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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Life Is A Search For The Spiritual

Before we started this spiralling downward fall, I thought I reached out to people and extended my faith to them. I thought I was a spiritual being, someone that anyone could relate to and immediately would say, Oh I want what YOU have! Right now, you have changed my very existence. I was a good person, I loved God, I did good things, I certainly had, in my life, had a spiritual experience with Jesus, but my confidence, my peace, my security, was not solid and grounded as it is today. I remember the first time I actually said out loud, to another human being (someone from our community) my family is losing our home. It was as if energy shot out of my body and slapped the lady standing in front of me.  We had been working with the bank and at this point living in the hopes that a big job would come and save the day. The bank was working on a modification and during all this I still had some hope things would turn around. But, I had come to know, deep in my soul, it wouldn't. Somehow there was destiny, a predetermined plan, a purpose tied to all this. As I stood before this lady, broken myself, yet still having all the outward signs of status, again I said, "We are losing our home" She blurted out and crumbled before me, and said, "I am losing my husband and my marriage". At that moment I saw for the first time a glimpse into what power I had, what tremendous influence I could have, in my own story, if I was willing to share it.  I didn't know this lady intimately, just had been at events with her and had always felt she had snobbed me, been pretentious, but on this particular day, I felt a stirring to tell her, "Appearances are not always what they seem". So I hugged her and made plans to meet for coffee the next afternoon, where we would have time to talk and get to know each other. She had a beautiful home, actually married to a banker, a new SUV, beautiful kids, the perfect number of pets, the right vacations, the right handbags, everything "looked" all nice and tidy, but, things were not as they appeared. You see my own vulnerability had made an avenue for me to speak candidly to her, a comfort I would have never had, before our financial issues started. I sat there thinking, feeling very sad, how often had my clothes, my seemingly perfect "own" family, my Denali, my 6th Ave house, boat, gym membership, my handbags....well you get the point, kept me from making a new friend or being a help to someone in need. I had done alot with the homeless and indigent and  ministry type programs, but this new gift, this gift of "my" story, this gift of connecting to people, for lack of a better word, was just that-- a gift. As humans, whether we are in the throes of pain or in the disappointments of pleasure, we strive for an essence that is beyond the physical. It seems pain sends us in search of a greater power. Introspection, superstition, ceremony, and vow can all come as a result of pain. Out of my pain, a new journey had begun for me. I was reading a book on suffering by Ravi Zacharias and he said he just couldn't accept that God doesn't figure actively in suffering-- not that he just allows it, that He makes beauty out of ashes. And, He does make beauty out of ashes, but that has to be only part of the picture if it is not to distract from who God is. ALL-knowing, ALL-powerful, and ALL-loving, and somehow makes Him limited or weak. And then there's the other side to that, if He is all powerful and can keep me from suffering, but just chooses not to, He's not all knowing? Right? Well I certainly don't believe that. Ravi, pointed out in Exodus... first-- that it was God who led His children into this place of suffering. Second-- He (God) led them into suffering while they were being obedient to Him and were following Him as He commanded them.  Third-- He (God) ultimately gave them victory but it was not without personal cost. Fourth-- Moses built an alter and worshipped God saying.. The lord is my banner. I am human and have questioned this whole suffering thing myself, whined and belly ached, and legitimately so, these are life changing things, but until that day, it was as if something clicked, something lined up in the heavens, even before my mother carried me, and my purpose for my life came full circle, and I accepted somehow it came from His hand, and in my place of suffering and to the point of almost killing me spiritually and physically, I felt not in spite of my obedience to God, but because of it, I felt I experienced the victory of my life, the real miracle, reaching out to someone else and showing Him to them. Ravi goes on to say he feels God doesn't just allow our suffering into our