Thursday, December 31, 2009

Walking with God--New Years Reflections

Psalm 116:1-19

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
"O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!"

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death.
My eyes from tears, and my feet from falling;
I will walk before the Lord
In the Land of the living.
I believed, therefore I spoke,
"I am greatly afflicted."
I said in my haste,
"All men are liars."

What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

O lord, truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maid servant;
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
And will call upon the name of the Lord.

I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord's house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord.

This was the scripture in my devotional and it went along so well with what God was rolling around in my heart this morning. I don't know why, but it still surprises me when God set things up so the devotion, bible reading, or even sermon seems to line up directly with what He is speaking to me. I know He is God and can handle these little details, but it still evokes in me a sense of awe, when He does it. And He does it all the time. Why does it still surprise me? I have devotion I go through every year and I just keep going through it every year. I reach the end and just go back to the beginning. Maybe some day I will feel led to change to a new devotion book, but for the time being I keep going back to the beginning every Jan 1. This has been going on for years. I have probably gone through it 7 or 8 times. Every once in a while I read one that I recognize, but for the most part it always seems new to me. Amazing, huh? It always blows my mind that he can take this little book and somehow it is in the exact order the confirm and support what He is doing or speaking to me that day or in that season. Amazing to me. Maybe some day it will stop surprising me. I hope not though, b/c I love that sense of awe when I realize He has done it again. I hope He never stops surprising me. I think that is why I love life so much and why I wake up excited every day to have another day to walk with Him. I never want to get used to Him or let my walk with Him become stale. Lord, keep surprising me. It is so much fun. I feel almost like every day is Christmas for me. Strange, naive, crazy, immature, maybe, but I don't care. "Unless we come to him like a little child...." Let me continue to become more like a child and less like an adult. We lose the magic and zest of life when we grow "old". And as a matter of fact, Lord let me infect everyone around me with this disease of immaturity, naivety, and insane love for God and delight for each day He gives us. May we begin to believe in magic again (not real magic mind you); may we begin to be giddy, silly and amazed with anticipation of what our Father has in store for us each day. May we be willing, as David was, to dance with all of our might and be a fool for Jesus. May we get so lost in Him that we just don't care what anybody thinks about us and our love for our Savior. If people can act stupid for a football team, which has no eternal significance whatsoever, then they can act stupid for Jesus, who created us, loves us, died for us, calls us and equips us to do great things for him. Let's strip off of us the garments of "properness" and really express what He deserves for what He did for us. Can we please bring to church our football behavior? I think God would be delighted and be most honored by this behavior.

Well, that was an unexpected little rabbit trail.

My post yesterday about Larry and my story brought about a discussion with a friend. It seems that my post ripped open some wounds inside her that she didn't realize were even still there. We had gone to church together. I am sad that she is in pain, but I am glad that God showed her the wounds were there and ripped open the scabs. This is a great place to be; it is a painful place, but after the bleeding comes the healing. We discussed my perspective on the subject and how I am able to forgive and not be angry. I tried to share my heart with her and I hope that I was able to bring her closer to allowing God to heal her.

As I prayed for me friend this morning, this post began to roll around in my mind. When I read the devotion for the day, it confirmed to me what I needed to write about today. It is so hard to try to put into words the journey I have been on and how I have arrived here at this place. It is hard to express what has happened and what happens on my treadmill that has so dramatically changed and continues to change who I am. I would liken my treadmill to going into a closet and shutting the door to pray. From the outside one would probably just see someone running. You can't really tell that I am praying at all, unless you know me well and you just know, if I am running I am praying b/c that is just what I do. As I prayed, I tried to think about how I pray and how that impacts me. I was trying to describe it to my friend last night.

I have to say that sometimes I write with trepidation because I don't want to be taken the wrong way. I never want to come across like I think I have all the answers, or that I think I am just so spiritual, or that I think my way of praying is the only way. I hope and pray with all my heart that what comes across is an honest, authentic and sincere account of a desperately broken person who is desperately clinging to the only person she has hope in. I hope that you see someone who is so in Love with Jesus and so convinced that she has nothing without Him that all she can do is cling to him. I also hope you see someone who just wants to share her heart hoping that God would be gracious enough to use it to impact and help people.

I have reached a place in my walk where I have really ceased striving. I cannot do anything on my own. I don't even try. I need Him for everything, including even the desire to pray or seek Him. The desire and willingness is a gift He gives to me. If I see a struggle or an area that seems out of whack in my life, I don't try and change it. I bring it to Him. I don't try to use will power to solve my struggles. That is useless. I will always fail in my own power. I cannot do any good without Him. This also means that I cannot be proud of progress; I cannot seek glory for myself b/c I haven't done anything. I cannot find my significance or identity in any of the things I do or don't do. When people complement me or God uses me to speak truth and life into someones life, I must turn around and give it to Him. I cannot boast or think I am better than anyone else. You may struggle with food; I do not. I struggle with alcohol, and pride, and lust; I am not better than anyone else. You struggle; I struggle; we all struggle. No struggle is less or more than any other. They just are what they are. So, I cannot boast in any of my "strengths" b/c I have many weaknesses and the strengths I may have are a gift from God. How can I boast in a gift? So because I realize that everything I have is a gift and that I have nothing that He did not give me, I can cease striving. If He gave me these gifts, then He can give me strength in the midst of my weakness and struggle.

How do I pray? This is how I pray. I am not saying my way is the only way, but maybe someone somewhere will get something they need from reading about my prayer. First I spend a lot of time praying for myself. I have very long conversations with God about me and I don't think there is anything wrong with it. We need to pray for ourselves. What an asinine idea that we should pray for others and not ourselves. In that time of praying for myself, I pray, I listen and cry out and before I know it prayers are uttered out of myself that I know are no longer me; they are prayers of the Holy Spirit. He causes me to pray things that are scary to my flesh. He gives me to courage to trust God to know what is best for me. I find myself uttering things like, "if your Spirit goes not with me, I don't want to go. I don't want anything that you don't want me to have. I don't want to be anywhere that you aren't leading me. Lord, I will go where ever you want me to go as long as you go with me. I will go to Antarctica (that is a huge thing for me to say, there is no place I would rather not go than somewhere really cold; I am a cold natured person; I hate to be cold; Hell would be cold to me not hot). I will go to Africa; I will go live in a dump in Indonesia; I will live in a cardboard box under a bridge as long as you go with me. I don't want to be anywhere with out you. Take my family, just don't take your presence from me. I desperately need you and I am desperately in love with you. I know that where ever He would call me, would be where I would be most fulfilled, most at peace and where His presence would be. There is no where on Earth that I could be happier than where He would call me. B/c happiness is not external, it is totally internal. You have to admit those are pretty scary things to pray, but His Spirit prays them through me. When I am unable to pray, His Spirit prays for me, and through me. I am also free to not walk in fear b/c I am able to hold everything with an open palm. I trust Him so I can surrender everything to Him.

I find myself just praying for him to make me willing to do whatever He would ask of me, to go wherever He would ask me to go, to say whatever He would ask me to say, to be who He has made me to be, nothing more, nothing less. I pray for him to take out of me everything that stands in the way of me knowing Him and making Him known. I pray that if there is anything that I am unwilling to do, or anywhere I am unwilling to go, or unwilling to let go of, or unwilling to look at and deal with that He would make me willing. I ask him to help me to love Him with all of my heart, mind, soul, and spirit and to love my neighbor as myself. I pray break me, bring me to the end of myself so that I could lose my life and find it in You, so that it would no longer be I who live, but Christ in me. I pray that God would give me to courage and willingness to dig as deep in me as necessary so I could be free of all the infection, corruption, and contaminates inside of me. Free me from denial and deception, distraction and distortion, all the filters, wounds, arrows, and the voice of the enemy so that the enemy would not have ownership of any of the land in my soul.

