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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our Daily Walk, So Many Beautiful Roses

As we started our daily walk,  I couldn't get a good stride, because I just could not stop myself from stopping and smelling each and every rose. They were just magnificent. Here in Waynesville, NC., there is an amazing lake called Lake Junaluska and on the two and a half mile sidewalk around the lake they have what is called the rose walk, and it is probably 400 feet long of just the most majestic rose bushes of every kind and variety imaginable. It is such a distraction for me!! But lately, everything distracts me! I guess it is our situation. It is funny how quickly our emotions go up and down. Sunday when the Bronco started knocking, my heart sank, that old dreaded feeling of the world is coming to an end. I felt the old ugliness, we all have in us, the bad attitudes and blaming, things that we shouldn't allow in our hearts. But, as I went to sleep, I prayed, "God all I can pray is I am weak and you know my heart and you love me regardless of my faults, help me". I woke, in much better spirits, even though nothing had changed. So it actually was a lesson, once again, for the millionth time learned, we must NOT let our emotions rule or lives. Isn't this what we teach our children, yet we can't even apply these simple truths to our own lives. But, here is the way I see it, it seems the more people have the tighter and more stingy they become and the less they enjoy it when they actually get to do something. When we would go out on our boat, the friends that had the most, bought the least amount of things. We were always the one buying the gas, bringing the food. Then we would invite a poor family and they would come with coolers full of things and offer to fill the boat with gas. Go figure. But money is not the only thing that can get off track, I remember, and let me say, by no means is this a bash Kenny site, or bash me site for that matter, I made an oath to be forth right with our failures and hopefully we will learn and grow and you as well will learn and grow from what we have been through. But I remember we had the most beautiful, Bennington, pontoon boat. We had bought it used, paid cash and it was the Cadillac of the pontoon boats. The seats were like big hugh  recliners. We would go out on Saturdays, or after church on Sundays, but, Kenny would be so consumed with the business, or the church he would  snap or he would be mentally somewhere else. I would get obsessed with kids smushing (is that a word!?- I guess a southern word!) chips into the carpet, I spent my entire time, worried as well. Let me tell you, if we had that boat now, we would find a family, who had very little, load up and we would certainly not think about anything, but ENJOYING the day at the river! SO I have to think how many missed days, or missed opportunities or moments we have let pass us by. I don't want to do that any more. We have been privileged to lived in the GREAT Smokey Mountains, people dream about living here. You don't need money, to hike, and explore or take long walks with my husband and talk about what we hope for our future and how God has been so good and faithful to us all these years. The kids have learned to garden and have had a connection to the soil, which is a hertiage that my grandmother left me, so much good, has came from so much hurt and devastation. My soul is inspired when  I see the beauty in these mountains, they display the handy work of the Maker. The  snow filled winter, the magnitude of looking up and as far as you can see snow covering the sky, the air so crisp, it burns your lungs, being curled up on the couch with Kenny in front of the fire for hours, no interruptions, something we had not done in years. Finding a young love again, in an old barn, with unfinished floors and no heat, scurrying off to bed early like honeymooners. Kenny spending a school year of driving the kids to school and spending the best part of their day with them, not when they are exhausted or irritable but the best, getting to see all their programs, meeting their teachers, all while many would say our life is in a shamble. I have even said it.  Shame on me. In our house the living/dining/kitchen/playroom/ is all one room, I was cooking, Wyatt was on his X-box, Emma, yes our 21yr old, and Bella and Coleman were playing Rock band, at home safe and sound, a family. Not scattered, not torn apart, or wounded, but happy, well adjusted and secure. Shame on me. Are we to quick to see the bad and never see the good? Aren't we guilty of even doing that toward our own country? Do we not have loyalty to anything anymore? God one more time, I will try to move forward and look for the good things you have given us and not let my emotions rule my life.

Monday, June 27, 2011

She Is Broke Yet Again

Diving home from church yesterday the bronco started making a odd sound, so we pulled over and Kenny checked all the fluids and the pressure, it wasn't running hot  so we made it home and we called Dad. So we got him on the phone, put the phone to the motor, and as our history would play out, the motor is gone. Let me just say, the motor is less than  a year old. So now we have had 3 motors blow up in that bronco. What are the odds of that! I think their might be a lesson here. What do you think? I guess it's better to laugh than cry. As I have said in previous posts I get so attached to things for sentimental reasons, and this Bronco is one of those things, me and the kids bonded and pulled together and became a unit in that old truck. She means far more than just a means of transportation to me. I had looked for months and then when I found it, Kenny had sent me money and I gave the kid a down payment and made payments. Faithfully week by week he had sent me money until she was mine!  I LOVED IT!!  I would go by in my Moms car and look at it and dream of the day I would ride these mountain roads with the top off and the sound of that 351 and the freedom of that big truck.  At the time it had a Jimmy Johnson in it. There were times we spoke of, out of necessity, selling it, and the kids faces would drop, and they would say, "No, we can't, never, ever, we have to always keep the Bronco". It has represented a new start, a rebirth for our family. Now, she sits out front with the hood lifted. I know it sounds stupid, but my heart breaks. I know every inch of that truck, every imperfection, every scratch, every noise, but also every memory, I don't think, myself, I could part with it, even for another new truck.  If you have never been without a vehicle it is impossible to understand how a vehicle can control your life, but it is so true. You are completely at the mercy of someone else if you have no way to go. If you are teetering on the edge even a 40.00 auto repair can seem like a monumental feat, that is, if you are living week to week. Thank God we are blessed to have my Dad. Alot of people don't even have that. Dad has been a key  component in all this, he has put everything together on the Bronco, so he will be the one to pull out the motor send it back and put the new one in  We are dealing with such high level stressers, sometimes I don't know, outside of the grace of God how Kenny and I have survived. I have since the young age of 18 and , to this day, at 45 years old,  loved Kenny, and been devoted to only him, but outside of love their are times I feel my mental capacity teetering on instability. I fear at times,  there will be a moment I don't return. When the stressers in my body makes me immobile, I feel as though I am in a dream I cant get out. I know as a man,  all Kenny has lost and all he has seen me lose as a women, he has got to feel the same demons inside. You both in your own quite moment questions each others motives, because you both are scared and afraid, but neither one really wants to verbally say it out loud, somehow it makes it real. So you just kinda avoid saying anything. Stress is an awful, awful thing. It would be one thing to face these issues if it were the two of us, but to load us the children once again, and assure them, trust me, I am making the right decision for us, Dad and Mom are doing what we know is best, when, I don't know that this, is what is best.  But I do know, we have done our best to bend our knee to God and teach them that our source is not our talents or our abilities but the grace of God  in our life. When we do make a decision, even if it is wrong, God will still honor us, because, loves us and he takes care of those he loves. So its not about what we've done, or what we will do, its about Him and Who He is, that is were our future lies , that is were my mental stability lies, that is were mine and Kenny relationship will be its fullest, that is were there safe haven is. That is Who they put their trust in. We could have a brand new house 3 new cars a boat parked in a boat slip, a vacation house in the mountains and our kids know nothing about having faith in God and see our relationship deteriorate and destroy any hope of them having marriages that last. So as we sit them down tonight we will tell them, yes we are moving, yet again, but we are moving together, we will never be apart again, they will be safe, we love them, we are a family, and God over sees our life. And hope is attached to the promises of God because every promise takes you beyond your own minuscule resources to the  infinite resources of God. That is why our inadequacies become the qualifications for experiencing His sufficiency's. I love what Paul said. "Not that we are adequate  in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God" (2 Cor 3:5)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Do You feel As Though You Have lost the Smile Of God

Do you ever look back at certain moment which changed everything? A lightning-flash, you shut your eyes and instinctively  when you open them things look differently. I have opened my eyes many times,and been disoriented, not knowing where I was, feeling as though I was back in Tallahassee, on 6th Ave, in my bed. Even the familiar smells of my house.  I would lay there and bask in the familiar  feeling of being at home safe and secure. Where you feel like nothing can harm you. . But nothing will ever be the same again as before the lightening-flash as so they call it. Things are changed, altered, different, never to be the same.. It is a beautiful Saturday  and I am sunning and I sit and have to think I will would never want to go through such a time as this again, but I am confident that it has been the best love could has chosen for me. His love. In the beginning of all of this I felt as though it was the death of a dream, but now I realize it has become the fulfillment of the dream God had for me. His good and perfect and acceptable will. The "dreams" I had mapped out or thought was going to present themselves in Tallahassee were just not meant to be and the things that have been accomplished while in Tallahassee and up until today could have never been fulfulled had things continued the way they were. So often, I felt as though I had been abandoned, God had removed His hand from us, we had lost His smile, when in truth His love had been guiding our life. Ken Gire, speaks to this mystery; the Lord is King, but for all the clouds, we cant see the far reaches of His rule. The foundations of His throne are righteousness and justice, but darkness obscures our understanding  of how a sovereign God  could tolerate all the injustice that is rampant through the earth. We may never reach the summit of understanding where suddenly everything is clear. For some cliffs are unscalable; some crevasses unbridgeable. And we may find ourselves stranded beneath an overhang, unable to climb any higher. But, even if we do reach the summit, only patches of the surrounding panorama may be visible because of the clouds. We must bend our knee to God as our sovereign Lord.  Would we be so arrogant to believe that God should be completely explainable and comprehensible to mere men? As I sat there a sense of excitement began to build as I thought about the care God  had put into our future and what was in store for our family, And the shame and the abandoment and loneliness somehow seemed small. I began to look at my  circumstances through the eyes of Gods promises, which I will be doing a post next week explaining, instead of looking at Gods promises through the eyes of my circumstances .I may be experiencing one thing, but Gods promises say another.  A British evangelist said, the world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to HIm. He said a man. He didnt say a rich man, a great man, a learned man, nor a wise man, nor an eloquent man,   but simply a man. I am a man, and it lies with the man himself whether he will or will not make that entire and full consecration. I will try my utmost to be that man. I surrender to that promise, I step out from my limitations and my own desires and into Gods vast eternal plan for my life, whatever it is He has for me. That something "new'.The issue is not how much you have of God, but how much God has of us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I am not in a blogging mood.

It has been a rainy depressing day, one of those days when you want to lay on the couch and eat junk and not move. Even though you know you need to do something you really just cant get motivated. It's the first week of the summer vacation and we are facing yet another delima. Do we stay in North Carolina or do we go back south. Kenny has yet to find work of any substance to support a family of our size. And we have, basically, ran out of options. About all we have left is to move in with my Dad. I don't mean that how it sounds, but we are settled, the kids love the school, we love our house and God I wanna shoot my myself every time I think about moving!! Dad lives in central Florida,  and I do sooo miss the coast, I am a Florida girl by birth, but I have had such healing in the hollows of these mountains, as have the kids.  It is such a tiring and draining way to live not knowing where you will live from month to month, you can't plan or look to the future or even simple things like planting flowers, which, I love to do, you can't , because at any moment we may have to leave. It is just a horrible way to live. People have suggested Kenny getting re-trained, or going back to school, but we are almost 50 years old and we still feel, even through all the loss and devastation, God has a destiny for our lives and to begin another path seems futile, but then I look at our kids and I think our obligation is also to them and also to my own sanity. But here I go again, and of course Kenny, had to tell, me, I am sticking out my tongue out at him!!! And putting my hands over my ears and humming!!!  "Be sure not to repeat yourself, or use the same phrases",  blah blah BLAH,  I know what is right and true, I have been taught those principles my entire life, but applying them daily and not getting discouraged is another story, it is very difficult to stay encouraged when day after day and week after week you see nothing change, you actually see things get worse. Kenny and I were walking the lake and talking about our year and a half apart, and how difficult it was, but how necessary and how, now looking back, we saw God's hand in every one of our lives working through things that needed to be fixed or accomplished, so I  think we could  go on to the next stage in our families life. It seems clarification only comes AFTER A JOURNEY BEGINS. But what a scary place to be. As we were going through each one of us and how God has done remarkable things in all our lives, I will only talk about me, for sake of time.  As we were talking, if you knew me before 2007, even my most intimate friends, I was a very loyal, trusting, faithful friend. If you get into my heart, you are there for life. I love very deeply.  But I was a very private, distant, for lack of a better word, person. That was actually a complaint of many of my friends, that I never shared enough of myself with them. Conversation was always about the other person. Growing up in a home with domestic violence you always turned the conversation away from yourself. You never want to bring attention to your home, even though I have my own home now, it was a learned behavior that you don't just magically wake up one day and its gone. Unless you have grown up in home like that you would never understand the dynamics behind this. So I had immersed myself in the things Kenny was involved with and with my kids, which I found great joy in. I also had my home, that I served people in, which was my absolute delight. But, there again, the entire evening was about our guest. So I arrive in North Carolina completely separate from Kenny, my own person, I had ran our home, which is a full time job, but I couldn't tell you what a tank of gas cost. Or I had not written a check in YEARS, I had a debit card and whatever I needed, would be transferred from our business to my card I was not responsible for paying any of the monthly bills. . What I am saying is my set of responsibilities shifted in a way that has forced total exposure on me and forced me to step up and use the skills that I had in me the whole time, I just had no need for them. I would have never imagined, in a generation of aeons, I would have been writing a blog about my day to day life. I probably would have called you a liar. Well today, my stats rolled over to 3000. I was in shock. Is this what these mountains have been for. The quiet moments, to reflect, to show Gods faithfulness, to be a witness of Who He is, because I certainly have been weak through this whole process. Has God laid this plan out for the woman who lost her husband and has raised 2 boys and been faithful to God, and yet she is 60 and she has nothing the world would consider of value,  possibly one on drugs, the other unemployed, lonely and questioning what has her life meant?  I am sure of almost nothing and, sometimes, I feel as if I am utterly lost and wandering without any form of meaning in my life, but whether this "truth-telling" has hit it's high point and is now over or whether it is just beginning to help a few of many yet to come, all I can say is what if all the great pains and stressors and tragedies of life are what gives life meaning.  What I realized is that all the grand memories I have were memories of moments, which at the time they happened, were borderline traumatic. I see so many people who sit in churches and have lost any feeling of purpose or meaning.  How is it that we find meaning?  What is meaning?  It may be simpler than it seems, but it may also be much more complex.  It has to do with the most sacred faith that we have.  We all have a core set of things we believe in and those things determine all the rest of how we see life.  If we have become convinced that the value of life is in prestige, then we will refocus our children's lives on the best of education, on the best of clothes, on the best of communities, and that is, exactly what we have done.  When we grow older and realize, like the largest percentage of us will, that we have not only fallen short, but we have absolutely failed.  What then?  However, if God really does value human beings more than all other of His creation, to the extent He would become directly involved in our experience, then we All have been given a great gift to give.  Our sorrows give us the value which binds us to fellow humans, it makes us able to understand their hurt, to hold them dear in our hearts, even to the point we will sacrifice ourselves for them.  We aren't all Lost, we aren't all abandoned, we aren't all forsakened, we Are All being given the experience which will define us!  God is not lost, and neither are We!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Man Of Science Sent As An Angel

I got a call that Isabella's medicine was ready and it reminded me of a very fearful time in my life. We just could not pay for our medical insurance anymore and it had put a dark cloud over me that I could not get away from. I was still of the mentality that my source came from Capital Health Plan and Aesthetic Engineering Koncepts, not Who 3 years later, I have come to realize, is much bigger than all that, God. A resentment and a small seed of bitterness had been planted in my heart that I don't think I even recognized, yet at moments of distress it would display itself. And let me tell  you, as a Mom when your child is sick and you have no means to get them medical care, you can get pretty ugly and you want to find someone or something to blame. Being self employed, we were responsible for our own insurance, with the cost of insurance going up our monthly premium had gone up to almost $1500.00 a month, so when it came to the necessities or our insurance, the necessities were the obvious choice. Isabella was born with a acid reflux, but because I nursed her it did not show up until she was well over 14 months, shortly after I stopped nursing her. The moment I stopped she developed severe breathing problems that none of our local Doctors were able figure out the source of. We were in the emergency room sometimes 2 times a week.  She was probably around 2 years old at the time. As a last resort we made an appointment with an allergist, which made no sense to me, she had no allergy symptoms, she just had horrible bouts of difficulty breathing, with a cough that was the oddest cough I had ever heard. I would sit up with her and then she would get so bad, I would finally take her to the emergency room. At this point she had been living on cough syrup and steroids and, yet, with little relief. The first meeting with Dr. Rand Malone, was so emotional I broke down  and wept. I felt such relief to have an answer to what was wrong with her. It took him less than 5 minutes to diagnose Bella. He said she had acid reflux. I said, "What a stomach problem!?!" He said, "Yes, the acid is leaving her stomach and coming up her esophagus and going into her lungs and her lungs are producing phlegm to protect the lining from damage". The body was actually doing what it was suppose to do. When I was nursing her my milk was a perfect balance and once I introduced foods it was a downward spiral. We finally had our answer. So he put her on medication and within weeks she was better, but her system had been altered and she was on 5 different medications and they were not cheap. And we saw him weekly for  blood pressure checks and weight checks and monthly for blood panel results.  He said she was born without the flap that kept the stomach closed but once she was older we could consider surgery.  Actually he had the same surgery. But all this was very expensive. So the moment when I knew we no longer had medical insurance I went into an absolute panic attack.  Seems like I have alot of those! I thought, "God what am I gonna do". Bella was a very, very sick little girl, when she didn't have her medication. From the time our insurance lapsed we had seen Dr Malone a couple times and had some blood work done, and I had received a bill for around  $600.00. Not only the expense of the medications and the doctors but she also needed a very strict diet, that required alot of time and effort and money, and alot of times, I felt as though I was facing this battle alone. There were many times Kenny was facing  issues about the business or the church and I was dealing with Bella's illness by myself. And once again, I could feel bitterness and all those questions in my mind and heart, God why, why did our medical insurance get canceled? God you knew Bella would have these problems, you knew we needed insurance, why can't Kenny fix this? God give me an answer, give me somewhere I can go to get help, God, just  heal her. And everytime I got a bill from Dr Malone's office, and I had to go in and face the staff, which at this point, it hadn't even caught up (that is, the system had not placed us as being far behind) I felt even more resentment, I felt a little more distant from Kenny and alone. Finally the third month I got the bill I thought God I am going into talk to him. I had awakened the night before and thought, "What if she wakes up in the middle of the night and needs medical treatment and I have no way of getting it for her". I was so mad and bitter, I laid there awake, I don't think I slept more than an hour, I got up and went to the couch, I didn't even want to be in the same bed with Kenny, I know it sound horrible, but I said I would be honest and that is what happened. I thought of all the thousands we had given to the church or to the men working with us and I couldn't even give my own child healthcare. I felt like he had failed me. I felt all alone. I felt like we protected and put everyone before ourselves and our family and now here I was, at three in the morning not able to lay next to my own husband, whom I loved, and I was ashamed of the rage I felt in my own my heart. Finally 7:00 came I got the boys up and got them off to school, dropped Bella off at school, and I went to see Dr Malone. I pulled up and at the same time Dr Malone pulls in next to me. Of all the times to pull in next to the good doctor, today was not the time. Of course I was in a $60,000.00 vehicle fixing to tell him I was broke and not able to pay him $600.00. He greeted me and we walked in together. I sat across from him and we made small talk. Finally I said, "Dr Malone, I am here to tell you I owe you a debt I cannot pay". He got still and I kinda got scared and nervous, so I began explaining what had happened in our business and what we had been going through and I said, "Dr Malone, I am so sorry but I cant pay you the $600.00 I owe. Maybe someday, but I don't know when". He got up and left the room.......I thought ok, maybe I really offended him. He came back in with a box full of the meds Bella and Jesse Cole were taking. Probably 2 years worth. Just the inhalers alone were 110.00 a piece. there were at least 25. He said, "Mrs. Dyer, first of all, my grandfather and my father both were Doctors and I don't think I have ever heard of anyone ever coming in to tell them face to face they could not pay a debt, and I want to say 'thank you'. That touches me deeply. And secondly, God has richly blessed me in my life and  you don't have to worry about that debt. It is taken care of. I have already spoken to the billing department. And thirdly, if ever, and I mean ever, you should need medical care, even if you need to go to the emergency room, you tell them to call me and I will meet you there and Isabella will get the care she needs, and that goes for any of your children. God has sent me to you today to bless you". Can you imagine a Dr. telling a patient that kind of thing? I sat there so overwhelmed, I could not speak, I could NOT move, I was stunned! I just stood and he put the box of meds in my hand and I walked to my truck and I cried so hard I thought I would throw up. I felt so ashamed for my behavior from the night before, I sat there staring at the medicine in awe of the magnitude and faithfulness of God and how weak and small I was, yet how much He loved me,  how He had managed all the minute details of our life I just could not see them.  EVERY detail, a doctor I had met 4 years ago, had been used today to display the faithfulness of God, not the faithfulness of Capital Health Plan or Aesthetic Engineering Koncepts or even Kenny, but someone, He chose to use, to show His faithfulness. It was me who mistrusted, it was never a matter of His faithfulness, it was always a matter of my (war-torn as it might have been) small and weak disbelief. Even to this day, Isabella, nor any one of my children, have never ever gone without medication when they have needed it, that has been 4 yrs ago.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wounded Angels

The first time I laid eyes on this friend I thought she was the most beautiful child I had ever seen. She has  dark black hair, dark eyes and beautiful skin. She is just a beautiful girl, and she is equally beautifully on the inside, she was raised in a Christian home, in Christian school and a strict home alot like mine. So we had alot in common. We have maintained a friendship for over 20 yrs. She even went to Southeastern Bible College the University Kenny and I met at. Her and her husband are wonderful people who have devoted their lives to the ministry. Not the grand and flashy, but the kind that takes years to see the results from. If you are not familiar with the Assemblies of God, which is what I was raised, it is the domination I have chosen to attach myself to, I feel it is not perfect, but it the most Biblically sound and I feel it is were I want my children brought up. The Assemblies has a missions program called sidewalk Sunday school which is a program that brings sunday school to under privileged children. Instead of busing children into the local church, they bring the church to the childrens community. It is sad but alot of the church folk did not want to  be "subjected" to these types of children so this was an alternative. Most of these children don't even know who their fathers are so they certainly don't know the proper way to act in a church! Bless the hearts of the grandparents, so many of them are being reared by them and not the parents. So what we would do is on Friday evening we would visit the child in his or her home give them their hand out with their scripture on it and make a connection with them and their family. Now understand, we would go in twos because we would be in the very worse parts of town, the drug and prostitute infested parts of town, it was not a pretty sight. But those were some of the most welcoming homes I have ever been in. Those grandparents were gracious and kind and their homes were clean and neat and we always felt appreciated there. Some were not so clean, and some children broke your heart, no shoes, or shirts and mattress with no sheets, no furniture and parents drunk at 4 in the afternoon. But the child of that drunk parent would wait anxiously  for us so they could get their scripture and study for Sunday school the next day. It meant the world to those kids. And it also changed me, it made me a better person. And then the next morning see them at Sunday School which is a truck that is converted into a sound system that we would teach sunday school from. These kids were precious. I can remember Emma just 6 or 7 and she and the little girls were so taken with each others hair, they would spend the entire time fixing and doing each other hair. Kids fit in anywhere you put them, if adult STAY out of their way. Well my beautiful friend and her husband this is the ministry she and her husband had devoted their life to. They had even at their own expense, they both had day jobs, started a church for the older teens and the adults of these children. Well it seemed they just could not  matter what they did get ahead financially. She was a tither, she was a giver and she was one of the most unselfish people I have ever met, I just didn't understand it. The church she attended was one of those that preached week by week the message, we don't buy into this recession, we don't sell our things below market value, we are the chosen ones, we are above that mentality, I don't accept this. She would call me crying and say how week by week she would sit and hear these statements and it was killing her spirit little by little, she would  pray and say God how do I get the faith that my Pastor has, what is wrong with me, I pray and pray, God increase my faith. And I thought as he was making those statements form the pulpit, the majority of the people sitting in  church are the weak and broken and what is the point of statements like, people sitting in those pews losing there homes, good people, people saved by the same grace he is saved by, still losing their homes, still unemployed, it just pokes at an open wound. If that is your circumstance, that is a wonderful things, but lets not boast, at the expense of others. I really had no answer for her, at the time we were still in tact financially, but I thought myself, God I don't understand, the ones who are ministering to the ones who can give nothing, seems to be the ones who struggle the most. But they kept on doing what they felt God had called them to do, that was 20 years ago, and just last summer they married a young couple that had been in Sidewalk sunday that had made a commitment to finish school and stay pure get married and that couple is going into the ministry. So how do you measure success? They lost their home, their vehicles, and they are in a rental house. But thank God that young couple did not lose their faith. This blog so drains me and takes such a toll on me emotionally sometimes I think I just cant do it anymore, but then I talk to someone like my sweet friend and I hang up and I have encouraged her and I thank God, as long as my life is helping someone, even at the expense of a little emotional hurt to myself I will keep doing it. So God, as long as I can do my best to be open and honest to share my life I will continue.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Finally The Meeting We Had, for Months, Been Hoping For

Kenny was finally here and I could breathe a sigh of relief. It has got to be an odd thing to have a woman show up with 4 kids and not have a husband, but claim to have a husband in another state who is a pastor, and even odder, to be doing a weekly television program. And how do you explain our situation in a casual setting, something as complex as what we were going through. I just did the best I could. But I knew it was going to be  hard to process. Growing up in the south and in my home, my Father was very strict about the behavior of how men and women interact. And I am very careful how I conduct myself, even today, around men. You always address the woman and you always befriend the woman, not the man, it is just not proper any other way. So I befriended the women, however, the younger ones (I should say middle aged ones) had issues with me, for what ever reasons, so I joined the older group, which always seems to welcome and become my dearest friends. I think this age looks beyonds the outward and finds the true person and allows a true friendship to happen. So to validate, or prove myself, I was faithful to everything. I let the leadership know that I was a fellow minister's wife who had been in the ministry for most of my adult life and I was at their service. Me and the kids lived almost 45 minutes from the church, and we would brave wind, rain and snow to be in church. It was a great sacrifice, that is in "time", because there was nothing greater in our life than our time in church, but there were times we had just enough gas to get to church and home and no more. I was determined when we came to North Carolina the first thing on the agenda was to find a church. I knew this would be the lifeline me and the kids would need to survive what we would have to face. And we had found a home. The kids loved the Wednesday night program and I loved the class I had found. The only thing missing was Kenny.We would leave church Sunday and call Kenny and tell him all about the service and we were so excite when he was, finally, about to be here. So many things were yet to come together and we felt this was the time and the place. So Kenny sold the last of our things and was finally able to make the long awaited journey here. I cannot tell you how it felt, after all those months of taking the kids to church by myself, to finally have Kenny here and us to be in church as a family.I would sit in church so broken it felt like my chest would explode from the pain. It was like I was mourning a death, but no one had died. I would see families together and I felt like I was being punished, like I had failed God somehow. I felt like I was completely and emotionally wiped out as a woman. I had been the mother and the father for over a year and it had just wore me down, I had faced things that year I never, in a million years, would have imagined. God had been faithful, just when I felt like I couldn't go one more day, He showed up and gave me just enough strength to get through that day. Kenny was finally here, but I didn't know the disappointments we were yet to face.  The church we were attending was lively and vibrant, and it was one of those type churches which had
many, many programs for everyone.  We have known many leaders of churches, many religious leaders, yet I can tell you there are so few who do not have a long line of problems and issues, most of which the congregation will never see.  This does not mean these men are, necessarily, hypocritical or charlatans, it just simply means they are like all the rest of us, they need help.  Some were very bright, some were very simple, and some were simple, but were certain they were bright, but through and through they all wanted you to believe them to be something far greater than they were.  There have only been a very few who were men and women who just accepted and loved everyone and they knew and they never believed they were above,
nor never displayed to anyone the idea they were above, anyone.  The modern leader is, usually, of the sort who believe they are a "special" breed, they are making their way up, they are, in some way, superior to even the laity of their church.  When you find those remarkable individuals who have never accepted that form of personality, they are always the most noble!  They never forget the grace they first received from God, the kindness He showed in accepting the meagre and fool-hearty man or woman who were His creation, yet who lived with great evil in their lives, they could not, and, indeed, should not, ever forget that kind of compassion.  They are the most civil, most forgiving, most noble, most kind, most humble, and most remarkable people you will ever meet, but they, also, are the most uncommon.  We had been excited because the pastor of this church was extraordinary in many, many ways and he had forged a growing and unique church in the mountains.  It is always thrilling to see these kinds of churches and we felt that we were on the verge of leaving these bad times behind and, finally, moving forward again.  The pastor was a very sensitive man to spiritual things, which is also a very, unfortunately, unique characteristic in pastors.  He had, as a matter of truth, spoken to us on many occasions through his honest and sensitive sermons, and on one occasion, had spoken directly to us, from the pulpit, a word which was so very timely to us.  We knew we needed to speak to churches about our hard time and we also knew our message was going to be about "grace".  Let me say something, in case you might be from outside of a conventional church, about "grace".  When the people from churches talk about grace what they are referring to is a very uniquely Christian idea.  It has to do with the very core of God's Nature.  Grace is more than just a kindness, it is more than just God showing us favor, it has to do with who we are.  It, also, has to do with Who God is.  There is such a huge and unimaginable gulf between God and humanity.  Just in creation alone it is visible that God, by shear power and intellect, is something, or someone, Who is far beyond our capacity to understand, but there is something more, He is not only in power and brilliance far beyond us, He is in Honor and Nobility, unlike anything we can imagine or mentally understand.  He should never touch nor mingle with us for all of those reasons.  What He says, however, is that anything He does for, or with, us is a matter of nothing we have done, nor could do, to deserve such kindness, it is an act coming from Him.  Now, how that should translate in our lives is that we should never, if we understand anything about "grace", imagine that we are good enough, honorable enough, or noble enough, to stand in good favor toward God.  I hope I haven't confused the issue rather than defined it, however, if you have known church folk for very long you know most of them conduct themselves as if they have deserved every single kindness God has shown them, how ridiculous!!  Back to my point, as Kenny was arriving we were sure this was the time and the moment for us to be resurrected from this death sentence, therefore, Kenny and I decided to visit the pastor and tell him everything.  He had built a respected and honorable relationship with many, many pastors throughout the region. We were sure this was going to lead to opportunities to begin to start over, or maybe to begin what we knew was our destiny.  The meeting was scheduled and as it started Kenny felt a connection with the pastor.  It seemed to be exactly what we had expected, but suddenly things changed.  Kenny was not sure if the pastor had believed he was not telling the entire truth, if he has said something offensive, or if he had just not been very clear, however by the time the meeting was coming to a close the pastor was beginning to use, what we call in the church lingo, "coined" phrases, the kind of things you tell teenagers who you know are trying to find themselves, a feeling that was confirmed when three to four weeks later the pastor used the exact same phrases from the pulpit in speaking to people who were just getting into church circles or just beginning to understand who God is, they certainly were not the types of things you say to a peer or a person who you know to have been a long-standing leader in the same circles.  It was devastating.  We were not certain what had happened.  We knew what we would have done had we known someone who had been in our shoes, as a matter of fact, we had a very similar situation happen when we were leaders in the little church in Tallahassee.  A young couple had come home from overseas after a, almost, five year stint in South Africa.  They were on a humanitarian trip, yet they had been devastated by many robberies, many betrayals, many misgivings.  When we met, it was with the hopes of  them coming to serve in the church in Tallahassee, but as we got to know them, even though they would have been fantastic leaders, we knew they were destined to return to South Africa.  We spent months making sure we helped them find their bearings and carry on their noble vocation.  They did, indeed, do exactly that.  We were certain we were going to find a friendship and a key piece of our future.  We knew it would take time, there would have to be some time spent getting to know us, some time to fill in a few blanks, but it was sure that all that would happen.  I assure you, it did not.  We were a much a blight to this new leadership as we had been to the leadership we had known in West Florida.  It was staggering!  We never got a text, never got phone call, never got a letter.  We did, almost a month later, get a small check from the church, for which we were so thankful, but money was the least of what we needed or what we hoped for.  It certainly helped us for the moment, but, as most of us know who have been in remote dessert places, what people need is hope, connection, a listening ear, more so, a listening heart, this was left off the table.  These are the times when you are unable to make sense of things.  What did this mean?  What was the point?  We always built our lives on a foundational principle, or I guess I should say two principles, try to Love God first and foremost, which I confess we have failed at, and to try and love people in the same way we loved ourselves, which I confess, again, we have failed at, however, it is not very hard to attempt this.  We always tried to imagine what people were feeling, what their life was like, what their pain was like, and then do something, even a small thing, to connect with and bear under that pain.  We knew this was what we would, eventually, find, especially from people who were those unique and extraordinary types, who you seldom find, those who have known grace and those who live in grace towards others.  We would not find it!  I am sure much of it had to do with our imagining what was suppose to happen next, our trying to figure out what was meant to happen, and "how", it might, also, have been the accumulated time of hardship, none-the-less, it was no less painful.  We had started this journey alone, and it seemed, we were destined to always be alone.  What it may well have been was another of those untidy issues no-one wishes to talk about when it comes to our "church" communities.  We have lots of "stuff" in the churches of America now.  We have what we have called "the best".  We have sound systems, so that we can really appreciate the fantastic voices of our talented church singers, we have softball fields and baseball fields, we have video and audio technicians, just in case we decide to publish our wonderful productions, which, surely, if the world could only see they would flock to our houses of worship and, thereby, see God, what we struggle with is "time", "time" to look for the eyes of the people around us who are crushed and weary, "time" to drop our choir practice to make sure that 19 year old, unmarried, pregnant girl, can have an afternoon, not of counseling, but of companionship, "time" to have coffee with the 79 year old woman who has lost her soul-mate and is, privately, undone.  I don't know everything our modern church needs, but I know what it seldom has, genuine, heartfelt, and unrelenting compassion.  We have mimicked compassion by making sure we have many programs, but compassion can never, ever, ever be mimicked.  People aren't looking for leaders they are looking for what I would call "searchers", people who search out broken spirits, not to help guide them, but to help hold them!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Audi That Runs On Wings Of Angels

As parents, we all do things that, looking back, we know were not the best things to do. But when you love something like a child you lose all sense of the good judgement you have regarding everything else in your life. And now in our present situation Emmas Audi is not a car you want to own. Just an oil change is 150.00. Everything is 4 times as much as a regular vehicle. She came in and said windshield wipers are 80.00 each! At the time when we bought the car, it wasn't an issue, because it had a warranty and we never thought we would be in this situation and when her warranty ran out we would either purchase another warranty or she would trade the car or sell it. Kenny was determined, even though we had the money at the time, to teach Emma to work, to be able to take care of herself, so from the time she was 14, after school she went to our nephews salon and sweep floors and paid for her cell phone. So when she turned 16 we bought her car but we never paid an insurance payment or her gas. Even with just a part-time job that was her responsibility. And she was extremely good at managing her money. Emma had given her young heart of just 14 to a high school senior and, need-less-to-say, given their age and the diversity of our families backgrounds, it did not end well. This was a love-hate relationship for almost 3 yrs. It was Emma's first love and she gave her heart completely and when it broke it broke completely, but she sees today that this man was just a boy at the time, and she holds no ill feelings toward him. She says she has never denied his love for her, they were just too young.   So, at the time of this broken heart and while she was trying to mend, we tried to manage our poor car buying choices by making another blunder and buying her this car. It was a long line of trades, all coming from the choice we first made on her 16th birthday. Once made, it is hard to un-do our poor choices!! Back to Emma, they were just kids. As a Mom, I saw a train wreck waiting to happen, and I saw Emma's fault in it as much as the boys, and to this day I hold a very special place in my heart for this young man. I had always felt Emma was safe when she was in his care and he had a genuine love for her. And I saw a tenderness and greatness in his heart that I think he will, one day, display itself as a good husband and father.  I can't think of our past without thinking of him, I can't think of Emmas past without thinking of him. And I did not display the most noble of character myself, there were times I acted out and said things to Emma and this boy that I regret and had to ask both of them to forgive . When you are scared and desperate, and you feel like you are losing your child you do stupid things!. So, when we saw Emma hurt so deeply, we thought maybe we could ease some of the pain, which I know was stupid, but when its your babygirl, you do stupid things, so.......the Audi came to be. We didn't go looking for an Audi, we found it while looking for something with better gas mileage. We were at a used car place in Clearwater, while on our anniversary, and when she saw it she was set on it. It was already almost 2 yrs old. So it was great until the warranty ran out. And just as these things go, the month after her warranty goes out her transmission starts acting up. To compound things, the pain in Emma was what caused her to begin a sad journey toward the days we spoke of a few weeks ago, and she was spending late nights out while giving little or no concern to her beautiful black car. Well, you don't want to know how much a transmission would cost for that car, let's just say a lil more than she or I have (or most family owned banks). I said, "Emma we just have to believe God will place Angels around that car and keep it on the road". It had gotten so bad it would not go into reverse. Emma works in Asheville so she puts 100 miles a day on that car and she joined us here Jan. 2010 and that car has never failed to take her to work. That car has even been a testament to the people she works with. She works for an insurance company, an would you believe they got together (her co-workers) AT THEIR OWN expense and bought Emma 4 tires! Once again God proved faithful! How that car is on the road, I don't know. The mechanic, the Audi dealer in Tallahassee, said almost 2years ago the transmission it was done, it needed to be completely replaced. How that car is still on the road, I don't know. But I do know, the same way Emma, with 4 felony counts, had everyone of them dropped, God smiled on her! The job she got from Tallahassee in Asheville, before she even got here, had over 100 applicants, locals applicants, and she was in Tallahassee!! God gave her that job! The day she came home from work and the tire store had told her she could not drive anymore on any of her tires, they were all worthless, she came home and laid on my bed and cried, and Kenny went out in the yard, secretly in his own hell, as a father not being able to help, even buy one single tire. Me telling her God would provide, but not  knowing how, myself, it could possibly happen. Never in a million years thinking her co-workers,  Co-workers!! Why would they buy her tires!!??
Our 20 yrs old  buying us groceries and helping with the kids fees at school and carrying part of the burdens of our family, not out of obligations but out of love. It tore my heart out. I can say it was a different child than the one who left Tallahassee, Florida. The one that spited her siblings, was full of anger and hostility, appreciated nothing, and carried a dark foreboding with her everywhere. What she has become, since being in North  Carolina, was, really, what she always was, but there was just too much anger and resentment and pain. All I could say was God will provide, but I doubted it myself.  How do you encourage when you are not encouraged yourself. We were all down and discouraged deep in our souls. She was just young and able to express it more verbally and emotionally. I was secretly crying out "God, Emma is going to get so discourage she is going to never want any part of the church and think we have lived our entire lives for something that has brought us to a dead end", and beyond all this she had seen church people at their worst, hostile, angry, bitter, and more troubled than most of the people she knew. She, as many people throughout time, had the mistaken idea that you can define God by his worshipers!  And once again, I heard that small voice, Angie trust Me. But, God my child is hurting, she is in danger. Angie, trust me.  Emma went to work the next day and she called me crying and instantly my heart sank, it scared me, she said, "Mom, everyone got together and bought me 4 tires, all I have to do is go have them put on!" She was crying so hard I could hardly understand her! So I thought of the passage in the Bible that says God will not put on you more than you can take, and I think Emma and Kenny and I were at our ropes end (a theme for us, one I know you are getting very, very tired of), and God provided a way out, through a source I would have never seen possible. How many times do we limit or define God, how we imagine we know all the possible resolutions to a horrid moment in our lives and when none of our solutions work we believe God is not quite as creative as we are.  I know I do it all the time, it is in my DNA, maybe it is in all our DNA, I like to have things planned and organized and I like to know what to expect, I thought, "Maybe I can ask this one to help with her tires, maybe she can get a loan, maybe this or maybe that" trying to fix things myself, but if I have learned anything, looking back on the last 3 years of our life, it has been by NO ONE'S hand, but by the hand of God that our family has been sustained.  But how quickly I forget it  from day to day! As I said yesterday, I am just human and I am weak, and these are very difficult things we are facing and as I spoke of the commonplace, I meet God daily and I face my inadequacies daily, situation by situation. I have tried to adopt an attitude of emotional and spiritual gratitude as a lifestyle and it serves as a powerful antidote to discouragement and a sense of failure. Gratitude focuses on what we have, rather than on what we don't have. It is difficult to accept that God's greatest work in our life might currently be under way in a mundane and un-seen way, one which may well be underestimated by us or anyone else. It is not the American spirit, and it is not the American Church spirit, but it may well be the right spirit.  If, indeed, it is, it should be a great consolation to all of us, knowing the only thing God, really, expects from us is Trust, not ability!  Sounds good, I would really, really, like to be There!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summertime, Sweet Summertime!!

I can remember, but just vaguely a committee meeting about families in crisis facing hardship about feeding their kids over the summer. Well, it didn't register, honestly, I didn't even know what they were talking about. So I didn't give it another thought. That was back in Florida probably six yrs ago, way before the financial crisis really hit. Well as we go into summer I can relate to the dilemma of preparing three meals a day for my own kids. I could feed them ramen noodles, but to feed them a balanced meal, cost money, money we don't have right now. But a different stress I feel as their mother. My biggest stress use to be what pool or what week we were going to the St George Island, or what movie or where to lunch at. It is funny how quickly the priorities in your life change. Good or bad. But it also brings out the creative side I think God meant for us all to display. I think our children get lazy and lose the ability to just play and create. Frankly they are over stimulated.  I use to get so "stressed" over the summer and having an "agenda" mapped out for the kids so that we would have an activity planned everyday. I don't know that we spent more than a few days at home the entire summer. It was almost expected, if you were a "good'  Mom in that circle to keep your kids busy the entire summer.  The school and teachers even bought into this. The last week of school the kids would tell what their summer plans were and to be honest I think out of embarrassment alot of the kids lied and made up plans. And then when they return in August they repeated the same process of going around and having the children tell about their summer. I have spoken in earlier post of having anxiety attacks, well I woke up last night in one of those moments, when I felt like I could not breathe and I was paralyzed with fear. I had all the familiar voices, how are you going to feed the kids what the need to eat, Bella needs to be on a certain diet, Wyatt has food tics on and on..... need-less to say the recreations were the least of my worries. I lay there til early in the morning, thinking God, have I not learned anything? I had just written the
Christmas post yesterday! How quick my fear had consumed me. Suddenly all my advice and all the the stories, laying in that dark room seemed like of no help to me. I felt crippled, I felt that old familiar feeling of God you are our only hope, You are all we have. Remember when I knelt, early on in this dilemma in our life, and I said my children would see me display character and integrity during times when it is not so easy to display those traits. Well, I have come to call these moments these days the commonplace, I don't think greatness shows up in a moment I think it shows up in everyday experiences and how we respond to each and every one of those situations,  this is  what the commonplace is, this is life in the making, the routine life, when no one is looking, the unstaged , like the candid shots, they prove to be the most cherished and most intriguing, they capture life. God uses the commonplace to shape our hearts. I think about the fear and pain I felt last night, I know God doesn't take pleasure in my pain, but He does want to see me whole. C.S. Lewis gave us great insight, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts to us in our pain". We all suffer some form of pain , physical or  psychological.  But will we grow from it or will we let it diminish us? The longer I layed there the more I realized the one who walks in joy has made  the decision to look for God. Joy  rest  on the awareness of God's presence. Joy does not depend on circumstances. It grows out of a relationship with one's God. It is a habit supported by hundreds and hundreds of moments of choosing to look for God in situations when it would be easier to give up. A funny thing, when you chose joy, it give rise to hope, and hope always leads to God. So when we keep a joyful heart, when we chose a joyful heart, it consistently keeps delivering our hearts to God for His work. So I got up and thought God, people save all year to spend a week in these mountains and we are blessed to live here!!! So if we have to eat PB& J, I chose joy and I chose the commonplace of the day to day of making memories with my kids and having you shape my heart and make me the whole and complete person you intend me to be.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The 30' Tree

I have, too many to count, messages sent to me confused about the story I am telling. Let me say again, I am telling my story from the present day back to 2007 which is when this journey our ours began. So if you pick up and read the most recent post, if might be a little confusing, it would make more sense to start at the beginning and work forward. Dec 2010 , I had always "thought" I felt the stresses of Christmas before, but this past Christmas felt like none I had ever had before. We had always had some option in the past. Something to sell or some access to money, but not this Christmas. We were all out out of options, or so we thought. At our house I start getting out my Christmas decorations the second week of November.  Over the years I have collected and I have enough things that I am able to transform our entire home into a holiday story-book. The childrens' rooms even have a tree with there own Christmas theme. It is not the expense that makes this so special, most of which I had found at the end of each year 75 % off, but it was unique to each child's personality. The boys had camo and airplanes, tanks, and all kinds of animals, the girls had pink trees with white lights and delicate ornaments that were all shades of pinks and purples, beads and feathers. I would wrap and store from year to year. And by God this year would be no different. Except one little problem, we  had always had  a real tree and this year we certainly would have no money for that! So as I went about putting the Santa soap dispenser out and hanging the Christmas balls from my light fixtures once again, I thought, God how have I found myself here. God what are we going to do. What am I going to tell my children? How does a parent face their child and tell them they have no present for them. They have lived through this year with us, and had done extremely well, but come on they are kids and this is Christmas, a time when you can dream and anything is possible. I felt like a complete failure. The stress had began to build between Kenny and I and it was just not a good time. You know you go through things and when you come out people say "Oh, praise God!  We came through", but they never speak of the dark and difficult times when you feel like you are losing your faith and your marriage and any sense of what you have believed to be true your whole life. It doesn't make you any less of a child of God to be weak and flawed, I think it just displays even more the beauty in how much we really need Him. So this  particular evening I had just finishing getting all the dishes exchanged for the Christmas ones and I had Christmas music playing I thought God, how about the mothers that face this dilemma every year, not having the money to buy their children Christmas. Even knowing that their were Moms just like me, I still wasn't ready to let go of my pity party! Have you ever been there? Somehow I wanted someone or something in the universe to know just how bad it had gotten! We would not even have a Christmas tree! And everytime I would mention it to Kenny he would just blow me off! The nerve!!! Doesn't he know what that tree means to me, doesn't he know what I have put into all these decorations and all the hours of setting everything up!! DOESNT HE KNOW!!! As the stress built and my anger, bitterness, feeling sorry for myself, however you want to classify it, I thought Kenny is not responsible for my bad attitude or my happiness, only I am. And God if we have to go in the yard and cut a tree down (I meant like an oak tree or something), so be it, we will have a charlie brown Christmas Tree. As I said before, I was determined to write open and honestly or not at all and I am human and I am weak, just like everyone else, and when it comes to my children it breaks my heart. I am no different than any other woman. And them running in from school wanting to see a tree with a present with their name on it day after day had just wore my spirit down. Well Kenny had got a call to do some tree work for a gentlemen who really didn't need it that much he was just trying to help out a little, however, when Kenny got there he said that Kenny would have to go with his wife down to Lowe's and get a new chain saw.  They had said they were going to borrow one from family, but that was somehow changed.  We have a large double fireplace in this rental, only, we had no source of wood and no money to pay for any.  This couple had about ten acres and lots of wood that was down and needed cutting and now they were buying a new chain saw (one we knew they would never use themselves).  We happened to be talking to them one night and we got on the subject of Christmas and I asked did they have any small pine trees on their property, which they said they had very few small trees of any type, but we were welcome to look.  Well, Kenny, Cole, Bella and I took a small trailer, the new saw, and a little determination and when we rounded the first curve on their property we saw a tree that must have been twenty feet tall, however, as Kenny looked at it he realized he would be able to cut the bottom 7 or so feet off and it might work.  We cut it, Kenny and Cole and Bella did all they could to get it on the trailer and after about thirty minutes of hacking and sawing at home we had a tree which when we sat it on our 2nd floor balcony it reached the ceiling-about 13 feet up, but it was absolutely beautiful, at it was absolutely perfect!! We had a tree! The kids and their Mother was thrilled! Kenny had worked and trimmed and had to actually build a stand and nail it into to the floor to stabilize this massive tree. It set the entire mood for our home. We would build a fire and gather around  and the kids and I would pile on the couch and we would gaze at that tree as if was meant for the White House. So once again, God  whispered,  and reminded me, Angie I am faithful, I will meet your needs, you can rest in me. Ok, God I appreciate the tree but we still have a little problem, we have no presents and no money. Me and the kids had a tradition that I would take them to a store of their choice and I would give them my undivided attention and we would make a Christmas list. They loved that as much as getting the gifts! Something about the excitement of the sky is the limit, and having my undivided attention, they just love it. But it just so pained me because I just could not see how we  could get them anything of much value. It is has got to be such a huge burden on a family to spend the entire month of December faced with the dilemma of not being able to buy their children presents. The kids excitement builds at school, through the television, at the stores everywhere you look it is all the "stuff" you just can't escape it.  All the stuff you will never have.  What a disappointment those children must feel when they wake up and find they have a 10.00 gift under the tree. And the parent feels like a failure because they have no hope of ever doing any better and alot of times they turn to alcohol or drugs to somehow numb the pain,  or at least give them some relief from their life. They are referred to as the working poor. So I had to hang my head and  thank God that Kenny and I had come through without such vices, and the kids without bitterness, And we had  been able to maintain our family and the kids would actually say "Mom, God always comes through don't worry". So, as I thought of the families lost and alone I prayed God help our family be a testament to the grace and mercy you have shown us. God through the holiday be real in the lives of a child that may lay alone and have no one, God let that child feel your love for them, and let that parent know their hope lies in You. As I began to to pray for other families a funny thing happen my pity party left and I felt a new sense of strength. My focus left "me" and  turned to the true focus of Christmas, the Spirit of Christmas, a Redeemer for a world!, I looked up at that magnificent tree and something in my soul broke and became so clear..... what if God works through weakness? What if some of our greatest hungers are still to be met? God may be using these to create space in our heart for Himself.  As long as we look to achievements, accolades, or others, or the "rat race" of Christmas, anything but to God to fill this hunger they become your master driving your discontentment and fueling a void you can never fill.  Some many people, myself included, are unaware of, or unwilling, to face the holes in their own hearts, so they wreck their lives trying to plug the gap with  more work, more attention, more power, more things, more.......whatever, God desires to fill the heart spaces with Himself.  So after I had ask God to forgive me, I got boxes and wrapped them, put the kids name on them, and said, "Ok, God you are faithful, I trust You, come and fill ALL the voids in my heart. And fill those boxes with presents!!!" This was one week before Christmas. The next day I got a call from the kids school, we had a package at the front desk, I was excited I thought it was maybe a turkey! So I get to the kids school and I see the most beautiful basket, stuffed full of, not outdated candies and nuts, but chocolates, candies, throws for each of the children and me, specialty teas and a very nice gift for each child. As Jesse  Cole sat in the back seat him and Bella staring at the basket they could not believe it, he said, "Dad, why would they do this for us", he had tears in his eyes, he was so moved. I was speechless. Kenny was speechless. Then  Bella said, "Here Mom is the card." There was a card with a gift card to walmart and Food Lion for 150.00! A public school! "Angie trust me!!!" was what God has whispered that day to me. The next day we got a call and 2 other family members were going to put money in an acct for us, and That day in the mail a check arrived from a former parisher of ours from 6yrs ago!!! "Angie trust me!" So all  that wasted time and all that wasted energy, God had once again shown up.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How Can One Child Change Everyone's Relationship?

We were all friends last year. Well that changed. It all changed when we got a new kid. I don't know if it is his fault only, because the other boys should not have let him change them. But I can understand wanting things and maybe if you are friends then you will not be the one who is picked on. I don't know how a class can be divided, when we are all just kids. It is just cloths and shoes that has separated us. Well, I guess backpacks, expensive pencils and other gadgets too. Expensive basketballs too.  I have a closet full of Abercrombie and Fitch clothes that were my brothers but that are very uncomfortable and I don't like to wear them. My Mom is very good at finding sales. She even use to buy clothes on sale for other kids who didn't have clothes. How can another kid make you feel so bad, when you really don't care , you never even thought about your clothes, all you cared about was being comfortable and shoes was just to keep your feet covered. But now I feel bad., I feel like I am not as good.  I feel sad. Now I think about what I put on. They ask, "Where did you get that? Walmart?"  I don't know what to say, so they say, "If you got Under Armour", and they laugh, "it might help you lose weight", I am embarrassed, but I don't show it. That is not funny to me. Me or my friends don't laugh. The never  let up. I wait til they are seated in the cafeteria so I don"t have to sit by them and have to hear them brag and have them pick at me. It makes me sad.  They do and say things so Ms Northrup can"t hear or see, so I think they know it is wrong, so why do they do it, if they know it hurts someone. I don't think they care if it hurts someone they just don't want to get in trouble. I have never seen one of my friends so angry, he is really a good person, but he couldn't take anymore and he just jumped on him. I hold it in and I get headaches. Sports are not even fun because he takes over and makes us feel like we are not as good, because we have not had private lessons and we are not as good so we just quit and go do something else. If we had custom shoes with our name on them we would play better. I don't understand, that doesn't make sense, isn't it suppose to be fun?  I don't know why they would give up going on field trips, recess, parties, lots of fun things just to be friends with him. Things 11 yr olds do, kid stuff I guess because he has money. But that doesn't make him nice. It makes him treat people mean. I would like him or the other boys even if he didn't have money or they didn't act like they were cool. I guess they don't like us. But I don't know, I try to stay out of their way, avoid them, so I wont be the one they embarrass, or make me feel bad about myself. We have a new girl and they ask her a question and they make fun of her because she has a speech problem. I told her to sit with us and just stay out of their way I don't know why we can"t all be friends and not care what we wear or what we have, but I guess it is too late. I only wish that was all made up just to prove a point, however, it isn't and it makes me sad.  It was what my 11 year old told us today.  For a while we realized he was always having headaches on Mondays, he has always been given to migraines, but it seemed to be some form of stress.  You may remember this is the son who, Jesse Cole, was diagnosed with Dyslexia last year.  The months before he was diagnosed there were two boys in his class who, when he would try to read (of course he couldn't because of his problem-and it was mandatory for all the children to stand in front of the class and read aloud) and they would yell out loud that he was "stupid" and they harassed him without mercy.  The teacher was infuriated, but in spite of all types of punishments, for some reason they would not stop.  His teacher told us, much later, she had never seen, in over 30 years of teaching, a kid with so much integrity, so much determination, but what she meant was even more heart wrenching, because she said regardless of the harassment, the humiliation, the shame,
he had never become angry nor bitter, and he would not stop trying.  He is our long-haired child and she said he would just drop his head so his hair would fall over his eyes so the kids could not see the tears trickling down his face.  Now, a year later, another series of problems.  We didn't have a clue.  None-the-less, is it a new and unusual problem?  To hear it from an 11 year old just may put it in a purer light.  He had no anger, no malice, he was not trying to turn anyone against his tormentors, he was just making an observation.  Is there any of us who haven't been in the same exact place?  Money, power, manipulation, pride!  It comes so early, it comes with vengeance and it comes, at times, with great pleasure, pleasure at being able to feel superior, above the "others", powerful, and it changes everyone and everything around it. There is not always clarity as to where this kind of personality comes from, it may, at times, come from the insecurities of the child, it may come from the mother and father, through either their own sense of superiority or, as is often the case, because there is little time for sons and daughters-therefore leaving all the siblings searching for an identity in any extreme behavior, sometimes it is just, as the old timers say, "in-em", it is just their DNA, their genetic code.  However, it is far reaching and it consumes and alters everything it touches.  How do you address it?  What do you say about it?  It didn't arrive in the 21st Century, it didn't blossom in American affluence, it has been with us since the days of our ancestral father, and it has never been any prettier. Psychologists, Psychiatrist, Professors, Philosophers, farmers, school teachers, the home-less, it is not prejudice and it is relentless.  How does it come to one individual feeling they are above any other?  Is it true?  Are some of us better than others?  The preamble to the Constitution says that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (mankind) are created "equal".  Well, there it is, "created".  If it is true, if by some
chance our modern scientific advocates are wrong, I am not talking about the space and time of creation, I am simply talking about "creation" then what would that statement mean?  It would mean there is no such thing as one individual being superior to another, the essence of humanity would be being human.  I am not saying that none of us have unique and beautiful talents and gifts, but what I am saying is that no matter what we have and don't have we are equal by being from the same source and having been given life by a Designer.  We instinctively know there should be no such points of view, but we will forever find ourselves fighting these ideas.  What I wonder, what Kenny wonders, is how do we move from here?  Do we need to fight?  Do we need to "scream"?  Do we need to start a revolution to subdue such ideas and people?  The only source we trust is the revelation God has given us about Who He is.  If He created us we can be sure He understands us best, He knows our motivations, He is aware of our vices and tendencies.  What did He say about these things?  I am not altogether sure, but one thing I am aware of is that He said, Vengeance is a hollow master, rage begets rage, and that to usurp someones will (trying to force someone to do what's right without them choosing it) is a method He Himself has never used.  What then?  It certainly doesn't seem He wishes us to deny it exists, nor does it seem He wishes us to be unwilling to confront it, or at least acknowledge it, but He seemed to say control it while children are young, circumvent the bullies while you can, but in the end we will all have to face them.  A dear young man we know, a hard working and good hearted kid, lost a great job he had worked hard at for almost three years not because his work ethic changed, not because he lost his mind, but because his direct supervisor had some odd form of hostility toward him.  He was called into the office about three weeks ago and fired on the spot, without any for-warning!  It crushed him.  What do you do?  There seems to be two imperatives and they must work in unison or they fall flat, first, as we submit to God He releases peace to us, He understands rejection and hostility (most of humanity have that form of relation with Him now) but He, also, gave to us even when it cost Him so much pain and even though we were enemies toward Him; secondly, we have to forgive!  Do not deny the problem exists, do all you can to confront it, address it, speak directly to it, but after all is done, usually, these bullies still hold their high ground, at that time there is an absolute necessity to forgive.  It seems that these moments are the moments we stand near to Him.  Jesus made some astounding comments and maybe none are more outlandish than this one, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"
but did He really mean it?  Could He mean it?  Was it just some odd metaphor or figure of speech?  He did not.  First, surrender to God, then, and only then, find a place to forgive.  I would say this is not modern wisdom!!!  What I can say is that after we shed our private tears, after we fight to keep from having a
tissy-fit, we will sit with Jesse Cole and we will tell him we love him, that he should never feel beneath any individual nor above any, but after all that, he will have to come to a time where he trusts God before all else and he will have to forgive.  It seems he already has a strong element of forgiveness in him!!!  O how I wish I could fight all his Battles!!!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

3-2-1 We're Live!

  • As I sat outside, avoiding going in, because the pain of going in and facing having to see all my things was too great, I was faced once again, with deciding what was of most value because we could not afford to take everything. I still had a few things in our home in Tallahassee, the short sale was close but as of yet not a sure thing and far from being final. My nature is one of organization and to have the people and the things I love close, so this had caused me great stress. And one day, when I feel stronger, I will tell you the story of when Kenny found me sitting outside on a yard sofa too mentally distraught to enter the house, I had been sitting in 30 degree weather for over 4 hrs.  All my hanging fixtures I had custom ordered, most coming from inexpensive stores where I had found the exact shape and color and design. The boys, fan/light fixture I had hunted for weeks, because it was an airplane stainless steel combination that went along with the theme of the boys love for everything "country" (American). And Emma, I had to have a pink hanging chandelier, it sounds expensive but it wasn't, it was just the investment of  my time, but it was so worth the weeks and weeks I had spent looking once it was hung and her stuff was moved in.  Bella's antique art table I had sanded and her hand prints were sealed in the top. All of these things, thanks to my Dad, were down and sitting in a corner of our  dining room, but I didn't have the space to bring them. I thought God, All my things are of no value to anyone, but me, my style is of an eclectic (a sort of disjointed style of decorating) nature, it would bring no money, but it would cost a huge amount for us to move. Well the Virgina job didn't work out, and the program that had been assisting us with our rent had left Ms.Betty a message that they were out of funds and would not cover any more of our rent and the rent was coming up in 2 weeks. So our only option was to get what we could and head down south and move in with my Dad. I thought back and wondered, "How did I get here?". In 3 yrs. Such a short time! Now, having to be put out of a house when we had already lost a home, been separated, moved in with my mother, moved into this house and now having to leave the few things I had left behind.  I had mentioned in a previous post a woman we had met at a funeral Kenny had presided over. A wonderful woman with a beautiful voice (she was a professional level singer). After the funeral, she came up to Kenny and said my husband is the station manger of a local Christian television station and I want you to call him. Long story short, we became friends with that couple, and their three children, and within about 3 months someone had underwritten, for free, Kenny an hour long, weekly television program! For free! We had felt, for the entire year of 2007, that something dramatic was  about to come to us, a huge and unexpected change.  We hoped it was going to be something with the Church we pastored, but we were really wrong about that.  The moment we heard that proposal (it was all the way into November) we knew this was it. But, this gentlemen, who was such a likable person, made an odd statement, just in passing, to us and I don't even think it registered, "Good luck with all this, everyone I have ever known that has ever gone into television has had great tragedy in there life". Well we kinda laughed, kinda ignored it, didn't really know how to take it, because we weren't familiar enough with any of this to make a judgment either way. We prayed many times to have the privilege to influence many, many people.  So often the modern Church hides away, never speaking to the people in their community about what it is they believe, and today many, many people have grown up having never been in a church, nor having been exposed to anything at all concerning the Scriptures of the Christian Church. This was unthinkable four decades ago, most schools, in the south at least, read the Bible every morning before class (Yes, it is True-a Bible being read In a Public School). We had spoken in that church for several years, but had probably no more than 50 visitors in that time.  Kenny had always structured his speaking for people who have little or none of the Church's nomenclature (unique vocabulary-which makes no sense to most people outside of church circles), but it did little good with average Church folks, sometimes making them frustrated. Mr. Norman, whose funeral this was, had also told Kenny that he saw Kenny in this light someday. It was a strange series of events and how they played out. 2007 things were going great, work was coming in, we were pastoring a small church and they had under written our medical insurance, which was very gracious. Life was good. Let me also say, that because of our business, Kenny and I took a unique stand to not ask for money from the platform of that program.  The business afforded us that luxury. Television has such a negative and cheesy appearance most of the time(that is Christian TV). We wanted the program to broadcast during church hours, so it reached nonchurched people, we didn't feel like our destiny was to the church goers, but to the ones that found themselves outside the church, Kenny's style was, also, very much geared to college town students, professors, and also the ones who had never been in a church.. I have had too many to count, of Emma's friends, call and say, they had been out partying all night and at 11:00 on Sunday morning they had put Mr Dyer on because he was a teacher and he was funny. Kenny was careful to speak as if he was talking to someone face to face instead of this "special"  language we seem to go into when we all gather together, Who is that for anyway? I think it might be to impress each other? So sad. So we did not get money for the program and to this day that program goes out in Tallahassee (and also in Knoxville, Tenn) and, to this day, we have gotten no money (3 years later) from it and we have asked for none, in spite of numbers of our friends disagreeing with this approach. So we were so excited, not about the notoriety, but the opportunity to speak of the hope we had found and share it with thousands of people, that never find themselves in a church pew. So we decided through the program we certainly would get invites to come and speak at local churches, and if that happened, we would have some form of extra income. Another odd, odd thing was that we both, instantly, knew we were suppose to resign the church we were currently pastoring. That took a lot of soul-searching, because even though we gave away most of the money we received from the church, we did have health insurance through them, but we were sure of what we should do and we decided God would take care of the rest. So we began 2008 the very first Sunday, a live broadcast in which Kenny spoke for almost 2 hours!! (Yeah I said "spoke" for 2 hours)He was worried how he would react, whether he would either freeze or turn into some alter-ego, so he over-prepare notes so that
if necessary he could just read them. I am glad to say he was a natural at just being himself and after that first program, which was not recorded at the studio, he never spoke over 45 minutes.  What was amazing was that the very first broadcast was LIVE.  We never edited the programs, even after about two months when we had to stop the live broadcast because of needing to have people for cameras and sound and master-controls, because we wanted it to be real, even if we made mistakes that didn't look good on us(or at least Kenny!!). So the worst year of our lives. In my intro, I said it as best I could. I would see a child arrested for drunk driving, one almost died, our livelihood actually did dry up and die, and Kenny and I would have  our relationship tested and stretched to the max, and thought it was in jeopardy of disintegrating!!  After four months we thought any time the calls from churches would start trickling in, we could speak, they would hear and understand our approach and motives and would help us along as if we were part of their church.
We tried to speak about Baptist, Methodist, Charismatic, and most all types of Christian churches, not just one group and we mentioned them by name, as well as their leadership.  Then came six months, then nine, then twelve.  What was just as ironic was that we personally knew over thirteen local pastors and in one year we spoke at only about five churches (only two of which was part of the group we knew), and this will not seem strange to you if you have never been in church circles, but of those five churches three did not
even take up an offering for our gas or food expenses(That is Completely Unheard of)  1000 men could go to 5 churches, be the worst public speaker in history, close the service, and out of that 1000, not 2 men could say that 3 or less had not even taken up an offering (offering just means any amount the people wished
to give-without the church itself being obligated to anything).  The point is, this was an impossibility, yet one which we managed to stumble into. But, once again, we seem to stumble into the most outrageous, unthinkable of things. Week after week, Kenny would leave whatever work he had, come home, shower get dressed, at our expense, drive to the studio and record the program, and nothing. Absolutely nothing came from that program.   Those are the times, I know for me, I had to continue to stand on the promise that God had made us, because we were seeing nothing, visible with our eyes reaffirm that we were on track. All we had to go on was a hope and a prayer. The studio manger, the other ministers  who had programs would scratch their heads, it just did not make sense. But we would put our last 20.00 dollars in Kenny's truck to get to the studio, because we were confident that God was using Kenny to reach people that the conventional church was not able to reach. I would  get ready and we would make it something we would do together, and I am shamed to say, I got so discouraged, toward the end I didn't even have the heart to go. I thought God, I feel like a complete hypocrite sitting in that studio listening to Kenny, when I don't know if I have the faith in my own heart to believe what he is saying. Emma had been arrested, the money was beginning to go, and things were just getting worse and worse. The ancients would say (by that I mean my
Grandma's generation) You just have to obey God!  It might seem as if we were doing everything right, that we had the purest of motives, that we were straight arrows, that was not true.  However, we did make a decision and that decision was to continue in whatever we felt we should do at the moment, even if it really,
really cost us, we had just not imagined it would really cost us THAT MUCH.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Trails Are An Honor

Have you ever came across someone who is what the kids call a "hater"? And you get all defensive and bow up and your gonna tell that person something and make them see that being a "hater" is  no way to be. So you go about to make them not be a "hater" and make the situation worse, but if you look closely, usually, they are people who have been deeply wounded. I will talk about issues today, that are very touchy issues,  touchy because they will have to come from me, because there is no one else to tell my story. There are different kinds of people who perceive things differently.When you have nice things, drive a nice car, wear nice cloths everyone wants to be near you. one kind of people just want to be near you because they associate nice things with success, intelligence, everything the media says we should chase after. They want to hear your opinion, have you in their group, oh the infamous.... AMERICAN DREAM. Then the other group is the one that says if you live in a nice house, drive a nice car, wear nice cloths, vote a certain way, you can't have any compassion for anyone but you and yours, you need a good lesson, your not 'humble" enough, ...... The "haters," as I spoke of at the beginning, somewhere, most usually, have been mistreated, unfairly overlooked, or somehow have not measured up, or they have worked very hard and somehow have not quite made it. So they see these things as a sign of a very shallow and  privileged person, someone who has advanced without earning it..  Again, I said I would be honest and forth right with my writing because I feel this would be of no value to me or anyone else if I do anything less. We of course had our circle of intimate friends and family, that stood by us and supported us along the way, but the dynamics of the two groups I just spoke of was not pretty as our demise began and until it made its last "ha-rah ha-rah. . The ones that wanted to be near, well these were the first to go. So impressed, they would run up, and laugh a stupid laugh, (I so hated-it, it was so shallow) "looks like the governor pulled up in that Denali", Kenny!  HA-HA I hated it, name dropping  that was only meant to intimidate or make someone feel bad. I never referred to it as the "Denali", I always said, "My truck". We would have never owned a vehicle of that expense had it been on the churches dime, but the business paid that lease, which was a tax write off. So as these people got fewer and fewer, and they would pass me, as I was walking to the store or the kids school, and I would wave just to make them uncomfortable, I realized the problem was theirs not mine. They weren't people who wanted to know anything about me or Kenny, they were impressed with what we had. So when that was gone, we were of no value to them. They didn't want open and honest, they wanted avoidance and wanted me to be invisible, suddenly, we were not so interesting, but I was not going away, my value, my purpose in this world,  had not change the moment I turned that Denali in, I see today my mission had changed, IT broadened. Now to the group that, almost, enjoyed seeing the "things" go, if I heard it said once I heard it  said at least 20 times, "God is teaching you humility, materials things aren't everything, it's God's will, you focused too much on the worldly things, you must have done something to put yourself here, because I am ok. There has to be a lesson here for you to learn. God bless you brother!!", as he looks over you shoulder to catch up with the next brother (one who is now more affluent than you). Let me tell you, these are not the things you want, or need, to hear when you are in  the middle of crisis. There was no listening, no just sitting and chatting, no "real" empathy.  When every foundational "truth" you have built your life on shifts, platitudes are not just hollow, they are offensive.  Troubles in life are one thing, however when the issues deal with the most sacred and sincere beliefs in your life, there is a magnificent instruction in the text of scripture, it simply says, "Weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn" or as best I can remember.  It is the most remarkable and insightful of instructions, and, I might say, the most civil and compassionate. Well, looking back now, maybe the lesson is this, maybe my lesson, maybe our lesson is displayed in the simple Bible truths that says, "The last shall be first", Jesus made a remarkable statement, it seems, almost, absurd, He made it in a very clear and vivid way and there is little mistaking what He said and what He meant, He
said He had come to serve!  There is some question as to Who Jesus was, but even the most agnostic of
humans cannot deny He has been the most influential Man in history.  Furthermore, if you believe His is more, that He is kindred with God, God's Son, what a profound point of view.  The Son of God came to serve, rather than be served.  What if this was always His plan, what if this (all our trouble) was all meant?  The remarkable converted Rabbi, who suffered for so many years and suffered so, so much, his name was
Paul, said I am comforted by the One who is the True Comforter.  I know that night, almost three years ago,
when we got the call to go and pick up Emma's car, when we saw the most dreadful moment, I would have
given up my "Denali", my "home", my "stuff" to protect and help her, without a thought.  Would I not be willing to suffer for the sake of connecting with and serving others? I was called by God to serve, since I was a little girl. America is not built on serving it is built on being served and being Master.                                  
I know it sounds odd, but when I realized we were utterly and totally alone, no-one was there, no-one was coming, no-one was listening, and no-one was, even, looking, I heard God speak to me, not in a voice, but  in a deep impression in my heart, that He was going to take care of everything we needed, but He would do it day to day as we needed.  That was really scary, really outrageous, but I can say, two years have passed and we still have what we need, at least through "this" day.  It has not been an easy thing living this "day to "day"  way of life, but I am confident that God is true to His word, He is true to His promises, and our life is bigger than this world we know. What we have built our lives on is very old fashioned, very archaic, but I long ago decided I would focus on His purpose for my life, and that is what I have tried to do, that is what we have tried to do, if we have been wrong how far back do we have to go to find when and where it was? In spite of all of it I still believe what God has promised us and what He has said was our purpose, and I believe He does not lie, and is incapable of it. There is an afterlife that we will face, and this life will seem  short. When Kenny goes in to pray with the kids at night  and I hear Emma yell out, (yes Emma home at 9:00) good night Mom I love you, I have a peace that is not dependent on my circumstances of that day. It is based on knowing things are right where they are suppose to be. Things don't always have to be easy, things don't always to have to make sense, but I think I see this new lot in life as an honor, as if I have been chosen for a moment in time to be a small part of helping others who may be in a dark and despairing place, and at this moment in my life, it is well with my soul.