Goal 2: Spiritual growth

As I mentioned recently, a few months ago we left our church and started attending a new church. I noticed my ruby ring was stolen the morning I left to go to church right before Christmas. The following Sunday we sang a song stating that God was the God of miracles. I thought in my head, yeah I believe in God, but I don’t believe in miracles anymore. I was seeing more tragedy around me than restoration. Even in my own life recently, a precious gift from my mother was stolen.

We didn’t know who took the ring, we just knew that it was missing. We allowed my son’s friend back into our lives after I got a lock box for the remaining precious gems. We didn’t think it was the friend that took the ring. We honestly thought it was another boy whose mother told me that her son stole from her. This second boy was in our house over the time that the ring went missing along with the first.

We took the first boy back into our house. We told him that we trusted him. But through our misguided trust, I started treating him like he belonged here again. I cooked for him and did his laundry. It was through this act of trust that I discovered my stolen ring in his pocket when I was doing his laundry. A miracle occurred. I never thought I would get my ring back and I never thought I would catch the person who did it.

After talking to my son about the betrayal of his friend, I sent a message to the other boy’s mother telling her that the ring had been found. I couldn’t imagine the agony of thinking that my child victimized another parent, a friend.

A miracle happened, but I no longer believed in miracles. I didn’t trust God. Instead I put my trust in someone that intended to hurt me. How bizarre is that!?

I was betrayed by someone I considered to be a best friend many years ago too. But hey, so was Jesus. Right? I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. If I didn’t trust the boy, I never would’ve gotten my ring back. I learned a lot in the process.

I am a pretty good person. I live with few regrets. I’ve been hurt more than I have hurt others. I’ve even read the Bible from cover to cover, but I’ve never truly trusted God before. I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to be in control.

Then yesterday a big miracle occurred. A most precious gem was stolen, a child by the name of Jayme Closs. She is a 13 year old girl in our state of Wisconsin that was kidnapped after her parents were brutally murdered. She was missing for almost 3 months without a trace. Just gone. Yesterday she was found. ALIVE!! What a miracle!

I no longer believed in miracles, but I do now.

Now I have to wonder…What more can God do??

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Aren’t miracles precious and beautiful? Are you looking for a miracle in your life??

My psych eval (25 years later) part 6

Alissa is functioning in the above average range of intellectual ability. The disparity appears to be that her academic grades do not reflect this level of intellectual ability. The possibility of a learning disability exists as well as an attention deficit adversely effecting her scholastic achievement. Alissa does not seem to have an internal sense of herself as an individual with a high IQ level. Her degree of effort expended seems to exceed what would be necessary for her current level of achievement. She should be able to complete her classes fairly easily with some modest effort given this IQ level.

As I mentioned earlier, I had a really hard time concentrating on my studies with everything that was happening at home.

I never thought of myself as smart either. My dad frequently told me how stupid I was. I guess after awhile I believed him.

Sometimes I would play piano and sing. I even wrote some of my own songs. My dad would come home from work and tell me to stop banging on the piano and caterwauling like a dying cat. I didn’t think I was good at anything.

Now I have two children who are gifted at music. I wonder what I could’ve done with my talent if it was encouraged.

After being homeschooled between 8th through 10th grade, I joined high school choir. My choir teacher did not like me. I think it had something to do with my depression and having a violent disruptive autistic brother. There were just some teachers that didn’t like me because of who my brother was. She told me that I wasn’t good enough to compete or perform solos. I wanted to be in jazz choir, but didn’t bother auditioning. She missed the opportunity to positively impact the life of a struggling student and I admit I still look back on this in anger.

I wanted to sing in college choir, but I was told that I wasn’t good enough too many times by then to even try.

Many years later I started singing in front of people and they asked if I was the top student in high school choir with my voice. What?? I always thought I could sing but never was told I was any good at it.

Right around 4th grade is when my depression started. I loved music and always had to stop myself from crying during music class. I often stared off into space to keep it all together. My grades slipped and my parents got very angry with me. My mom took away my dolls for a semester.

