Category Archives: Religious

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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You’ve Got Nothing for Me

Just reading that title makes me think.  How about you?  Sounds harsh.  Maybe it is.  The context in which it was said was powerful and at the same time, it came in with a hush and simple hum for me.  It made me think.  It has taken a couple of days for the meaning to sink in, the enormity of what Pastor Terri was conveying to the “church” that morning.

How do you look at the world and say, “You’ve got nothing for me?”  Let that sit and simmer for a moment.  The world.  The place we live in.  Our identities are in the world.  Ah, but is that where He wants them to be?  Our pleasures come from this world.  Where does He want our pleasure to come from?  Man, that is hard.  I have been letting it simmer and I am about to boil over with the sins of my worldly being – those things that seems like they are pleasing and good, when in His world they are chains and ropes tethering me to some impossible dream of that which is not for me.  Because…”You’ve got nothing for me world!”

temptation

worship house media pic

We go through life as believers in God and know that trials and tribulations will come, also that good times and joy will abound.  We know that there are TeMpTaTiOns around every corner, and God help if we actually have an addiction to a temptation.  How hard it is to say, “You’ve got nothing for me,” then?  And sometimes…sometimes those things in which we have no idea, not even an inkling, of it becoming a stronghold float into our lives life a soft wind and whisper to us that everything is good and it’s okay.  We love our worldly things: our cars, our boats, our houses, our pets, our food, our drinks, our spouses, oh the list can go on.  Ask any kid and they will probably say, “I love candy!”  What is concerning about that to God?  Our sin nature, which should be concerning to us as well.  We are called to BE the church.  We have to be able to look outside ourselves and the walls in which mankind has built in order to be what He set us apart to be.  We have learned to ride the sin wave with great vigor and then expect Him to bail us out.

Ponder this: what if you told the world…

You’ve got nothing for me.

“You’ve got no jealousy, no pornography, no gluttony, no alcoholism, no infidelity, no fear… – World, you’ve got NOTHING for me!”  In order to the be the church, we have to be able to say just that.  It is a continuous struggle, fighting evil.  Steven Hart said, “In the struggle against evil, there is no shame in defeat only in not fighting.”  Look at the world today and declare, “You’ve got nothing for me,” and know that you are the church.  You matter.

And lastly, I will leave you with this, on this election day of 2016 as WE are called to be the church.

“The church must be reminded that is is neither the servant nor the master of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.  It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.  If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.

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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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To Just Being His

Let’s face it, we are all at times something other than ourselves.  Kevin has on many occasions become “mean daddy” as Kendra used to say.  I, myself, have been Ms. Sheila (spoken in a Bahamian accent), the tooth fairy, monster, horse, nurse, a friend and the list goes on.  Gosh, we have big shoes to fill.

Daddys shoes

I often find myself asking my mom how they did this – this parenting thing?  Well, one thing is I was the only child (mom seconded that ;-)), a pretty quiet child and in daycare. 🙂  Not to disregard the parenting my mother and father did.  I did talk incessantly and I’m sure there were other things that I can’t remember which required nerves of steel.  Yes, we parents have nerves of steel or some very imaginative ways to cope.  There are days I want to be INVISIBLE, but until I find some way to produce super human powers (I’ve tried) I will just have to settle for mommy night outs occasionally.

In church we have been learning some Life Apps and going through the book of James.  Pastor Chris has mentioned over and over that this book is hard to wrap your mind around, that it is Word that we often want to skip over or skip certain parts.  Personally, I have not found that to be the case.  It has pushed and inspired me, actually, to the point that I am scrutinizing myself to no end. I know I am not where I want to be as a Christian, or as a mom for that matter.  I’m probably harder on myself.  Aren’t we usually the first condemn ourselves?  I have been in a constant state of turmoil for years and especially since becoming a parent. Am I doing my best?  Am I good enough? Why is A not like B, Kelly’s kid? We do that as parents.  Even as others praise us, like the friend from my last post, we drown ourselves in “yeah rights” and put even more pressure on.

The silver lining – YES, there is one! – is this:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:17

If God does not condemn then why do we?  Is that fair to do that to ourselves if He will not even do that to us?  It’s almost like not obeying Him and expecting to hear His word.  “The less we are manipulated by the expectations of others, the more we are open to the expectations of God, ” says Richard Foster.  We are weak and we will fail but He is strong and He prevails (a little quip I coined). As the Women’s Devotional bible states, [we need] “to discover who we are in the light of his love, freedom and grace.”

Even though our roles may be parent, princess, superhero or therapist in the end we are His sheep and I don’t need to fill big shoes.  It’s already been done. Amen!

 

superwoman

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A Picture of Imperfection

There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. ~ Jill Churchill

What a statement of truth.  Sitting in a room full of women, my friend said something to our new friends that took me aback. She referred to me as a perfect mother, the queen mother, the mother of all mothers.  Well ok, maybe she didn’t take it that far but she did say perfect and that, my dears, is so far from the truth. I do not want to fool anybody and if that is written on my person then I need to make a correction…quickly.  Let’s face it.  I don’t have time for the magazine articles, TV shows, and book tours that come with being The Perfect Mother.

After nudging her slightly hard in the shoulder from her mishap of a word, I let it go…until I got home.  My mind took off like a race car at the start line. Perfect.  What does that look like?  Wanting to run away after 5:00 each night?  Dreading coming up with a dinner they are going to eat? Yelling, yelling, and yelling some more (still working on it)?  Or is it correcting them when they talk back?  Giving them a hug after they just called me stupid? Taking them to their favorite restaurant? Planning the best birthday party? Trying hard to teach them the ways of God?

Perfect: having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.

Hmmm, let’s stew over the as good as it is possible to be part of that.  How many times have you heard someone say, when speaking of parenting, I/we did the best I could?  Maybe you have even said it.  Pretty sure I have.  Does that qualify as perfect?  I can only answer that for myself….

When we first started our family, our lives were far from perfect.  Our marriage was tumultuous at best with lots of baggage floating in streams behind us, probably stacked 2×2.   I’m pretty sure between the two of us the kids have enough junk to write a novel or spend years in therapy working through.  Honestly, it’s life.  We’ve had 10 years to get something right and I will confess, with happy emotion, that recently things have turned around.  The novel is ending.  This parenting thing is hard though.  There is no handbook, no class, only life experience to hurdle through and at the end, and hopefully,  somewhere along the way we hope to be “good” parents. We long to do the best we can, not being perfect, but to train our children in His ways so that they will do the same with theirs and mimic what they learn.

So, we really are doing the best we can – most of the time- and this is how I would like to be known by my children:

A wise mother knows: It is her state of consciousness that matters. Her gentleness and clarity command respect. Her love creates security.
~Vimala McClure, The Tao of Motherhood

Perfect, I am not.  I hope I am not deceiving anyone because I strive to be honest and transparent. I am no Mother Teresa.   I have many faults for which I cry out to Him to help me surrender daily. I took my friends comment to heart because I know she loves me and she thinks I am a good mom.  That’s what friends do, encourage each other. However, I also took it as a sounding board because this stuff is rough, hard, and sticky as all get out. I can’t do it alone.  I NEED help and I need my friends.  On those days when I am not perfect, I’m gratefully honored to have someone to turn to…who is perfect.

image

My imperfect loves

 

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Don’t Worry, Be Prayerful

If you have a mom, there is nowhere you are likely to go where a prayer has not already been. –Robert Brault

There are so many mornings I sat in church listening to the preacher talk about how he prayed for his children.  That they would meet the right person, that they would have the right friends, that they would be good.  Nah, I don’t think he ever said that but I would surely and have prayed that over mine.  I don’t pray as much as I should – well, let me rephrase that.  I don’t pray for the right things as often as I should.  I find myself “spot” praying as I call it.  Brady has done the unthinkable – “God please grant me some restraint not to hurt him.”  Kendra has talked back once more today – “Oh God!”  Yeah, that one just slipped out.  Hey, I’m being totally honest here.  I pray all day but they are not the deeply routed in my soul prayers that I think the good pastor spoke about.  Plus, I think he AND his wife may have prayed together and you know what they say about more than one praying, He is there.  Getting real for a second though, prayer works.  I have experienced it myself and though we don’t always get what WE pray for, the knowing that HE hears our prayers and wants us to relate to Him is all the reason to send up some love.

Tonight I am particularly emotional for some reason, and when I get this way waves of thoughts and feelings just wash over me.  I have to almost heave cry…you women know what I’m talking about right?…to get through it all.  IT.FEELS.SO.GOOD.  Of course I have to do this after my kids are in bed or hold up in the bathroom with the door locked, hoping they don’t find the key.  After sifting through the garbage, holes and sometimes lies, it pretty much ends at the road of worry.  Gracious, I worry about everything! My mom can attest to that, right mom?  I worry about the kids falling on their bikes, falling from a tree, getting snatched from me, hitting their head on the coffee table, breaking a leg, falling out of bed, getting lost, getting hurt by a friend, getting hurt by a loved one, hurting each other!, falling down the stairs/or being pushed by a sibling, and the list goes on.  See, I’m insane right?!  And what if any one of those things were to happen?  What would happen?  We would go to the hospital?  I don’t even want to think about that anymore.  I think I was born worrying.  I would love to see a study, or better yet be in a study of why people worry so much…and they find the cure!  Oh wait, the cure has been written for ages.

prayer

On the couch, crying over whatever was coming to mind as I was reading my newest novel, I began to anguish over our eldest.  My sweet baby girl who is growing up before my eyes.  I feel like time has cheated me and I have let so many opportunities slip through the sand.  There is so much sand and I want to scream!  As she was going to bed and I kissed her goodnight, I began thinking about her taking her first trip with a friend, to the Outer Banks no less (following in my foot steps).  This is when the worry set in – already.  The trip is in August!  I won’t bore you with the list of incidences that came to mind because if “they” read this, they are likely to think I am more insane than I already act.  LOL I still remember the first time she was away from us.  She just went to my parents for a weekend but she was a baby.  I showed up on the doorstep of a friend and began bawling through a fake smile while saying, “I’m free.  Kendra is at my parent’s for the weekend.” Gaaa, that was hard.  It did get easier and that gives me comfort that each first will bring with it a little more peace. It’s just that this is my baby, our first born (who cares if from heart or womb)…she is my baby girl.  So, through tears of happiness  I will let her go because I know this will establish her independence and give her those wings we hear about.  This day is coming too soon.

I will continue to pray my spot prayers I know, I will not lie, and I am vowing to begin to pray the fervent prayers for all our children that I believe our pastor did with his.

As I end this post I leave you with one last quote and this.  I so believe in these words and pray that my children will see me in this light as I do my own mother.  I think as we grow older and certain things come to pass, we gain greater understanding of the ways of the world and hopefully that which lies beyond as well.  For all the moms out there…

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. – By Washington Irving

 

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