Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Second Chances

Hey Friends! I took a little impromptu break from blogging over the holiday. We had Thanksgiving dinners four days in a row. Spent lots of time with family, baking, eating, dodging family tension and thought we'd get away with a politic free night but no. It was brought up just when we thought everyone was leaving. My poor hub was sucked in and a whole nother hour of discussion. smh

However, I was introduced to two new books. One is specifically for Advent, which I love btw! And the other one is about second chances, and who doesn't appreciate being given a second chance.

The hope of gospel speaks of it all throughout.

Jesus was the biggest promoter of second chances! ...a friend of tax collectors and "sinners."

And we all fall into that category. And if you don't think you do, well then you most certainly belong there!

This is the newest book I've had the pleasure of reading.

I'm close to the half way mark and I'm so excited about it! Twitter watch out. Facebook too. I'm even sending quotes to my friends.
"This is a book for messed-up overcomers, for religious rebels, for the broken but resilient."
Man oh man, if that isn't right up my alley I don't know what is.

Of all the things I've learned this year is, God grace is scandalous. It's a grace that moves beyond the rules and what's accepted, to the meet those that are unaccepted and live on the fringes. 

I makes me think about the story Jesus shares of the Pharisee and Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14. 
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: "Two men went to the Temple to pray. On was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: 'I thank you, God, that I am not like other people--cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I'm certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of income.'
"But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.' I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." 
Only Jesus could wipe the slate clean for the tax collector.

Just like He does for us.

I did have someone disagree with me on this excerpt from the book:
"His heart is far larger, His love far stronger than anything we can imagine...God is one lover you cannot manipulate or woo. He's all one sided. It's all grace. And He is all love."
They don't believe that He's all grace and all love.

I remember that being told to me that last year. It felt very old testament to me.

But sometimes when we go through difficult times we press in a little harder to find out if what we think we know is really true at all.

This is what I know about an all loving, all grace God,
God is love. 1 John 4:16
We are FULLY justified (declared guiltless) freely by His grace through the redemption that came be Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24
While Jesus was hanging on the cross He said two very important things. One, to the thief hanging next to Him, "Today you will be with me in paradise." And second, to those who put Him there, "Forgive them for they know not what they do."
Our justice looks very different than His justice. Our justice is beating the guy who owes us $5, when we've been forgiven of $500. 
When we struggle to do the right thing but yield to do the wrong thing, "What a wretched man am I! Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. He delivers me through Jesus. He delivers me. The good news of the gospel.

This book has reassured me that even though I've messed up in life, and I've gone through great suffering for it, I am not the sum of my weakness and failures.

Now I'm not Catholic but I do watch the Catholic world. I also graduated from a Catholic High School so I tend to look at the Catholic church fondly. I really liked Pope John Paul II. He seemed like a warm, compassionate person. This quote of his may be my favorite of all the things he said.

"We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father's love for us..."

Just ponder that for a moment. "We are the sum of the Father's love for us."

What a sigh of relief! It truly removes the burden of sin off of us and simply covers us with a blanket of love.

Let me just here with my blanket of love that my Hunny gave me, with coffee in hand and rest in the fact, "I'm the sum of the Father's love for me."

Blessings and Peace through this Holiday Season,

If you need some reassurance in this department, go and pick this book, The People of the Second Chance. You won't regret it!

Friday, November 18, 2016

We're All in This Together

I got down right honest the other day in the essay I posted about WWJD. But isn't honesty is suppose to be freeing? Yet I'm troubled by it. 

I shared with you how I was a Christian, la ti da, and I try to live by the bible but I'm conflicted cause I love the LBGT community. I quoted my friend Sue, who said, "I have to stay in my heart rather than my head. Otherwise, I'll go all Pharisee!"

I've been mulling over that essay since I posted it. But even though it wasn't my intention to offend anyone, I may have. I would never want to dehumanize anyone by throwing a bible verse at them. That's what the Pharisees did to the woman caught in adultery, saying, "According to the law she needed to be stoned to death." But Jesus didn't agree with them. He sat quietly and didn't say a word for sometime. It took so long that the religious leaders kept repeating it. We all know what he said, "You who is without sin cast the first stone." And one by one they dropped their stones, from the oldest to the youngest. No condemners left. 

In my opinion they covered her in death by pointing out her "sin." She no longer was a person. She became the sin they were pointing out. Romans 7:10 says, "I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death." 

Isn't that what we do to people who look, think, act differently than us? They become the thing that makes them different by judging and condemning by the law. We place ourselves as God and strip them of humanity. 

I think this election has brought to light some serious issues to light in our country. As I said in The Morning After, "...there are a good number of Americans that are frightened and shaken..."

One of them is the son of an old friend. He was so hurt by all his family and friends supporting Trump. I believe he still is. 

Trump wasn't very nice along his campaign trail. He spewed a lot of hate propaganda. And the support he gathered is what surprised me the most. How could we get behind a man like that?  But many did. And now I'm left with prayer.  

However, I'm not apart of the LBGT community or an immigrant or any of those that has felt marginalized in today's world. I'm a middle class white woman who's considered privileged in society.  But as a Christian who's fallen and no longer accepted in my community I get it. The pain and hurt they feel being actively rejected, I KNOW how that feels. 

I may not be one of them but I am one of them. We're all in this together. That's what Jesus showed. No one's left out. He didn't use the law to condemn. He used the Spirit to give life. 

That's all people want is to be loved and accepted. 

I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter what I "think" of others, because our thoughts can deceive us. We get hung up and get all law like. That's why Jesus shows us in action how to extent our hands to our neighbors. So it doesn't matter how the neighbor in the story of the Good Samaritan fell into his situation, but what's important is being there for them in the recovery.

You are loved and accepted and seen exactly as you are...and I have a load of healing salve in my knapsack just in case you need it.

Peace & An Immense Amount of Love,

And IF I did offend anyone at all by any previous posts, please accept my apology and please forgive me. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Getting Off Course is Sometimes a Good Thing

Christmas is coming up fast.
I mean it's pretty much here already with ads abound and decorations galore.
Thanksgiving is just the gateway to Christmas anymore.

Didn't really mean for all that to rhyme but hey, ya gotta take it as a gift. Kinda like Christmas. ;)

So we've been feeling the squeeze of holiday pressure, not to mention regular living, bills, teenagers, eating out, eating in, gas to and from work, husband works as much OT as possible but it never seems enough.

