Monday, March 31, 2008

Seven Years...Ode To Idolatry

How did I love you?
There was no measuring
Far above this dirty world
Far above everything
In your tower over it
You were clean

So warm and insightful
Were you in my eyes
I was sure the rightful
Guardian of my life
Damn you betrayer
How you lied

But for seven years
You were loved
I laid golden orchid crowns around your feet
For seven years

I bowed down to touch the ground so wholly your devotee
You were

You were
All I could see

I've got my sight now
I see everything you hid
So don't you try to right now
All the wrong you did
I might forget you
But not forgive

But for seven years
You were loved
I laid golden orchid crowns around your feet
For seven years

I bowed down to touch the ground so wholly your devotee
For seven years

You were so revered
I made offerings of anything and everything I had

You were
You were
All I could see

Words By Natalie Merchant

Friday, March 28, 2008

Good-by Best Friend

Good-bye best friend. The years we had I will never forget. The endless conversations over hours and hours and miles and miles. I will not forget how much of my heart you held in your hands. Nor the wisdom that you poured into me and encouraged me to seek out myself. I will not forget the laughs and the tears that you took as your own that I lavished on you. I will never forget or take lightly the tears and pain of your own that you shared with me.
We walked each other thru the deaths of parents. The divorces of friends. My own divorce was stirred in there too. We watched the Refuge kids grow into adults and make their way in the world. From Florida to New York to Virginia. We shared hours of watching our own kids grow into adults or near adults. We are grandparents now. How many years we have tallied up. Seems like yesterday. But yet a life time ago.
I will never forget you my friend. And I will always call you friend. We didn’t always agree on music or movies or books. We didn’t always hold the same opinion on politics. Or share the same bends on theology. But one thing is sure and that is the fine red cord of Jesus that will always bind us together as sister and brother. We share the same Spirit. The same Father. I cannot say to you “I don’t need you…as we are all a part of one body”.
This relationship that we ended is but a small part of who we were and are. I truly wanted to be able to walk beside you. I wanted to share your life and be your wife. I wanted to be there with you and for you. I can’t explain what has happened to two friends such as us. How there could be such a vast divide between two believers. Two hearts redeemed by the same sacrifice. Is it that I am an ear or perhaps an elbow and you are a hand or toe? As surely as the sun will set tonite…I know that the love that I had for you, that romantic love between a man and a woman was real. As real as the next breath that fills my lungs. The void that is left is dark and empty indeed. But very real. Again, as real as the next breath that fills my lungs.
I want to take this time to bless you Dearest. May you always find the comfort that only He gives to completeness. May you always rest in His hand of providence. And may you always hold dear to the call that He has placed on you. Press on and never second guess that still small voice within. I encourage you to look back only to check what lies in your wake. What are you leaving behind? Let be filled with love, peace and grace. Good-bye best friend…I’ll always love you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Losing A Friend

One of the most important relationships in my life has died today. It has actually been a slow burn kind of death. This was the end of a 15+ year friendship. A relationship between myself and my boyfriend “M”. I first met “M” when we served in an underground ministry in St. Petersburg, FL. He was the associate pastor and I was a deaconess under him. “M” always made me think outside the box. He always challenged me and encouraged me to think for myself and not just take things at face value.
About a month ago. “M” asked me to marry him. I asked him ‘why’? He said because he loved my ability to speak my mind and not be afraid to say what I thought. Here is the thing that blows me away. The very things that we loved most about each other are the very things that destroyed our relationship.
“M” has become very legalistic lately after some sort of conversion experience he had in January. Reading Pagan Christianity was the catalyst to the legalism. The legalism has always been there I think. The book just brought it all to the surface and gave him a forum to vent and rant. I didn’t agree with everything he said or put out there and told him so. Therefore we were not walking in agreement. We were not equally yoked. I became his project to change. I accommodated him in things that I agreed with. But pushed back on the things that I didn’t think were on target.
It became a relationship of challenged views. Testing me. Hammering me on my opinions. Slandering my relationship with God. I almost walked away from my church and the ministry that I feel I am called to. I am co-dependant. I wanted to please him. I wanted him to be happy with me. I tried very hard to listen and try to work things out. I tried very hard to get us to a place where we just agreed to disagree. What happened is that I became confused. Depressed. I lost my hope and my vision for myself.
In retrospect I believe what I encountered was emotional abuse and spiritual abuse. These forms of abuse are so very covert. Emotional abuse isn’t necessarily words spoken in anger like verbal abuse is. Emotional abuse is a twisting of words and motives and actions and phrases that confuse and twist and eventually make the victim feel like they don’t know what to think or what to feel. Only that what is felt is not good. Spiritual abuse is something altogether different. It eats away at the measure of faith that we possess. It makes you doubt your relationship with God. It brought me into a constant state of wondering if I was really saved and if there was such a thing as grace and what that was to me. It made me walk in confusion and doubt.
Here are some of the comments that finally painted a picture for me that what I was experiencing was spiritual abuse:
1) I am double minded. Now those of you out there know the other part of that statement. “A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways”.
2) I am rebellious.
3) I was told that I was holding “M” back. That he felt like he had to keep looking back over his shoulder to see where I was. I wasn’t keeping up with him.
4) If I had a true conversion, I wouldn’t still be a smoker.
5) If someone really wants to be delivered…all they have to do is surrender and God will heal them of their addictions, hurt, pain, past. They don’t need help. Only Jesus.
6) He wasn’t sure if he could marry me because I am a divorced woman. I had to go thru very painful memories of each of my two marriages where abuse and adultery were present so that “M” could sort it out.
7) If I wasn’t doing things the way the Apostles set up…then I am doing things anti-biblical. Therefore anti-Christ. Therefore in sin.
8) I was told that I would have to tell my kids (all of whom are saved and love Jesus) that I was wrong for taking them to a mainstream church. Because that was un-biblical because it isn’t what the Apostles set up.
9) I was told that I should be happy that he spends so much time trying to teach me and set me straight.
10) Any woman who went to bible school and got a pastoring degree is in direct disobedience to God and in sin.
11) Women should be quiet in the church and not teach men. I was told that I would have to seek God about the head covering that is mentioned by Paul.
12) That is I did teach that I BETTER be careful what I say because innocents blood could end up being on my hands.
There are more that I could list. But it is really hard to write about smirks and snickers and looks of disbelief expressed in conversation. But one final thing that I will mention here is that there was a tremendous amount of anger and frustration during our conversations unless I conceded to his view.
I recently did some research on emotional abuse and came across this key quote on the subject.
It says simply that:
***“He isn’t abusive because he is angry. He is angry because he is abusive”***
I also got a gem from a certain Naked Pastor friend of mine. He said that this type of behavior is ‘rudeness cloaked in religion’. He further stated that this isn’t a theological issue at all. It is a human issue’ . It’s a heart issue.
In retrospect. I know that there were angry tones a lot of the time. There were frustration issues that I dismissed often. There were times before this where I didn’t agree and was confronted with the anger.
I will miss my friend. I know that I have been missing him for quite some time. Somewhere, somehow, we disengaged from the heart and that is the very thing that has to stay connected in order to have a successful relationship not only with each other, but with others. With God.
Jesus doesn’t want out heads. Our logic. Our words. Our deeds. Our opinions. Our views. He wants our hearts. Wide open and willing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Holding My Breath

Why is it that leaving a relationship is alot like being held under water?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Black Belt

I was told today that I have a black belt in
Hey if you're gonna be something...
You might as well give it all ya got!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Power Of One....

Free Tibet!!

One voice can make a difference...Let it begin with Me

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Shifting Directions A Bit

I have come to the conclusion that I am shifting directions. I am changing my voter registration card from Republican to Independant. I have found lately that I don't prescribe to the views of the Republican party anymore. I need the freedom to be able to pick and choose whom I vote for. Another thing I noticed....I pay more attention to WHO I want to vote for and the issues and the words being spoken when I am not obligated to just vote the way that I am registered to vote on my voters registration card.
Here's another cool thing about this change for me. I always take my kids with me when I vote. They are staunch Democratic minded young folks. It's distressing to me that they DON'T always think things thru regarding politics. They generally just grab the garbage that is dished out by the media and at school. But this is a great open door for communication when I do vote. Me and my kids talk about this stuff. We do not always agree and there are times when I have to clarify and establish what my opinion is. But it's great stuff and great dialog with my teens! And the most awesome thing about this dialog is that they are forced to think thru the issues and think for themselves.
I have been told lately that I am 'double minded' is just that way of thinking that caused me to re-evaluate my stance and which way I align myself. And change my party. I guess I am just rebellious enough to piss some people off. I love it when I think for myself!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Door #1 Or Door #2 Or Door ???

