Roundabouts,Celtic Castles and Dainty Pubs (and demons that roam the halls of Bryn Melyn).

On December 9th, 2018 we rented a car for our upcoming trip to North Wales. As an American and my first time driving in England, I knew there would be challenges but I was positive that I would become accustomed in no time after hearing rumors that you adapt to the motorways very quickly. I soon found out how wrong those rumors were, at least for me. There are rotaries (roundabouts if you are British) which goes in a circle and you have to figure out which lane you need to be in to exit the roundabout, but figuring out the exit was a challenge within itself.

In America, we don’t have many rotaries but the ones that do exist are simple as you enter counter clockwise compared to British roundabouts that you enter clockwise. It’s difficult (or in England, bloody difficult) enough to keep in mind you’re driving on the left side of road navigating from right side of car. I’ll not go into detail the numerous times as the driver I got in on the wrong side of car or drove in the wrong lane. It did not take me long after leaving the car rental place to realize that my brain receptors were going to be confused for the next thirty days and as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, mad stress had settled in and made itself at home.

Despite the chaos of the motorways, the stunning scenery from rolling hills to the picturesque countryside begs to be explored with its quaint villages, green fields and beautiful rivers and majestic lakes which you will find all across England. You are destined to fall in love and the fresh air melts your driving worries away and as we headed to Northern Wales, the beauty intensified and my heart felt like it belonged there. Our fist stop was in Llandderfel which is only two miles from Bala.

Bryn Melyn Cottages

Upon arrival, I noticed the cottages was a detached farmhouse, once a stable over 300 years ago. The setting was a stunning courtyard of traditional stone barns that had been converted to what they call self-catering cottages. I was hungry to know the history of this beautiful place and could not wait to unload the car and get to work to find the knowledge I was seeking. As I grabbed some bags and headed for the door, I stopped to take a photo of the entrance and at that moment, I felt a presence that wasn’t exactly pleasant. At first, I brushed it off thinking that it was just me suddenly feeling tired, but once I entered the cottage and headed upstairs, I knew immediately something didn’t feel right. I know that touch of the uncanny, the “creeps” if you will and my spidey senses certainly heightened as my attention and focus was like a laser on the landing upstairs where everything seemed unwelcoming and you just knew something was wrong in that place.

I’ll save the details for another time, but my entire stay there in those cottages was very uncomfortable and the heaviness was always present. When I researched and learned what occurred there many years ago, I understood why I was feeling the way I did. When evil has been present, it doesn’t necessarily leave it might linger forever and I was not there to construe willful agency about some circumstance. I didn’t now the circumstances nor was I told prior to my arrival there. But I will say this in all honesty, I do believe the evilness was malicious as the individual that was with me endured changes during our stay there and his attitude towards me suddenly dimmed the minute we entered those doors. He was not the same person I knew going in.

Every time we left the cottage, things changed and all normality would return and we both agreed that the cottages was without doubt, haunted or possessed as I believed it to be. We decided to spend our time exploring the beautiful area and we found a quaint little pub just around the corner from where we were staying and it became our nightly place to dine. The home-cooked meals from the varied menu was outstanding and we felt cozy warming ourselves by the open log fire. The friendly and welcoming atmosphere made for a perfect environment.

The Bryntirion Inn Pub

This Pub is also a secluded Inn with en-suite guest rooms. I don’t know much about the suites or accommodations, but the owners, Martin and Linda Woods were very pleasant folks and their aim was to make each customer feel at home and if I ever return to this particular area, this Pub will be the first place I stop for fish and chips. But there is also a little surprise when visiting the Pub and his name is Screwfix. He is the Pub cat and while mainly staying to himself, he might come around and rub against your leg in hopes of breaking bread with you.

Screwfix
The Pub fireplace

We enjoyed spending time at Llyn Tegid which is Welsh for Bala Lake and is the largest body of water in Wales. The ducks were very friendly and entertaining not to mention the beautiful scenery surrounding us. Peaceful, serene and very cold with threats of snow storms rolling in so we didn’t hang around the lake for very long. We headed back into Bala which is a lovely market town and community located in the Snowdonia National Park. We enjoyed shopping for snacks at the local grocery store and even had lunch in one of their marvelous diners. Have I mentioned how wonderful the food is in Wales?

Bala Lake and those snow clouds coming in.

