Sunday, November 14, 2010

Leah's God Story



This is the outline I used in church today as I shared my God story. Rather than give the long detailed soap opera version, I prayed and felt led to give some minor background information and then share what's changed the most for me in the last few years. I hope to share more details soon. This is the first time I've shared even a portion of my story in public.

I am the oldest daughter to a single mom of 3. During my childhood I was physically abused by a baby sitter and sexually abused as well. I grew up with some odd thought processes that helped shape me to become promiscuous as I searched for love and acceptance. Of course you don’t find love or acceptance in relationships like that but I couldn’t see that. All I could see was if I did whatever someone wanted me to do they’d love me and be there for me. That didn’t work with friends or in relationships. When things would fall apart I’d do something foolish, get depressed or even get arrested for incredibly stupid things many of which were done to get attention.


In 1995 I became a Christian. I did truly fall in love with God but I was 27 at that point. I had a lot of learned behavior to unlearn and to be honest I did a poor job of it. At the church I was going to then I felt as if I were being taught that once you become a Christian everything tends to come together afterwards. That’s not really what happens. God is certainly with you every step of the way but there are still consequences to past actions, still things to work on and you still have your past behaviors to work through. On top of that I remember being really zealous and excited and sharing my story in a variety of places and seeing a lot of people shocked and doors even shut. Since a lot of my issues have always been with relationships this destroyed with me. I remember making a conscious decision shut off. I decided it would be easier to just be me and Brian and eventually our family then deal with the people around me.

Life went on. We struggled to get pregnant and then when I did I was on bedrest – a very lonely bedrest – for 14 weeks. Then our beautiful Salem - our surviving triplet - was born. She consumed my life and I never really realized how lonely I was or what was missing until I was pregnant with Raina. At that point I had a couple of girl friends but I was truly terrified for them to know about my past. I prejudged based on others responses and worried so much about what they would think that I could never relax and just be. I always felt completely guarded around them. In the fall of 2008 my walls started crumbling. I did have a wonderful husband and children but my life lacked relationships. My walls even effected my relationships with my husband and children. I wanted to be a loving wife and mom but often I felt tired and drained. Basically I just felt empty. How can you pour into someone’s life if you’re empty?

I was at a breaking point and knew something needed to change but had no clue how to do that. I struggled through prayer and bible study and eventually decided to reach out to a Christian therapist. That was the first healthy step I took. It took a while but he got through to me on the importance of needing healthy peer relationships with other women in my life. At this point I really distrusted most women. Yet I also wanted to be able to trust friends with my past so I didn’t have to tip toe around it. My therapist helped me work through that and challenged me to tell a few people. After a lot of arguing with God (God won of course), I did tell a few people general details and received positive feedback. But the first person I really broke down and shared my complete story to was a friend named Tammy. She completely encouraged me and love me through it all. Throughout the next year I did try to make new friendships that never really went anywhere. This is natural. Sometimes friendships are meant to be and sometimes they aren't. At times that made me want to crawl back into my shell. But I was encouraged to keep trying.

This past year winter and early spring I was seriously ill. I was in the hospital for 8 days and at home with home health taking care of me for 8 weeks. That loneliness seemed to set in again but I realized this time the loneliness wasn’t real – it was a trick of the enemy. I had people who loved me and cared about me. They brought me lunch or treats, they helped me feed my family, clean my home and take care of my children. I had the relationships I needed but realized I needed to do more on my part to cultivate them.

You can plant beautiful flowers in a garden but if you don’t water them or pull the weeds they die. There is even a gardening process called dead-heading. Basically when a flower blooms and then dies and you have to pull off the dead head so it will bloom something new and beautiful. That’s what I had to do. I had to dead-head the unfruitful and unhealthy relationships in my life and tend and cultivate healthy ones.

I am constantly reminded by God that life was made for love and community. We can do this life on our own but it’s not the plan and it’s not healthy or wise and we won’t be living the life God created us for. We can also live this life with unhealthy relationships. Those need to be dead-headed. They are even more destructive than being alone. God wants to bless us and speak to us and sometimes he uses his word, sometimes a preacher, sometimes a podcast or a random act of kindness but sometimes he uses people closest to us. Relationships are necessary. Since I got well this Spring I have really worked on that and God has blessed me with friends like Rebecca who welcomed me and family into her home and that taught us the importance of family relationships. Our families studied and fellow-shipped together all summer. It was a huge blessing for me. When it ended I wasn’t sure what would happen but our friendship carried on and we have made new family friends – The Emery’s and The Dodds. My life is full with friends and I believe it was God's plan for me and my family all along. I know our lives are busy and sometimes our schedules do not lend to spending a lot of time together, but I do know that I could call Rebecca or Tammy or Amelia or Heather or their spouses and they would be there for us in a second as well as Allison or Joann or my family. It's wonderful to have a wide support network. I can't do this life on my own and thankfully that was never God's plan. Even long distance friends can support me with love and prayers.

I believe our salvation is holistic. We come to God completely broken and alone. Sometimes even though we have Jesus in our heart we have a lot of issues to work through and sometimes in Christian culture that’s become taboo. It’s as if the thinking is if we’re saved and going to heaven why on earth would we need anything else? I do believe going to heaven is the glorious reward to serving Christ in this life. But there is SO much more that God wants for us and there is nothing wrong in reaching out for help whether it be via a recovery group, a Christian therapist or your pastor.

We are all in this life together. The simple thing is God uses everything around us to grow us and prune us - to dead head what needs to be removed. It's a holistic endeavor meaning it encompasses our entire being - physical, spiritual and emotional.

Friday, July 9, 2010

One Size Fits All

As I've struggled on this journey to try and figure out where I am in this world, what my calling is and how to fulfill that calling through a balance of solitude and community, I've realized something. Our world seems to have a one size fits all mentality - especially about relationships. Women in particular it seems.

