Memories, Movies and Muffins

Laxin’, laziness and lovin’, was the joy I had for a two day,  “too short” visit with my daughter, Andrea and her family this week.  It had been quite a while since I had last seen them, so the cliché of “absence makes the heart grow fonder was  valid. I was especially thrilled to see all four of her children as her two oldest were home from college. However, my gift of seeing them was a determent to my eldest grandson, a Ph.D student. He had to leave campus and his research for several days due to a medical concern with a fellow doctoral student. However, his family and I were all too happy to give him an abundance of hugs, love, and attention while he was home. Even though he didn’t wish to acknowledge it, I believe he treasured the home cooked meals and loving attention he received.

Andrea’s only daughter, her youngest child is quite the helper in the kitchen, so it was a delectable treat to have freshly baked muffins for each morning’s breakfast. My precious daughter who touted  in high school she would never prepare any meal that didn’t come from a box, bag or can is now quite an accomplished and excellent chef.

Aside from the belated birthday dinner reservations for my granddaughter, it was wonderful  to just “savor the time” of “laxin’ and laziness.” Wholesome “chick flicks” always bring smiles and laughter to any family. Our “television time” snuggled under fuzzy blankets didn’t disappoint.

As I delighted in the blessings of the two days spent with Andrea and her family, I was reminded again, I never imagined what God planned for my future.  I’ve been totally alone for over eight years and trying earnestly for over four years to sell my house and move to Texas to be closer to my family. As I have cried out to God both physically and emotionally, my prayers to move from this town with the “painful past” of when I was a wife, seem honorable to me.

Chuck Swindoll recently reminded me in his words, “We never know what a day will bring, whether good or ill. Our heavenly Father’s plan unfolds apart from our awareness. Ours is a walk of faith, not sight. Trust, not touch. Leaning long and hard, not running away. No one knows ahead of time what the Father’s plan includes. It’s best that way. It may be a treasured blessing; it could be a test that drops us to our knees. He knows ahead of time, but He is not obligated to warn us about it or to remind us it’s on the horizon. We can be certain of this: our God knows what is best.”

With each passing day, as the “for sale” sign glistens beneath the glowing sun, I have to cling to the realization that God truly does know best in all of this.  I Thessalonians 5:18 NKJ, “in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Soaring With The Eagles

It was one of the most memorable and joyous days of my life. I had waited years for this day; to take a trip with my only daughter, Andrea. I extended other “gifts” for trips, but one year ago today, was “the day” and my heart was filled with “joy beyond measure.”

I have openly shared about my admiration of Chuck Swindoll’s teachings and this was an opportunity I desired to participate in; his Alaskan cruise in celebration of his Insight for Living Ministries 40th year anniversary. The destination was not as important to me as being with Andrea, while also enjoying Chuck’s instruction and fellowship with other Christians for the next week.

Even though I visited Alaska the previous year on a land trip, I understood the cruise would provide a different perspective in this area of our country filled with God’s beauty of vast wilderness, water, mountains, and wildlife. Because this was my first cruise, this was an adventure for both Andrea and I, as we experienced some of the amendments of cruise traveling.

This was a smaller ship than other cruise ships, as it routinely hosts Christian groups spending time together with music and teaching of the Lord. Therefore, the entertainment and shopping were more limited, but Andrea and I were not there to be entertained or shop. Our “gifts” were with the wonderful people we met during our trip.

Andrea’s “gift” has lingered as she has maintained  friendships with some of them, enjoying personal visits with one another. Andrea and I had been aboard the ship less than two hours when we met some of these “friends” we would share the week with.

Another “gift” was the opportunity to view God’s splendid creatures, whales while on an excursion. They were more than cooperative to be the center of attention, as they danced on display to all the “ooh’s and ah’s” of the spectators. Also, our country’s exquisite eagles soared toward the heavens reminding all of us of God’s magnificence.

