Katie Eats

Being healthy is about preparation. Providing your family with healthy foods takes time, focus and patience. Living a healthy lifestyle is learning to think long term about food goals instead of trying the latest fad diet to lose five pounds. From my observations, people who go on diets usually lose weight, but as soon as they quit eating exactly like the diet suggests, the weight comes back, usually quickly. The key to maintaining a healthy body weight is food. When we eat the foods God created for us, we are getting the nutrition our bodies’ desire.

How do you move to a more nutritious lifestyle that honors God through your eating? Start with planning. Think about what healthy foods your family enjoys. Most people really like fruit. Buy fresh fruits, wash them, and store them in easily accessible containers so you can enjoy them when you are hungry. The same is true for fresh, raw vegetables. Buy what you enjoy and then slowly add different vegetables to your meals and snacks each day. At the same time, start getting rid of the processed boxed foods from your home. Don’t continue buying sugary cereals, cookies, cakes, etc. These foods are not healthy choices for your body.

God created good foods for us to eat, so eat it. He created vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains, for our consumption. If our diet consists of these foods, then our bodies will naturally be healthier. If you are purchasing foods that are processed in a factory, with ingredients you can’t pronounce, toss them out. Most companies make food for financial gain, not because they are concerned about your health.

Two recipes I love to make in my kitchen at home are Healthy Fries, instead of traditional French fries, and peanut butter/banana smoothies, instead of milkshakes. Cooking at home allows you the freedom of more healthy choices, easily eliminating added ingredients that are harmful to you and your family.

KatieEats_HealthyFries_web

Healthy Fries

• 3 lbs red potatoes
• 1 Cup vegetable broth
• 2 tsp salt
• 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning or dried oregano

Directions
Chop red potatoes. In a 9 x 13 glass-baking dish, add red potatoes, 1/2 cup vegetable broth, one teaspoon of salt, and one teaspoon of dried seasoning. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir potatoes. Add another 1/2 cup of vegetable broth, one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of seasoning to the red potatoes. Continue cooking for 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are tender. There will be vegetable broth left over in the dish after cooking. Stir the potatoes and let them cool for 5-10 minutes. The potatoes will soak up the rest of the vegetable broth and give the potatoes a great flavor. Add more salt, if needed.

KatieEats_BananaSmoothie_web

Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie

• 3 cups almond milk
• 5 bananas
• 1/4-cup peanut butter
• 1 tsp vanilla

Directions
In a blender, combine almond milk, bananas, peanut butter and vanilla. Blend until smooth! Makes 3 servings. •LR•

Katie Bryan is a food blogger, wife and mother of two sweet girls. She also teaches classes on nutrition and faith. Get healthy recipes on her blog: KatieEats.com

The Strangers Among Us

JanaDean_7_web

I’m no camper, nor am I a fan of dirt. Truth be told, I’m more of a Hampton Inn girl. I’m also not the rough-and-tumble type. ROTC was the only class I ever dropped in college—turning my pants into a life raft while treading water proved impossible for me. And, though I once swam in a lake with an alligator, I hadn’t done it on purpose. I was no danger-seeker. In fact, things frightened me that shouldn’t have. Even so, in the aftermath of 9/11, when God broke my heart for Afghanistan, I found myself trekking across the planet, standing off with scorpions, and jumping over sewage ditches, sometimes with IEDs exploding around the city. The love God had deposited in my heart for Afghan women and girls proved powerful enough to sweep me out of my element—away from all that was familiar, comfortable or even safe—and deliver me to where they lived.

In Afghanistan, I shed tears with women who had survived six years of Taliban rule, lost their life savings, and buried children, husbands, and others, sometimes with their own dreams. Isaiah 58—God’s call to His people to loose the chains of injustice—had long moved me to tears, but the suffering of Afghan women called me to action. Ultimately, I relocated to the war-torn country and launched a jewelry making business that became a lifeline for women in poverty and their families, and a few teenagers who wanted to stay in school rather than be married off to the highest bidder. I had found my calling — scorpions and the Taliban were just part of the package.

In Afghanistan, I was the foreigner, a stranger. Stripped of the support systems I had relied on in America and unable to speak the local language well, navigate the transportation systems, or even buy my own groceries, I felt vulnerable, helpless, and lonely. I needed the kind people who came along and taught me how to survive in a land not my own.

