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When I pray, I always ask God to speak to me through His Word. When I open the Bible, I assume that God has me open it to whatever I am supposed to read that day. I have always done this, and I usually read something that really speaks to me that day. This is just the way I do it, and it works for me.
Today as I prayed, I felt like God was asking me to be silent. To just sit in His presence and listen to His still small voice. I have read some books recently which taught me this concept, and today, I felt like I just needed to listen to Him. Well, something came to my mind almost immediately. This had been in the back of my mind for a long time, but today, I felt as if God wanted me to delve in and understand this event in my life on a deeper level.
In 2011, just months before I found out that my husband had been having an affair, I began to have dreams that I was divorced. If you have read any of my past blogs, you will know that I had occasions of premonitions through dreams. My dad had this happen to him too – he dreamed that his brother was killed in a car accident, and a week later, it actually happened.
The first time I dreamed I was divorced, I just blew it off. I woke up thinking how ridiculous the dream was as I had no intention of ever getting divorced. When the second dream happened, I was a little bothered and wondered why in the world I would dream about something so crazy. When it happened a third time, I woke up confused and worried. I told my husband about the dream, and I asked him point-blank if he was going to divorce me. Although he denied that he would ever divorce me, his response was anything but convincing.
If that isn’t strange enough, around that same time, another amazing thing happened (although I didn’t understand it at the time). On at least three occasions while falling asleep, I audibly heard a voice say “Maria!” I opened my eyes, sure someone was calling my name, but no one was there. My husband was asleep next to me, and he didn’t move at all so I thought I had dreamed it. When it happened again, I thought that maybe it was an angel or even God trying to say something to me. Each time, I heard “Maria!”, clear as day, and when I opened my eyes, no one was there. My husband never moved, so clearly, he never heard it.
As I thought about these events this morning, I wondered if this was some kind of warning about what was going to happen to me later in 2011 when I found out about the affair. Was that God’s voice speaking to me?
I opened my Bible to Isaiah 41:
“Listen to me in silence…” Isaiah 41:1
This was interesting enough. But it went on:
“Do not fear for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced….For I, the Lord your God hold your right hand. It is I who say to you, “Do not fear. I will help you.” Isaiah 41: 10-13
When I look back on these events, I now know that God was right there. I believe He was telling me that He was watching everything, and he knew every detail of the affair even when I had no idea what was happening. I believe this was His way of telling me that He never left my side during that time, and that even though I was going to be divorced, He would bring me through it. Even though I was about to go through hell and be yanked out of the life I knew, He would ensure that I would get through it and would end up in a much better place.
Always know that God sees EVERYTHING. He sees everything that is done in secret. He knows every insult, every lie, every betrayal….everything. Nothing can be hidden from God. On the other hand, He feels every single pain of betrayal. He sees every teardrop, feels every hurt, and goes through all the suffering with us. Remember – God was betrayed by Judas. He knows full well the pain of betrayal of someone who He believed loved Him.
He will always be with you, even when you think He isn’t there. God never leaves our side…EVER! As it is written in Isaiah 41:13, “Do not fear. I will help you.”
These last few months have been difficult for all of us worldwide with all the horrible terrorist activities. I certainly has been difficult for me to remain positive during these times as I’m sure it has been for many. I have to admit that I have felt frustration, sadness, and depression recently even though I didn’t know anyone who was hurt in the bombings in both Paris and San Bernardino. I can’t even imagine what the families of the victims are going through right now. As always, I pray for all those involved in these terrible tragedies.
In my sadness, I tend to remember the negative things in my own life, and I wonder if there are any good people left in the world. Of course there are, as I have some amazing and loyal lifelong friends and family out there. But I still think about those who have betrayed me deeply, especially about the affair that my ex-husband had while we were still married. I wonder how people can be so mean and can live with themselves after what they have done.
Well, something became quite clear to me after reading the gospel of John this week. Even though I’ve read these passages hundreds of times, a new message came to me. It is absolutely amazing how I can read the Bible over and over again and can learn something new every time I read it. Several passages jumped out at me, so let me start with the first one about the death of Lazarus.
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.” John 11:33-35
Jesus wept! It hit me at the second that I read that line. Jesus doesn’t just look at the events taking place here on earth from afar…He actually weeps with us! He FEELS our pain! He was human here on earth, and he KNOWS what it is like to grieve. He is not only aware that we are sad, but he FEELS the pain Himself!
