Sunday, January 27, 2019

walking in ...

faith ...

I've talked in the past about my Vaginal Intraepithelial Neoplasia cancer scare, and I highly encourage women who've had a hysterectomy ~ partial or full ~ to NOT stop getting annual or periodic pelvic exams.  But I've never really shared the back story of what happened after the surgery.

In May of 2012 I left my job in Texas to go back "home" to Florida because I thought I was going to die, and I didn't want to die in Texas (nothing personal, Texans, but Killeen was just too far from water, and I still had some saltwater flowing in my heart).  I believed that even if my planned surgery in Florida was successful, it was only going to be a temporary fix and eventually the cancer would return and be the end of me.

The day of my surgery, our only car was repossessed.  My husband was spending more time drinking and with his addict associates than he was with me.  He broke our marriage vows and left me.  I was financially broke, and broken emotionally and spiritually.  We were broken and shattered.

I spent days sleeping, or crying.  I barely ate, even when I had food, and I didn't bathe for weeks at a time in the heat and humidity of a Florida summer with no air conditioning (yeah, I was more than a little "ripe" at times).  I didn't know what to do, and didn't want to do anything.  I was giving up and I wanted to die.

I felt God had abandoned me, just like my husband had.  All the prayers I had prayed up to that point had gone unanswered.  I cried and screamed until I had nothing left and could barely speak.

One day during a fierce thunder and lightning storm, I went for a walk in an open field, praying that if God wasn't going to answer any of my other prayers, would He at least answer this one and strike me with lightning.

He didn't answer that prayer either.  Lightning struck, but it didn't strike me.

I went into the house, soaking wet and found all my radios had changed to a Christian station I'd never heard before.  I didn't care.  I went to bed and slept for 36 hours.  When I woke, something in me had changed.  I didn't know what, but I felt lighter.  Hopeful, but I wasn't sure yet what for.  I didn't have a car, a job, or any idea how I would keep the lights on for another month, or the water running.

A week later, through the woman who came to pick up my pug, Henry, when I made the decision to re-home him because he was suffering from the heat more than I was, a church benevolence group reached out to me and offered to pay my electric and water bill for the next month.

Before the month was over, the radio station was having their fall pledge drive and I kept feeling God pressing on me to commit to $10 a month.  I ignored Him.  He pressed harder.  I argued with Him.  Had he seen my bank account?  Seriously?  All I had in the world was $10 in a savings account.  He kept pushing, and it was keeping me awake at night.

How many times do we argue with God when we question His will for us?  When the darkness around us is just so overwhelming that we can't even see the Son?

I finally said, "Whatever!  Fine!  I'll do it, but I don't have any idea how I'm going to survive.  I can't even buy food for myself or my dog and cat."  In my mind I was already blaming God for my hunger, and for the power and water being shut off.  It was going to be all His fault.

I called the station and made my pledge, told them my story and that God wasn't letting me sleep until I did this.
"For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on."  Mark 12:44 NLT
What happened next was nothing less than God's blessings and miracles.

I won a random drawing.  They sent me a $500 gift card for Walmart.  I bought a month's worth of groceries, dog and cat food.

A listener heard my story and sent money through the station for another month of lights and water.

I got a letter from Lockheed Martin, whom I had worked for several years prior.  Would I be interested in a payout of my pension plan?

Umm, yeah?

I received a check several weeks later that enabled me to buy a used car, get auto insurance, fill the gas tank, refrigerator and pantry, and put money aside for several month's worth of utility bills.

With the car, I was able to get a part time job as a paraprofessional with autistic middle schoolers.  During that time, my husband went to prison for a year.  We reconciled, during four hour visits every weekend that I had to drive an hour and a half one way to get to.

I was able to get a full time job at a call center.  My husband relapsed and went to a court ordered rehab.  I made the decision to take a full time job in another state and left, not knowing if he would eventually join me.
"Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back."  Luke 6:38 NLT
Looking back at the last six, almost seven, years since May 2012, I can honestly say that not only have I been blessed with what thought I lost, but with more. Much, much more.

