STRENGTH

It’s been a minute since I wrote for my blog. Inexcusable, I know, since this blog has been my outlet, how I focus my thoughts and ugh…feelings. It has been the scratch to the itch that builds up in my brain when I need make sense of a situation, and when I need to let something out. I shouldn’t neglect this therapy.

This morning I was inspired by reading a quote by a popular celebrity.

“A strong woman doesn’t just get there because she woke up one day and she was strong. Being strong is earned.” (Kris Jenner)

After some thought, I realized this is so very true! You can start out life being determined, feisty, even fearless as a young person. But not strong. For strength, you gotta go through events in your life and make it out on the other side a bit stronger each time. You keep getting knocked down, and keep getting back up. You pull your shoulders back and realize that they are stronger than before, you got up a little faster this time, and you didn’t cry as long. (Did you even cry at all this time?)

A strong woman never quits a situation required of her, but knows when to walk away from a waste of time and energy.

A strong woman never stops giving of herself when there is a true need, but does so with a guarded heart, for she protects what is hers and what is God’s.

She decides what are words of wisdom to feed her soul, and what is just sentimental fluff posted on social media with no depth, no substance. She only looks to other strong, proven people, knowing you only become that which you surround yourself.

A strong woman knows where her strength comes from. Not just from the resilience built from her past, but from what she feeds her present, and what she hopes for her future.

Yes, there is strength in hope. There is strength in vision. She knows she can attain it because she can see how far she’s come, and her belief in herself and in her God are unshakable.

I look at my 20-yr-old daughter and am proud of her goals and determination. I know some of what lies ahead of her in life – choices, challenges, and outright battles that will sometimes knock her down hard. But she will get back up and earn her strength one day at a time, year by year, decade after decade.

I’ve learned this from others, and she will learn this from me.

Here’s to battle scars. Know when you are right and be steadfast in the truth. Sometimes you’re going to be wrong. Learn from your mistakes and have the guts to ask for forgiveness. Move on, even if you walk alone for a while. And always, always, always keep your eyes ahead and know the best is yet to come!

Guard That Heart!

guard your heart

I read something today that really caught my attention. It said, “When your heart is hungry, it will eat just about anything.”

This made me go into Deep Thought Mode! The phrase was referring to lonely people, men and women alike, who find themselves in relationships that are unhealthy because they find it difficult to be alone. They listen to their heart instead of their head, and decide they would rather put up with a bad situation, and make excuses along the way, just to avoid lonliness.

While I have been in this situation in the past, I can say that those days are behind me. But I still struggle with one aspect of this scenerio – guarding my heart. I was brought up  with the idea that, as a Christian, we are supposed to be open and willing to give of ourselves to others, ready to love and be loved, always willing to take the chance on others because, well, that’s just how our life is supposed to be lived. It’s not about us – it’s about them.

Well, there is a minor problem with this concept, and I have been meditating on some Scriptures that refute this way of thinking.

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

Philippians 4:7 (NIV) “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I’ve been mulling these scriptures over in my mind. The first one tells us to guard our own hearts. But the second one says that the peace of God will guard it for us.

But what about Jeremiah 17:9 that says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” If our heart lies to us, why should we bother to guard it at all? Why does it deserve our attention?

After some thought, I think I’ve figured out why ALL THE ABOVE are necessary for us to absorb. If we are reckless and freely give away love and emotions, no matter how awesome people seem to be, then God is going to allow us to follow our free will and we will face the consequences, good or bad.

But if we actively seek His guidance in relationships and situations, ask Him for wisdom along the way, and be willing to LISTEN to His urging, His Word says the Spirit will keep us in peace and emotionally safe. (Isaiah 26:3)

I haven’t been skilled in this, but I’m working on it. It’s an ongoing process, isn’t it? We love, we fall, we pick ourselves back up, and we learn.

And the reason why we should even bother to guard our deceitful hearts is because of this – If we don’t guard it properly, our heart will not only lie to us and lead us into bad situations, but then it condemns us after we fail! The guilt and condemnation can be enough to destroy an already vulnerable person.

