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Each post on this blog is a little snapshot of my thoughts, feelings, emotions, decisions… it’s glimpses into my life as raw and unfiltered as I can write them out.  I don’t always have the right words to properly express myself but I try.  I’ve spent most of my life stuffing my feelings and emotions in a bottle and putting them up on a shelf because “nobody got time for that” so now I’m not very good at identifying how I feel, much less knowing how to deal with those feelings, which is one of the big reasons that this blog is pretty much anonymous – I think I’ve only invited a couple of people who know me to read it and if you do know me please don’t tell anybody my secret identity, lol!  This is how I sort things out in my head and in my heart, by writing them down and mulling them over, and over, and over…

If you’re reading this and it doesn’t make sense normally I would say that you’re just going to have to wade through the last two years of posts although I suppose after this amount of time it’s worth summarizing – OK, here goes:

I’m in my 40’s, married for 20 years with two kids – one is barely a legal adult and the other 6 weeks away from being a legal adult.  Thanks to my upbringing and then marrying a man who treated me the same way I was treated while growing up I never believed I had any real value as a human being until about two years ago when something changed.

I can’t tell you exactly what it was that gave way inside of me  – I had gone to a few years of counseling but all the counselors I had didn’t give me any solutions, they just said that I was doing great and they didn’t know why I was going to see them so I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it.  I had been on anti-depressants for a couple of years by then but I was actually getting worse, more depressed and more suicidal so I don’t think that was it either.  About that same time I started to have concerns about the church that we were attending and I brought those concerns to both my husband and the pastor’s attentions – nothing happened and I sank further into my depression.  But somehow, something snapped almost 24 months ago and I started this journey of becoming bolder, stronger and brave.  I dared to believe that I just might even be beautiful.

The first thing I did was to give my husband an ultimatum to quit his pornography addiction “or else”.  In February that will have been two years ago.  I didn’t specifically state what the “or else” would be but it was going to start with separation and go from there.  I let him talk me out of separating that night because I honestly didn’t think that he would be able to quit but he surprised me.  Almost two years later he has not only kicked his addiction but he has been instrumental in starting a men’s purity group at his church and is co-leading it, helping other men in their fight against pornography. He has also worked very hard to become a nicer person, a better husband and a more involved father.  I have both noticed these things and told him, repeatedly, that I am proud of him for all the changes he’s made but we can both tell that it’s a “That’s nice” kind of proud of him.

I should be bursting with pride.  Why aren’t I?

I guess I feel like it’s a day late and a dollar short.

About nine months ago I started seeing a new counselor and she made a difference in my life.  The reason I went to her was because I didn’t like sex.  My husband fully endorsed my going to a counselor for this reason but I think he soon came to regret supporting me in that manner.  What she actually helped me with was opening my eyes to see that I was in an abusive relationship.  There was no physical abuse going on but nearly every other kind of abuse was present.  Had I been physically abused, i.e. beat up, I would have left a long time ago but mental and emotional abuse are “invisible” and “don’t really count” in the Christian church today and there seems to be no such thing as sexual abuse between a husband and a wife.  In America, and as far as I know in the world at large, sexual abuse within marriage is barely recognized and rarely addressed but in the church the subject is completely taboo.  My counselor told me that being manipulated, coerced or guilt-tripped into having sex when you don’t want to is sexual abuse.  Who knew?  I thought that the only thing “sexual abuse” meant was that you were raped or forced into giving oral sex against your will.  Being a good, submissive Christian wife I stayed married because it was “the right thing to do” and that kept me in a miserable relationship for 20 years believing that by doing so I was pleasing God.

It got to the point that I was considering changing my faith – or abandoning it completely – in order to leave the church we were and get him to divorce me.  I considered suicide many times because I thought it would be easier than divorce and I had become crazy enough that somehow I thought suicide might even be a spiritual solution because it would fulfill the “till death do us part” vow I made.  Yes, I’ve been messed up in the head for a long, long time now…

Ultimately, in an act of abnormal bravery, I left that particular church without him.  Aside from a couple months of extra stress immediately after that decision our life has returned to “normal” –  we just don’t talk about the fact that he is still attending that church and I have been trying out other local churches to see where I will fit the best.  Now the only real decision I have left is do I stay married or not?  I honestly don’t want to be anybody’s wife ever at this point but I’m not sure leaving is the right thing to do either, I’m in a quandary.  I have begged God to change my heart and make me fall in love with this man that I’ve never had any kind of passion for and yet he’s made so many changes to please me.  I have pleaded with God to make me enjoy sex.  And yet for 20 years nothing has changed in my heart – or my with hormones either for that matter.  It actually makes me understand homosexuals a little better – I can’t change it no matter how hard I try so maybe God made me this way.

