Preparation Impossible

Many years ago, more than I care to add, my then boyfriend asked this shy eighteen year old to be his wife. Having grown up convinced that no one would ever want to marry me, I was beyond excited to think someone really did love me. In the coming months, my mom and I would iron out wedding details. There were some issues on which we butted heads, but a bridezilla I was not. In all honesty, I didn’t realize I actually had much say in the details. My parents were paying for the wedding, so I assumed what they said would be what took place. When June 13, 1987, finally arrived, I had a beautiful wedding dress (off the clearance rack priced at $200), a bridal party of friends and family, a reception outside of the church basement (something different than my siblings who married before me), music to dance to (the one thing my parents refused to pay for but we wanted badly enough to pay for it ourselves), and a week long honeymoon in a place that catered to honeymooners! I was prepared for the wedding. I was NOT, however, prepared for marriage.

In the years we have been married, I have learned that there are some things you just cannot be prepared for–I mean really prepared for. I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into when I, as a young girl still in college, married my husband. I imagined days of whistling as I cleaned the house we would buy, cooking dinners and baking desserts that would have him singing praises of my ability in the kitchen, and spending all our free time together pursuing the same interests. The reality, though, was that my days were spent finishing school–a promise my husband had made to my dad when he sought my dad’s permission to marry me, working a part time job, eating take out pizza or, more often, stalking my parents to see if we could mooch a meal off of them, and cleaning a tiny basement apartment. There wasn’t much free time to do anything fun. Marriage was not anything I had dreamed it to be. It was actually work–hard work.

Not even two years into our marriage, another life event hit. We were expecting our first baby. Back then, there was little reliability in determining the gender of an unborn baby, so I prepared with the basics. My parents bought us a beautiful crib, a changing table, and a dresser for the nursery. We picked out a stroller and a car seat. A baby shower provided onesies and blankets and sleepers. I read books. We attended childbirth classes. Oh, and I still had that pesky promise my husband had made to my dad to be concerned with. By the time our son made his debut into the world, two weeks after I finished college, I was ready.

Or so I thought.

I had read all the right books. I knew what was supposed to happen. Then I learned that most of that stuff just isn’t reality. The first night home, we brought our new bundle of joy into our room, laid him in his portacrib and kissed him goodnight. The lights were off maybe ten seconds before he started to cry. Apparently, at three days old, babies don’t understand what bedtime is. No book could have prepared me for parenthood. Oh, the books gave me averages and guidelines, but there was no way any author could have prepared me for being a mom. As that little boy grew, followed soon by his little sister, then little brother, then grieving the loss of a little sister, and finally his littlest sister, I realized more fully just how unprepared I was to be a mom. Then, just to keep my life interesting, I found myself the parent of a special needs son, a daughter who was diagnosed with asthma at eighteen months and spent many nights in the hospital, a son who had unbelievable energy and did not know what the word sleep meant, and a daughter who just wanted to be part of their activities but was seldom allowed.

As these kids reached junior high age, it became apparent that the public school system was not working for them. I studied and read everything I could on homeschooling. I dove into it feeling prepared. Wrong again. High school brought those same inadequacies. Young adulthood brought even more.

I knew some day these kids would grow up. I read books and talked to those ahead of me on the path. I looked forward to the empty nest. And then one day, it came, and I found myself an emotional mess. I had lost my identity–I was no longer a “mom”. Of course, I was still their mom, but my role needed to be different. Only, I didn’t know what that “different” was supposed to look like. It didn’t take long for a marriage proposal. What were my emotions supposed to be when my baby girl’s last name no longer matched mine? I didn’t know. Then another marriage. What would be my new role as my son had someone else as the primary woman in his life? I didn’t know.

There are some things you just cannot be prepared for.

Ten months ago, I faced yet another life change that left me reeling and feeling unprepared.

You see, a little over ten months ago, a new title was added to my already impressive list of titles. For years I had been wife, mom, teacher, chef, encourager, coach, disciplinarian, and chauffeur. But in March, 2015, I added the precious title of Grandma to my list. Actually, Grammy is how I refer to myself. The little boy who has my daughter’s blue eyes and his uncle’s lack of sleep patterns has taken my life to a different place. I didn’t really have grandparents growing up, so I had little preconceived notion about how it is supposed to be, but from my experiences with my mom as a grandma, I knew my role would be to give him pretty much anything he wants. I was prepared for that. There is one thing, though, that I am finding myself amazingly under prepared in regards to being a Grammy…no one could have ever explained the intense love I would have for this little boy. As a parent, I would look forward to the few times I could sneak in some alone moments. Now, I find myself alone so much that loneliness sometimes threatens to drown me. Yet, this little boy, my baby’s baby, has the power to bring a smile to my face, even in the deepest of depressions. On days when I am struggling with my emotions, you can bet I am scrolling through pictures on my phone, smiling at that precious smiling face on the screen. I anticipate the days I can see him, to melt when he holds his arms out for me to take him, or he squeals with excitement because I have walked into his house. My arms sometimes ache to hold him and rock him to sleep, and I cherish those days when I get to do exactly that.

Life brings many things that we just cannot really be prepared for–marriage, parenting, jobs, chronic illness. I didn’t think being a grandparent would fit into this category. For me, though, it does fit. No book, not even someone else’s experience, could have prepared me for the love I have for him. In these days that, for me, have been very emotionally dark, I am so thankful for his life…so thankful that God chose me to be his Grammy.

waynebear

Posted in depression, Children, empty nest, Change, marriage, grace, loneliness, Grandma, Grandson, Parenting, famiy | Leave a comment

A Month in the Books

The first month of 2016 is nearly complete. The older I get, the faster time seems to pass. It doesn’t seem like a whole year has passed since I was feeling the stress of a move and anticipating the birth of our first grandchild and the wedding of our younger son. I also could not have known that I would begin a new year without our beloved beagle, nor could I have predicted the joy of having all four of our kids and their families living within an hour’s drive. We all enter a new year together, and we all have one thing in common: none of us know what the twelve months ahead will bring. When I was a kid, I remember our pastor, on the first Sunday of the new year, looking at the congregation and saying, “Some people sitting in this room right now will die this year. It would be nice if we could know which ones.” Last week, a friend of mine lost her father. While his health was not perfect, his death still came as a shock. If you had asked her on January 1st, she would not have said her dad would be home with Jesus by January 30th.

Having two chronic illnesses, I live everyday with an additional element of unpredictability. I can usually tell upon awakening if my day is going to be good or bad, but sometimes a good day will take a downward turn or vice versa. I have learned to hold plans loosely. Some days my mind is willing, but my body is weak. Other days, my body is willing, but my mind refuses to cooperate. It may surprise you to read that it is the latter of the two that frustrates me SO much. I would much rather suffer physically than emotionally, for a physical ailment is understood by most people. When I needed to use a cane to walk, no one expected me to physically be able to do all I once did. An emotional illness, though, is often viewed as a weakness. Some think it is something I should be able to pray away–choose joy, stop overthinking, give it to God–I have heard all of these more times than I care to count. If it were really that easy then struggles such as depression and anxiety would not plague followers of Jesus. The reality is, though, that they do plague Christians just like they plague those who do not claim to be Christians. The Bible even tells of people who suffered from depression–Elijah, Jeremiah, and Job to name a few. The first month of the new year has found me struggling immensely with exactly that.

