update on the latest “brand new”…

Just wanted to pop on really quick and share that we are really LOVING these new groups. We’ve had our first meeting a church and it was just great. The staff worked with me on getting my sister moved into a group for women, which she was perfectly fine with, thank God!

group-sihlouette

We had just that other couple I mentioned and then the husband of another couple who is going to be leading a group. They are the ones I had contacted a couple months ago about starting a group of our own. The system isn’t complete yet, so the few people for their group didn’t show up and his wife was home sick, so he sat in with us.

We had the best conversations and just a time of getting to know one another! It was awesome and I’m not sure if that was because we were so relieved to have gotten my sis satisfactorily situated in another group and then gotten along so well with our own group or what! *laugh* Maybe it was a little of both. AND that we were just so tickled to finally be getting somewhere with having a small group again. We’ve sure missed that sense of community and comradery!

group-bible in hand

The next night, we had our third meeting with our LIFE group and it was the best yet too. Our kids didn’t get to go because our son was working over and our daughter-in-law didn’t really want to go without him. But everyone else was there and it was just a great time discussing God’s Word and fellowshipping.

Afterward, everyone had gone home and it was just us with the host couple and we had a really nice time of chatting about all kinds of stuff. The husband is a car guy too, so he and Tommy had a great time talking about the projects Tommy has going right now. I’m so glad he has found this man who loves the same things he does AND loves the Lord too. I hope he will get to come “hang out” in the garage with Tommy soon. I think they’d both be on Cloud 9 with so much to talk about and get into out there.

Anyhow, nothing else much, just wanted to toss that out there. I’m so thankful that we have these two great groups in our lives right now. I am praying God does mighty things in and through us all!

Blessings,
G~

what’s love got to do with it

*Disclaimer: I always hated that song, even though it was a hit during the peak of my teenage-music-loving days. Read on to see why.

=============

I was just out of high school when I got married. I wouldn’t change that. I come from a family full of young marriages that have lasted and been good. I believe that stringing out an engagement just because you feel it’s bad to get married “too young” can be dangerous.

Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Rejoice in the wife of your youth. ~Proverbs 5:8

First of all, if you are engaged then you have this understanding that marriage is in the future. String that out for over a year and you more than likely will end up with the couple “engaging” in premarital sex. Yeah, in case you wondered or hadn’t figured it out yet, I believe premarital sex is wrong. My faith says it’s to be avoided, that it’s a sin.

Now that that’s out of the way…

This is how I see it: intercourse is God’s design. He invented it. So that makes it good. However, it can only be “good” within the confines of His will, which is marriage, a man and a woman. (I’m sorry, if you’ve come here and been shocked by my politically incorrect stance on these things. They are not open for debate on my blog. Thanks for respecting that.)

Marriage prayer
Make my marriage what You want, Lord!

When we pervert that gift, because sex is a gift to man from a loving God, then we set ourselves up for many heartaches and failures. Intercourse is an intimacy unlike any other. It is a physical joining of two bodies that involves all our senses. In this way, it will also include our spiritual selves. So in esscence, we are mingling our very souls with the person we engage with in a sexual relationship.

I’ll assume you can see how serious an issue that can be. Now, inside a marriage, that is a very good, needful, desired thing. A man and woman SHOULD be “joined at the souls” in a marriage. However, when you have sex with just anyone, whoever currently turns your head, lights your fire, whatever, then you are essentially giving away a piece of yourself…of your very soul.

I’m sure some will disagree with this and that’s fine. That mindset is part of why our society views sex the way it does today. It’s “just sex”, it’s not a joining of two people in the deepest, most holy way two humans can connect. (yes, sex was meant to be holy…didn’t you know?)

Two shall become one
(Christian Soulsmates on Instagram)

I can remember sitting in a room full of 5th-7th graders trying to explain this to them. All you could hear if you walked through the group during free time was talk of who was “dating” who and all that nonsense. I flashed back to my own time during that stage of life. I, too, had had boyfriends back then, however, “going with” or “dating” someone back then had a whole different meaning than it does today or did at the time I taught this class on Wednesday nights. Of course, I didn’t talk directly about sex to them, but tried to explain what it meant for them to invest so fully in another person at such a young age.

I’m pretty sure it all went in one ear and out the other…if it made it into the first ear at all!

It broke my heart to watch them give away bits and pieces of themselves and I felt so powerless to do anything. We had them for an hour every week, if that. Many of them were from broken homes and would only make it to church every so often. They had prime examples at home of how to “date” and what people do to and with each other. I am sure some of them were being abused or at least neglected.

virtuous woman

I determined to teach my own sons differently, and even then, the world came along and scarred them anyway.

But I digress…Let me get back to the adultness of the matter. I’m sure that many of you reading this are thinking, “Well this is too little too late. I’ve already been there, done that.” The age when we are introduced to sexual information and material seems to get younger and younger every year. But take heart. If you find any wisdom in my words, if you couple them with what scripture teaches us about this, but you are already engaging in premarital sex, you CAN stop. You can repent. You can ask God’s forgiveness and start over.

Whether you want to do that is another matter, but it IS possible.

I believe that our sexual selves, our virginity, whatever you want to call it at this stage, is a precious, rare gift. It’s meant to be given to the person you commit your life to in marriage. If you view it as such, it becomes much easier to protect it from the damage of casual sex and relationships.

If you see it as the one and only gift you will have to give to your future spouse, and you realize that each time you “give it” to someone else OR EVEN to the person you will eventuall marry, it will be tarnished, torn and worth much less than it would have been if you’d kept it intact.

Now, if you have already gone down that path, if you are currently involved in the sin of fornication/adultery there is hope. God doesn’t look at our pasts or even our current sins and just throw us away because of that. We can repent, which means to turn away from, whatever it is we are doing that’s against God’s will…whether it’s sexual or otherwise. That’s the defining factor in whether or not we’re serious about being right with the Lord in every area of our lives.
sex-repentance

So, let’s talk about it. You can disagree with me, but let’s keep it civil and respectful. Let’s learn more about how God sets these boundaries for our protection and to give us that life abundant!

Blessings,

G~

harder than I thought

So I have thought for years about writing a book.

There. I said it.
you-have-one-life-set-bigger-goals
Actually, I really did say it out loud in a Bible study at my church several weeks ago. The leader asked us about what we’d do that we had thought about for a long time but just never done for lack of time or courage or whatever.

That was mine. So, after praying on it a bit, a very little bit, I just sat down and started writing. I had over 2000 words by the time I quit that day. After sort of hitting a wall, I quit for about a week and then started again and now there are almost 10,000 words and a lot of wondering, doubting and frustration.

The lady in that Bible study asked me details…she asked if I wanted to write a novel and if i had a title in mind. I answered no the first question and yes to the last.
impossible to possible
I’ve thought that a book about my life, the various medical situations and dealing with a chronic disease and depression might be interesting to some people and that it might help in some way.

Maybe you’ve figured out by now that I’m not really an ambitious person. I tried to be…back in “The Mary Kay Days”…I thought I could be a competitive sales woman. Yeah, I know…it was makeup and there have been MK ladies forever, yada yada.

