The Harvest

A friend shared this song on her fb page, I was intrigued so listened and was pleasantly surprised how her words penetrated my heart and brought comfort to my soul. Maybe you are in a place of suffering, or doubting, or maybe you just need to be encouraged through a season of drought, maybe this song will comfort you – The Promise.

These words fell on my ears as I needed it most. Today has been a day where the Lord just massaged my heart muscle and showed me love through those around me.

Our family is embarking on a new season, a season of change, of growth, of deeper trust – and while the details aren’t important, what is important are the lessons He is teaching me. The most humbling – lump in the throat when you swallow – lesson that I’ve learned this week is that one is never beyond being the recipient of those being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Today started with a penny in the pew. I wasn’t even supposed to be in the service today. I had somewhere to be at 11:45 but that time was changed to noon, which would allow me to worship with other believers and then sneak out to my appointment.

But there it was . . . waiting for me to pick it up..

A reminder for me to trust Him . . . to trust His promises.

Then I went to pick up my first blessing. A colleague and friend contacted me just weeks ago. She knew what our days/weeks were going to be like coming up and wanted to give our name to an organization filling boxes for Thanksgiving dinners.

Pride was the first lump I swallowed today.

From there I stopped by my former Sunday school teacher’s house, my mentor and my friend, to pick up the second blessing – baked spaghetti casserole. One of my husband’s favorites. On top, this card with powerful insight and reflection of one of my personal favorite sermons, The Beatitudes. My teacher and my friend knows me – this card will be treasured forever.

Seeing how loved we are was the second lump I swallowed today . . . missing them and their amazing hugs – it’s hard to be so close to people you love and respect and not be able to embrace them.

And then just minutes ago, another class member came by to bring us frozen meals for the next few weeks.

The third lump in the throat – realizing that Jesus uses each of us, in every day life situations, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to touch lives in every spectrum and phase of life . . . to show kindness and love. To be an encouragement and offer hope.

Our Thanksgiving will be very different this year, but my gratitude doesn’t lesson, if anything it just grew deeper.

The War Horse Project of NW Florida

A few weeks ago I attended the Veterans Memorial Clean Up Day with my son. He had volunteered with approximately a dozen other cadets from his JROTC unit. I simply asked if I could take pictures to practice my photography, having no idea the amazing people I would meet from behind the lens of my camera.

I had no idea what that one simple gesture would bring forth. All I wanted to do was take pictures of the kids and practice shooting.

And God turns a selfish motive into a way I can give back.

In recent weeks I have been able to photograph several other events that have taken place at Veterans Memorial Park, Pensacola.

. . . meeting the family of Corporal Spears who received the Purple Heart, knowing the ultimate sacrifice given – the delivery and installation of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument – it simply ripped my heart up y’all, and taking pictures at the horse farm that is being used to help Veterans with PTSD . . .

It has just been amazing.

What I’ve witnessed through the honoring of lost lives is a respect and bond between others unlike anything I’ve witnessed before . . .

The respect these Veterans have for one another – even while retired through different branches – speaks volumes to the core.

I first met Sean Hollonbeck, US Army, (Retired) at the clean up day at the park. He shared of his vision and passion on using equines for treating PTSD in Veterans. In 2009 suicides among the Veterans was on the rise. He saw the need to just be able to talk. Sean began visiting the stables in 2009, by 2013 he started working with Veterans on two acres in Walton County independently, and by 2017 he was purchasing 30 acres of thick wooded land in Santa Rosa County to move the project to a larger area more suitable for reaching Veterans. It has taken years to clear the woods enough to even begin planting grass.

A few weeks later I was asked to take pictures of the horse farm for an article being written in the AHero magazine about the project.

The farm has been impacted with two hurricanes coming through the panhandle, leaving the grounds mushy and all the hard work of laying grass seed washed away, as well as having trees down.

There was and is already a lot of work to do, now it’s clean up the mess on top of day to day responsibilities.

Because of the most recent hurricane, the farrier had to reschedule his visit to the farm and just happened to be there the first day I arrived for photos. I watched Ronnie Brown work and handle these massive animals like putty in his hands. Not only did these animals trust their handler, they also trusted the one working on their hooves. I was amazed at the connection between them.