We were healed, redeemed, restored, and our marriage was resurrected.

The car I lost, replaced with another and with a truck for my husband.  The townhouse I lost replaced by a home (and a garden, with beautiful trees I can't wait to see bloom in the spring) that I will be blessed to spend the rest of my life in.

My cancer has not returned, but my desire to live has. We now have two grandchildren, restored relationships with my husband's children, and with family and friends.

We don't always know or understand the trials and tribulations we face in life.  But we aren't ever alone in them.  There is a saying that God never gives us more than we can handle, but I think it is more likely that God never gives us more than we can handle with Him beside us.

If we feel we are "alone" in the world facing darkness and troubles, it is because we choose to be alone in them.  In truth, all we have to do is reach up, ask for His comfort, guidance, forgiveness and love.  He shines a light to hold onto in the darkness, a light to follow.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

the birthday wish

This month, the memory of rain is hosting Words for Wednesday. Words for Wednesday was started by Delores and now is hosted by various bloggers. The aim is to encourage you to write - a poem, a story, a song or whatever comes to you - using some or all of the prompts.

     Skye and her mother returned from Germany the week of her birthday, and she waited two days before calling Dakota to talk to him about his vision.  Although she had only seen him once, he was in all of her dreams on the flights home.
     "Hello?"
     "Dakota?  This is Skye.  We talked a few weeks ago."
     "Oh, hi!  How are you?  How was your mother's trip?  Is she okay?"
Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
     "Yes, in fact, that is why I'm calling.  We wanted to thank you.  I was wondering if you would like to come over this evening for some cake and coffee?"
     "I'd like that."
     "Is six o'clock a good time for you?"
     "Yes, that would be great.  Could you text me the address?"
     "Of course, we'll see you then."

     The doorbell rang at six on the dot, and Skye nervously tried to smooth out the wrinkles in her skirt as she stood.  She'd changed outfits four times before settling on a cashmere sweater and wool skirt.  Her mother started to ask if it wasn't the very first outfit she had tried on, but with a smile just shook her head and went to the door.

     Skye's mother showed Dakota into the living room while Skye brought the coffee and slices of cake.
     "Do you take sugar with your coffee, Dakota?"
     "No, thank you.  Just black, please.  Is this by chance a slice of birthday cake?  It's delicious!"
     Skye smiled, "Yes, my birthday was actually yesterday.  My mother baked the cake from a recipe passed down from one mother to the next for ten generations in our family."
     Her mother nodded, "One day it will be my turn to pass it down to Skye."
     Dakota laughed gently at the red flush of embarrassment that colored Skye's face, "Does this amazing cake have a name?"
     Skye's mother smiled at the two of them and thought to herself what a good match they would make.
     "It is called the Wishes cake, and when a young wife wanted to start her family, she would make a birthday wish for a child when she blew out the candles.  I think that every woman in our family that made that wish had it granted before her next birthday, including myself!"
     "That's an amazing story.  Have you ever thought about recording your verbal history?"
     "Recording it?"
     "Yes, I'm working with a committee within my tribe to record the history of the elders in our native language.  So many of our young people are losing interest in our language, it is a shame.  We make digital video recordings in our native tongue with an English translator and subtitles to keep our language alive.  Some of our elders are approaching their 100th year, and when they pass on their stories will be gone forever."
     "Dakota, that is fascinating!  I would love to incorporate some of the video recordings into our next Native exhibit at the museum if the elders wouldn't mind.  What a great way to honor them and your heritage, and help other non-natives understand more about the First People.  Would you mind asking them for me?"
      "Of course not, I would be happy to help, and I think that it might be something that I could get the youth to help with also.  Perhaps for some school credit?  I've got a few in detention right now for joyriding when they should have been studying for an exam, and I can put them to work on doing some of the interviews this week!"
     The three of them laughed and talked until suddenly Dakota glanced at the clock on the wall and quickly stood up.
     "Oh, it's late!  I hadn't realized the time.  I'm sure I'm keeping you ladies up, and I have a busy day tomorrow.  I really enjoyed this tonight, especially all the stories.  Would it be too forward of me to ask if we could do this again sometime?  I would like to hear more of your stories of your childhood in Germany.  It gives me a different perspective from my own life and childhood."
     "That would be wonderful, I would really enjoy that also.  It's fascinating to hear about the First People and your heritage.  You have so much to be proud of."

