Friday, August 26, 2011

Notes from The Heart of Remarriage by Gary & Greg Smalley

Hearts need safety to open, and hearts that have experienced loss, betrayal and pain feel anything but safe. We humans all bring wounded - or worse, closed - hearts full of emotional baggage into our relationships, and that causes trouble. The baggage can be especially heavy for those who have had a marriage end through death or through divorce.

....hearts, even wounded and broken ones, were created to be loved. We long for acceptance, companionship and connection, because God designed us that way. But when battered hearts come together, they can remain partially closed, tentative about loving fully, afraid to expose themselves to the possibility of that intense pain again.

No matter what overall condition your heart is in, divorce or death has changed your life. It has changed you. It rocked your world and uprooted your security. To have a successful remarriage, you have to heal your heart.

Benefits that remarried couples can experience:

1. Second marriages can be more fulfilling than first ones because individuals have the ability to learn from their past mistakes, are older, more experienced and better prepared. They don't want to fail again, so they try harder; and they are not as idealistic and unrealistic about what to expect.

2. Partners in remarriage often appreciate each other more, because they know what it has been like to be betrayed or bereft. They know how hard it is to go it alone after being married and are grateful for the new, committed relationship they've created.

3. Remarriage provides the couple with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual intimacy and outlet. If the first marriage was riddled with conflict, then a healthy remarriage can help build new bridges of trust.

We feel emotionally safe with someone only when we believe that he or she will handle our heart - our deepest feelings and desires - with genuine interest, curiosity and care.

Partners can probably count on one hand the relationships they've had where they felt genuinely safe to open up and share who they really are. Most of us have very few people to whom we have entrusted our deepest dreams and thoughts. God designed us to hunger for intimacy and deep connection, to connect with others and experience relational intimacy, especially in the key human relationship with a spouse. Yet many of us struggle with various aspects of intimacy because it requires openness - and openness makes us instantly vulnerable. We know from experience that when we lay ourselves open, we can get hurt. Over time, especially if trust has been broken frequently, hearts close and disconnect from others. We're not quite sure what people will say or do, or how they'll use what they learn about us. But it's a false sense of security or emotional safety, because we were created to connect.

In spite of the risks, an intimate relationship offers enormous benefits. Intimacy creates the ideal opportunity to love deeply and be loved. It gives us a significant sense of belonging, a clear sense of purpose in life, the ability to make a major difference in another's life and a way to fully express the best of who we are.

When a husband and wife love each other, they literally give their hearts to each other for safekeeping. This is such a delicate, trusting act that any violation or injury of this trust can cause the most painful of reactions. Imagine taking the very essence of your being - your heart - and placing it in the hands of your spouse. Your heart becomes your mate's to care for, safeguard, cherish and love. This necessitates a willingness to be vulnerable and take a bold, risky step. If your partner reciprocates, you both have chosen to risk being hurt, rejected and abandoned. Placing your heart in the hands of another is a giant step of faith. Afterward, you can only wait to see what your spouse will do with your heart. Your desire, of course, is that your spouse will be a safe haven for your heart. And that is your spouse's longing as well.

When you give your spouse access to your heart, there's no guarantee how your mate will behave, what he or she will say or how your spouse will use what he or she learns about you. If trust has been broken before, allowing yourself to engage in that level of intimacy again takes a tremendous amount of heart work. But the benefits of a truly open and intimate remarriage are numerous. Intimacy creates the ideal opportunity to love deeply and be loved, to experience a significant sense of belonging, to make a major positive difference in another's life and to express fully the best of who we are. Isn't that what every couple wants to experience in marriage?

Intimacy occurs effortlessly and naturally when two hearts are open to one another. In its most basic sense, intimacy is the experience of being close to another person and openly sharing something with that person. This may or may not include words. It doesn't necessarily require work or effort. The best approach to fostering intimacy in remarriage is to focus on creating a safe environment for yourself and your spouse. When both of you feel safe, you will naturally be inclined to relax and to be open. Then, intimacy simply happens. It does not require effort or conscious attention.

Emotional safety is the bedrock of a close, open, intimate marital relationship. In this kind of secure environment, the couple wants to stay in love and harmony and feel very protected, rather than vulnerable, with each other. Emotional safety will help you create a climate in which you can build an open relationship that will grow and flourish. It will help you and your spouse feel cherished, honored and fully alive.

More than 1,000 couples who attended a marriage seminar were asked to define "emotional safety." Here are some of their responses.

  • Feeling completely secure

  • Knowing that you are loved

  • Being accepted for who you are

  • Feeling relaxed and less tense

  • Being cared for above anyone else

  • Feeling free to express who you really are

  • Being loved unconditionally

  • Feeling confident and less insecure

  • Feeling respected

  • Being with someone who is trustworthy

  • Feeling comfortable around that person

  • Being there for me

  • Being fully understood

  • Feeling valued and honored

  • Loving reassurance

  • Feeling a deep sense that the relationship is solid

  • Allowing ourselves to open fully to give and receive love

  • Not being judged

  • Seeing me for who I am

  • Accepting my flaws as part of the whole package

  • Maintaining an atmosphere of open communication

You feel emotionally safe with someone when you believe that person will handle your heart - your deepest feelings and desires - with genuine interest, curiosity and tender, loving care. In other words, you hold your heart out to the person and say, "Here is who I am - emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and mentally. I want you to know my heart and soul, I want you to get to know who I am and appreciate who I am and value who I am. I am a very fascinating person who will take you more than one lifetime to understand."

But you will never offer your heart or reveal who you really are if you don't feel that it is safe to do so.

The best way to stabilize a remarriage is for the couple to ensure that they develop a warm and satisfying relationship. We repeat: No other human relationship takes precedence over your marriage relationship! It is the couple relationship that helps the home run smoothly. There is no way around this truth. When remarried couples place the health of their marriage first, the research is overwhelmingly positive about marriage the second time around.

  • Evidence exists that those who remarry have a better balance between self-interest and other-interest than they had in their first marriages. The husbands have learned to focus more on the interests of their wives, while the wives have learned something about the importance of caring for her own interests as well as those of her husband and family.

  • Research shows that husbands in remarried families contribute significantly more than husbands in first marriages to the household tasks of cooking, meal cleanup, shopping, laundry and housecleaning.

  • Because couples in second marriages tend to be older, have greater experience, have learned from past mistakes and are often better prepared, their relationship can be even more fulfilling than many first marriages.

  • Failure in a first marriage has no necessary bearing on the quality of a second marriage.

It is vitally important for the marriage relaitonship to come first.

The primary attitude that will help your spouse feel emotionally safe is your assurance that you understand how incredibly valuable and vulnerable your mate is. This is the essence of honor. By honor, we mean the decision to place high value, worth and importance on your spouse by viewing your mate as a priceless gift and granting him or her a position in your life worthy of great respect. Honor is a gift we give to our spouse. It isn't earned by their actions or contingent on our emotions. We give them distinction whether or not they like it, want it or deserve it. We honor them whether we want or feel like it. We just do it; it's a daily decision we make.

If you want to make your heart and home feel like the safest place on earth, you must be able to convey through your words, actions and deeds how much you honor your spouse. This means that you learn how to handle your mate's heart - his or her deepest feelings, thoughts and desires - with genuine interest, curiosity and care. That's honor in action.

Remember the definition of emotional safety: feeling free to open up and reveal who you really are and know that the other person will still love, understand, accept and value you - no matter what. This is the essence of unconditional love. This is safety in action. We are safe when our spouses share their deepest feelings, thoughts, opinions, hopes, dreams, fears, hurts, and memories. Your spouse is safe, and you have created emotional safety, when you handle that delicate information in an extremely careful way.

We are gentle with each other's hearts when we are patient and kind, when we are understanding and empathic. Another important aspect of safely handling someone's heart is when a spouse acts interested, uses good listening skills and asks pertinent questions. Curiosity is the lost art of wanting to find out more in order to better understand someone. Make it your goal to be curious about your spouse, and see how much more you'll begin to understand.

