In this time of Divisiveness, don’t forget who YOU are

It is the Lenten Season and I am trying to be good and have daily devotion. Even though I work for a religious business (a church camp), I have to admit that, sometimes, I fall short of reading the Bible daily. I converse with God daily and I try to be a good listener, but the education component is sometimes missing-except during this season.

Today, my devotion took me back to my upbringing.

My dad was a small business owner. I was raised in a small/mid-sized city and I was sure that everyone knew who my father was (silly child!) What that did for me was to help keep me on the straight and narrow. (http://www.co-z-aire.com/)

I didn’t want to do anything that would cause shame to my family or in any way impact my father being able to do business. I was so sure that my actions might impact my dad being able to have customers. I may have been very naive, but it was something I always thought about when I had a choice to make; ‘How will this affect the family name? Will Dad lose business if I do this, or that?’

Today, I was reading about being part of the family of God. It made me think about what I do daily. Do I think ‘How will my actions affect my Godly family? Will Dad (God) lose business if I do this, or that?’ I will have to honestly say that I do not always think in those terms.

I am not a bad person but I could always be better.

Yesterday, my son had me take a survey to “determine” my political temperament. Where did I fit on the political strata? The questions were very black & white and very polarizing. I answered honestly and I think my son was surprised that I was almost smack-dab in the middle of the fascist/libertarian & right/left quadrants.

circle UM logo  When I take “what are you?” political tests, I always rank as a conservative Republican. If I were to take a religious test, I would be right where I am supposed to be. As a United Methodist (click and learn more about the UM Church) , I am allowed to have my own beliefs and still feel confident in my political views. You see, the United Methodist Church is made up of all peoples. And studies do show that over 50% of church members are conservative but over 50% of the pastors are liberal (I do not have exact percentages but you can read this article: https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/05/on-the-political-leanings-of-methodists/483683/ )

I think my son was surprised at the results. I told him that I try to see all points of view and try to be compassionate and understanding. But there are times when I do not think about my God Family when I do things. I don’t think about how God might look at my actions.

While the majority of people in the United States believe in God, the percentage is dropping – http://www.theharrispoll.com/in-the-news/harris-polls/Americas-Belief-in-God.html . I think it is apparent when you see how violence has escalated, how insensitiveness  has increased and how people are louder, ruder and less kind than in the past. I think that people are hard and combative and not willing to sit across the table and break bread. It seems to have become ‘It’s my way or the highway’ attitude.

I try not to be that person. But I also know that I need to be more concerned about my God Family and think first how God will react to my actions. Just as I don’t want my children to behave inappropriately, I, as a child of God, need to make sure that I do not behave inappropriately. I need to make sure that my words are loving and not divisive; that I use proper language and not words which are polarizing, degrading or downright tasteless.

Today, I want to be aware of my God Family; that I make sure I do not do anything that would embarrass my Father or take ‘customers’ away from His Business. What a wonderful world we would have if we all just tried to make our family proud.

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I have failed!?!?! Finding the truth in failure

I had set in my mind that I would start blogging again on Ash Wednesday. And here it is Thursday, February 11 and there was no blog posted yesterday. I failed! But did I?

What was the purpose of my wanting to start blogging again? Was it to share a recipe, share my insights on life? Or was it to get in the habit of writing again? I did sit down yesterday and start writing. I did take photos to post 20160210_173220with my blog. But my writing was all over the place. I began writing about nostalgia; my actual intention was to write concerning the lack of class/manners/respect that there seems to be these days in comparison to time before 1960. I actually had written “the more things change the more they stay the same…” because it seems that every generation says that a previous generation was better.

I was not in a very good location to concentrate. It was a public place. It was a wine tasting and tap-room in my community. Even though I was sitting in a quiet location in the back of the tasting room an20160210_172514d facing away from the entrance I could not concentrate. There was only a small group of people there, so it was hard to block out conversations.

I learned how to make the perfect gin and tonic and then they started talking about key limes being the better tasting lime. WELL…I have a story about a key lime tree and so I had to join in on the conversation. (It is a darn good story that deals with a legally purchased, but illegally acquired tree, the USDA and the demise of all of the Midwestern citrus orchards. Look for a blog about this!)

