We read a lot of ”share this” or ”copy & paste” posts on social media. Most of those I merely scroll through, but I actually took time to read this.
Holidays, as a single parent, used to present such a challenge to me. A year or so after my second divorce I purchased those Christmas cards where you inserted family pictures. That should date myself as pictures are the cards now! OK! Early 90’s!! Anyway…. when I purchased the cards, I told myself I would be able to send out a nice new family picture next Christmas. I packed & unpacked those cards for years repeating the same mantra. One year my daughter spouted off to me about it as if to say, ”why hasn’t this happened yet?” The struggle of being a single parent is difficult enough & knowing how much it affects our children makes it worse. My children are beautiful, amazing, determined young adults facing the challenges of the world for their own families. My daughter has recently experienced divorce & the unbelievable consequences. She has done so with humility & has heavily relied on the grace & strength of a loving Father.
My son has asked me, in wonder, several times how I ever managed on my own knowing I worked 3 jobs & did the best I could. Adulting101 was now a reality for him, but he & his beautiful wife are amazing. They figure things out together! Observing both of my kids lives & knowing at times what they’re feeling makes me want to rescue them. As an empty nester living on a non-profit income, this isn’t always possible. Aside from offering encouragement or some words of wisdom, from previous experiences, I’ve realized not being able to rescue is a good thing.
Being broken & discovering ourselves in the process doesn’t represent weakness. Bones break & once healed, are stronger. Broken, reinforced pottery, is stronger. I love the picture of the broken pottery filled with gold to represent the value isn’t lost.
The ”copy & paste” below seems long, but I love the story behind it. If you’re a single adult; single parent; empty nester; recently lost a loved one; just dreading the holidays or life in general, please be encouraged today. Even in your brokenness, you are loved, valuable, very important & never, ever alone. I pray you glean wisdom & strength from your experience. One day others may need your support. I wish you the very best this holiday season. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.
I was in Dollar Tree last night and there was a lady and two kids behind me in the LONG line. One was a big kid, one was a toddler. The bigger one had a pack of glowsticks and the baby was screaming for them so the Mom opened the pack and gave him one, which stopped his tears. He walked around with it smiling, but them the bigger boy took it and the baby started screaming again. Just as the Mom was about to fuss at the older child, he bent the glowstick and handed it back to the baby. As we walked outside at the same time, the baby noticed that the stick was now glowing and his brother said “I had to break it so you could get the full effect from it.” I almost ran because l could hear God saying to me, “I had to break you too show you why I created you. You had to go through it so you could fulfill your purpose.” That little baby was happy just swinging that “unbroken” glowstick around in the air because he didn’t understand what it was created to do which was “glow”. There are some people who will be content just “being” but some of us that God has chosen, we have to be “broken”. We have to get sick. We go through divorce. We have to bury our spouse, parents, best friend, or our child because, in those moments of desperation, God is breaking us but when the breaking is done, then we will be able to see the reason for which we were created.
Last night, after prayer time, this midnight conversation was in my head & heart, so I wanted to get it on paper today. Often times we talk about being Christ-like. What does that really look like? It’s beyond bumper stickers, crosses on our walls, working in church ministries, or speaking Christianese.
So many times people rush through life trying to hang on for dear life or climb to the top rung of the ladder & completely neglect the weightier matters. Matthew 23:23 defines this as justice, mercy & faithfulness. Many of our races to survive or succeed neglect most, if not all, of those. Some people feel being the best parent they can be; supporting their spouse in the most dedicated measure or simply being a good human is their life goal. Others believe that is degrading & are constantly striving for more. There should never be judgement from either category towards the other. The last time I noticed, what we choose to define personal happiness & purpose wasn’t a competition! And….it was just that…..personal.
During raw, emotional prayer time before God I realized & confessed to sounding so double minded it was if I had alternate personalities. I think I would give Sybil a run for her money. Yes, I just dated myself, but……. it’s OK! Being single for 23 yrs has presented a plethora of challenges; obstacles; unbelievable circumstances; tears; fears; anger; uncertainty; doubt; rejection; repetitive failures; defeat; victories; triumph; success; & miracles. The most important factor of all, faith in an unseen God who holds my future.
Numerous times I’ve prayed that I wanted a husband & other times I’ve been beyond happy not to risk having another possible heartache or having to answer to anyone for anything. My dog, Sven, is all the responsibility & accountability I want! Then I want someone else to make decisions because I’m tired of making them. But… what if he’s not making the right decisions?? What if he’s a worse procrastinator than I? What if…..
I clearly don’t need to be rescued, but sometimes want to be, but don’t want to appear weak or appear as a damsel in distress. Can someone just fill up my tank with gas & wash my car??? Or…..help me unload the groceries??? The simplest decisions & activities really suck sometimes. How can God answer any of my prayers when I’m so wishy-washy??? My pride or time honored independence totally creeps in wreaking havoc on my humility! I can just picture God probably scratching His head wondering, “What in the world does she really want?!?!?!?!” At any given moment He could be directing angels to act on my behalf only to have to call them back to wait…….. I’m so thankful He knows what’s best for me regardless of my fickle mindedness!
In 2009 I was sitting on my love seat petting & talking to Marshall, my son’s Cairn Terrier. The conversation with Marshall happened after talking to a friend having marital problems. I admitted to Marshall I didn’t want to deal with any of that stuff ever again. My life was complete & for that I was extremely thankful. If I felt the need to fill a void, all I needed was a dog! Marshall loved that idea! A dog would love me unconditionally; be happy when I returned home; make attempts to please me; offer emotional support; provide companionship; allow me to spoil them rotten; & most of all…..never question my loyalty to it. Perfect! Marshall proved all this while patiently & lovingly enjoying his time of being petted. Notice a pattern? There was more focus on me being happy with the current situation rather than waiting for someone else to make me happy.
