- Written by Charity Farrar
Suffering: How it can be Transformed
In life, suffering is unavoidable.
From small sufferings like sitting in traffic or being around someone who annoys us, to greater sufferings like the loss of a loved one or a severe illness, it seems we cannot escape its reaches. We do whatever we can to avoid suffering and yet, it finds us.
Sometimes suffering can lead us down paths we don’t want to be on: paths like bitterness, hatred, self-loathing, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, addiction, shame, isolation, or despair.
So what do we do now?
I have asked myself this same question many times. Even now, as I have been sick for two weeks straight, going on three, my soul begins to feel restless and I start to panic. I just want the pain to end!
Whether we are dealing with the smallest or the greatest of suffering, it’s what we do with it that can either deform us or transform us. We certainly can become wounded and may be knocked down, but it’s how we get back up again that makes us who we are. In the Christian life, when we draw closer to Christ, we experience the suffering and death of the Cross. But by entering into that suffering, we can then participate in the glory of His resurrection and triumph over sin; we are made stronger.
What does this transformative suffering look like? St Paul tells us.
He wrote to the Colossians saying, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24)
Meaning, while Christ’s sacrifice in and of itself was perfect and complete, our sufferings, united with His, can be transformative. Not only for ourselves, but for the body of Christ as a whole.
Saint Peter echoes this saying:
“Don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you. Instead, be really glad - because these trials will make you partners with Christ in His sufferings, and afterwards you will have the wonderful joy of sharing His glory in that coming day when it will be displayed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13, 19)
How beautiful is that? So many times suffering feels meaningless and hopeless but, united to the cross, hope and meaning are promised and restored.
How do I unite my sufferings with Christ?
One practical way of doing this is to say the breath prayer, “Lord, I offer this [suffering] to you.” The suffering may be a person, a place, or situation. God will know exactly what you mean, so you don’t have to worry too much about if it sounds pretty or is even said perfectly! If you would like, you can add “...and I place this [suffering] at the foot of your Cross.” This visual can be very powerful to meditate with so if you have time, do that too!
Know, no matter how big or small your suffering is, when you call on Him, God’s ear is inclined to you. Moreover, Christ is in your heart suffering with you! He knows very intimately your pain and He does not desire to leave you alone and without defense. His mercy will pour out over you and, His love, sustain you. Know that every Good Friday of your life has a Resurrection Sunday. Hold out in hope and expectation for the one who desires to heal you: our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Also know you do not have to walk through suffering alone! If you feel like you need to talk to someone we have free counseling available. Please call us at 210-543-7200. We would love to talk to you.
- Written by Charity Farrar
Valentine’s day is one of those high-pressure holidays. We are built with an internal need for love. The truth is that we crave it like we crave the air we breathe. And we view being loved as a rite of passage so to speak, something that says we have value. But nothing brings this into the public eye as much as Valentine’s day...
For years, I carried the guilt and shame from my abortion. I truly believed I crossed lines that were unforgivable, and that God himself could never really love me. I was so disappointed in myself that I believed no one else, not even God, could really be satisfied with me, let alone love me.
Can you relate?
Valentine’s day is one of those high pressure holidays. We are built with an internal need for love. The truth is that we crave it like we crave the air we breathe. And we view being loved as a rite of passage so to speak, something that says we have value. But nothing brings this into the public eye as much as Valentine’s day.
When I was in elementary school, we had to decorate a shoebox with a big slit in the top so that when the time came, all of the kids would get out of their seats and pass out their Valentines. I dreaded that time... I was “that kid” that was made fun of and in today’s world, bullied. I was always afraid to go to my box to see if I had any Valentines. Thankfully, my box was never empty, and although I never had a “full” box, I was so excited to see who gave me a Valentine’s card.
Now, no longer the recipient of Valentine’s in a decorated shoebox, we are all still driven to know that somebody finds value in us, that somebody loves us. But as adults, we have a more honest estimation of who we are, and are more acutely aware of our failures, misdeeds, and to put it more bluntly, our sins. And all of that weighs the heaviest around Valentine’s day, especially if we have crossed lines that carry more shame.
For years, I carried the guilt and shame from my abortion. I truly believed I crossed lines that were unforgivable, and that God himself could never really love me. I was so disappointed in myself that I believed no one else, not even God, could really be satisfied with me, let alone love me. Can you relate? Was there a time in your life you wanted so desperately to be loved that you made choices you wish you hadn’t? Perhaps you regret choices you made with your virginity? Or maybe you compromised your integrity just to be accepted? Perhaps you battle with drugs or alcohol or have even spent time in jail. Maybe your parents weren’t there for you, or the people that should have loved you left you or hurt you in some way. Have you ever felt unlovable? I promise you, you’re not!!! And thankfully, neither am I.
