Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Love's Memory

Today Shannon O'Donnell is share with us about her new book release: Love's Memory. This is a story of love, hope, and faithfulness in the middle of trying times. Its reminds me personally of the way God tenderly seeks out each of us, even during times when we can not recognize His position in our lives. His love is forever seeking out our hearts to bring us all back home with Him.

What is Love's Memory about?

Valerie Mahoney, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, falls deeply in love with basketball star. Manny Scott. Against his parents’ wishes, the two wed and baby Wren soon follows. Years later adversity strikes and Manny begins questioning his youthful decisions, including his love for his wife. Heartbroken, Valerie flees one night but a disastrous accident leaves her with amnesia. Distraught, Manny begins the desperate quest to find a wife who doesn't recognize him and return her home.


Why did I write Love's Memory?
Because it is a story that is common to each of us. We don't really discover who we are until we lose ourselves and let God reinvent us, so to speak. He brings the true beauty out of us, the true gifts, and makes us into something so breathtaking, people have to stop and take notice. This is the theme of my story.

It's also a story about a marriage that gets torn apart by life-the sorrows, the pains, the everyday mundane that is apart of life. It's a story of redemption-God rebuilding lives and a marriage. In the back of Love's Memory I have a small Bible Study that anyone can go through that covers these issues.

What significance does Love's Memory have to you and your personal testimony?
 
Love's Memory is about HOPE. That is the major theme. It's a life theme for all of us, too. Hope is that flicker of life, so to speak, that God puts inside everyone when they are Born Again. Without hope, we will wither and die. We won't realize our dreams. We need hope in order to thrive and to achieve our destiny. And we need to nurture hope. Hope is renewed daily through our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is our Hope. I like what Vineet Bansal says: " Hope is bright shining light which keeps darkness at the bay..."

What scripture passages in the Bible does Love's Memory remind you of? 
A couple of scriptures come to mind: 

Psalm 42:5 Why are you in despair, O my inner self? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, for the help of His Presence.

Psalm 130:7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is loving-kindness, and with Him is abundant redemption.

Where can we learn more about you and purchase a copy of Love's Memory?

I am setting up a blog: shannonghopeodonnell.com. My book Love's Memory will be available January 15 at Amazon.com in paperback and kindle.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Clearing the Clutter

If you have ever experienced moving, then you are familiar with clutter. I am always amazed at the things I find when preparing to move. Trinkets that were once important to me are re-discovered after lying dormant for years. It’s impossible to live without accumulation symbols of your time and efforts. Whether it’s a collection of old magazines on the coffee table or an assortments of clothes ranging from 8-28 in your closet, we all live with unneeded baggage in our lives.

Clutter is the natural progression of living and unless it is managed it can lead to disorder. When clutter gets out of control it can lead to confusion and chaos. One definition of clutter is a clotted mass similar to what can be seen in patients with heart disease. In these patients, cholesterol and inflammatory cells cause confusion in the arteries leading to a clotted mass called a plaque. These plaques are unstable and can dislodge to block the arteries downstream leading to a heart attack. Have you ever experienced a spiritual heart attack?

Clutter in your spiritual life works in a similar way as in the blood stream. Bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, shame, guilt, pride, and fear can block the flow of God leading to death in the different areas of your life. Years of dealing with these issues cause a toxic buildup of emotions that can drain you of energy to the point you no longer have freedom to move, breath and live. Spiritual clutter causes confusion in your ability to hear God’s directions and plans for your life. We need to regularly detoxify from the toxic emotions that prevent inner peace.

The first step to freedom is to throw off everything that is hindering your ability to move and flow with God. You must identify those areas of your spirit that have become cluttered with past issues. We all have life events that have left a deeper impression on our psyche than we would care to admit, but as you expose these areas you will open the door to your healing. Studies have shown journaling to be an effective tool for spring-cleaning the soul.  It is an opportunity to let go of those areas that clog your mind and let God be God. As you settle down daily for a time of devotion, write down your thoughts as God reveals to you areas that need cleansing and renewing. Allow Him to perform a penetrating work in your life and reap the benefits of a fresh flow of His presence, peace, and power.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. ~Hebrews 12:1

Putting It Into Practice

1.      Purchase a special journal for your time with God. This can be a yellow legal pad, spiral notebook or a beautiful leather bound journal; the choice is yours. (Unless you are a die-hard computer fanatic avoid journaling electronically. I have found that journaling by keyboard is not as therapeutic as putting pen to paper.)

