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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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But first an update on “…and She Left”

I’ve officially left the church we were attending for the last 7 years.  I went to see the Pastor last week to shake his hand, smile and let him know I will be attending church elsewhere so please remove my name from the church’s member list… but he wasn’t available so I left a note with the same message.

The first church I tried out was what I thought was a small community church but it turns out it’s actually about the same size as the church I left.  I went there twice, the sermons were good and while the worship was sincere and heartfelt it was really conservative for my taste.  I found some brochures on the doctrine of the church and while I agree with most of them there were a few that  I don’t agree with, such as:  1. The board of elders are in complete control of everything that goes on in the church and are over the two pastors on the “teaching team”.  2. They allow women to be leaders of “sub-categories” but they may not be the head of any department.  3. And they sprinkle instead of immerse for baptism.  All in all, I don’t believe these things are salvational issues but I’m going to try a few more churches and see what else is out there.

It feels so good to know that I have a choice in where I attend church.  Grace is a powerful thing!

And now on to the new news…

I said the “D” word.  Out loud.  To my husband.  Dee-vor-iss.  What I said is that we should start to consider divorce as an option because this, our marriage, isn’t working anymore.  We believe different things regarding church and our faith.  I don’t agree with how he parents our youngest daughter.  While we don’t have The Biblical reason to divorce – adultery – when it comes right down to it he is a bully, he is emotionally/mentally abusive and he even qualifies as having been sexually abusive, although strictly in a requiring-sex-on-demand-even-when-I-didn’t-want-to sort of way.  (Yes, that’s right, it’s technically rape.)  To be perfectly fair, he has made a great many changes over the last two years since I first required that he end his pornography habit, and I must say that I am proud of him for all his efforts because he has, indeed, “kicked it”.  Like any addict, he still struggles with temptation regularly but he has stopped his online and magazine activity and is co-leading a class at church for other men struggling with sexual addiction.  This class has caused him to face some of what his life-long addiction has made him become and as a result of identifying some of his bad traits he is now nicer, easier to talk to and less demanding of me sexually.  In particular, he makes sure to get my permission/acceptance before we have sex nowadays and while he desperately wants us to “make love” it’s only ever sex, for a whole variety of reasons that I won’t get into now.

But even with all the amazing changes he has gone through he is still quick to anger, knows – and regularly takes – the many shortcuts to being frustrated and still has sex on the brain All The Time as evidenced by unsettling, seemingly random comments that he makes consistently.  And recently he asked a very alarming question – two nights ago we let one of our younger daughter’s friends stay with us because she was having difficulties at home with her step-mom, saying she “beat the crap out of her”.  (Yes, it was an exaggeration, the girl had no obvious bruising or wounds but she cried like a terrified child in spite of being 16 years old when I picked her up,) but the first question my husband asked our daughter before I could go pick her friend up was “What did your friend do to make her step-mom beat her?”  Seriously?  There is NO justification for beating a child, no matter what they did.

It’s high time we consider divorce.  Maybe that would allow us to develop a relationship with healthy boundaries, for once.  But I kind of doubt it.  I think my old church, that he is still attending, will encourage him to divorce me and move on, to remarry someone who will be a properly submissive and godly wife to him.

As for me, I am not the least bit interested in marrying again.  I just can’t imagine what would ever make it worth it…

 

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!

Oh the joys of being me!  Here’s the roller coaster ride of feelings I  had today:

Overwhelmed
A Failure
Anger
Weary to the bone
Incapable
Suicidal
Hopeless
Unworthy
Faith-less (as in having no faith, not as in being unfaithful)
Rejected
Doubt
Alone
Zero endurance
Panic

OK, so that’s not really a roller coaster ride, that’s a gravity drop ride…

Today was horrible.  The fourth ten-hour work day in a row is always hard on me but this particular Monday at the call center there was non-stop calls from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm, just back-to-back-to-back, with a much higher than average ratio of mean customers than normal.  Seriously people, it’s not my fault you don’t open and/or read your statements and therefore “forget” to pay your bills on time or get interest charges from failing to pay off your promotional financing offers before they expire!

I started my day tired, cried off and on throughout the day because of my customers attitudes and comments and ended the day exhausted and yet, obviously, unable to sleep.  During my shift today I wrote several “Goodbye World” notes in my head – trying to decide what to put on Facebook to make the appropriate people feel guilty and how could I contact my youngest daughters only nice ex-boyfriend to ask him to look in on her when I’m gone.  At some point I realized my thinking was pretty messed up, which only made it worse because then the feelings of “I have no business being a parent” kicked in and only made the urge to off myself stronger.  I really began to feel like I would be doing the world – and especially my children – a favor by not being here.  Towards the end of my workday the calls slowed down and I became a little more rational.  Yes, stop freaking out, I am going to call my doctor tomorrow to get back on some form of anti-depressant because there really is something terribly wrong with me.  (I’m sure that someday this blog will wind up in a clinical textbook about depression and I’ll be reduced to nothing more than a case study, although that’s probably all I am to some of you anyway…)  I fantasize that my doctor will place me on disability because my jobs stress me out so much, but that is just one more fairy tale that will never come true.

I contemplated my faith, or current lack thereof, today.  As a child I loved God with all my heart.  As a teenager I was desperate for the peace my church promised I would have if only I followed God faithfully and did my very best to be a Good Girl.  After high school I began to see that reality was not the life I was told it would be as a Christian.  As a young married wife I slipped further and further away from believing the Christian ideal and now I’m wondering if God would even notice all that much if I cut that last thread and left Him altogether.  But if I don’t believe in God what’s left to believe in?

I have a jewelry open house this Saturday, trying to raise money to pay my school tuition and although I created a Facebook event and invited 50 of my Facebook “friends” to it I haven’t had a single response, yea or nay.  Which leads me to doubt that any of them will come because when everything shakes out I really don’t have “friends”, I have acquaintances.  Lots and lots of acquaintances.  I’ve chased most all the people who might have considered being my friend away by virtue of being mentally disturbed, distrustful and insecure.  I feel so alone, like there’s no one who will help me get out of this hole I’m in and I don’t think I can get out of it myself but I keep trying.  I really want to delete all my so-called friends and actually be as alone as I feel I am but I know I will regret it in the future.  I’m not sure why I’ll regret it but I just know that at some point I will…

My husband, who does woodworking, is all excited for my open house and has been making hand-crafted wooden pens this last week for me to take and try to sell at my fundraiser.  Not to help me get my tuition paid but to get him money to buy more wood because he wants to start a woodworking business from home.

A friend made sure to point out that her contribution to my efforts was limited to prayer.  Good grief, I’m not asking for charity – although standing on the side of the road with a sign asking for donations will probably make me more money than all my efforts to actually earn it will so I may do that soon too – but I wasn’t trying to guilt her into buying anything from me either.  It’s probably me just reading between lines that aren’t there again.  With her it seems like it’s always me reading between those damn invisible lines, I’m always wrong about something.

And that’s the core of what I always come back to.  It’s not you, it’s me.  It’s always something wrong with me.  I’m broken, I’m damaged, I’m wrong, wrong, wrong.  I can’t do anything right.  It’s true, that is my mother’s voice!  She has so much to answer for – although being dead she probably has answered for it by now…  Unfortunately I’m still sorting through all the crap she instilled in me growing up.  I’m 40 and finally realizing that most of it IS crap but I feel like the old dog you can’t teach new tricks to – how do I change the way I think?  The way I feel?  The way I respond to life?  The easier way out is death but honestly I’m a coward.  Too scared to die, not brave enough to live.  Clinging to the mushroom life because the evil that I know is easier than the good that I don’t know.

People in my church avoid me – and to be fair I avoid them now too.  The few that used to speak to me don’t any more and I feel like I’ve been given up as “lost”.  That I’m not worth their efforts anymore.  That I’m beyond “saving”.  That I could change if I would just decide to change.  My suicide would only cause them to “tsk, tsk, tsk” and think in their hearts that they were right.  My staying alive is the only way I would possibly dare to spit in their eye – and that’s pretty good motivation right now.

The next step is to get out of this job and start being a Nail Tech.  Right now I can’t deal with more than one goal.  Raise $1900 to pay my school bill, pass the state boards and start working as a Nail Tech.  After that, who knows?  Maybe reaching one goal will give me the courage to accomplish another goal, like leaving this church with or without my husband.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about you?

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!

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.

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?

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…

The other day I told my  teenaged daughter “Don’t give up being who you are to be with someone else – too much of that and you’ll never get yourself back again.”  As soon as it was out of my mouth I realized that is exactly what I had done…over 18 years ago.

I haven’t felt like I’ve had the privacy to write my heart in a long time.  Over the years I’ve changed – I’ve gone from devout to questioning, from anti to tolerant, from steadfast to wishing…  Who knew the choices we make when we are young could change one’s entire life so completely?  Not the young, the young never know and they don’t listen to anyone who isn’t young.  Stupid that.

