Just a glimpse of me...

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Do you ever feel STUCK? In 2000, I began looking for answers to some tough questions in my life. I'd searched high & low and finally conceded to search the promises found in the Bible. Those promises have sustained & guided me through the loss of a parent, the struggle with anxiety & depression, the loss of a valued relationship and so much more! I've found joy amid the pain. And, I want to share it with you!

28 February 2012

Black Bean Combo & Being Complete

And, how would one segue from black beans to being complete in God...

I recently learned that one of my Facebook friends loves black beans -- just like me :) When I was a struggling single person living from check to check, I "invented" a favorite meal that costs pennies to make. I loved it & continued serving it beyond those single person days.  Over the years, the kids & I gave it a few names - Fiesta Meal, Black Bean Fiesta & the one that stuck, Black Bean Combo. It continues to be a family favorite. Here's the way I make it...
Black Bean Combo

  1. Prepare some rice (we use Basmati Rice most of the time but, saffron rice is yummy & Minute Rice works fine too).
  2. Warm up a can of low sodium black beans (or make them the old fashioned way).
  3. Cut up some fresh tomatoes (if you are desperate, open a can of cubed tomatoes)
  4. Grate some cheese (any kind works; cheddar is our favorite)
  5. When everything is done, the BEST way to serve it is in a clear, glass bowl... LAYERED...

I usually put the rice in first; then put the cheese ('cause it melts on the hot rice); then put the tomatoes (they're cold); then pour a couple of scoops of black beans & juice on top. It all melts together & is WONDERFUL!!!

Not everyone knows this but, when people eat rice & beans together, it combines in the body to make a complete protein Third world civilizations have lived on that "complete protein" for ages! Kinda cool how God made that happen :)

If you know me, you know that almost everything reminds me of a lesson from God's Word. Since I'm FAR FROM perfect and incredibly flawed, one of my favorite scriptures is when Paul tells of Jesus speaking with him... 

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." and Paul responded, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 

Black Bean Combo is similar to what is offered to us by God. Did you know that?!?!?! We thankfully give Him all the imperfections in us AND God's promise from Colossians 2:10a "... and we are complete through our union with Christ" is fulfilled in our lives! 

I'm giving thanks in ALL of what is happening around me... knowing that God will complete it!

24 February 2012

Seriously... Hide the Fact that I'm Messed Up?

I've had more than a few people ask me recently if I want to be "so honest" in this blog.  And, when I really think about it, the answer is "Of course not!"  But, I've chosen to approach this blog (and a huge part of my life at this point) with openness and honesty.  I admit, there are still chapters in my life which I have not chosen to make public. Perhaps those chapters will be released at a later date :) I've make a huge effort to share only MY story - not that of others.  I believe that EVEN when someone else's story has a huge impact on your life, it's not your story to share.

I've been journaling off & on since I was a little girl.  When I was in 1st or 2nd grade, my parents bought me a little diary with a lock on the side.  I kept the diary under my pillow.  I kept the key on the stand beside my bed hidden under a doily my grandmother had made. And, I am not ashamed to tell you that I penned some powerful notes in the days of pig-tails & puppy dogs!  Many of them were about that cute neighbor boy who never seemed to notice me.  Some were about wishing my dad wasn't the preacher but, my friend's dad - a farmer with 3 horses, chickens, cows, goats, fields & woods. Some notes chronicled the amount of strawberries my best friend & I ate while sitting on the dirt in her father's strawberry field - the same field that grew cotton on other years. Other notes talked of wishing I had a Palomino pony who'd take me to school each morning instead of me having to walk or a little monkey who stayed in my room but went to the bathroom outside so my mom wouldn't be upset!

Some of my current entries have been pulled from diaries, journals, notes to dear friends, etc.  But, regardless of when or where they were written, I intend them to be open & honest as I share them.  I want them to communicate that my life looks perfect from some angles & looks like burning rubble from others. My life is no different than anyone else's life -- in the fact that what is seen on the outside doesn't always portray what is happening on the inside.

