Category Archives: Featured story 2

Does God Care About Hair And If He Does, Why Did He Let Me Burn Off My Bangs?

My hair has always tried my patience. Problem: it is fine and thin. As a teenager, I put it up in pin curls (does anyone remember them anymore?) each night and wore it curly. Later, I used rollers and back-combed it, so it looked fuller. Regardless what I did, I rarely felt good about my hair. So, whenever there was a special family event involving photos, I’d head to the beauty shop. The beautician would transform my hair into something attractive, and my friends would say, “Oh, I like it, why don’t you pull your hair back with all those curls and the bangs, all the time?”

Problem: I didn’t have the patience, time, or ability. So, in recent years, I curled my bangs with a curling iron and twisted the rest of my hair to the back and put in a clip. It was easy, and it worked. However, that style was dependent on a curling iron. That’s what got me into trouble.

Our youngest daughter, Crystal, recently married an Israeli. After the wedding here in Oregon, we traveled to Israel for the ceremony there. I took my curling iron, and my husband took along a converter for me, since Israeli electricity has higher voltage than ours in the U. S. All went well until we were at a bed and breakfast above the Sea of Galilee.

I asked my husband, Pete, for the converter. Our son, Stephen, said, “Oh, use this smaller one. I use it all over Europe on my business trips. We connected the curling iron in the bedroom, and while it heated up, I went about doing other things.

First warning: when I returned to the room, I smelled the heat, but didn’t think too much about it. Second warning: when I picked up the curling iron, it burned my left thumb and forefinger. This baby is really hot, I thought, but continued to turn my bangs around the iron. I left it there a moment. Satisfied that the curl should be ready, I removed the iron—and the hair. Yes, the hair. Hanging from the curling iron was about two inches of my bangs. “Oh, no,” I screamed.

Everyone came running to see what happened. I held up the curling iron with my hair dangling from it. The men began figuring out what went wrong. I collapsed into my daughter, Crystal’s arms and sobbed. The wedding was only two days away. I had so looked forward to this special event and the photos I would have with Crystal and other family members. Now I wondered how I could even go.

“And we know that all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I repeated in my mind, as soon as I could gain control of myself. I could trust God, but oh, what could be done with my hair?

Daniel, my new son-in-law assured me they could put on hair extenders at a beauty shop in Jerusalem. Doubtful, I kept wondering how things would all turn out. Every time I started to panic, however, I repeated, “All things . . . . . . .” in my mind.

That day we went to see the Jesus boat, an archeological find on the northern Galilee and for a ride on the Sea of Galilee. My granddaughters, ages seven and nine didn’t seem to mind that my bangs were gone. I was still Grandma to them, regardless how I looked. “All things work together for good. . . .” I kept repeating, but I couldn’t see how I could come out of this better than before. Was God dealing with my pride? I wondered.

The next day we went to the Dead Sea. We floated in the salty water and rubbed the mud on our skin. It might be healthy for our skin, but I knew it could do nothing for my hair.

Our daughter and son-in-law had taken our family sightseeing around Israel for three days before the wedding, leaving dozens of errands to be run on the day of the celebration. High on the list, however, was a trip to the beauty shop for me.

“We thought maybe you could extend her bangs,” Crystal told the beautician.

He took one look at my bangs and shook his head. “They’re too short,” he said. “I can cut some of the hair further back to match their length,” he explained in Hebrew.

Crystal told him what he should do with the remaining hair and left on an errand.

“I think the sides and back need to be cut,” the hair dresser told me haltingly in English. “You like it.”

I was desperate, and I had no one else to consult, so I agreed. With a few snips of his scissors, my hair was cut about two inches below my ears.

“You like?” he asked.

What could I say, the hair was gone. “I, I’m not sure.” First my bangs were gone, now the rest of my hair was drastically different. I didn’t look like the same person. Oh, my. But I caught myself, “All things work together . . . .” but how could this work for good. Would anyone even recognize me? I couldn’t recognize myself.

When Crystal returned, my usually even-tempered daughter yelled in unbelief. “What did you do to her? Why didn’t you do what I said?”

“Her hair is too fine. It wouldn’t work,” he said defensively.

Then, I understood. Most Israelis have lots of course hair. He’d probably never worked with fine, thin hair before.

“Oh, I like your hair,” Christine, my daughter-in-law, said when she greeted me at the wedding that night.

“Really?” I asked incredulous.

“Yes. I do.”

“Stephen stepped up. “I don’t know what all the ‘to do’ is about. I think it’s cute.”

I sighed. I didn’t think I could ever like it. And how would the photos look?

The evening was lovely with the back-drop of flowers in the nursery where Daniel worked. My granddaughters strew flower petals along the path. Following Israeli tradition, Pete and I accompanied Crystal to the huppah. Daniel eagerly met us, and we all went inside the huppah for the ceremony. Israeli dancing followed. Of course, I didn’t know the dances, but Crystal had assured me ahead of time that the steps weren’t important, just the camaraderie. Crystal and Daniel were hoisted on chairs, and everyone seemed beside themselves for joy.

We returned to Oregon a few days later. The first gathering I attended after the trip was a Moms prayer meeting. Of course, my hair was a topic of discussion. Everyone said it looked good.  One gal said it looked more modern. Then Carol, whom I knew would speak her true feelings, said, “Would it be wrong to say it looks better than before?”