When I was struggling with my alcoholism and the denial associated with it I just cried out to God to help me. My heart wanted to stop drinking, but my flesh did not. I did not say, "Okay, Lord, I won't do it anymore," when that was not really what it felt. I told Him, "I know that you don't want me to keep doing this, Lord, but I want to keep drinking, I like drinking, so I ask You to makes me willing to give it up, help me to not want to do this anymore." There was no point in me trying to get control (for those who are familiar with recovery, that would be the first and second steps). I didn't even want to control it. He knew that was the case so I didn't try and pretend that I felt any different than I felt. I did know, though, that He could change my heart and make me want what He wanted for me. I loved Him and wanted to obey what He was telling me, but I didn't have it inside me to do it. So, I brought it to Him and asked for Him to change me. And guess what, He did it; He changed me. I don't want to drink anymore. I know that there will probably come a day that I am tempted; the Word says, "let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." I pray for that day when I am tempted, but today and for the past few months, He has taken the desire away from me. He did that for me. The first couple months had some pretty tough days, but He was so faithful to always give me not only a way of escape, but the desire to take it. So you see, I have ceased striving, I don't even try anymore. I just give it to Him, cry out to Him and ask for His help in all the ways I need it. My will power is not even relevant anymore; it isn't me doing it; it is Him.

Another example of the phenomena happened when we first really started going back to church and I started to trying to draw close to Him and let go of the things that were weighing me down. I would go to church and we would sing songs; they felt so inauthentic to me. I sang, "Lord, you're my all and all, I love you more than anything else," etc. While I was singing, I would be apologizing to Him b/c that is not how I felt and it really bothered me to be inauthentic in praising Him. I knew there had been a time in my walk that those words were sincere and I believed that I would come back to a sincere worship. I did the only thing I knew to do; I prayed every day that He would change my heart and help me fall back in love with Him. I prayed that He would make those words authentic and sincere in my life so that I could sing them and mean them with all of my heart. Over the next couple months He answered those prayers and He started transforming me and restoring me and healing me. Then one day I realized that I was once again singing from my heart and I really meant the words that were coming out. I could not work that up or make it happen; I just went to the source of everything I have and asked for His help. He helped me. He has brought me back to that place I walked when I first met Him, only with more wisdom, experience and root. We just have to be real, come to him with what we have and ask for His help. He will meet us right there. "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you." "Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart" Sometimes He will withdraws from us, when we are half hearted in seeking Him so that we will really get desperate and search for Him with all our hearts. He doesn't want our pretense, our half hearted devotion; He doesn't want us to come to him with a mask of perfection on. He wants us to come as we are, with all of our hearts and allow him to meet us there, even if there is a sewer. Sewers are His specialty.

I love Jeremiah 29:11-14

"For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thought of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive."

He has great plans for us and He loves us. He wants to put it in our hearts to seek Him with our whole being. He wants to bring us close to Him. He wants to bring us back from captivity. He will allow our sin, whatever it is, to take us away in captivity until we are sick enough of it that we will cry out to Him with all of our hearts. He will let us gorge ourselves until we are so full that it becomes sour in our stomachs and we vomit it up. He will let us have our fill and allow us to be dragged away into captivity, b/c He loves us and when the captivity is bad enough, we will cry out to Him with all our hearts b/c we want Him more than that things that holds us captive. He lets things get as bad as it takes. Then when we have had enough; we will cry out to Him. We will desperately cry out for Him and search for Him; we will try to figure out where it is we left Him, lost Him; then we will realize He is right there and He will rescue us.

God is good and He loves us more than we could ever possibly understand or love ourselves. For that I am grateful. He never afflicts without reason; He afflicts to bring us back to Him. He won't let us go. Man, is that good news.

A short addition to Love Story- missing details

I forgot to add a couple of important details the the end of the story.

Alexandra immediately became a different little girl when Larry and I got back together. It was like the dark clouds in her eyes went away and a light clicked on inside of her. The sadness and sullenness seemed to disappear and the bubbly little butterfly emerged again. It just proves that in her heart, young as it was, she knew something wasn't right; she new Larry was her daddy and it devastated her to lose him. When he came back into her life, it brought peace to her broken little heart. They are close. He has never been considered a step dad and our family had never been thought of a blended. That is God's amazing grace and goodness. Never have the words, "You're not my dad," come from her mouth, as is common in other step parent situations. That is b/c as far as Larry, Ally, and all of us are concerned, he is her dad. She was about 11 or 12 when it hit her that Stephen was actually her half brother. The thought had never occurred to her. Then the thought was dismissed just as quickly. It really just isn't an issue in our house. The years Larry and Ally lost don't even seem to exist. As a matter of fact, they don't really exist for any of us. It was like we just picked right back up where we were only better. None of us can even remember what it was like before we were a whole family.

The second detail is that one day while Larry and I were having lunch at Wendy's, either right after we got married or right before (I can't put my finger on the exact timing), one of the people who was in leadership at the church where our breakup occurred was also having lunch. He walked right up to our table and apologized for what happened to us. He stated that what had occurred had been wrong and asked us to forgive him for his part in it. We were floored. We did forgive him; I have forgiven everyone involved. How could I not, God used it to do such a beautiful thing in our lives and relationship. To this day, he is the only one who has admitted wrong and asked for our forgiveness. It really meant a lot to us and we, in turn had a lot of respect for him b/c of it. Many people rejoiced in our reunion and offered so much support and I think even felt healing and relief being able to see what God was able to do. I hope it encouraged faith and trust in God and His goodness for all who got to see the whole thing play out beginning to end.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Love story-- part 3

We are headed into the home stretch. I got very involved in the church we moved to De Soto for. I was still with this other guy. I was very active in ministry and I worked for the church. It was kind of a weird situation. I was never really good enough in this church and never really good enough for this guy. The time came when the leadership broke us up. Yes, this actually happened to me twice. I was still very much indoctrinated into submitting to church leadership. Needless to say, it was really devastating to me to be once again told that the person I had been investing my life into and planning a future with was again, not the one for me. This time a did not feel like the leadership was coming from a place of love for me. I really was made to feel like I was not good enough for this person to be with me. Now as painful as this was, it was actually really good for me. I came out of the first church with a pretty big ego. I was important b/c of my testimony. I was a little trophy. I needed to be humbled and be brought down a couple notches. I had been used to being important. I definitely had some of the wind knocked out of my sails. I remember being asked by a leader about loving Larry. "no way,"I said.

Enter the great wonderful providence of God. Enter His amazing ability to redeem and give us exactly what we need.

Since moving to De Soto, I had not seen Larry. My mom would takes Stephen and meet him halfway between De Soto and Farmersville.
After the second breakup I had really begun to seek God and ask him to bring balance into my life and show me more of Himself. I was asking Him to bring me out of "church" and into relationship.
One day I as putting baby Stephen (about 2 and a half) down for a nap and he said to me, "I want my daddy."

I said, "You'll see daddy this weekend."
He said, "No, I want my mommy and my daddy in the same house."
Seriously, God spoke to me out of the mouth of my 2 year old. At that moment, the light bulb went off inside me. It was like bells began to ring and a current lifted. I thought, "What in the world am I doing." Here is this amazing man, amazing father, who adores both of my children, and loves me. I am crazy not to be with him, but will he ever take me back? But I did start really praying about it and asking God to show me what He was saying about it.
At this point my brother and I went to see The Matrix. That movie changed my life and forever altered my reality. Now, you must understand, at the time I did not watch any rated R movies and refused to listen to secular music. It took some persuading for him to get me into the movie.
We watched it and God showed me so many things. I filled almost a whole journal with revelation God gave me through that movie. He showed me so much about how we just accept what we see and believe without ever questioning it. We don't try to see what is going on that we cannot see. He showed me that we don't have to be limited by the world or its rules or opinions if we can see it for what it is. If we can see the Matrix and how God is not defined by it, we can break the rules of the matrix and experience what He really has for us.

After that movie, I spoke to my brother about what I was beginning to feel God was saying to me. He wholeheartedly agreed. He had always been a cheerleader for Larry. He used to say, "he is the one for you, what is wrong with you. This other guy is not the one for you. That church was wrong." I didn't listen; I thought my brother was wrong. He definitely thought God was speaking to me. The next person I talked to was my mother. The first thing I wanted to do was allow Alexandra to go visit with Larry and his family. It seemed like it could do nothing, benefit her to have a whole other group of people that love her. My mom agreed that it would be a good thing. I talked to her also about what I felt like God was telling me about being with Larry. She said, "He has no reason to trust you again after you broke his heart twice, so if he is willing to take you back, I will know it is God doing this thing." I asked Larry to have lunch with me so I could talk to him about letting Alexandra come an visit when Stephen came. We met and both were so nervous, that neither of us ate much of anything. We agreed that would be a good thing. I did not mention the other thought I was having. While we ate, he made me laugh so much. He always made me laugh. I am not much of a laugher now, but I really wasn't back then. I always loved that he could make me laugh. I always felt like I could be myself with him and the same is still true. I remember thinking, wow, I am still in love with this man. It just felt so right sitting in Wendy's looking at him. It was as if the years we were apart had never even happened. I knew right then, that we were meant to be together and I think he knew too; neither of us said anything about it though.

