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.

If I Love You More, Will You Love Me Less?

(Originally Posted 1-13-2018)

If I Love You More, Will You Love Me Less?

“Do you love me?” I was asked.   “Yes,” I answered.  “How much?” was the reply.  Without hesitation, my response would be, “Okay, what do you want now??”  I heard this often as my kids were growing up. A common colloquialism indeed.  Can love by measured?  Or, is love simply the act of being?

Paul makes the statement “If I love you more, will you love me less?” in 2 Corinthians 12:15. He was preparing to visit the church at Corinth for the third time after false apostles criticized him for not having supernatural experiences and doing miracles as they did. He did not want to have to defend his apostleship and position of authority with the church, but he did so by recalling the miracles he had performed in their presence and also noted that during each of his stays, he was not a burden to the church at Corinth because he always found a way to support himself.  He goes on to say he would gladly spend all he has for them, including expending himself completely for their growth, understanding and steadfast devotion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Can love be measured?  Or, is love simply the act of being?  Spending time, space, money, words, deeds or perhaps even in our silence love can be shown. Love is a testament to our faith in God and in our service to him. Love is seen in how much we do, in what we spend and extend of ourselves, and this is not always shown in the amount of money we spend.

However, just as the church at Corinth was young at that time, our kids too tend to measure love in dollars and cents, especially if they are involved in extra curricular activities at school or in the community.  Life can become a real juggling act, especially when you have more than one child, all going different directions. My children were at one time both involved in soccer, my daughter for three years. Then she advanced to cheerleading and my son to Taekwondo. Then there was my daughter’s first high school prom—all while being in band and choir. Oh my.  All of which were expensive and time consuming. Even as much as we struggled and with the little support I received to help raise them, we always found a way—even when it meant me working two jobs. But I never complained and I never saw it as a burden. We don’t mind going the extra mile for those we love. Sometimes, when we give more, more is expected and the great wealth of what we expended on them gets lost in their desire to have more.

This is what Paul was talking about. Even though there were those who tried to discredit him for not “performing” like others or as others thought he should, he proved himself to be diligent in raising up this church in Corinth in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ, founded on his truth and doing so without being a financial burden to them. He gave all he had and asked only their obedience to Christ’s teachings in return.

If I love you more, will you love me less?  What is in your heart?  Do you measure love by how much a person spends on you? Or by how much a person spends with you, doing life and going through the ups and downs with you?  May we all love one another without reproach or expecting something in return. Love isn’t love until you give it away.  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.

Serve One Another As Unto The Lord

(Originally Posted 1-9-2018)

Serve one another.  The very act of service that leads some to believe it is in it truest form living as an indentured servant—enslaved to the very act of giving to others without receiving in kind.  In fact, we all serve to some extent.  What always boggled my mind is the thinking that those who serve are beneath those who do not, or in most cases will not.  Unfortunately, we often times cannot see the forest for the trees.

Teachers, for example, serve every day. They give and give and receive little in return.  At least as far as monetary compensation.  They have the greatest influence on our future society and world and receive the least amount of pay for this great investment in our future.

There are many who work in the area of waste management.  For those who work in this field, the title has evolved today from what was once referred to as the neighborhood “trash man.”  This work holds a great risk to one’s health and proves a definite challenge to those in risk management to ensure the health and well-being of those who are willing to work at all hours of the night so we can have the pleasure of a clutter-free, smell-free and waste-free home.  Again, not a glamorous position to hold, yet one of a great service to our communities around the world.

When I was going through college several years ago, I worked in a school cafeteria where my daughter attended school.  There in-lies some of the most caring and wisest people I’ve ever met with all the glamour of a star in the making.  You know what I’m talking about—sporting the unique fashion trend of a wearing a hairnet.  Talk about the “bedhead” look.  Yep.  We had it goin’ on!  Good food, service with a smile and kind encouraging words were expected and required with very low pay, hot steam in the face, skin cracking and sore backs from leaning over the sink scrubbing pots and pans.  All so our children, the bright stars of our future and their instructional caretakers and staff would be properly nourished each day.  Along with our custodians, I do believe these are some of the most overlooked and under appreciated people in our schools today.  But each one carries the level of servanthood perhaps we should not underestimate.

