Here’s to Good Health!–Chapter 2 (Part 2)

Ten years after I was first diagnosed with RA, everything shifted again. The RA came back with a vengeance. This time, three fingers, not just one became swollen and pain was extending into my wrists. My hips and knees hurt so bad, climbing the stairs in my apartment became a chore. My hands became so weak, I could barely turn a door knob and I learned to carry grocery bags hanging on my arms instead of in my hands. Getting up in the morning was slow. Once I got up and around, it seemed to ease, but those first moments were tough. I couldn’t lift my legs to the side more than 30 percent and I was in constant pain. I was eating over the counter NSAIDs like they were candy. I felt drained all the time. It got so bad at one point, I ended up in the emergency room because I could not open or close my hands. They were frozen in a relaxed curve position. They couldn’t find anything wrong with the structure of my hands and gave no real answers. I was given pain meds and told to see my doctor. I couldn’t process it and I was scared.

I had prayed. I had fasted. I had enlisted every prayer warrior I knew and anyone who would pick up a phone through prayer ministries. I trusted God. I moved when he said move. I studied every day to show myself approved. I spoke healing into myself daily. I was sowing seed. I had changed. According to what I understood of scripture, I was doing it. So many questions. With every level of understanding came even more endless questions and lack of understanding. Why??? And with no family history. Why???

I went to a naturopathic doctor. In his most valiant attempt to help me, I was placed on methotrexate, in addition to supplements that were deemed necessary to bring my body into balance. What happened next sent me spirally into depression. My hair started falling out. Every time I combed it. Every time I washed it. Hair fell out by the handfuls. I was ready to go off the grid. I know, I know. Bald is beautiful and some people pull it off just fine. I was not one of those people. A woman’s hair is her crown and I demanded mine be given back to me. On top of that, all the tests results showed I was malnourished and deficient in many vital nutrients my body needed to heal and be healthy—my body was not absorbing the extra supplementation I was taking. Trips to the doctors and question after question brought no discernable breakthroughs. Was I really willing to risk my health for the sake of hair?? My heart sank and I stayed in the throne room seeking answers and cure. I was more than overwhelmed.

I looked into wigs, hair toppers and clip-on extensions and gained a real education regarding the world of hair, but everything I looked into didn’t look natural to me—it wasn’t my hair. Through friends, I was referred to an angel who told me about natural hair extensions. I took a deep breath and took the plunge. After about five hours, and a lot of pain, she was done. I looked in the mirror and couldn’t believe my eyes. I had hair—full, thick hair. I also had a lot of metal brads all over my head that hurt like heck, but I had hair! Joyful jubilation does not describe how I felt. I was told I could keep them about six months and then I would have to have them taken out. The hope was that my hair would grow back during this time and no one would be the wiser.

Zeal. That’s what I needed. Zeal in my life. I’m not talking about the need of passion for living, I’m talking about a powder you mix with your favorite drink. It provides all your daily vitamins plus loaded with antioxidants and is absorbed in your body 100 percent. The best part—it is made from all whole foods. No chemicals. The Lord told me, “Do it.” I quickly responded to the Lord with, “No. I don’t want to do it.” I was working on my third year of school of ministry, the ordination level, and I walked through my living room explaining to the Lord how I realized how long it took for me to get to this point and I wasn’t going to allow anything to hinder my accomplishing this that he had called me to do. Besides, I had been in other self-employment marketing adventures and I knew how much work was involved in making it work, and I simply didn’t have much extra time. So, I stood on my “No,” being sure I was making the right choice. Sigh…

The Lord didn’t give up. He said, “Try it.” So, I ordered a month’s supply. Wow. It actually tasted good. For the first time in almost two years, I could actually get through my day without feeling like I would fall out. So, I did it. You know, the thing the Lord told me to do when he said “Do it.” I signed up.

A few months later, right after I finished the school of ministry, I awoke to an amazing discovery. I was able to get out of bed with ease of movement. I could stand up without having to push myself out of bed. I was walking around without pain. I had begun to open doors without any hindrance and just to make sure I was actually experiencing the miracle my mind wanted so desperately to believe, I lay down on the floor and started to do leg lifts. I could actually do it. I was finally able to lift my legs with full range of motion. I began dancing before the Lord. I had indeed experienced a miracle and I wanted the world to know just how much zeal this Zeal gave me. I was also finally able to shed a few extra pounds that had accumulated due to my inability to exercise. Prior to this, my body would not absorb everything I had tried in order to obtain good health. But my body absorbed the Zeal and with amazing results. I’m so glad I listened to the Lord and “did it.”

Then the Lord spoke to me again and told me leave the course of treatment I was on and go to a different doctor, a rheumatologist, who came highly recommended. I stayed on the methotrexate for a little while longer, while some of the other medications were discontinued. My hair was still not growing. Then, there was another shift. My hands and knees started aching again. The methotrexate wasn’t working. But, this time I knew I was where I needed to be. My doctor recommended Humira. As it was presented to me, it would not only stop the progression, it was showing evidence of reversing the disease process. But, it was yet another very strong immunosuppressant. So many variables. So many unknowns, but I was ready.

Gradually, I could tell a major difference in my symptoms. The flareups had slowed greatly. The more I talked with this doctor, the more he confirmed what my journey of discovery had revealed to me. He confirmed medical science had proven celiac disease can cause RA. I told him I had been on a strict gluten free diet for about five years at that point. (For those who are sensitive, gluten becomes undigestable and causes an erosion in the lining of the gut. After some time, this can lead to what is called leaky gut. When this happens, the body does not absorb nutrients and the doors are wide open for disease. Interestingly, as in my case, your body knows you’re sensitive before you do.) I was sure I was on my way to the cure. I was able to discuss each symptom with him and he didn’t brush it off or make me feel as if I was unable to grasp the vastness of the disease process or the necessity for compliance with the proper treatment suggestions. After two years of struggling, the lab tests were coming back with better values and my hair actually started growing back some. It is not yet fully restored, but at least now I don’t have to wear extensions to look like I have a full covering of hair.

There was still one thing I had not fully grasped. Why did the knuckles on my hands become inflamed every time I ate something with moderate carbs or every time I ate a few nuts?? Every. Time.

The search continued. I had tweaked my diet to mostly vegan, only some meat occasionally, and vegetables. I had even stopped eating bread for the most part and if I indulged in a “treat” I made sure it was sugar free and gluten free. Okay, I’d be lying if I said I never ate anything with sugar, but it was rare. Then it happened. Everything seemed to fall in line with clarity and understanding.

I ate one fruit juice gummy bear. I do mean only one. Not two or three, just one single yummy gummy. Immediately, my wrists and the palm of my right hand began to itch. Too incredible for words. This also happened when I drank my organic whole foods vegan protein powder with rice protein base. Something was very wrong. “What’s going on now, Lord?” I knew I had developed a wheat allergy due to the instant swelling of my tongue, tingling in my lips and nasal congestion. Had I now become allergic to everything I eat?? I was not a happy camper and being on this rollercoaster was making my heart sick.

I did what I learned to do. I began to fast and pray. I had to get to the bottom of what was going on. No matter the questions I asked or the research I was doing, I was not coming to the end of this.

The Lord, so lovingly, reminded me of the years that have gone by and how he told me not to eat corn, white starches, wheat, sugar and with precise clarity told me not to eat more than the equivalent of two pieces of fruit in sugar containing foods on a daily basis. Any more than this would not be healthy for me. These all represent carbohydrates. (Watch out! Sugar free does not always mean carb free. Read and understand food labels.) All of which cause inflammation in the body (increased inflammation sets the stage for disease.) The Lord then led me to look back through my medical records. I finally found it. I had allergy testing done about 15 years earlier (three years before I was diagnosed with RA) and low and behold, it showed I was highly allergic to candida. Candida. Unreal. I didn’t even know what candida was until a few years ago. The sugar effect that carbohydrates produce in your body feed the gut fungus called candida. Wow.

Basically, by God’s grand design, my body is allergic to the effects of every sugar-causing food known to mankind. I know God has a great sense of humor, but come on now. This is crazy. Seriously?? Obedience is better than sacrifice. Case and point.

Thank you, Lord. Yep.

Autoimmune disease. A compromised immune system. I reasoned, with over 70 percent of our immune system in our gut, there has to be a connection with autoimmune diseases and gut health. The vastness of medical science and God’s knowledge and wisdom is inexhaustible. Thank God for advancements in medical science. I thank God more because of his great love for his children. I thank God even more because of the intimate way he is so personal with each of us. God never leaves us in the dark…if we are willing to listen to him.

Scripture says, “Know that wisdom is for your life and soul; if you find wisdom, then there will be a future and a reward, and your hope and your expectation will not be cut off.” Proverbs 24:14 (AMP). Everything is possible for those willing to believe.

