Monday, December 21, 2015

Evidence of the Reality of God

*Warning: this is going to be VERY personal. Please read with love and understanding.*


Three short years ago, I thought my little family was finished. I honestly believed that a few short months after Christmas would see an end to my marriage. James and I had come to a place of being roommates rather than husband and wife. We had separated for a few weeks and I was DONE. I had decided I did not want to deal with our problems any more. I had come to a place where my anger towards my husband was so severe, NOTHING he did was right or good enough. EVERYTHING he did ticked me off and made me want to punch him in the throat. I was ready to walk away from my marriage and never look back--without any regrets.

I did not buy James a single present for Christmas. Samuel did, but I didn't. James got me something that he wanted and that only made me angry because it was what he wanted rather than something I wanted. I didn't even want James in the house let alone have him present while Samuel opened his Christmas presents that I had gotten for him.

Even my family back east did not want him anywhere near them. He was told that he was unwelcome at my parents' family gathering for Christmas. 

I will not apologize for my honesty. Every word in the truth and then some. It really was even worse than I am describing.

But God had other plans. I want you to know that it is ONLY by His grace and mercy that my family is not only together this Christmas, but that we are enjoying being together. As I watched my husband and son opening their presents earlier this evening, I was filled with overwhelming love for them both and great JOY at the fact that we are spending this special time TOGETHER.

I have not missed the Christmas miracle of these moments this year. God has restored my marriage--my family. No, things are not perfect between James and me, but I no longer hate him; I no longer want to punch him the throat just because he walks by; I no longer think that every single thing he does is wrong. I like being around him. He actually makes me laugh again. 

If you need any evidence of the reality of God, who He is, and of what He has done for us, look no further than at His Restoration of my little family. I am in awe as I sit here looking at the pictures we took tonight and how wonderful our time together has been this Christmas compared to just a short time ago. 

My prayer this Christmas is that you will all see--find--the true JOY of Jesus Christ and KNOW that He is REAL and He continues to work miracles in our lives--not just "Christmas" miracles--but miracles.

Thank you, Jesus!

Works Cited

Shen, Jean. "Series 1: Healing of Wounds of the Bride and Growing Intimacy with the Lord." Invitation to His Garden. Prophetic Art. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. <http://www.jbrushwork.com/html/paintings.html>.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Life and Death Tug-of-War

In November 2009, six years ago this week, Life and Death played a tug-of-war with me. I stood half in the veil, half out. 

I had been sick for quite a while, but rather than go to the doctor, I took whatever pain medication I could get my hands on. I was taking a cocktail of ibuprofen, Aleve, Tylenol, Alka-Seltzer, Excedrine, Bayer, and any and everything else I could get my hands on to help deal with the pain. Even worse, I was taking no fewer than six pills at a time or I would take a dose of Alka-Seltzer and then turn around less than an hour later and take six Tylenol. I hurt on the lower right side of my belly and I was throwing up every day, sometimes several times a day. I was in a lot of pain, but I refused to heed the warning signals.

The week prior to my visit to the emergency room, I woke up on Sunday morning unable to breathe or move. I took some pain medication and forced myself to go to church. I continued to self-medicate over the course of that next week. Somehow I survived the week in spite of being in extreme, severe pain. 

Then, Sunday morning, November 22, 2009, the pain woke me up. I took something six or eight Ibuprofen and tried to go back to sleep for a little while. In only a few short minutes, the pain was so severe, I threw myself off the couch (the pain had been so bad that I had been sleeping on the couch for quite a while) and curled into a ball on the floor. I immediately knew I was in trouble, but I was unable to catch my breath enough to call out to my husband. All I could do was pound on the floor until he finally came in to see what in the world was going on.

I was able to breathe out that we had to go to the emergency room. Because of the late hour, or early rather--it was about 4:00 am--and the fact that I was in as much pain as I was, we had to leave immediately which meant that my son, who was 9 at the time had to go to the hospital with us. Every turn of the car around the curves along the road was pure agony. My husband tried to drive slow so it wasn't so bad on me, but I indicated that he needed to drive faster rather than slower.

Thankfully, there wasn't anyone at the emergency room ahead of us. I was taken through triage and put in a room almost immediately. 

I tried to smile and make light of the situation because I did not want to panic my son. To this day, I have never asked him what was going on with him during that horrible time. I'm honestly afraid to ask.

A nurse came in with two bottles of banana-flavored barium and told me that once I drank both bottles, I would be taken for a CT scan. Even now, six years later, I still can't eat or smell a banana without gagging.

The CT scan showed that I had an abscess in my colon. I was admitted to the hospital. Almost as soon as we got to my room, I told my nurse that I had to go to the bathroom. I did not make it. The barium came out of every orifice it could come out of. I was put on heavy drugs in an attempt to lessen the infection. From Sunday the 22 to Saturday morning the 28, I spent the vast majority of my time passed out. 


I remember my dad coming to visit and telling me that he was going to take Samuel back east with him for Thanksgiving. Samuel missed a few days of school, I think.

I remember some friends of mine coming in to visit. I know I talked to them and we laughed and that they combed my hair for me, but the only other thing I remember about the time they were with me were my hallucinations. I was in a beautiful meadow with butterflies, rainbows, clouds, and Gerard Butler. 

My boss came in with his wife, but all I was able to do was wave at them before I passed out--again.

I remember that my nurse asked if I would agree to move to a different room, one that put me across the hall from the nurse's station. 

My sister arrived at some point. As did my mom. 

On Saturday morning, November 28, I had to drink two more bottles of banana-flavored barium so my doctor could attempt to drain the infection while I was in the CT scanner. He was unable to perform the procedure, so I was immediately taken to the OR for emergency surgery where  my colon was rerouted so I had to wear an ostomy bag for the next several months. Several drains were put in as well. I had two separate incisions--one that ran up and down from my belly button to my hair line and the other on my left side which is where the hole was that I used for the next several months when "using" the bathroom.

I was, of course, put on even more extreme pain medication after my surgery. My hallucinations scared me as nothing else during that scary time had. I saw demons flying around my hospital room, attempting to attack me. To this day, I believe they were demons of death come for me.

