Friday, October 24, 2014

Let It Go!

     Yes, the Frozen song~Let It Go!  That's what I've been doing lately.  I've been reading Forgive For Good by Fred Luskin.  It was awesomely encouraging & empowering!  Believe me, I know from experience that people in this life let us down...some even intentionally (& then step on us & dance a while).  Not that I welcome that but have completely felt it to my core.  I wasn't prepared emotionally or spiritually & had no idea what effect it would have on me physically either.  It's just that unexpected low blow that hits you out of nowhere.  Then, the hurt seeps in the wound, floods your soul deep.  Unforgiveness works much like an infection.  Its destroys any progress.  It prevents healing.  It prolongs the pain.  Knowing that doesn't stop it from breeding.
     Hurt is real.  Hurt cuts deep.  It all seems to happen so fast but overcomes it's victim like watching something attacked in slow motion.  The pain is real rather it was invited or not.  It just forced it's way into my life.  The offenses weren't ok nor will it ever be.  Finally enough was enough.  It all just kinda "hit the fan."  They did somewhat apologize but too many years of mistreatment had already cast a large enough shadow to swallow up any effort made at all.  I just felt so violated.  I didn't know real people, must less Christians, could cross so many lines.  I still can't wrap my mind around it.  I found myself replaying the situation out in mind repeatedly only to decide over & over again how wrong it really was.
     I remember hearing a preacher at a youth service a few years ago honing in on the topic of forgiveness.  I vividly remember his analogy of it being like a poison that you drink for another only to realize that it's actually killing YOU.  I sat there taking it all in.  I completely agreed, but that didn't change the circumstances.  My mind's replay feature never quit.  After all, it.was.unacceptable.
     Eventually we realized that something had to change.  We prayed (or more like begged) God for some kind of deliverance. Well guess what?  God ALWAYS comes through!  He knows best even when we are living through situations that are way out of our control.  He is still in control!  He began leading & guiding us.  During this trial, he called Nathan to pastor.  That has been one of the best experiences of our lives!  We were also blessed to purchase a beautiful 5 acres of land, build Nathan's dream taxidermy shop, & move on our new property.  Nothing shy of a miracle from Heaven!!!
     Even though things were looking up, making peace with this dreaded dilemma was still haunting me.  The thought of having to be around these people literally made me sick.  My pulse would race just by me thinking about being in their presence.  Nothing they could ever say or do would change the past.  Acting the way they did was inhumane in my book.  I soon realized that my resentment for our treatment turned into my personal feelings towards them.  I'm just being real here when I admit in type that yep, I HATED them with a passion!
     I went on feeling angry.  Yes, anger always seems to show it's nasty head somehow!  I was angry at this falling our lot in life.  What was done affected our whole family.  It was so unfair!  I was even angry at God for allowing this to happen as if we were super special & to be treated better than anyone else. 
     What stood between me & my peace with God?  THEM!  Wait, what did I do?  NOTHING!  It was more like what didn't I do.  I definitely didn't love. 
"God is love."  1 John 4:8
     Letting it go seemed impossible which made loving them (after what they'd done) hopeless!  Yet in all of this, God had undeniably blessed us, & I was determined to enjoy our new life more than ever before!  Nathan was happy again.  I watched him smile as the days passed.  I watched the sun shine on him again as he worked in his shop.  Yet here I was dragging around the clouds behind me.  I could hardly go a day without these thoughts entering my mind.  I had lost control of that completely.  It was trying to become my new sense of normal.  I was fighting back hard, but I was weak from the struggle.
     One night while laying in bed talking, I just started letting it all out.  I cried & told Nathan exactly how I felt.  I told him how I hated them even though I knew I shouldn't.  I told him how I couldn't get it all out of my mind.  I don't remember all I said.  There's just no telling.  I do remember him wrapping me up in his arms of love like only he can do & praying.  I didn't pray.  I couldn't.  I only cried harder & harder.  I realized there was nothing else he could do which felt even more helpless.  After a while, he fell asleep probably thinking I was doing the same.  Instead, I got up.  I got my laptop.  I searched the topic forgiveness.  I began reading scripture.  I also came across & downloaded Dr. Luskin's award winning book.  I did feel some hope but would my strength to fight or peace ever return?
     As the weeks went by, I had good days mixed in with bad. I kept reading & praying (maybe even reached the begging point again here). Dr. Luskin's book hit exactly in line with my feelings.  I began to challenge my thinking.  Instead of the "oh poor us syndrome" I had become accustomed to, I substituted "I am faced with a challenge & up for the task!  I will not let them destroy me!"  I began thinking of our situation as an opportunity for our heroic overcoming of an injustice.  Slowly, I felt more in control.  I could visualize trading the victim for the role of the hero.  I realized that nothing would change the past but I am the ONLY one, by the help of God, who can enjoy living my future! Emotional stress from desiring to help them see their faults started fading away.  It is pointless to try to change what cannot be changed or influence those who do not desire to be influenced.  I had written "rules" in my mind that any person who calls themselves Christians are loving & kind, especially within reason, yet this was not so.  I could not force this on others.  Changing little words changes the thought process.  Words are powerful.  In reality, I can only hope that all who claim Christianity are loving & kind.  The fact is, that cannot be controlled.  Anyone can claim anything.  Talk is cheap!  Amen?  It helped me to still have the best hopes but lower my expectations for how something has to turn out or someone must behave.  My frustration began to lessen.  As a result, I think about it less & less.
     I realize that no one has life handed to them on a silver platter & could look around at many struggling with similar (or WORSE) circumstances.  There's no amount of good you can do to deserve perfect situations on this earth.  That's why Heaven is worth fighting for!  For example, I can only hope & work to do my part to raise 5 beautiful, bright, happy, Godly children.  The fact is they are gifted their own lives & decide for themselves.  Many teenagers mar their appearance & flourishing minds with alcohol, drugs, etc which throws them into spiraling depression & on an ungodly path.  That is out of my control.  Similarly, this technique applies for my situation too.  I can only hope for the best, accept what comes, make the best of it, let it go!  Believe me, that beats the tremendous emotional distress, hurt, anger, hopelessness, & clouded judgement that spotlighting the situation brought.  That was a recipe for living miserably!  With all of that crowding my thinking, no wonder it left less energy for thinking through all the better options! 
     Looking back now I can see a glimpse of blessing through this nightmare.  I am forever grateful for our new place!  Without things rocking our boat, we would have never looked for anything more & missed out on our dreams that are living in right now!  Also, I have learned some valuable lessons.  I cherish my close friendships more than ever before!  I am blessed with real, loving, caring friends in this world who are great Christian people that pray for me & will help me tackle anything!  Whether I wanted this or not, I am obviously now more educated on how to deal with difficult people & possess a new boldness for dealing with tough situations head on.  However awkward that is, it is necessary for survival with a healthy amount self esteem intact & a sound mind that you can be happy with.
     The most important thing I've learned is that forgiveness is for me.  It heals my thoughts.  It clears my focus & frees my vision for what is important for my life.  It's not excusing wrong or forgetting anything.  It's about moving past it.  I am not "bestest" friends with these people.  I don't have to be.  God didn't demand that.  He asks that I love them because He loves them.  I am not perfect or without error either.  That's what makes us all human & faulty.  Only covered through Jesus' blood can I be anything for Him.  It's not all about me or what I want.  I turn my problems over to Him because He can handle them all!  I have greater goals to accomplish!  I have a life for Him to live!  He loves me, & I am valuable in His sight!  I have been blessed by Him with an amazing husband & 5 wonderful kiddos & have too many positive opportunities for a great, successful, happy life to let anyone else define me!  As I close this post, the old chorus that rolls over in my mind is, "I'm a child of the king!  Yes I am!  Yes I am!  I'm a child of the king!  Yes I am!  I belong to the Lord!  Yes I do!  Yes I do!  I'm a child of the king!  Yes I am!"  What more could I desire?  Nothing.  :)  He is all that I need!  He has once again made a way where there seemeth to be no way!  I only had to let it go!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The 1st Ever~PHGR 2014

     Our area of south GA independent holiness churches own the Calvary Holiness Campground in Broxton, GA.  It hosts our youth camp, camp meeting, monthly youth services, & other special services & events throughout the year.  A sweet sister was led of the Lord to organize the 1st ever Pentecostal Holiness Girl's Retreat on the grounds October 3rd & 4th.  We were so excited!  My girls & I counted down the days & boy was it worth the wait!!!  The sermonettes, testimonies, songs, classes, skits, games, food, & fellowship were all amazing!  There was even a consignment sale & booths for small shops, but the tea party was such a fun highlight!
  Hilarious Skit ~ "The Single Girl's Hairspray Ensemble"

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Are You Brave?

     I recently read another blog which completely changed my thinking on the subject of bravery.  If you were to ask me before, I would have said definitely my middle daughter, Marianna, is our bravest child.  She would shoot a cannon or jump off of a bridge if we gave her the go (or weren't looking for that matter).  I have never seen her turn down a challenge.  She possesses a confident determination unlike any of the others.  Even when she fails, she gets back up, dusts herself off, smiles, & continues on.  While that shows many positive qualities & character traits, that no longer makes her our one & only Marianna the brave & my others more cowardly in my eyes.
Brave - ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage
     Brave by definition from this world's point of view has narrowed our perspective of only seeing someone who readily faces impending danger.  The picture of a valiant knight defending the love of his life while risking it all most likely runs through our minds.  Marianna standing wide eyed with excitement begging to ride the huge adult rollercoaster that she isn't tall enough to ride is one of the examples I often encounter that fits this description, but is there another kind of brave?
     What about my "cowardly" Kaley & Raegan who back up when they see the same or even some of the smaller rides?  What about when they don't participate because of fear when things seem scary?  Neither one of them even like looking at the costumes & masks in the stores this time of year.  Is that the opposite of brave?  Does that categorize them as unadventurous, timid, shy, cautious, or even weak?  I practiced that kind of thinking in the past but no longer.
     The other night, after all of the kids were supposedly asleep enters Kaley into the room visibly upset, shaking & crying.  I ask her what is wrong.  She gazes at the floor & says quietly, "I have to tell you something."  This is the part where my mama heart races, suddenly gripped with my own fears of the worst imaginable.  We walk quietly into my bedroom & sit on the bed.  I nudge her to speak.  She speaks through her sobs.  I listen & thankfully my worst fears are reigned in.  Nothing major has happened, but I don't belittle her worries.  I let her finish.  I ask a few questions for clarity.  I hear her explain, "I know I shouldn't have.  I have prayed & prayed about it & asked for forgiveness, but it just keeps bothering me because I didn't tell you the whole truth about it at all."  I am sure not to console her just yet.  I acknowledge that she was wrong & that I am disappointed.  I thank her for her honesty.  We pray together.  I embrace her in all of her hurt & tell her how proud I am of her.  I tell her how brave she is.  I try to explain to her how much I love her in words.  I send her off to bed & check on her a few minutes later only to find that she has fallen sound asleep. 
     My heart smiles as I am thankful for my heroic child.  Turns out, it's not the qualities I saw before.  It's the tenderness of heart that feels the conviction power of God that I now call brave.  It's the one who says no & walks away when everyone else in the peer group participates under pressure.  It is the sheep who has gone astray who comes back with his tail tucked & enters back into the fold.  It's the one who sees God for who He really is~like Moses, Daniel, David, Ester, Noah, the prodigal son, etc.  All of these men & women in the Bible are heroic.  They weren't always the ones putting themselves out front.  They all probably questioned God, but even though they didn't understand, they chose God's way.  In their weaknesses, God was made strong.  He was their "super power."  He is all we need!  
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  II Corinthians 12:9 
     Jesus' words are so comforting in these scriptures.  He is what this world needs.  May we stand for right even if it doesn't follow this world's definition.  May we listen to that voice inside gently nudging us even when there is another screaming in our ears.  Dare to be brave!

Monday, October 6, 2014

September's Busy End

     Seems like just yesterday that sweet little Graham Jack joined our family.  I delivered out of my "element" with a new lady doctor & in a different hospital near our new church.  It wasn't my easiest delivery.  I didn't have that overwhelming joy as this doctor, which I wasn't that use to, pulled my gown even further up & placed my screaming, sticky baby on my belly as he proceeded to pee all over me.  I recall my eyes brimming with tears because of the overwhelming situation.  I felt like my  husband & mother-in-law in the room were more qualified than any of the staff assisting me.  It seemed so chaotic.  I knew the time for the baby came before they were prepared.  I warned them & felt belittled.  My medication had worn off, & I was in pain.  My eyes met Nathan's, & I asked him to get the baby.  I couldn't even see Graham for my gown all bunched up under my chin between us.  I was disappointed that my amazing, best doctor in the world had retired knowing things would've been different with him caring for us.  Yet with this rough new beginning, our new baby boy was extremely healthy & has been one of our best babies!  I was all worried about having #5.  I mean, who has 5 children, especially with 3 of them still so small???  Clay was only 18 months old & very much ALL boy (& still is)!  We were pastoring at the time also, so I sat alone during church with the whole crew.  I was so nervous about that during the unplanned pregnancy.  Let me tell you, God knows what we need when we need it better than we do!  In fact, we didn't plan either of the boys, but none of us could imagine life without them!!!  Graham Jack is such a bundle of joy!  He has been our quietest.  He wonders around behind us like he's so amazed with all of us.  He watches our every move.  He makes the funniest expressions that seem to say "I can't believe I was born into THIS family!"  Just recently he began talking, & his words are so precious!  His life is truly a blessing!
     We knew we would be traveling to Mississippi on the day of Graham's 2nd birthday for a weekend fellowship meeting that Nathan was preaching.  My aunt made cupcakes for us to enjoy together one night before our trip.  We just simply ordered pizza & took his picture with his cupcake at my parent's home.  We woke up in Florida on his birthday headed on our way west.  We were very close to Foley, AL where Lambert's CafĂ© Home of the Throwed Rolls was located.  To say the kids enjoyed their lunch treat is a major understatement!  The food is always awesome!  The service is 2nd to none!  Graham got into the spirit of things & threw his fries at one of the guys that was throwing us rolls!  Lol  The rest of the day was spent driving to our destination & having church service that night.  The weekend was filled with fun times of food & fellowship with friends that we don't get to see often & ended with a trip to the Jackson Zoo in Jackson, MS.      
     On the way back home we were privileged to stay with the one & only "Grandma" Doris in Alabama for a few days.  She had a spread on the table to greet us~porkchops, corn, blackeye peas, okra & tomatoes, hot rolls, & homemade apple & pear pies.  Every meal was just as huge & delicious!  We rented a bounce house for the kiddos when they weren't working on their school papers.  It's so nice to have friends to school with sometimes!  It makes for less work & more fun for everyone!  Kaley & her friend Ireland were actually working on the same Abeka book report!  That was super neat!  We were honored to be invited to preach their Tuesday night church service.  We had never even been there before.  The service was amazing!  Our God is truly great!  There we met a wonderful group of believers!

     Our final destination was Pratville, AL to preach at a dear friend's church on Wednesday night.  Although that was a quick nightly stop, the service was a blessing!  We enjoyed close friends, food, & fellowship there also!  Nathan even slipped in a game of golf with one of his best friends before heading home to south GA!  ;)