Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Christmas Surprise

Author:  Susan L. Prince

About two months ago I began playing with the idea and plotting logistics.  It was then that I first realized that Christmas was on a Friday and then it dawned on me that the weekend after Christmas would fall on the work rotation that would normally be my weekend off.  I am a retailer however, and so many times during the holidays, it is virtually impossible to get any significant time off.  This has been accepted by my family and has been ever since I started a retail career in 1995. 

I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking about surprising my parents on Christmas Day by showing up unannounced if my work schedule allowed for it and she said "do it!"  Being a Northeast Ohio native though, I also know that more plays into a trip up north than just a work schedule and that would be having to add the familiar phrase "weather permitting" as a coda to every travel plan. 

So I watched to see if I would indeed have Christmas weekend off, and when it was apparent I was going to, I started to watch the extended weather forecast.  I also needed to make arrangements to spend the night somewhere on the way to Ohio on Thursday night in order to get some miles behind me and get an early start Christmas Day to arrive with enough time to visit with my parents.  It is a ten hour drive from Humboldt, TN to Medina, OH, and I lose an hour on the way up, so I was hoping to arrive late afternoon. 

I was being particularly careful not to tell many people about my plans because I really didn't want somebody to accidently "forget" that it was a surprise to my parents and say something on Facebook.  Very few were aware and that helped to keep the secret under wraps.  I also had to find out if my parents had plans for the holiday, which they did, but that was all taking place on Thursday, Christmas Eve, when my sister and her family were going to be visiting.  So, Christmas Day was all clear!

Mom called me earlier in the week and I asked "so what are your plans for Christmas" and she told me that they were going to have a quiet day at home.  She asked me what my plans were and almost threw me off when she said "I suppose you have to work on Saturday".   Knowing I was not working and not wanting to lie to Ma,  I fumbled my reply a little bit but mustered an "uhh, I have plans for Saturday".   Whew.

My friend's parents live in Nashville and welcomed me into their home late Christmas Eve.  They didn't just offer me a bed for the night, they welcomed me with smiles, hugs and love.  What totally blessed me was that Ellen's mom and dad both rose early in the morning, 6:00am, to see me off.  Not only that, her mom cooked a great breakfast and we all ate together before my trip.  Who would have thought that we would all be up that early on Christmas Day when there were no children under the age of 37 in the house!  LOL   I left well rested and well fed.  It was an awesome beginning to my Christmas Holiday.  I was so excited and felt overwhelmed by the blessings I had already received that morning and I hadn't even left for home yet.

On my way to Ohio I started heading north on 65 toward Louisville.  I was talking with my friend on the phone while she headed to work in Jackson.  We were disconnected at some point and then I got a call from my mom.  She was calling to wish me Merry Christmas and she told me that she wished that someday I'd be able to make it home for the holidays, but understands it isn't so easy when one works in retail.  She asked what I was doing and I said that I was driving "home" from a friend's house in Nashville.   She assumed I meant to my home in Humboldt, TN, but I was meaning my home, HER HOME, in Medina, OH!  That was fun!  I was playing with words and she had NO CLUE!  I sure did enjoy that!

So, I drove and drove and drove for eight hours.  I was good until I hit Columbus, OH and then the drive was getting long and I was anxious to just get there.

A couple of hours later, when I was finally in Medina County,  I tweeted "I wonder what my ma is doing?" to which she responded "Was just wondering what Sue was doing. I am watching a little TV and crocheting.....oh, and missing Sue!"

She had NO IDEA that in a few minutes I was going to be knocking on the door and that I would be spending the rest of Christmas Day with her!

I got to the house and pulled in the driveway.  Because the living space of their house is at the back, I did not fear that they would see and/or hear me pull in, so as soon as I turned off the ignition in Janeway, I went up to the front door, sent a tweet "About to blow my parents' mind! First Christmas in 15 years that I am home and they have no idea I am at the door!" and rang the doorbell.

I stood a bit to the side so that I would not be seen through the window to the right of the front door.  The door opened but I could not be seen, nor could I see in, because there was a wreath on the outside screen/storm door in the line of sight.  I poked my head into the middle of the wreath and looked up to see my dad standing there.

I immediately said "Merry Christmas" and dad looked a little confused.  He had no idea to expect me to be there, so it caught him off guard, just for a split second, and then he exclaimed "SUE!"   He quickly worked to unlock the door and let me in and Ma, having heard dad say "SUE!", made her way from the kitchen to the foyer to greet me.  Dad gave me a big bear hug that only dad's can give.  It was a sweet moment.

Both of my parents had tears welling up in their eyes and then Ma had her chance to hug me.  Then Dad hugged me.  Then Ma hugged me.  I was getting passed back and forth!   It was AWESOME!  It felt so good to be in their arms!  I WAS HOME!

We were all so happy to see one another that not many words were spoken in those moments, so we just held on to each other.  One of the most favorite moments of my life for sure!

Then Ma had to go get the camera and post this pic on FB and captioned it "Oh my gosh, Sue just walked in the front door!"  

This Christmas surprise is one that won't easily be forgotten!  Oh it was fun!

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Testimony of Spiritual Growing Pains Through Friendship

Author:  Susan L. Prince

I have one of the best and deepest friendships one could have with my friend and sister in Christ, Katie. We became quick friends when I responded to her prayer request ten years ago. From that moment on, it was apparent that God brought us together to enjoy a friendship.

We have shared many laughs and deep conversations. We have loved deeply and served one another in different ways. We studied God's Word together and grew spiritually.  It was a relationship that set God at the center and as a result, our friendship flourished and we both were blessed by it.

As with any relationship, they often come with struggles.  Our friendship has not been immune to that, but today we can praise God because He grew us into friends, grew us through our friendship, and grows us through our struggles relationally to this day. We have been able to teach each other many things and for that I am ever thankful.  It has not been an easy journey at times, but I know "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him." 

Many changes have occured in both of our lives over the past few years especially; the kids have both grown and moved on, Katie is now married and living in another state, and I am living alone in this house our "framily" once shared.  We are where God intends us to be at this time, and I am confident that the gift of friendship that God has given to Katie and me will continue for all our lives.

Recently I had the opportunity to share with Northbrook Church some of what I have learned through the mistakes that I made in my relationship with Katie and how I failed to yield my will to God's, especially with regard to submitting to one another and submitting to spiritual authority.  This sin of failing to submit resulted in me falling out of God's will and that naturally leads to suffering dire consequences, and in my case lead me into a spiritual desert place which I have shared about before. 

I shared last June on the Sisters' Weblog A Little Something I've Learned About Spiritual Authority.  (it is a three part series run back to back so you can read all of it scrolling up the page.)   The past few years have been difficult for both Katie and I, some of which is documented on this blog.  I know some of my actions and words have been hurtful to Katie and for that I am sorry, but again, Jesus is the Lord of both of us, so in His amazing ways, He is restoring our friendship to something even better!  I am forever grateful for His mercy and grace. 

I want to make available to you the testimony I shared with my church on Sunday, 11/14/09.  Sin had damaged my relationship with my Father, but His love is faithful and He used circumstances and His people to help open my eyes to spiritual truths that only He can teach me.  You can listen to the audio file of my testimony HERE, and catch the entire message Chuck delivered HERE.  Below I will include the list of six things I learned about this type of submission as a summary.

Things I learned about submitting to one another:
  1. We are to put aside our pride and recognize that we can be easily deceived.
  2. God puts us in a body of believers purposefully so that we can edify others and speak into each other’s lives – as iron sharpens iron
  3. Our brothers and sisters in the Lord love us and exist to encourage us in the Lord.  They do not wish to harm us.
  4. Those walking in the spirit have Godly insight into your life, and this is especially true for our spiritual leaders.
  5. God commands us to honor spiritual leaders – He has entrusted them with an awesome responsibility and He divinely equips them to watch over our spiritual well being.
  6. If we fear God, we will submit to one another because we WANT to promote His glory and we WANT to build one another up in order to fulfill our destinies in God’s plan.

