Triumphant Transformations…

Author, Sonna Evans
Author, Sonna Evans

What do you see when you look at me? Do you see a responsible, committed, intelligent, half-way put together, follower of Jesus Christ?  I hope so, but that is only half of me. What you may not see is an often fearful, sometimes insecure, controlling, critical, judgmental woman, who also struggles with co-dependency.

The last six years, through a series of difficult circumstances, God has refined me, and healed me. He has called me to follow Him more and more as I listen and strive to obey. Through these trials I have come to see His hand ever so gently guiding me to be the woman He wants me to be.

In the last three years I believe He has called me to work with women. I went back to school, finished my degree and dove into a midlife career change. Oh, the joy it has brought! I love being able to walk with women along their journey through difficult circumstances toward healing and restoration. I appreciate hearing their stories and am blessed when they listen to mine.

It is an honor and a privilege to be allowed into someone else’s experience, and when I look back at the road it took to get me to this place, I don’t look with regret, I embrace it with gratitude.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

This week I was brought to tears as I attended a Celebrate Recovery meeting at my church. I have been beyond blessed to work with several non-profit organizations in the city where I live. I have met many women along the way.  I have driven to meetings with some, cooked meals with others, and had the privilege of doing ministry with many of them.  We have cleaned houses, played games, laughed, and cried together.

On this particular night I saw women from many of those different ministries under the same roof. Most of them did not know each other. Many were receiving help from a variety of different organizations, but all of them were there for healing and restoration. It was like all my different worlds converged in this place of healing, where women shared their experiences, strength and hope. Shackles broken. Freedom found.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial. Because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

My prayer for them continues to be that through their difficult circumstances they will find the same thing I found in mine; the joy of the Lord!

I’m a blessed woman. I am so grateful, hopeful, and overflowing with joy. I love to see the change in me and in the women around me as together we are …just living the thing.

 

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Hope is here…

Adrienne Yerzy
Adrienne Yerzy

We identify with people based on shared commonalities. For example, when I’m in the mood to be creative or feel like an “adult”, I start cooking, search for food blogs, or look for fellow foodies on Instagram.  Likewise, if I’m preparing for a half-marathon, I find fit people online to give me inspiration and I gravitate towards the athletic types in my social circles.

We all feel a little safer with those that we can identify with, and lean towards those that we can share stories with. And THAT is exactly why I don’t like reading Proverbs 31.

For so many women, Proverbs 31 has become this measuring stick of perfection that I associate with white doilies and shallow conversation lacking heart and empathy. If I see “Proverbs 31” mentioned anywhere, I avoid that ministry like the plague, groan internally, and my shoulders slump. The truth is, I simply cannot identify with the woman described in that chapter.

Thankfully, I have found other examples of godly women I CAN identify with in the Bible!  Hannah, for example.  After feeling inferior because of self-imposed comparison to another woman for years, and after feeling like a failure as a wife,

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:10)

That single verse hits my heart in its very core.

Or what about Naomi? After losing her husband, and then her two sons, she hopelessly said to her daughters-in-law:

“’Don’t call me Naomi (pleasant),she told them. “Call me Mara (bitter), because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.’” Ruth 1:20-21, notes mine.

I can’t identify with a ‘perfect’ life, but I can identify with imperfection and heartache. Although the woman described in Proverbs 31 may have gone through a lot to become who she was, we only read the results of presumed struggles. However, I can definitely identify with Hannah’s feeling of rejection and inferiority, and I can identify with Naomi’s feelings of loss and hopelessness. Both women may have thought:

“My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God” Isaiah 40:27.

But, we cannot stay in the place of hurt and rejection. Let us also remember the truth. God eventually brought the hope, justice, and love each woman needed. He did NOT abandon them or leave them in a place of despair. Hannah received the baby she prayed for and Naomi received the family and security she thought were lost forever.

Neither woman turned her back on God, but with honesty acknowledged the truth of her situation, hung on to life…and waited. And God fulfilled each hearts’ need and desire. His answers were unexpected, but each answer was satisfying.  Heartache turned to joy!

Be encouraged! If you are going through something hard, oppressive, or seemingly hopeless.  God has not disappeared!

“Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40: 28-31)

Wait, pray, and seek God. He will be found. And for me that’s what it looks like … just living the thing.

 

Refuge And Other Forms Of Security…

Author, Colleen Fraioli
Author, Colleen Fraioli

My kind friends offered to help me sort through my parents’ kitchen after the big move. They scrounged empty banana boxes from Save Mart and together we packed up the remains of the day.

I found myself wanting to hang on to the “non-valuable” pile; cheap plastic glasses, cracked cereal bowls, old Tupperware circa 1965, and especially the chipped roast beef platter from Sunday dinners growing up in the parsonage.

But there is no room for all that in my house. Besides, my parents are still alive at 92 and 93, and I have heirlooms coming out my ears. So what’s up with the lump in my throat? And why is it so hard to walk away from the discard box?

Letting go feels like I am losing something foundational and irreplaceable. This move to assisted living is making me feel unstable, and my heart doesn’t seem to have a landing place.

Maybe that is the crisis. My security has latched on to sameness. There is comfort in the familiar, especially when it has been a refuge.

I look up “refuge” in my thesaurus. Many restful images surround this word. Retreat. Haven. Harbor. Resort. Shelter. Hiding place. These words describe how I’ve felt when we have prayed together in this home over the years.

A verse has been running through my mind during this process; as the movers came on Monday, as I talked with a potential buyer on Wednesday, and now as I say goodbye to the little things,

“GOD is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

…not the home they are leaving, or the dishes, or the roast beef platter.

It seems like I’m being asked to decide where I will find refuge in the middle of this big change. Maybe I can try and recreate the past… God plus everything staying the same…God plus the stuff that makes me feel good… God plus my parent’s faith. Or, I can release the props and let it just be God. Rearranging the environment doesn’t rearrange Him.

My head knows I can trust the Changeless One, It’s my heart that needs a little coaxing. It feels vulnerable and uncertain to leave the things. I grieve all they represent. But when I think about it I realize they are symbols of His faithfulness. Trusting the source is way better than trusting the leftovers, when you’re… just living the thing.

The Man To Love Me Through This…

Wendy & Dave Morgan
Wendy & Dave Morgan

I met the man of my dreams in 1991 and I rediscovered him two years ago as he came along side me in this journey that is cancer. Dave has always been there for me but over the years I had come to take this for granted.

Like every marriage we’ve had our ups and downs; with the stresses of raising a family, and just the business of everyday life. When I was diagnosed with cancer our life came to a sudden stop and the things that seemed to consume our time weren’t so important any more. I learned to cherish my husband again, and in return I got a husband who is worth cherishing.

Because of this, I can honestly say that if given the chance to change what I have gone through I wouldn’t do it. I have come to appreciate and love Dave at a deeper level than ever before and I know we are blessed to have the relationship we do.

A couple months ago Dave gave me the lyrics to a song and told me,

“This is the husband I want to be for you”.

So to quote the country wisdom of Martina McBride in her song “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”;

When you’re weak I’ll be strong        

               When you let go I’ll hold on;

          When you feel lost, scared to death

               Like you can’t take one more step,

          Just take my hand

               Together we can do it

          I’m going to love you through it.”

 And he has done just that.

He’s the man who, with every fiber of his being wants to “fix it” when I hurt, has learned to just be there.

He’s the man who can always find the good in me.

He’s the man who told me it’s an honor to care for me, even if that means holding my hair while I throw up.

He’s the man who brought pruners to the hospital so he could cut a branch that always caught on my wig.

He’s the man who has made it his life’s mission to make my stoic doctor laugh no matter what and in the process has me cracking up when I might want to cry instead.

He’s the man who has helped me through all of this with his wonderful sense of humor; always making me laugh even when other people may think we’re nuts.

He’s the man who loves me in a way everyone can see and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

Our life isn’t perfect and the stresses we face now make the others pale in comparison, but when things get tough we jokingly tell each other,

“You’re lucky I love you baby because next time I’m marrying for money.” This may be why people think we’re nuts.

We are thankful that we have the strength of each other, and our faith in a good God who is going to love us through this as we are…..just living the thing.