Monday, June 30, 2014

June Hope Chest Recap- The Meaning of Sunflower Seeds For Hope by Kim McClure

Today, is the 100th post on this blog.  To commemorate that event, I just wanted to write a few words to thank those of you who have supported this ministry over the past year.  Last Spring, I reached out to over 25 women via email asking them if they would be interested in joining me in an endeavor of collaboration in creating a blog with the intent of encouraging women in their everyday lives.  I expected for 10 or so to agree to join in, but I was pleasantly surprised that 20 of them did.  A few have decided to opt out, and I have added a few in since then, but please know that the women that collaborate to bring you the posts and stories on this blog truly have a heart for the Lord and want others to know that they are not alone in whatever problem they are facing.  We are not afraid to admit our shortcomings, and want to share our experiences, so that lessons can be learned, lives can be touched, and connections can be made.

I have a "friend" that made a comment on Facebook about my choice of naming the blog Sunflower Seeds, and went on to joke that you just chew them and then spit them back out.  Well, if anything written in the words that you read on the Sunflower Seeds leaves you something to chew on, then we have met our goals.  We want women to grow tall in their faith like sunflowers, turning their eyes to the Son full of happiness, unwavering faith, powerful optimism and cheerful expectancy.

In the past year, I have been amazed at some of the ways I have seen God work through connections made through this blog.  Women mentoring other women from states away through problems they are facing, because someone read their story on this site.  Our Facebook group has grown to 378 members, and that is the place where most women access the site.  Despite the fact that I do not or never have paid for advertising to make it more visible to more people, or bought "likes", we have encouraged that many women, and I give all that glory to God.

It can be discouraging when a great post goes up, and the viewership is low, but we continue to pray over this ministry, and have faith that God will put the words in front of who needs to see them at just the right time in their lives.  So, we will keep pressing on, and I hope you will continue to support us and pray for us.

During the month of June, many women agreed to share their stories in our June Hope Chest.  In case you missed one of their amazing testimonies, I am adding each link below for easy access.  If their story touches you, please feel free to reach out to them.  If you don't know how, email us at and I will forward your message to them.

We plan to be back for a daily series in October on faith.  Until then, we will have weekly posts from the team.

Thanks for your support and let's keep encouraging and hoping together!


Linda Greenwood honors her friend Marcie Bock for always spreading hope to others.

Stephanie Fulmer shares her story of finding joy in motherhood.

Kim McClure and the Sunflower Seeds team share what hope is looking like as Kim's youngest is getting ready to go to college.

Michele Linville shares her story of God pulling her out of the darkness of an illness, going through a divorce and being afraid to remarry, being a single mom and finding happiness.

Whitney Gesner shares her story of God getting her through partially losing her sight, but never losing sight of Him.

Valicia Leary shares her story of being a mother to two beautiful daughters, one of which is in a wheelchair and how her hopes have changed and faith has grown.

Summer Sink shares her story of being afraid to have another baby after complications with the first pregnancy and delivery, but seeing that hope can conquer fear.

Jennifer Searls shares her story of finding truth in Jeremiah 29:11, and looking back on her life and seeing that God had a hand in what was happening in her life all along.

Marshaye Lynn shares her story of God providing for her family in dark times, and never letting them down.

Annie Murray shares her story of God getting her family through a job loss and a move to a new area, and building her faith.

The Sunflower Seeds team writes about holding on to God while you're in the dark tunnel and can't quite see the light at the end of it yet.

Stacy Sheppard shares her story of having an abortion and the emotional after effects of it, and the joy of knowing that God heals.  She feels called to help other women who might be considering an abortion and wants to share her truth.

Tammy Holtzapfel writes about her years of working with teenagers in youth ministry and how sometimes just coming alongside with a struggling young person with encouragement can really change their perspective.

Renee Mullins shares her journey of faith and shows us that hope means healing, opportunity, peace and empowerment to her.

The Sunflower Seeds team writes about hope and how it can spread light into even the darkest heart.

Annabelle Suddreth shares her life story of believing that she was an "accident".  We all have that tape recorder inside our heads telling us something negative about ourselves. God can erase that if we allow Him to.

Carolyn Berger shares her story of holding onto God after the suicide of her grandson.  If you've lost someone tragically, this story is very encouraging.

Terri Millwood shares her family's journey of learning that keeping up with suburban America wasn't making them happy, but they are finding happiness in simplicity and God.

Susan Haynes shares her journey of defeating ovarian cancer, and how God got her and her family through it.

Jennifer Bias shares her story of loss, betrayal, and forgiveness within her family as a young woman, and her battles with doubt, to see God work in her life and prove Himself to her.

Mitsy McKee is in the midst of battling melanoma, and here she shares how God amazes her with His love and the support she is receiving.

Chaminie Wheeler was born in Sri Lanka and raised in a Buddhist family.  She wants people to see the freedom in a relationship with Christ, where you don't have to be perfect because of His love and sacrifice.

The Sunflower Seeds team encourages you to expect the answers to the prayers you are praying.  Look for them just like you would when you anticipate a visitor.

Dana Best shares her story of praying for her husband's salvation for years, and after relinquishing control to God's will, seeing it happen.. Beautiful and encouraging.

