Thursday, January 24, 2019

Home for the New Year

A new year always means a fresh start for me. I love cracking open a new planner; each month a possibility for new experiences, coffee dates, small group nights, celebrations, ministry opportunities, and even medical appointments. My planners are a record of my history in the making. I often return to past years and am reminded of special events I’ve been blessed to experience. It helps keep me humble and thankful for the life God has granted.

For the last several years I’ve chosen a word or theme to focus upon. Last year was all about simplifying, and I plan to continue the process. As I’ve pondered the new year, I keep coming back to “Home.” I tried to dodge this one because it seemed too obvious, but the word won’t leave my thoughts. I decided to stop fighting, and see where it leads.

My thoughts of home run deep. As I pondered what to write, it occurred to me that I needed to trace my feelings about home, and logically, the place to return was my foundation. As children, we form many impressions and habits that continue throughout our lives.

My home of origin was with my parents and younger brother. I have warm, sentimental feelings about a little house on First Street in my hometown of Madison. It’s the place I felt safest in my growing up years. After leaving the security of this little nest, life took many dark detours. The structure wasn’t as important as the simple, loving, and protected sense of being “home.” My life as an adult has centered on capturing that sense of love and security. 

As a child of the sixties and seventies, my life was simple, and predictable. Our world revolved around the church and school events. Summers were for long days of playing outside, cookouts with neighbors, church camp, housework, and lots of reading. During the school year, life involved sports, cheerleading, church activities, and lots of reading. I don’t remember having much homework in the elementary years. 

Home was about family. It was that one place where I was known and accepted; the bedroom I cleaned every Saturday morning, and the rhythm of meals with our family of four every evening. It was the every-other-Thursday nights of eating at Canturbury’s Restaurant; ordering the same thing for years…cubed steak, homemade french fries, and applesauce. It included the regular visits we made to Ma Bailey’s, and Papa and Aunt Phyllis’ house at least once a month, after church on Sunday. They each lived an hour away in Logan County. My introverted self thrived in this small world. 

There was a period of several years when home, as I knew it, disappeared. Losing the structure and security of my parents left me struggling emotionally and physically, and left an imprint on my heart. Because of my early struggles, home came to mean something much deeper as the years passed. 

When I became a parent at twenty-seven years of age, I wanted to create a stable home for my family. I understood too well the affects of not providing love and security to my children. It wasn’t always easy, and many sacrifices were made, but I’m thankful for the years of our home life. We made many memories I’ll forever cherish.

I’m thankful for parents who lived out their faith in front of me, giving me a foundation to secure my life in Christ. Without that beginning, I wouldn’t have known what to reach for. Never underestimate the value of giving your children stability with heavy doses of unconditional love. When the storms of life come, and they do for everyone, they will have something to cling to; a home base to return to when life becomes too hard. 

I’m not sure where this will go for the remainder of 2019, but I want to begin a conversation. As Dr. Dobson said in his long-running radio program, “Turn your heart toward home.” I look forward to the journey.

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Simple Life of a Country Girl

2018 was a year of transition. Again. It was also a year of hard work, heartache, and joy. You could probably say the same. That’s the rhythm of life if you’re breathing. The joys are sweeter when we face adversity. 

We built a house this year. A farmhouse. I’m really hoping and praying this is my forever home. It was truly a labor of love, very different from the last house we built, lived in more than nineteen years, and raised our children in. At this age in life, the need to impress anyone is gone, and the desire to build something for a new season dictated our choices.

My theme for 2018 was Living Simply. I wrote several blog posts centered around this theme. Building a new home enabled us to embrace a simple and uncluttered floor plan. Now it’s time to live fully, without the stress of building, moving, and all the decisions that surround the process. 
View from the front porch

Until I moved to the country I didn’t understand how much I needed quiet. I couldn’t grasp the joy of the view from tall windows revealing deer grazing in the front yard, hungry birds crowding feeders, and sunsets that leave you speechless. I look forward to having tea on the front porch every morning as the sun comes up. The best things in life cannot be bought; they are experienced. The simple gifts of friendship, family, and service are given from God, who knows our deepest soul needs. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Living in the country has provided margin for me to recognize His gifts more fully.

I began an intentional journey toward a more simple life in January. My goal was to reduce the amount of clutter that claims my attention, but as I pondered the subject I realized it was more than the physical clutter that weighed on me. Emotional and mental clutter are more dangerous than the junk I’ve moved from house to house. Learning how to let go of this kind of baggage has allowed me to enjoy living in the present instead of being anxious about the future.

What will the next twelve months hold for me, and you? If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last few years, it’s that life is full of surprises, some good, some not so good. But I believe I can trust the One who made the stars, sets the sun in the western sky, and loves us more than we could ever imagine. He says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” 

Welcome, 2019!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Buried in the Depths of the Sea

Walking on the beach at sunrise recently, I couldn't help but notice the beach littered with broken shells. The raging storm from the night before forced pieces of God's handiwork on shore for everyone to see and trample through.

As I moved along the beach, images of the broken pieces of my life lay before me, as if washed onto the shore of my soul. I recalled the pain of sorting through the shards of anger, resentment, grief, unforgiveness, and shame. My brokenness was hidden unless you got close enough to see my jagged edges.

An interesting thing about the ebb and flow of the tide is that the same water that emptied her rage also has the power to carry it back to the depths of the sea. The beach is eventually wiped clean with smooth hard sand, ready for walking.

That's what God did for me. He allowed the storms of my life to find their way to the surface, spread them out across the canvas of His light and truth, and then, He washed me clean, carrying the burden of my brokenness back to the deepest part of the sea. Peace wafted over my soul, as the rhythm of His mercy and grace gave me hope for a new day.