While Sean apologized profusely for the mush and things being in disarray . . . for the things beyond his control, I saw a great opportunity to share the behind the scenes of taking care of a farm, horse care, and what it takes to start a project like this – I saw real life.

I see beauty unfolding.

I see a work in progress.

I see potential.

I see hard work and sacrifice.

I see dedication.

I see monetary commitment to a cause.

I see heart and passion.

I see the burden and trauma a Veteran walks in the farm carrying . . . messiness behind the scenes we try to hide . . . and the potential of wellness and healing that will take place with a little hard work and dedication.

It’s heavy.

It’s freeing.

Decisions have to be made . . .

It takes courage.

It takes being vulnerable.

Which path do you take . . . the path of staying stuck in the muck and mire or the path of freedom?

Sean’s passion . . . his burden . . . is to help Veterans walk the path of freedom from “PTS”.

While walking about, he pointed out a tree. It’s top was broken off. It was covered in vines.

It was weighed down.

Then he pointed out how they cleared out around the other trees. How the trees without the heaviness . . . the ones not being weighed down . . . we’re reaching greater heights and producing beautiful foliage.

The tree covered in overgrown vines is heavy and broken – that’s what PTSD does to our Veterans. They can’t reach their full potential. I want to help them reach their full potential. (paraphrased)

What brought Sean to this place of giving of his time, talent, and resources?

At a young age, he experienced his first trauma when his twin brother was ran over and paralyzed by a drunk driver in front of their own home. In those moments he shared how powerless he felt not being able to do something to help. He knew at thar young age he wanted to be a life changer and give back. That burden continued to grow as he served in the war zones taking care of the wounded . . . not only his own men and women that were wounded but the enemy as well.

Simply put, it’s impossible to unsee what the eyes have seen.

You can read about that experience and the Colonel’s impressive years of service in an article written here: Reflections of a Military Doctor.

I’ve really struggled with the words through this entire post . . . I haven’t been sure what to say or not to say, feeling inferior to share because of lack of knowledge and afraid I will say something incorrectly, but since witnessing the transformation of one. . . once I actually SAW the transitioning from fear to confidence before my eyes in my own daughter, I had to put my insecurities and fear of saying the wrong thing aside and simply be okay with sharing my heart.

I’ve visited the farm three times in recent weeks, needing different shots for the magazine article, but this last trip over I took my severe social anxiety daughter with me.

I had prepared her for three people to be there plus me and her.

There were four plus the two of us.

She felt overwhelmed and wanted to leave.

I couldn’t take a step without her taking a step behind me.

There was no way I would be able to get the images I needed with her nestled up behind me.

At some point she was asked to hold on to a horse, Gypsy, which allowed me the opportunity to step away and get the photos I needed.

What I witnessed was my daughter, that wanted to leave, wanted to hide . . . become relaxed and soothed by the horse’s presence.

In a mere forty-five minutes of time she went from clinching her fist and wringing her hands, to this.

Relaxed. Calm. Soothing.

I witness the change before my eyes.

It was a beautiful transformation.

The War Horse Project is currently operating on a part time basis, with individual appointments as the scheduling permits.

The needs are great for this project.

Grant writers are needed.

Volunteers to help clear the land are needed.

The horses need grooming.

Grass seed needs to be spread.

Donations are needed.

And the list goes on.

Below is the contact information to volunteer. You won’t regret it.

Please pray about doing your part and giving back to a life changing program for our Veterans.

Sean retired as a highly decorated Colonel after thirty-one years of active duty in the US Army. He continues to serve . . . to give back . . . to our great county by now working with and serving Veterans in the medical field.

Sean, we are thankful for your service.

Be. The. Good.

There are people in our lives that drain us.

Suck the life right out of us.

And pull us down.

We all have them in our life, and even with healthy boundaries in place they can be overwhelming to deal with.

This morning I struggled with obedience in my giving. My faith in the One who is faithful and always provides teetered.

We have some tough days ahead.

I’ve questioned and pleaded with the Lord to just “fix this” but He hasn’t.

Instead He has proven Himself faithful . . . again.

Just like there are people that bring us down there are people in our lives who lift us up.

Encourage us.

Build us up.

And intercede for us.

Be that kind of person.

This morning I received a text from a friend in my connect group. She’s traveling with her husband right now and texts me when she finds pennies (y’all know how much I love to find pennies.)

