Tuesday, March 24, 2020

All the Tea

Several months ago one of my Wednesday night girls came in and exclaimed "I've got so much tea!!!"  I had no idea what she was talking about but each week we start our small group with "happies & crappies," "glads & sads," "highs & lows" whatever you want to call it, we share about our week. The weeks went on and I kept hearing references about the "tea" or one of them saying, "spill the tea!" I finally asked and they giggled and groaned as they explained that "tea" was information and when one "spills" the tea they're telling it.  I've been sitting on some "tea" of my own, trying to decide the right time to "spill" or even if I should spill it at all. Time is slow right now so I thought perhaps spilling all the tea would be okay.

First thing every morning I put the kettle on to boil water for a hot cuppa tea.  I used to enjoy London Fog-Earl Grey tea with vanilla, stevia and cream-the perfect delight. I transitioned to plain Earl Grey then finally to English Breakfast, there is something soothing about wrapping my hand around the hot mug and breathing in the steam as I take that first sip in the mornings. It is a constant steady (hot tea in my live*laugh*love mug) in my otherwise chaotic life (a whirlwind of busy just like everyone else).  I changed my tea November 14, 2019 little did I know that day would prove to be a game changer in my life.

I've had a dysfunctional relationship with food my entire life. I remember in elementary school at picture time, not only was I tall and in the back with the boys but I was the "big" girl. I could never wear the cute clothes because they didn't make them in my size, I was wearing hand-me-downs from my sister (who was 8 years older)!  I was in junior high when my scale first showed the number 200, I cried but I didn't know how to make it stop.  Everyone made excuses--you're just big boned, you are really tall, you have such a pretty face, look at your beautiful hands.  Really?  My beautiful hands???  The summer before I turned 16, my mom took me to a "fat" doctor.  I don't remember his specialty, his name or anything else about him except a girl from my town was going also; it was a miserable failure that only made me feel worse about myself.

College turned into a real time of self loathing.  I went to a college 12 hours from home, there I learned to chug a beer, mix everclear with strawberry soda and totaled my car.  I returned to my parents home and was miserable.  Alcohol does not make you skinny and happy as a matter of fact, it makes you fat and miserable.  It makes you so miserable that you do dumb things for example, I rented an apartment, made arrangements to transfer with my job and didn't tell my parents until the day before I moved.  Needless to say I wasn't a very good daughter for a few years.  My college boss lives here in Bentonville, I bumped in to him and his wife a few weeks ago, we were reminiscing about our time in Weatherford.  I told him how much I appreciated him, Virginia, Carol, Rusty and the other managers who could have fired me (and several other college kids) more than once but they believed in what the future held for us...thank goodness!!  There is no telling how many young lives they impacted by them being good role models and encouraging us to be better persons. I "wanted" to lose weight but somehow the twice monthly, payday keg party seemed to only add to my scales number.

Then I met Handsome.  The guy who held my head out of the toilet when I was vomiting because I drank to much beer as he exclaimed, "you have to stop doing this or you're going to kill yourself."  A few weeks later he said the words that would change my life, "I want you to be the mother of my children..." he wanted to marry me.  Damaged, broken, fat, drinks too much, hates to wash dishes, dropped out of college, me.  Just like that, we were married the next year and my days of drinking too much and self loathing were gone.  Okay, the drinking was gone but the self loathing lurked, hiding in the shadows for many more years.  My weight stayed way too high but I was in love. I became a mom (gaining only 16 pounds while pregnant due to the urging of my doctor). I avoided the camera like the plague.  I still can't look at pictures from that time without cringing.  It didn't get any better with child number 2 or 3.

When Jess was a few years old I started seeing commercials for Metabolic Research Center, I signed on the dotted line.  I followed their very restrictive eating plan and drank my 5 >FIVE< high protein drinks every day.  I was the model client who consistently lost pounds and inches at every weigh in, I had my pictures in their lobby and I was interviewed with them by a local radio station for advertising.  I lost 100 pounds, I was still miserable. I was happy with how my body looked but they weren't happy with the number on the scale because it didn't meet their standard for my height, they wanted me to lose more, I wanted maintenance.  I quit.  I vowed I wouldn't gain it back.  I gained every ounce back and the weight brought friends.  It was awful!!!

Fast forward a few years-I became really good as pretending like everything is great but inside I was miserable.  I hated being around people because in my mind, where that self loathing is lurking, I was confident that EVERYONE looked at me as the fat lady, always the largest in the room.  But I've got a great personality and beautiful hands.....I'm miserable inside. I jumped onto another WOE (for those who aren't professional dieters that's Way of Eating), Paleo.  How lovely it was eating like a caveman-lots of bacon, butter, whole milk-no flour, no sugar, no processed foods.  I lost, people were noticing-I began to give into my cravings every now and then...next thing I knew I was back in my fat clothes.

November 2019, I finally looked up Intermittant Fasting.  I had seen the word a few times but didn't really know what it meant.  My initial thought was those people must be crazy, some of them fast 72 hours at a time!  Who goes without eating that long???  Crazy people had to be the answer.  I finally reached out to a friend, a friend from those college days, you remember the keg party days...she led me to a group called Delay Don't Deny.  I bought the book and thanks to Amazon Prime it arrived in my mailbox two days later, I read it cover to cover.  It made sense.  It made more sense than all the diets I've tried.  It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle.  It puts ME in control not food.

On November 14, I fasted for the very first time, sixteen whole hours.  It was easy.  I TOLD NO ONE. I didn't want my family to think, "great, Mom's on another wacky diet again....I wonder how long this will last."  Within a week I was fasting 18-20 hours a day. My family was noticing my eating behaviors had changed so I told them what I was doing.  I think Handsome was a little skeptical at first but I promised him it was safe and read him passages from Gin's book.  I became excited about food.  I tasted things I haven't tasted in years, I crave fruit, veggies and granola in yogurt.  I understand that food is a fuel to provide energy and nutrition because I can feel it working in my body.  I can feel it working in my body!!!

I have learned the difference between actual hunger and mental hunger.  I have picked up new phrases like, "my window isn't open but I'd love to take one of your cookies home to have with my dinner this evening."  My favorite is going out to eat with friends and ordering whatever suits my tastebuds from the menu then not being able to finish it because I now know what full feels like (it happens WAY before miserable).  I'm sleeping better at night.  I'm waking up more refreshed in the morning.  My inflammation has decreased.  My cholesterol has gone down and I've been able to reduce my medicine. I've become aware of the unhealthy relationship I had with food. The biggest benefit, my self loathing lurker is almost completely gone.  Am I still overweight?  Absolutely.  Will I ever weigh the government standard for my height, not likely. I'm morbidly obese.  I will be morbidly obese for a while, I didn't get here overnight.  My clothes have gotten a bit looser, my face and neck have more definition.

Here we are in this quarantine and I'm not stress eating which is something I have done my entire life!!  As a matter of fact I feel releived because food is something I can control right now. The occasional rumbles in my tummy aren't hunger they are my body using the fuel I gave it for dinner last night.  I have hesitated spilling the tea about my new relationship with food but when I woke up with "Loathing" from Wicked in my head this morning it felt like a sign.  It's time to kick the self loathing to the curb!!

A friend used the phrase, navigating the new (thanks Dana @ Dr. Deckers office) back before Christmas.  I wrote it down because I liked it so much.  Here I am at 50 living the crazy blessed life as I navigate the new ME!

(I now fast 20-23 hours a day.  I eat whatever I want!! If I'm going out with friends or family I simply adjust my time.  No guilt,  no shame,  no calories,  no macros just enjoying.  My body does the rest!)

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Jack...

I was thirteen
when she died.
I know I knew her but I'm sad,
 because I didn't know her enough.

Grandma, top left in the dark. 
That's me in the middle.
I couldn't find another picture of
us together. 
There is not a single day that goes by without me thinking about her.  About the hot rolls she made and how she'd pinch the dough off in balls between her thumb and forefinger.  About the toaster she had that sat on a little red wooden stool in her kitchen and could toast SIX pieces of bread at the same time!  About the polyster blouses that buttoned up the front, well worn, with bold patterns. About the twinkle in her eye as she would throw her head back and laugh, a deep, whole body laugh that came from the depths of her soul.  About the meringue on her coconut cream pie that was at least a foot tall every time!  About her toes that were permanently crossed so she had to wear open toe sandles and the huge corns on her hard working feet. But most of all I think about the person she was, the magic that made her well, her.

Grandma was the "driver" in the family.  When I was a kid they would drive from Pocasset all the way to Weatherford to watch my brother play football, Grandma always behind the wheel of what I remember as a big yellow car!  She always had a headscarf and a pocket full of tissues; she was usually bringing something delicious to eat along with her.  I don't remember how old I was when she gave me a quilt she had made. It wasn't fancy and pieced but it was made with love.  The underside fabric was simply an off white cotton muslin and the top was printed-it looked like square pinwheels.  Rather than being quilted, it was tied with a heavy yarn.  My brother had one, my sister had one, my mom had one but mine was all mine.  Being the youngest in a penny pinching family during the early 70's having something that belonged just to me felt important!  (Kind of like the time I got to go by myself and spend the night with them, Grandma and Grandpa took me to Dairy Queen  in Chickasha.  I had french fries, a footloong chili cheese dog, a soda and of course a dipped ice cream cone!! I still remember the bright red slanted roof, the windows all around and how special it was to eat out at a restaurant!!)

