Listen to Your Gut

Have you ever been in a situation that looks and sounds So Right, but the tight feeling in the pit of your stomach is telling you something might be wrong?

I used to ignore that something is not right feeling in my gut, until I realized that every time I ignored it, I was left cleaning up the consequences of bad decisions. Now I have learned that the knot in my gut is God telling me not to move forward, at least not at this time.

Whether the knot in your gut is telling you not to move forward in a relationship, not to sign a contract, or not to continue with your plans, that knot is usually an indication that you should stop and pray for wisdom and protection, or even change your course in direction.

The other day when I was thinking about trusting gut warnings, the belt of truth popped into my mind. When our hearts and souls are engaged in relationships or opportunities, it’s easy for us to get deceived or sidetracked. All lights can be flashing green so brightly that we don’t even pay attention to the stop or yield signs that are directly in our paths. The discomfort in our spiritual gut should alert us to examine our situations and ask God to reveal truth regarding His will and His timing.

Please don’t confuse the gut feeling that I am describing as being when your stomach feels as though it is tied in knots because of fear or anxiety. That is a completely different scenario. The knot I am referring to is not tied to emotions. It’s not butterflies. It’s not fear. It’s usually not even anything you can pin point. There seems to be no logical reason for it, and often we might not even be able to explain why we are feeling it.

So next time you feel that tug in your gut telling you that something is just not right. Listen to it! It very well could be God’s way of getting your attention, so He can protect you from a decision you would have regretted.

May the Lord abundantly bless you!

Jeannie

I’ve Got This!

The more I understand God’s love for me the easier it has been for me to trust Him. When I was younger, anytime the Lord told me to step out in faith or make a change in direction I would panic and fire back questions asking for specifics. I figured if I knew all the details concerning the whats, wheres, hows, and whens I would be able to trust the Who (God.) Since most of the details would usually not be revealed until the last minute, I would continuously worry and strive to make things happen. Needless to say this was not productive nor healthy.

Back in those days when I used to play 20 questions with God I was unaware that trust is built in relationship, not just in obedience. I was also unaware that my Father God knows exactly how much information I need for each step of my journey. He goes before me and prepares the way. As I step into my next season I receive His grace for that season. If I were to know the detailed road map before I had the grace to handle the directions, I would not grow in my relationship with Him, and I would not develop character through the fruits of the Spirit. To be honest, if I saw it all before I had God’s grace to experience all I would be tempted to pull a “Jonah” and high-tail it in the opposite direction. Thankfully, God knows my true needs as well as my heart.

A few months ago I woke up one morning hearing two words in my spirit: “Virginia/June.” I have learned when I hear something I believe is from God, to both pray and wait for confirmation. Shortly after praying, I received a call giving me confirmation.

Even though I knew the where and a general when concerning my next season I had no clue as to the hows. During the months that followed, whenever I would pray for wisdom, the Lord would speak three simple words to my heart, “I’ve got this!” And I would be flooded with incredible peace.

For the first two months I had no clue how God was going to orchestrate everything that needed to happen for me to move. But in May the puzzle pieces started to come together. As usual the puzzle doesn’t look anything like I expected. My incredible, loving, Daddy God has arranged a wonderful place for my special needs sister and father to live, as well as providing the finances I need. Not only has He swung the door to my next season wide open, He has already been preparing my heart to minister His love and life as soon as I walk through it.

Once again, I am amazed how God Has put everything together! But I am even more amazed at how He has put my broken heart back together. There were many years when I would have doubted and worried, but this time, I actually had peace and trusted Him to insert the missing pieces in the right places. From the moment He first told me “I’ve Got This!” I really did believe that He had it!

If you, like me, are getting ready to walk into a new season, I would encourage you to trust the Lord and wait on His perfect timing. Not only does “He Got this!” He’s also Got you!

May the Lord abundantly bless you!

Jeannie

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7 NKJV).

What Fruit?

 

As I was writing my last blog about how God grows the Fruits of the Spirit in us in the midst of difficulties, I kept thinking about restoration.  Whenever restoration is mentioned in the scriptures we see opposites-joy for mourning, strength for weakness, salvation for sin, healing for sickness, beauty for ashes. If restoration is God’s gift to bring good out of everything the enemy intended for evil in our lives, wouldn’t it make sense that the fruits of the Spirit would be fruits of restoration.

Understanding the lies we believe about God, ourselves, and others helps to renew our minds. But what about our emotions? Again, the answer is in the fruits of the Spirit. Tamara Patterson from River of Life Church has a really good message about this. You can find it at

https://www.facebook.com/RiverofLifeCorpusChristi/videos/1284210381616590/

But for now, I will just share a brief summary about what I received from her message.

Keep in mind that love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, and self control are fruits OF THE SPIRIT. That means that they are imparted to us by the Holy Spirit, not through our own understanding or efforts. The Bible tells us that we have not because we ask not, so as you read the following I would encourage you to ask for the fruit or fruits you need at this time.

When in fear-ask for revelations of God’s perfect love

When you are anxious-ask for peace

When you are depressed or sad-ask for joy

When you are frustrated or angry-ask for patience

When you feel rejected-ask for opportunities to show and receive kindness.

When you feel less than or flawed( usually because of abuse, legalism, or perfectionism) ask for revelations of God’s goodness

When you feel like hiding your true self or are harsh to others out of self- protection- ask for gentleness.

When you feel out of control because of behavioral choices, entitlement, or feeling like a victim- ask for self-control.

God loves to meet us, heal us, restore us, empower us, and to bless us with good gifts. Ask Him to show you what fruits you need at this time. Then open your heart and receive.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”.(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV).

 

 

Much Fruit

Sometimes when we are going through a trial it’s hard to see anything good coming out of it. Quite a few years ago I was going through a season of intense physical and emotional suffering. One day, as I was getting ready to leave the house, I saw a picture in my mind of a large bowl of fruit. As I thought about the meaning of the fruit bowl, I heard the Lord speak to my heart: “Thank you for letting me entrust you with this trial. Much fruit will come from it.”

Before then I had thought of trials as tests, not opportunities to trust and to be trusted. God is all about relationship. Relationships are built on trust, not tests. God knows our hearts. He is not trying to see what we can achieve. He wants to grow our trust so He can entrust us with all He has created us for.

He is a Good Father, not a strict teacher. Like any good father, He teaches through many experiences to grow us and to equip us. Not to see if we will pass or fail.

Knowing He is good allows us to rest in His love in the midst of unlovely circumstances. As we draw close to Him and trust Him He will bring forth much fruit—the fruit of our testimony and the fruits of the Spirit manifested in our lives.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8 AMPC).

“But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

 

The Other Mother

Happy Mother’s Day!

Since Mother’s Day was yesterday, it might seem as though I am late in wishing all the Moms Happy Mother’s Day. But truth be told, motherhood should be celebrated every day.

The card I sent my daughter on Mother’s Day reminded me of this: The outside of the card was optimistic: It’s mothers day and you have earned a quiet, relaxing, unstressful day. The inside of the card was realistic: You may not get, it but you sure deserve it.

Being a mom is not easy, but it is rewarding. In the midst of dirty diapers, peanut butter and jelly smeared faces, and unwelcome Crayola art exhibits on the walls, are toothless smiles, lots of impromptu hugs and kisses, and wilted bouquets of floral weeds snatched from the ground-just for Mom.

As a young mom with four children under six years of age, I often remember feeling more like a mother duck trying to keep my ducklings in line than feeling like a woman with true needs and desires. Most days I celebrated my children. I taught them, played with them, sang with them and prayed with them. But then there were those days when I felt like the worst mother on the face of the earth. I wanted to run away. Those were the days when my last bit of patience was gone, and I had to force myself to be kind. Those were the days when I wanted to wring my children’s necks instead of hugging them.

I loved my children dearly. I still do. But when I was raising them I often found myself scolding them more than celebrating them.  Sometimes, when I was singing them to sleep, I would think about the times I had lost my temper and yelled at them, and feared that I was going to permanently damage them.  Instead of being the mother I so desperately wanted to be, I feared I was becoming other mother –the one I was afraid of exposing. The mother full of fear and frustration, who merely survived each day.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of hearing from my four amazing children.  I am happy to say that through the grace of God, in spite of all of my shortcomings, they all survived me and are doing quite well. I also had the privilege of reading some of my mother’s journals. I loved my Mom and am thankful for her. She taught us about Jesus, sang to us, and invested her time and talents in her family. She was a prayer warrior. She was an amazing woman, but like the rest of us, she was not perfect. I saw incredible strength in my mother. But I also saw fear, confusion, and enabling-all things to which she wouldn’t admit.