My mom didn’t want me to try new things because I might fail. I felt like I had to be perfect. I couldn’t be loved if I was not perfect. I would be denied the things I liked if I wasn’t good enough to earn them. I don’t admit fault. It is hard to think that I am not good enough. I started striving to achieve. I’ve accomplished a lot in life, but still can’t get over feeling like I am not good enough. Maybe I will always be hard on myself.

My dad told me I was stupid and my mom wanted me to be perfect.

I don’t believe I am stupid or have to be perfect anymore. In that way, I think I have succeeded.

But sometimes I look back at the sad child and wonder who she would’ve been if things were different.

 

 

Moral dilemma 3

We recently found out that our youth director at church moved in with her boyfriend. She divorced her husband a couple of months back and shortly thereafter moved in with her new boyfriend.

This has been tearing the church apart.

There are those that say it doesn’t matter what she does outside of her job. If she leaves, then this group will leave with her. There are others that say they don’t want the moral leader of their children showing them that it is okay to leave your husband and take on with another man. If she doesn’t resign from her position, another group will leave.

I am not judgmental or a prude, but I personally believe that the person who is getting paid with my tithe money should ascribe to the moral teachings of the church.

I personally do not care what two consenting adults decide to do in the bedroom, I don’t. I could care less about the living arrangements of my child’s math teacher. But they better be good at teaching math.

I wouldn’t expect a drug and alcohol counselor to be out getting drunk in the possible presence of clients. There are certain things that are expected when you take on certain job positions.

So the battle begins…the ripping and tearing starts.

I feel so torn. I really like our youth director. She is great with the kids. I even like the guy she is living with more than her husband. But that is beside the point. I can’t make decisions based on feelings.

To make matters worse, our choir director and organist recently resigned from their positions due to an unrelated matter. I have become close to the organist. She has been teaching my son how to play piano the last couple years. My son has always been a difficult teen to raise and she has been a very positive impact in his life. It pains me deeply to see her go.

Maybe it is time to find a new church home. It has gotten to the point where I don’t even want to go to church anymore. I feel so much sorrow over this.

If my children decide they want to be in a relationship, I want them to marry one person and stay married. I don’t want them to be like our youth director…several broken marriages with children from each marriage growing up in broken homes acting like everything is rosy living with a new guy.

Would I still love and accept my children even if they don’t live the life I want for them?? Absolutely, without a doubt!! I made the decision to raise my children Christian. It is not easy and I want a church that will back me up on this. Is that too much to ask?

I am not even opposed to people cohabiting, or am I? Last weekend Angel’s best friend from out of town came home with her live in boyfriend. They wanted to stay at our house for the night. I really struggled with what to do. My daughter Angel is an adult and today my son is an adult. I have a really hard time seeing my adult children and their friends as adults. To complicate things, Angel’s friend also belongs to our church. I told Angel that her friends were welcome to stay but I would be setting up separate sleeping arrangements for them.

Would I respond differently if the adults living together were my age? Would I respond differently if I didn’t still have a child in my house watching every decision I make and using that as a moral compass?

Honestly, I really don’t care what other people decide to do. It is no concern of mine. But if that person is tasked with the paid position of teaching my children Christian morals, I feel really uncomfortable with that person not practicing what they preach.

Is nothing sacred anymore, even within the church??

Thailand, parting thoughts

This is going to be my last post about Thailand…parting thoughts…general observations and comparisons..

Really, though, comparing the culture in Thailand to that of the US is like comparing apples to oranges. We are all fruity in different ways. Seriously though…there are so many ways that I wish we were more like Thailand, and other ways I am glad we are not..

I had a hard time with the young Thai girls with braces in the clubs. Technically, there is no pimp in prostitution there. If a customer would like to borrow a girl for awhile, he needs to pay the club owner a ‘fee’ to take an employee from their work shift. It bothered me to see young girls in this position.

In America I think most prostitutes would fall into the category of drug addict or runaway. In their culture, they view it as a girl (or lady boy) providing a service. A lot of these young folks take the money they make and send it home to support their families. I could never accept money from my children that was made in that way, but I also was never in a position that I had to.

Our tour guide gives some of his paycheck to his elderly father. The father spends a lot of the money on the lottery. Again, that would not fly in America.

The Thai people also think that putting a parent in a nursing home is a big no-no. The Thai people are very family oriented. Divorce is not common. There seems to be a cohesion of the family unit that is quite lacking in America.

