Thursday, May 11, 2017

It Is Well...and so am I


"They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul..."
{From Even If, by Mercy Me}



When I was a kid, I can remember hearing these words a lot…
“You’re going to do great things…”
“God has great things in store for you…” or “God has great plans for you…”
“You are so smart! You can do anything you want when you grow up…”

I’m sure there were more variations of this, but these are the ones I remember.

At the risk of making you think I’m bragging, I’m going to go a little further with this.

A few months before my 5th birthday (maybe only one month, but close), I became a Christian.  I’d met with the pastor of our church at least once (seems like more than that) & I absolutely felt the Lord tugging at my heart. I knew I was a sinner in need of a Savior, & while I was scared and shaking, I knew I had to walk that aisle & make that commitment.
My Mom had told me she would meet me at the altar, but that I had to make that walk by myself.  If I was old enough to make such a big decision, I was big enough to walk down to the altar on my own.


Photo Credit

I remember some of the details while others are blurry. 
For most of my Christian life after this, I too felt like God must’ve had great plans for me. After all, why else would he "call" me at such a young age?

I was mostly a good kid; I tried to be honest; I tried to be fair; I did well in school & mostly stayed out of trouble.  But as I got older, I began to let other people & situations influence me in ways I shouldn’t have.  I now know that I was born a “people pleaser,” & it really bothered me when people didn’t like me.  I wanted to be accepted…approved…appreciated…applauded (though not in the way that may sound).  I’m a complicated personality, because I’m an introvert but there are times when I need praise, even if I prefer private over public.

I’m not sure if I truly didn’t get that kind of attention I was seeking as a child or if the lack of it was simply perceived. I do know that at some point, I began to seek it from the wrong sources; friends, sometimes the wrong ones, & definitely boys (also the wrong ones in many cases).  Anyone who made me feel important – pretty – wanted – special – was who I spent my time with.  


They say hindsight is 20/20.  I see now that I spent so much time with other people that I was almost never truly alone.  At least not in a way that I could discover who I was on my own.  Somehow, as a young child, I’d decided I didn’t like myself very much.  Even though I was mostly a good kid, I carried a huge burden of guilt for every little thing I’d ever done “bad.” Every lie I told, every time I hurt one of my brothers (intentional or accidental), anything I hid from my parents, wrong answers in class or on a test – literally any little wrong I committed, I remembered & they haunted me.  God gifted me with an amazing memory; while I consider that to be mostly a blessing, there are parts of that blessing, I’d like to leave behind.

At some points, I was so afraid that other people would find out I was a fraud, that I just tried harder to be someone else.  I tried to be whomever I thought they wanted me to be.  If I was with preppy/popular kids, I tried to act & talk like them.  If I was with the punk rock / heavy metal kids, I tried to have an “edge” so I would look cool to them.  If I was with friends from church, I tried to appear as “good” as possible. If I wasn't quite sure, I'd be mostly quiet & hope I appeared mysterious.

I praise God for the handful of friends who really knew me.  The ones who stuck with me long enough to see through the façade.  It was a blessing to get to be myself (whoever that was) with a few people.



Why am I thinking about & talking about this now? I haven’t written in this space in quite some time.  There are a lot of good reasons for that & I can’t explain them all right now.  What I can say is that the need for approval from others still plays a ridiculously large role in my life.
The last two years have been the most difficult & trying of my life so far.  The BIG personal tragedy was the death of my father in law in late 2015; but on top of that many small hardships piled on until I felt like I was being buried alive.  

That’s another story for another day, but I use it as a vehicle to say this…no matter how desperate I was to journal my feelings, I was just as desperate to keep people from knowing what I was going through and feeling.  I was so paranoid about it, that I wouldn't write anywhere for fear someone,  sometime would find it & read it.
I lead a small group women’s bible study, what would they think if I actually said aloud some of the
fears I had? Some of the things I thought to myself?! Some of the feelings I was having were just so  heavy & I couldn't imagine confiding them to anyone for fear of being judged. I felt like my faith must be minuscule if I was allowing myself to feel this way rather than trust God for healing.

For whatever reason, during this time, I had people tell me that I always looked “put together.” I didn’t know what to make of that when, on the inside, I felt completely unglued.  I felt shattered & cracked and like my internal ugliness was literally spilling through the cracks.

With each new hardship, the dark cloud I was walking under grew blacker and darker.  Looking back now, I feel like I’d covered myself with a cape and hood of the blackest black.  I was hiding and trying hard not to let anyone actually “see me.” I guess I did a good job of hiding, because I continued to get those remarks about being put together. 




It feels ridiculous that at 40 and 41, I had reverted to the same façade I wore in high school.  I’m pretty sure even my husband didn’t know how deeply depressed and hurting I was. 
Part of what clued ME in to how deeply depressed I was, actually came very recently. 
After Christmas, I changed the way I was eating and eliminated a lot of toxic foods from my diet – sugar, grains, soy, artificial sweeteners, etc.  It wasn’t until I started to realize how much better I felt, that I also realized how bad I'd been. 

Since then I've read more about how mental illness & depression, among other things, starts in the gut. When your gut & digestive systems aren't healthy, it can cause a multitude of other issues in your body. I'm sure this was key for me, and I feel I've started to heal in multiple ways.

This morning** as I prepared for my weekly bible study meeting, I had to do some hard homework. The study had us draw a personal timeline; it had my birth and current points in time on it with a line in between. I was supposed to draw a cross at the point of my salvation & then notate other highlights of my Christian life. It wasn't lost on me that though God tugged on my heart at such a young age, most of the following 36+ years haven't been very full. I'm not dumb enough to think I've literally done nothing, but compared to that hope that God had big plans for me...the timeline seems a little sparse.

My timeline included 5 people who have been key in my spiritual journey. That part was easy.
What was harder was trying to find 5 people who I may have influenced in the same way. 
I'm not sure there are 5, to be honest. 



This particular bible study (Entrusted, by Beth Moore) is making me feel like my spiritual life is about to change paths. I don't really even know what that means, & I'm not sure I could put the feeling into words, but I have to tell you, it's unsettling. It's an odd feeling. I feel the need to say, "yes, Lord," but truly don't even know what exactly I'm saying yes to. I'm simply agreeing to be a vehicle for His plan.

This recent season of hard, & dark, & deep has tested me. It's tested my faith, but more, it's tested my confidence in my faith. It's made me ask myself, no matter what, can I truly still choose to worship? Can I truly still say, "it is well with my soul," when I'm physically unwell & my life seems a mess?
I know it's the right thing to do & I hope no matter what, I can have that response. But I've definitely wondered. 

This song is a current favorite and I love the testimony at the beginning...




I'm so grateful for a few close Christian sisters whose presence in my life lent an accountability they weren't even aware of. Just knowing what they WOULD say to me had I confided in them, gave me enough buoyancy to keep from sinking further on some days. I know they have my back. I know they all have traveling their own rough roads. 

I'm also grateful that God created me with an intense love for music. Praise & worship music has literally been my saving grace on more days than I can count. 
I absolutely believe that God sent me songs like "Thy Will" and the one above to remind me that "even if, "the hard times continue, I should remember that He has a plan for me. That His will for my life, is better than one I could've picked for myself. And that I can CHOOSE to say, it is well with my soul. 

I've realized that I have to put myself first sometimes, or I'm no good to anyone else. Not my kids or my husband, my bible study group, or lost people who need Jesus. I'm not saying that my health accounts for 36+ years of my life when I feel like I could've better lived Gods plan for me. I am saying that inner wellness has so changed me in a few months, that I feel the next 36+ years of my life will be different.
I don't want earthly accolades for surviving tough times. Everyone has those & most of us survive them. What I want is to know I've done my best with the gifts God blessed me with. I want Him to say, "well done, my good & faithful servant."

I'm not worthy of that just yet, but I will be.

If any part of sharing this can help someone else, I'm glad I did it. I definitely felt led to share, because being transparent is hard and I wouldn't choose it on my own. It requires a vulnerability that makes me terribly uncomfortable, but that's another reason I think I'm supposed to.  I want Christians and non-Christians alike to know that this walk with Jesus is blessed & it can be sweet, but it isn't always easy.

And that's ok and so am I.






Photo Credit     

*I found Armed with Truth just before this past Christmas & recently discovered their "Designer Tattoos." Phrases like "Thy Will be Done," "Be Still," & "It Is Well" were so appropriate for me in this season.  My kid who I thought would think they were "uncool" has really enjoyed them and applies them himself.  I bet your kids would love them too!
 
**I wrote this post over a week ago and it took me this long to feel comfortable with posting it. 😆

Friday, March 10, 2017

Grain-free, Sugar-free Turtle Cheesecake in the Instant Pot


This is not a food blog and I don't normally post recipes here.  I also realize I haven't written in a really long time - that's another story for another day 😀.   Several people have asked for this recipe and this was the easiest way for me to share it, so here it is!


Instant Pot Turtle Cheesecake (Grain Free, Sugar Free)
This recipe was made in a 6 inch diameter, 3 inch deep, push-bottom cheesecake pan (this is the exact one I have).

If you plan to make this in a standard pie pan or tart pan, you’ll need to double the crust portion of the recipe.  The filling may or may not completely fit in a standard depth pie or tart pan.

I made this in a pressure cooker; I have no idea how long to bake this in the oven. From what I've read about baking cheesecakes, it's best to cook them in a water bath, low and slow (low temperature for a long time).

Crust:
¾ Cup Fine Ground Almond Flour (I used Wellbee's)
3 T good quality cocoa powder (I like Rapunzel)
2 rounded Tablespoons Swerve Confectioners sweetener
2-3 T melted butter (2 is enough to bind the crust ingredients, but 3 makes it more fudgey)

Filling:
20 oz regular cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup regular sour cream, room temperature
½ cup sugar or other granulated sweetener (I used a combo of Swerve, Xylitol, & Stevia)
½ tsp pure Vanilla extract (I beg you - do not use imitation!)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
about ¼ cup caramel sauce (recipe link and tips follows)

Caramel Sauce * (All Day I Dream About Food - Best Low Carb Caramel Sauce)

optional fillings and toppings:
Lily's brand dark chocolate chips
toasted pecans
additional caramel sauce


* I discovered this caramel sauce on her site a year (maybe 2) ago and have made it MANY times. It has always worked for me and therefore I couldn’t bear to try something else in my Turtle Cheesecake recipe! I use equal parts of Coconut Sugar and Unsulphured Molasses in mine, but in most recipes, I do not add the extra salt to make it a true “salted caramel.” If you are following a Keto diet, the Coconut Sugar and Molasses are NOT Keto ingredients; HOWEVER, since the caramel sauce makes about 1 ¼ Cups and there is only 1 Tablespoon of each of those ingredients, I see no harm in it.  The carbs are still quite low, and a serving of the sauce is 2 Tablespoons, but 1 T. is really enough to drizzle over your cheesecake slice.  So unless you plan to DRINK the sauce, I don’t believe this recipe is something that would stall weight loss or throw you out of Ketosis.*

1.) In a small mixing bowl, combine all DRY crust ingredients.  Whisk or toss with a fork to combine and break up any lumps, before adding melted butter.  Add butter and mix well until butter is uniformly distributed.  I recommend a light spritz of a coconut oil spray or otherwise greasing your cheesecake pan, so the crust releases without issue. Press crust into prepared pan, going partially up sides for a thinner crust , or keeping all in the bottom for a slightly thicker crust.   

Technically, you do not have to prebake this crust, but I like to.  Put it in the oven at 350° for about 10 minutes (if you’re doing a full size pie/tart, you may need longer).  In my opinion, this makes the crust sturdier to better support the filling.  It also keeps it from getting soggy during the cooking process.

2.) While the crust bakes, start your caramel sauce. When finished, set aside to cool.

3.) In a large mixing bowl or a food processor, cream together cream cheese, sour cream, sweetener, and vanilla, until smooth.  If you start with cream cheese that is not room temperature, your cheesecake will be lumpy!

4.) Once you have a very smooth texture, add your eggs and egg yolk ONE AT A TIME. Pulse or mix briefly after each addition; you do not want to over mix the eggs.  In fact, you may still see some yellow around the edges of the bowl after the final yolk addition, and that’s okay.

5.) Pour HALF of your filling into your pan and smooth out surface.  Pour or scoop up to ¼ Cup of the caramel sauce randomly over the cheesecake surface.  {You want to be using room temperature caramel sauce here, not too warm, but definitely not too cooled.) Using a long toothpick, cake tester, or butter knife, swirl the caramel sauce into the cheesecake batter.
I also sprinkled one serving of Lily’s (Stevia sweetened) Chocolate Chips over the surface of the batter.  Add the remaining cheesecake batter to the pan, smoothing the surface (in the Fat Daddio pan I used, there was still 1/2 to 3/4 inch clearance of the pan over the top of the filling).  Tap the pan gently on the counter or stovetop to help release any air bubbles in the filling.

Instant Pot, IP-DUO, 6 Quart

**If using a pressure cooker (I have an Instant Pot IP–DUO, 6 quart electric pressure cooker), survey your set-up.  You’ll need a trivet to hold your cheesecake pan up from the bottom of your cooking liner.  You may also need to make a foil “sling” to go under your cheesecake pan during cooking which makes the removal of the finished cheesecake easier.  (A foil sling is just a long piece of aluminum foil, folded lengthwise into thirds or fourths to reinforce it and make it more like a strap. It should go underneath your cheesecake pan and come up high enough on each side that you can easily grasp it and lift the entire cheesecake out after cooking.)

The trivet that came with my Instant Pot has long handles, and my cheesecake pan has enough space on each side that I can just remove it with the trivet.  Just be careful doing this, as the trivet can also get hot during cooking.  Usually after a natural pressure release, it has cooled enough for me to touch it.  Otherwise, use an oven mitt or other protection for your hands. 

You will also want to cover your cheesecake pan snuggly with aluminum foil; this is to keep water from accumulating on the surface of the cheesecake. **

this is my trivet and cheesecake pan inside my instant pot

a little difficult to see in the picture, but the handle to my trivet comes up over the top of the pan by almost an inch, making it easy to lift both the trivet and the cheesecake pan out of the instant pot at the end of the cook cycle.


6.) Put your trivet and/or foil sling, and cheesecake pan into the pressure cooker and secure the lid in place, turning the pressure valve to “seal.” Use the manual feature to cook the cheesecake at high pressure for 50 minutes. Allow a natural pressure release for at least 20 minutes or until the pin drops indicating the pot is depressurized.   

7.) Open the pot and check the cheesecake; you will likely need to lift it completely out and onto another flat surface to do this.  If there is water on the surface of the cheesecake, tilt the pan and use a papertowel to soak it up.   
The cheesecake should not still be wet.  If it is, you will need to return it to the Instant Pot for additional cooking.  I recommend 3-5 minute increments to make sure you don’t overcook it; allowing for a natural pressure release each time.  For me the NPR was only 10 minutes or less after these small additional cooking times.
If the cheesecake jiggles a little in the center (no more than a 1 inch diameter), it is done and will finish setting during the cooling and chilling process.  

8.) Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before refrigerating.  I recommend refrigerating overnight; 4 hours is a bare minimum.  You can remove the cheesecake from the push pan after the first hour in the fridge,  or wait until you’re ready to transfer it to a cake plate or platter. I find it helpful to loosen the sides and crust with a butter knife before pushing up on the bottom of the pan.

9.) When you are ready to serve the cheesecake, warm additional Caramel Sauce and/or Lily's Chocolate Chips (for 2 servings of chips I use 1/2 tsp butter  - not margarine - and 1/2 tsp coconut oil.  Heat slowly and stir every 15-20 seconds, especially if using a microwave).  Drizzle caramel and melted chocolate over cheesecake. 

10.) Garnish with toasted pecan halves or pieces.  Because the pan I used is so tall, the cheesecake is also tall.  It was easily divided into 8 tall slices and no one complained about them being too small. In fact, a couple of people couldn't finish their slice 😊



I hope you enjoy this recipe! I have loved using my Instant Pot since I got it for Christmas.  Although this was the first time I made a cheesecake with this flavor combination, I have made several cheesecakes now and can't see ever going back to baking them in the oven.  In my honest opinion, the pressure cooker gives the best texture - somewhere in between a traditional New York style cheesecake and the super-creamy, no-bake varieties I grew up with.




Sunday, August 7, 2016

{UNLIKED}

It’s an unfortunate part of life - not everyone is going to like you.

In second grade, I thought I was pretty popular.
I had a lot of friends – a large group of girls who I “hung out” with at recess, ate lunch with, and sat near in the classroom. 
Once a day I left my regular room to go to the A.G. (academically gifted) room for a few subjects.



Who knows how long "it" had been going on?
I discovered it one day after school as I was doing my homework.

Words like, “you’re ugly,” and “you eat your boogers;” only she spelled it “your ugly” and “you eat your baggers.”

I knew immediately who'd written on my brand new spiral notebook.

I was so proud of that notebook!
I’d just purchased it from the school store; it had 3 sections, instead of 1 like the skinny composition books.  It had cool dividers with pockets on both the dividers and the covers.  It was a “big kid” notebook and I thought I was hot stuff!

I’d been having trouble with the new girl for a little while.  {I’ll call her Tanya* for the purpose of telling this story.} She was fond of veiling insults as jokes and I was quite often the butt.  I always laughed with everyone else and tried not to let it bother me. 
It was rather confusing really; I honestly wasn’t sure if she liked me or not, but I got the impression it was NOT.

Yes, we were only in second grade.




I must’ve told my Mom some of this, because after discovering the notebook “decorations,” she promptly called my teacher.

Though I don’t remember the details of her conversation, I did sit beside her in the recliner as she talked.  Even now, I‘m a little surprised; my Mom and Dad weren’t into fighting our battles for us when we were kids {a practice I’ve tried to continue with my own kids}.  This was about 32 years ago, so I’m sure you can imagine it was a different time.  There were none of the “participation trophies,” and “everyone wins” mantras of today’s childhoods.  There also weren’t outraged parents lining up at the school every time their kid got punished.

Whatever Mom said, my teacher got the message that the bullying was not ok. The next day, the teacher called Tanya into the hallway.   
A little later, she called me and then made Tanya apologize.  

I’ve never felt so bad – so low.  Tanya was crying and her whole face was red. I felt terrible for getting her in trouble! The hypersensitive aspect of my personality often made me extremely compassionate towards hurting people – even if they were hurting because they hurt me first.

I guess I can’t know if Tanya was really sorry for what she did or sorry she got caught. But from that day on, until her family moved again, we were friends. She even attended my 10th birthday sleepover and that was a small group of girls.

This taught me at an early age, that sometimes you can be a nice as possible and people will still not like you. 




A few weeks ago, at the age of 40, I had a similar experience; it still baffles me, honestly.

I was dropping my daughter off at dance and had to ask a few questions.  I needed help from the lady at the front desk.
I wasn’t complaining and I ALWAYS, ALWAYS say thank you {sometimes more than once} to her every. single. time. she helps me with anything, no matter how small.
Apparently, I should’ve asked someone else for help with this particular request, but I honestly didn’t know that.
I was there to drop my daughter off for class.  Since I needed help with this other issue, I was in the lobby for several minutes – I’d say at least 10.

She had 10 minutes to let me know that Sweetpea’s class had been cancelled. 
 But she didn’t.
So I left my daughter there and went grocery shopping with my son, thinking I had 2 hours before she needed to be picked up.



A little while later, when I was completely across town, I got a call from my daughter to come back and get her. For some reason, I missed her call and got a voicemail instead.
When I called back, a second employee answered the phone.  She told me the class had been cancelled, a notice had gone out, and apparently I was the only one who didn’t get the memo.

This is a good time for me to say this: there is a serious communication issue at this business.  It’s been an issue for all of the 6 years we’ve done business with them.  They say it’s a certain email host that’s the problem, but my husband added his work email address to the list last year {totally different host} and he doesn’t get emails either.  Sometimes they come to my inbox DAYS after they are sent.
They recently started using an online message board system, which also doesn’t work, at least not without lots of finagling on my part. I get emails with a subject line letting me know about an addition to the class calendar and the body of the email is totally blank.   I sign in to the message board, search all the tabs and still can't see any changes.




