Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Bird Story

In 2005 began the manifestation of severe depression symptoms.  I had suffered a bad break-up, a life-changing injury, and felt I had lost complete sense of who I was and why I was here.  I didn't want to be here and I could think of many ways to make that happen.  For whatever reason, God reminded me over and over again that I did not have the right to make that decision but let me tell you, it took hundreds of dollars in therapy and medication to make me believe it.  

I remember one particular evening, my ex who had returned home to help take care of the kids when I couldn't, was washing dishes after dinner.  I remember sitting at the head of the table, taking it all in, as if I was watching my life as a third party.  And as it happened often in that time period, I remember wrapping my arms around me and gently rocking myself back and forth, as if comforting myself.  I realized that I did this as a mom to my babies while I was holding them in the rocking chair.  For some reason, my mind took me back to that pacifying action.  I remember rocking myself back and forth many times, but for some strange reason, my ex had never seen me do it.  I did it in the shower while not wanting to come out from underneath the cleansing waters......I did while watching TV....I did it when nobody was watching but here it was, out in the open, for everybody to see that I had clearly lost my marbles.  To make matters worse, when he realized what I was doing, I remember he said, "Woman, (he always called me woman), what are you doing?"  All I can remember clearly saying was, "I don't hear the birds anymore."  I can only imagine what must have gone through his mind, knowing the mother of his children was clearly losing it.

Why the birds?....There are few sounds that can bring a smile to my face.  The first one will forever be the sound of my boys laughing, first as babies, then as children, and now as young adults.  When I hear them laugh, my heart expands as I look at them and hear their different sounds, especially when it's one of those deep can't-catch-my-breath laughs.  Another favorite sound of mine is the sound of the wind rustling through the trees......yet another would be the sound of the ocean waves making their presence known......but my clear favorite, is hearing the sounds of birds singing, chirping, talking, fighting, whatever it is they are doing, it's music to my ears.  If I couldn't hear the birds, I had lost my joy.  

I wish I could go back in time and explain to him what I was going through internally at that moment but I chose to keep it all in until I broke, unable to carry a short lifetime (I was only 30 at the time) of repressed depression now unfolding due to a chemically induced imbalance.  I wouldn't wish that on anybody, it's a horrible feeling knowing that you could potentially lose your children because someone thought you were crazy.  I didn't think I was going crazy, but I can only imagine how it looked like to the outside world looking in.  

Through prayer, a Christian counselor, a ridiculous amount of medication (before we finally found one that worked!) and just good ole time, I healed.  God saw me through my desert and led me to a place where I could hear the birds again.  And now, when I hear them, I make sure that I stop, even for a second or two, to sit, close my eyes and just listen.  God speaks to us not just through His word, through inspired music, and through each other, but through nature as well.  We just need to listen more. :-)

Matthew 6:25-26 NLT:
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

<3

Friday, August 7, 2015

Missing Our Friend

As many of you know, those of you who have followed this blog space, we lost one our contributors and best friend, Michael Higby, mid-April.

As we head into the 4th month of him being gone, it doesn't get any easier.  For those of you who don't know me, or know much about me, I moved a week after his passing.  I wasn't able to share my progress with him but I knew he'd be proud of me following my heart, even though I knew it made him sad to not have me down the street. 

About 2 weeks after he passed, I was sitting out in my backyard enjoying my new environment.  I am surrounded by 6 trees all around the property and enjoy the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves.  During this time I remember looking up towards the heavens and having a very one sided conversation with our friend.  I'm glad I took the time to write it down that evening.  Being so close to to his passing, I wasn't sure I wanted to share the words with the world but I realize now, that I must.

My conversation went something like this; "Where are you?  How are you?  Who are you?  Do you look the same?  Did you get a new body?  Would we recognize you?  Can you hear me?  What do the angels sound like when they sing?  That evening, did it hurt?  Were you scared?  Did you just fall asleep?  Who greeted you?  Was it your angel?  Was it your mom?  What about your grandparents?  Have you seen them?  Oh my God, whom have you met?!?!  Are you debating with the Greats now?  Are you winning?  Do you miss us?  What have you learned?  Does it all make sense now?  Why can we still hear you?  Is that you speaking or is it our memories?  Will you be there when we go Home?"

By this time I was in tears, feeling an overwhelming sense of loss.  I just remember saying, "I'm sorry," over and over and allowing the tears to flow.  As is very common, those left behind to mourn our loved ones feel a sense of guilt and regret for not doing more, not knowing what the "more" is.  Even worse, we couldn't say goodbye. 

