The gift of time

Last week, I was working with a client who is in recovery, and was reflecting on her long journey to get to the place she is now. She was speaking to how many of the “new” girls get sober and immediately start to attempt to add in new pieces to a sober life, such as getting a job, finding their own place, working on custody issues, entering relationships, etc. instead of truly taking the gift of time to focus on themselves. This client said if they would just give it 6 months to be still….

Her comment hit me full force. While I am not and have never been in recovery for addictions, I have been working through some intense healing and therefore, life recovery… though the life I had wasn’t really living the way it is intended, so it is more of learning to live than recovering… My “still” time probably began in a way that was forced, via the pandemic. But as things started to hint back to normal in the education world (which largely ignored the deadly virus threat), I could not come to peace about returning. Joyce Meyer’s voice will forever stick with me- I once heard her say, make decisions that bring you peace, and if you do not feel peace, don’t do it. So, I took leave to care for myself and my family, as one of my kiddos was suffering hard with his mental health.

Being still did not come naturally. I felt a lot of guilt and pressure. Spending hours each day with God was tremendously good for my soul, but I often felt like I had to explain myself (to who, I don’t really know?!) I felt as though God was preparing me for something, and that was an understatement. 12 weeks later my significant other passed away and so much trauma followed. I made the decision to take the remainder of the school year off, knowing there was no way I could be on display, teaching, in front of kids, parents, and admin, amid a year of insanity to boot. For 3 months, there was not a day I didn’t cry at least once.

This was a scary move. I knew it felt peaceful- it felt like the right thing in my soul, but financially it made zero sense. I was the sole provider for myself and my kids. I had my unpaid internship looming at the end of the school year. But, I had to go with the peace.

It was around six months later that I began my internship. Looking back at those 6 months of stillness, it was as though I was inside of a cocoon, growing, healing, and changing… it was a lot of still time and solitude. I emerged the healthiest version of me I have ever been- emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I know, firsthand, the value and the importance of truly taking time to work on me. I will forever be grateful for the gift of that time, and I know that seeds were watered and nurtured, and at some point, my life will bear the fruit of those 6 months. What a luxury! It is funny to frame it that way… I mean I have been on the strictest of budgets- there is no luxury as most would define it in my life, and hasn’t been for a very long time. But, what I received was priceless.

Once upon a time… & other toxic tales

As a little girl, I loved books and stories. At the mall, my two favorite stores were the book store and the record store. I had a very large collection of both. I remember listening to fairy tales before learning to read, and also listening to fairy tales on records because yes, I am that old… I still have a treasured collection of fairy tales I remember picking out at the book store when I was very young. At first glance, fairy tales seem like a sweet piece of childhood innocence. In some ways, I still believe they are.

We all recognize two key elements of fairy tales. They have the same beginning: Once upon a time… and the same ending, “they lived happily ever after.” As I got just a little bit older, I graduated from Hans Christian Anderson to fairy tales in more mature forms. A child of the 80s, it was a weekly ritual to visit the video store for VHS movies every Friday, and spend the weekend watching them. Though I viewed all kinds of now classics, often, these movies were grown-up fairy tales- teenage or adult love stories. I often re-enacted these scenes- or similar ones- while playing Barbies, another one of my favorite pastimes. Barbie always had Ken, and then they had children, and of course, they lived happily ever after. Just like the movies always had a happy ending- the guy always got the girl in the end- or vice versa. Over the years, I had a number of beloved movie favorites… Pretty in Pink was one of the earliest. Much later, The Notebook would reign supreme. (Still love both!) I also never outgrew that love of books and reading, and as I got a little older, my childhood and pre-teen/teen years were still filled with books, and again, lots of these were love stories. Nicholas Sparks might be a demon working for the devil… (just kidding, mostly).