Here’s this mornings text:

She had no idea the struggles in my mind this morning.

But God knew.

Then I received this image with a text from my “Aaron”.

She leaves this penny in her key plate to remind her to pray for us.

It was in the middle of me struggling I received the image.

In a world so full of hate and negativity – be the good.

Lift one another up.

Be an encourager.

Be the good.

Ultimate Sacrifice

Today I walked barefoot through Barrancas National Cemetery, NAS. I looked at burial sites that dated back to the 1800’s and saw empty clay pits awaiting the next person that sacrificed their life for our county. And while I visited my dad’s grave marker today, I was there for the purpose of honoring one Marine who gave his life for our great nation, Corporal JR Spears.

Corporal Spears was killed in action in Ramadi, Iraq, while serving in the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Corporal Spears was the recipient of the Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, National Defense Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Expert Rifleman and the Purple Heart. Preceded in death by his grandparents Miriam and Johnny Kipper; and great-grandparents, Edward and Jose Spears, and Earl and Lillie Mae Cross. (Extracted from obituary in the Pensacola News Journal, October 2005.)

Corporal Spears was 21 years old when he gave his life for our country.

When I turned 21 all I could think about was how I could get drunk legally and not worry about getting caught.

How selfish and shallow minded I was.

I find myself short of words on how the last few days have impacted me. And for those that know me personally, you know that’s a rarity. So I will do the best I can to share what I know and experienced through lens instead of a bunch of words.

Corporal J.R Spears, USMC gave his life for this country . . . for you . . . for me.

And that takes my breath away.

Corporal Spears is a recipient of the Purple Heart medal.

Corporal Spears’ family, except for his mother, were present at a ceremony honoring his life and sacrifice and received his Purple Heart medal at Veterans Memorial Park Pensacola

It is said losing a child is one of the hardest things a parent will endure. Corporal Spears’ mom died of a broken heart after losing her beloved son.

Corporal Spears’s mother’s final resting place . . . is with her son.

Oh how my heart hurts.

The family was escorted from Barrancas by the Infidels Motorcycle Club to Veterans Memorial Park, Pensacola.

The ceremony began with the presentation of colors.

There were several speakers Saturday, each one sharing their gratitude to the family, for not only their son’s service and ultimate sacrifice, but also theirs as a family that stood behind their son . . . even to the end.

LtCol Dave Glassman, USMC (Ret) welcomed the family and thanked everyone for coming.
Patriot Chris Lambert, MOPH Department of Florida Chaplain, led us in a moment of prayer.
CWO5 Roberto Fernandez, USMC (Ret) shared how passionate JR was to serve as a United States Marine.
LtCol Andrew Del Gaudio, USMC (Ret) served with JR.

You could feel the heaviness.

Then there was Colonel Christopher “Caveman” Holzworth, USMC (Ret). He spoke soft but carried a big message.

Col Christopher “Caveman” Holzworth, USMC (Ret)

“JR was a ‘favorite son’ of the greater Pensacola area who was a patriot and a servant to the community as he answered his inner calling to defend the nation after 911. JR enlisted in the Marine Corps during a time of war and made the ultimate sacrifice while defending his nation with the highest honor.”

Our final speaker was a local teacher from Tate High School. She made an intimate, personal connection with the family when she shared her heart over losing her own father, Charlie McDaniel, USN (Ret) during a training accident in April, 2010.

It was a powerful moment.

Mrs. Caroline Gray

The closing of the ceremony included placing the Purple Heart wreath at JR’s marker –

My life was forever changed Saturday. I don’t want to ever forget about the sacrifice Corporal JR Spears made. I don’t want to forget the sacrifice his family has made. And I don’t want to forget the men and women who continue to serve our great country, who have served in the past, and continue to serve through various agencies in our community . . .

And I don’t ever want to forget that the ones who serve, signed up knowing that they too could be the one coming home in a wooden box.

I know I’ve shared a lot of pictures. I was just so moved by the presence and outpouring of support from fellow servicemen and woman that I needed to capture every moment I could.

Lord, I pray for J.R’s family today. I pray for peace and comfort that only you can give. Bless them. Protect them. Meet their needs. Amen.

