A Trip Down Memory Lane

Favorite Childhood Memories

Not long ago, I took a little day road trip to where I lived as a child. It’s fun to do that and I recommend everyone to do it at least once. You would be surprised by the memories that are attached to places and buildings; good and not so good.

I will spare you all 100 pictures. (Yes, I am that person, “Hey, wanna see some family slides?”)

This is the house where I lived another lifetime ago. It is across from the tire swing, down the road from the barn, up the road from the pond, and sat on 100 acres. Our closest neighbor was the mailman, and we didn’t see him on Sundays.

This house is filled with many good memories and some bad memories. This is the house where I stopped believing in Santa. (Ooops, spoiler alert: Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa.)

My family did not have a lot of money, but we never went without the necessities. Thanksgivings were filled with family, relatives, and friends. I remember one Thanksgiving having so much food that we had to keep passing plates around because there was no room on the table. Inevitably, and still to this day, my mom would forget to put something out and we would find it in the refrigerator or on the stove later.

We had cows, pigs, and chickens. Sometimes the cows would break out and my dad would have me run and herd them back into our field. I was a fast runner. I loved to run. I think because I felt approved by my father when I succeeded.

I remember one evening my cousins spent the night. I do not remember where everyone else was, but we were alone. For some reason, we got spooked and we all crammed into a doorframe, too scared to move. LOL

Upstairs in the attic is where I hid a baby bird I found and was trying to love back to life. I ended up burying it in the field next to a calico cat.

The Barn: A Child’s Carnegie Hall

I was surprised this old barn is still standing. Now you may look at this barn and think there is nothing special about it. But let me tell you, this barn was our Carnegie Hall!

My cousins and I spent many summer days on the stage (a.k.a. hayloft) singing into our corncob microphones. The crowd went wild! And for those of you who wonder if farmyard animals make a good audience, I can assure you that they do.

Picture it…. a car full of kids, an aunt learning to drive, and screams!

A long time ago, some hippies from the city had a go at the “country” life. They lived in this house, Outside, probably close to where this statue of Mary is, was an outhouse (for those who grew up civilized may not know, but it’s a wooden shed with a hole in the floor, and it is stinky).

I digress… let me finish the story… so my cousin is “trying” to teach her mom how to drive. She darn near killed us!

Thank goodness we were all screaming so the hippy knew to run out of his outhouse before she crashed the car into it. (OK, so she didn’t crash the car into it, thank You, Jesus.) But that was a bathroom break that hippy will never forget.

All roads lead to somewhere, right?

Well, almost. This little road (path) led to great adventures when I was young.

If you walk to the bottom of this road and turn right, you will see a big open field that leads to a pond. In the winter my sister and I would ice skate on it, she always wanted to be Dorothy Hamill, until she fell and cracked her lip open, totally disqualified her from the Olympics.

The best memory is one winter night when my cousins came over and we rode sleds. I think we may have even had a bonfire going. We hooked our feet into the sleds behind us and made a train and slid right on down that hill.

The warning was, “Now, you all be careful. Roll-off your sled when you reach the bottom because there is a barbed-wire fence down there.” My Uncle Royce went first … we heard him scream! No, he did not heed the warning.

To the left of this little road leads down to a creek and walnut trees. Our hands would be so black from throwing those walnuts into the creek (and at each other).  Further down were old abandoned little houses. Why they were there I will never know because there are no roads to those houses. We would play in those old houses and pretend they were a part of the underground railroad and I was Harriet Tubman.

We may not have had a lot of money when I was a kid, but we had imagination and the great outdoors!

To the untrained eye, this would just look like an ordinary tree, but it’s not. Years ago (how many years ago isn’t important), before that house in the background was there, a tire swing hung from this tree. And yours truly would swing and swing and sing and sing. In my young mind, I was destined for greatness! Marie Osmond? Aretha Franklin? Michael Jackson? Shew… move over! Little Stacey is singing on her tire swing!

Of course, this was before cell phones and video games. Ancient days when kids had to play outside and use their imaginations. Do you see the woods in the background? You may not know this, but there was an ancient burial ground back there. Deep in the woods were ancient Indian artifacts. Yep! True story. Sure, the untrained eye that lacked imagination would just think it was a bunch of broken glass, but we knew, we knew…

These are pictures of what is now a volunteer fire station. But, back in the day, it use to be a 4 classroom school. For those of us who grew up watching Little House on the Prairie, well I lived it!

The school was called Piney Plains, it was close to the border of Allegany and Washington County, Maryland. It was so small we had to eat lunch in our classrooms at our desks. I was a puny kid, very skinny. The kitchen staff didn’t think my parents fed me, so they would always come to get me and take me to the kitchen in the mornings and feed me. I had no idea they thought I was undernourished, I thought they just liked me because I was special. Ha!