I went home and began typing a letter to him about all the things I had done wrong to him, all that God had showed me and all the things he had said about the church that had turned out to be accurate. It was 7 pages singles spaced. (not hard to believe if you follow my blog, huh?) I was a freaking book.

Now during the time we were apart Larry had started drinking, and doing lots of bad stuff. He turned from God and would stand and curse God. He would dare Him to strike him down. He would yell, "I hate you and F you." At least he was honest with God. God can work with honest. Denial kind of makes it hard for him to work b/c we aren't open. Before he got bitter, though, He had listed off the things God would have to change in me if he would ever take me back. He had decided to be single b/c of what God had told him about falling in love. He said it he couldn't be with me, he would be with no one b/c he had fallen in love once.

Well, wouldn't you know I gave Larry my letter (book) and as he read it everything on his list was there. He said when I handed him the letter it made him sick to his stomach b/c he couldn't imagine what it said. We talked on the phone a couple days later and within a week were back together.

Here is where is gets really good. So this church I was attending and working at laid down an ultimatum on me. They would not allow me to be with him until they did counseling with us and they would not counsel us until he started attending the church regularly. Guess what did? I quit my job and left the church never to return. God set it up so that we were placed in the exact same scenario and I was faced with the exact same choice. Only this time I chose the man I loved. It was exactly what Larry needed to see me do so He could begin to trust me and begin to heal. I chose him over the church.

What I needed was different. I had never felt valued or loved really especially by a guy. Larry has had one girlfriend in his life. That would be me. What I needed was to realize that he loved me enough that, without knowing what he was doing, he waited for me. He loved me enough that he would choose to be single for the rest of his life, if he couldn't have me. I am the one for him and he waited 3 years for me even while he watched me carry a relationship with another person.

We started building a life together and planning a wedding. We started looking for rings almost immediately. I found one I love. I knew we didn't really have any money so I had no idea when or how he would get it. One of the things I always hated about "knowing" you were supposed to get married and not dating was losing the element of surprise of the proposal. I really wanted that great surprise proposal. God even gave me that. I had no idea he had gotten the ring and was not expecting a proposal. We were at a picnic after church and he got down on one knee and asked me in the middle of it. I started jumping up and down. My mom and brother, sitting right there with us, missed it. Funny. That was May 13. We were married on September 2, 1999. It was such a beautiful simple ceremony at Haggard park in down town Plano. It was so beautiful b/c many of the people who had been around when the break up happened and were confused by it got to see God bring us back together and witness the wedding. Plus God confirmed it so beautifully in that a homeless man wondering the park during the wedding asked Jesus into his heart during the reception.

That other relationship taught me to really appreciate Larry. The other one always tried to change me; he criticized everything I did; he wanted me to be something I was not.
Larry has always loved me, no matter what. He has never tried to change me. He has prayed for me when I need it, as was the case with my alcoholism. He loves me with long hair, short hair, red hair, black hair, purple hair; he loves me fat or skinny; he loves me when I am mean, and cranky; he loves me when I am driven and not home; whether the house is clean or dirty, whether I cook dinner or don't; He is just glad to be with me and glad that I love him too.

We have learned, grown, and been healed together. We have struggled and suffered together. We have had more than enough together and barely enough together. He is my home. He is where I can relax and laugh and be safe. He brings out the best in me and challenges me to be better.

The story that I think really illustrates our relationship is Abraham and Isaac. During the initial loss, I remember telling God that I was willing to sacrifice the relationship and the love we have upon the alter b/c I knew He was able to resurrect it. I placed the promise upon the alter to sacrifice it in worship. I had not idea that He would actually resurrect not just the dream of being married but the very relationship I was willing to lay down. He is good.

Needless to say, in our relationship we don't really fight about much. When you have loved one another like we did, lost one another and then been given back to each other, what is really worth fighting about. There is really not any agreement that is worth being mad at each other. We both remember what it was like being apart. Divorce is not really something we would ever consider. We are meant to be together, death due us part. When God goes through that much trouble to bring you together, you gotta know it is forever. I am not saying that we never have troubles. We have had some dark seasons in our marriage, but we always know it will work out b/c we both know beyond a shadow of doubt there is no plan B. It is you and me babe forever. I can also say that what we have is a direct result of what we walked through. We have been given a gift that most people don't get. We have a different perspective and a fierce devotion and passion for one another. It's like coming back from a near death experience. Life looks different from that perspective. It changes what you do, how you live and what is important. That is a gift from God.

Was it right or wrong what was done to us? That question is really irrelevant. Do we have something stable and beautiful b/c of it? Yes. Would I do it again? You bet I would, without hesitation. To have my fairy tale ending. To know the kind of love people make movies about, WITHOUT HESITATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have a story that gives us roots, deep roots.

I love Larry Keith Hall and will spend the rest of my life loving, living and growing with him. He was perfectly created and perfectly prepared to be my better half. I could not ask for a better, more amazing, loyal, gracious, devoted, extraordinary individual to spend the rest of my life with. He loves me just because. He is my best friend. I have more fun with him than any other person on this earth and there is no one I would rather spend time with. I used to think he was really lucky to have someone like me (wow, that is so ugly and awful to admit). Then God showed me I was the lucky one. I am the one who is getting the better end of the stick. Larry is so gracious to love me. I better appreciate him too, b/c truth be known no one else could put up with me. No one else could ever love me like he does.

Love story-- Part 2

We both were dealing with the loss in our own ways and trying to move on with our lives. One of the first amazing thing God used this situation to do in my life was to utterly break my will. When you read about how much I trust God and how definitely I surrender my will to Him. This is where that work was done in my life. Here in the valley of despair my will was truly broken. After walking away from the love of my life, and choosing to place him of God's alter of sacrifice, everything else seems easy. Giving my will over to God is not a struggle for me. I don't say that to be proud, religious, or to seem spiritual. It is just the truth. This is the place in my life, where the self will was broken. Whether or not I was supposed to give him up, really is totally irrelevant in the light of the beautiful brokenness God worked in my through this. I felt like, once I walked through giving Larry up, there was nothing God could ask of me that I could not handle.

My heart was so confused, but I sought comfort in Jesus and He used the situation to speak, heal, and change me. A scripture I have actually written about in the last few weeks, was used against me in this situation. I was told by a leader, when I asked about how to reconcile what my heart felt to what "God was telling me (more like leadership was telling me)", that "the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things." That scripture was totally used out of context. And, as I have stated, I believe that if Jesus lives in our hearts, they are not wicked. If Jesus is Lord of the heart, He places good in it and orders its drives and desires. B/c of this I learned not to trust my heart; I became even more dependent on this church and wanted them to make all my decisions for me. B/c I couldn't trust my heart, I was afraid of making mistakes.

During this time period God also showed me that the way that I loved Larry and the passionate desire I had for him to be blessed should be the way I loved other people and desired for them to be blessed. That was one of the smaller lessons.

About six months later, I was in a strange kind of place and beginning to question a lot of things. I was questioning serving God, but looking back, what I was questioning was serving Him the way that church did. There were so many rules, spoken and unspoken. Favor was based upon obedience and service to the church. It had its own strange kind of legalism even though it was "charismatic". I was growing weary of it and maybe outgrowing it. I was asking if serving God was less about judgments and boxes, and more about the heart. I went back to Larry.

I have to interject something I forgot to tell about the beginning. I had this weird idea that I wanted our first kiss to be on our wedding day. Well, we didn't end up making that happen, but we really did not kiss each other until we had been dating and talking about marriage for like almost 4 months. We held hands. No making out. At the time we broke up, we had not had a sexual relationship at all. I remember a funny story that happened. We were in the car at 7 11, the one that used to be on Park and Jupiter; his niece was in the car with me and he brought me out a flower. At the time we had not kissed weren't intending to. I got out of the car and did a cartwheel to show appreciation since we didn't kiss. Funny.

