Taking my place in the Pews

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘new’ Christians. People who’ve just decided to accept Jesus or maybe they haven’t accepted him yet but they are ‘trying on’ the Christian life. I have some good friends who have just begun attending church. In fact, they were previously pretty Anti-church. So now when they sit next to me, I’m keenly aware of all the nuances of the service. How church members relate to each other. The rituals and habits we have. It must seem so foreign to them! I remember when it was foreign to me. The churchy language, the small groups, full immersion baptism. Oh man , THAT one used to freak me out! (I worked hard on my hair and makeup and you want to ruin it? In public??) I’m also aware of the expectations that can sometimes accompany church membership.

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One of the things I dearly want for my friends is not to confuse who they are to the church with who they are to God.

I  started attending church again regularly after a lengthy almost  two decades  hiatus during which I royally screwed up life (another many stories for another time) I was happy to be there but I felt like such an outsider. It was like being the new kid in middle school and all the other kids had been friends since they were in Kindergarten. Fortunately, the congregation was incredibly friendly and welcoming. Plus they served snacks after service. Bonus! They drew me into their tribe, their culture, their lives, their conversations. It was amazing! I couldn’t get enough. After 14 years in my  2nd abusive marriage (no judging) my self esteem was next to nothing and I didn’t feel like I had anything of value to offer other than my hairstyling skills. But these people-they seemed to love ME and that’s what I so desperately needed. So, in true over achiever fashion I jumped right in to everything they had to offer. And there was a lot!! I did women’s ministry. I did Bible studies. I attended conferences. I helped with and planned events, dinners, children’s ministry puppet shows. You name it, I said YES. Heck , I even went to Bible college and graduated Valedictorian! I drank ALL the Kool Aid! I was killing this Christian thing!! And for a while it felt awesome! I was accepted. I was praised. I was wanted. I was appreciated.

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When I was at my lowest God knew what I needed and He generously supplied.However, while I was moving up in church leadership I began to realize that something was off. My church family seemed more interested in what I was producing rather than what I was becoming. I was a major player. One of the ‘special’ ones. I also felt tired, judged, confused, stretched thin, and vaguely empty.

I began to realize that I wasn’t doing all this for God. I was more concerned with what people would think of me if I Didn’t do #allthethings  all the time. Ashamedly,  I also realized that I was addicted to the accolades that I got from being ‘one of the chosen’ who sat at the front of the church. Or being one of the few that attended the inner circle meetings of church hierarchy. I’d become one of the cool kids and I liked it. It made me feel special. Somewhere along the line I’d gotten it wrong. I’d come back to church and to Jesus because he accepted and loved  ME.  Not because of Anything that I did. He loved me when I wasn’t doing anything ‘special’. I didn’t want to have to do all the right things to be accepted anymore. Jesus had only one qualification for me to follow him and that is that I am totally Unqualified.

My marriage(s)  had left me with the wound of ‘ never good enough’. Even though I thought I’d left that at the door, all I did was bring it with me and put a Sunday suit on it. I’d moved my hamster wheel of worthiness from home to church. I’d spent years and years trying to become whatever people wanted me to be so that I’d be valuable to them. Constantly trying to figure out what they wanted from me.

What I didn’t understand was that all God wanted from me was– Me.giphy (1).gif

 

Because God likes to mess with my comfort zones, He led us away from that particular church and all the activities I’d put in His place. He removed my protective Armor of Productivity and put me on a ‘Busyness Time Out’.  I no longer had my committees and bible studies and women’s groups to take up my time. In the absence of movement there was only me…..and God. And you know what I began to realize? I didn’t need all the busy work. Not once. Not one single time did I feel any less loved for not ‘producing’ . In fact, I felt peaceful and comforted and accepted again. As I spent my time with God and reading His word it slowly dawned on me that He just wants me to love Him. Trust Him. Love others. Be kind. It doesn’t matter if I do that for 300 people or just the guy bagging my groceries.  I don’t need to do something that looks Big and Amazing to people. To God the smallest gestures of love ARE big and amazing. He knows that my giving of love produces far more results than anything else.