But I made it. I stayed in the hospital for another week before I was allowed to go home. Three months later, my doctor reversed the surgery and removed all need for the ostomy bag, Praise the Lord. Even now, though, six years later, touching my belly hurts something awful. I cannot lie on my belly for longer than a few minutes and even at that, when I do roll over, my belly--the incisions--burn with pain. It typically takes a few minutes of breathlessness before I am able to move again. Needless to say, I avoid lying on my stomach as much as possible.

The beauty of this story, if you choose to see it that way with me, is that LIFE won the tug-of-war over DEATH for Polly Anna!  

I am Alive! I am here today, alive and full of the Joy of the Lord! Hallelujah!


Works Cited

Shen, Jean. "Series 1: Healing of Wounds of the Bride and Growing Intimacy with the Lord." Invitation to His Garden. Prophetic Art. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. <http://www.jbrushwork.com/html/paintings.html>.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month--October 2015


As we come to the end of National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, I wanted to share a few thoughts.

First of all, I would like to put it out there that one month of attempting to make more people aware of pregnancy and infant loss is simply not enough. People need to be aware of this important subject year round--as we do for so many other vitally important diseases and causes. I am glad that there is at least a time of attempting to make more people aware of something so important. I am thankful that there are those who are willing to do what it takes to stop the silence.

When I lost James Isaac 16 years ago, I only spoken to or known of one person in my life who had ever suffered child loss. The woman I knew had had a stillbirth more than 15 years prior to my stillbirth. She had pictures of her baby throughout her home. She was not afraid or ashamed to share her story. I remember (prior to my stillbirth) being very uncomfortable, yet feeling very sad, around this amazing woman. But she was the only woman who had ever shared with me that she had lost a child.

Once we had our stillbirth, women seemed to crawl out of the woodwork sharing with me about their losses--mostly miscarriages. Because of the fact that many of these women shared their stories with me while I was still in the midst of the shock stage of my grief, I honestly don't remember exactly which women shared their stories with me or even what their stories were. I do know that there were quite a few of them.

My point is that we shouldn't wait until a friend or loved one loses a baby before we share our stories.
We should share our stories with love, pride, and yes, even joy. I loved--love--all three of the babies I lost. I am not a mommy of JUST my living, breathing son, Samuel; I am mommy to James Isaac (born & died March 17, 1999), Panya Ruth (miscarried November 10, 1999), Samuel Josiah (b. May 1, 2001), and Anna Rose (miscarried November 22, 2005).

So secondly, it is important for those of us who are part of this Family to be able to feel free to say that we are Mommy to more than just one child without feeling as if we've brought the roof down or without making everyone around us uncomfortable.

Who do we "fix" or change that? The only way to change the awkwardness around us whenever someone brings up "lost" babies is to be loving and simply let the Mommy (or Daddy) talk. In spite of our desire to say something to "help," saying nothing is typically the best option--except to ask a question or to gently and lovingly let the Mommy know that she is in a "safe" place with a "safe" person. Hugs go a LONG way. As do simple touches. 

Over the past 16 years, I quit sharing with so many people about my losses. The uneasiness that comes into a room says more than any words could possibly say. I don't like or want to make people uncomfortable. But I do want to share about my babies.

I loved--love--them. They were real for me. They ARE real for me. Yes, it is painful for me to talk about my babies, but even more than that, it especially painful to act as if they never were--never to speak their names or to share with others how very much I love each of them.

In truth, writing this blog (and my Memoir) is not easy for me. I am scared to death of how you will receive my story. Not to mention the simple fact that sharing my story is still painful--even though the first loss happened more than 16 years ago. With each post I write, I feel as if I am wearing my heart outside my body, but I've heard that every mother feels that way about her child--whether here on this earth or in heaven.

We're taught about being sensitive, loving, and understanding with those who have physical challenges and disabilities, mental challenges and disabilities, widows/widowers, children who have lost their parents or grandparents or other loved one, and especially with those of a different race. But we aren't taught about being sensitive, loving, and understanding with those who suffer the loss of a baby. We have NO idea what to do with those who have lost a baby.

I'm here to tell you that we need to be sensitive, loving, and understanding with Mommies whose arms are empty. We deserve that, too.

Works Cited

Shen, Jean. "Series 1: Healing of Wounds of the Bride and Growing Intimacy with the Lord." Invitation to His Garden. Prophetic Art. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. <http://www.jbrushwork.com/html/paintings.html>.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Darkness....again?!

As someone who has suffered severe depression, I can tell you that when the day came when I woke up and felt as if I had finally stepped out of darkness and into light, I felt a joy unspeakable and full of glory! Hallelujah! I was no longer depressed! I could quit taking my depression medicine and actually LIVE! Yippee!!!

Yeah. No.

In her book, LAUGHING IN THE DARK, Chonda Pierce talks about the time she felt healed--as if she was walking in the light rather than in the dark. Like me, she chose to quit her depression medication and even to lessen her trips to her counselor (yeah, me too). Also like me, though, out of nowhere, the day came when "there [was] a heavy gnawing inside me--a sad, aching feeling that something wasn't right inside my head. The darkness was back" (196).

What?! Seriously?! 

Wasn't I HEALED? Didn't God Himself take me out of the darkness and bring me into the light? Didn't I see Him roll the stone over the entrance to my cave and seal it shut, never to be opened again? Didn't I?!

Yes, I did!

But the truth is that in spite of healing, depression is not simply a matter of feeling or my emotions that I can simply pack into a box and put away to be pulled out when I so choose. Depression is a chemical state of the brain that the depressed individual has NO control over. 

With every fiber of my being, I wish I could just "get over it" and move on with life and quit living in depression. I hate being depressed. As a general rule, I'm a very happy--no, JOYFUL--woman. I love the Lord. I love reading my Bible and worship. I love being a pastor's wife. I love my church. I love my family and friends. I love my job. I love the beauty of God's amazing creation. I love LIFE. But the truth is that when the darkness comes, all I want to do is curl up in my comfortable blanket and hide from the world.

