God’s provision in unlikely places

My week had been messed with in all kinds of crazy ways and as I sat in my red chair praying to God for a stranger I’d just met I found myself praying for her provision. That he would give her exactly what she needed that day and the days to come.

If you were to turn the pages of my prayer journal back you’d read where I was crying out to God to provide our own specific needs. A washing machine that blew up, a mouth guard, a big car repair, leaking toilet and…..well, you live on this earth so you know all about unexpected expenses and how when it rains it pours sometimes. We just weren’t sure how the month would play out as far as being able to meet our budget. It wasn’t looking promising at all.

But this particular day my focus was on this woman I couldn’t get out of my head and heart. I made an umbrella prayer for her in my journal and decided I would do a deep clean in my kitchen starting with the cabinets. The ones we call the black hole for a reason.

As I was pulling stuff out and organizing something white caught my eye in the waaaay back. It was a bank envelope. As I opened the envelope and started counting out the cash I realized what it was. We had lost an envelope with $575 cash over a year and a half ago. It was money we had stashed away little by little and it was in a drawer and had fallen back into the cabinet below. To be found on a day when I wasn’t sure how our own needs were going to be met but was praying for God to meet a stranger’s needs.

Overwhelmed with God’s perfectly timed provision I sat there and cried.

Then I called Randy and tried to act all nonchalant and said, “Can you meet me for lunch? I have to tell you something in person.”

We meet up for lunch and I hand him the envelope to open. Immediately he knew what it was. And his deep sigh of relief about blew me into the next booth over….which takes a lot of gusto.

I needed to talk some things out with him though. I told him about praying for the woman I had met and for God to provide her needs. I also told him about a struggle I’d had the week before that in giving to a special cause that we really didn’t have the money to give to and I didn’t want to give to. I argued with God about it. Told him we didn’t have the money and our own kids were going to get  jipped so other kids could have something (which was dramatic and not true anyways). I felt like God spoke to me saying, “And that’s okay, Melody. It’s okay to give when you don’t have it yourself. It’s okay when someone else has something you or your kids don’t have.” He settled my heart and I knew it was the right thing for us to do.

So I told Randy – I don’t want to think I had anything to do with this money being found and with an unexpected check that came to us that same day from a speaking engagement. But I can’t help but see a correlation when we give something that is hard to give or pray on someone else’s behalf for something we need it ourselves how God ends up providing in the most unusual and unexpected ways. He’s always so faithful to do this for us. And yet it surprises me every time. I don’t know what to do with it all. I know it’s all from God’s hand and nothing short of his grace. But is it wrong for me to think there’s a connection between praying for and giving to others when it’s a true sacrifice and seeing God’s provision for us? Not like we’re the ones who brought this provision on but somehow the giving, the praying for someone else touched God’s heart maybe?

Randy listend and said, “I don’t think you’re wrong. I hear what you’re saying and it’s okay to recognize when God responds to us and how he responds. It’s the right thing to give him praise for that.”

So it’s out of a full heart that I post these things. It’s out of heart that is learning how to navigate need yet giving generously and the right response to God’s provision. Not saying we get it right even half the time. We don’t. But we desire to honor God with our money and in our giving.

Lord, thank you for being our Provider. You’re so good to us.

What that woman walking down the street taught me…

My friend and I were on the way to a coffee shop in town to catch up and reconnect. We’d tried several times before and either sickness or schedules prevented us. This particular morning I texted her knowing I didn’t have time for coffee but also trying to practice the discipline of biblical friendship. I texted and she said Yes.

So we’re about 1 mile into our short trip to the coffee shop (hello small town) when we noticed a woman a little younger than us with long blonde hair pulled to the side walking down the street in a bed sheet with very few clothes underneath. She was carrying a white plastic bag and she looked miserable as it was freezing outside. The whole thing just wasn’t right.

We both noticed her immediately and said something like, “She looks like she just left the hospital.”  We drove through several lights both uneasy with what we just saw. At the next light I looked at my friend and said, “We need to go back and see if she needs help, don’t we?” She said, “Yeah, we really do.”

We made a quick turn around and uttered a short prayer out loud of, “Lord, show us if you want to use us to help this woman today. Show us what this looks like.”

We pulled into McDonald’s and saw her walk in while we were parking. As we entered the McDonald’s we didn’t see her and decided she was probably in the bathroom. So we waited for her in the bathroom. Prayer pal stalkers gone wild. I was beginning to feel bad for the hospital escapee because we were about to pounce on her with some Jesus-lovin’ smothering grace. Lord help her.

As the woman came out of the restroom I cut to the chase ever so awkwardly and said, “Hi, we saw you walking and turned around not knowing if you might need a ride.” She seemed grateful and said, “Yes, but can you take me to “said town” about 15 minutes away?” We agreed.

We were all hungry so we all grabbed a bite and sat in a back booth.

As we listened we learned that she was battered by her ex-boyfriend and had a seizure. Stitches from a bite mark and a brace were only the surface problems she had at that moment. Suddenly I was thinking to myself, “Okay, we just committed to take this woman home and we know nothing about her, what’s in her little plastic bag or if “angry ex” is still on the scene.” I prayed silently and continued to assess the situation to decide if we could indeed take her home.

There was no question God was nudging us to take this woman home and so we did.

On our twenty minute ride there we talked about all kinds of things. She randomly brought up prostitution which was really wild because my friend and I are in a Bible study right now about a prostitute. Her name is Gomer and it’s all in the book of Hosea. For real – go read it!  So it was a natural lead in to talk about the things we were learning. How really – we all play the part of unfaithfulness to God. And in his love he is still there for us with the purest love waiting to buy us back.

As we pulled into her poverty stricken neighborhood she said, “Just look around at this mess. How will I ever get out of this?”

We told her she couldn’t do it on her own but with God’s help and practical steps forward she could do it. We told her about resources we knew about in her community that could help her and encouraged her to make one particular phone call.

My friend grabbed the woman’s hand and said, “Baby, I’m gonna pray over you before you leave.” And she prayed the sweetest prayer I’ve ever heard over a sister deep in pain. I’ll never forget it. We gave her one of our phone numbers and she left. This was two weeks ago. We’ve prayed for her ever since.

As I look back on this day a few things have settled in my heart:

  1. When I choose to do things I don’t have time to do (or don’t want to do in some cases) but do them anyway out of obedience God tends to show up in some pretty wild ways.
  2. When I think I’m in the front seat “helping” someone in the back seat the book of Hosea reminds me that we’re all in the same seat before God. We’re all spiritually unfaithful and messed up. Nobody is better or more loved than another.
  3. Although we’re all in the same seat before God sometimes he calls us to drive and take initiative. When we sense that moving from him it’s best we lean in and go with it even if it’s a little scary and uncertain. I think this might be what faith looks like.

Friends, look for God this week. You’ll most definitely find him in his word but sometimes you’ll find him in the lending of a hand to a girl walking down the street in a bed sheet.

Ya’ll I got freed!

Every year for the last seven I’ve made a fabulous frozen punch for our church open house. It’s a grand recipe I got from a friend years ago but it is extremely time intensive. I borrow a large stock pot from the church every year to make it…. you dissolve stuff and add a million ingredients and then pour up into a thousand ice trays because I quadruple the recipe. I’ve never minded making it but this year I seemed to be running behind.

This past Friday I was walking out of Mom’s In Prayer and my friend and I were talking about our plans for that day. I told her about the punch I was about to make. She looked at me and said, “Why do you do that?” I was all like, “Uhh well I think it’s because….” She stopped me and said with all seriousness in her voice, “You need to stop that and make a different punch recipe. Here’s a great one…..” And she gave me the equivalent of a fabulous punch that cost half the price and takes about 75% less time to make! I took that permission and ran all the way to the grocery store to purchase my newly discovered, two-ingredient punch.

My friend assured me that once I made this punch I’d never go back. And she’s totally right! We lapped up every ounce of four rounds of the Christmas punch and I will never go back because it was so good.

Sophie and her friend did a great job seeing punch. They graduated from last year which was staying their punch post for a whopping 20 minutes before getting bored and ditching the punch bowl to go play nerf guns upstairs. This year I reminded them they were older and could stay longer. And they did a good job of serving punch for an hour before I released them. You should’ve seen them bolt. The next thing I knew Sophie had on her muck boots and a school sweatshirt (over her dress mind you) throwing snowballs at the boys outside. No really.

You’ll notice there’s not one ounce of greenery to decorate the punch bowl which is slightly disappointing but I flat out ran out of time not to mention there was snow covering all my greenery outside so it just didn’t happen this year. But the good news is that we all lived even though the punch bowl wasn’t decorated. My Mom might not have lived through it if she was here because she’s the queen of decorating and would’ve found something green to put on that punch table.

So here’s your new easy punch recipe that the whole world quite possibly already knows about. I’m typically about ten years behind on a good day. But if I have a soul mate out there that is equally behind you’ll be glad to know about this punch recipe that will save you lots of time and still produce a good punch your guests will enjoy.

Punch (1) 2 litre cheer wine; (1) can of pineapple juice.

Mix together. You can freeze the pineapple juice to make it slushy. Just pull out a bit before serving.

No really. I’m not kidding. That’s all.

Oh well there is the ice ring should you choose to use.

The ice ring:  Mix a packet of lemon-lime Kool Aide according to directions on back and pour in a jello mold then add a few cherries to make it look like a wreath. Mine didn’t keep the green color though. As soon as I put it in the punch the whole thing turned red. I had to chip at it to make the green show up.

My friend who gave me the recipe showed up to the open house and we were talking by the punch bowl. I was waxing not so eloquently about the process of making the punch and how much I loved the recipe but that my ice ring wreath wasn’t green and the whole time I’m chipping away at the ice ring with the ladle to unveil the green underneath. She’s still standing there the minutes later patiently waiting for a cup of punch. Finally I realized the mesmerized state I had put myself into and said, “Oh my word, you’re waiting on punch. So sorry!”

My 11 year old did a better job of serving the punch than I did.

I’m so thankful my friend freed me from my seven year punch bondage and that she waited ever so patiently for a cup. Maybe it was worth the seven year wait.

Go make yourself some punch friends! I’m toasting to you as I type.

 

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.