{Love} The Journey of Singleness

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Guest Post by: Kerrington Sweeney

“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.” Jeremiah 29:11

The struggle, we as single women face so often, is the picture we have embedded in our heads of how our lives are supposed to be. If that snapshot in your dream-scrapbook includes a handsome hubby by your side, you’re probably wondering about now where he is. Yeah, I thought he’d be here by now. Plenty of other godly, single women are thinking the same thing. I included… But my heart breaks for the many women I have met over the years who have settled for less than their God-given best and gave in on the journey of waiting.

Women who didn’t believe that they were worth the fight and incredibly amazing…I am saddened by how easy it is for us women to give our hearts away, sometimes to the most undeserving of men.

Women will only begin to be choosy when they believe that they are worth choosing. When we begin to believe we are treasures worth finding, our mindsets instantly begin to change.

Choosing to wait for our future spouses’ goes beyond a boundary, it goes beyond any rules. It is overflowing in love, purity, and true desires. I choose to wait, for whoever God has for me, because I believe that this season of waiting will help mold me into the Woman of God He has called me to be.

I think part of our problem as single Christian women lies in the fear of unconditionally trusting God. Deep down, we want to fully trust Him, but we wonder if we truly can. We wonder if He knows us, as well, as we think we know ourselves.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 3:5

I believe waiting will teach each of us to trust God with everything…Even if it is our ‘love lives’. Keep in mind that God isn’t keeping that wonderful man from you. Nor has He forgotten that you’re still waiting. You don’t have to begin investing all your energy looking just right, or being in the right place at the right time to find God’s match for you.

Instead, our energies are better spent pursuing our Heavenly Father. God created each of us with one sole purpose of knowing Him and making Him known.

Our singleness is God’s perfect place to thrive. Remember, you don’t have to wait for your “knight-in-shining-armor” to start living.

You can know the Lord fully and serve Him wholly right here, right now. The purpose. I believe, in our singleness is to take every day and glorify Jesus in everything we do.

It is an incredible opportunity to be able to spend hours with God in prayer, in fasting, and in worship. It is an opportunity to let our lives be true living sacrifices. My desire for my life is to always be a reminder to the world that singleness does not mean you’re “stuck”.

Waiting is an opportunity for God to purify and perfect His will in our lives. The longer we wait, the more time we can invest in becoming more Christ-like as Single Ladies.

Every day is an opportunity to be refined in God’s fiery love.

Every day is an opportunity to say yes to love and no to fear.

Every day is an opportunity to open locked doors in our hearts and to discover hidden talents and desires.

Every day is an opportunity to go deeper in God’s love.

When we begin looking at this season of waiting, as an opportunity to be purified and refined for a possible spouse, it most definitely becomes so much more of a grand adventure! Instead of dreading each new day, wondering if every person we see is “the one” we can start living right now. We now can choose to see the beauty in each and every day, knowing that it is shaping us to be, whom He called us to be- A Lover of our Heavenly Father.

The journey to one day becoming a Wife starts now. Today matters. How we respond to the things of today will determine how our tomorrow goes. Though the battle may get tough, seek your strength from prayer. Be open, and trustworthy, and live in full communion with our Heavenly Father. Love waits…patiently.

We all have a choice in how we can live our lives. We can look forward to what God has for us today and every day to come, or impatiently wait for the day we will meet “the one” and possibly risk missing out on God-ordained opportunities.

As much as we desperately want to plan out our picture-perfect lives, we unfortunately can’t; but on the brighter side of that, life always has a way of surprising us with unexpected things that will be even happier than we originally planned.

In conclusion …

Dear Sweet Single Sisters,

Never be ashamed of your Singleness! Just because you’re the only girl you know who isn’t dating, doesn’t mean you aren’t worth waiting for…There is a man out there waiting just as patiently as you are, you just have to TRUST God! Never forget, that YOU are worth the wait!

Meet the Author:

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Kerrington Sweeney is the President and Founder of Uniquely Yours Ministries, a ministry dedicated to challenging, equipping and encouraging women. She is truly an Ambassador of Jesus Christ. She has a sincere burning desire within her, to see women rise up and be everything God has truly called each of them to be. She carries a mantle of community and walks with divine purpose to empower and compel women of faith. Kerrington, feel’s God’s ‘call’ to embark on the journey of a lifestyle fully committed to ministry and the expansion of God’s Kingdom.

 

Blog: www.uniquelyyoursministries.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/uniquleyyours/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/uymblog/?hl=en

 

 

I Am Done Running

Guest Post by Rachael Smith

lady sitting down and looking at the citySix trail races, two triathlons, and two marathons in the fall. I am ready to rest.

