Things I’ve Learned Along the Way

From time to time I have younger women who seek my counsel…it’s especially gratifying when it’s one of my children or their spouses…but it always means so much to me.  I wonder if those older ladies I sought out felt that way twenty and thirty years ago.  I imagine they did…not because it was me…but because I noticed something different in them that I wanted to know about or emulate.

I’ve spent thirty years in ministry of some sort or another…now my ministry is sporadic and totally of the Lord.  I wonder if that isn’t the way He meant it to be…rather than an occupation of ministry….but that’s for another discussion.  Today is the last day of 2013 and I’m wondering if there are things in my heart that can be helpful to others.  I have learned some lessons along the way…some have left me a bit cynical…although I always strive to be better and not bitter from life’s experiences.  I know in my sharing and especially in my writing it can come out as a bit morbid and dark.  Maybe that’s the path my soul must travel to find the light in life again.

Here are just some thoughts…I may number them…I may not…things I’ve learned along the way.

* You can’t control people.  You can try.  You can make them and yourself miserable.  But you can’t control them.  You can’t make them grow.  You can’t make them closer to God.  You can’t fix them.  You can’t stop them from doing what they are doing.  Heck…you can’t even stop yourself half the time or make yourself grow or change yourself.  So don’t try.  Relax…accept things as they come.  I sometimes have people who tell me, “You are so calm!”  I strive to be so. Most things in life like computers acting up or figuring out phones and such don’t stress me….it’s the under the surface things that get me in a whirl.   All too often my soul is NOT calm…but I strive to not let you know.  When I am struggling, I head to the bathroom and cry…cry out to my best friend who is the ONLY One who totally understands me.  He knows my struggles.  He points out my sin.  He loves me anyway and He IS in control…so if I open my hand in surrender…He has things pretty well in control…without me!  lol  Can you imagine?

* You can’t keep some friendships.  You can be there through their thick and thin.  You can minister to them for years.  You can be the friend who sticks closer than a brother (or sister).  You can say the hard things in love…and sometimes there are just things that must be said that will end the friendship.  My mom used to say, “If you are both Christians, there is nothing that should come between you that you can’t work on.”  I loved her positive line of thinking…but it hasn’t been true in my life.  I have friends I’ve had for years who have totally given up on me.  I’ve had people beg me to stay in an area who forgot me as soon as I went out the door…never a phone call, text, facebook message or note in the mail.  Does it hurt?  Yes.  There are days I still cry for what we lost.  Will God make it right someday?  I imagine in those first moments in Heaven a lot will be made right between people who sinned against one another…I only wish there were such a complete sense of God’s presence in our lives that things could be worked out here…But only last year when I was grieving over a lost friendship, God reminded me that I had spent enough time grieving…that it was time to move on without those people and that their sin against me was far more than my initial sin had been towards them…that He needed me to accept the end and move on with Him.  I am…most of the time.  I remember when we were first in ministry grieving over those who left our churches…. I’ve learned that God has a journey for each of us and sometimes it is to part.  I don’t think this is ever true in marriage…that is the ultimate grief … when we give up completely on our spouse.  But our church family comes and goes.  I can’t hold someone’s hand forever to make sure they are growing or even following Jesus closely.  I can’t make someone want to be a part of a church (even though they say they want that).  I can’t make someone put effort into relationships…because that’s what it takes to be a part of a church or a group.  I can’t make someone go to ladies’ tea, or women’s conference, or some ministry opportunity.  Like I said, half the time I am crawling out of my “pit” (Thank you, Beth Moore) to make sure I go and grow and put effort in.

*  Always be encouraging to others.  You never know what they are going through.  I remember one picture that hung on my mom’s kitchen wall….I must have read it a thousand times.

