Just Me

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

235 Days Later...

Life...life sure does bring some surprises. Some good. Some bad. 

I have had both lately. I have recently had some REALLY wonderful blessings in my life. And I have had some very low valleys. 

I have just in the past year walked the toughest faith walk my life has known. And here I sit again, facing faith walks. Really Lord?? Again?? Already?? 

When these tough things, these faith building situations, come into our lives what do we do? Do we hide? Do we sit in a corner and cry? Maybe we fall apart? 

I think sometimes we do all of the above.

And then we run...

We run right into the arms of the one who CAN do something about the circumstances of our day. 
We plug into the TRUTH of His word that says "I work all things out for the good of those that love me." 
We make the CHOICE to stand on what we know is promised. 
We decide the enemy does not determine who we are, but our loving Savior does. 
We rebuke the lies the enemy wants us to grasp and walk in. Instead we flood our minds with what is true, noble, lovely, pure, and admirable. 
We fight...we fight the battle that we ourselves can not win...and we fight on our knees and hand it all over to the one who can TRULY fight our battles for us!

The Lord gave me a word last Friday. It is powerful and one that I am walking in through this journey of faith..."No matter how today's page in my book of life looks, the enemy does not get to write the final chapter!!" Our God is such a personal God...these words spoke to the "writer" side of me. They have encouraged and strengthened me in the past few days. And I am thankful!

He has also blessed me with some very Godly, sweet, friends that I love. They have encouraged me, prayed for me and with me, and loved me through it all. Thank you to each one of you! I love you...you know who you are! 

I have fought a battle. And I have done all I can do on my end. I have done the BEST thing I can do. I have FELT my way through. I have cried a lot of tears. And I have walked to the cross and laid it down at the feet of the one who bears my burdens. I am trusting him. 

But as I've walked this path recently, I have really thought about my life. Where I am and where I have been. What God has brought me through. What God has spoken over my heart just this year with the "NEW". (this whole faith walk thing is nothing new for this girl!) How is this NEW Lord? I trusted you for the NEW...

And He spoke to me and reassured me that sometimes the new thing is birthed through deep pain. Sometimes, it is through the hardest situations in our lives that the most wonderful gift is poued out into our lives. A diamond is birthed after a long, hard process...

"Daughter, I am doing a NEW thing...I am forming you even more into my image...I am giving you yet another story that you can share with others...I am refining who you are...and I am building your relationship with me...I am the Redeemer...I can and I will use this FOR your good....Trust me..."

Friday, February 14, 2014

32 Weeks, 224 Days Later...Valentine's Day...

I have been preparing myself for today. I have asked friends to pray for me that my heart is not heavy and I do not feel the loneliness that this day can bring. I shared in my last blog how God met me and poured over me on the night of the dance. And He is doing the same thing today. 

I am walking right now in such a sweet place. I feel that closeness to the Lord that shines joy in every moment. I am overwhelmed at the prayers He is answering and the direction He is giving in my life. So far, 2014 has been an exciting, NEW journey for me in life! 

Wednesday morning I was driving and doing some business with God. And like many times before, He used a song to reach and move in my spirit. The song is "Undivided Heart" by Vicky Beeching. I had never heard it until about 2 weeks ago via a facebook post...and it gripped me. As I prayerfully sang this song, tears flowed out of gratitude for where I have been, what He has brought me through, and where I am right now in my life. 