I had another snake dream. I only dream about snakes when I am under extreme pressure or stress. I have been under a lot of stress in my personal life lately. Stress over spiritual things that require decisions to be made. I am also a turtle as far as making decisions. I have to make sure that I am making the right choice.
Here is the dream:
It isn’t a color dream. It is brownish in tones. I am in the house trailor where I spent my teenage years. But I am my age now. My daughter Sarah is with me and apparently in my dream she is pregnant as she is now. I am catching little garter snakes that have somehow gotten into the house and putting them into a glass jar with a snap lid. I am not too freaked out about this other than the fact that the snakes are in my house. I put the last one in the jar and I catch the tip of his tail on the lid. I am not concerned about this other than to say ‘oh I’m sorry’ to the snake for causing him pain.
I make sure that the lid is snapped on tight so that these little snakes cannot get out. I set the jar on the counter intending to get them out of the house in a few minutes. As me and Sarah are walking on the floor it is vibrating the counter top. I notice that the jar is moving dangerously close to the edge of the counter and I catch it just before it goes off onto the floor. I move the jar back to the counter further back from the edge. Me and Sarah are walking very softly on the floor as to not vibrate the floor but the jar moves to the edge again.
This time the jar slips thru my hands and shatters on the floor releasing these snakes. We start throwing some snakes out the door but cannot get them all. We are not too concerned with danger because they are garter snakes…they are just creepy. We then throw the jar and what is left of the snakes out the door. Me and Sarah are so freaked by these snakes in the house that we start to run out of the house. Pregnant Sarah falls down the stairs and lands right in front of a big huge fat rattle snake. She back crawls slowly away and she does not get bitten.
We then run away from the fat rattle snake who is slowly trying to catch us. Here is the thing. In this dream I am putting the little snakes in the jar unaware that there is a rattle snake already in there and it is a potentially lethal situation the whole time.

Organic Vs Synthetic

Lately I’ve been investigating this whole “Emerging Church” thing going on. I have never really been interested in investigating new things as far as the church goes but this really interests me. The “Organic Church”.One of the things about the ‘emergent church’ that I find intriguing is that they don’t believe in the whole hierarchy doctrine that has pervaded the beloved church. I guess first what I needed to decide for myself was “what is the church”. I have been a believer for many years and I believe that the church isn’t composed of a pastor, associated pastors, youth pastors, a foundation made of concrete, a roof or walls. I believe that the body of Christ is the church. The EKKLESIA. The church. Made up of living, breathing, spirit sealed believers. Living stones. We are the church. I also believe that there is no other head of that church but Jesus Christ. This is what I believe. This is what I believe Christ had in mind. This is the way that it is supposed to be.So what has happened to shift the church from the Apostolic roots when the first ‘churches’ were established and what do I do about it now?I know that for me, I will not pound my ideas into others. I will not discourage them from attending a church building. I will not try to encourage them into my way of thinking. I will not tear down. This I have decided. It is solid in my heart. What is important to me is that Christ is lifted up. Bottom line. As a matter of fact, I like going to church. I love the corporate worship, I love the gathering of brothers and sisters, I love the fellowship before and after the service. There are NO paganistic practices going on in my heart when I attend weekly services.What I don’t like is the drama. I dislike the way people jockey for position with the pastors. I dislike self righteousness. I abhor those that are fake.We are the bride of Christ. The church. In all her glory, she is what He loves. She is what He gave Himself up for. She is what He is coming back for. In the end…it is the heartbeat of the Church that matters. That each beat of the heart cries out to Him who saves her.I will go on sifting thru the emergent church movement. I would love to find a body of believers that are “Doing Church” the apostolic way. But until then, I will go on thinking for myself, feeling His touch, and working out my walk to the best of my ability and in His grace.

The Gospel

“When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.”…… Richard Halverson
What do you think???

Willie & Vanda

Willy and Vanda:
I have lost 2 friends in the past 3 weeks. Death in any case is tragic. Death that seems to make so sense at all is beyond tragic.
Death is for old people. People with long term illnesses. I say this because in my mind, it is those circumstances that give us a chance to find some closure. Some logic. Some end to the suffering. Death has touched 2 people that I know recently. Neither one of those people were old or sick.
Willie was 36. Willie drank himself into a coffin. He was an alcoholic. Tragic. Even more tragic is what is left in the wake of his death. Confusion. Hurt. Anger. People blaming themselves that they didn’t step in to help. Willie had gotten sober for years. Gotten his life back on track. But somewhere between then and his death he decided to drowned himself in 14 bottles of vodka.
Now what is left is Willies children. His wife. His brothers and sisters. His mom. Tragic. Senseless. Loss.

Wanda was 52. The wife of one of the truly most wonderful men I have ever known in my life, Manny. Vanda died from a blood clot in her lungs. She died in her husbands arms while he was trying to save her with CPR. Vanda and Manny had one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ kinds of love. He is crushed. What I remember of Vanda was her voice. She was Portuguese. And her voice was always peppy and happy and peppered with that sexy Portuguese accent. When Manny and Vanda were together, their love for each other was evident in the way that they touched and the way that they smiled and spoke without words.
What is left behind of Vanda is her legacy. A testimony of love for her husband. Her love of education. Her zeal for her children. What people will say about Vanda is this: her house was messy and out of order….but her children will always remember that their mother always made time for them and gave without ceasing. The other thing that is left behind of Vanda is her husband, my friend, Manny. He will grieve her. Grieve her laughter, her warmth, her touch, her face. But he will continue to walk, knowing that the love that they had is the greatest part of the man that his is. He has actually spoken those words to me. “She is my once in a lifetime”……
I pray that this kind of love touches me.
I also pray that I keep my legacy, what is left behind, in the forefront of my heart. I write about this so much. This legacy.
I have come to realize, it isn’t in what we have or don’t have that defines us. It isn’t what we accomplish or don’t accomplish that defines us. It isn’t what we drive or where we live or what we wear or how much we spend on a pair of tennis shoes. It is what that is not seen that people remember.
It is the expressions of love. The sounds of the voice. The words and whispers spoken. The remnants of touches on the skin. The perfume or aftershave that lingers. The music that is shared. That special song. It is also for me the faith that I share with those around me. My children see me read my bible and they know that there is a God out there that orchestrates and directs. My kids hear the words of my prayers and see the time that I take to pray for them and see my faith in action. They see me struggle thur the barren times when there is only 47 cents in my wallet. They see me love hard and deep. They see and live and experience life with me when I walk in obedience when I love the orphans and the widows and the unloveable.
I hope that when I am called home to Jesus. That what is left in the wake is the love that I gave to them. And the love that I gave to others. I pray more than anything else that what they remember is not that I was a ‘good woman’ but that I was ‘a woman that wanted to please the heart of God’.
Rest in peace Willie. I hope you have found that peace that you sought in a bottle.
Rest in peace Vanda. I know you lived your life in love. It is reflected in those you left behind.

How Do You Measure Up?

Wow! Another year gone by. Another year to wade thru. More chances to get it right this time. On a musical tribute DVD called ‘Rent” to AIDS survivors, there is a song called ‘Seasons Of Love’ with the following lyrics:
525,600 minutes. 525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, is sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year in the life?
Interesting concept isn’t it? How do you measure a year? How do I measure 2007? I guess that the only way that I can measure 2007 is by my personal growth. Changes I made. Changes I didn’t make. I tend to be pretty ruthless with myself and overly critical with my progress but for the moment….I’ll be nice to me. Here’s what I managed to change.
1) I stopped living my life and organizing my life around a bottle of wine. I started to think that I was an alcoholic. But realize that I am not. I tend to binge drink when I am not working thru emotional issues that make me feel trapped.
2) I joined the leadership at my church’s program called Celebrate Recovery. This was a very big step for me after running from church for the past 7 years.
3) I made several amends to people that I harmed. This also was not easy. Especially making amends to myself.
4) I managed to find a financial counselor to help me sort thru the debris of my finances. YUK. I want to someday work for the government but need to clean up my financial stuff before they will give me any kind of clearances. Go figure.
5) I started my own business and own my own web site. I blog a lot. More progress for me.
6) I got pregnant (ok my daughter did) and I came to terms that I will be a grandma soon.
7) I lost my step mom to alcoholism at age 48. This was a terrible loss for me. She was the last piece I had of my dad besides a half brother who isn’t ready for a relationship with me.
As a result of the death of my step mom, I was able to connect with aunts and uncle of my father’s extended family. This gave me a sense of belonging.
This death also deepened a relationship with my beloved cousin Vic who I lost touch with for too many years. I have always loved and cherished her….but for some reason the relationship suffered thru the course of life and with the death of my step mom this relationship was resurrected.
I think all in all. Not a bad year. Death brought about life and restoration. This year I will focus on my relationships more closely. I will not pander hours away filled with the “what if’s” or the “could have’s” or the “I should’ves”. I will face the bad things. I will face situations and sort and sift them to see if they are worth keeping. I will toss what is not healthy. My will continue to live with my little turtle head out of my shell and my little turtle legs will keep walking forward. Slow but purposeful.
I will quit smoking this year.
I will get my passport.
I will be the best mom and grandma I can be.
I will make sure that my twins are licensed drivers.
I will continue on the road of personal recovery to uncover the person that I was created to be.
Then next year…..we’ll see how it all measures up.

