Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Must I let go?

This morning, I was began reading a little book, The Saga of Life.  In it, the author is discussing the transition from adolescence to adulthood.  He shares these words from Alan Paton.

I see my son wearing long trousers; I tremble at this.  I see he goes forward confidently, he does not know so fully his own gentleness.  Go forward, eager and reverent child.  See here, I begin to take my hands away from you.  I shall see you walk carelessly on the edge of the precipice, but if you wish, you shall hear no word come out of me.  My whole soul will be sick with apprehension, but I shall not disobey you.  Life sees you coming, she sees you come with assurance toward her.  She lies in wait for you.  She cannot but hurt you.  Yet go forward.  Go forward.  I hold the bandages and the ointment ready.  And if you would go elsewhere and lie alone with your wounds, I shall not intrude upon you.  If you would seek the help of some other person, I will not come forcing myself upon you.  If you should fall into sin, innocent one, that is the way of this pilgrimage.  Struggle against it, not for one fraction of a moment concede its dominion.  It will occasion you grief and sorrow, it will torment you.  But hate not God, nor turn from Him in shame or self-reproach.  He has seen many such, and His compassion is as great as His creation.  Be tempted and fall and return.  Return and  be tempted and fall, a thousand times a thousand, even to a thousand thousand.  For out of this tribulation there comes a peace, deep in the soul and surer than any dream.

I was so intrigued by this beautiful passage.  I think I reread the passage four times. As I read, I saw it from two different perspectives.  First, I thought about my life and my relationship with my parents.  I can only imagine the incredible grief that they have endured this year as they have had to watch their baby girl travel this Unplanned Journey, but, even more difficult, to have to watch me travel it as an adult and make my own way.  Now my daddy has certainly had his opinions about what I should and should not do.  But in the end it is my journey, and I have had to make my own way in this pilgrimage.  They have had to sit back and watch me travel, holding the bandages and ointments ready for those times that I needed them.  As a parent myself, I can only imagine how difficult this must have been.

As a parent of two teenage girls, one who will be going away to college in a few short months, I can see this through a parent's eyes.  Just yesterday, I was holding their tiny hands and helping them balance as they learned to walk.  Now the time is coming close when I have to let go. If only I could protect them from ever getting hurt.  But I cannot.  I have to start letting them go and face the world that can be so cold and cruel -- this same world that can be so seductive and tempting.  Will they get hurt?  Most certainly.  Will they give in to the temptation of sin at times?  I would love to say, "Absolutely not."  But, surely at times they will.  However, if I have taught them nothing else in the few short years that I have had them, I pray that I have taught them to run to God first.  And as the passage says, run to him again and again.

Proverbs 22:6 (New King James Version)

Train up a child in the way he should go,
      And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

To Do or Not To Do....That is MY question!

“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard is figuring out what you are willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.”

I read this quote in a book last week during my time of searching.  I needed to read this.  I was overwhelmed.  Two days earlier I had walked outside and my pool had gone from a nice teal color that definitely showed signs of needing attention to lake water green which screamed for help! It was the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back." According to an internet site, this saying refers to a small and seemingly insignificant addition to a burden that renders it too much to bear, the small thing which causes failure, or causes inability or unwillingness to endure any more of something.  That was where I was.  I had had enough.  I was tired of taking care of this house and yard.  I was tired of being a single, divorced mother of two.  Then I started thinking about "this time last year."  I never had to worry about the yards.  During my Thanksgiving break, I was busying myself around the house, cleaning and decorating for Christmas.  I was shopping and wrapping presents.  Never did I know what would lie ahead for me in the coming weeks.

I had to snap out of that thinking.  I can't go back.  This is where I am.  I have to deal with it and move forward.  So when I read the quote, it almost jumped off the page at me.

What do I want my life to be about?  The author of that quote is so right!  That is the easy part.  I want to be a mother that enjoys her children, not one that is constantly on edge.  I want to serve God.  I want to spend more time reading, praying, writing and discovering His plan for my life.  I want to help others through these murky waters of life.  I want to be the teacher that challenges students academically and inspires and motivates them to be better citizens.  Finally, one day I hope that God would see fit to allow me to be a wife again.  That is a pretty big list.

Now, the hard part.  What am I willing to give up?  I have given up the conviction that my house has to be immaculate.  I can't deal with chaos.  However, if the counters are fairly clean and there is only enough hair on the bathroom floor to make half a wig, then it will be okay.  My yards are not going to look like Southern Living yards as they once did.  I did deal with the pool, but right now my beds need pine straw in them, and that is how they are going to stay.  I am giving up my propensity to say "yes" to anything anyone asks me to do.  I just am not able to do all the things I used to do.  The hardest thing to give up was one of our animals.  We decided that we needed to find a home for the Nala, our cat.  While it was a hard decision, we found a wonderful home for her where she is loved and cared for.  Finally, I asked the girls if it would be okay if we did not drag the endless Christmas decorations from the attic and spend countless hours decorating only to take it all down in a few weeks.  They were thrilled with the idea.  I think they knew how much they would have to be involved in this process and were more than happy to give up the Norman Rockwell image of Christmas.  I looked at them and said, "I am already giddy about not having to take everything down after Christmas!"  I promise we are not Scrooges!  We were blasting Christmas carols at the top of our lungs yesterday.  And we have already started celebrating Christmas with our friends and enjoying their decorations.  This decision was not about "not celebrating."  It was simply about taking something off my plate.  So that is a start, and it is a big one.

