What a difference a year makes!

I almost feel like I should apologize for my absence. I have been away too long. I will try to get better about this work/life balance thing. It’s just not as easily as it reads.

I have been thinking about where I was at this time last year and how much has changed in the last 12 months. Also about how much life is going to continue to improve in the next 12.

I can confirm the power of prayer.

I know you all remember the posts, the sadness, the written prayers for guidance and relief.

Turns out – God is listening.

Last year I had lost one of my best friends, was barely scraping by financially and barely holding it together mentally…scratch that. I wasn’t holding it together at all.

I was frustrated and lost and broke beyond words.

All I could think about was what could have been. I couldn’t see my light and I was having problems recognizing the parts of life that made me happy. I always asked myself how could so much happen to me in a year that my life and my self were completely unrecognizable?!

I think for me the answer lies in strength. I had to find strength to be alone. Strength to know that I could climb the mountain…metaphorically speaking.

I had to be willing to forgive the hurts totally and completely.

Who am I?

Another big question 12 months ago…I think this will always be a question for me because I learn and evolve daily. I am not set in my ways. I don’t believe that my way is the only way – even if sometimes I say it is.

Perhaps knowing this about me also answers the question.

A year ago I did not know that I could change so completely with little internal effort. I prayed.

I sat up at night crying into my hands praying for God to show me the way. I laid my burdens down and begged him to fix me.

I remember saying, “I quit! I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know what to do. I have no money. No new job possibilities. No food. No furniture. It’s all in your hands now. You guide me. You lead me. I am depleted.”

I think we all know this feeling, the hollow emptiness that creeps into our souls. It saps our strength and makes us question our every intention. Total vulnerability and despair.

I don’t know if I had ever done that before, placed my every thought, possession and fiber of my being in to God’s hands. I really can’t remember a time when I allowed myself to be so out of control with myself. Spiritually speaking, of course.

The changes came slowly.

First it was my attitude toward the situation. I could either continue to wallow in the pit of despair or I could pick myself up and start all over again.

So, I picked myself up. I did the daily routine. I forced myself to take the kids to the park, make play dates, bake cookies, clean house. All of those things that normal people take for granted.

And I prayed for strength.

I read books on codependency. How could I change this about myself if I didn’t know the behaviors that had been used to describe my life of 10 years?

I educated myself.

Next (about three months later) I realized I couldn’t do the daily grind at the university anymore and I quit. Granted I had a different life in mind when I quit…but what does that matter now. Point was I was unhappy; I was useless in the role I was in because I wasn’t busy. I can do a lot of things all the time or I can do nothing all the time, but remembering to do one thing once a month about drove me mad and I never remembered to do it. So, let’s face it…because I didn’t like being bored, I did a terrible job.

I prayed. God showed me my escape and I left.

I wrote.

March 2012 was the busiest month ever on this little blog. I went to Starbuck’s and wrote, almost every week day. I started a book or two and got to know how I felt about being me.

I found self-confidence…it had been missing for a while.

I prayed, God started to light my path.

A week into my employment sojourn I started to reapply to every temporary agency that I had ever heard of. I worked it. I went to interviews and submitted resumes; met lots of rising stars in corporate Houston. None of them wanted me.

So I stopped trying so hard.

I went into Accountemps one day in a last ditch effort to find anything. I redid all the testing I had done the year before. I took a new typing test. I filled out paperwork for hours. I looked up phone numbers I hadn’t called in years.

I sat quietly in a room until a man I had never met walked in and got to judge me.

I prayed.

God listened.

Evan got to play God for me that day. Apparently my resume was good enough to send to a few places, so I sat a while. I left with two interviews with companies the very next day.

I prayed. “God…I’m almost out of money again. Show me the way.”

I wrote about it I am sure.

I was a new person by every measure of the word. New attitude toward people and life. New outlook and fresh perspective. I was happy to be young. I was happy to be a mother. I was ready to embark on the world and make something of me. At least in my little corner of the world.

I prayed some more and went to the first interview.

Two nice guys with a logistics firm not too far from my tiny apartment.

I left with a job if I wanted one.

“God show me. God lead me.”

I arrived for the next interview a little early, but not too early. It was in a run down old bank in a small town near my small town. A ten minute drive every day and I could be at work. It was perfect.

What was I looking for?

A job in purchasing or logistics that could use my experience but not one that was too big and would have lost the human element. A place I could grow into. A place that would keep me busy. A place that felt like home.