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago that still holds true:


I hate the sadness
  but I am powerless against it.
It settles on me like a warm, cozy blanket.
Even though I hate myself for it,
  I welcome it.
  I snuggle deeper into it.
I allow it to wrap around me--
  Into me.  I feel it deep-down to my toes.
I am cocooned in it.
Worst of all--I like the way it makes me feel.
I want to be able to:  laugh
                               sing
                                run
                                jump
                                play
                                praise
                                 --Pray.
But I am trapped deep inside my Sadness.
The Joy--pure, true Joy--of only
  moments ago is a distant memory already.
Is there anyone to help?
  Is there someone who will pull the blanket off for me?
Yet, worst of all, I REALLY like the way it makes me feel.

Polly Anna Watson
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

 In many ways, yes, depression is "comfortable" for someone like me, but not for the reason you might think. It's because it's my "normal." I wish it wasn't, but because it is, I do tend to feel "safer" when I am depressed than when I am walking in the Light and the Joy of the Lord. I do much prefer living in Joy--honest. If I had my choice, I would walk in God's amazing Joy all the time.

So please be patient with me--and with others who suffer from depression. Don't expect us to "JUST get over it." We're trying. We really are. Just love us.....that truly is the best thing you can do to help us through the darkness.

The old saying is so true that in order to know TRUE Joy, we must know TRUE sadness. 

Works Cited
Pierce, Chonda. Laughing in the Dark: A Comedian's Journey through Depression. New York: Howard, 2007. Print.
Shen, Jean. "Series 1: Healing of Wounds of the Bride and Growing Intimacy with the Lord." Invitation to His Garden. Prophetic Art. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. <http://www.jbrushwork.com/html/paintings.html>.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Words DO Break the Bones of our Hearts

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbs 18:8New Living Translation (NLT)

Rumors are dainty morsels
    that sink deep into one’s heart.

(KJV)











No matter which translation is used, the Bible is clear about how painful rumors or stories told with only part of the information dig deep into the innermost heart of the soul of the person being talked about. 

When I was a young girl being picked on (for everything from my name, Polly Anna, to being short, to being bigger than the other girls, to wearing glasses, to just being different from everyone else), I was taught that rhyme many of us learned at a very young age: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Adults and others who are still teaching this rhyme and believing it, STOP LYING. I wasn't bothered when I learned who Santa and the Easter Bunny really were. I learned early on that those kinds of "lies" are all in good, clean, honest fun to help make the lives of children more magical. And I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to have had a very magical childhood.

But telling our children that words don't hurt is the biggest lie we could ever tell, teach, them. They learn very quickly that they'd much rather than sticks and stones thrown at them [sometimes] than they would the horrible words said by people they thought were their friends.....by people who just don't understand or care to understand what they're going through.

Can you relate? I'd be willing to bet that you can, more than you'd like to admit. I know I can.

The worst words, though, have come in my adult life from the very people I have trusted the most. Before I get into this, I have to say that before YOU read on, know that I'm going to get not only very personal, but I'm also going to say some more about my faith. Read the following at your own discretion. 

Most of my examples that I am going to share with you come after we lost James Isaac in March of 1999. (Note that I am not counting the words said DURING the horrible experience--only after.): 
          * "You brought this on yourself by reaching up to turn on and off the lights in your home." (We had a pull string for all the lights in our house at the time.)
          * "God will work all things together for our good." (The typical scripture from Romans that tends to be quoted at times of suffering and difficulty.)
          * "God must have needed/wanted another angel." (Say what?!)
          * "You can always have more." (What about THIS baby?!)
          * "You have to get over this and move on."
And the list goes on. The last one was said by a dear, precious, highly respected Christian woman who chose to block me into a corner as she righteously told me that I just needed to "get over it" and "move on" and that I had grieved for "long enough."

I am here to tell you that these words spoken by friends and loved ones HURT. They cut like knives into my very soul. I had lost my BABY. A part of me. A part of my own body. These well-wishers couldn't understand because they hadn't been through what I had. In their minds, they were being helpful, but in reality, they were HURTFUL.

I think that's why so many women (couples) choose to wait until their 2nd trimester to tell anyone that she's pregnant. If anything does happen and she loses the baby, she doesn't have to hear stupid things from people who should just learn that hugs are so much better than the words spewing out of their mouths. 

It's sad, though, don't you think that we're so afraid of the hurtful things people will say that we can't, we won't, even share our joys?

The hurtful words only got worse as the years went on and I miscarried Panya Ruth in November of 1999 and then Anna Rose in November of 2005. The worst words came from my very own husband. 

The first time his words cut deep was not too long after we lost James Isaac in '99--and several months before we even knew we were pregnant again. My husband is a pastor and we had several folks in our church who wanted to be baptized. Since we don't have a baptismal in our church building, we used one that a couple in our church were members of. On our way to the pool, my husband and I rode together. During that 20 to 30 minute ride together (the first time we'd been alone together for a while), I poured my heart out to him about how bad I was hurting and struggling with moving beyond my grief. When we pulled in the parking lot at the pool as I put the car in gear, my husband turned to look me dead in the eye and said, "I'm never riding with you to another baptism."

I'm not even going to attempt to explain the pain of those words after I'd just poured out my heart to him.

The next time his words cut deep was in 2006, about six months after I miscarried Panya Ruth. We had agreed we'd wait six months to let my body heal. It was a long, difficult six months, but I lived on the thought that maybe by the end of the year we'd be pregnant again. I had been to my doctor who had given me the thumbs up that it was safe for us to try again. So, we began trying. Every single day. We tried HARD. Then came the day when we were going at it hot and heavy when he got up out of the bed. 

Okay........?

I waited, thinking he was closing the door so we didn't wake our 4-year old son.

He did close the door, but then he opened his top dresser drawer. I knew what he kept in that drawer. "What are you doing?!"

Silence.

"What in the world are you doing?!"

"I've decided that I don't think we should try any more to have any more children."

If I have to explain to you the pain that his words gave me, then you might need to stop reading this.

Yes, our marriage went in the crapper. Yes, I was angry with him for years. Yes, it got bad enough that NOTHING he did was right. Yes, I came to HATE him. 

Thankfully I serve a God who is bigger than our hurts and the painful, cutting words spoken. Through lots of counseling, time away (yes, we separated for a time), LOTS of scripture reading, LOTS of prayer, and even LOTS of Bible Studies on joy, I began to find the JOY in my life rather than focusing on the pain in my life.

