Thursday, November 10, 2016

My Beloved Little One, Panya Ruth

When I first learned that I was pregnant, six months after James Isaac's stillbirth, I already had names picked out. Even so, from the very first, I began calling him/her "Little One." I wrote in my journal every day of my short pregnancy, always referring to him/her as my Little One. I had found the name "Panya" in a baby name book. I loved that it was so close to panda and then when I read that it meant "little," the name was sealed--at least if we were having a girl, that was. After losing James Isaac, I was almost desperate for my Little One to be safe.

Seventeen years ago today, I spent the day bleeding--knowing in my heart-of-hearts what that meant. I remember using the bathroom late Sunday evening and noticing some blood, but convincing myself that it was just hemorrhoids. Then on Wednesday, November 10, just before school started, there was more blood. We had chapel that day; I sat in the back as far away from everyone that I could get but still be in the actual chapel with my students and cried as I begged and pleaded and bargained with God to make what I feared NOT true. 

By the end of my school day, I knew that I was in the process of miscarrying. I had no idea what to do. No one ever prepares us for THIS. None of the baby books, tv shows, or conversations had told me what the protocol was when bleeding so early in a pregnancy. I was unprepared and scared out of my mind.

When my husband and I were both home from school later that afternoon, I told him what was going on. Since it was a Wednesday, he was focused on church--he's a pastor, you know. We agreed that it would be better for me to stay home. We had attempted to call my doctor's office but had not been given any definitive answer concerning what we should do. 

The bleeding had grown steadily worse throughout the day and into the evening. I was bleeding through pads almost faster than I could change them. I called my husband at church and told him that I needed him to come home; he sent one of our church folks over with some heavy-duty pads.

We ended up at the emergency room where it was confirmed that I was miscarrying. It was determined that a D&C was the best option. 

I remember waking up crying--sobbing--shaking all over with every fiber of my being. I couldn't stop. In spite of being still drugged, my body and my brain knew what I had been through and it was just too much.

Such details are as real to me in this very moment as they were seventeen years ago. It's as if time has not passed. Yet there are other details about that day and evening and into the following days that I couldn't recall if you tortured me in an attempt to get me to give more details. 

My Little One--my Panya Ruth--was gone. Praying hadn't worked. Begging hadn't worked. Crying hadn't worked. Wanting desperately with every fiber of my being hadn't worked. NOTHING had worked to keep from happening what clearly was inevitable. 

I currently should have a son in his senior year of high school; a daughter as a junior; Samuel a sophomore; and an eleven-year old in 5th grade. 

Days like today have gotten easier to get through over the years, but time has not lessened my desperate desire to have ALL my children here with me. I imagine that my "Little One" would be short and stocky, like her mom, with a shy, yet friendly personality--opposite of her mom. I imagine that her favorite color would be pink, but she would hang out with her dad and older brother at any and every opportunity--even if it meant fishing or hunting. So yes, she would wear pink camo--and look absolutely adorably gorgeous! She would have dark hair and brown eyes. She would love to read; she and I would constantly be reading books together and discussing them. 

Don't think that I am falling back into depression again. I'm not. Praise the Lord. It is a simple truth that having lost a very much wanted baby has left a hole in my heart--3 holes when I include James Isaac and Anna Rose, as well. These holes heal, but have left painful scar tissue that is irritated most on anniversaries/birthdays and holidays.

So don't worry about, but please do pray for me. The enemy likes to
attack me more during days like today than usual. I am finally learning how to combat him, though. With the power of the Holy Spirit and the armor of God that I put on daily, I am able to STAND FIRM against him. The battle has already been won. My Little One is in heaven, safe in the loving arms of Jesus Himself, ready and waiting for the wonderful day when I will join her and be able to hold her myself.

In the meantime, God has anointed me with His oil of Joy and I hope and pray that I live a life worthy of His anointing.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lessons learned on my Journey to Joy Part 2

*If you haven't read Part 1, please take a few moments to peruse that entry before reading this one...

4. I have to CHOOSE Joy. Some time during my Journey to Joy, God gave me the scripture, "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, NLT). I heard Him very clearly in my spirit tell me that He was going to pour out His oil of Joy on me--more than on anyone else. It was overwhelming and incredibly humbling. In some ways, that felt like a lot of pressure, but I found myself rejoicing in His promise because I was sick and tired of being sad and depressed as well as full of anxiety and rage all the time. I didn't like myself in such a state. 

As I began studying everything I could get my hands on about JOY--specifically on CHOOSING JOY, I quickly learned that in order to know TRUE Joy, we must suffer extreme sorrow. Don't think that I'm trying to say that I'm "glad" I've gone through the horrors I've experienced. If I could have any of my babies here with me to touch, kiss, and snuggle, I would--in a fraction of a heartbeat! I'd very much love NOT to have the still painful scars on my belly. It would be wonderful not to have to have experienced anxiety to the degree that I had to take medication for it.

But I do know the truth of God's word that He will turn my sorrow--my mourning--to JOY (Esther 9:22; Isaiah 61:3; Lamentations 5:15; NLT). The only difference between God's promise in these passages and the one in Psalms and Hebrews is the promise of giving the anointing oil of joy to ME MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE. 

I found myself accepting God's promise and telling Him that I also receive His promise of pouring out His anointing oil of joy on me more than anyone else. It has not made my journey to joy easier or lighter, let me tell you. I have to continually CHOOSE to choose JOY and to remind myself of God's promise. I still have days when it's difficult to choose, but those days are growing further and further apart, Praise the Lord.

