For nearly eight years I hustled day in and day out as a single mom. My goal was simple--survival. I saw no finish line, and accordingly, there was no time to sit around and ponder things like the meaning of life, my life's purpose, what I was here to do, and whether I was making a difference or not—let alone making God proud. Those thoughts never entered my mind because there was so much more at stake than me. At that time, my life was not about me, or what I wanted, or what I thought I deserved. It was all about my kids. I simply did what I had to do--like it or not.
Fast forward to today and I am no longer struggling to survive. I married a wonderful man who was willing to take on all of my burdens and release me from all of their weight. And yet I still find myself struggling. Back then, my identity, my "story" was "single mom, super woman, overcomer, and survivor." But that's not me anymore. That was my story then, but it's not my story now. And therein lies my identity crisis. I have heard it said over and over again that everyone has a "story"—that we need to tell and share our "story"—as if there is just one. Life is more like a collection of stories with changing themes and transitions. And as such, our story is always evolving and will never truly end. In some stories, there are good chapters and there are bad ones. Some chapters are short and sweet, others are agonizing, painful, and dreadfully long.
Right now, my chapter is unclear. It's uncertain. It's confusing. And it doesn't entirely make sense. As a control freak, this part of my story feels more like a mystery, where for a while, you're not 100% sure how things will play out. What I do know however, is that the real Author of my story already knows the outcome. And because of hindsight, I can see how His hand helped shape all of my stories to date. It makes me feel a bit better because I have the assurance that He's in the middle of writing this part of my story too, even though I don't know when or how this chapter will end.
Sometimes, you may find it difficult to serve others. It’s an understandable and common challenge, especially if your willingness to serve is blocked by built-up resentment. Perhaps you have been taken advantage of in the past, or maybe when you served others before, your efforts went unnoticed, unappreciated, or were never reciprocated. It makes sense then, that you would find yourself reluctant to serve now. If this is your current experience, there is something you can do to help chip away at any residual resentment.
Take out a sheet of paper and make a list of everyone you resent. Review your list and choose the person for whom your resentment “burns” the most. Ask yourself the following questions. When you have time, return to the list and complete the questions for each person you listed.
Declare the situation resolved by stating your intention and willingness to forgive the person. If you want to take it a step further, once you have completed the questions for each person, burn the entire list as a symbolic demonstration that you have released the past.
First, let me be the first to say that I am not a proponent of recreational drug use. I am not advocating legalization of marijuana for kicks. However, because of the research I have conducted for my mom, my cousin, and various friends who are currently confronting serious health issues, I have learned a lot about alternative therapies, including medicinal marijuana. And its benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Marijuana is often misunderstood, and because of the controversy that surrounds it, its proven and effective healing properties have been largely dismissed and ignored. I want to dispel some of the misconceptions. And my hope is that eventually, our Government will understand its benefits and make it more accessible to those who truly need it and could medically benefit from it.
Presently, marijuana is legal in 26 states and the District of Columbia. Other states, such as Virginia, enacted laws decades ago allowing for the possession of marijuana if individuals received prescriptions from doctors. Federal law, however, prohibits doctors from prescribing marijuana, rendering those laws invalid. Doctors can only write a recommendation for medical marijuana, which is different than a prescription, which leaves me asking how does this help those who reside in states like Virginia? It’s a potentially deadly catch 22. And who pays the ultimate price—patients and their families.
Sometimes, life matters more than the law.
Misuse of Terms
Part of the problem surrounding marijuana is the frequent misuse of terms. Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the hemp plant, which is known scientifically as Cannabis sativa. Hemp contains cannabinoids like Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) the chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers that provide relief from pain, nausea, anxiety, and inflammation. They perform medical magic by imitating compounds our bodies naturally produce, called endocannabinoids, which activate to maintain internal stability and health.
In practical terms, “hemp” is used to describe the food and fiber variety of the cannabis plant, and “marijuana” is cannabis that’s grown to enhance the THC chemicals that make you feel high. Like THC, CBD is a single cannabinoid found among the over 100 other cannabinoids in cannabis. Unlike THC, however, cannabidiol is non-psychoactive.
The FDA has said that products labeled as "CBD" cannot be legally sold across state lines in the United States due to evolving medical regulations and quality concerns.
So, if cannabis is illegal in much of the U.S., and some of its components are strictly regulated, how can one safely get access to the medical benefits of this plant?
Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, meaning shipment between states is legal. Hemp has more CBD than THC naturally, making it an ideal source of CBD from cannabis and one of the reasons why hemp oil is the preferred source of natural CBD for thousands of people.
Know the Facts
What You Can Do
If you see the benefits of growing cannabis, and it's currently illegal in your state, take action. Write your local Congressman. Advocate on the Hill. Regardless of how you do it, use your voice to help effect positive change.
* (Virginia law requires that, before growing industrial hemp as part of an industrial hemp research program, an individual must obtain a grower’s license from VDACS. In order to obtain a grower’s license, you must first obtain a written agreement with a public institution of higher education that documents that you are a participant in that institution’s industrial hemp research program.)
I have always had an affinity for antiques and rustic things. I also have a love for poetry, song lyrics, and inspirational quotes. Making our reclaimed signs allows me to combine all of the things I love and bring old things to life. I waited way too long to ignite the creative fire that burned inside. If I could pass along one thing to any of you, it'd be don't wait. God gave you a gift, and an interest in the things that will cultivate and nurture that gift. They're there for you to share and bring light to the world!
Unity in this country will require more than just empathy. It will require compassion—the genuine desire to understand another’s need, and the sincere willingness to self-sacrifice to help meet that need. Mending the wounds of our country is a responsibility we ALL share. We ALL share this same need. How willing are you to try to understand me? How willing am I to try to understand you? How willing are you to let go of your pride and vanity to help me? How willing am I to let go of my pride and vanity to help you?
Strengthening this country will require compromise and the willingness to let go of some of our self-serving beliefs for the good of our neighbors. But, it must be done by both sides. It cannot be one side always compromising and bending to the will of the other. There must be reciprocity. For any one of us to refuse to show compassion for the sake of our neighbors during our country’s time of greatest need, is a choice. Should it ever be your choice, own it. Take full responsibility and be fully accountable for the consequences of that choice. Accept, without any complaint or finger-pointing, what you receive in return for making that choice. However, be forewarned, our country will eventually self-destruct if we don’t learn how to get out of our own way.
For the past few days I have been mulling over what to get my husband for Christmas. What does he want? What does he need? What does he like? What’s new, different, or creative that would make him light up on Christmas Day?
I kept finding myself at a loss. We’re both the kind of people that if we find ourselves needing something, we tend to get it for ourselves. And as far as our “wants”, well, they are rather minimal. Sadly, being this way kind of takes the fun out of shopping for each other.
But then something happened.
A few nights ago, we got into the most volatile fight of our marriage. It was not pretty—not pretty at all. And the next day, I found myself deeply saddened and nearly convinced that I was not cut out for a lifetime with one person.
I have been married before, as has he. I spent nearly eight years as a single mother and primary provider of four children. I was quite used to being alone. The kids and I had our routine down. It was just the five of us. We were strong and solid. We were close and knew our triggers and soft spots. It wasn’t always easy, but we were comfortable. We were safe in our own little world. Although I didn’t want to be alone forever, I wasn’t sure I had “room” for someone else in my life. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to change what the kids and I had established to share our world with anyone else. Our fight the other night, took me right back to that feeling. “See”, I told myself. “You should have waited.” “Maybe you’re not the marrying type.” “You should have never gotten married. You’re not a good wife.”
During the seven+ year period I was alone, I did a lot of self-reflection and self-work. I prayed and prayed about what was supposed to happen in my life, and theirs (my children). Was I supposed to be a single mom forever? Was I supposed to remain in the dreadful job I had? Was that to be my life? I could do it. I knew I could. But when I got genuinely real with myself, and really listened to my heart, I knew that wasn’t what I truly wanted. I did want to be married. I did want to share my life with someone—but not just anyone—someone who would reflect and help me live out my better self.
God gifted me with Brian.
I knew immediately how special he was. In the past three years, he has gone above and beyond what anyone else in my life has ever done to make my life, and my children’s lives, better. I truly appreciated him. Or so I thought, I did.
How could he be such a great gift, and yet, the day after the fight we had, I could find myself re-evaluating everything?
I never questioned how wonderful he was. The doubts were not about him. They were about me. Had I hardened so much during those years alone, that being available to someone else was an impossibility? Was I wrong about what I wanted? Did I marry for all the wrong reasons? Did I misunderstand and mishear God? I was in the middle of a serious conflict between what I wanted and what I had. And then I read something that turned it all around.