After our stay at the cottages, we really didn’t have an itinerary and decided on the spur-of-the-moment to go look for castles and we chose Harlech which is a seaside community in Gwynedd. As we drove along those skinny winding roads, just ahead in the distance arose the towers of the medieval Castle of Harlech spectacularly situated on a near vertical cliff face where it is perched overlooking land and the Irish sea that separates Wales from Ireland. I had never seen a castle in person and my excitement was definitely climbing to unprecedented levels.

We drove down the one tiny street that snaked through the sleepy town to find a parking space. It was very impressive and so was my driving, but at the same time, very terrifying. I finally found a spot to park and I have to say, in England it doesn’t matter which side of the road you park just as long as you park. I was caught by surprise upon exiting the car to experience the charm of the small, old town. There was even a fold-up chair in a parking space that left us chuckling. I suppose that’s one way of getting dibs on the parking space. We walked the stone walkways through the town and visited a couple of shops there before migrating to the castle.

Harlech Castle

It was a tail spin after learning the castle was closed that particular day but we were able to have lunch at the Caffi Castell by the castle and I enjoyed the apple pork stew with buttered bread it’s absolutely difficult to put into words just how delicious it was. After our relaxing time in the Caffi we headed back to the car for our next adventure and along the way, we browsed a few shops before leaving. As I got back into the car and began to drive away, I felt an aire of sadness leaving the breathtaking landscapes and amazing coastlines, but I somehow felt I would return again some day and it is on my to-do-again list.

Chatsworth House

I was blessed to have the privilege of spending a day at Chatsworth. If you haven’t googled already, the Chatsworth House is the vision of beauty and serenity in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire which is in the East Midlands of England. This magnificent stately home is the dwelling place of the Cavendish family dating back to the 1550s and is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

Chatsworth House

My moment of awe began the instant we drove up onto the property with the magnificent view of the park and stunning myriads of sculptured landscapes. I remember getting out of the car thinking this is just like the Biltmore House back in the States, in Ashville, North Carolina which is a Chateauseque-style mansion built for George Washington Vanderbilt 11 around the late 1800s. However, after seeing the Chatsworth, one can draw conclusions of the many similarities, yet differences that create the characteristics of the two mansions, but by far the Chatsworth is much larger.

Our first stop was the Cavendish Restaurant located on the Chatsworth property where we enjoyed great conversation, excellent food and a very relaxed atmosphere with friendly staff members. We were made to feel welcome especially after learning that one of their visitors was an American (me) indulging in the magic of England’s cherished history. After a wonderful lunch, we couldn’t wait to begin our tour of one of England’s most beautiful estates.

Cavendish Restaurant

The Chatsworth house has over 300 rooms, 17 staircases to explore and to view its beauty just a few days before Christmas made it more magical than ever. The entire house had been transformed into Christmas displays throughout with many dressed Christmas trees and fancy garland hanging elaborately from chandeliers. Upon entering, you can’t help but notice the beautiful entrance with it’s glossy marble floor patterned with intricate details along with the warmth of the soft strands of white lighting woven through garland and cascading overhead with a Christmas tree decorated in white lights at the end.

Entrance into the Chatsworth

After walking through the corridor, I found myself transported into a world of make-believe as we entered the “Once Upon A Time” a classic selection of stories from my favorite Fairy Tale book in my childhood. There were different tales all through the Chatsworth House creating a live storybook worthy to take you back in time. The themes were enchanting to the young as well as the old like myself who has never forgotten her mother’s voice reading my favorite tales to me every night before bed. There was my favorite, the Cinderella theme located in the Chapel to Snow white in the Sculpture Gallery and the house was filled with Pied Pipers roaming the corridors. I was also captivated by The Princess and the Pea theme by Hans Christian Andersen and the Pied Piper who posed for a photograph just for me. I have to include the theme, James and the Giant Peach as I loved the display that cascaded down from the ceiling reminding me of the story of the magical journey where James learned of courage and friendship. Needless to say, my imagination ran wild as I was caught up in the magic that was woven all through the house.

Cinderella Theme in the Chapel
Snow White Theme
Snow White Theme

The Princess and the Pea Theme
The Pied Piper


James and the Giant Peach Theme

As we continued our tour, I stood amazed when I entered the infamous Painted Hall with its black and white marble floor and that grandiose staircase fit for a King. Then you have that richly painted ceiling depicting the life of Julius Caesar and beautiful works of art and sculptures galore and vast wall paintings to keep your eyes busy.

