September 23, 2014

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 8 Review

■Realize I am not God

■Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, that He has the power to help me recover

■Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control

■Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust

■Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character

■Evaluate all my relationships.  Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others

■Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will

■YIELD MYSELF TO GOD TO BE USED TO BRING THIS GOOD NEWS TO OTHERS, BOTH BY MY EXAMPLE AND BY MY WORDS

Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.
Matthew 5:10

CONGRATULATIONS!!!  You have completed this part of the journey of healing with us.   But it is only the beginning.  God is beginning a great and awesome work in each one of you.  It has been an amazing privilege to go down this path with you and to see how He has been creating new creations in all of us (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This last week of the study, we discussed recycling our pain.  Some quotes to remember from this week:

‘God never wastes a hurt.’

‘What joy it brings our Father in heaven to see our pain turn into something good.’

‘This is your life, child; this is why I’ve allowed so many years of pain and suffering, to help another of My children in need.’

‘We are Redeemed! What greater promise and truth is there?’

Isn’t it absolutely mind-boggling to realize that we serve a Father who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to walk on this earth…to teach us…to be punished and crucified so that we can have this freedom?! His word tells us ‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you’ (John 15:7).  All we have to do is believe, receive, walk in His ways, give our hearts to Him, and He will give us the desire of our hearts. I have to say, I think of that and absolutely do a happy praise dance!!  He is so good to us!!

At the end of the book, John Baker shares the Serenity Prayer with us.  When I attended Celebrate Recovery for 2 years, we said this each week.

Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity (peace John 14:27)
to accept the things I cannot change (only You can),
the courage to change the things I can (be strong and of good courage Joshua 1:9),
and the wisdom to know the difference (Matthew 14:16).
Living one day at a time (patience),
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace (John 16:33);
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is (righteous judgment John 7:24),
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right (trust Psalm 37:3),
if I surrender to Your will (in my weakness, He is strong 2 Corinthians 12:10);
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life (content Philippians 4:11-13)
and supremely happy with You forever in the next (joy James 1:2-4).
Amen!

*parenthesis are my notes as God showed me in the 2 years at Celebrate Recovery

As you say this prayer, remember John 15:7 when He tells us if we abide in Him…we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be done for us. He will give us the desires of our heart.  If we truly believe and walk in this healing, He will answer this prayer with a Yes and Amen!!

Continue to immerse yourselves in His word, surround yourselves with people who will encourage and lift you up, and let Him love you and heal your hurts, habits, and hang-ups continuously.  You have grabbed His hand, now continue to walk with Him down the pathway to peace.  You have received VICTORY in Jesus’ name.

Take some time and listen to this song: 

When you have stopped dancing and celebrating—find the closest mirror, look at the beautiful reflection God has made in you and say, ‘Look at me now, I’m stronger this time around!!’

Let’s Pray:

Gracious Father, we cannot find enough words to express our thankfulness for the grace, love, and healing You have given us.  Our hearts are overflowing with joy that You love us enough to clothe us in Your righteousness.  Father, take our hurts, pain, habits, and hang-ups and use them to glorify Your name.  It is only through You that we can truly say we are healed, we are stronger now, and we can trust that You will continue to take us on this journey to completion.  As we finish this study, help us to push on, stay committed to this healing You have given us.  Place people in our lives that will encourage and walk beside us.  Bless each one that is reading this prayer, Father, and their families. Father, we cannot say enough how much we love You.  We do give all the glory and honor to You daily. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Please be sure to check out our Facebook Fan Page on Monday, when we will announce our next online Bible study!! You won’t want to miss this one!  

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If you would like to send a private message to Laurie in regards to this blog, please email her at Laurie@girlfriendscoffeehour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 8: Make the Choice (pages 251 – 267)

Choice 8: Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.

“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived” Galatians 6:1, 2  (The Message).
The action items for Week 8 are short and sweet compared to our past 7 weeks. The focus is on your personal story and how to best share it with others in need of encouragement, support, and hope.  John Baker jumps right in with very little introduction to this week’s Make The Choice segment.

PRAY –
Ask God to bring someone in to your life to share your story with. Be prepared for what you ask, because He will answer! This isn’t someone who will just hear your story of recovery, but who will also hear His Good News, and how His presence in their life can bring about radical changes, too.
WRITE –
After we’ve prayed for God to lead us to someone to share with, we need to make sure we have prepared our story and how best to share it. For some of you, skipping over some of the nitty-gritty details will be appropriate; while others will need to expose a little more to get their story told. I think of our dear friend, Leslie. I don’t know of many who would openly share the experiences with hospitalization and electro-shock therapies as she has during our study. But for her, this is a crucial point of the desperation she felt and how liberating life has been with God. I’ve kept back some of my personal details because it would bring pain to others, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of my story.

Your story is uniquely yours. The ways God spoke to you, led you to see the need for Him, delivered you from the hurts, habits, and hang-ups, and how you will be used for His glory. Don’t compare your experience with anyone else, but praise the life He has given to YOU!

Take this time to write in your journal, (as Baker points out, page 251), a list of experiences that have significantly impacted your life to this day—both the positive and the negative. Indicate the ones you caused, and the ones caused by others. Remember to use the inventories we’ve created if necessary.