Today, I’ve adopted the Paleo way of eating, and have added a good probiotic and digestive enzymes. For me, it works. No more itching all over.

I think back so long ago when I was first diagnosed. I still refuse to accept a life sentence of debilitation. My journey of discovery with knowledge and understanding will continue until the day I am face to face with my God in heaven. But this I know, no matter what twist or turn may come to me or try to come against me, I know I will never travel the road alone. My God, my father, my confidant, my savior, my redeemer, my healer, my peace, my joy, my righteousness and my best friend who will never leave me or forsake me, even until the end of the age. As long as there is breath in my body, I will serve the Lord. I will go where he tells me to go, when he tells me to go, and to the best of my ability and with great humility serve those to whom he leads me.

Be alert. Be aware. Never give in. Never give up. I’m learning that trust does not always mean we will have a clear explanation given to us. That really wouldn’t be trust, would it? God is my creator, and he knows me best, every cell in my body—best. I will follow him. He is indeed the light and the life in me.

My prayer is that you glean hope from my story. Hope in that God is not distant. God is not complacent. God is not sitting up in heaven waiting for just the right moment to whack you upside the head with his scepter of justice for every little mistake you make. God is good and he does care about us and for us. God does heal us. Sometimes, it is miraculous. Sometimes, it is a process. Either way, God has made provision for us at each pass, connection and interchange. Through it all, God is good. I look forward to the day I will wake up and the tests say “No more RA!” One day there will be a reckoning. I choose to take up arms and take back what has been stolen from me and I do so on behalf of others as well. I choose to hold on to God’s promises for us. I choose to see myself as God sees me, and that is healed of the Lord. I choose to hope and never give up.

May God bless you on your journey.

Here’s To Good Health!–Chapter 2 (Part 1)

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Autoimmune disease. After hours and hours of research over the years, I think I’m only a little closer to understanding autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease occurs when something goes wrong in a person’s body and the immune system get its wires crossed and attacks the person’s good cells, thinking they are bad cells. For those who may not know, there is no known cure for an autoimmune disease, and no one knows how it comes to exist. At best, it’s a rollercoaster ride of shifts and uncertainties that can leave a person wondering “What’s next?” There are many autoimmune diseases known today. In my case, “it” (the RA) attacks my joints, mainly in my hands and some in my knees. How do I cope? I’ll start at the beginning.

“It” first came to visit in April of 2004. I woke up one day and found the index finger on my right hand swollen almost double, like a link of sausage. Curious to say the least. I was working at a medical clinic at the time and after a simple blood test, off to a rheumatologist I go. I refused to accept it. I was in a state of denial and I never called it by its name. After a very painful injection and very strong medications, I was set up on quarterly monitoring. And that was it. I was given no hope of a cure. Only treatment in an effort to keep it from advancing and according to my medical records, my identity took on a “new look.”

I kept telling myself, “This can’t be right. Why would God give me the gift of music through my hands and then just take them away?” I searched the Lord deeply for answers and understanding. Eventually, I learned that there is a real spiritual connection to sickness and disease and I didn’t have to accept this disease in my body. But…what was it that caused this “thing” to happen to me? What did I do? What did I not do? Stress is a major contributing factor to the breakdown of good health. Okay. I get it. I went through a lot during the marriage and even afterwards. Get rid of the stress. Yeah. Finding that peace that passed all understanding is not always as easy as saying you walk in peace. It turns out, it has to become a mindset in order to achieve it. At any moment, “things” can happen to get a person stirred up. Peace comes from knowing we do not have to overcome it on our own.

At any rate, I began the process of learning how to rest in the Lord. The Lord said to me, “I have healed you.” I must admit, I grabbed hold of that word for dear life and fully expected to wake up the next morning and it would be gone! After all, I had heard testimony after testimony of how God miraculously healed others, and God does not show favoritism. Right?? Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for me. Not that way.

I sought answers through health forums on the Internet. Information overload does not adequately describe the information floating through the digital world. I finally found a small group who didn’t discuss far-fetched notions but talked in simple to understand terms. “God made our body to heal itself” was the common theme. When what’s in the world attacks, God has made provision for healing and overcoming it. Knowledge is power and I was feeling very strong about now. Quite honestly, my diet was terrible. Oh, and by the way, did I tell you I used to smoke? Yep. That was me. Like a freight train. I was finally able to walk away from them over eight years ago at the time of this writing. That was hard. Nicorette worked like a champ. Looking back, I don’t know how I was able to breathe before! It is true what they say, once you quit, you can’t stand the smell of it. Choking. So grateful to God and for those who prayed me through that journey to becoming smoke-free.

Whole foods. Eating the way Jesus ate when he walked on this earth. In fact, a woman I talked with on the on-line health forum lived by the rule of “If I can’t eat it, it doesn’t go on or in my body.” It sounded magnificent and overwhelming to me. I understood a good, healthy diet. I understood processed foods have had the life processed right out of them. But then came the flood of information about mycotoxins, starchy foods, carbs, good sugar, bad sugar and then the toxicity of gluten. The learning curve was definitely increasing. It seemed simple enough to understand. Bad stuff goes in, bad stuff begins to happen.

The years went by and “it” (the RA) seemed to have disappeared. I had started walking and at one point was walking three miles a day. After about a year, in addition to eating well and no longer smoking, I managed to lose over 100 pounds. I was literally transformed into a new person. I felt better than I had felt in 20 years. I was thrilled! The doctors were wrong, I reasoned within myself. It was a false-positive. The Lord had indeed healed me! Now, on to living life to the fullest!

(To Be Continued)

Jesus Always Cares–The Story Behind the Song

Jesus Always Cares—The Story Behind the Song

When we’re young, people ask us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It seems so easy. “I want to be a nurse, or a doctor, a policeman or fireman” are common responses. Along with “I want to be Spiderman, or Superman,” or in my daughter’s case when she graduated from preschool said, “I want to be Belle” from Beauty and the Beast. I especially loved her response. She deeply desired to feel loved, cherished and adored. We all do. For me, from the age of 9 I knew music was in me and somehow I always knew music would never leave me. Some kids grow up and do exactly what they’ve always dreamed of doing. Some don’t. Some are still searching. Little did we know the twists and turns on the journey to adulthood do not always leave us high on the mountaintop. Sometimes the slips and falls forge a crevice so deep it makes the valley of defeat seem uncomplicated.

From the time I was very young, I always had my heart set on accomplishing great things, and no one told me I couldn’t achieve them. My parents, aunts, uncles, and even my grandparents always encouraged us to shoot for the stars. “You can do anything if you set your mind to it” was commonly spoken to us. We were strategically disciplined and doing less than our best was unacceptable with consequences that were swift and sure. Yet, something deep inside me kept nagging at me and made me feel as if I was not up to par.

The separation was hard. It was especially difficult because I was made to prove my case for divorce. There was a time when I was young, as the teacher asked our class questions I always raised my hand first in class, so excited I knew the correct answer. Something happened to me from the time I married until the time I divorced. I went from a person who was positive and could see the best in everyone to a person who was so broken I didn’t know who I was anymore. I couldn’t remember who I was before I married.

Although I was very aware of the darkness we were living in, I found it very difficult to describe with clarity what it was like living with a man who literally sucked the life out of me. We know our spouses, don’t we. We know things about them no one else knows. That’s true for any marriage. I was not the type of person who aired my dirty laundry for the whole world to see. I was very accomplished in keeping “dark little secrets.” However, my survival would require me to disclose those things once hidden in darkness and the light was calling them into accountability once and for all. I knew God was with me and for all those who once called me “friend” this divorce would clearly draw the lines of truth, lies and the measure of a person’s heart. Those who once appreciated me, were now vehemently against me. What changed? I couldn’t grasp this complexity and wondered for a long time. I was still the same person. The shift came when truth had its say and truth was a voice to be reckoned with. I understood little at that time of the vastness of God’s sovereignty and how not one moment in time escapes his grasp.

Even so, I protected him, and in essence, I protected his family too. There were things that happened during our marriage that were so despicable and vile. I could, in advance, feel the weight of souls who would never be able to come to terms with that reality. So, I said nothing. Only the two of us, God and my attorney know that truth. But we know it. Besides, I didn’t want to destroy him. I just wanted out. I wanted peace.