I’m glad I tried that, but it definitely wasn’t for me. I feel like God probably used that time in my life to stretch me and show me some things about myself. I was so determined to be successful and it was hard and people would lie to you (not necessarily MK people, although some did, but potential customers and such) and I didn’t like the stress that made me feel. But that’s not actually why I quit, although it probably should have been. I had to get an unbelievably painful rash that made it impossible to wear clothes part of the time it hurt so bad. Then during all that, I developed a worse sensitivity to strong odors and chemical scents. Being all up in someone’s business while they are wearing perfume was no longer an option for me. I’ve spent the past year and a half dealing with all these new allergies and sensitivities, getting rid of chemicals in the house and all that. I really feel like that was God’s way of saying, “STOP” with MK. And ultimately, I had no choice.

One thing it did for me was make me have to set goals, which is something I had never done before. Honestly, other than small ‘to-do’ list type stuff, I’ve never set any grand goals in my life. I’d never really been encouraged to and I didn’t know how.

So like I said, this book thing has been in the back of my mind for probably fifteen years. It was like a joke I had with myself. I’d never told ANYONE about the idea because it seemed so ludicrous. So when I had to say it out loud, it kind of made it become a real possibility. I mean, I was sitting in a room with a doctor, a pharmacist, a teacher and writer, and several other women who had careers and families they were juggling. I felt so completely like the one thing that’s “not like the others…one of these things just doesn’t belong” (sorry, I had a Sesame Street flashback there) For me, doing this…
A list of my goals...yeah.
is terrifying. I become paralyzed and my mind goes blank.

But then I think wouldn’t it be encouraging for other people to know that life doesn’t have to end or be miserable when you have diabetes? Wouldn’t it help folks to know you can overcome the depression, even if it sometimes gets the best of you, you can still win? But there are many other things that have happened in my life and all those tend to work their way up through my story.

There’s the hurt and struggle of not being “the favored child” at home. The obvious preference given to my sister over me since we were children. There are the years, three or four of them, when my father’s preacher friend moved his family to our town and his son molested me repeatedly. And I never told anyone. Those are relatively minor things, I guess. I mean, in the big picture they are just a petty brushstroke, but they have made me what I am. They have shaped how I think and feel and how I see myself and others. I just imagine that finding out some of those things after years and years might be hard to take or hurtful.

Then there’s the act of actually putting into words the feelings, the hurt and wounds I carry. The reality of how my family will feel if they ever read my book. Thoughts like, “Do I leave out things that really matter because I might hurt someone’s feelings by telling how they hurt mine?” and “Do these things really even matter now?” go through my mind and now I’m once again stuck.
Should I be the bear or the bunny?
Fear speaks loudly in my mind… like I’m just wasting my time, why would anyone care about what I have to say? Even if I finished the book and by some miracle it was published, what kind of mess would it create with my family if they read it? Is telling MY story worth possibly hurting someone I care about?
analysis-paralysis
Well, no, of course not. But then I think, Should I omit things because someone else might potentially have hurt feelings? Even when it’s true? Even when I’ve actually toned the whole thing down a lot already? When I’ve left out details that would make it sound a lot worse to others?
I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not sure.
Argh! I drive myself crazy with these things!

I’m not sure what I will end up doing. I will keep working on the draft when the mood hits me, I guess, and see how the Lord leads me. He will have to direct me because I am completely stumped. I feel like the book could be so much more than just “how I live with diabetes and depression”…I want it to show the hope that I have in Jesus and to relate how it is ONLY by my faith in Him that I’ve made it this far. I want the book to reflect the life He offers, the peace He gives…but I feel like getting to that “chapter” is oh-so messy.

I just don’t want this to be true of me….
Indecision destroys dreams.

the good old days

That might not be the best title for this post, but I have a lot on my mind and it has to do with trying to “get back” to the way things once were.

Of course, I know “you can’t go back home” and this isn’t about trying to reverse time either physically or emotionally. This is about rebuilding my spiritual self.

WARNING: it’s about to get real up in here…brutal honesty about myself forthcoming.

More than a decade ago, there was a time when I absolutely LOVED spending time reading my Bible. I would get up at least an hour before everyone else to read and pray and journal. I guess that was maybe the second time I ever read all the way through the Bible, beginning to end. But this time, I took notes. I had a couple of notebooks full of thoughts and scriptures and prayers. I don’t remember what spurred me into this wonderful period of just loving my time with the Lord, but it seems like so long ago and I don’t know how to recreate it again.

Something happened. Somewhere along the line, something just happened. I honestly don’t remember what it was. I don’t know if something happened emotionally that sent me into a tailspin or if it was that I got physically sick and fell out of the routine. I just realized one day that, hey, I used to spend a lot of time in The Word…what happened?

I wish I knew. I have been trying, half-heartedly, I admit, for the past couple of years to get back to that place where I loved spending time reading and learning about Jesus.

Our pastor just did an amazing series of classes, four weeks, on how to have a devotional time and how to pray. Seriously, it was awesome. I had such high hopes that it would kick me into action, but it hasn’t seemed to do that. Even though I learned SO much, it just didn’t seem to do whatever it is that I need to reawaken that desire for The Word.

I don’t know about you, but being saved at the tender age of eight in a small Baptist church in the seventies, I didn’t get a discipleship class. I had never even heard of such a thing until my kids were in their teens! Did they not exist back then? Are they something new that just came to be in the past couple decades? Maybe it was because I grew up in a Christian home? Or maybe our little church just didn’t offer them for some reason? I don’t recall any other people having a time of mentoring and “lessons” about how to be a Christian after they were saved. I often wonder now why that wasn’t just a routine. I mean, even when I was part of larger churches, there were no such ‘classes’ for new Christians.

That’s something my pastor spoke about in his prayer/devotional classes. He said he felt like he’d failed for not thinking to do something like these classes sooner. He spoke of a couple who had spent hours each Friday evening years ago with him and his wife, sharing with them the things he was teaching us. What a blessing that must have been!

Maybe that’s the issue with me right now? Maybe, since I’m in a place where, having been “a Christian”, in church, ‘serving the Lord’ for so many decades now, and I’ve honestly just grown cold, satisfied, complacent…maybe that’s why I’m finding it so hard to rekindle my fire? To regain my thirst for Jesus? Maybe if I had had some training or at least some guidelines when I was a brand new Christian, or even a few years later after I was a bit older, maybe then I would be better at this?

As it is, I feel like a failure. I have to MAKE myself sit down and read my Bible and I feel at a loss for anything to write in my journal and praying? I have never been very good at that.

I learned from my pastor some great tips for how to just pray from scripture though…and how to keep a separate prayer journal or list. How to read scripture, aloud, emphasizing a different word each time. Like this: Genesis 1:1 King James Version says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”

And so, you would read this aloud, giving emphasis to a different word in the verse each time. Try it and see how it draws out the meanings and changes what the scripture says to you. (yes, it’s important to do it out loud…I know, it feels weird, but just try it.)

IN the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
In THE beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
In the BEGINNING, God created the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, GOD created the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, God CREATED the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, God created THE heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, God created the HEAVEN and the earth.
In the beginning, God created the heaven AND the earth.
In the beginning, God created the heaven and THE earth.
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the EARTH.

I got so many things out of the classes that are honestly very helpful, but I just don’t seem to be latching onto them or finding any excitement.

He also taught us that doing these things has nothing to do with our feelings. That we should study and pray even when we don’t “feel like it”. So I am trying.

Right now, I have this cool little graphic that I’ve been using. 30 Day Thanksgiving Scripture Writing Plan

Isn’t it awesome? I had never seen or heard of anything like this before. And I’ve started using it, although I sometimes end up doing a couple days’ worth in a sitting, but so far, I’m keeping up with it. I figure if I can’t “feel” the excitement that I used to for God’s word, at least I can write it out each day until I do feel it again.

