Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

~~ Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) ~~   I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Carla - Age 18 - St. John's, Newfoundland
Have you ever wished you could go back and do things over again?  I do not think I know anyone who has not said at least once in their lives “If I could go back and do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I would do it so differently”.  Maybe just to give yourself some advice would help so very much.  The idea of writing your younger self a letter is hardly a unique one.  I have read letters written by others to themselves and found them to be incredibly interesting, so I thought I would write one for myself.  The process of gathering information and bits of advice; and forming them into this letter, was a lengthy one.  It turns out, though, that this course has been as enlightening to me in the present day, as it would have been to my younger self, but for different reasons.  It seems that I have come through a lot of trials and trauma in my life.  I am a survivor.  I have grown to be a person that is incredibly strong, and I have enough experience to give some very good and practical advice to someone younger.  Most of all, I can see that I have grown, and am still growing, into a woman that I can be proud of. 

Dear Carley,

Well, you are 18 now... legally an adult just starting your life.  I want to give you some advice to prepare you for the life you are about to embark on.  I know what your first thought is... “Who’s Carley?”  Carley is you... me... us!  It is what most people call you now.  It started as a pet name with just a slight change from Carla, and it stuck.  I let it happen because I like it, and I was on a journey to find and heal myself.  I need to create the me that I always knew was inside somewhere longing to get out.  She is the me in our dreams that few others have seen, and she got lost somewhere along the path tangled in the midst of a lot of pain.  I felt that God gave me the new name to go with the new me.  She is you, and one day she will be me again, only better than before.  The journey we are on did not have to be as difficult as it has been, though I am learning to be thankful for it. 

First; know that It is not only OK to be different, but it is cool.  I know that you cannot begin to wrap your brain around that concept right now, but one day you will see that people who are all the same are not original.  Being different makes you special... really!  Let go of all the bad memories from school when the kids laughed at you, made fun of you, and said nasty things.  They had their own hurt inside that they did not know how to deal with, and they took it out on you.  This applies to anyone throughout your life who says mean things to you; and there will be others.  It is not about you.  Let go of the pain before the nightmares start and you need therapy to get rid of them.  It is important to set boundaries for yourself; which you can do without being mean.  Also, keep in mind that others cannot see things from your point of view.  No matter what you say to others, they will not learn what ever lesson you are trying to teach them.  It takes your experiences to create your point of view.  Only you can ever have it.

When you get that letter from MUN, do not turn it down.  You will regret it for the rest of your life.  You do not need to know the whole plan for your life or what your major is before you start university.  Many, if not most, believe it or not, do not know what they want to do even after they start college.  You are not the only one who does not know.  It will help you find yourself, and help you figure out what your dreams are.  Dream big... do not limit yourself.  There are people there who will help you.  Do not focus all your attention on the one dream of becoming a Mother.  It is the equivalent of chasing your own tail.  Put it on the back burner.  Some of your dreams will not come to pass in the format you hope for; and if you continue to push away all other ideas, your life will one day be derailed.  Go to school.  Choose something that will allow you to express your creativity.  We love Interior Design (not Interior Decorating... turns out there is a difference); and toss in some business courses.  Also you will grow to love writing.  No matter what you do in life, business and writing will be useful.  On the side, do some photography courses.  It is so much fun!  Do not delay dreams like sky diving, underwater diving; or taking lessons in music, singing or dancing.  One day you will feel like it is too late.  Oh, and correspondence programs are not the same.  Do not settle for this.

Next, some things that I wish someone would have told me:
  • Now that you have your license, get a car!  Do not put it off. 
  • Travel.  Go anywhere and everywhere.  The world is not as scary as you think it is.  I know that going to St. John’s at first was overwhelming and terrifying; but it does not have to be.  Travelling is an adventure.  Enjoy it.
  • Read more - for at least 30 minutes each day. 
  • Eat right!  Educate yourself on how to achieve and maintain a healthy body.  Stay away from junk food, non-fat or low-fat anything (they are not as wonderful as the media will make you think they are).  Avoid anything made with white flour, or anything that says ‘enriched’.  Above all else avoid artificial sweeteners and processed foods.  If it comes in a box or a bag, chances are you do not want it.  Do your shopping in the produce and meat departments.  Buy only whole-grain breads and such items... not whole-wheat!  They are very important for good health.  Always go organic when you can.  Grab any opportunity to buy farm fresh unprocessed milk products.  Store-bought dairy are filled with chemicals, preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics; all of which are dangerous, and will affect your health!
  • Exercise.  Every day!  Working out does not mean sports!  Go swimming, ride your bike; but you will find that power-walking is something you will fall in love with.  Hold on to it.  Oh, and do sit-ups daily, without fail.
  • Wear a good support bra.  Go to a good lingerie store and get yourself properly fitted for one.  You are not wearing the correct size.  Do not even bother to look at the price tag.  Whatever it says, it is worth it!
  • Do not mix money with friendship or family.  The two just do not mix well so do not even try.
  • When the time comes and you find yourself watching a lot of TV, turn it off!  It is a nasty habit that was very hard for me to break; but now that I have I am so very thankful!
  • Cut up the credit cards.
  • Do not start taking antidepressants.  You have a right to say no.  Also, do not let them keep doing surgeries because of your ovaries.  There are other options.  Do not trust the advice of every doctor you see.  Read, research and know your rights before accepting care from a doctor.  Not all doctors know what they are talking about, even when they sound like they do.
  • When Mom and Dad ask you to move to leave Newfoundland and go to Ontario with them; do not fight it.  It will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.  There is the most amazing world out there that you never imagined was there!
  • Do not put Dad on a pedestal.  The view is not a realistic one.  You will never stop being Daddy’s little girl.
  • Do not let Daphne and John, Charlene or Charlyse drift out of your life.  You will need them one day, and if you do not stay in touch you will have no one to turn to.  Life is lonely without friends.
  • When, Graham comes along, know that you will be a best friends forever.  Do not let anyone tell you that having a guy for a best friend is wrong.  You will share a special friendship that so many do not get in their lifetime.  One day when an argument gets out of hand, do not let him walk out the door without making up first.  Ten years without him was much too long to wait to see my best friend.
  • Shadow belongs with you.  Do not let him go.
  • Roommates – you will have quite a few.  One named Lawrence is bad news!  Do not go there.
  • Learn to enjoy being alone.  I know that is a concept that seems contradictory to you right now.  Loneliness is painful; but it can also be a wonderful time of solitude.  Learn to embrace that or it can eat you alive.
About men - do not believe everything that some sweet talking guy whispers to you... no matter how cute he is.  The boyfriend you have right now is not as loyal as you believe him to be.  Let that relationship go and move on.  I know it is very hard sometimes to tell the difference between lust and love, but they are worlds apart.  When you are young and know you are in love... you are not.  Real love will come along when you are truly ready for it and there will be no doubt.  Do not be so willing to give yourself to a man.  It will not make him love you.  In your twenties you will get an overwhelming amount of attention from men; especially on the beach and in bars, but beware, they are not chasing your heart.  Before you get married, make sure he loves you as much as you love him.  If there is any doubt, then getting married is the wrong thing to do.  Stop worrying about the clock.  There is no rulebook that says it has to happen by a certain age.  It is better to wait than to end up in divorce court on your 30th birthday.  Finally, do not ever, ever, ever, let any man abuse you physically, mentally, emotionally or financially.  Do not give them power over you by falling for the guilt trips.  Be strong.

