Cultivate what Matters – Lara Casey

Hey ya’ll – are you super excited that a brand stinking new-never-been-here-before year is right around the corner? I am. I love me a New Year and New Beginnings – probably because I mess up so bad and it’s a great fresh start for me every single year. Whoo-hoo!!

I wanted to post about this planner because I simply love it. I’ve spent the last few weeks evaluating and making plans for 2018 with help from this little treasure of a book. It has helped me uncover a plan based on what is close to my heart. I’m so glad to have discovered Lara Casey and some of her resources. She’s a Christ follower and a busy, working Mom so she understands the importance and the difficulty of cultivating time for what matters. She offers some great tutorials and has other products that are really neat too. In fact my Bible Study group is looking at her Write the Word journals as a supplemental option for us this year. Her stuff is too good not to share.

 

So do you have a way you get organized for a New Year? Or a tradition in setting goals and resolutions? I’ve love to hear.  I guess nowadays the big thing is your “word of the year” which I find harder than listing resolutions because I love bullet points that don’t have to come to an end. One word is flat out hard for me to do because I’m a rather wordy person. I can’t even text anything less than a paragraph which is not cool. So yeah I’m still working on my word of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making room for Friendship

A recent conversation has been stuck in my head and has made me evaluate some things. A woman was saying positive things about another person to me but she said something sandwiched in between and in passing that struck me. She said, “I’m so impressed with this, that and the other…..but she doesn’t have time for a friend.” She didn’t mean it in a negative way. Just matter of fact.

I’ve been evaluating this statement and wondering if I fall into that category. I can see how easily the “friendship” action plan gets pushed way to the bottom when you add family, work, game schedules, spiritual growth, etc to the mix. Who has time for scheduled coffee when you’re simply trying to do life. I get it!

I read a book this Spring with my very busy small group and it really opened my eyes to how important simple friendship is. The book is called Messy Beautiful Friendship.

And it brings us back to the age old question of why we’re here on this earth and it’s grow in Christ and to point others to him. We can’t do that if we’re too busy for friendship. Because often times it’s over those cups of coffee and ice tea that we let our guard down and talk about the grit and grind of doing life. It’s in those times we remind each other of the truth of Gods words. We come away realizing we’re not the only ones struggling like our enemy would like to make us think.

So these thoughts rumbling around in my head nudged me to ask a good friend if she wanted to meet for coffee last week. I didn’t have time. She didn’t have time. But we set aside our busy and said yes to friendship. We talked and laughed for one hour. That’s it. But we both came away refreshed by the spirit of friendship.

And that’s what friends are for. Let’s not be too busy for it.

 

Stooping low in study techniques

Studying doesn’t come super easy for two of our four family members so I’m very involved in helping with study aids for heavier subjects that include a lot of information. It’s such a balance in trying to help and give direction but not be a crutch. So I’m always looking for fun and creative ways to study material with one of my kids. I thought I’d share a few of them here and ask what you have found helpful.

The newest method I’ve found is an app that has helped in memorizing minutia detailed facts that all run together after the 120th term ending in ology. It’s called smule (auto rap). I have the free version so you are limited on the songs you choose but it’s seriously so much fun and hilarious. When Mitchell is on memorization overload we resort to the rap app. Disclaimer: some of the songs look like they may be trashy from thumbnail pics so don’t pick those. Duh. But “turkey burgers” is awesome and fun. I have no clue if that song is bad in real life or if it’s even a song in real life. It has a great beat and makes getting down those last facts easier that just don’t seem to cram into either side of the brain hemisphere. You just pick your song and record what you want to say and then it turns it into a rap for you in like 1 second. Totally awesome. We have never forgotten what dehydration synthesis and amino acids are thanks to Smule. It’s not always pretty but the information gets stuck in the brain forever and ever. We still go around rapping one of the biochemistry terms of late.

Flip Quiz – I thankful for the teacher who introduced me to flip quiz a few years ago. It’s a fabulous help with studying lots of information. Some teachers make their own flip quizzes which is way cool but you can create your own flip quiz as well.

Old Fashion Flash Cards – yep, old school index cards with term and definition on opposite sides. Adding illustrations are the best because you just can’t get some visuals out of your head no matter how hard you try. Here’s a few of our sassy ones.

Sophie jumped on the bandwagon and helped with an illustration of what she thought cellular respiration would look like. Oh dear. Um yeah. Not sure exactly about all that.

Yeah, so with exams around the corner you can count on Turkey Burgers at our house – but not in the form of healthy eating.

Do you have any tried and true study methods? Would love to hear them! 

 

 

 

 

 

A Missionary shares her story of addiction

Laura Andrew is someone I want you to meet. She’s married to Rodney and they have two daughters and a son and they are serving God on the mission field in Costa Rica. I went to the same church with Laura growing up. She was quite a bit younger than me but we knew each other and went on youth group outings, etc. I never knew of her struggle with alcohol until I interviewed another lady about her addiction. Laura shared her story with me and I asked her if I could share it with ya’ll. She agreed to let me interview her as I did Elizabeth a few weeks ago. 

I think this interview and this topic is important because I believe the place of the local church can be a healing tool in the life of an addict. Not a cure all. But a tool. But I think we need to listen to each others stories and ask for God to open our hearts to what he wants us to see. So I pray this interview might help us all in this way.

Do you remember your first drink, how old were you?

Yes – I was a sophomore in high school so probably 15.

If so, where and what was it?

I was at an end of the year party at a friend’s house and an older kid was able to buy beer for us. I remember that I drank until I passed out on my friend’s front lawn. It didn’t take much because I didn’t have much of a tolerance at the time. But my drinking was out of control from the very beginning.

Can you tell us what happened with your drinking after that? (next drink, age, where)

I took a “break” after that first time because I was scared and humiliated. It was later in high school – I think after my junior prom that I drank again. And once again I drank until I blacked out.

Does anyone in your family drink?

I think when you look back at our family tree there were quite a few heavy drinkers especially on my mom’s Irish side. I have a close relative that has struggled for years with alcohol.

Although you take full responsibility for your own choices in your alcohol addiction do you look back on any early contributing factors?

I think one of the biggest contributing factors for me was an overwhelming need for acceptance from my peers. The desire to fit in and be accepted drove me to do whatever everyone else was doing. Although I became a Christian at an early age I lacked the understanding of my identity in Christ.

Were you aware at the time your behavior might have indicated you had a problem?

I think I always knew in the back of my mind that my drinking was not “normal” and that it was problematic. I certainly knew it was a sin issue.

What were your thoughts?

I enjoyed drinking and the partying lifestyle. I liked the feeling of getting that buzz and getting more out-going at parties and places. But always somewhere along the way an imaginary “switch” would be flipped that took me from in-control/having fun drinking to out of control/dangerous drinking. There were very few times in my life that I could “control” my drinking. And once the switch was flipped there was no telling what was going to happen after that. And from there the feelings of shame and guilt overwhelmed me. It was a cycle that I went through week after week after week.

What age and situation was your drinking obviously increasing?

When I went away to college is when things started to decline. Being out from under the watchful eye of my parents, church friends, etc. gave me the “freedom” I thought I wanted to do as I pleased. I got a fake I.D. and started going out to bars and clubs with older people and I got very involved in the hippie music scene. At that time, I started experimenting with other drugs but alcohol was always at the center of it all. I all but failed out of college, couldn’t hold a job (because I couldn’t get up in the morning to make it there), alienated friends and increasingly ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

How did your drinking impact your family?

My parents knew that I was struggling but they never knew the full extent. I missed family gatherings, continually broke my promises to “do better next time”, and left my parents in a continual state of fear and worry.

Did anyone ever mention you might be drinking too much?

At one point, after I missed my sister-in-law’s baby shower, my family had enough and they held an intervention. They actually picked me up at a bar took me home and tried to set me straight. They knew I was out of control. The next day they moved me out of my apartment where I was living and moved me back home with my parents. I did well for a while but didn’t really have the desire within me to change. So, after a while I went back to my old ways.

Were there times you ever wished someone had approached you in a loving, grace-filled way about your drinking?

Yes and no. I mean, I’m not sure it would have mattered because I wasn’t ready until I was ready. I like to think that if someone had come alongside of me in a loving grace-filled way, with no shame, no condemnation, and offered me a way out that I would have taken it. But at the time I felt (like any addict would) that the intervention was an attack. I felt like they didn’t understand me and what I was going thru. I had the desire to get rid of all the negative consequences of drinking but I wasn’t ready to give up the drinking. Because I didn’t know who I would be without it. I didn’t know what I would do, who I would hang out with. My identity was wrapped up in my drinking and partying.

Did you hide your drinking?

Absolutely – but only from my parents and people I knew from church because I was ashamed and afraid of “getting in trouble”. And in a certain way I hid the full extent of my drinking from my friends. But I didn’t sit around drinking in private. I thrived on being out and about in “the scene”.

Did you do drugs?

Yes.

Was your family concerned?

Of course – they were agonizing over the choices I was making. They saw me self-destructing.

What was it like just before your quit?

My parents had moved me home and I was doing pretty well with life. I had changed universities and was going to class and doing well. I also picked up a part-time job at a local store. On the outside I was holding it together pretty well but occasionally I would still go out with friends. One evening after my shift was over at work I went out with some co-workers. The night started out under control and we just had a few drinks together. But then someone suggested we go somewhere else and that “switch” was flipped in me. I often thought about what would have happened if I had just gone straight home after work. But we continued drinking into the night. And on the night of January 11, 2002 I was involved in a one -car DUI accident. I am so thankful that I was not injured and I did not injure anyone else. I was arrested that night and put in jail.

What made you quit?

When my dad came to bail me out we rode in silence on the way home. My mom was waiting there for us. My parents gave me two choices – I could either get help our get out. Faced with the possibility of being out on my own with nowhere to go I chose to get help.

How did you quit?

My mom took me to my first AA meeting the following Tuesday night at a local church. At that meeting I picked up my first white chip. It was a symbol of surrender and being ready to make a change. I continued to go to as many AA meetings as I could. I stayed sober by realizing that my higher power – Jesus Christ – was the only one that could restore me to wholeness, in HIM.

Was it difficult and for how long?

Yes, it was difficult – but I was ready and willing to do whatever it took to stay sober.

What did treatment look like for you? As a program how would you describe it to readers?

I was fortunate enough to not have needed a detox program or in-patient care. I focused on going to as many AA meetings as possible. I found a sponsor that was a wonderful Christian woman, who shared my belief that Jesus Christ is our “higher power” as described in the AA program. I also came to realize that I needed to work on my personal spiritual relationship with the Lord so I started to go to church again with my mom. It was so hard and awkward at first. I felt dirty, ashamed, and embarrassed sitting there. I felt like somehow, everyone was going to find out what a horrible person I had been. I felt like a fake and a hypocrite. And I think most of all I felt like a total disappointment to so many people. I had grown up in the church and had always been such a good girl. I was involved in children’s ministry, choir, youth group, etc. So, how had I come so far from all of that. And to be honest it took years after I got sober to deal with all those feelings. I truly had to reconstruct my identity, in Christ. I had to acknowledge that everything bad I had done, every sin I had committed, had already been forgiven the day I accepted Christ. I had to realize that He knew every sin I would ever commit and loved me (despite them) enough to die for me. I had to realize that there was nothing I could ever do to repay God for those wasted years. And that I didn’t need to DO anything to make him love me more.

It has been a very long road, and to be honest, I was in my 30’s before I really became completely “whole” again. It was when I finally put away the whole performance mentality and accepted the finished work of Jesus.

What do you do today to not drink?

Well, first I try not to put myself in situations where it is a temptation. I constantly remind myself that there is not one thing that alcohol will fix and there is not one positive thing that alcohol can add to my life.

How do you handle going out with friends who drink socially? Do you?

Only occasionally am I around people who drink socially. It doesn’t really bother me anymore. Currently, in my circle of friends, no one drinks socially so it’s not an issue.

Would it help if your Christian friends who normally drink socially withheld from drinking when they go out with you?

In my early years of sobriety yes, it would have helped. The longer it has been the easier it has gotten.

What advice would you give to a Christ follower who is still struggling with an alcohol addiction?

First, they need to really decide whether they are willing to do whatever it takes to get sober. If the true heart-felt desire to change is not there it’s never going to work. It also must be something more than just a desire to avoid the negative consequences. Getting sober is not just about behavior modification. It’s about fully surrendering to the will of God, to allow him to change you from the inside out. I would say to look for a Christ-centered recovery program like Celebrate Recovery, but don’t rule out Alcoholics Anonymous. A great deal can be learned from AA. But always remember at the center of it all, there is a loving Savior, who knows you and is waiting with open arms to restore you and redeem your pain and hurt and suffering.

What advice would you give a Christ follower who does not struggle with an alcohol addiction but wants to help those who do?

Wow. First, pray for the addict as often as you think of them. True change will come from a spiritual awakening so we must invoke the power of the Holy Spirit. I know that sounds a little mystical but I don’t know any other way to put it. The battle over addiction is won in the spiritual realm. Also, I would say be loving and withhold any shame or judgement in your dealing with an addict. Don’t pretend to know what they are going thru. Don’t pretend that you have the answers or solutions for that person. Build them up, love them, speak the truth (in love). And above all, don’t enable them. If you are really interested in helping an addict read up on co-dependency so you can learn what NOT to do as well!

Enabling is the number one enemy of an addict. Loved ones often continue to help (or repeatedly bail out) the addict. My husband and I often describe it as the addict falling towards a bottom (consequences) and the enabler provides a trap door that opens at the bottom. Thus, allowing the addict to escape a consequence that very well could have been a turning point in their lives. Every addict must reach the point where they acknowledge their addiction and realize they, in their own power, are powerless to overcome their addiction. In that moment they have to reach out to a higher Power, in my case, Jesus. If we never feel the full weight of pain and consequences we never reach that point of desperation and brokenness. It sounds awful but people who want to help addicts should pray for them to be broken. That’s where the good stuff begins.

Will you talk about the role of your church in your healing once you shared about your addiction?

I never really revealed anything about my addiction to anyone in the church I attended when I first got sober. The only people that knew were my mom and a couple of the pastors. However, the head pastor of that church supported me and even took me to an AA meeting one night (since I’d lost my license after the DUI). It was a special night and I felt very loved and supported.

However, after I met my husband, we started going to a church that offered a Christ-centered recovery program called Celebrate Recovery. And that was a total game-changer. Celebrate Recovery was a tremendous ministry offered by the church and we were never treated as outsiders or kept hidden. That group became our closest friends and were like family. I learned more in those years participating in and leading small groups, than I have at any other time in my Christian walk.

What advice would you give someone who has a friend or loved one who they believe is drinking to a degree that is impacting their life and family negatively?

Confront them in a loving way and offer help. But know when to back off. Just like the old saying goes “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.

Do you find it hard to attend social gatherings where alcohol is served?

No

How long has it been since you had a drink?

After a short relapse in 2011, it’s been 6 years since I’ve had a drink. Before that it had been almost 10 years.

What do you attribute most of this to?

Understanding who I am in Christ and realizing that I have no need for alcohol in my life.

How do you see God using your past addictions in your life today?

We are currently serving as missionaries in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica. Among our many other ministry responsibilities we offer Celebrate Recovery in a one-on-one format. Our town is FULL of addicts – to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, you name it. We are constantly crossing paths with hopeless, desperate people. To those who are truly ready for a change we offer Celebrate Recovery.

Any other thoughts or input for Christians who are struggling with an addiction?

To that person sitting in the pew (or chair) who is silently suffering…It doesn’t have to be that way forever. There are resources out there to help walk with you through recovery. But at some point you are going to have to acknowledge your need for help and take the first step in surrendering YOUR will to the will of God. It is a scary and painful road at times. However, remaining in addiction will destroy your life: physically, emotionally and spiritually. The God of the universe created you and knows every inch of you. He knows your secrets, your flaws, your addictions and he LOVES you anyways. He loves you so much he died for you. And there is nothing you could have ever done that He can’t forgive if you ask. And I think equally as important, there is nothing you can ever do in the future that could ever separate you from that love. The road to recovery is hard and most addicts will relapse at some point. It’s part of the journey. But we have a loving savior who will carry us through it all!

Thank you so much Laura for sharing with us. The depth of God’s love is evident in your life and in your message. May he keep using you and Rodney to show and speak of his love to others. 

 

Operation In As Much

Operation in As Much is a collaborative of churches that choose a particular day to blitz the community with random acts of service with the purpose of expressing the love of Christ. Our church has participated in OIAM before and we always look forward to it. This year another local church joined with us and below is a recollection of how the day went in pictures. Our God is amazing. He provides. He gathers people and opens doors we would never have imaged.

Our primary project was giving out free brand new tennis shoes to men, women and children. But we also served lunch, gave away boxes of food and had games for the kids and had several teams visiting nursing homes.

We raised money as a church months prior to the event and we were also given a grant for the shoes from Samaritan’s Feet. We partnered with International Mission Foundation (IMF) which is a liaison between churches wanting to serve and helping get the supplies needed as well as providing training in how to serve in this capacity.

People were given a wrist band, sized by a sizer and then taken to another person who would take off their old shoes, wash their feet, put on socks and the new pair of shoes. Yes, you heard that right. Wash their feet. An awkward and humbling process but such a beautiful act of love and model of Jesus when he washed his disciples feet. Every touch the person had in receiving shoes was a touch of love and personal interest. This group was not just handing shoes off to people – they were ministering to people, loving on them, praying with them and giving them shoes.

Prayer was happening all over the campus of Jaycee Park yesterday. And it was sweetly received.

The shoes were such a blessing and gift. Some kids wouldn’t play in the wet grass because they didn’t want to get their new shoes dirty. Some kids went running across the field convinced their new shoes made them run faster. The delight and joy on the faces of both adults and kids was priceless.

Gaga ball and bubbles were a hit among the kids.

Our lunch team grilled a TON of hotdogs and they were great. This ministry team worked hard and included many  hands. In addition to this was the Lemonade Stand which was perfect on a beautiful hot day.

Sharing the Gospel and loving others in word and deed. It’s why we do what we do – it’s why we are here.

Our Prayer Station included several interactive ways of praying. The prayer wall is where people would write their request on a half sheet of paper, roll it up and stick it in the prayer wall. The Sick Board allowed people to write the names of loved ones on a bandaid and put it on the board knowing our prayer team would cover them in prayer. We stopped throughout the day to pray over those names knowing God knew each one specifically. We also had a notebook where people wrote the names and addresses of people they wanted us to send a note of encouragement to and pray for. The teen girls especially seemed to connect with the Umbrella Prayers and that was fun.

It was a beautiful day of loving and serving others. It all happened because of our Providing God.

 

 

 

 

 

Could Holy Communion trip up brothers and sisters in Christ?

A question came in for Elizabeth who did a brave blog interview about her alcohol addiction and recovery. The question was centered around Communion being served in churches and how this could effect one recovering from an alcohol addiction when the grape juice isn’t grape juice but instead is the real deal wine. Would this be hard for one who is in the middle of recovery? Her response was really interesting.

(This blog post is about serving wine for communion in light of the recovering alcoholic. It is not about denominations so please keep that in mind with any potential feedback. Elizabeth herself humbly admits to being a learner in her understanding of some of these things. Feel free to chime in gracefully.)

This is a great question!  I’ve only gone to “grape juice” churches so this is something I honestly haven’t thought about before.  After rolling it around in my head throughout the day I did some quick research on Catholic mass and the use of wine.  Man do they have a LOT of rules surrounding communion.  Didn’t Christ come to free us from the law?  From these rules and legalities that the pharisees held in such high regard.  Jesus shows us time and time again that people are what mattered, not the law.  From what I gathered there is a “legal” type of grape juice that has been fermented at the very minimum length of time allowed by the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Churchso.  The argument I read was that the alcohol content was so low that it was safe to drink even by someone with an alcohol addiction.

For me, just tasting wine would be a trigger.  So, I’m trying to be careful here because I really know very little about Catholicism, but it looks like their hands are tied as far as offering an alternative to wine. From what I can tell, the episcopal church changed their rules surrounding the Eucharist a few years ago and now allow a non-fermented grape juice option (due to a bishop who was under the influence and hit and killed a bicyclist, it brought to light the wine culture in the Episcopal Church and some changes were made.)  It seems as though Lutherans are also more lenient about using grape juice as an option.  Methodist and Baptists tend to only use grape juice.  Catholics believe that the wine and bread actually becomes Jesus’s blood and body, therefor their rules are stricter I suppose. They believe that the “consequence of changing the elements is that it has the potential to introduce doubt concerning whether the Sacrament is valid and capable of delivering the blessing God has promised.”  One the other hand, Baptists, for example, believe that it’s just symbolic of His blood and body.

The church I attend has grape juice and even a gluten-free option for the bread.  It’s all symbolic anyways, right?  If I regularly attended a church other than Catholic (who again, seem to have their hands tied on this matter), I would absolutely mention to the pastor that they needed a non-wine option for communion.  If they didn’t offer that option, I would just never partake of the Lord’s Supper and that would bother me.  So, that was probably more than you wanted to know, but I found it interesting to research all the different opinions of some major denominations on this!

Thanks Elizabeth for sharing your heart on this matter! 

If you have other questions for Elizabeth feel free to shoot me a message or contact her directly. 

Alcohol addiction is no respecter of persons.

She stood up on the last day of the Christian women’s retreat I was attending and shared with us how she was celebrating two years of sobriety. Up until then she shared her struggle only with her husband and a few close friends who, thank God, gave her the support and encouragement she needed. She has a relationship with God who was her main help through her struggle with alcohol. In this interview you’ll meet Elizabeth Overman, Christ-follower, wife, and Mom to three boys. She has been gracious enough to answer some very direct and raw questions about her struggle with alcoholism. She shares for the purpose of bringing glory to God and helping others. May we read with a humility of spirit and a willingness to see ourselves in her story even though our struggle may look completely different. Even greater than this will be our ability to see the grace of God in her story. And may this lead us to look for his grace in our own lives. 

Do you remember your first drink, how old were you?

My junior year in highschool

If so, where and what was it?

A friend of mine’s family had a lake house, so we went up there for the weekend with the specific plan to drink.  For a couple of us it was the first time.  We had jello shots and beer.  I didn’t drink too much because I was just kind of scared of what it meant to be “drunk.”

Can you tell us what happened with your drinking after that? (next drink, age, where)

I drank a couple more times in highschool but I was always the “responsible one,”  even when drinking.  I was always more worried about watching out for my drunk friends than I was about getting drunk myself.  Once I got to college, I drank more frequently but I still always felt liable for my friends I was out drinking with.

Does anyone in your family drink?

I remember my dad drinking beer when I was little because sometimes he would have me throw his beer can away and as soon as I rounded the corner to the trash can I would take a sip of flat backwash beer.  I think I just wanted to see what this “adult drink” was like.  I don’t remember him ever drinking to excess.  I accepted Jesus into my heart at age 9 and when I walked down the aisle to talk the pastor, my dad was right behind me, also having asked Jesus into his heart.  I don’t remember him ever drinking after that.  I’m told that I have uncles and great grandfathers who struggled with alcohol, but no one that I knew personally growing up.

Although you take full responsibility for your own choices in your alcohol addiction do you look back on any early contributing factors?

I struggled a lot with social anxiety.  I’m very tall and always felt uncomfortable in social situations.  I recognized that a few drinks helped me relax and be more “fun” when I was around others.  I think it was an early indicator of using to alcohol to self-medicate for my anxiety.

Were you aware at the time your behavior might have indicated you had a problem?

My drinking appeared to be “normal drinking” to me throughout my 20s.  I had 3 children in 4 years and in between the pregnancies, the drinking seemed to increase after each pregnancy ended.  My first son had colic and I remember the pediatrician telling me to pour myself a glass of wine to drink during my son’s last feeding of the evening to calm myself.  I just remember feeling like that gave me permission to use alcohol to handle my nerves.  By the time I was pregnant with my 3rd child, I kept telling myself that since I could go the whole pregnancy without drinking, I just wouldn’t start up again after I had him.  I think the mere fact that I was negotiating this with myself meant that on some level I was beginning to recognize that it was a problem.

What were your thoughts?

There was definitely a time in the last few years of my drinking that I just couldn’t fathom going a night without alcohol. And while I knew that wasn’t normal, I told myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone.

What age and situation was your drinking obviously increasing?

By the time I had my 3rd child my drinking really began to pick up. I would set rules for myself. For example I wouldn’t drink until after the boys were in bed. And then it became I wouldn’t drink until 5pm. Occasionally I would try to only drink on weekend nights, but that wouldn’t last past Tuesday. And plenty of times I didn’t even make it through Monday.

How did your drinking impact your family?

It made me emotionally cut off. Even though I could talk and “act” sober in the evenings with my husband, we would get into a lot of little arguments. When I went to bed I was basically passing out (Whereas now we lay in bed for a while and watch a show together or talk) When I started drinking in the evenings to “calm myself” I would ironically notice that it just made me more irritable with my kids. And even though I recognized that, it didn’t stop me. Thankfully I never hurt my kids, physically or emotionally, but having a mother who was trying to numb her life meant that I wasn’t the best mom that could be for them. You can’t numb the bad things in life without numbing the good.

Did anyone ever mention you might be drinking too much?

My husband would say things like “why don’t we just drink on the weekends.”  (he said “we” instead of “you” just to be kind.  He rarely drank)  Every now and then he would start a conversation about it and I would immediately get defensive and storm out.

Were there times you ever wished someone had approached you in a loving, grace-filled way about your drinking?

I honestly think that anyone who would have talked to me about it would have just pissed me off.  That’s just the place I was in.  I was full of so much shame myself that if anyone else had brought it up to me, my armor would have been immediately thrown on and defenses up.

Did you hide your drinking?

Absolutely.  I had a cooler in my closet, extra beer and wine hidden in the back of a kitchen cabinet.

Did you do drugs?

Honestly, not even once.

Was your family concerned?

My husband was, but I think he felt like his hands were tied as far as expressing his concern.

What was it like just before your quit?

I quit in September of 2014 and the summer leading up to that date I had begun to drink during the day.  (Up until then I had only drank at night)  I was no longer able to fool myself into thinking I didn’t really have a problem.

What made you quit?

I had wrestled with the idea of quitting for a long time, but one Sunday my pastor was preaching on “slaying your giant” and in the middle of that sermon I just broke.  I began crying and I knew without a doubt that I HAD to stop.  Everybody’s rock bottom is different and I am so thankful that mine was more shallow than so many others who struggle with alcohol addiction.  I didn’t lose a spouse or my kids or get a DUI, but emotionally, I was absolutely bottomed out.  My shame and self-loathing was a weight I could no longer bear.

How did you quit?

After that sermon, I went home and looked up a local AA meeting for that night.  From then I just had to take it one day at a time.  Some days it was one minute at a time.

Was it difficult and for how long?

It wasn’t easy, but it was simple.  My only focus for a while was to simply not drink.  Everything else came second.  I took a lot of walks and started taking yoga classes.  My husband and a few close friends who I had shared this with were instrumental in helping me stay sober.  They were all so supportive.

What did treatment look like for you? As a program how would you describe it to readers?

I attended AA religiously for the first 6 months, going to 3-4 meetings a week.  After about 6 months I was only going to 1 a week and it eventually got to where I only attended about once a month.  I never felt like I needed to jump all into AA like others may need to.  I had my husband and friends supporting me, I felt strong in my own God-given power to stay sober.  I think AA, and many other recovery programs, are extremely helpful, and AA kept me sober those first few months, I have no doubt.  I will be forever grateful for that, but I don’t feel the need to attend meetings any more.  I know it’s there if I ever need it again though.

What do you do today to not drink?

At 3 years sober now, it’s just not something I think about much anymore.  At times I’ll think “oh, it would be nice to have a glass of wine right now” but it’s so immediately followed by the thought that one glass of wine would turn into two would turn into 6 and I just know I can’t go there.  I don’t want to go there.  It’s taken a while, but I have learned how to lean into my feelings of anxiety and depression and other feelings that used to trigger me wanting to drink.  I had to learn how to feel those feelings and deal with them in a healthy way.  That’s something that I’m still learning how to do better every single day.

How do you handle going out with friends who drink socially? Do you?

Thankfully none of my friends are really people who drink a lot, but it wouldn’t have been uncommon for them to get a glass of wine at dinner.  First the first several month, my friends just wouldn’t drink when we were together, which I appreciated more than they’ll ever know.  I eventually assured them that I was totally ok with them drinking around me.  In the rare cases that I’m in a social situation where people are drinking a lot, it honestly just makes me thankful that I don’t drink anymore.  I just know I will wake up feeling a lot better than they will!

Would it help if your Christian friends who normally drink socially withheld from drinking when they go out with you?

It definitely did help in the beginning!  Now I’m completely ok with it.  In the beginning, the fact that they wouldn’t drink around me just showed me that they respected and loved me.  It represented that I was more important to them than a glass of wine.  It may sound silly, but at the time it meant everything to me.

What advice would you give to a Christ follower who is still struggling with an alcohol addiction?

Find someone you trust, someone who has earned the right to hold your secret with you and confess to them that you are struggling.  Don’t make any promised to them that you are going to quit, just let them know it’s a struggle for you and ask them to pray for you.  To check up on you from time to time to see if you need to talk anymore.  Don’t be scared to ask a friend for something that you need from them.  If this person is a true friend, he or she will value being “your person” for this and want to help you in whatever capacity you need.  If you don’t feel like you have someone like this in your life, tell a pastor or email me!  You’d be amazed at how much just saying the words out loud can lighten your heart.

What advice would you give a Christ follower who does not struggle with an alcohol addiction but wants to help those who do?

Just be there for them.  Love and encourage them with words and actions.  Shaming someone for their addiction rarely works.  Help that person feel loved and worthy of recovery.  Lift them up, point out their beautiful qualities, help them know they are worth treating themselves better than they do.  And let them know they are not alone in struggling in this life.  Compassion is the biggest word I can think of for this question.  So many of us have addictions, it just might not be alcohol.  It may be watching the scale or numbing with food.  It may be excess exercising or over working.  It may be people pleasing or purposely pushing people away.   So many of us have feelings we want to avoid and numb and alcohol is just one way to do that.  Unfortunately it’s a coping mechanism that can come with more dire consequences that others, but at the root, the pain is the same.

Do you find it hard to attend social gatherings where alcohol is served?

I did for a while.  My husband would always be with me though and he wouldn’t drink, which helped me tremendously.  Now it doesn’t bother me at all.

How long has it been since you had a drink?

September 8th was my 3 year sobriety date.

What do you attribute most of this to?

God, my husband, my friends and yoga.  And believing that I’m strong enough to do it and worthy enough to do it.   Letting go of the shame of drinking for years and now turning my mess into my message.  A message of God’s grace and love, power and strength that he gives to us freely.  We are so dearly loved and cherished by our Father.

Elizabeth, thank you for sharing so candidly with us. I appreciate the courage and humility it took to do so. It’s a gift to us. 

You can hear more from Elizabeth’s heart on her blog Simply Grace. You’ll laugh and come away encouraged and inspired by her wisdom. She has a little something for everyone.

Also, if you are in the middle of an addiction struggle and want to reach out to someone you heard Elizabeth say you can email her. She means that. If you have trouble finding her email on her blog email me and I’ll give it to you. I’m also available if you just need someone to pray with. If you need help to the tune of a program I want you to look at a ministry in my town in NC. I know the Director personally. She’s “been there, done that, has the tshirt” and has now opened a facility to help women in the midst of their addiction. You can see more about this ministry at Genesis Ministry. It’s never too late to get help. 

 

Finding comfort when suicide has touched your family

My friend, Dr. Natalie Flake Ford, a faculty member in the School of Psychology and Biblical Counseling at Truett McConnell University, has experienced heartache in her life that has led to struggles with self-worth. In this written piece she shares her heart of what she went through when when her Christ-following (missionary at the time) husband committed suicide. 

“Can you imagine what it must have been like to live with her?”

“I can’t imagine how bad things must have been at home to drive him to take his own life.”

“Poor girl. I can’t imagine the guilt she must carry.”

These are just a few of the reoccurring thoughts I had in the wake of my husband’s suicide. I felt like others blamed me for his death. If I had been a better wife then…well, suffice it to say, I definitely played the “if only” and “what if” game.

For months, I dreaded going out in public. I was constantly trying to interpret various glances from others. Did they know about Michael’s death? Was that pity or was that blame I saw in their faces? I’d look away and pray that they wouldn’t come over and speak to me.

Today I know that I am not to blame for my husband’s suicide, but those early years wreaked of guilt, shame, and blame (both self-blame and perceived blame). Whenever someone would hear of Michael’s death, the first question was inevitably, “How did he die?” Man, why do people ask that? Saying he died by suicide was just too painful to say out loud for a long time. I would tell people he struggled with depression and it ultimately killed him…that was true, right?

Stigma can be a beast. It often hinders healing. I had friends who didn’t call after Michael’s death, and I convinced myself that the reason for their silence was because they blamed me for his death. Why would they want to call me? Wasn’t I the reason he was gone?

The lies I believed threatened to consume me. I had a choice to either wallow in self-blame and guilt (even though there was no evidence whatsoever that I was to blame for the suicide) or I could determine to overcome this devastating loss and not let it steal anything else from me. I resolved to chart out a new life, one where my joy would not only be restored, but multiplied.

God heard my cries and answered my prayers. Healing did not occur overnight, but slowly my emotional wounds began to heal and I felt compelled to share my story with others. We don’t have to live as slaves to guilt and shame. Christ offers a life of freedom from these chains. The book of Psalms became a life line for me during this dark season of life. I could relate to the anguish of David, and yet a part of me longed for intimacy with the Father in the midst of my pain.

Psalm 42 became a balm to my dry soul. “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” Three things I learned in my despair.

1.    God is a good God.

2.    God is still on the throne.

3.    I can trust Him.

Clinging to these truths gave me hope for tomorrow and helped me to release the stigma of being a widow from suicide and to exchange it for the title “Daughter of the King.” No matter what happens, no one can steal this from me!

Get Natalie’s book Tears to Joy.

Also visit her website Tears to Joy for more encouragement and resources on mental health issues.

 

A Birthday Memoire

I was a 70’s baby which meant my carpet growing up was green shag. I even inherited my sister’s bamboo long, hangy-down things in the doorway to the closet. There was no sneaking into the closet without it sounding like a rain forest. This made my room super cool. My record player was the next best thing with speakers that blared out Disco Disco Duck and Elvira. There was a bad word in one of the songs which offended me greatly so I tried to scratch it out. But this didn’t work like I planned and the record got stuck on the bad word and repeated it over and over. This brought me to a moral crisis that culminated in the breaking of my record over my knee cap. It doesn’t work out like you think it does. The movies show it snapping in half but it totally doesn’t work that way. I was ever so disappointed.

My childhood involved water skiing, camping, church every Sunday, soccer, visiting Grandparents, talking on the front porch, rope swinging, white Huffy bike riding, playing shoot-to-the-moon with my Dad, roller skating in the Waffle House parking lot and more awesome stuff.

Incredible Hulk, Dukes of Hazards and Scooby-Doo were my favorite shows. I wanted a Members Only jacket and a pair of Sebago’s so bad but never got them. I didn’t understand then but I did later when we started teaching our kids they couldn’t have everything they wanted either… even if we could afford it.

The greatest part of my childhood and life to date was when my third grade teacher led me to the Lord. Meaning my eyes were opened to the fact that I was born with very real sin in my heart. This sin separated me from God forever. But I learned that Jesus died for me and made a way possible for my sin to be forgiven. When I prayed and accepted Jesus into my life it started something new inside of me. While I was only nine years old even my teachers noticed a big change in me within in months. I noticed a change in me. God was making me different although I was still a hyper, cartwheel-turning, joke playing, mischievious kid.

As I grew in Christ my heart became warm towards Him. I wanted to do what He wanted me to do. I was wide open to serving God wholly. For a long time I thought this meant I needed to be a Missionary. I went on several Summer-long mission trips and surrendered to full time ministry whatever that meant. In my heart of hearts it meant I was telling God I’d do whatever he wanted  me to do. And I meant it.

God led me to a wonderful godly young man who swept me off my feet. One of the sweetest things he did early on was give me support money on one of my mission trips. He mowed lawns as a means to save money and he had saved enough to give me money towards my mission trip. It melted my heart. We dated all through high school and college and soon I realized that full time ministry for me meant being married to a pastor. Even though I faked my way through singing and couldn’t play the piano and had never heard of Habakuk God saw fit for me to be Randy’s wife which meant I was also a Pastor’s wife. And I couldn’t be more blessed to serve my God in this way.

Life got super hard when we went through infertility and several failed IVF attempts. But God continued to show his great love toward us as we walked through dark days of loss. With his comfort he showed us he would do something good out of it and he did. He brought us two divinely knit together children we could’ve never put together ourselves. We wouldn’t trade those dark days for anything yet we wouldn’t wish them on our worst enemy.

Today I feel incredibly blessed. Having received the greatest gift I could ever receive at a young age humbles me. I want salvation for everyone. It’s free to everyone! Oh friends please ask me if you aren’t sure you have this life changing gift. I know I might be sounding cheesy right now and maybe cathartic but this stuff is real you guys. It’s so very real. And it’s the difference between life and death like for.ever one day. Not only that it changes our lives here on earth. And the older I get….the closer to going home I get…..the greater the burn inside my soul for others to know Jesus.

