Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Glued.

Sometimes I go to bed at night and I see short clips of my life, like flashing visions in an an old 35mm movie. If I am lucky, I get the good times. But every now and then, when I least expect it, the fear hits hard - the fear of another time that I have tried so hard to forget. 

I see those eyes that, in a dream once, appeared red, as if someone was giving me a warning that I was dealing with the devil. And that smirk, full of crookedness and anger. I try to close my eyes to erase these images, but they are there, burned in memories I wish I could forget.  

This time I am walking through the house, carrying in bags of groceries from my car. My thoughts begin racing -  I followed the list, didnt I? I dont think I forgot anything. I hope I got everything right this time.  The same thoughts I always have when coming home from grocery shopping. As I hurry to unload the bags and get the items where they belong, I hear, "did you get the sour cream? I dont see it. " Oh no. Shoot. How could I forget the sour cream!? It was on the list!! I know I passed that aisle, but I meant to go back for it. Ohh... All I can manage to say, stumbling over my words scared of the pain that is to come, is "Well, I missed the aisle and I was already on the other side of the store and meant to... " That was it. That is as far as I got into the explanation of the missing sour cream, before it started...  

What happened after that is what always happened when I failed a mission. I was forced to recognize what a failure I was. The eyes. The smirk. They came on strong. They were always present in that moment. Just like country music and alcohol. These things are intertwined into my being to shout pangs of fear, forcing my body to tense, waiting for the blow. The noise gets so loud - the yelling, the crashing... Oh, good... this time its just painful words, Im lucky today. I have heard all of the statements... how I am pathetic, useless, worthless, ignorant, and, somehow, I get reminded that its 'not all about me'... It doesn't take much to get broken down into enough pieces that you start believing what you hear.

When it quiets down, I go into the bathroom and cry... Cry because I feel sorry for myself. Cry because I feel so alone. Cry because I feel hopeless. Cry because I feel so broken. And cry because I forgot the sour cream ... and then I scold myself that it won't happen next time. 

I shudder as it takes me a minute to realize that it was just a passing thought of a time that I have overcome... and that I am safe now, no longer broken and alone. On nights like this, I use the glimpse of the past to remind me to thank God for my present, for my blessings. 
__________________________________


At some point in life, we will all experience a difficult time that can leave us broken. Are you going to let it consume and conquer you? Or will you stand strong on your feet and march on? 

God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children. He never allows Satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good. God never wastes pain. He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good, the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son. 
~ Jerry Bridges



Whether your pain comes from the loss of a loved one, a failed relationship, an addiction, at the hands of someone else, or for any other reason, you are experiencing that pain as part of your journey. There IS a reason for it. And its up to YOU to decide how YOU WILL OVERCOME it. Even the impossible is possible with faith. 



I am going to leave you with something I heard the other day that makes my heart smile and calms my soul. Ironically, its titled "Ora," which is Italian for "now." Close your eyes and listen - you are worth it. 




Monday, June 29, 2015

Screaming thoughts.

I have been working on getting my mind under control this past week or so. Not sure of the reason, but trying to lasso my thoughts is making me look like an amateur cowgirl...My mind is not finishing one thought before it moves on to another! I know that I need to BE STILL in order to re-focus myself and I am working on this. However, in the midst of these thoughts, I have one that is like a sign outlined in flashing bright lights smack dab in the middle of the Las Vegas strip. It reads:  "THE PAST."




The past I am referring to is the things I have previously done -- behaviors, harsh words, choices I have made -- that I cannot undo. I generally have no regrets, as I know that my past has molded me into the person that I am today. I see clearly the lessons I was supposed to learn. And, although looking back I do not like the person that I was, I love the person I am today. I'm still a work-in-progress, of course, but hey... I've got some darn good characteristics, in my opinion!

Now, as usually happens... everything I read lately (or hear or converse about) is focused on the past. In fact, I started this post last night. Yet, just this morning, I heard a radio program that said.. "QUIT STALKING YOUR PAST!" Talk about wow...  Who would have ever thought to put it that way? Perhaps using this as a mantra will help my lassoing skills? 

It went on to say that you will no longer fit in with the person you used to be, the friends you had and the activities you did. This is what happens as you grow in faith and is so incredibly true - Not just because of differences in opinion between friends and I when it comes to beliefs, but because the manner in which I choose to carry myself and my behaviors may no longer coincide with theirs. The common ground gets bumpy and the relationships can crumble. And deep down I know that, in order to grow, its ok if this happens.  