Grand Staircase
The Painted Hall.

You might recognize the Painted Hall scene from the 2005 Joe Wright’s film version of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly and Matthew McFadyen. In fact, the Chatsworth House was used as Mr. Darcey’s place of residence which many believe Jane Austen based her book idea of Pemberley on this very house. You will also recognize from the movie the Cascade scene in the gardens behind the house which was my favorite part of the entire visit. At the top of the hill is the willow tree Fountain with a rushing sheet of water cascading down over elegant steps which feeds into another fountain on the South lawn called the Sea Horse Fountain. But it doesn’t stop there as there are countless landscapes throughout the property such as the maze and the monkey puzzle, the Greek Altar which all are surrounded by beautiful woods and forests and who could forget those tapered trees? In the Canal Pond situated on the west side of the house is the beautiful Emperor Fountain that is the most photographed scenery at the Chatsworth and I also loved the Flora’s Temple that frames the carved statue of Flora which is one of the few sculptures that survived from the 1st Duke’s garden. It’s also the place you will find the minstrels playing the wind-up music box. The minstrel was more than happy to smile for the camera.

Cascade
One of the Mazes in the gardens
Flora Temple with Minstrel
Emperors Fountain

I cannot end my blog without telling you which room in the Chatsworth house is my favorite. It almost goes without saying that is if you know me. When I turned the corner and saw the grand piano placed near the entrance to the room, I had to stop and study the area thoroughly. It wasn’t the music room, but a room exquisite and lavishly decorated with rare artifacts and books. The Library! This particular library out of several at Chatsworth, houses 40,000 books and is the largest and most significant collection of literary rarities and among that huge collection are books handmade by monks from the Middle Ages and its been said there is a book of magic known as The Key of Solomon in which spells were written in Latin. The age of this particular book goes back to over 500 years.

I admired the dark wooden shelves and the different sitting areas where one could spend an entire day thumbing through yellowing pages or playing the piano as the sun sets over the beautiful rolling hills. As a musician and writer, this is what a paradise room would be to someone like me. To conclude, there are many extending qualities with the Biltmore and Chatsworth with the Biltmore being the largest estate in America and the Chatsworth being the largest among the two and much of the décor found at Chatsworth does not exist in the Biltmore but both have substantial character of their own and I feel honored to have seen both.

The Library

Margaret Goes Fishing

Online dating sites are supposed to be fun and if you are a serious prospect for finding love, chances are you have a paid subscription and you mean business of finding that long term relationship. With that said, you have to up your game with a grade A profile highlighting all of your “must-haves” for that potential boy or girlfriend. You have to start your new journey with a bang and make others in the field or sea take notice even your competition.

I decided to have some fun after hearing so many stories from some of my friends who had joined a site, some having successful endings while others were mere nightmares. In reality dating can be messy enough, but dating sites complicate things even more not to mention the stress from that first date. Some dates turn out good while others go from bad to horrific, but the meeting process that starts the journey can be one for the books indeed.

I created a fake account, with a fake name, Margaret Hatcher, and photos taken from snapchat. I wanted to treat my profile like a commercial and highlight some features that I knew would draw the bad ones to the front just like a marketing campaign. And thus, my profile packed a punch indeed.

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Meet Margaret Hatcher. She’s 58 and a Capricorn. She has a Graduate degree and her profession is a Stripper. I created her lifestyle to be one that drinks often and smokes occasionally, but many would question her degree while trying to stuff her thong with George Washington bills. Just look at her photos. Can you without laughing? Yet, she received 179 responses to her profile before I stopped counting and this is where I can honestly say, there are some crazy, messed up people out there, even desperate. I purchased a month on POF just to get a good shot at seeing what might transpire. Within minutes of posting her profile, she got her first prospect.

Her first gentleman caller was no gentleman at all. He was very adamant to find out if it would be alright for him to suck on her toes on the first date. I must say, in my quest I never imagined encountering a casual fling involving someone who found ecstasy in sucking toes and sang praises of feet. But you will have that from time to time. I suppose there are myriad ways to enjoy each other and a foot massage is one, but toe sucking took me by surprise especially when asking Margaret would she mind if he put her entire foot in his mouth. Margaret replied, “I am having some bunions taken off and nail fungus treated.” This did not become an imposition to him as he told her that was no problem. He was not the only guy who had fetishes and for the most part I have to keep this blog sanctified and not release all of the nastiness that was experienced.

