I have been reading a variety of books lately. Along with this fact, I’ve also been listening to a lot of sermons. Sometimes, I have listened to so many sermons, and read so many books at one time, that I start to second guess myself as to which book or preacher said what. At this point, I usually have to go back and double check that I am giving the right author credit.
In this season of my life, I have been hearing God’s small voice repeatedly encouraging me along the way. I can picture myself taking off at the starting point with my number on, and God on the sidelines with his flag shouting, “Keep running! You can do it! ”
Earlier today, I was reading more of the book on leadership by Brene Brown. The chapter that I am now focusing on is dealing with empathy. Later this evening, I listened to a sermon by Joyce Meyer. As God would have it, she was also preaching on empathy. The key points that were stated from both is the following:
Empathy means being able to connect through the emotion that someone else is feeling.
Empathy doesn’t mean giving advice.
Having empathy shouldn’t lead to a comparison game of who has had the worst suffering.
A few nights ago, I decided to make what I call Simple Chicken Burgers. They turned out super moist and required very few ingredients.
Here is the recipe:
Activity: Making Simple Chicken Burgers
Total Prepping and Cooking Time: 25 minutes
1/3 cup of oatmeal
cumin (1 tb)
onion powder (1 tb)
garlic powder (1 tb)
1 16 oz. pack of ground chicken
2 tablespoons of flax seed meal
3 tablespoons of water
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet.
Dump all of the above ingredients into a bowl.
Make burger patty shapes with your hands.
Place the six patties into a skillet, or as many as you can at once. (use 2 skillets if necessary)
Take the burgers out when they are brown on both sides.
Top with hummus and garnish with basil or spinach if you like.
Episode 7: The Benefits of Suffering Healing Our Brokenness Podcast Seri...
00:00 / 00:20:00
Background on The Benefits of Suffering
Last week, I recorded Episode 6: Waiting on God for the Impossible. When we live long enough, we know that this becomes inevitable at some point in our lives. How we handle waiting, and what we do during the process of waiting is the key. If you want to catch last week’s episode, you can check it out here.
This week’s episode is “The Benefits of Suffering”.
Presence with Joseph
God’s Presence with Me
Living Wholehearted Lives
Perseverance From Suffering
Comforting Others With God’s Comfort
How I Find Comfort in Suffering
Bible Verses to Meditate On:
Poem to Meditate On:
I called you and you answered.
Right during my night of pain.
You pulled me out of the fire.
Then the fire turned to rain.
Not knowing that I’d survive this.
I prayed for you to deliver.
You told me to keep closed fists,
Bended knees with all considered.
I feel your Spirit run through me.
A song comes into my head.
“My child, you are protected.
Rest easy and go back to bed.”
2 Corinthians 1: 3-11
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a]about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 12: 6-10
6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I have been reading Brene Brown’s new book, Dare to Lead for a couple of weeks now. If I was just reading that one book, I would be done by now. However, I am reading about six books at the same time. What I love is that the Holy Spirit has intertwined several themes across the board with all of these books: vulnerability, shame, joy, gratitude, dealing with the unexpected, hustling for self-worth, and filling our thirst.
There are several things that stuck out with me so far in this book. I would like to quote three of them:
“Embodying and practicing gratitude changes everything. It is not a personal construct, it’s a human construct-a unifying part of our existence-and it’s the antidote to foreboding joy, plain and simple. It’s allowing yourself the pleasure of accomplishment, or love, or joy-of really feeling it, of basking in it-by conjuring up gratitude for the moment and for the opportunity”. (Dare to Lead, Brene Brown, pg. 83)
This reminds of last night. I got together with a group of friends. I allowed myself to not dismiss the reality that my life has been filled with lots of drama and trauma within the last six months. However, my heart was full. It was so, so full. I thanked God for my friends, the food, the fellowship, time to decompress, and the laughs from the movie. I thanked him for all his goodness in spite of what my real life problems were.
“Something as simple as starting or ending meetings with a gratitude check, when everyone shares one thing they’re grateful for, can build trust and connection, serve as container-building, and give your group permission to lean into joy.” (Dare to Lead, Brene Brown, pg. 83)
The second quote was a Holy Spirit moment because just a week ago, I had an accident. I allowed myself to sink in anger about all the inconveniences, but then quickly gave myself a gratitude check. That post can be found here. The funny thing about it is that I titled the post “Gratitude Check” prior to reading page 83 of Dare to Lead. God knows how to bring all things together.
The last quote is from page 97, which was another Holy Spirit moment. It reminded me of my IT job from years ago, where I sought to prove that I could sit at the table with others who made a certain salary, instead of being discriminated against. I didn’t realize that the only table that I needed to have recognition at is the table of Christ. The “Heavenly Places” blog post can be found here.
