Sunday, December 3, 2017

“An Old-Fashioned Hello”

The Christmas season has officially begun.  I turned on the Christmas music yesterday.  I don’t know why, but it just seems wrong to begin celebrating before Thanksgiving!  

I guess people were pretty excited in my town this year.  The week before Thanksgiving you could view Christmas lights and trees up everywhere.  We could have taken a car tour around town and had a full night of viewing if we wanted to!

Don’t you just love all the holiday spirit…“Christmas movies, Christmas music playing on your favorite radio station (everyday, all day long), special holiday beverages, bells ringing, and decorations galore.  Not to mention all of the Christmas cards you get in the mail from those close to you and far away spreading their Christmas cheer.  It’s a fun time of year!

I like to get the Christmas cards where it says more than just a “Merry Christmas” or “love so and so”.  I like it when people take the time to write a little note inside.  It adds something special to the card.  It says… I was thinking about you as I sent this BEYOND just writing my name out.  It’s more personal that way.  At least, I think so.

I’ve been trying to teach my oldest son the art of the “Thank You” card.  He is going on a special mission’s trip with his senior class in May to Costa Rica and he is raising funds to go.  He has sent out several letters asking for prayer and support from friends, family, church folks, and the like.  As a result, several have sponsored him to go.

Each time we hear of a new sponsor, I have him send out a “Thank You” card.  At first, he acted like it was a chore I was making him do until he heard a recent response from a recipient.  It was a lady from our church that said…

“This is the first time I have EVER received a personal thank you from anyone I have given money to for a trip at your school.” 

It really meant a lot to her.  My son was impressed.  I reiterated to him that a “Thank You” card is a personal way to show how much you appreciate what someone else has done for you.  It means a lot more when you send it out in the mail… even if you could hand deliver it.  It shows you planned ahead, thought of them, and care.  Sometimes the extra effort to do the snail mail route says more.  It’s a nice surprise!

Have you ever received an “Old-fashioned Hello” in YOUR mailbox?   Something besides a Christmas card?  Was it a “Thank You” card or maybe even a hand-written letter.  My husband and I wrote letters to each other for a whole summer that we were apart in college.  I still have those special notes and cards.  I couldn’t wait for the mail to come each day, hoping there was a special surprise for me!

Recently I opened my mailbox to find a surprise.  It was an old school, handwritten letter (on lined paper and everything with more than one page attached) from my cousin.  I think she sent it to me as a challenge to write her back in the same fashion.  She COULD have written me via Facebook message or email, but she chose this route.

I left the hand addressed envelope and letter beside my computer for days to remind me to write her back.  It tormented me.  She lives in Germany now and it was so much easier to just catch up online, but it wasn’t as personal.

When the letter arrived, it brought a flash of memories of her and me writing one another as teenagers.  We lived two hours away from each other.  It was our way of staying connected.  Long distance phone calls were way too expensive back then.  We shared our life with one another on paper and it was special!

I think somewhere along the way we have lost something with the progression of technology.  I’m not saying all technology is bad, but something is missing… and I think that something may be the art of the “Thank You” card and the “Old-fashioned Hello”.  The personal touch that says I really care.  It’s time we bring it back!

With that in mind, I have a challenge for you.  Last year my family decided to keep up our Christmas cards.  We left them hanging from the doorway well past new years so we could pray for each family who sent us a card.  It was amazing and so powerful!  We even sent a picture of the card some sent us months later to show them we prayed for them that night.  It was awesome!

My challenge is this
I dare you to send me a Christmas card this year.  But…not just any card.   Send me one with a special, personal note inside.   Of course put the “Merry Christmas” and the “from so and so” too, but also write me a note of how we can pray for you this year.

This gives you the chance to step out of your comfort zone and do something “Old-fashioned.  It also gives me the chance to surprise my husband (Shhhh!!!).  I want all cards from this post to be sent to him at work (Faith Church).

Send cards to:
Al & Julie Davis
2817 E. 53rd St.
Anderson, IN.  46013

I dare you to get more personal when it comes to showing your love and appreciation for others this year.  Add a stamp and make it special.  The “Old-fashioned Hello” never gets old.  I promise!

Living to leave a legacy,

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Are you feeling “STUCK”?

Do you need a break thru? Are you seeking direction for your life? Do you feel “stuck” in your walk with God? Do you not know what to do next or how to accomplish what God has put before you? If so, have you ever thought about fasting?

Last week I did something crazy. I fasted NETFLIX! I know… it doesn’t sound like a big deal. I’m not addicted or a binge watcher or anything, but it had become some what of a distraction for me. For that reason and the fact that I want to push past the rut I’m in and move closer to God, I decided to take a break from it. The results were awesome!

