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.”

Which Lane?

You had a doctor’s appointment, but the doctor was delayed with an emergency. You must wait approximately an hour to see the doctor. Do you remain or reschedule your appointment? You’ve spent the time in preparation and arrival, so that will be wasted if you return home now.

You’re in a hurry! You survey the line at your local store determining which lane will be the quickest. What do you know? Sally has a problem with her purchase and is “holding up” the entire lane.

You can leave your lane and try for another or wait for Sally to complete her purchase. You choose to wait. Yet all the while you are becoming more frustrated. Life is filled with these unexpected inconveniences and delays.

What happens when these delays or totally missed appointments are prayers which seem to have been overlooked? Do we push ahead with our own agenda and walk away from God, stomping our feet and whining about the outcome, or do we wait on His time?

As I have shared frequently, I’ve spent years praying about matters in which God ultimately told me “no.” My request was not going to happen.  I’ve mentioned the long period I’ve had in trying to sell my house, but for four years God has not allowed a sale. I’ve shared about praying for relationships that were annihilated or are so fractured they may never resume. I’ve cried out to God often. Does He hear me?

Recently, there were two separate examples that yes God does hear us, even when we are “in the wrong lane” or when He has been delayed with His appointment. I was reading a recommended book and the author; Mindy spoke of hearing devastating news. Mindy went to her closet and sobbed, pleading for God to send someone to pray with her during this time.

Even though she had a husband and children that supported and loved her, at that exact moment, they were not home, and she didn’t want to wait for the “doctor to arrive.”  The phone rang and it was someone whom Mindy had previously had a conflict with. When Mindy answered, the other party stated she had called the wrong number, but asked how Mindy was doing. Mindy explained she wasn’t doing well and asked for prayer. The caller prayed with her at that precise moment. It was what Mindy had requested. God heard!

While traveling to Wisconsin to visit my brother and his family, my sister-in-law, Dee planned on joining us for a mini-family reunion to Ohio. A couple of days before I departed for my trip, Dee received a call that her brother was terminal. She flew to another state to join her family. The very day my brother and I departed for Ohio, Dee’s brother died.

When Dee returned back to Wisconsin, she said, “God ordained this.” Had she been in Ohio, it would have been more difficult to join her family. God knew which lane Dee needed to be in. I’m often reminded of one of my favorite verses, Psalm 27:14 NKJ, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.”

 

 

Home Again!

There are some awards in life which no amount of money can purchase. Family is one of the greatest of these gifts. As a child, when my parents uprooted our family of five from the only family we had known, I was dismayed when I realized there would be no more holiday gatherings or visits with our aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even though I had occasional contact with some of the extended family, as an adult my yearning to reconnect intensified.

Years later I began one of several return trips to the city and state of my birth; Norwalk, Ohio.  While retracing my paths, my  delight was in rekindling a personal relationship with my favorite aunt, Joan. Over these past twenty-five years, we have chatted frequently via telephone, shared cards, and letters, but the greatest joy has been when I could see her face to face. Her sweet smile and joyful heart add sunshine to even the darkest of days. God has bestowed her with remarkable health in her almost ninety years of life. Now alone in her home and community she will be relocating across the country to be near her children and their families.

I could not have this precious lady move so far away without returning to Ohio to bid her farewell. I also realized the “gift to Joan” would be enhanced with not only my visit, but that of my brother whom she hadn’t seen since he was a young child. No amount of money could purchase the blessing we received. The journey to Ohio was several days with my brother and me. We had the endowment of time and conversation which will be added to our reminiscences.

The highlight of the trip reminded Clyde and me of the riches we have with our Christian family. As we conversed with Joan and our cousins, we all shared of the joys of the Lord. We conferred about the journey our lives have taken us on, but the utmost exultation was sharing with one another how God has been with us during times of happiness and sorrow.

I was saddened my sister-in-law could not join us on this voyage, but she had a death in her family which precluded her from making the trip. Dee so sweetly said, “God ordained all of this.” She was with her family, while Clyde and I were with ours. God doesn’t promise us “tomorrow”, so we always cherish the time we have with one another.

As a very young child, I desired the bond and love of family.  I didn’t have it as a child or adult. I’ve imparted to others frequently,  why the “gift” of love which was one of the most imperative desires I had was never granted me. Nonetheless, when God grants “gifts” of time with my family, I seize and treasure it for as long as God allows. John 13:34 NIV, “A new command I give you: Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tears and Fuzzy Socks

Fuzzy socks, a quilt, pj’s and a cup of tea. What other components are needed to enjoy movies about a lost dog and another about true love? Tears and more tears. It seems I always have an abundance of those, for my emotions appear to live on the surface of my life.

The quilt is one I’ve been working on hours a day for the past several weeks; a gift. I was quilting while watching the movies, fearful I would saturate the quilt with my tears. The fuzzy socks earnestly caused a severe broken toe a few weeks ago.  I dashed across the room in those fluffy, little foot coverings and my toe caught the edge of the table. Ouch! I knew immediately it was broken, as I watched it protruding from the side of the same foot recovering from a recent surgery. During my post-op appointment, the x-ray confirmed. Yes, it is broken.  Now these several weeks later, it is quite swollen and “fusses” each time I constrain it in shoes.

The pj’s! Not always my casual attire, but because they are over-sized tees and “baggy” bottoms, they serve me well while completing household chores. The cup of tea, sometimes hot, but in the warmer months there is nothing better than a tall glass of iced, freshly brewed herb tea. The tears! Those are  required for any sappy movie that involves “furry babies” or “true love.”

As I cry, it is often for the pictures in my life which were unfulfilled. Just today I received a lovely e-mail reminding me that when people choose to leave us, we must bid them goodbye.  My life is fine, for God is in control. No, He didn’t choose my family to be broken and for my husband of 44 years to love another, but He allowed it.

As a seminary student many decades ago, we were often reminded  God always answers our prayers, but not always as we desire.  They will forever be yes, no or wait awhile. I have prayers which I have been praying for years. The greatest concern was answered with a no. Whereas with others, they are “to be determined at a later date.” Despite the sorrowful emotions of watching movies about true love and the dedication of loving one another, I have to accept not all love stories have “happy ever after” endings. It takes determination and commitment that one’s desire for another person is greater than their own desires.

With my tear drenched face, broken toe in fuzzy slippers, comfy pj’s and ginger peach tea, I say “thank you” dear friend for reminding me that life is not always a “Hallmark” movie. Many people we love choose not to love us. They choose to leave, but God is still with us. Thus, we can enjoy those “sentimental movies”, cry for awhile and get “back to living.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV,” The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

 

For Sale By God

Those of you that know me personally, are aware my life took a much different path than I ever hoped or planned. Despite the arduous roadblock which took me down an unpaved road with huge ruts and potholes, I have continued to say, “God you are my GPS.”  Since April 2016, I have been trying to sell my house. God’s map has been different than mine, but I have not detoured. I had such hope my house would sell that I moved to Texas for 6 months, believing it would sell while I was away.

I loved my tenure in Texas, but it didn’t happen. I returned to Oklahoma disappointed, but realizing God’s plan is seldom mine.  God never fails to remind us He is always in control when we allow.  Several months ago,  I mentioned, it seems when we are seeking information, whether in making a purchase or a life decision, there are frequent prompts about our pursuit. Because my quest is a “heart” matter,  then God’s words which others share give me the encouragement to continue using my present GPS.

I understand my house won’t sell, if it isn’t listed, so I again resumed my prayers and God’s direction. There was one of those “flashing road signs” today when I read Chuck Swindoll’s words, “ If God’s ways are higher than mine, then I bow before Him in submission. The result of that attitude is true humility. Submission to the Father’s will is the mark of genuine humility. And all of us could use a huge dose of that. How unusual to find a humble spirit in our day, especially among the competent… Here’s the second: If God is in full control, then however He directs my steps, I follow in obedience. What relief that brings! Finally, I can relax, since I’m not in charge.”

Over the course of these past four years, I have become quite frustrated when folks say, “what is wrong with your house? Why hasn’t it sold?”   If only I could have placed a yard sign that read, “For sale by God.”  I’m eager to reply that God has chosen for it not to sell.  I have reflected on circumstances which transpired since 2016 that might not have occurred had I been living in Texas; serious situations which God was controlling.

It was noteworthy when my current realtor walked into my house and said, “why hasn’t this it sold? There is absolutely nothing wrong with it and it should have sold years ago.” I wanted to grab her and give her a big hug, but maintained my “social distance” and just chuckled. I told her of the numerous condemnations I had about my house not selling. What I know for certain is, I’m following in God’s obedience. As Chuck said, “what a relief, I can relax.” God has his! When my house does sell, I can proclaim, “sold by God.” Isaiah 55:8 NIV, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”