Listen to my testimony delivered to Northbrook Church for the message "Submit to One Another"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Whatever is Good

Author: Katie

God’s word proves itself. I need not try to prove it. It only takes one believer to test what it says and today, it proved itself to me once again. History tells of how man is doomed to repeat his mistakes over and over from Adam and Eve in the garden to Katrina Dunkin.

This morning, I cried out to Him with a broken and contrite heart. I asked forgiveness for dwelling on things that make me miserable. His Word tells us to focus on what is good and lovely, admirable...that being Him and the work He is doing and the fact that He loves me and wants me to cast all my cares upon Him.

I find myself repeating this cycle over and over. I focus on Him, I rise above my circumstances. I have peace and a wonderful testimony of His love, mercy and grace on my lips. I live a life that is attractive to those who are seeking to know Christ. They want what I have. I feel no need to defend myself because Christ is my vindication. But, then something happens and it becomes my focus. I lose sight of the One who loves me. The words on my mouth and the meditations of my heart are unacceptable and I find myself not dwelling in His presence…although He never leaves me. My life is not appealing to those who are seeking Christ and my testimony of Him is defeated. I get depressed, and miserable and I can’t seem to snap out of it until I realize what I’m doing and I fall on my face before God with a broken and contrite heart…Then, I find myself back in His grace, restored, whole.

This morning I found myself in that place of brokenness. I cried out to God in repentance for focusing on what makes me miserable and feeling hopeless and helpless. I asked Him to help me break out of this cycle. Then I read my devotion for the day….

“You have not cried to Me with all your hearts, but you have complained that I have not heard your prayers. As it is written ‘He [the Lord] is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him’ (Hebrews 11:6), And again: ‘You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with ALL your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).

Look no more to My hand to supply freely your needs when you have not humbled your hearts and cleansed your hands and come to me with the sacrifice I have required – even a broken and contrite heart. You need not expect Me to speak to you when your ears are heavy from listening to evil reports…..”

I also read, “Your eyes will not look upon My face while they are still engaged in viewing the faults and imperfections in the brethren.” Of this, I am guilty…of bitterness against my best friend and sister in Christ. I confess unforgiveness to God and everyone. I confess bitterness, and I ask for prayer…and I ask my friend to forgive me because I am full of faults and imperfections and I have no business pointing out those of others. God help me…it’s a pride thing.

Again, I must remind myself that victory is birthed from calamity…I need to stop complaining and fault finding, and trying to defend myself. I need to let God defend me..and thank God and praise Him in ALL things because He works everything for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)…that is the good I need to focus on in the midst of calamity…not the calamity. Then I will praise Him and glorify Him no matter what life throws at me…and that is what I was created to do!

“When you look to Me in truth and sincerity and repentance, you shall indeed see Me, and having seen Me, you wil look upon your brothers and sisters with love and understanding and patience knowing full well the needs in your own heart and life…”

“I will withhold my chastening rod when you turn to Me in repentance…”

“The heart that grieves over sin shall experience genuine comfort. There is nothing like it in any of the comforts of the world. If you bathe My feet in your tears, I shall clasp you to my heart in love. I cannot describe to you My love. I can only give it to you.”

This truth has been proven in my life over and over and over…and now again. His grace is truly sufficient and the only perfect love is God’s love.

I am reminded today of 1 Thessolonians 5: 16-18

Rejoice ALWAYS
IN EVERYTHING give thanks

Jennifer Knapp Returns to the Stage

Author: Susan L. Prince

On Wednesday, November 18th, I experienced something that I had waited many years for. I drove the 2.5 hours from Jackson, TN to The Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN to see and hear one of my favorite musical artists ever, Jennifer Knapp.

I know I wasn't the only one in the theater absolutely bubbling over with glee that Knapp is back on the stage to use the wonderful gifts and talents God has given her. The woman has been out of the music scene since 2002 when she left the stage and basically vanished from music, leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of her many die-hard fans, of which I am one.

In 2001 Katie and I had the privilege of meeting Knapp in Memphis when she was the opening act for Jars of Clay at the MidSouth Fair. While it was exciting to meet the boys of Jars, we hurried past them to get to who we really came to see! It was a blast to be able to talk with her and say "you rock!" She was kind and gracious and looked at the both of us and said "this is great!" while she listened to us share about the impact her music has had on us and shared small bits of testimony. It is a memory I hold very dear.

Since the day Knapp re-entered the music world I have been following her on Twitter and MySpace. People keep encouraging her to do the Facebook thing, but apparently with all the imposters out there, she has run into some trouble "proving" she is indeed the real JK. You better know I will be her "friend" as soon as I learn she's on FB!

I received a tweet one day from Knapp that she would be performing at The Belcourt and I was all over that! I wanted to go see her, but there are some logistical things to consider. I would be working that day, need to drive the 2.5 hours to Nashville, back again and work the next day. I had made prior arrangements to have Friday off that week to see Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) so I was not privy to another day off. I wondered if I could handle all the traveling and work and all my other commitments that week. Also, I really would have liked to have Katie go with me, but now she is married and living in Alabama, starting a new job, too, so that didn't seem like a possibility. This would leave me driving back and forth alone and attending the concert by myself.

I posted on FB about the concert and that I would be going alone, and my friend Debbie saw that post. She inquired about when and where and while we shot posts back and forth, she visited The Belcourt Theater online, bought tickets spontaneously, and came back with "I'm going, too!". So, we had our first road trip together to go see Jennifer Knapp! It was so much fun!

Knapp received a standing ovation as soon as she stepped on stage. The place was energized with fans all excited that she was about to play only her third show in seven years. She opened with "A Little More" and another familiar tune and the place was all abuzz with enthusiasm!

Knapp made it no secret that she felt a bit inept on the stage. She was obviously very rusty and awkward not knowing where to place herself, "what to do with her hands", and failing to "be cool" and flick a pic into the audience. She poked fun at herself for not really getting into the "rock and roller" thing and said "I can't even be cool and flick a guitar pic right" and as she tried the thing fell at her feet. She tried again and it dropped in front of her. It was hilarious!

An audience member called out and asked for a pic and Knapp obliged. As she was about to flick it in that direction the audience member said "let me come up and get it". We all laughed as Knapp nodded and said ok, walked to the edge of the stage where she handed off the pic to the fan who came up to retrieve it. It was classic! I laughed!

Thing is, none of us fans care how awkward and rusty Knapp is on the stage. All we cared about was the fact she was there playing her inspired music for us. I loved the performance, and in fact, the awkwardness visually just made it all the more endearing to me. It was raw and it was REAL. It was Jennifer Knapp!

She has such a rapport with the fans and it was like having a close friend visit, chatting over song in the living room. I adored her performance. She played some old familiar tunes and invited Amy Courts to sing with her on some stuff and that was absolutely wonderful. Most of the evening however we were introduced to new stuff Knapp has written. What a treat! After all these years, hearing new stuff was amazing! The new songs have the Knapp familiarity, yet they are new and fresh, and I was all giddy! You can hear two new songs on her Myspace, "Letting Go" and "Mr. Gray" which represent her sound very well.

I am so looking forward to her new album which is tentatively set for a release early in 2010. After getting a sneak preview of the new songs, I can NOT wait for this CD to drop! It is going to be amazing and Knapp will not be playing such small venues much longer.

I plan to get to her every performance within a reasonable driving distance. Hopefully, one of these day, Katie and I both will attend her show together. It will be a double blessing that day! Woohooo!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Calamity Gives Birth to Victory! (Author: Katie)

The last 2 years of my life have been what seems to be a trail of one calamity after another. I have battled spiritually until I have found myself completely on the brink of a mental/spiritual breakdown. But instead of collapsing into oblivion of mental illness, I ran to my Father and collapsed in His arms. I battle…this warfare…daily and I am not so blind as to believe this struggle will ever end this side of heaven. This is life on Earth… a preparation and teaching time for eternal life with God.

Calamity teaches us how loved we are and that God is always there, in control and always with us. It teaches us how much we need Him and that He is the only One we can truly depend on always. The biggest thing I am learning is said quite perfectly in my devotional book, “Come Away my Beloved” by Frances J. Roberts. One sentence sums it all up in a nutshell….

“There can be no permanent loss in the life of My children, for out of the seeds of every calamity rises a whole crop of new victories.”

The author writes from God’s perspective, as if He is talking to his children…through His love letter…where He really does talk to us. It goes on to read…

“[This] is the way I have made it. The greatest evidence of this truth is Calvary.”

This is His story...for His glory....

I am experiencing a new crop of victories birthed from the chain of heart breaking events. He is healing me…and growing me…and blessing me….slowly but surely and eventually, completely.

I only want Him to receive the glory for the great things He has done. Apart from Him I am nothing and I can do nothing…but in Him…all things are possible.

By God’s grace I have a new and wonderful victory that keeps multiplying….I am Mrs. Katrina Dunkin!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Today Wasn't Just Another Sunday

Author: Susan L. Prince

I awakened this morning like I do each Sunday, although this day I was not working and looked forward to heading to Northbrook Church to gather with my church family and worship together. Northbrook has been my home church since 2001, so I have a large family!

There are many things going on personally in my head and heart that I can't share here, but I will share some things today because my experience at church was so profound. It is difficult sometimes to share this stuff because what is so deep and meaningful to me may sound trivial and "stupid" to the reader, but it is a risk I am going to take. This blog is meant to glorify God and today He really did surprise me with some things and I just need to document it in some way.

When I walked in the door at Northbrook this morning I was greeted by name with smiles and hugs from my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was such a warm feeling of love in the air. :) It just seems sweeter now that I live alone to have people genuinely happy to see me.

I chatted some and then headed in to take my seat, third row in the section on the right side, second chair in from the aisle on the left. I noticed a couple behind me that I had not met so I introduced myself and met Gina and Raymond. I said "hello" to a few other family members and watched as other Northbrookers made their way over to greet Gina and Raymond. It made me remember my first visit to Northbrook and how I immediately felt loved. I hope Gina and Raymond experienced some of that today.

I took my seat again and observed that the elements were reverently on display at the front. Honestly, I have not partaken in the sharing the Lord's Supper the past few times the opportunity presented itself. I chose not to partake on those occasions because my heart just wasn't "right". The Lord's Supper is something I revere and take very seriously. There are times I literally shake when I hold the elements and consider what Jesus Christ did for me on that cross and think about how much love it took to stay on that cross, suffering and dying. I think hold me Jesus, I'm shaking like a leaf.

When I saw that my Northbrook family would be sharing in the Lord's Supper today, before the service started I sat and reflected at my seat. I was thinking that my heart is there, it is ready, and it is His. I thought, today I will be able to partake.

The service started with a single voice singing strains of a hymn and then we heard scripture read by many different people and children. All these scriptures shared the truth about God's love and how much He does love us. It was impactful to me because I had already been led to ponder all that.

As the praise and worship music started by the band on stage, the wife of one of the band members came up next to me and asked if she and her family could sit in the row of seats next to me. Of course! So, I quickly moved my stuff from the seat that was to my right, but realized that wasn't quite enough room and then I had to leave "my" seat and move to the seat on the end.

This doesn't seem like a big deal, but to me it was. It was a very big deal. That end seat was "Katie's". That was my friend Katie's seat. I sat next to her for eight years as she worshiped. So, it felt weird. It felt so different to sit there, in "Katie's seat". I was somewhat befuddled.

When the band finished, the woman's husband came and sat next to his wife, which was next to me, in "my" seat.

Suddenly a wave of emotion overcame me because it was now "official"; the era has come to an end. My entire framily is gone and Katie wasn't there and life is marching on. I've even been "kicked out" of my seat. It was symbolic. It really got to me. I think it is finally sinking in how different my life is now. I know the both of us are in God's will, and that is all good, but my heart has finally accepted that I am enduring a major life adjustment. In a way it really surprised how it all started to hit me. My life as I knew it is over. God is moving me onto new things. God is moving Katie onto new things.

Chuck, my pastor, then stood before us to present the elements, that which represents Christ's body and blood. My eyes were already welling up and as Chuck began to share a word with us, he got choked up. He couldn't speak because he was overcome with emotion. I have seen this in him before when we partake in the Lord's Supper. It is a very meaningful time and it seemed extra special today for some reason; at least it was for me.

When Chuck finally spoke he said "Have you ever just been so overcome with the realization that you are loved?" He continued on to share that he feels that way when we share in communion, when he thinks about his family, when he thinks about the church, when he thinks about his wife, etc. It was impactful to me because I was really feeling the love today. As soon as I entered the Gathering Place, brothers greeted me, I found sisters to get hugs from and talk with, listened to people share about how much God loves me and then I was about to do something that Christ commanded us to do in order to remember His sacrifice, which was totally done out of absolute, never-ending, pure love for me.

It was powerful. God reminded me that Christ took on the form of a man for me. He is the Almighty, yet He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Can you imagine confining yourself to live in a feeble body covered with skin, when you are an omnipotent, eternal being? As a man he endured the hardships of life we all deal with, and much more. He lived a perfect life and then died a death like any common criminal of that day. The people who cheered Him waving palm branches as He entered the city at the beginning of the week were sorely disappointed by him by the end of the week and even spat on him and cursed Him. Then He laid down His life. Yes, man crucified Him, but that would not have happened without his permission. He literally laid his life down! He did that for me. For YOU! Bloggles the mind!

That is true love. Agape love. He died for the very people that spit on Him, curse His name, and nailed Him to a tree. He died for me. Me.

So, I sat reflecting on that as well as the framily that I was so desperately missing, knowing that I have loved deeply and knowing that I am loved deeply. It was so very humbling.

Chuck asked anyone willing to serve to come up and pass out the elements and so I took of the bread and I took the cup. We waited to eat together and then to share of the drink. As I crushed the bread between my teeth, I envisioned the body of my Savior, broken and dying as He hung on a cross, and as I drank of the cup I understand that He poured his blood out as a sacrifice for my sin.

After sharing the Lord's Supper Chuck delivered an inspired message on the scripture about Jesus washing the disciple's feet. I want to share more about that in another post, but one thing that stuck with me is something Chuck said about foot washing, he said "it is humbling on both sides of the water."

It was an emotional day for me as I remember life and what it was like these past ten years, and how it is now and that I can trust God for a future rich with opportunities to serve Him.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wedding Bells are Ringing (by Katie)

Well, it happened. The sisters no longer live in the same home. Although our roles are changing, our status as sisters in Christ remains forever. As of next Saturday, November 7th, 2009, this sister will be marching to wedding bells! God gave me beauty for ashes and now I will be married and I will have a new name...just like another sister in Christ prophesied to me back in March, just before I met my fiance. I was given the first part of Isaiah 62 which God had laid on her heart to give to me that day. I had no idea what it meant at the time but it is all very clear to me now as I am watching that prophesy unfold! Glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! He has given me beauty for ashes.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Hiker

Author: Susan L. Prince

"I'm a hiker!"

This announcement comes because I completed a total of thirteen miles of trails in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These were all day hikes, which is a term I learned on this trip to The Smokies. Day hikes are, get this, hikes one does during the day! And they are not too long that they can't be completed within a day. Oh yeah! I have the terminology down! Uh-huh!

Oh, I also learned what a "sherpa" is, and teased Ellen that I was her sherpa. Actually I was more of a mule. A sherpa is a guide, I didn't guide, I carried the backpack. LOL

So I was advised to purchase special socks for hiking, socks that will wick moisture. Yep! Listen to me and my bad hiker lingo! I learned that these socks help keep the feet dry and prevent blisters. I had happy feet on this trip and I am thankful to my friend for preparing me so well.

I also had some all-terrain hiking boots which are of utmost importance when it is wet and muddy while walking rocky trails. They also lended support to my ankles which have been sprained so many times that they have little support of their own.

I got to use a walking stick, or hiking pole, as well! Woohooo! This thing was an essential because it really helps to steady your gait while walking on slippery rock surfaces and uneven terrain.

It had rained many days prior to our trip to the mountains and threatened to rain the entire time we were there, so I prepared by taking a good rain jacket. It served me well and kept me dry the first couple of days when it rained some. Thankfully, the majority of the rain cleared out for our last two days and only a short spontaneous shower crept up now and then. The weather was quite cooperative afterall.

A hat is also a good idea for many reasons. It can keep the sun off of your head to help keep you cooler and for me, my ballcap helped shield my glasses from the rain. I can't see a thing without my glasses, so I have to wear them in the rain and that doesn't always work out so well. A hat will also protect you from ticks that fall from the trees onto your head.

One more essential thing for the hiker; the backpack. We filled that pack with water which is something you should never go without on a hiking trip. We packed plenty of water and other food that would provide energy for climbing the steep, strenous mountain sides. My friend Ellen also packed things like a First Aid kit, flashlight and a whistle in case we had a mishap and needed help.

I learned a lot on my first real hiking adventure. Most of all I learned that I LOVE IT! I will go back someday. I can't wait to share the experience with Katie! It's gonna be so grand!

The previous post has some pictures from the adventure on my Flickr and you can also see more pics on Facebook; here, here and here.


Author - Susan L. Prince

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

When we were driving up through The Great Smoky Mountains I caught a quick glimpse of a beautiful sight through a very small opening between the trees. It was just enough for me to get a quick glance at the scene, but still left me ignorant of what was to come and what I was about to see.

As we neared the top I was getting eager to get out of the confines of the vehicle we were in to behold a scene painted by the hand of God. I leaped from the car as soon as we parked and I surveyed what was before me. I stood there speechless, looking out over the expanse of mountain tops peering up through cloud cover that left me without words.

Now and then I would muster a simple "wow". "WOW!" That was about all I could come up with.

I thought about how my friend Ellen pointed out to me one day that everything God created is visually pleasing. What I saw that morning blows visually pleasing out of the water! It was stunning! Absolutely amazing! There are no adjectives to adequately describe what I witnessed that morning. I could barely breathe I was so astounded.

I kept imagining the Spirit of God hovering there.

Below are more pictures of our trip to The Smokies on Flickr.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I am Alone; Nothing Wrong with a Little Hurt

Author: Susan L. Prince

I am alone.

Living alone.

Now. By myself in this house.

I feel weak. Poor. Broken.

A framily once resided here. We shared this home and experienced many things together in these almost nine years.

I can remember watching the neighborhood kids play in the backyard with Justin and Tiffany. I was privileged to watch the pick up soccer match between friends.

The dogwood, and Justin climbing in it and sitting there in the midst of the pure, white spring blooms. The boy loved that tree.

Now and then I hear strains of The Sound of Music and am reminded about how Tiff would watch that musical over and over and over again driving us all crazy as she would not stop singing it. Tiffany rarely stopped singing. Or making me laugh.

I watched Katie earn two degrees and graduate from Union University with honors last spring. I've seen her do what it takes to raise her kids to the best of her ability, sacrificing many material things to see to it they had a good education and everything they needed.

Katie, the best friend I've ever known, is gone now and will be married in November.

Justin is in the Navy.

Tiffany in Alabama with her dad.

These people have made imprints on my heart that I carry with me always. It was not always easy, and in fact, the past few years have been difficult, but there is restoration and there is love. All is good. God is working it all out for good, for His glory.

I understand that the season of our framily sharing this home is now over and a new one has begun. God has moved us all in different directions. I am making the adjustments and embracing the future.

God has always taken care of me and He'll continue to do just that.

I'm gonna take some time to hurt though. Nothing wrong with a little hurt.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What God is Doing

Author: Katie

This blog is supposed to be about what God is doing in the lives of two sisters. The lack of posts may convey a message that He isn't doing anything. To the contrary, He is doing much. What He is doing is taking these two sisters down different paths in life. One of us moved on some time ago...the other is finally aware of what is going on...duh...and trying to do adjust and do the same.

Letting go is not easy but in life there is a time, a season, and a purpose for everything and He works everything out for good! The season for the "Sisters" has passed. As for this sister...I am getting married! This is very very good.

So, I guess this "disconnect" as we take two different roads explains the lack of posting seen here at the Sisters' Weblog. What an awesome adventure and journey we have travelled. Now that our paths are going in different directions, for this sister...the taste is bittersweet because it is sad to see our journey together come to an was so sudden and unexpected... but it is so sweet because God is at work all around us every day and nothing happens that He is unaware of.

One final word of encouragement for any readers who still may be with us....

All I can say is trust Him even when things don't look like you think they should..especially during times when everything seems hopeless. His love never fails. People come and go in life, God gives and takes away according to His own good purpose. He is the one sure constant and His love is steadfast...always. He is everything we need to get through a life filled with unexpected twists and turns. Apart from Him we can do nothing.

One thing I have learned more than anything through all the experiences written about about in our blog and more.....this's about one relationship and one Person...God. I will continue to strive to live in a way that brings Him glory. I will fail at times...but then I will grow. This is the good of Romans 8:28. My suffering is what makes me like Christ and I want to be like Him so I will learn to find joy and praise Him during those hard times that purify, mold, and grow me more into His likeness...this is good. And as for only lasts for a night... I can get through the difficult times by remembering that joy always comes in the "mourning" and in the morning.

Each day brings with it new trials and new blessings. The great news is that we can focus on the blessings as we go through the trials...and count the trials as blessings as they mold us more into the loving, holy character of Christ. It's not easy to do this...but with God all things are possible..but we must abide in Him because apart fron Him we can do nothing.

Philippians 3: 7-14

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
My prayer is that He will manifest Himself you, beloved readers and that you will understand the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ and that God will fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. It is our hope (I think I can speak for Sue as well) that the posts you have read on this blog have helped point you in that direction.

Many of you have been such as source of wisdom, challenge, comfort, encouragement and growth to us over the years. Thank you..each and every one for your contributions. God bless you. Amen.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Follow Up

This is a link to my daily devotion. I found it interesting that it seems to follow up on what I posted yesterday...for those who might be confused....I hope it helps.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fellowshipping in the Suffering

Author: Katie

Fellowshipping in the sufferings of Christ….

This is a blessing but it doesn’t always feel like it because what it means is that I have to be willing to be wrongfully accused, be willing to take on the punishment of those who persecute me. I must be willing to experience rejection from those I love the most (excruciating)…and I have to understand that often I will be the last on the list of important relationships/people in the lives of those I love. I have to be willing to accept that the people I love will be too busy to spend time with me and that they might see me as a fairy godmother of some sorts…only there to meet their needs, hear their requests, and make them as comfortable as they desire to be…to receive praise when I do something that makes them feel good, ignored when everything is going well, and cursed when I don't give them what they want or think they need. I am learning how much God suffers at my hand every day because everything I am experiencing is what He goes through because of me. I reject, I get too busy doing things that don't matter and focusing on things that are temporal and will never love me back to the neglect of my relationship with Christ who truly loves me. I get angry when things don't go my way. I ignore Him when I am comfortable...and He takes it. His love doesn't waiver or become more or less. I want to love like that...but it hurts so bad.

So, I ask myself…how can this be good for me? The pain is excruciating and tests my endurance and ability to stand strong in my faith every single day. Why do I continue to ask God to allow me to experience the suffering of Christ? Because It allows me to better grasp how deep and wide and far the love of God reaches for me. This is the glory that comes from the suffering…the glory of God. I experience His love and love others the way He does... like I cannot unless I am willing to accept this call…and so when I find myself in a place where I want to throw in the towel…I will not give up. I will trudge forward and press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

So even in the midst of this suffering…my God…I will try my best not to hang my head low. I will strive to not complain. I will continue to praise You! I will rejoice in the love I am experiencing in the midst of it all…I can do this because I know, Father that You are bigger than all of it and that the joy of the Lord is my strength. I praise You for this call to fellowship. Suffering is the path to truly experiencing Your love...a love that is beyond human comprehension and can be found only in You. I cannot represent you accurately to the lost unless I experience accurately the cross.

The price I pay is nothing compared to the price You have paid. Help me to stand.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Finding Joy

Author: Katie

Every year God gives me an area of my life to focus that needs growth. This year He gave me joy. No, He did not make me happy (which is what I thought would happen when I understood where He was planning to work in my life). I expected that finally, everything in my life was going to come together and all the things I have been praying for would all fall into place and finally I would have happiness.

I should have known better. Happiness is temporary. Joy is forever. If I have learned anything over the last several years, I have learned that His ways and thoughts are most certainly not like mine. So, after I returned from the retreat in which I discovered the theme of my life this year, I suffered many many attacks on my faith which resulted in great loss in many ways. However, I am learning in the loss that there is so much more to gain.

I am learning that I trust in circumstances and relationships too much...earthly things that I am learning more and more every day are very temporal. Even the strongest relationships can change in a moment's notice and be lost forever. Circumstances rise and fall with every change of wind and my emotions rise and fall with them.

God is teaching me that true joy does not depend on circumstances or earthly relationships...or any eartly thing for that matter. Joy is found hidden deep beneath the circumstances and in only one relationship. I will have joy when I find that place deep within and let my relationship with Christ be at the core of my being and the complete source of my joy...not people...not circumstances.

I am also learning that it doesn't happen overnight. I still have ups and downs but the hills and valleys of this roller coaster ride are becoming smaller and smoother...yet I know the ride isn't over yet. I still fear loss and I still have a broken heart and I still focus too much on relationships that really shouldn't matter at the expense of those that should matter more. I try to hold on to what I should let go of...what doesn't belong to me nor ever did to begin with. I want Philippians 3: 8-10 to be my testimony.

I want to live to consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I want to consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death....

This is the path to joy...the path through begins with dying to my selfishness. The more I strive to reach this place...the more I see how selfish I really am. God, help me to die in a way that brings You glory and resurrect me to find eternal and consistent joy in You and You alone. I know this road will carry me through suffering and as much as it already hurts...I know that I will find strength in Christ and joy in praise. And so I praise you for this storm that will lead me on the path to pure joy that is only found in You. Mold me...strengthen me...make me holy that I can be a purer image of You. To You be the glory for the work that You never cease doing until it has been completed. For You work all things for good as you mold those who love You and are called according to Your purpose.. into Your perfect image! I am called. I am being purified. I am growing. I am being emptied. It hurts...a lot...but I shall continue to reach for the goal which is in Christ. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I've Got Bigger Issues Than That

Author: Susan L. Prince

I have much bigger issues than Internet addiction and a cluttered life.

I have sin.

It is called bitterness.

It is eating me alive and destroying relationships.

Pray for me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Addiction Conviction

Author: Susan L. Prince

I've been posting about what God has convicted me of recently. The first one is simple and I have been convicted about that for awhile, and it really hit me hard on a retreat weekend at Natchez Trace back in April? May? One of those months! LOL

The first is my obvious addiction to the computer, namely the Internet. I don't really do anything special online, just surf, read blogs, the news, Facebook and piddle really. The problem is that it does take time away from God. He hates that and is letting me know it. The solution to this is to curb my time online.

I was made very aware of this being a problem when I was on retreat Katie had her laptop there. She left the room and there I was, alone in a hotel room with a computer. I literally knew I shouldn't power it on and was sitting there on the bed listening to my worship music, trying to pray and study the Word, but that computer was distracting me. I had the, I understand what alcoholics must endure when they want that drink, know it's not good for them, and then are left alone in a room with a bottle of Jack Daniel's. I fought the desire to get online for a while, but then I figured, only for a few minutes and could no longer resist. I gave in.

Appalled that I was letting an addiction control me, I came home from that retreat vowing to restrict my online time, and did so for about five minutes. I'm having a bit of trouble with that obviously. That makes me beat myself up.

The second thing I am convicted about is that I need to simplify my life. I am reading "So, You Want to Be Like Christ? Eight Essentials to Get You There" by Charles R. Swindoll. The second discipline Swindoll explores is Simplicity. He asks "do you spend adequate alone time with God?"

This is something I learned that I needed to do when I first started meeting with my friend, mentor, and accountability partner Karen. She calls it guarded time and encouraged me to guard time that I set aside for quiet time before the Lord. This is not an easy thing for me and when I started being accountable to her for this time, on a scale of one to ten I said I was a two. I was able to raise that to about a four, but dropped off some.

Swindoll later in that chapter asks "have you become a cluttered person within?" Now, I despise clutter! I am miserable in the midst of clutter. I like a room that is fairly simple, not a lot of stuff on the walls and lacking in knick knacks. I like decor, but simple and tasteful. Simple.

Then a paragraph later he said look in the trunk of your car, your closet and do I have to rake stuff off the passenger seat of the car when someone gets in. He made me see that clutter has worked itself into my life. I have to admit, my surroundings are cluttered and they represent my mind.

In my quest to practice "guarded time" I have been made aware that I have a problem clearing my mind. Just like I have a problem clearing material things out of the physical realm in which I live, I also have difficulty clearing a path through to solitude in my spiritual life.

I have started changing some of my habits and forcing myself to go sit on the backyard swing and be quiet. I have taken day retreats over to the lake to sit and be quiet, but I end up frustrated because I can't quiet my mind. Swindoll has helped me realize all the clutter and now I am convicted about it and need to work toward cleaning it up. Simplify simplify simplify! He says that simplicity leads to intimacy. I want to experience the next level of intimacy with my God!

I want to start with simplifying my life; decluttering my home, my car, and letting go of any obligations that are not beneficial to me or working to distract me from intimacy with God. I plan to go room by room clearing out the unnecessary stuff and once the physical world in which I live is streamlined and in order, I am hoping my mind will be calmer and settle down so I can allow God to work there and clear out the unnecessary stuff lurking there.

And like my Internet addiction, I appear to have trouble getting this done too. I am highly unmotivated to declutter my home. I want it done, but don't want to do it! LOL

Monday, July 06, 2009

What Am I Convicted About?

Author: Susan L. Prince

I had some prayer time on lunch hour today. I wanted to use that time to whittle down the issues that God has convicted me about. Two things:

  • Computer and Internet Addiction (this is a given I know, but this is more about how to fix the problem at this point and how to give it to God because I haven't been able to kick it on my own.)
  • Simplifying my life
Tomorrow I will use part of my day off praying about how exactly I should go about remedying the situation.

Conviction is Just a Word

I'm convicted.

I've been saying that a lot lately.

Saying it and doing something about it are two entirely different things. I haven't done much to change what behaviors I say I'm convicted about.

Having been spending more time studying God's word and using some "helps" books, praying considerably more these days than I have for years, and also spending more time absorbing the words of teachers, mentors and friends in the faith have pointed out some areas of opportunity for me to change some things.

Conviction is not a bad thing, in fact, it is a very good thing because it is something God uses as He draws me unto Himself. He is jealous for me to know Him intimately and when something is possibly hindering my relationship with Him, He implants something into my heart, my soul, that helps me to see that there is something standing in the way. He is ready and willing to help me remove it so I have complete access to Him, but for whatever reason, I am sometimes reluctant.

It really is a stupid thing, to be reluctant to change something that will benefit me. Why do we do that? Why do humans do this?

