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Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Reader's Response to Tears of a Clown

After reading my last blog post addressing the issue of depression, Jenni Saake sent a rather long and beautifully written response. Apparently it was too long to fit into my comment form on the blog post, so she private messaged me. While reading her response, I knew I needed to share this with you, my readers. Not because she was in agreement with my post, but because she writes from the heart of one who has traveled down the long and painful road of depression.  
Some of you may recognize Jenni's name as she also happens to be a blogger/author friend that I had introduced in a Writer's Blog Hop not too long ago. She is the founder of Hannah's Prayer Ministries and author of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage and Adoption Loss. After a chiropractic accident at the age of 30, Jenni suffered 6 strokes, sustaining significant brain injury, and journals the spiritual and physical recovery journey on her blog at Stroke Of Grace.

I was so touched and encouraged by her response to my last post that I knew I needed to share her words with you here. It is my hope and prayer that you will be inspired and encouraged as well!

Jenni's Response:

Very well stated. So often the church at large wants to make depression a purely spiritual issue. That as long as you are a Christian you cannot possibly face depression and still be in a right relationship with the Lord. I love how you talked of the complex interaction between mind, spirit and body then said, "That is not to say that people who are Christians do not struggle with depression. Some do. But the answers to our deepest longings can be found in Him. Joy is not a condition of the heart that is brought about by the perfect circumstances in life. Joy is the hope in the One who is our salvation, our hope, and our grace, in spite of the pains, the wounds that we attain in this life on earth. Joy comes about when we allow those feelings of anxiousness, and fear turn us to God, remembering His goodness, even when our world seems to be falling apart; trusting the One who can bring us through the storms of life."
After my strokes I was deeply depressed (sudden blindness, hearing loss, serious nerve pain, loss of any form of self balance or ability to walk, could do that to a person!) but I surrounded myself with praise music, audio Bibles, and a couple months in when I could finally make limited use of a large print Bible, submerged myself in Scripture that way too. I prayed rather continually and sought the Lord daily, fervently. The pastor, elders, friends would come pray over me, with me. Still, I grew more and more depressed and quite suicidal for many months.
About 6 months in my doctor convinced me to try an antidepressant, something I had resisted up until this time, thinking depression to be purely circumstantial and needing greater spiritual discipline to come through the storm. We didn't get the medication correctly balanced the very first try, but it was a starting point. Within a few weeks, it was doing enough good that I could see small rays of hope breaking through my despair for the first time, enough so that I was willing to continue working with my doctor to find the correct dose (that, once achieved, offered a night and day difference!). As it turned out, the strokes had caused enough damage to specific emotional processing centers of my brain and the overall chemical balance of this organ, that short of God's divine healing, my brain was simply incapable of creating anything other than a deep, dark slimy pit where joyful emotions should be. The medication was providing a better balance of the chemicals my body should have already been producing on its own, but was simply incapable of now.
Once I got on the right dosage of medication, my body had also had many months to gain physical healing, so the circumstances, while still daunting, were no longer as intensely grim nor dire. I also gained insurance approval to start counseling, so I finally had professional help to start unpacking emotional baggage. When the mind and body were properly addressed, ALONG WITH the spiritual, then there was room for spiritual healing as well. My prayer, from the beginning had been "restore to me the joy of Your salvation" and God DID both renew a right spirit within me and overwhelm me with His joy.
At almost 3 years, I now walk with a cane, have mostly restored vision, have regained a little hearing, but the chronic physical pain issues become more intense all the time (and were horrid to start with). So if we are going purely by circumstantial issues, there are great gains in some areas and ongoing losses in others. But I will tell you, I would so much rather choose this physical pain along with restored hope, than the emotional/spiritual writhing of depression!
Lest you think I am making an argument for depression being purely chemical, physical or circumstantial, I still believe there is a great spiritual interplay as well. A year ago I went through several weeks of a slippery slide springily downward, back into the slimy pit. I couldn't understand what nor why this was happening. I was on the verge of calling my doctor and asking him to raise my antidepressant dose, when a STILL SMALL VOICE broke through to my heart to remind me I had been neglecting consistent time alone with Him over recent weeks. Oh, my life was filled with good "Christian things" but in the new-found business, one-on-one intimacy with the Lord was lacking.
I returned to Him, confessed my neglect, and recommitted myself to seeking out priority alone time with Christ. Amazingly, all traces of my heavy heart vanished within a few days! When I start to struggle now, as I still do at times, my first question is always honest self-evaluation of the state of intimacy I'm enjoying (or not) with my Heavenly Father. Often a little adjustment there will make an indescribably amount of difference! If it doesn't bring about immediate positive change, I now know there could be other physical or mental issues at play, so I think through recent dietary choices, physical exercise schedule, check my pill box to be sure I haven't been missing any antidepressant doses over the past week, and I have yet to face a time when the heart/soul, mind and body are all being cared for as they should that I could even fathom suicide as a viable option anymore!