  • Write what you have learned about each experience.
  • Write about how God helped you through the tough times, but also how He blessed you during the good times.
  • Make a list of people who need to hear your story.
  • Write out your story. I love Baker’s comment on writing, ‘Remember, thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips to the fingertips. Write it out.” (p 252)


SHARE –
Ok, so you’ve now asked for someone to share with and written out your story.  Share it with your accountability partner. This person has been alongside you as your cheerleader and coach during our study. They know where you’ve been, where you are now, and they have hope for your future. Allow your partner to work with you to fill in holes in your story, add details (or pull back on some), and assist in your humble presentation.
It’s not about saying “look what I’ve done;” but what HE’s done that is our focus.

One last thought…in addition to sharing your story…consider other ways you can say YES to God.

“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching” Hebrews 10:22-25  (The Message).

We’ve made it to the end of this leg of our journey. Note, I didn’t say we’ve completed THE journey, but only a portion of it. I don’t want anyone thinking that the work is done and we can move on to something bigger and better. No, this was just a portion of what God has in store for each of us. Perhaps you will find the need to re-read the book, put more time in to some of the exercises, share more with your accountability partner. Perhaps you’re at a good place now, but will find the need to re-examine some of the deeper issues at a later date. Whatever path you end up taking, remember to always take Him along with you for strength, comfort, wisdom, and unconditional love.


Let’s Pray –
Lord, when we look back to where we started, who we were when we started this study, we stand thankful and amazed by the transformations You have done in our lives. Guide us through the next phase of sharing our experience with others, finding strength in You, courage to open our hearts and lives, and the desire to be lights for Your glory. Thank You for the blessings we’ve seen, the friendships we’ve made, and all of the lessons learned. Amen.

 

Power Verses for Chapter 8
2 Corinthians 1:3, 4
Deuteronomy 4:9
James 2:17
Ephesians 4:1
2 Corinthians 3:18
Hebrews 10:24
Romans 12: 9, 13
Galatians 6:1
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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If you would like to send Amy a private email in regards to this blog, please email her at: Amy@girlfriendscoffeehour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 8 – Why Does God Allow Pain? (pp 242-247)

 It was only 2 years and 2 months ago…I was sitting curled up in a ball crying on the floor of my bedroom asking God this question: WHY GOD? Why did I have to go through such heartache and misery? Why did some people treat me horrible as a child? Why did nothing ever help me feel better? Why did You not heal me and save me from all the shock treatments, hospitalizations, abandonment, and rape? Why did You let me suffer for so long with major depression and horrendous anxiety and not help me?

I’m sure every one of you has asked this question before about some hard event in your life. Why? This three letter word is so powerful and can paralyze us and get us stuck if we let it. Today we are going to talk about why God allows pain and suffering if He is such a good God. Baker breaks this question into 4 different parts

1. God has given us a free will
2. God uses our pain to get our attention
3. God uses pain to teach us to depend on Him
4. God allows pain to give us a ministry to others

From the beginning, when God created man He gave us free will. He allows us to make choices—good or bad, and, right or wrong. Although our Creator, He gives free will and wants us to choose whether we accept Him or reject Him. He does this because He wants us to love Him freely by choice, not by demand. He does not force us to love Him.  John Baker describes this very well by saying: God didn’t want a bunch of puppets.

FreeWill_LHC_Ch8

This free will God gives us is both a blessing and a burden. Unfortunately, bad choices cause painful consequences which can really hurt us and others. My choosing to drink not only hurt me but also my family. I chose to be sexually promiscuous, and it resulted in me getting myself into dangerous relationships and caused a lot of hurt. Free will is given to every one, which means that all the other people in this world get it too. Wrong choices that other people make cause pain not just to them, but to others also. An example of this (which has always been something hard for me to understand) is an innocent family who was hit and killed by a drunk driver. What about the child who was raped, or the teenager who brought the gun to school and shot classmates? In these kinds of situations I always asked how could God let that happen? It happened because God gives us all free will, even that drunk driver, child molester, and murderer. God could have prevented that hurt by taking away that person’s free will. But if He had done that, in order to be fair, He would have had to take away your free will, too. Unfortunately, pain is part of the “free will package.” (Baker)

God uses pain to get our attention. Pain is God’s wake-up call: “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” (Baker) Today, without a doubt, painfully hitting rock bottom and running out of options was exactly what I needed to get my life straightened out. I could not hide my physical shakes from alcoholism any longer. I could not go up any higher on my Xanax legally. I was told that if I continued to drink that I would have to leave. Not just losing all the people that mattered most to me scared me enough, but also the physical and mental torment of drinking and mixing Xanax caused withdrawals and horrific hallucinations. All I could see in my future were visions of myself walking the cold sterile hallways of the mental hospital behind locked doors (this time permanently); and losing my family for good finally shook some sense into my hard, thick head! It had to be that drastic and that painful in order for me to finally look up and pay attention.

God uses pain to teach us to depend on Him.  Although God did not give us the pain (we caused that to happen), we can learn to trust and rely on His power more holy as a result of our being made “more aware” of our weaknesses. Apostle Paul, out of his pain and experience tells, We were really crushed and overwhelmed…[and] saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us.” 2 Corinthians 1:9 LB  It’s in our deepest pain, we can finally see that we need help. That we are powerless and we need God who is the only one that can save us.

