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Difficult Decisions

It seems like my life is never the way I plan it. Every time I turn around, God seems to have other plans. Sometimes I take it well, and just accept it, and other times I just cry through it, very unhappy about the turn of events. Even with my disappointment, I still say something like this aloud to myself, “God, I am NOT at all happy with this, but I trust that You are good, and You know what is best.”

Just last week I was so excited to be starting back to school. But a couple of days into it, I had a very sinking feeling that this may not work.  I knew it would be hard, but I had no clue that it would be such an emotional thing for me.  It had only been 2 years or so since my last classes, but my life had changed so much since then. At that time I was a full time student and not working. Now I have a full time job that is emotionally draining (and physically at times too).

Sunday night I was reluctantly checking my next part of my English assignment, and it hit me all at once. All I could do was shut off my laptop and cry. It’s not that the work was too hard, but it was so many things. I LOVE to write, but I hate to write for assignments. My joy had become my dread, and it hurt. Then I realized that even at this early part of the semester I was quickly spending so much time on assignments. I sat in the living room or dining room for hours working hard to do my work with my headphones in my ears. My kids would be watching tv or playing outside, and I hardly said anything to them before they went to bed. I would work all day in a very draining (yet rewarding) profession, and barely have time to make dinner. Then my own relationship with God was suffering as well. This was not at all what I wanted, and not what I wanted for my kids.

I prayed about the whole thing. I wanted to spend more time with my kids during these challenging years. I wanted to concentrate on doing better at my job. Finally, I wanted to make sure that God stayed a priority. I knew by the feeling deep in me that no piece of paper and potential of more money would be worth my kids or my relationship with God.  I knew without a doubt what I had to do.

After some careful research, and considering what this could do to my future financial aid, I decided to drop my classes. I cried off and on, because part of me felt like such a failure and idiot. I felt bad because I felt I had let a lot of people down that were cheering me on. Yet, the burden of what going to school was placing on me was gone, and I knew without a doubt that I was walking in obedience to what the Father wanted from me.

I know I will have some struggles financially for quite some time, but it will all be worth it in the end. My kids will know that I love them and want to spend time with them.  My other “kids” at work, will get the love and support they need from me. And I get the opportunity to spend more time with God, and eventually get back to serving soon.

This life is too short to live with regrets. I spent many years regretting not going to college, but God has a way of showing us a greater way.  Over the past few years, He has shown me what is important, and it’s not always what I had dreamt for myself.  He has given me clarity in my life, and I am ok with it! If I never go to college again, I am finally at a point where that does not matter to me. Now, God may open the door later on, and then I may take it. But IF that doesn’t happen, then I know I will not regret it. When I look at my 3 children, and know that I actually have time to talk to them and hang out, I regret nothing.  As they grow up, I will not regret missing a moment.  and the more I get to spend time with God and read His word, I do not regret a second of it.

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A Journey…

Today was the day I took a journey I had wanted to do for years. Various things came up and life happened, and it took so much longer than I wanted. I remember bringing it up off and on to people in my life, and several could not understand why. What can I say to explain? It’s just something deep in my spirit I knew I needed to do.

Early Friday morning, God told me it needed to be this weekend, specifically Saturday morning. All I could do was agree, knowing it was for the best. I had wanted my best friend there, but she was unable to make it. God let me know I HAD to do this, even if it meant I go alone. Then I watched an insane storm form over the Oklahoma City metro (tornadoes and up to 10 inches of rain in 24 hrs), and wondered if I would be able to even make it through the area I needed to go. He gave me peace, I knew we would make it through the storm and had faith that the route I had to drive would be clear. I went to bed, wondering what the morning would bring.