I know that my list of "what I want to do" and "what I am willing to give up" will change from time to time.  It all depends on where God has me at any particular point in my life.  But my life lesson that I learned through my time of searching last week was this:  I am only one person.  There are only so many hours in a day.  I have to seek God and make a decision about what I can and should be doing with those few precious hours.  I found the following verse that relates to this topic.

Ephesians 5:15-16
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

One commentator on this passage has this today.  "Time is a talent given us by God, and it is misspent and lost when not employed according to His design."  It can't be said any better than that.  Let all of us who call ourselves Christians strive to spend our days according to HIS design for our lives!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Finding My Smile

I have had a wonderful Thanksgiving week.  Here is the thing.  There have been some very low points, but I pulled through them.  I have often heard that if we didn't have winter, we couldn't appreciate the spring.  I was consoling an Alabama fan today.  (I really don't pull for either team!)  I said, "Somebody has to lose."  He said, "Yep.  I guess you wouldn't appreciate the wins if you never lost."  In the same way, having the low moments makes you appreciate the moments when you feel good again.  That is why I can say it was a wonderful week.

I realized early in the week that I needed to reconnect with God. I spent a day fasting from food as a way of committing this time to seeking Him. I also fasted from television, the radio, and yes, Facebook. I needed God’s direction in my life more than ever. I had decisions to make about the house. It is time to make serious decisions about where Lily will be going to college. And, sadly, I let go all too quickly of a really great relationship without even praying about it. I just let go out of fear and by the end of the week realized that I had made a mistake.  While I was not in the dark place, I felt the weight of these things closing in on me. Emotionally, I felt as if I could not breathe.

I lost my smile. People often tell me that I smile with my eyes. I don’t think my eyes were smiling too much. I needed to get that back, and the sure way to do it was to spend time with God. The Psalmist David understood this. He said, “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle in my eyes, or I will die.” Psalm 13:3.

I desperately needed God’s touch in my life and His direction. So I decided to use last week and spend time intentionally seeking God. What does that mean, and how is it different from my normal time with God? Well, I used all of my free time to seek Him. I did spend time with family, friends, and of course, my girls. But otherwise, I spent my time reading my Bible, a couple of books, and praying. We always make the excuse that we are too busy to spend much time doing those things, but it is amazing how much time we really have when we pull out just those things I mentioned.

I have my smile back. It wasn't easy. I commented to someone today that I wish there were a magic pill or a great little twelve-week program that could give us our happiness back when life has hit us so very hard. But there is not. So how did I get my smile back? I asked God for it, and I kept on plugging. There were times this week when I would be overcome with depression, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I have discovered that there are two types of sleep. There is "rest" sleep that you need when you are exhausted. You crash in the afternoon, and you sleep so hard and so soundly that you can hardly pull yourself out and wake up. Then there is "depression" sleep. This sleep is not so sound. You don't ever fall into that deep sleep. It is as if you are in limbo. You can't really go soundly to sleep, but at the same time you feel too tired to get up. I had a couple of those days this week. It is hard to get your smile back when you feel like this. But while I did sleep and rest some, I forced myself to get up. I reminded myself of all the times in the past year that God has reached down and rescued me. I knew that He had done this before, and He would do it again.

Psalm 18:16-19 (New Living Translation)
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
    He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
    from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
    but the Lord supported me.
He led me to a place of safety;
    He rescued me because He delights in me.

He delights in me.  I love that, and that by itself is enough to give me back my smile.

I learned some other things this week that I will be sharing in future blogs.  For now, though, I just want to celebrate the smile.  I am sure it will get misplaced again.  Life is just like that, isn't it?  There really is no such thing as "happily ever after" as long as we are on this earth. However, the next time it is lost, I know how to find it.  Sometimes the search for it will be long and laborious, but when I find it, the effort is all worthwhile!

We all found our smiles.  Lily even found a gopher smile

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Stop on the Journey

This will be my last blog for a while.  I am not sure how long.  I strongly believe in the spiritual discipline of fasting.  I will spend time fasting physically from food and mentally as well from television, radio and the computer.  I need direction from God in many areas of my life.  I don't want to stumble through on my own.  I know that I will just make a mess of things.  I am at the point where I desperately need His direction.  I am seeking His direction in many areas.