He's tired. I'm tired. We're in our forties and should be retiring in ten years or so. It would of course be him retiring, as I'm a stay at home Do Everything Else person. I don't really like the term "stay at home mom or wife" because life entails oh so much more than just staying at home and eating bonbons. I cook, clean, do laundry, manage our finances, make necessary phone calls, run errands, home-school our daughter, and take grandkids when asked. I also help my ailing mother when needed-such as take her to appointments, run errands, mediate between her and my sister, what any good daughter would do.

I'm also a wanna be writer, blogger, that sometimes takes up way too much of my time but I needed a place where I could be as real as I could get without feeling judged (and maybe I secretly am just don't know it).

Being real takes vulnerability and vulnerability exposes your weaknesses. And when I feel exposed I just wanna run and hide and quickly cover-up.

I feel I'm so guarded with the rest of my life, mainly friendships, so here in this space I pretend we're friends and I can share whatever's on my heart (The good, the bad, and the ugly) and you'll love me no matter what.

A girl can dream can't she?

Speaking of dreaming, sometimes when I'm watching a reality tv on E! or HGTV I ask out loud, "Where do they get all their money?" It absolutely boggles my mind. It's either old money or new money, but they're able to go and do things and buy things that I can't.

I've been thinking about getting a Christmas job. I haven't worked outside the home in about a year and a half but with my back being so bad (herniated disc), I can't stand or sit like a normal person. Even going to Walmart, or last night we went to Lowe's to look for carpet, within 15 mins my back, hip and leg was killing me. I feel a little hopeless. I mean what the frick, I'm only 45 years old. Am I gonna be crippled by the time I'm 50? I don't want to confess that over myself but it's definitely frustrating.

I've gone online the last few mornings and googled "Work from home." There are some doozy's out there.

The Krazy Coupon Lady posted this: 29 Legit Qays for Stay-at-Home Moms to Earn Money From Home. But I'm somewhat paranoid that they aren't legit, even though the Krazy Coupon Lady endorses them.

Then I upped the ante and decided to google "From Broke to Billionaire." There actually was quite a few posts out there.

I was quite impressed with Sara Blakely, the Billionaire Spanx lady. She came up with the idea while getting ready to go out one evening. But it wasn't necessarily a new idea, cause women have been trying to squeeze their "goods" in all the way back to the 16th century. Sara just came up with a new way to package it. CNN Money shared her story from rags to riches and it was very encouraging.

Tony Robbins was another inspiring story. Here Forbes tells of his journey from broke to rich all from investments.

In 2014, Inc.com shared 5 Incredible People Who Went From Broke to Billionaire. Oprah is happens to be this one and who doesn't love to read about Oprah.

Sounds like I just need to get a really great idea and invent something or come up with something that people feel that just HAVE TO HAVE and can't live without. Sort of like Kylie Jenner's makeup line.

But since I don't have the Kardashian/Jenner name...Hey maybe that's something to think about, I could change my name to theirs.

Here's what the headlines would say,

"Long lost cousin of Kardashian/Jenner clan"

Julie Jenner
Julie Kardashian
Julie K for short. Now that's gotta good ring to it.

Ah who am I kidding? I'd be known as a fraud trying to benefit from their famous name. Guess I can't go that route.

My father wasn't a successful businessman. He worked at General Motors as the Pay Master. It was a great job but he was never good with money. He always blew it. He bought stupid expensive things and lived pay check to pay check. Guess I'm following in his footsteps. And the realization of that sucks.

But I don't want to anymore. Like I said I'm tired. Living this way is exhausting, being stressed out all the time. And I don't wanna do no Mary Kay, Amway, IT Works, Candle Party, Essential Oil marketing BS. I've been there, done that, tried it all. The ONLY people making the money are the ones at the top with you buying their $100 starter kit.

Here's one inspiring story that's closer to home. I know him as Pastor Terry. He was the children's pastor at our old church. He had such a love for children and was one of the reasons we decided to stay at that church. I had the honor of serving under him in the children's ministry, Gap ministry and Backyard ministry. The children's ministry serviced the church kids on Wednesday and Sunday and the Gap and Barkyard ministry reached out to the kids less fortunate. They weren't as well behaved, broke things, and honestly, didn't smell very good. They brought dirt in from the outside. And although we tried to clean up after a Friday night Gap service it was never clean enough for some regular church attenders. You could say the Gap ministry was his passion and Sunday ministry was his job.

Things didn't turn out so peachy for him there. He needed surgery and would be on the mend for a couple months. Unbeknownst to him the head pastor decided to replace him. It went down bad. Pastor Terry was blind sided. Pastoring was his whole life. It's what he lived for.

Now you're probably wondering how is this inspiring? I'm getting to it.

Well Pastor Terry was also a gifted craftsman. He could create the most beautiful woodwork you'd ever seen. And he poured himself in that work. After months of just making bird houses he decided to go out on a limb and started his own business. This year alone he's made 6 figures.

The angst he went through thrusted him into plan B.

Sara Blakely says it like this, "Failure is life's way of nudging you and letting you know you're off course."

Maybe I was off course. I didn't want to do anything else but serve in the church. I was behind 4 walls everyday, and although I was passionate about it, I couldn't see beyond it. One thing I know for sure, I would have never started blogging if my life hadn't turned upside down.

Maybe you feel you're off course too. Or maybe you're life is great as is. Either way, I'm going to pray for us that we'd see our set of circumstances with fresh eyes and a fresh heart, that we'd be open to a new path when life's thrown us a detour. Lord give us new hope and to trust the journey. Amen.

 Deuteronomy 8:18 says, "But remember the LORD your God, for it is He that gives you the power to produce wealth..."

Peace & an Immense Amount of Love,

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

God's Undercover Agents

Jail life isn't Club Med. It's Hell. There's an oppressive force that hovers over you, leaving you feeling desperate and caged. It's more extreme, more excessive, more harsh, full of evil forces, more than you could ever imagine. 

99% of the women in there was a repeat offender. There was a very small percentage of us in there that had never experienced anything like it. 

This county jail houses everyone all together. Murderers, rapists, drug dealers, drug users, whether illegal or prescription. There are armed and unarmed robbers, retail fraud, credit card fraud, driving without a driver's license, DUI's, you name it, they were there. Most were waiting for their court dates but some had already been sentenced. 