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This isn’t what it looked like, but it IS what it said.  There were noticeably a lack of moccasins in our home; but I remember a lot of grace in it.  I hope others remember me for that one day….despite my exclamations of, “Where is his mother?  Where are his reflectors!”  which my kids remember so well.  I hope I am also known as one who saw the good in people and tried to understand what they were going through.  I’ve had so many people over the years who thought they knew what I needed.  I even had three pastor’s wives pray over me once to exercise more so I would forget the church and pastor’s family who had stabbed us in the back and left us bleeding and dying emotionally.  I was never so hurt…and don’t think I even came home and told anyone about it.  How could these my friends who I had prayed with every two weeks for so long in a community pastor’s wives group so trivialize my pain and suffering?  I understand not knowing WHAT to say…but isn’t nothing better than to encourage someone to “exercise so you feel better”??? I’m sure I DID need exercise…I needed to knock someone’s head off…I needed justice in this life…I needed a hug…I needed a cup of coffee and lack of judgment…I needed friends. lol  I can laugh now.  As you can imagine…those relationships went away that day.  I left a note on the door the next time we were to meet that maybe I needed to not come anymore since they were uncomfortable with the level of pain I was in.  One of them even came to me and thanked me for being the bigger person and bowing out of the group so they wouldn’t be uncomfortable with the pastor’s family who had skewered us.  Indeed.  That same pastor’s wife’s husband told us if we shared any of what we were going through we would have to leave their church.  Understand, we have been in some very healing churches.  But I have to say every pastor’s wife and pastor we have been under haven’t really ministered to us when we were in pain.  What a missing opportunity.  What are we here for if not to minister to hurting people?  So encourage….don’t assume someone’s pain is of their own making…maybe God has a painful journey (like ours) to take us out of a judgmental church to protect our children so that we wouldn’t lose them.  I’m so thankful He has been there…and He has given healing.  I don’t write these memories to make you uncomfortable…some who read them may know the people I speak about…but so that you know that you may never know what someone is dealing with in life…on the inside.  Give them grace.

* Read.  A LOT!  And not just Christian books.  One of the books that has ministered to me most has been Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore.  ImageIt is decidedly NOT Christian…but it has ministered to me so much.  He gave me permission to be human…to have dark nights in my soul…to grieve…to be depressed and not need medication (other than my brain food St. John’s Wort)…and for it to be okay that I have those times.  I tend to pray through books like that … that God would use what is true in my life…I find myself praying, “Is that true, Lord?”  “Is it okay?  Does it make me human to have these dark times?”  Christians are uncomfortable with you if you are sad or grieving or struggling.  Humans struggle….  we are uncomfortable with being human.  I am not glorified, yet.  News flash.  lol  Anyone who knows me well, knows that.  Heck…I need to exercise more…those ladies were right!  lol  But you know if I have all my ducks in a row (my AFLAC ones and the ones I juggle daily) and my smile on right and my clothes are beautiful and my makeup is on right and my hair is done beautifully and my words are right and my facebook statuses are always scriptural and a blessing to others….even then I am not glorified…I need help.  I need books.  I need mentors…and I truthfully haven’t found many people I desire to be like who want to mentor me.  Mentors are far and few between.  I need God “with skin on” in my books …those who have been there and lived to tell the tale…and so do you.

*Relax…enjoy….savor….do the things you enjoy before you forget what they are.  Feed your soul.  Read His Word.  Walk with Him daily…in prayer as you go through your day.  If someone is mean…pray for them…hurting people hurt people.  Don’t wait for those around you to want to do something…you go do it…alone if need be.  For you are never alone…truly…He is with you.

* Pray…more…and more…and more.  You need Him.  I need Him.  More … and more…. and more.  I remember a story about Susanna Wesley hiding under her apron when she needed to pray and regroup. http://anchoryourlife.com/prayer/place.htm  Hide under your apron more.  Your kids need it more.  Your grandkids need it more.  Your spouse needs it more.  You need it more.

* Make 2014 great.  Happiness is a Choice (another great book).  Be purpose-filled.  Grieve.  Love.  Lose. Live. Be Human.

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A Quiet Repose

I find myself more and more in the quiet…by myself. I remember years longing for quiet and now I long for the chaos of little feet pattering across the floors, for sibling rivalry that was innocent and noisy and pleading for a mother’s intervention on their behalf. Now too often I sit waiting for the phone to ring or the Skype to beep or a text to come to let me know someone is thinking about me. I feel vulnerable. I feel lost.

I’m finding that this echo in my soul isn’t all bad.  It reminds me of my humanity…of the void left when life goes on without thought of Who created and purposed the life.  It is the loud silence of re-purposing and re-making life without the ones you’ve poured your life into.  Why did you do it?  For them or for Him?  If for Him, then that part closes and more comes out of the nothingness left behind…is there hope for the future…a new future?  Is this all there is?  One day closing upon another day of work for the world’s goods and purposes?  Is this all He desires?  My soul wrestles with a thousand questions like these every day…in the midst of the mayhem of life without your heart.   Continue reading