Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Confession #13 - I'm a Controversial Woman

Seems these days the Proverbs 31 Woman is a very popular topic among us ladies.  This woman stirs up more controversy than Nancy Pelosi and Anna Nicole Smith did put together.  Some Christian ladies despise her.  To them she stands as a reminder of what they may never be.  To some they look up to her as a standard of living to master and others are somewhere in the middle.  Being the cracked pot that I am, I have really struggled with Mrs. 31 (as I like to call her).  For those of you who may be unfamiliar the bible tells us that she is:

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good; not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

She seems quite AMAZING doesn't she?  When does she sleep?  So many of us cracked pot ladies can't seem to relate to her so I decided to pick her apart, bullet point her if you will; to get a better look at who she really is:

· She was up early in the morning
· She grew her own garden for food
· She made clothes for herself and for her family
· She owned and ran her own business
· She was a great homemaker
· Her husband praised her
· Her children adored her
· She was a smart cookie
· She took care of the physical needs of her family
· She spoke with wisdom
· She helps other people
· She was in shape-physically, mentally, spiritually
· She feared God.
As I bullet pointed these I began to realized that maybe I was mistaken, Mrs. 31 isn't so different than I am:

· She was up early in the morning - I'm up between 6:30 and 7:00 every morning
· She grew her own garden for food - At the supermarket at least once a week grocery shopping
· She made clothes for herself and for her family - I don't sew but I shop for all the family clothing
· She owned and ran her own business - I run my own business and work a part-time job
· She was a great homemaker - Not what I'd consider great but I take care of most of the household chores
· Her husband praised her - Vince does praise me and he frequently thanks me for doing all I do
· Her children adored her - Goes without saying that my daughter adores her mommy
· She was a smart cookie - As cookies go, I'm pretty smart
· She took care of the physical needs of her family - I see to that everyday
· She spoke with wisdom - I hope my blog does some of that....
· She helps other people - It's my life in servitude to Christ
· She was in shape-physically, mentally, spiritually - Hey two out of three ain't bad!
· She feared God - Absolutely!
So there you have it.  And I'll bet if you break it down you will see that you're not so far away from the controversial Mrs. 31 after all - cracks n all!  I wonder if Mrs. 31 knew that someday the Apostle Paul would write what she probably already knew in her heart, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

"Dear Lord, thank you for revealing that your standard isn't too difficult for me to live up to.  That if I continue to do your will for my life as a wife, mother, and Kingdom worker that you will supply me with the strength to get'her done.  And dear Lord please allow my sisters to see that they live up the the controversial Mrs. 31 each and every day as well."  AMEN!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Confession #12 - No Mater what - I am wonderfully made.

In a previous post - Confession #8 to be exact - I mentioned that I'm a huge Disney fan.  I couldn't possibly pick a favorite movie, but I happen to be quite fond of Cars.  My favorite, like so many of us is Tow-Mater.  It's not his charm and humor that resonate with me but it's the fact that Mater loves all of his dents and flaws.  Each one holds an important memory to him.  He is proud of them.  Oh how I would love to embrace all my flaws and be happy to have them; every last wobbly-bit of my flawed body, heart, and soul. 

Not too long ago a friend of mine who has been encouraging me to eat healthier, said something to me about loosing weight that put my self esteem out of whack.  It actually depressed me.  So I had this long conversation with God about it and then I opened my bible with the intention of thumbing through it until I found where I felt God was leading me, but the very page I landed on this verse was highlighted.  Psalm 27:1 "The LORD is my light and salvation of who shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life - of who shall I be afraid?"  The more interesting thing about this verse that drew my attention wasn't just that it was highlighted in pink, but years before I had wrote in the margin with an arrow pointed straight to it, "My self esteem".  It still amazes me everyday how God works!  He knew that I needed scripture without any doubt to reassure me that my self-worth is in HIM, not me, not what I do, not what I say, not even what I think, but what HE thinks of me.  God reminds us all of our worth through his word.  In Psalm 139:13-16 King David says that God, "For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  This woman who judges, sometimes so harshly, her wobbly bits is reminded that God created her, He took His precious time to form me inch by inch.  He wove together, my body, my mind, my spirit, and my personality.  Since I believe that everything God creates is wonderful and I am one of His creations, then God must see me as wonderful too!  Even with all my flaws.  God sees how wonderful His creation is in you - in spite of your flaws.

The cracked pot story illustrates perfectly how we can appreciate and be proud of our flaws:

 A water bearer in India has two large pots each hung on the end of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it. The other pot was perfect.  While the perfect pot always delivered a full portion of water at the end of a long walk from the stream to the master's hours, the cracked pot arrived only half full.   For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made.  But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.   After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.   "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "Why?", asked the water bearer "What are you ashamed of?"   Very sadly the cracked pot replied, "I have been able, for these past two years to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you do all of this work and don't get full value from your efforts."   The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said .  "As we return to master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."   Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.  But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.   The bearer said to the pot.   "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pots side?"   "That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path and every day while we walked back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

The lesson of course here is to embrace your cracks - your flaws because God uses them to allow his glory to shine through.  He can use us no Mater, uh, matter what our flaws may be.  We just have to be willing to embrace them and submit to His will.