lives, rather God intented that suffering must come to those He loves. As we sat in our home in Tallahassee after the Denali had been returned, and I was walking the kids to school. I was basically home with no ride. It was a very humiliating thing. I would have people pass me, people that I knew, as I would walk to pick things up from the store, but as I began to walk, I started out with a sense of anger and bitterness, but one morning I decided I would get up and make that early time a time of intimacy with the God. I would walk and pray and cry and cry some more. As those emotions began to spill out I could feel them replaced with a boldness that I didn't have before. So then as those people would pass me, I began waving and saying "good morning, beautiful day!" My mind began to become clear, my body began to respond and tone up, it was a good thing, losing that Denali! I found a positive in a very bad situation. Through not having that truck I also can see how a vehicle can control you entire life, how families live on the brink, not knowing if theirs cars will start and take them to work. Or how many take the city bus, a reality I knew nothing about. I certainly don't want to ever return there, but,  like I said above ~~ victory AIN'Tcheap, it cost you something,  I can truly say to the families in personal or financial crisis, I have been there. God may have intended my suffering, but He never abandoned or forsook me, and He always provided my needs. During this time, I was having alot of trouble with my stomach, and the type of foods I needed, as well as the ones Isabella needed, due to her sickness, was very expensive. I would come home and on my table would be food, not just the food, but the food already cooked! I would say just about everyday but Sundays. How does that happen? I can't tell you, I know it doesn't happen in the natural, it only happens in the supernatural, by a source higher than you and me. 2 Chronicles 20:15 affirms to me that ultimately the battle is not mine it is Gods. If God himself brought me to this desolate place He is here with me, and,  He is able to sustained me and provide my needs,  AS, indeed, He did. So as I lost many things along the way, I gained many, relationships being at the top, and a boldness in myself of who I am in Him, and what value we hold as human beings. And sharing who we are, not what we have.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Go bury your sorrow the world has it's share. Philip Bliss

Suffering, it would seem, puts either a window or a mirror in one's life. I have found my experience in the church, I am sad to say, that most Christians have replaced the window and placed a mirror in it's place. In their trials and grief they become introspectective, morbid, and self-pitying. They see only their pain, their urgency, their injustice. I read this quote, the title of this post, go bury your sorrow, the world hath it's share. How true that is. But on the other side of that, the few dear saints, as we fondly call them in the church, the rare ones, like my Granny I so often talk about, are the unselfish hearts, who in times of anguish and calamity, and in their own brokenness, turn that mirror and replace it with a window in order to see the needs of others in the place of their own. Consequently, with new vision, their own brokenness, and experiences of suffering, can be of help to someone else. Wasn't it for our sakes that Jesus dedicated and sacrificed Himself? I am certain God meant for us to look outside ourselves into a hurting world, and not waste time gazing at our own personal sorrow. What I have seen is some of the greatest suffers, like my Granny, possess the gift of silence til they die. When I took this burden on, I prayed that God would reveal (help me see behind the faces of pain) so that I could become a comforter to those who tried to conceal it. So often the abused or broken, live in denial or secrecy. Because if I fail at this, I feel I have failed at my own sorrow, my families own sorrow. What purpose has it served? God, I want to walk in it with abandon, as I try to share my life with others. Now at this point in my life it certainly sounds good, and we are still in it, going through it, not on the other side of this thing, but, BUT, their was a moment when I could not make any sense of our life and why it took such a turn. Especially being in the church and following Godly  principles, as best we knew how, and yet day by day we continued to see our life fall apart. I have started a fashion blog, I call it, for a lack of a better title, a place women can go and see that it doesn't take alot of money to look beautiful and stay up to date with fashion. I go around to thrift stores and show them how to take a few key items and mix them up and make lots of outfits. It evolved out of my need to find something that was a kind of stress reliever for me, something that I could do, that required no thought, no struggle, no mental anguish, something I would truly love doing. And putting things together, textures and colors, shoes and accessories has been a talent of mine for as long as I can remember, so wah-la, whatasoutherngirlwants.com was born. The picture above, is me in the room at Salvation army, that entire ourfit was 11.00. Encluding the Bass penny loafers! So as I was pulling clothes from the racks of Salvation Army I was reminded of a dark and sad day in my own life.  