Brokenness has brought me to my knees
Face to face with all that's dark in me
I can barely see You through my shame
Jesus come and wash me white again

Flood me with Your healing light
Help me choose what's true and right

Give me an undivided heart 
I want to love You with every part
Give me an undivided soul
I want to be Yours alone Yours alone

At the cross I find Your open arms
Reminding me there's grace for all I've done 
With Your blood You wipe away my past 
Taking on Yourself my sin and scars 

By Your power help me change 
Break off every single chain 

You make all things new
So take my ashes and make them something beautiful
Do what only You can do 
Take my ashes and make them something beautiful

Anyone who has read my blog, knows my brokenness. You know the journey that I have recorded for almost a year now. God has flooded my life with healing. I have shared that through my Grief Share group, I realized my grieving began in Nov 2012. God gave me three pivotal moments since Dave passed away, and I believe He has healed my heart. I am moving forward. I am embracing the life ahead. And I am truly happy. I have received much redemption for me pain, just like His word has promised and I know He is not done yet. He has broken off the chains of grief.  He has "flooded me with His healing light"...He has poured over my heart, my mind, my soul in ways I can not express. 

But what grips my heart about this song is the chorus and bridge. So many things creep into our lives that tries to divide our hearts. Whether it is pain and heartache, or even something good, like the changes I have made with my health, it is easy to have our hearts divided and the love that our Father deserves goes elsewhere. Our focus changes. And soon we have lost that connection that we so desire with Him. My prayer is that no matter what happens in my life, my heart is and will always be first and foremost His. 

The bridge...you make all things new, so take my ashes and make them something beautiful...And HE IS! He is doing such amazing things in my life. My heart has been for women's ministry for a long time and He is birthing that in wonderful, reassuring ways. I live with a joy deep down, that can not be explained. When I think about where I was just one year ago, I am blown away by where I am today. He has truly healed my heart. He is redeeming and bringing the new thing into my life. It is something that ONLY a loving God can do! 

So, today. It is Valentine's Day. A day I dreaded. I have reflected about where I was one year ago. I remember giving a Caring Bridge update on Dave, but it was more like a blog post. It was that post that made me consider blogging. Here is what I shared on February 14, 2013:

"It's Valentine's Day...the day you honor and show love to those closest to you. I can not say I am excited about the day...as a matter of fact I honestly dreaded its arrival. I have anticipated it and prepared for it the best I could, but it still hits...Dave does not feel good all the time. He goes to work and comes home and that is honestly all the energy he has in him. He does not feel good enough for a night out at a restaurant. I can not cook an elaborate dinner for him, many things turn his stomach. (what sounds good one day will not appeal at all the next) Sweets do not appeal to him, so no fun, fancy desserts or a box of chocolate. I am trying to enjoy the fact that we are together, but in all honesty, that is not enough for me today. My heart is heavy with our reality. There are some things for us that have changed and will not be "normal" again. I feel like a wife only in the tasks I perform and in sitting with him in support. This road at times is SO weary. Today, it is a weary day. I feel lonely and sad about the future for us. 

I hesitate to post this. But the truth is, this is part of my journey with a terminal illness. God is good and he sustains, but I am not always on the mountain top with him, there are times he walks with me in the valley. I am frustrated with myself that I can not allow the fact that we are together, be enough. There are people I know of, who just recently lost their spouse, what they would give to just sit together today...I want more though...I want to make memories and have moments I will cherish in days ahead. Most nights, it is fatigue and silence though. 

My heart aches today. Aches for dreams unfulfilled. Aches for my husband who feels bad daily. Aches for what he has to process mentally and emotionally. Aches for what he is experiencing physically.

My heart aches for many women who do not feel loved by their spouse or are walking this life alone. I know of MANY that ache with loneliness in marriage. And I know of many who are alone on Valentine's Day after failed marriages. And I know that pain personally. 

My heart aches. I am hurting in my journey today. I am thankful that I will not remain here, that with the prayers and encouragement of my friends, and most of all, the love of my Savior, I will not stay in this Valentine's Day Valley! It is just part of this journey, part of my story. 

I am thankful that I have a Heavenly Bridegroom that can heal my hurting heart. I am thankful that he does not condemn me, but wraps his arms around me and comforts my aching heart. I am thankful that he can use me, even in the valleys of life. I am thankful that he knows me, and I know him. I am thankful that he never leaves me nor does he forsake me.  I am thankful that I can trust him. I am thankful that he has a plan of good for my life. I am thankful that he WILL redeem the pain in this life. I am thankful that he will give me beauty for my ashes, laughter for my tears, joy for my sadness. 

Thank you Jesus, for your perfect, unconditional, never changing love. Hold those who hurt today. Be the salve needed to heal wounded hearts. Fill the empty places in lives. Woo us in the way that only you can. Thank you Jesus for your plan of good for your children. Thank you for redeeming our pain. You are good!"

Redemption...one year...I reread those words and tears come again, but they are tears of sweet joy and thankfulness for what Jesus has done in my life. For what He has already redeemed and what He is yet to do.

I get to spend my day with my dear sisters at our Bible study this morning. God has given me such a love for them and knit our hearts. I am truly thankful for the many women that I dearly love. And tonight, a sweet friend asked me to be her Valentine while her hubby is out of town. It felt really good to be thought of and remembered. I expected today to be a hard day. A really hard day. And it hasn't been. And it will not be. Because I have a God who keeps His word. I have a loving Savior who is fulfilling Jer 29:11 in my life. 

I am enjoying my Valentine's Day and I am deeply loved by the lover of my soul. By my Abba Bridegroom. and I am thankful!

"See, I am doing a NEW thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland!" Is 43:19

Saturday, February 8, 2014

218 Days Later...

This is a blog of confession for me. Tonight was one of the nights that I have dreaded. For two years, Dave and I had the privilege of attending the Marriage Resource Center Sweetheart Dinner and Dance. This was the PERFECT night for us. Dave was not a "romantic" type of guy. He was good about buying a card and a gift for these "special" events in our life. So this dinner was a win-win for us. I LOVED to get prettied up for my man and there was no getting around the romantic side of the evening. I do not "dance", no rhythm. But I can slow dance and he willingly would dance at least once with me that evening. I LOVED this event. I loved that it celebrated marriage with a wonderful focus. I loved that we attended with our friends. I loved that it made a couple connect for a while. 

Last year, we could not attend. Dave's health was failing and he was just not up to an evening out like that. So, I sat at home and did my best to smile and be happy for all of my friends who were prettied up for their men, but I wanted to bawl. I was so envious. I knew what was ahead for us. I knew that would be our last Valentine's Day together and I really wanted it to be special. But his health didn't allow that. We were beyond that. 

Tonight was this years dinner and dance. I have dreaded this day for a while now. Another big reminder that I am doing life "alone". I have been bracing for it, praying about it, HOPING that I could just be happy for all of my friends who had the gift of tonight and not have a big ol' Stephanie pity party the whole evening. I have blogged before of my lifestyle change that I have made (here is a confession Isagenix friends) Ghiradalli sells dark chocolates with strawberry filling every Valentine's Day and I LOVE them...I bought a bag to "sweeten" up the bitterness of this night (and the coming V-Day). Yup...I was gonna eat me some chocolate to feel better. 

I did have some fun plans this morning. I went to Disney on Ice with my mom, my sister in law and niece, and both of my girls were supposed to go, but one got sick. So, I was thankful I had something to occupy part of my day. But we got home early afternoon and I REALLY did not want to sit around all evening and fall into that trap. 

I posted on facebook about my evening, and a friend reminded me that we were having a special prayer and healing night at our church and she asked me if I wanted to come. I had forgotten all about it. So, I decided to go. (I guess that is one advantage to single living...you can just GO) So I did. 

As we stood and sang and prayed and many were prayed for, the Lord moved and spoke to me. Some things are just too personal to share with the world, but he poured HIS love over me. He reassured me that He has good things in store for me and He is doing a "NEW" thing in my life this year. 

He gave me a burden for a little boy in our church that has some health issues. Tears filled my eyes as I watched his mom and dad carry him to the front to have him prayed over. It has been a while since I felt such a strong pull from the Lord over a specific person. I prayed for him and I am trusting that the Lord is going to bring TOTAL healing to his little body. Thank you Jesus for the body of Christ who shares in our heartaches and burdens. 