Lastly, God allows pain to give us a ministry to others. Pain in our lives makes us humble, understanding and sympathetic to others preparing us to serve. This is what’s called recycling pain (Choice 8). When we turn to God for healing, He comforts and gives us what we need. He uses our pain so when others are troubled we can encourage them, be sympathetic, and comfort them like God has done for us. Who better to talk with as an alcoholic or drug addict, than to a former addict who has been delivered and restored? What a difference it is to have someone who understands what struggles we have been through and will listen without judging. What a beautiful blessing it is for us to help others and spread the good news of God. Our pain can give hope to others, and heal us also.

I remember the first time I shared my testimony was on my Facebook timeline. I have friends all the way back from when I was a little girl. All those years when they knew me, I had been very good at pretending I was happy; I put on a very convincing show to everyone. I can imagine how shocking it was for many to read. Yes, some people thought it was a foolish move to tell my personal business, while others were inspired. God used me in a great way to reach out to many who had addictions and mental illness that day. I had, and still have many friends and their friends who have come to me and shared with me their hurts and struggles because they felt safe and understood. From then I have been able to give my testimony at my home church, and also shared it on this ministry. Each time it heals me even more and I get to add to the healing! What joy it brings our Father in heaven to see our pain turn into something good. It is so important to SHARE your story! What a wonderful way to praise Him for helping you to overcome your hurts, hang ups, and habits!

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Let’s Pray:

Thank You, God, for comfort, love, free will, and healing. Oh Father, what a wonderful blessing it is for us to be able to share our story and experiences, journey, weaknesses, and how You got us where we are today. Lord, please use us and recycle our pain we have had to help and encourage others who may be going through the same thing with gentleness and respect. Today, Lord, may we witness to others and speak to them the Good News of Your mighty love and kindness. Father, we love You so much!  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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If you would like to send a private email to Leslie in regards to this blog, please email her at:
Leslie@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 8 – “Recycling Pain” (pp 241-242)

Choice 8: Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.

Matthew5_10

Can you believe it?  We are actually on our last week of this study.  It has been an amazing journey with all of you.  As we close up this study, we are going to talk about recycling our pain—sharing the testimony God has given us and our giving to others, so they may know the love and grace we have been given.  I don’t know about you, but I use to think as Moses did, “Who am I?” that He should use me?  But God doesn’t use the strong, or the wise, or the mighty. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty, and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are  (1 Corinthians 1:27, 28).

God wants to use those very things you want to leave behind, pack away, or just simply not talk about to help others.  When I first completed this study, 3 years ago, one of the sentences that stuck out to me was “God never wastes a hurt.”  He wants to use all the pain and struggles we have gone through to show others His power.  It is during that time when we become weak that His strength shines.  “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength (Isaiah 40:29). 

As you continue this journey beyond this week, and allow God to be first in your life, you will see that everything we have is a gift from God.  Our recovery and healing are built upon the strong foundation of our faith in Christ.  As we share what He has done in our lives, others will see Him living through us.  In Matthew chapter 5, just after the Beatitudes are delivered from Jesus during His sermon on the Mount, He tells us we are ‘…the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden’ (verse 14).  He then says,”Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify Your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:15, 16).  He wants us to place His light in us on that lampstand to shine before others.

As He is the Potter and has made us His vessels, think about vessels and light.  As we become broken vessels and He puts us back together, visualize a pot that has been broken and put back together—cracks here and there.  Now place it next to an unbroken vessel.  Which one, when a light is placed inside, would shine the most?  The broken and healed vessel, as the light will shine through the every crack.  God has healed and put us back together with His power, placed His light inside us to shine so others can see and all glory can be given to Him.

I have had the privilege of giving my testimony many times in the past year.  I love to tell people what God has done in my life.  God has given me the love and grace to be out of the gay lifestyle for three and a half years now.  That is just the frame of His testimony in me.  The masterpiece He has created within that frame has been given freedom from abusive relationships, manipulation of everyone around me, guilt, shame, anger, doubt, setting expectations beyond reach, dishonesty, and other struggles.  He has taken all my sin, dipped it in red, and made me white as snow.  My life has gone from chaos to peace, from despair to hope, from guilt and shame to honor, and from sin to salvation.  I am also happy to say He has taken me from strength and independence to weakness.  For in my weakness, He is made strong.

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Let’s Pray:

Most gracious and heavenly Father, we are so in awe of all You have done for us.  Of the grace, mercy, and love You have unconditionally given each one of us.  Thank You for Your healing from all things we have struggled with in our own might.  Lord, as we continue to seek You, show us how to be that light that will not be hidden, shine through us so others will see all Your glory.  Help us to spread Your message of hope and freedom.  Let our lives be that living testimony for You.  Lord, bless each person who has joined this study with Your healing power. Restore within their lives anything that has been damaged or destroyed.  Your word says that You will replace what the locusts have eaten. Father, we stand on Your word in agreement.  We love You, Lord, and give all the honor and glory to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

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If you would like to send a private message to Laurie in regards to this blog, please email her at Laurie@girlfriendscoffeehour.com

 

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 8 – Recycling the Pain (pgs 241-267)

