Saturday, December 25, 2010

You Might Be a Redneck If...

Well, it’s Christmas 2010 and the Keane family is off to partake in our annual Christmas family tradition, Waffle House and a movie. Yes, you read that right. The tree is already down, the decorations back in the attic and we are ready to get back to “normal”. Now, now before you start judging I know that Waffle House and a movie on Christmas day are not normal, but it’s normal to us. I’ve been told that I might just be a redneck if my Christmas family tradition continues. My kids and I have decided that we like being rednecks.

Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo with Growing Families International taught me long ago the importance of family identity and family traditions. It creates a sense of unity for the family and one thing they have always told me is that your children’s desire to give in to peer pressure is only as strong as your family identity is weak. I don’t always do well at building my family’s identity throughout the year, but Christmas is one thing we have down. We have never done Santa Clause. It initially started out as a financial decision. How could I teach my kids to ask Santa for what they wanted, knowing that I couldn’t hardly provide food on the table at the time, much less what they asked Santa for so I decided I would forgo Santa. As the years went by I was really glad that I had made that decision because Christmas for us really has become about Jesus. I think that if I hadn’t been in the financial situation that led to that decision I could have easily given in to the way the world does Christmas. That is not to judge anyone who does do Santa with their children. I think it is fun. I just know that where I was at the time of that decision for me, I would have easily forgotten about Jesus and focused on Santa. Anyhow, I explain that to you to help you understand what our Christmas looks like. This morning in particular, I was the one jumping on the beds trying to wake everyone up. In years past, Christmas has not been about lots of presents for us, so I don’t have little ones coming in at 5:30 in the morning dying to open up gifts. In fact, Ben, my 9 year old came in my room about 5:30 after going to the restroom. I said “Merry Christmas, let’s get everyone else up to open gifts”. He simply said “Nah, let’s lay here and snuggle for 30 more minutes”. Normally there are 2 or 3 small gifts under the tree for each of my children, and they have always come from other people. God has always provided for us through families and friends that are close to us. This year was a little different, but the kids didn’t know that until this morning. You know, it’s amazing how God provides for us through our financial obedience to him. Although my finances are no different than they were last year, I had more than enough to provide Christmas for them through unsuspecting gifts from some very unsuspecting people. I probably went a little overboard but I really just wanted to reward them for the young men that they are becoming. With all of the struggles that my family has had, my boys are truly amazing. We have been doing some intense training and discipline over the last several years and they are bearing much fruit from the process. They are all thriving in school, making good choices in friends and many other areas, and the way I watch them treat others is simply remarkable. They are far from perfect but they are working hard. I wanted one Christmas to be overwhelming for them. I think this one was. I have learned from years past however that, even if my financial situation changes, I will not allow consumerism and overspending to ever become a part of our Christmas tradition.

So that is where Waffle House and a movie come from; cheap food, cheap entertainment and a family tradition that will always be a part of who we are and what we do on Christmas. Happy Birthday Jesus!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

LORD Give Me Your Eyes

I am not sure why songs keep hitting so close to home lately. I have sung them countless times, however, now I realize that I have sung many of them without ever actually hearing the words. I am not musically inclined but I do like to listen to music. Recently, I have enjoyed even more, God speaking to me through music. This is living proof that God can speak to anyone in whatever matter He sees fit. Today it was Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath. It was more of an observation in hindsight rather than a new revelation but just as thought provoking. It’s always stimulating when God shows up.

I met with someone over the weekend that I have probably spoken one sentence to in the last three years. Our relationship has been very strained and even volatile at times, for various reasons. There has been some bitterness and anger that just won’t seem to release itself from this situation. Before our meeting I prayed that God would allow me to see this person the way He sees him…

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing

Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the once forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

…and He did! I walked out of our time together different than I had walked in. God came through and allowed me to see someone that had been wounded and marred by some decisions that I had made many years ago. He allowed me to see what I had been missing all these years. All I had been able to see were the things right in front of me; the decisions being made, the words being spoken, the names being called. For a brief moment, I saw a small portion of what God sees. I don’t think he revealed the vast magnitude of how he truly sees us. I am certain our human emotions could handle it. What He did reveal however caused my heart to break. I pray that this will be the beginning of a healing process. I also pray that God will continue to allow me to see the rest of humanity the way that He sees them so that I can love them the way that He loves them.

Here is what I know about this particular situation. None of it would have been possible had I not CHOSEN to step outside myself and my own needs and forgive first. God doesn’t carry unforgiveness. In fact, he gave us the solution to it. It is impossible to see others the way that God sees them if we are harboring unforgiveness, no matter how much we pray for it. You see, unforgiveness when left unchecked turns to bitterness and everything we see or do is clouded by the gripping hold it has in our hearts. So, if you are ready to see the world the way that God sees it, check yourself for unforgiveness and ask God to show you how to forgive. I can tell you that you will not feel like forgiving, but when YOU CHOOSE to, something supernatural happens and before you know it, you are set free from the grip of bitterness and slowly but surely you begin to see the world through the eyes of a Savior and not the eyes of unforgiveness and bitterness. Soon you are able to see what you have been missing and love a humanity the way that God loves!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Blessing of Poverty

I’m sitting in my office the other day with someone who came to speak with me concerning an unlicensed homeless shelter that she had stumbled upon. Things of this nature happen often for me because I oversee the outreach ministry at Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant, SC. People often come to me for advice or help but this story had a different impact on me. I wanted to hear more. I was intrigued by the fact that a place like this could be in my own back yard yet I had no idea it even existed. Anyway, as we were talking, I asked her, “how do you get to be involved in all of these things that you are involved in? How do you get to help so many?” Her answer was staggering: “Oh it’s such a blessing, I’m on disability.” We went on to talk about how she never imagined that disability could ever be a blessing but she is using it to serve God in mighty ways.

This conversation reminded me of myself and my own struggles. I have never been on disability, but have been through some things that, at the time, I thought were the worst that could happen. You see, 8 years ago I found myself living in a motor home in my dad’s back yard with 2 young children and one on the way. Although I had a small place to lay my head each night, I was homeless and wasn’t sure how I was ever going to get out of this predicament. Some very poor choices from myself and from others had put me there. I had been a stay at home mom for a few years which in and of itself made it difficult to find a job, but I was also pregnant with my third child at the time. I found a job preparing taxes at a local tax company. Tax season runs from January 1 through April 15, which was how long my job would last, and the baby was due April 30. Joshua was born on April 18, three days after my last day on the job. It paid $7.50 per hour, which as you can imagine, is below poverty level for a family of my size. It was just enough to put some food on the table and maybe a few extras but it certainly wasn’t enough to get me out of this dilemma. I spent the next 6 years moving from place to place, being evicted here and there. By this time I had taken a job at the church as an administrative assistant making more than $7.50 per hour but still not enough to make ends meet. Through my years at the church, I have changed positions and received a raise or two as I slowly climbed out of this deep hole I was in. The church has been very gracious in my times of need but I don’t think they truly had any idea how bad it was for my family.  Two years ago, I bought a home through Habitat for Humanity. This was the one thing that created stability for my family. We still don’t have many of the extras in life, but we are stable.