A New Chapter

After eighteen months of living a sugar free lifestyle, I started “tasting” sugar again in December. I told myself the same thing every addict says when they are trying to justify getting high or drunk – “what’s one taste/drink/hit? You’ve worked hard. You deserve it.”

And I caved.

Then . . . in February, I started gorging and binge eating – inviting the pain it causes from my severe gastroparesis. I found a sickening mental comfort from the pain the gorging and binging brought.

I finally confided in my PCP.

He suggested I see a counselor and psychiatrist. I found a counselor but no psychiatrist would accept new patients because of covid and were only seeing existing patients through zoom or telehealth.

My counselor has helped. I had to switch to a secular one that accepted insurance. I have actually found myself thankful in some ways because I can be extremely blunt and not have to worry about what someone thinks or shame me for feeling a certain way. But I have missed not having someone to bring me back to scripture after that.

I have had a very difficult time the last few months with anger and since Chris’ accident and surgery/upcoming surgeries and all that has been placed on me has had my food problems even worse.

I’ve gained FORTY pounds since December.

And all I hear is my dad’s voice from the grave – “you’re fat. Fat people will never be successful. Fat people are thieves. Fat people are lazy. Your sister is beautiful. You’ll never have a good marriage if you are fat.”

Which plays into my own thoughts – “you’re pathetic. You can’t even control your food. You aren’t an example to anyone with what it’s like to walk in faith. You shouldn’t be teaching at Most Excellent way. Who are you to teach Sundays. You’re a joke and a fake. Look at you. As soon as people see you they will notice how fat you’ve gotten. You are an embarrassment.”

It has been a vicious cycle.

Of course those are the things the enemy wants me to believe, butI haven’t been able to fight the thoughts, regardless how hard I’ve tried.

My kids case manager knew I was having a difficult time. I told her I had to increase my MEW attendance, reach out to mentors, become accountable with at least the thoughts of drinking I was having. She knew I had tried to find a psychiatrist with no luck and she made some phone calls and was able to get me seen.

I had my first appointment yesterday.

We hashed up old garbage – even the beatings from my dad and his harsh words. She needed to see and understand the big picture. But one thing I hadn’t spoken of in depth was the treatment of my stepmother – locking food cabinets because I was “fat” (I was 11 and an early developer – looked 16), making me cook dinner then go to my room and not be able to eat. Never given lunch money at school so I couldn’t eat unless I begged for food. Kids would make fun of me and I even started stealing from the convenience store and digging through our trash cans to eat. When I was fed I had to eat in my room away from the family. I’ll never forget . . . I was asked what I wanted for dinner for my birthday.

I said pizza.

It was delivered.

I got a piece.

Sat down to eat.

Took one bite.

My dad told me I wasn’t allowed to eat with the family.

I had to go eat in my room.

And eat my birthday dinner alone.

I cried that night.

And as I sit here now remembering things I’ve suppressed for over thirty five years the tears are falling and the pain of not being wanted or loved or accepted still resides deep in my heart.

No wonder I struggle with rejection.

I didn’t even realize it was still there – and still painful.

I guess I thought since I had learned to forgive them I didn’t have to process or deal with it all.

While I was hoping and have been trying for many months to beat this need to gorge and binge eat on my own – and to stop going back there in my mind – while I tried so hard to rely on the Lord and believed I could beat this without the need of a pill – that my faith could see me through – that I can just “take every thought captive,” – that PTSD isn’t REALLY affecting me this way – the truth is that the battle has beyond exhausted me and taken me deeper into depression.

This week, I actually found solace in having someone tell me I have a food disorder.

I found solace in knowing what I experienced and the words spoken to me all my life are hard to overcome on my own. (I am fully aware that all things are possible with the Lord’s help. Trust me – I’ve begged Him . . . pleaded with Him . . . to take this away from me. My efforts and I guess my lack of faith and discipline have only brought me continuous set backs, disappointments, and embarrassment.)

The trauma I experienced from abuse and memories of eating out of the trash can in my own home have carried deep wounds inside me for these 49 years.

It’s time I acknowledge them.

They have made an impact on me.

And it is okay to have help to get over the hump.

Taking medication to help me get out of the rut and to get me on the road to wellness and stop living in the past is okay.

One day . . . I won’t need a pill to get me through.

One day I will be able to focus on the good that comes from this.