“When people don’t understand where they’re strong and where they deliver value for the organization or even for a single effort, they hustle. The kind that’s hard to be around because we are jumping in everywhere, including where we’re not strong or not needed, to prove that we deserve a seat at the table.” (Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown, page 97)
A few days ago, I decided to try my hands at a simple spaghetti recipe. There were very few ingredients. It turned out pretty good. The only problem was that I put too many red pepper flakes. I would take a bite to eat, then feel flames at the back of my throat. This cycle repeated itself until the bowl was empty. Enjoy!
Here is the recipe:
Activity: Making Simple Spaghetti
Total cooking and Prepping Time: 40 minutes
Servings: about 12
2 tablespoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of onion powder
2 tablespoons of garlic powder
2 tablespoons of basil
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
1 box of spaghetti
1 jar of pasta sauce
1 small can of tomato soup (low-sodium)
basil or spinach leaves (for garnish and eating)
Boil six cups of water with olive oil or butter so that the spaghetti won’t stick.
Add the spaghetti to the boiling water.
Drain the spaghetti.
Dump the pasta sauce and tomato soup into the pot.
Background on the Flashback/Images/Nightmare Aspect
A week ago, I discussed The “Inability to Focus” Aspect: Living With and Healing From Trauma on a Daily Basis. That discussion can be found here. Today, I will be discussing The Flashback/Images/Nightmare Aspect: Living with and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis.
This discussion has three parts to it. When I compare myself to others whom I have talked to, they present themselves differently, and so I deemed it necessary to explain them separately. As far as the nightmare aspect is concerned, my experience has been that there has been very few trauma nightmares. When the nightmares do occur, they are usually because I have fallen asleep with the television on, and a horror movie happened to come on, and that movie turned the dream into a trauma nightmare.
Also, at our last residence, because of the vaulted ceilings, you could hear everything that was going on no matter what room you were in. It gave the impression that we were in closer proximity than we really were. During this time, the sleep deprived trauma symptom was at its peak. I would either wake up every 45 minutes to an hour, or fall asleep at 3 am, If my son was playing a war game on his Xbox, then that would also set me off into a trauma nightmare.
Because of the way that my brain is wired, whenever I go to sleep, I have to be careful of what is playing in the background because it will become part of my dream. The game would cause me to dream of something violent, wake up with trauma-induced fear, my body stiff as a board, clenched teeth, and unfortunately my mouth filled with blood from biting my gums.
It would normally take a long time to go back to sleep after this. I would end up telling my son to turn the game volume down. The very few times that this happened would usually involve me praying desperately for God to take away the trauma fear, and to give me the sweet sleep that he promised us in Proverbs 3.
What I do have a lot of is what I call trauma dreams. What I noticed is that when I am unable to process the trauma, i.e. grieve it, then the trauma will show up in my dreams where I am able to process it. Usually what happens is that I will wake up with heavy grief, remembering the dream, and then grieving some more.
The weird thing about what I call trauma dreams is that there isn’t always one theme that the dream is about. Sometimes there are five different things that I need to process subconsciously, and the dream will mix all these different things together.
Trauma flashbacks usually occur through triggers. These triggers can be weather related, smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and even touch. Basically, triggers can involve any of the five senses. The triggers aspect is discussed in more detail here.
About a year ago, I made some bean and cheese quesadillas that were pretty good. At least, I thought they were. However, my kids were only able to take a few bites. The quesadillas triggered memories of an earlier time.
When I was working at a toxic company for six months, I overheard the boss mention one word. That word sent me into a tailspin of flashbacks in regards to an extremely traumatic situation that happened with my ex-husband. This situation of bullying was going on while my grandmother was in the hospital dying. Basically, you never know what will trigger flashbacks.
As the spring and winter approaches, these also bring the flashbacks on. This is because my eyes are very sensitive to transitions in the brightness and darkness outside. I go into this blackout aspect more deeply here.
I am not sure of how many people deal with this aspect. Where most people have violent nightmares, my trauma comes forth as violent images in front of my face. What I have noticed is that these images will also emerge if my brain is having problems processing what it is seeing.
It can be as small as a simple fight or argument. Sometimes I am able to tolerate it. However, if the movie shows a lot of it, then I will see images. A few months ago, I was watching a Netflix movie that reminded me of my ethnicity, and growing up in the black church and community.
The content started becoming questionable, and I knew the Holy Spirit was trying to signal to me that it probably wasn’t a good idea to continue. My confirmation was when a violent fight broke out between a man and a woman, and then the trauma images came forth. The next thing that I knew, I said, “Okay. We’re done. Thank you Lord for confirmation.”
