Category Archives: It’s Just Me

The House That Love Built

The House That Love Built

Some things happen in our lives.  Some things happen around us.  Some things happen to us.  Some seem incidental.  Some are sombering.  Some are life-changing moments.  But in each instance, one reflects on its inherent meaning.  Well…..at least sometimes we do.

It was a year ago, on April 29, 2017 when me and my two grandsons visited with my mother in our family’s home.  I was scheduled to rehearse for an upcoming music festival I was performing in and I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to spend precious moments with two extensions of my life who lovingly calls me “Granny.”

There had been a lot of storms in the days leading up to that weekend.  Straight-line winds with torrential rains causing floods damage to towns across the region.  But for the most part, we seemed to weather the storms fairly well.

The day started slow and peaceful. Just the way I love to start a Saturday morning.  The Spring air was cool, clean and crisp.  I love the country life.  The day ended well after all the “chores” were accomplished for the day.  There’s nothing like snuggling on the sofa wrapped in comfort by little arms who lovingly, yet silently say, “I love You.  You’re my hero.”  Those are the precious moments that speak unconditional love in a way no words can adequately express.  Life that is a part of you that extends beyond you.  What a great expression of true love.

Finally, we settled for the night.  As had become custom, my grandsons wouldn’t settle in a room by themselves, so they ended up crawling into bed with me.  The storms seemed to be slowing.  It was only soft rain when we went to bed that night.  Then it happened.  It was about 11:20 p.m.  I was awakened by a loud noise that sounded more like a explosion and a sucking sound while the picture window mom had built in place of what used to be glass windows was catapulted on top of me and my grandsons at about the same time the ceiling tiles and frames fell on top of us.

Instantly, I felt rain falling on us and could see lightening against the black sky with rumbles of thunder.  My first thought was, “Oh my God.  We’ve been hit by a tornado.”  I called out for my grandsons but they did not answer.  My second thought was, “Oh my God.  The tornado has sucked them out of the house.  I was finally able to free my arms from the debris to reach over to their side of the bed.  I could feel them, but they wouldn’t move and they wouldn’t speak.  They were in shock.  I grabbed hold of their arms and dragged them to my side of the bed and we were able to crawl out from underneath the wall and ceiling that had fallen on top of us.

I went to my mother’s room and yelled, “Call 911.  The house has been hit by a tornado.”  Something was significantly strange in this moment, as she was already fully dressed and sitting up in her bed.  Months later, she finally remembered that she had not yet gone to bed that night.  She was getting ready to do so when I came into the room.

We were able to find our shoes and get the boys dressed so we could leave the house.  While we were waiting for the emergency responders, I collapsed to my knees.  I couldn’t think of anything in that moment.  My mind went blank.  I remember not being able to feel anything. I couldn’t breathe.  I suddenly thought about our neighbor, a woman who lived in a single-wide trailer next door.  She was now living by herself after her husband passed away a few years earlier.  My anxiety intensified as my thoughts for her safety consumed me.  It was about that time the emergency responders came.  They went next door to check on our neighbor.  She was fine.  I asked the one of the emergency responders if they knew if the tornado had done much damage.  He looked at me and said, “It wasn’t a tornado.”  Later, he admitted he knew it wasn’t a tornado when they got the call.  There had not been any tornadoes in the area that night.

I went outside to my mother’s carport and saw this man standing at the end of her driveway.  At that moment, I still didn’t fully comprehend what I was looking at.  He was standing next to the massive 100-year-old oak tree that stood majestically in my mother’s front yard.  Except that it was no longer standing—it was the roots of this majestic tree he was standing next to.  It was surreal.  It was pitch black outside and we were rapidly being ushered out of the house so they could turn the power off so a fire couldn’t possibly ignite.

Daylight the next day revealed the cruel reality of what we had experienced just hours before.  There had been so much rain that softened the ground in the recent weeks.  Nature is a beast all its own.  It looked as if the wind picked up this tree and laid it over on top of the house.  It cut a line across the house and through the entire attic directly over the room me and my grandsons had been sleeping in.  My mother had built a concrete retaining wall about the tree to double as a bench and also hold flowers around the base of the tree.  All of which was destroyed in a matter of minutes.

Shock does a lot of things to a person.  For me, it wasn’t until I walked back through the house that I heard the crash and rumble of the tree and could remember feeling the jolt of it shaking the house on its foundation—in fact, it was such a jolt, the beams supporting the deck out my mother’s bedroom had folded underneath the deck.  The cinderblocks that enclosed the crawl space under the house had cracks in it.  The trusses in the roof were crushed and splintered over ¾ of the house.  The sounds haunted me for months.  I can still remember it as if it were yesterday.

The real miracle was realized when we saw how the retaining wall around the base of the tree had not been completely crumbled.  It was in fact holding the tree up, keeping the tree about three feet off the ground.  I experienced in that second the realization that me, my grandsons and my mother were alive because this wall crumbled at just the right place, just the right angle and degree, and stopped crumbling at just the right time to keep this massive tree from falling completely onto the ground and cutting the house completely in half. The force of the picture window mom had built in place of the windows blasting on top of us was actually our salvation, rather than hundreds of glass shards that would could not have resisted piercing into us after exploding from their frames.  Surreal cannot explain it.  Stunned.  Speechless.  Mind blowing silence.

The next days and weeks felt like walking through a time warp.  So many decisions.  So much work ahead.  So much cost.  We discovered the end of the house closest to the carport was still in good shape.  I wanted so much to keep that part of the house.  It was just too much to lose everything so suddenly.  I urged my mother to consider it.  It was too much for her to process.  The decision was made not to keep any of it.

This was our family’s home for 41 years at that time.  So many memories.  Every time I walked through that house I was flooded with memories.  This was a house that my family built.  We did not pay a contractor to come in and build this house that we simply moved our boxes and bodies into.  This was a house my parents paid someone to put into the dry.  We…..our family…..a dad, a mom, a brother, a sister and me finished it—completely, meaning insulation, sheetrock, paint, wallpaper, linoleum, ceiling tiles, every nail driven, every door hung, every piece of trim, everything.  It took years for us to finish our home because my parents paid for it as we went along.  This was the home that love and thousands of hours of sweat equity built.  I can still see my dad standing on a stepladder in the middle of the living room stapling up the squares of ceiling tile with his manual high-powered stapler.  How do you process losing the home where 41 years of memories are stored in every wall, every corner and in every step taken through each room when it wasn’t your choice to walk away from it?  I still can’t answer that question.  It is most assuredly the process of letting go.  Indeed—it is a process.

