Thursday, September 29, 2011

How To Never Miss An Appointment

There is this word I have always loved. Serendipity. Isn't that a cool word? Saying it makes me feel all intellectual and stuff. I looked it up and it means: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. Great word. Too bad I don't completely believe in it. What I mean to say is that I think it is a word that was made up to try to explain something that can't be logically explained. Well thankfully, dear readers, I am here to clear this up for you because I have figured out that serendipity is really what happens when God steps into your daily life and uses events and people to shake things up and answer prayers. I know what some of you are thinking. Here she goes again with the whole God and miracles and faith thing. That's okay, go ahead and roll your eyes and get it over with but stay with me for a minute while I give you some examples of what I'm talking about that are hard to argue with.

In a post last year, I explained about our struggles with infertility. Here's a recap. We lived in Corpus Christi, Tx and were trying to figure out how to finance and carry out an attempt at IVF (In vitro fertilization). Our insurance didn't cover the cost (about $20,000) and the closest clinic was in San Antonio. Late one night, I was messing around on the computer and discovered that only a handful of states had mandatory insurance coverage for IVF. I was bummed to say the least, but I never stopped praying for God to make a way. One day I randomly said to David "Hey, I know...we could just pack up and move to Massachusetts and then it would all be paid for! Hahahahaha!!" At that point moving to Massachusetts was about as likely a probability for us as moving to Mars. Seriously. No reason to even consider it. And yet...3 weeks later David got a totally random call (he was not looking to change jobs) from a headhunter who said he had thought of David for a potential job opportunity but thought he probably wouldn't be interested because it was in (you guessed it...) MASSACHUSETTS! David got the job and in an act of blind obedience and childlike faith, we moved to Massachusetts. Two cycles of IVF and 3 babies later we were convinced of the power of a 'divine appointment'. Not only that but David is still employed with that company 10 years later. Serendipity? I think not. (If you'd like, you can read the entire story here:

I could share countless other stories like this but one is fresh in my mind and is actually what inspired this post to begin with. It's on my mind because it just happened yesterday. What strikes me the most about what happened is how many weird mishaps had to come together with perfect precision in order for the divine appointment to take place and bear the unbelievable fruit that it did. I left this divine appointment forever changed and I'm thinking it might have been the same for the person with whom the appointment took place. First of all, yesterday was a typical blur of activity around here. Mattie and Michael were invited to participate in the "See you at the Pole" event at their school. Michael shared a statement of faith and Mattie recited a prayer. So precious. Right after that I had a volunteer meeting and then had to race home to meet the glass repair guys. As I walked over to the window to check out the repair, out of the corner of my eye, I 'happened' to notice a paper on the table that looked like an incomplete piece of homework that belonged to Michael. I was annoyed because Michael has a habit of forgetting things and I have to make a lot of trips up to the school to bail him out and besides, I had just left there!

I came so close to just blowing it off but something kept compelling me to take it up there. I was unaware of the time and just drove up to the school to tell the teacher to be sure he sat out at recess to get his work done. I walked down the hall to Michael's classroom only to find out that the paper in question was NOT homework and that I had accidentally arrived just in time for lunch. Both kids saw me in the hall and begged me to go to lunch with them. Not in my plans at all. Still, I was there and decided to have lunch with them even though I usually eat with them on Fridays. We picked a table we don't normally sit at and it was there that my attention was drawn to a striking woman at the end of the table and I started making conversation with her in the noisy cafeteria. After lunch was over and the kids went back to class, she and I were still talking and the conversation took a serious and very personal turn. I won't go into the details but we sat through 3 lunch periods in the corner of a noisy cafeteria; two women, virtual strangers brought together by shared experiences, and I poured into her and she blessed me and it was unbelievable the things we shared with one another. I was put in that lunchroom at exactly the right time and so was she. I walked away in a daze, my mind whirling with the transforming and healing power of God!

I know you must have had similar encounters and events in your own lives. We all do but I don't think for a minute that they are a random phenomenon or accident. Serendipity my foot! God is an on purpose God. If you are tuned in and are obedient to His directed whisperings into your spirit, you will never, ever have to miss an opportunity for a divine appointment. How cool is that?



Monday, September 26, 2011

Barefoot In The Park With a Princess

Being a mom is hard work. The hours are long. The duties are many. The pay is not that great but the benefits are beyond price. I love my job. It is my vocation to which I am ideally suited. There is really nothing I would rather do. Really, I mean that. After hearing that glowing review of life as a stay home mom, you would think I just contentedly cruise through life in my SUV aka 'mommy-mobile' bestowing knowing, happy smiles upon all of the other fulfilled and joyful mommies as we pass one another in the car rider lines and on our way to various sports practices and games. Yeah, well...think again.

