Saturday, December 11, 2010

He sees you when you're sleeping? He knows when you're Awake???... That worries me. (Tim Gunn, Lifetime Channel Commercial)

I recently had the most wonderful conversation with my 14 year old son regarding Santa Claus.  During a car ride home, my six year old began singing Santa Claus is coming to Town.  After my daughter joined him in the chorus, my very wise eldest child (and co-pilot) turns to me and asks, “Who came up with Santa Claus anyway?  Don’t you find it creepy? I mean, why would anyone be excited about an old fat man knowing when your kids are sleeping then sneaking in your house?” I BURST into laughter!  My first thought was the Tim Gunn commercial for Lifetime.  Believing strongly in teachable moments (and after we had both enjoyed a good chuckle), I shared the story of Saint Nicholas which left ME pondering the motivation of my own heart this Christmas season. 
Nicholas was born to wealthy Christian parents during the third century on the southern coast of Turkey.  His parents died when he was a young boy. As he grew older, he was convicted by the teachings of Christ and in obedience he used his ENITRE inheritance to help those in need and dedicated the rest of his life to serving Christ, even being imprisoned for his faith.  How the story of this Godly man with such a giving heart and love for the Lord has turned into a fable of an “old fat man knowing when your kids are sleeping then sneaking in your house” is very unfortunate.
Since that night, jolly old Saint Nick (the real one) has been on my mind.  I started looking at around at the people in my life, my church home, the town I live in, the place where I work, the schools my children go to and I became overwhelmed and completely humbled by my surroundings.   As soon as I stopped focusing on the one part of my life that feels incomplete, I was able to experience the countless blessings that I couldn’t possibly begin to deserve!  This revelation came into focus several nights ago:
Early December and evening has set in the crisp North Georgia mountains.  Excitement fills our home as the much anticipated Christmas decorating festivities begin!  Laughter and jubilation abolishes any remnant of sadness or worry as we prepare for Jesus’ Birthday celebration!
 I remember being a little girl and how the pure joy of this moment would beam out of every pore of my being!  After 35 years, that is one thing that hasn’t changed in me. I sat back and watched as my children decorated the Christmas tree with all the ornaments made by their own little hands; some not so little anymore.  I cherished the sight and thanked God for the gift of that moment.  It became clear that my selfish and undeserving flesh has not stood in the way of God pouring out His Grace, Mercy and BLESSING all over my life! 
I have the most wonderful family and friends who inspire and encourage me every day!
I am ecstatic to be part of a church family whose desire is to obey God and run full force in His will.  Where my children are learning more than Bible stories; they are learning what it means to be Christ-like and are actually going out and meeting the needs in our community.  Where a single mother (as stubborn and independent she feels she must be) can rest assured that her babies will stay warm this winter thanks to her “family members”.   
I live in a town where the people take care of each other whether they know you or not. 
My children attend schools where they are allowed to celebrate Christmas!  My six year old (who is being tested for learning disabilities) has a teacher who refuses to give up on him.  EVERY child in her class is blessed having her in their lives!  I’ve never known a teacher who gives as much as she does!  What she teaches goes so far beyond textbooks and will be with my baby through the years as he grows into a man.  She blesses this mother’s heart!  I can only imagine how much she blesses the Father’s heart!
I have the most AMAZING job!  I can’t thank God enough for placing me there.  My patients bless my heart daily. I am able to work for one of my dearest friends!  She is a brilliant physician and surgeon and although she has the prestige of being called Doctor, I have never met a more humble and giving woman.  She truly cares about her family, friends and her patients; not just physically but spiritually. My ring tone for her sums up who she is to me: Sometimes I swear I don’t know if I’m coming or going but you always say something without even knowing and I’m hanging on to your words with all of my might and it’s alright.  She and her husband totally win Mr. and Ms. Saint Nick 2010!!!
My focused has changed.  Although the longing is still there to NOT be single, it’s such a small piece of void compared to the bulging blessings that fill the rest of my heart!  I want to be a giver like Saint Nicholas and all the people I am surrounded by everyday!  I don’t want to live in the fantasy of Santa Claus where the motivation of my being “naughty or nice” depends on what I can get! I have MORE than I could ask for and far more than I deserve. 
Be a BLESSING as we go through this hectic holiday season.  Let’s stay focused on WHO we are celebrating and what “gifts” we can give Him for His Birthday!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks with a Grateful (and not-so-grateful) Heart!