Now, one year later, my mother has finally gotten to the place she can walk through the process of taking the house down.  We had decided to ask the fire department to burn it for a fee.  This would have been the least expensive way to do it.  We tried to salvage everything that could be salvaged.  In the process of this, my mother was introduced to a family who could see the value in keeping the kitchen and dining room—the rooms at the end of the house I so desperately wanted to keep.  To my relief, they convinced my mother to keep it.  They will help my mother dispose of the rest of the house efficiently so as to maintain the integrity of the end of the house that was spared utter destruction.  Everything else was too far gone to even attempt to salvage.  But the heart of the house—that part of the house that held the heart and soul of family meals and gatherings and all the great memories that go with it will be spared.  I am grateful beyond my ability to express.

Life is precious.  Life is a journey.  When we hold on too tightly to that which is destined to change, we will eventually face the inability to journey through the change.  Life.  Love.  Good memories.  This is what is worth holding on to forever.

Every day is a new beginning.  Another opportunity.  Another chance to do something good—to make a good difference.  Some say they do not believe in God.  Some say they’re not sure if he exists.  Some are indifferent.  As for me…..I know I would have never gotten through what I’ve faced in my life without God.  My hope is in Him in Every New Beginning.

Update:  5/19/2018

As with any good story, there is always a happy ending.  At least there should be.  Such is the case with this one.  It turns out the family whom God sent to my mother was able to save exactly half of the house.  Not only the kitchen and dining room will be spared, but also the living room and a small bedroom and bath on the back of the house.  Hopefully, my mother will be able to move back into her home of 41 years in a few short months.  My excitement has been catapulted to that of sheer jubilation.  God.  Is. So. Good.  And worthy of ALL praise.

Now, I have a new dream for a new beginning.  I have a new hope tucked away deep in my heart—that is to rebuild the rest of the house that was destroyed by that storm.   Until then……..

Happy Valentine’s Day–The Heart Of The Matter

(Originally Posted February 14, 2018)

February 14 is a day set aside each year to show that “special someone” how much we care about or even love them.  So often we take for granted the ones who hold that place in our hearts or lives, so on this one day of the year, for those who many have forgotten to say it or show it on a regular basis, this is the day of reprieve and restoration of good standing in good graces…God willing.

This tradition has come a long way from its grave beginnings, of which I will not disgust this post with its grim, bloody beginnings for which both men and women eagerly participated in with the hopes of being fertile in the match-making love kinda way.  I’ll let you discover the believed source on your own.  Oh, my.  Let’s just say, today, in the western world at least, it would be grounds for execution or at best prison.  We’ve come along way, baby! And for that, millions are grateful!

Some believe, this special occasion evolved from the martyrdom of two men named Valentine who were slain at the hands of the Romans on February 14 and then their martyrdom honored by the Catholic church. Of course, after Shakespeare and Chancer romanticized it in their work, it became more widely accepted and has evolved into what we know and observe today as the official Valentine’s Day.

Hearts flutter, anticipation creates a buzzing that makes you gleam with excitement of what awaits the one claimed as “the love of your life.”  Children learn very quickly this is the one acceptable day of the year, for which they are encouraged, to let their tender hearts reach out to that “special someone” without fear of rejection.  For others, like my daughter, the love of her life presented her with chocolate covered strawberries and roses—not a bouquet of roses mind you—in the most delicate and colorful wrappings, she received a rose bush that will soon be planted to remind them year after year of the love they share.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving in the richest sense of the word…Love.  Love that is true in hearts that are true.  No.  There’s nothing like it on this earth.

Around this time of year a few years ago, the Lord gave me a vision. It was that of a human heart.  I don’t mean a picture of a heart or symbol, but an actual heart that was beating.  I could see and hear the heart beating, and I could feel the heart beating. I could see the blood vessels surrounding the heart through which the life giving source is pumped and distributed throughout our bodies.  I pondered for quite a while on this. It was intriguing to say the least.

I was led to 1 Kings chapter 8, Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple.  What leaped out at me was in verse 52, 53 Solomon is reminding God that the nation of Israel was set apart from every other nation as his own inheritance, and that they are God’s special possession.

We are grafted into the vine of God’s special possession through the promise given to through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  We too are God’s special possession.  Solomon’s prayer goes on to give praise to God who gives his people rest, stating that not one word has failed of all the good promises God gave us.  Think about that. We are God’s special possession.  Not that we are a possession to be owned or controlled by God. Indeed, God gives us freedom to choose whether or not we want to be loved by him, provided for by him, guided by him and protected by him.  But when we do, God gives us everything he offers to us for our protection, guidance and prosperity on this earth with his promise that he will forever walk with us each and every day.

Yes.  What God wants is a relationship with us.  A relationship is a two-way street.  Just as you must spend time with your significant other, the love of your life, to develop your relationship so you can learn each other and grow with each other, the same is true of a relationship with God. We must spend time with him in his word and through prayer so we can get to know him better.  What we fail to understand and all too often fail to accept is just how much God loves us….and no…He isn’t sitting on his throne shaking his scepter and waiting for the opportunity to put a pump knot on your head when you make a mistake.  What we sometimes take for granted is the great extent God went to for us to be in a close relationship with him.  That price was paid for by the life Jesus willingly gave on the Cross of Calvary for us.  Because of his great love for us.  Greater love has no man that he who lays down his life for someone else.  Jesus did just that for us.

Just like it is sometimes hard for us to believe that someone could care for us so much that we would be set apart and honored by that someone special on the day of the Valentine, or any other day for that matter, it can be difficult to understand how God can see us as we really are and still love us and want to talk with us and walk with us on a daily basis…But…He does.

I must admit it took me a while to accept his love for me, after all I have done. But when I did, my life was transformed.  I remember a Valentine’s Day many, many years ago. I was in my church’s women’s group and they were playing a game using the candy hearts with words on them.  You know, the ones that say things like “Love Bug,” “Be Mine,” “Kiss Me,” ”Be True,” “Love Me,” etc.  We were instructed to take five candies and spell a sentiment that would describe your relationship with “your true love.” With deep sentiment, a laugh and a smile on their face, each woman described their “true loves” as told by their five candies.  Interestingly, (and I’m not exaggerating), each woman thought well of the efforts of the candies to describe their loves, until it came to mine. In fact, through laughter and in good humor, they said they just didn’t get it.  Actually, I understood.  I can’t remember exactly what mine said by now, but it made perfect sense to me. I wasn’t describing a man.  I was describing, to the best of the candies’ ability, my relationship with Jesus, because he is “my one and only.”