Kelli Karlich shares the discovery that when you don't have hope in your life, you aren't happy.  God doesn't go anywhere, we choose to let go of Him.  Go back and hang on, and be happy.

Stephanie Hodges shares her life perspective that there are glimmers of hope everyday no matter what you are going through, and she has been through some tough stuff.

Katie Gray shares her story of finally figuring out that her hope had been in the wrong places and things in life, and seeing her life come together the way she prayed for, after making some changes in her walk of faith.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June Hope Chest- Hope Brings Determination From Desperation by Katie Gray

The most impressionable church I went to when I was younger completely skewed the way I saw God. I was continually confused about what it meant to be a Christian and what God's role was in my life. 

I went to church, I prayed, I cried a lot. I was a good kid, nice to others. Why didn't it feel right? Why did I feel like the least of them when I walked through the church doors? Why didn't I feel accepted by the kids who had formed their cliques in children's church? Why wasn't life getting any better? 

Isn't that the big question? God, I'm doing what I'm supposed to; why aren't things getting better? I remember being so confused and just wanting someone to explain to me how to be a Christian. 

My hope was in the wrong place.

As a young adult I spent most of my mental and emotional being on relationships. Family, friends, significant others. When things were going well in these relationships life was good, but if there were any hiccups, I was swarmed by desperation and heartache. I was consumed with negative thoughts about myself and would blame myself for any disagreements with people.  

Social gatherings were my sanctuary where I could laugh and enjoy conversations with people. My insecurities were so deep and I remember fighting to keep them out of my head. I depended on relationships with people to keep me going; keep me busy; keep me from facing my insecurities. Nothing could break the mold. 

My hope was in the wrong place.

After ending a few different relationships and being rejected from a job that I thought I had in the bag, my desperation turned into determination. There was a drive that aroused in me that I had never experienced before.  I had finally landed my first teaching position, moved out of my parents house and into a roommate situation with a teaching buddy, and I began a new workout routine. It was as if a fire had been lit under me and I could not be stopped. 

When I look back at this point in my life, I realize that the fire I felt was the Holy Spirit. After putting my hope in people, situations, and luck, I finally realized that everything I had been doing was just empty. I refocused my being where my roots were planted. I turned to The Lord in my desperation and He gave me determination. 

He gave me hope. 

I will never forget the rejection of that first teaching position that I had been reassured I would be chosen for. I, had, for far too long, put my hope in people alone. 

Once I began to spend my time with different people I noticed my life begin to change as well. There are certainly wonderful, loving, helpful, and sacrificial people out there, however they cannot give us salvation.

 I believe with my whole heart that God wants us to connect with one another. I believe that loving each other is the closest thing we have on earth to God's love. People are the most fascinating thing that God ever created and we were created "in His image" Genesis 1:27.  My role as a Christian is to bring God glory. I am His disciple and I am to spread His word. Therefore, as we hope for better days or hope for the best, we must stay focused on what truly gives us hope. God sent His son to save our lives from sin and this fallen world. 

If we stay focused on Him, surround ourselves with good people, and treat others as Jesus did, our hope will never fail.

 I believe that we all go through mountains and valleys. I also believe that these mountains and valleys we endure are for a greater good. I firmly believe that we must praise Him regardless of our circumstances (Although this could be one of the hardest things in life!). I also believe that He will not give us something to deal with in our life that we truly cannot handle. One of the principles from my Bible study this year was "God will enable us to do what He commands." If He wants something to work towards His good, He will provide us with the tools to fulfill it.

With my story, I'd like for others to learn this lesson:  Be careful how you portray your faith. In Matthew 10:40 Jesus explains to His disciples, "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."

From my experience, if you have hope in anything other than God then you don't have hope. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" John 14:6 and with this, we have hope.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June Hope Chest- There Are Glimmers of Hope Every Day by Stephanie Hodges

 Have you ever been so excited about something that somehow all sense of reason and reality completely leave your mind? 

You know the feeling I’m referring to…the “Oh my goodness! This is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened in my ENTIRE LIFE!” kind of feeling. It’s like when you find out you got accepted into THE college you never thought would ever take you but you submitted that application thinking, “Just maybe I’ll get a chance.” Then when that nice, fat envelope arrives in the mail…BAM…”The Feeling” arrives. You share the news with everyone you’ve ever known in your entire life, including the four people you just met waiting in line at McDonalds, and you tell them how wonderful and perfect everything is with the world. 

Then, slowly, your mind brings reality back into focus. 

Your heartbeat begins to race. Your palms get sweaty. You get a very frightened look on your face because…you just remembered everything else that comes with your great news.The extra hours you’re going to have to spend studying to keep up your grades. The part-time job you’re going to have to get to help cover the added cost of your dream school. The unbelievable added stress just came crashing down like a Mack truck on your shoulders and you feel a little queasy.

I just had one of those moments. 
A dear friend asked me to share some thoughts and feelings about hope. And then…BAM…”The Feeling.” WOOOHOOO!! No problem!! I’m your gal!! I got this!! You have my back (because, let’s just be honest…Shakespeare, I ain’t)!! I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. 

And then, like it always does, my mind focused on everything else that came along with my news. Talk about burnin’ biscuits. How in the world was I going to talk about hope? 

