Friday, November 29, 2013

God is Old and He's SLOW

A girl I used to work with was a massage therapist. The best part was that while she was working out the kinks and stress from my muscles, she was also a really great listener and gave awesome advice. I used to say she was my therapist who happened to give massages because I received two services for the price of one. Her name was Gretchen and she was one of those people who is an angel on earth just when you need one. Whenever I was griping to her about something I was hoping/believing for but was not seeing any progress with, she would smack me one and say, "Girl, be patient. He hears you. Just remember that God is old and He's slow!

I always giggled when she said that because it put a funny visual in my head. But the truth is, I took a lot of wisdom out of that one little phrase that was part joke and part reminder that God is timeless and that He literally has all the time in the world to do whatever He sees fit whenever the timing is exactly right. Sometimes we have desires or needs that we want resolved immediately. Hurts we want healed. Relationships we want restored. Pain that we beg to subside. Grief that seems interminably long. We cry out to God and say "Hey, you're God. Why can't you just fix this, already!" Or something to that effect. We pray and we wait. And wait. We stretch our faith and try to keep the flicker of hope alive  as we keep on waiting. Eventually, we may be forced to move on and just hope for the best. Can you relate?

Here's a story to illustrate my point:

Once upon a time, when I was a young girl, I had that intense and overpowering experience of my first real love. He was a great guy and I thought he was perfect in every way. He was tall and handsome and strong. I had never met anyone who made me feel so special and cherished. I thought about him constantly and when we were apart, I counted the minutes until I would see him again. I was so in love and so in awe of him that I thought he was the knight in shining armor in my Cinderella story. I fantasized about all of the places we would go and things we would do together. We would be Mr.and Mrs. fabulously, perfectly happy. I was young and naive. I thought we would love each other forever and live happily ever after.

Enter: reality. My family life was falling apart. His family wasn't crazy about me or the status of my family life.(I don't blame them). I started to be afraid that he would be like so many other males I had trusted in my life and he would leave me. I had some worthiness issues. People close to me whispered into my ear that I wasn't good enough for him and that if I held onto him, I would drag him down with me and would that really be fair? Was I that selfish? Would loving me ruin his life or his future? I knew he sincerely loved me. I knew he was willing to take care of me. I knew he would stand by me but I allowed people to convince me that he would stay with me out of obligation. That he would stay by my side because he was an honorable guy and he felt sorry and responsible for me. Eventually he would see me as a liability. This pricked at my pride. Those castle walls I had imagined began to crumble. In my desperation, I began to put up emotional walls of my own. I began to rebel. I hurt him and pushed him away. I was nobody's charity case. I'm sure you can see where this is headed. To make a long story short, I began to make a series of disastrous choices that coincided with the time that I was thrown out into the world as an emancipated minor. I was afraid and alone and had lost all hope of retrieving my knight or my fairy tale. Just for good measure, by my naive and foolish actions, I blew up the castle and my heart was shattered into a million pieces in the process. ~The end

Well, not exactly. God had a plan for my life. I had a destiny to fulfill. I began trudging through the mud with the faint glimmer of hope that somehow, I would survive. I fell down and got back up countless times. I made bad choices and learned some tough lessons. Eventually, I began to work harder and make better choices. My God supplied all of my needs, if not necessarily all of my wants. As I matured and healed, I felt more and more hopeful that I would find that pure kind of healthy, unconditional love I had felt when I was younger. I let that be my ideal goal. To experience that happy ending that I believed God had meant for me. In fact, that young love experience taught me some of the most valuable lessons about love and relationship that I needed to learn in order to weed my garden of undesirables. I'm hard headed and I made mistakes but never gave up hope and prayed that when my prince finally came, I would be worthy and I would be ready for him. It took a LONG time. Remember? God is old and he's slow. Still...David came into my life at just the right time. Handsome, strong, capable and compassionate, he swept me off my feet into a life of love and security that is way more than I ever imagined and is better than I deserve. I am loved and cherished. My prayers were answered. Our family is built on a firm foundation of faith and trust. Things are great in love and life. I'm living out my fairy tale in real time.

But...there's more to the story and I'm sharing all of this personal stuff to make a point and I'm hoping it helps some of you.