5. I cannot allow anyone's words or actions steal my JOY. I call it "pop my balloons." I have spent a lot of time over the years listening to nay-sayers and Negative Nancys and to allow their words and actions to determine my level of joy--or lack thereof, as the case typically was. 

I personally think that the biggest reason why I struggled in this area as much as I did was because I didn't like--or love--myself. I hated myself. I hated who I was. I hated who I wasn't. I hated what I had been through. I hated my husband. I hated life. I was angry with myself and with everyone around me. I was a nay-sayer, a Negative Nancy.

And I hated myself for it.

After reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, I began keeping
my own Gratitude list--just like Ann's. I started in a little red moleskin journal that I kept in my purse. I came to a place at work where I realized that my co-workers and I were spending an awful lot of time complaining, so I made the decision that for every complaint I made, I had to give them 5 positives. That first day, I had to do 20 positives! It got much easier after that, but once I got started, I found that I enjoyed writing about things that gave me JOY--that I was grateful for. So I continued the list--writing 5 things that I was grateful for--for the next several months. I posted them daily online--Facebook.

I gradually moved to naming just one thing that brings me JOY each and every day. I keep the list on Facebook as well as write each entry in a special journal my mom gave me for Christmas. The more I focus on what brings me JOY--what I'm grateful for, the less the nay-sayers and Negative Nancys affect me--pop my balloons!

Every once in a while, one will come along, armed and ready and pop a balloon or two before I realize he/she is even there, but the more I see what God is doing in my life--where He has brought me and what He has brought me out of, the more I am able to move my balloons out of harm's way!!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lessons Learned on my Journey to Joy Part 1

One of the awesome suggestions Michele Weldon makes in her awesome book Writing to Save Your Life: How to Honor Your Story Through Journaling is to write down lessons I've learned throughout my journey to healing, or in her words "to save my life." So here are a few of the lessons I've learned on my Journey to Joy. Note carefully that this is just a first run-through!!! ;)

1. No one can heal me but ME--and God. I can remember thinking to myself that it sure would be wonderful if someone would come along and just tell me EXACTLY what I needed to do in order to begin healing and moving away from the sadness, depression, anxiety, rage, etc. I even asked my counselor after I had been with her for a while why she never admitted me to the hospital. She told me that she had seriously considered it, but they only admit patients who specifically request it! Believe you me, if I had known that early on, I would have requested it. I desperately wanted my husband to notice how very bad things were for me and DO something--ANYTHING--to help me. 

Coming out on the other side of this journey, I see that I had needed to tell my counselor AND my husband as well as others around me that I needed help, but I wanted them to recognize that I needed help without having to be told.

Crazy, mixed-up mess, right? Yes, it was as horrible a vicious cycle
as you imagine it to be.

The truth is that even if someone had tried to help me as I so desperately wanted, I would have fought him/her tooth and nail. I would have declared that there wasn't anything wrong and laughed it off. But I was in such a desperate state that yes, I did consider the "S-word"--once, I was driving onto campus and realized that I was speeding up as I headed straight for a light pole. 

I can only Praise the Lord that He had His angels protecting me and that when the time came, with His help, I did ask for and get the help I needed.

2. It really is ok to say that I am NOT ok and to ask for help. As a pastor's wife and someone who has been a Christian the vast majority of her life, I felt an obligation to BE "on"--to be Strong in spite of the fact that I was dying by slow degrees. I was supposed to be the support for others, not the other way around. 

There was this one day when I was having a BAD day to end all bad days. As we trooped in for a faculty meeting at the end of this long, no-good, horrible, bad day, all I could do was complain. I complained about my students. I complained about not having enough time. I complained about having to grade so many assignments. I complained about.....I was grumpy and I sounded, looked, and acted grumpy. No matter what was said during the meeting, I had a negative comment that I refused to keep to myself. 

Once the meeting was over, I took my time gathering my things together to leave. Within a few short moments, I was left alone in the room with my boss' wife. She moved to stand beside me, laid her hand on my shoulder, and gently and quietly asked me, "Polly, what's really going on?"

And the floodgates opened. I bawled. I sobbed. I snotted. I even screamed quite a bit. It had only been a few short months since we'd lost our precious James Isaac and I had been filling my days with busy-ness in an attempt to deal with my grief. All it took was one gentle word from a loving friend to help start me on a different path.

It was a start. Unfortunately, the path I started on that day took a lot of side treks as well as did a lot of backtracking over the next 10+ years. But I will always remember Mrs. Gruver being so perceptive of my true heart that horrible afternoon. 

Not everyone is as perceptive, though, so it is vitally important that we tell others that we're NOT ok when we're really NOT ok.

3. Directly from #2, I have also learned to lean on and trust my friends, family, and loved ones. I especially have learned to trust that they will love me no matter what--unconditionally. Yes, there was a fear in me that if I wasn't the strong Christian woman I expected myself to be that the people around me would love and respect me less. 

Oh, how easily we allow ourselves to believe and justify the lies of the enemy!!!

I have always been one who believes and lives the adage that honesty is the best policy. For most of my life, I have been completely unable to lie. I have "tells" when I lie and they're pretty obvious. I became a Master, though, at convincing everyone around me--except those most perceptive like Mrs. Gruver--that I was just fine when, in reality, I was a quivering, pathetic mess. All I wanted was for everyone to love me. And I honestly believed that if I didn't hold myself together, no one would love--or respect--me anymore. 

Once I realized the lies of such thinking, it has been proven time and again how very much my friends, family, and loved ones actually do love me--unconditionally. And let me just say, it feels GOOD to be so loved!!!!

*To be continued.....

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Let's each Sing our own Song

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist: "The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don't let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you" (104).