Kenny and I had met for lunch like we did everyday, it was our only alone time. With 4 kids, a business and pastoring, there was not much alone time. Well, this particular day, lunch was a quiet one, I think we both were just sick of talking about the mess our life had become, and tired of being cheerleaders for each other, some days you just can't muster up the strength to do it. I will be honest, I was on the verge of losing my faith, I had prayed and prayed and prayed until I felt I could pray no more. I had started fasting again, because anger and bitterness had begun to build and I knew if I didn't put a stop to it, it would destroy what was left of our family. I honestly didn't even want to go that day. We made small talk and then I left. Little did Kenny know Coleman had put his shoes on that morning and they didn't fit. My blood vessels in my head began pounding and I could feel heat began at my feet and rise to the top of my head, because I knew we didn't have the money to buy him anymore. We were barely paying our electric bill. I left Kenny,  drove to a near by parking lot and parked, I couldn't bear to go home and just sit, and look at the home I knew I would soon be losing.  I began talking to God, God we have clothed and bought shoes for many a children, and I can't even buy my own child a pair of shoes. Why is this happening, why can't I hear you, why won't you move on our behalf? Why have you abandoned my family? We have devoted our lives to you, why are you silent? I laid my head on the steering wheel and began to weep. I could feel the warm sunshine coming in and about that time the most beautiful healthy, fat mockingbird landed on the mirror of my Denali and turned and looked me straight in the eyes, well in his mouth was a piece of bark and it was dripping with rich golden looking sap, at that moment I felt an impression in my soul, I will met ALL your needs, as they arise, day to day. I am your source. The words of Jesus resonated in my heart, ...the birds of the air don't store up, I feed them,  how much more do I love you and Coleman than that fat bird. Trust me for today, for tomorrow will bring it's own worries. That bird must have sat and stared at me for 60 seconds. Then he dropped the lil piece of bark and flew off. I sat there dumbfounded, too scared and shocked to move. I kept that piece of bark for over a year, before I put it away in a box and, so, from that moment I made a commitment to live by the Lord's prayer, God in heaven holy is Your name, Your kingdom live in my heart, Your will be done in my life, meet my need for today. And never allow MY own self pity to keep ME from seeing others in need.  I felt another whisper, you might say, to go into the store that I was parked at and look in the shoe department. I thought well, the day certainly can't get any weirder. So I went in the store, and would believe, the exact shoes Cole wanted, the 125.00 shocks, which was NO way he was getting, had been returned, because they been worn and were marked 20.00. I had a twenty I had found in an old purse, so that very day I bought Coleman a pair of the exact sneakers he wanted! I guess God proved His point. From that moment I have tried to always keep the window from becoming a mirror, and the way I have always done that is to be generous with my childrens' clothing and shoes (that is, in giving them to others when I see a need). It seems it always comes back 2 fold. Even backpacks and gadgets, they have never lacked for, God has always provided. Funny story, one of Kenny past girlfriends, from Bible college actually sent the kids backpacks this past year! True story! But the window must always stay open, we must never look out and only see ourselves looking back, that is when we are in serious trouble. Those shoes started that journey for me, faith is no irresponsible shot in the dark, it is a responsible trust in God, Who knows the desires (and pains) of our heart. He knew Cole needed shoes, and I needed an act of kindness from Him to keep going one more day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

God You Saw This Coming, And I Want To Honor You In This Walk.

That statement hit me like a ton of bricks, God nothing catches you off guard, you are All Knowing, All Sovereign, You are God. So if nothing "takes" YOU by surprise and my life is not just spinning in the universe with no rhythm or rhyme, I chose this day, as I walk this journey, to honor You. To honor the mission you have called me to do. I think we all say we believe in God, and God controls everything, and He is sovereign, but, I think the real question is, what kind of  God do we - do I- believe in? God put man on earth, from the beginning of time, a free-will creature, man chose to disobey God.  Many of the things we blame on God in our lives, should be blamed on man's disobedience. I hear people say everyday on facebook, "I have lost faith in God", I want to say "I don't think so," I think the thing to consider is, have we lived in such a way that God has lost faith in us? We say God is sovereign and all knowing when our lives are full of blessing and flowing with money, and the journey is easy, yet let a bump come and either God has abandoned us, or He has brought wrath "upon our heads". How do I bring honor to Him when I have  plenty or when I have none? I know in my own life, honor is a word I have tried to stay true to. I think back to the moment I decided to stay true to the person I am, Angela Marie, the one who likes to dress up everyday, regardless of whether I am staying home or going to an appointment. Something I received ridicule most of my life for, but I have honored, stayed true to who I am. I might have an appointment with a city official or with a state agency, you will get the same Angie, every time, dressed exactly the same way! No pretense, no putting on, no dressing one way for one appointment and different for another. My mantra is never leave the house unless you look like you're going somewhere! That is me, who I am. That was me when I had plenty, and that is me when I have little. I remember the night it hit me how bad things had really gotten, it had gotten to be such a burden to count out change daily to pay for the children's lunches, and a dear friend, the social worker I had met at the children's school, said Angie, you really need to get the kids on school lunches, at least for the rest of the year. I was heart broke to even consider such a thing. For one, to burden my country, which I love, and to think of possibly one of my children being humiliated made me feel physically sick. She made me swear, well, I promised, that I would go in the next day to sign the children up. As I drove home, taking in the majesty of the mountains, the crispness of the air, dreading the next morning, on this particular day Bella had speech and Cole had tutoring so it was just Wyatt and I, and as we were driving, my then almost 12 year old son, who is soooo far beyond his years, staring out the window said, "Mom, this is a great country, isn't it?", I said, yes, Son it is, he said, " a kid's Dad can lose his job and our country will buy that kid his lunch". As the tears began to build in my eyes, I could hardly focus on the road, I could barely speak, I composed my speech and said,  "Yes son, it is, yes son it is". As I went to my closet that night, like I always do, to pick out my clothes for the next day, I decided on my linen pants and lil sun top, I was feeling so pretty!! As I laid them out, my knees went weak, what am I thinking, this is not a lunch date with girlfriends, I am applying for free lunches for my children. The anger began to build, my throat tightened, why didn't Kenny fight harder, save our life, save our business. I have no home, no vehicle, I have had a car since I was 15, I have nothing.  My husband is 600 miles from me, I am all alone, I will face this all alone. God you have to fix this, resolve this in me. As I laid down, pulled my knees to my chested, I prayed for God to open the earth and swallow me, things had just gotten to bad. Well, the next morning I get there, the lady I was suppose to meet was out sick. So I get seated in none other than the supervisor's office. So I lay our Corporate tax returns from last year on her desk ~~~ and I begin... I tell her my story! I tell her I certainly don't "look" like I need help, but, ....about that time tears running down her face she gets up and comes and sits knee to knee. Looking me in the eye, she says, "you will never have to worry about your children as long as they are in my school district." Once again one of those moments shug, when the snot began to run down my face! Integrity, honor, truth, to this day, the lunch staff at the children's school are some of my dearest friends. even with all my beautiful things, and they certainly know my children receive free lunches.  looong way to get to that point, but, as I have walked through this long and difficult journey there were times when I have questioned God myself, but, God knew exactly what was coming and He had equipped me to handle every situation I would face, if I was willing to be true to who He had made me and to keep integrity in my actions at all time. Let me tell you, people see thru fakes and frauds real fast, and I have always extended myself to people and let it be known that  God guides our life, so they are looking, always looking for that fault. It was a good thing they couldn't see my heart, at that point it had alot of healing to do. But, God, and His infinite mercy, reached in and began to soften and use all these situations to minister to other women, and as I have reached out to others, I found my own selfishness and self pity began to diminish, and I saw the beauty of Gods hand in every situation we have gone thru over the past 3 years. So yes, God did see this coming, and I pray I have honored Him, I know I have done my best.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What If Your Blessings Come Thru Raindrops


I sit here at Starbucks wondering how many people around me are living in their own private hell, day to day, crisis to crisis, alone, no one to talk to, no one to share the burden of life with. To my right is an over weight kid probably 25, his laptop in front of him, almost as a sense of security so no one will notice him, he hardly glances up, his screen has been on the main menu the whole time. His face is so burdened. I have to wonder, "Why is he here?", on a Monday sitting by himself, staring at a computer screen, no one to meet. What has happened to him, as I ponder this question I see a wedding band, is he married, has he lost his job, does his wife know? I see him in my mind standing spinning in the same spot not knowing which way to go, just lost. All assumptions, but if you read the paper or watch the news, the odds are, he fits the criteria. I knew a dear lady who didn't know her husband had lost his job until he had committed suicide. He was just 30 days from getting his old job back. A lady to my left in her 50s reading a book,  look of bitterness on her face, like life has zapped her soul, she has no look of life in her at all. She looks empty. Another couple, 2 ladies, middle class, chatting, the look of fraud, deceit, yet insecurity... what is so sad is you know they are what they consider "friends", as best they know how.   But, truth be known,  no true sincerity is there.  Out of fear or insecurity or whatever, they have truly not become intimate friends. They have not really let their guard down with each other. They are still "putting" on for the other one. They have missed the true intimacy you get from having a true Friend, a confidant, a soul mate.  I had just spent the morning having coffee with my cousin, and felt so down when I got here and by the time we were done and I had shared my heart with her, I felt a sense of connection, a sense of belonging to another human, a joining of our hearts for each others burdens. Isn't that what Jesus said, simply to join with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Simply to "Join" yourself with people.  Never find yourself in a place when you lose empathy or the ability to see someones Else's needs over your own.  I knew I had a true friend in my cousin, someone I could be my true self with, expose myself completely, without fear of rejection. She knows my faults and regardless of those faults, loves me anyway.  Isn't that unconditional love?   A valued asset in today's times. Something money, or a degree, or an address in an affluent neighborhood couldn't afford me. This can be a big lonely world if you have no one to share your daily life with. When we still lived in Tallahassee, to be closer to us, my Mom rented a lil 800 sq ft box. They would split their time between south Ga and North Carolina. Well, when I say box I mean lil box. This lil home had been occupied by my Aunts Father in-law and  it was more like a gentleman's hunting camp than a home! The carpet was from 1970's and the kitchen was dreadful! As we started to see "things" go, we would pack the Denali up every weekend and head to south Georgia and spend the weekend in that lil "cabin" (it came to be called so fondly). That point in our lives the business and pastoring has occupied such a huge part of Kenny's time those weekends allowed us to connect and regroup and prepare us, as best we could, for what lay ahead of us. We would sit and watch the kids build forts, Mom and Bella had a garden, I even hung our clothes to dry on a clothesline.  Something very therapeutic about being outside, seeing the cows graze, the garden to my left and one by one taking the care to hang my families clothes in the warm sunshine. I have to think of my Granny and the stories of her hanging her sheets to line dry,  be ready to pop with another one(that is a baby), as she would say, and have a baby in the basket next to the clothes she was hanging out, whistling and singing. I am certain my Granny wasn't disconnected, or lost, life or circumstances had not separated her from the true source of her joy or her strength, which was knowing, even thru hard times, or brokenness, and let me tell you, my Granny had many, an alcoholic husband, loss of a child, work the fields by day, tend to her lil ones by night, yet as she worked for her family, she would sing hymns and praise, no there was no disconnect in her life, she was connected, connected to a source higher than all those things. She would say she owed it ALL, all to Him, all to Jesus. I must say I mean my Granddaddy no disrespect, I loved him dearly, he grew up very hard, and had his own demons to battle, which displayed itself thru the bottle. He and I shared the same likes for the same types of food, he would have Granny fix my favorites, greens and fried fish and holler for me to come over. He bought me my first tricycle. We lived next door and Mom would practically have to chain the door to keep me from him, he would get to drinking and want me to come to him and sing, and I loved every minute of it. We had a special relationship. Back to the cabin,  Mom and I cleaned and scrubbed, tended to that garden, kept fresh flowers throughout that lil cabin, and made it warm, made some of the best memories we have to this day. We had the least amount of money we had ever had, yet ,we had the best bonfires and parties, the kids remember to date, because we used our imagination, we played games, told stories,  had true intimacy as a family.  And the kids absolutely loved it! It's funny how God provided, we ate like kings!!! We spent afternoons, walking and talking, just like hanging my clothes to dry in the sunshine,  it was therapy for my soul.  We had, because of 'life,' become disconnected and now "life" had made us reconnect again.  Isn't that the beauty of God, He always gives us exactly what we need.  What if God's blessings come thru raindrops, our healings come thru tears, just what "if" the trails of our life are His mercies in disguise. I instantly broke into tears when I heard this song, because I knew it was meant for me. I was talking to a friend I had just met and she was telling me she had been transferred with her job and once she got here, the job didn't work out and how lost and disconnected she felt. As she spoke of her job, and how she had always had a job, and had always taken care of herself, I had a real sense she had grown up hard. She Had to depend on herself, "I", and now she was at a place in her life, much older, now displaced and her trust had to shifted from "I" to Him, where true security lies for any of us.  And let me tell you I completely understand her dilemma.  As I sit writing this post it's odd that I would be behind this screen, so not like the roll I'd had for 24 years of our marriage. So odd for me period, you see I had always been extremely insecure about academics, I went to college at a very young age, and I was not received too warmly by my fellow classmates.  They used bullying and sarcasm to demean me and make me feel dumb and less smart than them. I was always on the outside, never really accepted.  I was taught to be gracious, accommodating, not mean spirited, not be braggadocious, so what I did was withdraw, not exercise the gifts God had given me, which are not too many, but, what I am best at is loving people and sharing myself with them. But, it created doubt, doubt even in that serving part of me, something I knew God had instilled in me at a very early age. So, I certainly  never saw myself in this light, behind this computer or behind a podium, speaking to women, I had always been in the background with Kenny in the forefront.  And I was completely fulfilled with that.  I also was fulfilled being home raising my children, but, God had other plans.  How do you start something at 45 years old, basically starting over.  It just makes no logical sense.  Just a few years back, 2008, Kenny was underwritten (completely paid for) to start a television program out of Tallahassee, and in a city of almost 50,000 college kids between two universities and a local college, and a surrounding area of 250,000 people, it seemed life would go differently. Then, through a very odd and unsolicited turn of events, the program was taken to Knoxville, Tn., the heart of the University of Tennessee, so you can understand that I thought our lives were headed in a MUCH different direction. My role was set, and I loved being in it, little did I know!!! Kenny and I were talking yesterday and timing is everything, seasons in our life are everything. One thing about seasons is.....they begin, but they also end.  I couldn't have a season of harvest, which is sharing my life with other women without the season of hurt and devastation.  Our family could not have the impact it has had without the trails we have gone thru.   Would I have rather had a big church and have been the pastor's wife on the front row every Sunday, gone about my business saving the world and tragedy never having touched us? Heck yeah, but, that's not MY life, and I wouldn't want anyone Else's life but my own.  I have found true connection in my life, Emma has found true connection in her life, by sharing her hard earned monies with her siblings, something called sacrifice, most 22 year olds know nothing about, the little ones have found true connection by earning money, yet spending it on each other, something we could never have taught them with our financial situation. Kenny and I have found true connection, on a level that is far greater than a home or a boat or tennis bracelet. You know Life has forced us into this tight situation, and I have come to believe, come to accept, even embrace God has even allowed it, He is Sovereign , Omnipotent, all knowing, He controls our destiny,  and even though forced, we as a family go willing because we trust  the One true connection in our life, the most important one is our connection to Him.