WHY should we fast?
Fasting or putting something aside for awhile (while focusing MORE on God during that time) can do amazing things! When we give God MORE attention He brings… Break thru, we can hear His voice better, feel His nudges better, His word becomes alive to us as we read it, what our priorities should be become clearer to us, and so much more. Not to mention mediocre relationships with God become radical!
When we fast, we choose to take the focus off of “us” for a specific amount of time and purposely place our focus on God. Fasting helps us gain perspective, learn self-control, softens our hearts, gives us direction for the future, opens up our schedules, realigns our priorities, clears out the clutter, silences the noise, and unclogs the blockage in our lives. What kind of blockage am I speaking about? Well… it could be writer’s block, but many times it’s those things blocking fresh vision for your life, or God dreams for the future.

As you take the time to fast and focus more on God, it’s almost like a “Spiritual Drano” is poured deep down into your spirit. I can almost hear it bubbling, fizzing, and popping like peroxide in a wound. It’s eating away at all of the “ugly” inside of us. Once all of it is broken up and pushed out of the way, there is more room for God’s spirit to flow freely in our lives.

What could happen in and through you if you chose to set all distractions aside and focus more on God for just ONE week? I think you would be shocked at the results!

WHAT could we fast?
I’ve heard it said before… “No pain, no gain!” That is totally true when it comes to fasting. Whatever you decide to fast, you need to choose something that will be painful for you to lose for a week. If it isn’t hard or a sacrifice for you to do, you won’t see the results you were hoping for. Here are some ideas for you to try…

Food- There are a variety of ways people do this. They fast ALL food and drink only drink water. They might only eat fruits and veggies or just fast a meal a day. When it comes to fasting food, make sure you are doctor approved if you have any health issues or risks. Don’t feel like you are missing out if you can’t do this particular type of fast. There are so many other ways you can fast something for God.

Note: If you are fasting food and you aren’t replacing that time with MORE time with God then you are just dieting.

Other things we could fast are…
Social Media, a Sport, a Hobby, Video Games, Chocolate, Listening to certain music, Pop (or soda whatever you like to call it… LOL), TV, computer, phone, reading certain things, going to the movies, hanging out with certain people, Spending money on certain things, Wearing Make Up (I know someone who actually did this. They were touched powerfully through this fast!). I think you get the point. Fast whatever God lays on your heart!

The results come as we obey God’s leading, stay committed to follow through, and set all distractions aside.

HOW do we fast?
First off I would say… you need a plan! Determine WHAT you are fasting and for HOW LONG you will be doing this. Share this with a close friend or family member to keep accountable. Sometimes it’s easier to skip out on your commitment to following through when nobody else knows. Accountability helps.

How long should you fast? I would suggest you plan your fast for at least a week. You don’t really see the full benefit of your fasting otherwise.

The whole idea of fasting is to spend MORE purposeful time with God. If you are fasting a meal… spend that time praying and seeking more of God. If you are fasting secular music… replace that time with playing Christian music and more time with God. If you are seeking God’s direction for your life or having trouble making a big decision… set aside specific times to pray and spend more time with God. Give God your complete attention during this time.

It’s hard to really seek God when there are so many distractions all around us

How do we do it? I have a few ideas for you that may help… 

Find a private place you won’t be interrupted to be with Him. Seek out some place where you won’t be distracted (or at least you are distracted less). It may not be the same place each day, but find somewhere to steal away moments with God. You could pray in the shower, in the car, on a walk, in a closet, in your bedroom, pretty much anywhere you can get alone and won’t be distracted.

Choose a special time to meet with God. If you choose a specific time, there is a better chance it will happen. Choose a time that fits best for YOU so it happens.

What should our time with Him look like? It can be different for everyone. I would suggest you put on some worship music… (Music that will focus your heart on spending more time with God) and start to pray. Get hungry for more of God. Pour your heart out to Him… the good, bad, and ugly. He isn’t surprised by anything. Take time to surrender every area of your life to Him. Ask for forgiveness, pray for fresh vision for your life, pray for break through in your life and others, start a prayer list, etc... Then after you have prayed awhile, open your Bible and begin reading. Choose a specific book of the Bible to read during this week Esther is a good one. Powerful things happened when she fasted and prayed! (One chapter a day is a good start).

Continue the conversation all day long! Prayer is NOT an event we do each day to mark off of our “to do” list. It’s taking time and making time to connect with our heavenly father and best friend. Sometimes it will be connecting randomly throughout the day like I do with my spouse and kids (through texts, calls, and little notes) and other times it will be setting aside special, purposeful time to be together. The quick and easy connecting with my family is great, but when we have time to have a family night together or my spouse and I are able to have a date night our relationship has the opportunity to grow deeper.

