Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gardening our Hearts

Spring is here and if you haven’t realized it yet, it’s gardening season.  I was not one of those privileged people to be born with a green thumb.  In fact when my husband and I first got married I received an ivy plant.  I was so excited I told him we would call it faith and as our marriage grew the plant would also.  After about four months it died.  I guess I either watered it too much or not enough.  Needless to say… I am not a gardener.  I assured my husband this was no reflection of our marriage.  Its been almost 20 years now and we are still going strong.  I just can’t seem to keep plants alive.
My son on the other hand loves gardening.  He helped a neighbor with his large garden last year.  He loved planting the seeds, watering, weeding, and seeing the fruit of his labor.  I have tried not to discourage him and to stay out of his way.  Maybe he has some gardening gene in him I am unaware of that will come naturally as he does it.  I am hoping to observe the blossoming of a green fingered boy.

 
My son has been so excited about gardening that he decided to start early.  He got some pepper seeds and planted them in an old egg carton.  He dragged the dirt-filled carton inside and out based on the weather enlisting me for service.  These precious seeds could only receive special water of course.  Our simple tap water was not good enough to sustain them for growth.  Oh, no.  This was only the beginning of the gardening season.  What was I in for?
 

The house we live in has a garden area with raised beds… 10 to be exact.  Awesome area to plant, but there is only one problem.  The whole area needs to be weeded and the ground needs prepared for planting.  I encouraged my son to weed early on, so it wouldn’t get too overgrown when spring hit us, but it didn’t happen. 
 

In order to inspire and motivate my son to weed, I offered to help him.  Not do it for him (this was his thing), but to help guide him in the process.  After two days of working, one and a half plots were cleared.  The remaining plots are currently not ready and planting season is upon us.  The weeds are growing out of control and are beginning to take over the whole area.  I am NOT a gardener, but I am thinking this could be a problem.
 

Looking at the whole scene of our garden made me think of my heart.   I snapped a picture of our garden as a reminder (it is displayed above).  My heart is a garden of sorts.  My son wants to use one area to plant and grow things and leave the rest alone.  Isn’t that what we do at times with our hearts?  We focus on getting one area of our lives cleaned up and presentable, while we ignore the rest. 
 

We need to tend to our hearts daily, just like a farmer does to his field.  We need to do some weeding.  Uproot and pull out anything in our lives in a sense that could be hindering us from moving forward. These things can prevent us from living a fruit-filled life.


Farmers and gardeners work hard to get the ground ready for planting.  They turn up the ground, pull weeds, water, fertilize, and prepare the soil expectant of a good harvest.  Our hearts and lives can be the same way.  What we sow into our lives, we will reap.  If we plant good things, good will things will come.  If we sow into our lives, bad choices, reckless behavior, sour mouths, and questionable morals… we are going to reap that back.  It may not be now, the consequences of that kind of lifestyle will come back to bite us.  A scripture in the Bible comes to mind about this…

“Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.”    
Galatians 6:7 (MSG)

 
I am not saying that our hearts need to be perfect looking, but we need to tend our hearts daily.  We need to plow up the hardened areas of our hearts (those areas we have ignored or have grown calluses), we need to pull weeds (getting rid of things that shouldn’t be there), we need to water and fill up our lives with good things, and we need to grow positive, healthy fruit.  The Bible talks about a type of fruit we can grow in our lives.

 
Galatians 5:22-23 says…
“But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (NCV)

I want my life to have fruit-filling.  I want others to see God in me shining through.  His fruit oozing out of my life reflects Him, not me.  Producing this kind of fruit takes hard work.  I have to fight to keep my heart clean.  I have to guard my heart from weeds and trash that likes to accumulate there.  Sometimes that means I need to bite my tongue and not say it or repeat it.  It may require removing toxic people or things from my life.  I may need to change where I go or what I do, but it’s all for good.  I may not be able to grow live plants of any kind, but I can grow godly fruit in my heart with God’s help.
 
