhoods in her part of town and pray as she felt the Holy Spirit led. She didn’t know the impact of those prayers while here on earth, but she did it anyway, by faith. Perhaps God is allowing her to watch from heaven and see what is taking place in those areas as a result of her faithfulness to the call to prayer.
I slowly began to get to know Carolyn through a women’s Bible study at church. She would often seek me out afterward to visit with me. I was immediately drawn to her because of the way she reminded me of my Grandma Slaughter, who had passed away in May 2009. They looked like they could have been sisters. They had the same sparkling blue eyes and similar smiles. Both had wheezy sounding breathing from asthma and respiratory issues. Their voices sounded similar and even their handwriting looked alike. When my grandma passed away from cancer, it left a HUGE hole in my life because we were very close. I prayed for years that God would send me someone in my life who I could have a similar relationship with and would help fill that void. Carolyn was His answer to that prayer.
One day after church, I was chatting with Carolyn in the foyer of the church. I told her about my grandma who had passed away and how she reminded me so much of her. I already knew her story of not having children (or grandchildren) of her own and how that was a desire that had not been fulfilled in her life. She never had married so she was all alone. Her one sister lived in another state and her parents were already gone. I asked her if she would take on that “grandma role” in my life. She was honored and touched by the request. She said, “You can call me Grandma Carolyn.” From that point on, that was her name to me and my family. We adopted her as our own, and the same with us to her.
Grandma Carolyn loved my kids! She devoted a great deal of time praying for all of us. We saw God’s hand at work as a result of those prayers. In the few previous weeks when Carolyn was in the hospital and then before she passed away, we had shared some sweet time together. She often told me what a miracle it was for her to have gained a family through my family. To have someone who was like a granddaughter to her. She needed us and we needed her.
A few years ago, when Carolyn turned 70, some ladies from church put together a surprise birthday party for her. There were several people there to celebrate and honor her life. She made such an impact on so many people! What a special event to witness!
Losing Grandma Carolyn, significantly affected this past year of my life. Watching her die from cancer, just as I had watched my Grandma Slaughter go. It was like reliving that death all over again, plus losing another special person in my life on top of it. The finality of death is hard to take. For those of us who believe in life after death, it is comforting to know that we can see that person and be together someday again.
A Final Story:
December 2018 we had Grandma Carolyn over to our house for the first time, to have dinner after church. This was a courageous step on her part as she fought fear and anxiety about going to new places, especially someone’s house.
Before having Grandma Carolyn over, I asked her what she wanted to eat for her meal. Her main request was “homemade cookies.” She also enjoyed soups. I made homemade soup and homemade bread with REAL butter (she was so thrilled over real butter) and homemade frosted, decorated sugar cookies. I did my best to spoil her! I also wanted to give her some gifts to open. I had gone to Kohls and bought her a beautiful, NEW sweater. It was light pink with sparkly gold flecks in it (she looked beautiful wearing it). She always had to buy used clothes from the thrift store and I wanted her to experience getting something brand new to wear. I also gave her a framed family picture of our family. She was so touched by everything and she felt very loved by it all. She sat and wept at how much love she felt. It was so good for my children to witness the touch of our family in her life. I hope that it left an imprint on their lives as it certainly did on mine, and I know on Carolyn’s life as well.
She called me a few times in the days following the event just to thank us again and again and let us know how much everything meant to her. I still feel like we got the greater blessing by how much joy it brought to us to do that for her and see her soak everything in. She was so appreciative! During dinner, she shared her testimony in detail with us and I told her that I enjoyed writing and someday I wanted to write about her. Well, here I am writing about her. I pray that her story will spur others on to live a life built upon the rock of Jesus Christ, not the shifting sands of the things of this world. To focus on eternal blessings and how we can be a blessing to others!