Mess of Me

Are you ever frustrated with your life? Do you ever find yourself wondering how you got to where you are? Hopefully, you are thinking “I am very happy where I am.” My fear is that there are more people who saw a far different future for themselves – who are struggling with their current situation.

There is hope – no matter where you are today. I know this from personal experience. I met Hope when I was much younger – when I was a complete mess. I hated myself. I had very few friends. I associated with the wrong kind of guys. My sleep was wrecked by nightmares. My days were haunted by memories. I was standing on the edge of a precipice filled with hopelessness, crying out to be saved.

The song Mess of Me by Switchfoot reminds me of that time in my life. The writer of the song is crying out. It is healthy to cry out! It is healthy to identify the messy parts of your life and to cry out for something better. “I’ve made a mess of me. I wanna spend the rest of my life alive.” I have cried this out in pain. And, as I mentioned, Hope came to me and rescued me. His name is Jesus. He set me free from the prison cell of my past. He has helped me to make better choices and has blessed my life.

This hope and rescue is not just for me. Jesus longs to rescue you and give you hope too. He loves you more than you can understand. If you do not know Jesus, you have never experienced true love. His love is beautiful. If you are struggling, I encourage you to ask Jesus to save you today. If you do, you will never regret it.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” ~ John 3:17 NIVUK

Choose to Live

My relationship with my grandmother was a strange one. We were never close. I’d say we had a love-hate relationship; however, our feelings were never that strong. Maybe it would just be considered lukewarm? Not sure.

While her and I never discussed it, I am certain that I hurt her emotionally when I was young. Whenever my family would go to visit her – rather than spending time with my grandmother, I would ask permission to visit with the elderly lady who lived two houses down. She was the grandmother of the children who lived between her and my grandmother. There are days I wish I could apologize for being so insensitive. Yet, the issue really was not with me. The issue began with my grandmother’s heart towards me. While this side of heaven I will not truly know why she treated me as she did, I have a theory of two ugly situations melding together into a dark cloud over our lives.

The first began with my grandmother’s own childhood. Her father died when she was quite young. When he died, his family rejected my great-grandmother and her two children as the family had not approved of their marriage. My great-grandmother was not good enough for their son, at least in their eyes. Rejection is challenging and scarring at any age; however, I believe children feel it more acutely. My great-grandmother did remarry though her children were never fully accepted as part of the new family. My grandmother shared a small part of this story with me close to the end of her life. Even though at the time she told me her mother was still alive, she said that she was an orphan. It seems evident that she was still carrying the scars of grief and rejection from her early childhood. From personal experience, if these scars are not healed, they make it extremely difficult to develop relationships – even with your own children and grandchildren. There is an inclination towards self-preservation that prevents the level of trust necessary to build healthy relationships.

As a child, I could not have comprehended this backdrop in my grandmother’s life even if it had been known to me. I simply ran to where I felt wanted without a thought to how it would impact my grandmother. My strongest memories of my grandmother’s house include the glass jar of pink candies on the counter and playing alone on the floor with a collection of boxed toys. At the other grandmother’s house, I was welcomed with a hug. She was always sincerely happy to see me. She would make us tea, and we would sit at her kitchen table and talk until we could hear my mom calling for me to go home. I have absolutely no idea what we talked about. What I do know is this sweet lady was filling an empty void in my life. She treated me as someone, and she was happy to just sit and listen to me. In her kitchen, I had value. I do not blame the young me for wanting this.

Yet and unfortunately, there is more to this sad tale. There is the second situation casting its dark shadows. While the other grandmother was her wound, this one is my wound. I believe that part of her coldness towards me was because of who my father was. This is probably a horrible mix of her being rejected as a child in light of my mom’s own unapproved marriage and who my father proved to be. During my grandmother’s lifetime, I discovered that she knew either before I was born or shortly after that my father had a history of molesting children. One of my father’s prior wives had been trying to locate my mom without success. The woman was able to share her warning with my grandmother so that she could tell my mom. This did not happen. For whatever reason, my grandmother decided that my mom had chosen her path and the consequences that went with it.

It is difficult for me to imagine such a coldness of heart that would cause anyone to treat their own children in such a way. Yet, I do fully understand how our past can twist our mind and actions without the healing grace of Jesus. A part of me hopes that my grandmother was blind to the consequences to me, as the child of such a monster. Learning of my grandmother’s betrayal was not as crushing to my spirit as you might think it should have been. Again, as we had never developed a love relationship, there was little emotional loss only the regrets and sadness of what should have been. And also, by the time I learned about the whole situation, betrayal felt very normal, even expected.