Wow! I am humbled by your words, Jenni. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey with us!  It is my prayer that God will continue to bring about healing in your body, and that He will continue to use your story to encourage, to inspire others, and to advance His kingdom through your ministry.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Sharing your story may be a blessing to others. Be alert…God just may bring someone across your path this week. Are you willing to allow God to use you to be a comfort to someone else?

Read the article Jenni is responding to here: Tears of a Clown…Take Heart!


The American Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
Is Depression Emotional, Spiritual, or Due To A Chemical Imbalance? by Paul Meier, M.D.
Christians Get Depressed Too Films

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tears of a Clown…Take Heart!

So much is being circulated on the Internet following the sad suicidal death of Robin Williams on this past Monday.  It is indeed a sad day when a man who brought light moments and hysterical laughter to so many would choose to end his own life, to succumb the mind numbing, heart breaking, downward spiraling thought processes that his own mental illness would lead to.

It is reported that he has battled addictions, depression, and more specifically bi-polar disorder for a very long time now.  It just breaks my heart that this man who was loved by so many, and who, by all accounts, was adored by his own children, would make such a choice to take his own life. Leaving behind him a wake of grief and pain. This man who spent the majority of his own life making others laugh was indeed riddled by a deep inner sadness.

The words, 'tears of a clown, when there's no one around' come to mind, when I contemplate the life of this man.  I have read many quotes attributed to Robin, but I believe the following quote to be most telling:
 I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone--it's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone. 
Perhaps it was not really the people around him that made him feel alone but his own inner struggles with depression. Feeling alone, even when surrounded by friends and family can be hardest thing to deal with because by all accounts, that emptiness, the deep dark hole, should not exist.  But sadly, it does for many people who deal with depression.

I've struggled with how to deal with the issue of depression in this post.  I'm neither a licensed counselor nor a psychologist…so I will not presume to try and figure out what exactly went wrong in this man's life to cause him to take his own life.  I have not personally dealt with serious depression myself, so I cannot speak from the standpoint of one who has 'been there'.

But I have walked along side those who have...

As a lay counselor I have learned that depression can be excruciatingly painful. It impacts not only the one depressed but family members and friends, as well. It can be debilitating to the point of not being able to do the things we all take for granted, like getting out of bed, taking and shower…just your normal work day can seem insurmountable. Depression is a multifaceted and complex issue, and yes there can be chemical imbalances at play, but it is usually a symptom of a deeper issue.

Depression has many origins, so it is important to determine all of the contributing factors before trying to find a solution. And please know that there is a solution. There is a way to cope with this debilitating condition.  Many have faced the source, whether physical, or emotional, or inward emotional scars and pain and gone through the journey of the dark night of their own soul and have survived. Taking your life is not an answer to the pain and isolation you may be experiencing.  

There are entire books written on this and there is a complex relationship between the spiritual life and psychological health. I cannot address such issues in depth in this article. But I will say that dealing with depression as if it is only a chemical imbalance can be a deadly mistake. The mind, body, and spirit need to be addressed if an individual is suffering from severe depression.

The answers are complex, but the deepest issues of our heart and soul can be answered from God's word.  True joy can be found in a real, deep, and abiding relationship with God. That is not to say that people who are Christians do not struggle with depression. Some do. But the answers to our deepest longings can be found in Him. Joy is not a condition of the heart that is brought about by the perfect circumstances in life. Joy is the hope in the One who is our salvation, our hope, and our grace, in spite of the pains, the wounds that we attain in this life on earth.  Joy comes about when we allow those feelings of anxiousness, and fear turn us to God, remembering His goodness, even when our world seems to be falling apart; trusting the One who can bring us through the storms of life. Faith becomes even more of a reality when you learn to trust in Him, knowing that you are not alone. God is with you. He knows your thoughts and every intimate detail of your heart and soul…and He loves you. He is present even when you don't 'feel' His presence.