Paul deserves a special mention.  When he comes along, just know that his ego is just a facade to hide his big heart, but unlike most you will see through it immediately.  He will break your heart more than you ever imagined possible, but do not let that stop you.  You will share a bond that very few other couples in the world ever get to share; seriously!  You will even have people commenting on it on a regular basis.  Despite the heartbreak, the love is worth it.

Partying - drinking yourself stupid will not impress the kind of man you want in your life.  Partying is fun, but you need to keep it in perspective.  One day when Graham ties you to a chair and screams at you, listen to his message.  Do not fight it.  It will change the path your life is on.  Too much booze will bring you a lot of trouble and heartache.

Of all the lessons that you will learn, of all the advice that you can get from me or others; the most important thing and the most important decision that you will ever make is to invite Jesus to live in your heart.  Do it now!  Do not put it off.  Please look to God for all you need.  God wants you to have a relationship with Him.  Yes... a relationship with God!  I know that does not make any sense to you now, but once you open your heart, truly, to Jesus, you will begin to understand.  It will change your life.  Even the world around you will start to look different... more alive somehow.  God loves you!  Being a Christian is not limiting.  In fact, it is freedom.  It’s awesome!

Once Jesus is the focus of your life you will learn many things, understand things with much more clarity and get many blessings.  One of the greatest will be the gift of forgiveness.  However, first you have to understand that it is something you do for yourself, not for others.  This does not mean that you are telling them that what they did to you was OK; but truly forgiving opens up a whole world of new possibilities.  Always choose caring over uncaring, giving over passing by, give the benefit of the doubt over criticism or gossip or judging.  Do not lose faith in people.  They will hurt you, but they also are hurting; it is not about you.  Measure any kind of frustrations from others or indecisions by this standard... “Will this alter my life in 5 years from now... or even 1 year from now?”  If the answer is ‘no’ then do not give it another thought.  It is not important.

Keep smiling.  You are beautiful.  Please do not start hurting yourself because you think you deserve it for not being pretty.  You are wrong.  One day you will see that a lot of people will be telling you that, and they will mean it.  Look in the mirror and tell yourself “I am a child of God.  I am beautiful.”  Then, believe it!  Every time you hurt yourself, or belittle yourself, it hurts God.  Do not let go of that bubbly personality that so many keep telling you is why they fell in love with you.  If you hide her inside, one day you will not know how to let her out again.  Life can get very lonely after that.

Do not ever quit!  Hold on to your dreams.  Follow your heart and do not be influenced by others; not even Mom and Dad.  You have to live in your body and live your life.  Do not ever hurt anyone to get there, but you have to make yourself happy first.  Learn to push yourself... hard!  You will come to treasure that about yourself.  Do not let anyone tell you that Prince Charming does not exist, or that any of your dreams is not realistic.  Anything is reasonable if you work hard and let God lead the way.  Do not let anyone talk you into limiting yourself like that.

So, my wonderfully innocent and naive young self, if you take nothing else from this message, just remember these things... first, that person who was hurting you before is the bad person.   It is not your fault.  Repeat after me “it is not my fault”.  You did nothing wrong.  Next, invite Jesus to be the center of your world, and learn to dance in the rain; because the rest will take care of itself in God’s wonderful timing.

Love always, 

 ~~ Dear God ~~    I know that I cannot go back and change my life.  I also know that no matter what plan I may have, what advice I may be given; that the plan You have already prepared for my life is the perfect path.  Despite all the bad decisions, wrong turns, disobedience, and sin that have caused so much pain and trauma; I know that You are leading me on my journey.  Thank You, Father for this journey.  Please teach me with each and every step all the lessons that I need to know to get closer to You.  Open my eyes and ears; along with my mind and my heart to be anxious, willing and able to receive the Holy Spirit.  Make me a disciple for Jesus that will make You proud.  In Jesus name, AMEN.


Families Are Like Fudge

~~ Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV84) ~~   But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Microsoft Office Copyright Free Images
Fudge Brownies
Family.  What is the first thing that popped into your mind when you read that word?  I will say it again... FAMILY!  What does the word ‘family’ mean to you?  Did your heart suddenly feel full because they are so sweet, or did your blood pressure shoot up because they are just a bunch of nuts?!  Dictionary.com gives one definition as “a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for”.  I really like that definition.  It does not matter what kind of family you came from, what kind of family you have; or what you have been through with them or because of them; I would be willing to bet that you love them.  Whether you came from a traditional family of 2 parents, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a hamster; or divorced parents, or even if the only family you have is a couple of the best friends anyone has ever had; they are your family.  Even when they are making you so crazy that you just want to pull your hair out... or better yet, pull their hair out... you would never want to walk this earth without them; and you would go to just about any lengths for them if it were called for.

Well, think about this next thought for a minute...  Can you say the same about your church family?   Are they part of your life every day of the week?  Do you take care of them when they are sick; give them food, money or a place to sleep if they need it?  Can you confide your deepest secrets with them?  Can you listen to their secrets and truly not make a judgement against them?  Are you able to stay calm and love them even when there is a big disagreement about how the latest ministry within the church should operate?  Do you even think about the people you go to church with as family?  I certainly did not for most of my life.  Truthfully, I had never heard the term ‘church family’ before; despite the fact that I have passed through quite a few churches in my life.  That is, until I was finally led ‘home’.  I think that is one of the things that first attracted me to this church.  I was fascinated with the idea that they were a family together.  From the first time I went there, the first sermon that I heard; it was stressed that ‘we are a family’.  It is still stressed to us; it is a message that is not forgotten.  The more I got to know them, the more I could see that they really are a part of each other’s lives; and not just on Sunday’s?  They love each other.  They laugh, cry, and pray together.  I have yet to hear any gossip or see anyone with a grudge against someone else.  When one grieves, everyone is sad, when one of us is lonely there is a friend that you can reach out to; when one of us is sick, someone will be there to take care of you; when we are hungry someone will bring you food; when we just cannot seem to make a pay-cheque stretch far enough, they are there to help. 

In my time as a member of this family, they have given me gifts that are eternal.  For the first time I have met people who truly do strive live the life, not just talk the talk.  They allow the Holy Spirit to move very freely among them.  I have been invited into their midst and been made one of the group.  For the first time in my life, I know what it is like to belong to a group.  They have shown me that knowing about God is not the same as knowing God; or having a relationship with Him.  I have learned how to forgive; and how to strive for true repentance.  For many years my one “rule of survival”, as I called it, was “never trust anyone for any reason no matter what.  No exceptions!”.  I really did live that way.  I thought I was protecting myself.  The first time that I was told “I will not judge you”, after sharing what I thought was something terrible, my life literally changed.  In that one instant, I suddenly saw light that I had never seen before.  My life, my heart and my view of the people of the world all changed completely.  I suddenly had a door open in my heart that was never open before.  A door that would allow trust to enter in... that would allow the Holy Spirit to enter in. 

I have been given food and money when I did not have any.  Anytime I need a ride, someone is there to give me a lift.  They have let me cry on their shoulders when I had no one else to turn to.  I have seen incredible patience from them while I learn how to emerge from my dark hiding place that was my world for such a long time.  Honestly, I still feel like I am a new; like a new puppy that is still so very unsure of everything and still very wobbly on its legs; but they do not try to push me or rush me along in my journey.  In their own homes, their individual family units pray together, play together and study the bible together.  The men are actually as in love with their wives as they are with Jesus; and they welcome an accountability partner to help keep them on the ‘straight and narrow’.  These are things that I have rarely, if ever, seen before. 

Here is an example of something that one of them did for me once.  It is just a small thing, but it is a wonderful example of charity that I had never experienced before.  The situation was that I was at a church function.  It was a big concert and it was getting late in the evening.  I wanted to go home even though the concert was not over yet.  I do not have a car, and I did not have a ride.  I called a few people, but it seems everyone else was also out that night.  I did not know the bus system, and I did not have enough money for a bus even if I had known where or when I could catch a one.  One of my beautiful sisters in Christ came to me and gave me some money to get a taxi home.  I started to cry, thanking her and assuring her that I would pay her back as soon as possible.  She looked at me and simply said “Why?  We’re family now.  That’s what families do for each other.” 

The closer I get to God in my journey the more I feel His peace within me.  To have the support of a wonderful family around me during my journey is helping me learn how to become more and more like Jesus, as we are called to do.  With each and every small step I take the sins of my past are becoming smaller and smaller.  The more I grow in Christ, the more freedom I have in my life.  In the past, I thought was being free was living behind a protective wall and keeping others away.  Now I am able to see that instead I actually built a big wall around myself so tall and so secure that no one could get in, and I could not get out.  God sent people into my life that are helping me break down these walls.  They not only help guide me out into the light; but also show me wonderful examples of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

As Christians, we know that we are all children of God; heirs with Jesus, but we also know that we are mere human beings living in a broken world.  To me, this means that I am fully aware of the fact that as wonderful as my new family is, that they are far from perfect.  No one is perfect (Romans 3:23 ~ For all have fallen short of the glory of God), and it is important that we do not forget that.  When someone in your family is causing you stress, or just making you crazy; give them little slack, learn to forgive and forget just as God does with us (Hebrews 8:12 ~ For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more) and as He calls for us to do with others (Luke 6:37 ~ Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven).  There’s an old saying that says “Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts!” (~Author Unknown)  Enjoy, nuts and all... sometimes the nuts are the best part! 

~~ Dear God ~~ Your infinite wisdom and grace never cease to amaze me.  The whole idea of a family is an awesome idea!  Thank you so much for placing me with families that are the most incredible mixture of sweet and nutty people.  They help me, teach me, laugh with me, cry with me, play with me and pray with me.  But Your Son, Jesus, is the most important family member of all.  Please do not ever let us be separated.  Thank You, Father.  Oh, one more thing, Lord; am I one of the sweet ones or the nutty ones?  Never mind... I am not sure I want You to answer that one.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

How God Led Me Home

~~ 1 Corinthians 12:12 (NIV84) ~~  The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ. 

