Did you ever wonder, “How is this happening to me?” This was my thought as I waited for the ER doctor to come in and give us a diagnosis to our 16-year-old daughter. It was a waiting game that felt like forever.

Our daughter is turning 21 next week. I truly don’t know where the time went. I remember complaining about how difficult raising three children, four and under, to all my friends in the same season of life. It has been one crazy ride with this wild girl of mine! Before I even had children, I used to pray that when I had a daughter, I wanted her to be strong and independent. I really don’t know what I was thinking when I prayed that but boy did I get what I asked for!

A little less than a year before I got pregnant with Ellie, I had a miscarriage. My mother passed away from cancer when I was only two months pregnant with her. So needless to say, I really held onto hope for this child. Little did I know that I would wind up having my best friend for life. She was a beautiful baby. Everyone said so and people would actually stop me in public to comment how she looked like a precious moments doll.

When she was about 4-5 years old, I noticed she had a love for drawing. As soon as she picked up a pencil or crayon, that was it! She was busy for hours. By the time she was seven, I knew she had talent. My sister told me she was destined for greatness. She believed it so much she had Ellie paint her a still life when she was young. Then she could say she knew her back when Ellie wasn’t famous. I took her to painting classes at seven years old and the teacher there recommended a school that could teach her at a higher level because she saw the same thing in her.

Life came to an abrupt halt when Ellie was diagnosed with Amblyopia. During a routine eye exam at school, the nurse discovered that Ellie could not see well out of one eye. She had managed to trick everyone at the eye exams and cheat to use the good eye. She thought she would get into trouble if she couldn’t tell the woman the correct letters. I was devastated to say the least. I questioned God, “Why would you give her this amazing talent if she could not use it?”

We took the advice of doctors and I home-schooled her along with her younger brothers for a year so that she could patch the good eye for nine hours a day. It meant she would not be able to see clearly for the whole day and would need the three hour window to do school-work. It was supposed to strengthen the weak eye, but unfortunately did not work. After the year was up, there was no change and back she went to regular school.

Our daughter has had to struggle with this all these years but did it stop her from pursuing her passion? Absolutely not! She went on to gain admission into the top performing arts high school, LaGuardia in Manhattan for Fine Arts. It was quite a triumph! She also went on to gain admission into her top college choices including where she accepted their full scholarship program, Parsons, The New School, Manhattan.

Now I know how it sounds. It sounds like I’m bragging. Well, I am! But, I brag not just to brag about her accomplishments but to brag on God. If it wasn’t for Ellie’s faith in Him, I am sure she would not be where she is today.

So what about this brain surgery you ask? Well, I’ll let her answer that question herself in her blog post from mynamesellie.com below:

"It is becoming rather than being."

I used to think that everyone had one defining moment in their lives. This moment helped you find out who you are or who you are supposed to be. From that discovery you develop that single identity as your life unfolds. I remember hearing people share stories of testimonials that inspired their artwork that were unique. I had trouble deciphering what my story was. As I matured, I delved into learning about the aspects of myself that gave me my individual sense of self. I understood that one specific moment or characteristic does not define a person. It was only until after I came to that realization that I experienced a big moment in my own life. In summer, 2014, I had been experiencing fainting, dizzy spells, and blurred vision which made creating art extremely painstakingly difficult. I was under the impression that it was chronic migraines and tried to move on. During a vacation that same year, I was involved in a severe bicycle accident. I was taken to the hospital where I was told that I had a concussion and needed a CT scan. I was visited by the neurosurgeon and was shown images of my brain. One area of my brain was clearly larger than it should be. I was diagnosed with a condition called hydrocephalus. As a result I’d need a shunt placed in my head that would connect to my stomach that would drain the fluid properly. I would live with that for the rest of my life and constantly risk infection. A few weeks later after multiple visits to the neurosurgeon back home in New York City, I was told I in fact needed brain surgery. Throughout this entire ordeal I was as cool as a cucumber. I felt as though I was strong enough to get through this and, if I did, the art that would result from the experience would be my salvation and my reward. I was motivated to never stop creating because I knew what it had felt like to almost lose the ability to. I sometimes believe that what is in your heart is shown through your hands. Whatever you do with your hands reveals the desires of your heart, both good and bad. I try to remain aware of my hands so that I am truly displaying the contents of my heart, with a little bit of help from my brain."

Of course she made it through the surgery perfectly. Not only that, but she did not need a shunt. The brain surgeon was the top Neurosurgeon in Cornell University in Manhattan. He was the only one that could perform this type of surgery that punctured a ventricle to allow the fluid to flow freely and not keep building up. It was all a miracle and we trace God’s hand all along the way. My motto is, “We all have a choice in how you handle what life throws at you.” I know it sounds trite but you really can make lemonade from the lemons in life. I’m fascinated by women’s stories of triumph over difficulties life hands us. They are women that have shaped my life and this is where I get to celebrate them. I celebrate my amazing daughter, Ellie’s life. Happy 23rd Birthday my girl!

How do you determine your important relationships? God has beyond blessed me with some terrific women from all walks of life. I am convinced that who you surround yourself with determines who you become and where you will go in life.

For many years, I’ve had people come and go in my life. Some have been lovely people God had brought through for a season. Some have been in my life to teach me very valuable lessons.

When I felt God leading me to begin a Women’s Ministry and write a book that I believe God placed in my heart to help women in their spiritual journey, I never thought it would take me down the path it has.

I have met so many authors and speakers that are finding their way just as I am. We are finding that we are better and stronger together. Learning from each other has been a blessing.

I am reminded of the scripture in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” The answer to that question is no. But I have found many that have been walking together in agreement and unity, being led by the Spirit.