2.      Each day spend time in prayer about the things revealed to you during your time of solitude and communion.

3.      Allow time after the prayer to meditate on scripture and to be still before God. The time frame should be at least five minutes to allow yourself ample time to clear your mind.

4.      During the silence, practice focusing your thoughts on God and not the worries of the day. Your mind and thoughts should be empty to all except being in the moment with God.

5.      If you have difficulty doing this due to a specific thought/event that is cluttering your mind, you should write it down and write your emotions about that situation. Do not re-live the event, as this only intensifies the problem, but rather focus on what you feel.

6.      After you have transferred the emotions out of your mind onto paper, conclude by releasing them over to God. By faith let go of the desire to control the outcome and trust His heart towards you.

7.      You  may find that you need to spend additional time in silence to ensure that you leave today’s mind clutter behind, so that it does not accumulate to the point of dies-ease and disorder.

Spiritual Connection Points

Cleanse your heart that you may be saved. How long will you harbor your evil thoughts? - Jeremiah 4:14
It is God’s desire to see you saved from destructive thoughts and emotions. Thoughts of jealousy, pride, envy, anger, and bitterness can eat at the roots of your life and rob you of the spiritual nutrients you need to live in God’s abundance. Daily cleansing will allow you an opportunity to release those feelings that attempt to steal your joy and peace.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. – John 10:10
Our Heavenly Father seeks to lavish His best into your life. There is a supply of abundance awaiting an opportunity to pour into every area that affects your wellbeing, but first you must make room to receive it. Clear out those things that clog your flow of His presence and prepare to receive new springs of life.

Today's Prayer

God, thank you for giving me the power to change my destiny. Help me to release whatever I need to let go of, so that I can fully experience the flow of your Living Water in my life.  Help me to receive with joy the gift of the present as I live and move in your presence. Cleanse me of toxic emotions and bathe me in your healing streams of love daily. Prepare me to be a living testimony of your goodness. Amen. 


Bio: Saundra Dalton-Smith is a physician, teacher, wife, and mother who is passionate about helping women overcome the mental barriers that prevent them from living free in Christ. She combines the knowledge and compassion of her medical training with biblical principles to offer those bound by insecurity, anxiety, fear, and doubt her prescription for living free. She is the author of Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves. To learn more about Saundra visit www.setfreetolivefreebook.com

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Healing From the Inside Out



It's not always easy determining God's direction for your life. At times I've thought I heard God's voice directing me one way, only to find myself rejected and cast aside due to a wrong choice or poor timing. OUCH! Rejection does not feel good, but it is part of the process God uses to refine our hearts to be more like Jesus. ~Saundra



So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs. "Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. ~Acts 1: 23-36



The three verses above finish off the first chapter of Acts. This is the chapter where Jesus ascends in to Heaven and the disciples have to decide who will replace Judas, the ex-disciple who chose to betray Jesus for a few coins.


Apparently, the remaining 11 disciples are deciding between two men: Joseph (called Barsabbas) and Matthias. We read in verse 26 that they made their decision and chose Matthias, not Joseph. He was left out. Put out to pasture, if you will. I can only assume this because the next chapter goes on to talk about a completely different subject: Pentecost. There is no “and the disciples comforted and encouraged Joseph to continue to pursue the things of Christ” speech after he wasn’t chosen. As I read that passage, I couldn't help but wonder how Joseph must have felt.
Rejection isn't fun. It doesn't matter if you know to the very core of your being that what you were rejected for isn't God's best for you. It still hurts. It can cause you to doubt who you are, what you're doing and even at times, how you look to others.
I have been in the place where you truly believe God is leading you, guiding you and even prompting you to say a certain thing or move in a certain direction and them BAM! The wall comes up and you are standing there dizzy from the proverbial slam against something you didn't see coming. Oftentimes our tendency is to run from the pain of the rejection. We become incredibly great stonemasons who construct walls of brick around our hearts to protect them from pain of further rejection.
The pain of rejection is intense. But as good as we think our plans are, His are always better, always filled with more peace and will always reap more rewards than we could ever fathom. We just have to surrender our feelings of rejection to Him.
Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world knows all too well how it feels to be rejected (1 Peter 2:4). Rest in His everlasting arms as you allow Him to heal you from the inside out.
Action Steps
Are there areas of your life where you are still holding onto rejection? What is causing you to harbor any feelings of resentment or bitterness about this situation? Speak the truth to yourself that Philippians 1:6 offers you.
(c) From Living the Surrendered life by Cindy Beall

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Edmund and the White Witch - An Analogy for Life

God often speaks to me in analogies and illustrations.  One vivid illustration God used in my life comes from the movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia.  Within the movie one of the children, Edmund, accidentally finds himself in Narnia.  He is alone and looking for his sister, Lucy, when he comes in contact with the White Witch.   What he does not realize is that she is the evil Queen of Narnia.

