Reblog from a friend

I’m reblogging a recent post of a friend of mine. I’m sure many have seen the potential implications for Christian colleges if they refuse to admit gays. I have to wonder–if there were a college strictly for gays and a Christian couple wanted to enroll there, would they be allowed to?
The answer is obviously, NO.
Another question: Why would a Christian couple want to enroll in a college where no one believed the same thing they did?
The answer: They wouldn’t.
That’s an important difference. It seems that those who are in favor of gay marriage purposely seek out Christians to do some type of service knowing they must refuse based on religious convictions and then they can cry “Unfair” and sue. Tolerance is NOT a two way street in this country. If you agree with me then great–you are being very tolerant of me. If you disagree with me, then you are being very intolerant and not Christian–yet, aren’t those who claim this just as intolerant for not tolerating my views?

Gosh. Debating with liberals is like trying to have a logical argument with a 3 year old.

Anyway, you can find my friend’s entry here:

http://thetrumpetblows.blogspot.com/2015/05/religious-colleges-may-lose-tax-exempt.html

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Gender Absurdity

This morning I read a blog post from a pastor friend. I will include the link to it at the bottom of my post so you may go and read it if you desire. He reiterated what I have been saying all along about homosexuality. One particular paragraph caught my attention. It reads:

“The Bible warns us that when we flaunt sin, we are in danger of the wrath of God.  If you read through the book of Leviticus, sexual sins were among those most abhorrent to God – and the penalty was always death.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed – why? because of their sexual perversity, including homosexuality.  The tribe of Benjamin was nearly destroyed – why? because of their sexual perversity, including homosexuality.  Perhaps it is time that we begin to teach our young boys what it means to be a man and to teach our young girls what it means to be a woman.  We have become a culture that has emasculated men causing men to be confused as to what it means to be a man.  It is time we stop and rediscover what the Bible says about the roles of men and women.  God created them to complement each other, not to conquer one another, or to become confused with each other.  It is time to wake up before it is too late.”

This wasn’t the first time this same thought has gone through my head. Boys are no longer taught to be men–for the most part. Of course there are exceptions. Thank God for those families who still hold to traditional values and truths. But, as more and more are buying into the lie that gender does not really exist and that if you were born a male but feel more like a female, well…that is okay. You just decide whatever feels right to you. Seems to me there is a lot of self-centeredness there. Well, I feel that I deserve to have more money than my neighbor so it is okay if I go and steal to make sure that happens. Or, I feel that love shouldn’t be regulated to an act between humans only. I am attracted to my neighbor’s horse, so since I feel that way, I should be able to gratify my feelings. Again, people, and increasingly churches, are completely blinded by Satan. Even as they proclaim themselves to be Christians, they are carrying out the deeds of Satan…if not themselves participating in these evil acts then by encouraging those who do by saying that it is okay in the eyes of God.

It is NOT okay in the eyes of God.

What happened to teaching children the correct differences between males and females? When did it become okay for a dad to allow his son to act more like a female than a male? What happened to moms teaching their daughters how to be a wife, a mom, a help mate to their future husbands? This isn’t about women in the work force, although I believe the slide down the slippery immorality slope had its start, at least somewhat, when women left the home and surrendered the raising of their children to day cares and government run centers. This is about moms and dads, regardless of whether they are at home full time or not, being responsible to teach their sons and daughters how to be men and women of moral character.

I used to listen to country music on a regular basis. (I don’t anymore for various reasons, the top one being that some of the lyrics had a detrimental affect on my thought life) One song I used to like was by Brad Paisley. The song was titled, I’m Still a Guy. In it he highlighted the differences between how he views something as opposed to his female companion. For example, he sang,

“When you see a deer you see Bambi, and I see antlers up on a wall.
When you see a lake you see picnics and I see a large mouth up under that log.”

Men and women were created differently–physically and emotionally. Somewhere along the way, it became taboo to teach young boys what it means to be a man. Somewhere along the way it became acceptable to tell young boys that it’s okay to not like girls and instead to like other guys, and, it’s even okay to “marry” those other guys…and I use the quotations marks because regardless of what man says, the definition of marriage in GOD’S eyes is one MAN and one WOMAN.

This country is destined for judgment for many reasons. Homosexuality and its encouragement and acceptance is just one of them. As my friend says in his post, it is time to wake up–arise from your slumber and open up your eyes to the immorality that is rampant all around us. And once your eyes are open to it, stand against it and stand for Christ!

(If you want to read Max’s post, it can be found here:
http://maxmarlys.blogspot.com/2015/05/gender-absurdity.html

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Identity Crisis

Four years ago, I started to experience a huge identity crisis.

You see, four years ago, child #3 was two weeks away from graduating high school. Child #1 had graduated three years prior. Child #2 had graduated two years prior and had left for college three and a half hours across the state. Child #3 was enrolled to start college in a different state altogether–a seven hours’ drive in good conditions. Child #4 was two years away from ending her formal schooling years. Suddenly, what I thought would take forever to get here was upon me.

And I didn’t like it.

I had always thought of myself as a mom. At the soccer field, the most often asked question was, “Which one is yours?” A standard reply would be, “I am __________’s mom.” while pointing a finger to the moving bodies on the field. The same held true at the softball field, at the basketball court, in the karate studio, at the band concert, at the theatre productions…everywhere I seemed to go, I was known as someone’s mom. That included at church! Even after spending several years with the same parents, the conversation on the sidelines would always be focused around our offspring. Of course, I was a wife as well. And a daughter. And a friend too. But those things always took a back seat to those four wonderful little people who kind of looked like me and really looked like each other! But suddenly, I was two years away from no longer attending concerts and soccer games and theatre productions and awards nights and all the other activities that earned me the title of chauffeur. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. Yes, I was still a mom, but my role would be changing. The biggest problem, though, was I had no idea what my new role would even look like.