My last run before this past marathon got me thinking. I once believed that runners were running from something. I realized that I’m not running from something. I’m running to something. Although this has not always been the case.

I’ve been running since I was 14, and it was truly because I enjoyed it (and didn’t have the coordination to play a sport with a ball). My first road race was when I was 21. Then I attempted twice to train for a marathon but had to quit because of injuries. When I finally did accomplish it in 2003, it was because I was running away…

In March of 2003 my mom went into the hospital suddenly. She had cancer and was in a drug-induced coma. The doctors didn’t expect much, but we had hope. In June, my hubby and I moved to Atlanta. In July, my mom was gone. I had so much anger, and hurt, and heartbreak. I was in a new city with a new job with no friends and no family. So I ran. And ran. And ran. It was my therapy.

After my first marathon I decided to do another, and another, and…you get the point. Somewhere along the way I did let go of the anger, and was able to find peace and even joy in the heartbreak I had experienced. But any time my world starts to crumble, I plan another race. Hence these past two marathons.

Back in August I found out I was expecting again! Followed by learning that I was having a miscarriage (my second). I cried and yelled and cussed when I first discovered that I was losing it. But when they gave me the official word, nothing. Not a drop of saline came from my eyes. For nearly two months, until my last training run. And I realized that I had been running away again. This song “Forever Reign” by Hillsong came on during my run that day. Here is the chorus:

Oh, I’m running to Your arms

I’m running to Your arms

The riches of Your love

Will always be enough

Nothing compares to Your embrace

Light of the world forever reign

And at that moment I decided that I’m not running away any longer. I’m running to my Lord, my Savior, my Love. That night I cried, and it felt so good.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there will be more heartbreaks in my future. And I’m sure I will be out there running. It is my stress reliever and therapy. The Lord has made me with the ability and the desire to do so. But I know that I will be running to the promises that He has for me.

Meet Rachael Smith:

Rachael Smith

I am a follower of Christ, wife of 15 years, mom to 3 children, and hopefully more through adoption. Currently I am trying out this homeschooling thing and hoping that I’m not ruining my children. Training for marathons and triathlons helps me be a nicer person. Pretty much I’m trying to fit it all in and somehow stay sane through it all.
You can connect with Rachael on her website.

 

 

My Family’s Resolution: Successful Money Management in the New Year

donna fitzgerald

Guest Post by Donna Fitzgerald

Last year, our family was in debt and we still are. Really, which family doesn’t have debt from time to time, but I felt our family unit starting to crumble under the weight of overwhelming debt. This year, my husband and I made resolutions to manage our money successfully, stay afloat, cut out our financial stress, and provide a more promising future for our children. Seems a bit daunting, but if we survived last year, I believe we can do anything.

 

It began in the fall of last year. As I walked our daughters, ages 5 and 8, to school on the first day, I received a call from my husband. I assumed that he was calling to wish the girls a “happy first day”, but as soon as I heard his voice I knew something was wrong. Knowing that our girls pay close attention to every phone call I receive, I played it off like no big deal ( I didn’t want them to worry…we have worriers).

 

“I was let go of my job,” he said, “I’m so sorry.” My husband’s voice began to break over the phone, I had only heard it do that three times in our life together. My husband worked at a university as an adjunct professor and there were rumors of major budget cuts, but he had assured me that his position was secure. He was one of the first to be let go and he had no real security at all. I felt my heart sink. We were already struggling financially, but my husband’s income was keeping us financially afloat.

 

“It’s okay,” I managed to find the words. ”We will figure it all out.”

 

Months later, as the bills were mounting up and my husband’s multiple interviews brought little promise, we were slowly unraveling. Our daughters began to notice the lack of harmony in our home, as my husband and I grew impatient with one another. We thought we were financially organized. We thought we had it all figured out.

 

As I talked with a close friend one afternoon over coffee, she simply asked, “Well, what’s your budget?” I stared at her, like a deer in headlights. We didn’t have a budget. How could we be so irresponsible…and budget-less? Our personal finances were a complete mess and we’d been in denial for such a long time. After dropping the girls off at a friend’s house, I returned home, grabbed a notepad, our large stack of bills, a glass of wine, and created a budget with my husband.