Jadis, the White Witch invites Edmund into her sleigh to sit with her under her warm blankets as it is cold in Narnia and he accepts.  She asks him what he would like to eat and he asks for Turkish delight, his favorite treat.  As he is thoroughly enjoying it, she tells him that she could see him being Prince of Narnia or maybe even King one day.  However, he needs to come to her castle with his family.  She tempts him by saying that her castle has whole rooms full of Turkish delight. 

By tempting his pride and his stomach, she draws him to her castle.  But, he comes alone and consequently the witch imprisons him.  He ends up chained up and fed dry bread – with no Turkish delight anywhere to be seen.  He realizes that he was lied to by the White Witch and now his siblings are in danger because of him.

Our Own Temptation, Sin and Imprisonment

Just like Edmund, temptation often comes to us packaged by our enemy, Satan, as something good.  The first taste is so sweet and leaves us wanting more.  However, when we act on the temptation and give into sin, we find that we are left empty handed and imprisoned.  Our enemy also lies to us; in fact, the Bible says that Satan is the father of all lies. (John 8:44)

Have you ever been in a similar situation before?  I know I have.  Even as a Christian married woman, I was enticed by the enemy to look at soft porn.  Before long, it turned into much more and I found myself imprisoned by my sexual sin.  It was a cycle of temptation, giving into the sin and then feeling the intense shame.  And although I knew it was wrong and I should stop, I kept on doing it.  It left me empty and hopeless.

There is Hope and Freedom

There was hope for Edmund as he was eventually freed from the grips of the White Witch.  I encourage you to watch the movie to see how it ends.  In the movie, the character, Aslan, is a representation of Jesus.  Just as Edmund was rescued from his “sin”, I was also rescued from mine.  

I tried self-help and behavioral modification techniques and even though they helped temporarily, they never brought lasting freedom in my life.  Only when I truly surrendered to Christ did I find freedom.  It didn’t come immediately and was a process, but I am now free and have been now for a decade. 

Which “White Witch” Are You Facing Today?

You may not be struggling with a sexual addiction like I did.  Maybe your “white witch” is food, shopping, video games, relationships, workaholism, people-pleasing, alcohol, drugs, etc.   Anything can become an idol in our lives, even our family.  Whatever the temptation is for you, I want you to know that there is freedom in Christ.   No matter where you have been, no matter what you have done and no matter what has been done to you; there is forgiveness in Christ and there is hope.   Never give up!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1


Shelley Hitz has been ministering alongside her husband, CJ, since 1998. They currently travel and speak to teens and adults around the country. Shelley's passion is to share God's truth and the freedom in Christ she has found with others. She does this through her books, websites and speaking engagements.  Shelley's openness and vulnerability, as she shares her own story of hope and healing, will inspire and encourage you.

Shelley has been writing and publishing books since 2008 including the book she co-authored with S'ambrosia Curtis, "A Christian Woman's Guide to Breaking Free From Pornography:  It's Not Just a Guy's Problem."  During their book launch on 9/26/12 - 9/27/12, you can download a free Kindle copy and also enter to win over $400 worth of resources.  Find out more at www.ChristianWomenandPorn.com



Sunday, September 9, 2012

God Why am I Like This?

When you are stretched to the breaking point, when you have one nerve left and your darling is standing on it; when you are weary and tired and feel like you can't go on—that’s when you wonder what in the world God was thinking when He made you the way you are. 

What was God thinking?

At times it feels like your sensitivity is causing you difficulties and you may be tempted to hate the way you are. I admit that some of us have difficult or downright painful families. If your job in your family is to be the emotional pressure release (they pick on you and then they feel better), the scapegoat (you are blamed for everything) or the peacemaker, these jobs can create stress. As stress builds it can overload your body and your immune system…and down you go. Or, you might break out in acne or eczema, or hives or “fat!” Yet God places highly sensitive people in hurtful families! It happens all the time and we wonder why, but I can tell you that “it doesn’t have to make you sick.”

