Today, I turn 40 and 25….

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Birthday cake candles cake
Today’s my birthday.

I turn 40 years old today.  But more importantly, I turn 25-years old today as well.

Twenty-five years ago today, sometime before noon, I felt called to give my life to Christ through baptism.  It was during a period of time before everyone had cameras on his/her phones, and I didn’t wake up that morning thinking that I was going to get baptized so I don’t have a record of it except my memory.  I might have a bible with the date in it somewhere, but I also didn’t save many things from my youth so I would be surprised if I actually kept that.

I’ve haven’t shared my story of my baptism before, and I want my children to get to know their mama in every aspect, so I’m putting it in writing for the world to know that as I turn forty-years old, I am also turning twenty-five.


I was born and raised a Christian my entire life.

I knew nothing else.  I didn’t attend other churches of other faiths and thankfully, I’ve never known a life without Christ.

Even during some of my dumbest decisions, I know Christ was waiting for me, in the proverbial hallway, waiting for me to open the door I had shut very tightly and was holding closed by my own two hands.

I have a vivid memory of the day I got baptized.

My cousins joined us at church that day, and although we were always, and that’s always, late to church, I remember the Associate Preacher (or pastor) spoke that day.  I couldn’t tell you what the message was about, and I couldn’t tell you what the preachers name was either.  I feel like the Lord doesn’t want me to remember so that I can only give credit to Him for what happened next.

The Church I have attended for the majority of my life has always had a “system” that follows the basic outline:

  • The preacher preaches a sermon until about 1145 AM or so.
  • The preacher then asks the congregation if anyone would like to come forward to give his/her life to Christ or request prayers.
  • There is a song, followed by a baptism if applicable, and then followed by another song and a closing prayer and church is over by noon.

So on the day I got baptized, the preacher completed his sermon and asked if anyone would like to come forward.

The next thing I remember was sitting in the front pew asking the preacher to baptize me.

Just like that. Bible

Later as I recall the moment in time I “chose” to go up to the front of the congregation to ask to be baptized, I felt as if I was being pushed to go up there. I absolutely knew that I was supposed to get baptized that day.  Don’t ask me how, or why, but I truly felt called.

Now because I didn’t plan it, I didn’t have an extra set of clothes, or anything ready to get changed into prior to getting wet.  A few ladies rushed me in this back room behind the baptismal, gave me an adult sized white jumpsuit, and told me to change into it.

I was asked to confess that I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and came to the world to save me from my sins.

After my confession, I remember not being able to breath.

The way another preacher described the moment later in time as I witnessed ten baptisms in a row was exactly how I felt that day:

I remember feeling like I died.


Now listen – I get it.

You may think that’s crazy, and maybe it is.  But that’s the feeling I had.

For the few seconds my body was in the water, something happened to me and the only way to describe it was that I truly believe my old self died.  I was lifted out of that water a new person, still imperfect, but made perfect through Christ.

After I was immersed, and got out of the water, the same ladies that asked me to change brought me a towel and my clothes and as soon as I changed I took my first communion.

I remember my mom crying and hugging me after I came out from the back.  The church had already ended for the day and a few members waited for me to come out from the back of the baptismal to hug me and congratulate me.

My mom, not being prepared at all, took us to Ole Fri-ole for lunch, even though now I know she really couldn’t have afforded it back then.

I remember getting home and calling my dad, and he was sorry he missed the event.  I told him I didn’t know I was going to get baptized that day, and I know he was happy for me.

Overall, I have very straight forward memories of the day.

I remember being tested in my faith soon after getting baptized, and failing those tests.

As I watch people getting baptized now, I recall that day, more than ever, as a time that I didn’t have control of.  If you know me personally at all, I DO NOT like NOT having control.  I can’t stand not knowing what’s going to happen next.

Now that I get to look back at it 25 years later, I realize I wasn’t in control, and I’m so glad.  I feel so blessed to be able to rely on the Lord for those eternal decisions, even when I feel like I made certain choices about it.

Hopefully you don’t read this blog post and think, “Oh boy – D’Andra believes in pre-destination….

No, I really don’t.  I do believe God has a plan.  You can quote me on that.