     Over the next few months, Dakota and Skye's friendship deepened.  As he had promised, his First People interviews became a part of the museum's exhibit, and the local television news coverage of the exhibit was picked up by a nationwide broadcast.  Attendance at the museum tripled during the exhibit, and so did the donations.  Skye was thrilled when she realized that she would be able to expand the educational opportunities at the museum.

     To celebrate the success of the exhibit, Dakota took Skye out to dinner at a new Italian restaurant that had opened up near the city park.  After dinner, the two of them walked hand-in-hand through the park, and stopped at fountain in the center.  Dakota pulled a quarter out of his pocket.

     "Make a wish?"
     "I don't think it's a wishing well, is it?"
     "It can be ours for the price of a quarter."
     Skye smiled and took his quarter.  Closing her eyes, she made a wish and tossed the coin into the water.  Taking a quarter from her own purse, she handed it to him.
     "Now you."
     Dakota took the quarter and held her hand, "My wish has already been granted."    

     The wedding reception was held in the garden behind the house that Skye once heard music and voices in the attic.  Anyone looking up at the house might have seen what they thought was a ghost or two in the window, dancing to the music of the band among the flowers in the garden below.  And if you listen close enough at the door to the attic, there are times late at night when you might hear a once young man whispering sweet endearments in German to the love of his life.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

listen...

to my testimony....

We often cry out to God “Why aren’t you listening to me?” or “Don’t you hear my cries?” The truth is that God hears our cries, our prayers, and the unspoken groaning of our hearts and souls.

In Psalm 56:8 (The Message) King David said “You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.”

God hears us.
He listens. 
It’s us that don’t.

The word “listen” is mentioned 412 times in the NIV Bible. When I lived in Florida, I would walk on the beach for hours, pouring my heart out going in one direction, then doing my best to listen to what I thought He was trying to tell me.

But it was easier for me to “hear” the world than it was to hear God’s will for my life. When my life was difficult, I was more likely to talk to my friends or family than I was to talk to God. I was more likely to listen to them also.

I know that they meant well, and probably thought they were giving me good advice. Wise counsel. Many times, however, their words would conflict with what my heart was telling me was right. Sometimes, their advice would conflict with what someone else was saying. I would be so confused about what to do that I felt just stuck on a merry-go-round, always repeating the same mistakes, never moving forward, just stuck. That was my life for years, just going in circles.

At a time when I had completely given up on life, when I felt that I had nothing to live for, I finally realized that I had been listening to all of the wrong voices. 

I should have only been listening for One.

My husband and I were separated, and “the world” was telling me to divorce him. A “friend” took me to the courthouse to pick up the forms I needed. Some of his family - and mine - told me it was what they would do if they were me, and that no one would blame me.

I filled out the paperwork. Spilled coffee on it. I went back to the courthouse and got another set. It disappeared. Put it on a shelf where the cat couldn’t throw up on it, and the next day I couldn’t find it anywhere.

Like most people, when God is trying to tell us something that conflicts with our own desires, or with what the world is telling us, we suddenly develop selective hearing. We try to run away, like Job, or try to bargain with God. “I’ll do that, but this is what I want in return.”

I went back to the courthouse a third time and picked up the forms again to file for divorce. I was angry, I was hurt, and I was done.

Guess what happened? 

The cat barfed on them.

I started to think that maybe God didn’t want me to divorce him.

I found a church to go to within walking distance since I didn’t have a car.  I started going every Sunday morning and for Wednesday night prayer. I found a book by Beth Moore called “Whispers of Hope” that was a ten week devotional prayer journal. Every morning I would sit for two hours on my deck, read that day’s Bible verses, and journal my prayers.