But I’m so thankful I can read I John 3:20 and know, “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our heart, and He knows ALL THINGS.”

KNOW vs FEEL…we know things with our minds, and we feel things with our hearts. Feelings lie! But since God knows all things, He knows how much I want to please Him, even when I flub up! By believing His Word, I KNOW He will never leave nor forsake me, and I can lift my head again and keep going.

The need to guard your heart doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. I have had my heart broken over family, friends, job-related situations, church-related matters, and crushed hopes – all because I ran headlong into situations with an open and trusting heart. I didn’t bother to use wisdom or patience, or I didn’t pray about the situation first and listen for an answer.

It takes practice. But look at it this way, you’re guarding something that should belong to God. Not everybody deserves a place there. You’re His son or daughter – not a door mat!

I pray that I learn to stop, think, and use caution and wisdom when it comes to matters that involve my heart!

I pray that God heals us of our broken hearts.

I pray that we learn to guard our hearts more effectively.

I pray that the journey is more peaceful for us in the future.

The One

I recently heard a certain female Christian speaker give an inspirational testimony on how God had answered her prayer regarding specific traits that she longed for in a future husband. She spoke about how He had ultimately brought them together when she met this man who fulfilled every single one of her many criteria that she had listed to God. She then described, in detail, the 20 or so different specifications she had for her now-husband. Same faith, certain height, steady income, NFL fan, similar taste in music, etc.

Now I know her take-home-point was that God cares about the things we care about, and if we ask, He is faithful to give us the desires of our hearts. I realized, as she listed all the very specific details she wanted in a man, that God must care about her very much to have answered her prayer so precisely.

Yet I confess that I found this part of her message annoying. She had actually requested that her future husband have green eyes. When she finally met this man, he had so many of her criteria that she was thrilled, but it was a dimly lit room, and she disqualified him in her mind because she thought his eyes were brown. It wasn’t until the next day that she saw him again and realized they were indeed green that she realized that he must be her soulmate after all!

After listening to her, I felt a little irritated. I thought, “I would never dismiss somebody based upon their eye color!” Then, for some reason, I made my own list. I felt a little silly at first. I mean, to request things that I would want in a man was to admit that I actually hoped for something that I wasn’t sure I would ever find. But at the end of the night, I had done some soul searching, attempted to tap into a new area of faith, and came up with the following. I can promise you, it does not include his eye color!

If he ever comes along, he will have to meet the following criteria…

  • He will have to love God more than he loves me or anyone or anything else in his life, including himself.
  • He has to have purpose. To exist, rather than to live, is a mindset I want to stay far away from. Goals are as important in life as oxygen, to me.
  • He will see me, value me and protect me AND my emotions. No further explanation necessary…he either gets it or he doesn’t.
  • He will have to understand that I am always a mom, and I will always move heaven and earth for her.
  • He will have to understand that I love my music. He doesn’t have to love it too, but he has to have at least an appreciation for it and won’t tell me to turn it off when it’s obvious that I’m listening to it. I’m unwilling to butt heads with anyone over this.
  • He will have to value hygiene and health, and understand that self worth is mirrored in your appearance.
  • He will never have to be begged to touch, hug, or hold me.
  • He has to have a sense of humor. I need someone who understands why I laugh at the things I do, and be able to make me laugh!
  • He has to be a good communicator, and he won’t get pissy with me when I hold him to this.
  • He won’t behave in ways that he knows are hurtful to me. He will never hold my love for him hostage.
  • He will be honest.
  • He will be able to recognize his faults and actively work on them. If he is done growing as a person at any point in life, then he is not for me.
  • He will recognize when I’m working on my faults, and encourage me along the way.

Love, support, protection, and guidance would summarize My Wish List. I wouldn’t care about eye color, social standing, skin pigmentation, income, height, vehicle, or muscles. I would care about him, us, our life together. Our purpose.

If The One for me exists, I’m confident we will find each other. Or maybe he will just look over and recognize me.

