Thursday, December 22, 2011

Constantly Amazed

The past week has brought many changes, most of them totally unexpected.  I have found myself to be tumbled, bumbled and confused.

I am fortunate to have many friends in my life and was visiting with one this morning.  We were sharing the various details of our lives and family and right in the middle of it I remembered something that happened in my sleep last night, sort of like a dream, but not.

I was crying in my sleep.  I was mourning and crying out.  And God came to me and comforted me.  He said the past few weeks were just a test and that I had done well.  The test was to see if I would be faithful to trust in Him and to continue to be gracious in spite of every difficulty.  He also told me that He has something for me!

Earlier this morning I was jolted with an idea and felt a great ebb of surety that I was on the right track.  I believe that this is the "something", or one of them, that God has for me.  He gave me new inspiration to follow this new idea up!

God also told me that we all have a part in making our future path.  When we are kind, generous and loving we create a good will that others may not understand; that even our enemies will help us and they won't understand why.  He confirmed that He has called me to be just that:  kind, generous and loving and.....ENCOURAGING!

I am grateful and amazed by this word from God.  I never used to hear His voice but ever since I went through The Genesis Process, I have learned to listen and recognize Him.  I know that I know that I know that it is Him!

And I am constantly amazed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Always, Never, Ever Gang

As I complete 2011 and enter into 2012, I have to say it has been my best year yet.  My life started to level out in August 2010 but I really hit my stride this year.  It feels good to look back and see the changes and the progress.  God has been so good.

It has been nearly seven years since the Terrible Awful.  I have known the whole time that God was with me but I was completely confused on how to move forward.  My actions, attitude, and my sense of values were extremely skewed.  I spent the first four years seeking, searching, trying, messing up, and trying again.  Day after day I felt like I wasn't making any movement forward and that I would ALWAYS feel like a failure.

Always?  If you really think about it not much is for always.  Never and ever aren't usually true either. 

You ALWAYS forget my birthday.
He NEVER could drive well.
I can't EVER do this right.

See what I mean?  Strike these words from your vocabulary.

The Terrible Awful had me down and out.  I was done.  I had lived my life.  I had my chance.  No one would EVER love me now.  I will NEVER be okay.  It will ALWAYS be like this.

Is this you?  Always, Never, Ever?  Wondering out to get out of it?  Where to start?

Nearly seven years have gone by and it was difficult.  Worse than that.  It seemed never-ending.  It felt like I would just skim by a tough spot and something else would hit me and knock me down.  I fussed and fumed and complained about fairness and life.  Why me, I would ask?  And that's when The Always, Never, Ever Gang would begin their work.  They would say things like:

No one will ever love you now.
You will never be okay.
Life will always be like this.

It is at these times we must run back to God.  Run!

Tell your mountains how big your God is instead of telling God how big your mountains are!  Sorta like having a big brother but even better.  Ever get into an argument on the playground and threaten to get your brother?  Tell The Gang about your God!

Watch every, single day for His touch on your life. Be watching for every thing, big or small, that just seem to go right or work out.  Get a couple of good friends with whom you can share your life, the ups and downs, who will help with accountability in life's journey and celebrate the victories.  Ask them to help you see what you cannot.  Changes that will help you move forward.  Journal this stuff. 

I have been journaling and it is a good reminder when I look back and see how far I have traveled.  A framed sign I have says:  "I may not have gone the way I thought I would but I think I have ended up where I am supposed to be."

I have a Maker.  He knows my heart.  My best days are ahead of me.

Recently I was going through the Starbucks drivethru before church on a Sunday morning.  It was a sunny day, my tunes were playing and I was thinking...."God, here I am alone.  Eating this cardboard diet bar.  But I am happier than I have ever been."  And it was true!

So I pulled up to get my tall, nonfat, no whip, extra hot, peppermint mocha and a very handsome man (not a kid either) smiled at me and said, "good morning, beautiful.  Good music!"

As I rolled out of the drivethru I knew that God brought that person into my life for just that moment.  When I am sitting in the car alone with my bar, God sees me.  He isn't too busy to hear my heart cry and He responded with a friendly face with a sweet compliment just to say:  "I know right where you are!" 

He knows me.  He sees me.  He knows my name.

You can have the same simple assurance that I do.  Search for Him.  Seek His ways.  Just do the next RIGHT thing.  Keep walking toward Him.   

If you aren't sure where to begin, I began so simply.  You can do it too! Start with easy stuff. God can speak to your heart in many ways if you are looking.

First, I started out with a daily devotion calendar in my bathroom so as I got ready each morning, I would read that devotion and plant a seed for the day.  So many times it was so fitting my life circumstances.  When it did, I celebrated it, knowing God was watching over me.  As I shared the devotion and its significance in my life with family and friends, it built my faith too!

Another thing I did was signup for an email devotion so that I receive that daily as well.  I also got an app on my phone that provides a different Psalms or Proverb each day.  I got a yearly book of daily devotions, pocketsize, to keep in my purse for those times of stress or strife.  Play uplifting music only for just one week and let me know how much this changes your attitude.  Say goodbye to The Always, Never, Ever Gang!  

Be on the lookout for things to be thankful for and give Him thanks.

You have a Maker.  He knows your heart.  He sees you.  He knows your name.  He knows right where you are.

Dear God, What a difference You have made in my life.  When I looked for You, You were there!  Let my life show others that it doesn't matter what Terrible Awful they are facing.  There is a Hope.  It is You!  You have a plan for each one of us and it is good.  Help us to look for You in everything we do.  Amen. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Character House

Last week I had what I am beginning to call a "Genesis Moment."  The Genesis Process involves a small group working on the deep-seeded feelings that cause us to repeat the same responses to hurtful situations.  The old hurts have created habits and responses that don't work.  It helps us to understand and change those responses and have more successful relationships.  I have grown because of this wonderful counseling and I am noticing more often when I am in a "Genesis Moment."  It is helping me get to the heart of the matter right then and there!  (If you want to know more about this class, let me know.  It has changed my life.)

At any rate, my moment began as several family members were gathered at my daughter's home and talking about going back to school as an adult.   Mainly we were talking about how math is difficult to get back into after years being out of school.

Something about math brought up my memory of freshman Geometry.  In eighth grade, I was deemed "smart enough" to take Algebra, thus putting those chosen ahead in the math track at school.  I started the class along with about 30 others and truly thought someone had made a mistake.  I didn't get it.  I wasn't supposed to be in this class.  I am not smart.  I struggled through it and because of a passing grade was put in Geometry as a freshman.  But I felt like I had fooled everyone because I just didn't get it.

My freshmen geometry class was mostly upper classmen and I felt very out of place.  On top of that, Geometry was far more difficult for me than Algebra.  I took alot of notes about theroms and axioms and quadrants but how it all was supposed to work together, I had no idea.  I got continually behind and did poorly on tests.  Just going to class was getting to be such a burden.  I was facing failure and forced to put on a facade every single day upon the ringing of the bell for 7th period.

Rather than choosing to ask for help, the more appropriate option for relief was of course, skip class.  (I say this very facetiously.  Skipping and not asking for help and choosing the wrong option became a habit in my life.  Just get rid of the pain with the tools at hand.  Avoid at all costs.)

I had never skipped a class before and I was so fearful of getting caught skipping.  I was sure that every person who saw me in the hall during 7th period KNEW I was being bad and skipping.  I felt like I was wearing a t-shirt saying, "Look at me!  I am skipping Geometry!"  But even the fear of getting caught skipping was easier to face than my failure in that class.

As I shared that story with my daughter and mom for the first time, my mom shared that she was always afraid of the grades on her report card so that kept her in line with her classes and grades.

But my failure gets worse.  I admitted to her, again for the first time, that I had intercepted my report cards because I had gotten a D in Geometry.

Looking back, I see there were smaller examples of this same avoiding behavior when I was younger.  But the older we get the bigger the problems, the bigger the issues we create and the results are devastating.

It is odd to realize that I actually began to burn down my Character House a long time ago.  The things that happened in my adult life should really have been no surprise at all.  The problems got bigger and my answers were more and more destructive.

In a book called "Little Britches" that I had read aloud to my kids, there is a chapter about The Character House.  The story is about a family who moves to Colorado to be ranchers.  The father in the book explains to his son that if we constantly pull boards off of our Character House to put them in the fire to stay warm, eventually our house is in ruins.

I began thinking about who in the world destroys their own house?  We would never take a sledge hammer to our home to knock off the boards for burning.  It sounds absolutely crazy.  But pull them off, I did.

And as I pursued this thought, I also remembered a recent show about 9/11.  It was the story of an NFL player who was in a building next to the trade centers before they fell.  He had not yet evacuated his building and witnessed several of those who jumped from the building in hopes it was a better option than what they were facing on those upper floors.

What must the pain be like to cause someone to turn on themselves?  To choose very obvious, at least to those watching, very obvious self-injuring options.   We will never know what pain they were facing that made that option look appealing. 

These are just the thoughts that I have been considering as I looked at my own life.  I created such terrible and hurtful patterns.  I thought it was the only answer.  And no one could have helped me because I didn't let them know I was in trouble or needed help. 

Through the Genesis Process I have learned how important it is to be open and honest.  More than that, it has been completely freeing.  I have always longed to be an open person and now I can say that I am much more so.  Being honest and sharing your hurts and pain just opens the door for healing and a free life.  Also, having people in life that will require accountability and ask the tough questions is imperative.

My best days are ahead of me.  God is moving in my life so often that I can barely keep up with the many blessings He has given to me.  The Journey to Laura is seeing fruit and I am finding the Real Gurl, the me that God always intended me to be.  Not perfect, but open and honest and forgiving.  Recently I had three friends actually use the word "transparent" when they talked about the change in me.  They could not have said anything nicer.

Dear God, I cannot thank You enough for the path of my life.  So many times I would have given up but You continued to have Hope for me.  I would go through everything again as long as it meant I would be right here today.  Life is not perfect but I am perfectly free from the chains and through the help of The Genesis Process I get freer every day.  Thank you for helping me rebuild my Character House.  Love, A Real Gurl

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just a Little Tip from a Former Kickball Captain

Hi Friends,

As life moves along, changes come naturally.  We start seeing light colored hairs on our head and little crinkles along the eyes that we pleasantly call "laugh lines."  Aging is a gradual change or shifting of life.  I am glad we don't face all of the aging factors at the same time because it would be too much to handle all at once.  Dealing with memory loss in increments is much appreciated at my house! I never remember....anything!

So this past week I voluntarily pushed an age button and created a shift in my life.  As I considered the advantages and disadvantages of having surgery, there was one that entered my mind and I said it without thinking...."How much do ovaries weigh?"

My daughter and I were sent into gales of laughter.  Since I have been trying to lose weight my entire life (it feels like), I was counting up the potential weight loss that might occur due to to surgery.  This conversation got funnier and funnier, but I think I might be pushing the boundaries for some readers so I will not repeat more.  Suffice it to say that we are talking about something the size and weight of an almond.  Not much weight loss to be had.  Phooey! 

Since the surgery, I feel really great.  I am still tired and have to be careful but I can tell it was a needed procedure and that my feeling of health will be much improved upon recovery.  As I pondered again any opportunity for weight loss, it flickered through my mind:  "I could do like all those other women with crazy stories do....go on Dr. Phil and ask for help!"   (Mom!  I am just kidding!)

Of course, I am just kidding but you know the ones...They have lost 253 lbs. and he grants them a tummy tuck?  And us chubbies kinda think, hmmm, wonder how I would look?  I wanna do that!  Well, that was sorta what I was thinking as I plotted my next weight loss attempt upon recovery. 

But as I jokingly said I would call Dr. Phil, a little voice whispered in my ear: 

"Why didn't you ask Me?"

My gales of laughter fell to silence.  I quickly realized that I had not asked God for any help with my weight loss.  I quickly repented and immediately and earnestly began asking for His care and His help.  I knew He was the One.  He who is over all things wanted me to ask Him to help me. 

Now I played alot of kickball as a young girl and was chosen captain on many occasions.  The captains always take turn choosing team members and I am no dummy.  I know that to win, you pick the best player first!

I had not chosen my team wisely.  But I have seen the wonders that God can perform and I want God on my team for everything.  Who wouldn't want The Champion on their side?  The star player?  The guaranteed winner?  The One with an army of angels?

As I turned this area over to God, I felt sweet relief as He bore the burden with me.   It seemed so obvious and I was embarrassed that I had not asked Him before.  Since the surgery, I am on the precipice of a huge change.  I feel energy building and a joy unspeakable.   What is it?  I don't know.  But God has told me it will be something like I have never seen before.

When we put our problems AND dreams in God's hands, EVERYTHING  is possible!  I like Dr. Phil, but I choose The Champion on my side!  As the captains of our team, we can choose Him!  He is there, waiting patiently in line.  He is just waiting to be asked....

Dear God:  You have been moving so fast in my life lately I can barely keep up.  I thank You for caring about even the smallest of concerns.  I know it was You who sent the lady up to me in the grocery store today, when I was feeling yucky, sweaty, no makeup.....She asked me if she could know how old I was because I looked so lovely.  I know that was You encouraging me when I felt tired and weak.  Please forgive me for not asking You to be on my team.  I want You with me wherever I go, whatever I do.  You are The Champion.  And I am blessed to call You Friend.  ~ A Real Gurl

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This is What I Dreamed About But....

Today, my heart is absolutely filled with gratitude.  I simply cannot believe what God has done for me, and in me.

For a couple of days I have been taking care of my brother's home and labrador, Duke, while they are away.  Watering the beautiful flowers on the patio is part of it too.

There are two, huge jasmine plants.  I don't know if you are familiar with the sweet and peaceful aroma of this plant, but as I sit here on their patio with Mt. Hood in the distance and a cool, morning breeze, it is the most pleasant perfume that can only come from the hand of God.  Even though it is not an overbearing smell, it gives me a feeling of God's abundance.

As I continue to grow and experience change and miracles faster and faster, I am aware of this sweet aroma with me everywhere I go.  It reminds me of the jasmine.  It is as if I am wearing a lovely lei of jasmine around my neck as a reminder that God is with me at all times.

I can't believe He is with me, in me.  Me!  It is fascinating to remember how hopeless I felt before.  I thought my life was over and I may as well be dead since I had nothing to look forward to in life.  No hope.  Just surviving.

But I am so blessed to have this testimony to encourage others.  If I had not LIVED it, I could not SHARE it.  God made me to encourage and then He gave me the story to become all He wanted me to be.

