Darkest Days

Photo: Mircosoft Clifpart - a candle burns in the dark
A light unto the darkness

By Charmin Foth

I recently read that experience without sharing leaves no room for growth. Instead, bad experiences turned inward make you bitter and isolated. Wow! Been there, done that, brought home a whole crate of T-shirts. So here I am opening myself up, exposing the dark.

I will be honest, sometimes I have an ungrateful heart. I think at one time or another we tend to want things now, instead of later. We ask, “why me?” or “will this ever end?” I know that I can end up in a big ole’ pity pool, wallowing in it, and never looking to the future. Sometimes I have to look at where I have been to appreciate what I have now.

It is no secret that everyone has to suffer through hard times and dark periods in their lives. I have often heard it said, “It is not the situation, but how you handle the situation that matters.” I suppose that is true to some extent, but what about those situations that you don’t handle with grace?

In those times when you don’t make the best decisions, you end up on the wrong side of things but somehow you make it out alive. Do you hold on to that shame and hurt, hoping no one will ever see the dark that lives inside you? Are you bitterly ashamed of your past and pray no one will ever know the true you?

I am certainly no stranger to dark times. As a matter of fact, if you had asked me 25 years ago where I would be now, my answer would have been, “Dead.” After the death of my young husband when I was 19, I descended down a dark and treacherous path.

You see, I had convinced myself that it was my fault, and I felt like those closest to me blamed me and hated me for his death. Beyond that, I convinced myself I didn’t deserve anything or anyone good in my life. I sought out dangerous people and compromising situations. I dated all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. I just couldn’t buy into the premise that I was worth it, so I treated nice guys horribly and kicked them to the curb. Being abused, became my normal because I thought I deserved it.

I battled with my worth and my past for ten years. It haunted me. More than once, it almost killed me. I felt alone, isolated and scared of the person I had become.

I didn’t have the strength to walk away from the things that had beaten me down. It took a series of unfortunate circumstances (isn’t that always the case) for me to seek a counselor. Many see counseling as a sign of weakness. I see it as the strongest moment of my life. It’s where I began to see past the darkness.

I had spent so much time railing at God. Screaming. Crying. Why? Why? Why? For me, coming back to a faith I had lost, saved me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Everyone wants the quick fix. There isn’t one; there is no pill, no magic bean, no physical interaction that can take away the pain you try to hide, medicate, or abuse out of view. Counseling takes time and work, hard work. Faith takes believing. God never said life would be easy. He never said bad things wouldn’t happen. By surviving your worst situation, you can encourage someone else. But God can’t use your story unless you are willing to tell it.

To look back on my past now, I am grateful, not only for where I am now, but that I made it through. I may not have the nicest house, or drive a new car, but I have riches beyond gold and silver. He told me that I am beautifully and wonderfully made and that He loves me in spite of myself.

Isaiah 61:3 (KJV) says this:
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified.

God gave me beauty from the ashes of my life and gave me joy for my mourning. I exchanged my heavy heart for a garment of praise.

I am no expert and I can’t wave a magic wand and fix problems. If you are hurting, I strongly suggest finding a Christian counselor, someone who won’t try to fix you with a pill. Find someone who will listen and lead you on the right path. Know that you are NEVER alone, God always walks with you, even in the dark times.

Now you know a little about one my darkest times and how it has made me grateful for the light. So, will my journey into dark places help you? I hope it does.

If not, that’s ok too. I’ve given you a bit of my story, I pray God will now use it.

Republished from June of 2013.

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A Goat in a Coat

a goat in a coat

A true tale of life on the Farm

By Charmin Foth

On a blustery winter morn
a wee baby goat was born

The new mama stepped away
leaving baby in the hay
but so cold was the storm
it wouldn’t keep wee baby goat warm

In the early morning light
Farmer Foth saw the wee goat’s plight
He rushed to her side
and prayed he could turn the tide
to warm the wee goat’s little hide.

Afraid and so cold
she didn’t need to be told
the farmer was there to soothe
even though she could barely move

Carefully now

Farmer Foth bowed
and placed the wee goat
into his warm red coat

All through the day
as the farmer made hay
the wee little goat
stayed in the warm red coat.

Next to Farmer Foth’s chest
did wee goat rest
starting to warm
but still not to the norm
Farmer Foth kept the wee goat close
she needed to get as warm as toast

So on errands Farmer Foth ran
to places where even goats were banned
To the butcher, the baker
and the candlestick maker

Lastly to the pharmacy he went
keeping the wee goat in his arm bent
hidden in warm red coat
no one knew about the goat

As workers looked on
they thought something was wrong
it caused some alarm,
was Farmer Foth there to do harm?