I don't believe that there is ONE approach to dealing with this issue. There needs to be a balance. You cannot just deal with the physical brain and ignore the heart issues. As I have already stated, there needs to be a multifaceted approach…mind, body, and spirit.

And then there's this…people who commit suicide are still making a choice. Yes, their judgement has most definitely been clouded by some kind of circumstances that have led to a depressed state of mind. But there are many who have dealt with depression and are still alive today. So if you are in the throws of depression please understand that your answer is not in taking your life.  That will only lead to pain in the lives of your family and friends.

You do have a choice…so make it the right one. Get help. Seek out a good licensed counselor. Tell God about your sufferings…He already knows everything about you. Giving voice to your pain and anguish to God will help. Open your Bible and read from its pages. Read the Psalms…David expresses every kind of emotional pain and turmoil imaginable. Memorize Psalm 130…in it David begins with expressions of despair but by the end of the psalm we see despair replaced by hope.  The Word of God is not a bunch of dead letters on a page but is living and active and contains the power to bring your spirit alive and in alignment with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Allow it to be the salve that your spirit needs.

We live in a fallen world.  The enemy of our soul wants to destroy us by whatever means he can. He wants us to think that the fallen condition of this world is all there is…but he is a liar!

There is so much more…both in this life and the life to come for those who have chosen to accept the free gift of God's grace through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ. However, even Jesus told us that we would have trials in this world. But He also left us with the promise of His peace…a peace that is beyond explanation in light of some of the trials, and temptations that we face. He tells us this in John 16:33:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

My prayer is that you will allow the love and peace of Christ dwell in your hearts. Take heart and don't give up. You, who are suffering the throws of depression today, will someday have the opportunity to share with others your journey through depression and bring hope and the light of Christ's love to them.

There is a time…yet to come when God Himself will wipe away every tear. There will be a place of joy...pure joy, which cannot be diminished.  And in that place you will take hold of the nail-scarred hand.  The very hand of the One whose unconditional, sacrificial love, and grace brought you through the raging waters to this place of calm and eternal joy and peace.

Hang onto the hope that is found in Him.

Update: A Reader's Response


The American Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

Happiness Is a Choice:The Symptoms, Causes, and Cures of Depression, Frank Minirth, M.D. & Paul Meier, M.D. 

Related Articles:

Matt Walsh article on Robin William's death by suicide. 

What the Church Needs to Know About Suicide & Mental Health, Ann Voskamp

Thursday, August 7, 2014

And So I Write...A Writer's Blog Hop

I've been on quite a long and unintentional sabbatical from writing. Sometimes it is good to just step back and reassess the what and why of this whole blogging gig.

Sometimes life just begins to take over and all those words remain floating in the recesses of my mind…anxiously awaiting that moment when the dam breaks and the words just flood out all over the white space….spilling over the edges in a mess of words looking for their proper setting.

And so…I begin…again. As I was anticipating what I would write about,  my sweet friend, Cheryl Lutz, invited me to participate in a summer Blog Hop. In this blog hop we not only answer questions about our own writing, but we get to introduce you to several of our own writer/blog friends…and it just keeps going.

I first met Cheryl through an online book launch group for Jo Ann Fore's book, When A Woman Finds Her Voice.  We are both Pastor's wives and have a passion for leading women to connect to the heart of God, and that common desire just 'sealed the deal' of our friendship. We also had the opportunity to meet and connect in 'real life' on a retreat in Tennessee and experienced that sweet bond that sister's in the Lord often find.  I just love her and I know you will too! Cheryl writes over at Securely Held, check her out!

And now for the questions. I have to say these questions are a challenge, as I have been pondering some of the very same thoughts in recent months.

What am I writing or working on?

This post at the moment. (wink)  Seriously, I'm always a work in process myself and my writing tends to reflect that.  I do have a book project that originally started out with a small group of women; each  contributing a chapter of her own. However, something happened in the life of the woman coordinating the project and now the entire book deal has been dropped into my lap to do with as I see fit. I have already written a chapter of just over 9000 words, but it was meant to be a chapter that fit into a book that consisted of a collection of writings from mother's who have experience raising a special needs child. I don't even believe any of the original women stuck with the project long enough to get their chapters completed. So there's that. I think my next step on this project is a long talk with the marketing agent at WestBow Press on what direction I need to take…and much prayer!

I've also been working to improve the design of this blog. Learning a little html and tweaking things here and there to give it a more streamlined, clean look.  Eventually, I will be moving over to my own self-hosted Wordpress site, but my url will remain the same as it is now.  What I need to be working on is writing consistently. SBICAW! Sit butt in chair and write! God has called me to this thing and I may flounder from time to time, but I will 'keep on keeping on'.

Photography has become quite a hobby and I am working on figuring out how to get some of my photos and graphics available for sale in the near future. For me, this hobby of 'clicking' and writing have and will continue to be connected. It just might evolve into something much different in the future. We'll see.

My latest most important 'work' is just being the best Gigi ever to my precious grandson, Judah. I love that little man!!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Great question! Any takers? Anyone?  Oh…right…I'm supposed to answer that one. I think at the moment I would be categorized as faith-based lifestyle writer.  There are many bloggers writing within this genre. My work differs because I write from my own experiences and my own observations from life around me.  No one else lives in my skin…and/or processes life in the same way that I do. I am not one to tell you every little detail of those life experiences, but just enough to bring across the point of my writing.  Which brings me to the next question...

Why do I write what I do?

have actually written about this very question in a previous post. You can read it here: Write! That's All He Said. I think the very last paragraph of that article sums it up quite well for me:
I continue to write because I believe God has called me to this thing. I will probably never be a well known writer, but I'm okay with that because I believe God will use the words that He has given me to further the work of His Kingdom here on earth. I believe He has and will continue to use me to encourage my readers in seeing every part of the culture in which we live through the lens and filter of God's Word. And that is enough for me!  
As I have said before, "When He says go…go. When He says do…do. When He says WRITE…I'm going to write!

How does my writing process work?

Wait!! There's a process?

I think the process for me goes back to SBICAW:Sit butt in chair and WRITE!  Yes…it's true. When I sit down to write and make myself begin the words start to flow out of my crazy brain, through my finger tips out onto the page. It's true…I just have make myself begin writing and it happens.  Sometimes the writing is proceeded by much research, depending on what prompted me to begin an article in the first place.  I have also written about this flow elsewhere on my blog, in the form of a poem, which I find amusing as my mother was the poet in our family. I write prose. You can read it here: Write…Wings to the Words of My Heart. (It's a quick read).

I have found it easiest to begin writing when I participate in a regularly scheduled link-up, such as Lisa-Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday post. She gives a one word prompt during a wild and crazy fun 'twitter party' on Thursday nights and then 100's of bloggers join in the exercise of writing in five minutes an unedited free flowing post on that one word. We then all link up on Lisa-Jo's page on Friday!  I have to admit though that even in this, I break all the rules. I only participate sporadically and when I do it usually takes longer than five minutes to write…and then…sometimes...I do the unthinkable. I  edit! Gasp!! But the original intent of the exercise is to just get us writing.  Sometimes I do it in the 5 minutes and other times, not so much. Either way it's a win-win for me when I choose to participate in the link-up.

The actual process goes something like this:
When I write I tend to just let the words flow just to get them written down. I might stop for a tea break, and then go back and read back over what I had written, editing as needed. I will do a read-through several times before hitting the 'publish' button.  It helps to step away for a few hours or even overnight and come back with fresh eyes and go back over it; this time with an eye on grammar, spelling, and clarity. Inevitably I will read it after it has been published and see something I missed in the editing process. At some point I just have to 'let it go' and pray that God will use my words to encourage and inspire.

And now for the fun part!  I get to introduce you to some pretty awesome ladies! 

First, I would like to introduce you to my friend, Donna O' Shaughnessy. I'm really not sure how long I have known Donna but we met and have gotten to know each other through two different Facebook groups, Better Writers and Better Bloggers. Also, we both participate (rather sporadically) in the Five Minute Friday link-up community.  I love her passion for life, family, Jesus, and photography! Oh and 
when you visit her page be sure to ask her about 'river-tiquing'. 