So, I went back to him. I had never stopped loving him. We did take the step, almost immediately, (later the first day I went to see him) to have a physical relationship. I am sorry for the details, but they are important. I think, deep in my conscience, I thought if I could get pregnant that they would have to let us get married. Well, we did get pregnant. Yes, we got pregnant the first time we had relations; pretty funny. I knew that night I got pregnant. I could count my cycle; it was like a clock. I could feel when I ovulated (my back would hurt). Now, to my knowledge, I did not count it before and plan it consciously, but it is possible I did subconsciously. I did count after wards and I knew. That was a Tuesday; we saw each other on Wednesday; we did not see each other on Thursday. On Friday, I broke up with him again,leaving him quite devastated.

I went to the leadership and admitted to them what I had done. They all kept to the same stance, that even if I was pregnant, God still did not want me to marry this man. They all prayed that I was not. Sometime over the next couple weeks, I had to get up in front of the church and admit what I had done. I was so ashamed.

Things got really weird at this point. There was a differing opinion about how I should handle it. The things I was told, were very wrong for the most part. It may not be pretty, but I have to tell this story as it happened. I am telling the truth and cannot hide what happened. I was counseled not to tell Larry that I was pregnant so that I could give the baby up for adoption. I could not even comprehend giving the baby away. Ally had been such an amazing blessing in my life that I really wanted to have another. My heart said no way. Though, it would be difficult to be a single mom of two and increase the stigma already on me, I intended to rejoice in having another baby. Thankfully, a very wise leader in the church counseled me very strongly that if I did not tell Larry I was pregnant, I would be defrauding a brother. I do not think the other leadership was pleased with this council. So I went and left a note on Larry's car. Still another leader cornered me in the hall one day and kept pushing for me to put the baby up for adoption. When I replied that Larry would never agree to that, the person actually told me to go away somewhere for a few months, tell him the baby died and give it up. Yes, a Christian leader told me this. Well as you can imagine this really added to me confusion and what I was supposed to do. I was still a pretty young Christian. On the one hand I was taught not to lie, then on the other hand I was being told to lie about this baby.

Here is where I really learned about Gods grace. I say Stephen is my baby of grace and this is why. I was literally terrified the whole time I was pregnant that I was going to lose the baby. It was a terror that gripped my heart every single day. I wanted the baby so bad and I just knew in my heart that God was going to kill the baby to judge me for me sin. I thought that He let me get pregnant so He could take the baby to punish me for sleeping with Larry out of wedlock and for not being willing to give him up for adoption. So every time I went to the bathroom, I expected to see blood. I knew it was going to happen; I was just waiting for it. I have to believe that Stephen had to have felt that turmoil and fear while he was growing. I don't think it was a great environment for him to develop in, but he turned out okay. Till the day I gave birth to him, I was afraid of him dying. I didn't believe I would really get him until he was in my arms. After he was born God spoke to me about His grace. Yes, I had made a sinful choice, but God blessed me with the beautiful precious baby boy in spite of it.

Understandably, Larry was not sure that the baby was his. It just seemed to strange that I would come back to him for 2 days and that we would get pregnant our first time. It really hurt my feelings when he insinuated it too. Though, now it is a perfectly reasonable doubt to have. Since meeting Jesus, Larry is the only one in 17 years. So I knew that the baby could be no one else's but his. When Stephen came out, there was not doubt; he is the spitting image of Larry as a baby and child.

I saw Larry one time from the time of conceiving Stephen to his birth. That was early on to play a recording of Stephen's heart beat. Well, I have always had a thing for a man with long hair and for musicians. When Larry showed up at the hospital for Stephen's birth, he had hair to the middle of his back and I just about fainted. I was seriously attracted to this man that was forbidden and he had began playing guitar. Now, if you asked him he hated me, thought I was evil and was not, under any circumstances, waiting for me. He was, though, becoming what I was attracted to in a man.

Larry was model father. He always came for visitation. He paid for Stephen's circumcision. He paid child support. He even bought me a breast pump so he could take him back to Farmersville to visit for the day. I didn't want him to drink formula. When Stephen got older and I needed Larry to take him extra weekends for something, he would.

I started dating someone else. I had gone through the same process of praying and seeking the approval of the leadership (that is another story all together). Larry would come to see Stephen on Wednesdays or to pick him up for the weekend and have to see this person and watch us together. It used to really make him angry the way this person treated Alexandra, b/c he wasn't very nice to her. Like I said before, Larry has always adored her.

Fast forward, through some unimportant events. The church I got saved in closes.

Love story-- Part 1

I have been feeling like it is time to tell the story of how Larry and I came to be. I will warn you that this is going to be long, but it promises to rival some of your favorite chic flicks. It has all the elements of a great love story. Some people know the story; some know parts of the story; some have never heard at all. I am sure that no one has heard it like I am about to tell it. God taught me so much and showed himself so faithful through the whole process. There are so many details, but they are very important and God is in the details. I also want to apologize ahead of time for the drippings of bitterness that may creep. I am going to try to tell this in a positive light and not let the ugliness come out, but it may seep in a bit. I am sorry for that; just know that I pray about it daily and have for a long time and God is working things out. Maybe telling all the beautiful parts of the story will further help me process and release any pain that still remains.

So here we go, buckle up b/c it is quite a ride.

We have established that I was terribly abused and was shattered into a million pieces when Jesus introduced himself to me. I had never felt loved until Jesus told me He loved me. I was 7 months pregnant when I met Jesus. (I really need to tell that story very soon. I will try). Jesus immediately did a 180 degree turn around in my life, from the moment He came to dwell in my heart. He started healing, changing and restoring me in a miraculous and very quick way. He brought stability to me before I even realized what He was doing. That was probably for the benefit of the child I was carrying. I had never had a healthy relationship all of my life.

I have tried to do that math to get timing right, but forgive me if some of the timing is off or doesn't seem to line up. I am doing my best to try and make it all as accurate as possible. I do know that I met Jesus on July 17, 1992; it was a Friday night. It did not take very long at all for God to convince me that He had one perfect person for me to spend my life with. I knew that if I was patient and prayerful, He would bring that person to me. I believe that if God is capable of saving us and leading us, He is more than capable of bringing the right person at the right time. He didn't need my help. I really walked in that truth. I noticed people; I would wonder if that was the one, but I did not believe in dating. Take what you want from that. It was the stance I took, and it worked for me. I thought that I would insist on that for my children, but my children are aloud to date (that change is also a story for another day). I believe that I met Larry when Ally was in the 18 months to 2 years range. (I always say she was 1, but looking back I am not entirely sure). She could walk, I know. We met in a singles group that a friend organized. And I was fresh out of the world. Because I had come from such an extreme, I went extremely the other direction. EXTREME is really the only way you could describe me. Looking back, I am not sure why Larry did not run away screaming in the other direction.

I wore no earrings; I grew my hair out long, straight and with no color. I wore no make up. I wore ankle length skirts. (Hard for the people that know me now to even imagine). I was really whacky too. Bible thumper to the extreme mixed with my own brand of religiosity. I am definitely a Christian and very passionate about my walk with Jesus, but I hope Jesus has pruned the whackiness out of me.

Larry and I became friend pretty quickly and fell in love with one another pretty quickly. I prayed a lot about becoming involved with him and went to the leadership of the church for direction. I felt very strongly about not dating for the sake of dating. I believed in courtship. If I got involved with someone it was going to be b/c I was going to marry that person. Talk about being scary and intimidating for the man. Poor Larry. The guys who think their girl is trying to move too fast, just need to talk to him. There was no dating. We were friends then if he wanted to pursue it further we were talking about marriage. (I am glad God was in this thing, b/c he really should have run). I had been praying and not dated anyone for almost 2 years from the time that I met Jesus. We did start dating/courting, whatever you want to call it. We got to know each other and really adored each other.

I have never been loved the way he loves me. Sometimes I feel like I must be Cinderella b/c my love life seems like a fairy tales. He is the man of my dreams. I truly love this man more today than the day I married him. He has always loved me for exactly who I am, baggage and all. We balance each other so well and bring out the best in each other. I believe that God gave us the exact temperament and put us in the exact environment to make me and him who we are and that the combination is perfect to bring us where God wants us to be.

We were together for about 9 months. We were starting to plan the wedding. Ally called him daddy. I never doubted that he was the one that I was meant to be with so I dove in head first. I gave him all that I was, and shared all I was capable of sharing with him. Over the years, he has gotten to know me better and has seen parts of me that he didn't see back then. It is not that I was hiding intentionally, but as I get to know myself He gets to know me. I have had to receive a lot of healing and let God show me who I am, was and will be, b/c I did not know. Larry has always adored me and treated me like I was the most beautiful precious thing he has ever laid eyes on. When I still felt dirty, used and like a whore, he never viewed me that way. It was as if the past just didn't matter to him. He did, fall in love with Ally before he fell in love with me, but she was so so so cute. He couldn't help it. We both had a lot of baggage and it was very different baggage. I had baggage from the world and abuse. He had baggage from the Church.

Here is where my words could seem to be a little contaminated with yuck and again, I am sorry. I will try to keep that from getting in. I was, as I see it, kind of like the church mascot. I had a pedestal kind of mindset. Whether I just took that on, or it was given to me, I am not sure. It is probably a combination of both. The attitude was, "Look at this, look at what we did; she was a mess and we fixed her." Having been raised in an environment that did not really involve church, I didn't really know how church was supposed to be. There were some balance problems, but I was not able to see them. If they said jump, I said how high. In my mind they could do not wrong. They were my leadership, and I was to obey what they said. I didn't really question, what I was taught, I just believed it. Well, that was not the case with Larry. He had mind of his own, and He was not going to let anyone control him. He studied what the Bible said and asked questions. That was really a bone of contention between us. I really had hard time when he did not agree with them and we would fight over it. I loved that church, the people and the leadership; I wanted them and him to agree. I always felt kind of torn between them. I felt like I had to submit to them and like choosing to disobey them would be choosing to disobey God; I also felt like Larry was home, he was my true love and where I belonged.

The day came that I was told to break it off with Him. I can remember feeling like someone punched me in the stomach. I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I fell to the ground and began to weep uncontrollably. I am not sure what the catalyst was or what motivation was behind it. Looking back it seems like letting us be together inevitably would have led to them losing me b/c he would take me out of the church. Was that the motivation? I don't know. I may never know. It was devastating for the both is us.

Now, I don't think it is the churches place to tell you who to be with or not to be with. My flesh would like to say that it was wrong what they did to us, but then God in my heart points out to me how much better off we are b/c we went through this thing. Keep reading b/c it just keeps getting better. I can't say whether they were wrong or right now. I can say God is good and in control and WOW did he do some amazing things through this situation and to bring us back together.

The way it was presented to me was, "That Larry would be a weight to me, that He would keep me from accomplishing the call of God on my life." Well, when presented with the choice of a man or Jesus. Of course, for me, what I had to choose was obvious. Was it easy? No, to this day, it is one of the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It is the most painful thing, I have gone through since I began walking with Jesus. Truth be known, it was never a choice between Larry and Jesus; it was a choice between Larry and the church. Unfortunately, I was manipulated and the choice made to seem different than it was. Jesus gave me everything I have; He got me off of drugs and set me free; He healed me and called me out of darkness. Though, I loved Larry with all my heart, He did not do any of that for me. So I chose to end it.

My heart was shattered into a million pieces. I truly felt wounded by God. I had prayed so diligently about getting involved with Larry. I did not understand why God would say yes and then take him away from me. I would ask, "Why couldn't you have just said no, I would have obeyed God. I would have been willing to accept no. But why give and then take." The truth is Job says, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." He can take anything He wants. I pressed into Him and cried out to him. Though, I felt He had taken my love away, I sought Him non the less. Jesus was and is everything to me, so I could not let this devastation drive me away from Him. I let it draw me closer to him. I read a lot in the Psalms. I would read and weep and pray and sob. I begged for God to take the pain away and make me willing to do His will. I begged for Him to break my will and make me strong enough to rejoice in Him no matter what He would require of me. I sobbed so deep within myself a couple of times that I would throw up. I have never felt sorrow of heart like it felt. Ally was around 2 or 3 and I would try to keep it together for her, but I was just so broken to the core of myself. I did not really share that agony with many people. I don't think I felt like I could. I felt like I had to put on a strong front of obedience so that no one would think I wasn't submissive to God or that I doubted. I tried to move on with life, but it really was like we were grieving a death. I guess we really were grieving the death of the love and of the dream. On Larry's side of things, He lost his wife to be and his daughter. Really they all felt like they were grieving the death of us. It rocked every one's lives. Ally changed; it wasn't something she could express or you could even put your finger on it, but she changed. The carefree, bubbly little girl went away and she seemed sad and confused. We were all confused. In my heart, I knew I loved him, but I had to deny it and pretend like I didn't love him. The only thing I could do was turn the love to hatred. Love and hate really are next door neighbors. True hate has to start out with some measure of love. The real opposite of love is indifference.

I was instructed that letting Ally continue to have a relationship with Larry or his family would be a mistake. That I would just be giving an already rebellious child a place to run away to. First, looking back, Alexandra (as we called her back then) was not rebellious. She was bubbly, joyous, full of life. She loved to sing and dance; she was very well behaved even. I told her not to do something, she just didn't do it. The other two certainly were not like that.

Things were hard for me, but at least I had the church family; Larry was just cast out by himself.
He was alone and confused. He became very angry with God. I did not run to Him. He ran away from God. As far as he was concerned, God lied to him and took me away from him. Larry felt like God told him (in high school) that He would only fall in love one time and that she would be the one for him. He fell in love and as far as he was concerned God took me away from him or at least let the church take me away from him.

To make this story more readable, I am going to divide it up into parts.

More on Mom.

This morning as I ran, I began to ponder my mother again. As bad as things were when we were growing up, it could have been so much worse. She really tried to love us. She just didn't know how. She had never been loved, therefore she did not love herself so she was incapable of really loving herself. The word says, "Love you neighbor as yourself." If we don't love ourselves, we can't really love others. If we hate ourselves, and we love our neighbor as ourselves then we hate our neighbor. Anyway, my mom never set out to be mean to us or hurt us. It was never in her heart to cause any kind of harm to us. She would have given anything to see us grow up happy and whole and to go further than she did.

What really sparked these thoughts was hearing a friend talk about her mother. The circumstances surrounding her conception were very unhappy and complicated. It involved some really bad situations. Her mother felt the need to tell her about those shameful circumstances her whole life. Her mother hated her, and wished ill to her her whole life. Her mother blamed her for something that she had no control over. It is not as if this girl chose to be conceived when she was conceived. Her mother has hated her for her whole life for something she had not control over and could not ever change. She treated her bad and called her stupid, and used the conception problem as an excuse. Instead of seeing God's grace in giving her a child and embracing it as a blessing, she has treated this wonderful, amazing woman as a curse for her entire life. How horrible that would have to be, to grow up like that. I have found myself praying diligently for this friend over the last couple days. My heart is so broken for her. I feel such a deep agonizing ache in my heart for her. I have found myself praying for God to restore her sense of destiny, redeem the years the enemy has stolen from her and turn what the enemy has used to harm her for her whole life around to smack him right in the face with it. I want God to comfort and let His truth sink deep into the deepest parts of her soul. GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Every person conceived and born was created by Him and for Him. "He knit us together within our mothers womb. He has numbered our days and the very hairs upon our heads. I pray that every person who has ever felt like a mistake finds and reads this blog and that God illuminates the truth to their hearts. He created each of us. "God is not a man that He should lie, nor is he the son of man that He should repent." "His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts." He knows, and allows and plans. Receive the truth in your heart, you are not and have never been a mistake. My oldest daughter and my son know the circumstances surrounding their conceptions. They were not "conventional" by any means. I mean, I was a drug addict when Ally was conceived and my husband and I were not married when Stephen was conceived and wouldn't be married until Stephen was 2 or 3. Neither one of those children was a mistake. God sent them to me. They were both instrumental in bringing growth and healing in my life to different areas. (Another story I need to write about.) Ally saved my life and God used Stephen to put me and Larry back together as a family.

It makes me so sad when I hear about people growing up in some of there terrible situations. I cannot imagine ever making one of my children feel like they were a mistake. As a matter of fact, these children are my life. They are second only to my love for Jesus. Every decision I make has them at the center of it; I way everything next to them. They are my treasure; they are some of the greatest blessings in my life. I see it as a great privilege and responsibility to be their mother. I am so sorry for those who have grown up feeling less than that. Little girls are meant to be princesses and little boys are meant to be handsome knights in shining armor. God has used my children to teach me so many amazing lessons and to heal so many horrible wounds inside me.

