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Inspirational Verse: "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7
Some of my earliest memories are of my parents partying. As a child it seemed fun. Then, in about fourth grade I remember beginning to lie a lot. My mom told me not to, but there were no reasons why not, and certainly no clear consequences. As my sinful nature began to grow and take hold of my life, my problems began to spiral out of control.
By seventh grade I was very rebellious: drinking, smoking, cussing, stealing, lying, cheating, looking for attention from boys. By ninth grade my desire to steal had become insatiable. Being sexually active, drinking, smoking and drugs were the only ways I was entertained.
By this time, I had developed a deep anger and hatred for my step dad, it would be many years before I realized why. but his alcoholism started to become a big problem for our family, and my rebellious attitude only triggered him to become physically abusive towards me. My life seemed to grow darker by the year. It was during my senior year that I found myself in an abusive relationship with a boy, which seemed almost "normal." Three years later he became the father of my first born son and I stayed in that addictive, abusive, completely dysfunctional relationship for seven years.
One Fall, I attended our county fair where I encountered a hypnosis show. I allowed myself to be hypnotized, even though I was not part of the show. That was the beginning of my experience with the occult. I had no awareness of such dangerous demons, but at that moment one had entered my body. It didn't leave until I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart about three weeks later. That first week I was very confused. I felt this strange need to ask permission to do anything. Even using the restroom became difficult. I couldn't sleep for more than an hour or two a night. My mom noticed some of my strange and flighty behavior but didn't seem to understand the depth of the problem. I ventured out of town with a past boyfriend and ended up in a hospital for the mentally unstable. My parents requested I be brought to our hometown hospital, and I stayed there for the longest week of my life.
I had absolutely no concept of time during this ordeal. One minute or three hours, both literally felt the same to me. I ate nothing except parsley.
The mental hospital had doctors observe me and diagnosed me bipolar, along with various other conditions, for which I was prescribed seven pills a day. After taking all the medicine, I became unconscious for some time. When I woke up, I had no eye sight for a few hours, and I decided not to take any of the meds they recommended. This may have prolonged my stay but I didn't care. I saw some horrific things that week. My parents brought me home and had decided I needed to seek hypnosis counseling.
By the grace of God, my boss at the time could see what was going on in my life and was praying for me. She took me to her church where she and the elders prayed over me. That scared me, but it also began to set me free. After counsel, and explaining that I needed to give my life to Jesus, I left there emotionally drained. My boss had asked me to listen to only Christian music and to read the Bible. I tried to read the Bible but could not stay focused long enough. After a week of listening to the Christian music, someone on the radio said if I wanted to accept Jesus to call the 800 number, and I fell on my face crying as the woman on the phone counseled me. It was then that I was freed from the demon, even though I didn't quite realize what had just happened. I began to go to church, and to immerse myself in God's word. With the help of many lovely Christian women I began to grow in Him.
That was 17 yrs ago, and my story had only begun. God's grace has done so much more in my life since then.
Favorite Verses: "I lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep... The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.
Psalms 121:1-4, 8 nasb
In telling this story I want to start with saying EVERY birth is a gift and a miracle... But some births take just a little extra sprinkle of God's intervention. That's what happened with my second child, my beautiful son. I have had back problems since I was 12 and diagnosed with Scoliosis. I was treated by wearing a body cast for a year, followed with a brace until such time the doctors felt, by looking at an X-ray, I had reached my full height. At that time I had a 25% curve in my upper back, that I was assured would not progress. So I went about life, married, had my first child, a sweet baby girl. My pregnancy was very difficult, had to be hospitalized at 5 months to prevent a miscarriage and then she ended up being a preemie. After giving birth it was very apparent my curve had increased significantly.
Being absorbed in the joys of motherhood, I put off seeing specialist. When she was about 15 months old I decided it was time. At that time my curve had progressed to 50%. I saw a specialist and simultaneously found out I was pregnant. My gynecologist and spine doctors both had the same answer ...Have an abortion. They both felt the pregnancy, if I even carried him to term, would be disastrous, and because of the location of my curve my rib cage was twisting and would apply pressure on my heart. In short, the spine Dr said unless I was treated soon I would live a very short life.
Well, as always, God is good and He reminded me He was in control. And in my world abortion is not an option!! So as always, I took my need to my church family. There were two little, elderly ladies who came to me and said, "We are going to pray you and this baby through your pregnancy ". And that is exactly what they did! There were many prayers being offered from family and friends, but it touched my heart so greatly that those sweet little ladies felt called to pray us through!! My pregnancy went beautifully! I was healthier than I had been in a very long time and my son grew and flourished! I was induced a week early and my sweet baby boy was born in perfect health!!