When Healing Came

I know I will struggle to write this blog. It is going to be difficult to put this experience into words because this subject is just so very personal in nature! But one area in my life that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years has been tearing down walls and sharing with others, so I will do my best to be transparent.

Two years ago I started having certain physical symptoms that told me something was not quite right. I ended up at a surgeon’s office to have biopsies, which showed abnormal lesions and tissue that had a moderate risk of turning into cancer, but also had a chance of going away on its own if my immune system was strong enough. My doctor gave me the cure-all option of having a major surgery that would require me to be off work for six weeks. I opted to wait and recheck in six months.

My next biopsy was essentially unchanged. She again offered the surgery, but also supported the decision to wait another six months to recheck. I decided to put my faith to the test, and I again opted to hold off and wait. I can’t explain why, but it just seemed like the right decision.

The next biopsy, now a full year after the first diagnosis, showed the tissue had advanced to high risk, and the lesions were now much larger. My doctor told me at my age it would be less likely that my immune system would beat it, and that surgery was very appropriate. I was devastated and fearful and against having the surgery, and being off work that long was going to be extremely difficult financially. I told my doctor I would let her know. I asked my closest friends and the ladies at church to pray with me. I fasted. In my moments of prayer and meditation, I had a peace about me that everything was going to be ok, but there were other times my anxiety was so elevated I would tremble. I just felt stuck! What was I supposed to do?

I phoned the surgeon and told her I needed another option. She told me about a minor surgery that would remove a lot of tissue and might take away the high risk tissue and allow more time for my immune system to defeat the lesions that were considered lower risk. I jumped on it!

After the procedure, my symptoms increased with a vengeance. It began to wear me down physically, mentally and emotionally. Another six months passed, and it was time for another biopsy. As soon as she entered the room, my surgeon looked at me and said, “You know if this one is abnormal, you really need to have everything taken out!”

When the results were in, we found our plan had worked, somewhat. The high risk tissue was gone, but the lower risk tissue was still there. I opted for one last biopsy in another six months.

A couple months passed, and I found myself having a really bad day dealing with the symptoms, as well as other emotionally challenging conflicts. Me and God had another talk. This time it was just Him and me…Him being the patient Father, and me, being a tired heap on my living room floor, like a crying child about to be punished. “God, I feel so alone! There’s nobody here to help me through this. How am I going to pay my bills if I’m off work for six weeks? Who will take me to the hospital, or back home after discharge? Who will help me get up and around at home? What if I die in surgery? Who will tell my daughter?”

Then the prayer got really pitiful. “Maybe my time is over. Maybe I’ve done everything I’m going to do in life, maybe I’m supposed to have cancer. Lord, give me strength to face this, because I don’t think I can do this anymore!”

Then, it was as if He gave me a little glimpse into what I looked like, saying all those things, with tears streaming down and hair stuck to my face. A quiet “shush” came over me, as I heard Kari Jobe in the background, singing on my playlist, “I Am Not Alone.” I started to tell God I was sorry for freaking out, for doubting that everything was going to be ok. I sat up and blew my nose, wiped my face, and just sat there, meditating. The very next song was, “Thy Will Be Done” by Hillary Scott. Right after that was “Trust In You” by Lauren Daigle. It was a perfect musical lineup for my faith to be increased and my prayer to take a different direction! I started feeling grateful for every good thing in my life, for God’s love, and for every person who had prayed for me. In this gratefulness came such a sweet atmosphere that tears of awe were flowing all over again, as I thanked God out loud for visiting with me that morning.

Then something else incredibly cool happened! As I finally got up and started going about my day, still listening to music and talking to God, a thought was spoken to me as I walked past where I had been praying on the floor earlier. A thought is the best that I can describe it, as it was silent like a thought, but seemed to transpire out of nowhere.

“You know, if you were married, you and I wouldn’t have many mornings together like this.”

I stopped and listened. The thought continued, “This is the first time in your whole life that I’ve had you to Myself.”