Supplies Needed:
What do you need for this special fast? Well, I would suggest getting a notebook. You could do the basic spiral bound school type notebook with lined paper. They are pretty cheap. Bring it with you wherever you go to spend time with God. Take time to talk with Him, but also make time to listen. Write down scriptures that stand out to you as you read the Bible, specific things you want to pray about, and anything else that comes to mind as you seek Him.

Be purposeful in your pursuit of MORE of God! When your fast is over… if you have been faithful to what God has asked you to do, you should feel different! You should be more sensitive to His voice and obedient to His nudges. You should have clarity, feel peace, and have more self-control just to name a few obvious changes.

Two scriptures come to mind when I think about fasting…

Philippians 4:6-7 says
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (NIV)

Fasting is a time to lay your requests at His feet trusting Him with the outcome. When we do, He promises to wrap us in His peace… hearts and minds! 

James 4:8 says…
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (ESV)

As we spend MORE time with God during our fast… drawing closer to Him, this verse promises that HE will draw near to us. I love that! Regardless of whether we get our answer during our fast, we will feel closer to God by the end! That alone is worth it all!

I don’t have all the answers when it comes to fasting, but hopefully I’ve given you some ideas so you can test it out for yourself.

In case you just stumbled upon this blog post accidentally… and you don’t have a personal relationship with God (or you have strayed from a previous commitment), I don’t want to leave you hanging.

Maybe you were hooked by the whole idea of needing a change or wanting a break through. If so, I want to let you know that the change or breakthrough you are looking for comes through a personal relationship with God. He makes all the difference!

I challenge you to take a moment today and connect with God
. Share your heart with Him… all of it! He wants to hear the good and the bad. When you are finished invite Him to come into your heart and life. Start a fresh life with Him today. After you do so, be sure to message me. I want to hear all about it! It’s life changing!!!

Fasting… it’s a whole new adventure! Try it some time!

Living to leave a legacy,

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The ONE thing I forgot…

I made a list.  I’m a list maker.  I can’t help myself!  This list isn’t the normal grocery list, Christmas list, mailing list, or “to do” list I regularly write.  It’s a list that’s even MORE important.

It’s a special list just for my boys.  I like to call it my “Mentoring to Manhood” list.  It’s a list of things to sort of help prepare them for the future… and for life!  (…or at least I hope it does!!) 

On this list you will find a variety of things… How to change a tire, How to sew on a button, Cooking, Cleaning, and the like…  It covers many categories. It’s filled with all of the things I think my boys need to know to be ready for life.  Well… life on their own that is.

It wasn’t until recently that it hit me that I was missing something pretty important on my list!  I’ve got a lot of things on my list mind you so it was quite eye opening for me.  I have:  Household goals, Financial goals, Car Maintenance goals, Home Maintenance goals, Professional goals, Social goals, Character goals, Spiritual goals, and Reading goals.  That’s all good and all, but this missing category has the potential to throw off all the rest if it isn’t in check.  I some how failed to factor in setting EMOTIONAL GOALS.

The missing category probably stood out to me more because my boys were both dealing with emotional issues.  Needless to say they weren’t reacting the way I had hoped.  Their reaction to hurt, offense, and the like has caused me to ask myself some hard questions:  

Am I helping prepare my boys in HOW to “process” life?  Am I teaching them HOW to emotionally handle the ups and downs that life may deal them?  

I guess I kind of hoped they would just watch my life and their dad’s (who handles things so much better than me) and follow suit.  But… as I look back across my life, I have to ask myself a question… “Have I handled things properly?”  “Have I ever or do I now carry around emotional baggage from the past?”

I visited a small group recently that was full of broken, hurting people. Life had hurt them.  People had hurt them.  They had been hurt A LOT over their lifetime.  As a result they carried emotional baggage.  They wanted to be free!  Some have experienced freedom in the group while others are in the process of getting there.  Healing is a choice, friends!

When we are hurt, what do we do?  I witnessed my boys’ reactions first hand and learned quickly that I haven’t been a good teacher.  Well… maybe I have dealt with things in the proper way personally, but I haven’t taught them well HOW to do the same.  Their preference when hurt by others is to get mad, shove the offense under the rug (not dealing with it), try to forget it ever happened, and move on with their life. 

Whoa!  This is definitely not the way to handle hurt!  Actually this pattern is NOT setting them up to walk in freedom, but rather lends to ADDING “baggage” to their lives at a young age.  

Following this pattern will only cause you to (1)hold on to the offense, (2)feed it by talking to others (which only makes things worse), and then (3) bury it inside of your hearts for safe keeping… thinking all is well.

The result is that offense begins to grow like a cancer undetected inside of you.  The fruit of this cancer becomes roots of un-forgiveness, bitterness, and anger. 

Check out the chart below I found that shows the destructive path of offense.  Some of us may have traveled this way before.

