She Believed She Could So She Did

Today is Monday. Most of you woke up early, maybe wishing it was still the weekend, bribing kids to get out of bed, and hurrying off to school or work. 

I have a different sort of purpose today. I’m in the process of healing. In past posts I’ve mentioned the abusive relationship I was in and the drug abuse. It wasn’t just my husband who was abusing drugs, I was too. For years I’d been getting treatment for my addiction from a specialist. I’ve decided it’s time to stop taking the medication that treats my addiction, not to take another drug, and to take on the big bad wolf, quitting altogether and getting healthy. My doctor agrees it’s time. Which means I’m in the business of trusting God. I could not do this without God’s help. I know that because I’ve tried many times and failed for over 20 years. 

This time it’s different. This time I have Jesus by my side, the Holy Spirit in my heart, and God coming for me. I may have been wounded by emotional, physical, and drug abuse, but the wound is not fatal and I serve the greatest healer of all, God.

Trusting God is not always easy. If you don’t know God, imagine trusting someone that you cannot see and surrendering your entire life to Him. Then waiting to see what happens on His time, not yours. 

During this process, I have to be honest with myself & God, confessing my sins. I have to be willing to surrender to His will for my life. I have to stop depending on myself, let go of the reins, and let Him lead me. I have to be able to be silent and still, listening for His instruction. 

Trusting God means going down the road less traveled when most people are going the other way; it’s usually not the way you wanted to go, or thought you were going, but it’s His way, the best way. It is not easy.

Trusting God means trusting the people around you who He sent to help, and trusting that He always has your best interest at heart.
I made the decision to break this chain about a month ago. Since then I’ve gone through many ups and downs, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I’m blessed because God has sent many people to help me, including my family, doctors, and my friends. 

My friends are integral to this process because they always remind me of my goal, which is to be free and to accept the freedom that Jesus bought for me on Calvary when he died on the cross for me. They are my spiritual supporters, my midnight cheerleaders, and mid day musketeers, coming to the rescue with words of encouragement via text messages and phone calls. A sweet picture or meaningful scripture; just a soft reminder of how important it is that I do this, to break this chain that has held me back and weighed me down for 20 years. The enemy cannot have hold of me anymore. 

My family and my doctor keep me in check, ensuring I do what I need to do. Things like eating well and checking my blood pressure. It sounds so simple, but when you’re in the thick of it, when you’re in the fog of war, a physical, emotional and spiritual war like this, it’s hard to remember what you’re supposed to do. If you cannot see the shoreline because the storm is raging all around you, you have to trust the people who love you. You have to trust they were sent by God.

In four days, by the end of the week, when everyone is saying “TGIF” and making plans for the weekend, I will be celebrating a major milestone in my recovery. I don’t know if I will feel horrible or okay. It will take my body some time to heal. I’ve been abused, and abusing myself, for quite some time.

I do know that God is going to take my brokenness and put me back together, better than ever, healthier, wiser, and stronger. A friend of mine once said that “brokenness blooms beautiful”. All I have to do is hang in until He gets here. To wait on Him, for His perfect timing, to trust in that and to not waver in my faith. To have blind faith that keeps going no matter what. Even when I cannot see the shoreline through the storm. 


Sign by Melissa Weimer @ Mel Belle’s http://www.facebook.com/MelBellesCustomDecor

I’m scared because I have no idea how I’m going to feel and excited because I know that the healing process has started. My body will regulate back to normal over time, and I will start a new journey, whatever path the Lord has carved for me.

Normal. Whatever that means. But I’m looking forward to finding out who Bree is. She’s been missing for quite some time.

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Sipping sweet tea

I was in my early twenties when I met him. He was so charismatic, funny, charming, smart, and cute. He was a DJ and locally “famous”. He said I was beautiful every day. Literally every day, he told me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me. He told me he loved my body. I followed him everywhere, to the grocery store, to his new apartment because he decided to move to my town (leaving his children and their mother), and followed him all over Florida for years. When things went wrong we always moved back to our hometown and stayed with one of our parents, weaving together whatever lies we needed to just long enough to stay. 

Then I got it. I got what I believe was my first big obvious warning from God (who I didn’t know yet) that this was not the man for me. 
He wasn’t working at the time and had developed a habit of not coming home at night. On this particular morning, I knew where he was and I drove over there before work to get him. I found him locked in a room with a hooker and a bunch of drugs. He was drunk. I was so angry, upset, and confused. I tried to leave, but he followed me. We argued on the porch. I slapped his cheek, he spit on my face, then put me in a head lock and pushed me to the ground. I remember my face being pressed onto the wood planks of the porch at the house where he was partying night before. Don’t get me wrong, I had partied too, just not on nights where I had to work in the morning. He was good at putting people in headlocks; he’d been a wrestler in high school. But he’d never done it to me before. Not once. That morning in particular, he didn’t want me to leave because I got paid that day and we had drugs we needed to buy. I tried to get In the car and leave, but he took my keys and wallet with my ID so I couldn’t cash my paycheck. Finally all the screaming must have woken up one of his drunk buddies. They stumbled out asking what the heck was happening and they convinced him to give me my stuff back so I would just leave. They didn’t want the neighbors to call the cops. 

I drove home, woke up my mom and cried to her. She said he couldn’t stay in her home anymore. I wailed “I can’t start over! I’m too old. I can’t do this without him. My life is over.” 

Truth is, my life wasn’t over, it was just starting to roll down hill, and as it did it would gain momentum, getting faster and faster. Quickly approaching the dreaded “rock bottom” where everything would come to a halt. Rock meets rock. My rock would shatter into a million pieces. Then, left with nothing but shards of a broken life, I would look around and find myself completely alone.
But rock bottom was still at least 6 years away from that morning. I still had so much awfullness to face. So much loneliness and darkness, terrifying moments that would make that morning on the front porch feel like sitting in a rocking chair with your neighbor sipping sweet tea.

Most importantly, I still had to find God. Of course He was always there, waiting for me, but I didn’t know it. He was just waiting for my messed up life to come into alignment with His plans for me. God was waiting for me to want something greater, better, safer; something more. Something I could only find through Him.

And thank God I would.

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Limitless

I’d just like to give a shout out to The Lord. Without HIM, I would not have made it through these past few weeks, would not be making it through each moment today, and would not have hope for the future. 

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19


The Lord is protecting me. In so many ways HE is letting me know HE hears me. In mysterious ways I never could have thought of, HE is protecting my heart and mind. 

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Like I said in my post a few days ago, I’m hearing God talk to me through others. In my father’s words, I am reminded of God’s Word; something I’ve read in the Bible. Today a truck parked next to me at the store playing music loudly, a song with lyrics “I’ll be with you, girl, like being low. Hey, hey, hey like being stoned”. I used to know who sang that song. I used to sing along. Today though, when I heard the song, I immediately thought of Stephen, Jesus’ disciple who was stoned to death.

God’s Word. Flooding my brain, cleansing my thoughts; protecting me with the truth, and keeping me from negativity. The faithfulness of our Lord in action. Coming out of nowhere, surprising me and totally amazing me with His Love and faithfulness; His promise to protect me: mind and soul. 

When I pray for peace in a difficult situation, I feel peace. When I talk to God, when I worship with song or writing, when I share my story and I am not afraid, He is pleased. 

When I first started this blog, because I felt God telling me to share my story, I was shy about sharing my story with too large an audience. But today I’ve decided to utilize every outlet I have to share my story with the world. 

God is keeping his promises to me. Protecting me. I will keep mine to Him and share my story without limitations.  

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The List Of Ten, part 2 (“Miracles”)

In my last post “The List of Ten” (please read the post below), I left it as a “to be continued”. I needed to save the second part of this amazing story as it’s own post. It’s deserving of that. It is not merely a series of coincidences, as some may call them, but to me, they are miracles. I say that because at that time in my life, I did not believe these things were possible. When I prayed over my list daily, I told God that they were impossible for me to accomplish alone. But I’m never alone when I’m with Christ, am I? And is anything too hard for God?

As I said before, I thought this was such a silly idea. But within 9 months of praying, all of these things had come to pass. To review, my list included these things (as well as a few others that are so very personal, I’ve decided to keep them private for now):

  1. I want Mark and I to move out of this hotel we’ve lived in for two years and into an apartment.
  2. I want to get a car.
  3. I want to reinstate my driver’s license and fix my tag so I could drive legally.
  4. I want to marry Mark, in a church chapel, officiated by a pastor (not a notary).

We had a car, but it wasn’t running well, wasn’t dependable, and wasn’t legally registered. I began riding the bus to and from work daily. I’d never taken a city bus anywhere before and was quite concerned I wouldn’t be able figure out how to do it, but I did. I took the bus for a couple weeks until the great city of Jacksonville decided to change the bus routes, causing me to have to make 2 stops, with an hours’ wait in between. So I decided I needed a bike to ride to and from work. The hotel we were living in was only about 3.5 miles from work. So I thought “seven miles a day, I can do that!”. But I hadn’t been on a bike since I was 12, and now just over 2 decades later, my muscles were screaming at me “are you crazy?” The Pastor at the church we were attending at the time bought me a good, road worthy bike. This, the first in a long line of blessings to come. I road my bike all winter long, albeit a Florida winter, it still gets cold, and it still rains. I carried a huge backpack full of my work clothes, shoes, lunch, makeup, hairbrush; everything needed to put myself together once I got to work all sweaty.

I rode that bike for nearly 4 months until Mark’s mother decided to give us her car. Give, yes, I said give. She no longer drove it, and she’d been thinking of getting rid of it. I believe God helped her think about giving the car to us. It was, and still is, and amazing blessing. So now I had a car, but I did not have the money to register it, or pay for taxes, tag, or to reinstate my suspended driver’s license for unpaid traffic tickets. I kept praying. One day, my mom decided to help me with these expenses. I felt like the blessings were raining down on me! Soon I was a legal driver with a legal car, and driving again. Praise God! I am so grateful to our mother’s who blessed us with these gifts.

One of the other things on my list was that Mark and I be married in a church chapel. Now remember, we had already been living together for over 10 years. We had talked about marriage, but could never afford it, or other circumstances prevented it. Mark usually suggested we just marry at the courthouse with a notary. But since coming to Jesus, I wasn’t having any of that! I wanted to be married by a Pastor in a chapel. At the time, we were attending a church that met in a school, so there was no chapel, and we were not truly happy at that church for different reasons. We had been visiting other churches, trying to find something more traditional. We found Deermeadows Baptist Church, and both really liked it. We met a Pastor there, whom I’ll call Pastor “Michael” (because I haven’t asked his permission to use his name in my blog). Pastor “Michael” had been at Deermeadows for a long time, and was a senior member of their staff. He seemed to like Mark and I, and we both liked him. After about 3 months of attending, we asked about becoming members of the Church, which Pastor “Michael” counseled us on. He talked to us about what it meant to be a member of the church. Shortly thereafter, Mark and I told the Pastor that we wanted to be married. Pastor “Michael” did premarital counseling with us for a few weeks. We felt so loved and not judged by Pastor “Michael”, despite our current situation and our past.

Deermeadows Baptist is a huge Church with a large campus. The main sanctuary holds thousands. One day, while looking for the ladies restroom, I stumbled upon a couple of doors I’d never seen before. An ethereal glow emanated from the glass in the doors. I tried the handle, it was unlocked. I walked in. It was the most beautiful little chapel I had ever seen. Wall to wall in stained glass, with the centerpiece, a floor to ceiling stained glass of Jesus. I sat down and cried my eyes out, thinking “this is where I am going to be married. Mark and I will stand under that picture of Jesus and make a covenant between each other and God, to be wed and love each other forever“. And so it came to pass that we were married there on September 26th, 2015 by Pastor “Michael”. Though I couldn’t afford it, my family gifted us with things like a photographer, a make up lady for me, my dress, Mark’s suit, and a reception. Pastor “Michael”, however, returned the checks I’d written to him and his wife (who would be there to help). “It’s part of my ministry” the Pastor explained, and he did not want to be paid. Bless.

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Chapel we were married in.
So now we’ve come to the best part of this post. The most amazing miracle of all, what I asked for first; to be able to move out of the hotel we’d lived in with our beloved dog for 2 years. How we got there is a long story, but once there, we were stuck due to financial problems and bad “rental” credit history. We tried to apply at apartments time and again, but were denied each time due to our credit history. I understand that I was responsible for the bad credit history. I take full responsibility for our situation. This hotel was not nice. It was full of, well, people like us, people with problems, and bad people. Drug dealers and such.

At the time I was very much involved with an online bible study. It was the end of January and we were studying Acts and I read the story of Rahab in the Bible for the first time. I read how she lived in the walls of the city, on the outskirts of society, and was doing whatever she could to care for her family. I also read about how she’d heard about God and the great things He was doing for His people. And she believed. I imagine that she had nothing but bits and pieces of information about God that she heard in passing, or from the men she “worked” for. I felt so much like her. I connected with Rahab. Living on the edge of society, in the bad part of town, hardly surviving, and doing what she could to care of her family.

When a couple of God’s people came into her city as spies to determine how they could capture the city God had promised them, they met Rahab. (Please forgive my recounting of this story from my memory, as I may have some of the details wrong, but the main point is spot on). Rahab trusted what they told her, and trusted that they would save her and her family if she would just believe and have faith. Rahab had faith. Perhaps just a mustard seed of faith that she kept deep in her heart, but it was there. So much like me, in the beginning of my coming to Jesus. Having not been raised in Church, and knowing nothing of God, Jesus, or the Bible, but I like to think my faith was strong. I’ve said before: if God will take my life and trade it for the life He has planned for me, the life Jesus died to give me, I will take it!

“I am Rahab”, I thought. 

Rahab knew God was going to take the city, and so she helped the spies and told them what they needed to hear: that the whole city was afraid of God and what He was doing through his chosen people.

I wrote in the bible study comments that day about how much I felt akin to Rahab and why. I explained in an open, honest, vulnerable way that I knew what it’s like to be Rahab. I wrote more details than that, not because I wanted pity, but because I was so amazed that I could relate to a woman who lived I don’t know how many thousands of years before me. I was hardly able to type through the tears. Rahab inspired me. Her little bitty faith saved her and her families’ life and made her the great great+ grandma of Jesus. Rahab, just an ordinary woman, like me, being used by God for greatness. “Could He use me?”, I thought.

Later that day in the bible study, a woman whom I will call Robin (to protect her privacy) commented. She did not know me at all, except from the comments I’d written over the time I’d been involved in the study. She asked, very timidly, if she could help me. She didn’t want to make me feel like it was charity. After all, I had not asked for help. Because she asked for it, I gave her my P.O. Box address and a few days later I received a card from her with a beautiful message, a monetary gift to add to my bank to help us move, an a picture. The picture was of a young girl in a 3rd world county, to whom she’d donated, in my name, a bicycle that would allow that girl to get to and from school. I cannot type this without crying. God is SO amazing. He works miracles everyday!

I could end this story here, and it would be nice. But we aren’t even close to the end.

Over the next few weeks, everyday when checking my P.O. Box, I began to receive cards from other women who did not know me. Cards from all over the country. Some cards contained monetary gifts; $1, $5, $20 or more. All of them came with handwritten words of encouragement, or scriptures, and they wrote about how my story, and my willingness to be so vulnerable and honest was inspiring and encouraging to them. I also received a beautifully bound bible that I still take to church each Sunday, a bracelet engraved with the words “Sisters in Christ“, and other gifts. I would bring the envelopes home, and Mark and I would sit on the bed in that hotel room, and pray over each envelope before we opened it. Most of the envelopes had no forwarding address and the letters were signed with only first names or initials. Meaning, no “thank you” was expected. I received a total of 46 letters and cards. I had no idea that my story of my broken life was encouraging to these woman.They told me I was a blessing to them! Which, by the way, completely breaks me down into tears, even now, years later.

The money I’d been gifted was enough for Mark and I to move out of that hotel and into a second chance house community who ignored our credit because we put down such a big nonrefundable deposit. We were able to leave the hotel. Praise God!

No one but God could have made that happen. No One. God deserves ALL the Glory here. 

And I bet that some of you, faithful readers, are some of those women who sent me a card, letter, or note, to bring me though the darkest time in my life. Now, because you left no forwarding addresses, is my chance to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart, thank you, and God bless.

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The List of Ten

After I’d been a believer for about six months, maybe a bit longer, I was really struggling. Not with my faith. My faith came on fast and strong. I didn’t need much convincing. If God wanted my problems, and would actually give me forgiveness, grace, and mercy in exchange for my problems, well, I was all for it! You bet ya! Thank you God, and thank you Jesus for what You did to facilitate me to have this awesome relationship with my Creator.

However, my worldly problems were still there of course. There’s no magic wand that comes with faith and “poofs” your problems away. The good news is that you can put your faith into action and watch, yes watch, God work in your life. God’s grace makes his promises available, but your faith makes them possible. In fact, you must put your faith into action. I didn’t know that at the time, but Sarah was about to teach me.

When she told me what to do, I thought it was the silliest idea I’d ever heard. I probably laughed at her. Maybe not out loud, but certainly in my head. This idea was ridiculous. If I haven’t said so already, “I’m sorry for laughing, Sarah”.

Since Sarah had been listening to my woes for quite some time now, she told me to make a list. “Make a list of the top ten most impossible things in your life. Things you think you’ll never accomplish. Then pray about them. Everyday.”

“Why?” I asked.

“You’ll see, just trust me.” And since she hadn’t lead me wrong yet, I told her (after much complaining, I’m sure) that I’d do it. I had to trust her. She was all I had. Little did I know that at that very moment Sarah was sharing with me the most wonderful thing I’ve ever learned. Priceless. And if you, dear reader, have read this far, keep reading. You’re going to want to hear this.

It was the end of December. That night, in my dismal, lonely hotel room, I sat with a pen and paper and made my list. Despite how awful my life was, I could only come up with seven things I thought impossible. I’m much more creative now, but at that time, I didn’t realize the enormity of what was about to happen. I probably wasn’t too serious about the whole thing. Nevertheless, doing as Sarah said, I prayed about my list of impossibilities daily.

Some of the things on the list I can share with you. Others are really personal.

  1. I want Mark and I to move out of this hotel we’ve lived in for two years and into an apartment.
  2. I want to get a car. (Note: Mark was not working at the time, money was tighter than tight).
  3. I want to reinstate my driver’s license and fix my tag so I could drive legally. (Note: Expensive!)
  4. I want to marry Mark, in a church chapel, officiated by a pastor (not a notary). (Note: we weren’t even members of a church yet.)

So, those are a few things on my list. (The “notes” I added today for clarification). To me, these things all felt totally impossible, mostly because of financial circumstances. There were other things on the list that I might share one day.

So daily, I prayed. “God, I cannot do these things on my own. I need your help“.

To be continued…

OK, I know you hate “to be continued’s”, but I’ll give you a hint: within 9 months, everything on my list had come true in ways you’d never imagine. Ways only God could have come up with.

Please come back to read what happened next, because a series of unexpected miracles is fun to read about! You aren’t going to want to miss this, and I have a feeling some of you, yes you, might have been “in” on the miracles and not even know it.

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Building my spiritual home.

This week on IF:Equip (www.ifgathering.com), we talked about the part of the Niceen Creed refering to scriptures. Scriptures are the fountain of my faith, and the foundation of the spiritual house around me. My spiritual home will have scriptures as the foundation, destiny doors that only God can open, walls of faith in action, and a roof built by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others.

Until I started participating in the IF:Equip Bible study about 3 years ago, I’d never read a word in the Bible. When I started reading the scriptures with that online community of women, I was scared I’d be shunned or at least ignored. But I wasn’t. I was loved and encouraged, and I made more virtual friends than I can keep up with. I’ve even met some of them in real life! Reading everyone’s thoughts and interpretations in the comments taught me so much.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:6

Leaning not on my own understanding, but praying for wisdom and understanding, I open my heart and let the scriptures come alive to me. And while the Word never changes, His words are charged with energy. That charge changes who I am and how I think. What other book does that?

I always pray for the Holy Spirit to help me understand what I’m reading and how to make it applicable to my life.

Sometimes I set out to read the Bible for a while, and after just a few sentences, I’m awe struck at what I’ve read, and read it over and over, having had some new revelation. Some days I just meditate on a line or two, or just one parable.

Today, when reading the lesson on IF:Equip I stopped at the words “God has written a book“. Wow, how exciting! If I’d read Jennie Allen had written a book, I’d be on Amazon placing my order right now. I would, I have. I have shelves full of books written by numerous Christian authors that I’ve never read. And you know why? Because I needed to read the Bible first. Yes, I really want to read all these books I have. I want to read what Jennie A., Amena B., Lisa T., Ann V, and so many others have to say. But what I needed to read first was the Bible, specifically because I was so new, and 36 years old, and needed to build the foundation of my faith that’s found in the scriptures.

And so they sit, unread, all those books. I’m going to get to them one day soon. It was my very wise friend, Sarah, that explained to me that I needed to build my foundation first. Those books are wonderful, but they are in addition to, not instead of, the Bible. And until I’m regularly reading my Bible, daily, and reading it over and over again, I don’t want to read the other books yet. Actually, what I mean is, yes, I want to read them, but it’ll be so much better to read those books with a good foundation in the most important book of all. The one God wrote.

I almost started Jennie Allen’s book “Anything”, and the study that goes with it, a while ago. I got the book. I signed up for all the emails and everything. Then I decided to wait. I needed to wait because my foundation was not yet solid. And I imagine Jennie’s book will be, for me and my spiritual house, a wall builder, or maybe a door frame from which I’ll hang my destiny doors.

Do you know how exciting it is to have a revelation while reading a scriptures you’ve read several times before? It’s awesome! The Bible, The word, is alive! It grows with me, revealing it’s meaning as I grow in my faith, and it keeps on giving and revealing new truths to me in different stages of my life. What other book does that?

The Bible, to me, is not just a book, but The Word of God printed so I can carry it with me and keep it close for reference and comfort. IT knows me because HE knows me. He reveals life truths to me through His Words. And though they do not change on paper, they change in my mind and heart each time I read them and discover something new. Can I call it simply a book? No. It’s His Words, truths I want ingrained in my heart and mind forever and ever. I feel that needs an “Amen!”

Lord, help me to build the foundation of my spiritual home by reading and understanding the scriptures. Holy Spirit, read with me and guide my mind to learn new things from scriptures I’ve read a dozen times before. My Bible is my foundation, and within the scriptures I find instructions on how to build my spiritual house, which, when storms come, will protect and shelter me. The scriptures lead me to action, faith in action, that frames the walls and lays the roof. And though I’ll never be done building my spiritual house, it’s a place I can go that’s filled with all I’ve learned. I can bring others there and share with them the good news and we can discuss the Word together and build new rooms. As I keep reading the scriptures, I can plant new seeds in my spiritual garden and watch them grow. I can share this harvest with others.