According to Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, there are 5 stages of grief (not necessarily in any particular order):
1.       Shock: The sudden impact of the initial collision with the “bad news”
2.       Denial: Willing yourself to NOT believe it’s happened
3.       Anger: Outpouring of belligerence at the wrong that has been done
4.       Bargaining: Making deals to erase the circumstance
5.       Acceptance: Realizing the reality of it
Last weekend, a dear friend of mine suffered a devastating loss when her house was destroyed by fire.  They are such a family of faith and have had a couple of blows to the gut this year.  Watching them give thanks to God for protecting their family in the midst of such a tragedy not only humbled me, it also made me realize that I have been living in the “acceptance” stage for some time now.
It’s so easy to give thanks for the good things in our life. Can you imagine the Norman Rockwell family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, taking turns giving thanks for the tragedies they had experienced? Maybe.  If the outcomes were positive or the way we had hoped they would turn out. 
Have you ever thanked God in the beginning or middle of a tragedy?  I remember being in the “anger” stage after my husband left.  God was supposed to be bigger than the sin that turned my husband from his family.  So, why wasn’t He asserting his “GOD POWERS” and changing my husband’s heart?  Wasn’t I praying hard enough?  (transition to bargaining) If You would just turn his heart back to his family, I promise I will (insert Proverbs 31 woman here).  What would have happened if God answered that prayer the way I wanted Him to?  I would have given thanks and praise!  Instead, God answered my prayer according to His will.  There was no thanks and praise given.  I remember the night I finally “accepted” the fact my marriage was over.  Burrowed in my empty bed, I wept to my Creator, “I can’t feel you.  I can’t hear you.  I can’t see you in any of this.  But I know in my soul that you are real and that your Word is true.  It’s all I have and it’s what I will stand on.”
Looking back, I can see God’s grace and love.  Just like all the other tragedies in my life, He never left my side.  The abandonment I felt from my husband was so profound that it felt I had been abandoned by everyone including the One my heart loved the most.  Why is it so hard to trust Him during times like these when He proves Himself time and time again? His will is always going to be best.  There have been several times since the divorce that I have looked at my ex and said, “Thank you, Lord!”  (it’s okay to laugh)
Was divorce God’s will?  Of course not.  Divorce was the result of sin.  Then why?  We all have our own “why’s”.  Why did my child die?  Why did I lose my job? Why do I have cancer? Why can’t I have a baby? Why am I still single?  God WILL answer your questions.  Unfortunately we are such selfish creatures who turn our backs on God when He doesn’t answer the way we want Him to or when we think He isn’t answering us at all.  Sometimes His answer is that we aren’t meant to know. 
How different would we react to situations if we humble ourselves and realize that our finite minds can’t possibly fathom God’s infinite wonder?
Today is Thanksgiving Holiday here in America.  I challenge ALL of us, no matter what part of the world you are reading this from, to give thanks in the “not so grateful” times.  I am so beyond thankful that God has a plan for my life.  After the tragedies that I have experienced in my life, I finally understand!   
1.            Shock: When a circumstance hits me right between the eyes with a metal bat, I know my first reaction is to pray!  Throw on my armor and hunker down.
2.            Denial: Deny the enemy any opportunity to put doubt in my head about Who God IS and where God is as I fight this fight.
3.            Anger: Be angry and sin not. 
4.            Bargaining: Realize that God’s plan is way better than anything my flesh would to want to negotiate… then revert back to the denial strategy.
5.            Acceptance:  Make this the FIRST reaction.  When I live my life surrendered to the Lord, I can more easily accept that, no matter what, He has a perfect plan for my life.