The next passage from the Last Supper just cemented this message:
[Jesus said] “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’ I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He…I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” John 13:18,21
Jesus himself was betrayed! I always knew this, of course, but I realized that Jesus himself FELT the pain of betrayal. All the emotional and mental pain that I had suffered during the affair of my ex-husband…Jesus not only supported me and pulled me through this dark valley, but he also FELT the pain. He understood completely what it felt like to be betrayed!
Although there are many evil things in this world, God has told us to not be troubled as the war is already won. Evil will not prevail. Know that Jesus not only supports us and watches out over us, but He truly KNOWS our pain because he came to this earth and FELT if for Himself. He TRULY knows our hearts and souls!
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” John 14:1
Well, I have had one interesting week, to say the least. But during the course of this week, I was reminded, gently, to put my complete trust in God. I think that from time to time, even the most devout Christians will forget that God is in control. It is human nature to forget that God is in charge as we try to control the events in our lives. This is especially true when faced with difficulties.
Earlier this week, I was made aware of some financial issues within a non-profit organization. Without getting into too much detail, I was disturbed to find out the details from a very dear friend, and I felt it was my responsibility to report the possible money mismanagement. At first, I really didn’t want to get involved, but as I thought more about it, I knew it was the right thing to do. So, four of us wrote a letter detailing our concerns.
While we were dealing with this issue, my mom came to visit. We had such a wonderful time together, as we always do, but I felt guilty leaving her alone for periods of time while I continued to deal with this issue. My mom is very understanding, and she told me that it didn’t bother her one bit that I had to go to my office and work for a while. However, I still felt torn. I wanted to just have fun with her and not worry about the problem for a while, but I also wanted to do the right thing and help those out who had been mistreated in the organization.
On Tuesday, I sat down to pray as I always do. I was very stressed and exhausted. As I closed my eyes, I just sat there quietly for a few minutes before I began to say my prayers. An image of Jesus came to my mind, and he was standing on water. He asked me to come toward him as He stretched out his arm. I was in a boat, and I began to walk on water toward him, just as the disciple Peter did. He told me very clearly to trust in Him and to get rid of my doubt. I began to pray. I told him all of my concerns and about all the stress that I was under regarding this problem with the 501(c)3. He repeatedly told me to trust Him. After praying, I opened my Bible and continued to read where I had left off. I was stunned when I read the following verse:
“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6
I knew at that moment that Jesus was right there with me. I continued to read.
“But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but DOING it – he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:25
I knew that I was doing the right thing. I was standing up for those who had been mistreated. I went away feeling much better that morning.
As the week went on, the 501(c)3 began to fall apart because the issues were being openly discussed. This bothered me somewhat since this organization had done some amazing things in the past. It was sad to see things fall apart because of bad management, and I began to believe that the organization would not be able to be saved.
This morning, I attended church with a friend of mine. The topic, unbelievably, was about trust in God! Several statements really affected me and almost brought me to tears.
One point was to tune out bad advice that others want to give to us during difficult times. The pastor brought up the story of Jairus and how Jesus ignored comments made when Jairus’ daughter died. Jesus told Jairus to trust Him, and the little girl was healed.
“While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher anymore?’ Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.'” Mark 5:35-36
“After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him and went into where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around…” Mark 5:40-41
When I heard this, I realized that nothing is impossible with God. Could this organization be saved? Will a better organization come out of all this mess? Maybe so. With God’s help, anything can happen.
The pastor then talked a little bit on interruptions. He conveyed a detailed story about how an interruption can actually be all part of God’s plan. I immediately thought about the past week as it was full of interruptions during my mom’s visit. I realized that these interruptions had a purpose, and it was well worth my time to address them.
The final point that the pastor made was to realize that challenges are a part of the process.
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” Hebrews 10:32-36
No matter how difficult life may become, put your complete trust in God. Things may not always make sense at the time, but always remember that God is in control. Stay the course, and be strong in the Lord. God will never betray your trust, and He will never let you down!
This past Christmas may have just been the most special of my life, and it all centers around one single yellow rose.
The past five years for me have been tough. I’ve endured three back surgeries, a coiled brain aneurysm, a divorce, and the loss of my father to cancer. During this time, I turned to God for help, and my strong faith in Jesus Christ sustained me. I have received many signs from God during this time, but none were quite as special as a single yellow rose that I received early in December.
