Tuesday, June 5, 2018

In The Middle

I have been living in the middle.  I have been living in the waiting.  So basically, I’m in the season of waiting in the middle.  It is unsatisfying, frustrating, heart breaking, stressful, and it robs my rest.  Did you watch the series finale of The Middle?  My family has so many similarities to the Heck family.  I cried all the way through the finale and I probably only watched a handful of episodes when it was on.  I’m not sure why, perhaps it seemed like my life was in the show and I already knew the story.  I did watch the finale because I wanted a glimpse into how it all turned out.  I wanted to see the end.  That’s the thing isn’t it?  We always want to see the end, so we can get through the middle.  At the start we can’t wait to get to the middle because then we know we are almost there.
I have spoken recently to my best friend about how I’m unsatisfied with my performance in life.  I have a great life that I fully do not deserve, don’t get me wrong, I am well beyond blessed. She knows that as do I.  It is only that I am not sure that I have or that I am really contributing anything to the world at large. I’m not so sure I am a very good example to my children.  She said to me, “Maybe you need to reevaluate your definition of success.”  Maybe…
I told my husband this weekend that I feel like I’m always in the middle waiting.  Before we moved it was waiting for the house to sell so we could get on with our lives, now it’s waiting for a school to call and give me a job so I can feel like I’m making a difference somewhere in the world.  Always waiting for my kids to have confidence in themselves, for them to see themselves how they really are and not how they tell themselves they are or how some stupid kid saw them in high school.  Waiting for a friend to call, waiting for direction, waiting for a sign from God as to what my purpose and direction is supposed to be because here I am still waiting and wondering if my life has even mattered at all.  He asked me one question, “Have you been having trouble living in the moment?”  Have I?
I then happened upon a picture on Facebook that had a list of successful people and it said that they were all basically broke or had been fired or were working doing things they didn’t necessarily want to be doing when they were twenty-three.  Now they are all very successful and it said it was all going to be ok.  Well I’m not twenty-three anymore, so I asked the question, “Sure, but what were they doing at forty-five?”  My oldest daughter decided to look it up and see just where they were at forty-five.  The were all going to movie premiers and hosting award shows and the like and I was tempted to become quite discouraged all over again.
I’ve been listening to a few preachers online.  I’m trying to get over this negative track that likes to play in my head.  One preacher in particular was saying that we spend more time listening to ourselves and less time talking to ourselves.  It’s true.  I spend a lot of time listening to the ongoing playlist. “God would never use you, you are ridiculous.  God doesn’t even talk to you anymore.  When is the last time you wrote anything?”  “You are too old, you are too broken.”  “You are too sinful, What did you just say about that other driver?”  “Don’t you remember what you were told when you were a kid?  You are ugly and you will NEVER amount to anything!”  “Give up no one reads your writing anyway unless they are related to you.”  STOP!  The preacher said that we need to spend more time talking to ourselves.  We need to spend more time preaching to ourselves.  He also said that we talk ourselves out of what God has planned for us.   
Another time he did a sermon that we are in the middle.  Salvation means we are not what we once were, but we are not what we want to be.  He said that we need to look back to see how far we have come, that the expectation is that as we grow we get closer to Christ, but the thing is we stay in the middle.  When we start getting close He moves forward.  I take that to mean that the finish line keeps moving.  We need to recognize how far we have come but still be mindful of where we are going. 
I think I’ve figured it out now.  I’ve continued to keep looking forward at things that seem to take too long.  I see it as taking a step forward and two steps back.  I just keep forgetting to look back.  Oh sure, the saying don’t look back you don’t live there anymore is what you are thinking.  But here’s the thing, if you never look back to see how far you have gone you will not be able to appreciate the middle.  You won’t be able to see that He is in the middle too.  He isn’t just in the beginning to get your started on your journey and then he skips ahead and is waiting until we get to Heaven to ask us what took us so long.  I wasn’t until my daughter showed me where all those “successful” people were at forty-five that my ‘yeah but’ showed up. I have even listened to another preacher talk about the ‘yeah but’.  Weeks ago, I listened to this and I’ve listened to all of these messages more than once.  What can I say, apparently I’m a slow learner? 
My yeah but did arrive as I was reading where they were.  So here’s mine:  Sure I have not written any best sellers that have been made into movies, I haven’t hosted an award show, I haven’t landed a job that I had planned for myself, BUT by the age of forty-five I have had three children, two of which have already earned associate degrees and are working on their bachelor degrees.  I have managed to put food in their bellies and no one has ended up in the hospital due to my cooking.  I have lost my mother and fallen into the pit and fallen off my beam for far too long and by the grace of God gotten back on again.  I have had a miscarriage and while I miss having my number four I haven’t missed my children because of the loss of the one.  I have written and published two books that didn’t become New York Times best sellers but at least ten people that I am not related to have read them and one time someone left a review that said my book helped them to see God.  I have moved away from everything and everyone I ever knew and while two years later I haven’t got everything down pat here I have become braver than I ever was.  I’ve been uncomfortable.  I’ve met new people that I never would have met and I am eternally blessed to know them.  I have repeatedly show that when I get knocked down I can, with help, get back up again.  Why?  Because HE is in the middle.  HE is in the waiting. 