I have never had any significant amount of money, but I did like nice things. In fact, so much so, I went into deep debt over those things. It was what I thought was right. Everyone else was doing it. I filed bankruptcy by the time I was 21 years old. I think in hindsight, it was just another way to fill my emotional needs and the gaping wounds from my past. Those “things” made me feel good for the moment.

Through my experiences over the last 8 years, the LORD has done a work in me. He has changed the way I see the world. You know, there is an old saying that goes “you never know Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have”. I had nothing and He reached down, took me by the hand and showed me, a little at a time what the world looks like through his eyes. Now I don’t turn a blind eye to those in poverty. I don’t judge how they got there. The one thing that I have learned that has become more significant than anything else is that my family is not wealthy, but we are one of the richest families in the world. Not because of what we have but because of who Jesus is and what He means to us. What He has done for us. Francis Chan writes in his book “Crazy Love” in reference to Luke 12:33: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” “How can I walk out of a mud shack and back into my two-thousand square foot home without doing anything?” He also asks whether or not we take the word of God literally or not? For me, I ask “can I walk into a house made of plywood with mold, asbestos, and for all purposes should be condemned and walk back in to my twelve-hundred square foot home without doing anything”? Can I go to the homeless shelter mentioned above where some have lived for over 20 years in horrible conditions and do nothing about it? What the last 8 years has done for me has allowed me to answer those questions with an explicit NO. God has used my circumstances to break down walls of pride and materialism as well as show me on a regular basis His hand of provision. He has also allowed me to see others as an extension of him. After all, He created them too (Proverbs 22:2). In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells us that whatever we do for the least we are also doing for Him and whatever we don’t do, we are not doing for Him. I know that I for one do not want to disappoint Jesus. I don’t want to let him down because He has loved me so much and has changed my life more than I ever thought possible. He has shown me how to love others by showing me his deep, abiding love for me. So, eight years ago I found myself homeless and uncertain of my future and what I thought was awful and cruel turned out to be one of the biggest blessings that I have received to date.  So today, I can say with 100% certainty that I am most Thankful for my journey through poverty and how God has used it to change me.

Psalm 69:32 ~ The poor will see and be glad ~

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's a Slow Fade

I came across this song a little over a year ago. The words are so profound, the message right on target. Given the number of families that crumble and fall apart every day this is a song that everyone needs to hear. But not just hear, allow to it invade your very soul so that we can in turn live out the message that the musical group Casting Crowns is trying to depict. The message is so simple yet it is missed by so many. I know that my choices haven’t been the greatest in the past. I thank God everyday for His redeeming love and His grace. Every time I hear this song, it literally brings me to tears. If everyone could grasp what they are saying, understand the message that they are trying to illustrate, see the picture that they are trying to paint, then families would look a lot different. The world would look a lot different. Be a lot different...

Be careful little eyes what you see

It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings

Be careful little feet where you go

For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

This is speaking to adultery as you will understand from watching the video. It starts with a first glance, but it is the second glance where we allow Satan to run rampant in our lives. The second glance is where we begin to justify our actions. The second glance that assures us that he/she is just a friend. It is so natural and almost instinctive to take a first glance, but it is the second glance that binds us.

I think these words can speak to any sin of the eyes however. The Bible says in Matthew chapter 18 “if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell”. Sounds pretty awful but I think the point is to “be careful little eyes what you see”. Don’t let your eyes convince you that the woman across the street has a much better home than you or the mom at your children’s school is much prettier than you or your friend is a better mom than you are. Our natural eyesight can be very deceiving and only leads, with the second glance, to us coveting what we think others have. Let your eyes lead you to the blessings that God has bestowed on your own family. Because we are so accustomed to looking outside ourselves, it may take some work but I am certain that if you look hard you will find treasure in your own home. Ask the LORD to show you.

The second part of this verse clearly speaks to watching where we go and what we do because our children are examining us. For those that are parents you know how true this is. Our children are like shadows waiting and watching what they are to do next, only knowing by the actions of their parents. The Word says again in Matthew chapter 18 “whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea”. Again, this sounds dreadful but I think that the point being made is how important it is to “be careful little feet where you go” because “the little feet behind you are sure to follow”.

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away

It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray

Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid

When you give yourself away

People never crumble in a day

It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

It’s a slow fade...these are the words to remember. It is not the first glance, the first choice, the first thought that leads to destruction, but the second that slowly leads to the fading of our values, our family, and our lives. I think these words speak to many areas in our lives; our marriage, our purity if we are single, our parenting, our integrity and so much more. I see it often in my own life when I let discipline slide, or I don’t hold my children accountable for certain actions. The first time usually doesn’t matter. The boys know the routine, but before I know it, my entire household is out of order again. The kids are unruly, the rooms are a mess and I am on edge about to explode at any moment. If I had only not given in the second time it wouldn’t have slowly faded into this. Fortunately I can now recognize the signs before it gets too far and rein everyone back in, including me. I am sure that you can see and possibly have witnessed in others how areas such as purity and integrity can slowly fade into indecency and disgrace. I have unfortunately seen it firsthand. What was once black and white has now become very gray. The negative or impure thoughts invade, the choices are then made and the price will be paid by everyone around the one who is slowly fading. People never crumble in a day.

The journey from your mind to your handsIs shorter than you're thinking

Be careful if you think you stand

You just might be sinking

It doesn’t take long, after the thoughts have invaded for the actions to follow. Just like me with my children. The thought is: I am too tired to enforce rules today. Too tired to oversee chores, too busy to stop what I am doing and deal with it. The actions that ensue are laziness, messiness and disobedient children. With your purity, the thought might be “it’s ok to go back to the house, nothing will happen” or with your integrity “I’m just going to borrow the money, I will pay it back”. I love the next two lines: Be careful if you think you stand, you just might be sinking. You know, it’s true; the journey from your mind to your hands is much shorter than you are thinking. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says “...take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away

It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day
_____________________ never crumble in a day
(put your own word here)

This song by Casting Crowns is one of the most profound songs and carries one of the most important messages that I can think of. Listen to this video. I have already done so seven times this morning. Let it sink into your mind. Let it change you as it has me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Will Never Be The Same

I experienced something this weekend that will forever be etched in the images of my mind. I don’t think it is an accident that I just finished reading the book “Same Kind of Different as Me”. If you have not had the opportunity to read it yet I encourage you to make it a priority but know that it comes with this warning: YOU WILL FOREVER BE CHANGED! The LORD has used it to soften my heart, change my thinking and respond differently to atrocities such as the one I wandered upon this weekend…
I got a phone call from my precious friend Mari. She is the kind of woman who would save the world if it were possible for one woman to do so. She gives of herself so freely to others and is such an inspiration to me. She was participating in a ministry called Adopt-A-Block as she does every month when the team stumbled upon a precious man of 105 years old. She called me to see if the church could help with some repairs on this home. I had seen his house several times during the last few months from the outside and it was dreadful, but nothing on the face of the earth could have prepared me for what I was about to walk in to. There were floors missing and the walls were actually about to crumble. I could see the bare earth through the multitude of crevices and to top it off every wall in the house displayed mold in a fashion so nauseating that my heart began to literally break in half. I felt as if I had been transported to a third world country. I couldn’t believe that someone in Mt. Pleasant, SC could live this way. How could this be possible? How does this happen only a few miles from where I lay my head down safely each night? How can no one know about this and if they do know, how can they not care enough to do something about it? There are houses going up just a block away that some would consider mansions. Do they know that someone in their own neighborhood lives like this?

