My life has been a journey full of twists & turns, highs & lows. Honestly, I'm not sure I could really define where I'm headed. But one thing I'm learning, the journey isn't all about the final destination but more about how we travel. And fulfillment is found in all that we learn & experience as we journey, not just getting to the end of it. I can't even imagine making mine without Christ before me, behind me, and beside me...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


   "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:12-13

 This week Chad asked the staff if there was one thing in the whole world we could change, what would it be? I could think of numerous things that I would like to see changed...World peace, elimination of child abuse and domestic violence, no more poverty...all kinds of worthwhile things. But, realistically, we can wish and we can work on change but somehow it all seems futile because it never stops. We are still left wanting more...seeing more that needs to be changed. Renovating the world is like renovating our houses. We get new carpet and we realize how dingy the walls are. So we paint the walls and we realize we need to paint the trim too...which then casts light on the saggy old couch or the battered old coffeetable. So we get a new couch and/or coffee table...and the list goes on. We can't stop with "one thing." To me, there's not a real or effective answer to that question outside of myself because nothing really changes...not permanently anyway. Seasons go round and round. They go away and come back again as sure as the sun rises and sets. Seasons of war, seasons of peace. Seasons of sorrow, seasons of joy. Seasons of pain, seasons of healing. Seasons of hatred, seasons of love. Seasons of despair, seasons of hope.  That's the circle we call life.
     Quite a few years ago, there was a book that really impacted me and the title statement still invades my thoughts and being every so often. And I realize that if there was one thing I could change, this would be it...It's the only thing that I CAN do. I don't have the strength or the influence to change the world or even to change my circumstances, but there is one thing I can change and it begins with a simple prayer: "Lord, change me." If there is one thing in the whole world I can change, I'm it. Lord, change me...Change my mind, change my unforgiving and sinful heart, change my graceless attitude, change my stubborn will...For this moment, don't change my family or my friends and enemies or my circumstances-- CHANGE ME! 
    To borrow Tom's words, I'm not the president of all those other things--world peace or war, or child abuse, domestic violence, sickness, or poverty, or any malady that plagues our world. The truth is I'm not the president of anything at all. On my own, I can't change the world or even my own little corner of it. All too often, I can't even change my own circumstances. In reality, I can't change anything at all...BUT GOD CAN! And it begins with me. In asking God to change me, I can change the world...

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me,
 and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice.  Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." - Psalm 51:7-12


"THEN I will teach transgressors Your ways, so that sinners will turn back to You...Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare Your praise...My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart  You, God, will not despise.: - Psalm 51: 13, 15, 17


I made a commitment a long time ago to discover and intentionally list the multitudes of God's blessings. Obviously, I let "stuff" get in the way. This week,however, I have some worries and concerns heavy on my heart and it would be easy to get so caught up in fear that I forget God's goodness...So maybe this is the perfect time to turn my focus on Him rather than getting caught up in worry and anxiety. Besides, this week blessings have been evident. There are so many good things to be thankful for...So to continue my list...

81.  Slain dragons.
82.  Anticipating answers to prayer.
83. Spending thanksgiving with a very special family. Good meal, good fellowship and AWESOME friends.
85. A place for all my HOPE chics to nest for Thanksgiving.
86. Unexpected letters from England--another mother's blessing.
87. British chocolate!!!
88. Our book in Portuguese...God at work in Brazil.
89. Anticipating Andy's graduation! So happy for him!
90. HOPE fun and fellowship.
91. Decorating Christmas trees.
92. Christmas lights.
93. ART STAR's paintings.
94. Seeing Brittany find her niche in teaching art and creativity with those kids.
95. Bones that rattle and bruise but don't break!
96. Spike and Zoe--they make me smile!
97. Cooking with Andy.
98. White chocolate coffee!
99. Dreams that don't come true...
100. Sudafed--the original kind.
101. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these bright autumn colors!
102. Windless days.
103. Psalm 91.
104. Faith. I can't imagine how people get thru life without it.
105. Birthdays...Seems like my kids' birthdays get more precious every year.
106. Friends that pray faithfully.
107. Power tools!  My scroll saw, belt sander, and drill press and a little paint and wood open up a whole new world sometimes...
108. Warm places.
109. Jesus loves me no matter what.
110. Strangers in the laundromat who become friends during the dry cycle. It's amazing how people open up over a load of laundry!
111. Words that give life.