Ghosts Of Christmas Past, Present, Future

I’ve written about our Thanksgiving tradition of naming the turkey. This time of year I’ve come face to face with my family’s Christmas traditions. Being a single mom is not easy this time of year. There are extra expenses and tons of extra money to be spent. It is that time of year that being on a budget sucks. Royally!
There is also very little time for me to just relax and enjoy. There are so many parties and events that take up my precious time. This starts right after Thanksgiving weekend. This year, I also added job interviews and step meetings. Leadership events for the church and dating. Time is elusive to me. Where do the hours go? And the older I get the less time I have it seems.
My kids have made buying presents a lot easier now that they are 17…they want the “gift cards”. Gift cards can be purchased at any store for any amount of money. The gift card tradition started about 3 yrs ago. I used to go to several different stores and get various kinds and amounts. Now I can shop with one easy trip to the bank and plop all that money down and just get a Visa check card for them at my bank! This is their favorite thing for Christmas. They make the annual “after Christmas” trip to the stores to pick out their own treasures. I don’t have to stand in line to return gifts that they don’t like or don’t fit or are the wrong color. This makes my life as a single mom so much easier in the shopping sense. But it also grieves my mommy heart to some degree.
I remember Christmas’s past where there were Transformers and trucks for my son. One year I purchased him the famous “ Red Ryder” the BB gun! And it was a hit until he decided to shoot his sister. Then it went under my bed for a month. There were Barbie’s and baby dolls and electronic devices of many kinds. DVD players, TV’s and Walkmans! Those days are gone. I no longer spend hours wrapping and tagging. My one simple pleasure now is the stocking stuffers. I get to splurge on the mini trinkets and candy that “Santa” still leaves. Christmas at the Hull house would not - could not happen without the stockings. The kids have even realized with years past that if they don’t buy the stocking stuffers for mom…she doesn’t get any. So they put much thought into this for me. It’s one of the cool things about raising my kids alone.
The Christmas CD’s go into the 5 disc changer on Thanksgiving day. How many times have I heard the phrase…”mom, if I have to hear one more Christmas song…I’m going to scream”?? Coming from my daughters mouth?? I crave those Christmas songs about chestnuts roasting and bells jingling and snow falling!! The music comes on when I walk thru the door after work and stops when I go to sleep. Between that time, we watch Ralphie and Scrooge and Arnold chasing after a super hero doll. We watch Frosty and the Grinch. Christmas is full of tradition after tradition of music and film. As the years go past, my kids have come to expect to see me rummaging thru the videos digging out the dusty tattered box of Plans, Trains, and Automobiles…this ushers in the holiday season for me.
I have a grandbaby coming in April. I haven’t really been able to grasp this event completely. It’s hard to “get it”!! BUT….guess what I bought my baby the other day??? I bought my baby it’s first movie. I bought “Charlotte’s Web” for my grand-baby’s unborn Christmas. This movie has the song “Ordinary Miracle”, by Sarah McLaughlin. This is the very song that I gave to my unborn grand-baby. Next year, I will be able to start my Santa shopping again! I will be able to buy the baby dolls and stuffed animals or trucks and legos again!!! Sweet victory. Santa lives!!!
I remember the Christmas when my twins were about 3 yrs old. This was an awesome Christmas. There were so many presents that me and the dad had to build a tunnel made out of one of those giant fabric covered slinky’s that the kids had to climb thru to get to the presents from one room to the other. They don’t remember it….but I do. I fully intend on spoiling my grand-baby in like fashion.
Here’s one final thing to leave you with. My friend Jennifer was involved in a head on collision a few months ago. The dr’s said she wouldn’t live. She is alive today! They said she would never walk again if she lived. She is learning to move today! The dr’s said she would never talk again. I spoke with her this morning by phone. And she giggled and laughed and told me how awesome God is!! The true meaning of Christmas isn’t the Santa. The videos. The music. The presents. The parties. It is the hope of the Christ child that took his first breath that first night years ago. It is about the hope that same Christ child brings thru the crucifixion and resurrection of the cross.
Merry Christmas to you all my friends…let hope live….

Morning Drive Time Epiphany

Recently I have gone thru a transformation regarding being a mother and a grandmother. It started Sunday when I went to a friend’s Christmas party. All of the friends that I had there are now grandmas. All of them still have their daughters and their grandbabies living at home with them. All of their daughters are single moms. This just seems really weird to me. These are not young girls. They are in their 20’s.
Since my own daughter (who is pregnant) and who will be a single mom announced to me that she was pregnant…. I felt trapped. I couldn’t get over the fact that she was not standing on her own two feet and was not even in a place where she could fully take care of herself and support herself let alone a baby. This scared the shit out of me because I have been thinking that this baby would now be my responsibility. Well, I got a reality check Sunday when I watched these young ladies and their babies and their moms. I came to realize that I am really excited about being a grandma and that is what I will be….a grandma. I will not be raising my grandbaby, my daughter will.
I have also had a huge reality check in my heart. You see for about the last 3 or 4 years I have been really pushing my daughter to think ahead and get out of my house. I was wanting my own life. I wanted to live my life. And I didn’t think that I could do that with my grown children still living at home. But here is the thing…….I had an epiphany this morning driving to work. Ready for this?? I’m already living my life. Where is it written that the “kids” have to be out of the house in order for me to “live my life”?? Where did that come from? I for one, love having my kids around. I grew up very lonely so I love having kids. I love the giggles, the yelling, the hugs, the help. I love it all. I am not in a hurry to have an empty nest.
Where did that train of thought come from? That we had to have the kids out of the house when they reached 18? Is that part of the American Dream? I know that it is not that way in Europe. It isn’t that way in China, Asia, Russia, South America, Africa. It just isn’t that way. The children live with the parents and they all pool the resources and support each other. The children are surrounded by adults that want and love them. My grandbaby will be surrounded by it’s Grammy (ME) and an Aunt and Uncle and a mommy, and tons of other people that will totally adore them. I have always believed that we are supposed to take care of our own. That extended family is the way God designed it. Even in the bible we are charged by God to take care of the widows and the elderly. What about the young girls? What about the grown children that are coming back home because of loss of jobs and broken marriages? Do we turn them away and not provide simple basic human kindness to our own because it is not what we see as normal? Because we want our own life? Am I missing something here?
I don’t have all the answers. Just a little more light at the end of my tunnel. I will not turn my daughter out or make her feel unwanted anymore. I do want her. I do want my grand baby. And I don’t want any man in my life that cannot embrace that. That is for sure. The legacy we give our kids is what we show them. What kind of mom would I be if I continued to push my babies out the door? This doesn’t change the fact that I will PUSH hard for them to develop their own lives apart from me. They all need careers and their own identities. But my kids will always know that my door will be open. They will be wanted. They will be received by me with my eyes and my arms wide open.