Of all things. Hope. Right now? With everything ELSE going on in my world…I’m supposed to share positive thoughts and inspirations of HOPE? Wait a second, is this a joke?

 The queasy feelings started and I had to take a seat.

But then I thought a little more. Then I prayed a lot. Maybe it wasn’t so much a joke as it was a test. Maybe this was one of those subtle whispers from God. Maybe I was supposed to share my thoughts on hope to remind myself as much to inspire others. 

Maybe, just maybe, God was using my friend to remind me that we all have times when our faith falters. Our hope dwindles. Our confidence takes a vacation. So, I pressed forward.

At first, I thought about all of the trials I’ve had to overcome in my life. Then I reminded myself, “Stephanie, this is a blog. You aren’t writing a book.” 

I finally settled down and started to try to focus on one or two times in my own life when my hope had dwindled. Every draft looked more and more like the ramblings of a crazy lunatic. What was I going to do? How was I ever going to finish this in time? And then it occurred to me. I was feeling hopeless. Right now. This very moment. And I had to laugh out loud. I’d been so consumed with picking the right situation to discuss that I’d completely lost sight of the one thing that happens more often than not…our days, every one of them, are filled with situations that can cause us to lose hope. But only if we let it. 

I’m 42 years old, and I’ve battled with cancer for almost three decades. I’ve been through an awful divorce after a very long 15 years. I’ve dealt with the devastation of the death of a child. I’ve had plenty of dark times in my life. I’ve definitely had times when I questioned God and I’ve even lost my faith. 

As I said before, I was concerned about sharing my thoughts on hope. Especially right now. As I sit in this bed recovering from yet ANOTHER surgery and staring another one in the face, I had my doubts. 

But then I saw it in the distance…my glimmer of hope. My reminder of faith. 

The morning after my surgery, I knew what was coming. I had to get out of bed and walk. The first time is always the toughest. I was only a few steps out of my room when I noticed the unique room numbers. Normally, when you’re in the hospital, everything is cold and sterile. Nothing feels like home. There isn’t anything warm or welcoming. 

Not this time. 

This time, instead of the plain, simple room numbers on the wall there were small inscriptions on each one. The first one I saw read “Ask and it will be given to you.” I recognized it immediately. It was the first bible verse I ever memorized as a child.  “ Matthew 7:7- Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

There was no doubt in my mind that God was with me. He was walking with me every step of the way. Just like He is every day. He is my strength. I sometimes have difficulty remembering that in order to be strong, I have to give everything to Him. It’s one of the hardest things I have to do and I sometimes forget. I’m sometimes willful. I’m not proud of it and it’s something I try every day to improve upon. That sign in the hospital hallway was my gentle reminder from God. It was my glimmer of hope. 

I firmly believe there are times like this in each of our lives every day. Little things, sometimes even insignificant things, can make each of us lose hope. But if you make an effort to look for them, there are reminders of hope all around each of us. 
  • A warm summer rain. 
  • The laughter of a child. 
  • A flower growing in the crack of the cement. 
  • A gentle breeze across your face. 

God is everywhere. In my heart I know if God is with me, there is always hope.

Even now as I fight to recover, the wonderful things in my life completely outweigh the bad. I’m married to a wonderful Christian man who adores me. We have three beautiful girls; the oldest is happily married and the mother of our three unbelievable grandchildren, our middle daughter has chosen to serve our country in the US Air Force and our youngest is about to start her senior year of high school. I am blessed to have an extended family that is simply outstanding. I have the most amazing friends, both near and far. I have so much love in my life. I wouldn’t trade any of it, good or bad. It has made me the person I am. 

So bring on the craziness. I got this!! I’m your gal!! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

June Hope Chest- Where There Is No Joy, Hope Is Lacking by Kelli Karlich

My husband, Jeff, and I have been married 18 years and have two children, Evan, age 10, and Sarah, age 6.  The three of them are an absolute blessing to me.  We love the Lord and each other very much.  Jeff was saved by Christ as a child but has grown tremendously in his walk with God over the past five years and now is a man of faith and inspiration to our family.  

He is also essential to my message of hope.  Several months ago he went through a period of depression.  During that time, I told him he seemed to have lost his joy.  This was a difficult thing to say to him.  Although frustrated, he knew this to be true and turned to scripture for help.  

God’s word showed him where there is no joy, hope is lacking.  
Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  
As a follower of Christ, he knows he eternally has the hope of Christ.  
Ephesians 2:12-13 Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ…without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Since it is impossible for him to ever lose his hope, it became clear he had chosen to stop holding onto and living through the very hope he cannot lose.  He learned he had simply lost his perspective…focusing on himself rather than God.    

Struggling to write this message, I find myself in this same state of hopelessness…overwhelmed with the busyness of life.  While this struggle is one many of us face, I know I can rely on God’s word to get me through this low period just as my husband did previously.  Thankfully, God is shifting my perspective to Him rather than me.  He is giving me a desire to study His word, and have a daily personal time with Him.  I know being more diligent reading God’s word will help me more effectively deal with all other areas of my life.  

