The Dressy Debacle

By Terri Porta © 2012

It’s late, too late to be looking for a fancy dress for my husband’s company Christmas party, but I had put it off for long enough. Why do I do this every time? I think that if I miss one more meal a new size will slip down over my waist like a loose breezy joy. At that point I can break out in self-congratulatory dance moves kept only for this moment. I won’t deny it, I have been dreaming of going to the party in my yoga pants. The dressy black ones that don’t have dried blue paint on them from my foray into art a few months back. My husband thinks I look hot in yoga pants.

Finally, I settle into the reality that I need a dress and it will probably be a bigger size than last year’s.

My two-year-old son and I muck through the sale racks at the mall together. The clerk, with Brittany on her badge, must have recognized the panic-stricken glaze in my eyes. “Do you have any nice evening dresses?”

“You might try the Clothes Barn,” she offered.

“Okay, thanks.” I pluck at the bejeweled, embroidered jeans, size “tiny” on the rack in front of me, and sigh. I don’t need another pair of jeans; I need a dress. My son yanks on my arm, his other arm stretches out, and like a yo-yo he pulls bracelets, earrings and then a box of perfume from the shelf. Brittany glares. I flee.

At the next shop, I wait for a dressing room while two teenage girls try on bikinis. When I noticed four young men standing around gawking at them, I put my stuff back on the rack and walk out.

Why didn’t I bring a stroller? Christmas shoppers crowd around me. I carry my son till my arms fall asleep as I browse the next store. Finally, I sit him on the bench in the fitting room with a dress that might work and strip down to the bare minimums. I needed a dose of fashion. Their clearance rack was full of it. I sumo-wrestling move into the latex brief first. Now I just resemble the Michelin Man. With the dress over my arms and head, I pull. Grunt. Then pull again. Dread sets in as I wiggle. There is no light breezy joy here. It’s tight. Too tight! Suddenly, I hear a startled cry, and then the bang of the door to my dressing room straining open on its hinges.

“Sweetie?”

I peek out from the material and a teenage boy stares at me. My son is half way to the register and heading for the food court. My phone rings with a hilarious high-pitched squeal that squawks out, “Hey you, it’s me answer the phone!” I’ve been meaning to change it for weeks. The crowded store falls silent except for Jingle Bells playing in the background. Every head swivels to me.

Ten minutes later, Chelsea hands me my son. Her pursed lips and squinting eyes study me.

“Honey, that is just not your color,” she says and swivels away.

At the next store, my son is minutes from meltdown. I’m past it. Do I really need a dress? The yoga pants are looking pretty good. I could wear a bejeweled top and hang out with the grannies at the party. Is it that important to be dolled up for my husband’s boss?

Just one more try at finding a dress in the next store, which looks like a cupcake frosting factory on steroids. White, glitter and ruffles hang from ceiling to floor. I grab something loose off the rack and march to the dressing rooms. My son is snot-covered and smelling of something that should be changed. His diaper looks like a grenade went off. I pull out his wet wipes--they’re dried out.

I’ve become one of those moms. You know the kind. The offensive, strung-out mother, whose kid runs through the stores with just a diaper on, while she’s screaming at the top of her lungs and begging God to give her one more chance tomorrow. Tears run down both our cheeks.

Later we sit in the car. I look at my son whose curls frame his angelic sleeping face. He is smiling and his fingers cling to his sippy cup. I don’t have a dress. I don’t want one. A verse comes to mind, "For this child I prayed" (1 Samuel 1:27a). All is well.

The moments of our lives, and theirs, are forever bound in our hearts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Where can you find Terri Porta? www.SupportingGodlyWomen.com Her book “5 Basics for Growth, Part 1 of the High-Octane Christian Series,” is available on her website www.TerriPorta.com or anywhere digital books are sold. Catch up with her on her daily blog, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

A New Journey

As you have no doubt noticed, posts this month have been minimal. I've been in change mode and winter mode (when I'd prefer to hibernate than work).

Change. That's supposed to happen in January when we make resolutions and decisions to change bad habits. But for me, change seems to hit in October. And it isn't about changing bad habits. It's about adding good things to my life. I begin to think back over my year. Have I accomplished my goals? If not, why not? I spend the next three months evaluating and praying and seeking direction for the next year.

Invariably, I question whether to continue Glory and Strength. Often throughout the year, I get caught up in the hype of tribe building and discouraged by the low numbers who visit these pages. I wage battles with fear of failure and inadequacy. Worse yet, I lose sight of God's purpose for Glory and Strength: to minister to those who are hurting. When I remember I write to encourage others with God's Word, I find the courage and strength to continue.

In the coming weeks, I am going to be redesigning this website and moving it to a new host. I am also taking Glory and Strength in a new direction. Our new tag line is "Be Bold, Be Radiant, Be You." My desire is to help you to step out in your uniqueness, rather than follow the trends. To swim upstream. To walk into the wind. To face the storm. To soar like an eagle as you embrace the person God designed you to be.

No, I don't have all the answers. God is still showing me the way. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to take this journey together with you. You each have something to share, and together we can encourage one another in this journey.

Thank you for your patience as I seek God's face and follow his leading. I hope you'll make the journey with me.

Do you have any plans for changes in your life for next year? Leave your comments below.

Debra L. Butterfield. Copyright 2012.




“Fear Not!”

By Kristi Bothur © 2012

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10


As I write this, I am anticipating a medical test that is scheduled within the next week. Nearly four years ago, I had a cancer scare that turned my life upside down. This Christmas marks my three-year anniversary of my final all-clear when I felt like life could get back to normal. Twice-yearly follow-up visits always confirmed that everything was fine, and since then, I have even been pregnant and given birth to a healthy baby boy. Life has been normal and wonderful.

But my last oncology appointment revealed a possible problem – a painful spot where there was no pain before. Hence the scheduled test, to make sure it is nothing to worry about.

My doctor is not worried, reassuring me that in all likelihood it is nothing. But in a moment, I was catapulted back into the uncertainties and fears of three years ago, wondering if this test will, again, turn my world upside down.

And with Christmas upon us, I am again reminded of one of the most repeated phrases in the Christmas story, “Do not be afraid.” Each of the main characters was told this – Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, the shepherds. But the command to not fear was not followed by what I would love to hear right now, a reassurance that “everything will be all right.” Instead, they are told not to fear because the Creator God was intimately involved with their situation, and He could be trusted. The prophet Isaiah recorded something similar in his command to Israel, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

My four-year-old daughter had a bad dream a couple of weeks ago. As I held her close and tried to calm her fears, the phrase I kept uttering was, “Don’t worry, Mama’s here.” No reassurances that the substance of her dream wasn’t real or that everything would look better in the morning. What she needed to know was that I had her and I wouldn’t leave her. In the same way, God tells us not to fear because He is with us. We know His presence and we know His character, that He can be trusted. And what does He promise to do? Not always to rescue us from our circumstances the way we would prefer, but to strengthen us, help us, and uphold us. We are not just a victim of circumstances, but children of the sovereign God whose plans are always for our ultimate good and His glory.