The farmer only grinned
knowing he had not sinned
he said, “do not fear
I only have a wee baby goat in here”

The workers couldn’t see
the wee goat’s glee
at being so warm
away from the farm

But as Farmer Foth unzipped
and the wee goat tipped
her little head
out of her warm makeshift warm bed

“Neeehhhhh,” she said,
“put me back to bed!”
And the workers all sighed
as Farmer Foth tried
to explain how a wee baby goat
ended up in his coat.

Among the ooohs
and the ahhhs
the wee baby goat
snuggled back in the warm red coat.

The moral of the story:
Be careful where you tote a goat.

tote a goat
This is the true story of my husband Andy and a goat he saved by keeping it warm all day in his coat. Excuse my attempt at poetry, but this story just begged to be written in a “Seussical” fashion.
Photos rendered in Photoshop by Charmin Foth
Reposted from 2013.

Celebrate when you can…

By Charmin Foth

while_you_were_out__largjpgWith Valentine’s Day in my rearview mirror, I am reminded of my first Valentine’s Day married to Andy.

When we met, and for 8 years after, Andy was a Seargent in the U.S. Army. Being an Army wife wasn’t always easy and sometimes it was downright hard. But the struggles we faced together made us stronger as individuals and as a couple.

Most couples find that the first year of marriage is always hard because you are getting used to one another’s habits and traits. Sometimes finding common ground can seem almost impossible. That wasn’t the case for us. We are in sync, we have always been able to finish each other’s sentences, to the point that we seem know each other’s thoughts and say what the other is thinking.

Still the first year Andy and I were married was a difficult one. We were married the last day of May and in September he was sent to an Army school for training and we were separated for a year almost to the day.

Our first Valentine’s Day didn’t happen on February 14th. On February 14th I was alone, working 14-hour-days and I knew Andy wasn’t coming home during that time. We didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t afford to send him something expensive to let him know I was thinking of him. So, I did something a little unconventional and something I do well, I wrote him notes.

I took one of those little “while you were out” pink message pads that offices sometimes use, and for every day he was gone, I wrote a note. “While you were out… Today the dog got out and I had to chase him down the street, I wish you were here to see it.” “While you were out… Today was Saturday and I had to watch cartoons without you.” “While you were out… You won’t believe what happened to the neighbor.” “While you were out… I missed you terribly.”

You get the picture. Every day I wrote one of these notes. Some days it was my only way of communicating with him and he didn’t even know it. Some days were funny, some days were mushy, some days were sad. It was just a little glimpse of how my life was going that day, set aside just for him. We had a set of French doors at the back of the house and each day taped one of those notes on the door until I had one big heart outlined on the door. But Andy still didn’t get to come home, so I kept adding notes every day, with just little bits of how I felt while he was away. I filled in the heart with at least 100 notes.

When he finally did get to come home for a visit, he pulled into the drive and made his way in through the French doors, where all he could see from the light burning inside the house was a hundred little pink “while you were out” notes. It was one of the best Valentine’s Day celebrations we had, and it wasn’t anywhere near February 14th and it didn’t cost us hundreds of dollars. I still remember him pulling each note off the door, reading them, laughing and his eyes tearing up as he made his way through each note. He read them all and he knew I had thought of him, every single day, even when we couldn’t talk. He knew he was loved and I loved him all the more for taking the time to appreciate the small stuff.

That year I learned the hard way that the Army way of life meant celebrating when you can, not by the date on the calendar. It taught me that sometimes you can be separated for what seems like an eternity, but that doesn’t mean you love each other any less. And, that if you can survive the heartache of being alone, you can celebrate the joy of being together, and it makes the moments you have together more special. Sometimes you don’t get to hear the words “I love you,” when you would like, but you keep the faith that the love is still there.

Learning these lessons made my life as an Army wife easier, they made my life better. They weren’t easy lessons to learn but I thank God every day that I was able to take those lessons to heart.

So, remember to celebrate the moments of life together, when you can, not based on the calendar. It’s not about the quantity of time you have together or about the quality of the gifts you receive,  it’s about the quality of time you have together, the meaning of the gifts you give and the depth of the love you share.

Happy Valentine’s Day, no matter what day it is.

Thanks for reading.

Reposted from 2011

What’s Your Type? Personality, That Is…

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clipart

In a recent Bible study we did a short quiz to find out what our spiritual gifts were. My gift was encouragement or in Biblical terms exhortation. I lift people up, emotionally not physically. Physically, I’m a marshmallow.
Since I had been a Sunday school teacher in the youth department for years, I was surprised by this bit of news. I was sure my gift was teaching, and in some ways it is. After some reflection I could see how encouragement had worked within my teaching roles and it began to make sense.