Choice8_LHC

Galatians 6:1-2
My friends, you are spiritual. So if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path. But watch out, and don’t be tempted yourself. You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand.” (CEV)
At the beginning of this study in January, I had many comments on apprehensions, anxieties, and generalized worries about getting back in to the memories & experiences of the past. As the study progressed, I’ve been able to see transformations in our participants. Some have had small “AHA” moments on how the past has shaped today. Others have had eye-opening revelations. Where ever this study has taken you, God has blessed your life.
We are heading in to our final week of Life’s Healing Choices, but this is not the final week of our journey. John Baker tells us, in the Celebrate Recover Participant Guide 4, “Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Instead of the focus remaining on healing your personal hurts, it’s time to consider how others can benefit from our experiences. Baker references “recycling the pain.”
Recycle — to adapt or convert something to a new use
When we faced the events that shaped our attitudes, addictions, thoughts or behaviors, we never would have imagined that good would come out of it. Romans 8:28 states: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)
God truly does have an amazing plan for His children. He does not sit around looking for ways to hurt us, complicate our lives, or bring us pain. This comes from our choices in life. But He does promise to use ALL things for His good purpose. So when I consider the experiences of my past, I need to look to ways my experiences can help others. What did I learn from these events that can be passed on to another, give hope and encouragement?
We’re reminded that God “does His best work through weak people”

2 Cor 12:7 -10 tells us, “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (The Message)
If you had asked me in 2001 what good would ever come from the chaos around me, I would have thrown up my hands and said “Nothing!” I never could have imagined that God would restore my heart and soul to the point of remarriage, blending families, and step-parenting. And, I certainly wouldn’t have ever guessed He would use me in a ministry position like Girlfriends Coffee Hour! But in the midst of everything, I didn’t blame God or accuse Him of doing things to me. I knew He didn’t want me to experience pain, but He promised to use whatever I did experience for the positive.
As a parent, I see the same type of things with my kids. I don’t sit around thinking of ways to inflict pain or hardship in their lives (though they may think otherwise with the household rules!), but I do know that their teenage minds will make decisions that sometimes bring painful consequences. My goal as mom is to help them learn from the experience, give suggestions to overcome, and help them move forward. There is a purpose behind all that we experience, whether we want to admit it or not.

God does the same for us through His Word, our interactions with fellow believers, and in daily prayers with Him. Baker shares that , “people are not helped by our strengths; they’re helped when we’re honest about our weaknesses … the proof that you are truly recovering is when you begin to focus outside yourself, when you stop being absorbed with your needs, your hurts, your problems. Recovery is evident when you being to say, ‘How can I help others?”” pg.242
This week we’ll look more closely at the following questions:

  • Why does God allow pain?
  • How can we use our pain to help others?

A few verses to ponder this week:
Ecclesiastes 4:9 -1 2 NLT
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. (The Message)

James 1:22 NLT
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

 

Your Reading Assignment this Week

Monday – Chapter 8 Sharing the Choice – Laurie
Tuesday – Why does God Allow Pain? – Leslie
Wednesday – How to Use our Pain – Kim
Thursday – Make the Choice – Amy
Friday – Recap of the week – Laurie

Let’s Pray:

Lord, we thank You because You are ever-present in our lives. No matter what we experience, You are there with us to give us strength, courage, comfort through each and every step. Even as we look to heal from our past experience, we can hold hope in Your promise to work ALL things for good in those who live according to Your will. As our Heavenly Father, You desire the best for Your children. Continue to guide us as we continue to learn more about trusting You. Amen.

Power Verses for Chapter 8
Matthew 10:8
Matthew 6:24
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Deuteronomy 4:9
James 2:17
Ephesians 4:1
2 Corinthians 3:18
Hebrews 10:24
Romans 12: 9, 13
Galatians 6:1
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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If you would like to send Amy a private email in regards to this blog, please email her at: Amy@girlfriendscoffeehour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 7 Review (pp 205-223)

■Realize I am not God

■Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, that He has the power to help me recover

■Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control

■Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust

■Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character

■Evaluate all my relationships.  Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others

■RESERVE A DAILY TIME WITH GOD FOR SELF-EXAMINATION, BIBLE READING AND PRAYER IN ORDER TO KNOW GOD AND HIS WILL FOR MY LIFE AND TO GAIN THE POWER TO FOLLOW HIS WILL

■Y

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GCH_Colossians 3_16

 

This week we have discussed how to stay on the path, finish the race, and maintain momentum in order to grow in our relationship with Christ and leave our past behind.  When I was just walking away from my past, I remember waiting and wanting God to really show Himself—not just show Himself, but REALLY show Himself to me.  I can only imagine the things He tried to show me or places He wanted me to go to that, because I was waiting for the BIG show, I missed out on blessings.  Then I got discouraged and that’s when the enemy wanted to swoop down and distract me.  The little whispers of “You’re not worthy enough,” or “See, you really didn’t recover from that.”  Recovery is not always seeing the BIG shows but listening, spending time with God, and beginning to know who He really is.  The following Scriptures are just a few that show God’s power through the smallest of things—or what we see as small things:

Be still and know that I am God. 

Psalm 46:10

Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.

Job 37:14

And if you leave God’s paths and go astray, you will hear a Voice behind you say, ‘No this is the way: walk here.’

Isaiah 30:21

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a still small voice. 

1Kings 19:12

If you go back to read those Scriptures, look at the words used for us to see God’s power:  be still, stand, hear, walk, and the still small voice of God.  We need to seek Him through our prayer time, Bible reading, and begin knowing who He really is and be thankful for all that He has brought us through.  Each one of us has come through a different fire and been refined at different places, but God’s miracles and promises are Yes and Amen!!  Believing that is truly how we can avoid relapse!!