My life is anything but glamorous. There are days when I am completely consumed with the needs of others and forget to brush my own hair before leaving the house. My calendar is full and I allow myself to become over-extended and over-committed. I tend to deprive myself of sleep and over-indulge myself with food. It should really be the other way around, wouldn't you agree?  I am plagued with an affliction my friend Carrie refers to as 'housecleaning ADD' which means that I can't clean one room without going somewhere else in the house to put something away and becoming distracted in that room and then repeating the process until I have wasted a big chunk of valuable time. Heck, while I'm being honest here, I might as well tell you that I secretly hate doing housework of every kind. Especially laundry. Problem is, I also can't stand a messy house, so I have to do it anyway. If it were up to me, I would employ a daily housekeeper that just did everything so I could be up at the school volunteering or be on my computer blogging or out running errands or whatever. Unfortunately, it is not up to me. I can't see hubby footing the bill for that. He loves me but there are limits.

Weekends can be pretty busy around here and it's going to be even more crazy in a few weeks when the boys start their football games. I will be doing what I call 'the gopher routine' where I have to keep popping up in various places at various times to be sure I can be there to support all of them. By the grace of God I will manage...I always do but it isn't easy and there will be tears (mine or theirs) because at some point I will inevitably fall short of someone's expectations and will disappoint them by not being there. Occupational hazard, I guess.

Knowing what is around the corner in the days to come makes the unexpected gift of this past Saturday even more of a blessing. I spent the day at the football field with my 7 year old daughter who is a mini-pom cheerleader for the TIFI football league. She LOVES cheerleading and I love watching her out there. We were having so much fun that I declared the rest of the day 'Mama and Mattie' day. We came home and got all dressed up, put on our high heels and went out to dinner at our favorite mexican food restaurant. As we were finishing dinner and having ice cream I looked across the table at her and just felt my heart swell. This beautiful miracle, my daughter, is such a precious little girl. She makes me so proud and in that moment I was overwhelmed with love and didn't want our special time together to come to an end just yet.

My Mattie girl at Iguana Joe's
for Girl's Night Out
And then I had an idea. It was almost sunset. I said "Mattie are you up for an adventure?" Eyes shining mischievously, she said "Yes, let's do it...where are we going?" I told her she would have to wait and see. As we drove along, she was excitedly peppering me with questions and guesses about where we were going. As we pulled into the big new city park she said "Mama, are you crazy? We can't play on the playground, we're in dresses and high heels!" My response? "Well I guess we'll just have to go barefoot, won't we?" Giggling, shoes in hand, we raced barefoot up the hill to the playground. We ran over the bridge across the stream holding hands. We skipped down the sidewalk (yes, you heard me right...I skipped!) singing the theme song to Barbie's Island Princess movie (which neither of us knew the real words to so we made up funny ones of our own) and we gave each other a private concert under the emerging stars as we danced together in the amphitheater. God masterfully painted the twilight sky with an amazing palette of lavender, orange and purple and we watched in wonder as it reflected off of the shimmering lake. We knew He had created this sunset especially for us. Mattie and I walked out onto the pier, bowed our heads, held hands and said a heartfelt prayer to God for our amazing day together and for the gift of each other. As we walked back to the car, the wind was blowing spray from the fountain and we took turns with our arms open wide

Princess Matelaine of Kingsbury
4am at our Party in honor of
The Royal Wedding of William and Kate
embracing the mist on the breeze and soaking up the the feeling of the night. It was one of those moments in life, captured forever in my heart, that was absolutely perfect in every way.

Heaven on earth is skipping barefoot in the park with my princess and countless other little adventures that are made merely from the magical elements of my precious children, a moment in time and a little imagination.

Yes, being a mom is hard work. The hours are long. The duties are many. The pay is not that great but the benefits are beyond price. I love my job.



Thursday, September 22, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: I Don't Want To Hear It

I don't care to watch the news anymore. I like Anderson Cooper 360 but I think that's mostly because of his 'Ridiculist.' He's cool and quirky and somehow the news, coming from him, doesn't seem quite so scary. Plus he has a great head of hair, as is required for all important TV news anchormen. I also occasionally watch The Daily Show with John Stewart. He's hilariously funny and technically he doesn't really report the actual news. (Naturally, he also has great hair). I don't watch the news because it is overwhelming and depressing. I hear a lot of arguing and posturing and I don't really trust any of them to help me understand the facts in any real way. And politics? Don't even get me started. The news media doesn't serve our government very effectively. Let's put it this way: My drivers license says I live in the State of Texas but I really reside in the great state of Denial. Do I seem socially irresponsible to you? Like the infamous ostrich with its head buried in the sand? Before you pass judgment on me, allow me to explain.

If you are a regular reader, you know that the beginning of my life was filled with drama, chaos and violence. I am completely and utterly turned off by all of those things. I make a concerted effort to create an atmosphere in my home of peace, stability and love. In order to be able to maintain that level of peace around here I have learned that my attitude and my emotional status seem to set the tone for the household as a whole. Translated: 'If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody gonna be happy.' If I am stressed and frustrated it tends to trickle down to everyone...even the dog. The same is true if I am positive and relaxed. It is in my best interests to keep my family on an even keel and so I have to find ways to keep my stress level under control. For me, this means less exposure to the message of gloom and doom being broadcast 24/7.