Suddenly….. I had a stark revelation that, for the first time after being single 15 years, I was content in my state of singleness. It was a very painful, yet surreal moment. My best friend, Kayline would tell me, “You’ll find love when you’re not looking.” I used to become incensed that she would say that & finally asked her never to tell me that again. I was always looking for love! I loved the union of marriage. I immediately called Kayline to apologize & ask her to forgive me for being a tyrant when she’d mention that. I could honestly tell her I was content & not specifically looking. The morning after my stark revelation, on my way to church, I made a pact with God. If I could fulfill my purpose & complete my destiny as a single woman, then I would happily live the rest of my years contently single. If said purpose & destiny could only be completed joined with a husband, then I would trust God would direct our paths to meet. According to simple math, that was 8 yrs ago. I haven’t stopped pursuing my purpose or just sat around for a mate to suddenly appear. This reminds me of a famous quote:
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -Theodore Roosevelt
What do I really want? Besides giving angels whiplash??? In this raw prayer time I determined exactly what I truly wanted. To leave a beautiful legacy just as Jesus did. To be servant minded; a cheerleader for the underdog; be civic minded within my community; love the unloving; participate in social justice; be present & involved more in with my loved ones; be supportive & influential to those walking the same path I’ve walked. To be sincerely Christ-like, not perfect. I simply want to leave a legacy. Like the words of one of my favorite Nicole C. Nordeman’s song…..
I want to leave a legacy, How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough? To make a mark on things I want to leave an offering A child of mercy and grace Who blessed your name unapologetically And leave that kind of legacy.
Regardless of my state of contentment with my relationship status, when the time comes, I want to hear His voice welcoming me home. Simple. Clear. Precise. Decisive. Unwavering.
What does your raw prayer time look like? What have been some surreal moments for you? What type of legacy would you like to leave? Please share!
Happy Mother’s Day to YOU!! I love Bible Journaling (others, not mine!!) so I’m adding some of my favorite scripture passages for you! A couple may be the same scripture, but I love the different artistic concepts.
As a single mom of 23 yrs., now empty nester of 7, my heart always gravitates toward single mothers. I do admire & respect single dads equally, but afterall….I am female & this is Mother’s Day, so please don’t think I’m purposely leaving you guys out!! Each day has the potential to present rewards & challenges. Some days you are the best friend; confidant; coolest neighborhood hangout; the styling & profiling everyone’s favorite! Other days or often even within the same day you can be labeled as the hateful boundary maker; wicked witch; rude; mean; disinterested; uninvolved; clueless; old fashioned troll.
No one knows or comprehends the sacrifices made. Between juggling the finances of your one income; balancing the emotions of anxiety, stress, depression, or sanity; fighting with ex-spouses regarding child support & visitation; making sure food & everyday necessities are adequate; school uniforms & supplies are purchased; being the chaperone; nurse; teacher; coach; mentor; spiritual advocate; mediator; counselor; chef; handyman; lawn care provider; mechanic & let’s not forget……veterinarian. That sounds like a lot, but in all honesty, there’s probably some duties left out. Multiply all those tasks times the number of children one has & you’ve just taken multi-tasking to a whole nutha level.
I look back on my early days of being a single parent & can’t even fathom how my kids or I survived. The only way to describe it is, ”Except for Grace!” Once someone told me I functioned in a perpetual survival mode mentality & I guess they were right. In my eyes, it was far better than being a co-dependent; weak minded; vulnerable; victim who easily surrendered or cowered to the weight of responsibility. I’m not being judgemental of anyone, but this is a polar opposite description of what I was. I sincerely didn’t know any other way. I worked as a nurse & had four jobs. Add juggling four work schedules on top of all the duties listed above & I should’ve been a robot. Because I could make more money per hour by working options such as Per Diem, Float Pool or Agency, I chose this option over being a staff nurse in an attempt to make ends meet. I also worked some travel nurse & strike assignments out of state. Ends never seemed to meet, but… This also meant I had zero medical benefits & if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. My son developed asthma at fifteen months old. He was in & out of the hospital, often Pedi ICU for status asthmaticus attacks or pneumonia. Once divorced, making sure he always had meds & keeping him out of the hospital was the ultimate goal. His pediatrician used to lecture me on the lack of insurance benes, but he soon learned it was a futile attempt. He also learned & later appreciated that I knew every trigger, early onset warning signs of impending attacks & exactly what the best method of treatment was for him to quickly recover. When he got sick, taking off work to nurse him back to health always meant there’d be a reduction in income & jeopardizing my job security. None of that mattered. His health & well being was my number one responsibility. Add this to the ongoing list of dealing with school situations & honestly just typing this gives me a headache!! You see, not only was I a single parent, but I had no familial safety net because both of my parents were deceased. My daughter was eleven years older than my son & she was a fabulous resource. She was an amazing daughter, excellent student, teachers favorite, was taught household responsibilities at age nine & loved kids. She used to beg to not be the only child. Although he referred to her as the ”Drill Sargent” I can’t tell you how fortunate I was to have a brilliant; mature; responsible; reliable; low-maintenance; trustworthy child who didn’t add drama to our fragile world. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always her favorite thing to do & she often reminded me he wasn’t her son, but….Everyone pitches in & there’s sacrifice at every level. We were a family & that’s what families do. Now she’s a single mom & trust me, she’s in my daily prayers.