Our Budget

 

After I got over the initial tears and minor panic attack of sitting down and figuring out all of our monthly expenses, we quickly realized where we were overspending. After a month, we began to notice that we were saving a couple hundred dollars by simply cutting the following (we can do much more):

 

  • We got rid of cable and kept a streaming service
  • I started buying clothes at second-hand stores
  • We stopped buying brand name foods, started couponing, and signed up for the store reward program
  • We stopped driving our second car and did more carpooling
  • We started hosting potlucks rather than going out to eat with friends
  • I gave up my daily latte and started making my own version at home
  • I cancelled two magazine subscriptions and opted for the free limited online version

More Time at Home Equals Family Time

 

Our family was hurting and in order to fix the hurt and confusion of a stressful situation, we needed to spend more time together. As my husband and I were trying to sort our financial mess out, our daughters were spending a lot of time with friends and family. We felt guilty and selfish. In the past, we used to go out to eat multiple times a week and we’d return home to our own screen time and we thought we were a happy family, but we needed help.

 

Now, we take turns cooking dinner each night and the girls are in charge of creating a meal one night a week. They find a recipe they would like to try, watch a video, and ask us for help if they need it. Instead of going to the movies a couple of times a month, we go to the library and check out movies or watch movies on our streaming service. We pay attention to “free” events around town, such as art and musical festivals and we spend more time outdoors.

Money Management Takes Time, Be Patient

 

My husband found a temporary position at the community college and we continue to save money by not spending as much. Our debt did not happen overnight. Getting out of debt will not be easy either. We have a long way to go, but we are slowly improving our debt. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

How has your family saved money and cut debt?

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Meet the Author:

Donna Fitzgerald is a guest blogger who enjoys composing various works around health and family wellness subjects. She is an avid reader and writer. In her spare time, you can find Donna enjoying the calm ocean waters, while she relaxes at the beach. Generally, she is accompanied by a novel. Donna has two daughters, and is an advocate for helping other families remain healthy through finances and health aspects.

Follow Donna on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

Sinking Sand

sandFor vacation, my family and I enjoy spending the week at the beach. As much as I enjoy the ocean waves, I do not venture out too far in the water. Most of my time is spent near the shoreline. I just cannot get past the idea that I am sharing that big “pool” with lots of things with sharp teeth!

With so much happening in life right now, I could not help but reflect on my time at the beach and how the pull of the ocean waves resembled life at times.
As the water rushed in and drifted back out, I could feel its strong pull on my body. It made it very difficult to keep my balance, especially as the sand was washed out from under my feet. It made me think of the scripture in Matthew 7:24-27:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Difficult times (the “waves”) will come and go in your life. It’s inevitable. How do you cope when you lose your balance? What is your foundation built upon…the Rock (God) or the sand (world)?

Passages:

Deuteronomy 31:8

Psalms 91:2, 27:5

1 Peter 5:10

February 2016 Theme- Open Call

Feb 2016 theme

February is the month we “celebrate” love but I want to go deeper. What does that mean to you  beyond the chocolate and flowers? Tell us your story of how you are learning to love yourself. Share a funny story about your marriage (PG only) or how you met your spouse or what it means to be single.

(Please feel free to share your favorite scripture in your submitted post! Heartskeeper is a faith-based blog reaching out to all walks of life, encouraging even in the trenches!)

January was a serious month so lets infuse some humor into Heartskeeper.  If you are unsure if your story will fit, make sure to check out the submission requirements here.

Ready, set, go!

How a Dog Helped Heal My Shame

My four-year old son had been begging for his first dog for months. With Christmas nearly here, he was upping the intensity daily. The final straw for me was his cry of, “Will you stop being mean and let Santa bring me a dog?”

 

I had been not-so-secretly pulling for him all along, but I wanted to honor my wife’s concerns, too. We also have a 20 month old daughter, who isn’t so sure what to think about dogs. Lindsey and I discussed the pros and cons and finally settled on testing out a foster dog we could adopt if things went well.

 

Two days later, I picked up my son from daycare with a surprise. Santa wasn’t getting credit for this one. When I opened the door, he squealed with excitement, just like I had hoped. The dog’s tail wagged and her entire body shook as my little boy climbed into his seat.

 

“Where did this dog come from? Is she coming home with us? Can she sit in my lap? What’s her name?” I adjusted the rearview mirror, not wanting to miss a single detail of his excitement. “Yea buddy, she’s your new dog. Merry Christmas.” For the moment, I was his hero.

 

Later, my wife and I sat in bed, talking over the day’s excitement. Suddenly, I broke down crying as I thought back to the day I missed my son’s first birthday party. That day, I was nobody’s hero. Part of me hopes he never finds out, but the story of my suicide attempt is not a secret.

 

The police and EMT’s entered my hotel room when I didn’t show up for an out-of-town contract assignment. Ten hours earlier, I had taken thousands of milligrams of prescription and over-the-counter medications, determined to end my shame and pain forever.

