If Christmas Makes You Cringe…

Confession…the holidays are a mixed bag of emotions for me.

I have been on a break from blogging. Honestly, since my last post, I’ve decided to continue my education and pursue my Bachelor’s degree and I’ve been applying laser focus to this pursuit (that was a run on sentence…sorry). It’s good and I’m learning lots.

The holidays are upon us and typically this season brings with it mixed emotions. I’ve gone through a lot of loss in my life and this season seems to highlight the losses. I work hard to focus on the abundant blessings that surround me, but there’s still that little shadow. That brings us to the point of this post.

This month, the Pastorman, my affectionate term for my pastor, has been taking us through a series and it’s messing up  my life…in a good way. The Ghosts of Christmas Past has been unearthing some…junk in my life. There’s really no other word for it, well there is, but I don’t want to distract with foul language.  My point it, Christmas is hard. If you come from a broken, dysfunctional, abusive, or mean-spirited family, this is not a great time. Everyone around you is celebrating family traditions and remembering Christmases from the past. However, if you meet any of the above family descriptions, remembering past Christmases isn’t a source of joy. It typically triggers too many things that would overwhelm you. I get it. So, here’s the deal. Whether you get brave and choose to listen to the talks he has been giving during this series, or you wait until the holidays are over, listen to the series (here is the link again). I know life has sucked up to now, but there could be a purpose for the suckiness. It won’t make it go away, but it might explain it. It won’t fix everything, but it might make it bearable. It might not remove scars, but it might bring deep healing and….HOPE. I dare you.

until another confession…

Graduation Post

Confession…I almost quit so many times.

This week is my last official week at community college. This Thursday, I will sit with a group of peers and be recognized for completing the required courses necessary to obtain an Associates degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration on Psychology. I will walk across a stage and shake  strangers hands who represent the institution of education. I will accept a rolled up piece of paper that represents the diploma that will come in the mail at a later date. I know it sounds like I’m minimizing the event, but I’m really not. I’m detailing the events that await me realizing that I almost quit. I almost cheated myself out of this experience.

You see, every semester, I wanted to quit. Every semester I told my husband that this was the last one. Yet, by the grace of God and the encouragement of my family I didn’t. Every semester, I signed up for another class and the cycle would being again. However, the last two semester have been different. What changed? Why did I stop trying to quit? Do you really want to know? Here it is. Last spring I realized that I was almost done with the required work. I realized that if I got through just a few more classes, I would be recognized for completing the required work. I didn’t even realize how close I was. Isn’t that silly? The realization gave me the focus I needed to do finish strong.

I suppose you might be thinking, “So why is she bothering us with this post?” I’m so glad you asked. It’s been my dream, since completing high school, to earn my degree. Many of life’s complications got in the way of that dream. Many of my own fears and excuses got in the way of that dream. When I finally enrolled in classes and went through the process of earning a degree, I complained and whined and wore myself out with anxiety. It wasn’t a pretty process. Sometimes, it was downright ugly! Yet, here I am…standing in this place….looking back to that place. I’m on the other side of the work…done. Degree has been earned.

Here’s the point, there are dreams you have that you are afraid to release into the light of day.  There are fears and excuses that keep you from even imaging how it would feel to achieve those dreams. Don’t wait for those fears and excuses to go away. They probably won’t. Start moving forward. Kick those fears and excuses aside, and navigate your way through the rubble of life.

You guys!!!!! I’m graduating! I did it! It feels good to look back at the work and feel a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I want that feeling for you too. Go get it!

Until another confession…

Winning Moments & Epic Fails

Parenting is hard for us sinners. Here’s a post from a couple of years ago. Enjoy!

Confessions of a Regenerated Heart

Confession…too often I forget to look at my kids and see their winning moments. Sometimes, I look too closely at their shortcomings and forget to tell them how they are growing and developing as human beings.

As parents, we want to make sure our kids are turning out okay. No one says it out loud, but we all feel like their behavior is a reflection of our winning moments or our epic fail moments. When our kids are in the middle of full blown fits, we often worry that onlookers are judging our competency as parents. When our kids are well behaved and using their manners, we fight the urge to take that success as our own. We NEVER say these things out loud, but we all know we are thinking it. If my kids turn out well, I will have succeeded as a parent. If my kids ends up…

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I Am Not A Normal Mother

Came across this post from two years ago and wanted to share.

Confessions of a Regenerated Heart

Confession: I am not a normal mother. I work with middle schoolers and their parents, I get asked many times in a week “What do normal moms do?” I am the wrong person to ask, I am not a normal mother. I tell them what I would do, but I then remind them that I am NOT a normal mother.

I was asked this question recently, by a mother who was completely unsure of her next step. I felt such compassion for her. I knew her state of mind. I have been there many times. She was filled with confusion, frustration, panic, exasperation, and ultimately LOVE as a result of her child’s behavior. Many times, as parents, we are filled with such emotion as our children push us to limits we never knew possible. We watch in disbelief, some days, as they chart a course for themselves outside of what…

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The Allegory

It’s been a few months since this post and I am still in awe of the work God is doing in my life and the lives of those I know and love.

Confessions of a Regenerated Heart

Let me tell you a story about a piece of pottery. It had heard the Potter speak about how useful and stunning it was. It was destined to be important. It longed for the day it would realize its dreams of greatness. However, as the days melted into weeks, the weeks moved to months. Then slowly the months became years. Of course the piece began to feel betrayed. Wasn’t it meant for more than this shelf? Wasn’t it meant to be used for something important? Wasn’t it meant to be on display? It was dark here and difficult to see.

“I don’t like this place!” shouted the piece. “Surely, I am destined to be more. Instead, I am on a shelf, abandoned and forgotten.”

In the first days, it had repeatedly cried out and complained. As its voice grew hoarse, it began to create schemes to get off the shelf…

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God and People

Luke 18:1-14

Confession…I’ve been reading this passage my whole life and I missed two important details in this passage.

He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.

1. This part of the story is about a man who neither feared God nor cared about what people thought.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:

2. This part of the story is about people who saw no need for God and looked down on everyone else.

When I’ve read this passage I’ve focused on the widow who bravely pesters the first man for justice. I’ve also focused on the second portion and felt compassion for the man who is being judged by the righteous man with fancy prayers. But today, as I read through this passage, I realized I’ve been the woman who neither fears God nor cares what people thought. I’ve been the woman who sees no need for God to bring righteousness to my life and in the process cast a judgmental look on those who did not met my level of righteousness. Yes, this story is about the widow and the tax collector, but it’s also about us hard-hearted folks, who do not value God’s authority in our lives and find little value in people.

Lately, I’m learning that it’s about the people. God loves people. If I call myself His kid, I’ve got to love them too. If it wasn’t for someone showing me love, how would I have experienced it? It’s food for thought.

Until another confession…

Love Between Whitbys

Last semester, during my Intro to Poetry class, we were asked to write a sonnet. I wanted to write about marriage in honor of my anniversary. This is the product of that assignment.

Love Between Whitbys

Untried pledges made by the innocent

To stay through illnesses and poverty

To love, cherish, and protect from neglect

I will cling to you as you cling to me

 

Life’s pains and joys challenged loves naïve vows

Time brought awareness of love’s true contour

Love doesn’t give answers to why’s or how’s

Love pleads your word of honor to endure

 

When fleeing in dark times seems appealing

And silence feels safer than speaking words

When pain we encounter leaves us reeling

And there is nowhere to hide from the hurt

 

Push in into the pain push in to the joy

Push into the love of this girl and boy

Family Anniversary

January 1996

January 1996

Confession…it’s our family anniversary. Today my family celebrates its 19th year. John and I were married and began our family on this day, nineteen years ago. Today’s post is dedicated to my best friend.

John,

Nineteen years! Can you believe it? Can you believe we still love each other? I think sometimes people look at us and think that it’s always been this easy. I think they assume we were married and we’ve been in love like this all this time. Do you remember, when it wasn’t like this? Do you remember when you were married to a girl who didn’t know how to love? Do you remember when I was married to the guy who didn’t know how to trust? Those were hard years. Do you remember how we both thought it would always be that way? Do you remember how we both prayed that God would intervene somehow? Boy did He answer that prayer! I know it’s not perfect and I know that we still have so much to learn, but how much fun it has been to learn it with you. I never thought you would be my best friend. I never thought I would love you this much after all that time. Oh and thanks for the kids, because they’re awesome! I love you and I can’t believe I can finally say that I have loved you for half of my life. Happy Anniversary!

The Allegory

Let me tell you a story about a piece of pottery. It had heard the Potter speak about how useful and stunning it was. It was destined to be important. It longed for the day it would realize its dreams of greatness. However, as the days melted into weeks, the weeks moved to months. Then slowly the months became years. Of course the piece began to feel betrayed. Wasn’t it meant for more than this shelf? Wasn’t it meant to be used for something important? Wasn’t it meant to be on display? It was dark here and difficult to see.

“I don’t like this place!” shouted the piece. “Surely, I am destined to be more. Instead, I am on a shelf, abandoned and forgotten.”

In the first days, it had repeatedly cried out and complained. As its voice grew hoarse, it began to create schemes to get off the shelf. Surely, there was someplace better. The piece would find that place and be there. The piece was never quite successful at this attempt. It could go nowhere, without the Potters hands. So on the shelf it sat.  A beautiful piece of pottery, wasted; on the shelf; in the dark; abandoned and forgotten.

I interrupt this allegory to bring a mirror to the scene, much like God has interrupted my week to bring a mirror to my life scene. As I gazed into this mirror, I realized, I am not a beautiful piece of pottery. I am a lump of clay, in the dark, waiting to be molded.

Clay-ss-2005 (2)

The past few years have been difficult. I’ve been frustrated at the thought of being on the shelf and abandoned. I’ve been wounded, each time a cut has come to my heart. I’ve been humbled as my pride has been assaulted. In my arrogance, I have believed myself to be a completed piece of beautiful pottery left on a shelf to waste away. When in reality, I am a lump of clay being kneaded, wedged, and cut in preparation for the creation the great Potter has in mind. I am stiff, stubborn, and have air bubbles of pride and arrogance that needed to be worked out of my heart before God can do anything with me. I am a lump of clay. It brings a strange excitement to my heart. I am not yet, what I am supposed to be, but surely I am not, what I once was.

What has made my heart full is the thought that while we are stills lump of clay, God sees in us what He will accomplish and how He will gain the glory from His work in our hearts. He does not see the cold, dark, formless shape that we are. He sees beyond that, to what He has in mind for us. He sees us as beautiful. So, you realize, I cannot finish the allegory yet, because it has just started. We are in the process of being wedged, cut, and debubbled and soon  will be ready for molding.

Three Things

In order to stay married to your spouse it’s really important that you share respect, trust, and love.

I get to listen to lots of conversations lately. I don’t know if people don’t realize I’m sitting there, or if they just don’t care that everyone can hear what they’re discussing but WOW! Sometimes I just feel awkward. Recently, I sat next to a conversation between a young married woman and her friends. She was talking through a major decision regarding their finances while sitting at a coffee table. When one of her friends suggested the young woman call her husband and talk through the issue with him, she sidestepped the suggestion and continued with her list of pros and cons.

I’m going to stop right here and acknowledge that I am not any sort of professional on relational topics. I have no degrees. I have no training. I’m in no way qualified by the world’s standards. I am, however, a wife of almost 19 years to an amazing man. I’ve been married for 19 years and I feel like that gives me a little bit of right to make the following comments. So, please read knowing I’m just a simple woman with opinions and experience.

If you want to stay married you need three things, in my opinion. You need respect, trust, and love…in that order.

Respect

:a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.

:a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way

: a particular way of thinking about or looking at something

In my experience, respect for your spouse is crucial. It’s crucial, even before you’re married. It is important to choose a spouse whom you admire, value and deem important. It is important to choose a spouse and not a project. Yes, ladies, don’t go for the fixer upper and think that will go in your favor. It often doesn’t and leaves one or both parties feeling cheated.

I believe that when you marry someone, with the hopes that they will change, you both are cheated out of a good relationship. You both are cheated out of an honest relationship. Let’s be honest with ourselves, it is difficult to respect someone you don’t find value in. It’s difficult to treat someone as important and valuable if you think they need to be altered, because they aren’t good enough for you as they are.

The best example I can offer, is the one that God offers us. He chooses to love us, just as we are. He doesn’t make us meet a set of goals in order to earn His love. He offers it freely. His love does change us and motivate us to grow, but His love isn’t a condition of our performance. Now that said, don’t mistake me to be saying that your love will change someone. Remember, you are not God. Don’t put all that pressure on yourself. Just choose wisely.

Trust

:belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.

In my experience, good marriages happen between two people who trust each other. I can depend on my husband. I hope he can depend on me. If we can’t trust each other, then we will spend most of our time seeking to protect our interests and very little time serving each other.

Now keep in mind, this trust comes from respect. If you don’t respect your spouse, chances are you won’t trust them. Now let me turn the tables. If your spouse senses that you feel they need improvement, they will hesitate to trust you. After all, you said you loved them and then began a full on mission to change them. It makes it hard to trust someone who thinks you need a massive overhaul. You don’t have to agree with me on this one, but I do ask you to think about it.

Here’s an example. If I told you that I loved the chocolate chips cookies you made for me, but then went on to tell you how you could improve on the recipe for next time, wouldn’t you start to doubt my initial declaration of love for your cookies? Something to ponder.

Trust is a choice. You use the information you have a make a decision to trust. Please, make a wise decision.

Love (for this definition, I go to the Bible)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful: it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. ~ I Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is a choice. Often it is mistaken for a feeling, but it is a choice. The kind of love you need for marriage is not the kind of love we read about in magazines or see on the screen.  This love is strong and wise. We’ve all heard it said…Love makes you do stupid things…in one’s attempt to excuse a truly stupid decision.  I disagree. Love is strong.  Love gives you the power to move forward when you want to quit.  Love helps you get up after you’ve been gut-punched.  Love gives you the strength to walk away from something you really want to keep, in order to keep your commitment.  AND love opens you up to be hurt.  It makes you vulnerable.

My best example on this point is Jesus. He loved us so much. His love for us, caused His death. He knew it would kill Him, and He chose to love us anyway. He loved us so perfectly! Now, I’m not saying you should die for your spouse, but shouldn’t we be willing to sacrifice? In my experience, there have been times when I have needed to let go of something I really wanted in order to keep my commitment to our family. Many of those desires are born out of selfishness and vain ambition. Those things I willingly give up for my family. But truth be told, sometimes it feels like death to me. However, I do it for love.

As your respect for your spouse grows, and you learn to trust them, love is a natural byproduct. These things are so very important to marriage. These are lessons I learn consistently. I have not mastered any of them, but I do work to grow in my skills.

I don’t know what will happen for that young woman. I pray all good things for her. I hope she’s reading. I do know that you’re reading. And I hope I’ve got you thinking. These are my opinions and experiences, but I hope you can learn from them.

Until another confession…