Monday: We discussed the four patterns of relapse – Complacency; Confusion; Compromise and Catastrophe.  If we become too comfortable and start believing we are ok, or that we don’t need to stay the course, then the enemy can quickly get a foothold and start the doubt, confusion, and compromise.  Then we start heading directly for CATASTROPHE!!  God has such a bigger plan for each one of you.  Stay the course.

Tuesday: Leslie talked with us about the causes of relapse—we revert to our own willpower; we ignore the choices; we try to recover without support; and we become prideful.  We cannot stress enough how important it is to have support through this process.  Even when you come to the end of the study, it is important to remember to keep your support person who will stay with you to the end.  Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in trouble (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10).   Then Leslie made an excellent statement: ‘Our greatest weakness is often unguarded strength.’  If we get to the point we think we have it, be careful – don’t let your guard down, don’t take your armor off – guard yourself with His strength and power.

Wednesday: Kim started us off midweek with: “We must plant ourselves at His feet daily. It’s like water for us, friends. He is our Stronghold now and what an awesome Stronghold!” Can you imagine going without anything to drink for more than a day? Or a week? Or a month?  So why try to go without our Living Water for a day?!?  He is just waiting to transform and renew your mind.  He longs to restore all we have lost from our past.  Sound good?  So what do we have to do?  Rely on Him; He will restore your soul.

Thursday: Amy brought it back to us with pray about it, write about it and share about it.  The method of praying scripture will be such a refreshment to your daily prayer life.  Talking to God about His word and using it personally in your life can bring so much more freedom and gives you more insight into who He is.  When you are praying, stop and listen for that still small voice to speak—don’t be in such a hurry or routine, you pray through and move on. Take time to write about the four areas we discussed: physical, emotional, relational and spiritual.  Are you hurting? Tired? Angry?  Listen to how you are reacting to others and are you relying on God?  Once you have taken the time to write about it then share with your accountability partner if you are having any difficult areas; also remember what is very important:  CELEBRATE THE VICTORIES no matter how small you may think them to be.

As we take time to reflect this weekend and begin to prepare for the last week, take time to look back in your journals and see how far God has brought you in this healing.  Begin to thank Him for bringing you through your past and into the present with hope for the future.  Thank Him for being the awesome God He is, thank Him for others He has placed in your life, thank Him for your recovery, and thank Him for your church.  Remain in this ‘attitude of gratitude’ through this next week as we embark on how He wants us to use our recovery.

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Let’s Pray:

Most gracious Father, we come to You with humble and grateful hearts as we end this week.  Father, I thank You for each one of these amazing women in this study.  Keep them safe, guard their hearts, and help them to rejoice in their healing.  Lord, help us to set aside the distractions of this world to focus and listen to Your voice, whether it is the BIG show or the still small voice.  Help us to understand what You have planned for each one of us and prepare us for this.  Let others see You through our words and actions.  We thank You for Your perfect grace and forgiveness.  Father, as we continue on this race help us to keep humble giving all the glory and honor to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!!

Your Assignment:
We have talked about celebrating the victories, no matter how small.  We would love to celebrate with you.  After reading this, if you are comfortable, share what victories you have had through this study.

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If you would like to send a private message to Laurie in regards to this blog, please email her at Laurie@girlfriendscoffeehour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 7 – Maintaining the Momentum (pp 220-239)

Choice7_LHC


PRAY
John Baker provides so much amazing information in this week’s Make the Choice section. He begins by giving examples on how we can pray using Scriptures, and how a prayer familiar to most of us (The Lord’s Prayer) relates to the choices we’ve been learning. I will be using portions of Baker’s examples for you today.

Scripture: Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name…
Choice 1: Realize I am not God
Choice 2: Earnestly believe that God exists

Scripture: Your Kingdom come…
Choice 8: Yield myself to God to be used

Scripture: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
Choice 5: Voluntarily submit to God’s changes

Scripture: Give us our daily bread…
Choice 3: Consciously choose to commit…to Christ’s care

Scripture: Forgive us our debts…
Choice 4: Openly examine and confess my faults

Scripture: As we have also forgiven our debtors…
Choice 6: Evaluate all my relationships

Scripture: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…
Choice 7: Reserve a daily time with God

WRITE –
Through the week’s study we have looked at ways to prevent relapse of our bad habits by creating a new habit of evaluation. This week’s “Write” choice is about evaluating four areas: physical, emotional, relational and spiritual.

Physical: What is your body telling you?

Emotional: What are you feeling? Use HEART to help you express what you are feeling.

H – am I hurting?
E – am I exhausted?
A – am I angry?
R – do I resent anyone?
T – am I tense?

Relational: Am I at peace with everyone?

Spiritual: Am I relying on God?

SHARE –
Share what you’ve written with your accountability partner. Work to develop a plan to recognize and resolve problems more quickly, to be aware of them sooner and take appropriate action.