Is that a good plan? I don’t know. But if you search for “scripture writing plans“, you will find pages like this for each month. I plan to try and keep up with this.

my scripture journal

I just finished writing half of Psalm 136 where every single verse ends with the words “for his mercy endures forever.”

That’s good to know because I sure need it these days. Even if I was enthusiastically devouring scripture, I would still need His mercy every single day.

If you have suggestions or ideas for ways to reignite a hunger for studying God’s word and spending time in prayer, would you share it with me? Let me know if you’ve ever used a writing plan like this or if anything here helped you.

Maybe learning from you or hearing that you are progressing too will help me get back to “the good old days” when I had a deep thirst for God’s word!

I thank you in advance for sharing!

Deuteronomy 31:12“Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:”

why we don’t “do” halloween

First of all, let me say that I am not condemning any of my Christian friends who are posting pictures of their kids dressed up in costumes and preparing to help at their church’s “Fall-Festival/Carnival/Whatever” alternatives for Halloween.

This is just MY opinion and the reasons behind and the way we got to skipping Halloween.

Halloween

My two sons are grown and married now, so this is ancient history. But the subject of Halloween and whether to do or not to do it came up with a good friend who has small children and is facing the same questions I did at this stage, so in light of the season, I thought I’d share with you also.

First, some a-little-more-than-ancient history (we’re talkin’ stone age here) my birthday is the day after Halloween. As you probably already know if you’ve visited here before, I’m also a type 1 diabetic for the past forty-some years. Me and Halloween had issues, okay? We celebrated it when I was a kid growing up in a Christian home. Most often, it was combined with my birthday. I both loved and hated it. Loved the dressing up (I often made up my own costumes, so that’s always fun) but hated collecting a bunch of goodies I couldn’t eat. I was often the very sickest each year because of stinkin’ Halloween/birthday because I could always figure out where the stash was hidden or would overdo it on birthday treats. What can I say? Such was the life of a child with diabetes in the seventies. It was a lot harder to figure how to dose to cover candy and other treats. But I (hugely) digress…

My boys are four years apart. When the youngest was still a toddler, we always dressed them up in very non-scary costumes. I had the crayon, lion, Mickey Mouse and scarecrow costumes from my eldest that my baby son just had to wear, of course. We didn’t think much about the consequences of participating in the traditions. Not only were our babies babies, but my husband and I were babies ourselves, both spiritually and emotionally…and physically for that matter. We just hadn’t put any thought into how we’d handle it when they were older nor what the holiday even meant or represented.

I have seen heated and ugly debates online between Christians about whether or not it was appropriate or whatever to celebrate this holiday and I DO NOT want to do or start that here. PLEASE understand me when I tell you I am not looking for any division to come from this. I just want to offer you, perhaps, another perspective and give you some things to think about.

To begin, let me share the testimony my friend had found on Facebook that started the discussion between us.

A Former Witch’s View on Halloween by Carol Komancki

“I see images of Christians being slaughtered for their faith—- blood everywhere, children- young adults -grown men/women- willing to die rather then deny Christ—— it takes my breath away.
What I don’t understand is when Christians celebrate Halloween, decorate with gory bloody images, put up skeletons and images of death and darkness, without a second thought! And they will argue and debate trying to make it okay and refuse to give up celebrating that nite!
I am an ex witch, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, when I was practicing witchcraft, Halloween was the biggest night of the year for those practicing the occult. People try to say it’s about the candy and fun, it goes way deeper then that!
The roots of this highly pagan holiday remain the same, it’s a night of death -darkness- gore—- and no matter how much you dress it up to make it pretty, no matter how many excuses you make, it’s a night to celebrate Samhein——– the god of the dead!
I don’t recall those who practice paganism coming on Christmas morning to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the Lord of life.
Yet Christians will celebrate the pagan ritual of Halloween —–the god of death and darkness. …..
I don’t care to debate….
You can do whatever you choose —-but it won’t change the truth or the facts!!!!”

I think we all know that the origins of Halloween are not particularly good. As we often do, though, we’ve ‘tamed it down’, we’ve turned what can be dangerous into something cute and fun. We’ve said “It’s just for fun. We’re not playing with a Ouija board or anything, for crying out loud!” I have read many different articles and books about what Halloween means, what it represents and how it is diametrically opposed to all that God represents. As Christians, we serve a RISEN FROM THE DEAD Savior who’s all about LIFE. Halloween is all about death. No matter how much fun dressing up is, how innocent that is on its own, when I do it to participate with Halloween, MY belief is that it ceases to be innocent.
occult

So our experience…once the boys were a little older and we were in the beginning of our homeschooling adventure, we started to discuss what Halloween was and talk about what we, as a Christian family, should do or think about it. We came up with this idea of dressing up as Biblical characters. At the time, I thought, “Sure. That’s a great trade-off. They can “witness” while they trick-or-treat.”

I went to great lengths to create this Goliath suit for my eldest and a shepherd costume for the youngest. The shepherd was easy. We even got a patch of leather and some leather “string” and made an old fashioned sling! For Goliath, I spray painted an old pair of his tennis shoes with silver metallic paint. Made him a breast plate, shield, arm and leg guards out of poster board and painted those too. I then used some of the leather strap to tie them on and drew in the details with a black sharpie. It was pretty awesome looking if I do say so myself! (of course, I can’t locate a photo of it to show you!)

The day finally arrived. Hubby and I headed out with the boys, armed with a couple weeks’ worth of studying the story so they could tell people about who they were and many discussions about why we were approaching Trick-or-Treating this way. They were so anxious for someone to recognize who they were, but no one had a clue. Most of them would ask, as people usually do, but when the boys told them, almost every single person just got a blank look on their faces. No one even knew who David and Goliath were and the one time our eldest tried to explain, the person wasn’t interested. Once he said, “They are people from the Bible who…” the person just sort of cut him off and proceeded to do something else. The youngest didn’t really perceive what had happened, but our big boy? He was certainly disappointed and my heart hurt for him.

Besides this awful experience, there was everyone else’s costumes. Most all of the other ones we saw were gory, monster-y type of costumes. Some of them were really hideous with lots of bloody guts and such. I could tell the boys were a little shocked, if not scared at the sight of them. I felt like it was something we shouldn’t be exposing them to.

I was rethinking my idea of “trade-offs” with Halloween. Later, it came to me that wiccans don’t show up at church for the Christmas play with their Book of Wiccan in hand, ya know? Why were we, as Christians, trying to share Jesus with people on a holiday that has NOTHING to do with our faith? Even if not all of them were celebrating “the true meaning” of Halloween, why were we trying to shine a light in the middle of a holiday with its roots firmly planted in very dark, and yes, fully evil, ideals and origins?

I’m not saying, of course, that we shouldn’t try to shine God’s light when we are in dark situations or places, but should we step into a very dark holiday, to shine it there while we sorta-kinda participate in it? While we play with the fringes of it?