In many ways, my childhood experiences were also idyllic. We lived just minutes from my grandparents, who were married for over 50 years when they passed. I had a nuclear family, and very few of my friends were from divorced homes. So, as a teenager, I had no reason to doubt that I would surely find the One and live my own happily ever after. (part of my thesis here- we are programmed to believe in the “One” and even in our frustration & disappointment, we continue to hope & believe we will find him). When I started dating my high school sweetheart, I believed I had already found him. In some ways, it unfolded just like that at first. We went to college together and got married soon after. There were a few back to back tragedies in my life during that time, so I got a taste of how things don’t always work out the way you expect them to, but I still wholeheartedly believed in happily ever after and a mostly fairy tale life- just a more “normal” version, which was fine by me. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, which was devastating, but I went on to have 3 sons in a relatively short time. Life was crazy busy, tiring, full, but pretty good. Or so I thought.

My world came crashing down when I was 32 years old. My marriage had been struggling for awhile, but I had chalked it up to the tough period of raising three little ones, and I assumed it would turn around once they were a little older and not so needy. I was focused on being a mom at that time. When my husband left us, and I subsequently found out he had been having a second affair for years, it truly felt as if the world had been swept out from under my feet. As Lysa Terekuerst so eloquently put it: it was not supposed to be this way. I was in a state of shock for a few months. My marriage was going to last 50+ years, just like my grandparents, and my parents were on the way toward. Sure, things weren’t so happy at the time, but they would be later- ever after….

I was also not prepared for the grief and loss that accompanies divorce- IF you allow yourself to feel it. (Most people don’t). It would take many, many years for me to heal from this trauma. A number of times, I thought I had healed from it, only to discover much later, that I had not… at least not fully. I did take a lot of time to process, but eventually, I started to venture into dating again, which led to one disaster after another, including a number of unhealthy situationships and two very toxic relationships. (The thing about those is we don’t realize how toxic they are while we are in the thick of it- but again, that is another topic for another day).

In the aftermath of all of this, I have spent a lot of time reflecting. Part of me no longer believed in happily ever after- or at least I realized that it wasn’t so neat and easy or guaranteed. Yet, there was still the hopeless romantic piece of me who still continued to hope for the fairy tale, time and time again.

In these last few years, I have learned a lot about love and relationships. Much of which I wish I had been taught or learned a long time ago. We live in a fallen world, where all of us are inherently broken. That does not mean we are hopeless, but it does mean that we can never be fully whole until we are reunited with our Creator. Until then, we have to do a lot of inner work in order to fight the daily battles against the world, our flesh, and the enemy… and most of us don’t even know these exist.

We live in an increasingly toxic culture. Our world is not at all designed the way God intended it to be, and in my 4.275 decades on earth, (I may start giving my age this way all of the time) I have witnessed it moving further into ruin. So many of the so-called “advances” we have made have done nothing but create more toxicity. (more on that to come…)

Most of us eventually do learn that life is not a fairy tale (at least not for the majority of us). We endure some storms and hard times, and we see that things do not always go as planned, though most will continue to struggle to control their path. It is likely that few will see how we have been brainwashed into believing in real life fairy tales. There are a lot of things that are so inherent in our culture, they become systemic… these things become engrained in us without us realizing or recognizing that is the case, and unfortunately, a lot of these aren’t necessarily good things.

The last decade of my life has not been kind to me. I have learned a number of important lessons, but more importantly, Truth. I have also grown exponentially and I am proud of fighting my way through and doing the hard work. I am also thankful for who I am now, even if I wish it wasn’t shaped through fire. And while I do not expect to get to a point where I no longer have any suffering, I do hope in good times ahead. God did not write me a fairy tale life, but I continue to believe there is good in the story, and that I have a lot more of it to see. I have slayed quite a few dragons, after all. And while I know a perfect prince does not exist, I also hope for there is a partner in this story; one who may also be a little battered, but wiser because of it, who understands that love is a committed choice made daily, rather than a Hollywood produced romance. (Hoping this chapter is coming soon, too!)

But, I also still hope that if I find said partner, we eventually pass away of old age, at the same time, holding hands in bed, Notebook style… 💁🏽‍♀️ I guess some things die hard.

Darkness & Light

This has been a reoccurring theme for me this year. Over the weekend, I watched an excellent documentary on the life of Johnny Cash. I have always been intrigued by his story, as well as that of another performer whose story is so similar; Elvis. Each of these men had early roots in faith, and their faith remained important to them throughout their entire lives, though you may not know it if you are simply looking at the course of how their stories played out.

Each of them felt a call on their life they never quite lived out, as they were drawn in by the dark temptations of this world, which are amplified in ways we cannot understand if we do not live a life of fame, excess, and easy access. Drugs, alcohol, and rampant infidelity would plague these lives.

I loved someone who shared a similar story, minus the fame. Strong foundation of faith, but a life that was led down an entirely different path, one that only became darker and more twisted. Demons were fought, but won time and time again, and many people paid a high cost for the sinful choices, myself included.

These past few weeks, in my grad work, we have been revisiting psychological/counseling theories and critically analyzing them against scripture. Several of these theories share a common belief that man is “good,” which is an important principle of the theory and how it is applied. Unfortunately, this is not accurate. As the Bible tells us, God created a perfect paradise when He created Earth. It was short-lived, however, because instead of creating puppets for Him to play with, God chose to give us free will. This gift may sound insignificant, but it is often the source of our own personal downfall. As we know, in the Garden of Eden, Eve committed the original sin, and Adam went along with it. Tricked by Satan, they would be the first to fall. Because of their decisions, humans have an inherent sin nature.

What does this mean? It means that within us lies both good and evil; darkness and light. It truly is a “tale as old as time.” If you consume movies or books, you know this is often central to the overall plot. Most of us root for good to win, and often it does triumph in the end, after much action in the middle. If you are like me, in the stories where evil prevails, you feel cheated, angry, disappointed, and unsettled… because that is not the way it is supposed to be. (Though usually the writer is just setting us up for the sequel).

The Bible itself is a story of darkness and light. As a whole, and in all of the individual stories within. We find many people not unlike Johnny, Elvis, and my loved one. Sometimes, good, or light, does prevail in these lives, and sadly, sometimes it does not. Watching this story unfold, in real time, with my own eyes, and seeing a tragic ending will probably forever haunt me. This death brought me grief and loss, as well as pain and betrayal, but it also made me more determined than ever that light would win in my own life. I have never witnessed firsthand, such powerful darkness and evil, and I don’t want to be anywhere near it ever again. That serpent from the Garden is still slithering around today, and perhaps more so than ever… our world is his playground right now. (I think that is my next post brewing).

Just like the sun sets each night, bringing a blanket of temporary darkness, we will face darkness in the world. We have darkness within us. We each have our own battle to fight, daily, to keep the darkness at bay and instead allow our light to shine, and to look to the source of light to be refueled.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” -John 1:5. Satan may win at times… he may even be able to win over entire lives- lives that become stories of great tragedies. The three men I referenced lived lives of great contradiction. Despite their deep-seeded belief in God and underlying desire to be good, evil won over.

At first glance, the battle of darkness & light seems so simple. Why would anyone choose darkness or evil? The problem is, in our world, darkness is disguised as good… and good often feels like darkness. We have been so programmed to both accept and desire darkness, we often have to sift through what we “know” to even determine what is good. This is the paradox of Christian life. Purity is God’s plan for all of us… yet, how many are living a life free from sexual sin? Jesus taught us to love everyone. Yet, making that choice means embracing everyone; the LBQTI+ community, prisoners- including death row inmates, the homeless, the addicts, people of all skin tones etc. Many do not, and those that do often feel persecuted for doing so. God’s way- the light – is not the easy way. Darkness comes packaged up in shiny, appealing packages. Inside are greed, pride, validation, approval and accolades, success, beauty, money, power, sex… in other words, pleasures and things that feel good or make us “happy. “

Yet, how many times do we watch a celebrity- someone who has access and excess – to all of the packages we go chasing after, suffer a huge downfall? Whether it comes in the form of addiction, overdose, mental breakdown, suicide, endless relationship failures, etc. They are often some of the most unhappy people alive, at their very core. Because we were not designed to live that way or desire these things. Deep inside each of us, the light longs to burn, and be reunited with our flame, yet most people never realize it, and instead spend a lifetime attempting to fill that void with all of Satan’s offerings. He knows precisely which darkness to prey on, as we don’t all have the same weaknesses.

