Friday, April 20, 2018

Infused with HOPE!


“We are out of options...”  This is NOT the kind of thing you want to hear from your doctor when you are having a rough year health-wise.  Good grief… it was only March!  I can’t say this hasn’t happened before because unfortunately it did.

This time it was an upper respiratory infection and pneumonia that knocked me down quickly.  My body just wasn’t recovering like it should.  The on-going sickness only exasperated the autoimmune disease (read more details about my struggle here).  I was in the midst of a flare up that wasn’t getting better! 

My neurologist had ordered the traditional go to IVIG treatments to get me back to normal quickly.  When they didn’t work, we jumped to the next best step to re-charge my immune system in a sense... steroid treatments.  Nothing was working and I only seemed to get worse.  Muscle weakness, fatigue, trouble speaking, the list goes on.  I was in a full blown flare up.  Yay me!


I’m thankful I have an aggressive neurologist who cares deeply about his patients.  He researches alternative options, talks to specialists, and weighs all options before presenting what he feels would be best.  My option at this point was to have a treatment I had six years ago.   At that time, I was bedridden most of the day with this dreaded illness with no quality of life.  The risks involved in the treatment seemed like a sensible trade for the hope of better days ahead.

HOPE… I like that word.  For me, it means there is “potential” for something good to happen.  That’s better than despair… which means to lose all hope.  I’d rather not despair the days ahead for me.  “To lose hope”… where did hope go?  Was it ever there?  Where did we lose it? 

I have faced a lot up’s and down’s in my lifetime.  Many of which could have stripped me of all hope, but they didn’t!  They don’t!  Why?  Let me tell you my secret…  I choose to put my HOPE in God instead of dwelling in a pit of despair.  Have you ever been there before?  It’s really hard to climb out of that pit when everything is going wrong in your life.  Believe me, I know!

I remember a particularly dark season where I got to the end of myself health-wise and I didn’t know what else to do.  I was so sick and nothing was working.  I was skin and bones, not getting better, and I had no options at the time to do anything else.  There were no words.  I cried out to God broken inside... nothing would come out of my mouth.  All I can say is that God met me right where I was and helped me keep pushing forward… trusting Him all the way.  I read the verse below recently and it describes what I felt at that moment to a tee.  This speaks volumes to my heart.
  



“Strength in my soul”… It was a strength I didn’t possess on my own.  To be completely transparent with you (if I haven’t already), I don’t know how I made it through this season.  It really felt like God was carrying me the whole way.  He was faithful!!!  

For those of us who might feel stuck in that “Pit of Despair”.  The verse below sounds like someone is giving themselves a pep talk.  We can see it all the way throughout chapter 42.  I love how it says in verse 5… “YET I will praise him.”  This person is believing for better days ahead… so am I!  




Psalm 42:5 (NIV)
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? 
Why so disturbed within me? 
Put your hope in God,

For I will yet praise him,

My Savior and my God.

  


Instead of choosing to dwell in a pit of despair… Put your HOPE in God!  He has always been my ever present, constant source of strength to pull me through... and He will be that for you! 

When I faced difficulties or challenging seasons of life, I could have walked AWAY from God and blamed Him like others do and have, but I didn’t.  I choose to run TO Him in the midst of my struggles and I have never, ever regretted that decision.  His peace has been immediate as He has carried me through some of my darkest seasons of life.


Here we are again after six years.  The treatments I had before put me into remission for 4 years which was awesome!  I felt like I came back to life in a sense!  I had a fresh perspective and a new way of living.  I determined to live differently from that day forward.  But… as I think back over the past six years (4 really good and 2 struggling health-wise), I wonder.  Has anything changed?  What have I accomplished in my six years?

I’ve been very introspective lately.  I’ve written special letters to my family.   In case my health declines drastically and those so called “risks” involved with this treatment conquer me, I want to be ready.  I’ve pondered my life and asked myself a lot of questions. 

Has my life impacted others for good?  Are they better for having known me?  Am I spending more time “living” life (making memories) instead of just “doing” things (I have been known to get lost in a ‘to do” list… LOL)?  Have I created memory making moments with my family?  Do they know I love them fiercely?  Have I been intentional? Have I done what God would have me do?  Have I reflected Him well to those around me?  Am I pointing people to Jesus by my life choices (actions and reactions)?