As I entered a new year, like so many others I had hopes and expectations of what could and hopefully would happen. Now, please don’t misunderstand–I am not writing off 2016 as a horrible year. We are only one month in; however, in this month I have found myself struggling with some very difficult emotional issues. Much of my struggle stems from the idea that I really have no reason to be here anymore. On any given morning, if I did not get out of bed, it really wouldn’t impact anyone. For years I dedicated every waking (and sometimes what should have been sleeping) hour to my family. With four kids, all very close in age and all involved in sports, just the laundry alone was overwhelming. Throw in cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, homeschooling, animal care, and the host of other responsibilities that come with being a full time mom, and you may be able to imagine that I was beyond busy. Then, one day, before I even realized it was happening, my busyness started to slow down. One kid went away to college and the laundry load decreased a little. Then another went to college and cooking dinner became a meal for four instead of six. Then, one moved out. Then one got married. Then another moved out. Then another got married. One day, I realized that my days are now pretty much mine to do with whatever I wanted. Oh, I still have some responsibilities. My husband still needs laundry done and shirts ironed and food made, but, in all honesty, those things take very little time when being done for one instead of six. I always thought I would love when this day came. But, guess what…

I don’t.

I used to feel needed, an integral part of the game. Now, I mostly sit on the sidelines wondering why I am even still on the team. Oh, there are moments of feeling needed, but most of the time, I just feel lonely. And loneliness feeds depression. And depression feeds loneliness. And it is a cycle so vicious that sometimes I wish I didn’t have to deal with it anymore. (Don’t read more into that than I am intending, please.) My husband has his job. He works with people who all understand what he does. (Many of those people are women who have chosen to be moms and wives and still have a successful career. I sometimes wonder if he resents that I did not choose that.) He is very good at what he does, and the people he works with love him for it. He gets accolades and job offers from other companies on a regular basis. His life did not change very much when suddenly the nest was empty. (I know it didn’t happen suddenly, but it sure felt like it did to me) I have spent hours thinking about what should come next for me. I could get a job, but with few professional skills, that would most likely mean working a retail job. Since working with people is not my gift, that’s not going to happen. Besides, if I did that, it would most certainly involve weekend work, and I already don’t see my husband much with his work schedule. I don’t want to be gone on the weekends when he is always home. I’ve thought about volunteering somewhere. The unpredictability of chronic illness pretty much negates that possibility. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone to say I am going to be somewhere on such and such a day and then not be able to follow through on my commitment. The last two weeks, especially, have been emotionally draining for me. I have fought mental battles that have left me weak and wondering why I bothered to get out of bed. As the day ends, I often say to myself, “There has to be more to life than what I am living. There has to be a purpose for my being here.”

That has been my prayer the past week. I do not believe in coincidences. I believe God ordains every day, every hour, every minute, according to His plan. I know my being alive is not a waste, for God wastes nothing. Yet, I find myself getting increasingly frustrated as I pray and cry to Him, asking Him to please show me what is next for me and only hearing silence in return. My word for the year is intentional; I need something to be intentional about. I spent over twenty years serving my family. I completed the job. Now what? They are all doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing–exactly what I hoped for them. But I worked myself out of a job. In fact, I have come to think I worked myself out of a purpose.

And that’s an emotional battle that is getting harder and harder to fight.

Posted in MS, depression, empty nest, Change, loneliness, Grandma, faith, Parenting, famiy | 1 Comment

Precious Memories

There’s an old country gospel song I learned as a child. I’m not sure who wrote the words or the music, but it was sung and recorded by various artists throughout the years. The version I learned was performed by Johnny Cash. The opening lines go like this:

“Precious memories, unseen angels,
Sent from somewhere to my soul.
How they linger ever near me,
And the sacred past unfolds.

Precious memories how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness of the midnight.
Precious sacred scenes unfold.”

It seems the older I get, the more time I spend reflecting on the past. Maybe that happens because there are most likely more years behind me than ahead of me now. One thing I find interesting about memories is their randomness. The other day, I was sitting at my dining room table working on a 1,000 piece puzzle. I always have a puzzle going. I find it to be very relaxing as well as memory provoking. My dad used to do puzzles. He taught me to put the edge together first, how to distinguish the subtle color differences in the various pieces, and he always saved the sky for me! It was my favorite part. As I was working on my puzzle, a child’s song popped into my head. I remembered learning the song as a first grader in Kaegebein Elementary School. Not only that, I remember the day that I learned it there was a thunderstorm happening outside. I was very afraid of thunder as a child, so each lightning flash would find me tightly closing my eyes in hopes that the noise from the thunder would somehow not happen. I know–that makes no sense, but as a six year old child, I would try anything to escape the noise while trying to not let the other kids see that I was afraid.

Why do I remember that? It certainly wasn’t a monumental event that shaped my life, yet the memory bank of my mind contains countless scenes such as that one. They replay at various times and can trigger emotions that range from happy to sad, from nostalgic to annoying, from fondness to disdain. I’ve often wondered if memories really are precious, as the song quoted above makes them out to be.

This morning, as I was checking my E-Mail, I saw my daily Facebook E-Mail, telling me that I had memories to look back on. If you aren’t familiar with the process, Facebook keeps track of all the statuses you post. If you allow it to, the service generates what it is called “Your memories on Facebook” every day. Because I have my settings programmed to send me notification E-Mails, I receive several E-Mails each day telling me various things about my Facebook account. If someone posts in a group that I belong to, I receive an E-Mail alerting me to it. Likewise, each morning I am notified that Facebook has retrieved my memories for the day. Sometimes reading those old posts makes me smile, like when I posted a conversation between my youngest daughter and me that took place in a bookstore. Sometimes those memories make me sad. I know this week will hold one of those as the anniversary of losing my beloved cat, Molly, will show up in my memories. Sometimes those memories make me wish I could rewind time and redo or linger a bit longer in something I wished away. This morning brought that type of memory.

Six years ago today, I posted a video on Facebook of my younger son, then a junior in high school, performing a piece of a song at a private music school he attended on the weekends. I remember having to get up every Saturday morning, earlier than I would have liked, to drive him to downtown Minneapolis to the MacPhail School of Music. There he would spend three hours learning music theory, getting voice lessons, and being instructed in performing on stage. I would bring a large backpack of things to work on since the drive was too far for me to go back home and there wasn’t much around the school to do on a Saturday morning. By the time we returned home, the day was more than half over and usually another activity was waiting in the wings–basketball, play practice at the school, indoor soccer, etc… Often I would wish that we could just have a normal weekend…stay home, sleep in, clean the house, watch TV, read, etc… But today, as I watched the video, I found myself wishing I could go back to 2010 and watch him perform at MacPhail again. He is now married and is the youth pastor at our church. Yes, all the money spent on that program and he doesn’t even sing or act anymore. :) Still, I wished it away, and now I wish I could be that younger mom once again…the mom who chauffeured him (and his siblings) all over creation so they could do all the activities they could pack into their schedules, complain sometimes at having to do it, yet beam with pride when watching their hard work pay off.  Maybe I just wish I was needed again.