Born and raised in good 'ole Brooklyn, NY, Donna, the hubby, and their 4 amazing children moved to the beautiful mountains of NE PA just over fifteen years ago. At City Chick in the Country she discusses Faith, Family, and Facing {Mid}Life head on! As the empty next draws near, she is anticipating the post-parenting years and is excited for whatever God has in store. She is passionate about Christ, inspired by photography, and LOVES all things NYC! 
You can visit Donna's blog, City Chick in the Country, to hear words of  encouragement, or connect with her on Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram.

Next I would like to introduce you to a wonderful friend, Jennifer Saake, whom I have just had the privilege of getting acquainted with earlier this year.  We actually connected because I had planned to host an (in) Real Life Conference meet up in our area and she was interested in attending with a few other ladies. I ended up going to Tennessee to do a combination Book Launch/(in)RL meet up Retreat instead and did not get to meet with Jennifer. We did find that we have some things in common…dealing with the aftermath of stroke.  Of course while I have never suffered a stroke, I do understand some of the struggles with rehab because my son, Brad, has gone through this.  Jennifer leads an online group of the most amazing Christian women who all deal with brain injury in one way or the other and encourage one another on the journey.  You will love getting to know Jennifer as I have.

"InfertilityMom" Jenni Saake, by God's grace, has been married to her college sweetheart for 22 years and they are parents to 3 living miracles here on earth and 3 beloved children awaiting them in Heaven. She is the founder of Hannah's Prayer Ministries and author of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage and Adoption Loss. After a chiropractic accident at age 39, she suffered 6 strokes, sustaining significant brain injury, and is blogging the spiritual and physical recovery journey at

Visit her blog, Stroke Of Grace, to hear her amazing story and find out about her latest book project. Connect with her on Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.

Last, but certainly not least, we're going over the pond to introduce you to my long time friend, Selena Jones.  Selena and I met many years ago in Indiana. We were both serving as youth sponsors at White River Christian Church in Noblesville, Indiana.  Our daughters were good friends, so we naturally became friends.  We mom's have to stick together!  Selena was an accountant from Texas, but don't let that accountant title fool you…she is so.much. fun!  We had lost track of each other through the years and then reconnected on Facebook and discovered that we have more in common now…both being bloggers and loving photography and travel.  Since working along side her in Indiana, she has experienced some rather drastic and adventurous changes in her life. She met and fell in love with Matthew(a.k.a. The Englishman), married, moved to England and has been travel blogging ever since with her 'prince'. She has won numerous awards as an expat travel blogger and when you visit her site you will see why! I have  vicariously traveled through Europe and beyond while reading her posts! I hope to one day actually get together with her again(in person), on her turf…because, after all, why meet here in Nevada when we could be having tea in London? Right?!
This is how she describes herself:
Meet Selena: An American expat living in London. Not your typical, adventurous travel blogger. "I'm a Texas accountant who married a globe-trotting Englishman. We're now living in London and exploring the world. Travel+Photography+Blogging = Happiness.  I'm way over 40. I hate carrying a backpack, too heavy.  I don't own a pair of hiking boots, binoculars or an Outback hat.  You will never catch me rock-climbing, bungee-jumping or sky-diving. I refuse to do anything that involves, a harness and a waiver. I'm not very adventurous and I quite enjoy my comfort zone.  But, I am a traveler and a blogger."

She and 'the Englishman' travel and write together about their travels…and I would just disagree on one thing. This woman loves adventure. ;-)     You can read more about them and their adventures…um, travels at Oh, The Places We Will Go.  You can connect with Selena on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can follow her on Instagram to get a look at some of her amazing photos!

And now I must come to a close on this post, my part of this blog hop is over. I hope this has been as much fun for you as it has for me! Each of these ladies will be introducing three more writer friends next week, so be sure to check back with their blogs to discover more amazing bloggers! One last thing.

What is your passion? What questions would you need to answer in order to pin point that passion, that burning thing that won't let go? Perhaps it is God's call on your life. So don't ignore it. Just do it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moons, and Other Signs…Something To Ponder

I tried to get a glimpse of the Blood Moon last night. In case you don't know, the blood moon (so called because of it's red hue), occurs when the moon is entirely immersed in the Earth's shadow and can take on that murky 'blood red' color due to the scattering of sunlight through the edges of the Earth's atmosphere.  You can see the progression in this series of shots here:
Photo courtesy of Nick Taylor. Used by permission
I live in pacific time zone so I stayed up long enough to go outside to see if I could get some good photos. No such luck, our normally clear skies were not so clear. The moon was so shrouded in clouds I could barely tell where it was. So I checked back in about twenty minutes and still there were too many clouds.  So...disappointed, I went to bed. Awakening a bit later I went outside and the clouds had moved on, but so had the eclipse. It was at the tail end of the phase so it was no longer really red and just looked like a fuzzy sliver of crescent moon.