The following morning while doing my Facebook perusing, a page that I follow posted the following excerpt from The Little Prince:

“In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night. And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend...I shall not leave you." Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry


It was as if he saw me staring up into the starry night and heard me.  I cried of course, and then I smiled knowing that he was still comforting me, just like he did when I was going through trials.  Yes, he will always be our friend and he has not left us, he's just moved to a new realm and he will always be in our hearts, our minds and memories of the countless stories he had.

Our dearest Michael, you are loved and missed sorely.  But as believers, we know that we will be reunited with our loved ones when it's our time.  I pray that those that are here missing you are having these conversations with you as well.  Say hello to momma for me, we love you and we'll see you all soon.

<3

Friday, July 20, 2012

Instead of posting a blog with my thoughts about last night's shooting, I wanted to share this blog from a mom of teens who was there and lived it.

It's powerful. Read it. Share it.

http://aminiatureclaypot.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/so-you-still-think-god-is-a-merciful-god/ 


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Letter To My Husband

Letter to My Husband
Elizabeth Espinoza
January 28, 2012


About a week ago I started doing something I thought was a little off, even for me. I started writing a letter to my husband. Now those readers that know me know that as of today Saturday, January 28, 2012, I am unmarried. No, I am not betrothed and I am not even dating at the moment.

So why the letter? I don’t know. I felt this strong sense of needing to do it. What it’s ending up sounding like (I’m not done yet) is almost a vow. And I even thought to myself, “how silly to be writing vows to someone I don’t know.” But do I not know him? Has he entered my life yet or is it someone that has been in it and I just haven’t figured it out?

A funny thing started happening while I was writing the first few paragraphs of the letter. I felt compelled to pray for him. Him. Who is “him?” Who is he? Who the heck am I praying for? Poor boy has no idea what he’s going to be dealing with that’s probably what you’re thinking, especially if you know me. “Lord, I’m surely losing it,” is what I was thinking to myself. But at the same time, I wondered, “What if this is what I am SUPPOSED to be doing?”

And just for clarification, this isn’t the “praying for my husband” prayer that many of us single women have done, “Lord send me a husband.” I got over that a long long loonnnnng time ago. And this also wasn’t the “Girl, I need to pray for MY husband because I’m just about done with him.” I figure, God knows what I want, and if I keep asking for the same thing then I’m no different than a child nagging their parent for a toy at the check-out line.

No, I started praying over this man. I prayed for his health, I prayed for his family, I prayed for favor with his employers, I prayed for wisdom and patience. I realized that I was praying for him the same way that I pray for myself, especially when it comes to wisdom and patience. It dawned on me that while I always thought that a good Christian man would probably bore me and I would probably not have much (other than our faith) in common with him, it seems like I really do want someone like-minded, who is doing everything in his power to walk the walk; the walk that if it was a piece of cake to do, more people would be living it.

This is probably where you think this little story ends. However, today, Saturday, January 28, 2012 I attended a Women’s Conference. I make it a point that when I visit Women’s events that I go with a purpose; whether it’s a weekend retreat or a simple breakfast, I go there expecting: I walk in with a purpose, I need something revealed, I need a word of encouragement, I need affirmation, confirmation, I need something. “Lord, just give me something.”

Well, “ask and ye shall receive,” correct? And boy did I. A gentleman that I had never heard of before, a comedian by the name of Michael Junior was the opening speaker. I thought, “Great, some comedy before a serious message. This is a first.” Well, the guest delivered alright. He was funny from the moment he stepped on the platform.

And while I figured he was just a “clean” comedian, I realized he was a believer as well. He threw a few little nuggets out there, one being “Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.” I like that one.

After his bit was pretty much done he talked about his wife and a book she had written and he shared how she had been praying for him before they had even met. As you can imagine, my heart skipped a beat. He mentioned that she had been praying for “him”, again, not having met “him” yet. In essence, she was praying the same way that I started praying over my future husband. I had a “You’ve got to be kidding me Lord!” moment right then and there. I laughed apparently loud enough for my neighbor to hear me. The poor woman must have thought I had a delayed reaction to the presenter’s bit, but I just shook my head in amazement, because I knew God was speaking to me, He always has been, it’s just that now I’ve started to listen and receive what He has to say.

