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What happens when life doesn't go the way you expected?

So many of the blog posts I see on the internet beautifully demonstrate a repurposed and upcycled life. I had the privilege of meeting an author this summer whose story is a great inspiration for us. 

Lee Wolfe Blum (author of Table in the Darkness: A Healing Journey Through and Eating Disorder), posted an excerpt from Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley that reminded me of how God repurposes and upcycles in our lives.

What happens when you sign up for Italy and end up in Holland? Lee quotes Kingsley, who says, "But, if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland."

Lee says, "So, don’t let addiction, comparison, or perfectionism steal any more of the life you were meant to live. Even if it is the life you didn’t imagine, or the struggle you didn’t want to have. Start seeing the tulips and the Rembrandts! It can be beautiful!" 

Be sure to read the full post for the rest of the story.


Finding Treasure in Africa, Amid the Challenges

My friend Kristy has a blog on Babble called Into Africa with Kristy Carlson and her stories are great demonstrations of making the most of a difficult circumstance. 

I call Kristy a "friend" rather than an acquaintance because Kristy's husband grew up in my home area, her parents are good friends of mine, and frankly, Kristy has a writing voice that makes me feel close to her. She is raw, and real, and so easy to connect with. Kristy and her husband Ben are living in Africa working to help the people of Burundi get a fair price for their coffee beans and they are building a coffee washing station so more of the crop can processed locally and be sold at the peak of perfection.

Kristy tells the story of an African woman who she met. Kristy says,
There are a million more differences between my story’s and Christine’s, and yet we are both linked by motherhood. Meeting her was a “moment” for me. There is something about who she is and this little family she is holding together that is inspirational and motivational at the same time. Christine is a survivor of genocide, an orphan with courage and a mother with hope. I believe that mothers like Christine can provide more, be more and give more back to their families with just a few more skills under their belts. My friend Samantha believes the same. She is pioneering a program to help Christine provide for her children and I can’t wait to help. It’s a program full of hope and I, for one, am ready to see Christine and her lovely little people out of the animal stocks and living a better life.
You'll have to hop over to Babble to read Kristy's full story and others. I know you'll be hooked as soon as you see how her stories connect with a repurposed and upcycled life. Kristy has been through many ups and downs in her life in Africa, but she demonstrates how God can use those ups and downs for his glory.  


Kristy considers the circumstances of others when she gets to thinking about her difficulties, and often she sees how her situation isn't as bad as it could be. What difficult circumstance can you recall that didn't seem as difficult when you realized what someone else was going through?


The Story Our Scars Tell

In an essay from Mary Martin Wiens, she explains how she came to terms with the scars and imperfections on her body,and how she sees them now as lines of a story. Here is an excerpt from Mary's essay. Be sure to hope over to the full post, because the whole article is beautiful.
We journey from a seed in our mother’s womb until we are planted in the grave with ever-changing bodies. Time scratches out its passage across my looks and the looks of all those I love. All our lives, our bodies manifest evidence of an existence marked by gains and losses. We gain and lose pounds, muscle, bruises, teeth, and hair. We lose elasticity and gain wrinkles. We gain scars. Our bodies process and carry our experiences, not without complaint, but with an unfailing perseverance that is worthy of both gratitude and honor. And one of the very great privileges of this life is to cherish the bodies of those I love through all their gains and losses for as long as I get to have them. We do not get to have those we love forever. In that final losing, every turn of the head and expression of the face becomes poignantly precious. So, may I have eyes to see them now.
Read the full post


Finding Forgiveness for Past Mistakes

This trash to treasure story comes from an anonymous reader. A big hug to a precious woman who was brave enough to be honest with her mistakes and sensitive to the truth that God's love forgives and forgets when we own up to our sins.

You Will be Forgiven

Even in our very worst moments, God is there, answering the prayers we haven’t even sent to Him. He knows our every need before we do.

My first husband and I were having marital difficulties even before our second child was born. By the time she was 18 months old there seemed to be little left of our seven year-long marriage. We’d tried counseling, we’d moved to a different state, nothing seemed to help. I could blame the troubles on my husband, but I won’t go there. This story isn’t about his transgressions, it’s about mine.