When reading in the bible about hope, I’ve noticed it is often accompanied with suffering.  If we choose not to diligently seek the Lord, we can easily become focused on our circumstances (both good and bad!) rather than God. This perspective takes us away from God and not surprisingly takes our hope and joy as well.  I am thankful Jeff and I are learning a closer walk with God gives us hope and joy that this world cannot take away.  
1 Peter 3:15 Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.  

Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope

Thursday, June 26, 2014

June Hope Chest- Got Hope? by Dana Best

How much of our lives are spent “hoping” for something?   We cling to hope because without it, we fear change will never happen.  I spent 14 years “hoping” my husband would come to know the Lord.  Here is our story.
I grew up in a Christian home, but really didn’t know the Lord.  We went to church and prayed before holiday meals, but I didn’t really understand the concept of having a relationship with Christ.  I started going to church every Sunday with a friend of mine when I was in High School and slowly started to understand what that meant.  
After my first year of college, I met my husband.  Since I would come home from school and attend church on Sunday, he would go with me.  I wasn’t mature enough in my faith to ask some of the really tough questions I should have asked when we decided to get married.  I just assumed because he was sitting next to me in that pew, he was on the same page.  After our first year of marriage, he made it clear that he did not believe in God.  I don’t think he intentionally was deceiving me at that time in our lives.  I just never asked and the more time he spent in church, the less he wanted to be there.  Not strong enough to go alone, I gradually left the church too. 
Then one day, God spoke.  
I love how God works.  He spoke to me through a burning restaurant.  (Hey, if he can speak to Moses through a burning bush, then speaking to me through a burning restaurant isn’t that crazy.)  We had just lost our restaurant to a fire.  The same restaurant I prayed daily that God would just take away because I physically, mentally, and financially couldn’t handle the stress.  
And He did.  Gone.  Not a trace.  I got myself back to church.  
The first few weeks I braved it alone.  I sat in the back. Just kept to myself.  It just felt good to worship.  Really worship….Sing loudly, hands raised.  My soul was longing for this.  I had had such an amazing reminder of how much my God loved me.  
After a few weeks,my husband joined me.  He would attend for a while, then stop.  Each week I sat hoping something in the message would touch him.  Nothing did.  In fact, the more he went, the more adamant he was that there was no God.
After many years of the off and on attendance, such resentment built in my heart.  I would sit there alone and see a couple holding hands and singing.  Or a husband putting his arm around his wife during the service and it would feel like a dagger in my heart.  I kept telling myself that it is fine.  I just need to fill this empty part of my heart with God.  All I need is Him, right?
  Easier said than done.    
After so many years, where hope should have been, envy took over.  I longed to share Christ’s love with my husband, pray together, serve together like all the other couples at church.  I prayed for his salvation and had him on more prayer lists than I could count.  I remember hitting my knees and asking God, “What more can I do?”
It was in that pitiful moment when hope had completely left me that I got clarity.  
I needed to stop hoping for his salvation.  Crazy, I know.  I needed to get out of the way and put my hope in the Lord who knows what is best for me.  He knows what I need.  Stop hoping for things I want to happen and get out of the way for God to do his work.  So I did.  I decided that my husband’s salvation was up to the Holy Spirit, not me.  I was accountable for myself and my children. 

So I joined a life group, went on a mission trip, and just soaked in as much Jesus as I could. I decided to be Jesus’ love to my husband no matter what.  Even if that meant he were to never know the Lord.  I surrendered to God’s will for my husband.  
To my surprise, my husband started coming to our Life Group (of course with the pretense that he “didn’t want to be anyone’s project or for people to try and save him.”  I said, “of course not, just come and make some friends.”).   That year God hand-picked some really amazing men to pour into him.  They answered every question.  Never judged him.  He slowly came back to church and eventually signed up for a Men’s Retreat. It was on that retreat weekend my husband came to Christ.  I truly was shocked.  He even decided to get baptized the following month!

When we stop hoping for the things we think we want and place our hope in Jesus, he knows exactly what we need and when we need it.  His timing is perfect.
So I ask you…Got hope?  If so, is it in the things you think you want or in Jesus who knows what you need?

Verses that helped me:
Psalm 147:11  “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their HOPE in his unfailing love"
1 Peter 3:1-2  “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Don't Just Hope- Ask, Get Excited, and Expect

When we are expecting something, it can be an exciting time.  It could be a promotion at work, a big birthday celebration or anniversary.  Maybe you’re expecting your tax refund in the mail and making big plans for it.  You might even be in the midst of expecting a baby to come into your life.  No matter what you are expecting, you know that something is coming, and you are looking for it.

When I invite people over to my home, I am prepared and expectant.  I am looking for them, and eagerly wait.  Sometimes, those folks are late, and then what happens?  My patience begins to wane, frustration and anxiety might begin to set in, and I might even begin to doubt if they’re coming at all.

Don’t we do that when we come to God with our requests?  When the answer isn't coming when we expected, we become anxious and impatient and begin to say, “Well, I guess He didn’t hear me or want to answer me.”.  Sometimes, His answers take months and even years, and sometimes the answers aren’t always what we asked for.

  • ·         When taking your requests before the Lord in prayer, do you expect Him to answer?
  • ·         Are you willing to wait and eagerly watch for His answer?
  • ·         Do you believe that He knows all things and that His timing is best?