As I await my test and the news to follow, this is what I am focusing on. I need not fear because whatever the results, God is with me. He is already there, as intimately involved in my life circumstances as He was in the events leading up to the first Christmas. He promises to be with me, to strengthen me, to help me, to uphold me – not because of my righteousness, but because of His. I pray that whatever circumstances you find yourself in today, you also will be able to “fear not” this Christmas season, and to trust God to carry you through.

Father, I confess that I often fear what the future holds. Help me to trust in your love and your presence to carry me through. Amen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristi Bothur is a pastor's wife, teacher, and mother of five - two on earth and three in heaven. She has a heart for other women who have experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or in early infancy, and she has a passion for sharing the truth of God's word in a way that makes sense in everyday life. She and her husband are the founders of "Naomi's Circle", a ministry for parents of babies in heaven (www.naomiscircle.weebly.com). You are welcome to contact her at naomiscircle@gmail.com. Kristi lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, daughter, and son.









Photo by Mark Reed Butterfield

“Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

Even if it’s only for one minute, stop awhile today and ponder the wonder of God. 



A Game for All

Adapted from the recently released book, Mama Was the Queen of Christmas
by Linda Gilden

How will all the little holiday extras ever get done? I ask myself that question every year. And as much as I enjoy the holidays, there seems to be so little time.xmas queen

One year I decided to let go of expectations and concentrate on celebrating Jesus. I came up with a plan to accomplish a lot of the extras in a very short time. I created a game!

“Come on, everyone,” I said. “We are going to play a game.”

There was minor grumbling but in the end everyone agreed a family game would be fun. And I was so excited about the end result!

“Just give me an hour of your time,” I said. “Then you can get back to your homework.”

I found a cute Christmas container and deposited little slips of paper, each describing a job.

“I am going to set a timer for twenty minutes,” I said. “When you draw a slip of paper, you have twenty minutes to work at your job. When the bell rings, you will choose another job and change what you are doing. In an hour, you will have helped me with three pre-Christmas chores.”

The papers in the container had jobs like:

  1. Position the electric candles in the windows.
  2. Put the greenery on the mantle downstairs.
  3. Wrap presents. (Not your own, although most were willing!)
  4. A smile face. This job was really important. The person who got the smile was to circulate, serve refreshments, and make sure everyone was having fun.
  5. Address Christmas cards.
  6. Plan a family activity that will help us concentrate on the real meaning of the season such as memorize the Christmas story from Luke, find someone to share the season with who hasn’t yet met the Savior, concentrate on a different aspect of Jesus’ birth in daily devotions, etc.
  7. Make a Christmas goodie or edible treat. My family favorite is “Rocks!”

Christmas music playing in the background created a festive and jovial mood.

As it turned out, everybody was a winner in this game. The family gathered in the kitchen for a sample of “rocks,” pointing out that we had become happy little elves, proudly creating an atmosphere of merriment for the holidays.

Are there things you can do to make this holiday season less stressed for you and your family?


RECIPE: Rocks – Favorite Holiday Treat!

2 cups chocolate chips
1 ½ cups dry roasted peanuts
½ cup peanut butter
(1) 12.3 oz. box Crispix cereal
Confectioners Sugar

  1. Melt chocolate in a large bowl in microwave oven. Heat on high for 1 minute. Stir well. Heat 30 seconds more or as needed to melt chocolate. Stir until smooth. (Chocolate could also be melted in a double boiler over low heat on the stove.)
  2. Add peanut butter and stir until well blended.
  3. Add peanuts and cereal and mix until thoroughly coated. A wooden spoon works best for this.
  4. Put confectioner’s sugar in a plastic bag. Add cereal mixture, close bag tightly, and shake gently until mixture is coated with sugar. If you do a third of the mixture at a time, it is easier to handle.
  5. Makes a lot! Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Linda GildenAbout the Author: Linda Gilden’s favorite season is Christmas. But, truthfully, she and her family like to celebrate all year long, so can it really be called a season? Growing up in a home where the spirit of Christmas prevailed throughout the year, she knows she is blessed to have married a man who shares the same philosophy—Jesus is not just for a season but for a lifetime! Linda is the author of over a thousand magazine articles and several other books, such as Love Notes in Lunchboxes, Love Notes on His Pillow, and Mommy Pick-Me-Ups (all by New Hope Publishers), but Mama Was the Queen of Christmas is one she has wanted to write for a long time. Her heart’s desire is to see families enjoy each other and make memories no matter what the season. Linda lives in South Carolina with her husband, three grown children and children-in-law, four grandchildren, and a granddog, all of whom love Christmas as much as she does!

ABOUT THE BOOK: Do you love Christmas but feel the real meaning of the season is lost in the busyness? Do you breathe a sigh of relief when the last holiday guest is out the door, the last gift unwrapped, and the last ornament put away? Do you struggle with balancing the preparation and celebration with honoring Jesus? After all, it is His birthday!

Mama Was the Queen of Christmas is a collection of stories highlighting “Mama's” role in the season as well as quotes, Scripture, and practical suggestions for keeping the holidays focused on Christ. Mama presents creative ideas to plan a meaningful holiday season.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • “For the Queen” helps the reader focus on the truth of each story. This feature includes suggestions for the reader to implement that truth in his or her life.
  • “For the King” points the reader to the One whose birth we celebrate through a personal activity.
  • “For the Court” suggests family activities to apply the truth in each story.

Hijacked Holidays

By Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

As we enter the season of holidays, our celebrations and gatherings can divert our focus from the purpose for the holiday. Family gatherings, festive holiday parties, scrumptious food, and gift buying are not bad things. These activities help us enjoy the cold and snow of winter. They also help us forget the fact that it’s dark when we get up to go to work and dark when we leave to go home.

All these things can also become a burden. According to an article in the Detroit News today, the National Retail Federation forecasts the nation will spend $586.1 billion on holiday shopping during the months of November and December. They expect the average shopper to spend $749.51. Many will do it using credit. Our society’s need to impress our family and friends has hijacked our holidays!

How can we enjoy the holidays when fabulous feasts, pretty parties, and plentiful presents demand our attention? How can we truly celebrate when added financial burdens weigh us down for months afterwards? Consequently, we lose sight of all the blessings we do have and become focused on what we don’t have.

What are your motives for the spending the money you do for your Thanksgiving meal and the presents under your tree?