There were those who were curious and rightfully so, then there were those who were downright rude. I encountered married men looking for extra curricular activities if you know what I mean. When I learned they were married, I wasted no time telling them what I thought and you would be surprised at the married men who make fake accounts just to satisfy their cravings. There were tons of stilted chitchat starters which made even Margaret Hatcher very uncomfortable. I can’t even imagine just how sour a real date would have been with most of these atrocious characters.

I accidentally made Margaret 6’3″ tall (laughing here) and some of the guys asked if Margaret was really that tall, so I went with it which made Miss Hatcher’s character even more hilariously funny but mind you, it did not keep the creepers away. Now, I have no idea what it’s like to be tall, but my experience as Margaret Hatcher brought many challenges and questions that would make a giraffe blush. But the name calling began such as Amazon, long feet monster along with other names I cannot mention, but I felt the need to be the bigger person in the room, no pun intended, as I clearly was more times than not being so tall and grace the character of my stripper. After all, girl’s gotta pay the rent.

At first I thought this journey was going to be a waste of my time, but I always walked away laughing as well as scratching my head and in all honesty, I could not wait for my paid month to be over with as I was entirely happy to get away from POF and delete the profile, but I did learn a lot about the desperation of so many loners out there and believe me, it’s a scary arena to be in. There are so many dating sites and for many they are an extremely competitive medium and you need every advantage you can get, but POF? Talk about the variety of fish in the sea! You will definitely find it here and the mad libs are far from originality. It’s more like going for a job interview or reading job resumes. Where’s the panache? If you are considering a dating site, do your research and beware of the mentality that is prevalent on these sites especially POF.

At the end of the month, on the 29th, I updated my “about” section and let all of my fishes know that Margaret Hatcher was indeed fake as if they needed to be told, but trust me on this one. I also posted a photo of the real me, and my inbox started blowing up completely even the rude fishes became nice and the sex crazed lunatics suddenly became tame and wanted a chance at real love. If you are going to take the plunge, take some advice from me and don’t waste your time or money on Plenty of Fish. I would recommend the old fashion way by getting out more and away from the internet. If you do choose to explore your options across the net, please be very careful with the information you allow the world to see about you and beware of those sick predators who are waiting for that opportune moment….jh

The Tides Do Turn…

What a journey! The ups and downs. The tears and depression. Each day brought a new problem that continued to pile up leaving me with no hope and lots of burning questions.

An inner battle between faith and fear was a constant every day. I struggled to hold on to faith. One moment I would fly high on wings of confidence, then another I was drowning in a sea of panic.

I cried out to God to help me with my struggle. It was clearly draining the life out of me and the stress was literally killing me physically. I had issues with trying to understand God’s way of doing things when I know His ways are not mine, nor His thoughts.

I began to write down scriptures from my devotions that were based on doubts and fears, confusion and turmoil. Depression and anything of the likes thereof, and everyday, I would start my morning by reading these scriptures aloud.

Nothing seemed to be improving only getting worse, but as I continued reading these particular scriptures that dealt with my current situation, something deep within me released its grip. I began to accept whatever came my way thinking of all the sufferings Christ endured and it made me Christ – like to suffer as well.

Then, something miraculous began to take place. Little miracles were popping up, then bigger ones. I can’t say this without mentioning the peace that settled inside my soul. The kind you can’t explain. Where I stood in the middle of a brutal storm, with everything crashing around me even my health, the loss I was facing became a miracle itself.

I should be homeless. I should have lost everything I owned including my precious little twin cats. This ate at me every day tormenting me to no ends. But, God has a different plan. He promised He would never leave me nor forsake me. And He hasn’t.! I’m still here! I still have everything without losing anything and that is a huge miracle in itself.

Never give up no matter how dark your life becomes. Hold on to what you believe no matter what. Miracles still happen and yours is just around the corner…. By Jane Hardin

The Unknown…

That “feeling of the unknown” and also, “feeling like you could explode from the inside out” is a scary place to be. It would be nice if problems came (not saying that problems are nice) one at a time rather than in clusters. And, it’s true, when it rains it pours.

It’s been total chaos the past few days at work. My patient totally oblivious as to what is going on in her life. Her family coming in, rearranging everything and treating her like she doesn’t exist. They are putting her in a home against her will and I have spent hour after hour trying to calm her troubled soul while she constantly repeats those words too familiar to me, “please God, please help me.” I too face losing my home and I know that pain all too well. So, while trying to comfort her it has felt like someone hit me in the gut knocking the very breath out of me. I even asked God, was all of this some kind of bad joke and I expressed how unfair it seemed.

After settling my mind, I reminded myself God is good. He is not the author of confusion and He’s certainly not the one who does bad things to us. But, He is there to help us through it and if we trust Him, He promises to make good of our dismay. I hold on to that. I’m here at the end of this particular journey reeling in the unknown and drowning in thoughts combined into a coherent whole of the journey itself. My conclusion is uncertain as I try not to fear what I cannot see and hope which is something I have a lot of, its my life line. In saying that, I know my Father God will not leave me to suffer great loss. He will take all of my mess and make something good out of it. I’m not saying I won’t lose anything, I could lose everything, but God will not let me suffer it……

By Jane Hardin

Beware Of The Dark Cloak…

Satan works under the cloak of the night. There is a dimension where powers come to attack behind the scenes when we are most vulnerable, and the Bible is clear when it tells us, Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy. I have encountered a few of these times during the deep of the night. Last night was no exception:

If you have been following me on my journey lately, you know I have fallen under attack by Satan himself. It’s been a war like no other in my life. There have been countless battles and a whole lot of talking to God in motion. The struggle to trust is very real because the devil does not want you to trust in God. That’s bad news for him. So, he is clever in his schemes and he won’t stop until he has you where he wants you.

Last night, I could not sleep. After praying to God and dozing off, I was soon awakened by a demonic laugh. Upon opening my eyes, it wasn’t the screeching laugh that scared me, it was the fears that began to flood my mind. Fears of losing everything I had worked so hard to get. Fear of losing my job, my apartment, everything! I’ve already lost my job as the 4th of February will be my last day. During this time of inner turmoil and struggling, I’ve gotten to know my Father God even more so than I already did.

He has given me peace when there was none to be found. Calmed my storms when the winds and waves were cold and bitter while teaching me to trust in Him while drowning. He even accompanied me in my depression which was a very dark hole that I would not wish on my worst enemies, and kept me from doing the unthinkable. I’ll be honest. Trusting God is not easy at all. You always hear others telling you to place your trust in the Almighty One, but they always make it seem so easy and they never tell you what you’re going to go through to learn how to trust.

You may think I’m crazy or have gone off the deep end. Well, I probably am and I probably have. If you faced what I have over the past couple of months, I can assure you there is no sanity to be found. I will boldly say, anyone who goes through deep dark trials ain’t going to be normal nor sane. It will suck the very life from you no matter what you go through.

But, last night, the devil made his presence known in my bedroom. I think my two cats sensed it as well as they tried to curl up next to me all night long. I sleep with my Bible underneath my pillows and at 4:30 this morning, I grabbed my Bible and began pacing the floor. I was so fed up with the evil one trying to torment me. I began to rebuke him, kind of like Elizabeth Jordan in the movie, War Room. I even noticed one of my sweet cats pacing with me. I suppose he was fed up with me getting up and down all night long.

At 5:45 I laid back down still praying to God as I fell into a deep sleep, but was quickly awakened by that annoying alarm clock reminding me it was time to get up, get ready for work. Before leaving the house, the devil began trying to harass me and this went on for a few hours until I got complete victory over him.

My fight isn’t against flesh and blood nor God Himself but against my enemy. Satan! I’ve always been told He comes to steal your joy and he tries to trip you up before something wonderful comes your way. He doesn’t want us to prosper in any area of our lives. So beware of the real night terrors underneath the dark cloak of the evil one. Submit to Christ, resist the devil and he has to flee. That doesn’t mean he won’t be back in a little while because he will. You have to keep resisting….

By Jane Hardin

In The Dark Of The Midnight…

“In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face. While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place. ‘Mid the crash of the thunder, precious Lord, hear my cry, keep me safe till the storm passes by….”

It’s been a long grueling few months of nothing but one storm after another. My faith has been tried. My doubts and fears tested. There were moments when tears were all I had. I’ve even questioned God. It’s been a process of inner change for me and a very dark time to deal with, but certainly a time I would not trade for anything.

My perception took a beating, but now it’s beginning to perceive a little differently than before. I’m still right here in my storm, but God has washed me with a new peace I can’t explain. He’s brought to life hopes that were put to rest and put inside me expectations I thought would never live in me again.