Why is it that sometimes we need "permission" to live our lives as WE see fit rather than as everyone else sees fit?! My counselor has been telling me for years that I have to make my own life; I have to do what I need to do for Polly and quit worrying about whether or not what I do pleases anyone other than Polly--and God. (I feel that God's approval goes without saying, but sometimes I need to be sure I clarify that because without Him, I am nothing.) 

Part of what added to Shauna's anxiety, as she describes in her book, was her attempt at living to please everyone but herself--what SHE wanted in life. She told herself, or as I see it--she allowed herself to believe lies from the enemy, that if it was something that came available, God must have opened the door, so it was her responsibility to walk through it--every time.

I can relate!!! 


I've been offered a job that I know I'd love, but yet I'm very happy and fulfilled where I am. Well, it must be from God, so I'd better quit where I am and accept the new job....right?!

Isn't that how we tend to think??? It's one way we have always felt the Lord telling us what He wants us to do, isn't it? I know it has been for me--many times in the past. Thankfully, most of the time the doors that have opened that I've walked through have been the "right" doors for me at those times of my life, but there have been a few times when I felt that just because such-and-such opportunity arose that it must be from God. Maybe it was, but that didn't necessarily mean I HAD to accept. 

For example, when my husband and I first moved to Missouri, I applied for jobs EVERYWHERE. The only type of job I could get, though--even though I already had my BS in English Education and was almost finished with my MA--was as an administrative assistant. I took what I was able to get and learned a lot from the jobs I had, especially about computers. But my heart was in teaching, so I continued to try to get a job as a teacher throughout the time we lived in Missouri. Then, within a week after making the decision to move back to North Carolina, I received a call from the college my husband was attending, asking me if I still wanted a position with them. As honored as I was that they finally called me, I knew in my heart-of-hearts, deep down in my soul that moving back to North Carolina was the best choice for my husband and me.

It was difficult, but I turned down the job offer.

I believe that God allows opportunities to open up for us, but He leaves it up to us as to whether or not we accept/receive it. I don't believe it's disobedience to Him and what He has for us if we go in a different direction. My God is a God of free will. He wants us to CHOOSE Him above ALL. When we choose one door over another, He honors us for our decision because we took the time to seek Him and because we work as unto Him and not for ourselves. 

Yes, sometimes we realize that we made a mistake, but most of the time, I believe that God simply wants us to do the thing that He has placed in our hearts to do. He wants us to SING OUR SONG. He wants ME to sing MY OWN song. My song is probably different from your song. That doesn't mean we can't both sing our songs. It simply means that both CHOOSING to SING!!!

I LOVE to sing even though I may not have a voice others want to
listen to. I read a book once that talked about how we don't want to come to the end of our lives with our song still in our hearts. So even if your song is different from my song, let's join our voices in song and God Himself will take care of the harmony!!!!

I DARE you to DO the THING that God has called you to do!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

What are you swinging at?

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Ephesians 6:10-18 about the Armor of God. In recent months, one part that has stood out to me as it never has before are the words "so that you may be able to STAND FIRM." I continued to ponder that phrase as I began re-reading my Bible through this year. I have pleasantly surprised to find that throughout the whole Bible, God has told His people that He would do the fighting for them (us)--all we have to do is be battle-ready and to STAND and watch Him defeat the enemy, to rescue us!

I have read my Bible through a number of times throughout the 40+ years I have been a child of God, but these passages have never stood out to me as much as they have in recent months. If you've been keeping up with this blog, you know my story and you are aware of the fiery trials I have been through. (If you haven't been keeping up with it, feel free to go back and peruse my old posts--at your discretion.)

It has become clear to me over these recent years that I have put on my armor, but instead of STANDING firm and being battle-ready, I have rushed into the fray in a feeble attempt to fight an enemy that my God has already defeated! I'm essentially standing in the middle of a battlefield, blindly and uselessly swinging my sword around at nothing but air! The enemy is already on the ground. The battle has already been won, but I seem to need to keep fighting. 

It's absolutely ridiculous!

Remember that scene in Robin Hood: Men in Tights where Blinkin is fighting a post with his sword? Yeah. It's like that.

Or the scene from Don Quixote when Don Quixote pathetically battles a windmill?! 

I imagine God up in Heaven shaking His head with a smile and a chuckle as He watches us attempt to battle the enemy ourselves when He's already defeated the enemy. And it is funny--once we realize how ridiculous we are. In the moment, though, it's not so funny as I think I'm doing the right thing.

But once I realize that God not only is fighting for me, but that He has already fought the battle and won, the freedom and peace and joy that floods my soul is unlike anything I've experienced! 

Exodus 14:13, NLT
"But Moses told the people, 'Don't be afraid. Just STAND STILL (emphasis mine) and watch the Lord rescue you today."

Our job, if you will allow me to use that term, is just to STAND! When we attempt to fight, we are battling NOTHING because the battle has already been won by our God who rescues!!!

That's worth a shout of HALLELUJAH!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

It ALL matters

When I was in the early stages of my Joy Journey, I remember very distinctly discussing with my counselor how nothing I was doing seemed to be working. I was reading my Bible on a daily basis. I was praying every day. I was worshiping at every possible opportunity--whether I felt like worshiping or not. I was going to church. I was spending time in fellowship with other believers. I was doing one Bible study after another. I was seeking God with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But in those days, I didn't feel as if anything was working, I felt as I was going backwards rather than forwards in my healing. I was lost and wondered if I was doomed to be depressed and miserable--in a constant fog--in my dark cave--forever.

Have you ever been there? 

In spite of being so deep into my dark cave, I determined to stay with it--to continue on my Joy Journey regardless of how I FELT. 

