Friday, January 3, 2014

What I learned in 2013

It always amazes me to look back over a span of time and realize how much things have changed. And, since I seem to have a really bad case of writer's block, and life is extremely distracting these days (I've been distracted twice by people and dogs 3 times just writing these two sentences) I've decided I shall do my year-in-review in list form. 
Here's a few things I learned...

1. It's worth the extra money to buy Victoria Secret panties. 
2. My body is capable of change and stronger than I really ever knew. 
3. Contemplating where to hide a body is totally reasonable given the right circumstances. 
4. I can still feel like a giddy, gushing 12-year-old girl and blush when certain people are around...and like it. 
5. Just when you think you've got things figured out, you're wrong. 
6. Exercise doesn't have to be grueling and boring and is the best antidepressant I've ever taken. 
7. My friends don't have to be my age. 
8. Watching sunrises, stargazing, dancing, tongue-kissing, and laughter get me high. 
9. My age has nothing to do with my age. 
10. Dogs can learn sign-language. 
11. Eating grapes at 1:00 a.m. while letting the dog out to pee is addicting and.. louder than you'd think.
12. Fresh cow's milk is the bombdiggity. 
13. People can be cruel but I'm only responsible for my own attitude. 
14. Blu-Ray really is better
15. Mess doesn't bother me as much as it used to and, surprisingly, my house is staying cleaner. 
16. I don't have to feel guilty about needing a nap and can nap like a boss. 
17. There is no such thing as perfection. 
18. I am not responsible for living up to other people's expectations of me. 
19. The only thing I should expect of others is imperfection and love them anyway. 
20. There is a huge difference between someone being nice to you and someone not being mean. 
21. It feels really good to be paid a complement and, therefore, I want to compliment others more. 
22.  It makes people angry when you tell a secret that isn't yours to tell...even good ones. 
23. The anticipation of a new family member coming into the world is beyond exciting. 
24. Just when I think my heart has expanded as far as it can, it fills up with even more love. 
25. I can still get mad crushes. 
26. Waking up at 5:30 is kinda awesome. 
27. I'm more competitive than I realized. 
28. You can't always get what you want. 
29. Detox baths are amazing. 
30. Slathering myself in coconut oil after a shower feels so good, and makes my dogs lick me. 

I could probably go on...
Hope all my loved ones have a blessed year and learn how big your hearts can grow. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2 years

Today marks 2 years of sobriety. Sobriety doesn't even begin to sum it all up. The word, itself, is just too small.

Looking back, I think the first year was spent sorting through the muck and trying to wiggle my way out of self-will. Leaving old patterns and default behaviors behind is messy business. Especially for a stubborn person like myself. I knew it was no longer going to work for me and I knew I had to let go. Trying to figure out HOW to let go is a quite a conundrum. When ceasing the fight is your battle and laying down your sword is the challenge, a person can find themselves in quite a pickle.

I know I've talked about this before but it's been so long since I've blogged, I can't remember what I've said or when. But, the moment I surrendered my will is the moment I became free. My "self" is still there. Oh boy is she still there.

Side note: because of an inspirational individual I've been following, I have named that inner voice "Helga". She's the bitch that messes with my head. She is my negative voice. The one that tells me I'm no good. She tells me I should give up. She is also the one that tells me to be a "right-fighter" and then if I do use my smart mouth, she tells me how stupid I am for doing that. Giving her a name gives me power over her. I've been challenged to recognize her when she starts yammering so that I can then tell her to zip it and follow it up with something positive. May sound kinda silly but it is a very powerful tool.

The last half of this, my second year of sobriety, has been about taking my life back. This is the part where I've recognized the line in the serenity prayer that says the courage to change the things I can. While ceasing my control and power over my life, God says, "you have the power to change". God gives me the will and directs my life but I can't move unless it is my feet that do the walking. I can not simply lay down and expect life to get better. It is up to me to do something about it. Life is all about decisions. Big ones and little ones. They all shape who you are. I've made bad choices and suffered the consequences. I still, sometimes, make bad choices but I have learned to be quick to apologize not only to those around me but to myself.

Being sober is so much more than not drinking alcohol or doing drugs. Now that I've tasted freedom, it is my new addiction. I've laid down the sword of myself and picked up the sword of the Spirit. He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world. There is my battle to fight. For, I am a fighter at heart. God didn't do that on accident. He says, "you want to fight? Fight the good fight!" Instead of fighting for what I think is "fair" or arguing over right and wrong, I allow my soul to rest in the knowledge that I don't control that. Instead of fighting with myself and surrendering to bitterness and anger, I can stand and fight bitterness and anger with love and patience. Understanding that what other people think of me is none of my business...F R E E D O M. Let freedom ring! Hallelujah AMEN. Somewhere, deep inside me, it's always been there. Peace. It was just buried underneath so much of my own crap...I couldn't see it, let alone, feel it. And, I know where it resides now so I stalk it, follow it, stand in it's shadow. I take it with me.

The ONLY thing that God has given me dominion over is myself. I can't control what anybody says or does but I can completely control my reaction to it. Helga sometimes says, "but they are so wrong and maybe you should tell them how stupid they are...go ahead" or "They shouldn't be able to behave that way and get away with it." And, sometimes I really want to listen to her. I really want to tell some people how ridiculous their points of view are. I really want to tell them how mean and cruel and vicious they're being. I have to tell Helga to SHUT UP and then I hear the Spirit whisper, "nothing and no one gets away with cruelty. It is not your job to bring down judgement. I will do that. The only way you can make a difference is with love. If you let their cruelty kill your joy and your peace, you have only yourself to thank. You get to love everybody. You don't even have to decide who to love and who not to love. You're free from making that decision. And, in doing that...in simply loving even the meanest of people, you will be free. You will be happy. Your life will bear much fruit. Continue on your journey child with peace and love in your heart. Nothing they do can touch you because I am your soul/body guard. I am your source of peace."

I am doing things every day that will make my tomorrow better. I am living presently. I am being "in the now". I allow myself to feel uncomfortable without thinking I've got to drink something to get rid of it. Fully awake and alive, I am experiencing life. All of it. Even the yucky stuff. Because, if I'm fully awake and alive to experience the yuck, I will also be fully awake and alive to experience the wonderful. There are a million miracles awaiting me. I want to be there when they happen.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hard Lessons

I guess any lesson worth learning is worth a little pain. It doesn't seem that anything comes easy. No matter how much you read about a topic, it is really a whole new ball game when the rubber meets the road.

I've always known that we are supposed to love everyone. That if we are in Christ and we accept His grace we, in turn, must be gracious towards others. The concept is there, it always has been. But what do you do when you're actually faced with it? What do you do with a broken heart when you love someone who doesn't love you in return?

Over the past few months, I've learned such a valuable lesson about this. It hasn't been easy but, now, seeing the truth laid before me and honestly accepting what is, I am beyond thankful for the lesson in all of the heartache.

I can't be very specific but there is someone in my life that just does not acknowledge my existence. Someone I love very much but, for various reasons, has decided that their life is better without me in it. While it even hurts think that, I am learning what it means to truly love somebody. Love is a gift. It is a gift that has been bestowed upon me my whole life. There has never been a day in my life where I really felt I wasn't loved by my family, my true friends, by God. I know that I am blessed. I know that there are some people who never really get to feel that kind of love from others. But, love is a gift that must be given without strings attached. This is where it gets tricky.

As humans, we tend to expect something in return for anything we give, be it love, money, gifts, time, patience, or talent. We think that we are owed something, especially if we go out of our way to help someone or extend grace in one form or another. I remember the first time I was scolded by a great aunt because she never received a thank you card from me. I was stunned. Of course it is common courtesy to extend thanks but it really made me reevaluate the whole gift giving and receiving thing. Isn't a gift something you give without expecting anything in return? Oh, it is if you're the receiver but...how do we really feel when we are the ones giving without receiving anything in return? Are we really giving out of true grace? Or is there an underlying motive?

