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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 am beginning to learn that being whole is not found in being alone.  Wholeness is found in being open, not closed.  In being one tile in a mosaic, not a single art piece unto myself.  I need other people, friends, my family.  But I’ve kept myself separate and alone for so long out of self-defense that it’s very hard to let anybody in…  Did it really have to take until I am almost 40 to realize how important it is to connect with other people? <sigh>

Just as I am discovering that there are many facets to Who I Am, it is becoming apparent that each of these facets are tile pieces that fit in many different mosaics.  I have a tile that completes my Family mosaic, tiles that compliment my Best Friends’ tiles, a tile that fits in pretty well at work and a tile that, dare I say it, is improved by connecting with my husband’s tile and improves his tile in return.  Being Whole is giving away parts of yourself to other people who need them and being willing to receive parts of others who need to share.

Knowing this and living it are two different things and one comes far easier than the other.  Learning to trust my husband again is the first and biggest step… and it is not entirely up to me.  He has to prove himself trustworthy to be trusted.  He brought up a very good point that because I don’t trust him (and haven’t for years) that lack of trust has bled over into not trusting other authorities in my life – the church leadership and my bosses at work, as examples.  The more I think about it I believe he’s right but that will have to be another blog.

Tomorrow will be 20 days since I confronted him with his addiction, so far he has been Prince Charming and I’m really enjoying our new relationship… but I’m not ending the 2 months early either.  In fact, I kind of wish I had asked for 6 months instead of just 2.  I’ve lived through 19 years of life being all about him and I want to KNOW for sure that this change is real, that his putting our children and family first above his wants and desires is a permanent change and not something he’s doing just long enough to get me to agree to stay in this marriage and then go back to who he has always been.

Aside from my relationship with my husband being a Whole Person is sharing my friend’s burdens, rejoicing with them when they rejoice and weeping with them when they weep.  It’s supporting my children and encouraging their dreams, helping them to become adults.  Being a Whole Person is being part of a team at work and sharing the load when things get hectic. Being Whole is not actually completing yourself with only yourself.  It is fragmenting yourself to complete others and allowing others fragments to complete you.  How completely backwards from today’s world that teaches us, especially women, that we don’t need anybody else, that we are fully capable of being independent and that we are strongest when we are on our own, that we don’t need anything or anyone to complete us.

And there’s one more part to becoming a Whole Person – God.  I can have a tile in my mosaic from everybody I know but without God’s tile being in the center of the masterpiece that is me I will always feel empty and incomplete.  I am learning that too.  The faith I had as a child died years ago but a seed remained and I can feel it sprouting once again.  I can feel a change coming and soon, I believe I will be a Whole Person – for the very first time!

 

…with six more weeks to go for my husband to prove that our family is worth him becoming a better man.  His previous attempt, a couple of years ago, at a Big Change only lasted three weeks total and then he quit so I think this next week will be very telling.

Progress/Improvements I have seen so far:
1. He opens car doors for me.
2. He tells me he loves me at the end of every phone call, every time we say good bye in person and occasional, random times throughout the day.  It’s actually kind of driving me nuts… He never spoke those words to me before without being prompted and/or pressured into saying them so it feels like it’s almost too much now… It’s hard to believe he means it because I’ve gone years without hearing him say it to me even once.  It’s also hard to  get a straight answer from him when I ask exactly what does it mean to him when he says “I love you” to me… but overall it’s still progress.
3. He has made an appointment for a counselor who specializes in addictions this week.
4.  He doesn’t get as angry as quickly as he was, especially at the girls.
5. He gives me hugs regularly that are just hugs, I don’t feel like there’s a sexual motive behind them for once.
6. He apologizes frequently for not realizing what a angry, selfish, controlling husband and father he’s been for the 18+ years we’ve been married.
7. In these last two weeks he’s cooked two meals, done several loads of laundry and cleaned our bathroom sink and counter and the downstairs kitchen sink and counter as well.  All things he never or rarely did in our marriage before.
8.  He got me a nice Valentine’s Day card (even though I said we were postponing Vday until after the two months was up) and hand-wrote a really nice 3 page letter about all the things he likes about me – 1 page was physical stuff and the other 2 pages were character stuff.  The pages were tiny (maybe 4″ x 6″?) but still, what he said on them was very nice.
9. We had a disagreement Sunday and even though he wasn’t happy with me he still treated me with kindness and dignity and  this morning he apologized for being mad at me for the last two days.

