Reflection

At 54, I am happy where I am today and what God is doing at this age, that I could never have imagined for myself, at any time in my life. When my mom was 54, I was only 18. In that year, I graduated high school, got in a marriage that would last 22 years, started my first job that lasted 17 of those years. Wow, I thought I knew it all. I would not change any of it because it brought me where I am today- but I would not want to go back either.

I have been reading about Paul’s life recently and see how God changed his life in a new light. In the beginning, his name was Saul and when God chose to change him, he blinded him. (Acts 9:8-19) I believe God blinded Saul so he could see clearly for the first time. He filled him with the Holy Spirit and then was able to use him for spreading the gospel. God not only changed his name, he changed his heart, his life, and his character. I can relate to Paul in so many ways.

Upon much reflection, I realize; I have seen more, with my eyes closed, in a few short years, with the Holy Spirit, than a lifetime with them seemingly open. My life, my perspective, my heart, and my character have been forever changed, when God filled me with the Holy Spirit. He wrote my new name on a white stone and called me a victor in Christ. Today, I celebrate where I am, with Christ, chosen by God, led by the Holy Spirit for a mission that is still unfolding before my eyes.

I am no longer hiding or running- I have faced my truth head on and lived to tell about it. It is a privilege and an honor to accept God’s mission to share my story with others. I am still learning every day- but as I learn, in turn, I hope to teach others and share the gospel with those He places in my path.

Ears to hear and eyes to see- both are gifts from the Lord. Proverbs 20:12

“…I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” Rev.2:17

Remembering Mom

If Mom were still with us she would have been 90 today! In some way, it is a blessing that she isn’t and that she went when she did. Because unlike circumstances now, we wouldn’t have had the chance to rally around her as a family in her last few days; to sing, laugh, worship, pray and celebrate her life and the sense of humor she had. For that I am forever grateful. I certainly sympathize with those who lost love ones to the virus and didn’t get a chance to say their goodbyes.

In reflection this morning, I was trying to remember what her favorite dessert was. She was fond of all of them so it is hard to pinpoint only one that I would call her favorite. But, the rest of us, we all had our favorites, and what I do remember is her always making them for our special day. For Dad- I believe it was red velvet cake, Barbara would have been the cherry pudding (which was a sweet bread type loaf cake with a homemade cherry sauce); for Butch it was a lemon layer cake with rich lemony goodness between the layers; for David I am pretty sure it was always a simple chocolate cake; Donna would be strawberry shortcake or in later years cotton pickin’ cake; and for me as a child it was carrot cake and later I loved her strawberry/rhubarb cobbler. Speaking of desserts, I sure do miss her green apple dumplings. Nobody made them like hers.

As a child, every year I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and every year she always said the same thing. My gift to her was an ironing board cover- what a lame birthday present. But, hers would always be worn out by the time her birthday came around and she could said she needed it- I don’t seem to have that problem. But, this just re-enforces who she was as a mom, wife and person. Always taking care of others.

Dad, on the other hand, I knew what to get him. At four years old, I gave him a really nice blue, bouncy ball. Every dad needs one of those, right? So he can play with his little girl. What sweet memories. Today, I celebrate with both of them and the peace they now have, together in heaven. Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you! These flowers are for you….

Migration

Elephants have always been very prominent in my life. Even as a child I loved them. Not that I had one for pet or anything. I just thought they were fascinating. I am not completely sure why I was drawn to them, but I was. I let them go for a little while and now they have marched back into my life with exponential meaning.

I sought out some interesting facts about them after I noticed them more often. Did you know the male and female herds do not stay together, for the most part? The female herd is led by the matriarch until she dies. Then her oldest daughter or a sister takes her place at the front of the line.

The older females are known to be full of wisdom and great at leading herds away from potential dangers. In other words, they are mature female leaders of the pack with abundant knowledge on helping the younger elephants survive in the wild.

Their large ears aid them in hearing the call of another elephant from their herd. In fact, they can hear the distress call from over five miles away, as well as any predators that could threaten their young ones.

Aren’t we supposed to do the same thing as mature adult women of Christ? We can lead other women to the truths of God’s word, share our wisdom, experiences and lead our friends, family, and young girls away from potential dangers of this world.

If we could use our own keen sense of hearing on God’s voice and be obedient to His call, we can show up when others need our help and support them through Christian love. The best leaders are those who are servants first, to Christ and then to others by putting their knowledge into action and setting good examples as role models.