By then, my friend arrived to share in a glass of wine before I needed to head to Ash Wednesday service. I arrived at church 7 minutes late and the sermon was almost over! But, I felt God would 20160210_172607understand, as this person has become an important part of my life and we have wonderful God discussions.

I received a text from my daughter while at service saying she was very hungry and would I have food ready for her when she got home after five hours of dancing. SO…when I got home, I needed to make food for my daughter. You can see where I had problems writing; I wasn’t committed to a topic; there was nothing passionate on my heart in which to share; I had a commitment to spending time with a friend, with my church family and taking care of the needs of my own family. (Plus add to it my last parent-teacher conference in Blair, NE)

I ask myself, Did I fail? I met with my daughter’s teachers for the last time, which was important to my daughter, plus she needed me to make her food. (And I need to tell you it is rare that she asks me to make her food. She is very good at taking care of meals when she is on her crazy schedule). I met with a friend, who also attended her last parent-teacher conference. I attended service and had a chance to sit in my sanctuary and take time to be in relation with other believers. I finished a work project, worked my Girl Scout Cookie Cupboard by filling cookie orders for local troops. I also directed the practice for my churches children’s handchime choir and youth handbell choir. It was a busy day and I accomplished so much.

I know this blog is all over the place, but that was my day yesterday. And I did not fail. Sometimes, you need to do things, just to do things, like exercising, eating and sleeping. But there are times when your reasoning for a goal makes no sense. You need to evaluate what your plans for the day, or your life are and determine whether it is need or a want. God taught me yesterday that there were many needs yesterday but the one WANT I had, just wasn’t necessary. I knew there would come a time and I would write.

With the beginning of Lent yesterday and a chance to reflect on why I am on this earth, I learned that I need to re-evaluate my goals and wishes. I generally keep my Lenten reflections, fasting and denial to myself but with yesterday’s activities, I learned that what I was planning to do, was not necessary; I was planning to get into the habit of blogging daily. With my resuming to blog during Lent, I would tie my writing to my Christian faith and therefore making me a better person as I reflect on my life and the life of Jesus the Christ.

I believe that God speaks to me in my everyday life. I believe that God was telling me to redirect my ambitions. I believe that God was telling me that I am not a failure, but I am flawed as I am human and a sinner. I think that God was telling me “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” from writer Robert Burns. 

I so thought that my Ash Wednesday blog was not going to be towards my Christian faith. I think God had different intentions. Have a wonderful day and remember, you are not a failure but you may be flawed. We all have the chance to learn, grow and improve!

The Power of a Woman – Part 2

I believe that God puts you in positions, or provides opportunities, for you to learn. Like, for instance, a part breaking on a plane which frees up some time for a person to write a blog.

“I struggle every day with who I am…” those were my words on Monday as I sat in an airport, waiting for my plane to attend a United Methodist National Gathering of Camp and Retreat Leaders. I arrived eight and a half hours later than I was scheduled. I missed the opening worship service, but I found out I did not miss the lesson!

Because I arrived late and missed the first event of the conference, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything else. I was up at 6:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. my time) to attend Morning Watch. I walked the short distance under the Spanish Moss laden trees to the little white chapel. Built in 1880, the small chapel is named Lovely Lane Chapel after the site where the founding of the Conference of American Methodism in Baltimore, MD, took place in 1784. It is significant in the life of the Methodist Church. But today, it was significant for me as it became my chance to move from my past, to the present and into the future. I did not even know that what I wrote yesterday would have such significance today. But that is the way God works.

The air was crisp as I walked towards the chapel. I opened the white-painted door to a small room filled with rich dark woods and beautiful, vibrant-colored stain glass panels. It was warm and welcoming. I was ready for newness.

I had spent much of yesterday, writing, re-writing and reading my blog. I wanted to make sure it was what I wanted to say. It was significant to me. After I was finished and hit the “publish” button, I kept thinking that the blog was not what I had intended.

I had meant to write about the fact that a woman has great power in no matter which position she holds in life. It is the right of a woman to determine her direction in life, whether it is being a stay-at-home mom or a business executive. I wanted to write that my parents had given me the power to decide my fate; I WAS to go to college; I WAS to get an education that would allow me to live on my own if that is what happened in my life; I WAS to have the chance to be independent and that would happen in college. My parents gave me the values and foundation to be whomever I wanted. That is what I meant to write about. I meant to write about the power women have and to not let anyone take that power away, and that power could be defined in many different ways.

That is what I meant to say. But that is not what happened. I cried that I missed my past life. I mourned for the person I was and I lamented my sorrow to the world.

It was actually on my mind as I entered the chapel. And then the pastor stands up to give the message. He cited Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God’s Word Translation says, “Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events long ago.” Apparently, that was the Bible verse that was cited in the opening worship service which I had missed.

I was dumbfounded! That verse was speaking to me; God was speaking to me. He was telling me to get over it and feel blessed with the life that I have and am re-creating every day. He had probably been telling me that for quite a while and I was not listening (I just typed lostening. How ironic that I wrote lost because that is what I am/was.)

If I had been at the evening service and heard that verse, I am sure it would not have meant as much to me. I needed to be placed in a position where I allowed myself to have a pity party. I had to put down, in words, my feelings of despair because then, and only then, would it manifest itself into the “aha” moment of this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I still own my words. I do miss being “that” person, but there are parts of my childhood and young adulthood that I miss. I do not mourn those times, I have recollections which have shaped who I am today, I must look at the past and take what I did and learned and use it in my present and into my future. I need to quit dwelling on my past and being mournful because dwelling on it makes me sad and I do not want to be a sad person. I want to be a happy person, an inspiring person, a person filled with love for God and family.

God gives us a chance to learn. Sometimes God needs to set things in motion that force someone to look at their life so they can quit dwelling on the past and begin looking towards new things, the future.

For my Morning Watch alone, I am a changed person. I may only say this once, but thank God for my canceled flight.

The Power of a Woman

I struggle every day with who I am. I am a traditional person. I like the idea of “The Man of the House” and me being the “housewife”, or mother, or domestic engineer (Okay, not so much the domestic engineer title). I dream of winning the lottery so I can truly be at home and taking care of my man, my children and the home. If I won the lottery I could give money to the non-profits I support and volunteer to my heart’s content. I was lucky enough to only have very part-time jobs for 17.5 years. My husband worked (and still works) his tail off so I could be home with the children.

Because of his sacrifices, we homeschooled for six years. I was a full-time volunteer, always available to run errands for my husband and be “that” mom who was heavily involved in her children’s life. Because my husband travels with his job, there were frequent flyer miles and hotel points so we enjoyed nice vacations.

I am employed, outside the home, full-time now because of circumstances in our life. I made choices that precipitated my full-time employment sooner than I had expected, but we also have a child in college and one who will be in college in the next year and a half. We decided that our children should come out of college debt free and so there are sacrifices that I now need to make. (Did I mention before that I like nice things? Oh yeah, I did. Once again, another reason why I am full-time)

I love what I do. I have the best full-time job, outside of the home,  that a person could have. And while I love what I do, my heart still breaks a little (a lot) when I get home and realize that I still have my home responsibilities and that I am not as available as I was. I am a traditionalist. I liked being available, at the drop of a hat, to run errands for my children, or my husband. I liked being that person that could be counted on to bring food to school for the teachers, or homemade treats for the dance class. I liked quilting and making Halloween costumes and making homemade bread for the family. I liked being able to can the vegetables from the garden and shovel the driveway, for the exercise.

I hope that people did not think that I was an unintelligent woman when I was a stay-at-home mom. I hope people didn’t think that I “settled.” I love it when I can give of myself to people. The gift of my time and talent was the best gift I could give someone; especially when time is so precious these days. I was not dependent on people. I am a very independent person but I loved being “that person”.

Years ago, I received an email that was a dig on being a good wife. And while I laugh at some of the things that are presented in this email, I have to say, that I would think our home would have been happier if I would have done more of those things. That independent part of me did not allow me to follow through on some of these things.