All around us, a battle is waging. Though difficult to grasp, there is a spiritual realm in which angels and demons are at war. We are attacked in our weak spots. Our hearts are sick, as we cannot rid them of sin, therefore, we battle our own flesh. The world is also sick and fallen, so we are offered temporal pleasures. If we do not recognize we are immersed in constant conflict, we won’t even fight; instead, we will give way to the world as the accepted way to live. If we are aware of the war, yet we do not suit up to fight, we lose to the darkness, and it can overcome us. The only way for good to win in our own life is by Ephesians 5:8: “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

To be continued…

The Aftermath of vulnerability

By nature, I am an observer. This serves me well in some ways. I see people. I see their hurts and pain, I see so much more than they are saying. I am also deeply reflective, and enjoy observing things within myself in order to grow. In other ways, this holds me back. It has kept me on the sidelines in my life more times than not, settling for watching rather than chasing after new things.

Lately, I have made some observations about vulnerability. Recently, I struggled with an area where I was feeling prompted to be vulnerable. I did my best to ignore or excuse away the prompting at first. After it seemed pretty evident it was not going to go away on its own, I started to wrestle with my will. I wanted to be obedient and do what I had been asked but not one part of my flesh was interested in this action. It took a lot of time- way more than it should have- a lot of inner conflict, talking through it, prayer, and pep talks, (this is actually best depicted by a Rocky meme I saw showcasing his training process for his big fight in Russia) but I finally did it.

Afterward, I felt an initial rush of pride and confidence. This lasted about a total of 10 minutes, tops, before giving way to panic. Sheer panic. Observation: Somehow, I always expect that I will feel good after an act of obedience. I have learned this is not the case. Sometimes doing the right thing is also the hard thing. But also, life is not that neat. When we put ourselves out there in whatever way we are being vulnerable, we don’t often feel good about it immediately.

As the day wore on, I started to feel less and less comfortable. I had this strong desire to (figuratively speaking) pile on every layer of clothing I could find. Because, I felt naked and exposed in the moment. And I wanted to cover up and hide from it. Observation: Vulnerability exposes some part of us. It feels uncomfortable, and our flesh responds by panicking and also trying to eliminate the discomfort.

I wish I could say I settled down and got ahold of myself at that point, but I did not. Instead, I started to think about how being vulnerable might hurt me. Now, I began to think about ways to protect myself. What I could say or do, how I could avoid ever having to be vulnerable again. I wanted to make myself safe. Safe from hurt. Safe from pain. Safe from discomfort. Observation: The human part of us hates to hurt. We will instinctively attempt to prevent it, which almost always means retreating in some way and not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. This is where many people will put up walls- either consciously or unconsciously. The problem with this is, we think our walls are put there to protect us. In truth, they only block others out. And when we block others out, we block out love. Love is the key to life. We are not intended to live this way, and sadly, our lives cannot be complete if we do not learn to knock down walls. We will miss out on the very best things in life.

Being vulnerable is risky. Probably in the worst possible way because it involves full transparency and that is another thing we run from. Sometimes, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we do get hurt. We get hurt because there are so many hurting people in this world. I wish none of us had to hurt. I wish we could be guaranteed that by opening ourselves up, it would always result in only good. But, I don’t have that guarantee and can’t promise it to you either. What I do know is that when we close ourselves up to being vulnerable, we invite a lot of bad things in. We were created to be in relationship with others. That means we need to be honest and real, first with God, then with ourselves, and finally, with the other people in our life. Jesus calls for us to show our true selves, to speak our truth and truth to others in love, and to be bold and confident. Your moment of discomfort may just change someone else’s life. Maybe even yours.

Rip the Band-Aid off

Apparently, when I was born, I was covered in so much hair, my mom likes to affectionately say I looked like a little monkey. Ironically, she may have been on to something, as I did develop ridiculously long arms, not unlike an ape or orangutan. As a child, this hairiness resulted in a dilemma faced any time I needed a Band-Aid. I knew that if I put one on, inevitably, I would also have to take it off. The problem is, when you are covered in fur, this can be a painful process. Each time, I would leave it on longer than necessary, hoping it would fall off. Eventually, when it did not, I would finally have no choice but to remove it. My method was to do so by very gently and carefully peeling it back as slowly as possible. I can’t count the number of times my mom, or someone else, would urge me to just rip it off, saying it was better (and less painful) that way. I did not see how that could be possible. (Little did I know, later in life, I would actually pay my brow girl to rip hair off of my face.)