As I read mom’s journals, I got to know my mother through different lenses-not through the eyes of a child with lots of questions, but through the eyes of a fellow mother, who had traveled the road of raising children in the midst of difficult situations. Mom’s struggles, her fears, and her frustrations opened my eyes to the other mother I had not known. The mother whose spoken words often didn’t acknowledge what was going on in her heart. The woman whose faith and trust was challenged just like the rest of us. The woman who adored her children, but also was, at times, overwhelmed. The woman who in a lot of ways was just like me.

Reading Mom’s journals, brought back memories from my childhood. Her journals also gave me clarity and answered some questions I have had for many years. I realized that most, if not all mothers, have another side they don’t share with their children. For some, it may be the hurt little girl they are hiding. For others, it might be the person they are afraid of becoming. Being introduced to my mom’s other mother reminded me of my own journey.

If you sometimes feel like a failure at motherhood, realize that you are not alone. Being a mother is not easy. But it is rewarding. You have nothing to fear. God knows all your thoughts. He loves you! He sees the mother you are on the outside and He knows about all your fears, frustrations, and questions on the inside. And He understands both. Embrace the Lord and embrace motherhood. You don’t have to be perfect. Jesus is the only perfect one. Just keep your eyes on Jesus and walk with Him daily in the beautiful journey He has blessed you with. The journey of motherhood.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

Get Out of the Car (Revisited)

Get out of car

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about a road trip encounter I had when I was helping my daughter Shanna and her husband David move to Virginia. In a few weeks, I will step into a new season as I return to Virginia for a longer period of time. Even though I know that God is going before me, my heart is beginning to ache at the thought of leaving my wonderful church, family, and friends. Today, as I was focusing on loss, God reminded me of some of the “God Adventures” we had during Shanna and David’s last move. I am posting one of them to remind me that although I am leaving much behind, there is always much ahead when we obey our Daddy God and step out into the unknown.

The moving truck had gotten stuck in the mud behind a pizza place in a dark secluded area. While Shanna and David were calling the rental company for assistance, I waited in the car and prayed. God told me to trust Him because He was doing something beautiful, so I after a while I quit praying for a solution and decided just to worship.

Within minutes, a friend called to see what I had been up to the past few months. I filled her in on our current situation, and she prayed a powerful prayer. After our call, the big dude who had been sitting in the car next to me got out of his car and walked behind the back of the building where my daughter and son-in-law were standing. Immediately, God told me, “He is the reason you are here. Get out of the car!” I did.

The man informed us that we were in a dangerous area. Apparently, a couple of pizza delivery drivers had recently been robbed, and one of them had been murdered. He was riding along with his wife to protect her when she made her pizza deliveries. We told him that we felt like God had also placed him there for our protection.

I felt a stirring in my spirit to pray for the man, so I asked him if he had accepted Jesus as his Savior. He had. Since I love to hear testimonies, I asked him if he would care to share. He looked at me warily and answered, “I was incarcerated at the time.”

“Praise God!” I exclaimed.

He gave me a quizzical look and said, “That’s not the reaction I usually get.”

“It’s not where you have come from; it’s where you are going,” I reminded him.

His eyes lit up, “That’s right, but most folks don’t see it that way.”

I told him that I kept hearing “Samson” in my spirit and asked if I could pray for him. I learned his name was Shadrack.

I explained to Shadrack that although Samson fell to the flesh and was imprisoned, when he turned to God and regained his strength, he defeated his enemies. The Lord told me to tell Shadrack that although he had made bad choices and had been imprisoned, because he had turned to God, God would empower him to defeat all his enemies—fear, unforgiveness, addictions, etc.

As I continued to pray for Shadrack, the Lord told me to give him a certain amount of money.

When I mentioned the money, his response brought tears to my eyes, “We just lost everything. Our house—everything!”

I said, “Shadrack, God loves you so much that He would let us get stuck in the mud just so He could bless you!”

His eyes began to tear up as he commented, “I will never forget this night for the rest of my life!”

Shadrack shared that he had been sitting in his car watching what was going on with the truck when God told him to get out of the car. He told God he couldn’t: “It’s night. I’m a big black guy and those are white people. If I go over there, they will think that I am trying to rob them.” Once again, God told him, “Get out of the car!”

While were praying, the tow truck arrived. After the moving truck was pulled from the mud, Shadrack helped reattach the car to the trailer. Then we ended up sharing more and praying for each other. Before we left, Shanna and David were also led to bless Shadrack financially, and we had the opportunity to pray for his wife as well.

“Get out of the car!”

What if I hadn’t obeyed? What if Shadrack hadn’t obeyed? We both would have missed out on a night that neither one of us would ever forget for the rest of our lives—a night where we opened the doors of our vehicles—and the doors of our hearts. It was a night where we both stepped out into the unknown and met Jesus in an unfamiliar place, as we encountered Him in the hearts and lives of each other.

When Shadrack was sharing how he chose to obey God and “got out of the car,” I thought about Peter getting out of the boat to meet Jesus. Peter might have started to sink, but none of the other disciples would ever experience what it felt like to walk on water, even if only for a few steps. God is waiting for us to step out and meet Him in the unknown. If we keep our focus on Him we can walk with Him on water, but even when our fears cause us to sink, His hand is always there to pull us up and draw us close.

Whether it is from our cars, our boats, our houses, or just our comfort zones, when God tells us to “get out” it’s always an invitation to come and join Him in an adventure.

When I first came to back to Texas, I begged God to let me leave. Now I am sad that it is time go. I came with almost nothing. But I am leaving with both a full heart and a full life.

Whenever you and I step out of our comfort zones it’s easy to concentrate on the loss of what we are leaving behind, instead of anticipating the abundance of what awaits us. God is a Good Daddy and He is orchestrating wonderful adventures for us—if we will only obey his voice and “Get out of the car!”

Matthew 14:28-29
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water”

29 “Come,” he said. (NIV)

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

 

The Net

The other day I was writing some teaching notes about the difference between encouragement and flattery. Last night I found this old journal entry from 2010 which put a different spin on the subject.

I wrote this entry after I had received my second Employee of the Quarter award at the retirement apartments where I was working in a major multitasking position known as the command center.

Journal entry from 2010

Most of my life I have been barraged by negative and destructive thoughts. My mind used to spin with these thoughts, but the past ten years I have worked hard to take these thoughts captive, submit them to Christ, and to pray for truth. But this time it wasn’t negative thoughts that tripped me up, it was positive ones.

Yesterday, I was talking to a good friend about pride. Today, I stepped into the net and got caught in it. As soon as I arrived at work I had to clean up a co-workers mistake, which is nothing out of the ordinary. We all make mistakes, but this morning I began to congratulate myself about how dependable I was. “Hmmm Jeannie, you haven’t made any noticeable mistakes in a while. It must be good for your boss to know that she can count on you to get the job done right. That is why she keeps entrusting you with more responsibilities and projects. Good job Jeannie!”

Not long after I had given myself one last pat on my back, I realized that I had forgotten to complete an assignment that had been given to me a few days before (that sure took me down a notch.) Then I couldn’t unjam the copier and had to call maintenance for help. (one notch lower) And just when I was beginning to wonder why I couldn’t measure up to my own expectations, I was confronted by my boss about a mistake a resident had made on her rent check. Because I had not noticed the mistake before I had made the rent deposits, the checked got kicked back from the bank and the corporate office was not happy about it. As my boss stood at my desk I heard the words no employee wants to hear, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to write you up for this.”  Even though her tone was sweet, the words hit hard.

As I reflected on this morning’s events, Proverbs 29:5 came to mind: “A man who flatters his neighbor Spreads a net for his feet (NKJV). It’s funny, I had never before thought about the flattering lips in this verse as being MY flattering lips. But it was obvious that my self-flattery had spread a net that had tripped me up.

So what is the difference between healthy self-esteem and self-flattery?  One is Christ-centered- “Look at Him!” The other is self-centered-“Look at me!

When we have healthy self-esteem (or God-confidence) we receive our value by knowing our identity in Christ. When we flatter ourselves we are trying to receive our identity through others.

God confidence makes us thankful. Self-flattery makes us prideful.

Having God-confidence releases us to celebrate our strengths, gifts, and accomplishments. Flattery causes us to compare instead celebrating.

God-confidence causes us to build others up. Self-flattery makes us jealous and will often cause us to tear others down.

God confidence brings unity, self-flattery brings division.

Although self-flattery, may at first, seem like a friend, it can quickly become an obvious enemy. For the next step after lifting ourselves up in our own understanding is often tearing ourselves down.