To be able to say that I am grateful for this story is also amazing.  During the most low of times I was told by a well-meaning friend that I would someday be able to use my story to help others.  I was aghast at the thought!  Paralyzed!  No way!  That would never, ever happen.

But here I am....truly experiencing the journey to Laura, truly find myself and becoming A Real Gurl, becoming who God had in mind all along.  The me that He knew would be most fulfilling in His plan and in my heart, for to be an encourager of others is what He placed in the fabric of me.

All the days of not measuring up, all the tears, all the mistakes that were repeated time and again....I was forgiven and started over only to falter and find myself bearing the same burdens and sins, and never brave enough to look deep and find the permanent change God was calling me to.  Yes, He was calling me all the time, at first in whispers and eventually using the proverbial baseball bat to get me to turn my head.  (I was a slow learner, but He loved me just the same.)

I can truly say these words with heartfelt meaning:  "I lost it all, to find everything."

Life has become so meaningful to me and I keep needing to pinch myself.  It can't last, can it?  I know there are still bumps, hills, valleys and mountains left for me to traverse.  But I believe that for the rest of my life here on earth, I will be holding the hand of God, my champion, and the sweet aroma of jasmine will be present in my life.  And my heart will be filled with gratitude.

If I am desperate for rain, I will learn to thirst for You and bless the very sun that warms my face.
If I am hungry for bread and long to be warm and tucked in under a sturdy roof, then I will learn to hunger after You and realize that a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead.
And if I ask for peace but it seems another world away, I will give thanks to You with gratitude, for lessons in how to trust in You.
For I am blessed beyond what I could ever dream, in abundance or in need. 
~paraphrased from N. Nordemann

And so my new theme song that just keeps me humming and singing is found in these lyrics below, from a secular song adapted as a letter from me to God:

Dear God,

I've never been the one to raise my hand
That was not me, and now that's who I am
Because of You, I am standing tall.

My heart is full of endless gratitude
You were the One, the One to guide me through
Now I can see and I believe that it's only the beginning.

I guess I've learned to question is to grow
That You still have faith is all I need to know
I've learned to love myself in spite of me
And I've learned to walk on the road I believe.

This is what I dreamed about
But the only question with me now
Do I make You proud?

Stronger than I've ever been now
Never be afraid of standing out, but
Do I make You proud?
~lyrics paraphrased from T. Ackerman, A. Watkins and P. Wilson 2006

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Stick to Your Guns

I have no idea where the phrase, "stick to your guns" originated from, but it's easy to guess at its meaning.  For me, I think it means that even when you question or doubt your decision, to keep standing, or holding the line.

Now that I think about it some more, I think in the movie "A Few Good Men" they talk about putting sticky stuff on their hands so that they won't drop their rifles when their hands get sweaty, causing them to lose their grip.  So maybe that is the "stick" part.

Stick to your guns doesn't sound like any movement forward or backward is required.  Just hold on.  Hold on tight.  Hold the line.  Don't budge.  Just maintain the progress that has been made.  Don't give up any ground.

I have experienced so many important decisions in a short amount of time recently, that as I sit here in the quiet of the evening, I am questioning myself.  Of course, when I am tired and a little bit hungry isn't exactly the best time to consider changing course.  I have to trust that the decisions that I have made.  After all, they were made with a sound mind and heart and with great consideration.  Now isn't the time to monkey with the settings but to let it all settle and allow for all of the decisions to calibrate. 

Life is a dance.  It's fast.  It's slow.  I forget the steps.  I haven't had dance classes so I am learning as I go.  But the music is good and the words uplifting.  The company is kind and the evening is cooled by a light breeze.  There is a sweet aroma to my life that I haven't experienced.....ever. 

I must learn that I don't always have to be doing something.  I can be resting and at peace.  God doesn't need my help.  He's got it covered.  God told me that if I would be obedient that He has good things for me.  I will just stick to my guns.

Dear God,  As I started writing tonight I was allowing feelings to take over what I know to be true.  Those sneaky thoughts were creeping into my mind and creating doubt about decisions that were made with much thought and with a promise from You!  Thank you for letting me sort through it and patiently waiting for me to come back, full circle, to Your warm embrace.  I will wait on You.  I love You, God.  ~ A Real Girl 

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Lesson from My Son

My youngest son just left from a visit to return back to his home in another state.  Due to various scheduling, work, and other circumstances, we had not seen each other for almost 2 years!  We kept in touch via phone and text but as you well know, this is just not enough!

So he stayed with me for the last few days.  We did alot of family things like lunch at Five Guys, Cosmic Bowling, BBQs, auto repair and sleeping late.  I hoped that while he was here I would be able to impart some of my newfound wisdom.  Surely a 21-year-old needed some life lessons from mom....oh, how wrong I was.

I learned so much while he was here, things my head already knew but my heart did not.

For one, I can no longer be the mom I was 7 years ago.  I am just striving to relive something that doesn't exist anymore.  That is not the mom my kids need now.  I have wasted alot of time looking in the rearview mirror when everything is ahead of me!

Yes, I missed some time with my son.  But he has gracefully moved on.  He is a man handling an adult life.  By virtue of taking care of himself, he is free to live his his life as he sees fit.  He is paying his way, living with his decisions, without regret.  He deserves this freedom.

He told me that I had to have faith in how I raised him and his brother and sister.  Hmmm. It seems everyone has moved on but me.

I also learned while he was visiting that my "longing" for him to move here and live with me is also outdated.  If he did, it would only work for a while and he doesn't need THAT mom anyway.  THAT mom would hamstring him by making his breakfast every morning, make sure he got tickets to the ballgame and doing his laundry, just completely robbing him of his independence.

So, as I dropped him off at the airport terminal this morning, and he handled his own checkin, baggage, ticketing and stuff without a look back for mom, I realized that in freeing him to be himself, I am free too.  I am free to walk through the open door of this new and exciting chapter of my life and pursue my interests, dreams and something that is calling me.  It's time.

As he turned from the checkin counter, he walked straight to me for a big hug and a promise to be back, noting all of the nice time we spent together with the family over the past few days.  It was very sweet.

You know, I think this Real Girl just might have raised a Real Boy, one who is loving and true.  What more could one hope for?

Dear God,  Thank you AGAIN for Your mercies....they are new every, single morning!  Each day I see something new that You have brought me to, a new opportunity to move forward and far, far away from the Pretender I used to be.  Thank You for being ever mindful of me when there are so many bigger problems where You are needed.  You even see the little questions that nag at my heart and help me to find peace within.  I am forever Yours.     ~A Real Girl

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Single Girl and

Forgive me in advance for the diatribe I am about to unleash, but I JUST CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

Dating is just not what it used to be.  Not that I dated very much.  But I daresay that this online dating thing is a daunting task for even the most achieved dater.  And if you are seriously looking for a lifelong partner, it truly is a jungle out there, full of beasts.  I am not a serial dater, but this dating stuff is especially difficult for us ladies who desire to be a Real Girl.  A Real Girl actually expects just a few small things from the potential man. 

For example:

How about giving us your real name?  I don't care what your daughter told you about Brad being a more appealing name than Warren, it is a HUGE, RED FLAG to a Real Girl like me.  To top it off, you waited for 30 minutes to go by in conversation before it occurred to you to come clean.  This is unacceptable and only the least of us card carrying ladies will let you get any further than out the door!