One of the last times I saw my grandmother, she was in the hospital due to cancer with all of her children surrounding her bed. At one point our eyes met, and she hoarsely whispered my name. There seemed to be such a desperate sadness in her eyes. I longed to tell her that I really did love her and give her a hug. She reached out an arm towards me; though as I started to move forward, my aunt blocked my way so she could comfort my grandmother. I wish my aunt had not interfered. I understand she was trying to care for her, but I believe there was a greater opportunity for peace lost in that moment – for both of us. I hope my grandmother was able to read the love and forgiveness in the tears forming in my eyes. I also wish I had been bold enough to step forward regardless of my aunt and say out loud that I loved her and that all was forgiven.

Thankfully, this is not just a story of woe. While it is tragically unfortunate that my grandmother lived her entire life under a dark shadow, she had at some point placed her faith in Jesus. Knowing this, I can say with confidence that she is now in glory and completely healed of all of the scars from her life.

Reader, I hope you learn from my grandmother’s mistakes. Please don’t hold on to the hurts and pains of your past. Our relationships with our families and friends are so valuable. Our lives are short, and God means for us to really live each day he has given to us. We cannot really live if we are shackled by our past. While we cannot free ourselves, we can be saved by Jesus and His Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can heal us and free us from all of our hurts and wounds – none are too great for Him to conquer. With Him, you can really live!

Blessings. ~ Deb

You Almost Died?

For many bloggers, I am sure their moms subscribe to their blogs. I am no different (thanks, Mom!) And when, in your writing, you share how you almost died or experience some other scary situation, there will definitely be a reaction from the moms. In my last blog, I mentioned how my husband and I almost died (in separate situations) within the first three months of our marriage. I could feel the question hanging out there somewhere…What?!?

Wednesday night, we had dinner plans with my mom. Her and I enjoyed conversation and spent time admiring the plants, birds and caterpillars in her garden while my husband made the meal ( a delicious pork tenderloin in her new air fryer). It wasn’t until we sat down to dinner that the question finally came out. “So, you almost died…?”

I shared my story first. As I wrote earlier, this was right at the beginning of our marriage, and I was only 20 years old. We were both enlisted in the Air Force; but as we were just married, we were still stationed at separate bases in the Florida panhandle. Since my husband had a motorcycle, we rented a trailer closer to his base than mine. This gave me about an hour and a half commute each way. It was not ideal; however, we knew it would be for short duration.

Now, when you picture our home in Florida, please don’t envision beaches and palm trees. We lived in the middle of nowhere in the interior of the panhandle which is more like Alabama than the typical image of Florida. The first significant leg of my morning commute was almost board straight – mind numbingly so. Each side of the road was a never ending wall of tall pine trees. I was required to report to my command before 6 am so it was also very early. I rarely saw any other cars, mostly just fog.

Did I mention I was young? I had a bit of a leadfoot in those days. Here we come to the part where I almost died. It was one of these early mornings with not-so-great visibility due to a light fog. Knowing I never came across other drivers, I was doing about 75 mph. For a split second in front of me on the road, there was a small flash of red. Due to its small size and its brevity, it was amazing that I saw it at all. Add in how early it was and how my brain was not fully awake, it was downright unbelievable! But I did see it and immediately applied the brakes. I came to a stop just behind a large tractor trailer hauling large logs. There were no lights on the truck. It was just parked in the middle of my lane. Had I not seen that brief flicker of light, I would have driven my car into the back of that truck at 75 mph. Curtains. Instead, my life was blessed with a miracle.

Over dinner, my husband shared his two stories. I will not tell them here for they are his stories to share. Sorry! But please know, they are just as miraculous. Neither of us thought much of any of these experiences at the time. In fact, my husband had forgotten the most spectacular of his stories! It is a great story, and I am thankful to God for its happy ending. God is good. All the time.

P.S. If you follow my blog, you may have noticed a change to the author name. Up to this time, I have been using an alias. I have decided to forego the alias thus the change.

Thank you for reading!

Our Greatest Contribution

Today, an amazing quote from Andy Stanley struck me. “Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.”

During the first three months my husband and I were married, he almost died twice and I almost died once. All three near death experiences were on the miracle level. And this was before either of us had decided to follow Jesus.

Since that time, I have frequently wondered why God saved us – both physically and spiritually. And while I believe our lives have value and contribute to God’s Kingdom, I cannot help but feel that us being saved had more to do with our daughter or our daughter’s children to-be, or even her children’s children.

We just cannot know how our lives will impact the generations to come. It does highlight, for me, the importance of teaching our children to have a relationship with Jesus. And I also believe it is just as important to pray, repeatedly, that our children will be able to pass their love for Jesus on to their children – for generations to come, unending.