Most of the time I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore, or even who I could be.  Oh, I know who I “should” be, I know who I was raised to be.  Wise and gentle, godly and kind, sweet and pure, loving…I should be so very loving.  But I fall short of everything I was told I should be by my mother and by the church.

Yes, I was raised in church from the day I was born.  My parents attended many different pentecostal, charismatic, christian churches throughout my childhood.  We spoke in tongues, raised our hands during the worship service, closed our eyes and some churches we attended even danced during worship.  As a child, church was my favorite place to be.  I loved the worship services and even paid attention to the sermons, many of them changed my life in different ways.  The highlight of my junior high years was Wednesday night youth group and getting to be with all the other “good” kids at church.  It helped me get through my struggles for seven more days until the next Wednesday.

A major theme of many sermons and lessons I’ve learned in church over the years is “Stop trying to do things in your own strength.  You can’t and the very fact that you’re trying to do it on your own probably means it isn’t God’s will for you to be doing it in the first place.”  And yet sitting on the couch, watching television and “waiting for God to do something with me” is equally frowned upon.  Where’s the line?  I am, even this very second, exactly who God created me to be.  He allowed me to go through the circumstances and situations of life that molded and shaped me the way I am.  How do I stop being those things and let God be through me?  I think my current church (of the last 6 years) has put too much emphasis on the doing and the being and not enough on the becoming.  Too much focus on how I act and the way I dress and not enough acceptance of who I am right now, at this very moment because right now, in spite of my warts and damaged heart, I am still God’s creation, God’s child, someone who He loves.

One of the most precious gifts God has given us is free will.  He won’t make anyone love or obey Him, we have to choose to do those things for ourselves.  I’ve made some bad choices and I’ve made some good choices in my life.  Once made, every choice is hard to unmake and life still goes on.  Trying to unmake a past choice usually means making big changes to your present and has the potential to destroy your future.  I am here, right now because God can use me here, right now.  My giftings may come and go according to His choosing, it is by grace I exist.

Funny how we spend 18 years trying to “grow up” as quick as we can but we never really understand the furthest reaching consequences of our actions until much later.  I am just now beginning to realize that some long and hard journeys are chosen simply because the beginning of the trail wound around a rose garden with an enchanting fountain while the paths with the brightest futures are often ignored because they begin by camping in a tent in the middle of a briar patch.

Here I am, on a narrow ledge better suited for a mountain goat than for myself, looking up the trail, looking down the trail, looking over the edge…  There is no future in the past and there is no life over the edge so my only choice is to press onward in hopes that the path will soon widen and I can stop to catch my breath.

Learning which dreams to give up and which dreams to keep have been a painful lesson.  Some dreams are only possible when there are two dreamers who are dreaming the same dream.  A single dreamer cannot complete the work they were called to when they are not walking hand in hand with another like-minded dreamer.  Large works require that many dreamers unite towards building the dream.

More painful, by far, is the awakening of the dreamer who has linked dreams with another only to find that you and your soul-mate aren’t dreaming in the same direction.  To see your dreams slip from your hands because you chose someone who has an entirely different dream – or sometimes – someone who has no dreams at all is quite devastating when your eyes are finally opened to realize the full effects of your choice.

My solution, my “cure” for loneliness has been a success in fact only.  I am not “alone”.  But what no one ever told me is that the greatest depths of loneliness hide inside relationships, not outside of them.  You can be with someone and yet still feel completely and utterly alone.  It is a wounding that takes your breath away and leaves you gasping for your very life, like a drowning man clawing at the surface of the water.  I rushed into marriage believing it was my one and only chance at having a precious gift and I have spent the remainder of my life questioning that choice.

So now the question begs to be asked – not just who am I but have I ever known who I am?  Or have I always been just a compilation of words and actions, attitudes and behaviors that were expected from me by my parents, my church and my schools with no real input of my own?  Have I ever truly had my own opinions or have I always just parrotted the opinions of the “important” people around me?  Things that make you go Hmmm…  I wish I had an answer for that but right now I just don’t know.

I think that I’ve lost myself, that I’m broken and need help.  There are a few things that I’ve been doing because I enjoy doing them just for me:

Painting/Drawing
Writing/Singing/Playing/Listening to Music
Baking
Growing Plants
Helping People
Writing/Blogging/Poetry

These are a good place to start with identifying who I am today.

This is a good place to stop and think some more.

Goodnight.