I slept in this morning, giving time for the flood waters to clear from the rain. The sun shining seemed to be God’s blessing on it all, and doing a quick check online revealed that way I needed to go would be ok to drive. So off I went, with Josh Garrels playing in the background…I can hardly find a more appropriate soundtrack to help me heal. The drive was quick, until I hit Moore. People slowed on the interstate to see the devastation the tornado had left. A bit of anger rose up, while driving 10 mph. Here was an area, that people lost everything, and people are almost at a standstill staring. It’s just not right and it slows down those who are trying to get through to actually help. (but that is a whole different topic)

My journey continues, and I am amazed by the changes Norman has had since my teenage years. Then I come up on Noble, where things have not really changed that much. I drive through the small town, until I reach the cemetery. Turning I take a deep breath, noting a funeral happening and another green tent awaiting its ceremony.  I struggle to remember where the grave I am looking for is, fearing it’s too close to the funeral in session.  My grief was so great on the 2 other times I was there, I couldn’t remember. I pull off to a far corner, and walk near the only thing I remember from all those years ago, a flagpole. I walk, uncertain of where I should walk, as graves seem too sacred to walk across. Whispering a prayer, I just keep walking, and looking down I nearly trip over the very grave I was looking for.

Looking down, I see it, and I freeze. I close my eyes and tears flow, even after nearly 9 years, they still flow. I pray, things between me and him and God. Making peace with my past, a whisper of forgiveness on the breeze for all the abuse I had suffered at the hands of mental illness. I breathe a deep breath, eyes still closed, and am startled by the sounds of “Taps” playing at the funeral ending, and then the chirps of the police car escorting mourners to the other tent. It all seemed strangely poetic for this moment.

Few people understand why I would do this. That is ok, they don’t have to understand. This is my life and my grieving process…and when God tells me to do something, I do it. I have worked through so much these years, and I knew I had to do this for my healing. In my heart, I feel that this may be my last journey to his grave. I am fine with that, because today I received a gift from him and my heavenly Father. A gift of freedom.

Its times like this that make me glad to be where I am at today. If you have watched the news you have likely heard about the devastating tornadoes that ravaged my home, Oklahoma. I know I can’t really add to what my Okie family has said already, but I have grown to love this state more and more as I have grown older. I haven’t always felt this way, but every time we face challenges, it reminds me of all the good here. In the little bit of traveling I have done, I gather that we are a strange people. I got strange looks and comments just for being polite and kind, and my kids were regarded as even more weird because they were fairly well behaved and helpful. For me, it’s just how it always has been, it’s what has been instilled in us.  

When you live in a place where tornadoes are just a part of life, you have to stick together, even if you don’t always like each other. Each time there is devastation there is the reminder that “It could have been me”. Looking at damage, there can be literally inches and feet that separate losing everything and being spared. I have seen many tornadoes over the years (thankfully mostly on our local channels!), but this one affected me emotionally more than others, even the May 3rd,1999 one. Maybe it was because of the schools hit, and realizing my own children might not be safe. Or perhaps being older and more aware of how short life is.

There have been so many times I wished I lived somewhere else, or debated whether I would trade other risks instead of tornadoes. Then I see communities coming together and even in the midst of all of it people somehow find hope and humor. I see people of all ages, beliefs and races coming together just to be there for others. I see strength through all the tears and sweat. I see these things, and I see Christ in action (whether they believe or not!) and I know that there is no other place I would rather be, especially if faced with crazy weather every spring.

I have this image in my head…of a crowd of people crouched down with rubble all around in the seconds after everything is destroyed. There is silence and shock as night falls. Slowly, one by one, with head held high, they rise, facing the eastern sky. And it’s there that hope rises as fiery as an Oklahoma sunrise.

 

“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”

In her eagerness she did not realize how queer the words would sound and that they were not the ones she had meant to say. Mr. Craven looked quite startled.

“Earth!” he repeated. “What do you mean?”

“To plant seeds in–to make things grow–to see them come alive,” Mary faltered – from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

So many times this quote comes to mind when working in my garden.  There is just something about clearing out things and the organic smell of freshly turned ground…Then nurturing living things to grow into all their beautiful potential.