Here are some ways that spouses say their mates take action to make them feel valued and emotionally safe:

  • Prays for me

  • Helps challenge lies written on my heart

  • Keeps track of my positive behavior - tries to notice what I do that pleases

  • Does not judge my feelings, innermost thoughts, needs and desires

  • Loves and accepts me unconditionally

  • Accepts my influence (be teachable)

  • Expresses love and appreciation with words

  • Practices healthy communication

  • Has the best interests of our relationship foremost in mind

  • Is not self-centered of selfish

  • Doesn't intentionally hurt me

  • Gives me full intention and looks at me when I talk

  • Allows me to enter his/her world - shares feelings, thoughts, fears, insecurities, flaws and weaknesses

  • Shows genuine interest in what I share by listening

  • Validates my feelings

  • Is approachable

  • Reassures me of his/her love

  • Considers my point of view

  • Is trustworthy

  • Acts curious about me - asks lots of questions

  • Provides physical affection, and not just before sex

  • Spends time with me

  • Constructively resolves our conflicts and arguments

  • Serves me in ways that are meaningful to me

  • Is honest and tells the truth

  • Provides positive affirmation

  • Has fun and laughs with me

  • Honors my boundaries

  • Never uses anything against me that I share in confidence

  • Initiates alone time with me

  • Works out financial matters with me

  • Practices good communication skills with me

  • Nurtures our friendship

  • Never closes me out

  • Regards me as important

  • Tries hard to understand my feelings

  • Is interested in my friends

  • Asks for my opinion frequently

  • Values what I say

  • Protects me on a daily basis

  • Is gentle and tender with me

  • Develops a sense of humor

  • Is interested in what I feel is important in life

  • Is creative when expressing love, either in words or actions

  • Shows me he/she needs me

  • Accepts me the way I am; discovers my uniqueness

  • Defends me to others

  • Goes on romantic outings

  • Rubs my feet or neck after a hard day

  • Tells me how much he/she appreciates me

  • Gives advice in a loving way when I ask for it

  • Prefers me to others

  • Brags about me to other people behind my back

  • Tells me about his/her job

  • Notices how I spend my day, at work or at home

  • Learns to enjoy what I enjoy

  • Helps me finish my goals, hobbies or education

  • Is gentle and thoughtful to my relatives

  • Thanks me for things I have done without expecting anything in return

  • Does little things for me - an unexpected kiss, coffee in bed

  • Treats me as an intellectual equal

  • Plans our future together

  • Holds my hand in public

  • Puts his/her arms around me in front of friends

  • Tells me often that he/she loves me

  • Remembers birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions

  • Gives me a special gift from time to time

  • Shares the responsibilities around the house

  • Is sympathetic when I'm sick

  • Calls me when he/she is going to be late

  • Gives me special time alone with my friends

As you can see from this extensive list, love really is an action verb. Safe people with open hearts can focus on how loving they can be rather than on how much love they need to receive.

Put the above list into action, as well as your own ideas, in order to create a blanket of emotional security and safety that will envelop your marriage. When you put each other first and carefully construct a haven for your hearts, you'll be swinging on the front porch of that old farmhouse before you know it.

Here's a good snapshot of what it looks like to fully love and engage in your marriage:

  • A remarried husband loves well when he fully embraces the love his wife has for him

  • He lets down his guard and allows his heart to be vulnerable so that it can be open to her

  • He takes off any masks and reveals his true self to her

  • He shares his goals and dreams and opens up about his past hurts and sorrows

  • He admits his fears and anxieties, because he trusts that his wife will protect his heart

  • He is always honest with her

  • He receives her compliments and notices the things she does to please him

  • He accepts the gifts she gives him and brings her gifts

  • He enjoys spending time with her and desires her company over anyone else's

  • He likes to touch her and be touched and revels in her lovemaking

  • He gives his body and his sexual desires only to his wife

  • He confides in her as a best friend

  • He prays with her and reads the Bible with her

  • He works to provide for her

  • He stands up for her

  • He plans for the future with her

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Notes from Daily Readings from Become a Better You by Joel Osteen

If you truly want to become a better you, it is imperative that you learn to feel good about yourself. Too many people live under condemnation, constantly listening to the wrong voices. The Bible refers to the Enemy as "the accuser of the brethren" who would love for us to live our lives guilty and condemned. He constantly brings accusations against us, telling us what we didn't do or what we should have done. He'll remind us of all our past mistakes and failures.

Many people swallow these lines with little or no defense. Consequently they walk around feeling guilty, condemned, and extremely discontented with themselves. They go through their days without joy, without confidence, expecting the worst and often receiving it.

Granted, no human being is perfect. We've all sinned, failed, and made mistakes. But many people don't know they can receive God's mercy and forgiveness. Instead, they allow themselves to be beaten up on the inside. They tune in to that voice telling them, You blew it. You messed up. They are so hard on themselves. Instead of believing that they're growing and improving, they believe that voice telling them, You can't do anything right. You'll never break this habit. You're just a failure. When they wake up in the morning, a voice is telling them what they did wrong yesterday and how they'll probably do something wrong today. As a result, they become extremely critical toward themselves, and that usually spills over to other people as well.

Sure, we all want to be better human beings, but we needn't beat ourselves up over our shortcomings. I may not have a perfect performance, but I know my heart is right. Other people may not always be pleased with me, but I'm confident that God is.

Similarly, as long as you're doing your best and desire to do what's right according to God's Word, you can be assured God is pleased with you. Certainly, He wants you to improve, but He knows that we all have weaknesses. We all do things that we know in our hearts we shouldn't do. When our human foibles and imperfections poke through our idealism, it's normal to get down on ourselves. After all, we tend to think, we don't deserve to be happy; we have to prove that we're really sorry.

But no, we should learn to receive God's forgiveness and mercy. Don't allow those condemning voices to play repeatedly in your mind. That will only accentuate a negative attitude toward yourself, which will hinder every area of your life.

As long as we're doing our best, we don't have to live condemned, even when we make mistakes or fail. There's a time to repent, but there's also a time to shake it off and press forward. Don't live with regrets.

God does not focus on your mistakes or your failures. He does not desire to make your life miserable or to see how much frustration you can take. God wants you to succeed; He created you to live abundantly.

You needn't go through life with that nagging feeling, God is not pleased with me. I'd be a hypocrite to ask for His help after all the mistakes I've made.

Quite the contrary, you are the apple of God's eye. You are His prized possession. Nothing you have ever done, or will ever do, can keep God from loving you and wanting to be good to you.

Dare to believe that. Shake off those feelings of guilt and unworthiness. It doesn't please God for us to drag through life feeling like miserable failures, trying to show God how sorry we are for our wrong choices. Instead, recognize that you are His child, that He loves you and would do almost anything to help you. Dust yourself off, straighten up, and throw your shoulders back, knowing that you are forgiven.

We all have areas where we need to improve, but as long as we're pressing forward, getting up each day and doing our very best, we can be assured that God is pleased with us. He may not be pleased with every decision we make, but He is pleased with us. I know it is difficult for some people to believe, but God wants us to feel good about ourselves. He wants us to be secure and to have healthy self-images, but so many people focus on their faults and weaknesses. When they make mistakes, they're extremely critical of themselves. They live with that nagging feeling that chides, You're not what you're supposed to be. You don't measure up. You've blown it too many times.

Guess what? God knew you were not going to be perfect. He knew you were going to have weaknesses, faults, and wrong desires - He knew all that before you were even born - and He still loves you!

If you don't have a healthy respect for who you are, and if you don't learn to accept yourself, faults and all, you will never be able to properly love other people. Unfortunately, self-loathing destroys many relationships nowadays.

Understand, you can't give away what you don't have. If you don't love yourself, you're not going to be able to love others. If you're at strife on the inside, feeling angry or insecure about yourself, feeling unattractive, feeling condemned, then that's all you can give away. On the other hand, if you'll recognize that God is working on you, and in spite of your flaws and weaknesses, you can learn to accept yourself. Then you can give that love away and have healthy relationships.

Please recognize that if you're negative toward yourself, it's not only affecting you; it is influencing every relationship you have, and it will affect your relationship with God.

