Sweet Dreams

Once a month among the humming sewing machines and sergers, whooshing of the steam irons and the whiz of the shears and rotary cutters on fabric, a room full of caring volunteers produce bright, colorful, pillow cases for hundreds of patients at the local children’s hospital. Each case is packaged with a note of encouragement to the young patients.

During a recent day of volunteering at a local craft market, presenting our mission of making these gifts, one of the recipients stopped by our booth to offer her gratitude and appreciation. Another volunteer shared how our mission became an unstoppable goal of doing more and more for these precious patients. Such sharing from patients and fellow volunteers validates my rationale and desire to be a part of this team.

I also look forward to Thursday at the local food pantry and resource center. We gather as a group of volunteers to pray for the clients God is sending that day; to satisfy their physical needs, while also encouraging their hearts and minds with the love of God.

Additionally, I’m honored and privileged to be able to serve people in our county as a Casa; Court Appointed Special Advocate for children currently in foster care. These are only a few of the volunteer opportunities God has bestowed upon me. There are numerous others which are placed along my life’s path.

While meeting someone for the first time, whom I will call “Mr. T”, his criticism and judgement were harsh about my involvement in volunteering. My extensive volunteer work has been a tremendous blessing to give back to others.

Even though I began volunteering with children’s events and church when my children were young, my volunteer hours were limited as my husband and children were among my greatest priorities.   When my life changed seven years ago, I knew the best way to compensate for my loss was to give back to others with needs greater than my own. It always astounds me when individuals are perplexed as to why I would give time to helping others.

Chuck Swindoll exquisitely explained why we do for others in one of his devotions. “In the gallery of His priceless work, the Lord God has included a portrait of vast value. It is the portrait of a servant carefully painted in words that take time to understand and appreciate…”Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus said. Mercy is concern for people in need… Offering help for those who hurt . . . who suffer under the distressing blows of adversity and hardship. Those special servants of God who extend mercy to the miserable often do so with much encouragement because they identify with the sorrowing—they “get inside their skin.” Rather than watching from a distance or keeping the needy safely at arm’s length, they get in touch, involved, and offer assistance that alleviates some of the pain.”

I Peter 4:10 NKJ “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

Not, “The One”

Today’s blog is not lighthearted nor perhaps even uplifting. It is also longer than the usual blog length. I write to those whom may be walking the same kind of difficult path as I. Having just begun Max Lucado’s book, “You’ll Get Through This,” it is a reminder that sometimes sorrows of life need to be shared; for through the sharing, God’s love shines through. As with pastors and Christian leaders that have stood before their congregation or their public to share the deepest sorrows of their heart, I now share mine. This is God’s story; how He will heal and use me for His glory and only in His time.

I’ve alluded to my heartache frequently but avoided sharing the real story; the ugly reality of marital betrayal. I’m going to share what it has been like to be the “other woman”, to not be what I believed was “the woman”, to my then husband, of 44 years, Charles.  I believed he was going to love me until death parted us.  Instead, I learned last year, I was the one that had been cast aside for his “chosen” woman, Debbie.  I had to learn while among a room full of strangers the reason Charles abandoned me was for Debbie, whom he had been with for years.

Yes, I want to be like Max’s wife and “arm myself with honesty.” I want to address this matter and say like Max says (but paraphrasing it for me personally), “I’ll get through this. It will be painful. It won’t be quick, but God will use this mess for good. I won’t be foolish or naive, but I won’t despair either. With God’s help I’ll get through this.”

I’m weary of being in such great emotional pain, of being told to “move on and shake it off.” How very grateful I am for an insightful young lady on our church staff that encouraged me to lament, weep and grieve the loss of Charles, the only man I ever loved. I’m grateful she reminded me that for as long as I was married, the healing will take awhile. I tearfully said to her, “I gave my life to my husband. He had my all. I remained with Charles during some very difficult times, but he was the man I promised to love, honor and cherish for as long as I lived.” I did! I kept my vows.

For many years, I gave a minimum of 2 hours each Saturday morning watching Charles’ favorite car and home improvement television shows. I laid aside any interest I had to be with him, for that was our time together doing what he chose to do. One of the programs we watched weekly, was Chasing Classic Cars with Wayne Carini.

In 2012, when we realized Wayne would be in KS, a drive-able distance from our home in OK, we saved the date to be there for several days during the event which included Wayne’s appearance. A week before our departure, Charles informed me he was taking someone else. There was no discussion; no conversation. As he had done countless times during our marriage with decisions such as home purchases, without my knowledge, he had invited another to take my place aside him as he traveled to KS.

