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Transformation Stories

A Hope I Can Trust

Hope is such an encouraging word. We say it all the time: I hope you feel better, I hope you get the job, I hope it all works out. Dictionary.com defines it as: “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.” We keep hoping “to feel that something desired may happen.” We don’t know that it will, but it could happen and in saying “I hope,” we mean that we will wait together for whatever is to come, anticipating the best outcome.

However, there is a different kind of hope we discover this time of year – a deeper spiritual hope. This is an extended level of trust, often based on past spiritual experiences or shared stories. It is a hope placed in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a prayer we offer to God, believing in our own spirit, that God will manage the details as we walk with him.

Categories
Transformation Stories

A Thankful Changed Heart

I wanted to sleep in this Thanksgiving morn, and yet I was called out of bed to take in the sunrise over the apartments where I live. You see I was laying in bed moaning to myself about not having a bigger space to invite people into. I was regretting the mistakes that caused me to give up two incredible homes.

From my balcony. New every day!

As I walked to the kitchen to switch on the coffee pot, I turned and looked out the window to yet another magical sunrise. As a friend used to say: “God hit me with a clue by four” and I remembered how blessed I am to have let all those other houses go. Those places were traps for me financially and, I dare say, spiritually too. It was all about the image I cast about my success and about my ability to fit into a higher economic status. “About me” is the key term here.

California Dreaming!

Eight years ago, I packed up everything and took a trip away. I didn’t know that stopping for a month and taking in the natural beauty of California would be a pivotal moment in my life. Everything changed when I came home. A smaller place to live—with a view! A new church with new relationships and healing. A new life that wasn’t focused on my image but on the image of Jesus.

Food pantry donation drive at church.

Moving the focus from my wants to image-building and the message to have more, meant I could be open to see the needs of others around me. I stepped into prayer ministry. I became a spiritual director to help and encourage other women see God’s plan for them. God led me to little children and parents and a team of incredible care-givers. Unexpectedly, he led me to help create an outreach ministry for those in need of food and care. And now, I hear a call to do more. In HIS name and for HIM. Not me…

Seeds of growth.

All along the way, God was guiding my steps. Even though I was stubborn and stuck to my ways, he was patient in letting me get to where he wants me. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the life journey of bumps and bruises because it has taken me to this new place of peace, of carrying others burdens, of waiting on the Lord to nudge me to the next thing.

I am thankful that he has changed my heart. I am thankful for praying friends who have walked with me through awful times. I am thankful for the hope of a new sunrise and a new adventure.

Categories
Living Loving Serving Transformation Stories

Respecting the Change

Change is hard. Change brings unfamiliarity. Change can be external to us while processed internally. Change can bring up feelings we never knew we had. Change can send us into a dark place or it can open the door to new opportunities. Change can make us angry or it can bring a sense of relief. Yes, change can be hard.

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Living Loving Serving Transformation Stories

Hate, Fear, and Faith

Please forgive me if my language is clumsy or inadequate. I am a work in progress and happily take your suggestions on how to improve.

I grew up in a military environment that was pretty well integrated. My best friends as a kid were African American and Jewish. I learned the best parts of their heritage and was shielded from the bias against them. As a teen, two of my best friends were of Asian descent. I never saw any hate directed toward them, or if there was any, they didn’t tell me. I dated people from many backgrounds and races, yet my parents made it clear that these were unacceptable long-term relationships. I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and because my dad’s best friends were Jewish, we learned to respect their faith. In spite of all that, there were still derogatory terms used by adults around me: the N-word, the f-g word, the S-word (you get the gist) that was perfectly acceptable to them. There was an undertone that as alike as we were, we were still superior in some way because we were white and Catholic/Christian.

These are concepts that are hard for me to reconcile today. How could I grow up with such welcomed diversity and acceptance and yet still a sense that I was “better than” because of my skin color or faith? How could I have been so blind to the prejudice and hate my friends likely experienced on a regular basis? I have had to search my heart and soul to ask when I have, even in some small way, passed on that negative heritage to my daughter. How have I taken the subtle superiority of my parent’s generation and filtered relationships- personal and professional- through that negative lens?