That’s something I contemplated and chewed on for many years, even before this Halloween that I just described to you. After that experience, we just decided as a family that Halloween would be an extra special family-fun night at home. My kids never suffered any ill effects from not going door to door to beg candy while dressed in a costume. *smile*

jesus-pumpkin

For a couple of years, we took part in Halloween alternatives at different churches. I don’t think if I had young children now that we’d do this. The first time we did it, it was actually fairly well-done, and by that I mean that it really didn’t have a lot to do with Halloween at all. However, many people that showed up didn’t really seem to “get” that this was something to do instead of traditional Halloween activities. I DO understand the idea behind churches having these events at all…that it’s an attempt to give church kids and families a way to do fun stuff on a night when most everyone else is taking part in more dark-themed parties and such. But it’s not presented this way for the most part. Now I have also had friends or seen other churches do a “Reformation Day” event, and I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand what that is other than a celebration of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the door of “The Church”. [I’ve linked some words so that you can research more if you want] This is linked primarily to the Catholic and Presbyterian churches. Because I was raised in a different denomination, this event wasn’t emphasized or really taught to me. However, when I have seen photos of one of these events, they were also dressed up, but as historical figures from that era, not as random characters or superheros or monsters. Now, that may not be the usual practice for Reformation Day at churches. This was a congregation made up of mostly homeschool families, so that might have just been unique to them, ya know? ALLLL that to say this:
halloween-alternate
I think IF a church is going to do something like this, it should be markedly different from a Halloween event. And that’s just my opinion because the last time we did this at another church, it was very disappointing to me and confusing to my kids. Don’t host a Halloween alternative event at your church and then have it look exactly like what the world’s doing, right? I mean, that’s how I see it.

Our family’s journey to really rejecting Halloween was sort of meandering and wandering more than anything. It wasn’t some decision we made all of a sudden. And it’s still kind of a fuzzy area, even now that our kids are grown and married. I mean, we still have friends who don’t feel the way we do or maybe haven’t arrived at the place we did after our own journey, ya know? But I believe it is definitely worthy of discussion and civil, loving debate. It’s something that families should talk about and decide where they stand on the topic. What is your opinion and how does it line up with what scripture says? I believe it’s something we should settle within ourselves, within our families if you have young children. The topic is going to confront you…halloween-shouldChristiansRomans 14:5 – “…Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”

love, life & how I don’t deserve either

That title though, right?

I know, I know. Super dramatic. I didn’t mean for it to be, but it’s true. None of us deserve anything good that we have.
stay married
As a Christian, I am grateful to God for everything I have. Even things like diabetes and achy, stiff joints, and headaches. Yeah, even those things.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)
” give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

So okay, I give God all the credit for my life, such as it is. And if it is inferior in any way, that is my own doing. I long to be all that He has planned for me and I know I fail horribly every day.
embrace contentment
I’ve posted about the things going on in my marriage…the physical and emotional struggles that I have faced personally and that my husband and I have overcome together.
long-lasting-marriage
I have been reading lately about the things it takes to make a good marriage, to build a firm foundation for a new marriage, to sustain a strong, lasting marriage.
marriage
I like to think, and at this point in my life I believe, that we DO have a strong marriage. And at thirty years in, I think we can safely say it is a lasting one. I know, I know…longer marriages have ended in the past. But not ours.

After all those years of struggling to stay together, not because of a lack of love, but the inability to be physically close and now…now, we are finally learning how to be a ‘normal’ couple. A couple who isn’t avoiding physical intimacy. A couple who can actually share everything with each other. Now that we’re finally to that point, to realize that God preserved us to this point, I know that He didn’t put us together and preserve us though all this to let us fall apart now.
marriage box
It’s hard to talk to anyone about all this. Even though my therapist at the pelvic health office has been beyond amazing in helping us deal with the physical problems and almost being a ‘counselor’ to help us learn to talk about these things, it’s hard to not have others to talk with, to not really be able to tell anyone about this stuff.

I have spent so much time trying to cover up the fact that there was a problem in our marriage, to hide that there was a void where there should have been deep intimacy. Not joining in conversations and giggly, knowing glances with other wives talking (conservatively!) about loving and being in love with their husbands.

I didn’t understand the way they really desired to physically be with their spouses because for me, that was painful. The fact that it hurt made me want to avoid it at all costs, made me feel like a failure, guilty, damaged and worthless. If I tried to just “grit my teeth” and “bear it” for my husband’s sake, it made him feel bad. It made me feel like I was letting him down. (What husband wants to “make love” to a wife who’s crying and telling him to just hurry?)

Maybe you can see why I have spent most of my adult life in some stage of depression. Sometimes very deep, very dark depression. I wondered for probably those first eight years how long before he’d just leave me. How long before he got sick of it and wanted out? Once when I was desperate enough to actually say as much to him, he let me know he loved me and he didn’t want out of the marriage.
good marriage
I was pretty stunned, but grateful…and then even more depressed. I didn’t deserve him. Later, after nothing had improved and when I got desperate enough again, I told him to go find someone else. As long as no one knew, no…as long as our children never knew (because I just KNEW other people would eventually find out) that he should find someone who could fill that void for him. Someone who wouldn’t wince and cry with pain. Someone he could actually enjoy. But we would stay together for the boys and I wouldn’t begrudge him having another woman who wasn’t damaged like me.

Looking back now, I am SO SO SO thankful to God that he never took me up on that offer. Most any other man would have done it gladly I think. If he had sought physical companionship with someone else, there would have never been any healing between us. We could have never got to the place we are now, where we’re able to be a “regular” married couple, where I could be unafraid of physical contact with the man I love most in the world. This place where we are learning to heal from the last three decades of hurt, confusion, fear and depression.
marriage-on-Christ
God apparently had a plan. If we had “fixed it” our own way, how much we would have destroyed. Much the same way that Sarah and Abraham messed up God’s perfect plan (to make a nation of Abraham’s children…when he and Sarah had reached almost 100 years of age without bearing one single child) [See Genesis 18]

When Sarah chose to not believe God when He told them Sarah herself would give birth, she and Abraham decided to “help” God with Sarah’s idea to give one of her servants to him so she could “give them a child”.

Okay, now if you’re not familiar with Scripture, all this is sounding pretty far out to you. Just trust me that back in the first century, things were a little different. People had servants and polygamy was common. While Abraham just had the one wife, it was common to make concubines of servants. The prevalent reasoning was that large families with lots of sons were necessary to maintain farms and businesses and multiple wives were needed to bear all those children.

I know. Seriously, it sounds so barbaric, doesn’t it? So foreign! But even though it was NOT in God’s plan for men to take more than one wife, as usual, mankind does what it wants and God, in His mercy, works with that.

In this case, if you will read the story, you’ll find that Sarah’s “plan” was “a success”…at least by their standards, and the slave girl, Hagar, bore Abraham a son. However, God’s plan was NOT to create His nation from Hagar’s son, Ishmael, so in a few years, Sarah did indeed bare a son by Abraham. When you read the conflict that came from this tense, at-least-awkward situation and how it has ultimately affected the world, you’ll see that while God will mercifully work through the messes we make when we jack with His plans, He does not wipe out the consequences of the jacked plans.

Our world is today, several thousand years later, paying for the “plans” of Sarah and Abraham. Nevertheless, God remained true to His plan to make Abraham the “father” of His chosen people-nation.

So as I ramble through these thoughts, I am reminded that God doesn’t toss us out with the mess we make of His plan when we think we know better. He wipes off the dirt we wallowed in and sets us back on His path. He brings His plans to fruition, in spite of our meddling and gives us strength to cope with the aftereffects of what we’ve done.
bravest thing I ever did was continue to live when I wanted to die
I’m thankful to Him that my husband and I didn’t mess things up any worse than we did trying to wait for His conclusion in our marriage. We have a lot of healing to do because of our ways of “coping” all these years. How grateful I am that infidelity is not one of the things we have to deal with!