Okay, I admitted to myself. It’s not like I wanted it, but I will get used to it. It’s not difficult to care for. And yes, all things, even my bangs getting burned off, work together for good.

~~~

Geneva Cobb Iijima lives near Portland, Oregon. She has published four books and over 70 articles. Visit her at www.genevacobbiijima.com

Church Members Who Suffer from Bipolar Disorder

The Price of Mania:

God’s Call for the Christian Community’s Mission of Care for Members Who Suffer from Bipolar Disorder

 

There are thousands of souls that are lost every year in the United States.  These are individuals who are afflicted with the diagnosis of Bipolar/Manic Depressive Disorder. Ministries often care spiritually for many illnesses in their respective churches, but find that the bipolar members of their congregations are not so easily aided. This is secondary to a manic-depressive (bipolar) being so biochemically driven. Psychologists quite often will not treat them, because it is difficult to work with a chemical aberrancy, which for the most part rules out psychotherapy.  Psychiatrists, of course, can prescribe medications that will sometimes keep mania at bay, but not to the extent that these poor souls need. They simply want to rest, to be genuinely happy, to be loved, and to feel safe.  It is the ministry’s challenge to assure them that Jesus Christ will provide them with all of these desires.

Bipolar behavior is hallmarked by cycles between states of elation (“I am so happy. I have so much energy! I don’t need sleep! I can do anything!”) and a depression that is so dark as to feel God has abandoned them (This is especially a critical time for the church). Both of these states actually require the same care, that being (you guessed it)…rest, happiness, love, and safety.  Unfortunately, the depth and sorrow of this depression renders mania preferable. So, the ideal period to reach them is both during this depression, and before the inevitable return to mania. With God’s grace and your assistance, this can change.  It did for me.

I am a “recovered” manic-depressive Christian.  I had the best care available in the secular world, but it was Jesus Christ that lifted me out of the abyss (or off the roller coaster if you will)…permanently. I believe I can help you understand a bit better what goes on in the mind of bipolars, and with God’s help, can aid you in reaching these poor souls in your churches.  By the way, manic-depression is nondenominational
The enormity of this task is reflected in the pitfalls that accompany it. From the start, it is important that you understand that manic-depressives are not unintelligent, quite the contrary.  With this, the problem of manipulation on their part is probable.  That being said, it is imperative that the ministry protect themselves from these maneuvers, while still keeping the member in care that will keep them safe as well.  It is important to note here that this manipulation is not out of an evil scheme. It is part of the disease process. Because mania feels so much better than everyday life (and certainly better than the horrific depression), they may have to lie to keep those that care for them from knowing that they are on their way into mania, and they do not want to be stopped.

The model of care by which we are best led is Jesus’ gentle, but firm love for the victim, but not the evil that kept them captive. Just as Jesus prayed to his father for assistance in the care of these poor souls, so should we pray for his. Those in the ministry who are creating the “safety net” for these individuals, need to understand that to reach the soul of that person, you are going into a place where you risk losing your own.  This is why prayer has to be strong, as should be the minister.The minister’s role in all of this is to plan for intense prayer and instruction to a select group from the congregation that the minister trusts implicitly to maintain confidentiality (even with others in the congregation), to provide the afflicted member with encouragement and constant reminders, especially while in depression, that God will not let go of them, and neither will you.

Because God is an “ethereal” entity, like the apple to Eve, mania attracts the bipolar because in mania, they believe that they can share in that ethereal state with God, but in reality suffers the same sorrow as Eve in falling away from God.  I believe that depression ensues because it feels like they were also expelled from the “Garden.”  Again, this is important for the ministry to keep in mind when caring for this population.
Bipolars do much better in a structured, but safe, environment. This can be accomplished by encouragement to attend services weekly, including them in activities in the church on a regular basis, possibly being part of a “prayer chain.”  Ideally, meeting with the minister once a week or so would go a long ways in creating that structured environment.

If conditions are such that this member has to be hospitalized, by all means help in arranging that, but still visit them wherever that may be.  If at all possible, avoid hospitalization.  Hospitals are mainly meant for those who may harm themselves or the congregation in some way. Hospitals are designed to care for the body, and not the soul. Hospitalization may be expedient, but not merciful.  Remember, we are reminded that God “desires mercy, not sacrifice.”

In conclusion, the price of mania (which is an illusion in the first place) is much too high to risk one’s soul.  Let God guide you in reaching these poor souls.  They are suffering and need the rest, happiness, safety, and love that with God’s grace you can help provide.

~~~

S. Gould-Thompson

The Curse


Bad luck followed me all my life. Nothing came easy. Life in Bulgaria, a country behind the Iron Curtain, was hard. Depression and fear followed me from early childhood. I knew at some point a wizard had turned me into an invisible frog. My Prince would never be able to find me and break the magic with a kiss. I was invisible! I believed I was under a curse.

 

It all began with my grandmother. When Grandma was born, her mother put her in a basket and left her by the roadside in a small village of Bulgaria. She, and a few other women, hid in the bushes to watch who would be the first passerby. Grandma’s mother had given birth to five children already, all of them stillborn. Afraid that her baby might have inherited the bad luck of the rest of her children, the desperate mother followed the suggestions of some of the elderly women in the village. They believed the child would acquire the good luck of the person who would find her. The beggar of the village almost tripped over the basket on his way to the village pub—so much for good luck!
Poverty and misfortune was constant companion of my grandma since then. She got married to the love of her life, but her husband suddenly died just before their child was born.

 

Grandma married again after struggling to raise her daughter on her own for several years. Her second husband owned a grocery store and had saved some money by hard work.  One day the communists confiscated all his money and property, called him “capitalist” and threatened to kill him. Poverty grabbed my Grandma by the throat again. Her husband never recovered from his nervous breakdown and began drinking.
Grandma, a tough Bulgarian woman, worked for twelve hours a day to raise her daughter and to take care of her husband.

When her daughter married, she left me, her firstborn daughter, with Grandma to raise me up. Prematurely born and abandoned, I developed a lot of health issues. Sick and poorly fed during my childhood, I found alcohol early. My life was speedily going downhill. I blamed it all on Grandmother’s curse. Convinced that misfortune would follow me all the days of my life, just like it never left Grandma, I sank into a bottomless depression.

 

My bad luck changed dramatically since I became a believer in Jesus Christ. I realized I was not under a generational curse any more. Jesus took up the curse on the cross. The Word of God says in Galatians 3:13-14:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