Speaking of words....What better way to focus on the positive than to find it in His Word!...
112. REST - "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." - Psalm 91:1
113. BATTLE - "All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s..." - 1 Samuel 17:47 (I'm holding tight to this one...whether it be battles in Afghanistan or battles of the mind--they are all HIS.)
114. UNFAILING - "Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone." - Psalm 33:22  (What a gift that we can trust that His love never fails!)
115. HOPE - "He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands." - Psalm 78:5-7 (I love how hope goes on and on from generation to generation. All else of this world may fail, but He always gives us hope.)

holy experience

Friday, November 26, 2010


"Words kill, words give life: they're either poison or fruit--you choose." -- Proverbs 18:21 The Message

     Eyes cast down as others come in prayer, thinking of those words that have slain and those that have raised up. And though raised up, those first words have left tender scars...reminders from whence we came. I look up as a young boy walks to his father to pray. I know the rocky road they've traveled and tears fill my eyes wishing for what I don't have and praying for these two so fragile and vulnerable...The boy talks quietly to dad and Dad replies gently in the boy's ear as if no one else is in the room. A scene not played out often enough but has begun rehearsal in the privacy of home...Practice makes perfect, you know. Dad wraps an arm around the boy's shoulder, heads bow, and Dad prays over the son he loves so deeply. As he prays, he grips the boy tighter...Soulful God-words begin to lift up a boy that doesn't trust enough to believe...Words give life...Dad wipes away his own tears and holds the boy even tighter. Those prayer words raise up both man and boy. The boy begins to trust just a little and the father embraces--cords that bind both together in the places where wounds made weak. Now cords of prayer and embracing arms make strong as both of them learn more and hold on to those words that raise up. This beautiful picture of father and son...a work in progress and a masterpiece of grace. I was blessed in seeing it--recognizing the reflection of my Abba and me, knowing that His words and His embrace made me stronger in those scarred and weak places.
     Then this week, I heard a story of a boy lost in the tide of horrendous abuse and brokenness of family--his own mom guilty for not saving him, though she fought to protect. She stood between the killing dragon and her boy, but she lost the battle as she herself was "involved in the story"--not a reluctant witness, but a slain victim. And we think, "but a mother should fight to the death" and some brag what grander feats they would have achieved if they had been in her place. But those of us who've been there understand those killing words the mom lived herself and we see her hidden mortal wounds that bled out slowly, stealing life away. 
     She was locked away for failing to be a dragon slayer--convicting words that drove a knife deeper in her hidden wounds. Even when chains were loosed and locks undone, those same old words and new ones defeated her. Once again, she was taken away. This time, the bars weren't the instruments that confined her. She was bound by killing words she couldn't outrun or outfight. Today, the boy tells his story and has every right to hate or resent--she tells hers in the midst of it. Some wonder, "Did she really love the boy or herself more?" But they aren't part of the story...Only she and the boy knows. After all was said and done, the boy found hope in the resurrecting words of a coach and with leather ball and cheering fans, the boy was made strong in the places where words made weak. He rises up a dragon slayer and fights with all his might and has become the hero in the story. Now, with his own battle fought and won, he fights for her. His words--he still loves her, forgives her..."She'll always be my mom...."  Those words strike against those that inflicted mortal wounds made by another so long ago--making mother strong in those places where killing words have made weak. And once again, locks are undone and the prisoner is set free. This time, they fight together--this mother and son--striking down those killing words and raising each other up with words that give life. It's the story in reverse or maybe it's just this circle we call life...and forgiveness. And like the other story of father and son, they are a work in progress, an unfinished masterpiece designed by Grace.
     The power of forgiveness is a mystery to me as my own scenes flash before me...As I think of those killing words...both given and received across generations. And I realize that forgiveness is the sword that overcomes...With pain and sorrow, I remember when dragons weren't slain for me and when I failed to slay dragons for my own no matter how hard I tried...Those wounds and scars go deep. But a wise one reminds me that some of those dragons have already been slain. I remember and cherish words that come randomly by text, "I love you, Mom." Or late one night from another son, "Mom, I just want you to know I really love you." Or the call, "Mom, I made Sergeant..." Or when I was ready to give up, Daughter wrote a cherished letter..."Just breathe, Mom..." And now the excitement in her voice when she calls, "I have an idea about my class...What do you think?" And she and I share ideas and thoughts in teaching, seeking life-giving words and colors for very young ones. Or when son or daughter calls, "Mom, will you pray for...?" Or "Mom, come have lunch with me..." And some words come much more easily for me now than they used to somehow, "I love you, Son...God has a plan for you, Daughter...I'm proud of you...You can do this...I'm praying for you...I'm sorry." 
      Even when we don't realize it, we're slaying dragons. The scars are still there--yes, they are still tender and sometimes painful but they serve as reminders of how far we've come. But with each life-giving word and each dragon slain, we are making each other stronger in the weak places. Dragon slayers--my children and me, though I'm not sure they always see it yet. We are a work in progress and, though unfinished, a masterpiece of Grace...And, for that, I am thankful.