So, if you want to find me at church don’t go looking where the volunteers are. That may come at another season of my life again; but not now. For now, you can find me sitting in the aisles next to my newbie church friends and just being with them.

A Declined Invitation

Have you ever had someone turn down your invitation to join you for a party or an event? It stinks, doesn’t it? I mean, the whole point in asking them to come is because you want to be with them. You want to share the experience with them. Partake in the enjoyment of it together.

This happened to me last week. I sent an invite to someone I really wanted to spend time with. It wasn’t just that they declined, they didn’t even bother to respond.Initially. I gave them the benifit of the doubt thinking they must not have seen the invitation.We’ve all missed evites that got buried under the spam mail, right? So, when I saw them I asked, ‘hey, did you see my invitation? I didn’t want you to miss it!’ Yep….they’d seen it. Seen and Dismissed. Ouch! Not only did they not answer, but they couldn’t give me an explanation as to Why they didn’t want to attend. All I got was shrugged shoulders and a mumbled “Idunno’. Dannggggg ya’ll. I’m not going to lie, I was pissed. And hurt. RSVP

Issuing an invitation entails a certain degree of trust.

You trust that:

they will share your interest

they will make an effort to attend if possible

they will, at the very least, RSVP.

Here is the thing about Invitations though. They come with options.

Yes. No. Maybe.(like those notes we passed in elementary school)

Invitations don’t guarantee someone’s presence or participation. They are not commands bereft of  a choice. The invited are allowed to exercise free will.

And really isn’t this the way it should be? If I invite someone to be with me I want them to attend with the same enthusiasm that I invited them with. Attendance out of obligation is meaningless.

Issuing an invitation is an act of vulnerability. We put our hearts out with every invite by offering a piece of ourselves to the other person. We are saying ‘I want you. You matter to me and I want to share some of my time with you’. That’s why it hurts so much when we get declined.It doesn’t just feel like a negative response to the event it feels like a rejection of US.       expectation

So, as I was licking my wounds and being really ticked off, I started wondering how God would want me to respond. I was pretty sure that my initial reaction of being sullen and snarky wasn’t the proper way to handle it. It made me think of how many times He issues invitations to me that I decline. Or invitations I don’t even acknowledge. How many times does God beckon me to come spend time with Him? How many times has He asked me to do something with Him and I just hit delete without responding? The awesome thing about God not being me is that He never gets sullen and snarky about my lack of response. He just keeps inviting as if I never rejected Him. He’s far more secure in His worth than I am in mine.

In thinking of how God responds to me I came up with a few guidelines for me to remember when my invitations get rejected:

A negative response does not determine my worth or value.It’s never personal When I say no to God it doesn’t mean I don’t love Him. My response is solely based on what I’m feeling or focusing on at the moment. Yes, I know that’s selfish. Don’t judge me.

My joy is not based on their presence or absence. I have expectations of people and when they aren’t met I get hurt and disappointed and sad. I don’t think God has these unrealistic expectations of us. He wants us to decide to be with Him. I believe He’s delighted for US when we choose to accept His invitation but I don’t think it ruins His day when we don’t.

I can’t control what people will say Yes to or when.I can only hope they will. And they will, when the time is right for them. I say ‘yes’ to God when I’m ready. He doesn’t try to control my decision, He just keeps issuing the invitation. No pressure. No expectations. Just patient and continual offering. He doesn’t give up on me because I initially reject His offer. He knows that being with Him is awesome!  (that is some amazing self esteem) The ones who think that being with me is awesome will accept my invitation. The ones that keep ignoring it…well they’re going to miss out but it’s no longer going to ruin my day.god pursues

I’ll be honest. Even with this insight my feelings are still bruised. Except now instead of being a deep purplish one it’s turning into a pale yellow one. A few more days and I should be healed. Maybe next time I’ll dodge the blow altogether.

 

 

 

Jesus and the Phone Charger

As Easter approaches my 10yr old son and I have had some interesting discussions about Jesus. He is a quick thinking, no nonsense type of child who appreciates a no nonsense, ‘real world application’ answer.Luckily, I happen to be fairly gifted in the area of metaphors.
His most recent question was this, ” What do we need Jesus for if we already have God?” “Well”, I answered, we needed someone to reconcile us with God; to take our sins away so that….” Looking at the blank stare on his face my sentence trailed off unfinished. I’m pretty sure I lost him somewhere around ‘reconcile’. Eager to capture this teachable moment I quickly rifled through my rolodex of Sunday school explanations. Spying my phone I had my lightbulb moment!
“Okay, pretend the cell phone is us and the wall plug is God. You know how you have to have a cord to get from the phone to the wall so that you can charge it? The cord is Jesus. In order for us to be connected with God, we needed a charger. Now, imagine that the phone has a glitch in it, but the Jesus charger takes all the glitches away so that it can absorb the power in the wall. At this point there is a light coming into my son’s eyes and he’s no longer playing with the remote. Ha! I’ve got him! So I continue.
“And you know how when we buy the cheap imitation chargers they break easily and take For Ev Er to charge the phone? But the original charger works every time and never fails? The cheap imitation chargers are like all the things in life that people chase instead of Jesus. Money, fame, false religions, girlfriends, cars…those are the imitation chargers and Jesus is the original. The imitations work ok for a while, but their power runs out pretty quickly and they can’t fix the glitches. In fact , sometimes they add more glitches because they weren’t meant for the phones in the first place. The original Jesus charger never lets us down, fixes the bugs and keeps us connected to the original power source; God.Does that make more sense?”Mentally I am now high fiving myself for this moment of parental brilliance amazed I could come up with something so simple yet so deep at 8pm after my glass of Sav Blanc.
Son,” Cool. Can I have a snack?”
And this, my friends, is what keeps me humble.

                                                    A Certain Kind of Courage

Courage is found in unlikely places;

in shattered dreams and tear stained faces.

Raising your hand in front of the class when you’re so afraid they are going to laugh.

Proclaiming the truth and exposing the lie.

Whispering secrets you’d locked inside.

Choosing to live when your loved one is dead and finding the will to get out of bed.

It’s seeking forgiveness

and asking for help.

It’s forcing a smile and facing yourself.

It’s shaky legs that stand up for the weak and the timid voice

that bravely squeaks.

It’s finding your dark and choosing the Light.

Loving yourself;

being able to cry.

It’s laying it all at your Saviour’s feet;

all of the messy and none of the neat.

Trusting His strength and His sovereign hand.

Having Peace in your journey without knowing the plans.

-C.Pay 2015

Everything I Know about Fighting I Learned from my Son

If you fell down yesterday stand up todayIf you met me today, you would say that I was a fighter. A strong woman who won’t take sass from anyone. Such was not always the case. I suppose I have always been competitive. In fact, I’m Sure I’ve always been competitive both with myself and others. We may be friends, but if you play a card game with me the gloves come off! 😉 Fighting however is a different matter altogether.  Being sexually abused stunted my growth in so many ways.I didn’t get the chance to learn to fight small skirmishes and build my stamina over the years. I lost the first battle. A huge battle. And the scars went to the core. Instead of coming out of it with my fists raised to the sky I learned to contract into myself. Curl into a little roly poly until the danger passes. If fighting and losing was going to hurt that badly then why do it at all.

Then I had my son. There’s something about holding a tiny defenseless baby that smells like heaven.Instinct and love tell you that you must do whatever it takes to protect this child. That’s what ‘good’ parents do, right? What if you don’t know how to fight? What if the idea of it grips you with terror? If my son asked me how I learned to fight, I’d tell him this:

From the time I was pregnant I fought the nausea, the weight gain, the labor pains. When they let me take you home, I fought the panic that I had no idea what I was doing.

I warred against insecurity, ignorance, and impatience.

Croup, ear infections,and teething became my world and I fought for sleep.I wrestled to comfort you, quiet you, soothe you to no avail.In the morning I went to work and fought to stay awake.

I fought to maintain your home in the face of my divorce and when your father threatened to abduct you, I fought to hide you and keep you safe in my arms.

As a single mom I struggled to support us, to find time with you between jobs, to make sure you felt loved and not left.

School was hard for you and I campaigned for your education, to understand you, to support you.

They diagnosed you soon with ADD and then with Bipolar disorder and I rose up against dread. I battled to get appointments, good doctors, the right medications. I pushed against their assumptions of your bleak future and counter argued with hope.I devoured every piece of information on mental illness and armed myself with knowledge.

As you slept at night and I sat by your bed and cried. I fought the fear that I could never be worthy of being the parent you needed. I cried out to God for the strength to be your champion.

I waged war with  broken school systems and burned out teachers. I stood strong during IEP meetings and counseling sessions. I became the parent who wouldn’t take back down because of bureaucracy.

I fought bad influences and bullies. Internet filth and video game overload.

In the most challenging combat I put myself as a barrier between you and your stepfather’s cruelty. Some battles I won, but too many were lost.  Paralyzing fear attempted to keep me down but with each encounter I slowly learned to stand for us.

I endeavored  to discipline you, teach you , love you, protect you. Sometimes; many times; from yourself.

I fought my own demons and dark.

I went to war on my knees in fervent prayer. Over and over and over.

I fought against you. You fought against me. And sometimes, we fought together.

When you became my prodigal son I fought to teach you responsibility, accountability, consequences. I fought to be a good parent (whatever that is)

You pulled away and I fought to be part of your world, to let you go without losing you, to accept your differences, and to make you know that my love was eternal.

Fighting for you gave me strength. Praying for you deepened my faith. With every blow I landed for you another one of my own demons went down and I found my armor, piece by piece. My son, I know I gave you life, but you gave me back mine.

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Holding Patterns

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I’ve heard it been said that laughter is a universal language. Let me also offer this as a universal : the extreme dislike of Waiting. Never in my life have I met someone who actually enjoyed waiting for things to happen. For me, it’s right up there with doing your taxes and horrible stomach pains from Indian food…you just want it to be over. I tend to be the type of person who wants things done yesterday. And if I’m really excited or anxious about it then having it finished by last week would be preferable.

This isn’t something I feel with people. With people, I tend to be very patient and empathetic to the point of enabling. (see my post on ‘Breaking Ties with Toxic’) It’s not the type of waiting such as being in line at Disney or on hold with the gas company for 45 minutes I’m referring to . I mean waiting for Life Changes.You’re ready to get married, get the promotion, move, have a baby, start a business, do SOMETHING,but the pieces won’t fall into place. Or even more frustrating, you don’t know where you’re supposed to go next. You just know that there’s Something More. The “Next Big Thing” is waiting for you, if you could just figure out what the “Next Big Thing” is. This is me. Right now.

Over the past few years God has been repeating one phrase to me over and over.

Be. Here. Now

Be. Here. Now.

Be. Here. Now.

Be . Here. Now.

Honestly, I love Him, but He can annoy me. After I quit whining about it and started saying the phrase out loud a few hundred thousand times it started to make sense. Also, my life wasn’t moving where I wanted it to go so I figured I should pay attention. Here’s what I’ve learned:

BE . Here . Now. Just Be. Stop striving to make the deal or manipulate the circumstances. Stop obsessing over the what if’s and should be’s. Slow down and breathe. Listen to your heart.Spend more time listening to God than shooting ‘why’ questions at Him. God doesn’t speak Whinese. Nurture yourself and take time to do the things you love. Read, paint, draw, pray,write, work out. Do the things that make you lose track of time. Immerse yourself into anything but striving for the ‘Next Big Thing’ and the answers will begin to reveal themselves. “Let be and be still, and recognize that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 AMP

edna mode never look back

Be . Here. Now. Not back then. Not there. Not when.Not someday. Here. There is a reason you are at this place at this time. There are lessons to be learned here that will get you there. Examine the obstacles you bump into repeatedly and figure out what you need to change to avoid them.Planes stay in a circular holding pattern while they await permission to land. Timing has to be right and obstacles must be cleared from the runway before they can execute a successful landing. Be assured that God is working things out and clearing the pathway you will land on. In HIS timing. *Sigh*

Be. Here. Now.  You know that cheesy quote, ” the past is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today is a gift which is why it’s called the present”.? It’s true. I have spent wayyy too much time worrying over what I should have done yesterday and what might happen tomorrow. What I’ve found is that the past doesn’t change if I rehash it and most of the things I worry about never happen. What Does happen when I don’t focus on now is the people I care most about lose out. They lose out on my full attention and presence. And I lose out on enjoying them. If I’m trying to hold onto the past or grab at the future my hands are too full to embrace the ones right in front of me. The best thing I can do on while waiting for  the ‘Next Big Thing’ is to make memories along the way my family will cherish.

The craziest thing I’ve learned so far? Is sometimes the ‘Next Big Thing’ is the thing I’m doing right now. Maybe someday I’ll listen to God without whining about it first. Maybe.

How do you cope with waiting for life to happen?

The Most Powerful Words

Let’s talk about the big white elephant in the room….I’m scared. Yep. Scared as hell that I am about to put some of my life stories on the internet. Scared of being transparent (not my favorite thing) and scared of being judged. But here’s what I’m even more afraid of…Not doing it. The words need to be written. Words that form instant bonds between unlikely souls. Words that make you feel loved, accepted, and understood. Sometimes shouted and often times whispered tearfully there are two words that can change lives. “Me too.”

“Me too” builds alliances and friendships. It creates hope that ‘this too shall pass’ and I will someday be on the other side of the pain like You are. “Me too” is real and raw and inclusive. When you hear those words you know you’re not alone.

‘I discovered my husband had an affair’ – “Me too”. ‘My kid is going off the rails’- “Me too”. ‘My business is going under’- “Me too”. ‘ I was molested’- “Me too”. ‘I’m so lonely sometimes it’s physically painful’- “Me too”. ‘My second marriage failed and I feel like a Jerry Springer episode.’- “Me too” . ‘I had an abortion and I’m scared God hates me’- “Me too”. ‘Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get ‘it’ right’- “Me too”.  ‘I got fired’- “Me too”. Oh yeah,,, I’ve been through them all and so have you. I know you have because I’ve been a hairdresser for 28 years and you’ve told me. Whole lotta TMI in 28 years. 😉     (Had to inject a little humor. It was gettin’ a bit heavy)

The brilliant thing about those two little words isn’t just in what they build but also in what they destroy. They destroy isolation.  They interrupt the condemning self talk of, ‘ no one could be as messed up as I am’. They shatter the darkness by shining a ray of hope. And they break open your heart to let a little light in. As I struggled to birth a meaningful name for this blog, God reminded me of a moment when He let some light in to my shattered heart. At the age of 15, my parents discovered that I’d been molested for three years by some family members. Because of their desire to see these men brought to justice I found myself sitting in the Florida State’s Attorney’s office telling every sordid detail. Fun times. There is no classy sophisticated way to recount being molested. It leaves you feeling worthless , degraded, and dark. But God knew I needed a “Me too” moment to show I wasn’t alone. The attorney who had taken my case got very quiet as I wound down and he looked at me. Really looked at me. Then he put his hand on a massive stack of paperwork that had been sitting beside him and said, ” I see girls all day who have been put through the same things you have. (I’m not alone!) Not all of them come out of this intact. But you; you’re different. You still have light in your eyes. You’re gonna be ok.”  And I am. (It took many years, therapy, and bad decisions. Lots of bad decisions)

So that’s why I will be writing this blog. To let you know that there is a ‘Me Too’ out there for you. Someone who’s been through the enormous and the ridiculous things of life. I believe in you because I believe in the One who created you. When you look at me and say, ‘yeah she Does still have light in her eyes.’ I want you to look at yourself and say,”Me too.”