Stacy’s story

I was asked to share my story on Cyndi’s blog, Around the Table. Cyndi and I became connected after a mutual acquaintance suggested that we connect. We both share some of the same visual challenges and very much depend upon our faith to help us cope with those challenges. I feel blessed to know Cyndi and to have been asked to share my story.

In 2014, I was diagnosed with primary open angle glaucoma. I knew I was having some trouble seeing because I was having a lot of difficulty driving in the rain. Other than that, besides more frequent headaches, I really couldn’t tell anything was majorly wrong. At that time, I was teaching 2nd grade in a district where I had taught for the previous 12 years. Upon being diagnosed, I had already suffered damage and had lost a great deal of my peripheral vision. I continued to teach and drive the next school year, but I soon started experiencing several more challenges which lead to not being able to drive at all. The next year, I began experiencing even more challenges including my first blind spot. Teaching became very difficult. I missed several days of school and eventually resigned that year. My glaucoma continued to progress, and I soon had two blind spots. Not only did I have peripheral loss but now also had central loss due to the blind spots. I now have had glaucoma surgery in both eyes, but the progression just seems to keep occurring. The spots are bigger and brighter than ever, and I now am experiencing visual distortion in my left eye. Apparently, the surgery has worsened a cataract which seems to be causing all or most of my trouble. Surgery to remove it has recently been suggested. Despite all of this, I am still able to read, watch TV, and blog in moderation. I have a lot of trouble in unfamiliar places, but I am so thankful for the sight I still have.

This eye disease has been difficult to deal with at times especially since I also suffer from other health challenges as well. It really became hard to handle when I had to give up my teaching career. There’s no way I could have ever gotten through this or any of the challenges I’ve faced without the strength that only God can provide. I am so thankful to have had a wonderful church and church family to support and pray for me. I still have times where my emotions get the best of me, but I am always able to overcome them. I spend the majority of time these days absorbing myself in as many spiritual activities as possible. Music has always been my main coping strategy. Another has been writing. I began writing poems and then last year, I created my own website and Facebook page titled Living with Adversity. There, I share my personal story. I created the site with the intention that people would connect through similar experiences and share their testimonies. It has brought a much-needed sense of release to be able to share my feelings and experiences.

Again, I want to thank Cyndi for asking me to share my story. I enjoy reading her work and view her as a great source of inspiration. I am so thankful we became connected. May God richly bless her for the positivity and encouragement she is providing through her blogs.

-Stacy Hall

Am I somebody to anybody?

When I was about ten or eleven years old, my two friends and I would play “Charlies Angels.” For those of you who are not familiar, it was a TV drama in the late 70’s, staring Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn smith. These women were P.I’s and they meant business!  I was the only blond so of course I played Farrahs’ character. Oh we had such fun adventures with that game. Our imaginations had us tracking down criminals, cracking cold cases and locking up the bad dudes.

Man, we sure felt important when we played that game. We strutted around with our pretend walkie-talkies (wow, that really shows my age, huh?) We felt like because we were doing important work, then that made ‘us’important. We were “somebody.” We would even try to one up each other from time to time. Because ya know, locking up pretend thugs makes you the who’s who in the neighborhood.

I recently had an experience as an adult that for some reason made me think of the years I played a pretend important person so long ago. I’ve been working on not feeling “less than” or “inferior” to someone else who isn’t blind. This emotion can get the better of me occasionally. Especially when I learn of how much more someone else is doing in ministry. Not out of a competition stand point but from a “Lord I could do so much more if I wasn’t blind” stand point. This can leave me feeling like I’m not as important to God’s work as I seem to think. It makes me feel a bit like I’m playing that pretend important P.I. agent from my youth.

My dishwasher went on the fritz and we had to get a new one. While perusing the appliance aisle at, well… a large hardware chain, we came upon a brand that we were not entirely familiar with. I made a call and learned that this particular brand was, in fact, a good brand to get. The salesman came over to assist us and just as a second opinion sort of thing, we asked him about the brand as well. He replied by saying “Oh yes, if you have this brand”, pointing to the dishwasher we were inquiring about, “you   are   somebody!” Umm… really? A dishwasher makes me somebody? It really bothered me to hear the salesman tell me that. Now I know this is nothing more then a sales technique. Everybody wants to be somebody. But this is the message that is driven into our heads on a daily basis. You have to have, to be. We are told by advertisements for cars, neighborhoods, clothing, jobs, and now apparently, dishwashers, that what we have, makes who we are.