"But now, this is what the Lord says—He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I HAVE REDEEMED YOU; I have summoned you by name; 
When you pass through the waters, I WILL BE WITH YOU, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  FOR I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, 
 the Holy One of Israel, YOUR SAVIOR... 
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east, and gather you from the west.  I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ 
BRING MY SONS FROM AFAR AND MY DAUGHTERS FROM THE ENDS OF THE EARTH—everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made...” 
 Isaiah 43:1-3, 5-7 NIV

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


    Family traditions...We all seem to have them even if we don't recognize them. It's kinda funny...Some of the holiday traditions my kids (now grown) still cherish are those we never really intended--they just evolved. When we are all together, they often talk about the odd little things they remember but never so much about the presents except the more practical sentimental ones...Honestly, we never were able to give them much of value but they remember the artsy fartsy stuff that I always made sure was under the tree to encourage their creative spirits--art pads and pencils, guitar picks and musical accessories, journals and books. (A tradition worth its price--they are all uniquely gifted now.) They can buy those things themselves now but it's still an expected "tradition" for mom to include them... We remember church Christmas plays, cantatas, and band concerts...Stockings with all their funny little pint-size treasures...Green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and broccoli-rice casserole...The cooking chaos and mad rush to Granny's house. 
     They especially remember the extra unplanned guests we always seemed to have--kids, family members, or even a couple of strangers who had nowhere to go, no families, or whose families didn't celebrate Christmas. But it's more than the annual ritual--our stories center around memorable events, laughable disasters and special graces of each Christmas...Those stories that are once in a lifetime and unrepeatable...
     ...Like Pepaw's last Christmas with us--he was so weak. Even the kids somehow sensed it would be his last...That last picture of him confined to a wheelchair, the kids in his lap and surrounding him...and my belly carrying unborn Zachary. He insisted that Zachary be in the picture too! That was a sadly sweet and precious Christmas...Like the beaming face of an incorrigible neighbor boy who brought us gifts he had gathered around his house and obviously personally wrapped for our family. "Taking" was his usual nature but he and his sister often found shelter at our house on scary stormy nights when their dad was working. Jacob wanted somehow to show us he loved us. His gifts were hilarious and totally impractical but even the youngest understood Jacob's "giving" was a special uncharacteristic joy for him although we were quite speechless! (I still have my lime green carnival prize dog somewhere!)...Like the year  a young man, 17 years old, spent Christmas morning with us. He was almost in tears when he discovered "Santa" had filled a stocking for him too. His family had never celebrated Christmas or even birthdays. It felt good to share our family and our Jesus with him on his very first real Christmas. 
      The holidays changed somewhat when my husband and I separated and finally divorced. Two years ago, I wanted to forget Christmas altogether--my depression was so deep. I prayed for a way out and begged my kids to do Christmas without me but nothing doing for Brittany. I didn't look forward to holidays anymore. But last year I just couldn't muster the same old Christmas. Too many years, I determined to "make" Christmas happen. I just couldn't do it anymore. So my kids and I decided to make drastic changes--to lessen the chaos, runabout, and busyness. We set the day apart just to be together at my house without running from house to house to make all the busy rounds.
     No big fancy meal--just Christmas brunch (cooked mostly by the kids and their dad) and a newer tradition with two bartenders in the family now--mimosas, and most important--lots of laughter and love. Again, we had additional welcome guests. The kids now invite their special romantic interests and friends who have no family. I used to be the one telling them who was coming to Christmas. Our usual family of seven was 11 this time. Without all the hustle and bustle of cooking, cleaning, making everything just so and rushing off to other obligations, I was able for the first time to actually sit and enjoy the time with them. It's a rare occasion when all of my children can gather in one place anymore, and when they do, I'm always so busy. Not this time. So much laughter, lots of sharing, and limitless love. Tension of recent years melted away for the day. We went to the movies together, and then out to eat Chinese...No cooking, no dishes, no fuss! Our best Christmas ever! A lot of the fluff was gone but the spirit of our most precious tradition remained. We not only shared our Christmas, we shared our family. Just as Christ so lovingly draws us to Himself, we embraced each other as well as our guests and drew them in as our children...and brothers. We were all equally blessed, I think. 
     When divorce fractures a family, when extended family discord strains relationships, when growing up strips away visions of sugarplums and merry old men, the Bennett family can still find it in ourselves to seek and share the Love that came down that star-filled night more than 2000 years ago. I wasn't sure my ex-husband and I had really instilled anything positive--life had gotten so twisted...But my kids remember the best of Christmas past. It was good and we committed as a family to make this unconventional Christmas our tradition. At least for one day a year in our family of however many, all is calm, all is bright...

"Silent night (though not so silent)...Holy nIght.
Son of God, Love's pure light...Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace.
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth...Jesus, Lord at Thy birth."
"Silent Night" written in 1816 by Priest Joseph Mohr

“I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.”
 This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword 
will find favor in the wilderness;  I will come to give rest to Israel."
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: 
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
 I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again..."

