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History – a chronological record of significant events often including an explanation of their causes.
Herstory – a chronological record of significant events of my faith and service including an explanation of their causes.

Willohroots requested the whole story of my road to faith and service, so here it is. It turned out to be very long, but my favorite evangelist, David Ring, says if I don‘t tell it, it won‘t get told. Hope you can stay awake.

I think faith often starts in childhood. I know mine did. I can only remember one time my family attended church, and it was long enough ago that they had a smoking section, but my mother often spoke of God and His love. I remember her trying to explain the triune God, when I was about four. (Yep, four; can you imagine!) She did as good a job as anyone, and I’ve never struggled with that doctrine the way some have. It may be as simple as believing, because “Mom said so.“ But it works. She also allowed me to attend vacation Bible School, each summer, and always encouraged me to go to church with my friends when invited. It was during one of those visits, to a friends church, at twelve, that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. (Becky B., if you ever read this I owe you my very life.)

Unfortunately, we got tied up with Jehovah’s Witnesses shortly thereafter. I can’t call that time a total loss, because it instilled in me the importance of Bible study and reaching out to others. And how many people can say they were baptized on the fifty-yard-line of Texas Stadium? I did however become very confused about Jesus, and lost my trust in Him. After falling away I tried a lot of other roads, including Wicca, but when life was at it’s worst and I really needed someone, I always found myself at the foot of the cross. I kept searching for someone/something to fill the void. Men didn’t do it, and I have three ex-husbands to prove it. Four children didn’t do it, though they came closer than anything else. Liquor, pills, pot, work, friends, none of those things filled the empty space inside.

Then on September 11, 2001 suddenly and without warning, our entire country went into mourning, causing me to consider ending my life. For that to make sense you need to know that I’m an empath, which is not something weird or spooky. It simply means that I feel the strong emotions of those around me. Fear, anger, and sadness surrounded me, and I couldn’t escape, even for a moment. The only peace I felt was when my husband and I attended a memorial at the church across the street from where I worked. Then and many times since then I’ve had the feeling of being held as I wept. Doug must have noticed, because he was the one who suggested we actively begin seeking a church to attend regularly. Of course, after visiting several and not finding what we were looking for it kind of fell by the wayside.

A few months later, a friend invited me to a women’s retreat at her church, and paid my way, because there was no way I could afford it. It started out with a silly PJ and crazy slipper night, and turned into one of the most important milestones in my life. Suddenly I had an appetite for God’s Word again, and found myself on my knees rededicating my life to Him. Well, He doesn’t take a thing like that lightly, and soon Doug and I were attending his mother’s church regularly. During a Sunday service, we simply looked at each other and said, “Let’s join.” Neither of us even knew the other was considering it! A week later we were baptized together, which has turned into a huge strong point in our marriage.

It really was a great church, on the small side, with as sweet a spirit as any new Christian could hope for, and Brother Dan, the pastor, was a great teacher. I still had a trust problem with Jesus, and was trying to work it out when The Passion came out. It broke my heart and sent me running to my Savior’s arms.

We were at that church for three years, and as with most things, I jumped in head first, always carefully avoiding stepping over my bounds as a woman. With the encouragement of our piano player, Marlene, I was singing specials with the bravest of them, and found myself teaching Sunday school and leading children’s church. As most good things tend to, it ended. Our church split, my Sunday school class of tough little girls vanished, and children’s church was down to three little boys, so they were moved to the regular service. Our best friends left with the Pastor and began a new church, where he abandoned them right away. We were heartsick, for them and for us.

After they found a new pastor for their fledgling church, we went to visit them. They asked me to lead the song service that day, and suddenly I had a place to serve again. There is really nothing like building up a brand new church, so much to be done, and so few to do the work. I was in “Martha” heaven. There were some things I had to get use to though. Women were often called on to pray, and there was a woman on the finance committee! Funny, it didn’t take long.

It soon became apparent we had a problem. Our pastor was jealous of one of the founders of the church, and had begun to use the pulpit to blast him at every opportunity. He also started manipulating people to further his own agenda. We kept expecting him to get angry enough to walk out, and though I still don’t know why, I promised my friend I’d have a devotion ready, if we needed it. It finally came to a point where we had to ask him to leave. It was ugly and painful, and we lost several families, because of it. With the help of one of our other ladies, I was pressed into leading our services, while we looked for a new pastor.

I was about as freaked out as one person is allowed to be. My husband had just gone out of town for work, and there was no one I could talk to, well, other than God. I cried, and told Him I wouldn’t do it, couldn’t do it. I am a woman after all. Of course I just happened to be in Deborah’s part of Judges in my Bible reading. So I agreed, but I wouldn’t stand in the pulpit, and would only do devotions until one of the men was ready to preach. But they needed more, and somehow it had fallen to me to feed His sheep. It wasn’t long before I was in the pulpit, preaching. It seems there is very little difference in a devotion and a sermon.