  • Do you do it because you feel it’s expected of you?
  • Because you need to impress others to be accepted by them or to feel good about yourself?
  • Do you buy all those presents to silence the clamor of your children or to assuage the guilt you feel for not spending time with them?
  • Or do you do it purely because you love your family and want to bless them from the bounty God has brought?

What I remember most about Thanksgiving and Christmas isn’t the food or how many presents I got. I remember the hours of fun we spent together around the table playing cards and board games. (Mouse Trap was the most mechanized game of my childhood.) I remember playing fox and goose out in the snow with my siblings and neighborhood friends. I remember the beautiful candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve.

It’s the time and love we share with family and friends that we remember most as the years fly by. We don’t have to spend money to give thanks and share our faith and hope in God.

Before we get too far into the holiday season, let’s take a moment to reflect and refocus. What are your motives and where is your attention?

The purpose for this season is to give thanks for the blessings God has brought throughout the year. Even Christmas is a holiday of thanks, a celebration of the amazing gift of his Son who came to earth as God With Us, and paid the price for our sins so that we might be reconciled with him, and share in the glorious eternity of heaven.

Have Thanksgiving and Christmas become a burden to you instead of a joy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

A Journey Through Alzheimer’s, Reader Q&A

I hope you have enjoyed our time with author RJ Thesman and her character Reverend G. As promised here are readers’ questions and RJ’s answers.

Q: You mentioned trauma-induced dementia, which I assume is referring to some physical trauma that caused the dementia to begin. Is there such a thing as emotional induced dementia?
A: Yes. Psychological and emotional stress can lead to an increased risk of dementia. Stress affects the adrenals which help to protect us from illness, so emotional stress can greatly affect our immune systems and our cognitive functions. Although no definite stats are available, my research has shown that emotional stress sets up more of an inclination for dementia. And all caregivers know that long-term stress can make them sick.

Q: Do you have any tips for those researching assisted living facilities?
A: Get all the info you can by talking to staff and other families who have loved ones there. Visit on different days of the week and at different times. Think of the life story of your loved one. Would she enjoy this place if she could choose it? Are there thingsRev_G_Cover about this place that would make her/him feel peaceful and at home? Does it smell clean and are the furnishings in good shape? Nobody wants their loved one in a sub-par facility.

Q: When did Reverend G's relationship with God begin and how did she grow so close to Him?
A: She became a Christian at church camp when she was 13. Her parents were not Christians, but they thought it would be a good diversion to send her to summer camp. She became close to God because she had to be independent about her faith, and she was discipled (somewhat secretly) by the woman whose house she cleaned on the weekends. Her parents decided she needed a little job and they had no idea that in between the toilets and the dusting, the future Reverend G was learning about spiritual disciplines. When she was 18, both parents were killed in a car wreck. That's when she started hearing from God. He became her Abba Father.

Q: At the end of the book, why doesn't Reverend G just stay with Chris? Where's the resolution of the love story?
A: Stay tuned for book 2.

RJ ThesmanBIO: RJ Thesman has been a writer since she flipped open her Red Chief tablet and scribbled her first story. Thesman is a Biblical Counselor, a Stephen Minister and a Certified Christian Life Coach. She enjoys teaching writing workshops and helps beginning writers birth their words. She enjoys reading, gardening and cooking and lives in the heartland of Kansas with her son and an elderly cat. http://www.rjthesman.net http://www.Facebook.com/rjthesman

The Unraveling of Reverend G, published by CrossRiver Media Group, is available in both paperback and on Kindle. Put the title in the Amazon search box on this site and you’ll help support the ministry of Glory and Strength through our affiliate program with Amazon.

 

A Journey Through Alzheimer’s Part 2

RJ ThesmanToday we continue our interview with RJ Thesman, author of The Unraveling of Reverend G. To recap, RJ’s father battled trauma-induced dementia for 10 years. He died in 2008. Doctors recently diagnosed her mother with Alzheimer’s. This life experience inspired her book about Reverend G.

If you have a question for RJ, post it in the comments or send an email to admin [at] GloryandStrength.com. On Friday, I’ll post RJ’s answers to readers’ questions.

Let’s dive into today’s questions and answers.

Debra: A cat that forecasts death?How did you come up with an idea like that?

RJ: Many years ago, before there was even an inkling about Reverend G, I read an article about a cat that was on staff in a nursing home in the Northeast. He visited the rooms of people who were about to die, because he had the uncanny ability to sense the toxic chemicals that the body gives off when it dies. The staff then called in the families for their last good-bye.

Since then, I have talked to many health professionals who have seen this happen, not only with cats but also with dogs. We know that animals have an extra God-given sense to relate to their owners, feel our pain, and know when to comfort us.

So it was just a natural part of the plot line that one day I was typing along and there was Gabriel, the cat at Cove Creek who knows how to forecast death.

Debra: My parents decided for themselves to move into an independent villa of an assisted living community, thus sparing me and my siblings that difficult task. Researching and choosing an assisted living facility can be hard. Where did you get the model for Cove Creek, the assisted living facility Reverend G chooses?

RJ: Cove Creek isn’t any one model, but a composite of all the places my dad and I served together. Every Sunday afternoon while I was in high school, we visited nursing homes and presented a program of music and faith. I saw people in their last stages of life, listened to funny stories, and held aging hands.

Since then, I have worked in an organization that sends chaplains into care facilities, and I have visited many places as I completed research and spoke to family members and staff. The staircase at Cove Creek comes from one of those beautiful places. Reverend G’s apartment is from another place. The dining room is from the facility where my mom now lives. And everywhere I’ve visited, I’ve found incredible staff people like Roxie – who truly love their residents.

Debra: What happens next?Rev_G_Cover

RJ: I’m completing the editing process for the 2nd book and doing research for the 3rd. I’m itching to get into the 3rd book to continue the story. I now have people stopping me in the grocery store and asking, “Do they get married?” or “What would Reverend G do about …” (whatever situation they are going through).

I usually answer by saying, “I can’t tell you,” or “I don’t know yet. Reverend G hasn’t told me.”

Debra: RJ, thank you so much for sharing the Reverend G with us this week and being so honest about your struggles as you journey through your mother’s Alzheimer’s. What top 3 tips do you have for caregivers?

RJ: Keep Laughing – find the humor so that you won’t become bitter.

Take Care of Yourself – if you don’t, you’ll wear down from the stress and you’ll be sick.

Pray – for patience, perseverance and for someone to discover a cure.

The Unraveling of Reverend G, published by CrossRiver Media Group, is filled with comfort, insight, and humor for all readers, but especially for those whose loved ones are battling dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is available in both paperback and on Kindle. Put the title in the Amazon search box on this site and you’ll help support the ministry of Glory and Strength with your purchase through our affiliate program with Amazon.

Be sure to leave your question for RJ in the comments below.