Yes, memories are precious. I think I have replayed that short video five times this morning. Each time, I smile. This week, as pictures of my beloved Molly pop up in my Facebook memories, I’m sure there will be tears of sadness over missing her, yet, at the same time, I am so thankful I was her human for ten years. Even the sad memories are precious when I really stop to think about it.

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Hitting the Jackpot

I struggle daily with love for things of this world. The current Powerball jackpot is over one billion dollars. Billion! I have played scenario after scenario in my head of what I would do with all that money. I’ve rationalized that it isn’t greed–I would certainly use the majority of the money to help others. My kids have student debt that weighs them down. How I would love to rid them of that. My mom lives on income that is just barely enough to buy groceries. I would make sure she wouldn’t have to worry about money for her remaining years. There are organizations that do wonderful things for people that I would love to help. I would sponsor many more children. I would help those called to adopt to do so…The list could go on. Of course, there are other things I dream about doing given that kind of money

This weekend my husband and I attended a party hosted by one of the partners of the accounting firm where he works. He has only been there a few months so even he did not know everyone there. As we pulled up to the home of the partner, a woman, I was in awe of the beauty of the houses in this neighborhood. The fronts were all stone with large white pillars adorning the front entrances. Each had at least a three car garage. When we entered the home, my awe continued. Beautiful hardwood floors, built in book shelves around a beautiful stone fireplace, stairs that led to a loft and upper area that housed bedrooms, a full basketball court in the finished basement, a beautiful large backyard, a deck that overlooked it… What shocked me the most, though, wasn’t the size or beauty of the house. I have seen houses like this before. In fact, I know several people who own beautiful homes. What really bothered me–yes, bothered me–was the age of those in attendance. The owner of this home, a partner for a while, had two young boys. I would guess their ages to be 10 and 8. My husband wanted to make sure I met the guy who he reports to. I was expecting someone about our age. Imagine my surprise when he walked in with his wife, carrying their 1 year old baby! I wouldn’t put him to be older than 32. An associate from my husband’s former employer, now working at this new job as well, came in with his girlfriend. He didn’t look older than twelve! My husband assured me he was. He is two years out of college, so he is probably twenty-three.

As I sat awkwardly at the counter, young people all around me, my mind began to play with the what-ifs. What if my husband had been able to be hired into a company as this when he was a fresh college graduate? What if he would have made partner by the time he was forty? How different our lives would have looked. Even more so, how different would the lives of our kids have been? One couple, attending with their daughters of about the same age as the partner’s sons, talked about how they were leaving the next day for a trip to Colorado. Apparently, they take trips quite often. I replayed the younger years of our four kids. I thought about all the things we didn’t do. We took one family vacation in all their years at home. And it was only to Wisconsin! Our kids never had a need for cute little rolling luggage bags to take on a plane, or those cute animal pillows that support your neck on a flight. We bounced from rental property to rental property, finally buying a small, two bedroom house (for six of us, a cat and a dog), only to lose that house after four years. We did not give our kids memories of trips to Disney World or mountains or famous places like the Grand Canyon or Hollywood. The more I thought about it, the more depressed I became. Then, the what-if of my staying home began to dance through my head. What if I had gone to college for a degree that may have provided a good job for me? What if, like that partner, I had landed a job with a big company and been promoted through the ranks? How different would our kids’ lives look then? How much better of a place would we be in now? The dollar signs of the Powerball billboard taunted me as we drove home that night.

Now, I have to say that most likely, if my kids read this, they will disagree with much of it. They will say their childhood was wonderful, that they have good memories, and that they are glad I chose to be a stay at home mom. Perhaps they are being honest; perhaps it is because that is all they knew. Regardless, for me the guilt of not being able to give them vacations and memories sting, and that sting hurts. Maybe had I been able to contribute to the household income, my husband would have not had all that pressure on him. Then, he would have been calmer at home, money issues wouldn’t always be weighing him down, and our marriage wouldn’t have nearly fallen apart…the what-ifs can drive a person crazy.

Yesterday in church, our pastor talked about kindness and repentance. He asked us to consider what it is that God is convicting us of right now in our lives. I instantly knew, for me, it was loving the things of this world. The Bible is clear that we are not to store up earthly treasures. They do not and will not last. A new BMW eventually rusts just as my Dodge will someday do. Yet, how often I look at nicer vehicles and feel the pull of wanting them because they go faster, accelerate faster, have heated seats or remote start. Money can’t buy me youth. Today my firstborn turns twenty-six. I am amazed at how old that makes me. Of course, I know I am old. I have a grandson! But, I look at pictures of my son as a baby and I am amazed at just how young I was when he was born–and how old I look now. My hair has more gray than brown. My skin has more wrinkles, and I certainly am not as thin and athletic looking as I was then. I want to chase after youth and grab ahold of it, yet it is futile to attempt. The things of this earth will pass away. Heavenly treasures will not, though. The things God wants me to chase after will last forever–His Word, eternal life, the souls of others.

Somehow, though, that Powerball jackpot still holds more desire to me than pursuing heavenly treasures. It is here that I find myself today, contemplating why it is so easy to love the things of this world. Isn’t eternal life worth more than the billion dollars I could have if I won the lottery? Isn’t the Bible clear that money gained hastily never lasts? Isn’t it obvious that money doesn’t necessarily mean happiness? (By the way–I struggle a lot with this one. Money may not buy happiness but the peace of mind that comes with knowing one’s bills are paid and one’s kids are taken care of is definitely a nice thought) Apparently, this is an area that God has much work to do in me yet. As I try to battle the feelings of guilt that come with knowing our kids don’t have as many happy memories to look back on as other families do, I also know that my life is probably more than half over. I can’t go back and change any decision I made. As I get older, I realize it is a good thing that I cannot. I do believe God is still working in me and that He will bring me to a point where He is enough for me. I just wonder how much I delay his work by my own self sabotage…

Posted in faith, famiy, growth, marriage, Parenting | Leave a comment

What God Can Do

Yesterday I spent a short time at the home of a friend. I realize to those who may be reading this that probably isn’t a big deal. Most people spend time with friends once in a while and don’t feel the need to proclaim it on a blog. This is different, though. And it’s that difference that has had me sitting with God this morning, asking Him…crying to Him…to do something in my life.

Yesterday started with me picking up my daughter and beautiful grandson for a 10:30 appointment. That isn’t exactly the best time to have little man out since that is nap time…and his mommy has worked very hard to get him into a normal sleeping routine. His night times are still not there, but his daytime napping has been consistent for a few weeks now and 10:30 is when he goes down for his morning nap. While she handled the appointment, I handled him. I followed him as he crawled the long hallways of the place. I sat with him as he played with a toy provided for his entertainment. Then, I followed him as he crawled some more, exploring all the open rooms he could. At one point he put his little head on the floor. There was no denying his sleepiness. I found his mommy and retrieved his binky from her. I left and went to an empty room, cradled him in the “sleeper hold” and bounced him ever so gently. His eyes immediately grew heavy. They closed. Then opened–just to make sure Grammy was still there with him in this strange place. Then they closed again and he was off to dreamland. I gently walked with him back to where his mommy was so she would know he had fallen asleep. Her appointment was over and we debated what to do. Taking him out to put him in the car seat was a risk. It was cold and the air would certainly wake him. We decided to sit in the empty room for a bit so he could sleep. No complaints from this Grammy–I got to hold him the entire time! Being almost ten months old, he seldom lets me cradle him like a tiny baby anymore, so I treasured every minute of this sleeping wonder in my arms. After about forty minutes his eyes opened and he was ready to continue our day.

This is where our visit to my friend comes in.

I had spoken with her a few weeks prior to let her know I would be in town that day. She had not had a chance to meet little man yet, nor had she seen my daughter in several years. We drove to her house,  knowing we wouldn’t have long for a visit–we needed to stop at the store to get baby food and little man would need to eat soon. After knocking at her door, it didn’t take long at all for her to hurry to answer the knock–and to open the door wide and give my daughter a HUGE hug! Little man wasn’t so sure about this new person. He is at the age where he isn’t too keen on strangers who want to snuggle him. He did smile at the cat, though, as she ran up the stairs in attempt to get away from all the commotion. We went and sat down in her living room–a place I once spent much time in and always found to be beautifully accented. This day was no exception. (I do not have a flair for decorating or furniture placement–she does so her home has always been so inviting and calming) She called to her husband and youngest son to come see my daughter and the baby. More people for little man to stare at–he did eventually give them smiles and even let my friend hold him for a short bit. We chatted for a while as she caught up with my daughter and loved on the baby as much as he would let her. Little man let us know that the time to leave was quickly approaching as he begin to fuss for some food. We said our goodbyes, gave hugs, and headed out to the car, hoping to return again when our visit could be longer and perhaps her daughter (also now married) could be there as well.

So…again, what’s the big deal?

Two years ago, that scenario would never have taken place, for two years ago we weren’t even speaking to each other. A friendship of nearly ten years had been broken by words and misunderstandings. My daughter got married, and her daughter got married, yet neither of us were invited to the others’ weddings. I had watched her children grow, and she had done the same with mine. Still, the hurt was too much at the time to see past and I chalked the relationship up to one that was gone forever.

But then God stepped in. God allowed her to run into my oldest son one day at Target. My son came and told me that she wanted to “take me to lunch”. At first I rolled my eyes. I held tightly to the bitterness of what had taken place. My dad taught me many things–one of the things he taught me best was how to hold a grudge. I was good at it, and that was playing out in this situation. God, though, had other plans. He tugged at my heart–not all at once, mind you. His voice was subtle but powerful. It became clear to me over time that I was not acting the right way in His eyes. Still, I hesitated. Finally, I decided to see if I e-mailed her, would she respond. And how? Would there be anger still? Would I get hurt again? I composed an e-mail, deleted it, composed another, deleted it, composed another and hesitantly hit “Send”. Now I would wait. I didn’t have to wait long. Her reply was nothing like I expected–it was one of grace and love and forgiveness, and it melted the small shreds of anger and bitterness that I had tried to hold onto. We arranged a time to meet and our friendship was resurrected through God’s grace.

And I am SO thankful it has been!

This morning, as I marveled again at the work God has done, I realized that I want God to do so much more in me. There are several areas in my life that I know I am not living completely as God wants me to live. I have tried to change on my own and have failed every time. Each failure brought discouragement. Several times I verbally said I was just going to throw in the towel on trying to live this Christian life. Each time, though, I got back up and tried again. The problem, as I said, was I only tried in my own strength. I have seen God work. I have seen God change my heart and the heart of my friend in this situation. I have experienced God change my heart when my marriage was over and people were telling me to file for divorce. I have seen God change my husband from an angry, unpredictable person to one who has control. I have seen God change me from a person who needs alcohol to one who can live without it.

This new year, I want God to change me to a person who is more like Jesus. That was my cry this morning to Him…literally, as I sat with tears, begging Him to take away those things in my life that have no place being there. Laziness, selfishness, complacency, jealousy, unforgiveness…the list could go on. I want to be more like Jesus. I want to face the storms of life, the disease of MS, the torment of depression, with the strength of Jesus. I want Jesus to lead me instead of my emotions. I know God can take away all those things, and I know He may choose to leave some of them there. I want to obey regardless. I have seen how obedience brings joy. I am so thankful I obeyed God’s prompting to reconnect with my friend; the joy that came with even our short visit yesterday was a salve to my heart. I know God is waiting for me to surrender more of myself to Him. In this new beginning of a new year, that is what I desire to do. If you know me in person, and you consider me a friend, would you please pray for me to that end? And, perhaps, would you be willing to encourage me along the way? I have tried going solo for a long time and found it doesn’t work so well.

Posted in Change, depression, faith, grace, Grandma, Grandson, love, MS, sin | Leave a comment

A Turn of the Page

December 31, 2015…when I turn the calendar page at the end of today, the calendar will be outdated. Twelve page turns over the last year has brought me, once again, to the end of another calendar. That doesn’t seem like many, does it? Just twelve pages to get through an entire year? It seems each year, the page turns happen faster. The number of days in each month stay the same, the number of months in the year doesn’t change, not do the number of hours in a day, yet the pace of turning the pages seems to pick up as the years of my age go up. I remember my cousin saying something at my grandma’s funeral in 1986. He was in his early thirties at the time and my dad, his father’s brother, was in his late fifties. My cousin was telling my dad that the older he got, the faster time passed, and he could only imagine how fast it must go when one is as old as my dad. Don’t ask me why I remember that conversation, but it has stuck with me all these years. And, like my cousin, I find it to be quite true.

At the end of each year, I tend to reflect on the previous twelve pages of the calendar. What momentous events took place in my life during those twelve pages? What dreams were fulfilled? What dreams was I forced to let go of? What lessons did I learn that could positively impact my upcoming twelve calendar pages? What losses came into my life? Did I grow at all in the past twelve calendar pages? And, perhaps most importantly, what does God want me from me in the new year?

Like many people, I used to make resolutions that would go into effect January 1st. As a kid, those resolutions usually involved trying harder at school or helping more around the house. As adulthood replaced childhood, my resolutions changed to things such as being a better wife, being a better mom, being a better homeschool teacher, getting organized, losing weight, etc… The last two years, I decided that instead of resolutions, I would ask God to give me one word that He would want me to focus on in the upcoming year. The word would be one that would hopefully shape my thoughts and behavior. This year, I believe God is giving me the word Intentional for my focus.

As the calendar page gets turned, and a whole new year begins, I want to be intentional about areas in my life that need attention. I could make a list of resolutions–get organized, lose weight, pray more, read my Bible more. All of these are much needed in my life and are good things on which to focus. However, if I remember the word God gave me, intentional, all of these areas, and more, will be covered. For example, if I am intentional about watching what I eat and drink, most likely I will be healthier and lose weight. I have been wanting to pray more–to learn to pray more effectively and purposefully. I have an entire Pinterest board designated to making a prayer journal and have even bought the supplies needed to make one. I haven’t done it, though. But, if I follow the word I believe God has laid on my heart, and be intentional about praying and setting a regular time to do so, my prayer life will change for the positive and spiritual growth will happen.

Dictionary.com defines the word intentional as: “done on purpose; deliberate”.

I have sat around too long, hoping that spiritual growth and other changes will somehow happen in my life. This year is the year God wants me to be intentional about allowing Him to do a work in my life, in my heart, and in my mind. I have no idea what joys and challenges 2016 holds for me. God knows, though, and He wants me to be faithful through whatever comes my way this new year.

Adios 2015…your days held a mix of joy and tears, laughter and pain, blessings and not-so-wanted events. Your days held wonderful memories and times I want to forget. Tomorrow begins a brand new year–a blank page to start filling in with whatever happens to come into my life. Woven into the events I have no control over will be intentionality that I pray God uses to make me more like Him.

 

Posted in faith, growth, One Word | Leave a comment

Break my Heart for What Breaks Yours

My surroundings could have been taken straight from a well known Christmas song:

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks,
Dressed in holiday style.
In the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas.

My husband and I had planned a weekend away. I wanted to go to a real city to do some Christmas shopping. Minneapolis is far from what I would consider a real city. I wanted a place where people filled the streets, regardless of how cold of a bite the air contained. I wanted to see city streets and stores decorated for Christmas. I wanted to hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves as they pulled carriages of people taking in the joy of the season. We had originally thought New York City would be our destination. Some day I still hope that will happen. This year, though, the $300+ per night hotel room prevented such a trip. We decided to go somewhere very familiar, but had never been to at Christmas time. We left Minneapolis on a Friday bound for the Windy City–Chicago. Although I have lived in the Twin Cities area for over fifteen years now, I would not be able to give a visitor directions from Target Field to US Bank plaza. I have no idea how to maneuver the habitrail known as the skyway system. Yet, if someone stopped me on Chicago Avenue in downtown Chicago and asked me how to get to Sports Authority on LaSalle Drive, I could easily get them to their desired destination. If someone asked me for restaurant recommendations in the downtown Minneapolis area, I could give two or three recommendations. Downtown Chicago? Don’t even get me started on the vast number of amazing restaurants to choose from!

We arrived late on Friday, took a shuttle to our hotel since driving a car in that area takes longer than walking anywhere, and headed out to my favorite downtown Chicago eatery–Ginos East Pizza! It was an exceptionally warm night for December. As expected, the sidewalks along the Magnificent Mile were packed with Christmas shoppers. Every tree was lit with twinkling Christmas lights, and storefronts joined in the festivities with decorations. As we walked to dinner, a familiar and always sad sight, soon appeared–the first homeless person, sitting or standing on the sidewalk, holding a cup and usually a sign explaining how they ended up begging on a busy city street. It never gets easy to see. I know there are many who are skeptical about some of the claims made by the homeless. My own husband has been known to be one of those skeptical ones. He once heard of a homeless man who, after begging for money, walked a few blocks away, got in his fairly new Cadillac and drive away. I am not naïve enough to believe that something like that isn’t possible. Having a son who lived in Chicago for several years, though, and actually got to know several of those who lived on the streets, I know that homelessness there and in other places in our country is a very real issue.

As we continued our way down Michigan Avenue, my eye caught sight of something I had never seen before. Sitting on the lap of a woman in a wheelchair, was a cat. The cat was bathing itself as cats often do. As we got closer I saw another cat, this one much smaller and most likely just a kitten, curled up next to the bigger cat. Neither of them tried to jump off the lap of the woman as she held out a cup to those who passed by. Her sign said that her name was Jaimiee and that she and her two babies had lost their home. I didn’t get to read the rest as people pushed from behind to keep walking. If you know me at all, you know that I am, and have always been, extremely sensitive, especially when it comes to animals. As we ate dinner, I thought about the woman and her “babies”. I wondered where they would go for the night. I silently thanked God that the weather was unseasonably warm. I fought back tears as I thought of the three of them alone and outside. I wondered if they were hungry? I fought back tears as we walked back to our hotel. All night my sleep was disturbed as I couldn’t get them out of my mind.

The next day we headed out to do some Christmas shopping. As the afternoon wore on, the sidewalks were impassable with people and the streets were gridlocked with traffic. Horns sounded every minute as it seemed no one could move even when the traffic light would turn green. As a crowd of us pedestrians stopped at a corner to wait for the walk signal, I noticed everyone stood to one side. As the light changed and we started to move, I looked down and saw why. Sitting on the sidewalk just to the left of the main flow of foot traffic was a man who appeared to be in his thirties. He never looked up at any of the people who walked by. He stared only at the ground. He held a cardboard sign, much like Jaimiee’s that said he had lost his mom to breast cancer and had lost his job and savings taking care of her. He didn’t hold a cup in his hands; instead, his cup sat next to him on the sidewalk. Again my heart broke. As we walked along with the flow of people, sure enough we came upon Jaimiee and her two babies again. This time, both cats were curled up in a tight ball, sound asleep on her lap. A block or so down was a lady without a sign. She was holding a cup and had a sleeping toddler wrapped in a blanket on her lap. Another few feet brought us to a young woman with a small dog wrapped up and sleeping on her lap as she begged for change. Another woman asked passing people for groceries–she made it a point to say she didn’t want money but she needed groceries.

By the time we got back to the hotel that night, my heart was heavy with sadness. How is it in a city where one can find stores that charge $720 for a pair of shoes (yes…I actually found a pair of woman’s dress boots for that price) and $249 for jeans that came in size 2T (a size a child would outgrow in less than a year), there are people who just want groceries? Or people who have children and pets that have nowhere warm to sleep at night? In cities big and small across America–one of the wealthiest countries in the world–people sleep in cardboard boxes and eat only when they can find someone generous enough to give them food. Criminals in prisons are better cared for than that. I admit that guilt was prevalent in my own heart that weekend as well. I found myself praying often through the night that God would provide for those people on the street. I wondered how such an issue could be resolved? Is there an answer to homelessness and poverty? I know some people choose to be homeless and some are homeless as a result of mental illness, but I am also positive there must be many who want desperately to be free from that situation, yet they lack the wherewithal to make it happen.

We left Chicago early on a Sunday morning over a week ago. Not a day has gone by that I don’t think about Jaimiee and her two furbabies. I have prayed for the three of them, that God would provide a home for them before the cold weather arrives. My one regret was not stopping to talk to her–to pet her kitties, to hear her story, to give her a hug and to try to help a little. I know God sees her, and all the people like her, not only in Chicago but across this nation and the world. I know his heart breaks for them. And, for one of the few times in my life, I have found my heart breaking for what is breaking the heart of God.

Posted in Culture, faith, Holidays, loneliness, winter | Leave a comment

Seriously, Clark?

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Have you ever wondered who or what to believe? It is a well known fact that we live in an age of instant information. Google is accessed 2 billion times a day. A day! And yes, I used Google to find that information. That’s just one search engine. We all have the world at our fingertips. A popular online medical site has tools for checking your symptoms, researching health conditions from A-Z, and even allows for live chat with someone qualified in the medical profession. Some doctors’ offices allow for E-Visits–you simply send the symptoms you are experiencing, and a diagnosis will be made based on what you send. Medication will be prescribed and sent to your pharmacy if needed, without you ever having to step foot in your doctor’s office! With the touch of a few keys, I can find out what the weather is in Barrow, Alaska. I can, within seconds, find the highest elevation in Brazil. Need to know the population of Nauru? Google has an answer for that. In fact, when you type “population of Nauru” into Google’s search bar, you will get about 1,720,00 results as well as an outline of this tiny island and a picture of its flag. Did you catch that number? 1,720,000 results for a search on a tiny island that, I would bet, the majority of the world does not even know it exists! Oh, and Google also tells that those 1, 720,000 results took 0.66 seconds to retrieve!

Mind. Blown.

In this age of information gathered in milliseconds by the touch of a finger, it can sometimes be hard to know what is really true. There was a television commercial for car insurance that aired not too long ago. A young guy was taking pictures of damage to his car and uploading them to his insurance company for a claim. A friend of his, a young lady, came out of the apartment building in the background and asked him what he was doing. He explained to her that he was filing a claim online with his insurance company. She said she didn’t think he could do that. Her reasoning was she saw it on the internet, and that everything on the internet is true. He asked her where she heard that. Her response: the internet. She then told him she was going on a blind date with someone she had met on the internet, and, he was French! Her obviously not French blind date walks up, takes her by the arm, and in a gruff voice says, “Oui.” We get a chuckle out of the young woman’s naivety, yet so often we are guilty of the same thing. We are quick to believe something we hear or read online. The problem, though, is when we read something that contradicts something else we have read.

As a person with a chronic illness, like most people, when I was first diagnosed I turned to the world wide web to find out as much as I could about my illness. I wanted to know what I could be facing. I wanted to know if there might be a cure out there. I wanted to know if my children were at risk for developing the same condition. I wanted to know how to live as close to a normal life as possible despite having this disease. I found, though, that the more I researched, the more contradictory information I found. It isn’t just with my illness that I have seen this either. In the last several years there has been a large number of people avoiding gluten in their diets. Gluten free products have multiplied in grocery stores, restaurants, and bakeries across this country. “Experts” sing the praises of eliminating all forms of gluten from your diet. Interestingly, I came across two articles in the last month that warned of the dangers of eliminating gluten from one’s diet. Both authors did studies on adults who believed eliminating gluten was a healthy thing to do, and both found that, in adults who didn’t really need to eliminate it due to a viable health condition, the elimination of gluten was doing more harm than good. Their studies showed that otherwise healthy people who eliminated gluten from their diets, actually were training their bodies to be overly sensitive to foods. They also showed that, for people without a health condition requiring that gluten be eliminated, they were depriving their bodies of nutrients found in gluten containing foods. Celiac disease and actual wheat allergy affects 1.4% of the population, yet estimates based on gluten free product sales point to nearly 30% of Americans eating gluten free.

How does a person know what is true and what is not? How do we make decisions in the face of so much conflicting information? I have had to deal with these questions in my own search for health. I don’t think it surprises anyone that our food supply is not as “clean” as it once was. The increasing use of pesticides and growth hormones certainly cannot be good for our bodies. God designed us to need food; the problem in this day and age is that our food is no longer what God designed. How do we know that one person is right and another wrong in their research? If food was the answer for everything, if eating a cleaner diet or no gluten cured cancer or Lupus or MS, then wouldn’t these diseases be eradicated? I have wrestled with these questions over the last 2 years. I often think of the line from the movie “Christmas Vacation”. Clark is telling his cousin’s children that the radio reported that Santa’s sleigh was picked up on radar. His cousin, Eddie, not the sharpest crayon in the box, looks at him and says, “Seriously, Clark?”

Over two thousand years ago, the prophet Isaiah told of a future event. A virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a boy. That baby boy will grow up to be the Savior of the world. I wonder if the people around him looked at him in disbelief.

“Seriously, Isaiah? You are telling us that a virgin will get pregnant. Without the seed of a man to impregnate her? That is impossible! We took biology. We know how it works, and that isn’t how it works.”

Isaiah’s words were confirmed hundreds of years later when an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel told Joseph that his fiancée, Mary, would indeed be pregnant, but he was not be ashamed of her, for this pregnancy was not the result of any sexual relations with a man. The angel repeated the words of Isaiah to Joseph. Joseph believed the angel. I wonder if Joseph had access to Google if he would have googled the possibility of a virgin conceiving? And, if he did, how many results would have been returned and which ones would Joseph have believed? Joseph didn’t have Google. He had something far more valuable and reliable. He had faith. He knew God was trustworthy and that’s all he needed to know.

In this day of instant information and conflicting opinions, I pray I am able to step away from the noise of the internet and spend some time reflecting on the miracle of what took place that first Christmas day. I pray that my head and my heart are not overwhelmed with the worlds’ ideas of what Christmas is supposed to be. I pray I do not get caught up in things that really do not matter. Satan would love to distract me with the busyness that comes with the season, but I pray my eyes would be fixed on the baby in the manger–not the Santa in the mall. The world’s Christmas contradicts the Christians’ Christmas.

Which one will you believe?

Posted in Christmas, Culture, faith, Holidays, MS | Leave a comment

A Story to Tell

All of us have a story. Regardless of where we were born, the dynamics of our family, whether we were rich, poor, or somewhere in between, we all have a history that begins exactly the same.

“I was born on_______, in the city of _______.”

All human beings had a beginning. That beginning started exactly the same, biologically speaking. Of course, our birth stories would be different. Even among blood relatives, birth stories vary. For example, my firstborn, a son, was reluctant to leave the womb. We went to the hospital twice thinking the time had come, only to be sent home. A few days before his birth, I went to my weekly doctor’s appointment. She was surprised that I was still pregnant given I had been seven centimeters dilated for a week! She said that was definitely not the norm–that most women who are that far dilated are in a birthing room in active labor. I, on the other hand, left that appointment and went to lunch with my mom! It wasn’t until four days later, after a couple hours of off and on labor, that this child finally decided to exit his warm and cozy living space and enter the world. Our third child, also a son, apparently didn’t like the tight quarters of the womb. Labor started with him around 1:00 AM, waking me up from a sound sleep. After visiting the bathroom, where unbeknownst to me my water broke, I knew this baby was not going to wait for us to call grandma and grandpa to come sit with our other two sleeping babies. We phoned our next door neighbor who groggily came to wait for my parents and around 1:30 AM we set out for the hospital–30 miles from our home. My husband ran every red light down a thankfully empty busy road (with SO many stoplights) as I nearly broke his hand from the pain. When we arrived, the ER nurse in a panic put me in a wheelchair and literally ran with me to the maternity floor. Twelve short but intense minutes later, our son was born into this world. Although their stories differ, the process was pretty much the same.

Any one of us could sit with another person and tell stories from our lives. Chances are, that other person, even if just an acquaintance, will be able to understand at least some of the things we are saying, because, most likely, that person experienced something similar. There are people, though, who have gone through things that only certain others can truly understand. In 1994, my husband and I lost a baby. While many expressed their condolences to us, I found that those who had suffered a similar tragedy were the ones who really knew how to listen and comfort. One friend in particular, who had also lost a baby, came and cleaned my house for me. She remembered how difficult it was to get even the simplest thing done after that kind of loss. She also knew that a clean and orderly home would help create feelings of warmth and belonging. I have never forgotten that act of kindness though I doubt she remembers doing it. Similarly, I have a few friends who lost children when they were older. My heart breaks for them, but I cannot truly empathize with them. I do not know the pain of burying a sixteen year old who died tragically in a car accident, nor the pain of burying a five year old killed tragically by the school bus that was supposed to safely carry her to and from school. There are other aspects of our lives that sometimes require help beyond what even the most empathizing friend can give. Those parts of some of our stories, the most difficult and painful parts we may have, need the hand of an all powerful and all loving God. My two friends above both leaned, and continue to lean, hard into God, despite not knowing the why behind their tragic and immensely sad loss. Part of my story includes such a segment as well. It is a part I have not shared with many, yet it has haunted me for most of my life. It has wreaked havoc in my marriage, for the damage that was done is deep and is not easily undone. It is also one that for most of my life, brought shame and the belief that nothing could ever heal it. It is one I have wanted to write about and share for a long time but was never sure it was the right thing to do. Today, I decided that stories are not only powerful, but can also be of help to someone who may have gone through the same experience. Just as my friend who lost a baby provided an understanding shoulder when I needed it, I share part of this pain now in hopes of showing others what God can do when we are open to allowing Him to work. I do not claim to be completely healed. God is still working in me, and sometimes I definitely get in His way. It is a journey that will not be complete until I enter into His presence. That is where complete and total healing will happen. But, looking back over the last three years, I can say I am farther along the path of healing than I was five years ago.

The part of my story that has been locked away (for the most part) in a corner of my heart involves hurt at the hands of those who were supposed to love me. I see no need to name names or even relationships. I have forgiven–but only by the amazing grace and help of God. You see, for years, I was the victim of abuse. I use the word “victim” cautiously because for years I had the victim mentality. I no longer keep that mindset, although I do believe a person who suffers any kind of abuse at the hands of another is indeed a victim of the act. The abuse I endured permeated much of my childhood and adolescence. The abuse encompassed more than one area, meaning it was physical, emotional, and sexual in nature. It was well hidden for much of my life. It had to be for various reasons–reasons that I don’t believe are relevant to this piece of writing. It was largely the damage from this abuse that led me to the intense self-hatred I still possess. (Remember, I said I was still a work in progress–not completely healed yet.) I was fed lies about myself, about my body, about my family, and I believed every one of them. A child’s mind is impressionable beyond belief, and once a statement is cemented into a belief, it is a difficult process to turn around. In my case, the statements were repeated over and over so that I came to know them as truth. I believed I was ugly. I believed I was unwanted. I believed no man would ever want me. Those beliefs led me to the conclusion that all males were jerks–a belief I still struggle with to this day. I came to believe that that being a girl was a horrible sentence that only a mean God would impose. Therefore, in addition to my abusers, I blamed God for making me a girl at all. More than once I tried to end my life, believing I was worthless and so damaged that life just wasn’t worth living. I carried shame everywhere I went, fearing someone would know just by looking at me. I feared if someone did actually know, then even more bad things would happen, both to me and to those who perpetrated the damage. Secrets, especially bad ones, have a way of eating at a person, almost driving them to the point of insanity. I held this secret for many years, desperately trying to bury it in any way I could. But, secrets have a way of coming out eventually. Mine was no exception.

I won’t give details of all that took place in those years of horror. At some point, I may decide to do that in another venue. For now, I write this because I am certain there are other women and girls out there who are keeping such a secret. Shame and embarrassment, even fear, keeps them from saying anything. Sexual abuse is one of the two leading causes of suicide attempts–the other is bullying. As an abuse survivor, I would say with confidence that abuse in childhood is bullying in its most intense form. For most of my adult life, as I wrestled with how to reconcile the injustice that took place in my childhood with a loving, just God that people spoke of, I floundered not only in faith issues but also in relationships. Convinced that the lie told to me–that no man would ever want me–was indeed truth, I quickly attached myself to any guy who would give me the time of day. I constantly compared myself to those around me and knew I did not measure up to them in the beauty area. This is still a major struggle for me. I blamed God for allowing it to happen. It was this deep seated belief that God didn’t really care about me that kept me from a true relationship with Him for so long. It wasn’t until three years ago, when my pastor said some very hard words to me, that I realized that for all the years I had blamed God for the abuse, that blame got me nowhere. It didn’t take the abuse away. More importantly, it didn’t place the blame where it belonged–on the people who actually did the abusing. In conversations with my pastor as well as a trusted friend from church, I came to see that not only would God impart justice in His time, but also that He wept with me during those years of abuse.

Three years later, after this epiphany about God in my life, I can honestly say that I have forgiven those who abused me. Forgiveness doesn’t mean excused. Their behavior was completely wrong. But I am not the one they have to answer to. I belong to God; someday they will have to answer to my Father when they stand before Him. In the meantime, I know that carrying that hatred with me only hurts me. I once heard someone say, “Hurt people hurt people.” I have come to believe that those who abused me were hurting individuals. Somewhere, at some point in their lives, they were most likely hurt in a similar way. That actually saddens me now, where one time it would have made me happy. God has so much more work to do in me. I still struggle with so much of the emotional fallout from the years suffered at the hands of my abuser(s). Sometimes I still have flashbacks and nightmares of things that took place. I’m afraid to be alone at night–a difficult predicament when one is married to a man who often travels for his job. And, that traveling also causes issues, for I often catch myself believing that what my abusers told me is true–that I would never be truly loved by any man. A victim of abuse has a hard time trusting anyone…even someone who said a vow to love and cherish.

Statistics show that 28% of children in America are victims of sexual abuse before the age of seventeen. That statistic is approximate because often, abuse is not reported to anyone. It takes courage to tell on someone older and stronger than you. That means in a church youth group of forty kids, eleven of those students could be victims of sexual abuse. They may show up weekly with smiles on their faces, willingly participating in events, or they may be the kids who tend to not want to get involved and keep to themselves. The point being, it is often impossible to know if abuse is taking place–especially if the abuse takes the form of no visible evidence. I was a kid who showed up at youth group every week. Admittedly, I didn’t go willingly. My mom made me go, but no one there suspected anything so horrible was taking place in my life. If they did, they didn’t show it by attempting to come alongside me and try to show me Christian love. Of course I would have rejected them, but what could have changed for me if someone had persisted enough to help me learn to trust? What if someone would have taken an interest in me and built me up and taught me that my identity was found in Jesus, not in lies that were told to me or what had been done to me? Would I have turned to alcohol still to numb the memories and pain? Would I still have attempted to end my life, feeling like there was no reason to live since no one loved me anyway? These questions are obviously hypothetical since the hands of time cannot be turned back and things in the past cannot be changed. For me, what I went through has made me more aware that everyone has a story that may or may not be visible to others.

Time does not heal all wounds. Deep wounds, like those left by the loss of a child or abuse suffered at the hands of others, eventually stop bleeding, but the scars they leave behind seldom fade. My stomach bears the marks of multiple pregnancies. I do not detest my stretch marks, for they remind me of the wonderful and miraculous privilege of carrying our children. The scars left behind by my abusers are not visible–they are marks ingrained deeply on my heart.  God has put pressure on those wounds that bled for so long, and now they no longer bleed. For children suffering abuse, others can come alongside them, love them, and encourage them to not keep the secret that potentially can cause so much damage. But only God can heal the wounds inflicted. Our jobs as adult Christians are to encourage young people to not keep such a secret, make sure they are getting the help they need, and constantly point them to the God who ultimately can heal them.

That’s only possible, though, if kids are told it is okay to talk about these difficult subjects. Kids need to hear that, sadly, this does happen, even in church going families. They need to hear testimonies of people who have been through it and have come to see the healing hand of God in their lives. Adults need to hear these things as well. I imagine there are many women, like me, who grew into adulthood hiding this shameful secret. (I realize that boys are often victims of abuse as well. I just write from my own perspective which is female) It is not a vindictive thing to be telling, but rather a freeing one. It is why I finally decided to go through the pain of sitting down and typing this entry–an entry that has taken me two days to compose. I know God can do a wonderful work in the heart of a person willing to allow Him the opportunity to do emotional surgery. I know because I am living proof of it, for it is only by the unbelievable grace of God that I can think of those who abused me and not feel hatred. God still has some major surgery to perform in me. Thankfully, I am learning more and more to trust Him with the knife.

 

Posted in Children, depression, fear, grace, sin, trust | Leave a comment

This World

blackfriday

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

I saw a quote the other day that said something along the lines of only in America do we wait in line and trample others for sale items one day after giving thanks for what we already have.

Ouch.

You see, I love black Friday shopping. I first experienced this adrenaline rush when I was a young newlywed. At that time, KMart opened their doors to shoppers at 7 AM the day after Thanksgiving. Back then, there were no stores open 24 hours, not even gas stations were open through the night. Most department stores opened at 10:00 AM, so KMart opening at 7:00 was a BIG deal! We didn’t have much money to buy anything, but it was thrilling to be there. It almost felt illegal driving in the dark and shopping in a store when typically the doors would be locked. A few years later, a rival store, Zayres, pushed the envelope even more and kept their doors open 24 hours for the week before Christmas. I remember one time, my husband and I went at 2:00 AM. We didn’t buy anything; we just wanted to be able to say we went shopping at 2:00 AM!

Fast forward a few years. Stores like Walmart entered the scene. They had extended hours throughout the year. Between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, they would often stay open until midnight. Black Friday shopping started at 6:00 AM.

Fast forward a few more years. Some Walmart stores stayed open 24 hours throughout the year. Thanksgiving and Christmas, though, the doors were locked. Employees were able to spend those days with their families celebrating the season. The day after Thanksgiving, most opened their doors at 5:00 AM. Shoppers didn’t disappoint retail expectations. Long lines of people stood outside in the cold (at least where I live it is usually cold that time of year) in hopes of being the first in the store to take advantage of a good deal on something a special person in their life desired for Christmas. My husband and I were always in those lines. With four kids, there was always something that was such a great price during Black Friday we figured we’d be crazy to not take advantage of the sale. One year we battled crowds for the handheld Gameboy games. Three of our kids wanted that. One year, Tickle me Elmo was the coveted gift of our youngest…and hundreds of thousands of other little ones across the nation. My sister-in-law was able to grab three of them–one for our daughter, one for her son, and one for her nephew. (As it turned out, our kid was afraid of the dang thing!) One year it was a 3 in 1 game table for $79! A perfect gift for adolescents–air hockey, a pool table and a ping pong table to go in the lower level of the house.

Fast forward to today. Stores that are open 24 hours are common. The majority of grocery stores and gas stations are as well. Black Friday shopping has slowly started to take over Thanksgiving Day. Stores like Walmart are no longer closed even on Thanksgiving and the Black Friday madness has become even madder. It is common now for people to be trampled as crowds storm the doors. It is common for fights to break out over sale items. I saw a video from this years’ shopping madness where a grown adult yanks a waffle iron from the hands of a child, no more than five years old. A fist fight between that woman and the boy’s mom ensues. Three years ago, my husband, daughter and I went to Walmart. We needed to replace our TV and they had a small flat screen for a very good price. The store wasn’t closed so there was no line outside, but all the Black Friday deals were covered in plastic. At the appropriate time, an employee would remove the plastic and people could calmly take the item off the pallet. Yeah, right. There was chaos as greedy, impatient shoppers pushed the employee out of the way and tore at the plastic to score a television set. We left the store without a television and with a bad taste in our mouths for what Christmas shopping had become.

And yet…I still love to go and try to snag some good deals. I won’t take time away from my Thanksgiving and family to do so, but around 9:00PM, we will head out the door in hopes of saving some money on presents we would buy anyway. This past week, we stood in line for over 90 minutes at Kohls.

Wait…let me correct that:

My husband and daughter stood in line while I shopped. The line stretched around the entire store! We didn’t see any fights, but there was a Rogers policeman talking to a woman in the parking lot. She apparently had scratched another shopper and was told to leave. She wasn’t happy leaving without the deals she most likely stood in line, outside, in the cold, to get.

I have a confession to make.

I love the things of this world. I love shopping. I love to give gifts. It is my love language for sure. I get a thrill from buying things, whether I wait in line for them or simply click and have them sent to my home. I usually feel guilty when all is said and done about how much money I spent, but the spending of it gives me such an adrenaline rush!

John wrote the words that opened this entry to warn us of the trap that loving the things of the world can be. It is a trap I have fallen into time and again. I love not only buying things, but having things. The problem is, I am finding that the more I have, the less satisfied I am with those things. So I desire and go after more. It becomes a cycle similar to that of an alcoholic or drug addict. Few drug addicts start out with heroine. Few alcoholics start out with hard liquor. Over time, though, the desire for a bigger high, a longer escape leads to those harder substances. Yet, they never seem to completely satisfy. One more drink, one more hit…one more Amazon purchase…before you know it, you are hooked. Whether one is hooked on alcohol or spending, the result is the same.

Destruction.

God knows we are not designed to be satisfied by the things of this world. Those things will not last. My husband recently bought a new vehicle. It is shiny and has that new car smell. There is no rust on it. There are no scratches where children have run the handlebars of their bikes down the side. Yet, I am sure in ten years, that new car will not look so new…if it is even running at all. He can follow the owner’s manual perfectly and that vehicle will still, one day, rust and die. It is earthly, temporary. God knows if we learn to love the things of this world that we will only be setting ourselves up for disappointment when those things no longer make us happy because they no longer work or something better has come along to replace them (handheld Gameboy games aren’t in demand anymore…)

Yet, I find myself drawn to the things this world offers. I see what others have and I often want that for myself. I find myself unhappy that we do not own our own home, forgetting that many have no roof over their heads at all. I find myself feeling jealous that my husband’s new car has seat heaters and a heated steering wheel, forgetting that there was a time when I had no vehicle to drive at all. I don’t want to love the things of this world. I know they will rust and fade and die. I know that only what Jesus gives me can last forever, and while I am so thankful for eternal life, I still would have to admit that I am not at the point where I could say, “Take it all, God. As long as I have you I will be content.”

I want to be there though. I really do.

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