Like the countless fellow tourists, we trekked in and out of the “look alike, money pit” villages.  Andrea and I located a few “must take home” presents for others. A blessing of each day was dining at the table with the friends where we had been assigned. As we shared with one another what adventures we had experienced or what “must have’s” we purchased, another highlight was gathering again that evening for the special events Chuck had planned for each of us.

At the end of each day, my delight was knowing I was with my beautiful daughter. On the final night of our trip, Andrea gave me a gift which has lingered for an entire year. She said “Mom, your smile has never left your face.” I cried, for the exultation of that week was a gift no amount of money could purchase. I trust this trip with Andrea, wasn’t the last or only, but it was filled with treasures which have filled my memory and heart countless times. Psalm 96:11 NKJ, Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its’ fullness.”

And Then!

When I grow up, I will eat what I want when I want. When I grow up, I will not have to take naps or go to bed before I desire. When I grow up no one will tell me what to do. “And then.” You did grow up. You couldn’t always eat what you chose and sometimes you took a quick nap because you were up much of the night. Most often you craved to go to bed at the early hour you did as a child. For most adults we have more than our previous two parents telling us what to do. “And then.”

When we are out of college and find a job, when we marry and begin our family, when we make enough money to do what we desire, “then.”  It seems we move from one stage of our lives to another “and then.” Each “then” comes and goes, but do you have what you desire? Do you ever have quiet, reflective days when you say, “not then but now?” I feel certain many of us have had too many of those contemplative days over these past few months, especially those of us living alone without family or friends. I know there were will be a time in the not so distant future when we will say, “but then.”

As pastors and bible study leaders often share, many of us that prayed for “then” won’t see that transpire. As Dr. Warren noted, we may have to ask God why, realizing we won’t know until we stand before Him. As I’ve so rapidly watched the decades of my life move forward, I have wished I could have “stopped” many of those “then” days; the times my children were home and I could interact with them or the times we were a family celebrating life “as one.”

Some of my days of yesteryear were memorable and joyous, but most were challenging and difficult. God knew before I was born my life would be uphill all the way. He also knew I could manage it, for He knew I would cling to His strength and His faith to move me along.

I was most appreciative of the recent kudos I received on sharing my life; those times in my life when like Dr. Warren noted, you just don’t understand. You have prayed and been faithful, but God’s answers bring so much more sorrow than you could ever have imagined.

What has allowed me to never falter in my faith is knowing that  “then”,  when my life ends, there will be more elation than I can possibly know.  I will realize this brief life filled with so much heartache will be totally forgotten. “ Then” is what grants me the ability to keep pushing forward.  These are the days  I wait upon the Lord. Until “then” I truly do know who holds my tomorrows. Matthew 6:34 NKJ, “Therefore do no worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its’ own trouble.”

If Only

Have you ever watched a movie or television show which caused a whirlwind of cognitive impetus? I just concluded a fictional television segment which was poignant, as it paralleled all our lives. What would happen if we totally altered our life with a different decision?

This scenario was about a federal law enforcement officer that killed a drug lord. Some of the drug lord’s team then murdered the officer’s wife and daughter. During the course of the show, the actor had to re-live many details of his life on choices he made. How often, I’ve heard people say, “if only I hadn’t taken that route, there wouldn’t have been that fatal vehicle accident” or , “if only I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have become ill” of “if I hadn’t allowed my child to go outside, he wouldn’t have been injured”. On and on, the list goes.  The “If only’s” in life can bog us down if we allow them to do so.

In this mentioned program, the wife came back to remind the husband of all the good he did for others following her death and that of  their daughter.  He continued to grieve and say, “but I would still have both of you. We would still be a family.”  Unfortunately, in our lives, those taken in death can’t come back to tell us our lives have been productive despite their deaths. Even those that left us and are still alive don’t come to tell us the decisions we’ve made since their departure have been beneficial to  others.

This was a heartrending program from the aspect of reminding  us as Christians, we know God’s hand is in what occurs  in our lives, no matter the outcome. Yesterday, there was another door which God “slammed shut.” I was okay because I had prayed diligently to know His will. As I told someone recently, I never  “pry open” any door God closes. I know people that choose to open a door God closes, but are often disappointed with the results.