Take heart.  God does hear us.  He loves us and the ones we are praying for even more than we do.  We have to yield to God’s will for our lives and those for whom we pray.

  • The waiting?  It’s HARD! 
  • The watching?  It can be frustrating!
  • The answer?  It will be perfect.

Waiting on God’s answer is best because He sees the whole picture.  You can compare it to a Monet.  He sees the entire thing, even the water lilies and trees.  I see only a portion, close up, pretty much only random strokes that don’t make a lot of sense.

We encourage you to go before God, ask Him for what you want or need, and expect an answer.  Keep your eyes open looking around for any sign of progress that is being made, but still keeping in mind that His answer might not look like what you’re expecting.

Hope.  Ask. Get Excited. Expect.

Passages to Ponder:
Psalm 5:3- Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.  Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

Galatians 6:9- So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Micah 7:7- As for me, I look to the Lord for help.  I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Maria Kucharczuk and Kim McClure

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June Hope Chest- Hope Tells Me That I Don't Have To Be Perfect by Chaminie Wheeler

Close your eyes – imagine sitting on a mango tree in a tropical island.  This was my favorite place to spend time.  I loved to read and wonder on this tree…
I would wonder many questions:
Who created the sky?  
Has it always been there? 
 Why were there so many world religions?  
Is Buddha real?  
Why was there so much suffering?  
Is there a real God?
I grew up in a Buddhist family in Sri Lanka.  In 1983- the Civil War was starting there (I was 11yrs old). I was the oldest child and my parents wanted me to be well educated.  They knew that the universities were going to close in Sri Lanka.  So, I came to the US to live with my aunt and uncle and their 5 children.  I was to get a head start in English and my family would join me in 1 year.
I hated the US.  Among those things that I hated were the food, the weather, the disrespectful children, and the noise.  I could not speak the language, and I cried a lot wanting nothing more than to be with my family in Sri Lanka.  I missed my brothers, especially Prasad because I always stood up for him.  I was worried about him and prayed that he was ok.  My brother, Samulitha, was only 4 years old at the time and I took care of him.  I missed them so much.  I missed rice and curry and just being with my parents.  
I felt that all hope was lost and I felt very much alone in this strange country.  I had a Buddha shrine in my room that I would pray to during my sorrow and ask Buddha to help me if he was real.  
The only ones who seem to understand me were the nuns that taught me at school.  They were sooooo kind.  They always told me that God loved me and that He was always with me even though that my family was in Sri Lanka.  They told me that I could always ask God to keep my family safe.  They told me that God had a perfect plan for me and that plan included me being separated from my family for this time.  I didn’t understand them, but I wanted to understand them so desperately.  I always wondered why these nuns were always so kind to me? 
After less than a year in the US, I went to a sleepover Christian summer camp at Triple R Ranch.  I could understand English pretty well by then and I heard the gospel for the 1st time.  I liked being away from my aunt and I felt safe among the counselors.  They were kind like the nuns and spoke of the love of God.  They told me how God loved ME so much that He gave HIS one and only SON to become the sacrifice for my sin.  
I understood sin well because in Buddhism, I was always taught how important it was to be a good person.  That any bad thoughts I had or anything that I did wrong, that I would have to pay for it either in this life or in another life.  I believed that the suffering that I was under being separated from my loving family was because of my past sin in another life.  
I had been taught that to reach Nirvana, to end the cycle of rebirth, that I had to become sinless.  According to Buddhism, the only way to reach this state of perfection is to give up all desires for nice things like your family, clothing, good food, ect…  It is impossible to reach Nirvana as long as one has desires because your desires lead you to sin and hold on to this world.  As long as you have desires, you will never be able to break the cycle of rebirth.  You must live in such a way all of your life and do good deeds so that when you take your last breath, you will have a good thought because that good thought will determine what kind of an animal that you will be reborn again as.  If you live and do bad things, your last thought when you take your final breath is going to be bad and you could be reborn as an ant, as an human with a handicap or into poverty and so on.  
Thus, according to Buddhism, you must meditate and do good deeds all of your life.  
Eastern religions look very peaceful on the outside with tranquility with nature and mediation to live a better life, but the burden that is carried by each individual is HEAVY.  There is no hope because we are not capable of living perfectly every minute of every day.  Even killing termites from your home is sin because you purposefully killed many termite souls according to Buddhism and you will pay for that sin during some part of your individual cycle of rebirth.  You can of course do enough good deeds to try to offset that sin.
So, imagine my surprise that God would sacrifice HIS only SON to pay for my sin.  The most amazing part of this Christianity was that there were not many gods but ONE TRUE GOD that loved me so much that HE even died for me.  I was amazed!!!  I could see the hope that my counselors had and the peace that radiated through their life.  
Around a campfire that summer, I gave my life to Jesus.  I accepted what HE did for me at the cross and Jesus became my Savior and my Lord.  
I no longer had to be perfect.  It was not something that I had done wrong in a past life that I was separated from my parents or it was NOT my fault that things in my life was so messed up.  I knew that God would help me overcome all my challenges that were before me.
This has been the promise of God that I have clung to my whole life.  God has never given me more than I can bear and have always provided for me.  I have been reunited with my family (all are still Buddhist) after 11 years of separation. 
 God has given me an amazing husband and 3 beautiful children.
  God used a brain abscess in my husband for me to meet him and nurtured a friendship that drew both of us closer to Him.  
God used a feeding tube in my oldest son, to spare his life.  
God provided emergency surgery to save our 2nd son’s bowels from an incarcerated hernia.  
God provided breath to our youngest son, as he was premature and later hospitalized with respiratory distress. 
 God has literally saved the physical lives of our 3 children.  I am about to face my 9th surgery and am at total peace because God is good ALL the time.  I have hope because He is the author of Hope.  Yahweh is the beginning and the end.  Yahweh Yirah is God our provider and Yahweh Rohpe is God our Healer!  There are countless names to describe our Amazing God.  What a privilege to be lifted in a cloud of prayer to God Almighty who is able to do ALL things by the family of God!  What better place can I be now than in the mighty hands of God?  
Psalm 103 has been ingrained in my heart to show me what a victorious life I have in Christ alone no matter the obstacles.  I have hope because of grace alone… because of what Christ did for me on the Cross. 
 I don’t have carry the impossible burden of living a perfect life to end the cycle of rebirth and to reach Nirvana.  My debt for ALL my sins has been fully paid by the blood of Christ.  I am a warrior princess that has been adopted into the family of God because He loves me!  Hosanna … Jesus saves! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