BIO: RJ Thesman has been a writer since she flipped open her Red Chief tablet and scribbled her first story. Thesman is a Biblical Counselor, a Stephen Minister and a Certified Christian Life Coach. She enjoys teaching writing workshops and helps beginning writers birth their words. She enjoys reading, gardening and cooking and lives in the heartland of Kansas with her son and an elderly cat. http://www.rjthesman.net http://www.Facebook.com/rjthesman

A Journey Through Alzheimer’s

An Interview with Author RJ Thesman and Glory and Strength Editor Debra L. Butterfield

Rev_G_CoverThis summer I had the pleasure of meeting RJ Thesman at a workshop in Kansas City. RJ is a life coach and program director at GateWay of Hope in Olathe, Kansas. She’s also a writer, and her newest book, The Unraveling of Reverend G, had released a few short weeks before I met her. We had some time to get acquainted before the workshop began and so I asked her about her book. After learning that Alzheimer’s unravels the reverend, I asked RJ if she would consent to an interview for Glory and Strength. She graciously agreed. Therefore, this week we’re taking a journey through Alzheimer’s. Both RJ and the Reverend G have insight and comfort to offer.

Today and tomorrow is our interview. RJ has also offered to answer reader questions. Here’s how the Q&A will work: Submit your questions no later than 11:59 p.m. Tuesday via the comments below, or email admin [at] GloryandStrength.com. RJ will answer as many questions as her time permits. I'll post the Q&A on Friday.

Now to our interview.

Debra: Rebecca, Reverend G is an absolutely delightful character. I love her sense of humor, and I’m impressed by how well you’ve balanced humor with the severity of Alzheimer’s. What was your inspiration for the book?

RJ: My dad was involved in a tragic fire at our farm. He was severely burned and spent four months in the hospital, but mercifully – didn’t remember any of the horror. The doctors diagnosed him with trauma-induced dementia. For ten years, he gradually disappeared while Mom, a registered nurse, took care of him at home. Dad passed away in 2008.

Now Mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She is currently in an assisted living facility where she begs every day to go home.

Initially, the book just happened. I woke up one morning with a story in my head. But as I began to work on it, I used my family’s experiences to enrich the story and give it credibility.

Debra: In chapter one, we experience Reverend G’s response to her diagnosis. Her words are poignant as she seeks comfort in the Psalms and speaks of trusting God. There’s so much comfort and peace as she seeks God, yet here’s a heaviness, too. We know the severity of Alzheimer’s. But you don’t leave the reader in that heaviness. In one bright sentence you bring a smile to the reader and lift us out of the solemnness of that moment.

Hearing a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia is heartrending. What was your initial reaction to your mom’s diagnosis?

RJ: Truthfully, I didn’t react like a peaceful, wonderful Christian. I was mad! It seemed like such a cruel twist of fate that a woman who took care of her husband for ten years and prayed every day that she wouldn’t get any type of mind-altering disease – was now facing the worst. Although I believe strongly that God is sovereign and that He can use anything that happens to us for an ultimate good purpose, I’m still a bit angry about the whole situation. As any family member of an Alzheimer’s patient can tell you – it’s an incredibly sad and difficult diagnosis.

Debra: How have you adjusted to the changes?

RJ: Every week / day / month represents a change. As Mom regresses, then our reactions to her must change. We have to be incredibly creative and alert for how to deal with her. I now drive to Oklahoma about once a month, which is a five-hour trip and costly both in time lost at work and in gas money. Every week, I send Mom a card, usually something funny from the children’s cards. She loves the little animals. Every week, I call my sister who is the primary caregiver and hope to encourage her. I call my brother for his take on things, because he has a gift of wisdom. Then I hang up the phone and cry.

I have also talked at length to my son about my wishes for my last days, and I’ve documented everything in my will. The medical community, because of their Hippocratic Oath and their compassion, tries to do everything to keep people alive. I no longer think that is best either for the patient or for the families. So I have instructed my son that there will be no life-saving measures, no procedures, etc. The best way he can love me is to let me go.

Debra: That can’t have been an easy decision to arrive at. Has writing the book has helped you deal with your situation? Did it bring you any insights?

RJ: I’ve learned a great deal about dementia and Alzheimer’s, even more than I have observed with my family situation. When I visit Mom, I get ideas for new plots and new characters. When I do research, I learn things that help me deal with Mom. So it’s been a give and take situation. Plus, I’ve learned how important it is to somehow find the humor and keep laughing. That’s one reason why I’ve tried to include so many funny elements in the book.

On the positive side, I try to just enjoy every single day. Life is so incredibly fragile. I tell my son each night that I love him. I talk candidly to people about the importance of sharing love while you can. One of the saddest moments in my life was when my dad forgot who I was, and I know that moment will also come with Mom. I want my son to always know that somewhere in my soul – I still know him and love him.

That’s all for today. Return tomorrow for the second half of my interview with RJ Thesman and to learn more about The Unraveling of Reverend G.RJ also has some tips for caregivers to share. If you have a question for RJ, be sure to leave it in the comment or email it to the address above.

The Unraveling of Reverend G, published by CrossRiver Media Group, is available in both paperback and on Kindle. Put the title in the Amazon search box on this site and you’ll help support the ministry of Glory and Strength through our affiliate program with Amazon.

RJ ThesmanBIO: RJ Thesman has been a writer since she flipped open her Red Chief tablet and scribbled her first story. Thesman is a Biblical Counselor, a Stephen Minister and a Certified Christian Life Coach. She enjoys teaching writing workshops and helps beginning writers birth their words. She enjoys reading, gardening and cooking and lives in the heartland of Kansas with her son and an elderly cat. http://www.rjthesman.net http://www.Facebook.com/rjthesman

 

The Sacrifice of Praise



by Kristi Bothur © 2012

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name." Hebrews 13:15

I learned this verse a long time ago and sang about it eagerly during worship times in college. I wondered sometimes about the phrase "sacrifice of praise" and assumed that being believers in Jesus, it was because we no longer need to make sacrificial offerings, but can simply give our praises to God.

It wasn't until several years ago, walking the road of the loss of our unborn daughter, that I began seeing that Bible verse in a different light. I saw how the very act of praise can be, not just a substitute for the Old Testament sacrifices, but an actual sacrifice itself.

Praising God is a sacrifice when it's the last thing you want to do because you're hurting from something that God could have prevented, but didn't.

Praise is a sacrifice when you are angry with God for allowing a painful trial in the life of a loved one.

Praise is a sacrifice when you are afraid to trust God with your future because of what happened in the past.

Praise is a sacrifice when tears are near the surface and joy feels hypocritical.

Praise is a sacrifice when we choose to trust God even when we don't understand Him.

Praise is a sacrifice when we do it because of what we know to be true about God - that He is good, and strong, and loving - in spite of our circumstances.