My parting thought for you is this…don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. If God can preserve a marriage like mine, He can save or rebuild yours. If you believe that He is the Almighty, do not discount His power in your marriage!

God’s got a plan. Try to stay out of His way!

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

taking on the taboo

I’ve had a couple of discussions about it in the past couple days. I saw several posts and vlogs about it lately. I know many people who suffer with, from and through it. Heaven knows I have dealt with it enough myself.

So let’s just discuss it. I feel like maybe I’m supposed to speak about it.

Maybe you’ve figured out by now I’m talking about depression. Sadly, even in the 21st century, it’s still a taboo subject. It’s still cause for shame or at least embarrassment in America.

depressed2

I’ve shared here and other places online about my own struggles with depression. I have had discussions publicly and via private message with people about it.

[DISCLAIMER: I’m not dispensing clinical advice to you or recommending you do a particular thing. I am just sharing MY experiences, MY “what works for me”, MY findings while researching the problem. You do what’s best for you, seek professional advice first and BE WELL!]

My motives are pretty simple and very straightforward. I think it’s important for people to be aware of depression…of the signs and symptoms, of the treatments, of the facts that there are many of us who suffer with it and how it would surprise you to find out how many of your friends, family and acquaintances are living with it right now.

First let’s look at what depression actually is and what it isn’t. What I have is referred to as “clinical depression” and it’s what many of the folks who have reached out to me also deal with.

    [NOTE: Please make use of the many links I have put in this post. (the first one is in the previous paragraph!) If you don’t live with depression yourself, at least be educated enough to understand and help those around you who are living with it. I guarantee you there are more than you’d think.]

Clinical depression is that “black cloud” that sticks with you. It’s a “sadness” that you can’t explain or shake. I find that the best way to explain it to those who don’t understand is that I KNOW without a doubt I have MUCH to be thankful for,
I K-N-O-W it. But I can’t make myself be happy. And it’s not that I’m overtly sad or anxious. It’s just an indescribable inertness, if you will. A complete lack of energy, or perhaps an inability, to feel joy.

Depression

If you read all through the link for clinical (or major) depression (and I urge you to!) then you’ll see it lists the symptoms and then states “when it’s not caused by a medical condition or medication” and that’s where I depart from the medical book, as I usually do. (ha) I DO have medical conditions that can cause those symptoms. I even have a chronic disease which makes me much more susceptible to being depressed. (diabetes, to name just one) so I don’t fit “neatly” into a particular diagnosis. Lots of us don’t and that’s okay as long as you have a medical professional who can deal with that.

There are currently several types of depression recognized by the medical community. Some of these you’ve probably heard of, like “clinical depression”, “major depression”, “postpartum depression”, even PMS has its own depression called “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder”! That last link will take you to webmd.com’s list of these with links to more info on each of them. I’m not sure how valid some of these are, but perhaps medicine is just trying to give a name to the things we deal with all the time but never know what to call it. (for instance, on the list is “situational depression”…who on this earth hasn’t experienced that before? I’m not sure the emotions tied to various temporary events deserves a medical diagnosis, but that’s fodder for another post, right?–HA!)

Let me say that I don’t want to “push” depression and make it like so many things these days, cool or in any way desirable or something to be envied. That doesn’t make much sense I guess, but stick with me while I try to explain… Like so many things in our society, people try to put labels on various people and behaviors. Sometimes to make them ‘hip’ or whatever, sometimes to make them seem acceptable. (first thing that comes to mind is how ADD became a buzz-diagnosis so quickly and then, even though it can be a genuine problem for some people, it soon became the go-to excuse for not doing your work, not being dependable or responsible, etc., etc.) I don’t want to do that here. Depression is serious. It can be life-threatening at its worst, debilitating or at its very best, it can make living feel like a burden. So it’s not something to be trifled with in any way. I guess I just don’t want to come across as if I’m just tossing the word around and diminish the real significance of the disease.

Okay, so here, I want to share with you a video by a pastor I’ve met a time or two that I really admire. For one, he’s now an avid cyclist. (Seriously, the man’s a beast on a bike!) For two, he’s an honest-to-goodness Bible-believing man of God who isn’t afraid to speak truth. For three, he’s a loving husband and father and he also suffers from depression. I already like him, but after he posted this video on Facebook, I admired him even more. See for yourself as someone with a position of leadership and somewhat notoriety goes very public with how he struggled with and then overcame the monster that is depression: Pastor Greg Locke on Overcoming Depression

As you might guess, one of the reasons I so love this video is that he says cycling helped with his depression. Of course, not everyone can jump into this the way he did. Since I’ve been watching him for years now, I can tell you that he first got “into” bike riding when he went to the Goodwill and got a bike to ride in a charity ride. From there, apparently, he was hooked. He has since done a 3,000+ mile ride (IN TEN, that’s 10, one-zero, T-E-N DAYS!!) to the Pacific shore and also the Tour Divide, an unsupported mountain bike ride from Canada to Mexico! He’s a beast, I tell you!

I don’t foresee myself ever doing such amazing bike rides, and that’s okay. I have impressed myself enough with the longer rides I have been able to do. I’m just happy to be getting out and being active because before cycling, I was pretty much a couch potato. A long day of errands was about as much activity as this ol’ gal ever got! So, praise God that I have this activity to get me moving and inching toward better health!

Okay, back to the topic at hand. I hope you watched Greg’s video. Part of what was SO encouraging to me was the discovery that someone who seemed so alive, so interactive, so “with it” would have a problem with depression. It was like LIFE-GIVING to realize that he KNEW what it felt like, knew how it felt when someone says to you, “Just snap out of it. Just trust the Lord. Just read your Bible more.” When it was all you could do just to get out of bed in the morning, IF you even did that!

And I guess that’s the most important thing I want to do with this post. I want YOU to know that *I* KNOW. If you never meet another soul who understands depression, know this… you’ve stumbled across this minuscule spot on the web, this unknown web address to this post because God wanted you to know that you are not alone. Let’s face it, that’s the only way you’d have ended up here! Ha!

Maybe, if you happen to know me in real-life or you’ve read other posts here, maybe you never imagined that I have depression. Once you start being open about it, researching and talking to others, you will find that many of us who suffer from chronic clinical depression can be the funniest, goofiest, seemingly-up-beatest (Ha!) people you know. Here’s the thing.. it’s easy to fake it for a few hours. At least most of the time. So don’t assume that someone who’s always cracking jokes and smiling could never understand depression. Often, it’s a way to cope. That doesn’t mean we’re not genuinely funny or goofy, it’s just that that part of us isn’t the strongest during the dark-cloud times and so we relish our time of being able to laugh and make others laugh, because once that’s over, the cloud is back. At least that’s how depression is for me.

Y’know, you’d think that for those of us who cope that way, since it does feel so much better to be with a few people laughing it up we would seek that out, but in reality it finally becomes too hard. It gets to be too much effort to drag myself out to be with people, to even want to be with people. The devil and my own dark place will start to tell me no one really wants to be with me. They will just wonder what’s wrong with me…why am I so pale, why don’t I have any makeup on, why am I not talking as much, etc. Then there’s the whole monologue that goes, “You’d need to shower and fix your hair. You don’t have the energy for that. It’ll be too hard to smile enough or to ‘be your usual self’ and they’ll know something’s wrong. They will think you’re weird or sick or they’ll just wish you hadn’t come. What if it gets too hard to try and you burst out in tears. You can’t let them see you cry, and you’ll probably cry. No, just stay home. It’s easier that way.”