Interestingly, how many of us think of our relationship with Jesus in this way? Do we put him first? Do we keep him first? Do we choose to keep him first even after we have been blessed with a person we can call “Our one true love?”  Yes, I know. Perhaps my sentiment didn’t sound so romantic. I get it. But when it comes right down to it, God looks at our heart. He can see past what we so often get blind-sided by—the outward appearance and what our mouths can say but what our hearts can’t back up. Our good intentions that sift through the hands of time like sand in an hourglass.  God knows what no one else can know about us. He knows every beat of our heart.

I was asked recently, “Do you think you’ll ever get married again?”  My answer, “Perhaps. One day.”  But rest assured, I know it is Jesus who captured my heart and in whose care I will always stay.  The ministry of His love is what I proclaim on this great Valentine’s Day and every day.

So, whether you are single, married or in a relationship with whoever you decide to call “the love of your life,” “your special someone” or “My Sweet Valentine,” as you share the tender moments this day can bring, may the source of your love be settled with the One who is love…..The Lord God Almighty who will never leave you, “til the end of the age” (and that’s forever).  Listen to His still small voice as He gently calls you today to come back to the heart of worship. Remember the time when you first loved him and you knew he loved you and let him love you back into wholeness again. Let his love bring warmth in your heart on this Valentine’s Day.

Love always remains as you go on your way.

Love always, I give to you as I look into your face.

Love always, I give you with a warm embrace.

Love Always.

Living Proof

(Originally Posted 1-23-2018)

The date was March 30, 1986. Living Proof is what we called ourselves and we worked to live up to that name. We were eagerly awaiting service to start as we watched the sanctuary fill to capacity. Me, my brother, sister, three friends, and even my mother had worked six months preparing our church’s Easter program. When I say prepare, I mean we wrote and co-wrote most of the songs, as well as secured sound equipment, stage lighting and built a lighted cross to complete the stage effects. Our pastor narrated Easter story intertwined with the songs we sang. We practiced night after night for six months until we knew each entrance, beat and could sing the songs in our sleep. It was exhausting. At the same time, we were walking with so much excitement and expectation of what God would do. Indeed, one person did give their lives to Christ. There is no feeling like knowing your efforts helped bring a lost soul into a life-changing, soul-saving relationship with Jesus Christ—like walking in the clouds.

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do no think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh,” Romans 13:14.

Saying we are a Christian is one thing. Living like we are what we say we are is another. I realize there are as many different interpretations of what a Christian is supposed to be like, but God is fairly clear on how he expects us to behave.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of being Christ-like was shown to me in the middle of the night a few years ago about a person I was praying for. In a vision, I saw Jesus standing with his back to me. Then, I saw him slowly turn to his right so I could see his profile from his right side. Then, I saw a man walk out of the body of Jesus. This man was wearing the same clothing that Jesus was wearing—he appeared in Christ’s likeness.

This spoke volumes to me. When we become a Christian, we go through a process called sanctification. This is a process by which we become more like Christ through the cleansing and renewing of our minds through the study of God’s word, prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to change us.

God was showing me that when we allow God to work in us to bring about healing and restoration and holy change in our lives, we will become more and more like Christ. This, then, becomes living proof we are the Christians we claim to be.  As the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.”

May our testimony be, “He must become greater; I must become less,” John 3:30.  Grace. Humble. Peace. Amen.

God Knows Your Heart

(Originally Posted 1-22-2018)

Surely we will not allow ourselves to become so hard-hearted that we cannot hear the voice of God??  Surely not.  Yet, this is exactly what God says we become when we allow ourselves to see through the lense of worldly or even religious expectations, or when we raise up standards and expectations through the lense of our own experiences. Not withstanding wisdom learned through life’s experiences, when we settle our mind into the grooves of our own thinking, we are thinking with our own mind and not necessarily the Mind of Christ. “For, who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

I have a special place in my heart for ministers.  I always have since I was very young. It was something God supernaturally put in me from as far back as I can remember. They are those we look to for guidance, wisdom and truth, certainly in our darkest moments we seek comfort through their presence and heartfelt words.  They are also some of the most viciously attacked people in the world. True enough, some may be way off the beaten path of truth. But many, however, are deep in the trenches of praying for God to save me and you. These are people who go through attacks and struggles, most of which no one ever hears about. Why? Because, as a representative of God on this earth, through their prayers and ministries, they are tearing down the kingdom of darkness that has set itself against you and me and this world we live in. It is easy for us to point the finger of expectation with the Word so tried and true. It is not always easy to receive it. I’ve experienced some of the most misguided attempts to set me straight from something I was never bound by. Go Figure. Yes, indeed. We need to figure this thing out so we can build up the walls of a mighty fortress to further the Kingdom of God on this earth.

Many years ago, right after my son was first born, the church where I was serving found themselves without a praise and worship leader. Since they knew I played the piano and sang, it was strongly suggested I seek the Lord about serving in this capacity, they surmised I was at that church “For such a time as this.” I was not seeking a position in this church, mind you. In fact, I had never served in this position before and I was more than feeling inadequate to lead anyone. I felt as if I was still recovering from all I had been through in the events leading up to the birth of my son. Look at God go with his “suddenlies.” I am a fairly reserved person, until you get to know me. I don’t try to be. It’s just the way God made me. At this point, I was more reserved. I didn’t really know anyone very well. Taking this new position would mean I had to allow God to pull more from me than I had experienced before and this was fairly difficult for me. But I knew God was standing right next to me. I might point out that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Therefore, just as soon as we repent, I mean truly repent, God resets everything surrounding us and says, “Pick up your mat and walk. We have work to do.” Amen.

One morning after service, a gentleman came up to me and said, “Sister Katrina, I’m going to pray for you about your pride.” I was confounded and dismayed. My response to this gentleman was, “Good. And I’ll pray for you,” to which he agreed as he left.

My thoughts immediately went to God, “Lord. This can’t be. Of all the things you taught me about pride when facing my sin of stepping away from the straight and narrow path you set for me, surely this is not the case. Surely, you have taught me to confess my sins before you and make sure my heart is humble and true before you, especially before I ever step up on the platform to worship you. Search my heart. Show me what’s going on here.”

Of course, during this week, the Lord showed me many things. Predominantly, we are in a battle waged against our souls, against our church and against furthering the kingdom of heaven on this earth—in and through each one of us. None of us are immune to the attacks of the enemy. None of us are immune to those fiery missiles being launched against our flesh, our desires, our expectations, and our own shortcomings, setbacks and perhaps even our own unfilled hopes and dreams. Be assured, we can quickly become short-sighted about someone due to the measurement of expectations based on others’ behaviors that we quickly surmise, “Watch out! See, it’s the same thing as before. Tear down what the devil is trying to do here and get them out of here!” Sometimes this is true, mind you, but many times this is based on false evidence that appears real. I don’t think we realize what we can launch against a person, even with our best intentions. Be wise as serpents but innocent as doves.

As I was speaking with another minister regarding this, the Lord spoke to me. In 1 Samuel 26:9-11, when Saul was seeking to kill David, at one point, David got the upper hand. His sidekick in battle wanted to put Saul to death but David said, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “The Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.”

This is the message of this blog. God knows our hearts. God knows what’s going on. Nobody is doing anything that can remotely take God by surprise. We are commanded to pray, without ceasing. We pray protection of our ministers. Without it, we are leaving them to be like sitting ducks. We need to pray for each other before we pass judgment (in this case, judgment means a preconceived mindset of who we think a person is). We are all in this together.

Now, have I ever been guilty of doing such myself? To my regret, unfortunately yes. Too, too many times, and I didn’t even realize what I was doing. In our best attempts to “do what’s right,” we can all too easily diminish the work of God and even tell him “No” to what may be his greatest gift to us or his greatest breakthrough in our lives.

There is a time to call out and tear down, but if we try to do it in our own power, strength and perhaps limited understanding, in the end, we only hurt ourselves. There is a time to separate and clean out our camps, but I suggest we clean out our closets first, lest we too be caught in temptation—to sin that is.

As for me and this gentleman at this church? The next week, we met up after services. He said, “Sister Katrina. I owe you an apology. God told me, “You don’t have a spirit of pride. God gave you a spirit of excellence.” My heart was humbled beyond my ability to describe. From that day forward, we became friends who could share experiences, learn from each other and count on to pray for one another. And that we did indeed.

Those who are given much, much is required. This is true. This, however, is a two-edged sword. It is always easier to see a bigger picture when you are on the outside looking in—or so it would seem. God knows our heart. It is always in our best interest to keep our hearts before the Lord, lest we chance having a heart that turns to stone. Love God. Love People. Love your Neighbor as Yourself.

Where Freedom Is Given

(Originally Posted 1-16-2018)

Let freedom ring.  We live in a free country, right?  It’s our body so we have the right to choose. The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  Whom the sun sets free is free indeed. I have the right to live in peace.  I have the right to protect myself.  One of my personal favorites is, “I have the right to come into my own home and find peace in the midst of chaos, strife and unrest in the world around us.”  These statements and more I grew up hearing.  I’m reminded of the song, “This land is my land, this land is your land, from California to the New York Island, From the Redwood Forrest, to the gulf stream waters, this land was made for you and me.”  This land was made for you and me.

So many people.  So many opinions.  So many beliefs. So many backgrounds.  So many interpretations.  With justice and liberty for all. Yes, indeed.  I remember a time not too long ago when my son became very interested in the world around him.  He would listen to every news feed he could get his hands on.  Unfortunately, he was basing his opinion on other’s beliefs without weighing these beliefs on any standard measurement of truth.  This, I believe, is why we have so many different thinkologies today. At one point, my son’s view of this great nation we live in became so tainted, he wanted us to move to another country.   (Yes, even with all the problems we may have, I still believe we live in the greatest nation in the world today.) He has since grown past this.  It took him being willing to listen to all sides and weighing against the common thread of what is right versus wrong in God’s eyes. But I must say, I am so very proud of him for taking the time to see past himself to learn about the world around him.

Perhaps, there are lessons for us all to learn about the world around us. Learning and seeking understanding does not have to mean we must subscribe to each other’s beliefs or standard of living. I do believe it is a necessary step in bringing unity and peace into our nation and the nations around the world.

Our Declaration states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This one statement has been the backdrop of seemingly every human rights argument and protest around the world. Human rights are the moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behavior that are protected as legal rights in municipal and international law.  I am not going to get into a political debate here.  My ministry and message is of love.  Rights…life…liberty…pursuit of happiness.

I believe we are responsible for our choices.  I believe it does matter that we do not force our beliefs on someone else.  At the same time, I do believe we have the right to voice our opinion without fear of retribution. I believe that is a freedom given to us in this great nation we live in. Without it, we are certain to be diminished into a nation of control by a few instead of a democratic government, a nation governed for the people, by the people. What so many people seem to be unaware of is how much of a prison we each live in, really, without God’s love that sets our souls free.

I’ve pondered many things in the last 20 or so years of my life.  I come from a long heritage of men and women who were willing to work hard and fight for what they believed in and they gave to us a strong sense of never giving up and keep on keepin’ on to overcome setbacks. I remember putting a self-made picture of “Thou shalt not whine” on a wall in my house, and made it a point to refer to it anytime my children decided they didn’t like the results of appropriate action taken against inappropriate choices and behaviors.  I have heard “I feel like I’m living in a prison. You won’t let me go anywhere!” I hope they never know what living in a prison in your home, in your mind, or in your circumstance can really be like.

Storms of oppression can take a person unawares. But of course, that’s the plan of the oppressor.  It makes my head swim sometimes wondering what happens to a person to take them from seemingly a normal, ordinary thought process to one of paranoia and sense of being without the ability to have any control in a situation to the point a person takes excessive measures trying to ensure they are protected.

I grew up in a family full of military servicemen and women and avid hunters. We come from the south where it is common for people to hunt and fish for their food. So, growing up around guns never bothered me. I understood their intended purpose. At one point while in college several years ago, I myself was in ROTC with the intention of becoming an officer in the United States Army. We grew up with a sense of being safe and protected, because my family stood strong and proud on the principals that were established for us to live a life of peace in our home and our surroundings.

So, when I got married, I expected these same principals would be in place for me and my new family.  I’m really not sure what happened, exactly.  I can’t put my finger on a decisive moment or event that took place to trigger what caused things so very wrong.