I was so nervous. I prayed and fasted that God would show himself faithful in this on my behalf. Indeed, God was there and his glory shown brightly in the courtroom that day. After only 2-1/2 hours, I was granted a full divorce based on his ill-conduct and awarded full custody of our daughter. Surreal. Numb. Break. Silence. Reserved. There is a supernatural break with divorce and the rippling effects can last generations to come if we do not allow God to make us whole. The aftereffects of the divorce were harder to some degree than living amidst the silence of suffering. Now, it was out in the open and there were many new schemes, plots, plans and devices connived and schemed against us with a sundry of opinions being openly discussed with the “he said, she said” scenario abounding, which only served to provide even more word weapons and ammunition that was thrust against us. But God…

Now that the divorce was final, we had to settle the property. God had indeed blessed us with many things—enough furnishings to fill two households. We bought the property from his uncle. We had the house placed on concrete piers we had poured so it set on a firm foundation, and we had cinderblocks under-skirting the house. Unless a person knew, anyone who looked at our home could not tell it was a doublewide manufactured home. Here in lies the quandary. The house was in my name. The dirt was in our name. I considered leaving the house, but I was told I could not require him to refinance the house and put it into his name. I was told I should fight for it, especially having a child. But, again, the dirt had been in his family for years. I looked at every angle, but I knew from the beginning, I wasn’t even going to try to take the land. My life here was over and God was more than able to give me a clean, fresh start. So, I decided I would move the house, and the above ground pool and the deck that surrounded the pool. No sweat. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Yes. My faith was strong.

I was given exactly one month, only 30 days, to move all that which was mine off the property and was warned I had better not destroy the property in the process of doing so. If I was not able to accomplish this almost impossible task, I would lose the house and everything left on the property. Now, I must interject here. I thought I was being extraordinarily gracious by not even trying to maintain ownership of the land. And I was. To a fault. Lesson #infinity, not all hearts come to terms to grace and release as quickly as others. It became just another vivid display of his controlling, arrogant nature abounding in the light of day, for all to see. And what made him smirk with elation even more so, it was legal. He was drunk with pride. Even so, I was determined I would not be defeated!

I called in every friend I had to help. The task was enormous but not impossible. First, we had to release the house to be moved. With two sledge hammers, a dear friend of mine and I began busting up the cinderblocks at the base of the house. We pounded away and to my surprise, this wall was crumbling faster than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, after about two hours, I felt like it was me being beaten with the sledge hammer, and not the cinderblocks. What was I thinking?? Had the longings of my soul for freedom taken me completely out of my right mind? Did my desire to walk undefeated outweigh my sense of common sense and drive me into the land of stupidity?? Perhaps, all of the above. Oh my. I was so tired I could hardly walk. My legs felt like they were carrying the weight of an elephant. I’m so glad my friend was a strong man. With my endless apologies, even though it took him the better part of the day, he was able to complete the job without my help. Now…the rest of the story.

I woke up the next morning and I declared with distinct certainty I had found every muscle in my body—even every strand of muscle tissue that was hidden from touch or imaging capabilities. I was sure I would never recover. Jesus! It was all I could say. I was down for four days. And…the clock was ticking.

I devised a precise day-by-day, step-by-step plan to remove all that was mine—on time. I lined up the helpers and secured the transport truck that would move the house. Now that the cinderblocks were loosed, we began work dismantling the deck around the swimming pool—an 18’ x 36’ above ground pool, with decking along three sides of the pool. The first attack on my hands came when I found out just how heavy a sand filter is after it slipped off its base while I was trying to remove it from the pool. I was forthright in my assertion that my hands were to bring God glory. In retrospect, I guess all of this might sound like an oxymoronic statement considering all the work my hands were actually doing. But, I was determined. After all, I was always taught a little hard work never hurt anyone. Yep! Uh huh!!

Things were clicking along and finally everything was falling into place. There were 12’ 4 x 4’s along the outside of the pool on three sides. I had them placed there so we could eventually put a cover on it to block some of the sun. Being of Irish decent, my fair skin beamed brightly after a few minutes in the sun. I enlisted the help of my mother and my sister to take down the 12’ beams. There is truth in the saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn,” and I’m talking about scorn against those “darn posts” as my mother called them (sparing the expletives.) With the brute force of three healthy women and unparalleled determination for victory, we rocked those beams back and forth until, one by one, those beams came down. It was an added blessing that the ground had softened from rain. (Whew.) At this point, dismantling the pool, in fact, was a snap, comparatively speaking. Well….sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!

Finally, we were down to the last week. A couple from my church who had become very good friends of mine, brought their dump truck and we proceeded to pick up all the busted pieces of cinderblock to clear the way for the house to be moved. While I was picking up the pieces of cinderblock, the Lord spoke to me. He reminded me of the day I was swinging that sledge hammer and how exhausted and sore I became after doing so. Then he showed me the scattered debris of all the pieces (big, small and splinters) of cinderblock laying all over the ground and the painstaking work it was to pick them all up. His words to me were profound. “With great destructive force, your life isn’t the same. Wouldn’t it be easier to let me pick up the broken pieces of your life and put everything back together for you rather than you trying to do it yourself?” I knew God was right. As I looked at all the broken pieces of cinderblock laying around, I knew my life had been broken into a million pieces. I knew I would never be the same. Furthermore, I was at a loss of how to start the process of recovery.

This all happened in the month of October. It was the rainy season for us and we were down to the last five days before the 30-day deadline. The rain poured for three days. I pleaded with my attorney to appeal on my behalf for more time, as there was so much rain, the transport truck said they wouldn’t move the house until the rain stopped and the ground dried out some for fear of getting stuck in the front of the property.

I was betwixed and between. I had come too far to quit now. I was so exhausted I could hardly think straight. Had I worked so hard and accomplished so much just to lose everything now? Everything was ready and in place on my new property with a solid foundation in place to receive my house. Surely this was not happening! But God…

God led me to the book of Joshua. I felt as if I had been like Joshua, charged with leading me and my daughter out of captivity and into the promised land. We were facing our Jericho. In the downpour of rain, I took anointed oil and walked the perimeter of the land and prayed that the rain would stop and that the ground would not soak up so much water the house could not be moved. I did this seven times as instructed by the Holy Spirit. To my utter astonishment, the rain started easing up and by nightfall, it had stopped raining! I saw the glory of God shine through the dark rain clouds that commanded submission to its creator. I felt his strength rise up within me that could conquer any obstacle. I called the transport truck company and to my relief, they said they would send a man the next day to look at the property and let me know if he thought they would be able to move the house. Yes. God did it. They determined the ground was hard enough they would come the next day and move the house. Amazing. God of Infinite Power and Glory!

The house was moved with two days to spare. We made it to the promised land. We were free at last. And at the same time…we had only just begun. Never before in my life had I seen and realized just how personal, caring and powerful God really is. God’s glory broke through the clouds and his radiance commanded the forces of nature to bow to his authority. A real miracle. He tells us we are engraved on the palm of his hand and oh, how he rescues us out of every pit! I’ve been asked many times, how can a God who is so loving, allow so many bad things to happen to people? I can honestly say, I cannot with completeness answer that question. I do know, God is love. God does not want bad things to happen to us. God does not cause bad things happen to people. God gives us a will and freedom to choose, and as long as there is evil in this world, sadly, bad things will happen to people. Most assuredly, God will always be there for you to pick up those pieces and make your life whole once again, if you will let him.

The lesson God taught me that day with the broken pieces of cinderblock built the foundation of the song Picking Up The Pieces, with the rest of the song being written based on my son’s struggles.

One of the greatest lessons I learned was through the process of moving my house. In retrospect, and hindsight always being 20/20, I should have walked away from everything and let God deal with the aftermath of the destructive ploys against us in the way God does best. Had I allowed God to move me and my daughter into a life completely new and sever any attachment to the past, no matter how hard the labor to obtain what we acquired, our journey would have taken a much different direction. Even so, I proved to myself the strength and determination I once knew about myself was still there. It was a monstrous undertaking, but God being God, we have become more than conquerors through Christ and have grown to walk in his wisdom as he has taught us to do. Why? Because that’s what God wants for us. And, because that’s what I purposed in my heart to do. Overcome. Release. Grow. Abound in my calling and walking in my destiny whole in Jesus Christ. All in all, I always knew God would see us through. I always knew that what I couldn’t achieve, God could and would do for me. I never look to a person for what I hope to achieve. God is my source. I am blessed he chooses to use someone like me. God asks, “Who will go for me?” I say, “I will go. Send me.”

There is an old saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Our life is only half complete when we try to do things on our own. When we strive to achieve our future on our terms and not through the guidance and strength of God, it is as Ecclesiastes says, vanity. It’s all vanity. God told me not too many years ago, “I am moved with compassion for my people.” No matter what the journey we travel and the pitfalls along the way, Jesus Always Cares.

Here’s to Good Health! Chapter 1

We tend to take so much for granted. Don’t we? When we’re young, we give little thought to what our health will become after time goes by. Youth usually grants us the privilege of freedom of movement, adequate lung capacity, and a strong, regular heartbeat. Seldom do we stop to think we might wake up one day and find everything has changed. What we once thought would last forever—at least until we are well on in our golden years, suddenly proves to be a force to be reckoned with. What went wrong? How did this happen? Why? These are questions we ask, with usually no real answers to satisfy the long rocky road one now faces. My journey to earnestly seeking good health started about 20 years ago.