The second interview wasn’t much of an interview, more of an in depth job description and run down of duties. I explained my past experiences and left feeling pretty good about it.

I called Evan when I got to my car and told him that if they wanted me, I wanted this job.

Not even five miles down the road and I had a job that started the next week. I was ecstatic!

Prayers answered!

I have been busier than I ever imagined since beginning in April. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know just how busy I mean. I am working 50 hours a week and have enough work for 80 hours a week!

But I have a life. I have a family that needs me and I want to want to be at work while I am at work.

I am breathing easier.

A few months ago the boys and I changed apartments within our complex so that we could all have a little more space.

Another prayer answered.

We’ve been able to employ one of our dearest friends so that she has a job that allows her the flexibility to live the life she wants and the love for my kids that I have. A person I trust explicitly.

Another prayer answered.

I have new prayers these days, but mostly prayers of Thanksgiving.

I know I have been absent lately, but I feel so blessed and happy that I can not begin to express how thankful I am.

Thank you God and my family for all that you have brought me through in the past year or so. With you my life has been a miracle.

Happy Thanksgiving you guys!

Home is not a Location

Yesterday I asked…What is home to you? Is it a person, a place, a thing?

I have always thought like Pumba…”Home is where your rump rests!” I was 15 when The Lion King came out and since we moved so much as children I found truth in it. Home really is wherever you make it.

Or so I thought at 15.

Now at 31, I am reconsidering. I think, like a commenter yesterday, that home is the feeling of comfort that you have in your soul. A wholeness not brought on by location or surroundings, but grown to fruition within ourselves…or at least I’m starting to think anyway.

I’m not there yet. I learning. I’m growing, but I’m not there yet.

I have been researching my own past to try to determine when life changed so dramatically for me that it creates tension where there should be none. Since it is February 21st is doesn’t take long for me to understand when that break happened.

When I became a shell and less of myself.

By this I mean that I have spent the last 15 years trying to fill a void that can’t be filled by anyone but myself or God. I believe I have a strong faith in the Lord, but it is today and this day for the last 15 years that makes me know I am weak of faith.

Maybe it’s just this day in particular that makes my faith weak.

February 21, 1997 is the day we confirmed and found my grandfather’s body in Lake Buchanan. He and our pastor had been fishing and got caught in a storm on February 19th. They suffered hypothermia and drowned.

I cried for days, weeks, years even.

At first I had the rest of high school, my activities and my job to fill the time. To fill the void.

I thought little but of the schedule and what had to be completed for the next goal to be reached. For the next accomplishment to be met. As good a show as I could put on I found no happiness in any of this. I finished high school in 1999, without a plan. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Go to school. Don’t go. Get a certificate in a profession. Just go to work. I had no freaking idea.

June following graduation I watched my 2 year-old niece. Just me and her for the whole month. I stayed busy, we went places, we did stuff. July I went on a trip to Europe. The first week planning, two weeks there and the last week of the month I had a decision to make.

Go to the recruiter and become a military private or go to school until I figured out what I wanted.

I chose school. Then I got bored. Some people just aren’t built to sit and learn in a class room. I’m one of those…but may still go back. I’m deciding that now.

When people ask if I would repeat high school again…go back in time…knowing what I know now I respond immediately with a yes. I would go back because I would have knowledge of the accident that was to come and I would spend more time with my grandfather. I would listen to his words and take notes on how to do things. I would want to be near to him. I miss him. Even now as I write this out the tears flow…and yes I’m at Starbucks. Receiving stares from people who know nothing of what I write.

Each of us have an adult that we are close to in our youngest days. For me it was him. I know he wasn’t perfect, but I worshiped him.

I lived with my grandparents from age 12 until I was through high school. The first years we were there I could be found, when I wasn’t at school, helping my grandfather. We had a garden, we built a shop, we made a bigger garden, we fixed up the house, plumed a sprinkler system, and I learned more than I can ever remember. I was his shadow.

The gravity and immediacy of this loss have haunted me. My dreams. My fears. My life.

I feel myself getting close to people and then immediately recoil knowing that some how I will lose them and I don’t want to feel that kind of pain. The pain that rips your soul from you…even if just for a while.

I can honestly count the number of people I have allowed to get close to me since high school on one hand. The people I still depend on for emotional support don’t need me to dig into those feelings. They have always been here and they don’t need me to mention it.

