Welcome to Clarksville!

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Hello Lovlies!

Welcome to Clarksville! It’s my plan to be more spontaneous with our posts again here very soon, now that life is settling into its new, “normal”.

As I peeled my heart away from Columbus, GA and the friends I’ve made there and reacquainted with, the hobbies I’ve begun, my chair at church, the park that I frequented on sunny days and the one more conducive to rainy ones–as I gently wiggled my heart like a well-stuck sticker and tried to loosen it’s adhesive, I realized something. I mean no offense to friends, but I think I grieved the loss of routine more than anything. Does that make sense?

Of course, that routine included dear ones. I am sad for the end of weekly coffee visits with Johanna, for true-southern hospitality at Nanny and Katherine’s house. I am sad for Tuesday/Thursday visits on regular floors at TMC–for smiles with Mailey, Shanna, Nancy, Barbara, Megan, Penny, Daisy, Alex and Amy and others.

But here’s what I’m learning:

God has recently been speaking to me of exposure. My favorite therapist of all time (how many people can say that?) once told me that recovery would become easier with time, that walking in freedom would become my “new normal”. Stacy explained, “When water flows down one side of a hill over and over it creates a channel and nothing will divert it, unless the water is forced down the other side of the hill enough times. Then, it will create a deeper, more compelling channel on the other side. Over time, the water will naturally flow down that opposite side.”

Stacy was right about recovery. Today, healthy feels normal and right to me. But her lesson applies to so many other aspects of life, too.

The day after we arrived in Clarksville, Brave and I ventured to the Upland Trail, their version of a riverwalk. My heart sank. The trail is less than two miles long. Our home is lovely, but it’s situated in a neighborhood with no safe places to walk the dog. There’s more traffic than I expected, no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or farmer’s market.

When our furniture didn’t arrive as early as I hoped, I felt my mood slipping and along with it a half dozen tears down my grimy cheeks. (Did I mention that it’s every bit as humid as Georgia? That leads to grimy cheeks quickly!)

Quietly, my Father started speaking to me about exposure. 

Lord, what can that possibly have to do with me, here, now and this achy sense of loss. I have no routine here, no way to plan or expect what happens next. I have no friends to call for coffee or familiar parks to stroll. What does exposure have to do with it?

One week later, from Thursday, May 29 to Thursday, June 5, I understand. You see, in one week I’ve been exposed to spectacular Tennessee thunder storms, friendly neighbors, a new state park with a few miles of trails that emulate a rain forest. I’ve been exposed to new patterns of streets and today found my way home without the GPS. I’ve been exposed to “camping” with my husband for (too many) nights and the welcome hug of a comfy bed again. I’ve been exposed to
wide—–open—spaces that remind me of Oklahoma–ranches, farms and fields of wildflowers between every building, bridge or street. I’ve been exposed to new accents and a different version of southern hospitality. I’ve been exposed to a new side of the hill.

The course of my life has been redirected. In only seven days I’ve begun to wallow out a different bed for my stream. My life is bubbling over new stones, around mysterious curves and tumbling down unexpected bluffs.

Are you getting this?

Exposure is what makes normal. Exposure is what makes familiar and acceptable and good. How does a child know that the neighbor’s mom can’t make chocolate chip cookies? Because they don’t taste “right” like the ones that Grandma makes.

So, I’m discovering our new town, our new home and forming new habits. They will feel deliciously comfortable and right, until it’s time to move again. Then, with a gentle nudge, God will redirect the course of my life again, expose me to what only He foresees and I’ll fall in love all over again.

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4 Questions, 3 Authors and a Blog Hop

Ever heard of blog hopping? Yeah, me neither 🙂

But, thanks to the incomparable Megan Cyruleski, I’m trying my hand at this!

The long and the short:
I give you the answers to four questions about my work as a writer and author. Then, like a chain letter (in a good kind of way) I “tag” three more blogger/authors and then they do the same. Fitting that I was tagged by Megan 🙂 the generous ambition behind her blog is to support other authors. Shout out and a hardy thanks to Megan Cyruleski–and you HAVE to read her book, Who Am I?

And up next…

Heather LettoHeather Letto

You’re in for a treat! I’m halfway through an advance copy of Heather’s first book, Impervious, and it’s incredible! Think Hunger Games mixed with the creation story. In this book Heather skillfully portrays the consequences of sin and the beauty of redemption. Her book will be available in May 2014!

walk in freedom

Brenna Kate Simonds

I first met Brenna Kate when she wrote a guest post for FINDINGbalance. Brenna’s guts and grace blew me away. When I found out that she was in the final stages of publishing her book, Learning to Walk in Freedom: A Journey in Five Steps, I begged her to let me read and review it. If you’re stuck, mired in addiction–of any kind–this book is for you. 

Yojary Moreno

Yojary Lozano

Yojary Lozano’s book, Family Baggage, is waiting in the wings. Because we are represented by the same wonderful agent, Vanessa Grossett, I was given the opportunity to read her book before the rest of you. (Lucky me, just you wait!)
Yojary’s book is unlike any I’ve read before. Growing up in poverty, in the jungles of Columbia was the least of her challenges. Her story mines the depths love, determination, true grit, pain and forgiveness.

Now for the four questions:

What am I working on? The bloody (not really, just pretending I’m British) painful and ubiquitous art of publicity. There is forever another opportunity to promote a book. The constant fear is whether I’m doing it right. Thankfully, the same God who healed me from anorexia, prompted me to write the book and then gave me words and energy to do so, will do this for me as well. On top of that, I continue to write for a number of Christian publications. And my husband and I fast approaching our next military move.

How does my work differ from others in its genre? My book goes beyond the fairly familiar story of: eating disorder, counseling, recovery. Few other books take the reader inside a treatment center and show the daily details–in a positive way. Also, my book spans almost two decades, vulnerably showing how the eating disorder wounded my nuclear family and also how it affected my marriage. My book is unapologetically Christian. In that way, I feel it offers a stronger hope than many books who leave the reader still wondering “will what they did work for me?”

Why do I write what I do? A few weeks ago, a friend from high school messaged me and said that she remembered me saying way back then that someday I wanted to write a book. In high school, I had already been through treatment once and was still living in the hell of anorexia. I knew that there was no point in the suffering if I couldn’t reach out someday to lift others up from that pit. That’s why I write–to be evidence that Jesus saves.

How does your writing process work? Hmm…I’m still trying to figure that one out myself 🙂
It depends on the day. Since my husband and I don’t have children and I don’t work outside the home, I’m pretty flexible with my schedule. My dog and I volunteer with Pet Parters visiting local schools, nursing homes and hospitals on a regular basis, so that takes some time away from the keyboard.

Usually, my ideas germinate during my Bible study in the early morning. They sprout while Brave (my dog) and I walk around the lake, during my workout and laundry, dishes, dusting, etc. Finally, when the thoughts are bursting from my brain, I sit (or sometimes stand at the kitchen bar) and spew them on the page. After the draft is done, I leave the house. Anything, something–just to get away from words. When I come home, I edit for a while. If it’s short, the piece might be polished in a day–or not. 🙂

Thank you so much for visiting me here today! I hope you’ll visit each author I mentioned above and READ THEIR BOOKS!

Prove It, God

dried-flower-721462-mI wouldn’t have even seen her, she was so frail, but for the blood curdling scream that rent the air.

My dog and I had just arrived at the pediatrics floor of the local hospital for therapy visits. Ashana, (I don’t know her real name for confidentiality purposes) was just leaving and stood at the elevator with her mother around the corner from me. The doors yawned, they stepped inside and she was gone. I found out later from the nurses that four-year-old Ashana is terrified of dogs, butt as our conversation progressed I learned a little bit more.

Ashana has cancer. They found it when she was two. For the last two years, she has spent ten days a month in the hospital receiving treatments.

“That’s not the first time I’ve heard her cry like that,” one of the nurses said. “It happens almost every time she leaves. She loves it here. But if you think about it, this hospital will probably be most of what she remembers of her early years. It’s like a second home to her.”

I pictured that tiny little girl and her mother. Talk about a trial, a refiner’s fire.

When someone is in the middle of those flames, the worst thing you can say is something like, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or, “God is working in you. You’ll come out of this much stronger on the other side.”

But that’s what we think isn’t it? We imagine that God crafts our personal struggles to test our faith. But maybe, it’s the other way around. Maybe, God allows struggles and pain in our lives to prove HIS faithfulness, not to test ours.

Remember the story of Elijah running for his life in 1 Kings 19? The wicked Queen Jezebel was massacring the Lord’s prophets and was gunning for Elijah. The prophet ran and hid in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. He was so miserable and lonely that he told God he would rather die.  But God sent birds to feed Elijah; He even came personally and allowed Elijah to glimpse His glory.

Elijah’s experience in the wilderness did not prove his faithfulness. In fact, it proved his weakness—He felt hopeless and wanted to die. The experience didn’t make him stronger, Elijah was not suddenly a mightier man of God than he had been before. Instead, those moments in the wilderness proved that God was faithful; in the middle of that trial, God proved that He was strong enough, able enough to care for Elijah when all else seemed lost.

Romans 5:3-5, urges us to find joy even in the middle of our pain: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Did you notice that Paul doesn’t say, “suffering makes you stronger”? Suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance means, “determination for a course of action, purpose”. (dictionary.com)

In our pain and suffering God proves His faithfulness; He proves His strength in the midst of our weakness. It is there, we see His faithfulness and understand that He is able to care for us no matter the situation.

Receiving, Re-gifting Life

[Re-posted from Finding Balance]Brave for FB

My dog Brave and I volunteer at a nursing home with an organization called Pet Partners. He has an uncanny way of making even the sternest face brighten. Frustrated, puckered expressions relax when he wags his tail like a dust mop over a patient’s knees. I love to watch wrinkled hands cup his furry face and touch noses with him. Brave, like many dogs spreads life like a contagious, happy disease.

Just last week, an elderly woman asked me if I really intended to keep Brave. She said it wasn’t fair, because she needed him. Laughing, I told her, yes, I plan on keeping him, then pulled my beloved puppy into my chest. She has no idea how much I need him. In more than one way, he saved my life.

One of the reasons that Brave and I got involved in pet therapy visits is because of the role Brave played in my recovery from anorexia. I had been a compulsive, long distance runner for several years and despite the advice of counselors and nutritionists, I felt physically unable to relinquish the addiction.

Lies rambled nonstop through my head, “If you don’t run as many miles as you did last week, you’ll be fat by the time you wake up tomorrow.”

When I got Brave, he was only five pounds; there was no way he could manage to keep up on my runs. But he did need exercise and I felt magnetically drawn to spend every spare minute with this little bundle of life. Almost over night, and almost unintentionally, I reduced my runs to leisurely walks. And guess what? I didn’t get fat!

By the time Brave came to live with me, I’d been in and out of vicious battles with anorexia for fifteen years. My family and my husband were tired, exhausted from the strain of worry and frustrated by their inability to help me get well.

I’m walking in health now, but I still struggle sometimes. And to this day, Brave never tires of my occasional tears or a lingering irrational fear of food.

One of the most surprising ways that Brave has helped me recover is simply in the fact that I have to feed him. At first I was paranoid that I might feed him too much. I hated the thought of owning a fat dog. Suddenly, I realized I was projecting my own fear onto my dog and I could see with clarity that going hungry could hurt him, even kill him, something I had a hard time believing about myself.

More than once, as dogs will do, Brave has found his way into the cat food or a patient at the nursing home has given him her whole lunch. On those days, his little sides are distended, but he seems unaffected by the momentary experience of fulness. Within a day, his stomach recedes to its normal boundaries and his happy life goes on. To think that being full is not the end of the world!

I’ve taken so many lessons from my four-legged friend. Yes, I’m thrilled to share his encouragement with others, but I’m fully aware of the gift God has given me in this little dog. I’m grateful, and I intend to keep him.

RELATED:

Life Lessons from Callie, by Gina Paris

Moving Toward Balance, Healthy Goals

Managing Depression, video resource

Furry Evangelism, and a New Resource

Romans 10:17 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

Believers must be courageous to tell everyone about our savior Jesus Christ. However, for most Christians, evangelism is arguably the most intimidating aspect of our faith.

Where to begin? How not to offend? 

What if they reject me?

How do I explain the Gospel concisely and accurately?

What if they ask a question I cannot answer?

I know all of these fears often invade my mind and literally paralyze my tongue when the opportunity to share the love of Jesus is presented. A few of these opportunities have arisen when I take my therapy dog to visit the sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes.

Then, I read this story, “We provide these gospels of John to patients we visit as part of the Canines for Christ therapy dog ministry.”

I immediately sat down and ordered copies of Forever Faithful, through the Pocket Testament League.

My dog is a comforter to numerous hurting people. I hadn’t considered that he can act as a comforter and help to calm my own nerves as I share the Gospel.

Then I read this story, “I plan on reaching out to the people and children this Christmas season. There are children in my area that come to see my puppy Nemo. This dog alone is a key to ministering to the children in my area. Looking forward to doing this for my Lord.”

The story brought to mind my former neighbor’s young children who often came over to “borrow” my dog. He ran up and down the yard beside them as they played hide-n-seek, tag football or red rover. The next summer, the relationship that began withheir interest in my cute, little dog deepened and their parents allowed me to take them to vacation Bible school at my church. I had no idea that my dog was such a wonderful evangelism tool!

My husband is in the military and we move frequently. At our next duty station, I met my neighbor, Sally, when our dogs became buddies at the dog park. We sat on benches and talked while the dogs played.

Sally was an atheist. However, the simplicity of our canines’ friendship, seemed to give us enough common ground to continue the friendship. Slowly, we began to spend more and more time together and to share more intimate thoughts. By the time we moved, Sally had not accepted Jesus as her savior, but I know that the seeds were planted and that her heart was yearning for the deep relationship and security that only comes from knowing Him.

The Bible testifies that creation speaks the glory of God. “How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what he has done! Each day announces it to the following day; each night repeats it to the next. No speech or words are used, no sound is heard; let their message goes out to all the world and is heard to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 19:1-4

Even my dog is an instrument to share the truth of God’s word.

The prospect of sharing my faith still scares me. I still fumble for words at just the right time and wonder later if I said the right thing. But giving someone a gospel from the Pocket Testament League reminds me that God’s word will never return void. The reader will hear from the very lips of Jesus just how much He loves them and that He has offered them salvation through His death and resurrection.

I highly recommend checking out Pocket Testament League as a tool for sharing your faith.

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