"Dear Lord help me to embrace all my dents, and cracks knowing that I earned these with the precious life you have given me.  Let me not forget your wonderful works and that I too am one of them.  Let your light shine through each crack to bring people to the saving grace of your son Jesus Christ.  And dear Lord let my fellow cracked pots see the same beauty in their precious flaws and to know that they know that they know that you created them wonderfully."  AMEN!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Confession #11 - I was afraid I couldn't love her.

Our struggle to have a child was not too unlike most infertile couples.  We tried for years without success then turned to a fertility specialist for rigorous testing, prodding, poking and emotional turmoil.  I wanted a child of my own so badly it consumed my thoughts every waking moment and haunted my dreams every single night.  I would cry out to God every day praying for our miracle child.  Finally after 5 rounds of IUI I had had enough.  I was so distraught; after having stimulated my body to produce eight eggs on our last round of IUI and not conceiving - I knew it was time to get off the roller coaster of disappointment.  After a short but emotional discussion my husband and I decided that we would pursue adoption.

In Jan of 2005 we went to a seminar at a christian adoption agency and were very dawn to China.  It took us almost 6 months but we compiled all the paperwork for our dossier and submitted it to the Chinese consulate.  Our agency told us that it should be anywhere from 3 to 6 months until we got a referral.  (A referral is when the Chinese consulate approves your application and chooses a child for you then sends you the picture and any background and health information they may have and shortly after you board a plane to China.)  We were extremely excited, this was it  - finally our baby is was coming, a precious little China doll.  Three months passed, then six then a year then 18 months and we had to renew our paperwork.  No problem Jadyn Dawn (the name we picked for her) was worth the wait.  Two years and still no word.  By year three the summer Olympics came to China.  Suddenly our future with Jadyn Dawn was looking bleak.  The agency had been informed that those waiting for children would likely be waiting another five to seven years.  China decided that with the eyes of the world focused on their country they did not wish to be seen as the worlds largest exporter of girls, so the referral process had nearly come to a standstill.  We were crushed.  We quickly decided to pursue other options. 

On Thanksgiving of 2007 my husband and I were visiting his family in central Florida when I received call from my mom and dad.  It turns out that my Aunt and Uncle knew of a child, a little girl only 17months old that may soon be available for adoption.  Fast track almost exactly a year to the date later and she was officially our daughter.  Alysabeth Felice.  We call her Lexi.  But the story doesn't end there. 

They talk a lot about bonding when you're looking to adopt.  Frankly, I never for a second paid any attention. I figured this would never be an issue for us.  We wanted parenthood so bad and were offering a wonderful, and loving life for our child so when it came to bonding, no sweat!  And it was no sweat, Lexi bonded to both of us, especially myself, immediately!  But here's the problem, I couldn't handle it.  I couldn't seem to bond to her.  Suddenly my greatest fear had come to fruition, the fear that I couldn't love her.  I tried so hard.  I thought I could force the emotion, so I would hold her in my arms and rock her and sing to her, but it wasn't coming. 

Lexi like most two year olds was a very attention hungry child.  She wanted my attention every second of the day.  The problem was that I am a very independent person.  I had 12 years of marriage with no children.  I could come and go as I please.  I didn't have to put down what I was working on, leave an event early or work around someone else's schedule.  And now this little person relied on me for everything!  I wasn't willing to give up my selfish lifestyle so easily and that's where the struggle lied.  And the guilt was overwhelming.  I couldn't love her the way a normal mom should because I resented having to give myself up for her.  It was a vicious cycle of guilt.

This went on for close to two years.  When one day while at a playground everything changed.   I had assumed my usual position on a bench reading a book while Lexi played.  A short while later I looked up and couldn't find her anywhere.  I went crazy running around screaming her name to no avail.  I started to have a panic attack.  Other mom's ran up to help me look but we couldn't find her.  All of a sudden I spotted her coming back into the playground.  She had stepped away with another child to share his bike and I was so busy selfishly reading my book that I wasn't paying attention.  I ran to her and I held her so tight.  The fear of loosing my baby was overwhelming I cried hysterically as I clung to her small body.  How could I be so stupid and selfish?  How could I let her wander off?  I figured I was the worst mom ever.  Then it hit me.  I love this child so much I couldn't bear to lose her.  She was mine, really mine, and she loved me so much.  I couldn't grasp, till that moment, how much I loved her; I really loved her.  I thought I was emotionally stunted for so long, but here it was in that moment of complete terror, God showed me that I did love her. 

Slowly I began to make Lexi my priority, it took some time of letting go of my selfishness, but I can say that without a doubt she is my first priority. 
I was afraid I couldn't love her, but now I don't know how I could love her any more; my love for her is all consuming. 