Only a few short months ago, that conversation played routinely in my head. I stopped going to the get-togethers with some of the most dear friends I have. I’m sure they knew something was up, but I couldn’t bring myself to just say, “Hey guys? I’m hurting. I’m in a bad spot. Nothing physical, no one in my family is terminal or has died, I just feel like crud and I can’t smile anymore. Pray for me. Tolerate me if I come around– encourage me to come around because it’s entirely too easy to convince myself not to!!”

I finally just had to come clean with them. Some of the reasons were deeply personal, so it was hard to even speak them out loud. Secrets in my marriage that were decades old, but they had contributed hugely to the massive black hole I was in and at that time, I had decided to confront and seek help for that and it had stirred up all kinds of ugly. It was HARD to tell my closest friends where I was and how bad I was hurting. They still probably don’t entirely understand, but at least they have an idea now and when I say that I’m feeling “dark” and need some prayer, they are on it. They don’t hesitate to check on me and encourage me, to ask questions which are not comfortable, not convenient to ask.

So I guess my next suggestion or bit of advice for you is this…get, find or make yourself some good friends. At least one. They don’t have to be people you talk to every day or even every week. It doesn’t have to be the person you do everything with (when you DO go do something)… It just needs to be someone you can count on to see through your hiding, your coping methods. Someone who will confront you when you have slipped into dark mode.
don't give up
One last thing, there’s something even more taboo than depression and that’s suicide and having suicidal thoughts during a deeply depressed cycle. I won’t lie to you. I have been there. I’ve said before, I’m thankful to have my faith in God because I truly believe that’s the only thing that kept me from attempting to end myself years ago when the idea came to me often.

I now know that a permanent solution to a temporary problem is never the answer. It took growing in my faith and becoming solidly convinced that I am worth something to God and even when I feel I’m not worth anything to anyone, not even myself, I have to trust that God’s got a purpose for me being here. A lot of the lies I tell myself are that my family would be better off, my husband could find someone without my problems, who he wouldn’t have to worry about or care for, take to countless doctors or wake from a dead sleep to feed through a low blood sugar, who wasn’t so self-doubting that I paralyze myself and need him to make the simplest decisions… I think my kids could live without wondering if their mother is crazy, without her words that come out so carelessly unintentionally causing pain to them and the ones they love. Even when those quite loud thoughts are going through my mind every single day repeatedly, I can remind myself that God has a purpose. I don’t have to know what it is because He does. I just have to trust Him.
suicide
That kinda takes the pressure off me. *ha* So if you don’t know Jesus, I urge you to learn about Him and trust Him with your life. He will keep you safe if you will just trust Him. He’s the best friend and ally against depression I can recommend to you. He may not choose to deliver you out of the dark hole, but He will be with you in it and make you strong enough to endure it.

Hebrews 13:5“…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””

tempered

About the first week of May, while we were out of town for Hubby’s conference, lightning must have hit our air conditioner unit. We wouldn’t have realized it was lightning except our son’s renter called to say his central air unit wasn’t working either.

We got a guy to come and look at it. The compressor had been basically fried. Hubby brought up the possibility that it had been caused by lightning and the guy agreed, but wouldn’t put it on the estimate/diagnosis because there was no way to prove it.

It was then a matter of Hubby struggling about whether we should file it with our home owner’s insurance. It was a little infuriating to me. It seemed clearly something we should file! I love my hubby, but he can be super irritating when it comes to things like this because he’ll analyze it to death, worrying over minute things. He asked I don’t know how many of his friends whether they would file it or not. FINALLY, I got it through to him that we pay our premiums to cover damages like this! We filed the claim and set about getting estimates for replacement. The unit was so old it wasn’t feasable to repair the compressor. We had a friend from church come to look it over and got the price. We have a $1000 deductible so we started looking at how we could come up with that amount of money, thinking we could sell our old four-wheeler and get it. We decided that we’d get some more estimates so we could be sure to get as much to cover the replacement as we could. The next estimate we got was almost $2000 over the first estimate. Hubby tried to get a third estimate from the only other heat and air place in town that we hadn’t dealt with before (because the one we’d had install the unit originally did a horrific job, plus sent an incompetent guy to do a repair once) but the guy at that place apparently was just too busy to even give an estimate. It took almost four more days to get back up with the guy only to be told nope, he still didn’t have time to write up a price to install a new unit. (GAH!) He ended up going to the one place we didn’t want to deal with, and they gave an estimate of about a thousand less than the original.

We’d already sent in the first two estimates and since it was beginning to get hot without air, so the guy at the insurance company, wanting to settle quickly, estimated the two, waived the devaluation for the old unit and cut us a check that completely covered the installation of the unit in the first estimate.

God’s so good! However, Hubby had had the friend price an add-on, a duel fuel system that would switch to gas heat when the temps fall to a certain level when the electric heat pump is just not effective. That was going to cost several hundred dollars more, but our friend told us he would go ahead with the duel fuel unit and we could work out the rest of the costs.

That’s scary to me, but we still have the four-wheeler to sell if we need to, but just last night, we were able finally sell my old bicycle after trying for over two months! We got half what we paid for it, so that was great and put us that much closer to having the money to finish paying for this unit!

So now we have our awesome new air conditioner unit up and running. The house is no longer getting up to over 85 degrees during the day while the temps outside soar to over 90, not to mention what that actually FEELS like. I found out quickly that I have grown accustomed to the house being at a higher temperature than any time in the history of me. I have always been naturally a very “hot-natured” person. Back before my thyroid issue was diagnosed, it wasn’t unusual for me to be in a t-shirt in the dead of winter. I was always “too hot” and sweating. It was annoying and I always hated how easily I would feel overheated.

Now, though, I find myself feeling chilled any time we are anywhere besides the house. When they set up the unit, they set the thermostat to about 68 degrees. It wasn’t too long before I was getting chilly and turned it up to 70. Within about 4 hours, the house had been cooled, meaning the very walls and floors, et cetera, were finally cooled down so the house could begin maintaining a comfortable temperature. It wasn’t long before I turned it up to 72, then finally, after a few more adjustments, I got comfortable at 75.

That’s where the thing is set now and unless I just get super-active or exercise or something, I am completely comfortable at that temperature.

It got me to thinking that while my body becoming tempered to be comfortable with higher temperatures, that was exactly how we are with sin.

Look around. I never cease to be shocked when I am out somewhere, at a motel or some office and I see cable TV… because we don’t have cable, the commercials and news and the content of the programs always seems to shock me. The filth that spews from the screen is just sickening. I will venture to check out a new series on Hulu occasionally, and in an episode or two, sometimes within the pilot, I am slapped in the face with some terribly offensive scene, more nudity, more vulgarity, more cursing… the world is constantly allowing more. I used to get so frustrated when watching a decent program and some smutty commercial would come on. Now it’s all just filthy.

And don’t get me wrong, I know sadly, that I compromise far too much and far too often in what I will rationalize to be “okay to watch”. I try to be cautious, but I know I fail hugely.

