Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Survival 101b

Around this time of year, we usually get at least one sermon about getting through the holidays and remaining ambassadors of Christ, giving love and inciting hope. Our Pastor would give us  Holiday  Survival 101, reminding us that we already know what the holiday will bring, and we should be proactively positioned to remain Christ like in our responses and actions during this season. In other words, as she would say "don't bring God any slaughtered lambs" that have been wounded with our thoughts, words or deeds because of a tense holiday gathering. I appreciated that annual reminder.  It helped me to develop a giving and forgiving mindset and enjoy the holiday's with love and laughter.

This  season should be filled with good feeling and great vibrations; yet statistically it's a time with high rates of depression and suicide. People feel more alone than at any other time of year.  It's also a time when even the most confrontational family member is going to be sitting around the dinner table and stirring up the trouble brew. If your family is anything like mine, there will be a lot of laughter and love, and a couple of thinly veiled barbs and jibes. If nobody takes the high road, a neatly lobbed barb could spark a cold war. You have to be careful to remind yourself that this is about love and nothing less.

For a family of divorce there's an added dimension to the holiday frenzy - shared parenting. One parent is going to be without the kids during a time that extols the virtues of family togetherness. You can really see the effect of divorce on everybody, including the extended famlily.

This year, I felt myself getting melancholy on Thanksgiving, not having my children with me. I have to admit that for the first time, I felt lonely without my babies. My 7 year old was with his father, and my teenage daughter was with her cousins. Me, a woman who loves her own company and rates it at the top of the list when it comes to people I want to spend time with; I felt lonely.

It was such a foreign emotion, I had to get over the shock to allow myself to feel it and face it. Then, I tried to call my best girlfriends and my sisters, because I needed somebody to bear witness to my loneliness. When I couldn't get in touch with anybody, I asked God who I could talk to about this unfamiliar emotional territory I was embracing. Ironically, or not, I begin to talk to Him. Out loud. In my car. I got therapy that people pay thousands for; and it was immediately effective.

To know my family is to understand why it was necessary to have permission to embrace a notion such as loneliness. The whole lot of us have driven, A-Type personalities and appreciate the company of our own selves so much that recognizing loneliness is as extreme as wearing white after labor day. (You just don't do it. It's not debatable).

Depending to whom you speak, admitting to feelings of loneliness can result in anything from the need for a 24 hour suicide watch to a family wide discussion on how you should get your mate back and never should have let him go. It's a sign of weakness.

Just because God is so lovely, He reminded me that in my weakness, He is made strong. Plus, loneliness does not equal weakness. How I handle my emotions, though, could very well expose a weakness. When I was done having a little talk with Jesus, I was no longer lonely. I was, however, still alone.

I recognized I need a plan of action for holiday's with or without my children. Thanksgiving morning I joined my Mom and sisters for Coffee Time. I did light housework and nearly nothing else. It was such a shock to my psyche that I felt guilty about it! You know the saying - an idle mind is the devil's workshop. The flip side to that a mind concentrated on Christ is not idle - it's occupied.

I'm divorced and this is a regular part of my lifestyle. For that reason alone, it requires planning.

When my kids came home, I was relaxed and excited to see them. Now that Thanksgiving is past, I think I will get ready for Christmas. I will definitely have a plan in place from now on, whether with or without kids on any given holiday.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mmm...that's good

My son loves these Chiquita Juice & Fruit duos. He eats them in his lunch, after school, and when he wants a snack. I had to taste it to see if it was as good as he makes it seem. I LOVED it. The juice is so fresh and the fruit is crisp and lovely. There are plenty of varieties and they are all our favorite! Try 'em

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Healing for your Heart

Have you wanted to understand why you reacted a certain way to your spouse, your children, your siblings? Or maybe, you wanted to figure out why after you told yourself you would not react to the ex-spouse in an explosive manner no matter what, the same argumentative end of the encounter occurred?

Author and Pastor Andrew Stanley has written an incredible work of healing in Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Emotions that Control You, that dives right in to our heart situations with great precision and puts on notice the enemies of our heart: guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. Stanley gives us the tools to fight back and gain foundational balance in facing down the enemy and getting the victory over the matters of our hearts.

Haven't you wanted to have a more fruitful relationship with the people you love, or worked better in a professional relationship, or understood how to be a better parent to your children? This is the book for you.

I have had all kinds of Franklin Covey classes, instruction in understanding personality types, being a better me and managing my personality with others for productivity. I recently read When the Hurt Runs Deep by Kay Aurthur, which is also a brilliant read; yet Enemies of the Heart spoke to me in a completely different way that gave me insight into some small hidden spaces God needed to get into and sweep clean.

Stanley is no nonsense in  his conversational deliberate delivery of this informative anointed text that makes you feel like you are just having coffee with a good friend, and a really great conversation too. One that you both will walk away from changed.

I highly recommend Enemies of the Heart to anyone who wants to improve their interpersonal relationships, understand what the battle is about, or just live and love in a better way.

Note: This book was provided for me by Waterbrook Multnomah for review purposes. The views expressed here are solely my own.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And the beat goes on...just like our love

Let me tell you a little is what it is. Period. In my personal experience, people sometimes harbor a vile anger toward an ex-spouse. Except that anger is not really towards a person. It can't be, logically, because one person wasn't in that relationship alone. Anger can mask fear of another emotion, in this case it is often fear of bottled up hurt and pain. There are some emotions that are not easy to face; some, even, that require giving God full permission and exclusive entrance into your soul and situation.

One of the most difficult exercises in faith is asking God to show you all of you. The difficulty lies in the fact that you are not all that pretty in entirety, and not at all what you have pretended to be, either publicly or privately. It is a humbling experience, but also one full of freedom and revelatory wisdom. There are issues I am still facing that make me cringe.
Like, how come I cannot tell a person is secretly mentally ill until I have already engaged in a friendship or relationship with them and they become diabolical, and then I feel all bad because they are nuts? Am I secretly nuts for attracting them? What did I do wrong? Who, me? Okay, as you can see I still have work to do. We all do - it's a continuous work in progress. He did say the perfecting would continue until the coming of Christ Jesus. Don't judge me. It will take too much time and you'll get all caught up in it, and have no time to spend with God on yourself. It's a trick of the enemy, don't let him use you today. I digress {and isn't that normal?}.

Let me try, in my human way, to tell you what I know from experience as the benefit from looking through a Spiritual mirror at your pretty/ugly self in entirety. I love my ex husband. Yes - this is as big a surprise to you as it was underwhelming for me to accept. I want him to have a successful, fruitful and blessed life in Christ. I want my children to have a healthy and whole father who can show them the truth about what a father and a Godly man looks like. Here is something else you should know: he is not the same man he was when we went through our divorce, and while we worked up to it. That is because of God and not by any work of his own hands.

Now, to say that I love him is not the same as saying that I want him, or I want to be back in a marriage with him.I do not want to be married to my ex husband. That would be to limit myself to experience only that particular aspect of love. The past happened, really. It is forgiven, but it is not erased. That is what God can do - he can forgive your sin and remove it from Him as far as the east is from the west. Not people. We can forgive each other and not charge each other for our past in present and future dealings; but we will not forget. That would be insane. Who among you can say that you can erase history? You lie, just like that.

Would you not think it odd that a lioness and a jackass were married? What if the jackass told the lioness he was born again? That is an extreme example of uneven yoke. I am often amazed when people say they are born again and think that means God made them a completely different physical and mental person than they were before. He did not. He gave you the mind of Christ that if you would be disciplined to use it, you would do right when your flesh would tell you to do wrong and you are still of the same species. If you don't work out your own soul salvation and understand that you are man made in the image of God after you accept salvation, you are still like a baby - trying out everything. Pulling your own hair even though it hurts every time you pull it.

What allowing God to work out my hurt and pain does is allow me to embrace my love for my ex husband, free me to embrace the good memories we made together, the family members we have in common, and substantiate the new relationship we are building as parents, without malice.
Because of this freedom, I don't have to be in a rush to find somebody to 'replace' him to prove to him, naysayers, or even myself that he is replaceable, because I know that any new intimate love can only enhance the past love I have experienced. I don't believe Jesus ever intended for us to dwell on any one experience of love, but to embrace each experience of love as a new and more exciting, invigorating engagement.