The people dressed and acted very similarly to one another. The school children wore uniforms. The men and women dressed very plainly and modestly by our standards. Most wore monochromatic light colored clothes, not bright clothing with wording. They didn’t have dyed or crazy hairstyles. The women didn’t have tattoos nor shaved hair. They didn’t have gauges or seem big on piercings. Even the prostitutes looked very similar to each other. In America, we take individuality to the extreme.

The culture is very peaceful and relaxed. The people are not at all rude, hurried, or unfriendly. I suppose it is a little easier to deal with life if you strongly believe in karma or that someone you don’t like will come back in the next life as an insect. I personally think that Christians could learn a lot from the Buddhists in how to get along with each other. Here we squabble and fight over ever little issue. How are we going to handle an eternity in heaven together?

The people of Thailand did not generally beg for money. They took pride in bargaining and selling their wares at the market.

In Thailand, if people talk negatively about the king, they could face incarceration. I love the freedom of speech. But, geez, don’t Americans take it too far sometimes?? All we hear is fighting about religion, politics, and practically everything really. There is no respect anymore for someone that has a different opinion and yet we tout ourselves as being tolerant. We try to teach our children to respect authority, yet we dis people left and right. Enough already.

I think all schoolchildren should see what life it like in another country. Heck, maybe everyone should travel. Not only did I get the opportunity to see another culture, but I got the chance to see my own beliefs and culture differently. It enriched my thinking. I learned something about someone else and myself in the process.

Some of the things I thought were important really don’t seem all that important anymore. I don’t even care if the toilet paper faces up or down anymore. I am now happy to have toilet paper. I have a new appreciation of western bathrooms, even the crappiest ones.

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The restrooms in Thailand were quite different from ours. The hotel rooms had a regular toilet with what looked like a kitchen hose sprayer next to it. How were we even supposed to use it? We were a day into the tour when I experienced the first bathroom without toilet paper. I started carrying some around with me after that.

This was a public bathroom that we stopped at. I really didn’t even know what I was supposed to do. Plus there wasn’t any soap to wash your hands with. The public school bathroom was very similar. The western bathrooms there were tiny in comparison to ours. We had to pay at times to use the restroom. One of the perks of paying for the bathroom at the floating market was free internet. Seriously? The bathroom wasn’t wonderful enough that I wanted to hang around for the internet.

What a fascinating place and culture. I’m sad that our journey has come to an end. But I have a lot of pictures, all 750 of them, to remind me of our travels.

25. Dinner with anyone in history…

Day 25: If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be & what would you eat?

If I could dine with anyone in history, it would be Jesus. We wouldn’t have real food, just food for thought. I would be like a child and ask many questions… Why??

I would start at the beginning with the age old question that I asked my Sunday school teachers as a kid. If God created the world, then who created God?? Just have faith is not a good enough answer. You really don’t know either.

How did it all begin? I do believe in the creation story. No other theory makes any more sense to me. How could people evolve over millions of years accidentally from cells? Seriously, how? If that happened by accident, how come people can’t replicate that today with all of the advances in modern science? How could all of the different races and varieties of animals and trees evolve? If that is the case, why isn’t evolution still happening today?

How old is the world anyway?  If not evolution, then how did all the different cultures and races start from Adam and Eve? Is the Garden of Eden an actual place? Or are we just blocked from the knowledge that they had before they sinned? Help me understand the continuum of time. I can barely grasp tomorrow’s time change.

Does everything happen for a reason? Or just certain things? Or do we live in a world of sheer coincidence? Did Judas have a choice when he betrayed You? Or was he given no choice because it was meant to happen? Or did you just know what he was going to choose before he chose it? How much control do you allow us to have over our lives? Can our prayers change our circumstances or the circumstances of others in any way?

Is all life sacred? I believe so…but if given the option to go back in time, would I try to convince Hitler’s mother to have an abortion? Why did you allow the Holocaust to happen to your chosen people anyway? If all life is sacred, then how about the life of the prisoner on death row?? Should we kill others who have murdered? I believe in justice, but should we be the ones to administer it?

