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In Each Day a New Cup, I referred to a conversation I had with a fellow mom at the club a few days ago.  Going through a divorce, she commented that she is hopeful, because of people like me, who have blazed the trail before her. I thought a lot about our conversation and her perception of how things have evolved for me, and I want to share some things in my life that made the difference of where I am, versus where I could be.

Here are my Five Top Things that I believe will get you from being the trail on which you’re trampled to being the one leading the trail:  In theory, they’re not hard. But they take resolution. They’re behavior and attitudes that can kill us if we don’t pursue them with intention in our most desperate days.

1. Get out of bed.

That’s not to say we don’t all deserve a day to rest.  But the simple act of removing one’s self from the seemingly safe respite of a bed can be an act of God when there’s so much we feel we’re not equipped to face.  I remember a day that seemed even an act of God wasn’t enough for me.  My children, then 10 and 12, got themselves up, fed, and off to school without the nurturing routine in which they’d been accustom.  As I think about that moment, I recall the despondency that prevented me from doing my mom job. Sure, they survived. But that morning is part of their story, too.  A page I wish I could have avoided.  They were hurting, and this mom let them.  I don’t raise my kids to “survive.”  I raise them in the hopes that they will thrive.  There was no thriving that day.

It was one day, fortunately.  The regret I had when I considered the direction my life would take if I let those days accrue was more than I could stand. It didn’t happen again.  That’s not to say that getting out of bed was easy. It was hard. But getting out of bed was worth it.

2. When the phone or the doorbell rings, answer it, no matter what.

It’s hard to believe that life goes on when ours has seemingly stopped.  I recall feeling like the sun was mocking me as it shined high and bright on a summer day. How can it be, while I sobbed in my car on my way to a commitment I didn’t want to keep?  Contradictions to my state of being were all around me. The world did not care.  That reality is harsh and good.  If the world accommodated my emotions, the sun didn’t shine, if strangers shared my same agony, the potential for me to remain in that same state would be great.

On the other side of your door is a boy scout who’s fundraising for his annual fee, and a mother who’s doing her best to do her part to contribute. Everywhere we go we’re engaging with people who need us as much as you need them.  In your crisis, your home can be a sanctuary or a prison.  Create the sanctuary, where you don’t turn others away, but embrace them as Jesus’ hands and feet. If they aren’t, you will know, and will gain wisdom in the effort.

Going through a crisis brings out the best in people. It also brings out other things in people that can be hard to sift through. You will discover who is calling to gather information. Those calls, you can avoid, once you identify their objective. That can change your friendships if you’re not able to entertain those people.  But it’s okay. You’ll discover quickly the people who are a support, not just a cheerleader.

On the day that I couldn’t get out of bed a friend with whom I’d regularly gone to bible study for a couple of years called. I’d forgotten that we were to ride together that day.  Everything in me didn’t want to pick up that phone. Ring, Ring, Ring.  How would I explain the inadequacy of the my morning?  I don’t recall my exact words when I picked up, but she skipped bible study and came to help. She’d assumed I’d been having a hard time, this day she lived it with me.  There were many times it seemed crazy that I would answer the door.  I wasn’t fit to be a friend.  But I remember vividly those moments when a friend or a good acquaintance knocked on the door.  It might be a bible study partner, or a mom with whom I’d volunteered side by side over the years, arriving when I needed that person, in that moment.

3. When someone asks if they can help, say YES.

It seems common practice to answer a request for help with something close to a “No, it will be fine.”  Is “fine” what we want? If we want to move beyond “fine,” be bold in your answer, and honor your friend’s effort.

Try something like this: “Yes, that would be awesome.”  The word “awesome” dates me. I know. I over use that word.  Dig to find out what type of offer they’re making.  Try, “What would you like to do?” or “Would you mind picking up Esmerelda from dance this week? She goes two times to Dancing with the Stars dance studio.”

