The Long Night – Part II

The police had come to my house and served a search warrant on my son and his friend shortly after arriving home from school. They were ordered to sit on the couch and not move, or use their phones while the police searched the house looking for more evidence.

After coming home I wanted to take my mind off things so I started cleaning the house well into the night. After picking up all the clothing that had been dumped onto the floor and putting back all the items that had been emptied out of boxes in the garage the night still dragged on.

I was desperate for information about my husband and called one of my longtime friend’s daughters that worked for the Sheriff’s Department.

My husband and I had taken her to my company picnic once when she was a small child and it was pretty embarrassing telling her my husband had been arrested. She was able to look in the system and tell me which jail he was in. She was very professional to me, and at the same time I could tell she was concerned.

I had told my father-in-law in an earlier conversation my husband better not call me from jail because I was so mad. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about it because he used his one phone call from jail to call his dad to come bail him out.

After that call my father-in-law called his siblings to see if they could help out with bail money. This ended up causing a huge division in the family. Mostly all of his siblings felt that my husband had caused this mess and he could get himself out of it.

These tensions affected almost everyone in the family down to cousins that were fighting with their own siblings. Some were of the opinion that what he had done was very wrong and still others had sympathy for him. These tensions still exist today, over 10 years later.

The next day when my husband came home from jail he walked in the house and grabbed his basketball. I said “We need to talk about what happened – I’m really upset” or something to that effect. He said “You’re upset? I just spent the night on the floor of a jail.” He took his basketball and walked out the door.

I sat in my car and cried so my kids wouldn’t see me upset. It seemed like he could care less about me, or even try to tell me what was going on. A million questions ran through my head, and I had no answers.

Sometime before I had heard of a Christian radio station and not having anyone to talk to I decided to call in. An elderly man answered and he sounded exactly like my grandpa that had just passed away the year before. He prayed for me and just like that hung up before I could say another word. His voice comforted me and his prayers strengthened me enough to face the day.

I dried my tears and walked back into the house.

Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

Out With the Old

I don’t know about you, but I was happy to leave 2022 behind.

2022 was especially trying for me. Some of the things I dealt with were family members going through depression, sickness, the loss of friends through death and betrayal and good ol’ REGRET.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines REGRET as:

a: to mourn the loss or death of

b: to miss very much

2: to be very sorry for

And boy, did I have regrets. Regrets for not being a better parent, regrets for letting my anger get the best of me, regrets for not taking things seriously enough. And the list goes on.

True to 2022 my Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve ended with not being invited to a family get-together (specifically told “You are not invited”), a big argument with my ex-spouse and a broken oven.

I was exhausted and literally limping into the New Year (thanks to a knee/ankle injury).

But guess what? I woke up with a Hope and a Future on New Year’s Day. I was thankful to God that He was by my side throughout all my pains, worries and trials.

Psalm 56:8 You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

God keeps track of all my sorrows. And yours too!

Luke 9:62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

So guess what I left behind in 2022? Regrets. Regrets for past mistakes and things I cannot change. Regrets for trying to force friendships with toxic people. Regrets for caring so much what others think. Regrets for looking behind, constantly.

What did you leave behind in 2022? What is God speaking to you about in this year? What are your hopes for 2023?

A Note to My Younger Self

With so much news going on in the world the Gabby Petito case has captured mostly everyone’s attention in the US. We will never know why Gabby chose to stay with her boyfriend, maybe she didn’t intend to. We don’t know exactly what happened yet that caused her life to end.

As I watched the Bodycam footage of the Moab City Police Officer it brought back painful memories of my teenage years.

I was in an abusive relationship from 15 to 19 years old, and on and off after that. I know, I know, I should not even have been focused on boys at that age, and I look back at regret at those years, and am thankful God brought me through those tumultuous times, and is healing me from the trauma. But as I thought about those memories, I wondered how did it start?

In my case I was raised in a home with two loving parents. Unfortunately, they did not love each other. Not with an authentic “healthy” love. Abuse and divorce go back generations in my family.