Fast forward to 2017 & the world has evolved exponentially adding even more pressure & responsibilities for single parents. Just the technological advancements & addition of social media alone has altered the single family nucleus significantly. Staring at tiny screens has replaced looking into the eyes of tiny faces. It’s supposed to help is stay in constant contact, but oh my goodness the drama!! Then….the changes, requirements & expectations within the educational system alone makes me dizzy. My grandkids are soaring, but to be honest, I’m so thankful to have all that behind me!
I’ve said this before & it bears repeating. The struggles I endured, whether self inflicted or just happenstance, made me who I am today. The lessons were often repeated until learned, but I grew from them. It is hard. It isn’t fair. It is lonely. It is sad. It is frustrating beyond measure. It is extremely & unbelievably exhausting. It is confusing. It is heartbreaking. It is sometimes moment by moment devastation. It is cruel. It will cause you to discover or develop layers of emotions you’ve never even dreamed could co-exist in one human. You can do it! It isn’t easy, but I can now tell you it’s worth it.
Many of my friends have watched their children succumb to various addictions; become involved in tumultuous affairs; develop relationships with the wrong influences; become estranged; never find themselves outside of their parents circle of provision; attempt to take their own lives or have even lost their children at an early age. I thank God on a daily basis for my family. Through all my mistakes, misunderstood tough love & some right decisions they are beyond amazing. I treasure & love spending time with them. I used to pray for God to at least let me live long enough to make sure they were alright. This was selfish & conceded because He’s the only one who could do that. I’m just an earthly guide. I can honestly say…. they are more than alright.
Some of my single parent friends have just experienced watching their children graduate from high school, begin college or even get married. It’s an entirely new season & portion of your journey. Take a deep breath, look at yourself in the mirror & say, ”Good job Mom!” Embrace the moments ahead & be thankful for every step. Please remember…. you are never alone.
Just a little background before I begin. Every year I participate in the Daniel Fast for the first twenty one days of the year as a first fruit offering to God for my new year. It’s been my practice for 13 years & I look forward to it. Not only does it give me clarity for important decisions & direction about things God wants for my life, but it forces me to exercise healthy eating discipline. This year I also participated in a weight loss challenge at work. I’ve purposely resisted the last three challenges, but decided it was time. Once my twenty one days of DF were completed, I chose to attempt the Autoimmune Protocol diet, or commonly known as AIP. This discipline was more toward eliminating constant neuromuscular pain rather than weight loss, but if that was a side effect, hey…. I wouldn’t mind. I determined two weeks would be enough & began the journey. The biggest hurdle was not to focus on what I couldn’t eat, but rather the lonnnnnng list of things I could have. I realize some foods trigger intestinal problems & that clearly wasn’t my problem, but nevertheless….. I was all in. Once I got past the first week, I decided two weeks wouldn’t nearly do my body justice. It’s like the book, Slight Edge says about the one donut not causing long term problems, but a donut a day over time would. I didn’t eat a donut a day or per week or month for that matter, but the foods I was ingesting, over time, led to the current problems I was having. Some, I felt, weren’t relative, but I was so wrong. Two weeks couldn’t begin to help in the measure I needed.
Yesterday I was talking with a coworker about how much better my body feels since being on AIP. I’ve just completed week five & will continue toward the suggested three month cycle.
How does this make me feel better?? Primarily I was in constant & continual neuromuscular or fibromyalgia type pain completely unrelieved by up to 2500 mg. of Naproxen Sodium daily. I say ”type pain” because I’ve never been clinically diagnosed, but as a nurse, I’ve treated hundreds of patients exhibiting fibro symptoms, so…. I know. The pain was so debilitating, I was to the point of asking my doctor to run tests & put me on meds. Those who know me know this was obviously affecting more than my muscles. It had affected my brain & thought processes because I’m the antichrist of Big Pharma & prefer natural alternative medicine.
My daily activities, primarily on weekends, were geared around how much walking or standing I would have to do. Shopping was virtually out of the question. My visits with my family were so anticipated because I miss them dearly, yet I had to psychologically prepare myself to endure the pain. How horrible! This constant pain began limiting my desire to do anything but stay at home, binge watch TV & that only made things worse. Inactivity only accentuated stiffness & pain, so it was a freaking vicious cycle. Yet…. my recliner won. Those who know me know I’m not a sloth!
Also…. I had developed this wheeze that only occurred when I reclined or went to bed. Again….being a nurse…..I was in the process of diagnosing this. I simply blamed it on being morbidly obese. That’s how the BMI chart defined my weight category. Well… last night I actually noticed it was completely gone. The only pain I have is caused from osteoarthritis, specifically in bilateral knees. The neuromuscular pain has been eliminated. I won the weight loss challenge in the most pounds lost category & am never hungry. Seriously I am satisfied by sticking to the allowed foods. I must confess I never gave up coffee & the only dairy product I allow is a reduced amount of half & half used in my coffee. I’ve mixed coconut cream with that, so technically I’m not ingesting the normal amounts I typically did. Trust me when I say my psyche had a fit with that adjustment because my coffee had to be a certain cream to coffee color, so…. it’s an ever bigger sacrifice than I expected. So worth it!
I am 56. I am even more consciously aware of the natural deterioration of the human body. I am also more consciously aware of mortality. Constant pain robs me of my zeal for life. I had to overcome the root cause. Even though I ate relatively healthy, some of those foods were greatly exacerbating my pain. I used to love the saying, ”nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Today I can say that’s only half true. Nothing tastes as good as feeling good feels. I can’t wait to see how I feel after completing the third month.
If you’re struggling with any type of ailment, I strongly recommend AIP. Three months of my life to identify & eliminate triggers that cause me to feel absolutely horrible has been the greatest gift I’ve given myself. It’s totally not giving up anything, but gaining control & feeling better!
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.- Martin Luther King
As a part of Dream Week San Antonio, one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Alchemy, hosted Fermentation Evolution featuring Jason Gourlas, PA-C, with the San Antonio Weston Price Chapter. I’m not ignorant to the benefits fermented foods offer, but after this meeting I am convinced I have to drastically change my diet. Fermented foods have been around for centuries & each culture have their own versions. Americans consume chocolate, coffee, cheese, sauerkraut, wine, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, kimchi, miso, kombucha, Yakult, sour cream, tempeh, and other foods considered to be fermented or a result of a particular fermentation process. My personal favorite is Tabasco sauce! Who knew? I should’ve because it’s produced in my home state & I’ve visited the factory when my son was in 4th grade! In 2008 I began a journey of eliminating many things from my diet. These included artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, fast foods, powdered coffee creamers, overly processed meats, any Monsanto related foods, and more. This change came about after watching the documentary, Food, Inc. Using the terms eye opening or life changing are mere understatements. Reading the book, The New Wellness Revolution by Paul Zane Pilzer, was another excellent convincing tool. In times past I have practiced the Raw Food Diet. I loved this philosophy & my body responded extremely well to it. After 6 months I began adding certain foods back in. In the recent several months I began juicing & absolutely loved it. Again, my body responded very well to this. Losing weight, not having kankles due to excess salt & having more energy were just a few affects I enjoyed. I moved out of town & the juicer wasn’t able to make the trip, so I found myself following a healthy lifestyle eating regular foods. In doing so, I’ve noticed I actually crave smoothies or juicing. I’d like to think my body recognizes the nutritional benefits & prefers this over regular meal choices. I’m fortunate that Central Market juices several amazing blends, so I have access without having the juicer! And I don’t have the guilt of throwing away all that pulp! Actually that’s great for composting. For 13 years I’ve chosen to do the 21 day Daniel Fast. This is primarily for spiritual reasons setting time aside allowing God to direct me for the upcoming year & praying specifically for certain people. I so respect this fast as it has been the single most important time in my life to hear clear, precise direction. Sometimes when I need to make an impactful decision, I will do this type fast for 7-10 days. I can’t imagine making serious type decisions without it. Daniel Fast is basically a vegan diet. I have to confess, I do not follow this 100%, but have realized, through experience, God is more pleased with the fact I’ve chosen to commit some level of self-sacrifice putting His will first rather than chastise me for eating honey or real butter. I always feel better during this time & often hesitate adding normal foods back in.
Before my recent move, I discovered kombucha thanks to a friend who makes her own. I respect her natural food choices, like making her own almond milk, so it caused me to research the benefits of drinking kombucha. My daughter began buying it & after my move, I did the same. I have to admit it was pretty cool talking to Kevin, one of the owners of Alchemy, listening as he explained their choices & driving home with a growler of milk oolong kombucha. The best part is that I’m now addicted to it! Other than adult beverages, kombucha is primarily the only fermented food I eat. During my season of juicing, I stopped eating yogurt or kefir. Now I feel like a total idiot!
Jason titled his presentation, Counter Culture. One of my favorite quotes was mentioned,
“Let food be your medicine & medicine be your food-Hippocrates.
He explained how epigenetic traits are heritable (can be passed on to your children), are affected by food, sleep, exercise, beliefs, stress, & environment. He stated every bite of food you take sends a message of health or sickness to your body. The comparison between Traditional vs Standard American Diet (SAD) was beyond enlightening. I was proud on many levels to have already made significant changes from the SAD toward Traditional. This almost evened out being an idiot for stopping kefir & yogurt! Almost!
Learning how fermentation changes food substrates, makes food more nutritious, removes toxins, were just a few of the facts worth learning more about.
“All disease begins in the gut – Hippocrates” has been believed for generations. I vividly remember my mother forcing a tablespoon of castor oil down our throats should we ever miss school. This was torture. Years after I became a nurse & I would almost puke when having to administer a certain bowel prep containing castor oil. There was no way to mask that smell or memory! Dysbiosis – overgrowth of bad bugs & not enough good is believed to be the primary cause of most problems. Small intestine bacteria overgrowth is the primary cause of most problems. A great reference –The Second Brain, Michael Gershon, MD– is going to be one of my reads. Here is an excerpt from one of his studies on autism. This reference, in itself, was mind boggling. To think how parallel our gut is to our brain in the context of being able to create, not only messages, but other cellular level products is unbelievable. Another quote & thought was how the gut relates to mental clarity, depression, mental illness & beyond.
“The primary seat of insanity generally is in the region of the stomach and intestines.- Phillipe Pinel, Father of modern psychiatry, 1807”
Think about it. Horrible bacteria forms in the gut releasing toxins which cross over the blood brain barrier………. the cycle is never ending. Then patients are given meds to reduce the awkward symptoms never addressing the gut issues. When I took care of patients with the diagnosis of sepsis, 9 out of 10 times, they experienced an altered mental status. This was the first indicator something had to be wrong. Then caretakers noticed the patient had fever. With some patients, fever induces an altered mental status. Fever is our first line defense for fighting infectious processes. Cellular. Level. Imbalance. After hearing the symbiotic breakdown of what happens in the gut, it all began making crystal clear sense.
I think one of my favorite research studies Jason shared related to diabetes. Subjects ingested Kefir, fermented milk products, which resulted in a decrease in Hemoglobin A1c levels. Fermented milk. Another discovery was that while Miso in itself is salty, instead of having the effect regular salt does, it is proven to actually reduce liver damage & lower blood pressure. I use Pink Himalayan Sea Salt for this very reason & because it creates an alkaline balance.