This is where I had my first crush. He was an “upperclassman,” practically grown, in the 6th grade.  I saved all my bazooka joe gum wrappers to buy him a gift. I forget what his name was. Imagine that! Guess it wasn’t true love after all.

This is also where I debuted in my first on-stage performance. I was the angel in the Christmas play. I still remember standing on stage, with my wire tin-foil halo, looking out at the parents, I felt like Mary Katherine Gallagher, for one brief moment I was a… ssssuperstarrr!

Outside now houses the firetrucks. But back then it was grass. I remember field days. I ran the races. It was one thing I was good at. I wasn’t good at math, and my dyslexia was a nightmare, but boy-oh-boy could I run! The playground equipment is still there. Old and run down, but still there.

I am thankful to my God for taking me on this journey down memory lane. It brought back a lot of memories. Some good, some hilarious, and some…. well, I will just say thank You to my Savior for showing me how He was always with me, how my past helped shape me into who I am today, and by the grace of God, He is still doing a work in me.

Thanks for taking this trip with me. And thank you to my cousins for all the good memories. We don’t realize it when we are young, but those moments turn out to be the most precious.

How about you? What are your favorite childhood memories? Comment below to share a memory from your childhood.

Be Free & Stay Free

Are You Relationship Shopping?

OK, so ya know how when you go to the grocery store without a list and you come home with everything but what you went there for? You know, you plan to just run in and grab some eggs and bread then $150, a half-eaten bag of chips, and a cart full later you load up the car with that feeling of “I feel like I’m forgetting something,” only to get home and realize you didn’t get the two items you went for.

Or are you a list keeper and you stick to the list with no flexibility?

Hey, I’m not knocking you if you are an impulse shopper or a list keeper. This post isn’t even about grocery shopping, or lists, or bread and eggs (note to self, grab some peanut butter the next trip to the store). This post is about relationships. Yes, you read that right, I’m gonna talk about relationships.

Many relationships have ended with casualties because they were approached as if shopping for groceries on an empty stomach. Not much thought went into choosing the partner, he/she just looked good at the moment, even though they may have lacked any real sustenance, and red flags may have been waving like curtains in an open window during a hurricane, but you were lonely, or you settled because you didn’t think you deserved any better. The relationship was filled with a bunch of fluff and fillers, but eventually, it made you sick and never progressed to true intimacy (and hint: intimacy goes beyond sex). After it has run its course you are left feeling more empty than when you started. Been there!

There are also lost opportunities for a beautiful relationship because the person didn’t fit your “list”. You know, maybe they weren’t the “right” height or had the “desired” eye color, or the “suitable job.” Were you ever so busy looking for what you thought you had to have and completely missed the beautiful core of the person? Been there, too!

I am not claiming to be a relationship expert, but I am a good student and I like to believe I learn from experience and/or observation.

If you are not a person of integrity you will not attract a person of integrity. Like attracts like. Integrity comes in many shapes, sizes, and color, because it is not what is on the outside that makes a person, it is what is on the inside, its character. A person of integrity is respectful, honest, gentle, patient, kind, loyal, has self-control, isn’t lazy, and is not quick to get you in bed.

If you are insecure and still carrying past injuries on your sleeve, you are a target for the toxic person, but an emotionally healthy and safe person will most likely not pursue you. The saying is true, hurt people hurt people, and why would someone want to sign up for that hurt?

I saw a post on Facebook recently that said: One day you will meet a man who will worship the ground you walk on and he will not want to lose you. (Or something to that effect)

What?! Ladies (and men) you do not want someone to worship the ground you walk on. That’s unrealistic and unhealthy, not to mention too much pressure to be perfect, because hello… no one is perfect. If someone has to worry about losing someone then they are in a conditional relationship and who wants that?

You want someone who worships God and only God, and who will worship God with you. This I can tell you for a fact if God is the center and most important part of your relationship then you have a lifelong committed union. You will be blessed to be in a relationship/marriage that will grow, deepen, strengthen, and encourage. This three-chord strand is what will hold you in sickness and in health, in plenty and lack, good times and not so good times, and even when you are aged, gray and wrinkled, because let’s face it, we don’t stay young forever.

You might be pleasantly surprised who God picks for you if you just shift your focus to Him. Cultivate your relationship with your Heavenly Father first, allow Him to work in your heart, and prepare you to be the person for who He has picked you for. How beautiful is the one you will love when you look with the eyes of the Father. He knows what you need, He will not join you with someone who will not compliment your strengths and cover your weakness, and vice versa.