Praise is a sacrifice when our feelings - which are legitimate and honest and understandable and normal and human - do not dictate our worship.

Praise is a sacrifice when Jesus asks us, as he did His disciples, "You do not want to leave, too, do you?", and we answer, even through tears, as Peter did: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God" (Luke 6:67-69).

Praise is a sacrifice because it requires us to lay down our lives along with our feelings and desires and "rights" in order to sing out the praises of the One who laid His life down for us.

Are you unsure of your footing with God right now because of the circumstances of your life? Are you having a hard time as you approach this season of Thanksgiving? Tell Him that. Pour out your heart to Him. Then offer Him a sacrifice of praise in the midst of your uncertainty, speaking to yourself and others about His goodness and love.

Father, I don't feel like praising you right now. The songs we sing in church feel fake and hypocritical. Please help me. Show me what is true and unchanging about you and help me worship and praise you because of who you are in spite of my circumstances. I believe, Jesus. But help my unbelief. Amen.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristi Bothur is a pastor's wife, teacher, and mother of five - two on earth and three in heaven. She has a heart for other women who have experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or in early infancy, and she has a passion for sharing the truth of God's word in a way that makes sense in everyday life. She and her husband are the founders of "Naomi's Circle", a ministry for parents of babies in heaven (www.naomiscircle.weebly.com). You are welcome to contact her at naomiscircle@gmail.com. Kristi lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, daughter, and son.

Living in the Light/Dwelling in His Presence

by Rhonda Rhea
excerpt from Chapter 14 of How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person? Rhonda Rhea

I admit it, I’m a cruise fan. I love everything about it. Especially the food. A cruise and overeating go together like a hand in glove. Well more accurately, they go together like a size ten hand in a size two glove. All the gourmet food you can eat, for crying out loud! I guess I was just asking for a trip back to maternity pants. I now refer to myself as “17 years post-partum.” The staff on the ship said the average person gains seven to ten pounds on a seven-day cruise. But then, I’ve always considered myself an overachiever.

On prime rib night, my husband and I were walking out of the dining room and, even though he was about to let his belt out a notch, Richie said he was thinking of ordering yet another prime rib. Another one! I figured that could cost him at least another two belt notches. I told him I thought that would be a mistake.

Get it? Prime rib? “Mis-steak”?

Anytime we’re going to overdo, though, it’s good to make sure we’re “overdoing” in all the right areas. First Thessalonians 4:1 talks about living right to please God and then it says, “Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” To do and to overdo. It’s an encouragement to keep growing. Not so much growing in the “bring on the elastic waistbands” kind of growth. But growing in maturity.

We grow as we seek to stay in the light, dwelling in the presence of the Lord, making sure our lives are for Him and all about Him. Our growth is not an option. It’s a command. Verse 7 in that same passage in 1 Thessalonians says, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

Rejecting His instruction? Rejecting the Father Himself? Mistake of the highest order.

Growing in Him and dwelling in His presence results in a life in which growing “a notch or two” spiritually is a regular happening. The good kind of growth. And seeking that consistency in growth diligently.

There’s a lot at stake. Sometimes also a lot at steak.

Rhonda Rhea is a radio personality, humor columnist, conference/event speaker and author of eight books, including I’m Dreaming of Some White Chocolate, High Heels in High Places, and her newest, How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person? She is presently working on her ninth nonfiction book, scheduled to release in early 2013. Rhonda is a pastor’s wife and mother of five mostly grown children. She chuckles through the hubbub with pastor/hubby, Richie Rhea, near St. Louis in Troy, Missouri. Website: rhondarhea.com

About Rhonda's Latest Book:

RR bk cvrHow Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?—Bright Ideas for Delightful Transformation (New Hope Publishers, 2012). Author and speaker, Patsy Clairmont, calls the book “high voltage humor along with a biblical charge.”

In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” One version calls it “light” that will “flood your hearts.” God shines so much of His light through Scripture so that we can see—we can have understanding.

For every person longing for a change, for everyone who is getting weary in a grisly struggle to make a particular change, God-given enlightenment makes possible real change in every way. Lasting change.

The God who is powerful enough to create light, then create the sun—the God who keeps the sun blazing and the stars and moon reflecting—that same God is powerful enough, caring enough, and detail-minded enough to light our way. He wants to show us the path of change, and He longs to light the way for us in His magnificent plan for our lives.

How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person is a laugh-along-the-way journey into that light through God’s Word. His Word? Now there’s some enlightening! And I hear enlightening has even been known to strike twice in the same place.

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Female Infertility: How Endometriosis Affects Your Ability To Get Pregnant


By Sarah Forbes

Female infertility is a common problem in the world today. There are many reasons why people find it difficult to get pregnant. Endometriosis may be one of the reasons for the difficulties you face when trying to conceive. Here is how this condition affects your ability as a woman to have a baby.

The first thing that you should know when trying to understand how endometriosis affects your ability to get pregnant is to understand how the condition affects your reproductive system. Endometriosis is a common condition among women which causes the lining of the uterus to grow outside the uterine cavity. The result of this is that the tissues of the lining may end up attaching themselves to abdominal or reproductive organs. Further complications may develop during menstruation where this tissue may fill with blood.

Endometriosis usually results in serious complications because of the blood that is trapped within the tissue. This occurs because the lining is out-of-place and thus the blood cannot be shed off through the vagina as it normally would. This usually results in the development of blood blisters. These blisters that result from endometriosis may then develop into scar tissue, cysts or adhesions. This is what usually causes most women with endometriosis to experience a lot of pain.

Endometriosis affects a woman's ability to get pregnant by causing the formation of scar tissues. These scars usually affect the functioning of the female reproductive system, especially the fallopian tubes. It may also result in the secretion of substances into the womb that may affect fertilization and thus preventing a woman from getting pregnant.

In addition to this, this condition is known to increase the chances of a woman having hormonal dysfunction. Progesterone deficiency is one of the dysfunctions that may be caused by endometriosis. By affecting the hormonal balance needed for a woman to get pregnant or keep a pregnancy, this condition reduces the chances of a successful conception. It may also result in early miscarriages.

Given the effects that endometriosis has on a woman who is trying to get pregnant, it is important to treat the condition as early as possible. There are various ways to do this. Stopping a woman's menstruation is one of the medical options that you can choose. Surgery is usually recommended for serious cases. There are also natural ways through which you can prevent endometriosis and which you can take advantage of. Reducing the risks of developing the condition through a healthy lifestyle will definitely increase your chances of getting pregnant.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Forbes writes on ovarian cyst rupture and various ovarian cyst symptoms. She breathes a wealth of experience and expertise in her articles. Through writing, she has transformed thousands of lives of women. She has been writing for sites and blogs on reproductive health for the past 7 years.

