Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why I Don't Fit In With Religious People

There has been so much controversy over the Pope about his views on the Catholic rules. I'm so angry, hurt and disappointed about how some of my "Christian" friends respond to some of the things like this that come up. Ever since the election last year, I've been flabbergasted that many of my friends have chosen to believe the media, publicity spins and judge these poor people on just what they hear in the media and they don't even know these people and why they believe what they believe. If you weren't Republican you just were plain wrong in their eyes. (Of course what the Republicans said about the poor was totally okay since that candidate was Republican) They have even lost so many friendships over these controversies. Mainly because all they want to view from is a judgmental lens instead of a lens of love.
That poor Pope, I couldn't imagine what it must be like to be him. To have every word criticized by the media and spun to make a controversy. I guess I choose to believe that God knows his heart and that he is reaching people to help them know Jesus and will teach them Jesus' ways as they build a relationship with Him.

The recent words of him saying that, "we must get away from these small minded rules" has been so blown out of proportion. Not one place have I read where the Pope said, "it's okay to sin." But I have frequently read him saying we must love the people and be more concerned over their wounded hearts than the rules that have been set up. I personally take that to mean we must reach out to them with love first and teach them what God's word says about sin as we walk with them on their journey.
Our church frequently reminds us that our church is for unchurched people and if you aren't for reaching the unchurched people then you need to find another church. I honestly don't believe I even fit in with most of the people I even started church with because they do not share the vision of reaching people who are lost and hurting or "unchurched" by loving them where they are and discipling them.

Most of my friends have no idea that I'm Republican, that I'm strongly against abortion, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage and any other sin that God talks about in the Bible and it is because I don't have to preach to anyone that I believe these things, I LIVE these things and let my life do the preaching. I have no problem walking among people who are homosexuals, have had abortions or living in sin because my relationship with Jesus is stronger than their sin and I know the light of Jesus will shine through my life as I reach people.  Don't get me wrong, I do not live life with people who live these kind of lifestyle on a daily basis, I know that I'm a weak human being and that the Bible clearly states, "bad company corrupts good character", but I don't fear or judge their sin. God wasn't surprised by my sin or their sin and lifestyle so why should I be surprised or think I'm too good to reach out to them and love them. The closer I walk among Christian people the more ashamed I become of those who allow religion to reign instead of the Love of Jesus because 15 years ago I took part in and walked among all the sin and darkness I just listed above and I definitely was not a conservative. GASP!!! I wonder how many of my Christian friends would have been my friend then or would even choose to be my friend now, knowing that I was not always a believer or a conservative Republican.

I'm personally hurt by their negativity, their standoffish attitudes and their judgmental ways. I don't hurt for them, I hurt for the person who doesn't know Jesus who may not be reached because they feel they'll be judged before they even are loved.
I hurt because I was that lost soul and I left the church and God at 17 years old, for five dark years, because I was told and shown how horrible my sin was more than I was told how much I was loved by Jesus and his people.
I'm grateful to Jesus that I did not walk into my current church knowing how judgmental some Christians can be, because I would still be lost today. Jesus didn't condemned the hurting first, he only condemned the religious people, he loved those who were lost first and disciplined them second.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Your Life Without Limits-Book Review

Your Life Without Limits is a book that will get you to see life and people around you in a more hopeful way. Nick writes about his life without any arms or legs and the physical limitations that come from it. As you read the book you can definitely sense the selflessness he has for his life. With all his physical limitations, there are many times in the book where he sees other people in need and he believes they need help more than he does. Which you can see when he writes, "My own suffering seems so slight in comparison to the trials endured by so many people I've met." Nick helps you to see you can have hope in ANY circumstance in your life.

If you are a parent or someone who helps people, then this book can be helpful to you. He writes about how his parents continually encouraged him even at the times they did not know he was struggling in his mind and not even wanting to live. He is very transparent about his feelings and thoughts throughout his life and he helps your understand we all deal with issues of self worth or hopelessness throughout our lives. He explains how he got through the dark times with Hope from God and the love and understanding of his parents. He shows how important it is that as parents we need to always encourage and speak life into our children because when he wanted to commit suicide he realized his parents were the ones that were going to be hurt by the decision he made. 