Afghans right here in Columbia have fled the dangers of their homeland for America and now find themselves strangers in a foreign land. These Afghans are among the 120-130 refugees Lutheran Services Carolinas resettles in Columbia, South Carolina every year, including from Iraq, Burma, Eritrea, and Somalia and represent only a tiny fraction of the nearly ten million refugees in the world seeking safety. In Afghanistan, the Taliban targeted some of them for helping the U.S. military. When they left for work in the morning, they did not know whether they would return to their families that evening alive. In a land where the Taliban burns down schools with teachers and female students locked inside and throws acid in the faces of girls making their way to school, parents fear sending their daughters outside even for an education.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest–tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These words, penned by Emma Lazarus in 1883, grace our Statue of Liberty. The people of whom she speaks are the same people the Bible calls “strangers,” or immigrants or foreigners in modern language. Widows, the fatherless, the poor, and strangers are people for whom we, God’s people, are to establish justice. The special provisions to be made for these vulnerable people at that time are outlined in Deuteronomy 24.

The feelings I experienced as a stranger in Afghanistan — helplessness, loneliness, and frustration — are common to refugees around the world. But refugees arrive in America often having suffered trauma, scarcity, exposure to the elements, abuse or sexual assault, fear, stress, prejudice, and hostility, even by their own governments. By definition, refugees are people who flee their home countries based on “a well – founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Once when walking the streets of Geneva, Switzerland, I noticed the top floor of older homes was separated from the lower floors by an awkward line. I later learned why: Swiss Christians had added on stories to receive the Huguenots, religiously persecuted people fleeing neighboring France for their lives. That astonishing act of kindness to strangers moved me. It perfectly embodies God’s command: And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Eygpt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34 NKJV)

Free her from poverty, she’ll free her children.

Amazingly, in America, many refugees haven’t even met a Christian, much less entered their homes. To be fair, many Christians simply don’t know refugees live in Columbia or how easy it is to help meet their needs. Lutheran Services, a resettlement agency in Columbia, provides a myriad of opportunities for us to show kindness to strangers. You don’t have to fly across the world or risk your life. It’s as simple as picking families up from the airport, enrolling their children in school, shuttling them to the doctor, babysitting, furnishing their apartments, or helping them move. As a volunteer, no doubt you’ll find yourself sipping tea with your new friends and having them in your home, your life enriched by the relationships, cross-cultural experiences, and the fruits of your own labors of love.

JanaDean_11_web

OneMaker, the nonprofit organization I founded and direct, helps vulnerable women and girls around the world by teaching them jewelry-making skills, including refugees here in Columbia. You can make a donation or purchase their handcrafted jewelry at www.OneMaker.com or at The Haven Coffee House or at the 210 Shoppe + Studio in Lexington. To volunteer with Lutheran Services Carolinas, contact Lindsey Seawell at Lseawell@lscarolinas.net. •LR•

Jana Dean is the founder and director of OneMaker, a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization that helps vulnerable women and girls around the world by launching and developing business ventures around the world and by providing educational sponsorships for vulnerable girls. Find us on Facebook or Twitter: @OneMaker.

The Bundle & Me

MelissaGarrison_webimage

Children are a blessing from God… all of them, no matter the circumstance.

The precious cries of a ticked-off newborn, as his little feet were patted with ink and pressed onto his baby book, resounded through the hall where family and friends anxiously waited.

As the tiny bundle was placed into my arms, I was totally clueless as to how my life would forever change. I looked into those little eyes and thought, “What do I do now?” God’s still small voice whispered, “Just raise him the way I tell you to.”

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

This verse became my anchor. God impressed on me that each child is uniquely made with a special purpose. First and foremost, my responsibility was to raise my son in the ways of the Lord, seeking His face, and being attentive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit with every decision I made concerning him. It took years beyond the day of his birth to actually grasp the depth of my responsibility, and it’s a good thing God can more than make up for where we fall short because, try as I may, I have fallen terribly short many times over.

When the little bundle was just old enough to say a few words, I was happily convinced we would soon become a family of three instead of two…really soon. Surely it was God’s plan. It was definitely mine. Somehow, though, God missed something.

I tried moving ahead of God and making my life what I was convinced it was supposed to be, but Fear taunted me.

The bundle was growing more every day and as time passed, my dreams and plans were fading. The happy prayers overflowing with all my requests for the perfect husband and life turned into desperate pleading. “OK God, if the man has 10 of the 32 teeth that we are supposed to have in our heads, he’ll do. Lets’ just get this show on the road. CHOP-CHOP!”