It was true. When I had a husband and daughter at home, my days off were always filled with errands and tasks that involved taking care of my family. But these days, I have so much alone time that a lot of my days are filled with inspirational reading and music, and talking to God. At this realization, I went from feeling incredibly sorry for myself, to feeling like the most loved and fortunate woman alive! At that moment, I was so grateful for all my blessings, including my singleness.

The story isn’t over! Later the same week, my symptoms abruptly stopped and I began to feel normal again. The funny thing is, when this happened I wasn’t even surprised! All those times I had prayed in desperation, reaching out to God with fear and anxiety, calling on my confidants to pray for me, I always kinda knew deep down that each of those biopsies was still going to be abnormal, though I had desperately hoped otherwise. Nothing had given me the calm and sense of wellness that I got this time.

Monday was my last biopsy. When the surgeon entered the room, once again she said, “Well, we will give this one last shot. It’s been two years now. If anything is abnormal, we gotta do the surgery.” I agreed.

Three days ago I got the phone call from her. “Christi, I took many samples, remember? I took twice as many as I usually do, and they were deep. I’m looking at the pathology report in front of me, and every single one of them is normal. You don’t have to worry about this anymore!” I was so elated!

I don’t know why everyone isn’t healed. I wish I knew. I don’t know why God didn’t heal me a year ago because I know that He heard each and every prayer. And I bet there are plenty of people who will read this and just shrug it off and claim that my body just overcame it on it’s own. That’s cool, but I know what I experienced that day in the quiet of my home. It was so much more than a physical touch. It was a spiritual connection created from me reaching out in fear, then a decision to trust, and allowing gratefulness to complete the connection.

The photo below hangs on the wall of my doctor’s office. It gave me a little peace every time I saw it. It’s pretty cool to know that no matter what the outcome is, if we put our faith in Him, we’re in His hands.

Thanks for reading my story!

When Healing Comes

Amazing???

I had a morning of wistfulness today. I was scrolling through social media and came across a post that said something along the lines of, “It’s SO AMAZING what I can accomplish since I found someone who believes in me!” For a short while, I got caught up in the mindset of wondering what all I could be capable of, if only I had a strong, supportive “significant other” by my side?

The feeling of melancholy did pass, but not until after I took about 20 minutes to write my feelings down. I know this is probably reminiscent of something Dr. Suess would have written, but still, it’s my blog and I’ll post what I want, even if it makes me feel like wearing a big red and white stripped top hat…

I hear that it’s amazing
what you can do
If you have someone
who believes in you!

I hear that it’s a comfort
(And you live longer too)
If you have someone
who can truly say, “I love you!”

Being an island
has its moments
But two minds with one heart
would go far beyond romance!

Flowers and pretty words
used to light me up inside
But now I’d rather hear silence
than hear lies till I die.

Still, I hear that it’s amazing
when it’s finally right
When love and purpose
is finally in sight.

Although it has been my choice to remain single, and I stand by my ideals of what I want in a soulmate, I confess these moments of sadness when I think about what I don’t have! How utterly human of me! God help me stay strong, remain open to possibilities, and above all else, CONTENT to be right where I am in life…Because sometimes, what I have is pretty amazing too!

(And by the way, this morning I also learned that the word “amazing” is in the top 20 most overused words in our language!)

A Resurrection In Me

Today is Easter Sunday! God’s eternal plan for our souls was unfolded that fateful weekend outside Jerusalem, just as the pages of our lives unfold, one event after another.

So perhaps today it’s appropriate for me to reflect on the timeline of my own life, and recognize that yet another page has been turned. One more step towards the life of love and freedom I should be living, and one more step away from the grave that is my past.

True love is amazing! It just keeps giving, forgiving, and above all, it is an unfailing strength and support to the one who is loved. It never walks away. It is constant, even when love is sometimes undeserved – unlike relationships based upon obligation, infatuation or lust.

I reflect today on instances when I know love has truly been unfailing. Obviously when Jesus was tortured and hung on the cross. When He traveled to Hell itself and squashed death under His foot. When the tomb was opened. And then when I was 10 years old and received His Spirit into my heart and shook like a leaf at how “big” His love felt to my tiny self!