I am trying to open up to people. Trying to not push as much as I want to, I know sometimes I am an utter failure in this, but I’m trying.

I have tried to fill the void of his loss with rebellion. Yes…I rebelled, but I’m not much of a rebel.

I have tried to fill the void with a marriage. Terrible idea.

In my need to be whole I try to patch up the broken. I try to fix the other people I see in need. I can recognize the pain in their eyes because I feel it in me. I recognized that pain in my ex husband’s eyes and made thousands of failed attempts to help him. Ending with the realization that you can’t fix what doesn’t know is broken.

Behaviors learned from parents are the hardest to break. For me it’s chocolate, coffee, and delicious food, for my husband it was vodka,  prescription drugs, and ignorance. If there is a problem take something…it will disappear.

Only it doesn’t.

The problem is there for the partner – the true partner – in a marriage. They are forced to handle the situation and eventually because they are broken themselves they just learn to tolerate the experience. The life that would drive a normal person from the relationship becomes their link to wholeness.

I was happy because I was making him happy. Innocence and inexperience are tragic flaws in the hands of an addict.

Relationships with everyone I was close to became secondary to the relationship I had with him. He became my home because together we were one.

It is a tolerable existence when it is just two people living life together. You know there will be ups. You know there will be downs. You learn what will fill the downs to make them come back up. You live life as they teach in AA, “one day at a time” but nothing is ever normal to the world on the outside looking in, even if it seems normal to you.

Then the two create a third person. A child, helpless and innocent. A person that needs protection. A person that needs your constant attention.

Eventually you recognize all that is broken in your life. I had the realization that I was still broken.

Broken of spirit.

Broken in soul.

Broken to the point of not remembering who I had been. I tried to leave…but the hole would tear back open.

The hole that had been left by the death of my grandfather had been filled by this man, although I didn’t understand this fact. So, I would go back. I allowed myself to go back because he made me feel whole. He made me feel like I was home. I found comfort in the pain because it gave me a reason to be where I was…I was home.

It’s funny how so few letters it takes to change hole to whole to home.

Where is home for me?

I now understand that it is not in location. It is not in the people that surround me.

I have to find it with in me. I thought I had found it within me, but days like today…or maybe just today…I recognize my void is still here. Still waiting for me to fill it. Still waiting for me to understand what I have missed all these years.

If you seem to be in a holding pattern, as I explained yesterday, what do you think you are missing?

I think if we figure out the source we can find the resolution that will create wholeness.

Where are you? Your roots?

Life and Loss…

Okay – so I was never able to go finish my last post…the day is now kind of a blur. But I had intended to…this week has been a blur.

We could call this post a lesson in coping.

Really.

Life has had a sinking feeling this week. Try as I might to not let it, it does. You see…the part of last Friday that was some how deleted from my post was the part where we said our good byes to Nanny.

Last week I randomly posted about my husband’s grandmother discovering she had cancer.

Well…over the course of that week she made a life ending decision. She didn’t want to suffer, and she didn’t want to be a burden on her family. She began refusing food and water. Although she had always said she would do this if she ever found out she had but a short while to live. I for one never thought she would actually have the force of will to follow through. Nanny was stubborn when she made her mind up about something, so it really doesn’t surprise me.

After work Friday, after my morning spent making decorations for my office, I was walking out to the car when my ex husband called and gave me the news that she was refusing sustenance. ‘Huh?’ Shock filled my belly and the realization that Friday I would have to say goodbye hit me.

How do you say goodbye? This is the thought that went through my  head on the way to pick up my youngest from the babysitter.

I am 31 years old, you would think that I have some experience telling people goodbye, but I don’t. The loss in my life has been the sudden, tragic kind. We have never gotten to say our goodbyes to find closure in a few whispered words. We have to work it out over time. We have to come to terms with our grief after the fact. We haven’t had the opportunity to receive closure in the relationships unless we found it with in ourselves. That is a process. That in some cases (as with my grandfather’s accident) takes years.

I was thinking this would be different. I was thinking that I would get to say good bye.

As last week had gone on I had considered the fact that we were going to lose Nanny, but the doctors had said three months. I guess I clung to the idea of three months. When my sister in law called and told me that it could be as soon as with in two weeks, that was still not enough time.

Is there a length of time long enough to satisfy love when you will never be able to speak to them in person again?     No.