Sometimes, though...I get sucked in. Today, I saw a link on Facebook about a big controversy between Greta Van Susteren and Tucker Carleson (I have no idea if I spelled their names correctly or which network they are with and sorry...but I'm too lazy to check it out). Anyway, the brouhaha was over a radio interview on ESPN in which Mike Tyson was saying some incredibly degrading and disturbing things about Sarah Palin. I won't lower myself to repeat what Mike Tyson said. You can look it up if you want to. Why he has been invited to speak on the radio or anywhere else is completely beyond me. That's all I'm going to say about him. What interests me is that the argument between GVS and TC got completely derailed and they spent 5 minutes fighting over how the story broke and whether it should have come out at all, and how their respective networks handled the story, etc. Meanwhile, they seemed to be TOO BUSY ARGUING to report the real news; that Mike Tyson had gone way out of bounds and his behavior was a complete disgrace and why did the guys at ESPN even allow, much less laugh and go along with his vulgar nonsense? And why isn't the whole country completely outraged at a convicted rapist making these statements about ANY woman much less Sarah Palin? They made it all about themselves. This really got me wound up, ya'll.

I was sitting on the bed next to my son who is home sick with Strep and I was visibly annoyed. He knew something was up and asked me if I was okay. I shut off my computer and pulled him into my lap. As my mind cleared and peace returned, I had a little mini-revelation. The thing is, Mike Tyson and his obvious deep-rooted issues are really none of my business. I am not a person of authority or a lawmaker who has any influence on his behavior. I'm not a particular fan of Sarah Palin but I feel empathy for her and the members of her family. Still, she is none of my business, either. She has made a choice to maintain a strong presence in the public eye and has to deal with the perks and the problems that come with it. In the meantime, this family and everyone in it is my circle of influence. I have a son to keep occupied and dinner to plan and a lost library book to find and kids to pick up from school and a million other ordinary things that do fall under my jurisdiction.

"Wait just a minute," you might be saying..."we are a global community. What affects one of us affects us all." True. But let's throw the whole scenario into reverse, shall we? Let's say that I left my oven on while I ran out to pick up my kids from school and something went wrong and my house burned down. Say I left my dog in the house and he didn't make it out. This would be a tragedy of epic proportions to my family and I. We would be devastated. Wiped out. Uprooted and displaced. The community would most likely pull together to help us out. It would be big news around here. But it wouldn't be of any concern to Mike Tyson or Sarah Palin, would it? I wouldn't expect either of them to rush to our aid. Why? Because they don't even know me. I don't know them, either. I just know of them. The ripples in my little pond are not going to be noticeable on the shore of their lives. I'm okay with that.

Let me be clear...I care deeply for the hurting and the lost and there are things I can do. I can pray God's wisdom for that situation. I can send financial help and resources where they are needed in times of crisis. I can be a blessing to everyone that God puts in my path or within my reach...there is plenty to do right here in my own community. I can shine my light on situations that concern me right here in my little blog. I can be a conduit of peace and love for my family. I can pray for peace and unity in our country and the world. I know that God is in control and that nothing that happens in this world comes as a surprise to Him. Ultimately, I am called to do this: Trust in the Lord my God with all of my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I am to trust Him. Completely. This means I must concern myself with being about God's business in my daily life. He can handle the business of the world quite capably without my interference and when and if He needs my help, believe me...I'll know it. Until then...for me, NO news is good news.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe. ~Psalm 4:8



Monday, September 19, 2011

Love The One You're With

It's Sunday night and I'm just sitting here thinking about what a great weekend it has been. We really needed it. It was a great ending to what had been a crazy week for all of us. Mattie has two different cheerleading teams that have practices on 3 different days. David is the head coach of Patrick's flag football team and Michael is playing flag football on another team that practices at a different time and location. I have worship team rehearsal on Tuesdays. David and I barely saw each other and when we did (and I'm going to be completely honest here) I was often a little bit grumpy and/or in a rush. I would blame my attitude on hormones or lack of sleep but that would be the easy way out and I'm sure nobody really wants to hear about my hormones anyway.

This weekend we reconnected and had some wonderful family time. As things began to slow down, I was reminded of what a great man I'm married to and what an awesome father he is and how blessed I am to have him in my life. I proceeded to tell him so at every available opportunity. I could tell he really needed to hear those words and I really needed to say them. I apologized to him for my grouchy and impatient moments and asked his forgiveness. He, being the gracious soul that he is, accepted my apology with open arms. I, being reasonably intelligent and grateful, ran into them immediately. Great weekend.

I wasn't always lucky in love. Remember that old song from the '80's called "Love's Been a Little Bit Hard On Me?" Well, I can certainly relate. Whether it is family relationships, friendships or romance, I'm one to give my heart completely and without much reservation. I don't seem to be able to do it any other way. What is given freely can sometimes be taken for granted, and sometimes at great emotional expense to everyone involved. Sometimes people grow apart. It just happens even though we wish it wouldn't. I have often been one to hold on and try to keep working at relationships that were long dead and deserved a decent burial. I'm working on that issue but being the optimist that I am...I can't seem to help but keep hope alive in the back of my mind that everything will work out in the end. That's just what I do. I hope. I'm a 'hoper.' Cool. I made a new word.