Lately, there has been something on my mind that seems to be growing larger by the minute. It started out – for a long time, actually – as something small, a reality that I had been aware of for a very long time, but had relegated to the back of my mind. Over the past few months, this seems to have enlarged. What was a teeny, tiny little ant has morphed into a gigantic, heavy elephant. I have tried to shrink it, as I prefer it would just remain ant-sized, indefinitely, but no matter how hard I try and how much I pray about it, it does not cooperate.

At some point, it dawned on me that this elephant may require action. As in, the only way to get rid of it may be to do something about it. The problem is, I do not want to do this potentially necessary course of action. It is hard. It makes me really vulnerable. It is scary. It might hurt. So, for months, I have kindly asked God to remove the elephant, or at least to allow me to ignore it. I really thought this would probably work, as I was sure I had caused this ant’s metamorphosis. Sadly, it did not. In fact, I am typing this at an absurdly early hour because once again, the elephant woke me up at a time when no human should be awake, and tormented me to the point that there was no way I could fall back asleep.

Recently, I read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and one of the catchphrases was “We can do hard things.” I kept hearing this in my head this morning while I tried to ignore Dumbo. And one thing I have learned about God is that He does indeed ask us to do hard things. He has been doing this since Biblical times, and it never went well for those who ignored or ran away from the hard thing. Which is why I am sitting here, feeling sleepy and sort of panicked, because I am starting to really believe that He is asking me to do this. I am starting to believe that the elephant is going to mutate into something even larger the longer I put it off, and that the only way to free myself is to do the hard thing.

So, right now, I am taking step one. Mentally preparing to rip off the Band-Aid, I suppose. I am admitting, out loud, that this is not going away and I likely need to take action. Isn’t it funny how when we get older, the hardest things are usually emotional? I would much rather cover my entire body in those Band-Aids and violently rip them off than take the emotional risk of the hard thing in front of me. I briefly considered this as an offering to God, but somehow I know He would not be interested in striking such a deal.

It’s time to rip the emotional Band-Aid off. And I am just as hesitant as 6 year old me.

I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.

Nevermind, I don’t want to be in control.

Life is funny, sometimes. Or learning about it is. I am sure God is upstairs chuckling at our cluelessness at times.

For most of my life, I struggled with trying to control my life and circumstances. And for most of my life, I had no idea just how hard I was trying to control it. I started to see it one piece at a time. It took me a long time to realize just how deep this need was. This began the process of trying to surrender all to God. Wow, was that hard! You don’t think you are a control freak until you come to terms with needing to let go of everything, including your most treasured parts of life. This also does not happen overnight and it is finished. You will continually try to regain control or recognize that you are trying to hold too tightly again, and struggle to release.

As if that wasn’t hard enough, then came my latest realization. Last year, my life was truly about surrendering those last pieces I was clinging to. For quite some time, I have felt “stuck” in my life. I knew my old one didn’t fit anymore, but I could not seem to find the new one either. (Kinda reminds me of jeans… or at least what I remember, since 14 months into the pandemic pants with a button and zipper are only a distant memory). This stuck feeling is torture. For awhile, I felt like I was waiting on God. But a number of pastors kept saying often when we think we are waiting on God, He is actually waiting on us. Could that be true? It didn’t seem to fit in my circumstances. Surely, I was waiting on Him.

While waiting, I tried really hard to make the best of it. This was another challenge. But, I did know I was sowing a lot of good seeds, and I was believing that eventually, they would have to grow and produce fruit, and I would finally reap a harvest. I started to wonder though, if I wasn’t meant for farming, because not even a sprout appeared. After the loss and betrayal I endured recently, on top of all of the tsunami storms that have swirled in my life these past few years, I was left wondering when was I going to see any positive changes? I had given up and let go of SO MUCH. I basically walked into 2021 with nothing I had before- none of my comforts, none of my security, none of the things I felt Jesus had asked me to lay down and leave behind.