And I also believe that we as people make choices, whether right or wrong, that the Lord uses for his glory.

It’s my hope that you know the Lord loves you so much that he sent his only Son for you.

It’s my hope that you devote your life to Christ even though you know you are imperfect.  That’s why I need Him.  Because I’m so very imperfect.

I’m so glad I got to be picked to be with Him for eternity.  I hope you make that choice too.  If you have and/or when you do, it’s how you know you were picked too. 😉

Be blessed today.  I’m being blessed because it’s my birthday.  I get to celebrate two birthday’s today and for that, I am eternally grateful.

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Getting rid of the stuff….

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Boxes of StuffThe top photo is a photo I took at work.  It’s a hallway in a storage facility for the paper copies of old projects.

To my knowledge (and I’ve been working at the same place for 13-years) no one has tried to go through the boxes.

Now don’t get me wrong. This storage area has been “cleaned up” while I’ve worked there, at least twice that I can remember.  Someone had gone into the area and rearranged boxes, stacked boxes on other boxes, and I believe even thrown out boxes of paper work that were labeled over fifty years old.  I’ve known several people who have gone in there and swept the floor so we don’t kick up dust when we place more boxes of stuff in the room.

But as far as I know, no one has ever gone through the boxes.

I know why and I bet you could guess too.

No one has the time.

No one has ever really needed what was in the boxes, especially the old ones.

No one really cares.


I started what I think will be a short series on what I’ve been learning about myself lately.

I’m throwing it in amongst all the cool projects I finish and want to show off and the random bible lessons I’ve been learning along the way.

Today’s thoughts are on “my stuff.”

A very intelligent, wise woman told me recently that I have to “own” my stuff.

We were not talking about tangible objects at the time she told me this.  To me, this means that I have to own the junk, baggage, and issues that I have packed away in little boxes in the file cabinets of my mind.

I truly have not felt more enlightened than I did when this woman presented this concept to me.

It really seemed so simple.

I couldn’t blame my adult actions on what had happened to me as a child growing up.

See, my father left my mom, my brother and I several times when I was growing up.  He would come back, usually for anywhere from three months to even years before he would leave again.  From what I recall as a child of 8-years old until I was 14-years old, he left at least four times.  He would live with family members mostly – on couches and in spare rooms, in trailers in backyards, and at one point I remember him taking my brother and I for a weekend where he had rented a room in a house with two other people.

My father was not there for me as a child.

When I spoke with this woman about my issues, or what I thought were my issues, she asked me a question in the course of our conversation that changed my life: “When was the last time you felt rejected like that?

Without hesitation, I answered, “That’s easy, the last time my father left me as a child.”


My father left my mom, my brother and I for the last time, on June 17, 1990.

Yes, I remember the day.  It was a Sunday father’s day and my parents got into a huge fight on the way home from church.  My father, who hadn’t had a job in several months, spent my mother’s last $10 on gas, candy bars and soda from the closest mini-mart to church.  He claimed he didn’t know that was the last $10 we had to our name for the month.  Besides getting gas we were supposed to use that money for lunch for all four of us.

That’s how the story goes anyway.


If you haven’t read my blog before and you just read this post, let me assure you that my father is very much a part of my life.  He is the nanny to my three children and he is extremely co-dependent to me.  My mother and my father talk to each other at least three times a week and my father takes my mother places when I can’t.  We are extremely dysfunctional but it works for us.

So here I am in an office talking with a wise woman (draw your own conclusions) and she’s just asked me when the last time I felt rejected was.  And I told her.  And she responded with “I see.”

After a few more tense minutes of conversation with me she tells me that I have been using my father leaving me as an excuse to not do things.  It was an insecurity.

“What?  I’m not insecure about anything!” I told her.

Ultimately, (and seemingly ironically) my choices of not wanting to feel rejected and abandoned have hurt my marriage in choices I have made over the course of my life.

I had to own my issue that it was a feeling of abandonment that kept me from doing certain things, including keeping myself healthy and loving my husband for the fear of rejection by him.

I had to own it.

I realize that I did not describe what I learned from her as eloquently as she was able to describe it to me.

So let me go back to my boxes as that’s what helped me understand it further.

