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
The Lighter Walk

Friendship Walk

It has taken me a long time to have a friendship with God. We were more the ‘casual acquaintance’ type for many years.  Oh sure, we had our moments of closeness when I cried out in despair for help, not fully expecting to receive any help. And there were those ‘ah ha’ moments on spiritual retreats when I got all caught up in emotions of the worship and the message.

Real friendship was another thing. I still remember walking to communion one Sunday as the band played a song about Jesus being my friend and I realized that I didn’t feel that way. It broke my heart that others could know him that way but I didn’t. I mean I have been a Christian all my life so how could I not feel Jesus was my friend? Friendship implies a close relationship, a sharing of secrets, a deliberate presence in each other’s lives, and time spent together through all the good and bad times.

Wasn’t that Jesus?

Categories
Transformation Stories

Life Trees

Dying drying trees

Brown and lifeless

Or

Rebirthing trees,

Waiting for new life?

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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..

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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.

 

Categories
Transformation Stories

Navigating the Wave of Change

Change is to alter, make different, transform, to switch, and to break from the old. Change can be difficult when we first realize we must do something differently in our lives. Change can be even more traumatic when thrust upon us and outside of our control. 

If we have made the decision to change something in our lives,  it is likely that we are moving toward or away from something. Angela Dunbar writes that we move away from that which we don’t like or  toward something beginning–often with goals set. If we make a decision to change things in our lives and in our environment, we need to consider the actions we should take and then commit to those actions. Through the process of reaching a new state of being,  we may discover areas that require healing or we may come upon new information that causes us to re-evaluate the steps we are taking. It is important to remember that this is a journey and while the path may take unexpected turns, we need to stay with the journey to the end. In the pain of change comes true transformation.

And then there is change beyond our control. Some event may occur that knocks us off our feet. This usually happens in relationships. Perhaps the person you thought you would have a long-term relationship with isn’t on the same page as you and your friendship suddenly ends. Perhaps you have unexpectedly lost a loved one–a parent or a spouse/partner. Maybe you lost a job you loved or were forced into retirement when you still wanted to work. This sort of change is much more traumatic because we frequently don’t have the time to process the change; it just happens and we are left without a plan.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

I know for me that without my faith and trust in God to guide me through change, planned or unplanned, I would most likely curl up into a little ball. I have actually done that on occasion; however, I am fortunate that some wonderful women of faith reached out to me and reminded me that I am loved, I have value, and I have worth in the eyes of God. And when I think I am alone, I must remind myself that God will never desert me. I can pick up my bible or a spiritually-influenced book and let the words guide me through my times of uncertainty. Some times its a short process of getting on with the changes while other times I dig my heels in and it takes enormous pain (hitting bottom) before I will do what I need to do. No matter what, the commitment is to embrace the change, to grow, and to become better than I was the day before.

If we were to look through the bible we find it full of stories of individuals who were thrown into circumstances beyond their control and came through the fire, changed for the better. Look at Moses who walked away from a charmed life to live in the desert and ultimately became the voice of the Lord and a leader of change for a nation. David, who made extraordinarily wrong choices that cost people, including his own child, their lives. He became willing to embrace change and altered the course of history. What about a young woman who had a plan for her life only to have the angels tell her nothing she was planning was a great as what God had in mind. And in her obedience, the world was changed.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.(Jeremiah 29:11)

No matter what is happening in your world today, change is going to occur. How we navigate the waters of change will determine our ability to find joy in the change. If we take the perspective that change is an awful painful thing against which we should fight, it is likely that we will drown in depression and anger or sadness. If we can accept or even embrace, the change (planned or not) and seek God’s will for our lives, we will ultimately find peace and maybe even joy.

I pray that you will seek out the positive aspects of change, ask the Lord to reveal his new plan for you, and trust that a new day is coming. I pray that your heart and mind will be transformed and that you will be challenged to share what God has done for you with others who suffer. May you find blessings in your trials and courage to take action.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:6-8)

 

Categories
Boomer Living Living in Singleness

Caught in the Dating Trap

No matter how young or old we are, looking for love can turn us into someone who we are not. We can easily get caught in the trap of acting one way and feeling another way just to snare a potential life partner. And then one day we realize that the person who has fallen for us has no earthly clue who we are, and we begin to wonder when the lid will blow on the lie we have been living. Change is a good and positive thing; however, let’s make sure we are changing for all the right reasons—because we see something in ourselves that needs transformation.

Categories
Living Loving Serving

Caring for One Another

Jesus is the best example I know of someone who cared for the people around him with no concern for himself or how it might look to others. He didn’t wat until it was convenient to help someone, in many cases he actually went out of his way to talk to someone or to help them. He broke protocols to care for people on days when it was illegal. When his disciples said “it is too much,” he said: “come.” Jesus never brought shame on a person for their circumstances—he asked questions and spent time listening to them. He walked with them and told them it would be better with him. He willingly came to the mentally ill (demon possessed), the untouchables (the hemorrhaging woman and lepers), and the ones living in sin (the woman at the well, the tax collector).

Categories
My Faith & Transformation Journey

Searching for Meaning

I spent a good portion of my life searching for meaning and understanding about my life and the world in which I live. I tried everything—sex, drugs, rock & roll, with a trip into the cultic world of Scientology. I would like to think I was a ‘free spirit’ but in reality, I was simply lost. I grew up feeling invisible and kept hoping I would be noticed. Only problem with that kind of search is that I was noticed by all the wrong people in all the wrong ways.

In the business world I searched for some measure of success. Initially I just wanted a job to pay for my car and to get out of my parent’s house. I wanted to find some credibility after my California years of living free—except for the trapped in Scientology part! I went to work where I was told to work and I made a decent living, met a husband, and a few lovers along the way. Sex, drinking, and party party became the new mantra.