Start children off on the way they should go, And even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 NIVUK

Do Not Despair

As life pours out hardships, struggles or pain, the world tells us to fret and despair. It can be tempting to throw up our hands and give up when things get tough. The evil one wants us to believe that we have no hope. “See, there is always something horrible happening. There is no hope for you.” I remember hearing these lies as a child. “Your life will always be filled with pain. You will always be trapped in this hell. There is no hope for you.” The devil uses these lies to diminish and defeat us, keeping us from our God-given purpose.

For many years, I believed these lies. When I met Jesus, He started to reveal to me His truth. First, He showed me that He cares for me by rescuing me when I asked Him for help. And He did this when the world considered me to be nothing just a poor, weak child.

Second, He began to help me understand why I had gone through such suffering. The world is broken. It is not as God created it to be. And people are broken, filled with sin, and not as God intended us to be. In our sin, we hurt each other. This hurt destroys relationships which creates a domino effect of pain and sorrow which flows through our families, communities and nations.

Third, He showed me that I did not need to stay trapped in my despair – current or past. In fact, I could use my experiences to help other hurting people and to fight injustice. My painful experience gave me empathy and compassion for other people – people I have never met and even people how have hurt me, intentionally or not.

Finally, Jesus has given me great hope. He has shown me over and over again that He will never leave me. He is always with me even during the darkest days. And He reminds me that “joy will come in the morning.” He has filled me with His Holy Spirit so that I can rely on His love, His gentleness, His kindness, His strength to walk-through any situation. I am never abandoned to face situations in my own weakness as long as I rely on Him.

There are times when life still overwhelms me. During those times, I quiet myself before God. He lovingly reminds me of His goodness and faithfulness. He restores my soul and my hope. Hope in the Lord will never disappoint us as it is a gift out of God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. His love and His hope are available to anyone who will ask in faith. Will you ask Him for hope today?

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 ESV

O, Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and You have healed me. Psalm 30:2 ESV

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5 ESV

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 ESV

Just Ask

This morning is absolutely beautiful.  The sun is shining, a perfect blue sky, the birds are singing, and a lovely breeze is whisking through the house bringing forth song from the chimes I hung in the kitchen window yesterday.  It is 67 degrees so it feels lovely sitting with the sun on my back and under a blanket.  It is a perfect morning to journal and sip tea with my Heavenly Father.

This morning, He is reminding me just how much He loves me.  He says I am valued by Him and nothing outside of that matters.  He loves me more than I can imagine and will take care of me.  He does take care of me!  Sometimes, he waits for me to ask first.  I guess it is like a young mom with her toddler.  The toddler is in the kitchen pointing at a jar of sweet with grunts and whining to get her mom’s attention.  Her mom turns to her, “What do you want, me Beloved?  Use your words.”  

How often do I go through life grunting and whining when what I really need to do is pray to my Heavenly Father.  He is the one who loves me more than anyone else.  The one who is all powerful.  And He is the only one who can truly help me in all situations.  He just wants me to use my words to ask and to trust Him.  Making me ask Him helps me to understand that the blessings in my life are from Him.  If He always just poured blessings on me without waiting for me to ask, I would probably give the credit to myself or something else.  He knows I need to understand that He is my provider.  He is helping me day-by-day to fill my trust bank with memories of His blessings and care.  Memories that will serve me on the darker days when I need to stand in faith.  He is always good.  His love never ends.

“On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in Him at all times, O people;  pour out your heart before Him;  God is a refuge for us.”  Psalm 62:7-8

I Remember

It is a clear memory for me as a third grader moving to a new school.  It would be my first of many moves between schools.  The move was difficult for me with the loss of my first real friendships – friendships that really spanned a third of my life.  We had moved from a rural community to suburbia.  It would be my most challenging year of school both academically and emotionally.  There was no love lost when we moved again before the end of the school year. 

But before going into the specifics of my memory, I want to share what brought out this memory.  As you know, this past week has been brining out voices raising a cry of injustice.  It is a cry that is way over due.  And the sad reality is so many of us didn’t understand the depths of the injustice – even those of us who have known injustice.  I was reading an article by Bryan N. Massingale, “The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it”.  His article was quite eye opening for me as I had no idea the depth of white privilege in our society.  I was absolutely blind to it.  (It is a similar ignorance as the child being raised in an unhealthy home and not realizing until they have the opportunity to encounter a healthy family.)  The author’s statement that struck me the most was that all white people have a moment some time in their youth when they realize they are glad they are not black.  It is a haunting statement as this is the kind of thought that should never enter our minds as we are all created equal – in the very image of God himself – and should never feel as if we are more or less than someone else.

