Monday, March 16, 2009

The Gift

It’s no secret, I’ve had a very colorful life. It seems from birth it’s been just one drama after another so I suppose it’s only natural that I am quite a drama queen. One of the most colorful times in my life was when I left college in my second year to follow an Army boy to Germany. It was supposed to be a quick, fun visit, but it turned into a few years… of hell.

His name, well that’s not important, but he and I were engaged and I thought I was in love. Although it’s hard to really call a guy your official “fiancé” when he is already married to someone else AND you are paying for the engagement ring yourself. Ladies… if either of these things are true in your current relationship, please run! If both are true… run VERY FAST. He was an alcoholic and was abusive, physically and emotionally. I became homeless upon entering Germany but for some reason, I stayed. My fiancé was troubled and I wanted to be the one to save him. I also wanted to prove to myself I could make him love me enough that he would stop drinking. All in all, it wasn’t a very good experience. I failed at both things… I didn’t save anyone and he didn’t stop drinking for me. I left connecting those dots in a way that told me I just wasn’t loveable.

I was so relieved when it was finally over… I mean I couldn’t wait to get back on American soil. So, if it was so bad and I was so relieved, why was it that I was bawling my eyes out on the airplane ride home? Oh yes… I remember. Her name was Kristine.

There were a few redeeming things that happened while I resided half-way around the world. I met Alexandra, a friend I still have today. I taught her how to speak English and she taught me how to say some very naughty things in German. I also met an American family that was in need of a nanny. I began caring for little Kristine very early in her life, maybe 3 months old. Her parents, Tom and Nancy, were very kind to me. Tom was the one who got me into reading. Thinner by Stephen King was the first book he shared with me. His influence to read is what led me to writing. Nancy was someone who showed me that being a mom didn’t mean you weren’t cool or fun. She also showed me something that is hard to explain in words but I’ll try.

During my employment with the family, Nancy, who was a nurse for the Army, was deployed to Somalia for an extended period of time. For more than 6 months, Nancy would be away from her husband and her little baby girl. As a wife and mom, I simply cannot imagine that. She did it with grace though. She came home a few times for a visit and in those times she showed me something beautiful I have never forgotten. If I had been in her shoes, I would have probably hated me, the nanny. I probably would have been jealous that someone else was getting to see my baby girl grow up… but not Nancy. She treated me with nothing but love and respect. If she had any of those feelings, she certainly didn’t show them to me. She set an amazing example in her actions.

Kristine was an amazing little girl. She literally didn’t cry unless she needed something. She was so mild tempered and well behaved, although I do remember one very intense cheerio tossing showdown in the living room. I really couldn’t have been blessed with an easier child to care for. She was fun too, and smart. It was like she yearned for information…for new skills. I think we watched Beauty & the Beast 500 times. I really bonded with Kristine in the time I cared for her. I still have a giant piece of paper that we drew all over one day… I traced her hand and wrote the date. I’m so glad I did that.

Yes, I bawled my eyes out the day I flew away from my nightmare, but it wasn’t about the Army boy who had broken my heart or the pride I had to suck up to beg my parents for a plane ride home… it was about having to say goodbye to Kristine; the little girl who had stolen a piece of my heart.

Even though I wasn’t a very active or knowledgeable Christian at that time, I spent years after my return being mad at God for allowing me to be so beat up through those years. I wondered why He hadn’t protected me. I figured He just didn’t care for me enough to throw me a lifeline in those years. I just knew, God had abandoned me.

Sobriety and recovery gave me the opportunity to clean up all the garbage that had zapped the color from my world through the years. One of the things I had to do is admit… I was mad at God. And I wasn’t just a little mad, I was A LOT MAD! I am brought to tears just typing that! I mean, what kind of God would allow a person such as myself to go through so much pain?? (If you’re not familiar with my whole story you can read it at ) The sad thing is that I didn’t even tell the whole story there. Well, recovery taught me about this thing called taking responsibility for my own actions… hmmm… and I realized a lot of the things that happened to me were a direct result of my own decisions and pride. Not all of them, but most. Even so, I wondered why our powerful, merciful God would have allowed me to be beaten so badly while I was in Germany. Why God… why didn’t You protect me???