Now, I’m not going to share my letter with you because it is quite personal and reveals a lot of who I was and who I am now and how my past has shaped my life, but not defined my future; but I CAN tell you this. I look forward to the day when I can hand him this letter and instead of it beginning with, “My Dearest __________,” it will have a name, filling the blank.


Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Breaking The Cycle


January 12, 2012
Elizabeth Espinoza

Ever get frustrated when you can’t get grandma’s recipe right? You’ve followed all the “guidelines” required because quite honestly, does grandma really use recipes? A dash of this, a sprinkle of that, “un tantito” (a little bit) of yet another ingredient but no matter how many times you try it, you just can’t get it right.
Then, you have the wonderfully gifted people who can take grandma’s recipe and do something to it amazing…make it even better! “Shut your mouth girl” is probably what your grandma would say at that last statement. And when they make it and share it with friends at a gathering or potluck what do you thing they hear? “Great recipe, where did you find it?” Or maybe they’d hear “Can you send me this recipe?” Regardless, that lucky person would have the honor of saying “My grandmother passed it down to me.”
That of course is a positive thing to share with family and loved ones. But what about the other stuff? You know what I mean. It could be something as minute as a trait(such as vanity) to some big hitters such as alcoholism, domestic violence. Not a pretty picture right?
As believers, we hear that once we accept our Lord and Savior we are a new creation, all things are passed away, (2 Corinthians 5:17 “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” as is eloquently put by The Message bible). And we stand firm on that belief because why would we want to continue in our old ways right?
Well, while we may have the best intentions in a moment of emotional awareness to God’s presence in our lives, let’s be honest; it may not be that easy for some of us. Some new believers are able to stop smoking, drug use, drinking, swearing, and taking out their aggressions, physical or emotional, on their spouse and/or children. And for that we say “Thank YOU Lord!” for that truly is a miracle of God. And it’s not that a switch has been turned on in our brain that now tells us “wait, that is wrong behavior.” We KNOW for a fact the difference between right and wrong. We know, even in our faulty human nature when we are doing something that is going to cause sometimes irreparable damage to our bodies and/or relationships.
The issue is that some of us don’t change that easily. Some of us can’t. Some of us have chains of bondage that are way too strong for us to believe a very simple and open hearted prayer can break. It takes work! But here’s the great part of that work. We don’t have to do it!!! In Matthew 11:28-30 we read “’Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’” The key word there is UNFORCED. He is not going to bring you to shame about not breaking the cycle, He is not going to twist your arm and cause you to regret “accepting.” A few other key phrases are “Come to me,” “Get away with me,” “Walk with me and work with me,” “learn.” Learn is my favorite. And then there is the ultimate promise, “I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.” He is ASKING us to join Him, to walk with Him, to learn from Him!
Like a funny movie once said in a scene mocking the Bible, “aww this doesn’t have all the answers!” we may sometimes feel that’s true, BUT there is inspiration, encouragement and PROMISES in the written word. We have to be open to learning new things, we need to renew our minds, we need to be willing to make changes in our lifestyle that can be quite painful (such as releasing certain acquaintances or putting distance between you and the people that feed in to your weakness) but as He stated, “you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I decided to be the one in my family. The one who broke the cycle of disbelief. The one who would do anything in their power to ensure her kids received the proper spiritual education (not from me but from people that God put in our lives such as teachers and leaders). I decided that I was going to start new traditions, I decided to join a ministry because I knew my gifts would be used in a positive way. Seeing my teenage boys join their Youth ministry band and now having joined the adult team, I believe my decision to be that person and walk in God’s will for our lives was something that I had to do, not just for us but for those that follow; my nephews, my niece, my future grandchildren (did I say that?!). It hasn’t been a walk in the park, I’ll be the first one to admit there were times that I wanted to quit and a few times that I “stepped down” because I just needed a break. But just as the sun rises in the morning, I knew where I was needed. I knew where a position had been created for me to fill.
With that being said, let’s break those cycles. Let’s seek each other out and lean on each other when times get tough, praying for each other that God would come and lift our burdens. Let’s be history makers in our families so that when someone asks your future grandchildren, nieces or nephews how they were introduced to their Lord, Father of their faith, they can proudly say someone decided to break the cycle.
Rock on!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What is the Source of Our "Wisdom?"

James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.

Wouldn't it be nice if we were only able to hear advice from God? If we were able to filter out all of the bad advice and only hear advice and wisdom that would be helpful to our lives? In our world of instant knowledge, opinion & "wisdom" via the internet, media, etc., it can be difficult to sift through the trash to find the treasure. It seems impossible to figure out who to listen to, what advice is good, helpful. But here's the thing: God gives us the tools to determine the truth from the lies, the good from the bad, His wisdom as opposed to the wisdom of this world. He tells us what to look for so that we can find the truth.