As I am coming out on the other side of my journey into the light and out of the darkness, I want to tell you that every little thing you are doing to hang on to your faith is working--is meaningful--is making a difference--whether you FEEL as if it is or not. 

We all know that it's the little things that matter in our relationships, especially with our spouses. I don't need for my husband to go out and reserve a fancy hotel room, take me to a fancy steakhouse, or pay for a horse and buggy carriage ride through the park in order for him to be romantic. When he comes home with a Hershey's with Almonds, I want to kiss him all over! When he does the dishes or cooks supper because I've just been too busy to get to them, he makes me feel special. 

I am here to encourage you, my friends. Don't give up. Don't let the enemy take your joy or convince you that God isn't hearing your prayers. My Bible says that THE MOMENT we begin praying, God begins answering our prayers. Sometimes He answers and restores us immediately. Praise the Lord for those of you who experience that immediate restoration. Appreciate it and tell God how much you appreciate it. Show Him.

But sometimes God takes some of us on a journey to get to our
healing and restoration--to a place of Joy. Don't be discouraged in the journey. Keep trusting Him. Keep giving whatever you are able to give Him regardless of whether you FEEL like it or not.

He is faithful and He WILL restore you! He will bring you through so that you can come out of the darkness and into the light. Don't give up. One step at a foot in front of the Bible worship hour in fellowship with other believers....stay the course....fight the good fight of

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Complete your ministry

2 Timothy 4:5New Living Translation (NLT)

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
This verse jumped out at me the other week when my husband was preaching on a different passage, but on the same page as this verse. 

I have been struggling recently about following through with my memoir and doing what I need to do to get an agent and ultimately, I hope, to have it published by a publishing house. I had been considering self-publishing, but I believe that for this particular project, the "old-fashioned" way is the way to go.  

At the beginning of 2016, I made a list of goals, one of which was to finally follow through with my dream of having my memoir published. When I learned that I would be teaching online only for the summer, I determined that this summer is THE TIME. I set a new goal to have an agent by the end of the summer and I began doing the necessary research to create a list of agents to contact. After I had a short list (to start with), I did a little more research on writing the necessary book proposal.

And I sat down with my trusty new computer on my lap on my comfy lap desk and opened to a new Word document....only to have a panic attack as I sat and stared at the blank screen in front of me.

That was back at the beginning of my summer semester--about two months ago now--and I haven't written anything or done anything to proceed with my goal in any way, shape, form, or fashion since that fateful day. I've been almost paralyzed with fear at even the THOUGHT of writing the proposal, let alone of sending it off to any book agents!

As I have spent time praying about this over the past several weeks, the Holy Spirit has been gently chastising me in my fear. 

I doubt whether or not I am doing what God wants me to do. Is this dream of having my memoir published by a publishing house MY dream or what God has directed me to do? In my heart of heart, in the very depths of my soul, I am sure that God has given me this directive. I have had this vision, this desire--this dream--for more than 17 years now. I have heard over and over again in my life of faith that when God puts a dream in our hearts, it never goes away. That is one way we can know our dream is of Him and not of our own volition.

I doubt my worthiness in publishing my story. Why would anyone want to read my story? What makes me so "special" that I should--that I deserve--to have my story published? While I LOVE to write, what in the world makes me think that anyone else wants to read what I write even if I think that what I write is actually pretty good?

When the Holy Spirit gives us a gift, it is important that we remember that it is a GIFT, a present, given in love not because we are deserving, but simply because of love. When I don't accept His gift, He will give it to someone who will accept it with wide open arms. Considering how very much I love to write and that in my heart, I honestly don't care whether or not anyone ever reads what I write, it is clear to me that writing is one of my gifts from the Holy Spirit himself.

(Granted, I do get a little jump in my heart when I see the number of you who are reading my blog entries. I do sincerely appreciate it. But even if no one read my entries, I would still write, and that's the whole point I'm getting at.)

As we are studying Priscilla Shirer's Armor of God Bible Study in our Sunday School class, I am learning that the enemy not only attacks us where we are weak and/or vulnerable, but he also attacks us with our ministry or gift that God has given us. When we fail to fulfill God's plan for our lives, the enemy wins. When I allow my doubts or self-recrimination to keep me from following through with writing my proposal and seeking an agent, the enemy is keeping me from what God has specifically given me to do.

As we see in 2 Timothy 4:5, we are to "complete the ministry God has given us." Matthew 25:21 tells us, "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." I want to be able to stand in front of my Lord and Savior on the day of judgment and hear Him to say to ME, "Well done, my good and faithful servant....enter, Polly, into the JOY of your Lord!" I don't want to be like the wicked servant who feared he would lose his gift so he buried it, causing his lord to cast him into darkness. 

I have read many books on achieving dreams and goals and of pursuing our purpose in life. I am well aware of all the scriptures as well as platitudes that are spouted to help us on our journey to achieve our dreams and not allow anything to get in our way. I know the road is never easy. The path to the top of the mountain is a difficult one, with rocks in the path, getting lost, difficult weather, and even more difficult terrain to traverse. In spite of all the difficulties (sorrows, even) that I must go through on this journey, getting to the top of the mountain, so I'm told and have experience when I've acheived goals and dreams in the past, is so very much worth every difficult step.

I do not want to be one who allows fear or doubt or being unsure of my calling keep me from completing the ministry God has given me. I covet your prayers. It is not about making a name for myself or making money or selling a lot of books. It is all about completing--doing--the ministry the Holy Spirit has gifted me.