The scary thing is that those who are sick with “offense” have no idea it is there growing and festering inside of them until they explode unexpectedly without warning!  I haven’t even mentioned how deadly this can be to the spiritual LIFE of the individual.  It creates distance between them and God.  It gets harder to hear His voice and feel His presence because the heart is sick.

I do NOT want this for my boys!  So… with just a short time left for my oldest and another year or so left for my youngest I am adding to my special list a few more things…

-How to deal with offense
-How to truly forgive someone
-How to deal with disappointment
-How to deal with conflict
-How to say you are sorry and mean it
-How deal with pride and have humility
-How to deal with toxic people and be a good judge of character…

By no means am I finished yet with my list.  I’m trying to think outside of the box and pray about this… allowing God to reveal things to me to share with them… for “us” (my hubby and I) to share with them.   I realize I can’t shelter my boys from everything!  I know they will get their feelings hurt at times and be disappointed.  It’s inevitable, but if I can save them some pain or help them better prepare for what’s ahead in life then I want to do so.  After all, they are my babies and what else is a mom to do!

Have you made a list for your kids?  If not, I challenge you to do so.  Are you carrying around emotional baggage from a horrible past?  If so, I want to encourage you to give it to God.  He is the only one that can truly set you free!  Choose today to walk in freedom!

Living to leave a legacy,

Thursday, August 31, 2017

An open letter to all of God's wandering children

This was posted on 7/21/15, but still rings true in my heart today...

Hello Prodigals.  In case you were wondering... You are LOVED and missed dearly!  It’s been awhile since we’ve talked or even seen each other.    I have so many fond memories of our times together.  I understand why you left, but things haven’t been the same without you.  I hope you are doing well.  The last time I saw you, you seemed so lost.  When I looked into your eyes it felt as though I could see into your soul and it was empty. 

My heart ached to fix things for you, but there comes a point when this God thing has to become real and personal to you.  You have to own it!  God is amazing and oh so real!  I know this first hand.  He has met me at my lowest moments and in my darkest hours.  He has carried me through so many things.  I don’t know where I would be without Him.  He has filled up all of the empty spots of my life.  He has wrapped me in His love and overwhelmed me with His peace.

I have shared my life with you (in good times and bad).  My faith in God has been messy, but genuine. I have been available to answer questions, pray for you, and be there when you needed me.  You have been in my thoughts and prayers.  Regardless of my efforts, ultimately the choice was yours.  I understand your decision, but I beg you to change your mind.

You were hurt, felt judged, disappointed, and confused.  You felt forgotten, unappreciated, and unnoticed.  You felt far from God while you made efforts to move closer to Him.  Enough was enough.  Things did not pan out the way you expected and you gave up… you walked AWAY from God.  When you needed Him most where was He?  You never felt Him, yet others did.  You felt all alone.

I beg you to “remember”.  Remember when you experienced Him for the first time.  Remember how you felt when you first sensed His presence wrapping around you.  Remember the peace He poured over your heart during those difficult times.  Remember when you read the Bible and it came alive to you.  Remember when He answered your prayers and used you to touch someone else for Him.  Remember the youth retreats, camps, conventions, radical worship times, and powerful services.  Remember the people around you that inspired you by their own walk with God.  He was real to you at some point.  You were drawn to the reality of God and you wanted more.  You were hungry for the things of God.  Remember?

When I think of you and remember my heart is sad.  I don’t want you to walk around empty, lonely, and hopeless anymore.  I want you to find your purpose in God and experience His life-changing touch.  I want you to be all He desired you to be and more.  I want you to walk in His destiny for your life.  I want you to be happy again… to have that inner joy down deep that circumstances can’t steal away.

Your time with God was one of the happiest times of your life.  Remember?  You felt the most fulfilled during this time.  It’s because God was filling up all the empty crevices of your life with His presence.  His peace poured over you and His love was so tangible in your life.  Everything felt right with Him at the center of your heart and life.

I don’t know what pushed you over the edge enough to walk away for good.  Maybe it was adversity, difficulty, or unexpected circumstances that occurred beyond your control.  Difficult times can cause anyone to give up.  Bad things happen.  I know that full well.  My life hasn’t been perfect.  I have faced unexpected circumstances beyond my control on numerous accounts that have stretched me beyond my limits.  It was tough.  I felt weary, spent, and overwhelmed.  I was at the end of my rope.  In the midst of my pain, I didn’t know where else to go, but to God.  I reached out His direction and I was surprised by His response.

Each time I ran to God in my moments of despair and heartache God’s peace immediately followed.  It’s what I needed most.  His presence was felt instantly and His love surrounded me.  Even though I didn’t understand the Why’s of life, I ran to my constant source of strength, God, to see me through.  I have faced a lot of adversity over the years and I must confess that God has never disappointed me each time I have chosen to run to Him instead of AWAY from Him.