The other gut wrenching part of his statement was I remembered my moment immediately.  It was not a common memory for me; however, it was quick to float to the surface.  The memory goes back to being nine and the new kid at school.  There was no welcome wagon.  In fact, I vividly remember a girl in my class confronting me at recess, “we don’t like you and wish you would go away.”  They were just mean kids.  Yet, I wasn’t their only target.  There was another girl in the class who they singled out even more than me.  She was a quiet, reserved girl who tried to stay to the edges.  It seemed like she would probably be nice; however, I was too afraid to find out, and I kept my distance from her.  I did work up the nerve to ask another child if she was new too.  She was not.  She had always been in their class.  I couldn’t understand why they were so mean to her.  It just didn’t make sense.  Then it came out, she had a black and a white parent.  I had no idea what this had to do with anything, but it did explain some of the names they called her.  It was at that moment that I had my first thought that I was glad I was not black because things were far worse for her.

Sadly, the story does not end in that third grade classroom.  From suburbia, we moved to the depths of Appalachia.  During that summer between third and fourth grade, I spent just about every waking hour outside – except for during the rain.  By the time school started, my skin was a deep golden brown.  This time being the new kid in class, the other children were oddly excited about having me in the class.  There was a black child in my grade who had been adopted by a white family in the area.  The children were so excited about me because he could finally have a girlfriend because I was also black.  This area of Appalachia was so white that they easily mistook my tan as me being black.  Instead of feeling happy about being immediately accepted into the group on any level, I recoiled.  The prior year had evidently given me a firm lesson that it was not good to be black.  In desperation, I tried to explain that I was not black.

This may seem like a minor story to some.  It is not.  These situations should never happen.  All children and all people should be accepted no matter what they or their parents look like or regardless of their heritage.  It seems obvious that the children in my third grade class learned the name calling from their parents.  And in the fourth grade class, there should not have been distinctions for friendships or any other relationship based on the color of our skin.  My hope is that you will take some time to reflect on your own past and identify the moments that may have shaped unknown privilege or lack of privilege in your life.  I hope that through my openness in sharing my memory that you will be able to share your memories as well.  As with all buried hurts and lies, admitting that they exist and exposing them to the light is a great start towards healing and change.

Black lives matter.  Let’s be part of the solution.

Reset Button

The second week of March was extremely stressful for me (and certainly for many others as well).  It was the first week that the reality of COVID-19 was starting to hit home.  I had just returned from vacation that Sunday which included a plan ride with a hundred or so people who could have been from anywhere.  The governor was shutting down our business.  In a hurried rush, I packed up my office to work from home – for who knows how long.  I wasn’t even certain how long I would be able to continue working.  It was so stressful.

As my life began to settle into some semblance of routine, blessings started to pop out at me.  One here, and then another over there.  With less distractions and constant going here or there, these blessings became more visible.  There was more time for prayer and journaling in the morning since there was no need to commute to work.  My cats would take turns visiting me while I worked as if they knew exactly when a cuddle was needed.  And since it was spring, nature was coming to life with lovely flowers, a wide array of greens, and beautiful melodies from the local song birds.  I was able to enjoy all of this during my lunch and some occasional, distressing tea breaks.  On neighborhood walks, there were parents outside playing with their children with laughter and squeals of joy.  

Life had slowed down; and maybe for the first time in my life, I was discovering true rest and peace.  A hope was bubbling up in me for a new normal.  A hope, that as individuals and a world, we would come out on the other side of this pandemic better than we had entered it.  My heart longed for others to notice and embrace the blessings of now rather than falling into the stress of the gloom and doom.  I do hope we leave the quarantine with a priority and refreshed love for our relationships, with a knowledge that we can still live comfortably with less, with an appreciation for living at a slower pace, with an understanding of how much we do impact our environment, and with a desire to care for one another.

As I hear the news and see friends lashing out in anger online, my hope gets shaken.  Sometimes, fear and anger suck me into the madness.  At those moments, I need to hit the reset button.  Instead of holding on to the anger, I back away and allow myself to fall back into the awareness of all of my blessings.  I refocus on the beautiful sound of the birds and remember how important love is.  And I will continue to focus on hope and hold onto the peace I have found.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  Isaiah 26:3 ESV

Tender Hearted

A dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful book by Ruth Chou Simons, Gracelaced:  Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart.  The author is an artist so the pages are truly beautiful.  More importantly, she does a fantastic job of guiding you through meaningful self-reflection.  I highly recommend her book.  