I want to end this by saying that while I have grown and many of my wounds have healed, it is very easy for those wounds to be re-opened--to be TORN back open and to hurt worse than ever before. Words STILL hurt. A lot. I know quite a few women (and some men) whose wounds are still fresh and who are still in a ton of pain from the thoughtless words spoken by those who have NO IDEA what we're going through.

Remember that Words DO have the power to heal, kill, and/or destroy. Which words will you choose?


Works Cited

Shen, Jean. "Series 1: Healing of Wounds of the Bride and Growing Intimacy with the Lord." Invitation to His Garden. Prophetic Art. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. <http://www.jbrushwork.com/html/paintings.html>.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Quite possibly one of THE best movies EVER

Almost every semester, I show the movie Life as a House as a lead-in to one of our essays in my freshman comp class. I use it differently almost every time I use it, but I always find a way to make it work. I LOVE this movie.

Years ago (the movie came out in 1999 or 2000 or sometime thereabouts), I was visiting my sister and we decided to watch a movie on-demand. We settled on this movie, Life as a House. If you've ever seen it, you know that it has a VERY rough beginning. In all honesty, it's the type of beginning that makes you wonder why we continued watching it. As a Christian, I was having a very difficult time with the language as well as the subject matter. My sister and I discussed turning it off, but we decided that it seemed to have a point, so we were going to give it a little longer before we turned it off.

Then, just as the  movie was making a turn for the better, the lights went out. A storm had been raging outside for quite a while, but we didn't feel it necessary to turn off everything. When the lights went out, we both screamed and then asked each other if we thought the movie would go back to where we were. We were quite upset at being interrupted during the movie.

It was then that I realized that this movie might have had a rough beginning, but it was making a powerful impact on me.

By the end of the movie, we were both crying buckets. Ever since then, Life as a House has been one of those movies I tell everyone I can to watch and I make people watch it even if they don't want to!

I bring it up here in this blog about finding Joy Regardless of life's circumstances because in the movie, George, the main character played by Kevin Kline, tells his son Sam, played by Hayden Christenson, "You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don't even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don't even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me."  

I have experienced such change both ways--change for the worse and change for the better--and both have been "so constant [I didn't] even feel the difference until there [was] one." Prior to my explosion at my husband a few short years ago, I knew something was wrong, but life was going on....I was getting done what needed to be done...I was functioning. I went to school. I went to church. I did my job. I talked to my son. I read. But I wasn't LIVING. I was a body moving around with no real soul. I was angry, depressed, spiritless, lifeless, and worst of all, I hated myself and my life. I didn't even realize just how bad things were until I couldn't control my anger towards my husband. I had found my way into the very back recesses of my cave (see previous posts) and I hadn't even realized I was in such incredible darkness.

I had to go away for a time to collect and pull myself together. (Thank you, Fairhaven Ministries.) 

Since that time, I have been consistently reading my Bible. I've been doing a daily Bible reading plan to read through the Bible each year. I haven't finished it every year since then, but I've continued to read my Bible, regardless. 

I have done any number of Bible studies, most of which have been on Joy: Kay Warren's Choose Joy; Margaret Feinberg's Fight Back with Joy; Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts; Joyce Meyer's Seven Things that Steal Your Joy; as well as anything else I have been able to get my hands on regarding joy.

I began counseling--again--with a trusted counselor. I started going every week at first and then gradually worked down to doing just once a month. 

I got back into church. I had quit going for a while because I was just too overwhelmed with everything. Yes, I know....my husband is a pastor and I QUIT going to church. But I couldn't handle it. I've started teaching Sunday School again! That's a big one!

And, as I mentioned in my previous post, I began exercising/working out recently! I'm MOVING in some way, shape, form, or fashion at minimum 5 out of 7 days during the week! And I'm loving it--well, I'm enjoying it a whole lot more than I ever expected! :)

My point is that just as change was so constant in the direction of "worse" that I wasn't truly aware of what was happening, but it was also so constant in the direction of "better" without my being FULLY aware of what has been happening. I've felt better, but I haven't been fully AWARE of things being better....until recently.

And it's wonderful. Just as George realized that he was no longer going to let the "yucky" stuff in his life keep him from living, he consciously CHOOSES to LIVE. To make a life...to build a life, as George says: "I always thought of myself as a house. I was always what I lived in. It didn't need to be big. It didn't even need to be beautiful. It just needed to be mine. I became what I was meant to be. I built myself a life. I built myself a house."

I don't see myself as a house as he does. My analogy is of being in a dark, scary, horrific cave and rather than building a house to build my life, I came out of the cave, out of the darkness, and into the light! I don't need to be beautiful (to others). I just need to live my life the best I can, being a shining light for my Lord who has led me out of darkness and into the light!

I came out of the darkness and into the light...I have built myself a life of joy through the power of the Holy Spirit. And just as George's house is amazing and shows the positive changes in his life, the fact that God has sealed my cave shut shows the positive, wonderful changes in my own life.

So while my story is different from George's, the essence, the point is the same: we both realized life STUNK and we made conscious choices to change and make life better. George built a house to demonstrate the positive changes in his life. God is anointing me with His oil of JOY more than on anyone else! He is using me as a light to shine for Joy for him. 

I am becoming more and more what God has always meant for me to be, and I can't wait to see what God does in and with me next!!!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Feelin' so wonderful!

First of all, I am so sorry it's been so long since I last posted. I didn't mean to go so long between posts; I've just been really busy--in a good way!

In recent months, I have finally felt well enough--emotionally, physically, AND mentally--to begin focusing on Polly's health. I joined a local gym in January that has a pool because I figured that if I'm going to work out, I'm going to do it in a pool! Besides the fact that my counselor and my team (regular doctor, OB doctor, chiropractor, rheumatologist, and masseuse) all agreed that the pool is the best option for me when it comes to an exercise regimen. Catawba Valley Medical Center Fitness Plus

It has taken me quite a while to build up not only my stamina but also my routine so that I keep going rather than not doing any exercise at all. And let me tell you, I have struggled with going--wanting to go, especially! Quite often, I've made one excuse after another not to go: "I'll workout at home." (But then I don't.) "I've had a rough day; I just need to go home and chill." (As if exercise doesn't help relieve the stress from a rough day, especially moving in the pool!) "I need to get home for my son." (He's all of 14 years old now and can handle being home for an hour--or two--without "Mommy" standing over him every second.) And the excuses went on and on until summer came and I didn't make it to the pool even once.

