Struggles are Part of the Journey

Butterfly 2

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.

The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Life’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Remember nature needs no help, just no interference. There are processes of life, things we all go through. The struggles are a part of our journey and are preparing us for what awaits. They are preparing us to fly.
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#throughthefire

Love is a Verb ~ Without Action, it’s Merely a Word

 

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This is a repost of an article that was posted several months ago. Since it’s Valentine’s month, it seemed like a good article to repost. Love is a Verb-

Hiking through the hills after being kidnapped, was probably the most difficult time in my life. Having severe injuries, a blood soaked dress, covered in bruises from beatings, and being emotionally and physically exhausted, each step took extreme effort. One thought that kept me going was that I knew that if I kept walking that I would soon run into caring people who would help me to make it back home. All I had to do was make it back to civilization. I was sure that the first person that saw me would pull over their car and help me. I just needed to find one person and I would be saved! This is what I thought; however I would soon discover that I was very wrong. I would soon experience a profound sense of disappointment as car after car passed me without stopping. By passers slowed their cars enough to get a good look at me with shock and then continued to drive on. Each time this happened, my heart sunk. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t stop and help me. As I came to a residential area, and passed people as we walked on the sidewalk, I felt that these weren’t “bad” people, yet everyone avoided me, looked away or sped off quickly. As disappointing as it was to experience how the kidnapper could be so cruel and thoughtless, the fact that others wouldn’t help me may have been even more disappointing. They looked at me as if I was “trouble”. Maybe they thought I was a runaway, homeless, or mixed up with the wrong type of people. Maybe they were afraid that if they stopped to help that they may be accused of hurting me or maybe they thought that the person who did this to me would hurt them if they got involved. Maybe they felt it was none of their business, not their responsibility; someone else will help me. Maybe they were just busy.  Maybe they never really thought about helping other people before. We will never understand why the people who passed me that day didn’t stop and help. There’s nothing we can do now to change the past. I hope by sharing my story that I can bring awareness so that we, as a society, will become brave and caring individuals and help people who desperately need our assistance.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta devoted her life to showing love to people who were dying in the streets. She picked them up, brought them to a home where they could die with love, joy and the peace of Christ. Mother Teresa spoke of loving with actions, rather than words. One time, she was inviting to a conference about ending world hunger. When she arrived to the conference, right in front of the door where hundreds of people passed to go into the conference to discuss how they would end hunger within 15 years, she found a dying man. Mother Teresa didn’t attend the conference that day, instead she brought the dying man home. He soon died – he died of hunger. Everyone in the conference talked about ending hunger, and the man that they passed on their way in died.

I wonder if one reason we don’t help others is because we judge. Did the people who passed the dying man judge him and is this why they didn’t help him? Did they feel their work in the conference was more important than the man? We are all precious to God. The man in the streets, those who are wealthy, those with disabilities, those who are healthy, all shades of skin color, you, me, and everyone – He loves all of us.

“A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Jesus spent his time loving and doing good deeds. If we are trying to live like Jesus then we need to put our love in action also. Just as our Heavenly Father sent Jesus, He sent us to love one another.

“We show love by thoughtfulness, by kindness, by sharing joy, by sharing a smile… through the little things.” Mother Teresa

Love is a verb and has to be put into action to have real meaning. We have all seen vicious arguments on social media where people are trying to convince others with their words to do good works. While many of the intentions of those arguing may have started with a good hearted intentions, talking alone isn’t enough. Instead of talking, we need to take action. We need to become comfortable being inconvenienced; to go out of our way to help others.

With all of the problems in the world, it can be difficult to know where to help. Mother Teresa has beautifully offered advice for us-

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I only look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time. Just one, one, one. You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.” So you begin….I begin. I pick up one person – maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person I wouldn’t have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you, same thing in your family, same thing in your church where you go, just begin…. One, one, one.

At the end of our life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how may great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me I was homeless and you took me in.’

Hungry not only for bread – but hungry for love.

Naked not only for clothing – but naked of human dignity and respect.

Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks – but homeless because of rejection.