Well now I know. My eyes are no longer blind to the reality of poverty in my own backyard. What am I going to do about it? It is overwhelming to consider and I am certain that it is not a burden that I can carry alone. I know my friend Mari will be the first to do what she can. I also know that the Adopt-A-Block team has committed to going back this weekend to clean and repair this home and get involved in this community long term. My prayer is that many others will have the veil removed from their eyes and begin to make a difference in their own community. This is our calling from God. His word speaks incessantly about how we are to treat the poor.

Psalm 82:3

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed

Proverbs 14:31

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Will you honor God and uphold the cause of the poor in the community around you?  One lesson that I have learned from this experience is that no matter where you live there will always be the poor and the needy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In The World But Not Of The World

So, I went to a bar the other night. There. I said it. For the first time in fifteen years I went to a bar and it was exactly as I remember. Nothing about the bar scene has changed. It’s sad really. It’s just a new generation of people living life exactly as I was fifteen years ago, lost and broken. Maybe not all of them, but I will bet it is certainly a majority of them.

For those that know me well, you know that I made a decision about six years ago to get rid of cable television in my home. It had a lot to do with money but for us it also had to do with what I want for my family. The temptation for me to use it as a babysitter is way too real because of the circumstances so I decided to remove the temptation and at the same time, loosen my budget for more important things. I also made this decision because I really want to spend time with my family engaged in meaningful, active relationship not in front of the television where no one says a word to each other. Now don’t get me wrong, there are times that we choose to sit in front of a TV for six hours watching Jack Bauer save the world as we did this past Saturday, but those are few and far between. Friday nights are also family movie night for us where we pick a movie, pop some popcorn and hang out on the couch together for a couple of hours and that has become a family tradition for us.

But rather than getting on my soapbox about television I want to tell you what I learned from my experience at the bar. I tell you about the TV because my rationale for going to a bar was to watch some football. To watch South Carolina whip Vanderbilt!!!! I met a couple of girlfriends there and we had lots of fun catching up and watching the game together. As soon as I walked in the door, there were a group of guys who started to flirt a little. If I am completely honest, it made me feel good. It has been a long time since someone has flirted with me, but fortunately I know that is not where my validation comes from. Fortunately who I am in Christ and how he sees me is way more important than what these boys were seeing. But that was not the case fifteen years ago. Back then all of the things that these boys were saying to me would have worked. Now, I just found them shallow. So, after about an hour of what he considered “pick up lines” I had enough. I was honestly disgusted and was really ready to go somewhere and enjoy my time with my girlfriends alone. But something really started to bother me. I could not walk away from this and not once mention my faith. You see, he probably thought that I just wasn’t interested. It happens. I am sure that he has been turned down more than once. But I wanted him to know that I wasn’t turning him down because I wasn’t attracted to him. I was turning him down because I am so attracted to Jesus and I didn’t see Jesus anywhere in this man’s life. So I began to share my faith with him. I must regretfully admit this is a first for me. Usually I just walk away from uncomfortable situations but for some reason this time I couldn’t.

So here’s the interesting part. As soon as I started to share my faith with him, he responded with “Oh I am a Christian too, I go to...” and he went on to mention the church that he attends every Sunday. What escaped from my mouth next really took me by surprise and may or may not have been appropriate but it came out before I could control my tongue. “If you really are a Christ follower, then why are you at this bar getting drunk and trying as hard as you can to get me to go home with you? Isn’t that your ultimate goal here?” His response of course was that was not what he was doing. Really? Give me a break I wasn’t born yesterday and he confirmed it because he didn’t stick around much longer. About 20 minutes later he had moved on to another woman at the bar who was a lot more receptive and a lot more intoxicated.

This is what Jesus was talking about when he said be in the world but not of the world. This is what he meant when he said that you would know his followers by the fruit that they bear. You see this guy was claiming to be a Christian but from what I could see he most certainly did not bear the fruit of Christ. He was claiming to be a Christian but was in the world and very much of the world.

As I have had time to process the evening I have become very aware and saddened by the countless number of people out there who say they are Christians but don’t represent Jesus appropriately. No wonder we have so many people who are confused and turning their backs on Christianity. If this is what I thought Jesus looked like, I wouldn’t want any part of it either. This incident has honestly caused me to take a deep look at myself and ask the question: Am I representing Jesus in my life? I can honestly say that the answer is sometimes no. When I get angry at my children and shout at them. When I hear something from someone that I am really not a part of and go to my girlfriends and tell them about it. What about you? If you honestly assess your life, can you say that you represent Jesus in every area?

So what now? For me, I have committed myself to working on these areas that don’t bear the fruit of Christ through prayer and repentance and of course through my own conduct. My prayer is that those of us who call ourselves Christ followers will be shining examples of Jesus to a hurting and broken world.

Matthew 5:14-16

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How Do You Do It?

When people ask me how I do what I do every day I always respond with “only by the Grace of God”. Seriously, I feel as if it weren’t for my relationship with Jesus Christ, I would be in an asylum living life in solitary confinement after going insane from my crazy life. For those who don’t know me, I am a single mom to three wild and wonderful boys ages 13, 9 and 7 so I get asked this question at least once per week.

I always thought babies needed their mama’s and don’t get me wrong, they do, but boy was I mistaken in my belief about how much they would need me later on. When I was married, I always thought that I would stay at home with my children until they started school. Then it would be easy enough to go back to work full time because they just didn’t need me quite as much and not one person told me any differently. Maybe they didn’t know either.

Anyway, I have been divorced now for almost 8 years. If you do the math you will learn that my husband and I separated when I was pregnant with our third child and still nursing my second. It was a very unfortunate situation really, but every divorce is isn’t it? I don’t think anyone chooses divorce. Let me clarify that. I don’t think anyone chooses divorce with full knowledge of the consequences for everyone involved. We are so deceived into believing that our actions only affect us and that everyone else will be ok.

With that said, those who ask that question know that I am a full time mom, trying to be dad too. Literally I am either at work or with my kids without any break, ever. My children unfortunately don’t see their father. I am also a full time employee, a neighbor, a mentor, a sister, a daughter, a peacemaker, a volunteer, a friend, a carpool queen, a soccer mom, a football mom, a tennis mom, a referee, a master scheduler, a doctor, a teacher, a plumber, a carpenter, a landscaper, a maid and so much more as any mom will tell you. That is an awful lot for anyone to fit in to one day, much less someone doing it without a partner to help out. Nehemiah 8:10 has been my life verse for some time now. 

So how do I do it? Yes it is by the grace of God but just the other day I came across the perfect scripture to back it up so now I can answer that question with authority. I can answer it and give someone else a real application of how God does it. Not just because I say he does. Not just because he has done it for me, but because he does it for everyone. Isaiah 40:28-31:

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Yes, that is it. Thank you God for showing this scripture to me. Thank you for showing me how living your word is; how timeless your principles are and how applicable they are today. So that is the answer I will give from now on. I do what I do every day because my hope is in the LORD. He renews my strength so that I can run because I have to in order to keep up with my crazy life, but when I run I will not grow weary!! This doesn’t mean that I will never be tired or never feel like giving up. Believe me, sometimes I do. What it does mean is that even when I feel like giving up, I remember where my hope comes from and he alone renews and replenishes my strength so that I can keep going.