I don’t know how it happened – well I guess I do know, but I don’t understand how it all spiraled out of control. I started seeing another man, a friend of my husband’s. He was kind and gentle, he listened to me and he didn’t judge me. Most important to me, he didn’t do drugs and he certainly did not deal drugs.

The affair went on for over a year. The lies. I could have drowned in just the lies alone. The lengths I went to to cover those lies. How I held down a full time job, kept house, and raised two children, I will never know. Certainly God wasn’t going to make this easy on me. Yet I kept it up for 13 long months.

At the time, I thought of myself as a Christian. I went to church, took the kids to Sunday School, prayed when I was in need or when I was thankful. I knew there was an omniscient God and that His Son was my Savior. Yet I lived a second life, a life outside of my family and my faith.

I came to a decision. Not the right one, I didn’t want to quit seeing this other man. I wanted to leave my first husband for him. I told myself that we would continue sneaking around until sometime after the divorce was final. Then suddenly we would appear to the outside world as if we had just started going out.

God knew that wasn’t the way this story was going to end, so He stepped in and saved me from myself when I least deserved it.

The night I was going to lay out my plan for this other man, he spoke up first.

“A girl I dated in high school called me up out of the blue. She was my first true love and I had asked her to marry me, but our lives were going in opposite directions. I guess I still love her and I want to see if this can work out for us.”

“What?” I could not comprehend what he was saying. How could he dump me when I had made all these plans?

I drove home alone in a daze. How could this happen to me? What was I going to do?

A gentle voice whispered in my ear. “Even in your darkest moments, I am here.”

How was that possible? How could God see me commit the worst of all sins and still be there for me? How did I deserve that kind of love?

I spent the next two decades asking daily for God’s forgiveness. The blanket of shame didn’t lift though; I didn’t think it was possible that He could really forgive me. Over time and with lots of prayer, I came to realize that I needed to forgive myself first. I needed to accept that I am a poor miserable sinner but that all of my stains were washed away long ago by the blood of Jesus

Yes, God forgave me. And finally I was able to receive His forgiveness.

Do you have a trash to treasure story to share? See how you can Share Your Story here too.


What Message Might Christian Signs Send in Between the Lines?

Wherever you stand on one side or the other of a hot-button issue, how do you feel about how a Christian ought to present their side to the world? Should we sit back and ignore the other side of an issue, or should we be "in your face" about it?

I believe the tone we convey is the more poignant message than the message we spell out in words. The best-intended thoughts are wasted if our tone conveys something opposite from our intentions.

What do you think about the following examples? This isn't a debate about the issues, so it doesn't matter which "side" you are on. Instead, I want to know what tone you hear in the message just as it is presented. What does it say to the other side, good or bad?

A billboard in Times Square from Answers in Genesis, featured on CNN.

Featured in a blog post commentary from a pastor named Jim Greime (I am not sure if he took the photo or got it from somewhere else).

A protester photo attributed to members of Westboro Baptist Church, a controversial group. 

A billboard in New York sponsored by Times Square Church. More info

What message does each of these signs say to you? If you feel negative about any of them, what is it about it that gives you that feeling?

Now, think about the creator of the sign? What do you think they intended to accomplish with the sign? What is the message they want to get across? How successful do you think they are are creating a change in their audience.

I'll weigh in after you've had a chance to think and comment.

The Question to Ask in the Middle of a Difficult Time

In a  blog post, Michael Hyatt shares about a time when he had every reason to ask, "Why me?" and a bunch of other similar questions. And then he shares how he learned to shift his perspective. Hyatt says: 
At this point, I could have asked myself several questions:
  • Why am I so clumsy?
  • Why did I have both hands full?
  • Why does this have to happen now?
  • Why did I have to be in such a hurry?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
The problem with these questions is that they are completely unproductive and disempowering

They are natural, of course, and probably even necessary. It’s all part of the process of grieving a loss. But ultimately there are better questions.
One of the best questions you can ask when something negative happens is this:
“What does this experience make possible?”
Read the full post to find out what positive benefits Hyatt found in having broken foot, surgery, and recovery. A fantastic example of repurposing and upcycling. 


Are you a pessimist, or optimist?

When God Turns Difficult Situations into Learning Experiences

As a means of simplifying my life a bit, I am merging my Repurposed and Upcycled blog with Faith Creativity Life, and creating a topical category for posts related to God's repurposing of our difficult circumstances. This is a post I originally featured on Feb. 7, 2013.