I wrote this some time ago, but recently watched the new Disney Nature series on Elephants- I highly recommend it. God’s design and attention to detail is fascinating. In fact, as we search for wholesome things to watch, this Disney series has been a go-to recently; we also watched the series on dolphins and bears.

One common theme I noticed, is that all of them have a migration period. Even butterflies and birds of all kinds, including geese, migrate as well, although I have not watched any documentaries on those yet. Whether it is to find food, warmer temps, safer living quarters…etc. It is in their nature to migrate. They all take their young ones along, teaching them and protecting them along the way. The journey is not always easy. They incur battles and trek through all kinds of treacherous territory on their way to a better place.

Aren’t we also migrating? We are seeking a better place as we migrate towards Heaven. Sometimes our path is treacherous, and we have battles to fight along the way. We teach and protect our young on the journey of life. We have mountains to climb and valleys to go through but there are many meadows, places of rest, playful times as well. We can enjoy the journey knowing where we are headed.

Some of the animals have made the trek before but others trust and follow their leaders. I hope I can lead others on the journey towards Christ…towards something better. This life is temporary- it is not our true home. Let us migrate and enjoy the journey as we all trust and follow the ultimate leader.

“Wherever you go, I will go; where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth 1:16

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously and He will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33

References sited: Thoughtco

https://www.thoughtco.com/10-facts-about-elephants-4134152

Pink Unicorns

It may seem odd that I am writing something called ‘Pink Unicorns’ or that God can use something like that to send me a message, but I am here to tell you that He did and He can use anything that He feels will resonate with the person He is trying to reach.

At a time in my life when I was in a dark place and an abusive relationship, I had a dream that me and the guy I was with at the time were sitting on top of bleachers in an open field. I looked up and, in the distance, I saw three old planes coming into view and they flew over our heads. Next, I saw 3 newer fighter jets and they also flew over us. Then I saw black hawk helicopters and they flew on past.

Last, I saw something white flying towards us, as they got closer, I could see that it was several solid white horses, but they didn’t fly on past. As they begin to land in the distance, I could see the last few were pastel colors; blue, pink and purple. They started to head my direction and as they approached, I saw they were unicorns. They were so beautiful! They came straight up to me. I held out my hand and just as the first one got close enough to touch my hand, I woke up.

At the time it was a beautiful sight, but I didn’t know what it meant. I was in a controlling relationship where I gave in to every command. Now if your abuser/controller has that kind of manipulating power over you, where he is getting everything he desires, do you really think he is going to make you move out? That is exactly what happened to me. At the time it caused pain, heartbreak and confusion. But now, I can see it was God working in my life and causing this person to be so unhappy with the situation that he threw me out; (By the way, that is something I now thank God for every day!)

I had a tendency as a people-pleaser to stay in a bad situation much longer than I should. I was trying everything in my power to make this relationship work. Problem was just that…everything in “my” power.  At the time, I did not have Jesus in my life.

I was sitting in quiet time with the Spirit, reflecting on some dreams. He brought this dream back to the forefront of my memory with an explanation and I saw the image of a pink unicorn.

“Human armies couldn’t have gotten you to leave him. Some will pass you by and not even stop to save you. But I will send My army of white horses for you. They will come in a form you won’t expect or understand at first, but it will be unique and beautiful.”

He was so right about that. I can see now in hindsight how He was working in my life to get me away from this situation. All of this happened just a few short months before my life-changing year.

Funny thing, I started seeing pink unicorns everywhere I went. I thought about my dream and how God saved me. But I didn’t think of writing about it at the time. A few weeks later, I began to see even more pink unicorns and one day I lost count I saw so many. (Not actual live ones…but you know- images in stores on everything. Ha!)

The next morning, during a run I was processing how many I saw the day before and I asked him to reveal to me if there was another message, I needed to receive from them. That is when He gave me this message to write. In my experience, when I don’t get His intention at first, He puts it in front of me again and again until I get the message.

If we pay attention to the things God is trying to tell us, there is always a prominent message in it, and it can bring the type of change that we don’t know we need. We can rely on His promises and know that He will come for us with an army of warriors to bring us home.

How have you seen God work in your life?

A Flower’s Life

Let’s look at the life of a flower and how it reaches the beautiful blooming stage that we all enjoy. Before we plant flowers, we need to cultivate the soil and prepare it to receive the seed for ultimate growth. If the ground is too hard the seed won’t take root.