Jeremiah 31:1-4

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


      I saw a church sign this week: "What we do now echoes in eternity." It stuck in my head as I thought how one thing we might do--one choice--could reverberate across time and even generations. Chad told us to think about a moment in time that changed our lives forever. James Emery White wrote of these kairos moments--a whole book in fact: "Kairos is time filled with opportunity, a moment pregnant with eternal significance and possibility. It is a point of time that demands action, a space of time in which life-determining decisions are made."
     Os Guinness wrote, "Nothing is more critical than to recognize and respond to such a moment. Before will hardens into fate and choice into 'might have been,' the kairos hour is the moment when the present is at its greatest intensity and the future is uniquely open to our decision and action." 
     That's quite a loaded moment! We'd like to think our future depends on serious thought and well-laid plans. Sometimes (probably more often than not), our kairos moments are not planned or thought out. They burst in on us uninvited and even unwelcome. They just kind of happen in the urgency of a moment. 
     I like to be in control. I like to think--and for others to think--that I've got it all together and that I'm unfazed by much of what life throws at me. But the truth is that sometimes the most seemingly insignificant thing can trigger an unreasonable reaction and I come completely undone. Through most of my life, I was able to keep my "undoing" private. As much as I hate to admit it, sights, words, certain people, and especially smells can trigger PTSD flashbacks. For a long time, pride and self-preservation enabled me to keep a lid on my secrets. The fear of appearing crazy sometimes exceeded the fear of my past and kept me in check...publicly at least. 
     Then one day, I came so unraveled and so lost in traumatic flashback, I knew I was in danger and was desperate for a safe place. It's hard to explain living with PTSD. It rears up when I least expect it and turns my life and my thinking upside down. I could usually slip in the church unnoticed and busy myself or stay somewhere quiet until the episode ran its course. It has often been my safe zone. That day--no such luck. The pastor and his friend saw me come in. I went on to my classroom without stopping to talk, hoping they would just think I had things to do and go about their own business. I wanted--I needed to hide out alone until I could get my head and my heart back together. I knew what was coming. I would get so entrenched in a memory, as if the past became present--the sounds, the sights, and the smells seem so very real. I knew I couldn't escape it or bring myself back to reality without drastic measures. I locked the door in hopes of being left alone. But minutes later: knock, knock.I didn't answer. Knock, knock again. "Sheri..." I sat in the corner out of sight, hoping they would go away. I heard keys jingle as the door was opened. "Someone's here to see you."