My mom was visiting me, and we decided to go to a book signing that my friend, Belinda, was holding at a flower gallery near my home. The store was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and it was crammed with people feverishly looking for Christmas gifts and decorations. After visiting with Belinda, we made our way to the front of the store to leave. As we walked out, two men stood there with armfuls of roses. They were giving roses to each customer as he/she left. I was handed a yellow rose, and my mom was given a purple one. It was such a pleasant surprise and really made our day.
When we arrived home, I cut the stems of the two roses and put them into a vase. Both roses clearly had been freshly picked as they hadn’t opened yet. The next morning, both roses had completely opened up, and both were beautiful, but the yellow one was incredible. It was loaded with petals, more than I had ever seen on a rose. We remarked on the beauty of the yellow rose but didn’t think much more about it.
Later that week, my mom returned home. The purple rose started to wither at around day 5, and I tossed it at about day 7. However, the yellow rose stayed alive and beautiful for weeks! It didn’t begin to wither at all until about 3 weeks had passed. I was amazed at the beauty and health of this single yellow rose.
I wondered if this yellow rose was some kind of sign. I had never seen anything like it, so I looked up information about yellow roses. They are associated with the sun and convey feelings of warmth, happiness, springtime, platonic love, and devotion. First discovered in the 18th century, they can symbolize renewal…a time of starting fresh. I wondered if this was my sign that things would begin to improve for me. When the rose started to wilt, I took 4 of its petals and placed them inside my Bible to keep to remember this special flower.
On December 30, a friend of mine posted the above photo on facebook. I was stunned when I saw it was a yellow rose! I knew that God had sent that rose to me as a sign that He was right there with me. I knew that this was going to be the subject of my next blog. As I thought about writing the blog, I kept thinking about the song, “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.” I hadn’t sung this song in years, and I kept wondering why that song was stuck in my head. I kept thinking I should look up the words, but I never did. Then, on January 1, my mom and I attended a Catholic mass. The song after communion was “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming”! I closely listened to the words, and the message became clear to me.
God’s gift to me this Christmas was a single yellow rose that signifies renewal, starting fresh, and comfort. He is walking right beside me. He has dispelled darkness and shares the load that I carry. He will care for me always and will supply my every need. Praise be to Lord Jesus Christ, my savior and king!
“O Flower whose fragrance tender, with sweetness fills the air, dispel with glorious splendor, the darkness everywhere. True man, yet very God, from sin and death now save us and share our every load.” Verse 3, “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming”
“When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long, and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong, just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow lies the seed that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” Bette Midler, “The Rose”
Image at Creative Commons, http://www.commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3Aspondylolysis_back_pain_.jpg
Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries, And daub their natural faces unaware.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, Aurora Leigh
Well, I haven’t posted here for a while because I have been in the ER once again for my back problems. In 2009, I found out that I had a broken back, and since then I have gone through three spinal fusions, the first of two of which failed. I had been doing quite well recently, so I decided to sign up for six personal training sessions at my local gym. Turns out that this was a mistake. About a week and a half ago, my trainer decided that I needed to do some dead lifts…..something that I found out later I should never do. I could barely walk the next day because of the pain, and then I had significant leg weakness that eventually landed me in the hospital. I have been on pain meds, a muscle relaxant, and prednisone to bring down inflammation. Luckily, I seem to be improving, so hopefully I won’t be facing any additional surgery. Obviously, I will not be returning to personal training at my gym!
I thought this would be a good time to share my story of how my broken back actually saved my life. I am writing my sixth book now, and this is part of the story, so you will be getting a little insight before I publish it. My first back surgery in 2009 failed and resulted in two broken screws in my back…..terrible I know, but it wasn’t as painful as you might think. I had my second spinal fusion in 2010, but to my extreme disappointment, this fusion also failed. I did extensive research and decided to change doctors to someone who was a noted expert in complex spinal problems. Before my third surgery, a slew of tests were run on me to determine the situation and identify any problems with me that could have contributed to the previous failed surgeries. One of the tests was a CT myelogram. However, before having this test, a head CT has to be done to rule out a rare problem at the base of the brain that could lead to seizures due to the injection of dye into the spinal column during the myelogram. So, in the summer of 2011, I went in for a routine head CT.
