Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hidden Treasures of a Life with Big Bertha!

Everywhere I go Big Bertha comes along.  She is my best friend, and I would be lost without her.  This morning I was thinking about the miles we have gone together.  I reflected on the countless time sitting together with a cup of coffee and Pebbles, my dog, at our side. During the most difficult times in my life, Big Bertha has been there for me.  Big Bertha is the name I have given to my Bible.

Time has not been kind to her.  She is tattered and worn, and some people say she needs to be upgraded for a new model.  When I look at her, I don’t see the frayed pages or the coming apart binding. Instead, I see the treasure she has been to me for so many years.  When I look at her, I see joy, peace, love, compassion, direction, truth along with conviction, correction, sorrow and stories of deep pain.

Also, as I look at her, I see myself.  I look like her!  I, too, have been tattered and torn over time.  I don’t move as easily anymore, and I have wrinkles and a few broken parts.  My face and body sag little, and extra pounds keep appearing out of thin air. None of this really matters because, like Big Bertha, I am actually a reflection of all things I love about her. I am filled with joy, peace, love, compassion, comfort, and conviction.

I will keep Big Bertha at my side and continue to glean from her.  She is and will continue to be my best friend.

His Beloved Warrior Bride,

Johanna

Monday, September 25, 2017

Attractions and Distractions!

Attractions and Distractions!

Be careful what attracts you; it could distract you!  This statement popped into my head repeatedly the past few weeks.  I have woken up at night with these words on my mind.  I have been walking the dog and the words come to mind.  Initially, I kept relating it to things of the world.  I was thinking about all the things I did that could distract me from the Lord.  My biggest struggles have been related to food, shopping, and obsessive compulsive behaviors (primarily cleaning).  I began evaluating those areas one at a time.

I looked at eating habits first.  Do I get too attracted with food that it is making me unhealthy and being a distraction to time with the Lord?  Yes, I love Ballreich® potato chips and can only get them in certain parts of Ohio.  I was going out of my way to buy them and have gained a good 8 pounds of salty, crunchiness since June.  Hmm, maybe this has distracted me a bit from my new healthy eating life style.   I concluded it was time to focus on eating a little better and to save the chips for special occasions.

I then looked at my spending habits.  Am I spending too much time shopping when I don’t need or really want anything?  Is it taking time away from reading the word and communing with the Lord?  No, I am doing much better in this regard since I got some nasty over spending habits in order.  I readily checked that one off my list and felt a little sigh of relief!

Next I looked at my activities in general.  I am attracted to a well-organized, orderly home and have been guilty of spending hours cleaning drawers in the bathroom to remove every microscopic dust particle I could find.  One box of toothpicks and q-tips later, I would close the drawer with satisfaction of a job well done.  Is the time I spend cleaning and organizing becoming a distraction to the things God has for me to do?  Does my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder get the best of me or is it in proper alignment?  As I reviewed my recent activities, I began to realize that I spend more time some days on cleaning and organizing than in having quality time with the grandkids and just being cheerfully available to them.  I have been distracted with keeping everything in order and have missed out on some precious moments.

Being an extroverted/introvert, I truly enjoy being by myself, undisturbed in the quietness of my surroundings.  As I began to look more closely at my daily activities, I realized I spend too much time alone. My preference for solitude is causing me to lose out on precious times with family, neighbors, friends and strangers.  Yes, I understand I need silence and solitude to help me rejuvenate, but my life needs to be balanced. If I desire to share Christ’s love with others, I need to engage people. It is hard to share Christ’s love with others when I am living in solitary confinement.  I have to force myself to get out and socialize more and be a light to the dark world.  It is too easy and comfortable to distract myself with being alone.

Finally, the biggest “Ah ha” moment for me was this morning.  I finished my morning quiet time and looked at pictures on my phone.  I began pulling up all the pictures of my beloved.  I was reminiscing and laughing when, all of the sudden, I felt a tug at my heart.  It felt like someone was trying to pull me backwards down into a dark tunnel.  My heart began to beat faster; my mind began to race, and deep sorrow tried to grab a hold of me.  I recognized it for what it was for me.  It was a distraction of the enemy trying to reverse the gains I made in my grief journey.  I could literally feel the tug and the pull becoming stronger.  At the very moment when I realized what was happening, I thanked the Lord for my husband and the time we had together.
I immediately thanked Him for the memories and the journey and began to rejoice in how far I have come.  At that very moment, my heart quit racing; my mind calmed down.  I closed the photos thankful I realized what was happening.  The enemy was trying to use the memories of my beloved as a distraction to what the Lord had for me today.  Had I gone back down the long dark tunnel, the rest of the day I would have missed much that the Lord has for me.  I would have missed seeing the robins and cardinals chasing each other around the trees.  I would have closed myself in my room full of grief and sorrow and missed hearing about the great day my grandchildren had at school.  Memories are important and I cherish each one, yet I will not allow them to distract me from the hope and the future I have as I live each day of this new journey in my life.