And that’s where I’m at right now.  This is really real life – my life.  I have a big decision to make, do I stay or do I go?  I’m not going to rush this choice though, I want to be sure that if I leave I have done everything I could have possibly done to make it work.  If I leave I don’t want to have any regrets that I didn’t explore every option or try hard enough.  If I stay it will be because I chose to stay and not because I felt obligated to stay.  I’m going to  make this choice, probably within the next 6 months, and be comfortable with my final decision.

Stay tuned…

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The last time I went to my Women’s Small Group at church somebody noticed I could sing.  I was immediately asked if I would lead the worship time in a future group and if I had considered joining the worship team.

It was so hard not to look behind me to try and see who they were really talking to!  You want me to lead a small group in worship?  Lil ‘ole invisible me?

I was flattering to say the least but a very large part of me wondered if they really meant it, if the leaders would actually follow through and arrange a specific date for me to lead the worship or if it was just one of those vague, polite niceties I’ve heard all my life that frequently equated to nothing more than a carrot on a stick.

Besides, they don’t really even know me, I’ve only been attending this church for about six to eight weeks and this small group only started last month so they don’t know me from Adam – there’s no way they could be serious… right?

That was the second time this small group had met.  The first time I had a last minute nail client and wound up being a half hour late to small group so I snuck in while everyone was worshiping (this small group is focused on prayer and worship).  Afterwards we prayed for each other and I saw a little snapshot of something relevant and felt I needed to share that with the gal we were praying for.  Feeling very brave and wondering if they would even allow me to speak since I was so new I stood up from my chair and moved a few feet closer to where the gal was sitting in the middle and I waited for the person who was speaking with her to finish.  It took a little while and my courage began to lag, I wondered if maybe I didn’t need to share after all but one of the leaders had seen me and knew I had something to say so she motioned me forward.  Nobody there even know my name.  I shared the details of the picture I had seen while we were praying for her and went back to my seat.  Afterwards the gal said it was very helpful and encouraging to her and I wound up having some light conversation with the leaders.  In our next small group meeting that same leader, having only met me at the previous small group the one time before, asked me by name if I had anything to share with the gal we were currently praying with.  I did not and said so and the leader was content with my response.  Later that night I was asked to lead a future small group in worship.

I walked out of there on Cloud Nine.  I had value to these people!  I wasn’t invisible!  None of these people knew who I was or my background or what’s going on in my marriage or job or anything about me but they looked at me and saw what God sees when He looks at me!  I knew then that God really had heard my cry to serve Him with the gifts He’s given me.

But still, was it really going to happen or turn into just another one of those “someday” things?  Proverbs says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” and I think that’s where I’ve been for a long time now, heart-sick, and it’s made me untrusting of others, especially spiritual leaders.

This church has really been challenging me in several areas – Do I really accept what the Bible says as truth?  Do I honestly believe that God talks to me at every moment of the day and not just in the sanctuary on Sundays?  Do I trust God and take Him at His Word?  The Sunday sermons have been solid, Biblical teaching backed up with lots of verses and scriptural examples.  Most weeks I walk away somewhat shell-shocked from acknowledging that I’ve allowed myself to live out a different truth than what I’ve always said I believe.  My head will go “Oh yeah, that’s what I believe” but my heart does this funny, cartoon-like explosion thing when I realize “That’s not what I’ve been taught my whole life and that’s not what I live”.

My small group only meets twice a month (I really wish it was once a week, the worship is amazing!) and our next meeting is tomorrow.  Yesterday I received an email asking if I was still up for leading worship this week and besides a keyboard what else did I need?

Wow.  Talk about God coming down and meeting me where I am at.  This is real!  This is what the Bible talks about when it says God’s mercies are new every morning.  I feel like He is healing the wounds caused by other churches – and my own lack of faith – and I’m receiving a fresh start to learn and believe the truth along with my heart’s desire, an opportunity to serve Him with the gifts He’s given me.  I am so excited!

Wow.  So now, according to my husband, my leaving this church against his will makes me like my mother.

My mother:

Who was so controlling and mentally/emotionally abusive that I never realized I could be my own person and not just an extension of her until I was in my 30’s.
Who never said a good word about sex, and then turned out to be quite promiscuous, a sex-a-holic, if you will.
Who attempted to destroy my marriage and my two brother’s marriages.
Who never told me I was pretty, smart or valuable until after I had graduated high school because she “didn’t want me to get a big head”.
Who accused 10 different men of sexually abusing either her, her children or grandchildren.
Who played no small part in the implosion of a small church she attended towards the end of her life.
Who left my 10-year-old sister alone with a man who raped and molested her while Mom was off playing  in Alaska as a traveling nurse for almost a year.

A very low blow.

He just wants me to “accept his authority” and go back to church with him.

I can’t do that.

Well, I did it, I told my husband Saturday night that I would no longer be attending the church we’ve been attending for the last 7 years.

Deep Breath.  Hold it.  Let it out sloooooowly…

It was a huge step for me, I’ve thought about it for a long time.  Over the years I’ve prayed about it, I’ve sought the advice of people I trust and I have even discussed it with my counselor and I honestly believe this is the right thing for me to do.

I’m not going to bash that particular church, it has done a lot of good things for a lot of people, ourselves included.  When we first moved to this city 7 years ago and started attending this church we were a lost, hurting family.  We went to every service we could, attended every class that was offered and served/helped in multiple areas both as a family and individually.  We grew spiritually and I think that each family member’s character changed for the better.  It was definitely a good thing for us.

But time changes everything and almost three years ago I approached my husband with several concerns I had regarding the church.  He did not share them but tried to be supportive of me.  After roughly three months of discussions between both he and I and us and the pastors my husband said we would leave that church… and then changed his mind at the last minute.  Since then I have tried to put my concerns aside and just move on but it became more and more difficult.  Also, many of my friends started leaving the church, all of them hurt and wounded in some way by the words and/or actions of the church leadership.  As I heard bits and pieces of their stories I could see there was a common thread and that many of them shared similar concerns to mine.  So in June of this year I brought up my concerns to my husband again.  He still did not share them and was much less supportive this time around.

To be fair, this church is still doing good things for him.  He has received the support, encouragement and accountability that he has needed in these last two years to battle his pornography addiction and is currently co-leading a small group of other men who are all fighting the same or similar issues.  He is still growing and changing and I am glad for him.  But this church isn’t right for me anymore and it was a difficult thing to take that step from “I don’t want to be here anymore” to “I am not going to be here anymore”.  However, I did take that step and the peace that came with that decision was overwhelming.

My husband wasn’t very happy about my choice.  He verbally fought me for almost an hour.  I don’t normally think well on my feet and I would rather hurt myself than confront anyone about anything, but I know God was with me because my voice did not waver, my hands did not shake and I was able to answer his every question calmly, clearly and coherently.

My husband didn’t speak to me for most of the next day, Sunday, or for Monday either, but on Tuesday he started acting like nothing had happened.  It’s fascinating to watch him and wonder what’s going through his mind, what’s going to happen next…  Does he have “a plan” for trying to get me to stay or has he actually accepted the fact that this decision is the result of the last three years of me struggling with my concerns at this church and that I’m actually going to go through with it and attend another church?  I guess I’ll soon find out.

In the meantime, I’ve found a little community church just down the road from my house that I’m going to try out first.  The salon I work at opens at 11:30 am on Sundays and so my current criteria for trying out churches is whether or not they have a 9 am service and how big are they?

Let’s just say I’m not going to be interested in attending any large churches for a while….

What I’m looking for and hoping to find is a church that focuses on loving God and puts all their efforts into helping their members have a closer relationship with Jesus and less on obeying a set of rules, no matter how biblical those rules are.  The way I see it, obedience is the natural fruit of love but forced obedience rarely, if ever, produces love.

And so it begins!

I realize that this blog is all about me and my problems – but I didn’t used to be the center of the universe, honestly!

Up until about seven years ago I was thoughtful, considerate and tried to put the needs of everyone else in the world ahead of my own because that’s how I was raised.  I invited grade-schoolers to my pre-teen birthday parties, as a high-schooler I was a second mother to my 3-year-old sister because our mother was a single mom who worked full-time.  After I got married I gave up having things that I wanted, and sometimes even what I needed, to be sure the bills were paid, the girls had clothes and toys and my husband could pursue all the hobbies he wanted to…  I planned and hosted 95% of all our family gatherings (about 20 people), held a Gingerbread House Decorating Party for all the kids I knew every year at Christmas and provided all the supplies.  People came and dropped their kids off like it was free babysitting, sometimes leaving me alone with 20 grade-school aged children.  I sold Avon but I fell into debt instead of making money because I was giving away too much product and/or discounts trying to get and keep customers.  At church I played the piano and sang for both Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights every week.  I felt like saying “no” to someone who asked me for any kind of help was practically sin so it seemed like I was always giving, giving, giving in hopes that someone would give to me but instead I became invisible.  I was selfless to an extreme.

Seven years ago we moved 400 miles from all of our family and friends to a new city, a new house, new schools for the girls and new jobs for us.  After many years of not having to work and having lots of time to myself while the girls were at school and my husband was at work – all of a sudden Alone Time ceased to exist.  We needed the income so I got a job and I left to go to work before everybody else did and I got home after everybody else was home.  I felt like I was going to go crazy.  I stopped caring about putting other people first but I still didn’t push to put my needs first either.  I was hovering in a daze of exhaustion , stopped on a plateau of apathy for years.

I became laid off when the economy crashed and I thoroughly enjoyed three months of unemployment.  I slept most of the time because I was so very weary.  I wondered, “If I ever found a new job, how on earth could I keep it?” because I felt so unwell most of the time but when I did  manage to beat out over 200 people for a receptionist job 20 miles from home the adrenaline rush kept me going for several months and from there I somehow found the strength to keep on keepin’ on.

I was finally able to purchase a keyboard when our house in the previous city sold.  I’ve written over 100 songs and my goal was to record my music, get “discovered” and hear my songs on the radio, thereby becoming rich and famous.  Ummm…that did not happen, not even close.  One person told me he listened to my CD every night because it put him to sleep.  (That sounds terrible but he really sounded like he was sincerely trying to give me a complement – in a very man-minded way.  I’m sure he meant my music was soothing and relaxing, uh huh…)  In one of my more selfless acts I gave up my piano, the one that my mother bought for me before I was born, because my husband didn’t like it, complained that we didn’t have room in the house for both the piano and the keyboard and he was tired of moving the piano from house to house because it was too heavy.  I agreed to give away my piano on the condition that after we bought a house with enough space I would get a baby grand piano.

Three years and one month ago we bought a nice house.  2400 square feet, four bedrooms, plenty of room.  As of today, still no baby grand.

Two years ago next week I was blessed with a government job.  Great pay, even better benefits.  About six months after that I placed my feet firmly on the path of selfishness when I asked my husband to switch churches because I had some serious reservations (that he didn’t share) about the one we are in.  After six months of “discussing” the church issue and meeting with various church staff leaders, causing immeasurable stress to our marriage and my health – to the point that I threatened to commit suicide and started taking antidepressants – my husband decided to chose the church leadership over me…breaking his earlier, hard-won promise that we would leave and find another church, albeit against his better judgment.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I was angry and tired of giving up what I wanted and needed for him and everybody else in my life.  No more!  I decided that if I wanted something or it was just too beautiful not to have that I would buy it.  My pathetic work wardrobe (truly a need, not a want – remember government job….) quadrupled in about six months (that was maybe just a tad excessive), although all of my clothes came from thrift stores or Wal-Mart so it’s not like I paid Mall prices for anything like all the other girls at work seem to (honest!).  I went from owning two pairs of shoes to now possessing right about 25 pairs.  I became a spender, whether we could afford it or not, because I deserved to have pretty things, nice things and things I just plain ‘ole wanted.  I stopped spending my time on other people with just a few exceptions.  I started sleeping as long as I wanted to on Saturdays and feeling less and less bad about how frustrated it makes my husband.  I started planning to get a tattoo because I’ve always wanted one.  Life became all about me, me, me… because it never had been before and I just wanted to shine, just for once… just for once…

I now find myself at the other extreme, I am rarely selfless.  That girl has been lost in the woods for quite a while now and I’m not sure I really care where she is anymore.

So where is the line, that healthy balance of taking care of yourself and giving of yourself to others?

Next month I will be 40 years old.  Maybe I will finally start to figure things out and grow up… but all I really want to do is sleep in a cabin on the ocean shore, walk on the beach, hear the waves calling my name and stare into the fire forever.

Twice now I’ve gone with my husband to his bi-weekly counselor appointment.  Very, very interesting…

This man specializes in counseling people with addictive behaviors, was probably in his 60’s, had bright and interesting tattoos peeking out from the edges of his clothing and wore very casual clothing with short, unkept hair and scruffy facial hair.

For the first session his questions were direct and to the point, no beating around the bush and while he didn’t give us anything “new” to do or think about he facilitated our speaking out loud things that we don’t normally say to each other, mostly good things but also some not-so-good.

My husband became more and more nervous on the drive there, and during the session his body language was shouting loud and clear that he was not comfortable at all, although I have to give him Kudos for going through with it because I could see how difficult it was for him to have me there.  He sat on the other side of the couch from me with his arms crossed for probably 45 minutes.  During the last 15 minutes he uncrossed his arms from over his chest and crossed them lower, over his abdomen.

The entire ride home my husband was focused on one tiny statement that I had made somewhere in the middle of the counseling session and I wonder if he really heard anything else that was said after it.  The counselor asked me if I had been ready to leave our relationship and I said yes, about a couple of weeks ago I was right on the edge.  So, of course, that was all my husband could think about.  Two weeks ago you were ready to leave me and I didn’t know – how can I trust you to stay now?

By this point I’m about ready to smack him but I just keep thinking, there is a paranoid, fearful little 7th grade boy inside my 41-year-old husband’s body who just found out (after the fact) that his “girlfriend” wanted to break up with him but didn’t.  All the pain and anguish of an actual break-up (that never happened) is now coursing through his mind and body just by thinking about it.  (Yes, I was a junior higher in love once upon a time too…)  To him it’s real, it’s as good as it happened so how does he know that it’s not going to happen again?

“You are just going to have to trust me.”  I say.  “We’ll have been married 19 years this next month and I haven’t left you yet so you are just going to have to decide if you will trust me or not.  If you decide you can’t trust me you will drive yourself crazy and our marriage will be over anyway so you choose.”

Fortunately(?) he decided to trust me, for now.  In the past he has been quick to bring up the past and hold it against me but I have seen a lot of improvement in the last four months or so all I can do is wait and see…

Maybe my reason for existence has nothing to do with myself, maybe I am here on this earth to help this man grow up and God knew it would take my entire life to do so.  That’s a somewhat depressing thought but if even a little, teeny part of that is true then I need to follow my calling because that is where my happiness lies.

We went to our second joint counseling session this last week.  There was a lot more non-essential conversation this time than last time and he most asked us things about what have we been doing to communicate better and what has my husband been doing to get over his addiction and how do I feel about it, stuff like that.  I don’t know that we accomplished a lot but my husband was much more relaxed this session than he was the last one and we decided to continue with this counselor on a once-a-month basis instead of the two weeks we had been going.

Our goal is to find a couple at church that would be willing to meet with us once a months also so we have a balance of godly counseling along with a very worldly but professional trained counselor.  I don’t want to hear “get your relationship with God right” every single counseling session and never ever get into the nuts and bolts of what is wrong between my husband and I.  Yes, my relationship with God needs to be better and so does his but I think there needs also to be some practical, applicable advice to our day-to-day relationship along with the godly counsel of developing our own, separate relationships with God.

Overall things are looking better between us and I am pleased.  There is hope at the end of the tunnel and we may be in the midst of a miracle after all!

So I’m normally a very non-confrontational person but after writing my blog yesterday I was so upset that I confronted him on a few of the topics that bothered me the most.

Number one was me feeling like I did not have the right to say no to his sexual affection and what on earth happened to all the non-sexual affection we agreed on for this two month period that ends in a couple of weeks?

Number two was that if he wasn’t getting advice from anyone on how to treat me right why the <bad, bad words> did he wait until I said I was leaving his bed to pull out the manual on “How to be a Good Husband”, dust it off and put it into practice?  That, I think, is what upsets me the most – the fact that as far as I can tell he didn’t think that I was worth being nice to until I tried to move out of the bedroom.  And I never said divorce, I didn’t even say that he had to move out or leave the house, I just said I was going to move into the guest room and he was going to have to work on his sexual addiction and prove to me there was major progress in his life before I would sleep with him again.  But apparently that’s all it took for Prince Charming to come out of wherever he had buried him for the last 20 years – the thought that he would be cut off from his daily dose of sex.  Ugh.

Number three was the way he kept phrasing that whole “I’m letting you have more control in our relationship right now but…”

My husband has a silver tongue and while answering my questions last night he was very convincing that he was trying hard to change his ways and we’re both still getting used to the big, new changes in our relationship, and he didn’t mean the “control” statement the way I took it… blah, blah, blah…

I still don’t see that his heart has really changed – but to be fair he is putting quite a bit of effort into changing his words and actions towards me so Kudos to him for that.  His efforts do touch my heart but in more of a sad way because I know the outward changes will never last without inward changes and he has to want his heart to change regardless of whether our relationship survives this year or not.  I’d like him a whole lot more if he was pursuing living a holy lifestyle for his own sake instead of pursuing me for a sex “fix” (and so that he doesn’t have to be the first person in his family to get a divorce, now there’s a stigma that his immediate family would never let him live down.)

I left him tonight.  That feels really good to say, actually, but it’s not a permanent thing and yes, I did get his permission.  I am spending the night at a friend’s house tonight (Saturday) and am not going to church with my family tomorrow (Sunday).  He wants me back home at noon… why you ask?  Because I did, I asked why.  Especially since he and the girls won’t be home from church until closer to 1 pm.  Do you sense an ulterior motive here?  I did because yes indeedy, the reason he wants me home at noon is so I can have lunch ready for them when they walk in the door from church.  I feel like he’s trying to punish me for not going to church with him or maybe it’s that he couldn’t contain the control freak any longer – or possibly it’s a bit of both…  So yes Master, I will do my best to have lunch on the table when you get home tomorrow.

I’d like to buy a bucket of KFC and just leave it on the counter for when they get home and be out shopping myself because I really don’t want to be there spending time with him.  Why else do you think I asked for a schedule at work that keeps me out of the house until almost 7 pm Tues – Friday?  That particular schedule means that I don’t have to be home with my disapproving husband and ungrateful children for any longer than necessary before bedtime.

Me, me, me, me.  I realize that everything I write makes him look like a terrible, horrible guy and I’m the total victim with no faults of my own and that’s not entirely accurate.  (I know, shocking, isn’t it!)  I have areas where I’m not a great wife/mother/friend/person either.  Yes, sad but true.  And to be completely fair you’re only getting one side of the story so it obviously can’t be 100% his fault.  (But honestly, you keep choosing to come back and read about my life – so maybe you or someone you know deals with this stuff too???)

I’ve felt like a victim my entire life and now that I’m finally acknowledging and dealing with that particular issue – and trying to STOP being a victim – I’m realizing that I married a male version of my paranoid, control-freak mother.  I’m now terrified that my girls will marry a man like their father and then I’ll get to watch them re-live my lonely, heart-breaking life, and I’ll watch their children re-live it… it’s the saddest story ever told and it’s played out in thousands of people’s lives in America every day… but the thought of my girls, My Girls, living through what I’ve survived, well, that just destroys me.  Even though my girls are ungrateful as all get-out and extremely self-centered I don’t want them to have to live through a marriage like mine.  I don’t even want you – whoever you are – to have to live through a marriage like mine.  It’s not worth it.

And that is why my constant prayer is “Save me, save me, save me…”  Because in saving me I know God will save my daughters as well.

This was the question of my small group leader yesterday morning.  Not specifically to me but to all of us – how do we pray?  Some ladies take Prayer Walks and talk to God while they’re walking.  Some ladies write their prayers down and call it Prayer Journaling.  Some ladies have lists of people they pray for and some ladies just talk to God all day long while they’re doing the dishes, folding the laundry and chasing their children all over the house.

Some ladies shared specific prayers like The Lord’s Prayer and The Tabernacle Prayer.  I know there’s also the Ripple Prayer, Arrow Prayers, Prayers you think, Praying the Word and several other prayer formats, most of them my church has taught from the pulpit or had classes on at one time or another and don’t get me wrong – sometimes good to have a format to follow just so you don’t sit there for three minutes thinking “Uh…I can’t think of anything to pray about so life must be OK and I’m done praying now”.