Photo by Google Maps
One day when I was about 3 years old I got lost in the supermarket.  I was likely only an isle or two away from my Mom but, at that time, it felt like hundreds of kilometers.  I remember feeling so alone and so terrified.  The world suddenly seemed big and scary.  This very nice man talked to me and asked me some questions, and then he helped me find my Mom.  Since I was so young I do not remember all the details, but I do remember feeling so very happy when I saw my Mom again.  It was like going home after a long time away. 
Many years later when I first started to look for a church to attend, I had no idea which one to pick.  At that time in my life I was not Christian in the true sense of the word.  Granted I believed in the basic facts, like the virgin birth, Jesus lived a perfect sinless life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection.  I also knew that the Baptism and Holy Communion are important in choosing a church.  I did not have a relationship with Christ, nor did I have any concept of what could possibly mean.  Neither did I know or understand the Holy Spirit.  I had no idea that they are an absolutely vital part of the Christian life.  The one thing I did know though was that I could feel the pull within me to find a church.  I prayed for God to “help me find a church home, like a family where I can fit in, that will become the center of my world”.  I was not even sure I understood what this meant, or why I prayed this prayer so often because I had never heard the terms ‘church home’ or ‘church family’ before.  I had been to a lot of churches in my life and none talked about these things, or this kind of ‘belonging together’.  I only knew that I felt the need for it, that I had never known the feeling of fitting in, and that we are called to attend church regularly just as Jesus did (Luke 4:16 (NIV84) - He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.).  But to find that church... I mean, there are so many denominations; all with their own ‘rules’; and each one claiming their rules are the ‘right’ rules.  How does one know which one to choose?  Does it matter?  I just wanted a church that did not care about ‘set rules’ but instead followed the bible without leaving parts out, changing it, or twisting anything to suit their needs.

My first choice was a church that I remembered being only 10 minutes walk from the new apartment I was about to move in to.  Convenient, since I do not have a car.  The new apartment was in a different city.  I was moving back home and was so very excited about that!  They say ‘home is where the heart is’ and I took the opportunity to move back to the place that my heart says is home, after my life took a huge unexpected turn.  I arrived in town, and that church I remembered being just a hop and a skip down the street... wasn’t!  They had moved.  It seems during the years I had lived elsewhere they outgrew their building.  The old building was now the new location of my dog’s veterinary hospital.  Great... we got our old vet back just down the road, but no church!  This meant that I would have to find another church; and that I would have to get connected with someone who could help me with transportation.  This problem for me was in the same category as the chicken and the egg.  I need transportation to get to church, but I need to go to church to meet people who could help me with transportation.

At this point, the thought occurred to me that since I have to find a church elsewhere, I might as well find one that I felt had the same beliefs as I have.  I figured, if I am to spend my life attending services every Sunday with this group, whoever they may be, than being comfortable with their belief system would make things much more enjoyable.  There are those out there that are not necessarily Christian, though they claim to be.  Then there are those that have beliefs and practices that are just... well, down-right ‘weird’.  I started to do some research and began with the church that I had originally planned on going to; in their new location.  I read their doctrine, statement of faith, beliefs, and core values.  I very much liked what I saw.  They had all the ‘good stuff’ I was looking for and none of the ‘bad or weird stuff’. 

However, I felt that I should keep researching just to make sure I knew all my options.  I checked out many other churches in the area; looking at the same information, mainly through their websites.  There were a few that did not have this information listed; so I emailed them and asked some questions.  Most were more than willing to share about themselves.  There were also a few that did not want to share so willingly.  I saw this as a ‘red flag’ and crossed them off the list right away.  In all my research, I found none that I liked as much as the first one.  Eventually, that first church became like a measuring stick that I used to evaluate others.  One day I said to myself “if that’s the church you want, than just make your decision and go”!  So I did... make the decision, that is.  Getting there was still a problem. 

Then one day my cousin said that she wanted to start going to church as well.  Wouldn’t you know it, she chose the same one I had picked!  So we went together in her car.  However, she changed her mind a short time later and stopped going.  I was so very disappointed.  I had enjoyed the services and the people more than I expected.  There was a certain warmth among them that I had never felt in church before.  There was also something special within their sermons that touched my heart and shed some light in ways that I had never experienced before in church.  Plus their music was a wonderful mix of old and new, which I so very much appreciated!  Nevertheless, I felt I had not been going there long enough to know other people well enough to request a ride on Sunday’s.  So, with no transportation any more, I would have to go back to Sunday morning TV services as my church time, hoping that one day soon I would find a solution.  So I waited for an answer to show up.... for about 2 years. 

Then one day I got an email in response to an advertisement I placed looking for a new roommate.  Without someone to share my apartment with, expenses were just too high to live alone.  This reply came on the last possible day before I would have to move again.  It turned out that this person not only showed up just in the nick of time, but is Christian and is a member of the church I had waited so long to join!  I saw this as a sign from God that this was the person I was to accept as my new roomie.  I felt this so strongly that I before I even replied to the email I called my Mom to tell her the good news that I had found my roommate!  During this time in my life I was very social-phobic.  This new friend ended up bringing me to church, introducing me to people; and helping me feel comfortable.  Since then my heart and my life have changed drastically as a direct result of being part of this church.  I am a whole new person, with a whole new life.

