Taking a stab at it

I am so thankful for my friend Casey and for the healing she has brought into my life. I had to share this story with you.

Just wheat

Casey Punkin 1God has used several medical professionals in my life to be His hands and His voice—my counselor, my doctors, and my physical therapist. I’m thankful for my friend and physical therapist, Casey Bush, who earned my trust over the past year and has brought physical healing to me and reminded me to be patient with myself, to reach out and ask for help, and to be open to new ideas. Casey, this one’s for you :).

“Is that okay?” I asked my friend and physical therapist, Casey Bush, as she twisted my arm behind my back, handcuff style, coaxing my scapula out of its hiding place.

“What do you mean? What does it feel like?”

“Well, it feels like. . .” I took a deep breath before answering. “It feels like nothing. I mean, I really can’t feel anything. It just doesn’t hurt anymore.”

She laughed. “Yep, that’s what we’re…

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Lost but not forgotten

Big thanks to one of my students, who is a vivacious and wonderful person, Jessica Nicol, for sharing her story in today’s post.

You know the point in your life where you just don’t feel like being angry anymore? I’m there.
I’ve found that in life there is always that one person who you never forget or stop loving… that is your first love. Don’t tell me you don’t remember. It’s the best and the worst love you will ever have in your lifetime. So, with that being said, here’s my story about my first love.
Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography & Design

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography & Design

It all started in second grade. I was 7 years old and had just moved to Arkansas, so I didn’t know anyone at school. Halfway through my first week at Southside, I saw him. I was going to the only available swing left on the whole playground, and he was in the swing next to it. I had never felt the way I felt at that moment. My heart kind of… sped up. He was short with blonde hair and blue-green eyes. I wasn’t as shy as I am now, so when he got off the swing I went up to him and asked if I could play with him and his friend. He said yes, and so it began. Weeks after, we continued to play together, and the feelings grew. It was such an amazing feeling to care about someone so much. Of course, at the age of 7, I didn’t understand what I was feeling. Later in life, though, I realized I loved him.

The next year, in third grade, I finally found out his last name because his class, which was across the hall from mine, posted the students’ names outside the door, and I already knew his first name. When I found out, I made a note asking him if he would be my boyfriend with a check box saying yes or no. I gave it to him after school let out, and we went home on our buses. The next day after school we met outside of the building, and he gave my note back. It said yes! I was so happy. Did I mention he had a very thick southern accent? That was a lot of the attraction, right there. I’m so attracted to accents.
Once we moved into higher grades, such as middle school, it was all up and down. We were starting to become teenagers, and we didn’t have much of a serious relationship in elementary school. After all, how serious could a third grade relationship be? We were best friends and inseparable, despite my constant love for him. We ended up back together in eighth grade, and that was the year I realized I had been so in love with him for all of this time. I decided I wanted to marry him and that we’d be together forever… ha! Moving into ninth grade we broke up again. So devastating. I simply wanted to be with him, but he wanted someone else. We remained best friends because, again, our relationships hadn’t been super serious.
At the end of freshman year we got back together. It was a joyous moment for both of us. We  felt the same way about each other, and we both agreed we were going to get married and have kids and be happy. Well, that summer his father had a terrible accident. He fell off his truck–he was a truck driver–and hit his head. He lived for two days in a coma, and then he died. I felt so guilty because I was on vacation in Branson and couldn’t be there to love my boyfriend and comfort him. I cried so much and enjoyed nothing. All I wanted to do was go home and be with him. Finally my vacation was over, and I rushed to his house. He was so happy to see me. I stayed strong and tried not to cry when I saw him and his mother. I loved his mother, too, by the way. She was like a second mom.
During the visitation, I could not contain myself. I cried to the point that people thought I was related. I felt my boyfriend slipping away from me, and I just wasn’t ready to give him up. At the funeral, I kept composed. I hugged him and his mother afterward, reassuring them that I was there for them always. Days passed, and our relationship was in turmoil. He closed off and started rethinking everything. I fell into a depression and stopped eating because I was losing him. I had to get a therapist to help me because I ended up with an eating disorder, and I was majorly depressed.
We ended up breaking up. That was a devastation I cannot fully describe. If I could have died, I would have. I went through my therapy, and about halfway through it, we got back together. At the time, I had no idea how bad that was going to be. It was verbally abusive and painful to stay in, but I wouldn’t leave him because I was dead set on marrying him. My therapist said that it was an abusive relationship and wasn’t built on anything, but being a teenage girl, I didn’t listen. I closed off from the world because all I had in my life, I thought, was him. We spent another year together and then we broke up. It was a bad break up, but I continued therapy, and I just finished this past December.
Though it sounds like it was a horrible tragedy, I took away from it a knowledge I could never have gained without it. I learned the essentials of a relationship and the kind of strength within myself that I never thought I had. I rose up from it and am now very happy with my life. I plan to become a therapist for teenagers who are in the same position I was in. I also have a very amazing boyfriend who treats me like I deserve to be treated. I am no longer bitter and sad about this. I take it as an experience. I loved, I lost, I lived.

Stalking stillness

Here’s a post from my personal blog, Just Wheat. I’m so thankful for the way God is speaking to me through stillness this year.

Just wheat

That pesky red-bellied woodpecker.

IMG_0229I have stalked that woodpecker since I first noticed him, just a few days after we relocated our bird feeder, handmade by my very own Renaissance man, to a small garden plot right outside my bedroom window.

Each morning when my daughter awakens, her windowsill is one of her first stops. Gazing out of the blurry, century-old glass pane, she points and murmurs “bird… bird” as oodles of male and female cardinals parade back and forth between their nests along the creek bed and the bird feeder. The chickadees, with their stark white and black caps, and spotted, earthy sparrows flit from limb to limb along the tiny flowering tree branches next to the feeder, politely taking turns and never lingering too long over the seed. The gold finches and regal purple finches have lower social standards and squawk and peck at other birds who dare…

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Thankful for everyday love

Today’s guest contributor is my childhood friend, Leslie Ferguson Thomas, who is on a fearless journey to become who she wants to be. Be sure to check out Leslie’s blog!

My husband always refers to us as two puzzle pieces, and when we met, he says, “The world could hear the click”.

I grew up dreaming about what it would be like to fall in love. I imagined it just like the movies.  I grew up watching Dirty Dancing, Lifetime movies, and Grease. In my mind I fell in love a million times. Each time was different and special, but the girl in the image never looked like me. She always had the perfect figure, perfect hair, and pretty much perfect everything. So each year I would start a new diet and live in my fantasy land. I was always waiting for me to be perfect, so I could meet the perfect guy.

Photo by Say Cheese Photography

Photo by Say Cheese Photography

I met Josh, my husband, through an online dating site called Plenty of Fish. I was 29, and he was 32.  I had gone through a breakup about a year prior that really shook me up.  I had seen myself continue to stay in a horribly one sided relationship because I thought this guy was a great guy simply because he wanted to be with me even though I was overweight. I drove way too many miles each weekend, spent money I didn’t have, left a job I liked, and gave up who I was for someone else. After that relationship ended, I promised myself I would never do that again. So when I met Josh, I was very guarded.

Josh was nothing like any of the guys I had dated before. I remember one night in particular, it was storming outside, and I didn’t have any minutes on my phone. I had planned to go visit him, but he insisted that I stay home. He didn’t want me to get out in the weather. After being with guys who didn’t even consider me, I assumed he really didn’t like me. I soon learned that was far from the truth. Day after day, conversation after conversation, we became closer and closer. I never worried about my weight around him, what I wore, or what I said. I was totally myself with him. He told me he felt the same.

In March 2010, Josh asked me to marry him. It was a day I will never forget. Seven months later we said, “I do”!

LeslieandJoshweddingIt was the most magical ceremony. Josh has never once asked me to change anything about myself, but the funny thing is that being with my husband makes me want to be a better person. I am getting healthier. I am going after my dreams. I am letting go of hurt, and loving deeply. But what I have learned is that Josh is romantic in his own sweet way. Sometimes he will hear me singing a song, and the next thing I know he has gotten me the song. Sometimes I will think he is not listening to what I am saying, and then a week later he will bring it back up.

 

Second chance love

Special thanks to my former professor and friend, Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, for sharing this beautiful piece on gratitude, friendship, and love with us today.

At the beginning of 2014, Bethany wrote a beautiful essay identifying still as her word for the new year. When Bethany invited other people to identify their words for 2014, I had a difficult time narrowing mine down to a single choice.

Teresa and Leisa in Carmel the summer after college

Teresa and Leisa in Carmel the summer after college

Finally, I selected friendship. During the course of my life, I have been fortunate to have wonderful friends.  One of those friends is a California girl named Leisa who was my college roommate.  From the day we met, we became friends and have remained friends over the years.  Shortly after Leisa married her high school sweetheart Scott in 2006, I wrote an essay for her titled “Boomerang Hearts” about her wedding and a long-ago memory I had of her relationship with Scott.  This post is an extension of that essay.

Friendship is a gift that yields many happy returns, and I am grateful to call Leisa my friend.

 

Two Valentine Memories

By Teresa Burns Murphy

 

Bethany's Blog, See's Candy Display (2) It happens every year around Valentine’s Day.  I walk past a display of See’s candy, and a memory is sparked of a Valentine’s when I was a college freshman.  My friend Leisa and I both had boyfriends back home, and we decided to make them heart-shaped pillows.  We had lots of fun getting the material, making the pillows, and sending them off so they would reach their respective destinations by Valentine’s Day.  My boyfriend sent me a dozen red roses, but no Valentine’s Day present arrived from Leisa’s boyfriend Scott.

During the days following Valentine’s, Leisa must have checked her campus mailbox a hundred times, returning to the dorm disappointed, but certain that Scott would not have forgotten her.  About a week after Valentine’s Day, Leisa came back to the dorm with a Valentine from Scott.  It was giant heart-shaped box of See’s Candy.  Apparently, the box had gone to the wrong address and was a little beaten up during the detour though the candy inside was unharmed.