My daughter and I were adjusting to our new lives unmarried. I was growing in my walk with the Lord and loving our new home with almost 7 acres of undeveloped land. I felt as if it were heaven on earth. At least for the moment.

I loved working on the land. The land was covered with large, tall pine trees and some hardwood. I decided to sell the about 20 tall pine trees, whose height towered to 75 – 80 feet tall, to make a little extra money off the land. I called a man who came highly recommended who used a horse-drawn wagon so as not to tear up the land while cutting down and removing the trees. My contentment was short-lived after being given $5.68 for one tree. I was told the price for trees just wasn’t very high. (I was previously told a tree of that size would sell for about $100.00 a tree for the lumber, after the cost of removal). Oh. No. Uh Uh. Not me. Not on my watch.

Hmmm…well…I guess you could say I got a little twisted. With undaunting resolve, I determined I wasn’t going to stand for profiteering on my land. I decided I’d cut down the trees and burn them myself before I let someone take advantage of me like that. I hired a teenage boy to cut down the unwanted trees and I used a chainsaw to cut the tree into manageable pieces. Then with a lawn tractor and chain, I pulled them to a burn pile. I cut them up into smaller pieces and put them on the fire. This went on for a few weeks. No sweat. My daughter and I had a great time roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Yum. Yum. Hmph.

I loved working on the land. It was great therapy for me. I don’t think I’ve ever before appreciated my dad as much as I did during that time of my life for teaching me how to take care of the land I had been blessed with. Over the course of our first year there, I not only cleared the trees, cleared underbrush, I managed to underpin my doublewide and even built a small deck on the back side of the house (with a little help getting it squared up). Yep. I had a lot of anger issues to work on after the divorce, and the sledge hammer, drill and saw became my battering rams to the future with a hope I was striving to obtain. With every foul reminder of our past life, I applied the necessary equal and opposite force to forge the positive road of our new beginning–one section of land at a time. My next project was to clear out a section in the back woods close to the back yard and make a prayer garden full of blooming flowers and trees and a soft water fall. Sweet hour of prayer. In The Garden. Oh, how sweet the sound.

In the meantime, I put in a large above ground swimming pool for our first summer on the property, with some pleasant side effects for my daughter. My daughter soon found she was pretty popular in the neighborhood, as she was the only kid with a swimming pool and what kid doesn’t like to go swimming in the summertime? Life was looking better all the time.

Winter came and after working so hard, I had achieved fairly good physical condition. I even managed to lose a few unwanted pounds. Since I didn’t want to lose momentum, I sought to start an inside work-out. My daughter was in gymnastics at the time and I bought her a thick, folding gymnastics mat. Our living room was long, so we moved the furniture to one side and began tumbling, cartwheels, jumping jacks and whatever else we could think to do within our new “gym.” We had a lot of fun. It was hardly noticeable we were actually “working out.” Then overnight, life as I knew it would never be the same.

I’ve always led a fairly active lifestyle, although I’ve never trained, or aspired to train as a serious athlete. Nevertheless, I stayed pretty mobile. I enjoyed stretching. It felt great and my body always let me know what needed to move to stay conditioned. Although I’ve never been one to study or explore the art of Yoga, I did love how some of the movements made my body feel—strong and agile. One day, I tried to do a stretch I had regularly done some years before. You lie on your back and lift your legs over your body, as if you are going to touch your head with your toes, only you curl your back and rest your feet on the floor above your head. It stretches almost every muscle in your body and opens up your spine, stretching and relaxing the muscles. Sadly, on this particular day, my body let me know it had been a little too long since I had regularly stretched in this manner and it put too much pressure on my neck. I felt a pop in my neck. There was no instant pain, only a little feeling of stiffness.

I woke up the next morning and I could hardly move. I couldn’t sit up. I had to literally roll out of bed. Upon moving, I felt pain like I had never felt before. I couldn’t lift my left arm and the ring and pinky fingers on my right hand were numb with a lot of tingling going down my arm. What on earth happened? I went to my chiropractor who did everything he could but nothing seemed to help. I had two slipped discs in my neck. The pain was excruciating. I couldn’t find relief with anything I tried. I couldn’t sit—the pain got worse. Standing was difficult, although it was more bearable than sitting. I couldn’t eat much—it was difficult to feed myself, which was actually okay to some extent, as I had lost my appetite. When I went to bed, I had to lie flat of my back and I used a heating pad. In this way, I was at least able to get a few hours of sleep.

The pain and discomfort went on for months. At one point, the muscle spasms got so bad I felt as if my chest wall was caving in. And Oh! How I hated taking medicine! I couldn’t stay doped up on pain meds because I had to drive and go to work, and at home, I had to be alert for my young daughter. I tried every natural approach I could find and solicited every prayer warrior in the area. We are told by the stripes of Jesus we are healed. And yes, we are. I did give in and graciously accepted the relief from the severe pain through mild pain medicines and muscle relaxers at night. Looking back, I wish I would have sought a neurosurgeon immediately. God definitely sustained me on my sick bed.

After four months and continued treatment, my neck finally began to heal enough the pain was not so sharp and eventually I did regain feeling in my hands. Good chiropractors are a God-send. However, my life would never again be the same. I became unable to work on the land I so dearly loved. I was careful with every step I took and prayed more earnestly than ever before that nothing would slip out of place again and praising God for my healing—without the need of surgery.

It seemed this was the beginning of another great era of life crumbling around me. It was soon after this I became engaged to a man by whom I got pregnant. And, you know the rest of that story.

Time went on and I learned to adjust to life being not quite so active. I finally finished school and was looking forward to the bright future ahead of me. A new job at a multi-specialty clinic with good salary and benefits, all the while doing what I trained to do in medical transcription, as well as doing what I love the most—serving as the church pianist and working with the worship pastor in the music department.

With no explanation and no warning, I woke up on a Sunday morning seven years after the accident that caused two slipped discs in my neck and once again, I could hardly move. My left arm felt like I was swinging dead weight at my side. My right arm was tingling with numbness in my fingers again. Flashbacks of seven years earlier flooded my memories. I went to church and barely made it through the song service with the piano.

The next day, I was at my doctor’s office. With one x-ray, she immediately set me up with an appointment with a top neurosurgeon and highly recommended by her. Next stop—an MRI. When the MRI was completed, the technician asked me, “What happened to your neck?” I explained to her my story and she simply shook her head. I asked her to tell me what she saw, but of course, she was not allowed to do so. So, I awaited my neurosurgeon’s appointment.

My doctor took me into the viewing room and showed me my neck on the MRI. It looked as if there were two rubberbands wound tightly around my spinal cord in two places. In both places, I could see gross narrowing of my spinal cord. He said, “It’s not good.” Ankylosing spondylosis is what it was called. Basically, arthritis set up in two of the vertebrae and my spinal cord was severely impinged. I know God is my healer. I considered it a miracle I was walking. I was scheduled for surgery, but it would be two months before there was an opening in his schedule. Since he was rated one of the best, I trusted God and waited—with caution and an assortment of muscle relaxers and mild pain meds, I waited.

The year was 2004. That year proved to be a challenging year to say the least. Soon after neck surgery was scheduled, I developed another abnormal symptom. The index finger on my right hand became swollen like a sausage. I could hardly bend my finger and it was difficult to type. Yet, I was determined nothing else was going to go wrong with me. Again, I saw my doctor, who immediately referred me to a rheumatologist. Indeed, I was learning a great deal about disease processes and the human body, but perhaps I was in denial. Why did I need to see a rheumatologist?? One look at my finger and a couple of blood tests, and the doctor said, “You have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).” I was only 40 years old. I was in shock. The only thing I knew about this disease is that a person with it would become crippled. You can’t walk. You can’t use your hands. You end up in a wheelchair for the rest of your life and I wasn’t going to have any part of it! I immediately began declaring healing scriptures and let the devil know in short order that God gave me my hands to bring him glory playing the piano and I was going to continue to do just that. I would not give in to this! I refused to have “rheumatism” as old timers would say. It wasn’t mine and I demanded it leave me. That devil done been tryin’ to kill me!!

I had what would be my first injection to my finger (very painful), after which I vowed I would get to the bottom of why this decided to invade my body. I searched genetic reasons. There is no family history of this disease in my family—as far back as four generations that I know of. We might get some osteoarthritis when we get older but we do not have rheumatoid! In the meantime, I was placed on very strong medications that would diminish the effects of RA but would not provide a cure. Plus, it could adversely affect your eyesight. Ugh. And on top of that, I would be having neck surgery in a matter of only a few weeks. All of this on the back of me struggling with digestive issues for almost three years. Ugh. Umph. I was determined I was not giving in to any of this.