So I guess it’s even more surprising that I even get shocked. It makes me think, “Gee-oh! If THIS is so shocking and offensive to me, what does God think?? What does He think of what I don’t find so overly shocking and offensive?” Then I get really sad and angry with myself. I know, I KNOW I let Him down much too often. There are times when I am surprised by what some of my friends watch and enjoy on TV, thinking “Oh MY! They watch THAT?” then immediately the Holy Spirit will whisper And what do YOU watch, Geannie? *sob*

So, while my becoming comfortable with the heat in my house during our 6+ weeks without air conditioning was a good thing, when that happens with our minds and hearts and the things offered as entertainment or as ‘normal life’ by the world, it is anything but good.

Be careful to what you allow yourself to become tempered!

Philipians 4:8 KJV“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Proverbs 4:23 NLT“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

a new thing…

Not to the exclusion of the old thing, just in addition to it.

Heart to Heart Too blog.

This blog is a collaboration of the ladies in my Emmaus reunion group, a sort-of small- or accountability group of ladies in the area who have been on an Emmaus walk. There are only about 7 of us who semi-regularly attend. We are stretched out over a large geographic area, so it’s not as easy to get together as it would be if we all lived in the same county, but we are hoping through this blog, we can accomplish several things.

We can express what God’s showing and teaching us, hopefully in a way that will also help others. We can discharge some of our creative writing tendencies or exercise those with the hope of growing them further. And we can keep in touch with each other even when we can’t get together.

Go check it out. I happened to get the honor (or maybe it was a punishment? HAHA!) of being the first to publish a post. It’s harder to write when you have some parameters to meet. Unlike when I just get on here and verbally slobber all over you. *pththt*

I can’t wait to see what the other ladies come up with in the future!

Go. Read. Enjoy. And share!

Exodus 34:27“And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

the true nature of fear

I’ve told this story several times since it first happened. But at this point, it’s been a pretty good while since I’ve even thought about it. But my post about dealing with my bike and the fear I have of using the clips on the road got to me to thinking about this stuff again.

If you’ve read much here at all, you know that my family and I are very active in our local Emmaus community. Since I went on my own walk back in the fall of 2011, I’ve worked almost every walk after that in one way or another. I’ve served in the conference room multiple times and in various capacities, I’ve served in agape a few times and on the dining room team multiple times as well. I’ve also served on the prayer team multiple times.

If you’re unfamiliar with Emmaus, let me explain that it is a 72-hour “retreat” of sorts, but it’s unlike any Christian retreat you’ve ever attended. It’s really hard to explain and some people treat it like a huge secret but it’s really not. It’s just that it’s very hard to put into words exactly what an Emmaus weekend is!

You are put at “table groups” with up to 5 other people (at least for our community, we don’t put more than 6 people at a table) and you stay with this group throughout the weekend except for sleeping. You bunk with people who are NOT at your table, so you get to meet a lot of new folks and make lots of new friends. The purpose of an Emmaus walk is to strengthen your walk with Christ and build your faith and help you become a better church member once you leave. It is interdenominational and separated into walks by gender. Men’s, women’s and then boys and girls for the younger ones down to age 15. You spend the days in what we call the conference room listening to talks on the different aspects of God’s grace, discussing them with your table group and generally having a lot of fun, eating lots of food and usually crying lots of tears. It’s all good, don’t worry. I strongly encourage you to go if you ever have the opportunity to attend a walk.

So, all that aside, it takes a LOT of people to make one of these weekends flow seamlessly. There are tons of people behind the scenes cleaning, setting up rooms, meeting various needs of the attendees AND the other workers, cooking food, setting up the dining room for each meal and serving the meals and praying.

There’s a team of people there just to pray the entire time the walk is going on. And not only that, there’s also a list of people who are NOT on site, people who are praying around the clock at their homes and work for the walk also. The whole thing is bathed in prayer long before the weekend arrives.

The prayer team works in shifts, 3 hours at a time, twice a day per (usually) 2-member team. Those two people go in the designated prayer room where there are bibles, devotional books, and a list of names of all the attendees of the walk and a book for the prayer requests that come in during the weekend. Also, for each speaker that gives a talk in the conference room they come in before their talk and are prayed over, then when they are done giving their talk, they come back to be “prayed out”, to ask God to bless the words they have spoken and to refill their spirit for what they’ve “poured out” during their talk, etc. So you have speakers coming in unless you have the “wee hours” shifts when everyone is sleeping.

It is a huge honor to serve in prayer and I have always grown immensely from my experience on the prayer team.

Once I was asked to serve in prayer on the first-ever women’s prison walk. Yes, Emmaus does modified walks in the prisons. They’re called “RECs” or Residents Encounter Christ. So this was the first one in a women’s prison for our community.

I was very excited to go, but it was in Nashville! We, the prayer team, would serve outside the prison.

Let me explain that the “teams” that work and support the Emmaus walks are people who have previously gone on walks, and at this point, there had probably been about 10 walks since my own and mine was #29, so that was a LOT of people that I’d never met who I might potentially be put on a team with. It’s always fun to work a walk because you get to know new people each time.

So, hopefully for you who are unfamiliar with Emmaus, you can now follow most of what I’m about to tell you. My apologies for this being SO long, but I felt the explanation was necessary for anyone outside the Emmaus community.

FEAR

We were housed in a gigantically huge and century-old church on the outskirts of Nashville. Those who were working directly with the inmates would load up a couple of vans and go in each morning then come out each evening for the supper meal and to sleep. Those of us on the prayer and kitchen teams were at the church for the duration except for the closing ceremony when the inmates would give their testimonies.

So this church… it had been built onto numerous times. It had four levels and scads of rooms and rooms-within-rooms and twisty staircases throughout. At that time, they were doing some renovation in the main sanctuary, which was not that huge but retained much of its original style and frankly, smelled pretty musty. It was a little confusing to understand just what sort of church this was. I mean, for it to have that small a sanctuary when compared to the sheer mass of the rest of the building?? That was sort of odd. We got the feeling that the church had been booming at some past point, but now was in decline as most ALL those many rooms I mentioned were in various states of disuse and disrepair.

All us workers were stationed on the third floor in about 3 different bunk rooms. The church also served to house visiting mission groups and sometimes just church groups passing through to other places as somewhere to sleep for the night as they went elsewhere. So there was a group of teens there when we arrived. We never really even knew they were there most of the time til the night my prayer partner and I were doing our second shift of the day, during the supper hour.

There was a small, dingy room that was designated for prayer and that’s where we would meet. This was in the summer so it was hot and we’d have to run the window AC unit, which was noisy and bothersome. But on this particular night, the second night of our weekend, those kids decided they would take turns running and jumping onto mattresses and sliding down the stairs, which meant all this was going on right outside the prayer room.

Since my PP (Prayer Partner) and I were the only ones of our team up there at the time, I found it a little scary to have this big mob of teens behaving so badly. She stuck her head out a couple times to ask them to please be quiet and was met with some smart remarks and disrespectful looks.

Then we put a sign on the door, “Please be Quiet! Prayer in progress.” all to no avail.

Finally they stopped as our team started coming up from supper a few at a time and we began to get team members coming in with prayer requests for what was going on inside the prison.

One lady, who happens to be blind, came in requesting prayer for a very oppressive spirit to leave the prison and she described as best she could an incident that happened during a very “soul-searching” time in the walk, a time when many people who may not be saved, will realize it and come to a true relationship with Jesus. But she described hearing a noise she had never heard a human being make. It sent chills up my spine.

Later, we got other reports of one particular inmate screaming and writhing on the floor as if possessed. And let me state, we don’t practice exorcism or anything like that, but when there’s demon activity, you pray for God to free that person!! So that’s what had happened and it must have been a really unsettling manifestation.

