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Love them – thats a pretty simple command

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There was a time, not too long ago, when I would reread that verse and say in prayer, “Dude, You have got to be kidding me.” Because how could I do anything without grumbling? I was so hurt. I felt so used and betrayed.

Allowing God to shine through you is something supernatural that happens naturally, when you’re looking at life through Heaven’s eyes.  As people, we get our feelings hurt. We like to place other people into social molds, here on Earth.  We need measurement and approval to know worth and value.  As children of God, we know our Worth, and that forgiveness, healing, and salvation is equally available to everyone. That being said, as children of God, we don’t have to live in fear of being sized up according to our physical limitations, or of where we live, what we drive, what we do to pay the bills, how we’re dressed, and we don’t have to live in fear of loving others – no matter their social status or limitations. Love is given to us equally. To give love equally, we just have to be a little brave, and see beyond what the world sees. It’s OK to do that.

Don’t worry. Every now and then, you’re still going to get hurt and disappointed.  People will still not trust you, and occasionally will act out in ways that remind us of our differences, but we’re still all loved equally.

Becoming a “foster parent”

In every situation, God speaks to us. That’s what I find, anyway.  It’s the littlest things, you know? Where grace can be easily found, if you are willing to just do what God puts in your heart.  Sometimes that takes a little courage. It may be especially scary when times are tough and finances, food, and everything you have is in such small amounts. The good news is, all you need is a big heart. God will provide all of our needs when we put our faith and trust in Him (Matthew 6:25-26).

5 days ago, we received some very sad news about some friends of ours who we had not seen in about 8 months. A married couple.  They were our neighbors when we lived in that campground, just ten feet from us. We shared meals together every day, spent time in each others homes every day, and our dogs became best friends, despite both of their breeds (Chihuahua and Jack Russell) making each territorial and dominant.  Our friends became very lost after we moved….they separated, and recently got back together, except during the course of their split, the woman had become a meth addict, even cooking it herself. Her husband took her back knowing that, and within just 3 days of her return, they were busted for making meth, right there in their tiny trailer home.

My husband and I were both shocked.  Everyone we knew from that campground was texting us or contacting us on Facebook to tell us the news. The sheriff, fire department, haz mat team had come, had taken the mans truck, tools, trailer, ripping out all their belongs, hosing down the couple, burning a great deal of things. It was very scary. I’m a little glad I wasn’t there to see it.  Once we got over the shock of the news, both my husband and I immediately thought “What about their dog?” What had happened to her?  Where was she? God was putting a thought in both our hearts: Help Shotzi.

I started asking around. It turns out that at the time of the bust, one of the neighbors there in the campground acted very quickly and grabbed the Jack Russell  mix while the house was being stripped and the couple was being arrested, so she wasn’t in the pound.  She couldn’t keep the dog because she can’t even afford to pay her rent and feed herself. I immediately drove the 45 minute trip to where we used to live and picked up Shotzi. I was worried about bills on the way. Worried about gas money, about the long wait til the next pay day when I could stock the fridge and pantry.  I was listening to K-LOVE, the radio station my car radio stays on 24/7. The female DJ was talking between songs about how, no matter what the situation is in your life right now, God is the Great Provider. I needed that reminder! I knew everything would some how be OK and that this was what God wanted us to do. All we had to do was answer the call, and trust in the process and give it to Him.

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When I first saw her, she immediately remembered me, even though we hadn’t seen her in 8 months! She greeted me with a thousand licks. She was visibly shaken. Her eyes echoed the loss and confusion of not knowing what was happening, why she lost her family. Unlike her normal self, she was docile and malaise. I knew it was from exposure to the meth fumes. It had been 3 days at that point.  During our ride home, I talked to her as if she could talk back to me. I told her how sad I was to hear about what had happened, and how I knew her family could find some peace knowing that she would be staying at our home for how ever long they couldn’t be with her, even if that meant years. I know Shotzi knew I was there to help her. She gratefully crawled in my lap as I drove home, wanting nothing more than to be as close as she could to something she knew was safe.

When I got us home to our little trailer, she recognized it immediately, running up the steps to our door. She saw Adam and instantly rushed to him, giving her whimpers and woofs and chirping barks, telling him everything that had happened in the last few days. Her expression said “Ohhhhh my God, you would not believe what all has happened! You don’t smell the same but I don’t care!”

Lick-lick-lick-lick-lick-lick-lick.

Michi, our chihuahua was thrilled to have his girlfriend back. He seemed to understand without any explanation, that she was going to be a part of our little family, for however long she needed to be.

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I bathed her really good as soon as we got her settled in, to get the meth fumes off of her. They seeped from her skin for a few hours more, but by morning, she was smelling like a Jack Russell, using the bathroom normally and eating and drinking water normally, bouncing up and down, excited to go for walks and play fetch.

The first morning, waking up with her, I caught the most beautiful moment on camera, as Shotzi and Michi both seemed to share a deep conversation with Adam, who was still waking up.

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I think I know what Shotzi was saying. She was saying “Thank you.” Michi was saying “Dad, get up so I can have your nice, warm spot.” And thats what Michi did, as soon as Adam sat up.

We pray for our friends, that they will somehow find the healing they need through all that has happened.  We know the good they are capable of, and that everyone gets lost, and everyone makes mistakes.  I hope they can find peace knowing Shotzi is safe.

Giving comfort when the miracle doesn’t come

My story is not anything powerful or life changing. I’m a Christian who does not go to church. I’m not religious. I started this bible study because I don’t fit in anywhere, but I do know I need fellowship, and I would love it if it was with other Christian women, even if they do look at me like I’m a freak. I was a stay at home homeschooling mother of 4 children, who taught sunday school at church and vacation bible school, until 2 years ago when my (now ex) husband threw me out of our home after 17 years of marriage.  Although I never lost my faith in God, I did feel a lot like Job. I never imagined anyone could hurt that much. God showed me different.

I’m a barista at a Starbucks kiosk inside of a major corporate grocery store. We’re open from 6 am to 9 pm everyday. Last night, at 9:20 pm, after me and the other closing employee finished closing up the Starbucks and as we were walking together to clock out and go home, we ran into an older woman who came in the grocery store with one sole intention – to get a Starbucks White Mocha Latte.

You could tell she had been crying. She was visibly WIPED…and when she saw that we were not only closed but getting ready to walk out, she started to sob, again.  I calmly asked her what kind of drink she wanted, and she went into detail and said her son wanted a White Mocha, 120 degrees, no whip.  She also told us that he was dying in the hospital right across the street.  I don’t know if she meant he was dying that night or dying slowly, but I didn’t care.  I looked at the other barista and looked at her, and knew God was asking me to go back, reopen the kiosk, reassemble the espresso machine and dirty up quite a few machine parts just to make this one drink.  The other barista (the wife of a pastor) didn’t give me any verbal exchange, she just walked out the door.  I told the woman, “I’ll do it.”

I went back, reassembled the espresso machine and white mocha pump and made her a Venti White Mocha, 120 degrees, no whip, and made her the Venti Dark roast coffee she asked for when we got there (having to grid fresh coffee for a pour over, since the pots were already washed and broken down).  She didn’t go into much detail, but she broke down several times in those 5 minutes. I held her as I walked her over to the cash register in the grocery check out aisle so she could pay, since our register was already closed for the night.

She kept asking me why I went out of my way to reopen and make the drinks, did I know what it was like to watch my child die?  I told her about my youngest child who lives with Type 1 Diabetes and how its almost killed her 7 times in her 12 years, but that no, I still had no idea what it was like. I had lost my four children in a custody battle, and in losing them, I grieved as if they had all died, because they were my entire life, but no I didn’t know what it was like…I didn’t have to know, all I knew was this mother was going to lose her precious child soon…probably a man who was the same age as my husband and myself.  And that his dying wish was for something I could actually give him, and in doing so, bring some comfort to hopefully him and his mother, who wanted him to be out of pain and healed of the cancer.

Re-closing and rewashing twice in one night, and leaving a little bit later than normal, is worth being able to give comfort to someone who’s heart is breaking,  especially when the miracle they want doesn’t come. #YesToGod

Friendships and technology

True friendship is priceless and can’t be measured, contained, defined, or bound by any earthly means. I’m aware of that. But God put something in my heart just now, that will bust me at the seams if I don’t write it out. I wanted to look at how friendships have changed as technology has changed over just a lifetime.

In the 70’s: Hanging out with a friend meant going out of your house and walking,or riding your bike, to your friends house or to your favorite “hang out” corner, and talking face to face.  I remember walking a mile or more and thinking it was no big deal. I remember my great-grandmother walking that distance and she thought it was no big deal! You could also call someone on the phone, if that person had a phone. Fights, backstabbing and lies were less common, because the person doing the lying/backstabbing had to deal with their victim face to face.

In the late 80’s: we had this groovy brand new thing called the “world wide web” or “bulletin board” that required you to do a wild hook up with some Radio Shack purchased phone adapter gadget that looked like it was swallowing your phone – and I mean the old fashioned kind of phone, with a “microphone speaker” and a “voice speaker”, then dialing 16 numbers to connect long distance (which resulted in AT&T sending your mother a bill for $1000 the next month) to a server, and waiting for about 30 minutes for the connection, that would happen at the amazing speed of about 300 baud.  Never heard of baud? There’s a reason. This was usually encompassed by nights of D&D, inventing new DOS programs in order to play TIC TAC TOE on a green screen, and typing the words IF and THEN until your keyboard died. The connection was with usually 1 friend at a time. You had the ability to be anonymous only if that person could not track down your physical address by using your phone number.
aimiconBetween the early and late 90’s,people used e-mail to contact others, or chat rooms at places like AOL (these chatrooms were as crowded as a baseball stadium and getting the “boot” was an everyday experience). Writing an email required more thought back in those days – to actually type out a “letter” and type out the email address, and send it. The dial-up experience was getting a little faster, it was 9600 baud by then if memory serves, and phone companies were getting with the program by allowing free long distance!!!!!

Somewhere between 2000 – Myspace: Keeping in touch with friends meant going to a forum (writing an email to a friend and saying “You should check out this forum, we can talk there, they have a quiet and private chatroom!”), typing in yourscreen name and password, and reading pages and pages, finding “the right one” to respond to with your thoughts. Friendships were capable of being many, but a lot of contact meant a lot of multi-tasking. Connection time was DSL, very fast and reliable. A few more bullies, but it was manageable. You could always open your own free forum for your friends to use to get away from hurtful people online.

Myspace: Our first taste of instant gratification, mass appearances of anonymous bullying online, and speaking to friends and relatives very easily.

Facebook-Like-ButtonAnd then came wi-fi, Facebook, and mobile uploading of photos/status updates: Staying in touch with a friend or relative is as easy as following them on your news feed – in essence they come to you, so speaking to them requires no effort. At the same time, if you want to be a blazing asshole and show the world how much you need to shut your mouth by not doing so – no effort is required, and you can even do it anonymously, thanks to Facebook allowing multiple accounts to the same IP address (using a different email to set up an alternate account).

And then came the government legally monitoring every thing we say and who we contact, day to day. It was bound to happen, but did you notice that it only happened when we made it easy?

All of the above is a reminder to me of just how precious true friendships really are, and how with great power comes great responsibility.

Thank you to all of my friends for being there, especially the ones who have made every effort to stay in touch – through us all growing up and moving, through our marriages, divorces, job changes, technology changing around us, and our ever-changing homefront.

Immeasurable Miracles

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I took this photo 2 days ago. With it, I want to talk about healing.

God is the Great Physician. God heals miraculously, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

Sometimes when we pray for healing, we think the prayer is answered only if the measured miracle happens – the illness disappears.  For a disease, we ask for a cure.  During and after a crisis, we ask for safety and security.  When we are watching a loved one deteriorate at the very end, we ask for a peaceful passing.

I remember 3 months ago, praying for Adam to survive his stroke.  There was a warm feeling that rushed over me when I pleaded with God for a miracle, and I knew Adam would live. I knew he would never be the same, but that there would be a greater good happening as a result.  I didn’t know the details. I didn’t know the when or the how, or the why. I’m thankful for that, too – because waking up every day, seeing his progression as his spirit and his physical body heals,  is such a gift.

As I’ve watched the physical and spiritual transformation happening to my life partner over the last 3 months….over the last month…over the last week….as I come to grips with his newness and appreciate his oldness, I see Healing before our eyes that is without form, immeasurable, and undeniably God.

The world around us says that healing takes place one way, but God will give it His way. In truth, the Healing that comes is for the Glory of our Creator, and it’s only in whatever form God says is right.

It’s not always visible and immediate, but it is given always.  

Watching God Work

3 months ago, Adam survived a massive stroke that stripped him of his left side, of many memories, of the ability to open his left hand and play guitar, of the ability to remember the words and chords to the hundreds of songs he has played to eclectic crowds for almost the last 30 years. He’s spent the last 3 months relearning how to walk and talk, trying to grasp the concept of time and keep track of it. God has moved Mt. Vesuvius for Adam to heal mentally and physically as much as he already has.

Today, another miracle happened. Today Adam was baptized by Christ!  Not in a church, but in the campground where we reside here on Mother Earth. Because, that is where we are.  Adam wanted to be washed clean and become God’s servant, and he reached out in obedience.  Dian, our friend who is not an ordained pastor, but simply a brave, obedient and open minded servant of God, agreed to drive an hour to our doorstep, and give Adam God’s gift of salvation.

It was better than being in a church! I watched the partner God gave to me two years ago today, become the husband that God is making for me.  I watched a shell of a man that I have known and loved for 27 years become filled with the Holy Spirit, and sins washed away, curses removed, and a lifelong hunger filled.

I’ll never forget what Adam said as he repented his sins – “I wanna be washed clean, ” He begged, “Please let’s get some water.” He could barely sit still, he wanted it so bad.

I’ll never forget the words Dian spoke as she prayed over him before and after she used my grandmas old pot to pour the water over Adam’s head.   She asked that all his afflictions be taken away, addictions lifted, and he be healed, and if God sees fit for Adam to play the guitar again, that God use him however He see’s fit, to fill hearts with heavenly music and lead others to Christ. I felt stones being laid, like the beginning of a path.

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It goes to show that you don’t have to be a member of a church to be used by God, to spread truth and give hope and strength.  You don’t have to be certified on paper. You just have to have a heart for God, and be brave enough to answer the call when you’re asked.  It was breath taking. And I know that in order for me to be the wife Adam needs in our future, that I need to woman-up and give Adam Godly discipleship.

 

The Other Side of My Cardboard

 

 

God has really worked on me today…this morning I woke up so unable to celebrate the Easter holiday, apathetic and still buried in sorrow from the loss of my children…

My heart is broken. That hasn’t changed. But, I have so many reasons to celebrate Easter. I know that Jesus is my Savior. I love God, but God loves me a lot more.

If I can add to this cardboard testimony….

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Happy Easter To My Children

ImageLast year was the first post-divorce Easter. It used to be my favorite holiday because one of my children has a birthday right before it and one has one right after. It was much harder last year than today, although I still can’t bring myself to celebrate the rising of my Lord and Savior.  I’ve had two years now to adapt to parental alienation and to life – as if there is one – without my four children.

He may have won custody, and he may keep us from contacting each other, but he can never replace me with a new girlfriend or new family traditions.  I know that now. I guess that’s what I didn’t know last year, and since I can’t be with my children today or hear their voices, I decided to honor them by remembering our family traditions.

  • Waking up to squeals of delight as children found their Easter baskets at sunrise.
  • Homemade French toast and syrup for breakfast.
  • Dying boiled eggs and hiding them for the kids to find.
  • Making deviled eggs and tuna salad sandwiches from the “found” eggs.
  • Visiting family or calling them on the phone.
  • Blowing bubbles outside in the sunshine
  • Looking for new four-leaf clovers, and finding caterpillars and budding flowers
  • Watching old Bible story movies.

To Amanda, Kaitlyn, Austin, and Katerina:

Mommy loves you all. You keep on growing. Develop your own opinions. They have merit. You will always be my babies. Nothing your father can do will ever change my love for you. Enjoy today. We will see each other and speak to each other on the first Saturday of the month, like every month, when we will have Easter on April 6th, and celebrate two of your birthdays.

Her Final Gift

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Grandma, circa 1945

On a humid Alabama day in July of 2010, my 87 year old grandmother had a severe stroke.  She had been suffering for the last few months with lung cancer, having never smoked a day in her life. I remember thinking that her lung cancer was unfair, especially since she was already a 40 year survivor of breast cancer. I also remember praying that her end would be merciful. Her father had “stroked out” in the same manner she did, only he lived 2 years afterwards, and his long wait for freedom was agonizing. As it turned out, God was gracious enough to take my grandmother in 17 days.

 She didn’t know it, but during that time, she gave the family by her side a priceless treasure.  There was a unique family reunion in what was by then, her death room. My aunt and I took shifts, watching over her as she transitioned with one foot in this world and the other already in the next.  She would occasionally come to, and want to see or speak to certain members of the family. She had important things to say to all of us. The most special moments to me were when she called on family members who were already with her on the other side.

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Me and Grandpa right before his sudden death

 The majority of my deceased family had passed on some 30 years before, before I was a teenager. It had been a long time since I had been in their company.  Some had passed on when I was an adult, but I didn’t get to know them the way she did. None of them got to know my own children, so it made the reunions that much more special.