We have a propensity toward cloaking love in human conditions. Love is a separate entity that exists outside of our humanity. It's completely superior, and that is why we mess it up so easily. Love is about beauty and ugliness, perfection and flaws, good and bad, success and failure. That is why Peter admonishes us in I Peter 4:8 that above anything else we do, let the deep love that we have for each other show, because it COVERS OVER a great number or collectivity of; a great amount of sins.

It's everlasting.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8NLV

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stronger and Wiser

Can you complete this sentence? If this happens__________; then this will happen__________. I have been working through a Beth Moore bible study on the book of Esther, and at a point she asks a similar question. What happens when you ask yourself about what will happen when the thing that you fear actually comes to fruition? In Moore's study, she suggests that the thing most likely will never happen, and the whole concept is that we need to trust God in spite of whether that feared concept happens or not.

I wanted to call Beth up and tell her that I do trust God in spite of the odds, and many of my fears have come to fruition, and I'm still standing. I don't even have to complete the sentence anymore. One might say what if a spouse or significant other cheats on me? I will just die. No you won't. You will find an inner strength and understand that he comes from a background and has a weakness somewhere in him that is crying out for help.

You may or may not be the woman who can stand by him while he gets that help. But you had best believe, you are the woman who can reach out for the hand of Jesus, who can and will help you through the hurt and betrayal of a moment in time. The first time I knew my husband cheated, I forgave him. It was never a deal breaker, because I expected it of men. The next time, it made me judge his character. Finally, it became a deal breaker because it was a was about discipline and self control, and about love and respect for me. But it did not kill me. Instead it made me define my self worth and what I wanted my children to know about a woman's worth and a man's respect thereof.

Frantic children might say, if my mother or father dies, I don't think I will be able to make it. Yes, you will. You will realize that that parent has poured into you the very best they had to give you and it would be trampling on their legacy for you to give up now. It is ours to stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, not sit on the curb where they once made history.

I looked up at the window from which my father fell to his death, and I felt the quickening of my pulse and anxiety rising in my being. "Be still my soul." I spoke aloud. "He wouldn't want to come back here." It's alright to miss a loved one, but not to stay in the moment of the loss. They are NOT watching over you - to believe so is to believe they are in torment as they spend their eternity watching the messes you are making on this earth. They are in eternal rest and peace. The only way you get to catch them up on the Days of Our Lives is to go where they are. Get right saints, and lets go home.

Materialistic people might say, if I had to walk away from all of this today, what would I do? You would do just fine. I walked away from a completely furnished Victorian home with one basket full of clothes for my children and myself and moved into a 2 bedroom garden studio. The Holy Spirit spoke to me when I walked into the apartment and said that this was the place. I brought my children to see it and they walked through and said 'mom, this is our home'. We moved in over the next week. We have been here over a year now, and every single piece of furniture is new. It is fully furnished. We still have clothes, furniture, toiletries, etc., at the old house.

One week after I moved in here, my Doctor called and told me I had to go into surgery 5 days later. Six weeks after that surgery, I had a stroke like migraine that was the beginning of a year long health debacle which has left me still searching for answers. The whole way God has provided for every need and even some of our desires.

Of course, in all of this I have asked God, why? Why does this need to happen in my life? God doesn't really answer why questions for me. He gives me another, more relevant question. What now? What will you do now? Will you use what you have learned in the midst of this trial to live again, or will you sit in a corner and act like that will make the next tribulation pass you by? Life can still see you in that corner. Your destiny is still yours and if you let fear keep you from it, you will have just walked through your life WITHOUT LIVING. But you still went through.

These trials come to make us stronger. Look at yourself and see what kind of stuff you are made of - question your faith, your fortitude, your character - then think about whether you can or even want to finish the statement if, then. Or would you rather be the type of person who says, Whatever be tide, God is the master of the earth and sea, and safe in His arms is where He holds me?