A Few Things I Had to Tell My Kids…

Women.shameI’d been wanting to write a letter to my kids for the last two years or so. I guess the number one subject would be something that most parents deal with. I’m inclined to say every parent, but then I think of some whose kids outwardly appear to have it all together and the parent takes all of the credit. I’ve heard parents brag about how successful their kids were, followed by, “I raised them well,” or “I did everything right.” While those types of comments may make them look good or feel good, for me, they’re like a dagger. They hurt. What I hear is, “Since your kids had some rocky years, you must have screwed up somewhere.” And the pot of failure and guilt gets stirred all over again.

I can’t help but wonder what’s really gone on behind the scenes in those seemingly perfect homes. Had the child rearing years really taken place with an always warm and loving home atmosphere, sounds of love and laughter, sharing and caring, fun and games? Were the years of child rearing really filled with everyone having a good attitude, never any rebellion, anger, yelling or arguing, or no behavior issues? I’m doubtful that any perfect home exists, that any perfect parent or kid exists, but I’m not here today to argue that. My purpose is to be honest, to take responsibility for my actions whether good or bad, and to bring death to my own guilt and shame.

There, I said it and it wasn’t easy, especially in such a public way. Yes, I feel those things. Women.shame2If guilt and shame are present, then I’m also admitting that somewhere along the line, I think I screwed up. Some of you parents can relate. Whenever you spend years in condemnation, living under guilt and shame, no matter how hard you try, you can’t just blow it off. It doesn’t work that way.  So the purpose of my letter was to take some forward steps to address it.

Guilt and shame are cruel to those personally acquainted with them. They latch on to the person who has opened the door and invited them in to be a part of their everyday life. The longer they are allowed to stay, the more they infiltrate your being. At first they don’t seem quite so harmful. Sure they point out every flaw or fault they see, but you see them, as well. As a result, you deserve to be accused. Since you deserve it, you allow guilt and shame to continually bring attention to Pointing finger.shameyour faults. Their pointing fingers become poking fingers, prodding the same spots over and over again. Unless they’re stopped, they’re able to work their way deeper, growing roots that eventually infiltrate every area of your life. Your thoughts are affected. Your perception becomes clouded, even murky. Your reactions become altered. Negativity increases. Unhealthy comparisons of yourself to others become owned. False judgements become facts. Relationships become strained, often damaged. You feel rejected, misunderstood. Gratefulness decreases, bitterness sets in and joy is lost. And it can all start with something as small as one flaw, one failure, or one life altering date in your history, one tragedy, or victimization. Or maybe, it was much more, such as living under years of torture and abuse, something that was out of your control and due to no fault of your own.

Brick Wall.ShameGuilt and shame don’t appear to be all consuming monsters in the beginning. They sneak in, almost unseen. They start small, tiny even. Like a buried seed that grows a root and sprouts through the soil as a blade of grass, so they grow. With gentle, yet consistent pressure, that seemingly fragile blade is able to break through a concrete slab. That same constant pressure enables these harmful guests to infiltrate your life. That same pressure is all that guilt and shame need to hold you captive as their prisoner. They deal harshly with their captives, shouting constant accusations, constantly abusing those they enslave. They are enemies whose accusations cause addicts to stay addicts, alcoholics to stay alcoholics, undealt with pain to become full blown depression.

The only way to stop them is to first, identify them as an unwanted enemy, which isn’t easy. They like to deceive those they’ve lived with so they are allowed to stay. They remain hidden behind all of the wrong perceptions of their host. Exposing them often takes help from a wise counselor. It requires us to dig deep into the dirt, expose the roots and pull them up, not a trace left behind.

While I had exposed my roots to counselors or in support groups, it was time to expose Words of Shamethem to the people that mattered the most to me. You see, guilt and shame don’t go down once and for all when the carrier dies and is buried in the ground. Guilt and shame become hereditary, so to speak. If they have affected years of my own life, they have also effected years of my kids’ lives. I wanted to expose it, hoping to dig it up before it was passed any further in our family line.

You see, the roots of guilt and shame for me stem mostly from victimization at a young, impressionable age. I was a young teenager. I had big dreams. From as young as I can remember, I thought that growing up and being a mommy was the best possible thing I could ever achieve. I loved playing with my dolls, holding them, rocking them and caring for them as I would my own children one day. Being a wife and a mother was my big dream, what I longed for. I wrote my goals down at a young age even. The number one thing at the top of my list was to be the best wife and mother in the whole world. And that was the only thing that was on my list.

I started off pretty well as a kid. My parents loved me, took me to church and disciplined me when I needed it. I think I was a pretty good kid in those early years. There were a few minor events of teasing or being hurt by another kid in some way, pretty typical things for a lot of kids. Those events, even though minor, did cause a seed of shame to sprout in my life. Thus, began the hard work to make myself good enough, to gain approval, to be perfect. I set high standards for myself.

It was during the junior high years that one pivotal event had the most damaging impact on my life. I will just give you the nutshell version here.

A friend had started smoking and she offered me a cigarette to try. I accepted, wanting to please the friend. After school that day, I ducked into a wooded area along my paper route to try out the cigarette. Yes, back in the day we actually went house to house delivering hard copies of the news. I wasn’t aware that someone had been being watching me on my route, nor was I aware that this person had followed me into the woods. While I was smoking, I was approached by a male carrying a knife. With a knife pressed into my side, I became a victim of sexual assault. It wasn’t something that I had heard a lot of talk on at that point in my life. It just wasn’t talked about much and rarely was it reported. I went home crying and muddy, my paper route cards torn. I couldn’t tell my parents what had happened. I wrongly, thought that I was responsible. I was in a place I shouldn’t have been in, doing something I shouldn’t have been doing, therefore, I would be in trouble for the rape. When my mom questioned as to why I was so upset, I made up a story. I kept that event a secret for years, not understanding how to respond properly to what had occurred and not knowing how deeply it would affect me.

The bottom line is guilt and shame became deeply rooted, and yes, what followed for many years was a downward spiral of bad judgment and unhealthy behaviors. Guilt and shame from victimization can cause us to get ourselves into situations where we are repeatedly re-victimized or we live with a victim mentality. Therefore, my kids, too, were indirectly victimized.