I tried moving ahead of God and making my life what I was convinced it was supposed to be, but Fear taunted me. “How can you keep doing this alone? What are people thinking? You can’t be a mom and a dad. What if you are not even a good mom? You’re tired, lonely and the bundle is heavy now.”

As hard as I tried, my plans didn’t work. But, to my defense, I think it’s easy at times for a single mom to look to the wrong things to fill a deep void, like people and advice that society kindly shoves at her. The job held by one, designed to be tackled by two — plus a village — can be quite overwhelming. Fear will gladly remind you of that.

The good news is Fear doesn’t have the last word! One ordinary day, waiting in line for the next gas pump, I heard God’s still small voice again. “You need to stop searching for your mate. Put dating aside and focus on being a mom. These days won’t last long. Cherish them. My plan for you was in motion long before you were born. Let me unfold it in my perfect timing.”

My stubbornness was slow to bow down, and it wasn’t until the bundle’s feet stuck out from the end of the bed that I finally realized God was speaking clearly to me that His words would bring contentment to my life. How could I ever think that God would not take care of the bundle and me, and that I was somehow unworthy of the grace He freely gives?

God’s plan has been a different one from mine. What felt like 40 years of wandering (and grumbling) in the wilderness of my single-mom-ness, I realize now has been the journey I needed to see God’s promise – filled with blessings along the way.

I’m still on the journey and the grown-up bundle is on his journey now too. Fear still taunts me with, “You’re going to end up a crazy cat lady. You need to get back out there and keep searching for your perfect mate. Don’t expect someone to just fall from the sky.” But, God gently reminds me as I search the stars out of my spare room window that He named all the stars in the universe. (Isaiah 40:26) “Thank You, Lord, for stars. Thank You for setting a plan in motion for me; a plan that is better than anything I could dream or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)

So, to Fear, I say, “Nope. No need to search.” To God, I say, “I trust You.” He knows who my husband will be, where he is, the very number of hairs on his head, and teeth in his mouth. He knows when and how my story brings Him glory, and I can rest in that. •LR•

Melissa Garrison is, by the grace of God, a working single mom who loves her family, friends and all things furry. She is also a floral designer with a focus in Christmas decorating for homes and businesses during her favorite season of the year.

3-D Mammography Helps Detect Breast Cancer Earlier

2D_3D Mammography_web

Imagine trying to find a specific snowball in the middle of a snowstorm, or a needle in a haystack. Not easy, right? For women with dense breast tissue, finding breast cancer in its early stages can be equally challenging. Thankfully, a new tool at Lexington Medical Center is making that job easier.

As part of a comprehensive program for the diagnosis of breast cancer, Lexington Medical Center now offers 3-D mammography. This new breast cancer screening tool uses a low-dose X-ray to create images of the breast that allow doctors to view tissue one millimeter at a time. The technology creates multiple images within seconds that are similar to the “slices” of images in a CT scan.

“Lexington Medical Center is excited to offer this leading-edge technology for breast cancer screening,” said Dr. Beth Siroty-Smith, director of Women’s Imaging services for Lexington Radiology Associates at Lexington Medical Center. “3-D mammography reduces difficulties in identifying abnormalities in women with denser breast tissue and results in increased cancer detection.”

3-D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), is currently recommended for women who are having their first screening mammogram or who have dense breast tissue.

The term “dense breasts” refers to the appearance of breast tissue on a mammogram. Dense breast tissue appears as a solid white area, which makes it difficult to see through. Non-dense breast tissue appears dark and transparent.

Dense breast tissue can make it more difficult to interpret a mammogram, since cancer and dense breast tissue both appear white on a mammogram. Very dense breasts may increase the risk that cancer won’t be detected on a mammogram.

Studies in The Journal of The American Medical Association have shown that 3-D mammography increases breast cancer detection, and reduces false positives and unnecessary callbacks for patients with dense breast tissue.

Available since this past spring, Lexington Medical Center was the first facility in the Midlands to offer this technology. Women who have completed a 3-D mammography screening at Lexington Medical Center also report that the procedure is less painful and more tolerable than the traditional 2-D mammogram.

The FDA-approved procedure uses the same type of equipment as a 2-D mammogram and a similar dose of radiation. Women who have questions about whether or not they should receive a 3-D mammogram should talk to their doctor.

You may be more likely to have dense breasts if you’re younger. Breast tissue tends to become less dense as you age, although some women have dense breast tissue at any age. Premenopausal women and women who take hormone therapy for menopause are also more likely to have dense breast tissue.