  • Spiritual:  I need to know where God would have me be in church. It is that simple.
  • Physical:  I am praying for friends who are struggling with physical issues.  I am also praying for my physical needs and decisions.  What should I do with this house?  What do we need to do with college coming up for Lily?
  • Emotional:  I am praying for a sound mind for me and my girls.  2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has given us a sound mind.  One commentator puts it this way.  "The concept of a 'sound mind' has more to do with our attitude than we may realize. If our mind is sound, it is not cluttered up with the cares of this world. Its processes start with God and end with God."
  • Relational:  I need God's direction as I sail through these uncharted waters in my life.  When I said my vows twenty-one years ago, I thought that I would never be traveling this road, but here I am.  There is no doubt that I will make a mess of it without God.  
To all of you who have shared my journey, laughed with me, cried with me, and most importantly, prayed for me, I am forever grateful.  I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that I am where I am because of your love and support.

This is not the end of my blog.  I just need to make a road stop on my Unplanned Journey and spend some time alone with God.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Forget About Morning Breath!

When I was right in the middle of my separation and divorce, I can remember that the absolute worst time for me was first thing in the morning. I would wake up, and for just a split second I would forget everything that had happened. For just an instant, life was okay. Then the second passed, and I realized that things were not okay.

Those moments have passed. That never happens anymore. When I wake up, from the very first second, I know that I am a divorced, single mother. It is really good to get to this point, because waking up is no longer an emotional hurdle to be crossed each morning. However, waking up alone is still hard.

Last night God gave me a little serendipity. I love that word. A serendipity is finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it. Once again, last night, I was reading the Psalms. I came across the following passage.

Psalm 139:17-18
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
     They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
     they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
     You are still with me!

God reminded me that I never wake up alone.  He is always with me.  I am so glad, and that gives me so much comfort and hope.  This morning when I woke up, that verse was the first thing that I thought about.

I cannot close, however, without saying something to my dear friends out there who are still married.  I know when the passion has faded and you are dealing with the struggles and trials of day to day life, sometimes, you just don't like your spouse.  Waking up to them may not give you the great joy that I am talking about here, especially if they look crazy and have morning breath.  I get that.  I have been there.  Please don't take those precious moments with your spouses for granted.  Thank God that you have them in your life.  Smile at them, and tell them good morning.  Maybe you can even forget about morning breath and give them a kiss.  Every day is a gift.  Start out your day remembering that and giving thanks for the one beside you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yes, Lord, I believe. Help me with my unbelief.

Today I went to a different church.  I wanted to go to one where no one knew me.  My family and friends have been absolutely amazing in helping me through the dark days of my Unplanned Journey.  However, I have felt lately that I need to visit a church where it is just me and God.  It is hard to explain.  But I just wanted to be somewhere that there was no history and where no one knew my story.  I just prayed and went online and searched for churches in Pensacola.  The first one to come up was Harvest Church which meets in the Rave Theater.  There was a 10:00 service.  I decided to go.

On the way there, I was struggling.  I have said from the beginning of the blog that I would be honest with my struggles, for that is the only way to reach healing.  I have had an emotional week.  I wrote earlier about ending my relationship with David last week.  I felt us connecting on many different levels.  I was so afraid that he was not having those same connections, and I was terrified of being hurt.  I have struggled with that decision all week.  Was it the right one?  I just don't know anymore.  Yesterday I was working in my yards and praying about the situation.  Rarely do I think that God speaks to me.  It is not an audible voice, just something that comes to my mind, and I know beyond a shadow of any doubt that it is from God.  The words from Him were this.  "Not necessarily no, just not now."  I am not sure exactly what the "Not necessarily no" part means.  Does it mean, not necessarily no to David?  Maybe God will bring us back together one day.  Does it mean not necessarily no to any future relationship?  I am just not sure.  What I do understand is the "just not now" part.  For now, God wants me to focus on Him and let Him continue to do the healing work in me that He started on January 19.  I still believe with all my heart that God put me and David in each other's paths.  I strongly believe that he was a part of my healing process, and I still am not completely convinced that our journey together has ended.  But for now, once again, my relationship needs to be with God.

I have come so far from where I was this spring.  Let me be quick to say that I know that the endings of my marriage and this most recent relationship do not even begin to compare.  And though I am sad, I have complete faith and trust in my heavenly Father that He has the very best in store for me.  The "dark place" is not even a remote enticement.  Last night, I laughed so hard.  I have three of the girls' friends from Slapout here with us.  Several of my students from school were on a photograph scavenger hunt.  They texted me and asked me if they could come by to get some of the items for the hunt.  They needed someone dressed up like Harry Potter, a guy dressed in girl's clothes, a girl in jeans with holes, and two people jumping in a pool.

Here are the "scavengers."  They talked me into the "holy" jean picture!

We tried to get one of her guy friends from Slapout to wear the dress. He tried one on but said it didn't fit. He then agreed to go jump in the pool with one of the girls. After jumping in the pool, he said, "I'm cold...I'm wet...they tried to make me wear a dress, but I refused. On the other hand, I'm still havin a ballin time in P-cola!"  I laughed so hard at them.  It was a delicious laugh, and it felt so very good.  Months ago, if something made me sad, because of the overall circumstances in my life, I could not bring myself to laugh no matter how hard I tried or how funny the situation.  Yes, God has brought me a long way.

This morning when I decided to go to a different church, I was struggling again with some sadness from the relationship ending.  I was driving by myself and was praying about this hurt and sadness.  Once again, I know God spoke to my heart.

"Do you believe and trust in me with all your heart?" 
          "Yes, God, I do."
"Even if that means that there will never be a relationship with David?" 
         "Yes, God, I do." 
" Even if this means that you never marry again?"  
           "Wait, God, this one is really hard.  Please don't ask me this. I loved being married. I love sharing my life and all those connections with a special someone."  I paused for a moment and then resignedly said, "Yes, God, I still believe in You and trust You and will give You praise because I know that You know what is best for me." 

You see, my life has always been so good, and it was easy to say that I trust and believe God.  Now, what I say I believe has been put to the test.   Here is the thing.  It is hard to truly believe these things.  But our first step in the faith process is saying that we do believe.  Mark 9:15-30 tells the story of a man who brings his son who is demon possessed to Jesus.  Jesus tells him anything is possible if he will believe.  The man says, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief."

In my heart, that is what I was saying to God today.  "Yes, Lord, I believe, but please help me in my moments of unbelief."

I went on to the church service.  It was absolutely wonderful.  God met me there, and I worshiped.  There was one particular song that we sang that I felt was my prayer to God.  Here are a few of the lyrics that meant so much to me:

So what can I say
What can I do
But offer this heart O God
Completely to You

So I'll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all

So I'll stand
My soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours.

Six months ago, when I was in the dark place, I could not stand.  I could not even crawl.  Today I am sad.  But even though I am sad, I stood in that church service, raised my arms high to God and said, "All I am is Yours."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Waiting for "The Great Not Yet"

Wait. It is a word that God has brought to me so many times lately.  I strongly dislike waiting.  It all started a few nights ago when I was reading a book that my friend gave me by John Claypool, God, The Ingenious Alchemist.  He was writing about the Joseph in the Old Testament.  If there was anyone who knew about the "Waiting Place," it was Joseph.  He was falsely accused of rape, thrown into prison, and forgotten.  Here he sat, in the "Waiting Place."  However, the one thing that we read again and again about Joseph is that God was with him.

The "Waiting Place" is so often looked at with great disdain.  It is not a fun place to be.  I like having goals.  If I have a goal, I have direction.  I know where I am going, and I know what I need to do to get there.  But in the "Waiting Place" there is no goal.  You are just waiting.  In the Dr. Seuss book, Oh the Places You Will Go, he writes about what he calls the most useless place, "The Waiting Place."

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

Why are we so discontented with waiting?  When referring to waiting, it seems to always be talked about with negative connotations.  What do we always do when we have to wait in long lines?  We complain.  Why do we do that?  I have thought about this, and I think that I have possibly arrived at the answer.  We humans tend to think that time spent waiting is wasted time.  Even Dr. Seuss agrees:

No! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. 
You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. 
With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! 
Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Well, I love Dr. Seuss books, but I have to say that I respectfully disagree with him on this one.  The waiting place is not a useless place.  Here is where it can become difficult to muddle through.  It certainly CAN be a useless place, but I will save those thoughts for another time.  What I am talking about now is when we are in "The Waiting Place" at the hands of a Sovereign God.  We trust Him with our future, and He says, "Wait."  In such a case the waiting time becomes priceless.  It is a time of refining us and making us into something more whole and more beautiful than we could ever be, had we rushed right through the circumstances or, worse yet, had we thrown our hands up in despair and given up.

When Joseph was in prison, he could have sat around day and night, withering away as he lost his way while in "The Waiting Place."  But that was not Joseph.   In the words of John Claypool, "The most practical difference between asking, 'What can I do now?' instead of protesting, 'Why me?' is enormous indeed.  Joseph proceeds to do the very best thing he could do in that terribly difficult situation:  he became a servant to the other prisoners around him."

We live in a world of instant gratification, and none of us enjoys waiting.  I know I don't.  But what I have to understand is that this waiting time for me is a time for God to mold me and shape me into the person that He wants me to be.  God has been putting this in front of me constantly over the last few days.   I really enjoy reading the Psalms.  In one night I read two different passages that dealt with waiting:

Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act. - Psalm 37:7
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. - Psalm 40:1

This happened the very same night when I was reading John Claypool's book.  I had been greatly intrigued by one of his quotes.

We are called to stay open in hope in relation to The Great Not Yet. We must resist the temptation to rush too quickly to judgment regarding the nature of any event. The wiser approach is what the Bible calls "waiting upon the Lord." If we are still breathing, it is too early to tell about the ultimate impact of any event in our lives.

Every time I read, that I get excited.  God is preparing me for "The Great Not Yet."  I want to rush into things; that is just my personality.  However, slowly and painfully, I am learning from God the value in "waiting on Him."  What He has for me is great and amazing, but it is just not time yet.  He is still working on me and healing my wounds and getting me ready, because what He has in store for me is going to be amazing.

When we are in "The Waiting Place"  because God has us there to prepare us for our future, it is a good thing.  He is getting us ready for "The Great Not Yet."  That is exactly what he was doing with Joseph. He was preparing him for great things later in his life.

So when I become frustrated and weary with waiting, I am not going to say, "Why me?"  I will say, "What can I do now?"  For now, I am going to let God do His work.  I am going to enjoy my girls and the other wonderful people in my life, and I am going to joyfully anticipate "The Great Not Yet!"

Isaiah 40:27-31
Don’t you know?
      Haven’t you heard?
   The eternal God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth,
      doesn’t grow tired or become weary.
         His understanding is beyond reach.
He gives strength to those who grow tired
      and increases the strength of those who are weak.
Even young people grow tired and become weary,
      and young men will stumble and fall.
Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord
      will be renewed.
         They will soar on wings like eagles.
            They will run and won’t become weary.
            They will walk and won’t grow tired.

*To read more about the life of Joseph, see Genesis:  Chapters 37, 39-50

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mating frogs were NOT part of the plan.

I have heard many times that hate is a very strong word.  Webster defines it as "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury." I hate creepy crawly things. I think in this case, the word hate is very appropriate.

Early on in my Unplanned Journey, I found great satisfaction in learning how to use all the "man tools."  All of our yard tools are top of the line and gas powered.  They get the job done.  When I learned how to use that heavy duty edger and blower, I was ecstatic.  I would come in from doing the yards, filthy from head to toe, and have a great sense of accomplishment. It was amazing, and I thought to myself that I could do anything.

Then came time to work on the pools.  Let me just say that I have neglected my pool lately, and now it looks like a lake rather than a pool.  I carried the sample into my wonderful friends at Robert's Pools.  Before I handed Robert, Jr. the sample, I said, "Okay, Robert, this water is a mess.  But let me just say that I am a single parent, working full time, raising two teenage daughters and taking care of a house."  He laughed and told me that I got a pass.  Then he spent thirty minutes testing the water and giving me a list with fifteen things to do to get the pool back in shape. 

The first item on the list was to clean out the skimmers.  My friend gave me these wonderful little gadgets called a skimmer angel.  It is a stick with a handle that attaches to the skimmer.  They were great because you don't have to stick your hand down in the water to pull the basket out.  Once again, I was faced with a post divorce challenge, and I conquered.  Then came the cold weather.  I guess all the little slimy creatures don't care for the cold water.  Today when I opened up one of the skimmers, the angel was covered with spiders, even on the handle.  The other skimmer had two frogs.  Not just two frogs, but two frogs mating.  This was one of my breaking points.  It is crazy, but it is ridiculous things like this that sometimes just push one over the edge.  I have taken on a lot of responsibilities as a result of becoming single, but I draw the line at handling mating frogs.  So I did what any decent mother would do.  I called for the girls and asked one of them to come take care of it.  Lily came out, and we made a deal.  She would handle the skimmer with the frogs if I would handle the one with the spiders.  She doesn't mind the slimy creatures but hates spiders.  I tackled mine first.  I started by knocking the spiders off the handle with a stick.  The only problem was that as quickly as I knocked them off, they crawled right back up.  Finally, I just went for it.  I knocked them off, jerked it out and threw it in the yard.  Then it was time for Lily to break up the love fest.  As she reached down to get the basket, she saw a spider hiding under the handle.  She just couldn't do it, not with a spider around.  So I reached down to get the basket.  The frogs were not on the handle.  They were actually on the top of the water.  Everytime I would reach to get the basket, I would scream and let go.  In my mind, I could just see those frogs jumping on me to "finish their business."  But after ten minutes of arguing over who would get the basket and both of us balking right before grabbing it, Lily finally did it.  I had knocked the spider off.  She grabbed it and threw it into the yard.  I am sure that the frogs were greatly disgruntled as their little romance by the pool was rudely interrupted.  But we did it! 

You know, it is times like these that you have the choice to do one of two things.  I can get angry and bitter because I am having to deal with this, and it just is not fair.  That is not the answer.  Plenty of women who are not divorced have the same situations thrown on them.  I think of my friends who have husbands who are deployed.  Even worse, I think of my friends who have lost husbands.  So getting angry just is not the solution.  My other choice is to conquer the fear and laugh about it afterwards.  We chose the second option!  Now while I have conquered my fear for the moment, I am not ready to sign up for classes in entomology!  But for the moment I can say that I conquered another hurdle in this crazy world of divorce, and we can have a great laugh.

So, as my friend would say, "It's all good...it ain't always nice...and sometimes it is even creepy and slimy, but it is all good!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Experience: The Brutal Teacher

"Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn."  This is a quote by C.S. Lewis.  I love it.  I don't like living it at times, but it is so true.

What has my experience taught me this year?
1.  I have learned the value of family and friends.  You cannot survive without them.  In Genesis, God said that He didn't want man to be alone.  I have learned that the worst thing I can possibly do is isolate myself from the people whom I love and who love me.

2.  You can have a thousand friends who surround you day and night; however, you still cannot survive without God.  He is my Ultimate Friend.  Here is another quote from C.S. Lewis:  "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."  How does God give happiness and peace?  I give myself to Him, constantly.  I offer up prayers asking for Him to fill my sadness.  I ask Him to be my Comforter.  I ask Him to give me peace.  I read the Psalms.

3.  If I don't run to God, there is an enemy out there waiting and more than happy to take His place in my life.  However, he doesn't give happiness and peace.  He gives despair.  Here is what I have learned from experience.  When I get tired and overwhelmed in body and spirit, he is ready to step in and do his best work.  What do I do when those things happen?  First of all, on a practical level, I try to get some rest.  It is amazing what a good night's sleep will do for you.  Then I revert to number 1 and number 2.  Before long, I am feeling alive and restored again.

Beth Moore talks about learning from God in two ways.  The first way is like sitting in a classroom.  We listen to the teacher, and we learn when we study what she says.  In the spiritual realm, that would be like reading your Bible, attending worship, taking part in Bible studies and prayer.  She says that the second way that we learn in school is by leaving the classroom and going on a field trip.  We go see the subject we are studying for ourselves.  I remember going with Lily in the sixth grade to the American Village in Montevallo.  I learned more that day about the American Revolution than I did in years of a classroom because on that day I experienced.  This is the second way we learn from God.  We take a field trip, we experience it, and we grow from it.

I have been on one heck of a field trip this year.  While it was not a fun one, there is no doubt that I have learned.  There are things that I have said that I believed all my life.  "God will never leave me.  God will never forsake me.  Take your troubles to God, and He will see you through anything."  I believed those things with all my heart.  But this year I took a field trip.  I experienced it on an up close and personal level, and these truths are deeply ingrained into who I am.

No one took a field trip like Job did.  After losing everything, he simply said, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb,and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Take the time now to learn what you can from God, so that when the field trips do come, you will be ready to go!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Resting my Heart in the Hands of God

I have had many people ask, "What do you call dating when you are doing it the second time around?"  I really never had an answer.  You don't say, "I have a boyfriend."  That just sounds too juvenile.  I finally decided that the best way to put it is that I am seeing someone.

For the last six weeks I have been seeing someone.  One of the greatest gifts that he gave me is laughter.  I have experienced tremendous suffering this year.  There is a great line in the song "Held."  It says, "We're asking why this happened to us who have died to live."  Back in January I felt as if I had died, but yet I was still alive.  I did not laugh.  I could not laugh.  Finally, over time, God began to restore that which I thought was broken beyond repair.  This summer I found myself laughing again, and it felt really good.  Then, in late September, I met David.  He was the "icing on the cake."  I found that not only could I laugh with my friends; I could also laugh with a special man.

Along with giving me the gift of laughter, he made me feel beautiful.  When I walked into the room, he would light up.  For someone who has experienced rejection, I cannot tell you what that means.  I have so many friends who have loved me deeply through my divorce.  One night when I had hit absolute rock bottom, the husband of one of my best friends looked at me dead in the eyes and said, "You are a beautiful woman.  Don't you ever forget that."  It is nice to hear it from family and friends or even my precious students.  But here is the thing.  As wonderful as it is to hear it from these people, you still feel as if they are supposed to say it.  It was a completely different feeling hearing it from David.  Not only did I hear it, but I saw it in his eyes as well.

The greatest gift that David gave me was hope in future relationships.  I thought that I would never feel romantically for another man again.  Through dating David I learned that I could hold hands with another man and  feel completely comfortable.  I could cuddle up on the couch and watch a tear jerker movie and cry my eyes out while he held me and feel totally at ease.  I honestly thought that I could never be in another relationship.  David showed me that it is possible; and not only is it possible, it can be great and fun.

I am sure that you don't have to be an English teacher to pick up on the fact that I have been using past tense.  David and I are no longer seeing each other.  We are still friends.  I am sitting here smiling as I think about him.  I have said from the very beginning of this blog that everyone's journey is different.  I have come to believe that ever so strongly.  While there may be pieces and parts that others traveling their journey can identify with, no one is going to take the exact same journey that I take.  I realized a couple of weeks ago that we seemed to be on different pages with the feelings that we had for one another.  Let me stop here and say that I think this is completely normal in relationships.  I absolutely believe with all my heart that sometimes  feelings in relationships develop at different speeds.  There is nothing wrong with that.  However, for my journey, that is not a place where I can be and feel safe.  This year I was faced with the fact that someone whom I loved with my whole heart, soul and being did not feel the same way about me.  In my unplanned journey, I just cannot be in a relationship where we are not at the same place.  I know that loving again is about taking chances; however, I cannot take the chance that six months down the road, I will be head over heels about someone whose feelings just never made it to that point.  I have to protect myself from that unnecessary pain.

I would be lying now if I said that I don't feel any pain.  My heart is sad, but I am okay.  You see, my heart is resting in the hands of God.  He is holding me ever so safely and securely in the palm of His hand.  I am more assured than ever that He has a perfect plan for my life.  While I am sad, I trust God with all my heart, soul, and mind.  I know that what He has for me is perfect.  It would be very easy for me just to stay in the relationship because it feels good to have someone fill that void.  But, while that would be easy, it would not be best for me.  For a few weeks, I trusted my heart to a very good man.  He took very good care of it, and for that I will forever be grateful.  I will always believe that God sent David to me to show me that there can be life after divorce and that life can be really good.  He will always hold a special place in my heart for that.  But now I must place my heart safely in God's hands.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (New Living Translation)
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Remembering a Special Little Guy, Charlie Wolfe

We lost a member of our family Sunday afternoon.  In a blink, my sister's Yorkie was hit and killed.  His name was Charlie, but we all called him Charlie Wolfe.  I know that many will say that he was just a dog and will not understand the grief with which she and her husband are dealing.  But you see, to them and to all of us who have known him for the last eight years, he was not just a dog.

He was Charlie Wolfe, chick magnet.  My nephew, Josh, loved to take him places.  He was so tiny that he could curl up and fit into Josh's baseball cap. Girls took one look at this precious little guy and turned to mush.    Josh was more than happy to take advantage of Charlie's cute factor!

He was Charlie Wolfe, construction dog.   For the first seven years of his life, my brother-in-law owned a construction business.  Every day he would ride to work with Mike and hang out in the office.  He was like the office mascot.  One time he sneaked out the back door when someone opened it.  He disappeared, and everyone in the office was in a panic.  Someone saw him at another business.  Mike rushed over and to his great relief, there was Charlie.  You see, he was a friend to everyone and apparently had made friends with the lady who owned the business.  While Charlie Wolfe was just being nice, she obviously took it that his intentions were much deeper.  She was not going to give him back to Mike.  She said that there was no collar on him and how was she to know that it was really his dog.  Mike had to get another local business owner to come and testify that this truly was his dog before she finally relented and gave him back.  Needless to say, Charlie Wolfe was kept on a short leash around the office after that escapade!

Charlie Wolfe was the center of attention.  He absolutely could not stand it if my sister and I were having a conversation.  He would get in the middle of us and bark and growl until one of us finally picked him up.  He also decided when it was play time.  He would bring toys and drop them at your feet.  You could try to ignore him, to no avail.  Again, he would not stop until you picked up the toy and played with him. I used to tell my sister that I was so glad that he was a dog and not a child.  If he were a child, he would have been absolutely obnoxious, always interrupting people and pushing his way into the conversation.  But you just could not get upset with this precious little guy.

There is one thing for certain: he loved Janet and Mike, and they loved him.  When they would leave him with our parents for a few days of vacation, he would not eat.  He absolutely refused.  When I would go into Janet's house, he would always run and greet me immediately.  One day I went by her house to pick something up.  She wasn't there.  I never saw Charlie.  When she came home, there he came, running out from the bedroom.  I told her I thought he wasn't there.  She said, "No, I just left without telling him I was leaving.  Every time I do that he gets mad and sulks in the bedroom until I come home."

My last memory of Charlie was from about a month ago. I had gone up to Echo for a visit.  I stopped by Janet's house to introduce them to my new friend, David.  Mike came out.  His arms were crossed over his chest and cuddled inside the crook of his arm was Charlie.  The whole time Mike was talking with us, he was petting Charlie.  Charlie was as contented as he could possibly be, held in the arms of someone who loved him dearly.

People often want to know what happens to pets when they die.  It is one of those questions that you just cannot find the answer to in scripture.  However, I have an opinion.  It is simply that, an opinion.  In my heart of hearts, I just believe that if God allows us to have such a great love in our hearts for  His creatures, then maybe one day He will let us see them again.

Our whole family is grieving the loss, especially the nieces and nephews.  They grew up with Charlie Wolfe.  However, no one is grieving like Janet and Mike.  I told Janet this week that the one thing that this last year has taught me is that time does heal.  I don't believe our pain ever goes away completely, but with time the memories become more sweet than bitter.  This is my prayer for her and Mike: that the day will come when they can think of Charlie Wolfe and smile and give thanks for all the memories.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Whippin' Up Some Banana Bread

Yesterday, Lily said, "Mom, I ate one of those bananas, and it was so gross.  It just turned to mush in my mouth. I thought I was going to be sick.  You need to make banana bread."

This morning, I woke up at 3:00.  After lying in the bed for an hour, I finally decided to get up.  I actually got a lot accomplished.  As I was putting away dishes from the dishwasher, I saw the bananas that are now well over halfway covered with brown spots.  It was at that point where I had to make a decision.  I either throw away the bananas, or I make banana bread.  So I looked up a recipe and whipped up some banana-chocolate chip muffins.  That is the way the girls like them.  They don't care for nuts, and years ago they fell in love with Ms. Karen's banana bread made with chocolate chips instead of nuts.

Now I sit here in the quiet of the morning.  I have my coffee, my computer, and a muffin hot from the oven.  I had to tear it apart so it would get cool enough for me to eat it. I just took my first bite, and it was heavenly!  I started thinking, "Isn't it amazing that something so disgusting as an overripe banana can be transformed into something so wonderful?"

Sometimes life is like those overripe bananas.  We feel used up and worthless in our current state.  But there is one thing that I believe with all my heart.  None of our experiences in life are wasted when we take our leftovers to the Divine chef and let Him do His thing.  He creates masterpieces!  Now the process is not easy.  When I made that banana bread this morning, I started out by mashing those bananas until they were just one big pile of mush.  Then they had to have other ingredients added to them.  The worst part for the poor bananas was being put in the oven and heated up to 350 degrees and cooked until the transformation was complete.

I dare say, our journey with God is much the same way.  I want the transformation to be simple and easy.  "Here, God, take my mess of a life right now and make it good, and I will check back with you tomorrow for the finished process."  Oh, how I wish.  But while all of our journeys are different, the process of dying to ourselves and letting God do with us as He sees fit is sometimes painful.

I want to be clear on one thing here.  I am not necessarily talking about the circumstances in our life.  I think of dear friends that have lost children and spouses.  I will never believe that God caused that to happen to make them better.  I believe that it is a result of our living in a sinful, fallen world.  I am talking about when circumstances of life leave us feeling used up and worthless.  I know it is a simple illustration, but think about the bananas.  Their aging and ripening was just a part of nature.  It just happens.  But when they got to that point, they were able to be changed into something wonderful.

So, I sit here today at 42 years old, facing a new life ahead of me.  It is not the one I had planned.  There are days when the enemy makes me feel pretty used up and worthless.  But I am going to hand this life over to the Divine Creator and let Him do His thing to make me into a new creation!  I know it will not be easy, and it will probably be hot, uncomfortable, and even painful at times.  However, I know that the end result will be worth it!

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Goin' all Ms. Adams!

In Algebra 2 last week, we derived the quadratic formula.  I love going through that process, but for some reason, the kids don't get too excited about it!  When we finished, most of their heads were spinning, and they were done with math!  One of my students brought seven packages of post-it notes to school.  In the last few minutes of class, they decided to cover my desk with the post-its.  I was not thrilled about their artwork.  The picture to the right was posted on Facebook.  The following conversation took place on Facebook afterwards.

Ross:  You should've done the top, covering all her stuff.
Trevor:  We started to, but she went all Ms. Adams on us.
Me:  Trevor, what does it mean to "go all Ms. Adams?"
Trevor: Go all Ms. Adams on, (goh-all-miss-ah-dimz aw-n), V. 1. To prevent the completion of an otherwise brilliant piece of artwork (Ex. We were covering the top of Ms. Adams' desk in sticky notes, but before we could finish, she went all Ms. Adams on us.) 2. To make an enlightening and/or heartwarming blog, essay, or collection of writings about a normally dismal subject (Ex. I totally went all Ms. Adams on my report about the Holocaust.)

My heart was warmed.  This was my goal with the blog.  How has this happened?  There is no other explanation than God has been with me every step of the way and carried me through on the dark days when  I didn't think I could make that climb out of the bed.  I love the following verse:

Isaiah 61:1-3
Good News for the Oppressed

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
     for the Lord has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
     and to proclaim that captives will be released
     and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
     that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
     and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
     he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
     a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
     festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
     that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Most commentators agree that while the prophet Isaiah is speaking, it is understood to be Christ, and these beautiful words hold true for God's children even today.  I believe this with all my heart.  How can I believe?  Because I have experienced it.  Last year, I felt as if my life were burned up, and there I sat, left holding the ashes.  I know mourning, and I know despair.  But I am on the other side.  Christ wrapped up my broken heart.  He freed me from the prison of bitterness.  He miraculously took the ashes I was holding, breathed life into them, and created something beautiful.  It is not possible for me to be at the point where I now am without His divine intervention in my life.  It is that simple. 

This is my third year in teaching Trevor.  Many mornings or afternoons, Trevor and some students hang out in my room, just killing time.  Often, we discuss "life topics."  Most of the time, Trevor and I have differing opinions on these topics.  We are free to discuss issues and share opinions in a calm, rational manner and respectfully listen to each other's viewpoints.  However, I feel pretty sure we are in complete agreement about a few things.
  1. Last year, my life fell apart. 
  2. I had the choice to let it break me, or let it make me stronger.  I chose the latter.
  3. I write this blog to show people that no matter what life throws your way, you can still find joy, and life can still be good.
Okay, here is where we might disagree.  How have these things been accomplished?  The only explanation that I have is that I took all my ashes, my heartaches, and my tears, and I handed them over to Christ.  After I knew that divorce was imminent, I said simple, short prayers.  "God, I can't do this."  "God, I give this over to you." 

I could not have handled the situation on my own.  It is that simple.  If it were just up to me, I would still be the empty shell holding tight to the ashes and focusing on what used to be.  I wish I could explain how specifically He brought about the change in my life.  That I cannot do.  All I know is that He did it!  He took my shattered life and made it whole again, and it is a good life!
So I appreciate the comment from Trevor.  However, while I may be the one who writes the "heartwarming blog about an otherwise dismal subject,"  it truly is inspired by One who has taken my cold heart and warmed it again!

Here is a picture with Trevor.  He loves sporting his long hair.  I am not sure if you can read the paper, but it says, "I teach Jesus."