If there was anything in this discussion that resonated with you, feel free to drop me a line below.
Episode 6: Waiting on God For the Impossible Healing Our Brokenness Podcast Seri...
00:00 / 00:16:36
Introduction to “Waiting on God For the Impossible”
Last week, the featured podcast was Episode 5: Woe is Me! It can be found here. This particular podcast dealt with the sin of self-pity. It broke down the definition, signs and symptoms, the different areas self-pity can be involved in, and the tools to grow and move forward from self-pity.
This week’s podcast is entitled, ” Waiting on God For the Impossible”. I have found that waiting on God for an answer is one of the most difficult things to have to do. If we were on the game show called “Family Feud”, it would come in as number two on the survey for what issues Christians find hardest to deal with. Why?
It is God’s timetable not ours.
Our emergency is not God’s emergency.
The unknown can be scary.
Dissection of How Sarah and Abraham Dealt with Waiting
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to himand said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.5 No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations.6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.8 The whole land of Canaan,where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant,you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.
21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.
23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised,
25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen;26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.
Mark 9: 14-27
Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.”27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
The last six months have been filled with trials, unexpected trauma, and a whole lot of gratitude. This gratitude involves the realization that I have life, strength, and decent health. It makes me think of all the things that God made possible that I thought that I may never do again. It is also gratefulness for a new calling in life. I realize that nothing can be taken for granted.
Background on Gratitude Check
After just coming out of a trial on Wednesday of last week, I was looking forward to taking it easy on the weekend. So I thought. I had just attended a meeting at church for the Sunday School volunteers. My daughter and I were headed home.
We made a complete stop at the intersection around the corner from our house, waiting for eastbound traffic to clear so that we could make a left turn. While we were sitting there, I had the words “crash and rental car” to come into my mind. I tried pushing those thoughts out of my head. I began to make a plan for what I would do when I got home: rake the leaves, go for a walk, write out my podcast speech, etc. The next thing that I knew, we were hit. It kind of happened in slow motion.
After about an hour and fifteen minutes of pictures and paperwork, we were able to go home. To be honest, I had to stop and ask God “Why?” I had just recovered from last week’s drama, only to end up with more trauma from the accident. As I sat there, at my kitchen table, I acknowledged that I was mad. There was no point in pretending. Stuffing leads to more trauma, so I wasn’t going down that aisle. I acknowledged that I didn’t feel like making the calls to the insurance company. Then, I had to acknowledge the trauma from the accident that was starting to kick in.
It took me two more hours before I could call and report the accident. What was my gratitude check for Saturday?
God is good.
The car was still drive-able.
We didn’t suffer any major injuries.(My daughter is sore from the accident).
God had a praise song in my head while we waited for all the pictures and paperwork to be done.
The car wasn’t going any faster than it was.
We found out that we were missing some major coverage on our car insurance.
The other driver had insurance.
This accident reminded me of God’s answer to our thoughts and our plans:
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This was a busy week. We are getting closer and closer to the holidays coming upon us. In my Tuesday morning MOM’s group, we are studying the book entitled, “Pierced and Embraced” by Kelli Worrall. This past week, we dissected the chapter entitled: Forgiven and Set Free: The Woman Caught in Adultery.
This chapter hones in on the sin of judging and condemnation. If you haven’t already, you can check out the poem “If We’re Judging” here, and the podcast, “Broken People Judging Broken People here. One of the most fascinating things in scripture about this story is the question of what was Jesus writing in the sand when the scribes were trying to trip him up on the law and how he was going to handle the situation of the woman caught in adultery. The other question that lingers is “Where was the Man?” Well, I guess that is food for thought.
On that note, a few nights ago, I decided to make what I call simple chicken soup. It turned out pretty good, and it requires very few ingredients. Here is the recipe, and have a blessed weekend!
Activity: Making Simple Chicken Soup
Total Prepping and Cooking Time: 3 hours
1 1/2 boxes of chicken broth
4 tablespoons of chili powder
4 tablespoons of cumin
3 tablespoons of italian seasoning
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 cup of water
1 small whole chicken
1 1/2 cans of corn
1 1/2 cans of french cut green beans
Set the slow cooker for 3 hours on high.
After rinsing off, place a small whole chicken into a slow cooker of of 1 1/2 boxes of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of water.
Add 3 tablespoons of chili powder, cumin, and italian seasoning to the chicken.
Rinse off excess water from the cans of corn and green beans, and then saute them in a skillet.
Dump the vegetables into the slow cooker after 2 hours and 15 minutes.
After 2 hours 45 minutes, carefully cut of the chicken into pieces while in the slow cooker.