So throw your list away, quit looking when you are empty, and trust the process God will lead you through. He is the best matchmaker! If you keep yourself and let Him, He will introduce you to your best friend, companion, lover, and spouse. After all, isn’t that what you want?

Better to be alone with God than in a relationship without Him.

Be Free & Stay Free

Am I Good Enough?

Insecurities are purpose blockers…

Fighting those insecurities in my mind has been a battle. You see, I am a dreamer, I have always been a dreamer. I see big things in my mind, like images flashing before a movie screen, are the visions I see for my future. I have had confirmation after confirmation, words prophesied over me, and a deep-seated hunger for the vision; and yet plagued with the fear that pushes me back, stops me in my tracks, and if I let it it can push me far into the pit of depression of not reaching my God-given potential. I know there is more; I have seen it and I have tasted it. I have a purpose! You have a purpose! We were all created with and for a purpose.

Is Fear Blocking Your Purpose?

How about you? Are you going through the motions of daily life? I’m not saying your life right now has to be “bad”, maybe from the world’s standard you are living a “good life”, but at the end of the day do you lay your head on your pillow and wonder what is it all for? Or maybe you are struggling and there doesn’t seem to be any way of escape from the hole you are in, and hope eludes you because how can a dream possibly come true when you don’t even have the basics to survive life.

You see, I didn’t come from privilege. I grew up as a runaway on the streets of New York, I didn’t have the high school experience of dances, proms, friends, or graduation. I was a young wife and mother and never experienced how to be a child, a youth, a young woman. I had a dream, but I didn’t know how to reach the dream, I only knew how to survive the day. I didn’t have the maturity of mind to make healthy decisions, I was always one step behind and way beyond my years.

I had an image in my mind of what a woman is, based on movies and fictional characters in the books I read, so I would strive to reach that image, and I always fell short. I have fallen more times than I can count and have had to start over more times than I want to admit, but the dream was still there. I tell you this because I want you to know that I know a little bit about what I’m talking about, because I have been there, and I understand.

Something happened in my early thirties, I met the Dream Giver. I met the One who gave me the dream, He took that dream and gave it clarity, and brought it into focus. A God-given dream is a life calling. It is a lifelong pursuit, a walking it out, one foot in front of the other kind of life mission. It is a walk of faith.

I tell people all the time, “Your past does not dictate your future!” I am sure you have even heard it said that your beginning is not your ending. And I truly believe this, but entering life in a deficit, seemingly always ten paces behind everyone else, it is easy to ask… “Am I good enough? Am I enough? Am I worthy?” Do you ask these questions?

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. -Proverbs 13:12

Every story has a beginning and an ending.

Hold a book in your hand. Do you feel the smoothness of its cover? Do you feel the weight of it in your hand? Do you see the title and the author’s name on the front? Open the book, does it have a beginning? Now go to the back of the book, the last page, and you will see the ending. In between the beginning and the ending is where you will find the story. Friend, your life is a story, it is not the beginning that determines the ending, it is what’s written in between that will determine the ending. Your life story is being written now and you do have a say in how it ends. Your story can have a strong ending if you don’t give up in the middle. As your story is being written, I encourage you to enjoy those chapters that stretch you and challenge you, because in the stretching you will grow; make the most of those days, learn from them. And I remind you to appreciate the chapters that are rays of sunshine and smooth sailing; make the most of those days, too, and learn from them.

Good days and bad days come, life is constantly changing, but one thing I know for certain is if you allow God to write your story then your story will finish strong.

Robert Frost wrote a poem that said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference”.

When you are truly trusting God with your story, there will be times you may have to walk on unfamiliar roads and step out of your comfort zone, you may be misunderstood by those closest to you, and it may cost you some relationships and comforts, but He promises you this… you will never be alone because He is always with you. He will go before you and make every crooked place straight, He will come behind you and be your rear guard, He will hold your hand and whisper which way to turn. Will it be easy? Probably not. Will it be worth it? Absolutely YES!

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21

Never be ashamed of your beginning. While your story is personal, believe me, you will meet people along your journey who will need to hear your story, and when they do it will encourage them and strengthen them, and may even save their life. Every good gift comes from God and even the things that nearly destroyed you He can still use them for your good.

From the humble beginnings of a young runaway, I can say, without doubt, God sees you and He knows you, He is for you, not against you, put your trust in Him and He will write the most beautiful life story you could ever imagine.

Be Free & Stay Free

Frozen Rage

I am not Bill Foster, but I will admit there have been times I could certainly relate to him.