The root of the problem is not your sensitivity—that is a good thing! The problem is our lack of knowledge of high sensitivity, what it is, how it works and God’s purposes for it.

Highly sensitive ones are God’s “special forces,” one of His solutions. Sometimes He sends you into battlegrounds, behind the lines to begin moving people toward God so that He can begin restoring them. He knows what He built into you. God’s plan is to have sons and daughters—Jesus was the first and you and I are to use our life experiences like a pole-vaulter uses his pole to boost himself further up and over what could limit him. As individuals we work with Jesus to bring our experiences together to form a spiritual workout that changes us so that we end up looking, living and loving like Jesus. Our families are a “boot camp” of sorts, our spiritual fitness program! We don’t think of painful families and painful life experiences as being God’s grace to us…but we can choose to believe that God is good and He does not withhold any good thing. We can choose to work with God to change the family environment and in the process let Him build into us the nature and character of Jesus—is that not His grace?

The trick when your family is toxic is to do what Jesus sends you to do and not become sick or be taken out in the process! I like the way Arthur Burke put it. He said, “God, I never would have written the script this way, but since You have, I am choosing to believe You see something I don't see, and from Your point of view this is good and right and loving. Therefore I celebrate Your wisdom from my place of limited perspective." It takes a lot of faith to say that when life does not feel good or right or loving.

For a long time Christians lost the knowledge that some of us are highly sensitive and the understanding of why that’s important to know. Also lost were the guides who can show us how to be ourselves without it making us sick or killing us. Today there are some; they are coming back and speaking out. They are saying that we can join Jesus in His job of introducing people to God and themselves. We can be His “special forces” and we can live joy filled lives. Dr. Dalton-Smith’s book about the lies that make you sick, Set Free to Live Free http://www.ittybittyurl.com/eua is one of those voices. You can find more help in how to live a joy filled life as a highly sensitive person in the books The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive which are available from Amazon.com. http://www.ittybittyurl.com/epr I hope these last few posts have given you hope that you can have the grace you need to run the race set before you—without it making you sick!

If you have been helped by this little series of posts and would you let us know? You can find me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Carol-A-Brown/152630201492318 and at my blog http://connectwithcarolbrown.blogspot.com


Blessings,
By Carol Brown, B.A., MA (Guest Blogger)
Educator, administrator, foreign student advisor, mom, pastor’s wife and author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

High Sensitivity in the Family

God designed us to carry our spouse’s excess when overwhelmed. If we do not know where we stop and someone else begins we will have difficulty recognizing when the extra load is excessive. Guest blogger Carol Brown continues her series on high sensitivity.

Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. ~Genesis 2:18

How High Sensitivity Works with Spouses

The family forms the template for all relationships. It is in the family that we learn how to relate, what things mean and what to expect from others and life. The relationships of husband and wife and parent and child are the most formative relationships in life. Therefore it is important to know how burden bearing works in these pivotal relationships.

When two people exchange vows (solemn and strong promises) “before God and these witnesses,” they enter into a covenant with God, not just each other, and agree to live according to the terms of the vows they take. These serious or solemn promises spell out the particulars of the covenant. Vows do not disappear in the wind like a vapor trail if you forget them or choose to disregard them—and God never forgets them. He obligates Himself to be part of the relationship.

The Lord hard-wires the two spirits when you say, “I do.” And you forfeit the on/off switch. Current flows back and forth between husband and wife and you cannot turn it off! Unless the Lord intervenes, when the spiritual or emotional state of one fluctuates, even if hidden, the other feels it. Important to note is that you can absorb a feeling of numbness when your spouse is totally blocked and disconnected from feelings. If one spouse is unfaithful, the other feels it at some level. If one is knowingly sinning, it registers in the other’s spirit.  God designed us to have the gates of our spirits open wide to our partners and to Him. Whenever a spouse withholds, (whether for noble reasons or otherwise) it causes a constriction. Constricted our spirits do not flow at capacity, the Holy Spirit is not available to capacity, and since the spirit gives life, we have less life available! Our immune system can be affected.

What to watch for: 

·         Troubles can bounce back and forth between you like a ping pong ball, gaining intensity with each bounce until one of you breaks off contact and goes to his/her corner.

·         Pain or trouble in your spouse may match your own. In that case it sits on top of your own hurt and grinds. It compounds, intensifies and exaggerates your own hurt and makes you kind of crazy—your emotions go over the top.