These are just a few of the many questions rolling around in my head lately.  Today I finished my last treatment (or infusion).  Now it’s all about the recovery process.  I am infused with HOPE!  Hope… that these treatments will lead me right into remission.  There is “potential” with these treatments to go into an indefinite remission.  Will you pray with me that happens?



Have you lost your HOPE and fallen into a “Pit of Despair”?  Put your hope in God, friend!  We have YET  to praise Him!  I’m believing it, do you?

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Friday, April 13, 2018

What does God think of ME?


If you struggle with your self-esteem, care too much what others think, have daddy issues, or relationship troubles, you will want to keep reading…

Recently I had the chance to speak at my boys’ school for their Spiritual Emphasis days.  I actually did two workshops for girls only.  The title of my session was “She’s Beautiful!”  The emphasis was on how to build a healthy self-esteem.   I wanted to help them answer the following questions before we finished our session…

1.  Who do others say that I am?
(What do others think of ME?)

2.  Who does God say that I am?
(What does God think of ME?)

3.  Who do I say that I am?
(What do I think of ME?)

 I thought I would take a few moments to share with you some of what I did with them on that day.   The teaching itself was way too long to put it all into one post so I have broken it up into several parts.  This is part three.  

You can read the other two posts here…“She’s Beautiful” (Part One) and “What if Barbie was a real woman” (Part Two).

We tackled the first question in my last post… Who do others say that I am?  We looked at the world’s view of beauty and discovered that we can never really measure up to their standards.  It’s totally unattainable.  Besides, ultimately we should only care about one person’s opinion in the long run… God’s.
 
I Sam. 16: 7 says…
People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NLT)

God looks beyond the surface of our lives.  He sees beauty inside and out!  You don’t have to convince Him to love you with fancy clothes, perfect skin, pretty make up or the perfect body.  He loves you for YOU… inside and out!

He doesn’t want you to be like everyone else.  God loves VARIETY!  He wants you to be YOU… the best YOU, you can be and me to be the best ME… I can be!  Different isn’t a bad thing.  It’s a God-thing. 

“Just because you aren’t like everyone else doesn’t mean
you are any less of who God created you to be.”

God want you to be YOU!   He made each of us different, unique, and special in our own way.  You were no accident.  You were made on purpose!  You are unique!  There is not another YOU out there in the whole wide world.  YOU are an original made by God… a masterpiece!


Psalm 139 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  It reminds me of God’s love for me.

You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful.  I know it with all my heart.  15 When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother's womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there— 16     you saw me before I was born.  The days allotted to me
had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began.
(Vs13-16)(GNT)

God KNOWS you and me and LOVES us still!  It blows my mind!  God’s love is unconditional, fierce, and all consuming!  He chases after us and never wants to let us go.  We are always on His mind and in His heart. 

For some of us this is hard for us to comprehend because we haven’t experienced a relationship like this before.  Maybe our relationships have been one-sided, conditional, or self-centered.  That may be, but the relationship we have with God should be different.   Did you know that if we don’t have a proper view of God, it can hinder our relationship with others?  

Let me explain…

Some of us have been blessed with amazing fathers here on earth which is awesome, but others haven’t been as fortunate.  When they think of a dad, a good, happy image does NOT come to their mind.  Those images are attached to pain, rejection, hurt, and brokenness. 


Because of this without realizing it, those with “bad dads” can begin to relate to God as they do their earthly fathers.  If their earthly fathers are: judgmental, angry, tear them down, and rarely show them love, then they can begin to expect their heavenly father to be the same way! 

When bad things happen, things don’t go their way, or they face adversity, they may feel that God doesn’t care about them, they are unloved, or rejected by Him in some way.

But, God is nothing like our earthly fathers!  He is the best daddy you could ever imagine!  If you have been fortunate enough to have an incredible godly dad, you may see things differently.  Your dad has been able to be a small reflection of God to you.  He has probably helped you see God in a loving, approachable way which is awesome! 

Imagine what you would see if you weren’t as fortunate to have a godly dad in your life.  How would you relate to God in view of an abusive, unloving dad as your reflection?  If we don’t have a proper view of God, it will affect how we live our lives and every other relationship we have in a negative way.  I mean if God doesn’t really care about us, then what is the point of trying to “be good”?

When our view of God is wrong our relationships and our view of what is truly beautiful can become distorted! We can begin to seek attention and value from others instead of God.

We can begin to think…

Pretty is showing our skin to get attention
(Dressing immodestly isn’t pretty.  It may turn the heads of others, but not for the reason you are thinking.  You are attracting the wrong kind of person and not someone you would want to some day marry.  I can promise you that!)

Letting others do whatever they want with our bodies is okay and expected.
(No it’s not!  God wants you to save your purity and the viewing of your body for your future husband!)
  
You are a daughter of the King so…
Walk like it
Talk like it
Dress like it

…and wait for a Godly man who will treat you like it!



God wants us to find our value, worth, self-esteem, and identity in Him!

We are loved, accepted, forgiven, wanted, and cherished.  Believe it today! 

If you have been struggling with comparing God (your heavenly father) to your earthly father, I want to challenge you to search the scriptures.  Make a list of all of the qualities you find in God as your father as you study.  Then compare them to your earthly father.  Ask God to help you to see Him for who He truly is.  It will be life-changing for you!

When we have a proper view of God, it changes things!  There is a song I love that paints such a beautiful picture of who God is to us.  It’s called… “Good, Good Father”.  You can listen to the song HERE. When we have a proper view of God, it changes our perspective on life and our relationship with others.

When I discovered for myself what kind of father God was to me… 
It changed things.  It changed ME!

I’m not sure what your daddy issues might be, but I encourage you to give them to God.  Let Him be that daddy you’ve always wanted and dreamed for.

My goal through my teaching was to help the girls answer 3 questions before we finished…

1.  Who do others say that I am? 
My answer to this is… Who cares?  Their opinion of you and me doesn’t matter.

2.  Who does God say that I am?
You are a beautiful masterpiece, one of a kind, made on purpose!  He wants us to find our value in Him not anything or anyone else.  He wants us to see Him for who He truly is… our heavenly daddy who loves us fiercely!

The last question was one for them to think about on their own to some degree.  They have to decide this for themselves…


3.  WHO DO I SAY THAT I AM?
Or… what do I “think” of myself?

If I don’t like me, it can cause me to go to great extremes to get others to like me.  But… when I discover WHO I am in God and that I don’t have to try to measure up to the worlds ideal view of who I should be, that sets me free to just be ME… the “me” God created me to be!

I hope you have been challenged in some way by the teaching I shared at this workshop.  I would LOVE to hear your feedback!  YOU are beautiful friend and God loves you fiercely!  Don’t you ever forget it!

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Friday, March 23, 2018

“What if Barbie was a real woman?”


If you struggle with your self-esteem, care too much what others think, have daddy issues, or relationship troubles, you will want to keep reading…


Recently I had the chance to speak at my boys’ school for their Spiritual Emphasis days.  I actually did two workshops for girls only.  The title of my session was “She’s Beautiful!”  The emphasis was on how to build a healthy self-esteem.   I wanted to help them answer the following questions before we finished our session…

                                                          1.  Who do others say that I am?
      (What do others think of ME?)

2.  Who does God say that I am?
      (What does God think of ME?)

3.  Who do I say that I am?
     (What do I think of ME?)

I thought I would take a few moments to share with you some of what I did with them on that day.   This is Part Two from my original post “She’s Beautiful” (You can read Part One HERE).

YOU are beautiful!  Is that hard for you to believe?  
Well… it’s true!  Say it out loud for all to hear, “I’M BEAUTIFUL!”

The idea of being “beautiful” is a big deal to us whether we realize it or not.  We really do care what others think about us on the outside.  But, what makes someone “Beautiful”?
We could ask a million people today this same question and probably get a million different answers.  It really comes down to how “we” define beauty.

For some Beauty is defined by the perfect shaped body, the right color hair, a perfect complexion, or lightly tanned skin.  For others it’s all about personality, smarts, and what’s in the heart. 

Did you know that there are “tools” that help us measure outward beauty?  Three come to mind for me… a mirror, a scale, and measuring tape.

Have you ever looked into a mirror and not liked what you saw?  I have!!!  It seems that the larger the mirror we look into, the MORE imperfections we find.  “I’m too fat, my nose is too big, my hair is too frizzy or too straight, my eyebrows are growing together… yikes!  This body is out of control!” 

We never seem to be perfect enough when we look into that magic mirror, do we?  But, think about it…
                             Who decides what the perfect reflection should look like?