This is Christ in distressing disguise.” Mother Teresa

Let’s be people who love with our actions – on earth as it is in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

Only Light Can Drive Out Darkness ~ MLK

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Today we celebrate a man who dedicated his life to making the world a better and more loving place. His mission was to fight for the oppressed and in doing so, he showed the world keys to bringing forth change. He understood how to creatively use his anger to make change in a loving way. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” He understood and demonstrated the power of love. “I have decided to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” He watched as society hated through their actions as people retaliated over and over. It was clear to Martin Luther King, Jr that hate created more hate. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We must put aside our differences and work together to achieve peace. “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

When bad things happen to good people, we naturally become angry and want justice. Trust that God will take care of the details. We don’t need to retaliate and hate. God will take care everything in time. Our job is to create peace. “Never succumb to bitterness.” The road of bitterness will destroy us if we allow it. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

It is difficult to accept an injustice that has happened. When bad things have happened, we can’t change that fact, but we can work towards a better tomorrow. If we remain bitter, we remain part of the problem of hate creating more hate. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” We must keep our eyes on the eternal perspective and work towards a better tomorrow.

We can all make steps to make the world a better place. The first and most important step lies within our own hearts as we chose to love, rather than to hate. As we collectively love, the world will shift for the better. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Love is patient, love is kind. It always trusts, always perseveres. Love never fails.                   1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8

Encouraging Quotes for the New Year

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As we count down to the New Year, we get to reflect and prepare for what’s ahead. For all the bad news that seemed to dominate our collective experience of 2017, there are countless stories from the year that remind us of the good in people. These stories give us hope for a bright future and bond us together as a community.

I hope that my story will help people who are struggling to make sense of suffering in the world. The book, Through the Fire will be released soon. The editing is complete, the page design is complete, and now we are working on the cover. I can’t wait to share the cover with everyone! I’m working with the talented artist Phil Roberts, who is creating beautiful artwork for the cover.

I’m grateful to everyone who reads, throughthefire.blog and especially to everyone who has followed, shared, and commented. Visitors have come from all over the world! It’s fascinating to me that I can write in my little home in the US and then have these words travel across the globe. There are readers from the following places: Greece, Canada, South Korea, Ireland, India, UK, Bosnia, Australia, Philippines, New Zealand, China, Spain, Columbia, Chile, Singapore, Turkey, Nigeria, Greenland, Trinidad, Kuwait, Sweden, Japan, Nepal, Kenya, Malaysia, Russia, Oman, Zambia, Taiwan, Ukraine, Germany, and South Africa! Thank you all for reading! It has been a privilege to share my story with all of you and to read the stories of those who have messaged to me. I am truly humbled as I read your stories and witness your strength, bravery and courage as you choose to live lives of love. The world is seeming much smaller as I see that across the globe, we all have similar struggles and joys in life.  Regardless of our geographical location, socioeconomic status, race, religion, political affiliations, or gender, we are all faced with the same dilemma, how will we face the struggles in life and how will we face our achievements?

As we look forward to 2018, we might be a little hesitant to set new goals, especially if we  want to achieve the same goal that we had as a resolution last year and maybe even the year before and the year before that. If we didn’t meet our goals last year, we begin the new year with a feeling of discouragement. ‘If I couldn’t accomplish my goal last year, how am I going to do it this year?’ First, we have to change our thinking. In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can!

To achieve our goals, we need accountability, determination, encouragement, and perseverance – we can never give up.  Here are some of my favorite quotes for encouragement on not giving up.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

“I never lose. I either win or learn.” Nelson Mandela

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. Time will pass anyway.” Earl Nightingale

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison referring to the light bulb

“To conquer frustration, one must remain intensely focused on the outcome, not the obstacles.” T.F. Hodge

Let us not become wearing of doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius

The question is not if we will have struggles and hardships, but rather “how” will we meet them? When we fall, will we rise? Will we continue to persevere and walk through the struggle? #throughthefire

If you haven’t already, please check out my Instagram and Facebook which can be found on the sidebar of this blog. Thank you!

I wish you all the best for 2018! Happy New Year!

Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

 

 

Merry Christmas!

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Early Christmas morning, while everyone is still sleeping is one of my favorite times. It is so peaceful after all of the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas. After a month of planning and preparation, everything is perfect. Of course it’s not really “perfect”, but it’s what we created out of love and this makes us happy. It truly is in the giving that we receive. There is such a joy that comes from giving gifts and seeing the joy that it gives another person. Christmas is love in action!

Christmas also gives us a time to pause and reflect on the important things around us – a time when we can look back on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year.” Charles Dickens

My Dad’s Response to my Kidnapping

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My dad was the family provider and protector. When I was kidnapped and he wasn’t able to protect me, this was very difficult for my dad and he went to extreme measures to assure my future safety.