Through the years, I had never really resolved the guilt and the sadness that was buried in the old rubble. I felt there was unfinished business to be dealt with. I felt I owed my former knight an explanation and an apology. I knew he had moved on and found a happy ending of his own and I was truly happy for him. Still there was a disturbance in the force, as it were, and I had held on to the pain and regret and dragged it behind me like a punishment. I even carried around a box of memorabilia with his name on it containing letters, napkins, swizzle sticks, goofy mementos and old photographs. On particularly bad days, I would drag out this box and weep rivers of regretful tears into it. The memories were comforting and painful at the same time. I guess in a way, I thought I deserved the pain and anguish. One Monday night (the same night that Joe Theismann broke his leg on Monday Night Football...yes, I'm that old...) God whispered to me through my tears that it was time to throw away the box and everything in it, including the guilt and the regret. I didn't want to obey. I stood outside under the stars on a cold, clear Dallas night, and held onto my box in front of my apartment dumpster for a long time. I didn't have the strength to let it go. I hugged the box harder and contemplated forgetting the whole thing and going back in. In that moment, I felt God's presence and a whispered promise that He would make all of my wrongs right and would give me an opportunity for resolution. The only catch was that I knew had to throw the box and the residual emotions out once and for all. With a shout of anger and grief, I hurled the box up and over the top of the dumpster and winced as I heard it's contents clinking and banging to the hollow bottom. I stood silently in the darkness and the cold and cried a while longer, then finally turned away and went inside, pulled the covers over my head and fell into an exhausted sleep. From that day on, I waited for God to fulfill his promise. Nothing happened that week or that month. Or that decade. I moved on and hoped for the best. Time marched on and so did I. The pain gradually subsided but I still prayed for peace in my spirit.

Fast forward to this week. David knows this whole story, as we were really close friends and had shared a lot of our personal triumphs and tragedies before our relationship turned into a romantic one. He has always understood me. He knows I'm soft-hearted and sentimental and that I cannot stand unresolved conflict. He knows that this issue has bothered me for a long time but that I had put it into God's hands. He's been urging me to reach out to people and to trust God to provide healing and resolution with anyone I might feel I needed to. In his words, "You have a lot to gain and nothing to lose." That's my prince. He's supportive and awesome like that. That's one of many reasons why I love him so much! A month or so ago, The knight had found me on Facebook and this week I finally summoned the courage to write to him. He responded and, just as God promised me, all those years ago, there was communication. There was resolution. There was mutual respect and we were able to finally tell each other we were glad our paths had crossed all those years ago and wished each other every happiness. He has a beautiful, loving wife and awesome kids. His story is a successful one and I'm so gratified by that. Decades later, all is well. Finally finding peace took a LONG time. But as you know, God is old and he's slow. :)

You may be praying and believing for something that seems to be taking FOREVER. You may be in a painfully dry season. I would encourage you to remember that although God may seem slow, He is never too late and is always on time. Sometimes it takes a lifetime of lessons and experiences to get us in position to fulfill our potential and purpose in Him. I know that my relationship with David is stronger because it is built on honesty and openness. I know that God had always intended for me to have the family I have (and the testimony that comes with it) from the beginning. I don't know why things went down the way they did but because of the difficulties and trials I've been through, my faith is strong and I trust God with every detail of my life. I hope you will take away from this story that God really will give you beauty for your ashes. That healing can come out of our deepest hurts and that sometimes we have to be reduced to rubble so we can be reconstructed on the solid foundation of God's love. It's a process and God may be old and slow but His perfect design for your life will always be worth the wait! Just keep moving forward and continue trusting the plan. When it gets to be too much or you get discouraged, remember what God says:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~Isaiah 55:8-9



Friday, November 15, 2013

Trickle Down (Mom)enomics

I'm back and I'm in a hurry to write this because I'm basically in a hurry to do everything these days. I guess it's just that time of year. So much going on and this year, it is compounded by the fact that my dear hubby got an amazing promotion (thank you, God) and is also in the middle of back to back turnarounds, so he is working really long and totally random hours. We see each other in passing and this will continue until after the New Year. We are making it work and the kids are transitioning okay but we all miss him and our (sort of) normal routine. It is hard for them but I'm realizing more and more as I gain experience as a mother and wife that when it comes to the family vibe...I set the tone.

Hear me out. I've had a lot of time to think about this, experiment with it and the evidence bears me out. Most of the time, when I'm calm, cool and collected, everyone in the house seems to line up with my mood. Conversely, If I'm not careful, I can send the whole clan out into their various daily lives in a stressed out, bummed out or frustrated mood simply because I fail to exercise a little self control. I'll give you an example, though it's not flattering to me, personally and is a bit embarrassing. In the spirit of mom unity and all that, I'll go ahead and put myself 'out there.'

Last week, I woke up feeling awful. My knee was hurting, I fell asleep too late, while reading, and hadn't taken my contacts out, so my eyes were dry and blurry. David was still not home from work and I allowed myself to become resentful that I had to get the kids up, fed, dressed and driven off to school (earlier than usual that day) without any help. This was particularly stupid because David is rarely here in the mornings anyway and I am perfectly capable of doing all of those things, as I always do, by myself. Besides, my kids are really compliant and generally in a good mood when they wake up, so getting  them to school is no big deal. Usually, it's my pleasure.'s my JOB.

But on this day, I was NOT in the mood. I walked into the family room and immediately began finding fault. Clothes not picked up, the kids weren't moving fast enough for me. The dog wanted out and then in and then out again. There was no food in the dog's bowl. I began grumbling purposefully loud enough to hear that I was sick and tired of having to do EVERYTHING and that I was going to start grounding them from electronics for leaving their stuff out and I was not their maid and I was nobody's personal servant and what about personal responsibility and accountability and disrespect, blah, blah, blah...I mean, I was on a roll, y'all!! I was riding them like a jockey at the Kentucky Derby. Totally out of character for me and completely unnecessary. But you moms out there will relate that once we get started like that, it's like a snowball going downhill. The momentum is too much and all of our pent up frustration comes to the surface and then before you know it, you're anger jumps out of the gate and it's off to the races. I'm ashamed to admit that I kept this up all the way to the school drop off lines. And believe me, I was justified. I was fired up with righteous indignation. I had had it.

Nothing I was saying was wrong. I had legitimate complaints. But wow, was my timing and delivery way off. My kids are sensitive and eager to please. They were sleepy and had just woken up. They are used to laughing and giggling and kisses and prayers in the morning. Talk about a blindside. The two little ones were holding back tears and sniffling and Patrick just looked shell shocked. I dropped them off and drove home still juiced up with aggravation. It wasn't until I walked back into my quiet house, mess and all, that I realized the damage I had done. Too late. At that point there was nothing I could do about it but wait until I picked them up and try to gently explain and apologize. After I had time to reflect, I realized that the whole thing was my own fault. That morning, I had become so self centered that I bypassed my usual 'Good morning. Lord...thank you for this new day' and jumped right into "poor me mode." I forgot to put God first. I zoomed in on my inconveniences and failed to take a moment to just be grateful for a new day. That's not like me but I'm human and have weak moments just like everyone else. I felt contrite and regretful all day. I asked God to forgive me but I couldn't wait to see my kids to ask for theirs, as well.

As parents, I think it is vital to openly admit our mistakes to our kids and to ask their forgiveness. THAT is how they learn accountability and personal responsibility. By modeling what they see us doing with them and with others in our lives. When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong. I don't try to be perfect in their eyes. I just want to give them my best. Sometimes my best isn't all that great but at least they see me trying and learning and growing. I feel like that's a good lesson. That no matter our age or position, we should be accountable for all that we say and do at all times. Also, that regardless of who we are or how old we may be, we are (hopefully) always learning and growing.

When I saw them that afternoon, all of my kids were noticeably a little wary and even a bit distant with me. I don't blame them. During our conversation when we got home, Patrick threw a truth bomb at me that I will never, ever forget. He said, "Mom, I  like the way we usually have fun in the mornings because I think that's a special time for us. Not all kids have moms that are fun like you. When you are griping and mad in the morning, it just ruins my whole day. I didn't even pray with us this morning. I prayed for you when I got to school that you would stop being mad at us."

Boom. We all talked it out and I was able to articulate my expectations with them and they forgave me for being a raving witch. Although it ended well, I'm left with a lesson I'll keep with me always.

Since that a-ha morning...I've made a commitment to myself to do a little mental inventory before I even open my bedroom door to be about the business of my day. I'll give Jesus His due, as the first greeting I give in the morning belongs to Him. I'll think about how I'm feeling. If I'm annoyed because I stayed up too late, I'll shake it off and tell myself to deal with it. I'll greet my husband and kids with a hug and a smile. I will gently but firmly nudge them in the direction they should go. I will do my job and set the proper tone for the day. I will encourage, uplift and pray with them as we part for the day. There will be plenty of time for reinforcing behavior and unless one of the kids is being a total pain and I have to deal with it (it happens), we will greet the day as positively as possible. That is on me. Why me? Because I am the grown up, I am the mom and wife, and whether I understand why or's my responsibility to set the tone in my household. The tone I choose is peaceful, calm, patient and loving. With God's mercy and grace...I can at least do that. Call it 'trickle down Momenomics.'

Will I get this right every day? Probably not but I'm determined and usually that means I will succeed. When I do slip up, I'll own it, apologize for it and ask for a do-over. Sounds a lot like life, I guess. Thankfully, I know that to err is human and to forgive is divine.

I'm grateful for divine forgiveness and also deeply humbled and thankful for the unconditional love and understanding from my best friend and husband and our darling little humans who are growing up way too fast. :)

Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

Blessings and love,