Good Wife…Directions

1) Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

2) Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

3) Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

4) Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dust cloth over the tables.

5) During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

6) Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate the noise of the washer dryer or vacuum. Encourage your children to be quiet.

7) Be happy to see him.

8) Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to see him.

9) Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first-remember, his topic of conversations are more important that yours.

10) Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

11) Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.*

12) Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

13) Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

14) Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

15) A good wife knows her place.

* Don’t know that him staying out all night, should not be questioned.

So as I read through these things, I think to myself, how lovely it would be, to be all of these things to the man I love. This is a total commitment to be a good wife and manager of the home. And, in turn, your husband would be respectful to his wife and appreciative of all of the things that she does for him. This is the true definition of being a good wife. In the Bible (Ephesians) it talks of being submissive. It does not mean to be lesser than, it means allowing the man to be the ultimate say in the household. Believe it or not, someone needs to be the boss; someone has to have the final say.  It brings tears to my eyes to think that I have been too opinionated, too forceful in my ways and not submissive enough.

There are needs in a household. Someone has to clean the house. Someone has to cook the meals. Someone has to cart the kids around before they are able to drive. Why does society look down on those people who have made that decision to take on those responsibilities? Do I feel less of a person because I was that person for so many years, absolutely not! I would say that I feel less of a person because I am outside of the home, not being there, doing the things that need to be done in the home.

I honor and respect those women who are able to always be at home, unless they are at home for the wrong reasons. If you are at home, you should be trying to do things to make life easier for your spouse, who is out making the money to sustain your household. If you are home out of laziness, shame on you. If you have sacrificed your career, to be available for your spouse and children, I applaud you and have no greater respect. What a greater sacrifice to give, than to put yourself last and all others first.

For years I wore a necklace that had the acronym JOY: Jesus first, others second, yourself third. Now I wear the United Methodist Cross 24/7. It helps define who I am. I like to think that I still live in JOY but the others (my family) may not feel that they have me as they had me at one time.

I still hope that maybe I could still win the lottery. I do buy tickets every once in a while but I need to accept the fact that my life has changed. I can no longer be “that” mom who is always available. I am finding that my volunteer life is not as easy as it once was; I find that my free time is different. I have not quilted in almost two years and I have unfinished projects begging for attention. My family does not receive homemade meals like once was; sometimes I just look at them and tell them they are on their own.

I know that my husband has sacrificed a lot to provide for our family. He is a man who likes to be busy but I don’t know if that busy-ness would have to be for an income, if it weren’t for the likes and lifestyle that has been established in this family. Some may feel that I sacrificed by being at home for so many years. I would tell you that my sacrifice is being away from the home and not available.

Maybe I was wired for a different generation. I hope that there are women out there like me. I hope that there are people out there who want to live their life making other’s happy in an unselfish manner. I am not an unintelligent woman. I am independent, but want to be a people pleaser.

For those people out there, who are who I used to be, God Bless you! For my husband and children, I love you and know that this is where we need to be in our lives. In a perfect world, I would be at your call 24/7, available for you whenever you need me.

Ephesians 5:22-23

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, …

You need to be where you need to be; your sacrifices are your sacrifices and they may not seem like sacrifices to others. Sometimes, okay maybe more times than not, you need to look outside of your world and figure how you can be best used in the live’s of others. I mourn that I am not who I was and I have still not accepted who I am now. But, with God’s Help, I will find my way in this new life, embrace it and live life abundantly.

I believe in Jesus, but I am not a Jesus freak!

Did I catch your attention? If you are a faithful Christian did you think my comment was sacrilegious? Believe me, that was not my intent. I believe in Jesus and I am a Jesus lover!

I am watching “The Today Show” and Bill O’Reilly is going to be interviewed. One of the discussion topics is teaching about Jesus in the public school system. I am not against people learning about Jesus. I think he did, and will do, miraculous things on this earth. I will hold off on my comments until I hear what Bill says.

Okay, Bill just said that he wants kids to learn about Jesus as a person, not as part of religion. He explained that our government was formed around a Judeo-Christian religion and that children need to learn the background of our government. I totally agree with that.

