Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Truth or Love? Or Both?

If you could be completely honest with no regrets, what would you say and to whom?

Let me just go ahead and say it… this is the worst.prompt.ever!  Ever!  How could someone think this would be a good idea?  Why would I put something in writing for the world to see if I’m afraid of having regrets by telling you to your face!?!  WHY???!!!!!  I sorta kinda begged Gil to let’s pick a different prompt to write to and he flatly refused and is holding to this one.  Dangit!  I guess that’s a battle not worth fighting for now, so I’m going to write to the prompt, but with defiance in every letter I pound on my keyboard.

I think it’s obvious at this point I’m not going to be actually sharing with you what I would say to someone if I could be honest with no regrets. I’ve really stressed about this all day.  I didn’t know what to do, so as I sat down to write, I opened up a new tab and typed into the Google search bar “What does the bible say about taming your tongue”. Cool, I found lots of verses like this one.

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word is a gift.  Ephesians4:29 (MSG)

Then, I typed “What does the bible say about telling the truth?” Here’s one of the verses in that result that grabbed me.

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;   Zechariah 8:16

Confused yet?  Yeah, me too.

I have to be honest with you dear readers.  I have not been honest with you.  As I’ve been digging around in these verses, I’ve been struggling with wanting to say something, but certain if I put it out there, I’m going to regret it later.  So, I’m going to do the equivalent of vaguebooking and tell you a partial truth.

I have spent the last week watching someone I admire (a public figure and not someone I know personally) being publicly ripped apart because of an interview that was published last week.  It’s been really ugly. I have no idea what she and her family have actually felt and dealt with, but I just can’t imagine it’s been easy. I have cried and felt anger and hurt in all the ways I think they hurt. I’ve talked about all of this with my husband and have valued his opinion and even the times when his truth telling to me was not at all what I wanted to hear. People, hear me when I say I’ve struggled with this.

Why did I feel so much pain?  Because the public vitriol and hurtful responses were ALL coming from other Christians. Christians who read the same bible I read and love the same God I love.  But, told their truths in mean and negative ways.

I think the events of this past week is what caused my immediate aversion to this prompt and why my thoughts turned to such a negative response. I think I knew writing about this would force me to acknowledge some things I haven’t been willing to allow myself to think, much less speak. I’ll deal with that little psychological breakthrough at another time.

For now, I can tell you that in all of my research tonight, I didn’t find a single verse that said to be hateful when speaking truth to someone.  I did find this one from Ephesians.  And many more about speaking truth, but in loving, non-hurtful ways. I’m not saying that direction isn’t there, but I am saying I believe God guided me to the scriptures I needed to read right now. I believe He knows my heart is just too tender to deal with anything else. Maybe later, but just not now.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  Ephesians 4:15

I think one of the greatest challenges I’ll ever face as a follower of Christ is having the discernment to know how to speak truth in love. Is it possible to speak truth in love always?  Is it possible to respond lovingly to a recipient of the truth who doesn’t want to hear your words and who perceives the truth as an attack? My prayer is that God will not only grant me this wisdom to discern when to tell the truth, but compassion to speak it with love, and the resolve to speak it even when the truth hurts.  

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Posted in Write 31 Days

Back to the Beginning

I sat down to write tonight and had an overwhelming urging to look back at some of my older posts. I decided to start at the beginning and chuckled at myself at the first paragraph of my first ever blog post.

When I was a little girl living in a small Alabama town, I dreamed of someday leaving that existence to become a missionary doctor. I wanted to go to Africa to heal and save people. It was such a grand yet simple childhood dream, but it’s all I ever wanted and it’s all I ever talked about. It was my destiny and I knew this because God told me this was His plan for me. I had the grades and I had the faith. Why would I have ever thought this would not be my future?

I love that this was the item I chose to share with the world as I started what would become my blogging mission.

As Gil and I plan and raise funds for our first ever mission trip abroad, I can’t help but think back to the innocence and naivete in that dream.  I never had any doubt that God was telling me to do His work and spread His message. Life got in the way, as it tends to do, and I forgot He placed a mission in my heart. I’m so grateful to have found Him again and that for a few years now, He’s been recharging and refilling my heart with an unquenchable desire to tell anyone who will listen about His love, mercy, and grace.

Aspects of my younger self’s dreams have changed, but the overall picture is the same. I’ve learned my mission work does not have to be limited to some far away land to be meaningful and and impactful. I can simply show others in my everyday, ordinary life. If I can demonstrate love and mercy in the same way God grants it, I will have fulfilled that youthful dream in the smallest of ways.

Posted in Uncategorized

From Reeling to Reborn

2013; It’s been quite a year. A year filled with heartbreak and disappointment. A year filled with love, family and friends. 2013 was a year that brought me to my knees in desperation, and in gratitude.

As I reflected on 2013 for this blog post, I thought about skipping over the bad stuff. However, the single most important thing I want to do with this blog is to be authentic in who I am and who I want to be. And skipping the bad wouldn’t be true to that. However, upon further reflection, I could think of only one bad thing worthy enough to even write about. It was a single heartbreak, although it’s probably not the kind of heartbreak you would think. It wasn’t a person, per sé, that broke my heart. No, it was a company. Specifically, my employer.

In order to protect myself just a little bit, I’ll forego the down and dirty details, but I can assure you that my heart was metaphorically ripped out, put in a blender, and turned into mincemeat. I had bounced back from the previous year’s disappointment, and even began to thrive and enjoy my role in the company. Then, in late January, some news came down that changed everything. I was given a new role, a new boss, new employees, and new responsibilities.  Ironically, I was given almost everything I wanted the year before, but in the worst possible way it could have been done. I know we all experience professional disappointments from time to time, but this was the kind of ongoing mental beat down that makes you want stay down. It’s the kind that breaks most people.

But, you know what? It has not broken me. I’m hurt and disappointed by what’s been done to me, but I know in my heart that what I’m going through is all part of God’s perfect plan for me. If there is one thing that’s come from this experience, it’s that I find myself growing closer to God. In 2013, my soul exploded with His love. I’ve read more books, listened to more music, and received more messages of God’s Word than ever before. I’ve found that in my very darkest times, God continues to fan the flame in my heart. That flame was bigger and brighter than ever on August 4 when I was baptized for a second time. There’s something about making that decision and commitment as an adult that means so much more than my childhood decision thirty-five years ago. It was the #1 moment of the year, made even more special when Gil surprised me by taking my hand and joining me in a commitment to live out this faith journey together, side by side.

2013 could also be summarized by the “F” word. Well, three little “F” words actually: faith, family, friends. I know it is cliché, but this was the year that those three words began to morph into the same entity. I cannot speak about one without talking about the others. My faith brought so many incredible friends into my life, friends that are now as important as any family member could be. And speaking of family, the most important person in my life, my husband, is also my best friend and a guiding source of God inspired love and service. I’ve seen Gil’s faith really grow this year, and I am so proud of him and so blessed to be his wife.

If I had to pick one word to describe 2013, it would be metamorphosis. This was my, “Year of the Butterfly”. I found my happy place right in my own back yard during the late summer months. Over and over again I watched something ugly become something beautiful. Sometimes it was in the birth of a pinhead sized caterpillar, or a bee sucking nectar from an alien looking passionflower bloom.  Sometimes it was in the sparkling sunlight reflecting off drops of rain on a vibrant, orange flower. Mostly, it was in the moments glorious new life emerged from an ugly, hardened chrysalis. These were the moments that took my breath away. These were the moments in which I remembered God’s grace. While the voices in my head wreaked havoc on my thoughts, I found moments of beauty and stillness in those fluttering, beautiful insects. The beauty would take my breath away and silence the demons in my mind. In those moments, I was reminded that God will make beautiful things out of all of us. I felt a kind of rebirth, very much like the moment of my baptism.

Metamorphosis is defined as a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something. My metamorphosis is happening. I can feel it from the inside, in very much the same way that the caterpillar transforms into the butterfly inside a chrysalis. You can’t see it happening, but you watch, and you wait with giddy anticipation. With hope. With faith that something beautiful is coming. I believe God gave me those experiences last year to remind me that He’s not finished with me. I believe I needed to see that the ugly doesn’t last. I needed to feel that special kind of hope.

So, it’s with giddy anticipation I enter 2014 filled with hope that God’s hand and His grace will continue to transform me into the person He wants me to be.

Posted in My life in pictures

154/365 Happy Birthday My Love

Today is Gil’s birthday. He worked a full day and we headed out to church as soon as I got home. We had our growth group orientation tonight for the upcoming semester. As I listened to the pastors talking about our responsibilities for our leadership role, I sat thinking how lucky I am. Gil and I had just moments earlier been talking about the change in our relationship since we discovered Relevant. It’s not that it was bad before we started on this journey but what was good before has become something beyond my wildest imagination since. I am so blessed to be able to grow in my relationship with my husband and best friend while discovering this new relationship with God. And the best part is that we are sharing this with each other, every step of the way.

I know it wasn’t the biggest of celebrations for his birthday, but at least we got to share the evening with each other and with some of our church family. I know how much he would have loved to have been with his kids today, but hopefully they can make up for it tomorrow.

Gil, I love you. My life is so complete because of you.

 

Posted in My life in pictures

140/365 For Me?

Do you ever have those moments when something really bad happens and you are about to blow a gasket? Then you look up and God has placed His message in front of you – in the form of a Twitter update, no less.

For the record, the choosing part…that’s easy.

The ‘dismissing’….well, that’s just exhausting.

I recommend:  Aine’s twitter page, FB and website. How can you not want to be a part of something described as:
The uniting power of love dissolves barriers, heals divides, and bridges differences, uniting one and all. There is ultimately nothing that enough love will not heal, transform and transcend.
Posted in Random Writers

Hero of Hope

Random Writers Week 8 Topic: Write about someone you consider to be a hero.

My original plan for this topic was to write about a woman who has been a huge inspiration to me for over a year now. That woman is Stacey Monk, and I’m pretty sure I would follow her to the ends of the earth if she asked me to. The goodness and beauty and love in her heart is surpassed only by the light that she radiates to those around her. She is a bright, shining soul that I’m honored to call friend.

When I first met Stacey and her now fiancé, Sanjay, in early 2010, I was taken aback a little. I’m not a person who sees auras and I’m not even sure I fully believe in the idea of auras, but for that day, I did. I’m not sure what it was but I came home that night and told Gil I thought our lives might be different because of this woman I just met. That night I learned a little of the story of Stacey and how she and Sanjay started the non-profit Epic Change a few years earlier. I had no idea that night just how impacted my life would be.

Over the next 18-20 months, I would work with Stacey and support her dream to build a school in Tanzania. I would devote time and money and crazy amounts of love into a project that meant nothing more to me than the fact that it meant something to Stacey. It was also during this time that I began to understand just why this school was so important to her. For Stacey, she had found hope after a devastating tragedy, all because of one woman and her dream. While in Africa, Stacey had found Mama Lucy, and in doing so, found hope in her life and her world.

Mama Lucy Kamptoni is a mom who had to take her children to neighboring Kenya in order for them to get an education. After leaving three children in the care of strangers, she knew something needed to change so that other mothers and fathers did not have to do this for their children. In 2003, Mama Lucy told her husband she was going to take the money from her small chicken business to rent the house next door, and that she was going to start a school. And that’s exactly what she did. After hiring a teacher, she posted notes throughout her town and in churches that she was starting a school; and the children came. Six showed up on the first day. By the end of the week, there were 10. The children came and came and came.

Mama Lucy continued to educate as many children as she could in that rented house until one day she was told the house and land would be sold and she would need to find a different place to teach the children. This news came shortly after Stacey and Sanjay had visited and volunteered at Shepherds Junior School. When Stacey and Sanjay heard this news, they knew they had to help. Oh, and help they did. Through some of the most successful social media fundraising campaigns ever, Mama Lucy got her new land and a new classroom. Soon, more new classrooms were built. When the need for a dormitory to house some of the children was announced, more funding was found.

Mama Lucy had a dream of educating the children of her country, and what began with six children is now 503. What was a small rented house is now a Pre and Primary school with multiple classrooms, a computer lab, a dormitory and a staff of 47 educators and administrative support.

I asked Mama Lucy if she found that people told her she couldn’t do this? She responded with an emphatic “Ohhhhh YES. How did you know?” I knew because it’s often our first reaction when someone throws some farfetched idea out there. I can only imagine people’s reactions to her dream. “Who is this chicken farmer to think she can build a school?” I never got a chance to elaborate with her, but in my next face to face conversation with Mama Lucy, I firmly intend to find out what her responses have been to those people. She obviously didn’t let any of those Negative Nellie’s slow her down in pursuing her dream. Throughout all of this, Mama Lucy has never given up. She’s had her struggles and each time, she has found a way, either through her own hard work or through the sharing of love from around the globe or from some ginormous combination of both.

I met Mama Lucy on Tuesday. I also met two of her amazing students, Leah Albert and Gideon Gidori. Earlier in the day I had posted a blog about how I felt a darkness creeping into my life. It was just one of those bad mood feelings that I couldn’t shake.  Within moments of meeting these three people, the bright light shining from their souls left me blinded. I was no longer consumed with my own feelings of hopelessness. I had been filled to the brim with two four letter words: HOPE and LOVE. You can see both so clearly in Mama Lucy and in these kids. I have no doubt the hope Leah and Gideon have is a direct result of Mama Lucy’s perseverance and unwavering dedication to love these children and provide an  education so that they can grow up to be pediatricians, astronauts, or anything their beautiful hearts hope to be.

Mama Lucy is my hero. She had a dream and she made it come true. Now, because of that, 503 children can also hope for their dreams to come true as well. The thing with Mama Lucy is, not only does she channel the ability to hope into these children’s lives, she also showers them with unconditional love. By doing that, she has also flooded my world with love. For this reason, I can’t help but put that love right back out into this majestic universe we live in. How amazing is it to be filled with so much love that you HAVE to share it with others?

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil, Jeff and Lindsey‘s posts on the changes they wish to see in the world.

Posted in Random Writers

My Mom’s Second Chance

Random Writers Week 6 Topic: Who would you give a second chance to?

When we selected our random topics and this one was chosen, it was quite serendipitous that it fell on this week. Once I saw the week and the anniversary that also falls during on this week, I asked Gil if he would swap days with me. I knew I would want to write and post my blog on Monday, the six year anniversary of my mom’s second chance. I also knew that I was going to deviate from the topic slightly by talking about a second chance that has already taken place, and not a hypothetical future second chance.

On October 24, 2005, my mom’s house was raided by the police. I was more than 350 miles away when I got the call from my sister that police were at my mom’s, an ambulance had just rolled up and they wouldn’t let my sister near the place. She told me that some deputy told her that my mom had a seizure shortly after the surprise invasion and that she was fine, but the rescue squad had been called as a precaution. My body’s physical reaction to all of this was almost more than I could stand. And I can’t begin to describe the sense of helplessness I felt in those first few hours.

It was no surprise to my sister or me as to why the police chose her house for this late night raid. After my father’s death, my mom had become involved with some less than upstanding characters and drugs became a big part of her life. So big in fact that many times over the years I felt that my mom often chose drugs over me, my sister and my nephew.

Throughout that night there were several more calls with my sister as she learned bits and pieces of what was happening. The hardest part for me to deal with was the mental image of my handcuffed mother being put in the backseat of a police car. I spent the rest of the night planning my early morning trip back to Alabama. That six hour drive was filled with question after question to God about how this could happen to her and to us and what I was supposed to do next.

I drove straight to the county jail and requested to see my mom. They brought her in and sat her on the other side of that thick plate of glass where we were only able to communicate via a telephone handset hanging on the wall. At first she was happy to see me, but that mood didn’t linger for very long. She started making demands that I refused to honor. I asked questions she refused to answer or at least provided answers that were completely opposite of what I needed to hear at the time. The conversation turned really nasty and hateful, and I can assure you there was no love or compassion flowing through that pretend telephone line by the time I hung up that handset. I left her there and went to talk to the sheriff and an attorney. And that’s how the next couple of days went; sheriff, attorney, family, banker, attorney, sheriff, back and forth while we negotiated the release of my mom. She was brought into one of the meetings, complete with an orange jumpsuit and wrist and ankle cuffs. I can assure you this is not a vision I had ever in my wildest imagination expected to see. I’m even more sure it’s not one that my mom expected to find herself in either.

After a few days, an agreement was reached. I went to the jail with some documents that my mom would need to sign. Basically, land she owned would be sold in order to make bail. She would have to sign a power of attorney to me so that I could take care of everything for her. When this was presented to her, she at first refused. To say she was defiant is a massive understatement. More nasty words were spoken but in the end, she signed the documents. I returned with the bail money and she was released to me. Part of the terms of her release was that I would get her out of state. This was not a safety issue but one of concern. Everyone in her life knew that if she stayed in Alabama she may not make the right choices and revert to her illegal and destructive lifestyle. The sheriff, my family, and I all agreed that we had to get her as far away as possible and that’s exactly what I did. During the night, we packed anything that she might need in the coming weeks and left first thing the next morning. My plan was to get her back to Tampa and find a treatment facility so she could get the help she needed. I was so very fortunate to not only find a decent place, but it was also one that accepted her insurance so there was no financial burden on either of us. This place was not only going to treat any addictions she may struggle with, but they had a staff of psychologists who would be working with her on the root causes of the addictions. THIS was the most important thing to me.

Over the next few months, mom worked on herself while I worked on the legal issues we had. My mom had never been the target of that raid and the charges against her were mostly because drugs were found in her home. I spent hours and hours communicating with her attorney and the sheriff’s office, and in the end, one felony charge was dismissed while she was able to complete a pre-trial diversion to have the remaining charges removed from her record. Her criminal record only reflects an arrest but no convictions. We were able to use the remaining money from the land sale to pay her fines and fees and after two years, it was over and completely behind us.

There were so many times I wanted to walk away from her, just like I felt she had done to me for several years. For so long I prayed for her to come back to us and to leave that life behind. There were screaming matches and long periods of silence. People say that someone has to hit rock bottom before they can see what’s happening to them. Well, I can tell you that my mom did just that. She was left homeless and penniless and could have easily found herself in a different set of circumstances.

My mom was blessed with a second chance from the legal system by being allowed to complete a series of steps to have the charges wiped out. The mental health system gave her a second chance by helping her to work through some childhood issues and events that were an underlying source of years of pain. Our family came together to help support my mom with love and prayer or financially when it was desperately needed. We could have easily shut her out and turned our backs on her, and Lord knows she certainly gave us plenty of reasons in the years following my father’s death.

During those years that my mom was spiritually far away from us, I often played out the scenario of walking away from her and never looking back. I thought about all of the hateful and loveless things I would say as I kicked her out of my life. I was so angry and filled with resentment. However, when push came to shove, the easiest choice I have ever made was to give my mom a second chance.  Looking back at the past six years, I haven’t  regretted it for a minute.