It has been a little more than 2 years since attending my first service there.  My first reasons for choosing a church were simply due to location and convenience.  I did not even include God in the decision process.  For that matter, during those days I did not know I could or should include Him.  He used this to lead me on a journey that would bring me full circle, but this time I would know without a doubt that God led me to this place.  It is His decision where my home church should be.  God is the one who places us in each and every position in our lives; to fulfill His purposes.  If we keep Him in our focus we will complete that purpose; His glory will shine and we will have many blessings bestowed upon us.  Today, I can understand that it is important for me to know God led me here because it leaves me no doubt that this is where I belong.  When we are in a position to see that it is His calling or our lives, we have no reason to doubt or rethink the decision.  We know that no matter what the present circumstances may appear to be, that the future is very bright. 

Since then, the church really has become the center of my world.  I have learned what a church family is and what a church home is.  I have also been introduced to the Holy Spirit, and have developed a relationship with God.  I am growing closer to Him with each and every lesson I learn.  My views on certain portions of my life went from a completely worldly perspective to one that God’s Word calls to live.  I volunteer on a regular basis, I attend bible studies, Adult Christian Education courses, I work at the Welcome Centre sometimes on Sunday’s, and any other areas where I may be useful.  I do all of this because I just love Jesus so much that my heart longs to do these things for Him.  I am part of something bigger.  I have a place and a purpose.  I am part of the Body.  I am part of a group; and I feel I belong there.  I have never had that before in my whole life.  This is a whole new experience for me.  They have welcomed me into their midst, made me a member of their family and they have shown me love like I have never known.  I in turn made a commitment to them when I was enrolled as a member.  Sunday’s are my favorite day of the week because it is worship day.  I get to sing ‘Worship Melodies’ to Him.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am where I was meant to be.  I am no longer lost.  Just like that day when I was 3 years old, I have finally come home. 

~~ Dear God ~~  Your ways, Your plans, Your purposes are all perfect.  Thank You for leading me home to You, and for the incredible position that You have blessed me with in Your divine plan for the world.  Thank You for bringing me closer to You with each and every lesson I learn and every ‘Worship Melody’ that I sing to You.  Even when circumstances are upsetting from my point of view, I know that You have a wonderful ending planned for me.  I do not have to question if I have made any wrong decisions or choices.  Those that I have made You will erase.  As long as I follow You and I will never again be lost.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

Oh Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble

~~ James 4:10 (TNIV) ~~  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. 

Pinky & The Brain
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  ~~Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

This is a very well known quote.  It is both profound, giving you some great food for thought; and yet at the same time it states something obvious; or at least it should be obvious.  Ever have moments when you realized that you do not know something that you thought you always knew?!  I would be willing to bet you have.  I think everyone has moments when something suddenly becomes clearer, out of the blue it makes more sense, or the ‘light’ comes on.  You thought you knew what a certain word meant.  But, nope!  It turns out you didn’t have a clue!  It has happened to me several times.

One of the biggest experiences for me like this was when I became, what I call, a true Christian; desiring to obey God and having the willingness to let Him change me.  I suddenly understood so much more than I ever knew before.  There was a light shining into corners that I did not even know where there.  I had no idea that there was a whole world outside my cozy little room!  I started feeling God talking to me and guiding me to walk outside of my room.  Actually, it was more of a big push because I was sure that anything outside my little-room-world was terrifying.  That old cartoon, that I am sure you are familiar with, ‘Pinky and the Brain’ comes to mind here.  For so long they had no idea there was a whole world outside the lab.  I finally started to feel the Holy Spirit working in me.  Both me and my life started to drastically change.  Even the world around me started to look different.  Things started to look ‘more alive’, colors started to look brighter.  It really is awesome to see things as God wants you to see them.  It makes me look forward to the time when things will look even clearer still.

Another one of these ‘it turns out that I didn’t know what I knew’ experiences was very recently when God started to lead me down the path of humility.  We may think that we have a clear vision; that we have our route laid out, our plans are made; but God always sees the full picture.  That is how He knows what steps to lead us on.  He knew that my first step in the lesson of humility was to teach me the terminology and their definitions.  Sounds like something that should be obvious, doesn’t it?  Well, keep reading!

See, it is like this; I had always associated the word ‘humility’ with ‘humiliation’, which in turn I thought was a fancy way of saying ‘embarrassed’; and to be embarrassed meant someone had done something or said something very mean to hurt you.  ‘Pride’, I thought meant high self-respect. To be ‘humble’ I thought meant... well, that you were not exactly the ‘smartest rodent in the lab’; which I guess at that time, unknowingly, was me!   I know what you’re thinking but; hey, rodents are God’s creatures too!

You know those moments when you realize that God has been trying for so long to get your attention that He has had to clobber you over the head with something?  I had one of those times in church.  I guess if you are going to be clobbered, church is a good place for it to happen!  The sermon was about pride and humility, based on the book of James, chapter 4.  It was an awesome sermon.  I felt very uplifted, like I had learned an awesome lesson.  Our church is blessed like that.  We get a lot of sermons that speak right at home to us.  This one told us that we have to be humble before God to release the dreams that He has for us.  Woo Hoo! What a remarkable message. 

I went home, I grabbed a snack, and I sat down on the couch with my laptop in front of me to check my email.  Among the list of unread messages were two devotional subscriptions, from completely different sources.  I do not always have time to read all the daily devotionals and blogs that I sign up for, but I do try to read most of them every day.  I started reading.  The first one was about humility and was based on James, chapter 4!  OK, twice in one day... this was an obvious message from God that He definitely wants me to be humble.  “OK, Lord.  I got the message.  Humble it is”.  I opened the second email.  Guess what?!  I hope you are sitting down for this... it was also about humility.  Seriously!  I was so surprised my jaw nearly hit the floor.  My first thought was “Whoa, this is so huge!  This is a very big God moment”.   God wanted my attention, and He certainly got it at that moment. 

However, there was one problem.  I did not, at all, understand what He was trying to tell me.  I mean, I try to be nice to people.  I do not ask for much in return.  I certainly try not to judge, and do my very best to always forgive.  I am basically a good person.  Right?!  I guess this kind of pride should have been my first clue that I have a big problem.  Despite all this, I was almost certain that I was about to go through something; some sort of lesson or test by God, that would teach me about humility.  I really considered asking God if He would consider taking the short cut on this one.

