Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When He Said Live - I Had to Breath . . .

I started this blog post over 4 years ago. I really thought that I might never finish it.....For all this time, I've had the title and many thoughts, but just never put it together.
Fast forward November 2016, During my 30 Days of Thankful, when I was once again, not blogging, God began to stir my heart. For the first 3 years of this Blog, it was private and by invitation only. I did this because I shared a lot of intimate things that I didn't  want everyone to read. There are some personal things and information about my boys. Then I decided that I should share. Those who were reading seemed to be getting something from my thoughts, so I made it public. I say all that to say that it will remain public, but I will be sharing personal experiences and thoughts. Not to bring attention to me or to dwell on the negative, but to bring glory to God and hopefully show all that He's done in my life, in spite of my human frailty.
These posts may not relate or even interest you and that's ok, but I felt that some may need to know they are not alone. 
Over the next posts, I will be sharing my story, Andrew's story, Ways that God revealed himself to my family and other topics as God directs. It won't all be super serious, I also love to share things about Jules, my church kids, recipes and just about life. 
Ok all that being said, this post is called "When He Said Live, I Had to Breath"
In 2007, this song was released by a group called TK McRae. They are no longer singing, but this song has become an anthem in my life. I feel as though I could have written it myself.
They were at a Gospel Concert that I went to in March of that year. I heard this song for the first time and was so moved that at intermission, I went to the lead singer and told her how God had moved during that song, a little about myself and that it could have been written by me. This led to her calling on me to testify in front of a very large crowd and I did. It was a victorious turning point in my life......
Now the back story, for most of my life, as long as I can remember, I have suffered from depression. Most of those years, I knew nothing about depression, that it existed or that all the sadness, fear and inadequacy I felt was caused by it. When I first was officially diagnosed, I had learned that people suffered from depression. I wholeheartedly supported their need for medicine, therapy, a combination, or whatever it took..... For THEM, whatever was needed, by all means get help..... I had also learned that for most Christians and certainly by the church in general, depression wasn't an illness, but "sin-sickness", that required a closer relationship to God and more faith. Since almost all of my life, I'd felt inadequate and never quite good enough, I couldn't possibly need MEDS.......I would just need to work on getting closer to God.......Well after almost a year, I relented and asked God to forgive me and began taking meds and participating in therapy with the boys.  The boys, who by this time were ALL on some type of medicine and went to therapy at least once a week. Believe me, I heard from many that I would regret both..... Never for one moment have I regretted getting them the help they needed. But back to me, I very very carefully began to speak a little about myself going on meds. There was, thankfully some support, but there were also those who expressed great concern that I had become, one of "those" and they would pray that God would "deliver me" and I would no longer need them.... This was difficult and over time, I began to make it seem to most, that I no longer had to take them. I did and I still do. I thank God for those meds and that I no longer place my value or rate my testimony on whether or not I need them!!!
In 2003, as most know my oldest son passed away. I had quit my job in 2000, to be with him. It was what I wanted and knew was necessary. But my only identity as a success was and had always been my work. I'd had good positions with lots of responsibility and had always done the very best job that I could. Being a person who craved approval, I always wanted to be the best. When I left the workplace, of course, I had a full time job as a mom and a wife and did whatever side work that I could. Unfortunately, I always felt that I fell short. Being a mom of 3 special needs kids and one of them with a serious illness made me feel, like I could never be enough. There wasn't enough of me to be the Superwoman, I'd always tried to be......Thankfully, I eventually fell into a groove and tried to be the best mom and wife that I could. For the last 6 months of Andrews life, he got all of me. Sadly, as in many cases when you have a sick child, I only had scraps for not only Zachary and Anthony, but also for Jeff....everyone else, including myself, just had to accept the little or nothing, I could give.  I don't regret any of the precious moments that I was allowed to give Andrew. I would never ever trade that time. His life...and death changed me and made me who I am today. It just took a while to see that. 