I listen to Christine Caine almost every day. I say her full name only for your benefit, as she is my spiritual big sister. (She just doesn’t know this, not anymore than Joyce knows she is my spiritual grandmother…maybe one day…). Christine often says that we have to go in and take our Promised Land, that God wants us to receive our blessings, but basically they don’t just rain down, we have to slay some giants and lasso the promises in order to grab ahold of them. Although I was hearing this message regularly, it wasn’t really something I was fully understanding.

Monday, I attended a marathon virtual conference. It was better than I had expected, and as I sat their listening to these speakers and marveling about this abundant lives they lead, I found myself questioning why my life was so hard, and why this was so unimaginable to me- why were they so different?

That night, after 11 hours of speakers, I was sitting in quiet trying to start to process all of the information when my son entered the room asking about purchasing another college textbook. I broke down crying. Expenses have been piling up and funds have been drying up, and having spent the last decade being the only financial support, I was overwhelmed. I have given my finances over to God recently, and it is one of the hardest mindset shifts I have ever tried to make. And here again, I was not seeing any positive change from my efforts.

That’s when it hit me. I am standing in my own way. I am holding myself up. And God probably IS waiting on me, and I probably do need to grab ahold of my blessings if I want to receive them. You see, self-doubt has been plaguing me. God has planted mighty dreams in me, but I have been paralyzed. I tell myself I am not ready, I don’t know what I am doing, I can’t do this or that, I need help, I can’t put myself out there, I am too introverted and shy, I am not _____ enough (adjective changes). I know God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. I know God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear and that He tells us to be strong and courageous, and that everything He asks of us is already in us. Why, then, do I have ZERO confidence to move forward? Because the thing is, God is absolutely in control. He is the captain of my ship. I am not even a passenger, I am meant to be the vessel. BUT, as much as I have been preaching to myself that I am not in control, that I can only control how I respond to my circumstances, that I can control my thoughts so they don’t control me AND my emotions… I was blind to the fact that I may have more control than I bargained for. The only catch is, it is not a type of control I want!

I want a life that is very different from the first 42 and almost 1/2 that I have lived. I can describe the ideal, but it seems out of reach for me. I can spout off all kinds of limitations as to why. But the biggest limitation that I never fully understood… may just be ME. I felt something change inside me after this thought hit me. I have been wanting to live a flourishing, abundant life- not by the world’s standards, but by living out God’s will and plan for me. I have prayed and prayed about it, but maybe I have to do more than just want it, maybe I have to chase it. Maybe for my life to BE different, I have to DO different. And that requires facing fear, and fighting until I get the life I want. In seeing someone else’s mortality… I have been struck with just how tragic a life is when someone gets stuck and can’t move forward to what God has intended for them. I do not want my life to end that way. So it is up to me to do my best to be sure it doesn’t… which means I am in control of it.

Mirror, Mirror

I have written before about how I was rediscovering the girl God made me to be. At first, I thought this was a journey unique to me. But, the more I reflected, the more I realized this is something that almost all of us need to do.

Mel Robbins hit me with a truth bomb the other day. She asked us to think about a baby in a mirror. From the time they first discover their reflection, they are intrigued. They stare and smile, laugh, as she said, even lick the face looking back at them. Toddlers and children are the same way. They love to see themselves. Today, I suppose this extends beyond just mirrors, they also like to see photos and selfies. They delight in looking at themselves. Back to Mel, she then made note of how much different it is for us looking in the mirror. At some point, we were taught what we see is ugly, unworthy, not enough… Oh, how I cried listening to this revelation. I actually do not look in the mirror unless I have to. The only mirrors in my home are the ones above the bathroom sinks. I will do all that I can to avoid catching a glimpse of myself. When I used to go to the gym, the classroom was my worst nightmare because all of the walls were mirrored. (Great, I don’t like to look at myself standing in place, why on earth would I want to look at myself while inflicting self-torture?!!) I hate photos, and anytime I look at one I zero right in on all of the things I dislike- and the first thing I see every time is my nose, which I feel is not unlike Gonzo’s. Maybe I am more extreme than others, I don’t know. I have lived a lifetime of actual voices telling me the reflection was ugly and not enough. And after a little while, my own voice started to agree.

This week, I watched a video clip of a toddler who was all out belly laughing at her father being silly. Over and over, as he pretended to fall down, she busted a gut. It was the most incredible sound, and the look on her face was absolutely joyous. And I thought, how often do we, as adults, experience joy like that? Especially out of something so simple.