One of my favorite gifts was cleaned and cut vegetables. In a zombie state, I remember throwing a meal together at the last minute.  Noodles and parmesan cheese (a long time toddler favorite, but at 10 and 12 my kids had graduated to something more), bagels and cream cheese, cereal, spaghetti, potatoes. Carbs, carbs, carbs.  Receiving the nutritious part of the meal relieved me of the guilt that I wasn’t providing the nutrition my kids needed.  And, they weren’t subject to watching me stand over carrots as I peeled them with tears running down my face, imagining the inevitable, that the very kitchen I prepared in, would be someone else’s later.

So many things go undone as a single person without a family to help.  Unlike wisdom teeth being pulled or an ACL tear, a divorce and change in the family as you knew it, a change in your forever plans, is a perpetual state of loss.  If you remain a single parent, wholeness doesn’t come in a few weeks or months. Take the help when it’s offered, because when the newness of the crisis wears off, you will be in a position to ask (which is hard) because the offers will stop.

4. Read the Psalms.

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Imagine reading this in a time of despair.  God’s word, and in particular, the Psalms was the water that quenched my aching thirst.  I had a chair in my family room where I sat, as soon as the kids were off to school.  I wanted to remain there all day long. I was desperate for the healing words to soothe me, and I hungered for them to stop the hurt.  I wanted to live in the pages of God’s word.  I didn’t want to face the world as it stood before me.  Grief was my companion, but God was my friend, and I can’t imagine living without his wisdom, compassion, and hope. I carried his words with me with every errand and every commitment I couldn’t escape.

I purchased a pretty journal where still today I record my favorite verses.

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Treasures are in this book.

When I can’t remember where to find a particular verse, I go to my book, where I treasure the verse like a found precious object.

I received books that gave me insight and perspective. I loved those books, but my favorite one is called A Grace Disguised. It’s a story of huge loss through a car tragedy. The author is able to communicate so that someone going through loss in divorce can also find restoration.

There’s no question my faith grew stronger as a result of my divorce. As much as I’ve mourned the loss of a complete family, I wouldn’t give anything in exchange for the relationship I have with God today.

5.  It’s okay to medicate.

This was hard for me. My same friend who arrived on the morning I didn’t get out of bed, urged me to consider taking medication.  I recall one friend telling me over the phone that maybe I should consider medication, but somehow in that moment, the suggestion seemed more like I was over reacting about my loss, almost as if I should accept the broken vows and the betrayal of so many things.  On this particular morning, my friend offered that I should talk to a doctor and that it would be something to get me through the worst of it.  I recall not having the energy to navigate the appointment (I was using a teaching hospital and didn’t have a steady doctor at the time). She made the appointment for me, and we drove together a few days later. The diagnosis was “situational depression.” I could live with that.  I got the prescription filled, but for a couple of months it remained unopened in my medicine cabinet. I recall the day I recognized the value in taking it.  I wish I hadn’t taken so long.  I took the medication for about a year, and it was the right thing to do. It didn’t alter my grief, or my personality.  But it altered my perspective enough to manage things. I remember getting pneumonia during that time and running out of the medication. Getting my prescription refilled was problematic.  Abruptly discontinuing the medication was lethal and I had a couple of very hard days that I know scared a couple of friends (myself included).  Be cautious of discontinuing those drugs without the care of a physician.  A couple of months later a doctor helped wean me off without incident.

When I think of “Blazing the Trail,” I think of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.  I recall my former mother-in-law giving me advice in the beginning and telling me to just not “give a damn” and be like Scarlett O’Hara.  I remember thinking, as wonderful as Scarlett is, I always wished I could be like Melanie Hamilton.  She was angelic, full of strength and grace. I aspired to be more like her, but have missed that mark in so many ways.

I believe I wasn’t intended to be like Scarlett O’Hara or Melanie. I was intended to be myself, to work through my loss with God at the center. He instructed me, and I did my best to listen. Five things that you can do. The world is full of people who haven’t been able to.  When you see a child who has lost his way, or a man or woman on a street asking for money, chances are big that there was a parent who experienced a loss they couldn’t manage.