Most of these ascended conversations would take place for a few minutes right before sunrise. I remember the air would somehow change right as the sun would crest outside the window, and on more than one occasion her talks wouldn’t be finished, and she would call out to that person, as if suddenly they were gone. I would smile through silent tears and say, “It’s OK, Grandma. He’ll be back.” She spoke to her husband, her brother, friends, in-laws, a nephew…the one person she didn’t seem to get to speak to for some reason, that she asked for repeatedly, was her own mother.

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My great-grandparents

My father told me that as soon she gave her last breath, the front screen door opened and shut. My aunt tells me she had a look of peace. She was surrounded by love, in her own home. I can’t think of a more peaceful way to go…

I like to think that when her spirit walked out the front door, that her mother, who she so longed to be with,  was walking her out and taking her to meet Jesus, who she loved her whole life.

Abraham and Isaac

ImageNo matter what religion you practice or believe in, we all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. How Abraham hears Gods voice one day and what he hears is that God wants him to leave with his son Isaac, and in that process, sacrifice him.

Abraham was probably beside himself with shame and guilt for having cheated on his wife Sarah, but we’re not told that. We’re also not told that he was probably eaten up with anger at Sarah when she pridefully shunned Hagar and cast her out into the desert with Ismael, Abraham’s other son through that extra-marital affair. All we’re told is that one day, after years of marriage and probably surviving every problem imaginable together, without even giving Sarah a head’s up, Abraham takes off in the woods with their only child.

Abraham and Sarah had a dilemma on their hands.  The Bible only focuses on Abraham’s point of view, but it wasn’t just Abraham who was charged with raising Isaac, so for the sake of modern times, let’s include Sarah. Abraham’s dilemma was that, after they prayed for a child, watched his child be born, and raised him, he had to let go of the future of his child.  Sarah’s dilemma was that after praying for a child (having him only after divine assistance), giving birth to him, and raising him, her husband was taking him away, I’m sure without her consent,  to end his life.

You may look at the story of Abraham sacrificing his son and go that’s so not possible, only an insane person would do that.

People do that today all the time.

When you fall in love, have a child, and then divorce and you lose custody of your precious child (or you’re never married in the first place, and the mother just does what she wants and doesn’t include the father), it happens because we build a place to burn our child’s future – with all their anger, greed, jealousy, guilt, the mother and father build an alter just like the one Abraham did, and we set our child on it to burn. God doesn’t want it though, just like he didn’t want Abraham to burn Isaac, so he sent Abraham a ram (which was the proper sacrifice for the day and time period of the story). Now a days in 2013, the “ram” is simply not butting heads. It’s two parents, separated or together, not clashing horns. It’s speaking to each other, being humble, and working together for what is best for the child – even if the parents can’t stand being together.

When your ex wins custody, or in the case of an unwed mother, the ex simply takes the baby and doesn’t include the father that pain feels exactly like a living sacrifice, because the noncustodial parent has no control over their child’s future. They experience exactly what Sarah did when Abraham left and took their child – their child that they both prayed for, watched be born or gave birth to, they both raised – there is no greater pain. All you can do is pray for God to help keep your child safe, for God to soften the heart of the custodial parent, for God to build a bridge that pride, greed, fear, jealousy, and control destroyed. Abraham (and the unspoken other half Sarah) were both blessed because God gave him the ram so Isaac didn’t have to die – so his father and mother didn’t have to both stop building a future for Isaac.

Some of us aren’t that lucky. Sometimes parental pride ruins a child’s entire future because the parents can never seem to work together for the child. In modern times, the child sacrificed doesn’t burn on an alter, but they burn and their life is destroyed.  They lose sight of what’s right and what’s wrong, because they can’t depend on anyone. The voices they listen to, to lead them, becomes whatever is popular at that exact moment. “Popular” and “easy” becomes what is “right”.

Do I have to go into what happens, when that happens?  Bad choices that scar a person forever.  Yeah. That’s the burn that Isaac would’ve been destroyed by, if Abraham hadn’t been shown a ram just in time to save his son.

As parents in 2013, our ram is humility.  It’s doesn’t mean we have to live with the other parent when the relationship was toxic and unhealthy for everyone involved. It means putting down pride, which is a supernatural act of love. It means being able to communicate, focus on what’s best for the child involved, and work together as parents.

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