As someone who believes we are ALL created in the image of God, we are all loved by him and we all have value and worth in his eyes; how do I reconcile those derogatory tapes in my past against the backdrop that my own family today includes Asians, African-Americans, LGBTQ+ people whom I dearly love? How do I do a better job of loving and caring for people who are not like me?

I start with asking forgiveness for my naivety and ignorance. I ask the Lord to break the chains to any past behaviors and thought patterns. I start the conversation with friends and family and seek to learn more about walking in their shoes. And I walk more closely with them.

I have to be responsible for taking off my blinders and my disbelief that prejudice and hate exist. I need be more deliberate in standing for my friends and family- asking them how best to do that. It isn’t about what I think they need and want- it is about asking them what I can do and standing with them. That’s how we break our own bias and preconceived notions. I will seek to be more informed and more engaged and more respectful of others.

Lord, forgive me when I have closed my eyes to the inequality toward your people. Forgive me for my own pride and superior attitude. Lord, open my eyes and ears and use me as an instrument of your change. Father, guide our nation to be welcoming and change our hearts to see each other as valuable, regardless of color, culture, religion, or life-style. Start with me father.

Photo: Getty images

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The Lighter Walk Transformation Stories

Making God the Main Thing

My life today is nothing compared to what it was even five years ago, let alone 30 years ago when I began my Christian journey. God planted a seed of change; however, it took almost 20 years to stop living according to my rules and listen to his desires for me.

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Living Loving Serving Transformation Stories

When Change Means Asking Hard Questions

I am one of those people who isn’t afraid to ask the tough question. I love to get people thinking about opposing viewpoints or scenarios. When these are thoughtful civil discussions, we can begin to see that the alternative perspective has merit. We can begin to incorporate those perspectives into our own and realize a change in ourselves.

Categories
Transformation Stories

Change is Possible

I’ve been reading a lot more during this time home alone. Mostly I have been reading about the way God can completely change who we are, if we are willing to open that door. I know he has changed my heart, my thinking, and my desires in many unexpected ways. I know God has forgiven me in ways people never have. I know I have found peace in that forgiveness and a greater willingness to offer that same mercy and grace to others. It all started with God moving in my life when I opened myself to his ways over my ways.

Categories
Transformation Stories

Walking Outside the Lines

I’m a rules person. I try not to drive more then the ‘acceptable’ five miles an hour over the speed limit. I try be on time (meaning early) for my appointments. I don’t lie about my age to get a cheaper rate; nor did I ever do that for with my child. I want people to think well of me and see me a ‘virtuous’ or ‘law-abiding.’

I’m also a horrific sinner. Yup, me the ‘rules girl’ have broken all the rules, one way or another. And for many years I have carried the guilt and shame of my past with me. Yes, I have confessed most of those lapses in following the rules and as open as I have been about God’s forgiveness of my actions, I still let them define me. I still stopped short of embracing my ministry because someone might unearth and reveal my sins for the world.

Fear can be so crippling. If we let it, it will run our lives. It will cause us to do things out of emotional blackmail and often drive us to make poor decisions, or worse yet, no decision. It can stop us from stepping into the life God intends for us  (a calling) because we think we aren’t good enough, not worthy to stand, or that our past has left us irreparably damaged.

Categories
Transformation Stories

Life Trees

Dying drying trees

Brown and lifeless

Or

Rebirthing trees,

Waiting for new life?

img_7841

Strong foundations

Branching off, crisscrossing,

Intersecting each other

New paths

Giving way to

New life.

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Solid trees, grown upright,

Branches reaching upward

Unity in growth

red tree shendoah

Brown transformed to green

Renewed

Replenished

Beckoning us..

zoo woody path

Foundations rooted

 in

Rich soil

Growing, dying, rebirthing

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All reaching up

All branching out

All rooted in hope

Watered in love

Growing through faith.