For about three months now, I have featured a series entitled, ” Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis. Last week, I discussed the “Blackout Aspect”. That discussion can be found here. Today’s discussion in the series ” Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis”, will center in on The “Inability to Focus” Aspect.
When we focus, we are able to use all of our attention in order to get a task done. Unfortunately, with PTSD/trauma, there are times when the inability to focus can literally get the best of you. There are several times that I have noticed this happening to myself. These are the triggering situations when the inability to focus happens the most:
obtrusive thoughts are coming through
you are in shock/denial about the truth/reality of a situation
when you haven’t had enough sleep
Obtrusive thoughts that come through are the thoughts that are for the most part not your own. These thoughts are usually part of the inner critic voice inside of you from the person who abused or criticized you, or caused some type of pain or rejection. When these thoughts are racing through, it is hard to focus on anything else because the thoughts are trying to literally take over your whole brain process. I start off by praying and asking God to “take my thoughts captive”. If the obtrusive thoughts are mild, this does the trick. However, to keep it real, sometimes the thoughts are so out of control, that I am praying to God all day long about the same thing to the point of exhaustion.
Shock / Denial
When I am in shock/denial about some revelation that God has brought forth, I immediately start having problems focusing. This happened about three weeks ago when a personal situation with someone blew wide open. During this time, I ended up redirecting myself several times over to the truth, which is good. However, what I notice is that the truth is such a shock at this point, that the inability to focus increases instead of decreases from the truth.
This is because the revelation of the truth started the cycle in the first place, if that makes sense. The only thing that helps to ease this up is when our brains know that it is safe to grieve. Grieving breaks through the inability to focus aspect little by little when it comes to shock/denial. In this sense, I think of it as being a protection from further emotional and mental damage. This particular case from shock/denial is a form of dissociation as well.
Lack of Sleep
Lastly, when it comes to trauma, we have to have enough sleep. This can’t be stressed enough. When this doesn’t happen, it increases the inability to focus. In PTSD/trauma victims, this is exaggerated more than usual cases. The situation can get so bad that you exhibit ADHD-like symptoms that are trauma-induced. You have difficulty putting thoughts and sentences together, and you feel like your words are far apart.
My Experience with Lack of Sleep
One time about eight months ago this happened. It was extremely scary. I had been having problems sleeping for about a week do to a trial that I was dealing with, and the next thing that I knew, I realized that I was having problems gathering thoughts and putting sentences together. I prayed and asked God to help me sleep, and to restore my mind. And he didn’t fail to answer.
Even if this is not your area of struggle with PTSD/trauma, I am quite sure that there are other that you have that may be just as challenging. Feel free to comment below on how the inability to focus aspect has challenged you.
Sometimes you end up with the situation like myself, where you want the ability to seat more people in the kitchen (perhaps 10 to 12), but you don’t have the space, nor the money to do it. This is where building a breakfast bar comes in handy. Breakfast bars are great because they are multifunctional. They can serve as a breakfast bar/homework center/painting spot/reading area. You decide.
Last time, I explained how to build shelves using plumbing pipes here. The breakfast bar featured in this post only takes about 30 minutes to build, and very few materials. Plus, you can’t beat the price. Since the length is only 12 inches, you can probably setup two of these in a smaller kitchen, and still be fine.
Four years ago, I purchased the stools that are featured from Amazon. I decided upon these particular ones because I wanted a combination of an industrial/farmhouse/rustic look, along with something that would withstand wear and tear of teenagers and usage in general. Plus, they are both simple and functional, and that’s what Valley of Grace is all about. I don’t like to have to keep buying furniture. The stools come in two different sizes: table height and bar height.
Building a breakfast bar
2 ½” Tees
4 ½” flanges
2 ½” 36” nipples (or whatever height you choose)
2 ½” 12” nipples (or whatever width you choose)
A box of 2-inch screws
1 piece of 8 ft. 8” lumber from the lumber department (add additional 2 ft. for 6 people fitting comfortably, and another 2ft. for a coffee/tea station to be added at the end)
4 clips (optional for securing lumber to 12” nipples)
Assemble two 7 shapes to build the bar without tightly screwing:
Connect the 12” nipple to the flange.
Screw the Tee onto the 12” nipple.
Screw the 36” nipple onto the tee.
Connect the flange to the 36” nipple.
Use a stud finder to find the location of the studs in the wall.
Using the 2-inch screws, drill the two 7 shapes into the studs in the wall.
Place the piece of lumber on top.
Optional: Secure the (2) 12” nipples to the piece of lumber with two clips using a drill, and two screws per clip for both 7 shapes.
Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalms 127:1