 

A life marked by shame and fear is true for most victims of childhood sexual assault. I feared turning into my abuser, or never becoming a “real man.” In addition, I grew tired of constantly looking over my shoulder, hoping no one would find out about my porn addiction. And in the day-to-day, I feared my wife. I was terrified she would discover just how screwed up I was, and decide I was not strong enough, committed enough, or sane enough. As irrational as it is, I would have rather died than face my shame.

 

After my suicide attempt, several people told my wife to leave me. Staying didn’t make sense, from the outside looking in, but she trusted her heart and believed in the guy who had once been on top of the world. Lindsey waited for the day when it no longer felt like the world was on top of him.

 

When I was released from ICU and the psych ward, we started months of intense marriage counseling and, I began individual therapy. It wasn’t always easy. But, the day our marriage counselor connected the dots between my abuse, a twenty year porn addiction, and my suicide attempt changed my life forever. She helped us both see that shame was at the core of all the pain. All at once my life began to make sense

 

I can never get back my son’s first birthday party: the gifts, gathering of friends and family, or the Curious George smash cake. Even though Lindsey had a second cake made after I was released from the hospital, I missed the real one. He may never know, but I do.

 

As we lay in bed, my wife said, “I rarely think about that first birthday. What I think about are all the memories we have created since. I can’t help but think our relationship would have never become this deep if we hadn’t walked through such a living hell. The thing is, we walked through it together.” I wiped my eyes, thankful for another chance.

 

We have lived through the or worse part of our marriage vows and now, together, we are creating better days. Things aren’t perfect, but because my wife stuck with me through my darkest days, together, we are reaping the benefits of recovery.

 

Life tries to get the best of us at times and sometimes, it works. No one is immune from difficult experiences. Shame impacts everyone. The good news is forgiveness does too. Because my wife was willing to say my failure wasn’t final, my children will grow up with a father who knows the power of vulnerability, trust, and boundaries. As a result, we are loosening the grip of shame from our family, one intentional act at a time.

 

I missed my son’s first birthday, but I am here now and am more determined than ever to make every day count. Getting a dog for a four-year old and a toddler might not make sense. But we are doing our best with the knowledge we have today, for the sake of our marriage, and our children. Isn’t that the goal? None of us will get it all right all the time, and no one can take away the smile from my son with his Christmas present this year. His very own brand-new dog.

 

Originally posted at Good Men Project.

Meet the Author:
Bio: Steve Austin is a writer, family man, and photographer from Birmingham, Alabama. Steve is passionate about capturing stories of God’s purpose and the power of second chances. Steve blogs regularly at www.iamsteveaustin.com and you can also connect with him on Facebook and Instagram.

She Brings Joy

mom and bea

Guest Post: Sarah Grandfield-Connors

My daughter died from a lethal congenital defect. I work to help people see her humanity. I hope to encourage families to choose life.

I knew I was pregnant early on. My doctor confirmed this, sending me home with a bag of goodies for new moms. I was ecstatic. For six years I prayed for this baby. I went to my second appointment, at 9 weeks, with my teenaged step-daughter so she could see our baby during a scheduled ultrasound. I’d already had an ultrasound at 6 weeks. I was looking forward to having images of my baby’s first weeks of life. I didn’t know how important these photos would be. In the quiet exam room we waited for the tech to come and talked about what a baby would be like in our home. She and I had chosen a name, if the baby was a girl, Beatrix. My husband was amenable, so this name stuck. We had a perfect view of the ultrasound screen when we began, however I immediately knew something was wrong. My step-daughter was unaware of any irregularity, this being her first time seeing an ultrasound. I understood what the tech’s silence could mean. She seemed to be moving between my daughter and the screen, which was turned away from me. I asked if the baby’s heart was beating. It was, so I didn’t worry much after that. The only pregnancy complication I could imagine was miscarriage, and miscarried babies didn’t have beating hearts. After our ultrasound we returned to the waiting room. Before long my doctor called me into her office. She explained I was beginning to miscarry my baby. His/her heart was beating very rapidly and weakly. She believed I’d been infected with a virus. She took blood for testing and gave me instructions regarding what to do if I began spotting. I met my daughter in the waiting room and we walked out together. I didn’t miscarry. There was no virus.