I know you have been AWAY from Him for awhile, but I challenge you to come home.  Reach out to Him… He misses you so much!  I know it will be hard.  You will feel weird.  You are scared, but imagine your life turned back over to Him.  How different would things be and for the better?  How much more peace could you feel?  Just think about it… your heart full and overflowing with God’s love.  Hearing His voice, feeling His presence, His destiny played out in your life… your life completely fulfilled in Him.

I know the world hasn’t treated you well.  You have experienced pain, heartache, and despair.  I know you might feel broken, abused, or used.  You aren’t the same person as you were before.  That’s okay.  He wants you to come to Him as you are anyways.  I know your life is riddled with trails of bad choices and a life time of regrets.  It’s okay.  Lay them all down at His feet.  All He wants is YOU… as you are, completely surrendered to Him. 

Each day is a fresh start, a clean page with no mistakes… a day full of endless possibilities.  Choose well my friend.  I beg you to “remember” and make a bold step closer to Him.  He is not standing with arms crossed in judgment.  Adjust your spiritual lens.  He is standing expectantly with arms wide open waiting to run to you the minute you turn your head His direction.  He loves you fiercely friend.  Run to Him today.  Pour out your heart to Him.  It may not be pretty, but in a raw and real way connect your heart with His today.

Run to Him when you are confused and it feels like your world is falling apart.  Run to Him when you are grieving from a great loss or celebrating a victory.  Run to Him when you feel all hope is gone and life is pushing you under.  Run to Him when your relationship is falling apart and your heart is broken into a million pieces.  Run to Him when your body is full of sickness and you are fearful of the outcome.  His peace is waiting to envelop you and His presence is waiting to comfort you.  He is as close as the mention of His name… Jesus.

James 4:8 says this…
“Come near to God, and God will come near to you.”

I pray today you will take a step CLOSER to God and watch Him draw near to you.  I love you prodigals and miss you dearly.  Please know I am still here for you.  I’m available to answer questions and pray for you too.  Please consider coming home to God today.  We both miss you terribly.

Love & prayers,

Monday, July 31, 2017

Life, Lemonade, and Burnt Biscuits

This was one of my very first blog posts from when I started blogging seven years ago.  It still rings true today!  Well all but the "Burnt Biscuits" part that is... I learned my lesson.  NEVER leave anyone else to care for your baked goods.  It doesn't end well... LOL.  Enjoy!

I’ve heard it said before “When life deals you lemons, make lemonade.” I guess it’s all about perspective. Life can be unpredictable at times. It doesn’t always follow the natural pattern we lay out for it. It can bring many unexpected and sometimes unwanted surprises along the way. I faced a recent challenge in the kitchen which caused me to come up with my own mantra for life… “When life gives you burnt biscuits, peal off a layer and it’s all good!”

I was making dinner recently and left biscuits baking in the oven, with a timer on in the care of another. I was only planning to be gone for a few minutes, but when I returned the biscuits had already burned. They weren’t just a little brown, they were BLACK. What a predicament… two packages of biscuits burnt and none left to bake. I couldn’t bear to throw them in the trash, so I cut off the bottoms and did what any mom would do, served them up. Maybe the boys wouldn’t notice, after all one was jumbo style and the other was the layered kind of biscuits! Maybe the sheer height and many layers would cover over my mistake. To my surprise the boys loved the biscuits and said they were the best ever… they didn’t even notice the bottom part was missing.

Have you ever felt like life was taking over and not cooperating with your pre-scheduled plan? Things haven't gone as expected. The loss of a job, a shaky marriage, financial hardship, family squabbles, a death of someone close to you, broken relationships, and unfulfilled dreams… the list could go on and on of all of the hurts we have faced in this thing called life. Sometimes we can’t necessarily change our circumstances, but we can change our attitudes. It has been said before that “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.” Ouch! If you are like me, I don’t always react in the way I would like when life throws me curveballs. But with God’s help, I can learn to have the right attitude and perspective no matter what comes my way.

Matthew 6:34 says...
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today." (NLT)

I have learned some lessons from my burnt biscuit escapade that I hope will help you on your journey.

Lessons Learned from Burnt Biscuits:
(God perspectives from the kitchen)

1. Look for the good in every situation!
There is always something to be thankful for no matter how small. I guess at least the biscuits didn’t catch fire and set off the smoke detector. And we were able to eat them… all good reasons to be thankful I suppose.

2. Go with the flow!
Things won’t always go as planned. Look for a back up plan. There are usually many options in each situation you face. Look at them all and choose the best option with God's help. I chose to keep the biscuits!