Article Source: Female Infertility: How Endometriosis Affects Your Ability To Get Pregnant

Post-Abortion Healing Available For Men


By Lori Peters © 2012

Three in 10 women will have had an abortion by the age of 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Such a decision has far-reaching impact for both women and men. In fact, there is growing evidence that men can be as negatively impacted by an abortion decision as women. Studies begun in the late 1970’s continuing through today show men dealing with abortion may experience after-abortion grief or trauma. Such symptoms include initial relief then anxiety, grief, depression, guilt, powerlessness and anger, feelings that are typical of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Every man who impregnates a woman must live with the possibility that she may abort that child. And, unlike other alternatives like parenting and adoption, he would have no say about it. With parenting, he could choose to be a part of the child’s life. With adoption, he could help choose adoptive parents for his child. He has legal rights in both situations. In the United States, a woman has the right to choose whatever she wants to do with her body, courtesy of Roe v. Wade, and a man’s opinion and views don’t count. Various challenges to this reality have been struck down by state and federal courts, most particularly Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. A woman is allowed to have an abortion with or without the birth father’s consent. It’s perfectly legal and okay.  

Mounting evidence shows men are not OK with their lack of involvement in an abortion decision. Their disapproval manifests itself in physical and emotional symptoms like anxiety, guilt, depression, suicidal thoughts, brief psychosis, sexual dysfunction, alcohol and substance abuse and many others. After-abortion grief or trauma can affect anyone involved in an abortion decision, not just the mother. The man whose partner has aborted their baby without his consent, and sometimes without his knowledge initially, is angry and sad, and regrets his lost fatherhood.

Many psychologists deny the existence of after-abortion grief, but my experiences at three venues—a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, an abortion clinic, and a pregnancy resource center—prove to me that such grief is real. Rachel’s Vineyard, coordinated by Priests For Life and Anglicans For Life, is a counseling and support resource available to anyone experiencing post-abortion trauma. Rachel’s Vineyard offers a person hope, healing and renewal via counseling, the Bible, and hands-on activities.    

Mostly women come to a retreat, but men have come with their partners because they have faced an abortion decision together or because she made that decision prior to their relationship and now needs support before it can move forward. We had two such scenarios during the retreat. The men revealed feelings of shame, worthlessness, humiliation, loneliness and grief. They realized they had made a decision that sounded good at the time but has had devastating long-term effects.

Retreat attendees arrive on a Friday evening and get acquainted. On Saturday, they tell their abortion story, receive a doll representing their lost child, and write a letter, a poem, or journal entry addressed to that child. They also receive individual counseling. The retreat ends with a special mass or commemorative service on Sunday. Throughout the experience, the retreat team uses scriptural readings and helps attendees insert themselves into the Bible stories read. Afterward, they are encouraged to meet for ongoing support. The entire weekend is emotionally draining, but God provides so much healing during that time.

My experiences there plus research in the post-abortion field have helped me find future trauma victims. While praying in front of an abortion clinic, I met a father who had taken his daughter for an abortion after she had refused his offer of help. The pain in his eyes mirrored the pain seen in the eyes of those on the retreat. After this gentleman shared that he’d also lost another daughter a few months before, I knew his risk for after-abortion trauma would be greatly increased. We prayed with this man.

At the pregnancy center, I’ve encountered young men needing support because their partners have undergone the procedure without their consent or they now regret their abortion decision. All have reported feeling angry, frustrated, sad and lost. What will those feelings do to them down the road?

Sometimes, those feelings can help you reverse your actions. For example, a client had an abortion and was pregnant again. She had the abortion due to pressure from her partner and her family, particularly a grandfather who was an integral part of her life. This time she decided to continue with the pregnancy and gave birth. She was surprised when her partner and family embraced her and the baby.
 
Not all stories end happily, but it is reassuring to know resources like Rachel’s Vineyard and pregnancy centers exist to help men and women reach a state of peace in their lives so they can move forward and make positive decisions.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lori Peters, a former journalist, is a mother of 8 children, six of whom are living. In her spare time, she runs a crisis pregnancy center in Carlisle, PA, volunteers at her church, and hosts a radio show on life issues.

Losses Made Wins

By Lori Peters © 2012

The fact that I am the mother of six beautiful children astounds me daily. For a long time I feared I wouldn't have any children. I have lost two, and those experiences brought me to the lowest points of my life, emotionally and spiritually. The power of prayer, loving neighbors, and a healthy, expressive outlet helped to ease my suffering and care for others.

My husband Kevin and I wanted children but never really discussed how many we’d have. We also figured we’d have no problems conceiving them, but our attempts to get pregnant failed miserably, even with the help of a fertility specialist. We decided to take a break from trying—we were moving and became engrossed in our new environment.

In June 1996, I was about four weeks along before I noticed I had become pregnant. I checked out every book on pregnancy from the library and bought every pregnancy magazine to be had. I was already poring over baby names, too. To say that I was obsessed is an understatement.

The next month, I started spotting. This scared me for I knew bleeding during pregnancy was never a good thing. An ultrasound confirmed my fears. The screen showed my uterus had an empty sac that once contained a baby with a beating heart. The words “non-viable pregnancy” echoed in my brain. I don’t remember how I got home that day. All I recall is the utter desolation I felt about being a failure. Crying wasn't enough to wash away my pain.

I kept thinking how I hated God and myself. First, I couldn't get pregnant and then when I finally did, I couldn't hold onto it. What sort of God does this?

I felt a spiritual emptiness for months. As journaling had proven helpful to overcome difficulties, I started writing, but the usual prayers and musings I normally jotted down were elusive. I did not feel God’s presence, but I prayed I would. Attending church tortured me, but because my husband was faithful to his Catholic upbringing and I felt guilty staying home, I went with him to mass.

Around Christmas, I learned I was pregnant again. I did not want to face another failure. Each trip to the bathroom was scary, fearing I’d find blood again. I did not fully entrust this pregnancy to God.

My faith began to rejuvenate once I felt the baby move. I started saying daily prayers of gratitude. I delivered a beautiful and healthy daughter.

As the years passed, I became engulfed with the enormous challenge of raising five children. I also began trusting God again. It wasn't a lightning-bolt moment, but a series of small signs that God was blessing and loving me through my kids. I started talking to Him as I went about my daily duties.

I also started journaling again. Through that, I felt God directing me to set a better example for my children. Kevin and I were of two religious denominations. I could see the danger of confusion, especially as my oldest daughter began asking questions I could not answer. Because I was never attached to my own Protestant background, I began investigating Kevin’s. My research dispelled misconceptions I had about the Catholic religion. Mass started to make sense to me and eventually, I converted to Catholicism in 2004. As a convert, I was on fire for anything pertaining to the religion, voraciously reading any related material, asking questions, attending classes, and becoming involved in various ministries. I believe all this prepared me for yet another test in 2007.