You hardly sleep there because of the nonstop noise. But many of the girls that come in there are detoxing so they sleep all the time. Many of them have psychological problems so they're drugged to the max. This one girl was trying to get away from the deputies, which there's no where to go, only to run in circles. She ended up going up the stairs and throwing herself off the balcony, nearly killing herself. She could no longer walk freely. She had to wear shackles on her at all times. 

I spoke at the Forgotten Man Ministry Banquet in October and I was sharing with them my experience there and how their ministry touched me. 

Here's some of what I shared.
I hardly slept through the first night. Wrist band check was sometime around 630. Breakfast followed around 7. Dayroom (what they called breaks) was announced between 9 and 10. Lunch was sometime around noon. Each time we were called to do one of these things, I had no idea what the deputy was saying because she was barking all of her instructions. The girl on the top bunk had to tell me what to do so I wouldn’t get in trouble. 
I tried sleeping as much as I could between meals and dayroom, but a person can only sleep so much. As I laid there on my bunk, I came to the realization that I was in Hell.
I fell back on what I always did, in both good times and bad times, and that was singing. The only lyrics I could quietly muster was “Oh the Blood of Jesus, it washes white as snow.” Through a grief I had never known, I repeated these words over and over again.
During one of the breaks, I noticed a group of women came into the pod. They all had vests on and some sat at the tables with their bibles and a couple of them stood up by the cart. Many of inmates got in line to receive paper and pencils, as well as books or magazines off the cart. Other girls sat at the tables and were talking to the ladies in vests. 
I didn’t want to talk to anyone, so I just laid there and watched all the movement. However, I did want a piece of paper and pencil to write home and maybe a book to read. So I mustered up the courage and got in line.
One of the ladies prayed with me during that time and I cried. I couldn't believe I was there and desperately needed a friend, a word of encouragement, something, anything... God reached out on my behalf through her and said, “I see right where you’re at and haven’t forgotten you.” 
Psalm 139:8b says, “Even if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there with me.”  
If there's ever a ministry that you'd like to get involved with, the Forgotten Man Ministry is one worth  the while. Most of these people don't know anything about real love or have ever had a kind word spoken to them, so it's a great way to show them Christ.

The Forgotten Man Ministry is similar to the Red Cross. Their motto is “to offer help and HOPE wherever and whenever someone URGENTLY needs it.” This very much describes these beautiful humans. 

I see them as God’s secret agents, under cover on the mission field, going where no man wants to go. They bring the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

For every speaker, every bible study teacher, those that are dedicated to come to book cart day, even those who sacrifice their time and make a home cooked meal for Thanksgiving (it's right around the corner) - this verse accurately describes them, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news of the gospel.”

Matthew 25:36 says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Vs 40 says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.” 

Peace & Love Friends,

God is With You

Most of this post is included in my earlier essays but I needed to hear it again this morning and if I did, maybe you do too. 

As you know, 2015 was hell for me. I experienced a darkness that I wish to never experience again. 

But what I learned is this, even in those dark times He is with you. 
He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t left you. He sees and knows all it. 
When it seemed all had abandoned me, I was at the end of myself and after all the dust settled, I found out that He was still with me. 
And He is with you today. 
Maybe some of you know that already. Maybe some of you forgot. 
It’s easy to forget when things get difficult in life. 
But today I want to remind that you have not been forgotten and that you are not alone.

I wanna share a story with you out of John 8:1-11.

I remember reading this one and point blank asked God, “What does it mean to ‘go and sin no more.'  
So I started researching the definition of sin 
I think most people translate it as ‘you’re doing wrong, now stop it and start doing right.’  
But it’s deeper than that. Our behavior is always a truth teller of what’s going on on the inside. Our mouths almost always give it away. In Matt 12:34 and Luke 6:45 says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

The Hebrew word for sin is chata’ (khaw-taw) definition of sin is - to miss, miss the mark, miss the way or path, make a mistake, an error, fail to find or have, to be absent.  
The root word for sin means forgetfulness. 
Shakeach means forget, forgetful, to be oblivious. 
It’s an unconscious state.

So what do I think Jesus was exactly telling her to do?  
I think He was telling her to remember.  
Now to remember is to be conscious.  
To be aware.  
I think He was telling her to remember this moment. 
Remember that He didn’t condemn her. 
Remember that she was no longer bound to what she had done.  
Remember that He set her free.  
Set her free from what the religious leaders said about her and set free from what the law of Moses said. 
And set her free from public opinion.  
His opinion was the only opinion that mattered. 

The story of Zacchaeus is one of my favorite stories in the bible. It's a story that recognizes the depravity in man, this man, in you and in me. But despite that depravity, God's love is greater, more accepting, more forgiving and for that I'm grateful. 

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 
For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Zacchaeus was a man that was hated by his own townsmen and yet Jesus called his name and wanted to spend time with him at his house. 
Zacchaeus was changed immediately by this love. 
He wanted to pay restitution from the things he had done wrong. 
But this wasn’t a requirement of Jesus. 
He didn’t say before I come to your house you need to do this, this and this…No Jesus just called his name and told him I wanna hang out with you just as you are. This love that He had for him is what changed him. Not fear of punishment. Not Threats. Just I love you exactly as you are.

If you feel far away from Him, if you feel you’ve seen or done too much, that He couldn’t possibly love you or accept you, that’s not the case! 

Listen His eye is always on you. 
You couldn’t run far enough away that He wouldn’t be there. 
Psalm 139:7-8 says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.” 
The message bible says, “You’d find me in a minute-You’re already there waiting!”

Just like Jesus called the most hated man in town, He knew the exact spot Zaaahaeus was going to be in and called out to him.

He calls out to you today. Just as you are. No need to clean up, His arms are wide open here and now. 
I want you to bask in the fact that you are loved with a love greater than your minds can comprehend. No matter where you are in life His mercy and love covers you today. 

“God’s love and forgiveness can pardon and restore any and every kind of sin or wrongdoing. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done.” ~Timothy Keller

Peace & An Immense Amount of Love for You All, 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ridiculously Simple, WWJD

Most of you who's followed my blog knows I'm a Christian. Self admittedly not a very good one. But that's just because I'm measuring what my Christianity looks like in comparison to someone else's. Measuring isn't good. We don't have the proper perspective to measure accurately. We have a limited view. And God looks at the heart anyways. Reading IHop's FB post always makes me feel better, "Even though my prayers are weak, God hears them."