When David and I met and fell in love I knew way down deep that I was in it for life. It really was the first time I had ever felt that way. I just knew. He wasn't the most likely choice for me, or I for him for that matter, but we chose each other anyway. I am outgoing and outspoken and, well...'out there' while he is laid back, practical and even-keeled. We totally balance each other out. Once, one of our friends asked David why we worked so well as a couple. He said (I'll never forget this) "I give her structure and she gives me life." He says cool things like that. It is true, though. We compliment each other. Both figuratively and literally. We have both made it a practice in our marriage to be kind out loud. We are each other's best friend and biggest fan. I think he is the best thing going. He thinks the same about me.

For us, love is not just a feeling. It is a way of life. It is at the center of every interaction in our family. When we became 'we' I had to alter the idea of 'me.' When I became a wife and subsequently a mother I realized that life was not all about me anymore. To be frank, I wasn't doing all that great on my own anyway. I didn't like going it alone. So, now I'm not functioning in the role of an individual anymore. The needs of the team have to come first. That is what love really is, isn't it? Putting the needs and desires of others above your own.

Do I have 'poor me' moments? Sure I do. I had a few last week. That usually happens when I allow myself to become overwhelmed and convince myself that I am doing everything in my own strength. So silly of me because without the grace and mercy of God, I would have nothing. He always picks me up and places me back on solid ground. Then I remember that God gave me an amazing partner in life and I know I can do anything as long as I stick with him. The truth is, even if I did not have David in my life, I am secure in the fact that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. With that knowledge comes unsurpassed peace.

My challenge is this: Be mindful of those God has given you to love and do it openly with unbridled enthusiasm. Shower them with (sincere) compliments. Speak words of love and encouragement in place of judgement and criticism. Sow seeds of faith into them so they know you believe in them. Love freely and without the expectation that your actions will be returned exactly as they are given. Forgive and forget. Be generous and verbal with your applause for their accomplishments. Be kind out loud. Love. Really, actively love the ones you are with every day. I guarantee this will have a boomerang effect on your relationships. That's right...I said guaranteed. Or your money back.  (Minus shipping and handling, of course).



Friday, September 16, 2011

I'll Tell You Where You Can Stick Your Labels

I've got a question for you all. (Aren't ya'll proud I didn't say ya'll?) Why do you think people are so quick to label one another? Especially in a negative light. I can remember being labeled going all the way back to early childhood. My mother used to tell people "My oldest daughter is the smart one, my middle daughter is the artistic one and my youngest (me) is the funny one." See, I understand why she said it but looking is really interesting how I was convinced, early on, that being 'the funny one' in her eyes somehow disqualified me from being smart or artistic. I was labeled and that was that. I believed what she believed was true about me. I'm not picking on her...but now that I am a parent, I have a new perspective and I realize how important it is to be careful not to label my kids. Especially in their presence. They are who they are. They are complex little human beings and to label them is to confine them. I don't want to do that.

I was watching CNN the other day (I try not to make it a habit) and it was so wild to me how the various talking heads were telling all of us mush-brained zombies out in TV Land what to think and feel about this person and that person just because (now follow along closely here...) they said so. And I was going right along with it at first because that's what we mush-brained zombies do, occurred to me that I really had no earthly idea if they were right or wrong about the targets of their verbal slings and arrows. I never actually did any of my own fact finding about these individuals, I just 'read the labels' the media had slapped on them and didn't even think twice. Why do we do that? I don't know about you, but I'm going to make the effort to do more of my own research from now on.

It made me think: How many times a day do we make snap judgments according to the label someone has put on someone else? "She's a snob." "He's a cheater." "They are poor." " She's bossy and demanding." "Their kids are spoiled brats." "That kid has ADHD." "She's totally Schizo." And so on. All of these characterizations may be spot on. Or maybe they are not. But how often do we hear these things and just go along with it without allowing the person the courtesy of drawing our own conclusions and giving them the benefit of the doubt?  Probably too often. Have you ever gotten to know someone and thought to yourself "this person is nothing like I thought they would be. How did I misjudge them? " It is most likely because of blindly accepting the label someone else had stamped on them without giving yourself an opportunity to get to know them first. Preconceived notions can really get in the way of our relationships sometimes, can't they?

Not long ago, I was talking with someone close to me about this blog. She actually said this: "Why are you spending so much of your time doing that? You're not even a writer. You're a mom. Doesn't being a mom keep you busy enough?" I was floored. Yes, I'm a mom. I'm also a wife. I'm a writer. I'm a singer. I'm a decorator. I'm a school volunteer. I'm a pretty fair (completely unqualified) counselor when someone asks for my help. I'm a child of God. These things are not mutually exclusive. These are just some truths about me. Of course there are other truths about me that aren't as flattering. I'm a person with talents and flaws just like everyone else. I don't need labels. Neither do you. Neither does anyone else.

A famous person once said 'labels are for jars...not for people. Those are my sentiments exactly. In fact, I'll tell you where you can stick your label: how about on a can of Spam or any place else as long as it isn't on me. I'll try to return the favor and keep the labels off you, too. :o)

I'll leave you with this quote by one of my favorites:

“Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let man label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country- hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of.”  ~Mark Twain

Yeah. What he said.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Heart Of Stone

I'll freely admit to you, right up front, that I believe in fairy tales. Sort of. What I mean is...I believe that two people in love can live happily ever after. I believe in the power of things unseen. I believe there is more to this world than just what we can pick up with our five senses. I believe in miracles. I have no choice in the matter. I have seen miracles, I have heard of miracles, My children are miracles, I, myself, am a miracle. Go me naive and gullible. (It's okay, I don't won't be the first). It won't faze me. I know what I know.

When my daddy died unexpectedly, I was devastated. Completely undone. We were close even though we didn't see each other very often. He was the only person I had known up to that time in my life to love me unconditionally. I felt my world had shifted on its axis. If you've ever lost a parent, you understand. We had made a promise to each other that if either of us 'went' first, we would send the other a sign. I looked around in the days and weeks following his death for something, anything to let me know he was okay. I got nothing. Nada. I was disappointed, to say the least.

Some of
Daddy's feathers
Some time passed and I went out on a date (can't remember the guy's name for some reason) and saw the movie Forrest Gump. During the scene at the end when Forrest is talking to Bubba at his grave site...I lost it. All of my pent up grief and loneliness came pouring out and I was blubbering inappropriately out loud in the theater. This probably explains why I don't remember my date's name. I'm sure he never called me again! At the end I finally collected myself and was able to see the part at the end with the little white feather floating in the air. It was night time as we left the theater and fairly windy. Right as I was opening the car door, something made me look down, and right by the toe of my shoe, were two perfect little white feathers. One was smaller than the other and I knew in that instant that my daddy had sent me my sign. Right on time and right at the moment I needed it most! Since that day, at almost every important moment of my life, there has been a perfect little white feather drifting near me, sitting beside me, falling on me or even in one case swimming in front of my eyes while I was snorkeling in Hawaii. I know it is him. Loving, encouraging and consoling me just like he always has. I still have every feather he's ever sent me, including the one I found ON MY PILLOW (no, we didn't have any feather pillows) the day after my surgery when the Dr. said we would not be able to have children. I saw that feather and I just knew we would receive a miracle and have the baby we were praying for.  How did I know? Because Daddy said so. Most of you know the rest of the story. If it is:

What does any of this have to do with a heart of stone? Well, I'm about to get to that. A few years ago after going through a difficult time, God sent me my first 'heart rock.' It was a stone in the shape of a heart. It came right after a very direct request to God that He show me a tangible sign of His love. Since that time, I have found some very special heart rocks and have a little collection. I have had opportunities to pass some of them along to certain people when I feel like they may need a sign of God's love the way I did that time when I prayed for one. Some of them are very special and I will always hold on to them. One in particular.

While on vacation in Maine recently, we were looking for heart rocks every day along the shore. Maine is a really rocky place so trying to find one shaped like a heart is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. We simply had no luck. We had been praying for God to send us one as a memento of our vacation but on the day before we left, Mattie came to me and said "Mama, our prayer didn't get answered." I explained to her that sometimes the answer to our prayers seems like a 'no' but is really just a 'not yet.' I told her we were still in Maine and basically, 'It ain't over 'til it's over.'

That afternoon, she and her older cousins left to gather blueberries up in the woods behind the house. The girls somehow lost their way and used the cell phone to call us and ask us to come and find them. At one point the girls were beside a big rock and David told them to stay put so we would not be chasing a moving target. They moved on eventually and we found them shaken and scared but none the worse for the wear. When we got back to the house there was chaos and noise as the girls settled back in and shared their adventure with everyone.

The following morning we were busy loading the car and getting ready to head to the airport. Mattie approached me and said "Mama...I forgot to give you something." She opened her little hand and sitting on her palm was the most perfectly formed heart rock I've seen yet. "It's for you, Mama," she said in her sweet little voice. I asked her where it came from and here is her story: When the girls were lost in the woods and David had told them to 'stay by the rock' (the symbolism of that is not lost on me, either), Mattie had put her feet on the ground and happened to look down and see the heart rock right beside the toe of her sneaker. She told me that when she saw it, it gave her hope and she knew in that moment that God would guide her Daddy right to her and they would be found. She remembered that God's answer was not 'no' it was 'not yet.' Mattie's 7 year old mind and spirit understood something we could all do to remember. That God's timing is perfect. It may not always feel like it but is is. Mattie pointed out that if we had found the heart rock earlier in the week, she wouldn't have been looking for another one and would have missed God's message of hope and encouragement to her right when she needed it the most.
Mattie and
Maine Heart

Yes, I believe in the signs and wonders of God's world. I see the beauty around me because that's what I'm looking for. I feel God's love because that's what I am seeking with all of my heart. I see the hearts of people because that is the part of them that appeals to me the most. I've learned that we are usually surrounded by that which we believe in the most. I believe in family. I believe in the power of love. I believe in miracles. Most importantly...I believe in the 'solid rock' whose unfailing love lives forever in my heart.