For those who do not know who Bill Foster is, he is a fictional character played by Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down. In the movie, Bill was having a bad day (to put it mildly), and everyone who crossed his path that day came to reckoning to everything Bill perceived to be wrong with the world, and by projecting what he could not control – he snapped.

Do you ever feel like Bill? You ever think just one more thing, one more letdown, one more disappointment, failure, wrong look, or tone of voice, and you are going to unleash all the frozen rage that has been building up inside of you for years?

I remember when I was in a toxic unhealthy relationship, I kept making excuses for his bad behavior because his actions didn’t coincide with his word, promises, or my hope. I’ve always been a “glass half full” kind of person. While optimism can be a good thing, there is a line that can be crossed from reality into an unhealthy partnership with the enemy who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy you.

The Bible has something to say about this is in Proverbs 13:12:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.”

I used to quote this verse as an explanation of why I was so disappointed, sad, angry, and depressed. Although there is truth to this, my mind believed a lie that any man, person, or position should ever be the object of my hope.

Man is a frail thing. Our mind can only believe to the extent it is healthy. An unhealthy mind will believe a person’s words even though their actions and life contradict what is coming out of their mouth. A person with a distorted view of themselves will foolishly accept a false apology instead of repentance. So when the inevitable happens, the relationship ends, the cycle is rekindled in another relationship, and ta-da… hope deferred again.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear because fear has torment. He who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Dear Reader, perfect love comes only through God the Father. It is in His love that we are safe, secure, validated, and free. Surely, God loves us through others, but if you put your hope in any other but God, your heart will be sick.

No doubt the condition you find yourself in was probably rooted in you from childhood. You have been conditioned to accept the unacceptable and believe love must hurt. If you keep believing the lie and stuffing your emotions instead of taking it to Jesus, you will eventually be like Bill and snap. The rage that you have kept buried under heaps of disappointment will erupt and the overflow of wrath will consume you.

Allow me to paraphrase Proverbs 13:12… Placing your hope in man will make your heart sick, but when your desire and trust are in Jesus, you will find shade, shelter, refuge, and refreshing in the tree of life, because hope in Him never disappoints.

Where are you now? What is the barometer of your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health? Do you feel stuck in the swamp of bitter disappointment, hopelessness, anger, regret, depression, and confusion? Are you ready to step off the merry-go-round of dysfunction? There is hope!

James 4:8 says to draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Psalm 34:18 says the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Only you can decide to move forward to be healthy and become all God has created you to be.

There is a saying, “Those who think they can, and those who think they can’t, are both right.”

You can, but only with Jesus. Everything else is a temporary substitute that will never wholly satisfy the God-given desire of being fully known and still fully loved.

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” -Matthew 5:4

Let your frozen rage melt under the powerful love of God. Experience and know His comfort and be restored, changed, and live life to the fullest.

Let your hope be realized!

Be Free & Stay Free

When the Scapegoat Escapes

 Is Scapegoating a Real Thing?

Yes, and many adult child abuse survivors have experienced this very real form of abuse that attacks the self-worth of the inner child that needs healing and still yearns to be loved, accepted, and validated. It is to the survivors and those who love and want to understand them that I write this post.

Where did the term “scapegoat” come from?

The word was first coined by William Tyndale in 1530 when he wrote the first translation of the Hebrew Bible into English. He came across the escape goat, later shortened to scapegoat, in the Torah.

Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord, the other lot for the scapegoat. Then Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell for the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement on it; it shall be sent into the wilderness as the scapegoat.  Leviticus 16:8-10 (Amplified)

One goat was slaughtered/sacrificed/designated to the Lord. The other would have the sins of the community symbolically placed upon him and sent away; this brought atonement to the community.

While we no longer sacrifice animals to atone for our sins, thanks be to God for His Son, Jesus, who shed His own innocent blood on the cross as the perfect and final sacrifice for our sins, this does still serve to illustrate why dysfunctional families still appoint the role of scapegoat upon an innocent child.

There is no rhyme or reason how a scapegoat is chosen, but, certainly, it is NEVER the child’s fault, rather it is the deep-seated root in the dysfunctional family from the hands of the abusive parent(s).

The child’s worth and lovableness are ignored, and their basic need of acceptance, love, and protection is denied. The child is bullied, neglected, ridiculed, and abused, as their invalidation is sealed through blame for the family’s dysfunction.

“If it weren’t for you Daddy wouldn’t have left.”
“It’s your fault Daddy is mad.”
“If you were a good girl Mommy would love you.”
“Why can’t you be more like….?”

Sound familiar?