How about being unmarried?  I am kinda thinking that your wife and two little girls wouldn't think much of you bringing me my favorite pink, tulips while they wait for Daddy to come home.  And you must know how I feel about it because you have been kicked to the curb with extra vengeance.

It really is the small things.  It is quite misunderstood by men that they have to "shell out alot of dough" to find a Real Girl.  I know that every Real Girl out there will back me when I say, an inexpensive bouquet of flowers from Safeway works every time.  A sticky note left on our car window with a sweet message has us thinking about you....alot!  Opening the door for us and being polite to our family goes a long way.  Trust me.  I know what I am saying is true.

Would you consider having something on your mind besides getting the cookie?  Being the lady that I am, I will tread cautiously here, but you know, Real Girls like to go out for movie, or dinner with friends or walking the Rose Gardens holding hands.  Or, dare I say it?  If you asked me to attend church with you, you would have received one gold star!   It takes alot of gold stars, buddy!   Being asked to watch a movie at your house before a real date occurs, well, let's just say that cookies are considered dessert and dessert comes after you have committed to the entire meal.

Could you understand that us Real Girls have to be aware of our safety?  Yes, we are watching out for our hearts too, but we are also taking care to be cautious for our safety.  You don't have a chance with a Real Girl if you ask us to join you on a quiet, little hiking trail in Timbuctoo on the FIRST DATE!  I cannot even respond to your email because that is such a  frightful thought.

Treat us like a lady, and you will get treated like a king.  I am not kidding.  It is that simple.  Keeping all of the above firmly in mind, treat the Real Girl like the girl of your dreams.   You just might find that you aren't dreaming! 

Lastly, while it does get difficult to carry our own groceries or at times we need a guy who can put together a bookcase, a Real Girl is not willing to settle for anything less than a Real Man.  A coffee meeting at Starbucks does not count as a date.

~A Real Girl

P.S.  Yes, readers, all of the above examples of less than stellar behavior truly happened to me!  As said in Eat, Pray, Love:  I don't need a man....I need a champion!

Dear God, Thank you for the strength and courage You have given me to stand as a single person in this world.  The family and friends that you have given me, surround me and encourage me.  They see my blind spots and point them out.  They empower me to do what is right for a Real Girl.  Because of You, I have this peaceful and serene life and freedom from the life of a Pretender.  I am content to be right where I am...with You.  ~Your Real Girl

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Are You a Gluestick?

Or perhaps an iron?  Does it seem like you are the one holding it all together?  The fixer and mender and glue to all situations?

I have recently realized that I have been this person, whether I was asked to be or not, for as far back as I can remember.  I have always taken on the task of taking emotional temperatures and gauging who would need an emotional pat on the head, pop on the butt, or a punch in the nose!

I just wanted everyone around me to be happy.  I would avert conflict at any cost, always watching for the next potential flick of a sour face and armed with my self-designated badge of the Happy Police.  Sad must be turned to happy.  Sorrow must be turned to joy.  Anger must be turned to love.

Seriously, this was my purpose in life, to manage, correct, change or update everyone's emotions.  Someone to fix everything, everytime?  This sounds too good to be true because it is!  It is impossible and unnatural for us to be happy ALL THE TIME. 

After the downs, the ups are more enjoyable.  We can learn from the good and difficult situations so we are better prepared for the next time.

With Happy Police coming around all the time, correcting, mending, and softening the blow, the reality of situations gets lost, as well as the lesson that might be learned!

Oh, I am not saying that we can't be cheerful, even during distressing times....but we need to be REAL.  Life is not always perfect.  We don't always win the game.  We aren't always picked first.  Sometimes we splash through a mud puddle and mom is not happy about it!

I have found it is more healthy to deal with reality.  If you have lost, it's okay to cry.  But learn how to get back up.  If you aren't chosen first, then celebrate being chosen 4th, 10th or last and then remember that feeling when you are the chooser.  The focus shouldn't be on being happy.  It is on how to gracefully handle the varying situations that come our way in life.  That is really the measure of HAPPY.

Expecting perfection or happiness or winning all the time is asking to be sheltered and cocooned from real life.  If all we experience are feel-good times, we would miss out on alot of teachable moments, and some of them make sweet memories. 
How about these life moments?
birth of a child
kissing our kids' booboos
telling the truth after a lie
apologizing after we hurt another
learning to roller skate
heartbreak after love
the possibility of trying again...and again

If all we want is to be comfortable, and happy, and never sad or hurt, it would be like living with only one color choice.  My favorite color is all variations of pink but I would not want my life all in Pepto-Bismal!  Ewwwww.

I am challenging myself, and perhaps you, to live A Real Life.  Don't appoint yourself as everyone's emotional iron or family gluestick.  Accept people and things as they are.  For every high there is a low so expect it and learn from it.  Embrace life as it comes.  Listen to  your heart.  Live your life.  Be your own best friend.  Don't look to others to measure yourself.  

Just. Be. You.

A card that I received from a friend said the following (paraprhased):  "She was a gluestick, rolling across people's emotions, donning them as she went.  But as of 2006, it was no longer necessary for her to dress in others' issues...she was free to wear herself."

As I learn to "wear myself" I find myself happier with every passing day.  As I am open to new ways to approach life, as I am open to share my bad and my good, I am more content and empowered to live MY life. 

To find happy, either keep doing what you are doing or change something.  Just. Be. You.

Dear God,  Thank you for helping me to become a Real Girl.  I didn't like the old me who always decided what to do based on the opinions and acceptance of everyone around me.  You are showing me, teaching me and bringing people into my life as examples of what a Real Life looks like.  I am grateful for this.  Yes, I do see a light at the end of the tunnel.  No, it is not an oncoming train but bright rays of hope!  I love you God.  ~Your Real Girl

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Full Heart

My heart is full.  My cup is running over.

I realized yesterday that I REALLY DO thank God for the  mountains and the valleys.  I REALLY DO thank Him for my second grade year.  I REALLY DO thank Him for hard times and broken hearts.  Because of these things, my heart is full and my cup runs over.

It has been a long road back.  As I was talking to a friend yesterday, they asked how does one forgive themselves?  Only one answer came to mind.  Keep walking.

Keep walking and keep trying and keep looking.  When you seek, you will find.  God brings to us little nuggets to help us make it one more day, one more step, one more breath.  Keep believing in what you know is true.  Accept that no one can walk your walk but you!

So many times a phrase, a song, a friend, a scripture, or a story was able to speak to my heart.  We must keep our eyes and ears open to hear when God gives us these precious  gifts of encouragement.  Have them ready in your pocket when you find yourself in a moment of doubt and despair.  Then pull out that gift and remind yourself what God has done for you!

To find your purpose, to forgive yourself.....there is no button.  I asked.  There is no playbook.  That's for sports.  There is no golden ticket.  That's in the movies.

"The road to happiness is so narrow that two can only walk on it if they become one.  It's you and God."  And you can quote me on that!

