Feb 21, 2012

Tuesday SHINE....

Today's Reading:  Romans 6

Happy Tuesday, SHINE girls! This is my favorite SHINE day of the week. I absolutely love being able to share your fellow SHINE sister's stories on here.

I have the complete honor of being able to see them first and to cry and be inspired before I post their stories on the blog. It's truly the greatest gift.

It is kind of like a little secret I have that I cannot wait to share with all of you!

Without further adieu...Leslie Jones will be introducing this week's Spotlight SHINE girl.

 Be blessed, friends.

Leslie's Introduction of today's Spotlight Shine Girl:

My heart has been overwhelmed at the way God has been working through Shine Girls! I am so incredibly thankful for Jill and her obedience to the Lord. As I read the comments these precious ladies post I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:4, "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."

I have the awesome privilege of introducing the next Shine Girl Spotlight, my friend and mother, Sandy Clark. Wow...how can I sum up all I have to say about this amazing lady in a few sentences? Before I was born she started writing me love notes and they've never stopped. She has loved me in a way that I can't describe...through the times I've made her proud and the times I know I disgraced her. Her love for me has been unconditional. What a gift! She has faced many hard times in her life but has always trusted in God. She has lived out an unwavering faith before me and help form me into the woman I am today. As I prepared to introduce her my heart was pounding. It saddens me that her story will be something so many of you will be able to relate to; however, I am claiming the scripture above, trusting that God will use my "Mama" to comfort you. 

Sandy Clark's Story:

I’ve been reading shine girls for only 3 or 4 weeks, but it has blessed me so much!  Thank you, Jill, for your faithfulness to Father.  Taking on this 7-day-a-week responsibility is huge for someone as busy as you, and I’m grateful!  Also LOVE it that you’re married to a LEM!  So am I!  There aren’t many Lems around!  My Lem is the 2nd best thing that’s ever happened to me  …  2nd only to Jesus!  He has been faithfully beside me, my greatest cheerleader, for 38 years.  He has stood firm through a lot of storms, holding on to me (and I to him) for dear life – literally.

I accepted Christ as an 8 year old child.  Because of my Mother’s influence and determination to raise her children in church,  I knew I needed Him to save me, to keep me from hell and take me to heaven when I died.  But I didn’t know a thing about allowing Him to also be Lord of my here-and-now life.  Unfortunately, it was to take me many years to learn that.

I believe I experienced rejection before I was born.  I was my Mother’s 6th pregnancy, and my Father was a raging alcoholic.  Research has shown that unborn infants can feel emotions from their Mother and other external sources.  No wonder I felt rejection.  I mean, would you have wanted to be pregnant for the sixth time under her circumstances?  I’m thankful legal abortion wasn’t an option for her then as it would be now.

As it always does, feeling rejected led to anger which led to depression.  Depression is evident in my eyes in baby and little girl pictures.  It has always been my companion, a way of life.  Extreme sadness has always hung over my head like a big, black storm cloud.  I was labeled “quiet” and I was.  I was quiet because I knew that if I opened up and tried to be myself, what came out would not be pretty.  I wanted to be pretty.  Sometimes, though, I couldn’t stop the storm from erupting.  I hated those times because it wasn’t pretty and it hurt other people.  People were hurt  when I allowed the storm to erupt and they left me.

Living with this confusion inside, I lost my identity completely.   I tried to be all things to all people and became a huge people-pleaser because that was pretty, and people liked me when I was pretty.  Quiet and pretty.  Out of the way.  Make other people feel good.  No storms.  Under control.  Focus on control.  Always.

Trying to keep everything under control will wear you out fast!  People pleasing, doing what’s “right”, never expressing true emotions but stuffing them deep into my soul, the depression began to take over.  One more thing to fight back and keep under control.   That takes a lot of focus! 
I became an expert at controlling.  (Insert a big smile here.)    I just THOUGHT I was in control!  Appearing from the outside to be perfect (as long as I kept the storms at bay), I was a mess internally, and the more I did to try to fix things that were out of control, the more I seemed to lose control.  More work on my focus.  More anger.  More depression.

God was always working in my heart, wanting me to relinquish that control to Him, but I didn’t even know I should.  I didn’t understand making Him Lord of every minute of every day, focusing on Him instead of me and my circumstances.  I was, even then, in love with Him, grateful for my salvation, giving and serving Him in every way I could.  But no matter what I did, it was never enough to make me feel that I was good enough.  That made me reject myself, which made me angry, and the storm inside raged on, and I became more and more depressed.  I couldn’t hold it all together and eventually crashed and burned.  Unable to function and care for my family, to get out of bed, to stop crying, I finally got the medical attention I needed.  That was 32 years ago.  Antidepressant medication saved my life.

