What Are You Afraid Of?

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A ship lost out at sea, an intruder in your home, a scorpion in your bed, a bully threatening you, a terrorist attack or world war III . . . all legitimate fears, I think.  But what scares me the most is apathy concerning my faith in God.

It is easy to focus on the here and now – that is all that is in front of us.  But to maintain a zeal for the unseen, which lasts forever is not easy to achieve.  I can become easily distracted and thrown off of a consistent devotion time, or allow that time to become stale.

So many have walked before us living to please their flesh, but I cherish watching the faithful who never cease to seek God and know Him more.  That is how I want to be, all my days.  I want to leave a legacy of faith for my children, where they can say I walked with God and was not merely religious.

Life is a mere whisper in the voice of all of creation and time . . . I pray that I can remember that truth and make my life count for Jesus and His glory.

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Life in Death, part three

Part 3 Writing 101

(Part 3 of the series)

Freedom comes at a high price.  You often have to lose or sacrifice much to find it.  Sometimes the toll is so high, you would probably not have paid it if you knew ahead of time what it would cost you.  But then there is this new found freedom that you did not expect.  The thing you dreaded and hoped would never be a part of your story has happened.  Living in reality can sting, but the new joy mingled with past pain, would never have been achieved had you not walked through the door of suffering.

Loss can be hard to deal with – especially if the one who inflicted the pain is still there.  Reminders of remorse are easily found in the midst of everyday life.  A familiar face or name or place, an old photograph.  So many things lost – what was thought to be a perfect family, normalcy, a heritage of no divorce, and our innocence.  The trauma and PTSD that follow as you seek to accept your new reality only serve to intensify the feeling of being lost that you cannot shake.

But there is a treasure to be found by those who persevere and use the pain as a tool to find their way to a new life.  Letting go of the former boundaries that defined happiness, our eyes are opened that we were actually imprisoned.  Being groomed and controlled was not freedom at all, and now we finally understand that although scary to undergo so much change, the horrifying scandal only served to deliver us.

What was lost could never compare with what has been found.  Understanding.  Wisdom.  Comfort.  Reality.  The ability to help others in ways I could not before.  Drawing nearer to Him – my God – Who truly is an ever-present help in time of need.  Sometimes getting lost is the only way you can truly be found.

Life in Death Part two – Finding Freedom

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Writing 101, Day Thirteen: Serial Killer II

Earlier in the course, you wrote about losing something. Today, write about finding something. For your twist, view day four’s post and today’s post as installments in a series.

PART TWO – Finding Freedom

The evidence of a disaster was all around us.  Shattered dreams and broken lives.  The reality of our circumstances was to hard to accept, but it was true.  The father of my children was removed within a day of the Lord revealing his sin.  The person we thought we knew was someone completely different.  What now?

Our innocence lost, it would seem there was no hope of recovery.  But sometimes you have to get lost to be found.  Sometimes what you thought was good was not what it seemed.  Perspectives change in a flash, when the reality of the damage becomes clearer.  No, we were not suffering in vain –  we were delivered.

In place of a facade of  a perfect family that we thought we had, there was raw pain but there was healing and in that place of suffering our eyes were opened.  Opened to the enslavement we had been living under and to the subtle underlying deception that encompassed us.  We had lost much; all we knew and trusted was blown away – but we had found something far greater – our freedom, wisdom and insight.

PART ONE (From Day 4 – previously posted)

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When I was a girl, I dreamed about happily ever after.  Guess it depends on what the definition of happiness is.  If happiness was defined as being happily married, having healthy children, wealth and minimal problems in your life, then I do not know whether anyone will every achieve perfect tranquility and bliss, known as happiness.  But for a short while I thought I had it.  Despite a bumpy childhood, I thought I could have the perfect family and lasting joy.  Then the enemy of our souls came and snatched it away . . . seemingly.

My family would never be the same, and the father of my children was to blame.  The death of our family as we knew it was agonizing and there was no escape from the mark it had left.  The signs of death were all around . . . functioning on a normal level was hampered, and life just seemed numb.  The children and I clung to one another, knowing God was going to take our pain and use it for good.