How could David be a man after your own heart? He was a man who had it all…good looks, riches, and hundreds of beautiful women to sleep with whenever he wanted to. Yet he had to kill off a man to take his wife and broke almost every commandment that you gave us. Why him? Why not the Pharisee who tried to be pious?

Why is the Old Testament focused so much on rules and rituals and the New Testament on love and grace? It seems so extremely black and white to me. I don’t understand. What happened to your miracles? Why do bad things happen to good people? What happens to the souls of the people who never had the opportunity to believe?

Why? Why? Why? I just want to understand.

 

Amish windows

8-2-16 001This week we got our new windows. You probably are wondering why I would even talk about something so boring as home improvements. The exciting story here is not in the what, it is in the who. We had the Amish come out to work on the project.

Let’s just clear up the boring part first. My husband and I bought a house built in the 1990’s when everyone was on the air tight energy saving kick. Having an air tight house has been great when it comes to heating bills. We barely pay anything to heat our house during the cold Wisconsin winters. However, we have had moisture issues since the day we bought it.

The moisture can’t escape. Anytime we had temps below freezing, condensation would form on our windows. Sometimes it rained inside our house with water dripping down our windows pooling into the wooden sills. Our house is like a rain forest. We  bought an air exchanger to draw the humidity out of our air tight house. But by then the damage was done to our windows. They needed replacing but we couldn’t afford to do it in our earlier years.

The picture above is the window from our bedroom. We have been breathing in black mold for years now. We tried bleach, we tried everything, but we couldn’t fix the damage done without replacing them.

We were referred to an Amish man to do the work of replacing our windows. The first step was to have him come out here to look at our windows and take measurements. He needed someone to drive him. The first obstacle was giving him directions to our house. Get out your iPhone and type in our address. That obviously wasn’t going to work. He did get lost coming out once because he had difficulty explaining the directions to different drivers. It is probably like trying to read a map in a different language.

After he took the measurements, he made the windows himself. I thought that was pretty impressive. Most people around here know that anything Amish made is high quality.

Then he came over this week with three other men. They arrived in a large diesel truck driven by a heavy set man in overalls. He looked like a rancher from Texas, not that I have ever seen one anywhere besides TV. Then he drove off.

It took the men a day and a half to complete the job.  At first the men seemed pretty ackward around me. In their culture I don’t believe that they are comfortable talking to a married woman without her husband around. I felt naked around them in shorts and a t-shirt. No matter what I wore, I don’t think that I could ever be as modest as an Amish woman. I didn’t want to offend them.

I heard the men talk a lot in German. I didn’t understand a word even though they were speaking the language of my ancestors. When they were working outside, one of the men asked another what the buzzing sound was coming from a machine. The other man replied, “I think that is what you call an air conditioner.” They were very respectful and friendly, yet we all eyed each other in puzzlement by the differences in culture.

The second day, the four men came back to finish the job. This time they brought along two little boys around the ages of 7 and 10. The boys didn’t seem to do any of the work besides carry a few light things. Instead they followed their dad around intensely watching him and learning the family trade. I wish that our culture had the same attitude regarding our youth instead of throwing them out into the world after high school with no job skills.

The Amish workers seemed interested by my children watching TV. They seemed fascinated to see us drive off in cars, especially the teenagers. I’m sure that they had just as many stories to tell about us as we told about them. There was nothing bad to say.

I am very happy with our new windows and the work the Amish men did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace uncommon, part 9

One day while at the small local grocery store, I saw Aunt Grace come in to buy a beer. She wanted one beer. She wanted the store owners to open a case to sell her just one beer. She wanted the beer for a beer brat recipe. Aunt Grace did not drink so she did not need the other beers. She always said that sitting on bar stools made women unattractive. She also told us that we shouldn’t drink until our mortgage was paid. I sure hope that she didn’t roll over in her grave a little that time I was at Coyote Ugly. Hhmmm.

Aunt Grace was a religious church goer. She attended every Sunday but never took communion. My mom thought that Aunt Grace didn’t take communion because there was alcohol in the communion wine. My mom went on this big campaign to have the wine replaced with grape juice. She said that there were so many medications that people were on (Grace included) where they weren’t supposed to have alcohol. Finally the pastor switched over to grape juice. Aunt Grace still did not take communion.

Aunt Grace became bitter in her later years. She was very upset that people of the church did not pay their garage bills. She said that kind people were not always kind when they owed you money. Money that they didn’t seem to have to pay their bill even though they could afford nice new toys. She was very upset about this after her brother Harold died and the family business closed. She said that he worked so hard all those years for nothing. She was angry. She was bitter. She couldn’t stop ruminating about it. It found a way to trap her. Some things were hard for her to let go. 

The bitterness ate her up inside. She was the type of person to hold a grudge. She felt like she should not take communion with an unforgiving heart. It was too bad that she couldn’t see that she was only hurting herself. She wanted things to be fair and right, but the world doesn’t always work that way. 

There are certain family members that have a hard time forgiving and forgetting. When I said that Grace never forgave me for saying shut up to her, she really didn’t. I struggle with this myself at times. I find that being angry, criticizing, or condemning people for their imperfections is much easier than forgiving them. When someone screws me over, I want to cut them out of my life. Now this is much harder to do with family. LOL. Seriously though, forgiveness? Letting go? Forgetting? I find it much easier to form a hard bitter wall around myself.

Paul is one of the most forgiving people that I know. He tells me again and again that I am only hurting myself when I don’t forgive someone. That doesn’t mean that I have to be best friends with the person or trust them again. Forgive, forget, and let go… I can do this now, it just seems to take awhile until I can get over it. I feel a little sad that Aunt Grace didn’t seem able to do this. 

My soles are worn thin

It seems I haven’t gotten too far on my travel series yet. Maybe tomorrow..

This past weekend I shared with you a dream that I had about having to run a marathon I am not ready for. I think the marathon symbolizes the second half of my life. I looked down to see that my soles on my shoes were totally worn out. The reality is that the first half of my life is over. Then I noticed that at the beginning of this marathon I was wearing shoes that fit but they were on the wrong foot. I don’t want to start the second half of my life on the wrong foot. I request a new pair of shoes, this time they fit but they are uneven. I won’t be able to run the race very long wearing these shoes. I think this is symbolic of parenting. My children will start leaving the house in a few months, things won’t be the same (uneven), and soon I will be actively taking these shoes off. The last shoe brought out is the most comfortable but it doesn’t fit yet. Ah, retirement and living without the stress of working and actively parenting. But it is going to be a long time before this shoe fits me.

I took comfort early on in the dream marathon that Gu and broccoli were at the beginning of the race. I chose to go down the path of exercise and healthy living. Not only does being an exercise fanatic ward off my depression, anxiety, and stress. It makes me think that I will live longer and healthier. Because if I really think about it, which is something that I try to avoid doing, I am terrified of death. We are not going to exist forever like we do now. Even though I have a firm faith in God, I am still absolutely terrified of my own demise. What if I am wrong? What if there is nothing out there? Forget the physical pain of taking your last breathe. What if there is only an empty void? A void like the one before our existence. I just can’t bear the emptiness of that. I want to think that I am going to see my loved ones again, even if I am wrong.

When I started this dream marathon, I saw people wander off the path before it began. I went to sleep that night worried that my neighbor in her mid 40’s was not going to make it. She did pass away during the night. She was one of the people that left the race early before it really even began for her. Another thing that I noticed was that the path looked straight and the weather was fine. I seemed to have the tools I needed to run the race but I couldn’t see very far ahead of me. I needed to figure out what shoes to wear, what my role is going to be in the second half of my life. I wanted to wait to start the marathon before I figured that out, but I ran out of time.

I suppose at this point it is pretty obvious that I was a psychology major in college. LOL

 

 

Christmas stalkings

The first time that my mom met my husband Paul didn’t go all that well. The year was 1995. We met for lunch at a cheap pancake house. We sat in a booth in the nonsmoking section. The conversation flowed up until the point that my mom asked my new boyfriend what his beliefs were regarding God. I warned Paul before lunch that if religion were to come up that he needed to change the topic. But Paul didn’t, he went on and on about how he believed in evolution. At this point, I started kicking Paul under the table as he droned on and on about atheism and the rational mind. So my mom did what any devout Christian would do. She set me up with my ex-boyfriend, Brad.

I met Brad a little further back in the days of ratted hair and tight rolled jeans. Brad was in the military. He was the one who had the same personality as me, was also a first born, both are left handed, and we shared the same religion. My whole family loved him and thought that I would probably end up marrying him someday. But after over two years of being in a long distance relationship, we decided to call it quits right before Brad left for a year commitment on a Navy ship. Right around the time I met Paul, Brad finished his time in the military.

One day, shortly after she met Paul, my mom invited me out to lunch at a pizza place. When I got to the restaurant, my mom was waiting for me at a table with Brad. Brad told me how much he missed me and loved me. He was home to stay and wanted to get back together. My mom chipped in every so often about how wonderful that would be. At one point in the conversation Brad started crying. He grabbed my hands and pleaded to get back together. But it was too late. After the meal, I took Brad back to my apartment a couple of blocks away. I gave him back his class ring and all of his pictures. I was so mad at my mom. My mom took things into her own hands, but God had other plans. Funny how that works.

Last week, I told my mom that after Paul had a conversation with our daughter Angel’s stalker that he seemed to back off. Angel’s boyfriend ran into her stalker a couple of times on campus and he nervously walked away with lowered eyes. I told my mom that I thought our stalker days are behind us now. That is when my mom reluctantly told me to watch my back.

Brad recently accepted my mom’s friend request she sent him five years ago on facebook. Last month Brad’s wife passed away. He sent my mom a message asking if I was happy in my marriage. He told my mom that besides his wife, I was the only other woman he ever loved. He told her that he still loves me a lot. The conversation freaked my mom out enough to take a screen shot of the whole conversation. Way to go mom!

So every time I attend a public event that people know I am at, I am hyper vigilant for stalkers now. Seriously, call me paranoid but my life is just that crazy.

 

Confirmed, part 3

Even though my son’s confirmation went great, there was still something missing. To start out at the very beginning of my time, I was raised as a Lutheran. After many years of seeking and trying many different denominations, I came back full circle to being a Lutheran. Will I always be a Lutheran? Who knows. I am very open to other possibilities. Let’s put it this way, I agree and disagree with just about every denomination out there.

Our previous church to the Lutheran one was rather far away. As the kids were getting older, it became more difficult to be there multiple times a week. Our oldest was getting to the age where she wanted to join youth group on Sunday night which meant almost 2 hours of driving on Sunday. After a series of snowstorms every Sunday for a month and a half, we ended up going to the Lutheran church down the road. We liked it so much that we decided to stay. This involved getting our non infants baptized. At the time we chose family to be the sponsors of our daughters and a friend to be the sponsor of our son. That friend is no longer involved in our life.

My husband has always been a Fred Flintstone kind of guy. He is outgoing and makes friends with quieter types of guys. He typically finds Barney’s that are single and lonely or guys that have gone through hard breakups. He befriends them and gets them obsessed with fishing or as of recently sailing. My son’s godfather Gary was one of those guys. Then Gary found a woman. He brought her over one night for supper and conversation. I feel really bad about the next part, while they were over I fell asleep. Honestly, she was that boring. No sense of humor, nothing. I tolerate stupidity better than boring, or lazy, for that matter. If your life lacks luster, make it shine! I do feel bad though. This woman was perfect for Gary though. They decided to marry and my husband was the best man.

After the wedding, we got together a few times. Gary and Paul still went fishing together. Then Gary’s wife had a miscarriage one day while they were out fishing. I really think that she was upset that her husband wasn’t home. A few months later, she got pregnant again. She did not invite me to her baby shower although she invited other mutual friends. It was all over facebook. Okay, whatever. That December, Gary called us to tell us that he was a father. We wanted to see the baby, but were too busy at the time. My mom was recovering from surgery due to cancer. It was a very scary time. I took off of work to help her out. To make matters harder, our family was involved in a community theater production the first two weekends in December. Then came Christmas, so we never made it out to see the baby. It wasn’t long after that that Gary’s wife unfriended me on facebook. Gary dropped out of our life too. But about once a year, Gary stops by our house out of the blue by himself to visit.

Friends come and go, I don’t harbor any resentment. Although, it is time for Gary’s yearly visit.