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From Surviving to Living
(16) TASTE & SEE: Anticipation and Happiness
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From Surviving to Living: Transformation Through Faith

In this episode of ‘From Surviving to Living,’ Holly Bot shares her remarkable journey of transformation from a felon and sex offender who endured hard time, to being deeply moved by faith and the power of change through God. Holly opens up about the personal challenges she faced, including the battle to keep parental rights for her son, Tim, amidst financial struggles and personal growth while in prison. She recounts how embracing faith, practicing tithing, and putting others before herself led to unexpected personal improvements and a renewed sense of hope. Holly also delves into overcoming fear, anticipation of the future, and the importance of immersing oneself in God’s word to find happiness and purpose. The episode encourages listeners to face uncertainty with faith, seek transformation, and anticipate their future with joy through a relationship with Jesus, reflecting on prophecies and the promises of a joyful eternity according to the Bible.

TIMELINE

00:00 Podcast Introduction: The Journey from Surviving to Living
01:17 Episode Intro – Facing Uncertainty: Overcoming Fear and Finding Hope
02:24 Taste and See: A Story of Battle, Survival, and Faith
04:38 Financial Responsibility and Spiritual Growth in Prison
12:55 The Power of Anticipation: Learning Happiness and Preparing for the Future
13:32 Anticipating Eternity: Understanding God’s Plan for Our Future
19:35 Conclusion: A Prayer for Anticipation and Joy

TRANSCRIPT

Are you facing uncertainty? Is fear of the future weighing on you?

In January 2016, my parental rights were on the line for my son Tim unless I found him a home outside foster care. I would be confronted with financial challenges, unexpected weight loss, and new confidence from unlikely sources. Join me as we delve into overcoming fear, embracing hope, and triumphing over uncertainty.

Discover with me the secret to increasing happiness and how you can begin today! Listen until the end, you don’t want to miss a word! This is Taste and See!

A battle was on the horizon, one I hoped to avoid. Six months after I entered prison in 2011, my husband violated a restraining order and kidnapped my four younger children from my parents. He fled with them to Washington state.

Life didn’t go well for my children in Washington. Court records show my husband’s violent behavior towards women resulted in new restraining orders, his arrest record grew, probation violations became ordinary, and homelessness was common.

Our youngest son, Tim, had a challenging medical condition; if left untreated it could be fatal. My husband failed to care for him properly, and Tim nearly died. After receiving life-saving surgery he was placed in a foster home.

I was given a lawyer by Washington state who encouraged me to sign a waiver of my parental rights. This was a very confusing time for me, a frightening time. Normally I’m assertive. Prison, however, is an information vacuum. It shrinks a person. Facing 5 more years in prison, I signed the waiver. I don’t think I understood what it was. Three years later, hardened, ready for battle, I was ready to learn.

In January 2016 I asked my lawyer to revoke this waiver. I had become angry. I’d gone from scared to defiant. My release seemed closer, and Tim was having a hard time. I wanted to give him hope for the future and make plans with him in it. Social Services immediately responded by filing for termination of our parental rights. A trial date was set for September.

Have you ever made a decision without feeling informed? What did you learn from that experience?

“Holly, you can keep your son if you can find a home for him,” my lawyer mentioned one February afternoon. “That home, however, has to be in Minnesota,” she finished. Tim lived in Washington state, where my husband had moved from Minnesota after I was incarcerated.

“That’s great news!” I nearly shouted. “Thank you!” I made immediate plans to start calling everyone I could think of, certain Tim would be out of foster care soon. This seemed doable. I missed Tim very much.

I set my mind to finding a home for Tim and happily went to work the next day. My new love of the Bible had led me to read it every day. I worked as an English tutor at the prison. Our job included grading papers, helping students and occasionally creating assignments. Our teacher encouraged reading. When we didn’t actively have work to perform we were instructed to lead by example.

I had begun saving ten percent of my income in January because then I had learned about tithing. Ten percent feels like a lot, especially when one makes less than a dollar an hour. I had always been foolish with money, but I desired to be financially successful. Ten percent seemed doable, however, if one really tries. It made me feel good.

This day, I slipped into my chair at work and prepared for another day of grading papers. Jae, who had taken a sabbatical from tutoring for several months had just returned last week. She slipped into the chair next to mine, dropping her books on the table. She eyed my side of the desk. Usually prepared for the day with a stack of fiction books, the Bible sat alone by my hand. Jae raised a brow but said nothing. Her side of the desk included several new books.