We all want to be like the mom who has the perfect house, the perfect kids, the perfect physical appearance...but what is she like down inside? Is she perfected by the perfectness? Perhaps she is. Some are I am sure but I would guess that the majority would have some sort of "what else" question in their hearts. As moms how many of us feel the need to do it perfect...To do what's popular even if it goes against our discernment...To do what everyone else is doing. Yet we try to teach our children the dangers of following the "in crowd".

I think that's where my struggle comes in. I am not a go with the crowd person. I can be opinionated even though I've learned to temper it. As a mom, I did things like extended nursing and cloth diapers in a crowd where it wasn't so mainstream. I was never really labeled a hippy but I often felt like my "mothering" didn't quite fit. And perhaps I put some of that not fitting in on myself but I know none of my friends were quite as excited about my newest cloth diaper or the fact that I finally night weaned at 16 months.

As a homemaker, my house is seldom spotless. It's picked up (usually) and certainly not filthy but there are crumbs on my floor and usually a few dishes in the sink until I load the dishwasher at night. Toys laying out usually doesn't stress me out until someone comes over. And on laundry day(s) there is usually laundry on the floor of my kitchen as I don't have a separate laundry room. I've even been known to put all my clothes on my dining room table as I wait for that perfect time to fold them. (By the way that perfect time NEVER comes. I need to just do it and get it out of the way.) I love going into some one's perfectly put together house. I feel at peace. But honestly I am at peace in my home - unless someone unexpectedly shows up. Then I'm not quite so okay being myself around others. I think that stems from trying to be the mom or homemaker the world thinks I should be (other moms and women especially). I put most of those expectations on myself, but where did I learn to do that?

As a friend I do think I am more go with the flow. This is where I am more purposeful to try to fit into the one size all option. Like a square peg in a round hole I try to perfect my personality to fit in with others. If they like going to play dates at a certain place I do it as well even though I HATE it rather than suggest we occasionally do something different. If they call me for lunch I will change my schedule to accommodate rather than suggest an alternative date unless it's something I cannot change. Lately I've realized I just don't like that one size all. I would rather go to the gym everyday and not miss a class to go somewhere for an hour in the hopes that I might really click with this person and have a sustainable friendship. I would want to go to lunch but would rather not give up a class that I love. I'd rather say - hey can we try Chick Fil A this week (since we went to McDonald's the last three?). I'd rather have friends who don't judge me by my messy home or scattered desk. I am actually quite put together and accomplished most days with my multi-tasking abilities. You just can't tell by the look of my desk or home even though that's something I desperately want to work on.

Why do I find the need to fit into a one size fits all society whether it be via parenting or friendships or Christian service or even my relationship with God? I am an individuals. Thus perhaps we should bridge that individuality through community but not lose that individuality. But in a desire to fit in we often do lose ourselves. And most of the time we aren't told to do something or not do something. We often put that on ourselves. Why why why? How can we stop this? How can we bridge this gap or actually forge a new road? To be honest I have no clue. Did you expect some glorious epiphany? I'm not the one with all the answers. I am looking for answers and I'd love some feedback.

I do think when you forge a new road it can be a lonely journey at times. Sometimes those closest to us don't understand. But lately I've already heard from women who feel similarly as me, so I don't feel quite so at odds with myself in this world. Their circumstances might be different but our feelings are similar.

Where do we go from here?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Not So Alone

I've had a lot of time to think today and have strongly realized how I am truly not alone. I feel the spirit of God with me most days in strong tangible ways. I have beautiful children that I spend most of my days with and to be honest even though I have hard moments with them most of my days with them aren't hard. Thus I am really not alone either physically or spiritually. For the most part if I really needed someone I could find someone. Knowing this doesn't erase those intense feelings of loneliness that seem to suffocate me at times or make me less envious of those that seem to have beautiful relationships outside their spouse and family. But it does help.

And the more I think about this the more I think that there are other women out there like me who, for whatever reason, don't click well with friends and wonder what's wrong with them and their relationships as well. I think it's far more common than most people realize. Women are mysterious creatures. We want the world to believe we have it all together when really we don't. We set ourselves up for failure from the start. We want to be the perfect wife, mother and homemaker. We want the world to think we have it together and don't need help, even when we're drowning and need help the most. I think some women have attained that balance of relationships and when to reach out for help without drowning others in the process (i.e. being too needy). But the more I think about this the more I think women are scared to reach out. We're scared to be real.

I remember something else Ty asked me on Monday. He said if all this were for one purpose what would it be? I said to help someone not be so alone in going through something painful. But in order to do that I must experience it. That's the not so glorious side of it.

I am a great motivator. I love to plan and encourage and educate and help others. And in those strengths I think I am reaching out to others to motivate and encourage and help me in return. But it's a silent outreach. By being motivating and encouraging I hope to be motivated and encouraged in return yet I never verbalize that. But sometimes you just need to tell people what you need. That's what I am going to work on this week.

In the last 24 hours I made a great advance towards this. I emailed two new friends a large portion of my "God Story" and I found that there are women out there who struggle the way I do and I am having lunch with someone with a similar struggle as mine next week.

I am very thankful God led me to blog so openly. It was so very hard to do at first but not only is it developing me spiritually it's helping me reach out when I really do not have the words to do so.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Being Alone

I sat in therapy yesterday emotionally spent. And of course I cried. I always do, even though I still don't want to even after 19 months of therapy. As I knew he would, Ty said - you know this is a safe place to cry, why are you trying not too? And I do know it's safe there. Of all places I can let go, I can let go there. I know Ty prays for me and he helps me in therapy through the Holy Spirit. I know it's safe. Yet it's still hard. Even though this process has been long and hard it's been healing, but I am somewhat tired of it all.

I talked about my loneliness and need for friendship and how I felt my friends were closing out of my life due to moves and other circumstances. I felt as if a part of me was back where I started in the friendship department. I do know a lot of people. I have a lot of social connections. But I have very few deep friendships and have found them hard to maintain especially when life changes and people move or our life circumstances change. I have often looked at other women and I perceive that their relationships with one another are easy to maintain but mine are not. Ty reminded me not to judge that. What I see on the outside is never everything. I am still slightly envious of the relationships I see others have with the same sex. I still feel somewhat alone in this area.

As we continued to discuss this we talked about how lonely I felt and then Ty led me through a visualization that really helped me differentiate between loneliness and being alone.

As I closed my eyes and found a safe spot to visualize and we continued through the exercise, I felt the presence of the holy spirit almost lay completely on me. It was heavy yet peaceful. In the past I may have fought it feeling as if I were suffocating but the heavy presence was healing. As I felt him laying upon me, I was reminded that it's okay to be alone.

Perhaps that is what I have been missing in my solitude journey. The realization that I will be okay if I do not develop those deep and lasting relationships. It might not be perfect or exactly what I want, but being alone isn't the same as being lonely. I just have to learn to be at peace in my solitude and realize ultimately I am never alone.

The presence of the holy spirit comforted me and while the exercise itself was short I walked away from this session realizing how sweet the presence of God truly is.

I am reminded of the scripture in Hebrews 11:1. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen". I cannot see God but I felt him. He sustains me in this journey. I feel alone but my faith reminds me I am never truly alone.

It's okay to be alone...
In my "aloneness" I turn to God...
Through that submissive turn I see God, I submit to God, I am healed by God...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Change

Anyone who knows me knows I am resistant to change. Even good change. It's borderline ridiculous at times. Most of the time change is good. We evolve, we grow, we move forward. Yet I still resist. I like routine and structure and knowing what's going to happen. I like having the same thing for breakfast, knowing what the girls and I are going to do that day and having weekend plans scheduled in advance. I am not very spontaneous and that coupled with change can be stressful for me.

For instance today seemed to punctuate the change in my life this year. This time last year I spent the 4th with my closest friends and their families, 2 of whom moved shortly there after and the other who is moving soon. It actually was a nice day but it was somewhat stressful. As I tried to be the good hostess and be helpful and fun I couldn't help but be a tad sad. It rained almost all day. The friends who were here last year weren't here this year except for one friend's husband who recently returned from Afghanistan. He is moving soon to reunite with his family and change bases. So today may be the last day we see him. I was very glad he was here, but being here did emphasis how different from last year it was.

By the end of the day, everyone else had said their goodbyes and a picture had been taken. I waited til the room cleared out and said my goodbye, got my hug and then unexpectedly he said very sweet words to me. He said he could see the changes in me - not just the obvious physical ones but the emotional as well. At that moment I was so incredibly thankful that someone took a moment to share that they had noticed. It wasn't a long drawn out thing - just an acknowledgement. I needed it. I've been so tired emotionally the past 6 weeks. It blessed me beyond measure.

He left and I stayed in the kitchen for a bit. I didn't want to cry. Ty would ask why not cry and to be honest I am tired of crying. I don't want to stuff it all in but I am tired of my emotions. And on top of that there were just too many people around and I just didn't want to deal with it. Now at 11 at night with the family asleep it's easier to give in and be sad and yes cry.

But if I am completely honest, I am tired of facing my emotions, feeling them and embracing them etc. In the end I will be thankful for the healing change they bring. Perhaps even tomorrow I will be thankful. But for right now I am tired. I am also tired of therapy and self-discovery and continually feeling as if I am trudging uphill in this battle towards spiritual and emotional healing and well being.

A part of me wants a hiatus from all this change. I want to curl up in my bed with a book, the remote control and my phone so I can text and play Words with Friends rather than drive to Lubbock tomorrow to see Ty. Earlier today I couldn't wait for tomorrow and now I dread going. But tomorrow is a new day so I will go to sleep tonight meditating on that thought and praying for God's best.

Side Note: I shared my story with one person (very edited but still)...And I emailed someone about scheduling a Sozo. That is positive change.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Today's Gonna Be A Good Day...

I woke up with the Black Eyed Pea's song - It's Gonna Be A Good Night (or whatever it's called) on my mind. So I changed it and have been singing...

I got a feeling
...today's gonna be a good day
...today's gonna be a good day
...today's gonna be a good good day

It's hard to sing that and be sad. It's silly but something so simple has cheered me up immensely. Life is still stressful. My problems haven't magically resolved, my feelings are still hurt and I'm still lonely. But it's a beautiful day.

I am blessed and have decided to concentrate on what I am good at.

  • I am faithful to those I love. I love very well.
  • I am tender-hearted. This is both a fault and a strength. Most weaknesses can be strengths if you channel them correctly.
  • I work out HARD. :) I may not be the best at it but you can't beat my determination.
  • I have faith that things will get better.
  • My loneliness encourages me to strive forward to find the right friendship. God has made me for community. He encourages me continually in this area. I just need to not give up.
Today's gonna be a good day. Thank you Lord.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nothing is Impossible

Courage doesn't always roar, sometimes it's the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying I will try again tomorrow.

I saw the above quote on a friend's facebook page tonight and it really hit me hard. The past two weeks have been very hard. I have felt quite defeated and very alone. At times I feel as if it doesn't matter what I do - it's two steps forward one step back. No matter what gains I make, the losses seem to outweigh the wins. It's completely tiring.