That's why it's so important that you feel good about who you are. You may have some faults. You may have some things you wish you could change about yourself. Well, join the crowd. We all do. But lighten up and quit being so hard on yourself.

The moment you repented, God not only forgave you, He forgot about it. He chooses not to remember it anymore. Quit bringing up what God has already forgotten; let it go and start feeling good about who you are. We tend to think God is keeping a list of all our mistakes. In your mind, you can see Him up there in heaven. Oops! They failed there, let me get that down. And Uh-oh, I heard that comment. Gabriel, make a special note of that one.

That's not God's heart at all. God is for you; He is on your side. He is the best friend you could ever have. God is not looking at what you've done wrong; He's looking at what you've done right. He's not focused on what you are; He's focused on what you can become.

You may be trying to live in victory, trying to be successful...but you are negative toward yourself. You don't feel good about who you are. You're constantly dwelling on your past hurts and pains. Until you are willing to let go of those offenses and start focusing on your new possibilities, they will tie you down right where you are. You cannot have a bad attitude toward yourself and expect to have God's best. Quit focusing on what you've done wrong. God has already rolled away your reproach - your shame, embarrassment, failures and setbacks.

God has done His part. Now you must do your part. Let it go so ou can go into your Promised Land. Start thinking, feeling, and speaking positively about yourself.

To maintain healthy relationships, we need to learn how to keep the strife out of our lives. God made each of us as a unique individual. We have different personalities and temperaments; we approach issues in different ways, so we really shouldn't be surprised when we grate against one another occasionally.

If we're going to keep the strife out of our lives, then we must learn how to give people the benefit of the doubt.

We will also need to overlook some things. Every person has faults; we all have weaknesses. We should not expect the people with whom we are in relationships to be perfect. No matter how great someone may be, no matter how much you love him or her, if you are around that person long enough, you will have an opportunity to be offended.

If we're putting unrealistic expectations on people, expecting them to be perfect, that is not fair to them, and it will be a source of frustration for us. We're always going to be disappointed.

If you want your relationship to thrive, you must invest in them by being a giver rather than a taker. Everywhere you go, strive to make relational deposits into people's lives, encouraging them, building them up, and helping them to feel better about themselves.

It's amazing how people will respond when they know that you're rooting for them, that you are in their corner, wanting them to do well. Oftentimes, they will be willing to change when they know you're not trying to condemn them, that you are not trying to put them down or make them feel bad about themselves. True correction always inspires people to want to do better.

Remember, genuine love overlooks a fault. Love makes allowances for mistakes. True love sees the best in every person.

One of the most important keys to a better life is to keep yourself happy, rather than living to please everybody else.

God does not want you to sacrifice your happiness to keep someone else happy. Your first priority is to take care of yourself. To do so, you must recognize that some people are still not going to be happy no matter what you do for them, no matter how nice you are, no matter how much time and energy you give them. They have their own issues to deal with or things inside that they need to resolve.

When we learn to recall the good things God has done, it helps us to stay in an attitude of faith and to remain grateful. It's hard to go around complaining when you are constantly thinking about how good God has been to you.

Too often we forget God is the giver of all good things. God is the one who caused us to get that "lucky break." He's the one who caused us to be at the right place at the right time. Understand that there's no such thing as a coincidence when your life is directed by God. When something good happens to you, be sensitive, recognize the work of God, and learn to recall it often.

I encourage you to keep a notebook, something like a diary or a journal. When something happens in your life that you know is of God, write it down. You know God opened up a door. Add that to your list. You know God spared your life, or you know God spoke to you a specific word of direction; make a note of that too. You were down and discouraged, ready to give up, when God quickened a scripture to your heart that lifted your spirits. Write that down. Keep a running record of the good things that God has done for you.

It need not always be something big; to others it may seem quite insignificant. But you know it is God guiding your life. You may unexpectedly meet somebody who introduces you to another person, and that leads to your getting a new client. Write that down.

Then on a regular basis, get that notebook out and read about all the great things God has done in your life. You will be encouraged! When you recall how God opened up this door for you, protected you over here, restored you there, healed you there, your faith will increase. Especially in times of difficulty, when you are tempted to get discouraged, get that notebook out and read it again. If you do that, you will not go through the day discouraged and defeated. You will know that God is in control of your life. He is holding you in the palm of His hand, and He will take care of you.