Categories
My Faith & Transformation Journey

Woman at the Well

One of my favorite Bible stories is that of the Samarian woman who encounters Jesus at Jacob’s well. It is one of a handful of stories that I relate to my transformation story. When I read this story, it gave me hope that I too could turn my life around, find forgiveness, and leave old patterns of living behind me. My hope began when I read how Jesus spoke to a woman that belonged to a group of people that Jews would not normally speak with. In fact, most people avoided Samaria because they thought themselves better than the people living there. Yet, Jesus deliberately went to Samaria and sought out a woman with whom to share his love and forgiveness. Jesus had a way of stepping into the dirty waters to bring the lost into fresh clear waters. Jesus called out her sin and offered her new living water to fill the empty spot in her life that caused her to keep seeking out something that was ultimately detrimental to her. Not only was this woman’s life changed but she carried back the story of her transformation so that others would find new life as well.

From a personal perspective I related to this woman because of my own lifestyle. Having been through multiple relationships and marriages as I tried to find that ‘real love,’ I came to understand that with the love of Jesus and the Father, I could finally stop looking. I could let go of a past that was influencing my future and damaging my heart and soul.  Above all things in sharing my transformation story, I want other women (and men) to realize that they will never find the perfect love and joy they want by jumping from one bed to another. That momentary high is just that—fleeting and momentary. I needed a love that was lasting and life changing. Once I was able to accept God’s love and to see myself as he does, I was able to accept that my life has value and to begin to live and look for the best in my life.

I sat with my transformation story for a long time. I was still embarrassed by my failures and lifestyle choices. I worried about what others would think if they knew how I lived and how long I lived like I did. I simply wanted to get on with my life and hide the past. I think we would all like to forget the pasts we have left behind and simply keep moving forward. I think God wants us to realize a new birth in his forgiveness; however, like the woman at the well he wants us to share the joy of our new freedom. He wants us to share his story of new water poured into our lives. He wants us to go out and spread the word, telling who we were and who we are today.

Life-giving transformation is a gift and it is God’s story, not my story. I can share the joy I have in not living as I once did and I can share the source of the new life without shame. Our testimonies are the revelation that God is still working with us, Jesus is still walking with us, and the Holy Spirit is still guiding our steps—if we are willing to step into clearer waters. Elmer Towns writes that when Jesus offered the woman at the well “living water” we should see this water as: “1) producing growth, 2) cleansing, 3) refreshing, but Jesus was using this expression to show her how to find 4) satisfactions in life.” [i] As I celebrate what God has done in my life, I want to be like the woman at the well and rush out and tell others the Good News—that you too can let go of past behaviors and embrace a new way of living. You too can have a story of transformation to share and live a more satisfying life.

Do you have a message of transformation too? Have you seen your life in the stories about Jesus’ walk on earth? Have you been changed in such a dramatic way that you just have to run and tell someone? Are you willing to step into muddy waters and share your transformation story so that someone else might embrace the change Jesus is offering for their lives? Are you willing to deliberately go and talk to someone from a group that you would normally avoid and share God’s forgiving grace with them? Start making a list of people and places where you could share your story and them plan how to open the door to new life for them. I know of no greater gift that we can give to another than to share our Jesus story.

 

[i] Towns, E., (2002). The Gospel of Joh: Believe and Live, AMG Publishers: Chattanooga, TN

Categories
My Faith & Transformation Journey

Reinventing Ourselves

I was wowed by Lady Gaga’s performance during the Oscar Awards this week. I think most of America was stunned by the transformation we saw. This lovely woman, who has been hiding behind the theatrical personality she created to make a name for herself, took a huge risk in front of the world. In the business they call it “reinventing,” and often it is considered a market ploy or a sign of new maturity. These star-studded changes are noticed and critiqued around the world. Their transformation is discussed by the talking heads with skepticism or as a great long-overdue achievement.

I think we do the same thing when we witness a transformation in the people closest to us. We know all too well their faults and failures and often question the reality of their change. Perhaps we know someone as a drunkard or drug addict who has gone through treatment and is fighting for their sobriety. Maybe it is a young person whom we have watched grow up in front of us whose adulthood we find hard to recognize. Or the woman at the well who has had multiple lovers and now has decided to wait for the right man. And there are those who are stepping into new careers or callings without a proven record, who have a strong drive to succeed. Many were changed by a new commitment as part of their faith journey.

How do we react to these changes? Do you let the person know that you are seeing a positive change? Do you encourage them? Or do you hold on to an image from the past and wait for them to slip up? Are you moving forward with them or tugging the chains from the past in hope that they will stumble and prove that nothing has changed? Are you shining a negative or positive light on their steps forward? Are  you looking for negative or positive behavior in them?

How you answer these questions is a reflection back on you. I find when I am skeptical it may be that they have hurt me in the past and I am not sure I can ever trust them again. In other cases I am jealous that they have done what I would like to do—successfully move forward. Or maybe I am jealous that they have something I wish I had in my life—a new relationship, a better job, or financial stability. I hope that my response is to celebrate their success and let their transformation inspire me. If I can see the possibility in their life then maybe I can accept the possibility in my life.

These are the choices we make for ourselves regardless of someone else’s journey forward. Let us not crush those who seek to reinvent themselves. Let us be encouragers and hope givers. Let us be encouraged and hope-filled for our own journey. Let us celebrate transformation and release the past into the past. Let us see today as a good thing and pray that tomorrow will be even better.

May God provide an encourager to you today as you take the next step forward. May you stand firm in your new life and celebrate the blessings you receive as a result. May you cling to your transformation even when others may not yet see it. May you share your joy in a way that encourages others to seek out the same transformation in their lives.

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