What about you? What is keeping you from following your dreams?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dance with Joy: Part 2

2 Samuel 6: 14, 21-22, NLT

14: And David danced before the Lord with all his might....

21: David retorted to Michal, "I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord. So I am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the Lord.
22: Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this...!"

David tells Michal that he dances before the Lord because the Lord chose him above Saul and his descendants to be the leader of Israel--in other words, the King of Israel. I am sure David had many other reasons for dancing before the Lord considering the fact that God had saved David from both a bear and a lion and had given David victory over the giant Goliath, but I guess becoming King of a nation loved by God would hold precedence over everything else.

As I read David's retort to Michal, I can't help but think of my own reasons for dancing before the Lord, for showing my own Joy in the Lord.....(in no particular order):

1. I am here. I have almost died several times in my life, but yet here I am, 45 and still here. 

  • When I was about 3 years old, I almost drowned. My parents were the directors of a church camp and Dad was repairing the olympic size swimming pool. While water was running into the deep end, my brother and I ran down the incline to touch our toes to the water. Dad was working at the other end of the pool, but when I slipped and went right under, you'd think he'd been standing immediately beside me considering how fast he got to me! All I remember is seeing the smiley face on his black sneakers.
  • As a teenager, I choked on a piece of meat during supper. My brother had to perform the Heimlich and saved my life. 
  • I had a car accident that should have killed me, but didn't. I stupidly tried to pass a school bus on the way home from school. When I realized I didn't have enough time to pass, I slammed on my breaks too hard which sent my car spinning in the road until it careened over the edge of a ravine, landing with the front end up at the top of the embankment. Miraculously, I walked away.
  • In my early twenties, just days before my wedding, I had another car accident that should have killed me, but again, didn't. I had called my mom before I left work and asked if she wanted to meet me for lunch at my favorite place. She'd agreed. As I didn't want to eat in my work uniform, I decided to race home to change clothes real quick since I had a few minutes before she would be able to leave work. As I was coming up to a cool hill, I did my normal going too fast up and over the hill. Usually, that wasn't a problem, but this time, I didn't slow down enough in time to go around the sharp curve. I went off the right side of the road, jerked the steering wheel to the left, causing the car to swerve to the opposite side of the road where it hit a ditch, went front end over back--at least twice, took out a bush-like tree in the front yard of a friend's house, and landed upside down with the roof caved in so badly that had I been any taller, I would either have broken my neck or it would have killed me. I walked away from that one, too.
  • At 29, while I was pregnant, my doctors found a cyst on my left ovary. At first, it was about the size a golf ball, if not a little smaller. Within 6 weeks, though, it grew to the size of a grapefruit. They determined that it had to come out, so they operated while I was 20 weeks pregnant! They called it a "tumor," but, Praise the Lord, it was "benign," whatever that means.
  • In my late thirties, I had a severe infection from diverticulitis
    that resulted in my having emergency surgery where I was given an ostomy bag that I had to have for three months--just to save my life. (I've written about this one in detail in a previous post if you want to know more.)
  • Since that time, I have dealt with other health issues such as chronic gastritis, two hernias--that I still have because they don't bother me enough to do anything about yet, severe back pain, severe shoulder pain, and others. I have also had mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

2. God has restored my marriage. Just a few short years ago, I was ready to call my marriage Quits-ville. I was DONE. I hated my husband. I was angry with my husband. The very sight of him sent me into a rage. But yet God has given me a new love and respect for this man I once hated.

3. God has given me my Son, Samuel. Yes, he is a "rainbow baby."
4. Through each of my 3 child losses, God has been with me. Remember that "Footprints" poem? God has carried me a LOT over the past 17 years.

5. I have AMAZING parents who love and serve God with all their hearts, all their minds, all their souls, and all their strength and who love me unconditionally---and they demonstrate their love for me in a thousand different ways. I am truly blessed.
6. I have AWESOME siblings, Kenny (11 months older) and Katie (7 years younger), whom I love with every fiber of my being and who I know love me, regardless of whether we communicate with one another every day or only a few times a year.

7. I have WONDERFUL extended family members who make me laugh as no one else can. We enjoy being together and again, even if we don't see each other or communicate with one another for years, when we get together again, the laughter and the love has a strength that can only come from God above.
8. I have a job that I love. I know that I am doing what God called me to do in my teaching. Even at the highest moments of stress, I still enjoy my students.

9. I have a wonderful home with air conditioning and heat and all the other fantastic comforts that make a home.

10. I have a great car that I call "Lady Grey."

11. He delights in me!!!

12. He loves me so much that He gave His ONLY Son so that I might have eternal life with Him

13. He sings over me with Joy!!!  
Zephaniah 3:17New Living Translation (NLT)
17 "For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.[a]
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
And my list can go on and on because God has done so very much for me. Any one of the items on this list is sufficient to demonstrate the reason why I am willing to act the fool to show my joy in the Lord! Granted, I don't always dance to demonstrate my joy, but I do sing with great enthusiasm (if not perfect pitch). I play the tambourine that my Grandpa Keefer used to play in church. Honestly, I'd love to dance, too, but singing and playing the tambourine at the same time are challenging enough! Whenever I attempt to add dancing into the mix, I either have to stop singing or I have to stop playing the tambourine! I can't do all 3 at once!

I try to find other ways to demonstrate my joy in the Lord, such as doing a daily "What brings me Joy?" post on Facebook. I continually seek for and read scripture pertaining to Joy. I have read a dozen books or more on Joy. I try to spread His joy and to demonstrate His love to the best of my ability. 

God has done so very much for me. I have every reason in the world to praise Him and to be the fool to show my show in Him. I KNOW that I am here today and that I am able to choose Joy because He loves me and has always taken care of me.