Anyhoo, I just want to say I love LBGT community. My beloved Aunt Judy was gay. I grew up around all her friends and partners before her tragic passing. My late cousin, Giovanni, was openly gay. He committed suicide some years ago. He was a recovering heroin addict and successfully clean for two years, but had developed hepatitis C and was very ill. Just before his death he found out he was in fact HIV positive, his bf broke up with him, the doctor told him he had to get rid of his cat and his room mate was moving out of their shared apartment. It was all too much for him. 

Another close family member was gay. My father. He left my mom in the late 70's to pursue a homosexual lifestyle. I remember one of the first times he took us over to his "friend's" apartment. Really the only thing I remember is our dog pooping on their floor. As kids, we thought it was funny. I'm sure they didn't. He and my mom did get back together. Their's is a very complicated love story. They married and divorced each other three times. Three marriages. Three divorces. Lots of chaos and instability for my sis and I in our growing years. I was a very sad little girl. Very insecure. But I loved my dad nonetheless. 

Two of my dearest friends are apart of the LBGT community. One considers herself Bi and the other considers herself Trans. They are some of the most loving, generous individuals I've had the pleasure of knowing. Really beautiful people. 

Let me just get down right honest though. I struggle with same-sex relationships. I do. I hang my head in shame because I love my family and friends that participate in this lifestyle. I love them period. No matter what. 

Here's where the struggle comes in and why. Since I'm a Christian I try and live my life by the bible. I've failed horribly at times. I wrote about it here

But in Romans chapter one Paul writes,
"God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their woman exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
In Genesis 1:27-28, after God created male and female, He blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth..."

This is what confuses me about same-sex relationships, they cannot reproduce without the opposite sex. Now obviously we don't need to fill the earth because we're pretty much full. But even in the creation of our bodies, males and female parts fit together like puzzles. The reproductive parts. The sensual parts. The parts that remove two separate individuals into one being. And the two shall become one.

None of us would ever arrive on planet earth if it weren't for a female egg and a male sperm. Not one.

But maybe for me personally, it's also that little girl still grieving the separation of her mommy and daddy. My mom and dad separated more times than not. My dad moved in and out of the house so many times it made our heads spin. He always had his rental house to fall back on. Damn escape route.  The memories of the pain and heartache can almost still be felt 40some years later.

You're probably saying, "Get over it and move on!" And I can understand that. I think what triggered these emotions is from last night learning of one of my favorite authors just announced she's in a same-sex relationship. Then I'm like, "Oh so that's why you left your husband." Then I get all cynical until Jesus slaps me with the truth of His own mercy and grace towards me.

So to keep me level I fall back on, WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? Sounds ridiculously simple but it really gives the answers to these horribly hard questions.

So what would Jesus do? Exclude them? Shame them? Ostracize them? Beat them? Threaten them? Give them 50 lashes?

Absolutely, unequivocally none of the above.

The scripture I shared in Romans one follows up in chapter two with,
"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because YOU WHO PASS JUDGEMENT DO THE SAME THINGS."
So many "Christians" think they're telling it like it is but it seriously does more harm than good. Like I said in this post, I will never leave you, be a good Christian and shut your mouth.

My good friend Sue says it like this, "I have to stay in my heart rather than my head. Otherwise, I'll go all Pharisee!"

Jesus showed us to do the opposite of what the Pharisees did. In the story of Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman, the Lepers He healed, and the prodigal son that His arms are wide open for us and He accepts us just as we are. There's no condemnation just "go sin no more." But even that statement means something different than you think. I proposed non-conventional view of the phrase in this post, A Conversation With My Sis.

No matter what your personal beliefs are on this subject we all can rest in this, we all fall short of the glory of God but through the redemption of Christ, we are freely justified! Romans 3:23

Peace & Massive Amounts of Love,

A curious side note: Why are we so obsessed with sex? And why do we care so much about who is having sex with whom?

If you have some answers to these ponderous questions, feel free to share your view.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Right Here and Now

This morning I was reading my devotional, A Spring Within Us, by Richard Rohr.

He talks a lot about Mystics in his writings. I didn't quite understand the language he used when I first discovered him, but there's an other worldliness that surrounds the imagery of a mystic, especially the way he describes it, and that's what intrigues me and keeps me coming back for more. 

By definition mystic means, "A person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain into with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension or truths that are beyond the intellect." 

If it's okay I'd like to share with you today's reading. To me it has so much relevance in light of the election and the chaotic state of our country, with so many having disapproved of the outcome. It's also touched a personal cord with me, which I suspect that's what it's suppose to do.

Day 6 The One Thing Necessary 
Mystics are always saying, in one form or another, "Do not be afraid." They know that all is okay. They want you to hear this message so that you can stop fretting and enjoy Divine Union right now. "Enjoy" is the operative word. Mystical experience allows you to enjoy your own life and to stop creating enemies, people to fear, and nations you have to punish and kill. When you are enjoying deep union, you don't need to create divisions, mistrust, and separation. Conspiracy theories and tabloid gossip hold little interest for you. 
True spiritual encounter changes your politics, your attitude toward money, your use of time, your relationship toward foreigners and the weak, your attitude toward war and nationalism. You are citizen of the Big Kingdom now (see Philippians 3:20) and, when you realize that, you will live very differently. If you are not ready to change, don't seek out God.
Once you have one sincere moment of Divine Union, you will want to spend your time on the one thing necessary, which is to grow deeper and deeper in love every chance that you get. Talk to someone who has had a near-death, or nearing-death experience. In the end, they all agree: It's all about love. It's all about union, and all the rest of what they thought was important was mere window dressing. "Saved" people are just people who learn that earlier than the rest of us. You can either discover the one thing necessary now or wait until later. You could be a lot happier and make a lot of other people happier if you would discover it now. "Martha, Martha, you worry about so many things, yet so few are needed; indeed, only one" (see Luke 10:42). 
Gateway to Silence: We are one in Love. 

Isn't that SO good!  It's all about love. No other simpler way to put it. AND it's all okay. Everyone's all up in arms about Trump getting elected. Sure he wasn't the best candidate. Heck he was even qualified! But it's all gonna be okay.