July 2003 - So Andrew is now basking in the glory of heaven. I have time to devote to my 2 other precious boys and my marriage. Sounded great. Not as easy as I thought. Once again, my identity was in caring for Andrew. I gave it EVERYTHING, I had. What do I do now.... I quickly began caring for a special needs baby, doing side jobs from home and trying to give attention to my family. But deep in my heart, I was depressed. I totally trusted God. I knew this was all His will, but my marriage was suffering as many do after the death of a child. I felt like I was failing everyone. Loneliness and a feeling that I was lost  - Jodi no longer existed. I sought help, took meds, but secretly wanted to end my life. In the darkness of night, I would beg God to take me. I felt that everyone would be better off. I couldn't bear the thought of taking my life, after all my boys had lost so much, how could they live with that. That thought and hanging on to God with everything I had, kept me from taking my life. However, I stilled begged God to take me. I had suffered physical injuring and subsequent pain from taking a care of Andrew, carrying him, his wheelchairs and I took a pretty bad fall trying to keep him from getting hurt. That coupled with the only coping mechanism I'd ever depended on was food, I gained to weigh an astonishing 466 pounds. Life was miserable. All the insecurities that I was never good enough, were seemingly all true......
Then one night as I laid in bed awake, lonely, hurting, begging God to take my life....He said LIVE, GET UP AND BREATH...Your boys need you and I can't use you, unless you trust me...TRUST ME, with everything!!!
For the first time in so long, I felt that there was hope. By this time, it was 2005. Just over 2 years had passed since Andrew had died. I felt like I'd been wandering in the deep, dark dessert and now I could see some light. Please don't misunderstand, I was trying my best to hang on to God. I knew He loved me and somehow I knew He still cared, but the depression and every human doubt I have had, were consuming me.
Within a week or so, I began going to Weight Watchers. I lost very little weight in the 6 week plan, but I was determined. I went to my Doctor and told him honestly how truly depressed I was. He listened, helped with adjusting my meds and encouraged me. Not just to lose weight, but to find myself and love every moment that I had to give my boys. I say boys because by that time, I believe I was already losing Jeff. I place no blame. Our life was hard and we both suffered great hurt. I had to just focus on me and being there for the boys. I prayed God would heal our marriage and I just had to trust... After nearly a year, I lost about 80 pounds. I felt like I had a new perspective and was trying my best to be a better person - physically, mentally, spiritually. MANY other things happened over the next 1-1/2 - 2 years. Bottom line I needed to go back to work. It had been almost 7 years since I worked outside the home, I was nearly 40 years old and financially, I NEEDED a job. Thus began a nearly 11 month process. Probably 1000 resumes sent, many, many interviews, some job prospects.....but still NO JOB. 
In this process, my marriage dissolved almost completely. I eventually got a job in September 2007, but I've jumped ahead.
March 2007, Debbie and I planned an entire day out. Dinner, shopping, the Gospel concert. I was so happy when we got there and I could actually "fit" in the chair. I'd had an experience before I started losing weight that resulted in my entire family enjoying 3rd row seats at a comedy show, while I sat alone at the back of the theater in a seat that I could fit in. When Annie McRae asked me to testify, I was reluctant, but knew I had to give God ALL the glory!!! I testified that God had told me to breath! That He gave me strength to carry on! I even shared that I'd lost enough weight to fit in the auditorium chairs!!! WHAT??? Did I actually tell 200 strangers about all of that?!?!? 
Since that time, I lost another 90 pounds. Unfortunately, I've gained back about 40, but I'm a work in progress and I'm not giving up!! My back problems, chronic pain, degenerative arthritis and other complications, caused me to have to go on disability and lose a lot of water aerobic time. I'm finally at a point that I am trying to resume being more active, limited as it might have to be and resuming a better eating plan, that I've tried and know works. I still struggle with depression. I take my meds as directed. I try to keep my nose in the Word and focus on the positive. I still run to food as a way to feel better, knowing it will really only make me feel worse in the end. I'm trying and I'm trusting. I'm not perfect, but I'm trusting in the One who is! 