Will (do) you make a fool of yourself to show your joy in the Lord? What are your reasons for rejoicing in Him? How do you demonstrate your joy?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dance with Joy

2 Samuel 6: 14, 21-22, NLT

14: And David danced before the Lord with all his might....
21: David retorted to Michal, "I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord. So I am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the Lord.
22: Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this...!"

This passage has always fascinated me. For one, because Michal, David's wife & Saul's daughter, is so incredibly judgmental of David dancing before the Lord. She rebukes him and tells him that he looks like a fool. Every time I read this, I want to reach through my Bible and slap Michal silly. David is her husband, the King of Israel. Apparently she wanted to marry David because she was in love with him. (Go back a few chapters for that part of the story.) David has been away from home and she hasn't seen him in quite a while. Yet she calls him a fool and tells him that not only is she embarrassed, but that he should be ashamed of himself, as well.

I get so sick and tired of judgmental people. I grew up in a variety of church denominations: Baptist, Pentecostal, Pentecostal Holiness, Free Will Baptist, Bapti-costal, and Pentecostal in the form of an Assembly of God. Many of my favorite worship services have been when we were encouraged to dance before the Lord with all our might or to shout and Praise the Lord and to rejoice enthusiastically in our Lord and Savior.

We had this one sweet man in a church we attended when I was about 10-ish, Mr. Jimmy Little. He was probably in his late seventies or somewhere in his eighties about this time, so he was definitely an elder of the church who was loved and respected by all who knew him. (He and his wife adored my little sister; they always had candy in their pockets for her and she always made sure to "visit" them at some point during each and every worship service.) One of the most precious things I remember about Mr. Little was his love for the Lord and his way of celebrating Him. Rather than just shout "Amen" during a service, he would do this high-pitched, "Whoop-whoop-Wooooooo!" To this day, almost 40 years later, I can still hear him just as clear as day rejoicing in the Lord in his own way and it brings a smile to my face.

Now if I enjoyed hearing Mr. Little praise the Lord in his own way, doesn't it stand to reason that the Lord Himself was pleased with Mr. Little demonstrating his joy in the Lord? You can't convince me otherwise. I witnessed Mr. Little's joy for myself. He is remembered fondly in our family as someone who gladly made a fool of himself in order to show His joy for the Lord!

Michal was completely wrong in her embarrassment of David, her husband. So much so that not only does David rebuke her and tell her that he is willing to act like a fool in order to show his joy in the Lord because of all that the Lord has done for him, but God, too, disciplines Michal as we read in verse 23 that "Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her life." If that isn't a firm statement from God Himself that Michal was in the wrong for criticizing David, I don't know what is! Remember: a woman's main role was to marry and provide sons for her husband, especially the wife (and daughter) of a King.

In the New Testament, Jesus Himself tells us that we shouldn't judge one another: "Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged" (Matthew 7:1-2, NLT). It saddens me how in our world today we continue to judge one another--especially those who enthusiastically demonstrate their love for the Lord, or show enthusiasm for anything, for that matter.

In my Sunday School class the other day, we were talking about how difficult it is to remain in a state of joy in the Lord. Once we begin to feel and experience the Joy of the Lord, someone inevitably comes along and does everything in his/her power to steal our joy.

I call them my "Joy Poppers." I imagine them with bows and arrows, shooting at my balloons of joy that God has given me. The loud Pop! whenever they successfully shoot a balloon is felt deep into my very soul and can send me into a depression--if I'm not careful. My ladies were telling me that they feel the same way. Just when they begin to feel true Joy, someone says or does something that makes them feel ridiculous for having felt any joy at all.

So, to all the "Michals" out there, remember that Michal is the one who was ultimately chastised for her judgmental criticism of King David, her own husband, who was dancing before the Lord with all his might. (Isn't it interesting that quite often it's our own family members who tend to be our "Joy Poppers"?) The enemy rejoices when we allow the judgments of others keep us from showing our joy in the Lord with all [our] might. We know that Joy comes from the Lord, those of us who believe, so when the "Joy Poppers" attempt to keep us from experiencing Joy, they are being used by the enemy.

I, for one, refuse to allow the Michals, the "Joy Poppers," keep me from showing my Joy in the Lord with all my might....How about you?
Works Cited
2 Samuel. Holy Bible New Living Translation. Slimline Edition. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1996. Print.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

We are so Precious to God.....

"10 Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. 11 And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.
12 Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. 13 But for twenty-one days the spirit prince[c] of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels,[d] came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia." Daniel 10:10-13, NLT

