"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5

God’s Gifts

The Power of Prayer

. . . and doing what God is calling you to do.

I have chronic pain in my neck and shoulders from a car accident I was in over two years ago. Some days are better than others, but I’m in some level of pain and have headaches almost everyday. I’m not complaining.  It is what it is, and I know other people who live with far worse pain than I. I’ve tried several types of treatment – Physical therapy, chiropractic care, physical therapy again, and now I’m in massage therapy.  The massage has been helping. I still have a ways to go, but I haven’t had a migraine for almost 4 months now! That’s progress 😀 But that’s not exactly what this blog entry is about.

Our church offers a prayer time after each service. I’ve thought about going up and being prayed over for my neck and back, but just never have. Why? Well, I already have people praying for me like my small group, and some friends & family. And I truly believe that God will heal me when He feels it’s time.  Whether it’s tomorrow or 10 years from now (hopefully he won’t wait that long!). But mostly, being prayed for by someone I don’t know makes me really uncomfortable. I’m not sure why exactly . . . could be pride, shyness, or not feeling worthy of a stranger’s time.  Probably a little of each.

Our church started a new series called Revolution a couple weeks ago. At this weekend’s service our pastor spoke about when Jesus washed his disciples feet. This story is always a hard one for me because I don’t like feet, and the thought of someone having to wash mine . . . wow. But, the point he made that really hit home to me is that it’s not only important to serve others, but it’s also important to let other’s serve you. I have a hard time with that. Pastor Darrel went on to say that when we don’t allow others to serve us, we are robbing them from the blessing God gives when they serve. I had never though about it that way.

When he said that, I knew that I had to go up and get prayer. That’s their ministry, to pray for people. And God has been whispering that I need to do this for awhile.  A very nice man from our church sat down with James and I and prayed over us and asked for healing on my back and neck.  He seemed to really understand how chronic pain effects people. I wish I could say that I walked out of there healed completely. But, the next best thing that could have happened did. 

You see, about a week ago, I slept on my shoulder wrong and my neck locked up and I could barely move it.  My shoulder became really inflamed and it was pretty painful.  This happens every couple months or so but it usually starts to get better after about 3 days.  A week later it still hadn’t gotten much better.  When we walked out to our car after receiving the prayer, I could feel my shoulders start to loosen. We got in the car and I could begin to move my neck.  By the time I got home, I had normal post-accident range of motion again. It was truly amazing! In a strange way, it made me really thankful for the amount of pain that I live with.  Not to have it, but thankful knowing that it could be a lot worse. Thankful for answered prayer. And for peace after doing something God had been putting on my heart to do for a while, but wouldn’t step out of my comfort zone to do. Thankful for the reminder of what can happen when you do what God asks of you. I’m praying that it blessed the man who prayed for us at least as much as it has blessed me. And I should clarify that I know he didn’t heal the kink in my neck, but he answered a calling from God to pray for others, allowing God to give me healing through him. 

Have you been avoiding anything that God has been calling you to do?


Love, Loss, and Hope

A wise woman and dear friend once told me that she and her husband always say I love you each time they get off the phone, or whenever one of them leaves to go do something without the other. They do it even, and especially, if they are in a fight . . . that way if one of them dies while they are apart they would have comfort knowing they said they loved each other the last time they spoke. James and I do this too. You might think that it’s a little morbid to think of these things, but I’ve lost a lot of people close to me during my short life. My dream and prayer is that James and I get to live to be old and gray together, and then die in each other’s arms at the same time (just like in The Notebook. I don’t care if that makes me a big romantic sap! :)), but I also know that our time on earth can be cut short in an instant, and it gives me comfort to know that if anything did happen to either of us, that the last words we would have said to each other would be I love you.

In February, my aunt passed away. She referred to herself as “crazy aunt Shelly” but I liked to say she wasn’t crazy, just a little kooky. 🙂 I miss her.  She lived in CA while I lived in WA and then moved to TX before I moved to CA so we didn’t get to see each other often.  When I did see her she had this knack for making me feel like I was the most special person in the world. I always knew that if I asked her about anything I would receive her very unsugar-coated honest opinion, but in a way that would never make me feel judged or belittled. It’s something I have always admired and appreciated about her. I also loved how when she got excited about something, her voice would rise and crack a little.  My grandma’s voice did it too. I miss them both.

This weekend a close family friend passed away. His family was like a 2nd family to me growing up. We spent a lot of the summer months with them when I was a kid, and every year my mom and his wife would pack all of us kids up and head to the OR coast for vacation. Their kids were a few years older than my brother and I, and we looked up to them like they were an older brother and sister.  My heart is breaking for their family and it’s times like these that I find it so hard to be far away from home.

Today is Easter and I have found myself reflecting a lot on death this weekend and the people I have lost during my life- both grandparents on my dad’s side. My aunt. A few close friend’s of my parents. Friends and coworkers of mine who were only in their 20’s. An old college boyfriend not long after we had broken up. Great aunts and uncles. Not in a way that questioned God’s judgement, but just in remembrance . . . and if I’m being really honest, with a twinge of self-pity in my sadness. As I thought about them and prayed about everything, I realized that I could dwell on the fact that I’ve lost so many people who I’ve cared about during my life, OR I could be thankful that I’ve had so many people in my life that I’ve cared enough about that it hurt to lose them. It doesn’t make me miss them any less, but it reminds me of all the joy and love God has brought to my life. He has given me a lot of people to love. And the gift He gave us through His Son at Easter blows my mind.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. ” John 3:16 

He gave His only son . . . for us!

I had to remember that he never promised that we would have eternal life on earth with all the people we’ve ever cared about.  He’s promising that if we follow Him, we’ll have eternal life with Him in Heaven, and there won’t be any pain or sorrow there.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

And, He didn’t promise us that our life here on earth would ever be easy. He told us it wouldn’t be.

 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

He also said that with Him, we wouldn’t be alone while we were here.

If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go.” Psalm 91:9-11

Today, I am thankful that He has risen and is alive, thankful for the gift God gave us through Jesus, and thankful for all the people He’s put in my life. Thankful for YOU!

What are you thankful for this Easter?

 


Celebrating 4 Amazing Years!

Today I have been married to the love of my life for 4 years! We’ve known each other for 17 years so sometimes it seems like we’ve been together for so much longer. Sometimes I have trouble remembering what my life was like before him. Brad Paisley has a song that is out right now that I absolutely love because it makes me think of James and our journey together every time I hear it.
 
I Thought I Loved You Then
by Brad Paisley
 
I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you.
You had me mesmerized.
And 3 weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 min to kiss goodnight,
I hadn’t told you yet, but I thought I loved you then.

 

(I do actually remember the very moment I saw James for the first time. It was in the gym at a basketball game and when I saw him I stopped so suddenly that the person walking behind me almost knocked me over. All the people and noise in the gym disappeared and all I could see was him . . . until the person behind me told me that he was in junior high. I was in high school so of course I thought nothing could ever happen between us. Later that night I caught him staring at me.)  

Homecoming 1993

Chorus

Now you’re my whole life, now you’re my whole world.
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl.
Like a river meets the sea,
Stronger than it’s ever been.
We’ve come so far since that day,
And I thought I loved you then.

(We really have come so far since that day we first saw each other. Someday I will write about it on here. It’s been a long journey getting to where we are but it’s made us stronger and more appreciative of each other. And with each passing year I find myself loving James more than the year before, even when I didn’t think it was possible to love him more than I already do.)

10 years later, he still gave me butterflies

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you.
You were so surprised.
There were people around But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there.
And once again, I thought I loved you then.

(James didn’t propose to me where we grew up, but he did have me meet him there to make his intentions known. I drove 5 hours to eastern WA and he drove 2 days from southern CA. We picked up subway sandwiches and ate them in the back of his Explorer while the sun set into the wheat fields. He told me that he wanted to start dating with the intention of finding out if we were supposed to be married. A year and half later he proposed in a hot air balloon after watching the sun set over the ocean in San Diego where we live now.)

Sept 2, ’06 after I said yes!
The amazing sunset God provided that evening!

*Nov 4, 2006- Our big day!

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life, now you’re my whole world.
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl.
Like a river meets the sea,
Stronger than it’s ever been.
We’ve come so far since that day,
And I thought I loved you then.

I can just see you with a baby on the way.
I can just see you when your hair is turning gray.
What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more . . .
But I’ve said that before.

(“But I’ve said that before.” That line always gets me. Before anyone asks, we don’t have a baby on the way or are we anywhere close to it yet, but we do talk about the future all the time and what we picture ourselves doing. We especially like to talk about how we will retire and are torn between a senior living center in Coronado where we can walk hand in hand on the beach every day . . . James wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and me wearing the biggest sun hat available. Or getting a nice house in WA on a piece of land with a giant wraparound porch, 2 rocking chairs and some cold lemonade. Either way, I know with God’s help, we’ll love each other even more then, than we could ever imagine to now.)

**”I have found the one my heart loves.”

Now you’re my whole life, now you’re my whole world.
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl.
Well look back some day, at this moment that we’re in.
And I’ll look at you and say . . . and I thought I loved you then.
And I thought I loved you then . . .
 
On our wedding programs we used the verse “I have found the one my heart loves.” Song of Songs 3:4. I found the one my heart loves that day in the gym and every year it just keeps getting better and better.

 

 

Happy Anniversary Babe! I am so blessed to have you as my husband, spiritual leader, and my best friend.
 

 

**Showing WA some love. Sorry San Diego.

 

Photo Credits
*Craig Volpe
**Claire Wolfe


Strawberries, Rhubarb, and Friends

Ok, so the title of this blog post might be a little bit misleading since there aren’t actually any strawberries in the recipe.  BUT you could add them and it would make it even better!  When I was home last month, my friend Sara introduced me to Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake.  It was so good that we ate the entire pan in about 3 days, just the two of us.  It was so easy to make that I made it for our life group.  They liked it so much that I had to share it with you too!  Very sorry to say though, you may have to wait until next year to make this as rhubarb is now out of season.  😦  I actually made it a few weeks ago and even then had to go to two different stores to find it.

The recipe I used was Aunt Kaye’s Rhubarb Dump Cake  from allrecipes.com but used a little less sugar . . . maybe 3/4 of a cup or so and just a teeny bit less than the recommended amount of butter.  Our oven bakes faster than a sprinter on race day so I only put it in there for about half the time.   You can eat it hot or cold- I actually preferred it cold . . . and for breakfast.  Yum! 🙂

Here is a picture of the end result.  It’s not pretty, but it tastes amazing and no one will ever know that it only took you about 10 min to make!

See all that white stuff on there?  That’s cake mix that didn’t get wet.  I think next time I’ll mist it lightly with a spray bottle before putting it in the oven.  It doesn’t taste bad and it’s still fine to eat if it comes out like this.

A note for fellow allergy sufferers: If you are allergic to soy, you know that it’s really difficult to find cake mixes without soy in it.  My allergy isn’t life threatening but it does make me really sick.  Betty Crocker’s cake mixes say “and/or soy” in the ingredient list and I’ve found that most products that say “and/or soy” have very little soy and I feel only slight discomfort after eating it.

I’ll include some pictures of our life group too.   This group has been such a blessing in our lives.  We’ve done several studies together, pray regularly for each other, and just have a lot of fun!

Girl's Night Aug '10

Iron Mountain March '10

Camping/Hiking March '10

Mariners Game! June '10


He Always Gives Us Just Enough

I am constantly amazed at how God provides for us financially.  Right before we married, God told me that we would not have an abundance of money, but that we would always get by.  I didn’t really “get it” at the time.  I thought that was how I was already living (while I was single).  I had a great job up in WA and although I lived on a budget, I always had enough for the things I needed and usually had a little extra.  Someday I’ll write more about our story, but after getting married I moved to CA (James was already living here) and things changed a little.  Although I love my new job and I know it’s exactly where God wants me, it does pay less and we do have to be a lot more careful about how we spend our money.

James’s work is always really busy in the winter and super slow in the summer.  Generally we try to save up a good chunk in the winter to pull from in the summer as we need to.  The end of the summer can become a little hairy and usually around this time we are really pinching our pennies waiting for his work to take off again. 

Throughout the year, James collects bits of copper to recycle.  It doesn’t generally yield a lot but especially this time of the year it really helps out.  Last Tuesday morning he took his copper in to be recycled and received $140 for it. 

His job provides him with a work van so at the end of the day when he was ready to come home, he parked the van and started to get into his car.  Ugh.  His car was parked on the street and someone had hit his mirror and it was hanging by just the wires.  They didn’t leave a note or anything.  He called to find out how much it would be to fix it and they told him $250.    Even if we used the money from the copper we still had to pay an extra $110 that we didn’t have to fix it.

This weekend he took the car in to have an adjuster and the repair shop look at it.  Are you sitting down?  The guy at the repair shop ‘just happened’ to find a used mirror and the total cost would  be… are you ready?  That’s right.  $140!  God is SO good!

I know some of you are probably thinking- if God is so good, why didn’t he protect your car from being hit? Here is what I believe. Things happen in this world for 3 reasons- God, Satan, or from our own free will.  Yes, someone made a decision not to stop and take responsibility for what they did.  And yes, we could have used the $140 elsewhere.  But God knew this was going to happen, allowed it to happen, and He provided us with exactly what we needed. 

I don’t really know if God caused it or allowed it, but I do know that James and I both like to do things on our own.  I’ve noticed that whenever we have reached that point where we begin to really worry about how to make ends meet (or other things in life), God has stepped in to remind us somehow that we can’t do it all on our own but that He is always going to be there to take care of us.  Sometimes we just need a good kick in the rear.  It’s an amazing and humbling experience but I am so thankful that God always provides us with just enough.


Finding Beauty in the Fire

A few weeks ago, a couple wildfires started just east of LA and soon after we had some of the most incredible sunsets. Last Monday James and I were driving home and the sky was brightest blue I had ever seen, splashed with brilliant shades of orange and pink. We were sad that we didn’t have a camera with us and decided to go to the beach the next night to see if there might be a repeat. The colors weren’t quite as amazing, but it was still very pretty!  

 
 
 
 

It got me thinking. Although wildfires are scary and often out of control, they do create some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.  God does the very same thing during the “wildfires” of our own lives. Life has times of difficulty, that is for sure. But if you let Him, He can still create something beautiful even in the hardest of times.  You might not see it right away, and it may not take away the pain, but it can bring comfort and beauty (and sometimes even purpose) where there wasn’t any before.  I think that is pretty great. 🙂

 


An Early and Amazing Christmas Gift

I had the most amazing experience this weekend…This has been a particularly challenging season in our lives.  Most of you know, I have been having some crazy unexplainable health issues going on.  We are also reaching the end of James’s slow time at work.  This is always a financially tense time of year for us- a time we really have to put our trust in the Lord that he will keep on providing for us.  Some of you also know that I really enjoy photography.  More than just enjoy it, I think it does for me what playing basketball does for James- releases tension and just helps me to refocus again.  With all the doctors visits and just plain feeling crummy, I haven’t been making time to do any photography work and I’ve really noticed how its begun to wear on me.  Plus, we have had computer issue after computer issue that at one point made me question if maybe this was a sign that shouldn’t be investing my time into it.

Well, the latest problem that we had started as a blessing.  We had some gift certificates to Best Buy and James, who is incredibly supportive of my job (I work from home) and especially my photography, insisted that we use them to buy a new computer monitor since the one I had was from the computer stone age.  I was so excited.  We took our time picking it out and when we finally made a decision, we bought it, brought it home, set it up, and… THUD.  That was the sound of my heart hitting the floor after turning it on because the color and brightness, and pretty much everything was so far off that I knew I would not be able to do any photo editing until it was fixed.

After countless hours playing with the monitor controls, I knew that I wasnt going to be able to get it right on my own.  I began researching monitor calibrations.  I found that there were free programs, and then there were $200 programs.  Hmph.  James and I have a motto after several good intensions for saving money that ended in a bad way- you get what you pay for.  But, I still had hope that maybe one of the free ones would be ok.  So emailed a couple other photographer friends and praise the Lord, one of them had a calibration tool (one of the really good ones) that I could borrow.

I borrowed that calibration tool, sat down with anticipation as I set it all up, and then… THUD!   There went my heart on the floor again when I noticed that my sister in law’s hair, in all of her pre-wedding pictures I took, appeared purple.  She definitely does NOT have purple hair in real life or in the picture I printed out on our printer (So I knew it had to be the monitor, not the picture itself).  I tried running the calibration tool several more times and still she had purple hair.  So, I called the person I had borrowed it from and he gave me a few ideas to try or said it might be my video card.  I tried his suggestions, I researched online, and when neither worked I called the computer repair shop we go to.

They didnt seem very hopeful that they could help me, as they dont usually do monitor calibration, but they said that if I didnt mind paying them $39.99 possibly for nothing, they would give it a shot.  Oh, I minded.   Thurs night I prayed.  I told God that I didnt know how to fix this, and that I really needed him to do it.  I told him that we couldn’t afford to take this computer in AGAIN to be worked on.  I told him I believed that He wanted me to do photography in some sort of capacity but that I couldn’t do that until He fixed my monitor.  I was up half the night praying and running the program and in the end Cherie not only had purple tinted hair, but part of it turned green too.  I woke up the next morning tired, mad at myself for not being able to fix it, and confused and frustrated as to why God didnt fix it. After talking it over with James we decided to go ahead and take it to the shop.

We got to the computer repair shop and the guy quickly looked at my computer and said that it was more than likely the video card, as was first suggested.  I asked how much that would cost and he said $59.99. I asked- is that including or in addition to the $39.99?  He said in addition too.  I told him that I would need to talk to my husband but that I really didnt think we could afford the card at this time.  As I’m talking with him, this lady stands up and comes over and says- “If that is all that is wrong with her computer, I’d like to pay for the card.”  My mouth dropped open and told her no, that was ok, she really didnt have to do that.  But she insisted.  She went on to say that she had been where I was at and understands what I was going through and told me that if I could cover the cost of the labor, that she would love to pay for the video card.  And that I should consider it an early Christmas gift. 

Wow.  I was so overwhelmed by her kindness and generosity, I didnt know what to say.  My eyes welled up and I asked her if I could give her if I could hug her.   She laughed and said yes.  Then she told the man at the counter that they had her credit card number and that if I needed the video card to make sure it got charged to her account.  And then she left.

A great reminder for me that God always provides, even if its not how I ask him  or expect him to.  AND, what an amazing way for Him to prepare my heart for the upcoming holiday season. 

 


Tiny Miracles

We read all of the great miracles in the bible and wonder why God doesn’t do great works like that now- but I believe that He does.  I know God may never part the Pacific Ocean just so I can take a nice little road trip to Hawaii or Japan, but I know he does other things that are just as magnificent if I keep watch for them.  This last weekend God did the most wonderful thing for us.  I got the idea to make a scrapbook for my grandparents a few months ago when I saw Target had these cute little fall scrapbooks in their $1 section.  We had all spent Thanksgiving on the beach in Newport OR and I thought that since my grandparents don’t have a computer, I could be thrifty and creative, and at the same time give them something they would really enjoy.  I bought one and was almost finished when I realized I had screwed up half the pages.  So this weekend we went to the craft store to find refill pages and the lady told me that I had an old fashioned scrapbook and they don’t make refills anymore.  (That explains why it was $1!)  So, basically I had to buy a whole new scrapbook and start over.  We went to Michaels and they had these wonderful scrapbooks where the pages are already put together and all you have to do is insert the photos.  The downside was that it was $25- the same price as a prescription I was supposed to pick up the same day and we didn’t really have the money to get both.  For a good 20 minutes we walked back and forth through isles debating what to do and ended up buying the scrapbook anyway.  When we got to the pharmacy they rang up my prescription, it came up for FREE!  The lady at the pharmacy wasn’t even sure why- she just assumed the manufacturer was running a special (which never happens) so she let us take it for free.  What an amazing and unexpected gift from the Lord