An insecure sadistic parent may choose to scapegoat the child who is sensitive, attractive, and smart because this child represents what the parent is not and is a threat to expose their lack. A narcissistic parent may choose to assign the role of the scapegoat who, in the parent’s sick mind, does not boost the public image of the family. Or the child may simply remind them of their shortcomings, or resemble an ex. Again, being the family scapegoat is NEVER the child’s fault, nor does it lessen their value as a human being.

It cannot be over-emphasized that in a dysfunctional family it is the parent(s) with the problem and NEVER the child’s fault. In a healthy family with loving and mature parents, the children are not divided and branded “all good” or “all bad.”

When the scapegoated child grows into adulthood, they are susceptible to enter (friendship/work/romantic) relationships that tend to be abusive and harmful. Even when they may intellectually know it is dysfunctional and/or dangerous, it feels normal/familiar to them because they have been conditioned and trained to accept abuse. This is why dysfunction and abuse are passed down through generations.

Scapegoating is Child Abuse!

An adult survivor of child abuse may struggle to remember their childhood and doubt what they do remember (disassociation) because their memories are invalidated by the family as being told they are too sensitive, overly emotional, or are gaslighted into believing it never happened “that way,” thus adding more insult to injury and creating prolonged harm to the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of the survivor. This gaslighting forces the survivor to internalize their feelings and doubt or question their reality.

No matter the distance the survivor puts between them and the abuser (parent/family), the abuse still impacts their life, as it is pre-conditioned in childhood and is carried over and reactivated in familiar conditions.

The overshadowing of the abuse rears its ugly head through:

Low self-esteem
Inability to set or maintain long-term goals
Maintain position in job/career
Financial decisions
Unhealthy relationship choices
Health/Mental problems

It leads to cycles of failure, disappointment, failed relationships, depression, anger, anxiety, and fear.

The scapegoat who leaves the family can see the family for what it is; toxic, dysfunctional, and unhealthy. The survivor who has healed from the bondage of the past and broke the curse of the abuse can be a strong, empathetic, compassionate, beacon of hope for others.

Forgive and Forget?

Nowhere in the Bible is a verse that supports the all-too-familiar phrase, “Just forgive and forget,” or “Let bygones be bygones,” or “Just get over it.” Phrases such as these come from ignorance and lack of repentance of the abuser, or by well-meaning but clueless people, and cause more injury.

Forgiveness is a gift and the Holy Spirit can and will help the process. And while the Bible does command us to forgive, forgiveness is in no way an agreement to the abuse, nor does it imply it never happened, nor does it suggest any child deserved the abuse as it “was their lot to carry.” However, forgiveness does free you from the abuser, it helps you set healthy boundaries, and releases them to own and take responsibility for their problem (sin). Forgiveness allows you to walk in a relationship with God, who is your ultimate Healer.

I am the Lord who heals you.” -Exodus 15:26

Unforgiveness and unresolved childhood injuries can surface through anxieties, feelings of tension, uneasiness, and a sense of approaching danger, even though at the moment of the triggered feelings it does not seem logical. Anxiety creates an internal fear that shows itself through restlessness, sleeplessness, and disturbing dreams.

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love]. -1 John 4:18 (Amplified)

You know you are perfectly loved by God, without fear, when you no longer accept the role of the family scapegoat, and you no longer carry the weight of responsibility of your parent(s) sin, and you trust and rest in God’s love for you. You are not to be moved or take the blame for what has happened to you as a child. You can (and must) set healthy boundaries.

By the grace of God, you may still have a relationship with your family, but because you have allowed the Holy Spirit to heal you, you can stay within the boundaries you have established and not carry the arrows of poison they throw into your heart. You do not have to accept or fall into the role of the scapegoated abused child, do not regress into fear and panic.

Or maybe you have to cut ties with your family, even if for a season. To forgive someone does not mean you should allow yourself to be a target for their toxicity, or minimize the abuse through denial. Sometimes a survivor may need to distance themselves from family members and get help to recover from the abuse.

No, it is not fair that a survivor must carry the burden of recovery from child abuse. You may never hear the words “I’m sorry I deprived you of growing up in a safe, stable, and loving home,” but in time, with God’s help, you can be healed. You can love and trust. You can experience real love, the unfailing love of your Father in heaven, who you can call Abba (Daddy), because Child, you are loved.

You have the power to end the generational cycle of abuse. You can draw the proverbial line in the sand and say, “No more!”

I am not saying it is easy. But I am saying it is possible.

Dear Reader, if what I wrote was for you, then I pray that you may find peace and wholeness in the arms of the Father (God) who loves you very much.

Be Free & Stay Free

Where is God?