Although I continue ongoing education so I may better myself in all seasons of life and so me and my family will not live in poverty, I’ve never thought of myself as too good to do the seemingly worst job.  I was born to a blue-collar family.  We worked and we worked hard.  From farming, to serving in the military, to working in a garden to literally provide the food we ate—and yes this was only about 30 years ago, and owning and operating our own businesses.  We have a strong work ethic.  We have also had more than our share of ups and downs with losses that were devastating.  However, I’m so very thankful to have been born into a family who has a strong moral compass and was taught early to trust God for who we are and all we need.  All in all—God gave me a servant’s heart.  A heart to help others.

I remember after my divorce and God’s love broke through my broken soul and skeleton of a person and began to fashion me into who I’ve ultimately become today, I told God, “I want you to heal me and heal me as soon as possible, because I do not want to spend the next 30 years trying to get over this.”  God is faithful.  God will move, change us and grow us all in love, mercy and grace as much and as fast as we allow him to do.  God has used many people in my life to help me, for all of whom I am eternally grateful.

I remember many years ago I was watching TBN.  I saw Jan Crouch walking on the banks of Jordan.  She was talking about the darkness of depression and how debilitating it was for her but how God delivered her and healed her.  I sat and listened intentionality and with stark, profound clarity, I realized she was describing what I was feeling but never knew how to put into words.  She talked about the Lord telling her to go to church one day. Even though she didn’t feel up to it, she went anyway.  At the end of the service, the Lord prompted her to go to the altar to pray for a young woman there.  She described how she felt so displaced and inadequate to help her, but she went anyway.  She then described how the Holy Spirit lifted her up and she began to experience breakthrough like she had never experienced before.  She then said, she never understood it before, but you have to give what you need.  Indeed, a clear presentation of the law of sowing and reaping—all from a servant’s heart.

It wasn’t too many years ago.  I moved me and my son to Oklahoma with new, great expectations of the new beginning to a great adventure the Lord was taking us on.  Had I known just how hard it was going to be, I likely would have told the Lord “No.”  I came with great faith but only just enough money to support us for a few months.  I stood on the scripture found in Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”  I called in the great harvest of all the good seeds I had sown.  I stood on my knowledge and understanding of my relationship with God that he would never leave me or forsake me and in fact, he spoke to me and added to it, “To the end of the age.” So, I knew I was on another challenging but great journey with the Lord.  Within days, the Lord provided me with a job.

That would go on for about three years.  Then, my job began to phase out.  This was 2013.  I had just started school of ministry.  I finally took that step of fulfilling God’s promise to me of making me an ordained minister.  My faith was strong as I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  At the beginning of that year, I had a terrible car wreck that totaled my car and damaged my neck and right shoulder.  I had to resort to transcribing with my keyboard in my lap, yet my faith continued strong. I was determined not to allow anything to be taken from me.  One July 1, 2013, I was laid off.  Electronic medical record keeping had taken many of the accounts and there was no longer enough work to justify my employment.

Wow.  I moved me and my son to a land I did not know, people I did not know with no family I could reach out to for support of any kind.  This was hard.  I must have sent 50 resumes for work, but nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I was to the point I had to have a break or I was going to be evicted.  By this time, I had exhausted all provision I had.

Through a neighbor, I was introduced to the pastor of the local Salvation Army church.  She asked me if I would be willing to teach piano for their youth.  I was excited!  I finally had a break—even as small as it seemed. Doors even opened for me to clean a few houses. What is always amazing about God is that in all things God works all things together for our good.  It was at this very church I had my first opportunity to tell my story to the women’s group.  This ultimately opened doors for me to tell my story at their headquarters homeless shelter chapel, and eventually allowed me the opportunity to stand behind their pulpit and preach.  In all things, God is good.  All. The. Time.

Eventually, I was offered a full-time position managing their bell ringing ministry for the holidays.  Have you ever seen someone standing outside a store ringing a bell with a kettle you put money in that is hanging on a stand during the Christmas season?  Yep.  That’s what I did in Broken Arrow.  For three years I operated this ministry for them.  I absolutely loved it!  It was not only full-time work, I was able to work with people from all different backgrounds.  The common thread in everyone—we were all willing to work—we had a mind and a heart to work.  If you’ve never done it, this job is not for the faint-hearted.  It requires standing on your feet for hours at a time, and remaining cheerful and pleasant while the cold wind and even rain beats on you making you feel as if a thousand knives are cutting away at you.  At the end of the day, you feel as if you had been run over by a bus—back hurting, hips aching, wrists tired—and all you did was stand and ring a bell.

