Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Night He Left...

We'd fought for years.  In fact, it started when we got engaged.  I mean, the very day we got engaged.  Before then, when we were just dating, we talked about things.  Rationally, calmly discussing issues and sorting out differences as they came up.  After deciding to spend the rest of our lives together, it changed.  He said suddenly there was more at stake in the relationship, more to lose, which made the issues and differences seem more critical. 

I'd like to say I didn't get it, but I did.  It's much easier to put your heart out there when it's still safely tucked away in the palms of your own hands.  But, giving your heart to someone requires trust.  Trust they won't smash it into a million broken pieces...burn it with lies...toss it in the trash on the way out the door....or abandon it before you have the chance to get it back.

We both pretended attempts at trust for almost eight years.  I say pretended because neither of us actually trusted the other one.  He was afraid to make decisions that might displease me.  I tried to control everything to make sure things turned out the way I thought they should.  We both made grave mistakes, and tried in vain to step over them, as we continued to limp forward in our relationship. 

Until Valentine's Day, 2006.  He sent me a text saying he was moving out.  Yes, on Valentine's Day.  Yes, a text.  A nine and a half year relationship, an almost eight year marriage, reduced down to a text.

Famous last words later the next day...he looked at me and said, "why can't you just say you're hurt?"  I glared at him, with hate in my eyes, concealing the pit of despair that had become my heart, and snarled back, "I don't DO hurt.  I do 'pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on'."

Sure, I had "done" hurt in the past....but I had convinced myself I had become impervious to it.  I believed his decision to leave was for the best and that it wouldn't actually cause me any pain.  In fact, I believed his absence would allow us to work through our differences and come back together, to finish the rest of our lives together.

On the day he moved out, I took my two kids to their dad's house for the weekend.  On the way home it started to snow.  Like some work of classic fiction full of symbolism, it snowed almost a full foot that night.  When I walked into the house, it was half emptied of furniture, fully emptied of him.  I was completely alone.... and God reintroduced me to hurt.

I walked in the house and fell to my knees crying.  I alternated between rearranging furniture to fill in gaps, and sobbing uncontrollably. 

For the first time in my life, I found the end of myself.  I was trapped by the snow, in our house, surrounded by our memories.  I couldn't overlook the pain I felt.  I couldn't do anything to change the situation, so, for the first time, I made the choice to seek solace in the shadow of His wings.  ...and He was there, as He always had been, waiting with arms wide open beckoning me home. I opened up my Bible, highlighter in hand, and marked passage after passage that had any comfort to impart (too many to list here).

Faith is not a state of having no doubt.  It's a choice to believe, or act on the belief of something we are not convinced of.  When faced with a horrible event (such as the abandonment of a spouse who said he'd never leave), we are also faced with the incredibly hard decision of whether we truly believe that God is worthy of, and capable of, guiding our universe, or whether we believe we should be in control.  I had finally come to the place in my life where I could no longer live in the illusion I was in control.  I had said for years that I believed in God, believed His was the chance to step out in faith and behave in accordance with those professions.

If God was in control, and I believed (still believe) He was (is), and His Word says He doesn't have plans to harm me, but plans to give me hope and a future (Jer 29:11), then even if things seemed bad, I could rest in the knowledge there was more in store for me, one way or another.

I had not ever entrusted my heart to my husband, out of the fear of being hurt, and ended up being hurt anyway.  I made the choice the night he left, to entrust my heart to the God of the Bible I had professed to believe.  As I said earlier, giving your heart away requires trust...I made the choice to give my whole heart to God and to trust that He would never leave me or forsake me (Deut 31:6,8).

I'll never say his leaving didn't hurt, because that would be a lie.  But I would gladly repeat every minute of the pain over losing the damaged relationship with my husband to have gained the perfect relationship of my heavenly Father.  I hate that it took such drastic circumstances for me to seek out the love that never fails....but at the same time, I'm thankful every day, not that he left....but that I stayed...and for what I found in that half empty, snow covered house.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I am FULL...

Lamentations 3:22-24
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I said to myself, "The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for Him."

[Disclaimer: I'm not a Bible scholar, and don't pretend to be (although I am married to one!), when I talk about scripture, it's my take.]

Before the time of Moses, the Israelites where under the Egyptians' rule. They were slaves who were treated very poorly. Moses came along and, with God's considerable help, convinced the pharaoh to set the Israelites free. (That's a topic for a future post-the fact that God gave Moses all the power and help, but it was Moses who had to make the decision to go in and tell Pharaoh "Set my people free"....but I want to attempt to stay on topic...) At the point in time they were set free, they were overjoyed. They were excited. They thanked God for sending Moses to them. They were hopeful about their future.