Bethany's Blog, Leisa & Scott's Wedding

Leisa and Scott’s wedding

Several years later, just after Valentine’s Day in 2006, on the beach in Carmel, California, Leisa and Scott got married.  As they stood inside the heart-shaped rope on the sand, their smiles illuminated by the sun shining through the puffy white clouds, the turquoise sea foaming in the background, I thought about that long-ago Valentine’s Day.   Like the heart-shaped box of chocolates, Leisa and Scott’s hearts got re-routed to other relationships for a while, and they experienced their own share of less-than-gentle handling. A chance meeting brought them back together, and they discovered the love inside their hearts was still there, resilient and better than ever.

Since then, when those ubiquitous heart-shaped boxes start showing up in stores, I recall those two Valentine memories, and I’m reminded of the gift of second chances.  But most of all, I think of my friend Leisa and smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star-spangled moments

*Today’s post is by my friend Debra Dickey, a frequent contributor to this blog. I’m thankful for Debra’s courage to share her own journey in writing because each time she does, I learn and grow.*

 

1)  A weighty concern regarding the possibility of an expensive vehicle repair — gratefully, did not need to happen.

2)  Frozen, burst water pipes — managed by the appropriate people with no liability to us.  Another Alleluia moment!

3)  A friend’s frozen water issues — easily thawed with an inexpensive heater at minimal inconvenience.  Yay!

4)  My brother, rushed to the hospital with potentially life-threatening symptoms.  Five frightening days of waiting, watching, and wondering.  Again, through the Grace and Power of the Almighty, he was safely carried through the danger, and recovery is imminent.  Praise God!

5)  A dog . . . . a skunk  —  a 10-second imagination-run-wild episode that turned out to be quite comical!

6)  Add to that a treacherous 25-mile drive home on ice-slick roads that can only be described as ‘harrowing’, yet, in its finality, by the Grace of God and one hour later, concluding safely.

7)  And to top off this mere three-week time span, exhausting illness x 2, plus a major health concern of another sort, and a family situation en crises, presently in the hands of God:  starbursts of amethyst and gold — moments in waiting!

FireworksStar-spangled moments.  Decipherable moments of Exquisite Presence.  Moments of gratefulness.  Joyous moments.  Praise-filled moments.  Laughable moments.  Challenging moments.  Gut-wrenching, heart-numbing, fear-gripped  moments.  Humble moments.  Moments of fireworks and awe.  He is in them all.  He answers my prayers, thankfully sometimes even before I know to pray them.

I experience all these kinds of moments and more, almost on a daily basis.  So not only am I grateful for the blessings of things that do happen, I am most often even more grateful for the blessings of things that don’t happen.  Those particularly worrisome events that somehow seem to juuusst barely sideswipe my wee crotchety life as they eek past on their little slippery skates of uncertainty.  Yes, I hear God in the still.  I see God in the small.  And I feel God in each moment.  There is no possible way that I could deflect nor withstand even a fraction of everything that comes at me without Help – I’m not the victor in those wrestling matches – but God is, so it doesn’t matter if I am or not!

My word for 2013 was ‘miracles’, and there have been so many!  What I have come to know is that often before you get to the miracles, that there are a colossal amount of challenges, stumbling blocks, and hurdles — virtual tidal waves of worry, heartache, fear and concern — which require an enormous amount of personal strength, effort, fortitude, and prayer to be able to walk through all the scary situations, the soul-searching days and nights, and the miry swamps of the unknown, before you get to those star-spangled moments, those miracles!!  Those precursors are fiercely and incredibly draining, at times leaving me broken, battered, bruised, and bleeding in the dust.

But because I know that God is the Author of the miracles that I seek, then I also recognize that I must possess strength, courage, and endurance to travel the road that is before me, and to navigate the sometimes perilous journey that will lead to those miracles.  So I shall ever seek His Promises of strength and protection, always by my side in Perfect Love, so that I can get back up and keep going.

His Word assures me:  “He will shelter you with his wings….He will order His angels to protect you…they will hold you up with their hands…  The Lord says I will protect those who trust in My Name.”  Psalm 91:4-12

*I continually pray for God to build a hedge of protection around me and my loved ones, a sphere of God’s glory that carries a vibration of Heaven that will hide us and keep us safe when principalities and powers may threaten our spiritual realm.  Let us commit our lives to God and strive to stay in the center of His Will, so that the enemy will not have access to what has been given to us according to that promise.  Thank You for Your Divine Protection in Jesus’ Name.   Amen.   [missionariesofprayer.org]

I eternally acknowledge the Divine Intervention that is evidenced within the subsistence of my life throughout each moment of my being.  Moments of forever.  Moments of now.  Moments of Grace and Strength and Love.  Small moments, enormous moments, amazing moments, unexpected and surprising moments.  Moments without end.  So many star-spangled moments!