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Psalm 139:7-8

One thing I do know for sure when life here on earth happens it reveals who we are and who and what we put our trust in.

I am thankful I have a real God, One who is acquainted with grief, sorrow, and rejection, and no matter where I am; on the mountaintop or in the pit, He is there with me. He does not love me less on my bad days, nor are my good days an indicator that He loves me more, because He loves me fully, without measure, and perfectly.

I know I can speak honestly and in full transparency, because I know we have all had days where we wonder if God is really with us and does He see what is happening. When it seems like one thing after another is going wrong, breaking down, or not going as planned or expected, it can give place to wonder.

Even David, who God called a man after His own heart, experienced this questioning.  

As for me, I said in my alarm, “I am cut off from Your eyes.” Nevertheless, You heard the voice of my supplications (specific requests) when I cried to You for help.” -Psalm 31:22

Yes, even David had emotional moments when he accused God of abandoning him instead of asking Him for help, yet God still answered his true need.

God knows our weakness. Take courage, your weakness is the reason He chose you and is allowing you to experience the battle. It is in our weakness that we can experience and know His grace and His strength.

Friend, what is going on in your life? What giant is taunting you and what mountain is standing in your way? Don’t give in and don’t give up, stand firm and know that God’s word is true, He does not lie, and His promises are yes. No matter what your eyes may see, or your ears may hear, God is for you!

Shut the world off, bring your inner circle close, separate yourself from the unbelievers, and draw close to God, for in Him you will find your answer, in Him you will find your refuge, in Him you will find your strength, and in Him your joy will be made full.

Remember, your hope is in Him, and Him alone.

Be encouraged.

Be Free & Stay Free

But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. Matthew 5:44-45

He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief; and like One from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him. Isaiah 53:3

God has selected [for His purpose] the insignificant (base) things of the world, and the things that are despised and treated with contempt, [even] the things that are nothing, so that He might reduce to nothing the things that are. 1 Corinthians 1:28

but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Where is God?

Do you ever wonder where God is when everything around you is burning to the ground?

“Uh, hello God, are you there?”

Image from: Dreamstime

Consider this: A stowaway baby, found and adopted into a royal family, everything he needs is provided for him, he grows up with privilege and influence. Then one day he sees how cruelly his birth family is being treated by his adopted family and he takes matters into his own hands and commits murder.

Whoa! Back up… you mean he identified with the enslaved instead of looking the other way? (Not advocating violence/murder, but that is what happens when we take matters into our own hands) Of course, when his “adopted” grandfather finds out, he becomes enraged and wants to kill this young man, so the man had to flee, giving up a royalty to become a sheep farmer in exile.

Or how about three young men, finding favor with a king and selected into the king’s personal service, yet were sentenced to certain death because they chose to remain faithful and trust in God instead of serving the gods of the king?

“Throw them in the fire, boys! And while you’re at it, turn the heat up!” Image: Inspiration Ministries

And let’s not forget the close friend of Jesus, who became deathly ill and Jesus waited until he was dead before He went to him.

Wait a minute, wait a minute, you mean the Jesus who healed people, didn’t immediately go to His friend, and heal him?

Where was God?

He was right there with them. He was and is right where He always is, on His throne and with you.

With Moses, God was in the burning bush.

The Angle of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing flame of fire from the midst of a bush, and he looked, and behold, the bush was on fire, yet it was not consumed. -Exodus 3:2

God was the cloud by day and the fire by night that led His people to the other side of the sea.

But still, the question remains, if God is there, then why did His people have to go through all that? Why didn’t God just smite the Egyptians, wipe them from the face of the earth, and spare His people the white-knuckle grip of wondering if He was going to show up and rescue them?

And the three Hebrew boys? Don’t ya know? He was with them in the fire.

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king, looked and was astounded, and he jumped up and said to his counselors, “Did we not throw three men who were tied up into the midst of the fire?”

They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.”

He answered, “Look! I see four men untied, walking around in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt! And the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” -Daniel 3:24-25

And still, the question is, why did the three Hebrew boys have to face the furnace? Certainly, God could have spared them that horror.

And if Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons, why didn’t He run to His sick friend and heal him instead of letting him die? And why did He wait until after he was dead and buried before He showed up?

So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house. Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give to You.”

Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise from the dead.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise from the dead in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in, adheres to, trusts in, relies on Me as Savior will live even if he dies; and everyone who lives and believes in Me as Savior will never die. Do you believe this?” -John 11:20-26

So, to answer the question of why God doesn’t spare us the pain of waiting, trusting, and hoping while we go through the fires of life when He is able to just “come immediately,” is in John 11:15


But, why God?