As it happens in life I never got to have that final conversation. I went to Nanny’s house and sat with the family for a while Friday afternoon, she never woke up. We would hear her breath, we would listen for movement, but nothing happened. She never stirred.

I had made a commitment to my great-uncle to pick him up from his group home Friday evening. If I had not been there to pick up my uncle he would have thought I hated him and didn’t care about his feelings and would have questioned me about it every time that I see him from now until forever. He is mentally handicapped and some things he just doesn’t understand. He is an 8 year old in a 75 year old’s body and though he has the longest memory of anyone I have ever met, he doesn’t process things properly. He wouldn’t have understood having to wait because my ex husband’s grandmother was dying. I am not sure he understands the extension of life outside of our own family. It wasn’t until 2002 that he had ever lived outside the home of one of his own family members. Even then his group home is owned by very old friends of our family. He is well protected and cared for, bumps in his plan don’t work well.

Anyway, I didn’t get to say good bye. I was there, but I hold the opinion that she was already gone. I looked in on her in her bed and what I saw was not the person that I knew. What I saw was the pallid veil of death that was slowly taking her body as her soul must surely have already been in heaven. There was breath left in her body, but there was no emotion on her face. She lay a shadow of her self in the bed she had shared with her husband for so many years in a house that had seen so many holidays and childhoods.

Turns out that my goodbye was said a month ago as I was leaving her house after our Saturday morning coffee and honey buns. “Good bye Nanny, love you, see you again soon.” I did…she just didn’t get to see me.

There is much to learn from her life. My sporadic series Phenomenal Female Friday’s will be about what I learned from her life.

Everything is Relative

Yesterday’s post reminds me that sometimes we write terrible things just to write things and then we publish them! (Press them, blog them, however you want to put it.) Anyway, we write stuff because we think we are supposed to write stuff and when you try to post five days a week it isn’t always good.

Good content should be the goal. Not just content.

Was the post all bad? I guess not…but it’s idealistic and remedial.

I could have done a better job.

How many of us in this bloggy world do that? We write something. We press it. We leave it for a day and come back and think it’s utter crap.

I have been having a bit of writers block on the creative side. I have tried different things in recent months to dig my way out of it, but nothings working.

On that note…

I would like everyone to be reminded that bad is a relative term. What is bad to one isn’t bad to someone else.

My niece is having a rough time with the boys. She hasn’t realized yet that most of them are stupid at age 15, and that by just being a girl she is automatically older than them. They are stuck in junior high, while they are almost juniors in high school.

She thinks life is terrible right now. Well…for her maybe it is. I know that we all experience things differently, and aside from a few crushes in high school I could care less what the guys thought. (I know I was the exception to the general consensus.) In other words, I don’t understand where she is coming from.

To me cancer is terrible. My Nanny is dying. I say my nanny, but really she is my ex husband’s grandmother. She is simply Nanny to everyone. Diagnosed with metastic cancer just last week, but it is everywhere. It is not a great Greek tragedy, she has lived an incredible long life. She is nearly 90.

Anyway, I don’t know how I got here from there…

Terrible in life, love, and writing…it’s all relative.

Photo from this blog: http://www.thenotebookdoodles.com/2010_01_01_archive.html

Live and Love now

No one wants to look back at their life and say I should have fallen in love more. Or that I could have helped this person more or done this differently. No one wants regrets or their good memories to fade. No one wants to feel pain and the utter agony of losing someone they love.

The problem is that all of these things happen. They happen all too often.

A few years ago while I was at work a man sat down in my office and started talking. We took brief breaks from the conversation, but always picked right back up where we left off. We talked about everything from the weather to the kids anything, no subject was forbidden.

We spent hours talking everyday into the wee hours of the morning when we would finally fall asleep. We were friends, then best friends, then something more.

When I finally found out about all of his problems I did everything in my power to try to help him. It was in one of a hundred or so evenings spent talking late into the night that I found out he was an alcoholic. He had a temper. He had an abusive past. That he had dated a friend of mine, but they didn’t get along at all. (Chel I spoke of her death a few weeks ago.) He could be trusted to a point, but he could barely trust himself, so I couldn’t put complete faith in him either.

I learned just as much about myself from this relationship. Mostly that I didn’t want to live with an alcoholic ever again. I thought he was different from my husband whom I had been separated from for months, but he wasn’t. They were the same. He just came with a giant house, flashy car, he was gainfully employed (for a time) and he was doting. Anything I needed he just gave it to me.