Seed Stage: Every seed holds a miniature plant inside that needs the right nutrients to begin new growth. Some seeds are still capable of growth after many years if they are properly kept.

Germination: A seed in the earth will need warmth and water in order to grow. Some even need light at this stage. The seed will absorb water to split the outer shell, opening it up to a transformation as it begins to sprout a stem. The tiny root begins to push its way down as it begins to grow. According to an article I read, seeds have different needs; some need to go through a fire in order to sprout while others go through the stomachs of animals.

Growth: When the leaves begin to form, they convert energy from sunlight and water along with other nutrients to use as food. As the root system uses the food to continue to develop, anchoring the plant into the ground and uses root hairs to absorb water and nutrients. The stem is used to reach toward the light as it sends water and food to the roots and leaves. Then the buds begin to develop to later produce the beautiful blooms we so enjoy.

Reproduction: As the bud forms, it has a tiny but complete flower inside it. Over time, the bud opens and blossoms into a mature flower.

Pollination: Flowers depend on insects, birds, animals, wind, and water to carry pollen from flower to flower. Without pollinators, they couldn’t produce more seeds or new plant life. Even flowers that can’t produce their own pollen, rely on and benefit from other plants during the cross-pollination process, resulting in stronger plants.

Spreading Seeds: This is the final stage which is done in many ways. The wind can scatter the seeds, the fur of animals can carry the seeds to other locations, humans, water, etc. But once the seeds fall to the ground, a new plant life cycle begins again.

Consider the God-given design and the little details that take place for a flower to grow, bloom and thrive. Now think about how we are designed. Cultivating the hard ground to prepare it for the seed is like God cultivating our hearts- if it is still a hard and stony heart, the seed won’t take root. It must be rooted in fertile soil and be fed the right messages of His truth to grow to the full potential.

The roots send nutrients up through the stem so it can stand firm to produce the bloom. We also need to be rooted deep in the word to be fed and stand strong against the enemy to produce the kind of fruit that is pleasing to the Creator.

The flower needs the light of the sun to flourish just as we need the light of the Son in our lives. When we bloom where we are planted God can use us no matter where we are if we are standing tall and looking to Him. He provides the living water of the Spirit to nourish us and help us grow to our full potential, into the beautiful bloom He created us to be.

If we surround ourselves with the right pollinators (Christian friends) we can have a better chance of growth. At times in our lives when we are not able to self-pollinate, we have others to lift us up and help us through to the other side. It has been said that we are the average of the friends we hang out with the most. In that case, we need to find friends who are like what we want to become. Otherwise, we will be taken over by weeds and smothered and eventually wilt.

There is a full- complete flower inside all of us waiting to bloom in the light of Christ’s love. Some of us go through the fire to get there, everyone goes through different experiences that lead us to Christ. But it is our life experiences that helps us relate and we can share our story to help others, by spreading the seeds and message to lead others to Christ and ultimately the Kingdom.

Matthew 3:18-32

(Parable of the seeds)

(Reference: https://www.avasflowers.net/the-stages-of-the-flower-life-cycle)

Finding Favor

The Bible defines favor as ‘gracious kindness’; approval from a superior; a special privilege granted. (See also grace)

This has been on my mind a lot lately. What does it mean to have favor with God? Does God’s favor come in material things or in our gifts and talents and how He uses us? I think some people use it incorrectly and assume if someone has been able to purchase nice things, cars and a big house, they have found favor with God. I don’t believe God’s favor comes in the form of material things. He tells us to lay up our treasures in Heaven – not in earthly things.

I believe that the Lord’s favor comes in His perfect timing and not always when we are doing everything right. We always fail to measure up. He does it when it pleases Him. To bring glory to His name. To show others who He is. We know that grace is a gift and we can’t earn it, it’s the same with favor. God bestows His favor on who He chooses.

He saved me from a tragic car accident- not because of who I was but because of who He is. I am who I am today because of Christ and His grace. He uses us to show others who He is and point them to Christ- to glorify His name.

There are times when we are trying to achieve a blessing by our own strength or by the ways of the world, God may have to cripple our self-sufficiency to make us trust Him more. We see this in Genesis when God causes Jacob’s hip to render out of place- then He had to submit to God and trust Him. I feel this was what happened to me with my accident. I had gone as far as I could on my own, trying to control things myself, hold tight to things I needed to let go of. God showed me favor by saving my life but He used this accident to show me He is in control; not me. It took this to jolt me awake and make me pay attention to what He was doing in my life and made me trust Him more.