The other day, I was reading through her section on forgiveness.  Forgiveness has always been a challenging topic for me.  I believe this is true for most people.  We want justice now.  We do not want to wait for God’s timing and His justice.

Her self-reflection question was “Who in your life needs to see your tender heart?”  I’ve considered myself to be tender hearted.  Many people have even told me that they saw me as a tender hearted, caring person.  However, I was ashamed of how many people came to mind – and how quickly – that I needed to show tenderness and mercy.  If you would have asked me two days ago if I was a grudge holder, I would have said “No.” The existence of this list says quite the opposite.  I shouldn’t have a list!  

For me, part of this comes from a lack of humility.  If my self worth is truly defined by my relationship with Jesus, how others treat me or view me does not matter.  I worry too much about how others see me.  I worry too much about being successful at work.  If someone falsely diminishes my work or undervalues what I do, it just doesn’t matter in the big picture.  The only thing that matters is what is happening between me and God – that I am working for Him!  What I do at work has little impact long term.  Instead, how I work is what matters.  I need to do all things as if for Him with a tender heart and with integrity.

Beyond the lack of humility, there is a learned behavior here as well.  Self-preservation has its role and is important; yet, sin twists it into something negative.  As a child, I learned early on that other people could not be trusted.  I kept a record of hurts.  Now this was not me as a 6 or 12 year old thinking, “Oh, I should make a list so I remember…”.  I believe it is more of a  subconscious behavior.  Part of the job of our brain is to remember situations or people that are unsafe and help us stay clear of them.  This behavior helps keep us safe.  For me, instead of applying this self-protection to extreme situations, my brain learned to apply it to everyone.  This was a bi-product of believing that no one could be trusted.  And due to this behavior and its liberal application, I spent years keeping people at arms length, and unfortunately, keeping that record of wrongs – big and small.

As a lover of Jesus, I am called to live differently and to let go of my grudge list.  I am called to a life of love.  Love does not keep a record of wrongs.  Love is patient and kind.  This is how I am called to live – to love everyone including my enemies.  I cannot hold on to grudges.

Why would God call us to love our enemies?  First, because He loved us while we were His enemies.  He wants us to love as He loves.  He wants us to live in peace with one another.  Second, all people are created in God’s own image and are precious to Him.  God sent His one and only son, Jesus, to save everyone.  Yes, everyone – all nations and all peoples – no exclusions.  When we love others, despite how they treat us, we shine the light and love of Jesus.  I need to love others because Jesus loves them.  He came to earth and died a brutal death because of how much He loves all of us.  How can I not live as He has asked when He has given so much to me?

Jesus – Please help me to love others regardless of how they treat me.  Help me not to keep a record of wrongs; instead, give me a tender heart and eyes that see others as You see them.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”    Ephesians 4:32 ESV

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”   1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”     Romans 5:10a ESV

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”    John 3:17 ESV

Let’s Eat Together!

One of my favorite things to do is to have dinner with family and friends.  Doesn’t matter if it is a regular meal at home or at a restaurant.  There is something special about sharing a meal with others.  This is even true for the workplace.  Taking your team out for a meal naturally grows the team.  For whatever reason, a shared meal grows relationships.

This morning, I was listening to a local pastor talking about Jesus meeting with his disciples in their home after his resurrection.  He was helping them to understand what happened through the cross and prove that he was truly resurrected.  And then Jesus ate a piece of fish.  At the beginning of the verse, Pastor Paul, pointed out that Jesus entered their home and said “Peace to You” just as he had taught them to do.  Jesus was living out his instruction.  (He is not just talk.) Jesus is action.

“As they were talking about these things [Simon seeing Jesus on the road in the preceding verses], Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them ‘Peace to you!’  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.  And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me, and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.” 

Luke 24:36-42

Why would he be asking to eat something?  This seemed very odd to me, at first.  The disciples must have had many questions.  And Jesus just came back from the dead.  Did he really need something to eat?  Then it reminded me of a verse that has come up several times for me over the past several weeks, Revelations 3:20 ESV:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Jesus doesn’t want us to just know about him.  He doesn’t want us to simply understand that he is our Lord.  He wants to come into our homes.  He wants to come in and share meals with us.  “I will eat with him and he with me.”  Together.  This is something we do with friends and family.  A meal in our home is relationship building.  Having someone over for dinner is about camaraderie and desiring to spend time with one another.  Jesus wants a deep relationship with us.  He wants to share life with us.  And he is not just words – he is action.  See what happens if you were to invite him to share a meal with you.  Invite him in and he will give “Peace to you”.