While I was busy listening for God's voice, my “friends” and some of our families were busy trying to fill my head with doubts. They took every opportunity they could to bad-mouth my husband, to tell me what a fool I was for not leaving him, and how much I would regret it. The enemy whispered lies in their ears to tell me, lies about who he was, things he did, and things he would do. 

What made their lies almost believable was they were based on truths that I knew.

Recently, my husband and I were listening to a pastor on the Hillsong Network after we attended church service one Sunday and the pastor (whose name I don't know) said two really profound things that I want to share with you.
Do you know why dogs bark at you when you are going for a walk?
It’s because you are going somewhere and they are stuck in the yard.
Now use that analogy for all the naysayers in your life, the ones that put you down, that bad mouth you or someone you care about. People want to put you down and discourage you when they see that God is encouraging you to do what is right, and to follow His will is for you. The enemy hates when you listen to God and the enemy will do, and use, anything and anyone to get you to stop listening to Him.

Proverbs 1:33 says “whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

What an amazing promise that is.  To live without fear.  To be at ease.  To be able to relax and know that no matter what the future holds, God is taking you somewhere amazing and you aren't going to be "stuck in the yard."
Do you know why people get so angry when you start doing the right things in your life? When you strive to improve or better yourself? Whether it is quitting an addiction, getting sober, getting a job, going to school … whatever. They try to make you fall, and want to watch you fail.
It’s because they hate that you aren’t living in the box that THEY put you in. The box that they want to use to limit and define you. Because if they can limit you, they can feel better about their own lives. Who they are in the boxes that someone else put them in. Or that they built around themselves with walls of loneliness, dysfunction, and the enemy’s lies.
Job 38:10-11 “when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place … This far you may come and no farther”

In order to really listen to God, I had to walk away from everyone and everything that was keeping me from hearing Him. I ended friendships. I limited conversations with family. I prayed constantly. I started looking for jobs as far away from where I was as possible. I released my husband into God’s hands because I knew that if our marriage was going to be saved, it had to be God’s will, not mine.

I took a job 1,300 miles away from Florida, and left five months before my husband was able to leave. I had to have faith in God that He would work miracles in our lives. Miracles that would save us.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

When we focus on God, and not on the world, God is always willing to talk to us. When we listen to God, and open our ears to really hear God’s voice in our lives, whether it is just a small whisper of hope in our heart, or a shout from a mountaintop, God is always willing to talk to us.

I am here to tell you that God listens. He hears us. He can save you, redeem you, and restore you. He took two hurt, broken people and made us whole again. His love, and forgiveness, healed us.

No matter what you have done, God still, and will always, love you. He can, and will, forgive you. Because if He can do it for us … He will do it for you.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

rain...

This month, the memory of rain is hosting Words for Wednesday. Words for Wednesday was started by Delores and now is hosted by various bloggers. The aim is to encourage you to write - a poem, a story, a song or whatever comes to you - using some or all of the prompts.