The kidnapping experience didn’t only affect me, it affected my entire family and many friends in different ways. I didn’t realize how people were affected until many years later and I am still learning different ways that people were affected to this day.

From the perspective of a 12 year-old, I didn’t understand how difficult this time in life was for my parents. Now that I’m a parent myself, I can only imagine how devastating the kidnapping and the aftermath of the kidnapping must have been for them. I recently learned how my dad was affected.

My dad lived a healthy, happy life until the age of 70, when he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). He was strong and took amazing care of his body. Not many 70 year old can do 200 push-ups, but he could. When the disease progressed to where he needed more help, he moved to live around the corner from me so I could help take care of him. For a man that was so independent, it was extremely difficult for him to ask for help, but he had no choice.

He had Bulbar ALS, which begins in the throat area. One of the first skills that he lost was the ability to verbally speak. Thankfully, he had the ability to write so he carried a little note pad in his pocket and wrote down everything he wanted to say.

During the 3 years of silence, I saw my dad’s heart change. He tried to fight the disease every step of the way. He ate well, took supplements and exercised like an Olympian. As the disease continued to progress, he became angry and asked, “Why me?” He continued to fight, but despite his best efforts, his body withered away. I watched as he struggled to accept his fate. He teetered between sadness and anger for a long time. He was forced to let go of all of his hopes and dreams that he had for his life.

ALS doesn’t affect the mind at all. My dad’s thoughts remained clear until the day he died. ALS is a difficult disease to live with. There is one gift that ALS offers and that is quiet time to ponder. ALS allows the person to put their affairs in order and clean up any relationships or any other work they need to.

We hadn’t talked about the kidnapping for years; however as he was faced with his own death, he wanted to discuss this topic. My dad was always a protector. When he grew up, he was the oldest son with six siblings. He fought bullies for his brothers and sisters and took on the role of the protector of goodness. When his daughter was hurt by evil, my dad felt helpless and became very angry with God. His view of God changed. He thought, God is either a good God that isn’t strong enough to help us when we need Him, or He is a bad God that is strong, but chooses not to help us. Either way, who needs God if good people have to go through terrible situations?

My dad had carried this burden for so long. I shared with my dad for the first time about the near heaven experience. God did not leave me alone in this dark situation. He was right there comforting me. I’m so grateful and feel closer to God after seeing how loving He truly is. I explained to my dad all that I learned from this experience and how I felt confident that we all had purpose in life.

My dad was still mad and wrote, “How could a good God allow such bad things to happen!” I believe that we all given free will to live our lives as we choose. He doesn’t stop us when we make bad choices. There are consequences to our actions and hopefully these consequences will have us choose better next time, but we aren’t stopped. Free will is something that everyone wants. Unfortunately, sometimes people take that free will and hurt others. I wish people would make better choices, but I’m not mad at God for it, because He didn’t cause the suffering. God steps in and comforts us during these difficult times and He is able to take terrible situations and turn them into beautiful situations. As horrible as my kidnapping experience was, there were many blessings sprinkled into this situation. I’m so thankful that I was able to experience a small sampling of heaven. Every time that I share my story and someone tells me how hearing this story helped them in some way, I am amazed and grateful that God can take a dark story and turn it around into a story of hope that improves the lives of others. So God didn’t cause the tragic event, but He can turn it into something beautiful. So I’m not mad at God for this suffering. Instead, I love him even more for comforting me, showering me with peace and love and showing me the importance of living a life of purpose within the suffering.

I could tell that my dad held on to resentment for the kidnapper. Just talking about the kidnapper, you could see the anger in my dad’s eyes. I explained to my dad that I had forgiven the kidnapper. My dad was shocked upon hearing this, “Huh!” I explained to him that hanging onto anger doesn’t hurt the person we’re angry at; it only hurts the one who is angry. I can’t change the fact that I was kidnapped. We can’t change the fact that my dad had ALS. But we are in control of our response to what happens to us. We talked about how resentment hurts the person who is resentful and not the person we are mad at. My dad had to ponder on this idea for a couple of days, but I could see his heart beginning to soften.

I thanked my dad for taking care of me. After I made it back home from the kidnapping, I described where the kidnapper took me and what his car looked like and what he looked like in great detail. I didn’t realize at the time, but my dad was taking meticulous notes and then set out to find and kill the kidnapper who had promised to come back and kill me if I talked. My dad was going to stop the kidnapper before he could come back and kill me. I’m grateful that the detectives found the kidnapper before my dad found him, because I wouldn’t want my dad to go to jail for murder. His willingness to kill for me was such a selfless act of love. Words can’t even describe how this feels to have him willing to give up his life for me. I thanked him for his support and love. Then I explained how happy I was that he wasn’t able to follow through with killing the kidnapper.

“Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

I explained to my dad that if I had died when I was kidnapped, my soul would have been fine, but I would have been so sad about the way my loved ones responded to my death. I wouldn’t have wanted them to hold onto anger. This would have made them a secondary victim of that crime. I would have wanted them to live a happy, purposeful life, with love in their heart. The only way to achieve this is through forgiveness. It’s impossible to feel love and anger simultaneously.

Shortly before my dad passed away, we spent an entire day together, as he had doctors’ appointments and testing for hours. He was irritated all day and kept bringing up the topics of God, the kidnapping, having ALS, and suffering. He wasn’t able to speak as a result of the ALS, but he could write. He was writing so fast and with capital letters to represent raising his voice. When I finally drove my dad back home, he quickly waved which meant that he wanted me to leave. I told him that I would leave, but first I suggested that he spend the evening in prayer and then to listen. Know that God is good and that He only wants the best for us. Sit in silence and feel his love, ask Him for peace. Believe in the bigger plan. Look at life from the eternal perspective. He listened and then waved again for me to leave, so I went home.

The next day, I came back to my dad’s house. He was sitting in his chair and when he saw me, he quickly tried to get out of his chair. I was surprised to see his face. He looked so peaceful, so happy – not irritated like the previous day. I told him that he didn’t need to get up and encouraged him to stay seated. He shook his head no and insisted on getting up. At this stage of ALS, getting up was no easy task. I walked over to him and he reached into his pocket and took out a note he had pre-written and handed it to me. I took the note and looked down and it simply read, “Thank You!” I looked into his blue eyes which were full of water and intensely bright. He nodded his head yes and then gave me a huge, meaningful hug. He was so happy! My dad forgave God, forgave himself and let go of all the resentment he had been holding inside. Seven days later, my dad left this world to be with the Lord. His work here was done. I’m so happy that he found peace before he died.

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Praying for Peace for Las Vegas Survivors and Loved Ones…

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It’s been over a week since the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas –the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Hundreds of innocent people were victims of this heartbreaking tragedy.

Life goes on for those of us who weren’t at the concert. We are all busy with work and life, but for the people who were at the concert, life as they knew it, will never be the same. It’s difficult to process such tragedy and to find peace after witnessing such injustice. I think it’s natural for people, whether Christian or not, to look to God in adversity. Many life questions arise after such a horrific event. Is there a God? If there is a God, why does he allow suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Most of the news stories reporting the Vegas massager have been devastating to watch. The stories that highlight the heroic events were hardly televised, but are so inspirational. There were people who covered their loved ones with their own bodies in order to save them. There were many accounts of those who had been shot that carried others to safety, despite their own injuries. There was a couple who loaded up the back of their truck with injured people and rushed them to the hospital. I admire the courage of these heroes!

I’d like to offer a heartfelt thank you to our first responders and law enforcement. Just imagine, as concert goers were frantically attempting to get away from the shooter, first responders were running towards the shooter, risking their own life to save the lives of strangers. We are lucky that we have brave men and women willing to put their lives on the line for us!

So back to the question, where was God in this evil event? I believe God does not create evil and suffering. The bible tells us that God works for the good of those who love him. Jesus said that we will have suffering. “I have told you these things so in me you shall have peace. You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33. God doesn’t cause the suffering, but he is there to help us through. He uses people to bring good in the midst of tragic events. During this tragedy, He was inspiring and giving strength and bravery to the heroes who were selflessly risking their lives to help others. God sends us to make the world a better place.

Acts of love overshadow hate.

I hope that my story will help to bring peace to those who have been touched by this tragedy. As I wrote in a previous blog, the perspective of someone dying in a violent way is much different than we would imagine. When I had a near heaven experience, even though the circumstances of my physical body was bloody, bruised and alone, I was not experiencing pain and suffering at that time, but rather the most amazing calm, peace, and love that I have ever experienced. I believe that the perspective of the victims of this shooting was also quite different than we would first imagine.

Faith overshadows fear.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

I pray for peace and healing for the survivors and their loved ones. I pray that we will all have the strength to choose to love, rather than allow bitterness to overcome; that we will choose to live on earth as it is in heaven.