I couldn’t help reflect on the age old adage, “You are what you eat.” I know my level of dedication when it comes to “growing” things at home & other than houseplants or pets, I’m non-committal! I did, however, realize I could make my own kefir. I’m already in love with this product & knowing I can use it in my daily smoothies made me even happier. Generally one thinks they have to use raw milk, which is optimal, but because the bacteria makes everything better, I can purchase organic milk to use until I find raw milk.
So…..my ever changing, evolving, lifestyle of eating healthy is now going to include as many natural probiotics as possible. Jason mentioned while probiotic supplements contain upwards of billions of units of healthy bacteria, fermented foods provide trillions. To protect my immune system, I take Beta Glucan daily. When I asked about this particular supplement, he suggested Saccharomyces boulardii, which is obviously many, many, times better. I can order it from the same place I order my Turmeric Caps & that’s awesome! In beginning probiotics, it is wise to introduce them into your diet slowly. After hearing how autism, immune deficiency disorders, psychological disorders, and more can be affected by our diet, I’m convinced the references they provided will be downloaded on my Kindle immediately. Here are a few:
Nourishing Traditions-by Sally Fallon = recipes
Wild Fermentation -Sandor Katz
Mother Culture – local San Antonio vendor at Pearl Brewery Market best known for her phenomenal yogurt
Cultures For Health – Starters for Kefir, kombucha, etc. (use powder for kefir to make it thicker)
Mommypotamus Blog – kid friendly suggestions & recipes using fermented food for children.
Brain Maker – The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal & Protect
Your Brain for Life- book by David Perlmutter
Nutrition & Physical Degeneration – book by Weston A. Price, DDS
Gaps Diet for Autism, Auto Immune Deficiency, etc.
To change things in your life, you have to change things in your life! What I ingest is something I can control & choose to change. In fact, I refuse to refer to it as a diet. It is my lifestyle. I’ve ordered both kefir & kombucha starter kits. I can’t wait to brew my own & save money in the process!
Blessings on your endeavors in becoming a better YOU!
My heart is always in tune to single parents or people striving toward improving their current situation. Having faced some pretty desperate situations, I completely empathize. I am careful to observe actions, reactions, choices & habits of others as to determine if the current state is indeed a cyclic behavior pattern or a true emergency. It thrills me to see changes occur from assisting others with a hand up, not necessarily hand outs. There is a definite difference & I learned to discern it long ago. While I am sensitive to needs, I am not a bleeding heart. Compassionate, yet cautious!
Recently an incidence occurred that stirred me to assist. While discussing it with a friend, I could hear this phrase going over & over in my mind.
Instead of casting the first stone of judgement, guilt or condemnation, perhaps we could cast the stone that creates the ripple effect.
Why not re-frame our thoughts? Instead of thinking, “I can’t believe they’re doing this. I would never……..” How about asking, “How can I help that person achieve their next goal?” I understand we live in an instant gratification, self entitlement society. Everywhere we look, compassion is demanded & repetitively taken for granted. What if we stop stereotyping everyone into certain categories & truly attempt to ask simple questions? It’s easier to judge!
Except for the grace of God, I would be in dire straights. At an early age I chose to get an education in a field that had been my passion since the tender age of 4 years old. Nursing. I was the greatest nurse to all our farm animals & they knew I would take very good care of them. So what if it meant getting a “shot” from my moms straight pins!!! I experienced divorce almost immediately after graduation & that career provided for my family for 26 years. One choice. One act of courage. I refused to let circumstances define me. Once I moved from LA to TX, I made the decision to leave the nursing field. I can explain why in hopes you can understand. The same career that provided for my children also became my crutch when it came to trusting God. I needed Him in every area of my life except this. Yes I trusted Him to provide agency, float pool, travel & nursing strike assignments. I daily prayed for these. However…….I knew I had a job anywhere. My prayer for others needing employment even began with how grateful I was to have this ability, but……deep down I knew I could make things happen on my own. When God instructed me to move to Texas, I had to know He was my all in all. I felt like Esther…….if I perish, I perish, but…….I would not resort to putting my hand in the area of nursing for provision. Many could argue that God did provide that for me through a nursing degree. I understand that part, but again……I could make things happen.
So…..after moving to Texas & bouncing around a few dead end jobs, I enrolled in a computer course to gain required skills for practically every job I was interested in. That one act of courage landed a job specifically designed for me during the FEMA Katrina Aid Today Recovery Program as a Corporate Tech Trainer. Once that program ended, my position was absorbed by the same department & 10 yrs later, I’m still at the same organization. Funny thing…….prior to becoming a Corporate Trainer, I decided to enroll in a local Community College for Grant Writing classes. Instead I was hired & when my Trainer position ended, my new title became Divisional Grants & Program Analyst. I was trained & currently process grants/contracts in every phase from a statewide position. I also assist locations submit internal proposals for new programs. One act of courage to take a computer course, that led to a job, that trained & prepared me for what my initial area of interest was. I must admit the in-between time was a little scary. Well, a lot scary to be honest!! Embracing uncertainty is not one of my strengths. In doing so, I learned fortitude, courage, faith, trust, faith, hope, faith, tenacity & faith! LOL! I feel empowered that from here, I could go anywhere.
I give that example because there are many people, like myself, wandering through the valley of decision. Maybe they’ve decided & their fate is temporarily hanging in the balance of preparation time. It’s not pretty. I learned long ago that regardless of how it appears, preparation time is never wasted time. Remember……we will reap if we faint not!
Many years ago someone believed in me. Rapides Parish developed a program granting me to be paid minimum wage while attending nursing school. My computer & career development course was offered through a local organizational grant. My OJT (on the job training) provided more wisdom & experience than any college course could ever begin to provide. Out of desperation, I acted on every hand up I received. My personal task now is to see how I can pay it forward for others. Before we judge, I encourage everyone to see how a simple stone in the form of an act of random kindness, creating a ripple effect, could change the course of a family for generations to come. I love this quote:
Except for grace…….