My mom was born in 1937, a few years ago I took her on a "cemetery" tour.  We drove through the areas she had lived as a child and visited the graves of relatives long gone.  She told me about my Grandpa tending fields where straw was being grown for brooms, other fields where she had picked bowls of cotten until her fingers bled as a kid, the area by the river where they lived when she was born.  She wove stories together that day, so many stories!  One chord that rang through all her stories was one I had heard my entire life Grandma knew how she to make something from nothing.  She was one of the farm wives who turned feed sacks into clothing for her children, she knew how to stretch the food when times were hard so no ones belly went hungry.  She worked hard on the farm right alongside Grandpa and their kids.

Flash forward to 2012, my parents moved to our neighborhood.  Mom was spending more and more time with her sewing and embroidery machines.  A dear friend gave her a small quilt, when she showed it to Handsome, his response was "when are you making me one?"  She made him one all right, she made him a California King!!!  It was incredible.  After that, she was on fire and made quilts for all of her grandkids, great grandkids and six P.E.O. quilts!! In 2018, a dear friend was diagnosed with a stage IV glioblastoma-I collected fabric from our mutual friends because Mom said she'd make a quilt for "T."  What I didn't realize was that I would get to do all the cutting!!!  Like a strike from lightening bolt, I felt a connection.  I needed to quilt.

I've been in love with Cathedral window quilts for years!  Feeling the need to quilt but not really having a space to quilt or the time to spend cutting, piecing and sewing at a machine. I began to research how to make Cathedral windows, by handsewing.  In June, I finally made the decision to use black Moda grunge fabric for the window panes and scraps from Mom's quilts for the stained glass.  I currently have 60+ squares completed BY HAND.  I've begun machine sewing four squares together.  I'm currently "holding" on it until I get scraps.  But I've got it in writing that my goal is to have a throw size quilt completed from them by December!!

As fate would have it, my friend Shirley had a flat tire on the day of her quilt guild meeting.  The store was out of her size tire so she asked if I'd drive her.  Susan R Michael was the speaker that evening and she brought with her some of her work.  It was incredible (click on her name, go look, specifically "Circular Infinity").  The ladies in the guild were so nice, they have a "show & tell" time and their work was simply inspiring.  I knew that was where I was supposed to be!

Handsome got me a great sewing machine for my 50th birthday.  The ladies at Rogers Sewing Center were ah-mazing, Queen Ellen is happy in our home! (EverSewn Sparrow QE) On January 21st, I went to quilt guild without Shirley (she'd had surgery the week before) and I made a new friend.  I shared my goals with her.  As we said goodnight at the end of the meetings she looked at her watch and remarked, "It's early, you could go home and get your machine out of the box!"  Even with the desire, I hadn't taken the time to get it out of the box and set up to sew.  I went home and got "Queen Ellen" all ready to go!  On Thursday during Daisy's puppy school, I went to JoAnn's and got fat quarters so I could get started on The Ultimate Beginner Quilt!! I'm working on block six today!

Grandma's name on her birth certificate was Roxie Anna Hamit.  Everyone called her Jackie but I can remember some even calling her Jack. I have no idea why.  It's one of the questions I would ask her if I knew her...enough. With every cut, every piece, every stitch I feel her nearby and that is somehow enough.  This afternoon, I pulled out my quilt she made me as a kid.  It was a little more tattered around the edges but the sight of it made me smile throw my head back and laugh with Grandma's gleem in my eye.  You see while she didn't piece my quilt on the outside, there is a treasure hidden underneath and I can see it was a loved old quilt that had been done by hand.  Something from nothing. Well played, Grandma!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Breathe

A couple of times a year our preacher gets a Sunday off and occasionally he asks me to fill in for him!  I consider these opportunities to be "gifts."  Speaking at church stretches me outside my norm but it gives me a captive audience for a few minutes while I share with them a little about my Jesus!  Yesterday was no different. Writing the kind of message that takes 10-15 minutes to deliver requires significant thought, listening, waiting, thinking, waiting some more, wondering if I'm going the right direction, waiting and finally transferring it from my brain to the written form so I can get the thoughts out of my mouth on Sunday morning.  I have gained a new respect for Heath-the mental and emotional energy that it requires is almost draining but then you have that high, that rush if you will, when you finally share what has been "tormenting" you.  I've never shared my written message but with this one, I had so many signs pointing me toward this message I feel it's only right that I share it here.  Please keep in mind the following is not perfection-gaps were filled in by the his spirit and the words that actually came from my mouth yesterday.  I hope though that when you read it, you'll get it. { YH-WH } As I am sitting here in the quiet before the rush this morning, I can not only feel his presence as I breathe, I can hear my breath whisper his sacred name.