I've been really struggling to understand where I am at. My trainer asked me today if I realized how strong I was. I had to be honest and say not usually. I am catching glimpses of how strong I am getting physically. I have range of motion back in my arm, my nerve damage feels less noticeable when I am working out and I am loving my Art of Strength training. But emotionally I still feel broken and unusable. I feel as if I am that ugly broken pitcher that's been put back together with glue but not one wants to use it but they also don't want to get rid of it. I am just there. It's an odd word picture but I continually see myself as that broken pitcher. The scars will always be there. Some days they literally do not bother me. Today they do.

But the author of the above quote is right. I am strong physically and emotionally and spiritually. I will make it. Nothing is impossible. Even if my goal seems so very far away and barely visible a times, it's still there reminding me where I need to get to. In the distance yes - but still visible, thus attainable. I didn't make it today but I will try again tomorrow.

Thank you Lord for another chance tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Story of Me

Salem constantly asks us to tell her her baby story. So Brian tells her about being conceived and sharing space in mommy's tummy with Angel and Brynna. Her face just lights up when he tells the story. I thought this would eventually segue into a sex talk but she's almost 8 and has never asked about sex or why boys are different or why a baby should have a mommy or a daddy, etc. So I decided that the next time she asked to hear her baby story we'd use that as a way to step forward into learning about sex.

I have to admit this topic has always brought up a huge level of anxiety for me. It's as if by stepping forward in this I had to embrace my past. I also didn't want to bring my baggage into it, so I read and prayed and asked for friends advice and ultimately bought The Story of Me. It's a simple starter book that gives basic information, yet it opened the floodgates to questions. I was so happy to answer them. Even sweet Raina asked a simple question. I am so happy it went so well. The anxiety just drifted away as we read the story and started talking. It was funny though that Brian was in the room while we were reading the book and when I asked Salem if she had questions she started whispering. So dear sweet dad took this as a cue for some mommy daughter time.

Now the girls are asleep and our first official "sex" talk is out of the way and I have a few moments to reflect. As I sit here, I realize my anxiety is from the intensity of childhood "stuff" this is bringing up in me. I've been dealing with this "stuff" for a while but it's been hard to really get into it. It's as if the last 18 months of therapy, I've been going through stacking boxes of issues and this is the last box...that last big thing I have to work on to truly have the past in the past. And the scary thing is I don't know everything that is in the box. I have certain concrete memories but a lot of vague, fleeting memories. What scares me is what could be there when I fully open the box.

I love my mom and grandparents and I know they loved me - but I do wish things had been different, safer...

I wish I didn't have that memory of me and a family member when I was a young girl...

I wish I didn't have those vague memories of me and my stepfather...

I wish I wish I wish... I have a thousand wishes.

Those unfulfilled wishes hurt a lot. The grief is intense, probably because I've never really allowed myself to feel them before. Also I know some of these things happened around my girl's ages. But when I look at Salem and Raina my hope is renewed. I may not have had what I wanted or needed all the time as a child, but they will. I cannot be the perfect mom, but I do want to be the mom I am called to be.

I believe in healing. I know God can and will heal my brokenness. I am a work in progress certainly. But I wonder if on some level I will always have a few of those wishes tucked away inside. I've always tried to hide or ignore that hurt little girl inside of me, but right now I think she needs me more than I need to hide her away.

So rather than hide or disregard those childhood wishes, I want to acknowledge them and work through but also transcend them. I want to heal and move forward. And I want my girls to grow up with a healthy sense of their own sexuality and God's plan for that in their lives. And as I talk with them, I grow myself. I see in my own heart what I need to face and work through. It scares me. But ignoring it has never worked before.

It's time to start some hard work...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Intentional Summer

For the past two summers I've wanted the girls to have fun filled memories filled with love, laughter and spontaneity. To be honest, I lacked a lot of the follow through that many things needed. I had great ideas but no follow through. Thus I needed a plan. Without one I easily forget or get sidetracked doing a 1001 things that are important but not necessarily what I need to be doing. So a friend suggested this which she found at the a friend of mine suggested this which she saw at the Whatever blog.

With this in mind, earlier tonight - Dad, the girls and I just made our own! Salem especially was excited and suggested a millions ideas. When I asked Raina what she wanted to do all she suggested was to play at Sonic (at the one with the playground). Thus our list was created.

Now that the girls are in bed and the poster hung up it got me thinking about where I am at spiritually and what I am doing to help the girls develop their own spirituality. Thus I made one for me.

I want to be spontaneous but to a large degree I am just not wired that way. So rather than obsess on how to change that I am going to try embracing my planning nature and let myself be scheduled and intentional but with the goal of not going over board.

I hope some of you will join with me. Let me know if you do so I can follow your journey.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Where am I now...

It's hard to state where I am right now. There are a lot of areas I am still working on including body image, anxiety, mixed emotions regarding relationships and not knowing exactly where God has me going. It's hard to articulate at times.

What I do know is that I love to write and blog and want to continue. I do not know if it should be in a general style or something more thematic and concrete. I have ideas for 3 different books in my head so I do need to start working on one of those as well.

In general my goal this summer is to blog three times a week. I have to devote the rest of the time to the girls. Summer flies by. I don't remember having a ton of fond memories of summer and I want my girls to have that. I want to laze around the pool, go to the park and on playdates and sleep late and cuddle. I just want to be with them. Blogging is important to me, but second to them.

I do know that I want to live my life intentionally rather than accidentally. I want to do what I was created to do rather than just going with the flow and doing what I think I have to do or what others may expect of me. I want to know why I am alive and I want to accept that responsibility and allow God to create in me the life he is calling me towards. I want to live the life I was meant to live - the life only I can live. My alternative is to live a life I am not called to. Perhaps a life that someone else was meant to live.

I do know that I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I am meant to write and speak. Beyond that I still don't know.