Finally, the day had come. June 28, 2004. Time for neck surgery. They would replace the two vertebrae in my neck with cadaver bones and fuse them in place. Thank God I would not become prey for a metal magnet! Healing was slow and painful. At least I was able to go to my mother’s home to recover. There, we had plenty of room for the kids to play and we were close to family for the help we needed. The quietness of the country was what I needed to relax so my body could heal.

God is good and does not withhold good from us. Even so, the choices we make leave a footprint on our lives and the lives of those around us. I have since learned that in our best efforts, we can, by no real fault of our own, really miss the right way to go. I was so fortunate. I was so blessed and protected by God to not have suffered anything worse than I did. I still exercise and stretch regularly. I still have to be cautious with my choice activities and use wisdom. I refuse to give in to defeat, but I will always know God kept me, sustained me and healed me. Now, I go forward using more guided wisdom. God is truly, my best friend.

One down. One to go. Now…about the RA? That’s a story that begins another chapter of my journey of grace, healing and recovery.

God Never Forgets

I love this: God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10

I woke up early this morning. I didn’t sleep much last night. The Lord continues to bring people to me that need prayer and encouragement.

I was going through my pictures recently. So many, many memories. From when I was growing up, to when I was raising my children. I came across certificates of achievements for work, college, school of ministry, and even from when I was in high school. It seemed every where I turned, doors were flying open for me with opportunities to go further than I could have imagined. Wow. Sometimes I just shake my head in wonderment as to how life can change so suddenly…how everything can change in just a blink.

Sometimes, choices can be overwhelming and we simply do the best we can when choosing what seems to be the best choice for us. There is a future with a hope for us. I realize there are times God seems to be the only one in agreement with this. However, because he says it is so, and he cannot lie, it’s important we continue to persevere and push through the setbacks and disappointments, press on and not give up.

I remember when my daughter was in middle school and she wanted to be in band. She wanted to play the flute, and nothing else was acceptable to her. The band director, on the other hand, encouraged her to play the clarinet. They needed more clarinet players, not flute players. My daughter seemed to struggle with mouth placement and the band director once again encouraged her to consider clarinet. I told her to never give up but stay focused and keep trying. She persevered and indeed, she developed the proper flute embouchure and was allowed to play the flute. Hence forth, any time she struggled to achieve something difficult, I reminded her how she overcame before because she pushed through and persevered.

When my son was going into 8th grade, they started the school sponsored football teams. My son had dreamed of playing football since he was seven years old. However, in order to be considered for the team, he would have to successfully complete all his classes. Although he is a good student, he was in a class he would have rather not had to encounter—-and needless to say, he was beginning to see that his dream of playing football might not be realized. I encouraged him to focus on “the prize” of getting on the team, to which my son buckled down, and after a lot of hard work raised his grades. The deciding moment came when his grades came in the mail. He sat with anticipation. As I read the report, I couldn’t contain myself and with excitement I said, “You passed.” You could see the relief come over him. During football practice, my son would do whatever the coach asked him to do, and he would do so with so much enthusiasm, the coach made my son one of the team captains–not because he was so gifted playing the sport, but because he had such a heart for the team and working hard to accomplish the goals. Even after all his hard work, we found my son simply could not coordinate his mind with his body to keep up with the movement of the plays. Even with extra help from the coaches, it became obvious my son’s dream of playing football would not be realized. My son was heartbroken. But in time, my son could see how, even so, God was faithful in helping my son get on the football team.

In looking back on my life, I realize God has been so good to me. Even during the most tragic life events, God was still faithful. Through the good times when, without seemingly any effort from me, good things and good opportunities were coming to me in overtly blessed abundance, God was there with grace and mercy navigating me. During the most tragic events and difficult seasons, when choices were so overwhelming I could barely see the steps before me that I should walk in, God was there with his abounding loving kindness to carry me and say, “It’s okay. I got this.”

At the risk of rising above the natural realm of seeming ungrateful, I’ve found that in the end, the accolades really aren’t the deal breaker. Albeit they are the evidence of great achievements from which great effort was put forth. Yes, they are evidence we were smiled on in an extra special way that day and in that we derive much comfort in being given much favor…but they aren’t what truly makes our life meaningful. Nor should they. They shouldn’t be the deal breaker of deciding whether or not to keep on putting forth great effort to succeed in any given endeavor.

There were so many times I wondered if I would make it through. There were times that were so dark I couldn’t see any light of hope and wondered if I would be able to breathe. I’ve gone from having much to having almost nothing. How we measure our success and how God measures our success is often times completely different.

But God… Through every season God always shows himself faithful. Although what we had once–that inner strength and drive to reach for the stars and really believe we will one day achieve it–may seem dissipated through life’s journey of struggles, I’ve found it’s not really gone. Not really. I’ve found that which God gives, I mean those things God gives that is born from deep within us really never leave us. It’s actually still there–deep inside. It’s up to us, however, to let it rise up once again to champion the call before us.

Be encouraged. Even when life takes a sudden unexpected turn and it seems everything is unraveling around you, it does not take God by surprise. Continue to love him, and in that love help his people. God’s got your back. He’s working things out for you, even when you can’t see what he’s doing at the moment.
Blessings…

Do Not Cast Me Away When I Am Old…

“Do not cast me away when I’m old…do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” Psalm 71:9. The psalmist goes on to say in verse 17 and 18, “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

There is so much wisdom garnered in the history of our elder generation. So many times, we get busy and forget the generation before us who fought for what we have today, who sacrificed so much so we could have better than they had, and those who prayed for us and every generation yet to come that we would know and depend on the God of all creation, the God they grew to depend on and trust. We’ve lost something along the way when we discard their knowledge and understanding of their time and the time gone by. As I get older, I find myself remembering the “good old days” more and more. I have a deep regard and respect for our older generation.

I grew up going to family reunions each year on each side of the family. Not just our immediate families, but our grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles and even those aunts and uncles we knew nothing about, except that we knew they were “kin.” I remember sitting on the front porch with my grandparents, my dad’s parents, hulling peas or cutting corn off the cob while listening to their endless supply of stories growing up on the farm and how good “you kids” have it today, compared to their day.

I remember the times when social etiquette was a force to be reckoned with, in that there were some things you simply did not about. For example, I was about 8 or 9 and we went to visit my uncle Sam. He was my grandmother’s brother. He and his wife owned several acres down the road from my grandmother and from time to time when we visited my grandmother during the summer, we were able to go visit them. He had a lot of cattle and I asked him one time how many “cows” he had. He laughed and said, “Oh, I got about ten.” Aunt Myrtle (his wife) looked at him with that “Oh, you do not” look. But, the rule was, it was rude to ask such a seemingly innocent question. It was the same as asking, “How much money do you have in your bank account.” Life was simpler then.

As I grew, I learned to show great respect for those in authority over me. In fact, if an adult asked me to do something, it was the same as if my own parents asked me to do something. It was simply rude and disrespectful to disregard the position of authority of the elderly. From as young as I can remember, we were very family oriented and were around people who were older and we were expected to treat them as if they were royalty.

Looking back, I guess I was an odd duck. While most teenagers were riding around town on a Friday night or going to the movies or hanging out with their friends on a Saturday night, I was hanging out with my piano, or going to area churches who would gather for their Saturday nite singing. There was an elderly gentleman who could still sing the deepest bass notes I had ever heard. The song director and those of us who wanted to go sing, would pick up him from the nursing home and take him to sing on Saturday night and then take him back to the nursing home when we finished. Oh, how it made him smile and laugh. We would also go to back to the nursing home on a Sunday afternoon about once a month so all the residents who wanted to participate could enjoy some good old fashioned gospel singing as well. Those were the days!

While I was working at the full-service station in my hometown, an elderly black woman came in to have her car serviced. She was a regular customer and we had on many occasions struck up a conversation. That day, while she was waiting on her car to be finished, she looked at me and said, “Do you know how old I am?” I answered “No.” She said, “Take a guess.” I guessed she was in her 60s since she said she was retired. She laughed and said, “You’re way off. I’m 75.” I was in shock. She did not have one gray hair on her head. I asked her how she was able to stay so young looking. She answered, “I don’t worry. I give it to the Lord. I can’t do anything about most things anyway. Worry just makes you old.” She added, “I also play basketball with my grand kids and I don’t eat junk. That helps me stay active.” I was speechless.

Even now, my mother can remember details of life from long ago. In many ways, life was more difficult then, but people learned how to make it through the tough times and for the most part, without falling apart. It amazes me. Yes, there is so much wisdom in our elder saints, if we would just slow down and take the time listen and consider what they have to say. There was so much structure in their beliefs. Looking back, even though the huge salaries were not as prevalent then as they are today, this generation had so much wealth in their hearts and souls for what was most important. I’ve never forgotten what that elderly woman said to me, “I don’t worry. I give it to the Lord.” It reminds me of Matthew 6:25-34, in verse 27, can worrying even add a single hour to your life? I think she got it figured out.