My day would start at 7 am and end at 10 pm for six days a week.  If I wasn’t working in the field, I was in the office answering the dozens of phone calls of the organizations who wanted to be scheduled to help ring the bells for this fine organization.  We would rally together each morning for a few encouraging moments to motivate the servant’s heart in remembrance of “It’s not about us.”  It was at times exhausting, but I loved it.  I saw the spirit of man at its strongest.  I saw the love of the season shown in the simplest expressions of Hi!  Merry Christmas!  Peace to you!  All from people who I know had very little to give—except the heart of a servant from within themselves.  I must say, you cannot put in a box and buy from a shelf the gratitude of those who were given an opportunity to serve and give day in and day out.

I took the time to talk with each one every day.  I heard about where they come from.  Struggles they have come through—some they are still working through.  I saw the smile on the face of those who were given life through the ability to give a smile to someone else—some who may not otherwise receive a smile throughout their day, and even some who could care less to ever understand the plight of another’s condition.  I saw great excitement when towards the end of the season, those who stuck it out and continued to give as unto the Lord were rewarded with bonuses.

I’ll never forget the tear-filled eyes and facial expression of a woman who came from almost nothing, who had little self-esteem beset upon her from the many life struggles she encountered, but with that little seed of faith within her, she stepped out and just “tried” each day.  She worked earnestly trying to “find her place.”  When she finally received the ultimate “Red Kettle” award for ringing the biggest kettle, she jumped out of her seat with excitement.  This was same excitement I saw from my son when he was ten years old and he finally made a basket for his team in basketball—he literally jumped three feet in the air!  This woman’s self-esteem grew so much throughout that season of bell ringing, she soon thereafter found stable, year-round, full-time work.  Yes. The seasons I operated the kettles ministry was very rewarding.

Yes.  As hard as working during the kettle season was, I loved it and I always hated seeing it end.

Serving is hard.  It requires giving of yourself.  Sometimes, it requires giving more of yourself than you ever thought to had, without expecting to receive.  That’s why scripture tells us in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do (whatever your task may be), work from the soul (that is, put in your very best effort), as (something done) for the Lord and not for man.  (AMP)

When we give as if we were giving to the Lord, the giving doesn’t seem to be as hard.  Be honest with yourself.  Doesn’t it seem easier to give to someone you love, rather than someone you don’t even know?  Of course it is!  When we rely on our own strength, our own understanding, our own expectations and our own perceptions of others, we will soon find ourselves asking more questions of “why” or “why not” rather than just accepting, receiving and loving.

Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.  Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5, 6.  Our perfect is example to follow is Jesus.  Jesus came to serve.  Let God show you the line to draw in your service to him.  Truly, we are not all called to serve in the same areas or tasks.  But we are all called to serve on the same battlefield.  The battlefield of pulling down those strongholds through showing God’s love to one another.  Do so with eyes wide open, willing to pray.  Then we will taste and see that the Lord is good.  Serve the Lord. Serve others.  Do all things as unto 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.

Jesus Always Cares–The Story Behind The Song

(Originally Posted 1-2-2018)

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

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

The separation was hard.  It was especially difficult because I was made to prove my case for divorce.  There was a time when I was young, as the teacher asked our class questions I always raised my hand first in class, so excited I knew the correct answer. Something happened to me from the time I married until the time I divorced. I went from a person who was positive and could see the best in everyone to a person who was so broken I didn’t know who I was anymore. I couldn’t remember who I was before I married. I couldn’t remember the last time I cried—it had been at least two years. I wasn’t able to feel that emotion. I was surviving. Literally. I’m sure now I was held up by God’s own hand and not of my own. I know this, because there was no more strength within me.

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

Even so, I protected him, and in essence, I protected his family too.  There were things that happened during our marriage that were so dreadful, so despicable and I could, in advance, feel the weight of souls who would never be able to come to terms with that reality. So, I said nothing. Only we know that truth. But we know it.  Besides, I didn’t want to destroy him.  I just wanted out.  I wanted peace.  I was so nervous. I prayed and fasted that God would show himself faithful in this on my behalf.  Indeed, God was there and his glory shown brightly in the courtroom that day.  After only 2-1/2 hours, I was granted a full divorce based on his ill-conduct and awarded full custody of our daughter.  Surreal.  Numb.  Break.  Silence.  Reserved. There is a supernatural break with divorce and the rippling effects can last generations to come if we do not allow God to make us whole. The aftereffects of the divorce were harder to some degree than living amidst the silence of suffering.  Now, it was out in the open and there were many views being voiced, many schemes, plots, plans and devices connived and schemed against us. But God…

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

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

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

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

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

Things were clicking along and finally everything was falling into place. There were 12’ 4 x 4’s along the outside of the pool on three sides.  I had them placed there so we could eventually put a cover on it to block some of the sun.  Being of Irish decent, my fair skin beamed brightly after a few minutes in the sun. I enlisted the help of my mother and my sister to take down the 12’ beams.  There is truth in the saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn.”  With the brute force of three healthy women who, with unparalleled determination for victory, one by one, down came those beams. It was an added blessing that the ground had softened from rain. At this point, dismantling the pool, in fact, was a snap, comparatively speaking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prophecy 12-3-2017

(Originally Posted 12-16-2017)

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, of course we all do during this time and season of the year.  This has been really kind of a hard year for not just me, but for a lot of people with the storms, hurricanes, fires and all of the natural disasters and things going on in our nation. Just things in our lives. But we are in a season now where the Lord says its time for breakthrough.  It is time that we stand on what he had given us, the promises he has made to us.  There is a scripture that says enter his gates with thanksgiving, enter his courts with praise. Yesterday, when I was in my prayer time with the Lord, he showed me a vision that he gave me actually over a year ago, but he showed me windows of heaven and how they kind of look ajar, like you are looking through a lense that is out of focus and you are seeing double vision. Then all of a sudden I saw those windows yesterday line up.

When I was praying, the Lord reminded me of a movie. It’s called Facing the Giants and if you’ve never seen it, it is really worth watching.  It’s a movie about a down and out football team who have had several mediocre seasons and when the coach got serious and said, “Lord I give it all to you, I’m going to follow you.  Just tell me what you want me to do.  Then everything turned around and they started winning. They got to the very last game of the season, to everybody’s amazement made it all the way to the state final playoffs.  They are facing the team that his bigger and faster than they are and who has never lost a championship tournament. In the game, they are down to the last minutes of the game.  They are using a backup kicker because their kicker got injured in one of the plays, so they called in this backup kicker into the game.  Of course, he is shaken and scared to death because he has never played football before.  This is his first season of football—he has been a soccer player, never before a football player. So they are down to the last few seconds of the game and the game is tied and they have to have a field goal in order to win it—a 51-yard field goal.  This backup kicker said, “Coach, I just don’t think I can do it. I’ve never kicked anymore longer than a 39-yard field goal.  This is too much.  I can’t do it.  The coach took him aside and he said, “Look. I need you to give me your best. Do you think God can do it?” The kicker said, “Yeah, if he wants to.” So, they set up the play and this boy noticed his dad was standing in the end zone standing and lifting his hands up as an encouragement for him. Up this point, the wind was against them.  When the kicker was on the field, he whispered a prayer to God and said, “God help me make this kick.” The minute prayed that to God, God caused the winds to change. The winds shifted and now the wind was at his back. So, the coach was yelling out to him, “Kick it now! Kick it now!” That boy kicked that ball and low and behold, it went through the end zone and through the field goal and they won the game, which was a miracle to everybody in that town.

That is exactly what I heard the Lord saying in this season for us, for his children, “Do it now!  Do it now!”  We are in a season of breakthrough.  We are in a season where we need to stand up and rise up and walk in confidence that we have the victory and all of those things God has promised to us.  Step on the doubt! Put those doubts under our feet and go forth in this new season, in this new year.  We do not have to take defeat.  We are in a season now where God says the winds have changed and have shifted, and things have lined up in the heavens.  Declare and decree what this season will bring for you, for your family, your community and your nation.

God is doing it.  We’ve seen God move.  He is shaking some things down right now. He is not finished.  He is just getting started and this is going to be our brightest hour.  I just want to leave this word with you to just encourage you.  These are the things the Lord has been saying to me and showing me.

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.