I wasn’t concerned at all about the head CT. I don’t have headaches except for the occasional sinus or tension headache. I was sure they would not find a thing wrong with me that would prevent me from having a CT myelogram. The test itself took about 10 minutes, and there was nothing to it. I left the hospital and began my errands for the day. But, about twenty minutes after leaving the hospital, my cell phone rang, and it was my doctor’s office. The nurse told me that they had found a brain aneurysm on the head CT and I needed to be seen immediately. She told me that my back issues would have to be put on hold because this aneurysm took priority as it could be deadly!
I was in complete shock. I had absolutely no symptoms, and I never would have known this aneurysm existed had it not been for all the problems with my back. The aneurysm has since been coiled. I have had several follow up angiograms, and the coiled aneurysm is now stable.
This just goes to show that God really does work in mysterious ways. Many times we complain about all the problems that we have in this life. Yes, I could have focused on the negative and complained about my broken back, asking God “why did this happen to me?” But instead, I look at it as a blessing. Not only can I help others who might be going through similar back issues, but all this suffering from my back actually ended up saving my life. Without my back problems, I would have never been aware of the aneurysm, and I might not have ever made it to see this day. So, the next time something happens to you that “looks” like a bad thing…..for example, being late because of a traffic accident on the road…..it could actually be God looking out for you and saving your life. Just think – if you had been just a few minutes earlier on that road, it may have been you in that accident!
Footprints In The Sand
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it.
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
Author: Mary Stevenson Zangare
The first few months of 2012 were probably the worst in my life. First of all, I was facing my third back surgery. My first two spinal fusions had failed and resulted in several broken screws. My third surgery was going to be performed by a different surgeon – one that came highly recommended for complex spinal cases. I was trying to remain optimistic, but just thinking about it created tremendous stress for me.
Secondly, I was still recovering from a coil and stent procedure for a brain aneurysm that was found just by chance during the treatment for my back condition. When the aneurysm was found, my back problems had to be put on hold as the aneurysm took priority. After that surgery, I was put on Plavix (blood thinner) for three months, and I was unable to have surgery of any kind until I was off that medication.
Finally, I found out about a month before my back surgery that my husband wanted a divorce. Also, I had been struggling with some of the behavior of my husband’s family. We clearly had differing moral values, and I struggled with this tremendously. I tried to make a difference, but everything I said fell on deaf ears. Divorce was never an option for me as I made an oath before God, but I was finally set free when my husband decided to become involved with another woman.
As you can imagine, I was a complete mess. However, my faith in God remained, and I prayed more during these few months than I had ever prayed in my life.
One night as I was crying myself to sleep, I had a dream that Jesus picked me up and was carrying me. When I woke up, I remembered that beautiful poem, “Footprints”, and I knew deep in my heart that He was carrying me through this deep valley in my life. I hung on to my faith for dear life and constantly asked God for His strength to get me through this terrible time. I knew I couldn’t do it by myself.
Several weeks before my third surgery, I went to a Catholic church near my house and asked to receive the sacrament of “Anointing of the Sick”. The priest talked to me a bit, and then stood up next to me, anointed my head with oil and prayed for my healing, both emotional and physical. I felt a sense of peace come over me, and I knew that God had heard the prayer.
That night, I opened my Bible and read this verse in Psalms:
For surely your enemies, O Lord, surely your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered. You have exalted my strength like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes. Psalm 92:9-11
A few weeks later, I was having a particularly bad day. I prayed fervently to God and asked him to speak specifically to me through His word. I opened the Bible and read this passage from Mark:
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34
The doctors were very optimistic that the third back surgery would result in fusion……and it did! Eight months after the spinal fusion, an x-ray of my back confirmed that the fusion did in fact take place, and my back was now stable! A few weeks after learning that the fusion had taken place, I opened my Bible and read the following passage…..a well-known one from Psalms, but it now has a special meaning to me after having that dream and being anointed with oil.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
The very next day, I opened the Bible again to this verse, also in Psalms:
I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. Psalm 30:1-3
Clearly, God was directly involved in my healing, both emotionally and physically. He removed the damaging people from my life and brought new and wonderful people to me that have helped tremendously in my healing process. This truly was a miraculous healing! Put all your faith and trust in Him and He will always bring you through the deepest valleys of your life!