I was right.  There was a lesson from God.  Only days later, I had a very upsetting experience that would educate me not only on the proper definitions of these words that I was obviously confused about, but how they are to be applied to the particular situation.  I was completely thrown for a loop and went through a great deal of distress, to the point I was sick, when someone that I count on for support defined a boundary between us.  It seems that I have learned the hard way that boundaries are an awesome idea... when you are the one setting them.  From the other side of that boundary line things look different.  My mind circled around over and over with thoughts like “How could he do this to me?  I thought I was important.  I am just not loved.  I probably rub on his very last nerve.  I do not deserve to be loved.  I think it would be best if I just quietly leave and disappear for good.”   Once the initial shock was over, I received a third devotional email, from yet another source, with the subject of ‘humility’.   God certainly felt the need to reinforce this message to me!  As a side note; I just love it that He sends me emails!  How cool is that?! 

Anyway, I had the sermon and the blogs that I read, but I still did not truly understand how this situation I was stressing about was trying to teach me about being humble.  I just could not connect these two ends.  So I decided, as I usually do in such cases, to do some research.  First I looked up the definitions of these words.  Again, this would seem like something that should have been obvious much sooner.  For me, apparently not!  Then, to reinforce what I learned from the sermon, I played it back from the church website and listened to it again, and again; taking detailed notes this time. It is amazing how much you can realize you have missed the second and third times around!  I started to put the pieces together.  I have learned that God is the One who defines the terms, makes the rules, and plans the route.  So with that in mind, I could see how these words are defined, and how He wants them to be applied.
  • Embarrassed – is the feeling one gets when in an uncomfortable situation amongst others.  It is not something that anyone has said or done; it may not even be a result of someone else.  For example, once when spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to turn on the vacuum cleaner, I experienced some embarrassment.  OK, I admit it.  I will not be the next recipient of the ‘Martha Stewart of the Year’ award!  I had all hardwood flooring, and leather furniture (beautiful imported Italian leather.  I loved it).  Oh, anyway, I very rarely had a reason to use the vacuum.  My boyfriend (at the time), sat in his chair laughing at me so hard it is a wonder he did not pop a blood vessel somewhere!  That was embarrassing.  It gave him something to tease me about for months, but it did not hurt me. 
  • Humiliated – is the experience you go through when embarrassed by something that someone said or did to intentionally or knowingly hurt you, causing your dignity to go flying out the window.  For example, when I was at a party and a friend arrived and saw me for the first time in a long time.  She stood in the door pointing at me and laughing, while screaming out “Oh my gosh, look how fat she is!”  That was humiliation.  It was painful.  It still is if I let myself think about it; but I forgive her. 
  • Humility – as so wonderfully explained by our pastor, is a virtue.  It means giving up and letting God take control in every situation!  For example, if God needs there to be a boundary between me and my friend, than I know it is for a reason that will bring me joy and will show His awesome glory.  I will accept that and wait in anticipation to see the outcome. 
  • Humble - is to place oneself at the appropriate level; which is lower than God, in a position to need Him, and to think of others as better than ourselves.  For example, my friend’s need to put up a boundary is what is most important.  I certainly do not want to cause anyone any pain or distress.  I have to love my friend enough to let this new positioning happen without allowing it to derail my life.  I also realize now that he likely understood this need for me to be separated slightly and did this to help me.  He also knows me well enough to know that ‘tough love’ is sometimes the only way I will finally learn. 
  • Pride our pastor says, is likely the greatest sin.  It is one’s ability to put themselves on a higher pedestal than they have a right to do; in an effort to make themselves as high as, or higher, then God.  For example, when I got upset about my friend setting boundaries.  I got upset because my pride got in the way of the truth.  I put my own needs and desires above both God and my friend.  I should not be counting on someone else for support.  I should be counting only on God for the support I need.  He is more than I need. 
I am certain that my journey through the humility chapter of my story is far from over; and likely never will be as long as I am on this side of Heaven’s gates.  I know this because messages, blogs and devotionals with the subject of humility are continuing to be handed to me.  Letting God mould us into the kind of person He wants us to be is almost always a series of painful lessons.  However, it is worth it to become the person that we want to be, and to live a life of dreams beyond anything our imaginations can come up with.  To take the short cut would mean missing out on some very important and interesting things.  To go along with this transformation and not fight it is one more step toward complete obedience.  To go through it with peace and joy in our hearts is what will fill God’s heart with joy.  I pray that God will let me clearly see each and every situation where my pride gets in the way of me advancing closer to Him.  Micah says it so eloquently in ~ Micah 6:8 (TNIV) ~  “He has shown all you people what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

~~ Dear God ~~    You are so incredibly patient, loving and merciful.  Each time I let pride guide my way, I create a brick that is added to a wall separating me and You.  Please let me see the blocks that I am about to add to this wall each and every time I am about to put one in place.  Instead, show me how to remove all the blocks that I have already put in place, and to never add to this wall again.  Then please let me always be open to feel Your support to get me through to the end.  Please help me realize that I am neither Pinky nor The Brain.  I am one of Your loving children who desires to bring glory to Your name.  Help me to see that outside my little-laboratory-world, there is a multitude of blessings waiting for me, if only I would accept Your leadership to get me outside safely.  In Jesus name, AMEN. 

Here are a couple videos you might have fun watching.  The first an old song that you likely have heard before called “Oh Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble” by Mac Davis.  I think it is very funny.  That (ex)boyfriend that I mentioned... this was his self-appointed ‘theme song’.  Looking back on it, I can see how God may have been trying to get our attentions about pride even then.  Below that is a clip from a Pinky and The Brain episode.  For years, he and I have had an ongoing ‘discussion’ (which continues) about which one of us is Pinky and which one of us is The Brain.  So on that note... Pinky, this one’s for you!