It was over 20 years ago when a new law came forth that required background checks on firearms—the Brady Bill. The next thing I knew, letters were written and plans to protect what was his began to surface.  Statements such as “We’re going to have a racial civil war next year and the police are only good for drinking coffee and eating donuts.” “I’m going to protect my property, and that includes the two of you.” You heard me right. In that moment, what he said only confirmed what we already felt—my daughter and I had become like property in his mind. Suddenly, a mission ensued that catapulted our personal firearm inventory to 20 weapons, three of which were assault weapons with all the accessories to make them fully automatic, including two laser sites with over 10,000 rounds of live ammunition and enough reloading equipment and supplies to make over 10,000 rounds more.  He wanted to put up a 10-foot fence with razor wire across the top of it around our property and put video surveillance equipment at the end of the driveway to monitor who came and who left. How do I know there were that many rounds of ammo in our supply of stock? Because I inventoried them. Every. One. I had possession of the house, and when he was forced to leave, he could only take personal items. So, for the property settlement, I had to inventory everything we possessed to show him that I had not “taken” anything he thought belonged solely to him. Even so, he still accused me of withholding items of value. Good. Grief.

At one point, we even looked at property that sat high on a mountain that required a code for passage.  Now, I might interject here that this and of itself did not alarm me. He became obsessed and the more time that went on, the darker the atmosphere at our house became. It was everything else added to it that was sending signals of “You’d better get out and get out soon.”  Paranoia loomed and I felt I was running out of time to bring me and my daughter to a place of safety. But God…

God put the right people in the right place at the right time and we were able to get out with a protective order.  After he was removed from the home, we were eventually able to come back until such a time we were able to finish the property settlement and move for good.

I took everything firearm-related we had accumulated to local law enforcement. They were stunned. He called the judge and ultimately, the judge had no choice but to return them to him because he never actually “did” anything to show cause for concern. Such as was the case for us. Without broken bones, bruises, and DNA, abuse and paranoia is very, very hard to prove and at that moment in time, I lived in such a state of fear and brokenness I could not verbalize everything we had gone through. I now know it was God and only God who carried me through that time. And God…

God knew long before we would find ourselves in this place how he would get us out of it. Two years prior to this, by God’s divine intervention, my daughter and I found our way to a local church. After a while, I was finally able to confide in our pastors “something wasn’t good” in our home. At that time, I was not able to be specific and they offered to talk to him, but I knew if they did, it would only make things worse for us. So…they prayed.  They prayed for us regularly.  Me and my daughter found solace and safety in this new home environment God provided for us. This became our safe place and I made sure we spent as much time there as we could.

At one point, I was given a glimmer of hope.  Even though he resisted at first, he finally began to attend with us. His exact words were, “Are you sure the walls aren’t going to fall in on top of me?” This was short-lived. Something changed—quickly and it seemed the more time we spent at church, the worse things got at home.  It would take all the faith and courage I could muster just to call an attorney and start the process of leaving this prison we called home. Fear had gripped every part of my being to the point I could not keep my body from shaking, nor could I keep a strong tone of voice. The fear was real. And it had its clutches in me deep.

It seems my life has the makings of a Lifetime movie. I suppose it does. So, why have I even bothered to tell my story after 23 years? Simple. This is my story. My redemption story. My story of how great God is. My story of how God will move heaven and earth for his children and judge righteously in favor of his children when his children cry out to him night and day. My story of God’s power working in our lives for our salvation to fulfill his plan and purpose. My story of how miraculously God worked everything together in our favor for our good.  My. God. Is. Real. And. My. God. Is. Good.

God intervened. From that time, it would be two years before I realized how close to irreversible disaster we were. As I was praying and interceding for him and our church one morning, the Lord spoke to me. He said, “If it weren’t for the prayers of the people in this church, paranoia would have taken him over and you both (my daughter) would have been killed.” Wow. I found myself without the ability to comprehend how purposefully and precisely God will reach down from heaven and rescue us out of every pit of destruction. Never. Underestimate. The. Power. Of. Prayer. Had it not been for the prayers of the people in that church, my daughter and I would have become a statistic. Humble silence.

Now for the million dollar question. Am I an advocate for gun control?  No. Without a doubt, no. I believe very strongly in our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.  I am, however, of the very firm belief with freedom comes great responsibility. Do I have a problem with anyone obtaining and owning many firearms and ammunition? No. Not really. Again, it is the person that makes the weapon injure and kill. I have never seen a gun fire one round while handing on a wall, or sitting on a shelf or table. Not one. Responsibility lies with the one whose finger rests on the trigger. Is there an epidemic in our world today of control through the use of force due to the lack of self-control of an individual?  Yes. However, I maintain, getting rid of our guns and right to protect ourselves is NOT answer.

I will give him this much, some of his perceptions had some validity into our future.  However, it is the innocent who gets caught in the cross-fire and a person’s state of mind and heart reveals the true root of the problems we face in the world today. In our case, that was at the root of our demise.  So, what’s the answer? To be bluntly honest, I believe God is the only one who really has the answer to our dilemma, and we live in a country where many people simply do not want to listen.  I don’t have the answers. I have only what I know we lived through. Even so, having lived through all we have lived through, I have what I know God is able to do.

We must become a people who are willing to love one another and pray without ceasing. While doing so, keep your eyes wide open and be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Some would say, this is only euphoria and we will never see this happen for us.  Perhaps, but we have a choice. We can join together and listen to the one who made all of creation or we can simply keep doing what has gotten us into such a mess to begin with. As long as evil exists in this world, evil will happen—even to good people who have done absolutely nothing to bring it to their doorstep and into their lives. Again, the innocent are caught in the cross-fire. With justice and liberty for all. Indeed. I rather believe we need to cry out for justice and mercy for all.

There are many battles to be fought and won to see unity and peace in our land. I choose to believe God is the one who is able to make grace abound and bring us into wholeness. Only God is able. And only if we allow him to do so. My prayer is that my ex will truly find cleansing and healing for his soul through a real relationship with God. In truth, only God knows our heart.

In my opinion, we do not need more gun control and more censorship of public opinion that sets itself against the mainstream media.  We need more people to stand up make a positive difference in the area of influence God has given them. Do I believe we have the right to defend ourselves?  Yes.  Do I believe we have the right to live in peace?  Yes. Your opinion may likely differ from mine. That’s okay. We don’t have to agree on everything to get along with each other. I firmly believe that. I’ll pray for you. You pray for me. With God, all things are possible.

This is my story.  This is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.  Peace.