Plug In Sister

What is it about ministry that just makes me want to run the other way? I want to pack it in. Pack it up. Turn tail and bolt in the opposite direction at FULL SPEED!! I am serving in ministry now. Can you tell?
I gotta say here that all of my past experiences in ministry haven’t been all good or all bad. There are definitely highlights and moments that define my walk down the paths of serving. However, there was a time for about 10 yrs that I didn’t serve anywhere. I didn’t want to serve. I was depleted of all desire no matter what that involved stuffing or stifling. I didn’t want to. Most of this absence of serving has to do with me going from the “mainstream” church to the “underground, alternative” church and then trying to fit back into the realm of “mainstream” church again. It is very troubling and difficult to do.
I served as a children’s Sunday school teacher for about 3 years at a very small Penticostal Church. I had on any given Sunday just as many children in my class as we had adults in service. This was where I stepped into my giftings as a teacher. I had kids from 3 yrs old to 12 yrs old in my class. I loved this. I still think about my favorite little girl…”Anna”. I wonder if she still loves Jesus. That was about….19 yrs ago. She would be about 25 yrs old today. Who do you think made the greatest impact..…me or her?? This was by far one of the most awesome experiences in my walk with Christ. Teaching. I still love it. This is where I grew the most…at the hands of teaching my kids.
Then I went from my tiny little safe church to a mega church. I was a nursery director and was in charge of scheduling moms to serve one Sunday a month for the nursery. As it turned out, I was in the nursery EVERY Sunday morning because mom’s with kids don’t want to serve in the nursery watching other women’s kids!! They wanted to drop the kids off and sit in the church to be fed. So week after week I sacrificed my time in the sanctuary, “laying down my life”, so that the other mom’s were taken care of. I really learned to hate this area of service.
I served on a Spiritual Warfare team. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. Chasing demons and praying over people. Un-balanced stuff. Especially when the people that we dealt with had REAL problems like Bi-Polar disease, schizophrenia, and abusive situations at home. As I grew in my walk with Christ, I realized that there was not a demon behind every door way. Believers cannot be demon possessed. Sometimes, it is just life and the consequences of our actions or someone else’s that is causing the problem. I saw many innocent people come thru the doors of that ministry looking for a quick fix. They didn’t get it. What they got was a pipe dream and broken hope. That ministry was not good for me either.
Then there was LIFE ministries. This is the place that God used to restore me. Closed, compressed, process group therapy. Gifted counselor and pastor. Women holding each others heads up and healing broken hearts. This was also the ministry that God used to completely break what was left of my heart so that I could be totally reliant on Him. I severed in the ministry for about 5 yrs as the Lead Facilitator. I trained, taught, and supported my staff of leaders. I also walked beside that gifted counselor and pastor and gleaned so much wisdom from her. I still grieve the loss of involvement at this ultra safe place. I stopped working in this ministry around 1996. I still call Ms. Gayle at least 3 X’s a year. She is still the closest thing to Jesus that I have to reach out to. And she never disappoints me.
There was the underground church, “The Refuge”. Inner city street kids. The undesirables of society. The punks. Skinheads. Alternatives. Gay men and women. Prostitutes. Drug users. Throw away kids that no one else wanted or cared about. This is where I met Adam Stillman. Adam had a bright blue mohalk and the biggest love for Jesus that I had ever seen. At first glance, he scared the hell out of me! But once I got past his looks….Stillman challenged me more than any other kid I met. He pushed me to challenge the belief system I was discipled in. He challenged my mind and all the ways that were taught to me about the church. All the pastors at this place called “The Refuge” challenged me. My boyfriend Marcus was my Associate Pastor there….he caused me to really look at religion as a whole. He pushed me to think for myself. He showed me that there was always a different perspective than the one that I was seeing. He also modeled what it meant to be a follower of Christ. That perfection wasn’t his job….it was HIS job! This remains one of the greatest experiences of my life. I still keep in touch with some of the “Fuge Kids” who are actually now “adults” with their own kids….many of them still walk the path of Christ and try to follow Him.
I took several years off of serving in ministry. I went thru my divorce. I relocated. I went back to my sinful ways for a time. I established my family. I practiced at getting them stable for years. Still am. I went back into the church after running from it and have discovered that I am called to serve. There are times like NOW that I don’t want to. I don’t want to expose myself to the “mainstream” religiosity that is so prevalent. I find myself emotionally running the other way and all the while my feet are still there…trying the best that I can to serve in the capacity that Christ has called me to….and yet cling to my individuality and personhood that took me years and years of therapy and life to uncover.
There are those in the church that cannot tolerate those of us Believers that think for ourselves. And they especially don’t like it when we speak our mind. I think that this is because it challenges the Church Leaders and the Pastors to think and re-think to support their “cause”. I don’t walk on eggshells in ministry anymore. It is self defeating and dangerous. There are some Believers out there that will follow the sheep in front of them to the point of going over a cliff!! They follow the leader and seek approval so desperately that they lose who they were “created to be”. This grieves the heart of God. I will risk being called “rebellious” and “un-teachable”. I will ruffle feathers. I hope that I too cause others to “think outside the box” of what it means to be a follower of Christ. I hope that the example that I give challenges others….especially my children….to think for themselves.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Every year at Thanksgiving there are several traditions that me and my kids do. Some of these traditions have traveled down thru the years and they look forward to them even today. Even though they are adults now.
One such tradition is to name the turkey. We have had several names that begin with the letter “T” as is fitting for a turkey. Such as “Tom” or “Tim”. I think we have had a “Matilda” in there to. BUT this year….I named the turkey without consulting my kids. I had a score to settle this year. And in this covert way…I am getting the job done. I was a little concerned about the feedback and how the kids would react to me naming the bird without them. But my mind was eased when they agreed with my naming of our turkey 100%.
This year t he “Turkey Of The Year” award goes to Marc! Yes this is the name of the father of the baby in which my daughter is carrying. Marc is the biggest, fattest, headless turkey I have ever known.
My daughter Sarah just laughed at the naming of the bird. She thought it an appropriate name. My daughter Bekkah actually threatened the bird with a death beyond death. She will enjoy every bite of that bird we carve into on Thanksgiving. My son, just nodded and smiled his approval.
Good job Mom!!
Who wins your “Turkey Of The Year Award”??
Another tradition that will be continued this year is that everyone at the dinner table gives a reason as to why they are thankful. This can be pretty sobering at times. I mean do YOU go about your days thinking of really how blessed you are? I try to. When the good times turn to bad…I seek out reasons to get “grateful”. If I don’t I’m in trouble emotionally, spiritually, mentally. I lose sight of what I have and focus on what it is that I don’t have. Not a good thing for me to do.
This year my list consists of these things to be grateful for:
1) My relationship with Jesus Christ. This encompasses so much for me. As a believer, this gives me access to Salvation. Grace. Mercy. Freedom. Peace. Healing. Clarity. My Past, Present, and Future is all wrapped up in this reason to be grateful. Without Jesus in my life…I would not want to go on living.
2) My kids. The very same kids that make me crazy with worry. The very same kids that every night they ask for prayer. My kids. And soon to be added to this gaggle will be my grand baby. The lives that God has entrusted to me to care for….care for me more than I will ever really be able to comprehend. I am their greatest fan…and they are mine. Hands down!!
3) My family. This includes those that are blood and those who are not. I have re-established a relationship with my beloved cousin Vickie. I have a mom and stepdad that adore me. Who are proud of the woman I am. I have sisters and brothers by adoption thru the blood of Christ. Sisters and brothers who lift me up, love me, and encourage. I also have my best friend Carol. She is more of a sister than a friend. Although friendship is more better because I choose to keep her close to me out of love and nothing more or nothing less.
All in all, I’d say that year after year….Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving…..God has been so very good to me. I have so much to be THANKFUL for. Thank you Father for the blessings in my life. Thank you for your hand of providence that takes care of me and mine. You are so truly awesome.

Words And Windex

I have been told that I am wordy. WORDY!! At first this simple little word really bothered me. I took it as a criticism. I felt criticized. To have someone imply that I talk too much. Or use too many words to express myself. Which is what the word “wordy” means to me. That I talk too much. Bla bla bla. I struggled with this criticism for about 3 weeks before I actually processed it out. I stifled what I had to say and didn’t say much at all. I internalized it to mean that somehow I was being a pest. I blogged. And I blogged a lot. A lot of words. And while I did this I realized that my words say much. I write conversation in my head. I write logic. I write my reasons. I string my FEELINGS out in my words. I have many, many feelings. IF I don’t write out those feelings what happens is that they take over my brain. They take over the VERY little logic that I have been blessed with and totally paint a beautiful dysfunctional hue over my reality.The bible says to “take every thought captive”….2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.Has anybody tried this lately. It is not an easy task. What this verse says is “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” First in order to do this I must first come to believe and accept and know what the knowledge of God is. The knowledge of God to me is that I have been bought and paid for. That I am created in His image. That I am not junk. That my identity is hidden in Christ. That I am His beloved. I am worth it to Him. I have to come to the knowledge that I am His. His bride. I have to continue to walk in that. I have to choose to walk in that every day. I have to choose to believe and to listen to that still small voice that says that I am loved. That to me is the knowledge of God.And then I have to take the thought captive. This is how my thoughts happen. The data is taken in by my five senses. Sight, Taste, Touch, Sound, Smell. They are processed by the brain and sent to my body. That creates a feeling. Then the feeling is transmitted back to my brain and produces a thought. Somewhere between the pit of my stomach and my brain would be that ideal place to put up a roadblock. Before the feeling wrecks havoc on my brain and creates a reaction. As an Adult Child of a Dysfunctional Home I have many many tapes stored up in this brain of mine. Those feelings that travel back to my brain will pull the tape of the past. The memory of the feeling that is sent back and recalls it. The feelings stroke up the residue of the my past. Thus my reaction. This is where choice surfaces. This is a hard step to take. That whole process from intake to feeling to thought to reaction just takes a millisecond. To slow that whole process down takes a lot of practice. One that I am out of step with. I am catching up and brushing off my skills, but that takes time. I have spent an awful lot of my time reacting lately.Listening to the old tapes. The same old songs playing in my head.I grew up in an environment where my feelings were not valued. I grew up feeling unimportant. I grew up feeling like I was an inconvenience. I grew up feeling that I was not worthy of attention. That I was just not good enough. Not acceptable. So as an adult, I carry those feelings around inside of me. Even if there is a small amount of residue left…the feelings can be devastating. I have gone thru years of therapy. Years of counseling. Years of group to try to clean out the vessel that I am. I have willfully gone thru that process to be emptied out of the things that polluted me as a child and continue to pollute me as an adult and as a follower of Christ. There is still residue. I don’t like it….but it is there. Just like trying to look out a window that has been cleaned with generic window cleaner. There is residue. And streaks. And cloudy places that don’t allow a clear view. There is no clarity.I am praying earnestly that God helps me to wipe those windows clean and clear. I pray that he helps me to not have a distorted view of myself. My friends. My ministry. My value. My worth to Him. It is my residue. Now it is my time to allow Him to transform me from the inside out again. This isn’t always nice and easy. Sometimes it hurts. I hurts to feel and process and change the reaction. It hurts to be honest with others. But that honesty is where the pattern is broken. I have to confront the residue. If I need help with it…I ask. Total healing is a life long process. I am always telling others that I am a “work in progress”. NO LIE THERE!! So here we go ….it’s time to grow again…..Does anyone have any Windex??