Pinky & The Brain: Bad Day

Emergency Help Numbers

~~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ~~ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.   

Microsoft Office
Copyright Free Photo
When I was 18 years old, suddenly one day I had an attack of pain in my lower right side that was so bad I could not even hold myself up without support.  I was home from college for the weekend when it happened.  My parents got me to the local medical clinic; and the doctors told me the list of possibilities that could be the cause of my pain.  There was some doubt about the diagnosis due to some complications from other health issues.  After a long battery of tests, the end result was that I needed surgery... immediately, to get to the bottom of what was happening to me!  They put me in an ambulance and rushed me to one of the big hospitals in the city, about an hour away, where I went straight into surgery.  It turned out that my problem was not one of the more serious possibilities.  I had a very large cyst on my right ovary.  The medical team drained 2 cups of fluid from this cyst.  Though the surgery did not cure the problem or stop the ovarian cysts from returning, it did help to rid me of the pain for the moment. 

I was very thankful that day that we have access to such wonderful medical care.  In North America we are overwhelmingly blessed to have such resources.  There are hospitals with emergency rooms in every city.  Even small towns have clinics providing medical care for just about every health issue.  Help and information is available at our finger tips.  Doctor’s offices, hospitals, surgeries, therapies, fire departments, ambulances, police services, poison control, mental health services; and so much more, are available to every citizen, right down to our pets just by dialling the phone.  We are blessed.

That is quite a list of services that are provided to us; and in Canada we are even further blessed to have access to all these things free of charge!  However, do me a favour and go back and look at that list of services.  Did you notice that there is something missing?  Physical and mental health services are only two thirds of the services we need.  There is also a vital need for spiritual care.  I believe that we cannot adjust or function appropriately without it.  We get to dial a phone number to get access to those other services; but who do we dial to get the help we need for our spiritual health?  Yes, of course, we have our pastors; and I love my pastors more than I can say for the help they give me, but there are limits to what they can do.  The only One that can help you in every situation, no matter what your condition, is Jesus. 

Whether you are a new Christian or a “well seasoned” one, sometimes we all need to hear God’s voice so much that we wish we could call Him on the phone.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could just call God’s office when you need to talk to Him just the way you can call your doctor or 911?  You could just ask Him yourself what you need to know.  Imagine… He’d never be too busy to take your calls; you would never get His voice mail; you would never get a pushy secretary trying to keep you from using up too much of His time.  Then, once you get Him on the other end of the line, you can talk forever and He will ever get tired of listening!  He will never rush you saying “I have another appointment to get to”. 

Well, God does provide this kind of help to us.  It starts by reading His Word in the Bible, on a daily basis.  I often find myself picking up my bible looking for answers, but as someone who still feels “rather new” in the Christian world I am not always sure where to look to find the answers I need.  I do know, though; that the answers are there, because God’s Word provides us with all that we need to sustain us.  (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4).  God’s personal phone number is not 911 but all the numbers you need to contact Him are in His ‘phone directory’.

Here are a few numbers I found during my searching for answers.  (Though, variations of list can be found in different places on the internet; I have a larger list on the ‘Topic Index’ page of this site that I have compiled over time.  Please keep checking back as I do intend on adding to it as time goes on.)  When:

So next time you need some help with your spiritual health, just call God.  Listen to His voice.  You can and will hear it.  The best part is that you can call direct, there will be no long distance charges, you will not get a cranky operator, all lines are open 24/7, and the most exciting part is that you will not get a computer operated menu (Woo Hoo... praise God, for that!)!

~~ Dear God ~~  Whether  I am in a spiritual emergency or if I just need a check up; please always let my first action be to turn to Your ‘White Pages Directory’, the Bible, for access to the help and the prescription that I need.  Thank You for being there for me; and for loving me so much that you saved my life when I was dying by sacrificing Your Son, Jesus.  In His name, AMEN.

Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

~~ Romans 10:13 ~~   for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Casey & Taco
"What did we do wrong, Mommy?"
Photo by Carley
You know those moments when you think “what in the world was I thinking?”   Everyone has those at some point or another.  I was thinking about some of these things earlier.  There are just way too many times when I spoke without thinking first, or when I jumped without looking, pressed ‘send’ on my email without thinking about what the result would be.  Sometimes I have to wonder if I have the common sense that God gave a gold fish.  Would you believe that I was absent from class that day when they covered the ‘rational’ chapter?!  Never mind... I didn’t think so.  I guess you would need the common sense of a gold fish to believe that! 

Anyway, this post is a little more ‘light hearted’ than the others.  I thought I would share with you some silly things that I’ve done in my life and the lessons I have learned from them.  I have:
  • put rice cakes in the toaster.  Note to self: Rice cakes can be flammable.
  • filled the washer with laundry and put the water level on minimum instead of maximum (twice).  Note to self: Too many clothes with not enough water will burn out the motor (every time!)
  • vacuumed hot embers from the fireplace hearth.  Note to self: Hot embers inside a vacuum filled with dust are also flammable... and can damage the vacuum cleaner too!
  • set a plate of food on the coffee table.  Note to self: The coffee table is within doggie reach.
  • set a wet paint project on the floor to dry.  Note to self: Don’t get mad at the dog when wet-paint puppy prints end up all over the project and the floor!  It’s a good thing it was in the garage!
  • drank too much vodka.  Note to self: Bad stuff happens when you drink vodka... ‘nuff said!
  • took photos at wrong times.  Note to self: When the lay-z-boy chair tips over backwards, stop laughing and taking photos, and help BF up off the floor.  (For those who are not 100% computer literate, BF means Boyfriend)  
  • tried to be the ‘perfect housewife’.  Note to self: With issues such as; flooding the kitchen, not being able to figure out how to turn on the vacuum cleaner, and fires on the stove (once or twice... well, ok, ok... quite a few times) it means you are not Martha Stewart and you likely never will be.  Accept it!
  • tried to make oatmeal – the old fashioned way.  Note to self: Oatmeal is not that hard to do!!... but when the dog refuses to eat it, something did not go right. 
  • rescued a kitten from inside a heating duct.  Note to self: Even 8 week old kittens have claws sharp enough to shred an arm.  Reminder to self: Next time you rescue a kitten, wear thick clothing for protection. 
OK... I hope you had a good laugh at some of those things; but, seriously, I bet you also did some silly things.  Please share them with me in the comment section below.