June Hope Chest- Hope Helps You Treasure Little Moments by Mitsy McKee

My name is Mitsy McKee. I am 43 years old. Married to the love of my life. We have 2 amazing children.  A 12 year old daughter and a 6 year old son. 

On May 23rd, 2013, I went to my sons preschool graduation, had lunch, then went to the get results from a minor biopsy. My world came crashing down around me.  Cancer. 

You can't understand what that feels like until you hear the words yourself. At first, I struggled daily with fear. I couldn't even look at my children without a pain in my soul that is indescribable. I felt like I was cast down into a deep dark tunnel with no way out. This past year, I have had multiple surgeries that left me with over 2 feet of scars. I’ve had 2 different drugs, with their side effects, fail, 10 rounds of radiation, and now with over 100, yes 100 tumors in my body, I've started chemo. An option that typically does not work that well on melanoma. 

One year later, I'm still fighting and the cancer is getting worse. I wonder sometimes how long do I have to stay strong, will I ever have a day or a moment that is pain free? Either emotional or physical. The questions in my mind about my family are constant. I can’t write about the worry I have for my children, it’s far too difficult.  Melanoma is not just skin cancer. It is a nasty, aggressive cancer that has very little treatment options in late stages. 

Go to the dermatologist, don't wait! Who knew? 

With all that being said, fighting cancer has given me beautiful moments that would not have happened before. First of all, I started relying on God and praying harder than ever before. I've always been a Christian but I would say I was "lukewarm". Went to church, believed, that's it. 

My walk with God this year is something I would not give up or change for anything. I have been so low with pain and despair and Jesus will bring me up and give me peace. I am learning not how to pray but how to listen and let God work in my life. I only have strength that God has provided to me. 'When left on my own, I am a depressed mess full of fear again. 

This year has opened my eyes to my community and friends around the world. I am a very private person and would normally never share such a personal trial. Opening up to people and sharing, has been a wonderful experience I never expected. Never in my lifetime would I have thought someone would pray for me, much less 100s of people. The words of encouragement, support, is all so wonderfully humbling. 

My husband and I are astonished every day at the love so many people have and give freely. I would not have had that had I kept things to myself. It also helps me to keep going. Through God and the support of others, I have been able to teach my first graders and finish out the school year with them. A small goal, but I made it!

I find that I enjoy time, get less annoyed with things. I treasure little moments. Do I still get afraid, absolutely! I'm still in this tunnel. Wanting out. But, the difference between now and a year ago is now I have hope. 

I hope for 11 more years so I can see my children graduate. 

I hope that a treatment will work. I hope that God will provide a miracle. I hope….

As for this dark tunnel, I know my family is walking through it with me holding my hand. My friends and community are at the ends shouting and praying words of encouragement and most of all, God is carrying me through it with promises of a better tomorrow. I don't know what the next year will hold for me. I pray a miracle and healing. But, I do know that I will continue to fight and pray and love as much as I can. I will continue to hope. If you read this, tell someone how much you love them and Praise God for all you have! 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June Hope Chest- Finding Hope In The Midst Of Loss by Jennifer Bias