This week on Facebook, a friend posed the question: what do you do for self care? I gave an answer as did several of her friends.  What do you do when you need a little self TLC? The answers varied from a shower to the beach, walking outside to some Ben & Jerry’s.  I bet if Heath were here he’d probably think a really tough workout of the day at crossfit-that definitely wouldn’t be self care for me! But one of her friends hit the nail on the head…”self care is whatever makes you feel good, feel happy, brings you joy and fills your cup.”  Could there really be a one size fits all self care solution? We’ll come back to this in a bit….
Hebrew Tattoos
Many of you know I love the Hebrew language.  I was working on this message and kept coming across the Hebrew word “ruach” which can mean wind, breath or spirit and appears 389 times in the Old Testament. Scrolling through Instagram last night and Gabriel Wolff who is the artist who designed my Hebrew tattoo just posted his latest-ruach.  When we listen, even with our eyes, there are signs when we’re on the right path.
Humans are designed by God to breathe.  Really! In Genesis 2:7 we’re told that “God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.” Throughout the rest of the Bible, breath is often equated with life itself with many allusions to God as the giver of breath.  Let’s try a little experiment to see how important breath is. I’ll count to 3, we’ll all take a deep breath and hold it….one, two, huuuuuuuh, three! Didn’t work too well, did it? We are vulnerable and completely dependent on God-without BREATH we would die in just a few minutes. Breathing is a vital system, necessary to sustain us.
There is a prophesy found in Ezekiel, chapter 37: (I used the Message because I loved the way it sounded in my head. When you read this silently to yourself, don't read the numbers. Imagine Ezekiel receiving this prophesy from God, feel what he felt when God grabbed him and was set down among the bones. Use separate voices for God and Exekiel...when I read aloud, it was a "dramatic" reading with hand gestures, loud voices, quivering voices and excitement!)
1-2 God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.
3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Master God, only you know that.”
4 He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’”
5-6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach tendons to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”
7-8 I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Tendons formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.
9 He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’”
10 So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.
11 Then God said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’
12-14 “Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. God’s Decree.’”

Dry bones were shown to Ezekiel but in reality they still had flesh They were weary, they had been sent into exile and left there.  They felt that God had abandoned them. Even though his judgements on Israel were stern, in this instance 70 years in exile-he is equally gracious.  Through Ezekiel he reminds his covenant people that he will bring them out of exile and back to Israel with renewed life that will be seen clearly as a gift from the Lord of the universe. 
How many times do find ourselves in a self imposed exile? We forget the very breath of life that was graciously given to us? We stay “busy” running ourselves to the point of exhaustion.  Our days fly by in a blur as one month fades into another year…we begin to have physical signs of our deprivation-our head hurts, our feet hurt, we aren’t eating like we should. Anxiety, depression are both on the rise and we look to our doctor for the magic pill to help us center ourselves, lower our blood pressure, erase the bad cholesterol when what we really need is to do is hear his voice… ”I AM GOD, I’ll do it. I’ll breathe my life into you and you will live.”
People of the Jewish faith are forbidden to pronounce the sacred name of God.  His real name is BEYOND pronunciation, unless you consider breathing a pronunciation.  So, it makes profound sense for at least one of the names of the real God to be not a Hebrew word, nor a word in Egyptian, or Latin, or Greek, or Arabic, or Sanskrit, or English - not in any single language but in all of them, or in some form of expression that both underlies and transcends language: just breathing, which all humans  do.  
Scott Erickson
Occasionally things you see on social media can have a positive lasting impact on your life.  Earlier this year an event showed up as something I might be interested in on Facebook. It was called “Say YES”  a liturgy of not giving up on yourself. My initial reaction was to ignore it but it appeared again…again I dismissed it.  When it showed up a third time, I googled this Scott Erickson guy and I found that I really needed to say YES. Earlier this week I had no idea what I would be speaking to you about today but I knew the right words would come.  When I saw this artwork from Scott on Thursday I exclaimed “I found it!” So please, close your eyes while I read his words continue to breathe deeply in and out and see if you can “hear” the sacred name of God---
You cannot be separate from God.

Our word God is rooted in ancient definitions of the Divine. All of humanity has wrestled his Holy Mystery. The Hebrews themselves, who struggled even mentioning any Name for this Mystery, used the sound YHWH to describe the I Am Who I Am. .

“YAH”. “WEH”. The very Name is our breathing. The very name of the Holy creator is the ongoing breath of every living thingYour life is sustained by elements you are not in control of. You do not make your heart pump. You do not make your lungs breathe. Your great mistake is to believe that your connection to life is up to you. All you must do is rest in the providence of unconscious sustainability.

You can not be separate from God. Your very breath is evidence of this.... whether you believe in God or not.