My oldest two children had to live in the hell that I took them through. It’s no secret that there were two marriages and divorces, one to an addict and another to an alcoholic, one where I was abused and one where my kids were abused. Those marriages were each followed by the struggling single parent years. My children had to live with a mom who was always at work and when she was around, she was tired, sad, and moody, just totally overwhelmed with life.

Shame corrodesThere are times that I don’t remember. I think they were too painful. But there are enough painful times that come to the forefront of my mind every now and again, which I am truly ashamed of. Of course I’m ashamed of most of it, but I specifically had to apologize to my children for the things that they probably did remember. I said I was sorry, so sorry, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. How do you make amends for this stuff?

Remember? I just wanted to be the best mom and wife in the world and I had failed. It was hard living with such a failure that I felt that I was.

I married for the third time and had my two younger boys. Even though they didn’t remember much, they also lived with results from my life events. And then came the grandchildren. They’ve lived with results from my bad judgements from years ago. If left undealt with and unexposed, so would my great grandchildren to come, as well as the partners and spouses who have or will join us along the way. They would also be affected in some way.

There were years that I was not emotionally available. Instead of dealing with things that I needed help with, I kept myself occupied. Being busy distracted me from the issues I really needed to look at. It kept me from having to recognize problems. Trying to be perfect in outward things, like keeping my house clean, gave me the false sense that I was in control. It was the only thing I felt I could control, when I learned that life doesn’t play fair. Bad things do happen to everyone and there were times we were just trying to survive until we could get through the storms that raged around us. There were times when it seemed the storms would never end.

I had to apologize to my grandkids in my letter, as well. I’m so sorry that I’ve missed so much of their lives. Not that I had control over all the reasons as to why it’s been that way, mostly due to distance. I really wish I would have gotten the pleasure of being more involved. They’re all beautiful and make me very proud.

You know, parents aren’t given any instruction manuals when they take a baby home from the hospital. We don’t have our children for the purpose of seeing how bad we can screw up. We just do the best we know how, and at times, we just don’t know how. What we do isn’t always the best. Looking back over the years now, I’m sure there were things I would have done differently, had I known what I do now. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to change the past. It’s all water under the bridge. What I could do was to confess my failure and say, I’m sorry. I promised to continue what I know to do to the best of my ability, and that’s what I’m doing now.

Shame QuoteIn writing them, I had to expect nothing from them. They could choose to not forgive me or not even acknowledge the letter. This is something I needed to do for myself. And yes, I’m making myself very vulnerable here by posting this. My blog is named what it is for a reason, because that’s how I want to live my life. Being real has to start at home.

Yes, I’m sure there will still be times I fail. You know I’m human, too.  There are a few things that I promised my kids that I would not fail at. I will not fail to pray for each of them by name, every day. I will not fail at believing in them, at loving them and wanting all the best for them. I will never give up hope for wonderful futures for all of them. I’ve entrusted their lives to God and I know that he will be faithful to complete every good work that he started in each of them. He promised that to me.

Counseling, support groups, the letter and this post are all steps I have taken to free freedommyself from the enemies that have caused such destruction. Guilt and shame are no longer welcome here. I choose to live in freedom to be the wife, the mom, the grandma, the great grandma, the mother in law…

Maybe someday, the best in the world…

 

The Trial-Athlete

th_AthleteEverydayYes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but life certainly hasn’t been without adventure!  For the athlete friends out there, I’ll give a quick injury update.  Since my hamstring tear last October, I’ve slowly been moving back into running, swimming and biking.  Slow progress is still progress, but there have been a couple more setbacks along the way.   It truly has been two steps forward, one step back ever since the long string of injuries started.  So many pieces and parts of this gosh darn kinetic chain have been affected, it’s all starting to become a blur now. I was allowed to start doing some easy walking and biking in December.  I was able to start swimming with a pull buoy and add Santa Barbara Racewalk/run intervals about the middle of January.  I made gradual progress to the point that my coach was able to schedule my workouts in miles of running instead of minutes of running at the beginning of May.  Even though my longest straight run had only been 3 miles at that point, I was able to do The Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, which was May 10th, using run/walk intervals.  Even at turtle speed, it felt awesome!  I have to say, Santa Barbara was the hilliest 13.1 mile course this flatlander has ever done, but it was the most beautiful ever!  Add in perfect weather and the wine at the finish line, do I really need to say more?  No, but I will.  It was awesome! Cabo marinaThe Santa Barbara race was the start of our vacation, a great start!  We flew from there to Cabo San Lucas.  Did I mention the race was the hilliest ever?  The combination of hills from the race, walking the hills of Cabo into town and at least two beach walks in the sand each day, plus a few training runs around the marina…  I suppose I overdid it.  My calves were toast.  So there you have it, one step back. Cabo beach I was just getting back out on the road again last week, more so with cross training still, but my calves were recovering.  Last Tuesday I was enjoying a wonderful ride on my bike.  I’ve been happy that I was finally getting my average speed back up to where it was before the hamstring thing.  I like riding where there isn’t a lot of traffic.  The problem with that though is, there isn’t a lot of traffic.  If you run into an issue, you’re pretty much on your own.  The more desolate roads around the desert aren’t always the quality of the busier roads, either.  I was drinking from my water bottle, hit a bump, and swerved off the road into sand deep enough to bring my tire to an abrupt stop, thus throwing me into the road.  Isn’t is bruised legfunny how even in the middle of nowhere, you still look around to see if anyone saw you fall?  Yes, I did that first, before I got myself off the road.  After a few minutes catching my breath and examining my wounds, I decided I had to be tough and ride home, blood and all.  After all, isn’t that what athletes do, suck it up, ignore the pain and move on?  The problem was, my chain had come off and I wasn’t able to get it back on Josiah Racingwith my injured hand, so I had to humble myself and call my husband to come rescue me.  Thankfully, nothing was broken, no stitches required, just a very bruised, swollen hip, sprained hand and a bruised, road rash covered elbow.  Apparently, there was a benefit from the crash.  According to my son, a racing team cyclist, I now have something called “street cred”.   That’s respect among the cycling community, so I guess that makes up for the pain, right! My Doctor said it could take four weeks for the swelling to go down and the bruising to disappear.  The Physical Therapist said I can swim with the pull buoy still, aqua jog lightly for now, but NO running or even walk/run intervals until the swelling goes down.  And in my mind I’m saying, “But don’t you understand, I’m already signed up for another half in August and September?!?!”  You runners that have dealt with injuries are tracking with me, right?  You’ve been there too! And there you have it, one step back yet again! It appears that I will always have something to deal with, as most of my issues have been stirred up by problems with my spine and impinged sciatic nerves.  The doctor’s encourage me to continue, as it’s important to stay active and healthy and my activity is not going to cause my condition to get worse.  I will have pain regardless, but if I stop moving, I’ll stop moving, period and that isn’t healthy.  I do get injections and see a Physical Therapist weekly, however, as long as I can avoid medication or surgery, I will keep doing what I love. I’ve titled this post, “The Trial-Athlete”, but not because of me and my silly injuries.  I’m thinking way beyond what I’ve dealt with.  I’m not a minimizing my “adventures” here.  I’m just looking at them from a different perspective in this post. My mind is drawn to some unsung heroes in my life.  Let me just tell you a little bit about them.  I won’t name names today, so to those who know me, no reason to be nervous. lonelinessThere is the friend who has spent years, almost a lifetime dealing with her disease.  It’s very difficult to manage, as her body doesn’t want to cooperate as it should.  It’s not only challenging, it’s risky, even life threateningly dangerous at times.  Her husband died several years ago and she remains home alone most days, missing him terribly.  She doesn’t remain home alone by choice.  You see, she’s had a series of falls, eleven of them!  Each has resulted in bad breaks of her arms, legs, hips and pelvis, each requiring surgery and rehab.  It’s now very difficult for her to get around.  Yes, she has times she gets discouraged, very discouraged, yet each time I see her rally her will and her mind to stay positive and move forward, even if it’s through tears that she does it. There is the friend who found herself a single parent with more children than most of us have.   Any of you who have been single tear fallingparents can relate to the difficult challenges that this role presents to an already wounded mom or dad.  That wasn’t her plan when she married him.  Life wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  This wasn’t her dream for herself or her kids.  And if that isn’t enough, imagine if it were you as the parent and one of your children were handicapped and now a teenager that you have to do everything for.  This has been the case for 15 years already and will be the case for a lifetime.  Somehow she does it.  She’s not just trying to survive.  She is putting herself through school at the same time.  She does it well!  Even if it’s through tears. There is the friend whose career dreams were brought abruptly to a halt by a serious accident before she could even finish college.  Severe spinal injuries have caused her a lifetime of pain and suffering as a result.  Years after the first accident, a doctor was finally able to do a surgery that enabled her to walk again.  Her dreams had a chance to be reawakened, as it appeared she had been gifted a moment of hope that life could return to normal again.  Within weeks, those dreams were violently torn from her grasp when she became the victim in another serious accident.  Not only would she not be able to walk normally, she returned to a life of constant pain with many other complications to numerous and graphic to describe here.  While she has every reason to be angry and bitter, she is one of the sweetest, kindest, and most loving people I’ve had the privilege to share life with.  She just wants to love people, even in pain, even through tears. There are others who have had their lives drastically and tragically changed in an instant.  The friend who lost her son…  I just can’t imagine how devastating that would be.  The friends who have lost spouses… parents… other loved ones…  Those are life altering events.  You live with the aftermath for the rest of your breathing days. That’s the type of unsung hero I’m talking about.  Talk about an ability to endure!  When the accidents and surgeries are past, when the diagnosis has been given and the torturous treatments are ongoing, when there is never going to be any relief for the pain, when the funeral is over, the obituary archived and everyone has gone home, these heroes are left to live with their lifelong “new normal”. Runners work hard to train for the Marathon, really hard.  Triathletes work hard to train for the triathlon or the Iron Man, really hard!  They spend agonizing hours alone out there on the road or in the water, keeping those tired, heavy arms and legs moving forward.  Training is often in the dark, before or after work or through inclement weather that we don’t even like to leave home to drive our cars in.  Yes, they certainly have endured when they cross that finish line and they deserve that medal!  They’ve built up an pats run finish lineincredible ability to endure and that strength and endurance carries over into other areas of life.  It leaves them with a sense of achievement.  They’ve accomplished something beyond what they thought months before they would never be able to do.  It’s an incredible feeling!  And yes, you get addicted to it, so most of us do it to ourselves over and over again.  The thing is, we do it by choice.   Our race has a date and a finish line. The unsung heroes I’m talking about never would have chosen the circumstances that brought their pain.  Yet they do it day after day, month after month and year after year and they survive.  There aren’t crowds cheering for them along the course or people handing them water and nourishment every few miles.  Some are lucky enough to have a good network of support around them, but unfortunately, most do not.  Their race involves more than just a few hours of their time.  There is no medal to display in their home.  There is no finish line for them, at least not as long as they are breathing the air of this world. grace quoteTalk about an ability to endure!  These unsung heroes have it!  That’s a special gift.  I call it a gift of grace.  That’s how they survive.  They live day by day, one day at a time.  They live on the grace or the strength they have for that day.  Most days they don’t “feel” strong.  They might not even want to be strong anymore, yet they make it, one more breath, one more step, one more day.  And while it may appear that they do it alone most of the time, the friends I’m talking about, know they aren’t alone.  They know where their help comes from.  Their help comes from the maker of heaven and the creator of this world.  Yes, they have unanswered questions as to why, yet they trust their God for the strength to make it.  They trust in a God that enabled them to overcome and push through tragedy, disease, painful suffering and heartache.  Anger and bitterness have been exchanged for kindness, forgiveness and love.  They are true trial-athletes! Many are inspired by the athletes who train and compete in a race for finish lines and medals.  Look around at the forgotten, shoulder for cryingunsung heroes you share life with.   They are still running their race, often injured and their finish line is still years down the road.  Their legs and arms get tired.  It’s hard and it hurts.  They shed tears out on the course.  Keep cheering for them.  Step up and pass them a cup of cold water or nourishment from time to time, whether it be just a smile, a card, a text or phone call, a hug…  Let them know they are heroes in your eyes and that you’re sticking with them for the long haul!  By doing so, you will have entered yourself in a race.  It’s a race with no finish line and no medal on this earth, but the rewards are far better!  You will become that special gift in their lives and you too, will build an ability to endure.  Just watch out though.  You might become addicted!  I hope so!

Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1 – 2 (TBL)

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Cor. 4:17 (NIV)

“A Fall Apart Just Waiting to Happen”…

fall apart puzzelYep, that’s me!  You’ve probably heard people describe someone as, “an accident waiting to happen.”  Well, “a fall apart waiting to happen” is kind of the same thing.  I’ve found myself feeling this way on occasion lately.  You know, those days that all of us feel at some point, no matter how positive we try to be.  Not one of us walking on this planet is totally immune to negative thoughts and feelings that attack our mind and emotions. 

If you’ve read my blog, you may already know of the ongoing struggle that I’ve had with running injuries.   I talkedfall apart poster about the last MRI report in a post called, “Coping with Injury, a Photo Journal”.  I did have a little fun with that post!  It’s been about three months since then and I’m just starting to get back into a few easy workouts each week.  My body sure doesn’t want to cooperate, though.   Add the ongoing spine and sciatic nerve issues into that hip and hamstring mix, and right there you have what sounds like an old lady just complaining about all her ailments.  I sooooo, never wanted it to be this way!     

Gumby stretchesI’ve had some other minor health things creep in on top of those I’ve mentioned.  It’s so frustrating when you go to your Primary Care Physician and they have to send you off to other specialists.  I’ve got six different doctors I am seeing and a seventh I’m avoiding.  Well, maybe I’m avoiding the sixth one, too.   Regardless, I feel like I’ve been pieced and parted out in so many directions.  The healthcare system must think I’m like a Gumby figure and each doctor is stretching a different body part in their direction.  Gumby meltsFrankly, even with all the stretching, I’m just not that flexible!  And then you have all the specialist’s higher copays!  I’ll stop right there with that discussion.  The state of our healthcare system is not the hot topic than I wanted to get into today.  Let’s not make Gumby have a melt down!

The point is, I’ve had a few days when I wake up feeling like all of these little irritations and inconveniences have been combined together into this huge glob.  The ugly glob is present, just waiting to greet me when I open my eyes.  It sits on my chest, its weight causing pressure, its toxic gases filling my lungs, its fog clouding my vision and infiltrating my thoughts.  For whatever reason, this day, it’s difficult to shake off.   I feel consumed by it.  I stumble through the dark to the kitchen to make coffee.  The shadow follows.  Maybe the caffeine will help.  I turn on the Fear.1computer.  Maybe there will be something positive and uplifting in my inbox or on Facebook.  But before I can even have my first sip or sign in to anything, an all too familiar fear creeps in.  It’s been awhile, but I’ve felt this before.  Its fear of some impending doom, some catastrophe that’s just waiting to knock on my door.  My cell phone rings with an unknown number.  This is it that call I knew would come… 

Tell me I’m not the only one!  You’ve been there, too, haven’t you!  It doesn’t happen as often anymore, but there was a long season in my life, when this was the way I felt most days.  I would eventually be able to shake it off, but only to have the glob visit again the next day. 

One of my son’s has become very interested in cycling.  He joined a racing team and had his first race this past weekend.  I was photo (34)excited for him as we made the hour drive to the race location.  The course was about a mile loop that participants had to circle many times.  A good part of the course was out of our view, and the multicolored kit clad riders were going by so fast.  I had a hard time seeing my son each time he made his way past our vantage point.  Twice during the race, the announcer shouted over a speaker, “There’s been a crash on the course!”  Can you guess where I’m going with this story?  There it was that feeling of impending dome.  Thankfully, my son was not involved in either of the crashes and there were no serious injuries, but those minutes spent waiting to see him go by were pretty intense for a mom.

Blob.1I’m no psychologist able to say what causes a person to feel this way, but I can speak from my own experience.  That fear of impending dome, the feelings of some foreboding evil hovering nearby, just waiting to swoop down and pounce on my head, that kind of fear was learned over time.   The situations in life that were real, such as living with an abusive alcoholic and addict that did cause physical harm, actually being the victim at the end of a knife or sawed off shot gun, receiving those dreaded phone calls with bad news, living through an emergency medical situation with my body being the one transported in an ambulance or having to many visits to emergency rooms with people you love…  When it happens enough, you learn fear.  When you combine those real situations with the ones that you begin to imagine and then come to expect, well, there you’ve just created the ultimate Halloween cocktail!  And let me tell you, it’s a fear filled, seductively strong drink!

Fear isn’t something to be messed with.  Fear is destructive, even devastating.  It will hold you down, even suffocating your very last breath.  Fear keeps us in a dead, dry place.  It keeps us from really living.  It keeps us out of healthy relationships.  We won’t take the risk to care and love.  It holds us back in our careers; it keeps us from reaching our goals and even keeps us from daring to have any dreams to chase after.  It keeps us small, keeps us invisible and unnoticed.  Fear is an evil prison guard that keeps us locked in a very cold, damp and dark place.

Courage poster.1

So how do you get out of it, break free?  Like I said, I’m no physiologist, so what works for me, might not be the same as what worksBravery.1 for you.  First of all, you have to be able to recognize whether the fear you feel is the healthy kind that keeps you safe or if it’s a fear that’s debilitating to you.  If it’s hurting you, it needs to go!  Recognizing that it’s an issue is a huge victory in itself.  You have to recognize something is broken before you will attempt to fix it.  Even taking a risk to consider it might be an issue takes courage.  Be brave.

I have to break in for important practical advice right here.  If you are in an unsafe place, like an abusive situation, get out now.  I know it takes great courage to take this step.  It may require knowledge of resources available to help.  Know there is help and there are safe places to go.  There are agencies that can help online.  Find them where you are.  You have to protect your physical body from harm before you can work on your emotional wellbeing.  Please, be brave!

Once you recognize that fear is something that is hurting you, it’s not like you can just tell it to go away.  You can only do that when it first makes an ugly appearance.  Once you’ve allowed fear to move in and stay with you, you’ve fed it and allowed it to grow, it’s Cat couragenot so easy.  The truth is we all need help with things like this.  We were not meant to do this life alone.  Other people were put on this earth so we wouldn’t have to be alone.  I don’t care how independent you are.  It might be fear that made you feel a need to be such an independent person and if that’s the case, fear has just succeeded l in keeping you in prison.  I’m saying this, not to cause anyone to feel under attack, but as one who allowed the ugly life situations cause me to put on, “Miss Independent”, as a banner across my chest for a good number of years.  I remember one occasion just before entering into my third marriage.  I can still see myself standing outside on a dark driveway, screaming into the face of my soon to be spouse, “You’re not going to make me your slave, you’re not going to tell me what to do…!”  It’s amazing that he still married me after that little explosion.   My point is, don’t try to break free on your own.  Positive, encouraging friends with wise advice, churches or professional counselors, they are all there for you to get help.   Take the risk to join the human race again and connect with other people to help you.  This too, takes courage.  Be brave!