Sometimes, life doesn’t turn out the way you had it planned, but I’ve learned that it’s okay because my life isn’t really up to me, it’s up to the Master Planner, the Creator of the Universe, the Kingdaddy of all, my God. 
The reality is I’m pretty happy that God takes that burden off me because His plans for my life are infinitely more wonderful than anything I could have ever come up with on my own. 
When I was a kid, there was a time when I really thought I had it all. Even though I was the “middle” child with two brothers, my family life was pretty cool. My Mom taught at the elementary school that I attended and she was the kind of Mom that kids would want to have, so I was always happy to make known that the cool teacher just happened to be my Mom. 
My dad was the high school principal.  In our small town, there was only one high school, and that made my Dad a big deal. It seemed that most of the people in that town knew who we were. Had I been a teenager, that fact could have been problematic in a myriad of ways, but as a kid, it was kind of special…until it wasn’t.
My dad had an extramarital affair with one of his employees. As with most small towns, it really wasn’t long before the whole town knew about it and most knew it before my Mom did. This very private “thing” was now a very public thing and it was really hard. 
The best thing that my mom and dad have done in my life is to introduce me to my best friend, God. I have always attended church and my journey of faith has been a lifelong one. I remember praying as many kids whose parents separate do, “Please God, let my parents get back together. You can do this!” Well, God did not have that in His Master Plan and times were tough but He worked in my mom’s life and mine. He equipped us to carry on without my dad as a major player in our lives.
We moved from that small town in West Virginia to another small town in West Virginia where a phone call to heaven is a local call. One of the best parts about growing up in Lewisburg was that I got the chance to be spoiled regularly by my grandmother, and she was THE best, really, I got THAT one, the best one. She epitomized my definition of a Christian woman and she helped my broken family pick up the pieces by giving us wise counsel based on her Christian ideals. I am a better person today because of her influence. And, it wasn’t too long before life started getting really good again. 
We began to find glimmers of hope for normalcy when, for the longest time, there was none. My brothers and I visited my Dad when we were “allowed” to, because my Dad ended up marrying the other woman, and she liked keeping my Dad to herself. But I still loved my father and enjoyed what time we were able to spend with Him.
During my senior year of high school, he was diagnosed with cancer. It rocked my world and I prayed regularly that God would restore his health. He underwent a few operations and some nasty chemotherapy but he died on May 20th after my sophomore year of college, one month before he would have turned 50. I was a mess because I still needed my dad. Who would give me away at my wedding? My future kids would need a grandfather to go on fishing trips with and to be honest; I hadn’t said everything I wanted to say to him.
 I didn’t have long to gather myself after my Dad’s death before I had to begin my summer employment at an all-girls camp. Camp kept me busy and that was probably best because I didn’t have time to think about my recent loss, but as my Dad’s 50th birthday neared, I began feeling a little sorry for myself and for the first time in my life, I was angry with God. 
  • Hadn’t I prayed for years that my parents’ marriage be restored? 
  • Hadn’t I prayed for years that my Dad’s health would improve? 
  • I thought God answered our prayers. Didn’t it say in the Bible, “Ask and you shall receive?”
I was beyond consolable because I just didn’t understand why God had chosen to be silent with his response to my prayers. 
Now I know you are really not supposed to challenge God but I think He knew I needed my own form of a burning bush to save me. On the evening of my Dad’s 50th birthday, God removed the clouds from the sky and placed a billion stars to dazzle this quiet night in the mountains of West Virginia. Simply put, it was a beautiful summer evening and God was really showing off. But I was angry and needed to prove to myself that God didn’t answer my prayers, so I laid down my gauntlet. I ranted, “I prayed that my parents would get back together, they didn’t. I prayed that my Dad’s cancer would be healed, it didn’t. And you took my Dad from me. Are you even there? Do you even listen to my prayers? God, if you are, in fact, there and you are, in fact, listening, then why don’t you make it rain?”
There were no plans for precipitation and the summer evening was just so beautiful that I just knew God wouldn’t possibly spoil it with rain. Not two minutes later, God anointed my face with a gentle sprinkle from heaven that would last but a few minutes but was enough to restore my faith and hope for a brighter tomorrow. The knowledge that the God of the universe loved me enough to make it rain when clearly it wasn’t in the forecast gives me assurance that He can do anything He wants and that my trust in Him would not be misplaced. 
The healing process had begun and once again, hope for a brighter tomorrow was restored.
I finished my summer at camp and headed back for my junior year of college. I was dealing with my grief but I wasn’t the same person I was. I was hardened a bit and had put up some walls in my relationships in an effort to protect my brokenness. I remember praying to God, “I’m not doing so well here, and I need your help. My friends are doing their part but I am holding them at arm’s length. Help me by sending me someone to help me through this, someone who will penetrate this invisible wall that I have put up?” Once again, God answered my request in only the way He could. God orchestrated a meeting between me and this mustached, country boy wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots who on occasion would call my sorority sisters Darlin’. God indeed works in mysterious ways because Rodney Bias was certainly not my usual type of guy. I like to believe that my Dad was up there in heaven with God and they said, “That One!” because Rodney grew up just a stone’s throw from where my Dad grew up.
Two years later, I married that country boy. In the nearly 22 years we have been married, we have raised three children who have turned out pretty well, moved 9 times, endured the heartache of the sudden death of my little brother and deaths of my three grandparents that I loved so deeply, in addition to suffering ridiculous financial losses tied into a declining real estate market. 
Admittedly, there have been times in my life when I was hopeless and my faith a little shaky, a little “Peteresque.” The disciple Peter has always been one of my favorites in the Bible perhaps because Peter was known to put his foot in his mouth a few times. He initially refused to have his feet washed by Jesus, but then asked to have his hands and his head washed. He was the swordsman who cut the ear off of Jesus’ arrester. Peter professed his love for Jesus yet denied Him three times when it mattered. 
In my life, I have taken my eyes off of Jesus, and I have stumbled and lost my way. Thankfully, Jesus remains by my side. Life is always moving forward, our past wounds are still with us but I think Jesus wants us to step out of the boat a lot more than we are willing. I really like the song by Hillsong United entitled Oceans, lyrics include “I will call upon Your name, and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am yours and you are mine.” When you can, please listen to this song in the context of Peter’s faith and walking on our own waters.
I have seen God’s work in my life countless times and I am humbled by the fact that Jesus died for me. Christ’s resurrection is a beacon of hope.  At times, sometimes I don’t feel worthy but that’s when I recognize that His grace is extravagant. I think many times, people take for granted the Easter season. I love what Eugene Peterson says: “If you celebrate Christ’s resurrection only one day of the year, you’re missing something BIG. Because after the resurrection of Jesus, nothing is the same. Christ’s friends were utterly transformed by the resurrection. Their friendship, their work, and even the meals together took on a New Meaning and Purpose.” 