One day I think God got a little tired of me asking that question and He decided to show me things from a different angle. He gave me some BFR’s (blinding flashes of reality) that finally gave me my answer. Yep, there was no doubt life had been hard but I was focusing on the wrong stuff. I was totally dismissing all the gifts He had given me in that time. I began to see things in a different light. Let me tell you a story, and maybe you will see it too…

I was 18, homeless and jobless in Germany. My debt was growing by the day. It was winter so I was cold and hungry. I felt totally useless! I was in a county where I didn’t speak the language and I had very few skills at the ripe old age of 18. Virtually the only job I could have ever done was be a nanny but I couldn’t find anyone who needed a nanny. The abuse had begun and I was sad, lonely and scared. I felt very unloved and unworthy of love.

It was Christmas and I was with my fiancé at his Army barracks packing up a few little presents to send back home to my family. As I was stuffing the boxes with extra newspaper – something caught my eye. I saw an ad for an Army family who needed a nanny. I perked up… quickly I realized the paper was a few months old. I figured the position was surely filled by now. But I called anyway, just to be sure. I will never forget the shock in Tom’s voice to be receiving a call for an ad he had placed in the paper so long before. As it turned out, they needed a nanny just as much as I needed a job.

So how exactly did that come to pass… me being in possession of a nanny ad that was run before I even entered the country? Herein lies God’s angle. He says to me, “Silly daughter…I gave you Tom, Nancy and Kristine. In that package I gifted you with a home, a job, money, warmth, nourishment, usefulness, smiles, connection, security, a place to be cared for, and a place to give love.” So maybe there was a lot of craziness in my life while I was away from little Kristine, but the truth of the matter was this… the reprieve I got while around that family, is exactly HOW God protected me.

When God finally got me to realize that, I felt very selfish and ungrateful. Later, I realized that it wasn’t a matter of selfishness, it was a matter of not looking at the right thing. It’s so easy to focus on the bad parts of every situation and totally miss the lifeline. Today, I’m not angry about that time in my life. I have faced my bad decisions and accepted them. I have even fully forgiven the ex-fiancé, which was no easy task (believe me) but God made it happen when the time was right. I am so very thankful for that time in my life, even the hard stuff.

I guess I always sort of regarded myself as just some “mixed up kid” that passed thru the lives of Tom and Nancy. I knew they were in desperate need of a nanny but I always kind of figured they were also being a bit charitable by giving me a chance. Now that I am a mom, I even see that in a very different light. A good parent does not leave their child with just some “mixed up kid” no matter how desperate or charitable they may be feeling. I mean, when I think about the amount of trust it takes for me to have someone babysit Brett or the barrels I made his pre-school jump over before I enrolled him, it became clear to me, they left Kristine with me because they trusted and believed in me.

There have been many times through the years when I have wondered if I did Kristine justice in the way cared for her. I mean, I was really insecure and sad back then… but I did the best I could. I tried my hardest to be good for her and protect her from anything and everything. It’s one of those things I’ve just had to give to God and have faith that I did more good than harm. I will forever hold a very special place in my heart for the little girl who let me love her and loved me back at a time when I felt so unlovable. Thank you Kristine!

When it comes to asking God why He didn’t do what we thought He should have done, I think our first job is to recognize the gifts he has already given us. It’s quite possible the lifeline that was so desperately needed was thrown out to you and you missed it. Our second job, once we notice it, is to allow that gift to grow and nurture us, for if we do, the anger and hurt will heal. That healing grows into beauty that can never be tainted with regret. The best way for me to show you proof of this is to show you exactly how the gift God gave me back in 1992 has grown into incredible beauty. I found Kristine on Facebook last week and here she is…

17 years and counting; a face that forever changed my life, a true gift from God in so many ways. She is a charming, gorgeous young lady who has the world ahead of her. I have truly enjoyed reconnecting with her and I hope that will continue for years to come. I don’t think the paths we cross in life are ever an accident. I’d do it all over again in a second! But just for the record, I might feel just a tad old right now looking at her senior picture.

Jesus told us… “…in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Windows and Doors

I live in a great house! It is perfect for us as a family and it was exactly what we wanted when we shopped around a few years ago. It was built in the early 80’s and is in a neighborhood that didn’t plow down all the trees when they decided to build. In fact, our back deck was built around several trees which are not only beautiful and interesting, they also provide shade so we can actually enjoy our deck in the summer without frying. Yes, I love our house.

I read something last week that made me ask myself a question… would I like my house as much as I do now if the windows and doors were blown out? It didn’t take long for me to come up with my answer… hmmmm… probably not.

Without windows and doors my house would be a free-for-all for the elements. Imagine how the heat and humidity of a Texas summer would mess up my daily comfort level. And what about the rain, the carpet would get soaked, the walls would get dampened and before long mold would be everywhere. Dust and pollen would quickly coat all my belongings no matter how often I cleaned. I’d probably just give up trying to keep everything clean. The wind could just blow in freely whenever it felt like it. Whether it be a warm gentle breeze or a frigid bluster, it would be impossible to keep things in place, right where I wanted them. And what about the animals? My husband would have a coronary if he found a squirrel trespassing to chew on the cord to his 56 inch HD television. Little 4 year old Brett wouldn’t like sharing his toys with the neighborhood dogs who would no doubt come in and chew up anything with a squeaker in it. And what if a skunk came to visit? I mean it’s bad enough when one gets run over by a car 5 miles away, imagine if one lifted its tail for a spray in my bedroom? Oh my… no I probably wouldn’t like my house much at all. In fact, I’d probably be trying to sell it as quickly as possible but I don’t know who in the world would be willing to buy such a house.

When my house was built, it was done with great care. The people who put it together did it themselves and it is obvious they had a dream in mind as they pieced it together. They left the blueprints behind and all the extra materials needed to for fix-me-ups. It seems they thought of everything as they constructed this place, from the way the landscape drains rain water perfectly around the house to the perfect placement of each and every light switch. Yes, this house was someone’s dream home. It was built with purpose, great attention to detail and no doubt, perfection was in mind… for who would build their dream house thinking… ah, second best is good enough. This is no doubt why they put strong doors and double pane windows in place. Imagine how quickly this monument of wood, stone, fiber, metal and wiring would become a big pile of decayed crap if there were no windows or doors... this house wouldn’t still be standing here some 20 years after its purposeful, careful, loving creation.

Proverbs 25: 28 says, “A person without self control is like a house without windows or doors.”

I have to ask myself, am I like a house without windows or doors? Do I let the heat of decisions badly made make me uncomfortable? Do I let the downpours of life get me wet and moldy? Do I allow the dusty residue of other peoples actions collect on me to the point that I stop trying to stay pollen free? Do I allow the winds of uncertainly and evil just blow in and out of my life at their own whim? Do I let critters gnaw at my once perfect wiring? Do I allow the neighborhood dogs to steal my joy from me? And how badly do I stink when I let the skunky bomb of anger or hatred lift their tail in my heart? Am I a house that no one would want to purchase?

The honest truth is… most times, I am just like a house with no doors or windows.

But there is good news.

Just as my house was built to perfection, so was I. God created me with purpose, great attention to detail and certainly in His own image which was nothing short of perfection. While I know there is no possible way I can maintain anything like perfection in my life, I have been given the blueprints to try. The blueprint is the Bible and with the Word open in my hands, I allow it to move through my eyes and settle into my soul. The blueprint magically restores my windows and doors. Personally, I believe self-control is an oxy-moron. I believe the only real control I can ever have is God guided self control. Without Him, the elements will surely destroy me. True, I have no self control, but luckily God is more than willing to be the strong impenetrable wood that makes up my doors and the shatterproof, triple pane windows that I so need to make sure the perfectly constructed house of Wendy He built doesn’t ever become a decayed pile of crap.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Triple X