I do not walk in the bad luck of my Grandma anymore. I am the recipient of the blessings of my heavenly Father. Every day for twenty-two years now, I wake up with a song in my heart looking forward for the next move of God in my life, trusting my Father in heaven for his grace. He has restored all that was stolen from me through the years of my misfortune. Jesus loves me with unfailing love. I am called a daughter of the Most High God.

~~~

Nadia Ianakieva is an inspirational writer. Her book The Red Dress Decision: True Stories of a Life Filled with God’s Miracles depicts her experience as a believer in her native country Bulgaria and later in the US where she lives with her family now.   www.wix.com/nianakieva/nadiaianakieva

The Missing Pieces 2 My Purpose

By John Donelson

“She was 54 years old when she finally revealed her secret. She was only trying to protect her child from the demons of the past. What she didn’t know, is that I had the key to her deliverance”

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my past few articles, I have hinted around to the fact that I was also searching for my identity. Even after thirty eight years, I’ve had questions for my mother about who I was as a man today? Who am I really? Why do I react the way that I do? Why do I still have these inner struggles? Why does she never talk about it?  How does it come into play with the purpose God has for me?

I’ve been asking God for years to open up doors, bring relationships, and give me insight that would help me fill this void that was inside of me all of these years. A young man, now a father, a husband, a brother, and even a minister of the gospel. Trying to lead, and all the while still looking back for traces of who I really am. I know that God is my heavenly father, but there is a natural link to your spiritual destiny. You must first discover one in order to uncover the other.

It was on Monday, September 29th, 2008, at approximately 9:45 pm, Eastern Standard Time.       I had finally received a vital piece of a puzzle that I’ve been trying to assemble for most of my adult life. It was a key to my identity, and an understanding to my purpose. My real true identity, not the one the enemy tried to give me, but the one that he actually attempted to steal from me.

  “I’m just trying to understand some things about myself”, I said. “Can you tell me a little about my father, or what happened with him? How come you never talk about what happened then?” Earlier that evening I had been in our intercessory prayer. It was a good thing; because now I was more prepared for what I would hear than I would have ever thought possible. “Well”, I hear over the long-distance phone call. As she clears her throat, and speaks with a mixture of fear and faith, “When I was 15 years old”, she paused again, “I was raped. He doesn’t know about you, and he has never laid eyes on you. I don’t know where he is, what he is, or if he even still exists”.

  She was 54 years old when she finally revealed her secret. She was only trying to protect her child from the demons of the past. What she didn’t know, is that I had the key to her deliverance. At that moment, I was able to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit within me to forgive this man, and also minister to my mother. I was able to release her from the burden of carrying her secret, and prophecy healing and deliverance into her life. Helping her begin her road to recovery. She has lived a life full of personal battles and financial struggles, produced from the pain of what she was forced to carry all of these years. I imagined how difficult it was for her over the years to look into the face of the child she loved so much, as he grew into the reflection of the one who brought her so much pain. Wow, what strength, what commitment, what love. Although I didn’t always hear the words, I always knew it was there. Now, I feel even more, what she could not say then.

That news didn’t put anger in my heart for what he did to my mom, but it did put a fire in my soul for even greater work towards spreading the Gospel and telling others that there is deliverance from your past demons of sexual perversions, addictions, childhood abuses, rapes, molestations, incest, and any other tool that the enemy tries to use to bind up your mind and steal your true identity.

The bad thing though, was that it temporarily put anger in my heart for my own wife, who was completely innocent, and had played no part in this at all. I wasn’t angry because once again she went to bed early, and we had not made love. That’s a (whole) nother article. I was angry because once again, she went to bed early, but this time I really needed her, but not physically.    I needed to talk to her. I needed to hold her. I needed to release some of this emotion that I was experiencing. I felt completely alone. Where was the same Holy Spirit that helped me forgive?

The next few days would be a roller coaster of emotion. That weekend, I lay on the couch in the living room, nursing body aches and chilled bones, supposedly being attacked by sickness and depression. I slowly move towards the kitchen cabinet to grab a bottle of Advil, but know with a certainty that the pain I feel is not at all physical. It has nothing at all to do with anything being wrong in my body. What I was suffering from was a simple case of pure unforgiveness, selfishness, stubbornness, and pride. I hear the words in my spirit, “It’s good that you are able to forgive him so easily, but why is it hard to forgive her?” If you would just forgive her, and let her know that you need her, it will go away. After I forgave her, and I asked her to forgive me, we were able to focus on the unity we would need to fight together.

 “So how do you feel?”, she asks.  Strangely enough, I feel even more valued, and more confident of my purpose, because God had entrusted His spirit to live inside of me, even though he knew how I came to be. It wasn’t about the method of my conception, but the meaning behind all the madness I had been through during my life. Why the sexual addictions and pornography were tormentors as far back as I have memories. Why the devil continually tried to destroy my life through either sexual sins or poverty for all of these years. I am not ashamed, nor am I afraid.

Now I understood with more clarity, my course in life. And guess what? I had been led along the right road. I’ve been headed in the right direction. Now, I just have to pick up the pace and walk with more boldness and confidence. Because there are more people who need to know about “Arrested Development”. They need to be aware of the attacks that the devil wages towards our children at early ages to try and cripple them emotionally for the rest of their lives. Others need to experience the freedom that my wife and I have been fighting to have in our marriage, despite sexual addictions and childhood molestations.

If you are a woman, and you can relate to the experience of holding onto a painful secret from your past; know today that there is a God who loves you. Despite what happened to you, what was said to you, what was done to you- you can be set free today! What happened was not God’s will for your life, but it will still work into the plan for your life to destroy the works of the enemy over your life. There is an anointing for healing right now where you are, to deal with that issue; to heal that memory, and to take you through the process of making it less painful day by day. You have to tell God where it hurts. You have to say what they did to you.

You may not want to deal with it right now, and might be reusing your own healing even right now. You may be comfortable in your confinement, but you will never be triumphant until you turn on the light, and expose what the enemy has tried to control your life with in the darkness. If you sit in a room, and the lights are suddenly turned of, it could be uncomfortable for a while. But if you sit there long enough, your eyes will adjust to your environment. You can still function. You have the ability to survive in darkness, but you can only thrive where there is light.

 If you are a man and you read these words and relate to the search for your identity. Know today, that you must first find out who you are in Christ, and what you discover after that point can be managed. There was a line in one of Tyler Perry’s movies that I will never forget. Wise-cracking Madea spoke to the little girl and said, “It’s not what people call you that matters, it’s what you answer to”. You are not who they say you are, you are who He says you are, and what you agree to what He says about you. You are not a man because you have male genitals, you are a man only when you reflect the character of God (in spirit, soul, and in body). Genesis 1:26a, And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… Men, you only find your true identity, when you reflect God in every area of your life.

Man of God, even if you may have committed one or more of these acts, still know that there is forgiveness for you as well. Know that you do not have to define your manhood by your boyhood. You don’t have to continue to be who you once were. Whatever your current state, there is healing for you. Take this opportunity to ask God to help you find the missing pieces. Women are not the only ones sitting by wells, trying to fill the voids in their lives with things. We use people, positions, things, activities, food, drugs, you name it. There is a void, but only one thing that will fill it totally and completely. His name is Jesus.