I could tell that I wasn't exercising. I could tell in my body. I could tell in my emotions!

My emotions?!

Wait just one cotton-pickin' second....what in the world does working out/exercising have to do with my EMOTIONS?!

Honestly, I have NO answer that other than to say that it seems to have an awful lot more to do with my emotional well-being than I believed possible. Those of us who are definitely more sedentary than those exercise-a-holics will attest to the fact that we felt just fine sitting on the couch, binge-watching whatever new show appears on Netflix. And that they can HAVE their exercise. I just can't do it---it hurts my knees; my arm hurts; I don't have time. And so on and on--all valid, right? But the longer we continue to sit on the couch, the worse we feel both physically and emotionally.

But for those of us who are couch-potatoes, we are not aware of how much being active influences, affects, more than just our getting up off the couch.

The benefits have been crazy-awesome!
1. My stamina in working out has improved immensely. When I first started exercising, no matter what I did, I struggled beyond a few minutes. I couldn't breathe while working out and it took me what felt like forever to recover after working out. I couldn't even walk but a few hundred feet--ok, truth be told, a hundred feet--without needed to sit down and rest for 10 minutes. (That's no lie or exaggeration. Walking into school from my car or back out to my car after school was over felt like running a 3k marathon. It may have only been a couple hundred feet of walking, but it was pure torture for me.)

Just this morning, I found myself walking in to school from my car at a brisk pace and not being out of breath or feeling as if I was going to die before I made it to my office! Now don't get me wrong; I still have a long way to go, but at least I'm not longer panting like a dog after just taking a few steps!

I also noticed when we did our monthly major shopping venture a few weeks ago that I survived longer this time than I have in the past! Previously, after just one store, I wanted to call it a day, but I'd suffer through a second only to come home and crash for the rest of the day. This last time, we went to three separate stores and I was ready to go to another! The only reason we went home was because there wasn't any more room in my car!

2. My emotional well-being is through the roof. I can't even begin to tell you how much happier and more joyful I've been feeling in recent weeks--since I started working out consistently. I have spent the last 16 years in an extreme state of depression and have hated my life. Yes, suicide was considered. (I'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but I'm shooting for honesty and vulnerability here to help you understand just how much God is doing in my life--where I was and where He is taking me.) Now, I LOVE life! I can't wait for the next thing! I want to hang out with friends and go to parties!

In recent years, I've opted out of most parties and get-togethers, putting my husband and son in a position to make whatever excuses they wanted. No birthday parties. No Fourth of July celebrations. I even avoided most holiday celebrations except with my immediate family.

I've been going to parties and other social events, mingling, and having the time of my life at each and every one!

I even found myself laughing without effort just last night at a Writer's meeting!!! It felt so great not to be fake--not to pretend that something is funny.

3. I just plain and simply feel "Peachie." Or "Pinkie!" (I really do want to start saying "Pinkie" instead of "Peachie," but I've been saying "Peachie" for a little over a year now; it's going to be a hard habit to break!) Anyway, when I first started answering the question, "How are you?" with "Peachie!"--I didn't mean it. But I determined to "fake it 'til I made it" true, so I kept saying it anyway. In recent weeks (months), I've said "Peachie!" and I've meant it! I have no idea when the transition took place, but I can tell you that it was just over the past week when I realized that I was saying it and meaning it!

4. When I go somewhere or hang out with friends, I am able to function longer. Wow. I used to go to events (when I couldn't get out of not going) and leave at the very first opportunity. The longest I would last would be about an hour. If I hadn't "escaped" by then, I'd just up and leave without saying "Goodbye" or anything to anyone.

Now, I want to stay until the very last person leaves! And I'm sad when the "party" is over!

I just have to tell you that God is soooooo good! My healing journey is NOT over. I still have moments (albeit much briefer than in previous years) when I just want to sit down and weep for no reason beyond the fact that I'm just SAD. I still ache for my babies. I'm pretty sure I always will. But I am now in a place where I am LOVING life and I am so very excited to see what God is going to do in my life and where He is going to take me!!!

JUMOY! (My made-up word for "Jump for Joy.")


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fail under pressure

Proverbs 24:10 says that "If [I] fail under pressure, [my] strength is too small" (NLT).  The King James version says that "If [I] faint in the day of adversity, [my] strength is small" (emphasis mine).   The Message translation says it this way:  "If [I] fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn't much to [me] in the first place."  And the NIV translation words it, "If [I] falter in a time of trouble, how small is [my] strength!"

Uh-oh. 
Confession time:  I have failed/fainted/fallen to pieces/faltered under pressure/in days of adversity/in a crisis/in times of trouble.  I fell to pieces just this past week when my vacation wasn't as perfect as I'd dreamed it would be.

It was miserable hot.  Everything cost more money than I was willing to pay.  We all wanted to do different things at different times.  It was miserable hot.  Where we went was nothing like what I expected it to be--it turned out to be nothing but a tourist trap, in spite of the fact that many people I know and love have visited the same place and LOVED it.  Personally, I didn't see at all what the fuss was about.  It was ok, but I don't feel that I would have missed out on much if I'd never been and I honestly don't care whether or not I ever go again.  (I probably will go again, but not because I want to go THERE, but because a conference I want to go to is there next year.)  And to make my failure complete, I fell even more to pieces when a family member's dog and I tried to occupy the same space and I was the one who had to move--and got hurt in the process.

Boy, oh boy did I ever fail, and faint, and fall to pieces, and falter.  Things prior to my vacation had been going so incredibly well.  I'll even go so far as to say that they were going "my way."  I was on a high and I was feeling the presence of God--of the Holy Spirit--such as I've never experienced in all of my 44 years.  I was feeling as if I was finally coming out of my deep depression and severe anxiety and that God truly did have me in the palm of His hand.  Hallelujah!