This whole semester of taking American Literature I have read what seems like story after story that displays various conditions of man’s heart.  The bitter heart was displayed in the “Red Badge of Courage.” The corrupted heart came through for me in “The Great Gatsby.”   “The Barn Burning” showed me the results of a heart filled with un-forgiveness or resentment toward others.  In reading “Good Country People,” I discovered the deceived heart with Hulga and the deceptive heart with Manley.  Last, in the story of “Everyday Use,” the idea of the selfish and humble hearts with the sisters came through.
 
I am catching a theme here.  Our hearts are very important and what we allow inside of them can shape our character and determine the course of our future.  I hope the picture above will make a permanent imprint in your mind to remind you of the importance of gardening your heart.  YOU are worth it, my friend!
 
Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Thursday, April 25, 2013

OUCH... it hurts!


I have been sick since January.  It started with the flu and turned into something else entirely.  Stomach pain, chest pains, reflux issues, etc…  I went to the ER not wanting to take any chances of sending my autoimmune disease into a flare-up.  Yes, I have an autoimmune disease.  It’s called Myasthenia Gravis and it causes extreme muscle weakness all over my body in it’s worst moments.  Currently it is moving into remission after seven years of struggling with it.  I have had many ups and downs with this thing.  Let’s just say my life has been unpredictable daily.  I have had to learn to go with the flow and become flexible which is NOT my personality at all.

My visit to the ER led to a trail of referrals to various doctors and multiple tests.  Each appointment or test was delayed by scheduling dragging this whole process out for four months. During this time my symptoms only got worse while the pain increased  (I have been sick for practically my entire semester at Ivy Tech).  Finally after all of this time, my last visit was with a surgeon who concluded that we needed to remove my gallbladder.
It’s finally gone!  I had my gallbladder removed and I am recovering.  I am still in pain, but it is a different kind of pain.  It’s a healing pain which means things will only get better.  The pain will lessen each day and hopefully eventually go away completely.  Yay!  I can’t wait.  Being in pain is very distracting to say the least.  Most people had no idea I was in pain.  Not that I hide it well, but I have a high pain tollerance.  I can do a lot of things by pushing through the pain, but when it comes to really focusing on something… it doesn’t work so well.

Pain is relative.  It affects everyone differently.  I have a high pain tolerance so I can take or withstand more pain than most for extended periods of time.  My husband and one of my sons however have lower pain limitations.  Our pain threshhold is the amount of tolerance we have to endure and push through unavoidable feelings of discomfort.
I have experienced many different kinds of pain in my lifetime as I am sure you have as well.  Pain transcends all barriers.  It has no boundaries.  It touches all genders, races, ages, and cultures.   It is a taste we all must experience. Pain can manifest itself in different forms in our lives.  Heartache from a broken relationship, a scratch on a knee from a fall, facing circumstances beyond our control, the death of a loved one, divorce, feelings of rejection, miscarriage, lost dreams, suffering from disease or sickness, feelings of failure, dealing with a dysfunctional family, the list could go on. No one is exempt from pain.  It touches us all.  It is how we choose to face that pain that makes all of the difference.

Recently I attended a womens’ retreat where I met an incredible woman who has faced a lot of pain in her lifetime. She married a man who has had his own share of pain.  Her story is amazing…. SO amazing I bought a book about her life.  It is called, “Call it Incredible” by Mark Nichols Sims.  This is what it shares about the book on the cover… The "incredible" true story of God's plan unfolding in the lives of two people who, though on opposite sides of the world, are brought together for a powerful purpose.  At the retreat she shared that a contract was just signed to make the book a movie by the same people who brought us Courageous, Fireproof, and Facing the Giants.  That is one movie I DO NOT want to miss.  Stories of real life people who press forward through their pain are inspiring.  They help us see that we are not alone and we can and will make it through to the other side if we keep pushing forward.