When I was in junior high, my literature teacher used a book that would cause huge controversy now in the public school system. It was “the Bible AS LITERATURE”, edited by Alton C. Capps.  Introduction…”Modern civilization is greatly indebted to the Bible. The foundations of modern Western culture evolved primarily from two sources: Athens and Jerusalem. Western culture, particularly the English speaking word, is more indebted to the Hebrew influence than to the Greek.”

If you think about it, the school system teaches other religions as stories and cultural experiences all of the time. In my school system, Second graders are taught about Hanukkah. They read the story about the 8 days and the oil; some classes make potato latkes as part of the cultural experience. When I asked a teacher how they can teach about the Jewish faith and not say anything about Christmas, her comment back to me was that Judaism is an ethnicity, Christianity is a religion.

Greek and Roman mythology is taught in the school system. These are stories that are about the gods of their religion. As they have been known more for their story value than their religious value, it is acceptable to learn these stories in the school system.

I have often referred to “the Bible” literature book in my discussions with people about “teaching” the Bible in school. There are so many great adventures, life lessons, murder, incest, redemption, in the Bible. If people got past the “religious part” of the Book, they could read every type of genre in one book!

Now back to my Jesus Freak comment. I have always been a church goer. When I was young, even a snow storm would not stop my dad from piling all of us into the station wagon and driving the mile to church. There were times that we were the only family in church with the pastor who had to walk across the street. We were very committed to being in church every Sunday.

When I was in 8th grade, I had my first Christian re-birth. Even though I was a church goer, on that day, I really took my belief to heart and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Throughout the years I have had many re-births; when my grandmother was diagnosed and died from ovarian cancer in an 11 month time frame, the Sunday I walked into my church sanctuary holding my 5-day-old daughter and many more, small, Christian growth spurts.

As a Christian, I believe that it is just as wrong to witness to those who are not ready to hear His word, as it is to not witness to those who are prepared to open their hearts to hearing the Word of God. I am very careful with whom I speak my faith because I do not want to be “the person” that scares someone away from getting to know my Lord. But I also have the fear that maybe I miss out on an opportunity. It is through prayer and an openness to hearing what God wants you to do that you understand your walk in this life.

I think what I fail to do many times is listen, be still and listen. God speaks with me every day, I have no doubt. I don’t think I hear Him every day though because I fail to be still. If this was January 1, I would say that needs to be my New Year’s resolution. I guess that becomes my April 10th resolution.

I am best when I think of God as a parent. I look to how I have raised my children and I can relate to the expectations that God has for me because I have the same expectations for my children. I know that if I push too much, at the wrong time, I will only get resistance. But there are times when I push and my children are open to my words and I receive results; at the correct time, with the proper words, they are open to my words and actions.

The term Jesus Freak arose in the 60’s and continued through the 70’s. My definition is not a positive term but one that denotes a person who is pushy in presenting their witness. They are “out there” and are not in touch with the world around them. In my opinion, they are witnessing and not thinking about their words or actions; they are not thinking that their actions may be driving people away for Jesus, instead of drawing them near the faith.

We must live in the world. In the six years that we homeschooled, I felt it was important to be involved in the community. I did not put my children in the protective cocoon and sheltered them from the world. I believe that I have a duty to teach my children how to live a Christian life in a secular world. I cannot do that if they are not exposed to outside influences. I will not always be around to protect them. I needed to provide them with the tools to be strong in all circumstances. I needed to help boost their self-esteem and give them confidence to handle all situations.

I don’t believe that being a Jesus Freak is a positive model for them or me. I believe that living a clean life, a faithful life and teaching my children that a church family is important will help them to be able to go out on their own and stand up to the trials and tribulations of life.

I believe in Jesus and I pray that I will be open to being still and listening to know when it is my time to share my faith and the wonderful life a person can have with Jesus in their life.

 

I believe in God – a confession on my life

I believe in God! I believe that He* is the Master of my life and that, by my belief and acknowledgement of Him, I am blessed. I have always felt that way no matter what was happening in my life. And while I believe that, sometimes it is hard for me to talk/write about. I feel that God inspires me in my writing and when this topic entered my head this morning, frankly, it frightened me. Why you ask, please let me explain.

In my last post, I wrote about keeping family secrets and the importance of making sure that the family not be shamed. I also believe that you should be humble, no matter what the circumstances. So in writing this, I am making myself vulnerable. I must have faith that it is God that is inspiring me to write and that I am not being led astray by other forces. So I do write with trepidation but I think this is what I am to do. (Can you feel the hesitation that I have? Imagine me taking deep breaths, in and out, in and out…) Here goes…

As I wrote, I believe in God! I am a faithful person always; I believe in God, always; but I am not a religious person, always. I do not memorize where Bible passages are located in the Bible, although I know many Biblical stories and lessons. Sometimes I forget to say grace. And there are times when I am so tired or pre-occupied that I forget to speak with God daily. I go to church weekly and attend Sunday School and worship services. My husband and I have raised our children in knowing that Sunday is a day that we spend at church and church takes precedence  over sports, or sleep, if they were out a little too late.

To my recollection, I have never said that I hated God or been angry with God. I try to take responsibility for my actions. I don’t blame God for my circumstances because I am of the opinion that God lays many paths before me. Based on the path  I choose determines my future. I rely on God to be with me if I make poor choices and available for me when I ask for guidance. I do not attribute my shortcomings to “things” that God “has done” but I do give Him praise when things are going well. Some may ask, “How can you give credit to God but not place blame?” I can’t answer that for anyone else but myself. I have free will to make decisions in my life and I believe that some of my decisions have caused my life to go in directions I did not anticipate.  When I make a wrong choice, God has the opportunity to show me the correct path, if I am open to His words. (I am still somewhat hedging. I don’t want to rock the boat, known as my life, but I think it is time. I think I am being called to share what I have not shared before. I hope you have given me a little leniency)

Coming up in two weeks, I will have been married 25 years. There have been ups and downs, as in any relationship. Having a husband who is self-employed, there were times, early in his self-employment, that we did not have income. When that happened, I would say, “Well at least we are healthy.” When someone became ill I would say, “Well at least we have health insurance.” I would always try to find a way not be angry or to get depressed. I always thought that there was someone out there that had it worse than me and tried not to have a pity party.

I think our family is where we are today because we have always given credit where credit is due. As a family, we have always praised God and made Him an important part of our lives. Our family is healthy; We are gainfully employed; We have a full food pantry;  There are no reasons to complain about anything going on in our lives. (It took a lot for me to write that. It all goes to being humble. I worry that by actually saying this to the whole world, I may affect things. I know that seems superstitious, and I like to think that I am not, but I really do not want to jinx our life)**

Why do we have the life we have, while other people of faith struggle? I wish I knew and that may be one reason why I am humbled about what we have and what we are able to do for our church and our community.  I was able to go 17.5 years and devote the majority of my time to managing the household, everyone’s schedules and was a very busy volunteer. I always said that I volunteered so much to take on volunteering for women that were unable to do so because they had jobs outside the home. We have taught our children that it is important to give back to the community; that your community is only as strong as the people who give, to make it a great place to live.

I don’t want to say that life is easy, but we are blessed. And I know that our life may seem “easy” compared to others. But I think it is how I have looked at things that make me feel like we are handling things well. And maybe things have not been easy and it is just the way I look at life that makes me feel so blessed.

BIG GULP!

I believe that my husband was meant for me. I was faced with circumstances that forced me to move back to my parent’s home. It just so happened that my husband attended the church where I grew up. We met only because I trusted too much and gave someone access to my life.

FLASHBACK…the story

It was the darkest day in my life. All I saw were stars escalating into a pit of darkness the day I found out that I had nothing! I didn’t have much, just a car and furniture and Oh Yeah, a job. That may not seem like much to you but I had just lost it all, because I trusted, trusted too much.

Standing in the phone booth, listening to every customer service agent tell me that my phone and my electricity and gas were not out because of the spring storms; they were cut off from lack of payment. Uncontrollably shaking, I dialed the number to the bank that had my car loan…my car was up for repossession! That phone booth kept getting smaller and smaller and with that, the oxygen seemed to be less and less. I thought I was going to pass out before I made that last, most important, phone call.

It was hard to punch in the phone number to my bank because I was too frightened to hear the truth. I didn’t want to hear that I had a negative balance in my account. But I knew that was what I was going to be told. And even though I could feel my life crashing down around me, I could feel the weight of all that I was being told, I was in too much shock to let my emotions burst out of my soul.

I had been robbed, financially raped if you will, by someone whom I had trusted, trusted with my life. I had to think. I had to get my act together and figure out what I could do.

I was young, in my early twenties. I had a college degree but had not earned my degree in life. I was from a Midwestern town where you left your doors unlocked and didn’t have to worry about “bad guys”. I did not grow up in a small town, there were 60,000 people in this city which was near a larger city. When someone told me they were my friend, I trusted that was true. And when someone told me they wanted to help me, I took them up on their offer.

I was living in a different city about 6 hours from my hometown. I moved there for a job and basically knew where my bank was, and where the grocery store and my apartment were located. I worked long hours and my friends were people I managed. I now know that is inappropriate but they were the people I knew and my social life was my work.

I became friends with a man who seemed to know everything. He intrigued me. We began dating and then he started offering to handle mailing my bills for me since he was more flexible with his time. I thought, “How great is this. I basically have my own personal shopper and someone to take care of my bills.”

I would bring my bills to work and he would swing by my work and deliver my bills to the mailbox. (It seems strange but I don’t know that I remember where the post office was or any stand alone mailboxes. I look back now and know how dumb I was.) Within a month’s time I gave him access to my bank account. He was my friend, my boyfriend, I could trust him, right?

Fast Forward…The spring storms came and everyone lost power and phone service in my apartment complex. But after a few days I became concerned. My “boyfriend” said not to worry; it was just taking time to get everything back on-line. After a week, I decided to go to a pay phone and find out what was going on…

Every phone call I made saw me sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss. During the phone call to my bank the bottom dropped out of my life. If I remember correctly, I think I sunk to the floor of the phone booth and sobbed, deep-heavy breathing sobs.

Thank God I had(have) great parents. I phoned my parents and tried to explain to them what had happened. In between the tears I told them that I had nothing. I explained to them that I had trusted someone and he had stolen everything from me. I had to explain that I gave him my bank account information and instead of mailing my bills, he was taking money out of my account; Instead of picking up my mail, he was throwing all of my bills away and only giving me the junk mail. I had not received any late notices or anything that would give me a notion that I was slowly being robbed of my life. I was lost, alone and I needed Mom and Dad to rescue me.

They explained to me that they could not get to me right away because of commitments that they had. I needed to be strong and they would take care of things. They asked for the phone numbers to all of the utility companies and they would make sure that everything was settled up with them. They would make sure I had lights and phone by the end of the day and I would not lose my car. My dad told me I needed to get things squared away with my work and tell them that I needed to make arrangements to transfer to my hometown and that I would not be in to work for a couple of days.

I did what I was told and my company was very understanding and very accommodating . I would have a job and could start at the new location in two weeks. Thank God for a good company. Even through all of this, God was there with me. I had made the mistake of trusting someone but I put my trust in God and he took care of me with a loving family, a good company and wonderful people at the bank, the utilities, the phone company and JC Penney.

JC Penney? Yes, JC Penney. I had purchased all of my furniture through them and was on a payment plan. I had a living room set, bedroom set and dining room furniture. I phoned the sales person whom I had purchased my furniture and explained what had happened to me. Through the tears I told her that I could not afford the furniture and I needed to leave the state and really did not need the furniture anymore. Can you believe that they took it all back! Within two days a big van came out and picked up all of the furniture. My 1200sf apartment was almost completely empty. I had a television and a plastic shelving unit from college. (I still have the shelving unit in a spare room of our home) I slept on the floor, ate on the floor and relaxed on the floor. It was an empty shell, a true picture of what my life had become.

I moved back to my hometown and moved in with my parents. They had settled up all of my bills and I lost nothing except my dignity and the trust of people. Innately, I still wanted to trust, but I was vulnerable and frightened of everything. I started working almost as soon as I moved back and started going to church regularly again.

My parents wanted to help me transition to my “new” life. I was asked by a pastor to join a group of young adults that were planning a singles group for our congregation. Needing to find ways to meet new people in a protected atmosphere, I said yes. Twenty eight years later, I am so blessed to say that my first friend back then, is now my husband. He knows what happened but we don’t talk about it. After we had dated for a while, I told him what had happened. And up until the day that we started building our home, I was making payments to my father for everything that he had to pay out to rescue me. The day that we signed the papers for our construction loan, my father forgave the remaining debt.

You see, bad things, really bad things happened to me. But as I look at things now, in a more mature and as someone from the outside looking in, God was with me always. I had parents that could help me in my dire situation. I met a man who looked past my failures and loved me for me. There were companies that bent over backwards to help this poor, naive, single female.

It was not all wine and roses. There were some companies that were not as kind and I had problems with this individual, this creep that stole my life, after I moved back to my hometown. But I moved past all of that. I thank God for my life and even though it was a horrible time, it was a blessing, because I am where I am today because of the situations that brought me back to the fold of my parent’s arms.

I believe in God! I am a faithful person but not always a religious person. I believe that when I take the wrong path, God is there to help me learn and move forward. I believe that God wanted me to tell my story. I believe that I needed to tell my story, finally. I believe that you should never give up on God because He will never give up on you. You need to be willing to have God guide you and you have to be willing to struggle through the hard times and still want God there with you.

As John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said, “Stay in love with God.” I say, “Always be grateful and find ways to stay in love with God.”

A couple of side notes below…

*When I say Him, I do not mean male, it is the pronoun that I have used all of my life because there is not a pronoun for parent.

**It took me a week to finish this. The day after I started writing this, I went to the dentist and found out I needed a root canal. On that same day, I found out my car had about $1,000 worth of expenses in repairs and tires that were in desperate need of replacement. You know that “jinx thing” I wrote about in the beginning, it took me awhile to convince myself that was all coincidence. I thank God that my root canal was successfully treated and my car is in good repair. And I thank God that we are gainfully employed. As the old saying goes, “You can choose to see the glass half empty. I choose to see the glass as half full.”

And the tears, they fell…

Easter is near. But first we must make it to Good Friday. Maundy Thursday was very emotional for me. I would like to tell you that I don’t know why, but I do know. I sat in the first row, on the lectern side of the sanctuary. This put me straight in line with the pastor. I was able to look at her as she spoke about Peter denying Jesus; as she spoke of forgetting a name or denying a relationship.

But more than the message, I was front and center for communion. I watched as young people kneeled for communion and stayed longer than most, praying. I looked at the very young getting excited about getting bread and grape juice. I saw the old kneeling, barely able to get down and then up again.

I specifically had great feelings for a 90+ year old who bowed her head, buried in her arms. She looked so intense in her praying. I thought to myself, what could she be praying? She was so intense. Was she thanking God for her fulfilled life? Was she praying for her husband who is long past? Was she praying for her granddaughter who was kneeling next to her? Maybe none of these things but maybe all of them.

We all have so many reasons to believe in something greater than ourselves. But tonight I felt it. I felt the need to believe in a Savior of the World. I felt the need to cry because he sacrificed everything for me, someone who would not come around until over 1900 years after his death. I felt the need to cry, to let it all out.

It was a very intense service for me. I like to think that God is setting me up for a growth in my faith. I have been asking for it and maybe I will be getting what I asked for in developing a deeper, more intense relationship with my Lord.

As Easter arrives, I hope to feel a sense of jubilance, knowing that Jesus Christ, in deed, did die for my sins. He died for the sins that I had not even committed. I have been forgiven for everything that I will do in my life. It is up to me to ask for forgiveness. It is up to all of us to ask forgiveness. But the great thing is, is if we ask and are sincere, we are forgiven. That is what makes Easter so great, we are forgiven!

May your Good Friday, bring you to Easter! Amen and Amen!