In all the years I have read and studied my Bible, one of my favorite Bible stories has always been Daniel in the lion's den--and another was the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abnego in the fiery furnace. Beyond that, I knew the book of Daniel was about the end times, but I never paid much attention about those parts of the book.
Recently, though, in Sunday School, we have been doing Priscilla Shirer's new Bible Study, The Armor of God. The first lesson is all about understanding the importance of prayer as our first piece of armor and how we are already IN the heavenly realms. (If you need a new Bible Study, I highly recommend this one. It's fantastic.)
As I was doing my Bible reading this week, I was in the book of Daniel and I discovered that I have not given enough credit to the whole book. I "discovered" Daniel 9:23: "23 The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God." (NLT) Even though I have read my Bible through a number of times throughout my life, it was as if I was reading this passage for the very first time. And it really struck me with a Holy Spirit power how Gabriel told Daniel that a command was given THE MOMENT Daniel began praying--and that Daniel was VERY PRECIOUS to God.
Do you see that? THE MOMENT Daniel began praying, God was answering his prayer. THE MOMENT Daniel began praying, God dispatched Gabriel to go to Daniel to minister to him and to explain the vision Daniel had seen. Daniel was so VERY PRECIOUS to God that THE MOMENT he began praying, God was hearing, listening, at the ready to respond.
Wow. I saw in awe of this passage and read it and re-read it probably a hundred times over the next several days. I shared it with my ladies in Sunday School and they seemed as much in awe of it as I was.
Then throughout the following days, I read Daniel 10 and I came to the passage above. Again, the angel Gabriel was sent to minister to Daniel THE FIRST DAY Daniel began praying to God. Of course, after getting excited over Daniel 9, I sat up straighter and paid more careful attention to the passage as a whole.
Notice carefully, though, that in spite of the fact that God sent Gabriel THE FIRST DAY Daniel began praying, it took him 21 days to get to Daniel. Do you see why?
That's the part that really struck me. Stay with me here.
As Gabriel was on his way to Daniel, he was blocked the "spirit of Persia." Now, whether you believe me or not, it is my understanding that this "spirit of Persia" is Satan, or at least one of Satan's minions. The "enemy" (Satan) kept the angel Gabriel from getting to Daniel for 21 days even though he had begun his journey to Daniel THE FIRST DAY Daniel had prayed to God! According to one source, the number 21 in the Bible represents "the great wickedness of rebellion and sin."  
Even the angels of God are subject to the enemy's determination to destroy our relationship with our Savior. 
Twenty-one days. That's almost a month. It's 3 weeks. In earthly terms, that's a LONG time. Or, it can be. 
But what I really want us to notice here is the fact that AS SOON AS Daniel began praying, God sent Gabriel to him, but Gabriel was detained. Daniel was considered "precious to God."
Do you realize that WE are considered PRECIOUS TO GOD, too?! Do you realize that THE MOMENT we begin praying, God sends His angels to minister to us?! Do you realize, though, that like Gabriel going to Daniel, the angels sent to us are also blocked by the enemy and/or his minions?! Do you understand that God RESPONDS TO OUR PRAYERS IMMEDIATELY? But the enemy knows that God answering our prayers is one way that we grow in our relationship with Him, so He does everything in his power to keep the angels of God from getting to us?!
So while we're on earth in our human bodies, crying and moaning and despairing of ever receiving a response from God, maybe, just maybe, God began answering our prayers THE MOMENT we began praying! 
We are Precious to God.
The Moment we begin praying to Him, He moves to answer.
God is a God who has given us free will which means that we must Pray as a way of letting Him know that we Receive Him--the gift of His Son--before He moves. But the MOMENT we begin praying, He is at the ready to respond!
The enemy is going to do everything he can to keep us from having a deeper relationship with our Lord and Savior. 
So the next time you pray and you don't receive an answer in the timeline you feel is appropriate, just remind the enemy that no matter how long he blocks God's angels from getting to you, you will WAIT because God answered your prayers the MOMENT you began praying. It is the enemy who keeps that answer from getting to us.
God HEARS and ANSWERS our prayers AS SOON AS we begin Praying, but we must begin praying first.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Daddy

When you were growing up, did you ever realize just how very much your parents LOVED you? As a kid, I didn't. My parents were my parents. They did what I assumed all parents did: provided food and shelter, gave us comfort, took us on vacations, made us spend time with our grandparents, helped with our homework, and so on and so forth. I mean, they were my Parents. I didn't have conscious expectations because my parents were simply always THERE--as I thought all parents were. I knew I was loved, but I had no idea the depth of that love.

My dad worked second shift most of my early growing up days, but he made it a point to come to school functions, volleyball games (even though I NEVER got to play), my Bible Drill competitions, and other various "important" activities for my brother and I. When I got in trouble for not completing an assignment at school, I remember my Dad sitting down with me at the kitchen table to help me with my homework--something he never did because he worked second shift. (I have no idea how he managed to be there unless it was a weekend or he had taken time off work. I've never thought to ask him.) The first thing Dad made me do was put my name, date, and the class and assignment information at the top of the page. I don't remember much more about that study session, but I do know that I made good grades throughout the rest of my education and to this day, I still date and label EVERYTHING and I encourage my son and my students to do the same.

I don't think I was a bad kid. I lived to please, so I was not in trouble all that often. When I was, though, punishment was swift and severe. One time in particular, my cousin and I had talked and giggled all through church in spite of the fact that I knew better and my dad had given me "the look" several times throughout the service. When we got home, Dad took both my cousin and I out to the barn where he proceeded to paddle me in front of my cousin. I have NEVER misbehaved in church since! (This was NOT child abuse. It was a clear, just punishment for a wrong I had committed.) 

It wasn't too long after that incident when Dad actually quit spanking me. It makes me smile to remember how he would pull me into a room, away from my brother, and lecture me about what I had done wrong and why I was being punished. Then he would tell me to bend over and proceed to hit the bottom of his shoe! I was warned NOT to tell my brother and to be sure I cried so Kenny (my brother) would believe I had been spanked! Believe me, crying was NOT difficult!!! LOL! 

My Dad was always so very loving that when the punishments came, I knew I had deserved them and that he was truly punishing me because he loved me. The very first Bible verse I had ever learned was, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1, KJV). I took that lesson very seriously. I wanted to do what was right, so I always tried to be a good girl. I think I was--mostly. My dad rewarded us often with compliments and other things that I tried never to take for granted. A trip to McDonald's was a real treat! As was a visit to Baskin Robbins! Dad was never too terribly demonstrative with his love and affection, but it was always clear to me that he loved me.