It’s interesting how God sends us the messages we need in the most effective way—the way that is surest to reach us in our greatest time of need. What I read was an article called, “The Will To Do”, which was actually an excerpt from a book written by Ravi Zacharias’s titled I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah. I was going to skip over it. The title was not particularly intriguing, and I was more interested in reading about other things, but I opened the article anyway. Now I understand why.
As I read, I realized that my entire idea of marriage was out of alignment. I had it all wrong. I believed marriage was supposed to be a 50/50 partnership—both parties pulling their weight and doing their part to carry the family forward. That is true. However, what was missing from my perspective was the purity of motive when doing my part. It wasn’t just about relieving myself of some of my duties and helping to relieve him of some of his.
As I read it became very clear that those seven years had exhausted me. I was depleted. I didn’t have the same level of energy to invest in my marriage. And I really didn’t want to. It was a relief to have someone else help carry the reins. The way I saw it, Brian was a grown man who could take care of himself. He didn’t need me. He was his own person. He was fine. I too, was a grown woman. I could take care of myself. I didn’t “need” him either. We just didn’t want to be alone forever and carrying the full load of responsibility on our own. We wanted companionship and someone we could talk to who shared the same values. We wanted someone to grow old with.
You don’t have to dig too deep to see there was no vulnerability and no real intimacy behind my beliefs regarding marriage. I didn’t want to admit my concept of marriage was seriously flawed because that would mean I’d have to risk my heart. But as I continued to read, it became crystal clear that even though I took marriage vows, I took them somewhat superficially. I did promise to honor and respect and be loyal to Brian. And I meant it. But secretly, I didn’t give him my whole heart. I kept a significant part of myself walled up just in case. My vows were more about me than they were about him.
In his article, Ravi explains that when we first marry, we tend to get caught up in the “flutters of the heart”—the superficialities, the beauty if what’s on the immediate surface. For me, marriage felt like a holiday. I could relax and not have to work as hard. I could rely on the strong shoulders of my husband. It was all about me, me, me. I just wanted to breathe. It’s understandable, why I felt that way, but it missed the mark nonetheless.
As Ravi explains, “Don’t be deceived by the flutter of the heart. Love is a commitment that will be tested in the most vulnerable areas of spirituality, a commitment that will force you to make some very difficult choices. It is a commitment that demands that you deal with your lust, your greed, your pride, your power, your desire to control, your temper, your patience, and every area of temptation that the Bible so clearly talks about. It demands the quality of commitment that Jesus demonstrates in his relationship to us.” He goes on to explain that marriage is intended to be a “dying to yourself.” He states, “Love is a command, not just a feeling. Somehow, in the romantic world of music and theater we have made love to be what it is not. We have so mixed it with beauty and charm and sensuality and contact that we have robbed it of its higher call of cherishing and nurturing.”
His explanation needled me. My marriage was not about what I could do for Brian, but rather, what he could do for me. It was shameful to have to admit how selfish I have been. So much of that article highlighted how severely deficient I have been as a wife, whereas, Brian, as he has in every area of his life, has given all of himself in every way. My gates were up, and they were fortified behind tons of steel.
As Ravi explains, “The will is that faculty which can only be tested when pain is as much a part of its choice as pleasure is. Let me state it another way. The will is that disposition of the mind that will choose a path and bind itself with love, even if pain is mixed with the choice. In the West, particularly, we have become so resistant to pain that at the slightest hint of it, we prepare to flee by some shortcut or some solution that masks the discomfort.”
I was ready to flee after our fight that day. The work that would have to go into this marriage was beyond what I wanted to put into it. But as I read that article, and reflected on it, my heart changed. I didn’t want my life to reflect selfishness and fear and pride. I didn’t want to give up on us like that. Yet I also knew it would require strength and grace beyond myself to make it work because my walls were built sky high.
I’d be lying to say I knocked down all the walls around my heart that day. Not at all. It’s going to be a very slow, cautious and methodical dismantling of walls. But I do want to dismantle them, and I know it’s critical to dismantle them if I want to ensure the success of my marriage. I have been slow in figuring it all out. But to Ravi’s point, marriage is intended to be a dying of oneself in service to the other.
“Chivalry in love has nothing to do with the sweetness of the appearance. It has everything to do with the tenderness of a heart determined to serve. That is the first hard lesson to learn. You do not act under the impetus of charm but out of a commitment to make someone’s life the joy you want it to be. In the early days of marriage, joy precedes the act. Tragically, as the years go by joy can be severed from the act until finally, the act itself is no more. This ought not to be. Over time it is the companionship that brings joy, and service is the natural outworking of the joy of commitment. Failure to act kills it.”