It is easy, and understandable, to not look beyond ourselves when we are feeling hurt, rejection, fear, grief, or whatever form the fire takes, but we must remember it is not always just about us.

I do believe; help my unbelief.

When we go through the fire, God promises to be with us in the fire. And while we are in the fire, we have an audience, people are watching our testimony being written. And sure enough, if you believe, your audience, persecutors, mockers, nay-sayers, will say as they witness your deliverance, “There is no other god who is able to save in this way!”

If you find yourself in the tomb, everything has crumbled, relationships have died, money has come and went, and all that you have built has burned to the ground, remember… death comes before the resurrection. Some things have to die!

Hold on loosely to things and hold on tightly to Jesus, because sure enough, if you trust Him though He slays you, you will hear Him call your name and say, “Come forth!” And your grave clothes will be removed and He will cover you with His righteousness.

Don’t resist the valleys, because He is still God in the valleys. When you can walk with Him through the valley of death, and still not fear, but BELIEVE, you will find yourself on the peak of the mountain and your light will shine and those who see will declare…

How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders!

His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation. -Daniel 4:3

He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he too had struck the waters, they divided this way and that, and Elisha crossed over.” -2 Kings 2:14

Be Free & Stay Free

Life Changes After 40 (Ladies)

I have always loved birthdays, mine, and other peoples. I enjoy buying gifts and celebrating. I never thought about getting “old.” I have a cousin who cries each year. Not me, I was never one to dread growing older.

I remember as a child playing house with my baby dolls. My cousin and I spent a lot of time together and we would break out the dolls, the toy dishes, plastic food, and dress up. Then in my teen years, I was in a hurry to be “older,” so I can do what the “older” people do.

In my 20’s I was on my way to my 30’s, then my 40’s, and still, I was feeling young. Then along came the big “five-oh.” No amount of childhood imagination prepares you for the changes that come with each new season of life.

For the record, I do still enjoy birthdays.

In our youth, we are filled with dreams, hope, and expectation. Playing house, feeding our dolls that never grow up and leave the nest, plastic food that never rots in the refrigerator, always glamorous in our dress-up, paper play money that flows like confetti and never runs short, and a prince charming who loves and adores us and never leaves us through death or divorce. Everything is bubbles and butterflies in the imagination of youth.

As we go through our spring and summer of life, setbacks, and disappointments are not that devastating because we are still young, and even if we must start over, there is still time. We are still dreaming, hoping, and expecting.

But then comes the Autumn of life.

Our perspective starts to change because we know winter follows autumn. We may look back and wonder where all the time went and how did it fly by so fast. If we experienced loss, or we made foolish choices in our youth, we may be tempted to regret and grieve. Our thoughts may turn into “If only I…”

When we are young, we are filled with energy and life. We are still cool and relevant. But what about when we no longer feel cool or relevant? What if we are entering this season of our life alone? What if we are watching the clock and panic and fear are just a step behind us and desperation is breathing on the back of our neck? Then what?

Dear sister, stop, take a breath, that’s right… breathe. You are going to be alright.

A friend once asked me why I enjoy my birthdays. “Don’t you worry about getting old?”

No way! Age is a right of passage. And it is a path we must all walk. And we should walk it with dignity, poise, and class.

Sure, there are things we can no longer do now that we did when we were young. Like stay-up all night, wear daisy dukes and halters, eat whatever and however much we want, and not worry about our tummy that is no longer firm and flat, and perky ta-tas that need no assistance with underwire (or padding). By the way, if you do not know what daisy dukes are then you are too young for this post.

Let’s step out of our feelings so we can understand what is really happening. Let us embrace this season of our life with confidence, boldness, and understanding. Let us quit fighting the inevitable and shrinking back in fear.

Do you know what will age you faster than a birthday? Worry, fear, anger, unforgiveness, and downright unhealthy choices. C’est la vie! (That’s life!)

After age 40 our metabolism slows down.

But this does not mean you have to give up. You are still alive! It may be a natural process, but there are things you can do to fight it and to boost it, like diet and exercise.

No, I am not suggesting you begin starving yourself, just make healthy choices when it comes to the food you are putting in your body. Remember, we eat to live, not live to eat. There are so many informative articles out there about foods to boost metabolism. (I know because I have read them.)

A body in motion stays in motion. Get those endorphins flowing, girl! Exercise gets the blood flowing and firms the tummy, arms, legs, and booty. Sure, it may take some discipline and a lot of willpower to get started, but I guarantee if you stick with it, it will give you a bounce in your step and you will walk taller, firmer, and with confidence. It will also fight the brain fog that comes with age. It is a win-win!

