Let’s Talk!

Posted: May 14, 2015 in Uncategorized
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I am thankful that God’s grace is extended to bigotry and hypocrisy because over the years I’ve been a friend to both. The human experience is not stagnant; it is influenced by our experiences, knowledge, and by a Creator that relentlessly pursues us through all the great times but particularly in our blind spots and valleys. I’m on that journey. My hope is that you will read this blog through the lens of mercy. I share my thoughts, not to spark additional diversity to controversial subjects, but to find a place of connection beyond my own experience. I don’t see the point of writing if it doesn’t bring engagement to hearts and minds—a shared human experience—one that connects my dot to yours. I am committed to sharing my thoughts without pointing the shameful finger of blame to another person or group. Although I may believe that there are things that should shift in our society, culture, religious settings, etc., at the end of the day the change I want to see must start with me. I can’t wait to get started and hear your thoughts!!

Stayed tuned for upcoming post: Confessions of a Good Girl 

***This blog is a work in progress! I’ll do better when I know better! Thank you for your help and  patience as I learn my way around. AB***

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Submitting to Jesus

Posted: April 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

This is from one of my Celebrate Recovery lessons. It’s just a little bit of my testimony

Describe the experience of asking Jesus Christ into your life. 

My parents took me to church by the time I was two weeks old. There was never a day before or after I was born that I was not told (or sung to) about Jesus’ love for me for which I am forever grateful. When I was eleven years old, I became aware of my need to invite Jesus as my Lord and Savior into my life. I wanted to wait to share the news during a Vacation Bible School since it was primarily with other children and in a smaller setting but that was months away, and I felt like I might explode from the excitement of what the Lord was already doing inside me. During a revival at Holly Grove Baptist Church, I anxiously waited until the 3rd verse of Just As I Am to release my grip on the pew in front of me and walk to the front of the auditorium. I whispered to Brother Jimmy Arms that I wanted to take Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It was a wonderful night! Since we didn’t have a baptismal pool and my parents wanted to invite friends and family for a special celebration, I was baptized two weeks later at Maney Avenue Baptist Church. I will never forget the beautiful experience of being filled with intense joy and laughter as I came up out of the water and even for hours afterwards. The next few months were memorable. Even as young as I was, I could see myself changing. I was drawn into scripture and biblical teachings. I remember hearing the preacher and realizing he had been up there every week talking, but I had never really listened to much he said. I became a hungry student. I also remember going to school and sharing about Jesus with my friends. I still can hear myself telling a little friend, “even if you are all alone on a mountain, He is there.” I also remember one of my friends telling me, “I can’t wait to go to heaven and meet this Jesus.”

We were so young and innocent and full of child-like faith. It was a sweet, sweet time.

My mind has changed to see ALL people through His love.

The following statistics regarding LGB persons are not okay.

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/facts-about-suicide

Because of bullying, rejection, and shame many have chosen to leave this world.

Who would chose to die rather than live?

Someone who has lost all hope.

This has to end.

#mysilencehasended

I’ve been going to Celebrate Recovery since December to deal with some addictions and hang-ups. One of the areas that causes me trouble is uncontrollable worry over health issues. Because of a medical test today, my anxiety peaked last night.

This morning I woke up and said to the Lord, “I didn’t worry as much last night … does that work?” I’m not even sure where I was going with that question. I think I wanted Him to say, “yay! for progress” and maybe give me a little pat on the back. To my surprise … this is what I “heard” …

“Oh, silly girl! Do you think I need you to quit worrying for me? It’s never been about me. It’s always been for you! Your body was not designed to worry. Every cell inside you was made for life. Worry suppresses this life. If you are trying to quit worrying for me, then stop! I love you whether you worry or not. If you want to stop worrying, do it because of you.”

Our bodies are not designed for worry! We are designed from the One who sustains all life. Worry is counter to His image in us. We carry His DNA. No wonder worry makes me sick! It would be like me trying to live on Mars when my body was clearly designed for Earth.

Shew. I had a lot to think about today.

“Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up.” Proverbs 12:25

🙂

Daddy did not recognize me as his daughter the last year of his life. Mom said he thought I was one of his cousins. Although I spent many hours grieving the loss of my dad’s memory of me, I was reminded of the deep friendships that I have with my cousins…so I made a decision to embrace him…as a cousin! I spent more time with Daddy the last year of his life than I ever remember spending with him growing up. Dementia is a thief, but the Lord sent me a gift as I walked this new path with Daddy. We laughed and joked and had the silliest times…just like cousins would! I made pictures of him every time we were together. We had so much fun! Doctors said his dementia was reversible, so in many ways it felt like I was “killing time” until the normal returned. But…we didn’t get to see if the “normal” would return because Daddy died suddenly on November 23. I’m heartbroken to lose my dad who had become a dear friend. I’m so grateful that I spent so much time with him over the last year. It is a gift that I will cherish forever. I will always be his daughter, but I’ll never forget the year we spent as cousins.

This picture makes me melt.

This picture makes me melt. I wish I had more pictures of us but I was usually the one taking pictures. I should have made some selfies. He would have thought I was crazy!! 🙂

The last few weeks after Daddy died I “heard” the phrase “these things happen” more than a thousand times. These were not words from comforting friends and family but from a source inside me. Because the wall of grief kept me from connecting feelings to memories,  I initially didn’t think too much about it …

…then I remembered a time when I was seven years old…

***

Since I grew up on a dairy farm with the normal scattering of mice, it was common to have several barn cats. They just went with the territory. There was never a scarcity of cats. Occasionally we would name one of the cats and it would move from the barn to the house. On a farm, loving animals came with great risk to the heart and this time was no exception. Trying to find a warm spot on a cool day, one of the house cats climbed under the hood of the car to snuggle beside the recently warmed engine. There can not be many worse sounds that starting a car with a cat in the engine. Unfortunately the cat’s back legs were broken, and there was no hope for survival. Even though I had not cared for this cat very long it was traumatic to lose any animal in this fashion.

It was later that evening when Daddy came home from the barn. I was sitting by the window blinking back tears. Daddy never gave much advice. He usually let mama take care of that. But that night was different. He quietly sat beside me for a few seconds. Hot crocodile-sized tears ran down my face. Daddy sighed, tousled my hair, and grinned just a bit. “You know, these things happen…” Although it was common for us to lose animals on the farm, he must have sensed this wasn’t one of those times to rush the healing.  He added… “it doesn’t make it any easier, does it?”

And that was that.

The only conversation that daddy and I had about death.

***

The last eight weeks have convinced me the beautiful moment that Daddy and I shared was not an accident, but it was the Lord lavishing love upon me. Scripture says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Daddy was only sixty seven. He received a clean bill of heart health the day before he died. His death doesn’t make sense to me …no more than a poor kitty cat unsuspectingly warming by the engine of the car. I hope that doesn’t sound frivolous; it is not my intention. My dad’s death is sad, but this story is not. What I am telling you is a sweet gift Daddy has left me … teaching me to affirm the pain of losing someone as I accept the reality of the earthly situation. I don’t think Daddy knew the weight his words would one day carry for me. He certainly didn’t know I would write it down in a blog. Everyday I am more humbled at the omniscience of the Lord. It moves beyond my human thoughts and imagination. Daddy’s words comfort me; however, the Lord’s ability to weave them together through time and space brings me the most amazing peace.

***

How many more times will I “hear” Daddy say…

1890343_10102194940034755_5636573230916588127_o

Daddy with my niece, Lucy.

“you know, these things happen …it doesn’t make it any easier, does it?”

***

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

We were in the waiting room of the hospital for three hours after my dad died. I don’t remember talking…just sitting, staring, and thinking. I’m not sure what is “normal” to think about when you lose a loved one suddenly, but I had a wide range of feelings, although few outward emotions. I remember thinking…Daddy’s in heaven. Panic! I couldn’t remember anything about heaven except that it didn’t feel like it was here with me and my family. Fear gripped me. I wasn’t scared that he wasn’t experiencing heaven; I was sure of that. I felt fear because I knew how he disliked traveling to new places. Knowing that daddy had left this world and traveled somewhere new, momentarily, squeezed my already broken heart until it ached.

Suddenly I was a little girl again:

Me: I want to go to the ocean.

Daddy: I don’t! It’s just a bunch of sand and water.

Me: I’ll never get to the see the ocean.

Daddy: Maybe, but look around…

The part of my brain that likes to keep me on the straight and narrow, “the critic”, was laying out all the evidence … daddy hated going to new places, he’s had to travel somewhere new unexpectedly, daddy must be frightened. The “critic” was scaring the audience inside me. I felt the blood drain from my face. My legs were like jello. Thankfully, “the critic” is no match for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord came upon me swiftly and powerfully and revealed to me something about my dad that in thirty-five years, I had never understood.

I didn’t hear the Lord speak in an audible voice, but this was what I “heard”…

Ever since your dad was a little boy he was completely content with where he lived. He looked at his community with its rich farm land, country roads, and beautiful scenery as his “heaven” on earth. He never wanted for more because he clearly loved what he had been given. It wasn’t that he didn’t want you to see the ocean or that he didn’t appreciate all that was created. He did. He just felt he had all he needed.

And, he’s perfectly content with where he is now.

I’m so grateful for how the Lord loved me through that tender and scary moment, and I’m still a little in awe over His care and concern for me. But that’s our Creator…loving, merciful, and full of grace.

***

After the funeral my husband and I left for the mountains for a couple of days. Before I left I grabbed some books for the drive. One of them was called Finding Peace by Charles Stanley. I’ve never read a book by Dr. Stanley, but he is one of my parent’s favorite authors. Because I wanted to feel close to Daddy, I brought the book and read it as if Daddy were reading it to me. I wanted to remember what Daddy found important. What would he tell me right now? Reading that book helped me say hello to the next bump (or mountain) in the road. Missing daddy.

***

I find all of these events a little odd but feel certain that the Lord led me to the words by Dr. Stanley to remind me of Daddy’s purpose in my life which was not to show me the ocean. As my friend John King said, “it was to introduce me to the Maker of all oceans.” I read the quote below from Dr. Stanley as if my daddy is speaking to me. It helps me breathe.

You are connected in your spirit to the One who has all answers, all solutions, all provision, all blessings.

So now I look around at Daddy’s community with the deepest honor and respect. We greeted eight hundred people at his visitation. These are the people God gave him to love and who loved him. The beauty of living a life of contentment was a gift from my Dad that I was able to unwrap just moments after he died. Daddy didn’t take me to the ocean, but he took me to the understanding of this … “Angela, meet God. He is everything you need.”

***

My dad lived wisdom. He didn’t lecture. He just lived what he knew to be true.

He’s left a priceless inheritance for his friends and family. 🙂