Oh my goodness, all I hear when reading this is, rest. "Rest in Me. No worries. No striving. Just rest. It's all gonna be fine. Just sit at my feet and take it all in and rest. Let me give you what you need and rest."

Fr. Rohr says we can enjoy our own lives right here and now! Being a mystic isn't drawing from a well that isn't stocked with fresh water. No! In John 7:38 it says, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." We draw from the well that's INSIDE of us! How cool is that! I just said to my husband last night, "It's like we're Spirits that have a body, not a body that has a Spirit." Or maybe I'm just coming to that realization. Maybe I'm becoming more of a mystic than I thought I was.

I believe the Big Kingdom he talks about is right here and now. "On earth as it is in heaven (see Matt 6:10)." "Yet a time is coming and now has come when TRUE worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind worshipers the Father seeks (see John 4:23)." The good news for us is we don't have to wait. We can experience it now! Lord let Your kingdom come.

My life flashed before my eyes last year. I died and was resurrected. My marriage crumbled but love stepped in and we said Yes, more so than when we first said yes 24 years ago. I've said before that I wish, I wish, I wish I could've learned what I know without having to have gone through the shit storm of 2015 but just like Father Time, in Alice and Looking Glass said, "We cannot change the past but we can learn from it."

What do I glean from this devo? One thing is needed. That's it, just one and done. Nothing else. Sit at His feet and chill. Don't worry about the dishes, the laundry, but just listen. Pay attention to the present and embrace what's right in front of you.

So that's what I'm gonna do just now. Take it in the present. My hub's in front of me, my daughter, and our dog Abby. Go and do the same! Muah!

Peace & Love,

Friday, November 11, 2016

Babylon Fatih

My beautiful cousin and friend, Stacey Cody, guest blogs today, offering us the same questions she ponders herself about the depths of faith. 

She simply is one of the most brilliant persons I know. She married her high school sweetheart 25 years ago, she's a mother of seven, yes I said seven, as well as running a business with her hub, AND is a first time grandma! These are only to name a few.

I hope you love this as much as I do! 

Peace & Love,

Babylon Faith
I have been thinking lately about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And Joseph. And Daniel. I have often wondered how these children who were stolen from the protective covering of their family and culture and country and faith community could be so absolutely steadfast in their faith and maintain their righteousness in a land that was not in ANY way aligned with their belief system.

I think there is much to be gleaned in considering this. Am I raising children who could stand and remain faithful even if they were taken from me now as captives or sold into slavery in a pagan land? Is my faith strong enough to endure such a thing without caving to cultural pressure even if I were the ONLY person who believed in and served the One true God?

Could I face prison with such relentless hope? Could I face martyrdom with such resolution? Would my Christianity remain intact if I were transported to a place where I was the only one who knew the Truth? Could my kids'?

I call this kind of faith Babylon faith- the kind that can endure a captivity...or imprisonment...or even martyrdom. There is so much more I could say to expound on this, but I think those questions are simple enough to consider. It gets to the point, I think.

If I were taken to Babylon or Egypt or my very country were invaded with ideologies that are pagan to me, how would I live? What would I sacrifice? How much would I be willing to suffer to uphold Christ's standard if, say, even America became like a Babylon to me? If we were living in Nineveh would we take the opportunity to repent and return? If we were about to approach almost certain execution would we be able to say, "If I perish, I perish," in order to do what's right?

I don't know, guys. I pray that I could and I would. I know that America isn't some ancient foreign nation mentioned in the Bible, but there is nothing new under the sun. People have faced exactly this type of conflict before, and certain timeless individuals have displayed a strength and resolve that can be our example, especially if any of us feel like they don't even recognize their own country or world anymore. Imagine being ACTUALLY dragged to or sold to another pagan land. Imagine that happeing to you as a child or to one of your children.

So maybe we as a remnant can hold fast to the teachings of Christ instead of our culture. It's going to get worse no matter what. It's all gonna burn! Can we endure no matter what surrounds us? These are the things I ponder when I think of the captive and enslaved children of my Bible who never expected culture to bow to them, but also refused to bow to the idols of any culture. Can we?

Stacey Cody

25 Things About Me You Could Care Less to Know

"25 things about me" is harder than it sounds but here goes...

1. I believe in the power of forgiveness because I am a recipient of it daily.

2. Embracing the present, being content in the mundane, and getting rid of all the excess crap are my life goals. Just shake it off, shake it off.

3. Hearing wind chimes make me happy. It reminds me of my late Aunt Judy.

4. I went to my first essential oil party and am quite amazed at all the ailments they remedy. I may get obsessed about it.

5. I'm trying really hard to write everyday. It's quite therapeutic and gives me a release for what I tend to bottle up inside.

6. When I was in jail, I said almost daily with great indignation, "I'm writing a book about my experiences here!" But the thought of writing it makes me feel vulnerable and naked.

7. Words we don't say in our house, fart, zit, actual legit terms for private parts, and shut-up, although I must admit it slips out occasionally when I'm on the dark-side of the moon.

8. I'm not very good at being a Christian. Shoddy at best. I don't pray for my enemies like I should. I mull over how much disdain I have for them. Then the Holy Spirit convicts me like a parent scolds a child and I reluctantly forgive them. I don't read my bible enough, unless I'm stirred up about some kind of injustice then I furiously dig through the bible like digging for treasure. Maybe that's God's way of tricking me into actually reading it.

9. I'm pretty bi-polar when it comes to my sleep habits. I'm both a morning bird and night-owl. Some days I can get up super early with great ease and other days I'm awake until the dawn.

10. Scott's love for me has brought such healing to every inch of my being. The forgiveness he covered me with in the midst of my insanity still blows me away. Scripture has come alive because of his love walk. I'm forever grateful.

11. I want to love our shih tzu, Abby, but she drives me crazy and eats her poop and stinks the day after seeing the groomer as if she's rolled in poo like it's her perfume.

12. I'm an all or nothing kind of person. I want to have self-discipline but damn I'm lazy! Staying consistent is my achilles heel.

13. I tried drugs for the first time in life at 44 years old and landed in jail over it. My new motto, say no to everything.

14. I am a complete sugar addict. But I'm trying to not be. The struggle is real.

15. I have always dreamed doing big things for God like traveling the world leading worship or preaching to the masses like Joyce Meyers junior but after going through hell of 2015 I've learned that our lives can preach right here at home.