     I thought, "Not now! I can't handle this now." Before I could protest, the visitor was led in. Normally I would jump to respond to someone's need and even that day, I really tried to listen. I could hear her words but they weren't registering. The other images were invading my thoughts. C evidently felt the need to step in to check on things. The visitor was still oblivious but thankfully he realized "things" were not so okay--I was injured. He quickly made excuses and ushered her out. I locked the door again, not quite sure what I was afraid of but I didn't want anyone to see me that way. I was uncooperative to say the least, but he must have had an idea what was happening and insisted I get help. I didn't want that kind of help. Basically, he forced me to go willingly or with escort. Finally, I hesitantly agreed to go. Honestly, I couldn't have hated him more yet appreciate him at the same time. He was firm though he didn't pry or humiliate. He made good on his promise to walk with me through my mess. I don't remember much that followed except the waiting. I was overwhelmed, terrified,and so vulnerable--at the mercy of people I didn't know and memories I couldn't escape or understand. I remember this much though--C knew somehow that my ultimate healing depended on that vulnerability. Shame always prevented me from talking about my "stuff" or opening up about some of these memories that haunted me. Only one other person--a counselor--had even an inkling. In the waiting that day, I paced and climbed the walls, wishing I could escape and run far away from anyone I ever knew or who knew me. Far away from pain, memories, and shame. The waiting seemed forever--I was half here but flashbacks still plagued the other half. I don't know why or how but I started talking--the whole memory that had me in its grip spilled out. I can only wonder what must have been going through his mind. He sat and listened without word, comment, or judgment. I was a mess but I needed that quiet time to talk without detour--to pour out the poison. 
     It was a life-defining kairos moment and it turned the tide on my healing I think. Time stood still as, for the first time, I spoke the ugly out loud without so much shame and fear of judgment or consequence, even if it was only for a few moments..or hours. Honestly, I'm not sure which...I remember little else about the rest of that day. I know I went backward before I went forward. I know that coming back to the church was a very hard thing to do but I did and there were caring friends who helped me through it. 
     That was a long time ago. Healing has been in the making for several years and I'm still healing. I still don't like being vulnerable. And even as far as I've come, I still don't always walk this path perfectly but something in me changed that unpleasant day. God was given permission to begin prying the fingers of shame's grip loose from me--a long and difficult process. The waiting that day was a timeless moment that--for me--will echo in eternity. I didn't realize it then, but I made a choice that day and that choice is still making me. Church is still my "safe" place--the Spirit's dwelling place--and I can say with certainty that I never want to leave the safety of His presence.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord  all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. 
For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at His sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Psalm 27:4-6