Would you like a flower from my spiritual garden? Guess what I learned today?

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Lord, let my spiritual house shelter me in the storms. Let the storms water the seeds in my spiritual garden, to grow a great harvest of knowledge of the Word, Your Words, that I can share with others. Lord, let my spiritual house have destiny doors that lead me on my way to Your will. Doors that move. Sometimes they fling open with a gust of Your Breath and invite me to “go, Bree, this way, toward your calling“. But Lord, let Your Will always be done, and slam those doors shut in my face if they don’t lead me towards Your perfect Will for my life.

I trust You. My Lord, my Creator, my Heavenly Father, my Teacher, the architect of my life.

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IF this week: I can ascend too.

Amazing week studying the Nicene Creed with IF:Equip on the IF app. (See my post about how to get the app, it’s free!)

This week has “hope” written all over it! Hope is what I need. What do you need? You can find it in Jesus.

Knowing that Jesus chose to become fully man, and experience what I experience is amazing. Given the choice, would I do the same? Probably not, if I’m honest. Life, especially now, is hard. Keeping my focus on Jesus literally sustains me throughout the day. If not for Him, I don’t know how I could be me. I don’t know how I did it for 3+ decades without Him. I almost didn’t; choosing to give up too many times. Thank God I finally found Jesus. God has a purpose for me.

Jesus ascended into Heaven after conquering death. I can apply that to my daily life. I now know that through His strength, I can ascend above the trials of my day. I can ascend above pain, I can ascend above fear, I can ascend above worry and doubt. He is forever with me, in every situation.

Yesterday, after a bad morning I changed my attitude by literally thanking God for everything I could think of! (Thank you, God, that I can walk, thank you that I have clothes, thank you that the lamp turned on, thank you for my coffee, my job, my husband, my dog…. Thank you God.)

What a blessing coming to Jesus has been for me. After nearly ending my life years ago, to be saved by Grace is the most amazing feeling. To be forgiven my sins, all those things that haunt my mind daily; amazing. To be given a renewed dose of hope, grace and mercy each day, to be sustained through Christ Jesus; amazing.

I don’t even mind waking up too early, like today, because it’s just more time to spend with my Savior. Good morning Jesus!

And, even though there’s hope, if I were a betting girl, I know the odds are there will be difficulties today too. But I’m not alone anymore in my dark moments. In those moments, I draw near to Jesus and seek His face, God’s Word made flesh, to get me through. Amazing.

Sunflower grown from a single seed. Ascending toward Heaven, taller than I’ll ever be. Perfectly imperfect, just like me. Radiating beauty to all who see.

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Ladies, IF you could, would you?

The @ifgathering community is now availabe 24/7 on your phone! We pray for a generation of women who disciple women. Beyond excited to be a part of this next step in meaningful, daily community. Download the free app here: ifgatheringapp.com.

And read my post below about my experience with IF:Equip and IF:Gathering, and how it changed my life. It was a big change. Reading the Bible for the first time.

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*post and picture by IF:Gathering.

Part 3: The blessed darkness.

This is the hardest post I’ve written so far. This post, when written the first 3 times, included my family and my husband.

But I trashed all those drafts. This is my testimony. Mine. Not “ours”. I had to find a way to tell my story, which I’m so ready to tell, without disrespecting the privacy of the people in my life.

My mom introduced me to Mark around 2004 and we fell in love. I remember when he told me he loved me. I said “I love you too”, but he protested, saying “no! This is my time, I’m loving you right now”. He’s loved me that way ever since. Even when my moods and addiction made it difficult. He loved me despite me being me. I still don’t know what I did to deserve such a loving man. Not everyone saw that though, which is my fault. I was never really good at sharing myself, or my life, with family or friends. After all, I had a secret to hide, and my bipolar mood shifts didn’t help. So opinions of Mark suffered because of my selfishness. I’m so sorry for that.

Relationships are being healed now. Slowly but surely. I love my family and their willingness to just love purely. Despite mistakes and lies, despite time lost, my family has always loved me. They always will. I have no doubt about that. And for that, I know I am one of the lucky ones.

Mark & I moved in together, and lived in several cities, moving for jobs. At this time the economy was faltering and jobs were difficult to come by. But life was difficult for many reasons. Self inflicted reasons. Like razors taken to the goodness of the skin of my life, my poor decisions cut that goodness into bits and pieces.

One day I’ll be able to fill in these blanks. When I’m ready. When we’re ready.

I’m skipping a lot of years here because I haven’t figured out how to talk about those years yet as just my story. But I want to keep going so I can tell you about my Savior, and we’ve still got two years to go.

We landed in Jacksonville in 2012 for the best job I’ve ever accepted. I was so happy to be leaving home. Honestly, I was always happy to leave home. My life was so miserable there because of my poor choices. Choices which affected everyone I loved, and the guilt of which is so hard to let go of. I’m good at letting go of anxiety, fear, sadness. But guilt? Guilt is difficult to get rid of, to leave at the foot of the cross like I do with my other negative emotions. Guilt sticks like a stain in your head and heart that you just cannot get rid of. That guilt, is always in the back of my mind, and has seeped into the depths of my being. I carry this guilt of what I did to my family. Hopefully one day I will learn how to let that go.

Am I even supposed to let that go? Because I feel like I deserve to carry it with me forever.

After one month of working at that job I moved to Jacksonville to accept, I was fired. They never told me why. Shortly thereafter we were evicted from our apartment, which was always more expensive than we needed. We moved into a hotel. We thought it would be temporary, but it wasn’t. We lived there for almost two years.

And so here we are, the point in my story where, believe it or not, things start getting really difficult. I was spiraling downward faster and faster. Life actually got worse. Worse than the years I cannot talk about yet because they’re not just mine to tell. Worse than the years I spent in South Florida in a relationship with a serial cheater. Worse than threatening myself with suicide.

Things were about to get real.

What comes next are the darkest of days. Days when I didn’t know what I would do from one second to the next. Times so foggy that I could not see beyond the next second of life. When I didn’t know if there would even be life in the next second. It was so dark, I couldn’t see myself in the mirror anymore. It wasn’t really me I was seeing. My mind was failing, then my body started failing. It was scary and strange. For example, at work, I could not type as fast, my fingers were slower. Something was wrong with my neurological system. My whole body with being affected by the darkness in which I was dwelling.

I can now say that I now thank God for those days. The days full of prolonged seconds which seemed to last hours. Those millions of miserable moments spent alone in the darkness of my mind. I lost myself there. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, that was the best thing for me. I needed to lose myself before I could find God.

But like I mentioned, we’re still 2 years from that. I was still trying to fix things on my own. I hadn’t yet considered giving God a chance. God wasn’t a blip on my radar, or a thought in my head. Not yet. God was the furthest thing from my broken mind . Or so I thought.

God was there, but it would take a miracle 20 years in the making for me to see Him, and one question to one friend that would change everything.

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The before, the after, and the Savior

My story has two parts.

The first part is scary, filled with debilitating fear caused by poor choices that lead to a life of addiction, depression, loneliness, homelessness, and despair. I was just trying to stay alive, but I was doing it wrong. I was making all the decisions, all the rules, and thought I was in control.  So despite a great childhood and amazing parents, I ended up wrecking my life.

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The second part of my story started in 2013, at age 36. That’s when God completely turned my life upside down (because apparently I didn’t realize the wreck that I was already) and I realized that I was not in control and I needed help. I wasn’t raised in church and didn’t know anything about God. But in that moment, when my life was wrecked, I knew I needed him.

So how does an atheist find out about God?

That’s what this story will be about. It’s too long of a story to tell just one blog post. So I’ll try to break it up, and on some days I’ll just write about my daily life and how God helps me to get through tough times and celebrates with me the in good times.

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