As we continued to sing, the Lord was speaking to me more. He truly poured Himself over me to over-flowing. 

I am not alone. I didn't dance at the dinner tonight with so many that I know, but I spent some quality time with my Heavenly Bridegroom. I wasn't alone. I sat with sweet sisters that I love. People that God has given me to make life so much sweeter. I got hugs from dear people that I truly love. 

I was afraid of feeling alone. I was afraid of being heavy hearted tonight. 

God changes everything. God fills those empty places in our hearts. God meets every single need. God leads. God speaks. God loves. And He loves perfectly, unconditionally. 

No pity party tonight for me...more like a Praise Party. 

Thank you Jesus, for seeing this woman. Thank you for reaching out and holding me. I love you!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

216 Days Later...

It has now been 7 months. God has done some amazing things in my life during this time. I have had some very difficult days, but I have also been blessed in many ways.

God made it clear to me a couple of years ago, that I was to minister to women. I have had to wait...wait...wait...for the opportunity. Every time I thought it was time, Dave's health would hinder the steps forward. I had days of frustration because I really wanted to do something in this area, but couldn't because my circumstances said no. 

I have done what I have been able to do. God opened a door up for me to work with "The Lily Closet". A non-profit that ministers to single parents. We give clothing...and not just clothing, brand-new clothing!! I was able to jump on board with that ministry and I have loved serving the Lord and ministering that way. 

Then a little over 2 years ago, the Lord opened another door for me to lead the Friday morning Bible study at our church. Dave had just found out he had non-curable cancer and my heart ached to take the position. I felt like I couldn't because I didn't know what was ahead. We were gathered one evening for our Lily Closet meeting and the Lord clearly spoke to me, "Stephanie, my yoke is easy, my burden is light. I have given you a burden to minister to women...it will be a burden that you can bear!" So when we were done with our meeting, I spoke with my friend and told her I would do it! I was so excited to have that opportunity! This is my second year leading and I LOVE it and each of the women I see each week. I am so blessed!

But there needed to be more. God was working in my heart and I knew it. Dave's health continued to fail and I actually had to take a break for a while from our Bible study to take care of him. God was doing "NEW" things in our church. We had started a campaign called "IGNITE" with new vision to reach our community. It was hard to sit back and not participate...I wanted to do more, but my first priority was to my husband. 

After Dave passed away, I took a little while to settle in to our new normal. Then in September I went to the Love Life conference with my cousin and the Lord was working...overtime. I had lost the confidence to do something. The enemy was screaming his lies into my ears. It was so much bigger than me...what if I try and fail...and the entire conference, God was speaking to me, "It is not up to you to bring the success. You listen, you obey, you follow, I will do the rest...I just need a willing vessel." So, I did it. I contacted leadership in my church and wanted to see what we could get going for the women. 

It has been a slow process, but such an amazing one at the same time! God brought 2 ladies to my attention who "fit". They had a desire to do something in women's ministry. So we met. Shared thoughts. We came up with the idea to do a survey and put it in the bulletin. In the mean time, a few of my friends knew what we were doing and word was spreading...God was working! He wasn't just stirring my heart, He was stirring others' hearts as well! And He is giving us similar vision for the ministry and what direction we need to take. 

We have about 10 women right now, wanting to work in this area at our church. We had 6 speak up in our surveys and say they want to help!!! It is such an encouraging, exciting time for us! We have the first event in the works, the Priscilla Shirer Simulcast on April 5th! SO exciting to be part of this birthing at Fellowship!

My desire to reach out to women has been because of the pain in my life. God has given me a story to tell. And I want to tell it! He has gotten me through hard, hard days. And I LOVE sitting across from a woman and saying, "He did this for me, He will do it for you!" He does give us beauty for our ashes. Joy for our mourning. I see it in my life, and I am thankful!

"See, I am doing a NEW thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19

Thankful for another NEW thing...more to come!!!