The second Sunday following his birth was Easter, and we were at Easter service rejoicing in our risen Savior. And my dear ladies crocheted blankets for him. They were so thrilled to see him!! When he was three months old and my daughter was just over two years, I had my surgery. At that time my curve had increased to 75%. That's another story to share.
My encouragement to you is to listen to what the Lord has to tell you in all things. He will never leave you. He will comfort and support, and He may even give you a couple of earthly angels, in the form of two little ladies. God bless.
Bible Verse - "The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior, He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy."
I am a wife, a mom of three, and self-employed. For the past 10 years I was able to balance my job with being a wife and mom. However, a combination of things have thrown that balance off and I was struggling. Kids are getting older with more activities, homework, and their own schedules. Work became more demanding and unpredictable. I felt like God wanted me to make a change. I thought that I needed more and stronger boundaries to control my fast-moving life. I thought I could create the life I wanted and needed by not letting outside "unbalancers" in. So first, with my job, I started saying "no" more and I tried to separate my emotions from "business". Then, I set stronger boundaries with my kids schedules which included me telling them "no" more often too. Soon I had developed this inner struggle of setting and keeping boundaries and then feeling the guilt of shutting the world out and the world out from my kids. And on top of it all, I still felt unbalanced!
Then I was given a gift. A very close friend who understood my struggles gave me the book "Simply Tuesdays". Just after the introduction I realized that God did not want me to shut the world out. He wanted me to face it. Even more, He wanted me to face it with Him. "Unbalancers" will continue to threaten my life, however, "the goal isn't to set them aside but to recognize Christ with us in the midst of them." With God's grace and faith we can find the balance in our fast-moving lives.
Bible Verse: "These things I have spoken to you, so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full."
My true walk with God began in 2011. That was when, for the first real time, I learned that God has a voice. He sent my family and myself to a new town to live called Twain Harte. I did not understand why, but we did what He told us. Not long after moving there I was prompted to join a Bible study. That opened my heart to learn how to listen, and I enjoyed learning so much. I have learned to turn to Him often.
A year ago a mighty test of my faith came as my husband, Lou died. We were married for 50 years, having married when I was only 14 and he, 17 yrs. old. Up until these last few years, I always thought that if he was to go before me I would take my life within a couple days. But, Lou and I both had grown so much in our faith in Jesus Christ.
Lou was ready to leave this earth and join Him, and I have found more strength then I ever knew. I have turned to Christ at almost every turn and have found joy where I would have never been able to. I'm learning so much every day. And, I love more than I thought I could.
Life is good.
Bible Verse: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day."
2 Corinthians 4:16
Two days... for two days my Bible came with me, sat by me, beckoned me. I hadn't studied in weeks and hadn't made any quiet time with God. He brought a song to me and struck my heart with its words and sound. I was moved by it, more than usual, when all of a sudden a beautiful bald eagle swooped down in front of me and then back up into the tree, as if just to catch my attention. I wanted to cry... so I said, "Thanks." I knew God was there and trying to get at my heart. But I still filled my time with other things.
There were perfect times cleared away for study time, too. In these two days I had time alone, a quiet house, or just a space I'd carved out for myself. Each time I thought to sit and study I was dragged away or down.
Today, little things got in my way, pulled me away. A cloud of doubt whispered, "Why sit and study? You'll just forget whatever He says. You won't put it into action." Then legitimate things came up. Time with my daughter, bills to pay, house to clean, the beauty of the storm outside.
All of these things waged war on my heart and mind. The negatives seemed too heavy. I was finding it very difficult to not believe the lies that I was hearing from my own mind. And why????
God wanted to encourage me.
I sat to read and study, apologizing for being so weak. I prayed that He would still help me to hear what He wanted to say. I opened my Bible and read the first verse of the next section I was on.
Wow... did God engineer these words to speak directly to my heart today and for millions of others at other times? It seems so clear that He wanted me to hear this...
"Do not lose heart."
Do not lose heart... don't give up... don't believe the lies. He fought for me... for two days!! Just to tell me those four special words. He kept urging me, showing me the Bible where I had placed it and had intended to read it.
You know when you're down and you just can't seem to find the right things to get you back up and going? And then a friend walks in and says something that they didn't think much of but it makes all the difference to you? That was these four words to me. God may have said them through someone else, He may have meant them for many different things over the years. But today, He said them to me. He fought through my neglect and sad attempts to connect with Him. He pursued me for two days in particular, just to encourage me.
My heart is bolstered and I am rescued again. Oh that I could just remember this moment so that I won't ever let myself get so far away from Him.
Verse: "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you."