What does the wisdom of the world look like? Here's the verse in context:

James 3:13 Are there any of you who are wise and understanding? You are to prove it by your good life, by your good deeds performed with humility and wisdom.14 But if in your heart you are jealous, bitter, and selfish, don't sin against the truth by boasting of your wisdom.15 Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is unspiritual and demonic.16 Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil.

Wisdom from that source clearly stinks. Bottom line.

Then the contrast in verse 17 & 18: 17 But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.18 And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace.

In verse 17 He gives us the characteristics we need to see to know the "wisdom" that we behold is from God. Does the advice or "wisdom" we hear contain those characteristics? If so, it's Godly wisdom.

Are we receiving advice that doesn't have those characteristics? If it doesn't have those characteristics, it's not from God. Does it have the characteristics in verse 14 & 15? Then it's not from God. End of story.

This is also helpful (to me) when I consider the "wisdom" that I impart to others. It's not always from God (just ask my kids - haha). I blow it. I say stupid things, so I consider these verses to be a necessary filter - filtering what we say AND what we hear.

We are not completely stumbling in the dark without a guide. God gives us the tools we need to survive and thrive in this world. Check this out:

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

Bottom line is that God's got us covered. He gives us the answers we need. He loves us. He wants us to know what to think, where to go, how to really live. He doesn't keep these things hidden from us. He gives us all that we need and more - we just need to crack open that Bible and read what He has to tell us.

As an addendum to this devotion - Do you every wonder if God loves you enough to take the time to teach you all that you need to know? Maybe that's why we, at times, listen to the world's wisdom - maybe it's because it's easily accessible and maybe we forget that God really does love us SO much that He gave us a manual for our lives - His Word!

Do you need to be reminded of His love, sometimes? I do! So, here you go:

He LOVES You:

He has wonderful plans for you:
Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


He loves you so much that He has your name written on the palms of His hands:
Isaiah 49:15-16 Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.

He is with you. He will save you. He delights in you. He LOVES you:
Zephaniah 3:17The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

His love for you is EVERLASTING:
Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

His love for you is so great. His compassion for you never fails. It is renewed every single day:
Lamentations 3:22 – 25 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.

He knows everything about you. You are of such great value to God. He even knows ever hair on your head:
Luke 12: 6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

He loves you so much that He wants you to be with Him forever. For this to happen, He sent His son to Earth to pay for your sins:
1 John 4:9-10 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

It's good to be truly loved. :D

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unexpected Blessings in the Air

“Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”

Matthew 28:19-20

I travel often for business, flying to various cities across the US.  Understandably, many of my friends find this cool, and I understand why, but it's far from glamorous. The trips are packed full of business meetings, events and little sleep.  Though God goes on the trips with me, as I get older, it breaks my heart to be away from my family, friends, those I love, my home and my church.  And of course the logistics of travel - late flights, hotel rooms not ready, taxi drivers who get lost, etc. - can add to the stress as well.

This is why I make sure even when I disrupt my home routine by traveling that I pray, talk to God, read my Bible (thank you Kindle for Android!) and look for opportunities to do his work.  Frequently, unexpected blessings come my way.

One of which is something I discovered flying Alaska Airlines.  Now this is not meant to be a commercial at all, but compared to most other airlines, I find Alaska's service to be quite good and their flights to be comfortable.  

But there is something else.

The first time I flew on Alaska, and the flight attendant served me my meal, I found something on the tray that shocked me - a small slip, about the size of a business card, with a nature shot AND A LINE OF SCRIPTURE FROM THE BIBLE!

I could not believe it but it was truly a blessing.  And every time now that I fly Alaska I look forward to those little pieces of paper with God's will and the opportunity to share them with others.

Upon the recommendation of a Christian friend, I sent the following note to the airline:

I have flown Alaska on a few business flights so far this year. I am always impressed by your service. However I am quite grateful that you place small scripture cards with your meals.

As one who seeks to follow Him and be close to the word, I appreciate this gesture by your organization. Sometimes flying can be stressful; your cards are a blessing - and I have shared them with others once I'm back on the ground.

God bless,
Michael Higby

In a time of political correctness and attacks on our faith from many quarters, what a blessing indeed it is to see an organization like this share the word with others.  Amen.