change, moving on

A More Settled 2015

Ahope and grace pics my thoughts wandered over the pages of my very first journal entry for the year, they jumped from idea to idea. I’ve address hopped, church hopped, and job hopped. So many changes have taken place in all areas of my life this year that I’m not even sure where to start.

I’ve moved and unpacked, yet still feel like I’m in someone’s (very ugly, very small) guesthouse. But I chose the address; I signed the papers myself. I’ve replaced stuff that said “we” with stuff that says “me.” I’ve made it a haven for me and for my girls. However, it’s hard not to at least occasionally long for the dream home where we made family memories for 10 years. It’s time, though, to settle into my new home, even if it’s not my dream house.

About 2 years ago, I realized it was time to find a new church home for many reasons, but mostly because it just wasn’t not big enough for me and the ex. I spent a bunch of months either tiptoeing into back rows at 5 after or crying in my bed. Finally, a friend literally dragged me to her church, and it was good. It was a place of healing and encouragement, but it was not a place I ever felt completely settled. I needed more exegetical preaching and more emphasis on reformed theology. I think I’ve found those elements, and I’m starting to settle in. But my reserved nature (For real, I’m reserved in person!) has made it hard to feel completely at ease. It’s time to settle into a new church and to trust people again.

Contrary to popular opinion, full-time jobs teaching college-level English are nearly non-existent, at least here in North Carolina. As a result, I’ve spent the past few years applying for adjunct positions over and over and over again. Some are online and some are face to face. The problem with being an adjunct is that there’s no guarantee of classes from one term (5-16 weeks) to the next; there is zero stability. Stability = steady pay check. This providing for myself financially thing is scary! I’ve applied to a few PhD programs, and I’m hoping for a full fellowship, including a light teaching load. I guess I’m pinning my hopes for stability in my professional life on that, but I won’t know for several months yet.

All of this hopping has me longing for stability. I know my true source of stability comes from God. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Ps. 46:1). The real problem, for me anyway, is the waiting.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord! (Ps. 27:13-14).

My challenge for 2015: settle my hopes on the Lord in order to gain true stability. What’s your challenge for the new year?

change, healing, lessons learned

I Was Worth It

This morning during church, I heard yet another story of a guy who met a girl and gave up, on the spot, his drug addiction in order to be with her. Another guy gave up a 20-year pornography addiction–overnight–when God convicted him to do so to stay with his loving and forgiving wife. Other guys give up jobs that would take them away from home, alcohol, wild parties, bad habits, and codependent parents.

I’m thrilled for those marriages; really, I am. I rejoice with my friends whose marriages have been rescued. I pray blessings and continued peace over their families.

But I cry for myself. I’ve wondered every day for the past (nearly) two years why I wasn’t enough. Why he couldn’t/wouldn’t give up his pornography addiction. Why he had to scream and yell at me in order to relieve his stress. Why I had to feel bad so he could feel good. Why I wasn’t worth standing up for against outsiders. Why he wouldn’t ever let go of any little (let alone big) offense. Why leadership twisted into control.

In the middle of my pity party this morning, the worship team sang “Jesus Paid It All,” and I realized that I really was worth dying for. This guy named Jesus gave up his home and his life for me. Jesus made me free! I don’t have to be under anyone’s control; that’s not part of God’s plan for me. I have been rescued; it just didn’t look like I thought it would.

Stand fast therefore in liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. ~ Galatians 5:1, NKJV

 

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change, grief

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” ~ Psalm 23:4

Death seems to be everywhere this week. I have heard of several friends of friends whose too-short time on earth came to an end recently. Does it really matter if death was expected? I don’t think so. Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that you’ve said your goodbyes and that you let him/her know how you felt.

Comfort also comes in knowing that this earthly goodbye is only temporary. As believers, we can count on eternal life.

“Jesus said to her ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.'” ~ John 11:25

But we who remain are left to grieve for the empty places our loved ones leave in their passing. It’s only natural to miss a parent, a friend, a family member. Tears are nothing to be ashamed of; even Jesus wept (John 11:33).

What comfort can we give those who are mourning the loss of a loved one? Cry with them. Sit with them without spouting platitudes. Give hugs–liberally. Bring coffee. And above all, let those you love know–out loud, before it’s too late.

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven; A time to be born, and a time to die . . . A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4

And remember, this is just a season–one of many that make up the circle of life. This season of weeping and mourning shall pass. How do I know? I’ve been in my own valley of the shadow of death. I’ll share about it some other time, but just know for now that you are not alone in your grieving.

change, lessons learned, moving on

Jehovah Jireh

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100Tonight during our church’s women’s Bible study, my friend Karen shared about the meaning of joy using four specific examples from Scripture. Although we don’t know each other well, I felt that each and every example–including the definition–were meant for me specifically at this point in my life. That’s a God thing, y’all!

Karen’s definition: “Joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives and that he will be there no matter what.”

The first thing I noticed was that joy does not equal happiness. The second thing I noticed is that joy is not dependent on our circumstances. The third thing I noticed is that God will be here for me no matter what and no matter who else is not in my life.

Because the examples that Karen shared seemed to parallel my current life so precisely, I want to share them briefly here.

1. Ruth. She left her family behind, as did I. She had no husband to provide for or protect her. Neither do I; I actually need protection from my ex. God orchestrated ahead of time for Boaz to advocate for her. God has used many unexpected people to help me over the past year and a half. The Hebrew word for provide is jireh. Just as God was Ruth’s Jehovah Jireh, so he is mine as well. The cool thing about that particular phrase–Jehovah Jireh–is that I already have it written on the memo board by my desk.

2. The widow and her cruse of oil. Elisha instructed the widow to use what she already had–oil–in a way that she could pay off her debts and still have enough money left over to live on. I also have talents and educational degrees that the Lord can, and I believe will, use for me to find a full-time job that will provide for my needs and for the needs of my children. Not only did three out of the five classes I was supposed to teach this semester fall through, but I have also not been receiving alimony for the past two months. Jehovah Jireh provided for the widow using the oil that she already had; I believe he will also provide for me financially.

3. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The Lord not only protected these godly men from being burned to a crisp, but he was also right there with them in the midst of the flames! If (since) the Lord can be present in a furnace, I believe he can be with me in the midst of a courtroom. I believe God can protect me from the flames of the enemy, no matter what form those flames take. It is ONLY through God’s strength that delivery comes! The Israelite men didn’t have fireproof suits. My ex-husband-induced panic attacks can only be overcome through the Lord’s strength.

4. Peter. He was thrown into prison, and the key was thrown away. He had no earthly hope of escaping, but that didn’t stop a group of Christians from praying fervently on his behalf. Imagine their surprise when, while they were praying, Peter knocked on the door–free!

Lord, I want to have this kind of belief and this kind of prayer life!!

My current life situation looks fairly hopeless, a lot like these four biblical examples began. Thank you, Karen, for sharing the hope and encouragement that I can have real JOY right now. It’s not about me. It’s about God and what he can do!

change, reinventing

Who Do I Want To Be?

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Last night, I began my first official week alone in my new townhouse. First thought: panic! Second thought: I can do whatever I want! Third thought: Wait, what do I want?

Of course, I had to mention it on my favorite social media site, Facebook. I got quite a few supportive comments, but my friend Alice summed it up best: “You will always be mom, but this week you are YOU….now it’s time to find you.”

That got me thinking. Who am I really?

My mother’s comment was along the same lines: “Decide who you want to be and start aiming in that direction.” Ok, but who do I want to be?

A whole list of what and who I don’t want to be sprang to mind immediately, but as I started writing in my journal, a list to aim for appeared.

I want to be ~

  • strong
  • confident
  • independent
  • dependent on God
  • peaceful
  • happy
  • friendly
  • healthy
  • purposeful

The last one on the list was the hard one, though, because I’m not really sure what my purpose should be yet.

As I was talking to a friend today, I realized one thing that’s not on that list is rich or anything that has to do with money. And that’s ok! Other things in life are much more important.

So, what do y’all think? What am I missing? Am I headed in the right direction?

change, reinventing, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

The Power of the Journal

journal and penWords have power. Sometimes when we can’t speak the words out loud, we can still harness their power by writing them. Sometimes just reading the words of Scripture can speak their power into our souls.

Words reveal truth. My writer-daughter says she often doesn’t know what her characters will say or do until the words are already written. Me? I like to plan out every word. I start with an idea, then move to an outline, and then begin the actual drafting.

My journal, however, is a different story (pun intended!). I sit down with a cup of hot tea, my Bible, a pen, and my well-worn journal. Occasionally I know that I need to vent my feelings about a particular event or conversation, but often I just know that I need to release my bound emotions. And out come all sorts of emotions and thoughts that I didn’t even realize I had. Writing–and then reading over my own writing–enables me to process my emotions more effectively.

My journal also has the power to reveal wrong thinking patterns. When brought to light, I can pray more specifically for healing from these damaging emotions. I’m currently participating in an online Bible study utilizing a new book, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, by JoAnn Fore.  JoAnn leads by example and encourages readers to release their emotions appropriately in order to find healing.

For so long, I’ve kept so many emotions and details of my life hidden because of shame and fear. I’ve been told, in fact, that it was difficult to be my friend in the past because I seemed too perfect. I wasn’t trying to be perfect; I was just trying to be liked. I was hurt by that comment, but I needed to hear it. It validates my longing for a like-minded community where I can safely, without judgment, unburden my soul to find healing.

I’m tired of being perfect. I’m ready to journey toward emotional freedom. What about you? Are you ready to join me in unbinding my emotional mess? Are you ready to release your own emotional baggage?

FindYourVoiceLinkup

change, grief

They’re Just Things, Right?

packing china cabinet Only they’re not just things. They’re a piece of my life. They’re tied up with all sorts of happy family memories. As I sit here crying and packing up my grandmother’s china for long-term storage, I can’t help but remember all of the family dinners I attended and hosted. Dinners using fine china. Sometimes this particular set of fine china, sometimes other brands and styles.

I feel as if I’m packing away my holiday dinners, my family, and my gift of hostessing. I know in my head that my china is just going to be packed away for just a season. I know in my head that I will still have holiday dinners, my (smaller) family, and my gift of hostessing. But my heart has a hard time remembering that. My family and my friends tell me that this season of mourning will give way to a time of joy. One day my china will grace a beautiful table that’s surrounded by family and friends again. That will be my time for joy. My clock may be stuck at midnight, but I’m holding onto David’s promise:

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” ~ Psalm 30:5 (NIV)

Yes, I know my china is just stuff. I know it’s an earthly treasure, really I do. But my feeble heart sometimes ties my memories of earthly treasures to my heavenly treasures (Matthew 5:19-21).

So sometimes china plates are not really china plates. Sometimes china plates are dreams, and my dreams lay shattered like the crystal goblet that hit the ceramic tiles. So I’ll let the tears fall as I pack my china away, but I’ll try to hold onto the fact that it’s just for a season. A happier period is coming, with or without my china in its cabinet.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 (NIV)