Six months later, we did find a preacher. I had a few doubts, but everyone else was so happy. I shut my mouth and handed my charges over to his care and keeping. I did, however, stay the song leader. I don’t know that speaking up would have changed anything, but do wish I had tried. I stuck it out as the pastor’s thumb came down harder and harder, because my husband was happy there, and because there were some good things happening.

The toughest thing to deal with is that the pastor knows I feel called to ministry, and he simply can’t let it go. He always talks about how good it is to visit his home church, how they bless him with things for his church, and how they pray for and support him. He would not only deny me that, but actively try to destroy any ministry of which I am a part. In the end I had a choice, stay and destroy the church or go find the supportive environment I need and crave.

Doug and I have found a place where we can both serve, and which supports women in ministry. I get phone calls from people leaving our old church. Sometimes they’re in tears wanting to know what went wrong. It seems since we left the pastor has taken iron-fisted control. They are only allowed to sing from the hymnal he brought in, and he has questioned the salvation of several members, because they’ve sinned. There are other things, but that’s enough. Why did he wait until we left to do those things? Maybe because he knew I’d call him on them?

My independent Bible study starts Wednesday morning. Anyone who wants to attend will be welcome, and I plan to go invite a few folks the churches haven’t bothered with.

God worked too hard to break the chains that bound me, and no one is putting me back in them! If anyone has a problem with it they can talk to my Boss.

Father, help me always to remember that You’re not done with me yet, I’m just a sinner, saved by grace, and that minister means servant.

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I wasted an awful lot of time, last year, reacting to one crisis after another. It’s exhausting emotionally and financially. Most of those situations could have been prevented with a little planning and looking ahead.

1. Budget? Who needs a stinking budget?

I do, of course. It’s time to start managing the money and stop letting it manage me. Sure as God made little green apples, July’s electric bill will be $500. So if I start saving a little toward those big bills now, there may still be tears when it arrives, but paying it won’t cause ulcers.

2. What about when life sneaks up and slaps you in the back of the head?

With a kid in constant trouble and parents in their 70’s, emotional turmoil is something I can count on. Again, planning is the key. Planning my reactions now, to either the kids phone call or bad news about one of our parents, will help me stay clear headed, if and when the time comes.

3. Am I living life or dragging my ass through it?

Trying to live a normal schedule wears me out. So what if I need to sleep from 6:00pm-12:00am, and have energy to burn from then until four in the morning? Working with my body clock instead of against it helps me get more accomplished and feel better doing it. Who decided what normal is when it comes to work and sleep anyway?

4. Lip service or action?

If I say something is important to me, then my actions should show it and that thing should be a priority. Too many times I let all the little chores interfere with the things I really should be doing. It’s not like all the little chores won’t still be there, waiting, once the important things are taken care of.

Tomorrow: Setting Goals

It’s a new year. Why let a bunch of useless stuff hang around and gather dust? Household clutter zaps the energy right out of a home, time bandits suck, and letting old garbage hang around in my mind is pointless.

1. Does it require antihistamines and more than 30 minutes to dust?

Let’s face it dusting is boring. So the place doesn’t look like Martha Stewart’s house, I’d rather have a few less knick-knacks and a few more hours to do something fun.

2. Is putting away laundry a marathon event?

If the dresser is exploding and we keep running out of hangers but we’re wearing the same things every week, it’s obviously time to look into donating or throwing out something. Those size six jeans are a pipe dream and kind of depressing. Out they go.

3. Are there stacks of stacks?

If everything has a place and is in its place there is no need to continually look through stacks to find the thing I need. What I’m looking for is never there anyway. It got thrown out last week while I was cleaning up a stack of mail.

4. Does having a guest require renting a storage unit?

Tempting, as it is to store all the unused junk in the guestroom, it makes more sense to just get rid of it. It’s “out of sight, out of mind” in there anyway. I’ll never get around to fixing that clock or making a shelf out of that old piece of wood. And who needs the mad dash to hide it all in the closet, when someone visits?

5. Now that the house is clutter free, am I running around in circles trying to keep up?

When I’m stretched too thin nothing gets done well. I’m not doing anyone any favors by saying yes to every task that comes along. Others can do the job just as well, and should have an opportunity to be involved. Keeping my schedule lean also insures that I’m available when I’m really needed.

6. Where the heck did that echo come from?

Time to rob all those old, hurtful words, from the past, of their power. Next time they pop up, instead of pushing them down, I’ll let them come, then take them apart. Let’s see if they can survive the autopsy.

Tomorrow: Taking Control