I think sometimes the older we get, the simpler we need life to be. Not that it gets any simpler, mind you. In fact, everyday it feels like someone is turning up the speed and the difficulty level. I often feel like Pac Man, endlessly eating a little line of dots......... faster........faster......faster.............. Trying to reach the goal, complete the job, and still have time to breathe. I am fortunate that I spend so much time on the road, because my car serves as my sanctuary and my quiet time. I often reflect on my fast paced life, my mountains of responsibility, and my faith. I find that God is often more present in my chaos than in peace. I am one of these who have spent many years in my past life chasing after God. I always felt we had to push, try "run the race" to keep up with and stay in His glorious presence. Funny thing is, as I get older I am finding Him in my rat race. I am finding Him beside me at work, whispering in my ear to tone down my thoughts and find His, I am finding Him in my car, enjoying not only my worship music (because realistically my car has become my church) , but also enjoying my country music and feeling happy that I am happy with my awesome husband and amazing family He has given me. I am finding Him everywhere! I guess for me I have found the kind of God who is truly active in every aspect of our lives. It isn't a Sunday experience. It is no longer about wishing Sunday morning or Wednesday night would get here so I can get my God fix. It has become about living a life of finding God in every moment. About allowing God to reveal himself in the good and especially in the bad. About asking God every morning as we are having our morning chat, listening to my radio, not only to reveal himself to me, but through me. My husband has always called God "the big man" and says that to him God does not sit on a throne, but on a bar stool. This is the type of God I am coming to know. He is more than a high and lofty "soon coming KING". He is more than an unattainable "Almighty". While He is most definitely all these things and more, he is also the still quiet voice that helps me through the little daily dramas that never seem to stop. I seem to recognize Him the smile of a stranger, in the sun shining through the clouds, in the leaves falling on my windshield, in the voice of a client who is kind after the last 5 who cussed me out, and as that quiet presence that keeps me sane when my world is spinning way too fast. I am finding myself talking to Him like I talk to my husband. And I am now finding myself taking time to notice he is answering. Not always with the YES I am looking for, but ALWAYS with the answer I need. He is making me aware that the struggles aren't a trial to pray away, but an opportunity for growth and change. That all the mistakes I want to beat myself up for are not only forgiven, but have been used to bring about a greater good in the long run. I am finding God is wanting to be present with us and not just a lofty ideal. Want to know where God is? Look around. He is right there beside you wanting to be an active part of your life. Feel like you aren't worthy or in a place where He is not welcome? Know this, none of us are worthy, but He loves us just like we are. Whether your life is where you think God will fit into it or not, He is completely aware of everything you have going on, even the things you try so desperately to hide from others. Nothing is hidden from Him. Not your pain, your mistakes, your failures, or your triumphs. And guess what....... He loves you anyway!!! Want to know where God is? Look beside you. He's always been there, and always will be. Let Him in! It really is that simple. And know in the long run, it isn't about you having to change. His love does that for us. He just wants to be with us. Period.
I read a post today on my Facebook newsfeed, that was really convicting to me. A girl on my friends list was talking about all of the trashy people at the Salem fair. You guys know the people she was talking about. The ones who pick up welfare checks on the first and are broke by the fifth. The ones who sell their foodstamps for drug money, have their hair and nails done while their kids are looking scraggly. The ones who will cuss you out for looking their way. The ones who cuss me out at work on a daily basis.The ones most of us hardworking Americans do our best to just avoid. But these "trashy people" are also the ones I find God asking me to pray for alot more often. These are the ones I am asking God, begging God, screaming to God, to let me see through His eyes everyday. These are the people whose stories we do not know. Whose pain we have not felt and whose burdens we have not carried. These are the people God loves and who Jesus would be fellowshiping with if he were here in the flesh. Now let me pause for a moment to say I am not writing this condescendingly. I have struggled with both sides of this issue. I am not going to lie or be self-righteous here. When I go into a grocery store at the beginning of any given month and see a young woman cussing her kids, talking on her cell phone, going through line with a cart full of food I can't even afford to buy after busting my tail all week, pulling out her EBT card and splashing attitude all over the place,I struggle with the same negative thoughts and feelings as the rest of you. I struggle hard. I have made some of the same comments I saw online today, and felt the same disgust that was so obvious in my friend`s post. But seeing it there in black and white helped me in a couple of ways. 1. I have really been praying diligently for God to help me love people more..... particularly the least of these. And I am finding that slowly, and painfully, God is answering my prayers. What I saw today made me disgusted not with those trashy people but with myself. Disgusted by the judgement I have held over people I don't even know. 2. I have had a real issue with religious people for some time now. No real surprise to people who read my blog, and reading that post today I thoght this is what I dislike about "Christians". And like a whisper in my ear, my next thought was "How are you any different" ? My God, you are right! I have been irritated by people for doing the same thing I have been, and still am guilty of. You know, the only thing that will ever make a differencein the life of these "trashy people"is love. And if those of us who have experienced the love of God can't show them kindness and respect, how do you think they will view God through us? They will view Him as judgmental, self-righteous, and ready to strike out against them We are supposed to be the bearers of God here on earth, and looking at others (and my own) thoughts and attitudes today, I think we might just be the "trashy people" and not them!