I felt true love envelope me the moment my daughter was born, and it has only grown in her almost 20 years of life! The bond we share is unbreakable and unquestionable. When you’re a mom, giving of yourself doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice – you see a need and instinctively meet it.

I saw true love when my parents were remarried after six years of being divorced. They had quite a past to forgive of each other, but they did and they moved on. They celebrated their 53rd anniversary last year! I see true love in my dad as he faithfully protects my mom, especially after her traumatic brain injury, and I see it in my mom as she cares for him with his cancer diagnosis.

I know that I truly love someone when their welfare is a concern to me, when seeing them makes me light up inside, even if I’m met with a frown, when being there for them feels instinctive, and when failing them feels crushing. When their words of praise gives me a rush of joy, and when they’re still on my mind, even if they’ve been silent.

Today I’m hit with the parallel between all these examples of love I’ve known, and to the love God has shown toward me! He loved me so much that night I was “born” again! He loved me when I was a teen who needed protection when I was hit by a train. (My car was totaled, but I walked away without a scratch). He loved me when I walked away from Him. He loved me when I was sick in my soul and emotionally wounded. He instinctively knew just how I needed healed after the night I tried to take my own life. He loves me when I tell Him my needs and then I watch them be met, time after time. He loves me even when I am silent. According to His word, He is concerned for my welfare, and when I praise Him, it brings Him joy!

Today has been a day of realization for me, another page turned. I’ve known all of this in my mind, in theory, but today it just lit up in my heart!

Single ladies and gentlemen, like me, have you ever asked yourself, “I wonder if this is really love?” I think true love will align with the Resurrection we celebrate today, in that it will perform some sort of resurrection in you. You see a purpose, you see a future, you see a hope that wasn’t there before, and you see it is always there when you reach out for it, even if you don’t deserve it. Through every dark chapter of my life, from childhood until today, true love just keeps pulling me out of the grave and resurrecting me!

And that’s what makes it love.

Single Moments

That’s all they are – just moments. Blips in time. They don’t have to culminate into an entire mindset if you know how to handle them. I’m getting better at it keeping these moments in perspective!

Hands down, the worst moment for me to be single in the wintertime is when I crawl into bed under the cold blankets. Ugh, I so dislike this time of day and season! The windows of my bedroom are drafty, and the midwestern winds howl right on in and put a chill over my covers. Brrr! I long to reach for a warm body lying next to me with the mutual understanding that our needs will be met with a warm embrace and hot kisses! But instead, my toes and heart grow numb from the isolation. Dramatic…I know!

But there is a flip side to this. The best moment for me to be single in the wintertime is just as poignant! It comes after I walk in the door after a long shift, kick off my shoes and peel off my scrubs. It’s when I put on those soft fleece pajamas and wool socks, and then my fuzzy robe over that! My hair comes down in messy waves as I stretch out on the sofa, prop up my feet, and hug my purring cat. No one is giving me “the look” for having an unsexy appearance, and nobody rolls their eyes if I need to shed a few tears about having a bad day. If I want a bowl of cereal for dinner, or decide it’s bedtime at 9 pm, it is my choice alone, with no feelings of guilt or inadequacy.

 

Single Moments of Being Single

There are moments of pure contentment in this girl’s single life, as well as moments of stabbing loneliness. But I have repeatedly decided that this is the life I choose over settling for anything less, just for the sake of having a partner.

Because the moments that make me smile greatly outweigh the moments that make me cry, and I know exactly what I could lose by settling!

Single ladies and men, if you haven’t experienced both the ups and downs of being alone AND being with someone who isn’t the right one, let me encourage you to focus on what you have right now more than what you want, when it comes to a future relationship. I think that’s the only way you can actually grow and then move forward. Appreciate where you are, make YOURSELF ready for the future you want, (what do YOU bring to the table?) and then live in peace knowing if you want it bad enough to work on yourself for it, everything else will work out the way it’s supposed to.

In the meantime, I’m buying an electric blanket!