MOTIVE. That has been the driving catalyst in my latest epiphany. What am I expecting in return by extending love to someone who, for all practical purposes, wishes I would just drop off the face of the earth. If I send a "Merry Christmas" text or a "Happy Birthday" wish, am I expecting a response? Or, am I really truly ready to open up my heart, expose a wound and allow God to be the ultimate healer. This means that I have to be willing to be vulnerable. I can't walk around with a wall around my heart to keep from being hurt. It means I have to be willing to do what the spirit leads me to do without thought of myself and how it might hurt. You know, saying "I love you and miss you" to someone who will probably make fun of those sentiments or find that you're motives are probably evil and that you're just trying to stir up contention. I wondered about my motives but the spirit whispered to me, "what if you weren't here tomorrow to say that? What would you regret more, saying I love you and having it squashed, or never having said it knowing that you really do?" So my choice was suddenly clear. TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM. Tell them that you miss them dearly. Tell them that you're reminded of them in your dreams and in your daily walk. It doesn't matter if they ever acknowledge that you said a word. It doesn't matter that they don't love or miss you. YOU are responsible for your words, your actions, your motives. Once a gift leaves your hands and is in the hands of the recipient, it is up to them what they do with it. If I expect something in return, it wasn't really a gift to begin with. HARD LESSON.

Rodney mentioned the word "closure" today and it occurred to me that I just really don't need closure. God is the Ancient of Days and there is coming a day when there will be ultimate closure. There will not be one loophole left open or one wrong not righted. Everything will be made new and nothing that we've endured on the earth will have been for naught. The only thing I need to do is love. I get to love everybody. I don't have to make a list of qualifications and choose who makes the cut and who doesn't. What an exhausting and daunting task that would be. I'm free, free to love even those who hate me.

I can't tell you what this has done to my heart. How it has set me free from worry and anxiety. It still hurts when I know I'm being made fun of or that someone I love doesn't want to even see me or talk to me. But I believe that pain is part of the process of growing spiritually. If I'm truly going to let God have his way with my heart, there will be some pain involved. To get rid of all my human pride will require the ripping away of some things that were keeping me bound down. I believe God. I believe Him to do what He says He will do. Even when I'm scared and I don't  understand why...I believe.

So, if you are hurting or if you are questioning whether or not to tell somebody you love them...tell them. If you're going to get hurt by saying it, say it anyway. Love them anyway. Expect nothing in return but get ready for a lightening in you soul and a freedom in your heart.





Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Letting Go

In my almost 40 years, God has called me over and over again to believe him. He challenges my faith, tests my strength, encourages me to move forward, and promises that He will be there every step of the way. It isn't enough to believe in God. He wants us to believe him. The only way that this is achieved is through complete and total faith. And man is it scary.

Sometimes, I am called to have faith in small things. Like that the weather will hold out until we get the hay put up or if we will have enough money to get us through until the next paycheck. Some might see those as big things but, to me, they are small in the grand scheme of things. Then there are times when God really needs me to be strong and believe. Like when my dad was sick and we weren't sure if he would live. Or when we signed our names on the bottom line and bought the farm and went into debt up to our eyeballs. It was so frightening because there is no way of knowing what the outcome would be. But, those of us that trust God have a knowing that the world cannot touch us. Oh, it can leave you bloody alright but, what we have is eternal and secure from anything that man may try to do to us. So, we walk wobbly-legged to the edge of the cliff, take the hand of Jesus and jump. I don't think God expects us to never be afraid. I just think He expects us trust him anyway. When I would tell my mom, "I'm just too scared", she would say..."well, just do it scared then".

I've just come to tell you today that I am afraid. The words are not even coming to me to describe what I am presently feeling. My son is leaving in a couple days. He will be headed to south Texas to begin working at a company down there where he has an opportunity to be successful and learn a trade. We are very proud and excited for him and he is ready. The trouble is, I'm not.

Anybody that knows Kyle at all knows what an incredible person he is. Raising him has been the joy, and the challenge of my life. For so many years, I really had my doubts that he would ever be able to survive on his own. There was just no way that this ADHD "tasmanian devil", as we used to call him, would make it without constant supervision and, even then, it was questionable. Helping to bring that boy to manhood was definitely a "hands-on" project. Somehow, we all made it through. He is, without doubt, one of the most amazing people I've ever known. And, I just don't want to let him go.

I was thinking last night how gracious God has been to me. Taylor was born just a few days shy of starting kindergarten when she was 5 so, I got to keep her an extra year. Kyle has had all this time since he graduated trying to find a path to take while camped out at home. I knew that the day would come when I would have to let go. Somehow, I feel like nobody understands. Even when he was little, it was hard for me to let him go spend the night at somebody's house. For one, I was afraid of what he might destroy while he was there but, mainly, it was because I felt like...nobody is going to love him like me. I don't want his hyper-weirdness or inquisitive, out-of-the-box thinking to be the brunt of jokes or to get on somebody's nerves. I just wanted everybody to see him for what I knew that he was and is. I wanted him to be seen for the precious, sweet, big-hearted, talented, incredibly smart person that he is. It's just that you had to look through a layer of spastic chaos to see it.

Some people did. I always appreciated the teachers that "got him". Those that took the time to nurture his strengths and just let him be who he was without ridicule. Angels, I'd say. As he has grown and gained the ability to balance his emotions and impulses and channel his energies, it has become easier and easier to see him being completely independent. He has become a man. And, a really good one. I am so happy that he has been able to maintain his sense of wonder in the world. His curiosity about how things work and why will serve him well. What will serve him even more is his love for Christ. This is what gives me peace in sending him out into the world. He will be a light wherever he goes. Texas is SOO lucky!

As for me, letting him leave is going to be frightening and hard but, it is just time. I will be called on for more faith than I've ever had in the coming weeks. To absolutely believe that God is going to take over from here is almost more than I can bear. I feel like I need to send a list of instructions with him...like his Creator knows him less than I do. I know he will make a lot of friends and probably meet girls. One day he will meet the girl God has set aside to be his wife and even then I will think, "nobody will ever love him like I do".

Rodney and my mom have said, "it's not like he is leaving forever". Yes, but this time, he's not heading off to church camp for a week or to stay at a cousins house. He is heading out into the world to start his life. It will be a beautiful life. I am so proud that I get to be his mother. I've learned more about love and patience in the past 18 years than I probably ever will again. In helping him become a man, he has made me a better woman. The best kind of woman...the mother of a good man.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When the guilty are punished

I read this quote today and it really made me stop and think...

"Relationships don't thrive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful"~Max Lucado

There are several situations in my family's life right now that made this so relevant. Innocence and guilt. Who is innocent and who is guilty? It really depends on who you talk to, I suppose. One thing I know for sure is that I am NOT innocent. Not by a long shot. This is where my redemption comes in and saves me over and over. You know, that little thing called grace? It is what fixated me when I read that quote.

Grace...

The innocent Christ ever merciful to my soiled, guilty soul. Unmerited favor. Salvation.

The human in us longs to see the guilty punished. We want justice for those that have wronged us. We want Karma to happen quickly and we want to be there when the boom lowers. It is hard to fathom the concept of loving our enemy. It's even harder to do it.

I've done a lot of soul-searching about loving the unlovable. It has been hard to swallow the fact that some people hate me and I, in turn, am supposed to love them. It's even harder to love those who hate those that I love. (did that make sense?) Hating me is one thing, hating my mom or my kids or my husband is something entirely different to attempt to process. Those things bring you to whole new level of mercy. That primal instinct to protect those that we love is a very hard beast to contain. I'm not saying that we should allow our loved ones to be hurt, but we sure don't have to lose our tempers and release every mean slander in our arsenal. We can be merciful and still keep a safe haven.

One thing that I have come to learn is that most people see themselves as innocent. They justify bad behaviors by labeling themselves a victim, point the finger outward and never really look inward. It is just human nature to dig at other people's specks while we are donning a huge, cumbersome log. Jesus clearly said that we can't even see clearly until we remove our own strongholds. Looking in on somebody else's life with self-righteous judgement just doesn't work...ever. It is only when we see ourselves as saved sinners that we can be truly merciful. And, if we are busy dealing with our own issues, it makes a lot less time available to spend ridiculing others. I don't know about you but I never really feel all the great when I'm angry or bitter towards someone. It just feels... bad. Even if I really really know I'm right and they are wrong, it just is not pleasant. The ONLY time I find peace is when I truly love them and freely forgive. It is so hard to do initially because of our human nature. It takes practice, time, and patience with yourself. It also takes a lot of Jesus.

It is sad to be hated. I wonder how heartbroken Jesus must have been to be so hated by those he was trying to save. To love someone who just doesn't like you is probably one of life's great tragedies. When there is nothing you can do, when you can only hope and pray, when there really seems to be no hope and you have to just accept the facts...they hate you. When you have been labeled as guilty and the innocent are not merciful, the relationship will crumble. As long as one party stays in a state of self-righteousness and demands that you suffer the consequences, there can be no peace in the relationship. It causes so many "why's" and so much self-reflection. Where did I go wrong? Why is this happening? What can I do?

Love and forgive.

That is when the Holy Spirit shields your heart. Even the most evil acts can't touch the peace that will flood your soul. Knowing that the almighty is protecting you and loving you is impenetrable by any outside force. No amount of hate can touch love. It can't kill it or even scratch it. It's actually a miracle.

It is also a choice. We can choose to hate or we can choose to love. We can choose to blame and shame, or we can choose to forgive. We can stand firm in our position or we can be empathetic. One will keep us in the darkest, stinkiest pit. One will set us free. Seems like an easy enough choice on the surface but can be one of the hardest paths to choose.

As I trod this life, may I always have the strength the choose love. May God always lift my heart during the darkest hours of life and give me peace. It is my prayer for every soul.




Monday, December 31, 2012

an open letter to my brother

My family and I have been cut-off from any and all communication with my brother and his family. This is simply an open letter to him. Cathartic for me and a very slim chance that he will even read it. 

My sweet brother, 

Love is truth and anything else is an illusion. And, my dear brother...your life, I'm afraid to say, is an illusion. 

The truth is this: You could not have better parents. There were mistakes made for sure but nobody makes it out of childhood unscathed. It is what you choose to do with those wounds that makes you who you are. What are you teaching your children? That unless friends and family adhere to your strict rules and regulations, they are thrown to the curb? If someone makes a mistake or crosses some imaginary boundary, you can justify being cruel? That forgiveness is optional? When I look at their picture that I keep in my living room, I wonder what you must be telling them. I wonder what their knowledge of us will be. Will they learn to hate us too? What kind of lesson is that teaching them? 

One of the many lessons I learned growing up is that you don't give up on people. Even when the most unthinkable of sins are committed, love can still win. I learned that loved ones have a greater capacity to hurt you than anyone, but that they are the ones who will never leave you. They are the people that God assigned to us, not for convenience or to do everything "correct" but to challenge us, to help us grow, to teach us what love is. 

I did see you as a victim for a while. Stuck in a situation you can quite find your way out of. Having to choose between your family of origin and your current family. But then I realized that you have the power to do whatever you want. You can choose to be cruel or you can choose to be kind. You've chosen cruelty. You've chosen to forget all that is good and only see that bad. 

You've taken a loving and caring family and life-long friends and discarded them like yesterday's garbage. People that don't just love you but LOVE you. Wholly and completely. 

You've decided that your parents aren't worth the effort to keep.  You used backhanded, deceitful means to fulfill some sort of agenda to prove a point. The only point you've proven is that you are lost. Lost and confused. 

My mother is smart, beautiful, kind, loving, generous, sweet, joyful, precious, delightful, and amazing. She is the reason I know who God is. Because the love of God so easily shines through her spirit and touches every person around her. She is, to my children, the quintessential grandmother. The kind that taught them to bake cookies. The grandmother who took them for nature walks and sang songs to them. The type of woman who would selflessly spend her last dollar to buy a pair of sparkly shoes for her granddaughter. She is the grandmother that delighted to see them dressed for church and to hear them singing praise to God. She held their hands, rocked them to sleep, prayed for their tummy aches, read them books, baked their birthday cakes and played with them in the snow. If there ever was an ideal grandmother, she'd be it. 

What is she to you? Why would you feel the need to protect your children from such a woman? 

My dad has taught me more than any other person on this planet. He has been there for me through every step of my life. Even when he was a busy person and was absent during our childhood, he was teaching me things. He taught me that life is for living. We never just sat around and did nothing when he was around. Life was big and fun and a grand adventure. He is the one that taught me the joy of being a great host to friends and family. That a house full of loved ones is probably the best thing in the world. Even now, if there is some sort of strife in the family...he simply invites them all over for a meal. When all is good in the world, he knows that the best way to celebrate is to all get together and have a time of communion. He taught me forgiveness and joy. I can always count on him. Always. He is beloved by all who know him. 