There is stuff (i.e. issues, insecurities, feelings of rejection and abandonment) in the boxes of the file cabinets in my head.  Let’s say those files are labeled “old and private”.

That stuff, no one else really cares about because it’s old, useless, and is just collecting dust.

But I hadn’t thrown it out yet.

More boxes of stuff as my life went on surrounded the boxes in those filing cabinets in my head.  They are labeled things like “marriage,” “children,” “vacation memories,” “life lessons,” the list goes on and on.

The filing cabinet, labeled “old and private” was still there, collecting dust and ready for somebody to read it.

But nobody cares. It’s in a filing cabinet in my head.

Personally, I now knew I needed to throw those files out.

I did throw them out.

I replaced the space with this verse –

The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands.

Psalms 138:8

I am a precious work of the Lord’s hands.  I know that to be true without a doubt.  His love endures forever.  How could I ever feel rejected or abandoned?

I now own this verse.  Those feelings of rejection and abandonment are gone.  The love of the Lord is all I will ever need.  Ever.

Can you feel it?


The Newest Addition to Our Family

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No, I’m NOT pregnant.  And I’m VERY HAPPY to say that.

This summer, our family became foster parents to two different furry-family members.

Fostering an animal is one of the most rewarding experiences for our family to date.  Sure we go to church and have helped build houses in Mexico and show love to people who wouldn’t may have felt Christ’s love, but this is different.

 St Francis de Sales Quote-Doing little thingsDoing little things with a strong desire to please God makes them really great. ~ St. Francis de Sales

 The Lord put man on earth to help care for the animals.  He put us over them.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” ~ Genesis 1:26

I believe taking care of dogs are no exception.

In 2012, our yellow Labrador, Franklin, was no longer able to walk and had completely stopped eating.  I cried in my husband’s arms the night we knew our first puppy dog as a couple had to be put down because he was now suffering and the only option was expensive back surgery which may or may not have corrected the problem.  Franklin was 12-years old and we look at his photos with joy that he had a wonderful, full life and we were the ones that were blessed to take care of him.

 In 2013, through a friend on Facebook, I read about a program called Elder Paws Senior Rescue.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I hear about something and I know – I JUST KNOW – that I want to get involved and help.

But, with a family of three growing children, a husband that doesn’t share in the “save every animal we can” mentality that I do, sometimes there’s not much I can do.

I heard that voice in my head (call it what you want) that whispered, “You can help them.”

Then the other voice, the voice of reason says, “No, you have other goals, other priorities, no time and other things to take care of right now.”

The voice of reason was winning the argument.

My mom had progressed in her diabetes to the point of kidney failure and was on dialysis three days a week. My husband and I were disagreeing on many things and (at the time) he was suggesting I needed to get healthier so I wouldn’t end up like my mother.  I had children’s birthday parties to plan, a Halloween costume to make and other things I needed (and wanted) to do with life than take care of another dog.

After having a heart to heart conversation with my husband about how I knew I was supposed to help this charity, and give my lonely mini poodle a friend, we agreed to send an application to be foster parents to one dog (at a time) and as soon as my mini poodle passed away, we would request that the foster dog we had would be the last.

My husband made it very clear that we were not going to get another dog.

 I sent in an application to become a furry-friend-foster mom in January of 2014.  We had a home inspection performed within a matter of a couple of weeks, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I helped out the charity when I could, creating a few postcards, talking about it with my friends, going and visiting the adoptable dogs at their events on occasion with my children and my mini-poodle to show the lady in charge that we were a good, nice family with a well behaved dog.

 I finally got contacted by the organization’s leader in early June that she had a dog that was capable of being with our children and she explained to me that most senior dogs were skittish around children, tended to nip them, and didn’t like loud noises.  I thanked her for just knowing that my children were loud.  (Because they are.)  She had a dog that was deaf, blind, and was very sweet with everyone he had met.

Our foster dog JafariOur first foster dog was named Jafari. We got him on June 29th. In the above photo, he is on the left and my mini poodle is on the right.

He was a sweet and wonderful bichon mix and was soft just like my mini poodle and just about the same size.

I had to take Jafari to the vet for an eye problem the third week we had him.