Women who are having a first screening mammogram or whose doctors have told them they have dense breast tissue may schedule a 3-D mammogram at Lexington Medical Center’s Women’s Imaging facility on the main hospital campus in West Columbia. Women’s Imaging will nearly double the number of daily scheduling slots in an effort to accommodate all interested women. Evening and weekend hours will also soon be available. To schedule an appointment, please call (803) 791-2486.

In addition to being an American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, Lexington Medical Center’s breast program has accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the cancer program has accreditation with commendation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. •LR•

For more information, visit LexMed.com.

got joy?

GotJoy_web

Heading into my final year of middle school, I expected it to be just like any other, but with more privileges. Thinking this would be an easy year, despite having to endure harder classes, I assumed I wouldn’t have to change any of my acquired middle school habits.

I thought I knew exactly how God wanted me to serve Him throughout the year. I figured I would continue to proclaim His name through the medical struggles I was facing. I was diagnosed with scoliosis in the sixth grade and had already faced many challenges because of it. Pushing through the pain, I continued to play soccer and cheer because I have a passion and love for both.

As I shared my story, people started telling me how strong I am and how inspiring it is that I continue to play soccer despite the physical challenges I’ve faced. I believed them. It did require a lot of strength to play through the pain, but I knew it was not my own strength that allowed me to play. It was Christ’s strength in me.

As the season progressed, I started to lose sight of the fact that Christ was the power in me to push through the pain. I thought that I had my situation under control, when in reality I had no control over it at all.

Running from God was mentally draining, physically exhausting and left me emotionally empty.

I thought I had my life together. God became the One I called on when I was in trouble rather than being the One who I was in a spiritual relationship with. I wasn’t spending time studying the Bible. I pushed the prompting of the Holy Spirit away and continued to live life the way I wanted despite the guilt I was feeling. I was running further away from God every day, and my heart was getting heavier as the weeks passed.

I had trouble focusing. I wasn’t sleeping well at all. I was wrestling with God on a daily basis. Still I continued to run from Him. Running from God was mentally draining, physically exhausting and left me emotionally empty.

As my sin grew stronger, I continued trying harder to control my life. I stood face to face with many struggles throughout the year often wondering which way to turn. I knew in my heart I should run into God’s arms, but my sin was so overpowering. Now, life was spinning out of control.

Each school day the clock seemed to move more slowly, until one day, I came home completely broken. I grabbed my headphones and sat outside with the song “Great Are You Lord” blaring into my ears as tears ran down my face like a waterfall. My dad came bursting through the door to check on me. Since I don’t normally sit outside crying, he knew something serious had happened. We’ve always been extremely close. He always knows when something is wrong without even asking me. It’s one of my favorite things about our relationship: he knows me and loves me, no matter what.

That evening we talked for over three hours about my crisis. We talked about how dark life had become because I was not fostering my relationship with Christ. He explained that not spending time in the Word kept me from knowing and loving Christ well. My dad helped me in every way possible. He forgave me for the mistakes I had made and he pointed me to Christ in everything he said and did.

I ran to my earthly father when I was broken. Later that night, I ran into the arms of my Heavenly Father and asked Him to forgive me for trying to live life on my own. Apart from Christ there is no hope or joy. I cried out to God in all of my brokenness. I realized and confessed I am a sinner with a desperate, daily need for Christ.

Since then, I’ve continued to grow in my relationship with Christ. I love Him more. I’ve been in His Word and kept my mind focused on Him more than the things of this world. I’m experiencing a greater amount of joy now that Christ is at the center of my life. I thank God for breaking me. In my brokenness, He refines me and I become more like who He wants me to be. •LR•

Allie Paige Thornton is a 14-year-old freshman at Brookland-Cayce High School. She is a BCHS cheerleader, member of the Lady Bearcats soccer team and an active member of her church youth group at Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce, SC.

To Practice or Not to Practice

To Practice Or Not To Practice

To Practice or Not to Practice

FROM THE TIME I WAS NINE YEARS OLD, I’ve always wanted to be my own version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. My desire is to become a master of the piano and to play the instrument as beautifully as light dances across a room floor. I’ve always enjoyed performing in front of an audience and sharing the gift of music with people. I giggle as I remember all the “performances” I made my parents and grandparents attend in our basement. I truly love the gift of music and I loved how I could make my fingers press the black and white keys to produce a radiant sound.

