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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Company Picnic, We're All Just People

Yesterday we went to a company picnic and I am never surprised at these events. I guess when I was younger and not as comfortable with myself I didn't see things as clearly and I was so insecure with myself  I didn't see the fidgeting of  other people and therefore missed out on having a good time myself. But as I looked around at a very gracious group of people who had provided a beautiful spread for me and my family, and spared no expense, I also saw men who were empty and alone, and very much out of their element. We drive up kids talkin ninety to nothin, the ole' 79  bronco whips in and  parks next to the Audi's and the Infinities and Honda Elements. As the kids skipped to the covered area and Kenny and I are chatting, walking, holding hands, my Dad smiling as he spots "princess" (as he calls Emma), I see all eyes are on us. The third generation owner, born a rich man, of the company was there alone, his wife didn't even attend with him. The other executive was also alone, the other supervisors also came alone. Emma said that was common, she had yet to see any of them attend. As I looked around and saw these men out of their suits and out of their "element" I thought God have we let what we do so define us, that when we get out of those clothes we don't even know how to act. Is our home life so empty and sad that all we have is what we do from 8-5? When we all get together, if we have nothing to sell each other, if we are on the same level, do we not have anything to say to each other? Can we just share an afternoon and a meal together? Does it always have to go back to, what is your profession, where do you live? All those things are just fronts, covers, a protection so no one gets too close. As I observed the kids it didn't take them but about 30 seconds to make friends and they were eating, playing and laughing. No talk of grades or where they live, just fun and playing. I thought had we showed up at this event with the same attitude I wonder what a difference it would make. You see, had this been 3 years ago, we would have pulled up in the Denali and even with the best of intentions, we wouldn't have acted any different but they would have treated us different. But you see we had nothing to lose, we were thrilled to be served a wonderful meal and have an evening of free entertaining.  So we were intent on enjoying the day, it was a beautiful sunny day we hadn't been out to eat in I don't know how long, and the park was amazing so nothing could spoil our time. Number of yrs ago I am sure one of us would have found something to complain about  or one would not have even wanted to go. It is funny how things can change so quickly, and I must say, in our case, for the better. We would head out to a restaurant and we could not even decide on a place to eat! Too many choices! If you cant decide where to eat out of 20 restaurants, you aren't very hungry! The kids were not evil kids, they were just given too many choices, and isn't that just like adults as well? Don't we all take things for granted.?  Kenny and I would text for 30 mins deciding where to meet for lunch everyday. I think it is just human nature. So BY God we were excited and we were bent on having a good time. And when you don't have cable, peoples lives are alotummmmmming, and giving our thanks to the chef, and it wasn't very long and the atmosphere had turned to one of calm and ease, we were sharing stories and enjoying the beauty of the day. We moved to the fun, to an open field, and continued with games, and even the executives joined in, and they were having fun! Without alcohol, and without obscenities and making  fools of ourselves.  Emma said the owner made the statement we need to have an employee Olympics, it was so good to get out of the office and relax and have good time without the stress of work. Little did they know, we were having to decide whether or not to sell the Bronco or the Cadillac. My Dad had given us an old Cadillac that was in great shape and mechanically he had gone through every inch of that car, so it was such a difficult thing to even think of selling it. And I knew it would insult him as well.  He had put alot of money and time in that car and we were so grateful but life had dictated that either the Bronco or the Cadillac be sold, or we would not be able to continue to live. So we decided to put both on craigslist and leave it up to God which one sold.  I didn't want to sell either, but of course my heart would have been broke if the Bronco went. But honestly, that beast was killing us on gas and the car was economically what we needed. We were running both of them on fumes. I would get a call from the school and I could feel the vessels in my head tighten because I knew if I made an extra trip to the school we might not have enough gas to last til the end of the week.  As a parent you want to be involved in your kids school, and so often we bad mouth parents who are not involved and I have to think how often it may have been that they just did not have the funds to do it, as was my case. I just hated it. I had always been involved, I had always volunteered and been available when people needed me, and now I couldn't do anything. I could barely send in a snack. It made me feel worthless and impotent. Like less of a parent, like less of contributor, and it honestly made me feel like less of a child of God, I felt abandoned, I felt alone, I felt angry and had many questions running thru my mind. Why would you give us a car, only to take it from us?  Can't we at least have the necessities, gas, food, lodging.  Nothing outrageous, just the things we need to survive. We had switched school districts so were having to drive the kids to school, so the Cadillac had been such a blessing, we were getting twice the gas mileage we were on the Bronco. It just made no logical sense. God why would it come to this. We had always been givers and now we had been given something and it was being taken away. The kids were even shaken at the thought of selling either one of them. They had been there, as well, everytime we had broken down, or we didn't have the gas to pick them up, or to take them to a birthday party, so their fears were certainly merited.  The days were getting closer and closer to the urgency of our need and still nothing on the Bronco or the Cadillac.  Well, Miss Betty's son Drew came over to check on things and fell in love with both the Bronco and the Cadillac, he just didn't have the means to buy them both. So on the spot he bought the Cadillac. As he drove off, I thought how am I going to keep gas in that beast of a truck, the one I really didn't want to sell anyway.  I couldn't have it both ways, but I guess I just wanted to complain.  My entire conversation was me, me, me! How will I pay the insurance, how will I fix it when it breaks, we have no job, no promise of a job, we have even been promised a job and that had been taken away, so how will we even keep the Bronco on the road.  Our need was met at the moment, but what about tomorrow, or the next, or even next month, when the insurance is due.  I know I sound like a crazy lady, but, I had become consumed with fear, living had made me fearful of everything, that is until I would have a "moment" as I would call them.  A moment when, He would meet me, or touch me, whisper encouragement to me, or at times chastise me.  And today at this picnic as I saw my children interact with strangers, asking please for their food and saying thank you, glancing over at Kenny and seeing him talking to someone else, yet knowing he is aware of where I am at all times, I realized how extraordinary our lives really were, even though they were also very, very hard.  We had never missed a day of school, or church, because we didn't have gas, we never drove without insurance, we've never been hungry, life is really about the people, not the things.  Yes, that car was nice, and I enjoyed having it, but, that car was a means used to provide a need in our lives.  And life went on the moment that car drove off.  Life could have went on bitter and angry and resentful, if I would have allowed it, but that is not the nature of who God is, He is concerned with people, and relationships, and gatherings and moments in time, memories, not the means by how we get there.  That is how WE have defined each other.  That is how we prejudice ourselves against someone, even before we've given them a chance.  And on the other end of that, when I drove a $60,000.00 vehicle, and we were in the church, even though we paid for it, I would find myself parking around back, because I knew the church "folks" would criticize me.  So I think we have to come to a place that whether we have a $1,000 car or $100,000 car, we value people over things and  don't allow the things to keep us isolated from people.  And being poor, so often, I am sure, keeps people isolated.  You see, the Dyers'  had something far greater than money to bring to that picnic, it was a genuine appreciation for a beautiful day of picining, with great food, playing games and spending time with each other making new friends.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New kinda Of Dilemnia, I Must Never stop Praying

As I sit to write my left shoulder is numb and my hand tingles and is cold to the touch, my mind swims as I try to focus. Worry! Yes worry!  I'm not sure what direction I want this post to go.  Just recently I have reconnected with two friends of my past that I saw no way of reconciliation, and I sit here, reading a text from one of them.  Life, so strange, so difficult, so different sometimes than how we ever imagined it being.  I sat with a lady, one I had known for over 20 yrs, and saw such disappointment in her face for how her life had turned out, and she was a proclaiming servant of the scripture, yet somehow in her heart, I know she blamed God for how things had come to be.  It seemed like there was a void in her, something was dead, not quite right, her heart was partly dead, like she had shut part of it off.  I knew her, she was sitting in front of me, she looked the same, talked the talk, but she was not there,  I was exposed and holding nothing back, but I knew, she was guarded, not truly ready to surrender to our friendship, share her heart, share her "story".   I could see how easily bitterness could invade her heart.  I could recognize it because I myself had been bitter, too many times to recall, and what an awful place to be.  It's like dying a slow death.   Like a cancer.  You start out angry, then you get bitter, then you just stop caring, and that's when you shut down, and nothing, not even God, can touch the recesses of your heart where that bitterness is stored away.  You won't invite Him in, and somehow you feel it's all you have left, if you let it go, you open yourself up to be hurt again, then you will start expecting good things again, start hoping, start loving, start believing in something.  As I left our meeting, I thought about my own bitterness, the little bit I had held on to, ole' "just a little bit that's only mine because I really deserve it", it was an injustice, I have every right!  God, how can I have this in me, get up in front of women and share Your goodness, and You, in some strange phenonmena, speak a healing word to them, through me!! How can good and bad both dwell in the same body?  Life is kinda like that, good sometimes, and bad sometimes. They go hand and hand.  And let's be honest, without the bad, how many of us would enjoy the good.  So, this is what I am telling myself as we face yet another crisis in our life.  When we where in Dallas Kenny made the statement casually, "Well if we get back and our rental situation is done, I guess we will be moving to Texas!"  We all laughed, a bit nervously, I might say, because I don't put anything past God these days, but had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.  As our life would go, that statement is not so funny.  Well, we have a unique situation, we live with my Dad, who purchased our place from an elderly lady who recently died and it went into probate, and long story short, alot of the monies and agreement was with her and not the children, so 6 months of mortgage payments are gone.  So once again, that ole' familiar sick feeling, not wanting to eat, arm numb, anxious feelings, have taken over my broke down body.  45 years old yet I feel 90.   So I go back and reread what I just wrote, about releasing my grip and allowing God.  And working on my unbelief.  Geezzz, is this a test???  Then I recall the greatest churches in the Bible that grew through persecution.  Is this how my ministry is destined to grow, through persecution, and nearly killing me!  It does seem like it takes tragedy to bring women together, drop all the mask and pretense, to be honest and connect with each other.  God is this why I am here, at this place, to bring a common thread, something to join me to others?  How many times will I arrive at this realization?  It takes me back to a similar situation, or I should say several similar situations within the past three years, when we had run out of options.  We have come to a place where, when one situation closes down we accept the next one, believing that's the one God has provided for in that moment.  We had one day left before our rent was due, back in North Carolina.   I had been in constant contact with my landlord Ms. Betty  (a wonderful lady, I still stay in touch with today) the grant we had been on, had ran out, the fact that we even had been on the program was a miracle in and of itself.  So I could hardly be angry or unappreciative, but still my heart was sad and I was scared.  We had no money and very little alternatives.  I had called my contact the previous morning and she had said no, still no money, but if anything comes in, I will call you immediately, but don't expect it, it is highly unlikely. (This grant was a unique grant and when depleted was not suppose to have any more funds allotted)  And not only was our rent due, but we also had 2 months utilities due.  And this was in the winter, when heat was crucial.  So I got up, as soon as my feet hit the floor, the worry set in, the uneasiness, draining me of every ounce of energy and stripping me of my peace.   I worried all night, fussed at God, worried some more, fussed some more, but, I don't think I prayed much.  Sometimes when life gets too difficult you almost lose your ability to pray, or you have prayed and prayed and have seen your situation digress and that little seed of bitterness I spoke of gets planted and worrying or fussing becomes alot easier than praying.  You haven't rebuked God, but you just stop asking.  I made my coffee, got the kids off to school. We had an extremely unexpected surprise when, on this Monday, Mrs. Betty and her husband showed up. She had come to have some gravel dumped up our drive because the snow would not allow us to get up the hill to the house. We had already been talking to her about the fact that we were going to have to leave in the next week.  She was sad, we were sad, and there was just nothing else to be done.  I had cooked some turnip greens and fresh cornbread, which Mrs Betty always loved, but I had no idea she was even coming.  She and I were in the kitchen overseeing the cornbread and greens when suddenly  I saw I had gotten a text,  it was my contact, it said urgent!  So I call her and she is in shock, number one that she received more grant money and number two, she was even given extra money!!  So in a moment our rent was paid!.. What seemed hopeless and impossible, even with our Federal government, God made possible.  I was crying, Mrs Betty was crying and we would, eventually, make it til the end of the school year, which was over four months away.  Even with my lack of attention to my prayer life, God saw fit to meet our needs, just one more time, a testament to the fact that this thing called life is not about how good we live, or how many rules we follow, it is all about HIM... So back to the, new kind of dilemma, lack of praying, Ben Patterson, a chaplain said, that's what prayer does. It's radical, it goes down deep beneath the surface to uproot evil and upset the status Quo.  So when my day is going along and it's going in the direction of worry and anxiety, I wanna interrupt it with prayer. As it builds toward a crisis, I will to will myself to deliberately stop to pray. When my attitude starts to sour, I will pause for an attitude adjustment, I wont wait--I will pray immediately.  Jesus said, don't worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or wear, isn't life more important than all that?  Look at the birds of the air, they don't sow or store away, their heavenly father feeds them..Aren't you of more value to him than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?  Don't worry about what you'll eat or drink or wear, your heavenly Father knows all these things, don't worry about tomorrow it will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of it's own.  Seek Me, and My righteousness and all these things will come to you.  He was speaking to the common, the poor folks, so He said, you have heard of Solomon and all his glory (glory, that money, human money can buy) yet it pales to the lilies of the field that God created, again, you are of soooo much more value to Him than those flowers and look at the care He took in them.   I think of Dallas and all it's mansions and diamonds and beauty that analogy came to me.  As I looked to my right I see a winter bloom that has just opened, I am not sure what it is even called, and I am reminded of my life, it seems forgotten and not pretty. And then I think of all the things God has woven in our life and I see, just like the lilies of the field, the great care He has taken in my life, and it is just as beautiful as that bloom.  But not by man's hand, as with Solomon, but by His hand.   Worry, it must be the elephant in the room!  I am afraid this praying is not a one time thing, I Thes says pray without ceasing, Paul said pray first!, Pray first!!  Because we are creatures of habit it is most likely our worrying and anxiety will return and we will have to return to prayer and release it all again.  Prayer is an investment.   I promise you the time you spend in prayer isn't lost, it will return dividends far greater than what a few moments spent on something we think we need to do will return.  Dividends of the world, will certainly fail us. Not that they are evil or not great to have, but, we must not place our value in them first, but we must placed our value in God's sentiment toward us.  It is too easy to want to put a gun to your head and say life is just not work the fight. It is a losing battle, our present economy and the state of our country is only getting worse, it is not hopeful, but I think it may be because we value the wrong things, we honor the wrong currency, we revere the wrong god. If Jesus was speaking outright and not figuratively, He said, over and over again, that God's value is on humanity, not on creation itself, not on the planet, not on the governments of our age, but solely on humanity.  What is remarkable is that He values "all" humanity, not just the pretty or brilliant.    Outside of the belief we have a higher calling, a higher purpose, a destiny, it is a dismal future, but it is God Who gives us hope, and it may just be that He is trying to coerce us into a realignment of our value system, of what we value most.  Even in at a time like this, as I face this situation, and I battle worry, and fear, I remember the scriptures of my youth, God is my refuge and my strength, a very present help in times of trouble Psalms 46:1.  Pray first!  Pray always!  In ALL things Pray! Pray without ceasing!  God I must never stop praying, never allow my worry to distract me from the one thing that will carry me through, and that is my time with You.  Prayer.             

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year Friends, I will be posting tomorrow,  I have alot to fill you in on. Alot of good and alot of  "not" so good.  But one thing I have learned over the past 3 years is, what I viewed as good and bad, are sometimes the opposite of each other.  So I will edit tonight and get back on track tomorrow.  I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a great start to twenty-twelve.  I think I have something to say that will be of great encouragement to you.  I know I got some very bad news today, and because of the ever so small whisper, of the One who guides my life, I was able to see through the darkness, and see the light.  Be encouraged!! Love, Angie!

Monday, January 2, 2012

What I See For Twenty-Twelve! Surrender: Releasing Our Grip

Well, a new year and here we go friends.  Can't say I am starting off with great news or news of great things to come, But.... I can say, I have made a decision to find direction and the first day I make the commitment to do that, THE VERY FIRST DAY, God in an ever so gentle voice reveals Himself to me, once again one of those "ahhh" moments.  Now don't get too excited, my ahh moment may be monumental to me and not so grand to you, but what is so miraculous about God is, He always meets us right where we are, and right in the nick-of-time!  I sat down to type and I had read several articles about resolutions and game plans and back up plans and I thought ok, this has to be really inspiring!  But the entire time I was reading it, it always went back to, what are YOU gonna do, how are YOU gonna make this happen, how are YOU gonna psyche yourself up, and make it happen for the year ahead.  And all I was thinking was, good Lord how awful these women are going to feel if they fail.  Because no one ever shares with each other how they fail, it's always how they succeed, thus, leaving you (those who fail) feeling like a LOSER, because I guarantee you out of 10 resolutions only 1 will follow through.  So where does that leave the other 9.  Again feeling like failures.  I read this quote by William Henderriken, When grace changes the heart, submission out of fear changes to submission out of love, and true humility is born.  The premise for grace as we know it, is something we are given that none of us deserve or could ever earn.  It is a gift no more or less, plain and simple, a gift.  It actually says He gives us grace on top of grace.  His grace never runs out.  EVER.   Even when our plans fail and our options run out.  Through this past year, as I have faced heartbreak like I could have never imagined, especially when it came to my children, I realized everything is safe which I have committed to Him and nothing is really safe which is not committed to Him.   As a Mom you can use all the skills in the world and read all the books in the world, and have all your ducks in a row, but let me tell you, when the real tragedy hits, you better have that child committed to Him, not some plan or book or some super mom mentality, cuz your only hope lies in God.  True surrender, releasing your grip.  One of the hardest things I have ever had to face was when I felt  a small voice say Angie give Emma to me, surrender, release your grip.  I thought God I CAN NOT do that, I am her mother, I know best, I can control this, I can get a game plan, meet her for lunch snap her out of it and waaa la!! Problem fixed!  No, Angie, surrender, release Emma to Me.  God, the pain is to great, and at that moment, I heard that small whisper, Angie I knew Emma before you carried her, and I have a destiny for her life, I love Emma even more than you do, surrender, release her to me.  At that time I had such bouts of anxiety and fear it would be days and I hadn't slept, yet from the moment I surrendered Emma to the One who gave her to me I had unexplainable peace.  I had to relearn that anything committed to Him was safe in His hands, even Emma.  And what a display of Gods provision and  plan and design He has had for Emma's life, only now, 4 years later, it is clear, but it was not so clear at the time. Surrendering, releasing my grip was not an easy thing.  Two weeks before Christmas I thought okay God what are we going to do about presents for the kids.  Kenny has had some work but barely enough to keep us afloat on our basic bills.  We went about business, I don't think Kenny and I even discussed it because I think it makes the reality even more unavoidable, and creates a tension neither one of us wanted.  I just could not image how in the world we were going to do it.  Even if he had work, time had ran out.  Here we are at the end of the year and it seems God once again, I have nothing to wrap and put under the tree for my kids.  God, why, I don't understand, I guess I am just destined for pain and suffering, I was really in a bad way.  As I am sure millions of other families were as well.  But there was just one difference, I had committed my family to someone that I knew, even with my bad attitudes and lack of faith, even with all I had done, held them safe.  God, held my kids Christmas, not this economy, not me and not Kenny, but in His hands!  And what came to them would be by His hand.  And if I had learned anything along this journey, even when I think something has turned out bad, their is a lesson to be learned in that situation, and it has spared us far greater tragedy down the road if we allow God to use that situation in our life.  God, I surrender, releasing my grip.  I get a text from a family member, who says he had a new years trip planned and he was going to fore go his trip, use the money and pay our way to spend Christmas with family in Dallas Texas and underwrite the kids entire Christmas!!  And to think, I had the audacity to think I could control our lives somehow better than the One who made us!  Once again, this theme, surrender, releasing my grip.  As the year came to an end and I thought about what lay ahead, I thought, God I don't know all the answers, but I do know Corinthians says, It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. Being trustworthy often means little more than showing up, simply being ready and available.  Paul says it is required that a steward be found faithful, not necessarily fruitful or full of charisma or excited or brimming with optimism, but faithful!  And if this past year God has been seeing anything in me it has been me just showing up to this computer and sharing what pain I have felt, what weakness I have shown, and, yet, what He has done in spite of all my sad, ignoble disbelief.  So God I have at least been faithful and shown up!  Ok, so I have shown up, but I also feel there is another crucial part, for me, the hardest part, and it will be my mantra for 2012.  Unbelief, which ultimately is holding back, not surrendering all to Him, holding on tight, control, SELF.   Hebrews says, we have alot of people around watching us, let us put aside everything that will hinder us," the" sin which so easily grips us, and let us run with great endurance the race that is set before us.  I believe "the" sin is unbelief.  How can we truly run life's race without wholly deciding to trust God--really rely on Him. And that kind of trust only comes by surrendering to Him.   And that brings me to my last crisis of 2011, I sat down to begin a post and my laptop, which by the way I bartered for, the laptop for a gallon of Aveda shampoo, stop working.  Well, I have been faithful, at least I have shown up, haven't had the greatest of attitudes, not the strongest of faith, not the star child for the what a Christ follower should be, but at least I had SHOWN UP.  That's the beauty of who God is even with all our failure and inadequacies, He is our hope, not who we are.  So my faith was so small I couldn't even feel it, much less pray.  I thought how am I going to get another computer, it is certainly economically impossible.  But, isn't that just when God always makes His move.  Once again, when I was hemmed in, He came to my rescue. I love that scripture!  When you think there is no hope, you have reached your limit, God always shows up.  He was there the whole time, and would have answered alot quicker, but the problem always lies in our disbelief, our surrendering, releasing our grip.   I felt that whisper once again, Angie ask me for a computer.  Ok, sure, in a snotty attitude, give me a computer.  I even ask a few people if they had an extra laptop I could borrow.  That's how much I expected to get a computer.  Shame on me. We went to Dallas, got back home, I was at my cousins house and Kenny calls me and was visually moved, Angie you wont believe this!,  I am forwarding you a text I just got!  The text read, Santa has left you a laptop and software, it is paid for and waiting for you at Best Buy.  Well, there you go.  I was speechless, and of course crying, and deeply shamed for my disbelief.  But, a lesson well learned, my HOPE, for twenty-twelve, I commit to surrender, release my grip, work on "the" sin of unbelief and see just what God can do!!