One is a notch; the other is a net. I don’t know about you, but I would rather focus on Christ and let Him raise me up, then get caught in the net of pride and make myself fall.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”(Proverbs 16:18).

 

 

 

 

 

Just Keep Digging

 

I once saw a cartoon that made me think about perseverance. A man was standing up to his head in a hole, shovel in hand, stating that he was giving up because nothing was there. When, in reality, just a few feet below him rested three treasure chests. If he had just hung in a little bit longer and dug a little bit deeper he would have reaped a great reward.

Boy, could I relate! Many times, when I have been on the brink of my breakthrough, I have gotten discouraged and wanted to chunk my shovel. When you and I have trusted, believed, and labored with still no results in sight, it often seems easier to bale than battle.

Speaking of a battle: Have you ever noticed that the battle intensifies just before the breakthrough? I used to believe it was because I was losing my mind, but now I realize it is because the enemy is losing his hold on me. When he sees that we are getting close to the treasures of God’s promises, deliverances, and blessings, he tries to back us off by raising his ugly head and roaring, and by filling our minds with lies (God doesn’t care about you! you will never be free of ______. You are a failure! etc.)

I remember one particularly intense battle when the Lord was bringing up some past hurts in order to bring me freedom. I was literally in such physical and emotional pain I thought I would die. As I kept crying out for freedom from the traumatic memories that were tormenting me, the Lord whispered to my spirit (persevere). Just when I thought I would break, I received my breakthrough… my treasure…a revelation of truth and wave after wave after wave of incredible joy.

After viewing the cartoon I looked up the definition of perseverance. Webster’s defines perseverance as steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

I then wrote the following poem:

Persevere, my brother,
When you think you can’t go on.
Persevere, my sister,
When the night seems, Oh, so long.
When your mind is in torment, and your heart’s about to break,
Set your sights on the treasure and realize what’s at stake.
For God, in His faithfulness will bring the victory
Just keep on digging and His riches you will see.

Whatever comes your way, don’t give up, my friend. God’s got you and He has great treasures for you!

Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (NKJV)

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

Scars into Stars

The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, but God gives life abundantly. Today’s post is a powerful testimony by my friend Cilinda. Thankfully, we serve a mighty God who brings beauty out of ashes and as Cilinda so beautifully says, “turns our scars into stars.”

I started out thinking I was going to write a very short rendition of my “autobiography” (which I have promised both myself and God, but have yet to do), but God has laid it on my heart to write my testimony in a much different fashion/form.

To cover my background and help it to make sense of where I am today, I will say my life has not been “the American Dream” in any manner. At the ages of seven and nine years old I was molested. My parents never knew because I was not capable of understanding what had happened to me, being so young at those times. It probably behooves anyone reading this, to think how something like that could’ve happened to a child and the parents not ever know. Fear and folly, I would dare to say, is what allowed me to keep it a secret for so many years.

My mother was forty-three years of age when she gave birth to me (my father was fifty-two years old). My precious mother had too many medical problems to mention, and needless to say, after having three daughters many years earlier in her life, was not “expecting” the birth of the fourth daughter (me)! But she and my father welcomed me into this world with love and their faith in the Lord knowing that my birth was His will and all would be right with the universe!

You may have heard the old sayings such as “ignorance is bliss,” or “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”… well, unbeknownst to me, as a child, I took those old adages and lived by them for several years. I kept the ‘secrets’ of what those two men did to me hidden as deep within me as I could possibly bury them. My life played out as I would consider “normal”, but as the years rolled by, I would find out that buried bones sometimes get dug up or uncovered.

As my high school graduation approached, I was more than excited over the life I saw before me! I was engaged to a military guy five years older than me. Our wedding was two weeks after my graduation, and I couldn’t wait to be married to the man of my dreams, have our own home and one day have children of our own! The “American Dream”, right? Well, all that soon changed and my vision of the “American Dream” was shattered into a million pieces and scattered to the uttermost parts of the earth, or so it seemed.

My fiancé and I were involved in a most tragic automobile accident May 2nd, 1978. A semi-truck ran the traffic light as we were crossing through our green light. The big rig hit our car on my fiance’s side, sending us spinning, striking another vehicle in our path, and leaving a mass of destruction in a matter of seconds! Four days later, I came out of a coma, to find out about my fiance’s tragic demise. The driver of the truck didn’t survive this horrendous accident either.