As Dori from Finding Nemo says and as my friend Elizabeth constantly reminds me, “just keep swimming”!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Emotional Safety: Avoiding Annihilation When at War Emotionally

So it’s been a rough few weeks. I have been completely overwhelmed in every area of my life. Usually it is just one or two areas and I can manage that through the grace of God, but these last few weeks, that overwhelming feeling, that feeling of being submerged with no way out from underneath has had no limits. There have been times that I just couldn’t stop the crying no matter how hard I tried; times that I felt like I simply couldn’t breathe. Why? Because it seemed that every facet of my wild and normally wonderful life was requiring my presence, my problem solving skills, my expertise, my attention and my self-discipline to the tenth degree. I needed algebra to come to life for me: I needed me⁴. Of course my life always requires these things, everyone’s life does. I can’t really describe it other than to say that it seemed as if everyone and everything in my life needed all of me, all at the same time. But when you are doing it alone and there is no one else to problem solve with, split your time with, encourage you in the areas where you are weak, and give you a little time alone to recharge, it certainly magnifies ones tasks. Heck, it’s hard when you do have a partner that you share life with. But I survived! I made it through without killing myself or anyone close to me; at least not physically. Enter transparency: verbally, I am pretty sure that I annihilated a few along the way and I am certain that the target was those that mean the most to me. Why do we do that? We treat those we love sometimes worse than we would treat our neighbors that we don’t even like.

So how do I manage my emotions when they seem to be so strong and desperately trying to get into the driver’s seat? How do I make sure that my ability to hurt someone so easily when I am out of sorts doesn’t happen again, or at least as often as it used to? I am a work in progress and I haven’t attained the goal of absolute control over my emotions, but I am definitely better at it than I was a couple of years ago. If I take the time to acknowledge my mistakes and learn from them then I become better at it than I was the last time.

So how do I do it? How do I keep them at bay when they seem much stronger than my free will at the moment? A few months ago, a friend of mine and I created what we call the emotional safety list. It may seem silly at first, but it works; at least for me. It is a list that I put on my phone, in my purse, or wherever I can have immediate access to it so that it is always with me. It is a list of things that I do when having a rough day emotionally and I feel like they are about to take over. You know the feeling. For me it is like a time bomb about to explode right in the center of my chest; or when the tears flow way too easily for this usually tough cookie. For you, the signs might be a little different but I bet if you try, you could identify the precursors to your emotional blunders. My emotional safety list includes the following. For you it might be different. I will tell you however that the first three are must haves; most of the time I never make it to#3 and #4 because the first two are generally all I need but everyone most definitely needs the third.

I pull out my Bible and start reading through scripture. This is not the first thing I FEEL like doing but it is definitely the first thing I KNOW that I should do. Do you see the difference? I do what I know I will benefit from and not what I feel like doing which usually makes a fool of me.

I pray. Again, this is not always what I feel like doing but I know I should.

I call a trusted friend, one that I can be completely transparent with that will not judge me in any way shape or form, and I vent. I have three of them. If you don’t have one, this is a priority. And don’t pick someone who is going to tell you what you want to hear. Pick someone that you know will tell you the truth no matter what. I’ll be honest, most of the time all three of these lovely ladies tell me things that I don’t want to hear. I grumble and complain and they support and love me anyway. In fact, the first thing she normally asks is “have you prayed about it?” or “have you gone to The Word to see what it says about it?” She reminds me that #1 and #2 are priority and if need be, she does it with me.

I exercise. This is my least favorite but I know if I can just walk a few miles or exert some energy I will feel better.

So that’s it! I am not perfect at it and honestly, it took me about two weeks to get out of this emotional funk that I was in; probably because I didn’t immediately do #1 and #2 first. I’m a little hard headed and stubborn, even when I know the truth. I am sure that God often says “ok, here we go again. We are going to learn this lesson one way or another, my dear”. He is so gentle and so loving and boy is he patient with me. I try to remember that when my stubborn, strong willed child does the same. I love that God uses the lessons that he teaches us as our father as platforms for raising our own children. Don’t you?

Nehemiah 8:10 "...Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength"(NIV). 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Play The Game or Sit Out For a Season?

Its football season again!! I never in my wildest dreams thought that football season could get me so wound up. My oldest son Cameron has always been my artsy, musical, somewhat wimpy type, so when he told me last year that he wanted to play football it threw me off guard just a little. I mean this is my son that gets a pin prick and cries like a little baby. This is the same son that shrinks back when someone looks at him the wrong way; the one that wants his future wife and children to reside with me because he isn’t going anywhere. He has always been my sweet little home grown mama’s boy… until puberty began to inhabit his innocent little body. It happens to all of us and now he’s growing into a young man with more testosterone than I know what to do with and subsequently he wants to play football.
Now here we are with a year of football under our belt and my skinny, wild haired little boy is now a tough, proud, still skinny, testosterone driven young man who plays middle linebacker on his school’s football team. This year, after only a couple of weeks into summer practice, he had an injury to his growth plate and a small hairline fracture on one of the bones leading to his wrist. We were both extremely disappointed. I had become the mom that can’t sit down in the bleachers because I need to see my boy play. I travel up and down the sidelines with the team so that I don’t miss a thing and can cheer wildly when the team needs it. Cameron has grown to really love football and didn’t want to be out for the season. We hadn’t even played our first game yet. So, the first thing he did when we visited the orthopedist was ask if he could still play football. To my surprise, the doctor said yes. He told me that they would put a fiberglass cast on his arm and before playing football he would have to cover it with ample padding so as to not injure the other players. Really? I thought my boy was the one that was injured here. I tell you, times sure have changed since I was a kid. I remember when a cast looked like the sheetrock from my walls and could fall to pieces with the slightest touch of a hand. Deciding not to take the mama bear protective approach, I determined that I would let him settle for himself what he was going to do. A week later he was back in the game practicing with his teammates as if nothing had happened. The only sign of an injury was this attachment on his arm that looked like a mallet or a club from Fred Flintstones garage. After a couple of practices I realized that this injury had turned out to be really positive for him. I began to see a young man on the field that gives everything he has within him to his team and to the game. I saw my once timid, shy and feeble little boy as a young man who is strong, bold, confident and committed to what he had become a part of. My boy was not going to let an injury keep him down. He was going to be there for his team and he was going to give it 110%; and he did. At yesterday’s practice I watched him sack the quarterback twice, break through the line at least ten times and intercept the ball from the opposing side. I had never seen him play like that before. You see, although a little timid at first, when he came back to practice with a cast on his arm and ready to play, his team mates began to encourage him. When he made his first tackle in the cast, the team cheered him on and the coach began to push him for more. His confidence began to build and he now plays the game, in my opinion, even better than he did before. He pushed through the pain of the wound, played the game and stayed committed to his team while still injured and from what I can see he will be a better player because of it.
What about us in our own lives? Do we let the wounds take us out of the game or do we keep playing? In life there will always be wounds. Usually more emotional wounds than physical but I have found that the physical are much easier to recover from. The emotional go much deeper into the heart and take a great deal more than a cast to heal, but the same principle applies. My son’s injury has taught me that when we get wounded, and we certainly will, that we have a choice to make. Are we going to be out for a season or are we going to go to the physician and ask if we can still play? Will we allow God bind up our wounds as the orthopedist did Cameron’s, and allow us to heal while we are still playing? Will our response be “please let me still play LORD” or will we let the wound dictate the path of life for us? My son’s response to the injury has taught me that if we push through the pain of our wound, continue to play the game of life while still wounded, stay committed to our team, whoever they may be, and allow God to wrap our wounds with soft padding so as not to injure anyone else, then we will come out on the other side bold and confident because of who we are in Christ and what he has done for us. We will come out having grown in our relationship with the healer as well as with our team that we have stayed the course with and through our teams encouragement and with God, our coach, pushing us for more because he wants us to grow, then we too will be a better player on our team and in the game of life.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'm So Angry I Could Spit!