It’s all about Him. Even on our Birthdays it’s still all about Him. Oh don’t get me wrong people. I’m gonna have a good day enjoying a special lunch or dinner with my man. I’ll surely eat something chocolatey and maybe open a cutey patootey something or other. But at the end of my day I’m going to realize I have already opened the greatest gift I could ever have. And it compares to nothing else in this world. It simply can’t get any better than this.

Happy Birthday to me.

Thank you Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Reviews and Ideas

In this post I want to hit some highlights about recent Bible Studies I’ve done with my small group as well as some ideas that might be helpful in your own group. First I’ll share about the ones we’ve done the last few months.

Messy Beautiful Friendship by Christine Hoover 

This was a book our small group read for the Summer and discussed 5-7 chapters at a time. It was a deeper read than we were expecting so don’t think “light Summer read” but it was so very good. It opened our eyes to what true Biblical friendship means and requires. Such a gift of a book for our group. It helped us grow and is still helping shape our group. Study questions are in the back of the book and can serve as a great Bible Study or Book Club option. I’d suggest taking smaller amounts of chapters to discuss.

Live Full, Walk Free by Cindy Bultema 

We did this six week study on I Corinthians and it was really insightful and fun. Cindy is a friend of mine and her heart is so genuine. A woman who struggled with addiction and almost lost her life to it but God……did an amazing work in her and redeemed her in miraculous ways. Her passion to speak Truth and memorize God’s word was a special part of this study as we memorized and quoted verses together every week.

Missing Pieces by Jennifer Rothschild

Oh wow, this 7 week study by Jennifer was great. Probably my favorite teaching on when God doesn’t bring healing and why he allows suffering. This is a fantastic study. For those who don’t know about Jennifer – she is blind and she is an amazing piano player, singer and Bible teacher. I played one session of this for my family and I don’t usually do that. Our son is hearing impaired and I wanted him to hear her talk on this topic. Such rich biblical truths she brings.

All things New by Kelly Minter – I wanted to just skip talking about this in this space because I love Kelly’s heart for God and I’ve done other studies by her that I really enjoyed but for some reason this particular study on II Corinthians just didn’t strike a chord. I made the mistake of doing a study I had not fully previewed and well we ended up stopping the study after two weeks. I felt really bad for putting our group through this and it fell on me as the leader because I didn’t do my part in previewing the study. They were super gracious and agreed to move on to something else.

New things we’re incorporating in our group:

An outreach or in reach project at the end of each study. In efforts to stay outward faced and  loving others well together as a group we decided to pray about doing something special at the end of each study. And this has been a neat highlight for our group these past few studies. One time we put together a care package for a teenage girl who had heart surgery. We all pitched in and bought items and prayed over the items and then put the basket together and sent it off through one of our small group members. Another time we wrote notes and prayed over a teacher at our school. This last time we rallied around two of our own members who just sent off sons to boot camp. We pitched in and surprised them with an ALEX and ANI bracelet for the branch their sons are serving in. We have prayed for these boys from day one of choosing to go into the military and God has really grown our group through this up and down road of sending off their boys. We start praying a few weeks before the end of our study about what our next project can be. It’s been a beautiful thing to be a part of.

Mix up the meeting place. For one whole study we met at homes and different places in town for dinner and discussion. We typically meet at our church for our regular small group time but mixing it up was a nice change of venue and can help with any ruts that seem to form.

Group Prayer. This has been a hard but good part of our study. Hard because not everyone is comfortable with praying aloud. Good because there is nothing that brings people closer together than prayer. There’s a bonding that takes place when we pray for each other. We’ve used text threads as a prayer tool in times of urgent requests. We respect each other’s time and try not to do this a lot but we know we can ask for prayer and receive it outside of our scheduled time together on short notice.

Deep Study. Lighter Study. I think it’s important to offer a mixture of studies in efforts to reach everyone in your group. A steady diet of deep in-depth study is going to leave some feeling left in the dust and overwhelmed. I try to make a practice of doing a lighter type study and then a deeper study if possible. It also gives a breather for those barely hanging on.

** The thing I’m really struggling with is the idea of a closed group as well as multiplying at some point. I know these are important factors I’m just not sure how to incorporate them fully. We have a core group that has stayed the same for almost two years and then we have a few people float in at the start of a new study. This does change the dynamic some because just when you start to trust your group then you start over when new people come. But you want new people to have a chance to join in if they want to. We aren’t a really large church so it’s not like we have tons of groups to choose from. We have several different groups meeting throughout the week but only one women’s group on Wednesday night. I’m praying about this more and our group is starting this conversation and seeking what God would have for us.

Our current study is The Quest by Beth Moore.

This six week study is so different from her others and we are excited about diving in this week to start this study. We are downloading the teaching sessions from Lifeway – yeah, did you know you can do that? It’s awesome. For $5.99 a session you can rent the study for 6 months. This study combines a lot of prayer and journaling which I absolutely love. I’ve only done one week’s worth of homework and haven’t viewed any of the sessions (broken cardinal rule #1 – always preview your studies) because of the download situation being on a different computer and not wanting to pay twice for it. I’m hoping for the best and not a repeat offense in the previous situation mentioned. So I’ll come back and let you know what we thought about The Quest.

So what about you? What do you love about your small group? Would love to hear.