"Thank you dear Father for teaching me to love my daughter with an all consuming love.  To sacrifice my needs, and wants for hers.  Lord, help my sisters who are afraid they can't love their adopted child to know, that they truly can and will."  AMEN!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Confession #10 - Girl I've Gotta Vent! I don't do Confrontations

Good girlfriends are the best and sometimes hard to find!  But when you do, they are priceless.  These are the gals ya' call up and cry, "Girl I've gotta vent!".  They're the ladies that you meet at Starbucks once a week for a chat, the ladies who's kids you set up play dates with so you can have a date with them too.  They're sometimes even the girl that lives far away that you can't go a week without a phone call to.  I love my girlfriends, and frankly I wouldn't want to do life without them.  But what do you do when a friend, a good friend hurts you over and over again?  Let me preface the rest of my confession by explaining that I don't consider myself a hypersensitive person.  Things do not easily bother me, but hurting people, hurt people and since most of us have hurts in our pasts then well, you know...

See, I've had issues with friends in my past; ladies that frankly aren't my friends any longer.  Why?  Because the constant pain these so-called "friendships" caused me was continual.  I think in some cases the friendship could have been salvaged, but unfortunately, I have a real problem coming clean with others when they hurt me.  I don't communicate well when someone does or says something unkind or judgemental.  I fail to be honest, because I don't know how to deal with confrontation and because I am afraid of hurting their feelings.  What ends up happening is that the issues build until I can't take it any longer and then either I blow or quietly bow out. 

I once confessed this to a new girlfriend of mine and it nearly scared her out of her pants.  She thought she was at risk to be sent packing.  I reassured her that was not the case with our friendship.  But recently I've been thinking about my issues with confrontation and have became nervous that if I were put in a position of continual pain and discomfort, that I might find myself doing it again; blowing up or sending someone packing.  I really need help to learn how to tell others how I feel without risking the friendship because I never want to loose any of my precious girlfriends again. 

I can easily forgive many small grievances, but built up over a long period of time, not so easy.  Then I worry, am I really forgiving or am I just suppressing my anger?  Hummm, maybe another blog topic.  Let's get back on track.  God's word is clear when you have an issue with someone you are to go to them to work it out.  I believe God's word is true and relevant to us today so He isn't just talking about a dispute over land or an animal, He's also talking about a gal pal that hurt your feelings.  I also know that God wants all sin brought to light because once we allow issues to fester they really start to stink!  But as women we can be really sensitive, and it requires a very gentle touch, one that I have yet to master. 

"Dear Lord, I need boldness covered in grace, mercy, and  most of all love in order to confront those who may hurt me.  Let me never find myself dismissing good people from my life again because I failed to deal with issues your way.  Teach my non-confrontational sisters to do the same, before us hurting people, hurt more people."  AMEN!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Confession #9 - I've had a BAD case of Stinkin' Thinkin'

It's that wonderful time again.  The time when everything anyone says me rubs me the wrong way.  You know what I'm talking about.  Sometimes even a simple hello can come across the wrong way.  (To add insult to injury I'm out of chocolate too!) Of course there's no one to blame, it's just a case of Stinkin' Thinkin'.  As Christians it's a major faux pas to carry around this kind of disease, but after all we are sinful humans and well it comes with the territory of our fallen world. 

In my short time as a Bible teacher, I've spoke on this topic twice, and I can tell you the steps to take to get rid of it.  But if you don't keep them up, you're bound to have a relapse.  I've been missing some of the steps in my daily routine so before I sat down to write this evening I took a bath in the Word.

One of the verses that I read is 1 Peter 4:11 "If anyone speaks he should do it as one speaking the very words of God."  But I think we can apply that to our thoughts too.  "If any one speaks thinks he should do it as one speaking thinking the very words of God."  After all thoughts are simply ourselves speaking to our minds.  So if I were thinking the thoughts of God would they sound like my thoughts did today?  No : (

Another verse that God directed me to is one of my favorites, Proverbs 4:20-25, "...pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words.  Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body.  Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.  Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you."  This verse tells me that I need to keep his word always on my mind, be careful of what I think and say and most importantly always keeping my focus on Him.  This seems difficult, but when you think about it, it really isn't.  Stay in God's word everyday.  Focus on Him and He will direct your mind.  Simple.  I know life gets in the way and sometimes people can be so darn annoying but our perspective much change if our minds are going to.  If I'm ever gonna be cured of this 'ol Stinkin' Thinkin', I've got to keep a Kingdom perspective. 

After I bathed in the Word, I thought I'd protect my mind with some prayer.  Talking it out with my Heavenly Daddy, and confessing my Stinkin' Thinkin' helps to protect my heart.  He already knows what I thought, but by recognizing my sin I'm taking ownership for my behavior and giving God control over it.  Giving God control is the ultimate protection.  We also need to be protecting our minds with the Armor of God each day.  Pray Ephesians 6:11, 14-18 "...the belt of truth buckled around your waist,...the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which  you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." 