Maggie Marcum

Categories
Living Loving Serving Transformation Stories

I Am Not Invisible: My Personal March

I can still remember standing in the middle of the cafeteria at The Meadows and screaming those words. I was on a perch above the lunch crowd, dutifully acting out my task for the day. At that time I was a woman who felt unseen by her family, her workplace, her church, and even the people in treatment with me.

I had come to this point because for most of  my life I felt invisible. I had learned to hide in a family with alcoholism and domestic abuse, to stay under the radar. I had been body-shamed either for developing early, being too fat, or being too skinny; so I tried not to call attention to myself. I grew up at a time when most women were not seen for their value-added in the work environment. And although I knew women in ministry areas, others frequently were held back to certain “lady-like” areas: prayer teams, women’s ministry, altar guild, and hospitality.

I understand how some women today can feel invisible or at a minimum, not heard. It took me three times of yelling out “I AM NOT INVISIBLE” before the people in the cafeteria even turned to hear me–and then they applauded my bravery. Funny thing is, they didn’t really see me after my bold action, but I saw me. I learned that I needed to stand up for myself, even if no one else was with me.

Even when we push forward and make strides as women, some still evaluate us based on our sexuality or ‘beauty.’ One of my challenges in a government position of leadership was to maintain my femininity while asserting myself in a mostly male-run environment. It was not unusual to see women take on more masculine traits to be validated while women who maintained femininity were seen as light-weights (or light-headed?). I still remember a dear friend asking me during an event at a conference: “What would a man do? He would just go right in like he belonged there, even if he didn’t get an invitation.” It was a reminder that we as women need to step up and out of our comfort zone to be seen and heard. And we need to do it for one another.

I can understand why some think that they need special treatment (i.e., legislation) to overcome the bias that continues to exist in work places. Unfortunately, there is no legislation that will change the mind (or behavior) of some individuals about women, anymore than legislation has changed the opinion some have about the LGBT community or minorities. These minds will only be changed as those of us who see the value and worth of women (and other communities) promote their merit and help secure a future for them.

All things are legitimate, but not all things are helpful. All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive and edifying. (1 Corinthians 10:23)

I know that we need to rise above the negativity and not come down to the level of those using vile language to describe and assess women. We don’t need to repeat their words to be heard – we need a new positive language that validates what we already know. We were all created in the image of God and all have the same value in his eyes and should have it in the eyes of each other. We don’t need to take terms that defile women and turn them on ourselves. Our strength will come from demonstrating and demanding respect for each other.

I have taken my own steps in that direction. I have bonded with other like-minded women and we are uplifting and encouraging one another. I have thrown my hat in the ring for leadership positions because even if I was overlooked, my name was in front of those making decisions. I am committed to building a community of single persons, especially women. I am studying ways to help them see their contribution and to stand with them as they discern their ministry or professional calling. And I am using this platform to share my story of transformation and new life to encourage others to seek out help where it is needed.

Let each one of us make it a practice to please his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him. Romans 15:3

I am not invisible anymore. I know that I was made for purpose. My purpose, my calling, may differ from yours, and I respect that. We may view world priorities differently, and I am willing to learn from those differences in opinion. I have discovered that being happy and content in my skin may make some people uncomfortable, and that I need to step into leadership respectfully understanding that change is never easy. I will keep my one-woman march forward going, with my eyes turned upward and with the prayers and support of those that believe in my journey. I will be responsible for me and not blame others when things don’t go my way–I will find a way to make it work if I discern it is God’s will.

My prayer for you today therefore is that you become willing to take action to be seen and heard where you are called to be an instrument of change. I pray that you will seek God’s will for your life and step forward with courage. I pray that you will go high when others go low, that they may see up from where they stand. I pray that you will sow seeds of encouragement and that you will be a vessel of compassion for those less fortunate for you. I pray you will go with God wherever he takes you.

For the Lord shall be your confidence, firm and strong, and shall keep your foot from being caught. Proverbs 3:26

The photo used for this post is the ‘invisible’ stealth carrier.