Snakes And Cinnomon Donuts

Ever since I can remember, even as a very small child, in times of severe emotional distress I would dream about snakes. I have done a lot of work on this in therapy and thru prayer and I have come to realize that the snake thing is in direct relation to my incest. To a child, a penis looks an awful lot like a snake. So therefore, when I am scared or stressed the snakes come back. They made an appearance in my dreams recently again. I have been under a lot of inner turmoil.
I have been wrestling with my two base feelings. These feelings make up the deepest heart of who I am. I have lived with them for years and until recently didn’t have a name for them. I just reacted to them appropriately and they were present. The feelings are FEAR and DESPAIR. Despair occurs when my fear gets the best of me. I lose all hope. I lose sight of my faith. I can no longer grasp that God will take care of me. All is lost in that tornado of emotion. It spins me about and twirls me around in such a way that my vision is blurred, my reality is hazy, and my feet no longer know where the ground is. There is no concept of safety that I can get a hold of. I toss out the grappling hook with the hope that it will catch onto something to stop me but nothing is there to anchor to. So I continue to spin. Completely out of emotional control.
My life is full of uncertainty right now. My job is in jeopardy. I work in the construction industry. There are VERY few houses being built right now. If the trend continues and business stays the same, I will be laid off soon. That in itself is a big problem. I am a single mom. No husbands salary is there to back me up. This is terrifying to me. I have no savings. I am not prepared. So my fear has returned and is snearing away at the little peace I try to hold on to.
In my dream I am sitting in a chair. I look down at my left leg and there it is. There is a snake slithering up my leg. This is the first time in my dreams of snakes that a snake has ever approached me. Usually the snakes are just laying about. Un-menacing. I walk thur valley’s where there are snakes laying on rocks or under a bridge but they have never approached me. Never touched me. So THIS dream is totally different. I am not afraid of the snake. It is crawling up my leg as if to get in my lap. Then I look to the floor to my right and beside my chair is another one slithering slowly by. I reach down with my hand and grab the snake behind the head…thinking “hold the head so it can’t bite”…I have to get this snake out of the house. THIS is also a first for me…I have NEVER tried to reach for one of these creatures in my dreams. I grasp the snake and I stand up to take the snake to the door, the snake that has been trying to climb up my left leg, snake #1, just falls away and disappears. I take snake #2 to the door and toss him out. I then wake myself up when my arm jerks. It is then that I realize that in my right hand is my Jack The Dog’s back foot.
Silly as this sounds…I know that this dream is a turning point for me. I have nailed that fear and despair to the cross. It is still there wanting to drag me back into the emotional tornado of irrational thinking and reacting. But I must take hold of it. It will not disappear by itself. I have to grab the fear (snake #2) and stand. When this is done despair (snake #1) falls away. All this means only one thing. That it is up to me if I choose to walk on and believe or remain in the chair terrified to move. I have been choosing to walk daily. I can’t stop now. Too much is at stake. I will try to secure a job is this one ends. Until then, I will walk on know that life is messy. Even with faith.
On a lighter note: I found a box of my favorite donuts at the store. Glazed cake donuts with these little cinnamon pellet things on top….some kind of good.

Fear & Despair

Fear & Despair
These two feelings go deep and wide for me.
I recently went to a conference in CA for a program that my church sponsors called Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a Christ centered 12 step program that helps people deal with their hurts, habits, and hang ups. I am a leader in this program.
Every year in August, Saddlebach Church in CA hosts this 3 day summit. This year, I got the chance to go. I really struggled with going on this trip. First, there was a n issue wtih Jack The Dog’s shots. In order for me to put him in a kennel he needed all his shot reords. I lost them all when I moved. Then I go to get a copy from the vet only to find out he has closed due to a stroke. No forwarding phone number or contact information for past patients was left. So my only option was to get Jack more shots and pay for them again or find another way for someone to dog sit him. Jack is a very social dog. He is actually more like a kid. SO his safety and happiness was very important to me.
Then, my assistant was fired. My bosses wife was on another vactation and took off to Portugal. That left only me to answer the phones and do business for my boss. I almost didn’t go. I said I wasn’t going. My boss said that it would be better if I didn’t go. I told the whole Celebrate Recovery team to have a good time without me. THEN the day before the flight and team was to leave, the plan…God’s plan, came together. My son decided that he would rather earn the money to take care of the dog than to hang with a friend. Then my boss tells me to go. That he can handle the company.
Now, knowing my boss, I’m sure that he had the best of intentions. He didn’t want me to lose out on the money for the could not be refunded or changed. But he cannot handle the phones and the customers and the vendors with the grace and eloquence like I can. I’m very very good at what I do. SO, I assured him that I would do my job in CA and take care of things like I always do. He was relieved to say the least. BUT here is the issue with that…CA is Pacific Standard Time. They are 3 hours behind the East Coast that my company and crews work!! This small detail didn’t really become REAL to me until I had to set my alarm for 3:30 AM to answer my phone. Which I did. You see, when I leave the office all the calls forward to my cell phone. So I was taking all the calls and the Nextel radio calls as well. Busy busy girl.
My roommates were so completely tolerant of me. I was blessed. My team was so supportive of me. I was so blessed. They didn’t even bat an eye when that phone rang in the middle of a conversation and I had to answer it and take the call. They didn’t even flinch when I had to leave my seminars to take the calls. My TEAM is the bomb-diggity!!
OK. So I am there in CA and the first day sucked!! It really sucked. I wanted my house. My office. My coffee. And I am a smoker. I was the only one that smoked. Which means that I had to be VERY far away from everyone while I smoked. I was miserable to say the least. I compained to GOD. I grumbled to Him. I stamped my feel emotionally. I was just being obstinate with my God’s plan for me. I wasn’t happy. Jesus just listened. He didn’t say much. Just listened, while ME, His daughter grumbled that I was in CA and not enjoying myself. He waited while I questioned and grumbled to him that I shouldn’t have come….
By the second day, I had gotten into the swing of things with the differnt classes that I took. I connected strongly with my team mate Scott. I really enjoyed being with the other people there. This is something else altogether different for me.. I don’t like church people. But I really loved being with these people. They’re awesome. All of them. Anyway, I was in the rythem of not sleeping. Walking and sweating accross campus to catch classes. I was cool with it all. I stopped complaining and just did what I was there to do. I was there for a reason. My phones had gotten into a pattern that they would stop ringing just when I needed them to so that I could absorb all the data and the teaching I was getting. That was a GOD thing. Worship was awesome. Being surrounded by thousands of people that love God and that were there to learn and encourage each other is amazing. It was amazing to me once I opened my eyes.
The third and final day arrived and I was exhausted to say the least. I was getting about 4 hrs sleep per night due to the work I was trying to keep up with in different time zones. Going full throttle all day. Dealing with my job and the crews. Learning new things. I was fried. In a CRISPY sort of way. I was done. So I had no resistance left in me. I was pliable. This I believe is what God was waiting for. I went into the closing cermony and entered into worship. It was just awesome. Kay Warren spoke and touched my heart in the deepest of ways. It had been years since I had listened to someone speak and be moved to tears. Then we were asked “What is holding you back”?? I just sat there and prayed…”God, my whole life is bare before you. My guts are exposed. My heart is open. There is nothing that I am holding back from you. Show me what I need to see”…and then HE whispered…”FEAR”. I quickly replied that “I’m not afraid of anyone”…and He just waited….again. So knowing that my God knows my heart better than I do…I wrote “FEAR” on the card that the staff had passed out to us. We were told to write down what was revealed to us. I did. Then my heart was further dismantled and I wrote down the word “DESPAIR”. These are the two biggest and strongest feeling in my life. I have struggled thru years and years with despair. No hope. Hoplessness. No trust. I could never trust anyone.
We were asked to come forward and nail those cards to crosses that had been set up in the huge sanctuary. I literaly jumped up. I wanted to get rid of that stuff on my card and in my heart. When it was my turn, I nailed them to the “FOOT” of the cross. There was a tremendous release that happened on that day for me. Mabye it was giving that feeling of hopelssness a name and giving it to Jesus. Mabe it was a final breaking of my heart that occurred. Whatever it was, has changed me.. I now know what the feelings are that keep trying to choke me back. I call them by name and remind them that they are placed at the foot of the cross. I don’t ahave too carry them anymore or be controlled by them. I don’t have to carry them anymore.
I walked away from CA in a pink fluffy GOD cloud. I remained that way for about 10 days. Then life kicked me in the teeth. My daughter Sarah told me she was pregnant. She is single. She has broken off the relationship with the baby’s father due to the fact that he has been trying to force her to abort. She made a choice as is her right gauranteed by the laws of the US to keep her baby. I gotta tell you that I instantly fell right back into step with Fear & Despair. I was then gently reminded by my Jesus that they were nailed at the foot of His cross.
I know that God will get us thru this. There is no such thing as a mistake baby. There is HOPE. I cannot feel hopelessness the way it used to touch me. I feel scared. But not paralyzed. I feel fear. But I am not frozen inside. Do you think God planned it this way???

Tent Cities, Summer Camp & Bad Bosses

Tent Cities, Summer Camp, and Bad Bosses
My weekend started off altogether badly. I didn’t get my paycheck. Now this has happened a few times over the course of 5 years. On this particular Friday there was no one here to sign payroll because the bosses were busy spending company money on vacation. My boss told me to call my land lord and tell him to wait another day for his rent. Can you imagine the audacity of that simple comment?? Talk about out of touch with reality!! I mean, do I have company credit cards to pay for my groceries? Do I have a company credit card to pay for the gas that I put in my car? Do I own a company that pays my mortgage? NO. My bosses are, to put it mildly…spoiled. They have never had to “want” for anything. They take and take and take and then expect everyone else to live the same way that they do. OFF OTHERS!! They have no sense of loyalty to others…they just expect loyalty to be given and owed to them. I should not complain. But I have a right. I have started to look for another job. But at the salary that I make it will be hard to replace my job. So I am feeling stuck. Deal with it and be able to support my kids without too much hassle…or find another job and deal with the constant financial issues. Which is the lesser of the two evils??? I am more than just a little bitter here….can you tell?
This weekend was extremely hot for Virginia. We do get heat waves and one has come in for us this week. It is STINKING hot!! Yesterday topped out at 98 F. Did I mention that it was HOT?? This means that I sit in my house and lament over the $$ that is being pumped thru my house via the central air conditioning unit, all for the sake of comfort. Well, Sunday, I was asked by the Associate Pastor to help him with the Tent City outreach. I do a lot of work with a program in our church called Celebrate Recovery. CR is a Christ centered 12 Step program. So, I guess he saw that as a segway to the homeless people in our area. So, me and my 16 yr old daughter Rebekkah, and the Pastor went to the Tent Cities that these homeless people have set up along the Rappahannock River close to where I live. We took apples, drink pouches, crackers and fruit snacks with us in the hopes of offering these to the people living along the river in tents. Upon arrival to our designated meeting place my daughter was surprised to find out that there were little mini pods of tent people that lived so close to million dollar prime real estate river front homes.
Bekkah is a different kind of kid. She was almost taken from my when she was 5 months old. She almost died. And thru that whole ordeal…God had His hand on her. He gave me a word and a vision for her WAY back then. More on that some other time…But, I gotta tell you, I saw my daughter go trampsing thru the woods with a box of food in search of the homeless that needed her. She wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t intimidated. She wasn’t shy. It was pretty cool to watch. She stepped right up and shook hands with these people and smiled at them warmly. It was crazy cool for me to watch. Bekkah is my missionary (that’s part of the vision). She has an amazing capacity to love others and accept them where THEY are - not where society says they should be. She is the type of “child” that will be riding on the backs of elephants in the bush to deliver food or medicine to the natives in need. Or she will be the one to stand in the face of adversity for the victims who have no rights. She would be the type of woman to smuggle bibles into a communist country. She isn’t afraid of anything when it comes to reaching out and showing God’s love.
OF COURSE at home she is quite the different person. Self centered. Selfish. Isn’t it weird how God brings out the coolest character in a person when HE needs it? But doesn’t it say in in Luke 4:24..No prophet is accepted in his hometown” there has to be a reason as to why. We can speculate. But I have life with Bekkah….I already know.
In these tent cities I found one common thing. These people may not be happy to be where they are at. But they have resigned to be there. They are victims…some self imposed. They are alcoholics and drug users that have made very poor choices and continue to do so. Some just have given up hope for a better way. They cannot see beyond the situation. And in any case, where does my responsibility as a follower of Christ lay? Jesus said, “the poor will be with you always”. He didn’t promise to wipe out poverty when He died on the cross. He didn’t promise that we would have it easy either. Cuz it sure ain’t!! So, as Jesus fed the multitudes, He walked amongst them and he loved them. He loved them right where THEY were. I must also do as He did. He is the ultimate example here. Not what society tells me I should do. Jesus challenges me to “LOVE the UN-lovely” and “whatever you do for the least of these…you do it for me”…How’s that for a challenge?? Not so easily done for me. But, I laid down my life and my comfort and my Sunday afternoon with my kids chillin at home to sweat my butt off climbing up and down river banks and thru armpit high grass to bring basic comfort to those who don’t have it. When our work for the afternoon was over, I went to my nice air-conditioned home. I drank a tall glass of iced tea. I took a hot shower. I ate a hot-fresh meal. I spent time with my children. I wasn’t getting bit all up by bugs. I was safe. Locked inside my home. My kids were safe. I had more than basic comfort.
The other thing that I came away with yesterday was with what had happened with my paycheck. I realized that I am just a few weeks without a paycheck away from being homeless. I have no savings. I have no nest egg. I have no spouses income for a cushion. I am all I have and the job that I cling to. Scary stuff right there!! Sobering if you think about it. Does that deepen my compassion towards those living in tents. NO. But it makes the compassion that I do feel a little sharper. A little truer.
Last but not least there is SUMMER CAMP. I packed my kids on a huge bus this morning off to North Carolina for a week of rock climbing, lake swimming, and hiking. This was an awesome gift that came my way. The church decided to sponsor my kids and two of their friends for this really cool cutting edge Christian Camp for teens. The cost for the week was $400 per kid. As you can see it was a great gift. To put it mildly there was tons and tons of mayhem at my house this morning starting at 4am. Missing money, can we stop at WaWa?, folding clothes, packing the car, don’t let the dog out!, where’s my camera??, did you put deodorant on??, you better not be farting on the way to the church, “SHOTGUN”….MAYHEM. And all the kids slept at my house. Lovely. Don’t get me wrong..I adore my kids and most of other peoples kids too. BUT 4am is not the time to lose $30 and kirk over it. So they are gone now. Just me and Jack The Dog and Sarah when she isn’t with her boyfriend. What do I do now? I want to go play hookie. I want to run away for the day to the beach. Something to think about. What will become of me when my kids are not kids and they don’t need me?? In the words of my heroine Scarlett O’Hara….”whatever will I do…where will I go”?…..Not exactly sure, but for certain it will be cheaper.


I have often called myself a turtle. Yep a turtle. I love turtles. They are really awesome creatures. Strong. Sturdy. Cute. Slow. Did I say slow? They are determined but SLOW.
The reason that I liken myself to a turtle is because I make my decisions very slowly. It is a process for me. I’m not talking about what to make for dinner kind of stuff. I am talking about major life changing decisions. In my past blogs I have written about my relationship with my boyfriend. It has been a really huge- lengthy- painful- journey.
I have come to the realization that I may not know what God wants me to do right now. But I have been given enough clarity to come to the realization of what God does not want for me. This is what I have come to realize: Turtle Speed Of Course….
1. God doesn’t want me to be used or abused. Of course I would never be in a relationship where I am openly abused. This entails a lot of covert stuff. The covert stuff is harder to figure out when you are in the middle of the storm. Covert stuff like needs, desires, wants, being pushed aside. Not being acknowledged. Being verbally challenged and antagonized for my opinions and thoughts and feelings. Never being validated.
2. God doesn’t want me to be confused. Confused about who I am. Confused about my future. Confused about my parenting.
3. God doesn’t want me to feel bad about me or how I perceive myself. I have lost over 200 lbs I am not going to have the body of a model or even a normal size 12 body! And to have the expectation and open criticism of me by another is a form of abuse. It lowers my self esteem. It damages my perception of my self worth. It cheapens the victory and takes away any celebration of the challenge and the struggle that I have walked thru to just be healthy.
4. God doesn’t want me to be out of balance. Now to a mom…a single mom….working FT and starting my own business. Twin 16 yr olds. Grown daughter still at home. Dog and cat. Serving in ministry. Balance is my goal. I strive for this daily and take a weekly inventory of where I am at. And what I need to tweak to make my life run smoother. But the UN balance comes from my tendency to care take. To make someone else’s life better while my own needs go unmet. To let my needs go unacknowledged and justify the reason that I am given as to why the other person in my life is neglecting me. When my vocabulary has phrases like…”I should” or “I better” then I am out of balance.
Now I have known all of these things for some time now. But like the turtle that I am most like…I tend to live inside my shell at times. Well, I have challenged myself this year to live my life to the fullest. I cannot do that with my head tucked’s hard to see where I’m going that way. I makes hearing a lot more difficult. And I tend to not be as involved in my own life as I should. When my head is tucked in: My life tends to run me….Not me run my life.
I made a trip to Virginia Beach over Memorial Day Weekend. Now, usually when I make my trek to the beach I am seeking answers. I am seeking resolution to problems. I want to hear God speak to me. I always have my heart open and my hands outstretched to God waiting for him to reveal the great mysteries of my life to me. I am seeking direction. My turtle head is completely out of my shell and I am ready for the answers God has. I have always come home disappointed. I have always come home wanting. I have always come home empty. For example, on my previous trip to the beach last Labor Day I made my way to the shore. Hot cup of tea in my travel mug, fuzzy blanket, heart open…”ok Tara this is the last trip to the shore this trip…this has to be it…find your peace”. So I focus on the beach and find my spot to wait on the sand. And while I am walking to that spot, I step on a Skate egg sack and sprayed this horrible foul black oil slick of Skate eggs up my legs and all over my blanket! As I stood there on the beach gagging from the stench emitted and sprayed all over me my brain was screaming…..”NO!! I have to find the peace that I am seeking”!!! So out of complete desperation and frustration standing there stinking and gagging myself I raise my fist to the ocean and to the sky and to my God and tell them all that I will never come back to the beach for answers again!!!! “The next time I come here I will know”…..
And the most amazing thing has happened this year. On this trek to the beach. I came to realize while sitting on that sand at sunset that I had lived up to that Oath spoken out of despair. I realized that I have had my head out of my shell for quite some time now. Taking in life and working it out as I go. There are no great mysteries to figure out. I am working them out every day. I am looking. I am listening. I am praying. And I am being guided by a gentle God in such a way that I am not even aware that He has worked it out for me.
I may still be a turtle. After all God doesn’t make mistakes. But He manages to work around us and the barriers we live in and behind. Even if they are self imposed. What a great God that I serve.

Bekkah Gets Baptized

Today my daughter Bekkah got water baptized. She gave her heart to Jesus on New Years Eve. I wondered if she really REALLY surrendered her life for a time. But! God has done some amazing things in her life in just a short time. For those of you who knew, Bekkah was taking 3 different medications for phychological stuff. Serequil, Welbutrin, and Topamax. On the night that Bekkah surreneded her life, a miracle occured that she kept secret. She was healed and she stopped taking her meds. Her and Jesus did this between the two of them. I didn’t find out for almost a month after her salvation. I was in the shower and God says to me….”You should ask Bekkah if she is taking her medicine”. Of course, I knew right then and there by the tone that the Lord spoke to me that she wasn’t….and He knew why. It was His way of giving me a CLUE that He was the Daddy and He was taking care of His DAUGHTER. I asked Bekkah (of course) about the meds and she went on to fess up that she hadn’t taken them since she got “saved”. I asked her calmly (while freaking out inside) if she has been feeling ok and she said with total resolve…”YES” I feel fine. Then I asked her if she thought that she had been healed. She again said with unwavering faith…”YES”. I can’t even beging to tell you how this has impacted me. I had been afraid of what would happen if I lost my job and lost my health insurance. And then with her having this desire to hit the missions field how she would ever be able to maintaing the meds in the middle of nowhere. Well, God seemed to already have a plan. And it didn’t have ANYTHING to do with ME. Isn’t He amazing. So anyway, I am sitting there tonight watching my baby profess her faith and be baptized. And I was so overcome with the rightousness of Him who saves. I could only weep for joy and peace knowing the my baby was in HIS hands and now under HIS wings. He was GOD. And He was HER God. Thank you Father for keeping the deepest fears of a mom in your hands and in you heart. I have nothing but praise for you.

Rip Cord

I am sitting at my desk at work. Tied around my right wrist is a plain white string. I got this string from an usher as I walked out of church on Sunday morning. The message this week was centered around a conversation between between Moses and God. In short God is speaking to Moses telling him that he has been chosen to lead the Isrealites out of Egypt. Moses is to go to Pharoh and inform Pharoh of this. Moses is also told to go to his people and tell them that God has chosed him for this task as well. Moses simply reacts with shock and disbelief. He tells God, “I don’t speak well” and then finally, “can’t you send someone else?” I have heard this story several times over the years and every time I do I hear something different. THIS time, I recieved a confirmation. God validated me right there on the spot. Let me tell you how….
Most of you know that I have been living in sin with my boyfriend. And you probally know that my boyfriend is a pastor. Oi’!! I have been struggling with this relationship for the past 6-10 months. There is so much to sort out and fix. The relationship has been in trouble. Clearly put. I was in this relationship and given the nature of the relationship, I couldn’t pray for God to fix it or to show me how. Stupid. It would’ve been like “daddy help me fix this toy I shouldn’t have so that I can go play with it and hurt myself” or “Father help me fix this sinful relationship so that I can continue in it”. Stupid. SO I was stuck in it. Not knowing how to change it other than to break it off. Not knowing if I had the courage to do that. This is a relationship that I have believed for years was meant to be. I have loved this man for over a decade even tho we were just best friends. When the friendship blossomed into a relationship I really lost track of what was what spiriutally. So did he. We have both been off kilter for a while both separately and together. We both have personal issues to work thru and both of us have not been reaching toward heaven for the answers. Anyway….Back to the rip cord….
I have been pulled and pushed by the Holy Spirit to get back to church. Get back on track. I believe that God uses circumstances to reach us when we just aren’t listening. He used my cancer scare to get my attention as I wrote before. So, I have been in church every Sunday. I have been praying. I have been reading the Word. I have been seeking his will. So then God has been dealing with me over the relationship with my boyfriend. It was getting to the point where I didn’t even want to go home at night after work. I just couldn’t handle it. I was starting to really hate my life because I knew I had to let the relationship go. I kept trying to hold on. But this week I was finally able to get honest with my boyfriend and myself and my children. I told my boyfriend that he had to leave the house. I didn’t want to live like I was his wife. I was not ready. We were not ready. It was one of the hardest things I can remember doing. Praying for years for this relationship only to have it broken since I got it. After I told him all that stuff he said he didn’t want to have a relationship with me at all. THAT broke my heart. But still I was able to surrender that to my daddy. I cried alot. I knew or prayed that I was doing the right thing. I was scared. So scared. I didn’t want to hurt him either. Remember this guy has been my friend for years and years. So I let it go. I started to make plans. I found a house to move into to. I was given a clean start. My kids were all so supportive. I was also honest with them. I am of the school of thought that we are an example. Whether we want to be or not, we are. So I trusted my God and told my kids that I had to do this becasue it was wrong to live like we were married. They all agreed with me. I was able to use this as a testimony of obedience. Of sacrifice…Here is where the rip cord comes in…..
I was standing in the doorway of the plane waiting to jump. Not knowing where I would land. Not knowing if my parachute would open. Not knowing IF it would open. Hoping God would catch me. Scared that I would just hit the ground and *splat*.
Heres what happened…..
Sunday morning I tied that string around my wrist. I came back home from church and my boyfriend wants to talk to me. He says he will go back to church. He will move out and we will build a relationship the right way. He will get on track with God. He is doing this out of love for me. I am happy with that but not satisfied. He still needs to do it out of love for his Savior and out of obedience. But this is a good first step. God honored me pulling my rip cord! He didn’t let me fall. He not only held me on the way down to the ground but he is allowing me to enjoy the journery. I am amazed at his ability to still blow me away with his faithfulness. He floated me down to the ground and his is directing my path.
So here is what I have to say about all this….He is faithful. Time and again He has shown me this. He has never let me down. He never asks me for anything that he doesn’t give me the strength to do. What an amazing God…..That he allows us to step out of that plane and he lets us pull our own rip cord. Then he leads us down the rest of the way. Wow!!

Is She Kidding Me??


Last week I saw something that enraged me. Well, at first if enraged me. Then it just made me shake my head in disbelief. It seems that there is a woman in Georgia that is trying to get all of the Harry Potter books taken out of the Library because she says that it has “evil” references to Wicca and indoctrinates children into that religion. Now, if you stop there and just consider her point of view. You might buy it. But, I can’t stop there.

I gotta say here that if you are going to start to censure literature and start banning certain books, you better get a big trash can because there is a lot out there worth taking off the shelves. But for arguments sake let’s take this Wicca thing. I have to assume that this woman is a Christian. I hate working on assumptions, but this one is pretty clear. So this woman is a Christian, so then she has to know that she is accountable for instructing her children. “Train up a child in the way they should go and they will not depart” shouldn’t that be the bottom line here. We as parents need to be the driving force in our children’s ability to decide. We are put in charge of ensuring that they are taught the gospel, we are supposed to be teaching them the truth. From birth until the age of accountability and beyond by being an example. We as parents have to believe and have faith that our children will think for themselves and make decisions based on the standards that we have instilled in them. We cannot control the world around them to make it a safe holy place for them to live. That is unrealistic.