     Skye woke in the darkness and was momentarily confused.  Where was she?  What had woken her?  Then she heard it again, a soft tapping at the hotel door.
     "Skye?"
     It was her mother's voice and she fumbled for the switch on the lamp next to the bed.  Blinded as the light came on, she realized she had leaned too far over to turn it on and fell out of bed with a loud thud.  She heard started voices outside the door, then someone turning a key in locked door.  Pulling the covers over herself, she sat up and looked over the bed at the shocked faces of the front desk manager and her mother.
     "Oh my goodness, dear!  Are you alright?"
     "Yes, mutter.  I'm fine, just not quite awake yet.  What time is it?"
     "It's nearly noon, and I was worried when you didn't answer your phone."
     "Well, it was a long flight, the ride on the trains were long, and a long journey overall.  I was tired.  I guess I didn't hear it ringing."
     "We've been knocking for almost an hour too."
     "I suppose I was jet lagged, and still trying to get accustomed to the time difference."
     "It's going to rain today and I wanted us to see some of the town before we needed to open our umbrellas that would keep us from seeing some of the cathedrals outside.  I also wanted a chance to talk to you to find out why you changed your mind about coming."
     "Did you say it was going to rain?  How odd.  I was having nightmares about chasing storms and floods when I slept on the flight over and when I fell asleep on the trains."
     Skye's mother sat on the edge of the bed, and Skye got up off the floor with the covers wrapped around her and sat next to her.
     "Darling, is everything alright?  What was so urgent that it couldn't wait until I was home?  I wish you hadn't used your savings to come.  Couldn't you have just called?"
     "No.  I needed to see you.  I can't explain it.  I just felt this sense of fear and urgency to come see you right away, before ..."
     "Before?"
     "Before it rained."
     Skye's mother raised her eyebrows sharply, and her mouth fell open.  "I don't understand."
     "I don't either, mutter.  All I know is that it was something I had to do."
     "Is everything alright at home?  With your job?  Are you under any stress?"
     "Yes, everything is fine at work.  There was just ..."
     "Just what, dear?"
     "Something strange happened at the house.  And there was a phone call."
     Skye told her about the music and the voices in the attic that made her remember the story of her great grandparent's romance.
     "And the phone call?  Who was that from?"
     "It was a man named Dakota.  He said he was from the reservation, and that he was a faith healer who had visions.  He had seen me at the museum a while ago, and said that his recent vision was meant for me."
     "Oh, don't tell me that you believed him!?!  Was he trying to convince you to give him money?"
     "No, it wasn't like that.  He didn't ask me for anything, although I was charmed that he remembered me so well from the museum.  When he explained more about who he was, I remembered seeing him also, but we were never formally introduced."
     "Is he a nice looking man?"
     "Yes, he is, but I'm sure he has someone in his life."
     "Did he tell you he did?  Why would he call you if he was involved with someone already?"
     "Mutter!  It wasn't like that.  He was calling to tell me about his vision because it had to do with you.  He was trying to warn me about something that was going to happen."
      Her mother scoffed.  "You didn't believe him, did you?"
      Skye smiled.  "Oh, so you believe in ghosts and that the attic is haunted, but you don't believe that someone can have visions?"
     "I just think that perhaps it was an excuse to talk to you.  You are a beautiful, young, and very single woman.  I've seen men flirt with you."
     "It wasn't like that.  He didn't want to talk about me.  He wanted to talk about the rain."
     "And...."
     "I didn't believe what he was saying at first, but then the nightmares came and I started to wonder if what he said was true."
     "What did he say?"
     "He said that you were in danger from the rains.  That there would be floods, and you would be trapped in a hotel room that was along the river."
     Her mother stood suddenly and walked to the window as the sound of thunder in the distance could be heard.  A light rain had begun to fall, and she shook her head slowly.  There was no way that he could have known of her change in plans.  She had only changed them that morning after Skye had arrived the night before.
     "What is it, mutter?"
     "I changed my plans this morning."
     "What plans?"
     "Before you came, I had planned on staying at a hotel along the Rhine in Koblenz.  The room I had reserved was a small room on the ground floor that had a beautiful walkout that faced the Rhine.  This morning I changed my reservation to a different hotel, a little farther away from the river, that was a suite room with two beds so that we could stay in the same room."
     Skye walked to the window and stood next to her mother as the rain began to fall harder.
     "Maybe you can change it so we can just stay here?   We don't need to see the Rhine on this trip.  I'd like to just spend time with you, and maybe even go home a few days early.  I'd like to call Dakota and thank him."


Friday, January 11, 2019

a train in the fog

This month, Lissa at the memory of rain is hosting Words for Wednesday. Words for Wednesday was started by Delores and now is hosted by various bloggers. The aim is to encourage you to write - a poem, a story, a song or whatever comes to you - using some or all of the prompts.


     Skye stood at the train station in Frankfort and watched the commuter train disappear into the fog.  She wondered if it had been a mistake to use her savings to fly to Germany to surprise her mother.  After hearing the voices speaking German in her attic, she couldn't stop thinking that her mother was in danger.  Especially after she had received the phone call from a man who said he had a message for her about her mother.
~*~
     Dakota's eyes kept being drawn to the sky.  He'd written down the vision at the beginning of the year, but didn't know how to get it to the woman in his vision.  She had blond hair and fair skin, with blue eyes that seemed to see into his soul.  Usually he had visions for someone in his tribe, but this time was different.  A part of him felt like he knew her, but in his vision he had not seen enough of her face to truly be able to identify her.