Understand this: When you live an obedient life, God's blessings will chase you down and overtake you. When you obey, you cannot outrun the good things of God.

God does not expect you to change overnight. He is not going to be disappointed with you or write you off if you don't turn your life around in one week's time. No, all He asks is that you keep making progress. He doesn't want you to be at this same place next year. He will lead you in His own special way, and if you will be sensitive and do your best to keep your own concscience clear, God will be pleased, and He'll release more of His blessings into your life.

God meets us at our own level. I don't have to keep up with you, and you don't have to keep up with me. I just have to be true to my own conscience. I know the areas in which God deals with me most frequently, and I do my best not to go against my own conscience. That's what I'm challenging you to do as well.

None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes, but we can learn to obey our own concscience if we can be big enough to say, "I'm sorry; I didn't treat you right; I'll do better next time." If you will be sensitive and maintain a clear conscience, there's no limit to what God will do in your life.

Miracles are all around us. The people in your life, the doors God has opened, the things that have happened along the way - they are not accidents. It was God's favor that caused you to be at the right place at the right time. You met someone and fell in love....God was directing your steps, so don't take His blessings for granted.

What are you focused on today? Are you becoming a better you? Are you happy, at rest, and enjoying life? We need to realize that this day is unique and irreplaceable. We need to make the most of it and live like it could be our last.

This day is a gift, so make the most of it. Shake off anything that hints of self-pity or discouragement, and find some reason to be grateful.

Becoming a better you is all in how you choose to view life. No matter what twists and turns life takes, you can find the good if you look for it. If we have the right attitude, we can see the sun shining even when it's cloudy. We can stay full of joy and keep getting beter, even when things don't go our way.

My prayer is that God would give us a spirit of gratitude, that we'd always focus on the good and never take life for granted. If you will trust God each day and live according to His plan for your life, you will be happier and healthier, and you'll rise higher than you ever imagined possible.

Make a decision that you're going to live every day with enthusiasm. Get up each morning and think about all the things for which you can be grateful. If you need to, make a list. Keep it in front of you, and then go out each day pursuing your God-given dreams.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Notes from Behind the Scenes of Breast Cancer by Brenda Ladun

Being a TV news anchor may appear to be a charmed life. But behind the scenes, as everyone learns, there are ups and downs, deaths, sicknesses, and other struggles in this life. I've learned over the years that the important thing in life is not necessarily the problem, but how I react to the problem. Do I trust God? Or do I get mad at Him and reject His love? Or do I submit to His will, pray,pray some more, trust Him more, give Him honor and glory, and hold on to my joy in Him?

Sure, life is full of potholes, but I'm convinced we've been put here to learn and grow and glorify God through our actions. You may wonder how I'm certain this life has something do with growing in faith and grace. I have battled cancer with Him and I have survived. I'm a living, breathing testimony that it's not only possible, but also fruitful to have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and to be an overcomer through God.

If you look, you may not be able to understand it, but you can recognize God's tapestry in how He has ordered our lives and orchestrated our circumstances to help one another, no matter what difficulties we face and endure. I find the more I reach out to help others, the more I'm blessed in return. Although that's not the reason for reaching out, it's a side effect, and a good one. And I'm thankful for those who have reached out to comfort me.

Many people assume that once you are past the cancer, life is a breeze. For me, nothing compared to the feelings of going through the fight for life. But after the battle with cancer, the death of my father...behind the scenes of each struggle, the Lord held us, molded us, encouraged us, and led us to new spiritual heights. I can see how He used the cancer experience to help me get through future crisis situations.

As running or walking up a hill makes you stronger physically, God strengthened me through hard times. Many cancer survivors I've talked to agree: The skies are a little bluer, sunsets are more beautiful, and life is sweeter when we allow God to reveal our blessings to us through our difficulties. It's when you are about to lose something that everything seems more precious. Facing the loss of life makes every breath and every moment with loved ones incredibly special and sweet because we have been faced with death.