Receive the Holy Presence found in your own breathing. 
When you can hear his name as you breathe, you have given yourself the ultimate gift of self care.  It’s definitely one size fits all, it’s free, it’s plentiful, you can do it anywhere and when you concentrate on it you deepen your connection with God.  
~shalom
I heard last time I filled in for Heath some of you gave him a hard time because I usually give a message with a small token.  I am a very tactile person-so when I have a token to remember a message by I hear the message again and again when I see or touch the item.  A few years ago I was coming home from one of my many trips to Oklahoma and found a “thumbprint” prayer token. Yesterday afternoon, Ted, Melissa and I took some time to play with clay, roll it in to balls and pray over it as we squished it into these tokens on the kneeling rails.  While our wonderful music team shares their talents with us, please come forward like we do for communion and select a thumbprint prayer token to help you remember that when Jesus appeared to his disciples, John recorded the event by writing, “He breathed on them and said, ‘receive the holy spirit.’”  Come, breathe….


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

"Alvin" my friend

I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't love rainbows.  Even though I'll be 50 in a few months the childlike excitement comes right back every time I see one in the sky! Magic, wonder, awe, hope, trust, promises and smiles simply because of a little light refraction; the reminder of a promise made long ago by a faithful God. 

As a teen, I was a member of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls-an organization for the daughters and granddaughters of Master Masons and their friends.  I loved being part of this group of young ladies who served the community, had memory work that centered around scripture and made friendships to last a lifetime.  We wore dresses to our meetings with legs never crossed above the ankle and wore formal dresses for things like officer installation, initiation and dances with the Demolay!  I loved all things rainbow.

I've shared with you all before how my first memory of having a "gay" friend was in high school when a friend turned around in class and quickly told me she was gay.  I still consider her one of my dearest friends, I value her and the memories we share more and more the older I get.  Little did I know that day in the mid-1980's that the symbol of the rainbow I hold so close to my heart would become the widely known symbol for gay pride.  The first flag was dyed by hand and stitched together in 1978 for the Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco.  A fun fact of irony-a San Francisco flag company began selling surplus Rainbow Girl flags that day...

From the King James Version of the Holy Bible:
Genesis 9:14-16 King James Version (KJV)14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
 Every living creature of all flesh

Take a moment and let that sink in.

The other day I heard someone mention how sad it made them that the meaning of the rainbow had been changed from the bible, going on to imply almost a disgust for the LBGT community.  I happened to be sporting my 2019 Pride Converse (black Converse, rainbow sole and shoe strings).  I literally had no response, I love this person-we're friends; but still my heart hurt.  All I could do was whisper to myself, "I do set my bow in the clouds for every living creature...I do set my bow in the cloud for every living creature..." over and over again.  It really began to sink in no one "took" the rainbow from the bible.  No one changed the meaning.  The rainbow is for every living creature-man/woman, gay/straight, black/white-all the shades in between!  Each and every creature of all flesh has the promise from God that we are loved and will never be destroyed by flood because of our wrong doing or sin.

Another fun fact-my friend from high school married her sweeheart, Julie and together they adopted three incredible kids; their daughter is a Rainbow Girl and I love that she is learning the same love and promises that I learned many years ago!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

the Forgiver

"Forgiveness is balm for the soul of the wronged.  It is something deeply personal."

I was raised in the church being told to turn the other cheek and a constant reminder that Christ made the ultimate gift of forgiveness by giving his life.  Both are grand means of forgiveness but I think there was a little more to the story than just turning the other cheek.  Forgiveness isn't a little thing, it isn't something you just do in passing (insert Oprah here giving away forgiveness on one of her shows-"you're forgiven and you're forgiven and you get forgiveness, here's more forgiveness....more and more forgiving until the entire audience is jumping up and down because they received it and everyone is magically a perfect person.) That's not how it works!  That's not how forgiveness is meant to be.

The ultimate sacrifice by Jesus for our forgiveness worked because he is part of the Holy Trinity and they have a kind of super power. They have a relationship with every single person who has ever roamed this earth, they covet a relationship back; the forgiveness from that sacrificial act was deeply personal and genuine for each of us-it wasn't just a simple blanket I'm forgiving everyone of everything.  Although I didn't have a name the day he died on the cross, he knew I was to be.  He knew I was to be an imperfect, flawed human who would need forgiving time and time and time and time again.

It's taken me a lot of years to really get a handle on the super power of forgiveness.  I'd absolutely love it if everyone could understand it.  (Maybe Marvel or Quentin Tarantino will read my blog and create a movie about it-the Forgiver, sounds ominous but I can almost hear it in a James Earl Jones or Samuel Jackson voice being announced from the big screen.  Of course it would have to be played by Denzel.) Until a few years ago, I thought forgiveness was a burden to bear, something I had to do if I were to be a "good Christian."  All the sermons about forgiving others because Christ forgave you.  That's just wrong!  Jesus didn't die on that cross just beause his daddy told him to, it was so much deeper. >a very personal, quiet plea, "father forgive them."< I hope as I teach our children about forgiveness they'll get the real understanding.

Forgiveness is deeply personal.  I think it ranks right up there with making love to your partner and giving birth to your children.  When we hold on to a wrong, it's like an ulcer, a splinter, or even arthritis.  We bury our feelings for a while, deep down inside because we're hurt and angry-they wronged me-how dare they do that to me?!?!?!  We bury it and almost forget about it then we see their name on Facebook or maybe run in to them at the store or church and all of a sudden your psyche is screaching all over again.  You feel your cool begin to bubble because they wronged you.  They have no idea, they're living the life and maybe even laughing with their friends.  You continue to seethe and probably even wonder what gives them the right to enjoy their life when they've been so horrible to you.  Let me tell you, they.do.not.care!!!!  They probably don't even remember what they did to you and if they do remember they may even think YOU'RE at fault. {take a deep breath here}

Forgive them. Just let-it-go. {exhale here} When you let it go, you are free.  When you let it go, there is no pain to return to.  When you let it go, you can enjoy your life without fear of drudging up the pain of the past.

Notice, I said YOU are free.  I didn't say it erases what they did wrong.  I didn't say you have to be best friends with them in the land of lollipops and rainbows.  I didn't say you have to rush and tell them so you can be friends again.  The trick here is YOU have the power when you forgive.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CONTINUE TO BE IN RELATIONSHIP
WITH THE PERSON YOU HAVE FORGIVEN
We're human we like to hold on to the pain because it's ours.  Jesus showed us the ultimate liberation of forgiveness.  He grumbled to his dad-take this cup from me.  The burden of showing love was huge, it required dying but in doing so he showed us that if he can forgive the worst humanity has to offer than surely we can forgive the ones who have wronged us.  Let me be clear here because this is where it gets a little tricky-forgiveness doesn't mean the sin never happened, it doesnt mean you are "okay" with what has happened; it means you recognize you were wronged the forgiveness happens in your heart and you feel free.  Sometimes forgiveness comes easy, especially for the little things but the big ones may take time and that's okay.  I actually think that when forgiveness takes weeks, months or even years it's even more significant because the shalom you feel in the long run is the most soothing balm to your soul.

Personal story here...once upon a time I had a friend.  I thought we were really good friends!  The kind of friends whose kids have sleepovers, the kind of friends who bring meals when the other is sick, friends who worshipped and prayed together.  Something happened-we were no longer friends.  I have no idea what went wrong but I felt attacked (I was verbally and um visually I guess you could say).  Now I'm no saint, I reacted like a human-I didn't want this person around my child any longer and I'm sure my smart mouth said words to others about the situation they shouldn't have.  After some significant time had passed I was in my garden and I could almost hear the voice of God saying, "seriously Dana, you've been forgiven by me of some pretty big things why don't you let this go?  Forgive her." I let go and I said the words, "you are forgiven" she never heard them but she doesn't have to.  The cold dark spot I was holding inside and letting fester disappeared.  I never told her, it's been years now and I'm okay.  Forgiving her didn't even hurt, I just had to let it go...the pain wasn't mine, it was hers.  Sadly I don't think she has had the same experience.  I've seen her several times and my heart aches for her.  I've smiled, even said hello but I can see in her eyes the look of one who carries her burden heavy-whatever went wrong, whatever I need to be forgiven of, she holds on to it like some kind of prize.

My Angel 2 has had to do more than her fair share of forgiving this year, I know she is a better person for it.  Watching her hurt when pain has been doled out by someone like they're generous with the Halloween candy has been heart wrenching for me as a parent.  You know, hurt me-hurt my kid?  The proverbial cock has crowed multiple times but I know my girl more importantly I trust her.  We have the kind of relationship where she knows she can be honest and real with me without fear.  This last round may take a bit for her to release but I'm confident she will be able to say with sincerity, "you are forgiven" and when she does, she wins.

*A special thanks to Heath Bradley, pastor at Living Waters Methodist Church in Centerton for teaching me about forgiveness so I don't have to carry those "time bombs" of pain around with me all the time!!!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Toil or Torment

This morning I read Genesis chapters 1-3 like I've done dozens of times in my 49 years. Today I read it slow, with intent; to quote a favorite movie line, "I sucked the marrow" from it.  I finally got to the part about the consequences and I looked down at the notes near the end of chapter three, something caught my eye. It spoke of the painful toil that mankind would be subject to because of our decision then it went on to quote Wesley, "humanity was only sent to a place of toil, not to a place of torment."  I suddenly heard the the chorus of angels in my head and it all clicked.

