Poison Drink

Someone shared a special nugget of truth with me today that said, “Resentment is the poison we drink expecting someone else to die.”

I’ve been mulling it over all day and can’t find an ounce of untruth in it. I’d go so far as to add “unforgiving spirit” to the dose of resentment because I think they are toxic together. Do I have that mastered? No. Do I ever drink the poison? Almost every day.

I wish that I could say otherwise but it’s true. So often in life we skip over conversations that could be awkward or painful because we don’t want to go through the work of it all and then we end up hanging on to resentments for months or years.

There are so many areas of my life that I wish I’d set boundaries or had hard conversations years ago. There are people I’ve allowed to take up too much space in my head because I didn’t have the courage or the maturity to take a stand either towards or against.

To put it on paper (or screen) makes the process seem so much simpler than it truly is. Forgiveness is tough and does not come naturally for mankind. It’s a choice I have to make every single day and one that I can only do with the help of God. Some days I’m more open to his grace than others. Some days I fail miserable and I swallow a shot of poison willingly.

So how do I move forward with less poison? I think I need a lot of Jesus and good friends who will speak truth to me when I’m being hard. I need to surround myself with truth-speakers who will put their hands over my mouth when they see me raising a shot of resentment to my lips. I need to bow before God daily and beg to be reminded of the grace he has blanketed me with so that I can offer it to others. I also think I need to value myself as a precious creation made in the image of God and demand that I be treated accordingly. I can make a choice to not allow myself to be  a door mat. I can make a choice to be treated with respect. It all goes hand in hand in the walk towards health.

The Desert Before Dessert

I have not written a blog…or anything else for that matter…for quite some time. I’ve been walking through a desert of silence. That sounds dramatic and meaningful but the truth of the matter is that it really has been like a desert. I battled some depression, couldn’t hear God speaking for the life of me, and I felt parched and dry.

Two weeks ago I told my husband, Chuck, that I felt like God had left me because I didn’t feel him and I couldn’t hear him speak. Chuck had just got out of the shower and was dressing at the time. He looked at me through his reflection in the mirror and said, “Well, you know that’s not true, right?”

Did I? I guess my logical brain did know that but I rarely live there. I spend most of my days in my creative, emotional brain. I sometimes hear messages from my logical brain but for the most part, I shoo them away. I knew though, in that moment, that I needed to pray. I grabbed my phone and pulled up my Bible app (I use YouVersion) and prayed, “God, I need a word from you so that I know you are here. Would you give me something to hang on to?” I got Psalm 139: 15, which says, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

Well, that’ll do. Yes, God was not only present right then but he had been since the beginning of me. Since then I have been praying for God to reveal all the things that I had piled up and put between us. He had never left but I had done a great job of pushing him back and building a wall up so that I didn’t have to look at him or listen to him. He’s been faithful though, as un-fun as it may be, in revealing my stack-o-crap. It’s crazy how high it had become and I am embarrassed at some of the old stuff that I thought I was over that I had pulled back out. I’ve also asked that as he reveals my junk that I would be bathed in his grace and peace so that I don’t just move the stack somewhere else. I want to receive total healing. Total. I want to be done with the desert and dive into the dessert of his grace. It’s too sweet to run from anymore.

So as this process has been happening I felt a need to start writing again. I guess if God is doing a work in me he’s doing it in someone else, too. Maybe my words can be a spur for someone else.

Performance Development

I just finished filling out my half of my annual performance development evaluation for my job. I fill mine out and my supervisor fills one out about me and then we sit down together to have a discussion about how our notes line up. Or about how they don’t line up. It’s a fairly painless process that I really don’t mind doing. I have a great supervisor who is far more generous with his responses about me than those I have for myself.
I got to thinking today about how helpful it would be if everyone had to fill one of these sorts of forms out each year regarding their personal life. What if I had to sit down at least once a year and ask myself how I’ve been handling conflict with my family and friends? Are my communication skills both loving and effective? Am I seeking God’s will on every decision I make? What sort of answers would I give myself regarding my personal time management skills? Have I been adhering to my family budget and taking active measures to implement cost saving measures? Do I ask for help when I need it?
The beauty of the performance development evaluation is that it isn’t one sided. It is completed amidst a discussion with someone who has authority over me but also cares for me. Could I sit down with my family and have this discussion? When my boss gives me suggestions on areas I could focus energy on improvement I am generally in agreement and we work together to come up with a plan for me to move forward. If my family told me they saw areas of my life that could use a second look would I take their words so readily? I’m thinking no.
This is why I am grateful for a few people in my life who are honest to a fault but love me to no end. We can lay it all out for each other, have a laugh, and then a “but seriously” conversation. I don’t always like what they have to say and they don’t always like what I have to say but we know that we’re being honest and want the best for each other. When the bible talks about “iron sharpening iron” I believe this is exactly what it’s talking about. God has given me accountability with a few people who believe that God loves me enough to both bless me and push me forward in hard ways. These people want to see me living my best life possible in a way that’s bringing growth to myself and glory to God’s kingdom. We just don’t have forms for our process.

This is My Story

A few months back I got a text message that said, “I knew you’d be happy for me and would want to know.” Attached was a picture of my dear childhood friend Joni’s hand. On it was an engagement ring. I was happy. I was so, so very happy for her.
When the invitation for the wedding arrived in the mail, however, I came up with a thousand and two reasons why I couldn’t go. It was going to be in October, which is a very busy month with Shelby’s birthday and with Halloween. I had a lot going on at work. Chuck’s mom was coming to visit us the week before and my dad had scheduled a visit the week after. It would cost a fortune. I needed to lose weight. The sky had clouds in it. You get the drift. I was working a list. The biggest excuse I had though, and really the only one that was even close to being legitimate, was that I wasn’t sure I had the energy to face my home town.
I left Marion, IL 15 years ago because I needed a fresh start. My family had disintegrated, my childhood home was now being lived in by someone else, my mom had committed suicide, and I had already failed at my career. I was 20.
Chuck and I left and came to Texas and I’d only gone back once, and that was for our ten year class reunion. I was post-partum with Seth then and Shelby was not even two years old. I was a mess already and seeing old friends and old haunts did a number on me. I didn’t think I could go back and do that all over again.
But after much prayer and even more convincing from Chuck, I sent the RSVP, asked for the prime rib, and we packed our bags.
My words cannot even begin to express the blessing that this weekend was for me. We spent time with people we love and who love us back just as much, if not more. We drove around and saw how time had changed the town of my youth and we rested. This weekend was so very restful. The wedding was amazing and I’m so glad that Joni has found the love of her life.
The last time I went to Marion it felt raw and heavy and I left feeling no need to ever return. This time I allowed my town and my friends to envelope me with with so much love that it was like a warm, soft quilt. I haven’t laughed so much or so hard in ages and my heart is swollen with joy.
On my way to work this morning I was thinking about this post and what words I would use to describe how I’m processing the weekend. This song came on the radio and tears began to flow freely down my cheeks. Marion may not be the hub of my universe anymore but it is part of my story. The people and the places there helped to form the woman I am today. God has done many miracles in and around the relationships and situations that came from there and thankfully, he continues a great work in me today.

Joy Dare

I’m a little late to the game but I suppose late is better than never. My life has come to a place as of late where I want, no, I need to acknowledge the beauty and grace of my heavenly father. I fear that if I don’t spend time with a focus on his grace I may just be swallowed by my own self absorption.
God is good though and he brings me, in his grace, just what I need at just the right timing. His timing. I started a bible study yesterday based on Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts”. I’ve read the book twice and found it’s beauty beyond measure. The first time I read it I even started a gratitude list that I kept handy on my phone…until that phone crashed before I had backed it up. New phone = new list.
Her challenge in the book and in the study is no small one. 1000 pieces of gratitude in one year. 1000 reasons to look to God. 1000 moments, things, items, etc. that draw my eyes away from me and up to heaven. My past has always been lived in a way that allowed gratitude to come out of joy. I want my future to be one in which joy comes out of gratitude.
So I’m going to take the challenge that you can read about here:
 

 
I’m praying that the gifts of my life become so evident that finding 1000 will be no challenge at all. Ann says, “Joy is a function of gratitude — and gratitude is a function of perspective. So take these prompts to help you see and change perspective — give thanks — and live all His joy!” That’s what I want to do – to live in all of the joy God has for me.

 

 

Decisions, Decisions

Everywhere I turn lately there are big decisions to be faced. I have friends contemplating a change of calling that would move them across the country. I have friends trying to decide if they should sell their house and move. I have a couple of friends looking in the face of divorce while another friend is preparing to walk down the aisle. I have a friend making decisions about starting a family after the devastation of miscarriage as another friend is helping her only baby decide where to go away for college. I tell you, it’s enough to make my co-dependent heart explode!
All of these decisions, just like the piddle of daily decisions in my own life, must be faced head on in prayer and petition. This morning before I even allowed one toe to touch the shaggy carpet of my bedroom I knew I needed to turn it all over to God and beg for his mercy and wisdom. It is my nature to worry a problem into the ground – whether it’s my problem to wrestle or not – and I knew that with all the swirling rumors of contemplation and change I would easily become immersed in decision making that is not my own. So I prayed for my friends, my church and it’s leaders, and my family. I prayed for God to bless my loved ones with answers and a light so bright that the path ahead of them would be clearly illuminated. And then I felt peace in knowing that I serve a God so big that he can totally handle each of the needs of the people in his care and that he does not need my fretting or tears.