Dear God,  There are so many gifts that You have brought to my life to help me on my path of life.  Thank You for the friends You have brought into my life.  Thank You for the "loose change" that You unexpectedly bring my way that add a richness and fullness to my heart.  I am blessed to be part of Heart Warmers and thank You for the opportunity.  Thank You for my class at church and my mentor. Thank You for my family.  Thank You for Your neverending love and Your mercies that are new EVERY SINGLE MORNING!  I am grateful. And I am happy.  Amen.  Laura

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Learning to Love Yourself

How can anyone forget that beautiful song that was sung by Whitney Houston?  The Greatest Love of All.  And boy, she sings it with gusto!

If I fail, if I succeed, at least I lived as I believed.
No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity.
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me.
I found the greatest love of all inside of me.
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve.
Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.

I am actually coming into this very place.  I am talking about loving the me that no one sees.  The soul of me.  A long but beautiful housecleaning has been happening.  And without realizing it, I have walked into the sunshine and the clean feeling of being free.  Free from the past, free from condemnation, free from others' expectations.  Free to be me.  Free to live, enjoy, love.  Acceptance.

I have known alot of people who just seemed to come by this love naturally.  I always thought "boy, they really think they are all that!"  But deep down, I was envious.  I wanted to love myself.  I wanted to be myself.  I didn't want to fear others rejection.

Those of you who have struggled with thoughts of unworthiness and self-doubt, you know what I am talking about!

Oh, it's easy enough to tell someone they should love themselves.  But to a person full of worth issues, loving oneself sounds very selfish.  What?  Love myself?  It sounds self-centered, stuck-up and conceited.  And I don't know how, anyway.  Is there a button for that?

But truly, the beginning of a full and rich life must start with loving yourself.  And this love begins with God and being forgiven.  We cannot possibly build upon anything less.  When this forgiveness and a relationship with God are followed by an earnest seeking of more knowledge, more growth, more wisdom....the sky is the limit.

Notice I did not say that OTHERS needed to learn and grow.  We must take inventory of our own heart.  We must seek and knock and open, expecting to find exactly what we need to take the next step.  No more, no less.

There have been times when I clung to a phrase, a verse, a song, a poem for weeks until the next piece of encouragement came along.  In 2006, for three weeks all I could say was "Oh, God, help me.  Please help me."  This went on until the answer came.

Then I heard Pastor Joel Osteen say, "Just do the next right thing" and that became my motivation for several months.

In 2008, in frantic desperation for direction, a path, some sort of action plan, I started reading the AA book of 12 steps.

Of course the Bible should be our main source, but I am here to encourage you that God can use anything or anyone to speak to us.  We must be LOOKING for it!

Another time, when I was faced with a difficult decision, one that I did not want to make and was going to cause alot of embarrassment and turmoil, I tossed and turned all night with fear.  The next morning, I went into the other room  and tore off the daily devotional calendar sheet to read:  "Do you not see I am doing a new thing?  Will you not embrace it?"  It felt like music was playing.

A few months ago during my reading of Eat, Pray, Love I often considered Ketut's advice to "Smile with your liver", which is to say, smile from your insides out.  And so I practiced a deep smile from within even when I thought all was lost.  I still have this piece of advice hanging by my desk.

God can use lots of ways to help us when we are in need of emotional support or an answer to face a situation.  But if we don't watch for it, we will pass it by.  It's just like the loose change dropped in the parking lot that we don't stop to pick up.  Comes the time we are flat broke and we may go back to pick up that loose change and find it is gone!

Living a Real Life starts when we decide to Get Real.  Without fear.  Without bondage.  And this life must be sought with your whole heart.  Being real must become part of every decision, every step, every thought, every breath.

Don't let God's tender ways go unnoticed.  Watch for it.  Expect it.  He will help you find your path and to learn to love yourself.  It truly is The Greatest Love of All.

Dear God, Thank you is not enough for all that You have done for me.  You have worked me over good, molding, melting, purging, cleaning, teaching, showing, sharing, loving.....I can see so clearly Your hand in all of my life.  I know I did not have to hit ground zero to find You.  You were there the whole time, calling my name.  Your never-ending love has saved me.  ~Amen. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Feel Better Already

I am realizing how easy it is to fall back if I am not diligent in my pursuit of growth.  It is always when we feel the best, we must be on the highest alert.

In my quest to live A Real Life, at times, I think I have learned a thing or two.  Yet, just when spirits rise that I am finally getting a handle on life, reality hits!  And I am thrown, no tossed, back a step or two.

It seems natural that we would do this.  We get happy, comfortable, maybe a little too giddy in our achievements.  I need to get quicker at realizing that the rise in self-confidence is leading to a fall.   Maybe then I can grab hold quicker in an effort to minimize the damage.

So to grab hold and minimize damages, here I am, back at writing, reading devotions, recommitting to the items that help direct and guide me forward.  It is reassuring that it doesn't take as long to find my footing, since I have learned where my strength actually comes from and I know the tools to get me there!

Rule #1:  Trust in God.
Rule #2:  See Rule #1.

Here are a few highlights of last week's devotions that I am re-reading today, in case they may help you too:

"Change comes from taking riskes, and the greatest risk is to be honest with yourself and others."  ~Rick Warren

"Insecurity always manifests itself as control."

"Secrets, and the fears that drive them, are areas that you don't trust God with."

"When you have a two-way communication with God, that's called relationship.  When you have one-way communication, that's called religion."

As I sit here alone with my thoughts, I realize that while I have experienced a two-way communication with God, and once I feel the slightest bit of confidence, I promptly changed course thinking, "okay, NOW I got this.  I can do it myself."  I got a little power-hungry.  Can you say CONTROL issues?

I am not meant to "do it by myself."  God is my Friend and Comforter, a very present help in time of trouble.  I am not required to face anything alone.  Quite the contrary, He said He would never leave us or forsake us!  I need to trust Him more, with EVERYTHING.  I cannot pick and choose but must trust all of it to Him.

There.  I feel better already!

Dear God, Thank You for still being there after I run off to handle it all by myself.  I admit that I am unable to handle life and its questions alone and that only with You can I become the Laura that You want me to be.  May I realize that you know every single secret of my heart and that you accept and love me anyway. Your continuous and forgiving love is like no other.  Your love is not based on any amount of expectation of me nor do You give it as a reward.  It just is.  I humbly and gratefully accept Your love and correction in my life.  May I come to respect the relationship and put away any appearance of religion.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And the Tape Plays On....

Or perhaps I should say CD since no one knows what a tape is!  Anyway.....

Over the past few years I have been through alot of changes and growth.  It took a long time to find peace and to have joy but even more than that, to learn how and what it meant to forgive myself.

The past couple of weeks I have reached a level of joy that I never dared hope I would experience again!  Like I have said before, I always knew God could heal my heart and my mind, but I never thought I could feel this way again!  I feel great!

Then....I woke up yesterday morning and the tape was on autoplay....

"I am lonely."
"I don't have...."

"Wwwwaaaaaaait!  Hold it right there!"  Thankfully my headed quickly kicked in, even before I got my eyes open.

"What happened to all the joy and hope you've been talking about, Miss Cheerful?"

Gratefully, like waking up from a nightmare that seemed so real, my mind took over and began to right itself.  I am NOT that person anymore.  I am free from the burdens of sorrow and hopelesness.  I am joyful.  I am of valuable.  I do contribute.  I am deserving.  I am loved.

My heart was slow to follow.  I continued to feel the sting of that near defeat for the rest of the day, but I sure learned a valuable lesson.

Most of us A-personality and leadership types like to have some, uh, control, shall we say?  But I submit to you that if we are going to spend any time at all controlling anything, it should be our own mind.  (Forget about the neighbor who doesn't line the trash can and so the trash blows freely all over the street on pickup day.)

The thoughts that we let wander unchecked are like a computer virus running rampant, destroying everything good, important and of value and replacing it with sickness, wreckage and destruction.  It viciously attacks from within and attaches itself to everyone and everything connected to it.

"Choose your thoughts like you choose your clothes each morning."

Our thoughts and our attitudes are in our control.  We have a choice about how we react and how we treat others.  We also affect others with our behavior.

On Oprah's last show, she told about a sign that she has placed throughout the Harpo Network Facility.  It says, "Please be responsible for the energy you bring to this place."

So next time the tape, 8-track, CD, Ipod autostarts some nonsense in the tracks of your mind, take control, um leadership, and self-correct.  Don't react but rather CHOOSE your thoughts and behavior.

You will feel better and so will those around you!

Dear God,  Thank You for the changes and growth that You are bringing about in me.  Thank you for helping me to embrace my past and be joyful in my future.  Thank you for the hope that You have placed in my heart and the belief that You are always working all things for my good.  You are a wonderful Friend!  ~Me

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Real Life

This weekend I was excited to have plans to attend church with a friend rather than alone and to have lunch together afterwards.  I have always loved and learned from Pastor Jason at Easthill and this week was no exception.

The lesson was about during times of sorrow, despair, heartbreak, financial or relationship woes, we tend to ask, Where Are You God?  Sometimes it seems as if the bad always wins over the good and we feel very alone and easily lose hope.

There was discussion about these times requiring raw grit.  Guts.  Sacrificial love.

I believe I am coming out of this kind of walk, where it took all I had to just breathe.  To sit up in bed in the morning and plant my feet on the floor took all I had.  But as I began to search for my way out of this mire, I knew the only person I could create change in, was me!

While I may have looked at others to pass off responsibility or blame, the bottom line was it was I who needed to change.  But how?  When I haven't looked HONESTLY in the mirror for, well, my entire adult life, how do I begin to unravel the tangles and snares that were made of my own hands and find the real me?

Pastor Jason said it Sunday.  "Real life begins when you decide to get real."

As you can read from the description of my blog, it has been my intent from the beginning that I be brutally honest here.  I don't want to cover up or smooth over or make pretty.  It is deceitful and also takes away from the meaning of the victory when it comes!

I love the word "authentic" because its very essence makes me "get" what real means.  Here is the dictionary version:

                               -adj 1.  of undisputed origin or authorship; genuine.

When I consider this meaning, I find it interesting that it means undisputed origin or authorship.  What if I could get back to the Author and Finisher of me?  The original Laura that was meant to be before all of the confusion and tangles of life?  It also means "not a copy" so there is only one!  Just one you!  Just one me!

But this is the miracle. We don't go back. When God forgives us we go forward with a clean slate. 

And the word "genuine" is good too.  Here is the dictionary version: 

                              -adj 3.  free of pretense or hypocrisy, sincere.

I truly desire to my real self.  Have you ever been around someone like that?  It feels so good and freeing to watch another person just be themselves with no excuses, coverups or masks.

I know the journey is not over but I am finally coming into a period where I really believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be in life.  God has moved and changed me and I am growing and loving and reaching out.  New opportunites appear every day.  We have to be on the lookout for them!

In church Sunday, I was sitting by a young couple that I did not know.  I just really felt that they had a serious need.  I was compelled to invite the young woman to my ladies friendship group, Heart Warmers, so I hastily wrote her a note with my contact info (yes, on the tithe envelope, sorry!).  I held her hand during prayer and gave her a hug.  After the service we talked and she was so excited about the invitation and said it was just what she needed!

I felt so touched that God had used me right there in my seat.  I never expected it.  I went to church thinking about meeting my friend and talking at lunch.  But I got more than I ever imagined and I am excited about the new me that God is creating and cultivating.

I am finally living.....A Real Life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How Quickly Things Change

Over the Easter weekend there was a terrible collision in the middle of the night less than a block from my daughter's apartment.  The drunken drag racing cost an innocent man a broken leg and the loss of his walking companion, a labrador retriever.

The neighborhood was awakened to the insistent urging of the car horn and many ran out to witness this horrible nightmare.  Fortunately, no humans died as a result and the folks inside the apartment that the car eventually crashed into were all fine, but homeless!

All of this caused my daughter to be quite distraught.  The suddeness of the impact, the urgency of the medical needs, the severe sadness of the broken-legged man, hit while walking and now unable to move, asking for his dog.  It created a feeling of being unsafe and caused alot of thought and worry about how the car could have plowed right into her bedroom.

We talked about the collision alot throughout Easter Sunday.  It weighed heavily on her mind and heart.

And it made me think about how unsuspecting we are when those MAJOR changes happen in our life.  Whether it be a car accident or a death, or less seriously an ignored child or loss of a friendship, we are never quite ready for the change and the swarm of feelings that come with it.

But one of the best things about God is that He is always ready to turn our stumbling blocks into stepping stones.  He always has a Plan B.  He is always, always working things for our good.

Believe me, I know exactly how difficult it is to believe that when we are full of sadness, regret, depression...But those are the exact moments when we must have faith.  If we can look at each event, each person, each chance meeting as an opportunity....If we can look, actually look for the good, no matter how small....then we will see God's hand at work.

Yes, when life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade.  Or, change to chocolate!  Just keep your mind and heart open to that teachable moment, your opportunity to grow, change and become someone new, better, improved.

Dear God, I thank You for the wake-up call this weekend.  While we lift those up who were injured and saddened by the collision, we also thank You for always being at the ready when we have need.  We don't have to wait for the emergency team to arrive to call out Your name.  We don't have to live in fear that something dreadful might happen because we know that with You, we can make it and that You have a good and perfect plan for our lives.  Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Life Lessons ~ Apply to self as needed.

I really enjoyed the first of several leadership classes that I attended this weekend, presented by East Hill Church.  It was great to meet new people, learn new skills and to consider behavioral changes.  Not changes in others, but in me!

Isn't it funny how we quickly apply rules, lessons, slogans, devotions, scripture, to the other guy?  Boy, they sure need that!

Well, the only person that we can change is OURSELVES!

There were two sayings or slogans I heard on Saturday that challenged me.  Of course, on Sunday, I immediately failed to put them into practice.  The first one was:

"Think all you speak, but DON'T speak all you think."  I think this could easily apply to Facebook and Twitter too!  Some folks just can't temper what they have to say and realize that everything they have an opinion on is not meant for the masses.

I mean, think how egotistical it is to think that all of your Facebook friends really will strongly consider your beliefs, morals, or voting tendancies.

Of course, writing a blog could indicate the same ego.  However, I write this for myself, rather than for others.  If others are interested in reading, I accept that.  But this blog is for me to clear my head and heart.

The other saying was:  "I can't be right with God and wrong with people."

Now that is a powerful statement.  We can try with all of our might to live a life according to God's plan but if we have a relationship with strife, or we feel angry, frustrated or disappointed with others on a regular basis, I would beg you to consider where you stand with God.

I'm not saying that we don't slip up and fuss about the bad driver or the errant child or being late because of our spouse.  But if we don't feel the "ping" in our heart, that self-correction or "Jiminy Cricket" on your shoulder saying, "hey, that's enough, Missy" ......well, a heart-check is in order.

Again, as I say this, I am saying it to myself.  If it hits you in the heart, well that makes two of us!

I had such a great class and learned so much on Saturday.  And yet as quickly as Sunday came, I let my mouth overload my intentions.  No matter how right anyone can be, letting unkindness flow from our lips is not going to correct anything.

We are each and everyone responsible for what comes out of our mouths.  Words can wound, or words can heal.  The right words spoken at the right time are like honey to the bee.  I can't manage others, but I can manage myself.  And I want to do better.

Dear God,  You see the situation that I am speaking of and I trust that You will help me to know the right way to make the situation right and better.  I immediately felt the "ping" in my heart when the words flew, and the words were like feathers and quickly fell on those around, like a heavy blanket.  Thank you for the "check" in my spirit and I will continue to trust that the right approach to correct the situation will be found.  I do know that saying I am sorry is important to crossing the Forgiveness Bridge.  Help me to be brave and big enough to do so, and with the right spirit.  ~Me

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sucking It In

For a few months now, I have had something on my heart and mind.  I wanted to start a friendship group.

I realized that if I experienced the dark times of loneliness, depression, regret and in spite of a loving family, felt desperate, then others might too.  I needed a place I could be forthcoming and honest about what I was going through.  WE need a place like that.  Where the love, care and concern are unwaivering.

As I started chatting it up with my closest peeps, I got a little braver and shared it with a few outside of my normal circle.  I was amazed and continue to be surprised at how many responded with, "I need a group like that.  If you start it, I will come.  Be sure to let me know when you start this group."

I wasn't alone any more!

Upon setting the first date for the first meeting, I realized that I could easily outgrow my apartment.  I got nervous about having enough space and reached out to a local church to see if they had space for us to use.

This prompted a chain of events that I could not have seen coming.  The small group pastor of the church wanted to meet with me.  So I went over to the office and met with her and an assistant.  I shared what was on my mind and heart.  They were so encouraging and supportive.

Then the small groups pastor asked if she could mentor me.  She suggested that I take part in a few classes that they offer, leadership classes.  Also, that we could meet from time to time and talk about my group and how it was growing and going....

I am so excited about this!  I don't know where it will lead but I am going to follow the path before me!

The first meeting was held Sunday, April 10.  We had 15 in attendance!  Oh, how this group touched me.

First of all, as I looked around the room I realized what a wealth of friends that I already had!  Secondly, to see the vision come to life right before my eyes was a feeling that I can't describe.  It felt great!  Heart Warmers warmed my heart!

Since that meeting, a mere 3 days ago, we have had 4 new friends join in.  Really, the goal isn't numbers.  I could say I am giving away $100 and get more to show up in 5 minutes!  But to see ladies who have the same desire and need to grow as friends is just amazing.  Let me say it again....I am not alone any more!

To describe the "heart" of this group, I would say the goal is to be able to confidentially and confidently be your true self, without judgment or fear.

To demonstrate this, I have a card I received a from a friend a few years ago.  On the front is a chunky, red-haired girl about 6.  She has a swimsuit top on, a swim skirt and her long hair is flowing.  She has her hands on her hips and turquoise sunglasses on and poking her tummy out proudly. 

The card reads:  I won't suck it in if you don't suck it in.  You're not sucking it in, are you?

That, dear readers, is what this group is all about.

Dear God:  Thank you for blessing me with this group of friends.  As we walk our paths together, sharing the joy and the burden, teach us how to be REAL with each other.  Help us to be true and accepting of one another, for we don't see all that the other is bearing.  Give us YOUR eyes when we look at the heart of our friends.  Be with us each time we gather and also while we are apart.  Alone we can easily be broken, but bound together with love we are strong and durable.  Amen. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

If it Keeps Gettin Better and Better

Sun is shining and blue skies ahead!  If it keeps gettin' better and better, I don't know what I'm gonna do!

The past two weeks have brought a new joy to my heart.  Frankly, it is a miracle.  During all of the extreme lows, depression, heartbreak, loneliness, regret....I knew God could heal me.  But I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER thought I could feel this way, this good, again.

Don't you say it!  "I bet she has a boyfriend."  Nope.  But the years of trial have brought a new day.  A new me.  A new outlook.  A new hope.

It has been work.   And there is more work to do.  There will be more trials.  Dealing with my inner woman is no easy task....just ask God about that!  But I can embrace the good, the bad and the ugly and keep moving forward.  He's still working on me!

Heart Warmers has its first meeting this weekend.  This is  a friendship group for women of all ages.  This has been on my heart for several months and the more I mentioned the idea to other friends, the more I heard the NEED for a group like this.  Never would I have thought that so many felt like I did.  I am looking forward to being useful by facilitating this group.  We won't be lonely together!

This blog, whether anyone reads it or not, has helped me so much.  (My stats say that there are readers in 9 states and one regular reader in Brazil!  Over 200 unique readers!)  And yet, it started as a way to get the thoughts and feelings out of my head and to make some sort of sense of them.  Many have commented, sent emails, and even met in person!

As I get my head and heart right, my body is following.  In 4 weeks, I have lost 18.1 pounds.  Tomorrow is weigh-in for week 5 so I will report that later.  But I feel great!

My devotions daily, no matter how small, quick, or wordy help guide me, my thoughts and actions.  By having a devotional time, it sets the tone for the day.  "Choose your thoughts like you select your clothes each morning."

My friends and family who cheer me on, who saw the depths of my despair, are now so excited to see a glow, someone called it "hope", on my face.

This is all such a miracle to me.  It is bigger than anything I could have dreamed.

And if it keeps getting better and better, if He keeps on pouring it on, if He keeps on blessing and blessing, if He keeps on bringing a song, if my prayers keep on getting answered, if my prayers keep on getting through, if it keeps getting better and better oh, Lord, I don't know what I'm gonna do!

Dear God, Oh how much I want to thank You, for all You have done for me.  Thank You for seeing how You work ALL things, EVERY UGLY THING, for my good.  Thank you for showing me that You can use me in spite of me.  Thank you for taking time to work with this broken vessel.  I want to honor You all the days of my life. ~Laura

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hi. I'm Laura. I'm a Think-A-Holic.

Let me introduce you to this passage and then talk about it.  It was part of my devotions today:

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY:  All of us are faced with the troubles and problems of daily living, whether we've been at life 20 years or 100.  We'd sometimes like to believe we could take care of all our problems right now, but it rarely works that way.  If we remember the slogan "Easy Does It" when we are ready to panic, we may come to know that the very best way to handle all things is "Easy."  We put one foot in front of the other, doing the best we are capable of doing.  We say "Easy Does It" and we do it.  Are the scriptures growing with me as I grow with God?

TODAY I PRAY:  May even the words "Easy Does It" serve to slow me down in my headlong rush to accomplish too much too fast.  May just that word "Easy" be enough to make me ease up on the whips that drive my ambitions, ease up on the accelerator which plunges me into new situations without enough forethought, ease off on the number of hours spent in materials pursuits.  May I hark to the adage that Rome wasn't built in a single day.  Neither can I build solutions to my problems all at once.


So, would you believe that the above devotion (or meditation) is from Alcoholics Anonymous?  Only the underlined words were changed from The Program and from slogans rather than scriptures.

Please don't get me wrong.  I am not an alcoholic.  I have no interest in alcohol.  I didn't have my first drink until I was in my 30's and I guess by then, it just didn't matter.  I am also not saying we should all attend an A.A. meeting, although I have gone with a friend a few times and it is extremely inspirational and I left in a better place each time.

What I am saying is, there are so many people out there looking for direction, guidance, a way out....Along with my Bible, I have used A.A. books for a while, to put a lifeplan together.  Sometimes when you are at your worst, ANYTHING that can get you started for the day is a blessing.

I find that this works for not only Alcoholics but Overeaters too.  Don't deny it.  Denial is telling yourself a lie.  Why lie to yourself?

I have also realized that I can put other issues in the same place and the direction is still the same.  When I asked my A.A. friend what was wrong with me?  I was told that I seemed to have resentment still against my former husband.  (I hate saying ex-husband.  It sounds so ugly.)  Anyway, the first words out of my mouth were, "Oh no.  That's not it.  I have forgiven him and I can even say I love him."  Can you say DENIAL?

So my A.A. friend, who knows me so well, said I should be putting the word Think instead of Drink in the verbage. 

"Hi.  I am Laura.  I am a Think-A-Holic."  Yep.  That made perfect sense.  It's true.  I overthink and try to fix and think everyone else should be and do just like me.  Oh Geez.

In closing, another A.A. slogan is :  Accept others and things as they are.

On second thought, maybe we SHOULD all attend an A.A. meeting. 

Dear God:  Thank You for showing me that You love everyone else as much as You love me.  I am not the only one who deserves grace and mercy.  I am not the only one who should get a second chance.  I must allow for others to walk their path to You just as I have.  Each journey will not look like mine and mine won't look like theirs.  Thank you for being God of everything. ~Laura

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do You Need a Super Hero?

Today at lunch I was reviewing a sort of history of my life.  And while there have been many trips, slips and falls, (some of them quite literally), I was reminded of all the times that God showed me He was there, with me.  And He comforted me.

He was there when the size small sweatshirt miraculously fit my girth when I was cold and alone; He was there when I saw the sign in an unexpected place that said "God Loves You"; the inexplicable way that I knew His presence was with me on that drive from Medford to Sunriver and I found self-forgiveness for the first time; the time I knew He answered my prayer, not because it was what I prayed for but because it was what I hadn't prayed for and it healed my hurt; the moment I first knelt in my corner at Meadowood Church and gave my heart to Him.

We are human.  To make it more personal, I am human.  Mistakes abound.  Sins occur.  Hiding in a blanket of sorrow and shame has its place. 

I need a Super Hero.  A Champion.

Friends, whatever cross you carry, no matter how heavy the load, You Have a Friend.  Your own personal Super Hero.  Your Champion.

From the beginning of your life to the end, He is there!  The only Friend on whose name you can call and He always answers.  You don't get put on hold, or asked to wait until the tv show is over, or asked to make an appointment...

If you need a Guardian Angel; He answers "I AM."
If you need a Warrior; He answers "I AM."
If you need Someone to dry your tears; He says "I AM."
If you need a Healer; He says "I AM."
If you need an Employer; He says "I AM."
If you need a Song in your heart;  He says "I AM."
If you need Someone to hold your hand;  He says "I AM."

He is there from your beginning to your end.  Always.

There is no problem so big, God cannot solve it.  There is no wound so great He cannot heal it.  There is no sorrow so big that He cannot soothe it.

I have been listening to a song called, "People Get Ready."  My mom tells me it is an oldie but it is new to me.  It says:

"People get ready, there's a train a coming.
Don't need no baggage, just get on board.
If you have a little faith, you can hear the diesel humming.
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord."

I have been so touched and moved by the words that I don't need any baggage.  So throw down those suitcases of guilt, depression, resentment, sorrow, regret!  And I don't need a ticket.  It's free!  Just THANK THE LORD! 

Just like when you go to your mom's house and she makes that yummy dinner.  No charge.  She's just thrilled to see you.  Just say thank you!

His love is a gift and it doesn't cost a thing.  Just say Thank You.  No need for baggage.  So throw it out.  And don't forget to thank your Super Hero.

Dear God,
Thank you for today...for the walk down memory lane; for the reminder of all the times You have been there for me.  I have never known a Friend like You.  I want to be thankful and share my Friend with others.  You are my Super Hero, my Best Friend, my Champion.  You always believe in me.  You are the reason I am told I have Hope in my face.  You want the best for me.  You are working ALL things for my good.  I wholeheartedly put my trust in You.  Amen.  ~Laura

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Good News

I have allowed myself to feel gloomy today and it was a big mistake.  Doing this is really just too self-indulgent while at the same time extremely self-destructive.  I almost let myself get over the edge with a full-out Boo Hoo Fest.

But then, I thought thru the friends I have, and what their advice has been over the times of my life.  One by one, each of their faces and words of wisdom came back to me.  Their confidence in me, their smile, and I weighed carefully each one.  And then I got to the one that really brought me back. 

What would Lindy say?

She would say, "remember the list of 5 areas of your life?  Remember to take care of each one so when you feel down the others are in order.  It makes the one not feel so bad."

And I say, "oh yeah.  I forgot about that."  It's only been since my last post!

But that is just how easy to get off track it is.  We must be vigilant in caring for ourselves.  It is not selfish.  It is necessary.  All the "Boo Hoo" in the world couldn't help my friends if they came to me in need.  I don't think it helps anyone but Kleenex!

You know, Friend, if we were building ourselves a home, we would choose the best that we could afford.  We would carefully select the wood, the floors, the carpet, the windows, even the nails and piping so as to make as sound a house as we could afford.

We should put that kind of thought into our lives.  What is the best you can do?  How can you take care of what God has blessed you with?

And on the contrary, if you were out in the rain and snow, would you tear boards off of your own house to build a fire and make you warm?  NO!  Well, sometimes we do just that, metaphorically.  The life choices we make can certainly "tear down" our "house."
Don't let that one moment in time, that one moment in the day, when you are overwhelmed, or tired, or hungry, or lonely, or bored.....ruin the "home" you live in.  Make your life a priority.  Make your choices with care and consideration, seeking advice and help when needed.

Today, I didn't even have to reach out to a friend.  I had my friends all in my heart and their love and acceptance overwhelmed me.

Now for The Good News:  On March 5, two weeks ago, I started Take Shape for Life, which is a lifestyle plan for weightloss and maintenance.  I had tried it before and I absolutely know it works.  It was always me that didn't work.

But I have dedicated myself to it and in 14 days lost 8.2 lbs!

Today's turmoil almost took me away from that success but Thank God for the reminder of my friends, who helped me overcome and turn the corner!

Don't let those little things mess you up.  As a country song considers:

"I run my life.  Or is it running me?"

Take control.  Be aware of the moods and feelings that take us even a step away from our goals and our true values and beliefs.  If I can do it, you can too!

Dear God, As always You accept me as I am.  Even when the mess is self-made You run immediately to my side.  I call out for a best friend and You are there saying, "I AM."  I call for a Counselor, and You are there saying, "I AM."  I call out for Someone to hear my cry and you are there saying, "I AM."  Thank you for perfect peace.  Peace that passes ALL understanding.  ~Me