One thing I loved doing with my dad was watch certain tv shows and movies. I started watching James Bond movies at such a young age, I feel as if I have always been a Bond fan. I even wanted to grow up to be a Bond girl! I always loved watching football with my dad and brother, too. They loved it, so I loved it. I became a fan of Barbra Streisand because my dad loved her. Dad loved country music, especially Hee Haw and Roger Miller; I became a fan of those as well. Dad had these Roger Miller records and whenever I was home alone (which wasn't too terribly often), I would put on one of those records, play it as loud as I dared, and sang along at the top of my lungs! Dad also enjoyed the comedy of Jose Jimenez. I listened to his record so much, I not only had it practically memorized, but even 40 years later, I will quote Jose!

Mom and Dad both were my very first teachers. They taught VBS or Children's Church and they always did things (activities) that were fun and quite memorable. I still remember many of their lessons and, more than that, I model my teaching style after them. My friends and I always loved it when it was my parents' turn to teach class. 

One thing my dad did when I was little that made me feel extra-special was he took me with him on a trip to Florida to visit his parents. It was something like a 12-hour trip and, according to him, I talked to him THE WHOLE WAY THERE! Apparently I felt it was my "job" to help keep him awake while he drove. That trip made me feel as if my dad loved me just a little bit better than he did my [perfect] brother and I reveled in the feeling. Yes, I'll go so far as to say I glowed in his love.

When it was time to go to college, my parents made sure that I had that opportunity. I had wanted to go to a Bible College. Yes, in part to get my "MRS" degree, but I also honestly wanted a Biblically-based college education. Because my brother was only a year older and had chosen East Carolina University, to save money (and I'm sure a whole host of other reasons), my parents made me go there, too. I was crushed. My dad told me, though, that if I gave ECU one year, then at the end of that year, we would re-evaluate and decide about a Bible College then. Of course I readily agreed. (Note: once I started at ECU, I never thought about leaving or Bible college again--until I started dating a man who planned to go to Bible college.)

When I first got married, I thought I understood Love. I was so very much in love with my new
husband. He was so excited to be married and begin living my life with the man I had chosen to spend the rest of my life with. My dad gave me away and, in spite of the fact that I adored my parents, I was ready to move on--to move out. My new husband and I moved a few months later to Missouri (we live in NC) where we lived for the next three and a half years while my husband went to Bible College. 

Out of all our family, only one of my husband's 12 siblings came to visit us while we were in Missouri--with his family. All of my family came to visit, especially my parents. We lived there back when it cost a lot of money to make long-distance phone calls, so I didn't get to talk to my parents but maybe once a week. When my husband wanted to stay in Missouri for a few years after he graduated, my mom and dad helped him see what a bad idea that was by getting their pastor at the time to have my husband go home to be their pastor for a month while he (their regular pastor) went on a month-long vacation. I started packing the day I put my husband on the airplane! He called within a week to tell me that he thought we needed to go ahead and move back home even if it meant living with my parents until he got his first pastorate. My mom and dad were the ones who came to help us move back to NC. The only ones. We could not have moved as we did if they had not come. 

My mom and dad have always been my solid rock. I always knew I could rely on and depend on them, no matter what, But it wasn't until we lost our precious James Isaac that I TRULY understood the depth of my parents' love for me--my dad's in particular.

We had seen on the ultrasound that our worst fear was true and had made the decision to go ahead and induce my labor. My doctor asked if there was anyone we needed to call. I told him that yes, I needed to call my mom and dad. (My husband's parents had both passed by this time.) My doctor told us to go ahead and use the office phone in spite of the fact that it was a long-distance call. I don't think they ever charged us for that phone call.

I dialed the number and when my dad answered in his customary cheery, "Praise the Lord, Kinseys!" I said, "Daddy? Oh, daddy?"

That was all I said. But my Daddy KNEW. He immediately asked me if James was there and to hand him the phone. My husband proceeded to tell my dad what was going on while I wept. 

Several hours later, Mom and Dad finally arrived. We live four hours apart, so they came as quickly as they could. They hugged me as best they could considering I was in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes and wires and such. I noticed a nasty bruise around my mom's wrist. When I asked her what had happened, she told me that when she had gotten home from work, she was rushing around like a chicken with her head cut off in anticipation of getting supper ready, so my dad couldn't get a word in edge-wise. To get her attention, he grabbed her wrist, leaving the bruise.

The only time in my whole life I have ever known my dad to hurt anyone.

A number of years later, I was in the hospital again. This time it was because I had severely infected diverticulitis. As I've shared previously, I was literally at death's door. Dad came to see me and to get my son to take back home with him for Thanksgiving. I am told that by the time my dad got home after visiting with me, he himself had health issues that took several months to resolve--as a direct result of stress and worry.

I'd always known I was loved by both my parents. That was never a question. What I didn't know--truly understand--was the depth of their love for me. It shames me to say that I have often taken them and their love for me for granted. My dad has been THE example of what a true Daddy is. He has shown me by his love for me the love of my Heavenly Father and has taught me that because of his love for me, I am Special and Important--even when I don't feel special or important.

It is a shame that so many of us don't appreciate the love our parents have for us until we are older and/or have children of our own. I know this isn't everyone, but I'm sure I'm not the only one. I wish I could say that I have always been aware of the depth of their love for me, but the sad truth is that it wasn't until that moment when my Daddy KNEW when all I was able to say were three words that the full impact of his love for me hit me.

So on this Father's Day, when I say that I LOVE and appreciate my Daddy and that he is THE GREATEST Daddy in the world, I say it from the deepest part of my heart and soul with every fiber of my being......because my Daddy loved me first.

I love you, Daddy. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo