Fortune cookie wisdom #20

Courage comes through suffering.

This fortune cookie blew away from the rest and was found the same day I found my lost ‘I am courageous’ sock. I only wore the socks once before losing one in Paul’s shirt for a couple weeks.

It seemed like a sign of some sorts. But what does it mean?

What does being courageous even mean? The dictionary defines courageous as not deterred by danger or pain; brave.

I would like to think that I am courageous. In the next couple weeks I am planning on doing courageous things.

This weekend I am running my first 50k. It takes a lot of courage for me to do this and probably will entail a lot of suffering too. There is no guarantee that I will succeed. I am very fearful that I might not be able to achieve the goals I’ve set in place for myself.

Within the next two weeks I will be submitting a 45 minute presentation for a local autism chapter about what it is like to be a sibling of someone with autism. I really need to put myself out there about the most difficult experience in my life. It is going to require a lot of courage. I am finishing my book on what life is really like with a disabled sibling. I’ve had to face my scars and demons.

As an extra test to my bravery, over the holiday weekend a filling fell out. I went to the dentist today to get it fixed. They said I could probably do it without being numbed. I would rather run a marathon with a broken leg. I was horrified and then they said I could get anesthesia just in case. But I decided to brave it despite my fear.

Then this past weekend I spoke to my dad about God. I don’t feel like he has much time left. For some reason he has softened his heart toward me lately. He told me that he loved me for the second time in my life. The first time was on my 18th birthday prompted by my mother. Then this weekend I asked him to come out and sit with us, his family, by the campfire. Surprisingly to everyone, he did.

Before this, I justified to myself that someone else should talk to my dad. My brother Luke sat down with my parents awhile back and aired out all of his grievances. It seemed like a good thing. I thought that he was getting along great with my dad. I felt like Luke is a better Christian than I am so he could carry the weight of talking to our dad. But my eyes were opened to the fact that Luke and my dad do not get along.

My mom is a devout Christian and my dad is a Christian bashing atheist. I bet you can guess how that worked. I believe that the best marriages are of those that have the same religious beliefs. Because, we the children, have to take sides. I feel the need to talk to my dad about God. I most likely wouldn’t have that burden if both my parents were Christians or atheists if I followed their beliefs. It causes a lot of disharmony and stress.

So on the way out of the cabin this weekend I said to my dad that I hope he finds God before God finds him. My dad laughed and said fat chance. I knew that my words probably did no good for him, but it released me. I did everything I could and if it is the last time I see him I will know that I did not leave a coward.

I don’t think that I am more courageous than the average person, but I am trying to be brave when there are demons to slay and fears to conquer.

 

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??

Paul’s journey, part 6

I am going to skip ahead a little today…to when I met Paul.

Paul had settled down considerably since his college years when I met him.

We lived in the same apartment building. My bedroom was right above his. We met in the laundry room. I remember the day well. My cat puked up a hairball on my blanket. I was irritated that I had to make a special unplanned trip to the laundry room. But if it wasn’t for my cat, we wouldn’t have struck up a conversation.

Later that night, Paul invited me out to drinks with some friends. That really didn’t go well either. His friends were fine, except for one girl who dominated the conversation with Paul. She spoke and sputtered loudly looking only at Paul and frequently put her hand on his knee. I didn’t like her.

He kissed me that night out in the parking lot.

From that night on, I was hooked. He told me his story about growing up with a single parent in the inner city of Chicago…that was all it took. Paul played hard to get and I chased him relentlessly. There was a point when I thought that perhaps he wasn’t interested and decided to walk away. That was all I needed to hook him.

It was time for Paul to meet my parents. I instructed him on what to say and what not to say. My mother asked point blank if he believed in God. Paul said that he did not believe in God. In fact, he said that he believed in evolution. He went on and on about Darwin and natural selection as I kicked him under the table.

The following week, my mother set me up with my ex-boyfriend Brad. She came to my apartment under the guise of going out to eat. When we got to the restaurant, Brad was sitting there waiting for us. Brad cried the whole time telling me how much he missed me. I took him back to my apartment after lunch and gave him back everything that I still had of his. It took a long time for Paul to forgive my mother for this.

I believe that my mother started praying harder after the dinner date with Brad. At the time, Paul was in graduate school and was approached by the campus ministry with a Bible. Also, a friend of his who became a missionary came back into his life. Eventually, God wore Paul down. God knew I wouldn’t be interested in chasing a nice church going guy. I wanted a bad boy.

After I was already hooked, God changed the direction of Paul’s life.

