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Today I changed my life forever.  No going back, it’s a done deal.  I am now tattooed.

It’s something I’ve been considering and kicking around for a very, very long time and I finally did it.  I now have a medium-small butterfly on the inside of my wrist in white ink, yay!

I drew the butterfly myself and chose white ink on purpose because the tattoo is for me and nobody else (according to the tattoo artist I had her put it on “upside down”, lol!) – I can see it, and I don’t care if you can see it or not.  I’m a pale and pasty critter thanks to my genetics and I did my research – my goal with choosing the white ink is for it to be a very subtle change in my skin tone once it’s done healing so that it’s barely noticeable unless you’re looking for it.

For me this butterfly tattoo is a reminder of how I’ve become braver and stronger and that there are still more amazing things for me to become in the future.  It’s a symbol that I am finally recognizing myself as who God created me to be – and that person is beautiful.  That I don’t have to stay locked up in the box of what other people have insisted I should be over all these years.  It is a statement to myself and to the world that I am not a doormat any longer.

My husband is not happy about my decision.  At All.  In his mind I’m already got 50 tattoos because “one tattoo leads to another and nobody stops at just one”.  He won’t believe me when I say I’m not planning to get more tattoos and become the next Tattooed Lady Circus Side Show Act.  Then he says “I don’t want a tattooed wife” and I know he’s specifically meaning he doesn’t want to be married to someone who looks like an Old Lady from a motorcycle gang but tattooed is tattooed whether it’s one tattoo or head to toe… I almost hate to break it to him but mister, ya got yourself a tattooed wife as of about 6:30 this evening!  (I know, he’s still in shock.)

He also believes that I’ve willfully sinned against the Bible because there’s a verse in the Old Testament that says not to get tattoos.  That verse happens to be right next to a verse that says “Don’t round the corners of your beard” and nobody gives a second thought about not obeying that verse anymore.  When I brought this up to him his reasoning was that the whole beard thing was not a permanent change to one’s body while tattoos are so therefore the beard verse didn’t need to be obeyed while the tattoo verse did.  Seriously?  What gives him the authority to pick and chose which verses of the Bible should be obeyed and which ones have become superfluous?  That whole announcement from him is mind-blowing to me and makes me wonder what his faith is actually based on.  My decision to go ahead and get the tattoo is based on verses in the New Testament telling us (summarized) that thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross we now live under grace, not the law.  And that if we try to obtain righteousness, or right standing with God, by following even one rule of the law that we must fulfill the entire law to become righteous that way – and it is clearly spelled out that it is not possible for any human being to keep the entire law.  Whereas if we accept the grace of God we can be saved by believing in Jesus and the rest of the world will know if we are truly disciples of Christ or not by our love for God and one another.

And there it is, the plain and simple Gospel.  Obviously different from what my husband  believes.  Our belief incompatibilities once again brought to the surface, this time because of a small, simple, nearly invisible tattoo.

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It’s only been a couple of days since my last post and already I’m embarrassed by my little tantrum… <she said sheepishly>

My life is not that bad and I know it.  My husband is working really hard to be Mr Amazing and more and more he actually succeeds.  Our finances are the result of circumstances – and a few bad choices  – but we still have a roof over our heads, food on the table and vehicles to get to work in.  My two best friends are great and lots of people think I’m pretty cool.  There IS a light at the end of the tunnel and I know it’s not a train… but I can’t be the only one who has down days and becomes emotionally unstable for an hour or two, right?

Right.

The trick is to grab your bucket, mop up the floor after your little melt-down and carry on.

And by the way, I was tested last year for being Bi-Polar and my doctor said no, I’m not.

Sooooo…  Moving on.

Starting a new year, for me anyway, always brings the desire to set goals for myself, to change my life and become someone better, someone different.  To be that person I am not but wish I was.  This year isn’t much different except I’ve been so busy with my new job that I haven’t gotten around to it as soon as I normally do.  Gasp!  It’s already January 19th!  But the extra time has actually been a blessing because it allowed me to think back over my blogging for the last couple of years.

This particular blog has only been up for just over a year and oh, what a year it has been!  I had a different one for at least a year before that but I deleted it for a variety of reasons I won’t get into now.  The topics were pretty similar though:  marriage issues, church issues, work issues, depression, feelings, blah, blah, blah…  I like to write but don’t feel like I’m very good at it so my main purpose in blogging is to help me sort out my feelings.  It’s very useful for me to write things down and then go over them again and again until the writing says exactly what I’m feeling and thinking.  It’s actually quite therapeutic for me, creating all these blog entries.  I never go back and re-read them but just getting my thoughts and feelings out in print and editing them over and over again until I’m satisfied my post properly reflects where I’m at is strangely calming and soothing to my soul.  I’m weird, I know.