What is he to you? 

My Mamaw and Papaw are almost impossible to write about. It is far to hallowed a subject to even try and put into words. Their commitment to love and to God. Their undying love for their children and grandchildren. To be loved so completely by those two people causes my own inner light to shine brighter than it would had I not been subjected to that kind of unconditional love. The thought that you could criticize them for anything or be so disrespectful as to shut your widowed grandmother out of your life completely baffles my mind. 

What are they to you? 

It was made clear that it is not just I, nor my parents and grandparents who've been exiled from your life, but all of us. Your cousins? Your friends? Your aunts and uncles? Your niece and nephew?

Why? 

If your intentions were to break our hearts, congratulations. You won that battle. My heart breaks for the state of your heart. To think of my sweet little brother living with such bitterness is very unsettling. 

There is something you must know, however. Being filled to the measure with the love of Christ leaves little room for your cruelty to empty my life of any happiness. You are hurting only yourself. By the time you whittle out every person from your life who doesn't play exactly by your rules or who gives improper gifts or who defends themselves from your criticisms or who fails to adhere to your guidelines of living or who simply is a flawed human...I'm afraid you're going to find yourself quite alone. 

I have had some really mean people do and say some really mean things to me in my life. Family and friends included. Even in my darkest hour of heartbreak, when there were fundamentally valid reasons to do so would I have ever dreamed of cutting even one of them from my life. 

I have repeatedly asked for forgiveness for my offenses toward you. The last time we spoke when I was defending my lifestyle (something I really don't think a sister should have to do) you told me that the reason you didn't talk to me much was because I was too dramatic and it "really wasn't worth it". I'm sorry you feel that way. I am a very deep-feeling person. A lot of people see that as a beautiful thing. It's very sad that you only see it as an inconvenience and not worth your trouble. 

I'm not perfect. I struggle just like everybody else with love and forgiveness. My lifestyle IS unorthodox. It isn't all buttoned up in a tidy package. I've not followed the strict conventional thinking of the day. I don't have a 401K and my savings account is too tiny to talk about. I have too many dogs and have baby goats in my kitchen. My house is messy most of the time. I still continue to fight alcoholism and am winning. My car is dirty and I'm about 25 pounds overweight. I cry when I'm sad and I say things I shouldn't when I'm angry. I spend more time than I should on Facebook and sometimes I don't turn the dishwasher on before I go to bed. This morning, I found a melted chocolate chip in my overalls and fed it to the dog. In short...I'm human. I am truly sorry if all this means I'm not good enough to be in your life. 

You're better than this. 

You are not this person. 

You are kind and loving in your heart. Not the kind of human being that would pridefully slam the door on your family. You aren't the kind of person that would walk away. You told me once that your heart broke when you dropped your kids off at school. That kind of person can't walk away from his family with a clear conscience. 

My heart breaks that you've made this choice because I know it's not the real you. 

My prayer is that you will, to quote The Lion King, "remember who you are". The fog that has settled over you adult life has blinded you from what is truth. It is still right there in front of you, you are just blinded by the gray mist of life. Just like the sun is always in the sky, the true spirit of yourself lies just above those gray clouds. I'm being dramatic again, aren't I? Figure I can't make things any worse than they are anyway. 

I've seen families that can't heal from the death of a loved one. The gaping hole that is left when someone you love dies is probably one of the most brutal of life's realities. When someone you love leaves by choice...I'm not sure there can be anything more painful. 

I have always loved you and will always love you. You can keep me from talking to you. You can tell your children that I am not somebody worth talking to. You can even hate me. But you can't stop me from loving you. It is my right to love. That is what I choose. I may not be welcome to knock on your door, but I will be knocking down heavens door with prayers for your heart. Prayers for love and for peace. Prayers that you will see the truth and that the truth will set you free. 