I enjoyed reading how Nick dealt with his physical limitations and how he found hope even when he felt like there was none. I enjoyed the instructional aspect where he shows during the times he didn't have hope and what he would do to combat that. "Offer compassion when you need it. Be a friend when you need friendship. Give hope when you need it most." Nick not only shared his struggles, he shared his solutions which gives the reader hope for him/herself. 

Your Life Without Limits-Living Above Your Circumstances is book is a short, easy and refreshing read and gives practical steps to be hopeful when there seems like there is no hope. Do not confuse it with Life Without Limits-Living a Ridiculously Good Life which Nick goes through his life in more detail.
See below for the the first few pages of the book. 

Your Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic (Chapter 1 Excerpt)

“I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review and was not paid to post a positive review”.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What if Jesus "Unfriended" You?

Generally when there is a Facebook post that makes a bold statement and it says, "copy and repost if you agree", it spreads like wildfire. A few weeks ago, I saw a FB post like that from quite a few of my Christian friends and the post read as follows...

"I really don't like when my Facebook "friends" use vulgar language when posting their
"thoughts". They probably don't realize that my parents, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, religious acquaintances. political associations and clients are also my friends and might associate me with such vulgarity. I will soon commit to un-"friend"ing those who use Facebook to spew filth. Come on people - can't you talk without cussing?!?!?!?"

My thoughts went racing about this post I read from my Christian friends and I asked myself, "If we are Christians, which means we are suppose to be "Christ like", then why would we want to un-"friend" people because they don't say Christian things?" Aren't we called to reach the lost and how do we reach the lost if we don't associate with them? I know it's your FB and you can use it however you like but so can the person you are wanting to un-"friend". You're not hanging out with them on a daily basis or loving what they do, you're networking with them. My atheist, agnostic, gay and other friends may very well get offended by my biblical posts but we both have the right to have our own way of thinking and still be friends.

There was one particular line that really bothered me which said, "They probably don't realize that my parents, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, religious acquaintances. political associations and clients are also my friends and might associate me with such vulgarity."  In case you weren't aware of it, Jesus ate with, associated with, walked with, talked to, washed the feet of, healed, loved and taught sinners. Some who ended up turning away from his love, cursed him to his face, denied him and in the end crucified him. Jesus was "associated" with sinners all over the place in the gospels. What if Jesus would have un-"friended" the prostitute who wiped his feet with her tears, Matthew  who was a tax collector  who later became Jesus' disciple or Peter who denied Jesus and Jesus still used him to build the church .  What if Jesus Unfriended You? Many of us Christians may not post cuss words or vulgar pictures on our statuses but remember these same people that are getting told they will be un-"friended" because of their statuses, see our "real lives" and know if we're actually living up to our own Christian FB status posts.

If you are reading this and you are one of the ones who placed this on your status, I'm in no way trying to condemn you or say that you're wrong, because we all have the right to post whatever we want. My point is to is bring awareness that as Christians, sometimes, unknowingly, our self righteous actions can push people away from Jesus because we make ourselves appear to be better than they are (which we are not) or because they don't think the way we do. If you un-"friend" them how will they ever see the positive and life giving posts you want to share about Jesus and what He has done in your life?  My hope is that you think about how you can reach them before you un-"friend" them.  

P.S. If you don't like the vulgarity of some of your FB friends then Facebook has an option to hide people so you won't have to see the vulgarity. This way instead of un-friending them they'll still be able to see the life giving words you post for them. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

With This Ring I Thee Wed

Today I celebrate the day that 10 years ago I married the most wonderful man that God could have ever created for me. Ironically ten years ago, I was not thinking that I would make it this far in my marriage. I know it sounds crazy that I went into a marriage not believing I would stay married ten years but I did not know what commitment was then. Ten years ago I was a twenty four year old, spoiled, selfish brat who got what I wanted, when I wanted and if what I wanted wasn't given to me, then I took it regardless of who I hurt in the process.