I think what I need to do is take some time to pray about these things I have been convicted about recently and ask God how to go about correcting some of the issues. He is kind and gentle, merciful. He wants me to get rid of this stuff that is coming between us so I know that He will help me. Actually, the issue is not so much how to go about getting rid of the issues, it is having the strength and determination to do it. He'll help me with that too!

Conviction has a purpose, but we need to choose to do something about it. Without action, conviction is just a word.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Somebody, Please, Smack Me Upside the Head

In my last three posts I shared with you what God revealed to me about my sin of failing to submit to spiritual authority. I shared some of the consequences of rejecting those in authority over me and how freeing it is to submit and how important it is to heed the instruction of those God has placed over you. Today I want to share some of the things in my life that brought me to the point that I recognized my sin and was finally able to do something about it. I want to share because I think it will highlight the way God works in our lives, through His Church, the Body of Christ, His Word, and through circumstances.

It is hard to know exactly where to start, but I will start at the point that I realized that I was in a spiritual desert. You can read more about that here and/or here. I heard a message (Jim Mindling of Open Door Christian Church in Elyria, OH) one day that opened my eyes to the fact that I was in a dry place spiritually and that I was in that desert place for a reason. Up until that point, I just felt like a failure in my Christian walk because I was so stuck and felt useless in the Kingdom. Here is one of the first places that God started using people in my life to bring me up out of the desert.

My friend Debbie, who was the person who originally shared the gospel with me, told me one day in early summer of 2007 that she had heard a message and that message was for me. She felt it would speak into my life and help me with the place I was in spiritually. She had no idea how life changing hearing that message would be, so I chalk it up to the providence of God.

At the same time I heard that message and was pondering it, our church began a summer series in our SaLT groups that explored how small groups should look and what their purpose within our churches should be. That study impacted me because it forced me to see how I was not transparent with the people in my group. Small groups within our churches should promote and foster deep meaningful relationships amongst believers and if I am not sharing about where I am spiritually, how are the people I surround myself supposed to know how to pray for me, or how to help me?

I really took that study seriously and it also made me consider another message I had heard earlier in 2007 about "doing life together". I started thinking about how I had been in the same SaLT group for years, but didn't feel intimately connected with anyone in it. I wasn't sharing life with anybody, I was meeting with them weekly studying God's Word, but not living it out. I was not experiencing any type of spiritual connection and thus was missing the point of "Sharing and Learning Truth" or "Serving and Learning Together" or "Sharing and Learning Together" or whatever SaLT stands for! I became acutely aware that as Christians we do need to be intentional about reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Christ, carrying one another's burdens, praying with one another, confessing our sins to one another and learning to love God together. We weren't meant to do it on our own. So, one day in a SummerSaLT gathering I confessed I was in a spiritual desert and that it was sad that people in my group may have had no idea.

I am introverted and so for me to reach out to people takes some extra effort on my part and requires me to really step out of my comfort zone. I made a conscious decision to go to a woman in my group that I felt would be good mentor because of her spiritual maturity and also for the fact that she seemed to be affected by the study of what a small group should be as well. It seemed we both were desiring to experience "doing life together". What is interesting to note here is that for years my friend Katie felt that Karen would be a good match for me in that sense and so through Katie's urging, I went to Karen. We both prayed about it and a connection was formed. We began to meet for prayer, study and fellowship consistently every couple of weeks and have been doing so ever since. It has enriched my life tremendously!

Many months later, in January of 2008, God placed another person in my life. Again, armed with my readiness to step out of my comfort zone of introvertedness and "do life together" I went out on a limb and contacted a person whom I had only had limited "conversation" with online. When we met we immediately hit it off and a year and a half later we are close friends. What has been so special to me about the relationship with my friend Ellen, is that there is a comfortableness in sharing. Also, because she was just getting to know me and came to my life with an unpredjudiced view of who I am, she was able to see things in it that I never had before. She helped me to see things that needed some attention and encouraged me to see things with a different perspective. She was very patient with me as I have stumbled through this past year! LOL

Last May I took my first steps out of the spiritual desert I was stranded in for so long. For the first time in years I was experiencing a newness with God again. I was feeling His Presence in my life. I could pray again! With a renewed sensitivity to the Spirit of the Living God, I was about to go through some spiritual struggles that would eventually lead me into a place of revelation, confession, repentance and growth.

My friend Katie has also been instrumental throughout my spiritual struggle in the desert and loved me unconditionally through it all. She has always been a source of comfort in that way and has put up with a lot of the consequences of my being there. She dealt with my critical spirit, skeptism, doubt, short-temper, and all other things associated with not being in right relationship with God. She has also adjusted to me as I've been growing in the emergence of a new spiritual place in my life. Believe me, it hasn't been easy.

For years I placed the blame on my lack of spiritual growth on various things like other people, broken things in my house, finances not being where I'd like them, studying too much brainiac stuff at church and not paying attention to heart conditions, but never did I look to myself. The people God put in my life, Katie, Karen, Ellen, as well as many at Northbrook Church, by praying for me and helping me see certain things finally broke through.

Finally I got the smack upside the head I needed and went to counsel with a pastor. (Some of that I shared about in previous posts so I won't go back there with this post. ) When I think back to first being told to listen to a message about being in a spiritual desert and then watching how God orchestrated events, circumstances and people all around me to gently prompt me out of the desert and into His oasis, I'm in awe. It bloggles the mind! He was gentle and merciful through this whole process and to Him belongs the glory!

I've learned so much through this experience, and one main thing I hope to always remember is to listen to the people God has placed in my life. Not everybody is matter of fact and gets to the point right away and some Godly wisdom and insight was shared with me but I was too blind, or stubborn, to see it. I hope that I have learned to be more attentive to the words people speak to me. I am praying that it won't take someone smacking me upside the head to point out my sin, but if it does, I pray that God puts that person, or people, there with the conviction to do it. I sure am thankful that He did this time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Identify the Enemy and Win (Part II)

In part one of this blog I shared how God spoke to me through creation and how I prayed for Him to show me the truth about my life and bring any lies into the light. He did and still is….

Later that night, He showed me who the real enemy was and how I had been deceived for years. The battle was not between me and others. The "others" were on my side and the enemy was disguised as my advocate. I saw those who loved me as though they were out to destroy me and the one who sought to destroy me as my friend. I had been going through a time of heavy oppression and I didn't even know it! I was deceived into rebellion, isolation, loneliness, and heartbreak. What should have been a place I could run to for rest had become a polluted waste. It was a slow fade that happened without my detection over a long period of time.

This was the great awakening that brought me to the other side of a long and difficult battle for freedom. It brought me to my knees in repentance and I let it all go. I handed it over to the only One who could carry my load…finally. God shined His light in the darkness, helping me to discern the truth from the lies. Now, with His help, I am cleaning up the mess and rebuilding from the ruins. Since that night of revelation, I have learned so much more and I am continuing to learn. That night, the scales fell from my eyes. I was able to identify the true enemy and it brought victory to a long and seemingly hopeless battle.

Since then, there has been a well spring of joy flooding up and out of me! I am able to love those I once saw as my enemies..and see how much they have been loving me. Even better, I have put my dependence on God because I have realized that it is humanly impossible for people to fill me with joy. Circumstances cannot bring me joy. These things can bring moments of happiness but not lasting joy rooted deep within. My joy can only come from the Holy Spirit of God.

Often we blame others and circumstances for the darkness we experience when really, we only need to take a closer look at the pollution we have allowed to seep within our own heart. God opened my eyes and brought His light into the darkness. He has exposed the pollution and cleaned the mess I made. What is even more amazing is that even when my heart was filthy...He did not leave. He sat in the midst of it all and waited for me to meet Him there...just like I left the peninsula at first, but was drawn to go back and seek Him in the midst of it all…and that is where I found Him. He is still changing me, growing me, and purifying me with His righteousness more and more every day. He is creating in me a clean heart and renewing a steadfast spirit within me daily (Psalm 51:10 NIV).