For my part during these last two weeks I have been a naughty, naughty girl.  I’ve really been pushing his buttons by doing things I know he doesn’t like – such as borrowing the Twilight series from my friend and making the whole family watch them.  (Except the last one which isn’t out on disc yet).   They’re hilarious by the way, I haven’t laughed so hard at awkward teenage romance in a long time.   I started talking about getting a tattoo, which he has been firmly against for quite some time.  I went to the movie theater yesterday to see “Hansel & Gretel, Witch Hunters” with my friend and oldest daughter (Love, love, love Jeremy Renner!  Could have done without the swearing though…) and on Sunday night I insisted on going to the evening service of a church (different than the one we attend on Sunday mornings) with my same friend and I intend to keep going to that church’s Sunday evening service for as long as I can.  I’m sure there have been other ways I’ve really tried to get his goat but I can’t think of them right now.  (It is past my bedtime, yawn!)  However, in spite of all these things I’ve been doing (and probably a few more) on purpose to test him and see how serious he is about keeping his family together, I’m actually impressed with his responses.  He is rising to the challenge and “manning up”.  Way to go dude!

Something that he and I talked about on Sunday evening was that there really isn’t a foundation to our relationship that we can go back to and start over on top of.  I’m not sure why he married me but I married him because he said he loved me and he pushed me into having sex with him while we were dating.  I had been a virgin up until that point  and I thought if I didn’t marry him I would be an old maid forever.  (I was 20…how stupid can one be?  Ugh!)  There is no passion, no place of being “In Love” to return to because  it was never there in the first place.  In order for us to develop passion, romance and the feelings of being “In Love” we are going to have to develop them from scratch and damned if I know how to do that after almost 20 years of building walls around my heart so he can’t hurt me anymore.  I honestly think he doesn’t know how to start from scratch like that either but he’s surely giving it the good ‘ole college try, which is more than I’ve been interested in doing for our marriage for probably at least 10 years now so I guess that makes him the better man in this situation.

He’s always had a “Never Give Up” attitude and never considered divorce as an option.  Me?  I’ve prayed to God at least once a year during every year of our marriage begging for a divorce from this man.  God always said NO.

Of course I’m coming from a “broken home” (making me automatically a lower-class citizen as compared to the rest of my husband’s college graduated, married forever, working in the church ministry family) and no one in his family has ever divorced so in their eyes we would just move a step down from being the poor, uneducated, blue-collar, lower-class family members to the actual black sheep category.  I’m honestly not sure that my brothers would care if we divorced all that much, they don’t ever talk to me anyway, just my husband.  I’ll keep my sister, he can have my brothers, ha, ha!

Anyway, that sort of is talk for another time, maybe farther down the road, maybe never.  At the moment things are going well and our relationship is remarkably like a fairy tale, minus the unlimited funds that seemed to come with “Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo” and the waving of the magic wand,  so I’m choosing to enjoy every minute of it and be the princess I always wanted to be and who knows, maybe the Toad will turn into Prince Charming soon and the Ice Princess will melt into his arms… because with God – anything IS possible, eh?

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.

I was listening to the radio on my way home from work last night and they played a blurb about “Parenting Teenagers”, you know, one of those minute-long speeches that’s supposed to encourage you… Anyway, this guy started off with “Your Boundaries Define You” and I was immediately side-tracked away from parenting my teenagers. My Boundaries Define Me. More specifically he focused on – My Boundaries, that I set for other people not to cross, Define Me. Really. I had never thought of it that way before.

Up until that moment the word “boundaries” has always been more of a negative word meaning places I can’t go, things I can’t do or limitations placed on me by society/other people. I never imagined I could set boundaries on myself for other people to deal with…

So what are healthy boundaries for an almost 40-year-old woman?  What are appropriate boundaries for a husband and wife?  What are good boundaries for the mother of late-high schoolers?  I feel like I need to quick, come up with a boundary just so I have one…

<thoughtful silence>

Nope… nothing…  My mind is completely blank.  Why has it never occurred to me before this that it is OK to have rules about how other people can interact with me?  Maybe assertive people are better about having boundaries – I’ve been trained too long to hold my peace and not to fight for myself.