Devastated, astounded and perplexed, I did what I had done for the duration of our marriage during difficult times; I sought marital counseling. Why would the man whom I had given my entire life to, including time to spend with him doing something which was solely for him, now without my knowledge choose to take another on “our trip?”

During that counseling session, I realized this latest heartlessness toward me had been the culmination of the four previous years of Charles’ total abandonment of me physically and emotionally.  Even with my pleas for an understanding of his actions and rationale for what he had done, he walked away refusing any form of communication or interaction with me.

It would be six years later before I learned the reality of Charles’ departure from my life.  When I learned of Debbie from strangers, I desired not to accept hearsay about the man I had loved and been devoted to for over 51 years.  Charles admitted he had been with Debbie while we were still married.  He shared with me I was not the wife he desired and that he had not loved me for most of our marriage.

Like Joseph when his brothers cast him into the pit and sold him into slavery as in Genesis 42:21, “ we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear”,  I pleaded with Charles in 2012 and countless times since for an understanding. I desired empathy as to why he was not honest with me when he walked away from me and all our years together.

I pleaded with him to keep our family intact for the sake of our children and grandchildren. I pleaded with Charles to at least find a way to be amiable toward me in the presence of our family.  I pleaded for knowledge that when our marriage encountered problems, he was not willing to address them with me; to work them out, to seek help. I pleaded for understanding as to why it was easier to find a new love than to keep the woman, he had asked to be his wife for eternity.

Each and every time, my pleas have been rebuked.  Charles was adamant, he had no desire to save his marriage or his family. He had determined that “starting over” in his 60’s, that leaving me alone to fend for myself and to remain alone during times of illness and medical challenges were what I deserved. He wanted me to know he had carried anger toward me for over 40 years; anger I never realized yet felt the “sting” from. As with my replacement for the trip, seven years prior, Charles had shared of his disdain and anger toward me with countless others, but never with me.

What I now share is not a secret; for it was Charles whom so proudly began introducing Debbie as his “new woman” while I was still his wife. It was Charles that introduced her to our children and grandchildren within months of leaving me and long before I knew of her. It was Charles that began traveling on out of town and out of state trips with Debbie days after he left me and long before I knew of her. It is Charles that brings Debbie to events which the three of us attend, so that I can see the love and devotion he has for her; the kind of devotion and love which he never had for me. It is Charles whom has touted repeatedly that I was not worthy to be his wife.

This has been a pain so deep, so real, so emotional that I have wondered at times how I would survive even one day, but I did. It is the kind of pain which Max addresses in his book, “In God’s hands intended evil becomes eventual good.” Max reminds us, “you’ll get through this. You fear you won’t. We all do…the pain will never leave…will this gray sky ever brighten?” God doesn’t spare us of pain on this earth, but as Max notes, “He does plan to reweave your pain for a higher purpose.”

There will be a time when I see Charles and Debbie walk into a room arm in arm or with their hands upon one another, or hear his words that I was not the woman he desired and  I will be free of the pain. I will get through this because even though Charles didn’t keep his promise to love me until death parted us, Max reminds me, “I am God’s child…my life is more than this life…more than this broken heart, this is God’s promise and God won’t break a promise.”

Like Max’s wife that openly and honestly shared her personal sorrow, “she found God’s presence among God’s people” and so too will I.  My story is God’s story; of my entire life given to a man I loved. That love was not returned but given to another.

God has not abandoned me. His promises are forever.  My story of betrayal, pain and sorrow will be used for God’s glory. I look forward to sharing my journey of healing. It’s been long, but it would never have been this long had I known the truth of Charles’ abandonment in 2012. As I shared with someone only days ago, considering how far I’ve come since learning the truth of Charles betrayal on April 29, 2018, I’ve traveled a long distance on this path God has placed me on. Genesis 28:15 NIV, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.”

What Will This Cost Me?

How difficult is it to be kind? Because the dictionary defines this as friendly, generous and considerate, each of us should be able to be kind on a daily basis. What if a person is generous, but not friendly or considerate? Are they still defined as kind?

Recently I met a person whom I had conversed with on the telephone several times prior to meeting face to face. Almost from the onset of our meeting, the person was unkind; inconsiderate and insulting.  I’m always perplexed as to why people choose to be unkind to individuals they don’t know and are meeting for the first time.

For over 38 years I have invited total strangers into my home; some I knew nothing about except for a brief written profile. Often I lacked even a profile. However, I had welcomed them into my home, as my guest(s).  If they recalled nothing else about me or their visit, I knew one of the greatest gifts I could give them was to treat them with kindness. Not all my guests reciprocated such benevolence. Nonetheless, I chose years ago to give even if never receiving this gift.

When service people are in my home, they are also my guests. They may be hired to complete a task, but they should always be treated with kindness. While these providers are currently in my home, homemade cookies, coffee, tea, water, assorted soft drinks and chocolates are a hospitality I extend them.

What does the kindness of a smile do when someone is having a difficult day? During a recent atypical counseling workshop, I was reprimanded numerous times for “smiling”. I was astounded as my smile is as much a part of me as the color of my hair and eyes. From the time I was a young child, my smile is a gift I freely give; especially spending my career in health care when many in need appreciated a smile and frequently a hug.

Chuck Swindoll speaks of kindness, “I have a suggestion. It may not seem that expensive or sound very novel, but believe me, it works every time. It’s one of those gifts that has great value but no price tag. It can’t be lost nor will it ever be forgotten. No problem with size, either. It fits all shapes, any age, and every personality. This ideal gift is . . . yourself. Don’t forget the unusual value of kindness.”

As mentioned in Ephesians, forgiveness is also very much a component of kindness. NKJ Ephesians 4:32 “ And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Laments are Exercises in Faith

I dashed in the door from the cool, gently falling rain, grabbing a bright, crisp apple from the fruit bowl, savoring the aroma of brewing coffee, as I eagerly anticipated getting comfy in my jammies and fluffy slippers. These are comforts of a warm and inviting home, yet I was unable to curl up on my sofa in front of the fireplace in my house. I was making my home in a hotel for the next few weeks.

Over my 44-year marriage, my then husband, Charles and I often had to make our “home away from home” in hotels during his numerous career relocations and premature sales of our houses. As we snuggled together on a sofa, viewing movies on our hotel television and dining on carry out dinners, we both knew we had joyful adventures awaiting us; a new job, a new environment and always a new home.

My life as a single has been filled with challenges and dilemmas. Now, I am displaced from my home; alone and due to a careless moving company.  In all my situations I always have to realize, “God  is in the details.” As with the many other challenges over these past seven years, I can say “thank you God” for the blessings of this.

My insurance company has been accommodating on the move from my home and the stay in the hotel. Even though at the beginning of this adventure, I feel optimistic when this troublesome element of my life’s story is history, there will be a benefit.

My heart was warmed yesterday as I visited with one of our church staff about the possibilities of beginning a new ministry in our church. Tearfully, I re-lived the circumstances which caused me to be conversing with her.  We discussed the circumstances of my life, including my current temporary home. For if life had not placed me on this  path, even the “hotel home” would not be a chapter of my story.

I told her of the frequent criticism about moving forward. She reassured me God doesn’t  expect me to heal overnight. Our conversation was another gift, as she listened with her heart, as well as her ears. She reminded me learning last year of the rationale for the loss of a 44-year marriage is a cause to lament.

Christina Fox cites in her on-line article, “the laments in scripture do more than just voice painful emotions. The psalms of lament, in particular, go further than just releasing pent-up emotions. They are more than mere catharsis. Within themselves, these psalms are a theology, a doxology, a form of worship. They are reminders of truth. They are exercises in faith…”

The next time I begin discussing the path my life has taken over these last seven years, I can proudly shed my tears.  Lamentations 1:2 NKJ, “she weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks…”

Anger is a Gift

As I was driving home from Casa Court today, I was listening to an interesting segment on the radio about the positive aspects of anger.  All of us have heard someone say to us, “why are you angry?”  or tell us, “well don’t get angry”, when that emotion was not in our mind nor was it what we were feeling. Did you then say to that person, “well I wasn’t angry until you said that?”

As the psychologists proclaimed the positive aspects of anger, I was reminded of being in counseling years ago and stating to my Christian counselor that I just couldn’t be angry. Seriously he queried, “why?”.  I stated my concern, “if I’m angry it will hurt my Christian testimony.” He reminded me anger is a God-given emotion and it’s how we handle that emotion which causes our problems.

As I listened today on the positive traits of anger, I compared those to situations in my life. The psychologists noted anger is calming. We might chuckle at that, as it’s seldom I see a truly angry person acting calmly.  Anger helps you cope with the stress and tension, which may leave you feeling calmer. Anger as an energizing trait parallels this philosophy of bringing a calm to our hearts and lives.

The specific trait discussed today was the effects on anger for leaders.  Anger gives us a sense of control, helping us to feel in charge, rather than helpless. How often have you used anger to command your requests? You pleaded nicely with your children to do something and after countless times of asking, you then became angry and demanded.

Psychologists have noted most often anger stems from hurt. Thus, we are hurt and over time we may become angry about the situation which brought us this pain. This is especially true when dealing with those we love and rejection from them.

Recently, after a person queried me in depth about some of my interests and volunteer work, I casually commented, “my Dad beat me as a child and now I’m a Casa (Court Appointed Special Advocate) to be there for children that have no voice.” I had no thoughts of anger when the comment was made. It was a statement of my rationale in volunteering as a Casa. Thoughts from my childhood and the realization there was no one to intervene on my behalf when I was being so violently abused, caused me to do something positive.

The emotions God gives us are gifts. If we use them in a positive manner, they can achieve remarkable results. Those emotions thrust upon others in a negative way negate the blessings we can give. NKJ, Ephesians 4:26, Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”

 

 

 

 

Just A Hug!

Have you ever had a spouse, family member or friend that has asked you for something which they needed, but you didn’t wish to give it? Perhaps it was just a few minutes of your time or even something as unassuming as a hug. Yet your desires were far greater than the need of the other whom you claimed to love or care about.

As I was multi-tasking, I was viewing a television program which was “packed” with reminders that far too often we are too selfish. Due to the circumstances and heartaches of my life, I’ve attempted to always “hear” when others express a need. I’ve dropped what I’ve been doing to talk to those that needed a listening ear or a shoulder to cry upon. I’ve prepared food for someone that was ill or grieving the death of a loved one. I’ve shared my time with someone that felt hopeless. Yet, even when I have tried to heed those calls from God to give back to others, I’m sure I’ve missed some opportunities along the way.

As the program noted about giving of ourselves, it portrayed the emotions of rejection when two young lovers had different desires in sharing emotions and physical touch.  When I feel as though I’m with the persons in the written word or the actors on the screen, my emotions are with them.

When the young man was told his desire to not hold his “loves” hand would cause her sorrow every time she was with him, my mind raced to the countless times I stood before the man I had loved; my then husband, Charles. I pleaded with him time and again during our 44-year marriage to just hold me; to hug me. Time and again he would look at me and blatantly say, “no.” Like the actress, my reality was that for most of our marriage, my heart was filled with sorrow every time I asked for his touch and was rejected.

In the same story, the lesson of “being there” for the other was instilled. There was much in such a short expanse of time. When a husband opted to walk away from his hurting wife, the doctor asked him “why if he had been there for all those years, was he leaving now? Why was he leaving her then, when she needed him the most?” How often I have asked this question.

Recently I read this quote and realize even though simple in thought, it’s poignant in deed, “if someone seriously wants to be a part of your life, they will seriously make an effort to be in it. No reasons. No excuses. Author unknown.”  Having someone asking to share their life and/or emotions should be a compliment. They value you as “someone” to them.  Galatians 6:2 NKJ, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

God’s Tarmac

Have you ever had those times in your life when it seems you were bombarded with the same information? If you were praying about something, did you feel this was God’s way of validating He heard you, or do you feel it was merely “happenstance?” Each of us perceive such circumstances in our own way.

For me personally, such times are an authentication that God heard me. Certainly, the messages, devotions, songs, etc. were not spoken nor written for me, but I choose to receive them as gifts that God knows my heart. I thank many of you whom are faithful readers of my blog and have heard “my tears” from my heartaches. You often send words of encouragement and/or even post wonderful reminders on Facebook that you are praying for and with me.

Again, last Sunday, the pastor’s message was on “waiting.” I’ve shared this in my post several times as waiting can seem like an eternity. As children we wait to “grow up” so we can be our “boss.” Then we wait to graduate from college and begin a career. We wait to find the “one” to spend our life with. We wait to purchase a home and begin a family.

If we stop to analyze our lives, it seems it is one gigantic “wait.” However, for most of us the most difficult time to be in a “holding pattern” is when God has us on His tarmac. We can’t move! We are just waiting for the signal to “take off.” How we all dread sitting in the plane waiting. Then with all the regulations that you can’t do this or that, it often feels like you are losing valuable time. For these past seven years, I’ve felt as though I was sitting on the runway, losing valuable time. Time to get on with my life, time to move from my house I can’t sell, time that I don’t have friends I have prayed for. The list goes on and on. God is at the controls. He has said “no, you can’t leave yet.”

I know someday God will take say, “you can take off now.” I have also accepted it may never be while on this earth. Yet, if I don’t keep the faith that God will take me out of this difficult time, then I would lose all hope. My faith is what has enabled me to keep on the path.

Even the message a week ago reminded us God never reveals His plan until it will glorify Him.  I know this is the reason many of us are on God’s tarmac.  We can’t change it. No amount of whining or complaining will remove us even one second earlier.  While I’m waiting and diligently praying, thank you to each of you for your kind words and reminders there is truly a purpose in all of this.  Psalm 27:14 NKJ, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.”