It’s really a simple concept to trust God and have faith. But more times than not we make simplicity complex. When our human intellect moves from reality to believing something we can’t see, we tend to fall back on our own understanding. God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not ours. His plan for us is so much bigger than we imagine for our ownselves. If we aren’t heading in the direction meant for us, God might send a storm to move you out of your complacency, and trust me, it won’t feel good.

The good news is, He promises never to leave you nor forsake you and if you let go and let God have His way, the outcome will be well worth the journey. I feel strongly deep in my soul that I’m coming out of my storm. I still anticipate my reason to dance before my King and although I don’t see that burst of sunshine through those dark clouds, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. I’m feeling hopeful again and something good is about to happen….

By Jane Hardin

In The Eye Of My Storm…

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my stormy journey. It’s been a time for reflecting, trusting and still holding on. The winds have been turbulent and I must say, I’ve almost given up. I’ve almost thrown in the towel for the last time. Yes, thoughts of suicide have tried to edge its way into my mind with a convincing story of how much easier it would be just to end life as it is.

Now, here I stand. In the eye. Still holding on. It’s eerie. Even the silence is deafening at times. I look all around me thinking how calm it is but realizing it’s a false calm. It just doesn’t feel right and I know it’s not over and there’s moe turbulence to come. I don’t think I have ever been through anything like this before. I really don’t want to be here and I’m scared. I would call this monster a category five for sure. As I say what I’m about to say, my tears are overflowing their boundaries right now.

But…….. Everything around me feels like death. Believe me, I know a lot about death, I’ve been knocked down several times by its presence. It’s almost haunting and everywhere I go, it feels like death! There’s a waning feeling all around and I can’t seem to escape. I’m almost certain depression has entered the scene. I have tried to talk to God only sometimes I lose my thought as my mind dwells on the current. That’s when my tears take over and speak for me. I keep reminding God when it’s possible to talk to Him, that He promised never to leave me nor forsake me. I even remind Him how He has constantly and softly spoken to me saying to be still and watch His glory or not be troubled and do not be afraid. In fact, I’ve heard it so much that I want to grab my head and scream, “where are you God. Where are you?” (I wonder if Job might have entertained the same question.)

This is where I am now. In the eye. I understand we all want to read stories of those who have encountered storms much like the one you may be going through and read about the happy ending, but sometimes, you might need to read about someone’s struggles during the storm. I can’t honestly tell you that my faith has been bulldog strong and has never wavered. It’s been all over the place and many times have collided with my fears. But, in my heart, I know who God is and I know He will not lie! He cannot lie!

In saying all of this, I’m not turning back. I’m not giving up. I’m still holding on tight for a miracle. I’m tired. I’m exhausted and drained of life itself, so my only hope and source of help IS my Father God and I hope to bring you an ending soon that will describe my newest desire which is to be able to dance before my King! But for now, I’m still here…. Waiting!

By Jane Hardin

Bumps In The Road and Crazy Faith…. 

My journey, still a struggle in it’s own rite. The passage has been one of tears and battles, but also one of lessons learned. It’s coming up the middle of the month. Time is running out and panic is trying to seep through. This is where I decide to sink or swim.

It reminds me of the Israelites on their way out of Egypt. They struggled with obstacles I suppose kind of like I do. Fear. Doubt. Not fully trusting God. Trying to figure it out on my own. It took the Israelites 40 years to figure it out, then they needed a Moses to do it for them. All of my life, there have been road blocks at every turn. I reached a point of just accepting it, and falling into survival mode. It’s really all I’ve ever known.

Today, I stand staring at my bump in the road and for once in my life I’m not giving in to its failures. I tell those pesky voices to shut up and take a hike. I finally found courage to grab hold of some crazy Faith. This time, I give it all to my creator and if it cost me everything I have, so be it. I’m taking the leap and believe me, it’s a big one. Sure, I have spoken the words that this is just crazy on so many levels but what have I to lose? Yet, what have I to gain?

Sometimes you just get too tired to keep treading around that same mountain. The very mountain you would love to stand on victorious over your Egyptians but valley 101 is a valuable class room and  God will use those Egyptians to put His glory on display. Sometimes, you just have to give it all to God and let Him fight your battle. “Be still, and watch my glory.” That statement is from God Himself.