     Everywhere he walked in the following week, the birds had drawn his eyes to the sky. Always in threes.  It finally occurred to him that perhaps it wasn't the birds he was meant to see, but the blue sky.  Suddenly he remembered the woman who worked at the museum.  Wasn't her name Skye?  He had only been into the museum once when she had organized a display of local Native American art, and had seen her from across the room.  Their eyes had connected just once, and while it wasn't her pale blue eyes that struck him most at that moment, but her smile.  She was someone whose smile betrayed the loneliness of her heart.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

weekend

Sunrise on Chequamegon Bay yesterday morning
 David was ice fishing.

An exciting visitor to the bird feeder this afternoon!


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

adventures of the heart

This month, Lissa at the memory of rain is hosting Words for Wednesday. Words for Wednesday was started by Delores and now is hosted by various bloggers. The aim is to encourage you to write - a poem, a story, a song or whatever comes to you - using some or all of the prompts.

     Dakota sat down at the table and tapped the end of his pen on the pad of paper.  He knew that he should start at the beginning of his dream, but it was only the ending that made sense.  Each new year his dreams had become more vivid and clear and he realized that what he was seeing was a vision of the future and someone he was meant to help.

     It had taken him almost five years to realize it, but it was when he began to write them down that he really began to make the connection.  It made him wonder how many souls were still lost that he could have helped before he realized his gift.  Now, it was an annual ritual of his, just as much as a kiss at midnight, that he would wake and begin writing before anything could distract him from what he had dreamt.
~*~
     Skye reached the top of the stairs and just as she reached for the doorknob to open the attic door, she hesitated.  Was that whispering she heard on the other side of the door?  She held her breath and leaned closer, listening intently.

     "Heinrich!  Sie kommt!  Was sollen wir tun?"
     (Henry! She's coming! What should we do?)

     Letting out a gasp, Skye turned and ran back down the stairs.  It had been years since she had heard her mother speak German, but she instinctively knew it when she heard it.  Who could be hiding in her attic?  She debated whether or not to call the police but then felt foolish at the thought.  There was only one way into the attic, and she had been home for the last three days.  In that time, no one had come to visit her, and she'd heard nothing at all from upstairs.  It was an old house with creaky floorboards so that she knew every step that was made in the house.  It was impossible for anyone else to have come in without her knowing about it.

     "Shh!  Sie ist jetzt gegangen.  Wir müssen denken.  Wir wollen sie nicht erschrecken, aber wir müssen sie warnen."
     (Shh!  She's gone now.  We have to think.  We don't want to scare her, but we have to warn them.)
~*~
     In his visions, the Elders revealed themselves to him usually as crows.  They were the ones that carried messages between the living and the dead.  It was up to Dakota to decipher what the messages meant, and who they were intended for.  His tribe considered him a faith healer, although he never physically healed anyone.  Just emotionally.  The messages he shared brought comfort, warned of coming tragedies, or sometimes revealed the location of lost heirlooms.

     But this year, his vision wasn't for someone in the tribe.  It was for an outsider.  Someone he had never seen before, and he wasn't sure how he would be able to find her.
~*~
     Skye glanced at the clock.  It would be nearly seven o'clock in the morning in Germany.  She tried to remember if her mother had told her what time her flight would land.  It had been a spur of the moment adventure when her mother realized that she had enough frequent flyer miles to cash in for a round trip ticket to visit family she hadn't seen since before she was married.  She had wanted Skye to go with her, but it would have taken another 88,000 miles that neither of them had.

     "Mutter, I will go with you another time.  Next year when my novel has sold.  We will celebrate with a long cruise on the Rhine and visit all of the places of your childhood.  I will be with you in your heart on this trip, and you will be with me in mine."