Category Archives: epiphanies

Out of the Ashes

***Disclaimer: Guys, this is some crazy stuff!  It’s good God stuff.  This post is going to be extremely raw and real.  It is about my life and the life of my family.  I’m writing in hopes of freeing myself and helping others. I genuinely hope that the authenticity of my words expresses the emotion I feel inside.

 

I’ve been going through a rough patch for some time now.  I’ll say our immediate family has, and while we have persevered through many a tragedy (my view) a decision has been made that is life changing – To us all.

The Real Part

My marriage has been in jeopardy for years. We’ve seen counselors and pastors, read books and prayed, yelled and discussed and the greatest of those couldn’t save us.  Only we could save us, though it is now apparent we were not in it anymore. It was time to look at this from my counselors perspective and ask myself those things she posed to me a year ago….like:

1) Are you trying to avoid pain and are you fearful (get to the heart of that)?

2) Why would you stay and why would you go?

3) What are your goals?

4) What are you getting out of it?

5) What do YOU want?

In my case, I feel like all of those are important questions to answer before making a decision and I feel like the last one, the most important of all, is the one I’ve had such a hard time with for so long.

Recently a trusted friend said something to me that, for whatever reason, I never gave much thought to.  It’s true, though.  While I have always deemed my complacency the issue for the inability to make a decision, reality showed me that, in fact, I’ve never looked at the situation from my perspective.  In short, I have always put others needs above my own and never really thought about “What do I want?”

There is so much wisdom that has come from this friend – I could write a blog (not just post) about it.  Though I have gained great knowledge there and from a couple of other companions (new and old), it was a 5th grade book that brought me out of darkness, from the ashes, actually. Thank you Cari Noe.  Apparently God had a plan weeks ago when you asked me to sub. (Insert grin and shrug)

The Raw Part

Saturday…Sunday…Monday…Tuesday… this was happening to me:


After months of going back and forth, Saturday morning was the day of truth. My husband and I sat down at the kitchen table and had a tough, emotional decision making discussion.  It was probably one of the most logical conversations we have had in years – honest and revealing.  Everything was on the table, so to speak.

The next three days were torturous for me.  Everywhere I looked there was a memory.   Every song I heard had us in it. I ached everywhere and I wailed uncontrollably on and off.  I held it together in front of the kids and others but I felt like I was dying all over again, as I had last year.  Only this time…this time there was no going back.  There was no bandaid.  There was so much destruction that even thousands of pounds of mortar could not put this house back together. When I was honest with myself, I did not want it back together.  I had lost myself in him for all these years and it was time to find me, again. In those three days I read:

If you lose someone but find yourself, you won.

…and

If your love for someone is dependant on…

…and I do not need to finish because that statement is profoundly..Mmhm…yep, conditional.  How did I not see it all these years? You know what I know?  Love is pure and kind.  It holds no conditions. That is the kind of love I need, want and deserve.

Getting back to the ashes…

Saturday, Sunday and Monday I spent bawling my eyes out and thinking death was near.  Well, not really but I felt horribly outside myself.  Some of that feeling was the fact that I had to get out of bed on Tuesday and go teach four classes of fifth-graders, whom I love and who love me, and fake that I was OK.  I spent Monday night contemplating calling in sick, but for each thought of that I also had an overwhelming urgency to go to work and feel – feel the pain, feel the connection, feel the spirit.  I knew I had to go and I knew it was going to be hard.

I’ll skip the few tears that were shed, morning routines and get to the point.  I was sent to school Tuesday to be recreated, resurrected if you will, out of my ashes.

I was teaching ELA to the fifth graders and part of my objective for the day was to read Pax. Now, I had never heard of this book but knowing Cari Noe it’s gonna be a book that has a very endearing storyline (meaning I’m going to be crying at some point).  Yep, uh huh, thanks Cari.

Upon opening the chapter that my first class was reading, I took a deep breath and dived in.  (Sigh) Let me tell you, it did not take very long before I had to take another breath, and then another one…I was reading the ending to my story or maybe it was just the beginning.

Here’s what it said (Pax by Sara Pennypacker – Peter and Vola conversing)

“She always wore it. She’d hold her wrist up so I could play with it when I was a baby. I don’t remember that, but I’ve seen a picture.  I do remember her telling me about it, though. About the charm, I mean. It’s a Phoenix. That’s a special bird. It’s red and gold and purple colored like sunrise, and it-”

“Rises from the ashes. I know what a phoenix is.”

“Right. But out of its own ashes. That’s the part that my mom cared about.”

“It’s own ashes?”

“When it gets worn out, it builds itself a nest high in a tree, away from everything.” Peter stopped. It suddenly occurred to him that Vola’s cabin felt like a nest. He circled on his crutches to look around. Yes. A secret, protected nest, surrounded by trees. Away from everything.

I had been in my nest for the last three days, in the comfort of my home and my bed.

…”So the phoenix fills its nest with its favorite stuff- myrrh and cinnamon is what’s in the story, I think. Then the nest ignites, burning the birds old body. And the new bird rises up out of the old birds ashes. My mother loved that. She said that it meant no matter how bad things got, we could always make ourselves new again.

Hello!  At this point I seriously am about to become a puddle on the floor.  I AM a phoenix!  Think Isaiah 61:3.

Oh, but the story does not end there because Peter and Vola continue to have a conversation about all of her “philosophy bingo cards” that are hanging up on the walls. That’s what Peter calls them and he says that she is supposed to be the wise and great helper.  She suggests to him, though, that she is there to find who she is and can’t help him until she can help herself.  Ugh!!  I feel like I am reading the story of my life. If only I had a cabin, out in the middle of the woods, surrounded by trees (sad face).

I concluded that the jist of the story was about finding oneself (even though Peter was searching for his fox – that could be an adult theme ;)).

I read the story one more time that morning, had a breakdown at lunch with a fellow teacher, read the story two more times in the afternoon and had a breakthrough before I left school that day. My true, beautiful colors (like those of the phoenix) are shining bright.  And like Vola, I write as a reminder of who I am.  To remember where I came from and to where I am going.  I will cherish and preserve my “philosophy bingo cards” to remind myself that I have risen out of my ashes!

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You have a Conscience 

Heh.  Lately my conscience has been on overdrive.

 


I like to think that God has provided the path of free will to us as a means to know him better. And He is not a dictator.  He is a loving God, one who gave us a choice to love him or not. When we choose to make a decision that is not in line with his path (because if we believe the Bible we know his path is the right way), we have to live with the consequences of our choice.  Rick Warren says, “While you’re free to choose anything you want to do in life, you’re not free from the consequences. The consequences are part of the choice.”  Doesn’t free will seem like, not free then? It’s a double edge sword.

I’m going to be very real for a few moments.  When it comes to this conscience and morality stuff…guess I should define that too:


I have it on good authority that I know right from wrong.  I have good moral character.  Some might have said too good when I was young.  I knew who was leading me, so it didn’t matter to me what others thought.  As I have aged and had to make decisions (they get harder as you grow up), things have become unclear in my conscience. Not the right or wrong – well maybe a little – but who is making the decision.

Sometimes I question everything I do, even though I know right from wrong and so I turned to this –> Have you ever done this?  “God, I don’t know what to do so just go ahead – just make the choice for me.”  Geesh, did I just become deterministic?  In that statement I surrendered my free will!  I have, recently, asked God to make a decision for me…a decision that I think is too hard for me to make.  A decision that will have outcomes that I do not want to imagine.  If have to decide one way or another, I don’t favor any consequences.

This past weekend a crossroads was met where I needed to gain clarity and guidance.  I needed to hear God’s voice or at least get everyone else’s out of my head.  So, I left my three sweet souls at home with my husband and trudged off to the rock, as I like to call it. I believe there is energy in the earth that can be tapped into, an unyielding presence of energy that is soft and flowing if only we allow ourselves a moment to listen.  I went to the rock.

Stone Mountain Summit (The Rock)

For four hours I listened on top of that mountain: felt, opened up, prayed, sung to the heavens, sunbathed (not intentionally), watched life, and poured over my choices. I melted into the circles of hard earth.


I told myself I would not come down until I knew I was 100% ready to make a conscientious decision.  The last hour I put a couple of songs on repeat, let my body relax into the rock and praised Him.  Within that hour, I heard his voice and I felt a gentle movement. Not a rumble or a roar but a patient and kind flutter.  I suppose I did not need some earthquake to shake up my world any more. I also heard him say, “I’m not taking this Melissa.  This is your choice to make…but I will guide you.”  It was in that instant that I knew it was time to leave.  I love it when a knowing comes upon me – to actually have a clear and concise path. I then found comfort in this scripture:

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” -Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:19-20

‭‭There it is – Free Will. He gives us life and death, blessings and curses, love or no love.  And he guides us!  He simply says, “choose life” (not death).  We have a choice because he is not a dictator. He is our father and our guide. He wants us to want to love him, to want his guidance, to follow his will and to listen. He will never force us and he will never choose for us because he tells us to choose for ourselves.

That evening I left the mountain with a renewed sense of belonging.  I gained the perspective that I can’t sit back and expect God to make my choices for me, because like a parent, if we make choices for our kids all their lives…they will never fall, never grow, and never move out!  We need to teach them how to use their conscience and morals to guide them through life. We need to show them how to see the beauty and gravity in free will and then, hopefully, they will see beauty in life’s choices.

Be blessed and bless others

Life’s beauty at Stone Mountain

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Gentle Waves, Big Movement

You KNOW when the Lord speaks to you.  Oh yeah…you know when He speaks.  It does not have to come as some loud thunder clap or moving mountain.  Sometimes it is that still small voice nudging your heart.  And you know how I know?  The.Break.Down.

Something has been stirring in me for a few weeks now.  I could not put my finger on it and I have been very much at odds on the inside.  War.  It has felt like war taking place within.  If you don’t know the feeling then you may just be lost.  I pray for you.  If you do, I pray as well because this spiritual war (that I now know) is something out of a movie. Maybe I am just wishing it was because then it would not be real.

The first step to victory is to recognize the enemy. Even though I know he lurks about I often overlook his power and presence, just believing God “has this.”  I have let the enemy in.  In he came, the smug uninvited guest and he did it over and over again.  What a fool I am.  (There is a lot more to this that may come out later) Or maybe this is the life of a Christian.  Two can play at this game…now I am equipped just a little better than before.

The Spark

So, I cried all the way home pretty much from my night out with girlfriends.  I was so shaken and blessed by the words and friendship of these ladies, ladies who are just like me – ladies who have the same mindset and mission.  It was heartwarming and eye opening at the same time.  To listen to stories about our kids, our husbands, our journeys yet ahead.  The clarity He gave me tonight I pray will lead to greater knowledge.  I thirst for His wisdom and I yearn for more time with those who know Him so I can know Him more.  Those ladies have no idea how profound that gentle chat was to me I’m sure, but that is God. The still.small.voice.

Some years ago I made a promise to myself to open up.  I have kind of lived in my own little world not allowing anyone to enter, or the ones who do BEWARE!  You know the Great Wall?  Got nothing on me.  HA!  I can rattle off all the things going through my head right now but the only thing I know clearly at this moment is I love Jesus and I want to know Him more.  At any random point in your life you can choose to love our Father…but what if that point is not so random?  Maybe that point is at a time and place set up by his truly so that you will be so smitten, he will be forever your Valentine.  I don’t say Valentine as in the money making, card selling, candy eating one day a year Valentine.  I’m talking the love of your life – imprinted on your soul, in your spirit, YOUR EVERYTHING.

How could an evening out with girlfriends bring about this post?  How could the indwelling of emotion be so strong that it came out in none breathable swells of crying?  How could I not have know for YEARS that this feeling was something of the Holy Spirit?  All I can say is that still small voice.  Sometimes we overlook the obvious.  Sometimes we are not ready for it.  Sometimes we just ignore it because we aren’t yet sure what it is – we are just not ready.  We.are.just.not.ready.  I.was.just.not.ready.

“How often it is a small, almost unconscious event that makes a turning point.”
Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

I heaved out something scary tonight. Let it all out.  I mean this is when the tears were rolling…and then stopped abruptly!  It was my break down. “Lord use me, I lay it all down.”  Of course I said a little more after that because I just always ramble to Him and by the end I was scaaaarrred!  I just OPENED up my world. What’s next?

 

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