Again, around Christmas, I was pregnant. We were about to announce our news when one morning in early January 2007, I awoke not feeling quite right. I felt a dull ache followed by spotting. As my condition worsened, I drove to the hospital, praying fervently and crying the entire time. By the time I arrived at the ER, I was immediately admitted and an ultrasound was done. Again, like the first miscarriage, no baby was detected. I had outpatient surgery to remove the remaining pieces of my lost baby. After waking up, I prayed and cried silently, caressing my stomach. This time, I was not mad at God, just sad for what could have been.

Unlike my first miscarriage, I sought someone to talk to other than my husband. I found a gentle and loving support group at the local hospital for people who had suffered miscarriage, stillbirth and early infant loss.
I also kept God close. I realized whenever God closes a door, He opens a window, meaning He had other plans for me. Those plans revealed themselves just a few months later when I was hired to run a crisis pregnancy center. The position enabled me to use my miscarriages to help others cope with pregnancy loss by sharing my experiences and offering comfort.

Three tools helped me cope with my miscarriages. The most important, especially with my second miscarriage, was constant prayer. I favor quick and conversational prayer as opposed to formulaic ones, with something as simple as “God, give me strength.”

Secondly, keeping a prayer journal was very valuable. Sometimes, the entries wrote themselves, as if the Holy Spirit had grabbed my pen. I was able to process my feelings and devise a course of action, even if it was just to get up and get dressed.

Lastly, getting support from people experiencing similar pain was highly helpful because I knew I wasn't alone in my grief.

With God’s guidance, I've learned that something positive can come from something negative and the loss can be a win if I use it to move forward with my life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lori Peters, a former journalist, is a mother of 8 children, six of whom are living. In her spare time, she runs a crisis pregnancy center in Carlisle, PA, volunteers at her church, and hosts a radio show on life issues.
















What Is Male Infertility?

By Nathan Hapyan

Photo credit: iStockphoto
The term "infertility" is thrown around a lot, but it pays to remember that it can easily take up to a year for a normal couple to get pregnant. As such, infertility is typically said to be the inability to conceive a child after 12 months of unprotected intercourse. The statistics say that about 85% of couples will successfully conceive within this amount of time. The statistics also say that about 15% of couples trying to conceive are deal with some form of infertility, with 40-50% of those cases being due to male infertility. So if you've been diagnosed with some form of male infertility, do not despair, you are far from alone and many options are available to you. The standard forms of male infertility are due to one, or several of the issues of low sperm count, low sperm motility, and poor sperm morphology. In a smaller portion of cases, a physical obstruction or blockage can prohibit normal sperm delivery.

It is important to understand what each of the sperm related terms means.

Sperm Motility
Sperm motility is the ability of the sperm to move forward towards an egg. This is the sperm's "forward progress."

Sperm Count
Sperm count measures the concentration of sperm in a man's ejaculate. Over 15 million sperm per milliliter is considered normal, yet the average today is between 20-40 million. These numbers are just a guideline, and especially with today's technology, men are able to conceive within a wide range of sperm counts.

Sperm Morphology
Sperm morphology refers to the size and shape of the sperm. Certain sizes and shapes of sperm are better at fertilizing an egg than others. It is estimated that up to 10% of sperm has observable defects and will have difficulties fertilizing an egg. It is important to know that sperm morphology is the easiest, and cheapest thing a man can change in terms of his fertility. Basically, the healthier you are the better your morphology. This means eat right, have great morphology.

It is important to remember that successful fertilization relies on a balance of these three factors. Low motility in a high sperm count is not ideal; whereas if you have high motility in a low sperm count you may have no problems conceiving. Also, it will take around 3 months to see changes in these things since it takes about 2 and a half months to grow new sperm.

Here are 6 classifications of male infertility you may have heard about:

  • Oligospermia - "low sperm count", or low concentration of spermatozoa in the semen
  • Aspermia - complete lack of semen
  • Hypospermia - reduced seminal volume
  • Azoospermia - absence of sperm cells in semen
  • Teratospermia - increase in sperm with abnormal morphology
  • Asthenozoospermia - reduced sperm motility

Stay Positive
Being diagnosed with male infertility can be devastating. Believe me, I know. However, the more you learn, the better you will be able to deal with it, and hopefully overcome it. When you make the commitment to undergo treatment, you will be subject to frequent invasive testing and observation. As hard as this will be, keeping a healthy baby in sight will make this part easier. We as humans have an instinct to procreate and often have feelings of insecurity and insufficiency when this basic process does not work. If I get one thing across to you in this article, it is that infertility, both male and female, is very common and can be overcome. Good luck with your journey.

You've only just started your education on male infertility. For a whole lot more head on over to http://ivf-info.org/infertility-male-infertility where the http://ivf-info.org team have written many informative articles. Also, if there is something not explained in the articles there, please don't hesitate to ask on the IVF Forums.
Article Source: What Is Male Infertility?