I didn’t actually share with the group yesterday about how I pray.  Throughout a normal week my prayers to God usually consist of conversations, me talking to Him about this or that, just whatever’s going on.  I know God already knows everything I tell Him but it helps me to speak out loud the things I generally bottle up inside.  But for the last six months or so  my basic prayer, the one I pray almost every day is “Save Me”.  I say it over and over again.  I think it over and over again.  “Save me, save me, save me…”.  When life just gets too overwhelming, too crazy and my brain looses it’s ability to think coherently all I can do to pray is say “Save me”.

And He does.

Not all at once, not like in fairy tales or movies where the hero comes swooping down and rescues the princess in one courageous battle and then they ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

The saving comes slowly and softly so I have time to adjust to each little step of the change that is Being Saved.  My thoughts begin to change.  My heart begins to soften.  My soul starts to thaw.  The chains that bind me grow lighter and are closer to becoming breakable.  My goals and dreams, once nothing more than ashes and dust, show teeny, tiny signs of life returning to the pots I have kept them in at the back of the closet in the furthest recesses of my heart.  With a little water and a lot of faith they will grow into a beautiful plant and bloom once more.  It will just take time, lots of time.  And I guess that’s fair, it’s taken almost 40 years to get to this craziness I call “Normal Life” so why shouldn’t it take a few years to be saved from it?  To find a new “Normal”?

I’m still working on putting together a women’s retreat.  That’s a goal I think I can accomplish within this next year.  I’m also working on making prints of my paintings to sell them – I need to do some more research as far as cost to get started.  My art makes me happy when I look at it and other people say it makes them happy too so maybe there will be a market for it, who knows?  And I want to have my own band although finding the right people and equipment might take a few years to really get it off the ground.  But these are all things I want to do as a part of defining who I am separate from anybody else.  These are things that make me happy when I do them and so I will pursue them – and pray about them, asking for the favor of God and man to be successful in them.

Please support the people around you who are trying to accomplish their dreams – and say a prayer yourself.  Pray that they would receive what they need and that your needs will be met as well.  God hears you and He loves you, every little thing is gonna be all right.

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.

OK, so I went shopping this afternoon while my Sweet Tooth was in high gear…bad news! The old saying “Never Shop Hungry” has once again proved itself to be pretty darn accurate because guess what I walked out of the store with? (Ummm, and that would be for just me – not to share with my family…yes, I’m a bad Mommy.)

From the Bulk Foods section:
About 1 pound of: Skittles, Jelly Bellies and M & Ms
About ½ pound of: Butter Mints, Gummy Grapefruit slices, Orange Cream Drops with Almonds and Lemon Cream Drops with Almonds

From the Chip Aisle:
Carmel Bugles

From the Soda Aisle:
1 Two-liter of generic Dr Pepper

From the little coolers by the checkout stands:
1 Cold 20 oz carbonated Cascade Ice, Mixed Berry flavor

So roughly five pounds of bulk candy, 1 bag of sweet & salty chips, a 2-liter of soda and a 20 oz soda. Hmmm… I think I’m in trouble.

After making my purchases, I then went to church and only had enough time to try 1 Orange Cream Drop with Almonds and 1 Lemon Cream Drop with Almonds. Essentially they are an almond coated with white chocolate with an outer layer of the citrus flavor. They were not too bad but I wished they had a stronger fruit flavor.

Church was a special service to dedicate our newly-remodeled building (during which I drank most of my Cascade Ice, it was more tart than sweet, sad…) followed by finger-foods in the fellowship hall.

Although I have been very proud of myself for losing 35 pounds in the last 14 months I probably gained most of it back tonight, ugh! I ate a Costco roll with a bacon-sized slice of brisket, a second Costco roll plain, about 4 each of celery sticks and cucumber slices, 3 slices of a brown-skinned pear that I’ve never had before, (it had a good flavor but was really crunchy like an apple), a couple of good-sized dollops of a fantastic ranch dressing, about 10 slices (2” x 2”) of cheese, 3 servings of rhubarb crisp and 1 oatmeal raisin cookie.

We came home and I had a handful of the Orange & Lemon Cream Drops with Almonds with one of my daughters. I am content…and full. I think I’ll go to bed now, good night!