When I said YES to my second marriage, my messed up way of thinking was that we weren't teaching our children right by living together so we just had to do the "right thing" but in my heart I really didn't believe it was going to last. I just thought you said the words With this ring I thee wed, to have and to hold, for richer, for poorer, til death do us part because it was repetitive statement you had to say to make sure the marriage was legal. I didn't really believe that relationships lasted because I had never seen one that had lasted.

We were so foolish that of course we were not without our drama at the beginning of our marriage. When James and I said, "I do", we each had children and brought A LOT of our extra baggage of  negative thinking, family drama, messed up thoughts,  and most of all damaged hearts that trusted no one, not even each other. Neither of us were walking with the Lord at the time but we soon found out we needed Him or we wouldn't survive this marriage. Once we started walking with the Lord I saw all these women who were real about the struggles in their lives and in their marriages but yet somehow they survived and still had great relationships with their husbands AND children. Oh, how I wanted that.

I decided that if those women could have marriages that I only thought happened to "other people" then I could try it and see how that worked for me. Remember how I said, "when I wanted something I went after it, no matter who I hurt in the process", well this time I wasn't going to hurt people I was going to hurt the devil! So I perched myself right up into the lives of those women to learn everything they had to offer. As those women let me into their lives I saw strong godly women with imperfections but with lots of grace, forgiveness and love for their husbands, children and themselves and they all did it with God right in the middle of their lives.

As our marriage grew and James and I saw bondages and generations of junk breaking off of us,  we actually started becoming friends! Which was still kind of strange to me because I just couldn't believe God really wanted me to have a great marriage. I honestly believed that God was gonna punish me by taking James away because of all the horrible things I had done to hurt people in my previous relationships. But the longer I walked with God and I learned about His promises for me, for my marriage and for my family I broke off that negative way of thinking and learned that He wants the greatest for me in all things but I had to continue to rise up and know that I was a new creation in Jesus and that all those old things have passed away. I no longer believe those lies and I'm truly grateful for the love and grace God has shown James and I that has allowed us to create such a strong relationship together.

If you look closely at our wedding rings you can see lots of scratches and imperfections in them and that is because we rarely take them off even when working. I've never asked James why he doesn't take his off when he's working but I rarely take mine off because it's my security in what God has promised me. Even with all it's imperfections, scratches and dents my ring is never ending, it continues on, just like the love God has shown me and James throughout these last ten years. When we got married ten years ago we had no idea of the issues we'd go through with our children, our parents or how close we'd come to death ourselves but I know that because we chose to place God right in the middle of our lives we made it through and will continue to make it through.

I'm honored to be Mrs. James Bertrand Jr. and I look forward to being her for many more years to come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

For Everything There Is A Season But How You See It Is A Choice

Ecclesiastes tells us to everything there is a season. Well sometimes I just don't like that! My mind is fine with it, it's my heart that has the trouble.
Over the last few months there have been super amounts of changes in my life and others around me. I have no doubt that the majority of these changes are God driven. I was great with all the adjustments until just this past week when one of the adjustments hit my heart very hard. Ecclesiastes says there is a time to plant and a time to uproot. The uproot is what I'm having a hard time dealing with. Again, my mind understands that there are seasons to all things but my heart has trouble adjusting to them.
I have a very blessed life now but it has not been without the work of overcoming much pain so of course I never like to deal with pain (as I'm sure many of us don't). Even when the waters are rough I look at the positive side (most of the time) but I'm very tempted to sit and pout in my pain and this time wasn't any different. I've been told that I walk around like nothing is wrong in the world and I ignore the pain and suffering that goes on but I say to those people, "I just choose to not sit in the pain and I choose to use it for God's glory." The key word here is choose. I choose to sit at the feet of Jesus and cry out to him because I know he is the healer of the broken heart and brings order back when there is chaos.
I chose to seek Him for answers this time too and sure enough as I was dealing with this situation God showed up right on time to help my heart start accepting the adjustment. My pastor used the analogy of going to the Chiropractor. When you first go the the Chiropractor and start getting "adjusted" it is more painful sometimes than when you initially went (which I can attest to) but after a few weeks of your spine getting adjusted to being put back in it's right place it begins to feel better. Then he said, "adjustments in our life can be painful at first too but if we see them as a God opportunity we will seize them as a God opportunity." What a great word for me that day! I'm thankful that I chose God and God's people to speak into my life especially during times of adjustment. I don't know what God's going to do during these adjustments but I know it's going to be far greater than what anyone can see.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Leading By Example