Fall Blew In

Fall blew into Houston last night on the tails of a Gulf storm. When it arrived it ran smack dab into the face of a northern front and wallah! Fall. I use the term “Fall” lightly because no matter  how many orange and yellow mum plants you sit on your porch and no matter how many pumpkin spice coffees you drink, fall may mean it’s still going reach 96 again on Monday.
I pulled out all of my fall decorations last week in the hopes of willing it to arrive. I’m always so excited for the days of summer to arrive with their grilling afternoons and lazy pool parties, but by mid-September I am done. I long for the oranges, yellows, and browns that would dance across the trees of my youth. Fall is the only time of year I miss living in the north. For some reason the evergreens of my lush bayou city will not cooperate, which truth be told, I will appreciate again when the woods behind my house are still green in February.
I have always loved fall and, contrary to my husbands belief, it is not because it is the precursor to Christmas. There is something about fall that takes me back to high school football games, borrowing a boyfriend’s letter jacket, the smell of burning leaves, and hot apple cider. Pep rallies, marching bands, hay rides. It all screams of fall and it just doesn’t happen when it’s 92 degrees.
But this morning it feels like fall in my back yard. I may go dry off a chair, take along a good book, and enjoy the chill of the morning.

I’ll Start With a Muffin

I’ve been pondering my kitchen responsibilities lately and have come to the conclusion that it’s high past time for me to step it up on the health front. Not that I’ve been cooking with lard or anything and I don’t keep a tin of bacon grease on the back of the stove. (Although that does bring back some delicious childhood memories!)

I’m trying to choose more natural ingredients and less processed ones. I’m trying to amp up the fiber and cut out some fat. I had some bananas going dark tonight and decided to peruse Pinterest for some new recipes so I could use up the bananas before they started calling in the gnats. I found one I liked, and by “liked” I mean it had ingredients I had on hand. I’m a bit lazy that way. I changed it up a little though because I wanted to add some more fiber.

So here’s what my version looked like:

1 1/2 cup oat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup palm coconut sugar
1/4 cup flax seed
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp honey
1 cup banana mash

I mixed all of the dry ingredients together in one bowl while my KitchenAid mixed the wet ingredients.  After the wet ingredients looked well mixed I slowly started adding the dry ingredients. I let the mixer stir until everything was just barely mixed. I didn’t want to overwork the oats.
I filled my muffin tin with cute colored paper cups – but you could totally use ugly ones so long as there are twelve. I poured the mixture into the muffin cups and baked for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Super yum and super fiber filled for the win!

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Did you know that someone somewhere in the world commits suicide every 40 seconds. That’s about 3,000 people every day. More people die from suicide than from murder or war and it’s the 14th leading cause of death in the world. Suicide happens when a person feels hopeless and can’t see past the pain they are facing – either physical or emotional.

I lost my mom to suicide 16 years ago. It seems crazy that it was so long ago when the memory is still so fresh. I participate in World Suicide Prevention Day because I know what it feels like to be a survivor. I know what it feels like to be the one left living. I will never stop reaching out to the hurting and the hopeless with the love of Jesus because I don’t want anyone else to feel the despair of being the one committing the act or the ones left behind.

Today I write love on my arm.

An Ugly, Stinky Start

I’ve been trying really hard to get this school year off to a good start. I’ve made some positive adjustments in my own schedule for the benefit of the rest of my family. One of those adjustments is that I now get up at 5:00 – fifteen minutes after my husband gets up – to prepare coffee for he and I, pack lunches for the whole family, and get in some prayer and bible reading before my own shower. Doing all of this so early means that I can be totally ready for the day when it’s time to wake my kids up. Things just seem to run a bit smoother if Mom isn’t running around like a crazy woman looking for a lost earring and mascara. Granted I am one week in but so far it has worked well for everyone.
Until today. Sometime around 4:15 our Great Dane/Mastiff mix started scratching at our bedroom door. He was whining incessantly but my assumption was that it must be thundering. I didn’t hear thunder but at 4:15 I don’t question my thoughts. I hollered for him to “Hush” and rolled over to go back to sleep.
Somewhere in the moments shortly after 5:00AM I rolled out of bed, smiled a sleepy smile at my husband as he was combing his hair, and headed to the kitchen for coffee. As soon as I opened the door I was almost knocked over by a foul odor. Scratch that. Foul odor does not even begin to describe what invaded my nostrils. It was so awful that if I could’ve bottled the stench I would have. I’d save it for my ugliest of enemies and pop the cork in their faces. It was that bad.The only thing worse than the odor was the sensation of setting my foot down in what was causing the odor. There was diarrhea all over the floor just outside my bedroom door. And all over the wall. And then as I rounded the corner I saw that it was spread across the living room floor. And the kitchen floor. And in front of the back door. And on every single tile in the foyer.
I didn’t scream – although I wanted to. I didn’t cry – although that seemed like a logical next step. I just stood there. I was in total disbelief. I looked at the dog, who was looking back at me as if to say, “I tried to tell you.”
To add to the incredibleness of this scene I realized that the odor invading my nose had now started affecting my taste buds. Gagging ensued, followed by a rush to the kitchen sink to vomit.
I’ll spare you the details of the mishaps of trying to clean all of that but I will say it crossed my mind that maybe we should just burn the house down and start fresh somewhere else. It made complete sense in the moment.
On the bright side though, when I left to take the kids to school and head to work, my house smelled fresh like lavender floor cleaner and my hands smelled like bleach. And everyone gets to buy lunch in the cafeteria today.
It’s just another day…