Noah found favor with the Lord because he walked in close fellowship with God. He is an example of righteousness, obedience, courage and faith. The closer our relationship with God and the more we use what He has given us the more we will receive.

Favor goes hand in hand with blessings, which can look very different depending on the circumstances at the time. Do you think accepting a ride with a stranger in the middle of a bad part of town is a blessing? I didn’t either, actually it was one of my greatest fears at the time. But to the homeless woman I was shadowing, who had a broken foot, it was one of the greatest blessings she had in a long time. We can’t look at what others have or don’t have and say they aren’t blessed or have more things and say they have more favor than us. Each person has his own journey. You never know what led them to where they are today. I came through the fire to get where I am. Not everyone has the same experience or journey but we all have the chance to live close to God and follow Christ. We all have unique gifts and talents to be used to help others and glorify God. So don’t look at your neighbor and think they have it all, I wish I was her. She is already taken. Be you. You do it better than anyone. Let God lead and see where He takes you.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. Luke 12:31 (notes: Life is not measured by how much you own.)

…to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. Luke 19:26

The Truth in a Nutshell

Let’s get straight to the point. God is bigger than ALL of this! Anything to the contrary comes from a place of fear and panic and is nothing but diabolical.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) God has always provided. He will continue to provide and protect His people. This is the same God who shut the mouths of lions. God is not the author of confusion and chaos.

Let us be the calm in the storm. Let us sing praises to His name and be grateful for the little things we usually take for granted. Don’t drink the chaos Kook-aid, ya’ll. (I am pretty sure that is a long, lost proverb.) We can be smart, stay safe and not be fearful.

No matter what happens, God is with us. We can trust Him with the outcome. Share this truth with someone today who might need a word of encouragement in the middle of the storm.

When this is all over, go on that trip you’ve been thinking about for years, take the leap of faith and do that thing God has been nudging you to do, get out and enjoy God’s creation in nature, see other parts of the world…start marking those items off your bucket list. If you don’t have a bucket list, it is an excellent time to make one.

Be kind. Share with others in need. Show love. God’s got this…and us!

By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Hebrews 11:33-34

#ThrowbackThursday

Hidden Treasure

Too much fun not share again…this trip was in 2018.

Tucked away deep in the hills of North Carolina, I found a gem called “Sapphire.”

In and out of down pours, half the day, I traveled the treacherous curvy roads in search of the Brook Trout Inn. Nestled in the side of a mountain, the quaint little inn was friendly and welcoming.

Just like home away from home, they provided all the necessary ingredients and appliances to make yourself some breakfast in a cozy sitting room off from the main lobby.

I chose this location because it was nearby the fly-fishing excursion I had planned for the next day. A guided wade trip on private waters led by Headwater Outfitters.

My helpful guide, Chris, supplied all the necessary equipment including the awesome waders and boots. All I had to do was show up. The weather was a bit threatening with storms the night before. But, the morning of my trip, the sun was breaking through the trees hitting the water with a brilliant glow, as I maneuvered the slippery rocks, with one hand on my guide’s arm, like an usher leading me to my seat at the theatre.

The play was magnificent as the rainbow trout put on a show just for me. What a thrill to set the hook on a 20-inch trout and have it leap out of the water making a big splash as I reeled him in. Once the hook is set, the trick is knowing when to reel and when to let it run with the line while keeping the rod high and bent until Chris swooped him up in the net.

He agreed to one photo before leaping back in the murky waters to warn his friends of my arrival. Looks as though I caused quite a stir, so we moved up stream to find another hiding place.

The trout wasn’t the only hidden treasure I found that day. I saw a blue heron gracefully soaring above the tree line. A dragonfly floated by to say hello just as a mayfly landed on Chris’ arm. As we hiked around the trail to dip back in another area of the river, a swallowtail caught my attention.  

I would have loved to taken photos of the swiftly flowing water crashing over the rocks under the canopy of trees, but I was sort of preoccupied with fishing and not falling, so I didn’t chance taking the camera with me.

What a blessing to be out in nature and experience God’s beauty and creation as I mark another one off the bucket list.

The day before my trip I woke with this in my thoughts: “Search for Me throughout your day like hidden treasure.”

Colorful Communication

I find it fascinating that dragonflies communicate using the vibrant colors of their bodies through infra red and UV spectrum. They also have tiny antennae, so vision is their primary means of navigating and capturing prey. Remarkably, they can rotate their heads nearly 360 degrees, giving them an almost limitless field of view. What a great perspective in a colorful, unique form.