And then I go on vacation and things didn't go EXACTLY my way--the way I wanted to go or the way I expected, and I failed....I fainted....I fell to pieces....I faltered.  Lord, help me, I wish I could say that my faith/strength was so much stronger than it proved to be.

How exactly did I fail?  I complained the whole trip.  I tried not to.  I really did, but the fact of the matter is that I did.  It was too hot.  The drive is too long.  It was too hot.  I don't want to go there.  It was too hot.  Everything is too expensive.  It was too hot.  Dad won't let me drive.  It was too hot.  I don't want to eat there.  It was too hot.  I don't want to swim in the in-door pool.  It was too hot.  I don't want to get in the jacuzzi.  It was too hot.  I don't want to sleep there.  It was too hot.  (You get the idea.)

Worst of all, when the dog and I came to "fisticuffs" and I lost, I was angry--not that the dog had bitten me, but that I wasn't given the pity I felt I deserved after the "attack."  And I ended up not visiting with my family and spending quality time with everyone as a result.  I moped and pouted and told anyone who would listen at every opportunity I had how much it hurt--my bruises, that is.

My family loves this dog in the same way I love my son, yet I acted as if this dog was crap in a dung pond.  I had no more respect for her than I did for the fly I swatted dead that landed in front of me.

I wish I could say that when I leave home, my joy--my strong faith--goes with me.  But it is clear that the minute I get out of my routine, I fail.  Just as soon as I think I'm doing well, something comes along to show me that my faith is still very weak and I have a LONG way to go to become who and what God wants me to be--who and what I want to be in the Lord.

The bad news is that my faith is not as strong as I think it is...when I am home safe and sound and in my own daily, personal routine.  When my routine is interrupted, I fall to pieces and fail like the weakling I am.

The good news is that God is a God of grace and mercy.  The good news is that God loves me no
matter what.  The good news is that I can keep working on it.  I can keep growing and striving on a daily basis to grow stronger in the Lord--to grow my faith.  The Bible says that I only need faith the size of a mustered seed, so I know that staying strong under pressure is possible--through and in God.  I just can't give up.  I have to keep reading my Bible on a daily basis.  I have to keep doing devotions on a daily basis.  I have to keep showing my Gratitude to and for God in everything.  I have to keep Praising Him.  I have to keep worshiping Him.  I have to keep on keeping on.

Daily I must CHOOSE to trust in Him and to remember that when I am WEAK, He is STRONG.  I only fail--I am only a failure--if/when I give up and not longer trust in my Lord and Savior.  I will, no, I DO CHOOSE JOY.  I may have failed, fainted, fallen to pieces, but the best part is that my God makes all things new--He picks up the broken pieces and makes something BEAUTIFUL.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

My Journey to Joy

Yuck.  When I was much younger--with my whole life ahead of me, all I saw were sunshine and roses.  My life was everything anyone could dream of having.  I had (still do) wonderful, amazing God-fearing parents who taught me more than I ever express.  I had (still do) and older brother with a bright future ahead of him--he was married, already had a gorgeous little girl, and was working towards becoming a chemist.  I had (still do) a younger sister who was everything I'd ever wanted in a sister and who brought light into everyone's life.  My grandparents were very much a part of my life and I loved and appreciated them very much.  In the summers, we spent more time with them than we did our parents and we loved it that way!  I was in college to become a teacher.  I had wanted to be a teacher even before I had started school--way back when I was three years old, I would play "School" in the family bathroom--for hours!  I had many friends.  I had a boyfriend who eventually became my fiance.  

Life was soooo good!  I had so much to look forward to.  My future was bright and I was excited about what God was going to do.

I was so young and so very naive.  I had NO idea that life was NOT all sunshine and roses and that just when I'd think I could at least have some sunshine with a few roses, something would happen to bring tremendous storms and to kill my roses even down to the roots.  (Read my previous blog posts for the trials I've suffered.)

If you had shown the image above to me way back then, I would have laughed and said, "Bring it on!"  I believed that I honestly, truly, and seriously handle any turn in the road life brought.  I was excited and READY for my Life Journey.  

Since then, of course, I have learned.  Oh, have I ever learned.  

One thing that continues to stay with me, though, as I am coming out of my cave is that for every single step of my journey, God in Jesus Christ Himself has been with me.  Sometimes He has walked beside me.  Sometimes He has carried me.  Sometimes we have simply sat together while He has held and comforted me.  Always, though.  A.L.W.A.Y.S. He has been with me.

What is even more amazing to realize is that while I am bruised, battered, and broken and feeling
beyond repair, all I'm supposed to do--all He expects me to do--is to be able to STAND.  He is fighting for me.  He is my Protector.  He is my Shield.  So many scriptures demonstrate the truth of the fact that God fights my battles for me.  All He asks me to do is to STAND--and be courageous!  (For right now, I'm not going to take the time to list all the scriptures with such a reference, but trust me.  If you don't, then please go ahead and look them up!  I hope you'll be wonderfully amazed and excited to see how very many times God has said that He fights for us!)  My whole job is to wear my armor--keep it on--and to STAND AND SEE WHAT HE IS DOING/HAS DONE for me!!!  

As I look back over my life's journey so far, I see so many places where He fought for me.  He did the best He could considering the battle He was fighting.  I have no idea what it is that I am still meant to do in this life, but I know that I am still here on this earth for a reason....that God still has SOMETHING for me to do to glorify Him.  Otherwise I would be dead now from the attacks of the enemy.  And let me tell you, the enemy has attacked.  He continues to try to attack me, but just as He has always done, Christ runs interference.  

Yes, some of the enemy's servants broke through and got to me while Christ was busy fighting elsewhere.  But He has never failed me in spite of those attacks.  I'm still here, right?!  I believe that just as I have wept and mourned my losses, He has wept and mourned with me--all while comforting me--and still fighting the attacks of the enemy.  
I am humbled as I realize what Christ has done for me.  Yes, He came to this earth as a baby to live and die (a horrible, horrific, horrendous death) because He loves me so very much.  And that means the world to me.  It is what originally drew me to Him and gave me the desire to accept Him into my life.  But what has kept me following Him with every fiber of my being is the knowledge that He loves me so very much that He has fought and He continues to fight the enemy--doing everything in His power to keep me Safe.  