I learned here that material items don’t matter. I learned that no matter what it looks like from the outside it can be a train wreck on the inside. I found out that I would rather live in the dumpiest apartment that contains honesty and love, than the biggest house built on distrust and disillusionment.

After an afternoon invasion by his ex-wife I learned some terrifying information and began to try to get him to commit to a rehab facility. He said he didn’t need to go. So instead he had a breathalyzer installed in his car. So that he could prove to me he wasn’t drinking. Well…he just stopped going anywhere. He stopped showing up at work and left major projects to the help. He was troubled and I felt stuck.

About a month and some very persuasive phone calls from his daughters I was finally able to check him into a facility. He was committed to a 30 day program and had high hopes. Imagine my surprise when four days later his ex girlfriend drives up with him and he says “he’s all better.”

I left two weeks later. I cut myself out of his life, disappeared off the radar, threw the cell phone he had given me into a trash can in Milford, CT. He had been calling every day telling me that he had made a mistake, and that he loved me and wanted me back. I wanted him to get run over by a car and die. He hurt me, he hurt people I care about.

But I loved him. I guess that’s really how abuse plays out. We love them in spite of the things that they do to us. I didn’t throw the phone away because I was angry with him. I threw the phone away because I would have broken down and let him come get me. Eminem’s song, “Love the way you Lie” that was us.

Gasoline and fire.  It was intense and crazy. I don’t recommend it.

Fast forward to Sept. 22, 2011, I get a random invitation to friend him on a social networking website. I replied telling him he should kiss my tuckus, but we have been emailing ever since. Until about a week ago.

Yesterday I found out why.

My heart is a little fragile lately and now it’s a little broken. He was actually hit by a car trying to cross a street. I don’t know if he had tried mixing alcohol with his medications, all I know is that he was taken by life flight to the medical center. He was on life support until Friday and then he was removed from the machines that were allowing him to continue to live.

I think if I had heard this news before Sept 22, it wouldn’t have hurt so much. I was still angry. I was still caught in the past pains we had caused each other. He had apologies and explained everything that had happened since I left. I had explained a few things to him as well and now…now none of it matters.

I implore you to tell the people you care about what you are thinking. Don’t waste a minute on feeling bad for yourself and your thoughts and your fears. We all have them wouldn’t you rather be afraid and with someone who can relate, than detached and with someone who simply wants to use you?

Live now. Love now.

Don’t waste a second because you never know which second is your last.

A Farmer’s Market Remembers When

Yesterday I bought some raisin bran muffins. I shouldn’t have because I am dieting and these are certainly not diet food, but they just sounded good. This morning as I took my first bite I was taken back in time, nearly 25 years. I was sitting on a bar stool in my grandmothers giant kitchen. Eating her Post Raisin Bran recipe version of a bran muffin and sipping on a glass of milk. I can smell the musty coming from the basement and feel the golden shag carpet beneth my feet.

My grandmother, we call her Mema in true Southern fashion, didn’t think she was a baker. She would play and throw things together, but she didn’t think she was very good at it. Well, I beg to differ. If she had been a bad baker I wouldn’t think these amazing bran muffins could rival hers. Until now I hadn’t had a bran muffin other than hers, so maybe I am just partial and they are not the same.

Isn’t it funny how material things can transform a moment? A muffin, a song, or even a smell.

Any time Alanis Morrisette comes on the radio, it is once again 1994 and I am a freshman in high school – nervous laugh, fuzzy hair, and all. To narrow songs down to “You Learn” I am in the backseat of my friend’s car trying to get back to normal after a “dam” party so that I can take a Spanish final. I don’t remember how the test turned out. I think I passed. I remember Bart’s mom pulling me out of the room and telling me to take it down a level. Thank God a friend of mine’s mom was our sub that day. Whew!

The smell of Curve reminds me of my little sister who wore it for years. So it also reminds me of the bedroom we shared until I graduated high school. Dark wood paneling, old twin beds and a TV that had enough of an NBC signal to sneak episodes of “Friends.” Mal’s scent has evolved over the last decade, but she still keeps a token bottle on her dresser. Perhaps she too gets transported back in time at the smell.

I spent this weekend doing things that I love, but at each turn I was reminded of my marriage and it made me sad. I went to the giant Farmers Market near the Heights, and picked out vegetables and helped one of my best friends find a pinata. The only other person I had ever been there with was my husband and we used to go all the time. I miss lazy Saturday mornings of haggling with the veggie farmers and exploring their most unusual treats. Then the smells in the air. The sounds of the busy street. The people all around yelling in Spanish and Vietnamese. Could it really have been six years ago?

This weekend I sort of longed for the nostalgia. If you read my post from Saturday you know that I haven’t been doing that great, but I will be better. Weekends like this of remembering and recalling the things that make me happy help. I am slowly rebuilding who I am and deciding the things that I need. I know some day every thing will work together and those, “Song remembers when” moments will grow fewer and farther between. I will build new memories with new people. I will forget the bad times. I will be able to tell my kids about all the fun I had with their dad.

If you are in a place of pain, sometimes what you need to do is wallow in it for a minute, allow it to soak in and hold you immobile for a moment. Except you need to remember to let it go, allow it to fall away and move forward. Let the “songs remember when” so that you know that you don’t have to.

Perspective

Talk about putting things in perspective. I have been lamenting life, love and material things; while a friend of mine, one of my oldest, most consistent was dying. I wish he would have called me and told me he had been placed in the hospital.

I wish he would have let someone know…

In 2000, my mother remarried and since I was living with her at the time and scared to death to live on my own I moved with her. One day while out looking for a job I stumbled into a little bar named Noah’s Ark. It had a rough exterior and an eclectic interior; and as soon as I walked through the door I felt like I had come home. I applied for a waitress job and interviewed that afternoon, and by that evening I started my first shift. At that time, unbeknownst to me, Noah’s had a reputation. It was where the party animals played and I was fresh meat.

Really fresh meat, I hadn’t even turned 21.

Noah's Ark, Bacliff, TX - Best Crew and Best View

I met some awesome people here. I would love to tell you all their stories and our stories together, but I won’t. Just know that I learned some of the greatest lessons of life through these folks and I am indebted to them forever.

One thing I will share with you is that I learned to let go of tragedy, mistakes, and hardship. We all have our struggles, but if we can get together, have a little fun, and work together to resolve it – ANYTHING is fixable. Anything except death, and we have had our share of heart ache in losing those we love.

Scottie, Chelly, and now John. I know there are others, but these three have been some of my greatest friends and allies over the last decade, or so.

I watched Scottie make enough brisket and gumbo to actually be able to make a little of the good stuff myself. Chelly was the best bartender around, always gave me the hook up at the end of a shift, and always there when I needed to talk someone. She helped me work out a lot of information overflow for years.

Big John

John. John was special. Not short bus special, but being the kindest, most caring human being special. He was interested in making sure I was okay. If I needed anything if he could help he did. He has fixed countless crappy cars. Hauled my drunk self to my house (yes, I had an alcoholic husband, but that didn’t mean I was princess perfect.) He warned me against my marriage. He warned me before I was even married. He has been a rock to lean on in through thick and thin. I disappeared for a year and a half, and he was still there for me when I came back. I put the word out that I needed some coax to connect my TV to the wall for cable, and who do you think called me and said here you go.  John.

I went to his house and we got to talk a while, I told him thank you for always being there and I told him I loved him. He laughed we hugged and I went home. We have seen each other a few times since then and talked on the phone…just reminders of an old soul who cares deeply for his friends. He is the friend we should all strive to be.

There are few souls in the world that are as caring.

Today I find myself deeply saddened. I want to run to my bar and cry with my friends. I want to hide in my apartment and weep alone. I want to drive to John’s house and just hug his daughter.

These are the moments in life that we figure out our perspective. These are the moments of life that we learn not to regret telling others how we feel. These are the moments of life that make the rest of life worth embracing.

Life for today. Hope for tomorrow. Make each minute count. Tell the people you love how you feel today, because you never know when that day will be their last.

CHAPTER 14: When God Seems Distant

Day Fourteen: Thinking about my purpose.

Point to Ponder: God is real, No matter how I feel.

Verse to Remember: “For God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.'” ~Hebrews 13:5

Question to Consider: How can I stay focused on God’s presence, especially when he feels distant?

“God is real, no matter how you feel.”

That is the first line of this chapter, and no matter your religious belief, it is true. Even if you are one of those people that says if I can’t see it, touch it, and feel it, it can’t be there.

God exists.

We exist because He exists.

We live because He lets us.

