What You’re Born To Do: Lesson From a Killer Dog

I learned a lesson from a killer dog. This spring our Boston Terrier was killed by another family pet, an English Shepherd. Both were outdoor dogs along with our German Shepherd. The kinship reminded me of the furry friends on Homeward Bound.  They were steadfast dog-friends and would play endlessly around our little homestead.

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingSomething went wrong in that cold spring day. My husband found our Boston cowering under a car in our barn. When Ron picked her up, blood spurted out of a wound and there were bite marks on the side of her body.  “Play-fighting” gone bad.

The culprit, our English Shepherd, had blood near her mouth. She wanted to be stroked like usual, not knowing the harm she had done.  We knew.  The Boston didn’t live.  We decided our Shepherd needed a new home.  One where she could run and herd animals, which is the nature of her species. She needed to do what she was born to do.

Are you doing what you’re born to do?

Our Shepherd was designed to be a herding dog for other animals. Though we have animals on property, we don’t have the need for her as we did when we were still milking cows. Every morning before milking, my husband would go into the pasture and herd the cows towards the holding pen.  A great job for an English Shepherd.  Without animals to herd, she wasn’t able to exercise her God-given abilities and calling in life. She became restless, aggressive, and destructive.

Can you relate? Do you ever feel restless, irritated, and angry? Have you ever considered the connection between anger, discontentment, destructive behavior and the frustration of not doing what you’re wired to do? Do you ever wonder why you’re jealous of others or why you lash out through gossip, mean words or back-handed comments?

Just like my dog put her out-of-sync energy into destructive aggressiveness, we can put our out-of-sync energy into being destructive or into a state of long-term frustration and irritation.

We weren’t meant to be this way. We were meant to be free, to have joy and fulfillment from being and doing what God’s design is for us. The problem comes when we don’t exercise our calling, our gifts, our leg irons“bents.”  It’s similar to students who love working with their hands or are body-kinesthetic.  Many of them shut down or learn to hate school because they spend the whole day reading, writing and doing math. They get irritated and restless, some to the point of being assertive or angry. They feel stifled, misunderstood. Trapped.

Do you feel stifled, misunderstood, or trapped? What would it look like for you to soar in your gifts, talents – the things that make your heart sing?

Like our dog who needed a home where he could “be” in his life’s purpose, we need the space to do this, too!

I’m not going to give you an inspiring message to “be all you can be.” Most of us can’t quit our job tomorrow or abandon our kids to be all we want to be.  If so, I would trade in laundry to be the Laurie Partridge equivalent for Hillsong.

But – you can become more aware of what your heart cries out in the big and little moments of lifeWhat makes your heart burst forth in song? What brings passion to your soul? What is the root reason of your discontentment, frustration or irritation? Once you discover these things, you’ll be more aware of how God’s wired you and whether you have an outlet in your life to do and be what He has created you for.

running puppy

I wasn’t created to do laundry. I definitely wasn’t created to sing like Laurie Partridge. But I am wired to minister and communicate hope to others through teaching, writing and speaking.  A few years ago when I was in grad school for counseling, I was sharing with a stranger about a subject in History I loved teaching in the classroom.  The person approached me later and said, “When you talk about teaching, your eyes light up. It’s your passion. You were made to teach.”

He connected with my soul.  My heart does sing when I communicate what I’m passionate about – either in print, in front of people, or one-on-one as I share about Him.

What makes your heart sing? Do you have opportunities to do exercise this passion in your life? If not, what do you need to do to connect with that joy inside of you? I’d love to hear from you –please share your journey with us!

*********

Some ministry announcements:

Recently a few readers request topics for me to write on either here or the other sites I write for.  I’d love to hear from you, too.  What topics would you like to see me write on related to faith, parenting, or life?  Please respond with those comments on the ministry’s Facebook page and I’ll enter your name in a drawing for a surprise giveaway as a “thank you” for partnering with me.  You can get to the Facebook page here.

Those of you who are prayer warriors, I’m speaking to two different groups this week in southern Indiana on Hope Beyond the Picket Fence. Would you pray for hope to be received by women who need encouragement? Thank you.

Sharing Hope Beyond the Picket Fence
Sharing Hope Beyond the Picket Fence

Also, I’m speaking throughout the Midwest this summer and fall.  If your women’s group is in need of a speaker for a fall or spring 2014 retreat, please consider this ministry! I’d love to tailor the needs of your group through biblical teaching and authentic encouragement.  Feel free to contact me at yoderbl@gmail.com for more details or visit the speaking tab for topics I frequently speak on.  Do you have a theme or subject you don’t see or would like for me to speak on a blog topic you’ve read here? Just let me know and I will design a retreat or individual topic for that theme.

Have a great week – and I’m praying for God to show you how He has made your heart to sing!

The Power of Hope and Compassion: Let’s Git-R-Done

This week has been crazy. We’re getting ready for graduation and open house next weekend. The second time around isn’t so bad, but it’s a great reason to get things done around the house that need to be done.  We’re operating is “Git-R-Done” mode.

photo (91)Like cleaning, painting, and the other “normal” stuff that happens every spring at life on the Back Forty….planting garden, 4-H animals, tending these things while doing the “real stuff”of life like working and raising kids.

Tired has entered our vocabulary just a few time this week.

I love this kind of tired. There’s something meaningful in planning, preparing, “git-r-doning” that brings rest and peace to a soul at night. Getting things accomplished, seeing the fruits of your labor, and having things in order.

But one night this week, I went to bed early after doing nothing but working nine hours and bringing home Little Caesar’s Pizza. I was exhausted that day, mentally and emotionally.

Do you ever have days like that?

It’s one of the hazards of being a counselor.  As I came home from a normal day counseling at an intermediate school, I walked and talked with God while my kids ate Little Caesar’s.