Hmmm…

This one is going to take some more time, I’m still trying to accept the feeling that it’s OK to have boundaries for myself.  And I’ll probably need to research what other people have as their personal boundaries because I still can’t think of anything, not anything at all except the awe and wonder of the thought that I am worth having a boundary or two of my own…

The Whole “I Love You”… Thing

My teenagers are a sophomore and a junior and I’m noticing that everybody, I mean EVERYBODY in high school, including my two daughters, are saying “I Love You” to everybody else. Everybody else that is, except their sister and parents. What’s all that about, seriously?

Guys say it to girls seemingly regardless of whether or not they are The Girlfriend and I myself have witnessed several studly, 18 year olds shout out “I Love You Man!” to other teenaged guys. These same young men will pack at least one more body onto my sofa than it is designed for and all sit there, jammed in like sardines but grinning like the Cheshire cat and pretending to be just as cozy as can be, some with their arms around the other’s shoulders and sometimes there’ll be one or two guys sitting on another guy’s lap. I see strong indications that the Personal Bubble space has shrunk in this last generation and is all but ready to pop! And thankfully, the message seems to finally getting through that Real Men can hug and say “I Love You” without losing their Man Card, yay!

Today’s teenaged girls seem to be on the same page because they not only say “I Love You” to their girlfriends, they also write it, and sing it and my girls in particular like to shout “I Love You” from the open window of my car at anyone they see and might possibly know (and that’s only a slight exaggeration) as I’m driving them home from a school function. I’ve heard girls say “I Love You” to guys where there is no Girlfriend/Boyfriend relationship there. I hear my daughters say “I Love You” at the end of nearly every phone conversation and in-person goodbyes, IT’S EVERYWHERE! Either this generation is a bunch of first class saps or maybe they’re on to something…

To quote the Princess Bride: “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means…” We all know words change in meaning as cultures change, for example to be “gay” used to mean you were happy and now it has a homosexual connotation. So has “I Love You” changed in meaning as well? Or maybe I never learned the true meaning of love in the first place.

I grew up thinking there were two kinds of love – romantic love between a husband and a wife and family love between parents and children. Anything else seemed to be wrong. (Yes, the more I write about my childhood the more I realize it was pretty screwed up and heavily contributes to the mental mess I am today. Thanks Mom.) Needless to say my growing-up years saw very few hugs, kisses or touching of any kind that was not discipline and I’m struggling to remember my mother ever saying “I Love You”. Once I turned 17 my mother seemed to see that something was wrong with me and she started to say “I Love You” and tell me that I was pretty but by then I didn’t believe her.

To have feelings of “love” for my best friend in high school meant, to my mother, that I was on the verge of becoming a lesbian. I don’t think I ever told Mom that sometimes we would hold hands, hug each other or wrap our arms around each other’s waists just to be affectionate. As much as I craved the physical affection and desperately needed it – I felt evil for participating. My best friend from high school is still my best friend now and to this day I have a hard time saying “I Love You” to her in our phone conversations even though she’s always saying it to me. I am so grateful she’s hung in there despite over 20 years of my crazy weirdness in trying to figure myself out. I wasn’t very nice to her sometimes and she just stood back so I could work things out and when I finally looked up she was right there, waiting for me to be ready to be friends again. Girl, I know you’ll be reading this – I Love You!

I have one more best friend, unfortunately I moved 8 hours away from my high school best friend so while we have great phone conversations we don’t get to see her much. My “new” best friend is a gal I used to work with and we’ve been friends now for just over two years…wow it seems like longer than that though! She is only about a half an hour from me and we try to hang out as often as we can. I love her too.

I’m afraid I’ve become far more like my mother than I intended to. I don’t say “I Love You” to my children nearly as much as I should – although I saw it far more than it was said to me. I try to give hugs to them but it still seems so foreign to me, almost wrong, because that’s not how I grew up. All I can do at this point is pray that when they’re parents they do better with their kids than I did with them. I think that’s every parent’s prayer for their kids.

I used to say “I Love You” to my husband all the time, hoping desperately that he would say it back and believing that if I said it enough with my mouth that my heart would start to feel it. Neither happened. The people who say that love is a choice are correct. I have chosen to stay with my husband of almost 19 years because I made a commitment to him at our wedding ceremony and it’s the right thing to do. I choose to love him by staying in this marriage and by trying to make our house a home. I do not have feelings of love for him and as far as I can tell he feels something that he thinks is love for me but cannot properly express it. I’ve always been a good girl and tried to do the right thing and so I will stay with him.

As far as the whole high school fad of saying “I Love You” to anyone and everyone I’m thinking I approve. At least their hearts seem to have something in them and they are getting affection from their peers. May their lives be fuller than mine!

While on our Christmas travels this year we drove hundreds of miles on the freeway and I couldn’t help but notice all the tumbleweeds caught in the fences that lined the roads. A simple, four strand barbed wire caught so many tumbleweeds that it appeared in places to be a solid wall of tumbleweeds, you couldn’t even see the barbed wire or the posts.

Tumbleweeds are fascinating, although annoying, plants. Oddly enough a tumbleweed is not a specific plant but rather a generic term for any plant that, once mature and dry disengages from the root and is blown about by the wind. So a tumbleweed starts out as a green, living plant but when it dies, it becomes a nearly indestructible nuisance, blown about by the whim of the wind. You can run over a tumbleweed with a car and the darn thing keeps on rolling. They’re tough, wiry, resilient and crazy hard to get rid of.

My thoughts feel like tumbleweeds rolling through my mind – I frequently wonder how do I catch them? How do I stop them? How do I change them? Which thoughts are OK to think? Why are some thoughts OK to think and some aren’t? Who decides what’s OK to think? And on and on it goes…

I think the church we attend is trying to tell us what we should think and say and what we shouldn’t. The pastor of the church we attend gave a sermon this last Sunday that defined its mission as four very Biblical steps: Win, Connect, Disciple and Send, based off of the Great Commission – Go, Make Disciples, Baptize them and Teach them to Obey Jesus’ Commands (Matthew 28:19 – 20). One of the final slides of the PowerPoint was “The Chief Challenges” (to accomplishing these goals). Copied directly from the photo I took of the PowerPoint they are:

“The Obstacle: Unbelief.
UNBELIEF is doubting questions or negativity that destroy faith leads to lost joy and an unfaithful heart.

“The Challenge: Faith.
BIBLICAL FAITH is not being willing to ponder any fact of life or circumstance that opposed the revealed will of God.”

Given those guidelines what on earth can I question or think about then? I feel like any question I might raise to another church member or the church leadership will be seen as doubt or negativity and talking about my actual life circumstances without sugar-coating them will instantly label me as not trusting in God. Does anybody else get that too or is it just me and my desperation to leave this church that is seeing things that aren’t there?

Like the four-strand barbed wire fence caught the tumbleweeds on the highway I need a fence of my own.  Here, I think, are the essential principles of being a Christian and there are more scriptures than what I listed but in effort to keep this post short(er) I’m just going to put forth a few for each category:

Strand One:  BELIEVE.

A)    John 3:16 says:  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
B)     John 20:31 says:  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
C)   Romans 10:9 says:  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
D)    1 Thessalonians 4:14 says:  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again…

Strand Two:  LOVE.

A)   I John 4:8 says: “God is Love”.
1)  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
rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.
B)   Mark 12:30 – 31 says: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”
C)   Matthew 7:12 saysSo in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
D)   Galatians 6:2 says:  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Strand Three:  KNOW PEOPLE BY THEIR FRUIT BUT ONLY JUDGE MYSELF.

A)    Matthew 7:18 says:  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
B)    Matthew 7:20 saysThus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

  1. Galatians 5:22 – 23 says:  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  2. James 3:17 saysBut the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

C)    Luke 6:37 says:  “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
D)    Colossians 2:16 – 19: says:   Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
E)     Corinthians 11:31 says:  For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
F)     Romans 2:1 says:  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Strand Four:  OBEY

A)    John 14:23 says:  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.
B)     1 John 2:5 says:  But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him.
1)  Titus 2:1 – 10, 12 and 15 says:  …teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.  Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of
respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.  Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way
they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to
love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their
husbands…  Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you
may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.  Teach slaves (or employees) to be subject to their masters (or
bosses) in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be
fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.  …teaches us to say “No” to
ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, …These, then, are the
things you should teach…

2)  Ephesians 5:21 – 22, 25, 28 and 33  says:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit yourselves to
your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for
her.  …   In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. … each one of you also must love his wife
as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

And that is the essence of what I found while searching the scriptures today for “rules” on how to live a Christian life.  Nothing about “don’t ask questions”  or “you must sugar-coat all your problems”.  Indeed, how are we to “bear one another’s burdens” if we don’t share what our burdens are with each other?

I don’t pretend that I am a perfect Christian by any means but I do believe in Jesus, I do my best to love the people around me and I try my best to obey what the Bible says.   Can anybody give more than their best?

We watched The Hobbit last Friday and the line that really stayed with me was when one of the dwarves is talking about Bilbo and says “He’s been lost ever since he left home” and it got me to thinking – where is it that I’m lost the moment I stray from it?  I’m not sure…  It kind of comes back to the question of “Who Am I, Really?”, except with a twist, “Where is it that I am at home?”

Not in my house, that’s for sure.  I type these blogs in secret, worried that my husband will find them because I don’t feel like I can express myself openly without upsetting him and I’m tired of being “madded at”.  Not tired enough to put my foot down quite yet but that’s probably coming soon.  I feel like I need to figure out who I am first, before I can stand up for myself, otherwise what’s the point?

Not in my car because I don’t have “my own” car anymore.  It was my idea to have my husband trade my car in for his current dream car because mine was starting to have transmission issues and I’d had it for almost five years and was ready for something different.  It turns out that I won’t be getting something different for quite a while due to finances so in the meantime I am stuck with a car that gets great gas mileage and was really nice in its day but it’s not a SUV and I don’t really want it.  Yes, my daughter called me “Goldilocks” when I brought all this up…  Long story short is that I don’t have my own mobile castle anymore and I didn’t realize how much I would miss it.

Not at work, are you kidding me?  I was a receptionist for years and never realized how much privacy I had at the front desk until I “moved up” to my current job.  I now work in a space that is roughly 25 x 15 feet and I share with three other gals.  Also, about a dozen more people walk by our workspace constantly throughout the day so there is no such thing as a private phone call.  The other girls can see my computer screens at all times so I try not to do anything personal with emails or internet at work.  I can’t listen to music during normal business hours like I used to when I was a receptionist and my group doesn’t do a lot of chatting so it can get pretty quiet.  I never thought I would mind the silence until I couldn’t have music!

Not at church, at least not for over a year now anyway.  I have a few differences of opinion with The Way Things Are Done and my husband and I have had multiple discussions about leaving this particular church – I’m for it and he’s against it.  This has proven to be a very difficult subject to compromise on and has a lot to do with our more-than-normally rocky relationship over the last 14 months.

I have a couple of friends whose homes I feel “at home” in.  I can relax, let my guard down and breathe… but I can’t live there.  Well, actually, I’m pretty sure they would take me in if I showed up on their doorstep needing a place to stay but that’s not really a permanent fix for anything.  Also, I don’t feel lost when I leave their houses – it’s more like leaving a vacation to go back into the real world.

So that about covers all the physical places in my life without answering the question of “Where is it that am I lost the moment I stray from it?”  I think the closest answer I have is not a place but an activity – being Creative.  When I can’t journal, write music, draw or paint my world loses color and I am lost in the grey.  I’m not horribly good at any of these things but there’s something about Creating that restores me and makes me whole.  The good news is that I can be creative just about anywhere and am not limited to one place, which multiplies my opportunities to defeat depression and color my world with all the rainbow shades of acrylic paint and colored pencils that WalMart offers…

In the end I am still lost, but not as much as I was for a while there.  I am finding myself in the blues and greens of paint swirled on canvas and in the black and white of words on a page.  I am… Creative.

So Who Am I?  I am….. a girl.  That is always the first defining word that comes to mind.  Not female, not lady, not woman, not wife, not mother but girl.  Not a fancy-schmancy, frilly kind of girl either but a practical, no-nonsense type of girl.I was always too serious to be considered a child but nowhere near enough experience to be counted as an adult either, that’s how I was in my junior high and high school years and how I still feel today – I don’t have enough, I am not enough to be who I need to be and do what needs to be done.

Does the fact that I prefer the term “girl” over “lady” or “woman” mean that mean I haven’t grown up yet?  Hard to say.  As a child I used to tell people that I never wanted to grow up so that’s obviously been something I’ve resisted my entire life.  Why?  There was a Star Trek episode that I really related to – it was a planet of children (who aged very slowly so they stayed children for far longer than normal) but when they finally hit they change they became “Grups” – short for “Grownups”.  Like the Star Trek show I watched, the “Grups” in my life never seemed to have any fun and were always full of “Don’t” instead of “Do” and they always said “You can’t” more than “You can”.  I understand a little more of that now, being a parent myself.  While I try to be “Fun Mom” and “Cool Mom” it’s just not always possible because I can never say “yes” all the time.  There are times that I do have to say “No” and “Don’t” and “You Can’t” and while I hate having to be that person the things my kids ask for are more often than not impossible and/or impractical to make happen.  It is by this I know that I must have grown up, at least a tiny little bit, because I can say “No” when no needs to be said.

There was an interesting quiz I took when I was in high school and I still remember some of the questions and my answers vividly.  You can take it too, go get a pen and paper and write your answers down:

1.  You find yourself in the woods – describe the woods:

2.  As you walk through the woods you see a cabin, you go up and knock on the door – describe the person who opens the door:

3.  You leave the cabin and keep walking through the woods, eventually you find a child, describe the child:

There may have been more questions but those are the ones I remember.  What are your answers?  The essence of my answers were as follows, although I was a lot more wordy back in high school (I know that’s hard to believe…):

Describe the woods:  Dark, can’t see the sun through the trees and there’s a bear nearby so I need to be very careful it doesn’t.  Someplace to step carefully and tread lightly so nobody else, especially the bear, knows I’m there.

Describe the person who opens the door:  A man, tall with long hair and a kind face and a gentle smile.  Dressed comfortably but clean and neat with lots of muscles – a hardworking man.

Describe the child:  A girl, in tattered clothing with long, uncombed hair and a dirty, tear-stained face.  She is lost and it looks like nobody cares for her.

So big deal, right?  The final statement of the “quiz” was that how you described the woods was how you viewed your life.  How you described the person who answered the door of the cabin was who you wanted your spouse to be.  How you described the child is how you saw yourself.

For me it was dead on.  My life seemed dark and scary and honestly, my mother was the bear.  Those were the actual physical characteristics of the man I hoped to marry someday and to be fair I did get most of those – except he’s never had long hair in his life and his face reflects a great many things other than kindness with a gentle smile most of the time, although he is trying to do better and has greatly improved over the years.  But it was my description of the little girl that took my breath away.  It was exactly the way I felt, and to some degree I still feel this way.  Alone, uncared for and unloved without my very basic emotional needs ever being met – for so long not even realizing that I had basic emotional needs that were left wanting.  I didn’t realize until I was in my 30’s that this was not normal because it was all I knew, both in my upbringing and in my marriage.

Consequently I feel like I haven’t been a very good mother to my children, who will soon be graduating high school and are far past the point of a “do-over”.  But I’ve been told those feelings are normal in every parent, even the people that I think are Super Mom and Super Dad to their kids so maybe I haven’t been as horrible as I’m afraid I have.  I still don’t know if being grown-up is worth all the hype though, there’s an awful lot of bills involved…

What is it that I didn’t want to give up by becoming an adult?  I’m not entirely sure, except that I never truly believed I had what it takes to be on my own.  I didn’t go to college because I didn’t know what I wanted to be “when I grew up” and I didn’t want to go to school for 10 years switching from one degree to another while I tried to make up my mind and accumulate all that debt.  The thing is, my mother was a single mom with four kids, I probably would have qualified for grants up the wazoo but nobody ever encouraged me to pursue any kind of financial assistance whatsoever so I entered the work force (fast food) and had several jobs in the three years I was out of high school before I got married, and then we had kids and it has been just a juggling act between jobs (receptionist-type) and kids for the last 18+ years.  On a side note, I’ve also sold almost every home party product there is but that is a blog for another day…

Regardless of my wishes I did manage to become an adult, as is testified by the fact that this year I both turned 39 and became the proud owner of a CPAP machine that makes me sound like Darth Vader all night long.  Frequently, however, I don’t feel very grown up and most days I still don’t want to BE grownup.  Go figure.  But the first word I always use to define myself is “girl” so there it is.  I am a girl, grown up or not, here I come!

Like millions of Americans I have a job.  It’s actually the best job I’ve ever had but just like everybody else I go to work because I get benefits and a paycheck, not because I love my boss.  My Obedience equals Pay and Benefits, in other words I obey for a reward.

In the book of John, Jesus says “If you love me, keep my commandments” so it looks like Love (A) equals Obedience (B).  Or maybe it’s because true love produces devotion so strong that when you love somebody, really love somebody, you spend most of your time trying to think about how to make them happy by doing things for them.  Maybe the bigger problem is that I don’t really think of pleasing the one you love as Obedience but I guess it is.  When the one you love wants something done, you do it with a smile on your face and a spring in your step because making them happy makes you happy!  Ah, those were the days…

Obedience carries with it the connotation of “duty”, “obligation” and” task” but making someone you love happy is never a chore, it is a privilege.  I’m starting to wonder if that word in the Bible was translated incorrectly…or maybe we’ve just developed the wrong connotations…

There are some churches out there that have reversed those and teach that Obedience (B) equals Love (A).  Unfortunately, math doesn’t usually work in most relationships, as I tried to show with my work analogy.  I am very obedient at work because my job depends on it (and also because it is a source of pride to do a job well).  These churches that teach a person does not love God unless you obey diligently, act appropriately, dress a certain way and speak Christianise are missing the heart of the matter.  If you are “obeying” for a reward, whether here on earth or in heaven, how does that possibly translate into love?  I believe those churches destroy the reputation of “real” Christians.

In fact, “real” Christians seem almost non-existent right now.  You can usually pick out the devout Catholics and Mormons out from a crowd because they are neat in appearance, polite and kind, it’s hard to describe but they have a different look about them that makes them distinguishable from others.  In fact, one of my daughters is frequently asked if she is Mormon because she is so nice!  The Bible says that other people will know we are Christians by our love for one another and yet this is so far from the reputation Christians actually have – it’s so sad!

Sooooo… how does this connect with Twilight?  My take on Bella is that she is more selfish than not and more independent than is good for her.  She hurts people thoughtlessly, only doing what she pleases and not following the advice of anyone who is trying to help her.  Gee, who else does that sound like?  Most of us…

Edward portrays unconditional love.  All he wants is for Bella to be happy and if that means she chooses Jacob he will back away like a gentleman and deal with it, no matter what it costs him, no matter how she hurts him in making choices that she thinks will make her “happy”.  The consequence, or result, however you choose to view it, is that Bella is free to do whatever she wants whenever she wants to do it she and runs back to Edward when it suits her.  Hmmm… we all have free will to decide if we are going to love God or not and our choices not to serve God, not to please him, not to make God happy really hurt Him because He really loves us.  And God loves us enough to allow us to make our own choices, to do what we think will make us happy.  Unlike Twilight, however, God will reward us according to our actions and we will get what we have earned, good or bad.

PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT saying in any way shape or form that Edward the vampire is a representation of Jesus… I am simply noting the similarities between the way that Jesus loves us and the portrayal of Edward’s love for Bella.  Even the World can get something right every once in a while, although, being the World, it does tend to twist and change the truth until it’s almost unrecognizable.

Thanks to all the movies and romance novels out there today unconditional love seems like it’s been exiled but it does exist!  It is real, we are all loved by God with a depth and passion that makes Edwards love for Bella pale in comparison and yet we have conditioned ourselves not to believe that could possibly be true because love like that only happens in fairy tales.

I’ve been working on this for almost a week so while I’m not done searching and questioning I will stop here for today.  Like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I want the fairy tale…