Thinking about the sorts of things I’ve blogged about over the last couple of years I’ve come to realize that the days of figuring out who I am are over.  I am a lot of things, some of them good and some of them bad but all of them are me – and the list keeps changing.  Slowly I lose some things and gain others but they are still me.  I am… Myself.

So what’s next, now that I’m comfortable with who I am?  Starting this year I want to work on the parts of me that I know are important but are still “in the rough”, things that are jagged and splintered and I want to begin smoothing and polishing them until they fit into my life gracefully, adding beauty and joy to every day.  Things like: I Am Lovable.  I Am Valuable.  I Am Deserving of Good Things Happening To Me.

It’s going to be a long road.  I can almost guarantee you that I will have more emotional break-downs and write more of those awful, nitty-gritty posts about the crazy-ness that is my life but everything I write has been and will be true to the way I’m thinking and feeling in those moments – it is what it is.

My family has been working our way through all six Star Wars movies and at the part where Yoda raises Luke’s ship from the swamp Luke says “I don’t believe it!” Yoda replies “And THAT is why you fail.” It always amazes me how much truth you can find in movie one-liners…  This year, 2014,  is going to be my year of Learning How To Believe.  This year I am going to learn how to believe that God Loves Me and when I can embrace that one, simple truth I will be able to accept all the other truths I want to believe as well:  I Can Be A Good Wife, Mother and Friend.  I Can Make A Difference No Matter Where I Work.  I Am Worth Loving.

That is my goal for this year.  What is it you need to start believing?

Okie dokie, so it’s been just over a month since my last post and I’m not even sure what I’ve blogged about and what I haven’t…  I’ll start with this – I’M DOING GREAT!

I’m not trying to say my life is perfect because it isn’t, but everything is soooo much better, wow!  A little recap:  I lost my job in the beginning of September, was denied unemployment, started beauty school in the middle of September, my car blew up, my appeal for unemployment was successful and I received everything I was owed from the day I lost my job forward, started a full-time job with great benefits in the middle of November, going to school part-time before I go to work, we had friends over for Thanksgiving and this is my last week of orientation at the new job.  Whew!

On top of all that I am completely off all prescription medication – no sleeping pills, no anti-depressants and no anti-anxiety medication anymore for this girl!  Also – no more counseling or psychiatrist visits!  Life has done a one-eighty for me, the only downside being that I have gained 14 pounds since I started my new job almost 5 weeks ago, ugh…

Financially things are still pretty hairy, we’re recovering from six weeks of only one income so all of our monthly bills are behind – including our mortgage which is 3 months past due – and we actually had to open bank accounts somewhere else because we were so far overdrawn in all our accounts…  😦  So, yeah, life is still kind of scary at times when it comes to money BUT I know it’s going to work out and be OK.  I get my second paycheck from the new job this week and the biggest challenge will be sticking to our budget while at the same time trying to entertain my husband’s parents for a week or so during Christmas.  Gotta love family, eh?

My girls seem to be getting along quite nicely, which is fabulous.  My husband got a second job delivering pizzas on the weekends which has been a great source of pocket cash for extra expenses and I’m very proud of him for working so hard for us.

Speaking of “us”, he and I have been steadily improving too.  Last February I gave him an ultimatum and two months to kick his addiction to pornography and get his act together.  I have to say that I honestly did not expect him to pull it off.  I thought that I would be well on my way to being single by now but he really surprised me.  The amount of effort he has put into saving our marriage and becoming a better human being, man, father and husband has truly shocked me, it really has.  I’m so very impressed and wish I had stood up for myself a long time ago, although it may not have had the same results 10 years ago as it did this last year…

And while words can’t really express how pleased and proud of him I am, now we get to the storm cloud of my silver lining – because nobody’s life can be all rainbows and unicorns, eh?  I’ve recently discovered that now my heart has some changing to do.  It was very unflattering to discover exactly how much of me wanted my husband to fail so I could finally get a divorce – be free! – and it would be his fault.  I think (now) that has been the biggest reason I never left, it couldn’t be my fault that my marriage didn’t work.  Twisted logic, I know, but consider my upbringing:  My mom left my dad when I was in grade school and I never thought she should have, I always believed their marriage could have been saved if she had tried harder and the things I learned after I became an adult only supported that belief – making the divorce her fault – and I have done everything I could think of to be as little like my mom as possible.