~~ Dear God ~~    Please forgive me for all the times I have ‘jumped before I looked’, ‘spoke without thinking’, ‘acted without using the intelligence you gave me’.  Thank You for being there to protect me and rescue me each time I end up in a mess.  Oh, and one more thing, Lord.  I am so happy that You do not keep a count, because I am sure that the number of times I have fowled things up are at a very high number.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

Keeping Your Eye on the Prize

~~ Philippians 3:13-14 ~~  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Free Source Photo
One of the most amazing feelings in this world is the thrill that you feel after you have achieved a goal that you have been working very hard to achieve.  This is especially true if you have been working toward your purpose for a long time, or if you have spent a lot of money, or made some sacrifices.  After months of training to run a marathon you finally cross the finish line; or after months of planning a wedding, the pastor finally says “I now pronounce you man and wife”; or after years of going to school you are finally handed your diploma.  Maybe your thrill comes from something much simpler; like when you finally have all the housework done, the kids are in bed, and it is still early enough and you are not too exhausted to have some quality alone-time with your spouse.

One of these thrills happened for me when I reached my goal weight after being on a weight loss mission for well over a year.  I have learned many lessons from going through the weight loss process.  At least 50% of these lessons are not about health, nutrition or physical appearances.  They are lessons that will not only stay close to my heart, but lessons that have changed who I am... and they are still changing me.  I will not list all of these lessons now because that is surely a topic for, at least, a few other blogs.  However, one of these lessons was that, being patient and waiting for things to happen in God’s time is so very well worth it!  Another was that; I have it in me to challenge myself and push myself extremely hard, and to withstand the test.  Still again, another of these most important lessons was the significance of staying focused on my goal.  Even part of this lesson, was that the real goal is not to see a certain number on the scales, or even to fit into a certain clothing size.  Granted, these are important but to be truly successful on this venture the real goal needs to be that of becoming healthy... body, mind, and spirit!  As my vision developed and changed through the course of my journey, I learned more and more about what is important.  I was able to force myself to press on toward my objective, and I did so without giving into temptation to quit just because I was just too exhausted to go any further.  It was my dream that kept me motivated, determined and inspired.

Another thing I learned is that, the reasons behind being overweight are as varied as there are people who need weight loss.  However, there seems to be one common reason for weight gain among most people; and, believe it or not, it is not overeating!   Well, indirectly, overeating is the main reason; but there is always another reason why we overeat in the first place.  Inside our minds and our hearts there are psychological reasons why we sabotage our health as we do; sometimes, even purposefully as a form of punishment for ourselves.  To simplify it, I believe this to be because deep down inside our hearts we do not love ourselves enough.  To be a success in your attempt to be healthy, the psychological issues must be dealt with.  Without it, you are fixing the ‘symptoms’ without dealing with the ‘illness’ itself.

As children of the almighty God, we are made in His image (Genesis 1:27).  As such, it means that we all want to love and to be loved.  Unfortunately though, we are misled by the world about what love really is and what it takes to achieve that goal.  The world tends to put conditions on love whether we are giving it or receiving it; even when it comes to loving ourselves.  When these conditions are not met we feel unloved and unworthy, which leads to depression and all sorts of other things.  This, in turn, leads to guilt and unforgiveness for ‘falling short’.  To add to the issue, we also tend to be much harder on ourselves than we are others, and we punish ourselves.  Despite how difficult it feels to forgive others at times, have you ever noticed how much easier it is to forgive someone else than it is to forgive yourself?!  This kind of judgement is God’s responsibility only.  We hold ourselves accountable to conditions that we, not only, do not hold others to; but to those conditions that are not possible to meet because they are manmade conditions, not God’s conditions.   

Learning to forgive is vital.  That is, not just to forgive others but to forgive ourselves as well.  Jesus said “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37).   God also said “...I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12).  So, if God can forgive and forget just because He loves us that much, than why can’t we do the same with each other, and for ourselves?  Spending eternity with God is our most important goal in life; just as being healthy is the true goal in our attempts to alter our physical appearance.  Not only that but, just like making our ‘goal weight’ the focus of a weight loss program, we are limiting ourselves; we have to stop putting conditions on God’s love, or we will not get to experience life or love to its fullest.  We need to learn to be easier on ourselves, to forgive, to stop judging and condemning.  I have forgiven other people for just about anything and everything; including some very traumatic experiences.  Forgiving me though, is one of my biggest struggles.  Why are we so hard on ourselves when God does not feel the same way?  How about you; are you harder on yourself than you are others?  Do you punish yourself for not ‘measuring up’?  Are you completely sure that you truly have your eye on the Big Prize?  If not, maybe it is time to do some re-prioritizing.

~~ Dear God ~~   We know that the ‘Big Prize’ is spending eternity with You.  I love the thrill of having Jesus in my heart knowing that He is the only Path that leads to Heaven.  Please help me to forgive myself for not measuring up to my own unrealistic standards.  Do not let me have negative thoughts or judgements about others or myself.  Keep my thought life and emotions ‘in check’ with Your Will for my life.  In Jesus name, AMEN.