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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hanging Tough When The Excitement Fades Into Determination And Guts

As I sit outside in the lil area I have made for my family, writing this post, I think of winter from two perspectives, just the word "winter" puts chills up your spine. The frigid feelings of discomfort and discontent, ice, barren trees, shorter days and longer nights. Fading memories of fun filled sunshine, grilling out with family, bike rides and for me afternoons enjoying gardening. The DEAD of winter! Barren and lifeless! But I don't agree! I spent one winter, my only winter in the Carolina's, and it was AWESOME!  Not depressing at all!!  I remember our home, nestled up on the mountain, curled up by the crackling fire listening to the children's chatter, Kenny and I reconnecting after many years of being "busy". The excitement of the next big snow storm,  being shut in and forced to spend days with only each other. The mountains and city covered in fresh fallen snow was absolutely breath taking.  It is a reminder that God does exactly as His pleases, on His schedule, not ours! He conducts the universe. Tells the seasons when to come and when to change. Not the other way around.  I loved winter, I didn't see it as barren or lifeless, I saw it as exzilerating and refreshing and exciting!  Probably much different than how you see it. Tons of material is written today on motivating but very little is written about finishing well. Also, alot is available to get you motivated and excited but what really carries you and keeps and inables you to go the distance? Plenty of books with game plans and ideas and how to set your goals and so much of it very helpful, but I know myself, how many times have I made a game plan, bought all the necessary supplies, did all the start up work only to see it fizzle out and die. How about starting from the opposite end for a change? How about not losing heart even though the project or the calling has lost it's appeal.  Or the limelight, or the accolades, or the rock star status. Our attention span has been reduced to about 30 seconds, has also our commitment. Working through conflict in a marriage is a struggle so our divorce rate is out of control. We are just not problem solvers, we don't do it, we avoid doing it, and we have not taught our children how to do it. I reflect back to when I left Tallahassee to move to North Carolina without Kenny and I knew it would take dedication, the excitement of a new place, a new environment, the stress of the finances, all that would all wear off quickly and the discipline and guts would have to carry me through. I had a plan where we would sleep, where the children would go to school, how we would work the chores, I was certainly motivated, but I absolutely didn't understand what it would take to survive the emotional roller coaster that I would experience ahead. We didn't know exactly how long it would be before Kenny would be joining us, but I knew it wouldn't be soon. I remember laying in bed after we had been to church one Wednesday night, crying out to God, why was I in this position, no husband, no home, no car, stripped of everything. It always seems when words fail me the tears flow. Tears have their own language that needs no interpretation. I heard a doctor say our inner-communication system knows when to admit its verbal limitations.... and that is when the tears come. Well they were coming that night. When our soul is overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions good or bad, and words cannot describe, tears appear. It was one of those bone chilling nights, and I had no one to curl my body next to feel the warmth of their body.  I was all alone, alone to carry the burden of what life had dealt us, I would face the children, the public social services, and I would face them alone.  600 miles separated me from my husband of 25 years, and not by divorce or an affair or some dark secret, really I didn't have an answer for why we found ourselves here. Some curse, some punishment?  Why God, why?  I would watch  families as they would come and go into church and I could feel the bitterness come into my soul like the winter I described above, dark and gloomy, heavy like it was choking the life out of me. It felt like the burning  I felt , when I would run on a cold morning and my lungs would fill with the cold mountain air. I often joked that Beelzebub rears her ugly head, but lately it seemed she lived next to my bed. I drew my knees to my chest and cried quietly, I was lost for words to even pray. I thought how easy it was to write a game plan and expect the best and get all caught  in the plan making and not really think about completing the task, or following through to the end, and I felt deceived, deceived by God,  like Jeremiah the prophet of the Bible, God why have You deceived me, You have overcome me and You have prevailed. I have become the laughingstock all day, everyone mocks me, all day. For Your service I feel like reproach and derision has come to me all day long. I felt like I had given my entire life to God and the church and I was stripped of everything and left with nothing. Nothing but humiliation and dishonor.  Dishonor to God, my Country, my children, my self, my church, everything I believe in.  I just felt like He was absent, His silence was more than I could take.  It just seemed so opposite His character.  Even the prophet Jeremiah said, I will not remember Him or speak of Him anymore in His name.  God, the ministry is out, I am done!  I will have no credibility I can never show my face. Why have you brought me this far to fail me now.  I wouldn't say it out loud for anyone to hear me, but none-the-less I felt it in my heart.  It was there.  And I knew it was not going away.  I drifted that night into the darkness feeling alone and desperate and angry.  As I look around at my sitting area and this lil beach cottage I call it, which is no more than a dilapidated trailer, it really all goes back to perspective, just like the winter I spoke of earlier, at that time in my life I saw my life as over.  I felt disillusionment and felt like I was drowning in despair, and my anguish had taken over, I felt my ministry was over, my reputatation was shot I would have no credibility or no voice.  But what I realized was the despair and the disillusionment I had felt and the problems I had been through the past 3 yeas had become my ministry.  All thoses things had become my voice, bigger than I had ever imagined.  If we constantly avoid problems we also avoid the growth that comes along with the problems.   I know when I am so hard headed as to just keep pushing a problem away instead of meeting it head on it just keeps coming right back around until I meet it head on.  I began to view these problems as a sort of God-appointed teacher ready to teach me and a take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me and deepen my faith in Him.  And boy had that happened.  Just like me sharing my story.  My idea of what my ministry was to be, has TOTALLY changed from what I thought it would be, to what it has become.  As I look up at the beautiful tree above me decorated with Christmas lights, the chill of air, my lil cottage looks warm and cozy, my soul surges with a cleansing fire of confidence and renewed sense of hope and determination swelling up inside me.  The disillusionment is quietly replaced with the reassurance as He reminds me of the old hymn It is well with my soul, It Is well with my soul!  And thank God it is, because I am weak and I doubted, but divine reassurance had returned, divine perspective has provided a fresh breeze of hope in the lowest times of my despair.  So my ministry was never in jeopardy at all, or my reputation, God had it in His control the entire time!!!  Because of my reputation and what I have lost and suffered I have reached and touched more people than I had ever imagined possible.  My suffering has joined me to the suffering and the pains of others, it has made me more human than I could have ever imagined.  Now I truly can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, I am joined even to strangers by a bond of suffering.  It  has changed my perspective.  It has changed me.  He had a plan, it wasn't easy, we're not through it yet, it wasn't pain free or smooth, and you know, I like this Jeremiah prophet  (he was dubbed "the weeping prophet")  guess I can be snot girl!, he seemed like an unlikely choice, He was never at a loss to voice his convictions and you could always count on him to sob aloud, and odd God would chose him at a very critical time in history. So it doesn't seem so odd that God would chose me to share my life with others, or that it would be so odd that it cost me something? So here I am on the reverse end, game plan out the window, excitement faded, accolade's gone, nothing left but the shear determination and guts and this daily journey I record called a blog, and the absolute assurance that He is my peace Eph 2:14.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Unusual Friends, In Unusual Places


I met a woman the first day I enrolled Isabella in school, and something in my heart told me, number 1, she was hurting, and number 2, she was not going to be easy to get to know! But, if I stayed the course, it would be worth the wait. So I pursued and I'd guess you'd say I forced myself on her, and she turned out to be one of my very best friends I made in North Carolina. One of those you have on a deep emotional level. It's strange we spend no time outside of school or no time chatting over the phone, but, there was just a connection of the heart. Well, I was right on the money, she had been in a marriage for over 17 years and it had been on and off  for the last 10 and had almost killed her, not only emotionally but also financially. When we moved to North Carolina I had brought bins of clothes that, if I wore them daily, it would take me 100 years to ever wear them all, so I loaded them up and took them to this woman, don't ask me why I thought to take them to her, because I don't have an answer. Little did  I know she had recently lost 80lbs, and had no clothes nor the monies to buy any.  Now, you have understand the dynamic of my situation, moving from Florida to the remote Western Carolina mountains is not an easy adjustment for anyone, but it was exceptionally hard for a women with no husband, and, to top it off, a women who  loves to wear high heels to Walmart!! I was not welcomed with open arms, that is, in the beginning. She was thankful for the clothes, but their was no instant bond. No taking me into the fold. I knew all around me were hurting people, just like me, who were experiencing heartache and pain, and one of the best ways to get my mind off of my own grief was to stop looking inward and look outward, isn't that what compassion is? One of the New Testament  books, a letter written to a Roman province by Paul says, to "carry each others burdens". And I felt this so strongly for my friend. And the wall she had put up was a way  to protect herself from being hurt anymore than she was already hurting. So from the beginning I began sharing our story with the staff.  During this same time the secretary of the school, Ms C, had asked me in private if I would be interested in going to her churches food pantry. She just lite up when she spoke of it. I said, of course, we would be grateful! The kids thought it was the coolest things ever, a free grocery store, they didn't have a clue what it was! Now mind you, the kids are receiving state lunches and we still need food for home and this lady's Church, on the side of a mountain 9 miles out of town, was unbelievable, and the ladies and people of the Church treated us with such respect and dignity, as if we were just one of them! The ladies of the school became like family to us as well,  they embraced us. I would go into that office almost daily to visit with them, and give them an update, how's Kenny, when will he be here, how's Emma. No judgement at all. They would guess amongst themselves what I might be wearing that day! It just so amazed me, they genuinely liked me, and all my quirky clothes and shoes! They liked me for the person that I was on the inside, they loved my children and the heart that they had, and it open doors for us. I went in one Friday and Ms. C said, Angie I am so sorry but my church has decided to close the pantry as  tears streamed down her face. It was the saddest moment for us, because so few Churches treat people with dignity when they give them things, even essentials.  Mrs. C and her Church was so uncommon, so different, however, some of the leadership had decided that some of the people coming for food were not being totally honest, maybe had misused their kindness, so they decided it best to shut down the whole program, how very, very sad!!  Of course there are going to be abuses, of course there are going to be posers, but there are also going to be those people who can genuinely redefine their lives by that kind of kindness, and shouldn't that over-ride the risks? So back to my friend and the clothes, I am walking to my truck one day and she runs out and grabs me and embraces me and says, "Thank you for making me feel like a princess every single morning when I get dressed." From that moment on  that wall fell and  to this day I consider her one of my very dearest friends. It wasn't but a few months later she asked to me speak at a conference her church and daycare was having. They only hold this conference once a year. I was so excited, it was my first invite to really tell of the traumas and tragedies of our past year or so, but also to tell of God's subtle and gentle care for us. I began preparing immediately. And what was even more exciting was it was outside of our denomination, I had prayed to be able to speak to women everywhere, at shelters, civic groups, every denomination, not just mine. And it had happened! As the weeks went by my excitement grew. However, it was short lived, because I got a call and she was crying, something had happened at the school (they had a school connected with their Church) with a child and they were going to cancel the conference. I was heartbroke. I just knew I had something to share, something that would encourage someone, but it was done, and nothing I could do about it. My confidence was shot! Over the past year, through living without Kenny God had built my confidence, I had never done anything on my own, Kenny handled everything, including the speaking, and to imagine me speaking would have terrified me, yet I was just 1 week from speaking  to probably 400 people, with ease! That was a confidence that came from God, certainly not me, before I couldn't stand up and teach a Sunday school class! But in one conversation all that confidence was gone. Deflated! Why would this happen like that God, I don't understand, what purpose could this possibly serve? I have been preparing for weeks, what for, for nothing, I felt like I had taken a step forward and been knocked back 2.  Back to Ms C, the school secretary, she tells me the ladies in her church had recognized a few of the families had came to the pantry more than once in a one month period. So the board felt some "people" were taking advantage, so they had voted to close. She was heartbroken. She would meet families on the weekend, on her own time, it was something she really loved. So she said let's go over there and you get anything you want because the rest is being donated to the shelter. I thought, God this is backward, they had a great pantry, but  much of that stuff was now older and not even the good stuff, some of it was the lowest you can buy,  I am certain many of those board members wouldn't eat some of this stuff themselves, and now they're gonna hoard their money like its something of real value. How about having a pantry stocked with the best, the kind of food you would eat yourself, not the kind you clean out to throw away, represent God to people as He really is, giving us, in the most undeserving state, His most precious and noble gift.  We were all liars, cheats, never satisfied, deceivers, and frankly often still are, but He doesn't extend His love toward us because we deserve it, but because it is What His nature is, and He is never stingy and cheap. Should we really be people who hold back the good for ourselves and throw the crumbs to the world. I thought about myself, God had I picked through those clothes and given my friend the old outdated ones, or did I give her the best out of what I had? Was I myself a hypocrite, God we had been given so much in our life, to hold back and not be generous, it would be the most horrid form of shamefulness, and in the back of my mind I knew I had often been the same!  Up to this very day as I drove from that pantry, God had met every single need in our life, WITHOUT  fail. How could I not give him everything. Once again, the snot came, I guess I need to just name my blog the snot returns, because I just cant' find myself,  find us, our family,  in any place of our life that God has not touched. And it weakens my knees and causes the tears to flow. So I went home and got out my winter coats  and gave her the 2 newests ones I had the very next morning. I said God, this is a representation, a small token, of what you have meant in our lives, and I want to represent You to the world, the way You would, and You would give Your all, Your best. My confidence had taken a hit, I felt like I had been shot down before I had been given the chance to even try, but, I remembered, once again, a scripture of my youth in Timothy, "I know Who I have believed in and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day". And I had entrusted God with my life the day we pulled out from Tallahassee to leave for North Carolina, and God doesn't call you to do something He won't show up and give you the ability to do. And when He is in it, and it is His ability not yours, their is a rightness to it, that somehow you just know that it was His hand that orchestrated it. IF God had called me to speak and share my story, nothing could stop that, I have put that desire back into the recesses of my heart and I am convinced that He will guard that desire, because I have entrusted it to Him, and when the time is right, I will be ready. As I knew He would, He not only guarded and nourished and grew what He had planted in my heart, but has planted me in places to allow that day to come. That was almost 2 years ago and I have had the privelege of sharing my stories in many, many, setting, but once again...... why am I surprised.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hiding My Shame



No disease is free from the effects of mental strains, which are a part of life.  If tensions and worry are the greatest evil of today's family and it effects not only our spiritual being but, our peace of mind, and happiness-- and even our physical health, it is absolutely worth our greatest effort to learn how to overcome them, and teach our children how to cope as well.  In my life, my greatest tool has been the gift that had been past to me from 5 generations, the gift of the scriptures. God has designed us for happiness, He created us for joy, and peace, He designed us to live our lives free and to the utmost for not only His honor, but, also His purpose. But, let's be honest and frank, worshipping God at times of great stress can be a solemn and difficult thing. It can be a commitment. It is not a feeling, an emotion, even though it is a part of our genetic fabric, how we were built, sometimes we just don't feel it, sometimes even fight against it. I had been in church week after week, but secretly  I had begun to feel a disconnect and  noticed my sleep pattern had changed and I had begun to fear that things were not right with my mental state. I was having abnormal reactions to everyday situations. I had also begun to dream, and when I did, they would be terrible and awful dreams, to the point of waking me up. For instance, when I drove I  feared things in the trunk flying forward in an accident and crushing me, really odd things, that I knew in my mind were not realistic, but I couldn't stop the feeling or the fear.  I became obsessive about how things where situated or arranged, and if I couldn't do it to my liking I would have to avoid them, or enter another way so I wouldn't see them. So It wasn't about how clean things were,  it was fear, fear of something crushing me, or trapping or suffocating me, about dying. So seeing anything piled or stacked made me physically sick.  Kenny had stored his suits in the back of the boys closet, and it rang over and over in my mind, those suits do not belong in there, until I could not enter their room. Nothing could be under the beds, the car had to be completely empty, even down to the spare tire and jack. This is such a hard thing to write about, it is so embarrassing, anytime you lose control in your life it is embarrassing, but it is so important that other women know, that if you're going through something like this you are not alone, and there is help. I asked Kenny after we had come through this, if I was horrible or awful to live with, because in my mind I had such guilt over those few months and I really battled this, and he said had you not know me intimately you would have never known. So I think the shame of this kind of thing or anything to do with a moment of mental weakness we make  bigger than it really is sometimes. I only wish I had talked to my physician sooner. I prayed daily God please help me overcome this, but, really didn't believe it was something for Him to handle. Go figure. I had stopped taking my Mom's calls for about 2 week, up until then I had been able to keep up the facade, but I couldn't do it any longer, I wasn't even able to leave the house, those last few days. Kenny was driving the kids to school and he would pick things up at the store if we needed them. If  he questioned me, I would just brush him off and say that I wanted to stay home and get caught up on some things. When he would leave, I would get in a ball on the sofa, in front of the fire and not move until he was texting me that he would be home soon. I was paralyzed with fear. At this point I was still able to at least be in the house. On this particular day we got the kids up and off for school and I walked them out to the car and told them goodbye. As they drove off, I turned to go into the house and I could not walk up the stairs past the stacked wood we had stacked by the door for the fireplace. I had walked passed that wood 100s of times.  We had a glass front door and not only the wood had terrified me but we had this grand staircase leading to all 3 floors, and to the right of it we kept all our winter boots and scarves and coats and I could feel my throat closing just thinking about having to walk past all that stuff and it crushing me, killing me. Thank God when I walked the kids out to tell them goodbye I had wrapped a blanket around me, and I had slipped a pair of Wyatt's sweatpants on and I had slid Kenny's Ga boots on because it was 27 degrees that day. Kenny found me almost 6 hours later. I was lying on an outdoor lawn sofa at the front door about 30 feet down the driveway. I was hardly responsive to him. And when he did approach me I was extremely fearful of him. I remember sitting on that bench watching a few snowflakes fall thinking God this is not fixable, this is the end, their is no hope, I have reached the end. I came to abject acceptance, I was done, I'm beaten, finished, God you decide what you want for my life, I expect nothing, I was an invalid, of the worse kind, the mind. Something had changed in my mind, my ability to process what was a threat and what was not was all criss crossed. I thought, I will never be the same. Who will care for my children. Who will care for me? Again this is the end. When Kenny approached me it was as if he approached me to harm me. Everything was a threat.  After quite a while he finally got me in and by the fire and, long story short, my mind had given over to stress and it had created havoc on my mind and body. I  asked him please don't tell anyone I felt stripped and vulnerable,  I feared people will treat me differently. Did I have control over it, I don't know, I guess we all handle stress in different ways, but I do think had I not allowed my thoughts to overcome me, reached out sooner, stood on what I know to be true in my heart, the scriptures, maybe I could have avoided it? Instead, I decided that maybe, I am  clever enough to overcome my own crisis, I could bring myself through all these changes of life. I kept trying to talk myself through this, I was relying on my own small private consciousness and I was sure to fail, and I did.  Terribly it had become "I" not "We" (God), however, Crisis, once again, brings us back, face to face, with our inadequacy and in turn it leads us straight to the inexhaustible sufficiency of God. Somehow that part of myself I had not turned over to Him. I had asked for physical healing more times than I can recall, but mentally it seemed to be a different issue. It just felt like some kind of flaw on my part, like something I could have prevented or stopped, or had control over. Unlike if it had been diabetes or high blood pressure, somehow there is tremendous shame attached to mental illness. As if I was hiding it from the One who knew me the best.  Much of the state of  our mind is what we place our trust in, if we place it in failure, or fear, then we are certainly investing it poorly, I think just down right wasting it. For weeks I had allowed  all my mental energy to be consumed with worry and fear and failure and it had built and built, I had placed my faith in what was around me what I could see, instead of using that energy to rest on the promises I knew God had made our family, many of them I had  seen come to pass. It seems all through the Bible there kept recurring Jesus's plea for us to have faith, to ask, to ask, to ask, The scriptures say.. til now, or up to now, as yet, you asked nothing in my name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full. If for all your evil you know to give good things to your children how much more will you heavenly Father give good things to those who ask. My joy was gone, so I certainly could relate to that, and I loved my children more than life. So after the cat was outta the bag, and the crazy lady was revealed,  I felt some better, not so alone, but it didn't get better in just a day. I made an appointment with my physician and I went on a fast. I had to find Him. I had been desperate for Him before over other things and He had always shown up, I needed wisdom, the doctor needed wisdom, my mind needed healing. Like so many things in my life, I thought God this can be one more thing I can use to show your never ending love and compassion for those you love. Now, one little problem, I had swore Kenny to secrecy and this blog is not exactly a group of my closest girlfriends. But, I made the commitment to be honest about my life and I am following the outline and this incident was next and I feel this is such an important subject. So God am I going to give it all to you, even my crazy moment!?! Yep, I guess so. Back to my search for Him, I thought, "Who is going to be my Master, my true Master, fear and shame over what happened, myself, we know how that turned out, no, I want the one true Master, the One who wants joy and peace and purpose for my life.  Mark 8 says for a man to save his life he must lose it. But if he loses it for My sake ....he will find salvation, or he will be saved (meaning from not only perpetual lostness, but from lostness day to day). So in other words, outside of the pain of all out handing over to Him all of our natural self (to be, in some sense, destroyed) there is consolation in knowing that He gives us a new "self", one born from above, one in which He will be the center of. I will gladly, even with the pain of humiliation, give Him everything, let Him destroy it, make it new. God I need a healing of my mind, a renewing, a rewiring, I had let worry and fear become my center not You, and it had taken over my mental capacity. Our families today are living in abject fear, fear of losing their jobs, fear of losing their car, fear of losing their homes, I sit at the library sometimes to wait on the  kids to get out of school, and I have been shocked at the families I am certain are homeless. And many of them go to my children's school. Alot of them walk from school to the library and then the parents come on the city bus to pick them up, many in their work uniforms. From conversations and things I've seen I am certain they live at the shelter. And many live with relatives or friends. The weight on the faces of these children is so heavy, and the parents, are half my age, yet the burdens of life have made their marks on them and aged them beyond their years. What a diverse difference the scriptures have made in our home, in my life, in the lives of our children. The burdens they carry are when the next happy meal is going on sale! When the scriptures are alive in a home,  even in the worse of lifes situations, there is hope, hope that brings parents together, keeps parents together, lets those children know the Creator is interested in the little affairs of their life, every detail, and when real crisis hits they know Who to call upon. I think we have failed to display this simple but powerful truth, God can be trusted. Hope is always of God, faith is always right, fear and despair is always wrong. We can rest, rest in the assurance of knowing that His love for us boundlessly surpasses our own. Nothing can ever separate us from that love except our own blind unwillingness to receive. I thought it would give a different perspective to have Kenny write what he was thinking and feeling the day he found me on that lawn sofa.

  You will have to be told what is happening as you read this very sentence, because it is entirely scandalous and that is because I am doing something that after 27 years a man with even partial sensibility knows never to do, injecting his opinion!  The only thing saving my future is that this is really not much about opinion, it is more about memory.  Memory, that is, of the most striking and demeaning type. Angie and I thought it would be, seeing this particular blog is a bit of an expose, necessary and relevant if I recalled that same day from my memory, something I was hoping I would never, ever have to do and something extremely unpleasant for me.  Let me say, forthrightly, we are not attempting to make some deep theological dogmatic point, we are, also, not implying that we have some extraordinary insight that we alone have been able to acquire, much to the contrary we feel great shame at having been thrown into the furnace only to realize we had really no genuine metal, no gold, no pure silver, no heated and hardened steel, we came to realize we were weak and effete and hardly worthy of the most beautiful and marvelous name of "Christian".  We all deal with hundreds of issues week to week, thousands month to month, but when you tinker with those things in us which are the very core and central beliefs we have built our lives on, the pressure of those kinds of conflicts can reveal who and what you are.  What we have dealt with has only proven that we had so little real confidence in what we believed that we have, practically, been atheists in sheeps' clothing.  Amongst the Jews the old adage, "The fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God'" it had nothing, at all, to do with an open proclamation of disbelieving in Deity, it had to do with the man or woman who, though they believed in word, whole heartily, in God, in the way they lived, however, they were denouncing His existence entirely.
Shame, great shame!  All that to say that this time was in the heart of months and months of continual desperation and bitter internal doubt.  I had carried the immense burden of, as the man of the home, seeing my role as "provider" slowly corrode into a worthless and meaningless title.  I was not only reared in the south I was steeped in the Christian tradition of hard work and honor of family loyalty.  This kind of belief forces an approach of taking years of work and slowly building, not only security at home, but good reputation publicly.  That was all, now, in ashes!  When you awake in the morning and as you rest your head on your pillow at night and the majority of seconds that lye between those two conscious moments, your mind is filled with a form of fear which can hardly be clearly defined, but is the most horrid state being I had ever conceived of in my nightmares.  For the previous year I had waited for Angie to begin the conversation I knew had to eventually come, the one which starts with, "We have to talk!"  Besides, what was left of the man she had married, the man who promised to  provide for and keep her, and her children, through all the days of our lives.  Of the secondary fears I had often borne in my mind's abyss, was the fear that she would break, that she would, in spite of her powerful will to carry herself with great honor and with an undefeatable public show of joy, though it was often a bit of theatre, finally snap and the woman I loved so deeply, so hopelessly, would disappear forever.  It was not a baseless and paranoid fear.  Days like those wear deep on people, deep in the worst of ways.  They grate on your soul, they relentlessly gnaw on your mind, and they never, never give up.  I had tried, and not with an intentional sense of mockery, to repeat all the wonderful quotations which were suppose to bear up our souls, but they fell hollow.  I just asked God for one last favor, in this new world where His favors seemed to short supply, "God, please don't let her break! I have nothing left but Her and these kids. Please, please keep her mind, her sanity, collected and in tact!!"  Mothers have always been the anchor of the home, but this woman had become more than any of us had imagined she would.  Her grace and poise had been tested and she had never lost her powerful compassion for the weak and poor in soul.  She had learned, though it was never natural in her youth, to tell a joke, and amazingly, she became very good at it. This entirely because she was determined to have laughter in her home and with her children, a bit of a prick to my pride seeing as how I had always believed myself to be much funnier than I must have been. I suppose I had become far too paranoid, a common side-effect of such times, none-the-less, I imagined seeing small fractures in that beautiful Trojan horse she had built, and it made me pray all the harder, and, in what I believed, was all the more sincerely.  I had taken the kids, Cole and Bella, to school, I had spent the morning in my long-running ritual, reading and trying to re-think, through my reading, Who and What God really is.  I had headed back up the mountain and the cold, cold mountain wind made me long to see that old brick fireplace.  As I drove up the mountain and turned into our driveway I became puzzled at the dark figure I saw on the N-east corner of the house.  I couldn't see it too well because it was some 150 yards from the last bend in Foxrun and up our drive and then to the back of the rental, however, as I moved closer my mind finally became clear as to what this dark, shadowy figure was and as I did my heart leapted into my throat and my soul dropped into hell.  There, on an old lawn sofa that she loved so much, lying in the only corner of the small back drive where there was a stream of sunlight, was Angie.  She was wrapped in a blanket which was much too light for the kind of mountain cold of that day, and she was motionless.  I forced my mind to go through all the possibilities I could imagine which had nothing to do with tragedy and pain, however when I stepped out of that little red S-10 I could hear a sort of whine, or maybe a low groan, and I started to walk toward her. She never looked at me, never looked at the truck, and she didn't say a word.  I didn't want to do or say the wrong thing so I approached her slowly and when I was only about 15 feet away I could hear some sort of guttural moaning, or a bit of a groaning, the sort of which I had heard when I was growing up when I encountered a wounded animal. I had long ago thought it best to stop praying about anything except the most essential and necessary issues in life, but I could not shake the thought that this was the answer to my one last, most dire, prayer!  She never looked at me and I said, very quietly, to her, "Honey, what are you doing? Are you Okay?"  When I reached out to touched her she recoiled and I couldn't make out if it was deep anger, a moment of mild hostility, or simply the physical shell of a woman who had become lost in depths of a mental collapse.  I said, "Angie, it is too cold out here, you have to come inside!"  Her shoulders and arms were quivering, her lips were pale and a light shade of blue had set in, and she just mumbled about not being able to go inside, about there being too much behind the stairs, that there was danger inside.  I, as had become the case so often now days, didn't know what to do, so I just grabbed her arm, forced her up and lead her inside to the downstairs couch.  The stairs were to the right and when we entered she moved to my left and pulled me hard away from the stairwell.  I wrapped her up and pulled a small electric heater near her and prayed she would have no frost-bite, not that I had any confidence in my prayers.  For the next three hours she didn't move.  I wanted to help her, I wanted to talk to her, I wanted to heal her wounds, whatever they were, but I just sat and stared.  I thought, well I will never again be able, at least while she is sane, tell her how sorry I am for all of this, how I know she had many choices before me, and would have had many after, and how, except for our children, I had come to be nothing  but a curse to her, but I realized I would never have that chance now.  The woman I loved so much was now gone, her body was still there, her beautiful face, her long statuesque frame, but "she" was gone. I would like to say I felt failure, maybe disillusionment, maybe confusion, but what I felt was in places and in ways which speech simply cannot reach.  It was a loss of all that is sensible, all that is good, all that you are sure of, and as if all the collection of pain you had ever experienced became focused on one moment.  I just needed one more day, one more afternoon, maybe just one more hour just to let her know I had never meant her harm, never meant for life to be this way, never meant to lead her to this kind of ignoble end, but all the days, all the hours were gone!  I don't want to talk about this anymore, what I will say is this, I realized the faithless, cravenous, heartless little man I was, and there was nothing I could do about it, but I also realized that it really wasn't about me anyway.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Helplessness Is One Of The Greatest Assets a Human Being Can Have

Helplessness is a terrifying thing to most of us. We resist it, deny it, and hide it at any cost, somehow it seems it is a sign of weakness of fallibility. And very few find they can endure its grip. The 'cliche God helps those who help themselves is frankly a bunch of hog wash! Well I guess if their were no God that statement would be true, then we could work up all the self confidence and self sufficiency  possible and try to mange as best we could. But, since He does exist, and this "cult' of self sufficiency, the world  or the media or how ever you want to word it, has tragically mislead us into believing, has ultimately lead us down a dead end street, and hasn't even given us the benefit or the option to say their might be a better way, another way. We weren't created to be self reliant, to be alone, in my own life the most miraculous things happened when I could do nothing for myself. I was helpless. No amount of self-sufficiency or self-confidence or self improvement classes or woo hoo dance could help me, I was completely helpless. I was terrified, I was weak and I was ashamed for my weakness. And I felt like a failure, especially as a Mother! I go back to December 2010. Just one more very difficult time for me as a parent, as I felt my anxiety began to grow as soon as Halloween was over, because I knew the 2nd week of November I would begin the decorating for Christmas. I had learned alot of lessons along this road and I had seen alot of ways God had provided for us, but I just had not arrived yet, but I don't think we ever really do or we would stop needing Him. I had read a scripture in Psalms that said, When I was hemmed in, Thou hast freed me often (an ole King James wording just simply and beautifully saying that when I was captive, entirely helpless, You have always freed me). I had learned over the past, previous year that when life "hemmed" me in was God's most loving, and I must say "creative", way of teaching me -- HE is adequate for my problem. Well, I went to the basement to get my Christmas things out and as I unpacked, I put Christmas music on and I sang and I skipped a lil, I even said thank you Jesus a few times, but in my heart, I was so angry and bitter and ugly inside. I had bumped into a Mom I had met at the kids school and she was telling about  the special live tree she had ordered, and  her kids list she had over half  filled already because they were going skiing the week after Christmas and on and on and on. I was there buying toilet paper and paper towels and barely had enough to do that. I kept my composure but inside I felt like I had been crushed. My chest was tight and my breathing was shallow, like the air was thick. What is so funny, if you can call it funny, was that this person has everything, extremely wealthy, I'd say rich, but the one thing I had she didn't was an old 79 bronco, well low and behold she tells me she told her husband she wants a stinkin  "vintage" 1979 bronco for Christmas! Are you kidding me!! Can I keep a little bit of my dignity, keep something that is just mine! I have been stripped of everything! I have nothing left. Or so I think. She had a $70,000.00 SUV and a $80,0000.00 car, geezeeeee! So I was not in the best frame of mind to be getting our decorations out. But just as angry and bitter as I was feeling I was feeling just as anxious and worried about what in the world we were going to do for Christmas. It seemed as though these mountains had opened up and swallowed us and we had been spinning powerless to do anything about it. Kenny had still found no work, outside of complete miraculous events, it was not even possible that we had been able to sustain our family without employment, still we had a roof over our head and food to eat. It still made no logical sense. That is a post in itself! Yet, when you are in the midst of these things it's hard to see the big picture, now looking back it is easy to say, oh I see the hand of God and how this worked out and that worked out, but at the moment it was just so, so very difficult. We were lucky to buy toiletries and gas, how on earth would we buy presents. Why even bother with the decorating.  Why even bother with the tree and give the children false hope, our auto insurance was soon to be terminated and our cell was also to be turned off, which a phone in these parts of the mountains is a necessity. I kept telling myself, Angie dare to trust God, keep unpacking, faith is acting before the act not after. Ok, God I will proceed with decorating this ole' farmhouse as if I have all my shopping done and my tree is packed with presents. One little problem, we need a tree. So I went about decorating, getting my Christmas dishes changed out, the bathroom accessories set up and about that time the kids came bouncing in, faces lit up like they had seen Santa himself! Mom everything looks great! Thank you sooo much! You're the best! Let's have hot chocolate by the fire tonight! I thought ugh, I don't wanna sit and chat about anything I am too consumed with my own self pity, self absorbed, to think of anything, that is besides my feelings, my own family, and especially my own kids being without. The farmhouse we were renting had a hugh fireplace which was also the only source of heat for a very large 3 story dwelling. Well, we had no chain saw and no monies to buy wood. So to have hot chocolate by the fire was a luxury as much as a necessity. So everytime we had a fire that also bore on my mind as I would see our only source of heat dwindle down, which made our little time around the fire loose it's enjoyment. Another one of those lost moments, because I was too consumed with the "what ifs" to enjoy the now!!!. I was just a mess, mentally I was deteriorating more and more, as I would face another crisis I could feel my senses slip away a little more each time.  It was a very odd thing, I could sense it happening but didn't know what to do about it, it was very frightening, and I didn't know quite how to tell Kenny. I would try to tell him and he would just seem to falter as to what to say or do, he was lost in his own dark corner. I am sure he knew, but was also frightened himself for me and felt helpless himself on what to do, so I just stop telling him. So we had our chocolate and the kids dreamed of the presents they would get and we went to bed. Kenny got a call the next day to do some work for a gentlemen, that honestly they didn't need, it was just to help us out. They wanted him to clear some trees out and maybe cut some down. When he got there, they said they would just borrow their sons saw, after some conversation and reconsidering, and I know now, God intervening, the husband said, Kenny we have given it some thought , I want you to go to Lowe's with my wife and help her pick out a saw, anyone you like! And you are welcome to keep it and use it anytime you like! So God had met our need for our wood situation, that very moment! I don't think we bought one piece of wood that entire winter. And our Jesse Cole, we call Coleman was in heaven, he got to spend an entire winter cutting and chopping wood with his Dad. I don't know how much fun it was for Kenny, but I know that boy loved it! It made my heart swell with joy, I would be in my kitchen baking looking out at them, Wyatt carrying wood, which was so good for him to be out, our home warm and safe, and again I thought God had I not been hemmed in, backed into a corner, I would not have seen you free us once again. God why had I not had enough faith to believe you would not let my family have enough heat for the winter? Why didn't I just ask for a chainsaw? I realized everyday I live by acts of faith with none, or very little, proof at all that these things are true, I believe in something and I accept it.  I felt so ashamed as I stood there rolling my pie crust out, I  felt tears form as I asked God, to forgive me, I said, God, I believe the kids Pediatrician to give them the right medicines, blind faith,  I believe the pharmacist to fill the prescription accurately, blind faith, (one slip could be deadly in that case). Blind faith! I don't know that the pharmacist  isn't a drug user, that she hasn't been up all night with a sick baby, God if I insist on proof first,  my daily life would be chaos. So really our daily life among men is based on faith, so is it SO odd to live our lives around faith in the ONE WHO designed the universe. I came to this truth in a very hard and painful way when I left my child and they were hurt at school. I put my faith in that 4th grade teacher, that principle of the school, that superintendent, that school board, State legislator, Governor, Cabinet member,..... and my child was wounded and changed for life.  At school. Blind faith in a system we all trust. A 9yr old that will never be the same. I was changed, I will never be the same, the pain over that child and what happen to him.  I still don't know if I can, as of yet, sit down and put it into words, I am just to weak. I had faith that the teachers would protect my child, the principle would oversee the teachers and so on, and it still came out bad. You just can't insist on proof first, or you would drive yourself insane, where would it ever really end. I found myself at that dead end street with Emma, in her early teens, I shared how God healed me of the fear I felt when she left the house, daily, I went over every possible scenario that could happen to her, until I was in complete despair and panic, I couldn't sleep or eat, it was all consuming so it came back to the simple truth, Angie dare to trust me. Once again, Emma was out of my control, I had no control and He came to my rescue, He freed me once again. But, only in my helplessness did I need freeing. So as I pounded that pie shell harder and harder and the tears came harder and harder, I thought I want to put my faith in something I know is worth banking on, that has stood the test of time, not only through history, but in my own life as well. The same kind of faith as I saw in my poor, poverty ridden Grandmothers life. God, today I take heart, as imperfect as I am, I need You. So, I finished my pie, went to the Dollar General bought dollar gift bags stuffed them with tissue paper and put each of the kids names on them. Got various sizes of boxes and wrapped and labeled them with every ones names on them and piled them in the corner. Ok God, faith before proof!! Everyday the kids would run in from school gather all their gifts and one pile and just sit and talk and dream and guess what each box or bag might have in them. And I just played along, like they were full of everything they named! Day by day I would wear a smile and play along when in my heart I would cry out God, You are our only hope, You are our only source, I am completely and utterly helpless to help fill those packages, I need You. God You provided the warmth for this house I know You can provide the Christmas. Not only did that couple allow us to cut wood for our fire place but guess what we found? The biggest most beautiful pine on the property! When we yelled for Kenny to come see the tree we had found,  he kinda stopped and looked at me, not knowing really how to respond, mind you, this tree was probably 40' tall.  And it was perfect!!!  It took all of us to drag it to the trailer and top it off and load it and we still had to  trim it some more and Kenny had to actually nail it to the floor due to it's size. I would sit on my couch and stare up at that beautiful tree touching the ceiling of that massive barn we called home and marveled at  how good and how big God was, and how little and small we were, yet how important and how He sought us out, the Bible says He searches for us, He searches for the broken in spirit, SEARCHES! I love that, to think, He searches after me, when I am broken in spirit, and, trust me, my spirit was broken. So one more night I lay down seeing God perform one more miracle in our families life. I get a call from the children's school the next day that I have a package at the front desk. That was odd, the kids had been there now going on their second year and I had never gotten a package before, I couldn't image what it could be. I had become very good friends with so many of the staff at the kids school, they had extended themselves to our family in so many ways, too many to even go into for sake of time.  The guidance counselor was a particularly good friend of mine and she is the one who had called me. When she met me at the front desk she was kinda choked up and I could feel she was moved in a spiritual kind of way. She went to her office and came out with a huge gift basket and handed it to me. I stood there, still not knowing or understanding. She said the staff wanted to give this to you guys. I said, Oh, oh, ok,.. thank you, thank you so much and went to the car. I handed the basket to Coleman and suddenly Bella came running out and she had gifts they had also given each one of the kids. As Coleman and Bella began to look through the basket it was full of expensive chocolate, teas, cookies, bath salts, fabrics throws for each one of us and gifts cards for Walmart and grocery stores totalling over 200.00! I turned and looked and tears are rolling down Colemans face, he says, "Dad, why would a school do this for our family? I don't understand. They're not a church? They're not our church? I just don't understand?"  You see we had been going to a church faithfully for over a year, and it seems we had become more important to our children's school than to our church. It so saddened me that my son, at 10 yrs old,  knew enough to know that if charity came from anywhere it should come from the people who represent God. We drove away in silence, me thankful in my heart that God had showed up yet again, and in the silence Isabella says, "God, always provides don't He Coleman?" Yeah he does Bella, just when we need him. The next week we got a get gift card from a family member and the very next day a check from a parishioner we had in our church over 6 years ago! So I was able to fill everyone of those empty packages I had under the tree.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Tool Shed Has Become My Office

I have spent the past few days going back and reading each one of my post entries. And I realized as I began this, I had a plan and a direction I wanted this thing to go. Well as ignorance would go, and life would have it, it has gone nothing like I would have it. It has not followed the plan or the direction or the outline I had in mind or on paper. Even with the best of intentions. Our life has not been easy the past 5 months, it's not like I have a nice neat office with a big desk, a PC a comfy chair that I go to every morning, break, have lunch, go back to writing stop at 5 and go home to my family. No such luck, my life has been twisted, turned and dumped upsided, all while trying to stay true to my commitment to continue to share our story, share MY story for the glory of who God is and what He has done in our life. It has been very difficult.  There is not one cubic inch in our home that is not occupied by something. We have gotten down to the bare bones of things out of necessity. Everything has a place, which leaves room for nothing else, like a place for me to carve out just for me to gather my thoughts and ask God to lead me in the direction He would have me share on that particular post. I had been getting up earlier and earlier, and still, even up that earlier at the kitchen table I was getting distracted, so I have resorted to moving a stool to the tool shed where my washer/dryer is. Not much for ambiance, but, as of yet not even the dogs have found me! It is detached from the house, thank God! So, I say that to ask your forgiveness if I repeat a story or blend stories, I just frankly have done the best I can with the situation we have been given. This whole thing started basically in a grocery store named Ingles in Waynesville north Carolina, McDonalds, Hello Gorgeous hair salon and the streets of that same city. I felt for over a year I should do it but just didn't have the nerve to jump out and do it! I would be at the grocery store and complete strangers would tell me things, things they were going through in there lives,and that would open the door for me to share what we had been through. The ladies at the deli and the bakery began to share the lives and their families with me and became dear friends of mine. Ingles had a Starbucks kiosk in it and it got to were my new "friends" would grab me and tell me to tell their aunt or their Mama or their friend my story, as a source of encouragement to the person standing in front of me! It was cool and just one of the weirdest thing I'd ever seen or heard of! . I was in the dairy section and a nicely dressed women  came toward me and smiled like she knew me, so I smiled back. Well I had noticed when I came in and parked we parked next to each other, my ole bronco next to her new escalde. She said I see you here all the time, and I see how you interact with the emplyeeeeee, and as she got that out she burst into tears, she said my life is falling apart, and I don't have anyone I can talk to. You look like you have all together. But, I just feel like I need to talk to you, you seem so approachable. Can we have coffee?  Well, as I told our situation over and over for instance at McDonald's or my hair salon, or the dairy dept, I thought God their is a need to share what we have gone though. So I came up with the idea to start writing a daily entry of our day to day struggles and share them with people as I meet them. So, I did, I wrote the address on little pieces of paper and started passing it to people as I would meet them. But, I didn't wanna be like so many of those churches you hear about, if one church takes off and something dynamic happens they run off and copy and do the same exact thing! No, it was that churches moment, not something to be copied, it was unique to them! That is what I wanted for my journal. Or blog as they are called. So I looked at a few, but decided to keep it unique to me in the sense of it will reflect my life, my emotions in the most candid and honest way I can put into words. Ok, so...... this thing has grown, to my amazement WAY bigger than my naive lil brain could have comprehended, I have alot of new people coming in so I will recap once a week and twice a week i will get back on track to our story. I have a detailed outline so it will be easy to follow, and Lord  willing we are settled for a while!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Angela Marie Dyer, The Tears Formed As I Signed

As we headed to Tallahassee with the trailer in tow, I was filled with all kinds of emotions and, I am ashamed to say, not the best of kind. I had dreaded the final trip to our home town to finalize the selling of our home for some time, and now the day had arrived. I was so foul I was sick of myself, so I am sure Kenny had tired of me also. I just could not seem to get a grip on my emotions. Yeah, I make all these proclamations I will not allow my emotions to control to me, my circumstances will not control my life, I am in control of them not them in control of me, bla, bla, bla, but, this day, this week, this month it seems, that was a bunch of hog wash! I just can't get a grip on them. I can't get a hold on where I need to take my energy and make it the most effective, a talent I am so good at, at least for most of my life. It has always been one of my greatest gifts, seeing whats ahead zooming in on that goal and pushing through no matter what is thrown at me. The past few months I have been going through the motions and doing what is expected, yet inside I feel as though I could lose it at any moment. So much has been lost, so many changes, so many stresses, I feel like my body physically any moment might just shut down in a defense mode. And my mind, at times feels like it  could implode at any moment. So I live with moment to moment levels of stress that I know we were not meant to function at. When you live with the uncertainly of no home, no job, the variables are so astronomical you could drive yourself crazy trying to cover all the angles. And we as women like to know what we can count on, what we can see, and our life the past 3 years has been basically like navigating a ship in the complete dark without any help but the steering thingy?. So you just never know where you will wind up next week. Where the next blow is coming from. So you never really have a sense of sitting and having that sigh of relief, it is always in the back of  your mind, what is going to happen next?! Where is the next punch in the gut coming from. The issues we have faced have not been light hearted things, things I use to find monumental now seem like nothing. Life has, living, has, become a daily walk, no more planning for the future, and to be honest I don't look past the week. A commitment to a 30 year mortgage use to be a norm, a way of life for us, a place I envisioned seeing my kids grow up, but as this country faces unemployment, a bursting deficit and as we face our life changes, it is apparent we will have to rethink our life, our daily thought process..... our trust, who do we really trust our future with? As I rode in that Bronco to Tallahassee to sign the final papers  (we had finally sold our home, what is called a short sale) I could feel  my emotions boil to the top and simmer  to the edge and at any moment they will explode. I had no idea how surprised I would be. I kept telling myself that at least I would have closure, I would have something solid to build on, we wouldn't have that hanging over our head. And as friends and family used all the familiar phrases and tried to console me as best they could, I knew in my heart it was going to be a moment I would never forget. I would remember the room, the men in the room, the smell of the room, the pen I used, the tears that blurred my signature as I signed Angela Marie Dyer on the line. The date, the time of day, the moment it was final. We left central Florida at 4:30 in the morning  my dear friend had offered to do my hair at her expense, which was a wonderful gift! A gift worth about $250.00. So as we traveled in the wee hours of the morning I thought of all the memories and all the times God had shown up and helped our family. The excitement  I felt the first time I walked into my house, my mind running wild with ideas of all the things I would do once it was mine. The first thing I would do is buy the longest and biggest table I could find, as I stood in the foyer I made God  a commitment that I would open my home to anyone in need. That table would be full of people talking and sharing their lives, sharing my families life. But, how had my families life somehow been abandoned, or so it felt. Now my large table sits with the leafs in storage. I had done my part, spent hours upon hours, and hundreds of dollars preparing, cooking for and loving people, in that very home, I had kept my end of the bargain but, this morning I felt forsaken, deserted, empty, alone. I arrived at the salon, genuinely so happy to see everyone. It felt so good to be in a familiar place, like I was somebody again, like I had something, not like I was dependant on someone else, less of a human because I have no money, but I felt normal again. I had dressed like I had always dressed in the past, to please myself, I was feeling good, no worries. Even had my stilettos on!  I was served my hot tea, given a hot towel to my neck infused with essential oils a lap full of magazines and left to myself! Little did I know the shock that lay ahead of me at 2:00. Kenny's Mom picked him up and drove him to the attorneys office and I met them their in my Bronco in somewhat of a state of denial feeling really HOT!! My hair was amazing I was driving an amazing truck and I had my typical 4' stelolttlos on! If you know me, that is my standard dress, the one I might get up and chose to wear to Walmart! So we get to the attorney's office we make introductions and we sit. Everyone is chatty and polite, very chipper. I am handed the papers to sign my name and I am signing away, my signature here, my initial there and suddenly  my eyes are focused on the amount the gentleman bought my house for. I feel a lump forming in my throat my eyes begin to burn and fill with tears, I glance at Kenny and he instantly can sense something is wrong. As the tears form, the anger, the bitterness, well.....the quick temper supersedes the hurt and I, in a moment,  envision myself getting up, lunging across the table, snatching that poor lil man up and jacking him right in the jaw, then throwing him to the floor and choking him. My stilettos high in the air! And then the attorney was next on my agenda. I just kinda shook my head to get my senses, I could just see the Tallahassee Democrat headlines, "Crazy women arrested for attacking men in attorneys office." And you can bet the attorney would sue! As I finished my part of the signing I left and told Kenny to ride with his Mom I needed a moment, I needed to collect myself, to get a grip, I had 2 more days in Tallahassee and I had to either bury these issue and address them later or address them now and be done with them. And I knew  that God had brought me through too many  difficult things in my life for a purpose, not to lose my mind now. That  was the tread I was holding on to. Trust me the only one I had left. God I have not gone through this, my family has not gone through this without a purpose, our life has a purpose, a destiny, the pain has not been for nothing. Our family has gone through a war and though we are beaten and war torn, limping,  feeling like we were dragging our limbs at times, we are intact, no we are stronger for the journey, our love is stronger, our bond is stronger, our faith is stronger, OUR FAMILY IS STRONGER!  As I was talking to myself like a "crazy" person, I felt a different kind of pain, the pain of seeing Emma taken off in a police car, the pain of almost seeing Isabella die in my arms, or the look of humiliation on my sons face after he had been terrorized and bullied, or Coleman head hanging, tears streaming down, hiding behind his hair because he couldn't read as kids laughed. The pain of being gouged by greedy people over my home, which is just a thing, a place to put other things, seemed to get less and less. The thought of my four children lined up back in that lil trailer we now call home, even Emma safe,and sound asleep in the livingroom like a hunting camp, pleased as punch. Nights I would lay awake in prayer and abject fear for her safety. No anger in those kids or bitterness because their rooms are still unfinished, they just jump in ,Wyatt on the X-box, Emma chatting away on her phone while also on her Mac, while Bella and Cole are watching cartoons. A lil friend stopped by and said wow, what a cool room, it's like a big cool game room with  beds! A great big slumber party! The entire living room wall is lined up with gadgets, the flat screen on the left, Wyatts X-box and tv in the middle, his computer and computer screen on the right, and their beds have full  view of it all!! Adults can be so stupid sometimes, Me included! You know the old timers their babies slept with the Mama til the next one came along and then that child joined their siblings, and it made the most secure children, and the older siblings shared  bedrooms as well. Homes were  built around the kitchens, where family congregated and visited, bedrooms where for sleeping, not for isolation. My Mom has the best memories of rooming with her sisters. It creates closeness and intimacies, so many of our families are off in other rooms in front of tvs or behind computers and are very rarely in the same room with each other. To my shame, my family included. Our situation had forced us to be in the one room, and I am grateful for that. We think we have made so much progress and we are so much smarter than our ancestors, technology has given us so many amenities, but it has also taken so much from us. From our families. So here is what I always come back to, no matter how angry, how bitter, how ugly, how confused, or hurt, or moments when I dont understand why things happen, my life always comes back to this, moments of humility, moments of clarity Isaiah 54:14.. I (God) will cause your children to be in great peace, and you shall be built in righteousness: abstain from injustice, and you shall not fear; and trembling shall not come close to you. Behold STRANGERS shall come to you by Me (God) and shall join to you for refuge. I created you not as a copper smith  blowing coals, and bringing out a vessel fit for work; but I have created you, not for ruin, that I (God) should destroy you. I (God) will not allow any weapon (devised schemes) formed or planned against you to prosper. And every voice that should raise up against you for destruction will be vanquished. There is an inheritance for those who serve the Lord and you will be righteous before the Lord. The paraphrase was loose, and if you are somewhat of a cynic it will be little more than a spot of Ole English for you, but as I read that I am aware that as the copper smith blowing coals blows away in the wind and the debris is of no value or is un-noticed to anyone I am keenly aware that God is not taken by surprise by my life. Every little detail He saw before He formed the earth. Nothing in my life is trash or unused debris, He uses everything in my life,  every high point, every tragedy, every mistake I make or will ever make, every hurt, every moment,  just like this very moment in Tallahassee, Florida  He will bring someone to me who needs refuge and allow me to do for them what He has done for me, remind them of their absolute and unequivocal importance to Him! Life is not always just about us and the moment we live in, but  it is about what we do with that moment, what character we show in that moment, are we willing to expose ourselves to strangers and share our lives and be a refuge for the hurting? I have to believe "yes', in my own life, I have been called to share my story to the broken in heart, that God does see, not only does He see, but His pain in seeing was so great that He joined in the pain with us, He provided, at great harm to Himself, the suffering and destruction of His child, His only-born, to free us from the such deep wounds.  Strange how life can come to be so re-defined in such unexpected Ways!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Full Of Knowledge Empty Heart

When I read one of my very dearest friends, whom I have known for a small amount of time, yet it feels like my whole life, was going on a Women's Retreat in a few weeks something in my soul just knew that I had to go. No matter what amount of doors closed in front of me, no matter what obstacles where placed in my way, I just knew I had to go. Well, if you read this hosh posh of my writing I call my life, you will know I haven't written in quite a while. But, as I sit to type out several cute lil sayings or quote scriptures we all can quote, I reflect back to the moment I took this burden on, that is, revealing one's life, inadequacies, failures, bad attitudes, triumphs and victories, it is a huge burden. I am reminded I made a commitment to be completely honest even at the expense of looking less than "pretty". In spite of that, I had come to a place where I just could not sit down and bear up under another mind bending drama because I was in a dark place. It was too taxing on my mind and body. We have been through things in the past 2 and half months that have, at times, made me physically sick. Times when I even questioned my sanity and abilities as a mother, a wife, a friend and, most importantly, a child of God. . Things that I have never doubted to this extent before in my life. It was as though I was functioning and going through the motions and getting things done, but my mortal body was an empty shell. It was shallow, bruised, hurt, bleeding, sick, frail, afraid, too many adjectives to describe how badly crushed my spirit had become. I could not even function in my relationship with Kenny, which has never happened on this kind of level. I had just, on an emotional level withdrawn from anything that required me to feel. My health had been decling and I just barely had the strenght to fall into bed at night. In the darkness of night I would have such a sense of failure and inadequacy's, because I just could not, not matter how hard I tried get a grip on my emotions. I say that to say this, as I sit here today, nothing has changed from 2 and half months ago, but, ME. God certainly has not changed or suddenly showed up, He was always there. When I saw my friend's post, I messaged her and said sign me up, I don't know how but I  will be there, which sounds ludicrous when  we are living moment to moment not knowing if we will have vehicles to drive, or money to pay our utilities, how on earth was I gonna go to a Women's Retreat! It sounded ridiculous! And even though I knew I was to go no bells and whistles went off and instantly lifted my mood leaving me a renewed woman. It was just a methodical day to day making plans to go. And day to day one disaster after another happen to prevent me from going. It was as though the universe had set its sights on keeping me in a dark pit, impotent to my family, foreign to my friends and above all isolated from God. Pain and hurts, or disappointments, tax your soul in such a way that every time something happens you shut  down a lil and then, before you realize, you have become completely detached. And this is so true of our relationship with God. As we face these things and we are hurt and torn and beaten we start out praising God for His kindness and just for who He is, but it doesn't take long to allow the media, or our "busy"ness, or our "I will take charge" attitude to enter our minds and, before we know it, there are days we don't even speak to Him. Of course we still know Him, and love Him, but the strength the tenacity to face difficult times gets weaker and weaker. I love the text that says when I am weak He is strong, but you have to invite Him to hold you up, He will never force Himself on you. He is always there waiting and longing for a whisper, "God I need you". As the days passed over these past fews months and my health declined and our already stripped and naked life just seemed to fall further into the chasm of chaos,  little by little I felt a hardening of my heart. Ever so secretly that no one would know, yet I still  was an encourager, still attended church, still sang all the songs, but in my soul there was absolutely nothing, it was void. Kenny knew, it had taken a great toll on him, as well as our relationship, and this deeply saddens me. And I guess, truth be said, I didn't want to let go of the anger,  because I knew if I ever really acknowledged how empty and far from Him I felt I would have to come to terms with the hurts I had faced. One particular hurt was so great, concerning one of my children, I felt as though every time I took a breath someone had punched me in the stomach, my head pounded so bad I could see it pulse in my temples. The hurt in my heart had literally consumed my body. It had made me physically sick. And on top of that I felt like mentally I was going mad. I would get into the shower and sit on the floor and wept so hard I would at times make myself sick. I could not deal with the hurt I was feeling. That is without the daily touch from the One who keeps our hearts soft and assures us that He holds that child's destiny in His hands. As his Mom I just hurt so deeply for him, I couldn't hear God speak, I couldn't even hear God's whispers anymore, well, I had just closed my ears to them.  I had hit bottom. Sometimes it takes desperation to make us surrender. I think brokenness makes us love on a level that is supernatural. So when I arrived at this conference, I looked like I had it all together, chatting and joking, yet I had an agenda, God I have to find you, or I am going to die a death of a broken heart. It didn't matter about the food, the temperature of the building, how lumpy the bed was or how I really didn't care for one of the speakers, none of that  mattered, because I had came to get something and I was not leaving until I got it. I could have been the only one there and it would not have mattered. I was broken and desperate, dreams and gifts God had given me as a little girl I couldn't bring them to mind, hope for the future was a dismal and dreadful thought. As I sat in those meetings it was apparent that God had orchestrated that entire weekend for me. Down to every minuet detail. Details noone but He could have know, He touched my mind and brought back to my memory the dreams and the calling He had on my life, and it was as though a fog had been lifted from my mind and I saw clearly again. Every detail, every moment, nothing was vague or abstracted or distant or unclear, it ALL became clear. Things I had not thought of since my childhood, was brought to mind, and my soul was revitalized, invigorated, restored, fortified and I was rejuvenated! God had met me, just one small whisper was all I had the strength to get out, God I need You, I need Your touch, and in a moment He was there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Isabellas New Friend And Teen Mom

I went to two open houses this week and might I say it was not like any I had been to before. Oh sure the academics were the same, the hand outs, the this is what we expect, were going to have a great year! All the normal hoora hoora you typically hear, but these were different in the sense that, you really knew there was going to be no parent involvement, no sense of ownership of the school, no value for  the school or for what the students were doing. As Coleman and I walked around that very large middle school with so few parents, maybe 100 out of 2000 were there, I could feel a sense of poverty and hopelessness, a feeling of abandonment and a sense that there are children that live day to day with parents who didnt even know if they went to school that day, if they had breakfast, or if they had fears about starting middle school. As Cole stuck close to me for his security and reassurance I thought to myself God in 15 years how will these kids as adults interact? They have had no security, no sense of stability, most of their parents are out of work, most dont know both parents and without building your life on a foundation outside this world that is basiscally a financial and ecological mess it breeds an anger and bitterness that will destroy the human spirit. Cole has a boy right now that if he takes his medicine, he sleeps all day, if he doesn't, he is angry and throw his books. He has been in 6 foster homes, he is 11. The stats for his school is almost 90% receives free lunches. The income level is  what they call the working poor. Which breeds very desperate and alot times dangerous kids. The draw to things and acceptance will make you do things you never imaged possible. Especially when you are wanting to be accepted. Poverty is a horrible, horrible thing, it never leaves you, you take it with you to Mcdonalds, to the grocery store, to your kids school, any where you go, people know, you cant escape it, you cant hide it. The car you get out of  tells the truth, your clothes tell the truth, your shoes tell the truth , even the glasses the state gives to medicaid children tell the truth, they are all the same, so everyone knows who the poor kids are, no Guess or cute ones, once again poverty shines, you just cant escape it. It is a spirit that gets inside that childs soul that whispers that somehow because they have less, they are  worth less as a human being, even there demeir or posture reflects how they feel as a individual being. It is so easy to read their body language. Even Isabella with her body issues and also being the new student, bounced in bubbly and chatty into a new environment, because her soul, her spirit, is of value, has worth, it is not based on her Dad having a job or where we live or what we drive, we have taught her, to value God, her worth comes from who He is, He holds her future, He holds our families future not our circumstances. So as I found myself in dilemma of how do you mix light with dark? Not that these children are dark, but let me explain, Bella came home just talking my ear off about a new friend and her favorite show was Teen Mom. Well my ears perked up and as she chatted on, her little friends favorite show is Teen Mom, her 16 year old sister has a baby and all she wants to do is have a baby and be on teen Mom. 8 years old! So Bella says, dont worry Mom you have to be 18 to have a baby! My heart broke, as she continued she told me this little girl also wanted a lunch box for Christmas, if she won the lottery she wouldnt spend any of it, she would save it for bills, it was heartbreaking. So back to my dilemma. Isabella has never even seen teen Mom so I asked her what she said, she said Mom, I said you have to be married to have a baby and the baby has to be bored in a church! These kids still have speech problems and they're talking about babies, it's not the way it was meant to be. So I spoke to the teacher and she said she would sit with them at lunch and at least cool some of this adult talk for a while. As I went to pick  Bella up I saw that little girl walking home all by herself, and Bella was just in shock that she was alone, how will she know where to go, what if someone gets her, what if her Mom isn't home, what if she gets thirsty? The list went on and on. Issues too complicated for me to even to try and explain, I just tried my best to get her distracted. My concern is this, family just doesn't exist anymore, not traditional family that is, kids will have as many as 9 adults in and out of their lives by the time they are are 18. And statistics say that one of those wont even be a biological parent. When people hear we have a 21 year old the first thing they ask is, do your children have the same father? Emma says  her friends think we are from another planet to even consider that a couple would not "live" together first, kinda like a trial run before they get married. But, without a bases of God help direct our lives because we in  of ourselves cannot navigate it ourselves, look around it is obvious we cannot manage it. Even the non religious folks are aware that whatever we are doing is not working. They just wont bring themselves to bend their knee to the one who can truely help.The hurt I see through the friends of my children breaks my heart. My first instinct as a Mama is to pull them out and never let them leave the house. But, as I wrote early on, I have felt since a little girl that I had a special draw to people that society felt had no value. So as I spent my private time in prayer I made a decision to not just throw my children to the wind but to let them be a light in place where it very dark. I will use wisdom and be cautious, my very first obligation is the safety and emotional health of my own children. And let just say they are more than happy and well adjusted kids. With that said, there certainly wont be any sleep overs at these children's houses, or social gatherings, but I will invite them into our home, offer to drive them to church with our family, befriend the Mom, start talking to Isabella and Cole about social issue that as they grow up they will have to face. Because as they grow into adulthood these children as adults will carry alot of baggage unless they allow God to heal the wounds they suffered as children. Bitterness can be a very difficult thing to overcome. I heard a little boy ask his mother, in a hostile angry voice with murder in his eyes, why wasnt I born to a rich Dad? He had duck tape keeping his tennis shoes  together on the end. So we as a family, them as individuals will  extend compassion, extend our faith, extend the faith our family believes, extend the faith that has sustain our family through this very difficult time and maybe through them one child can find hope, can find a future that is meant for good not pain and uncertainty.
 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Navigating A New System, God Bless America

This has been one of those weeks I would like to forget. And I guess if I had to sit with a therapist and tell them what made it so bad one particular incident in and of itself was not so bad but, you when you add 100 of those things together  it becomes monumental. MONEY, what a dirty ugly word, yes, it does make the world go around, but it also makes good people bad, pretty people ugly, ugly people pretty, and let me tell you it would make alot of good peoples' lives alot easier. Just a little bit would make such a hugh difference in a families life that is living week to week, and one slip up could mean their very demise. What a mind boggling thing to think, what abject fear, fear that is, if you don't live your life with the assurance that God oversees the lives of His people. And even with that knowledge, knowledge I have had my entire life, I still battle fear and doubt. We are just weak by nature. I knew the "list" was coming, which is a list the kids get from their school for all the supplies they need for the year. When you times that times three it can cost well over 100.00. My kids backpack had been in great shape at the start of last school year. They were expensive name brands and  were going on 4 school yrs old, but just this past year I knew we would have to get new ones. Wyatt, also, had grown so much his looked like a baby backpack on a grown man. So as I laid in bed at night crying out to God that ole' feeling of anger and blame and bad attitudes begin to build. I found myself almost unable to pray. Have you ever been in a place were you just could'nt pray? The only time I have difficulty is when I allow anger or that attitude of "why me" to creep in. Well, this week has been full of those attitudes and questions. And not only for myself but also for the people I love. My Emma, who has  ripped out my heart at times, who also has my heart, has had a very troubling week and 2 of my very dear friends have had difficult weeks also. I came to Florida with the misconception that getting the children's insurances and our benefits from the state would'nt  be as emotionally draining as it has been, because anytime you have to accept gifts or hand outs form anyone or any institution it is an emotionally taxing thing. If you are a person of character and a person who likes to do your part be a contributor not a taker. I dont view our government as a pie in sky unlimitless entity, we the people are our government, and it hurts me when I have to accept monies from her. I view our nation as more than big government I view it as something I love, as ownership, I feel vested in my country, and it pains me to tax it with the burden of my family. Well what I failed to realize was the shear volume of Florida compared to North Carolina. When I went in to see someone about getting our benefits changed over, I had quite the shock. In North Carolina you go into an office you sit with someone, their office is personal and they have their own phone line, a coffee pot, pictures of their family, and they remain your contact until you or something changes.. Even a month later I got calls from my contact in North Carolina making sure we were settled. I get to the Department of Children and Families in Florida and it is a big room lined with computers. I sit and imput our information and the receptionist says  someone will call me for my phone interview to expedite my benefits.. So I wait and I wait and I wait. Well I have done this enough to know there are deadlines, and the only number I have is a number that the mailbox that is full, so I write 2 letters and continue calling 10 times a day hoping she will clean out her mail box or luck up and she answer her phone. No such luck, we missed the deadline! When I got the letter, obviously,we had missed the deadline, my knees felt weak and I felt completely helpless and so small in such a large system. I needed someone to see face to face. I felt like I was going to throw up. I was physically sick. You dont just call and say oops we missed this can you put me back in the system. I knew outside of a miracle we were in for a long, hard road. The children started school in less than a week, we had no medical insurance, the kids had several medications that would expire soon  and we had very little funds left for food. So as I sat down at my table in what many would say is a dilapidated trailer, my own son out of hurt and loss for leaving family and friends in North Carolina had referred to it as dilapidated and beyond repair, I found myself once again at the mercy of God. God you will have to move the hearts of men, and if you don't you will have to make another way. I got up, not completely convinced, but at least mobile and went about making dinner. I got my phone to send Emma a text and saw that I had a voicemail. It was Rite-aid in North Carolina, and for some reason, one which I am sure was the hand of God, every one of our prescriptions had been filled and paid for the very last of the month. We weren't  even in North Carolina that last day of the month! So I stood there in shock and yes, once again, shame! I called Emma and she picked them up and mailed them to me and at least bought me another month to try and navigate this monster I found myself in. It also renewed my spirit and I drove to where I had filled out all the paperwork and I asked to speak to the receptionist in private. She said there is no need for that I am just a receptionist, we dont need to speak in private, I don't know anything about anything. I said well do you know enough to tell someone behind that door that I am not leaving this premises until someone comes out and gives me an interview. You will have to call the police to get me to leave, I AM NOT leaving, I don't know what else to do, I am desperate and my children will be hungry. So if you can't tell them I will wait til the close of the day and when they pass me to leave I will tell them myself. Well, she could not get out of her seat fast enough, and I got my interview that day on the spot in the waiting room. And I thanked them and told them how much I appreciated them and how grateful my family was to the state of Florida and this great country for once again affording my family insurance and food. How often we criticize and point out the bad  over all the great things as citizens we are given. I had my benefits within 7 days. But the benefits are really not the jest of this post, I think  what I am learning, as I live day by day this life I certainly didn't envision myself  living, not at 45 anyway, is not letting everything around me get such a grip on my me that it literally cripples me. Truth be said as I look back, God has always been faithful and things have always somehow worked out. And we will always face things that will knock you down, can make you foul, make you a hater, make you wanna blame someone,  or it can make you realize that you really never had control over these things anyway, and God untimely guides our lives!  The American spirit has said, "We can do anything we set our minds to and anything we set out to do!"  While I applaud the recognition of the creative spirit in mankind, the idea that we can control our lives and our destinies is a little fraudulent.  The successful people you meet like to tell you about their determination, their mental powers, their drive, but they never are willing to recall the hundreds of uncontrolled parts of their lives which are responsible for them being where they are.  It just all goes back to our weaknesses of wanting to be seen as much more than we really are, our self-centeredness, our egos!  Gratitude and respect, or compassion, for all of humankind is the most essential of human qualities and we can all have that no matter how good or bad our lives.  Sometimes God allows us a measure of pain to remember that, and that, certainly, is a Good Thing!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Sweet Sweet Drew

I had a knock at the door and  standing in front of me was a fellow with dark glasses shorts and tall black boots and a key chain wallet attached to his belt, he said, looking at the ground, no greeting, no hello, just, "I am Drew, Ms Betty's son, you go lay down and don't you worry about a thing, I will sit right here for as long as you need me to." You see I had been up for four days straight too afraid to sleep, I had a neighbor who had been cooking and dealing meth, basically, in my house. We shared a house that had 2 units in it, so we were in very close quarters. Kenny, my husband, was still in Florida and was several months out from coming to the Western mountains of North Carolina. What many people don't know is that there is an epidemic of meth use in the remote hills of this beautiful country setting. The kids and I had found this wonderful house, actually an old barn converted into rental units, and we worked hours on end to make it a home, however, the couple in the small front rental was a strange sight.  They were the kind of people who you always see on the fringe, they were down-trodden, sad in spirit, and you could tell they were oppressed by life, but we had no idea what was really going on in the late hours of the night.  What we did know was that from around one in the morning until around four in the morning there was a horrible stench from their eternal fire-building and they had a flow of traffic, at these odd hours, in and out of their apartment. By shear accident a local, young cable installer had gone into the basement and came back up to our apartment in absolute fear! He went on to tell me he thought there was a meth cook on the property, and I immediately knew it was not Me! The police had to follow protocol so I had about 2 weeks that  I was left on my own, before they could make an arrest. So that is what brought Andrew Larry Swift into my life. From the moment I meet Drew I knew he was different, he didn't quite fit in, he would never make eye contact, and was always slow to speak, but when he told you something I always felt somehow I could count on it. I went up stairs and called Kenny and told him, I really like Ms. Betty's son, I had a special feeling about him, he was different, and I knew that Drew, probably  his entire life had  never really fit in, but I chatted him up, like I always do, and very quickly we became friends, as best he could. As he left that day he gave me his cell number and said if I needed anything, day or night, just call him and he would be right back over there. You see right back over there was 2 hours, we where in North Carolina and Drew lived in Tennessee, so it wasn't like he lived across town, it was 2 hours. I have always had an affinity for people like Drew, almost since I was a little girl, it is so ironic that God would give me a child with Aspergers, it seems as though he was preparing my heart for the day I would have to fight for my child to be accepted into a cruel and harsh world, if you don't fit into a norm that says this is how you should look or act or learn or speak. So buddy, when Wyatt was born, I was raring to go, fighting gloves on, ready to knock on any door I had to,  not accepting no as an answer, I was determined to find him the best help he needed. I knew it would be a difficult journey his entire life. He was mine and I was not ashamed of his inabilities, I saw the beauty in his heart and how because of his lack in one area he had this uniqueness about him in other areas. He had captured my heart. And just let me say, for the first 12 years of his life it was a daily fight. A heartbreaking fight. I have never felt such physical pain as I have felt over the pain I have felt seeing his heartbreak over not being accepted. These children, these adults, want friendship so badly, it eats at their very soul, but just don't have the skills to do it, And what is so sad is, it is not something you can teach them. It is in their very fibers, they try and I have seen Wyatt get better but it is just so hard, social settings are extremely stressful for them. They are just the odd ones out. Usually the ones by themselves or the ones trying to make conversations, but the other kids, or even adults, are thinking, wow this kid's weird.  Usually they are very intelligent so what they talk about alot of times no one understands.They blurt out things, their timing is off, their jokes are very funny, but they are strapped to the history books they read or the computer games they play, so it is hard for people not familiar with those kinds of things, to make sense of.  High numbers also are musically inclined, Drew was in a band, which seems like an oxymoron, but I think there is a safety behind an instrument, the same as I see my son when he plays games on-line and he wears a headset, the safety is in not facing someone, again hiding behind something.  These children have a purity of heart that  seems to link them all together. I suspected from the beginning  Drew might have these problems. Well, over the month I continued my friendship with Drew and he made several trips over, at his own expense, one night he sat in his car all night, he did not know I knew he was there, watching over me and the kids. I had a problem with the bronco and who did I call but, Drew, and who came but, Drew. I would tease him, and say he needed to charge me a consultation fee, and he would just look away and laugh, but I could tell Drew felt accepted at my house, my children addressed him as Mr Drew and gave him respect, he wasn't on the outside in my home, he was on the inside, he was included, he was my friend, I saw past the outer and saw Dew's heart. You know there's a simple Bible truth here, and its, just simply, help someone when they ask. And that's what Drew did. He didn't wave a banner or post all the things he had done for me, his own Mother didn't know all he had done, he just did them because he had a good heart, and I think our responsibility is to look past someone's outer self and look into that person's heart, so often we judge, we see a person, even in church or at a school function dressed nicely and who do we immediately make our way to? When their might be a Drew or a Wyatt standing on the out skirts just needing a friendly smile and someone to say hello. I had alot of friends, I had a home church, but, not one person came to my house during that time to help me, but a man from Tennessee with dark glasses too shy to look me in the eyes.  On July 27,2011 Drew, was shot and killed, and I feel in my heart, finding friendship is what drove Drew possibly to his death. Acceptance is a powerful pull, being alone is a dreadful, dreadful thing. Everyone needs a friend. Even a bad friend, sometimes we can convince ourselves, is better than no friend at all. I have gone over it in my mind a million times, did I extend myself to Drew the best that I could have , did I share my faith with him, I was heart broke the day Ms Betty called me, I was heartbroke for a week, and as I reflect back, yes, I think I did. I included Drew in our family, I sat him at my table gave him my chocolate cake, the kids gathered around, Jesse Cole asked him a million questions about his band, Drew just lit up as he was talking about it. The next time he came he brought a few of his hand guns to show Wyatt, he was a different man showing and explaining those firearms to my boys. I had told him of how faithful God had been the past year to give us that big ole' barn to start a healing in our journey back from losing everything. He shared a little bit about what that house had meant to him,  and some things about growing up and how his Mom, who he loved dearly, and he, was the"team". So as I laid there, almost a week after Drew had passed, and I asked God, please always give me the opportunity to share myself, share my family, my faith with a soul that is lost or lonely, or just needs a friendly smile. I dedicate this post to my friend Drew.