Just as God tells our youth in 1 Timothy 4:12 not to let anyone despise their youth, the same is true for our elder saints, as it says in Luke 1:50 his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. Let us not overlook the wisdom available to us through those who have lived a little longer than we have. Perhaps, there is still room for all of us to learn and grow. Don’t worry. Give it to the Lord.

He’s Just a Boy!

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. James 1:12.

I’ve always encouraged my kids to always try as hard as they could to achieve their dreams and goals. I never put limitations on them or allowed excuses for anything to keep them from working towards what they wanted. My son was no exception.

My son, although unique in so many, many ways, was always a predominantly obedient little boy. When he was six years old, I had to leave for a few hours so I could visit a sick family member who was in ICU. So, I left him in the care of my daughter, who truthfully would have much rather been hanging out with her friends. In an attempt to keep peace between the two, I gave my son strict instructions to stay in his room and play with his toys or watch his videos until I got back, unless he needed a drink or use the bathroom and do not harass his sister.

Much to my surprise, when I got home, my son was still in his room. I opened up to the door to his smiling face and “Hi mom!” Confirmed by my daughter, he did exactly what I asked him to do. Amazing. This is pretty much the way he was most of the time, with rare exception. What I asked him to do, he would do. We were truly buddies.

When my son was eight years old, we moved in with my mother to help care for her and her property after she experienced health issues related to having heart trouble. He was so excited. He now had two acres of uncharted territory to explore and conquer.

Living in the country in Arkansas, most people were involved in hunting to some degree, whether it be gun, bow or muzzle loading season, hunting squirrel, rabbit, or deer, among others. When my son turned 10 years old, his uncle (my brother-in-law) thought it was time for my son to move into the ranks of being a “hunter.” So, unbeknownst to me, my son was presented with his first BB gun. Yep. A Red Rider, just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. My son’s eyes almost bugged out of his head and he couldn’t stop jumping with excitement. His first gun! Of course, my first thought was “He’s not old enough.” My opinion was quickly outnumbered, even by my mother who cited my brother got his first BB gun when he was 8. Oh my.

Of course, he wasn’t allowed to be outside with it by himself. He had to be taught how to shoot it safely. I would take him behind the old shed and we would line up coke cans as targets. Actually, he became a pretty good shot. I was impressed. When we were finished, he had to put it up properly, neatly in the closet, until the next time he was allowed to take it out again. Strict rules were given that he was never to come outside with this gun without supervision, to which he agreed.

The next Sunday, after we got home from church, my mother and I left my son in the living room to watch TV while we went to take our regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon nap. After an hour, I got up to find my son watching TV. A few hours later, my mother walked through the room and said she was going to town to pick up something for supper. A few minutes later I heard my mother shouting and went out into the carport to see what was going on.

I was shocked. Speechless. The back glass of her PT Cruiser was gone. Shattered. She shouted at my son to “Get out here!” You gotta understand something about my mother. She is generally a pretty calm person. It really takes a lot to get her upset to the point she’s yelling. So, when she begins to shout obscenities, you know she’s just plain MAD! I must admit, I had lived with my mom long enough to see the pattern of whenever something went wrong, she naturally assumed my son had something to do with it. And so…

My son slowly opened the door and stood on the steps. I asked him if he broke the window. To my grief, hesitantly, he admitted to it but insisted it was an accident. I asked him what he did. He said he was trying to kill the bird sitting on the edge of the carport roof. I must admit. He had to miss pretty big to kill the back glass of my mother’s car. I was boiling. My mother at this point was spit-sputtering. I asked him what he threw trying to kill the bird. He said he didn’t throw anything. By now, I was losing patience. “Then what were you doing??” Sheepishly, my son answered, “I was trying to shoot him.” “Shoot him??” I asked. Then it all came together. “Never mind,” I said. I went to the closet to look at the gun and saw he had not put away properly. Guilty as charged.

My mother didn’t say another word. She walked past us and went to her room. Where she stayed for three days. Not saying a word. Not coming out when we were at home. Nothing. I must admit this was a lot. It was much worse than the time my son ran a knife across the felt on her pool table “just to see what would happen.” No. She handled that much better. She didn’t even get this mad when my daughter (17 at the time) thought she would sit my son in her lap and teach him to steer a car down my mother’s long driveway but then couldn’t navigate the foot pedals to stop before she ran into the back of my mother’s car, breaking the taillight lens. Uh-uh. No.

What was my son thinking?? I gave my son the same instructions I had always given him when I got ready to take my Sunday afternoon nap. I expected the same obedient response he had consistently given me. But not this day. The temptation was just too great for him to resist. I taped the back of my mother’s car until we could get it fixed. I called my brother-in-law and insisted he come pick up the BB gun. My son was in tears. He said he was so sorry and promised it wouldn’t happen again. I agreed. It would NEVER happen again. My brother-in-law said, “He’s just a boy.” True. But not much consolation at this point.

Eventually, things settled and now my mother can even smile when she recalls the story, but she’s quit to add she wanted to “ring his neck.” But as love would have it, she still calls him “brat,” and he still calls her “old coot.” Yep. All is well once again.

Temptation will always give us an opportunity to walk to the right or left of the center line of obedience. God’s desire is that we obey his commands, for our own good—even when we think the rules are too strict, ridiculous or otherwise not necessary. I’m so glad the back glass on my mother’s car was the only thing that was damaged that day. My son certainly was not trying to hurt anything or do harm (glad the bird got away.) Even so, as my son learned, the rules were put into place for his own good and for the good of others. There is no temptation too great God does not give us the ability to overcome it. We do, however, have to be willing to stand against the temptation when it comes.

It’s a Sticky Situation

“This you know, my beloved, but let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19, 20

One Saturday morning, when my daughter was 7 years old, I was doing my normal schedule of house cleaning chores. I promised my daughter I would take her to the store to get her a video she wanted, so I was trying to get everything done as quickly as possible. I was finishing up when my daughter asked if she could help me clean the kitchen floor. I said yes, of course (who doesn’t want help from their children, especially when they offer?) As I was getting everything ready for us to get started, I heard a knock on the front door and went to see who was there. When I came back, my daughter was standing at the edge of the kitchen floor looking at her masterpiece. Her face was beaming showing that her heart was about to explode with the anticipation of how I was certainly going to praise her good job and willingness to help clean the floor, knowing we would soon be on our way to get her the “prize” that awaited her.

My heart sank. I looked at the floor in utter disbelief. An entire bottle of blue Dawn dishwashing liquid was squirted out all over the kitchen floor. She looked up at me and smiled. I was beside myself. I couldn’t speak. Finally, I was able to eek out as joyfully as possible, “Oh my. I see.” My first thought was how am I going to get this blue, sticky, gummy mass of mess off of my kitchen floor. My second thought was are we going to get this mess cleaned up before the store closes?? Ugh!! I didn’t want to say or do anything that would crush her spirit and did not want this to keep her from wanting to help again. So, I took a deep breath, looked at her big, beautiful dark brown eyes, smiled and said, “Okay. Let’s get started.” After a little over an hour, with the help of a few gallons of water, a shop vac and a lot of giggles, we were able to get the soap off of the floor. It was then we were finally able to actually clean the floor. Smooth sailing again!

What started out looking like a disaster, ended up being a great time spent together laughing and working together as we went “slip sliding away” on the floor. During this experience, I learned how cold water is good for cutting soapy suds. Then it occurred to me, although the cold water was what I needed to clean up the soap on the floor, the whole experience would have been a disaster if I had let the cold water of my emotions be quick to respond and over react to my daughter’s effort to help.

As children of God, we are to pursue God’s righteousness in all things. In this scripture, God tells us to listen, be slow to speak and slow to anger. In our lives, if we do not become hasty in our reactions or allow how we feel about a situation decide how we respond, then even through the times of dismay, we can still overcome and walk in the righteousness of God.

One Day My Love–The Rest of the Story

Life is precious. Life is a joy unspeakable. The waiting. The expectation. The unknowns. The hopes and dreams and visions of wondering who this beautiful gift will become when they get older. Will it be a boy? I’m sure he will be the star quarterback of the football team. Will it be a girl? I’m sure she will be full of sugar and spice and everything nice—as well get out of my way ‘cause here I come!

Then you feel the first movement. Now, you know the life in you is growing strong. You hear their heartbeat. Now you can almost hear them cry with their first breath of life. The anticipation is mixed with pure joy and angst of the unknown. But sometimes, our dreams must take a back seat to the realities that life is at best unexplainable, at worst very fragile, but always with purpose.
There can be few things said that have not already been said about the injustices in this world. Those who plan and purpose to make someone’s life miserable solely because they can—just because you call them out and refuse to be a pawn in their game any longer.