One of the innocent gifts of being a child is you believe you can do anything. It didn’t take me long though to realize that I wasn’t Mozart. I was not the master of the piano I longed to be because I hadn’t put in the time, practice or sacrifice that it required. I had not endured.

Often times I didn’t want to put in the extra practice hours that it would take to be an exquisite pianist. I was always thinking about the end result and how marvelous it would be to play in front of thousands of people, but I never wanted to put in the extra effort to get there. I never wanted to work for my success. I thought that if I craved it badly enough it would just appear in front of me. But, if I really wanted to be Mozart, I would have to practice and give it everything 
I had.

Just as sitting at a piano doesn’t make me a Mozart, sitting in church doesn’t make me a Christian.

When I began middle school, the piano became an instrument of emotional release for me. I found that it was easier to practice every day and I started to enjoy myself more. The more time I spent on the piano, the better I began to sound. It almost became second nature to me. It felt like breathing, so natural. I started taking steps towards my Mozart dream.

I strive to be like Mozart on the piano, but I strive to be like Christ with my life. I want to be an example of God’s love for us. However, just as sitting at a piano doesn’t make me a Mozart, sitting in church doesn’t make me a Christian. Once God calls us and we truly surrender, that’s when the lessons begin to mold us as we become a Mozart of our faith. It doesn’t happen overnight, we must endure. Our faith only grows as we get to know Christ through prayer, bible studies, trials, mistakes, and even in the midst of great difficulties. We have a need for endurance, so that when we have done the will of God we may receive what is promised. (Hebrews 10:36) He is molding us to become more like Him through everything.

I’ve started clinging to Jesus more the older I get. The more I grow in Him, the more He teaches me to rely on His strength and power. As Christians we will face persecution, rejection and even mockery, but as we stand firm, practice our faith, and endure the cost of discipleship, I believe our lives will imitate Christ, the One we desire to be like. •LR•


Allie Paige Thornton is a 14-year-old, eighth grader at Northside Middle School in Lexington District Two. She is a NMS cheerleader and member of the BC High School JV Soccer Team.

A Gardening Lesson

A Gardening Lesson

A Gardening Lesson

As I sit here at my keyboard, it’s spring. It’s the season for planting. In many places across the South, farmers and gardeners have already planted their vegetables and flowers, and are now awaiting the harvest. In the mountains where I live, spring is a little slower arriving, so not much planting has been done — yet. We’re still in the season of preparation.

Any good gardener – and I am not one of them – will tell you that the soil must be properly prepared if one expects to grow anything. One of my husband’s favorite expressions is, “Don’t put a five dollar rose bush in a fifty-cent hole.” Even though my thumb is   “brown”   rather   than   “green”, I  can  understand this concept.

That’s a principle with a far broader application than just rose bushes or daisies or tomatoes. There’s a deep spiritual truth here.
The prophet Hosea in the Old Testament had this to say: “Break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 10:12 ESV)

What is “fallow ground” anyway? A little research on the Internet led me to understand that the expression generally refers to plowed, but unseeded, ground. As I searched for the origin of the phrase, I discovered that originally it meant uncultivated, unplowed, unprepared soil. If you have ever traveled to Israel, you will remember that much of the terrain there is hard and rocky. That was likely true in Hosea’s day as well.

Hard, rocky soil is not an adequate place for planting, at least not without some preparation. That’s the word picture we have from Hosea: prepare the soil in order to reap the harvest.

Preparing the soil is necessary to reap a harvest of roses or petunias or carrots or tomatoes. Preparing the spiritual soil is necessary to reap a harvest of righteousness.

Jesus taught us the principle in the parable of the sower in Matthew 15. In this parable, the seed that produced grain was the seed that fell on good soil. The seeds sown on the rocky soil or on shallow soil or by the side of the path did not produce grain. The harvest came from seed that fell onto good, i.e. prepared, soil.

What does that have to do with you and me? If you are a gardener, you likely prepare the soil before you sow your seed or before you put your plants in the ground. You may use a tiller or a tractor, or you may use a hoe. Either way, you “break up” the ground before you plant.

Even if you don’t plant a large garden but only have some pots of flowers sitting on your porch, the soil must be properly prepared if the flowers are going to grow.

We can’t expect a harvest of fruits and vegetables, or a garden full of beautiful flowers, if we haven’t done the preparation. In the same way, if we expect to reap a harvest of righteousness, some preparation is necessary. There are some principles to follow for success in gardening, and there are principles to follow for our spiritual growth as well.