Jeremiah 29:11-13(NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I don’t want distractions to get in the way of my service to the Lord, and I do want to seek Him with all of my heart!  This journey is not easy, but it is worth it knowing that my Savior poured out His life on my behalf.  I continue to ask the Lord to reveal areas of my life that have distracted me, and I know He is faithful to answer my plea.  Dear friends, be ever so careful to assess what attracts you to ensure it does not distract you!

His Beloved Warrior Bride,

Johanna

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Trail of Tears!

As I walk this journey with the Lord, I feel His strength in me. In spite of that strength, there are times, though, that my emotions rise up and tears violently hit me.

Why does this happen? It is because I am human, and I love deeply and feel deeply. Is it wrong?  Does it mean I have gone backwards in my journey?  No, it is good I can feel the emotions. It is part of my inner healing, and it is good that I am learning to embrace these times!

I used to bottle things up inside. I thought it was good to never show emotion. I was a walking robot!

No more!  I have let my guard down and allowed myself to feel and feel deeply as I have grieved. It has been good for me, because it has helped me in my healing process. I will no longer be a robot. I will be balanced and transparent and allow the Holy Spirit to mold me further into the woman He wants me to be.

My journey in life changed when my beloved died, but that does not mean my journey can't be as good or even better.  I want to go forward and continue the journey the Lord has placed before me.  In my own strength, I can’t do this. The only way I am able to do it is with the Lord’s strength and guidance. He is my life line and confidant, and He remains my closest friend. I am thankful for His strength, and His divine plan. For the time I have left on this earth. I will purpose to do His will.

Yes, tears will still flow, and I will continue to grieve, but embracing this new life is one of the best things I could do to honor both my Christ and my beloved.

His Beloved Warrior Bride,

Johanna

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Simply Blessed!

I am so fortunate!  I have a wonderful family, friends, home, car and clothes.  All the comforts of a middle class US lifestyle are at my fingertips.  I don’t need to worry about the water I drink or where I will get my next meal.  I sleep in a comfortable bed with plenty of blankets, pillows and a lovely Egyptian cotton sheet.  My bed clothes are clean and smell fresh.

The chair I sit in each morning fits me perfectly.  It is cushioned exactly to my taste.  The arms on the chair are the right height, and I have a nice ottoman that I share with my dog, Pebbles.  Next to my chair is a small metal table with a lamp and a coffee warmer.  The table is full of books overflowing onto the floor.

I sit here this morning covered up with just the right size and weight blanket as I begin my morning quiet time.  The temperature in the room is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is 50 degrees outside with rays of sunlight dancing off the leaves on the plants and trees.  I hear the mating calls of quail and phainopepla.  It is spring in the desert southwest.

All of this is so comforting and so beautiful.  I am truly blessed!

The Lord has put me in this quiet place to reflect, pray and heal.  He has called me to sit quietly while He speaks new promises, new direction and deeper peace to my soul.  I have been given these gifts in preparation for the upcoming season.

As I sit at His feet this year, I have no idea what is in my future.  I only know that He has called me to bask, bathe and drink in everything around me. 

Thank you Lord for these gifts.  Thank you for guiding me in your ways and holding me tight along the way.  I continue to look with longing, wanting to know you more.  Let me continue to walk this new road with joy and peace knowing you have my BEST interests in mind.  Thank you for this time of refreshing as I prepare for my new assignment as your Beloved Warrior Bride!

Psalm 28:7
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.”  NIV

Psalm 27:14
“Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord.” NIV


Johanna

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Un-Wrapping my Gift!

I have been sitting here this morning wondering what to write.  What word can I give to others walking through this grief journey with me.  I looked through my journals and found nothing.  I began to write a post and decided it did not flow together well.

All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind, yet nothing seemed to be coming together on paper.  The Lord was simply saying “write.”  “Write down whatever you are thinking, and I will direct you in what goes on the blog and what stays hidden in your journal.”

Writing has recently become my passion. I previously thought I couldn’t write and that I had nothing important to share.  It wasn’t until my husband died that I realized I do have a gift to write.