Don’t be too concerned that your children don’t listen to you. But be very concerned that they see everything you do.
-Truett Cathy

I often look at my sweet eleven year old son and think, "He's to good, God why did you choose me to be the mother of such and easy child?" Well I don't know the answer to that so I just thank God... A whole lot!

Over the weekend, we took my son to the movies and just like many times before, he an I got into the debate of bringing outside food into the theater. Let me be clear, it's my son who doesn't want to bring the outside food and drinks, but of course he's not the one paying, which I remind him of  each time. 
This time he points to the window where it clearly states, "No outside food or drink permitted." Then below, there's a flier that says the same thing along with, "If you bring outside food or drink you will be asked to leave the theater." So I tell him, "It says asked, not forced and it's not against the law. If I was dieting I can't eat theater food because the have NOTHING that is diet food or if I was diabetic I could not eat there food ether. So what about these types of people? Are they not allowed to enjoy food while they're watching a movie too?" Then these words came out of my eleven year old sons mouth... "Momma, I'm just leading by example." My heart was immediately convicted of my disobedience to the theaters rules and to how I was leading my son.  
I was not committing a great sin by breaking the commandments but I was reminded of the verse that says, "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. 
I often hear quotes, read books about raising children, or hear one of our pastors saying how, "our children don't do as we say but do what we do," and this is a prime example of it. I told my son that I would never bring food into the theater again and thanked him for being a great example to me.
We never know who may be watching, especially those who look to us as examples of Christ. We will never be perfect, but at these times when the Lord pricks my heart with conviction, I ask myself, "What kind of example am I setting as a follower of Christ not just to my family but to everyone around me?" 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Love The Way You Lie

I'm not pro Eminem or Rihanna but I have to admit I find their song, "Love The Way You Lie" very interesting. Every song I've heard by Eminem is about real life experience and lets face it that's why the man, no matter how vulgar, has two top songs on the charts at this moment. But this is not about Eminem or Rihanna, it's the song that gets me thinking about the women who have crossed my path that I've walked with over the years. With the love of Jesus, time, patience, time, grace, forgiveness and some of them lots more time, God has given me the honor of watching many of those women grow and blossom into wonderful godly women, godly wives and godly mothers.

Because I am a fairly (ok...very) strong willed woman who wants to do better than just survive or just get by, there is one huge thing I have not understood through out the process of walking with some of those women. Why is it that women, just like the one in "Love The Way You Lie" , continue to go back into a relationship where she is consistently abused mentally, verbally and physically?

Eminem sings a verse in that song that says...
...Don't you hear sincerity in my voice when I talk?
Told you this is my fault, look me in the eyeball.
Next time I'm p*****d I'll aim my fist at the drywall
Next time there won't be no next time

I apologize even though I know it's lies...

Lies! He's telling her it's lies and his actions show her that it's lies but yet she keeps going back. I know people make mistakes, God's love is full of grace and mercy and people can change yet some of these women go back knowing the men have not changed.

Rhianna sings a part in the song that says...
...Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
Well that's all right because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry

Well that's all right because I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie...

Oddly enough women find comfort and security living with the pain and the hurt and that's why the continue to go back. 