Have you ever gotten onto a scale and not liked the number you saw? I have!!! Maybe you avoid scales like the plague or only check it at the doctor’s office.  Nobody ever seems to be skinny enough when they stand on it.  That special number recorded on the scale can be a good thing or a bad thing... depending on the person.  For most it’s a secret number never shared with others.  But, why?

                            Who decides what weight is the perfect weight for everyone?

Have you ever used measuring tape to determine how small or big an area of your body is compared to others?  I have!!!  Some of the girls in my workshop didn’t even know what a measuring tape was when I held it up.  I explained that it was used to help measure every nook and cranny of your body to see if you are the perfect size… and it’s used for sewing too of course.   But, think about it…
                                        
                                          Who decides what that perfect size should be?


I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, “Barbie” was our role model.  Everyone wanted to grow up to be like this little doll.  She was skinny, had long, beautiful blonde hair, perfect white teeth, an amazing wardrobe, a cool pink car, a horse, a fancy house, and a hunk of a boyfriend named Ken. 
                                The big problem with Barbie is that an “Unrealistic Image” 
was placed in our minds as children that we could never attain. 

The perfect reflection, weight, and size of Barbie is totally impossible for anyone to ever accomplish!  We can NEVER measure up to it!  Let me explain…

Check out the comparison of Barbie’s measurements to those of an average woman below.  Barbie’s size and measurements do not add up to balanced proportions.  If she was a real woman, the closest comparison would be to that of someone who is severely anorexic.

What would life be like if a REAL woman had Barbie's body?
Based on her measurements, her bones would be frail causing lots of problems.  Her head would be two inches larger than the average  American woman's resting on a neck twice as long and six inches thinner.  Because of this she'd be entirely incapable of lifting her head.  She would have to walk on all fours to get around because her feet are so disproportionately small and her legs are so long.  She would have trouble standing because her chest would pull her forward onto her toes.  To top it all off, her head would be the same circumference as her waist meaning she would only have room for half a liver and few inches of intestines.   The result would be chronic diarrhea and death from malnutrition.  This is not what every girl dreams of when she imagines being like Barbie when she grows up.  

                       Did you know that 3 Billion women on the planet don’t look like Barbie?
(Only 8 women will ever come close.)


 Barbie vs. Average
                                   Barbie                   Average Woman
Height
5’9”
5’5”
Head
22”
20”
Bust
       39” (FF)
      36” (B)
Waist
19”
34”
Hips
33”
40”
Weight
110 lbs

(35 lbs underweight for her height)

140 lbs
Shoe Size
Size 3
Size 8.5

These measurements are totally impossible!!!   Nobody could ever accomplish this with out paying a lot of money out for plastic surgery and/or becoming severely anorexic in the process.


God did not create each of us to look like ONE person here on earth.  God likes variety!!!  The world has fooled us into believing that we have to change ourselves to become this PERFECT ideal of Barbie.  But nobody can do it! 

The rules aren’t fair when they make the “perfect ideal” so out of reach for us and they use Photo shop among other programs on all of the images they show us of skinny, perfect people in magazines and on TV.  Even the models who are in the pictures don’t measure up to these Barbie standards.

Do you remember those initial questions I was hoping to answer in my workshop for the girls?  The first one was…

Who do OTHERS say that I am? (What do others think of me?)

My answer:  Who Cares?  It’s not worth my time or energy.

I’m sure glad God doesn’t see us the same way the world does.  He looks beyond the surface of our lives into our hearts.  He sees beauty inside and out.

I Samuel 16:7 says…
“People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NLT)

Be watching soon for my next post in this series of notes from my workshop for the girls called… “What does God think of ME?”

I hope if nothing else you have learned from this blog post that we can NEVER measure up to the world’s standards of beauty.  It is totally unattainable and a waste of time.  God made you the way you are for a reason!  He adores you and thinks YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!  Believe it friend!  It’s true!

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Saturday, March 3, 2018

"She's Beautiful!"


  
Recently I had the chance to speak at my boys’ school for their Spiritual Emphasis days.  I actually did two workshops for girls only.  The title of my session was “She’s Beautiful!”  The emphasis was on how to build a healthy self-esteem. 

I started drafting my thoughts a month in advance.  I had awesome props, great ideas for group involvement, and a dynamic presentation prepared.  All went well until half-way through my first workshop.  In the middle of sharing my voice became weak and my speech began to slur.  I noticed I was having trouble putting my words together.  This was all too familiar for me.  I was having a flare up and this was a bad one.
  