If we are not in a position to have said items, we can feel so less than. We may drive a used car. We may have moved into an old house (or manufactured home, apartment, etc.). We may purchase clothes from a consignment or thrift shop. Is this supposed to mean we’re not “somebody”?

Oh friends, if I could go to each and every person who feels less than because of this type of message, I would wrap my arms around them and say “You are somebody… you are a child of the King!”. John 3;16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him will not parish, but have everlasting life.”

Do you see the four most important words in that passage? WHOSOEVER BELIEVES! Notice what it does NOT say… whosoever drives a brand-new car…whosoever lives in a new built home in the richest neighborhood… whosoever wears the most expensive clothes… whosoever has the top of the line dishwasher! Ugh, you have no idea how much I wanted to sit that man down and tell him that people are not somebody by the dishwasher they have. God created you so that makes you somebody. We (including me) can get so caught up in how others see us. Our kids want to go back to school with the best and most expensive clothes to impress a bunch of kids who don’t give a hoot about their real life. We want to get the nicest car to impress our neighbors who wouldn’t even grab our newspaper for us while we were out of town visiting a sick relative. We want more status at work to impress our co-workers who spread gossip about us on their lunch breaks and never invite us to come along on that lunch break. We need only to know that Jesus values us because He made us. We need not obtain anything to be valued by God. He values the homeless man on the street corner every bit as much as the CEO of the largest corporation.

My mission is to help others see that status, money, clothes, size, color, notoriety, nor any other worldly measuring stick means anything to God. He values you because you are His creation. His master piece. Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so. It tells you so too.

Renting from God?

Years ago, when my husband and I got married, we lived in a manufactured home. After about one year, we bought an acre of property and moved our home to that property. Times got hard and money was tight. We wanted to refinance the house to get a lower payment and in order to do that, the bank wanted a breakdown of our expenses. We obliged and gave the requested information. We received a call from the finance officer who told us in no uncertain terms that this bank wouldn’t even consider refinancing us until we stopped this frivolous expense of paying tithe.

Now this is not a condemnation or sermon or anything about paying tithe. I’m just giving a background as to why we now rent. We refused to stop doing what the Lord asked us to do and they refused to work with us. So consequently, we filed bankruptcy on the house and we had to move. We have chosen to continue renting so that if God asks us to take a ministry somewhere other than here, we can go and not be tied by a house to sell.

So, we rent our home but it doesn’t feel like it’s not our house. We can paint, we can hang stuff on the walls, we could do anything that we would choose to do if we owned our house. It’s really been wonderful. This has made me think of renting in another way.

When we rent or borrow something from someone else, we usually take good care of it lest we return it damaged. The thought of giving something back to its owner in a less than good condition can stress us out.

Or if we rented something from a store like Home Depo or a tent rental company, there would most likely be a fee involved if it came back damaged. We take care of our rental home, not only because I would take care of my home anyway, but also because I wouldn’t want to damage the landlord’s property. I mean, could you imagine loaning your car to a friend and they bring it back with the front end smashed in? They simply toss you the keys and say thanks for letting me borrow the car then walk away. What would your reaction be? Probably not good, right?

Isaiah 43;1 says “But now thus says the Lord, your creator, oh Jacob and He who formed you, oh Israel, do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are Mine.”

We rent all that we have from God. Our children, our possessions, even our own bodies. In my last post, (How can I call myself a Christian?) I mentioned that the way I talk to, talk about, treat… my family has been on my heart a lot lately. Also, how I treat my own self. Getting enough water, how I talk to myself, how much time I spend with Jesus, all of those things. If I wouldn’t dream of returning a borrowed item that has no feelings or character, in poor condition, I shouldn’t let my family or myself return to God in poor condition. I want to be more mindful of the Lord’s possessions and their value. He holds them in the highest regard, so I should too. I love the people God is renting to me. I’m learning to love the me God has rented to me also. If we can view everything as belonging to God, we might see much more value then we’ve ever seen before. What do you think?

 

How can I call myself a Christian?

I have a confession to make… sometimes I don’t feel much like a Christian. I get angry, I get ugly, I get self-righteous, well… I just plain don’t act like a Christian. I want to be known by my fruit. Not the bad fruit, the good, plump, juicy fruit that everyone looks for at the grocery store. You’ve seen them, right? They search through, they pick up the fruit, they sniff the melons, they squeeze to check for ripeness.