Ok, so I really need to get this off of my chest this morning. What do we do when we get so angry that we could spit? That’s the nice way we say it down here in the south. What I really want to say is that he is lucky that he is not here in the same state with me because I would love to do things to him that I can’t really allow to leave the private spaces of my thoughts because I could be arrested just for thinking it. But here’s the problem; Jesus knows I’m thinking it. Matthew 9:4 says “and Jesus knowing their thoughts said `Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? `” Oh LORD, this is so hard. Sometimes I feel as if my thoughts are truly out of my control.
As I sit and write this, I am thinking about some things that are important to me. My 13 year old son is wearing football cleats that are one and a half sizes too small because I can only afford shoes for school. I am trying to recover from a summer of paying $600 per month for childcare and that is going to take some time to get back on track. My budget is already tight without the extra childcare cost. Two of my three children need braces that I am not sure how to pay for because insurance considers it cosmetic, yet the dentist tells me they will both need surgery later on if we don’t correct their cross bites. Anyway, you get the point right? So, yesterday was my middle child Benjamin’s 9th birthday. His father who, mind you, has not paid child support in a couple of years and is about $20,000 behind to date, called to tell him happy birthday. This is wonderful! Children need to know their fathers love them, even if they are not around to show it. I once read an article by Don Miller who wrote something that has never left me. He grew up in a single parent home as well and knows what it is like not to have a father around. He said that 10% of his dad was better than none of his dad so I do what I can to keep my children in contact with their father, even if it is minimal; even if my job entails damage control afterward. So, Benjamin hangs up the phone super excited because his dad is sending him and his older brother android phones in the mail. What? Are you kidding me? I can’t get our children things that they NEED yet you are going to buy them things that they WANT. I take that back, they don’t even want them. My 13 year old is completely satisfied with the phone that he has. He probably uses it once per month. He has it for times when I am not home. My 9 year old, who is without a doubt my social child, wants a phone and would be completely satisfied with any phone. I have told him no for various reasons and he is content with my reasons. It certainly doesn’t mean that he stops asking, but the answer remains the same for now; until yesterday. Now Benjamin gets what he wants and I am so fuming mad that I could spit fire.
Now the old me, before Christ, would have reacted immediately to the intensifying emotions that I was suddenly experiencing. In fact, sometimes I still do; but not today. I desperately want to honor God in everything that I do, even when dealing with an ex husband. So I sit here and release my emotions through writing instead of vomiting all over my ex husband with them and really giving him a piece of my mind. This is one of the reasons that I have journals all over my home. So that I can sit with God and filter my emotions through him rather than letting my emotions control my actions. I tell you, my emotions when they are in control have made me look like a raging lunatic with Turrets Syndrome who needs to be committed to an asylum immediately. Seriously! The actually have had that much power over me in the past.
What about you? Do you let your emotions get the better of you? When you get angry does everyone around you know it? When you are sad, do you lay in bed all day so that you don’t have to deal with the world or do you call in to work because you seriously can’t function when you feel this way? When you are afraid, do you let that fear stop you from accomplishing a task that you need to accomplish? Do you let fear inhibit your kids from certain activities? Do you make decisions that stem from any of these emotions? I ask because I have done it all. I ask because I am certain that there are many more emotional struggles in others that I am not aware of. You see, I think we all struggle with our emotions and we all have that one prevalent emotion that seems to rear its ugly head and cause us to do or say things that make us later feel like we were abducted by aliens that really have issues and spewed them out all over those that we love. But the truth is that through the power of Christ and His Spirit that is alive in us, we can overcome this battle that we have with our emotions. We can get angry and not react. We can get sad and still make it through the day successfully. We can be afraid but still move forward through that fear and accomplish the task anyway.
Emotions are not as dreadful as they sound or sometimes make us feel. They are a component of who we are and who God designed us to be. Anger over an injustice can move us to do something about it in ways that wouldn’t be possible without that driving emotion. Fear, when it is proper, can stop us from doing something that we know will bring disastrous consequences. Sadness is necessary for grieving and is a normal emotion. John Chapter 11 says that Jesus was deeply moved and troubled in spirit when he saw Mary crying over her brother Lazarus’ death; and then Jesus wept. This fascinates me. Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead yet he still wept. He still felt sad. You see, God created emotions, but he did not create them to be the driving force of our lives. The driving force of our lives comes from the Holy Spirit which he gives us upon coming into relationship with him.
So, what do I do with this anger that I feel? I give up my desire to react and abandon my heart, once again, to the hands of our capable and loving God. I return to the LORD with all my heart so that he can deliver me(1 Samuel 7:3). I write, I pray, I read God’s word and I shut up. I don’t say a word to the person behind the incident that has made me angry until this mammoth emotion has subsided. Then I rationally figure out how to manage the situation if I am to do anything at all. I seek guidance from a trustworthy friend, pray some more and move forward into my day with the unspeakable joy that I described in my previous post. Does this mean I am no longer angry? No way. It just means that the anger is not going to decide for me that I am going to have a bad day or make a fool of myself. It means that this emotion is no longer about to explode like a cannon from my chest as it was an hour ago. It means that just as Jesus was still sad over Lazarus, I am still angry over this situation but I choose as Jesus did, to let the Holy Spirit lead. I wish I could do it every time anger wells up. It means that God is bigger than any emotion I can feel. After all, He created them so he can certainly help me deal with them accordingly.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Happiness! What exactly is it anyway?

Many of us, including myself, have spent a lifetime searching for happiness. We pursue it in things like affluence, titles, family, fame, sex, love, friends, and so much more yet somehow we still never seem to be satisfied. We always want more because we are just not as happy as we thought we would be once we have attained those things. I know that we as women tend to search for happiness in things like love and the ability of another to fulfill us. We also seek happiness by extending ourselves in whatever way possible if it might bring us external beauty. Unfortunately our idea about love is elusive to say the least. This vague concept has been formed through our experiences with others and how we have been treated and cared for by those who “love” us. We have come to believe that love is a physical and emotional response in our attraction to another. This is certainly a minute part of it but it encompasses so much more. At least from God’s point of view. Our belief about what beauty is has been shaped by Hollywood and the media who have told us nothing but lies. We have been told, directly and indirectly, that beauty is on the outside; what we look like. We have come to believe that if we are beautiful enough or have the kind of figure she has or weighed the same as she does, then, and only then will we be happy. Or perhaps if we find prince charming and he rescues us from our mediocre existence then, just maybe, we will be happy. You see, women want more than anything in the world to be affirmed and to be loved. It is a God given desire designed to lead us to His heart. Unfortunately through movies, television, magazines and the like we have come to believe that affirmation comes from physical beauty, and let’s face it, men have not been prone to treat us much different because of their own personal battles. In the same respect we have come to believe that love is a feeling that we feel, an emotion that is fleeting and can be here today and gone tomorrow. We believe that if we are no longer happy in our marriage then we must not be in love any longer or if we are no longer fulfilled then the love has disappeared. Unfortunately, this belief has led to the highest divorce rate in history.
Regardless of how we have sought happiness, I believe that we will all eventually, if we haven’t already, end in same place; still completely and utterly dissatisfied. Why is that? Why is it that we can gain everything that we have aspired to and worked so hard for yet still be thoroughly unhappy and discontent? Why is it that once we get to where we want to be we discover that it is not enough? Why do we always want more? I believe it is because we are mistaken in our beliefs about what actually fulfills us. We believe in chasing that which is tangible because, well, it’s tangible. Besides, it’s what everyone else does. We honestly have become a generation that doesn’t know any different. We chase the tangible because we are self centered. Why? Maybe because our parents made us the center of their world allowing us actions with no consequences believing that it was best. To no fault of their own, they were just heeding the advice of the “experts” of their time. Or maybe it’s because of the age we live in where we have anything and everything available to us with the click of a button. Or, we chase tangible things because consumerism has gone so wrong in our society noted by the idea that he who has the most money wins, so we pursue riches to make us happy. We chase tangible love because Hollywood has perverted sex and love so much so that we now believe that it doesn’t matter who it’s with as long as you are happy and your needs are being met. Are you not happy with your current husband? Just get yourself another one. Are you not happy with men? Go find a woman. The idea of the grass being greener on the other side has become so ingrained in us that we are in hot pursuit of the other side of the fence believing that this is where we will find happiness. I would guess that this could possibly be the explanation for over 50% of marriages ending in divorce leaving the same percentage of children growing up in single parent homes. The problem is that we get to the other side of the fence only to find that in order to have greener grass you must be willing to care for it. It must be watered, aerated, fertilized, mowed and genuinely cared for if it is going to be as green as you had hoped. If only we had known before we jumped the fence, maybe we would have cared for what was already in our own yard. Maybe we would have put more time into our own marriages and family rather than pursuing a better one or one that could possibly make us happier.
So where do we find happiness? I can say with 100% certainty that you will not ever find it in another person. Yet that’s what we do. We look for someone else to make us happy and when they no longer do so, we leave; self-centeredness at its best. Now let me say with utmost sincerity that this is not to condemn anyone for their current situation or where they have been. I promise you, I have been there too. This is to shed some light on the truth and inhibit us from making the same mistakes again and again and hopefully prevent our children from the same fate.
Happiness is defined in the dictionary as being characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment or joy. In order to be characterized by something, whatever it is, it has to become a part of who you are as a person. It will begin to define you and whatever it is that’s going on around you cannot change this characterization. Does this mean that if you are characterized by joy that you will never be sad? Absolutely not! It simply means that the sadness does not define who you are. It does not become a part of you or drive what you do, say, think or believe. Where joy lives, sadness cannot stay for long. We will without a doubt feel sadness in this world, but it cannot survive if we are characterized by joy.
So where does this joy come from? How do we seek it? How do we become characterized by it? We do so by abandoning our hearts to the will of God and believing that He has our best interest in mind. By believing that He knows better than we do the path that is right for us and the path will bring us the full joy that is available to us. But we can’t just believe it. We must behave like we believe it. In every circumstance we must pray and ask God what He thinks is best and be willing to obey when He answers. We must read His word and obey His commands, not necessarily with the idea that He is being prohibitive, but with the belief that it is for our protection coming from a father who loves us deeply. It really is that simple. Seek God first and you will inevitably find joy; even if joy is not what you are searching for. Nehemiah 8:10 says that the very source of our strength comes from the joy that is only available from the LORD. This joy does not come from our situation or circumstances. It doesn’t come from our emotional state and how we feel at the moment. Satan has deceived us into believing that when this particular trial is over or when we obtain a bigger home or get a promotion or our husband or child changes or when we lose 15 pounds, then our joy will be complete. But God says our joy is in Him and is available to us right now, right at this very moment. Not tomorrow, not when you are healed, not when your sorrow has passed but right now. I challenge you to take some time to seek him and draw near to him in worship and prayer. Dive in to His word and discover His plan for your life. Discover His commands that will guide and protect. Here is where you will become characterized by joy. Here is where you will find unrelenting strength. Here is where you will find the true meaning of happiness.

John 15:10-12
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Exposed. The Truth about Love and Sex.

LOVE; the word is so limited. The truth of love is so vast, so immeasurable, that we could spend an eternity searching for its meaning and still never comprehend genuine, authentic love the way God intended it. The type of love that God offers and wants for all of us in all of our relationships is far beyond what I had ever learned. So different than what the world had disclosed to me and nothing at all like what I had become acquainted with. You see, the world offers us so many false beliefs about love through movies, TV, books, magazines, and just about any other avenue you can think of. But even more so, we learn the fallacies of love through the hurt and pain that comes from living in a fallen world. Through that, we have become a generation that searches for fulfillment and satisfaction in anything that makes us feel good or fills the gap in our heart, even if only for a moment. We have become so driven by our own desires or even more, by our unhealed wounds that we seek to gain, by our own means, what we long for rather than waiting on God; rather than letting God fill that hole. Only He is able. When we do this, we might as well look at God and say “I don’t trust you”, because ultimately this is what we are doing. We are looking elsewhere for answers, guidance, healing and fulfillment rather than looking to God. I know that I am guilty. Just this week I sent an extremely emotional email to someone who has hurt me deeply. I was looking to the recipient of that email for answers, guidance, and healing, rather than taking it to God where it is safe. Within minutes I was wishing that I could retract.
So, I believed the fallacy. I still struggle with believing it because satan will try to use what has worked for him in the past. I understood that love could not be trusted, that love always leaves, always comes to an end. I believed that love was unkind, insensitive and cruel and I needed to do anything to protect myself. The promiscuity was simply my way of hanging on to what little bit of hope was left in my heart because the world told me that sex and love were the same. However let us now uncover the legitimate, unfathomable and powerful truth of love. Or what little I have come to know about it through God’s saving grace. I must admit, what I do know is very modest to say the least and I am confident that there is a great deal more to learn. I am still on the journey, but what I have learned over the last several years has opened my eyes, healed some of those wounds and transformed my life.
One of the lies that I believed and am sure that many young women believe is that sex and love are one in the same. This is about as far from the truth as you can get; yet women still believe that sex will maintain the relationship, will sustain his “love” for her. The only thing that intimacy outside the bounds of a marital relationship will do is bring a throbbing pain that goes deeper than you ever thought possible and has more consequences than you were ever able to imagine. Unfortunately, I know from experience. It took me a long time to understand that God’s instructions for sex are not prohibitive for those of us who are single, but guidelines designed to protect us; protect our mind, body, soul and our dignity, as well as protect the one we are with. They are guidelines that will thrust us into our God given roles as women that will honor Him as well as honor the one that will eventually become our spouse.
The problem with sex outside of marriage is that it is a scam. It resembles true intimacy but it is nothing of the like. It makes you believe that the intimacy within the relationship is more than what it really is. Extramarital sex uses the language of love and commitment, but knows nothing of either one. At our deepest level, we crave that true intimacy. That is, after all, what that hole in our heart is that we desperately seek to fill. It is the God given hole in our heart that He designed in each of us that would hopefully lead us to Him. But instead of choosing Him, we spend countless hours, days, or even years choosing others, choosing sex, seeking love in the world, or hiding from it because of the pain, rather than allowing Him to love us in the only way that will fill that opening in our hearts.
You see, I have discovered the hard way that sex is more than just physical stimulation, although the world says something much different. The world says to do what makes you feel good; it’s your body, do with it what you want; it’s not hurting anyone. What I have discovered is the extreme opposite. What I have finally grasped is that sex is the most intimate and ultimate of all human giving and vulnerability. Sex, does feel good, but hurts more deeply than you can ever imagine, when you partake in it outside of a committed marital union. Yes, it is your body but not to do with what you want. It is a body given as a gift from our creator meant to be a vessel through which He can serve His purposes that are always intended for your good. Through this one act of intimacy, we give ourselves so fully to one another that it only seems right that it take place in a union of total and permanent surrender. Between two people who have given themselves completely—body, mind, and spirit—to one another. I have come to understand, through personal experience as well as a Christian conviction, that to give someone your body, without giving the rest of you, your mind (a total, willful commitment) and spirit (your emotions and affections), is to separate the physical from the rest of the components of your being, which literally rips us to pieces at the depths of our soul. When God says that the two become one, He really means it. Extramarital sex divides us at our deepest level, giving out a part of us, without giving out the rest intended to go with it and we wonder why intimate relationships hurt so badly when they come to an end. It is because we truly do become one flesh and when the relationship comes to an end we are ripped apart, left with an open, gaping wound. I am not sure where any of us, much less myself, have gotten the idea that we can do whatever we want with one part of our being, our bodies, and believe that there are no consequences for the other parts of our being. I unfortunately have lived those consequences because I was not taught that sexual intimacy was a beautiful and remarkable act created by God himself for true intimacy with your spouse. In fact, I was taught and treated like quite the opposite as you have come to discover.
So, I have had to come to my own convictions and the reality of extramarital sex the hard way. My prayer is that you don’t have to do the same. I am speaking to single women here. We cannot keep going through relationships believing that sexual intimacy will keep it together. It takes so much more. We can’t keep believing that when he says that he will be there tomorrow that he will be and our way to ensure that is to show him how much we love him by giving all of ourselves to him. It doesn’t work. I promise. Believe me; I have made all the excuses in the world of why this guy is different. But the reality is that it is not about the guy at all. It is about who you are in Christ and the plan that he has for your life and your purity. I beg of you to keep the most sacred part of yourself in the hands of God. It is the only safe place for it to remain until your man of God comes and takes you into his arms in a permanent union the way God designed it. Anything other than that only brings despair.

Monday, July 5, 2010

How Did I Get Here Pt. 2...

It is undeniable that we simply don’t get to where we are without a history. It’s not rocket science really. We all have a history, and we have all been shaped by that history, despite our own awareness of it. There are a collection of events in our lives that have contributed to the way we think, feel, behave and respond. Hopefully as you read, you will find some correlation to your own life, and maybe you will also find some consolation in knowing that you are not alone. Even more so, I hope that I can share some lessons from my own life, in hopes that God can use them to help others soak up knowledge from my failures and triumphs to be used for His glory. I am not a psychologist, licensed therapist, social worker, pastor, or any of the like. I am simply a child of God, whose life has been transformed by his unstoppable power and amazing grace, willing to unlock my past and share my life in hopes that someone else can begin to grasp the power of an Almighty God.
So, now that you have become familiar with a small portion of my past (from Pt. 1 of How did I Get Here), the question stands: How have those events contributed to the way I think, feel, behave and respond? The answer to that question could lead us beyond infinity…
So I will begin with the solitary obsession of every woman; the one thing that we, as women, desire more than anything in this world. The single thing, that when not given to us or shown us properly as a young girl, will escort us into a vile and vicious soul searching that always, always ends in agony and despair unless that searching leads us to the heart of God. This one thing is LOVE. It is the essence of a woman through and through. The desire for love penetrates very deep in the heart of woman. Depending upon her past, she may give her heart freely without reservation and the recipient will be the most blessed man on earth, or she will construct walls around her wounded heart, forbidding love to cross the threshold that she has come to protect so diligently.
So how does the latter happen? Without any knowledge of their existence, the walls close in and the real woman inside of us, the woman we were meant to be, becomes desperately hidden behind that fortress. How do we get to a point in our lives where we believe the lies about ourselves, about our hearts? Believe the lie that we have to protect ourselves and wall in our hearts so that we don’t feel pain again. Or believe the lie that we have to obtain love and the way to obtain it is through sex and giving away the most sacred part of our being. We don’t do this consciously of course. In fact, most of us are not even aware that we believe such fallacy. Oh had I only known it was deceit. If only I had known that I have an enemy who has a vested interest in using every shred of my fragmented past to thrust me into a deep, bottomless pit, almost to the point of no return. Any enemy that was and is out to devour me (...your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. I Peter 5:8)
I have come to understand, in retrospect, that when we, as daughters, are not loved and affirmed by our father, something devastating happens inside of us. A part of us dies and we begin to search for that love and affirmation from wherever we can obtain it. As previously determined, my father was not capable of loving me faithfully because of a prison sentence that he endured during the most impressionable time of my life. My step father loved me during that same time, improperly and immorally. At fifteen, I began to have physical relationships that always ended in despair. I honestly and naively, approached premature sexual relationships with the belief that lasting love would come of it. What happened instead is that every relationship ended, usually pretty quickly, and I began to believe, more and more that men were not to be trusted. I already had the notion of that belief from my experiences with my father and step father. By the time I was 20, I began a relationship with a man that I came to love deeply; or as deeply as was capable for me. When I discovered him in bed with another woman, I was devastated and once again, I was proven right. Men were not to be trusted. I guess I had decided somewhere in the realm of my subconscious that I was never going to be vulnerable again. I’m not sure when it happened really. Probably long before that relationship. Instead, I became promiscuous; as friendly as one could be on the outside, but as hard as a rock on the inside. I had no indication, not a hint of evidence that clued me in to what was happening to me on the inside. In fact, I didn’t discover the truth until several years after my divorce where I found myself broken, wounded and completely ruined emotionally. You see, I ended up in this predicament, a single parent raising three boys on my own, not because of my husband, although he played his part. I ended up here because I was so desperate for love, the right kind of love that I said yes without any consideration to the strength or health of our relationship. I said yes because we already had a child together out of wedlock, another symptom of my emotional state, and I considered it the right thing to do. I said yes because the walls to my heart were so high, and my heart had become so hardened that I believed this was the best there was for someone like me. I said yes without ever considering what God may have planned for me. My perception of love was so distorted. I was incapable of making a reasonable decision. Of course this is all in hind sight. At the time of my divorce, it was his mistakes that got us there. I had done nothing wrong. I was getting divorced and it was his responsibility, not mine, yet another symptom of my emotional state of mind.
So, how did I get here? I got here because of a false belief about love and a wrong response within my heart. I got here because I have an enemy who convinced me to believe those fallacies until they became so deeply ingrained that they became a part of who I was. So much so that even years after my freedom from bondage, I still struggle with them. I know the truth, but the lies try desperately to sneak back in. Satan knows my weakness; woman’s weakness. The truth is that kind of love can only be found in one place. My heart, and yours, can only be protected by one person. When we build those walls around our heart, our heart becomes a place that welcomes no one, not even the one Prince that can rescue us and truly love us. You see, love is patient and kind not unwilling and cruel as I had learned. Love is not proud and does not boast, but humble and modest. I was anything but. It is not rude or self-seeking yet everyone I had come in close contact with was one or the other, if not both. Love is not easily angered. I was justifiably about as angry as any one person could be. Love does not delight in evil, as my step father had shown me; yet it rejoices in the truth, as I have now become acquainted with through the great love and mighty power of Christ Jesus. So it doesn’t end there; in the pit of despair. For me, it ends in a saving knowledge of the One who loves me unconditionally. It ends with the One who set me free from the lies. It ends with the One who has healed my heart and knows it more intimately than anyone ever will. It ends with Jesus. But it doesn’t end there. It has just begun…

