Billy Graham

Billy Graham

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

#BillyGraham

In October of 2002 Billy Graham came to Dallas to speak in what was to be one of his last crusades, The Metroplex Mission, a four night event. Weeks before, our church was contacted by the BGEA to be one of the participation area churches. I participated in a five-week training program at our church to be a volunteer counselor at the Metroplex Mission Billy Graham crusade.

Part of the 5-week training program included bible verse memorization, which my oldest daughter, Michelle, helped me with. As a result, she memorized those bible verses too.

A couple of weeks into the training, I was burdened to pray for one of my husband’s friends who was in the ICU at the hospital and was not expected to live. My daughter and I went to visit him in the ICU where we found him on a ventilator and unable to talk. That gave us plenty of opportunity to do all the talking. We shared some of the Bible verses from the BGEA training, went over the plan of salvation, and prayed out loud for him.

The next day, my daughter told me that her boyfriend had been asking a lot of questions about the Bible and becoming a Christian. I encouraged her to go over the plan of salvation with him as soon as God gave her the next opportunity. Which came that very night. He received Christ as His Savior, as a result of her sharing the gospel with him, and his response to God ‘s call of salvation. He started attending our church and began a one-on-one Bible study with his Sunday School teacher. He came to the first night of the Metroplex Mission and came forward to make a public profession of faith.

On that first night of Mission Metroplex, Billy Graham, even at age 83, spoke so clearly about God’s love and His plan of salvation. I counseled one young lady who came forward to rededicate her life. She explained that she first came to know Christ at age 20 but had not been following Him the way she knew she should be. She was now 22. I told her that when I was young, I did the same. I first came to faith in Christ at age 12 and then drifted away in my teens and early twenties. I told her when I was 21, I was working as a cocktail waitress and a bartender. Her eyes opened wide and she looked shocked. She told me that she too was a cocktail waitress and bartender. God is amazing. Out of the over 2300 people that come forward to make a decision for Christ that night, He arranged the two of us, with a similar background, to connect and speak with each other.

I told her I was in my mid-twenties before I turned my life around back toward Christ. I was in my first year of marriage, pregnant with my oldest daughter, when one night, I heard Billy Graham on TV while walking around the house cleaning and cooking dinner. My eyes were on the cooking and cleaning but my ears were focused on the TV. The words I heard him speak began working in my heart. A few nights later, I woke up on the middle of the night thinking about all the sin in my life. I cried out and asked for God to forgive me. God is the God of second chances.

Over the next few nights at Mission Metroplex I counseled several others, but these are the people and the memories that stand out to me today. God has a plan and a purpose for everything, every person, and every season in our lives. I believe God involved me in being a part of the Billy Graham crusade specifically for these people in particular, for a divine appointment with Him.

My husband’s friend who was in the hospital ICU passed away within a few days of our visit with him. I don’t know if he heard and agreed with our words and prayers but it’s my hope and prayer that he did. The Bible verses and the plan of salvation we shared with him, then led to my daughter sharing the same with her boyfriend. They broke up within the following year and they went their separate ways, as many young people do. But this young man died unexpectedly soon after at age 24. I believe he is in heaven today because he placed his trust in Jesus when my daughter shared the gospel with him.

Today, I woke up to the news that Billy Graham has passed away at age 99. Billy Graham was many things to many people. He preached the gospel to millions of people in person all over the world. Hundreds of millions more were reached through his ministries.  He started his life of service to God as a young boy from North Carolina by placing his faith and trust in Jesus’ sacrificial work on the cross.  Billy Graham, thank you for your faithful obedience to God and His Word. Thank you for pointing so many people to Christ, including me.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”
John 11:25

Advertisements
Another Gospel

Another Gospel

 

In the spring of 1988 I moved from Indiana to Florida with our two young daughters to meet up with my husband who had moved there a few months ahead of us. I was a little anxious about moving away from everything that was familiar to me. Actually, I really didn’t want to move, but I’d prayed about it and was trusting in God that it’d all work out. We were pretty excited to move into an “almost” new home in Brandon, Florida, a suburb near Tampa. We leased it with an option to buy.

 

One of the first things I wanted to do was to find a new church. So I prayed and asked God to help us and I mapped out a list of nearby churches. I narrowed the search down to either Baptist, Methodist or possibly an independent denomination. I chose Baptist because I’d been enjoying listening to some Baptist preachers on the radio for the previous couple of years, and Methodist because I’d been a member of the same Methodist church ever since I was a little girl. Some of my favorite memories there go as far back to when I was a little child in vacation bible school, a preteen singing in the youth choir, and a teenager in the youth group. It was there that I first trusted in Christ at age 12.

 

So, as soon as we got settled in our new home, I got the girls ready every Sunday, and we’d go visit a new church. It wasn’t long before the girls were complaining and I was also getting tired of visiting so many different churches. Something was wrong. None of the messages seemed convicting. None of people seemed seemed very friendly. None of the churches felt like “our new church.” It was discouraging.

 

Then one day I opened the door to two young men who wanted to talk to me about God. So, I welcomed them inside and we talked. I don’t remember all what we talked about that day, but I do remember thinking how nice they were to go out to talk to people in person. They spoke of Jesus, high family values and good clean living. I was impressed! They gave me a paperback copy of one of their books and I accepted their invitation to come visit their church.

 

So the next Sunday we went to their church. The first thing I noticed was that there wasn’t a cross anywhere, inside or out. They didn’t have a pastor, but instead, they had a few members who stood up to speak. When they spoke it seemed more like a business meeting than church. Then they held communion and used water instead of grape juice. I began to question myself in my mind, “What kind of church is this?” Everyone was so nice, but I walked out of that church confused. These people were probably some of the sweetest people you’d ever want to meet, but this church, who used the name of Jesus Christ in their name, and who spoke of Jesus, was not like any church I was used to.

 

The following week, the two young men came back to visit and ….

 

I asked why they used another book besides the Bible and they said it was because they believed that the two books were better than one and that they complimented each other. They said, “Are not two witnesses better than one?”

 

I asked why they didn’t have a cross on the church. They explained that crosses on the top of churches were just lightning rods. So then I asked why there wasn’t a cross on the inside and they said there was one inside but I must not have seen it. Then they questioned why would churches want to put crosses up everywhere when dying on the cross was such a horrendous way to die.

 

I asked why they used water instead of grape juice for communion and they said that water was a better representation of Christ because of its clarity and purity. They questioned why anyone would want to drink “blood.”

 

I also asked why they didn’t have a pastor and was told it was because they believed that it’s wrong to pay someone to talk about Christ. They said that pastors who accept money for preaching are “apostates” or people who have left the faith.

 

With each of their answers I became increasingly uncomfortable, especially when they referred to their other books.  They basically had an answer for everything and even some biblical references but I really wasn’t seeing the connection. I felt their explanations were wrong but I lacked the biblical knowledge to be able to reference chapter and verse to debate them. At the same time I was confused because they claimed to be Christians and they were so incredibly nice.

 

I told them of my own salvation experience as a 12 year old, my drifting away from God in my teens and early twenties, and then my conviction of sin in my mid twenties one night after watching Billy Graham on TV. Then, they questioned who Billy Graham was, and I thought, what kind of Christian doesn’t know who Billy Graham is? I escorted them to the door and decided it was time to pay a visit to the local Christian book store to find out a little more about this church.

 

I found a book titled, The God Makers, and began reading it on a Saturday afternoon. I stayed up almost all night reading the entire 600+ page book. It was more than just enlightening; it was shocking. How could I have been so naive? How did I not know that they had a false gospel and that they worship another Jesus, not the Jesus of the Bible? Keeping in mind the World Wide Web and Google were yet to be invented in 1988, but still, how did I not know?

 

After only a few hours of sleep, I woke up late and thought if I hurried I could go to the closest Baptist church to our house, right around the corner. I had previously dismissed visiting this church because the building was so old and small. It was nearly time for church to start when I turned into the tree lined driveway next to that old tiny wood framed church. I was totally surprised to then see a huge new church building further back on their property surrounded by trees. That old tiny church out front was just a memorial of their original church building!

 

I rushed in just in time for the service to start. The church was packed, The songs were spirit filled. The people had their bibles, pens and paper in hand to take notes as the pastor spoke. His message that day was on the grace of God. Everything the pastor said was so true, so convicting and spoke directly to my heart. He quoted bible verse after bible verse on the grace of God. Everything made perfect sense. I went forward at the end of the service. I was both moved by the pastor’s sermon and upset with myself for having such a precious gift of salvation and somehow not knowing enough not to go to that other church. And all the while, this church was the closest church to me! How ironic? Well actually, how providential!

 

Soon after, I joined that Baptist church and was baptized by immersion. I got involved in bible study, children’s church, the bus ministry, and eventually helping with the visitation ministry – the very thing that I admired in those two young men. Except, when given the opportunity, I told people…..

 

…..that the Bible alone is God’s word and it sufficient and sovereign. No one should add or take away from it, and…..

 

….. that the cross is the symbol of our Christian faith and that it is nothing to be ashamed of or be hidden from view because it was on the cross that Jesus died in our place, for our sins, and….

 

….. that the shed blood of Christ is precious to us because it provided a way of salvation to all who believe in Jesus. Grape juice has long been used for Christian communion of the Lord’s Supper as a symbol of His sacrifice and the new Covenant.

 

God answered my prayer about finding a new church in a way that I never expected. I got so much more than just a new church home. I learned some things that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

 

First of all, although my heart may have been in the right place, my motive was wrong. I was praying and looking for a new church but I was putting too much emphasis on finding a “church” and not enough on growing my personal relationship with Him. God, by His grace, moved me 1000 miles away from home, to grow me in my faith and in my relationship with Him. I was perfectly happy at my old church but I really wasn’t growing in Christ there, or at least not in the way that God was wanting me to grow. He used this experience to teach me that although He loves the church, it’s our personal relationship with Him that is most important. Our relationship with Him should always be growing, and if it’s not, we should pray about it and do whatever is necessary to get our focus on Him and His will for our lives.

 

Secondly, I believe God allowed this experience so that I’d be able to warn others about false gospels. The church I went to, if you haven’t guessed by now, was a Mormon church, also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS. After what I learned about them, those initials might as well stand for Lucifer, devil, and Satan. Did you know that their founder, Joseph Smith, claimed that Jesus was the spirit brother of Lucifer? Did you know that Joseph Smith believed that you can become a god and that God started out as a man? Interestingly, the LDS church has kept pretty busy over the years rewriting Joseph Smith’s books. Joseph Smith claimed to have written the most perfect book in the world, The Book of Mormon, but that book, as well as other LDS books, The Pearl of Great Price and The Doctrine and Covenants, have been edited and changed numerous times over the years by the LDS church. And these are the books they hold in higher esteem than the Bible?! By the way, I threw my paperback copy of The Book of Mormon in the trash soon after reading “The God Makers.”

 

Of course, false religion is not limited to the Mormon’s. I write about them here because of my own personal experience, but the fact is, false religions and false gospels are everywhere. A simple Google search today will give you lots of links, but the problem with web searches is that some of the links have questionable sources. Actually, the best way to recognize that which is false, is to know that which is true. So my best advice is this: know Jesus and know His Word; trust in Him alone and in His Word alone. That’s it, plain and simple. That’s the best protection against false religions and those who preach “another gospel.”

 

So whatever your situation and whatever your prayer, and whether He moves you a thousand miles away or he keeps you right where you are, I pray he answers your prayer in a most unexpected and wonderful way like He did mine.

 

“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

2 Peter 3:17-18

 

Thankful

Thankful

It’s November and the stores are ready for Christmas! But wait, we haven’t had Thanksgiving yet!  I love Christmas and like most people it’s probably my favorite time of year but sometimes it seems that Thanksgiving is overshadowed by Christmas. We should all be thankful as we all have been blessed so much.  Thanksgiving is to thankfulness, as Christmas is to giving and receiving. But are we thankful? What are we thankful for and who are we thankful to?

I think it’s human nature to take things for granted, especially when we’re young. Although I don’t think it has as much to do with our chronological maturity as it does with our spiritual maturity.

For me, my earliest recollection of being truly thankful was on Thanksgiving Day in 1981. The setting: St Francis Hospital in Beech Grove, Indiana.  The occasion: two days after the birth of our first daughter. There I was, resting in my hospital bed, and the hospital aid rolled in a large meal cart and gave me my turkey dinner on a hospital serving tray. Michelle, 2 days old, lay asleep in the hospital bassinet right next to my bed. It was just the two of us in that quiet hospital room.  I was overwhelmed with thankfulness to God for allowing me to be a mom to this precious child.  I was so thankful that He had blessed me with a baby and was entrusting me to be her mom.  I was in love with my newborn baby and just in awe of God.  I remember praying with tears in my eyes and thanking Him with every tear. Here was my first Thanksgiving spent alone (Harold was at my mom’s having Thanksgiving dinner with my family) and  it was really the first Thanksgiving that I recall being aware of God’s blessings and being so thankful to Him. Since that day, I’ve had many more occasions of thankfulness to God, such as the birth our other two daughters, and so many blessings throughout my life, both spiritual and material.   I’ve since found a correlation in my increased thankfulness with my increased relationship with God and I believe thankfulness, or lack thereof, is a probably a good indicator of spiritual health.

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

While I was pregnant with Michelle my relationship with God grew.  I had watched Billy Graham on TV one night and a few nights later woke up in the middle of the night thinking about all the sin in my life. I asked for His forgiveness, started reading my bible again and going back to church. I had first come to faith in Christ when I was 12 years old but had drifted away during my teens and early 20’s. Interestingly enough, I don’t recall ever being thankful during those years. I may have been, but I just don’t recall it. I believe that having a relationship with a God and being thankful to Him go hand-in-hand.

So on the heals of Thanksgiving Day, comes the Christmas season. People rushing around shopping, buying, giving and receiving gifts. Gifts are both fun to receive and fun to give, with an emphasis more on the later, especially as we mature. But here’s a truth and a gentle warning: there’s a danger that surrounds the gifts we receive throughout our lives. The danger lies within our own hearts, that we may desire the gift instead of or more than the Giver. We should never loose sight that the Giver is much much greater than the gifts He gives us. God is sovereign. God is good.

Be ever thankful.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 107:1



Mom, Megan, and Me 

Mom, Megan, and Me 

It was 1986, an early and cold January morning in Indianapolis. I was excited and ready to go to the hospital to have our second child. In anticipation of the birth we’d taken our first born over to my mom’s house the night before. So off to the hospital we went with my suitcase, purse, 35mm camera, 2 rolls of film, and a heart full of excitement. On the way to the hospital I nervously loaded my camera with a roll of film. Three days later I discovered I’d loaded it wrong and didn’t get the first 36 pictures I thought we’d taken, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Mom met us at the hospital with our 4 year old to sit with us in the labor/delivery room. Having family in the labor/delivery room was new to us so when the doctor suggested it, I thought that’d be pretty cool. It actually was really nice to have the people I loved the most right there next to me.

We didn’t know for sure if we were having a boy or a girl. I’d had two sonograms while I was pregnant but the quality of sonograms wasn’t like the quality we have today. They told us in the first sonogram that we were having a girl and in the second sonogram that we were having a boy. We figured the second one was the right one since it was the latest, so we were looking forward to having a new baby boy!

A little over three hours later the doctor said, “It’s a girl!”  So much for that second sonogram! Ha! But having another girl meant we didn’t have to buy baby boy clothes. Besides, baby girl clothes are so much cuter than baby boy clothes (at least back then) and we already had plenty of baby girl clothes! After only a few moments of holding her they took her to the warming table. They wrapped her tight in a receiving blanket and I got to hold her again before they took her off the the nursery. She was a beautiful baby; I loved her immediately.

After a short time in recovery I was taken to my room and  I was just about to doze off to sleep when the doctor came in. He had a team of doctors with him so I was a little surprised at that. He then proceeded to tell me that our daughter was born with Spina Bifida, actually a lipomyelomeningocele, which is a golf ball size fatty tumor that’s attached to her spinal cord. He further explained that she’d probably have difficulty walking, problems with her bladder and that she’ll need surgery soon, and maybe several surgeries down the road. I didn’t really grasp all that he was telling me; it was a lot to absorb.

Then, later that very day, I got a phone call on the hospital room phone from the doctors office where I’d taken my mom earlier in the month. She told me that all the test results were in and that based on the tests the doctor was diagnosing her with Alzheimer’s Disease, and that it was incurable.

In a matter of a few hours, my world had been turned upside down. From the excitement of giving birth to the fear of what the future held for my newborn daughter and my mom. I laid awake all night, crying and praying. By the second night in the hospital, I still couldn’t sleep and I began to hallucinate; it was too much to handle, between the hormones, my newborn, my mom, and at this point I hadn’t slept for going on nearly 36 hours. I cried out for God to give me peace and for the nurse to give me something to help me fall asleep.

I recognized that I needed help; I needed God’s help; I needed the prayers of God’s people.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law  Christ.” Galatians 6:2

I reached out to God in prayer and then I began asking different groups to pray for my daughter and my mom. Up until this time, I don’t recall sharing my burdens and prayers with others. At first it was hard for me to share my prayer requests. My daughter and mom were so precious to me; somehow in my mind, I feared that people would think less of them or think that they were less than perfect, and I loved them so much.
I knew that the power of prayer doesn’t come from the number of people praying, it comes from the Holy Spirit, but I knew I needed help so I was willing to risk being vulnerable with the anticipated hope of help and support from God and His people.

 

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16


The next few years were filled with many hospital and doctor visits, surgeries and clinics for our little girl and at the same time, my mother faded away ever-so-slowly into the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease. I was glad my mom got to come stay with and near us for extended periods of time when she was in the early to mid stages of the disease. Her sweet and gentle spirit was still with her during these stages.

Through these years I learned that it was in the days of burden and prayer for my daughter and my mom that I drew closer to God. He drew me from my independence to be more dependent on Him. I was a very independent person and God knew I needed to change.

He uses difficulty to strengthen and correct believers and eventually as a tool in achieving His plan.” Charles Stanley


My mom passed away in 1998 after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for several years. It was hard to see her fade away to the point that she didn’t know who I was and had lost the ability to walk and talk. Her personality gone, long before her passing, made me miss my mom even while she was still alive. When it came time for her passing, it was hard to let her go, even though I knew she was going to be much better off and be with Jesus. I loved her so much. But I thank God for helping me get through those difficult days and I thank all those who prayed for us during that time.

In our daughter’s early years, it seemed like everything was going to work out ok for her. We had a lot of support, a lot of good doctors and clinics, and many of her teachers would tell me what a great attitude she had.  But the overall reality is that she has had a difficult life with Spina Bifida; it takes it’s toll both physically and emotionally. Little did I realize how difficult her life would be as they wheeled her off to her first neurosurgery when she was barely a month old. I’ll never forget how, after that first surgery, her face was pale and shiny like a China doll as she laid on the hospital bed motionless. I thought for an instant that she didn’t make it; my heart stood still, but then the doctor assured us she was ok. She had a second and third neurosurgery at age 4, a fourth neurosurgery at age 5, and a fifth neurosurgery at age 16. And this was in addition to numerous clinic visits, tests, bladder procedures, physical therapy, feet surgeries and castings over the span of much of her childhood and teen years.

I’m thankful for all the prayers for her over the years, and actually would appreciate your prayers for her still today. As an adult with Spina Bifida she wears legs braces to walk but gets around nowadays mostly by wheelchair. She also has chronic back pain, chronic bladder and kidney infections, and various other related medical issues. Everyday simple things that most people take for granted, like walking, bathing, house cleaning, grocery shopping, etc., all are daily challenges for her. On top of all of this, and by the grace of God, she is also the mother of two awesome children.
While we all may wonder why God allows things like birth defects, disease and suffering here on earth, I know there are some things that we may not know the answer to until we get to heaven. We all suffer at times, and some some more than others. The who and the why are epic questions for a lot of us, but I do know this: He has a plan and a purpose for everything in our life and I have learned that He wants us to pray and trust Him no matter what.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


While paying for gas in Florida earlier this year I noticed a sign by the register,
“Have you played today?”
It was the state of Florida’s friendly reminder to buy lottery tickets. The lady ahead of me in line apparently didn’t need the reminder. I think she was there just to buy lottery tickets, so much so that it took what seemed like forever before she finished; 10 of this one, 15 of this one, etc. All the while she and the girl at the register laughed and talked about all the things they’d do with the winnings. Then this thought crossed my mind: what if the letter “l” was changed to an “r”,
“Have you prayed today?”

I thought, what a difference that would make in people’s lives. What a difference it has made in my life.

 

Men ought always to pray. Luke 18:1

 

My Weight Loss Journey; the Rest of the Story

My Weight Loss Journey; the Rest of the Story

Weight gain and loss is such a personal issue; many of us struggle with loosing weight; many of us give up. Loosing weight and exercising regularly is not easy; it takes determination, the right foods, portion control, and a practical plan that you can stick with.  I chose Nutrisystem because we travel a lot and I needed something convenient;  their grab-and-go prepared foods and just adding my own vegetables was the perfect plan for me.  I first penned this blog February 2017 but I decided it need to be revised and renamed; it needed to be more personal. So, as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s “the rest of the story.”

IMG_4570

Here I am in 2013 holding my youngest grandson, who I love dearly.  I have no idea how much I weighed then; I didn’t dare step on the scale nor would I normally post a photo like this. It was taken during a fairly stressful time in my life.  Not that this was the only stressful period in my life, as anyone with grown children can attest, but it was definitely one of them. A few months months earlier our youngest daughter became pregnant at age 15 and gave birth out-of-wedlock at age 16.  Like a lot of people, I tend to overeat during stressful times,  In fact, I can look back at other times in my life that I also gained weight due to specific stressful periods in my life.  Even though I’m a Christian and know that God is in control, I’m still human.  I also tend to keep to myself, especially when it comes to personal issues. It took me a long time before I could even talk about our daughters pregnancy, let alone stop crying about it.  I was so upset during this time, but, just as I’ve discovered with so many of life’s trials, somehow God takes that which we think are the very worst things in our lives and turns them into the very best things in our lives, when we look to Him for answers.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Roman’s 8:28

Now I can’t even imagine life without our youngest grandchild.  He, along with our other grandchildren are the icing on the cake of our lives. I know that no human being is ever conceived outside God’s will or ever conceived apart from His image. Unplanned pregnancies may surprise us, but God is never surprised.  Ironically, our youngest daughter was actually our surprise baby; she was born when I was 42.  I told her, “The God who allowed you to be born when I was 42, is the same God who’s allowed you to give birth at age 16.”  He is the author of life. God is good. He is for us, not against us.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
    when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
    in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,

Psalm 139:13-16

Here’s another photo that was also taken in 2013, on my 59th birthday.  I did my best to hide my weight behind that present. For the most part, I deleted a lot of photos during this time.  I didn’t like being overweight.
IMG_3375

Fast forward to February 2016, at age 61, I got the courage up to get back on the scales.  I weighed 173 pounds, was taking a high blood pressure medicine and an acid reflux medicine daily.  I knew I had to do something to change my weight and to improve my health. This is me on February 21, 2016, the day I started Nutrisystem.

IMG_1669

I was tired of deleting photos and tired of being overweight. Up until that time I’d been telling myself that I looked OK for my age, and that gaining weight and taking medicine was all part of getting older.  But I decided that I didn’t want to just look “OK for my age.” I decided I wanted to be the best I can be, both inside and out. So, in addition to my new diet I started drinking water instead of soda, walking 2 or 3 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes each time and listening to my favorite biblical teachers on my earphones. For my shorter walks I’d listen to Alistair Begg, Jack Graham, Charles Stanley, Greg Laurie or Ravi Zacharias. For my longer walks I’d listen to John MacArthur or a combination of the above. It felt great getting fresh air, exercising and listening to biblical messages all at the same time; multi-tasking at its best! It became my favorite time of the day.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2  

By end of the first week I’d lost 7 pounds and just 2 months later in April I’d lost 21 lbs.  I entered Nutrisystem’s Success Story contest for a chance to win $10K and a chance to be in one of their commercials. In August 2016 I was asked to be a call-in guest for two QVC/Nutrisystem TV shows that month and to come to Tampa, FL the following month for a photo shoot.

IMG_2174

By September of 2016 I turned 62 and had lost 40 lbs!  I celebrated my birthday with my family and a Nutrisystem Carrot Cake.

A few days after my birthday I flew to Tampa for a 5-day photo shoot for Nutrisystem along with 14 others who had also lost weight. My oldest daughter got off work and came down the next day to keep me company.  I met a lot of fantastic people and loved being a part of something so fun and interesting.  When I was young I wanted to be a model, and even though I did do some modeling in my teens and twenties, I wasn’t tall enough so I never really pursued it.  But in Tampa, I was pampered and treated just like a real model, with wardrobe, make-up and hair stylists.  I was photographed against a white screen and did some short promotional video monologues on a green screen. I didn’t win the contest nor have they used me in any of their commercials but it was still a great experience.

IMG_3230

IMG_3839

Me and my oldest daughter in Tampa after the photo shoot:

IMG_3373

After I returned home from the photo shoot,  I found the same dress that the wardrobe person had picked out for me to wear, except in a smaller size.  The dress that I wore in their photo shoot was a little big on me and had to be pinned in the back, but this one fits perfect:

IMG_5841

Since losing 40 pounds my doctor gave me the OK to stop taking both my blood pressure medicine and acid reflux medicine.  My blood pressure has continued to be normal everyday since, without meds. I’m thankful for my good health and don’t take it for granted. I work on maintaining my weight by drinking lots of water, exercising and eating a healthy, portion controlled diet, including some of my Nutrisystem favorites.  I enjoy working out with a dance DVD and/or walking at least 30 minutes everyday and yes, I still listen to my favorite biblical teachers.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Life (on earth) is short; I believe we should strive to be as healthy as we can be, both physically and spiritually.  My heart goes out to any who are born with physical disabilities (including our second daughter who was born with Spina Bifida) or people who have physical injuries, and people who have medical conditions that prevent them from exercising or medical problems such as thyroid disease. But for the most part, the great majority of us are born with perfectly healthy bodies, and as we grow older, we’re guilty of not taking care of them.  We overeat and/or eat the wrong foods, drink too much soda and/or liquor and don’t get enough exercise.  God tells in His Word that we (Christians) are to honor Him with our bodies, which includes taking care of them.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is more than just good advise to take care of our bodies, more importantly it also begs the question, have you received the Holy Spirit from God? Are you a Christian? Being physically fit is a good thing but it’s not near as important as knowing Christ as your Lord and Savior.  You can be physically fit and not be a Christian. You can be a Christian and not be physically fit.  They are not mutually exclusive of each other, but I do believe they can be mutually beneficial to each other.  The more dedicated we are to physical fitness the more physically able, we as Christians, may be to be used of God and to be there for our families.

IMG_3844

Next to my relationship with God, my family is the most important thing in the world to me.  Here’s a few recent pics of our family:

Mother’s Day 2017:

Memorial Day 2017:

IMG_4752

IMG_4678

Father’s Day 2017:

IMG_5603

IMG_5668

IMG_4165

“Don’t shine so others can see you.

Shine so that that through you, others can see Him.”

C.S. Lewis

Stress and problems are facts of life, but with God, nothing is impossible.  I believe God has a plan and a purpose for everything that happens in life; be it our plans or our surprises, or our successes or our failures. The point is to keep your focus on Him through it all.  He is for us, not against us.

Pretty is as Pretty Does.

Pretty is as Pretty Does.

It’s hard to write about my mom. I feel like words can’t even begin to describe how much of a good mother she was or how much I loved her. But, here, I will try.

When I was little, I remember my mom used to tell me, “Pretty is as pretty does.” I was so young when she first said this to me, I didn’t quite understand what it meant.

She was born in Illinois in 1921 and was given the name of “Sarah Katherine” but at some point she changed the spelling to “Sara Kathryn.” Back then it was common to be born at home and so my grandmother gave birth to all four of her children at home. My mother, her second child, along with her sister and two brothers, grew up during the depression. She told me that they were so poor that for Christmas all they would get would be an orange and maybe a homemade toy or doll.

Mom with her baby sister and older brother:

IMG_3822

Mom with her younger sister and younger brother and their billy goat:

IMG_3799

They moved to Indiana sometime during her childhood and she graduated from high school in 1938.

IMG_3839.jpg

It was there at Cloverdale High School that she met my dad. They fell in love and got married in 1941, three years after they graduated from high school.

IMG_3838

IMG_3804

They had six kids, of which I was the 5th!

IMG_3801

Mom and me, Easter 1956 🙂

IMG_3803

Growing up I remember she watched lots and lots of kids; some for weeks at a time. People would come pick their kids up and not even pay her because they didn’t have enough money. I remember one summer she watched 3 or 4 kids from one family for the whole summer and when the dad came to pick them up he only gave my mom $20.

My mom would kneel at her bed at night to pray and get up early in the morning to read her bible.  I remember we lived on Hickory Lane in Indianapolis; she would sit alone in our tiny kitchen nook just off the kitchen. I remember her sitting there in that little room, with the yellow ruffled curtains, and the smell of black coffee. If any of us kids would get up too early she would tell us to go back to bed! I remember one morning in particular I stood there watching her and wanting her attention so I said something mean to try to get it. It worked but not in the way I had wanted. It would be years later until I would understand why she needed that alone time and quiet time with the Lord.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Proverbs 31:30

My mom worked so hard just taking care of us and the all the kids she babysit. I remember piles of laundry in the basement and wondering how there was so much of it. She’d be exhausted just from looking after us, let alone trying to keep the house clean or keep up with the laundry. If she ever sat down to watch TV she usually fell asleep from exhaustion. She teased and said that her eyelids were attached to her knees and if she sat down and bent her knees her eyelids would close so she’d fall asleep!

IMG_3794

She took pride in making her dollar stretch at the grocery. To save money she’d buy a gallon of whole milk and then mix it with powered milk to make it into two gallons.  She’d also go to several grocery stores each week just to get the best prices. My dad worked at White Castle as an office supervisor, and he’d bring home boxes of slightly outdated frozen White Castle hamburger patties. My mom would make all sorts of different meals out of them; basically anything that called for ground beef. She actually could make something out of almost anything and it always tasted good. All except liver and onions. I’d skip that and settle for something like peanut butter and jelly. Actually one of my favorite snacks is a banana with peanut butter, which was one of my moms favorite snacks too.

My mom was a lot like her mom, my grandma. Some of my favorite memories were of us going to my grandma’s house to spend time with her and for family dinners. My grandma made the best rubarb pie in the world!  My grandma used to tell me that she prayed for me, and I’m so thankful for her and her prayers.  I loved her so much.

IMG_3796

My mom had a natural love for her family but more than that, she had the love of Jesus in her heart. I wasn’t exactly the perfect child but she loved me unconditionally. There wasn’t anything I could do or say to make her not love me. She made a difference in my life and in the lives of so many people she came in contact with. She was always thinking of others first. She’d make sure everyone else’s needs were met before her own. She had compassion and love for hurting people. She’d fix meals for people at church and she’d help strangers in need. I remember her making sandwiches and giving them to poor people.  She treated them with love and respect. She had such a gentle, sweet and giving spirit.

Later in life my mom continued with that same gentle and sweet spirit and continued to help all of her grown children and grandchildren as much as she could. She’d cook big meals and was always looking forward to the next family get-together. She would do anything and everything she could for any one of us.

Mom in her basement on McFarland Rd with five of her grandkids Christmas 1986:

IMG_3806

She lived the last 20 years of her life as a widow and spent most of the last 10 of those years suffering from the effects of early onset Alzheimer’s. I was glad she was able to come and live with and near me for part of those latter years. Even though the disease affected her personality and her memory, I was happy just to just be near her and to spend time with her.

IMG_3829

Here’s some pics from our last couple of family Christmas get-togethers:

IMG_3836

Our last family get-together was in January of 1998 in Vincennes, Indiana. We took photos all together, one right after the next, in hopes of catching her old familiar smile.   But the raveges of Alzheimer’s had taken it’s course and she could no longer smile; nor walk or talk.  She was ready to go home.  See passed from this life on earth to her heavenly home on September 15, 1998 at age 77.  I was able to be there along with my sister and brother to read some bible verses to her, pray and hold her hand as her soul passed into  heaven to be with the Lord.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.                 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

I choose not to post the photos from January of 1998.  Instead I prefer to remember my mom the way she was for the greater part of her life here on earth. My mother was a pretty lady by any standards and even in today’s world where so much emphasis is put on outward appearance, it was her beauty that radiated from within that will be her legacy. My mom lived her life, simply put, with love for God and her family. And even though I didn’t understand it as a child,  I came to learn the meaning of “Pretty is as pretty does.” because of my mom and the way she lived her life.

001 facebook_cover (1)-2

People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7

The Land That I Will Show You

The Land That I Will Show You

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

As far back as I can remember, I was a headstrong and independent child. I wanted to do things my own way and make my own decisions. While some may consider these somewhat positive traits in an adult, they’re not so much in a child, nor are they positive traits in a Christian. Old habits die hard. But God, in His sovereign providence, uses both our positive and negative personality traits in His plan for our lives. He uses bits and pieces of our past, including and especially our problems, in our walk of faith toward Him and with Him. Here is one such time in my life:

In February of 1988, We were almost 8 years into our marriage, with 2 young children, living in my hometown, on the south side of Indianapolis. Life was far from perfect but it was pretty good; I was happy, enjoying living near family (my mom was only a couple of miles from me), I had a great job working for a small airline and I enjoyed attending my childhood church.

Then out of the blue, my husband decided we should move to Florida. His parents had moved there a few years before and we had enjoyed visiting there, but like the saying goes, “It’s a nice place to visit but I don’t want to live there.” I repeat, I didn’t want to live there! Indianapolis was my hometown and I didn’t want to move away. I didn’t want to leave my mom. I didn’t want to leave the life I had grown familiar with. I didn’t want to leave my church. But, long story short, he left the first week in February, 1988, without me and the kids. He moved in with his parents and found a new job right away. I wasn’t upset but I wasn’t too happy about it either. I basically was just hoping he’d change his mind and come back home soon.

Over next few months we both continued hold on to our individual opinions about where we should live. The thought of divorce crept in my mind but I still loved my husband and he still loved me. We were just having a disagreement on where we should live. I didn’t like him not agreeing with me and I wanted him to just come back home. We really were at an impasse.

So I got my bible and I searched for answers. I read in Malachi that God hates divorce. I read in Ephesians that wives should submit to their husbands as to the Lord. And I read in Genesis that God called Abraham, in an act of obedience, to leave his homeland and to move to an unknown and faraway land. Now I read these things but at the same time I was having a conflict with my old nature of being headstrong and independent. I considered life as a single mom, a life of independence, where I called all the shots, but then, I prayed earnestly for clear directions from God about what to do.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

Then it finally became clear to me – my husband wasn’t asking me to jump off a cliff, or asking me to break a law, or asking me to do something against God, he was just asking me to move to Florida to be with him.  God gave me a sense of peace about moving and I began to see the situation as an act of obedience towards both my husband and God. This was a big step for me because I think I’d been holding on to my independence ever since childhood, and even into my marriage.  I believe God increased my faith right then and there as I realized I needed to be more obedient to Him and to my husband.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”  Ephesians 5:21

Abraham had great faith in God and was obedient to Him. God told Abraham he was going on a journey that would require him to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household. Obedience meant he had to say goodbye to relationships and the things near and dear to him. Separation from the familiar played a part in his development of his strong faith in God. Sometimes God asks us to let go of something we hold dear before He let’s us take a hold of something new. It’s all a part of living by faith; trusting In Him even when we don’t see how all the pieces fit together, and believing that He’ll work everything out.

So with a leap of faith, a step of obedience, and a hopeful heart, I moved to Florida with our two young daughters the 1st day of June in 1988 to be with my husband. In the coming months God blessed me in ways I never imagined and my faith in Him grew in a most unexpected way – which I hope to be the subject of one of my future blogs. 😊