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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Most Important Meal of the Day!

I love Special K Vanilla Almond cereal and my 14-year-old kitty, Mason, loves the leftover milk. 

It never fails.  He hears me pouring the cereal in the bowl  and no matter where he is in the house, he comes running.  And even though I tell him every time that he has to wait for me to finish, he sits at my feet meowing, reminding me he is waiting.

If it happens to be something other than Special K, he doesn't want it.  There's a happy kitty in the house today...

Trying to stay awake, please hurry...

mmmm, cereal milk

Chop-lickin good!  Time for another nap...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What's Your Story? Here's Mine!

I've been meaning to post all week, but it's been a busy one with a huge garage sale to prepare for (it was yesterday and was worth the effort!), a house being fixed up to sell, and working on top of all of that.  Whew.  I am tired today!

Last Sunday, my pastor started a new message series "Ignite: Inspiring Others with Your Story".  I had never thought about telling my story before and it had not occurred to me that it might actually help someone else, so I was intrigued.  So, amidst all the busy-ness of the week, I was able to get it in writing.  It's a bit long, but I hope it will encourage anyone who feels that God has let them down.  He is good, and there is peace for the taking if we just BELIEVE.


I was taught about Jesus as I was growing up but not consistently.  I was raised by parents who didn’t make church a priority.  My mom often said this was because she was forced to go to church as she was growing up.  My grandparents did make knowing Jesus and attending church a priority in their lives so this had an influence on me. 

I still have strong memories of what my Sunday school class looked like.  There was a big picture of Jesus knocking on a door.  There were chairs in a row where we sat and sang about Zacheus, the wee little man in the tree.  And once, I brought so many friends to church with me that I won a fishing pole in a Fishers of Men contest. 

As I was growing up, and especially after we moved from California to Georgia, church was still only something we did mostly on special occasions.  For a period of time when I was a teenager, I attended a Baptist church with my best friend but it wasn’t necessarily for the right reasons.  It was mostly for the social aspect of it.

By the time I married at 19, my new in-law’s wanted me to join the Church of Christ but I had to be baptized first.  I was confused.  I knew I had been baptized (or christened) as a baby and I had the Bible to prove it!  But, I learned that this was not acceptable, and that I had to be baptized in the Church of Christ for it to be ‘valid’.  So, under much pressure, I relented and was baptized.  I had no concept of why I really should have wanted to do it.

At age 28, I started attending my friend’s church, a conservative Baptist congregation.  At first I was met with open arms because I had a young daughter, but eventually was openly judged for my then divorced status.  I suppose I allowed this because by that time my self esteem was shot and I felt I deserved to be judged.  I do remember singing a verse from a hymn “He washed me white as snow” but felt like I was wearing a scarlet letter. 

They openly discussed what to do with me.  I was single, so should I be allowed to mingle with the normal singles and corrupt them or should I be put with the married ladies whose husbands didn’t attend church?  I often wondered why there were not more divorced women like me attending this church.  I was then counseled to pray for my ex-husband’s return, or death (I’m not kidding) so that I could be released from the damnation my divorce had brought on me.  I was also encouraged to be ‘saved’ – to become emotional in front of the congregation so they would all know it was real, and then be baptized again.  (I don’t remember becoming emotional but I was baptized yet again).  I look back on this time as when my thoughts on God and religion as a whole took a dark turn.

Throughout my 30s, I resolved myself to being punished for the sins of my past.  I thought I knew who God was and felt that because of my mistakes, He didn’t want me to be happy.  Whenever I tried to turn my thinking around I would go to different churches, I would read spiritual self help books, and I would pray as best I knew how.  When I still didn’t get the answers I thought I should get, it pushed me back to square one.  Nothing ever seemed to change.  As I look back now, there were likely blessings all around but I couldn’t see them.  I was blinded by my negative thinking, and Satan’s grip kept me trapped.

I met my husband, Chuck, when I was 38 years old.  Because of the way our relationship began, because of the similarities in the way we were raised and how our puzzle pieces just seemed to fit together so well, this restored my faith to a degree.  We both knew that God had a hand in bringing our two wounded souls together.  Only He could see what the future held for us. 

After we were married, we talked a lot about going to church and we attended various denominations trying to find the right one for us.  After we had been married for about a year and a half, our relationship hit a serious bump in road.  We knew that the situation was one that could damage our marriage, so our first thought was to turn to God.  We ended up finding a little Methodist church that we both enjoyed and this is where our relationship with God and each other first started to change.  This was in 2003. 

In 2006 we received a postcard for a new church that was starting in one of our local movie theatres.  It was “the only church in town with cup holders and rocking seats” so we thought we’d give it a try.  I remember the first Sunday of being shocked by the music only because of the more reverent services I had been used to.  But the more we went, the more it grew on us.  We were ready for a change.  Could this be the place? 

Young Pastor Scott’s messages were to the point, and many times I felt he was talking directly to me.  The messages were delivered in layman’s terms and in a way we could apply it to our own lives.  Finally, the Bible was relevant and I started reading and studying.  This was different than anything I’d ever experienced.  The more we attended, and then the more we became involved, the more God was working in our lives.

But deep inside I was still struggling.  I allowed my circumstances to rule how I felt every day.  I had been anxious and insecure my whole life.  Where was the peace that I so desired?

I decided in early 2010 to look into Christian counseling.  When I started, one of the first questions I was asked was “Do you believe that God is good?” 

“Well, of course I do!”

Don’t I?

And she said “Well, if you believe God is good, and trust what He says to be true, then what have you to fear?”

Hmmm.  I was dumbstruck.  Could it be that simple?

One day soon after that I was at a fast food drive through window.  I received a phone call that upset me and my knee-jerk reaction was to yell “Why Lord, why??”  And at that moment I looked up at the car in front of me and on the bumper sticker was “God is good”.

A subtle reminder. 

I almost fell out of the car.  God was there, and all He wanted me to do is TRUST HIM in all my circumstances.  I cried with relief.

So I started looking at my life differently.  If God says He will ‘never leave me nor forsake me’ then that means I’m not in this alone.  He is here with me and He always will be.  There was finally a sense of relief that I didn’t have to carry the burden alone.  I finally had my “ah ha” moment.

As time went on I realized that even amidst some stressful times, I was waking up in the morning happy.  I had a song in my heart.  I felt joy.  That is when I knew a transformation had truly occurred.  And I thank Him every day for this.

Life is not perfect, but I don’t expect it to be.  There will be trials, but I have the assurance of God by my side.  I would rather weather the storms with Him than without Him. 

I’m seeing myself in a new light.  For many years I disliked who I was.  Now I know God has made me the way I am for a reason, and I like what He continues to make of me.  And as long as I continue to follow Him, I know he will meet all of my needs and He will provide a sense of peace and acceptance of whatever comes my way.

Things that are visible are brief and fleeting, while things that are invisible are everlasting.