The first principle is preparation. We learn this from Hosea. “Break up your fallow ground.” This means get ready. Prepare your heart in prayer. Confess any known sin. Get rid of any “weeds” in the garden of your heart.

Preparing the spiritual soil is necessary to reap a harvest of righteousness.

The next principle is time. We can’t plant a few seeds of corn today and expect to have a field of corn ready for harvest tomorrow. The farmer has to wait for the harvest. There’s waiting involved in spiritual growth as well.

A third principle is anticipation. The farmer plants seed; the gardener plants flowers. Both wait in anticipation of what is to come, whether a crop ready to harvest or a field full of beautiful flowers. Spiritually, we need to be looking forward – anticipating – what God will do.

All of this is futile if the wrong seed is planted. A farmer can’t plant beans and expect to harvest corn. Especially in the spiritual sense, we need to be sure we’re planting the right seed!

Prepared soil – proper seed – patience. These lead to results. It’s true for the farmer. It’s true for the gardener. It’s true for you and me as well.

Have you prepared your soil? “Break up your fallow ground.” (Hosea 10:12 ESV)

Have you planted the right seed? “The seed is the word of God…” (Luke 8:11b ESV)

Are you giving it time? “In due time we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9b ESV)

Are you anticipating what God will do? “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15 ESV)

How is your garden growing? •LR•


Susan Feaster is wife to Al, mom to Brian and Brandon, and Nana to AJ and Christopher. She blogs about life and faith at:SusansSittingRoom.blogspot.com

Remembering McKinsey Cook: the most beautiful piece of our puzzle

Remembering McKinsey Cook: the most beautiful piece of our puzzle

Remembering McKinsey Cook: the most beautiful piece of our puzzle

McKinsey Cook was not just another one of our friends. She was a part of us. We grew up with her. Together. I remember way back when we were just kids and we discovered we were cousins (by marriage, but it was all the same to us). We thought it was the coolest thing ever, because we were not only best friends, we were family!

We spent summers swimming in the pool (her fingers always shriveled up way more than mine), spending many nights at her house where I forced her to let me play Grand Theft Auto (boy how times have changed), and countless dinners at Miyo’s, where she always forced me to eat wasabi on a fork.

I remember riding around in her silver Pontiac. During the hot summers in SC, we would ride with the windows down, listening to music. Many times we ended up at Sonic to get slushies when the heat was unbearable. We could ride for hours. You know how you can just sit with someone in complete silence, and it’s okay because you are together?

I remember those double-jointed fingers and how she could balance a basketball on the tips of her fingernails. That was pretty awesome.

We all used to practically live at Madison Shull’s house during the summers. It is true. She loved Mrs. Melanie’s spaghetti. She loved my mom’s peanut butter balls, too. She just loved us all so much. She was love.

I remember going on rants about people and saying things I knew I could never take back. She was always there to tell me, “Be nice!” Even though it irritated me to hear those two words, I finally realized it was because she was so much better at loving people than I ever could be. She was our rock. She took care of us even when we didn’t know it. She inspired us to be more like Jesus.

She was and still is someone to strive to be like.

McKinsey never settled. She never let anything or anyone keep her from living out her dreams. Even when she was suffering with a stomach problem, she didn’t let that keep her from getting on the cheerleading mat. She never let someone’s words keep her from being her self. I have a tattoo on my shoulder with a dove and the words, “to thine own self be true” from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. When I got the tattoo, its only meaning was my love for Shakespeare and to remember to always be myself. Now when I look at it, I’ll remember that McKinsey was and still is that dove that was never afraid to be herself. She was and still is someone to strive to be like.

“Thrive”, by Casting Crowns, is streaming from my playlist as I write. “Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide. We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. It’s time for us to do more than just survive. We were made to thrive.” These words make me think of how McKinsey didn’t live an ordinary life. She didn’t just survive. She lived her life in a way that would make other people’s lives better. I think it’s safe to say that we will all live the rest of our lives trying to thrive and live unordinary lives just like McKinsey did. While she was here, she touched so many people and changed so many of our lives. McKinsey was a genuine girl. She never put on a façade for people. Everyone loved her for that. She truly did thrive.

Although I have a throbbing headache from crying so much, I am comforted in knowing that she is in the right place. That “Mama Bear” spirit of hers will continue to keep us in line for as long we’re here on this earth. I’m going to miss that chipper, high-pitched laugh more than anything. It made all of us smile. It’s hard for me to understand how God can take someone so precious so soon, but I have to believe that He works in mysterious ways.