Moving Past Tragedy

(Originally Posted 1-12-2018)

Our life is made up of our experiences.  Some of them are somewhat inconsequential, but we are affected by all of them to some extent.  Many times we are responsible for creating them, but there are those circumstances that were created for us that are completely out of our control.  This would be the case when a great tragedy engulfed our family with flames that would change our lives forever—one we never saw coming and one that would change the course of time forever.

It was June 4, 1983.  I was 19 years old and the world was at my feet.  The day was a normal Friday, like any other Friday.  I was working at the gas station and business was booming with people excitedly getting prepared to relax for a weekend retreat of fun at the lake or just to stay around the house. You know, the normal last day of the work week scenario.

About 10:00 that night, a storm rolled in.  It was a very strong storm with torrential rains and high winds. Amidst the storm were sirens, both warning of impending tornadic danger and the emergency vehicles scrambling to help those in need.  I had already moved out of my parent’s home and was living in town with roommates.  I went to bed thinking how thankful I was we did not lose power, as so many homes were without electricity by that time.

At 4:00 a.m. there was a knock on the door.  A single, solitary police officer knocking at your door at 4:00 in the morning is not a good sign.  “Is Katrina Stanley here?” He asked.  My roommate got me up and I went to the door.  “I’m sorry to inform you but your dad was killed in an accident and I need you to come with me.”

Time stood still.  I can remember my roommate asking the officer if there wasn’t any other way to have told me.  I couldn’t breathe.  Every step was in slow motion. I remember going to my room and looking for socks.  I couldn’t find any socks.  I couldn’t move.  I was in shock.

My dad worked at a local college in the maintenance department and my uncle (his brother) was his supervisor. My uncle was able to get dad hired after he finished vocational training upon retiring from 20 years of military service.  There was to be a large Girl’s State event at the college the next morning. On the night of the storm, my dad, uncle and the maintenance crew were called out at about 1:00 a.m. to repair a fallen computer wire, the wire that powered all the computers on campus.  I was told a call was made to the local power company to turn off the power to the main high voltage power line so these men could repair the computer line for the next morning when the Girl’s State event took place. The power company said no, there were hundreds of homes without power and they took priority.

Only God knows what transpired next, but directives were given and these men proceeded to repair the snapped computer wire. At some point, the wind picked up the high voltage power line and it hit my dad in his right temple and electrocuted him.  Paramedics were called and I was told they were actually able to resuscitate him a few times but ultimately, their attempts failed and my father was pronounced dead at the scene. He was only 45 years old.

So many unanswered questions. Why was it so important to repair that line in the middle of the night? Why wasn’t Girl’s State canceled until a later date when repairs could be made safely? Why was my dad working in these conditions without proper gloves and boots to be properly grounded? What didn’t help matters is everyone was put on a gag order for five years. The hardest blow came when my mother refused to sue for negligence and wrongful death. Through tears she simply said, “Your dad didn’t believe in suing anyone. It will not bring him back.” But, I wanted to.  My brother and I both wanted to. We were grieved and vexed beyond anything that ever existed in our framework to conceive. But, we would not dishonor our mother. To make matters worse, my uncle was working that night, side by side with my dad. In time, he finally confessed he would have been severely reprimanded if he had spoken about the details of that night before the five years had passed. In later years, he spoke of nightmares that plagued him night after night which lasted for months. This man became like a dad to me. His heart broke for us. It took me a long time to realize that in the accident, not only did my dad die, this was his brother. And, they had become very close after my dad retired from the military. Only God knows how deep the grief cuts into a person’s soul when the light of a life that brings life to their soul is snuffed out, especially when it happens suddenly, without any warning or preparation. We would be forever changed.

It had only been the week before I talked on the phone with my dad and for the first time in my life that I could remember, I told him I loved him. He said, “I love you too.”  That would be the last time I talked to my dad. I never got a chance to tell him how sorry I was that I moved out the way I did, so suddenly—I just wanted my independence.  I wanted to pursue my dream of singing. It was difficult for him to handle, as I was through and through a daddy’s girl. But at least I was able to tell him I loved him before he left.

Memories flooded my soul, like when I had an opportunity to join the group called “Up With People,” which was a group of youth that traveled the world singing upbeat music with upbeat, positive lyrics, but my dad said no. That was a lot to ask a man whose daughter just recently graduated from high school. But I never forgot it. My dad was a dad indeed and very protective at that. He wanted me to go to college and he worked at a job that would allow me free tuition. Otherwise, there would be no hope of me going. He became very upset when I wanted to drop out after only two years. He was not happy where he was working but stayed so I could get a college education. This would be a decision I would regret for years to come. Soon thereafter, he began the process of trying to change jobs when he died.  It seemed it was simply one day to late. If only….

Then there was the time I had been chosen to go to Japan to study as an exchange student. I received a scholarship that would pay for tuition but not room and board. I would have to work teaching English to pay my way. My parents didn’t like the idea of me going to Japan for a year without having the money to support me in advance, as there were simply too many variables. What ultimately caused me to stay at home was my parents were unable to get a loan to support me while I studied abroad. At their insistence, I stayed home.  Yes, my dad was very cautious indeed.  After the accident, of course, I was so glad my parents insisted I not go to Japan. Otherwise, I would have missed out on spending the last year of his life with him.

All I knew was I felt empty. I remember thinking, “How am I going to help my mother?” I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. Truthfully, I wasn’t old enough to understand the soul connection she had with the man she married when she was only 18. My brother was in the Navy, so he had to ship back out to his post. Our first Christmas was spent on a cruise ship in the frigid cold winter (even in Florida it was freezing cold that year) to get out of the house. My life would never be the same. Truth is, I’m not sure you ever get over it. He was my dad. He was my encouragement. He was my rock. He was my stability. He was my daddy.

As the years have gone by, the Lord has taught me many lessons about accepting God as our Father. I had a good dad. A really good dad who worked and made sacrifices for his family so we could have a decent life. Lesson after lesson paralleled the unconditional love of my heavenly father as provider, healer and friend and as I lovingly call him, Baba.”

Why do bad things happen to good people?  There is a book written with this title. My answer is, sometimes there’s just no good answer. No reasonable explanation. It is just what it is…part of the cycle of life that we all have to live through at one time or another. It is easy to blame. Sometimes that blame is truly warranted. It is much harder to live with knowing you are just left with an empty space to fill. But God…

If we will allow him, God has a way of gently loving us into wholeness again. I can’t say what it will look like for anyone else, but I know he did this for us. It was a long, hard journey, but God has never left our side. Without his strength carrying me and sustaining me, I would have never made it through. Although we never forget, we must forgive and release to find peace, otherwise a root of bitterness will take root thus defiling every choice we make and every relationship.