Over the years, I’ve become more aware of how I tend to react emotionally, based on the feelings that a situation brings rather than the facts before me. Instead of looking rationally at a situation, I have the knee-jerk reaction and most often spout out something I later regret. And, when I’m tired, it’s even worse. On good days, I can recognize this before I open my mouth and I pause to consider the other person and what might be prompting them to act as they are. I try to remember that those around me are not “out to get me” and may just be having a bad day. It’s the basic lesson—it’s not about me!
But on my bad days , I am feeling unappreciated or taken for granted in an area of my life, and anything someone says that may bump against my views for the day will result in a conflict. How dare they say that to me…act that way towards me…assume that about me, and so on. In a flash, I resort to the negative thoughts, the relational strongholds that I’ve been working to rid myself of. And, it’s during those moments that turning to a trusted friend helps keep me grounded in the here and now. When you have the right person alongside you, they will point you back to God through Scriptural reminders and truths. They will help you focus on your identity as a child of God. They will call you out when you’re stuck in negativity and hold you to a higher standard. Sure, it can be uncomfortable because we want to feel what we feel just because we want to! But life has so much more to offer us. God wants so much more for us than to be ruled by our emotions.

Take time to reflect on the pattern of relapse with your partner: complacency, confusion, compromise, and catastrophe. Where do you get trapped most often?

For me, it is complacency; and Baker couldn’t have explained it any better, “We get comfortable. We’ve confessed our problem, we’ve started dealing with it, and we’ve made some progress. Then we get comfortable, and one day we stop praying about it and then we stop working at it” (page 207).

When the immediate need to fix something has been addressed, the urgency to continue working on it dissipates. It’s no longer urgent, and slowly the comfort settles in. But Jesus reminded us, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38 NLT).

Even Paul tells us, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT). So it’s not a situation that wasn’t expected to happen, but it is a situation that can be prevented.


Let’s Pray
Lord, we thank You for loving us so much that You gave the greatest example of forgiveness through Your Son, Jesus. As we focus on creating dedicated time alone with You, let us remember to be still and know You. Timothy tells us that Your Word is “useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” Allow us to keep this focus and to develop a desire to know You even more. This journey to recovery from our habits, hang-ups, and hurts has not been easy, but we feel Your grace, love, and gentleness more each day. Amen.

Power Verses for Chapter 7:
1 Corinthians 10:12
Matthew 22:37-40
James 1:22
Colossians 3:16
Psalm 46:10
Psalm 107:15
2 Timothy 3:16
Hebrews 12:1



If you would like to send Amy a private email in regards to this blog, please email her at: Amy@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 7 – Preventing Relapse (pp 212-219)

It starts with the little slips, in small stages. It’s the big ones that push us over, really.  So we aren’t paying attention to the small snowball that we have started rolling down hill.

For me, it could be folding laundry before it’s turned right side out, or hanging clothes before they are ironed. I may start going to bed without washing my  face, or skipping teeth, and prayers go by the wayside; I will start fresh tomorrow. I rationalize, minimize. I leave dishes in the sink at night instead of waking to a clean sink. I may have had a backache or a toothache and tell no one.  I make a doctor appointment. I get a prescription and tell no one. I hide the bottle. I’m gone. It can happen that fast.  If we aren’t enmeshed in Him!!!  We must plant ourselves at His feet daily. It’s like water for us, friends. He is our Stronghold now and what an awesome Stronghold!

HisFeet

See, the slippery slope is gradual. It’s hiding things from loved ones, it’s lying or maybe just omitting important details of our lives to the ones we love. Like Adam and Eve naked in the garden, we try to hide from God. We stop talking to Him because why would He want to talk to us when we are deliberately disobeying Him? This, dear friend, is dangerous because cutting Him out is like making a conscious decision to go back to your old way of life! I’ve been there, more than one time. I started this journey of sobriety in 2002 and stayed sober for a year. I got pregnant with my fourth child, had a c-section and I was off and running on a two year relapse. You don’t have to do that. You don’t have to be a slow learner. You can stop that snowball before it becomes an avalanche.  

How many times have you heard that relapse is part of recovery? I heard it over and over. Each time I picked up that 24 hour chip, someone made me feel better by saying that. It doesn’t have to be part of your story; relapse, that is. This chapter gives us a handbook on maintaining sobriety, preventing relapse, and keeping that momentum going for God! Evaluate-Meditate-Prayer!

John Baker gives us the guidelines and the how-tos and the why’s of evaluating, meditating, our prayer life and its importance to our maintaining sobriety. I love the check-up on our HEART, don’t you? I heard early in my recovery that when I had a craving I needed to HALT! It meant was I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  If I was, I needed to take care of the issue and stop hard and turn it over to God. It’s like this: If you’re hungry, eat something. Angry? You must let that one go before it becomes a resentment. Lonely? Reach out to your accountability partner or, better yet, step out of yourself and help someone else. And last, are you tired? Rest!!! The Bible tells us so many times that our bodies need rest so that we can listen to Him and allow Him to fill us back up.

This is a spiritual condition, my friend. We have to make sure we are relying on God and not ourselves, or anyone else. Don’t allow anyone to live in your head rent free! Isn’t that a great analogy that the author gives? Make sure you are giving yourself credit for the good that you do. In our daily moral inventory, we are keeping up with our mess-ups, but why not end that on a positive note? Think of something good you did that day and pat yourself on the back and say good job!  You are so worth it! Celebrate any victory because your Father celebrates you! Thank Him for the little things…a good parking place, money for extras this month, etc. Thank Him for things yet to come, the blessings He has in store for you. This keeps you in a grateful mode and away from the slippery slope. Claim His word and soak in His promises. His word is the pathway to His heart. This is vital to your maintenance program.

Romans 12:2 says “But be transformed by the renewal of your mind, by its new ideals and its new attitude, so that you may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Don’t you love the “new this and new that?” Perfect will of God? Everything in His word exhorts us to expect restoration and renewal!