There are many stories I love of true friendship in the Bible. This particular friendship is between Jonathan, the son of Saul, the king of Israel and David, the son of Jesse of Bethlehem, and Jonathan's presumed rival for the crown. David would one day become king. The covenant the two men had formed eventually led to David, after Jonathan's death, graciously seating Jonathan's son Mephibosheth at his own royal table instead of eradicating the former king’s lineage.

Another story is that of Mary, the mother of Jesus and her cousin, Elizabeth. It is said that after receiving the news that she would be the mother of the son of God, the Messiah, Mary went to stay with her cousin, Elizabeth who was pregnant with John, the Baptist.

Such a beautiful story it is for Mary hurried to the hill country, to the house of Zacharias and greeted her cousin. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

She cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Then Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months.

So, just these two stories give such great examples of what true friendship looks like. My prayer is that you surround yourself with such friends that come alongside you when you are in need. That they are trustworthy and are committed to you and your well-being as you are to them.

One of the things I feel contributes to a winning mindset is who you surround yourself with. I’ve also been blessed by my friends Delphine Kirkland and Doris Cush who are like sisters to do life and ministry together with.

We are committed to you, in our desire to see you grow with us as we develop great friendships, more like a sisterhood. We want you to know we are here for you the whole way. 

In fact, here are a couple of examples of how we see our circle of this sisterhood growing, based on feedback from our Beyond workshop and conference attendees...

One woman felt the camaraderie refreshing and welcoming. Many felt a sense of connection beyond the learning they received. Another testimonial was that the time spent with our “Beyond” group has been encouraging and extremely hope-giving.

As you can see, we’re dedicated to you getting the best experience possible. I’d love to know just what your needs are and if we can address them in our upcoming time together on Saturday, October 17th where we’ll be celebrating with some laughs as well as learning together at our upcoming “We Thrive” Conference! Link here for Eventbrite Tickets. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/we-thrive-conference-tickets-120668872847

Proverbs 27:9, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad; So does the sweetness of a friend’s counsel that comes from the heart.”

May your friendships make your heart glad like a sweet fragrance of perfume.

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I always chuckle a bit when I hear someone say they are on “the struggle bus”. Seems like an understatement to me. The truth is looking back, I don’t think anyone’s year has gone as planned. We all seem to have been reluctant passengers on the bus to perpetual struggle this year.

Recently, I was reading a magazine article that said, “God is the God of the past, present and future.” It made me think of the scripture that says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Today, we remember 9/11. It certainly was a day for which no one was prepared. It was a difficult day for New Yorkers. We know first-hand the horror of that fateful day. We remember like it was yesterday. I remember well the sheer terror. Not knowing what was happening or where family members and friends were as the Twin Towers were burning.

For some, today is just another day. Many wake up not realizing the significance of this day. I can remember answering the phone early that morning. My sister was living in Seattle and her voice was terrified, asking if I had put the news on yet. I did not. I was happily making breakfast for my daughter and myself.

Being caught unaware was so jarring. We sat shocked, unable to speak. Our brother worked in the city. I didn’t hear from him right away. I wouldn’t hear from him until later in the day, when he was walking with thousands of other New Yorkers to the bridges or seaports. Fellow citizens were using their privately-owned boats to ferry people across to safety to New Jersey.

When we remember such traumatic experiences, we can’t help but feel the pain of those moments.

I have another memory. It is the night Hurricane Sandy came through our area. We were driving in the rain, being rerouted due to downed trees, power lines and flooding. My husband and I looked at one another after being frustrated street after street, thinking we were not going to make it to his father’s house. My children sat in the back of the van with our dogs, everyone silent in fear.

In the devotional, “Overcoming Tough Times”, I read that,

“Some of life’s greatest roadblocks are not the ones we see through the windshield; instead, they are the roadblocks that seem to fill the rear view mirror.”

Many times we find ourselves allowing painful memories to consume our thoughts, stealing our present as well as our future. Some of us simply can’t seem to let go of our pain and we relive it over and over, constantly coming to the same impasse. 

Thankfully, God has other plans. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” He has plans to prosper you and give you a hopeful future.

The Apostle Paul describes the need to reach toward the future, forgetting the things which are behind, looking forward to those things which are up ahead. Philippians 3:13-14.

We forget that God has always known what was coming up ahead. He is never caught by surprise. I take great comfort in knowing that He knows and I place my trust in Him having my best in mind, regardless what is happening. I choose to place my mind on things above. Not on the things of this earth and that God has a future ahead where He will bring some good out of present circumstances.

Why is it so difficult to focus on the future? Partly, it is due to focusing too intently on the past. Oftentimes we allow anger, bitterness, unforgiveness or hurt to build up into regret. Worrying about our present or future will never change what is or what is to come. But what we can do is accept what was and realize that those experiences are gone.

Placing our trust in God, turning to Him when we have fears and questions and when we are weak or discouraged fills you with His love and grace.

Believe me, I know this is hard work. It isn’t something that is easily accomplished. But if you have had a difficult past and do not learn from it’s lessons, you will feel as if you are driving in circles up and down the same streets, never arriving at your destination.

The devotional states, “Give all your yesterdays to God, celebrating this day with hope in your heart and praise on your lips. Your Creator intends to use you (and your past) in unexpected ways if you will let Him. But first, God wants you to make peace with your past.”

Once we make peace with our past, we are freed to then become fully engaged in the present, enabled to build a better future.

“If you are God’s child, you are no longer bound to your past or to what you were. You are a brand new creature in Christ Jesus.” ~ Kay Arthur

Here are some Bible verses to cling to when you are dealing with painful past memories.

Isaiah 43:18-19, “Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”

Colossians 3:3, “Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life.”

My favorite devotional is written by Oswald Chambers and he said this, “God can transform (your past) into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.”


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