His word says that He will NEVER leave me.....I am so incredibly thankful that so far, He never has.  I know that because He has been with me so far on this journey of mine that He will ALWAYS be with me.

For some reason or another, He loves me so much that He has chosen to anoint me with His oil of JOY more than on anyone else (Psalm 45:7 & Hebrews 1:9).  So in spite of the twists, turns, side roads, getting lost, and so on as we have taken this journey of mine, God still wants me to find Joy in Him.  Because of what He as done for me, I find it impossible not to be full of the Joy of the Lord!  

My journey isn't even close to being finished.  I still have healing to do.  I know that God has more for me, especially for my ministry.  He has put dreams and desires in my heart.  I know He will bring them to pass.  I am simply trying to hang on and do my best to EnJOY the ride!

Learning to Fight back with Joy

Margaret Feinberg, Fight Back with Joy

As 2008 came to an end, I bought my new datebook on a whim--it was a beautiful, purple engraved leather-bound book with "Joy" beautifully embroidered on the cover.  Little did I know when I made that purchase that God was already working in me to pour out His oil of Joy on me more than anyone else.  (Psalm 45:7 & Hebrews 1:9)

Prior to that time, I had suffered a stillbirth and two miscarriages--both at approximately 11 weeks.  My marriage was crumbling and my health was going downhill faster than I realized...until at the end of 2009, I found myself in the hospital at death's door--truly.  I had to have emergency surgery to save my life where I was given an ostomy bag that I had to wear for the next three months.  Praise God, the doctor reversed the surgery at the end of those three months and removed 8 inches of my colon.  A few months later, I had another surgery because of severe bleeding.  This surgery truly brought any hopes of a future pregnancy to a screeching halt.

I did NOT handle these challenges with grace, dignity, or joy.  There was a lot of depression, severe anxiety, and, quite possibly worst of all, Rage.  

In the midst of all the health issues, I also had to deal with a boss at work who clearly had decided that it was time for me to leave.

My life was a mess, in complete shambles.  I was a broken, beaten, wounded warrior unable to stand any longer on my own. 

In the midst of this mess, God met me.  In spite of the darkness of my days (literally and figuratively), I continued reading everything I could get my hands on about Joy--most specifically, the Joy that comes from the Lord.  I have marked every single verse in every single Bible I own that uses Joy.  I have purchased and read one book after another on Joy.  I have done one Bible study after another on Joy.  

I clung to my study on Joy as if my life depended on it.  In so many ways that I will more than likely never know, it did.  God has used my study on Joy to bring me out of a deep, dark, black, lonely cave of depression, anxiety, fear, and Rage.  I am still on the path to full and complete Joy, but at least I am out of my cave and well on my way to complete healing!

As I read through Margaret Feinberg's book Fight Back with Joy, I
was amazed at how God has used Joy to help Margaret fight cancer while also using Joy to help me find Joy regardless of my circumstances.  I am excited to see that while our stories (especially our studies on Joy) have many similarities, God is using Margaret to demonstrate how we must Fight the trials and tribulations in our lives with Joy and how so often, it is a fight to live the fullness of God's Joy.  Just as we so often give God a sacrifice of Praise, it is the same with Joy--we must sacrifice our feelings to fight back with Joy.  It is that sacrifice that brings Joy into our lives even though we didn't feel Joy when we started!

I am so excited to have read Margaret's book and to meet her at next year's Women of Joy Conference.  One way or another, I WILL get there!

God is using JOY in a powerful way in the lives of many....How is He using Joy in Your Life???

Margaret also has a 6-session Bible study to go with the book:  FIGHT BACK WITH JOY

Posted in my other blog first:  http://pandapaw48.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

God is up to SOMETHING!

There are no words in the English language to fully describe or explain what has been going on in my life in recent weeks--months.  God is doing SOMETHING in me, in my life, and in the lives of those around me.  Freedom is the first word that comes to mind--as in, "My chains are GONE....I've been SET FREE!!!"  I've sung that song for years now and felt the Holy Ghost move every time I sing it, but now when I sing it, I also experience the FREEDOM the song is all about!  Wow.  

My marriage is on its way to FULL restoration.  My husband and I have reconnected (don't make me explain what that means).  I actually LIKE seeing him and being in the same room with him again.  I anxiously await his homecoming every day!  I WANT to call him every day or hear from him!  I can't wait to see him so I can share my day with him--my thoughts, my feelings, my hopes and dreams!  It has been YEARS since I even wanted to be in the same room with him.  I have hated my husband for a long time now.  I blamed him for so much of what has happened to us.  I am here to tell you that only God can take the negative emotions I've had towards my husband and turn them around.  And God has done it!

Remember my deep, dark, horrible, scary cave?  Remember the prophecy spoken over me a few short months ago??  See blog entry, "Word from the Holy Spirit."  Guess what?  Over the weekend, the Lord showed me that HE HAS ROLLED A GIANT STONE OVER THE ENTRANCE TO MY CAVE--AND HE HAS SEALED IT!!!!  Can you see me doing the Dance of Joy outside my cave????

I received that prophecy and God has brought it to fruition!  Just because it doesn't happen immediately does NOT mean that God has forgotten or that what He has promised won't be fulfilled.  Remember that Joseph spent YEARS waiting for God to fulfill His Promise to make him (Joseph) a leader/ruler.  And Abraham and Sarah waited something like 50 years for God to fulfill His promise to them [of a son of their union so they would have descendants to number the stars].  God has been working on healing me from the inside out for YEARS.  And just because this particular promise has been fulfilled, that does not mean that He is finished with me. 

My friends are telling me that God is moving in their lives, too!  One tells me that she is happier than she has been in recent years and others have noticed to the point of commenting on how happy she has been lately.  Another tells me that her spouse has found his own personal "prayer closet."  Another tells me that she is able to put her family and home situation in God's hands in spite of the fact that she is in the midst of severe trials!  And more and more stories of God's amazing work are coming in!