16. Mercy by Amanda Cook was my anthem last year and still resounds in me. "My past embraced, my sins forgiven, I'm blameless in Your sight, my history rewritten. For You delight in showing mercy and mercy triumphs over judgement."

17. Biggest spiritual lesson I want to live out, Judgement and condemnation doesn't bring about heart change. It's the kindness of God walked out that leads people to repentance.

18. Ever so often when dark thoughts try to invade my brain space I have to say, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus." Sometimes they leave immediately but other times it takes a couple. I have the mind of Christ. I am a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come.

19. When my past is brought up, it brings me to my knees. Sometimes for days. Depression nearly swallows me up but then God sends a foot solider and reminds me to leave it all behind. Yesterday ended last night. His mercies are new every morning. Grateful for these reminders.

20. I have an complete intolerance for injustice. I will go to throws for a sista or brother that's being treated unfairly.

21. My family is my life. I couldn't live for one day without them.

22. Sometimes I wish I could have a redo but then I wouldn't be who I am today without having to have gone through what I went through. It grieves me to my soul but then it shows me the hope of death and resurrection.

23. There is beauty in imperfections.

24. Favorite thing to say, "We all have a different set of eyes. We're gonna see things differently."

25. Scott and I are polar opposites. We hardly ever agree on anything. He's a neat freak and I like to call it lived in. But after 24 years of being married, a really close call though last year, we almost called it quits, we decided to embrace each other's idiosyncrasies. We won't compromise our one night a week just to be alone. Relationship is intentional. We are being intentional with one another. I like to say our relationship was set ablaze last year and now it's a blazing inferno of love.

Peace & Love,

Why don't you try it! I'd love to peer into your life. Let's connect and tell me where you're from! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I Will Never Leave You

God's looking for a people who will be His representatives and offer the same to those in trouble. He doesn't shame them, blame them, or interrogate them, He comes alongside of them.

He showed us in the story of the Good Samaritan. Did it matter how the man fell into the hands of robbers? No it didn't. But there he was, naked, beaten, and lying there half dead. 
Two prominent members of church saw him, apparently was close enough in proximity to chose to pass by on the other side . I wonder if he was conscious enough to know they did this? 

So here we have multiple religious folk looking the other way. How many times have we done the very same thing? I did with my friend Jennifer 20 plus years ago. Shame on me. She wasn't a Christian and I could have been the hands and feet of Christ to her. It was easier to pretend she wasn't in a mental institution than be present with her in her sufferings. I'm sure she felt alone and afraid. I was a young, immature Christian who only had eyes for the church building. Basically it was the idol I worshipped for 20 years. smh

Was it karma that my beloved church did the same thing to me all these years later. Was I so disgusting to them that they couldn't look me in the face and bind up my wounds? What a big lesson for me to learn. And it's something I've committed to rectify. I don't want anyone to feel alone again. No matter how dirty and morally wrong their act was. Love covers. But it not only covers, he enters into our trouble and saves us.

Isaiah 43:2-2 perfectly paints the picture.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, Your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior.

I'm so grateful for the Good Samaritans in my life. God Bless them. And for those who left, who walked to the other side. I hope the story you've helped spread will be turned into a motion picture. I've heard a doozy lately. More juicier than the original sin. I certainly don't take lightly the things I've done but come on, be a good Christian and shut your mouth. 

Okay ya'll, Peace & Love,

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After

I stayed up until 4 a.m. last night. I was sitting on the edge of my seat watching the news coverage of the presidential race.

I know from experience, of past elections, it doesn't matter if someone is leading in the beginning. It can be snatched away at a moments notice.

Many of us are in a state of shock at the outcome. Nearly half of all Americans who voted to be exact. I know as a Christian I struggled with casting my vote for a man that the exuded arrogance from the get go. I felt he was mean, rude, and hurled insults with ease. We learned there many cases of him ripping off the small business owner, giving a fraction of what was owed to them, and then there was the derogatory speech in reference to women, and non-whites. It was "Us vs Them " mentality.

It truly has dumbfounded me how we could support such a candidate. But I know there were issues that he stood for that swayed the majority Christian vote. Abortion being one of them. Keeping tax-emption for churches. And ending the demand for pastor's to turn in their sermon notes are just a few of them. We can't forget all those hunters out there that wanted to ensure the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms.

He also promised to build a wall. A big wall. A wall that would keep "them" out.

He spokes words that gave a voice to millions of America who are afraid. Afraid to lose our country to those that are not American citizens and become not so free.

We've watched France lose their own country little by little, where entire areas are now considered "No-go zones." We also watched in horror the 80 innocent people killed in Nice, France celebrating Bastille Day. And in Brussels there was the bombing in the airport and metro station.

Could it be that when we see these attacks across the globe it conjures up images that brought terror to our land on 9-11?

Donald Trump offered to us Americans to protect this land and refuse to allow that to happen on his watch. Hillary on the other hand promised to allow an undetermined amount of immigrants to come in and that terrified a good majority of Americans.

It'll be interesting to see how his presidency turns out but no matter the way I feel about him he is now in fact our president elect. We must be committed to pray for him and his team. 2 Timothy 2:1-3 says, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior..."

I know there those that are celebrating and those that are mourning. No matter who you voted for, it was your voice. I applaud you for speaking loud and clear.

My greatest hope is that Donald J. Trump hears your voice because there are a good number of Americans that are frightened and shaken and want to know more than anything he'll be our president as much as their president.

Finally, I gained some respect for him. As I was listening to his acceptance speech, in the early morning hours, I appreciated it as he respectfully spoke of Hillary and thanked her for her service to the our country. Very classy Trump, very classy. Thank you for that.

Hillary said something as equally noble, "Donald Trump is going to be our next president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead." She was composed and dignified even in light of her defeat. That is a class act right there.

I'll leave you with this, and in my opinion, this was THE MOST important thing he said in his speech, "Now it's time for us to bind the wounds of division and come together as one United people."

Let's commit to joining him in doing this.

Much Peace & Love,

Monday, November 7, 2016

To Be Honest

Remember when I shared with you about my time on Zoloft and how it caused me to act in a way that was unlike me? Then I got off of it for a few months, but I was having anxiety attacks and depression again, so my doctor put me back on it. I began to not care again and it freaked me out to feel that way so I told her to take me off and then she said, "Let's try Wellbutrin."

Well that didn't go so well either.

If you didn't get a chance to read about it, you can here.

Other than gaining 50 lbs between the two medications, I was doing okay on it for maybe the first month. As time went on I began having very dark thoughts. Every time I saw a sharp knife I would have impulsive thoughts to harm myself. It scared me so much cause I've never had thoughts like that my entire life. But it made me think of my best friend of years ago.

I remember when we were in our early twenties she got on anti-depressants. One day while having lunch at Yaya's she confessed to me that she was taken off Prozac because every time she saw sharp knives she would have the same impulsive thoughts as I did. I was such an ignorant person because I thought it was just a case of "mind over matter." I remember telling her "can't you just tell yourself to not have those thoughts?" I was so stupid. So insensitive. I had no idea the power of these kinds of drugs. Her situation got so bad, she ended up in a mental hospital for a year because of it.

Fast forward 20 plus years, I find myself in a similar situation.

One of my last therapy appointments, we were discussing forgiveness. Big topic for me as you know, since I wrote about it twice. My first one was called Forgiveness is Friggin' Hard and my second one Forgiveness, A Sigh of Relief. Obviously I'm still wrestling with it 'cause I'm still talking about it to my therapist.

So this forgiveness thing, what I've recognized is in my heart I'm saying, "I choose to forgive..." But mentally and physically I remember the pain I endured over the thing I'm trying to forgive them for.

I've also taken notice how I feel when certain anniversaries come around. Now anniversaries are suppose to be wonderful reminders of happy times. But when it's a break-up or death or accident or any other kind of trauma, it's anything but wonderful. My therapist calls them triggers.

So as I was sharing with my therapist about all the anxiety I'd been having from the upcoming anniversary of my dad's death, she recommends a book,

I definitely will be talking about this book in an upcoming post but since I'm only a chapter in right now I'll just share this quote,

"Trauma, by definition, is unbearable and intolerable. It takes tremendous energy to keep functioning while carrying the memory of terror, and the shame of utter weakness and vulnerability. 

We all want to move beyond trauma, the part of our brain that is devoted to ensuring our survival (deep below our rational brain) is not very good at denial. Long after a traumatic experience is over, it may be reactivated at the slightest hint of danger and mobilize disturbed brain circuits and secrete massive amounts of stress hormones. These post traumatic reactions feel incomprehensible and overwhelming. Feeling out of control, survivors of trauma often begin to fear that they are damaged to the core and beyond redemption." 

Another anniversary just passed. It was the anniversary of going to jail. This time last year I was still in the county jail. Those were the few months I had gotten off Zoloft. Oh they offered for me to get back on it, but it wasn't until 6 days had passed and I had gone through all the withdrawal symptoms. I was feeling more clear headed than I had in an entire year. Unfortunately it took me going to the depth of despair to get me off of it.

I can't explain the trauma that I endured while there. I equated it with being in Hell. If any of you had the displeasure of spending time in your local jail, you know the anguish there.

Now I'm sure some of you are wanting to know what in the world did I do to land myself there, well that's the million dollar question I'm still asking myself. Since it's been a year, I've pondered it often. I feel the lack of caring or judgement I grew to have being on Zoloft put myself in a position to do reckless things. Hey, I'm the "rules" girl. The "safety first" girl. The "Just say no to drugs" girl. I'm the one that wanted to serve in the church "all the day's of my life."

Of course I know some will say it's bull-shit to blame it on an anti-depressant, 'cause that would take any responsibility away from me right? Well as I've gone back a hundred times, trying to figure out how in the world did I end up in that predicament, that was so unlike myself, behavior's that were completely out of character for me, it's the only reasonable explanation.

This past week a young mom of three was sentenced to 3 weeks of jail time and will most likely face more as she goes in front of a different judge tomorrow morning. About 8 years ago, she and I took college classes on the same campus. She was the braggy type and was going on about how smart she was and how many smart classes she was taking. But as I learned she recently ended up in jail I asked her family, "What was the change in her behavior?" They proceeded to tell me she was put on Zoloft and it wasn't until after that she begun to act in an irresponsible way. They also added that my father-in-law's uncle, a retired millionaire from General Motors began to shop lift after he was put on Zoloft.

Like Holy sh@#!

Three different cases of reckless, impulsive behavior by individuals who were extremely responsible prior to taking the meds.

Now had I not gone to jail and gotten off of it that way I may not have put two and two together.

As I've been researching the effects of this drug, I came across these testimonies on a depression forum:

"My husband has been taking Zoloft for 4 months. At first he started out behaving strangely after 2 weeks, Ignoring my phones calls, being very distant and wanting to be alone. The Dr. said that he just needed some time for the drug to get into his system. Now after 4 months, I never know who is coming home. One week he is affectionate (although no interest in sex) and then next week, he is hateful and starts arguments. He goes off to be alone and ignores our children. His friends notice this so it is just not me. He likes the drug, because it makes him feel less tense at work. I am wondering why he is on this pill and not just a nerve pill??! I hate this drug and what it is doing to our marriage. I feel I may be divorced because of this drug..yet he takes it like gold. Anyone feel like this or has a spouse taking this?"

Here's another account from a former law enforcement officer:

"I was on Z from 1995-1997. During that time I had just about every single side effect mentioned on this and every page of side effects. My formerly involved, conscientious self became uninvolved and careless. I began shopliftling compulsively and was finally arrested. I was a law enforcement officer with an untarnished record with the department. I couldn't have cared less about what I was doing. After my arrest, I could only cared about whether or not I'd get Zoloft in jail. Going off the meds was tough, but the zapping and the hyper-emotionalism finally went away. My life as I know it was destroyed and I moved to another stated and started reassembling me."

Just blown away by these testimonies. I know everyone responds differently to the medication but if people are having extreme side-effects like this then it probably should be taken off the market!

I had similar symptoms as these two individuals. Withdrawn, irritable, not wanting anything to do with my family, going off alone, ignoring people-family and friends included, being very distant. And then there was the tipping of the scale, experimenting in illegal activity. Smh

I'm sure I will continue to discuss my time in more detail in future posts, but I have been immensely guarded since going through all of it. My family suffered. My kids. My grandkids. My sister. My mother. Especially my husband suffered greatly. They suffered. I suffered.