One of my friends has been going back and forth in a very unhealthy marriage that involves an affair, the husband not providing for his family, alcoholism and dealing with the drama of the pregnant girlfriend (from the affair) and even though she loves the Lord, has been through counseling and her and I meet on a regular basis she still wants to try and work it out. I asked her recently, "Why do you want to keep going back when there are no signs of change?" She said, "Because it wasn't suppose to end up like this and I want to do as much as I can to make it work because I made a commitment to God." This is where I lose the understanding. Not that I don't understand why she goes back or her honoring her commitment to God but I guess it's that I don't understand why she does not feel worthy enough and not feel she deserves better for herself? (which I've asked her but haven't gotten a clear answer yet) I'm all for doing everything, short of sin, to make a marriage work but the Bible says that if an affair happens you can say, "Adios." I believe if I was in that situation I would work on my forgiveness, which the Bible also says we must do, but I would do it from my new house with my new life because I want to live my life to it's full potential especially in my marriage, and abuse and/or affairs are not my idea of living to mine or God's full potential for my life. (Thank you Lord for my wonderful husband who loves You so much that you come first in his life and that I'm not in that situation)

I'm not writing this for any woman to feel condemnation for going back to an unhealthy or abusive relationship. I'm writing this because I want to understand why and I want other women to understand why. I was in a relationship, from age 17-21, that didn't start out with physical abuse but before the physical abuse started I took him back multiple times after he cheated. The day I was picked up by my head and thrown across the room by this guy the hard landing must have knocked some sense into me because God showed me my worth and that I deserved better and I left that relationship. I honestly I can't say that I remember why I went back all the times before except for the fact that I was young and had no godly examples in my life then. Thank God for his grace, his mercy and placing some awesome women in my life who have helped me become whole and confident in Christ.
If you are a woman reading this who has been in an unhealthy relationship or is in one currently I would love to hear from you. Because I minister to women on a regular basis I'm always wanting to learn how I can further help them rise up to become the women God has called them to be. Your story may help change someone else's life who stops by to read this or it could help me minister to other women who may never come across this blog, so please share your thoughts, stories and comments.

*** If you are in an emotional, mental or physically abusive relationship there is a way out. Especially if you are in a physically abusive relationship. I have added some links to resources for you to seek help. Also, feel free to leave comments or email me if you need help.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Lord, whatever it takes to reach the lost, I want to do it"

As most of you know I do not have a relationship with my mother and that because of my mother's addictions I basically raised myself since the age of six. I touch a little bit on it here only for the story sake but one day, if the Lord prompts me to, maybe I"ll blog my testimony but today isn't the time for that.

Over the last year God has been bringing our Outreach Ministry to a new level and changing how we serve His people. What we thought Outreach should look like was not what God wanted it to look like. If you've walked with the Lord long enough you know that sometimes how we think things should look and how He wants things to look can be totally different. At the beginning of the year I read the book Servolution which just sparked a whole new outlook on how God wants us to serve others. There is a specific line in the book where pastor Dino Rizzo says, "Whatever it takes to reach the lost", and when I read that I prayed, "Lord, whatever it takes to reach the lost, I want to do it". I was so excited and ready to fan the flame of this new spark God created in me but what I thought reaching the lost looked like and how Jesus wanted me to reach the lost wasn't exactly the same. 
It's my passion to help others and I am privileged to do what God has called me to do, although I work in the ministry I do not live with the people we reach out to nor do I have to travel for hours to work with them and certainly none of them gave birth to me. We listen, pray, counsel with them, we work with them through their situations, teach them how to build better lives and many times we become friends with them but we still leave them, go home to our family each day and in the end it still hits your heart different when it's your immediate family that you are trying to help.

Four years ago we had made a decision as a family that my mother's lifestyle is not appropriate nor safe for our family and had to sever ties with her as a mother and grandmother. Because her and I never had a mother-daughter bond, severing ties with her and working on  forgiveness of the things she has done throughout my life was pretty easy. What is not easy is having to deal with her.

I've spoken to my mother three times in the last three or four years and each time was because of a tragic event like a family death or her being close to her own death because of drug and alcohol overdoses. At the beginning of this summer the same scene was played out. I received a phone call that I'm quite used to receiving and I was told that she was incoherent and due to her choices she was being evicted from the place where she was living. At first I said, "I'm not going, I'm finished with her, she doesn't listen and I can't keep putting my family through this, I've been dealing with her for thirty three years and I'm tired of it"! And the Lord, just like he always does, reminded me of what I prayed for earlier this year, "Lord, whatever it takes to reach the lost, I want to do it", and so began the drama began.