I think God used my faulty reasoning for good.  If I had left when I “should have”, according to some people, none of this would have happened.  My husband wouldn’t be a nice guy now.  My children wouldn’t have this fun-filled relationship with their father, full of teasing, smiles and laughter and none of us would have experienced how completely God can change a life.  There are still some days that aren’t great but those days are much fewer and farther between than they were even just a year ago.  I KNOW that everything is going to be OK now!

So all in all I am ecstatic to be off my medications…  I’m thrilled with my school and new job…  I am excited about my children’s improved relationship with each other…  I am in shock and awe of the “new man” I have for a husband…  I’m a little nervous about our finances…  and I am trusting in God to complete the work He started.

I think this is a good place to end a year and begin a new one.

So it’s Sunday, I’m home sick and watching The Avengers.  Loki makes this statement:  “I am Loki and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”  Glorious purpose.  Glooooooooorious Purpose.  Uh huh…

In reality this is true and we should all be making this statement every morning when we look at ourselves in the mirror.  “I am BluEydButterfly and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”  because each of us really does have a glorious purpose, although the trick is to believe it… and sometimes we don’t even know what it is so discovering that glorious purpose is required as well.

Another statement Loki made a short time later also caught my attention.  Yes, I know, besides being really cute his character makes memorable statements, who’da thunk it?  But what he said this time was:  “You were made to be ruled.”, which I actually, totally, 100% agree with.  The Human Condition craves rules, boundaries, guidelines.  We want someone to lead us.  Why else would every country in the world create its own government?  This is, however, more my opinion and a lead-in to my next statement rather than trying to get everybody riled up over the ugly world of politics.  Sorry to get your hopes up but maybe another day…

OK, now let’s combine those two statements.  What if my “glorious purpose” is simply to choose who my ruler is – or another way of saying it might be, who am I going to serve?  What if it really is that basic?  Regardless of your religious beliefs almost everyone on this planet recognizes that there is good and evil in this world, although everybody seems to define them differently these days…  I personally believe in the God of the Bible and use the scriptures to define good and bad. I’m super-summarizing the verses here but the Bible says that “God is love”, 1 John 4:8; that other people will know I am a Christian “by my love”, John 13:35; and that the two greatest commandments are to love God first and people second, Matt 22:37 – 39.   These verses all define for me, in the simplest terms, good and evil.  To love, with TRUE love (which would take an entirely different blog to define), is good.  Fake love or to be unloving – either one – is evil.  This is the bare bones core of my belief, this is my heart.

We all choose, every moment of every day, what we want to think, say and do.  Are those things kind, loving and helpful?  Or are the things we think, say and do mean and hurtful?  If they are good then I am serving my God.  If they are evil then I am not.

Obviously I am not trying for any deep, contemplative discussion here.  I’m not even talking about Salvation or Heaven.  This particular blog post is to capture simplicity itself, nothing more.  Why?  Because I believe faith should be simple.  Because I believe faith IS simple and we just over-complicate it.  Let’s get back to basics people!  We’ve lost so much to complicity, we’ve fought so many wars over inconsequential details and we’ve destroyed so many relationships in the name of this god or that one… so often without even knowing what the god we serve is really, truly like.  My God is love.  He loves me.  He loves you.  And because He loves you I love you.  Because He loves you I will do my best to help you when you need help or be sad with you when you are sad or be happy with you when you are happy.  This is my faith, my “religion”, to use what feels like dirty word…

Many Christians have lost sight of this and because of their distraction have given Christianity a bad name.  A very bad name.  So bad I’m hesitant at times to say that I am a Christian or that the God I serve is Jesus Christ.  Not because I am ashamed of Christ or the Gospels, oh no!  But because I am ashamed of the people who call themselves Christians and do not love anybody but themselves.  Because those people have the loudest voices and society believes that they are Christians… but they’re not.  Not according to the Bible.  And yet I am a Christian, there is no other way to describe it because I follow Christ and Christian literally means “Follower or disciple of Christ”.

All of that to say – I AM burdened with Glorious Purpose and my choice is about whether or not I will LOVE others as God loves me.

How about you?

OK, so maybe it started in August and ran over a bit into October…  Here’s the rundown, and my apologies for not having blogged for so long but I think you’ll understand:

August 27th – I turn 40.  (Not entirely bad news, it’s just a number, right?)

August 30th – Our washer and dryer died.

September 1st – Our hot water heater caught on fire and needed replacing.

September 4th – I lost my job and signed up for unemployment.

September 9th – We are not eligible for food stamps.