I’m grateful that I’m here, where I am, living this life. I can share Christmas decorations, celebrate victories and frustrations with my pooches, as well job searches, house moves, and basically the hard that happens at the same time as the wonderful.

There’s really been no “blazing.” It’s okay if it looks like that, as long as you know this: It’s one morning, one day, one Psalm, one friend, one YES, and maybe one pill, at a time.

Christmas Mug of the Day!

Christmas Mug of the Day!

The great thing about these mugs is that I recall many of them.  Who gave them to me, the time of my life, etc.

My blog of December 3rd ended with a hope that I’d be getting up at 5 (or 5:30) to work out.  Lest you think I’m a rockstar, let me come clean. I’m not. This week has been a bad week for early workouts. I’ve stayed up later than I want to, and unless I can get 7 hours of sleep, the lead on my eyes when that alarm goes off is heavier than any effort I can muster.

That morning I made it to our gym at 8:00, which I truly hate. It messes up my day. I see people with whom I enjoy talking and my 1 hour workout becomes a 2 hour workout, by the time I get myself home and productive, that is.  On this particular day, I faced even more distractions: The Holiday Showcase of local artists.  Ugh! Ugh, not because I hate it, but because I love it!  I found three items I decided I couldn’t live without.  Once I found them, I avoided other areas of the club so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend more money or time.

That experience reminded me of why I love to get my workout in early, when there are fewer friends, and those who are there in the wee hours are there because they feel the way I do: Get in, get out, and they’re not yet awake, so chatter is at a minimum.

However, just as I said in my December 3rd post, nothing is wasted.

I ran into a local mom with whom I’ve connected more in the last year.  She’s going through a divorce, and we’ve had a couple of brief heartfelt conversations.  This morning she made a comment that most likely meant nothing to her, but meant a lot to me.  She said that people like me, who have blazed the trail before her, have given her hope.  Blazed the Trail Before Her.  I worked hard to focus on her words from that point on, but my mind wondered about the hope I was giving, and the perception I’d created, at least in her mind.

I would never consider that I’ve blazed any trails.  In fact, the first year I was the trail, feeling like a long dirt road, on which I was trampled.  After five years, the trail has improved, but it’s been a long process. Three homes in five years does not emote a sense of victory or peace.  Yet, a different perspective would tell me that third home in the series is sign of success.  I recognize some things that have kept me moving, so slowly possibly, that to some it might seem like a transformation, kind of like that child that grows up over night, but we know that it was eighteen years of hard labor.

In my next blog I’m going to share with you some things that I believe got me to this point. Above all else, it’s been God. A father who walks with me daily, who loves me when I cry, scream, and want to give up.  A father who shows me the joy in the my loss, and helps me scale my mountains. 2nd Samuel 22: 33-37 says:

33 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
34 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 You make your saving help my shield;
    your help has made me great.
37 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

I’ve deviated from my decorating. In time I hope my blog will have different categories that will allow for the lighthearted as well as a sincere effort to talk life. For now, one page shares it all, so enjoy a few glimpses of the lighthearted: Christmas Decorations!

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I get to go to a party tonight. More lighthearted. Dressing up. Yea!  I’m wearing a favorite dress I’ve had for twenty years that’s probably been worn less than five times.  Somehow it still fits. I’ve purchased a great looking pair of pumps to go with it.  I pray my feet tolerate them.  I hope your day finds you experiencing something that brings out the you, you were designed to be.  For me on this day, it’s enjoying the company of people in the atmosphere of twinkles, good food, and some bubbly.

Joni

The new doggie set up looks good to me. Now, I have to convince them of why it’s more appealing to be in a cold garage than inside a warm house. Hopefully the appeal will be that their kennel, doggie bed, food, water, access to the outside whenever they choose (no waiting for their human to open the door for them), and constant music (I purchased an old radio at an estate sale) will entice them. So far, they’re not convinced. But I saw glimmers of hope that they will adjust and I will no longer resent the dirt they drag in every day, or be anxious when working away from home.

They'll get used to this, won't they?

They’ll get used to this, won’t they?

Even if they don’t appreciate this, I do. This is the Taj Mahal compared to a couple of weeks ago:

That's the same wall the doggie door was built into. My joy that this job is finished is like a snow day after Christmas vacation. WooHoo!

That’s the same wall the doggie door was built into. My joy that this job is finished is like a snow day after Christmas vacation. WooHoo!

I love wearing white vests in the winter.  But, I discovered a long time ago that white vests on a person who wears make up is no longer a white vest after a couple of hours. I don’t even wear that much make up!

It's embarrassing! But I can't be the only one whose face transfers on to one's clothes.

It’s embarrassing! But I can’t be the only one whose face transfers on to one’s clothes.

It’s a pain to wash that white vest after every wearing, so I decided to try Soft Scrub. It whitens my sink so I put some on a damp rag and it whitened my vest! I took a photo, but it’s not showing up on my phone, so no photo of that. But trust me. It worked. One word of caution… wipe it off better than i did before wearing the vest. Bradley got in the car and said, “Why does the car smell like bleach?” I love the smell of bleach, and swimming pools. So, if I did notice the smell, I enjoyed it. Next time I’ll be more mindful of that, though.

I’m pretty much done with Christmas decorating. The tree isn’t trimmed, but that’s okay. It’s up, it’s green, and smells wonderful. I’ll post more photos of the decorations later.  It feels good to be this far. I can focus on things like more job resumes, interviews (I do have one next week. Yea!), networking, classes, etc.

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I discovered something I’m missing. Something big. I’m missing a statement piece that proclaims our love for Jesus, the gift that he is. I have an idea that I’ll share with you, if I get it done! But it would replace that piece of art that I think is so beautiful, IN THE FALL! It stays there for now.

It was a productive day, for sure. I also showed the house I’m managing to a couple. More praying. This would be a great family to rent to because they’re a family of six, so the house would be well utilized.  When I was showing the home, and we were looking out from the upstairs bonus room, I got a big surprise.

Me, not really paying attention: "It's such a pretty view from up here" Her: "Ah, is that, that tree, is that in their property, or the other peoples'?" Me: Well, look at that. It appears it's on both properties!"

Me, not really paying attention: “It’s such a pretty view from up here.”
Her: “Ah, is that, that tree, is that in their property, or the other people’s?”
Me: Well, look at that. It appears it’s on both properties!”

It was the weirdest thing. Needless to say, that took some time!

My days are full and I’m certain where I need to be. God’s goodness is evident. While I was showing the house, the potential renter and I talked about job opportunities. No experience is wasted. The woman’s husband and she founded a non profit for disabled people.  It’s called Incight. Their mission is “unlocking the potential of people with disabilities.” The woman and I had a great conversation, I was exposed to a new worthy cause, and it’s a potential opportunity for me to explore!

So, that’s a day. I’m hoping to get out of bed at 5… this morning it was 5:30. 5 is not only early, but in Portland, Oregon these days, 5 is very cold, and windy!  Although… is 5:30 any less so? Brrrrr and good night!

Girls’ Conference at Beaverton Foursquare.

Girls' Conference... I love the sparkly lights!

I really love to volunteer my time and gifts. I don’t know now many gifts I have, but I do have a heart for girls.  I love to pray with them and encourage them.  I’d like to share with them every mistake I’ve made and protect them from making the same. In the last five years, I haven’t been able to volunteer like I’d like.  It’s been a loss with which I’ve had to reconcile. So, when the girls’ youth pastor decided to host a Girls Conference, I immediately wanted to be a part of it.  A PART OF IT… I’m off topic, but check out this photo.  I saw this sign at Home Depot the other day. I had to take a picture of it and send it to my friend. We both like grammar…

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Anyhoo…I’ll be vulnerable here. I wanted to speak at the conference.  I’ve never spoken at anything before, and had no reason to believe I would be given a spot, but the first step in anything is to take the step, so that’s what I did.  It’s kind of who I’ve learned to be, in order to go in the direction of victory.  So, I made that bold request.  I didn’t get the opportunity to speak, but I did dedicate that Friday night and Saturday day and evening to the conference.

It is so much fun to be where God is. Who wouldn’t want that?

The age range was 12 to 25. There were girls from our church, other churches, and no church. There were girls who enthusiastically worshiped God and girls who sat back with cell phone and social media in hand. The worship was with Tiffany Thurston, someone with whom Beaverton Foursquare is very familiar.  The music was soulful and moving .

The guest speaker was a woman named Havilah.  Havilah and her sister (they are twins and minister together) spoke plainly with humor and sincerity to the audience.

Havilah highlighted many issues young people face, but an overriding message for the girls was that we have a CHOICE. Whether it’s a choice about who we spend our time with, our thought patterns, our decisions, we all have a choice. Romans 12:2 says: Do not be conformed to this world, but continuously be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect.”  To be a child of God, we should desire to transform our minds, so that we will know God’s will.

Havilah shared more scripture that supported our ability to choose our life, rather than to accept what is handed us. For girls who face the influences of media every day, or friends who take from us, rather than give to us, or relationships that feel good, but aren’t good, or any number of pressures this generation faces, this message was one worth hearing, and for many, it may have been life changing.

Our girls’ youth pastor is full of energy and excitement. On opening night she danced on stage and lip sang to I’m All About That Bass, by Meghan Trainor, with whom I’m obsessed.  I love her fun 50s touch and unapologetic message.  Before long, most of the crowd was dancing and singing along. Then there was the sweet transition to Tiffany Thurston as she moved us into worship. While Meghan Trainor is great, nothing beat our hearts being lifted to the thrown of Jesus as we sang, Oh How He Loves Us So.

Michelle (our youth pastor) reminded us that we are sisters in Christ. That as sisters we are to support each other and lift each other up. It was a good and necessary reminder. I hear girls all the time throw around words of affection. “I love you!” is expressed often with enthusiasm. Those words are fun to say and to hear. But when rough times fall on us, and the commitment that comes with those words falls short, it’s hurtful when our fellow sisters don’t come through. Sitting next to us at church, walking the halls at school, and even at this conference were people who are hurting. Whether it’s a physical hurt, fighting for their life, or emotional pain caused by any number of things, we don’t have to look far to find a sister who needs us.

It’s easier to look to an organization who needs a volunteer, possibly because it’s a way we can give without a personal investment.  But God’s word says in James 2:14-17:

“What good does it do, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but does not prove it with actions? This kind of faith cannot save him, can it? Suppose a brother or sister does not have any clothes or daily food and one of you tells them, “Go in peace! Stay warm and eat heartily.” If you do not provide for their bodily needs, what good does it do? In the same way, faith by itself, if it does not prove itself with actions, is dead.”

Talking of sisterhood and support and encouragement is easy for us to buy into. We all like the idea of it.  But when it’s hard, do we do the hard thing?  It takes intentional obedience to look at that girl who is sitting alone, walk over, and ask her how she’s doing. We’re girls.  That’s pretty much all it takes! Obey, and see what blessings you receive when you support your sister, even when it’s hard or scary or uncomfortable.

The evening ended with prayers. Tears flowed. First prayers for physical healing, then prayers for broken hearts within broken homes. My own heart hurt for the brokenness that was evident by the look of sadness and pain in the eyes of some of the girls. My tears flowed, not for myself (hallelujah!), but for these kids who are being pulled in so many directions, and who feel so much is out of their control.

And it’s true. So much is out of their control. But this weekend was a time to show them that what is in their control is their relationship with the one and only creator, who gives us power and strength to overcome.  There’s a saying that Attitude is everything. Everything, including our spiritual walk.

1 Corinthians 1:5-8

“For by him you have become rich in every way—in speech and knowledge of every kind, while our testimony about the Messiah has been confirmed among you. Therefore, you don’t lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus the Messiah to be revealed.  He will keep you strong until the end, so that you will be blameless on the Day of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.”

He will keep us strong, if we set our eyes on him.

While my volunteering days are few, this was a lot of bang for my buck, and worth every hour I spent.