At 12 weeks my husband and I went in for a nuchal fold translucency test. The doctor found a large amount of fluid in the baby’s nuchal fold. The tentative diagnosis was a genetic disorder, most likely Down’s syndrome. After the appointment we sat in our car contemplating life with a special needs child. We agreed we would carry this baby for as long as we could. At 16 weeks we had an early fetal anatomy scan. The thickened nuchal fold had grown and was joined by an omphalocele. With both problems and my age (35) the chances of a genetic defect were 90% which was likely not Down’s. This was the first time we heard the term “incompatible with life”. We had an amnio the same day. Our doctor explained that even if we didn’t terminate, it would help the baby in terms of treatment after birth.  Afterwards we spoke to a genetic counselor. She was horrible. She referred to our baby as “the products of conception”, rather than a human being. Our baby was diagnosed with Trisomy 13 based on ultrasound images. The rapid results of the amnio told us our child had no genetic defects and our baby was a girl. My hope blossomed.
Beatrix astounded doctors who’d insisted I would miscarry early, yet they continued pushing termination. Even with her grim prognosis we should have been allowed to enjoy her while she was living.
Eventually I searched for, and found, a specialist who would help us without judgement. Because he detected new problems he felt our local hospital would not be equipped to care for Beatrix. He suggested a large children’s hospital an hour away. He and doctors there would co-manage our care.  The hospital would do an evaluation at about 26 weeks (including MRI), but other than this appointment my specialist would see me until 34 weeks, when the hospital would take over managing my pregnancy. At the evaluation our world turned upside down. The list of things “wrong” with our baby grew significantly. In addition to multiple newly discovered defects, the MRI showed she had virtually no umbilical cord, which meant she could get stuck in the birth canal and I could hemorrhage. I knew what it was before they gave us the diagnosis.  I had discovered this disorder when researching her defects. Limb Body Wall Complex. We continued with care. We wanted our baby to live and would not give up hope she could be an exception to the statistics.  We provided them with medical journal articles featuring anecdotal stories of survivors. One doctor laughed while patting my knee, saying “you are a tenacious one, aren’t you?” Beatrix’s LBWC was most evident in the lower portion of her body. Her brain, heart and circulatory system were perfect. Her arms moved, and we could see her perfect face in ultrasounds. We’d even seen her smile. Because her anomalies were low, and we’d seen evidence of her practice breathing, we believed she could possibly breath at birth. LBWC is lethal, in most cases, because of poor lung development. We found a perinatologist who was willing to work with us. She told us, “I like to see what the baby has to say when they are born.” This was exactly what we needed. Someone who wouldn’t give up on our daughter based on her diagnosis, but would not cause suffering if survival was unlikely. We prepared ourselves for a NICU stay for Beatrix, while concurrently preparing for her death. At 34 weeks I went into labor. When Beatrix was born she was given breathing assistance, but after 20 minutes the doctors came to tell us she wasn’t going to make it. I was being stitched up so my husband went to be with her. She wrapped her tiny hand around his finger. She smiled. He brought her to me and she died peacefully in my arms. She never opened her eyes, just laying still with us before she continued on her journey home. Doctors had prepared us for a monster. When we finally saw her, we saw perfection. She had beautiful rosebud lips and the longest eyelashes. Her tiny hands and feet were perfectly formed. She had long slender legs.  When I opened her swaddling to look at her deformities, all I saw was my beautiful baby. I thought I’d be frightened. But how could anyone be frightened of such a sweet baby? I thought I wouldn’t be able to let her go. But I was the one to ask them to come for her when the time was right. I thought this would break me in two, and I wouldn’t be the same person. It has. I’m not. Most babies with LBWC are aborted. This is terrible —

There is no question in my mind of the benefits of continuing this type of pregnancy. Giving my daughter every chance for life and a peaceful death was the only gift I would ever give her. Giving myself tools to heal and hold onto her memory was a gift I could give to myself. I think I have loved Beatrix since the day I was born. My arms were made to hold her until she breathed her last. I wonder if she knew I was the one who had carried her, safe in her quiet place? I’d like to think she did, that when I kissed her and whispered in her ear, “I love you”, she recognized my voice and knew love.
I thank God I didn’t miscarry like they anticipated I would. I cannot contemplate not knowing her in this world. I’m so grateful I was able to hold her, even if only for a short time. There’s much I treasure from the morning she was born. The world disappeared. A feeling of absolute peace permeated everything around us. I remember exactly what my daughter smelled like and the weight of her in my arms. I remember the looks which passed between my husband and I, alone with our daughter, each saying goodbye our own way. How deep and quiet was the love I felt for this baby. I was frightened before she came. Now I realize it wasn’t her who I’d been afraid of: it was love. I was afraid to love her and have to give her up. I know now in allowing her to grow and live, even if only in my womb, I received a gift. This gift holds me over when I’m feeling sad or missing her. The love I was afraid of overflows in me and touches everything I do. I entitled this “She Brings Joy” for a reason. Beatrix means (in Latin) “she brings joy”. People could ask how I found joy when my baby was dying?  Those moments parenting her the way she needed to be parented were a time of complete joy. It was part of God’s plan to find this joy in the midst of sorrow. I could never explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced the same situation how simple it is to find joy in my Beatrix. My fears were overcome when my heart met hers, the first time I held her. How could I not find joy loving my baby girl? Other people see me and think of sadness. I end with this affirmation: Of the varied emotions I felt carrying Beatrix knowing she would most likely die, the greatest was the joy I felt carrying her for as long as I did.