The final step in my plan to send that Stinkin' Thinkin' packin' is praise.  Hebrew 13:15 reminds me to, "...continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that openly profess his name."  If music can soothe the savage beast then praise music can heal my Stinkin' Thinkin'.  I'm telling ya, I can't be a sour grape when I'm singing praises to God, it's just not possible. 

John 10:10 tells me, "I (the Lord) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  I'm putting Jesus' sacrifice to shame when I'm not living according to His plan and purpose for my life.  He DIED so I could have a full life, not so I could go around Stinkin' the place up. 

Wow that felt good, I'm feeling cleaner now, PRAISE THE LORD! 

"Dear Lord, thank you for giving me your word to bath my stinkin' mind in.  Thank you for your Holy protection, I praise you Heavenly Father for sending my precious Jesus to give me a life really worth living.  I pray that you touch the hearts of my sisters out there who may be feelin' stinky too.  Give them the desire to go through your wash cycle right now."  AMEN!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Confession #8 - Happily Ever After...Not so much

I'm a Disney fanatic.  I love the Princesses.  So beautiful, gentle, and kind.  Like most girls when I was young my fantasy was that I would grow up to meet my Prince Charming and of course we'd live happily ever after.  What woman doesn't want that?  Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, they were my hero's.  They had done it, they found their Prince.  Disney had me convinced that I would find mine too.  And I'm happy to say that I did meet my Prince Charming.  He was everything I wanted in a mate.  He was kind, loving, considerate.  He cared about my needs and worked hard to fulfill my wants.  He was romantic and of course charming.  And when we married the future was all ours to live happily ever after.  I still have a good marriage to a man I love, but happily ever after?  Not so much.

Disney let's get real and make a film about what life is like after marrying the Prince.  Can you picture it?  Snow White's stuck at home mopping the floors complaining to the Prince that the Dwarfs are constantly tracking mud through the castle when he does nothing to help.  She looks in the magic mirror and sobs, "Mirror, mirror on the wall just what happened to the fairest of them all?"  The mirror, boldly answers, "You had two kids and work tirelessly to keep up the castle, run a pie bakery, and a veterinarian practice caring for the forest animals.  And don't hate me when I say this, but you've let yourself go girl."  Cinderella, well she's put on quite a few pounds over the years and the glass slipper just don't fit as well.  Charming's traded in this dance shoes for bowling shoes and is out many nights with the guys.  Fairy godmother retired and isn't taking her calls.  Ariel lost her beautiful voice screaming at the kids all the time and now she sings like a screeching parrot while Eric's off fishing everyday.  And forget about the Beast, he never really changed a bit!  Let's face it there's only one happily ever after and marriage isn't it.

Our happily ever after ended shortly after our wedding there were family issues which put a hefty strain on our marriage.  Then some years later when money got tight and bills piled up; when we adopted a two year old never having been parents before; when our expectations were not being lived up to; when our needs weren't being met.  Our future seemed bleak and our marriage was in crisis!   But we made it.  We stuck it out.  How?  All I can tell you my friend is it was God.  If He hadn't proven His faithfulness in my life over and over again, I would still be relying on my husband to do it all.  A friend recently asked me how do you keep fighting for your marriage when you just don't feel in love anymore?
I'm not a professional counselor nor do I consider myself an expert by any means, but what I've learned is in marriage there are ebbs and flows of happiness.  You love your spouse but very few people who've been married for a while can honestly say they are "in love".  Being in love is a wonderful, exciting feeling.  But it's not realistic. 

One of my favorite movies is "Yours Mine and Ours"(not the remake but the original with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball).  There's a line from that film that rings true, "Life isn't a love in, it's the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and... ground round instead of roast beef.  And I'll tell you something else: it isn't going to a bed with a man that proves you're in love with him; it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts."

True love is facing the good, the bad, and the absolute disgusting without walking away.  It's complimenting him when you'd rather hit him over the head.  It's rubbing his back when you'd rather take a long hot shower.  It's forcing yourself to stay calm when all you want to do is scream at him because he's left the milk out of the fridge overnight; again!  It's supporting some of his parenting decisions you don't agree with.  And it's letting him have his "cave" time when you want to hash it out right then and there.  Basically it's sacrificing our "entitled" emotions and reactions for love actions.

I had to learn it the hard way.  It isn't easy and I struggle day by day fighting the urge to throw a shoe at him when he reprimands me like he does our six year old.  Instead I choose to forget what emotions I'm entitled to have, forget feeling like a victim, and I decide to love him instead.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I run over and throw my arms around him, I'm saying that I wait to talk to him about how it made me feel at a more appropriate time. 

So until the real happily ever after comes, our Lord Jesus' return and until Satan is thrown into the lake of fire, let's remember to forget living happily ever after start living in love not being "in love".

"Lord please continue to help me love my husband when he isn't so lovely.  Let me continually sacrifice my entitlements and be an example of your love.  And please teach my dear sisters to do the same."  AMEN!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Confession #7 - Forgiven but NOT Forgotten

As the saying goes, "Forgive and Forget"  That's what God does with our sin right?  The bible says, "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Isa 43:25  The Lord is forgiving of our sins as we are to be forgiving of others.  But does that mean that we should not remember it any longer? 

I can tell you that I have struggled with this.  Tossed and turned many nights over it.  Like everyone, I've had some difficult people in my life and difficult situations to forgive.  And I can say that God has worked forgiveness in my heart toward those who have wronged me, but the pain I have not forgotten.  My conclusion is, that the Lord wants me to remember.  The memory of pain reminds me to forgive.  For example when a parent instructs their child to stay away from a lit candle, but the child ignores the instruction and touches the flame anyway. The pain reminds the child not to put their hand over a flame again.  I believe it's the same for us. 
I have learned many lessons about the importance of forgiveness.  One in particular was a situation with my former best friend.  After she had met the man of her dreams our friendship radically began to change.  In my opinion her suitor was manipulative, and mentally abusive.  I watched as he slowly began to isolate her from her family and friends.  As she turned to me for advice it seemed things only got worse.  Her personality changed and issues were constantly rising which were never properly dealt with nor forgiven.  Unfortunately, this went on for four years.  Over this time I allowed the unforgiveness to evolve into hurt feelings, which soon became anger and bitterness, then finally culminating into utter rage.  The rage tore our friendship to shreds and in the end I said the most horrible, the most hurtful things I could think of and she turned her back on me.  I take full responsibility in the matter.  It took some time but I came to realize that much of the problem was that I kept tripping over my pride until I finally landed in the muck and mire of rage.  A rage that systematically destroyed a 28 year friendship.  I wasn't entirely to blame; the four years of hurts along with unforgiveness had carved bleeding scars onto my heart. 

God has taught me to forgive my friend and her now husband.  It was a long process of submitting to God and seeking his word for help. However, the scars remain as a reminder of how unforgiveness destroyed our friendship.  She's not seen my daughter grow, we have not taken part of the milestones in each others lives or been a shoulder to lean on for a long time.  I've missed talking to her, lunching and shopping with her.  I miss spending holidays with her.  I've reached out to her several times and I've asked for forgiveness, but it has never been granted.   That pain is fresh in my mind everyday and it reminds me to guard my heart and not to allow unforgiveness to rise up into bitterness, anger, and rage. 
I do realize that sometimes we must purge certain people from our lives because God does not want us living in a life of continual pain at the hands of others, however, the disease of sinful unforgiveness is not the way of eliminating people from our lives. 
My prayer is that we can learn to forgive others before we inflict a pain on our hearts that lasts a lifetime.
"Dear Heavenly Father, teach us all today to forgive those who have hurt us. Let us not allow the root of bitterness, anger and rage to take hold of our hearts and cause more damage to our lives. In Jesus precious name, AMEN!"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Confession # 6 - I'm not the girl I used to be

If I had to describe my high school experience in three words I would say that it was:

  • Confusing - trying to figure out who I was and where I was going without God in my life.
  • Depressing - Realizing that I couldn't be everything everyone else expected me to be.
  • Alone - Lot's of acquaintances but no true friends.

My Before
 Here's a picture of me from my sophomore year.  When I asked my husband what he saw in my picture his reply was an attractive and confident girl.  I may have had people fooled because of course I knew what was going on inside my heart that most people couldn't see.  I call this picture my "before".  I not only looked different but I was completely different.  When I see this picture I see a scared, shy, and lonely girl who lacked the knowledge of God.  She spent her days trying to people please and getting pretty much nowhere.  By my senior year, I was failing many of my subjects, I had to forfeit my presidency in the S.A.D.D. club and I was relatively well known but I didn't really have anyone I considered a friend.  I didn't like myself nor did I feel like there was anything worthwhile inside.  I battled with anorexia/bulimia, a fact I managed to keep from my family. I didn't experience real love and I pretty much gave up on myself. By my senior year I had a nervous breakdown in the middle of school and had to be referred for counseling.  At this point I had simply given up on my life.

Eventually God taught me to like the reflection I saw back in the mirror.  and to learn to love myself through His eyes.  It's taken a long time of meditating on God's word along with the Holy Spirit moving and teaching me to grasp and understand it's meaning.  The process has involved removing many idols like obsessing over my appearance, control issues, co-dependencies, insecurities, etc.  I had to start by investing in time with Jesus to strengthen my character and discover who He created me to be.  Some days I still struggle with liking myself, but the point is that I've come a long way because of my Lord and Savior.  Thank you Jesus! 

Whenever I would look at pictures of myself I would cringe.  But now I know that, "God created my inmost being; He knit me together in my mother's womb...I am fearfully and wonderfully made...I was woven together in the depths of the earth, and His eyes saw my unformed body, all my days were ordained by Him before one of them came to be."  Psalm 139:13-16. 