Thursday, November 4, 2010


     "I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all the obstacles in my way..." This song has bumped around in my head for more than a week since I had the privilege to witness a miracle: a friend's eye surgery. Now don't get me wrong--I'm not a blood, guts, and body parts junkie by any means! Watching people get cut open on TV or in life is nowhere on my bucket list, but Anne wanted or needed to know someone was there for her...watching. And once I got past the thoughts of "Ugh! Ouch!" and I began to realize the miracle that was taking place, it was downright amazing!
     Only a glass wall separated me from the operating room. The doctor, anesthesiologist, and two nurses were clad in blue scrubs and Anne was draped in blue sheets. A small television hung in the corner showing a screen-size view of an eye--Anne's eye. The undertones of surgery seemed louder than life--the whir and hiss of unidentified machines, and the clink of tools—I still wasn’t confident that I wanted to witness this. The anesthesiologist looked my way and nodded, eye crinkling, a smile hidden behind his mask. His nod was somehow an odd assurance. Not only could I see them but they could see me, and I suddenly felt less like an intruder and more like a welcome observer. 
     The doctor bent over Anne's face, tools in hand. On the screen, the scalpel gently cut into the eye and another wand slid in under the cornea I think,flushing the iris and pupil with water. She cut again and suddenly, a film began to break up. The whir suddenly became a roar as the second nurse took instrument in hand and went toward Anne's face. On the screen, the tip of the tool moved toward the fractured film and inhaled it. Without a word, the surgical team worked together like a well-oiled machine. The doctor cut again, one nurse flushed, the other suctioned the remants from the eye. I couldn't tell you the medical details of all that was taking place. I didn't know that much about cataracts or the surgery. When I was a child, people lived out the rest of their days in darkness because of cataracts. Surgery then was rare--more for the wealthy or insured--and at best, only a temporary solution. Cataracts often grew back. As I watched, I realized cataract surgery has become so commonplace today that we don't often recognize the miracle that is taking place. We don’t stop to think how it brings clarity, color, and life to those whose vision have become faded, dim, and unclear.
     Layer upon layer, this "film" was broken up and inhaled. I was stunned that Anne's cataract was that dense. No wonder that she couldn’t see--I hadn't realized how limited her vision really was. The last layer proved to be a little tougher but it too was torn and inhaled. The doctor had removed the old diseased lens. Suddenly, light filled the center of Anne’s eyes and it gleamed with a golden glow. It was beautiful. The magnitude of this moment touched me to the core. The doctor replaced the old lens with a brand new lens created especially for Anne. She would no longer even need glasses. I could see the clearness of her eye now, every line in the iris distinct and the pupil was defined. Her eye wasn’t so jaded anymore. The doctor patched the eye, offered Anne some assurances, and the surgery was over.
    I went back to the waiting room in awe. This surgery would offer Anne a new life and new confidence. Her world wouldn’t be quite so small anymore. She would be able to see—to read, to watch television, and to “hear.” You see, Anne is almost deaf and also depended on her eyes to read lips. She had lost much more than her sight.
     My heart was pounding as I waited to see Anne, thanking God that He would give her such a blessing. Unexpectedly, He gently whispered to me, “But do you understand now why YOU are here? Take hold of it. Do you recognize that you’ve had “cataract surgery” of another kind? It has taken six long years but light has finally dawned in your eyes too..."
     I took Anne back the next morning. She was anxious and excited. She insisted I go in with her. The doctor carefully removed the patch and Anne almost fell out of the chair! The doctor was reassuring her, "I know...the light is bright." But Anne was exclaiming with her heavy Scottish lilt, "I can see! I can see! Oh my God, I can see! It's so clear! I never would have believed it! I've never had eyes like this before!" The doctor could do nothing else but sit back and wait. I think she was holding back tears as much as I was. I don't think any of us expected Anne's strong reaction. I have no doubt the doctor must have been blessed, knowing in that moment why she had chosen this specialty in medicine. I thought, "God, You must feel like that when we finally say, 'I can see! I can see!'"
    I felt His whisper again, "Do you get it now? Layer by layer, I broke through the darkness. I have given you new eyes, new sight...a whole new life. You are not the person you were..." 