We thrive because He wants us to.

He sounds like He could be the kid with an ant colony. Peering in and giving us food from time to time. Letting us live our lives but watching our little world build, shaking us and we crumble.

Then watching us again as we rebuild.

Here is the thing about being a human. We were made in God’s image. We were made with the same emotions and tendancies. If we have an ant colony, even the kindest and most patient people want to shake the ant colony.

Why?

Just to see what happens.

No other reason than to make them fall and watch as the ants rebuild their homes. Rebuild their world.

Chapter fourteen is similar to this in that sometimes God strips us of all that we have; then just sits back to wait and see what happens. It’s a cruel joke really. It’s mean, but truly being in the faith and in friendship with Him means knowing that He is there whether He is just watching or being actively involved.

Unlike the kid with the ant farm, God is there to help us rebuild. Even though he is not active and giving you a warm fuzzy feeling that He is still hearing your prayers.

He is checking you on your faith.

How many people at the first sign of stress or failure give up?

How many people seek the warm fuzzies we feel on Sunday morning, but when that feeling disappears during the week between services they fall back to old ways? Not necessarily good or bad, they just give in to temptations. They speak ill of their friends. They do the things that on Sunday morning they criticize others for.

How many people are hippocrites?

The Biblical examples in the book are Job and David. Job lost everything he had and cried out to God. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Although you have lost everything, He is still there. Simply by being there He is worthy of your praise.

David complained of God’s absence, “Why have you foresaken me? Why do you ignore my cries for help? Why have you abandoned me?” He was in constant denial of the fullfilled spirit of God. (You know the warm fuzzies.)

My own personal experience with this comes from when I was a teenager. I was 16. I was one of those fun, good, teenagers who loved to go to church, loved to volunteer for community projects, loved to help families in the neighborhood. I lived with my grandparents at the time and I wanted nothing more than to follow my grandfather around everywhere. We worked in the garden. Built things. I mowed the parts of the yard that he didn’t want to. I learned to cut keys, plant saplings, make weights and smelting metals. I got to do some really cool stuff.

Then he was taken from me. It was February 19, 1997. I was at school that day and had choir practice afterschool for a competition. He went out with our pastor on a fishing trip. They took out the pastor’s little boat, because ours was sanded in from the drought. They were only going to be gone a little while.

The county sheriff was parked in front of our house when we got home from school.

I think it was the only time I had ever riden in Lacee’s moms Legacy, but I can still see the image of the interior. Her mom in front with her sister, and me and Lacee in back. Cops in front of our little stone house.

They searched all through the night and into the next day. I can’t remember now if it was one day or two, but they found him on a cold morning. They being our neighbors, the neighbors who were like a second set of parents. They pulled my grandfather into their boat and held him in tears, just waiting for the search and rescue team to respond to their call.

My little 16 year old world shattered.

Over the course of the next year we had a new pastor start at our church and I felt an immediate connection with them. They were wonderful people who could relate to a younger crowd. The church started growing and changing and the older set didn’t like that. Our new wonderful pastors were pushed out and I quit church.

I quit religion.

I quit and threw myself into work and school and extra activities that didn’t involve churchy people.

These are the times that the book is talking about. I think that if I had read this book before that point in my life I would have remembered all of the things I had talked about doing with my grandfather. All of the big ideas. Big hopes. Big dreams.

But I was so lost and waning in anything but apathy that I just didn’t do anything.

I didn’t get the warm fuzzies from this experience and it handicapped me for the next decade.

So, now we are in 2011, although so much life has happened. I can still remember the immediate ache in my gut that I felt when I found the news of my grandfather. I can remember how pissed off I got at my church for what happened to the pastor.

I know what it is like to lose everyone you are close to just because of a choice that you made. But today, though I maybe like Job who lost everything. I am on the path to rebuild. I am not crying out, “Lord why have you foresaken me?” I am not even asking why. Now I am just accepting that these things will happen. They have to happen.

Our faith is tested in many ways and this is just another test. Like testing a relationship sometimes you just have to sit back and watch.

God must shake our ant colony to see what will happen. He has to know if we are going to roll over and die or simply start to pick up the pieces.

The book asks, “How can I stay focused on God’s presence, especially when he feels distant?”

There really isn’t a way other than to pray. Pray alone. Pray with your church. Pray with your family. Pray with your friends.

Praise be to God, have a blessed weekend.