I still miss my dad. Sometimes, I feel as if he’s watching over me and encouraging me. My uncle (who was my dad’s younger brother) who took on a father role in my life graduated into heaven in May of 2015. My uncle who was working alongside my dad that night, who took over being my dad, died only a few weeks ago at the time of this writing. I can honestly say I’ve never felt more alone than I do right now. But, I know I’m not.

As hard as saying goodbye is, there is still life to be found. If I have nothing else within me to give, I will always say, “Never give up. As long as there is life in your body, there is always hope. There is still life to be found.”  Know where you will spend eternity. And yes, you can know for sure where you will spend eternity. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord and when these days on earth are done, we will spend an eternity in heaven with the Lord.

From Darkness To Light

(Originally Posted 1-4-2018)

In the night she cried out “No. No.”  She was pushing something away from her.  With her hands, she tried to be freed.  I listened and watched her struggle, afraid to wake her for fear of her not coming back to me.

These are just some of the things a person who has been sexually assaulted goes through, whether they are a child or an adult.  Nightmares, PTSD, depression, low self-esteem, constantly wondering if you are worthy to be loved, constantly wondering what you did wrong to cause this “thing” to happen to you, knowing deep down inside what has been done to you was a true act of violence and not of your doing, but the question always remains, “Why?  What if?”

In my search for significance to be a woman who was loosed from the darkness that surrounded me, I had to allow God to take me on the journey of recovery—a very long, painful and humiliating journey of recovery.  I had to allow him to take me back through the memories of every act of molestation and sexual abuse.  Very painful.  But despite my best efforts, I found it was the only way I was going to be free.  So, I allowed him to do it.  What I learned was this time, I was able to control the end result.

I was raised in a good home with loving parents who always told me to “Shoot for the stars.  You can do anything you set your mind to do.”  That is what I was taught from a very young age.  That is something that still holds true for me today.  Today, I am no longer afraid.  But despite my upbringing, it would take years before I really understood why I always felt “different” from other girls my age.  I always felt older, set apart, just different and never understood why.

It would take going through recovery from my abusive marriage for me to understand how life travesties can take a toll on a person’s life and set them up for defeat long before they ever arrive at the chance to try.  There is a truth about those who are sexually assaulted.  The outcome either way is devastating.  There are those who become sexually promiscuous—they take the attitude of “What does it matter anymore?”  There are those who completely withdrawal.  Then, there are those who remain angry and bitter.  At each pass, every relationship this person has at some point becomes directly affected because of the insane injustice levied against them.  Each outcome holds its own set of mountains and valleys, twists and turns and one never really knows what the outcome will be, but one always hopes for full recovery.  Only time and a really great, loving support system can one overcome the devastating effects of being sexually assaulted.

For me, I never really knew what happened.  I was so young, I couldn’t have understood what took place, but without a doubt, my mother understood what took place and she did everything within her power to see to it that never happened again.  At any rate, it opened the door to much worse.  There would be four attacks against me of this nature before I would be married.  Here’s where a history of deception and confusion has come into play. If your husband wants sex and you do not, and he insists on doing it anyway, is it assault?  Or, is she just refusing to submit to her  wifely duty??  I am here to set the record straight.  No means No.  Period.  Whether you are married or not.  Period.  You have no idea the power of the destructive nature of taking what has not been offered to you can be and how it can take a toll on a person’s mind, heart and soul.  If you put a gun to someone’s head and said, “Give me all your money or I’ll kill you,” don’t you think that would shake you up?  The same is true when a woman says No and her request is not respected.

How can a man who says he loves his wife roll her over and take what she does not want to give on that particular occasion?  Love does not demand its own way.  For the record, that’s not love.  So, why does a woman stay?  Peculiar question to which there is no firm answer to.  She is his wife.  To have and to hold, to love, honor and cherish.  Maybe he wasn’t really trying to hurt her?  Maybe she misinterpreted it?  Maybe not.  But she’s his wife.  She has made a commitment to their marriage.  The methodical way of an abuser slowly tears down her defenses of resistance.  At the same time, she knows this is not right, but somehow she knows she just can’t leave—that would make things worse.  Instead, she builds a wall of defense and protection to what is in her that is still hers—her dignity, her honor, her soul.  Leaving is sometimes not an option.  For me, I was told I could go, but if I did, I would never see my child again.  Whether this would have truly been the outcome or not, I believed him.

I was always told, “You’re my wife.  You’re supposed to do what I tell you to do.”  Well, well, well.  Hmph.  There is a scripture in Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  That’s a two-way street.  It goes for men as well as women.  All too often, the woman is expected to submit to her husband. And yes, she should, unto Christ.  Unto Salvation.  Unto Righteousness.  Not unto selfishness that is destructive—even from your husband.  I was raised, God hates divorce.  You should simply not divorce—work it out.  This is not always possible.  This is not always healthy.  This is not always safe.  Hear my heart—I am not an advocate for divorce.  But, I believe God loves us and expects us to do things in order—all of us.  When disorder and chaos abound, he does give you forgiveness for leaving.  We need to understand God does not expect us to stay and be a whipping post for someone who does not love him or care for us.

What took me years to understand is how I could have married someone like this—especially, having been raised in a well-adjusted home with loving parents and a great extended family.  As I continued in recovery, I learned that the stage for this was set long ago.  It started in that first act of sexual abuse when I was three years old.  It set me up for insecurities that would lie dormant until such a time the enemy would come in like the snake that he is to destroy who I was so I would become crippled in my ability to be who God says I am and to accomplish God’s plan and purpose in my life.

Getting to the root of any issue is absolutely key in getting rid of strongholds, hang-ups, incorrect thinking and behavior patterns.  It was devastating to me to learn the “rest of the story” regarding our situation.  My act of disobedience of marrying this man who I knew was not equally yoked to me, opened the door for my daughter to suffer at the hands of her father.  Was I responsible for her demise?  No.  He was in fact the sole beneficiary of occupancy of the acts of injustice against her.  However, I received a real education about how my lack of being whole before I married allowed open doors for evil to all too readily come against her—and me.

There is a scripture in Exodus 20:5-6 that says, “I am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  What exactly does this mean?