So, I accept my crazy faith challenge with no conditions. I do know, God will never leave me nor forsake me. He will shine His glory through my situation no matter what. Job can testify to this very kind of crazy Faith. Like me, he had questions for God but soon learned it wasn’t about him at all. In the end, God’s restoration was over and beyond anything Job imagined. In the end, the Israelites walked on dry ground when God Himself split a sea in half and made a road for them to cross through and drowned an angry army that was full of vile evil with intent to kill those who just crossed through that sea.  In the end, when Jesus hung on a cross for you and for me, for every person in the past and for each one in the future, he died for us, was buried and death could not hold Him. The mic dropped the second He walked out of  that tomb and He still lives today and for those who believe, we will meet Him soon.

What have I to lose? Maybe everything, but my soul will gain eternal value and my end will be greater than my beginning….. 

No Formalities…. Just pure honest feelings. 

I’m alone. Just me and my daunting, shaky world. There are so many emotions vying for first place. So many fears and negative voices fighting to succeed. It’s been me against those past struggles that have hung on for the next big ride and we have arrived.

There have been defining moments of graces extended to me and definitive signs of God’s love and mercy. I cling to those tightly. But at this very moment, I wrestle with the obvious. One minute I’m able to verbally pray to God, the next, I’m drowning in reality. I feel the need to just cry on a shoulder, a strong and sincere shoulder without judgement and reservation. A shoulder that will allow me to speak my mind, talk about how I feel without being told how negative I am.

No matter how positive an individual you may be, somewhere along the way you’re not going to be be that person who’s always on top of things. Life happens. It happens to us all in some way or another. Like me, you will start to feel empty and out of answers. You will gradually grow numb from all of the worries, the pain and the unknowing that hangs around like a bad dark cloud ready to drop it’s dew. 

Tonight, out of the blue someone asked me how I was doing? I knew this person has faced harsh storms as well. He knew the ropes, yet he smiled and kept on moving forward. Little did he know how much that little question meant to me. I was honest and told him exactly how I was feeling and ended it with, “this too shall pass.” Then, I asked him, will this pass? He assured me it would. 

Sometimes, you just don’t want the comfort of those who always say they are praying for you. To me, that’s a cheap way out of really trying to help someone who needs to be comforted. Sure, it’s wonderful to pray. We are suppose to pray, but we are also called to be good Samaritans. We are taught to help carry the load. To lighten the burden of our brother and sister. There are those who make it their life to help others. I want to be one of those people. I’m a broken mess. It’s not my  first rodeo mind you, but one I’m very familiar with. Even when I look at someone, I can tell if that person is broken or has been. I can tell when they hide behind their mask of pretense. My soul immediately wants to connect with them and help carry the cross that makes them bend from the weight.

It doesn’t matter what path you’re on. A loss of a loved one. Bad news from your physician. Financial upheaval. Broken relationships or facing the loss of everything you own. One thing is for certain, if we live long enough, we are going to face one or the other at some point in our lives. Take it from me, I have went through every storm I just mentioned and then some.  There is no easy way out of this journey but if we trust and believe in God, He promises never to leave nor forsake us. If we don’t believe, we really have no hope. Deep down inside of each and every one of us, is a longing for something more. When we go through things too big to handle we reach down to that longing trying to find something. Anything. That longing my friend is that inner knowing whether you are willing to admit it or not, that your Heavenly Father who created you created you to run to Him when the going gets tough. He is our only source for peace and contentment.

I say this even as I stand dripping wet from the storms in my life, while dragging my feet with my head and shoulders bent from the downpour, that I know just around the bend I’ll be able to see clearly. Like the song, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s going to be a bright , bright sun shiny day.” But just before I reach that bend, I have to keep moving forward to get there. Yes, there are moments I feel like throwing my hands in the air but giving up would be the easy way out and there is nothing easy for those who are in it to win and the only way to win is with Christ Jesus on our side.

It helps me to journal my journey. For now, that sun-shiny song is stuck in my head and I smile and my thoughtful friend who took a moment to ask if I was ok, I certainly envy his ability to shine his little light. He has such a Samaritan heart and to me, that’s a high honor in our world full of brokenness. Because a real Samaritan knows and is always ready and willing to offer a little healing balm.

Are you broken? I know one who can help. It’s not always easy, but comforting to know He is our only source of help and that nothing is too big for Him to fix. It doesn’t matter who or what you are. Believe me, He already knows you and everything about you. Nothing will come as a surprise to Him. But our brokenness is His business and He’s just a prayer away…..

By Jane Hardin