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
– 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I have to share with you what I experienced last night. I began attending a new church in November 2014. I knew the moment I walked in the building I was home. There was a familiarity about it that just caused me to take a deep breath, exhale & smile. Since that first day, there hasn’t been a time that I’ve left unaffected. You have to understand….I’ve served in the local church faithfully since 1984. Now that I’ve totally dated myself, you can gather I’ve seen quite a few trends come & go. Real. That is what I’m gravitating toward now more than ever. Real people; real faith; real purpose; real motives; real love; real acceptance; real challenges to help me grow spiritually; real life; real humility; real servant leadership; real Jesus. Real. Now that I’ve typed that word so many times it looks like it’s spelled wrong!
Every week I find myself telling my daughter, “I’ve never heard that taught like that before!” or “OH MY GOSH!! I’m blown away finding out about yet another ministry they offer!” Seriously it’s like a new experience every week & yet at the same time, such a feeling of belonging. Hope that makes sense!
Last night is no different. There are sooooooooooo many connect groups to become a part of that every excuse for not developing relationships within the church body is completely annihilated! There is a group for women, named Journey. Within that group are options for different nights of the week or lunchtime meetings, prayer groups, & etc. Any of these choices promises to fulfill whatever you are searching for. They planned a combined meeting for all the groups to come together & it was awesome.
Actually…..it was my first time to go & what a time to pick! After praise & worship, four ladies were introduced. Normal ladies. When each began to give explain their ministry, I was awestruck. How is it possible for me to still be finding out about things to participate in or know what gifted talent is here? I’ll give just a summary of what they disclosed:
Lady #1- Founded Disciples 4 Christ Prison Outreach Ministry. She was incarcerated for 5 years & now the DOJ contacts her to hosts meetings & conferences across the state. She decided to offer hope to those who are walking in her shoes.
Lady #2- Published the book, God of all Comfort, describing the loss of two of her children within a few months apart. They already had a special needs child & this new grief experience was certainly overwhelming. Instead of this journey destroying her life, it changed it.
Lady #3 -For the past 15 years, along with her husband, has developed a ministry of devoting time & attention to pastors children. If you don’t think these relationships are vital & beyond priceless, talk to a PK.
Lady #4 – Corporate Executive who wanted to bridge the gap between the churched & unchurched. Created a YouTube presence called Real Issues. Real Jesus. She addresses common questions in normal, everyday terms while exposing the listener to the Bible.
These ladies were just the opening part of the meeting! As you may or may not know, I want to write two books. I felt so beyond empowered being surrounded by these phenomenal women! Each of them were so humble & simply began pursuing their purpose while walking through their valleys & finding their passion. Their obedience, however small it may have felt in the beginning, is an enormous act of faith for many women to emulate.
I could’ve left at that point & been full of courage & strength. Of course…there was more. The main speaker was a lady who grew up so intimidated she literally became beet red & broke out in hives while reciting her wedding vows. Her description of herself growing up was a fair complected, red haired, overweight, shy girl named Lucretia. Talk about having a complex! She felt like God had given her a story within this past year that she wanted to share with all the ladies. She is recently a widow & yet found strength to continue walking in what God is doing in her life. Amazing.
Her message was straight from Revelation 2: 12-17. I’ll give you the short of it! God edified & then chastened people from the church in Pergamum for partaking in the practice of the Nicolaitans. God hated the deeds of Nicolaitans. Strong words, but He hated, nonetheless. In essence, the Nicolaitans straddled Christianity & paganism. This rendered the people powerless preventing them from fulfilling their identity. He mentioned giving those who overcome a white stone with a name written on it that only He & that person will see. In that particular dispensation of time stones were used in the judicial system. White stones signified acquittal while black stones sentenced condemnation & guilt. Throughout the Bible you can find God changing the names of people. Those names are what He sees in them or anticipates who they’ll become. Many times people don’t know who they are or their true identity because they’ve been called everything else. We also tend to wear badges that identify seasons in our lives. Single, widowed, divorced, rejected, depressed, bitter, angry, forlorn, etc. Such badges lead to entitlement mentality in how we expect people to treat us. We are holding black stones. God doesn’t see us in that sense. As a child of God, He sees us through His son, Jesus. Acquitted. Black stones & badges prevent us from fully embracing who He’s called us to be & prevents us from elevating God to the place He belongs. God wants to do an exchange of stones & show us our new name.
Relationships can enable certain identities to mask who we really are. Even if we have left certain people or severed all relational ties, we are still “in bed” with those things that were spoken over us. We are an overcomer & God already calls us that.
At the beginning of the message we were handed black stones . At the end, we were encouraged to take our black stones & exchange them for a white stone of which had names written on them. The names were not visible, so we didn’t know what we were picking up. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the name I received was exactly what I needed to see. My daughter already had a name in her head & that was the exact name she picked up. Not only did the name mean something special, but it was a major confirmation that God is ever present in her life. From a mother’s perspective, it’s a huge blessing to see your child being well so taken care of & honored.
Here’s my name. Chosen. Of course you could say that’s nothing special! The Bible calls Christians a chosen generation or states how we haven’t chosen Him, but He’s chosen us, so….big deal. Well….I beg to differ. Lemme splain…..Being single now for 21 years & currently believing God for my husband to suddenly appear lets you get a glimpse of the rejection I combat feeling. Seeing friend after friend get married & microscopically picking myself apart as to what could really be wrong with me. I’m too picky with unrealistic expectations. I’m healthy, but not skinny. I’m middle aged. I’m not pretty enough. I’m whatever! Or…..what about applying for a new job only to get a rejection email the same exact day of this meeting. Of course…I’ve spread my net far, but….still. For more years than I dare admit I’ve quoted, “I am accepted in the Beloved.” Anytime anything attempts to separate my belief in how much I’m loved by the perfect Father, Husband, Friend I have in Jesus, I quickly remind myself of this. Getting the new name of “Chosen” takes that to a whole nutha level & was applicable in more areas than I dare to explain. Besides…..even if all those badges were non-existent, I still love the fact that out of all the people in the universe, God chose me. After all….I am His favorite daughter!
Whew……I mentioned loving my church for being real & I just word vomited my negative self talk. Trust me…..I have a mantra I repeat as often as necessary to combat any / all of those words. I refuse to become identified with them.
I encourage you to lose the black stones of guilt, condemnation, unworthiness, hopelessness, abandonment, rejection, low self esteem & confidence, deception, or whatever haunts your thoughts & see yourself acquitted. See yourself loved, forgiven, chosen, accepted, capable, beautiful, wonderful, gifted, talented, & etc. This blog was lengthy, but I’ve learned it’s times when I don’t share my “eureka” moments that someone could really use one of their own.
Happy Hump Day!
Hopefully your week is beautiful, your attitude of gratitude is opening unseen doors of possibilities, & being thankful is the secret sauce to life!
Prayer has always been a huge part of my life. Many years ago I learned praying for others removes the pressure & focus off my own circumstances & helps me focus on being a servant leader. I also believe in the laws of sowing & reaping or….Karma. I wish to stay on her best side & reap an abundant harvest of good vs evil. During the beginning of every year I participate in the Daniel Fast. This is as close to vegan as I’ll ever get! LOLOLOL! This is my routine for the first (21) days of the year as my sacrificial offering to God to direct my entire year. I attempt to plan, develop goals & specifically pray for those during this time. I’ve done this for the past (13) years. When I have important decisions to make, I’ll often do a shorter 7-10 day version of this. God has constantly & continually spoken clarity to me. I can’t begin to elaborate how many things have been avoided, happened, & surfaced because of this one simple step of obedience. Along with my goals & plans, I choose up to 5 people to target with prayer during those 21 days. I love seeing the hand of God move. It isn’t always how I picture, but He is infinite. For the rest of the year I’ve develop a list of people in my life who require daily or more often prayer support. Some are life-long friends who are battling cancer or other disease processes that are robbing them of a beautiful quality of life. Others are new found friends who have situations draining their joy. As God intervenes, I can cross names off my daily list. This is the greatest feeling in the universe! Sometimes….people mark themselves off. That’s hard to understand, but even Jesus knew when to stop investing in the lives of others. For instance….wiping the dust off His feet; recognizing their conscious has been seared as with a hot iron; having or turning them over to a reprobate mind; suggesting we can’t make a silk purse from a pigs ear; or casting our pearls before the swine. Pigs were really mentioned a lot weren’t they? Anyway….. people can choose not to change, harden their heart or whatever the situation may be. God gives each of us a will & even He refuses to move against it.
If you haven’t fallen to the points of no return mentioned above, I want to encourage you to embrace the promise of a loving Father who will never leave or forsake you. There’s been many times I’ve felt like my prayers were hitting the ceiling or He turned a deaf ear to me, but….it’s during those times I’ve grown to appreciate His faithfulness even more. It’s extreme testing, but regardless, I love & trust Him. Remember….He’s infinite!
I received the words below in an email today & I want to pass it on to you. It’s terrifyiing enough to face unpleasant situations, but even more so when you have to grin & bear it living up to other’s perception of who you are. If I may ask something of you, please do me a favor. Never mind me…..do yourself a favor! Please find someone to share the burdens of life with. Friends, support groups like Celebrate Recovery, church connect group, or counseling. Never, ever allow the unrealistic expectations of society dictate the need for you to put up a facade. This is an exhausting practice where you lose yourself in the game.
Be vulnerable at times.
Be honest with yourself.
Tear down the walls that keep people out, pain inside & hindrances preventing you from becoming your authentic self.
Be blessed & know you matter & your life is important.
You – God’s Prince & Princess – are destined to win.
He knows how tired you’ve become, just by trying to do and say all the right things.
Take that pressure off yourself, because He did not put it there.
The world may judge you by what they see and hear, but He looks within your heart.
He sees your desire to please Him, and He sees your struggle to please others.
If you want to win this endurance race, you must let go of your need for the approval of others, seek His will
and His pleasure.
Simplify your life, and let go of the burdens that weigh you down.
You’ll find His Grace will lighten your step,
and His favor will even draw others to join you!
Yes, at times you will stumble and fall.
He is there to help you get back up again – as often as it takes.
Make it your daily passion to run with Him, and He will carry you over the finish line of your faith.
Together you will win!
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:24
Wow can you believe summer is almost over? Not sure of your location, but due to spring flooding, the first part of our summer could be considered mild for Texas! Never fear…..we have temps predicted to reach 108 just this week so it will be a regular scorcher.
Season temps are fickle, but there’s a few things that can be counted on. As you know, my heart is always focused on single adults & how they navigate through their lives. Summertime, for singles, especially single parents, generally induce additional concerns & expenses. Sports, vacays/stacays, increased child care & more. When my son was younger, I remember all too well how much I had a love-hate relationship with summer. I made sure he was in sports which meant my usual 12-16 hr shifts at the hospital were reduced to 8. Weekend games & tournaments meant no OT. Then…..childcare was my dreaded expense. During the school year he attended a local BGCA after school program for a nominal cost. Thank goodness we had a local YMCA for summertime! The last, but certainly not least, concern was back to school clothes & supplies. Cutting hours & OT during the biggest budget busting time presented many opportunities to panic. I’m not one to panic, but it did take some juggling! It wasn’t until said son was grown did I learn frugal, budgeting technics. This past weekend he made a comment of how he honestly didn’t know how I survived & made it during those many years. This thought was provoked because he is now a parent & understands the often daily requirements of sustaining a household.
Looking back, I have to give thanks & gratitude to Jehovah for being my all in all. Many times there were subtle reminders of how much He is looking out for my best interest or is in control. I could never blame Him for my poor choices or sticky situations because it simply wouldn’t be fair. There were several occasions where the answer I sought, was not the answer He provided. Also there were numerous instances when His word of advice left me sad or disappointed only to realize later how much wiser He is than me. Often, during my daily commute, I consider just how much He has spared me from over the years & am beyond thankful for His grace. In the midst of trials, tribs, tests or whatever you wish to label your misfortune, maybe you’re like me & tend to forget He is ever present, all knowing, & concerned for the smallest detail of what concerns us. It’s in these times when I tend to elevate or just spend more time solving problems on my own or place circumstances above the one who can obliterate them & bringing peace.
In the busyness of life, I tend to lose focus. Daily scripture reading & morning prayer time is my true north! Within the past 6 mos there has been almost a constant system, for the lack of a better term, of how God reminds me He is listening, thinking of me & is very well aware of what is taking place on my timeline. Such happenings can be me thinking of something insignificant only to have that very thing transpire immediately. Perhaps I’ll think or dream of a person I haven’t thought of for years & within the same day hear from them or read something about them. I can entertain a question only to have the answer materialize. For instance……I completed a certain TV series & one day on my way to work pondered how the institution in the series actually began. While watching another series, that interrelates with the previous one, an episode explained the formation of the institution in question. This was a day or two apart. Completely insignificant details that cause me to wonder. Time & time again this has occurred & I refer it to my “thought thingy.” Instead of being weirded out by them, I embrace the happenings as a constant, continual reminder how important my thought life is & discern how much God is aware of my actions. It’s a reminder for me to “tow the line” or walk upright & right standing. Don’t get me wrong….I fail often, but am becoming more consciously aware of God’s presence. I can read or believe scriptures every day, but one “thought thingy” quickly snaps my attention.
As you may have read in past posts, I work at the Divisional level of the Texas Salvation Army. There is a precious ritual practiced every Tuesday called devotions. Yes, there’s weekly donuts too, but…..I leave those for others! For the past nine years many people have spoken into my heart with their 20 minutes of history, personal stories, recently read books, & of course, the word of God. This weeks devos were certainly no exception. Not only was the main message phenomenal, but my point of focus came from the “popcorn testimony” of someone who had recently attended the International Boundless Convention in London, England. Along with the words he spoke about the convention, he presented an occurrence that immediately moved me to tears & lead me to write this blog.
This guy, we’ll call him “Churchill,” along with another co-worker, are cousins who grew up in the small town of Bedlington on the outskirts of London. After returning from the Boundless Convention, another one of Churchill’s department co-workers presented him with an antique book. This co-workers wife, whose sister happens to be one of our Divisional Salvation Army officers, had noticed the book at a yard sale, I think, & picked it up. The book was Volume One covering The Salvation Army history from 1865-1878 written 80 years after William Booth began to preach the gospel. Within the book was a tattered envelope. Within the envelope was a small card, referred to as the Open-Air Plan. The card listed streets of where The Salvation Army Corps Band would be playing & who the leader was.
The same Corps where the cousins attended as youth & played in the band. This was strictly an internal schedule which probably only those band members would’ve received. The dates were November 1947-January 1948. On January 4, 1948 the leader listed is the grandfather or great-grandfather of the recipient of the antique, yard sale book. Churchill is trying to find out which one it was because both of them went by the same name.
Think about it………Bedlington, England 1948 to Fort Worth, Texas USA 2015. An antique book. Family. Hometown Corps. Co-worker. I’m not sure what this means to you, but I was immediately reminded of just how mindful & mighty God truly is. Who else could have orchestrated such an occurrence? He moves through space & time because He can. He created it! I asked Churchill what he thought this meant. He was contemplating how this book could have traveled countries apart to land here in this dispensation of time. Who migrated here & brought it with them? Those are very logical questions that would be way cool to find out! My primary question was, “Is there anything significant in your life you are praying for? Or just maybe there’s something you’re believing God for an answer to & this confirms God is truly listening?” Churchill replied that he hadn’t even thought along their lines. You can tell I’m totally blown away with this divine connection! I wonder….what “plan” God is guiding Churchill toward as the leader?? He has a very sweet, beautiful family & I can’t wait to find out!
I even appreciate how they discussed the necessity of having the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament to be more relateable. Talk about forward thinking! Through this happenstance, I want to encourage you how scriptures recount God has numbered the hairs on our heads(yes, He even knows if you’re bald!), numbers of our days, thinks of us as the apple of His eye, He even bottles our tears & keeps a book of remembrance for every time we speak about Him. Jesus can never forget us as our name carved in His hands. I’m sure this would cause controversy, but it seems that’s the original tattoo! Lighten up! Just my thoughts here!
Whatever you’re facing, regardless of your relationship type, please understand you’re not facing it alone. God genuinely knows where you are & more importantly, He is no respecter of persons. After the book incident, I’m inspired & convinced, more than ever, He longs for us to have conversation & sweet communion with Him. Again, He is not the author or instigator of bad choices, but He absolutely can help guide us in making the right ones. We need to listen to His voice, thought thingy’s, or unexplainable instances only He can devise. If we quieten our busyness long enough, I’m sure more important things than a TV series question will be revealed. Preaching to myself & duly noted!