Apparently someone needs to be legally responsible for adults who don't make wise choices and when they're not married that becomes they're children. The law says you can't force a person to go anywhere against their will without a court order so needless to say on a Friday afternoon, it wasn't easy getting her out of the place she was in but after invading peoples homes I'd never met before, dealing with the sheriff, and multiple phone calls we finally got my mother to a hospital. That was just the first day! Then trying to find facilities that would let her stay longer than a week, her getting mad at me because I refused to go back to the house she had been evicted from to get the her three closets full of clothes, her manipulation in the beginning of her detoxification process and the drama that comes with being in a rehab facility was all a bit much for me.

I forgot to mention that where she lives is an hour drive from my house, I'm a wife, a mother, I work in ministry and also work part time for my husband. Needless to say I do not have many minutes to spare to make hour long trips multiple times a week for my mother but again, "Lord, whatever it takes to reach the lost, I want to do it". Until four years ago she always had a husband that dealt with these things. I even had to mentally prepare myself to drop her off at a homeless shelter because we could not find a facility for her. I know you may be wondering why she couldn't come and stay with us but if you have ever dealt with someone who has an addiction problem the way my mother does you know that bringing a person like that into your home is not safe especially if you have children. Fortunately she found a half-way house that would take her for up to year and she seems to be making some progress.

I know with God ALL things are possible but I also know that people have to make choices to turn to him and do what is right. About the age of thirty I quit hoping for a change in my mother. I never quite praying for her but after years and years of lies, manipulations, and being in and out of more rehab facilities than I even knew existed, I just quit hoping for her change and just prayed for a miracle. Over the last few weeks I have been shocked at myself because I find myself wanting to send my mother cards or notes of encouragement each week or pictures of my son. I've even shared with her my blogs on grieving the death of my dad because she is still grieving the death of her own father. Her circumstances are different this time around, she has no home, no husband, no father, and I've asked her brother not to help her as long as I'm working with her because each of these men in her life have always enabled her  manipulation and addiction and ultimately they have contributed to the way she is today so maybe, just maybe without these things in her life this time will be different. I've often wondered why God allows my mother to stay alive when she is only existing but I know that clearly He did not give me to her so she could raise me because she didn't, but maybe God gave her to me for reasons I just don't know yet. I hope the next time I write about her she will have made much better progress.
And yes, I'm still saying, "Lord, whatever it takes to reach the lost, I want to do it".

***As a side note I have to say that I have a great support system around me in dealing with all of this. My husband is my hero. He's walked through a lot help me with my mother and my spiritual family has been so encouraging with their words and prayers and even helping me to find a facility for her. I'm very blessed with the people God has placed in my life. That is why I can say I love life even through the rough times.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

...The Lord is Close to the Brokenhearted- Get Help

This will be my last posting about dealing with the death of my dad for now. I have tons more I would like to deal with but for now I want to move on to other things and as the Lord prompts me too I'll share more about grieving.

Writing about my experience has actually brought some freedom to me and I didn't expect for that to happen. There must be something about the possibility of the whole world knowing about your darkest times that bring a sense of relief.

I remember going into a few stores (even the Christian Book Store) looking for a book on grieving and only found three books! Yet there was no lack of Self Help books about Cooking, Dieting, Biblical Study(not on death or grieving), Computers etc. One out of three of those books brought me straight to God's word for each step of grieving that I dealt with and it brought me great comfort with each chapter. I believe as a family, a community, a church and a nation we do not do enough to help people during their grieving process and I hope that in some way I can help someone else who may come across here and read this. If you are reading this and have dealt with (or avoided) grief please know that your're not alone, your not crazy and that you must talk to people about what you're going through. If you don't feel comfortable going to your pastor's, leaders, family or just don't have anyone you can trust around you then find a grief counselor available in your area. They are trained, most of the time experienced grief themselves and understand what you're going through. And if you are in a church don't feel guilty about going to a grief counselor outside of your church. I went to a grief counselor outside of our church and I felt guilty at first but I spoke to my pastor about it before going and he was absolutely okay with it. You don't have to go to your pastor first but I recommend it if you have a good relationship with them.
Also, grief is not just experienced in death. You can be grieving a divorce, a loss of friendship, loss of job etc.