I explained to the girls what was happening to me and that I needed their help.  They jumped right in to assist me.  I had different ones read scriptures I prepared, some parts of my notes, and even lead out in song (I was never planning to do that!  Nobody would ever want to hear me sing!).  The song was beautiful! 

The girls listened closely as I attempted to share what God had put on my heart.  They had such sympathetic and caring hearts.  I felt bad, like I ripped them off on their workshop even if I couldn’t do anything about it.  It was frustrating.

I had a two hour break before my next session so I thought I might be okay.  I was hoping it would give time for my voice to recover.  I had no such luck.  I could tell before beginning the second workshop that I would have trouble so I improvised.  I found a dry erase marker and wrote tons of stuff on the board behind me.  They were main ideas I wanted the girls to take home with them if I couldn’t present things very well.  By the time I was done, it was covered with truths I hoped some how landed inside their hearts.


  For the second workshop I started off explaining my dilemma.  The girls seemed very sympathetic and wanted to help me as well.  For this one I couldn’t get very far into my teaching before my voice started falling apart.  I had many different girls assist me in reading main points in my notes, scriptures, and this time we sang the whole song together of “Good, Good Father” (Listen to the song HERE).  It was SO beautiful!  I wish I could have recorded the girls singing for you to hear.

After each point we discussed, I would have the girls say out loud… 

“I AM BEAUTIFUL!”  

The first group was very quiet all along when they said it like they didn’t believe a word they just said.  The last group (with more of the older girls in it) said it loud and proud.  They even shouted it at the end for everyone to hear down the hallway in the other workshops.  It was powerful!

At the end of each workshop I had the girls share something that stood out to them from my teaching time.  I wanted to verify in some way that something I said got inside or at least they heard it.  From what they shared, many of them had been impacted by my attempts to communicate with them.  What God had put on my heart had gotten into theirs in bits and pieces!  God is faithful!



I headed to work immediately after my last workshop to finish up paperwork.  I was lucky to even get off to be there this year to speak.  The minute I hit the parking lot at work I called my doctor’s office.  If I didn’t get this flare up under control, things would get out of hand quickly.  By the time I got home that night my voice was pretty much gone and I was very weak.  The dreaded autoimmune disease strikes again!  Boo!  (To read more about my condition click HERE).

 As I got home, I began to re-play my day in my mind… mainly those workshops.  I prayed the girls got something out of it despite my personal issues and limitations.  Just saying that frustrates me.  Each workshop had about 17 girls in them.  The first group had more of the middle-schoolers and the second one had a good mix of middle and high school girls. 



I thought back over the day… I started each workshop off by giving the girls a sheet of paper to fill out while we waited for everyone to arrive.  It was entitled, “5 things I like about ME”.  Some of the girls did a double take.  They thought it said “didn’t like”.  They were hoping it said that because that was a much easier list for them to write.  As I walked around the room, I saw many blank pages.  They couldn’t think of anything they liked about themselves.  It was sad.

For many of us, this would be true of us too.  The struggle is real.

Once they all arrived I introduced myself and jumped right into my teaching time.  I shared how if God was here in the flesh today beyond a shadow of a doubt I know He would brag on you and say… “That’s my daughter isn’t she BEAUTIFUL!”

I told them that we were going to talk about Beauty, Barbie’s, Boys, and the Best daddy ever. 

I wanted to help them answer 3 questions they might be asking themselves

1.  Who do others say that I am?
(What do others think of ME?)

2.  Who does God say that I am?
(What does God think of ME?)

3.  Who do I say that I am?
(What do I think of ME?)

Since this post is getting long, I’m going to push PAUSE.  I want to be able to share with you all of the specifics I did with the gals on that day.  It was powerful and life changing! 

  
Be watching soon for more details to come in my next post called, “What if Barbie was a real woman?”

If you struggle with your self-esteem, care too much what others think, have daddy issues, or relationship troubles, you won’t want to miss this post.

If God was here in the flesh today beyond a shadow of a doubt I know He would brag on you and say… “That’s my daughter isn’t she BEAUTIFUL!”
(and for the guys reading he would say…”That’s my son, isn’t he HANDSOME!”)

Believe it, its true!  God is bragging on you!

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie