All of Me

1 Kings 18 

Ezekiel 36:25-27 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

About six months after God told me to only date him, a friend of mine invited me to a women’s conference called Choose.  It was held at a local convention center in my city. I was (and still am) incredibly excited about learning more about God. I finally understand Psalms 42:1 about needing God like a deer needs water. He is the most awesome part of my life. He never tells me I talk too much. He never has other stuff going on. He’s never in a bad mood or misunderstands anything I say. (Shout out to my Holy Ghost here because he interprets a lot of my prayers for me and tells God what my heart is trying to say.) So, my daughters and I went to this Choose conference. I didn’t know it at the time, but God used that conference to show me that not only did I have idols, but that he was done sharing me with them. 

The conference started, I assume, like most others…the organizer told her story and why she felt the Choose conference was something God called her to do. I paid attention but didn’t really feel like this was a subject that God was calling me to look into. I had given him my pain, given him my unforgiveness, given him my love life, and given him my truth. Everything had started with him asking for my honesty. No matter what I felt, no matter what I was mad at him for, he asked for me to just be honest with him. I talked to him about everything. Sometimes, I didn’t even know what I was saying…or what I was asking him for. I would tell the Holy Spirit “Um yeah so I don’t even know what I am asking for, but I know I need help here.” I started to ask God about everything before I talked to people. If something made me mad during the day, I came right home and told God about it. If I loved something I came home and told God about it. If I was confused, or scared, or hurt, or lonely, or full of joy, or thankful…I came home and told God about it. It never occurred to me that I had any idols…let alone the ones he would show me. 

Within the first hour of the conference, the organizer had us think of one thing that distracted us from God…that pulled us away. I didn’t need any help finding my distraction as he was texting me. During The Broken Years, I met the man that I call Twin Flame. A twin flame is something like a soul mate…but sort of the opposite. A twin flame is the version of a soul mate that burns your life down instead of builds you up. A twin flame is the sort of love that kills you instead of giving you life. A twin flame is not from God. A twin flame is the most intense kind of soul tie there is, only it looks and feels just like a soul mate, except instead of bringing you closer to God, it takes you farther away. Twin Flame and I didn’t fall in love instantly, but when we did finally fall, we fell hard. I felt like I couldn’t breathe when I knew I had to be away from him for a long time. When he broke dates it put me in a deep sadness and I couldn’t seem to find any joy in anything for days afterwards. The crazy thing was we were only together for about 18 months and only spent 6 days together. He connected to me in songs and the way he loved me was the truest thing I had ever felt. When we broke up I felt my heart die. It hurt with every beat and I would have done anything to make it stop. This love was so intense that for 2 years after we broke up I just couldn’t let myself attach to anyone else, because I knew it wasn’t fair. I couldn’t ask anyone else to come in second. I loved him. He’d text every now and then and say he missed me and still loved me and knew that we should be together, but the circumstances being what they were wouldn’t change. The morning of the conference, even though he knew I was there, was more of the same. He missed me, I was perfect for him, it was hurting him to not be with me, and nobody had ever loved him like I did. He never loved anyone like he loved me. 

The organizer asked us to go over to a giant chalkboard leaned up against the wall of the convention center and write whatever it was that was distracting us. I wrote his initials and went back to my seat. Listening to the conference became harder the more he text, but I took notes and tried to hear God’s direction. 

The main scripture from the conference was 1 Kings 18 (hence, why it’s the opening verse.) I’ll paraphrase it for understanding, but truthfully, it is important enough to go read on your own. 

Elijah is a prophet of God and he prays that it won’t rain for 3 years so that the people will repent from their idolatry. The people of Israel had been worshipping all kinds of other gods and my God had just had enough. So Elijah finally confronts King Ahab and says “How much longer will you waver hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God then follow him.” The people hem haw around and won’t commit one way or the other so Elijah says “Let’s have a little contest shall we? You Baal guys prepare a bull sacrifice to your god and I’ll prepare one for mine. The God who answers with fire from the sky…that will be the true God.” 

The prophets of Baal (all 450 of them) think this is a great idea, so they get to work and build their altar and sacrifice. They start praying and TADA!!!! Nothing happens. Elijah gets petty with it and says, “Hey maybe your god is taking a nap…or maybe he’s on a trip or something. Pray louder!” So they do, for hours and still nothing. Poor, unfortunate souls…they prayed so hard and not a spark came from heaven. 

Elijah gets his altar ready with his sacrifice and then he says “Okay look I feel bad for you guys. Why don’t you pour water all over my altar and make it harder for it to catch on fire? Soak it…this altar should look like a swimming pool and then things will be more even don’t you think?” Again, the prophets think this is a great idea and they soak everything….the sacrifice, the altar, the ground under the altar. No way this thing is going up in flames. Elijah prays to God and fire falls from heaven, burns up the altar, the bull, the stones and the dirt around it and also dries up all the water around it. And then to add insult to injury, all of Baal’s prophets are put to death for going against God. Then it rains. 

I love this story. I love that petty comes through when Elijah talks to the prophets of Baal (God doesn’t love petty, but I do and as we discovered in “Love Ain’t” I am not God). I love that God wanted Elijah to make it “impossible” for his altar to catch fire, even “IF” his God did show up. I love Elijah’s trust and confidence in his God. 

The rest of the conference, other women got up and told stories of their Baal’s…their idols that distracted them from God. I didn’t really identify with any of their stories, which isn’t an uncommon thing. I have a weird story and as I stated in previous blogs, I don’t really fit in anywhere. My life just doesn’t look like other people’s. I prayed along with all of those women that God would take away my distractions from him. I’d given him dating and I’d let go of my romance with Twin Flame. I still answered when he text, but I didn’t reach out to him and I didn’t tell him I loved him anymore. I wanted to be with him or get over him and neither was happening. 

We left the conference and I went home unchanged. A little more knowledgeable about God and a little older of a Christian, but unchanged. In the next couple of weeks during my prayer and study time God kept prodding me to talk to him about Twin Flame. Finally he said, “If you love me, then give me Twin Flame.” The longer I couldn’t, the louder and more painful my heart got. The pain in my heart grew so strong that finally I had no choice. I could not stand under the weight of this love any longer. I gave Twin Flame to God. I erased him from my life. I cried and erased, cried and erased. Every time a thought about him popped into my head I cried and gave him to God. I got rid of everything that reminded me of him. I cried. I threw out my mattress. I cried. I stood before God and cried with my heart full of holes and gave him to God. I felt like a part of me had died. I felt horrible. And I didn’t drink to numb it. I just felt it. I felt all of it. And I let go. A little less than a month later he text me and I told him I could not speak to him anymore and if he tried to contact me I wouldn’t answer. He text me Happy Birthday a couple weeks later and I responded without thinking. God tapped on the top of my head and said, “Honey, I said to give me Twin Flame. I meant all of him. Let go.” So I blocked Twin Flame. I took his number out of my phone and gave him to God. Again. 

After the initial breakdown a weird peace settled into my heart. I knew I wasn’t healed but I could feel God in there ripping out the mold and worms and death from my love with Twin Flame. God was there through everything. He let me yell at him, cuss him out and cry on him all at the same time. And guess what? He didn’t fall off his throne when I showed him my honest and true emotions. He didn’t give any of it back to me. He took it. I wasn’t sure how to trust him with it. I wasn’t sure I was even letting go sometimes. I noticed that the songs that seemed to chase me around stopped playing everywhere I went. The cars that looked like his seemed to disappear off the streets. God was erasing what I thought was love and replacing it with his love for me. 

I read a bunch of books on soul ties through the next couple of months. I knew that I had to understand what God wanted and the best way I knew to do that was through prayer and reading things from Christian authors. I had a couple people I trusted with my story and my “death of love” and I talked to them when I had questions about why I thought love looked the way it had with Twin Flame. 

I realized in the next few months that God had to take Twin Flame. Twin Flame was none of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I didn’t love him like that either. My love was selfish and so was his. I knew that God was not confusing or self seeking, but Twin Flame was. You see, Twin Flame knew from the very beginning that he did not want a forever life with me. He said he did, but the fact was that if he’d wanted to be with me like he said, he would have. He could have, but he didn’t. True love protects instead of just taking what you need from other people. True love is putting what is best for the other person ahead of what you want. He just wanted what he wanted and what he wanted was my attention. Not my love. He didn’t understand love either because we bonded in something that was broken. 

When I asked for a God experience, God was very gracious in allowing me to feel exactly what I asked for. However, that Choose conference showed me that until I gave up my idols, my Baal’s and my pride- my thinking that I knew best what love was – that he wasn’t going to be able to show me anything else. After the Twin Flame saga had come to an end I immaturely thought that I was done. I had given God everything that took place over him. A few months later, God showed me how wrong I was in that assumption and how much I still had to learn. 

When God told me not to date for a year, I missed a directive that he had given. He said not to date for a year. I wasn’t sure what month that started, but I missed the part where he said “And then come back and ask me how much longer you should keep dating me.” I heard, “Don’t date anyone but me for a year” and ran with that. God wasn’t done talking, but I was done listening. 

11 months after I promised God I would date only him, a decent man I knew “slid into my DM’s”. Not only did I not ask God about him, but I didn’t pay attention to literally anything EXCEPT how it seemed to be “God’s perfect timing.” My human dating exile was coming to an end and here was a good, God knowing man, who worked hard and understood my work with kids, just getting dumped into my lap. I didn’t wait to see if he was truthful or if he really had a relationship with God. I listened to his words and didn’t watch his actions. He said he wanted to learn more about God with me and go to church and watch Youtube church, only something always seemed to come up when we were supposed to do that. He did things for me that I had talked to God about, like buying me breakfast and dropping it off so that he knew I ate, and just texting to see if I had a good day. He was very tuned in to what I said…but I found out soon enough that he tuned in to see how far into a relationship he could get without actually having to DO any of the things I said I wanted. When the subject of my celibacy came up he was all for it. In words. His actions told a different story. He was constantly pushing me to change what I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, God expected from me. The more he was around the more he accused me of wanting the “perfect Christian relationship” and said that nobody could follow all the rules in the Bible. I should have cut him off. Unfortunately, I didn’t because I was trying to see how red the red flag was before I actually called it a red flag. I didn’t follow the advice that Pastor Michael Todd gave in Relationship Goals…which was RUN!!! From anyone who couldn’t respect the boundaries that you knew God placed on you. Not only did I not follow Pastor Mike’s advice, I quit talking to the people in my inner circle about what I was doing. I was a grown enough Christian on my own. I could hear God, I had discernment and I could just do this by myself thank you very much. Proverbs 11:14 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 did not apply to me. I didn’t need spiritual guidance from people that loved me and I did not need to talk to them about my relationships. I could hear God all by myself. Until I couldn’t hear God say anything. In the middle of all this pride and deafness God pointed out my second Baal and this time it wasn’t a guy. It wasn’t a romance even though I had failed in listening to God’s direction. I got back on that wagon fairly quickly and stopped seeing him. My second Baal was bigger than all the others and the one area of my life that I had never had any questions on when it came to what love was and what God wanted from me. It was the one area I thought I didn’t need God to show me anything about. It was the one area I never thought God would ask me to give him because he gave it to me first.

Love Ain’t

Ephesians 5:29 “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”

I’ve been teaching Social Emotional Learning for quite awhile now (part of the reason it has been over a year since my last post). Social Emotional Learning is defined as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” Reading the definition, you wouldn’t think it would be that difficult of a job. Doing it is quite another. Knowing how to explain it to other people so they can teach it has been a whole other major in itself. There are two types of people in the world. Those who understand SEL (and basically ARE it) and those who do not. I’ve had roughly hundreds of people come up to me and ask questions and the number one thing that always shocks them the most is that empathy is not a character trait you are born with. Neither is being kind or forgiving or believing in yourself. You have to see examples of them before you can use them as part of daily living. If that surprises you hold onto your socks because this post will be full of things that you never thought to think about before. 

My favorite part of being a Social Emotional Learning teacher is that it’s basically BIble just without the number references. For example, did you know that it is neurologically impossible for your brain to experience anxiety and gratitude at the same time? If you concentrate on the things you are grateful for, anxiety has no place to go. Essentially you can replace anxiety in your brain when you think of things that fill you with gratitude. About a year ago I was at a prayer meeting and someone posed the question, “If you woke up tomorrow with only the things that you thanked God for today, what would you have?” Some of us (myself included) would be broke, homeless, friendless, loveless, childless, and every other kind of “less” you can name. Gratitude is also contagious. The more times you find something to be grateful for, the more you will see to be grateful about. I am a lover of books. Every time I read one I thank God for the person that wrote it. Without their bravery and courage to share their story, I wouldn’t be learning something from them to use in my everyday life. Imagine if the stories that inspire you had been kept in someone’s private journal and never put out for the world to see. Imagine if nobody ever shared the heartache from their point of view or talked about it to someone who did write….and it was stuck in unheard limbo never helping anyone but the person who learned it? I’d be devastated still without Toure Roberts “Wholeness” and anything by TD Jakes, or Sarah Jakes Roberts, or Steven Furtick, Jerry Flowers, Dr. James Dobson, Rob Currie, or any of the other people who have touched my life with their pain they graciously shared with the world to judge. See how gratitude is contagious? I don’t have to be grateful just for my experiences. I didn’t have to go through everything they did to learn from them. They taught me anyway. Without my mother teaching me to read at 3 and instilling a deep love of written word I wouldn’t have bothered to begin their stories anyway. Again, gratitude is contagious. 

Okay back to the point. SEL has been my life for the last 20 years. More intensely the last 9 but in any case SEL is the focus of my calling. Not only do I get to go in and learn things from the kids that let me hang out in their lives everyday, I get to show them some of what I have learned. We laugh about what I have learned, they tell me bits and pieces of their lives, we cry together and depend on each other. Social Emotional Learning Director sounds like it would come with a pretty hefty paycheck. It does, but not every other Friday. It comes in lessons and what the kids teach me. SEL is what I would do if I didn’t have bills to pay. In his book, “Love Does” Bob Goff and Donald Miller say that your career is just a fundraiser. It’s the way you raise funds for the work God calls you to do. (Disclaimer: they say it WAY better than I just did, so read their book) I would totally work at my school with my kids, or any school with any kids. I love my job. 

One of the big focuses as an SEL director is getting people to see that we don’t love ourselves very well, so it is hard for us to love others. Or so I thought. Here’s the thing…and I love it when this happens. Every once in a while something comes along to totally rock your theology and the way you think about things. It rocked my life so much that I decided to pull out all of the journals I have written in the last year and go through to find out where I loved people the wrong way. That may sound weird but I learned one big lesson over the last couple of years. When you ask God to heal you and then you let him, he makes it possible to understand how taking accountability for your own actions gives you more power. It gives you more power because you realize that you can’t do anything without him. The way he loves is hard. The way to receive love is hard. We aren’t God. (Probably most of you didn’t have to read a book to figure out that last part. I’m just built different.) So loving to us isn’t the same as loving to him. Thank God. 

The power that comes from realizing that he can change you when you can’t change yourself is enormous. He can teach you to love like he does. 1 Corinthians 10:24 “Don’t be concerned for your own good, but for the good of others.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I’ve read both of these verses literally a zillion times. A zillion. The problem was that I was reading them with my limited knowledge of God. 

Last October I was baptized. It was beautiful in the sense that I had finally done it and I was happy about being given a new life. I’m still not sure what I was expecting to happen, but after dinner with some friends I went home and felt nothing different than usual. I was thankful, but being baptized didn’t make me feel any more like I belonged to God than I did the day before. I wasn’t expecting to suddenly be able to speak in tongues or perform miracles or anything. It was more that I was expecting to suddenly feel like I belonged somewhere and to someone. I did not. I remember writing in my journal that I just wanted to experience what it felt like to be loved. Not by a person, but by God. He decided to show me. I wanted “A God Experience”. He gave it to me but not the way I expected it at all. I kept praying that he would love me. I learned that sometimes God quits talking to you to show you how dumb you sound when you keep praying for something he already gave you. 

I had made the decision to quit dating several months before I was baptized. I hadn’t dated hardly at all before that and as I have mentioned in previous posts I wasn’t having that great of a time in that area anyway. God told me to date him for a year. Weird thing about that was that I didn’t have much dating experience on how to date myself or how to date God. How do you go on a date with God? Do you go to a restaurant and order two drinks and talk to him like other people can see him? Do you not go to restaurants and just walk around the city talking to yourself? Do you stay at home and talk out loud to him but never run into other people? Like seriously, how do you date God? There’s no information in the Bible on how one might do that. God and I just talked while I did everything I normally did and that became the way I “dated”. God just came with me everywhere. (Now when I say everywhere I mean he was there but I wasn’t always acknowledging his presence.) 

I read a lot, like normal. I started to read books on marriage. Not necessarily because I wanted to be married, not yet, but because there were so many examples in the Bible about how the Church was the Bride of Christ. There was a lot to unpack in those examples and truth be told I had a terrible marriage. I wasn’t a good wife. So I started learning how to be a wife to God instead of to a person. What never occurred to me to unpack is that God is love. People can’t love you like God does….because they are people. (I’ll accept my Nobel Prize for stating the obvious now.) 

One day, months later I was reading “Lies Women Believe” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She says that one of the lies we believe (and I don’t think this applies to only women) is that we need to learn to love ourselves. Here’s where my theology got rocked. She says “We are constantly looking out for ourselves, deeply sensitive to our own feelings and needs, always conscious of how things affect us. The reason some of us get hurt so easily is not because we hate ourselves, but because we love ourselves. We want to be accepted, cherished and treated well. If we did not care so much about ourselves, we would not be so concerned about being rejected, neglected, or mistreated. The fact is we do not hate ourselves, nor do we need to learn to love ourselves. We need to learn to deny ourselves so that we can do that which does not come naturally – to truly love God and others. Our malady is not “low self-esteem”, nor is it how we view ourselves rather it is our low view of God. Our need is not to love ourselves more, but to receive HIS love for us and to accept His design and purpose for our lives. Once we have received his love, we will not have to compare ourselves to others. We will not focus on “self” at all. Instead, we will become channels of HIS love to others.” 

John 15:12 “ This is my commandment; love each other in the same way as I have loved you.” WHOA. I thought about how I loved God over the course of my relationship with him. If he’d been a human husband he’d have left after the first few weeks of dealing with me. I had no idea who he was, no idea how to talk to him or how to look at anything he did for me and be grateful to have him around. Any time anything went wrong I got mad at him and ignored him for a few years. I’d try again but then when I went through “The Broken Years” (as I refer to the first 27 chapters of this blog) I completely gave up on him. I ignored him and talked bad about him for 15 years or more. What kind of wife is that? 

God decided to show me that he was love by pointing out all of the times that he loved me when I wanted nothing to do with him. One of the biggest ways he did that was by having people I cared about give me the silent treatment. Then he very gently, but with much conviction pointed out that he loved me even when I ignored him and acted like he wasn’t around and cheated on him with other idols, disrespected him, and threw the gifts he gave me in the trash. Now, before you start giving God the thumbs up to divorce me, let me just point out that God knew I was going to do all of this BEFORE he asked me to date him. He loved me before I got here. He loved me before I even knew who he was. He loved me even though I had no idea how to love him back or how to appreciate him. He loved me in spite of my bad habits, my pettiness, my “Cruella” side, my unforgiving and demanding and sarcastic nature. All of those things did not stop him from loving me. While the Broken Years have come to an end, let me assure you that as a person…I am a huge mess. I am not great at anything. I am a human. I am a human with a very big God who has a very big love for me and who is patient and kind and loving enough to keep teaching me how to love others and be more like him. He hasn’t asked me to change the world. He asked me to let him change me…and that, my friends, is a job only he could handle. The next entries (only God knows how many or how often) are the stories that he used to teach me this simple truth. I hope you come along for the ride.

The Woman at the Well

The Woman at the Well

John 4:16-19 “He told her “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You’re right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had 5 husbands, and the man you are with now is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.”

John 8:1-11 “Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

            In case you hadn’t guessed from the context of the verses that I used to predicate my story, the topic of the day is adultery. More specifically mine. Do I really want to write about this point in my life? No. I find that much of what I don’t want to write about ends up on display for the world to see if they so chose to click on the link to my website. Years ago, I would have been petrified to have “all of my business” so out there for any one to judge. I would have judged myself to be completely honest with you. I have judged myself and I realized throughout the last 20 years of my own judgement, God hasn’t been nearly so evil to me as I have been to myself.

            One of the things that I have come to realize throughout my journey to share my story is that the devil goes after men first. There is a reason that Satan has attacked our men in such a way that they fail at being the family leaders. Those without leaders don’t know what path to follow. Father absence is a huge problem in this country and around the world. Ever think about why? With the dads out of the way, women have less protection. Even if the relationship can withstand the torture of life, distractions and lies will tear people further apart. I’m not going to play ring around the rosey with this part of my story. It’s too long already and I don’t have time. I have other parts to get to. But, I did want to mention that I have not been given permission to reveal all of the details that this particular point in my life has. I only talk about what God has allowed me to talk about. I talk about the things that I have done that led me to where I am. If you think for one second that anything that anyone could say about me isn’t something that I haven’t already said about myself, please think again. I understand the choices that I made, and I understand now where I went wrong and where God worked through with love anyway.

            In my earlier posts about my time being married to my kid’s father, I talked about how lost I felt in my marriage due to a situation that happened in the early days. We weren’t even together for a full year yet when he made a decision for me that would cause me to distrust him with every part of my being. I tried to forgive him. But, looking back I believe my fatal mistake for our marriage was that I tried to forgive him. I asked God to help me with that, but I didn’t talk about it to anyone else. I was afraid that if I sought help, my kid’s dad would be angry with me, that people would see him as a jerk, that they would judge him and on some levels that they would judge me for choosing to marry a man that was capable of doing such a thing. As time went on, I stuffed that circumstance down as far as it would go…and never dealt with it. I knew that divorce was a sin. I knew that disrespecting my husband and his leadership was a sin. My issue came in when I didn’t understand that loving someone sometimes means you have to be tough about it. I didn’t like the way I was treated, and more importantly God never asked me to put up with the kinds of things that were going on in my marriage. People told me that, but God never did. I just didn’t ask him about it because I was afraid to find out that he thought I was lower than nothing. You see, the Bible says all kinds of things about marriage. But the only thing it says about divorce is that he will permit it only when there is adultery.

            I already thought I wasn’t worth enough to get a good life. I thought maybe if I tried to be “meek in Spirit” and be a “peacemaker” that God would bless me and make it so that I would be happy. If I had really understood what those two things meant, instead of the “sort of but not really” truth that they held, maybe I would have chosen to do things differently.

            Our marriage started out very lonely for me, and after the events of the first year, and the realization of what I had gotten myself into was a bit too much for me to digest. I didn’t realize that my new husband already had a drinking problem, deep self esteem issues and a porn addiction. His porn addiction grew until I felt like nothing more than a walking magazine. I got very little in the way of support and when I needed something…a nap, some time off from being around the kids, family support, it was always in trade. I had to trade something of mine to get what I wanted. It made me feel disgusting, but for a long time I clung to verses that said that the way we act can bring others to Christ. I don’t know why none of that happened for me. I do know that I wasn’t all the way honest with God and I didn’t know how to tell my husband he was hurting me by only being interested in me for sex or using me for “wifely things”. I tried the headache excuse, the “I can’t because the doctor said not for 8 weeks…I just had a baby” excuse, the “I don’t want to because the kids are awake” excuse. None of them worked and my resentment towards him grew until I could feel vomit rise up in my throat any time he was home and would come at me in any sort of intimate way. I was dying on the inside. His drinking helped nothing and always being pregnant was a constant reminder that I was the one the family fed off of to sustain itself.

            I didn’t know that I could have told someone then. I had read the verses in the Bible about the man being the head of the household and that women are supposed to submit to their husbands. I tried. Nothing was happening…and for years I tried to be a good wife. I tried everything I could think of to make him happy and to be what God had asked me to be. I ended up very confused and I remember one day writing, “I don’t know what else you want from me!!!” in my prayer journal.

            I decided to take a step out of my comfort zone one day while I was helping a friend of mine paint her basement. I told her that my husband was constantly asking for sex and I was in a lot of pain because of a medical procedure. I told her that he didn’t seem to care that I was up most nights, getting very little sleep, and trying to recover physically from having a baby. He slept through most nights using the excuses that he worked, and I didn’t, so it didn’t make any sense for him to get up. I didn’t get nights off and I was exhausted. I was in pain. I was hurt and frustrated from his lack of consideration. She said, “The Bible says you can’t withhold that from him. It doesn’t matter what you feel like. God says do it.” I went home more dejected than ever. I didn’t know how long I could keep doing what I was doing. I was constantly being pawed at and treated like some girl on the videos he watched. It got to the point where I would think about anything else just to get it over with. The more I prayed about it the farther away God seemed to get.

            I started trying to find other ways to make myself just a little bit happy. I hung out with my sister. I took great pleasure in playing with my kids and teaching them new things. I learned to sew and create things out of junk I found at garage sales or thrift stores. Our money started falling apart and my husband was not exactly responsible when it came to how or what he spent. He handed all of the bills over to me after bouncing several checks. I had no idea how I was supposed to live with a man who could provide but then blew all of the money he made so that we didn’t have enough left to take care of our kids and treated me the way he did. I didn’t have a voice in the money; I didn’t make any of it. He was the husband and I was the wife. I didn’t know wife wasn’t supposed to be synonymous with doormat.

            Somewhere along the way, other men started to make comments about my appearance.  Some of them were creepy and some were very sweet. One day, an offer presented itself and at first, I rejected it, but the more I thought about the more I thought God was giving me a way out. The offer had nothing to do with sex but came from a man who was married. He was lonely, like me, and he was just trying to keep his family together for his kid. I was struggling with the same thing. I didn’t want my kids to grow up in a broken home like I had. I was convinced that if I could stay married, my kids would have a shot at a better life. The man appreciated me as a person, not a body part. Which, as you probably figured out, led to him appreciating me in a way that wasn’t right for either of us. We had a short affair. When I broke it off a few months later, I realized that part of the reason I couldn’t be happy in my marriage was because I didn’t care what the married man thought of who I was. He liked the part of me that spoke my truth. I never made the connection that if I stopped trying to give people only the good parts of me that I could talk about and not feel judged on, then I could maybe deepen the bonds in my marriage also. I didn’t know that my husband struggled to feel adequate and feel loved by me. I didn’t know the difference between love and abuse. Only what it felt like to be used and unappreciated…on my own end. I don’t know what my husband thought because I couldn’t get past the things he’d done to hurt me enough to tell anyone so that they could help us. I didn’t know how to rebuild the trust he seemed intent on breaking. He didn’t know about the affair and I knew if I told him he’d tell everyone our marriage ending was my fault. He knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t reveal the parts of our lives that made me inwardly hate him without hurting someone else I loved. I still won’t…even though I know that if I wrote about them the world would be on my side. Nobody would fault me for having an affair, or even getting a divorce. The problem with that is that God isn’t nobody and he finds fault in those things.

            I didn’t see God as big as I see him now. I didn’t see him as loving as I see him now. I thought he only wanted my good and so I gave him that. He wasn’t interested because I wasn’t giving him my broken heart. I was giving him the heart I had patched together on my own and trying to pass it off as something that was clean enough for him to want. He didn’t want my fake, bandaged and painted heart. He wanted the broken one, complete with gashes and festering, bleeding, wounds. He wanted all of my pain and he asked for it. I just couldn’t give it to him and so I made a choice that cut my heart even more and made it so that I couldn’t bring any part of myself to God. It was easier to sit and blame my husband for the things he’d done that hurt me instead of going out and asking someone who knew God better for help.

            I tried asking people. A few people knew about my situation and gave me their advice. The problem with that became that they didn’t know how big God was either. They said, “You gotta do what makes you happy.” Or “He’s a jerk. Leave.” Or the worst one was when I told my mom, “You married him. Go home and do what a wife is supposed to do.”

            I thought that I could have an affair and be happy enough to survive what was going on in my home. I didn’t allow God to be big and ask him to fix it. I didn’t talk to God about anything that had to do with sex, because I didn’t think he cared about that.

            Later, I read the book Undefiled by Harry Shaumberg. I realized that the patterns in my life that I kept choosing were based in part off an expectation that a man could fill the giant hole in my soul that my Dad had left. I expected one man to give me everything I had ever needed. When that one man failed, I looked for another.

            Have you ever lost your car keys and noticed that you didn’t have them when you were already running late for work? The closer it gets to the time you are supposed to be responsibly at work, the more panic sets in until you are throwing couch cushions and dressers drawers full of clothing across the room in a frantic attempt to find your keys? You know you had them at some point, but can’t seem to remember where or how long it’s been since you’ve seen them? After the affair, and the crushing events with my husband afterwards that led to our divorce, the panic that I felt at knowing that my life was not turning out the way it was supposed to caused me to look for hope in places that I knew there was none. It was a lot like looking for your car keys, only on a much larger and more devastating scale.

            I gave attention to men that didn’t deserve it. I gave attention to men who, if I had not been so blinded by my need for someone, anyone to love me, I would have seen that they were not out to be good people. Such frantic and desperate searching led me to an entanglement of a different sort of pain, several years after my divorce. After going through yet another breakup in which I knew that I had given everything I had to be what the man wanted, I was empty and lost and completely clueless. I still couldn’t admit that stuff to God yet, and so when I read in “The Lady, Her Lover, and her Lord” by T.D. Jakes  that “the poison of unquenched anger doesn’t infect the perpetrator, but only incarcerates the victim” I felt like I got punched in the gut. I thought that by keeping my anger and hurt towards my husband a secret from God that I could just keep going on in my life as I had to in order to stay in my miserable marriage.

            Quite a few years later, I found myself in a sort of “entanglement” that isn’t really all that uncommon in today’s world. I became friends with a man that I’ll call Link. He was the male version of me. He was angry and someone from his past had hurt him deeply. He couldn’t forgive anyone, and he wore his anger on his sleeve and on his face. At first, this resonated with me and I enjoyed talking to him. Until one day our entanglement reached a new level. Things got physical. He didn’t call or text for 2 months after that. It hurt a little but at that point I think I was too numb to care. I ran into an acquaintance of his and we started talking. I’m not sure what made me think that starting a new entanglement with someone else, especially someone that Link knew was a good idea, but it seemed like no big deal at the time. However, after less than a month I was desperate to get rid of the guy and forget I’d ever even met him, let alone let myself get caught up with someone who had such very little in the way or morals. I was pretty sure he was lying about having a girlfriend or a wife and I was disgusted at the way he was constantly asking me to buy things for him.

            Link started coming back around, and we picked our entanglement up again. We never talked about his sabbatical from being my friend. I ignored how much it bothered me that he only called when he wanted something and that he was treating me like I wasn’t worth anything. Our friendship fizzled out two years later and I ended up blocking him from being able to contact me at all. Several months after I blocked him, I received a weird text from a number I didn’t know, but the content told me that it came from Link. I had been doing some soul searching and by this point and had found enough of God to know that I owed Link an apology. Not because he hadn’t hurt me, but because no matter what kind of pain I was in, I learned that God never gives us a pass. He didn’t tell me, “I know you spent a long time being hurt by your husband and I know that people don’t get over the things that you went through without my help, so I am going to give you a pass on your affair.” He didn’t say, “So, I know that Link was using you and so was his acquaintance, so you don’t have to apologize for breaking a rule I gave you.” God didn’t give me an out. He gave me an opportunity. I apologized to Link. His response was to call me a bunch of nasty names (you can guess what they are) and then to add insult to injury he called me a hypocrite because I had made a couple of comments about some people we knew and their “entanglements” as well. He said he already knew and had spent the last couple of years seeing how long I would keep doing it. Since the whole thing with his acquaintance lasted less than a month, I wasn’t sure how that made him a better person than I was.  Again, he didn’t call me anything I hadn’t already called myself, but what I found rather odd in the exchange was that Link showed me how to forgive and what it meant to offer someone the other cheek. I wanted to point out that he had used me first, that he had treated me like I was all the things he called me, long before I ever acted like one. I didn’t. God told me to stop and listen. So, I kept the focus off me and more on Link and the hurt he experienced through my actions. His actions didn’t create a pass for my actions. I “took my lumps” and prayed about it.

            God showed me a few very important lessons in all of these things. First, I’ve mentioned a few times already that God didn’t excuse me from my wrongdoings just because someone wronged me first. I still need to apologize for what I did wrong. I needed to confess them to someone, and so I did that, as God directed me. I could have argued with Link. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere, and I probably would have made the situation worse.

            God showed me John 8 in the days following that. The people in the crowd and the religious leaders were ready to stone the woman for her sexual sin but notice the man was nowhere to be found. Moses’ Law didn’t require that just the woman be stoned for committing adultery. They were both supposed to die that way. More often than not, this idea is represented in today’s culture. Women take far more criticism about who they sleep with or who they date than men do. The worst thing you can call a woman is a whore. Trust me, I’d rather not have this story to tell. Somewhere we get the idea that we are more holy than those who haven’t sinned sexually. Somewhere we get the idea that if we can cover up our sins that involve sex, we are better than those who can’t. Somewhere in all of that mess, we are certain that just because we haven’t cheated on our husbands or wives, or slept with too many people, or had any one night stands, or friends with benefits, or entanglements that we are better than the person who has. In one of my earlier posts I talked about the song, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier. One of my favorite lines in that song is “That’s a fine-looking high horse.” God led me to the lesson I will leave you with. Be careful of the high horse you ride. It’s often the one God allows to trample you so that you come back to him.

            John 8 gave me comfort, not because the man should have been stoned also, but because God showed me that no matter what I’ve done, when I repented, he didn’t condemn me. I won’t even pretend I didn’t cry when I read his words to the woman. God was never asking me to be perfect. He wasn’t asking me to put up with all of the crap in my marriage. He never told me that I wouldn’t have any sort of comfort or peace in my life and that I had to settle for just being in a relationship or an entanglement with someone who used me. I told myself that and Satan used people to help affirm that opinion of myself. I could have gotten out of that whenever I wanted to, but I refused to let God have my broken. It wasn’t because I wanted to keep it. It was because I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to love me if he saw it. The funny part about that is that now, I realize how much he loved me before I did it and I feel even more grateful for his love and his forgiveness and his grace than I did before I made those choices in my life.

            Many people ask me how I can write about things that are so personal and be transparent about how I feel about them. I’ll be honest. I’m just not scared anymore. People judged me before they knew, and people will continue to judge me long after. People may hate me for the decisions that I made, or they may love me and understand. I can’t control any of that. I don’t have to worry about them. God didn’t give me a pass; he gave me redemption. God didn’t give me an excuse; he gave me grace. God didn’t give me a ticket straight to hell. He gave me the story of David in 2 Samuel. God gave me love and forgiveness instead of judgement and condemnation. This may sound callous and cavalier and I assure you it is not, but I write my story because God told me that someone out there needs it. Someone is struggling with the same feelings that I had and the same situations that I went through. God told me to help them. In return he would take my pain and use it for good. If you aren’t the one that can do that…you may be able to hurt my feelings with your opinion of me, but fortunately for me, only God’s opinion of me matters. I’m not perfect and he never asked that of me. He just told me to tell others that he never asked for perfection from them either.

Sack Cloth and Ashes/The “R”Word

Sack Cloth and Ashes/The “R” word

1 Kings 21:27 “It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sack cloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently.”

Acts 2:38 “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 8:22,23 “Therefore, repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” (NLV says, “Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”)

            When I started writing this blog and the stories of my life for everyone to read, I’ll confess I didn’t know what God was going to ask me to write about. Some things I never thought I would put out for public viewing have been the very things that God wanted me to speak most on. God has been good to me and has used the words I write to help others in their own situations and with their own feelings of inadequacy and insecurity and I am humbled that God has taken me from the “pits of my despair” and lifted me up to a place where I can be used to glorify his name.

            I will also confess that I have never not once, put on sackcloth and ashes and repented. Up until a few months ago, I had a vague idea of what repenting really meant, and a messed-up view of what it should look like. But, again, God has been very good to me and has delivered revelation to me on what he expects from me in this area.

            I talk in “Just Wild; Nobody’s Child” about how I hurt a person 3 years ago that I never met. I cannot talk about the details of that story as it involves more than just me, so I will say that this situation was the lowest point in my life and I learned much about shame and guilt and the infection it causes on your insides. I realize that this breeds much curiosity about the circumstance, but I want you to try to envision your own “albatross” in this picture while I write, instead of trying to figure out what great sin I committed. The only thing I can say about the circumstance of that sin is to say that I stole something from another person that stole their stability, comfort, and joy and robbed them of the happiness that they had spent their adult life building. I was a thief.

            This sin caused a lot of my drinking and much of my depression, and although neither of these extracurricular sins started with this situation, this particular situation escalated both greatly. I wrote about the day my son told me that I was good for nobody the way I was and that I cried for three days after that before making the decision to get myself up off my couch, stop drinking and try to put some pieces of my broken heart back together. If it hadn’t been for my son, I wouldn’t have bothered trying. I had lost so much of value myself and now with the burden of my guilt, I was so heavy it was exhausting to move. Being awake was its own sort of torture. With every breath I took, I felt that God was telling me that I didn’t deserve to ever be happy, to ever be loved, to ever be able to put the weight of my guilt down. Every single breath in weighed so much I could almost feel my lungs collapsing. Every breath out felt like a nest of angry hornets and injected every part of my soul with malicious venom. I hated who I was, and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God hated me too. Not because my parents had let me down, or my ex-husband, or my ex-boyfriend, or any members of a church, or my “friends”, but because of my own decision. I had finally proven them all right. I had become the disgusting, unforgiveable woman that they had been trying to pound me into. They had all won. The devil had me and both of us knew it.

            When I started on the journey to find out why I had been placed on this earth to begin with, this sin superseded all other questions. It was only in looking back that I found any sort of relief from my pain. I was living in condemnation and the most effective person that condemned me lived within my soul. I was amazing at condemning myself.

            In the Bible and during my reading I constantly ran into verses that talked about sack cloth and ashes and praying in repentance to the Lord. It never occurred to me to ask God what repentance looked like to him and I didn’t have any sack cloth or ashes anyway. I highly doubt that God has been sitting in heaven this whole time waiting for me to rip my clothes and wipe the black stuff from the bottom of a fire pit all over my face, lay face down on my porch and wail to him about what a pitiful and loathsome person I had become. The only problem was, I wasn’t sure what God wanted from me and I didn’t think that I could do enough to make up for all the pain I’d caused. I’m not sure what made me decide to tell Pastor Doctor all of my story…including what I’d done that drug me down every day. I don’t know why I decided to tell him the things that I did, but somewhere in me I kept hearing God say that I needed to be honest, I needed to live in the truth even though it caused me a great deal of pain, and even though I was vulnerable to being judged and thrown out of yet another church due to what I’d done wrong. It would be months before I heard the reason that made so much sense to me about having to come to terms with my story. I was watching Youtube church and Michael Todd said, “God can’t meet you where you aren’t.” If I had lied to Pastor Doctor or left out that part of my story, God couldn’t have come in and done even half of what he has so far. I surely wouldn’t be in place where I could write a public invitation for people to critique my life after knowing so much about what it looked like from behind my eyes.

            When I began this journey to Wholeness as Pastor Toure puts it, I didn’t know what I was looking for. I didn’t know what to ask, what to expect, or even how to ask questions. I wish I could say that I started with an abundance of faith that God would change who I was or how I felt, but that would also be a lie. I had nothing. I had nothing but pain, sadness, and brokenness to give God. Guess what? That was fine with him.

            I often wonder what my life would have looked like if I had known what God could do way back in my teen years. When I do this, God often shoves the story of my son, Denver, right into the very front spot in my brain. When Denver appears while I am thinking about what ifs, I know that is my sign from God to remember that his timing is perfect.

            When I was about 5 months pregnant with Denver, the doctor’s saw something on his ultrasound that they didn’t like. One of his kidney’s didn’t form the way it was supposed to, and they spent the next few months watching it, and me, with a scrutiny that made me uncomfortable about everything I did. I wasn’t sleeping very much and the more pregnant I got the more worried I became. The verses about the sins of the father being passed down to their children kept pounding away in my mind every time the doctor would go over the scans and test results that I was subjected to on a constant basis. I never bothered to notice that the sins of the mother weren’t a part of those verses. I also never bothered to notice what I think God was trying to show me then.

            The events of my life, which you know about if you have been reading, hadn’t been very kind to me at all. I had lived a very unloved, very condemned life and soon I was allowing the devil to use one of his only plays on me. In all my years in Church I had learned that God was omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. What I never noticed before a few months ago, is that the devil is none of those things. It never occurred to me that the devil is not omnipresent. He cannot be everywhere at the same time. It also never occurred to me that he is not omniscient. He doesn’t know everything, and he cannot hear our thoughts. He is also not all powerful or omnipotent. I’m not sure how I missed this…except that I had spent so much of my life trying to figure out why God hated me that I hadn’t really explored the option that it might be Satan who hated me instead. If I had stopped and thought about it for just a second, I might have realized that the devil is a lot of things, but he is best at being an Omni Liar. That’s it. His trick was to keep me wrapped up in just enough of my pain that I kept busy hating myself and he could go focus his efforts on someone who was strong enough to cause him problems. I’d still be sitting there at the base of the cross, not bothering to look up to Jesus and being held down from my own pain that he could leave me alone and not worry about me for a solid 20 years. God showed me something years later when I thought about how much Denver had gone through to be the source of quiet strength he is for me today.

            When I was pregnant with him, we had ultrasound machines and fancy equipment that could tell my doctors that something was deficient with my son. I worried endlessly over what I could have done to prevent this giant problem and I was in an almost constant state of panic and anxiety over what would happen when he was born. Three days after he was born, I cried years’ worth of tears watching them poke my baby with needles and his tiny face turning purple from crying every time they stuck him, rooting around in his little arms for a vein. I felt helpless and worthless as my son screamed in pain and I couldn’t even hold him to help. They laid him on a table and strapped him down and for 3 agonizing hours I watched Lasik fluid being pumped through his little 7-pound body. When it was finally over, I picked up my baby and went home determined to protect him from everything I could from that day forward. I didn’t even let his dad hold him for a few days. My momma heart was terrorized from that experience.

            They told us that Denver might have to be born at Riley Children’s Hospital because his kidneys were not functioning the way they should. We would just have to wait and see. I don’t know what sort of torture this was, but I am still convinced that telling someone just wait and see is against the Geneva Convention. If you ask me it ranks right up there with sleep deprivation tactics or yanking out someone’s fingernails one by one.  I told you the story of Denver’s birth, but in the midst of the terrorist attacks on our country, my baby boy was born healthy…. with an 18% kidney function on one side. By his first birthday that kidney had disappeared. And wouldn’t you know it, you could never tell it by watching him. Denver developed a respiratory issue that was a lot like asthma and then they found two heart murmurs. You couldn’t see signs of those things either. It seemed like every time I took him to the doctor, they found something else wrong with him that I couldn’t see.

            What I learned from this years later, is that we can look fine on the outside and potentially life-threatening diseases can wreak havoc on our insides and we would never know. The only issues Denver ever had was a bunch of ear infections, an extremely long recovery time from colds or the flu and every so often he would have to be put on breathing treatments which he screamed through. I have never seen a kid get so mad and loud just by having air put by his face. My worrying and panic attacks over my baby boy did nothing to heal him. Had I not known that those problems existed, I wouldn’t have over-hawked my son to death and blamed every single thing he did wrong on his brothers. Had I not known those problems existed, I might have never watched for signs that he was hurting or even known what to do when he couldn’t breathe in the middle of the night.

            Sometimes, our inside pain doesn’t show…at least not in the ways we think it should look like. If Denver’s doctors hadn’t found those issues, we probably still wouldn’t know that Denver only has one kidney or two holes in his heart. You can’t examine anything if you don’t have the tools to do so. I think that God tells me through Denver’s story is that I couldn’t fix what was wrong with him any more than I could fix what was wrong with myself because I didn’t have the tools needed in either case. I would have to rely on God and his omnipotence to do that. Since I didn’t have the promise of  that either, I was weighed down with guilt and anxiety and shame and it ate away at anything good that was inside of me.

            How does that correlate to my sin story? I didn’t have some sort of marvelous machine to look around on my insides to see the poison eating away at me. Misery charges interest. So does pain. Sin is sort of the same way, except after awhile it isn’t satisfied with people just being eaten alive solo anymore. Kind of like a tick it isn’t satisfied with sucking all the good out of one victim…it has to multiply and go cause more disease. When you are sick on the inside everything looks like a cure. When you are sick in the heart, things that cause more sickness look like a vaccine. If you inject just a little more sickness, maybe it will stop the disease. Only, sadly, that is not the case. When you inject a little more sickness, it leaks out. You can’t put more water in a full cup and expect it not to overflow.

            I didn’t need any more sickness. I needed my system flushed out. I have read multiple stories of people who are addicted to hard drugs talk about their detox being incredibly difficult. I don’t think it was God’s plan to let me overflow with sickness before I could begin my detox. I believe that was Satan. I think that is one of the tricks he used. He has so very few plays that he uses over and over and this is one of them. He just piles a little more hurt and a little more anguish to try to keep people in pain. He tried that with me. Only he messed around and put to much on top of me and I got too full and fell right over the edge. I fell right into God’s hands.

            After I hurt the person I never met, I began hurting myself. Not in the way that sounds; I didn’t cut myself or attempt suicide like I had in years past. But anyone who had been watching me knew that I was dead on the inside. I didn’t let anyone get close enough to see that pain though, so it would have been very hard for someone besides my kids to catch. I hurt myself by the company I kept and the choices I made to try to escape the pain that I had caused. I piled more hurt on top of what had been done to me, what I had done to others, and started doing things to myself that added layers of guilt onto what I carried around. I started doing things that I swore for years I would never do. I hung out with men that I never would have talked to 5 years earlier, I slept with some that I never would have dated in a million years and I let myself believe the lies of the devil. I just gave up. For such a strong person to have survived 100% of my worst days, I became my own worst day. Every single day.

            When Zeb spoke to me that day and told me that I wasn’t good for anyone, I didn’t even bother telling him that I already knew that. What shocked me was that he could tell, along with the rest of my kids. I didn’t cry because it was a revelation that I was filled with poison. I cried because I had thought that nobody noticed. I cried because I was ashamed. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have any sack cloth and ashes, but if I had to guess, those three days afterwards would have been the time that I would have used them.

            When I finally had the mindset that I was going to climb out of this pit, not because I deserved to be loved, or because I deserved any peace, I didn’t start with the question of what repentance was. I started with looking at what was wrong with me. When I finally investigated what it meant to repent, I felt a little stupid. Repenting doesn’t mean you live your life in constant sorrow for hurting someone else. The definition of repent is to change one’s mind. I struggled for years thinking that God was still punishing me for things because I wasn’t sorry enough for what I had become. I was never sure what God wanted me to do, I couldn’t be any sorrier for what I had turned into and the things I had done that hurt other people. But when he showed me what he meant by repent he followed closely with what he means when he says he forgives us. Galatians 5:21 says “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless, for if keeping the law could make us right with God, there was no need for Christ to die.” Joyce Meyer says in her book “Healing the Soul of a Woman” that “No one is beyond God’s reach, not you and not the people you have hurt.” In another chapter that I found incredibly comforting, she says, “We often try to leap over our problems or find a way to go around them so we don’t have to deal with them but that never produces good results in life. If we hope to see the end fulfillment, we need to go all the way through the things that are blocking our path. We cannot go part of the way then park when life is difficult.”

            Part of the reason that forgiveness is such a difficult concept for me to grasp is that I never felt comfortable hanging out in the past to find any answers. I didn’t like it there. So many Bible verses say that when you are saved you become a new person in Christ and that the old sins are washed away. That’s all well and good but what if you don’t feel like they are? I knew I was saved, but how could I get from feeling like a garbage about the things that I had done wrong to seeing myself as God sees me? I can’t without looking at the past and having him walk me through it.

            In my last post I talked about my uncertainty of being saved or “born again” before the Pandemic. I am still technically a baby Christian any way you look at it, whether I was saved from my childhood or just now saved during the stay at home order. God is not mad at me for going back into my past with him to ask him to show me what I need to see so that I can heal before I can move forward. He allows me to ask questions and cry over situations that still hurt me. I can tell him that I don’t understand what certain parts of my life have to do with anything or what they were supposed to teach me and he incessantly reminds me that he wants me to see myself as loved as he does. It gives me the courage to look into my sin, into my insecurity, into my anxiety, and into the things I don’t like about myself and show them to him. He doesn’t need me to show them to him because he doesn’t see them. He sees everything. He wants me to show these things to him because he wants to know that I see them and that I know I can’t heal from them on my own. I am a new creation and I understand repenting now. I have changed my mind on so many things from my past it makes my head spin. I am still working on those things. I’ll be honest. It is hard for me to “feel” forgiven in a situation where I cannot ask forgiveness from the person I hurt. It is hard for me to “feel” forgiven for hurting myself and doing things that God told me long ago not to do. It is impossible. I have a shirt that I wear quite often that says, “I don’t exist to be perfect. I exist to be real. To be perfect is a bit too much for me.” (Pierre Alex Jeanty) God knew I couldn’t be perfect and when I made the commitment to just be real with him and with myself He allowed me to find some joy in the real that he created when he made me.

            I have learned to repent and if this post speaks to you, understand that it was one of the hardest to write because I don’t really want to talk about a situation that I haven’t all the way healed from yet. Meyer says, “One of the devil’s main goals is to prevent us from loving and valuing ourselves. Replace the devil’s lies with God’s word. Each time you do you are winning a battle that will eventually make you the victor in the war he has launched against your life.” That is the reason why I write about things I don’t have all the answers to yet. If I had waited until I had all the answers I never would have started writing. The devil tries to keep me weighed down with guilt, but God keeps telling me that he took away my sin and got rid of it for me. He CHOOSES to see me as a new creation, because he sent his son to die for what I did wrong. He CHOSE to pay a high price for me even though he knew that I would colossally screw up not only my own life but someone else’s and he thought I was worth it anyway. He loves me because he wants to, not because someone told him he had to. He CHOOSES to love everything about me, and he chose to do that before I ever even got put on this planet.

God knows that there is someone out there reading this who hasn’t healed from a pain they caused and can find their own solace in the way I write my story. If it isn’t you and you don’t like the way I did it, I apologize. Maybe it wasn’t meant for you. Maybe your sack cloth and ashes look different than mine.

I never knew you

Matthew 7:21,23 “Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord, Lord! Will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. (23) But I will reply, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.”

Psalm 119:71 “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.”

Romans 2:4 “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

James 5:19,20 “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. “

Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. “

            I realize you might find this an odd collection of verses, but I promise it will make sense to you by the end. One of the things that God is showing me I am good at is being able to weave ideas together in a way that makes sense to people. Not only does it make sense to my readers, but I usually end up finding a bit more clarity on something for myself. I never knew about preaching to yourself until the Pandemic hit, and I had very little opportunity for conversations with people. I began to talk to myself a lot. I find that amusing also, so if you just laughed at me, don’t feel bad. I also noticed when I read God’s word out loud he decides to talk to me through it…so before you think I am puffing myself up as a writer, I assure you…these are God’s works. Not mine. I just think maybe he finds it fun to watch me type out his ideas.

            In my very first blog, “Just Wild, Nobody’s Child” I tell you that I gave my life to Jesus at a very young age. In the blog “I AM THE STORM” I talk about going to the Heart Hospital church and doing devotions and praying for my young sons. What I didn’t tell you is that at this point in my life, I spent every day in God’s Word struggling to feel something. Anything. Just one thing that would let me know I was on the right track in my walk with God. I never found the Holy Spirit during that time. I had given my life to God and tried to be what the rules of the Bible said I should be, but I found more condemnation and loneliness in the words that I read than I did anything else. I prayed for God to make me more like him, for him to make people love me, for him to love my sons, and for him to take care of the people at my church. I didn’t pray for forgiveness or a “soul change” or a Jesus sighting for myself, because I had heard that praying for things for yourself was selfish.

            Fast forward to a few months ago. When I prayed my Queen Latifah prayer and asked the Holy Spirit to give me what I needed to not have to walk around carrying this albatross of pain and misery with me everywhere I went, I told God that I didn’t know what I needed. He did and I just wanted him to show me…to make something make sense this time. He answered that prayer. I’m not sure why my prayer “worked” when it did or why God seemed to be not interested in speaking to me or giving me any hope in the early days of being a mother, but I am grateful that I have his voice now.

            I was reading a book called “The Battle Even Kings  Lost” by Raul F. Moreno and a passage that he wrote really made me mad. I have learned over the past few months that when something makes me that mad, I need to dissect it and find out why. So, I did that. It starts with 2 Peter 2:20-21 “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end then they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” Moreno says there are 2 out of 3 categories of Christians that can come back and be restored to God. The first are those that are never converted and here is where I got mad.

            He says those who were never converted were “those who did not belong to Christ because they did not have the Holy Spirit that were false Christians who “faked” their conversions just to be part of the church and consequently they never received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Technically, these church members are not fallaways because they never were in the church in the first place. They need to come back to the church and study the Bible and be properly converted.” He goes on to say the second category are those Christians who wandered away leading to spiritual death. Once this type of Christian repents, a multitude of their sins are covered, meaning they are forgiven. (James 5:19,20)

            Now, when I thought about it, I got mad because he used the word “fake” to describe the first category of Christians. Looking back on all the praying, church functions and services, counseling with my pastor, and Bible reading and prayer groups I attended there was nothing fake about my intention. I was truly trying to find something that resembled the God that my Christian friends had. I didn’t know that when you find the Holy Spirit things begin to feel different. I didn’t know that God actually talked (except to really religious people that he gave all the rules to or people like Pastor Doctor that sat around and read the Bible all day long and went to Bible college and had it explained to him. Please understand that I am going off of what I thought I knew so, no “religious people” aren’t the only ones that God tells the rules to and no, Pastor Doctor doesn’t sit in his office all week just reading his Bible and ignoring the outside world and the plight of those that belong to his church family. This is how I viewed things.)

            I wasn’t faking anything in the sense that I was looking and searching for God. I was searching for something that would change the perception I had of him and of the religion that I had grown up in and been rejected by. What I didn’t know was that those were not the same things. I was being rejected by people and not by God. I was rejecting myself and I didn’t know that either. When I read that passage about being a fake Christian, I recognized one of the things that Satan has really been able to get away with when it comes to me. I am not a fake Christian. I just didn’t know that the Holy Spirit was capable of filling in the gaps in my heart that made it impossible for me to love, not only myself but others, very well. Satan adds just enough truth to his lies to get you to believe that the whole thing is the way he wants you to view it.

            Not knowing you aren’t full of the Holy Spirit is sort of like not knowing what it is like to have a broken bone or be in love. You can think you broke something or think you fell in love, but until you actually experience either of those things and know without a shadow of any doubt that that is what you are dealing with, how do you know that the “false alarms” weren’t the real thing? Now that I know without any doubt, without any fear, without any confusion that what I have is the real deal, I know that I did not have the Holy Spirit before. I think sometimes that knowing what you don’t have is just as important as knowing what you do have. If you don’t know you don’t have something and you don’t know you need it, how are you supposed to find help to get it? You can’t.

            In my twenties I kept a prayer journal. I threw it away during the Pandemic stay at home order because it made me sad to read the words of the girl that had no clue what she was praying for. That girls sounded so empty and hollow and misinformed I couldn’t believe we were the same person. There were no prayers for her heart, for her broken…not in over two years of writing to God almost every single night. None. She didn’t think she deserved to even pray for her own heart, so she filled page after page with prayers for other people. Other people deserved God’s blessings, his healing, his love, and his grace…but she didn’t think enough of herself to pray for those things for her heart. I realized at the end of writing “Not Fragile Like a Flower, Fragile Like a Bomb” that things have changed. I am still that girl, and she still tells me stories about times we were afraid. I take those stories to God and God tells me what to tell her. God fills in the gaps and giant gaping wounds in the soul of that girl and every time I see her, she looks more and more like the me I know now. She didn’t know that she didn’t have the Holy Spirit and the older me that comforts her didn’t know either. I didn’t know she needed something until God gave it to me. She never asked why, and I didn’t know that she was allowed to. I didn’t know that that girl and who I am now both needed to ask why so God could answer instead of listening to the hollow, empty despair of a heart unloved. This was the first revelation that God gave me in preparing to write this post.

            What made me so uncomfortable about being called fake is that I think that Jesus would have been speaking to me if I had been unfortunate enough to die before 2020. He would have said “I never knew you”.  I had been living my life only taking the first step of salvation. The very first baby step of Christian salvation is to believe that Jesus died for our sins. Not thinking about what that means, you can spend 20 or more years just sitting there at the base of the Cross getting bored and lonely with the world around you because the others that have accepted that same salvation and promise have long since walked away.

            I don’t know why God revealed this to me now instead of then. I do know that his timing is perfect and there were things he wanted to show me throughout the time he was waiting and trying to show me how much he really does love me.  As he does with many things, he decided one revelation on this wasn’t enough. The other thing he revealed to me is that I like to discredit people’s entire works when I don’t like one thing they say. If you are guilty of this too, please read this next part carefully.

            I almost stopped reading “The Battle Even Kings Lost” because there were several statements I didn’t agree with. I’m not saying that I changed my mind. This is a great book and happened to be a great source of help to me on a bunch of different topics that I struggle with every day. But had I thrown it out based on a few principles I didn’t get or like the way they were written I would have missed the relief that God had hidden for me in the rest of Moreno’s writing. It occurred to me that we do that a lot, not just as people, but as Christians. I know I am not the only one guilty of not listening to someone just because they say something I don’t like or agree with. I talked about the Pharisees in my last post…but what you may have missed is that much of what the Pharisees said was right. There was a lot of truth in their words, but their hearts were not what God wanted. I can argue with the laws all I want, but that doesn’t make them less true just because the Pharisees were hypocrites. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you listen to everyone that speaks to you on every topic available. I am saying that when we throw out someone’s whole entire thought or writing, we might be missing something that God intended for us to see. I am not a perfect person and I learn things in a different manner then many people. I’m sure that some “religious” people don’t like my writing. That’s fine. I didn’t write it for them. They don’t have the authority to discredit me. However, if you throw out everything I write based on one truth I might get wrong (or more than one) then you might miss the reason you were drawn to it in the first place. I’m not saying I am right about everything. I pray and seek God’s help every single time I sit down to write. And many times, what you read is the result of months of studying and writing and rewriting. Other times, it is the result of a really good prayer session and the words fly out of my fingers so fast I swear that I’m not even the one doing the writing. But, if we get hung up on a name, or the fact that someone doesn’t fast right or they speak a different way about something God showed them and we don’t understand it, maybe we should consider that God doesn’t need that part of their story to resonate with us. Maybe it isn’t for us, and it just may be the writer is wrong. We put a lot of stock in people and what they have to say. I read a lot of Christian authors and I listen to 6 pastors regularly on Youtube from churches around the nation. Not one of them is God and so I do ask God to show me when there is something that may not be correct about the way they are speaking about something. What I have found is that he can usually (okay always) change their words into what I understand so that I can find my own definition of who he is the way he wants me to see it. It doesn’t change the definition of him but it changes the way I am able to understand what the other person was trying to say and the truth God wants me to find.

            Guess what? None of us are perfect. I noticed that a lot of times Christians like to say things like “you’ll know who they are by their fruit” and point out something that another person has done that supports a lack of production. And sometimes they are right. But here’s the thing. We all do things that make it look like we aren’t producing fruit in one way or another. We all have deficiencies that God is working on within us.  A.W. Tozer calls these our crosses to bear. In his book, “I Talk Back to the Devil” he talks about A.B. Simpson describing the different crosses we carry. He quotes, “God wants His children to know the cross. It seems that He makes our crosses of all the things we like the best so that when they turn to bitterness, we are able to learn the true measure of eternal values. He may make them of iron and lead which are heavy of themselves. He makes some of straw which seem to weigh nothing, but one discovers that they are no less difficult to carry. A cross that appears to be made of straw so that others think it amounts to nothing may be crucifying you through and through. He makes some with gold and precious stones which dazzle spectators and excite the envy of the public, but which crucify no less than crosses which are more despised.” Tozer adds, “Christians who are put in high places, Christians who are entrusted with wealth and influence, know something about that kind of cross.”

            Think about that for a second. We are all different Christians. We love different things, we explore different things, we gravitate towards different things and we all sin with different things.  We all fall and we all sin, no matter how much we don’t like to do it or even admit it. But, I think it is important to note that if I throw out everything someone says based on a few examples that I could learn elsewhere I am negating the work that God is giving me in order to show me something I need to see in my own life. Sometimes, our wrong answers are just as important as the right ones. If I say something that is out of line for you in your walk with God, then by all means please stop reading my blog and find something that God wants to use to heal or help you in the direction he wants you to take. But, if you pray about it and I just say a wrong thing here or there or you just don’t agree with something that I say, please don’t discount the message for the way I phrase it. I am not perfect, and I am learning as I go, the same as we all are. I don’t agree with everything my 6 pastors say, nor what every Christian author writes. However, when I pray about the things that I feel the “press” from God to dig deeper into, then I learn something he wants me to know.

            Looking back on the past twenty years and realizing that I had never truly become a Christ follower is a tough swallow. I wasn’t a Christian (which means Christ follower) because I didn’t go anywhere in my faith. I sat there, at the base of the Cross, doing nothing to find him within myself and not asking him to fill the holes that people had torn inside of me. I didn’t know I was supposed to. I was a Believer in the very smallest semblance of the word because I have almost always believed that Jesus died on the cross to save all of us from our sins. I don’t know if God would have considered me much of a testimony for his glory before I became a true follower because all that sat at the foot of the Cross was a broken and scared, hurting and hurtful soul who didn’t know how to pray and couldn’t find any strength or faith to be healed by God. I didn’t know there was more to being a Christian, so I had no idea that he would not consider me to be one of his. Now, I am not positive that God would have rejected me as someone he didn’t know before a year ago, but I don’t think I can go back to taking that chance anymore. Having the Holy Spirit now I understand that God can change us from the inside out, not the outside in. I wouldn’t give that back for anything. I may not have liked what I lived through and who I became at times, but I know that the parts of me that I still don’t like, God loves. God loves those parts because to him they mean something greater than what I can see. Those wrong decisions and all that pain are becoming a story that he saw as beautiful way before I did. My soul was uglier three years ago then it ever was in my teens or in my twenties or even beyond that, but for some reason God’s love for me has multiplied so much that now I can’t walk around for very long at all before he is sending me some sign to let me know that I am always on his mind. For whatever reason this time, when I pray and even sometimes when I am not, his words come back to me and I can feel him walking around with me and living life and holding my hand. He knows there is much of me that is still hurting and yet he makes it possible for me to step out in faith and go where he asks me to go. He understands the things my heart hurts about…and he is very patient in teaching me that those things will be healed in a way I never could have imagined if I let him have them. The fear I have lessens just a little bit and I have just a little more faith in the hope of the promises that he has for me. I may not know what his promises are or what they mean for my personal life, but I know that God does and that is enough. That hope is just a little more freedom, a lot more love,  a little less stress, a little more confidence and a little more peace, even in a world that rages with turmoil around me, and an unsure compass about where my future is taking me. What the Holy Spirit gives me is the strength, the faith, the love and the comfort that he knows I need to be able to say “Okay, Father, if this is what you want for me right now, then as long as you hold my hand I will go.” He’s showing me how to trust him and get up from the base of the cross and go…broken heart and ugly sins on board. He takes all of me at my worst so that he can turn it into his best version of me. And with every little step I take with him, he shows me that I can rest easy. He does in fact, know me.

Modern Day Pharisees: Alive and Judging

Revelation: Modern Day Pharisees: Alive and Judging

Matthew 23:1-4, “Then Jesus said to the crowds and his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the Law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”

Matthew 23:27,28 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs- beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly, you look righteous to people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

            I am what is known as a well-read person. I have read thousands of books, and those of you that know me personally know this is no exaggeration. I love to read. When I attended The Heart Hospital church in my twenties, I would often spend the ride home feeling sorry for Pastor Doctor and the job that God had called him to do. I couldn’t fathom reading one book every single day and never getting a break from listening to people and all their “prayer requests” which, to me, sounded a lot like complaining to God. I thought, “Sheesh, what a boring job. One book…all those rules and all the stuff that God’s children aren’t allowed to do. Why would a person ever sign up to be a Christian, let alone follow God’s calling to be a pastor? Blech.” I had read a lot about the Pharisees in the Bible and couldn’t stand them. I would high five Jesus in my head every time I read about him putting these pompous windbags in their place. The holier than thou men that walked around and told everybody what a miserable job they were doing following the path that God had laid out for them. What I didn’t realize is that when Jesus is talking to the Pharisees in the Bible, he is talking to us as his followers.

            I have since changed my opinion of Pastor Doctor’s career choice. Over the pandemic of 2020, I have been able to spend 6 to 8 hours a day reading God’s word and finding nothing “earthly” that keeps my attention quite like the Living Word. Now I am lucky to make it through an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” without giving up and shutting it off. I find myself a little jealous that my Pastor Doctor gets to spend all week reading the Bible and uncovering truths that I might miss because I have to spend 40 hours a week at school. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I love my students without fail. However, in a book called “Love Does” by Bob Goff he makes a statement that made me change the way I viewed my own career.

            Goff says, “Some time ago I stopped thinking about being a lawyer as a career. Instead, I think of it as just a day job. Thinking about work as a day job has made a big difference in the way I approach what I do. It’s also helped me not to confuse who I am with what I do.” He continues on to say that “Following Jesus is about having your paradigms shift as you navigate a wide range of emotions while living the big life Jesus invites us into.”

            I haven’t been great at the following Jesus part. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand Pastor Doctor’s choice and I certainly didn’t want to be a Christian if that meant being like most of the ones I knew. But God showed me a funny thing in the days of the pandemic in which I got to spend so much time reading. He showed me that he never created me to be like anyone else. He also never created me to be the boss of anyone else. He never intended for any of us to be a Pharisee. We chose that on our own.  

            I found it interesting that Jesus continually refers to the Pharisees as snakes. Just in case you aren’t a Bible reader I’ll explain a Pharisee. A Pharisee was a religious leader that studied the law of Moses and told people what it said so that they could follow it. The Pharisees were supposed to be the most righteous people in all the land. They were supposed to be the religious elite. The Pharisees missed the forest for the trees, as the saying goes. Here’s the problem with the Pharisees. They got so hung up on the actual Laws, they missed the reason the laws were there.

            I belong to an online group for women of Christ that is a resource where you can post questions or testimony, or just ask for prayer. I generally tend to skip over the questions because I don’t like the fighting that comes out in those threads. After all, I belong to the group so that I can find ways to uplift my heart when I am having a “worldly” bad time. I don’t come to the group to find out I’m the wrong kind of Christian. One lady asked how other sisters in Christ were able to fast. She was struggling with it and wanted some tips and comfort from her sisters that had been there and struggled through it. That is not what she got. I left her a comment about not all fasting having to do with eating food and was immediately “rebuked” by another woman who told me that I needed to go read my Bible and stop giving out false information. The regular old Wild Child in me flared up. She continued to list 48 Bible verses to show me how wrong I was. I scrolled through some of the other comments while I was trying to calm down my attitude and noticed that the woman had went after every single person on the thread the same way she came after me, telling them they were wrong and laughing condescendingly at other’s thoughts on the subject.

            In one comment to me, the woman actually wrote, “You haven’t even read the Bible. Fasting is clearly going without food and also you are supposed to give up smoking, caffeine, and sugar. Anything that could possibly be bad for you. Get with Jesus and stop giving out wrong information.” Oh. Well, I seemed to have missed the Bible verse that mentioned that fasting was only from food but had included giving up cigarettes, Mountain Dew, and Jolly Ranchers. Now, I don’t know what Bible she’s reading but my Bible doesn’t include a chapter that mentions any of those.  I wanted to reply to the woman that she was an amazing Bible character. She made a great Pharisee. Luckily, God has a hold of my fingers on social media lately, as well as the ability to place his giant hand over my mouth so I don’t say something unloving to people. In later comments the woman also told another poster that she had never felt the need to fast. At that point I left the conversation. I couldn’t handle any more of the hypocrisy and condemnation from this lady who didn’t have any more access to God than I did. I couldn’t stay there and still be able to respond to her in a loving way. I realized that’s why God is a lot better at this than me. I’ve never heard him talk to people the way I wanted to talk to this woman.

            I don’t know how you handle your irritations, but I vent to God. He is my constant companion. I learned a long time ago that God can hear what I am thinking. So, while I was cussing this lady out in my head…he heard all of that. I talked to him about it. God said, “Funny you should mention that. She sounds like someone else I know sometimes” The only difference in the way God “rebukes” me and the way this lady did it is that God is always really loving in the way he tells me that I am messing up his Kingdom by my opinion. I spend so much time in his word that you’d think I’d have learned by now to practice 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.” That woman had no way of knowing if I read my Bible or not. I know I do and I felt sorry for her after God reminded me how sad I used to be when I thought the Bible was just a list of rules I could never hope to follow all the way.

            I find these types of things a lot. In general conversation, in posts and comments on social media, and even on my favorite pastors’ video sermons comment threads. It makes me sad that we are so intent on being right about how to follow the rule we think we know; we miss the whole entire point of the rule being there. God asks us to follow certain laws because he knows if we don’t we’ll get hurt. He has never once in all the Bible verses I’ve read asked us to pull an Eve and add to his word. Let me explain. In Genesis 3 when the serpent came to the garden of Eden and asked Eve, “Did God really tell you that you couldn’t eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” Eve answers him in verse 3, “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, “You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.” God never said they couldn’t touch it. His exact words in Genesis 2:16, 17 the text says, “But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” He never told them not to touch it. Eve added that.

            How often do we get a little overzealous like Eve and add things in that God didn’t say? How often do we act like the Pharisees and pretend we are righteous and godly and then when it comes to another brother or sister in Christ we tear them apart because their “knowledge” of the word doesn’t live up to our own? A little too often I’m afraid. Even me. I know it might be shocking for you to learn that the King’s Wild Child can get a bit arrogant at times, but that comes from being “well-read”. (If you are worried about it, trust me God is convicting me on it and he never misses a time when I need corrected.)

            One of my favorite things that I have learned from Pastor Doctor is something that used to annoy my soul when I didn’t understand how to be a Christian. Every time I ask him a question about what I should do in a situation I am struggling with; his response is always “We should definitely pray about it and seek the Lord’s guidance.” I tease him now because I remember something, he says all the time in his end of sermon prayers. He usually asks God to give us wisdom and discernment and always asks for God to lead, guide, and direct us. You see, in all of my hours of reading the Bible, God has never once asked me to go ask someone besides him what I should do in anything I have come up against. Pastor Doctor must have learned that a long time ago, because he never forgets to say that…and he never forgets to mean it either.

            You may remember in my earlier post that I said I had an issue fasting with food. I can’t do that. God won’t ask me to do that because he knows I would be giving up nothing. I don’t care about eating. So eating has become my form of worship. I worship God when I eat because I am showing him that I am taking care of the flesh suit he gave me. Am I great at it? Nope. But, I am progressing. God asked me to fast a different way. So, when a human comes up and tells me I am doing something wrong…I don’t have to get mad at them no matter which direction they come from. They can come sideways all they want. God’s voice is the only one that matters.

            That being said, here’s the point of the story. God never authorized me to be a Pharisee. What he has authorized me to do is to tell people what he tells me. Does that mean that other people need to follow my road and do all the things that I put in my blog about the way I live? Absolutely not. I write about my life because I have been through things that others have struggled with and God has given me a new life and saved me from the misery of the choices that I’ve made. How he does that is different for everyone. Please don’t ever take my words as some sort of road map for how you are to live your life. I am not you and I don’t know what God tells you to do. If you have a question you think I might be able to answer, then by all means, please ask me. But, please don’t ever assume that just because God talks to me that he talks to me for you. He does not. I don’t live your life and I have no idea what great thing God is trying to do through you.

            What God has asked me to share with you is this. Matthew 23:13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you won’t allow the others to enter either.” The problem with the Pharisees is that they are keeping people from being able to experience the enormous love that God has for us. If you are a Christian and you are arguing with other believers about how they follow the rules laid out in the Bible, how do you expect unbelievers to want to come to know Christ? We are supposed to be made in God’s image. That has nothing to do with what we look like. It has to do with our spirit. Our spirits are supposed to be as close to Jesus’ as we can get so that other people will look at us and say “Hey! I don’t know what she has, but man I want some of that! She goes through life, even on the hard days and can still love people. She can still be nice. She can still be joyful when life sucks. What is that about?”

            Where I think we get confused is at the point where we don’t agree with the way someone else is choosing to live their lives. Many people have opinions. In fact, that is the only thing every person in the world has in common. We all have opinions on things. All you have to do is turn on your tv, listen to someone speak, or read a comment thread online. Opinions get to be like those annoying bugs that fly around the old fruit you forgot to throw out and now you can’t hit any of them with a fly swatter because they are too small and can squeeze through the little holes. Annoying. How many times are we those annoying bugs when we bounce our pompous opinions off of someone who is just struggling to hear what God is telling them? How many times are we the reason why someone decides to move away from the door to get into the Kingdom? How many times are we the reason someone can’t come to the Cross and find the love that God so desperately wants them to find?

            Let me relate that to today. There is a sea of controversy going on every time we step out of our houses. Wear a mask or don’t, support black lives matter or all lives matter, be a democrat or a republican, support gay pride or don’t, believe in a conspiracy theory or pick it apart, support public education or private schools or homeschool. Here’s the thing. These are all issues swirling around us right now on top of our daily lives. Instead of seeing it as the Pharisees did, maybe it wouldn’t look that daunting if we all tried seeing it from Jesus’ point of view. We are all one of God’s children. Let me give you a nugget of clarity. Our opinion of another person has no bearing on whether or not they end up in heaven with us. How bout that?

            My opinion of someone else and the character they possess holds no weight when God decides if they get to hang out in heaven for all eternity with me. The Pharisees knew the law inside and out and they didn’t get to have any say so in who got accepted into God’s kingdom. None at all. Wow. So guess what? The only person I have a say so in where they end up is me. My opinion only holds weight when it comes to whether or not I get in. Just me. Not my ex-husband, not my friends, not my boss, not the rude lady at Walmart, or the Facebook Pharisee. None of those people will be kept out of the Kingdom of heaven because of my opinion on them being there. If God decides to let them in, God decides to let them in and nothing I can say is going to change his mind. That makes me sound a lot less important than I thought I was.

 Do you know the word love is used in the Bible 310 times in the King James Bible? 348 in the New American Standard Bible, 538 in the New Revised Standard Version and 551 times in the New International Version. In none of these verses does it tell us to love unless people say something stupid. I hear a lot of people say that we are to tell other people when they need to turn from their sins because God tells us to. That is true to a point. However, nowhere in the Bible does God give any of us permission to act like complete buttheads and be rude or self-righteous if we are called to speak to someone about their sins. Recently I listened to a sermon from a pastor I listen to regularly, I’ll call him Pastor Hilarious. Pastor Hilarious talked about how God called us to read the word and live according to what it says. At the end of the sermon you could leave a comment and one lady called Pastor Hilarious a false prophet because she felt he didn’t go deep enough into the word of God. Another lady commented on the same thread and said that he had preached that gay people would be allowed to go to heaven.

I may be wrong here, but if God says that all sins are the same what difference does it make to any of us what sexual orientation someone else is? What difference does it make if someone else wears a mask or is a Republican or is for public education? We are called to speak with love. I’m not asking you to put aside your beliefs. I am not asking you to stand down from speaking out against the things God convicts you to speak out on. I am asking you to remember that the people on the other end of the issue from where you are are God’s children also. They deserve to be treated with love and respect and dignity. Love them. Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they are. Loving someone has to do with treating other people the way Jesus treats us. He didn’t call us out on all of our sins and downfalls in front of the entire world and embarrass us. Jesus never asked us to curse someone out on Facebook. He never asked me to call that lady a Pharisee. He said,” I got you. I love you. Love her the way I love you.” Jesus can’t stand the way I act sometimes. Matter of fact, I know that him and God have board meetings about what to do about my behavior and the way I do things. I know they are having board meetings because usually right after they have one something kind of big in my life happens. I either get in a fight with someone I love, I lose something valuable like a friendship or my keys, or the world shuts down and I get sent to my room to sit around and think about the last 40 years of sinning that I have taken part in.

            God showed me something else when he gave me this revelation. No matter how much I know about the Bible, no matter how well I think I understand the laws in it’s pages, and no matter what my relationship with him looks like, he will never tell me what he convicted someone else on. Let me say it again. God is never going to tell me that he convicted someone else of not following what he wants them to do. God is never going to tell me what he is convicting YOU about. I have no right to tell a homosexual that they are not going to heaven. I have no right to tell a liar that they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I have no right to tell someone who cheated on their husband that they are going to hell. You know why I don’t have those rights? Because I don’t know how to tell people anything God wants them to know with the conviction and not the condemnation. Only God can condemn people. I can’t do that because I don’t know the intention of their hearts. This is part of the reason that God doesn’t give us that authority. IF I do what I am called to do and love people….when I speak to them, whether they are my friend or an enemy, if I love them then HE will take care of whatever is in their hearts that isnt’ the way he wants it. I have a few posts coming where I explain what God has showed me about the way he’s asking us to love. I realize that’s not much information to go off of, but God already gave us the book on how to love. It’s the Bible. And all of the other books I have read help explain what God means but take it from a well-read person. You only need the one. If God thought we needed more than just the Bible and prayer…the Bible would have been a series. Like Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings or Encyclopedia Britannica. Guess what? It isn’t.

Revelation: Religion vs Relationship

Religion vs Relationship

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

            I’m gonna start by being what Pastor Michael Todd calls HOT. Humble, Open, and Transparent. I don’t know how to say what I have to say without it coming out direct and writing about what has transpired in my thinking. You might remember that in some of my previous posts I talk about struggling with anorexia. That started to bother me when I started watching Youtube church and listening to all of my favorite pastors talking about how much they got from God when they were fasting. In my conversations with my Pastor Doctor, we have come to the conclusion that God is never going to ask me to not eat. It wouldn’t be giving up something that I didn’t want in the first place. I still struggle to make myself eat, so giving up eating is no sweat. “Ok, God, You want me to quit eating for 3 weeks? Cool. I got you!” God said, “Ok funny girl. Just be open to whatever I bring to you.” So, one day I was reading a book by Priscilla Shirer called “Discerning the Voice of God”, and she was talking about a friend of hers that goes on a silent prayer weekend and I had never heard of such a thing. God knocked on the top of my head. Not literally, of course, but the sound that it makes inside my brain when that happens is enough to let me know that he is about ready to reveal something I need to listen to. He said, “I’m not going to ask you to fast from food. That’s too easy. What I want is for you to fast from talking out loud. I want you to go on a silent prayer weekend. At your house. Alone. With nobody there.”

            I thought about that. Sounded weird but I thought “I’ll give it a shot. I can do it.” The kids were leaving for their annual family trip to Ohio and so it was good timing. I could not talk for the whole weekend. I told the kids that they couldn’t call me because I wouldn’t answer. They said fine and I started at 3 pm. I did good the first day. No speaking. Not one sound (except laughing at Pastor Todd, but he has a way of doing that and surprising me). Then my phone went off on Saturday morning and one of my dearest friends was texting me and asking me if what I was doing. I picked up my phone to text her back and Ice Cube voiced God said, “Girl, I said no talking. That means no talking.” Oh. Okay, okay, okay. So, I stayed off all social media, texting, and phone stuff. The only sound coming out of my house was Youtube church and the sound of my breathing. There was one sermon in particular where I was moved enough to stand up and pray like the Pastor on TV was having his church do. I really wanted to yell at my dog who was clearly looking at me with a condescending look on his face and tell him to stop judging me, but I remembered my vow of silence. 40 hours of silence. (I am still asking God what the significance of the number 40 is for me as he’s been bringing it up a lot.)

            Sunday morning at 8 am I could talk again. In that time, God talked to me because I shut up and listen to him. And we decided I hate religion. Here’s why. I can’t follow the rules. (Technically, I can’t even fast “right”.) There are so many, and I feel inadequate to everyone except God. God doesn’t make me feel inadequate. People do.  People judge others based on appearance, language, color, profession, political party affiliation, religion, the list is ridiculously endless. So, since then, I have been being more intentional with my time and using my mouth less and talking less to God and letting him talk to me. I found out he even speaks when I don’t know that I am asking for an answer. Here’s where I go into being humble, open, and transparent. I have grouchy days. I have days where everybody makes me angry with all their complaining and fighting and name calling. I have always been a person who is affected greatly by other’s negativity. It drags me down. I am cool if someone wants to complain about something and does it in a funny way…I relate to that. Its also an incredibly sneaky trick of the devil to get me drug down when I didn’t want to be. So, the last time I had one of these grouchy days (and it was ROUGH) I struggled the whole day. Not so much because of its events but because one incident in the morning just set off my day in a bad way. Then every single place I went to had people arguing in it. It was everywhere. Unavoidable and unescapable. I went to bed grouchy and I told God, “I had a terrible day. I know part of the reason, but really it was my attitude that kept it that way. I don’t like that. So, I’m praying, and I don’t feel like reading my Bible because my head hurts, but I’m gonna watch more youtube church and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

            I fell asleep with Youtube church on and woke up hearing Joyce Meyer say something about “stinkin thinkin”. Joyce Meyer is not someone I normally watch. I wasn’t awake enough to hear what else she said, but somewhere in that phrase Romans 12:2 was attached. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” When I woke up, I looked up the verse. I don’t normally concentrate on just one verse, but I kept coming back to conform. Con. Form. Con – like con man. So, I looked it up in the dictionary. The prefix con means “something using deception to gain another’s confidence” if used as a noun. If it’s an adverb, it changes a little to mean “on the negative side of opposition.” Okay…so then I felt God leading me to look up the prefix trans in the same way. Trans means “so as to change thoroughly”. All of the sudden it hit me. Conforming to this world is a deception that the devil plants within us. Con-form. Satan WANTS us to try to be like everybody else. We are easier to control that way. The con is that if we are like others then life won’t hurt and we’ll be happy because we have friends, and money, and we’ll get to experience things because we’ll have the approval of those around us. But that is exactly what that is. A con. And one of the biggest ways he uses to get us to do that is to invite religion into our relationship with God.

            I’ll explain if you missed my meaning. (Technically, I’m going to explain anyway even if you didn’t.) Religion is the list of basics of any given belief system. It is the rules that you have to follow in order to be called a follower of God. Some of these rules seem sort of obvious, like you can’t murder people, you can’t have an affair with someone who is not your spouse, you can’t lie or steal from people, and you can’t worship idols. Others, like what you should eat, how you should take care of yourself, how much money you should throw in the offering plate, the way you raise your kids, or keep your house are not as obvious. Whether or not you can drink alcohol, have tattoos, live with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or use cuss words get thrown in the mix and pretty soon you have a bunch of people hanging out in the same building every Sunday talking about what everyone else is doing wrong. Religion is BS. Now, before you get mad that I’m “cussing” in a Christian blog, first let me give credit where credit is due. Pastor Michael Todd said it in one of his sermons I saw on Youtube, so be mad at him. Second, BS stands for Broken System.

            I got tired of the regular social media sites and all of the name calling and fighting that was going on there, so I decided to join a Christian social media site that was sort of like Facebook but with only Christian content. The very first post I read almost made me cry. It was a post about mental health and doing things to relax you in this stressful time. One of the things listed was yoga. Man, you’d have thought someone suggested people move straight into a house in hell with their children in tow by the way the Christians on the site tore into the poster. What? Yoga is a sin? Since when? They were being just as nasty as “unbelievers” and my heart just sank. So very low. I had come here hoping to be uplifted and find are other normal people who struggle with everyday stuff like bills, and career issues, and kids, and questions about being a Christian and what I found was judgement and condemnation from people based on a list of rules.

            The morning after I heard Joyce Meyer say “stinkin thinkin” I asked God “What do I do if other Christians are judging and being nasty and evil and calling it “God’s will”? How do I not tolerate hate and evil and show love at the same time?” God answered me and gave me Romans 14:1,4 “Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.”

            Talk about a hard command to follow. A few days before my grouchy day, God gave me a poem written by Mother Teresa. (God can speak through prostitutes and murderers so if Mother Teresa doesn’t belong in the Christian religion than neither do any of the people in the Bible.) It said,

“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives

Be kind anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough,

Give the world your best anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.”

Wow. Just really wow. This was followed by a quote from Dorothy Sayer (ya’ll already know I am a super dork about quotes…so you’ll find the ones that speak to me in most of my writing.) She said, “God did not abolish the fact of evil, He transformed it. He did not stop the crucifixion. He rose from the dead.” Talk about a conviction.

                               When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was in Matthew 22:34, they were trying to trip him up. (Notice the arrogance of man here.) Jesus says in verse 37-40 “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all of the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” He didn’t say “Love those who believe the same things you do about ME, or the ones who belong to the same political party, or the ones who don’t smoke weed or the ones who don’t eat pork, and the ones who don’t cuss, or the ones who don’t drive you crazy” He didn’t say, “Love my people, but not the ones that have tattoos, and not the ones who are gay and not the ones that are not the same color as you.” He said, “Love me first. Then love your neighbor as yourself.” God is not interested in right doing. He is interested in right being in our hearts and when we are aligned with his will, the right DOING comes out of that. Not the other way around.

                               So how do we do this? Romans 12:14 gives us a start. “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” Then in Romans 12:17 he says, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Verse 21 “Don’t let evil conquer you but conquer evil by doing good.”

                               That is a very tall order. People are annoying and cynical and judgmental. But God does not tell us to call others to him by giving them a list of all the rules they are breaking that don’t measure up to what he says we should be in the Bible. If we are to lead others to him it must be done in love or it will never happen. God’s mercy is for everyone. That’s how we are saved. God’s mercy was for us. God’s mercy was for me. If God can love me after everything I have done, then what business do I have in telling other people what they are doing wrong? I am not put here to do that. I am here to share what God tells me to share and share it in a way that shows love and compassion and REAL to others. That’s what God asked me to do. He never said, “Jackie, do all this and then I’ll let you judge others. I’ll give you some real authority if you can prove you love me by following all these rules I have listed in the Bible.” God didn’t say that but many times as believers we take it to mean that. We get to judge others because we love God and God knows our hearts. That is not how it works. God simply called us to love others and to show them what he looks like through the love he showed us by sending his only son to die for us on the cross.

                               We wonder why people don’t want to come to church. We wonder how they could live such horrible, sin filled lives. It’s because we as Christians show them religion instead of the way God transformed our hearts when we accepted him into our lives. We show them religion instead of relationship. Transform means to thoroughly change our form. Not to judge others the opposite way from what we did when we were still sinners. He calls us to love. I feel the need to say it again. Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” That is in the New Living Translation. The Life Application Study Bible says it this way, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person, by changing the way you think. Then you will learn God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

                               I’ll leave you with Numbers 14:18 because that was the last gift that God gave me on this particular subject for now. (When he really wants to drive something into the realm of my attention, he brings his A game every single time. I’m sharing with you in case, like me you were wondering what you are supposed to do when you don’t agree with someone’s beliefs or choices or lifestyles. I don’t have the authority to judge you just like you don’t have the authority to judge the woman that types this blog whether you know me in person or not. I don’t have to care about your judgement and honestly if you hate every word I say, let me tell you this. My haters are some of my best promoters. I appreciate their work.) Numbers 14:18 says, “The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children, the entire family is affected, even children in the third and fourth generations.”

                               I don’t know about you or what you get from this verse, but what I thought when I read it is that I don’t want my kids or my grandbaby paying the price for me being a jerk. I don’t want my inability to love others like God loves me to come sit on top of them and hold them down from being able to do the work that God has in store for them to do. I don’t want them wandering around for the next 40 years or however long it takes them to figure out that I was wrong in the way I taught them to treat people. I don’t want that to sit on my head or theirs when I go meet God and have my own judgement day. I don’t want God to look at me and be disappointed in what my heart looks like no matter how well I followed my religion. I want God to look at me and say, “Man you made a hot mess out of those first 40 years, Girl, but you got it together and you loved me first and then you loved my people. You did well, my faithful servant.”

Part 3: Revelations – What You Don’t Change You Choose

Part 3 – Revelations- What You Do Not Change, You Choose (su

Proverbs 9:6 “Leave your simple ways behind and begin to live; learn to use good judgement.”

Proverbs 14:8 “The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves.”

Proverbs 14:15 “Only simpletons believe everything they are told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.”

(prudent = acting with or showing care and thought for the future)

            In my last post, I asked my readers to look at the things in our lives that we settle for when it came to the opposite sex. I can only write about things I know, as I stated, so it was not intended as a blog that downgraded men or answers for what they should or should not be doing. Clearly, I am not a man, nor do I want to be one. What I wrote was about the different ways that women put up with laziness and ungodliness in the men they have relationships with. I’m not saying all guys are bad. I’m not saying our failed relationships with them are all their fault. They are half. We are the other half. So, Ladies today it is our turn. We need to examine some of the things that we keep doing to break ourselves and then we try to blame the guy and say, “He’s nothing. He’s worthless and he was awful to me.” In placing the blame on him and taking no responsibility for our own decisions and our own willingness to just accept that he wasn’t what we wanted from jump street, then we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.

            In addition to the verses above, I wanted to look at the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 and 2. If you don’t know her, I’ll paraphrase. It’s pretty simple. Hannah was married to Elkanah and he loved her very much. He also had another wife who he had children with. (I’m not going to pretend I understand the culture of the Bible days back then where guys could just go around marrying everything in a skirt and that was fine. However, if you compare it to today’s standards where guys are married, have side chics, number 3’s and booty calls, I’m guessing it’s about the same thing. Check out the New Testament on marriage just in case someone who believes that they are allowed to have more than one wife tries to use that on you to get you to accept their sleeping with other women…1 Corinthians 7 takes polygamy off the table.) So, more than anything Hannah wants a baby and Elkanah’s other wife, Penninah continually (for years the Bible says) makes fun of her and torments Hannah about not being able to conceive). Neither Elkanah or her Rabbi understand why she’s so upset and why she’s so depressed. She’s alone in her pain.

            Many of you might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you. Many of us, myself included, have tons of kids and while we love them deeply, many of us are ready to pull our hair out with the ones we have, let alone want to pray for any additional ones. (One of the problems with reading things and not watching someone’s facial expressions is that you can’t see the smirk I have while I type this. I love my kids and they are by far the best gifts I have ever gotten out of life. They will drive us crazy though and one time an older lady that my parents were friends with told me, “Anybody who tells you they don’t want to strangle their child at least once a day either isn’t paying attention or they are lying.” I thought to myself, “Sheesh, what a crazy person.” And then my babies grew into teenagers and I understood her statement.) Anyway, let me explain how this does apply to all of us. We may not want a baby or an additional one, but God showed me something in Hannah’s story along with a breakdown of her pain in the book “Hungry for God” by Rob Currie. He says there are three aspects to Hannah’s pain and as I read through them, I recognized these three aspects in our broken relationships as well.

            First, is the pain of repeated disappointment. Hannah’s emotional roller coaster with infertility can also describe how most of us feel about the last relationship we were in (or the one we are currently miserable in). We get excited at the “possibility” and we have hope that this time, THIS TIME, it will give us what we want. Then, it becomes just like the relationship we had before it. It’s the same man over and over again with a different face and a different last name but the same disappointment. (Look back at the past couple of guys in your life and you’ll see what I mean. When I examined my past, the men that I had been in relationships with were running from their pasts. They used alcohol or work to get away from the pain that they couldn’t seem to run away from, and both of those choices kept them from being emotionally available. Two of the three were abusive in one form or another…but abusive, nonetheless. I had a pattern and I stuck to that pattern like glue. Examining our patterns are important because history repeats itself.)

            Second, the pain of repeated provocation. Hannah had to live with Penninah tormenting her about not having what Penninah had. Penninah was cruel and taunted her…because she was jealous of Elkanah’s love for Hannah. Don’t think that applies? How many of you are comfortable with your man being around his ex? That’s what I thought. You see, on some level our man’s exes scare us. Either he has feelings for her still and talks with respect about her or he trashes her at every opportunity (and we do the same with the ex-men in our lives, so this isn’t just bashing guys here) and on some level that scares us too. We understand, on some level, that he felt the same way about his ex-girlfriend (ex-wife, ex whatever) once and there is always the chance that we could become her. He could decide we are as worthless as he now considers her to be.  We don’t even need a woman to talk to us anymore about how lucky she is to have the relationship she has now. Social media takes care of that for us. You can scroll for thirty seconds and be reminded of the great love affair you don’t have and that great guy you just can’t seem to find. It is constantly in our faces. And some of us are unlucky enough to have girlfriends that gloat or make passive aggressive remarks towards our situation, when they know that if the shoe was on the other foot their comments would hurt them too. People ask us, “Why are you single?” in the same tone and connotation as they ask why you are wearing a certain outfit that doesn’t flatter you or why you live on the side of town you live on. You know the tone I mean. Judgement and condemnation about not having what someone else decided was acceptable lurks around every corner of our lives.

            Third, the pain of being misunderstood. How many times do we go through breakups and people make remarks that show us they have not been paying attention to anything that went on with us for the last how many ever years. I remember, after my breakup with the Broken Man, one of the kids’ coaches came up to me and said, “You know it would have been hard for me to put up with all your kids too. I mean, they are great kids, but wow you have a lot.” He didn’t say it to be mean, but my five kids were nowhere near the reason why Broken and I had separated. Broken and I had separated because Broken and I were broken. My number of children had nothing to do with that. It would have taken me a year to tell him the real reasons why my kids weren’t the problem. I just fumed in my head and thought about how stupid people sound when they don’t know what they are talking about. They say things like, “Girl, you were too good for him. Go out and get you a new man.” Or “Shouldn’t you be over that by now? I mean for real for real it’s been like 3 months and you are still crying about what a jerk he was?” So, we get the idea that in order to be understood and empathized with, we have to heal on other people’s timetables, when in fact they are carrying just as many exes into new relationships as we are. But we listen and jump from one bad relationship into another one, because the promise of being loved “the way we want to be loved” is just too great of a thing to miss out on. It has to be out there somewhere.

            Instead of spending years in dead end relationships with the guys who have no direction and then blaming them, what if we spent those years working on who we were and developing the attributes that it takes to make a relationship work. You might be saying, “But he cheated!” or “He’s an alcoholic!” so you didn’t do anything wrong. In that instance, let me ask you this…how’d you end up with such a person in the first place? None of us come into relationships a completely unhurt woman. We start dating in middle school. Even if we waited until high school, we could still have daddy issues, mommy issues, bullying issues, the myriad of issues are like mountains that we drag everywhere with us. And if that weren’t bad enough, if you look deeper into your family life, you’ll most likely find that you have a generational curse to contend with also. If you grew up in a single mom home, where was your mom’s dad? Even if your parents were married (or still are) that doesn’t mean that your dad was involved. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can love my parents until the cows come home and that makes neither one of them perfect parents. As much as I hate it, I am not a perfect mother either and I put my kids through some things that were totally my fault, because I didn’t heal from my past before bringing them here. We all have things we need to look at to find out why we do the things we do.

            Hannah may have struggled with conceiving a child, but most of use struggle with a conception as well. We struggle with the ability to conceive a loving, committed, invested relationship with a man that PUTS IN AS MUCH EFFORT AS HE REQUIRES because we are too afraid of being single and having to “do life” by ourselves. And you might be thinking, “Okay, but I have dealt with my past and I have forgiven and learned from my past relationships so I should be fine.” Okay, that is commendable. But what are you going through today that you need to heal from? What is still hiding under the surface of our makeup, our cute outfits, and our “strong, independent woman” persona that we haven’t dealt with and recovered from yet? What attributes have not fully developed yet and why? Where are our weaknesses?

            The other thing that we need to address is that one man is never going to take care of all of our needs. He can’t and it is an impossible requirement that he be able to be everything we want him to be all the time. He isn’t even supposed to be. Now, am I suggesting that you get more than one boyfriend or husband? Absolutely not. In addition to the actual man, there are some things you yourself need ON YOUR OWN to be successful in a relationship. (There might be more than three, but these are the three that I believe matter the most.) First, what does your relationship with God look like? Are you like the men from a previous post that “are saved” but only to get you from spending an eternity in hell when you finally die of old age? Or are you like the men that go to church and listen to the word once a week and don’t do anything else for the rest of the week to improve themselves or their ability to grow as a person? Second, where do you get your knowledge from? Do you get it from Real Housewives or Kim Kardashian? Or do you get it from a reliable source like the Bible? Do you talk to people who have qualities you want to imitate? Do you surround yourself with good friends who will tell you when you are acting like a total lunatic, but they do it in love? Or do you hide your feelings in silence and just hope that nobody finds out that you don’t even think you deserve the kind of relationship you want? Do you complain about anything and everything under the sun and never find anything to be grateful for? Are you constantly judging other people for what you think they are doing with their lives and condemning them because if you had that relationship or that job or that house you could take care of it so much better? Are you carrying all of your old relationships with you into the new one and then expecting somebody to just accept you the way you are? Do you ask God to work on you? Or do you just ask him to bring you a good man that works on himself? Third, what is the real reason you are put here on Earth? What purpose do you have? What do you offer the world that nobody else can and how do you offer it that nobody else can do the way you do?

            I’m not asking these questions out of any sort of judgement or condemnation. I am asking them because they are all questions I have had to ask myself. (Well, not the Kim Kardashian one…never have I ever found myself considering anything about her to be someone I’d want to emulate my relationship after, and I have never seen an episode of Real Housewives. Gray’s Anatomy yes…so I you can swap out my titles and insert your own if that makes you feel better. It’s still the same general idea.) Years and years ago my mom told me that I put a target on my back because I had low self-esteem. I thought I knew what that meant. I didn’t and, embarrassingly enough, here is where Proverbs 14:15 comes into play. I didn’t listen to her and like a simpleton I thought I knew what self esteem was. If I had looked at it then I’d have learned a lot earlier that my mother was wrong. My self-esteem wasn’t what was killing me. My self-worth was the problem.

            Self-esteem is defined as “confidence in one’s own abilities. Belief and pride in yourself.” Self-confidence in your abilities and your accomplishments are important and I could rattle off a list of those as fast as I could say the alphabet. Self-esteem is how you feel about what you can DO. I can DO a lot. I graduated with honors from college, I’m raising 5 kids on my own, I have my own house, my own car, and I have a career that I am in love with and I am good at. Great. Those are my accomplishments. Those are not WHO I am. Self-worth is about being proud of WHO I am. I am smart, I am funny, I am hard working, and I am compassionate. I am loving and feisty and the way my brain works is pretty amazing…I am a deep thinker. See the difference?

            I didn’t realize how much I had to offer someone because I didn’t even know what I had. I wasn’t even defining the right thing. But, hear me on this point. I didn’t develop all of my character qualities with the intention of being good for a man. I develop those, and continue to develop them, because they are good for me. My list of accomplishments and pride in what I have managed to achieve are results of my character, not the other way around. It was in really studying these differences that I found my own way. I developed a voice because I knew I deserved to have one, not because I waited around for someone else to give it to me. I prayed about the things that I didn’t like about myself and decided to change the heart they came from, not change the habits that I had. The habits changing was a byproduct of my healing.

            You might ask yourself why I even feel qualified to speak on this subject. “She’s single…what makes her think she knows about being in a relationship?” Good point. Let me submit this really quick. Science is hardly ever proven. All scientific theory starts out as a hypothesis and then a scientist’s job is to DISPROVE those theories and come one step closer to finding out how something DOESN’T happen. Proven theories are incredibly hard to come by. I have dated, I have been married, I have been divorced, I have been in a live-in partnership, and I have had one-night stands. I have been a side chic, a secret, a booty call, a friend with benefits, and a fake relationship. Those are a lot of theories and I get it…but I am no different than a lot of women out there struggling to understand why love seems to elude them no matter what they do. I am now in a relationship in which I work on myself and so far, my time invested has been well worth it. I enjoy hanging out with myself and I enjoy my life. I’m single and while I would eventually like MY relationship, there is nothing missing from my life right now. The way I went about it may not be the road you took and honestly, I am happy for you. But, if your road has had bumps in it and you still feel empty and trying to work out relationships after relationships that leave you even emptier, consider my journey and find answers for yourself. Pray, journal, take the time you would have spent on a relationship that ended up hurting you and put it into the person you have to spend the rest of your life with. Not a husband. You. If you don’t think you are worth that much, how can you expect someone else to?

            We can downgrade and talk trash about all the guys in world, but here’s the thing. Until we realize our own worth and until we realize that we have things we need to fix within ourselves and hurdles we have to overcome in our own insecurities, the same guy in a different suit with nicer shoes is just going to keep sliding into our DM’s. Until we stop giving boyfriends and friends with benefits the “wife” treatment we won’t ever be the wife. He has no reason to see our value because we don’t show it to him and expect him to be responsible for keeping that value up. It’s the equivalent to letting your 5-year-old use your Coach handbag to hold their mud pies and finger paint. Sound ridiculous? That’s because you don’t give something you value to someone who doesn’t appreciate its value. We have to stand stronger as women and decide we don’t need him and his four baby mamas for validation anymore. We can be good enough all on our own. I am telling you this and putting my story out so that you know what doesn’t work. I’ve tried a lot of different ways to go about this and the one thing that remained the same was…you guessed it. Me. You may not be like me. You may think I am crazy or just misguided. So, my challenge to you is this. Be scientific about it. Prove me wrong.  If you put time and effort into transforming the heart that beats inside of you instead of the things you can’t control and you don’t wind up happier and more fulfilled because of it, then I will print a retraction and attach your name to it. You can have all the credit for disproving my theory. I’ll wait.

Part 3: Revelations – Settling

Lamentation 1:9 “She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out. “Lord, see my misery,” she cries. “The enemy has triumphed.”

1 Peter 4:3-11 “You have had enough in the past of evil things that godless people enjoy- their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness, and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So, they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead. That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead- so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in Spirit. The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important for all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”

I realize this is a rather lengthy intro, but if you have read any of my earlier posts you already know your girl can get a tad long winded. I won’t pretend this post will be any different. In fact, this one might be longer than most. There is a lot of information that I need to share with you. And if you are a guy…. this might not be the post you want to read. Just saying. If you don’t have a relationship with God, you might not want to read this post either. Consider yourself warned on both counts. I might make some people mad. I am good with that. At the very least, this post might make you uncomfortable and I am good with that too. One of the most annoying things about my life is looking back and thinking, “I wish somebody would have told me.” Or “If I’d have known what that meant, I might have done things differently.” This sounds like I have a lot of regrets, but I don’t. Everything I went through was necessary to give me an understanding, because as most of you know if you aren’t educated and have experience on a certain topic, your opinion, your facts, your findings don’t mean a thing. (Do you take financial advice from a person who is broke? Parenting advice from a person with no children? Yeah, me neither.)  So, understand while you read that I am sharing my story and the things I went through in order to help people who feel stuck in the same ways that I did. My anointing came from my brokenness.

I want to go back to the man who had loved me and become addicted to who I was. I won’t divulge more details about him because this is not his story, but mine. I don’t know what he was looking for that he found in me, but what I realized after he was gone is that he had awakened something in me that I didn’t know existed. After I got myself up off my couch, stopped drinking, and started trying to put my life back together, I realized something. The love I felt from him, real or not, was enough to make me change my mind about what I was willing to settle for. I recognized that there were things in that man that the other two relationships didn’t have. I also came to appreciate the things about him that I wanted a man to have that I hadn’t bothered to look for in men before him, and why finding those character traits in him were so important to me. I hadn’t known I wanted them. How could I expect a future man to know what I wanted when I didn’t even know, and I was with me all the time?

I started to really dissect what kinds of things I wanted in a husband, assuming I could want one again. I also assumed that I was very ready to find MY relationship. I had had enough of men who just wanted to talk to me because I was pretty or because I was good with kids or because I was smart or whatever the attribute they saw in me that they wanted. Here’s why. What about the days that I felt like I was ugly, or too skinny, or I didn’t understand something? What about the days when I just wasn’t able to be enough? What about the days when he wasn’t enough to appreciate all that I was when I wasn’t acting like I was those things? What did my relationship look and feel like then? I stopped looking at what the positive things in a relationship can look like…and started looking at how I wanted to be taken care of when I wasn’t at my best. What God showed me blew me away. What he showed me was that I was wanting something that I wasn’t even doing for myself. It wasn’t anyone else’s responsibility to take care of my feelings. It was mine. I didn’t know where to find the answers that I was looking for on how to be in a loving, invested relationship no matter what self- help books I read. Then I realized the one book that had all that information for both of us wasn’t written by the latest guru. It was written by God.

I mentioned before that the Bible is called the Living Word because God uses his Spirit to speak directly to us about our unique, individual circumstances. One of the things that was different about the man I had been able to feel love from was that he had a relationship with God. He prayed and asked for guidance. He said he didn’t know the answers, but that was the best he had to come up with on how to find them. He knew when he was doing something his God didn’t approve of. He was trying to be a good man before me. Not to impress me or to get me to date him, but because he knew that he needed to in order to better himself. I wasn’t doing that. Not that I wasn’t “a good person”, but I wasn’t working on getting better like he was.

Somewhere in this time frame I came upon the word “intentional”. It came up several times and I started to see the connection that God was giving me. I had to be intentional about knowing what I wanted to have as a person and what I was going to put up with for myself. Too many times I had not liked over half of a man’s qualities and yet decided to give him a chance anyway. Why on earth would I do that? Because, like most women, I was scared that not being in a relationship meant that I was lesser somehow. I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t know how to do everything myself and more importantly, I didn’t want to. But God asked me an odd question. He asked, “In your relationships that you’ve had, haven’t you felt like you were doing everything alone anyway? Why is it so necessary for you to have a physical relationship with someone who makes you feel alone even though you technically are not?” Um…well that’s a good question. I had no answer. So, when I heard of intentional dating, I got interested in what that would look like. I made a commitment to only “date” God for the next twelve months. God promised to take the place of any relationship I might have, to help me heal, to show me better and more fulfilling ways to love him and look for him in the people that I might consider dating in the future. I started to make a list of what I thought that would look like.

What I found at first made me a little sad. I’m going to tell you about a few encounters with men that I had over the course of a month and you’ll understand what I mean when I say I became a little sad. First of all, back when I had started dating my kid’s dad one of the questions I was asked by “church people” was whether or not he was a Christian. I asked him and he said yes. I asked him what it meant to be a Christian and he said that he believed that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. Okay, great. I could mark that off my checklist. Unfortunately, what I didn’t comprehend at the time is that being “saved” was way more than just believing that some guy a billion years ago hung on a cross so I could go to heaven when I’m dead. Lots of people can believe that and lots of people do believe that. But really if you are saved what does that mean? It means having a relationship with God because there is no choice not to anymore. That is the “fine print” of salvation. We are now, as believers, saved people, Christians, whatever the word is that you use, are REQUIRED to develop a relationship with the One who gave us our salvation. I didn’t know that and so that answer was just fine to me. Just a check mark I could use to justify  marrying this person who was not what I wanted and would never be what I needed him to be. If you don’t think this is important and you say, “Oh, he doesn’t need to read the Bible and have a relationship with God…he’s a good man.” Let me ask you this…what happens when he doesn’t know how to be a good man in whatever situation you are in? Where does he get his advice from? His friends who are 35 or 45 and still live at home with their parents because they are the equivalent of old, broke teenagers? His parents? The people that let him act like a child and throw a fit every time life doesn’t go his way? The ex-girlfriends he still talks to because he has no idea how to respect you as a person and leaves that door open to go talk to her about “relationship stuff” that she has no business knowing? Or would you rather him go talk to a source that can give him advice on what is best for BOTH of you? I don’t know about you, but I pick the last one. If he has to get all his information from his mama about how to deal with stuff when she still pays half his bills or cleans up his messes, what hope does he have of helping you with anything you might be struggling with? You might find one, but I don’t like those odds at all. I’m not much of a gambler…so unless you can guarantee me that that is what I am going to get I’ll pass, thank you very much.

I updated my list. He had to be a good man (no hitting, cheating, disrespect, and I can’t handle a Momma’s boy) and he had to have a relationship with God. These next two encounters didn’t make me sad, they made me laugh. Now, I am kind of a brat and I laugh at things I shouldn’t. (Remember the giggle at a funeral statement from before? Insert that here.) So, I would only answer guys that didn’t bring up sex within our first few conversations and didn’t have pictures of half naked women plastered all over their Facebook or Insta or Twitter. I’m not interested in guys who think that that is all women are for. I am more than that. I didn’t spend my whole life working on a brain that would be unappreciated in my relationship. I’m not saying I’m right all the time, or I know everything, but I am not a dumb woman. I am not uneducated, and I will not be made fun of for what I don’t know. So, if a guy made it past that and he could articulate well, then, I would ask about his relationship with God. Several times I got this answer, “I don’t read the Bible.” I’d ask why and these are the two most common answers I got. 1) “I’m not much of a reader.” Really? I just sent you an 8-part text 13 times in the space of an hour and not once did you tell me you didn’t like to read. So, try again. 2) “I don’t read the Bible because a man wrote it.” How philosophical of you. They sound like they’ve really thought this out because yes, men did write it. But those men were doing what God told them to do and again the Bible is the Living Word. Of course, the words in it are from a long time ago…but when people have relationship with God then the Spirit speaks to them and gives understanding to what we need to know.

I decided that a man that didn’t read the Bible was not for me. I can’t handle guys who say, “I’m not much of a reader.” That’s fine and I respect that. However, where do they learn from? If you can’t read the Bible and the Spirit can’t speak to you, then how do I know wherever you are getting your information from is going to take care of me when I need that from you? At some point in a relationship we need our person to take care of us. Women need their man to be able to comfort and protect her when she’s struggling. We need our men to lead when we don’t know which way to go. (Side note: I’m very wary of men who tell me “I’m looking for a ride or die chic. I want someone who is by my side no matter what.” Okay great, me too, but why on earth would I sign up to be a ride or die chic for a man who has no idea where the hell he’s going? More often than not, we find out too late that that man is headed for that exact destination and he wants his woman to go with him. I’m good on that thank you very much. That’s like telling me that on our next date you are going to take me to an all you can buffet and then driving me to the dump. “Well, I said it’s all you can eat!” Are you kidding me right now? It might be all you can eat but why would I want to eat that? It’s THE DUMP.)

So, I updated my list again. He had to be a good man, he had to have a relationship with God, AND he had to read/listen to the Bible (I’m not even accepting “I’m not much of a reader” as an excuse anymore because there are twelve thousand apps that read the Bible TO you and they even have apps that read it in different voices and with background music. Not an excuse anymore.) So then I got a call one day from a guy that didn’t ask me out right away but said that he had been reading my story and wanted to share with me what God told him when he read it. I was not expecting what he told me next. He proceeds to inform me that God had told him that I was going to be his wife, but we needed to discuss my tattoo removal because the Bible says that we were to have no markings of any kind. (Uh…how bout big fat no.)  He also tells me that his favorite part of the Bible is Ephesians 5. He might as well have just blown a foghorn in my ear that screamed “HANG UP!!!” He proceeded to tell me that he was looking for an Ephesians 5:22 wife. “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Absolutely not, big guy. I don’t know what God he pray to or what Bible he read but I said to him, “I love Ephesians, especially the armor part of Ephesians 6:10-17. But what I think is even more important than an Ephesians 5:22 wife is a 1Peter 3:7 husband. (“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.”) I am not looking for a man to use the Bible as a way to “control” me and make me do what he says. If we butt heads about something and both of us have a good reason from God to think the way we do or handle a situation a certain way, THEN God says that wives are to submit to their husbands. You can’t use a Bible verse to tell me that I have to take orders from you…that’s not what that means. Nowhere, in the Bible does it say that I am supposed to be a doormat or a slave to my husband and have no thoughts or dreams or opinions of my own. I am supposed to help him become everything he is supposed to be, and he is to lead me in that way. We are to be submissive TO EACH OTHER.

I don’t think I am the only woman who has ever experienced such ludicrous statements from a man all under the pretense of getting a relationship they want out of the deal. But, Ladies, if we are EVER going to start getting the relationships, we want in life we have to start out knowing WHAT we want and WHAT KIND of man we want them with. We need to do some work in order to understand that we have something to offer and it is not to be a man’s replacement mother, his concubine, or anything other than wife material. I realize that most of us weren’t taught any of this stuff. I wasn’t. But God used the Bible to show it to me and he used other people that I respect to show it to me.

I watched a series of Youtube sermons by Pastor Michael Todd called Relationship Goals and a talk that Pastor Roberts did called “Five Keys to Identifying Your Soulmate” along with reading my Bible, talking to my Pastor Doctor, and practicing my boundaries. I read “Where’s My Boaz?” by Stephan Labossiere. I read books on boundaries. Boundaries in dating and Boundaries in Marriage. (I HIGHLY recommend all of these if you are a woman who is struggling with dating the same man in every relationship you have.)  I put in months of writing about what I was good at in a relationship and what I needed to work on. I wrote and prayed about what I wanted in my relationship. I stopped saying what I want “in A relationship” and started talking about what I want “in MY relationship”. The very coolest thing about this process is that I have started to enjoy being single. Does that mean I don’t get impatient sometimes? Of course not. I’m still a woman…most of us were born being impatient.

The difference is that now because I have an INTENTIONAL relationship with God and know what I want in my relationship, I no longer have to settle for anything less. I don’t view my time in this season of being single as “waiting around on the man God has picked out for me to get here” because I am busy doing what I know God wants me to do. I have a purpose with, or without, that man. God has called me to work with lost kids. He has called me to work in the education system and he has called me to have an ever-growing relationship with Him. I have enough to do without worrying about when Mr. Chosen For Me will get here. My hope in not settling is that in this time that he is single, or whatever season he is in, that he is doing just as much work on himself as I am doing on myself in order to make myself into the best that God has asked me to be. Not just so I can be a good wife, but so that I can be a blessing to all of the people that God puts in my life. Not only that but I want God to be happy with the woman that I am. He loves me. I am not perfect, but I am real and I am progressing. I know that I am a lot to take. I know that I have a lot of attitude. I know that God made me this way for a reason, and I know that when he decides it is time for me to be in MY relationship, I will be. And that is enough.

There are times when I am lonely and all I have to do is go to God and say, “Father, I’m tired of being by myself all the time.” This might sound nuts and if you would have told me two years ago that I would be sitting here happy in my single state to just be able to do the work that God gives me, in my career, in my home, within myself and with my kids, I’d have looked at you the exact same way you are staring at these words right now. I would have said, “This girl has lost her mind.” I assure you; I know how crazy this sounds. But, let me leave you with this. Noah spent most of his life building an ark. He wasn’t a carpenter and he lived in a land that had never not once seen rain. People thought he was bonkers. But it started raining and when all those people started to realize that his ark was the only hope they had of escaping drowning, he didn’t look so bonkers anymore. If you are sick of meaningless relationships that don’t give you what you want, maybe that is God’s way of telling you to “date” him for a while. Maybe he wants to show you what you COULD have if you would just give him a chance to heal some things in you, show you your purpose, and allow him to make you happy so you could have YOUR relationship. If you like dead end, drama causing, soul sucking bottomless pits of despair type relationships, then please do none of what I did. I’ve noticed that my friendships, my family relationships, and my relationship with myself have all improved just from taking a step back from the distraction of dating. Am I great at it? Nope. Do I forget sometimes that I am not dating? Yeah. But, guess what? God never asked us to be perfect. He just asked us to trust that he is.

I can’t tell you what to do. And you shouldn’t listen to me just because you like my blog or because I am funny or whatever makes people read this story of my life. Pray about it. Read your own Bible. If your Bible doesn’t make sense to you, get one that does. If you can’t afford it, message me and I will find you one. If you don’t have a pastor you can trust, look for a different one. I’ll give you the address to my church where my Pastor Doctor is. If you don’t know how to pray, just say that out loud. God loves you WHERE YOU ARE, not where I am in my story. But it’s going to take a little work from you to get started. All of the things we believe that the world tells us, I think this one thing God tells us, we should be able to believe for ourselves. There is better out there. If I die single and miserable, I promise you can have the first floor at my funeral to tell everyone what a crazy woman I was. But if you aren’t 100% sure that I don’t have a clue what I am talking about, then I encourage you to pray and ask your God for his direction in your life. He may not direct you to what he has given me, but I can guarantee you that he will lead you to whatever he says is the best thing for you. Last, but most important, if you didn’t pay attention to my warning at the beginning of this post (congratulations, you are a rule breaker just like me and those are my FAVORITE kinds of people) and you don’t have a relationship with God but you found something in my words that made you think you might want that, shoot me a message. I can’t give you salvation, but I know where you can find THE WAY to get it.

Part 3: Revelations – Jesus Died and God watched

Part 3 – Revelations

John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The term “Mama Bear” has forever been one of my many nicknames. I have always worn that label as a badge of honor, even if I have not always handled myself with honor while enveloped in a situation that requires me to act like a soldier for my children. (If you are a soldier, then I profusely apologize for this analogy…I am not a fan of bugs or sleeping in the mud, being told what to do, wearing the same outfit as everyone else, nor am I in any way, shape or form anything an actual soldier would be.) Those who have been on the receiving end of this “soldier”ish behavior understand that it is in fact more of a primal, instinctual thing than it is because of any training I have had in how to develop warlike weapons. One of these weapons is unfortunately, my mouth. I realize I am not the only Mama who is known by this form of address, and I am banking on that as the basis for my reader’s understanding throughout this entry.

Anybody who knows our family knows that my kids are HUGE baseball freaks. They lived, ate, slept and breathed baseball every year until they graduated and then in some form or another, life had different ideas then to let them play a game every day as a career. Sad, yes, but I believe that many great lessons on the field translated into real life applications and I could not have raised my children in such an amazing way without the sport and the coaches with which my children spent a great deal of time.

That being said, we have had our share of drama in the realm of the sport we love so much (like I said ALL FIVE KIDS PLAYED THE SAME SPORT and I don’t even know who has that happen in their families, but let me tell you what…us Wilson’s are a peculiar bunch. We just do what we know how to do.) My kids have always taken their team responsibility very seriously and would play inside those lines as if their very lives depended on the outcome of that game. I didn’t push them, but let them decide the amount of effort that they would put in. I never argued with coaches about playing time or positions. That was not my job. If my kid wanted a different position or to not have to play left bench all season then my kid knew that it was up to him or her to change that, not me. What I would argue is the way their coaches treated them and the way they were handled if they showed even a speck of disrespect while in the coach’s care. I didn’t say that they couldn’t say when they didn’t like something, but I did tell them that I never wanted to hear anyone say they were being rude or nasty to people who had volunteered their time to help them get better at something. Some coaches were better than others and some were absolutely phenomenal people that have helped my kids grow into fantastic, well adjusted adults and young teens. (My sons are all grown men, but my daughters are still young enough that I have work to do.) All coaches, whether good or bad had an impact on my kids that shaped them into the people they are today.

Luckily, I have had very few situations where I have had to show out to make a coach rethink the way they were talking to or taking care of my kids. The same went for their teachers. I expected my kids to put forth all the effort they had into their studies, while accepting the fact that some subjects just went better for each of them then others. They were never to be disrespectful in speech or action, but if they were not comfortable with something, I expected them to be able to use their voice and stick up for themselves. Sometimes, I would have to step in. Many times, I had to watch my children go through something difficult and I would beat myself up for not being able to protect them from the pain the world tried to put on them.

I don’t have to guess that part of my intense desire to protect my babies came from the situations in my childhood where I was not protected from evil or from those who did not take care of the pain in my baby-heart. I watch intently at games and elsewhere the expressions on my kid’s faces when they are working at striking out a batter or dealing with a teacher or friend who may not be treating them with a fraction of the decency that they should be. My kids know I have their back. What my kids fail to recognize time and time again, is that sometimes it is my job to protect them not only from others who do not have their best interest at heart, but also from themselves when I see them doing things that may harm them. One of the ways I have had to do this is to make sure that when their bodies cannot handle the stress of the game they are in, that I continually ask them if they need to get pulled out. Coaches for years have known, and made mention of the fact, that a Wilson has to be dead on the field before they will let you take them out of the game. I have heard them say that the only way a Wilson will not argue with you if you bench them for a physical problem is if they are unconscious, and seeing as how 3 out of my 5 kids talk in their sleep, I’m not even sure that is an accurate statement.

My youngest daughter Jersey has just as much fight as her older brothers and sister, and make no mistake, she is just as good at the game as they are. She works herself as hard as she knows how and gives everything she has to the betterment of her team. She has been run over as a catcher by players twice her size, hit by numerous pitches, and an assortment of other “ow” moments that completely torture her growing body. She’s had seasons where she has flipped in between pitching and catching and has thrown more balls in one inning than I have in my entire lifetime. (I simply taught my kids the sport, not how to have talent or skill at playing it.)

This season, Jersey has pitched every single game. I’m not talking about some of the games, I’m talking there has been two she has not pitched the entire 6 innings (or two hours’ worth because of regulation time limit). One week, she had games on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and when the coach sent her in to pitch on that Wednesday I became “Mama Bear”. Before the game, Jersey had informed her coach that her arm was sore. The coach slapped some icy hot on her and sent her out anyway.  She’s only thirteen and that much pitching or repetitive motion of any kind can cause severe issues with mobility and use later in life. Fortunately for her coach and my daughter’s self-esteem, God reminded me that sometimes I need to breathe before I handle situations and remember to speak in love. Now, when I say he reminded me, I mean He put his hand over my mouth and as he sometimes does adopted a “thug” attitude that he knew I could hear.(I really don’t know why God sounds like Ice Cube when I am doing something he disapproves of, but that is just the way I hear Him.) I couldn’t talk or even form words. I was livid that my daughter had just been taught that her pain didn’t matter as long as they got what they needed out of her for the game. I was angry that Jersey had used her voice and was told that her voice would not be heard.

I didn’t say anything to the coach that night, but instead went home and made sure Jersey took care of her arm the way we have been taught to do by doctors, coaches, and physical therapists that have taken care of my other kids. She was sore the next day but after a few days of not playing because of a holiday she was good to go for the next game. I text the coach the next day and told her that if she couldn’t be trusted to take care of Jersey inside her diamond, then Jersey would not be playing for her. (Those of you who know me personally know this is not a direct reenactment of such a conversation, but a very streamlined and condensed version of the exchange that took place between her coach and I.) Since I had not spoken to the coach the night before in my anger, I was able to tell her what she needed to know without cussing her out and insulting her character, her person, and her whole entire family and the situation was also more easily resolved.

What does all this have to do with John 3:16? Here we go. For many of us raised in the church world, this was the first verse we were taught to memorize. The magnitude of its words is lost on most kids and for all intents and purposes, most adults as well. We know that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, but we don’t really think about the severity and pain of that assignment. God showed me this in the situation with Jersey, the other situations in my life with my kids, and in several situations with my school kids. I love my kids. God loved his Son. His only Son.

I went into a fuming rage when my daughter was even close to being hurt. There have been other times in life when I have straight torn another person to shreds with both my words and my actions, (never physical but I have had people’s jobs taken away when they were grossly unfair or inappropriate to my children.) Yet, here’s where I got thrown into thinking about Jesus and what his death must have been like.
            I went to the theaters to watch the Passion of the Christ. I don’t care if you like Mel Gibson or you don’t, that is not the point of the story. It greatly depicts what happened to Jesus in the last hours of his life on Earth at the very hands of the people he was sent here to save. So, let’s start with the events. First, he knows what is coming. He knows his whole purpose for being sent to Earth was to die for the sins of the world. Yet, as the time grows close, he goes to the Garden of Gethsamane to pray and leaves his friends to act as lookouts for the Roman soldiers who he knows are coming to get him. He prays and asks his Father, “I know we talked about this, but if you can find any other way to do this, then let’s do that. I don’t think I want to do this, but if you say it’s the only way then let me do it.” He goes back a few times and to his friends, who are supposed to care about what is happening to him and finds them sleeping instead of being concerned about the fear of what is coming. Like its not happening to them, so they can rest but he’s experiencing turmoil and needs help and all they can do is snore propped up by the trees around them. That in itself would have caused me to sin. I’d have lost my temper there. But, I’m not Jesus and he did not. He just mentioned that he knew, and it was disturbing to him that they couldn’t honor this one little request.

Then, he gets betrayed and sold for 30 pieces of silver by a man that had followed him around for 3 years. I looked up how much that would have been, and I don’t know how to convert anything from that time into today’s standard, but nothing I read said that he got the equivalent to anything huge. Back then, it would have been anywhere from about $90 to $3000. How livid would you be if you found out a friend sold you out for a measly $3000?

Third, Jesus is denied by another of his disciples, Peter, three times. Peter was asked if he was friends with Jesus and Peter was like “No, bro, I don’t know that dude.” So, one of Jesus’ closest friends, who had been with him every single day for 3 years didn’t even want people to know they were friends. Most of us in a relationship, would have blown up a Facebook page with insults, or started talking to the rumor mill about how disloyal our friend was if that happened to us, or found some passive aggressive way of posting a meme on any social media outlet we could find as an indirect jab, so we can act like nobody knows who we are talking about and still can say we are blameless in the destruction of our friend’s reputation.

He gets arrested and goes before a fake jury of people and the people that he was sent here to save, the people he had just spent three years healing and performing miracles on are all in the square, clamoring for him to be put to death. People that had come from miles around to see him work and do things that fixed their lives and made them better and in less pain were now screaming insults at him, spitting on him, and petitioning Pilate to end his life. Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing, but not before ordering Jesus to be whipped until his skin looks like bloody tree bark. They make him a crown of thorns and force him to give up his clothes so they can play games to see who gets to keep the things he’s wearing. Back in those days, they didn’t have a closet full of clothes. They had the only set of clothes he owned taken from him.

Jesus is not only stripped of his friends’ loyalty, his clothing, and his decency, but then they decide to make a parade out of him carrying the very cross on which he is to die a very long way to his death. If that isn’t a terrible analogy of the Green Mile, I don’t know that I have ever heard one. They finally get to the death site and nail him through his wrists and feet to a cross. The human body can stand a lot of pain but consider how much agony Jesus would have been in by the time they even got to the place where they NAILED him to a cross. Who nails people to trees? What kind of mind thinks that up?

Jesus is hanging on this tree in front of hundreds of people who are ENJOYING his pain. They are laughing at him and then they start mocking him and telling him “Hey, if you are who you say you are, then come down by yourself!” The most awful revelation is that Jesus could have gotten himself off that cross. He could have. He had spent the last three years doing things that were impossible for everyone else, even the leaders of the churches of the day. Nobody could do the things he had the power to do. And he stayed on that cross, with all those insults, with all that hopelessness, with all that pain, with all the wounds, and with all that condemnation so that we wouldn’t have to.

But it isn’t over. The Bible tells us that the amount of sin that came to rest on Jesus as he hung, broken and beaten and bloody, on that cross, that God had to turn his head because he couldn’t look at his Son in that condition anymore. In this span of time Jesus lost everything just to give us life. And then he died. Next to two criminals. Not a very fitting death for a King.

God showed me something in this that I have seen a million times before, but never connected in this way. God has a way of doing that when he wants us to understand the enormity of what he’s trying to get across to us. He didn’t use his Ice Cube voice this time. He used his Charles Ingalls voice. He said, “How would you have felt if your son or your daughter was up there on that cross?” And I’ll be honest…it hit me like a ton of bricks. I am ready to go to war with anyone who hurts my kids’ feelings, let alone tries to hurt them physically and even that, nobody has ever tried to kill one of my children. I would have done everything in my power to keep my son or daughter safe, including burning down the entire city and the hill where all those people were if it meant keeping my son alive. If my son was being laughed at and spit on they’d have had to kill me in the square before I let them beat my kid with anything, let alone turn him into hamburger with a whip like the one that was used on Jesus. I will take arrows, bullets, drink poison and kill to keep my kids from being hurt. And God had to watch his Son go through all of that. I doubt knowing he’d be risen again in 3 days was that much consolation at the time. Even if my kid was being treated that way “for the good of the world” I still wouldn’t have been able to handle it. I am too much “Mama Bear” for that.

But God let this happen because he loved the human beings he had made in his image so much that he was willing to let Jesus come down and pay the price for us. He was willing to let his only Son die so that we could have life. I’ll be perfectly honest with you…I couldn’t do it. I mean I love my people, but Jesus died for people who will never know him. He did this so they would have a chance at being able to sit in the Kingdom of Heaven with him and his Father. God let Jesus pay the price for my sins up there. I wasn’t there when Jesus was crucified, and I didn’t spit on him or hit him with a reed stick or whip him into bloody oblivion. But my sins kept him up there just the same as theirs did. I was one of the people that put Jesus to death so he could give me life.

The second revelation that God gave to me is that Jesus prayed for the people that were hurting him. He asked God “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). In Luke 23:28 it even says that Jesus told the crying women “Do not weep for me but for yourselves and for your children.” He tells the criminal next to him that because the felon believed in him that he had done nothing wrong that he got to go to heaven too and that man was hanging on his cross for wrongs he’d actually committed. Even in the greatest pain of his life he was begging for love for those who’d put him there. He didn’t throw a fit for having to bear the weight of the world, he didn’t throw any of his friends under the bus for being crappy friends, he didn’t yell at God or even say something under his breath. He did what he had to do and did it in love. I never noticed this before, but while he was dying, he even set up a spiritual adoption for Mary Magdalene and his mother Mary. In a time where everyone else was watching his agony and rejoicing in it, he was still doing the work that he had to do according to the plan God gave him WHILE ALSO meeting the needs of those who followed him. He was acting out his Greatest Commandment. Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus replied, ’You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Jesus went through all of that just so we would know that he loved us enough to save us. He saved us and all he asks in return is for us to love him and love ourselves and love our neighbors. I don’t even like my neighbor, so I don’t speak to her. Jesus says, “Pray for your neighbors and those who do bad things to you.” A good day for me is if I don’t cuss someone out for accidentally cutting me off in traffic. He did all of that for us and in return he asks us to love. Just love. He doesn’t ask us to be perfect or never cuss, or never be in a bad relationship that doesn’t honor him. He just asks us to love. Just love. We act like he asked us to die our own death on that cross, when in fact he already did. He says I love you! Listen to me and go love your neighbors and that annoying lady at your work. Love the man that can’t get along with anyone. Just love each other. Just love. He’s not asking too much.