This realization came suddenly one day during my quiet time with the Lord.  I had written a couple of posts. When I looked back on them, I began to realize how God was using me to write down words that would be of help and healing to others.  I sat in astonishment and pure awe that anything remotely intelligible would flow through me to others.  I wept thinking about this precious gift that had been on a shelf all of my life.  I have been given a great opportunity to share HIS love, grace, and mercy through being transparent with my own sufferings and challenges.

Opening myself up to others and being real has been a process for me.  I had always prided myself in being able to handle and juggle stressful life events well. In reality, I was a silent train wreck - living in an enclosed fortress of deep pain, sorrow, loss, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and unrealistic expectations.  It wasn’t until I asked the Lord to begin chipping away the walls that healing began and I was able to honestly share with others my life’s journey.

The more I shared and opened up, the stronger my desire became to share even more in hopes it would help someone else.  I no longer wanted to wear a mask and pretend I was okay all of the time.  I wanted others to know that the journey as a Christian woman is not easy.  Yes, I have eternal life to look forward to when I take my last breath, but in the meantime, I need to navigate this world and what it throws at me each day.  Some days, it is much easier than others.  I haven’t lost my faith through the hardships, but actually have been able to grow stronger.  The challenges have helped me grasp more tightly to the understanding of Christ’s sufferings and sacrifice on my behalf.

I have taken time to read and re-read scriptures about suffering and being Christ like. My pain is but a speck in comparison to His; yet, He cries with me and understands each moment of my sorrow and pain.  It is important to Him, and He grieves with me. 

Realizing that my journey may help others inspires me to keep writing and keep going forward.  I will continue to write and journal and allow the Holy Spirit to flow through me.  I will open up hidden things in my heart that have been healed so others can see they, too, can go forward and get healing.  I will be another voice crying in the wilderness pointing people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  I will do this with as much grace and humility as I can muster in order to truly be a light for Christ in this dark world.

Yes, l suffered deeply, but I can honestly say I received so much more healing and have more joy because of my sorrows.  These scars allow me to honestly share the depth of Christ’s healing power and love from a heart of experience.

I am taking this gift off the shelf and unwrapping it for HIS glory and to help others in similar situations.  Is it time for you to do the same?

Forever,


His Beloved Warrior Bride

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Flourishing in the New!

Fifteen years ago my mother gave me an Amaryllis.  It sat in the corner of my Hummingbird garden until a year ago when I moved into a new home.

During the entire 15 years, the plant lived but never grew and never blossomed.  When I moved into my new home a friend and her husband helped create a beautiful desert paradise in my back yard.  Lantana and new soil were added to my Amaryllis.  It received a great amount of sun and plenty of water.

Recently, while I was out in the yard, to my amazement I noticed the plant had grown tall and was blooming.  Beautiful flowers were open and stood stately in the planter.  I was shocked.  I had not previously noticed the growth and ensuing beauty.  I had been busy watering and tending to the plants but had not taken time to sit and enjoy their beauty.  It was in a quiet moment with the Lord that I looked up and saw the bloom.  I was in awe.

The plant had lived where it was, but now it was flourishing in this new place.  It had been given new soil, more water and sun.  What a difference it made!

This is like my grief journey.  I was living and surviving, but I needed a change in order to grow and flourish.  I had moved out of the home I shared with my beloved and was creating a new place of my own. 

15 years is a long time for a plant to survive without thriving.  As I relate it to grief, I am thankful that it did not take me 15 years to decide to move forward with my life.  I don’t want to just survive, but to flourish and thrive.  As I turned the corner and began to see light in the darkness, things began to change.  I had a new perspective on life, love, happiness and joy.  I slowly began to realize that I had a lot left to give others and to also give myself.  I saw a complete person in Christ instead of being Don’s wife.  I might no longer carry that Title around people, but that is now okay with me.  I am His Beloved Warrior Bride!  I was given a new name and a new purpose in life. 

Loss causes a plethora of emotions and I probably had all of them.  It wasn’t until I began to want to live again that new emotions surfaced.  Joy, Gladness, Contentment and Peace began to fill my heart and mind.  I slowly began to see changes, and one day I looked back and realized how far I had come.  It was as though a light bulb switched on, and I realized I was happier, more content, full of joy and peace and glad to be going forward with life!  My journey is far from over, but now 4 years later, I can truly say that I am living again. 

All of us love and grieve differently.  None of us will have the exact story, but we are all on this road together linked arm and arm.  As you walk your journey, I would pray that the Holy Spirit begin to gently encourage you to allow yourself to begin moving forward.  Each moment you breathe, each step you take is another step forward.  Allow your mind and spirit to go with you!  As you commit to this, one day you, too, will be flourishing.

His Beloved Warrior Bride,

Johanna