God please show me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vow Renewal

I have a 1000 thoughts I want to blog about. So many thoughts, so many spiritual questions, so many ponderings. But I am busy. I am in a short season of busyness. Thankfully it's not my norm. But May is notorious for being busy. It's the last month of school, graduations (we know 5 college graduations and 4 high school graduates), Raina's birthday, Brian's dad's birthday and this year we added our vow renewal.

So my thoughts will wait a tad longer. I am jotting down ideas as I think of them so I can blog soon. Blogging helps me succintly decide what I think. I really have to ponder and research in order to publish it. I love that accountablity. It also helps me grow spiritually and emotionally as well as hone my writing skills. Yet that will have to wait. But in the interim, I thought I would share our vow renewal plan for this Saturday.

Our pastor: I’d like to welcome you to Jacob’s Dream and to the vow renewal of Brian and Leah ****. Jacob’s Dream is a beautiful place for Brian and Leah. A place of peace and promise which is why they chose to renew their vows here today. Brian and Leah have been married for 12 years and in that time have built a family that includes their daughter Korie, Salem who is almost 8, Raina who turns 5 on Monday and they adopted Larrah in 2006. They also have Brynna and Angel in heaven. The lord has greatly blessed their family. But they have struggled through hard times as well. On their wedding day they pledged their love in sickness and in health and for better or for worse. The past few years have tested those vows but their enduring love for one another has prevailed. Thus we are here today with family and friends to celebrate and renew their continued commitment to one another. To reaffirm the life together and renew the vows of love, honor and fidelity that brought them together 12 years ago.

(Brian's Dad): Please join your hands and repeat after me:

In the presence of God, family and friends, I now choose to continue my life with you. And in recommitting to you, I renew my vows of love, loyalty and friendship. I am delighted today, in the presence of God and these witnesses, to reaffirm my commitment to you, and once again, to promise to love you, honor you, and comfort you, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better and for worse, as long as we both shall live.

Prayer & Communion

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meaninglessness

What do you think of when you think of meaninglessness? For me life is meaningless when I think of being alone. I look around me often in a conscious effort not to take for granted what I have. I do have a nice home, money to do things within reasons, the blessing to be a stay at home mom and be there for my kids even when they are in school and right afterwards, and more. We aren't rich by any means but we do not lack. To be honest, I enjoy all of this. But would I enjoy it so much without Brian and the girls or dear friends?

When I look at my life I realize that a lot of the problems I had in the past stemmed from loneliness. I sought relationships and connections in unhealthy ways because I detested being alone. I was not meant to live a solitary life - but without Jesus in me, I didn't know how to develop Godly relationships. I can still remember those intense moments of loneliness. Sometimes it still hits me and I have to forcibly make myself realize how many people I do have in my life that care and love me in return. I am no longer alone.

Somewhere along the way I had to decide to do my part in building relationships. It became more important than building a career, acquiring wealth or the need for more stuff. But there is balance. I can minister through writing and speaking and still be a faithful spouse and parent. By faithful I mean being faithful to spend time with those I love so I can build and nurture those relationships. But I can think of many Christians who gave their entire lives over to ministry that they neglected their families and ended up burnt out, divorced or with children who turned their backs on God. This isn't solely related to pastors. A businessman may have the same issues or even a working mom. I know Brian and I struggle to balance running a business with family and ministry. It's so easy to become unbalanced. But together we can do it.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-14 (NIV) says: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

To me it's clear that relationships are key. God is the integral cord but he created us for relationships. Alone I could be overpowered. Through relationships I will overcome. Alone I feel meaningless. The scripture says we accomplish more through relationships. There is something powerful in our relationships when we God coexists in them. It takes just one person who refuses to leave you lying on the ground to prove this. I have been on both sides of that. I have been so alone that there were times when I didn't have anyone to pick me up. It was awful. Sometimes I just wanted to give up and not get up. I didn't feel like I had anything to get up for. Now I have let God open my life to relationships. Now when I fall there is someone there to reach down a hand and help me back up and I do the same in return. It's how it was meant to me. I no longer feel that intense overwhelming sense of emptiness that loneliness brings. God brought me these relationships and I am learning everyday how to nurture and cultivate them.

I think the world perpetuates the idea that if we're strong we don't need people. That's a lie. We need each other. We were created for relationships. We were designed to do life together. Without relationships life is meaningless.

Today's Reflection: Even when there isn't another person around I no longer feel lonely. I know when Brian will be home at some point, the girls will wake up or get out of school, and there is always a friend I can connect with as well. I am so thankful Lord for these relationships. They strengthen me. Through them you define my purpose and calling. Sometimes I cannot comprehend the blessings in my life that have come through relationships. I am so thankful that I no longer feel disconnected in this world, like an outsider looking in.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Get Connected - Stay Protected

I recently had a security system installed at the house. I learned how to arm and disarm it easy enough what's taken the most getting used to is hearing the warning beeps every time I open a door. The warning beeps can be a little disconcerting and even annoying. I thought about turning the warning beeps off, but somehow that seems to negate the purpose of having a security system. Those warning beeps are reminders of what to listen for so if there is a time it goes off and I know it's not due to me or the family, it quickens my mind to pay attention and be aware. It helps give me a sense of security in normal daily situations not just security in knowing it's armed when I am asleep or away from home.

I think as Christians we have a built in security system as well. Have you ever been in a situation where you just knew you needed to leave or be wary? That's a spirit of discernment that comes from God via the Holy Spirit. But if you turned the discernment volume down or even off you could be in a messy or dangerous situation quickly.

Most of us wouldn't purposely turn the volume down or off. But how do we keep it to where we can hear it? We have to stay connected to God. But then the question becomes how to stay connected to God. If you ask a variety of people they will probably all offer different advice. One might say to get up at 5 am and spend an hour in prayer and bible study. Another might say to listen to praise and worship music all day and yet another might say something entirely different.
The reality is it’s not a 1-2-3 step process. Being the anal person that I am, I would prefer it. If I do this, this and this - then this will naturally happen right? Nope – not with relationships. They simply do not work that way. I've learned the hard way that you have to cultivate and nurture all relationships, especially one with God.

So as loosey goosey as it sounds you have to figure out what's good for you. If you're not a morning person getting up at 5 am will probably not work for you past 1 or 2 mornings. But getting up 10-15 minutes before the kids might be doable.
But regardless of what you do, make it structured and stick to it. Just as you might set a regular date night with your spouse, a lunch date with girlfriends or go to the gym, it’s just as important to schedule your time with God. You will know when to do it - rather than trying to fit it in. If you have just 15 minutes, start there and work your way up to more and more time. If you look at your day realistically there is time. I ration my time on other things until I know I've done what I need to do. I have even been known to set a timer to account for how much time I spend online If I don't I could easily spend an hour or two at the computer. So set a reminder and if need be a timer – and spend some time with God.

If you're a go with the flow type of person this might be hard for you. I am SO not a go with the flow type of girl but if I were, I might think of a 1000 other things or just rest and relax and not realize I hadn't made time for it.

So start with 15 minutes. Pray - talk to God. Find a devotional book that speaks to you. Most are less than 5 minutes. Read it, meditate on it, pray about it and then include God in the rest of your day. I talk to God while I shower or drive or clean. I listen to a lot of Christian music because it puts me in the mood to commune with God. I have to prep myself physically and mentally because I tend to make things harder than they are. So if I can do this – being the queen of procrastination and excuses that I am - I promise you can too. Like anything, practice makes perfect. The more connected to God that you are the more you’ll hear his voice and feel his discernment and the more guided you’ll be.

Get connected - stay protected.

Today's Reflection: As I develop my relationship with you I am fully aware of the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I feel his presence guiding and directing me and definitely protecting me. I cannot fathom living this life without him. Thank you Lord for the gift of the holy spirit and for developing a heart within me to hear his voice and lean towards his words fully with understanding.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Becoming Childlike

My almost 5 year old has been wearing glasses for 4 years. She's extremely far sighted and has an astigmatism. We go to the eye doctor 2-4 times a year on average. We just went in December and lately I've noticed her right eye still turning in even with her glasses on so I decided to take Raina to the opthamologist.

He brought up the inevitable - we need to patch her good eye. I pretty much knew this was coming but my biggest worry was how Raina would react. I came home and did some reading and chose to invest in a couple of really girly patches rather than do the adhesive ones. They are on the way and we'll start patching as soon as they get here. I expect because we are patching the good eye to help strengthen her weak eye, that it might be uncomfortable, harder to see at first and may even give her a headache.

But I am hoping for the best. Raina's always been very compliant with her glasses. Even when she was 1 and got her first glasses she kept them on. She seems to have always understood that she simply can't see without them. She doesn't fight them or even the doctor except when they dilate her eyes.

When I really ponder this I realize she understands the need for glasses and eye doctor appointments and accepts it. She goes with it. And she's only about to be 5.

When I compare how accepting and understanding she is of the inevitable things in her life I realize how much I am not. I am the one constantly trying to find the easier road. There always has to be an easier way right? I spend so much time searching for the easier way or by procrastinating and putting off the inevitable, that I make things worse.

We can learn a lot from children if we let ourselves. I want to be more like Raina and accept hardships or problems easier. Children are so beautifully resilient. They just go with the flow for the most part as long as they are nurtured and loved through it. How many times have we seen our kiddos take a really hard fall and because we kiss it and pray to make it better they seem to be fine even though they have an awful scratch or bruise? As an adult I would probably limp throughout the day rather than moving on.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

Today's Reflection: Lord teach me to be more like my children. Show me how to be the example to them I need to be but always remind me how much I can learn through them and how they see the world before them. Help me not teach them my anxious procrastinating ways.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Dream

I am not one gifted with prophetic dreams. My husband truly has the gift of prophecy and words of knowledge but I do not. Seldom do I even remember my dreams long after I wake. But I had a dream a few days before I was hospitalized with the infection and I wanted to share it.

The last Friday of every month Brian and 2 friends get together for an all night prayer retreat. I normally truly dislike being alone at night. I don't sleep well and tend to get fearful. I was already feeling pretty bad at this point and didn't realize I had an infection yet this night I wasn't as anxious as I normally had been.

I went to sleep the last Friday of January and had a dream. It was a very vivid dream that I remember in detail almost 3 months later. In this dream Salem and I were in a building of some sort with a lot of people. We went there willing but later we couldn't leave. There was a woman there and she was very adamant that we could not leave. I do not remember feeling fearful but shortly after she said we could't leave Brian, a friend named Leonard and some other people crashed through the building in vehicles. Brian told me to leave with Salem and they'd handle it.

In the next scene of the dream, we were leaving the house. Our house is on a corner and our driveway is on the corner right outside the backyard. I had both girls with me and we stepped outside and I noticed the same woman across the street. Again I don't remember feeling afraid. But I noticed her and I remembered where she was from. I got the girls in the van as I watched her. She never crossed the street to where I was but I could hear her talking to me. She was telling me things like she had to kill me, that I couldn't live and she had to destroy me.

Again - I wasn't afraid. For a woman that has in the past and is still dealing with a lot of fear issues this has stuck with me. I simply was not afraid. I remember telling her I didn't want to die but if I did God would send someone else to do what he had called me to do. At this point my neighbor came out and shot her. Later she's in an ambulance yelling at me that this isn't over.

This was Friday night. Sunday afternoon I was really sick and Monday I was in the hospital. I do believe in coincidence and I do believe in the supernatural. I am also not one to see a demon behind every shadow. But I truly believe this dream was either a warning of what was to come or something hugely spiritual in my life.