This is not an easy feat.  We are mere mortals, after all.  The good news is that we serve an IMORTAL God Who Was, and Is, and Is to come.  He meets us where we are!  He understands how we feel when we are abandoned or rejected.  He feels that from the very ones he created!  He knows what it feels like to lose a child.  He lost His in the most horrific way.  He knows what it’s like to have to turn away from a loved one.  He had to turn His face from LOVE itself as our sins were nailed to Love’s beaten body.  The best part is that He also knows victory! NEVER defeat. He wants us to know that victory!
So, let’s give thanks knowing that, no matter where we are in our circumstance, we have victory! 
 I will extol the LORD at all times;
   his praise will always be on my lips.
 I will glory in the LORD;
   let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
 Glorify the LORD with me;
   let us exalt his name together.
 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
   he delivered me from all my fears.
 Those who look to him are radiant;
   their faces are never covered with shame.
 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
   he saved him out of all his troubles.
 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
   and he delivers them.
 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
   blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
 Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
   for those who fear him lack nothing.
 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
   but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
 Come, my children, listen to me;
   I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
 Whoever of you loves life
   and desires to see many good days,
 keep your tongue from evil
   and your lips from telling lies.
 Turn from evil and do good;
   seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34: 1-14

I am so thankful for all of you who read my blog and have decided to take this ride of Bittersweet Insanity with me!  Be BLESSED!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Single Mother of 4 Walks into a Bar... Stop me if you've heard this one

I have a newfound respect for arranged marriages. Think about it.  A panel of loved ones who know me and have my best interest at heart, sift through a stack of eligible suitors and decide which one will be my soul mate.  Perfect!  Don’t agree??? You must not be a Christian, mid-30s single mom entering back into the dating world!
Yes, I do trust my loved ones that much, but I hate dating that much more!  It has become so very clear to me how much I have changed since my early 20’s.  I don’t mean physically.  Obviously after having a litter of very large babies, I’m not the size 6, B-cup aspiring actress I once was.  No, I’m referring to what lies beneath this fleshy shell; the way I think, the way I feel, the way I react.  It was a bittersweet reality this weekend.
After three months of skipping his weekends, my ex actually came and picked up the kids last Friday. I was SO ready for some much needed “me” time!  I didn’t want to be alone all weekend and the bar scene… well, to be honest I can’t determine if it’s a nightmare or a cruel joke!  So, when a close friend of mine invited me to a singles event at her church and I was more than game!  After hearing it was a country/western theme, it became a MUST!  This particular friend and I seem to have fun no matter where we are.  I was confident that regardless of how this event turned out, we would have a blast!
Getting Ready
Being cute is a must in ANY single male/female interaction situation.  This doesn’t change with age.  Neither does tearing through your entire wardrobe to find the perfect outfit.  This being a “themed” event, a purchase also had to be made in the form of a plaid button-up.  Very cute and theme appropriate.  Still feeling like my younger self.    
THE POINT OF CHANGE:  realizing that I needed to color my hair before I showered because a few gray strands decided to shine brighter than the sun through my locks of auburn hair.  Although this was a physical difference, it unlocked the chains that had bound and held my perception hostage.  And so began a night of revelation.

A (not so) Grand Entrance
I must admit, I felt pretty cute.  Even standing next to my friend who is 29 years old, blonde, and very beautiful (did I mention she teaches classes at a local gym???) I still felt secure.  We walk into the event, two confident women; cute from head to toe and ready to tear up the dance floor and the mechanical bull!
REVELATION #1:   I’ve become meek 
The 20ish year old me would have taken center stage as soon as I busted through those doors, or at the very least, would have shared the spot light with my friend.  Instead, I watched as the 35 year old me slowed a bit to allow her friend to lead the way. When had I become a follower? 
REVELATION#2:   I’ve become reserved and hesitant
Still feeling confident, we made the rounds, greeting the people we knew, being introduced to a few others.  I even caught the eye of a cute guy or two! As I studied the rows of line dancers who congested the dance floor, I got excited and even said to my friend, “I know this one!”  The 20ish year old would have bopped her little butt right out there and joined in!  No hesitation, no reservation.  As much as that 20ish year old wanted to burst out, this older, more reserved woman didn’t allow her to.  Why not?  Being a stick in the mud was NOT how God created me!  Was it fear? If I went out there and made a fool of myself would I ruin any chance of a guy coming up and talking to me?  When did I start letting fear win?
REVELATION #3:  I’ve started allowing the opinion of others to influence me
You just can’t possibly know how every fiber of the 20ish year old inside of me wanted to hop up on that mechanical bull and become Tuff Hedeman, hanging on for 8 seconds of glory!  Especially after watching my friend “urban” cowgirl up and go airborne at least three of her SIX rides!  But after a few smiles from “Hi My Name Is Jonathan” there was NO WAY the 35 year old prude was going to let little miss 20ish humiliate both of them by climbing their not-size-6-anymore butt on that electric longhorn! Did I lose the shroud of self-confidence adorned just hours earlier?   Since when did I allow the opinion of others to dictate my actions?

Happy Trails
By the end of the night, my friend had ridden the mechanical bull six times, lined danced several times (even when she didn’t know what she was doing), did the Cotton Eyed Joe, busted a move, out ran the running man, attempted Thriller, and even took her turn down the Soul Train dance line. Believe it or not, I had a blast!   I had the BEST time watching her throughout the night!  I had my own fun, too.  I wasn’t a TOTAL bore! I line danced! I didn’t bust a move or even give a second thought to the running man, but I did do Thriller and even belted out “Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely woooooorrrrrllllld” to the camera.  And although “Hello My Name is Jonathan” never came up and talked to me, I left the event with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. 

Good Things Come…
Reflection is a wonderful thing.  Since last Friday, I’ve had time to sift through the revelations, taking both the good and the bad from each.  I actually looked up the definition of meek to be sure I truly understood the meaning.  Humbly patient is what I read.  Being meek is something we should all strive for. At the same time I cannot lose my voice.  The most beloved leaders and teachers are those who are humbly patient.  After all, the meek shall inherit the earth. 
There is a time and place for everything and there is a lot to say about being reserve.  I attempted the bar scene recently and the lack of reservation in some women is truly grievous.  I want to remain reserve enough to reflect Christ while maintaining a sense of adventure; stepping out in faith instead of living in fear.  And as far as allowing the opinions of other to influence me… there is only ONE opinion that really matters, right?  And if I am striving daily to be in His light, then His light will shine through me.  My weakness has always been seeing my self-worth through the eyes of other instead of through the eyes of the One who created me. I will be working on this!
With all of this new insight into myself, I think that I will put off the arranged marriage for now, completely forget the bar scene, continue to go to the singles events at my friends church, surround myself with the people I hold dear (the ones I can still be my goofy 20ish self around), and wait on the Lord.  Easier said than done, I know!  But you know what they say… Good things come to those who wait.  Even those who suffer from bittersweet insanity!
Don’t forget to be a blessing!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Pilot Episode

There are moments in life that stop us cold and make us ask, “Ummm… did that really just happen?”  It’s a bazaar setting that leaves you feeling like you’re living in a TV sitcom.   One of these moments happened to me recently.
Dating hasn’t been easy for me.  I tried dating right after the divorce but quickly realized that I wasn’t ready.  I’m finally at a place where I feel that I have healed enough to date without bringing junk into a new relationship.  I had no idea how difficult this dating thing was going to be.  NIGHTMARE! 
Granted, there were a few that didn’t work simply because we were in two different places in life or wanted different things out of life.  I’m actually friends with them now.  It’s those dates that leave you wondering why God would allow this moment to actually take place that births the surreal, TV sitcom moments.  The kind of dates where you are sitting across the table at a restaurant trying desperately to seem interested while frantically negotiating with God in your head! 
                God, if you make the next 30 minutes pass by in 30 seconds I PROMISE I will never gossip again! After I tell everyone about this date of course.

                Lord Jesus, I love you!  I promise I’ll never cry and whine to you about being alone again if you could just please let there be a bomb threat like RIGHT NOW so this date can end.  Just a THREAT! 

Then there are the ones that seem to be great.  Seemingly great guy, great career, says he‘s a Christian…   MmmHmm
We will call him Bob.  Bob was interested in me.  I knew of Bob but never really considered going out with him because… well, to be completely honest I didn’t think I would be the type of girl Bob would be interested in.  He is a very good-looking, clean cut, well spoken, successful man.  I’m just a simple girl who measures success in joy and not in money, fame, or toys.
PAUSE: Yes, I know I just generalized and stereotyped all good-looking, clean cut, well spoken, successful men and the type of women they date.  Yes, I do know my worth.  However, I am human and do walk in the flesh from time to time. 
So, when Bob confessed to me that he had wanted to ask me out for quite some time because he saw what a “loving and genuine woman” I was, I accepted.  I was impressed that he saw my heart.  Then I became very nervous when I found out that he was a successful pilot!  Can you say OUT OF MY LEAGUE!?  Against my better judgment, I pushed those doubts out of my way and took a chance.  After all, I AM a princess!  My Father is the King of kings!  And I was strong now.  Come what may, I knew I would be fine.  So, our first date was set.
He planned a picnic at Hurricane Shoals park.  I had never been before but a picnic at a park sounded fabulous.  As I pulled in, the scene took my breath away.  It is the most beautiful patch of land guarded by a rustic split rail fence.  In the center stands a white, one-room church surrounded by several buildings all relocated from different farms in the county.  All donated to the historical society and preserved so beautifully.  We walked through a covered bridge to a picnic area and ate our lunch next to the river.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect date!  Even the conversation was interesting and easy.  It wasn’t until we were getting back into our cars that I realized he was sliding into a Mercedes.  A little uneasy but I wasn’t going to assume things just because he was a pilot… who drove a Mercedes…
Things were going great.  He was always complimenting me.  We spoke on the phone, text, and emailed every day.  After our third date, I was feeling optimistic yet guarded.  I was way too smart to just open myself up to someone so quickly!  Yet things seemed to be going well so I allowed myself to be a little excited. 
The funny thing about focusing on our strengths… the enemy remains focused on our weaknesses.
I received a text from Bob the next day. Yes… a TEXT.  Unfortunately I erased the original text however; a few of the followers of this blog were able read the text first hand and will be able to attest to my interpretation.
Bob felt it would be best if we didn’t go any further in this “relationship” because he just couldn’t see himself having an intimate relationship with me.  He said that he fell for my heart and the way I truly cared about people but “desire [d] a relationship with someone with a certain physical appearance.  He actually said that he wanted to base a relationship on physical appearance and then grow to love their heart.  Bob was also kind enough to tell me that he REALLY tried to… oh how did he put it??? Basically, he said he tried to look past my way less than perfect body and be attracted to my heart but he just couldn’t do it.  He went on to assume I would be devastated with him not wanting to date me and for that, he was truly sorry.  Stopped me in my tracks.
My response?  Well, it went something like this:
So, you’re saying that you don’t want to date me because of how I look? Well, you knew what I looked like our first date when you said I was beautiful, and the second and the third.  But that’s fine.  I’m a lot stronger than you give me credit for.  Anyway, I’d rather have a man fall in love with the size of my heart than the size of my ass!  Good luck finding the perfect woman!
It was a little harsh.  Obviously I didn’t pray before I sent it.  A friend of mine said I should have told him, “Well I fell for you because you had a great body but your heart stinks!”  (giggle) 
As the day went on, the weight of his words became a burdensome yoke on my shoulders.  Honestly, I could care less that Pilot Bob didn’t want to date me. It was the reasons he gave that stripped my armor.  Realizing what the enemy was doing, I began to pray.  I ended up writing Pilot Bob one last message that went something like this:
I promise I’m not a crazy stalker chick who is going to keep trying to make contact.  This WILL be my last communication.  You know the saying honesty is the best policy? Yeah… not so much.  I’m fine that you don’t want to date me.  We can’t really help who we are attracted to.  What I am upset about is that you made me doubt the woman God has created me to be that is not acceptable.  Say that you aren’t ready.  Say that you just don’t think we are compatible.  Say anything other than "you aren’t good enough".  You have a daughter.  How would you feel if a man told her what you told me? Better yet, how do you think she would feel being told that? 
I wasn’t expecting a response from Pilot Bob and I never received one. 
I had equipped myself to safeguard my heart and my mind.  Even in doing so, the enemy focused on the one thing I have always struggled with most.  That’s how wars are won.  Finding the opponents weakness and striking when they are most vulnerable.  But here is the twist. THIS war has already been won!  I already have victory!  So, maybe my armor has a few more dents.  Am I going to let this destroy me?  No way.  Those dents … they’re just battle scars of a warrior princess. 
And to be clear, this was NOT  male-bashing.  I know that there are GREAT men out there! I believe that they are all already taken but I could be wrong! (insert laughter)
Be blessed and remember to be a blessing!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Love Fall! I just need to remind myself to get back up sometimes...

Fall is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year.  The colors, the cool crisp air, the smells all around, the way the wind dances with my hair… it all just brings the sweetest joy to my heart.  It’s ironic, really.  I should be downing a bottle of Prozac and hibernating for the next 3 months.  Every major tragedy that I have experienced in my life has occurred in the autumn months.  The three most damaging to my heart being: the sudden death of my father, the passing of my 6 year old nephew who was diagnosed with leukemia and tragically caught a virus that his little body couldn’t fight off, and the day my husband came home from work and announced that he was leaving.  It would seem that on the “tragedy scale”, the loss of my dad and nephew wouldn’t even compare to my husband leaving! Losing them would be way worse, right?   
There is a wonderful moment in the movie P.S. I Love You that puts it all in perspective.  Holly is mourning the loss of her husband. In a heated conversation with her mother, Holly tells her mother that she couldn’t possible understand how she feels.

Holly: My husband died. He was taken. He didn't wanna go, he didn't wanna leave.

Her mother: Yes, my husband wanted to leave. And it's so much easier
being abandoned by choice, is it?

The tears fallen over my dad and Casey were so full of sorrow and they still fall from time to time.  But there is a peace in knowing that it’s only a temporary separation.
Maybe some of you will understand when I say there is no word in any language that can appropriately describe the feeling of your husband, the man you love and gave your heart to, walking over you (literally) as he walked out the door.  It changed my life.  It changed the lives of my children.  We were thrown onto a course that I NEVER imagined we would be traveling on.  But here we are and we are making the best of it!
So, you would think fall would be a dreaded time for me.  (Keep in mind I only listed the top three tragedies).
I guess it’s just another reflection of God’s love. Even through the worst times in our life, if we look beyond our brokenness, God’s beauty remains.  His Word is true and firm.  The leaves still change and the wind still dances with my hair.   
It’s been over three years since I became a single mom.  LOTS of healing and growing!  Writing (a passion of mine) has played an intricate part of the healing process.  Recently my life has become a little more interesting as I stepped back into the bazaar world of dating.  My friends and family have enjoyed the paths this insane life has taken me!  So what better way to get through all my moments of bittersweet insanity than to write about it!  I promise if you follow me on this journey, there will never be a dull moment!  And maybe… just maybe… we’ll all learn a little something.
Be BLESSED!!! And don't forget to be a blessing!