3. Set the tone!
Have you ever noticed how when something goes wrong there is always someone there to watch how you will react to it? It never fails! Most people normally tend to react in negative ways when things don’t go their way. I could have gotten angry, irritated, and set a negative, tense tone in my house, but I chose the high road (at least on that day). You have an opportunity to set a positive tone for those around you by your reaction to things. I challenge you to go with the flow and look for the good in it all!  You won't regret it!

4. Give it to God and trust Him!
Some things just happen and you have to go with the flow. Learn to trust God with the outcome whether it’s good or bad. He has it all under control even when things feel out of control.

Remember it’s all about perspective… seeing things differently. Change your outlook and you will change the atmosphere around you. You can’t change your circumstances, but you can change how you react to them.

I pray you will be challenged this week to face your circumstances with a “different” perspective. You have the ability to make a positive difference in your world no matter what comes your way. Choose the high road and watch what God does!

Living to leave a legacy,

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Nothing is Wasted

My name is Julie and this is MY story.  We all have a story to tell.  Mine is a story of HOPE in the midst of darkness.  I still remember the day it all happened. 

It was February of 2006, eleven years ago.  I was driving home from visiting family.  A trip that should have taken me 8 hours ended up taking 14 hours to get home.  I grew weaker mile by mile. I had no idea that I was gradually losing control of the muscles in my eyes, mouth, and neck. 

As I drove down the highway, not only was I getting weaker, but I also began having double vision.  It was a blurry mess attempting to discern where the road might be found in the midst of the busy weekend traffic.  If that wasn’t enough trouble, my eye lids started getting heavy threatening to close and my neck started weakening making it difficult for me to hold my head up.  I felt helpless.  Nobody was with me on this trip, so I was all alone dealing with this until I could get home.

When I finally made it home, I dropped into my bed in complete exhaustion.  When morning arrived I thought I would wake up rested, but was shocked to discover that I could barely move at all.  In fact, I needed assistance to get out of my own bed.  Something was seriously wrong, but I didn’t know what!!!

My husband jumped into high gear right away when he could see I wasn’t getting better.  He took care of our boys (who were in Kindergarten and first grade), the house, made all meals, and worked a night job so I wouldn’t have to worry about the boys while he was gone.  He was amazing!

In the meanwhile we visited doctors; had tests done, and met with specialists… attempting to figure out what was making me so sick.  The double vision continued.  My speech slurred as I spoke. It was difficult to both understand and hear me when I spoke because my voice weakened as the day went on to a faint whisper.    I had trouble swallowing.  I could barely eat.  I choked on solid food… even on water at times. 

My husband got creative in feeding me.  He concocted special shakes for me to drink.  He filled them with whatever he could find in the fridge to blend up that might help me gain weight and feel stronger.  I was dropping weight quickly.

Mini Marathon
After three months they finally diagnosed me with an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis.  It affects everyone differently and mine was a worst-case scenario.  MG weakens the muscles all over your body.  The best way I can describe it is like this… it’s similar to MS in the way it affects the muscles, however it doesn’t get progressively worse.  It also has ups and downs, remissions and flare ups kind of like Fibromyalgia. This is a disease that is not necessarily life threatening, but definitely life altering.

At its best in a sense of remission I was able to walk a mini marathon and complete it.  At its worst I was bedridden during one flare up for a whole year struggling to talk, eat, walk, and care for myself.  I could only get out of bed for four hours a day and I lost 75 pounds in 6 months.  I struggled to gain weight.  I dropped under 100 pounds quickly to just skin and bones.  It was a scary season.

I cannot talk about being sick without sharing my inner struggles with it all.  I had moments of doubt, fear, despair, and disappointment.  When I was the sickest, my bedroom became the place where I lived most of the time.  To say I had a lot of down time is an understatement.  I had time to… think, worry, get lonely, wonder where God was, and be frustrated. 

During a very dark season, God and I had a conversation.  He was there in the quiet of my thoughts.  He and I talked often, but this time was different.   If I have ever felt close to death this was it.  I felt useless and a burden to my family… both physically and financially.  I couldn’t help with anything… homework with the boys, making their lunches, helping get pj’s on before bed, or anything around the house.  I had absolutely NO energy.   I felt helpless and hopeless as a mom.

When I looked into my husband’s eyes I saw sadness... helplessness.  No matter how hard he tried to hide it, I could see worry and a hint of fear behind his smile.  He was filling the roles of both mom and dad with the boys.  I could tell it was taking its toll on him.  He did his best to keep me involved with the boys regardless of my limitations.  Each night they would come see me before bed.  Our time was filled with cuddles as they told me about their day.  Their giggles, hugs, and kisses would make my heart smile.   

Despite my love for my family, I struggled to watch them hurt anymore because of me.  My husband looked so tired.  I felt like the kids were missing out on so much because everyone was so concerned about me.  It wasn’t fair! 