But then, what did normal look like?  How do we move on from this place of death?  Perhaps the death of what we idolized was more painful than we could imagine, but would also open our eyes to what in fact was wrong with what we were considering happiness…

Writing 101, Day Eleven: Size Matters

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Writing 101, Day Eleven: Size Matters

Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.

I have envied people who lived in one place for their childhood, then simultaneously been grateful that I lived the adventure of multiple moves as a child.  My mom always made an eager attempt to make us feel special that we were going to move again.  It worked.

But the year I was 12 would be one of the most difficult ones I would endure.  It was the year my parents divorced, and my mom and I moved to an apartment complex where suddenly I was surrounded by people doing drugs and choosing an immoral lifestyle.  By the grace of God, I did not get involved with those pitfalls, but moving again two more times that year due to remarriage and another subsequent divorce by the time I was 13, I was confused and hurting.

The grounds of the apartment were covered with cockroaches.  At night, my friend and I would make it a game and challenge one another to see who could kill the most.  We were going to rid our environment of these critters we detested.  Not so much.  It seemed the more we squashed, the more they flourished.  Nonetheless, we felt useful in our occupation.

Once inside on the second floor, I felt safe that perhaps none of them could climb to my home.  The air was stale in our two bedroom apartment.  My mom worked, so I would come home and make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  If we had extra quarters that were not needed for laundry, I would walk across the street to a Pic-Quik and get a snack.  My bedroom was messy, but it was pink.  What girl is not happy with that?

The walls and carpet were plain, but this was not our home.  It was where we lived, where we wept, where we stayed while we waited to see what would come next. The kitchen was small, but my mom’s food made it seem larger somehow.  The most important thing in that apartment was my mom, and that was all that mattered – we had each other.

Outdoors was what I liked best.  There was a swimming pool, and when I went swimming with my friend, there were no problems, no worries.  Just green hair from too much exposure to chlorine, and laughter.

Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View

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Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View

For today’s assignment, write a scene at the park. Up for a twist? Write the scene from three different points of view.

 

The air was hot and still.  Persistent perspiration was stinging my eyes and fogging my glasses.  I wiped my brow and glanced around.  Young people laughing carelessly and running like deer, seemingly not a care in the world.  I remembered when I could move like that.  Even though the temperature is uncomfortable, I am grateful that I have another day to live.  My aching bones remind me that I better think twice about walking the hiking path, but I do it anyway.  Life is good.

It’s so humid and miserable today – the air condition cannot cool me off.  Why did we have to come outside on a day like this?  I am missing my favorite television show and have to suffer heat exhaustion instead.  That old man over there is crazy for walking in this heat.  I can’t wait until we go home.  I wish I were that squirrel over there, climbing up the tree into the shade.

More humans to frolic at the park today!  This means more food left behind and cleaning up after them.  I sure hope they do not leave that nasty potato salad behind again – it made my tummy hurt last time.  Maybe I will see if that girl has some food to share.  She does not seem happy, though.  Maybe she ate the potato salad, too?  I must hurry and catch the old man – he seems nice and might give some food to me.

Writing 101, Day Seven: Give and Take

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Writing 101, Day Seven: Give and Take

Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.

Over the nighttime clamor of the city, wisdom achingly cries out, “Seek wisdom!  Though it cost all you have!”

Folly’s reply is brief and thoughtless, “It’s too hard!  It’s too costly!”

“Which is more costly, to pay now or later?”, queried wisdom.

“I don’t ever have to pay”, retorted folly.

Then wisdom cried out, even louder, “Open your eyes, fool!  All that is around you is temporary!  What you feel is too difficult to do now, the pain of folly will make you pay in time…”

The fool did not understand and went on his way.

Over the countryside, calm and serene, wisdom called out, “Seek wisdom!  Walk with God!”

“We are fine just livin’ our peaceful life.  Don’t need no religion,” said the fools.

“But wisdom is the greatest peace and joy you will ever have, a treasure for those who find it!”, wisdom begged.

“Go share your message somewhere else, we don’t need it here”, the fools sarcastically whined.