I live a blessed life. I have a loving family, live in a house that is bigger than I need with a pool out back, drive a car that is nicer than I deserve, and have a pantry that amply sustains even my hungry teenagers but the second I think that I have those things because of something that I or my husband have done, I hope God delivers us a gut-check because I know that everything that we have is because of Him and I am so abundantly grateful.
Recently, my son made a pretty big change in his life that he had spent time thinking about, but most importantly, praying about. When I asked him if he was at peace with that decision, he shared this little nugget of hope. “Sometimes you have to stop worrying and doubting and trust that things might not work how you planned but how God meant it to be.” And to that I say, Amen. There are plenty of doubters and worriers in this world, but what we all need is faith in God and the hope that brings to all who believe.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June Hope Chest- Hope Sings The Tune Without the Words by Susan Haynes

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tunes without the words, and never stops at all."
                                                                                                                                                                 Emily Dickinson

In June of 2010, my family and I had the most wonderful beach vacation!  My husband, our two daughters and I went to Holden Beach at the southeastern tip of North Carolina. Sun, sand, shells, the sea and just a relaxing time together made the week one of the best vacations we have ever taken.

Three days after returning home, our world started to change.  An annual gynecology appointment for me led to a day of getting tests and scans. The next day we were in the physicians office, then sent to an oncologist.  

On July 23rd, 2010 came the words that, somehow, in my heart I already knew.  "You have ovarian cancer."  

The tumors were large. Very large.  l found my self talking about it with my husband first.  Then all I could think about is the possibility that I may not see my daughters grow up, go through school, get married and all the things a parent looks forward to.  

I had to try to put the negative thoughts in the back of my mind because I knew I served a God who had the answers to meet our needs individually and as a family.  But that was difficult to do. 

The good news: the doctor got all he could see. 

The bad news:  there were cancer cells on the outside of the tumors as well, and they had microscopically filtered into my abdominal cavity.  

The surgery was massive.  The wound was the same.  A portion of the wound could not be sutured, so for the next year I would spend up to 4 times a day doing my own wound care.  During this time, the chemotherapy started for what would be an 18 week treatment process.  Needless to say, instead of a peaceful beach vacation, as a family we were all in a whirlwind of change.  But none of us gave up hope. 

When a person gives up hope,what else does he or she have? 

 Our daughters were 4 and 10 at the time.  Our 4 year old often gave much wisdom through the eyes of a child. I was told after my first treatment that I would start losing my hair fairly quickly.  It started getting pretty bad and our 10 year old would inform me,"Mom!  There is hair in the shower!" "Mom!  There's hair in my eggs!"  I had to laugh, and soon found out that humor really was a healing way of dealing with things.  

The day came when I finally decided it was time for a trip to the hairdresser. With my husband standing near me, the clippers started their gentle touch on my head, and in just a few minutes I went from having patchy hair to no hair.  My hairdresser put my wig on me and styled it up.  I must say, it looked very close to my regular hair, but it was itchy and somewhat uncomfortable.  

When I got home, I waited a little while, then took off the wig and showed our daughters.  It was somewhat of a shock at first. but then my 4 year old climbed up in my lap and said,"Even though you don't have hair, you're still my Mommy."  

The tears came and at that moment I realized it was going to be ok.  Whatever the future held, we would go through this as a family, because that's what families do. And hope?  We would hold onto hope, knowing God would take care of us.

After 18 weeks, chemo was finally over.  I continued to dress the wound and had to make weekly trips to the oncologist for it to be checked. Things were on the upswing. 

Scans and blood work continue to come back with good results, and though there are still some complications that have been ongoing from the chemotherapy, I am looking ahead...and looking up!  

My God, My Healer, My Hope is what brought me through.  My cancer continues to remain in remission and after next year I can be officially "cancer free", though I am cancer free right now in my book!

I am thankful for what God has brought our family through.  Not just in my story, but other examples in our entire family.  We want our girls to know and believe that there is a Savior who cares about our every need.  

If you are reading this, and you have a need for God to do a work in your life, DON'T GIVE UP HOPE!  He loves you and wants the very best as you serve Him. 

 He is holding out HOPE for you.  I hope you will accept that Hope He has to give you today.  God Bless you abundantly!!