The kids I work with are heavy on my heart this week, but there’s so much more to it.  Because their lives are normal for many families in our community, in your community.  Kids who don’t know their dads.  Kids who witness violence in their homes leaving them scarred and emotionally messed-up.  Kids who understand their parent’s priorities don’t include them.  Kids who are on the brink of making good choices or ones that will set them on a path for self-destruction.

I’ve come to believe one of the greatest powers in human connection lies in words of hope.  Not false hope, but real hope.

Hope in choice.

Hope in what you can control.

Hope in seeing the good in a situation.

Hope in a future that is yet unwritten.

Hope in a God who is personal.

I sat in a meeting with a mother who broke down in front of three other adults. She had been strong and brave all year, but the restraining order she had against her child’s father told me much more.  As she was leaving the administrator’s office, I took a risk, hugged her, and said, “God bless you.”

She sobbed more and clung to me like a life preserver.

The risk of compassionate words in that moment spoke truth to my soul.

We need each other.

The boy in my office cried because he’s not accepted by the Latinos and he’s not accepted by the whites. He’s mixed. He’s not accepted by his mom or his dad. A product of a sexual encounter, he doesn’t know family. He finally said through his tears, “I hurt. I don’t belong anywhere.”

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong anywhere?

As I came home with Little Ceasar’s and put my cleaning clothes on, I longed for each child to know what “home” is.  I longed for each adult walking through life with childhood scars to know what it feels like to belong, to be accepted.  I long for each of us walking through life in difficult places to have someone reach out and say, “God bless you for where are at today. You’re a survivor.”

If you’re a person who can give hope to another, let’s Git-R-Done. MP900387256

Let’s take a risk in caring, in sharing, in reaching out.

Let’s be the hand of Jesus and words of hope that give life to others. 

Will you do that with me today?

Will you stop the busyness for just a moment to give a moment of life to another?

God bless you, my reader, for the places you have walked and have received hope for tomorrow.

If you are walking in hard places today, let me pray with you on your journey. You can email me at yoderbl@gmail.com

Join my for other posts this week:

Mother’s Day Legacy: My Daily Prayer at www.notalonemom.com

Being Intentional About Quality Family Time This Summer …at www.parentsspace.com

The How’s To’s for Making A T-shirt Quilt at www.parentsspace.com

 

Inspiring Stories: Kaylee’s Story “Loving the Kids”

This post is written by my daughter. For the prelude to her story, read here.

It’s taken nearly a year to heal my broken heart—to relive the rich memories with a song rather than sorrow lacing my heart.

It’s been nearly 11 months since I left with a group of students from Liberty University to spend the summer in Guatemala.  While there I had the opportunity to learn Spanish, live with a host family, and revel in one of God’s sweetest gifts to me—the chance to work in an orphanage.

Loving the KidsWe did ministry by serving the Guatemalan people in various ways. I saw pain, suffering, and poverty. I saw people who had nothing. I saw teenagers who weighed a mere 40 pounds from lack of food. I saw a woman with Down syndrome living in a trash heap. I saw a boy with epilepsy whose bed was nothing more than the ragged and worn hole of a hammock he shared with his other siblings.

But I also saw joy amidst the sorrow and healing among the brokenness. As I was serving in the orphanage I was honored with the sweet and precious gift of loving these children—the forgotten ones.  These little ones had a cot to sleep on and tortilla and beans for their bellies but didn’t know a father’s love or a mother’s touch. For me, that is where the difference lies.

The street children and sickly kids may not always have a full stomach or a spacious home, but they have parents. They have someone who loves them—who is  willing to go days or weeks without food so that their children might have a bite to eat. Some may argue with me, but I find it hard to discern which is worse— go without food, or not know the love of a mother or father.

The first day at the orphanage, I held a 3 year old in my arms named Andy. Instantly, I knew the warm truth that trickled deep into my soul: he was mine. I believe God draws different people to each other. He drew this precious bundle of laughter and mischief to me. I visited him in the baby house every day. Going on walks, we giggled, tickled, played, laughed and chased each other. All the little things little boys do.

andi-001

A week into the trip, I met Antonion or “Tono”—the little boy who would forever change my life. I still can’t think of him without a knot in my throat but I have a joy in my spirit now. One afternoon I sat down to help this little 9 year old boy, who sported the crooked smile behind his tough guy facade, with his homework. The rest is history. He was my shadow for the rest of my time there.  Mejor amigos (Best friends). I fondly referred to him as my “hermanito” and he replied in broken English “You (pointing at me) my seeeee-ster for-eever.

When he said that, how could I ever go home?

I don’t know why God drew me to this certain child. Maybe it was his crooked smile, or the way he would jump into my arms when he saw me. Or how he begged me to just watch him play soccer for hours. Or the way he would take my hand and off we went to play marbles, cards, or just sit and talk. Other children could sit on my lap, but only if he knew where I was. Maybe it was because he reminded me of my own three little brothers who are now too old to sit in my lap. I don’t know, but what I do know is that he needed to be loved and that was something I could do.

antionia

I fell in love with Leydi and her sweet spirit, Alexa and her tough demeanor (once she knew I was there to stay, her brattiness melted away and she let me into her heart), Julio with the twisted leg, Cristian, the constant troublemaker who just needed a smile and hug,  Elias, who wouldn’t sit still at school unless he was sitting on my lap.  The list goes on…

For a time, I honestly thought I would never leave.

I was having the time of my life.  My favorite compliment was when people asked me in Spanish if I was “mixed,” thinking I was half-Latina because of my tanned skin and dark features, but knew I wasn’t because of my blue eyes. I would proudly reply, “My Grandpa’s Italian” and beam because they thought I fit with the culture I was becoming a part of.  I even got use to the rats and bugs. They didn’t bother me so much. I loved the simplicity of life there—the relaxed atmosphere, the friendliness and love of the people, and not having access to modern technology.