This isn't much different than when God's people in Ezra turned from God and intermarried with those who would pollute their lives and turn them from God. It isn't much different than when Eve was deceived in the Garden of Eden. The same enemy who lived then still roams the earth seeking whom He will devour (I Peter 5:8). But when God's people humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, He will hear from Heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron. 7:14). He is a God of new beginnings, of forgiveness and of love. He alone is the source of pure joy everlasting. I once again have placed my hope in God and God alone. He has made me clean. Now I can grow.

Identify the Enemy and Win (Part I)

Ezra 9:10-11
"But now, O our God, what can we say after this? For we have disregarded the commands you gave through your servants and prophets when you said: 'The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples. by their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other.'"

Who would ever think that I might actually receive revelation from the book of Ezra? This just goes to show that God's Word is truly alive and we have fellowship with Him when we study His Truth and are obedient to what we learn.

A good friend and colleague said something to me recently that changed my life. It was in regards to the spiritual battle I have been fighting. He told me, "The battle is fought in prayer". Jesus didn't win the battle on the cross, the battle was already won by then. He won the battle in the garden when He prayed. This was a defining moment for me. I went home that night and surrendered to pray fervently until I reached the promised land of peace.

My prayers began turning up the heat and the battle was becoming almost unbearable. Finally, one day, I took a day trip with Sue to go back to Pickwick, a place where we once found peace and joy in God's presence. My heart was broken and I felt like I was about to go under. God seemed so far away. Looking back, I do believe God brought us there that day.

I fought the idea of going on this trip. I was too depressed. But, she talked me into it. In previous visits to this place, I had experienced so much joy and growth. But, this time, unknown to me, it was not going to be what I expected. My heart was heavy on this particular day. I felt as if life had beaten me to a pulp and I was running out of strength to go on. I needed strength that only God could give.

We arrived at our favorite place on the peninsula to great disappointment. We began to make our way to the very end where many years ago, we would relax and enjoy the beauty of God's creation. As we made our way there, we began no notice a stench in the air. As we continued to walk, we found the source of the stench. First we observed a few feathers, then more and more as we continued on further (hoping things would improve). Sue commented that it looked like there was some kind of bird fight. It wasn't long before we had to turn around and go back. The area had been saturated with carcasses of dead animals, fish, and pollution. Our favorite spot had been severely neglected.

From a distance it still looked beautiful. But as we took a deeper look, we began to see the filth and it was truly disgusting. We moved to a different area where it was nicer but I was drawn to go back and see if God was trying to tell me something in all of it.

I walked along the shore to avoid the worst, made my way to the very end of the peninsula, sat on a rock and watched the waves roll in. I spent a very long time contemplating and praying about the things I was struggling with. My surroundings began to paint a picture of my life. I had no idea how God was about to move. He always speaks to me through His creation and I knew He had a message for me. So, I began to pray and ask Him what He wanted me to learn from this experience.

He began with calling my attention again to the fact that once this place was once a beautiful place to find rest and peace. But neglect and carelessness transformed it into a polluted mess. Beneath all of that waste, however, there was still a beautiful place. It only needed some tender, loving care and attention to restore it to what it was before. It was then that I began to take a deeper look at a polluted mess within...the place in my heart where once I would run to and meet with God. I had let so many things in life pollute that place. I unknowingly carried baggage that was so old and it "smelled" as bad as the peninsula. I had let co-dependency, pride, selfishness, envy, and insecurity, create a mess not much unlike that which I was observing around me. This was the reason for my darkness...not people or circumstances. I had let circumstances determine my peace. I had been looking to people for joy, thinking that because God wasn't flesh, that He could not fill that need. When in reality, it's because he is not flesh that he can! I spent hours with God and very little time with Sue that day at the river. I prayed. I cried. I cried hard. I asked for wisdom. Eventually, I asked Him to show me the truth and bring darkness to light, no matter how painful it might be. This was the beginning of victory and the path that would lead me to joy.

A Little Something I've Learned About Spiritual Authority (Part III)

For years the message I was getting from leadership that warned me about a possible co-dependency issue was always there in the back of my brain no matter how I tried to dismiss it. I don't want to give the impression that they were hounding me or constantly "holding me accountable" or anything like that. Quite the contrary; they said it and I rejected it. I rejected their belief that I was in bondage to a co-dependent relationship, and basically that was it. They just kept on loving me, edifying me, encouraging me and helping me when I needed help. They are spiritually minded enough to understand that I simply wasn't ready to receive their instruction and were willing to wait until I was.

Over the years I had been growing more discontent with the state of my life and a lot of it had to deal with my idea of what "dying to self" meant. This is where my co-dependency issue and spiritual immaturity collided and led to my sin of rebellion and failure to submit to authority.

Followers of the Sisters' Weblog know that since 2001 I have been sharing a home with Katie and her two children. It takes a lot of sacrifice and work to be successful in any family and/or framily (the term we coined to describe the bringing together of friends + family), and for that matter any relationship, and I got this idea in my head that I was dying to self in all of it. I sacrificed a lot of time, energy and finances. I began to be torn about it because I believe Christians are called to die to self and we are always to put others' before ourselves but to what end? I really began to struggle because I started to wonder if I had overstepped my boundaries? Had a given until it hurts? And beyond? I started to beat myself up over all of these questions and more. This was very detrimental to my spiritual life and it was all so very confusing.

Here is where the problem was with me; I basically took over and controlled everything in the framily when it came to day to day stuff, finances and "fixing things" to the point where it became such a bondage. I got tired of "having to do everything", but that's just it, I didn't have to do everything! I wanted to do everything and wouldn't let others do anything. Like a control freak! I began to carry burdens that were not mine. I carried them until they weighed me down to the point I was crushed and became useless.

I didn't conscientiously make the decision to do this, but it is what gradually started to happen to the point where I was getting so frustrated and worn out, even became resentful. Please understand that I am not placing any blame on any other party, this is totally on me and my issue with needing to help other people to the point it becomes destructive to me, and to them.

Another aspect is that I want to make others' happy. I will constantly do things so other people benefit, even if it is to my detriment. People don't even have to ask me for help, I just offer it and do it. This can become a problem because I will allow myself to be put in situations that I always feel a “need" to yield to another person's wants or needs. After awhile this starts to get to me because I start thinking "Hey! What about me?" and then I struggle because I should not have thoughts like that when I should be dying to self. This is so difficult for me to explain, but the main point is, I have an unhealthy need to make others happy and justify it by saying "I'm dying to self". The problem is then amplified because I am "dying to self" outside of the will of God. Anything I do outside of God's will is my will, and there is no dying to self in that at all. This would include not being obedient to spiritual authority.

My spiritual leaders saw this destructive behavior, as well as some other things that were destructive to me spiritually, and lovingly over the years tried to help me see it. They had insight into that which I could not see.

When things got to the point where I just couldn't handle it anymore, I had a friend who said to me one day "If you had obeyed years ago ... it may not have gotten this bad." Those words really struck a chord in me. It's not that I didn't know it, but she forced me to admit it to myself. She encouraged me to trust my pastor and other leaders and trust that God can give them insight into my life spiritually. I took a step of faith and as a result I have learned to trust them in order for them to speak truth to me, help me to see areas of weakness and help me to overcome any bondages associated with them.

My pastor lovingly pointed out to me when I finally was willing to submit to spiritual authority, wouldn't have yielding to leadership have been dying to self? It was easier to do what you wanted to do than to do what we were trying to help you see needed done. BAM! That was a true moment of enlightenment to me about dying to self. He was right. All along I was doing what I wanted to do and the end result was very destructive.

I also repented to him and told him I realize that I had not submitted to his spiritual authority over my life. I didn't get an "I told you so", what I got instead was a life affirming "I love this!"

