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January 2020

We Are Special in His Sight

Sunday's sermon has given me lots to think about as the week has progressed. Our Pastor talked about branding and how it affects all of us. We see for example, the logo for Nike and we know their slogan is "just do it." Brands and their slogans shout to us and often influence what we buy, what we hope can happen after we use the product and they even attempt to tell us who we should be or could be if we use their products. I remember a few years back a friend who bought a lotion that was guaranteed to get rid of cellulite and when it didn't she wanted her money back.

We were asked these questions on Sunday: "What is my brand? What identifies and defines me?" So often in my own life I have allowed the voices around me to live in my head and allowed them to define me. I gave others the power to say who I was. One of my mother's favorite sayings when I was growing up was this: " children should be seen and not heard." In my chaotic home I was often neither seen nor heard. I always felt I had to be invisible and not give my parents anything else to worry about because they had enough on their plates dealing with my older brother who constantly created havoc in all of our lives. I had to put on a "happy face" at school but the ache in my heart for normalcy was a constant reminder that my life was always spinning out of control. 

I was a shy, introverted child and never felt like I fit in. This became even more ingrained when I was forced to begin attending the public high school in my hometown after my parents divorce when I was 14. Up until that time I had attended Catholic schools and after the divorce no one wanted to pay tuition so again life was completely out of my control. I allowed what others needed from me and what was expected of me to determine who I was and what I could become for many years of my life. I wanted to be an artist growing up, but was discouraged from becoming a "starving artist" so I went the medical route instead. 

I defined myself by: my family of origin, my husband's family after I married, my children, successes, failures, relationships, facades...I wanted to look like I had it all together...and sometimes I really didn't. But because I had been told over and over as a child that what happened at home stayed at home  putting on the "I have it all together" the mask was easy to wear. I remember a friend telling me one day I felt things too deeply and I wondered, was that a bad thing? Should I not feel things? Was I too emotional? My life was like a roller coaster and never felt like I could be authentic because then people really might not like me. I never lived the best version of myself and it almost killed me.

When I was 34 I needed to have a hysterectomy. The week before surgery a co-worker told me I would gain a lot of weight after the surgery and so I went into surgery with that thought occupying space in my head. I had gone through a "chubby" faze in my preteen years and I had felt awful during that time so I was bound and determined I would not gain weight. I suffered post op complications and by the time my three week check-up came around I had lost 15 pounds. I then became obsessed with weight loss. 

I became anorexic and exercised hours on end. The Doctors I worked for were concerned and even offered to pay for counseling, but I assured them I was fine. My husband and my children were worried and yet I saw nothing wrong with what I was doing even when my ten year old daughter and I could share clothing. I could count the ribs on my frame and still the word "chubby" would take center stage in my head. For three long years I lived this way and was down to 78 pounds when a dear friend intervened. She had come to visit and took a black and white close up picture of me and sent it to me in the mail. I remember opening the envelope, looking at the picture and wondering who this woman was. It was the wake up call that saved my life.

As I looked at that picture I knew why...for so much of my life I had no control over anything and I was supposed to be invisible. I had never dealt with any of the issues that had caused me so much pain and anorexia became my coping mechanism. No one could force me to eat...I had control over something. I wish I could say it was an easy battle to fight back from, but it wasn't. With every pound I gained the voices would start to remind me of who I was...but then, God stepped in and drew me to Himself and slowly He began to rebrand me.

I began believing He loved me, the authentic me. He created me and loved me unconditionally. I was and am visible to Him and I am who He says I am. He has allowed me to use the gifts He has blessed me with for good and has used the trials in my life for good. He continues to grow me and to allow me to become all He desires me to be for His greater good. In small group Sunday evening we discussed the sermon and I am so blessed to be with a group of people who are authentic and loving. We talked about labels we felt others had placed on us or we had placed on ourselves and then the leader of our group asked:"what would you say about yourself now?" My response, I am an Overcomer through the work of Jesus on the Cross. 

Are the labels others have placed on you or you have placed on yourself helping you to be the person God created you to be?I am special. You are special. God meets us right where we are ...there are no qualifications we need to meet.  In Christ we are new creations and the only labels that will stick are the ones He has placed on us. 

 

             

                         


Water the Seeds

My maternal grandmother was an excellent cook, loved to garden, crocheted rag rugs and just always kept her hands and heart busy. As a child I loved spending time with her and loved helping her out in the garden. She planted a lot of the vegetables from seed  and I loved watching them sprout. I loved when the vegetables finally appeared on the plants and we could bring them into the house to eat. Bob and I have tried gardening at various times in our lives and we have never quite had the success with it that our grandparents had.

This spring we planted a small garden mostly cucumbers and tomatoes and it has not been as bountiful as we had hoped. As I was outside the other day tying up some plants and pruning others that had become quite unruly it occurred to me that plants and shrubs just kind of do their own thing even when we aren't giving them proper attention. They just instinctively seem to know what to do. They spring forth from within their confines no one needs to tell them what or how...they just do it! 

We often live life outside of the confines we are meant to live in. We so often depend on other people or things to show us the way. We allow what others say about us to influence who God says we are. We live in an age where I think the "busyness" of life has become an excuse for not taking the time to grow and to flourish. We have become a "fast food" generation. Society wants us to believe that life and relationships will survive if we can get them packaged just right and when life slows down a bit the things we have tossed aside will be there waiting in the wings. With maturity comes wisdom and I know that isn't true. 

As I have watched our oldest grandson recuperate from eye surgery over the past two weeks I have witnessed a young man whose faith in God has not wavered. He has had discomfort, his vision is still quite blurry and he can't really do lots yet, but he does what he can without complaining. He has an inward approach to life and realizes he wants to be himself in a world telling him he should keep reaching for the brass ring. He loves photography and spent last Saturday at the Cross Fit box taking photographs of athletes who participated in a fund raiser. He has now spent the last few days editing them. Yes, it has been time consuming and he has to take lots of breaks so he can rest his eyes, but it is a labor of love for the man who the fund raiser was for.

I see Blake's confidence and that he truly is comfortable inches own skin. With or without perfect vision he has learned to trust he is who God says He is. For many years I was afraid to be my true self and it always left me feeling unfulfilled. I went through a long stretch of my life "painting the picture" someone else needed me to be. The call on my life to become a Life Coach and then too become a Director of a Crisis Pregnancy Center opened my eyes to God's true purpose for my life. Like the seeds my grandmother planted in the ground so many years ago, the seed God planted in my life manifested itself and allowed me to use the talents and gifts He blessed me with so I could in turn help others.

When we allow the "busyness" of our lives to take a back seat to what is truly important our lives will take on new meaning. For me writing, painting, creating , investing in relationships allows me to see Jesus in the often mundane of the daily. Taking time to savor the moments has allowed me to discover the life He desires for me to live. As life coach I often ask people if time and money were not a factor, what could you see yourself doing in this season of your life? Those dreams, those aspirations, those hopes are the seeds God plants in our hearts. And when we take the time to listen to those longings we often will find our truest selves.

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