I pray I will remember the lesson God taught me through cancer and I won't go back to the old way of not appreciating life. I have to be honest. I don't always react the way I wish I would. Life has a way of getting busy again. It has a way of rolling along. And it also has many of the same potholes that I fell in before. Let's face it; life is not perfect. But learning to lean more and more on the Lord Jesus Christ has constantly reassured me. He's always there when I'm ready to fall, fear, or give up. He continually renews my strength and even in the hardest times, the Lord has delivered joy and blessings as I pray, turn to His Word, and surrender to Him.

How our perspective changes when we can look at the troubles of this world and fully understand and expect something better when we pass from here! But while we are here, it's easy to be blind to the greatness of God unless we open our hearts up to what His grace means to us every day. One way to access that understanding is to pray.

God wants to hear from us about every aspect of our lives, and we're not bothering Him. He wants to be a part of our day. I've learned through cancer to pray about everything. Do I pray every time I have to make a decision? No, I have to admit I slip. But I can tell there is a difference from when I pray about a decision and when I don't. When I pray about decisions or actions in my life, things work out better. When I try to control everything and fix everything, things don't go welll at all. When I think I can do all things on my own, I often feel like I'm trudging up a mountain in a blinding snowstorm against the wind. Even if it's a simple thing that I didn't pray about, it can turn into the most complicated trial I've ever been through.

God answers prayer. Not always the way we conceive He will answer, but He does answer according to His will. Sometimes He heals here on earth and sometimes in heaven. The more I study the reality of heaven, I think the real sorrow is for those of us left here on earth, who continue to face disease, crime, and hardships, while our loved ones in heaven are in a greater and perfect place.

Did I pray for healing during my cancer battle? Yes. I specifically asked Him for healing. I also surrendered my life and everything about it into God's hands and that felt good. Many others were praying for me as well. And it's amazing what God did.

The love of God can heal us here and in heaven. There is such awesome power that we cannot fully understand. The question is, Why do some people get healed here on earth and others don't? I asked Susan Peterson's pastor that very question. He's been in the ministry for 23 years. He's seen people healed miraculously after prayer and others who were not. He can't explain why and says we won't fully know why until we see the face of God in heaven.

God has a time we are to be born and to die. I believe prayer can affect outcomes of health. But when we and our loved ones are taken home to heaven, this also is a victory. That's why we don't have to fear death. Yes, we miss our loved ones when they are gone from this earth, but we can know they truly are in a better place....Cancer made me face the truth that we have a limited number of days on this earth.

I know there are times when I need to trust God more. I know if I trust Him to help me through the not-so-tough times as well as the times filled with crisis, I'll see more blessings. I know I've come a long way in trusting God and also know I need to trust him even more. After all, if I can trust Him to take care of the tiniest details...I can trust Him to take care of every aspect of my life.

It's hard to understand even after much prayer why some lose their battles with cancer, and others survive. But the truth is that we are all here for a relatively short time. Even a hundred years is a blink of an eye.

God has a plan and a time for everything in our lives. Sometimes months or years after a crisis, I can see how God used it for good. I know if I depend fully on God instead of myself, He will show me where I'm supposed to go and what I am supposed to do.

It's only God who can take our weaknesses and shine by making us strong through those weaknesses. I'm learning fear is destructive; trusting God is not.

Since cancer, big things don't worry me as much as the little things. I know God will handle the big stuff. He already has in helping me through cancer. It's the little things in life that are easier to get caught worrying about.

People who endure cancer, experience the fact that all this could end in an instant.

How often do we have a plan? But our plans and we ourselves aren't big enough to cover it all. Face it; we need God to cover it all. We are mortal. We can die at any moment. Life, as I learned through cancer, is very fragile...God is the only way - the only way to have true hope.

Being very ill and lying in a hospital bed with a deadly condition is scary but we learn ultimately we're in God's hands. Why does God allow pain and heartache? Whew, that's a question with which many of us struggle. But the truth is, the Lord is glorified the most during our hardest moments in life. The more we lean on Him during those tough times, the more we can see Him working.

These bodies we are given do wear out. The one thing that we can count on even when our body fails is that God gives us a promise of hope and a future...That future isn't here on this earth in these bodies; He promises a future in heaven, a real place, a different world.

The hope that is needed to survive breast cancer and other troubles we human encounter can come only from the hope continues to come from the Lord. He showed me my trust and hope in Him is well placed; He will take care of every detail. I know if He carried me through one of the most harrowing storms of my life, He can carry me through anything. He used the whole cancer experience to help strengthen our relationship. That personal relationship and the time I spend with God sustains me through everything in life. And the beautiful thing about growing in Christ is that there is always something new to learn.

Years after cancer, I realize I've come a long way as a Christian, but I also have a long way to go. But even though I know I'm a sinner, I know the Lord forgives me and give me hope for tomorrow.

Even though I trusted God every step of the way, I still had moments of doubt. I remember the shock, fear, and denial.

This whole ordeal makes me think about how fortunate I was that God doesn't work like an insurance company. There is no cost for a deductible. He doesn't cancel our policy if we call on Him to help us too much. The more we pray and depend on Him, the better He likes it.

He will help anyone who loves Him, believes in Him, and trusts Him. There is not a complicated contract. Having a personal relationship with the Lord is much easier than signing up for car insurance. My question is this: Why don't more people believe in the Lord? He provides such assurance and security.

If you love God and put Him first, everything else in life falls into place.

If I focused on everything I lost in the last five years I wouldn't be able to get out of bed. I could not own the joy that the Lord clearly promises in His Word. Is it easy to get stuck looking in the mirror of what's wrong with my life? Yes, but with God's help and turning it over to Him and accepting His will in my life, I can find the blessings.

Through the hurts of the last five years, I had to learn to forgive myself. Forgiving and letting painful memories go and letting God control my life is simply healthy. There's no need for stress. In recent years, scientists have discovered what God has been telling us in His Word for centuries. Take care of your body. Your body is a temple. How you take care of it glorifies Him. Stress releases bad chemicals in your body that can hurt your heart, lead to high blood pressure, and possibly even cancer. By resolving conflict with others and in your own life, you can reduce the stress of your life.

That doesn't mean sweep problems under the rug or let them fester. The Lord has told us not to let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26). We need to deal with conflicts on a daily basis. Don't deal with them in a hurtful or combative way, but talk it out. That's healthy. Resolving conflict actually has a feeling. You can feel pressure lift off your body, "off your chest," as they say. I'm throwing away regret. I'm releasing myself of the worry about what caused my cancer, and from the worry of the what ifs in life. The Lord is always there with His Word and His power to save us from ourselves.

The one thing that doesn't crumble but gets stronger with time is God's relationship with us. We have an assurance to live with Him forever.

Accepting what we can't change and looking for God's molding through it is one way to find peace. Accepting God's plan for our lives is hard. Our trials may include sickness, job loss, or death in the family. These are all things that are hard for us to handle on our own. But the good news is that we don't have to handle anything alone. But as I've said, I've learned over the years, sometimes that healing happens in heaven, not on earth. Submitting to His will and accepting His promises can give us hope and peace. Letting go and saying, "God, You know best," is such a relief.

Even in the times we are hurting the most, God moves people to show their love for us by delivering meals, telling us jokes, making us laugh. He did that for me....When God moves you to encourage someone, don't hesitate. I would get an encouraging word the minute I had a doubt. The very minute I started to go into a pit of depression or feel like I couldn't go on, there was someone there to provide the exact answer to my question with a specific Bible verse.

The great news is that God loves you no matter what. You don't have to be perfect for Him to love you. He loves all of us equally. So if you've ever felt second fiddle in your family, the good news is you are not second fiddle with God. He loves you even when you sin, or mess up. He loves you when you don't feel like you love yourself. You are precious to Him and important enough for Him to die for! When you don't feel like you have a friend, like the old hymn says, you have a friend in Jesus. He wants a relationship with you.

Love, if you think about it, is powerful. Love can make the difference in someone having the will to fight to be healed. Even if you feel alone, God wants you to know you are His and He is there every step of the way. God loves you and I do too! Pass it on!