Back in those busy days, a trip to the grocery store, often with four kids in tow since we homeschooled, elicited comments such as, “No school today?” or “Oh, you have the day off!” In the beginning of my homeschooling journey I was not quite sure how to answer those comments and questions. Eventually we all decided on a simple answer. The truth. “No, we do not have the day off. We are homeschooled.” That brought many an eye roll as well as many curious looks. I suppose it probably did strike someone as strange that I would subject myself to the torture blessing of keeping four kids, ranging in age from eight to thirteen, home every day when the public school system is free. I’m sure some doubted my ability to teach these kids. I won’t even go there or my point for this post will not be made! The fact of the matter was, those years were hard! And I didn’t think they would ever end.

But, here it was. The end was in sight. Even having my youngest still home for two more years was different. She was a junior in high school. She did her school work through a college that year so technically my only job was to drive her to choir. Oh, and make sure she actually DID the college work as well. What would I do in two years? How would I fill my days? Should I think about getting a job? If so, doing what? I have a college degree. Unfortunately, the state of Minnesota doesn’t recognize my certification from a different state. To get certified here would take money, and with two kids in college, money wouldn’t be sitting around our house at all.

Two years have passed since child #4 graduated high school. She has moved out on her own and is attending college sixty miles away. We have downsized from a house that once held six people, a cat and a dog to a townhouse that houses two people and two cats. (Miss you Yogi and Molly) An unexpected health issue was diagnosed two years ago. Another, less serious but extremely painful, was diagnosed recently.

Last week I went to the grocery store…by myself. (Yes, I know there are moms out there who would give almost anything to do that) That’s not something I am used to–see paragraph above about always having four kids in tow–nor is it something I do a lot since it is difficult for me to bring groceries into our house alone. Grocery trips are usually saved for weekends when my husband is home. Anyway, last week I needed just a few things and hubby was gone for work, so I kind of had to do this alone. As the cashier was scanning my groceries, she said something that brought me back to prior years. This time, though, the comment was directed at me. “Off of work today?” she asked. My mind raced to come up with what to say. I can no longer say I am a stay at home mom. What do I say now when someone asks me what I do? I mumbled something about being a stay at home mom even though my kids were grown. She kept scanning and said, “Wow. I wish I could be home every day with nothing to do.” Later that day, after deciding that going out by myself would never happen again, I read something online (from someone I know) that stung. I will not repeat the person’s words, but I have to say something…

In this society, being a woman who stays at home is not looked on favorably–regardless of whether there are children in the home or not. I think, though, that at least if there are children at home, people tend to accept that as a viable vocation, but it seems that once the children are all in school and certainly by the time they all move out, it is expected that the woman goes to work somewhere. And, in my experience this last week, if she doesn’t do that, she is considered lazy or a burden.

I was hurt and angry at that insinuation.

I spent over twenty years being a full time at home mom. There were a few months sprinkled in there where I worked during the evenings or during the day, but those were very few in the grand scheme of things. I was responsible for all the cleaning involved inside a household; sometimes I was responsible for outside maintenance as well. I shopped, cooked, nursed, rocked, bathed, coached, chauffeured, scrubbed, cried, and even educated my children. I spent hours reading Dr. Seuss, visiting the library, playing with Legos, taking walks, riding bikes, wiping noses, washing bottles, washing clothes, and a host of other things that came with being a full time mom. I am not lazy. If that were the case, my kids would have been taken away from me for neglect. I now have health issues that would interfere with keeping a job outside the home. I am angered that some would assume my husband thinks of me as a burden because not only does he have to be the sole provider (something he has pretty much always been actually), but he also has to help me do things that I used to be able to do by myself. Yes, I am aware that he is tired when he comes home. I am aware that sometimes dinner isn’t ready and that probably frustrates him. I am aware that my health issues cost him extra money in medical bills. Despite all of that, I don’t think he feels I am a burden to him. Maybe he does–he reads this so I’m sure I’ll find out one way or the other. But, I suspect if he did, he would have left when he had the opportunity three years ago. I am also angered that I am often looked at as less than valuable because I do not work outside the home and “contribute to society in a positive way”. I already struggle with who I am and what I am supposed to be doing. I don’t need people making it worse.

The truth is, and this is something I am working hard on moving from my head to my heart, I am valuable because God says I am. His Word tells me I am:

  • loved by God
  • purchased at a steep price
  • forgiven
  • clothed with the righteousness of Jesus
  • a new creation in Christ
  • a daughter of the KING!

These are just a few ways my identity should be wrapped up in Christ and not my kids or my husband or my work. Again, I’m working on grabbing onto these truths and making them my truth rather than just my knowledge. I’m not there yet, but every day God is cementing these things a little deeper into my soul. It is only by staying in His Word and soaking in these truths day after day that the cement will dry and my identity crisis will end.

In the meantime, I have to nurse the wounded heart that comes from peoples’ words and accusations. I know God can help with that as well.

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Hand Over the Keys

Lately I have found myself fairly unhappy. I could list many factors that have contributed to these feelings of unhappiness. In fact, I have written about some of them recently. That’s not my intent for this piece of writing, though. Instead, what I aim to put down in words is a realization that occurred to me late last night when sleep eluded me once again.