I have always liked rainbows. Their colorful message gives us a great perspective on God’s promises. I can also relate to color in a different way. I think color represents creativity and gifts from the Spirit.

I realized that all my gifts are a form of communication. The way I express my creativity to encourage others in various ways. I think God is equipping me with all forms of communication that honor Him in everything I do and is answering my prayers in profound ways.

How ironic to be given such colorful forms of communication for someone who went from never communicating on one end of the spectrum to being forced to fully communicate every thought on the other end of the spectrum.

Neither of these were a healthy form of communication. I began to pray about it and ask God to help me have healthy communications – I knew there had to be a middle ground in there somewhere. I just needed help figuring it out. I also pray that I never hurt anyone with my words but lift them up, encourage and inspire them.

I believe God has poured out His precious gifts upon me in a delightful, colorful array of communicative expression like I have never experienced before. I am so grateful and want to be a good steward of each one.

The magpie is a colorful bird, related to crows, which uses its voice to express itself in sometimes loud fashion. It encourages us to speak up and be creative with our spoken words.  I believe I have found my voice and am using it to the best of my ability to serve my Heavenly Father.

But there is another expression of communication I am working on- listening. I also pray that I listen to understand and not to respond. That I listen to discern God’s voice. That I listen and respond with courage to be obedient and follow where He leads. Sometimes listening is more important than speaking. I pray God will show me when to speak up and when to listen and give me the right words at the right time to help others in profound, beautiful ways.

When the Spirit reveals something to me it’s like the early morning sky opening to a new day with an elegance beyond words. Brilliant hues of early morning colors revealed in a moment of clarity unlike any other thought or word. An idea so wild and beautiful it could only come from Him. I am in awe of His glory and goodness towards me every single day.

Survivor

As an abuse survivor, I began looking back at my life to see how I got there. I didn’t just wake up one day in an abusive relationship. The layers I am peeling back are a much longer story, but it started with my definition of love being distorted at a very early age. For me, it wasn’t one big thing that happened, as a child, that I can point to that caused me to become that person. It was a million little things. That were just subtle enough to not be perceived as a problem at the time. But overtime, layer upon layer they escalated into the big thing-my darkest moments.

I still couldn’t recognize it- until I was out of it. Looking back- hearing the truth about love- real love, biblical love; God’s love. I began the process of peeling back those layers- digging in and taking a deep dive to figure it all out. I still don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle, but I can see the big picture forming. I know it’s going to all come together someday, but it probably won’t be this side of Heaven. I do know all of Heaven is celebrating with me each time my healing goes a little deeper. I also know the enemy is lurking and attacking me each time I get a little closer, because he knows I am that much closer to helping someone else.

I feel compelled to share what I am learning about the subtleties of abuse, and the red flags, I could only see in hindsight. I share my story to make others aware, to break the generational cycles and repetitive abusive relationships, that will only continue if we don’t shed light on them. I will shout it from the mountaintops if I need to- just to be heard. It’s important to speak up and speak out to help other women who might be experiencing some of the abuse I endured and allowed in the name of love.

Not all abuse is as obvious as a black eye. In my case, the abuse came in the form of control and manipulation. The abuser knows all the right things to say- it’s called ‘grooming’ their prey/victim. They learn all too well how to sweep us off our feet and make us think they are in love with us so they can put us in a position to do anything they ask so we won’t be rejected. This type of emotional and mental abuse can ultimately lead to other forms as well including physical or in my case sexual abuse.

Here are a few of the red flags I experienced:

  • Said ‘I love you’ too early in relationship
  • Overly romantic
  • Verbal criticisms (loss of self-esteem, belittlement, shame)
  • Picked out all my clothes
  • Wanted to know everything about my past and then used the info against me
  • Said if I loved him, I would do anything for him
  • Isolation from friends/family

This is not a complete list- if you are interested in learning more about the red flags and read more about my experience – you can request a free copy of my e-book, From Victim to Victor- recognizing the red flags of abuse.

For me, a big key to my healing has been validation. I blamed myself for so long- but it is never the victims’ fault. I hope something I said shined a light on other forms of abuse- awareness and recognition are important to help break the chains.  If you resonate with any of these signs in a past or current relationship, please seek a counselor or other professional for help.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. I Corinthians 13:4-5