When they split up I was 10 years-old. My brother and I felt we only had each other to lean on. Their divorce was a terrible one. My brother and I went through a parental abduction, a parent being hospitalized for months, my parents dating, remarriages, and eventually separation as the judge separated my brother and I when I was 13 and he was 10. My brother went to live with my dad, and I stayed with my mom. Needless to say, there was a lot going on in my household, and I was a latchkey kid since my mom had to go back to work full time.

I suppose I was really flattered that anyone would pay attention to me, and show interest in me. It was also fun to get away from a lonely life at home. With no mentors or older siblings around to give me advice and being really immature for my age, combined with insecurity and lack of a structured home life I went down a really rough path that the Lord did not intend for me.

It was a path of self-destruction. Promiscuity, drinking, abusive behavior, and suicide attempts were all a part of my teenage years. I know God was always with me, and He knew eventually I would turn to Him crying out to Him because my very life depended on Him. He proved He cared and cares for me, even after I ignored Him year after year.

Romans 5:8

But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

All of that to say this: If you are in an abusive relationship, leave. I know there are many reasons to stay, you would have to leave your home, what would it look like to others, how would you start over, you have no money…

This is not the path God has for you. It says in God’s word:

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Looking back on my teenage self I wish I could give some advice to the younger me:

You’re beautiful, you don’t need to be in a relationship, you are worthy of love, the non-abusive kind, don’t take being cheated on, spit on, or cussed at. Don’t rush things, focus on your education and most importantly, get to know Jesus. Because if you do that the rest will fall into place at the perfect time.

Matthew 6:33 — ESV

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

If you are going through physical abuse, or even verbal abuse I urge you to reach out to someone you can trust, someone who can help. You deserve better, and you don’t have to take another person’s toxic behavior.

Our days are not guaranteed. God loves you so much He sent His only son to die for you.

Psalm 109:26

Help me. Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love.

When you are in a good place in your life and look back, you will be thankful to the Lord for what He brought you through. He is our refuge and strength. Be patient with yourself, and give yourself grace.

Oh, and one more thing I would tell my younger self?

You are stronger than you think.

Baggage Check

So, recently I decided to join a Jazzercise class. Ten sessions to be exact. Right before my first class started I was so nervous. I hadn’t been in a class since pre-pandemic, and certainly never a Jazzercise class.

I was certain people were going to be cliquey and unfriendly, and I would not have fun. Well, I got to class and to my surprise everyone was so welcoming. I had a lot of fun, and although I was winded and tripped over my feet once, had a blast.

It got me thinking, what other negative thoughts did I have in my head that I had convinced myself of?

Well, a lot to be exact. I had been stuck in wrong beliefs for years that prevented me from trying new things.

A wrong mindset, insecurities, negative beliefs about myself, fear, and how I thought others perceived me had trapped me. I felt so weighed down and like I failed at things before I even started.

So, at almost half a century old, I’m trying new things. I’ve taken a few drives and gone places I normally wouldn’t go, tried new foods, started riding a bike again, and have taken an art class.

Even though I did wake up slightly panicked this morning hearing “Single, single, double, double” in my dreams I’m still determined to keep going. If the lady that I met in class is 78 years-old and still jazzercising, what’s my excuse?

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Stuck In a Season

     What do you do when you feel like you are stuck in a season? 

     In my case, I feel like I have been stuck in a season for quite a few years now.  A season of sicknesses, excruciating back pain, a much needed surgery, marriage break down and divorce, financial struggles, family issues, and a pandemic.

As much as I wanted to hit the fast forward button, there was no getting out of it. At times I had a full blown pity party, and cried, wanted to faint, curl up in a ball, and at other times I was thankful and cognizant that God was carrying me through the long days.  There are many people that are dealing with lifelong disabilities, and sicknesses, and when I saw people that were worse off than me I was ashamed of myself. Life is hard, but how do we deal with things when life is tough?

What does God’s word say about times and seasons?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: 2 A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; 3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; 7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; 8 A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

Galatians 6:9 ESV

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

As nice as I think it would have been it not to go through these challenges, where would I be, spiritually, had I not faced these obstacles? Will you still stand, and believe in God when things get rough? Or, do you only love Him when times are good? 

I know what has carried me through these difficult times is being in a prayer group.  Praying with other believers, and having them pray for you.  Exercising, taking a walk, or sitting outside with a book.  Other things that helped me was rearranging my furniture, getting a mani/pedi, and simply trying new things.  I recently took an overnight trip, and drove a couple hours away, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was scary for me without my husband there to do the navigating.  I recently wrote a short children’s story which is something I have always wanted to do.  As soon as I self-publish it, I will let you guys know.

Even though I can tell the tide is shifting (after all, nothing ever stays the same) I have to consciously practice self-care, and take control of my thoughts.  What would life be like if everything was good, without its challenges? How would we be able to help and encourage others if we couldn’t empathize and know what their pain feels like? After all, one of life’s purposes is to help others.  

No matter what, God will use every bit of bad that we have gone through for His purpose and glory.  So wipe your tears away, take a deep breath, and thank God for all the good things you have and that are coming your way.

When Your Enemies Bless You

Throughout my marriage my in laws, although “nice” on the surface were a thorn in my side.

I have a memory of my mother in law telling my soon to be ex husband as we were leaving on our honeymoon “Make sure you call me as soon as you get there.”

They acted more like wayward children than my idea of how in laws should act.

Well, fast forward 15 years later and my ex was gone. The first month that he was gone I was wondering how I was going to support myself and my three kids, and keep us in the same place we were living. I remember my stepdad telling me we would have to move in with he and my mom.

My sweet cousin offered a room in her house where my kids and I could stay. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a ways away from my job and the kids’ schools.

One day my mother in law came to visit me and we were having a conversation and got into an argument. She blamed me for a lot of things that had happened in the marriage, and for the reason that he was gone. Shortly after that she wrote me an apology letter. I remember reading it, and holding unforgiveness in my heart. I decided things wouldn’t be the same with us EVER AGAIN.

I still can remember coming home after a busy day at work on that day and finding an envelope with cash under my doormat.

One thousand dollars in cash. Enough for me to buy food, pay my monthly bills, and pay my rent. The money showed up under my mat for 20 months, always in a blank envelope, always on the last day of the month.

Matthew 5:44
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Wow, did you read that scripture? Pray for those who persecute you? Not tell them off, or blow them off, or try and get even with them. Pray for them. I was always pretty good at ignoring or not dealing with people after they upset me, and definitely not forgiving them. I can still remember offenses from 30 plus years ago. My motto was “Don’t ever forget how they treated you.”

Recently, while going over the divorce papers, my ex and I were having a heated discussion about bills. He blurted out “My parents gave you money to pay for things.”

Umm, what? I asked him if his parents were the ones who had given me all that money when he was gone.

I was able to find out the men’s group that my ex had been a part of had taken up a monthly donation for me and my kids, and it was my in laws idea.

Even after his mom and I had gotten into that argument, and even though I held unforgiveness in my heart and she apologized to me. Even though 10 years had gone by and I vowed to myself I wouldn’t forget that argument we had gotten into.

I was humbled. I was ashamed of myself. I had wasted ten years of my life holding unforgiveness and bitterness and a grudge.

Romans 5:8-10
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him thorough the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!”

I am a sinner, and God forgave me for my sins. Yet, I was holding unforgiveness against others, and not accepting a genuine apology.

I am forever grateful to that men’s group for their support and I often think of the people that anonymously gave to us. I hope one day I will get to say thank you in person.

And I will never forget God’s provisions for my children and I. He had a plan before I even knew what was ahead of me.

Looking back now I am ashamed I let the enemy get the better part of me for all those years. The things that were said and done to me is in the past and I wish my prior in laws nothing but the best. I even miss them.

Ephesians 4:26
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your anger.

Losing Your Best Friend

The other day my ex-husband and I had to talk to each other.  It was strained at best. Gone were the days where we used to laugh together. I hardly know him anymore. He has different tastes in foods, a different style of dressing.

  Later on I was reflecting on how we were married for over two decades, and had shared a life together.  I called him my best friend, or, at least in my mind and heart he was.

I wonder if God feels that way about us.  You know the feeling you have when you are newly baptized, and make the decision to give your heart and life to the Lord.  Then life comes at you and you think “Where is God now? Does he not see what I am going through? Why isn’t He here for me? Does He not see what is happening in my life?”

At least those are the thoughts that have run through my head at difficult times. When life is tough you start to slip up.  You are too tired to get up early and read the Bible, or maybe you’re too busy to pray, or go to church.  Little by little you start slipping away.  

Does God look at us and think how much he misses us? How He can’t wait for us to reach out to Him? Does He miss our voice and  our talks that we had with Him?

John 15:13-15

 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

Jesus calls us His friends IF we do whatever He commands us. Because we are His friends He shares His secrets with us through the Word of God.

James 4:8

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you doubleminded.

The definition of doubleminded from The Century Dictionary means “Wavering, unstable, unsettled, undetermined.”

For so long I lived my life as a doubleminded person.  I didn’t realize whose I was, or how valued I was.  I let others dictate how I should feel about myself.  I felt like my world was gray, and other people’s world had vivid colors, something I lacked in my world. I didn’t realize that my self-worth doesn’t come from my husband, my friends, or my employer.

I had to renew my mind by reading God’s word.

Romans 12:2

And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

It has been a long road for me with of lots of mistakes, and many ups and downs.  I have learned that even though friends, family and even spouses may turn on you, the Lord never will.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Don’t let time slip away.  Your eternal best friend is waiting to hear from you.

Why I Am Thankful This Holiday Season

Well, the holidays are officially here.  The time of year I have been not looking forward to, and dreading.  As I overhear others talk about their plans for celebrating , or going on a quick getaway with their husband I get a small pain in my heart knowing my husband won’t be here with us.  

It’s been ten months now since we separated, and every single day has been lonely for me without my husband’s presence.  Some days are better than others, and I do feel like my heart is healing, one day at a time.  

Daily, I am reminded of my blessings.  

I am thankful for the cold water that comes out of my refrigerator whenever I am thirsty. I am thankful for my car that takes me to work in the mornings.

I watched a video the other day on Facebook. It was about a young quadriplegic man. He couldn’t turn himself over in bed, or shower by himself. His mom carried him to the shower, and washed him. Then she shaved his face and got him dressed. She would put a bag on his bottom when he needed to go to the bathroom. As I sat and watched the video I couldn’t stop crying, and feeling thankful for my health and ashamed that I had a pity party for myself.

I am thankful for my loved ones that surround me.  Two days before Thanksgiving I found out that one of the moms on my son’s basketball team passed away from cancer.  She was in her 50’s, and leaves behind five children.

So when I start to feel slightly sorry for myself I think about all the things I have to be thankful about. Even though my husband wasn’t here this Thanksgiving, and won’t be here for all the Christmas celebrations, I am grateful that I will be surrounded by my kids, relatives, and friends, and that I can celebrate the birth of Jesus freely.

Most of all, I am thankful that God sent His only son to die for my sins, and yours too.

When I started to feel sorry for myself today, I pulled up at a stoplight.  The car in front of me had a license plate holder that said “Jeremiah 29:11.” 

NIV: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I know the holiday season can be lonely, and full of expectations that may not be fulfilled.  I find that what helps me take the focus off myself is helping others in some way, staying in His word, taking a walk, and listening to praise music, or an encouraging podcast.  

I’m praying you all have a safe and joyous remainder of the year, and stay focused on the most important person of all, Jesus.