Jafari and I at the vet.He ended up needing more care than what my family was able to do for him and the organization’s leader was not only aware of it, but suggested that he be placed with a better suited foster for him.  My husband and I were again, so grateful that she had the foresight to even consider this and we took the offer.

He ended up with one of his eyes removed and the last time we saw him at an adoption event, he was wagging his tail, barking away at everyone and everything that would listen.  As of the date of this post he has not found a forever home and you can find out more about him here.

The organizations leader told me that she had another dog for us that was healthy and totally sweet around children.  He did seem to have a problem with men though and was a nervous dog.

We began fostering Reese on August 2nd. Reese's Journey - 1

Described to me as a Chi Masterson Terrier Mix, he was extremely timid the first day he came home with us.  He was not potty trained and growled, although not loudly, at my husband when my husband was around.  He had been on the kill list because no one had come to claim him at a local shelter and he was found wandering the streets, friendly, just skittish according to the shelter workers.

Life passes by when you have children and are taking care of dogs.  The first night was the only night he slept on his bed in our room.  The next night he slept on our bed where our mini-poodle sleeps and knows that’s his bed now.

Reese's Journey -2He also loves to be cuddled right next to my husband.  It took him about a week to start that, but he responded really well to treats.

Potty training him was a challenge.  It took us three weeks but we finally broke him in.  Again, it was the treats that really showed him that he was being a good boy when he did his business outside.

As a dog owner only twice in my whole life (one in high school and that dog made it to 13-years old) and then as an adult to the two dogs my husband and I loved as ‘children’, I knew I was a “dog person.”

This dog was stealing my heart. Reese's Journey - 4I had knee surgery on August 12th and was in bed for a week.  He hardly ever left my side (it was a good week to potty train him) and he never did anything wrong.

Never.

Compare it to this: My mini-poodle was also a rescue.  They estimated him to be about 18-months old when we got him, and that was about 13-years ago.  His problems were/are extensive.  No matter what we do, he incessantly licks his paws.  We’ve tried sensitive shampoos, sprays of all kinds, hot spot treatment, pills, you name it and he still does it.  He also tries to dominate other dogs whenever he can, no matter how big or how small.  (If you’re a dog person, you know what that means.) Ugh.  He’s been fixed for 13-years it’s just as embarrassing as you can imagine it to be!

But he’s one of my babies and I still love him. Reese's Journey - 6 with my mini-poodleReese hasn’t done anything like that – at all. My husband and I couldn’t believe it.  Those first three weeks we were trying to figure out “what was wrong with him” but the answer kept being “nothing.”

When Reese got over his fear of my husband in about a week, he began spending more time with my husband (and my father during the day when he took care of my children.)  My husband would hold him in his arms, just like I do with my mini-poodle.

Around August 20th, my husband told me after the kids went to sleep that he thought we should keep Reese. Reese's Journey - In my husbands arms What?  I had to ask him if I heard that right.  I did.  He wanted me to make the decision to keep him or not.

I started to pray.

I had been under the impression that he did not want another dog.  Granted, this dog probably only has 10 more years left because he was five years old, but, still.

I kept hearing conflicting answers in my head.  The voice of reason kept telling me that he was just reacting to the moment and he would change his mind after something came up with the dog, and potentially blame me for saying it was okay to keep him.

It took me ten days to know that the answer in my heart was to keep Reese.

There were so many signs in those ten days and yes, I believe in that kind of thing.

I had asked the children over the course of a few days what they thought of Reese and if each of them, individually, would like him as a forever pet.  Independently my children said that they wanted to keep him, and my oldest was wise enough to ask, “What about daddy?”

The charity posted this to Facebook on August 30th, after confirming with the leader of the Elder Paws Senior Rescue that we could adopt him. (She was just as surprised as I was.)

EPFB PostAdoption of Reese - photo on FB WallAnd that my friends, is how we ended up with the newest member of our family.

 Proverbs 12:10


Dependence & Relationship advice from Philippians

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I’m doing another bible post!

I know not everyone who reads this blog *knows* me, so I will again preface this post with the standard bible-referenced warning: I am not a biblical scholar, nor do I pretend to be one.  I usually read the bible when things are going tough, and today’s post is no exception.