I was home.

The week before I had to leave, I hardly slept. I couldn’t believe the time had come. I’ll never forget whispering in releasing and letting goAndy’s ear “Te quiero muchisimo mi niñito” (I love you little one) knowing he wouldn’t understand that the next day I wouldn’t be coming back. Saying good-bye to the other kids was painful, especially when Julio, my treasure with the twisted leg, looked at me and said “Adios preciosa” (Good-bye dear one). As soon as he said that, I kissed him, and walked down the mountain because if I hadn’t I never would have. Tono was the good-bye I was dreading. He buried his head in my stomach, squeezed me tight and we said good-byes.

I came back to the U.S. and cried every single day for the next month. My heart had never been more broken.

Life went on. I went back to school. There were days when I would weep on the floor of my dorm, crying out to God asking, “Why?”…. Why what? I didn’t even understand the questions in the depths of my heart. But God heard them and he allowed me to go back for 2 weeks in January.

The highlight of that trip in January was spending time at the orphanage.  I saw the precious bundles of joy that I had missed every second I was gone. Once again, I kissed, cuddled, tickled, chased, and played hide and seek with my baby Andy. I held Elias while we watched a movie. I held tightly to Julio (the boy with the twisted leg) as we jumped on the trampoline the orphans had gotten for Christmas. I told Leydi and Alexa they were beautiful, I tucked Marcos into bed and kissed his sleeping cheek.

551075_324437974298235_97023136_nI prayed with little Tono to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I took him down to dinner with me the last night and as the music played, he grabbed my hand and put his other skinny arm around my waist and said “Bailamos” (Let’s dance).  The little gentleman whisked me across the floor. When we said good-bye a second time, I cried as he wrapped his little arms around my shoulders, kissed my cheek and said “I’ll love you forever.

He is just ten years old.

I cried as I walked away leaving Elias crying on the steps of the orphanage at the top of the mountain. I cried as I knew I would miss seeing baby Andy grow up. My heart broke even more. I felt like Mary in Luke 2:19 “She treasured and pondered all of these things in her heart.”

These last few months, God has been faithful as he has graciously helped me release the bitterness and anger at Him in my heart for tearing me away from these precious kids. It was only when I acknowledged my bitterness and anger toward the Lord that my heart began to heal. It was only after this happened that when I looked at pictures of the children I could smile and remember instead of cry.

Now I have a joy in my spirit instead of sorrow in my heart.

Matthew 19:14 says, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

The little children go to Jesus, not me. They are His and not mine. He loves them more than I do or ever 1342f-img_1464could. Instead of mourning a loss, I celebrate the fact that Jesus knows each one of us and our needs individually. He is taking care of the children; He only used me to help him for a time, but what a blessing it was.

If you are a parent, hold your children close and tell them you love them because there are millions of kids out there who do not have parents—little girls who will never have a daddy to tell them they’re beautiful and little boys who will not know a mother’s loving touch.

If you have the opportunity, I challenge you to go and serve. The very least you can do is pray—pray for God’s children. That is what my prayer has changed to.  Instead of saying “God, let me go back,” I pray “God, today may they know they are LOVED.”

I write this in faith that I am going back. I don’t know when, where, or how but God has told me I am going back. I claim that promise. In the meantime, I pray for the precious ones and trust God knowing that He is loving them and meeting their needs in a greater way than my simple love ever could.

Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

 How are you living that out in your own life today?

If you would like to sponsor one of the orphans at Hope of Life Ministry, please contact them and begin a relationship with one of these children that will change your life and theirs.  Click here for more information.

Inspiring Stories: Ingrid’s Story

healing

It’s my great privilege to have a dear friend share  her story of cancer survival.  This is Ingrid’s story:

My friend holds her daughter’s hand, whispering prayers as the daughter lay in the Intensive Care Unit. This young, single mother just barely survived an automobile crash. The man she hoped to build a life with did not.

Healing — of heart and body — will take many prayers. For my friend, for her daughter and for the family of that young man.

Two months ago, this same friend sat at my bedside, holding my hand, offering prayers as I awaited surgery to remove a cancerous lump from my breast. Physical healing began that day, as doctors used skill to carve out the fast-growing tumor, to dislodge a lymph node. With the news that the cancer had not spread, that nothing had been left behind, I whispered thanksgiving.

A plan was made for radiation, medication, therapy, lifestyle adjustments……and the healing continues.

I leaned heavily on my Lord and Savior in the days and weeks that followed, lean on Him still to understand and accept this new reality that has entered my life’s landscape.

Cancer.

As I lay on the hospital gurney receiving radiation, I felt blessed, because in the midst of my treatment and healing, I attended the funeral of woman who began her journey through cancer three years ago. She fought strong and hard, and today, she is a Survivor in eternity.

I cannot share my testimony of recovery and survival without thinking of all who bear wounds, who stand toe-to-toe with the trials of our earthly life and fight to survive, to recapture “normal”, or to accept that some things will never be the same.

Some of us receive a pink ribbon and a label — Survivor. And our bodies bear visible scars that mark the spot where MP900321107healing began.

Others suffer with wounds that are deep, too deep for a surgeon’s scalpel. Healing may begin, only for the scabs to be ripped open by new hurts, new reasons to ask “Why?”

It’s that way for my friend, bedside with her daughter. She has endured a husband’s betrayal, the loss of a ministry, the sudden death of a son-in-law, her own physical challenges, and now the trauma of her daughter’s injuries and dashed hopes.

And still my friend raises her hands in worship and I stand beside her, my own hands and heart lifted in praise to the Healer who walks with every wounded Survivor. We both bear scars, and we both smile through tears as we celebrate Our Father’s Goodness.