TOIL (hard work) 
NOT
 TORMENT  (severe mental/physical suffering)




My heart has felt a heavy sadness the last few months.  I feel a disappointment with humanity and I'm really struggling to find the light.  As a child raised in the 70's and 80's the main form of  instant communication was verbal, the spoken word. You were most often face to face with the one you were speaking with.  Regardless of how you felt about societal and political issues I never saw or heard anything more than a slightly elevated conversation that ended with the persons still friends.  Strangers didn't chime in (with hate) because they weren't there but now my heart aches with the vicious attack of words on people via social media.

Recently we had some flash flooding here in Arkansas.  A woman was caught up in the swiftly moving water and her car was filling.  Sadly emergency services did not arrive in time and the woman drowned. The recording of their conversation, and the mistakes made by the operator, has gone viral on the national level and the comments make me think of the angry crowd screaming, "Crucify...CRUCIFY...CRUCIFY!!!" when Pontius Pilot presided over the trial of Jesus.  It really doesn't matter what the headline of the hour is because the treatment is the same. I feel so much empathy for them, a few sound bites or a video clip of a moment and lives are ruined.  An angry society has become the judge and jury passing verdict on every story. The damage is done regardless of the outcome of the judicial system. We, the crowd, aren't following God's example of an appropriate consequence-toil we are tormenting causing mental suffering.

President Trump does or says something half the population disagrees with and suddenly the airwaves and social media streams are filled with scalding hate, his followers retaliate with hatred-the next day the cycle continues.  Walmart decides to no longer carry handgun ammunition and the people are divided.  The NRA is found to be "at fault" in San Francisco-both sides shouting their opinions with no discussion, only anger.  Let's take all the guns away-no we need more guns! You're either pro-life or you want to kill the babies.  I shouldn't even mention the refugee crisis debate. White people are to blame, no maybe the Mexicans, nope the Blacks, the Muslim...let's point our fingers at anyone who isn't like us or disagrees on this topic (whatever the topic)...society doesn't seem to be content to voice their opinions and have an educated discussion they only want to express negativity based on the soundbyte they hear over and over or the headline of the article they didn't read.  Again, spewing torment-no consequences, no learning simply keeping their anger on a simmer all of the time.  What ever happened to talking about it, working through an issue and both sides giving a little to come up with a reasonable compromise. The anger, the hate, it only serves to divide and make it worse because someone will always be the loser.
Click below to read an article from the Anti-Defamation League on Cyber Hate

God could have scrapped humanity that day he came in and found Adam and Eve in their fig leaves.  He could've started over again and again and again until we remained perfect clones of him with no free will.  Instead he gives us the freedom to make decisions and have opinions.  No two people are the same.  No two people agree 100% of the time on 100% of the issues!  It's just NOT possible.

If you're one of the people spewing your point of view, unalbe to discuss or consider compromise I challenge you to go back and read Genesis 1-3.  Read it several times, let that compassion that was shown to humanity sink in.  Do you have compassion?  Real compassion, the kind that is willing to look at something from all angles and work together for good (toil) or are you so focused on your way that you don't care who gets hurt (tormented)?  I'm tempted to stick my head in the sand and ignore all topics facing our society but that really isn't the answer either.  My sister was afraid about bringing a child into this world way back in 1988, she called my Dad for wisdom and his words have stuck with me, "if the good ones don't have children, the world will never get better."  People, if you claim to be a christian, one of the "good ones," then it is your responsibility to lead the way with compassion, understanding, listening and maybe changing a little from your "perfect" viewpoint so we can all work together and mend the hate.  Have a discussion!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Smoke & Mirrors

Smoke & mirrors, trickery & deception...Facebook. All ways to distort or blur the facts, something that is intended to make you believe something is being done or true when it's not.
The most unflattering picture of me-ever!
 I was attempting to take a picture of
Ted & the dogs, my camera was
the wrong way!
I'd never share this on
Facebook...or would I?

If Facebook is supposed to be full of our family and friends why aren't we authentic and genuine?  Yesterday, I was a last minute invite to the American Heart Association Go Red Luncheon.  While that may not be a big deal to most people it was HUGE for me.  I'm calendar driven and I rarely do things on impulse.   But for years I've seen pictures of people I know in attendance and my inner teenager really wanted to go hang out with the cool kids so of course I said yes. I immediately knew what I'd wear and headed out the door like a love sick teenager!