It always amazes me how my day to day life plays into my spiritual studies. At the same time as this spiritual gifts test, a leadership class I am taking suggested doing a personality test. The test was to shine a light on what type of leadership qualities you have and utilize.

I found it very interesting that my personality test said I was a teacher. See, I knew I had some teacher qualities. I had forgotten that I had taken this same test, at least 12 years ago in an Army Family Team Building course. The course taught life skills to military spouses, and as it turned out, I ended up teaching some of those classes. At any rate I found it very encouraging that after so many years my results were the same.

For the most part, the analysis on both tests were pretty spot on. There are a few behaviors that I have learned over the years. Which in itself is encouraging. You can take a negative and improve upon it. One of my personality traits in the testing showed that my personality type takes criticism very personally, and to some extent it is true.

Honestly, no one likes criticism, but it’s a tool you use to learn and grow. I had to learn that, because it is not my nature. As graphic designer for 25 years, I had to take criticism and build on it. It was part of the job. If a customer didn’t like your concept, you had to adapt to what the customer wanted, otherwise you didn’t work.

Some of my other traits made me very sought after, no matter what job I was doing. I am very intuitive. I can see what people want, that helped make me a good designer, it also helped me in my editor role, as I chose stories people wanted to read. I am also a good communicator so that made working with people very easy.

According to one website only 3% of the population have this personality type. I find that very hard to believe, but I’ve always been different. Maybe this explains why. 🙂

If you know me, I am curious to see if you think I fit my evaluations. If you don’t know me, are you curious to find out what your type is? After the information about exhortation and my ENFJ personality type are links to the tests.

Exhortation (more Spiritual Gifts) as defined by assessme.org:

The gift of Exhortation is the special ability to counsel or challenge others toward a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. Often, the gift of Exhortation is utilized to motivate the Church in general or a Christ Follower in particular, to make God-honoring choices. If sensitivity and tact is not properly developed, the person gifted with Exhortation may not immediately be appreciated. The gift of Exhortation is somewhat similar to the role of the Old Testament prophets in challenging God’s people to remain faithful. While the prophets were not immediately valued, and often persecuted, their service was indispensable to the spiritual health and vitality of the biblical faith community.

People who possess the gift of Exhortation will not avoid conflict. It is not that they love conflict. In fact, everything inside them may hate conflict. People with the gift of Exhortation feel a deep responsibility before God to challenge and encourage those that may be taking a path that does not honor the Lord, to correct their misguided choices. In Acts 14:22, the Apostle Paul consistently serves to “strengthen the disciples and to encourage them to remain true to the faith”. 

According to the Personality Desk website these are the characteristics of the ENFJ personality type at work:

At work, the ENFJ is motivated to organize others to implement positive change. ENFJs are enthusiastic problem-solvers, especially when they can put their strong intuition about people to good use.

ENFJs strive for cooperation and work best in a harmonious environment where they can support other people and encourage their growth. They often take on a mentor role, seeing their primary aim as helping other people become better at what they do.


ENFJs are often attracted to leadership roles; they naturally organize people to take advantage of their unique talents. They often have a strong vision in their work, and enjoy being able to use their creativity to develop innovative initiatives with a humanitarian focus. 


ENFJs appreciate teamwork, and they want to have the organizational resources to put their ideas into action.

The ideal work environment for an ENFJ is forward-thinking and people-centered, with a clear humanitarian mission and an emphasis on constructive action. The ideal job for an ENFJ allows them to develop and implement ideas that improve the circumstances and well-being of other people.


Popular Careers for the ENFJ

Top careers for the ENFJ include:
  • Journalist
  • Interpreter
  • Editor
  • Minister
  • Elementary Teacher
  • Event Coordinator
  • Public Relations Manager
  • HR Manager or Recruiter
  • Corporate Trainer
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Social Worker
  • Physical Therapist
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Clinical Psychologist


ENFJ Personality Type
Here are some links to see how you rate.

Spiritual Gifts Test:
http://www.churchgrowth.org/cgi-cg/gifts.cgi?intro=1
(this test is a little more in depth than the one I took in my Bible study but my results were the same.)

Take the free personality test

I look forward to hearing your feedback. Let me know what you think.

The Wedding That Didn’t Happen

Gary rockin’ in his room, trying to look tough.
I am going to delve into my past and tell you a very well-kept secret. I don’t know that I have ever shared this story with anyone. A few of my high school friends and family may know about it but it hasn’t been spoken of since 1983.


I have been married more than once, and the first time I was very young, seventeen to be exact. Many say that is too young. In most cases, they would be right. But not this time, even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have traded that experience for all the riches of the world.