I have not been a very good wife. At times, I have failed to act. I have felt justified and entitled not to act in service to my husband because of all the years I acted in service to others alone, without end, and with little reciprocity or reward. My failure to act nearly resulted in losing it all. Thankfully, Ravi’s article drove it home for me. He says, “You see, the will is always in a dramatic clash with other wills, including our own wishes. Fear, self-protection, indifference—numerous emotions and concerns test the will and often lead us astray. At the moment, my will is tested to do wrong, it must remember the price that was paid on my behalf by the One who took the punishment for my will. By that act, He invited me to die to my own will, having received the gift of being accepted by Him, which my will alone could not have made possible. In exchange, I receive the will of God by which to live and find delight. Nothing brings harmony more than embracing the will of God. Nothing brings fragmentation more than turning away from the will of God. Marriage is the harmony of God synchronizing two wills with the will of the Father. When that happens, the heart resounds with the feeling, even though it involves sacrifice.”
And so that’s it. That’s my Christmas gift to Brian. I choose to knowingly and willfully sacrifice my heart for him, to help bring joy to his life. It’s not flashy. It’s not trending. It’s not sexy. But it’s everlasting. To say he deserves it is an understatement.
I get it now.
God gifted Brian—someone who would reflect and help me live out my better self. My marriage is not about me, it’s about bringing glory to God and being of service to Brian.
I have little to do with it.
*** Please visit http://rzim.org/just-thinking/the-will-to-do-2/ for the original article that inspired this post.
Did you know that the phrase: "God works in mysterious ways" is not found anywhere in the Bible, although it is often misquoted and thought to be a Bible verse? There are several possible inspirations for the phrase including a hymn titled, "Light Shining Out of Darkness" by William Cowper. The first line of Cowper's poem reads: "God moves in a mysterious way; His wonders to perform; He plans His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm." There are also various verses of scripture that allude to this idea as well, including Romans 11:33: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (KJV)
I read about William Cowper after his poem was cited in a podcast I listen to. Cowper wrestled with depression and insanity for much of his life, but during moments of lucidity, he was able to produce some of the most well-loved hymns and become one of the most popular poets of his time. He's a shining example of how God will use our gifts for the blessings of others despite our apparent brokenness.
Light Shining Out of Darkness
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
*This article orginally appeared on November 2 as a daily devotional on Crosswalk.com.
Seasons of Hope
by Sarah Phillips, Crosswalk.com Contributor
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
It’s the time of year when nature inspires a sense of awe in us. As leaves die, they give forth one final burst of color brighter than the paint on an artist’s palette. The sky takes on an unusually crisp blueness and the sun’s low, golden rays cast whimsical shadows. We feel energized as autumn breezes stir up the color around us and chase away the dense summer air.
For me, Autumn has always been a “second Spring.” A playful time, promising us that life, although soon to be hidden in the dead of winter, will only be invisible for a short while. When the days are gray, cold, and hard, I remember that only a few short weeks ago, the world was light and lively and in only a few weeks more, color will return.
As the author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, God designed life to run in cycles or seasons. Yet how often do we approach this life with expectations of perpetual summer, only to struggle with anxiety and disappointment when winter inevitably interrupts? I know I am guilty of this.
I spent time with my twin sister over this beautiful Fall weekend, and in the course of conversation, she revealed to me how approaching life as a series of seasons gives her perspective as a young wife and mom. “I’ve seen couples apply much pressure to their family life, expecting every week to live to the standard of the last, just as happy or productive, just as evenly paced. I think it takes a lot of burden off when you accept that this week will not necessarily look like last week, and that some seasons of life will be better than others.”
Knowing there is a natural rhythm, a “time to weep and a time to laugh,” gives us permission to let go of perfectionist expectations of our lives. It lightens our burdens by giving us hope for the future in the midst of trial and prepares us for times of struggle – until the day comes when there will be no more winter and no more tears.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Are you currently experiencing a scorching summer or a frigid winter? How can you embrace this time as a fruitful season even if it’s not your ideal? Are you reveling in a season of joy right now? Give thanks to God for His outpouring of blessings, knowing all goodness comes from His extravagant love.
Embrace Your Season
Glory B's unifies all of what I love most—the earth and its natural elements like stone and wood; the creative arts, whether through the written word, or photography, or paint; and helping others to make the world a better place.