Heart Health and History

Many of my friends know that two years ago, I was diagnosed with endothelial dysfunction in the small blood vessels of my heart. In an effort to make lifestyle changes, I began to adopt healthier eating habits and to walk as I am able. Several weeks ago, I stumbled on a unique program where I am taking a virtual walk across America. The site is at http://www.exerciselbl.gov if anyone is interested in looking it up.

Each day I wear my pedometer and track the number of steps I have walked that day. Then I translate the steps into miles – 2500 steps equals approximately one mile on the map. When I enter my miles for each day it shows me a photo of where I am on the road and a note about what town is coming up next.

To make the journey more interesting, I have begun to read up on the history of the markers along this route which began near Williamsburg, VA. I’m discovering that there are so many interesting historical facts and stories about people to be explored along the way!

As of last Saturday, I had “walked” over 37 miles so far. It has taken me 5 weeks because I’m not able to walk a lot yet, but I hope to increase a little each week. I am heading through Charles City County, VA this week, the birthplace of 2 US presidents – William Henry Harrison (9th) and John Tyler (10th) It’s also home to one signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Harrison V.

But one of the most interesting people I learned about in my reading about Charles City was an African American man named Lott Cary. He was born in 1780 as a slave on the plantation of John Bowry, a farmer and Methodist minister. As a young man, Cary was industrious and soon was hired out to work in the Shockoe tobacco warehouse in Richmond. There he received an education after joining the First Baptist Church in Richmond, learning to read and write, along with math and the Bible in a class for slaves and free men. Because of his diligence, he was able to earn and save enough money to eventually buy freedom for himself and his two children shortly after the death of his wife in 1815.

Later in 1815, Cary became a recognized Baptist minister and he soon became involved with missionary efforts, traveling to Liberia on the West Coast of Africa where he planted churches and started schools. He also served as a lay physician. In 1828, he became acting governor of Liberia, but died later that year from wounds received in an accidental explosion.

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Takie time to stop and read the markers…

He is still remembered today through the work of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, based in Washington, DC.. In Richmond and Charles City, he has streets named after him. March 21 was also declared as Lott Cary Day in James City County and this year, he was honored as one of the Library of Virginia’s “Strong men and Women in Virginia History.”

What an inspiration! This man overcame steep obstacles with the Lord’s help to go on to accomplish much for the kingdom of God. To read more of his story, check him out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lott_Cary

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At The Heart Of The Writer’s Art

Recently I got an email from a writer friend who was struggling with a piece she was writing. The message of the piece was important to her but when she went back to edit the completed piece, it didn’t feel right. She wanted to scrap it and start over to make it flow better.Quill and ink

Most writers will understand what she was feeling. I know I do! Right now I’m working on my 4th novel. Each day I try to write several hundred words, but so far, the story feels flat and lifeless. At this point in I’m struggling with the process of writing, even though the story line has captured my heart.

As I crafted a reply to encourage my friend, my writer’s imagination kicked in and I began to wonder how the writers of the Bible books felt when they wrote. I always pictured them sitting at their scrolls, quickly penning each word, engrossed in listening as God dictated it to them. In my imagination, they couldn’t ink their quills fast enough.

But today I saw a different picture in my mind. I saw John, an uneducated fisherman turned disciple sitting down to write his Gospel of Jesus, a manuscript about the Son of God who physically walked and talked to him for over 3 years. It’s quite possible that John experienced feelings of being overwhelmed and inadequate with the task of writing his Gospel account. He wasn’t a scribe, trained in the precision of copying the ancient writings. He wasn’t versed in the law like his fellow disciple, the former Pharisee, Paul.

I can imagine John praying, “Lord there’s so much to tell. Where should I start? What should I write about next?” Jesus had been his closest friend on earth and now was his Savior in heaven. He could have written many books about the Son of God. As he prayed, listened and relied on God’s Spirit to guide him, sometimes the words just flowed because John had seen God’s heart and felt the Lord’s passion as it poured through him. He was writing what he had experienced firsthand. But because he was human, I can also picture him agonizing in prayer over each word and waiting for the Spirit’s confirmation as he quoted Jesus to be sure he remembered it exactly right!

John wasn’t some “super saint.” The Holy Spirit became his mentor, helping him to remember the events clearly and set his words down in a way that would speak to people for generations to come. As a writer today, I must strive to be like John. I must always pray first with a listening heart. Sometimes under the Spirit’s inspiration, the words and ideas will flow so fast I can’t keep up. Other times I know it will be hard work requiring a lot of thoughtful listening and prayer to get it right. Thankfully, the same Holy Spirit who mentored John is available to mentor me today as I practice the writing craft to do the best I possibly can for the Lord.

Lord, send your Spirit to us – to mentor, inspire and help us in those tasks that we struggle with. Show us how to do them in a way that will bring glory to you. Amen!

Have you struggled with a task – feeling overwhelmed and wanting/needing to get it right? How has the Lord helped you? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear your story!

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It’s a matter of perspective

Anaglyph_glassesTromp, tromp, tromp. Some days it seemed like I just put one foot in front of the other just to get through it. The wilderness that I’ve been traveling through all looks the same and I’d lost my zest for this journey called life. Have you ever felt that way?

Two years ago I started a low sodium diet because of developing heart problems. At first it was a challenge. I loved looking up new recipes and figuring out ways to pare down the salt in the things I already liked to make. I faithfully logged all the food I ate and lost quite a bit of weight. Then I hit a plateau and stopped losing weight. The diet lost its appeal and everyday became the “same old thing”. While I still kind of stuck with it – I knew I had to because of my heart problems – I’d lost the joy, excitement and motivation for the process.

Things started slipping as I found myself going back to some of the old patterns of eating. It became harder to keep focused on my goal of making healthy lifestyle changes. Thankfully I was able to maintain most of the weight loss through this past year, but I knew that things couldn’t stay the same or I would eventually give up all together. And the diet failure was just one area where I felt the dreariness of this life journey. Spiritually I needed a new perspective.

Through my study of the Israelites on their wilderness journey, I saw the same thing happening over and over again with them. God performed a miracle and their excitement levels for their journey peaked. They eagerly followed Moses, until their water skins dried out or the food became scarce or they faced some fierce enemy. It became harder to endure the sameness of their surroundings. They lost sight of what they did have that made the journey worthwhile and they whined about what they used to have – though they forgot the heavy price they paid for those former things. It was more than just a physical battle for survival in the wilderness; it had become a spiritual battle as well.

Every morning God gave them manna to fill their bellies, but also to draw their focus back to him. Yet all they could see was the same old, same old, boring manna. They lost the sense of God’s care for them. Their clothes didn’t wear out despite the wilderness wear and tear, yet they failed to feel God’s love surrounding them. When they met their enemies in battle, they fought and won, but they lost the fight against their own wills. They had lost their perspective of the wilderness journey – it wasn’t meant to kill or punish them. It was meant to strengthen them and make them a mighty nation.

As 2015 dawned, I needed a new perspective. One of the goals I set for myself was to keep a daily prayer journal to help keep me more focused on the God of the journey rather than the journey itself. It has been an amazing month as I have felt his presence close to me again. I’ve seen his provision and his hand of protection. God never stopped doing those things throughout the last year, but like the Israelites, I had lost my perspective. I only saw the stymied weight loss and heart issues. I began to be overwhelmed by the other problems around me, rather than remembering the Lord was always with me.

Tromp, tromp, tromp. The life journey through the wilderness of health and other issues continues, but I’m not the same. It’s a matter of perspective, of seeing the wilderness through new lenses – God’s, not mine that gives joy in the journey.

If you’ve grown weary on your life journey, pray this prayer with me: “Father God, change my perspective. Help me to see you again. Amen.”

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How should I hang my wash?

thMMX3V1GHExodus 16:35 “ And the children of Israel ate manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” NKJV

As a teenager, I was befriended by an older woman named Ruby. She had become a Christian late in life and had come out of a difficult, hurtful background. As we sat talking one afternoon, Ruby laughed and said that when she became a Christian, she had to learn to do everything differently. She prayed before starting any new task and asked the Lord how he wanted her to do it – even hanging up socks on the wash line!

The Lord took Ruby through a wilderness experience where she had to let go of everything she thought she knew in order to heal from her hurtful past and to learn how to trust him, even in the smallest things like hanging up socks! Each time she asked, he responded to her, giving her affirmations and encouragement to do those tasks. Over time, she learned to trust his presence and his still, small voice so that when bigger things happened, she knew it was the Lord with her, directing her steps.

Ruby’s experience mirrors that of the Israelites coming out of slavery in Egypt. Four hundred years of slavery had beaten them down so much that they had to go back to the very basics – learning how to trust and obey the Lord in the little every day things like gathering manna for their daily bread – and doing it HIS way. It took that daily reinforcement and affirmation to help them know that God was with them, to help them know and trust his voice.

The older generation didn’t “get it.” Though they had daily provision, daily presence, daily protection, they were never really able to overcome the deeply instilled fear from their bondage. However, many in the younger generation did learn to trust the manna and the God who provided it. They were the ones allowed to enter and conquer the Promised Land.

When we are hurt deeply, our ability to trust is damaged. Though we don’t deserve the Lord’s daily ministrations, we definitely need them to heal our trust and grow up in our faith; to conquer the giants along the rest of the journey. Have you experienced the daily unconditional love and guidance of the Lord like this? I’d love to hear from you today. Please leave a message in the comments below to share your story.

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A Word For The New Year

jan resolutionsHas the Lord ever given you one word as a theme for a new year?

About a week before the end of 2014, a writing friend forwarded a newsletter written by another writer who shared the one word emphasis the Lord had given her for 2015. Her word was “Promise” because she knew she would be writing a lot about God’s promises in the new year. She also sensed it would be a year of learning about what promises are – commitments made to others; the failure to keep those promises and the the imperative to be God-led in the promises we make to others.

The article spurred me to begin seeking the one word for my New Year. I have learned to pray about goals and resolutions at the beginning of each year so that I have a sense of the things he wants me to work at and achieve through the year. That practice has helped me not to take on more than I can handle and has helped me to accomplish more specific work for Him each year.

Only one other time has he given me one specific word as a guide / goal /gift for a new year. That year the word he gave was “Intimacy,” as I was still in the recovery process from childhood abuse. Intimacy and trust had always been difficult for me and yet I sensed a longing to learn if it was possible to really know God as he knew me.

In northern New York, the wintry weather was frigid and snow covered the ground for most of the winter, making it impossible to do a lot of outdoor physical activities. The Lord invited me to walk with him, in the sanctuary of the church we pastored which was right next door to the parsonage. Each morning I walked the few yards to the church building, went in and put on a praise tape and began walking. Soon, I would find myself praying for the needs of the church and almost invariably toward the end of the time each day, I found myself praising and worshipping the Lord, with a sense that he was walking right beside me. That winter I experienced the intimacy I had craved with the Lord.

As 2015 dawned, I was still praying to see if the Lord had a word for me. The word that kept coming to mind was “Presence” because I am writing novel #4 about the presence of the Lord with the Israelites in the wilderness. I am in the midst of my own personal wilderness as well and think much about his presence with me. The word fit and I knew it would be my light and lifeline for this year.

On January 2nd, another friend sent me the verse found in Isaiah 52: 12. “The Lord will go ahead of you, and he, the God of Israel, will protect you from behind.” What a fitting verse to go with that one word, “Presence.” Like the Israelites, God’s presence will be with me through the wilderness in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. His presence will both guide and protect me as he did with the children of Israel. That verse is now framed in my writing office as a reminder of God’s “Presence” with me each day as I look forward to walking through 2015 2ith him!