Right now, I am at peace. I’m walking without pain, towards the promises that God has prepared for my life. With more of an assurance that I am loved. With more of an assurance that I am a complete man. Not because now I know where I come from, but because I am able to forgive, I know where I am going. I’m still not perfect, but I’m more complete than I was. Now, I have to reach back to bring some completion to another; the daughter that I have played the role of the “Prodigal Father” to all of these years. Not estranged because I wanted to be, but not close because I didn’t know how to be. Because I didn’t have all the pieces, I was unsure and afraid to at least give her what I had to give. Today is a great day, for putting together People Puzzles.

 

The Missing Pieces 2 My Purpose

Written by John L. Donelson

Copyright © October 2008

Revelations Christian Media, L.L.C.

Hold Up, Wait A Minute!

I’ve Had Enough of This Pig Slop
By Gail Davis

We have heard the familiar story about the prodigal son – you know the one who asked his father for his inheritance and having received it prematurely went and squandered it on wild and reckless living then ended up feeding the pigs to survive (Luke 15:11-32).  For many of us, we think life in the pig pen is beyond our sphere of environments, we can’t relate to it because no rational person will allow themselves to go there, not under normal circumstances anyway.

On the contrary, I am here to tell you that all of us, at one time or another, has had what I call a ‘pig slop moment.’  That is a place, and it is not a physical pig pen, but a place where you find yourself in a position of worthlessness – you are at your worse; a repulsive place that absolutely disgusts you, a place where mediocrity, despair and darkness abound, and a place that smells so badly it makes you say Yuk!  because of the things you do.

The joy and revelation the prodigal son brings to us about all of this is there is a better way – the Bible says ‘when he came to his senses…’ that is a Hold Up, Wait A Minute! moment.  That is the moment you recognize there is a better way or you recognize that you are someone special and you belong to someone special, and something better is at your disposal.  The story continues on to say that his father threw him a party and received him back with open arms, gave him new clean clothes, and bestowed honor upon him for him coming to his senses.

Let me explain some pig slop moments then maybe you will be able to relate to the prodigal son and say, ‘yeah, I have been in that place ’or‘ I am still in that place and want to get out!’

Some Pig Slop Moments
When you find yourself in a place where you are tired of being there, fed up, you don’t want to do this anymore, you are ready for transformation.  That’s what a pig slop moment is.

Have you ever gone to a bar or a party, had a few drinks, picked someone up and brought them home with you, and when you awake in the morning you roll over to discover that you don’t remember how they got there or what their name is and you say, ‘what was I thinking?’ – that’s a pig slop moment – you have done it for the last time, you are tired of waking up with strangers and it has left a bad taste in your mouth.

Here are some other examples of pig slop moments:
·    You’re in an abusive relationship, physically and/or emotionally and you find yourself on the floor curled up in a fetal position holding your body and then it hits you like a ton of bricks ‘hold up wait a minute!’ – what am I doing here?
·    You’re addicted to something that is destructive and causes you grief and discomfort it could be a substance, sex, video games, or lying and gossip
·    You stay in a relationship with a married person or someone you know you are not supposed to be with – that is settling for mediocrity
·    You’re controlling and manipulative and you find yourself cut off from people,      no one wants to be around you anymore

You may have your own pig slop moment to add to this list that is personal and pertains to your situation since you were there at one time, or you are still there now.

I know for me, the straw that broke the camel’s back was being in a relationship (nine years ago) with a player, an old player at that, who had several women in addition to the one he was living with.  Call it mediocrity at its finest – why, because when you settle for paging someone instead of being able to call them at home, that is mediocrity — I knew about it and stayed there anyway (it was the sex).  As a matter of fact I spent several years in a life of promiscuity after leaving my husband, dabbling with different men searching for God knows what – thrills, comfort, a good time, love, yet all I got after the thrill was gone was a dirty feeling, like I was giving something in me of value away.  I was never satisfied, and I knew there was more to me than my tail.  That was the pig slop moment for me, and when I came to my senses and said, “Hold up wait a minute! why am I settling for mediocrity when I was someone’s queen, their number one, what is my problem? I don’t want to be like this anymore!” there was a shift in the spirit realm.

All of us are not in a prodigal son’s relationship.  For those people who never had an opportunity to have a relationship with the Lord or know about the promises in His Word, let me tell you, God loves you too, and has only the best for you, and the best part for you is there are occasions when the Lord himself has a hold up wait a minute moment for you when you don’t know there is a better way, that there is a loving Father waiting for you.

What’s Holding You Back?
Many times we hold ourselves back after coming to our senses because we let pride interfere and it keeps us from returning to our Father.  Do you realize that pride is a quiet, yet dangerous spirit and it causes us to stay in positions and situations that are harmful, destructive, smelly, and it even prevents us from confessing our sins to God.

The father of the prodigal son forgot all about the fact that his son took his hard earned money and squandered it.  He was more excited about his son having sense to come back to the better way of life then dwelling on the loss.  We will all, at some point or another in our lives, stray off the path of right living and venture into the pleasures of the world; you know that wide gate that Jesus talks about that many will travel on that leads to destruction, but we are to forgive and celebrate when our loved ones, friends and even we ourselves come to our senses.  There should be ‘hold up wait a minute parties’ going on around the clock because somebody is surrendering their old way of life for a new one, a better one and exchanging their old filthy garments for new ones.

Take a minute to examine your life – where you are right now — are you in the pig pen ready and waiting to be transformed?  Are you at the point of surrendering the old lifestyle and old way of thinking that is keeping you in the pig slop?  Are you ready and willing to abolish pride and kill stubbornness so you can move out of that position of stuck in the mud?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you have placed yourself in a position for transformation to take place, positioned to begin a wonderful new journey with the Lord.  If all of this is new to you, your journey begins upon accepting Jesus as your Savior and Lord and receiving the free gift of His Holy Spirit who is given to you as a Helper.  We cannot change ourselves – hey who does that willingly anyway?  If left up to us, we would stay in a whole lot of stuff that is ungodly, but thanks be to God who gives to us freely His great gifts.

I developed a wonderful relationship with Holy Spirit whom I call on all the time to help me.  At first I did not think I could survive without sex, but after He lifted that lust demon  and stuck a pin in my tail, I did just fine and I have been fleeing fornication ever since.  I was no longer looked at with those ‘you have any fries to go with that shake’ comments from men when I walked down the street.  Now don’t get me wrong, there have been several bouts with my flesh since the seven year mark, but I call on the Lord for help to get and keep my flesh under subjection.

Celebrate
When the father saw his son returning home in the distance he began rejoicing and assembled his servants to prepare for the biggest celebration ever – God did the same thing for me – there was a party in heaven that went on for hours.  I tell people my angels partied until they passed out – they were so excited for me coming to my senses that God had to wake them up in the morning by saying, ‘uh, don’t y’all have something to do?”  It was at that moment that my transformation began to take effect, that the Lord responded and sent me help to begin the process and begin the journey on the path of righteousness.  I thank God for His Holy Spirit who helped me turn my life around, and ‘No More Sheets’ for allowing me the opportunity to scrub all those men off!

Do not despise your brother or sister’s hold up wait a minute moment.  Just as the father of the prodigal son assured his other son (when he became angry about the celebration) “we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found,” (Luke 15:32 NIV) we have to do the same, if it is that important to God, it has to be important to us as well.  The pig slop is not a place that anyone has to stay in, nor a place to get comfortable in – we have a choice to leave and when that choice is made — celebrate.

So when we see people praising the Lord with all their might, giving God a radical, crazy praise, we don’t know the cost of their praise, their cause for celebration – just celebrate with them, rejoice and give thanks that they even came to their senses, encourage them with songs and hymns.  It is then that we can then sing with sincere appreciation and truth ‘I gave Him my old filthy garments, He gave me a robe of pure white, now I’m feasting on manna from heaven, that is why I’m happy tonight!’

Gail Davis, a native of Brooklyn, New York.
A servant of God and born again Christian, who surrendered her life back to God eight years ago after many years of living life in a backslidden state. She is founder and owner of The Winning Image, a graphic design and marketing company whose mission is “to make you look good on paper.” Services range from logo designs, creation of marketing and advertising materials, brochures, banners, flyers, invitations, souvenir journals – anything printable. Contact Gail at Winimge@aol.com

 

Unarmed But Dangerous

Tawana Williams shares her remarkable story with Breathe Again Magazine readers. Born without arms, she has a powerful and uplifting message for people of all walks of life. BAM Cleveland’s interview with Tawana delves into the heart of this compelling story of triumph, perseverance and determination.

BAM: My guest today is Tawana Williams, author of Unarmed But Dangerous. This book tells the story of Tawana being born without arms, surviving the trauma of gang rape, abortion, her addiction to crack cocaine and the miraculous birth of her daughter. The message that she is spreading is to look beyond your circumstances and accept God’s gift of freedom without limitations. Welcome to the show, Tawana.

Tawana: Thank you so much, Nicole. It’s a pleasure to be a part of what you’re doing here.

BAM: You are now officially one of my heroes. I’m just letting you know that now, okay?

Tawana: Thank you, sweetie. What an honor.

BAM: You are more than welcome. Now, let’s just get right into it. You were born with no arms. How did that happen?

Tawana: Well, it goes back to 1963 when my Mom was carrying me. In about her third month of pregnancy she had been experiencing fainting spells and dizziness and so she went to her doctor, which was the only Black doctor here in Wilson, North Carolina. He gave her some pills off of his shelf and my Mom believed in her doctor and trusted in her doctor and a few months later I was born without arms. And we found out that the drug that he had given my Mom was thalidomide. And they were giving that drug to people all over the world and babies were born without legs and arms, with facial disfigurements. So, I’m blessed to just be born without arms. I am so blessed to be here today.

BAM: You are. And even in school, your Mom didn’t want you to be teased, so she wanted to send you to a special school. Is that correct?

“My Grandma told me age of four,“Tee, you must not have needed arms because God didn’t give them to you.”

Tawana: Absolutely.

BAM: But you wanted to go regular school.

Tawana: I sure did. I was so determined to be normal and to be treated normal. Of course my family treated me normal and the kids in the neighborhood, once they got used to me, they treated me normal. But I just felt out of place at that school.

There was a school in Washington, DC called the Sharpe Health School. And I went to this school from kindergarten to the seventh grade and I did not like it. One summer I begged my Mom to allow me to have the opportunity to go to a public school like my sisters. And she was determined for me not to do it because she knew how mean and cruel the other kids would be to me, but I promised her that I could take, I promised her that I wouldn’t come home crying. So, I just knew that I could take it and she agreed.

And it was rough. From the first day of school I experienced what she was trying to shield me from.

BAM: But that didn’t stop you, did it?

Tawana: Absolutely not. I kept fighting it. I didn’t let the kids at school see me cry, but every day coming home from school I was bawling like a baby and had to wipe my face and get straight before my Mom got home from work.

That was a tough time for me just trying to fit in, trying to be liked, trying to be accepted. That was hard for me.

BAM: Now, as a society we take so many things for granted. What was it like to be a child growing up without arms, Tawana?

Tawana: It was rough, Nicole. It was some hard times and I’m just a strong-willed person. My Grandma Rogers, she passed away in 1999, but she and my Mom instilled such greatness in me. From a baby they let me know that I had what it took to make it in this world.

My Grandma told me at the age of four, she said, “Tee (that’s my nickname), you must not have needed arms because God didn’t give them to you.”

How powerful is that?

Tawana using feet to sign autograph

You’ve got to fight like you’ve never fought before. I tell life every day, ‘Bring it! Whatever you’ve got for me today, I’ve got my boxing gloves on my feet. So, bring it on!”

BAM: That’s powerful.

Tawana: And so, just going through the situations that I had to overcome, I was always reminded of what Grandma said to me; everything that I needed I already had within myself.

So, I just pushed my way through. I’d say to myself, ‘Today is Monday. I’m going to make it through,’ and on and on through the week. I just pushed my way and I pressed my way and I persevered and I was just so determined not to go back to Sharpe Health School that I did it.

I hung in there, I didn’t quit, I didn’t give up and I persevered and I made it.

BAM: Now, how did you do it, though? How did you write? How did you do things?

Tawana: Well, I carried my book on my shoulder. My Mom made me a bag. It wasn’t actually a backpack, but it was a canvas bag and I would carry it on my shoulder and when I’d get into the classroom I’d put it down on the floor just bending my body and holding it with my chin and my shoulder and lowering it down to the floor. And I’d take my books out and my pencil and paper and I kept up.

I was a straight-A student all through grade school until I got in high school when the peer pressure got tough for me. But all through grade school I was a straight-A student, an honor roll student. I was awesome!

BAM: I’m telling you, you are awesome! Now, when people say they can’t do it, I’m going to send them right over to you and say, “Don’t tell me you can’t do it.”

Tawana: Absolutely. That’s right. And that’s my motto, you never give up. You’ve got to fight like you’ve never fought before. I tell life every day, ‘Bring it! Whatever you’ve got for me today, I’ve got my boxing gloves on my feet. So, bring it on!’

BAM: Girl, you better not get me excited up here now. {Laughter} Now, you went through a rough time when you got older and the peer pressure. You were introduced to crack cocaine, is that correct?

Tawana: Absolutely. I was introduced to crack cocaine as a senior in high school when a so-called friend said, “Try it, Tawana. It will make you feel good.”

And I lowered my standard. I forgot about the greatness that was on the inside of me and I succumbed to what everybody else was doing and I smoked crack cocaine for the first time. And back then we didn’t call it crack, we called it freebasing.

And it blew my mind. The first hit that I took, I was instantly addicted.

BAM: And how long were you addicted?

Tawana: I was instantly addicted and my addiction consumed my life for ten years, from 1981 until 1991. In 1991 I hit rock bottom. I saw the hurt in Toby’s eyes and Toby is now my husband. But I destroyed him on the inside because he knew that I was bigger and better and greater than crack cocaine.

I saw the hurt in his eyes after he came back from Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia. He was in the Air Force at that time. He had left me with money to pay the bills and to keep the household going while he was gone. And I was a crackhead, so of course, you know what I did; I smoked every dime of it.

And when he came home, that was my rock bottom. I didn’t have to lose my house, my car, my baby, I didn’t have to lose material things and family, but I almost lost the man, the only man, who loved me unconditionally. And that was my rock bottom.

And on that night we lay in bed and I just cried to God. I said, ‘God, if you’re real you got to help me with this. I can’t do it by myself. I want you to do one or the other: I want you to either kill me in my sleep or deliver me from crack cocaine.’

And Nicole , the next day that I opened my eyes, life was brand new. It was like I was born again. I mean, I didn’t know who God was, I really didn’t believe in God, but I knew God had to be real because I saw my Grandma praying for me, I saw my husband, Toby, praying for me for ten years and laying hands on me and sacrificing and doing what they did for my deliverance.

But I want you to know that that day it was like the beginning of my life. It was like I was transformed. It was powerful!

BAM: Because you were a new creature.

Tawana: Absolutely.

BAM: That’s awesome!

Tawana at speaking engagement

“The doctors told my Mom I would never walk. I’ve been walking since the age of two; I’m now 44 years old.”

Tawana: And then you know what? Not only did God do what I asked Him to do for me, then I had to step up and do my part, you know? A lot of times when people hear my testimony and I tell them what God did, they don’t realize that Tawana had to step up and do her part after deliverance came.

I had to find some new friends and get away from negative, toxic people. I had to stop hanging around crackheads and alcoholics and I just had to change my environment and change my lifestyle.

And so I did that and it’s been since 1991. That’s all I can say. I give God glory for my deliverance because my deliverance was instant. Just like my addiction was instant, my deliverance was instant.

BAM: That is so powerful. One thing you said that really hit home was that you said, “I forgot all the things that God did for me.” That’s amazing to me, Tawana.

Now, you instantly were delivered from crack cocaine and you started your new life. On your site you have videos of how you fed your daughter. When was your daughter born?

Tawana: She was born in April of 1986. She’s now 22 years old. And let me just say this: she’s not supposed to be here. I’m not supposed to be here, number one, because the doctors told my Mom that I would not live to be two weeks old just because I didn’t have arms. The doctors told my Mom I would never walk. I’ve been walking since the age of two; I’m now 44 years old.

And then they had the nerve to tell my Mom I would never have children. And my daughter April is 22 years old and I now have a grandson that is four years old, so the seed continues.

BAM: You’ve just proven everybody wrong.

Tawana: Absolutely.

BAM: That’s right. That’s awesome. You have the videos on your site and your videos actually show how you fed your daughter with your feet and how you changed diapers with your feet.

Tawana, you just get the Amazing Award from me.

Tawana with husband Toby

“He allowed you to be born without arms for the world to see what a defeated life most of us live.”

Tawana: Thank you. I tell people, ‘I am the bomb. So, what’s your excuse?’

My thing is -you got to do what you can, where you are, with what you have. That is a quote by George Washington Carver that has carried me through the years.

BAM: Amazing.

Tawana: And I will never be satisfied with where I am in my life because when we get satisfied we get comfortable, we get complacent. So, I just continue to move, continue to grow and just continue to be a blessing to people all over the world.

My husband Toby told me something a while back. He said, “Tee, God didn’t allow you to be born without arms for us, your family. He allowed you to be born without arms for the world to see what a defeated life most of us live.”

That’s powerful.

BAM: That is powerful.

Tawana: If you think about it, BAM, most of us do live a defeated life. We walk around, we say what we can’t do before we try, we hang around the wrong people, we hang around negative people and then we say we want to be this superstar or we want to do that, we want to be great.

How are you going to be great hanging around negative people, hanging around crackheads, hanging around do-nothing people, people that are lazy and slothful and slack and procrastinators? No, it’s just not going to happen.

BAM: Tawana, how long have you been married?

Tawana: I’ve been married since Christmas Day, December 25, 1991. When I got delivered from crack cocaine, Toby knew that I was over that. He knew that it was done.

He said, “If you stop getting high, I will marry you.”

And he did it four months later. I got delivered in August, we got married in December. God is good.

BAM: Toby seems like he’s an amazing man as well.

Tawana: Toby is awesome. He is an awesome man of God and I’m just so grateful that once I stopped seeking a man – and that’s what most of us do because I’ve been there where I sought a man and found exactly what I was looking for. When you seek, you’ll find it.

And that’s what I found. I found a man to beat me, I found a man that held a crackpipe to my mouth, I found a man that told me I was nothing, that I’d never be anything, that abused me physically, emotionally and mentally.

But when I stopped seeking a man, when I stopped settling, that’s when Toby found me. And the Bible says that when he found me, he found a good thing.

BAM: A good thing. That’s right.

Tawana: Yes!

BAM: You’re awesome, Tawana. I tell you, I could talk to you all day long. Now, let’s talk about this book.

You’re on a mission right now and you’re traveling all across the country, is that correct?

Tawana: Absolutely.

BAM: And you are spreading the message of hope and inspiration. What are you trying to tell the world?

Tawana: What I want to convey to the world is that we all need to look at our own lives and where we are in our lives right now. And we need to ask ourselves, “What is it that you want to accomplish?” And once you determine what it is that you want, then use what you got. I did it.

Do not come up with excuses, “Well, I don’t have the money. I don’t have the resources. I don’t know the right people.” You know what? I found in life you’re either going to have excuses or you’re going to have results. You can’t have both.

And there’s another quote by George Washington Carver that I love and it simply says that “99% of all failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” That’s powerful.

So, what I’m trying to convey to people is that once you stop living an excuseful lifestyle and you start moving towards your greatness or towards your dream or whatever it is that you want to have in this life, it will happen.

I just was not satisfied with my life where I was, so I decided to use what I had and to continue to move and things began to happen for me. Once I stopped complaining about my situation, the quality of my life began to change. And through the inspiration of desperation I began to use what I had. And all the time and energy I spent complaining about my situation, BAM, guess what? My situation never changed and yours won’t either.

So, that’s the message in a nutshell that I want people to know. That you’ve got that same power; anything you want to happen in your life, it’s possible. It can happen if you align yourself with the right people.

When I tried to go out in the world and get a job and I was turned down and they said you can’t get a job, guess what I did? I created my own job.

BAM: Go ahead, now.

Tawana: I am the CEO of Tawana Williams Outreach. I write my own checks. My husband and I, we travel all across this country, sometimes 20 to 25 times per month.

I decided that I was going to do this. I decided that I was going to make a career for myself. I wasn’t going to stand out in front of a store begging for money or a handout. I wasn’t looking for a handout. I was looking for an opportunity to create a life for myself.

And I realized that all the bad things that had happened to me in life—being raped, being molested by my stepfather, being addicted to crack cocaine, experiencing abortion—all of those things could have made me bitter or better and I chose to be better and you’ve got that same power.

BAM: You bad, girl! I’ll just tell you – you bad. {Laughter} I can’t say nothing else. Right now my hands are up. It’s like, “You just do your thing!”

Tell our listeners how they can contact you and how they can get your book, how they can book you to come to their church, their organization, their women’s meetings. I want the world to know how they can get in touch with you.

Tawana: Well, my website is www.tawanawilliams.com or you can email me at motivationalspeaker2003@yahoo.com. My phone number is 252-291-6081.

And I just want to say, BAM, that everybody that’s under the sound of my voice needs to order a copy of Unarmed But Dangerous. My book will change your life. This book will move you towards your greatness.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your life. You can be a doctor, lawyer, preacher, somebody that’s low in your life or addicted to drugs. Unarmed But Dangerous will move you, will give you no more excuses. It won’t allow you to say what you can’t do.What Unarmed But Dangerous will do is make you begin to live your dreams and to live your life full so that when you die you die empty.

BAM: That’s right. I think all youth groups should have it, all homes should have it, all people across the nation need to have it: book groups, women’s groups, women’s ministries; even high schools, Tawana.

Tawana: Absolutely. My book is everywhere. It’s that tool. I had a lady call me one day and she said, “Miss Tawana, I read your book and I’m not trying to be funny and I love the word of God, but I’m putting your book up here right next to the Bible.”

I was like. ‘That is deep.’

BAM: That’s right. That is so true. Well, Tawana, it’s just been a blessing speaking to you and if we can assist you in any way to spread the word about your book, spread the word about what you’re doing, email us and let us know. We will assist you in getting the word out.

I just thank you for sharing your story with others to provide hope, inspiration and encouragement.

Tawana: Thank you so much, Nicole

Copyright © 2008 Breathe Again Magazine

About the Interviewer
Nicole Cleveland is founder of Breathe Again Magazine Online and BAM! The Radio Show Podcast. She is on a mission to empower, encourage and motivate women by posting real life articles of women overcoming adversity. Visit www.breatheagainmagazine.com or contact her at editor@breatheagainmagazine.com

Suicide Couldn’t Destroy Me