There is a story in the Bible about a woman who was caught having sex with a married man. In those days, the law said she should have been stoned to death for her crime. Instead the officials brought her to a public place among the crowds and tossed her in front of Jesus to see what he would do. (They were really trying to test Jesus, but still, what about this poor woman?) Can you imagine your dirtiest of secrets brought out into the open? Talk about feeling exposed and judged! What she did was shameful and vile in that culture and everywhere she looked, she was met with condemning eyes staring at her in disgust. Well, almost everywhere... Jesus was different. If anyone had the right to condemn her it would have been him. I can imagine her lying there on the ground trembling before him waiting for judgement, and for the stones to pelt her body. Silence. Raising her eye from the crook of her elbow she looks over at him. What is Jesus doing? He seems to be writing in the dirt with his finger! He looks up, their eyes meet and she catches her breath. His eyes, they seem to penetrate to her very soul. He knows and sees everything, yet there is a kindness that fills her heart and she is no longer afraid. Jesus stands and looks to the people standing there and in essence he says, “You want to stone her? Ok, sure, but lets start with the person who has never sinned - they can cast the first stone.” One by one the stones fall to the ground as each one leaves convicted by their own sin. Jesus says to her, “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you.”
Jesus didn’t leave it there though, forgiving that one act of adultery; he did something even more outrageous. You see, God loved her so very much that he sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross for her sins. All of them. And if she just believe in him, she would never die (spiritually), but would have eternal life with Him! He didn’t send his son into the world to condemn her, but to save her through him.
And the same holds true for you and me! God couldn’t stand the thought of going through eternity without you, so he sent his son to take your place and die for your sins. All of them!
“For God so loved (insert your name here) that he gave his one and only son, that if (insert your name) believe in Him, you will not perish but have eternal life. God didn’t send his son into the world to condemn (you), but to save you through Him. (See John 3:16-17)
What’s holding you back from receiving His forgiveness and allowing God to fill you with His love? This Valentine’s day, you don’t have to worry IF someone will love you or find value in you - the King of all creation already has! John 1:12 says, ‘But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Friend, being a child of God is a choice! It’s up to you to receive the gift of His love. You are wanted more than you can ever imagine!! Nothing you have done - and I mean NOTHING, can separate you from His love!
When we give our lives to God, “...God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Eph 2:7-10, The Message)
The Bible is His Valentine to you. He is calling you by name. He is saying,
“Will you be mine?”
If you would like to find out more information about this, or would like to talk with someone or have someone pray with you, call us!!! We would love to pray with you and be there to answer any questions you might have about salvation or what happens next. Give us a call, won’t you? 210-543-7200
- Written by Charity Farrar
Herpes . . . A result that is often feared or dreaded. It causes an emotional response that feels like guilt and shame, like a judgment has been passed. Some have feelings of betrayal and some feel self-hatred as this result is realized. There are so many questions that begin flooding in as the possibility of this condition rises. “Who gave it to me?” “What did I do wrong?” “Could I give it to my partner or even my kids?” “Will it ever go away?” “Is there a treatment?” “Do I have to tell anyone?” “Are people going to know this by looking at me?” These questions are difficult to handle as the testing and results for herpes is completed. It can feel like a very long week waiting on results. It can feel even longer if there are blisters or sores suspicious of Herpes infection. There is help and good information available to you no matter where you are in the process of encountering Herpes.
A helpful website with an excellent video discussing the facts about testing and the disease is available at the American Sexual Health Association website: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/herpes/.
Let’s go over some of the facts about the viruses.
- Herpes is a common and usually mild recurrent skin condition caused by a virus: the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV is in a family of viruses called herpesviruses.
- There are two types of HSV: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). The majority of oral herpes cases are caused by HSV-1 and the majority of genital herpes cases are caused by HSV-2; however, type-1 or type-2 can occur in either the genital or oral area.
- In general, HSV-1 infections cause less outbreaks with less severe symptoms. HSV-2 infections can cause outbreaks up to every other month with more discomfort than HSV-1.
- About one in six people ages 14-49 in the United States have genital HSV-2 infection. However, most people don’t know they are infected because their symptoms are too mild to notice or mistaken for something else.
- Oral and genital herpes can be uncomfortable, but they are generally not dangerous infections in healthy adults. There are a couple of areas of concern. If a woman with genital herpes has virus present in the birth canal during delivery, HSV can be spread to an infant, causing neonatal herpes, a serious condition. The risk is greatest for women who contract genital HSV is during pregnancy.