Over the thorn-infested desert, wisdom persisted aloud, “Seek wisdom!  Leave your sinful ways!”.

The fool retorted, “you calling me a sinner?”

Wisdom replied, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Savior.”

The fool spoke thoughtfully, “Will walking with God mean I don’t have any more difficulties?  What good will wisdom do me now in this suffering?”

Wisdom gently said, “It is walking in wisdom that gives you understanding in those difficult times, and relationship with God that will sustain you.  The world does not have this help in their sorrows and God longs to give it; but we must ask.”

The fool answered, “So I must ask for it?  Why?”

Wisdom gently answered, “God is a Father who longs to give good gifts to his children.  If anyone of you lacks wisdom, He promises to give it to him.”

The fool deliberated, pacing back and forth, chewing a piece of straw between his lips.  “This makes sense.  What do I have to lose?” he chided.

Wisdom reflected, “Thank you, God, there are still those who hear your still, silent voice and hear wisdom’s cry.”

Writing 101, Day Five: Be Brief

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You discover a letter on a path that affects you deeply. Today, write about this encounter. And your twist? Be as succinct as possible.

Eyes focused on the path ahead, a white shape stood out amidst the crisp leaves.  “Probably just trash someone left behind – ugh, but it ruins the landscape, better pick it up,” I told myself.  Panting from the sudden cessation of running, I leaned over and spied this seemingly unimportant scrap piece of paper.  “Prayer” was written in dark marker on the outside.  Intrigued, I opened the note and found written inside a prayer written messily, probably by a child.  Engulfed by the message inside, I realized it had been written by my own child’s hand.  Hidden out here in the forest, the intent of the note was now clear . . . and now those words remain forever etched in my heart.

Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer – part 1

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Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer -Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series.

When I was a girl, I dreamed about happily ever after.  Guess it depends on what the definition of happiness is.  If happiness was defined as being happily married, having healthy children, wealth and minimal problems in your life, then I do not know whether anyone will every achieve perfect tranquility and bliss, known as happiness.  But for a short while I thought I had it.  Despite a bumpy childhood, I thought I could have the perfect family and lasting joy.  Then the enemy of our souls came and snatched it away . . . seemingly.

My family would never be the same, and the father of my children was to blame.  The death of our family as we knew it was agonizing and there was no escape from the mark it had left.  The signs of death were all around . . . functioning on a normal level was hampered, and life just seemed numb.  The children and I clung to one another, knowing God was going to take our pain and use it for good.

But then, what did normal look like?  How do we move on from this place of death?  Perhaps the death of what we idolized was more painful than we could imagine, but would also open our eyes to what in fact was wrong with what we were considering happiness…

 

Writing 101, Day Three: Three songs Most Significant to me – Commit to a Writing Practice

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As a singer/songwriter, this assignment is at once satisfying and like home to me.  Songs can make us happy, they can trigger nostalgic thoughts and make us ache for yesterday.  In a moment we can be brought back to a specific memory when we hear a song that is reminiscent from that time period, and suddenly all of the emotions we felt at that time are brought back.  Truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  The song, “Painting Picture in Egypt” by Sara Groves is one such song for me.  In particular, the poignant lyrics comforted me – so applicable to my situation during such a raw time of hurt in my life – perhaps I was not alone in my struggle?

“I don’t want to leave here – I don’t want to stay; It feels like pinching to me, Either way.
And the places I long for the most are the places where I’ve been – They are calling out to me like a long lost friend.
It’s not about losing faith – it’s not about trust.  It’s all about comfortable – when you move so much.
And the place I was wasn’t perfect, But I had found a way to live; and it wasn’t milk or honey, but then neither is this.

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks; the future feels so hard and I want to go back.
But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned; those roads were closed off to me – while my back was turned

The past is so tangible – I know it by heart.  Familiar things are never easy to discard.
I was dying for some freedom, but now I hesitate to go; I am caught between the Promise and the things I know.
If it comes to quick, I may not appreciate it.  Is that the reason behind all this time in sand?
And if it comes to quick, I may not recognize it.  Is that the reason behind all this time in sand?”