I felt the same joy holding her tiny hand, and looking at her face for the first time. Every day when I recall holding her, I’ll remember that joy. With every passing year, I’ll sink further into the joy.

When I finish my time on this earth I’ll leave with joy, knowing I am going home, to where she awaits me.
beau two

 

 

Meet the Author:

 Sarah Grandfield-Connors is a wife, mother of 4, step-mother of 2, and pro-life blogger for Save The 1.  She’s also the founder of limbbodywallcomplex.net, a pro-life, diagnosis specific website which supports parents who continue their pregnancy after receiving the same lethal diagnosis which took her daughter, Beatrix Elizabeth.  She blogs on grief, loss, and pro-life issues pertaining to continuing a pregnancy after a lethal anomaly has been diagnosed, at www.shebringsjoy.com.

 

Dreaming Back My Faith

Amy Oestreicher

Guest Post By Amy Oestreicher

 

When I was in third grade, every night I would tightly press my fingertips together before I drifted off to sleep – it was my little language I had with God.  Somehow, I told myself, if I pressed my fingers together as tightly as I could, and felt that warmth in between each tip, whatever I said, God could hear me.  And so every night, I would do this ritual, like a grasshopper rubbing its legs together, and chant the same words:  Dear God, thank you for a beautiful day today.  Please let me live a long, happy and healthy life.  Please visit me in my dreams.  Amen.  And then I’d slowly feel my eyelids fall, and I would be transported into the world of dreams.

I remember dreaming about heaven, my favorite pop-stars coming over to play, being chased by vampires, and other embodiments of childhood fears and fantasies, but I never did see God.  When I woke up in the morning, I would run through my dream from start to finish, trying to remember every last detail and see if God was there, like a Where’s Waldo storybook.  But I never did spot God.  I often imagined him in an oak tree, right in front of my window, and told myself he never came to my dreams because he was too busy watching over me as I slept, keeping our home safe.

I rubbed my fingers together more firmly and fervently as I grew older – all the way until I was 18 years old.  I never gave up my search for God.  I saw Him in all of nature, but I wanted my own message in my dreams.  Outside my window, there were so many different trees – different shapes, colors, positions, – every tree unique and unashamed to be so.  They stood tall, and each outstretched its branches to God in its own heartfelt way – some reached wide, tall, around, and some reached deep down, the earth which is what their roots are for.  And they reach out towards each other too.  They all knew that God was everywhere – including in themselves.  This was the lesson I was to learn myself.

At 18, I had a near-death experience that would ultimately transport me into the deepest gratitude for life and daily celebration of its blessings.  In Spring of my senior year, I suddenly developed a blood clot and fell into a coma for six months after my stomach exploded, both my lungs collapsed, and I needed 122 units of blood. 

I only have vague memories of my coma, as though I was looking up at the sun from underwater.  My dreams were surreal, mismatching times, places, and alternate realities.  I had pleasant dreams of fantastical places, occasionally interrupted with muffled words that were said over my bedside.  But I still did not see God in my dreams.  My life may have changed, but my search for Him carried on.

I have fuzzy memories of slowly awakening from my coma, seeing the world from my back, untangling confusion as I dealt with tubes, bags and medical appliances stuck to me that I had never heard of before, and grappling with comments that I was “doing much better” now.  And then I remember the terribly sobering day that a doctor finally told me what was going on.  He said that I had no stomach anymore, I could not eat or drink now, and he didn’t know when or if I would be able to.  What do you say to that?  Suddenly, my childhood dreams of one day finding God shattered.  Now, it seemed as though there was no God or anyone to protect me anymore.  I felt betrayed, as though the promises made to me as a child were all lies that fervently rubbing my fingers together day after day for 18 years was all for nothing.

Losing your faith is a scary thing – especially in the midst of danger and uncertainty – because you don’t have anything substantial to stand on.  There is nothing to tell yourself when you fall, and there is nothing to push you forward, even when the future feels daunting. 