My future was ripped right out from under me; a feeling much worse, I felt, than literally having my heart torn from inside my human body! The one person I was about to vow to spend the rest of my life with… to have and to hold, from this day forward, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, was gone. Death… such a sudden end to a lifelong future ~ one that never began!

I sank into the darkness of depression, not wanting to be in any social gathering with family or friends. I didn’t have a reason to go on, nothing to live for! I just wanted to die! Twice I tried to commit suicide – once by taking an overdose of my prescription. The second time I had to battle thoughts in my head of jumping into my mother’s car and driving off a bridge! But God had other plans, none of which I was aware of yet!

I went through counseling with a psychiatrist, and then more with a psychologist. The pastor of our church also generously counseled me through the word of God (which was, by far, the most valuable and rewarding counsel of all!)

Four months after tragically losing my fiance, a relative passed away, and my parents needed to go to the funeral. They knew I would not be attending with them, as I was not capable of holding up through a memorial service. One of my sisters and her three children lived just down the road from my parents and me, so they arranged for me to stay with her until they returned after the weekend. Little did they, or any of us, know that weekend would be cut short…

My sister was divorced and was enjoying the activities of what single life entailed – going out to the nightclubs on weekends to dance and listen to some good old-fashioned music! Well, her three children had made plans to stay with friends of theirs that weekend, and an old friend of hers happened to come for a visit and ask her to go out on the town. Not wanting to leave me alone, she said I would have to come along. Much to my negative response of not wanting to go, she continued insisting and I finally, begrudgingly gave in.

We went to a nightclub that we had often frequented in the past and stayed for awhile until she and her male counterpart decided they wanted to check out another place. I refused to go and spotted a former friend I hadn’t seen in a while and engaged in conversation with him. She spoke to him briefly and said they would just go for a little while and would be back to pick me up. I took it that she thought my friend would hang out with me until they returned!

An hour or so passed and my friend said he needed to leave, as he had to get up very early the next morning. I sat at the little round table in the corner alone, listening to the band until the bartender announced, “Last call for alcohol”. Next thing I knew, the bouncer walked up and told me I had to leave, “…time to vacate the premises & lock up shop!” I tried to explain that I was waiting for my sister to come back to pick me up, but he simply stated that I needed to “wait outside.”

I exited the building, not knowing what else to do. I looked around, hoping to see my sister and her friend pull up to pick me up. But not a sight of them anywhere! I noticed an army guy that worked with my friend I had talked to earlier and asked him if he could give me a ride to my friend’s so I could have him take me home. He said he was with other guys, but he would see if I could get a ride with them.

Without dragging this story out too long with daunting details, I’ll skip to where this “ride” lead. The car pulled up, and I got in with the “friend of my friend, the driver of the car and the passenger in the back seat. They took me to the dorms where “my friend” should have been, but after I checked his room, knocked desperately on the door (to no avail), I returned to the parking lot to see the three army guys standing by the car. I approached, telling them he didn’t answer and asked if they could take me to the police station so I could get a ride to my sister’s house. Their plans had already been decided. My night on the town soon turned into a night of terror.

During the next few hours, I was repeatedly raped and abused. Then I was taken back to the car. Instead of releasing me, one of the men then took me to another location. Fear enveloped me as questions ran through my mind. “Where was he taking me? God, why is this happening to me? Is this going to end? “How” is this going to end??? ”

Once again, I was raped. My captor then opened the car door, got out of the driver’s side, walked around to the passenger’s side, told me to slide behind the wheel, threw the keys at me as he slid into the car and said I could drive to my sister’s! My mind was not in a state of rationalization, nor did I remember the actions taken in driving myself to my sister’s house. All I can possibly accredit my safe arrival to is only the sheer grace of God!! As I pulled up in my sister’s driveway and grabbed the door handle to get out, he threatened me, “Don’t tell anyone what happened tonight, because the big guy WILL come find you!”

I broke down and told my sister and her male friend what had happened! Her male friend took me to the infirmary and the doctors called the military police. I was tended to & cleaned up, then taken to the crime scenes to verify my story. I had to return the next day for a lineup where I identified both guys.

Two years later I received a certified letter while I was living on a military base in Germany. I was married and we were expecting our first child. The letter was from the U.S. Dept of Criminal Justice, stating that the trial had taken place, and both militants had been tried and found guilty and were dishonorably discharged from the Army! But no sentence or jail time for either! I remember thinking, “Justice… is that what you call it?”

I continued to live my life, and raise two sons.  My first marriage lasted sixteen years. Thirteen years later I remarried. That one lasted four years. Although both of my marriages ended in divorce, I watched my two wonderful, blessed sons grow up and get married. One of my sons has given me two of the most treasured blessings I claim – my grandson & granddaughter!!

My family are my treasures and this life is where I am meant to be…The past? It’s dead & gone… buried! Those buried bones I spoke of earlier did get dug up… but not in the way you would imagine. Again, God’s mercy and grace prevailed!

I was approached at a random meeting by someone in the Criminal Justice Department in Texas (where I lived after I married & raised my children). I told my story and of how God brought me through everything with His protecting angels all around me. I shared how I could have died in these instances, but by God’s grace, I’m alive today and healthy and well, with bountiful blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me through His love for me – HIS child! His child… ‘that’ I am! I told him that God watched in pain as these things happened to me throughout my life, but He did NOT allow any of it to destroy me or take my life! He had guarded, guided, and protected me and brought me to a ‘safe’ place!’

After hearing my story, this official asked me if I would be willing to share my story with others and tell them about how it impacted my past AND my current life! I accepted, not knowing what I was getting into or the difference it would make in my life!

I spoke to parole officers in training, as well as “parolees” who were in prison for committing the same crimes that had been committed against me!  How powerful our God is!! This was another chapter of my life – the one I call “the forgiving chapter”! This is where I came ‘face-to-face’ with those who have hurt and caused pain and suffering to others like myself… THIS was GOD reaching out (through me and my life’s story) to these criminals (sinners) to let them know that HE is all-powerful, yet He is a forgiving God! He allowed me to witness to these men about how HE brought me through all of my past! And through this came “forgiveness”.I realized I no longer had the hate and anger ‘buried’ inside of me toward those men from my past for what they had done to me! In a sense, you could say “God brought me ‘to’ prison to free me ‘from’ my own prison!”

God had allowed me to be a part of a family who knew Him, served Him, and loved Him. My parents taught me how to believe in God. Through attending church regularly, I was taught about how we, our world, and everything in it and beyond was created. I learned about the hardships of people throughout the Bible and about how God delivered those who believed through it all! I learned about Jesus’ birth, His life, and all the torture, pain, and suffering He went through before dying on the cross for the sins of the world. And I learned about how Jesus resurrected back to life so that I/we could live beyond all the tribulations we have here on earth!

At the age of thirteen, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I realized then that I was not alone on my journey and that He had been by my side in my “innocence of life!” Although I did encounter terrible tragedies later in my life, I now know that God was, is, and ‘always’ will be by my side no matter what my future unfolds!

Today, through my past, both good and bad, I reflect on where God was in my life. He was by my side, holding my hand, and carrying me through the parts of my life that I would not have survived – without HIM! I am blessed to attend a wonderful church who loves and serves God “wholeheartedly”. I too, serve in this church through ministries God has placed before me to show how awesome He is and how HE provides for each and every one of His children, through any and all circumstances throughout our lives!

Besides working in our church bookstore, I am a leader of a wonderful Life Group called “Challengers”. I also am a part of an amazing God-given ministry called God Behind Bars, which allows me to attend ‘our’ church’s service in the very same prison God took me to when He opened the door for my healing to begin, as well as my “purpose” to be revealed! God is so  awesome, and amazing beyond our comprehension, but totally within our acceptance!

There are precious memories I hold on to of years gone by – that I will forever reminisce and thank God for as I smile with much appreciation and gratitude…Thank You, God, for always staying by me, for preserving my life, for showing me there are greater pains than all I have ever been through, and for my life eternal – my salvation!

One day I shall see my parents who are in Heaven… along with my sister and other loved ones who have long since passed. But as long as I am on this earth, I daily thank God that I can minister through my testimony and I am grateful that He has molded me into a vessel that He so carefully and lovingly guards, guides and protects, yet employs for His services to others.

Forgiveness is the key to a faulty lock that you thought could never be opened! How did I get through all of my past, you ask? Not ‘just’ by the Grace of God, but by His genuine love, His purpose, and His plan for me…And now, today…I look forward to my future, watching my children and grandchildren as their lives change, grow, and unfold the way God plans… watching and living the rest of my life, as it, too, turns page-by-page, as my book is being written by the hand of our Almighty God, who turns our scars into STARS!