Y’all? I am not technologically challenged! I've used all of these systems plus some for many years now.
Can I explain why everyone else got the notification and I didn’t? No I can’t.  I can say that now, I’ve downloaded the app for the site {which still doesn’t send me notifications} and I have gotten in the habit of manually checking the message board at least once a week so I don’t miss anything.  Isn’t technology supposed to make life easier??!!

So when I called back and a second staff person answered the phone, I was more than a little frustrated.   Unfortunately, my iPhone has a speaker issue that keeps me from holding a “normal” conversation on it. I can’t hear through the regular ear speaker – it crackles and the person on the other end sounds light-years away.  I have to use speakerphone or ear-buds but in my panic to call back, I just dialed  - no ear-buds. I didn’t want to talk on speakerphone in the grocery store, so I struggled through a regular conversation and, of course, 
couldn’t hear very well.

Even in my frustrated state, I do think I remained calm and was very polite.  I explained that I wasn’t nearby and that I would be back to get my daughter as soon as possible.
I’m guessing she got the impression that I was mad.  I really truly wasn’t, just frustrated; plus, I couldn’t hear her very well.




Anyway, a few minutes later my daughter was about to round the corner when she heard the two employees talking.
#1: “yeah, well, Sweetpea’s mom isn’t very nice…”
#2: “she can complain all she wants about not getting emails, but…”
#1 “WE aren’t going to do anything about it.”

When I picked up my daughter, employee #2 apologized to me in a sugar sweet voice about the mix-up. I thanked her and we were on our way.
We got in the car and Sweetpea says, “I don’t think she’s very sorry!”

I turned around and saw my sweet 12-year-old girl red in the face and looking more angry than I’d seen her in a long time – maybe, ever.
That’s when she recounted the entire ordeal to me. I kept checking her face in the rearview mirror on the drive home - boy was she mad!

Which was worse? The confirmation that they didn’t like me?  Or the fact that my pre-teen daughter had to be the one to overhear it? I can’t say really.

In hindsight, it was the “perfect storm” of events that cause conflicts. I later found out another employee had gotten her dates confused and not shown up for work that day. Employee #1 had to stay in her place.  I’m sure she was already having a not-so-great day before I got there with my list of questions and "needs." 

The upside was the conversation opportunities I had with Sweetpea.  I truly was able to find some positives in the situation and use it as a learning experience for both of us.



  
It was also very timely when, just a few days later, I received an invitation to participate in a new book launch for Lysa TerKeurst.
It’s called Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely.

One advantage of being on the launch team was access to the first 5 chapters before it was available to most people.  So far, I LOVE it!
There are so many great takeaways from the book and, really, they apply to everyone.

We’ve all been there…feeling rejected…lonely… unliked…uninvited…unwelcome; haven’t we?

Lysa gives practical advise for keeping perspective in the moments when it can be so difficult.

The book is officially available this coming Tuesday August 9th, but I would bet you can still get it on pre-order status and it will ship immediately.  I actually received mine yesterday.

If you like the book or any of the ideas in it, share it with a friend!  
Learning to live like the loved child of God we are is a valuable tool in a world that can be cruel.





Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fear of the burn...

Have you ever watched a movie drowning scene? 
What did you notice about it
If you've seen more than one, how were they alike or different?



A few scenes come to mind for me & here's what I've noticed...

Some characters are living joyfully, when something goes wrong. They may be enjoying the maiden voyage of the greatest ship ever built.  They may be at camp with other teens, swimming & playing in the water.  
Alternatively, they may be struggling; perhaps trying to steer a ship through a terrible storm, believing that, against all odds, they will prevail & return home to their families.  Perhaps even mourning the loss of a loved one & attempting to "join" them.

In many movie drownings, the victim's loved ones flash before through their mind.  They may even attempt to send mental messages of love to those friends or family members.  
Similarly, scenes from his or her life may come to mind.  Joyous times; fond memories; friends they haven't seen in 20 years; even regrets are things they reflect on as they realize they may be dying.
In some cases, the person drowning may panic; thrash around as they realize they can't breathe.  In others, they quickly accept their fate & peacefully wait to lose consciousness. 