The Bible tells us to have faith like a child. Children believe without seeing. They believe in magical things like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. They believe in the goodness of people. They believe Jesus loves them, because the Bible tells them so. As we grow, we become more jaded and less convinced. For me, one of the most difficult things God asks me to do is to walk by faith and not by sight. I believe what I see, and I even believe what my mind thinks it sees! I think my circumstances tell the story. This has been such a challenging battle, and I can’t imagine I am alone in this. That’s why the reminder is in the Bible.

I think we could learn a lot from children. As I typed that line, I heard a song in my head. This comes from a dynamic 80s power ballad that I’m sure those of you who are old enough will recognize…

I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier...

Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.

Did you sing it? I can’t seem to read it without singing it in my head.

I am evolving. Sometimes I wonder if this is what a mid-life crisis is. I do know that I am standing in that place- we never know how long we have. I certainly didn’t expect to suddenly lose a loved one who was just 44. It has been another reminder of how temporary our time here on earth is. If I am lucky enough to see my eighties, then I am already halfway through my life. I am staring down the first half, trying to take lessons, not regrets, with me into the next half. I do know the first half was nothing like I expected and it wasn’t what I wanted either. I am hopeful the changes I am making will make the second half of my story the better half. And, I hope that I can find that little girl in the mirror. The one with the belly laughs.

Showing up

Jesus woke me up at 5am today. Well, kind of. The sound of a text notification actually woke me up… what sort of lunatic sends a text at that hour, you wonder? (My ex-husband.) But anyway, after the alert woke me up, I very quickly knew this was not one of those days where I would be falling back asleep. And that’s when God stepped in. Often, I have the most productive time with Him in these moments. I guess my cluttered mind is clear when it is still sleepy. These are also the moments when God often lights a fire in my soul, ignites my passions, and burns dreams into my heart. Which is a little crazy, considering I am so NOT a morning person.

Today, my mind was flooded with an abundance of ideas and thoughts. I knew I needed to write, but I have about 5 different blog posts brewing in my head. It can be difficult to decide which topic is the one to focus on. To be honest, as I sit here typing, I have not made that decision. I just know I needed to start typing. He will take care of the rest.

The last time I blogged, I described an amazing experience I had with God. One that left me filled with hope and anticipation. I felt like I was right on the verge of change- good change- big change. I thought I was about to step into some of the things I had been waiting for so long.

I had no idea that just a week later, my entire world would be flipped, shaken, and come crashing down on top of me. A week later, I received a phone call that did change my life, but not the way I expected. A few hours later, in traumatic fashion, I would learn that someone I loved very much had passed away. Over the next few days, I would discover that my life, once again, was not at all what it seemed. I had been deeply betrayed by someone who chose to live their life as a lie. Again. What I went through that week literally felt like I was plopped in a field where one bomb after another exploded in front of me, and in those ashes laid my hopes, dreams, expectations– the rest of my life as I had imagined it.

It is nearing on two months since this brutal attack. I feel like I have been on a roller coaster- I love roller coasters in the physical world, but not in my emotional life. I am ready to exit the ride. The biggest positive in all of this has been as I lost a love that I thought would leave a gaping hole in my life, my eyes were opened to love that surrounded me. I will forever be grateful to the people who showed up for me, especially the ones who continue to do so, day after day. The ones who aren’t afraid to reach out, the ones who pray for me, the ones who serve, in big ways and small- whether it is a text, a meal, or a financial blessing, I am beyond grateful. Joyce Meyer says when people do these things, it is God showing you His love, and I have seen this firsthand in a way I never have before. Last night, after a long, emotional day, my 16 year old brought me a plate of food. He refilled my water. He asked if I needed pepper on my fries, and he took care of it. He buttered my roll. That, my friends, is LOVE. That is serving. They were small, insignificant little tasks that took only a few minutes and cost nothing, but they meant EVERYTHING to me. And that is exactly why we are here. We are here to love on others, to serve them, to shine our light, to give them moments where they experience Jesus and His undying, immense love for us. If you take nothing else away from reading this post, I hope that I can encourage you to show up. Show up for the people in your life, for those that you love. Even if you don’t know or understand what they are going through or what they need. Love them. No act of love or kindness is too small. It will mean more to them than you know, and it may just change you too.