My After

God has done the same thing for each and every one of us.  He created us wonderfully.  Maybe your high school experience wasn't as bleak as mine, maybe you were blessed enough to grow up knowing Jesus, but there may still be things you see in your past or even your present that make you want to cringe.  Keep in mind, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  Philippians 1:6.

So here is my "after"; a Christian, a busy mom and wife, a business owner, and a teacher.  God has worked many miracles to get me to this place and although I am still a work in progress, I will never be able to thank Him enough!

Thank you Dear Lord for bringing me so far, and teaching me to see what you see when I look in the mirror. AMEN!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Confession #5 - I hate surprises!

 While on our honeymoon my husband and I went horseback riding.  Since that was about the 2nd time in my life that I had been on a horse, and since I'm a chunky girl, I wasn't too sure about this experience.  I'm am not necessarily an adventurous person by nature, normally I live vicariously through my more adventurous friends and family.  For example roller coasters are not my thing; the thought of dropping so that I can't feel the bottom of my stomach is not a fun one!  I suppose it's because I'm a control freak.  We'll get to that in another confession, but for now it's back to our regularly scheduled program - I hate surprises. 

As I was saying...I was not happy about getting on a horse.  All the other people got their horses before me; it seemed the guide had a special horse picked just for me.  The guide said in a strong cowboy accent, "Ma'am your horse is named Surprise."  Surprise?  I thought, "Why's he called Surprise?"  "As long as you don't kick him you won't find out", he replied.  I didn't like the thought of riding on Surprise.  But seeing as I wasn't planning on kicking him, I trepidatiously mounted Surprise and we began our journey through the foothills just outside Las Vegas, NV.

It was nice. I thought this is great, even tho Surprise was the slowest horse on the trail, and most of my view was of all the other horses behinds we were managing.  I was snapping pictures and having fun when I thought it'd be nice if I talk to him, "Surprise, you're such a good horse,  nice horsey, you like going for a walk?"  I was petting him and he seemed to like it.  But my interest in Surprise took my focus off staying on the trail and the horse was now meandoring through thorny brush pausing to chomp on the corse clumbs of grass.  With noone in sight I was getting scared.  Have I mentioned I'm a city slicker?  To complicate matters I had not realized that Surprise and I had been climbing uphill.  It became clear when I looked down and saw the rest of my group about 3 feet below off in a distance.  I freaked out. How was I going to get this horse turned around back down the hill and meet up with every one else?  Recalling the short training we got at the start of our tour, I lifted the reigns and and jerked to the right with a small kick to the hind area.  Surprise! He didn't move.  With the others getting farther and farther in the distance, I tried it again, slightly harder.  Nothing.  I figured I could reason with him.  "Come on Surprise, I'll give you a sugar cube when we get back."  Nope.  I tried it again, only harder. He didn't so much as blink. "LET'S GO!" I yelled and kicked him hard.  To my surprise, I could barley hang on as the horse bucked back and charged forward off that cliff.  I screamed at the top of my lungs, "STOP, STOP!!!" and pulled back the reigns but Surprise didn't pay me any attention.  My poor chunky body was bobbing up and down vigorously.  Screaming the whole way, "HELP ME I CAN'T STOP HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!".  I prayed, I cursed, and I wished I had worn the support bra I'd packed. Surprised raced past the group and didn't stop until we got back to the ranch.  I should never have promised him the darn sugar cube!

Back of the pack

That was in 1996 and I haven't been on a horse since.  However, Surprise taught me an important lesson that day, he taught me that I hate surprises!  The unfortunate part is that life is full of them.  Some good, some not so good.  I know God has a sense of humor because He would not have sent some of the surprises I've had. And while He knows that I'm not adventurous, He keeps pushing me beyond my fears and reservations to go the distance for Him.  And when I'm resistant, He sends horses like Surprise to get me going.  My prayer today is that I can learn to embrace the surprises that God has in store for me with a willing and humble heart and even thank him for even some "bad" surprises because they might just be a blessing in disguise.  It reminds me of Job who I'd guess was probably very surprised when in one fell swoop lost his children, his fortune, and his health.  Surprise Job!  Even Job's wife told him to curse God and die, but Job chose to stick by his faith, "...and God blessed the latter part of his life more than the first." Job 42:12.

"Lord help me to embrace the surprises you have in store for me with a grateful heart.  Let me see the treasure in my trails, let me face my fears and be bold for you all the time."  AMEN

Friday, July 20, 2012

Confession #4 - I want to Get Away...

The Lenny Kravitz song I want to Get Away is repeating over and over in my head -

Wish that I could fly
Into the sky
So very high
Just like a dragonfly

I'd fly above the trees
Over the seas in all degrees
To anywhere I please

Oh I want to get away
I want to fly away
Yeah yeah yeah

As you can probably guess, I've had a stressful day.  My six year old has been extremely challenging and lately my relationship with my husband has been less than stellar.  It's days like this that I find myself trying to escape the pressures of home by filling my schedule full of obligations, yes I'll meet you for coffee, okay I'll help with that project, yes I'll come to the event, party etc...  I already teach a bible study one night a week, but the remainder of my nights and sometimes my weekends, I fill with other obligations.  I guess I'm hoping it's just until my headache is gone, my heart is right and the problem goes away.  Shameful isn't it?  I would rather be away from my family than to deal with the stress. 

Then some days frankly, I would love to just leave it all behind me.  God doesn't want me to run away from my problems.  I know He doesn't want me to quit.  And honestly, I would not run away from my family.  They are my responsibility, and although I do run from many challenges I don't entirely run from my responsibilities.  I know I'm not the only person who wished she could run from her problems, but that doesn't solve anything.  King David set a great example for us when we are deflated.  He prayed:

"Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
      Why are you crying the blues?
   Fix my eyes on God—
      soon I'll be praising again.
   He puts a smile on my face.
      He's my God." Psalm 43:5 (The MSG)

Lord, help me to be family focused and love and care for them as you have called me to.  Let me find new healthy ways to deal with my stress rather than run away.  Help me to be the woman you have created me to be.  Thank you for the gift of a husband and a child that love me and a home to come home to everyday.  Let me not take your blessings for granted.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Confession #3 - To be or not to be Humble - that is the question.

"To be or not to be Humble" - aka "You Got Served"

Recently I have been struggling with this issue of being humble enough to let others serve me.  Okay, I'll just say it, I don't know how to be served.  I can't seem to ever let anyone do anything for me.  I want to control it all, and although I'm ashamed to admit this, sometimes by taking it all on, I can play the martyr role.  But today this issue is weighing heavily on my heart - probably because I had a blowout on the highway yesterday and had to ask a friend for help to change the tire.  So how do I let others serve me without this intense feeling of obligation for repayment? 

Now that doesn't necessarily include family in my book because I was raised with the value that you do for family no matter what.  But I was also raised with the ideology that you never bring someones plate back empty.  Consequently I don't return people's plates too quickly because I like to cook or bake something to give back to the kind person who brought us something.  That train of thought has carried over to the obligation of giving back to those who have given to me as quickly as possible.  Now I'm not downing that notion, I just question, especially when you are in need, is this what God intended when He himself instructs us to be humble?  I'm not talking about a pay if forward kind of thing either.  Maybe I'm afraid of being labeled "a taker". 

The disciple Peter seemed to have a similar issue when Jesus was going to wash is feet.  Peter basically told the Lord no way, you're not going to wash my feet, I should be washing yours.  But when I think about it having this issue is kind of silly because I pray to God with all kinds of requests, and I have faith, which is the reasonable expectation that God will fulfill them if it's his will, therefore, I'm allowing my master to serve me each day.  He supplies all my needs, even many of my wants, and keeps me safe, but heaven forbid I should allow anyone to do something nice for me. 

For example, about a year or so ago my family was going through a financial crisis and a friend from church offered to bring us meals and groceries.  With a thankful heart, I told her I would let her know if I needed anything.  But you know inside I couldn't dare let her help me that way.  I'm pretty sure she could tell because she reminded me that by not allowing her to serve me I was preventing her from serving God.  I didn't get it.  Thanks but no thanks was pretty much my response.  God was trying to bless me, He knew I was in need.  What was I expecting manna to fall from heaven?  Well, because I didn't learn my lesson, God had another offer around the corner, "an offer I couldn't refuse" (Godfather reference).  

One afternoon finding nothing to eat in the fridge, I decided to take my daughter and a friend of mind to Chick-fil-a for lunch.  I wanted to repay my friend for all the free haircuts she was giving to me and my family.  After insisting several times that I would pay for her we placed our orders, when BAM!  My debit card was rejected.  To my utter shame and embarrassment the manager of the store said not to worry lunch was on them.  I wept right there during a busy lunch service at the counter.  As a blubbering idiot I could barley take my food tray back to the table.  God said, "HUMBLE YOURSELF", and I didn't listen so boy did I get a beautiful lesson that day.  When He wants to bless you, darn it, He's gonna bless you!  Then I realized that people are just a conduit of God's love, we need to accept the help when we need it.

See that ugly word pride gets in the way of being humble.  Humility is a complex word and has quite a few meanings.  It's not just about being modest,  respectful or low in rank, importance or status, it also means to have a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, and to be subservient.  That's it -  I don't want to feel insignificant, inferior or subservient.  Jesus did, he took on the very nature of a servant but he also allowed others to serve him. In John 12:3 we read, "Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair." 