Through it all, her best friends and I have drawn closer together as the sisters we are, always have been, and always will be. We loved McKinsey with every inch of our hearts. She wasn’t just the cute petite friend of ours; she was the piece of the puzzle that held us together, the only piece with glue on it. She brought us all together as one beautiful masterpiece of true friendship. Our puzzle is not complete anymore, but I can promise that we will never lose sight of that missing piece as she continues gluing us all back together from heaven even tighter than we were before. •LR•

Bailey Campbell is currently a sophomore at Presbyterian College where she is an English major and a Secondary Education minor. She is a writer for PCs Newspaper ‘The Bluestocking’ and also writes on her personal blog: musingreverie.tumblr.com

Getting Back to my Roots

Getting Back to My Roots

Getting Back to my Roots

Ever have a bad hair day? How about a NO hair day? Now that’s another thing! Actually, it’s not as bad as you might think. No really…I know! Recently I had to surrender my locks. No, it wasn’t one of those nightmare hair stories where a stylist tried something “new” or a home makeover experiment that went awry. Mine was different. It was a choice I made to fight a life threatening disease and in doing so sacrifices were required.

WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE…IF NOT, WE KNOW SOMEONE who has. When life as you know it is interrupted by a tragic event that crashes in to your world, choices have to be made. I was faced with one of those choices on June 12, 2013. That day I received a call with dreadful news that no one wants to hear, ”You have cancer.” I was about to endure months of medical tests and rigorous treatments followed by surgery, and then radiation. After the initial shock wore off I realized I had a decision to make. I am pretty stubborn so fighting wasn’t an option, but fight cancer? How? I thought I was doing everything humanly possible to prevent something like this from happening. I already ate healthy and stayed physically active so what now? I could both try and fight this within the limits of my own strength, which obviously hadn’t proved very successful, or yield to something far greater than myself.

Sometimes a crisis can bring clarity.

Thankfully, because of Jesus Christ, I had that choice. While it had been years since I entered in to a personal relationship with Jesus and became “new” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), I had lost my focus. Other “gods” subtly began to capture my attention causing me to lose site of the very One who saved me. Sometimes a crisis can bring clarity. After all, it was the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and God’s power displayed through His resurrection that gave me reason to live in the first place…and that’s what I intended to do.

I don’t mean live in the physical sense. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to be alive, but there had to be more. No longer did I want to just look the part for Him. In the very core of my being, I wanted to become who He created me to be. Once I let go of control and called out to my Savior, a precious transformation began. I fell into my Father’s arms and He began to gently strip away the old me from the inside out …literally. Cancer became the catalyst that returned me to the roots of my salvation. My heart was captivated once again. I rediscovered God’s promises were not only true, they were for me.

As my hair started falling out I was reminded that real life transformation begins with the roots for those who are in Christ.

“He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”(Jeremiah 17:8 NIV)

Yes, every last strand of hair was gone. As I surrendered my body and soul to be nourished by His living water, healing began. The cancer started melting away and so did my fears. Every time I saw my smooth round head in the mirror, God reminded me that true lasting beauty is about the heart -not the outward appearance.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (I Peter 3:3-4 NIV)

That’s what I wanted … lasting beauty that would not fade. It was grueling at times, but as the months passed by, my hair started growing back. My soul began to hunger and thirst for God like never before. New life presented new challenges. After all, I’ve never been a brunette with curls!  Sure I could go back to the old me, but that would have been easy. We had come this far and there was no turning back. I wanted this makeover to be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. After all, this girl didn’t go bald for nothing!

Today, it’s almost been a year since my treatments ended. As for my physical health, all is well … and I praise the Lord! God continues to reassure me of His presence. In the midst of all the “what ifs” and unknowns, there is peace and even joy.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11 NIV)

” … Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)

While I do not know what tomorrow will bring, I’m not afraid. I know God’s promises are true. He is my Comforter, Redeemer and Helper in time of need. He is my joy in the midst of the storm, my Provider and Healer. He is faithful to bring forth a new life, even a new “hair do”. Now I can live fully in that truth… because my roots told me so. •LR•

Lara Gopp is a writer, speaker and media designer who is passionate about living out her faith in Jesus Christ. She absolutely loves being Dan’s wife and Abigail’s mom. You may read more about her recent journey surviving breast cancer at: LaraGopp.com

The Death of A Vision

The Death Of A Vision—God’s Hand In New Beginnings

The Death of A Vision

00:01

A second isn’t very much time, but it can greatly impact the minutes, hours and days that follow. In that measure of time, dreams, visions and fears begin and end.