In short, it means whatever the sins of the parents are, whether sins of commission or omission, lay the groundwork for the children to follow in suit.  Sources say, if a parent is an alcoholic, the chances of the kids becoming alcoholics are three to four times greater than their peers.  The same is true for kids who have had abusive parents.  Without proper intervention and healing, they are at a greater risk of becoming abusive themselves or marrying someone who is abusive towards them.  They can say they will not let it happen to them, but when they are in the midst of it, they find it is really not that simple.  This was indeed the case for my daughter.

Before I divorced, I asked God specifically what was wrong with my family.  God is very much interested in every part of your life and most assuredly wants to be an active part of making you whole.  So, he told me.  He showed me how the line of dysfunction went about four generations deep, as far as I could calculate.  What I did not understand and was powerless to change for us until much later was understanding just what God means when he says he will show love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.  This is key.  Love God with all your heart.  Keep his commandments.  One of his commandments is love they neighbor as thyself.  Be kind.  Love one another.  Get this—love does not beat you down by someone who says they you love, whether physically, mentally, emotionally or verbally or even financially.  That is not love.

The other key factor in recovering into wholeness is understanding how powerful our words are and how God’s spoken word is taken by God’s angels and immediately knocks down the attacks of the enemy who is the constant menace of our minds which is directly related to our behaviors and our emotions.  There are so many people who struggle and some outright refuse to believe this, but just as we all have a guardian angel who is assigned to watch over and protect us, there are also demons who are assigned to our destruction.  Where they can be stopped is through prayer and words of affirmation—not words of destruction.

When I was divorced, I was so broken I didn’t know who I was anymore.  I stood in front of a mirror so my eyes could see my mouth say the words my ears heard so it could get into my heart so I could be made whole.  I would say, “You’re not worthless.  You’re not a pacifist.  You’re not ugly.  You’re not a waste of time.  You’re not stupid.  God loves you.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are the apple of God’s eye.  You are the center of God’s heart.  You are God’s beloved and his heartbeat.”  I did this for months so I could finally hear something good about myself instead of the continuous onslaught of insults that were so often hurled at me.  The incredible thing is—it worked.  It was after this, I was finally able to trust God just enough to allow him to start loving me.  And yes, his love is like a banner that will completely cover you and saturate you into wholeness.

I’ve fought many battles deep into the night—for myself and for others.  It has become a part of who I am as an intercessory prayer warrior.  Here’s where we must come together and bring awareness to how powerful loving others and building each other up with our words and prayer really is.  What so many people do not understand is who we are in Christ.  We have been given the authority that Christ had on this earth.  We have the authority to call things that are not as though they are.  We have the authority with our prayers to pull down the lies told about us and others.  It’s amazing to see those devils scatter when God’s word is invoked against them.  At the risk of sounding ridiculous, they are indeed real.  But God is greater and his power and love is so much stronger.

Is there life after divorce?  Absolutely.  Through Christ into wholeness.  Is there life after abuse?  Yes. Absolutely.  Through Christ’s love making us whole.  So, what about the little girl who never had a chance to be a little girl who was thrust into one destructive relationship into another?  How does she become whole again?  Only when she allows a loving father, ABBA father, to lavish her with pure love will she once again have her hopes and dreams restored.  The truth is, most people are very well aware something is wrong.  Most people are simply at a loss as to how to be relieved from it.  Some recover swiftly. Others do not.  There is no discernable time table.  However, there will not be full recovery unless we understand, accept and receive who God says we are and allow him to love us.  That’s where it must start.  Then, allow God to finish the work he started in us.

About every two minutes an American is sexually assaulted. Every eight minutes, that victim is a child.  On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.

So many times, the victim is treated like the perpetrator.  So sad.  At the same time, to treat them as if they are broken will not facilitate their healing.  The pain is real.  The devastation is real.  The devil is real.  God is greater.  This is why I say, never assume you know what someone has gone through, especially if you won’t take the time to talk to them to find out.  But even so, we can all be prepared to help in a person’s recovery by being armed and ready to fight—through prayer and speaking positive words of encouragement.  Love one another.  Be kind.  That’s my message.  I hope this helps someone along the way know there are those out there who understands how precious you are to God and how sexual abuse is not your fault.  And no, God didn’t allow this to happen to punish you for something you did or didn’t do.  It is an act of evil.  Period.

Live.  Love.  Never give up.  God has a plan for you, for good and not harm for a future with a hope.   Remember, God uses ordinary people, just like me and you.  Love Always.

Here’s To Good Health! Chapter Two, Part Two

(Originally Posted 12-13-2017)

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. 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 the last 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, and in my case even whole grains, becomes undigestable and causes an erosion, or breaking down, in the lining of the small intestine.  After some time, this can lead to what is called leaky gut.  When this happens, toxins can pass through the lining of the gut back into the blood stream, the body does not absorb nutrients necessary for good health, and the doors are wide open for disease process.)  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 is 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 high sugar containing foods on a daily basis. Any more than this would not be healthy for me. These all represent carbohydrates. All of which in excess can cause inflammation in the body. 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 and low and behold, it showed I was highly allergic to candida. Candida. Of all things, candida. I didn’t even know what candida was until a few years ago. Carbohydrates feed the gut fungus called candida. Sugar feeds candida exponentially more swiftly compared to the dense, complex carbohydrates. 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.  Really??  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—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.

No. I’m not a doctor. No. I’m not a nurse. No. I’m not a healthcare provider. No. I do not counsel people on exactly what they should or should not eat for their optimal health. But I have done A LOT of research, introspection and retrospection. There have been times I’ve become so discouraged I wondered “What’s the use?” “It doesn’t matter anymore.”  Is it easy?  No. Definitely not, especially in the beginning. But you CAN do it. God continues to tell me “You can do it,” just like he first told me on September 19, 2009 while I was traveling on my way to play piano at my friend’s wedding. God is so good to remind us he has us in the palm of his hand and will keep what we commit to him! But I know God loves me and I know he has a plan for good for my life. I believe it’s a matter of us getting in line with him and what he’s telling us when we will find that peace and prosperity he promises us.

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 of 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 and my righteousness 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 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. There will come a day of reckoning. I choose to take up arms and take back what has been stolen from me and 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 Two, Part One

(Originally Posted 12-13-2017)

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)

Here’s To Good Health! Chapter One

(Originally Posted 12-12-2017)

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 tried to sell the 20 tall pine trees to make a little extra money of 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 and decided 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 this. 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 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.  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.  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 a soft water fall.  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 not being 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! It wasn’t mine and I demanded it leave 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.  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.