A Little Something I've Learned About Spiritual Authority (Part II)

I mentioned in the last post that there were people around me, including some leaders in my church, who on occasion "hinted" to me that I may have an issue with co-dependency. I never really took that warning seriously and in fact was able to shrug it off without much effort, even to the point where I denied a problem and would say "they don't know what they are talking about", "I am responsible for my own life"or "they don't know my life, how can they know anything?".

Hindsight is 20/20 and as I look back over the years I can actually start to see why I ended up in a spiritual depression. Even as I was in it, I was blaming my presence there on various things including discontentment with my life and job, and studying so much theology that my brain was packed and my heart was empty. But, now I see exactly what it was! It was the thing that separates us from the love of God. It was sin.

My sin was rebellion. I rebelled against the spiritual authority in my life. I absolutely refused to submit to them. Much of this was done out of ignorance, but ignorance is never a defense, and it was also out of a lack of trust not only in my leaders, but obviously in my lack of trust in God. I didn't trust His anointed. That is never good!

Hebrews 13:17 tells me to obey my spiritual leaders. I Timothy 5:17-18 reminds me that elders are to be honored. I Peter 5:2-3 tells elders they are to guide the local church by setting its vision and direction, and in that to lead the members individually and collectively into productivity. A spiritual leader called by God is obviously entrusted by God with an awesome responsibility that He divinely equips them to do. Who am I to say that they don't know what they are talking about?

God put me into a body of believers and in that body are leaders that God has anointed. These people have been given a responsibility to watch over my spiritual well being and when I resist that, I am not allowing them to speak truth into my life. I am not allowing God to speak truth into my life! When you don't allow God to speak into your life --- you end up in a dry, dark and lonely desert wondering why you don't hear from God. No wonder!

None of this revelation was made known to me in an instant. It took months of working through it in prayer and with the help of intervention from other believers. I guess I'm going into a Part III which will delve a bit into the process of how all this was revealed to me, what all I have learned, and how it has affected me.

A Little Something I've Learned About Spiritual Authority

For those of you who faithfully follow the Sisters' Weblog, I feel I must apologize for the lack of posting for the better part of a year now. There are reasons for the lack of posting, but most of them revolve around the fact that for the past year and a half to two years, I have been enduring a spiritual growth spurt. A lot of the learning I have acquired has required me to think and contemplate, meditate, pray, and maybe not announce everything I have experienced to the entire world through the blog. Also, during this season of growth I have thought things and I have said and done things that were less than pleasing to the Lord. I must tell the reader as well that I want what I share to edify and not tear down. It has been a difficult season to be sure, but as God would have it, He has and is using it for His purpose and to grow me more into the likeness of His Son.

A little over a year ago I emerged from a spiritual desert and with somewhat new eyes I have been more aware of His Presence in my life and how He is working in it. With a renewed sense of purpose and understanding I stepped out of the darkness of the desert and into the Light which exposed some things that I never saw before in myself. It exposed weaknesses and sin.

While there are multiple things I learned about myself in my Christian walk over the course of this past year or so, I have narrowed this post down to the one major breakthrough and that is what I learned about yielding to spiritual authority.
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
For many years I have had those in authority over me telling me, or rather inferring to me, that I have a co-dependent relationship.

I balked at that. For years. But, what I didn't realize is that my pastor and leaders in my church had insight spiritually that I did not have.

So, what was my sin in all this? My sins were many, but the biggest was that I didn't recognize my leaders as spiritual authority over me, therefore I rebelled and didn't submit them. I was spiritually blind.

This post is starting to get rather long and I do want to get into how exactly the revelation of these things came to be understood, so I will consider this Part I, next to come in Part II is some of how I began to see that when I am spiritually blinded, others' may have insight into my life that I just can't see.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cocoon Building

There we were, Ellen and I, minding our own business and enjoying the beautiful day from the swing in the backyard when she pointed out a stick hanging there in the air just a few feet from us.

Suspended from a thin line of string was this little "stick". We sat there theorizing why this stick was hanging on this thread that was leading up to the tree tops in my backyard. I thought "is it conditioning?" imagining a spider dangling a stick as added weight to build endurance in his web building.

Ellen said "it could be construction" as if there was some type of plan coming to fruition from the wondrous architects of the arachnid world.

I played on that a bit and started to help whomever was at the top and holding the other end of the thread and said "go right, right...ok, there, now drop" and on cue, that stick suddenly dropped down another few inches.

It startled us both! LOL

Then, upon further inspection as we watched that stick suspended in the air, it suddenly began to MOVE!

It was alive!

Ellen said "it's a caterpillar and it must be spinning its cocoon!"

This is a video of that caterpillar's trek back up that string spinning a cocoon.

Sound effects provided by none other than Ellen! Girl, you crack me up! LOL

Another interesting and surprising thing that happened is that earlier a butterfly came by and was showing off how beautiful he was.

Creation is wondrous!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I don't know when I started calling my mother "Ma", but it happened somewhere along the line. I guess it is my term of endearment for her. She is my ma. She is a life-giver.

Although God created me, and Ma and "pop" adopted me as an infant and therefore was not born of my ma, I consider her a life-giver because of what she has spoken into my life since the day she brought me into her home.

Never did I ever doubt the love she has for me. My entire life has been filled with words of encouragement, words of love, words of hope and all of her words give life.

I am so blessed that God chose my family to put me into. Why of all the mothers on the planet did God destine me for the most perfect ma? It is simply because of the love He has for me!

I remember as a child literally thinking that I want to be like my ma when I grow up. She cares deeply for people and I noticed that even as a youth when she would drive my friends home from visiting me. She would always wait until my friend was safely in their home before we would leave. Simple thing, but from it I learned to care and to this day I don't like to leave from dropping someone off until they are safely inside.

I also remember how on those rebellious teenage days when I might have decided that I didn't need to go to softball practice that she would come into my room, sit beside me on my bed, scratch my back and the scowl on my face would literally melt away. She would encourage me to go to practice because I had a commitment to the team and practice is important. She reminded me that my semi-pro playing grandad wouldn't have appreciated me skipping out on ball practice. Within minutes my attitude would change and we'd be on the road to practice.

Each morning Ma would quietly open the door to my room and gently speak my name "Sue" to awaken me for school. Now and then she might say "up and at 'em" with smile and a cheerful tone that would make rising from bed a little less difficult. She prepared breakfast daily for me and would send me off to school contented and reassured that it would be a good day.

Ma is an optimist. She is the most patient person I know. All through grade school, college, and even now, she is the one I can always call to feel better if I receive some not so good news. She just has this way of making "tragedies" not seem so bad. Her calming voice immediately quells anxiety about any situation and I remember in college how my roommates would always ask "Can I call your mom, she always makes me feel better." You know, even my adult friends do the same today!

I am so happy that my Ma is living a retirement full of activity. She embraces life and can even make the mundane things in life like grocery shopping something to appreciate and she can find the positive side of it. See? She is even a "miracle worker"! LOL She sees the glass half-full in every circumstance.

One of the most important reasons that I feel so thankful that I have my ma is because of all the love she has poured out over me all of my life. Because of the way she loves me, I have an ability to comprehend the unwavering love of God. People often come to understand the love of God through the relationship they have with their parents, and because I never went a day without feeling loved by them, I have been able in my humanity to understand something of the love of God. Unshakable, undeserved, unwavering, and eternal.

I love my ma so much. The love I have for her is very deep and really inexpressible with words. My heart just bursts when I think on how blessed I am.

My ma keeps our family intact. My sisters and I are not the greatest at keeping in touch with each other, but Ma knows what is going on in all of our lives and keeps us all informed.

She is just such an amazing woman and when I grow up I want to be like her.

She is so amazing and cool, she even Twitters! Follow Ma! Her tweets often crack me up!

Happy Ma's Day Ma! I miss you so much and can't wait for my next hug from you!