I can't write a post about the darkness of my past without following it with the brightness of my present life.
I waas pretty much your typical little girl as a young child. I lived in Roanoke, Virginia and had a second story bedroom window that faced out toward the Catholic church near downtown. This is a beautiful church and when it was all lit up at night it looked just like the Disney castle. For a short period of time I actually thought it was the Disney Castle and wondered why we never went there. Anyway, the relevance of this to my story, is that even as a very young girl I always thought about the day I would meet my Prince Charming and live happily ever after. I always thought being a wife and mother would be the greatest job in the world and spent many hours cooking up wonderful meals at my metal kitchen set for my baby doll in preparation for that coming day.
As my prior post so blatantly points out, this dream of mine didn't come to life in the way I was hoping. I didn't fall in love and live happily ever after. The first time I truly fell in love was on May 17, 1990 when the doctor laid a precious little baby boy in my arms. Then again on November 9, 1992 when his beautiful sister was born. Then on October 25, 1994 God gave me another amazing son to bring joy to a difficult life. On December 24, 1996 another precious daughter was given to me. Then December 2, 1998 I had another beautiful boy, followed on January 30, 2001 by my final little bundle of joy (another son). I would have another daughter brought into my life years later.... and I will get to that later on.
So this is the beginning of my fairy tale. I truly fell in love each time a child was born. I know most all mothers feel this way. There is an unspeakable bond between a mother and child, that you just can't put into words. There is something about that life growing inside, and then caring and providing for that innocent baby that makes a Mom want to move mountains for her children. Nothing in my life made me feel more fufilled than taking care of my kids. Being a Mom to such an amazing group of kids has always been and will forever be the beginning of my fairy tale. And as they get older those feelings have only grown stronger. My kids and I have been through hell and back.We have failed one another (me more than them), forgiven one another, We have walked through joy and saddness together. I know my children will always be there for me, and they know we will always be there for them. My children did not have an easy life. I will not go into detail on this, as it is their story to tell, not mine. But for those of you who read my blog, you know they faced many obstacles early on. I am so amazed by their strength and their spirit. How all of my children have grown out of adversity, and I couldn't be prouder of them all! As they are becoming adults and starting families of their own my joy becomes even greater. Now I not only have amazing children to love, but four beautiful grandchildren!
Now what fairy tale would be complete without its prince? I was great in the kid department! I had some beautiful, wonderful children, but I wasn't quite as fortunate when it came to tracking down a prince! I stumbled across a few toads along the way, but all the kisses in the world didn't free them from their curse. When my children were young, there were two prayers I distinctly remember praying on a daily basis. 1. Was that God would let my mini-van blow up with me and all the kids in it, beacause I just didn't feel I could keep going on. Or option 2. That God would please send someone who would love and appreciate us into our lives. I am so glad God chose option 2!
I never found my Prince, he found me! He found me when I wasn't exactly the best woman I could be. I was starting to grow out of some of the false thinking, but my life wasn't exactly pristine either. He pursued me and he treated me with a care and respect I never thought truly existed. He was a good friend early on (and my very best friend now). When I look at him, I see every quality I ever wanted in a man, and then some. Early in our relationship I always tried to make him understand that I was not good enough for him. He never saw me that way. Even when so many people tried to tell him he was making a mistake, he followed his heart! I am so grateful for that. I never dreamed marriage could be so wonderful. But the very best thing about my Prince, is that his love wasn't just for me. He loves our children with all of his heart and I know he would do anything for them. He adopted 4 of them. And that in itself is a legal formality. We have children together and all 7 are truly ours. Before Jake came along my kids were MINE. I never felt the "ours" aspect of having children with someone else in this way. The kids couldn't belong to him anymore than they do now even if he planted the seeds himself! I never thought we would experience having such a complete and happy family.
So there is my fairy tale. A wonderful group of children (and grandchildren). An amazing Prince! All the love and support I never dreamed possible. I couldn't ask for anything more!
It is not as often as it used to be, but every now and then I will awaken from a dream that makes me want to not close my eyes anymore that night. These dreams are always the same, and always of my past. They seem almost more horrific to me now, than the reality did when I was living through it. Now some would say that since these dreams still haunt me maybe I have not been healed from my past, or maybe I have not been set free. I do not believe either of these lines of thought to be true! I can honestly say I am sometimes grateful for the nightmare. My life has come full circle and only the nightmare brings back the depth of pain, hopelessness, fear, and sorrow my life consisted of. I believe that memory only makes me more grateful for what I have now, and more willing to share the darker side of my story so someone elses who is hurting knows they too can make it and there is hope! Also I find writing to be therapeutic. It takes away the sting from the portion of my life I just revisited, and gives purpose to the pain.
Like all of my nightmares, once again I find myself in the midst of a fight with my ex. He is drunk and hateful, and I am afraid and broken. I am always trying to find a way to hide my children from the reality of their circumstances. They are the only light in my life and my real concern is that they do not fully feel the pain in which we live.
But this story starts way before the incidents taking place in my dreams. It starts when I was a young teenager. It starts when my father leaves and my mom becomes broken and alone. It starts when I was an awkward teen who fit in absolutely no where. It was these feelings of being unloved and unacceptable that I embraced in my early years that put me on a crash course with disaster! It was the feelings that maybe it was my fault my parent‘s marriage failed, maybe my father didn‘t love me because I really wasn't good enough, and maybe the kids at school didn't like me because I really was a skinny, ugly freak. Early on I learned to view myself as the exact opposite of who God created me to be. Just like so many others I bought into these lies and they had a devastating effect on my future.
At the age of sixteen I was already pretty broken mentally. I only wanted to feel accepted and loved. I soon became involved in the wrong relationship, with someone I would spend the next 15 years of my life with. He was from a very hard life. He had a history of being abused and in and out of foster homes. At that stage of her life and for many years prior, his mom was both an alcoholic and drug abuser. And as it is in most families, he was already starting to follow in his mothers footsteps. I remember the first time I visited in their home being shocked by the living conditions. They had so very little, his mon was drunk and she had transients in and out all of the time. We ate food someone had gotten out of the dumpster from a local fast food chain. Even though his mother was pretty wasted she must have been rather wise and insightful. I remember her sitting me down once and asking me if I loved her son or if I felt sorry for him. I didn't know how to answer so I said "both". Years later I realize how smart she was to ask me that question. Now do not get me wrong. I loved my children's biological father. But now I realize it was not the type of love on which you build a marriage. That was something I would not experience for many years. It was something I was incapable of experiencing until I was able to change some of my ways of thinking.
At this stage of life and after walking through so much rejection and pain over the years, I have come to realize that escaping the nightmare wasn't just about changing the circumstances in which I lived, but changing my way of thinking.I had to come to a point in my life where I saw myself as who I was created to be and not who I had become. It was easy to listen to the lies all of those years that I was unlovable, that I was worthless. I went from a bad relationship with my father, to an abusive marriage, to a life that fell into such a desolate place that not many who end there are able to come back from it.
Still to this day, there are times I struggle with feelings of inferiority. There are moments when my failures as a mother come back to haunt me. There are days I wake up and wonder why my husband and children love me and what they could possibly find good in me. But , fortunately I can also say that those days are fewer than they used to be. As I have come to find value in myself, I expect more for me and my family than ever before in my life. I have come to recognize who God has made me to be. And that person is not unlovable and worthless. That person has a lot of love to share, and alot of herself to give to others. Now my next battle is learning to trust others.
I have been giving quite a lot of indepth thought this week to what it is I actually believe. When I allow the church to ruffle my feathers it seems to temporarily throw me off balance, and I have to take a breath and refocus. As I have pulled myself off my soap box this week, I have decided it was time to write a blog about the positive and not the negatives. To realign ny heart and mind with what God is shouting in my spirit! And that is love, love, love, love, love. I guess for me it is hard to come completely clean with why I believe the way I do. Sometimes I feel like I haven't yet come out of the closet spirituality. I live in a predominantly "Christian" fishbowl, I love and worship God so much. I pray so much some days I jokingly wonder if God feels like an overwhelmed parent and may need me to take a nap so he can have some "Me", time. Now here comes the part where I step out of my proverbial closet......... The closer I get to God the further I get from the belief that the Bible is meant to be taken literally. The more I read it, the more I see how I had been indoctrinated to read it with a specific interpretation. The more I try to keep my heart and mind in tune with our Creator the more I realize Jesus simplified the whole conflicting mess when He told us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts souls and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is truly my hearts cry. This is where I am going to be placing my focus for the days and months ahead. When I find myself getting sidetracked by all the ugliness committed in the name of God, I am going to remember that everyone (including myself) have been (and are) guilty of the same things. I am going to srtrive all the more to live a life that reflects the love of my Saviour, and I am going to spend more time hanging on to God, because as His love is shown to me I have no choice but to have a greater love and tolerance for others. You know, none of us will EVER get it all right! We all have some truth to learn from one another. May God help me to keep my ears and heart open more and my mouth closed a little more. May I truly learn to practice what I preach and focus on love!
It seems my frustrations with religion will never cease. I guess one of the contributing factors is that we are still attending a rather conservative church and when you place yourself in the path of the religious what else can you expect besides narrow mindedness and legalism. I find there are aspects of church I don't want my family to miss out on. Corporate worship is nice and we always listen to the message and then disect it as a family on the way home. We try to talk about what we do and don't agree with and why. We have really been wanting to stay focused on our children having a relationship with God that is not dependent on church. I even let them go to youth group early on, but when they came home and they were telling me how the youth leader was talking about how he was witnessing to a Jehovah's Witness at his work and was offered a Watch Tower he told her, "Thanks, I was running out of toilet paper", I knew we were dealing with more of the same. Such bigotry from thoses who should be showing the love of Christ and not cramming a Bible down their neighbors throat. Now I mostly believe I find myself sitting in church so often so God can teach me the same tolerance and love I want to see in others. I find it usually easy to love the outcasts and "sinners" but more difficult to love thoses who are in my eyes modern day Pharisees. I guess over the years as I have truly come to know God I have found how badly He had been misrepresented to me and I hate to see that happening to others. When I was deeply entrenched in some really rough stuff, it was those who loved me unconditionally that brought conviction into my life and made me pray to God for change. Thoses who spouted scriptures only made me want to rebel all the more. I want to train my children to be tolerant and loving and to accept people as they are. We pray for others, for God to move in their lives, and for us to be used to help people whenever and however we can. I have friends of different religious persuasions from Agnostic, to Christian, to Mormon. (And yes people, in case you have been falsely taught Mormons are Christians too). And even for those we know who don't believe exactly as we do we just love one another and don't cram our interpretation of scriptures down their throats. I guess I just had to vent a bit this morning. Instead of walking away from the church as a whole (as I am often tempted to do, I am going to keep pressing on.I know I am being taught tolerance and grace. I try to see past their words to their misguided hearts. I used to be just like them, even worse than some I know. I need to direct an equal amount of love and prayers their way as I do for others. So readers of my blog and fellow misfits send a praer out that God will keep teaching me what I so desperately want to see others learn.