God has the ability to cut you out, so to speak, and remove you from the picture of your current situation in order for you to mature in your faith. That is what He did for me.

Today my life is full of faith, love, life, commitment & strength. Five key feelings that had taken the high road in my past... as I chose the dimly-lit, dark road. Looking at my calendar, it says "We can't undo the past..." but "God loves you , and even when life is dark and uncertain, that truth will bring you encouragement and strength." I didn't know that while living in my past, but I do know it now. And I know that should I ever find myself in difficult, dark situations again, I will know that I have light within me to see me through. 



"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." - James 4:10 



Sunday, June 21, 2015

All ya need is love

Guess what? I am not perfect. Guess what else? You are not perfect either. Yea, that is right. I called you imperfect. You have flaws. And so do I. Matthew 7:3-5 reminds us that we shouldn't be quick to judge others for their faults without addressing our own. "And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you cant see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye." - Matthew 7:3-5 But we don't always follow this lesson, do we?


We all know that its easy to focus on the dents, holes, disfigurements, wrong way paths of everyone else so I am not going to sit here and bore you with how I think you should go back and read, re-read, re-cite, remember, re-read again, and tape the above verse from Matthew to your forehead then stare at yourself in the mirror. No matter how hard we try, it happens. For whatever reason, it is a trait of being a human that is hard to let go. And that's ok. 

I say that its ok because our God is a forgiving God and no matter how many times we sin doing the same action, He will still forgive us. In fact, He will forgive ALL of our imperfections. Thats why it is so important that we forgive the imperfections of all of those around us. Not so easy, is it? 

Let's talk examples for a minute. Recently I encountered a situation in which my family and I were the victims of a woman's anger or cry for attention. It was a fairly extreme situation at the time and we were very successful at withholding our anger, rather than opening the lines of judgmental, hateful and regretful words. God gave us the strength. However, I was not as successful at controlling my thoughts... Her actions and words made me very angry and the thoughts in my head of her were not so pretty.

It took me a while to realize that she isn't perfect, just as I am not perfect. I know my own scars that I have obtained on my journey, but I do not know hers. I can control my own actions, but I cannot control hers. Her walk with God, or lack thereof, is her journey... her growth, just as I have my own growing to do. I have no right to be angry with her. 

Love. Regardless of the hurt someone has caused. Regardless of actions, words, concerns, age, race, ethnicity, sex, religion. Love. That is what it all comes down to. God's love for us is unconditional. If we are to be like God, then our love for people - and the world - should be unconditional. Who are we to place conditions and stipulations on who we allow to feel the love He has given us to share? 

Matthew 5:38-46 "You have heard the law that says that punishment must match the injury; 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow. You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Int hat way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? "



Unconditional love is something that we may never fully succeed at, but its something that we can continue to reach for. Even if we react out of hate and then stop and realize our wrongdoings, we have taken one step forward. We can always try harder next time. Maybe one day it will become second nature. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Too short

Have you ever met someone that you just knew you were supposed to meet? Have you felt a connection to that person that goes beyond just a normal friendship? Now, let me clarify. I am not referring to a sort of “love” connection or anything at all of that sort. I’m referring to someone who may be your friend, co-worker, or acquaintance that you just never have to speak to but when you do, you just feel a sense that the extent of your acquaintance to this person goes beyond what you feel with other friends. You can actually sense the reason you are supposed to have met. 

I have a friend like this. Someone I met about 3 years ago. She started as a co-worker who eventually became my friend. She and I didn’t see each other outside of work much, but we talked, shared, and comforted one another. About 18 months ago her dad got sick. He was in and out of the hospital and required several different medical procedures. During this whole process, I watched her highs and lows. I watched her reactions to phone calls she received about his progress. I watched her cry and quietly deal with her father’s struggles as life went on around her. And more and more, her situation with her father weighed on my spirit. I couldn’t understand how someone could handle dealing with all that her father had been through. And why was all of this trauma happening to someone so good?

I remember the day when she told me that Hospice was called in for him. And I remember holding back my tears. I did not know this man, but I knew his daughter and, for unknown reasons, I was empathizing more than I do with just any friend. I couldn’t help it. How tough would it be to watch your father die? I couldn't even begin to understand. 

Through all of this, I did what I could – send her little quotes or jokes or songs, just to try to lift her spirits. And, at the very least, momentarily take her mind off of her ailing dad. After all, even though her dad wasn’t doing well, life still goes on and she still had to come to work most days. I felt terrible for her. I felt it in my bones. And there was nothing anyone could do to make her feel better – It’s the circle of life. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

This went on, day after day, for what felt like several weeks. I remember one evening, June 17, 2014, my partner and I had sat down to watch some TV and chat after dinner when I received a few texts from my friend. The texts were long and she was expressing the pain she was dealing with. I started crying as I read them, learning more about the toll that her father’s suffering was taking on her. I told my partner that when something happens to my parents I hope its quick so that they don’t suffer, and because I didn't think I would be strong enough to handle all that my friend was going through. I distinctly remember this conversation. 

The very next day I was on break at work and my friend was telling me that she had talked to her dad the night before, while still under the care of hospice, and got confirmation - from him - that he was ready to go. This broke my heart down. I felt for her. Yet, what she was truly feeling, I could not understand, as I still had my dad and, in fact, had just talked to him! As my break was ending, I assured her that Jesus was sitting bedside for her dad and that he was in good hands. I gave her a hug and went back to work, carrying the weight of our conversation.

About 15 minutes later I learned that my own father had a massive heart attack, was in the hospital, and the prognosis was not good. It was not long before he was in the care of hospice himself and I found myself in the same situation as my friend. Now I could fully understand what she was feeling.

While very different situations, we both lost our dads within 4 days of one another. I cannot help but think that God was preparing me – with all of those quotes, songs and thoughts that I had sent my friend, I would also helping myself…I just didn’t know it at the time.  And I didn’t know that Jesus would be sitting bedside for my dad, too. 

Just one more example of a non-coincidence. Life isn't guaranteed. And every situation that someone is in is one that you could, one day, find yourself in, too. Judging a person's situation is not an option. Love your friends and cherish them. You never know what their purpose in your life is. 



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Start a chain reaction

I know there is something somewhere that says that when we do a good deed, we are not supposed to brag about it. Its not meant to be a show or an act. And we definitely aren’t supposed to make sure others know what we have done…. We just do it. Its all about taking care of someone who has greater needs than oneself. Complete selflessness, based solely on the actions of her heart, not pride. I love catching these moments as they happen.

For the record, this is found in Matthew 6:1 " Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

I'm blessed enough to spend my life with someone who does this - often - without a second thought. It is my constant reminder that I need to care less about myself and more about others. Especially those with greater needs than I... Or who need a reason to smile. Big or small.




I remember learning about "Random Acts of Kindness" while I was in high school and thought - what a GREAT concept!!  I mean, who wouldn't find satisfaction in following through with a selfless, random act that can brighten someone's day? Truth is, its a great idea, a great thought, it makes us pause for a moment...but how many of us actually perform these acts? 

Check this out... Last year, a Starbucks in St Petersburg, FL had a chain of random acts of kindness that lasted about 10 hours, with assistance from approximately 450 customers. It took one drive-thru customer to make the decision to pay for the order of the car behind them.... and the chain continued on and on and on.... for all of those TEN HOURS! 

Or how about this girl here ... she made a promise to complete 600 random acts of kindness in honor of her deceased grandmother. Or the diner who left a large tip so the server could show off a new smile --- with a chance at dental work! 

Kindness can be shown to anyone -- those who are less fortunate and those who are more fortunate. No matter what hand we are dealt, we all need a reason to smile. I previously posted on how contagious smiles are.... so how about starting today with doing 1 little random act of kindness. Here are a few examples if you need some help getting started:

- clean out  your closet and donate your clothes.

- write a letter to someone you havent spoken to in a while and mail it. (yes, with a stamp)

- compliment someone.

- secretly pay the tab of another diner at a restaurant.

- offer to help someone...with a ride, tutoring, babysitting, etc.

- leave extra time on your parking meter.

- leave a small gift or baked good on someones doorstep.

There are a TON of things that you can do. Just keep your eyes open and let your heart lead you. Then, let the feeling of completing that act propel you into doing another... and another...and another. Who knows where this can take you!? And remember, when one person is touched by your act, they will likely pay it forward, allowing the cycle to continue. What a wonderful world it could be! Now, go make smiles.... but first, please watch this: