Posted in family, Friends, Life Lessons, Love, Word

When the Unexpected Happens

Has your life ever come to an end punctuation that you weren’t quite expecting? Haven’t you been so sure of one thing, only to, at the turn of a phrase, been suddenly unsure, and ended your sentence with a question mark instead of an exclamation point?! (Okay – that’s the word nerd in me.)

More practical:
Have you ever gone home to what you thought was a solid marriage, but then had to pack your bags suddenly because you discovered your spouse was cheating or wanting out? Or have you ever had an unexpected Cancer diagnosis? Or have you ever gone to work carefree one morning only to find out your job was suddenly ending? Or been in the car talking about dinner one minute and been hit by a deer the next and found yourself covered in glass and debris? That last one happened to one of my best friends this week. (Praise God she’s recovering well.)

I’m saying – there’s not much in life that is constant. At least not in mine. I feel like for the past 16 years I have been living in “what if” mode.

I’m constantly wondering what’s next.

But I’ve found some constants that keep me steady when things change suddenly.

  • Daily Bible reading
  • Worship music in my earbuds at work
  • Family time
  • Intentional time with friends

If I am not in the Word and constantly reminding myself that “God’s got this even when the unexpected happens,” then when the unexpected does happen, I return to my former ways of thinking. These include being slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger.

But the Word reminds me to “…understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”
James 1:19‭-‬20 CSB

And that, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love.”
Psalms 145:8 CSB

I want to be more like Him.

So I perked up when I came across Beth Moore’s quote from “The Faithful” Bible Study on Old Testament Heroes that says “When our old priorities don’t go with our new life, we either return to our old life or adopt new priorities.”

I love my new life. If you knew me before I surrendered to God, you know why. My old life was a mess. With Him life is not perfect, but the storms don’t shake me as much. And new friends and readers – if you read back over archived blogs about my life, you’ll find more storm damage than Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew combined.

In fact, it’s stormy season for me right now, but you probably have no idea – because I’m in the boat with the God who tames the winds and rains and waves. Like this:

“…and as they [Jesus’ disciples] were sailing he [Jesus] fell asleep. Then a fierce windstorm came down on the lake; they were being swamped and were in danger. They came and woke him up, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, asking one another, “Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the waves, and they obey him!”
Luke 8:23‭-‬25 CSB

In my old life I lived on my own time, with my own priorities, and on the little faith I thought I had (which was mostly self-centered.) In my new life I find that I need so much more Jesus than I think I do. Contrary to popular memes, I’m really NOT enough. In fact, I’m NOTHING without Jesus.

One final thought about new priorities that go with a new life: it’s so easy in this social media era to revisit our past and to “like” things just to be noticed. Please avoid this. If you’ve moved on to a new life, just move on.

And as we discussed in my Sunday morning group, “If that thought, lyric, or image put Jesus on the cross, (if it causes someone else to lust, or entices them to stumble, or is aimed at irritating them in some way) then it’s probably not worth liking, commenting, or posting.”

New life. New priorities. New year.

My word for 2019 is “MORE”.

What’s yours?

Posted in Life Lessons, Word

When Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety can run amuck.

It is real. Let the naysayers scoff, but its time we who have experienced anxiety have a real conversation about it. Not a scientific, abstract-observation-conclusion kinda talk. No! Just us – being real.

I’ve been in real physical pain lately. Recovering from an abdominal surgery is painful. It’s been unexpectedly difficult.

I’ve been in real emotional pain lately. Some of it caused by others. Some of it I caused by having unrealistic expectations that were unmet. Whatever the cause, my heart just hurts.

Because of this pain and being in bed for weeks, I have had anxiety attacks, nightmares, and the dreaded paranoia that often accompanies an anxiety attack.

Social Media

Through all of this, I post positive quotes and scriptures and poetry on social media, so there may be some of you scratching your head and thinking, but she’s always so positive. And you’d be correct. I am. But I’ll tell you this: I post for 2 reasons.

  1. Because I am the one who needs to remind myself to be positive.
  2. I know that if I need it, someone else probably does too.

What Anxiety Feels Like

Emotionally

  • Suddenly even a positive remark that someone makes about someone else leaves me feeling like maybe I didn’t do fill-in-the-blank well enough to deserve a similar accolade.
  • Suddenly someone’s silence feels personal to me and I begin to panic and think of all the things I may have said or nor not said to cause the silence.
  • Suddenly every emotion comes with both an exclamation point and a question mark.
  • I begin a laundry list of what’s wrong with me.
  • I begin a laundry list of what I need to do to make it right.

Physically

  • My heart races
  • My mouth gets dry
  • My thoughts bounce
  • I make bad decisions like texting dumb things, eating too much, spending too much
  • I get insomnia

How Do I Stop This Ride

I have a few go-tos for anxiety. Here is my “safety plan” for when anxiety strikes:

  • I write down what I’m afraid of.
  • I take that list and write down my feelings/opinions about whatever it is.
  • I take that list and write down the facts about whatever it is.
  • I pray about it.
  • I turn to my circle of friends for wisdom.
  • I discern what the truth is.
  • I act on the truth.

I began this post months ago and never posted it. For the past 2 days I’ve had the worst anxiety I’ve ever had. I went back to this “safety plan” and feel so much better this morning.

I hope this helps.

Posted in Love

Swipe Right? Dating in 2018

It’s increasingly difficult to be over 35 and dating. Swipe left? Swipe right? What IS this? We’ve been dumbed down to 1 second glances now?

Who’s your type? What’s your “sign”? What’s your idea of a good first date? Do you drink: Never, Often, or On Social Occasions?

Are these REALLY the first things we wanna know about each other?

Then, when you finally think…okay…eHarmony’s matching system says 100% on Exclusivity, Romance, AND Religious Values, and he sends you a smile and you’re past all the canned questions, and you finally get into a “message” session and his first real question is –

“Hey pretty, what are you wearing?”

You have GOT to be kidding me!

BLOCK!

Big sigh.

SERIOUSLY!?

Honestly, girl, you’re worth more than that. You don’t fit anyone’s mold. Psalm 139 says you were fearfully and wonderfully made. And seriously – there is no category for brilliant-word-nerd-with-a-heart-that-won’t-stop-giving + a Jesus-lovin’-momma-who-has-survived projectile-vomiting–from-a-1-year-old-AND-middle-school-sass-all-before-8-am-on-the-same-morning.

There’s just not.

You just don’t belong in a swipe-left world, nor at the bar hoping you get picked before last call, nor in any Instagram chat session that starts out: “Hey pretty, I like to know you better, please do you have any naked selfies?”

You’re worth way more.

The truth is – I have no big plan to reveal here. No secret to all this. Nothing. I don’t know why some of my friends have gotten divorced and remarried two years later and I’m on year 15 of still looking. I just don’t get it. But here’s what I do know:

I know my worth. I know what I will and won’t tolerate, and you should too. You do this by discovering who you are. As a Christian, I found out what I believe about Jesus and I attach my identity to him.

Therefore I will not tolerate nor participate in this swipe right dating world. I belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. Not some dude’s selfish version of it.

I won’t subject myself to bad dates (ask me about the time I was on a date and started choking at the restaurant and my date pulled his water close to his chest and refused to let me have it, even as I turned red and tears streamed down my face from trying to catch a breath). Yep – I win on the worst date.

I’ve also had good dates that just didn’t work out. You’re looking for the one for you. There ARE great men out there.

I have no solutions other than to know your worth and wait for the one who treats you like you’re special. And don’t give up.

Just a note on narrowing down your choices: the one you ultimately choose is not just your head of household, he is also your children’s head of household. Moms, ask yourself before you date anyone: would I let my daughter date him?

I do have one request: Whether you’re married or single, if you know someone over 35 who is in this dating cycle – please stick close to them. Sisters – we need each other. Friday and Saturday nights are hard for all the single ladies. We need prayer. We need to have good, clean fun, and we need to support each other.

My challenge to my single sisters – uninstall that dating app and come to Karaoke with me on Saturday night or find some friends to hang with. Your heart will thank you for it.

Posted in Life Lessons, Word

Startled – What is This?

What is This?

You’re sitting there, tears falling over freshly dried tears, wondering how on earth you got to this place. Whatever your this is, it feels like hell. It feels like nothing is ever going to be right again. Maybe you’ve done everything right. Maybe you’ve done everything wrong. I’ve been on both sides of the right or the wrong of the “this.”

Whatever happened, this was nowhere in the original plan. Whatever happened, you’ve been finally, fully startled awake.

My THIS List:

Here is my lifetime “this” list (so far):

  • Divorce
  • Sexual assault
  • Financial ruin
  • Being cheated on
  • Being deceived
  • Deceiving others
  • Facing Cancer
  • Losing a job
  • Losing family members
  • Almost losing a child to suicide
  • Losing a ministry
  • Being in an abusive relationship

That’s the short list.

Moving Forward

I was talking with a friend recently and he gave me some amazing advice that I want to pass along.

  • People change only when there are no more options.
  • Start forgiving right now so you can start to heal. Don’t wait.
  • Move on.

My Dad always taught me that I need to:

  • “face reality squarely,” (Job 38)
  • “live a life that pleases God,” (Colossians 1:10), and
  • “separate the precious from the worthless.” (Jeremiah 15:19)

So I’m suggesting that right this minute you should begin to sift through the rubble, call it what it is – rubble, own your part in what happened, retrieve the precious, and walk away from the worthless.

I’ve learned by experience (mostly by falling on my face) that the Lord really does work all things for my good because he has called me according to his purpose and I’ve tried to live my life with a “yes, Lord” posture. (Romans 8:28)

Sift. Separate. Own your part. Pray. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Do it quickly. Ask God “what’s next?”. Move forward.

This, too, really shall pass. But you’ve got to get up out of the rubble.

And if you need to talk, my ears are always open and I’m always up for some good conversation over a skinny vanilla latte.

Posted in Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word

Don’t Read This Blog, Please

It would make good sense for me to begin a book on navigating life post-divorce with the story of my ex-husband’s infidelity. That’s where divorce began for me.

But how could I possibly write such a book without first telling you that I, myself have been the “other woman” – twice? I must begin this way because you need to know something:

  • I am, by nature, absolutely sinful.
  • I am, by God’s amazing grace, absolutely forgiven.
  • No matter where you are on either side of sin (wrong-doer or the one wronged), forgiveness is absolutely possible.

So let me back up and set the scene.

Broken Lives

In July 2011, I had just broken off a long-distance relationship with a man who I found out was married. That was the first time I had been the “other woman.” I honestly had no clue on that one. None. It broke my heart, but this is not the story I am writing about today.

In Fall 2011, I started my second year in graduate school. I was raising 3 kids, ages 4, 11, and 15 as a single parent. I was teaching two undergraduate courses at the university and taking 3 graduate courses at the same university. I was also taking an intensive course outside the university on prayer ministry. That’s a full load all the way across the board.

It was at the prayer ministry course where I began talking to a guy in the class. We became friends. He said he was separated from his wife. This is where I should have exited. Quickly. But I did not.

I’m going to call something out here for those who are trying to justify a relationship (as I was back then):

Separated is still married. 

We began talking outside of class via text. A lot. Then it came out in the class that he was actually not separated, he was married and having marital problems.

This, my friends, is where I definitely should have exited. Once again – I did not.

We met outside of class once. Still just talking, but it was definitely inappropriate. When my phone began blowing up with him sending me vulgar content that I will not share here, I needed to stop it. Immediately.

So I stopped it. I called the leader of the group and talked to him about it. I was sure that everything would stop and I could ask God for forgiveness and just move on with my life.

Not so much. The leader of the group called this guy and then he told his wife because he was afraid she would find out. That night I unexpectedly found myself on the wrong end of a tagged social media comment that the wife posted calling out my sin for all the world.

And folks…hear me… That’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I was mortified. Humiliated. What are some other words synonymous with publicly shamed? Whatever they are – they described me right then.

I remember I had pneumonia that day. My major paper was not accepted by the chair of the department. I was kicked out of the ministry class. My life became a heap of smoldering rubbish all around me.

Later that week I was wrongfully accused of making passes at two more men in my circle of friends. Though those were totally untrue, I can see where other people would look at me based on my actions in one situation and think the worst of me.

Over the course of the two-week emotional affair, I had lied to some of the people I loved dearly in the process of trying to hide my sin, and I had to try to fix those relationships. I still wonder as I’m writing this 7 years later if those relationships will ever be the same. My heart is afraid they won’t. I had completely ruined my reputation in those circles. But worst of all was – I had broken a wife’s heart. And I knew how that felt because it had happened to me. I just couldn’t believe that I was on the other side of this looking in.

Faithful in Prayer

I spent the next year in counseling and prayer with a dear friend. Friend, you know who you are – God used you to completely turn my life around. I am forever grateful.

I began praying for the woman I had hurt. My heart became tormented because I knew just what she was going through. I knew what I had done to her heart and I started asking those who knew the situation: How is she? How can I pray? Is there anything I can do? I just kept hearing how her heart was broken. How hurt she was. How she’s now raising kids alone. And I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t forgive myself. There was no way.

I began praying Psalm 51. If you’re where I was, may I suggest you begin there?

So my prayer also became, “Lord, please let me be useful in her healing. Somehow. Please?”

That’s when I began to learn about something called restitution. It’s a term I’d read in the Old Testament in my Bible long ago. You know – in the rules section about cattle and horses and property. Hidden in there are some great lessons on forgiveness. I picked out an example that seems relevant enough since I was effectively grazing in someone else’s field.

If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard. ~Exodus 22:5

Restitution means restoring what is lost or stolen to its owner.

Lord, how do I restore her heart?

Then one day over a year later, I got an email saying this woman wanted to exchange contact info with me. When we got on the phone we talked for four hours straight. We cried and laughed and prayed.

I told her that she was amazing and lovable and that she did not deserve to be treated the way she had been treated. I told her everything that I wished someone would have told me back when I was on her side of things.

And something amazing happened: when she chose to forgive me, both of our hearts began to heal.

As for restitution, I had some information that was useful in her divorce proceedings, so I gave a testimony during her divorce deposition. It was one of the hardest, scariest moments to literally sit in front of lawyers and recording devices and talk about all of the wrongs I’d done and be called all kinds of nasty things.

It did not heal her marriage or her heart, but it began the process of restoring her life back to her so that she could move on.

To this day  – seven years later – we are friends. In fact, I messaged her just before writing and asked if I had her permission to write our story. She said, “Of course you have my permission.”

Here are 3 quick points I want to make about forgiveness:

  1. This is my story, meant to let you know that forgiveness can be accomplished.
  2. Forgiveness does NOT always mean you become friends in the end or that a relationship has to continue. I’ve had to forgive and let go of people lately, but that’s for a different blog.
  3. If it is in your power to make restitution and it won’t cause further damage to someone, you should do it even if it’s scary – it will absolutely change your life – and theirs.

If you struggle with forgiveness, please message me privately and we can discuss, but I’m going to recommend that you also find a good pastor or counselor to talk to. And I’m going to point you to the author and perfector of forgiveness – my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He decided that he loved me so much that he died for the sins I’ve written about here. I don’t have a clue why someone would love me this much, but he died a horrifying death to prove his love for me – of all people.

So – yes, I’ll point you to him. Because no one else ever died for me.

And I am forever changed.

Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

Posted in Life Lessons

Just Get in the Game

Yesterday my son taught me yet another valuable lesson.

We were sitting quietly on a hill yesterday afternoon waiting for the fireworks to begin. Just the two of us. Out of the blue he said, “Mom, next time lets bring a football.” I’d been lost somewhere in my own thoughts and this brought me back to reality.

A football. Yes. Next time son.

Then I sat up and pointed to a group of boys his age tossing a football around. I encouraged him to join them. He hesitated at first, pondered the situation, then said, “Yeah – okay, I think I will.”

Anything athletic for him brings with it anxiety. He was born with a coordination disorder called Dyspraxia. It leaves him a beat behind the rest of the boys. But within the first five minutes of a guy showing him throwing techniques, he was throwing a spiral with the rest of them. I’ll admit to a Momma tear as I watched from my blanket on the hill. Okay, maybe two.

Today I recorded a radio interview with some good friends of mine. I was giving my testimony. I feel so much passion about speaking to single moms. But speaking to a broad audience brings me anxiety, whereas I’m better mentoring someone one-on-one. I tend to get my words mixed up. It’s odd how the thoughts in my head when I’m writing are crystal clear, fluid, and on point. But when I open my mouth to speak, I feel like I’ve got nothing to say that anyone would want to hear, and it casues me to second-guess every single word I say. It all just comes out wrong.

I came home from the radio interview a bit discouraged.

As we were making dinner, I asked my son what it was inside of him that gave him courage to go play with those boys yesterday. He said this:

“I just remembered that when I was in 1st grade it was fun to play. No one made fun of me. It was just fun. And I wanted to get into the game and have fun.”

So there you have it.

I just need to remember to do things in life for the fun of it.

My anxieties would lessen if I’d quit worrying about my precision with and my execution of things (speaking, working, pursuing my passions, etc.) and just start enjoying each moment. So what if I don’t throw a perfect spiral the first time. At least I’m enjoying the game.

Life is short. Have fun. Be present.

Posted in Life Lessons

Staying the Course

This blog is about how my son taught me a valuable lesson. Stick with this one to the end.

But first, if you’re keeping up, this was my first week back at work post-hysterectomy. It’s been 6 weeks since surgery and I’m getting better gradually. My strength is far from where it needs to be. My incision isn’t healing well, but my spirits are up (well, except for today).

I struggled today. I quietly wrestle with feelings of unworthiness, being picked last, being unlovable. Today I struggled harder than usual.

I sat in the back of Gavin’s Vacation Bible School closing service tonight and cried. I’ll save the details about why for my personal journal. I just couldn’t stop. (I cried so much tonight I ripped one contact, ruined the other, and gave myself a full-on migraine. I had to switch to glasses for the drive home.)

Anyway, as I’m sitting there, the messages I kept hearing in the service were all about the Bible story of a shepherd who had 100 sheep and lost one, so he left the 99 to go find the one he lost. It’s a powerful story that illustrates how God loves us. The VBS theme was Game On – so we watched videos of kids struggling through being picked last for teams. Kids who lacked the ability for sports, but wanted to belong.

Do you see how my struggles (self-worth, feeling unloveable, being picked last) + these videos and messages were NOT helping me try to hide that I was crying? No – I just cried more.

So rah rah – VBS pep rally is over, outside for popcorn, bouncy water slides and obstacle courses.

While I struggled with torn contacts, Gavin went down the waterslide a couple of times. He was in 10-year-old bliss. And then came the obstacle course bounce house. Before I know it he’s through the first hole, up and over the next obstacle, and he began to climb. He got to the top and stopped (see his pic above), as kid after kid flew past him over the top and down the other side. But not Gavin. He’s stuck. I see the panic starting. I hear the kids taunting: “Hurry up. Let’s go already.” As they easily move around him and climb over the top.

I know what’s in his mind – fear.

Here’s what’s going on in his body: Gavin has a Developmental Coordination Disorder called Dyspraxia. His brain doesn’t send his muscles the right signals at the right time. He struggles with balance, strength, and coordination. But not willpower.

This means that while every other kid flies through the course, he’s trying 50 times harder and making 50% less progress.

After a long struggle, he looked at me, said: “I’m not gonna make it,” climbed down, and reversed himself all the way back out of the course.

When he got to me, he hugged me and said: “let’s go home.”

Now – I’m not a man, but I know when a man needs a man to talk to, so I found one in the form of my dear friend Pastor Lucas Pinckard.

He took Gavin aside and talked to him. I’m not sure what they said, I stepped out so they could talk. What matters here is this:

  • News Flash for single moms (boy moms especially): you’re not a man. Surround yourself with men of character who will mentor your son.
  • When you’re in a situation where everyone else is getting ahead and you feel powerless, find someone to talk to before you go home with your head down.
  • Try again.

See, because what happened next spoke volumes to my heart:

He went back and COMPLETED the obstacle course. He did the dang thing. He got to the end and said – “NOW we can go home.”

On the drive home I thought back over my day and the unforseen moment that made me cry for hours.

It wasn’t that anything had changed, not really. It’s just..I had climbed through some pretty scary obstacles lately, I found myself at the top of things today, felt amazing and like I was about to make it over, and suddenly, realized I may not make it over after all. I got discouraged. It felt like a punch to my soul. I could hear the voices in my head taunting: “She’ll always be prettier. You’re just not marriage material. Why do you even try anymore? Who would want YOU, anyway? Just face reality – you’re always gonna be alone.”

I know what’s in my mind – fear.

I also know what kind of God I serve and what he has promised me. And I’m still gonna stand on his promise.

But if you’ll excuse me, I just need a moment. I need to regroup and refocus. I’ll be calling my girlfriends for coffee this week. Be ready ladies.

But mark my words – I’m gonna conquer that course.

Because I AM good enough. Because I AM pretty enough. But mostly because I know what God promised – and he always keeps his word.

Thank you, Pastor Lucas and the VBS team at First Baptist Church in Lake Dallas.

I appreciate you.