And then... they came upon the Red Sea. They thought they were dead. The Egyptians were hot on their trail trying to kill them and they had no way to cross the water. And BAM!! Moses, with considerable help from God, parted the Red Sea. (Okay, don't get me wrong here, getting Pharaoh to let the Israelites free and the parting of the sea were accomplished COMPLETELY through God's power and might, but the instrument He chose to use was Moses. Moses wasn't a puppet, he had a choice in the matter, and he CHOSE to do what God instructed him to do. Therefore I am saying Moses did it with help from God but you could easily say that God did it with the help of Moses...but God didn't need Moses' help. If Moses didn't do it, God would have used someone else, or he could have caused something else to happen. But I digress...)

So there they all were at the Red Sea most likely believing they were all going to die, and BAM, the sea is parted. Not only did they walk across on dry land, God "unparted" the sea as the Egyptians followed after them, ending the fear of the chase.

And then.... they were out in the desert with no water or food. They thought they were dead. And BAM!! God sent them water from a rock and bread (manna) from Heaven. He told them to only take what they could eat and not to store it. He told them He would send more, a portion for each day. They didn't believe Him, they didn't have faith in Him, they didn't trust Him, so they gathered up the manna and tried to save it for the next day....and they got very sick from eating the previous day's portion.  They even complained, "at least we had meat in Egypt".  They had forgotten what that meat had cost them (see previous post).


When I was going through my (second) divorce, I had been a Christian for quite some time. I went to church every Sunday and led a small group of girls. I listened to (mostly) Christian music. I professed faith. However, I didn't have a relationship with God. I didn't read His Word. I wasn't living my faith. I will, at some point in time, try to explain that in more detail, but for now, I want to write about this verse so I'll attempt to stay on topic!  When "he who shall not be named" left, I was completely broken and empty.  My whole world was shattered. The world as I knew it anyway.  I opened my Bible and allowed God's Word to comfort me, to heal me, to speak to me and to fill me up. I decided to believe in Him, believe His Word, to have faith in Him and to trust Him. 

Miraculously, in the midst of the turmoil of the separation and divorce (which was ugly to say the least), when my focus was on Him, I was calm. More than that, I really did have true joy, joy that surpassed all understanding. I can't say that I was always "happy" in my circumstances. In fact, it was gut-wrenchingly sad. But, every morning I would wake up and remind myself of God's love for me. I looked to Heaven for my daily portion and allowed Him to fill me up.

There have certainly been times that I, like the Israelites, have forgotten who's in control.  I have attempted to store up manna believing there might not be enough for tomorrow. I have attempted to figure things out that God didn't intend for me to worry about.  There are daily opportunities for me to make the choice to wait to receive what I need from Him.  That does not mean we are supposed to sit around all day waiting for God to put money in our bank account, food in our pantries, and gas in our car.  But it does mean we are called to TRUST that His provisions for us are exactly what we need for today....and that He will continue to give us what we need each day.  We shouldn't worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34), but know that He is faithful.

I have to remember this is a blog and not a book..... :D

Where are you today?  In whom do you trust?  What do you really believe? Does your life reflect what you say you believe, or do your actions tell a different story?  Are you waiting on the Lord or are you too busy gathering yesterday's old, moldy manna?

Psalm 81:10
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it."

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cash in on the pay off...

There is a cost and a pay off associated with everything. Happiness comes when you believe you're getting a good pay off for what it costs you.

Take eating food...because I REALLY love eating food. I get excited about it. I look forward to it. I don't just eat because I'm hungry, I LOVE the taste of food. The taste is the pay off. The cost is the calories and what the particular food does to my body.

For instance, my favorite food is a cream filled donut from Mark's Donuts in North Little Rock, Arkansas (Camp Robinson Road to be exact). The "pay-off" is the taste. Just thinking about the light, fluffy pastry with the soft, warm, creamy luscious filling makes my mouth water in anticipation. It's truly heaven in my mouth!! The cost is (most likely) an insanely enormous number of calories. I'm not even exactly sure how many because I've never really wanted to know. For me, it's like going to a fancy restaurant where they don't put the prices on the menu. My dad used to say, "If you have to ask how much something is, you probably can't afford it!"