And one day, the Lord will bring Genesis 50:20 to life in this area of my life like He has and continues to use other trauma for the good of helping other women.

I want Him and expect him to use this for His good as well.

A few weeks ago I was cleaning out the garage. I found the solid brass belt buckle my dad used to beat the hell out of me with. I had thrown the leather belt away after he died but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the buckle. I felt guilty that I couldn’t give it to my son one day so held on to it in hopes of “getting over it” and to be able to pass it on to him.

Instead, I finally decided I was worth more than that brass belt buckle and I threw it away.

I decided I never want any part of that life to be passed on to my son or anyone else in my family.

It’s time to break the cycle of rage the same way the Lord has broken the cycle of addiction.

My children, and my children’s children – and their children – and their children – will. be. free.

I decided, instead, to move on.

The Blessing

Lighting

Anyone that follows me on social media knows I thoroughly enjoy taking photos. Next to serving with the Most Excellent Way, Charis House, and teaching on Sundays it is my favorite thing to do – capturing moments in time that can never be given back.

This past week I had an opportunity to sit with a local professional/business minded photographer. And while we discussed a tremendous amount of information, the one thing he wants me to focus on is using the Aperture setting on my camera. I’ve watched this video to help me understand – Aperture Premium. While it is basic, and some can watch it with great comprehension – go to their camera, adjust settings and be on their way, I can’t. I learn best walking through the video and actually doing what the person in the video is showing me so I can physically see the difference in my lens and in the photo.

So yesterday was day one of using Aperture mode on my camera. I went out to my flower bed just after sunrise to take pictures of my zinnias growing. My front yard is completely shaded in the mornings. I only have an automatic flash, so that’s what I used. And while they are pretty, you can see the images are not crisp and they are grainy. From what I am reading, one of the reasons they are grainy is because of not enough Aperture – lighting.

Later in the day, when the front yard was in full sun, I went as close to the same location as I could and took similar images.

Some of the images are too bright, and washed out the color. I don’t know how to fix that yet but I will eventually. What was exciting for me was the difference in actually seeing the contrast between too little lighting and sufficient lighting – being IN the light. .

My outtake – Walk. In. The. Light.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

Be Faithful

Pastor has been preaching in a series on spiritual warfare. I do believe it is one of the best series I’ve heard him preach and the man has preached a lot of phenomenal sermons. The series has definitely been right on time and so appropriate for 2020. The key words I hear throughout are be steadfast – continue – keep going – recognize where the attack is coming from – don’t quit.

One of the things I see and say over and over with women in recovery is that being secretive in your thoughts is bad for recovery . . . Especially when you think no one will know. I don’t know if men struggle with the thoughts in their minds like women do but I know if a woman gives in to her thoughts they can paralyze her.

I started being more accountable a few months ago in my recovery – for the first time in twenty- three years of sobriety I was struggling with some pretty bad thoughts that would have led to relapse if I hadn’t guarded my heart and mind and reached out to some women who are mentors and are strong in their faith for accountability to walk with me through the struggles.

And while I’m okay now – I’m still really not okay.

It seems the scriptures are just words that aren’t even penetrating beyond my eyes and my time with the Lord is becoming more sparse because of that – which is exactly what Satan would like to happen. (I keep remembering what few circumstances I could actually understand out of The Screwtape Letters and how Satan orchestrates little hiccups to divert us completely . . . )

A few days ago my eyes were being diverted to a series of books I bought years ago. This morning one came to mind so I’ve pulled it off my shelf, dusted it off, and committed to read and work through it.

Anyone that knows me knows I don’t read anything that is a hard read, and the Bible Studies I work on don’t include words I have to constantly look up just to comprehend one sentence – this study is not like that.

I am in no place to lead a group on this . . . y’all know I’m taking a break from teaching during this season, but if anyone wants to do this study with me to help get through the rest of 2020 please let me know. We could either meet at a coffee shop or even zoom just to talk about what we’ve read and what we are gleaning from this study based on I & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

There are many sites to order it from but I got mine off Amazon, along with several other of his “Be” series. https://www.amazon.com/Faithful-Timothy-Titus-Philemon-Commentary/dp/1434767345

And by all means, if you are struggling, you need to know you aren’t alone. Please reach out.

Veterans Memorial Park, Pensacola

Saturday morning a group of people from NAS Pensacola, Navy Federal Credit Union, and the Milton JROTC cadets came together to clean Veterans Park in Pensacola to prepare for Veterans Day.

The weather was perfect for this autoimmune- pain suffering mom with temps starting in the low 50’s and rising to upper 60’s/lower 70’s.

It’s as if God handed us a gold laced day to bless the efforts of those serving.

I’ve been to Veteran’s Park/Admiral Mason Park hundreds of times but this time it was viewed through a different lens. I didn’t expect to experience the tug of emotion Saturday I did as I photographed the men and women that came to cleanup and serve . . . to honor . . . those who have served and continue to serve our great country.

I took over a thousand pictures that day. While photographing, I met some amazing individuals, to include retired military personnel that are still giving and serving their country and community, just in new ways.

My life is forever changed.

This was the first picture that took my breath away . . . volunteers were oiling the statues. This particular volunteer was oiling the foot of a child being carried out by a service member. I choked back tears.

The second group of pictures hit me even harder. I didn’t realize the wall would be cleaned as well – whew.

I found myself wondering if they knew what exactly they were doing as they scrubbed each name . . .

Were they moved to emotion as I?

Did each name they ran their brush across take their breath away?

Did they grasp the depths of what these names represent and the sacrifice made?

That was hard to watch. And even now as I sit here remembering my heart beats hard, my face is flushing red, and there’s a knot in my throat . . .

In my passing I caught this little boy cleaning one of the benches that honors our service men and women . . . the impact he made was deep.

And then there were leaders that served and encouraged the workers . . .

. . . while over a hundred volunteers pruned bushes, cut back branches, painted, oiled statues, and swept sidewalks.

I’m so thankful I had a few hours to be surrounded by these amazing volunteers.

For more information on Veteran Memorial Park, Pensacola check out their fb page – Veteran Memorial Park, Pensacola FL

Veterans Memorial Park, Pensacola

Saturday morning a group of people from NAS Pensacola, Navy Federal Credit Union, the Milton JROTC cadets, and several other small groups came together to clean Veterans Memorial Park in Pensacola to prepare for Veterans Day.

The weather was perfect for this autoimmune- pain suffering mom with temps starting in the low 50’s and rising to upper 60’s/lower 70’s.

It’s as if God handed us a gold laced day to bless the efforts of those serving.

I’ve been to Veteran’s Memorial Park/Admiral Mason Park hundreds of times but this time it was viewed through a different lens. I didn’t expect to experience the tug of emotion Saturday I did as I photographed the men and women that came to cleanup and serve . . . to honor . . . those who have served and continue to serve our great country.

I took over a thousand pictures that day. While photographing, I met some amazing individuals, to include retired military personnel that are still giving and serving their country and community, just in new ways.

My life is forever changed.

This was the first picture that took my breath away . . . volunteers were oiling the statues. This particular volunteer was oiling the foot of a child being carried out by a service member. I choked back tears.

The second group of pictures hit me even harder. I didn’t realize the wall would be cleaned as well – whew.

I found myself wondering if they knew what exactly they were doing as they scrubbed each name . . .

Were they moved to emotion as I?

Did each name they ran their brush across take their breath away?

Did they grasp the depths of what these names represent and the sacrifice made?

That was hard to watch. And even now as I sit here remembering my heart beats hard, my face is flushing red, and there’s a knot in my throat . . .

In my passing I caught this little boy cleaning one of the benches that honors our service men and women . . . the impact he made was deep.

And then there were leaders that served and encouraged the workers . . .

. . . while over a hundred volunteers pruned bushes, cut back branches, painted, oiled statues, and swept sidewalks.

I’m so thankful I had a few hours to be surrounded by these amazing volunteers.

For more information on Veteran Memorial Park, Pensacola check out their fb page – Veteran Memorial Park, Pensacola FL

Happy Birthday To Me

Today is a big day. I openly celebrate my sobriety day. That’s a big day for me.

Big.

But there’s a day that is even more important to me than my sobriety, and that is the day I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ . . . and that day was twenty-three years ago . . . tonight.

Kayla was in bed.

Our small one bedroom apartment was quiet. I sat down in my gold suede 1970’s chair . . .

I knew . . . It was time to surrender.

For ninety days I had been attending The Most Excellent Way meetings.

Faithfully.

Every Tuesday night and then we started Friday night meetings . . . as well as some Monday and Thursday meetings at various churches that held the meetings.

I often heard things I did not want to hear in those meetings, but I knew I needed to break the cycle of addiction and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.

But what kept me going was the acceptance and love I found in that room – no expectation.

Just come.

And eventually something began drawing me in . . .

I started attending Sunday morning services at the annoying constant invitation from a lady that was watching Kayla at the church while I attended the Tuesday night meetings. (As a side note – be persistent when the Lord puts someone on your heart – don’t give up after a dozen no’s -)

I clearly remember gripping the back of the pew in front of me.

I wasn’t looking for this Jesus thing and wasn’t willing to give up. After all, this was the same girl that stood in a bar, holding a beer, proudly shouting “I don’t believe there is a god and if there is one he’s a male chauvinist pig.” I then proclaimed, “and IF there is a god I will never bow to him.”

How could I surrender to something I didn’t believe in?

How could “God” even want someone that would hate him and blame him for so much pain?

How could “God” even want someone like me that did the dirty things I had done?

I didn’t know the answers to those questions but I did know I needed to keep going.

I eventually started visiting Sunday School, but I remember thinking the best small group where people weren’t fake was at The Most Excellent Way. (I eventually found two Sunday school classes that were pivotal in teaching me scripture and about this man named Jesus.)

(God had sent a co-worker where I worked a few months before I started attending meetings – – she was a Christian and believe it or not had two years sobriety . . . . through The Most Excellent Way.)

She typed up some scripture references for me and a prayer when I started asking what it meant to ask Jesus into one’s heart.

But I couldn’t let go of myself. For weeks I began “hearingHim . . . “Come to me . . . Surrender . . . You’re mine. I want you.”

But I couldn’t get through my thick head that He wanted me for me. I spent weeks telling Him I needed to fix this or clean up this . . .

But on this particular tonight, twenty-three years ago – He made it clear it was time to surrender. He was in pursuit of me – a heavy pursuit. I stomped my feet at Him (and I still do the same thing – so thankful for grace), told Him, “Fine! I’ll do it!”

I pulled my piece of paper out from my coworker and started reading how we are all sinners and none can be good enough or clean enough to earn God’s love and acceptance.

I learned that He can make me a new creation.

I had lived a life of lies so bad I didn’t even know what the truth was anymore – I was a drunk, a liar , a cheat, a thief, and had been a harlot . . . I read He would make me new . . . that the old would go away and the new would come. I wanted that. Of all the verses I read – I think this one was the one that finally led me to surrender – no more trying to clean myself up and just let Him do it.

I read the scripture verses and made it clear to God I was just reading for understand – I wasn’t admitting anything yet – –

Romans 10:9-10 got my attention.

. . . if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

That meant I had to believe in my heart – not just my head. But it also meant I couldn’t keep it to myself.

I had to tell –

I realized just reading those verses and prayer in my head wouldn’t save me, I read it the first time for context – to see what was expected. Then I read them a second time for more understanding, but I made sure He knew I wasn’t ready yet and that I was still just making sure I knew what I was getting in to (o still laugh about that)

I could feel my heart beating – I had butterflies in my stomach like never before –

But in those moments, before I read the verses and prayer for the third time . . . I had my first real conversation with Him – acknowledging IF He was real He would have to help me through this. I told Him I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and that I wanted to be real – I didn’t want to be fake. I told Him my family would think I’ve lost my mind and gone off the deep end – I wanted to be a new person. I acknowledged the first two times I read the verses and prayer they were for understanding, but before I read it the third time . . . I told Him I was reading it with my heart and that it was all or nothing. Then I read those verses and read a generic prayer of salvation – I acknowledged I was a sinner, asking Him to forgive me of my sins, to come into my heart – and save me . . . to change me.

Before I stood up out of that 1970’s gold suede chair, I slid quietly to my knees – knowing full well the grace that had been extended to a wretch like me.

I stood up that night no longer a thief, liar, drunk, or a harlot – I stoop up a Princess and child of the Most High King.

I was a new creation.

What He did for me that night, He will do for you. As hard as we make it, it really is quite simple –

-acknowledge you’re a sinner

-ask for forgiveness

– invite Him in

He will do the rest.

But the first step is to come . . .just as you are.