If you've read anything I've written, you can see that the ONE thing that makes sense of all my craziness... the up's & down's... the seen & unseen... is my relationship with God & my love for Him. I am not & have never been a "perfect Christian."  I've made the choice to wake up each morning & try to honor Him to the best of my abilities that day! If I leave nothing else in this world, I pray that I leave the HOPE for others to know that God makes the difference... only God...  no matter how messed up you are!

"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:13

23 February 2012

I'm Going to Die Before I'm 35

Run to Him & know when you're
hiding from Him, He'll always
seek after you!
I'm going to die before I'm 35... I'm quite certain of it. I knew this from about the age of 12. Back in the days when I was gangly (not just skinny) -- resembling a rather unattractive 7 year old the height of a full grown adult! I always felt "a little less" than others around me. And, the ever-present silent thoughts occupied my mind: "You will only have to take this for less than 35 years. That's not TOO long. You can make it."

I took comfort in those thoughts wrapping them around me to insulate me from feeling, connection, pain, relationship.... life!

During my teens & early 20's I was in a constant battle with my thoughts, perceptions, self-image, etc. There were really only moments of rest from the thoughts that plagued my mind - those that brought me to the depths of despair one day & into a numbing sense of dullness on others. Thoughts that haunted me in the cold, dark hours of the night. Thoughts that whispered to me "No one will like you when they get to know you." I understood I'd never be loved by anyone who didn't HAVE to love me -- after all, I was ME! Thoughts and talk of suicide were probably a daily occurrence for more years than I want to remember. And the one thing that kept me from going through with it was that I felt I'd go to hell & then it would NEVER end, not even at 35! I would be in anguish forever!!

The dawn of my awakening came at the end of my sophomore year at Anderson University It occurred to me that quite a few of the people who "liked me" at the beginning of my freshman year still seemed to "like me" then. Imagine that?!? It was then I began to recognize some of the brokenness, in the lives of those around me & in some things that had happened to me as a child, as contributors to my initial feelings of unworthiness. So, I spent the next 5-6 years being incredibly angry with those people & the injustices I'd suffered. All the time I was taking comfort inside knowing that the hurt would all be over in a matter of years.

In my late-20's I coincidentally met & became friends with a Christian counselor, psychologist & author -- a pretty "cool" person, I thought. Over the course of a year, I began to see that although people & circumstances had affected my development, I had a choice to break free from those bonds. I'd been a Christian from an early age. I'd strayed away... and come back... and strayed away... and come back. But, I'd never actually believed that God could mend my brokenness from all those years ago. Putting the past behind me was scary. I was entering the unknown. And, we all know, there's no control in the unknown.

In the coming years, I thought less about what I knew: I was going to die before I turned 35. As I drew closer to the age of 35, the thought no longer brought comfort. I wondered, how will my passing affect my husband... my daughter... my son?  What brought me peace through the struggles of my youth & young adulthood now brought me a sense of sadness. 

Well, the 35th birthday has come & gone. I'm still here. I still have moments when I'm transported back to the gangly 12 year old girl who wasn't asked to the popular girl's slumber party... the 14 year old who locked herself in the bathroom threatening her parents that she'd end it all.. the 16 year old who was asked when she was going to start looking like a girl by the popular boy in the youth group. But, in those moments of remembering, I am reminded that there was plan in process for my life. A plan that was leading to a future & a hope.

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD.
"They are plans for good and not for disaster,
to give you a future and a hope."

I don't question the thoughts that played out in my mind all those years. I believe that God allowed me to find peace of mind in the only way I could experience it in those darkest of days. And in those dark days, He was doing a work in me to bring me closer to wholeness. There are still times when I struggle with depression - especially in the cold, bleak winter months. And, there've been several times in my life when peace came in the storm with some feeling of knowing the outcome. Quite often the storm passed and, the outcome of which I was certain never happened.

photo by T. Getz
I'm willing to allow Him to write my story - any way He chooses to write it. There will be more storms ahead to face. But, I take comfort knowing that I have a future and a hope.

22 February 2012

I Thought Only Catholics Did That?