That was once again the case in my daughter’s life. She finally did it. She finally stood up to him. She finally said, “No More” to his selfish determinations to have everything his way. She finally left him. She cared for herself and her two children and God then blessed her with a man who stepped in and loved them all. Finally. We could breathe. They married and were expecting their first child together. Their joy was being made complete. This was May of 2013.

She left him in January 2012. Before the end of that year, my oldest grandson came home from a weekend visit in pull-ups only, no clothes, with a 2” wide, 6” long purple bruise across his lower back, that was hidden by the pull-up. “With my 3-year-old grandson’s testimony, a phone call was made. An investigation ensued. “He” was arrested. “He” was put under supervised visitation. “He” was not happy. What happened next was not a surprise to anyone.

Accidents happen, they say. There is always an explanation. In my daughter’s case, this was indeed an accident that garnered the force of the wicked to come against her. My youngest grandson was a klutz when he was young. Anyone who knew him and spent any time around him knew it. One day, he went to see his dad on supervised visitation and had a defined speckled pattern of something in his back. A phone call was made, which then ensued with an investigation.

I asked a lot of questions. I couldn’t get settled. Something was very wrong. I’ll be one of the first to call out abuse when I see it, but something was not right about this. I walked into the boy’s room and found toys all over the floor. I saw a huge toy wrestler’s belt laying on the top of some toys. It had dozens of raised points on the medallion of this toy champion wrestler’s belt. To my great joy, I saw that the pattern of this toy matched the pattern of the picture of what was on my grandson’s back. When I was called by the investigator, I told her about this toy. I asked her if I could bring it to her so she could see it, noting I was sure my grandson simply lost his footing and fell on it. My grandson was two years old. I’d seen him lose his footing walking across an uncluttered floor and lose his footing and simply fall to the ground. She determined she didn’t need to see it. That bothered me, but I trusted the investigation would prove this was just an accident.

I was wrong. I was so very wrong. The investigation was determined to be valid. I was livid. I was not speechless. I was beyond livid. What kind of investigator does not look at all the facts—all the possibilities of what could have happened?? I insisted the toy was taken to my daughter’s attorney, who agreed with me she was sure my grandson had simply fallen on the toy. The daughter went through the torture of realizing she had been accused of child abuse. This is the woman who finally stood up to this “person” and said, “No More.” Yes, there are a lot of stories of women who abuse their children, but I knew my daughter was not one of them. My grown children had to go through the gamut of interrogations that ensued, including taking a lie detector test. Except my daughter, because she was pregnant. The stress of it all was almost unbearable.

“He” was relentless. “He” reported her dozens of times during the two years after she left him. “He” was sure he had “done it to her this time.” To make it all the more difficult for my daughter, she still had to take the boys to see him every week for supervised visitation.

Then it happened. I got a phone call on Saturday, August 3, 2013. My daughter could hardly speak. She lost little Addison Marie. She knew she had not felt her move in the past week but she didn’t pay much attention to it. The doctor confirmed Addison was gone. She just stopped growing. She was no longer alive. My heart almost couldn’t take it. How? Why? Anger burned within me. I knew why this happened. Surely the God of all grace, mercy and love would not allow this to go unpunished!

I immediately went to be with my daughter and took care of the boys while my daughter and her husband went to the hospital to have the D&C. My grief was mixed with anger. I watched the now young woman who I had raised, loved and nurtured, go through the loss of her own child. So very hard. My soul was vexed. How could someone be so cold and hard-hearted?

Eventually, there was a hearing on the alleged abuse charges. My daughter and her husband were completely exonerated. Even so, the stress and heartbreak proved to be too much for this young couple and so as with the loss of their child, their marriage ended as well. I arrived at another level of realization of the injustices that can occur.

What I have to hold on to is what the Lord continues to remind me, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.” I’ve learned though, keep on talking. Keep on trying until someone listens. The should’ve, could’ve and would’ve of me knowing the truth about the toy almost ate me alive. People are human. People make mistakes. We all process through our own thoughts and experiences. Yes…I know. But why didn’t I just charge into the investigator’s office and demand to speak to her supervisor and insist they look at this toy and the probability, at least possibility he fell on the toy that caused the marks on his back?? It took a long time for me to get over this. But I hold on to the hope of knowing God is able to work all of this out and that God will heal us all from this whole ordeal and the loss of Addison and bring justice on our behalf. Recompense. That’s what I want.

I’m learning God’s grace is so much greater. His love is vast and incomprehensible. His forgiveness is freeing. Mercy is everlasting. Yes. Amen.

Each time I saw the boys, my youngest grandson wanted to dance with me. He would stand on my feet as I waltzed through the room to the tune of “Somewhere My Love” (music written by Maurice Jarre). He loved it. After Addison died, I penned my heart to the tune of that song. May the God of all comfort, grace, and mercy give us strength to walk through the grief and heartache of this life.

Picking Up The Pieces –The Story Behind the Song

Picking Up the Pieces—The Story Behind the Song.

There are no guarantees in life. There are surprises tucked within the curve of every turn. He was such a good baby. He hardly ever cried, except of course when he was hungry or cold. He set his own time clock and he held firmly to it as a baby. He was a night owl from early on. I knew something was very different about him, although I wasn’t too concerned. Every child develops differently, and the doctors voiced no concern. He was so bright, so full of life, and he could communicate in every nonverbal way…and I understood him.

He was growing to be a normal male in every sense of the word, even down to the part where he got easily frustrated when he “couldn’t make things work” the way he wanted them to.  He brought so much joy, even to his sister who quickly saw herself as “second mama” and the only natural choice to be his “teacher.” He loved his sister and would stand at the door and cry every time she went outside to play with her friends if he wasn’t allowed to go with her. Every day set a new level of achievement in the learning curve. Even so, I thought it strange that even at 18 months old, he was still not verbal. He made sounds, grunts, sat down in the floor and cried out of frustration but he would not speak. At two and a half years old, he finally started repeating words and by the time he was three, it became apparent he had listened intently and was learning everything he was being taught, because once he finally started talking, it seemed he would never stop. But I didn’t mind. At least he was finally talking.

Although my heart’s desire was to work at home, I had to spend time working away from home in order to get experience. During this time, I had to depend on childcare. I knew something wasn’t quite right, but after my son being kicked out of two childcares for erroneous reasons, I had more on my plate to deal with trying to find childcare so I could continue working, rather than exhaust every idiosyncrasy to see what was “wrong” with my son. By God’s grace and divine provision, I found a woman who kept kids in her home, and she didn’t mind if my son was a little “busy” and tended to be “easily frustrated.” She felt sure she could work with him. And work with him well, she did. My son responded well to her too. He was growing, adjusting and showing signs of high intelligence. By the time my son was four, I was able to teach him how to use a computer and play simple computer games. He was able to identify colors, shapes, numbers, the alphabet and even simple counting games on the computer.

He had a heart as big as the Atlantic. Compassion for others abounded in him, especially all of God’s creepy-crawly creation. God help us all if he saw anyone mistreat his favorite jumpers–frogs. “Stop! Don’t hurt God’s creation!” he would say. He was grossly misunderstood by most people, but I understood him. When the teachers at church couldn’t handle him, I would always say just under my breath, “One day, he’s gonna knock your socks off.” I knew God had great plans for him.

Finally, Kindergarten was here. I was so excited about how he was growing and learning. I was sure he had learned enough to be ready for this new beginning. My son would be in school all day and since his sister’s school was next door to his, she would walk him home and stay with him until I got home from work. Life was good. Everything was coming together for us, again. At least, I thought so.

It wouldn’t be long until my first meeting with the teacher. I had become used to getting calls about my daughter, but now I would get calls about my 5-year-old son. “He had a stick in his hand and was turning and turning and turning around in circles and he hit a little girl upside the head with the stick. She went home with a pump knot on her forehead. I assured the girl’s parents this would be handled and would not happen again.” To which I assured her it would not happen again. Although no one else endured injury as a result of my son’s inability to understand how what he was doing was affecting those around him, the phone calls and insistence that I take him to a doctor and have him put on medicine to make him sit still in class continued. There was only one problem. The doctor refused until all testing was done. This would take months. Finally, the summer before 1st grade, he received a diagnosis that would permit medication. Unfortunately, time would prove that the diagnosis of ADHD was incorrect.

Even with medication, 1st grade would prove to be too stimulating for my son to adhere to strict classroom rules and I was called by the alternative school officer. He quickly surmised my son’s current condition of disruptive behavior was due to my being a single parent, “I mean no offense,” he said. He simply went on to imply that my son was “the type” who needed the firm hand (of a dad) to disciple him. I was told that if my son’s disruptive behavior did not stop, my son would be sent to the school’s Alternative Learning Class. First grade. Six. Years. Old. Incredible.

We moved to a different town, changing to a new school. At the very same time, the Lord opened the doors for me to come home to work. Talk about perfect timing. Yes…look at God go! My son did well. He grew, learned and developed. He had his quirks, but don’t we all. It was when we moved back to my hometown to get my daughter into a safe environment after run-ins with the law due to drugs and alcohol that would prove more challenging than before.