·         Whatever you do with your own stress and tension you will do with other people’s trouble. If you carry tension in your shoulders, other’s trouble will settle there as well. If you tend toward ulcers or headaches from your own stress, problems you soak up will help you with that.

Our brain doesn’t seem to have many categories to put all the information that our central nervous system brings it. Whatever draws energy: physical activity, mental, emotional or spiritual activity, the brain reads as “stress,” be it good stress or otherwise. This is why highly sensitive people need recovery time after having fun with a group of people. Processing a spike in sensory information uses up buckets of energy! Our connectedness and the pain and trouble we soak up and carry for our spouses will also draw down our energy resources.

We share emotion, including job stress. We will share energy. If one goes into a workaholic mode, the other may become exhausted—we share the natural consequences. When there is a tragedy in the family, we can carry excess so that our spouse is functional. That is a god-given use of our sensitivity. But, it should never become “normal.” God wants us to bring the excess to the Him, for Him to be responsible for it.

The benefits of burden bearing in marriage are that you are better able to understand and appreciate your spouse’s struggles when you feel them as if they were your own feelings. You can be practical help and protection for each other when you sense what they experience. The biggest benefit is that it makes it easier to develop trust and intimacy with your partner. Developing intimacy is the only way you can ever feel met in the deep places of your being where so many are so desperately lonely.

Another benefit is that when you spend time with the Lord together as a couple, a flow of purity comes from the Lord’s presence that cleanses and refreshes, restores and renews. Prayer together is not an option if you want to maintain a healthy marriage. You must go to the Lord together and regularly pour the clean water of the Holy Spirit into your relationship. This time in prayer not only develops intimacy from the closeness of doing something together, but intimacy with the Lord. And it develops unity with your spouse and the Lord which is the deepest and most profound intimacy you can experience.

How it Works With Kids and Parents

Someone said that children are God’s little spies. They put their pudgy little fingers on every flaw in our character. Highly sensitive children seem to have uncanny, unerring accuracy! But shutting down a child’s expression of sensitivity because it feels like a challenge to your authority will teach him the wrong thing.

How we respond to a child’s sensitivity will teach them either to trust or not to trust themselves, or us, and by inference, God. Then when they risk going beyond the family, with the template of trust established, they will either trust others or not.

The dynamics of emotional baggage between a parent and a child is the same as between husband and wife. The troubles can ping pong and they can sit on other hurt and exaggerate it, driving emotion over the top, make the child tired, tense, and can lead to physical problems.

·         We are to listen to the child and to the Lord and reveal to the child the path the Lord designed for him to walk. It is the parent’s task to educate him and to equip him to live consistent with the design the Lord built into him, to learn to be himself by means of modeling and instruction. If we cannot do some part of the job, it is our responsibility to find someone who can.

·         We are to help him sort through his feelings to help him learn how to know when a feeling is his or someone else’s

·         We are to provide banks and boundaries for the river of emotion he has to deal with

Being highly sensitive yourself can help your parenting because you can sense your child’s need when he doesn’t have words for it. It can also create a problem when you are filled up with someone else’s stuff and you parent from the perspective of the trouble you carry rather than the relationship you regularly have with your child. Your own soaking up others confusions and troubles can interfere and make your parenting somewhat erratic. This is to be guarded against. Honestly ask your child’s forgiveness if you catch yourself in this one. As a parent, we must never make our child responsible for our emotion. You can be God’s gift of grace to your child as you help him/her learn how to drive this high powered, finely tuned engine that is constantly receiving data input from his central nervous system.

Within the protection of a safe, healthy marriage, (not necessarily perfect) a child learns how to trust, and take risks in ways that build self-confidence, strength of character, and self-esteem. These qualities will make it less likely that he will “lose himself” when filled up with someone else’s trouble. You can find much more detail in chapter 7 & 8 of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity, p. 155-234, Destiny Image, available at Amazon.com. http://www.ittybittyurl.com/epy

Whether relating to a mate or a child, gaining the “know how” to have a healthy response to emotional information that you take in through your various senses will benefit the relationships and reduce negative emotional and physical effects.

If you have a question about the “know how,” most likely someone else has the same question, so ask away or comment in the box below! God gives good gifts and I love to share what He has given me!