     I’ve lived with shadows most of my life...I don't really know when they became permanent tag-alongs but their presence has dimmed my vision and outlook on life. My faith became distorted and out of focus--harsh and legalistic. For years, I didn’t understand it. I was trying to doing everything I was supposed to do but I was still hurting...still lost. I knew Scripture and yes, I had faith. I clung to it for dear life...literally. But I had lost hope. It was only in recent years that it was defined for me. You see, I live with major depressive disorder (severe depression in layman’s terms) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Layer upon layer, it formed unchecked. Hurtful events, mortal wounds, hateful life-defining words, secrets, impossible standards, rejection, fear, deadly choices, self-loathing, shame, so many babies, religion, cancer, death, grief, rape, more secrets, a destructive marriage, pain, divorce, scars, suicide, and still more shame--each one adding to the density of the “cataracts” on my life. Blinded and overwhelmed, I could no longer see life, love, or faith clearly. My vision had become so distorted and fractured that it didn't make a Picasso painting.
     Finally, life as I knew it--the facade--fell apart, my mind and heart were shattered. I wanted to die. Pride gave way and I got in counseling and life began again as we cut through the mess of my life. I was encouraged to go to a non-traditional church. I swore I'd never be a part of a church again...God had His way instead. I went to a little warehouse church called The Mission. "There's a reason you're here..." Those words were the first hints of hope and incentive to keep on working. Healing didn't come easily. I can't tell you how many times I had setbacks, how many times I tried to give up, how many times the old life sought to draw me back in, and how many more times God put someone in my path here to pull me back and push me onward. So many wounds buried deep so that I didn't have to face them but now each one was exposed to His Light. "He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and Light dwells with Him." (Daniel 2:22 NIV)
     Layer by layer, counselors and these new Mission friends faced the shadows with me. They were His surgical team; and with Him, they worked in unison like that well-oiled machine, even though they may not have realized their role. The only "truth" I had known was my enemy and my downfall--but that "truth" was an imposter, piling on layers of legalism, lies, and pretense. A new truth--God's Truth--tore away the old and inhaled it. Grace washed my eyes, clearing any remnant left behind. Acceptance cut through another layer as these people showed me what Christ sees in me Those life-defining words and recordings were cleared away and I began to feel again, though feeling wasn't always pleasant. Just as Anne's doctor had to scrape the scum from her eye, all the finally-loosed grief and tears that had long been held painfully chipped away at the callousness of my heart and self-hatred. Tears and brokenness were needed as the old lens of my life was shredded and removed...New light gleamed as I began to learn a new way to live--new coping skills,new boundaries, new thoughts, new hope. A brand new lens replaced my old diseased one--TRUTH. And because of it, I've finally learned to accept and receive His grace. 
     Yesterday, after over six years, I had my final counseling session (more than three with this counselor) It was a time of bittersweet reflection laced with hope and grace. To be honest, the road ahead is frightening to me without that safe assurance. But I'm stronger--I can see more clearly--and I'm looking forward to what lies before me. The patch has come off and I can see today like I've never seen before. I can't say that all my circumstances have changed or all the bad memories have vanished. They are part of my story and I'm still a work in progress. But I cope with difficulties differently now. I can see all the obstacles in my way and those memories in a different light. I can be real today--no more pretending. And when I'm afraid, I'm not alone in my darkness. His light filters through my dim sight and becomes bright and new each day. I'm truly not the person I used to be--that old "sheri" is just a shadow of the past. Today I am loved, I am accepted, and I am forgiven. Those who have walked with me these last six years know those words don't come lightly or easily but "surgery" has been worth the price I paid...the price Jesus paid. He IS my miracle.
    And borrowing Anne's own words, "I can see! I can see! Oh my God, I can see! It's so clear! I never would have believed it! I've never had eyes like this before!"
   "But me He caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; He pulled me out of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning. They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me. He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved! 

   God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him. When I got my act together, He gave me a fresh start. Now I'm alert to God's ways; I don't take God for granted. Every day I review the ways He works; I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I'm watching my step.
 God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes." - 
Psalm 18:16-24 The Message