Jae and I had been working together for a year and knew each other well. We both loved reading and shared favorite books. For the past year I’d read a fiction book a day. Since January I’d read nothing but the Bible. Jae had missed the transition, but now she was back, and curious.

As class began I opened to I Timothy. Class hummed along as I read, occasionally peeking over the book to check for raised hands. Scratching my arm I turned the page and stopped cold. A verse jumped out at me and I felt sick. It said:

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. I Timothy 5:8

Let me back up a minute. I had learned some phrases in prison I’d heard no where else. One is “criminal thinking,” at least this term was used in a way I’d never heard before. It refers to distorted perceptions of reality, rationalizations or lack of consideration for others that can lead to bad behavior such as entitlement, justification, manipulation, minimizing consequences, defiance, being impulsive, or shifting blame.

How many of you have ever thought of being impulsive as possible criminal thinking? I bet not many. But there you have it. Well these types of thinking lead to bad behavior. I was now being reminded that this is what I was doing.

Due to a legal loop hole I wasn’t obligated (legally) to pay child support. I was still married, so the state was blind to my financial situation. I knew women in prison who were not married and had children. Their meager pay was garnished, even in prison.

I thought of my friend Katy. She was the hardest working person I knew. Because of fines and enforced savings in addition to child-support she received only 25% of her prison income, which to begin with was less than a dollar an hour. Despite this she worked over-time relentlessly in order to meet her needs. Additionally she was cheerful, generous and kind.

In contrast there was me. Having already paid restitution I received my full income. Was I cheerful, generous, kind? The Bible told me I had denied the faith, was worse than anybody. I had no integrity. I couldn’t recognize responsibility without being forced to do it. I did not take care of my own children.

I was cut to the quick! Where was my hate now? Where was my pride? Nowhere.

I wanted to obey this, and yet I was concerned. Inside I felt myself to be a weak person, emotionally ready to cave when things got tough. For the past few years I’d been spending money on junk food to feel better. My usually petite frame had taken on a lot of unwanted weight. I’d been unsuccessful at any attempt to lose weight. Misery prevented me from giving up emotional eating.

And yet, God had caused me to read his Word, crave His Word! I recognized this as God giving me abilities I didn’t have inside. I had read previously in Psalm:

Taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalm 34:8

This means literally “Try it! You’ll like it!” In order to try it out, you have to take a step, use the demo. Reading the verse in I Timothy now in class I nodded to myself. ‘I’m going to try it,’ I thought. ‘Hopefully God will make me do this too!’

After class I grabbed a yellow kite form. Filling it out I requested that Accounting automatically garnish my pay by an additional 25% and put in my savings. I determined that every so often, maybe once a month I’d mail a check from my savings to my husband. Finished with the kite, I dropped it in the mail.

Time passed slowly. As my husband and I were not on speaking terms I made no attempt to tell him of my plan to send money. After about 6 weeks something amazing became noticeable.

First, God was giving me the ability to do this, faithfully. It was not easy. I had to learn how to budget, plan really well for the future, and understand suffering and want in whole new ways. God was teaching me that He did give me everything I need.

Second, I began to lose weight without trying. This was unexpected. I was slimming down nicely, back to my size right out of high school! I must admit this, maybe more than anything, was such a reward I praised God and happily obeyed Him all the more. My inability to afford junk food caused me to lose all the unhealthy weight I’d gained. I’d have never guessed it!

I praised God in my heart, and worshiped Him everywhere I went. I craved His Word even more. What a great and awesome God!

And then came the day to drop my first child support check in the mail. Immediately fear swooped in. I imagined how this might turn out when the check arrived. Perhaps my husband, unused to receiving letters from me and expecting unkindness, would toss it out unopened. All “my” hard work for nothing. All my suffering for nought. Perhaps he would open it and seeing the small amount (less than $20), he would use it to make fun of me in front of our children. Again “my” hard work could be used to ridicule me.

I froze, check in hand, considering. I hated my husband so much. I knew he smoked, drank, did drugs. I knew he cheated on me. I knew he hit our kids. I knew he hated me. It was entirely possible, if he did open this envelope and cash this check, that he would spend it on things I hated to even imagine. Out of my hands was out of my control.

I desired respect, admiration, love. I was prideful, hurting and insecure. This check in the mail would be about obedience to God, I realized, not praise from a person.