He did okay until the fourth grade. He just couldn’t keep up with the homework assignments. I mean he literally could not keep up with keeping them organized in a folder. He also couldn’t cope with changing classes. It was more than he could handle. Talking with the school was of no help. In my plea for help and trying to explain my son to them, they saw me as “making excuses” once again. We changed schools again, this time to a small, private school. There were only five in his class. Perfect. My son was flourishing. Then God….

When I moved back to my hometown, God told me it would only be for a few years and then he would move me forward into the “plans” he has for me. After a few years, the time came for me and my son to move…again. By this time, my daughter had graduated high school and was starting a life of her own with her husband and new baby. So, at the appointed time, I packed up me and my son, and we moved onward…forward…another new beginning. This time, it would be to a new state where we knew no one. Absolutely no one. But I knew since I knew it was God, and God had more than once confirmed this move was directed by him, I knew God would provide for everything. I stood firm and confident in my faith in him.

New beginning. That’s an understatement. My son left a school of total population of about 40 to a school of total population of about 1500. I was concerned about culture shock. But not him. He was so excited! He had calculated all the new friends and new adventures he would encounter at a school this size. It started out great too. His grades stayed high. As and Bs. His teachers were elated. He was essentially ahead of the class as far as the information being taught at the time on that grade level. Then things changed. My son became more withdrawn. He wasn’t completing all of his assignments and his grades started dropping. Something was very wrong. I took him to the doctor. They tried different medications but the situation was not improving. They tried raising the dose, but it was clear my son was spiraling into depressive/anxiety episodes at a rate faster than anyone could manage. The fact my son was becoming a teenager only served to complicate matters.

I knew socially, he didn’t easily fit in. He just couldn’t seem to connect with and understand basic social cues and his insistence of voicing his opinion of expertise was not always well received by others, but he was learning to take his differences in stride. His growth and development was progressing each year, but he was always about two years younger than his age group emotionally. At the same time, he was always about two years ahead of them intellectually. It was most definitely hard to find balance. Even as a child, my son never met a stranger, but after most of the kids in the neighborhood met him, they began to run the other way when they saw him coming.

My son sought out help among kids at school. Suddenly, I didn’t recognize the names of the people he referred to as friends. A meeting with a teacher would expose his demeanor in class had changed drastically when he started involving himself with kids who did not have his best interest at heart. He desperately wanted friends and he didn’t care who it was. When I began redirecting him, his aggression became more directed at me. He adamantly defended his new friends, of whom he had no understanding. I tried to fit the pieces together.

He finally got old enough to fulfill his life-long ambition of playing football. I thought this would be the answer for his woes. He worked and worked and was allowed on the team. He was even made one of the captains because the coach said he “had heart.” Even as hard as he tried, he simply couldn’t get the hang of the plays and there were, of course, plenty of negative backlash from diehard fans who could not resist the opportunity to voice their grievances. This only served to drive my son into further despair. He found another outlet that he enjoyed. And this he was really good at! Acting. That boy could play a drunk better than anyone I’ve ever seen on TV. And, I’m not saying that just because I’m his biggest fan. He is really gifted. He could easily displace himself into whatever character he chose. His foreign accents were quite realistic as well. I was beaming and more than encouraging. I was even trying to get him involved in community theater. However, time would prove the joy he received through this would be short-lived.

All the years of being laughed at, mocked, beat up, (which started when he was 6 years old when his head was pounded against a brick wall) and ostracized finally took its toll. When my son was 13 he started cutting himself. The doctors tried different medications but none seemed to work. I tried to talk to my son but every time he felt cornered, he became more aggressive. All my efforts to help my son were failing. When my son turned 14, he tried to hang himself. Later, he told me this wasn’t the first time he tried to commit suicide. Thank God, his attempts failed. By God’s amazing grace, my son tried one last time to reach out. He texted a friend who immediately told a teacher, who then immediately called me. She gave me intervention information and after a phone call, two women were knocking on my door to talk to my son. That fast. They were able to convince my son there was hope, that people really do care and there was help available for him. He agreed to go. After immediate stabilization, my son was admitted to long-term hospitalization.

With the many trials, tribulations, ups and downs we’ve been through, I would have never imagined that just 15 years earlier I would be facing this—and oh my! This was hard. Especially, with no family close by to support us. I know we’re never alone. God is always walking with us—through it all! But this…wow. Working at home can keep a person isolated. We attended church each week and made a few friends there, and I know they were praying for us, his pastors certainly reached out to him, but I didn’t have any friends I could “hang out with.” But God…

I had volunteered with the mobile medical unit at our church a couple of months earlier. During that time, I met a woman who was going to school to become a psychologist. She told me about her son, whom she found she had to be his advocate because of the unique nature of his disability. She also told me of a therapist who was her “God send” and had been so helpful to her and her son. I listened intently and didn’t think much more about it. Until my son’s hospitalization that is. The Lord told me to “call her,” which I did. I asked for her therapist’s information. After one meeting with this woman and her non-stop series of questions, we both knew what was going on with my son. My son was born autistic.

I spoke with my son’s hospital therapist and he immediately responded with, I agree, there is something deeper going on here. I began to write memories of his behavior from the time he was born. Memories started flooding my mind almost faster than I could write them down. Pages and pages of memories. After a few weeks of in-hospital treatment where my son could be observed on a daily basis in every conceivable irritating, frustrating circumstance of his stay there, his therapist confirmed what I deep inside knew all along. He told me he was convinced my son had Asperger’s disorder. My son’s psychiatrist confirmed this diagnosis and my son was finally properly diagnosed. My son did not have “the worst case of ADHD I’ve ever seen” after all. He was autistic. Why was he not diagnosed properly before now? Half the battle is knowing the right questions to ask, and I certainly didn’t. But God…

At our next family session, my son’s therapist and I met and informed Aaron of the newly discovered diagnosis. We went to great lengths to explain to my son what Asperger’s disorder is and what exactly it looks like. I wish I could have bottled my son’s expression of relief. “Now it makes sense. All this time I thought I was a —-.” No. My son was by no means a loser. Yes, he was different, but I had always been able to see the greatness inside of him.

I wish I could say the road to recovery was that simple, but it was not. My son underwent a few more years of therapy and two more in-patient stays due to major depression and anxiety. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel. God is so concerned about every detail of our lives. Especially when our hurt is so dark we can hardly breathe. By his unique and divine intervention, God hand-picked the therapists, caregivers and friends who loved my son right where he was, even when my son showed every sign of being unlovable. They helped my son obtain the courage to step out of his fear, out of feeling abandoned and out of his loneliness to embrace the beauty of the uniqueness God made in him. Through this, my son stepped out in faith to allow God to love him too. Once my son made that enormous step, his life has never been the same.

My son will tell you, his relationship with God is unique. It doesn’t look the same as anyone else’s. But, that’s how it’s supposed to be, because that’s how God is. He meets us where we are—in the beauty of our uniqueness, in the beauty of who he has created us to be. God will do that with you too. He will do that with all who are willing to give him a chance.

I look back on my life and at many points in my life, my life could have ended, as it could have for each of my children. But God…. The Lord showed me once how much easier it is when we cease striving and allow God to pick up the broken pieces of our lives. I look back at the brokenness of my son and look at him now and can see God’s handiwork each step of the way. God truly hears the cries of our spirits, and it is God who is able to pick up the broken pieces of our lives and make us whole. Today, my son actually smiles. He knows God loves him just the way he is. He knows it is God who has picked up the broken pieces of his life and is working his plan in and through my son.

I started writing this song in the year of 1996. I could only get as far as the chorus and was not able to finish it. After my divorce, I was awarded the house but not the property. We lived in a modular home so it could be moved. There was one problem. We had underpinned the house with cinderblock and the house could not be moved until the cinderblock was removed. So me and a friend of mine got up early one morning with our sledgehammers and proceeded to tear down the wall. After about an hour I was spent. I do not remember a time in my life I experienced such complete exhaustion. I was so sore I could hardly move for the next four days. Literally. I found every muscle in my body and they were screaming “you’ve gone too far this time!” What was I thinking?? But, my determination paid off. Through that experience, the Lord spoke to me. A few days later other friends came and helped me pick up all of the broken pieces of cinderblock to dispose of them. As I was picking up those broken pieces of cinderblock, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Isn’t it easier picking up those broken pieces than it was to break them up? Let me pick up the broken pieces of your life. I can put the pieces back together and make you better than before.” God is faithful and has done just that for me and for my kids. The rest of this song was inspired by the events of my sons life.

Now, you know the rest of the story. Hold on to hope. New strength will come. See the dawn break with the rising sun. Your best days are soon to come. Reach for the hand of His perfect love.

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