Love,
Gif 
















Monday, December 17, 2012

Choosing Love

When I was in high school, I remember very clearly some words of wisdom from my home economics teacher. She simply said, "no one can make you mad. Your reaction to someone else's behavior is ultimately up to you." I'm sure my mother had said similar things to me also but, for some reason, that stuck with me. I remember my first reaction being feelings of confusion because I'd been the victim so many times of people making me mad. But, when I paused for a moment and thought of the power I had within me to choose my responses carefully, it was frightening but... freeing.

Over that past couple of months, my choices have been difficult. There have been many things for which I could easily allow myself to become angry and bitter. Choosing wisely has meant turning my own carnal mind over to spiritual thinking. Peace comes with submission and surrender to something higher than yourself. That is where I am these days. Not on God's proverbial leash, but dangling ever so closely from a tiny key-chain. It is the only place I am safe from myself.

What seems to happen when I enter a time of hard choices is that I am drawn closer to God. The older I get, the more I realize that these times are not to break me but to strengthen me. I've become more accepting of these seasons in the knowing that God is simply working on me. He is testing my faith, perfecting me. I used to see it as Jim Carey put it in Bruce Almighty, "God is a mean kid sitting on an ant hill with a magnifying glass". In fact, I've spent most of my life believing that every time some challenge comes my way, God is just pushing me around like a bully. I know I've used this analogy before about the mother giraffe knocking her newborn repeatedly to the ground. We could very easily look at it as cruel when, in actuality, she is merely strengthening her baby's legs knowing that he will need to be able to run. So now, when I feel I'm getting knocked to the ground, I know I'm being prepared for something to come. God needs me strong. He knows I will need my strength for my future battles.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph 6:12

So, this is what we are up against. Darkness. Wickedness. How do we fight that battle?

Love

After everything our nation has been hit with over the past few days, I think it is glaringly clear that love is the only thing that will save us from ourselves.

I've watched hours of news and read countless articles about the tragedy in Connecticut. Probably the most compelling thing I've read so far is the choice one teacher made to break school protocol and tell each of her students that she loved them. As they were crammed in a small bathroom and shots rang out nearby, she held their faces in her hands and told each of them, "I love you". That, my friends, is not fighting against flesh and blood, but drawing the sword of love from it's sheath and slicing through the darkness, piercing the heart of wickedness, claiming victory in love. That is behavior that only comes from love. And, God is love.

In a world where we are so bombarded with opinions, where most of us are publicized authors through the outlet of social media, it isn't hard to find something to get angry over. It is rare that I get on Facebook without seeing some sort of argument ensuing over something. The killing of innocent children has certainly spurred a barrage of these opinions. Voices ringing out with grief, confusion, anger, revenge, and simply trying to make sense of it all. I'm not a mental health professional and cannot even begin to explain the why's. I am only responsible for my own reaction as are each of us.

We must choose.

Our choices can seem difficult when we look at them too deeply. But, lying right there on the surface is the choice to love. The only question we need ask is "is this reaction out of love?" Quieting our selfish minds is not an easy task. Choosing love requires humility. It means we don't get to defend our positions with an iron fist. It means we need to listen more and talk less. Even when we know "I AM RIGHT"...it means zipping it up and letting God deal with it. I'm a s-t-u-b-b-o-r-n person and, believe me, it ain't easy for this gal to zip it up. I can feel my chest getting tight just thinking of some of the things I'd like to tell people. Mean people who've deeply hurt my family. I really feel like they need to be told how hideous they really are. Then, I remember. Choose love. It is the only way I will live in peace. Besides, those people who really are hideous and acting out of selfish meanness...they are the ones that must live with their choices. Not me. They can't stop me from loving them. They can't take away my happiness. They can't make me mad.

So, even if it means looking like an idiot, choose love. When it means breaking the "rules", listen to your heart and tell them you love them. The whole world can see you as a freak because you choose to forgive someone who's deeply wounded you, it doesn't matter. Do it anyway. Do the love thing. God is love. The only way to know real love is to know God. If you are a person full of love, you are a person full of God (whether you admit it or not).

Every child whose life was snuffed out this past week will forever be a light for us to remember. They serve to help us to be better tomorrow than we were today. Their tiny lives will not have been in vain. Even the blackest of evil on that fateful day will only serve to bring love out of the darkness.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Let us, in their honor, choose love.