What had obedience to God gotten me so far? His inner strength to be faithful with money, put others ahead of myself, and the reward of physical health. I glanced down at my feet, feet I was easily seeing again for the first time in years. I kicked out a toe, smiled.

I released the letter into the mailbox, flooded with warmth. I was accountable for my actions, not my husband’s response.

I spun from the room and headed outside to enjoy the day!

Dear Listener, are you facing an uncertain future today? Uncertainty can leave you feeling hopeless and depressed about the days ahead, it can exaggerate the size of the problems you face, and it can even paralyze you from taking action.

Recently I researched how uncertainty can affect people and came across a mental health article that suggested 5 tips to help in this area. They all boiled down to “get used to uncertainty.” Is that helpful? Hardly. Is there a better way? Absolutely!

Listener, how do you picture eternity? How do you picture heaven? If you had to write a 2 page essay on this, could you describe that much?

Most Christian churches rarely, if ever, teach on this subject. At all. I find this odd. While churches point individuals towards the afterlife, they fail to describe it. It’s like selling travel packages while refusing to discuss destinations. Ridiculous.

God says in the book of Isaiah

[Earnestly] remember the former things, [which I did] of old; for I am God, and there is no one else; I am God, and there is none like Me,

10 Declaring the end and the result from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure and purpose,” Isaiah 46:9-10

The Bible repeatedly points to fulfilled prophecy as direct proof that it is God who speaks. Past prophecy fulfilled confidently points us to our future as described by God, knowing He will carry it out.

A personal relationship with Jesus is key to our good future, but just imagine being in a relationship with someone and ignoring or placing little importance on a quarter of what they said. Imagine a relationship where you ignore the future of that relationship, don’t even plan for it!

Did you know that more than a quarter of the Bible, 27% or so, is predictive of the future, otherwise called prophecy. That’s more than one in four verses! About half of these prophesies have not yet come true, thus describing our future. There are 31,102 verses in the Bible, which means more than 8,000 of them are prophetic and more than 4,000 of them describe your future.

Why does the Bible talk so much about our future? Because God is excited about it and He wants you to be as well! But there’s even more to it!

According to a published article in a journal named Applied Research in Quality of Life, there is a connection between anticipation and happiness. A journalist from the New York Times wondered how this works with vacations. She wanted to know “whether the pleasure derived from anticipation is something that just magically happens after you book an airline ticket. Or can it be consciously increased?”

Turns out, anticipation that leads to happiness is an active, not a passive process. Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor, says “It’s better to immerse yourself, “ in the details of your future, adding this “encourages you to not only learn about your destination, but to dream, providing some concrete details for your mind to latch on to.”

And there are more advantages than just daily happiness! Another important advantage is that such immersion study is that it “provides novelty as an antidote to everyday routines” when we learn something new, which prevents boredom. It’s a spice of life!

Finally, the study found that the most effective methods for increasing happiness is talking with friends about your upcoming plans. Happiness scholars agree that being social is a fundamental way to feel happier. But not just talking about anything – research shows anticipating the future delivers more happiness than reflecting on the past, even a happy past.

Listener, Satan does not want you to be happy. He certainly doesn’t want you excited about God’s future plans for you. Satan will tell you lies to deter you from exploring what God has talked about in over 4,000 verses about your future. Satan will whisper that you are not clever enough to understand it. He will tell you it’s not important to know today. He will deter you with a focus on your past.

God loves you. He also has the best plan for your joy. It’s no coincidence that our minds have a connection between anticipation and happiness and God’s great provision for us to immerse ourselves in the details of our future, learn new things,  and share them with friends.

God concludes the Bible with an exciting image He’s looking forward to. It says in Revelation 21:

… See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God.

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.

And He Who is seated on the throne said, See! I make all things new. Also He said, Record this, for these sayings are faithful (accurate, incorruptible, and trustworthy) and true (genuine).

Jesus adds encouragement to you in chapter 22:

17 The [Holy] Spirit and the bride (the church, the true Christians) say, Come! And let him who is listening say, Come! And let everyone come who is thirsty [who is painfully conscious of his need [d]of those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, and strengthened]; and whoever [earnestly] desires to do it, let him come, take, appropriate, and drink the water of Life without cost.

I encourage you to anticipate your eternal future with immersion in God’s word today! Let’s start now:

Dear Jesus, thank you for including us in your exciting plans for the future. Thank you for sharing the details with us so we can anticipate it with joy. Teach us as we immerse ourselves in your word, giving us confidence and certainty in our future. Amen

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