Image

I know from this picture it may not look like much of anything to most people. About a month ago it was completely full of grass. In fact I had to mow it or use the weed eater on it! A few years ago I had it cleared it and looking pretty great, but I had pretty much given up on it when I was going through my separation and divorce.  I felt so hurt and broken that I could care less about such a chore. I didn’t really care about much of anything since my world was crumbling around me. I gave up on gardening, letting the weeds and grass take over, as if it were a representation of what had happened to my life. Then God healed my heart and my mind, but I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with work, taking care of my kids, physical pain and life in general.

I don’t know exactly what changed in me this spring. Maybe it was looking at that garden, seeing my own reflection. I saw in that bit of earth potential for life…and set it on my heart to make it into something that will bring some joy every time I look at it. Working the ground, I hear God talking to me, giving me glimpses of how He works with us.  He looks at all our weeds and digs down to get them out by the roots. Sometimes it may hurt, like when the weeds are choking the good plants out and He pulls the weeds anyway. He has the vision of the finished garden in mind as He works and plants to create something full of beautiful life.

I see what He has done in my own life, everyday it’s growing into something more beautiful than I ever dreamt it could be.  Just like the picture is only a fraction of my actual garden space in real life (I have a whole other section in the front and a HUGE area in the back), I know what God has done is only a tiny bit of what He will continue to do.

So I work, slowly clearing out the grass, smiling to myself with each earthworm discovered and each root taken out…knowing I will hurt a little more in the morning. I keep focusing on the bigger picture, dreaming of 2 particular gardens I want to create…one full of all sorts of edible things and one full of old fashioned floral memories…using the time working towards the dreams, to grow closer to my heavenly Father. The more I work, the more I realize that this is quickly becoming to my soul what writing has been for so much of my life.

I think again about the quote at the beginning of this post. I imagine that maybe my spirit must have asked Him something similar when He created me. “Father, might I go down there and tend to a bit of earth? Might I somehow experience life down there?” I don’t know what He might have said, but I like to think that He gave me permission, and warned me of the pains I would experience in human life, but with those pains would come a growth spiritually that would prepare me for my eventual return home and a greater appreciation of His power and glory. I would accept the challenge, wanting to see all the beauty that life has to offer and to know the Father even more.

Of Memories….

Lately, every chance I get to go to that little old house, I am flooded by the echoes of the place I took for granted so many years. Each time, I wonder if it should be the last time I get to go there…and each time I see it slowly fading away. Within the walls, the whispers of lives lived can be heard. From celebrations and mournings, giggles and arguments…tell of the joy and pain of family.

Lazy summers spent lying in the cool clover patches watching the cotton clouds float by, while the strange smell of earth and pool water filled my nostrils.Then there was the feeling of cold moist concrete on bare feet as we dared to run down the sidewalk to jump into the pool, when the adults weren’t looking. Even now, I can see my younger self turning the front porch into a stage and my little brother and I chasing a portly blond Chihuahua until we are out of breath. Walking into the old shop I close my eyes, and imagine back when it was full of tools and wood…and the hints of sawdust, oil and paints still hang in the air. I remember those summers spent digging through the box of wood scraps, hoping to find the perfect pieces for building swords.

All these things (and so much more), I hope to remember for as long as I live, even if they bring tears to my eyes. One day, I hope my home, no matter where it might be, will bring similar memories to my kids and their kids. I pray that they will have memories that will bring to mind all the things about love and family as I do. There is such joy in these things, even as I mourn the changes of life. God, help me to not take anything for granted again.

Of Fears and Dreams…

Part of dreaming seems to be the fears that follow. The enemy does everything he can to convince us to give up or that we must be hearing something wrong. He will use any tactic, based in lies, to distract you from what God is trying to do in you.

In the past few days I have found myself becoming increasingly more distracted. One by one, the distractions came until stresses and fears were swirling around in my head. I have been frustrated and discouraged by the physical pain I am in daily. I have been so exhausted since I have started this new job. I love it, but it can be draining because of the nature of the work. I come home and realize how much needs to be done around the house, then if I have forgotten to throw something in the crockpot I have to figure out dinner (or whether I even have the energy to mess with it). Then add to that raising 3 kids on my own, 2 of which are teens. I think about how tired I am now, and I wonder how I will ever make it through college…I mean, come on! I come home from work by about 4:45pm and all I think about is how early can I make it to bed! Then come the strings of discontentment: “I wish…” ,”If only…”,”It’s not fair that…” By the end of the day, I want to cry…yet I don’t even have the energy to do that. I fall asleep whispering prayers to God and feel bad about it.

Today, I was thinking on all of that while at work. Then I (well, with plenty of help from God!) realized I do have a choice in these matters. I don’t have to listen to these thoughts, I can choose to redirect my thoughts back on Christ. I can focus on the blessings of each situation: I have a job that I love, I could be in so much more pain, I have the opportunity to go back to school, I have 3 beautiful and awesome kids that God sent to change my life, and I have a home and bed for resting. I can remember all the awesome things God has done for me, my friends and family, and KNOW without a doubt that He WILL come through. I can choose to keep trusting and keep believing through all of this….because without Him, I would not even be here today.

There also have been fears creeping up and I hadn’t really noticed until recently…or maybe I just tolerated them as “part of me”. I am choosing to become more aware of them, and letting God help me fight them. Fear was another one of those things that triggered my depression when I was child…needless to say I am NOT going down that path! I don’t have to live with these fears: of rejection, of regret, of failure, and of letting go of control. I find myself desiring to give God my everything, but I have no idea why on earth I am afraid of what will happen! I mean God loves me, and would never hurt me…even logically it doesn’t make sense. My prayer is God will help me root out whatever is holding me back…ultimately I want nothing to hold me back from my Father, I want to grow closer to Him, I want to know Him.

I am so glad He is patient with me…He won’t leave me alone…He won’t let me stay the same. He loves me too much to let me remain in all my fear and weakness. And for that, I am thankful.

Dreaming Dreams….

If you have known me or read my blog for a little while, you know that I like to recognize milestones in my life, good and bad. I have several coming up in the next 3 months, and while it may seem weird to write about them or even to talk about them, God has used them to shape me into the person I am today. I hope you all understand that it’s not about holding on to the past, but about remembering where God has brought me from. If someone had told me 4 years or even 16 years ago that I would have gone through even a portion of what I have, I would have said, “NO WAY!”

It’s no real secret of the more recent “milestone” coming up. 2 years ago, God gave me VERY clear direction in my life. I did not want it to go the way it did, but I had very little choice in the matter in the end.  While I had peace over the decision and the situation I was facing, I still hurt. It felt like my heart was crushed and every dream I ever had was torn away…and the one I had wanted the most, a family, was crumbling. In the midst of all the turmoil, God healed my depression. I was left with the strange sensation of being able to feel emotions on a more normal level. It felt like I was waking up from a deep sleep. I didn’t really know who I was and what I wanted. I was left to cling to God or give up. I clung to God, feeling helpless and confused.  One thing I had realized, my dreams had disappeared.

I felt like I didn’t know who I was, it was like my inner self was unfamiliar with my body. I had spent so much time depressed the only thing I knew I really liked was sleep. I really wasn’t sure about anything else. Whether it was food, movies, or whatever…I really didn’t know anymore.  I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life as a career. Nothing interested me as it used to, and I felt so stuck.

These 2 years, I have been learning to trust God with my WHOLE life. It’s not anything I have perfected yet, but I am starting to see when I am resisting Him. Even with all the hardships, it’s been a beautiful thing watching God piece me back together again.

So this week, this year marks a different kind of milestone. This one is one of the heart. This is the week I have felt the release to dream. It’s been brewing for a few weeks now, but I recognized it a couple of days ago, and what joy it brought! I have talked about dreams before, but I really found it hard to let myself get my hopes up.  To be able to dream of college (which I am enrolled in) and even better is the fact that I am dreaming beyond my associate’s degree I am currently pursuing. Dreaming about what I might do after my associates and bachelors. Dreaming about visiting different places, dreaming about the future of my family, and dreaming about what God has in store. Before this week, these things might have brought more anxiety than anything…but today they fill me with hope and excitement. I know that there will be challenges and hard times, but for now I will cherish these dreams as I let God direct them.