September 13th – GOOD NEWS!   I signed up to attend a beauty school’s Nail Technician program with my husband’s somewhat skeptical blessing.  I’m tired of the office life!  I have wanted to be a Nail Technician since I was in my early 20’s but the money and the time to go to beauty school never made it to my house at the same time so to make money I did what I was best at, answering phones and office work… for 20 years…  and now the opportunity of a lifetime, a miracle has come my way!

 September 16th – MORE ABOUT THE SAME GOOD NEWS!  My first day “back to school” and it was soooo weird after over 20 years.  I brought my paper, pen and pencil and I was so excited that my girls made fun of me and I didn’t care a bit!   I should graduate sometime in January of 2014 so it’s roughly four-and-a-half months and almost every day so far has flown by – I go home feeling like I had FUN at school, I really love what I’m learning!

 September 20th – My unemployment claim was denied.  (I am appealing it.)

September 21st – Our oldest daughter turned 18 and we had this HUGE party planned for over 3 months with 10 people invited… guess who spent money, lots and lots of money, that we didn’t have?

September 24th – I lost my phone.

October 2nd – My car died.  Dead.  Seized engine dead.  Over-sized paper-weight dead.  Tacky Red Neck Lawn Art Dead.  Walk to school and be late and then wonder how I’m going to get home dead.  Dead dead.

You know, sometimes so many bad things happen in such a short amount of time that all you can do is sit back and giggle hysterically.  That’s pretty much where I’ve been.  To tell the truth I’m kind of sitting back wondering what else could go wrong and thinking I might want to grab a soda and popcorn to watch the next disaster go down…

But in spite of all that something really good that has happened through all this.  I’m actually  very happy right now, strangely happy right now given all the above circumstances.  I don’t think I need my depression pills any more kind of happy, weird huh?  Somehow, for the first time since I was a child I 100% believe that God is fully in control and everything is going to be OK.  Not Never-Going-To-Have-Another-Problem-For-The-Rest-Of-My-Life-OK but All-My-Needs-Will-Be-Met-And-Taken-Care-Of-OK.  I actually have more peace and trust in God more now than I did when I had my job and was making good money!  Have you ever heard “Blessings” by Laura Story?  I feel like I’m living it…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ  I KNOW everything is going to be OK and I haven’t felt that way for a long time.  I guess if this is what it took to get me to this amazing, emotionally stable place then I wish it would have happened earlier!

What my life looks like now:
I’m looking for a job I can do after school and on weekends.
I’m trying to get my Pampered Chef business to make us some money.  (I had two shows last month, whoo hoo!)
I’m wondering how I’m going to make up the two house payments and numerous utility bills that we’re behind on.
I’m driving the car my nearby best friend is selling me on payments.
I found a cheaper phone plan and my entire family has new phone numbers <aggravating> so now I don’t have to find my other phone, lol!
We replaced the washer and dryer with used ones but unfortunately had to buy a new hot water heater.
Starting next week I’ll be ready to give manicures and pedicures to paying customers at school now so hopefully I will start getting tips!

Life is life.  God is God.  God is bigger than Life.  Life is going to be OK.   🙂

Last week I overheard a lady on the bus say:  “It’s terrible, there’s no shadows on the ground from the sun, it’s just terrible!”

She seriously sounded like the world was going to end if the shadows didn’t come back so I, of course, quickly glanced out of the bus window and was able to see the shadow of the bus on the sidewalk…  Whew!  That was close!  To be fair it was a really faint shadow because of the smoggy atmosphere but the shadow was most definitely there so I don’t think she had very  good eyesight.  But like many of the tangents in my life it made me think…

A shadow is essentially proof, in darkness, that something is standing against the light, blocking it from reaching the surface.  Shadows can be very dark or very faint, depending on your light source and the opacity of the object causing the shadow… and, apparently, your eyesight.

A shadow is not good or evil in and of itself, it’s all in how you perceive it.  Some examples are:  The lady on the bus viewed the absence of shadows as something terrible and unnatural, scary even but people under trees in the middle of a hot summer view shadows as a blessing.  At night, when a statue is lit from the bottom the shadows make the face look very creepy and it becomes a wonderful place to sit and tell ghost stories.  When that same statue is lit from the top it appears normal and your ghost stories have less umph.  Walking from bright light to deep shadows can be unnerving because you can’t see anything until your eyes adjust whereas going from deep shadows to bright light is usually quite nice.  Your perspective changes everything, eh?

My musings turned me towards wondering – where the shadows are in my life?  What bad habits are standing up, against the light and causing a shadow on my surface?  Where am I dark?  Is the darkness OK?  Am I providing people shade or scaring them with my shadows?  What I am using for my light source?

For me personally my light source should be my Bible because it is the standard of my faith and I believe it is the written word of God.  “Should” obviously implies that it isn’t… not really.

I had to apologize to God this morning because I haven’t been a very faithful follower of His for the last few years…  I allowed my circumstances, my bad shadows, to drag me down and I’ve just kind of stayed there for quite a while, having elaborate pity parties and pushing away the people who love me.  I’m trying to change but definitely can’t do it by myself, I need God’s help!  Thankfully His mercies are new every morning…

Next weekend, for my 40th birthday, I’m going out-of-town on a trip with my two best friends, (who are finally going to get to spend some time together, whoo hoo!) and I’m just going to bask in the shade of our girlfriend-ness.  We are all believers but my friend from high school has a very strong faith and I really need that encouragement, that renewing right now.  I’m ready to start my relationship with God over and want their support.  I need to reach back to the people at my church who have reached out to me and try to start over.  It’s time to come out of the bad shadows and make a new beginning!

Stephanie is right – I do love my family.  Stephanie, thank you for your note and the gentle rebuke.

Your comment has made me realize that I’m actually still quite mad at him (and I’m not at all offended with you!).  I have read your advice over and over again and I can see that I’ve become very selfish.  I’ve grown tired of waiting, I wanted him to do things for me, my way RIGHT NOW because I deserve it  and am tired of always giving and giving and never getting much out of this relationship.  That, however, is not unconditional love so now I’m finding myself wanting, ha!, demanding what I am no longer willing to give.  Oh the irony…

Now, in spite of having spent the last 7 – 8 years watching the slow, gradual change that God has worked in his life to bring him to the place he is today I had stopped trusting God to complete the work He started in my husband and decided it wasn’t fast enough to suit me anymore because “I deserved better than this”.

Essentially, this most recent bout with discontent can be tracked to one particular disagreement that happened almost two years ago now:  For various reasons I wanted to leave our church and attend a different Charismatic, Christian church.  I didn’t have any particular church in mind, just any other church, preferably closer to home so our girls could get to know other Christian kids that hopefully lived in the neighborhood and could connect at both school and church.

Now my husband is of the stay-where-you’re-at-until-you’re-given-new-directions-by-God-Himself opinion, basically he believes that until God speaks to him in a loud, booming, audible voice “You will start attending church such-and-such  at the beginning of next month”  then we are to stay where we’re at.  My reason for leaving is logic-based, that if we are not continuing to grow as individuals and as a family then just maybe we’ve learned all that we can at this church for now and should go somewhere else where our learning can continue to move forward.

We went back and forth over this for months.  Why did I want to leave, why did he want to stay.  Finally he told me we would go and try other churches just to see what was out there.  He was serving as an usher and they asked for a month’s notice to replace him so he gave his months notice and on our last Sunday we sat in the sanctuary for a really long time after the service ended.  Almost everyone had gone home before he turned to me and said “I can’t do it, we’re not leaving”.  With that statement and decision he broke trust with me.  He had made me a promise that we would go look for other churches and then decided that this church has a higher priority in his life than I do so that promise to me wasn’t worth keeping… and it made me feel like I was insignificant to him and to our family.   When I look at it carefully I see that what’s really happened over the last two years is that I became angry with my husband and I have let that anger build to the point where I was one conversation away from kicking him out of the house about two months ago.  We did manage to reconcile that day and avoided a messy separation but my anger stayed in it’s crock pot, tucked into a quiet corner while it slowly heated up again and all I could see were his faults, magnified.

This is what I need to forgive him for, and I need to ask his forgiveness for my staying angry with him for all this time.h

Once again, Stephanie is right – I need to forgive him and stop judging him so harshly.  He is as God made him, warts and all, and he is trying the best he knows how to love me, warts and all.

The fact that I haven’t had mushy, ooey-gooey or passionate feelings for anyone or anything for a super-long time probably just means that my “feeler” is broke.  I think I buried it along with my heart in self-defense a long time ago and the fact that I’m “missing” having feelings is – hopefully – a positive sign of something deep inside starting to heal.

Oh – and Hiddinsight, I have been referred to a psychiatric counselor who does both counseling and medication management while keeping my primary doctor in the loop so hopefully that will be more helpful to me than my previous counselors have been.

I’m going to wrap it up for now, my pills have kicked in and it will probably be hilarious to read tomorrow what I wrote tonight but the pills don’t seem to change what I think, they just free me to write more than I usually would .

Have a fabulous 4th of July, I plan on spending as much of it as possible in bed getting lots of rest before I have to go back to work on Friday.

Again, comments are always welcome, I’m learning and growing and I’m sure I can’t be the only one out there going through this kind of stuff.

Oh Good Lord, save me, I don’t want to be this strong all the time…  actually, make that most of the time… or ever.  <rolling eyes>

I went to Dictionary.com for a definition of the word “Strong” and here’s some  excerpts (from the World Dictionary section):

Not easily broken or injured; having resolute will or morally firm and incorruptible character; intense in quality – not faint or feeble.

There are very few days when I actually feel strong.  Most of the time I wonder if I’ll make it through to the next day but when I look back on my life and what I’ve come through, I AM strong!  I am The Little Engine That Could (I think I can, I think I can…), I am Dory on Finding Nemo (Just keep swimming…), I am Winston Churchill (Nevah give up, nevah surrender!)  I have a strength that lives inside me like a teeny, tiny force field and it pops up just enough to protect the fragile parts of me through the hardest times.  The Bible says “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and while I can’t say I am always joyful, more like I’m rarely joyful, when walking the rocky roads I do know that strength didn’t come from me.  Jumping into Survival Mode when trials come is me, actually Surviving the trial is God.

I think that being strong comes from receiving strength from sources outside of yourself.  At the very least I know I can’t create strength in my own heart or will myself to be strong.  At any rate, strength has come to me recently in a few different ways:
1.  I’ve identified where my husband is at emotionally so now I have a better idea of how to communicate with him and respond back to him.
2.  I’ve been reading a book “Victorious Eschatology” by Harold R. Eberle and Martin Trench and it’s completely changed my view of Christianity and the world around me.
3.  I planned a road trip to Reno with one of my two best friends, whoo hoo!

So about my husband first – there was this big “Whew!” moment when I realized that he wasn’t emotionally all grown up like I had been assuming he was for the  last 20 years.  It’s like the feeling you get when you know you have a physical ailment but the doctors can’t figure it out and when they finally put a name on it – it’s such a relief!  You haven’t been cured and your problem hasn’t improved but now you have the name of your disease and you know how to fight it.  That was the feeling I got after defining his emotional maturity level.  Almost deliriously happy to have a diagnosis – and – I felt like I was Wonder Woman, able to “fight” his immaturity until he was “all grown up”, I can do it, da, da, da, da!  Those feelings of elation lasted… oh, just about a full day and then were immediately followed by “Oh crap, I’m married to a 40-year-old Junior High boy who still giggles (internally) and gets all excited anytime he hears the word ‘boobies'”.

Breathe, girl, just breathe…

The two-month “probation” period is over and things are noticeably better now than they were before but not as much was accomplished as I hoped there would be.  Tonight I will go with him to his counseling appointment – he actually invited me all on his own, that impressed me…  I am stronger now about being myself and not being a door mat than I was before and we are taking it one day at a time.  So far so good.  Only time can tell how this story ends.  (Update – I did go with him and it was very interesting for me.  My husband got a little bit upset because of something I said in the session but it looks like he’s going to think it over and we’ll talk it out later.  Still a big improvement from how it used to be so yay!)

I’m going to skip ahead to the road trip – I am so excited and this is a major infusion of Strength to me!  What started out as a very hurtful exclusion by the choir teacher (I told him at the beginning of the year that I needed to go on all of my younger daughter’s out-of-town field trips for her medical safety because she goes to the ER so often for migraines and he purposefully didn’t leave me a chaperone spot on this particular trip) has turned into a Girls Weekend Extraordinaire!  My best friend from high school is flying down to meet me and then we are going to drive to Reno and have ourselves a good time while (nearly) ignoring the annoying choir teacher.

We will go to my daughter’s performances and be as embarrassing to her as possible because I’ve reached an age where embarrassing my children has become one of my greatest delights in life, ha, ha!  And we will take lots and lots of pictures of her but other than that we will stay as far away from the high school group as we can and have fun on our own but still be a short ways away in case my daughter has to go to the ER while we’re in Reno.

What all is there to do in Reno any?  I could use some feedback on this…  Neither one of us drinks or smokes and I’m sure we’ll throw a quarter or two into the machines but that’s not how we’ll be spending our days.  I’m kind of thinking I’d like to come back with a henna tattoo of a butterfly on the inside of my left wrist to see if I would want a real one in that spot.

I see that Lake Tahoe is a short distance away but what’s really caught my eye is the California coast is only 2 1/2 hours away from Reno, aaauuugh!  Do I dare go that far away from my daughter just to satisfy my own longings to be at the ocean shores when the whole point of me going to Reno is to be there immediately if she has to go to the ER?  Grrr…  No.  That would make me a Bad Mom.  A title I have earned more than once before but right now I will sacrifice my saltwater cravings to be there for her.  Maybe someday she’ll even appreciate it…

At any rate, not this weekend but next weekend I’m going to Reno, yippee!

OK, now on to the book, which is actually the most strengthening thing of all to me, surprisingly enough.  Don’t ask me how to pronounce the second word of the title but it’s basically all about the “end times” and how the two authors are interpreting scriptures as to how the end of this age will come.

I’ve always been taught, my whole life, in all the churches I’ve been to, that life will only get worse until the 2nd Coming.  The earth will be filled with the most abhorrent evils ever thought of before Jesus can come back.  These two authors see, and explain very well, the scriptures quite differently. I think I’m going to need another blog posting to explain it but what it boils down to is that my heart had gradually, over the years, been going down a path of thought where “If everything is just going to get worse before it can get better why fight for justice in our nation?  Why try to get good politicians?  Why protest  our rights being taken away?  Why even try to move society towards more godly ideals? and biggest of all “Is my trying to make the world around me a better place standing in the way of Jesus coming back?  I’d better stop trying to make things better then.”  I was becoming apathetic and had lost my motivation for being a Christian.  Reading this book – everything made sense, being a Christian is still worthwhile, fighting for good leadership is important.  Sharing the Good News is fun and easy again!

I’m out of time but I just wanted to get this published.  Have a great weekend!

I was on my way home from work and the sun was shining brightly.  So brightly, in fact, that I was wearing my way cool – and polarized – sunglasses.  There was a large cloud next to the sun and I saw the widest, most brilliant rainbow I’d ever seen on the side of the cloud.  It was just in that spot – nowhere else.  It wasn’t raining, just a bright, sunny day with a few big, white, fluffy clouds.  I took my sunglasses off and the rainbow turned into an unbearably bright white spot on the side of the cloud.  I put my sunglasses back on and – rainbow!  Off again, bright white spot.  On, off, on, off…yes I did this for a while…

That got me thinking, where else in life are there Hidden Rainbows?  Where are things, especially in my own past that I might look at and say “Oh, that’s just a cloud” or “Oh, that hurts my eyes to look at it”.  When I view life with a different filter what will I see?  Beauty where there was normal, or even ugly?  Rainbows in places that are still too painful to look at directly? 

But what filter do I use to change my vision?  My sunglasses are polarized and let me see all kinds of things my normal eyes can’t see.  When I am wearing my polarized sunglasses I find that many electronics have a colored sheen on the displays, almost like when water runs down the street and sometimes you can see a rainbow of colors in the surface because it picks up all the traces of oil and antifreeze, etc from the roadway.  The polarization also cuts down the glare from the sun on the windshields of other cars making it possible to see what’s going on inside the cars around me with my sunglasses on but without them I can only see that yes, there is a car there but the glare of the sun on the windshields makes it impossible to see the driver or passengers. Unfortunately, sunglasses can only help you in the physical world, they can’t show you the hidden rainbows in your past – or present – or help you see into a co-workers weird and unexplainable actions (or maybe it’s my weird and unexplainable actions…).

Love is a good filter, probably the greatest filter.  Love God first, then people.  If we can do this – if I can do this because I am totally preaching to myself here – then we the people will have insight into the ways of others and see the hidden rainbows everywhere we go.  Life will become a better place for all of us. 

Let me be clear in one thing, however, Love is different than tolerance, a LOT different.  America has become tolerant crazy and people nowadays seem to think that if you’re not tolerant of them and whatever it is their doing, well then you’re just a hater.  This is not true.   Love does have rules, and strangely enough, the list of Love’s rules contains a lot of “don’t”s.  I Corinthians 13:4-8 says

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but (does) rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   Love never fails.

By way of example, it is loving on my part to NOT tolerate my husband’s addiction because it is bad for him personally, it is bad for me personally, it is ruining our marriage and threatening the security of our children.  Tolerance can be good but it has been misused and re-defined to the point that tolerance can also be very, very bad and allow all sorts of harmful things to grow up strong and completely unchallenged in today’s society.

But now I feel like I’m getting into an entirely different topic so I’ll save that for another blog. 