In the past few months, I've come to realize that grief can be like drowning above the surface. 
One moment I'm moving through life & everything seems fine; the next, I'm gasping for air & kicking for the surface. 
I may panic & struggle trying to figure out what happened & how I got there.  "Where did this speeding bullet come from & why did it hit me now?" It's like the perfect storm of emotions hitting me at once.

Some days, I accept it as necessary & peacefully let tears roll.  Maybe a song reminds me of the loss of my Father in Law.  Perhaps a story reflects the relationship he had with my kids & husband.  

Sometimes, it might be my own regrets.  The last time I saw him, he was so tired & frail.  I spoke to him, but barely.
I was uncomfortable & didn't know what to say.  I wanted to be hopeful - for all of us - that we'd get through it.  That though we were traveling a bumpy road, we would eventually make it - through healing. 
I know my Father-in-Law was healed, just not in a way that he could stay here with us.

Had I known it would be my last opportunity to talk to him, I like to think I'd have chosen differently.





When I was 8 or 9, our family was visiting relatives at Lake Gaston.  Three of my uncles had second homes there & boating, skiing, tubing, & other water activities were available to entertain us for hours. We spent time there regularly throughout my childhood.


On this day, I was afraid of the water.
In fact, I can't remember a time in my life when I've felt confident jumping in & splashing around like most kids.

I was standing near the end of the pier & my Dad was trying to coax me into the water.  He stood in the water, showing me how deep it was (or wasn't).  He held his arms up & told me repeatedly he'd catch me.  I just had to jump.

I can't say how many times I took a step or two but could never actually leave the pier.  I may have even said, "ok, I'm gonna do it this time" - MANY times. 
I think Dad may have said, "come on! Don't you trust me?"
Eventually, the frustration was too much for my younger brother so he just pushed me off, surprising all of us.
Even though Dad was standing there, somewhat ready, it happened so fast that I plummeted right through his arms.  He reached down & grabbed me, pulling me up as soon as he could, but not before I swallowed quite a bit of water.

I can remember the feeling so well: my heart skipped a beat & thumped hard from the fall; there was burning in my nose & lungs from taking in water; the terrible coughing that results from trying to regain normal breathing after that.  
I can recall a slight feeling of relief that I was alright.  That my Dad picked me up & got me out of the water.
But the burning! Oh it hurt!
And because of the burning - my current state of pain & fear - I couldn't appreciate that I was really ok.



That memory seems a good metaphor for life lately.
My difficulties aren't just because my Father-in-Law passed away, but I think that event has scared me from "jumping off" again.  
It's made me fearful of losing someone else I love, & I worry about that more than I have in quite some time.

Coupled with giving up my long-standing Pampered Chef business & a few other "small losses," losing a family member has put me in a position to question who I am & what I do...what I should do...what I'm "good' at...what I was created for.

I believe God created me for a specific purpose (just as He did everyone).
I even think I know what it is.

But every time I think I'm ready to jump in...move forward...I chicken out.  


I know that I'm safe.  That, even if I fall, my Father will catch me & lift me up again.  I hear Him saying, "Come on! Don't you trust me?"
Yet, I just can't seem to move forward.  Or, worse, I take 2 steps forward & 3 back.

I tell myself, "just do it!"

I know that trials & failures foster perseverance & perseverance enhances character {Rom 5: 3-4}.   I know that even if I fall in & swallow water instead of bobbing back up to the surface, my Father will pull me out of the water & I will be ok.



But it's that burn - the fear of the burn - that makes movement & trust so hard.

If you've been there, fearing the burn & refusing to move forward, rest assured you are not alone.  

I'm realizing that ALL things work together for my good.  ALL things includes grief, suffering, & sometimes fear.
I've learned that being "called according to His purpose," takes more than just desire.  "Experience" in this life comes best the same way learning does; we learn more from our mistakes than when we "get it right."
I'm still learning that head knowledge & heart knowledge are separated by a chasm as wide {or wider} than the Grand Canyon.  That as much as I know, that I know, that I know that God's purpose is for my ultimate good, my fear can still keep me paralyzed. 

When I find myself gazing out over that canyon between my head & heart, I turn to verses like these; I hope you'll find them helpful as well.