Like most young people, when I turned sixteen, I couldn’t wait to drive. The law in the state of my residence required me to be sixteen before I could get my learner’s permit. The process was easy, at least compared to what my kids had to do in the state we live in now. All I needed to do was go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, pick up a paper handbook, and study it. As soon as I (my parents) felt I was ready, I just needed to return to the DMV and take a written test. I could do that as soon as I turned sixteen. If I passed the test, I received a valid learner’s permit. I needed to have that permit for a minimum of six months. In that time I needed to practice driving with a licensed adult. Driver’s education was optional; if one sat through it, there was a discount available for insurance. I did not want to be bothered with it. It was almost a whole summer, and I really didn’t need the monetary savings since I worked full time at my dad’s business. Instead, I chose the other option–a boring three hour class held one evening that basically was a waste of time. Most of my practice driving was done with either my first boyfriend or my brother. I don’t remember exactly when I received my actual license, but I know I was so ready for the freedom having a license a car brought. Yes, I had a car. I had to buy it myself AND I had to have my own insurance policy that I had to pay for myself. My kids don’t know how lucky they were!

As I aged some, I was able to drive my parents’ car. The car I bought lasted about as long as one would expect a $500 car to last. I was dating my now husband then as well, so between him and my parents, I usually had access to a vehicle. If I needed to go somewhere, all I had to do was ask for the keys. Upon hearing that question, my dad would reach in his pocket and hand me his car keys. My mom would be saying words to me as I went out the door, usually words like,”Be careful!” or “Don’t go over the bridge tonight!” or “Make sure you are home before 10:00!” or “Don’t you go into any bars with her!” (Yes. I remember those exact words being said as I was leaving to pick up a friend who lived in a nearby city) The thing is, regardless of what my mom or my dad said to me as I was leaving the house with keys in hand, once I started the car and backed out of the driveway, they really had no control over what I did or didn’t do. They had handed over the keys to their car and the outcome of the outing was pretty much up to me. Years later, I was the parent handing over the car keys. I wonder if all the horrible images that went through my mind as my children backed out of the driveway also went through my mom’s mind years before?

How does my unhappiness have anything to do with a parent handing over the keys to a car?

Spending extended periods of time alone allows one a great deal of time to think. As I was ruminating on the almost constant presence of unhappiness in my spirit, I began to write down things that have a tendency to make me unhappy. In contrast, I also wrote down things that tend to bring happiness to my life. I think, and I could be wrong, that it’s fairly common for someone who struggles with depression to focus on the negative side of things rather than the positive. Hence, my list of what makes me unhappy contained more items than its opposite. Regardless, the lists proved to be eye opening.

The first thing that came to mind as I was writing my “unhappy” list was comparison. I actually returned to this again and again as I would start to write a word and realize that the word was truly another form of comparison. In this age of social media, where most people tend to put their best foot forward, and possibly even embellish it a little, the comparison game is an easy one to get sucked into. Next to my #1 source of unhappiness I jotted the following: Comparison is driving me insane and I keep giving it the keys. Yeah, I came up with that all by myself. Maybe I should have rephrased it to read, “Comparison is driving me to unhappiness and I am stupid enough to keep handing over the keys.” That definitely hits the notes of my feelings more accurately. Regardless, it is quite difficult, especially when already battling depression and loneliness, to fight against the happy Facebook posts that taunt me with the refrain of, “YOU will never accomplish that” or “YOU will never look like that” or “YOU will never conquer that”…the list could go on. Comparison wants the keys to my mind, and I willingly hand them over every time I sign on to Facebook. Comparison, along with lack of determination and fear of failure, top my list of things that contribute to my unhappiness.

Last night, as I sat in dark silence, I came to realize that, in some ways, I have control over some of the degree of my unhappiness. I can choose whether or not to give away the keys that drive my mind. I am not saying I can control all of it. While I believe with all my heart that God is able to do abundantly more than I ask, I am also painfully aware that sometimes when I ask, God says no. I don’t understand why. I probably won’t as long as I walk this earth, but my lack of understanding doesn’t change the fact that God does what He does for His own reasons and for my good. Depression is something I have battled for most of my life. Of course I have prayed that God would deliver me from it. I have begged for that very thing many times. But, God has said no. At least for now, healing doesn’t come. What does come is grace–grace to get through the days and nights that are excruciatingly dark. Last night, it was grace to see that there are some things I can do to relieve some of the oppressive unhappiness. The keys to my mind do not have to be given to Facebook or any other online experience that may allow unhappiness to come crash there. Unhappiness inevitably leads to a road where envy and jealousy and bitterness live. Once they all gather and gang up on me, I find it is so difficult to find the will to keep moving forward.

God is a God of good things. Envy, jealousy, bitterness, self hatred and the like are not things that God would bestow on me. Instead, He desires that I seek the things that He wants for me–joy, contentment, peace. These can only be found if I stop being indiscriminate about to whom I hand over the keys. My parents handed over their car keys only when they were confident that I was trustworthy. I need to be just as wise, if not wiser, about the keys to my mind. Only God can be completely trusted with them. Anyone or anything else has already proven unworthy.

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It Won’t Hurt a Bit Mr. Frog

I recently lost a friend. This wasn’t a close friend or someone I even saw as I went about my travels through town. None the less, there was once a friendship where there is now no longer one.

Rejection isn’t an easy thing to deal with–especially when one’s emotions are usually in a fragile state anyway. Chronic depression tends to do that to you. It makes things look gigantic that probably aren’t all that big, and it minimizes things that maybe should have more attention focused on them. In the thirty plus years I have lived with depression, I still don’t always have a grasp on the balance needed to focus correctly although I have gotten better at it in the last few years. Rejection, though, still stings, even when I am fairly confident that I did nothing wrong. I don’t regret anything I said or did. If given the opportunity, I would do nothing differently. A song I used to listen to when my musical preferences leaned toward country and western style said, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” I stood on what I believe to be Biblical principles and the other person couldn’t handle it. Perhaps the truth hit too close to home and there wasn’t a willingness to admit that. Perhaps that is way off base. The one thing I know for sure is that we disagreed on what I perceive to be a very straightforward Biblical issue.

All that said, this morning as I was checking e-mails, I came across a newsletter that I subscribe to. I clicked on the link and read the accompanying article. The article presented facts about a new law that a school district in Virginia had passed that allows transgender use of restrooms and locker rooms.You can find the article here:

https://www.olivetreeviews.org/news/headlines/item/8060-feds-force-policy-that-allows-transgender-kids-to-use-bathrooms-of-their-choice

Besides the obvious concerns, what I found disturbing about this is that it was passed against the will of the majority of the citizens. Teachers and parents alike were against its passage. I’m sure if you allow your mind to travel through some possible ramifications of this law, you will see that it puts so many students in harm’s way. So, even though the majority of the people were against this, why was it passed? I am going to venture out on a limb here and say that our nation, once founded on religious principles, has become the proverbial frog in the liberal pot of water. Sixty years ago, if someone went to a school board and proposed this law, there would be no possible way it would ever be considered–let alone passed. Sixty years ago, our country still followed not only constitutional laws but also moral laws. Constitutional interpretation has taken on a new form sixty years later, and that form has been s-l-o-w-l-y forced on the people of this country. Over time, the changes have been subtle enough that most have not noticed it. Like a frog in a pot of water on the stove, American people sit and wait and tolerate just about anything thrown their way. After all, the liberals claim, every person should have equal rights. Why shouldn’t men who feel more like a woman on the inside be allowed to use a women’s locker room?Who are you to discriminate against that “man”? A very small minority (trans gender students who desire to use restrooms and locker rooms opposite of their God-given gender) has pulled the wool over the eyes of the majority. What about the mom who sends her seventeen year old daughter to school and doesn’t want a seventeen year old boy sharing showers and a locker room with her? Where are her rights? Isn’t she being discriminated against? Of course she is! But liberals will not admit to that. Discrimination, in their eyes, is okay as long as it isn’t their views that are under attack!

What is even sadder to me, is that many “Christians” identify with this liberal agenda and pass it off as “love”. I have had people tell me that Jesus loves everyone and would not object to free rights for all. I vehemently disagree. Jesus does love everyone, BUT He refuses to accept their sin. In each of the letter to the seven churches found in the first three chapters of Revelation, Jesus instructs them to REPENT. He holds their sin against them and they are warned of dire consequences if repentance does not occur. Does this sound like a God who will look with favor on the man who feels more like a woman and therefore believes that sex with a man is okay? If you answer that question with a “Yes” than I would dare say you are the frog that has just about reached boiling point.

I fear that soon it will be discriminatory to say anything against anything that someone desires. Who are we to say that homosexuality is wrong? Who are we to say bestiality is wrong? Who are we to say incest is wrong? Who are we to say cannibalism is wrong? Who are we to say that euthanasia of a special needs child is wrong? Do you see the slippery slope here?

Oh wait.

An exception to that would be if you are a Christ follower. (Not a liberal Christ follower–which is actually an oxymoron anyway) A true Christ follower who reads and applies Biblical principles to your own life yet finds a way to love those who disagree. You see, the friend I lost decided to attack me with horrible hate speech. He labeled me with all the labels he claimed I was using against a certain people group. (Which I wasn’t by the way. There was no hatred in my words and I was careful to not respond in anger even though at times my fingers wanted to flail away on the keyboard and tell him off. So did my son and a few others who followed the conversation) Christians seem to not have the same rights to belief and practice as others do. Of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jesus warned His disciples that the world would hate them. The world hated Him–enough to put Him to death even though He did nothing wrong–so it was guaranteed that the world would also hate those who truly identify with Him.

I am learning that losing a friend in this case, though sad, is a good thing. It is reassurance that I have stood for something I believe. I did not back down, yet I did not sever the friendship tie. Instead, the “all loving, all equality” person decided I was no longer worthy of his friendship because I expressed a belief that opposed his. All I can say to that is where is the tolerance on the part of the liberals? The very thing they demand from Christians they refuse to give.

I think Jesus referred to those kinds of people as Pharisees and hypocrites…

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Empty Spaces

Lately I have had some fairly difficult rounds with my own thoughts. I’ve always been a thinker. I wonder if that is true of the majority of introverted people? Even as a kid, I would often spend time alone sitting on the front step of my childhood home, just thinking about various things. Sometimes my mind would wander to the future and I’d allow myself to dream that someday some guy would come along who would actually love me. Please understand that I believed that to be an impossible dream. Other times I would think about things that were happening in my life at the time. Sometimes I would play a game in my own mind and pretend I was someone else. Sometimes I would play the part of someone I knew (and usually wanted to be) and other times I would play the part of a fictional person. I did a tremendous amount of reading (still do) so my imagination was often fueled by the books I read.

My mind hasn’t changed all that much. I still spend a great deal of time lost in thought, although I no longer pretend to be someone else. :) I figure I have enough trouble as just one person. No need to add a fictional character’s problems to my own real ones!

This morning I was thinking about the people who have been a part of my life over the years. I’m not talking about family members here but rather friends and acquaintances.  As I thought about the various people who I have come to know, it struck me how strange relationships can be. Some people came into my life many years ago, and while I don’t see them anymore, I still would classify them as wonderful friends. I can think of three right away. One is a childhood friend. I met him when I was probably five. Two summers ago, I went back to my childhood town to help my mom after surgery. I stopped at my friend’s house and had a wonderful time of conversation with him, his wife and four wonderful daughters. There is great comfort in knowing that someone who has known you almost your entire life still cares about you and wants to spend time with you. That same summer, another dear friend, and probably my best friend, was visiting her mom in the same area. We got together and it was like we had never been apart. I met Kris in middle school and we were inseparable until marriage and life took us to different states. Still, though, I know I could call her if I ever needed someone to talk to. The third friend that instantly comes to mind is someone I met online over ten years ago. She and her family has visited our family twice in those years. She is a little ahead of me on the path of life and far ahead of me on the spiritual path. I know anytime I have a question or need a friend that I can call her. All these friends live far away from me, though. Of course, there are others who I believe care about me, and a few of those I would list as “friends” if I were asked to do so. These are ladies who call just because they want to talk or someone who makes it a point to meet for coffee (or diet Pepsi) or lunch somewhere. Many, though, are people I know, who also know me, but aren’t really people I could say fit the above qualification. They fit more into the acquaintance category.

I believe there is a third category, though. It is this category that has occupied my thoughts the last few days.

As I scroll through social media, every once in a while I’ll see the name of someone who, at one point, was a part of my life. Sometimes the part was a big role; other times the part was small. Regardless, though, the commonality is that they used to be in my life and now they no longer are. The reasons vary. For some, a move has placed too many miles between us and the effort to maintain a casual acquaintance isn’t really something there was time for. In other cases, hard feelings or differing viewpoints have driven a wedge between us. For a few, there isn’t really a definitive reason except that for a reason only God knows, they are no longer part of my life like they used to be. Some of the people in this third category have been hard to lose,and it is this handful of folks that have been on my mind. The “loss” (and I place that in quotes because I don’t think I have completely lost them; I have just lost the closeness we once shared) of several of them have left, what I consider to be, empty spaces in my heart. To go into details on those who once filled these empty spaces would take more time and space than I can give right now, but there are some who have been especially pressing on my heart lately and need to be mentioned if for nothing else than for my own mind to process and come to grips with the fact that change is unavoidable.

Just about four years ago, a family came into my life that had way more impact on me than I ever could have imagined when I first met them. This was a young family in a life stage very opposite of where I was at the time. They were looking for someone to watch their little girl, eleven months old at the time, while they were at work. I was nearing the end of my homeschooling years and my daughter was pretty independent in her work. I figured it would be a good experience for her, and it would help this young family too. What I couldn’t have predicted was how much I would fall in love with this sweet little monkey and her parents. It was at the same time that I started watching her that I found my marriage taking a quick spiral downward. When my life was so much sadness and misery, that little monkey would walk into our house every morning with a big smile on her face and say “Hiiii.” She was a ray of sunshine in my world that was pretty dark. Although I only watched her full time for four months, I stayed close with her, her parents and, eventually, her baby brother. I even had the opportunity to watch them both on a part time basis occasionally when their mom went back to work part time. Later that following spring, their dad had the opportunity for advancement with his job. It took them to another state. Even then, I managed to get their for a few visits. I never stopped loving that family and always was excited when I could see them. This past year, their dad was offered another promotion that came with another relocation. This time their location will most likely rule out visits. This little family of four brought much joy to my life and there is an empty space in my heart. Even though I don’t think I have “lost” that relationship, it has drastically changed and when I think about it and remember the fun times we shared, it makes me sad.

There are many others who have come and gone. Some have gone completely–I have no idea where they even are now. Amy, a friend from college and one who sometimes babysat our first two babies, is one of them. Some I know where they are yet their presence in my life is non-existent either by their choice or mine–or both. Some were at one time close friends while others were not so close. Regardless, it strikes me as strange sometimes how relationships work.

Sometimes it also hurts to reflect on the empty spaces that exist because life is unpredictable, feelings get hurt, and change is inevitable.

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Wall of Blocks

Perhaps you can relate to the following scenario:

A teacher instructs you to write a paper. She simply wants to evaluate how well you can develop ideas as well as gauge where you stand in terms of conventions including spelling, punctuation, and sentence variety. For this assignment the teacher says you can write about anything you want. At first, excitement fills your brain. Choosing your own topic saves you from having to write about the effects the extinction of the hipposaurus might inflict on the subtropical food chain… Yeah. That would be a ridiculous topic to research and write. But you don’t have to worry about it because you are free to choose whatever you desire and write with passion about it. The wheels in your mind start to turn.”How about…No, that wouldn’t work.”  “Oh, I got it! What about…No. That would take forever.”  “Of course! I’ll write about…Ugh. I can’t do that either. There’s no way I could keep that to a length shorter than a dissertation.”  As fast as you come up with ideas, the faster your brain rejects each and every one. Finally in utter frustration you throw up your hands and curse (in a nice way) your teacher for not just assigning you a topic on which to write. Geesh. She is the teacher. Isn’t that her job?

What has happened in the above scenario is often referred to as writer’s block. Writer’s block happens when a person is unable to think what to write or, when writing on a selected topic, unable to proceed with writing. It is fairly common among students and professionals alike. It can be a frustrating experience, especially when faced with a looming deadline. I imagine something like this occurs in many activities. I’ve heard of runners hitting “the wall” rendering them almost incapable of taking another step.

But what about the walk we who call ourselves Christians have? Are there “blocks” or “walls” that we hit as we journey through life on this earth?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, so I was somewhat taken aback when our pastor got up in front of the congregation this past Sunday morning. He asked the worship band to keep playing softly and then said that he felt like there was a wall that was prohibiting God to work as maybe He wants to work–to work as our pastor has been praying for Him to work. The title of the message was More of God in my Mind. Sometimes when I go to church I wonder if somehow our pastor can read my mind! Sunday was one of those days. I left the service feeling convicted and, admittedly, frustrated. Let me try to explain.

As a person who loves to write, I have faced the frustration of writer’s block on more than one occasion. I can’t say that I enjoy running (not that running is something I’m really able to do much anymore) but when I was a college soccer player, running was part of the training. My coach had somewhat of a sadistic streak in him, so we ran a lot. I remember reaching a point that I felt my calf muscles and thigh muscles were going to explode. I literally felt that I couldn’t take another step. That’s probably the closest I’ve been to a runner’s wall. Spiritually, though, I know all too well the “block wall” that stands between me and a joyous relationship with my Savior. That is a wall that I run into time and time again. In fact, lately I’ve run into that wall so many times, I have contemplated if I have any strength left to pick myself up to try again. The frustrating truth of this, though, is I set myself up in a position to run into the wall over and over again. As a writer, I would never choose to have writer’s block. When soccer season approached, I would begin to train in hopes of avoiding the wall that caused so much pain. Yet, too often, as a Christ follower I don’t take the precautions necessary to avoid hitting the wall that blocks the work of God in my daily life.

Sitting in church Sunday morning, I was once again painfully aware just how little attention I have paid to my spiritual health in the last few months. I could list reasons–valid life events that have taken their toll on not only my energy but also my time. If I do that, though, it almost feels like I am looking for a pass, an excuse as to why I’ve made room in my schedule for these “important things” yet left no room or time in my schedule to be with my God. And, truth be told, there really is no room for excuses in this area. When it comes to time, the playing field is level across all humanity. Everyone gets twenty-four hours in a day. Everyone gets seven days in a week. Everyone is responsible for his/her own choices that fill those hours and days. Unlike income or talent, which are variables among people, time is a constant. Everyone is dealt the same amount of time. What has filled my time as of late? What has kept me from the much needed time that I should have been spending with God? In all honesty, that time has been filled with good and necessary things, like work, along with things that could be cut out. For example, one of my favorite television shows is on every Tuesday night. If I know I will not be home to watch it, I DVR it and always have taken the time to view it before the next episode airs the following week. I always make time to sit and watch an hour of television (usually more) yet lament that bedtime has come once again and I did not spend any time in God’s Word.

Everyone knows exercise is important for the body. It is not the only component in the equation of a healthy life, but it is one of them. Likewise, being spiritually healthy comes from actively pursuing God in several different ways. Studying His Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers are a few components to being spiritually healthy. For me, it seems when life gets stressful and my plate is piled high with things to do, that is when I need to seek God more, yet I find myself seeking Him less. I wonder how many runners have quit because they are just tired of running into the same wall over and over again? I wonder how many writers have quit trying to write because writer’s block is a friend that visits them too often? I wonder how many Christians feel like quitting because the block wall, often put in place by their own actions, is just too difficult to deal with? What I really wonder, though, is…

How does one gain victory over that wall of blocks that grows with each day not spent in God’s Word? Because to be honest, my block wall is pretty high and fairly thick right now. The sight of it is daunting, and it is close to being the biggest thing in my life. It is too big to go over or around, and it is too thick to break through. The only option left, as I see it, is to start to take the wall down. Our pastor said Sunday that the more of God we have in our mind, the more we will find joy in our life. So, that seems to be a good starting point. Brick by brick, I hope, will be removed as I allow God to reclaim the space He once held in my mind and in my life. I can’t remove the bricks. If I could, then I could boast about the work I accomplished. God, though, can remove the bricks.

I just have to be willing to let Him do so.

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Loneliness

One of my favorite musical groups is the Gaither Vocal Band. Two years ago, their tour made a stop in Minneapolis. My husband bought tickets for us to attend. These seats were amazing! We were three rows from the stage. Nothing beats hearing David Phelps sing while sitting that close to the speakers! I think the music of the Gaithers’ is largely ignored by modern day Christians. I’m sure some churches still sing songs written by Bill Gaither since many are found in hymn books, but the southern gospel style music performed by the Gaither Vocal Band and those who are associated with them isn’t very popular among many in the area of the country where I live.

A few weeks ago we traveled to Indiana for our son’s wedding. Our oldest and youngest were riding with us. I made it clear that any music they may want to listen to would need to be heard through headphones. There is nothing like long road trips to work through my extensive playlist of Gaither music. I have listened to these songs MANY times. I know the lyrics. I know which group member is singing which part. I can even picture many of them since I’ve watched the You Tube videos so often! At one point, a song titled Where No One Stands Alone began to play. The song was written by Mosie Lister, a talented gospel song writer who recently passed away. I had heard the song often, but that day, the following lyrics pierced my heart and I fought back tears as I sang along:

“Like a king I may live in a palace so tall
With great riches to call my own,
But I don’t know a thing
In this whole wide world
That’s worse then being alone.”

Being alone.

When I was a young mom with four kids under the age of five, I dreamed of just having five minutes alone. When the kids grew a little bit, I found I had short moments of alone time, but those moments weren’t my own. They were spent doing the never ending mounds of laundry that were always taunting me, baking desserts to put in lunch boxes, cleaning bathrooms, picking up toys, grocery shopping, and all the other tasks that come with being a full time mom. I soon lost even those moments as, one by one, we pulled our kids from the public school system to homeschool them. Hours were spent gathered around our dining room table covering all the subjects that my children needed to learn.

But one day I blinked my eyes and my older daughter was getting married. Another blink found my younger son moving to another state to complete the internship requirements to graduate from pastoral college. Another blink found my baby moving to her own apartment forty miles away. That blink was followed with one that saw our oldest move into his own apartment. My husband’s job became time consuming–and much of that time was spent in another state doing whatever it is he does for work. (I still don’t really know what to tell people when they ask me what he does) Suddenly, I found the alone time I so desperately wished for years ago to be a regular part of my days.

I told myself I would find things to do. I had house projects to work on, another wedding as our son was getting married, a grandbaby on the way. Surely these things would keep me busy. They did for a while. We even threw in a move of our own to add to the excitement stress of our lives. Weddings, births, and moves behind us, I now find myself alone more often than not. Moving, especially, has contributed to this as I left behind the few friends I had in the town we had lived for twelve years. The move closer to my husband’s work has been such a blessing to him. I am thankful he no longer has the long commute he once had. (Although now he no longer works from home very often since he is just a few minutes from his office) I know I will especially be thankful this winter when he is not on the roads as much. But his job takes up most of his time and I see that only increasing as his career is moving in a direction where he will advance.

All that said, I have to admit that I am often lonely. Facebook, Twitter and other electronic communication just isn’t the same as having someone to meet for coffee and really talk…face to face. I’ve never been a person who needs a ton of friends. I’ve always been an introvert. Yet, I am learning that being introverted doesn’t necessarily equate to enjoying being alone the majority of the time. Besides, even though social media can be a wonderful thing, it can also contribute to feelings of depression and self hatred. I am trying to cut way back on the time I spend on those sites. That does add to the loneliness, though.

Jesus said He will never leave me. I understand, even on the days that I find myself crying tears of loneliness, that He is right here with me. I have tried to remember to go to Him more and more in those times. Still, it is hard to not desire human connections with other ladies, especially those who may understand the stage of life I am in. I trust that God knows what He is doing in bringing us here, though. I wait to see what those purposes may be, all be it I may not always understand and wait patiently.

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One thing I Don’t Need to Work For

I am not a huge television fan. I have several shows that I watch religiously. They are mostly reality shows, and many of them are food related. If you were to scroll through the shows I have recorded on our DVR, you would see Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen, Cutthroat Kitchen, Beat Bobby Flay, and a few others. I’m not a huge fan of the modern day sitcoms that are shown on prime time television. In addition to that, I find the commercials shown during prime time to be often inappropriate. Food Network seldom airs commercials that make me cringe at their content, especially if my husband is sitting in the room watching with me. Before our youngest daughter moved out, I was exposed to shows that I normally wouldn’t watch. She would have them on while she ate or had time to kill. One of those shows was titled The Middle. She often told me how wholesome of a show it was–at least compared to others. I never paid much attention to it until not too long ago when my husband decided to watch it. He had seen a commercial clip for the show that described being the parent of a teenager. Since we had four teenagers at once and for several years, we can definitely relate to that! He watched it and was hooked. Now, if any of my regular shows are not on, I find myself searching the channels to see if any are running episodes of The Middle. Last night, I found one and as I watched it, I was struck by the fact that the plot line in that episode related closely to something I have been struggling with lately.

If you aren’t familiar with the show, it portrays the day to day life of the Heck Family. Mike and Frankie are the parents and their children are Axel, Sue, and Brick. Axel is the typical TV oldest brother–athletic, good looking, and not into school. Sue is the peacemaker. She has a positive outlook on just about everything. She has full braces on both top and bottom teeth and is usually rejected for anything she tries out for. Brick is the youngest and is “special”. He whispers things to himself, reads books all the time, is very socially awkward and has no friends. The Heck Family is a middle class all American family who struggle with bills and worry about their parenting skills–or lack thereof.

In last night’s episode, the children were on summer vacation. Mom Frankie wanted to do something special before school started. As she planned and forced the kids and Mike to participate, the kids let it slip that Mike was the favorite parent. Mike didn’t seem to make a big deal of it, but Frankie was devastated. At the same time, Sue was convinced that her dad favored the boys, especially Axel. Mike, not really understanding the importance of this feeling, brushed Sue’s concerns aside. The story line morphs into tales of Frankie’s schemes to win points from the kids–points she earns by doing things for them. She figures if she earns more points than Mike, then she will be the favorite parent. Sue decides to decorate an empty scrapbook and intends to fill it with pictures of “The Summer of Sue and Dad”. Both Frankie and Sue work hard to earn the love of those who mean the most to them. What they didn’t realize, of course, is that they didn’t have to earn that love. Mike loved Sue because she was his daughter. He just found it difficult at times to understand the life of a thirteen year old girl. The kids loved Frankie as well; they were just really good at playing mom and dad against each other to get what they desired.

This morning I was awakened by a paw in my face and a “Meow”. Sadie, my tiger cat, was ready to eat. Her brother, Moo, heard her and joined the wake up party by walking across me. If you have met them, you know that Moo is no small cat. He is a big boy. My alarm did not even have a chance to go off when they woke me up. I was irritated. I was tired. I didn’t sleep well the previous night and I was in pain. A typical morning for me. As I stumbled (literally) downstairs to feed them, my day loomed ahead of me. I needed to get eight hours of scoring work in. Laundry needed to be done. I really needed to iron my husband’s shirts. I had food in the refrigerator that needed to be broken down into smaller portions and frozen. I was way behind on Bible study work. As I weighed the length of my to-do list against the level of my energy, it didn’t take long for the tears to come. “How am I going to get through all of this feeling as lousy as I do?” I thought to myself. “If I don’t get these things done,” I continued the thought process, “then when Dave gets home he is going to think I’m a horrible wife. He works so hard and I sit and do nothing it seems.” You can see the downward spiral taking shape. After some time of crying, I sat in my chair, one fed and contented cat on my lap and the other on the top of my chair, and re-thought my thought process. Would Dave really think I’m lazy? Would he love me less if his shirts aren’t all ironed at once? Would he be angry if I only managed to get six hours of scoring work done instead of eight? I knew the answer to those questions was “No”. Oh, I’m sure if I never ironed his shirts or did laundry or had food in the house, he would get angry with me, but he understands, for the most part, that some days are just hard for me–physically and emotionally. My thoughts drifted to the Bible study work I was so behind on. And I thought about the Heck Family and God.

Strange combination, I know.

But, was I feeling guilty about my lack of Bible study completion because I thought God would love me more if I had it done? I often think that I need to perform for God…like there is a checklist that I need to check off and as long as everything is done, then God will look on me favorably. But that isn’t how a father loves his children. It isn’t how my Heavenly Father loves His children either. He loves me simply because I’m His. I don’t have to earn it. In fact, I can’t earn it. If I could than I would be able to take credit for the good things in my life. I know I cannot do that, though, Anything good in my life is only there because God decided to shower me with it. And the lesson I just can’t seem to learn (even though it seems God is giving me ample opportunities to practice it) is that everything that comes from my Father is good. Even those things that I perceive as bad. It’s strange because there are some things in my life that, if made known, certainly would not be seen as good, yet they are because the Bible tells me that God is good and He cannot change. So if God is good, and He is, and if He can work all things out for my good, which He can, than I don’t have to do anything to make Him love me.

Why can’t I get that?

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Cultural Pressures

I have missed writing on a regular basis. Life has been so busy the last several months that I haven’t had much time to sit down to organize my thoughts. Sometimes I wish I could actually see the processes that take place in my brain. Then again, maybe it’s best that I cannot see them. I already deal with dizziness and mental confusion. I don’t need anything else contributing to it! One recurring theme to my thoughts lately has been the state of the world around me. I realize that’s a very broad topic to tackle in a blog entry. After all, people have written books about this subject. Still, it has bothered me enough that I decided to put some of my thoughts down so I can refer back to them if I need to do so.

I have not ever tried to hide the fact that I am a Christian. I believe that while Jesus loved all people while He walked this earth, His love does not equate to acceptance of sin. For example, when Jesus stopped at the well and asked the Samaritan woman to get him a drink, he was breaking all cultural norms at the time. Jews did not talk to Samaritans, let alone Samaritan women. Also, the fact that this woman had come to the well at the hottest part of the day tells us that she was ostracized by the women around her. Drawing water from the well was the job of the women in the house. It was a difficult task and one that took much energy. Most women, because of that, went to the well in the early morning hours while the weather was still cool. This woman, though, was at the well in the heat of the day. Perhaps the other women “bullied” her (a term that is WAY overused today but that’s for another entry). Perhaps they just ignored her but talked with each other and that made her feel left out. Whatever the reason, she was not following the typical pattern. Jesus asks her for a drink–which surprises her. She questions Him as to why He would talk to her. Jesus tells her He can give her living water. This confuses her and she asks if maybe Jesus knows of a different well. Of course, Jesus was referring to Himself and His saving power. This is where it gets interesting and where people tend to take this whole encounter out of context. Jesus tells the woman to go get her husband. Now, Jesus is all knowing so he knows full well that the woman is not married. He knows she had been married several time and that she is living with a man who is not her husband, yet He asks her to get her husband. Why? Why did He ask that if he knew the woman was living in sin? The simple reason is because Jesus wanted to give the woman grace and mercy, but He needed her to see that her way of life was sinful. Jesus pointed out her sin while loving her in the process.

In the last few months, several cultural issues have been forced to cross paths with religious freedoms. The most popular has been the debate on gay marriage. There is a large group of people who refer to themselves as Christians who believe that this lifestyle is okay by Jesus. In fact, many have said if Jesus walked the earth still that He would be baking gay and lesbian wedding cakes left and right. What this group does not see, besides the fact that they are wrong, is that Jesus cannot tolerate sin. Any sin. He just can’t. He is perfect and holy and cannot have fellowship with sin. He said so Himself.  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Basically, you can’t have a light on in your living room and still be in total darkness. Jesus is light. “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) If Jesus is light, than He cannot reside with darkness. Darkness represents ANY sin–theft, murder, coveting, lying, lust, homosexuality. Yes, homosexuality IS a sin. God destroyed a whole group of people because of it when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The New Testament says that God gave them over to their depravity when they exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. Homosexuality was NOT condoned by God. Never. Jesus loved people, yes, but He never condoned their sin. He called out the sin of the woman at the well. He didn’t shame her. That was His love. He doesn’t shame me for my sins. When I get angry or complain or be lazy or any other sin that I commit–Jesus doesn’t shame me for it, but He doesn’t tolerate it either. He called for the woman at the well to repent so that she could receive the living water He offered. I can only have fellowship with Him if I repent from my sins. This is the case for all people. The problem is, many churches have given in to the cultural pressure that this is normal and unsinful behavior. They have bought the lie of Satan that homosexuality is okay in God’s book. If one truly reads and studies God’s book, though, there is no escaping the fact that the aforementioned behavior is nothing but sin. Does that mean I hate those who are part of that lifestyle? Absolutely not. In fact, I have a friend who is gay. I love that friend dearly. I pray for that friend. I do not in any way hate that friend. I do disagree with how that friend lives and would never condone that behavior or excuse it for any reason. I can’t. Jesus doesn’t so I cannot.

I am so thankful for my church that loves people yet is not afraid to be bold for the truth of Scripture. I know there are other churches like ours, but I fear those numbers are dwindling as Satan has his way with believers who have not stood firm or have been incorrectly taught Scripture. The Bible never changes. Homosexuality was wrong in the days of Abraham and it is still wrong today. To say anything other than that is to deny the truth of Scripture and, in a sense, deny what Jesus taught. Love people? Yes. Love covers much. Accept the sins as okay? No. The two cannot coexist. Will I engage in argumentative behaviors? No. I have stated my beliefs and realize that those bent on accepting this sin will not be swayed by my words. Arguing does no good and I will not stoop to that level.

Of course this is not the only issue facing Christian churches today. There are many, and I will most likely touch on others in the coming weeks. This one, though, has been a source of angst for me as “Christian” friends try to defend this sinful behavior. I will not back down on what I believe. Jesus warned his followers to stand firm in the face of persecution. That is often difficult. It is easier for me to retreat from a fight. BUT, to do and say nothing is actually doing and saying something and that something is the wrong thing. And I know some day I will stand before my Creator. I do not want to have to explain why I bowed to cultural pressure on behaviors and lifestyles that are sin and have clearly been laid out for us in Scripture as such.

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