Joel 2:25-26 says “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm and the caterpillar and the palmer worm, my great army which I sent among you. And you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God, that has dealt wondrously with you and my people shall never be ashamed!”  Amen.  He doesn’t want us to be ashamed!  Renewed, restored, and totally relying on His ability!

Last but not least, if you are feeling weak, and the enemy is creeping in, claim James 4:7, “Resist the devil and submit yourselves to God and the devil will flee from you.”  Together we shout a big NO to the enemy and a big YES to Jesus. Together!  Shall we?


Let’s Pray:
Lord, thank You for Redeeming us, for loving us and forgiving our wrongs. Daily we disappoint You and yet Your grace is freely given. Lord, we need You to stay with us, help us maintain our healing so that we may carry Your message to all still hurting. We have come a long way! And for those still struggling, keep them safe until they surrender. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.



If you would like to send a private message to Kim in regards to this blog, please send it to: Kim@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 7 – The Causes Of Relapse (pp 208-211)

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

James 4:10

 

Today we are going to take a look at the Causes of Relapse:

1. We Revert to our own willpower
2. We ignore the choices
3. We try to recover without support
4. We become prideful

I use to tell myself, if I just don’t go to a bar, drink any alcohol, start going regularly to church, and stay away from people who party and drink, then I do not ever have to worry about relapse. Ha! While these things are good to follow, it’s not always going to work. In fact, without any support—whether your addiction is alcohol, drugs, sex, food, etc.,—more than likely you will relapse without support. Why is it so hard for us to understand that we cannot do these things on our own? Here we go again with trying to take back control and do things our self. It seems like after failing so badly before, we would not try it again. There is that stubbornness in us. Here is a simple example—me cutting my hair (maybe you can relate). I always mess it up. I think that if I just hold my bangs at a different position, then it should turn out straight and will look better. Besides, I don’t need to spend money by getting a hairdresser to do it when I can. Reality is…I can’t. I always mess it up trying to do it myself. I end up with crooked bangs that always need to be straightened out by the hairdresser. It seems like after trying this so many times and failing, I would finally realize that I need someone to do it for me.

This may be a silly example, but the basic idea applies to everything we have a hard time with. We need help from others. When we are in the middle of a crisis, if we are struggling and thinking about picking up that cigarette we quit a few years ago, wouldn’t it be a good idea to talk with someone who might remind us that it’s not good to go that direction again.  We need someone to talk to. Yes, God above all is who we go to and pray for help, share our hurts, fears, and tears with, but He wants us to reach out to others and to be in healthy relationships. If someone we know can talk with us when we get frazzled and feel like we are falling, they can help get us back up. We cannot do it alone.

In the Bible it says, Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. The point is that we need others. We need someone who will hold us accountable, support us, and encourage us.

One of the biggest problems I deal with is my pride. During the last 2 years there have been times I thought, “Wow, I’m doing so good…not having cravings anymore…and I am finally getting on with my life, and it’s all good! My depression has lifted, and anxiety is lessened.  I don’t need to talk to my friends and husband about my problems anymore. They probably don’t want to hear it after all they put up from me in the past. Besides, they think I am doing so good, I can’t let them down or admit I am struggling a bit, that would mean defeat. All the work staying sober, forming new relationships, and my new life I have given to Christ, no way will I feel defeat!”

My pride is a HUGE defect. I blame others for why I react in anger. I tell myself it’s their fault and I shouldn’t be the one to apologize. Pride is something I struggle with and want to change. But, thankfully, I am starting to see it in myself more each day. I don’t like the way I feel afterward. Honestly, I can only describe it as a conscience and although I don’t want to admit I’m ever wrong, I do try. I don’t always do it, but deep down I know it’s the right thing to do. It feels super good to do the right thing and be humble. Pride can take us places that can destroy our relationships and it builds a wall between us and God. Baker states, “The Bible reminds us, ‘If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12.  Baker goes on to say, you have been working hard on “getting it all together,” “but you don’t have it all together.” So what’s the secret to lasting recovery? Baker states that we are to live in humility. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up James 4:10.

The best protection against relapse is Humility.

No one is perfect. No one has everything all together. If you think you do, watch out. Our greatest weakness is often unguarded strength. Just remember these words, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Corinthians 10:12. Watch out, and be careful.

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Let’s Pray:

Father God, thank You for Your love, forgiveness, patience, and strength You give us. Lord, it’s hard to humble ourselves. We seek help doing this. Teach us humility. Lord, reveal to us our pride. Help us to reach out and ask for help. Lord, we need You in all things! Lord, without You we fall. Thank You for always protecting us and giving us relationships with friends who we can lean on. We love You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Your Assignment:

Spend some special time with the Lord today. Ask Him to reveal areas in your life you need help with. Write these down and find that friend to share with. Let go of that pride!

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If you would like to send a private email to Leslie in regards to this blog, please email her at: Leslie@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 7 – Maintaining Momentum (pp 205-208)

Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.

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So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
1 Corinthians 10:12

This week we are going to focus on maintaining momentum on this road to recovery.  If you don’t keep your guard up, and allow God to be in control, you could relapse.  Many think the word relapse is only for the alcoholic who has taken a drink or the drug addict who went back to the street drugs.  Relapse simply means to fall or slide back into a former state.  This could be anything – anger, guilt, depression, overeating – whatever your hurt, habit, or hang-up is.  Chapters 7 and 8 help us to live out our recoveries for the rest of our lives.  It is time to look back at the previous weeks and see that we are no longer in denial…we have made our inventory of the hurts, habits, and hang-ups in our lives…we have done our best at making amends…and now we have the desire to grow closer to Jesus Christ who has brought us through the fire. Sit back and realize the growth you have each made in the past weeks and the healing God has done.  Be proud of how hard you have worked and the freedom you are beginning to feel.

In our book, John Baker outlines four predictable patterns of relapse:

Ø  Complacency

Ø  Confusion

Ø  Compromise

Ø  Catastrophe

First, relapse begins when we become comfortable.  When we have talked with others regarding our issues, begun working through them, have made amends and feel we are making some steps forward—we begin to become comfortable.  How many of you have had a cold or flu and received medication for 10 days from the doctor?  After six days you begin feeling back to normal.  So what do we do? We stop taking the medication, we keep on our regular routine and three days later we relapse.  We then wonder what happened?  Why did the medicine not work?  Just as with good medicine, continuing to seek the Lord daily, keeping up with our prayer and Bible reading tim,e and talking with our trusted friend will help us keep our focus on the race, so we can, like Timothy, say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith  2 Timothy 4:7.

If we start becoming too comfortable and do not immediately get back on track, we can move into the second phase—confusion.  We can begin rationalizing and thinking, “Maybe it wasn’t that bad,” or “Maybe I can do this myself.” When I look back at the 35 years I was in the alternative lifestyle, I lost count of how many times I rationalized or tried to walk away on my own.  Either I would rationalize that the lifestyle was not wrong and I could continue, or I would try to walk away with no help.  I did not want to ask for any help and I did not think I needed God’s help.  After all I was an independent, hard-working person that could take care of me.  Wrong!!! Every time I attempted to walk away on my own, I fell right back into the tangled mess.

Then what do we do? Go right back to the place where temptations are the strongest.  We compromise and go frequent the bars, back to the internet, down the cookie and donut aisle, back to the one person or place that was unsafe to our healing.  It may start with little things, oh, just one drink – just one website – just one pull on the slot machine – just one cup of coffee with that one person.  Then before we know it, the snowball becomes an avalanche.  We are spinning into…

CATASTROPHE!! 

The time where we actually go right back to the old hurts, habits, and hang-ups.  The anger, resentments, depression, guilt, and shame come back.  We go back to the old catalyst that was controlling our lives.

Each time I tried on my own to walk away from the lifestyle I would be strong at first.  My anger toward that person drove me to be determined to succeed.  I was in control – I could do this!! I would go to church, because in my heart I knew what I was doing was wrong.  Each time I was at church the message was just for me.  Ever been there?  I just knew all those around me and my pastor knew exactly where I was and what I was trying to walk away from.  I would start feeling stronger, so I would work harder, take care of my boys harder, clean my home harder – all I was doing were actions to avoid really dealing with the root.  I still thought – “I can do this!!”

Then when things started stabilizing and I felt stronger, I would slip away from church, continue to work hard, but not so hard on walking away – just avoidance.  This is when the enemy loves to mess with us.  I would think, “‘Well, maybe this isn’t wrong.  After all society is more accepting.  My friends are still my friends, maybe I will just make one call.  Just to see how they are doing…I mean, I am just showing how I care about someone.”

CATASTROPHE!!

I walked right back into my avalanche.  Next thing I knew, I was full-blown back into the lifestyle I had thought – “I can do this!!”

When life had come to the point that I was tired of trying on my own, I realized I needed help to make this stick.  My desire was to walk away from the gay lifestyle into a life close to God.  How was I going to do that?  First, I turned to trusted individuals who would listen and be strong in keeping me in God’s word.  I had to reserve a daily time with Him.

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Mark 14:38

I had to spend that time alone, listening to what the Lord would say to me.  Praying and asking His guidance and direction to stay away from being comfortable. “But if not, then listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom” Job 33:33.   Daily, I would put on His armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) so I would not compromise or walk back into my areas of temptation.  Finally, as I listened, prayed, spent time in His word and with Him I started seeing the healing He was bringing into my life.  I would then spend time rejoicing with Him and sharing with others the joy He brought into my life.  I am thankful He allows me to continue to serve Him and tell others of His testimony in my life.  As you continue on this journey I will leave you today with one additional scripture:

Romans15_13

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Let’s Pray:

Father, we come to You today so thankful for Your love and grace in our lives.  We admit we have tried so many times to do this changing on our own.  Today we are laying this burden at Your feet, we need Your help, so we do not get comfortable or begin to compromise our lives.  Remind us, Lord, to walk closely to You daily, listen to Your voice, seek Your direction, pray for healing, and rejoice as You bring us through the fire.  Lord, we pray Your word that we may be filled with joy and peace, that we may trust in You, and we thank You for the hope we have by the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Again, we give all glory and honor to You, Father.  In Jesus Name, Amen!

Your Assignment:

Throughout this study we have talked about spending quiet time with Him.  Have you developed that quiet time?  Also, do you take the time to rejoice through the victories, no matter how small?  If so, please share with us how you have done that.

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If you would like to send a private message to Laurie in regards to this blog, please email her at Laurie@girlfriendscoffeehour.com