Back to my point. No, I was not a little princess. My mother, though, never ever meant any ill will toward me. She would have never set out to intentionally hurt one of us. She might have been neglectful, but never intentionally hurtful. Had she realized the things that were going on, I don't think she would have hesitated to shoot some people in the head and worry about it later. She is fiercely protective of her children and grandchildren. I have no doubt she would step into the path of a bullet, car, train or any object threatening one of us including my husband. If someone were to do real harm to one of us, right or wrong, I believe she would do something about it even if it meant jail. I was just struck this morning again as I prayed for my friend how blessed I am to have my mother and how things were really not so bad. I truly believe that my mother never ever meant harm to us and really only ever wanted good things for us. She just wasn't capable of giving the good things and love that her heart wanted to give us. So things could have been so much worse. She has never ever made me feel like I was a mistake, even when I stole from her, verbally abused her, and became the iceberg of cold indifference I was for the first few years I walked with God. She just prayed and tried to love me anyway she could; she has striven for the last 20 years to make up for the harm that was done.

No more striving!!! "It is finished" so declared the Creator and Savior of the universe. He has made ALL THINGS Right.

I love the part of the Serenity Prayer that says, "Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to His will."

I don't deny that things were bad, but they could have been so much worse. And I have a Redeemer who makes all things right, so I don't have to worry or fret, nothing is wasted and all will be as it is supposed to be.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mother--This starts painful, but finish it, the ending is great

Beautiful Redemption

My relationship with my mother, though wonderful now,did not start out very good and was rocky for a very, very long time. When I was a child, she was clinically depressed. She slept for what seems like most of my child hood. We grew up in a house that was indescribably messy and often times filthy. My Mom has said that CPS probably would have taken us out of the home if they had ever come in and looked. She allowed a lot of really terrible things to happen to me and my brother. We were very angry as we grew up. I can say for myself, I wasn't even aware of what I was angry about. I just knew that I despised her. She was not one to hold us, hug us or anything until we were much older. As she tells it, she used to leave me in my crib with a bowl of cereal and sippy cup. I think my aversion to physical contact is tied to that. I read one time that babies and toddlers are developing nerve endings and if they don't get stimulated in certain ways the nerves relating to that stimulation don't develop properly. That would explain why sometimes being touched is painful to me and why I have a definite bubble. I have been known to react in a pretty unreasonable way to violation of the bubble. Needless to say, I think I was probably pretty justified in being angry. I started doing drugs, cutting myself and attempting suicide by the age of 13.

In her defense, she really did the very best she could with the equipment she had. She had been terribly abused and neglected as a child. The only way she knew to deal with the pain of her childhood was denial to the point of actually dividing herself into different people. The unfortunate side effect of her denial was that she could not see that her abuser and others were victimizing her children. Those years were dark to us all.

On the other hand, all of my childhood memories of her are not bad. I have some pretty distinct good memories. I remember one Christmas she made all this Barbie jewelry for me by stringing beads. This was not an easy feat b/c she is blind as a bat. I remember hunting for Easter Eggs. I remember her buying us an Atari. I remember her buying us doughnuts for breakfast on Friday mornings. There were these giant chocolate doughnuts as big as my head (as I remember it). I also remember her being told that my brother was a hopeless case and a sociopath (one without a conscience). They told her to just sign him over to the state b/c he would spend his whole life in prison. She refused to do that. Today we are all grateful b/c he is okay, and such would not be the case had she abandoned him. Believe me, it would have been easier. He was totally out of control. Burning things down, turning the car off while we drove down the highway, terrorizing the whole neighborhood. It took a lot for her to keep us together. We were both pretty horrible children at different times.

She also gave me some really great traits. She raised me to be very independent and to take care of myself. Now my independence has had to be tempered and still needs more tempering. Thankfully, God is busy working on that. But I am not someone who is easy to knock down; I am not a whiner, nor am I really needy. That is something she helped develop in me. I have seen my mother move a couch up a flight of stairs by herself. She kept clear of relationships when she realized that she was not capable of attracting healthy men. We may have grown up without father figures, but we also grew up without added abusers and pain inflicted from boyfriends and step dads coming and going.

Our family was incomprehensibly broken and devastated when we met Jesus. My mother was the first one to come to Jesus. After being in hospital after hospital, we finally came to one that had the insight that if they got my mother put back together then it would be easier to put me and my brother back together. After she got onto the path of healing, she would endure a few more years of dealing with us before we would come in. She prayed for us faithfully.

My mother told me in a recent conversation that her biggest fear used to be that I would just leave and never talk to her again. I have to say there was a time when I wanted nothing more than that. There was years even after I got saved that I felt so much hatred for her and wanted to just separate myself from her and my brother.
Thankfully, God did not allow that to happen. It has been a long, slow process, but God has done an amazing, miraculous work in our family.

My mother has lived with us for the last 5 years; for that I am grateful. There has been so much healing, restoration and redemption. We are so much closer than we used to be. I am not saying that things don't get a little ugly every once in a while. We scream sometimes, but there is less screaming and much more communication. We have learned to talk about things and be gracious to one another. We have learned to accept one another for who each of us is and where each of us happens to be.

God has redeemed so much of what my mother lost through my family. Before my husband and I were married, me and my two older children lived with my mother. She allowed me to be a stay at home mom and raise my children in a way that she was never able to do for me and my brother. There was even a point that she worked full time and went to school full time while I stayed home with the kids. God allowed her to give to her grandchildren what she was not able to give to us. She is also responsible, along with God, for allowing me to give birth to the first generation in our family of Christians. My children were born into a home what worshiped God rather than Satan (literally). She has been so so so good to us in the years since Jesus arrested her heart. There is nothing she would not do for me, my brother, my children and my husband. She would give her life for us; she would give her hands and feet if she thought it would make our lives better. God has healed her heart so much by watching my children grow up. She adores my husband and he adores her. She has been known to work 12 or even 14 hours a day to make money to help with bills are to have money for some one's birthday. She adores her grandchildren and they adore her. No one in our family could ever imagine her not living with us. And we really never intend on letting her move out. What an amazing blessing it is that my children only have to walk upstairs to hug their grandma. I cannot imagine not seeing my mother every day. I know that being close and seeing each other every day will make losing her so much harder. I know that the day will come the Jesus will call her home, so I have to treasure each moment we have. We lost a lot of moments early in live so we try to make up for that now. Man have we made some great memories. We have laughed together; we have cried together. My mother is my biggest fan. She is the loudest cheerleader I have. She supports everything I do and tells every one who will listen about the things I do and how proud of me she is. I was listening to a friend talk recently about losing her mother. She said she had no idea how hard it would be and there had not been tons of communication b/c her mother had had alzhiemers. That is when it hit me how blessed I have been with my relationship with my mother and how imaginably painful it will be when I had to lose her. I won't let the thought of that pain cause me to draw away from her though. I will continue to know her better and let God draw us closer. He will deal with the pain when and if that happens. I will NEVER run away and leave her now. She need not fear that. She is treasure to me. She is such an important part of our family. I love her with all my heart. She is amazing. I know that she does not have to make up for her past mistakes, but if we were comparing on a scale, the good so far outweighs the bad. She has made up for it all a million times over. As great as things are now, I know thatGod has only scratched the surface of what He wants to do.

Don't ever think that any person or any situation is beyond redemption. It is hard to describe so that you can understand, but our family was broken beyond any earthly hope of restoration. Think of us like a vase. Take the vase smash it, now roll over it with a bulldozer. Then take a tornado and blow on the dust that is left until is scatters to the four corners of the earth. There is more hope of you finding the pieces of that vase and putting it back together than there was hope for our family. The things we endured and the things that we did to each other cannot even be spoken of in most circles. But God is Good. He is able to do the impossible. He always has an amazing plan and it always involves turning what the enemy meant for our harm around for our good. We will be closer, stronger and filled with more love and dedication to one another than we ever would have been if we had "been normal".

I have news for you, too, mom; all that creativity, beauty and talent inside me came from you. So it is there in you. You just have to let God excavate it. My intelligence came from you too. You may have had your identity stolen from you so that it has been missing your whole life, but God is at work and He is bigger than any loss, and bigger than the enemy who stole who you are. He's giving it back to you. Keep fighting for your heart.

We have had some of the most amazing adventures. One of the funniest ones, I have to share. We have laughed and laughed over this. Anyone who went to the church I got saved in will find this extremely humorous b/c you have probably never heard this story. In the early years, I was on food stamps and medicaid with the children. My mom's money paid the bills and we ate on the food stamps. If I remember correctly our family of 4 survived on 288 dollars worth of food stamps and WIC. We ate meat, maybe one time a week. We lived on mac n cheese, ramen noodles, fish sticks, beans, and stuff like that; also it was always the off brands. The church was doing a food drive and we wanted to give to it. We cleaned the church on the weekends so we had a key to the church. We took half of our food stamps for the month and went shopping. We really thought about what we wanted to buy too. We went in with the mindset of "what do poor people never get to eat?" We bought real brands; we bought a bunch of meat; we had so much fun shopping for the poor people that we didn't even think about the fact that we weren't going to have much to eat for that month. We really didn't care. We were just so excited to give. We didn't want anyone to know what we had done,so we snuck in the church really late and put all the stuff in the box and put the meat in the freezer; we left a note in the box so they would know that there was also meat in the freezer. So Christmas Eve comes and we hear a knock on our door. They brought all the food to us. We were the poor people. Of course, we didn't tell them what we had done. We were actually pretty mad at God for a minute. "We gave that for the poor people." I guess we didn't see ourselves as the poor people. We were definitely pretty poor. After the initial irritation at God for giving our gift back to us, we were really grateful and we ate really, really good that month. Every year at Christmas we tell that story and laugh historically. We have come a long way. We do pretty well financially, now. We have that memory together, though. It's a great memory that makes us crack up every year even 14 or 15 years later. That is not only one. We have many many more. And we will makes many more.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Every day He has something to teach me

This morning I slept in until 7. It doesn't seem very significant unless you realize that i haven't slept past 5 in probably 6 weeks. Most days I wake up at 4 (no alarm, just awake). My body must have needed the sleep today; I didn't have much to do today anyway. One of the great things about waking up at 4 or 5 am is that the house is very quiet. I am the only one and there are no distractions from my running and prayer. Like I have said before my time running with God is the most treasured part of my day. I am very much a creature of habit. I also tend to be pretty obsessive compulsive. I like things the way I like them. I am learning to be flexible, but I am not a huge fan of change. I have come a million miles, but I think I probably still have a hundred million miles to go, especially in this area.

When I got up and climbed onto my treadmill, I figured that Chloe and her two friends would wake pretty quickly. They did and began to makes noise and move around. My first instinct was to get tense inside; I could feel the irritation begin to rise inside of me. I was thinking, "Well, this prayer time will be wasted. I will get my exercise in, but it won't be the same." The thing you must understand is that, while I enjoy running, it is really the time I spend with God while I run that makes me so passionate about working out every morning. Then, very quietly, God spoke. "Your prayer time does not have to be ruined. It will be different, but change is good for you, my child. Let me show you. Let's do it a little differently." So, I am not stupid. When He speaks, I have learned to listen. He knows and always has something in store. If I am open He works through everything, sometimes quite unexpectedly. I began to prayer that God would help me love and embrace the chaos that having a house full of children brings. I began to prayer for love, tolerance and flexibility. I prayed that God would help me begin to be able to filter out and function with the noise and chaos, so that it wouldn't make me tense and cranky. I prayed that God would help me let go of control and needing for everything to be "How I wanted it." Loving people is messy and chaotic. One of the greatest desires of my heart has been, for a very long time, to have a house full of kids. To have the house where everyone hangs out. That I would be able to love and impact all of my children's friends. I want to have tons of food to feed them, room for them to hang out, and lots of supplies for them to come and be creative with. I have not really walked in that desire. The catch is that lots of children around means noise, chaos and mess. These things are not pleasant to me. These are things I try to avoid. Well, its no wonder that this desire has not been fulfilled in my life. I am too much of a control freak to allow it. The kind of house my heart wants is not the kind of house my flesh wants. God is going to have to change me, heal some things, and teach me to let go and be at ease with a different kind of environment. He will have to teach me that being in a less "controlled" environment is okay and won't kill me. He will teach me to see beauty in the mess and chaos, to begin to hear the beautiful music in the noise, and to flourish in a house filled with people.

I cannot bring any of these changes about in my life. A counselor cannot bring me to this place. God, on the other hand, can transform me into that person. He gave me the desire and He will bring it to pass. He is so good and faithful to point out to me what He wants to work on and what needs to be taken care off so that His plans can come to pass. He makes me able to pray for help. He gives me the desire, shows me my lack, causes me to be willing to ask Him for help and even to ask him to make me willing to ask Him to makes me willing, then His precious Holy Spirit prays for me, through me, and finally He answers the prayers. The thing about my time on the treadmill is that somehow the exercise combined with the prayer short circuits my mind. Its like my mindsets and notions are taken out of the equation and I can pray from the heart in a way that I don't when I just pray. He gives me the courage to pray things that my flesh finds scary; He allows me to utter prayers that I might not otherwise utter. I don't know what your view of prayer is, but I believe when we utter a prayer it flutters about like a bird until the time when it is answered. Sometimes prayers are answered almost immediately and sometimes they are not answered for years. I have uttered prayers in deep times of prayer and then totally forgotten about them. Then later, sometimes 5, 10 or 15 years later, God brings them to pass and reminds me that I prayed them. Prayers are never wasted. They are out there, somewhere, in the heavens, who knows where, but they are out there waiting for fulfillment or working the fulfillment out. I read something profound once in an amazing and very old book called All things for Good. If you can find that book; read it; it will definitely impact you. It is an old book though, so you will have to special order it. I used to have a bunch of copies, but I have given them away over the years. Anyway, the book was talking about prayer and how prayer is used for the good of the saint. It talked about how every prayer is used and that even when we pray things that are not His will or with the wrong motives, or whatever, the Holy Spirit takes those prayers as a mother takes a bunch of flowers picked by a child and removes the weeds, binds them into a beautiful bouquet and hands them to the Father. What a release of pressure that gave me. What peace it gave me. When I pray or someone prays for me, there is no need to fear, the Holy Spirit makes those prayers what they need to be. He cleans them up and presents them to the Father.

Have I been transformed this morning into that person who is flexible and willing to let chaos happen? Definitely, not. But I am a step closer. God helped me pray what I needed to pray to see that come to pass. Those prayers went out, and "the prayers of a righteous man avails much." God used this mornings situation to bring me to the place that I would see the need and ask for His help. For that I am so grateful. I am so glad that He is always at work. What an amazing, wonderful, gracious, wise, loving, perfect God we serve. What a miracle that God would use children, who are completely unaware of what He is doing, to work in me today. I can only hope that God uses me that way. That, in His graciousness, He would use me to touch people's hearts as I just live my life daily. I hope that as I live my life would be like a pebble dropped about and that the rings that emanate from it would go further than I could ever imagine.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'm an Artist????

It may be hard for the people who know me as I am now to believe, but it has been a long hard journey to believe and walk in my calling as an artist. Most of those I am in relationship now see me as a very creative individual and probably could not imagine me not creating. I love to make things, all kinds of different things; I love learn new creative expressions and try new ways to create all the time. But, even as recent as 5 years ago, I would have denied being creative and would not have even dreamed of ever referring to myself as an artist. It has been such an interesting and long journey to arrive here and I know God is not any where near finished. I don't think that my heart can even begin to comprehend the plans God has for me. I will probably be astounded at where I am 5 years from now. Looking back I realize now, that God called and created me to be an artist from before my conception. He set things into motion, before I was ever a twinkle in my mother's eye and before she was a twinkle in her parents eyes. He also allowed the enemy to steal my creativity and artistic nature from me for a good 30 to 35 years. I will get to the reason for that later. There have been glimpse of the creativity over the years, but I just pretty much saw them as flukes. So, finding and unleashing my creativity has been a long and interesting journey.

I have to start at the point where I think the most devastating blow to my creativity happened. I have spent a lot of time praying and asking God to show me where it began. Or, should I say since I realized that God was revealing to me my creative nature, I have been praying. The creativity has been really bubbling up over the last 4 years. God really turned up the pressure on the bubbling about 2 years ago; then, He caused the bubbling to turn to a full boil about a year ago. It was at the point when the boiling began that I really started praying and seeking Him to help me set the artist in me free and to show me the root of the belief that I was not capable of being an artist. It was as if I had put the artistic part of me in a box and buried her deep in the soil of my basement. She was almost dead when I found her. Her breathing so shallow, that I was not even sure she was still breathing. She had been hidden so long deep under ground without any oxygen, food, water, light or any of the things we so desperately need to survive. I despaired that she would survive and breath again. Would she ever be a part of me, again? Had I forever put to death that beautiful part of who I was? The enemy had sought to use me to destroy her; it seemed she could not be resurrected. But the enemy of our soul always over plays his hand. "What he means for our destruction, God ALWAYS intends for our GOOD!!!!!!" Jesus took my hand and led me down into to basement of despair, the place where dreams were put to death. And we began to dig. I wasn't even sure what we were digging for when we began to dig. I knew it was cold down there and scary; the air was heavy with despair. The we reached our destination. The coffin was revealed. The box seemed so familiar to me. Why did this thing buried deep inside me seem so familiar, yet I was not clear what we had found. Then as we opened the lid, a gasp escaped my mouth. I heart sank. Even in her emaciated, lifeless state, she was beautiful. I knew her. She was the artist, the creator, the maker of beauty. "Fear not," He said to me,"Even as I called Lazarus out of the tomb to life, I call you out of death, I breath life into you. I have called you out of darkness, come forth and shine my light through the creativity I gave you before you ever were."

I see now that allowing me to have my creativity stolen for so long, has been a beautiful part of the plan of my life. Having to fight so hard for my artistic nature has given me a drive, a passion, a tenacious ferocity for creating and encouraging creativity. It has developed in my heart not only a passion to be creative, but a dedication to developing and encouraging creativity in others. Having suffered the loss of my creativity and having suffered from not having it developed or encouraged in my life, has made me so passionate about being one who would draw creativity out of people and inspire people to attempt new things and see how much potential is in each one of us. As I have been walking this path and fighting for it, I have picked up equipment and tools along to way to use to help others. Just as exercise develops strength in our bodies, so this fight has given me strength to fight for those who don't have the vision or strength to fight for themselves. I have a pretty enormous vision for a creative war that is worldwide. More on that later.

Back to the root of the problem (as usual my writing has gone chasing rabbits). As I have looked back to find when I first buried the artist, I came to something that seemed so minuscule and silly. It is, non the less, the point at which the artist was placed underground. When I was in first grade, I had a teacher that was pretty mean. She really did not like me. Now, granted my Mom was clinically depressed so she did not do the greatest job caring for us. This teacher thought little girls should always have their hair up during the warm months. She would daily complement those girls whose hair was up in a pony tail, while stating that little girls should have their hair put up. Well, my momma did not put my hair up. I was lucky if it was brushed well. The impact of that effected me up until the last 3 or 4 years. My girls ALWAYS had their done. When Ally's hair was not even long enough to be up, it was in tiny little pony tails on top of her head. It was a huge issue in my life, that my children always looked nice and had their hair done. The same teacher was the one who delivered the death blow to the artist. One day she held up a picture that I had colored in front of the whole class and stated that "it looked like a kinder gardener had colored it. Though, she did not say it was my picture, I knew that it was. Then when my mother confronted her about it, she lied and said she had done no such thing. My poor mother, had been so beaten down and abused her whole life, that she did not have the confidence to stand up to her so it was dropped. It seems liked such a seemingly insignificant thing, but it impacted me in such a devastating way. The influence of that teacher effected my life and the lives of my children for about 26 years. Wow, we never know what kind of impact we will have on people. We can make them into something amazing or we can leave them bleeding to death. I have forgiven her. She obviously was a very unhappy person. I hope that she found peace in her life. God used the pains she caused in my life to be used to make me who I am today and to make me so cognisant of the need to have creativity encouraged in our lives especially as children.

Now here the beautiful irony of God is revealed. A good friend once pointed out to me how like God it was that the little girls who was made fun of for her hair would become a hair dresser and help people have pretty hair. Now in recent months, God has revealed even more irony. The little girl who had her art made fun of and who has struggled to become an artist is starting an after school art program so children can find the artist in them. The program is called CREATE (Children Rendering Extraordinary Art Through Exploration).

This is how CREATE was birthed. My family was praying and thinking about moving to another school district where I could send my youngest child to a Magnet School for Artistically talented children. Another part of that decision was to decrease our living expenses. My youngest is very very gifted in a lot of different ways. (I know everyone thinks that their children are extraordinary, but this one has talent oozing from her pores). She is extremely intelligent and scores very high on academic tests; she also draws, writes stories, and has perfect pitch. She started writing songs at 6 years old. Our district has PACE for high intelligence, but nothing for children who excel in the Arts. Sometimes it seems like God has given me the opportunity, in Chloe, to watch and see myself grow up in a healthier environment where creativity and talent are encouraged. (not pushed, mind you, but encouraged.) She is very much a lot like me. She got a keyboard for Christmas and is proceeding to teach herself to play songs by ear. B/c of this talent, I have really been praying about changing districts. We knew were supposed to move, but still weren't sure where. One day while running and praying about school, moving, starting a small art club at our school, and how all this fit together, I heard a question come out of my heart. God said to me, "What if instead moving and effecting the life of one child by putting Chloe in a Magnet school, you started a volunteer driven after school magnet program at your school and effected hundreds of children?" I thought, "wow, okay, that is a pretty big project, but if you ask me to do something, you will help me do it. I am willing, but then you have help us find the right place to move, so we can afford to stay. I don't want to start something and let everyone down b/c I leave it before it is strong enough to stand without me." It was as if I was painting this really small picture, it was a pretty picture (there is nothing wrong with seeking the best for our children), but then God tapped me on the shoulder and asked to borrow the paint brush for a minute. He began to paint this really huge picture. It was the same concept only with much bigger significance and consequence. As He painted, it just kept getting bigger. "What if this program could be a pilot for other such programs at other schools?" It would eventually include drama, creative writing, sewing, photography, film, pottery, or any number of creative expressions. I hope that the program will eventually be every day after school with volunteers to come in and offer different classes for the children to explore, learn and grow. It also has 2 different shifts; shift one is for those who don't go to tutoring; shift two is offered so that the children in tutoring can come after tutoring and get the same experience. What an exciting opportunity and what an amazing privilege that God would call me to start it. What a picture of God's redemption that the little girl who was made fun of in school, would be used to start such an amazing program and potentially impact hundreds or thousands of children's lives. At our school these children are children who might not ever have the opportunity to some of these things b/c of financial restraints or struggling academically. This also serves as a warm up to what I really want to do.

Eventually, I would like to travel all around the globe taking art and creative expression to children who desperately need it. I want to do art with the children who live in dumps, the children orphaned by AIDS in Africa, the children who are struggling to recover from being child soldiers, the children who live in brothels, and children everywhere who live in hopelessness and separation from beauty. I believe that God will send me. I am willing to go. How amazing I think it would be to take my children and spend the summer in some of those places just loving and creating. That would be life changing both for the children we create with and for our family. Yeah, its a ridiculous vision, but if it isn't so big that you need God's help then what is the point?

Very quickly I want to trace the path that God put me on the reach the artist. I had wanted to be a hair dresser for about 21 years. I didn't make it to hair school when I was younger b/c of my drug problem. Then I started having children (which God used to get me off the drugs). I stayed home with them or worked daycare most of their lives. When my baby was about to start Kindergarten I enrolled in hair school. In hair school I was introduced to a make up academy that I attended and started doing make up. I fell in love with make up and got really really good at it. I finished hair school, but did not pursue doing hair as a profession. I did make up for several years and was really really good at special effects. It was doing make up that I began to see my creativity. I still told people that I was not an artist, just a make up artist. About 2 years ago, it became apparent that my son needed to be home schooled (that is a story for another day.) I also lost my position in the make up academy that I was employed by. The timing was just perfect to make a total shift in the direction I was headed in. God put it in my heart to begin sewing. I bought my first embroidery machine and started playing with sewing and designing. The sewing really was the catalyst to bring the simmering creativity to the full boil it is today. I love to make things and am constantly exploring news ways to make things; I want to start to combine creative expressions in new ways.

This brings us up to today.

I AM AN ARTIST. Not only am I an artist, I am an developer of artists. I intend to inspire and impact everyone I can. I want to spread the Creativity Virus. I intend to help people find their creativity without them even realizing what I am up to like a creativity ninja. Watch out, you never know what I might be up to in your life. :)