Letting someone put ASHES on my forehead?  Seriously?  I thought only Catholics did that?  And, I'm not a Catholic... I'm a Christian. 

Well now...  that's how I looked at it when I was a very young child... until my father, a Protestant minister & lover of Christ and humanity, actually heard me speak the words, "I'm not a Catholic... I'm a Christian."  He quickly made it very clear that the name I had claimed at a very young age, that of "Christian", was not a name of exclusion of believers in Christ, but a name of inclusion for all those who believed in Jesus as Lord & Savior. I'm so glad my dad helped me to see that at a young age - just one of the ways that man blessed my life!  

Today is Ash Wednesday and, as Kimberly Majeski states in her blog post, Ash Wednesday, "This is the day when believers across the globe gather to receive ashes on their foreheads to remind us that we are all dust." 

We have all heard the saying, "Ashes to ashes; dust to dust."  We come from dust; we return to dust.  The term 'Ashes to ashes' comes from the Anglican Burial Service. A portion of that service being taken from the text:

By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return."  Genesis 3:19
So today, I acknowledge that...
I am made of dust...

YET, part of a glorious eternal plan!


17 February 2012

Wasting Precious Time

Tick Tock! Tick Tock!
There aren't enough minutes in the day. 
Do you ever feel this way? Are there things that you are convicted to do on any given day that don't happen? 

I struggled with those regretful feelings for years & years. I still have to remind myself that God doesn't intend my sincere service to Him to be a struggle. 

When walking early in the morning a few years ago, I was talking to God about not having enough time. I "heard" a voice in my heart say, "You have just as many minutes in your day as everyone else on the planet. I've given you enough time to do what I need you to do TODAY!" Since that time I've tried not to rake myself over the coals for what might have felt like missed opportunities AND to trust that God's timing will cover my service for Him.

Even for those who don't claim Christ as their Lord, I think this is a great thought:  

"Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And, if worry can't accomplish a little thing like that, what's the use of worrying over bigger things?"

Don't waste precious time second guessing things that are in the past OR how God will use what you offer up to Him in the moment of genuine love & service!

Linking with Ann Voskamp - A Holy Experience today... 

13 February 2012

Winter Blues? Watch GULP

I tweet...  for Women's Ministries at Madison Park Church under the name of @MadisonPkWomen  Have you noticed, as I have, that SO much of the news today is discouraging.  I purposefully searched for a positive site for encouraging, uplifting news.  I just started following @TheGoodReport  I've not been disappointed at all.  

Since I struggle with seasonal depression, the title to their link caught my eye.  Life is a matter of perspective.  Sometimes the things that seem the most frightening and overwhelming open doors for wonderful things to happen!  

Take a look at...
Winter Blues? Watch GULP. Stop Motion Brilliance Filmed On A Beach

This year I began doing Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts Joy Dare.  In "naming" and listing three simple things that bring me joy each day, I'm reminded of all the GIFTS out there ready to be had -- if we will just open our eyes.  Finding joy in the simplest things can make all the difference.

Winter makes me feel tired & weak. But, I chose to be strong! As it states in Nehemiah 8:10: "And he continued, 'Go and celebrate... and share gifts... This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!'" 

Strength in Joy

Start listing 3 things which bring you JOY each day.  One of mine today just might be peanut butter toast & a glass of cold milk.  Get stronger... when you name things which bring you joy!

12 February 2012

One Thousand Gifts #1000Gifts #JoyDare Monthly Links

but, I decided to break this post into months!

One Thousand Gifts (by Ann Voskamp)
#1000Gifts #JoyDare
Buy book here...      

I've taken the 1,000 Gifts Dare for 2012... click on the name of each month below to see the MANY ways God has blessed me daily...

January 2012... I find joy

February 2012... I find joy

March 2012... I find joy

April 2012... I find joy

May 2012... I find joy

June 2012... I find joy

July 2012... I find joy

August 2012... I find joy

September 2012... I find joy

October 2012... I find joy

November 2012... I find joy

December 2012... I find joy

And... the JOY of the LORD is my strength.
Nehemiah 8:10