I think of this dream everyday. In the bible God allowed Peter to be sifted. God allowed Job to be tested. I definitely do not think God made me ill. But he allowed it for a reason. Was I being sifted or tested? I think so.

Now I'm trying to figure out why.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jenny Bizaillion

While I was in the hospital the 2nd time recovery from the surgery to clean out my infection, I'd often play on Facebook. Many of my friends new a young woman named Jenny Bizaillion. I never had the pleasure of meeting her but she changed my life. But while I was in the hospital and later at home recovering, Jenny was in the hospital as well. She was admitted February 4th in critical condition with pneumonia.

Jenny's struggle was indeed critical. The infection rampaged and on February 22nd she passed from this life into the arms of her heavenly father. She was 32 and left behind a grieving husband, 8 year old daughter and an amazing amount of loving family and friends. In the 2 plus weeks prior to her death I prayed for her daily - several times a day. As I was getting better she seemed to be getting worse. As I got to go home, she weakened and continued to fight for her life. On February 22nd she died as I was getting my PICC line out from the comfort of my own home.

I remember just crying as I read the update. What on earth was fair about this? She was a beautiful vibrant young woman full of life and calling. Why was her journey called short?

I simply do not know. I do know I still wonder why I am here and she is not. I am so thankful to still be able to parent my daughters and live a wonderful life with my husband. I am here for a reason. I am still waiting for God to define that for me. I just know he has something planned for me. I am here in this world for a reason. My world may be small but it's my world. I can do something incredible in my world just as Jenny did.

Everything I read about Jenny portrays her as a Godly woman full of love and compassion and gospel truth. I want to be remembered likewise. Jenny - thank you for living for God and being a true testimony to his gospel. I know I will think of you often and while a part of me grieves for your family's loss - I know you are fulfilled in the arms of the father. Thus I will pray for your husband and daughter as I pray for mine. I will pray for God to heal their pain and bring them peace. I know your calling is complete or you wouldn't be in heaven and I pray that the lives you touched on this earth will continue to reach out and touch others creating a lasting legacy of hope and peace.

You brought hope to my life in a dark time. I never feared for my life but I often feared for my family and what would happen to them if something happened to me. I watched my little girls struggle with worry and fear and saw my strong and never worrying husband worry. I remember asking God to let me stay and be with them longer. And for reasons I do not understand I was healed on this earth and you were healed the moment you went to be with the father. All I can assume is I have more to do.

I do not look at this gift lightly. I actually feel quite overwhelmed at times. But regardless, I see your life as a beautiful reminder that challenges me to do better and be more and to do what God has called me to do. One day in heaven I will look forward to meeting you, hugging you and telling you thank you in person.

What did 90 days of solitude do for me?

My therapist recently asked me this and I was puzzled. It did teach me a lot in that I leaned in and really delved into getting to know God and worshipping him on a new level. But what did God really mean for me to learn from it?

Later that night I had dinner with my friend and she said she thought it was preparing me for this journey I went on medically. I was very tired and ill and then hospitalized again homebound with the PICC line and wound vac. All in all it was over 12 weeks before I wasn't homebound and tired and weary.

She's right. I would have probably had a nervous breakdown if it had happened before my 90 Days of Solitude or if I hadn't obeyed and done the 90 Days of Solitude. I was tired and slept a lot and even though I had a lot of help with my house and with the girls there was still a lot of time left in the day. I wasn't mentally capable of a lot of bible study or complicated thought process due to a lot of medicine. Yet I was able to draw peace and not worry because my spirit was full. My spirit communed with God and knew what I needed.

Thank you Lord.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Unfinished Business

My first Sunday back at church since January 25th was AWESOME. And they sang one of my favorite songs. Take a moment to listen to it and worship!

I missed some of the key points of the sermon as it's a part of a series but the part that really stuck with me is Revelations 3:2-3. It reminds me of the song by KJ-52. I think for the past several months God has been telling me to wake up. To strengthen myself in him as my soul is dying and my job is not finished. In the Greek finish means to complete a debt, to end and to complete.

My goal today is to meditate on this and come back tonight with some thoughts on my unfinished business. Lord help me!

Today's Reflection: What is my unfinished business? How I do finish strong? Lord what do I do? I know your words and direction are there and I am getting glimpses. Reveal your word to me. Reveal your plan. Show me. Guide me. Help me finish!

Philippians 3:6 - He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Today...

So I ended up having an infection (enterococcus) and ended up having surgery and IV antibiotics. The surgery was March 2. I was on vancomycin and zolstyn for 8 days. After surgery I was put on a wound vac. I went home with a PICC line, 2 more weeks of IV antibiotics (just the vancomycin) and the wound vac and homehealth care to facilitate it all. My husband and sister had to learn how to administer my IV antibiotics. It's now almost 7 weeks later and I still have the wound vac. I am doing well and I am praying to be off the wound vac in 2-3 weeks. The infection is gone and I am more mobile. I can drive and get of the house and am more active mentally and physically.

January 1st, I thought I knew what my 90 days of solitude had meant to teach me. I still think what I was thinking was correct but fairly narrow. I think God was shifting my focus. I was SO busy. If I had been that busy I am not sure how together my life would have stayed the last weeks. If I hadn't focused on God and developing my relationship with Him, I may have had a nervous breakdown. I am not sure. I am still pondering and thinking it all through.

It's been a long ordeal since my 1st original surgery on December 30th. I've had to depend on friends and family for food, housecleaning, helping my kids get back and forth, getting groceries etc. I was tired and healing for the most part but if I were truly honest I was hurting. I was angry. I was resentful. I wanted my life back. I wanted my routine. I didn't want other people taking care of my kids, my house, my responsibility. I felt like I had somehow abandoned all I wanted.