God does not promise a life free from pain, from loss. The truth is that nowhere in The Word does He say He “will not give us more than we can bear”. Often misquoted are these words from Paul:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”    I Corinthians 10:13

On some days, He DOES give us more than we can bear. Who can learn that they have cancer and not grieve? Who can hold the hand of a heartbroken, wounded daughter and not cry out? Who can cradle a child who will never walk, sit unassisted, play basketball, drive a car because a virus invaded his body, and not plead for mercy?

And who can bury a 25-year-old son and not question the One who holds life in His hand?

He hears and grieves. And He bears it with us.

I will exalt you, Lord,

for you lifted me out of the depths

and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

Lord my God, I called to you for help,

and you healed me.

You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;

you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;

praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment,

but his favor lasts a lifetime;

weeping may stay for the night,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said,

“I will never be shaken.”

Lord, when you favored me,

you made my royal mountainstand firm;

but when you hid your face,

I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called;

to the Lord I cried for mercy:

“What is gained if I am silenced,

if I go down to the pit?

Will the dust praise you?

Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;

Lord, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

Lord my God, I will praise you forever.    Psalm 30

6e3ffef67cd2b76a1bda39656ca79794Ingrid Lochamire lives on a farm in a beautiful valley in northern Indiana. She is a partner in business and in life with her husband, Ken, and is Mom to four sons. Ingrid homeschooled the boys, graduating the youngest this year. A former newspaper reporter, she currently is a freelance writer and part-time staff at Elijah Haven Crisis Intervention Center, a domestic violence agency in her home community. A lover and following of Christ, Ingrid says she strives daily to reflect His glory in every aspect of life — on the mountaintops and in the mundane. Ingrid recently reflected on her journey through breast cancer at her blog “Reflections on the Journey”.

Inspiring Stories: Stacey’s Story

Friday I posted The New Normal: 8 Tips for Working Moms at Not Alone Mom.  

It is my greatest privilege to share Stacey’s story of love and grace.  She has walked many paths familiar to women – loss of love, abandonment, abuse, looking for love only the Father can fill.  Stacey Wilson blogs at Shakin’ the Foundation and She Stands.  You will love her heart.me bday (1)

One would think it would be easy to write about their life, to give their testimony, but as I begin to write my own testimony I struggle where to begin. Too many words can drag on, not enough words can leave holes and wonder for those reading.  I will do my best to share my life from the beginning to where it is now in the hopes you, the readers, will see God’s love and grace with each word written.

I was chose to follow Jesus Christ at the age of six. I truly didn’t understand the importance of such a wondrous decision, but seeing all the “big” people take their walk to the altar, I knew I wanted to as well.  I tugged on my Daddy’s sleeve and as he bent down to hear what I had to say, I pointed to the altar and said “I want to go up there.”  Looking in my eyes, he gave me permission to go. I began my walk by myself and suddenly found myself over-shadowed by the adults standing there.  I stretched my neck as far as it would go hoping our pastor would see me and reach for me. I tried my best to make my way through the crowd but to no avail. I was no closer to the front of the altar and could not be seen.

Disappointed, I remember looking to those around me, hoping someone would see me and help me get to the front.  As I continued to search the crowd, I felt two hands grab hold of me and place me in their arms, the arms of my Daddy. He had been watching me to see if I could get to the front alone and when he saw I couldn’t, he reached in and picked me up! I made it to the front!   Little did my six year old mind know, but that was the best day of my life, the day I gave my heart to Jesus.

When I was a pre-teen, my parents divorced and I was a struggling young girl. Angry that my dad left us, I slowly walked away from God.  Rejection settled in my heart and I no longer believed God loved me. If my own father didn’t want me, how could a God I could not tangibly see want and love me?  I became rebellious and angry at the world. Being the oldest of three, I didn’t want the responsibility of my siblings. I loathed having to help my mom by babysitting.  Saying I gave her “hell” on earth would be an understatement!  And my attitude did not get better as I moved into high school.

MP900285063As teenager, my life was all about me and my desires.  No longer did I talk to God. My life consisted of football games, dances, parties and my boyfriend.  I was too busy for God, not to mention it was not cool to speak of religion with my friends.  By mentioning God in a conversation, you automatically became strange, off the wall and crazy in the eyes of my peers.  When things in my life became too crazy, I would pray in secret.  I was riding the fence, one foot in the world and the other on my bible.

At eighteen, I graduated from high school and got married.

After searching to be loved and after several bad relationships, I was convinced I was loved and no longer rejected.  My new husband was the one who filled the hole in my heart and life. When my first child was born, God came to my mind. I looked in her eyes and realized the love of a parent is far beyond any love the world has to offer.  I felt complete.  However, God was not the center of my life.  I prayed more, but we were living for the world, not God.  Without God as the foundation of my marriage and life, the perfect world of mine crumbled.  Sadly, after three years of marriage and a beautiful daughter, we divorced.  Once again I went out looking for “love” to fill the hole in my life, the empty spot in my heart.  The “clubbing” and parties began again.

Four years later, I met my next husband.  He came from a God-fearing family and I just knew he was “the one.”  Our denominations were different, but I over looked all the red flags. “Equally yoked” never came to mind as I once again marched down the aisle to say I do. He loved to dance as much as I did and said his prayers in secret as well. Perfect match, right?

After six months the abuse started. I never once saw through my “love blinders “ that he grew up in a house filled with rage and abuse.  It was church on Sunday and fights through the week.  At this point, I prayed out of fear. Even though there were those who are reaching down to pluck me out of the situation, I stayed out of fear.  I was emotionally beaten, physically harmed, and too scared to walk out.  After three years and another child, I finally walked – no ran – out.

Once again God came to my mind and my prayers became more frequent. I was still looking for love, so my prayers begged God to give me a man to love.  A good man I asked.  Never once had I asked for a godly man, a man after God’s own heart.