My desire to leave Edmond is great, for not only are there sorrowful memories, but like the television program, there are hundreds of “if only’s.”  I pass by neighborhoods where my then husband, Charles and I lived as a couple or a family with our children. I could say “if only” Charles had not relocated us so often?

I never leave my neighborhood, driving west without being reminded that over forty years ago it was  “that”  neighborhood, Charles fell in love with his mistress. She was often a guest in our home, and he kept track of her for years, knowing someday, he could be with her. This was also the neighborhood where we reared our children and they have life-long friends from that era.

“If only’s” can overpower us if we aren’t dependent on God’s strength.   His plans are greater than my “if only’s”  Isaiah 55: 8 NKJ, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”

 

 

Just “Churchy”

Even though we attended church as a family, we fit the cliché of “Sunday only” Christians. When I was burdened about not having family devotions together, my then husband, Charles touted, everyone could “do their own thing.” I attended bible studies alone. I prayed alone. I walked with God alone, but how greatly I prayed and longed for a husband that would be the spiritual leader of our family and our home.

We were not a Godly family. We were a “churchy” family. We put on our Sunday clothes, carried our bibles and “played like.” I didn’t realize prior to and even shortly after marriage, Charles’ goals were immeasurably different than mine. As our children matured and became more independent, the disparities between my values and Charles’ intensified.

I didn’t learn of parental alienation while our children resided at home. The first time a counselor told me that was the rationale in the attitude toward me, I gleaned an understanding of my children’s actions. From the time our children were young if I said “stop”, Charles  said, “go.” I still hear his words when our children were toddlers. “I want to be their friend. I don’t want to be their disciplinarian.”

Dr. Susan Heitler in Psychology Today cites, “Parental alienation syndrome, a term coined in the 1980s by child psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner, occurs when one parent attempts to turn the couple’s children against the other parent. A parent who is angry at the spouse or ex-spouse accomplishes this estrangement by painting a negative picture of the other parent via deprecating comments, blame, and false accusations shared with the children. They may also “hoard” the kids, doing all they can to thwart the other parent from spending time with them. In my clinical practice…I have also had multiple families in which Dad is the alienating parent, turning the children against their mother. In general, the alienating parent is the least emotionally healthy of the two; they’re often more wealthy, as well…”

This has not diminished the grief I’ve endured with not having my children and grandchildren in my life, but it has given me some understanding of the cause. Over the past eight years, I’ve spent almost every holiday totally alone, while Charles is celebrating with our children and grandchildren. There have been countless family celebrations when I was not included.  This has  validated to our children and grandchildren I am not as esteemed in their lives as Charles.

When I was on my knees praying for healthy children. I was praying for “our children” that “we” would rear in the love of God. During the divorce, Charles’  attorney requested copies of my personal counselor’s notes. Several counselors noted the times Charles mandated I be excluded from family events and the sorrow I bore. God has given me the tenacity to endure. Recent counselors have remarked on my incredible strength. “But God”!  The mourning over the lack of love and support is tremendous, but God has allowed me to see that He is truly the only one I can count on.” Psalm 136:26 ESV, “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

 

 

 

Not Cuddly Very Long

While the pastor spoke to the fathers yesterday about the kinds of men, they should be for not only their families, but God, I reflected on our early days as parents. When I was dating my then husband, Charles, I queried him on having children. He replied, “I don’t really care. If you want children that is fine, but I’m happy with or without them.” He didn’t realize years later his very best friend would be his son.

I loved children and prayed earnestly for my own from the time I was a pre-teen, babysitting for countless families. I was caring for children until days before my marriage at age twenty-one. I always knew if God didn’t bless me with my own biological children, I would adopt. Being a mother was utmost to me for I never had a mother in my life. I resided in the same house with her, but I learned years later, my mother brought me home from the hospital, never loving me. When she died at age eighty-nine, I never heard, “I love you.” Because of that,  I desired any children God blessed me with would know for eternity they were loved.

I spent years asking God why He gave me parents that knew only to abuse, but never to love me. During a bible study on the Purpose Drive Life, the words jumped from the page,” the parents we have are the ones God chose for us.” The queries ended. I accepted they didn’t love me and never would. As Dr. Warren, the author of that book noted in his recent sermon I viewed, we have many questions to ask  God when we see Him.  That will be one of my first queries.

Those of us that are parents know adorable, sweet smelling, soft, cuddly, dependent babies are merely months of our children’s lives. Psychologists cite that by age four children begin their life-long independence. I know us parents may all chuckle at this because as soon as our toddlers learn the word, “no”, they begin using that toward us.

As Christian parents we have a responsibility to begin instilling in our children their independence doesn’t negate the dependence upon God. When our pastor shared yesterday, they began reading the bible to their son, the first day they brought him home from the hospital, I cried.  The pastor noted they wanted their son to know about God as soon as he understood.

I thought back to the dozens of times when our children were young that I pleaded with Charles, to bring our family together in God’s love; to show them there are things in life which money and power, can’t purchase or control. Charles found this to be unimportant. When adult children stand at the graveside of their parents and say, “we didn’t have all the “things” in life we wanted, but we always had the love and prayers of our parents, that is a gift.  To me that is far more valuable than leaving millions of dollars to your children. Proverbs 22:6 NKJ, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Not This Time

And by your fruit they shall know you. This week in bible study we were discussing how we can be testimonies to those around us.  My philosophy has always been, “quietly, but in God’s love.” As I have shared in this blog, I’m trying to sell my house. My realtor advocates the seller remaining at home, should a potential buyer have queries. We are asked to sit outdoors, to prevent clients from feeling we are “in their way.” However, it has been a blessing to be available  to answer immediate questions or concerns which may arise.

What a delight it was to recently converse with potential buyers.  They saw my devotion books and bible on a table.  Most individuals  walk in and out of the room, but this couple noticed and it was a joy to chat with them about the Lord. It doesn’t matter one’s age, occupation, ethnicity, status in life, etc. When Christians begin discussing the blessings of the Lord, differences fall away and their common bond of being children of God become paramount.

We don’t have to walk around with signs that say, “I’m a Christian or shout about the Lord.” People know when our lives are examples of Christ’s love.  What a pleasure it was, as their realtor, the buyers and I all stood outside listening to God’s creatures singing, observing the hawks in flight,  the raining falling softly and talking about God; the one that created all the beauty around us.

As the clouds rolled in and the rain descended, I thanked God several times for His gift. It was much needed. I love the rain for it not only nourishes all the life it touches, but it is refreshing to see its’ effects. Hallmark movies love to tout that being cold and soaking wet while walking in the rain is romantic. I have never experienced that aspect of rain, so I will just continue to enjoy its’ “after glow.”

Even though the couple standing with me observing the magnificence isn’t seriously interested in my house, the husband wished me well on selling. He commented that he knows I will sell it quickly. Internally, I was both crying and laughing for “if only”,  he knew it has been for sale for four years, he might not have believed me. I conveyed to the husband that I know God will bring me His buyer, in His time.

I do not know what my future holds, but how grateful I am that I can just turn it over to God. Years ago, as I was reading a devotion, it spoke of our life looking like a maze. We often wander through life wondering where or how it will end. Yet God is looking down from above. He sees, the beginning and end and everything in between. His plan for our lives is clear to Him. I have to remind myself of that often. Even on the days I’m sad, I’m never stressed, for God’s plan is perfect. One of my favorite verses reminds me of His plans: Jeremiah 29:11 NIV, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “

It’s Just Life

It is with renewed encouragement I will continue to share my journey. It isn’t  pretty, but it is one which God allowed; some His will and other portions of the path, He permitted. I received positive feedback about my blogs this week. They were read as intended; to inspire.  What I have stated repeatedly is that I could not have endured my life if God hadn’t been there with me.