Thankfully other's were able to get of some great shots, such as the time lapse series posted above, courtesy of Nick Taylor. His photo below was featured on KRNV news.
Used by permission of photographer Nick Taylor

Because I have this fascination with the moon, I have been known to take crazy amounts of photos just to get a handful of great shots. Like this Super Moon shot…

Photo credit. Gay Idle, photographer
I took this shot, June 23, 2013, with a Nikon P500(in case you don't know it's NOT a DSLR)…hand held…no tripod, no timer, so I'm kind of proud of this shot.

Last night's event was the beginning of a rare event called an eclipse tetrad…the occurrence of four blood moons over a span of around 18 months. The three other total lunar eclipses will occur on October 8, April 4, 2015 and September 28, 2015. I say rare because, apparently there have been no tetrads at all during the 300 years from 1600 to1900. Single blood moons happen fairly regularly, but from what I have gleaned from my research, four appearing so close together…that's rare. This has happened only a handful of times over the past 50 years. That's a big deal!

There are those who would make a big deal that these "blood moons" are occurring on major Jewish holidays or feast days …the Passover and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles).  They say that there is much historic significance in the "rare appearance of four blood moons on these feast days" and that it has "coincided with major events for Israel and the Jewish people" down through the ages.

John Hagee is one of those taking note of these events. He has written a book that talks about this very phenomenon, titled, Four Blood Moons: Something Is About To Change.  I have not read the book…so please don't take this post as an endorsement, nor as a critical commentary on his book. I just know from reading the description of the book that he brings up some interesting things to ponder. It explores the prophetic significance of such "signs" in the sky. He believes that God is sending to our generation a signal from these tetrad occurrences that something big is about to happen.

I don't really know a whole lot about these things. I love the moon because I am fascinated with all of God's creation. What I do know is that God is in control. Yes, He has given us prophecies in His word concerning the signs in the sky.
  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming or the great and awesome day of the LORD. Joel 2:31
…there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars…Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. Luke 21:25a, 28 
No doubt, there will be those who read of these prophecies in the Bible and make the connection to the current happenings with the "blood moon" as  a sign of the end of the world as we know it.  While some may fear the 'end is near'...I do not. God's Word tells us,
However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. Matthew 24:36 NLT
I do believe we are living in the 'end times'…but I don't believe anyone knows how long the 'end times' will last. No one knows but God Himself. There very well may be something big about to occur with the nation of Israel and in the Middle East. I really don't know and honestly, don't care to speculate.

What I do know is that God is good. He is in control and I have nothing to fear…for even death itself holds no power over me.  The passage in Matthew states that when these things begin to happen we are to look up, our REDEMPTION is near! That, my friends, is good news!

Sunday is Easter…resurrection Sunday! Because He rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God the Father I too will one day rise to be with Him! I know my Redeemer lives…and because He lives, as the beloved song goes, I can face tomorrow.

Now THAT is worth pondering!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nearer God's Heart In a Garden

There is something about being in a garden that nourishes my soul.

Perhaps it is that the beauty is so natural…so real.

Or maybe it is that gardens are one of those places I most feel the presence and peace of God, see the wonder of His creation, and I hear the lessons He has for me.
The Vegetable Garden

For some to think of a garden is to think of plants that produce food. Think of the hard work that it takes to plant, fertilize, water and weed, fighting against the onslaught of bugs chomping away at the fruit of your labor.  Experiencing the joy in the bounty of the harvest. Giving back life, from life.

I remember eating from the fruits of my grandparents' labor almost every Sunday as I was growing up. My Mammaw always had fresh cooked vegetables from the garden. Even in the winter there were canned beans and jellies of every sort to be fetched from the shelves for a Sunday afternoon dinner.  I still have the picture in my head of my grandmother bending low in her garden, bonnet over her head, picking fresh peas. At times I was by her side, as she showed me what to do.

But I have to say…some of my most precious memories was of my grandmother allowing me to pick precious treasures from her other garden.

The Flower Garden…

Every week through spring time and summer...after the big family dinner at my grandparent's house and after a fair amount of time to play with my cousins, I would wander into the backyard and linger by the flower beds.  Oh how I loved the flowers. In general, as children, we weren't allowed to pick the flowers. They were to be smelled, gazed upon and appreciated as they were left to grow out in the fresh air and sunshine.

As I got older, around my junior high years, I remember being allowed to pick a few of those precious flowers every Sunday. I would add them to the Queen Anne's Lace that grew wild at the edge of the woods…along with any other wildflower I could find on a treasure hunt through the woods behind Mammaw's house. I would take them home and put them in a vase to enjoy in my bedroom all that week. The following Sunday I would collect a fresh bouquet. This would continue all spring and summer until late fall when there were no flowers left to pick. Thankfully, growing up in Georgia afforded us a long growing season for flowers of all kinds through the spring and summer. How I loved my vase of flowers!

I still love flower gardens most…though I do realize the necessity of the other kind. God has shown me there are all kinds of lessons to be found for life, for love, and most importantly about Him, in the beauty, and in the care and tending of gardens. Too many to address in this short post.  I did write a post about the work that God needs to do in the garden of our hearts in a post I wrote back in 2011. You can read that post here:  Morning Musings From My Patio. 

The Heart's garden...

Instead of going into the lessons that God has built into His creation, I would like to honor my mother, who had much influence in the cultivating of the garden of my own heart, by leaving you with a short poem she wrote about me when I was just 12 years old.  She had written a poem for each one of her five children(at the time…three years later we added one more). In each short little poem she captured a bit of the character of each one of her children. I find it sweetly ironic that my poem was a take off of Mistress Mary and her garden.  (...and for those of you who do not know my roots well. My name, Gay, is short for Gayonne, a combination of Gayle and Yvonne.Two family names)

Mistress Gayonne, quite a gay one,
How does your laughter grow?
With God's merry blessing,
We can all learn a lesson__
By watching your inner glow!
I love that my mother left me with that spoken blessing over my life.
I love that it was my mother's mother, Mammaw, who instilled in me a great love for God's beautiful creation.

My prayer is that my life and my words leave a legacy of God's great love and mercy, and that the shining of the glory of His presence is indeed seen in my countenance.

What garden are you tending…what legacy will it produce?

  The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. ~Isaiah 58:11

Here's another garden story you don't want to miss!  

Lisa-Jo Baker launched an incredible project on Valentine's Day this year. She is raising money, $150,000 from Valentine's Day through Mother's Day to fund the building of a much needed Community Center in South Africa. As of Friday(Valentine's Day 2014), the first phase of the project has been funded(a community garden). As Lisa-Jo says,
 What if 1 blog community could build 1 South African community a safe place for sustainable food, child care, economic empowerment, job skills trainings, a gathering place for church, classrooms for HIV/Aids education, and a playground for their kids.
Here is one way that you can help with the Maubane Community Center project. When you purchase one of these three beautiful necklaces from Krafty Kash $12 from each purchase will be donated!! This offer is available until Mother's day!!

Love is more than a date on a calendar! Fall in love with the world next door….

   “Fall in Love with the World Next Door” Necklace

Five Minute Friday

I'm linking up with Lisa-Jo and 

the Five Minute Friday writers.

Join us…Hop over the Five Minute Friday 
and find out what it's all about.
Better yet…join the fun!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sacrificial Faith - Abraham and Isaac

Today I have the honor of guest posting over at my friend, Beth Zimmerman's site, ButterflyMasterpiece. Myself, and quite a few other bloggers are contributing to the series, Walk By Faith. If you follow this post over to the site, you might want to pour yourself a cup of tea, and stay awhile and browse around her site and read some of the other posts. You'll be glad you did!

When I saw that one of the topics for her series was to be Sacrificial Faith and revolve around the story of Abraham and Isaac, I knew that I needed to share what God has shown me through a very difficult time in the life of our family.  My hope and prayer is that this will encourage you in your faith journey.

 Abraham was a man who knew the true meaning of the words sacrificial faith. In Genesis 22:1-18 you can read the full account of Abraham and his son, Isaac. Isaac was the son he and  Sarah had conceived in their old age. In Hebrews 11:17-19, we read a recap of Abraham and Isaac's encounter with God. 
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
Can you imagine that kind of obedience? God had asked Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on a mountain that God would show him…

Please join me over at Beth's site to read the rest of this post. Just click on the link here: Butterfly Masterpiece 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Healed or Walking Dead? Choose Now...

This week is the last in a series of link-ups with Jo Ann Fore's book study, When A Woman Finds Her Voice. It has been a privilege to walk in this community of voice bloggers. To join in with other women who are learning to walk, healed and whole, into the fullness of redemption and restoration that God has for each one of us.  It is the light that leads the way home to a lost and hurting world.
  It isn't a trivial journey, this healing. This restoration, this redemption, is a biblical mandate…a life principle to be worked out, and shared with others. We redeem the hurts of life when we allow them to come full circle, when we pour into the lives of others. ~Jo Ann Fore,When A Women Finds Her Voice.

With these words in mind, let me caution you. You cannot fast-forward, past the process of healing, into the sharing and comforting of others. When you do…you end up not sharing words of hope and  comfort, but words of pain and bitterness. The cacophony of the pain and bitterness of your story all but drown out any of the words that are meant to point to the light of hope and healing. Too many come together to talk about their painful past only to find themselves commiserating in their stories of pain and misery. You cannot reach out to give hope and comfort when you, yourself, have not received that comfort.

The Walking Dead

I believe there are too many women walking around with soul wounds…gaping, bleeding, ugly wounds.  I have this picture running through my head of the ghouls on the show, the Walking Dead. I know that sounds extreme but let me tell you what I mean.

Sometimes the wounds are caused by others, sometimes by life's circumstances, or they may have been self-inflicted. In any case, they are an indication of this fallen world in which we live.

To have an open wound requires all of our focus and attention to remain on ourselves. We spend the majority of our time and efforts tending the wound. If the right salve is not applied we begin to look like the 'Walking Dead'…stuffing our emotions down, becoming lifeless. There is no 'inner light' left for others to see. We begin to think that no one should be exposed to the ugliness of our wounds. We withdraw deeper into our own world…no, not as hermits because life goes on around us. But our voices become wilted…melting, silencing the emotional pain. We go on about the tasks of our daily lives in a 'Stepford Wives' sort of existence, saying and doing all the right things. All the while, our true self longs to be heard, longs to call out to someone who will listen and apply the needed salve to our wounded spirit.

The enemy of your soul wants you to be a member of the walking wounded. He wants you to believe that there is no way out…no answer…that it is so much easier to remain in your present state than to move forward.

Scars...a sign of healing

It is difficult, if not impossible, to move forward in our  God-given purpose if we do not first address the wounds of our spirit. You see it is not the open wounds that propel us forward, but wounds that are healing and healed...leaving the scar.  Scars are an indication that healing has taken place.  We first need to address the open wound, the brokenness, and seek to be emotionally whole again.

As the healing begins to take place it is the scars that we use to propel us forward. The scars that enable us to say, ''See,  I have been there, but now... I'm healed." The scars that allow us to point to the healer and redeemer, Jesus Christ. We can now say as Joseph did in Genesis 50:20...
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
If you are one of the walking wounded, I cannot 'fix' you. Only God, through His son and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life can do that.  But…I can come along side you and encourage you. I can point to the hope that is within me…to the One who fixed me. I am not perfect…I still mess up, stumble, fall, sin…but I am redeemed! He is in the process of restoring me to the woman he created me to be…to walk out His purpose in my life. How very thankful I am for my Lord and Savior, who is my righteousness.  He is yours too!

The salve…God's Word

Walk away from the lies of the enemy of your soul, the one who would have you remain in the pain of deep wounded-ness. Walk toward the truth of the Word of God, into the loving, faithful and healing arms of Jesus.  It's time to replace the lies of the enemy with the truth of God's Word (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Your story, wrapped in God, around His word, and what He has done in your life will safely lead women home. ~Jo Ann Fore
It's a process. A journey we must walk…let the journey begin. Move into your calling as one healed to be a healer. We become over-comers when we use the words of our testimony.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.  ~Revelation 12:11                 ~                                                                                                          
  Find your voice!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Please join us here and see what the other amazing #VoiceBloggers are sharing today on our last link up with Jo Ann. This is the last link-up for this study session but I hear there is more coming…more to join in as we all share our voices!