I'd like to share the song that means so much to me. I pray it will speak to you. I know this is a long, long....long post, but please know that I'm sharing to help you. Depression is a disease, requiring treatment, just like any other disease. It doesn't make you less of a Christian and it doesn't make God any less God! No matter where you are When He says Live......Breath...

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Grace Flows Down.....and covers me...

It's been a while since a BLOG post, so here it goes!
God is so good to us! That phrase has become over used and unfortunately sometimes cliché, but it is still so true. He loves us and provides for us. He disciplines and convicts us. He forgives us and restores us. No one else in our lives, shows the love and grace that God shows. He is SO good!
The last couple months have been somewhat trying and wonderful all at the same time. We had an awesome VBS where 10 - TEN souls were saved! I'm sure more lives were changed and challenged. I enjoyed LOTS of family time and even a few adventures. We went to the Wildlife Safari and the Toledo Zoo. We had a surprise birthday party for my sister and spent 2 holiday weekends with food, fun and fellowship with the people I love. Sometimes when I feel like life is consuming me and I'm overwhelmed, I like to go to my Facebook page. I look back through my pictures and God reminds me how very blessed my life really is! 
In May, I got to go to a family reunion in Tennessee. I saw family and friends and got to spend precious time with my mom, Debbie and Anthony. I was reminded that my dad is really a rock in our family and we got a bonus "Monday Funday". These are the times that I pray show Jules how much she's loved and build the relationship that keeps us close her entire life!
I am so blessed with the ministry at our church. I love my BK's. I see God moving in their lives! Our teens are seeking knowledge and desire to grow. Sometimes Satan tries to blind us with obstacles or negatives, he is very good at this job. This morning after talking to my sister and doing my devotions, I was overwhelmed with excitement for our church and God's kingdom! We have so much work to do. Sadly, we also have few who will do it. That sometimes makes the journey hard and discouraging. But it also gives us opportunities to stretch ourselves and step up in ways we never imagined. God is moving in our church, not just ours but many churches across our world. It's easy to compare and complain and find fault, but that's the enemy. That's his job and like I already said, he's very good. But GOD IS ALSO GOOD, actually He's "GOODER"!! I know thats not a word, but I hope you get my drift! 😃
Life is not easy. I know more people facing challenges (financial , marital, emotional, physical, spiritual) than ever in my life. I'm so thankful for God's word and its promises. And that I know they are true!!
I'm so thankful that no matter what life throws or how difficult it may be, God's grace flows down and it covers me! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Andrew - Happy 24th Birthday in Heaven

24 years ago today, a sweet boy with big green eyes came into the world. By all accounts, his first 4 years were cruel and inhuman. Then for 2 years, he was separated from his brother, who was more like a twin. At age 6, he came into my life. It was the first time in 2 years, that he was able to live with his brother. So many things had happened in his life, I wasn't sure he would ever see me as mom, that we would ever bond.....I was just happy to see him with Zachary. Their bond was undeniable....
God had such a big plan, more than I ever imagined.
2 years later, when I already knew in my heart that Andrew was another of the blessings that I had prayed for, we got a diagnosis....Muscular Dystrophy with several complications. Over the next 3 years, an indescribable bond developed, as my Drewby and I faced unbelievable things.....things no child or mom ever want to go through. But those things, that seemed so horrible, allowed God to make Drew my son, my very best friend, but most importantly I became his Mama. 
Andrew left this world on June 29, 2003. He was 11. It will be 13 years this year. Sometimes, I still can't believe he's gone...gone already for so long. Always, I thank God that I got to be his mom. Thankful, that although his 11 years on this earth, were painful, physically and mentally, almost every day, he is now in Heaven, rejoicing and pain free. Selfishly, I wish he was here, but I would never bring him back.....I just long to see him again some day. Thank God, I know I will.
I love all my boys, each is special in their own way, but Drew and I spent every moment together the last 6 months of his life. He never complained, he never questioned, he only assured me that he was going home. What a testimony!! 
What a precious gift from God. So irreplaceable to me, yet thrown away by others. 
He was - and is - an unexpected blessing. He taught me about the faith of a child. To trust, even when it is hard.
Happy Birthday in Heaven my sweet boy!! I'll see you again....I can't wait!!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Still Small Voice

40 Days of Reflection 

Although Zachary and I were home sick today, our Small Group Children's Church lesson was the conclusion of the story of Elijah. This is one of my top five favorite Old Testament stories. Last week we learned about how Elijah stood for God against the prophets of Baal, Ahab and Jezebel. He was the catalyst for God to prove before all the people that He was the TRUE God of Heaven. This week was the lesson was that even after all that, Elijah felt alone and afraid and went off by himself. God took care of him and Elijah waited to hear from God. Elijah saw many loud and powerful signs, but God was not in them. Finally, God sent a still small voice and Elijah heard from God.
 (‭1 Kings‬ ‭19‬:‭11-13‬a NLT)
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. Then Elijah heard it,"
Many times we search for God in the BIG, extreme signs. Sometimes, God speaks in the quiet that causes us to really be listening. Recently, God has spoken to me about BIG things, but He has spoken in very subtle ways.
Sometimes we are discouraged when we think God isn't there. We think we can't see Him at work or hear Him, but He is there. 
Just like Elijah, sometimes in that discouragement, God speaks in a still small voice - after the BIG event has seemed to pass.
I see that Jesus also experienced something similar. After his "Big Reveal" into ministry, his baptism, God spoke through the Holy Spirit, announcing that this was His Son in whom he was very pleased. Then Jesus was sent into the wilderness, alone and tempted by the devil. I'm sure it was very quiet and maybe God's voice wasn't easily heard. But God sent His Angels to comfort and attend to him. Even though, Jesus may have felt alone and and tired, God was there and taking care of His needs.
Mark 1:9-13
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[a] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
There are many unknowns in my life, just as there are in others. Sometimes I feel like for every exciting "Mt Carmel" experience , I then feel alone and scared. Or every time, I feel like God may be pleased with something that I've done, the devil tempts me to believe that I am a failure. I'm thankful that like Elijah and Jesus and a host of other spiritual ancestors that have felt the same way, God was always there!!