I was single for several more years and moved to another state.  I searched for God.  I attended a great church and God blessed me with a wonderful church family. I was learning and receiving His instructions. Taking baby steps, I was walking on His path.  The “rejection syndrome” would pop its ugly head up periodically to remind me I was alone as far as a soul mate here on earth. I watched others in church whose husbands lovingly prayed with them, praised them and prayed for them.  I longed for that in my life. I didn’t allow God to completely fill that hole in my heart.  I believed to be whole, I need a man. My children were happy, I had awesome friends, a great church family, was involved in my community and church and yet I was still lonely.MC910216396

“How can that be?” I ask the Lord. I didn’t wait to hear His response.  Again, I took matters into my own hands and husband number three came along. He was fun, loving and was wonderful to me and my children. He often came to church with us, but never on a regular basis. I was okay with that because I thought I had all I wanted.  Those feelings were temporal.   After a few years, I  was growing in the Lord and want more.  More than my husband could give.  I now understood “equally yoked” and we were not.  I prayed, I cried, I begged, I got angry.  I yelled at the top of my lungs for God to change this man.  I did not seek God in my decision or listen for His voice, but I demanded Him to fix “us”.

I refused to go through another divorce.  By this point, the enemy of my soul was taunting me, telling me what a failure I was and how those who loved me would reject me for another failed marriage. I would disgrace children, family and friends. I would disgrace to God.  After six years of marriage my husband filed for divorce.  I believe in my heart God knew I could not do it.  I think there are things in life we try so hard to hold on to that God himself removes!  My husband left me and married another woman.  I was broken, shattered, and devastated beyond words.  The only words that could come from my mouth when praying was one….JESUS!

My healing process was a lengthy one.  Christ had to go to the root of my pain, the rejection of my Dad.  The little girl who made her way to the altar at the age of six, grew into the woman who ran from the one true love in her life…..Jesus.  Through my healing process, the Lord in all His splendor has shown me who I truly am. The world wants me to believe I am a failure.  But my Daddy God says I am victorious in Him. Just as my earthly father raised me up Woman with Arms in the Airin his arms so many years ago at the altar, God himself has raised me up over all the circumstances in my life.  It didn’t matter if they were by my choosing or something the world threw at me, He placed His hands on me and placed me in His arms.

The Lord moved me home three years ago. After twelve years away it’s good to be home. My teenager has had some adjusting, but with God’s grace, she is also learning how much He loves her as well.

The Lord had me start a ministry blog in 2011 and then another one in 2012. When I asked the Lord why He would choose me to come into the ministry, after all my track record is not a great one, He spoke to my heart and said to me…” You have a story to tell.”  “ I do not call the equipped, I equip the called!”

My testimony is God’s grace in the midst of my running.  It’s God’s unfailing love when I rejected Him.  It’s His grace in my healing and His mercy in my down-falls.  It is a Father’s love that can never be replaced or taken away. It is the glory of God shining His light in the dark places of my life.

I have made many wrong choices in life, we all do. However God’s word tells us in Roman 8:28 (NIV)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who  have been called according to his purpose.

My life is nowhere near perfect.  I am still a work in progress.  However, I’m full of God’s love and grace. He never promised we wouldn’t have trials in life, He promised to never leave nor forsake us.  I am living proof He stood by me through all my craziness in life.  He never gave up on me and I promise, He won’t ever give up on you!

Blessings to you all,

Stacey

Parenting Series: Lessons From My Toddler

by contributing writer Kristin L. Nelson, author of Not Alone Mom.

Mother and Daughter Reading TogetherMy daughter (just under 3years) and I started a new tradition.  Early in the morning when she gets up, while her brother is sleeping, we sit on the couch and read her Jesus Calling Bible Storybook for children.  I love this book! It takes kids through all the great stories of the Old and New Testament, making each story easy for little ones to understand without watering down the message.  It’s wonderful!

On our first morning we sat down to read about the beginning and “God’s Big Plan,” we read about God creating the heavens and the earth, the animals, and Adam and Eve.  We finished by reading about “Adam and Eve’s Big Mistake” and how God said, “Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  If you eat the fruit, you will die.”

We read about God’s enemy Satan and that Satan is evil and “he always wants people to do bad things.”  We read about Satan coming into the garden pretending to be a snake and that he lied to Eve saying, “You won’t die.  If you eat this fruit, you will learn about good and evil, and you will be like God.”  We read about Eve choosing to listen to him instead of God; and Adam did too. And how this act immediately changed everything and “made God sad”.

We turned the page to finish up with how this decision changed everything and God sent them away from the Garden, but that “God had a plan.  He would come to earth as a baby and grow to be a man who would defeat Satan and rescue God’s children. Jesus would be His name.”

This Bible storybook is so powerful!  It speaks truth to kids on their level.

When we finished this portion, I was ready to talk with my little girl to see how much she understood.  I didn’t expect a full book report from a child who isn’t even three, but I didn’t want to underestimate her level of understanding, either.  Children have a way of surprising us that way.  So I simply asked her what she thought.

Tell the devil to Shush LBPF pic

What happened next both shocked me and touched my heart on a deep level.

A serious look formed on her face and she got up from the couch like she was on a mission.  She sat the book on our foot rest, and turned back to the page with the scenario in the Garden.  She then looked at me with a fiery passion and sense of urgency saying, “I have to jump in the book!”

“What?” I asked.

“I have to jump in the book and get the apple.  I have to put it back on the tree!!” she proclaimed loudly. (She watches a lot of Super Why, a show where superhero kids jump in books to change the outcome if the character is being naughty, e.g. when Pinocchio lies, they jump in to teach him to tell the truth!)

WOW… I had a feeling I knew where this was going so I prompted her more, “Why do you need to put the apple back in the tree, honey?”

“Because God said ‘No, No’!” she replied.