Since I wasn’t intending to write a book today, I’ll wrap this up.  My almost last piece of advice would be this.  When you first see Courage.1that glob trying to make another appearance, whether it be a little thought, feeling or a little action to pass it a tasty morsel and feed it again, immediately stop yourself.  You have to stop it dead in its tracks.  Don’t entertain it, not even for a second.  If you need help to do this, then make that call or send that text.  Fill yourself with all the positive encouragement and support you can get your mind, eyes, ears and hands on.  Your life is on the line here.  All of your relationships, goals, and dreams have one thing in common.  They need you to be healthy in order to have them to the full extent that they were meant to be had.  It’s worth the effort and you are totally worth it!  If you blew it yesterday, today is a new day.  Be brave!

Lastly, I’m no longer going to think of myself as “a fall apart waiting to happen”.  Yes, the health issues seem to continue, but I’m Strong and Courageous.1choosing to focus on the good.  I have supportive friends and family.   I know that I’m in the good hands of doctors who will do the best they can within our healthcare system; to do what’s right for me.  Best of all and what brings me the biggest strength, I believe I’m in the good hands of a loving God who is big enough to take care of me in this broken world.  Bad things do happen, but he works it for good on my behalf.  It takes courage to let go of control and trust an unseen entity with the details of my life, but my experience tells me, God is really good at what he does.  He’s always come through for me, every time!   I can be strong and courageous because I’m not doing this alone.  Yes, I will be brave!

When “Mr. Right”, Screws Up…

rainy dayFor those of you who look for my running posts, this isn’t one of them.  This post is on betrayal.  The only way I could tie running into this one, is if I were writing about my body betraying me.  It does do that!  I take good care of it and yet, it fails me from time to time.  That’s not the direction we’re going now, though.  Today we’re going on a journey into something darker, something that often leaves as much damage as a failed organ.  The resulting damage isn’t readily seen, but the pain can certainly be just as intense.

Who hasn’t experienced betrayal in some form?  We’ve all been lied to and blindsided by those we trust.  We’ve all been stabbed in the back by friends we thought “had our backs”.  We’ve all been more than a little disheartened when darkness that’s been hidden in someone we respected is exposed.  And I would be surprised if there is anyone out there that hasn’t had their trust totally crushed in a relationship with someone who they considered to be their soul mate, their “Mr. or Mrs. Right”.  It happens to people every day.  The person that we think is “the one” for us, the person that was supposed to love us “with all of their heart”, can get totally stupid and screw up.

It was my 25th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago.  If you’ve read any of my past posts, you probably already know that I’ve been married before, twice actually.   I have indeed, experienced betrayal.

It’s hard to forget.  It’s harder still, to forgive.  I can vouch for the fact that, so far, I’ve never forgotten.  Memories fade over time, but each new betrayal triggers all the painful emotion.  It’s surprising how an incident can make memories fresh all over again.

I remember the lies, the cover ups, and the clues that raised my suspicions.  I remember wanting to be in denial, not wanting to allow Things that can not be hiddenmy imagination to even explore the possibilities of what I was sensing.  I remember the moment that the evidence presented itself in a way that I could no longer deny.  The slow realization of what I was sensing was indeed a reality.  My betrayer was caught.  It happened more than once, actually.  More than twice.  It happened often with my first marriage.  Needless to say, that one didn’t last very long.

There was physical abuse within the marriage.  Physical abuse is a betrayal.  The hand that’s supposed to love you, gently caress your skin, instead inflicts bruising and pain.  That hurts emotionally and physically.

And then there was the time I was blindsided, totally and utterly blindsided.  I had no clue.  I wasn’t suspicious.  I had absolutely no reason to even go there in my imagination.  I was adored by him.  I was loved and loved well.  He was my soul mate, my Mr. Right.  How could he do this to me?

In all of these experiences, not one person ever came forward and confessed.  They had to be caught.

It hurts to be betrayed.  It hurts like hell!  Betrayal can turn a normal, calm and self-controlled individual into a crazy person.  Tumultuous, tormenting thoughts consume your mind.  Of course they would.  You’ve just experienced a loss, a huge loss.  It’s not a whole lot different than experiencing a death, only with betrayal, there may be no closure for a long time.

The normally confident person becomes insecure and fearful.  Self-esteem is brought into question.  “What did I do wrong?”  You begin to make unhealthy comparisons.  “How was I not good enough?” “How was the other person better?”  And the anger!  Internal rage!  What’s the quote?  “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s anger!”  Yes, the anger is very real.  You’re angry at everyone.  Angry with the offender, angry with the other party, angry with yourself, and even angry with God.

Sad-love-quotes-Trust-it-takes-yearsI remember a three month period of anger as my second marriage was coming to an end.  I worked retail and had a 30 mile commute home from work each night.  I was the one in that really slow car driving down the freeway late at night, after closing the store.  That was my alone time, away from people, away from my two children.  It was my time to think, my time to vent.  Of course there were tears, lots of tears.  I had conversations with myself.   Sometimes I would literally scream.   It was a safe place in my car on an empty freeway at night, so I could let it all out.  I was so angry.  Of course, I was angry with my betrayer, but more so at myself.  I was angry with myself for letting it all happen again, for allowing myself to be in such a vulnerable place, allowing myself to love and trust again.  I was angry at God for allowing my heart to be broken again.

There was the unfairness of it all.  It was so not fair that this was happening to me again.  Wasn’t it enough before?  Why me?

I hated that it made me feel so exposed, naked.  I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin anymore.  I didn’t want to be touched anymore.  It was like I was married to a stranger.  Who was this man that I had given my life to?

You feel betrayal physically.  It’s like your chest has been ripped open and your heart has been yanked out and crushed by the hand that said it loved you.   You’re left to bleed…  alone, helpless, vulnerable and bleeding to death…  It’s just so wrong.

As I’ve said already, betrayal takes many forms.  While the betrayal in your case may not have involved an actual physical affair, rosesomething far more valuable may have been taken from you.  Your spouse or partner turned the eyes that were supposed to be focused on you, in the direction of another.  The place where thoughts of you were supposed to dwell, allowed another to move in.  That person occupied your space.  The heart that belonged to you was offered to another.  When they held out their hand to the other person, they held out your heart and were allowing it to be crushed.  Those parts of the one you love are much more valuable than sex organs will ever be.

What do you do from here?  How do you process all of this as the person who has been betrayed?  For me, I write.  Writing helps me gather my thoughts, express my feelings, vent my emotion.  It’s much more effective and much safer than a slow, late night car ride.  I used to journal regularly.  I haven’t done that so much over the past several years, but recently started to do that again.  If you’ve never tried it before, give it a shot.  You have nothing to lose, but you have your sanity to gain.  It’s very therapeutic.

What do I write?  Start with a letter to the one who betrayed you.  Even if they never get to read it, you will be able to write what you really want to say.  It may be mixed in with things you don’t really mean, but you will get the benefit of it.  It will give voice to what you need to express and may help you be able to express it in a less crazy way than you would have.

revengeMaybe it would help to write a letter to the “other” woman or man as it may be in your case.  They are also an injured party in the scandalous, mess.  I know the natural inclination is to call names, lots of names and maybe even seek revenge.  If you don’t seek revenge, you can’t tell me that at least thoughts of something bad happening to them haven’t gone through your mind.  Fess up now.  Remember, I’ve been there.

Healing is ultimately what we need.  It’s a process.  It takes time, lots of time.  If you’ve just been betrayed, you aren’t going to like what I suggest as a next step.  It’s not something you will feel like doing at all.  It’s something you may think you will never be able to do.  But it’s the first step toward a healed heart, and I know you want that.  I’m not saying you have to do it right away either, but the sooner you can take this step, the faster you will walk toward wholeness.

Healing starts with a choice.  You have to choose to forgive.  You do it for you.  No, the other person doesn’t deserve it, but you do.  When you don’t forgive, you become a prisoner to your own bitter thoughts and feelings and the one who is truly punished, is you.

When we’ve been hurt, we become inclined to wall out the world to protect our own heart.  We aren’t willing to risk being hurt again.  By doing this, we actually hurt ourselves even more, though.  With a wall around our heart to keep the bad away from us, we also keep the good away.  Our heart never gets what it truly needs, because no one can see it or reach in and touch it.

When you make the conscious choice to forgive, in time, your feelings will catch up.  I promise!  Yes, situations will arise where words are said and opportunities for re-wounding will be present.  You’ll feel like you’re back to square one.  When you reach that spot, remember your choice to forgive and you stick to it or do it again.  Do it over and over again if you have to.  Eventually, you will find yourself in a place where you are surprised to realize, you really do forgive.  You can feel it.  You’re a bigger and better person because of it.

You have to come to a place where you choose to not allow your mind to be consumed with the whole situation.  Stop replaying the scenarios over and over in your mind.  Stop allowing yourself to be tormented with a need to get to the bottom of a story.  You may or may not have all of the details, but does it really matter?  The damage has already been done.  You have to come to a place where you choose to let go.  Finding yourself in a situation involving betrayal is emotionally exhausting.  I’ve come to the place where the internal struggle was so intense, I had no choice but to let go.  My mind and my body couldn’t handle the stress of it anymore.  If I didn’t lay it down, it would do me in.

When it comes to healing, I can’t help but to talk about God’s role in all of this for me.  I told you that I had a time when I was angry with God over what I had experienced.  God wasn’t the one who betrayed me.  He didn’t create us to be robots that he sits up in the sky and controls.  He made us human and gave us the freedom to choose our actions.  It was a human who betrayed you.  We are all human and humans aren’t perfect.  We all make mistakes.  I’ve hurt others and others have hurt me.  Maybe they hurt me more, but that doesn’t matter.  I may not be able to trust humans to the degree that I would like to, but I know I can trust God to take care of me and heal my heart.  He’s come through every time.Don't lose hope

When you let go, you find yourself in a calm place.  When you’ve forgiven and let go, you find yourself in a calm and peaceful place.  When you trust God to heal your heart, you find yourself in a calm, peaceful and loving place.  That’s the place I would hope for you, my friend.  Will you join me here?

When “Little” Becomes “Limitless”…

limitlessHere’s my personal pick for my tweet of the week:

“Typing the word “little” on my phone & auto correct changed it to “limitless”.
When little becomes limitless, that’s ok! Thanks autocorrect!”

Two words, “little” and “limitless” have become my theme this week.  How auto correct would ever change the word little to limitless is beyond me.  But when “little” becomes “limitless”, that’s more than ok.  It’s incredibly awesome!  I’ve thought about these words and how they apply to my life.  After last week’s blog post, Digging Deeper, Whatever It Takes, I’ve done some hard thinking about the things that I’ve felt were limiting to me.  I’ve come to realize that while my dreams may be big, my own thinking is still small.  My own “little” is keeping me from my “limitless”.

It was last Monday when I was typing the word “little” on my phone.  I was texting a few friends, asking for a “little” prayer.  I had started experiencing the familiar symptoms that have landed me in the hospital four times in the past, symptoms that have been the reason for two of my surgeries.  I’ve talked about this before in a post, I’m Not Average.”  Monday, I was preparing to go the hospital.  I really thought that by that night, I would be admitted.  I know how this goes.  I followed the doctors’ instructions to try and prevent another episode, which haven’t been successful previously.  I made it through that day with no hospital admission.  I’m happy to say that my symptoms have subsided a little more each day since, and today I feel back to normal!

I asked some friends for a “little” prayer last week, too.  I told you about the issue with bulging disks in my neck.  That’s been more than a little painful!  I’m happy to say that the pain has gotten better each day since!  It’s not completely gone, but I’ve been able to stop taking all the pain medication I was on.  And for those who know the story already, there is a good chance I can start running again next week!

As a child, my parents took me to church and taught me to believe in God.  Yes, they taught me, but I’m the one who had to learn what it meant to believe in a god.  Like every other person out there, I had to do my own searching and formulate my own opinion about who God was and what place he was going to have in my life.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts, I think you would agree that my life has been quite an adventure.  I would describe it as being a “better than a soap opera” kind of life.  These experiences have given me much opportunity for life lessons.  I’ve had lots of opportunity to let experiences make me bitter or better.  I chose to let them make me better and in the process, I did indeed form my own opinion of who God was and what place he was going to have in my life.

I think back on the Bible stories I heard as a child.  There were a couple times recorded in the Bible, when Jesus, God’s son, found loaves and fisheshimself in a remote location with large crowds gathered around to hear him speak.  They became hungry and there were no grocery stores nearby, so Jesus took the little that he had, like a few loaves of bread or a couple fish.  When he put his hand of blessing on it, the little became limitless!  He not only fed the thousands that were gathered.  They even had leftovers!

There was a widow that’s talked about in the Old Testament.  She was in debt up to her eyeballs and her two sons that were about to be made slaves to pay for her debt.  She asked a prophet if he could help her.  He asked her what she had.  The widow told the prophet that she had nothing except a “little” jar of oil.  The prophet asked her to do something quite odd, but amazingly, she listened to him and did it.  He told her to gather up all the empty jars that she could find, so she gathered every empty jar she had and even got all the neighbor’s jars.  Next she was to go inside her house and start pouring the small amount of oil from her little jar, into the big empty jars.  Can you imagine all the thoughts going through her mind about how crazy this was, as she did it?  I’m sure she expected it to take about two seconds for the oil in her little jar to run empty, but it didn’t!  She just kept pouring her little into her emptiness and every single jar was completely filled.  The oil didn’t stop flowing until there was nothing left to pour into.  Her little became limitless!  Her sons were saved from slavery and her debt was paid.

love limitlessThose are just a couple of the many, biblical examples of little becoming limitless.

Believe me when I tell you that in my own life, there have been many times when God made my “little” become “limitless”!  I hope you’ve caught that in my posts.  I don’t talk about God in most of my posts, but I believe that there have been many events that I consider to be “a God thing”.  Maybe they weren’t all good things, but God worked them together for good in my life.

I was inspired twice this week by video links posted by friends.  Both were of a man born with no arms or legs, Nick Vujicic.  Now this is indeed, a man who has what appears to be, very limiting factors in his life.  Yet, when you talk about someone who has overcome obstacles, he’s one of the best examples I’ve seen!  I’ve posted the links to these two video clips below.  Nick not only gets where he needs to go, which is challenging in itself, but he even swims, surfs and plays golf.  He is now a bestselling author and a motivational speaker who travels the world.  His first book was titled, “Life Without Limits”.  Nick is a perfect, real time example of “little becoming limitless”.  I look at his life and can’t help but be moved to let go of every excuse I’ve ever made!

There is one common denominator in each of these examples.  It’s the God Factor.  God was involved in the Bible stories, my own life and certainly in Nick Vujicic’s life.  It’s been quoted by several people, “The size of your God, determines the size of your goals.”  Through my own life lessons, I’ve come to believe with all my heart, that I’ve got a really, really BIG GOD!  I feel that I’ve spent much time exploring the aspects of his love, grace and mercy.  With each new obstacle I’ve bumped up against, I find His love, grace and mercy are there.  I have yet to find their limits.  But you know, I’ve stopped looking for limits.  “Little” is going to have very limited use in my vocabulary from here on out.  I’ve concluded that my God is big enough for whatever comes my way, that he is indeed, limitless!Gods treasure

The moral of this story:  If God is big enough for me and all the messes I’ve made, he can be big enough for you, too! 

Don’t look at your limitations.  Look at your limitless God.

http://t.co/z7yjTJg8

The Bumble’s Story

Wow!  I almost have no other words to say in light of all the tragedy that we’ve seen happening during what is supposed to be a joyful season.  We have indeed, seen unthinkable and horrific events unfold before our eyes.  I am not attempting to address what has happened, nor relate these events to my story today.  I just can’t help but express the heaviness in my heart for the families involved as I begin to write today.  My prayers for those who are hurting so deeply are united with yours and the prayers of this nation.

I will repeat, I “almost” have no words to say, but I do have a few.  It’s not that what I am going to say is easy or all that joyous, but it’s important to me, so pull up an ice block for a few minutes and lend an ear.

One of my favorite Christmas specials is “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.  I grew up watching it every year.  I remember many years ago as an 18 year old, working “adult”, (well before the days of the DVR), I had a boss that let me have a long dinner break from work so I could go home and watch the show.  Yes, it was that important to me.  Even now, many years later, Rudolph has this special place in my home every Christmas.  photo

While the story of Rudolph offers many good life lessons, today I want to focus on the Bumble’s story.  In case you aren’t familiar, the Abominable Snow MonsterBumble was the Abominable Snow Monster of the North.  Everyone knew and feared the Abominable Snow Monster.  Rudolph’s father, Donner, taught Rudolph the dangers of this monster as a very young buck.  The prospector in the story, Yukon Cornelius, was always cautiously aware of the possibility of encountering the monster in his daily search for silver and gold.

Today I’m thinking of what the Bumble represents, but not in the cute, cartoonish way he is portrayed in the Christmas special.  There is no way that I would ever begin to make light of the situations that are on my mind today.  The fear that Rudolph was taught or that Cornelius had, can’t possibly even begin to touch the reality of what I’m talking about today.   Today, I’m talking about some other monsters, the monsters of addiction and alcoholism.  You see, these monsters have robbed some of my family and friends, people I love, of portions of their life.

This morning I walked out of my bedroom to find my husband already up, eating breakfast and browsing the web.  He informed me that our youngest son had posted a picture of our family on Facebook.  The picture was from about 18 years ago.  Oh my, the things your kids do while you’re sleeping!  My son had gotten all of the family albums out and apparently found this particular picture to be entertaining and posted it.  Entertaining, it was indeed!  Once I got past being horrified by the look of my enormous hair, I was brought to tears as I scanned the sweet faces of my four children.  They were so adorable!  I had a moment, so surreal.  How fast they grow up!  The picture had been taken before life had robbed them of the fun and innocence of childhood.

In the years since that picture was taken, I’ve gathered many stories to tell about how the abominable monster has reached out to grab those I love and attempt to snatch their very lives.  The battles waged against this monster have been bloody and fierce, neither are they over.  As many of you know, this is a lifelong battle that is fought everyday by millions of you.   Today isn’t the day to go into details on the specifics of my stories.  We’ve heard enough negative this season.  Today, I think we all need to be encouraged.

You see, the Bumble story has a happy ending.  Just as those who daily fight the monster of alcohol or addiction, Yukon Cornelius had more than one encounter with the Abominable Snow Monster.  One time he used the tool that he worked with on a daily basis, his pic, to make a “do it yourself iceberg”.  He was able to escape certain harm at the hands of the bumble and float away to safety, because Bumbles sink!  There finally came a time when Yukon could no longer run and hide from what he feared and he had to face his monster head on.

Remember Herbie, the elf whose dream was to be a dentist?  Yukon and Herbie devised a plan to save Clarice and Rudolph from being Abominable Snow Monster 2eaten alive by the Abominable Snow Monster.  Herbie made pig noises, because we all know that Bumbles will gladly turn down reindeer meat for a pork dinner.  He was able to lure the Bumble out of his cave and he and Yukon courageously faced that which they feared the most.  Yukon was spastically swinging his pic as Herbie oinked and they were able to bait the Bumble away from the cave so their friends could be safe.  Unfortunately, they backed the Bumble up to a point that appeared to be certain death for Herbie, the Bumble and Cornelius, as they all fell over the edge of a deep crevice.  The lives of Rudolph and Clarice were now safe, but at the cost of their friend’s lives.

The scene shifts to Rudolph and Clarice mourning the loss of their friends.  Were they ever surprised as the doors of Santa’s castle Toothless Bumbleswung open and in walked Cornelius and Herbie, followed by the Bumble!  Cornelius proclaimed that he had reformed the monster!  And Herbie the elf had started his new practice as the North Pole Dentist, by pulling the monster’s teeth.  The Bumble no longer had the power to eat reindeer or pork!  The reformed Bumble then helps to make the tree in Santa’s castle complete, as he places the star on the top.

Why do I like the Bumble story?  Because, it’s a story redemption and hope!  The Abominable Snow Monster that everyone feared was reformed.  No one imagined that he could ever be anyone different than what he was, but it did happen!  Yes, it’s just a make believe child’s Christmas story.  I know that, but “hope” is very real.

There is another Christmas story which is the basis of my hope.  Hope was sent in the form of that little babe lying in a manger.  I think that story is much better as it’s read by Charlie Brown in another childhood Christmas special.  That baby didn’t stay little and powerless.  That baby was sent by love to bring light to a dark world.  I believe that love has the power to overcome any monster we face and certainly, the evils of addiction and alcoholism!  That perfect love chases away that which makes me fearful.  Yes, the God of limitless love is my hope.

That hope is the gift that I use as a tool in my life, this life that I’ve learned to live just one day at a time.  That powerful hope is also the weapon that I use to fight the monsters that make me fearful.  It’s the one thing that I’ve been able to hang onto in the very dark days of this journey.  When all else has been ripped from my hands, hope is still there.  No, all of the struggles are still not over, nor all the battles won.

HopeI posted this picture last week.  The word “Hope” is written free hand in pencil by someone I love.  It was written on a piece of manila folder and was sent to me from a prison cell as a Christmas card several years ago.  The person who sent it had no idea how much it meant to me.  This person is still struggling to this day.  Though it breaks my heart, I still have hope.  This one hasn’t made it to the side of victory in this battle yet.  I said, not “yet”, but I know many others who have.  There is a victory side in the days to come.  I just know it.   As I posted, last week, hope is my gift.  “I’m a mom.  I will never give up my hope!”  For that reason, I can still have a joyous heart this Christmas season.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Church Without Walls

ImageOnce again, I’ve been inspired to write by a Facebook post.  The friend posted about working with a group of people to help the homeless on the streets of San Francisco.  They weren’t just feeding people, but were interacting with them and really listening to their stories.  He commented on the big dreams that were still in the hearts of some, but had been held out of reach by the evils of addiction.  The friend related their activity to being “a church without walls”.

It reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with a guy who was cutting my hair.  We got onto the subject of churches and he voiced his somewhat negative opinion of them.  I asked him what the ideal church would look like to him.  He said, “It would be a church without walls”.  That statement stuck with me and I’ve pondered it many times since.

I was raised in church and we moved often when I was growing up, so I got to see many differences in each church we attended.  Even when they all taught out of the same book, each minister seemed to have their own interpretation of how church life should be done.    Early on, I was exposed to the negative impact that results when a leader makes church life all about rules rather than a relationship with God.  I saw the damage that’s done when the one in charge abuses their power and uses the sermon to manipulate people rather then empower them to live their life in a positive way.  Early on, I saw the destruction that comes to the members when the Pastor lives a secret, darker life, on every other day than Sunday.

Disclaimer:  Don’t get me wrong here.  This post isn’t meant to bash the whole church.  I’ve seen and experienced way more good from church than I have negative.  I’m looking at the negative here, because that’s what seems to get the focus of the world outside the church and gives justification to those who want no part of it.  My wish is just to see that be different.

A church is more than just a name on a building down the street.  It’s supposed to be about the people.  The people in the building are the church.  That phrase, “a church without walls”, I had previously thought of more from the perspective of each individual church’s or denomination’s beliefs.  Many might identify themselves as being part of the same religion, however, the beliefs or interpretation of scriptures is often very different.  I saw these differences as being the walls that divided, walls that kept many people outside and have locked others inside.  No one is influenced in a really healthy, positive way by these models and any benefits gained, are limited.  These differences have caused issues, even wars, since the beginning of history.  How to get these walls to come down is a daunting and even though I hate to use this word, it seems to be an “impossible” task.

My friend’s Facebook post helps me see this in a different light, though.  It is possible to have a church without walls that every person on earth could be a part of, if they so choose to be.  We’ve all heard about “paying it forward” and “random acts of kindness”.  Many of us have enjoyed being a part of the Starbucks line where each person pays for the coffee of the person in the car behind them.  It sounds so simple, but what if we all made a conscious choice each day to love the people that cross our paths through our actions?  Even better, what if we looked for opportunities, even went out of our way to help someone, whether it be feeding the homeless on the streets of Phoenix or allowing ourselves to be inconvenienced to help a someone in need.  Making a lifestyle choice to “love people however I can with whatever I have” doesn’t have to be based on what we believe or if we attend a church or not.  Call me a dreamer if you want, but what a wonderful dream it would be, if each individual in the world could become,

                 “the church without walls”.   Just imagine…