In 1982, dressed in flash dance fashion, I met a guy. I’d seen him around, he was friends with a friend of mine. I’d had a crush on him since I was a freshman. He didn’t know I was alive, or so I thought, until one night outside of a convenience store, three years later. I was acting out and being stupid, I was finally a senior and had no idea what the future held for me.

Blond and bouncy, he was full of life and energy; he wanted to be a rock star and played a sweet vintage Gibson Les Paul guitar. He was unlike anyone I had dated. He wanted to be wild, but he was too good for the wild life. It was love at first sight and he changed my life forever.

As with most teenage love stories, we were instantly inseparable. He was like oxygen and if he wasn’t near I couldn’t breathe.

Being your typical teenager, I had to push the limits, one night in March, I broke my 10:30 p.m. curfew. Yes, that’s right, 10:30 p.m., not 11, not midnight, 10:30 (and kids now think they have it rough). My mom, in true parental fashion, deemed my punishment was no phone, no outside contact. I was only allowed to go to church and school (which was right across the street from my house and the family business), for 6 months!

I thought my world had ended. As any warden would do, my mom allowed me one last phone call. In that phone call, two young lovebirds began to hatch a plan. Gary and I would see each other at church, but since he had been a senior when I was a freshman, that would be our only contact. I couldn’t wait to go to church on Wednesday and Sunday.

During Bible class and service Gary and I sat together and whispered or passed notes. In a Bible study on a note passed between us, he asked me to marry him. I couldn’t react; I could only nod my head and sniffle to keep from crying. I was thrilled, and that made the punishment seem all the more unbearable.

I knew my mom would never let me get married, I was seventeen. I had already been accepted at the Art Institute and we were planning a bright future. I didn’t see why marriage had to put an end to that. I knew Gary was meant to be in my life. There seemed to be such a feeling of urgency about it and I knew that if I went away to college alone, Gary and I would never be together. To the very core of my being I knew I had to do this. Now I know it was God winking at me, but then, I prayed and I cried and Gary and I covertly began planning an elopement.

Gary told his sister Tracy of our plight and this is where the story gets interesting…

From the moment I met Tracy I felt at ease with her, I could tell her anything and she would understand. I think Gary and I spent more time at her house than we did anywhere else. Tracy married her high school sweetheart Tim at around the same age. She understood the sway of young love and believed in its power. To this day, I believe she felt the same sense of urgency I did. She was always in Gary’s corner, and would do anything for him.

After Gary’s proposal, we began to skip church services and go to Tracy’s to plan our elopement. I know, it sounds so bad to say it, but it was a little easier than trying to skip school. At the time my mom didn’t go to church with me. (I’m not advocating skipping school or church at all, I’m just saying, I’m not perfect.)

Tracy was instrumental in helping us concoct a plan to run away together. She was a great planner, too. She told us how we could go across the border to Jellico, Tennessee and get married; we just needed copies of our birth certificates and to get a blood test.

We put the plan in motion. She and Gary took the day off from work and I skipped school. Let me tell you, skipping school when you live right across the street is no small feat!

Tracy helping me with my garter.
Little did they know this was the
2nd wedding we had planned.

Tracy drove because we were so nervous. We got our blood test, (back then you had to do that) and we headed to the courthouse. Well because I was underage, and Tracy couldn’t pass as my guardian, the covert operation failed.

We were all devastated. I had to go home as if I had come from school and act as if nothing had happened, but I couldn’t stop crying.

As soon as I got home I went to my room and closed my door. My mom came to see what was the matter and when I couldn’t quit crying I had to tell her what had happened. I was scared to death, but I figured the punishment couldn’t have been much worse than what I was feeling already.

I told her how I felt and the way I felt without him. We talked for a long time. I told her about the proposal the sense of need I felt. There were lots of questions. With every answer, she could see my resolve. I assured her that I would still attend art school and that I was certain of my feelings. Then, I took a deep breath and then I told her what we had tried to do that day.

She was shocked speechless for a few minutes. As I sat there in the silence, I prayed she wouldn’t kill me. Amazingly, she was much more understanding than I would have ever imagined. She told me if I finished high school and stayed on task for art school that she would give me her blessing and we could start planning a wedding in July.

I was so thankful that God had made a way where I saw no way and had given me this opportunity. My first call was to Gary, but my next call was to Tracy to ask her to be my Matron of Honor.

Through it all, Tracy gave me the courage to stand up and fight for what I believed in, to step out on faith and I will be forever thankful. Gary and I were married on July 16th, 1983. We were only married for two years and eleven days before God called him home. Our time here may have been short but it was priceless.

Gary and Tracy taught me to be strong, stronger than I ever realized I could be. Gary died 27 years ago. This year he and much of his family welcomed Tracy at the gates of heaven.