WITH THE PASSAGE OF TIME, we begin to see those seconds where dreams are born or die, as moments marking God’s greater purpose. But the seconds that follow — the many seconds spent waiting for the unveiling of that purpose — can be hard. Time must then be measured in trust and faith.

10 a.m. happens every day, but when it happened October 16, 2014, a dream ended and a new one began for Bill and Frieda Bingham. Fears also immerged and the clock that measures time in trust and faith, started.

Early that morning, Bradley, the Bingham’s middle child, left the family’s home in Cayce, South Carolina to head back to Lander University. He never returned to campus.

Bill first realized something was wrong when a mobile app showed that Bradley was in the same spot for a long period of time. Bill tried to call and text Bradley, but there was no response.

A collision with another vehicle left Bradley pinned inside his car, which landed in some trees at an exit off of Interstate 26 in Laurens County. While Bill did not know what happened, he knew something was wrong. He and his brother immediately headed to the accident scene.

“Bradley gave me a ‘thumbs up’ as he was in and out 
of consciousness.”

Bill arrived just as a helicopter airlifted Bradley to Greenville Memorial Hospital in Greenville. He didn’t see his son, but did learn that first responders cut Bradley from the car and that he was still breathing when the helicopter left. Fears began, dreams died and new dreams started in those few seconds.

Bill had no other information about his son as he drove to Greenville. He called Frieda to tell her what happened, and her first response was to pray. In those seconds, God called Frieda’s faith into action and she and Bill began experiencing God’s faithfulness in Bradley’s life.

As Frieda made the trip to Greenville, Bill waited for a long time at the hospital before he learned anything about Bradley. Finally doctors told Bill that he was alive but in serious condition. Bill saw Bradley first and tried to prepare Frieda.“He actually looked better than I had imagined! Bradley gave me a ‘thumbs up’ as he was in and out of consciousness,” says Frieda. It was a good sign given in just a few seconds to encourage the new dream, the new vision of Bradley’s life.

Throughout the next two days, Bill and Frieda began to learn both the extent of Bradley’s injuries and of the many prayers God had already answered. Bradley suffered a fractured skull, a jaw broken in three places, a broken upper palate, broken lower eye sockets and broken cheekbones. The crash also shattered more than two-thirds of his teeth. Miraculously he suffered no brain damage — a fear ended and a prayer answered.

“I can plan, I can strategize and I can be prepared. But, 
I am not in control”

A ventilator, tracheotomy, a feeding tube and several reconstructive surgeries followed, and there are more surgeries ahead. Bradley also badly injured the nerves in his left shoulder and broke his ankle. Those injuries limited his mobility and he is working now to strengthen those areas of his body.

So many seconds have passed since 10:00 a.m. October 16, 2014. Bill and Frieda have spent hours watching the clock, waiting for Bradley to come out of a surgery or procedure. They’ve spent days helping him adjust to life back at home. They’ve also spent many quiet moments experiencing what they know to be true about God.

“God uses Bradley to remind me constantly that I cannot control everything. I can plan, I can strategize and I can be prepared. But, I am not in control. Only God knows what is going to happen and controls the outcome,” says Bill.

The Bingham’s say the entire process for Bradley’s recovery is easily described as “two steps forward and one step back.” Bill shared that sentiment in an email updating friends and family two weeks after Bradley’s wreck. He also referenced John 12:24. In that scripture, Jesus explains that a seed must die and be buried for it to produce many seeds. While the passage is talking about what Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection, God used the scripture to help Bill and Frieda understand the purpose of this time in Bradley’s life.

“So it is for Bradley, we know that our vision for how we want things to be will not be fulfilled, but we can count on the fact that if it is God’s will and his timing, Bradley will be able to achieve even greater things than we anticipated. Through the death of our vision, comes God’s greatness,” wrote Bill.

What will that greatness look like? What further evidence of God’s hand and timing will Bill, Frieda and Bradley experience? School and the many other things that fill the world of a college freshman are on hold for Bradley. Perhaps they are changed forever. But the One who holds forever knows what visions and dreams He will reveal in the next few seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. •LR•

Kelly Coakley is a proud preacher’s wife, mother, and former news anchor desiring to communicate the love of Jesus with everyone she meets. Kelly is the Communications Coordinator for Lexington School District One.