                                                                                                                                               

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Taking it Back in February

I am having trouble picturing her at sixty six.  It is hard to imagine.  She never looked old, just tired mostly.  She didn't get to be old.  Fifty two is far from old. She worked all the time so of course she looked tired.  On our evening walk this evening I asked my husband how he thought she would have aged.  We were discussing how a man will look at a woman's mother to see how she will age.  A woman could look to a man's father to see how he will age. I'm sorry that he has no reference point to see how this is going to go.  He isn't going to know how I'm going to look in my sixties or seventies, it'll be a surprise I suppose.

I have so many questions about her and for her. Would she have moved here with us?  Would she be shocked that not only I but her granddaughters drink coffee now?  Would she like a caramel macchiato? She drank black coffee but she loved sweets, so maybe? Are my curls something she would have liked?  Are they a family thing you get once you turn forty? Or am I just weird or lucky? Does she get birthday parties in heaven?  So much of who I am is because of her but also because of the loss of her.  I'm not sure if it is for the better or the worse.  Would she be proud or dismayed?  I think in retrospect even though I fell even after I met Jesus that night at the food of her bed, I did two years later have a better understanding of the love of God.  I still forget however, that that love applies to me as well.

I struggle in February just as I do in July.  Memories overtake me...feelings of loss and heartbreak creep in even when I don't realize what is happening really.  Every stress takes over my thoughts.  I lack focus.  I can't concentrate on anything or perhaps I concentrate on all the wrong things.  Worry over things I have no control and a feeling of helplessness and yes even hopelessness come into play.

As more questions swirl in my mind over even the most trivial of things like what it would be like to ride in a car with her at this age and look over at her and see strands of gray peaking through and if she would have nicknames for the kids.  If she would still bake, if she would still be watching Days of Our Lives and if so would she have a DVR because I'm not sure you can still get VHS tapes to record shows anymore. I wonder how a woman who has felt the presence of God at the foot of her mother's death bed not two feet from where she sat holding her hand and watching the lightening show out the window, a woman whose God told her when it was time for her mother to go home with him can still struggle with her faith...can still have doubts.  I wonder what kind of a woman she has to be.  How broken she must be to worry and be troubled knowing that her faith should be stronger and yet she still thinks she should be able to fix everything.  That if she could just be better, if she could just be stronger, she could help everyone and she could get it right.  Maybe make up for her wrongs, you know?  Maybe if she could just fix something for someone she could make up for the fact that she couldn't do anything about the fact that her mother died on her watch....because those are the thoughts that surround her, her mother won't be turning sixty-six tomorrow because she died and there wasn't anything she could do about it and she is heartbroken all over again. And why?  Why after nearly fourteen years does she still struggle?  Why does she still think she has to earn God's love to be worthy of it?

I take it back.  I think that's the heart of it really.  I get along ok mostly in the day to day of life.  I don't dwell, I stay in the moment.  I am happy in my life which I feel guilty about.  Mother always said I was so spoiled, that I got everything I ever wanted.  Not a fair assumption at all really considering my formative years were scarcely without trouble.  Tormented and abused by her husband and mostly ignored by my own father it is a wonder I turned out by most accounts to be as well rounded as I did.  But she is right I suppose, I did get my happily ever after.  I did get the family I always wanted.  God blessed me after my earlier suffering.

I, being the well rounded individual, who was in the presence of God, who has done bible study after bible study, can't let anything be released to God to handle because obviously he has more important things to do.  Who am I that he should be concerned with the fact that I'm worried about this or that or the other thing?  Who am I, the one who fell apart and withdrew after being in his presence, that I  should ask him to hold me and carry me through the trials of life?  I am but dust....made from dust and back to dust I will one day return.  So I pray and I ask God for his help and to sustain me and to be with me and my family and I pray for my extended family and friends and their families.  But then I take it back...because I really think that one or more of my friends needs Him more so I'll just take my stuff back.  I've got it.  I can take care of it.  Don't worry about me just take care of them.  I need them to be alright.  My stuff is so small in comparison. So what if I'm lonely with my girls off at college.  It's fine.  So what if I'm stress eating and my stomach hurts and my shoulder is hurting again and I pulled a white hair from my face and I'm sure that's just an early sign of things to come.  I'm forty five years old I'm a little old for abandonment issues to go alone with my trust issues and control issues.  God, really, please just let me take my stupid trivial crap and have some control because I need you to be somewhere else helping all my loved ones and beloved friends who really need you right now.  I take it back.

It's so heavy really, going through the motions.  Giving it away and taking it back.  I'd like to take back the take back.  I don't want it really.  I'd like to believe that God has the time and the desire to take care of me too.  After all maybe the real problem is that I forget who I am.  Or I don't realize yet who I am, which is scary too to tell you the truth.  The clock is ticking I'm running out of time to figure this out.  Mom made it to fifty two and I'm pushing forty six.  I'd like to see at least eighty five but I'm scared to wish it.  Scared to get my hopes up really.  Always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I called my best friends and asked her how you get the kind of faith that you can just turn it all over and not think about it and not worry about it anymore. She said it is a daily thing.  So Thursday I woke up and I looked around me and realized how far we had come.  I thought about all of my worries about bills and how we'll manage everything and how I can't be there for all of my friends in person when they need me.  I also thought about the fact that we've been in a place like this before where I worried about the same types of things and God sustained us, that yes the bills are piling up right now but I have a roof over my head, I have food in my kitchen (that may be going bad in the fridge to be honest) and I have a soft mattress to sleep on at night and at the end of the day a bill, just like money, is just paper.  A temporary thing that at the end of the day doesn't mean a whole lot in comparison to other things like family and friends.  I decided to redirect and look at my blessings instead of my stressings (which isn't actually a word, it's stresses but it sounds better with blessings, amiright?)  One day at a time, like eating an elephant one bite at a time, I have to focus my thoughts and try and figure out who I am.  I am a child of the one true king, I was made in the image of God, He has promised to turn my ashes into beauty, he has plans for me to give me life and a future, he will never leave me or forsake me...even me.  My God is big enough to be with my friends and family that I worry so much about that I don't even have to tell him about them because he already knows. He is even big enough to be not only with them but with me and also with my mom up in heaven ready to have the most amazing birthday party with her tomorrow and every year into eternity because she isn't sick anymore, she is strong and beautiful and has amazing hair.  She hangs out with grandma and her sisters and her little brothers and they have no worry of the future because the future for them is now.

So today I am missing my mom and tomorrow I will miss her too but identifying your problem is the first step in recovery.  I will not be taking it back when I tell God my stresses anymore because I have been reminded of who I am (and who I am doesn't have time for it). I have been reminded of who my God is and lastly I have been reminded of where my mom is and that that is ok too.  It's just February, it's a short month and it is almost over and soon it will be March.  I will not let the enemy toy with me and lie to me in March even if my daughter will officially be the age I was when I married her dad.  It's not weird at all.  I know who I am now...even if I have trouble believing it.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Two Years of Believing God for More

This morning marks two years since we left our home in the Midwest we had lived in for sixteen years.  This morning marks, for some, the day we left everything and everyone we knew and just left them behind.  This morning marks for me, the day we dared to believe God for more.  Today marks the day we believed that as long as we were together and God was with us there wasn't anything we couldn't do, any place we couldn't go, any new experience we couldn't go through.  Sometimes leaving isn't about walking away but about walking toward something....more.  It's not about a place or a people not being enough but about a place or a people needing you more even if you don't realize it or know it at the time.  You see to me today doesn't mark the day we got into the cars and drove over a thousand miles away from our friends and family because we took all of them with us in our hearts.  No today marks the day when we got into the cars and drove the thousand miles or so to the place that God had set for us, to the place that God had things for us to do, the place God had people who needed to be part of our lives we never would have met if we had stayed.

Here's the thing I know about God, He doesn't need our permission to do the works He is going to do.  He isn't going to take a poll.  He isn't going to ask around to see if He has a good idea because his ideas are always for our good.  He doesn't even have to ask you, when you are the one being sent.  God will accomplish what He wants one way or another and you, having the gift or the curse (depending on how you choose to look at it) of free will, can get on board and head to the blessing or not.  I've been here for two years and I'm still not sure of the plan here.  You see, he didn't come to me and say, "OK Heather, here is what we're going to do.  You are going to go to this promised land in the south and you are going to get a job HERE, and you are going to meet THESE people, and you are going to do THESE things, and you are going to go to church HERE, and your kids are going to be blessed by this here."  No, I didn't have that kind of conversation.  He didn't come to me with charts and grafts and pictures.

In fact, when we arrived there was a moment as I stood inside my empty house and as I realized we were actually not going to automatically have friends and people we could count on that I thought, "Uh Oh what did we do?"  As we tried to find a Walmart and find an air mattress and a toaster and something to eat and we didn't know what road led where and how to get from point a to point b and everything was so foreign and unfamiliar that maybe this was a mistake, and I questioned what we were doing here, and I thought maybe I heard God wrong or maybe it wasn't even God who sent us or put the desire in our hearts to come here, especially as my son walked around and said, "Nope.  This is not going to work." Are you with me?  Have you ever had those thoughts about anything in your life?

Fear and confusion and isolation are not our story though.  If you were to take a snap shot at any point in our first year here you would find that picture, but that picture is not the story.  Our stress and our confusion is not our story it is a byproduct of our lack of belief in things we cannot see.  Our crying and our fear over things that we feel may not come are not our story, they are a byproduct of incapacity to believe God for who he says he is.  It is a byproduct of our lack of believing God for what he can do. Stay with me here because you need to hear this.  Someone needs to know this...even if I'm just reminding myself here.  If I gave up every time I had doubts, every time I couldn't see where things were leading, when I was sure that God had picked the wrong girl, that I knew I was unworthy, God should have killed me and taken me away when I was a teenager.  If he didn't want to do it then, He should have definitely taken me when my mother died and after I felt his presence at the foot of her bed and know he took her home himself and I fell into the pit after they lowered her into the ground anyway.  When I went from being surrounded by people to never feeling so alone and isolated in my life.  He should have taken me then. I'm not exactly sure of how much proof of God's existence you need when you've actually experienced feeling his presence in your own home but I did and I fell anyway. But that is a picture of my life it isn't the whole story.

Two years later my daughters have met people and made friends through school.  My son is making friends with the entire varsity basketball team and talks to more girls than guys on his phone.  I don't know whether to be scared or not by that.  Two years later and my husband comes home and talks about one of the guys at work and laughs.  Two years later and I am just as busy as I've ever been and I have adopted some of the kids I work with and have decided I don't care if they like it or not they are just our extra kids.  One gal at work calls me mom and shows me pictures of her son who she calls my grandson.  I've only ever seen him in pictures but he is so stinking cute I can hardly stand it.
Two years later a house is a house and anywhere we are together is home.  This place where we were lost and couldn't find the airport, where we went to a random Walmart and didn't know our way home in those first two days, we now drive all over.  We know our way around and if we leave to go somewhere to visit we know when we are getting close to home because this too has now become familiar.

Let me tell you something, this writing thing isn't familiar.  Some of you may or may not know that in school I didn't do a lot of reading.  In junior high and high school it was my best friend who read a lot of books and did some writing.  I preferred English to literature.  It was faster. I didn't have time to read books I was too busy reading people.  I was too busy looking at boys.  I was too busy trying to find anywhere I could go to get away from my home life because home was not where I wanted to be and if I had just picked up a book I could have escaped from the safety of my room with my door locked so the horrors of my house couldn't come and get me.  I didn't read in school aside from what I had to read.  I didn't go to college and study English and literature.  I didn't major in creative writing.  I didn't major in anything I've ever used.  My degrees are in Medical Assisting and Marketing and I couldn't market anything over and above a garage sale to save my life.  I didn't intend to write, I just talk a lot and found I had things to share that couldn't possibly be from me because I was a stay at home mom and I'm not exactly Chaucer over here.

My mom died and while I was in the pit God started talking to me and I found things to write about to find my blessings in the middle of my heartache.  I found humor in my daily life.  I found God had a message he wanted to share and I had to write it down because while I can talk to you one on one all day long whether I know you or you are just trying to check out my groceries I can't talk to a group of people and share what God is telling me.  I'm not even qualified to share it anyway.  I'm just a girl who has jumped from one pit to another and stayed at home and raised kids and doesn't hold the degrees or the education to share it anyway.  I didn't intend to become a writer (I'm not even sure if you could call me a writer except that I keep typing things out and here you are reading it.) but when I started writing I couldn't stop writing.  I couldn't not share what I felt needed to be shared.  I have two books and only about a thousand people read them and I only really thought that my best friend and my grandma were going to read them anyway.  They were a 'what if' experiment that I didn't know where God was going to go with it and I am still unsure where God is taking me on this journey anyway.  I don't have to know because if I know then I can see and then I can take credit and I can't take credit because I don't know what I'm doing to begin with.  I don't need to know the plan because if I know the plan I can say no and stay on my couch where it's safe, where it's home, and I never learn anything new.  If I know the plan then do I really have faith?  I have to have faith because I don't know why I started this writing thing to begin with.  I wanted to be a fashion designer.  I wanted to be a fashion buyer.  I wanted to do something in fashion because clothes and shoes I understand (or at least I did before the world went crazy), don't ask me to explain the ways of God to you, don't ask me to explain poetry to you, don't ask me to explain why Nicholas Sparks books always have a death or a sadness in them because I don't know.

Listen, we drove away two years ago and I may live a thousand miles away from everyone I ever knew but I know what is happening.  I know how God is working in our lives and in the lives of my friends.  I pray and I see God at work.  My best friend's mom just moved away from the home she lived in for well over forty years and yesterday I was told about how God showed her mom how this was the right place for her to be, closer to her daughter.  One of my other dear friends has a daughter who is battling a brain tumor and yesterday I was told that the doctor was pretty sure he got it all with the second surgery.  She still has a long road ahead but God is showing that this is only part of her story and I'm believing God that there is more for her.  I have other friends that have had a hard year.  Some things have worked out and some haven't but I'm praying for all of them.  My own daughters have had some struggles this year but sometimes we have to walk through the fire to get to the promise.  God doesn't leave you when things get hard, he gets to work and we have to get to work too.  I don't know what that looks like for you.  I don't know your story.  I just want to remind you that whatever you are going through isn't and doesn't have to be your story.  It's just a snapshot, a picture that is going into a larger picture.  Don't get stuck.  Put on your armor of faith and get to believing God has more.