He is still working.  I'm a little nervous about what He is doing but only because it is always nerve-wracking dealing with the unknown.  I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I trust Him to finish His work in me.  He's promised--His word says that "God, who began the good work within [me], will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1:6  

I have been trying to figure out exactly what has helped bring about this 180 transformation in my life--what I have done to open the door so God could actually move and complete His work because, you know, it is important that we ourselves get out of His way.  Otherwise, we as much as say we don't want what He has for us.  Anyway, I have not come up with any one thing, but here is what I think has helped lead to my opening the window of my heart--and soul--to Him and what He is doing and wants to do in my life:

1.  My study on JOY.  I started my study on JOY in 2009 when I first bought a beautiful purple date book with JOY etched on the cover in wonderful calligraphy.  Since then, I have read and studied everything I can get my hands one regarding JOY and the study isn't over yet.  I keep a list of all the verses in the Bible on JOY and I refer to it quite often.  As part of that, God gave me the verse, "You love justice and hate evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else." (Psalm 45:7 & Hebrews 1:9)  I received it and claimed it as my own.  Many of my friends will tell you truthfully that God HAS anointed me and poured out His oil of JOY on me more than on anyone else!

2.  I have also done several other Bible studies, mostly word studies:  "Stand," "armor of God," "save/rescue/fight for," "strong," and "light."  Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts has also had a huge impact as I have studied "gratitude" from the perspective of eucharisteo.  I have even been keeping my own gratitude journal for over a year now and I continue to find amazing miracles in my life to be thankful for!

3.  My Prayer Warriors.  I don't think there will ever be a way to know for sure exactly who or how many people have been praying for me--and my family--over the years.  I do know that they have been praying.  Every so often, one of my Precious Prayer Warriors would send me a message just to let me know he/she was thinking of me and praying for me.  (Guys, if God puts someone on your heart, listen and pray and then let that person know.  OK?)  Those words of comfort and encouragement have meant more to me than words can express.

4.  A refusal to give up.  I may have sat on a rock in my cave for a long time, scared, alone, and ready to give up, but after a while, I did get up and start moving--looking for the light--God's light.  And Hallelujah, I found it!  In spite of the fact that I am bruised, broken, battered, torn, and even beaten down, I'm STILL STANDING IN THE LIGHT OF GOD and HE HAS RESCUED ME--He fought for me--He held me up and carried me when I couldn't take another step--He has held my hand when I needed guidance.  And here I am, out of my cave, free, and FULL of the JOY of the Lord!  "The joy of the Lord is my strength!"  (Nehemiah 8:10)  Here's a wonderful version of the song!

5.  Going back to church.  Yes, I stayed out of church for about a year.  Yes, my husband is the pastor and he continued to be the pastor even while I was not going.  Yes, I had my son to think about, but he just started getting up and going with his dad.  But one day, I just went.  And I have been back ever since.  I have found a renewed joy and purpose in being a part of my church as the Pastor's Wife.  Of course our "flock" has welcomed me back into the fold with open and loving arms.  

6.  Daily Bible Reading.  I got back into reading my Bible on a daily basis.  I started a Bible plan to read the Bible in a year two years ago, but when we went to Disney in August of that year, I allowed myself to get behind and I never caught up.  Then last year, I finished the year having read my Bible from cover to cover!  And this year, I'm doing it again!  

7.  Music, worship.  I claimed "It is Well" (this link is only one of the many amazing versions available) as my life-song and I listened to it, sang it, worshipped with it at every possible opportunity.  I have even learned to play it on the piano.  I even read the background story on the writing of the song and that was powerful and moving.  If you don't know how Horatio Spafford came up with the lyrics to this wonderful song, I highly recommend that you read the story.  I simply began worshipping the Lord with my sacrifice of praise.  In spite of the fact that I didn't FEEL like worshipping, I worshipped anyway.  I truly learned what it means to bring to Him a sacrifice of Praise and in Praising Him through my hurt and pain, He met me where I was!!!  (Shari Easter's "Praise His Name.")

8.  Counseling.  This was vital.  Huge.  When we can't fight the fight or walk the walk on our own, it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to get professional help.  My counseling team has been CRUCIAL to my healing process.  I could not have moved forward without any of them over the past several years.  Of course, my own personal counselor who I've been with for about 10 years now has been my ROCK.  I praise God for using her in each and every session.  I ALWAYS left each and every session uplifted and able to see just a little more light than previously.

9.  Writing.  Journaling.  Going through Mari McCarthy's Peace of Mind and Body and other journaling journeys.  Because of Mari's influence, I also began writing (journaling) again every single day.  I have now written a rough draft of my memoir that I hope to finish this year--as you know if you have been reading this blog since its conception back in September 2014.  

10.  Simply--focusing on God.  I quit focusing on what was bothering me--what was hurting me and causing me anxiety.  I began to look to Him in all things.  I had to go away for a time to regroup and reconnect with Him because it was all just TOO much.  When I couldn't find anywhere on my own to go, I called Focus on the Family.  The counselor there directed me to Fairhaven.  I called and was told they were all booked up.  Then just before we hung up, the receptionist called out, "Wait!  I do have something!"  I was honest and told her that I had no money to pay for my visit.  She said, "Don't worry about that.  Just come on."  So I did.  God met me there and began the work in me that He is doing now!!  I even had the honor of participating in a video they did for a tv spot!  Polly

And now I am just STANDING back and watching Him work!  He removed someone who was a living, breathing enemy!  He has restored my marriage--and he's still working on it!!!  He has given me PEACE that passes ALL understanding!  He has broken my CHAINS--I am FREE!!!  I WANT to do things again--clean, go shopping, hang out with friends, go to social functions, LIVE!!!  He has restored my LAUGHTER that comes from deep in my soul and pours forth with no effort!!!

There is an old song from a play my uncle, brother, sister, and I were in way back in the late 1980s, Down by the Creekbank by Dottie Rambo:  "Is there Anything I Can Do For You?"  It was MY song.  I don't think I got to sing it, but I loved it.  I at least sang it at home all the time and I have learned to play it on the piano--well, I used to be able to play it!  Anyway, I bring it up because I offer these words to my Lord and Savior from the depths of my being....

"Is there anything I can BE for You?  Is there anything I can DO for You?  Is there anywhere I can Go for You?  I'm willing to be used by You, Dear Lord.  For all the things You've done for me, is there anything I can do/be/anywhere I can go?"


(That's me in the yellow coveralls!)