Psalm 32:8 (nasb)
She was never satisfied with my explanations which I thought were very simple. The questioning started once again on a long car ride to visit some friends and she asked, "Why do we live in Sonora, and not where our friends live?" As I was trying to formulate another "simple" response, her older sister, Cassie, from the back seat finally said, "Because that's where God put us!"
Audria was finally happy with that answer, and so was I. I love how God is in Cassie's heart and how He has used her to share His blessings with her sister.
Verse: "But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You."
Psalm 5:11 (nasb)
A couple of years ago we were the family of a Norman Rockwell portrait. Everything you could dream. Then, one thing after another came crashing down. Our children have divorced, my husband had two surgeries, which caused financial hardship, my dear father-in-law went to be with the Lord, friendships have ended, disagreements with church staff had us walking away from our home church. As I stood in the ashes of my world, crying, I was determined to find God.
He was bigger than any of this.
So, together, we would look for a blessing. Some days it was forced..."My coffee is good, Lord", I'd say with a weak smile.
Our family was wounded to our core, and as a mom, and wife, I had no way to "fix it." Overwhelmed by the circumstances we stood faithful to God.
He is unchangeable!
Today our family dynamics are totally different, but He is not! I face life, and all it has to throw at me, on that truth. Do I long for my life two years ago? Yes, I do miss it, but God has blessed me in new ways. I had to search for joy for a long time, but now I feel the joy of the Lord daily, in the little things of life.
He is a faithful God.
And I am stronger in my walk with Him. He doesn't promise easy, but He does promise He will be there with us, and that, my friends, is where the joy comes in, that security. We are not alone to face this life. We have a God who loves us beyond comprehension.
That makes my heart sing with Joy!!
Bible Verse: "A [wo]man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23
I heard a song on the local Christian radio station this morning. It talked about how different people had been there to help out in the writer's life, by sharing the gospel, or speaking encouraging words, even being physically helpful, as if they were the hands and feet of Jesus at work. Living out their faith not just in words, but in action. The words of the chorus went something like, "you were Jesus to me". Those words prompted the question of how are we being Jesus to those around us?
My mind immediately flipped back in time to two years ago when we moved to this small island in the Caribbean. For the first two months we didn't have our vehicle here and we pretty much worked non-stop on the condo we had purchased. Occasionally we would rent a car to drive to the hardware store, grab some groceries and then back, with our needy purchases, but in that two months I truly had not met or spoken to another believer. (Although I had overheard one believer encouraging another believer in the grocery store one day - and I hope they will forgive my eaves dropping as I was so hungry to hear talk about my Savior. As I moved down the aisle away from them there was a smile on my face and a song in my heart. ) Truth was, I was living in spiritual isolation and was ready to find a church and get settled, meeting others of like mind, so I was thrilled when our vehicle arrived in the shipyard (and yes, I even cried when I saw it.) Not only was the vehicle the only piece of "home" we still owned, but it meant FREEDOM!)
Back to the story at hand, "you were Jesus to me" happened that first week we got our vehicle and we drove to a well known chain store to get a few things. Lo, and behold, as we were exiting the store (having to show my receipt to the woman at the door) this dear woman finished up, and I began to walk out the door when her words followed after me, "God bless your day!" Sweeter words could not have been uttered, so thirsty was my soul to talk to someone who shared the same hope that I have. I stopped and backed up, looking into her eyes to say, "God bless you, too!"
I'm not sure she'd had that happen too often as she and I began to converse, for the next 20 minutes! She'd been on island for 8 yrs and was planning to leave in a couple years saying that it was just too hard of a place to live with so much negativity, and so little hope. I knew what she meant, my interactions to date had been with people who didn't seem to know how to smile, let alone say a kind word. It would certainly get disheartening day after day. But, there was this, there was the two of us, standing in the doorway, speaking of faith, speaking of our joy, speaking of the hope we have in the Lord.
I don't think she was even aware that day that she "was Jesus to me", but her words were meeting my need, and I pray, my words were meeting hers. I'm still so thrilled when I come to that door and see her standing on duty. And I'm not the only one. Someone mentioned her at church the other day, not by name, but as the one who blesses our day as we leave the store. I don't think any of us even know her name, but we know she knows how to be like Christ. Oh that each of us would be Jesus to someone today. That they would be blessed to have passed us. That our words would bring joy and hope. And maybe even extend a little grace where needed.
The year was 2005, a decade ago now. Christmas Eve was upon us. All the gifts were wrapped, cards were mailed, and decorations up. Rehearsals were complete for the choir's Christmas Eve service in Twain Harte. Christmas Eve fell on Saturday that year, and it was my turn to work the holiday shift at the local hospital. Normally I wouldn't have minded; illnesses and injuries don't take holidays, and the office would be quiet so I'd get lots of work done. But it had been less than 3 months since Mom's passing, and I was feeling nostalgic. She had come to live with us for over 17 years in her own little apartment area, and as adults we had become good friends. Most recently, in the last 18 months, we needed to move her, first to assisted living, and then finally to skilled nursing care at my hospital. She was just one street over from my office, so the last year of her life I could go visit at lunchtime or after work.
At Unit 7 there was an activities director named Susan, with whom I became friends. Susan had activity programs that were tailor-made for the residents based on their background. One resident adored Elvis, so you can imagine the fun we had singing and dancing to Elvis tunes. Susan would spontaneously pick up her guitar and serenade Mom, the pastor's wife, with hymns of faith. Everyone was invited to join the sing-alongs. By that time Mom was having difficulty communicating, but we would sometimes see Mom mouthing the words to "Holy, Holy, Holy," and amazingly, all the verses!
Well, there I sat in my office all alone, trying to not feel sorry for myself, as in my life I've attempted to overcome sadness with hope and joy. As the morning wore on and I was attempting to lose myself in my work, the feelings of the first Christmas without Mom began to overwhelm me. I hadn't been back to Unit 7 since Mom's passing, and I had the urge to go spread a little cheer. Earlier in the week I asked Susan, who by that time had moved on and was no longer working at the hospital, if she could possibly come at lunchtime so we could visit Unit 7 and do a Christmas sing-along with some of the residents, just like old times. Well, Susan was busy with her 2 daughters, shopping, baking, and celebrating the season, but she said she would try. I was beginning to think it wasn't going to happen, that it was just my little wish and dream.
But then about noon a knock came on my office door, and there was Susan! With her boom box and her daughter Elisa, she swept in and said "Let's head over to Unit 7!" Wow, was I ever ready, so I signed out for lunch and off we went. Susan is the kind of person who brings the party with her. We walked to Unit 7 and announced we'd be traveling the halls singing carols. Alright, said the staff, go for it! We primarily sang "O Holy Night," with Susan in her operatic voice, and Elisa and I singing backup. In the back room, old cowboy Ed was trying to watch a game on TV. We waltzed in, Susan switched off the TV and announced, "Ed, you're going to listen to us sing." After a short 3 minutes we turned the TV back on, and by that time Ed had a big smile. Then there were smiles all up and down the halls. When we passed Mom's old room I did feel a bit of a twinge, but it was all good, very, very good.
So I returned to the office all aglow, finished my shift, and went on to our church choir program that night, reminded that this is the season of surprises, big and little miracles, and abundant blessings!
hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
I was out in the yard, working on a project, picking up rocks out of the creek. I was going through the motions without really thinking. Or, if I were to be more honest, I wasn't thinking about God. But, it became obvious that He was thinking about me.
I collect heart shaped rocks. It used to be a casual thing, found one every once in a while, picked it up and stuck it in my pocket. But when my collection became serious was when we were living in Southern California, and as we were getting ready to move back home to Northern California, I was having a rather difficult time leaving. I went out on a long walk and everywhere I turned, there seemed to be a heart rock. I hadn't set out to look, my mind was more caught up in the emotions of the moment than looking for rocks. But it felt like everywhere my eyes went on the trail, I saw one! I made my way back to our condo with both my pockets and my hands filled with hearts. The tears had dried and in their place was the peace that passes understanding.
The last week or so, I guess I've felt a bit off, not my usual self. My name means, "Joy" and usually, it's not something that I'm lacking in. But lately, it's been one of those times when it's felt as though God has remained rather quiet and I've spent time dwelling on it. A couple of things that are prayers that come from deep within and have remained for many years, have felt a bit forgotten. I'm not one to think that God doesn't answer prayers for I know that the answers can be beyond our comprehension or our time table. That is something that I know in my mind but sometimes, I don't feel it in my heart.
So, as I stepped down onto the rocks today that had been uncovered by the recent swelling of our creek, first I found one heart, then another and another and another. By the fourth one, I had to laugh, I picked it up, thinking that it was shaped like the continent of Africa, "Oh, you haven't forgotten that dream either, have you Lord?" and as I flipped the rock over in my palm, the backside looked like, well, you can guess it - a heart. And He confirmed to me that He knows each and every desire of my heart.
When I go out looking for heart rocks, it always thrills me when I find one. But when I'm not even looking or consciously asking God for anything but He still shows up, that's when I'm reminded not only of His goodness but the expanse of His love. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He holds MY heart in the palm of His hand, He went so far as to inscribe my name there. It would make it rather difficult for Him to ever forget me. I was reminded of that today.