Weathering life’s storms

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Sometimes I feel like God is smiling down at me for weathering life’s storms. A ray of light sneaks through the clouds and dries the falling tears.

I can’t let the storms rock my boat…

I need the wind at my back to guide me in a different direction, to open my eyes to new perceptions instead of fighting the circumstances that surround me.

But first I need to leave the safety of the harbor and trust His navigation. I won’t get anywhere tied up in false security and empty comforts.

I am afraid that I will never have enough faith to walk on water, but I can’t let that stop me from taking the first step..

 

I’ll probably worry about this

It was Friday night. I was hitting up a local bar that I never have been to but was close to home. I was surrounded by people, alone. There was a man outside. He was very large and scary looking. He also brandished a semi automatic weapon of some sort. He was telling people what to do. I was afraid, but I left my cell phone in the car.

Then it seemed like I went back in time to the 1980’s. The place seemed old and rather run down. No one had a cell phone, but the owner of the place had an old rotary phone that I called 911 on to try to get help. 911 said that it wasn’t in their jurisdiction. Sorry we can’t help you. I called my husband. He came inside the building with me along with faceless nameless other people I didn’t know who seemed oblivious to the threat. When he got there, I hid in the back room with a machete. I felt like a coward for hiding and leaving him out there to defend me.

They found me in the back room anyway. I had a knife fight with another person to defend myself. It was awkward because I was left handed. I got stabbed in the stomach. I was dying but felt no pain and wondered why.

I woke up at 3:43 AM.

On Friday night, we actually went to the nursing home to visit Martha. At the end of the visit, we watched the birds in the cages.

Last night I dreamed that I was going to be dropped off somewhere in the middle of nowhere to run at night. It was going to be dangerous. It might storm. I might have to seek shelter. I was excited until I got attacked by the nursing home birds. I woke up screaming NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Two nights with nightmares, two days without exercise. Maybe I really do need to run to outrun my demons.

Yesterday I thought a lot about worrying. It has been a life long struggle for me. I decided to keep a list of every worry that came across my mind. I gave up after already having at least a dozen before I left for work.

I realize that worry is not going to add an extra day to my life. Worrying and overthinking every possible scenario does not equate to having control. It takes away my joy and I really want to sever its hold on me.

Sometimes I also have anxiety, which is a lot different from worry. Sometimes I even panic about the things I tell you. Opening up. Being honest. But if I really (over)think about it, who cares? Probably not the 3 people that actually take the time to read my posts.

I hate it when people tell me I need to worry less. Don’t worry. Be happy. Don’t you think I’ve already worried about how I can worry less?

Or they tell me that I really don’t trust God because if I did I wouldn’t worry. That just plain hurts my feelings. Let go and let God. If it were only that easy. Obviously those people don’t have the same struggle. If they did they would realize that it is not a kind, compassionate, or caring thing to say. It actually gives me more to worry about.

Sometimes I want to slam people with ‘you really don’t trust God enough’ for every weakness or struggle they have.

Wow, guess who is feeling a little edgy today??

I am going to end this here and sit around for the next couple of hours worrying about what I just wrote.

 

 

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.

 

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.

Confirmed, part 2

The cake is gone, the festive dishes have been washed and put back in dark cupboard corners. My son’s confirmation went better than expected. He even said during the party that he was getting bored of gaming. He played board games with family and friends. Hallelujah!

I have to share with you the story of my confirmation because it is such a crazy story it seems made up. I got confirmed during a presidential campaign year. I attended a small rural church. The church was large but the congregation was small, probably around 40 regular attendees per week. We shared our pastor with our sister congregation 20 minutes away. After 2 years of sitting through Saturday morning confirmation classes listening to my pastor’s monotone speaking, I got confirmed. I memorized all the creeds and required Bible verses. The night before the big day, the eight of us confirmands had to answer about 300 memorized theological questions in front of our family and friends. By golly, somehow we pulled it off. 

I was the only person getting confirmed in my church, the rest were getting confirmed in the sister church. We found out that a senator running for president was stopping at my church on the campaign route. He was stopping on confirmation Sunday. Finally, it was time for the big day! The parking lot was beyond full. I was escorted to the front row of our church. My mom hired a violinist that was a recent immigrant from Poland. The secret service patted him down and inspected his violin case thoroughly. The church was packed, there wasn’t a single open seat. The offering from that one service probably tided the church over for the next 10 years. 

I remember being terrified while reciting my confirmation verse and giving my explanation of the verse. My voice squeaked like a frightened church mouse. Afterwards, we hosted a huge meal for the senator and he spoke. I had my picture with the senator in all of the local papers. Big things don’t usually happen in small towns.