So we prayed for all the various people that came in and for the situation that had been submitted for prayer and for the inmate who had been, by her own testimony, freed from a demonic spirit.

Soon the next shift came in, another two ladies and we began discussing what had happened and to pray, me and my PP staying to pray with them.

And so it was that the four of us were in that little room praying and most everyone else was asleep. By this time it was a little after midnight.

We began to hear some very loud noises. It was like someone was bouncing a ball on the floor up above, but it wasn’t regular… it was almost like someone wrestling on the floor. It was loud enough that we were all disturbed by it and soon one of us said out loud, “What in the world is that noise!?” My PP and I shared how the group of teens had been making all kinds of racket earlier, so we just assumed it was them in the level above us carrying on.

The only man on the place was the clergy who was serving as spiritual director inside the prison. He was in a room on the floor above us too. One of the ladies from the other shift and I decided to go up there and tell those kids to knock it off since we had people needing their sleep. They all were getting up early so they could be at the prison around 7 am!

So up the little curvy staircase we went and once we got to the top, we were greeted with a couple of wide-open rooms with bare light bulbs illuminating them, and not a soul in sight. We could still hear the noise, but it sounded as if it was coming from somewhere else. There was a short hallway going back down into darkness to our left, and a couple of rooms with closed doors before the hallway started. I didn’t dare open either of those. I was honestly very confused and frightened at this point.

I don’t do “scary” as in ghosts or demons, etc. I will watch a murder mystery movie, but if it involves anything demonic in nature, I normally will not watch it. And so it was really NOT in my nature to have even volunteered to go upstairs in the first place. The lady who had gone up there with me tends to be a somewhat stern personality and besides, she was a good foot taller than me and could have wiped the floor with me if she wanted.

I got concerned when she looked at me with her face full of fear.

We both turned and went back downstairs. The noise had stopped by this time. Just stopped. Nothing at all to be heard.

When we got to the hallway at the bottom of the stairs, we ran into one of the hosts, a college boy who stayed at the church to see to the needs of anyone who was using the bunks. We asked him about the noise and he said he hadn’t heard anything. Then we told him how we’d thought it was probably the teens who were also staying there. He then told us that they had left shortly after the stair-sliding incident.

Now we were thoroughly confused and troubled….and frankly, scared.

We went back into the prayer room to find that the other two ladies thought we’d set those kids straight. When we told them what we’d found, we all become very troubled. I realized then that the lady who’d gone upstairs with me was a younger Christian and was extremely upset with what we’d just experienced. The other lady was an older lady, a mature Christian probably saved longer than me and my PP was probably the intermediate as far as “length of salvation” went.

I only mention that stuff because I began to worry about how this lady was processing the situation. The fear on her face was so real!

Once we got ourselves settled, I mean, if there had not been four of us in there, it would have been easy to say we were just hearing things and dismiss it all. We began to pray again and soon, the same noise began again.

We all looked at each other, all of us feeling fear by then, and totally unsure of what to do. I suggested we go get the clergy from upstairs to come pray with us.

The same lady agreed to go with me again, which was surprising to me. So up the stairs we went again. I really hated to have to wake this man up. I knew all the team who had been in there the past two days were worn out. It’s hard working directly with the people attending walks, whether it’s in a prison or not, so I hated to infringe on his sleep, but we needed some direction in a big way.

I thought my stair-climbing partner might squeeze my hand into pieces before we got back downstairs, but we finally awakened the clergyman and told him what was happening. He told us right there that he hadn’t heard a thing.

We weren’t surprised. Thankfully he didn’t blow us off but agreed to come downstairs. We all gathered around in the prayer room. Maybe once he saw who else had also heard the noise, people mature in faith, he took it more seriously? Or maybe it was simply because he had been front and center when the incident happened in the prison that day. Whatever it was, he prayed the most comforting prayer.

He spoke of the fact that only God had any authority in the earth and that satan (I refuse to capitalize that name! ha!) had no business trying to distract any of the team from their tasks. It made me realize something right then and there.

Fear is NOT an emotion. It is a tool. It is a tactic. satan uses it to distract us from God and from what He wants us to do, see or concentrate on.

The Bible speaks many MANY times about fear and tells us repeatedly to “fear not” “be not afraid” and I believe God means what He says.

I realized that there was major Kingdom work going on in that prison and satan was not happy about it. His only option, since he has no power to thwart God, was to distract God’s people from the task at hand. If he could make us afraid, we would look away from our Lord and toward the fear. Exactly the way Peter did when he became bold enough to step out into the sea to walk to Jesus during the night…

Matthew 14:28-30English Standard Version (ESV)

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[a] he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

When Peter looked at his surroundings and focused on the “could haves” of the situation (he could have drowned, he could have slipped under the waves and drowned, he could have been eaten by sea creatures) he took his eyes off Jesus, Who had the whole situation under His control.

Those other ladies tell me that after the clergy man left, I prayed an amazing prayer. I honestly don’t recall it, and so I say that it was the Holy Spirit praying through me, but I DO recall feeling so bold and so thankful to realize that we had NOT. ONE. THING. to fear. Ever.

One week to the day that I got home from Nashville, I had an accident on our riding lawn mower that left me crippled for several months, required a couple of surgeries including a skin graft. But it taught me, no, it drove home the fact that I’d just learned.

I have NOTHING to fear. If a fire-breathing monster were standing before me, with huge, sharp teeth ready to devour me, I STILL have nothing to be afraid of. It gave me the boldness to claim this truth and just watch God work through my months of recovery. It kept me from shedding a single tear when, in the moments after the accident, as I lay in the back field watching the mower go on without me, looking down to see that my shoe was gone and the blood began pouring from my foot and I felt panic start welling up in me… I could refocus and speak out loud, “you are NOT going to invade my life satan. My God is bigger than you. you will NOT make me afraid!”

The doctors and nurses in the ER who first worked on me wanted to know how long I was passed out. I never was. Not that *I* am strong, but my God sustained me. He kept me from passing out so I could call my son and husband. He is the one who caused me to do something I normally never do… put my phone in my pocket to go mow the yard. He is the One Who caused an old diabetic to heal at an unprecedented speed. It was Him who had me up and wearing shoes and walking months before the doctors predicted.

I learned so much through all these experiences. So I have a whole new take on what fear really is.

It’s not an emotion. It is a tool used to cause us panic, to cause us to take our eyes off what God is doing, off what He wants us to focus on.

Do I still get scared? Of course!! But do I live in fear? Not anymore. Panic and fear still slip up and grip me, but these days, once I recognize it, I speak the name of Jesus over it and I see fear as what it is… a distraction tactic of satan. I see it as a warning that I need to refocus on Jesus.

I hope all this long, rambling story has helped you to rethink what fear is. I hope it will prompt you to do a study of what God has to say about fear in His Word. It is the single most-effective tool the wicked one has and he uses it OFTEN to paralyze God’s children and make them ineffective in the kingdom!

I’m thankful for the lesson I got about fear and I try to keep it fresh in my mind so I don’t let it compromise me. And although I don’t see myself as a great spiritual person by ANY means, I hope that at least my sharing this experience can help others recognize when fear is being used against them and helps them overcome it.

God bless you!!

1 Chronicles 28:20 — “…. “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.”

Search “fear not” in the Bible and see for yourself how important it is!!