Repurposed and Upcycled
By: Robin Hakanson Paulsen

Repurposed and upcycled are not two words that I thought should exist for me 10-20 years ago.

Obligation and shame more accurately described how I felt.

Growing up as the oldest of five in a Christian home, I was responsible and followed the rules. I tested those rules often during my teen and early adult years. The things I “got away with” wouldn’t necessarily be considered criminal by most standards.

As a young adult, I jumped in and out of relationships, looking for “the one.” Don’t we all?

I thought I had found “the one” in a man who seemed to be everything that I was not, but wanted to be. He was driven, confident, professional, in-charge and spiritual. He was on the fast track in the professional realm, he was obtaining a master’s degree and he attended church every single weekend.

All of these attributes were foreign to me and my college-age friends. Not that we were irresponsible, but these things all seemed like “the next step,” which was not the step we were on. We paid our bills, went to class and/or our jobs and were more focused on how we would invest our time and paychecks on the weekends. Not odd for most people I know in their early twenties. After meeting and dating this man, I felt I had purpose in this type of life.

Until the day that I shared two lines with him. Neither of these lines contained words. They presented themselves on an early pregnancy test.
At the time, I would have to say there was a mutual feeling of responsibility, but not a mutual feeling of happiness.

We became engaged without a proposal of marriage. It was just an expectation and I went along with it.

We went to pre-marital counseling through his church of choice. I had questions that no one in this church could answer, and in spite of every red flag, I went along with it. I later recognized that my identity was required of me.

After marriage, everything looked happy and portrait-worthy. My husband made enough money for me to stay home and tend to the house and his needs. Shortly after, our son was born.

In the next five years, three girls would follow.

I admit to feeling fortunate that I was able to stay home with my kids. I would joke that my husband worked hard so I didn’t have to.

But that wasn’t true.

I worked hard to keep up a perfect image. But everything in my life was calculated and controlled.

I begged to get counseling. He conceded once, and then never again.
Nothing and everything changed in one night. It started off similar to every other night: I had the kids fed and cleaned up for bed. They were upstairs playing while I was cleaning the kitchen. Their father walked in from work, clearly upset. He heard the kids who were having fun, but loud.

The next few seconds happened like they occurred in slow motion. A briefcase was slammed. Angry words were shouted. Threats towards the children were made. Angry actions began like they were accustomed to.

Until I shouted back.

No. I would no longer allow this scenario to take place.

He didn’t think I would fight back; didn’t see anything wrong with our relationship and refused to accept responsibility. He threatened me with all the ways he had controlled me in the past; told me that no one would believe me, said that if I left him, I would be putting myself and the children in poverty, and said the Christian community of friends I had would believe I was a fraud.

We separated and divorced. Some things he said to me that night were true; some in the Christian community decided to look the other way. But in my mind and heart, I knew it wasn’t too late to model healthy independence for my kids. I could still teach my son that it is not okay to treat a woman this way. And I could teach my three girls that it is not okay to let someone treat you in this manner.

This night all led to what I now consider my “upcycled” life.

God created something new out of old patterns and behaviors. And none of it could have happened if I didn’t start out the way I did.

Statistics show that one in four women in churches today are in or have experienced an abusive relationship.

One-third of American woman have reported being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.

And one in every three high school students has been involved in an abusive relationship.

These are more than just statistics to me. These are people in my church, in my country and potentially, in my own home. I believe that because I have my own story that is still being lived out, I can help come alongside those with their own stories of control and abuse.

I share my story when I can, when God presents the opportunity around me. The subject matter does not make me feel better about myself and how I started out, but it does show me how God can use my story that already exists to help others walking through a controlling and abusive situation. This is how God has shown me that he can repurpose things for his glory and hope for others. What I once thought of as a curse, I now feel honored…that God would choose to repurpose my story for his good.

Robin Hakanson Paulsen is a freelance journalist, licensed massage therapist and mother to four from Iowa. You can get to know her through her blog: Write-On-Mom

Thank you for your guest post on The Repurposed and Upcycled Life, Robin! We appreciate your honesty and openness. Readers, remember, Robin's story is copyrighted and belongs to her. No material from this blog post may be used with out permission from the author. --Michelle


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