Not wanting to live on meds the rest of my life, I began to seek answers to the cause for the depression.  It has been a long and arduous journey, and one that continues today.

God has used an obscure little passage from Numbers 21 to teach me about my focus and control issues.  The Israelites were wandering in the desert, as usual, complaining to Moses about how bad they had it, wishing things could be like they were in Egypt. 

 Beginning in verse 4 (Amp.) “…. And the people became impatient (depressed, much discouraged), because (of the trials) of the way.  5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and we loathe this light (contemptible, unsubstantial) manna.  6 Then the Lord sent fiery (burning) serpents among the people; and they bit the people and many Israelites died.  7 And the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you;  pray to the Lord, that He may take away the serpents from us.  So Moses prayed for the people.   8 And the Lord said to Moses, Make a fiery serpent (of bronze) and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.  9 And Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole, and if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked to the serpent of bronze (attentively, expectantly, with a steady and absorbing gaze), he lived.”

The Lord has taught me to relate to this story in this way:  the desert represents my life.  Sometimes it is very difficult, and I don’t always have control over what happens.  My sin is the serpents, and there are many around my ankles, biting me, making  me sick and depressed, trying to kill me.  When I focus on them and try to control them, I do get sick and I want to die because I can’t control them at all; my life is miserable, and I fall into the pit of depression.  The pole represents the cross of Christ, and the bronze serpent Moses put on the pole represents my sin nailed to the cross.  As I put my focus on what Jesus did for me on the cross, rather than on the circumstances nipping at my ankles, calling me to self-centeredness and sin, my mind is renewed by the Truth, and I am transformed (Rom. 12:2).  

Father spoke clearly to me that control is just an illusion.  Like a magician’s trick, it isn’t real.  The only way my life is ever in “control” is when I relinquish my control to the One who knows the end from the beginning and how to guide me through this desert.  Some days I do this about a hundred times!  “Here I go again, Father, trying to run the show!  I look to You, I give You control over this “serpent” that is trying to pull me down and kill me!  Thank You for your love and patience with me!”

Getting my focus off of the serpents and on Christ helps me to see all the beautiful desert flowers along the way.  I not only have a Savior and Lord guiding my footsteps, I have my loving Lem who truly loves me as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25).  I have wonderful children who love me and would do anything for me, and I have some awesome friends and church family.  All of these are desert flowers, blooming beautifully and making my life so sweet.

To write about all the details of the things I have learned along the way would require writing an epistle, not just a testimony.  I’ve read hundreds of books, attended dozens of classes, conferences, seminars, been to many Christian counselors, and continued to serve my Lord.  And yes, He is my Lord now, not just my Savior.  All of these have helped me tremendously, but  I’m still in the desert.  Life is still often difficult for me.  I have tried innumerable times to stop taking antidepressants, with a measure of success on several occasions.  I continue to thank Father that I live in a time when I have access to a medication that can help me when I can’t focus.  I am also thankful for what I have learned through the years.  If I hadn’t had a problem with depression, I probably would never have sought Him as I have, and I wouldn’t know the sweet joy of His total acceptance of me.  I have a little sign that says, “Jesus knows me. This I love.”  There is a wonderful Bill Gaither song that says, “…The One who knows me best loves me most.”   A song I love to sing says, “He knew me, yet He loved me!..... When He Was On the Cross, I Was On His Mind!”

Are you a controller?  Give it all to Jesus, daily, through prayer.  Keep your FOCUS on the fact that when He was on the cross, He knew what a mess you would make in your desert, but He loved you and took ALL your sin and  sickness (including depression) in His own body, so that you wouldn’t have to suffer with it. 

Someone should rewrite and give a Christian slant to another of my favorite songs:  “I feel PRETTY, oh, so, pretty!......”    I feel pretty because my Heavenly Father thinks I’m pretty.   I am righteous because of Jesus, fully pleasing to Father because of Jesus’ sacrifice that paid my way, making me “good enough” to be called His child.  Oh, how I love Him!  All praise to Him!

Maybe He will let me rewrite that song!

Focusing on the cross,
Sandy with her love, Lem
Sandy and her whole crew, celebrating the recent marriage of her son 
Sandy and Lem with their great grand-daughter, Dakota

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