Blessings
By Carol Brown, B.A., MA (Guest Blogger)
Educator, administrator, foreign student advisor, mom, pastor’s wife and author of The Mysteryof Spiritual Sensitivity and HighlySensitive

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Grace - From Spice to Eternity

Today we have a special treat! I had the pleasure of reviewing Yvonne Pat Wright's book From Spice to Eternity and was impressed at how she creatively merged her love for scripture with her culinary knowledge and talents! Each devotional is based on a spice and at the end has a recipe (or craft idea) using the featured spice. Below is an exclusive excerpt from her book on the topic of grace and the spice rue.
**TODAY ONLY: Yvonne has a special offer for those who purchase From Spice to Eternity on 8/21/12 including many free gifts and drawing for a new Kindle! Click here to visit her website.

Chapter 35: That Thing Called Grace


Rue: Shakespeare called rue “the herb of grace on  Sundays”. Sprigs of rue were used in the Catholic Church to sprinkle holy water. The herb is said to have medicinal qualities and has been associated with loss, regret and bitter lessons. Once a popular garden herb, it has lost its popularity in favour of other plants, which are more useful in cooking.  Although there are recipes that use rue, caution is advised in using it, as it is very strong and can easily ruin the dish. Pregnant women should not consume it. Cats and dogs do not like the smell of rue, so they will stay away from gardens where it is grown.
*** 
The excitement had reached fever pitch. I found it hard to get my two daughters to concentrate on everyday things, like going to school and doing their extra curricular activities. They had been present when my friend, Chester, asked me if I would be willing to be house mother for the Jackson Five who would be visiting Jamaica for a concert tour. Of course I said yes, and my daughters immediately elevated me to ‘Saint’ status.

This privilege allowed my girls to meet with the famous children in the quiet of their hotel, away from the crowds and the media. They played and chatted with them, took photographs and became friends.  As friends, they were invited to be a part of the group going on a trip to a beautiful white sand beach in Negril on the western coast of Jamaica.

For the Jacksons, who had private tutors, this was fine. If my girls were to go, it would mean missing at least one day of school – perhaps two. My services were not needed for the trip and in any case I could not take two days off work. The reality was that I had conjured up scenes of wild, unbecoming behavior by the youngsters, and did not wish my girls to be part of it – especially in my absence.  I made a fateful decision. I told Helen and Heather that they could not accompany the Jackson Five on their beach trip.

As can be expected, I quickly lost my sainthood and was deemed to have committed an unpardonable sin. Heather was sure she had lost her chance of becoming Mrs Michael Jackson, and Helen shared the same sentiment concerning Marlon Jackson.  I am so grateful for grace. To my daughters, I was totally undeserving. There is no way they could forgive me for what they thought at the time was equivalent to ruining their lives.

Even so, grace stepped in through little voices that  said,  “We still love you Mommy and forgive you, even though you don’t deserve it.”  I have often wondered what difference the alternative decision would have made to all our lives. Though I suspect it would not have been much really. But in the light of the events that have happened over the years, I have had rueful moments and wished I could go back to that ‘once in a lifetime’ event in 1975 and said yes instead of no!

In my relationship with Jesus, I’ve also regretted some decisions that I’ve made that caused me pain, and caused Jesus to suffer a cruel death. But I am so thankful for grace – His grace that forgave me even as I was making poor decisions.

‘But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Romans 5:20b, KJV.  

Nothing that I have done or could ever do, can earn the undeserved and unmerited favour that Jesus so abundantly dispenses.


Dried Rue and Herbs Floral Wreath 

Ingredients
4 bunches of dried rue
1 bundle dried baby eucalyptus twigs
1 bundle of cinnamon leaves on sticks
½ lb bay leaf twigs (with leaves on)
2 strings of garlic (approx. 6 to a string)
12 dried red chilli peppers
6 rose hips
6 stems of bear grass
1 large bunch of dried rosemary herb
1 small bundle of natural raffia
Approx 12 pieces of a medium gauge florist wire

Method 
Bend eucalyptus and bay leaf twigs gently so as not to break the twigs, to make a circle about 25 inches in circumference. Then add the bunches of rue stems around the other two twigs. Tie and secure this round with the natural raffia. Separate the bundle of cinnamon sticks into about 3 pieces of 3 bundles, tied around with raffia, making a bow on each. Using the bear grass, string the rose hips at the ends of each bundle. To affix the peppers, either wire them in or use a hot glue gun.

~Excerpt From Spice to Eternity by Yvonne Pat Wright