But I admit that I don’t always portray the follower of Jesus that I would like to. If I’ve had a bad day with writing or something in my ministry, well… my husband will surely know about it! I have a hard time dealing with others who claim Christianity but then lie about or manipulate a situation to get what they want. When this happens, instead of praying for that person, I get miffed. If I feel overwhelmed with tasks I have to do, instead of asking my kids to help me, I will sometimes resort to copping an attitude and accusing them of never helping out when I need them too. I have gotten into shouting matches with my kids as well over messy rooms, dirty laundry, empty cups on the living room end tables. Why can’t I simply ask them to take care of these items instead of getting upset about it?

I wouldn’t talk to a friend in this manner, I wouldn’t speak to my kid’s friends in that tone, and certainly I would never show frustration like this to a church member. I was thinking of a scenario last night about this issue. If we are at that grocery store picking out that deliciously ripe fruit, then go about finding the rest of our items, the final step at said store is to head to the check out and pay for our goods, right?

Have you ever gotten to the check out and the person in front of you only had enough money for two items but they had four on the belt? It might only total a few bucks, so you say “I got it,” and hand the cashier the money. The person you’ve just helped thanks you profusely, possibly with tears forming in their eyes. You feel good about your helpful deed and go on about your own purchases.

Now be the person on the receiving end of the above blessing. You are, say, $3.78 short and the person behind you says “I got it.” You may feel a twinge of embarrassment but you probably wouldn’t shun their generosity. Okay, some people might simply put back a couple items so as not to have to accept the gift of a stranger but honestly when we do that, we are robbing that person of a blessing that God is trying to give them. But in either case, we are sure to feel a hot flash of color creeping up our necks.

The next scenario is you are behind the person who is short on cash again, but this time the person actually turns around and asks you for the needed money. You may hand it over but if you are anything like me, you may question how someone could be so bold as to ask a total stranger for money to cover their bill. I would gravitate to the outcome of them putting a couple things back before they actually asked someone behind them for the money. I personally have not experienced someone asking me for the money but I can imagine that’s how I’d feel.

One more scenario. You are the one who is short on cash once more. You don’t ask the person behind you for the money. No, you tell the cashier that the person behind you will pay the difference. Whaaaat? By now you are probably shaking your head and saying, “I would never do that!” How would you feel if someone expected you to pay for their items? I believe my response would go something like this… “that’s not my fault that you don’t have enough money.” Or “I don’t think so!” or maybe even “Excuse me? How rude!”

My point here is that this is what I do when I’ve had a bad day or I’m feeling frustrated with something that has nothing to do with my husband or kids. I expect them to pay the price for me being short on patience. I expect them to make up the difference. The funny thing is, I know it’s not right or okay to do, but that’s where Paul comes to mind. Romans 7:15-16 says “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.”

Oh friends, I know when I am doing these things that It’s not right but my fleshly mind gets the better of me. But my desire is to be like Jesus. I need to bathe myself in His word and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide my words because I do what I do not want to do. I am a little comforted by the fact that I’m not alone in these feelings. You aren’t either. Paul got it. He knew the thoughts of the carnal mind. But asking the Holy spirit to come in and live within my heart gives me the hope that I can live the way Jesus would have me too. I pray it gives you hope as well. You see, we will always have hope to live like Jesus if we always recognize our need for Jesus. It’s not the things we do wrong that make us wrong. It’s our denial that we need a savior to guide our paths. We all fall short of Gods’ glory (Romans 3:23) but we can all fall into His arms and let Him hold us up.

What is being squeezed out of my sponge ?

I was talking with a friend the other day and we got on the subject of negativity. More precisely, how it affects us on a day to day basis. It seems we are bombarded with negative things on all platforms. The news is just one bad story after another, someone is only too happy to post all their dirty laundry on Facebook, conversations we overhear in the store is all about gossiping about someone else. If I’m being honest, I have been the one supplying the conversation to be overheard. I never really thought I was gossiping, just sharing news about someone and how they are struggling. But as I look at it now, it’s not my news to share and what have I done to help said struggling person?

My friend and I discussed this at length and in the middle of the conversation, I had an image. An image of a sponge. One that is dipped into water and then squeezed out. “We are like sponges,” I blurted to her. “What do ya mean?” she replied. I elaborated on this image.