Remember, you aren’t competing in a body-building competition (unless that’s your thing), you are staying active and taking care of your body. Take those walks, ride that bike, do those squats, turn the music on and dance in your living room. Get your body moving! I repeat, a body in motion, stays in motion.

I was talking with a woman recently and her fear was about when she got older, who would take care of her, and what nursing home she would be in. Whoa! Slow down, girl! Put the breaks on that thought! Where is it written that it is a given that age must bring frailty? I have not read that book. The book I read says:

Because he sets his love on Me, therefore I will save him; I will set him securely on high because he knows My name, he confidently trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never abandon him, no, never. He will call upon Me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him, with a long life I will satisfy him and I will let him see My salvation.

Psalm 91:14-15
You are probably noticing changes in your hair, too

I have always had thin hair, that’s why I have always had short hair. As I get older, I notice changes in my hair. Sigh…the luck of men to be able to just shave their head, huh?

Again, this comes back to nutrition. There is so much information out there, check out this article from Healthline. And here is a read for the 6 ways your hair changes after 40 and how to fix it.

Remember, you are beautiful! You are you and there is no one else that is you. God created you and He called you beautiful! You have purpose!

Indeed the very numbers of your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are far more valuable than many sparrows. (Luke 12:7)

Age and menopause is nothing to be feared.

OK, so it might feel like you have an oven inside of your body, and you sweat through the night, and your mood changes like the weather, and your body changes, but there are positives, too, like buh-bye Aunt Flow.

But seriously, I am not making light of the changes that come in our bodies. I have been cold one minute and stripping my clothes off the next, I have been just fine one minute like a normal human being and then a raging lunatic the next, crying over commercials, wondering if I am still pretty, and when did I stop being “cool.” The time of menopause can almost make you feel like a stranger in your own body. And while diet and exercise are beneficial, a visit with your gynecologist may be in order. So go get that check-up!

No matter where you are during this season of your life, you are going to be OK. Happily married or broken and alone, you are going to be OK.

I look back on my life and I think there are lots of things I would have done differently, people I would have steered clear of, mistakes I wish I would not have made, and I am faced with a choice. Do I forgive, let go, learn, move on and live? Or do I wallow in pity, regret, anger, and depression? I choose life!

People say that with age comes wisdom. I don’t think that is always true. I think we all know at least one person who is “older,” but not necessarily wise. Age may bring learned lessons, but it doesn’t bring wisdom. True wisdom comes from God, the Bible says in Psalm 11:10 that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it is the true foundation.

My friend, maybe aging in years does not bother you, maybe you are in the best physical shape of your life, and maybe your youth did not leave you with regrets, and if that is so, then I am happy for you. But one thing most important, is your spiritual health, your heart health. One day, no matter our age, we will all close our eyes for the last time here on earth, in all your caring for your physical health, be sure you do not neglect the source of eternal life. Take your vitamins, eat your veggies, do that exercise, AND nurture your relationship with the One who created you and truly loves you, wrinkles, gray hair, and all. Without Jesus, it is all for nothing.

I hope as you step into the autumn and winter of your life, you will do it with gratitude and wisdom. And when the final winter breeze blows across your eyes you will step into eternity and into the arms of our Savior who calls you Beloved and welcomes you home.

Be Free & Stay Free

Pentecost is for ALL Believers

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place,  and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit]. And they were all filled [that is, diffused throughout their being] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (different languages), as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out [clearly and appropriately]. -Acts 2:1-4

The promise of the Holy Spirit is a gift to ALL believers in Christ.

Jesus said, “You will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses (to tell people about Me) both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Jesus also said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you (to be in close fellowship with you). (John 16:7)

And in John 14:12, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me (as Savior) will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these (in extent and outreach) because I am going to the Father.”

You see, Jesus came to save those who are lost. His work was finished on the cross when He said “It is finished.” Because of His sacrifice for our sins, His death and resurrection, we can be reconciled with God the Father through His Son, and we are empowered with His Holy Spirit to be bold and courageous witnesses for Him.

When He said it is finished, our work (purpose) began. Jesus did it all! He paid the price and He empowers us through His Holy Spirit. We just have to believe, obey, and open our mouth. The world did not end at the cross, but eternal life began for those of us who believe and are saved through His blood.

For God so loved the world…

Do you know Jesus? Have you been baptized in His Spirit? His Holy Spirit is a free gift for ALL who believe.

Do you want to know if you have His Holy Spirit? Look for the fruit!

Ask and receive and then go… “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo….

I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, remaining with you perpetually, regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Thank You, Jesus, for Your Holy Spirit, for not leaving us alone without a Helper.

Be Free & Stay Free