- There are several days throughout the year when herpes can be spread even when there are no symptoms. The surest way to prevent the spread of genital herpes is to avoid sexual contact during an outbreak and to use condomsfor sexual contact between outbreaks. Daily treatment with valacyclovir has also been proven to reduce the risk of transmission to a partner. (American Sexual Health Association, 2018)
Protecting yourself against sexually transmitted diseases is the best preventative measure you can take. Testing of both partners BEFORE any sexual activity (including kissing) is important. Having conversations about sexual history is another must in entering into a more mature relationship and about limiting your risk of getting or spreading a sexually transmitted disease. Condoms, when used correctly, can protect against most diseases. An exception to this with Herpes is if an outbreak is present outside the area that a condom covers.
Written by Penne Jasper. Penne is Life Choices' Nurse Practioner
- Written by Charity Farrar
“No, I do not want to purchase fifty steak knives today.”
“No, I don’t want to sign up as a rewards member and receive a credit card I do not need.”
“No, I cannot help with the marshmallow drive on Sunday after service.”
“No, I can no longer be your free babysitter while you party after work.”
“No, I will not loan you $200 this time when you still owe me $300 from the last time.”
“No! I will not wait for you while you continue to cheat on me!”
“No! I will no longer be pressured to have sex with you!”
“No! I will not tolerate another day of abuse: physical, verbal, emotional or otherwise!”
“No” is such a small word, but it wields so much power. It is a confrontational word that sets boundaries in our lives and tells others that we exist outside of their desires and demands for us. Boundaries are emotionally healthy and allow individuals to define for themselves what is and is not okay for them.
A boundary is like a property line set around our lives – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and it helps us to distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t. From the pushy telemarketer who doesn’t allow you to get a word in during a sales pitch to the aggressive vacuum cleaner salesman at your door, setting boundaries is vital to mental health. Whether avoiding the assertive cable company representative at Walmart, finally building the courage to talk to the good friend who constantly takes advantage of your kindness and time or ending the relationship with the significant other who treats you as property and does not value you as a person, we must learn to set and maintain boundaries with others to preserve peace in our own hearts and minds. Saying, “No” is the most basic boundary we can set with one word.
There may be many reasons we struggle to say, “No”: we are afraid of endangering a relationship with someone close to us if we say, “No”. It may be external pressure from someone to do something we may not want to do or perhaps, it is internal pressure from that little voice inside our heads that keeps telling us what we “should” do. Whether internal or external, pressure that we do not learn to say, “No” to can cause the property line of our lives to become blurred, thus, allowing us to become vulnerable, unguarded and prisoners to the petitions and constant whims of others.
Knowing who we are and being able to voice our limits free us from turmoil within because we have finally embraced the truth that we absolutely cannot fulfill every expectation placed upon us by everyone else, and that is unquestionably okay. Saying, “No” sometimes to someone else gives us permission to say, “Yes” to ourselves for a change. Saying, “No” also helps us to define our parameters with others because we realize that our lives have worth as well. Furthermore, it strengthens us to be truthful with the one whom we see daily staring back at us through our own eyes. Remember, it is difficult for others to know where we stand when we do not use words to communicate and define where we will not fall. William Shakespeare says it well: “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
- Written by Charity Farrar
So How Far Along am I?...
Maybe one of the most common questions I get asked and one very confusing concept to try to explain to someone is, what is the difference between gestational age and conception age? It also can be a very sensitive topic for a mother, or father, who may be questioning paternity (who the baby’s father is).
The average woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days from the beginning of one period to the beginning of the next, with an average ovulation date being on day 14 of that cycle. If you have unprotected sex around the time you ovulate, you have a significant chance of getting pregnant. If you become pregnant, the date of conception will have been around that 14th day, 2 weeks after your period had started. But remember, these are averages and not exact dates. Some women’s menstrual cycles are longer or shorter than 28 days, which would then alter the date of ovulation. Also note that a man’s sperm can live inside a woman’s body for up to 5 days. So that means conception can occur several days after having intercourse.
Most women know when their menstrual period begins but do not know when they ovulate because it is much more difficult to track. Your baby’s due date is estimated to be 40 weeks after the start of your last menstrual period, which in most cases is very easy to calculate. So, more simply, when your period starts, that is a sign that your body is preparing to become pregnant, which starts the calculation of the gestational age; you don’t actually become pregnant for another 2 weeks, if you have sexual intercourse around the time you ovulate, which is the calculation of the conception age.
Again, this can be very confusing for someone to understand. If your hope is to not get pregnant, abstinence is your only guarantee. If your hope is to become pregnant, try tracking your menstrual cycles and symptoms throughout the month to increase awareness of what’s happening in your body.
Written by Ellen. When you come to Life Choices, it is Ellen who will be doing your sonogram and help you answer that important question - how far along am I?!