This Lent I want to listen, so I can hear the still small voice. I pray you can do the same!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A New Start

40 Days of Reflection
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (‭1 John‬ ‭1‬:‭9‬ HCSB)

This has always been one of my favorite verses. It is such a promise and encouragement. We sin daily and knowing that we can be forgiven and cleansed is an undeserved blessing, that we should never take for granted. As a teen, I had a teacher who referred to this verse as the "Christian's Bar of Soap". Just like real soap and bodily cleanliness, we have to use it to get clean! 
Many times we live in our sin, instead of confessing, receiving forgiveness and moving on to do better. 
During this time of Lent, I pray that God will reveal any hidden sins and that I will confess, receive forgiveness and be clean!

This prayer has been included in one of my Lenten readings and the more I pray it, the more God is showing me.

Help me, Lord Jesus, die to self this day. (silence) 
Light of the world, shine into my darkness. (silence) 
Jesus, show me how to serve the members of Your Body. (silence) 
Enliven my spirit as I reveal myself to You in written word. (silence)

I pray that something I share on this Blog will help someone to grow closer to God. Then Easter can be a glorious celebration of our risen Savior and the newness of life we can have in Him! 

Friday, February 20, 2015

All In

40 Days of Reflection
"This lenten season, let’s do more than suspend our vices—let's run to Christ. Let’s be brave, come out of hiding, and be reconciled to Him." Rebecca Faires
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. She Reads Truth - Day 3: Springtime   #shereadstruth

This was in one of my devotions today. It spoke so loudly to me. I don't want Lent to just be another thing I do. I want it to matter and make a difference. With reckless abandon, I want to run to Jesus, press into His holiness and hang on with all my might!!!  
Over the last few weeks and especially yesterday, there have been several prayer concerns that have gripped my heart. Real needs. Health, spiritual, job, future plans, huge decisions, even some matters of life and death.  I'm so thankful that I have a relationship with Jesus that allows me to pray directly to Him with every need. But God isn't just an umbrella for tough times. Our relationship with Him needs to be "all in". Not just during Lent, or at Christmas or at Easter. ALL the time.
So, I am praying that right now, during Lent and every day of my life, I will "run to Christ. Be brave, come out of hiding, and be reconciled to Him." 

I hope this is your prayer too.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nothing That I Could Have Done

40 Days of Reflection
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (‭Romans‬ ‭6‬:‭23‬ NLT)

During Lent I find myself looking inwardly and trying to reflect on what God's grace really means. I'm not sure if it's the season, the fact that I give up some distractions or that I am truly seeking God, but it always seems like the reflection always leads to the realization that I am nothing without God. No matter how many good things I do or say. No matter how many "random" acts of kindness, I perform. I will NEVER earn God's grace. But the awesome thing is that I don't need to - it's FREE!!! 
Without a lot of embarrassing detail, let me just say that I know what it's like to live in sin. I even know what it's like to live in sin and go to church every Sunday. I'm not proud of that, but it's helped me be the person I am today. I realize what God saved me from. I can see how others are longing to find peace with God, but try to fulfill that void with everything but God. 

I am so thankful for God's grace and forgiveness. I'm also thankful that NOTHING, that I could've done would be enough. My efforts are flawed at best. God's plan is perfect. He can ALWAYS save a willing heart that accepts His free gift.

Here are words to 2 of my favorite songs - I think they say it better than me.

My prayer is that this season of Lent will draw your closer to Him.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name
Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

Who Am I?
When I'm reminded of His words
I'll leave Him never
If you'll be true I'll give to you life forever
I know there's nothing that I could have done
To deserve God's only Son
To fight my battles until they're won
For who am I?

Who am I that The King would bleed and die for
Who am I that He would pray not my will, Thy Lord
The answer I may never know
Why He ever loved me so
But to that old rugged cross He'd go
For who am I?