Prophet Oliver T Reid PictureMy life was no different from any other individual who has felt helpless, hopeless, meaningless, and restless. Only through the endless love, grace, and mercy of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ I’m alive to write my story today. Similar to some of you reading this page right now, I was practically born and raised inside of the protected and fortified walls of church. It was no surprise that I became a minister of the gospel. My grandfather was a Methodist preacher, my mother was a pastor, and I always aspired to one day carry on the legacy. However after my matriculation from high school and enrollment into college I began to explore my surroundings like most young scholars who find themselves away from home for the first time. Attending church on Sunday’s quickly became a thing of the past, and my relationship with Christ diminished. In place of my day to day fellowship with Jesus Christ I occupied my time with parties, social events, and a long distance love affair that I had been involved in for four years. I barely talked to God in prayer anymore or called on his name for anything, my social life, and my thirst for my love affair became everything to me. Little by little I became more and more sadden as my smiles turned to frowns and internal cries turned to external tears. Each passing day my pain grew deeper and it became extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning. On the outside I continued to be the life of the party and maintained a cool persona, but inside all I wanted to do was sleep, cry, and win the internal war intensifying within me. The more I tried to hold on to my love affair the weaker spiritually, mentally, and emotionally I became. No longer could a long distant love affair soothe my pain, I was in need of God’s Agape (unconditional) love.

“MY BREAKING POINT”
After months of eagerly trying to find eternal peace, joy, and love within temporary circumstances the straw had finally broken the camels back and I reached my breaking point. Christmas day 1995 following a heated disagreement with my mother over my long distance relationship I began to cycle out of control letting all of my suppressed feelings and emotions out at once. Verbally I displaced all of my anger and frustration from my own internal struggles onto my mom. My mother immediately began to cry as she fell paralyzed by my verbal lashing and the fact that she could no longer recognize her son’s voice. Anger, frustration, and pain had become the driving forces behind my words and I didn’t care at that time about the effects of them on others. Shortly after my disagreement between my mom and I, instantly I felt guilty, and at a loss for words regarding the dispute that had just occurred between my mother and I. I didn’t mean to hurt her by pouring all of my emotional trash out on her. See I love my mom dearly. How could I have ever disrespect mom in such a manner? Feeling cornered by the spirit of Self Destruction I proceeded to lock myself in my bedroom and at that moment I could heard suicide’s voice ever so clearly. The spirit of suicide started to flip through the files of my life in order to remind me of all of my failures, sorrow, pain, anger, rejection, and meaningless victories. My perception of suicide’s false truths caused me to collapse onto my bed, the tears of agony started to stream down my face staining the pillows underneath me. The Spirit of Self Destruction whispered distorted facts that no one understood my struggles and reassured me that I could trust his father Satan. Self Destruction instructed me to end it all, and encouraged me that I would feel better after I was gone. I replied by way of mental thought to the Spirit of Self Destruction by asking are you certain that this is the only way out? Self Destruction answered with one of the greatest lies Satan ever told, God will forgive you this is the only way out.

“FAILED ATTEMPT”
Under the coaching and constant pressure from both the spirit of Self Destruction and Suicide I finally yielded to follow its lead. Determining quickly that I didn’t want to experience any more pain I slowly opened my room door and headed right for my mother’s medicine cabinet. I hastily scrambled choosing six pills from a small bottle with a faded label. Take note there was no time to waste, I was under the influence of suicide and self destruction following through was my only option. Closing my room door behind me I grasped tightly onto the six pills and with no need for water I swallowed them one by one. Shortly after ingesting the pills my vision became blurry, everything around me went blank, and I was told that I began to hyperventilate. Preceding these changes of events my sister walked in my room and found me collapsed on the bed. My sister quickly informed my mother of the situation and immediately called 911.

Rushing to my aid the paramedics checked my vital signs and quickly loaded me on to a stretcher. On the way to the hospital I vividly remember the sounds of the ambulance sirens, engine purring, bumps in the road, and the noise of the medical equipment moving back and forth. Nevertheless I will never forget the voice of the EMS attendant as he looked down into my flushed brown face and said these words in a calm tone “You know you are going to be fine because Jesus Loves You”. Then he ensued to clutch my trembling hands and with no more words exchanged I could feel the peaceful presence of God’s Holy Spirit like never before. I knew from that point on I would be more than ok and that my attempt to end my life had been unsuccessful. After arriving to the hospital I searched for the EMT that had ministered words of comfort to me however, I never saw that gentleman again. Praise the Lord! Suicide tried but couldn’t destroy me because God had put a but in my life.

Prophet Oliver T. Reid is a nationally and internationally recognized Speaker, Poet, Author, and Founder of O.T.R. Ministries International www.otrministries.com

A Farewell Journey

A Farewell Journey ButtonI walked along the flower adorned pathway, then stopped at the usual spot.

“Honey, I know you are not here but this is where I visit you. I came to reminisce about our happy times together.” I mentioned several highlights in our twenty plus years of marriage. But only silence followed. I sensed my husband’s love and mine mingling in the flower-scented breeze. “I know our love is so real it’ll never die.”

Minutes later, a cool wind shook the pine tree branches. I moved under the tree for shelter and gazed at the gray grave stone as clouds rolled overhead.

After praying and reminiscing I walked the four blocks home from the cemetery. My husband, Dave and I had lived in that town for over twenty years. We had savored our family time with our four children there.

Now I had to move away to where I could earn a living to support myself. Our children lived in driving distance in different towns. Each daughter and our son had invited me to move near them. “We’ll be nearby in case you need us,” each had said.
I could not sell our paid-for family home yet. I might return to my familiar town. I could drive home on weekends if my employer’s tentative idea became reality. He said perhaps I could do some work for the firm from my home computer. It sounded promising. I could even continue my freelance writing.

I had rented the furnished lower level to a young teacher couple, Mike and Sue Ann. Their rent and yard care would help me.

As I packed my last suitcase, planning to pursue my farewell plan, my phone rang. “Mom, why wait until tomorrow? You could get in the car and drive to Green Bay now. We’ll go out to dinner when you get here.”

I thanked Marie for her kind suggestion. But I needed to complete my plan before I could leave. It was a crucial step to continue my journey. It would free me to leave despite my longing to stay with my happy memories.

First, I wanted to revisit the church where we were married but it was a several hours’ drive away. So I did the next best thing. I opened our wedding album and gazed at the flower adorned church where Dave had waited up front for me. My white gown had flowed as I had walked down the aisle with the wedding music filling the air. My breathing had tightened. I wanted to marry yet at the last minute I felt a bit torn. Was I truly ready to begin my journey through life, hand in hand, with Dave?

Seeing Dave’s shimmering blue eyes and gentle smile, my thoughts flew away like butterflies. I knew our marriage was meant to be—blessed by God! I sensed His peace!

We began married life like two children playing house in our first apartment. It was furnished with the landlord’s odds and ends. But we were cozy there. We prepared our first meals there. We had jobs so the first one to return home began the dinner.

Closing the wedding album, I got in my car and drove to the red brick hospital where each of our babies was born. I parked in the crowded lot and the years melted. The man heading toward the hospital door with a bouquet “became” my husband for an instant.

I closed my eyes and recalled the labor pains that had been eased by my husband’s big warm hand holding my sweaty one. My mind’s eye saw his worried blue eyes when the pains worsened and it was time to go to the delivery room. At that hospital, husbands were confined to the waiting room. Knowing he was praying for me gave me emotional and spiritual comfort.

Later, as I held my newborn infant with the round red face and persistent cry, Dave and I smiled at our very own baby. Soon we would wrap our child in a soft blanket for the ride home.

Each newborn and I had our private meeting time during the late night feeding. The town was dark and the quietness held us in its soft embrace. My thoughts faded as I drove from the hospital parking lot and headed for our picnic spot near the lake on the edge of town. There, the clear water lapped at the beach and even in that dark evening with no one in sight, memory rushed our children’s laughter into the still air.

Our stop for ice cream cones after our lake outings suddenly flowed into my memories with smiles and exclamations: “This was a fun day!”