A sponge will soak up water (or any liquid for that matter). I remember as a kid, I used to love to wash my parents’ cars out in the drive-way. Summer time was for sun, swimsuits, and getting wet, so I would put on my suit, grab the bucket and sponge, then head out in the sun. Pulling the hose out, I filled the bucket with clean cool water. Squirting in the soap and dropping in the sponge, I began scrubbing the car. I circled the car washing windows, mirrors, and bumpers. If the car was really dirty, it didn’t take long before my clean clear water turned brown. When I started this task, I would plunge the sponge into the bucket and lovely clear water flowed from the porous tool and I would swirl it on the hood of the car all the while singing the latest tune blaring from my boom box. After a while, I noticed the clean car was getting gritty with dirt again. What in the world?

My bucket held dirty water! I would have to empty the contents and refill it with clean clear water then continue my task. But ya know what? That sponge didn’t make any distinction between the clean water and the dirty. It just kept soaking up what I plunged it into. It was submerged in clean water at first so that’s what it gave back. Then it was submerged in dirty water and that’s what it gave back. Friends, whatever we are submerged in is what we will give back. If we are surrounded by positivity, we will give positivity. If we are surrounded by negativity, we will give negativity.

My vision wasn’t good as a kid, so I couldn’t see the grit going back onto the car, but I could feel it. When I changed to clean water, the dirt came off again. I paid better attention to the condition of the water after that. We have to pay attention to the condition of our waters. Otherwise our sponges will soak up all manner of dirt and then squeeze it out onto everyone around us. Philippians 4:8 says, “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.”

If we focus on positive things and surround ourselves with positivity, then we will give back positive things. It is just like that sponge. Let others squeeze your sponge and watch the clean clear positivity flow from you! I’m going to change my water and wash the things I have put dirt back onto again. Join me?

I Want to be Just Like You

When my son was little, he made up his two-year-old mind that he wanted to be just like his daddy and build things. He watched my husband with a careful eye. Tyler would want to help his dad in the garage but of course it was too dangerous to let a toddler use the kind of tools his dad uses. So inevitably we bought him his own Little Tykes work bench and tool set.

Oh how he loved that set! He would want that bench out first thing in the morning and he only stopped working on it for short breaks. Tyler would want to know what Jeremy had worked on that day when he got home from work so he could imitate his dad the next day on his tool bench. He strapped on his mini-sized toolbelt and put all the little plastic tools in there that he’d thought he would need for the pretend project. There were chunky hard plastic nails, screws, and bolts in the bench. Tyler would hammer those nails with the Little Tykes hammer which was his favorite tool. He would then take his little screwdriver and tighten the bolts. I had given him a sewing style tape measure to use as well. Whenever I would ask him what he was working on, he unsurprisingly said what ever it was his daddy was working on.

As I watched Tyler working intently at his bench, I noticed that he began to move like Jeremy did. He began to stick a pretend pencil (whatever pencil like object he could find) behind his ear like his dad did. He started wanting to wear a baseball hat like Jeremy did. Simply put… he wanted to be just like his father.

Ephesians 5:1-2 says “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (ESV). This verse makes me think of my son imitating his father just as we should imitate our Father. We should seek to have His forgiveness toward others. We should imitate His merciful love. We should mirror His selfless generosity. Just as Tyler watched his father closely and wanted to know what it was he was doing so he could do it too, we need to watch our Father closely. We need to ask Him what to do so we can imitate Him and what He does.

Ya know, Tyler still wants to do things the way his father does them. He has watched, learned and is now imitating him on a larger scale. Oh, and we let him use real tools now! It warms my heart to see my son at almost nineteen, still want to be the kind of man his Dad is. Tyler is a carpenter’s son and learned from his father how to honor God as well as how to be a skilled craftsman. I know my husband is not Joseph and my son is not the Savior of the world, but I love the similarity to that imagery.

I want to learn from my son how to imitate my Father… my Heavenly Father. I long to have others see Him in me. I want to love like Jesus loves. I want to give like Jesus gives. I want to see others the way Jesus does. How about you?

What did I really stuff in my seventh-grade locker?

Oh, the junior high years can be brutal, can’t they? My seventh-grade year was probably the most difficult year of junior high. My vision seemed to change weekly. I would get adjusted to a certain level of vision and then I would lose a little more and have to adjust all over again. This resulted in confusion, frustration, and several emotional outbursts. I couldn’t seem to control anything that was happening to me. I was angry a lot. I was moody a lot. This is normal expected behavior from a pre-teen hormonal basket case. But you add in ever-changing eyesight, trying to locate where my locker was in a sea of metal and combination locks, and hoping I was going into the correct classroom when I couldn’t see the tiny numbers… then you’ve got a real storm brewing.

As my vision deteriorated, I had to start using large print books. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that they were the size of world atlases. So needless to say, I did not walk down the halls of my middle school unnoticed. Soon the bullying began. Girls making snide remarks about how simply awful it would be to have my eyesight. Oh they would just die if they had it, Like ‘fer sure!’ Speaking in their totally rad valley-girl lingo and trying to fit through the classroom doorways with six foot bangs. The boys did their best impressions of me running into doors or other people as I walked by them, hoping that somehow I WOULD be able to see them.

I endured and I ignored all the hurtful words slung at me… or so I thought. Each day that passed brought new hurtful comments and run-of-the-mill staple remarks that the not so creative kids had to rely on to get their digs in. I always felt that I was on the sidelines of everything in those years. I always got picked last for the kickball teams, there always seemed to be the “aww man, does she have to be on our team?” after the gym teacher assigned teams. I did have friends and we hung out together often. But I was never going to be at the “cool kid” lunch table. I would usually take my lunch out to the hallway and sit against the wall with a couple of friends who didn’t feel part of the “in” crowd either. We talked and laughed and forgot about the “cool kid” lunch table for a while.

There was an incident that happened one day that I remember very well. I was walking down the hall feeling frustrated with my circumstances… again, when a particular boy named Josh made some hurtful comment. Truth be told, I don’t remember what the comment was, but I definitely remember my response. I stopped in my tracks, turned around, and promptly stuffed Josh in his own locker. I know, I know, your mouth probably just fell open. You may have even gasped. I DO NOT advocate this form of retaliation or any form of it for that matter! But my eleven-year-old way of thinking told me it’s what he deserved.

Now as an adult, I revisit this memory with a different perspective. I felt so much angst and frustration over my blindness and I never really told anyone how I felt. I stuffed all my feelings down and ignored them. Then ironically, I exploded in anger after I had no more room to stuff anything and stuffed poor Josh in a place where there was not enough room for him. It seemed that I was a champion stuffer. I wanted to stuff the comments Josh had made to me by stuffing him. But ya know what? It didn’t help. Inflicting pain, embarrassment or shame onto someone else never resolves how we feel. After I had time to calm down from the hurtful words, I then felt bad for doing to Josh what he had done to me. When we feel like we are drowning in an ocean of tears, we must seek higher ground. Psalm 61;2 says “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint. lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (ESV) The Lord has promised higher ground for us when things feel deeper then we can handle. I picture in my mind a space filling with water. The water represents the negativity I feel. That may include feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, not good enough, clumsy, incapable, and the list can go on. I then picture a set of steps going up to higher ground. As I focus on those steps that lead to the way Jesus views me, before I know it, I’m on higher ground and the waters are no longer swirling around my feet… ankles… knees… thighs…

I do my best at a task that I feel God has called me to do. If my best is under attack by someone, I have to be ready to tell them that if my best isn’t what they had in mind, then they need to take it up with God. Not many people are willing to do that. When we honestly give our best but it doesn’t seem to measure up to someone’s expectations, we need not retaliate or exhaust ourselves trying to do better. Step up onto that higher ground and let Jesus set your feet on the rock who IS Jesus.

Just like Josh, many other people feel the need to put others down to reach a different form of higher ground. This ground actually causes them to sink. Jesus’s higher ground need not be built over top of someone else. He is the higher ground we can stand on. When you or maybe your teen/tweenager feels overwhelmed in an ocean, envision the higher ground Jesus has built just for you. Journal about what it looks like to you, write about how beautiful it looks. If your artistic, draw or paint this image and keep it close to you so it’s a reminder. At the top of the steps leading to my higher ground is my best friend Jesus, extending His hand to help me to His higher ground.

By the way, I forgave Josh and all the others who felt the need to make me feel less than, unimportant, and broken a long time ago. This allowed me to begin my journey to higher ground. When you feel overwhelmed and anxious, don’t stuff those feelings into a locker to be locked up. Share them with a trusted friend and share them with Jesus. He will begin building your steps to higher ground.

P.S. I would love to hear what your higher ground image looks like.