Taking the long way

Today, I was running some errands, and when I left the first location, I entered the second into GPS. As I started following the instructions, I became confused. I knew that this was definitely a longer, back way to get where I was going. However, I wasn’t in a hurry, so I decided to just roll with it.

As I drove, I passed through the cutest little picturesque town that reminded me of something from long ago, or from a Hallmark movie. (which I don’t watch). Throughout the town, there were wooden snowmen that had been decorated in different ways.

Once I got through the town, I was in an area I was familiar with, and it led me to the interstate. I got on and there was some roadwork that had closed a small section of the left lane immediately after I merged.

After running my errand and returning home, I passed this stretch of highway going the other direction. I first saw the small patch where the lane was closed, and was shocked at what I saw. Cars were at a standstill beyond that point. In fact, I would see cars were sitting for almost 8 miles!

As soon as I saw the traffic was stopped right past where I had gotten on, I realized that long way around had detoured me through this insane back up. And because it was all behind where I had entered, I had no idea how far back the traffic was stopped until I drove back by it.

It immediately hit me that this was God. But, also that this is exactly how He operates in our lives in general. Often, we get frustrated, feeling like we are headed the long way, or that the path we are on is taking too long. Often, we are unable to see what is going on behind our scope of sight. God sees all, and sometimes, I am certain, He is taking us the long way in order to avoid certain “traffic jams” that would hold us up far longer, or create more problems. God does not often take shortcuts, but sometimes the long way protects us, and sometimes it winds up being the shorter way in the long run. Part of our struggle in life is learning to let God be the GPS. And sometimes, that means flat out ignoring our own instincts or what we know, and trusting that God ALWAYS knows the way there, and it is always the best possible way, no matter how it may look or seem.

Holding Cell

I have so many different thoughts tonight… usually I have a seed for a post, but right now I just feel the need to write.

In case you read my last posts, and are wondering, I am still free-falling in the abyss. Picture a slooooow motion leap of faith… I guess that is what this is. I mean, I jumped pretty forcefully, but I don’t seem to have landed yet.

Today, I listed to a sermon on waiting. Rick Warren said that while we wait, we typically wonder, worry, and whine. Oh boy. Guilty! In these last nearly two weeks, since I leaped -apparently right into a holding cell- I have done all of the above. I have asked what is going on, I have asked how God is going to fix all of this, and I have complained about why I am still stuck, in pain and misery.

Honestly, I guess I thought when I jumped, God would swoop in and say “Good job! I am so proud of you!” and then he would catapult me into a new direction. Or, at least reveal the door or the first stair. None of these things have happened. Still feel like I am in a dark cave, without a light, feeling my way around, trying to get out. It has been eerily silent. Deafening silence.

I do think He spoke to me today. I have multiple services I watch each week, and Pastor Rick’s sermon, from 5 years ago, appeared on my suggested videos after the last service of the day. Pretty sure Jesus put it there to make some points. It was filled with all kinds of nuggets I needed reminded of right now.

I have been involved in an intense wrestling match lately. Me vs. Me. On the one hand, I have a deep rooted trust in God, and I believe he will be faithful to guide me through this. (whatever “this” is). On the other hand, I have been angry at him for not flying in to save me from my scary plunge and for continuing to keep me in the waiting room, which make me want to give up. Then I get angry at myself for being mad at God. Its a mess. The only thing I am certain of right now, amid all of the uncertainty, is that He loves me.

I guess I write tonight mainly to document that walking with Jesus is not easy. It is not a casual stroll through a pleasant garden. These days, I often feel like I am in some cavern of hell. And contrary to popular belief- or perhaps just my own erroneous one, taking a leap of faith sometimes lands you into another depth of the wilderness, where you remain as lost as ever. I just had a flashback of Dora episodes- I sure could use her map right about now.

There is this part of me that wants to be excited. That says, I made room for Jesus to work. I made room for Him to do something big. And while I can’t really fathom the what, or why, and I wish the when was now, the possibilities are limitless for Him. So I wait…