“That’s right sweetie, God said ‘no’ but Adam and Eve didn’t listen to God, did they?” I asked.

With an irritated look forming on her face she answered, “No… naughty snake!”

Feeling more and more proud I continued, “That’s right! That naughty snake Satan lied to them and told them to eat the apple even though God said ‘No’!  What should they have said to that naughty Satan?”

Her response is a powerful statement we should all take to heart!

She stood up tall, looked me right in the eyes and said boldly, “Shush! Be quiet!”

A statement so simple yet a proclamation that speaks volumes! An approach we could all benefit from!

The devil is out to bring us down, “he prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8.  He is happy when he pulls us backward from what God has planned for us.  He is happy when he uses our own thoughts, insecurities, and fears to keep us from moving forward!!

What can we take away from this precious account of a “child like faith?” There is no reason to debate with the enemy.  When he speaks lies into our lives, we simply need to say to him, “Shush! Be quiet!” In other words – you’re a liar Satan! And I know the truth!

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18:2.  His name is JESUS!   And you, Satan, have already been defeated! So just – shush!

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Inspiring Stories: Candi’s Story

1-019It’s a great privilege to share Candi’s story.  Candi is a family friend and her honest vulnerability makes her story so powerful.  As a counselor working with children and families, I honor the hard choices she took to overcome her addiction both for herself and her children.  Addictions of various kinds are becoming commonplace in today’s families.  She took the difficult, but best road.  Here’s Candi’s story.

It’s more than a road that takes us where we are going.  Sometimes we get there by feeling great amounts of hurt, pain and bad decision-making.  Mostly, it’s what we do with those things that truly gets us going in the right direction.  The journey I’ve traveled has brought clarity and healing in my life.  From the bad, came the good!

My name is Candi, and I’m a grateful, recovering alcoholic and addict.  This is my story.

Seven years ago when I became pregnant with my third child, we were surprised.  I was happy but my MP900321168husband was not.  I understand now why this wasn’t the best news for him.  He was worried and scared at providing for another life.   At the time, it crushed me because he wasn’t sharing my joyous feelings.  I ran to a neighbor’s house and cried for hours.  What was I going to do knowing I was carrying a baby that wasn’t wanted?  I felt lonely, scared, angry and sad most of my pregnancy.  I couldn’t share the wonderful moments of pregnancy with the man I loved.  It was heartbreaking.  When the wonderful spring day arrived that I gave birth to our son, my husband saw him and wept!  He was sorry for his past feelings and couldn’t imagine life without our boy.  While I was glad his feelings changed, I was still hurt and angry at him. I didn’t feel the love I once had for him.

During that spring and summer, my husband and I grew farther apart.  I became short and snippy and he became withdrawn. Most of the time, I felt lonely and angry.  I focused my attention on the kids and figured this is what life was like.  Meanwhile, my heart and soul grew dark and clouded.  One day I hurt my back and was introduced to Vicodin. I didn’t have prior experience with pain medicine.   I found out one evening, after kids went to bed, that having a glass of wine and a pain pill made me feel pretty good.  I felt no sadness or hurt, I was just happy.  In that moment I didn’t worry about the pressures of being a “perfect” wife and mother or making sure the world thought everything was “okay” even though we had problems.  I felt numb and it felt amazing.  I found a secret trick of how to handle a bad day. 

As time passed, I found myself wanting the same “good” feeling during the day.  Once a day I would take a pill.  The euphoric feeling I got helped me mask all that was wrong and I put on a happy-go-lucky attitude.  Unfortunately, the pills eventually ran out.   A voice inside me warned me to tread carefully, but I didn’t listen.  I told myself, “Who cares? Just do it!  Why should I care anymore?”   I began doctor-shopping, finding the doctors who prescribed to “whatever or whomever.”  My lies were many and great so I could bring home a bottle of what I Pill Bottles Containing Medicationneeded.  I did this for a long time and much of my time and energy was spent getting my “happy pills”.   When the pills wore off, I was anything but happy.  I needed an extra boost to keep the euphoric feeling for longer times, so I began mixing a bit of rum in my soda.  I justified that if I did it after five o’clock, it was acceptable (right?).  This worked as long as I had a couple more drinks throughout the evening.

Over time, the little rum turned into more rum, early bedtimes, and a hangover every morning.   I heard when you have a hangover it’s best to drink it away.  So, I bought vodka and put it in orange juice.  A pill and a screwdriver greeted me each morning.  This took care of the head pounding and “shakes,” but it left me empty of emotion and feeling.  When I began to feel the issues I had been burying, I would just take more, resulting in coma-like state.  While everything seemed fine and put together on the outside, inside I was ripping apart.  I started to realize I had a problem.  I worked hard to keep enough alcohol in the pantries so it looked like none was missing.  On recycling day, I couldn’t let my husband see how much I had been drinking.  I became a master at hiding and hid empty bottles everywhere.  Empty pill bottles and vodka bottles were hid in the bottom of trashcans covered by paper.  I heard a rumor that vodka doesn’t smell, so I’d dump half a can of Red Bull and fill the rest with vodka so it looked like a regular beverage.

The thought of being an alcoholic went through my mind.  Though it scared me, I couldn’t stop because my body needed it along with my mind.  I was of no real worth to my family, preforming my duties like a zombie.  The anger, hurt and pain was far worse than when I took the first pill.  The substance abuse was acting like a fertilizer on the feelings buried.   It was time to do something different, because I was alone in my secret.  No one knew all I was hiding.  I realized I was wasting away my precious life, but I was terrified to tell.   In sharing my secret, I would have to MP900399091give up what my body craved.  I would look like a loser and failure, acknowledging  I.am.not.perfect. 

But I took that step. I called my mom and I told her everything that had been going on for the past two years.  Then I told my husband.   They both were in dismay, but supportive.  Sharing my secret was a relief.  That was the first step, but the greatest.  I thought I could detox at home.  But I had children to look after and detoxing from alcohol and prescription drugs isn’t pretty.  I felt like my body was being pulled apart. I didn’t have accountability and ended up in the same old routine.   We decided to take action and figure out what our choices were for treatment. There was no way I could do this at home.  I remember sitting on our back porch that September day, looking for rehab centers, praying to God to help me find a place that could help me.  A strange box appeared on my computer screen.  When I saw what it was, I knew we had to call the number.

We set a date for when I would leave.  I had two days to tell those I loved what was going on.  Feeling humiliated, I went to our daughter’s school and told her teacher and principal so that she could get support if she needed it.  The MP900178845boys were too young to understand what was wrong with Mommy.  We told them I had to leave for a few weeks.  Our daughter was old enough to know I would be gone for long time and she was very sad.  I still remember her face as my husband and I were driving away.  I felt as if my heart was detaching from my chest. 

I was in treatment for roughly 66 days.  The program was difficult. I had a hard time understanding my issues weren’t about drugs or alcohol, but stemmed from thought patterns and how I lived.  While I was there, I sought Jesus in a way than I ever did before.  I asked for His holy, healing hands to touch me and heal me.  I asked Him to help me understand what was hindering my heart, mind and soul.  When I opened my eyes each morning, I had so much anxiety and fear.  I learned how to really pray and I prayed and prayed and prayed.  I learned God was a loving God.

I gained clarity about the smallest of hurts and hang-ups I couldn’t let go of.  I began to see the poison littering my mind.  I learned to face what was buried and what I needed to let go of.  I was resentful toward my husband, for his lack of support when I was pregnant, and I stopped seeing the good in him.   I was angry for small, selfish things that snuffed out my inner light.  I lived in self-centered blindness.

I realized I always suffered from a thinking problem.  It started at an early age, I just didn’t know it.  I relearned how to think, drink, eat, love, walk, talk, and give of myself.  I learned to be silent, create boundaries, set goals and realistic expectations and clear unwanted thoughts from my mind.  I was completely transformed by my Savior and Lord, Jesus!  All because I asked, believed and wanted!

While I was at rehab, I felt safe from the outside world.  I was around other like-minded people and I finally felt like I belonged somewhere.  When it came time to leave, I was frightened to come home to my family.  I self-medicated every day in my home.  How would I face a swarm of triggers?  What kind of parent would I be with this new self?  How was I ever going to fall back in love with my husband?

I had to realize that in order to heal and be forgiven, I had to ask God to help me forgive myself.  Isaiah 1:18

Answering these questions took time and prayer.  Honestly, it was the scariest time of my life.  I didn’t feel strong enough to face everything waiting for me outside of rehab.  I had damaged my family.  I had to prove the “new” person I had become. I kept on praying!  When I arrived home, I realized my children and husband were also different people.  They had also been trying to survive, especially my husband.  Family responsibilities had fallen on his shoulders.  My daughter would cry herself to sleep because she missed me.  Tear stains were on the picture of me in her journal.  The boys didn’t call out my name when they needed something, they called out the names of those who helped while I was gone. It was like I didn’t exist in their memory.  My heart ached and I grieved that I put them through this.

I was determined I would stay in a recovery program like  AA.  Not under any circumstance would I go back to the darkness.  I would forgive anyone who hurt me.  I would ask for forgiveness with a humble tongue.  I would ask God to change my heart so I could love those I wanted to stay angry at.  I would let go, and let God.

MP900438533It’s been four and a half years since I left rehab and began a new life in Christ.  I’ve received the gifts of substance and emotional sobriety.  I look around me and see truth instead of fear and lies.  I love my children and husband to my fullest because I have God’s love!  He replaced my old friends with new ones that I could not live without today.  The goals I set in treatment have been accomplished as of this writing.

I have vitality and strength to make good things happen.  I want to be responsible and act with compassion.  When I’m feeling low or under loved, I turn to prayer.  My life, my family, and opportunities before me have been amazingly touched on this road of recovery.  I choose to take the steep, rocky, and curvy path of life.  I don’t want an easy road.  There isn’t spiritual growth to it.  The greatest lessons I’ve learned have come through pain and being uncomfortable.  To really know what the Light is, I had to be in the dark.

I have verbally shared my story on a few occasions.  Writing it out for this post has been a challenge.  I literally went back1-040 to every single awful moment of this story and cried.  Once I reached the end, I cried again.  But this time I cried tears of gratitude and joy.  I am so loved by our Creator.  He brought me up from the ashes and gave me new wings to fly!

I pray for all of those who struggle with self loathing, fear and hopelessness, that you may find the Light of our Lord!!  Many beautiful blessings to you, the reader!  Thank you for reading my story.

Love and Peace,

Candi

You can contact Candi Watson Miller at  Can.wat.35@gmail.com

The {Ugly} Picket Fence Journey

Three years ago, I started a space called Life Beyond the Picket Fence. I was in my second year of grad school studying Clinical Mental Health Counseling.  I had stepped out of the teaching profession, of which I loved, because I needed a change.  I needed space to breathe, to be more available for my family, and to have options for work that didn’t require me to grade 180 papers for each assignment.  The last year I taught I had 180 students.  Twenty five were special education students needing modified assignments, and five of them had emotional disabilities.  After working with Angry, Frustrated Womanteenagers all day, I came home to a teenager who needed a mom who was mentally and emotionally available.  But I was not that mom.

 

While I only share my full-testimony in speaking engagements or in person, I’m sharing the thumbnail version of it today at Unchained Faith.  If any part of this testimony encourages you, then I’m thankful to share it.  It’s not easy sharing the ugliest parts of  your soul.  If you would like to learn more about hearing my full ugly-mom-story of Hope Beyond the Picket Fence for your church, women’s or mothers event, it would be an honor for me to share it with you.  You can contact me at yoderbl@gmail.com.