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How did I get here...

The journey to single motherhood didn’t begin the day I was divorced. It didn’t begin the day I was married or the day I had my first child. Without question, the journey of my life was executed long before my existence. And your journey, undeniably, began there as well. God tells us “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5). This, my friend, is concrete evidence that the journey of our lives began generations before us. If you are a single parent contemplating how you got to this place and how to prevent your own children from enduring the same fate, then it is necessary to go back as far as you can remember and acknowledge the facts, embrace the truth of your reality, and transform the erroneous beliefs about yourself and others that you have acquired over time.
I am certain that there is a collection of history that has contributed to my journey that I will never be privy to. There are circumstances that have impacted my family that will never become even a fraction of my memory because they escaped to the grave with those who partook in them. However, I can wander back to the segments that I do recall; what I can remember and what God has revealed. Wander back to the fragmented pieces of my past that became important for me to acknowledge and embrace so that I could move forward and hopefully break the cycle of divorce for my own children. What I do know about the generations before me is inadequate to say the least. I wonder what more there is to discover. I guess it doesn’t matter really. If God needs to use it for my benefit or His, I trust that He will dredge it up. This is what I am confident of however; my family of origin is reasonably delightful and more typically disturbing, but they are just that; my family! They have all influenced, in some fashion, every member and have contributed to the shaping of our future. So now it is my turn. To take my story and use it how God wills, in the shaping of my little ones and the future that lies ahead for them. Wide open and waiting for their arrival.
So here it goes. The beginning of my story, or the middle I guess I should say. By the time I came along, it was already unfolding… My mom’s parents were divorced, as were my dad’s. Consequently, this adventure didn’t start well for any of us. I will deprive you of the countless details and expect that you will be grateful for it later (you have to trust me on this one). However, as I am certain you have already concluded, my parents likewise ended their marriage in divorce. Both my mom and my dad did the absolute best possible job that a parent could do. They simply had little to work with given the circumstances that had surrounded them and how their respective journeys began. My mom, subsequent to the divorce from my father, remarried a man who became abusive sexually. I am confident if she knew, she wouldn’t have chosen him. My dad, not knowing where my siblings and I were for an extended period of time, filled the empty space within him through drugs, alcohol and women. We saw him in the summer while school was out, but typically he devoted his time to a boat somewhere in the middle of the ocean transporting a shipment of drugs to the desired location. Yes my father was a smuggler. By the time I was in middle school my father began a prison sentence that would last until I graduated high school. I spent each Sunday afternoon of my adolescence visiting him, not knowing at the time how much I really longed for him. Yet he was right there in front of me. Unable to be a father. Unable to love his daughter the way she is supposed to be loved by a father. All other days I endured life at home, but not without a great deal of anxiety and fear. The walls to my heart were closing in and I was powerless to do anything about it. I wasn’t even aware that it was happening until much later when the walls became so impenetrable that I was dying inside.
I only tell you this, so that you know where I have come from. Not for you to merely hear my story or follow my journey, but hopefully and prayerfully for you to relate to some of the trials that were set before me. To give you hope for a triumph over your own past and to move forward into a victorious life for you and for your children. I tell you because they are the facts that became important for me to acknowledge. The truth of my reality that I had to face and decide if I was going to let it define me as it had done for so many years. It is what led to my mistaken beliefs that compelled me to make less than perfect decisions that got me to where I am today; a single parent, trying to raise three boys completely alone. But the absolute truth is that I stand here today hopeful about the future that awaits my children; certain that God can do immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine because He already has. I will confess that I am not perfect. Shocking, I know. But if I were, I would be sitting with Jesus instead of sitting here writing my story. I still struggle with what Joyce Meyer would call stinkin thinkin (erroneous beliefs for you literary types). And yes, it is still related to my past garbage. And yes, it still leads me to make decisions that I am sorry for later. However, that sort of thinking has drastically diminished over time and the decisions made from false beliefs aren’t of the life altering magnitude that they once were. I have found that the more I learn to retreat to the God who supports and sustains me, the less likely I am to shape the future for my children in a manner that impedes the opportunities that await them. So that’s what I do. I face my past, do the hard work in the present, and hope for the future.
Until next time….

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

So it's time to open my life...

I love to write but have never shared any of it publicly. I am not very eloquent with words, but I do have a story. A wild and crazy story. I have journals in every room of my home comprised of everything from prayers to letters to a day in my crazy life, but mostly just random thoughts and lessons learned along the way.
I have been sensing God leading me to share my story. I am not sure why or how, but thought this was a good start in my obedience to Him. My prayer is that it would be to use the story of my life (past, present and future) to help other moms realize that it doesn't take super woman to be a successful single parent. It doesn't take perfection. It doesn't take a whole lot of wisdom. It doesn't take material things or happy children. What it does take is a little bit of patience and a whole lot of God! The wisdom, happiness and contentment will follow. Perfection...well once you get that, I'm certain you'll be in Heaven and none of it will matter.
So, this is me, opening my life to you, in hopes that it will encourage you, strengthen you and bring you hope, knowing that if I can do it, anyone can do it. Being a single parent, brought on by divorce, was not God's plan for me and was not His plan for you either. But I do know this: That He can use your life and the life of your children for His purposes and He can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.
I can't wait to begin sharing my story with you! Allowing God to be glorified through my life, as imprudent and thoughtless as I have been at times, is my utmost desire. Some of it will be funny, some of it painful, some foolish and some wise, but it will all be honest, straight forward and straight from the genuine reflections of my life. Until tomorrow...

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