When you've never even spit side ways on a side walk, to be handed such a harsh sentence for a first time offense is crushing to say the least. We were shattered to pieces. Felt more like being blown up. You try to put the pieces back together as they once were but you discover you're different. And you can't. It's not that you don't want to, because you're desperate for familiarity, but you simply can't. You are not the same. More like somewhat of a mangled mess. Learning to walk with a limp is difficult. But you hobble along the best you can.

Glennon Doyle Melton, a.k.a Momastery, is someone I discovered around the first of 2016. I have admired her as a truth-teller, pressing through the raw wreckage of her own life. When she announced on her blog that her and her husband were separating, only a few weeks from her newest books release date, the book that was about the redemption of her marriage, she wrote honestly. I certainly was disappointed. And I thought, "What a fraud!"

See I like fairy tale endings. So my response was more about me than her. But if she was a fraud, I was a fraud. I am the last person on earth that is in no way fit to be any kind of judge of what she chooses to do with the pain she's endured in her life. However, the more I read, the more I felt a kindredness to her. She spoke of not only her own suffering but her families. And from the many posts I've shared, I'm a sucker for suffering.

Glennon shares, "If I don't mention something, it's not because I forgot to. It's because I desperately have to find the balance here between honesty and a tell-all. Between transparency and responsibility. What I owe you and what I owe myself. There will be parts of this story I (try to) keep for myself and my husband and kids. If you can, please resist assumptions, gossip, or asking for details I haven't provided."

So yes, I will keep some of what I went through as a private matter. And that will have to be okay.

You may ask, why share this now? Because I've been to hell and back. I've been abandoned by those who said they loved me. I've been deleted, blocked, unfollowed, unfriended, and I don't want anyone to ever, EVER feel alone during their darkest times.

Lysa TerKeurst shared this on her Facebook yesterday and I felt a resounding "Yes!"

"Just because I've been hurt doesn't mean I now have to live hurt. I can get mad and bitter and spread more hurt around. Or, I can choose grace and gentle responses and spread more hope around.

Hurt people, hurt people.
Healed people, heal people.
And I want to be in that latter group."

This is THE only reason I'm sharing this. 'Cause who the H wants to even whisper their most shameful times of their life. We all F up in life. No one is perfect. And so, IF we say we're Christians, then we better start walking like we are and come alongside the outcast, the poor, AND the broken and be Jesus to them, who loves each and everyone of us scandalously!

Until next time, Peace and Love,

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hey Jude

I went on a field trip. Well it was actually a field trip for my daughter, who we homeschool, as well as her bf, who had a half-day at school.

We went to the Holocaust museum in Farmington Hills, MI.

When first pulling into the parking lot and seeing the massive center, the exterior looked like beautiful, abstract art.

I felt a sort of trepidation approaching the building, as if we would be walking into a holy, sacred place.

Upon entering, the first thing my eyes saw was a WWII box car.

It was a surreal moment standing before this massive display. As I was reading the history that took place in the many cars like this, I could almost hear the faint cries crying out from the grave.

From beginning to end, the rich heritage you learn about, the persecution the Jewish people been subjected to throughout time, you could spend hours upon hours viewing each piece of history, if not days.

I wish I would have been able to take more pictures but was only given permission at the very end.

I began to pursue a study of the Holocaust maybe 12 years ago. Our family had lost our beloved Aunt Judy the year before to an aneurysm and I was still grieving her. While I was reminiscing memories of her I remembered she was an English teacher and the different topics she would teach to her student each year. She was very passionate about teaching about the history of the Holocaust. I began to read every book I could get a hold of. I devoured them like I was back in school. Maybe it was a way to connect with her but I was truly captivated by each story, feeling somewhat of a bond with each story-teller. I certainly don't think the suffering of my heart paled in comparison to their sufferings but when I read Rob Bell's book, Drops Like Stars, it gave language for what I was feeling all these years, "suffering unites."

An up and coming website asked me to write a review on his book, Drops, but they got tied up in focusing on other projects and told me their website was on hold for now. Oh sure I was a little disappointed, because who doesn't want their work to be viewed by a larger audience, but I'm okay with it now. I actually thought I had posted my review already but when I looked, there it sat unpublished, so I just now pressed publish smh. Here it is if you'd like to read it.

This beautiful mosaic was hanging on the wall all by itself.

It captured my attention immediately, partially because my aunt's nickname was Jude.

The mere sound of the name brings warm, fuzzy feelings of comfort. She was a beautiful human being. Kind and generous. I remember when I was little she'd bring over groceries to help out, my mom was a single mom and she struggled putting food on the table for my sis and I. She then would take groceries to other's in need. I was amazed at her generosity, even at a young age.

Then as I stood looking at the intricate detail of this mosaic, knowing now what 'Jude' meant during that time, Under the Nazi regime, Jewish people were forced to wear identifiers such as the Star of David armbands or badges. 'Jude' is German for Jew.

I was enveloped by the tragedy and suffering they endured. But God...He's great at taking those very painful times and turning them around. Flowers can grow in deserts, the sun still shines in the arctic cold, and magnificent looking creatures in the deepest, darkest parts of the sea.

I recently came across this Facebook memory and it served as a wonderful reminder of God's faithfulness in a time that I was struggling to see any kind of hope.

"What the enemy meant for evil, God, who is Sovereign, can take it and turn it for god. What the enemy meant for your destruction, God is Sovereign, and His word is truth. He is the Potter and He can take your brokenness, the pieces and make a masterpiece. He has already written your story. He sees the beginning and the end. Lean into Him, trust Him, with your whole heart, broken pieces and all. He is the One who is guiding you, even if it looks as if despair has taken you over. The light shines brightest in the darkness. His love is being poured over you. Let it wash over you. Let it wash over your brokenness. Let it fill the gaps, the deepest places of your heart. He is waiting, ever so patiently, lovingly, calling out to you. Let the Laver refresh you and cleanse you, fill you up so that you may be poured out for His glory."

In Genesis 50:20a Joseph says to his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." The Israelites were saved because of their hatefulness towards their brother. They had no idea it was all apart of God's plan.

Seems somewhat of an oxymoron but Cynthia Occelli explained it best, "For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction."

I have always loved the Jewish people. I've always felt a kindredness to them. Maybe it's because my father's grandparents were Jewish. But no matter the reason they are in my heart. 

If you ever get a chance to visit the museum, I highly recommend it. 

Take your time, you'll feel like you're walking on Holy ground.

Peace and Love,