As time progresses and I share more of my life’s book, those that choose to view it as negative will do so. Those that realize God gave me beauty from ashes will view my sharing in a positive manner. If I’ve learned nothing else these past fifty years, I’ve learned from extensive counseling that how we choose to accept the conditions of our life is how we endure those challenges.

I’m reminded of when I was a volunteer Casa and someone asked how I could be around those children. I stated, “because I was severely battered as a child. No one was there to intervene for me because it was pre-DHS. I’m grateful I can be a “voice” for them.” Their reply was, “I don’t want to hear about this anymore. It is dark.” Child abuse happens. So too do many other things in life including marital betrayal. We can view it negatively or we can say “with God’s help, there will be blessings.” Counselors have noted, statistically I should be an addict, severely depressed or even worse. “But God!”

I’ve had several potential buyers view my house two-three times voicing tremendous interest, but then choosing another.  I could only say, “God will send His buyer in His time.” That is how I’ve had to accept all the situations in my life which I can’t amend. I’ve been open,  that the greatest sorrow of my  life was learning of my then husband’s infidelity. I’ve also stated that I could not sustain my agony without God’s help.

Being despondent and saddened that Charles never loved me doesn’t make me weak. It is a testimony to others going through this kind of burden that God will give them strength.  I’ve been praised that I have not succumbed to being depressed or walking away from God. I do extensive volunteer work, remain active in church and bible studies. I’ve organized numerous social events and opened my home to countless other single, seniors.

Being active and busy doesn’t negate the grief in knowing Charles chose another woman to spend the remainder of his life with, instead of me.  I was the first and only girl he ever dated, and we vowed to remain together for the rest of our lives.  I am sorrowful that Charles’ desires were not aligned with mine.

I’m also disheartened that Charles accepted countless meals and gifts from me over six years as I continued to pray for a healing of our relationship.  If only he had possessed the integrity to tell me immediately, he had given his life to another, I would have realized, there was no need to hope. Now, my prayers are for my healing, as God walks with me. Hebrews 13:5, NKJ, “…For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is There A Purpose?

Dear Readers,

My SINCERE apologies to each of you for allowing my own emotional pain to override my desire to be an encouragement. We are all aware of “triggers” in our lives, no matter what we are attempting to overcome. I’m attempting to conquer a tremendous heartache which counselors have noted will take years.

I was doing pretty well with my healing and then barely two years ago, the revelation which I’ve been sharing with you, caused a huge “set back” for me. I’m sorry the recent situation triggered  such a deep emotional turmoil in my heart, which I shared with you.

ONLY GOD knows how diligently I give this to Him. My “human side” took over and for that I apologize.  I can’t promise I will never again mention my sorrow, but I will attempt to note it in a more encouraging manner. I know for certain, we are to share the joys and difficulties  of our lives when it gives God the glory.

UNLESS OR UNTIL you have something happen to you which takes you to the lowest point of your life, it is impossible to explain the challenge of not allowing this to eclipse our emotions and often times our “good sense.”

I am flawed and this is not an excuse, but the absolute truth! BUT GOD and He is the only reason I have survived my life. There will be a day when I stand before Him that my life will be joyous. Until then, again I apologize for sharing the heartache which brings me to my knees several times a week. Blessings to each of you on your own journeys.

AND NOW as Paul Harvey used to say “for the rest of the story”

As often happens when tossing and  turning, unable to sleep, I get up in the night to listen to devotions or sermons. A few nights ago, I found an excellent sermon from Dr. Rick Warren, reminding us that sometimes we pray for years for people or situations, but those prayers may be answered in ways which bring us even more pain. Rick spoke of losing his own child to suicide, even though his family prayed for their son’s healing. He shared of those that pray for friends or family to be healed, but they ultimately die. He spoke of praying for marriages to be healed, but one of the mates leaves the marriage in spite of the prayers.

Why do some people “fall” under the load and turn from God while others grow in their relationship. It is faith. For without faith, we would be unable to continue with some of the trials He brings us. When each of us go through emotional pain, it is a constant reminder these times are sincerely for God’s glory. We may never understand our challenges until we stand before Him. However, if during our difficult times we can remove the tears and fog from our eyes, we may be able to see God’s blessings during these sorrowful times.

As Dr. Warren noted, we may not understand until we stand before God and then we can ask Him face to face. I’m grateful God gives us His word through bible study leaders, teachers and pastors. We are often reminded this life is short and uncertain, but as His children our joy will be with Him.

Sunshyne Gray states there are five purposes for the emotional pain God allows in our lives:

1). We give up on relying on ourselves and rely on God. Its in the pain that I run out of options and run into the arms of Christ.

2). The more we choose to trust God, the more we experience peace and joy. God delights to bless us with the fruit of peace and joy, but it begins with trust.

3). Even in the emotional pain that comes out of this world, we have an opportunity to bring glory to God. Our amazing God can turn ashes into beauty, mourning into joy and despair into praise.

4). Emotional pain prepares you to help others. Do you find yourself bumping into people going through what you’ve already endured?

5). Pain changes you and your desires. But when you’ve reached the other side of pain, you are different.

Sunshyne continues, “when you reach the other side of emotional pain you will see how it brought Him glory, strengthened your faith and increased your reliance on Him.”

It is how we abide and hold fast to God and our faith that will allow us to endure these times of emotional pain. 2 Kings 20:5 NKJ”…I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do You Know?

When my realtor arrived with  binoculars  in hand to view “the bird”, she informed me one of her customers was admiring my falcon. A falcon? This was the third year the raptor whom neighbors and I agreed was a red-tailed hawk had been residing in one of my trees high above “screeching” to all whom would listen.

I was not thrilled about having a hawk as my backyard neighbor, for more than once “mean Momma” had swooped down toward my small therapy dog, frightening each of us he would be taken for an unsolicited ride. Nonetheless, I had enjoyed watching Momma Hawk’s little ones voice their opinion about the latest  news, weather conditions and of course the most important; “I’m hungry.” I was always melancholy when the small, white fuzzy heads were no longer visible.

For someone to say my feathered neighbor was not a hawk, caused me to begin my research.  Due to the locale of my home; central Oklahoma, falcons are not as prevalent as hawks. I listened to recorded sounds of both falcons and hawks and researched their nesting habitat.  I had to agree with numerous other individuals.  This “loud mouthed” neighbor that has taken up residence in my back yard is indeed a hawk. Although I’m not an ornithologist, my instinct is to agree with the other “hawk” amateurs.

I pondered how wonderful it would be if people would take the time to research us as their neighbors, colleagues or fellow church members. How often have you been labeled as someone you were not? Of course, we all understand it is easier to identify the difference among humans than the differences among birds. Yet, it is gratifying to know someone took the time to “know” us and not merely label us as “birds of a feather.”

As a teen, I was keenly offended when accused of being wealthy. Nothing could be more inaccurate. I was reared on government commodities in a tiny, leased house. My parents primary seating for our living room was an old, soiled and tattered sofa with protruding springs. My mother placed a frayed blanket over the bulging spring to avoid tearing clothing or injuring visitors to the sofa. The cliché of “hanging on by a thread” was valid for the description of our curtains. They could not be touched, as my mother feared they would totally disintegrate, and we would have barren windows.

To state “as fact”, I was wealthy was as insulting as it was deceitful. I became a seamstress at age ten when I joined our local 4-H club, obtaining clientele before I was fourteen.  The customers paid me the same amount for labor as they spent on purchasing their fabric and supplies. I now realize this was “child labor”, but for me, it was a way to increase my wardrobe. When I entered the “other world” I appeared to be “in vogue”. Folks didn’t know my clothes were “handmade” and assumed that I was a different “bird” than I was, but God knew.  John 10:14 NIV “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”