An Ear to Hear

By Amy L. Bovaird © 2012

Losing our twins late in pregnancy tested our marriage more than any other challenge. Ihab was Egyptian. I was American. We had married against the wishes of our families. After a lengthy wait, we defied military regulations and wed in secret. We began married life together in the United Arab Emirates, a true home to neither of us.
During our 20th week of pregnancy, we learned Celestia, our first twin, had died in utero. Toxemia thrust my surviving baby and me into a Dubai hospital. A month after I arrived, the nurse yanked a teacup out of my hand. “We deliver baby now or mama die.”
Before long, she whisked Noor away to an incubator. Later I saw her tiny body engulfed in tubes. I stroked delicate chapped fingers but never got to hold her. She died a week later, on Mother’s Day. Ihab wasn’t there to help me bear it. I sobbed alone under the covers—the first of many moments we grieved apart.
That day I lay in ICU as Ihab buried Noor following Islamic custom, in a plain shroud against loose dirt. The gravesite rested in a cemetery—forbidden to non-Muslims. During my recuperation, Ihab hid our only photo of Noor so I wouldn’t dwell on the loss. Later, I prepared a memorial service to commemorate both twins’ short lives—alone. Everything about my world screamed ALONE.
Ihab kept himself too busy to talk. Instead of the babies I’d planned to nurse, in his absence, I nursed memories of my baby heartbeats and the first kick—from which twin I never knew. “We need to move forward,” Ihab said. To discuss our loss questioned Allah. The gulf widened as we stumbled through that year of sorrow.
Beach walkers
Photo credit: Mark R. Butterfield. Copyright 2011
When the teaching year ended, I planned to renew my contract. Ihab and I paced along the beach that evening. In tears, I shouted, “Why don’t you want me to sign it?”
“You can’t even tell how stressed you are. You never took a break; you’re an emotional wreck and it’s affecting us.”
“You mean that you need a break. You won’t talk about the twins or us. Should I just give up? I lost my babies. Do I have to lose you, too?”
“Amy, be reasonable. Taking a break back home in America is not ‘giving up’ or ‘losing’ anything.”
Wasn’t my home with Ihab? After we started our life together, he promised we’d never separate. When the sun began to set, the waves grew stronger as if mirroring our emotions in the words that slashed back and forth. Angry, accusing words stabbed at our losses and hacked through the shards of commitment.
But when darkness fell, a peace spread through me. I felt God telling me to honor my husband’s wishes. God, please heal my heartbreak. I agreed not to sign the contract.
Opening the door to our four-wheel drive, I clutched a large, dirty-white seashell I’d latched onto during our feverish discussion. I almost tossed the wet and gritty shell but hesitated. Shaped like an ear, it intrigued me. A white splotched hole resembling an ear cavity spread outward. I kept it as a memento of my peace and faith in God’s promise to heal me.
Time at home strengthened me. I talked to my sister about the difficulties Ihab and I encountered. She shared several Scriptures that helped her. Scripture gave me direction and the talks eased my hurt. I prayed with purpose: heal my spirit. By Thanksgiving, I felt ready to rejoin my husband overseas.
Less than a year later I conceived again but in my third month, I miscarried. Our second loss devastated me and strained our marriage again. Even though we tried to make it work, Ihab lost patience. Was it because I couldn’t give him children or that we argued too much or was God punishing us because of our mixed faiths? Whatever the reason, bound by teaching contracts, we continued to live and teach in the same area.
I prayed that year for God to help me forgive Ihab and be grace-filled; I might be the only Christian witness in Ihab’s life. In time, our sweet friendship returned. My colleagues also witnessed God at work in the forgiveness and friendship I offered Ihab. God’s grace was sufficient and He was glorified!
After my contract finished, I moved back to the States. When I unpacked, I came across that unique seashell. Over time, the sand had lightened and blended together into a fine white powder that slipped away from the shell when I handled it. I recalled the dark, rough grains sticking to it when I left the beach. It seemed as if those dark specks were all the areas of pain God had wanted to heal, and the blend of white sands falling, His subsequent healing. As I traced the ear-shaped shell with my fingertips, the scripture came to me, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15 (NASB). I did hear Him. I embraced peace that day on the beach, and I reclaimed peace, in time, after my marriage dissolved.
I don’t know why God didn’t fix my marriage. But He faithfully nursed me through my heartbreak. During those anguished years, whenever I picked up the shell and saw more grains of sand fall away, I anticipated God’s healing, grain by grain, until I became whole. I matter to Him. He heard my cries, and I always heard his never-failing promise: “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Bovaird, a specialist in second language acquisition, taught overseas for many years from Latin America to the Middle and Far East. Now she gives lectures to school children about the lands where she has lived, and talks on missions to local churches. Amy strives to deepen the faith of other Christians through her life experiences. You can find her humorous, uplifting stories about life abroad and in Pennsylvania at: http://amybovaird.com




















Focused on Fear

By Teresa Tierney © 2012

Did I pray while our son, Brad, was in the hospital? How does one not pray when your child is that sick? Mostly my husband and I watched and waited for him to recover. It seemed my personal prayer time all but disappeared during those 13 days. Most of the time, my eyes were on him. Little him—Brad; not big Him—God. Yes, I prayed. But my prayers were either formal, spoken prayers with friends and family or brief, staccato prayers like, “Oh, God, help!”

Medical Staff Tending a Patient ca. 1980s-1990sOne night every alarm in the room went off. The TV monitor came to life and a doctor came on screen asking, “Did someone remove Brad’s vent?” The rest of her words faded away as nurses filled the room, talking to the TV while they assessed the damage. My prayer was pretty demanding that night—“Oh. My. God. What is happening?”

Another night I came awake unsure of what had disturbed me. Brad’s breathing was irregular but quiet. An odd stillness in the room drew me to his side. It took a moment for me to recognize the black substance pooling on his shoulder and running down his gown was blood. Brad had pulled out his central line. Once I understood it was Brad’s lifeblood gurgling out of his jugular vein, my prayer consisted of a single word, “Jesus!”

Throughout the eventful days of surgeries and midnight alarms, I focused my prayers on seeking God’s protection for Brad’s life. About a week after the first surgery, the doctor told me Brad was no longer improving, and he didn’t know why. He said he had done all he knew to do. Now, it was a waiting game. I chose not to share those words with my husband. I thought I needed to protect him from this additional stress. I kept those words to myself and fear moved in.

From that point on, I lived with a question mark in the back of my mind. “What is God’s plan for Brad?” I continued to ask God to restore Brad’s health and save his life. With every step forward, I was confident of his plan. But with every step back, the question surfaced again, “What is God’s plan?”

Notice I wasn’t asking God. I was asking myself. I began to manage my stress and pray a little less. I began to reason. I knew I needed to trust God with my son’s life, but a voice began to whisper I might soon be entrusting God with Brad’s eternal life. I remembered the biblical Job, who lost his children and his health. God had not shielded him from tragedy. Should I expect to be?

When I finally shared my fear with my sister, she urged me to talk to the doctor. His surprise at my question gave me immediate peace. “Cancer? What made you think that?” He didn’t know why Brad wasn’t progressing, but he had no concern that an unknown cancer was the cause. My mind now at ease, I quit waiting for the other shoe to drop. I trusted we were on the road to full restoration once my fear was brought into the light.

When I hid my fear, I left a crack open into the back alleyways of my mind and the secretive voice of fear took up residence there. Fear kept my eyes on Brad’s condition and caused me to doubt and question God’s plan. It wasn’t hard to keep my brain occupied so I could avoid the fear most of the time. But in avoiding it, I also avoided the truth.

The enemy lied, telling me I needed to keep the doctor’s words from my husband. This gave him a dark, dank corner to grow his favorite moldy old poison—fear. That fear roared so loudly it almost drowned out my faith. Once I admitted my fear, truth was spoken to the dark lie.

Seeking the truth set me free. God’s word calls us into the light and once I stepped into the light of truth, I was free of fear and trusting God once again. I no longer tried to couch my faith in terms of he may or he may not heal. Once again, I was confident in God’s plan.

Fear is the ultimate lie—declaring our circumstances are beyond God’s control. The next time I have more questions than prayers, I’ll ask God to reveal the lie blocking my view of his truth.

When Jesus healed the epileptic child (Mark 9:23-24), he told the father, “If you can believe, all things are possible.” Like the epileptic’s father, I cry out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

Have you experienced doubt or fear in your life? I hope you will share in the comments below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teresa Tierney is a freelance writer, wife, mother of two, grandmother of three.  She blogs at www.RoadblocksToForgiveness.com You may contact her at T68114@gmail.com