You have been warned.

I depend on the LordWhat’s going on you ask?

Well, without getting too deep, I’ve run into a wall with my husband that we can’t seem to get around.  An extremely personal issue, we are still imperfect people trying to figure this living-with-each-other thing out, and I love to vent on my blog.  However, I don’t vent about my husband in a public setting because I don’t believe that’s ever productive.  In fact I believe it’s counterproductive in marriage.  I know women that do it and that’s fine for them, but not for me.

SO back to why I am telling you all that –

I am reading an older study book called “Loving Your Husband, Building an Intimate Marriage in a Fallen World” by Cynthia Heald.  I remember getting this book in 1999, a few years after we were married.

The book is dated a publishing date of 1989, so it’s prior to the days before Pinterest and Facebook where advice and free bible studies are prevalent and everyone seems to know what they are talking about.  We now believe in ourselves more than ever in my humble opinion.  [Trust me, I am no exception to this as I found out today.]  The bible it seems has become a tool to use to prove our personal points and agenda more than anything now-days.  (And it makes for great content when you have a Bible Verses section on your blog. =)

I have done this study before, now calculated to be over 15 years ago, and I remember learning so much from it that I knew it was time to go through it again.

I have a love/hate relationship with bible studies.  I learn so much (the love part) but it opens me up to my imperfections and usually makes me cry (the hate part.)

I’m telling you all this to set you up for the book of Philippians or specific verses in my case.

In the very first Lesson, the thing that stuck to me the most was the part referencing Philippians.

I must be dependent on the Lord to meet my deepest needs.

Did you say “whoa” like I did there?

You DON’T HAVE TO BE MARRIED to tell yourself that statement.

It doesn’t say “I must be dependent on myself to meet my deepest needs” or “I must be dependent on my lover/husband/kids/dog to meet my deepest needs.”

Can you say this:I am dependent on the LordI am dependent on the Lord to meet my deepest needs.

I can’t say that I am.  I really need to work on that!

Now read this.

Philippians 2:3-4How’s that for a personal relationship reminder?

Or what about this:

Philippians 4:4This one is like telling someone (me) who is having a hard time dealing with his/her loved one that you have to be happy with what’s going on.

Pshh.

Philippians 4:5Gentleness?  Right now I want to be upset.  Oh wait, there’s that whole dependence thing….  <Tears start welling up about now for me.>

Philippians 4:6-7

The book of Philippians friends, Philippians.

How do these verses speak to you?

In a relationship setting, especially a marriage setting, where the Lord is who I am (or supposed to be in my case) dependent on, I will have a peace that transcends all understanding.

I will.

I will have that peace.

I am (supposed to be) dependent on the Lord for all my needs – all my loving needs.


Catching Up with My Mom

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The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it.My mom has been in the hospital for four days since writing this post.

I have had some of the best one-hour blocks of time that I have had in my recent memory with her.  No kids around to interrupt, no worries outside of the hospital bed and occasional interruption of a meal being delivered and a nurse checking blood pressure.  I have spent time talking with her, getting her thoughts down about life, finding out where stuff is, etc., during lunch hours and the hour after work for these past four days.

She looks great, given that she’s had two heart attacks in the past four days.  I have been given a gift of peace that I haven’t had before with her eventual and ever-nearing passing.

She feels it too.

So what’s different?

Why have I been blessed this way?

I wish I had the answer.  What I can tell you is my part of the story.

Proverbs 18:15

I got a phone call from the hospital on Friday morning and the person who called me told me “Your mom would like family to be around her right now.”

Did you feel the chill I did when you read that?

My first response was “Okay.  I’ll be right there.”

The next ten minutes were a blur of calling my brother, my husband, my boss, my father, and going to the bathroom (in that order) before locking my office and getting in the car.  I didn’t turn off the computer and I calmly drove the ten minutes that my office is from the hospital.

In those ten minutes that I drove to the hospital, I felt Christ himself with me, telling me it was going to be okay.

If you don’t believe in Christ, then I don’t know how you found this blog or why you are reading it now.  I’m not your preachin-it-to-you type, and I can give a list of blogs of other people I support and follow that can help you in that department.

But I know what I felt.