When I lived in Sheridan (about 45 minutes from Mark's), the family and I went to Mark's every Sunday before church (back when they were open on Sundays). When I was on a diet, the cost of the donuts (calories) wasn't worth the pay off (the taste). After all, I could have them anytime I wanted to. The pay off became losing weight and the cost was not eating those delicious donuts. Now that I live 6 hours away, I eat at least THREE every chance I get, which is not often. The costs are: getting up at 3 am (they close at like 10am, but in order to make sure I can get there before they sell out, I have to leave my house by 3am) and the calories. The pay off is the TASTE EXPLOSION in my mouth when I eat them!! The costs (getting up early every now and then when I'm going to Arkansas, as well as the extra calories) are more than worth it to me because I can sleep when I get home and I can (theoretically) work out harder to negate the extra intake.

However if I ate Mark's donuts every day, I wouldn't be happy because the taste pay off wouldn't outweigh the eventual unhealthy state my body would be in. At the same time, because of my love for them, the cost would have to be EXTREMELY high for me to give them up completely, forever.

I was explaining this theory to my friend who really HATES her job. We'll call her Sally since I didn't get permission to use her in this blog. At the moment it's not practical for her to quit or to find another job for various reasons that I won't go into here. I was telling her that what she needs to do in order to be happy in her current situation is to determine what the pay off is (for the "cost" of working in a job she hates) and "cash in" on it somehow. She needs to figure out exactly what she is getting out of the job, right now, and enjoy it, right now.

Her problem is that she will set up a future pay off, but the current cost is more than she can bare at times. When I was on a diet and forgoing Mark's, I wasn't completely focused on the eventual weight loss (although that was certainly part of it), I considered each time I abstained to be a victory for my body. Therefore I cashed in on the pay off at the time I paid the price (not eating the love of my taste buds). As the extra weight came off, the pay off became fitting in smaller sized jeans.

The problem with always putting the pay off in the future is that you can lose sight of it, which is just as bad and losing sight of the cost. In the last year I haven't been watching what I eat and have therefore put on a few extra pounds. (Can you say "yo-yo"?) The bill has come due on all those taste explosions, and now it's time to pay up!! However, rather than looking at my current calorie-counting and work outs (that will start Monday) as payment for last year's excesses....I'm going to remember what those small victories felt like when I went to Mark's and didn't partake, and cash in on the pay off today. When I choose not to eat some tasty treat, or when I choose to get up at 5 to work out so I can spend my day creating "art" (see previous blog entry), I will cash in on the victorious feeling that will come just after making the choice. I won't look at those choices as evil necessities to pay for past transgressions, or as lay-away payments for a future smaller-sized/healthier body. I'll cash in RIGHT THEN as the pay off is made.

What in your life is costing more than it's worth to you?? What can you cash in on in order to have a better outlook on your life?? It is really a matter of how you choose to look at your life and the choices you make. Sometimes (most of the time, really) you can't change your circumstance, at least not immediately, but you CAN change your attitude.

Okay, "Sally"....time to cash in for all your hard work. What's the pay off going to be for you today???

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Art of Making a Home

I am LOVING my new "job". I had always heard if you find a job you love doing you will never work another day of your life. Let me tell you, that is the TRUTH! For those of you who might not know, my new job is that of "Homemaker".

Making a house a home is not just about cleaning the place's about making a haven where those who live here can refresh, recharge and reenter the outside world ready for another day. To do that not only requires a neat, orderly, clean space. It requires a measure of predictability. My husband should be able to count on clean underwear in his drawer. My daughter should be able to count on groceries in the pantry. The pets, not to mention the family, should be able to count on being fed about the same time each day. (Well, the cat actually DEMANDS to be fed the same time each day, but that's another blog!) It also "requires" an amount of pleasure to the senses. Warm (or cool) temperature, appropriate lighting, nice get the picture.

Making a house a home is an art. Just like writing, painting or composing music, it's not for everyone and it doesn't come naturally to many people. Some painters don't have to think about what they're doing, they just let the brush in their hand move on the canvas. Michelangelo said "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." He also said "Carving is easy, you just go down to the skin and stop." (When I look at a block of stone, I see rock; if I were carving, I'd probably go down to the innards and still never have seen the statue!!) In the same way, some homemakers seem to do their jobs without having to think about it. They just do what needs to be done naturally. I think I have that kind of homemaker in me, but she's been asleep for a very long time. You've heard about bringing your inner child out to play? Well, I'm bringing my inner homemaker out to practice her art!!

So far I've been focusing on putting some routines in place more than I have concentrated on doing the actual "job". I'm preparing my palette!