It was an expo, geared to all things for womens heart health!  Heart disease is the #1 killer of women!!!  Here we were, adult women who like hungry,  greedy for more-more-more, I've got the galloping gimmees kids in the Bernstein Bears book-we picked up a bag and made the rounds to the tables.  Scribbling our names and numbers in hopes of winning a massage,  a yoga mat or some exercise equipment.  With false eyelashes and bright red lipstick in place we gathered pieces of chocolate,  stress squeezies  and other freebies that left me wondering why will we (society collectively) pick anything up for free???  Even things we'll never need or use? By the way a HUGE thank you to the sponsors yesterday, anything I don't use will be taken to the Women's Crisis Center in Rogers.

But I digress.  At the 15th Anniversary Go Red for Women luncheon I was blessed to hear Dr. Phil.  (Yes, I just typed that-never would I have ever imagined I'd be typing that I was blessed by Dr. Phil.) He spoke of how one year from today, he could GUARANTEE that our life would be better OR worse...our choice.  He then touched on something are you doing with your life today what you want to be doing or are you doing it because it's what you did yesterday?  Were you doing what you did yesterday because it's what you did the day before...not beause it's what you choose to do but because you've accepted it-not what you want to do or what you're meant to do but you do it because it's just what you do??  We generate the results in life that we believe we deserve-so if we feel we're not worthy or have a low self esteem, we generate results that go along with it AND we model it for our kids and they'll accept a "less than" life.  He spoke of the image we want to convey and how we should dress it, live it, own it.  (While wearing my funky red glasses, an exciting red dress, leggings and my 2019 Pride Converse with rainbow lades, I felt that my outside was very accurately portraying my inside.)  Again, we all make a statement and we teach others how to treat us based on that statement.  What do you believe you deserve?  If you're damaged then you need to fix it, the statement you show (consciously or subconsciously) is VERY cleary to other people.

Smoke and mirrors.
Trickery and deception.
Facebook.

We're all guilty.  Even when we're not conscious of our attempts to deceive our friends and family we're doing it!  We post about our victories, our personal wins.  We share about our kids high score or winning soccer goal while leaving out the hours spent arguing about studying or the tutor that costs as much as a mortgage or how much we hate spending hours at the soccer field, or maybe our kid hates it too but we keep on because it's what we are supposed to do.  We want to give the appearance of living a flawless life with no struggles but life is just not that way!!!

Yesterday I felt good about myself, really good.  I thought to myself-I should take a picture of myself because it would make a great new profile picture.  Yes.  I was actually planning a Facebook profile picture in my mind and how fabulous I'd look.  Then I saw the picture taken with my friend at a photo-op set up at the event.  It was a great picture all right-I definitely look like I've given birth to three children and not been to the gym in way too long...if ever.  There it was on Facebook for all to see in all my glory! HA!  Jokes on ya'll...I didn't beat myself up.  I looked at that picture and saw a mom who did give birth to three of the best kids you can imagine (they fight, they are sometimes mean to each other but they also forgive on another freely and generously.)  I see my favorite glasses and my Converse that are my little symbol that "I love you" just the way you are. I see my slightly ecclectic, whimsical self. a woman who loves deeply and genuinely.  A woman who sometimes feels like her world is swirling down the proverbial toilet because she is terrified that her future holds demons that can't be slain and that she's not a good enough wife, mom, daughter or friend.  A woman who sometimes cries in her bathroom, and at night in the dark when everyone else is asleep but by golly give me a few and I'll wear that mask with a smile.

I came away yesterday wondering, really-really wondering what do people see?  What image do I portray?  My real image-not the smoke & mirrors, no trickery or deception, no Facebook perfection.  Who am I?

Am I strong, confident and capable or am I just frustrated, exhausted and overwhelmed?  
Am I kind, loving and generous or am I just selfish, cynical and superior?
Is my life and family perfect? Are we actually flawed beyond belief?

Every one of those things is true, just not all at the same time.  Some days I'm broken beyond belief, we all have demons from our past or even present that creep up and bite us when we least suspect it.  I can be generous but I can also be selfish.  My family is perfect for ME but we are actually flawed (we all are you know).  I know who I want to be, I want you to know the real me.  I want you to know the real me, I'm going to use that awful selfie for my profile picture you know why?  BECAUSE IT IS ME! Perfectly imperfect, able to laugh at myself and allow you to laugh at me.  Laugh with me, cry with me, walk beside me, be real with me and I'll be real with you-we can put down the smoke and mirrors because none of us are perfect.  In one year, May 22, 2020 my life is going to be better.  I'm going to make choices to send me that direction and I'm going to QUIT doing what I did yesterday just because it's what I've always done.  I'm moving forward one crazy blessed step at a time.  Thank you Jessica for inviting me to table 54!  Thank you Debbie Alsup, Paris Presents for sponsoring the table where I was seated-it may be small to some but going yesterday was a thing I've wanted to do for years; you've got a wonderful tribe of co-workers and friends (Lisa, Missy and Kathleen)!
I actually did look pretty good yesterday!