But here I was, a teenager, completely displaced out of the life I felt belonged to me, suddenly a medical marionette with a new body, vitality, literally woken up to a different reality that I could never anticipate or even comprehend as a happy-go-lucky high school senior.

Going to sleep took on an entirely different meaning in the ICU.  The lights were constantly on, and lying in bed all day, I lost my sense of day and night.  But when the day shift started to do their final rounds of vitals at 6pm, I knew that night was approaching and I anxiously started thinking about how on earth I would ever get to sleep.  At night, my ICU unit was dead quiet.  All you could hear was the occasional sound of a nurse receiving a medication from the pharmacy downstairs, which sounded like a vending machine.   I remember feeling so paralyzed at night trying to get comfortable in that narrow, still hospital bed in the lonely night.  I would stretch my arms as far over my head as I could manage, and stuff my shaky hands behind my pillow.   Quarantined to a hospital bed all day, I felt so cramped, so closed in, that closed in, that it was soothing to open up my chest when I could manage to reach my arms over my head, on the rare occasion it didn’t disrupt my constantly running IV’s.  I’d tumble around in bed for hours, eager for day to arrive with some kind of distraction – even an x-ray – anything to take my mind off the impossible quest to find one comfortable resting position.

As the hours ticked by, I would see the nurses outside by the nurses’ station sipping drinks through straws.  I felt thirst on my lips and a chill in my heart.  I longed for my “real” life to be restored, for me to leave the hospital, walk again, sleep in my own bed.  I refused to rub my fingers together.  I wasn’t sure what it was for anymore.  Most importantly, I wanted to take a sip of water.  Or know if I’d ever again enjoy that simple luxury.

One night, the unit was dead quiet as usual, so quiet I could hear a light rain start to tap on my window.  The rain quickly gained momentum, and soon it seemed to be a downpour, from what I could hear over beeping medical machinery.  I was thankful for some kind of sound, some kind of distraction – anything but that awful silence.  And for the first time since I had come to, I felt at peace…and sleepy.  I still couldn’t fall asleep, but I knew what I could do.  I could talk to God.

Nervous to bring this idea of childlike faith back into my life, I softly held my fingertips together, and I started to shift them back and forth.  It felt odd to feel my fingertips again after so much had happened – they felt wrinkly, thin and dry.  Not like the baby-soft, stubby fingers I remembered.  I took a breath as deep as I could from my groggy, mucus-filled lungs, and strained my neck to look up at the ceiling as far as I could.  Then, I remember raising my arms above my head and painting a circle of safety around my head, the shape of the sun.  In that same childhood whisper, I began to pray. Please god, grant me a miracle and let me be back in Fairfield eating and drinking again sooner than the doctors think, like maybe even in two weeks or so, please god, give me a miracle.  I repeated that word “miracle” over and over again and each time I said it I would raise my arms higher and higher, wider and wider, creating even more of a sweeping, expansive movement with my arms.

I did not drink two weeks later.   It was over three and a half years that I could even have so much as an ice chip, and food eventually followed, although that was not a straight path either.  But, a miracle did happen when I started to pray.  I fell asleep.  And in my sleep, I found God.  I didn’t see him, as I always thought I would as that old man watching over me in an oak tree.  But I found something far greater.  I found my faith.  And once I found faith again, I saw God everywhere – He was the one giving me the strength to hold on and the hope that things would get better.

Things did get better, very gradually.  Two ounces of water the first week, then four, then six.  My first bite of food in years.  Becoming a mixed media artist, writing a one-woman show about my life, learning to live a “normal” life again, finally going to college at 27 years old, getting engaged, planning a wedding for June, and allowing myself to believe in miracles again and feel that overwhelming sense of gratitude for the miracles that do happen every day.  Most miraculously, the realization that God was in my dreams all along, and even better – with me in the day, night, everywhere and anywhere.  Our dreams are the seeds that God plans for us, where our intuition whispers to us, and where we can find an anchor to our place in the world – even if we are “displaced” from it suddenly at 18.  In our dreams, we can find out way back home.  My dreams are now my safe place, where I can mingle with myself and with God – they are my Velcro to the universe, and an ever-flowing fountain of faith, replenishing my trust in life whenever circumstances may make me afraid.    Thank you, dreams, for dreaming me back into life.

 

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Using the Leftovers

left overs

Guest Post by Lori Ferguson

The New Year is upon us and I am looking forward to the promises that 2016 will hold. I am, however, reflecting on Christmas and how I sometimes make the Christmas season busier than is needed. And yet, reflecting on the outcome of the busyness, I can discover lessons to translate into my marriage and writing.