She was in the ER on the CPAP machine and the nurse was giving me the run-down of what happened and what the doctors’ said.  I pulled out the directive I have been working on with my mom last month and was able to give her directions very clearly to the doctor and nurse.  My mom signed her do-not-recesiuatate form (a DNR), and again, I was given a gift of peace that I could only get from the Lord – to know that it was going to be okay.

I’ve been working on this – this part of life I – nor my mother or brother or father want to work on – to get things ready. It’s only been a month since I’ve started, but I’ve been working on it. Maybe that’s why I’m being blessed now….

I’ve visited and read the bible to her, talked about my children with her, given her kisses, held her hand and told her she can stay with my family when she gets out.  She’s going to be in there a few more days, continuing to get dialysis, and no one has told me how much time she has left.  It’s because no one knows.

But I am at peace and there is no other feeling like it.

I may not “be ready” when she goes, but I am at peace because I know where she’s going.


Getting It Done, sort of…..

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Getting It Done

I haven’t posted about my 30-days of hustle experience for quite some time, as Easter has taken its place.

I got over the “dip” (a term I learned that happens when you are trying to accomplish a goal) in trying to finish my mother’s advanced directive.

We actually read and filled out four pages!
I am so grateful for this.  We got to the part of the directive that discussed medications, and we stopped because she didn’t want to think about it anymore.  Quite the win if you ask me.

I am grateful for this, Easter Sunday, where my mom and I were able to communicate clearly, talk about some deep stuff (as far as dealing with her eventual death) and get a piece of a goal done.

Yay!Romans 15:13 - Overflow with HopeHappy Resurrection Day too.



Making Stick Crosses – Day 5 of Resurrection Crafts

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Resurrection Garden with CrossesThis is the fifth day of my 12 Days of Resurrection Crafts series.

Day five from the Resurrection Eggs Easter craft comes from Matthew 27:2, and is represented by rope.

For this craft, we tied the stick crosses together for our Empty Tomb Garden.

We found the sticks outside. found our sticks outsideWe used beading twine (similar to this: )to tie the sticks into crosses. beading twine and sticks

I first broke the sticks into smaller pieces to make the cross. broken sticks

My oldest child understood how to hold the sticks together so that we could tie them, but the 4-year old and 3-year old did not know how to do this.  Thankfully, I was able to tie them together myself.

img_0735

img_0737After wrapping the twine around the sticks about fifteen to twenty times total in the various directions, we tied a double knot to close it up.

finished crossI had my kiddos place the crosses where they wanted to in our little garden.  The whole project took less than fifteen minutes.

As always, I hope you’re having fun!

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Not knowing what the future holds…

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...plans to give you hope and a future.I am a planner.

I love to plan things out from the simple “date night” to the one-year ahead Disney vacation.  (Everybody plans that out a year ahead right?)

I think the unknown just simply scares me.  There, I said it.

My mom went to the hospital today, with the whole diabetic, renal and congestive heart failure literally “typical” problems that all those ailments will cause.  It’s getting close.  It might be a year from now close, but it’s getting close.  All too soon for my “planning.”

I thankfully have the best husband in the world who supports me, and all traditional family crap aside, my father is there for me to take care of my kids and run errands as needed.

I have many issues with both my parents, many of them stemming from my relationship with my mother.  (At least that’s what a therapist told me once.)  But as we (as a family) approach the end of her life, I can’t help but crying and I can’t figure out why.  The only explanation I can think of – is that she is still my mother.

I believe I’ve been given a chance to plan.  She’s not gone yet, and I joked with her in a car ride recently that I don’t think she’s died because the Lord knows I need to have her funeral planned out first.  It really was a joke – but was it?

I am glad for this opportunity.  That much I know and feel.  I’ve still got her, and I have to take advantage of it.  Well, off to the hospital.  It’s going to be a long night.

 


Thinking about Thanksgiving

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Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/momprepares/

Every year, I try to post a daily thought on Face Book for something I am thankful for.  I try to do one thing that’s specific, and not everything is quite thought-provoking as one may imagine.

While I type this, I’m trying to think of my top ten.

Have you thought of them?

It should be simple…right?

It’s going to be a great Thanksgiving – that much I know.