“It would be better…”  I thought.  “…if God just took me home.”  I didn’t want my family to suffer any longer.  I had put them through so much already.  I begged for God to take me.  I had settled things in my spirit and I was ready.

I remember sharing with my husband one night that I was done.  I told him… “I have no more energy to fight.”  He was very upset.  He said, “If nothing else, you need to FIGHT for your family… for your boys!  They would be devastated if anything happened to you.”  I could tell he was on the brink of tears. 
In that moment something broke inside of me and urged me to fight.  I sensed God’s presence wrapping around me filling me with His peace.  I was not alone.  He would be fighting with me too.  I was determined to hang on a little bit longer, but I felt so dead… inside and out. 

I was at the place where I realized that I couldn’t fix it, my husband couldn’t fix it, my doctor couldn’t fix it, and the prayer warriors at my church couldn’t fix it.  It came down to me and Jesus.  He was all that I had left!

I had to learn to trust Him completely no matter what happened.  I could have walked AWAY from God during this season, but instead I chose to run TO Him.  God was REAL to me!  He had always taken care of me in the past, why should now be any different.  I NEEDED to trust Him!  Hope was ignited within me.

It wasn’t long after that dark night that I got a new doctor who was appalled by my condition.  Within weeks he had me on a series of treatments that helped me become 90% better than I had been the previous year.  I guess God wasn’t finished writing my story.  With this new doctor my health improved and with it doors opened for me to share my story with others. 

I have faced many hurdles with my health over the years.  We have tried various treatments to manage my condition.  Some worked for a while and then eventually all the symptoms would come back again.  It’s an ongoing battle of ups and downs.  Needless to say it hasn’t been easy for me or my family.  With medication and a lot of prayer, I have moved forward.

Over the years I have prayed that none of my time struggling with this dreaded disease would ever be wasted.  When I think about all the time I spent stuck in my house, my prison of sorts, it troubles me.  Who has a whole year of their life to throw away?  I didn’t think I did!  I want God to redeem every moment of waiting, worrying, and wondering.  I pray my story inspires others to keep pushing forward trusting God when their difficulties come.

God never ceases to amaze me at how He uses my story as a tool to minister to others.  He has taken me behind doors to places I never thought I would ever go.  I have met people I never thought I would ever encounter.  Divine appointments and open doors have been in abundance as I have trusted Him with the details of my life.  My story of pushing through and trusting God in good times and bad has echoed God’s love to… Nurses, doctors, medical professionals, the old, the young and hurting.   I’ve found that it’s in the messy moments of life that people are drawn to Christ in us the MOST!  God knows my life has been beyond messy… for sure!

I haven’t been completely healed of this yet, but I trust Him!  My faith has grown as I have learned to surrender and believe God for impossible things!  There is one truth that has settled deep into my spirit from that dark season of my life.  When I came to the end of myself and realized that nobody else could help me, I discovered this…

“When you have nothing left BUT God
you find out quickly that He is ALL you really need!”
If my messy, faith walk of trusting God with this sickness can help inspire others to trust Him more, then I surrender.  He is the writer of my story and my inspiration for living.  May my life in good times and bad reflect Him well!

Have you been there before friend?  …in that place you don’t really want to be.  Have you ever felt like something was WASTED in your life?  I felt like my whole year was wasted.  What could I have done during that time if I had the chance?   Only God knows.  

Wasted!  You can’t help but feel defeated when you think about it.  My “wasted” relates to days spent being sick.  For you it may be something else entirely.  I have a question for you friend… whatever “wasted” is for you, will you trust Him?  Will you surrender the reigns of your life over to God and trust Him in good times and bad?  He is faithful friend.  I promise.

God, I pray you would be with my friends today… those who are struggling with trusting you with the details of their lives and those who are doing their best to push through.  Help their faith roots to grow deep as they learn to surrender to you.  Help them to cling to the good, focus on the positive, and see the opportunity for a miracle to happen in every situation.  I pray all fear would be diminished as they step out in faith believing you for impossible things.  Instead of running AWAY from you when facing difficulties, I pray they would run TO you.  Be their greatest source of strength today.  Shine your light upon their life in such a way that others are drawn to you in them.  Thank you God that you aren’t finished writing our story… The best is yet to come!  We love you.

Living to leave a legacy,

P.S.  If you would like to see an abbreviated video version of my story, you can check it out at the link below.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 30, 2017

It’s time to SHINE!

Did you know that people are watching YOU?  I’m serious… they really are!  I remember discovering this for myself when I got my first job as a teenager working at the mall.  The only job I could land as a 16 year old was at a fabric store.  I knew nothing about fabric, sewing, crafts, or the like, but I figured I could learn for a paycheck, right?

On my breaks and lunches I would wander across the mall snacking on food from the food court while looking for bargains.  Do you know what I noticed as I did this?  People were WATCHING me!  In the olden days, when I was a teenager, they called those kind of people… “People Watchers”. 

These special “People Watchers” would go to the mall, sit on benches, and watch people… for fun!  It was kinda creepy!  I’m from Missouri… you know… the “show me” state.  Maybe that’s why people found this SO exciting or entertaining there. 

I guess if you think about it, we are all “People Watchers” in a sense whether we realize it or not.  We watch to see if people are really going to be WHO they say they are to others, or if they are a phony.  If they call themselves a Christian, do they follow ALL of the Bible or just some of it?  Do they really love people or just say they do?  Do they have flaws like everyone else or are they perfect (which is unattainable so why even try this Christian thing if that is the case)?  You get the point… people are watching.  YOU are watching others too.  Maybe that’s why when people mess up or fail in a sense in an area of their lives we are so devastated… we are watching!

I love what Matthew 5:14-16 has to say about how we should “represent” while we are being watched by others.

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (MSG)

God’s intention for us as Christians is to SHINE… represent Him well to others.  Let His light shine through us.  When we do this, others will be drawn to God in us as a result.

Our church’s mission statement is...
“Love God, Love People, and be a Bridge connecting the two”

When we truly love God and love people the way God would have us to, our life becomes a bridge connecting lost, hurting, and broken people to God.

How can we SHINE brightly for God…

Love God.
Commit to daily spending time with God.  I try not to leave the house until God and I have spent some time together.  I need God’s heart to touch mine before I can connect with people.  If I don’t, the grouchy in me rises up and offends others.  That definitely doesn’t help me shine brightly for God. 

Choose a special time to meet with God each day so it happens.  Do what works best for you.  Find a place that works for you to meet where you won’t be interrupted.  Have a plan.  Where will you read in the Bible?  What do you want to pray for?  Make a list.  See this time with God each day as a “date”.  Look forward to it.  Talk to God like you would a friend and take time to listen too.  I think you will be surprised at what He might want to say to you.

How can we shine bright for God…

Love People.
Be Jesus with skin on for others to see.  Don’t just talk about God’s love with others, show them!  Let them see God in you without you saying a word by the way you LOVE others.  Be different.  Love unconditionally.  Don’t hold grudges.  Forgive quickly.  Let God’s love flow through you.

 People are watching.  Be who you say you are all the time.  Show God’s love every day… not just on Sundays.  How can we do that?  Think about all of the places you go often.  Do you see the same people a lot?  … at the gas station, the grocery store, the bank, the gym, the school, your workplace, etc…  You should if you are paying attention. 

When we are spending time loving on God (before we come face to face with people) and showing God’s love to others daily… eventually God will give us opportunities to help build a bridge to Him.

How can we shine bright for God…

Be a bridge connecting the two.
It all starts with us stepping out of our comfort zone to connect with others.

Think about those people you see often in your life.  I challenge you to start talking to them.  Get to know them better.  Learn their names, ask questions, and be friendly.  Remember the things they say to you and ask them about it the next time you see them.  Show them you care.  If you recognize their face, chances are you look familiar to them too.  Start “building a relationship” with them.   

Recently I found two people that I have seen a lot in “my” world.  One works at a store I frequent often for home supplies.  I noticed him at first when he started.  They seemed to have a huge turnover of employees and this guy stuck around.  Every time I went in there, he was there.  I started being friendly at checkout making small talk.  Eventually I learned his name.  Then I noticed he became one of the managers.  I congratulated him.  Eventually at some point, I will share God with Him as doors open in conversation and bridges of trust are built.  Who knows what will happen then?

The other person I connected with recently works at Bath and Body Works.  I frequent this place every few months to stockpile on wallflowers (air fresheners) to neutralize the “boy stink” in my home.  (If you need help with this, check out a previous blog post I made on tips on how to get rid of the STINK in your home here.) 

When I went there last time, I remember meeting a lady who was a new employee.  She had just moved to the area.  We talked for quite awhile.  She shared some of her story with me. I went back in recently and saw her again… or at least I thought it was her.  I brought up things she had shared with me before and asked if she was “the lady” I had talked to a few months back.  She was!  I love how God brings things to mind right when we need them.  It’s not that I remember everything or that I’m perfect.  God just helps me remember things when I need to for His purposes.  It’s awesome!

It’s time to SHINE friends.  It’s time for us to be purposeful about loving God, loving others, and building bridges for others to come to know Him.  I believe in YOU!  You can do this and it’s SO much fun! 

Ask God today to open your heart to love lost people, your eyes to see them all around you, and your ears to hear their hearts cry.  Let’s become bridge builders for Jesus today.  Who’s with me?

Living to leave a legacy,