Another really good filter is Forgiveness.  Stop holding grudges and making people “pay” for their mistakes long after they remember they even made one.  Yes, you were hurt in the past but it made you who you are today so mourn for your loss – for a short time – and then let it go.  Forgive the one(s) who hurt you and move on.  You are stronger because of everything you’ve come through UNLESS you refuse to forgive because it takes all your strength to carry those grudges, especially when you keep adding new grudges to the old ones.  (Still preaching to myself here…)

So back to my sunglasses analogy – Forgiveness is like the dark tint of your sunglasses, you can’t see things in the shadows very well, or at all, depending on how dark they are, i.e., how well you’ve forgiven the offender(s).  Love is the polarization on your sunglasses.  It reveals beauty that can’t be seen any other way and can bring understanding of what’s going on inside people and situations that you couldn’t see before because, unaided, you could never see past the blinding glare they projected.

So put your sunglasses on, your “new” sunglasses of Love and Forgiveness.  Look at the list and stop doing some of the things you’ve been doing and start to do some of the things you don’t normally do.  The next grudge you remember – forgive the one(s) who offended you and move past it.  Find the Hidden Rainbows and you’ll discover that your world – and the world of the people around you – is a much better place!

It really isn’t.

And now that all the people who consider themselves True Christians have armed themselves with pitchforks and gone off looking for me I can finish my thought.

If you became a Christian (or joined any religion for that matter) because somebody “helped” you decide to do so whether it be to please them, they out-debated you, gave you guilt trips and a fear of hell or you became a Christian out of a sense of obligation and duty because you grew up in the church and your entire family is Christian… then in my experience, your Christianity will only last as long as it continues to make sense.  The minute something else makes more sense you will change your mind and go a different direction.  Why?  Because your heart wasn’t changed by what you said you believed and the mind can be easily swayed to and fro without a firm, heart-held conviction of what you belive.

True Belief Changes Your Lifestyle.  People become vegetarians all the time after being made aware of the life animals destined for the meat market lead.  Did these people all of a sudden stop loving the taste of a juicy steak or Kentucky Fried Chicken?  Probably not.  But the thoughts and images of what they learned overwhelm the pleasure of eating the meat and they willingly made a change in their lifestyle because they believe in their heart that their refusal to eat meat spares animals from slaughter.  These people don’t have a problem telling others that they don’t eat meat and why.  Some vegetarians are very passionate about it and will try to sway you to become one of them while the rest just say “No thank you, I’m a vegetarian” when you offer them a slice of Meat Lover’s pizza and that’s the end of it.  They hold to their convictions without apology, without regret and without much care in regards to what you may think of them for being a vegetarian.

Most of my life I would have told you I was a pretty good example of a Christian but when I compare the strength of my beliefs to those of even a basic vegetarian I find myself coming up short…and how sad is that?  The conviction of my Christian beliefs don’t hold a candle to those of somebody who has chosen not to eat something for the good of an animal.  And honestly, how many new Christians change their lives so drastically, so visibly as new vegetarian?  How many church members will stand up to the girls at the office and say “Sorry, I don’t participate in gossip, I’m a Christian”.  How many professing Christians will give back the extra change the cashier at Wal-Mart gave them on accident?  Are those who call themselves Christians today truly any different from the average American?  Unfortunately the people typically identified as being a good representative of religion aren’t usually Christians in this day and age…

I grew up in church, at one time my parents were the youth pastors and my father was often involved with the worship team in one way or another.  I remember praying the salvation prayer at age 3 and did my best to be a good little Christian girl thereafter.  And that may be my biggest problem, I think maybe I tried harder to be a Good Girl than I did to be a Good Christian, not knowing they were different.  Please note I’m not trying to say that Good Christian Girls are not Good Girls because they most definitely are.  I’m trying to say that Good Girls are not necessarily Good Christian Girls.  In the spiritual realm A = B does not always mean that B = A.  That would be too easy…

True Belief Shares Itself.  Someone once said “Witness at all times.  When necessary use words.”  When your heart is different your life will be different.  When your life is different people will notice and you will not be shy about explaining yourself, in fact it will be easy and you will be eager to do it.  When the beliefs of your heart change your lifestyle then, and only then do you have a chance to create a convert because hearts respond to hearts.  Seeing the actions of another can inspire a heart to change but are rarely responsible for any permanent, lasting effects.

Having said all that I will once again repeat that your relationship with God is none of my business.  My relationship with God is my entirely my own business and none of  yours.  The Bible says that your relationship with God should be my concern, a topic of my prayers and even reason for my tears but each person has to make the choice to live for God – or not – on their own.  Nothing I say or do can force you to change your mind one way or the other with any lasting, heart changes.  I have no power or control over your heart save my witness, my example and my lifestyle.

I’m not perfect but I am forgiven.  I try, try and try again and trust that God knows my heart.  I choose to Believe the Bible, Love God and People, Know Others by Their Fruit but Only Judge Myself and Obey the Bible.  It is all that I can do.