A few years ago I spent much of December sewing costumes for a children’s Christmas program at church. I had a vision, and was already cleaning out, and preparing for our current adventure. Using up my stash of extra fabric for the purpose seemed like a good idea.

To begin the task, I found the fabric I’d had for years – good stuff, not cheap – each length or piece with an emotional value attached.

So why hadn’t I used those leftover scraps before now?

I can think of at least three reasons why I hadn’t used those leftovers:

There were only scraps –

Years ago I made our children clothes and we’ve carted the left-over scraps from one house to the next, but I never had a plan on what to make. Maybe I was apprehensive someone would notice the recycled fabric or I wouldn’t have enough to make an entire project. More likely I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the little pieces with memories attached.

My initial great ideas weren’t so great –

I’ve had brilliant ideas to create household decorations/window coverings/gifts, and then enthusiastically bought what I needed but… well…. never quite followed through.

I didn’t have a clue –

Once upon a time I fell in love with a piece of fabric (or two… or ten) – the color, or design or texture – and never found anything worthy of it. Or I didn’t think I had the skill to make proper use of that gorgeous length of textile.

Creating something new with the leftovers.

You know, after all those years, it was a uniquely satisfying experience to finally create something using this stash of leftovers. Taking action to create a complete piece – to choose and combine the right fabric and colors for each costume using only what was in my stash – was exhilarating.

Translating the Leftovers – What does this say about Encouragement in Marriage?

For many years, I’ve been writing about encouragement in marriage. There are five ways to encourage, and it’s much more than a simple “rah-rah” expression.

Using up these pieces of fabric caused me to translate this to encouragement – reflecting on why and when or if I choose to encourage.

I had to ask myself a question, and I’ll ask you too!

Have you stashed away your encouragement?

  • Have you tucked the opportunity to encourage away, waiting for a better time, or more time?
  • Have you withheld your encouragement because of emotional baggage- or just not made the effort because you don’t feel like it – right now?
  • Perhaps you’ve not been supportive when you could’ve lent a hand.
  • Or you’ve gotten too busy or you’re just too tired to spend time – time in prayer for your spouse, or time spent listening to understand what’s really going on in their heart and mind.
  • Do you believe your ideas aren’t good enough – you’re not educated enough, or creative enough to provide insight?
  • Or do you fail to contribute when you could add value or offer a solution to a problem because you’re being stubborn?
  • What if you’ve been too discouraged to hope – to unearth a bright ray of shining hope for yourself or your husband?
  • Are you tired of offering the same-old-same-old words?
  • Do you think your spouse is tired of hearing the same-old-same-old and you just can’t do it even one more time because it doesn’t feel like it helped in the past so why would it help now?

Are you encouraging your spouse? At all?

5 Things I learned using the Leftovers – translated to Encourage Your Spouse

Here are five things I learned while making these costumes with the leftover “stash” I’d been hoarding. And they translate to encouraging your spouse:

  1. Just do it. Take action. Bite the bullet. Reach out. Use what you have and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. In the end it will be worth it – you’ll feel good.
  2. Even the smallest bit adds value. Small things fill in the gaps. And with the gaps filled, the whole piece is improved.
  3. Look at the bigger picture. When you pay attention to the end product, you’ll see how all the pieces can fit together. You’ll become inspired and see that what you have will be enough.
  4. Old is good. By reusing left-overs, the past is made new.
  5. Satisfaction comes from action. Seeing what you’ve done, with what you have, feels good.

Have Courage. Encourage.

Yes. This Christmas season is busy. It’s busy for everyone, including your spouse. But a little encouragement, even if it’s using the leftovers, goes a long way!

How are you encouraging your spouse? What lessons are you learning from your busyness this season?

Meet the Author:

 Lori Furgeson
Lori Ferguson encourages husbands and wives to lead meaningful lives at EncourageYourSpouse.com and other places on the web. She and her husband

January Call for Guest Writers

January 2016 themes

2016 is right around the corner and  Heartskeeper wants to hear from you! The response for the  2015 December theme was more than I could have ever asked for. How in the world did I get so lucky to have such talent and heart on my blog! Thank you all for your submissions but I do hope you come back and share something else.

If you want to know the guidelines for guest posting please click here.

Theme information:

January is Sanctity of Human Life. It is a near and dear month for me, personally, and I know it holds dear to many others. I am looking for personal stories about life. It can be a story of redemption, how God pulled you from the ashes. It can be your story of an unplanned pregnancy or an abortion. How have you handled the life you have been given? Due to the sensitive nature of the subject, please know you can be anonymous on this topic (or any other). This is a judgement free zone. We all need grace!

Send all inquires to writelife13@gmail.com