But if you need hope that God changes the messy things in our lives if we give up the rights we cling to, then just read Hope Beyond the Picket Fence .  If it encourages you, I’d love to hear from you.  No matter how much I’ve blogged in three years, it never makes sharing your “stuff” easy. But I’ve seen tears in mother’s eyes who have felt so relieved when they know they are not alone in their struggle.  I’ve seen relief on a client’s face when I’ve told them their identity is not based on choices their child makes.  I’ve heard sobbing as I’ve reassured someone they are not the only one who struggles with anger.  And I’ve seen joy and lives transformed when I share our story, because I – we – are transformed by Christ.

That is my message here.  No matter what your struggle, no matter how ugly, dirty, or messed up it is, there is hope. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, and He grows good things from dirt and manure.  Life isn’t perfect.  Somewhere in the Christian journey, the unwritten rules say if your image isn’t perfect, then something’s wrong with you.  You’re. Doing. Something. Wrong.

A friend told me recently being vulnerable is a gift to those you share with.  If that is true, then my story at Unchained Faith is my gift to you.

A gift of Hope, and a gift of praise for His Honor and Glory.

Tanya’s Story: A Response

Today I’m posting at She Stands.  Stop for a heart check!

If you didn’t read Tanya’s inspiring story posted this weekend, read it here.  It’s a beautiful story of hope and redemption after a life of child abuse and rejection.  If it touches you, feel free to share that with her here

As a counselor for elementary students, former teacher, and a professional counselor, here’s a note in response to Tanya’s story of abuse.

A reader commented they realized how sheltered their life has been.  This comment could come from many, many people. When it comes to abuse there seems to be two camps:  those who experience it and those who are unaware of it. As a reader, you fit into one of those categories.   Those who are unaware of it, it’s with you I share my heart.

Schoolboy Struggling with Math ProblemsAs I read Tanya’s story, I see a young girl, boy or teenager in a classroom.  I see them in a desk, trying to master angles of an isosceles triangle.  I see them lashing out or standing in the corner by themselves at recess.  I see them trying to listen to a classroom teacher when their mind keeps going back to the night before.  This is a child you know.

Statistics say one out of every four women will be sexually abused or assaulted some time in their lifetime.  Statistics for men are anywhere from one in seven to one in five.  Statistics would be higher if all incidences were reported.  Most of them are not.  As a professional working with people in a counseling relationship, the disclosure of childhood sexual or physical abuse is common.  Too common.  Adults have the capacity to work through the damage from childhood.  But each adult was once a child.  A child you know.

Each one of us lives in community with others.  But I wonder how many of us live in “the bubble.”  The sheltered-life bubble.  You may not work in a school like I do, but you interact with people.  You’re in a work setting, a church sanctuary, a check out line at Walmart. Where ever you are, there is one in four or one in five who have been, currently are, or will be abused.   It’s around us.  It knows no boundaries.  Gender, socioeconomic level, education, religion or race does not determine where abuse happens.  If you think it does, you’re deceiving yourself.

I want you to do more than read Tanya’s story and say you’re inspired.  I want you to see people, to hear people, to reach out when someone shares their past with you.  If a child discloses they are being harmed by someone, legally and ethically you have a responsibility to report it.  Don’t be afraid of this. For more information, click here.  A great advocacy site for children can be found here.

For those of you who have people in your lives who’ve been abused, don’t shrink back.  For male survivors, Cec Murphy has a wonderful ministry both for men and those who love them.  Visit his ministry here.  For women, feel free to reach out to Tanya or other sexual assault agencies nationally or in your community.

Abuse is complicated because it usually involves family members or friends.  It’s usually not the creepy guy hanging around the mini-mart.  You need know this.

Life is not simple.

We are called to be givers of life and hope in the darkness.

Pop the bubble.

 Reach Out. Listen.

A person you know needs you.

Effective Parenting & the Art Of Making Jello

When I make Jello, I feel like Betty Crocker.  That’s an oxymoron, but let me explain.photo (16)

Making Jello is probably the simplest food to make.  But it requires patience and forethought.  When making Jello, it takes time to “set up.”   Even the “quick method” doesn’t yield immediate results.   You can’t rush making Jello.  You can’t speed up the process by cranking up the oven, nuking it in the microwave, or putting it in the freezer.  It takes a while for the final product to evolve.  If you expect it to be done prematurely, it’s a mess.   Thoughtful, intentional planning makes the Jello a success to serve at just the “right time.”    So, I feel like a kitchen diva when I make Jello.  Intentional planning, good forethought = stellar cook.  Just call me Betty.

Kind of like parenting, really.

I’ve made enough “messes” in parenting to know there’s no “quick set’ formula.   The best decisions we’ve made as parents took intentional forethought and planning.  You can’t rush the development of children.  It’s not good to rush them to the next phase too quickly.  They need to “set” at each stage, becoming sturdy and strong in the process.  The development of children requires time.  If you expect things of them prematurely, it’s messy for them and you.  Changing the prescribed environment for healthy development won’t yield the same results.   Children take time to evolve.  Thoughtful, intentional planning makes the development of children a success at just the “right time.”

photo (15)Just like Jello.

It’s tempting to think parenting is easy, a piece of cake, a quick and simple recipe, like our jiggly-food-friend.  But there’s simply no easy formula.  It requires large amounts of patience.  Understanding the delicate nature of child development and the long-suffering it takes in shaping a child is an essential skill.   Children are fragile.  They can be messy, and can dissolve when too much heat is applied.

At the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9, (NIV)

 God’s gracious to teach me big lessons in simple ways, otherwise, I may miss a lot of important things.

Thank you, God, for the simple things in life. 

How has God spoken to you in the simple things lately?  We’d love to hear?

Love,

Betty