A friend of mine for arguments sake made the statement, “But don’t you think that having your kids exposed to these things desensitize them to things that we consider sinful?” Well, he had me there. Of course it does desensitize them. So does the evening news! I mean have you watched the evening news lately? **YIKES** It is a scary world that we live in. How about the public schools? We as parents cannot keep our children isolated. How will they be relevant to a dying world?

If we start to censure because some literature has references to magic, or witches or the dark side, or other religions, where does it stop? And why should it stop at literature? What about the music on the radio? Shows on TV? Movies? Where do we as believers draw the line? I know that each of us has our own convictions. But should we try to cut and paste them onto everything that we see around us? I don’t think so. Otherwise where would that leave us? If we remove Harry Potter (which by the way my kids have read and they own the movies) because of witchcraft, then we should also remove other things such as certain works of Shakespeare, poetry, books such as the Bible or the Qur’an because of it’s references to Islam or Christianity. We should also remove certain things done by Disney, like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Bed Knobs and Broom Sticks. We as Christians cannot be a part of censorship in America. We fought for freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom to pursue what we feel is the right. The truth begins at home and the accountability again lies on the shoulders of the parents to instruct and teach. The results lie in the promise that “they will not depart”. And that is one promise that I lean heavily upon.

Beautiful Endings

Lancaster. Just the mere name of the area in Pennsylvania conjures up beautiful scenes in my mind and memory. I think of the beautiful mountains and the wonderful people we call the Amish. I grew up about 2 hours North of Lancaster. I didn’t experience a whole lot of who they were or thier culture, but what I did know is that they lived a life of simplicity and serenity.
So many times in life we step back and wonder what kind of God we serve who will allow such evil to befall his people. Evil. I have wondered and I have questioned my God about the evil that has touched my life. I have stood with my fists raised and cursed my God. I have yelled and screamed and blamed him for the evil that touched me. I have sat in the seat of bitterness and resentment and stroked the pain and hurt that was a result of that evil. I built walls around myself to protect the wound and keep me safe from further pain. I walked in the valley of suffering by choice.
We ask, how can any good come from the innocent murder of children? There is no easy answer to that. But, if you step back and look into this situation with spiritual eyes and a seeking heart there are answers…
We have all read that the Amish community extended the invitation to the widow of the murderer of thier children to the funeral. Which is a very holy thing to the Amish. It is a celebration (as is should be) of the passing of this life and body to the ultimate joy. The presence of our Father. They extend this mercy to the widow and go the family in love, out of their own brokeness to love and reach out to those who society would shun. The family of the murderer. This is obedience. Faith in action.
What a testimony not of the Amish lifestyle, but of love and of openness. I don’t know about you, but I have been there and done that whole forgivness stuff. It is one of the hardest things that I as a Christian have ever had to do. I remember knowing in my heart that I had to forgive (so my Father in heaven would forgive me). I also remember feeling nothing in my heart but rage, hate, and blackness. This is not an easy thing to do. It was by blind faith and obedience that I spoke with my lips, “God, I know this is what you want. I know I have to forgive. I don’t feel it in my heart. But I confess this with my lips as an act of my will. As an act of obedience. Make this forgivness real in my heart.” And you know the funny thing is. It happened. I can’t tell you when. But it did. It wasn’t an immediate thing. It wasn’t an overnight thing. But I kept at it. I made the choice to forgive. I took that step towards God, I made the choice. God met me there at the cross road. I don’t sit in bitterness anymore. I am not surrounded by that wall of blame and pain. God honored the cry of my heart.
A friend told me about an interview on CNN yesterday with some spokesman for the Amish church. The commentator asked the spokesman if forgiveness is important. Here is what the spokesman said, “Forgiveness is a choice”. How beautiful is that? Forgiveness is a choice. It requires action on our part. He also went on to explain that it is also a “Faith” thing. He said that is is alot easier to hate and hold on to resentment, than it is to forgive. I can’t think of anything more cool than to have millions of people hear such a statement on TV. How many people do you think heard that?? I mean REALLY heard that? How nany lives will be changed by that inteview?
The loss of innocent lives is a tragedy. To lose a child is like walking thru hell. To bury your own baby is a thought that I can’t imagine. But as a believer, I have to believe that there is a divine law in place. That there is purpose higher than my mortal mind can comprehend. That in God’s hands and unending mercy and love there are always beautiful endings even in suffering.

It's What Matters To Begin With

I got my test results Friday. I do not have stomach cancer and all traces of the baterial infection are gone!! Thank you Father for allowing me to lean on you. For your great sustainable hands. I gotta tell y’all that this has been a sobering experience for me. When we are faced with our own mortality most of what we hold or consider important fades in comparison to the current state of our dependance on a higher power and the physical pain of our body. And of course the very next thing we think about is what we would leave behind. Where was my “treasure”. For me it was my kids. My kids are my everything. I am truly-madly-deeply-totally in love with my kids. I remember when they were babies…how I would pray “Lord, watch over them….don’t let anything happen to me, there is no one to take care of them”. Now, my kids are not small anymore. Sarah is an adult and the twins will be 16 in December. What my thoughts were and the heaviness of my heart was in the realization that perhaps I have not prepared them to live without me. The questions in my heart were….”Did I give them all that I could to prepare them for life on thier own??” Did I show them…Did I teach them enough about Jesus? Did I show them the path? Did I lead by example? The strange thing about death is this….When we as parents leave this world to go on to be with our Father and the world he has prepared for us….We leave behind the greatest thing that we are. We leave behind our legacy. Our children. I have wondered what kind of residue will be left behind by the mistakes and the sins of omission I have left my kids. I pray that they will glean much wisdom and insight into life by the mistakes that I have made. Lead by example. Does that mean that I have to be perfect. No. It means that no matter what I am doing, where I am in my walk, or the present state of my heart. I am leading by example. Good, Bad, or Anywhere In Between!! Thank God for grace. Of course, now that I have been given a chance to look at things in retrospect….I have an even greater responsibility to myself and my children. I have only a few short years left before they are truly out of my grasp. I have to make sure that the time I have left to be thier example….I make it a good one. Of course they will see me cry. They will see me celebrate who they are and what they are. They will hear me yell about the bad choices they make and they will hear me pray for them each night. They will see my face full of love for them. They will see tears of pride that I cry for them. And they will know my heart. They will know that when I am gone that they were loved, wanted and adored. And they will know that I was a woman who truly tried to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. I am always saying “DARE TO THINK FOR YOURSELF”. And my kids do. I don’t always like what they think but I am blessed that they share those thoughts with me. What greater gift for a mom than to know that her kids will share stuff with her that may make her say “”HUH?”" This gives me an opportunity to further share who I am and who He is. My final thought is this: I pray for more. Not more things, more money, more friends, more belongings, more riches. I pray for more time. More memories. More laughter. More moments that capture what this life is about. More time spent with the ones who define who I am on this Earth. Because in the end, that is all that matters to begin with.

Paid For Propaganda

OK. I have had enough!! Since when is it OK for an artist to charge an addmission for a ticket and then slam thier political views down your throat??! This is what upsets me:
I pay $30 for a stupid piece of grass (packaged and sold as a “lawn seat”) 1/2 mile away from the stage to see Roger Waters (Pink Floyd). Now I love Pink Floyd. Always have. But what I don’t like is that this guy likes to make statements about MY president and my country’s current leadership. I DO NOT agree with his views or opinions about anything. And this guy isn’t even from MY country!! SO I pay the stupid $30 and then have to endure his stupid views when the last thing that I am wanting to do is think about political stuff when I am sipping wine and enjoying music that I paid money to hear!!
No one would dispute the talent of this man. No one could dispute the contribution to music that he has made along with his other band members. But where do these musicians, actors, and the like draw the line? I have read outragous remarks by Brad Pitt. Rosie O’Donnell. The Dixie Chicks. At least these people are from MY country. Let them use thier freedom of speech rights. But why do they have to do it in a realm of entertainment? Why do they feel that they need to blah blah this and blah blah that? And some of the things that they say are rediculous! Can’t these people think for themselves? I find it sad that they can only criticize the current situation and want to break down our country by throwing ill thought out opinions that very rarely have any substance to them.
I mean this: Do these “women” who like to throw thier words around realize what kind of lives women in Iraq and Iran had before we entered thier country to help them? I’d like to say a few words here myself. How about forced clitoris removal? How about denial of education? Denied access to health care? How about spousal abuse? Sexual abuse? Honor killings? How about years and years under a black covering? Who do these people with big mouths think that they are? Do our soldiers not go into war knowing full well that they may die? Since when did joining the military become a safe career? Is is not an honor to die for freedom whether that be for OURS as in the USA or ensuring the freedom for someone who is oppressed? The last time I checked…Freedom has never been Free. It always comes with a price. Look at the price that was paid for my salvation.
I will get off my soap box for now. I will continue to dare to think for myself. And I hope you will to.