Betrayal.  Scandal.  Happened to my family?  I listened to that song like it was medication – and it was.

Lying in a hospital bed, hanging onto my life, the doctors were puzzled.  No answers.  After all I had been through, was God going to forsake me now?  No.  He was going to have one of my daughters encourage me and share a song I had not heard before by Jaime Grace, called, “Not Alone”.

“Another sleepless night, She’s looking up and crying out – He’s just a little child.  Can you stop his hurting now?
It’s so quiet, But she hears in the silence

His arms are holding you – His love will see you through.  When you smile and you laugh but you’re fakin’
Cause you don’t know how you’re gonna make it. – You feel so much pain – And you can’t see your way – You’re not alone
You’re not alone

She’s trying to plan ahead, unsure about the time left – can’t let these moments pass, Instead she’ll treasure what she has
And when it’s quiet but she hears in the silence

His arms are holding you – His love will see you through.  When you try not to cry but to take it.
All the stress, and the hurt and heartache.  You may feel pain, But not as great as His name.  You’re not alone.
No you’re not alone – No you’re not alone.”

In that place of uncertainty amidst a lot of bad health news, the Lord gave me strength to rise up out of my hospital bed and make myself walk – make myself try to get better.  Thank God for this song that truly gave me strength and “grit” as my husband said.

The last song that has meant the most to me is difficult to select – it is from a multitude of songs that the Lord has given to me, which I penned.  All of them have meant so much to me, great encouragers of my faith, but perhaps the song, “Reign in Me” has ministered to me and listeners the most.  You can find the song at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dovel if you want to have a listen.  It is my song of surrender, of trusting God with all of my problems and placing my faith and life completely in Him.

“I come before Your holy throne, Lord, my life is not my own. You bought my life with Your sacrifice, now I know I’m not alone.           Reign in me – today.  

Make me whole, make me new, make me more like You.  Change my heart, change my mind, may new grace in You I find – Reign in me.

I bow my knee in humble need, Lord cleanse me of my greed.  I see my sin, help me begin, Lord, plant in me a seed.                     Reign in me – today.

Sometimes I feel I’m going backwards. When You show me what’s really on my heart.  But then You show me this is the path You said we all must take.”

Make me whole, make me new, make me more like You.  Change my heart, change my mind, may new grace in You I find – Reign in me.

Songs to me are the tonic of life.  When I became a Christian in college as a music major at the University of Maryland, suddenly God began to give me songs on the piano.  A brass musician at the time, it was indeed odd to suddenly have the skill to write and sing music.  So I did, and had a concert ministry and radio play for years. I currently serve on my worship team at New Life Community Church and there is truly no greater joy than singing to God.  Music is powerful and each song can impact another soul significantly.  I am grateful for the songs that have touched my life and hope that perhaps the songs that have healed me might heal someone reading this post, too. 

Writing 101, Day Two: A Room with a View (Or Just a View) – Challenge Question

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The water is calm, with ripples dancing across the surface of the sun-glistened lake.  A welcoming breeze flows through the tall trees and kisses my face.  I breathe deeply.  The wind cleanses away the pain and the sun hugs me with its warmth.  I smile.  In this moment, here at a cabin at the lake, time stands still and I am overwhelmed as I reflect on the passage of time.  No demands, no stress, just silence. My soul longs to be in this place – the appeal is palpable.

Suspended by the same rugged hammock as years past, I drink in the view around me – the same lake, the same breeze, caressed prior generations.  But I am here now – alone.  I soak in the sadness over all that has transpired and robbed me of my innocence, clinging to melancholic memories as if letting them go somehow erases the good portion of the memories I used to cherish.

Being in this unchanging scenery, I am at once comforted and disconsoled; so much change evident in my life, but my surroundings remain the same.  Provoked to dwell on the reality of my life, I am at peace that God is sovereign over it all.  I bask in the confidence that God already knows the end.  The same God who creates the breeze and sun continually for our enjoyment and sustenance – He is unchanging.  There is grace for each moment under the sun, but now, for just a brief moment I am here, grateful to be surrounded by such beauty, in awe of my Creator.