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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.

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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.

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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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.

My relationship with God

ImageI’m a Christian.  Yeah, shocker.  I was saved and baptized when I was 14 – ten years before I met and married the ex-husband that destroyed me.  He wasn’t my first ex-husband, but he sure was my last.  My two previous ex-husbands, who I shared life with for a very short time each, agreed that when we split up, neither of us would try to take from the other. We went our ways peacefully. I had no idea that divorce was any other way. Ex #3 taught me a big lesson after 17 years of marriage to him: Not every human being who appears to have the capacity for morals and family values really has what it takes when the chips are down, and when that someone doesn’t have those things inside of them, it’s easy to see that individual as “not a human being”.

When I was married to my third husband, what I think of as my first “real” marriage, I searched deeper into my spirituality – something much more real to me than Christianity preached into my soul from childhood.  I loved the relationship I came to have with God. Around my third year of marriage, I became a Sunday school teacher in the church we attended. It was a military church, far from home. My husband was stationed in Ft Bliss, Texas so we lived there at the time. Out in the desert it was easy to be comfortable in your own skin. No one seemed to judge you the way they did in the South (yes, it’s capitalized. If you’re from around there, you understand why). My husband wasn’t baptized, but he eventually came to accept my involvement in the church. He saw it as a good thing for his career.  I didn’t care why he accepted it. I was happy to be able to attend. I loved my relationship with God. It evolved into me becoming a home school teacher for my children, and then later on for children in the church. Then I dove even deeper and taught Vacation Bible School for three years.   I loved being a teacher. I started having pipe dreams about becoming a teacher.

When my husband was discharged due to a medical issue in 2004, we went home to Alabama and tried to continue life there. The children started public school, because his parents (who lived next door) were against me teaching their grandchildren.  That left a scar.  We found a a small country church nearby and started attending it. The feeling wasn’t the same, but the congregation was nice. The place and the people made you feel welcome.  For the next few years, that was the new normal.  My husband even gave me permission to go to college to become a teacher.  He knew the school superintendent. He was going to get me a job at the school our children attended.  Then, the divorce happened.

In 2011, I was told I had to leave. The house was in his name. Everything was just in his name. His parents had made sure of that from the day we married in 1995. My children all wanted to stay with him, even my oldest child from a previous relationship. I can only assume he bribed them all with money and freedoms that up until that moment, he never allowed anyone to have.  And he had money. His whole family did.  I left, assuming it would be temporary, that I would find a job and get a home and get my kids back.  I had grown up with divorced parents and saw my mother struggle to feed and clothe me. I knew how hard it was, but I never complained about it. I naturally thought my children would love me just as much as I loved my mother and would want to be with me, no matter how hard we had to struggle. That didn’t happen. They saw how I was struggling, and wanted to stay where they were. They also stayed with our church. My kids asked me to stop going, because it made them feel awkward. So, not only did I lose my family, my home, my job future, and my dignity, I also lost my church home.

I was back to just having a private relationship with God.  That was probably the best thing for me, because I spent a lot of time on my knees crying so much I couldn’t see.  I guess I went through every stage of grieving, as if my family had died, in a sense.  Except they weren’t dead. They just chose not to speak to me. My (now) ex-husband, being from an Islamic background, turned to his roots and became a tyrant, forcing my children to cut up my photographs, not speak to me on the phone or online, and any mail I sent them was opened, scanned and filed, and read through before being given to them.  He sent an email under an anonymous name to every school district in the state. It was a defamation of character. If I could prove it was him, I would  sue him for it, but like a coward, he did it anonymously.

Life has been Hell since the day he told me I had to leave.  I’ve survived freezing cold weather in a friends car. I’ve lived in some trashy places, in a tiny RV.  I’ve taken jobs I never imagined I would have to do in order to just eat.  I’ve seen people with addictions that I never knew existed, suffering worse than myself. I’ve survived the flash flood of a river where I had to swim for my life in the middle of the night, when the RV was almost washed away.  I’ve moved 250 miles from my family, thinking it was the best thing for me to do since my ex-husband ruined my career at home. I only get to see my children for 8 hours a month anyway.

It’s worth the drive to see their faces and hear their laughter, touch their hair, make them a meal at my father’s house, or just take them somewhere.  I never expected to be a divorced mother who pays child support.  I don’t know what God was thinking when He planned this.  Where’s the good in it?  In the big picture, not right now.  I don’t see any right in it. Since the divorce, my kids tell me he got baptized. Ironic for an Islamic man. He probably did it to wash away the sin of being married to me.

Lately I’ve been reminded of the Book of Job.  Job went through Hell on earth, losing everything. His family. His home. Eventually his health. He never lost his faith in God through it all. I’m a lot like Job. People think I’m crazy, because after everything, I’ve never lost faith that God loves me.  It’s never even crossed my mind. On the contrary, I think God always protects me, provides for me, and guides me.  But then, I don’t just read the Bible to find messages from God. I get them from nature, from music, from book passages. Those are some old habits from years ago, when I was first diving deeper into my spirituality – where I found that meaningful relationship that I couldn’t find as a child in church. It’s because God isn’t in a church building.  God is with you, where ever you go.  If you happen to gather and mingle in a building, then great. If you don’t, that doesn’t mean you’re abandoned.

Losing everything made me feel so afraid. Maybe you’ve lost everything too. Fear can make you feel abandoned, but you have to keep picking yourself up and look with better eyes than that. God’s bigger than all my fears. He’s even bigger than my ex-husbands pride. He’s bigger than my inability to find a job, or pay child support.  I’m gladly giving all that to the One who knew me before I was even in the womb.

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