What is your word or your goals for this year? If so I’d love to hear about them! Please feel free to share a comment below. And LIKE Daughters of Hope and Healing on Facebook!

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Little is much when God is in it

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33 NIV

One of the things I love about the Christmas story is the way God uses the weak, the small and insignificant things of the world to glorify his name. Mary was a teenage girl, a virgin. She was to marry a carpenter, not a rich man by any means. Yet God chose her to be the Jesus the Carpentermother of Christ who came in the form of a helpless infant. They lived in the small town of Nazareth and made a long journey to another small town, Bethehem, where Jesus was born in a stable – not the place we would expect a King to be born. On the night of his birth, his only recorded visitors were shepherds who were working on a nearby hillside outside the city. The priests and rulers of his own people never bothered to seek out this insignificant child until a group of foreign dignitaries came to visit several months later.

None of the characters or events of this story are remarkable in themselves. But when assembled together, you see the whole picture – a powerful God orchestrating ordinary details to fulfill all the prophecies about the coming of his precious Son who would save the world!

The Christmas story gives me great hope because it reminds me that my life is made up of a series of seemingly unremarkable events which are influenced by many ordinary people. Yet, when put all together and viewed through the Holy Spirit’s eyes, I can see the divine hand of God leading me in remarkable ways on a very incredible journey. It gives me a new perspective on the value God places on my life.

Whenever you are tempted to lapse into your own personal pity party or to listen to the defeated one’s lies that you are ordinary, not good enough or too young, too small, too insignificant, etc., remember Christmas. Ask the Lord to help you put the events and people of your life into perspective. As you pray over this list, you will begin to see a deliberate work of God as he pieces together the story of your life and polishes it to shine for him!

Merry Christmas!

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If walls could talk…

The truth is – walls CAN talk and they often say a lot about the people who live within them.

In man’s early history, glyphs and simple pictures were etched on cave walls, depicting their stories about successful hunts or Hawaiian_Petroglyphsfishing expeditions. Egyptians painted the history of the Pharaoh’s family on the pyramid walls. Native Americans painted on the leather skins of their tepees and sandy pueblo walls. Skilled weavers soon learned how to created colorful fabrics and tapestries which told stories through their colors, patterns and pictures. Women through history have created samplers which were framed and hung on walls, used as educational tools or depicting Bible verses or family tree info as memory aids. All one had to do was to step inside the home to learn all about that family’s story.

People still use their walls to tell family stories. My daughter with the 8 children has a whole wall dedicated to their current pictures – all in the same type and color of frame. She has even dressed them alike some years – all the girls in long denim skirts and bare feet while the boys wear jeans and white shirts, also bare footed. It makes a great display and conveys a message of the desire for a simpler lifestyle. The happy expressions on each child’s face conveys the joy of family life they experience.

I also have a wall as you come in my back door with photos of my family – A wedding picture of my husband and myself, with a framed verse about family heritage where all the children know the Lord. A photo of each of the children when they were younger flanks our wedding photo and now photos of the grand children. (Hmmm – I need to seriously update that wall to get EVERYONE in the picture since there are 11 grandchildren now!)

Anyone remember those home décor parties where you invited all your friends to see demonstrations of how to use themed art pieces, mirrors, beautiful pictures, sconces, floral holders and the like to create ornate wall displays that filled up a good portion of wall space? The wall display was intended to tell a story to visitors in that home – showing the preferences and the personality of the home owner as well warmth and welcome.

Over the years home décor trends have changed. They went from pastel to bold wall colors. From single pictures to wall displays. From photos to subway art, stitched samplers to vinyl wall clings that spell out bold poetic sayings across a whole wall; you have only to step inside someone’s home to read their lives on the walls. Oh yes! Walls do talk – they speak volumes.

What do your walls say about you, your family and your faith? I’d love to hear from you!

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