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Thursday, March 24, 2011

God’s Love

It’s amazing at how our actions can affect another person. How a simple gesture or word can hurt so deeply. While it may only take a moment to do something hurtful to another person, it can take a lifetime to overcome the scars of heartache embedded in our hearts.
Imagine reaching your hand out the drive-thru window, and when the woman gets your money she notices your hand and screams in horror, dropping your money. Imagine getting fired from a job because you can’t wring out a mop good enough. Imagine standing in a store and hearing people whisper and snicker as they point and stare—every time you go out in public. Imagine seeing pity in their eyes and hearing them constantly bless your poor heart.
Is it possible to overcome the pain and start living again, instead of only existing?
I wondered the same thing a few years ago. I hated going out into public, so I tried to blend in with my surroundings. I dropped my head and starred at the floor. If I did look up, the expression on my face was unfriendly, unapproachable and the look of pure misery. There was a part of me that just wanted to die. I thought that was the only way to escape the pain. I hated my life! But not as much as I hated my scars!  
Finally, one day I looked in the mirror and the reflection shocked me. There was so much hatred in my eyes—the eyes never lie. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I wondered, how did I become so cold and miserable? I didn’t want to be consumed with hatred. I didn’t want to be miserable. I wanted to be happy! I wanted to love and be loved!
After I had tried to fix it all myself, countless times with no avail, I turned to God. Not only did He show me that I needed to forgive those who had hurt me, but He also helped me to forgive them. God showed me there was no justification for my hatred, regardless of how bad the sin or how deeply it hurt.
While we can’t control what other people do to us, we can control what we do. Just because someone treats me ugly, scars me emotionally, breaks my heart, etc. doesn’t ever give me the right to treat them badly. Jesus gave us a wonderful example when He was hanging on the cross. They had beat Him, mocked Him, placed on Him a purple robe and a crown of thorns, stabbed Him in the side and offered Him vinegar to drink, but He didn’t lash out at them with vengeance. Instead He asked God to forgive them, for they know not what they do. He carried my sins and the sins of the whole world that day on the cross to Calvary, but instead of hating me and sending me to hell, He forgave me and He will you, too.  
There is none of us that will ever suffer like Christ suffered for us and He offers forgiveness freely to all. He wants us to forgive others the way He forgives us and set good examples for our children and loved ones. He wants us to stop dwelling on our heartaches and count our blessings. He wants us to hold our heads up, smile and show others the love that dwells in our hearts.
Sometimes we go through things to show others a little glimpse of God through us. People are watching us to see how we react in bad situations. And when we can glorify God through our heartaches, trials and tribulations then we can show a little glimpse of God’s love.
Walking around with my head down, appearing to hate the world was not reflecting God’s love at all. Always portraying the victim was only bringing me down, and whoever happened to see the misery on my face. Realizing I had no reason to feel ashamed, helped me tremendously to see I was a survivor. Nothing really changed, except for how I looked at my situation.
People will always approach me with their awe-you-poor-thing expression or comment, but it’s how I handle the situation that makes the difference. I can either A) shoot daggers out of my eyes, B) walk away with no explanation, or C) correct them by saying, “I’m blessed to be alive and I thank God every day that He spared me. I’m not a victim of Amniotic Band Syndrome—I’m a survivor.”
Now, when I go out into public I hold my head up and I smile at everyone. I’m not sure if people still stare at me or not because I’ve stopped looking for the stares. Actually, I kind of hope they do and I pray during those times that God allows my smile to radiate His amazingly, wonderful love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

God is Good!

Regardless of the degree of our strength, we are all weak. In the recess of our mind there is always a flicker of doubt and self-pity. Sometimes we can keep those negative feelings at bay and others times they seep out and infect us. It’s during those hard times, when my fears materialize and make me question my God—as if I have any right, but still I do.
I wonder why God allowed the Amniotic Bands to affect me. I wonder why He didn’t stop them before they damaged my body. I wonder why He chose me to bear these scars. And in the midst of my heartache, I wonder why He didn’t just allow me to die. Why did He stop Amniotic Band Syndrome from taking my life? Why did He allow me to live, knowing life would be hard for me?
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times those questions have plagued me. I can’t even recall all of the prayers I’ve prayed (or tried to anyway), begging God to heal me and take my scars away. I can’t tell you the number of tears that I’ve cried.
And that makes the devil very happy, when he has us questioning God and blaming Him for, what we assume to be, the bad things that happen to us. The devil loves to distract us with our heartaches and make us forget all about God’s grace and mercy. The longer we wallow in our misery, the more we suffer— needlessly.
But, what if God has a purpose for me and my scars?
John 9:1-3 (King James Version)
 1And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.  2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?  3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
The moment I realized my life, trials and tribulations, could actually help someone else, everything changed. What if through my pain and suffering someone could actually see there is a God? I believe the harder life is for us and the more we suffer, the louder our testimony is for God.
When I realized God didn’t curse me with these scars, but He blessed me with life, my perspective changed. When I realized Amniotic Band Syndrome usually takes the lives of its victims, but God spared me, I found my purpose. The day I stopped weeping because it happened to me and thanked God for allowing me to live, I became a survivor.
Sometimes things have to happen so that people can see there is a God and He is in control. Sometimes God blesses us to see His miracles. Sometimes we look at situations and think of them as tragedies, when they are really blessings.
Without my scars and the limitations they cause me, would I even cry out to God? Probably not. But as it is, I need God to help me. My scars make me humble. They’ve taught me to be compassionate and loving. They’ve taught me to be optimistic and determined. They’ve taught me to patient and to find strength in the arms of my Lord.
Some people believe God gave me these scars because He deemed me strong enough to handle them, but I disagree. If people only knew how weak I truly am, then they would never again make the mistake of calling me strong. I know that I’m weak and I need God to help me make it through this life. I have to call upon my Lord, daily, and beg for His mercy and strength. In my weakness God is made strong.
I am so thankful God allowed me to live! I’m so thankful that He never heard nor answered my prayers of selfishness and self-pity. I’m thankful He allowed me to keep my scars and, finally, accept them. I’m thankful that every once in a while He allows me to suffer a little for His sake. I’m thankful that when it all seems overwhelming and the pain becomes unbearable, God comforts me. I’m thankful that God has placed obstacles in my way to lead me into His arms.

1 Peter 3:17 (King James Version)

 17For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Amazing Grace

Have you ever had anything so wonderful happen to you that you want to share it with the whole world? I’m talking about a moment that truly changes your life and transforms you into a new person; something so amazingly beautiful that your heart aches for those who don’t have it. If this happened to you would you be able to hide it or would you want to tell those you love how they can get it, too?
Growing up a (Missionary Baptist) preacher’s daughter, I went to church a lot. Sometimes I played with my dolls, napped or daydreamed. I didn’t really pay that much attention to the preaching because I didn’t understand it. However, one day everything changed. That day I felt as if the preacher was talking directly to me. The words touched my heart and scared me, but I knew there was a God! I also knew I was lost and that I didn’t belong to Him.
From that moment on, my life was complete and total misery. I was afraid to go to sleep. I was afraid to go anywhere in the car. I was afraid that I would die, without knowing God. I felt overwhelmed by everything. I didn’t really laugh or smile, anymore. I couldn’t because my heart was so heavy and sad all the time. Regardless of how I tried to escape the misery, it was always there— surrounding me.
But one day, God gave me an opportunity to change it all. He asked me if I wanted to go to Heaven. He asked me if I wanted Him to be my Savior. He asked me if I wanted to trade all of my misery for love and peace. He gave me an invitation to be with Him in paradise, when my life here comes to an end.
The moment I believed with my whole heart and wanted everything He was offering, more than anything in the world, I was saved. The heavy burden I had been carrying for so long was gone and in its place was so much love and peace. So much love that it seemed to overflow from my heart and, in that moment, I wanted EVERYONE to be saved, too.
I have been trying, since that day, to tell people what God has done for me and I just can’t find the words to explain how wonderful it is. While I know I’m absolutely nothing, God’s love is wonderful—it shines from the inside out. It makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to help others. It makes me smile brighter and love deeper. It makes me love my enemies and forgive those who hurt me. It makes me happy! Regardless of the challenges in my life and heartaches, nothing can separate me from my God.
When the storms of life start raging, He will hold me secure in His arms. When I’m overwhelmed and troubled by the pressures and grief of the world, He will comfort me. When I need something, He will give it to me. When my faith is wavering, He will renew it. When my strength fails, He will pick me up in His arms and carry me. When I’m sick, He will heal me. When I’m growing old and feeble, He will be right there with me to guide me home.
The day I accepted God into my heart, the only thing I lost was the fear of hell. But, oh what I gained. It’s been a long time since that day, but I have never, ever regretted giving my heart to God.
I’m not ashamed of my God. I’m not ashamed to tell you how wonderful He is to me and how much He blesses my life. He’s the part of me that’s beautiful. He’s the part of me that’s kind. He’s the best thing that has ever happened to me—God’s Amazing Grace!
I pray you know Him, too.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Awe moments!

Sometimes God sees us struggling with something and He knows we need a little boost to revive us and renew our strength, so He gives us awe moments. It has taken me a long time to recognize those wonderful blessings from God, and so often I have over looked them, completely. I’m so thankful for the times, when God opens my eyes and shows me just how blessed I truly am and the significance of these precious moments.
Yesterday, God blessed me with one of those special moments. I couldn’t help but be awed at how perfectly God worked everything out, and how He gave me exactly what I needed, without me even asking. It was one of those times when my heart was filled with so much joy and love that I believed it would overflow and touch everyone around me.
In honor of Dr. Seuss Day, I had decided to go to the school and read to the kids. As I opened the magazine and flipped to the page where my story was recorded, I was humbled by the whole experience. I remembered the very first time I had told that story. It had been that very room, three years ago, when the story was nothing more than an idea floating around in my head. I remembered how it made the kids giggle and smile. It was those little faces who had given me the courage to write and then submit it for publication. What had started out as nothing more than a dream had turned into reality.
But what truly touched my heart was the kids. As I started to read the kids, one by one, got up from their seats and sat down in the floor in front of me. They surrounded me as I read them my story and then Dr. Seuss. Seeing their little smiling faces and hearing their laughter touched me in a way that I can’t even explain— it’s so much better felt than told.
It amazes me at how God can take one moment and bless it so much that it overpowers all of the other moments. All of the times my heart broke when I received a rejection letter didn’t seem to matter any longer. All of the times, I was told I would never make it as a writer, floated away. All of the tears and prayers it took to write that story and overcome my fears were no longer imperative.
As my heart filled with emotions of love, joy, and thankfulness, it occurred to me that I no longer care if I am published or not. Whether my books contain pretty binding or pictures doesn’t change the value of the words. Awards or fame could never compare or overshadow God’s blessings. Writing is about sharing something wonderful with others. It’s about opening our hearts and allowing the love to shine out.   
And if we are not real careful we will allow the world to taint our dreams with its ugliness. I can’t imagine writing solely for money, anyway. In fact, it would be fine with me to just give my books away. I want to share the blessings God has bestowed upon me—my beautiful, beautiful awe moments.

Author shares message through Zippy the zebra