Next, I rode by the school where each child first let go of my clutching hand and began a new life journey for us.
Their journeys ended with high school graduations before our children left home to tread their personal pathways. But our prayers kept us bonded.

Dave and I were alone for only a short time when he was diagnosed with a terminal disease.

Now, alone in our town, I drove again to the cemetery. I put the bouquet of golden flowers from our yard near the grave stone. I knelt and prayed thanks for the journey of life Dave and I had taken together.

Someday, hand in hand, we would walk together again in our Father’s Kingdom.

Before driving from town, I rode past the church where we had worshiped for years—and I prayed thanks for the journey that began on our wedding day.

As I drove alone I sensed the Lord’s presence. Jesus was near me.

He promised to never leave us or forsake us, according to Hebrews 13:5b.

That provided soft peace for a widow’s new journey!

By Beth Craig as told to A. Carli

Will My Dreams Ever Come True?

womanthinking

I know at one point I asked myself that question many times. I looked at the people around me and became very envious because they seemed to be very successful. I always felt sorry for myself and was angry all the time because I couldn’t see the gifts I had.  Every day I had a new idea, or a new business venture. Even though I couldn’t see my gifts I felt there had to be some hidden away. No one around me gave positive feedback about my gifts so therefore I simply concluded I had no gifts and I was never going to be successful as an individual.
After high-school I tried going to college five different times for five different subjects. I went for accounting,  radio broadcasting, telecommunications, business marketing, and child development. Each time was based on a spur of the moment thought to work in that field. I never made it past one semester. I tried selling cosmetics a few times. Each time the person training me seemed so confident and successful and I figured if they could do it why not me?  I lasted no more than two months. Let’s not forget the many, many business ideas I came up with. I was going to start a daycare center, sell real-estate, make t-shirts, do scrapbooking, start a non-profit organization, medical billing and catering. I can go on and on with many more. None of these ideas ever took off. There was a pattern in each of these situations and I came up with a conclusion about myself. I concluded that I was a person who couldn’t finish what I started. I had no confidence or belief in myself. I was convinced I was here on earth for no special reason at all.
Well, that was then, and that was prior to becoming a believer and realizing the love of Jesus Christ!  Jeremiah 5: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you;” Those are the words from our Father in heaven. When I became a believer I finally realized how loved I am. I finally knew I had a purpose and calling. I knew instantly when I became a believer I was being called into ministry. I enrolled into a Bible college. Here I was again attempting college. Only this time I was a child of God. Not to mention a married mother of three, at the time, and facing a financial disaster, but I enrolled into Bible college away. My husband and I went through very bad financial problems and an unplanned pregnancy, but I never stopped going to school. I had finally realized my gifts and my calling and I knew nothing could stop God’s plan if I continued to have faith.
What is your calling? Maybe you think the way I once thought and feel you have no purpose, or maybe you think your situation is too big and too deep to even think about following your dreams. If it is God’s calling on your life nothing can stop it. What were your dreams as a child? We often allow our surroundings to influence our dreams. We tend to look at others and think we want the same. But I always say; as a 10 year-old what did you dream about?  As a child I remember being a writer. I was the neighborhood writer, producer and director. I was always putting on a production. I was always writing a play, or a story or a screenplay. But not knowing God, I didn’t realize that was a gift He gave me.  Think back to your childhood and pull up those hidden talents.
God expects us to use what He gives us. Matthew 25: 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will have abundance”  This section in the Bible is speaking of talents we are given from God and we are to use them. It doesn’t matter where your life is right now. It’s not too late. You’re not too old; too young and your situation is not too big. When you bring it Jesus and ask Him to help you, you will slowly but surely realize your dreams coming true. It is a process that takes hard work from you. It won’t happen overnight. You have to be patient and trust that God is doing work inside you at the same time. One of my husband’s absolute dreams was to be a football coach. That’s all he ever talked about. He said as a child he wanted to play football more than anything, but never had the opportunity. He loves watching football. In 2009, he hesitantly went to the coaching staff at our son’s new high-school and asked if they had any positions, and they did. He was offered a volunteer position as an assistant on the JV football team. He was on cloud nine. He knew that was the beginning, and he knew that if he stayed patient God would continue to move him further and further as he continues to learn and grow.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment to start living your dream, because today is the perfect moment. God wants you to believe in Him and realize the potential He has given you. He wants you to ask Him to help you and trust in Him as He moves you in the direction of your calling.
You are going to be told by others to stop dreaming, or don’t waste your time, but God doesn’t waste anything. You do have a destiny, and your destiny will be fulfilled with continued faith. Your dream is going to come true! One day this article will be written by you to inspire others. Never give up on Jesus as he will never give up on you!

Saleama A. Ruvalcaba is a wife, mother, writer and speaker. She is the wife to Omar and together they share four children.Saleama is a Bible student and serves in leadership at her home church. She’s a council leader for women’s Tuesday morning Bible study and publicity coordinator for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). “ I am asked, daily, how I manage it all with a straight face, and the answer is Jesus! I became a believer in 2007 and never looked  back”. Saleama can be reached at Saleama@salruv.com

Shameful Mistakes

Jail Cell“We all make mistakes”; a statement that encourages contrition, soothes the soul, and offers a promissory note of forgiveness. It’s an inclusive statement, until the mistake lands a person in prison.

In 2005, I became a prisoner’s wife, literally and spiritually. My previous title of “wife” left me inadequately prepared for my new role.  My left ring finger told the world I’d been through a ceremony but there wasn’t a husband around to confirm. I didn’t know how to live this life. I turned to God for answers, but didn’t wait for a response.

I built walls around our life to protect my husband. I did not speak openly of him. I created an environment where he didn’t exist. When asked about him, I lied, within the context of truth.  I lied to make others feel “ok”, until I was no longer free, burdened under a wall of shame and suffocating guilt.  I promised to love and honor my husband; for better or for worse; being embarrassed by his whereabouts was not in the vows. I believed the lies of the enemy; neither I nor my husband was worthy. My actions perpetuated my shame. When I’d made a mess of things, I finally moved over and let God take the reins.  He showed me the devil is in the secrets and that shame and love cannot exist in the same place.

It is natural to feel uneasy about my husband’s mistakes, but harboring shame keeps me from moving forward. Shame distorts relevance. When I finally came clean about my husband, no one pushed me away. Friends and colleagues had questions and understandable concerns but no one “freaked out”. Once the initial shock wore off, people moved on. They did not walk around thinking about me nor my life. I covered myself in false shame, allowing the perception of my life to be greater than its reality; compounding the problem with lies and guilt. Overcoming shame meant coming out of hiding and recognizing my life is as valuable as anyone else’s. It meant standing tall in the power of my truth.

There are many people who disagree with my life and will never forgive my husband’s actions.  I can’t keep people from having an opinion or judging. It’s my duty as a prisoner’s wife to stand up, educate, and speak for those who have yet to find their voice. My hope is for people to get to know a prisoner’s wife, not the caricature. I am not my husband’s choices. My choices are to commit, to forgive and to love.

We all make mistakes. My mistake was allowing shame and perceptions to devalue my life. As for my husband’s mistake– as the law of man dictates, he is paying for it. As the law of Christ promises, he is forgiven and there is no shame in that.

Reesy Floyd-Thompson is the director of Prisoners’ Wives, Girlfriends, and Partners, an organization dedicated to helping those with an incarcerated partner. She is working on a book on how to maintain a relationship despite having an incarcerated spouse.