What do you believe in?



Thursday, September 8, 2011

It's Not Your Mama's Fault-Part 2

Okay, so where were we? Oh, that's right...I left off right at the point where I was officially 'emancipated' at the age of 16. Whew. Heavy. Just sitting here recalling and writing this stuff takes me back. My teenage life had been a whirlwind of changes; from living in a house with 9 bedrooms and six bathrooms with a swimming pool and a tennis court, to going through my mom and step-dad's divorce and moving into a mobile home, to getting thrown out in the middle of the night on my proverbial bum. I remember being outwardly full of bluster and bravado and scared witless on the inside.

There were angels along the way. My sister, Sarah tried to take me in a time or two. I was too much of a handful for a 21 year old girl who, for all her good intentions and maturity, just couldn't offer me the guidance and discipline I desperately needed. There were my friends' parents, even their siblings, who offered me shelter but it was always temporary and I knew I was a burden even though they tried to make me feel otherwise. The bottom line was...I was on my own. For a while there, I lived in my '71 Chevy Chevelle and ate a lot of Fritos and bologna sandwiches. I showered at a public shower in a trailer park down by the Rio Grande River. I was dead broke and had no financial support. I had to ask strangers to 'borrow' their shampoo. I got a job as a waitress at a coffee shop. Not exactly the glamorous life. I moved to Dallas and stayed with my sister for a while and then ended up landing a job leasing apartments where I was offered an on-site apartment as part of my salary. I was so young. Way too young to be unchaperoned, unattended and alone. Naturally, I made mistakes. Big Texas-sized mistakes.

I'm not going to bore you with the gory details. Let's suffice it to say that a teenage girl who feels lonely and unloved in a big scary world is in danger of herself and of predators. Praise God I am a tough little sailor and although I was tossed about in some ferocious waves, I miraculously weathered the storm a bit bruised and battered but with no permanent damage. When I look back on those days I see God's angels were furiously working overtime to keep me safe not only from others but honestly, mainly, from myself. To sum it up: I survived. And I've thrived. I live an amazing, blessed and prosperous life. How? Unfailing hope, faith, tenacity and God's unbelievable, endless love, grace and mercy. I just believed way down deep that I was created to do great things. No circumstance or setback ever seemed too great to overcome. I am (as someone once put it) annoyingly resilient. :0)

Was I ever discouraged, depressed, anxious, humiliated, despondent, embarrassed, rejected, or abandoned? Most definitely, yes. In my lifetime I have experienced all of those things and more. So what? Does that make me special? Do I deserve a free pass to the front of the lines at the rides at Disneyland? Of course not. We all have a story. Most of us have experienced pain, loss and consequences of poor choices. That's life. It's part of the deal. What we decide to do when we are at our lowest points in life will determine how we move forward. What do I choose to do when I'm at my lowest point? Go lower! I hit my knees. Or put my face on the ground and SURRENDER! I beg for God to forgive me. To empty me of myself and my pride and my foolish choices and to fill me up with Himself, instead. This is a NO FAIL solution to my life's most difficult tangles and trials. You may not believe but that doesn't matter. I know that I know what I know. Jesus is alive in me. And you. He is not a myth or a fantasy, He is a tangible, living, loving God who cares about the most intimate details of your life. Nothing is hidden from His view. Let Him in and you will be transformed. Alrighty, then...end of sermon.

Okay...let me catch my breath. Some of you probably read Part 1 and thought, that poor thing...her mother ruined her life. Her parents screwed up her life because they were selfish. She was abused and abandoned and rejected. Well, so was Jesus. So are many. So what? Listen to me closely, my beautiful friends: You may not like hearing this but it is true...if you are an adult or a young person making adult choices and you get off track...IT"S NOT YOUR MAMA'S FAULT. There, I said it.

Now don't get me wrong...parents have a profound obligation and responsibility to love, respect, protect and guide their children. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously as a parent. The problem is, not all parents do. They should...but they don't for whatever reason. My mother's parents failed her, too. Sometimes we have to grow up too fast. I can wish all day long that things had been different. (I have). I can sit around and wallow in the pit of my parents' poor decisions and choices. (I've done that, too). But at the end of the day, the responsibility for myself and my life and my choices are on ME and me alone. My mama and her messed up stuff are irrelevant now. I have a husband to love and a family to raise and a legacy of abuse and neglect and alcoholism to dismantle and destroy. I have decided...It ends with me. (In Jesus' name). Blaming and being a victim earns me NOTHING. Zip. Zero. It just perpetuates the cycle. I'm resolutely unwilling to do that. I'll say it again...It ends with ME. Period.

If I sound harsh, it is because I have seen so many creative, beautiful, talented people waste so much time of their lives being bitter, disappointed, and angry children living inside of their adult bodies. If you have trouble with unforgiveness and anger, find a trustworthy friend or counselor and unburden yourself. Lay it all out and deal with it once and for all. Most importantly, run with your arms outstretched toward the One who gave it all for you. Nobody understands your pain and suffering like He does. You can move out of darkness and resentment and brokenness toward healing, forgiveness, and wholeness. Listen...if I can do it, seriously, anyone can. You have nothing to lose and you'll gain your freedom in the process.

Take it easy on yourself. All it takes to get started is a desire to forgive. As I said before, it was a long process for me. The payoff? Ironically, I am finally, truly emancipated! I'm free to see my mother as she really was. A sick, sad, scared, confused and lonely woman who just did the best she could with what she had. She was dealing with the consequences of some poor choices. She wanted to be a good mother. She tried. She had some great shining moments that I will never forget. She loved me with all that she had. She just never could quite pull it together. I wish she was here now so I could pull her into my arms and hold her. I forgive her. I love her. Some sweet day I will look into her beautiful eyes and have that moment of reconciliation. But for now...all is well. Or as the song goes: It is well with my soul. Freedom feels good.

Be blessed,

Please take a moment to listen to this song that my mother, Jane, and I used to sit on her big bed and sing together. She meant every word she sang to me in those moments. I honor her memory with this post. I know she is proud of me for speaking out so that other people can see beyond the pain of the past and into their very own future full of promise and possibility.

I love you, Mommy.

Monday, September 5, 2011

It's Not Your Mama's Fault-Part 1

I never fully forgave my mother until after she passed away. I guess it happens that way sometimes. I had made attempts to forgive her and had told her she was forgiven but the pain and the scars ran deep and would resurface at the most inopportune times. The thing is...I had wanted to forgive her for a long time for both of our sake. I wanted to move on and forget and to have some semblance of a healthy relationship on an adult level. I wanted her to know her grandchildren. I wanted to love her and to be loved in return. The thing is, she just made it so hard.

Let me go back a little so I can catch you up. If you are a regular reader, you know my mom had a mental illness that held her fast with an iron grip. She was such a mess of contradictions. Stunningly beautiful but painfully insecure. Creative and talented but unmotivated and uninspired. Witty and mischievous but apathetic and bitingly sarcastic. Accepting and loving of others but easily irritated and annoyed by her own children. She was vigorously loving life one minute and then suicidal and despondent the next. She was relentlessly demanding of those closest to her but generous to a fault with strangers. She openly admitted to being resentful of the shackles of motherhood and told me quite often that she wished I would just 'disappear.'

Don't get me mother was a really unique and special woman. She truly and deeply loved me. That I know with absolute certainty. There weren't many things she couldn't do well. We had a lot of laughs and special moments that were ours alone. When we got together sometimes we could trade witty repartee that would leave us both joyfully weak with laughter. In a way, I think that was a blessing and a curse. If she had been hard and hateful and dismissive all of the time, it would have made her rejection less agonizing. I so desperately wanted my sparkling, witty, beautiful loving and affectionate mother all the time. Unfortunately that version of her was a fleeting visitation from what sometimes seemed to be a phantom figment of my imagination. Her illness was in control more often than not. She failed me in the most painful way imaginable. She chose to look the other way as my stepfather serially abused her little girls. She did not do what mothers have been created to do since the beginning of time: Simply, she failed to protect me. Epic fail.

When I was sixteen, my mother had since divorced my step dad, my sisters were grown and I was alone in the house with my mom. She was drinking way too much and was on some pretty heavy duty medications. She was trying to hold down a job as a secretary to the president of a bank. She was overwhelmed. She was not herself. She became unreasonable and violent and completely uninterested in being a mother anymore. How do I know this? Because she told me so quite often. I became rebellious and angry. I was scared to be alone with her and my schoolwork became completely unimportant to me as my home life was such a distraction. I was so ashamed of my situation. I began spinning tall tales to my friends to try to make my life seem normal or even glamorous. My school counselor actually suggested  to my mother that she should release me as an emancipated minor so that I could be free to make my own decisions for my life and could live full time with a friend and her parents. This made her furious, as she felt I had betrayed her by going to the counselor for help. A few nights later my mother was not in her right mind and after an argument, she handed me a $20 bill, pushed me out the front door in the dark of night, and instructed me to leave and never come back. Scared, angry, and heartbroken for the millionth time by her rejection I walked in the dark a few miles down a deserted country road and made it to a convenience store with a pay phone. I called my friend's mother to come and rescue me and thus ended the last day under the oppressive jurisdiction of my mother. I had imagined when that day came, I would feel liberated. I was not relieved. Just alone and broken.

Weeks later, without even speaking to me, my mother signed the papers and I was officially made an emancipated minor. I had no idea of the implications of that except that my mom was no longer responsible for me in any way. I was adrift with no rudder and headed for the rocks. I'd like to tell you that someone swooped in to save me but that was not to be. I ended up smashing into the rocks into a thousand pieces. It would take me many years of bad (and some good) choices, failed relationships, some seriously hard knocks, and a burning desire and determination to succeed and overcome plus the incredible power of the love of God to put this broken little girl back together again.

Reading this back to myself reminds me just what an absolute walking miracle I am. I also want to point out that I am nobody's victim and am not looking for sympathy here. Mine is a tale of victory. There is just a huge lesson to be learned by the telling of this story. I'll get around to that in my next post because I don't want to overwhelm you all at once so for now I'll just say:

To be continued.....


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Life With A Porpoise

When I was a little girl, I used to get words confused which made for some pretty interesting thoughts and ideas which would lead (eventually) to some profound 'a-ha' moments. I'll give you a few examples. There was a warehouse on Highway 83 in McAllen, Texas that had a sign bearing the name "Bull Parts." For many years, I grew quite disturbed when we passed it because it made me shudder, imagining all of the 'bull parts' hanging all over the place. As a child with a vivid imagination, I wondered why on earth anyone would take apart a bull and then store the parts in a warehouse. As I got a little older I reasoned that it was a meat packing operation. Finally one day, I mentioned it to my mom and she laughed so hard she almost wee-wee'ed on herself. After regaining her composure, she explained that it was actually an auto parts store and the guy who owned it must be nicknamed 'Bull' or something. A-HA!

There was also the time when I was very little when my mother recalls me getting underfoot constantly while she was trying to set up for a party she was throwing at our house. She got down on my level and said "Catherine Elizabeth, why do you have to be so ornery?" My reply? "Well Mommy, I guess I'm just ornery the eighth, I am!" (This was back in the 60's when there was a popular song by Herman and the Hermits singing about Hen-er-y the Eighth). Most of you won't get that because that was waaay before your time. It's before my time, too. Here, let me just show you the video. Don't bother watching the whole thing, the 2nd verse is the same as the first. Ha.
(By the way, this must be one of the most bizarre and ridiculous songs ever written but we must take into account that it was recorded back in the '60's and  people weren't known for always being, shall we say, in their right minds.) A-HA!

Okay, moving on...There was another thing that perplexed me, which was: how come so many people either had, were seeking out, or were simply contemplating a porpoise in life. People were even doing things on porpoise, for crying out loud, the poor things! I mean, why was everyone so interested in a fish, (this was before I learned it was a mammal) anyway? Yes, that's right folks, I was not the brightest bulb on the string back then and had confused the words purpose and porpoise.  A-HA! This also brought my mother much amusement and she never let me live it down.

Why am I sharing these little embarrassing childhood reminisces with you right now? Well don't worry there is a porpoise purpose for bringing this up. Lately I have been hearing a lot of people talk about purpose. What is it? What is our purpose in life? What is God's purpose for us, etc. and it got me thinking about the word and what it really means. Webster defines purpose as follows: a : something set up as an object or end to be attained : intention b : resolution, determination. 2. : a subject under discussion or an action in course of execution. 

Okay, so what does this mean to you and I? It means that unless we want to float around aimlessly in the wind like the white feather in the movie Forrest Gump, we need to attempt to establish the main reason for our presence on planet Earth. We have to figure out what we are here for. Where are you in this process?

When I was younger, I had a similar type of confusion trying to understand my purpose in life as I did understanding certain words. I had some major misconceptions. I thought I knew what I was doing but realized later that I was off base and needed to rethink some things. That's what being young is for, right? I used to think the world revolved around me and my happiness, and my fulfillment and my desires. And sure, that was fun for a while...BUT. Thanks to God moving the right people into my life (and some, out) and revealing Himself to me more and more, I've finally arrived at the realization that the reason I'm here is not really about me after all. (Gasp!) I've come to realize that it's ALL about the Creator (God) not the creature (me).

Bottom line? It's not all about ME. Whew...that really takes a lot of the pressure off, doesn't it? I know now with certainty that I am here simply to give God glory. To worship Him in spirit and in truth. To be a living reflection of Christ's love for us all. To be a kingdom builder. To raise my children to do the same. That is my purpose in a nutshell. How is that going for me, you may ask? To be honest, some days are better than others. It's a process and it takes keeping a keen eye focused directly on the task at hand. It takes studying God's word and walking in obedience. I gotta tell ya, obedience can make me uncomfortable now and then and I do get distracted and lose focus from time to time but God always restores my vision and aligns my gaze back to Him. He's faithful that way. He is my purpose just as surely as I am His.

What is your purpose in life? It's definitely worth taking a pause and reflecting upon. You may be surprised what your digging will unearth about who you are and where you are going in your life. Whatever it is I pray God is directing your steps and you are walking porpoisefully in His will. Oh, know what I mean.