Personally I love to serve others; it fills me with joy.  But Jesus taught us not only to give the gift of service but to receive it as well.  And when we are in need, God wants us to humble ourselves to accept the gift of service for it honors our heavenly father.  I'm working on clothing myself in this "new" cloak of humility. I recently read this quote, and forgive me because I do not remember who wrote it but it says, "Disciples must serve and be served because to resist service is to resist Christ.  And disciples must serve and be served, because humble service preaches Christ.  Disciples must serve and be served because Christ will not let us ignore our need."  My prayer is that we will all serve and be served to allow the fullness of Christ to dwell in us. AMEN!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Confession #2 - First "True" Confession

Angela and I at my Bridal Shower

Although, technically I was saved when I was about 5 or 6 years old, I didn't really start walking with the Lord until 1996.  It was the day after Christmas and I was having lunch with a friend mine, Angela, when she presented the gospel to me with God's plan of salvation.   I was concerned how this decision would effect my relationship with my husband and the rest of my family and so I politely declined the invitation.  Thankfully, she didn't not take no for an answer. 

As a not-so-religious Catholic with an Aunt who was a born again Christian, whom my family labeled a "Jesus Freak" and "Bible fanatic" I was afraid, that if I accepted Christ it would hurt my marriage and my relationship with my family.  My husband and I were still newlyweds and he didn't seem interested in anything that had to do with God.  Of course I had nothing to fear, God is soooo good, a year later the Lord brought Vince to Christ.  However, my fears were not so quickly put to rest with the remainder of my family.   Let's just put it this way  - I proudly come from a  long line of loving but opinionated, judgemental and extremely verbal Italian-Americans from Brooklyn, NY, enough said?  Fuggedaboutit! But I digress.  So I prayed with Angela my first "true" confession, that I couldn't live life without Christ and admitted that I'm a sinful person. 

The interesting thing about the timing of my spiritual conversion is that a few days before Christmas, December 23 to be exact, I had asked God for just that.  I remember it was nighttime and raining,  I was driving home from work exhausted from a particularly stressful job I had at the time, and I felt as if I was in utter despair (of course as a bit of a drama queen, it could have just been PMS).  Anyway, as it was nearly Christmas, a time when your supposed to be full of cheer and charity and all that kind of baloney, I was feeling alone, depressed and stressed (let's face it- I was feeling how most of us probably feel right before Christmas).  So I prayed in between my tears, "God, show me the true meaning of Christmas this year, let me understand your love, let me feel it and experience it in my life, please don't let me go another year without you."  Funny thing is - when God's love was presented to me, as you just read, because of fear, I rejected it.  That is until I remembered my prayer, that I had asked God for this, so as I reasoned I'd better not walk away from the opportunity.  And thank the Lord I didn't.  I wish I could tell you that at that very moment my life changed, my heart was full of love overflowing, I turned from a life of sin, and blah, blah, blah, but in Christian jargon a relationship with the Lord is called your walk with God because your conversion is a journey.  Your salvation is immediate, but the conversion is another story altogether.  It's been almost 16 years since then and I don't know for sure if, like my precious Aunt,  my family has a label for me, but the truth is I don't care.  You see, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes, Romans 1:16"

Maybe you're bit curious about what a relationship with Christ can mean for your life.  I'd be happy to recommend a resource for you to come to know God as your Lord and Savior today. 

I pray that God will bless you and the most sincerest thank you to my dear sister in Christ, Angela, who was willing to let God use you to add this "dirty" woman to the kingdom of heaven.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Confession # 1 - Why I'm Dirty....

Before you get all up in arms assuming that this is some pornographic symposium, let me explain.... I label myself "dirty" as a means of expressing the "imperfect/sinful" nature of my heart.  As a Christian woman the blood of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has made me clean, but my heart continues to sin or remain dirty until I bath in the Lords forgiveness through daily prayer in confession.  My God is transforming me more and more each day as I draw closer to Him.  My hope is that you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone in Christ; that transformation does not happen over night and that we sometimes  keep getting it wrong over and again before we learn to do it right. 

My name is Joanne I'm a forty-something year old living in South Florida.  My husband Vincent and I have been married going on seventeen years and we have a six year old daughter, Lexi.  In my professional life, my husband and I run a video production business and I also work part-time at my church.  But by far my passion is serving on the Women's Ministry team at my church and leading a weekly bible study for mom's.  I don't serve out of guilty obligation, but because the Lord has given me an absolute passion for ministering to the hearts of women and I consider it an extreme privilege to be able to serve God doing something I love.  It's also a privilege because in my "dirtiness" God still sees fit to use me.  I believe only God can take such a dirty, imperfect creature like me and use her to show His incredible beauty.  Praise the Lord!

So why blog?  So many times I fail. So many times I forget to say thank you, praise others for their hard work, and remind my family how much I love them.  So many days I become depressed, complacent, and defeated.  So many nights I have lacked faith and worried about out finances, our health, or livelihood.  I have sent people packing from my life that I couldn't forgive, I have failed to forgive myself many times too.  I judge others, and myself, and I rarely live up to the expectations I set up for myself.  It's this "dirty" that I will be confessing through blogging.  So if you spend your life feeling dirty join me in "confession" perhaps together we'll learn how to get it right. 

Proverbs 28:13
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.