Then came a turning point. I didn't have to depend on others - I was able to. I spent years helping others. Now I was able to let others help me. That's truly how our christian community should be. A symbiotic relationship of give and take. Not a hierarchy of those who give and those who receive. It became humbling and spiritual rather than frustrating and humiliating. Rather than being frustrated cause I couldn't find a lid to a Tupperware container I felt thankful that someone washed my dishes.

I have so many thoughts churning through my mind and a part of me wants to blog it all tonight. But instead I will start with this - thank you. Thank you all for praying for me and my family. Thank you to those who helped with food and errands, for picking up the girls and taking them where they needed to go and for cleaning my house. Thank you to those who stopped to visit and bring me lunch and fellowship. Thank you for the sweet comments on this blog and by email or facebook.

Thank you. That's where I will start today! Tomorrow I will start with some of the thoughts I've had churning through my thoughts and heart.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who instead of giving advice, solutions or cures have chosen rather to share our pain & touch our wounds with a warm tender hand. -Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Update

This blog will continue but wanted to let you all know I am in the hospital. I developed an infection due to my surgery. I had another surgery today and healing. It will start again. I hope you all stick it out with me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A New Normal - Prelude

First of all let's say my plans to keep blogging during recovery were crazy. I am just three weeks post op and am SO tired and need more rest and down time than I realize. I've been quite emotional and feel vulnerable because I can't even clean my house or make my bed. It's humbling but I think God is continuing his work in me. I feel God's presence but I am tired and doing less bible study. I long to dive back in but cannot concentrate. I was sad and emotional last night and talking to God and he gave me a lot of peace. He has a plan it just wasn't as immediate as my Type A personality wanted it to be.

I am going to strive to keep solitude a part of my daily life and God gave me a new direction for the next 90 days that I am going to start this weekend. I've realized that I've changed SO much the past year and have taken down so many walls and removed so many masks I am not sure who I really am at heart still. I am different physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My temperment is different. I am feeling all these emotions that I haven't felt in years. It scares me but it excites me more. I feel such hope but it is surreal. I have often in the past wanted to be normal. Well normal is a myth really if being normal is being like someone else, etc. But I want to embrace this change and let it take me further. My old normal was frustrated and angry and hurt and bitter and generally miserable. I want to see where this new normal is taking me. I want to continue to embrace it and let it evolve within me and not grow stagnant. I just know I need to continue to find Leah.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Follow Up

I am home and resting and healing and praying. I am working on compiling my testimony as well. I appreciate your prayers. I am not spending too much time on here yet as I've been gone from home for 9 days and want to spend the time I am not resting and healing with my family.

But God's got a plan for this blog. :) Check back this week. Probably Wednesday.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day 90

I've been pondering this post for the past three days. When I started this journey I was completely unsure where it would take me. To be honest I did think there would be some "huge" defining moment when I would completely know what God was doing with me. And while I do know more, I also know less. It's as if the closer we lean into God, the more we realize we need to work through. But this is what I do know:

What the past 90 days has accomplished:

1. Teaching me to be less distracted by things that consume me or make me anxious. Way less TV (especially news) and way less time online. It all kept my mind so hyper alive that I couldn't hear my soul cry out for God.

2. To be...I was a doer. I still am to a degree. And it's ok to do. But it's not ok to do do do and never be. Even in the midst of awful circumstances we need to be so we can heal. Being still quietens our hearts and our minds so we can listen to God. I completely believe that.

3. I've totally leaned into God. I've done more prayer and bible study in the past 90 days than I probably have in ten years. I've learned how to cultivate intimacy with God.

But what else? I'm not sure. I actually think that's a lot for 90 days, but being the perfectionist I am, it's hard not to be somewhat disappointed. Am I where I need to be? Have I missed something somewhere? To be honest I just haven't figured that out. All I know is I have a lot of peace. I am no longer spiritually stagnant. I feel rejuevanated. I feel God right here with me at all times. I do feel more vulnerable and anxious than I have in years but I think that's because I've finally opened the door to my heart to feel, thus I am bound to feel vulnerable and anxious. Thus I want to be in this moment even though its scary. I think God wants me vulnerable as a reminder that I can't or shouldn't do this life on my own. When I feel vulnerable I tend to want to shut down and shut people out. I don't want that anymore.

So where does that leave me today? I think for now I am going to keep doing what I am doing. I have an almost 6 week recovery ahead of me. I can definitely use that time to lean in further to God to see what's next. I do want more. I do want a ministry and I do want to keep balance in my life. I think the past 90 days was the beginning of a lifetime journey. Perhaps not one where I journal every single day but who knows. I think it's very therapeutic for me. I haven't written in years before I started writing this blog. I used to journal and even write poetry. I would love to be inspired to write poetry again.

Today's Reflection: It's 2010. I have no clue what you have planned for me this year but I am expecting a lot Lord. You fought for me and you showed me how to fight for myself. I love you and I want more of you. Rain down on me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day 89

I miss life. I feel as if I am in a stasis mode here while I am recovering. I am recovering well and praying a lot but haven't felt up to reading or doing much else. I want to figure out what God has meant this journey for me to be. I think in part I was taking things for granted. I had people around me. I was the backbone of a lot. And I certainly not God wants me to focus on him and not the stuff - the extras. But what else God? What else?

Please show me. Please use this time to reveal your word to me. Give me a glimpse of what you'd have me to. I am excited to move forward and do something for you. Show me.

Today's Reflection: Lord I am pretty tired but I am blessed that my family is well and I am well. I am so thankful that you are right here with me healing me and making me whole.

Leah's Other Blog

My "other" blog is more about day to day life with my husband and kids and rants and raves about a variety of subjects. Hope on over.

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