What storms have you faced, or are in the midst of now? Might you be tiptoeing through the debris of your brokenness, looking for a clear path? He can lead you through the painful journey to a life free of broken pieces.

The Word says His mercy is new every morning, great is His faithfulness. Just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you can trust Him to bind up the wounds of your brokenness, and set you free to walk in freedom.

I don't ever want to forget His power over my life, the love He demonstrated to me, and the hope of eternal life with Him. All the broken pieces were worth the knowledge of walking in freedom.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Simple Life...Letting Go of Control

This has been a year of exploring what it means to live a simple life. Gone is the need to keep up with, or compete, with anyone. I'm working on the need to please people. I'm a life-long pleaser, and this one has been more difficult.

My search for simplicity has been a process of self-examination in learning how to let go of certain things, while clinging to others. Living in the country has helped me sort out the truly necessary from the trivial habits I've made for myself. I need quiet and margin in my life to achieve simplicity, and I can see the fruit of changing my way of living.

One of the most profound, yet simple actions, has been surrendering control over things I can't change. I'm not necessarily a worrier, but I do tend to project the end result of any number of issues..."if this happens, then this will probably follow," scenario. My brain creates all kinds of stories that will more than likely never happen; a recipe for stress.

I'm learning to accept life as it happens and leave the future, in the future. There are few things we ultimately have control over, and letting everything else go has brought peace.

There was a time I was so addicted to Major League Baseball, I'd get up in the middle of the night to check the scores. My heart would pound as I waited for the Atlanta Braves score to scroll across the bottom of my television. This was in the days before smart phones and instant everything. There wasn't a dad gum thing I could do about it but my anxiety level didn't comprehend that fact.

The weather, the economy, American politics, and especially certain people in my life will never be in my control. My responsibility is to love those I come into contact with, care for my family and home, and live every day in a way that pleases my heavenly Father. It's also my responsibility to use the gifts and talents I've been given to share my faith and point people to Jesus. Beyond that, I'm free to live simply; sit on the porch with a cup of tea, invite friends to share a meal, plant flowers and watch them grow, or serve the needs of others.

The possibilities are endless when you let go of the need to control. I recognize I will struggle with this because of wanting everyone to be happy. However, taking the first step in realizing this is not my job has brought freedom.

Each of us are responsible for how we choose to act or react to the people in our lives. And this, dear friends, is one of the secrets to my simple life.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

When Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Brought Healing

Saying the words "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" was something I associated with war veterans, not a simple girl like me. When my counselor proclaimed this was going on inside me, a flash of light brought focus to my decades-long struggle. Naming something can be almost as important as the cure. At least now my enemy was identified, and I wasn't crazy. This was the first step to a new life.

I've been familiar with triggers for many years. As a sufferer of migraine headaches, I know most of the triggers that cause my head to pound at the left temple. These headaches have ruled my life for many years, sending me to bed in a dark room, and to the hospital for morphine.

I now understand the kind of triggers that thrust long-buried memories into focus. In the spring of 2004, I was a normal wife and mother on the surface. By the fall, I was wearing a monitor that recorded the activity of my racing heart. An incident I witnessed sent me into a frenzy that triggered my past to scroll through my mind in blinding clarity. Unable to handle the fallout, I crammed all my feelings and emotions back where they came from. Thus, the heart monitor.

I didn't even connect the two issues so how could I expect anyone else to recognize what was happening. No one but my family knew the details and I got to the place where I thought I'd conquered. I tucked away all those ugly memories, tidied myself and everything around me. Whew, that was a close one. I was back in control now, except I wasn't. I was never in control, but fooled myself into thinking life was good.

Then came the spiral. D o w n w a r d. Because my family didn't respond in a way my heart needed, I built walls so I wouldn't be hurt. Ever. Again. One year became ten and I was isolated and miserable. After years of keeping my past at bay, I was crumbling inside. I felt like a pot on the stove, lid rocking from the intense heat, contents spilling over the sides. Making the call for an appointment to begin therapy was one of the most difficult things I'd ever done, but that call in March of 2013 probably saved my life. Week after week I spewed the contents of my heart, the damage to my soul and body, the rejections that controlled my life.

Not completely healed, the next trigger sent me over the edge. Trigger number two was a rejection I still don't talk about in public, but it was the final blow.

Through time, I began counseling with someone new, due to my original counselor moving to a different part of the state. After two or three visits she said I suffered from PTSD. God provided exactly who I needed all along my journey to healing. Charles, my first counselor, was kind and compassionate and listened with godly love and biblical truth. He focused on my worth in Christ, and simply acknowledged the horrible things I experienced without turning away from my pain. I was finally heard. He gave me the freedom to use my voice, one I'd suppressed all my life.

Theresa entered my life at a critical point. Because I hadn't fully healed, I was losing ground I thought was conquered. We spent many hours in intense therapy. My husband and I had been separated for some time when he joined me in November of 2016. Theresa led us down the necessary path of painful recovery. She taught me how to name the trauma in the presence of the one who loved me. She explained the way the brain works and what happened to me as a result of my childhood experiences. She united the physical and spiritual aspects of my body that eventually led to wholeness.

Learning how PTSD works made sense and gave me closure. Now I could tie up the loose ends of confusion and self-hate. Suffering without a diagnosis was like having migraines, yet calling them headaches. Over-the-counter meds didn't touch the pain of a migraine. But, oh the relief when the right medicine was prescribed.

And that's what happened when she named my illness. Relief. Blessed relief. The Bible says in John 8:32,  "Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." And it's true. The truth of who I am in Christ has given me hope and abundant life. My marriage was restored, and the future looks promising. It was worth all the pain to get to this place.

If you suffer in a similar way, help is available. You don't have to live another day in darkness. Talk to someone who will listen, really listen. Don't succumb to the darkness. The light is shining on the other side of your pain.