 
Pain is something we will all face at some point in our lives.  It is how we face that pain that determines the course of our future.  Pain can be a tool when laid in the hands of God used to shape our lives.  I remember when I was pregnant going to Lamaze classes with my husband.  They shared with us there various methods of how we could work through our pain. Inevitably we were all going to face it at some point so we needed to be ready.  Some would choose medicine to alleviate their pain; others would push through panting calmly a rehearsed process of pain control; while some would leave all their training behind and face it head on violently.  I am speaking of course in this instant of physical pain, but some of us face other types of pain the same way.

In dealing with my autoimmune disease and all of its countless symptoms as well as side-effects, I have learned various methods of coping that has helped me.  My main source of comfort has been giving it all to God.  I talk to him about my problems and He listens to me.  I have also held on to specific scriptures in the Bible that have encouraged me.  One of my favorites has been…

 “I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.”  

Philippians 4:13 (NCV)


God gives me strength when I need it most to push forward.  He helps me endure no matter what pain I am facing; physical pain, emotional scars from past hurts, wounding present offenses, or overwhelming circumstances that weigh me down.  God has continued to be faithful to me no matter what.  Another coping method that has been helpful for me to manage the pain has been music.  The song below is one that I played over and over again for encouragement on my bad days.  I have included the lyrics for you to see, as well as a video I played once when sharing my story with a group of ladies.  The words of the song and the video are powerful!

"Blessings"
by Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

 
 Click below here to watch the video I mentioned.  It will take you to an old blog post of mine with the video attached.  Enjoy!


We will all face some kind of pain in our lifetime.  It is how we choose to deal with that pain that makes all of the difference.  Don’t face your pain alone.  Enlist friends to come alongside of you to help you push through.  You are not alone.  Pain when placed in the hands of God can create something beautiful.  You are a work of art in the making.  Give God the paint brush and allow Him to work His wonders as He creates a masterpiece with YOU. 

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Offended Much!


Have you ever said the wrong thing, did the wrong thing, or simply made choices that others disagreed with? My intentions are never to offend others, but it happens. Sometimes we can offend without even realizing it and other times it is obvious to everyone.

Have careless words or actions from others ever wounded your heart? Maybe it was words spoken by a spouse, friend, sibling, parent, or an authority figure. It seems like those closest to us can leave the deepest wounds in our hearts.

 
What did you do with that offense?  Did you stew over it, hold on to it for safe keeping, give the cold shoulder and avoid that person, or let it go?

Holding on to an offense, only hurts YOU in the end.  It will grow and fester like an infected wound. It will cause you to become a bitter, angry person who looks nothing like the person who first faced that offense in the beginning.

I read the short story “Barn Burning,” by William Faulkner, recently and it was eye-opening.  It is a perfect example of what happens when we allow offenses to grow and accumulate inside of our hearts.  The results can be catastrophic.  The father in this story, Abner consistently dragged his family from town to town.  His anger and violent actions towards his offenders caused trouble everywhere he went.  However, he wasn’t ever prosecuted for his actions because there was never enough evidence. Why would anyone want to put their family through such persecution and scrutiny from the people around them?  Their name became dirty and their reputation marred everywhere they went.  This is not the idea of the perfect family… that is for sure.

I have learned over the years that offended people, offend people.  A habitual offender is someone who continues to offend others over and over again.  This is offense full grown in someone’s heart.  Obviously somewhere along the way Abner got offended and allowed that offense to hang around and sink roots deep within his heart.  He may have been offended with the government, his country, authorities over him in the military, his parents, friends, etc… We don’t know who or what, but somewhere along the way, offense attached itself to his life and he was never the same.  Offense left inside unchecked changes people.

We need to guard our hearts from offense.  It can grow inside of us just like weeds in a garden. If left untended, things can get out of control inside and out.

We need to check our hearts daily!

Watch for warning signs of a sick or infected heart by offense.  Watch words, actions, and thoughts.  Be on high alert when you know you are offended or close to offense.

Choose the high road!

When you feel you might be offended, you have a choice.  Choose to give the benefit of the doubt or stew and become bitter. Instead of thinking of the worst possible scenario when it comes to others, choose to give grace.  Be known as a grace giver! Learn to let some things go, overlook others, and give grace whenever possible.  Forgive quickly and easily. 

Don’t allow any roots of bitterness, anger, or resentment to grow in your hearts.  It’s not worth risking the security of your heart, just forgive.  Forgiveness is a process and depending on the offense, it may take time.  Do what you can to keep your heart free from any offense.

Where are you when it comes to offense?  Is your heart sick?  Are you the offender or the offended?  Do you need to learn to give grace?  Guard your heart from offense… YOU are worth it!

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Empty Spot


I recently read the book, “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald.  It was an interesting read.  I am pretty sure I read the book while in High school, but remembered nothing of it.  It felt kind of like a soap opera as I read it.  The Hollywood version should be interesting to see when it comes out, however not family friendly I am sure.       
  
One theme that ran through the whole book for me was the idea of the “empty spot.”  Each character was in search of something better… more money, more attention, more things, someone to love and adore them more, more, more, more.  Nobody seemed happy with what they had.  Life would be better “if only” they had this or that.  They were each trying to live out their fantasies of the perfect life.
 
Nick seemed to be the only stable character.  He hadn’t decided what he was in search for entirely.  He sought stability in his career while considering all of the other options to fill his void in life.  Watching everyone else pursue their dreams of grandeur helped him realize what was really important to him.  By the end of the story he had gained a new perspective. 

Jay Gatsby spent his whole life in pursuit of someone or something to fill that spot deep within… that spot that defined him.  Yet, even at the end of his life he was still left with a void.  All of them sought something… Daisy wanted security, riches, and true love.  Tom wanted status, accolades, and to be adored by a woman.  His wife wasn’t enough for him, his heart longed for another.  Myrtle, his mistress, loved the opportunities money brought… extravagant things, security, reputation, status, and the hopes of a better life. 

Each character attempted to fill their “empty spot” in some fashion.  It may surprise you to hear this, but I think our lives mirror these characters in a sense.  We may not be having affairs, seek fame or fortune, or even have questionable business dealings, but we do have an “empty spot” deep inside of us that longs to be filled.  We may be attempting to fill it with a variety of things to no avail.
 


Have you ever seen the little kids shape game where you match various shapes and then the pieces fall inside of the circle?  We have that game where I work so I see it all the time.  One time I watched my son, when he was little play this game in frustration. He seemed to think that whatever shape he chose should fit inside the space no matter what.  He would shove, push, bang, and smash to try to make his shape fit with no luck.  All he ended up doing was getting more upset while he still held the piece in his hand.  Sometimes we do the same thing when it comes to our “empty spot.”  We try to get anything and everything to fit to fill it, but nothing works and we end up feeling emptier in the end.

 When I was seventeen years old, I realized that there was only one thing that could fit inside the empty spot in my heart and that was God.  The hole inside of me was “God Shaped.”  Nothing else could fill it, I tried and it all left me empty.  God made all the difference!  It was obvious to me in the way I felt inside and out.  The day I asked Him to come into my life, all the empty spots of my heart were filled and I have never been the same. 
                                                                          
The storms of life can challenge our faith and sometimes even uproot it if we allow it.  Storms can be devastating.  Life can be challenging at times and circumstances can sometimes feel overwhelming.  It is only when we are grounded and rooted deep in God that we can withstand anything that comes our way.
 

The Great Gatsby was a great reminder to me that no matter what storms blow into my life, I need to remember to stay rooted in God.  When we begin to focus on our circumstances and what we “don’t have,” it’s easy to allow that emptiness to fill our hearts again.  God is my “empty spot” filler and I don’t ever want to forget it.

If you are in search of something or someone to fill your “empty spot,” I hope you will consider my “empty spot” filler.  He won’t disappoint.

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ode to the Un-poetic Soul


Reading poetry is NOT my favorite pastime.  I think it is because the reader has to analyze, probe, ponder, and investigate the meaning of each poem written.  It feels at times like a surgery of literature… ripping a part each stanza and dissecting word by word in search of the meaning.  I just want the author to say what he or she means to say plainly.  No extra brain power needed in reading it.  I am a deep thinker, but not when it comes to poetry.  It takes too much work for me. 

In reading the poetry for this section, I found a new appreciation for poetry.  One author I read really jumped out to me because he was an artist of sorts with his words.  As I read, it was almost like the scene unfolded before me on a white canvas.  When I finished the last sentence, the picture was complete.  The poetic artist I am speaking of is William Carlos Williams. 

One of my assignments during this session was to compare two of this author’s poems.  In reading the short poems chosen, I couldn’t imagine coming up with 200 + words to explain my understanding of what I read.  But, as I read them over and over again a picture began to form in my mind.  I imagined myself looking at a painting on the wall taking in the whole scene.  It was telling a story.  I could see it!  Imagine that… me getting poetry.  Unbelievable!  This is what I read….

 
The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends                                                  
upon
 
a red wheel
barrow
 
glazed with rain
water
 
beside the white
chickens
 

 
*This one I imagined a picture of an old farm house with barn, shed, chicken coop, etc… Country living at its best!   I also imagined an elderly man dressed in overalls working hard to keep his farm afloat.  My husband grew up on a farm and had “farm chores” he had to do every day.  It sounded fun and exciting to this city gal, but probably not if you had to live it out on a daily basis.


Here is the other poem I read…
 
This Is Just to Say
 

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
 
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
 
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

*This one I think would be an awesome commercial.  A man comes in the house after a long day of work.  No one is home yet.  His wife and kids are gone.  He is famished.  He looks in the fridge hoping for something to tide him over until dinner.  He sees the plums sitting there all pretty seemingly set aside for a purpose, but he cannot control his stomach.  Temptation wins and he probably thinks… “forgiveness is better than permission in this instance.”
 

Have you ever done that before?  Acted on the understanding that “forgiveness is better than permission” in any instance?  What happened?  Sometimes it ends well other times there are consequences to be paid.  I imagine in this poem that the man’s wife smiled, kissed her husband on the cheek, and offered a forgiving sigh.
 
I guess I shouldn’t write poetry off entirely…. at least not yet.  Just like reading anything, I need to find author’s I click with and settle into a poetry reading groove.  Happy reading!
 
 
Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Friday, March 15, 2013

When is it okay to lie?

I remember reading “Adventures of Huck Finn” at the beginning of my semester with American Literature and really enjoying it.  As I was completing my assignments and finishing up discussion questions, one question bothered me.  It read…
 
Huck lies or avoids telling the truth on several occasions.  Why does he lie?  How do you feel about his behavior?

 
This was a part of my answer…
 
I don’t like the fact that he lies, but it seems like it is his way of doing things.  He dodges the truth often to keep out of trouble.  He seems like he feels telling the truth would only make things worse in the long run.  This has worked for him well so far so he continues his pack of lies just to survive.

 
I am not a big fan of lying.  In fact I dislike it SO much that my husband and I have made it a point as parents to really emphasize the importance of always telling the truth with our boys.  Lying breaks trust and trust is hard to earn back once it is broken.

Because I don’t want to lie to my kids in any way we take a different approach with the holidays.  We have chosen to never “pretend” when it comes to Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy…
 
Our approach was simple as the kids were little.  We simply avoided the subject and waited until they were old enough to ask.  It didn’t take long.  When they asked we explained that other families liked to “pretend” with their kids.  It was their special tradition. 

We went out of our way to make sure we didn’t interfere with anyone else’s traditions.  This is just what we chose to do.  We emphasized that it wasn’t their place to “tell” any kid the truth.  When the time was right, their parents would tell them.  We NEVER had a problem with them telling anyone after all of these years (my boys are teens now).

Some people told us years ago that we might regret our decision to forfeit the game of “pretending” over the holidays, but we never have so far.  We have started some of our own creative traditions as a result which have made the holidays even more special.  We have shared with our boys the various historical accounts about Santa and traditions celebrated around the world, but he is not the focus of the season for our family.

Truth is important to us.  I will not lie for the sake of lying or because everyone else is doing it.  I want the words I speak to count for something.  I don’t ever want anyone to question or doubt whether I am speaking the truth or not.  I want them to know me as a person of truth.


We are endeavoring to teach our boys the value of truth as teenagers which has been interesting.  One thinks if you ask them something like… “Have you brushed your teeth?” that if he doesn’t answer, he hasn’t lied and there are no consequences for his actions.  The other thinks you can say whatever you want at times and say, “I’m just teasing” and it isn’t a lie.  These are interesting concepts.  What is the difference between teasing and lying?  Can not telling the whole truth be considered a lie?  Hmmm…. something to think about.

In reading Huck Finn it seemed like he only really lied when he was protecting someone else or trying to stay out of trouble.  So, when is it okay to lie?  As a Christian I tend to filter everything through the lens of the question, what would God think about this?

 I believe that if some situation would arise that would make it difficult to tell the truth that God would provide a “way of escape” out of the situation.  I can take it or stick with my opportunity to fudge the truth.  I can’t say I have always chosen the “way of escape” God has provided, but I have learned how to see that escape path easier now through experience.  I have learned over the years the value of honesty and the consequences of not sticking with the truth.
 

1 Corinthians 10:13 says…
“The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, he will also give you a way to escape so that you will be able to stand it.” (NCV)
 
The next time YOU are faced with the opportunity to lie, look for “a way of escape.”  Think about whether their might be a truthful alternative to using a lie to deal with a particular problem.  When it comes to lying we need to remember:
 
~ the truth ALWAYS comes out eventually
~ once you break trust it’s hard to earn back
~ word gets around pretty quickly who can and can’t be trusted
 
For Huck Finn lying was a way of life, what will it be for you?
 

Living to leave a legacy,

Julie

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Toxic Heart

       I read a book recently called  "Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane.  It was about a young man, named Henry, who enlisted for war and the journey he took in becoming a man.  At the beginning of the story he is very na├»ve to war and its devastation.  At one point he even retreats leaving his comrades on their own to defend their honor. 

I noticed as the story continued that Henry’s heart started to change.  It hardened.  It filled with anger and rage.  It seemed poisoned by its surroundings and circumstances.  It became so toxic that others started to notice.  “Are you okay, Henry?”  One of his closest friends was concerned.  When Henry retreated, it wasn’t just a physical event.  He retreated in his heart as well.  The guilt overwhelmed him.  Roots were growing inside of him.  Roots of resentment, anger, un-forgiveness, and hatred were taking over his heart and making it toxic.

Have you ever met someone with a toxic heart?  The circumstances or surroundings of their life had poisoned them.  Bad things happen, unfortunate events sweep in and shake us to the core of our being, and things happen that are beyond our control.  Life is messy and unpredictable.  But in the midst of the chaos, we have a choice.  We can keep moving forward or retreat.  The choice is ours.  When we begin to retreat we open the door up for our hearts to become polluted and filled with toxin.

 
Toxic can be defined as…

Poisonous, harmful or deadly, capable of causing injury or death

 
In reading the definition of toxic, we see that long term this can be deadly and it’s dangerous to allow the fruit of a toxic heart to linger in our lives.  It’s got to go!

A toxic heart can be recognized by the words that come out of its mouth.  Henry had a religious background.  His mom had strong convictions.  It says in the book that,She had had certain ways of expression that told him that her statements on the subject came from deep conviction” (Ch. 1).  She also said after he enlisted, “The Lord’s will be done, Henry” (Ch. 1).  He was raised in a home where certain values and principles were held tightly and expressed freely.

Henry had to recognize what was in him as he spoke from a toxic heart.  How could he miss the changes occurring on the outside of him? Some times living too close to the problem can blind us to the truth. 

I have heard a scripture in the Bible before that helps clarify this point.
Luke 6:45 says “…for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (NIV)


What comes out of our mouths helps others see what is in our hearts! Interesting… I don’t know about you, but I have good and bad days when it comes to what comes out of my mouth.  I don’t know that this scripture is speaking of our off days, but what is deep down inside of us on a daily basis.  It’s what is at the core of who we are.

 
I am honest enough to say I have suffered from a toxic heart before.  I have allowed offenses by others and the circumstances of life to pollute my heart.  It consumed me, polluted my speech, and changed my personality.  Poison spewed from my mouth as I spoke splattering on those around me.  I was becoming the very thing I detested.  It was only with God’s help that I was able to be free. 

I have a question for you.  It’s a personal one.  Do you have any destructive roots growing in your heart?  Could your heart be toxic?  What is the flavor of your conversation when you speak?  Is it sweet or sour?   Living with a toxic heart is dangerous.  I encourage you to ask a friend or family member today if they have noticed any changes in you lately.  The ability to be free from this is entirely up to you.  I dare you to choose freedom today!

Living to leave a legacy,

Julie

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Live YOUR Dash

Recently while I was away on a trip I heard this poem and it pricked my heart.


The Dash
By Linda Ellis copyright 1996


I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.




He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years
.


For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.


For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.


So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.


If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.


And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.


If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.


So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?


 
Wow!  What a concept!  Living for the dash…. What will we do with the life we have been given?  I want mine to count for something.  I want to leave behind a legacy to pass on for generations to come.  I want my life to make a difference for good.  What will you do with your dash?  The choice is entirely up to you.

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hello Blogosphere!

I thought I would share a brief bio about me to catch you all up.   I have been married for almost 20 years and have two pre-teen boys (see picture posted here when they were younger).  I love my family and my God.  I work part time in childcare and help an elderly lady twice a month.  I am also recovering from an autoimmune disease I have struggled with for the past seven years.  It's called Myasthenia Gravis and it weakens my muscles.  At its worst I was bedridden for three months until my doctor could regulate it.  I struggle at times with double vision, weakenss in walking, talking, eating, etc.. My husband has been amazing taking care of me and the boys through all of the ups and downs.  At my best I was able to complete the Mini-marathon 5K.  It was awesome!  I did it to prove to myself that I could do anything with God's help and I did.  Currently the disease is almost into remission, however I have been struggling with side-effects to my medications.  They are more like nagging frustrations to me.

I am taking American Lit. to fulfill a requirement to finish my degree.  When I am finished I will officially have my B.A. in Biblical Studies.  Yay!!!!  This is a big deal for me because I have been trying to do this for years.  Many things have kept me from it of course... kids, finances, sickness, time to do it, etc...   I LOVE to write and reading is a part of it, but I have never really enjoyed reading American Literature.  I like this course because I am required to read selections and authors I wouldn't normally choose for myself.  It has been very enlightening.

Blogging is not foreign to me.  I have another blog I started when I was suffering from a really bad flare up.  My old symptoms came back with a fierce vengance and I dropped almost 75 pounds in less than six months because I could hardly eat or drink anything.  I wanted to have something else to focus on while I struggled through.  My other blog focuses on how I pushed through my struggles, my family, and encouraging thoughts from the Bible.  If you want to look at it you can find it at:  www.leavingalegacyonline.com.  It is more like a record of my journey to getting well.  I am also working on writing a book.  I want to take all the wasted years being sick and use them for good.  The book will be a Bible Study on the life of Joseph using my life experiences to draw parallels.  It's not done yet, but it has been a great positive focus for me while being sick.  I want to call it, "Surviving Life's Mud Puddles."  The picture above is something I might want to use for the cover.  That picture alone has a story of its own.  That's for sure!

Thank you for reading!  I am looking forward to sharing all of my "literary after thoughts" with you.

Julie