God, your family, your pastor's and your leaders want you to get better and as long as you're in a safe environment to do so then you need to go. And if you want to, I would be happy to listen and let you cry but when it seems like no one is there to help, God is ALWAYS there. He's the ultimate Healer and Comforter and can do for you what no one else can do.

...The Lord Is Close To The Brokenhearted-Joy

I've been on vacation the last two weeks and doing those dreaded vacation things like cleaning closets, ugh! I came across a drawer I had been avoiding cleaning that had all of my dad's medical supplies in it. I couldn't understand why we hang onto meaningless stuff when our loved one's die. I decided I was going to take it out and get rid of it. I mean it's only been a year and a half now, why haven't I done it? Well, as I pulled out the folder that his nurse had written notes in I realized why it's so hard. With each item I throw or give away it's like another part of my daddy that leaves and another memory that I may forget. I feel like I may not remember him if I get rid of all the stuff but I know this is just another part of the grieving process.

And then I realized how far I had come through this entire year and a half long process (and I'm sure it's not over) and I'm so grateful God never left me because I probably wouldn't be here if I didn't have Him to hang onto.

About five or six months after my dad's death I remember sitting in a Bible study at the Hope Center and my pastor had been doing a study with us on Fruits of the Spirit. This particular week he was teaching on Joy. I was just getting back to "enjoying" life again and this particular subject interested me. He spoke about how when we walk in the Spirit we have Joy regardless of the circumstances in our life. Sitting there listening to my pastor I became scared and nervous because I thought, "I lost my Joy after my daddy's death and I'm struggling to get it back, was I not walking int he Spirit? The day before my daddy died, my life was full of Joy and all of the sudden in an instant it was ripped right out from under me and I"m slowly getting it back I don't want lose it again".

I asked multiple questions during that study because I couldn't grasp why I had lost my Joy. I loved God and did my best to live the way I'm suppose to according to his Word and I thought I walked in the Spirit but apparently I wasn't or I wouldn't have felt this way. (That's just what the devil was trying to make me think differently) I was missing something in that Bible study and I felt more lost than before. A few people tried to explain it and I still felt lost but God is so good because you know you He always has the right answers and when we go to him he shows us exactly what we need.

When I went home and prayed about this situation the Lord brought to my memory the day I came out of the trance like state I was in from my daddy's death. It was a Monday morning two months after my dad had died and I was driving to work and all the sudden I felt myself say, "It feels so good to see the sun out today"! I even tweeted it after I said it because I was so excited. I'm pretty sure that had to be my first non mourning post on Twitter or Facebook since my daddy's death. I felt so good that day and thought finally I see some light in this dark mourning period. On that morning drive to work I reflected back on how I functioned the two months prior and was astonished at how the Lord took care of me.

I don't know if I remember much those first two months but as I looked back that morning I physically could see the Holy Spirit guiding me throughout those first two months. It was like I was standing on the outside watching my body while the Holy Spirit helped me to function each day. In my previous post I wrote that I felt soulless and like my body was a shell just functioning. I believe whole heartedly that the Holy Spirit kept me alive and moving. And I'm not talking in some psycho babble stuff you see on t.v., I'm talking about the One that Jesus said, the Father will send, the One that never leaves us and will remind us of everything that Jesus taught us. That Holy Spirit was with me, He guided me when I couldn't function physically and He reminded me, in my spirit, of everything I was taught prior to my daddy's death and I was able to make it through the darkest period of my life.

So in my prayer time, when the Lord reminded me of that particular day of reflection, I realized that what I had been looking for these months was "happiness" not Joy. Joy had never left me. The Webster's definition for joy is... emotion of great delight or happiness caused bysomething exceptionally good or satisfying... I can tell you that if I had went off of Webster's definition I wouldn't be here to write this so I'm glad that I believe what God's word says about Joy. "For the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10.

The Joy of the Lord was, is and always will be my strength and I don't have to fear I will ever lose it because I never did the first time.