Three X’s in a row can mean a few things… a large clothing size… very sharp cheese… the name of a Vin Diesel movie… a ZZ Top album… or a very unpalatable, uncomfortable subject that many of us cringe at the mere mention of… nakedness. Well, I really am going to talk about the last one… although I don’t think it will be what you “expect.” We are in the middle of a series at Community of Hope called “Sex God” and yes… it is about sex. You might think that is odd, to talk about sex at church but as Joe Carmichael so wisely pointed out last Sunday in our opening week… God invented sex… He created us to be sexual beings… moreover, sex is a real problem these days… so why shouldn’t the church be talking about sex? I don’t think any of us really expect it will just go away if we ignore it.

As a young girl, I didn’t like to read very much. In fact, I was a terrible reader, so bad that I had to give up my recess time to go to reading lab. I remember one summer my parents enrolled me in a
book club just to try to keep me reading. It was pure torture!!!! The next summer, my mom bought me a membership with a book club. I got a new book every week or so and they just kept coming in. One of the covers intrigued me because it had a cute boy on the cover. That was the only reason I decided to read it. It was about a nerdy high school freshman girl who had a huge crush on the senior football quarterback. She was poor and didn’t have many friends but somehow, against all odds… she landed the affections of Johnny Jockstrap. By the end of the book, they were walking into the sunset together holding hands. I remember actually getting “high” on the ending. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside and was filled with hope that someday I would be that girl walking into the sunset with the guy of my dreams. I wanted more so I picked up the next book. This time the girl was crippled and confined to a wheelchair but by the end of the book, she was holding on tight to Rippling Rob as they soared through the countryside together on horseback. I felt “high” again and got hooked. I’m not sure how many of them I read or even how many times I read each of them but one thing was for sure… I knew for certain exactly what love was going to be like when my prince appeared.

Huh… yeah right. Part of the story line was fulfilled easily… I was a nerdy girl with very few friends… but as for the rest of the script… pure poppycock. I spent my entire adolescence waiting for my Johnny Jockstrap or Rippling Rob to save me from loneliness. I was completely disillusioned! I grew up though, and dated around a bit.

My first experience with this unpalatable, uncomfortable, nakedness subject was in New York City. A boyfriend of mine wanted to go into one of those “XXX” stores. What totally disgusted me became an obsession for him. He would rent those movies every week and I would stand by completely grossed out and baffled at how someone I liked could like “that.” We grew apart for many reasons, that surely being one of them. I thought he had a low value for women because of his fascination with it, like we were just sexual objects meant for physical pleasure. Ewww… where was the love? Where was the emotional fulfillment? It seemed all those movies did was cheapen sex and give an unrealistic expectation of bedroom bliss…to me it seemed like sexual poison. The average woman wouldn’t be willing to do half the stuff those “actors” and “actresses” did. Ewwwww! How unfair! After that, on
e of my criteria for dating a guy was that he not be into porn… and yes, I did ask before our first date. Of course asking didn’t prevent me being lied to.

About two years before I got sober I began a major slide into my personal hell. I was extremely unhappy with just about every aspect of my life. I was married and pregnant but I had convinced myself that my husband didn’t love me. I remember watching the movie “13 Going on 30” and getting really mad. I mean, I was livid!!!! I remember thinking how unfair it was that this girl in the movie had two guys that loved her so much. And the fact she got to go back in time and fix a mistake she had made, well that made me even more mad (as if that were realistic in any way shape or form). How come I couldn’t have that? Why didn’t anyone love me the way she was loved???? In fact, that movie spawned my complete hatred for Jennifer Garner that is still hovering over me even today. After that I was even more convinced my husband didn’t love me. I wanted what I saw on the silver screen… no… I believed I deserved what I saw on the silver screen; love, real love, the type of love that moved mountains and stayed hot and heavy at all time. That’s right, I wanted MOVIE LOVE!!!! Movie love was the real thing and I deserved it.

Well, I’ve been sober for over two years now and a lot has changed. Ye
s, I still hate "those" movies but after all my husband and I have gone through together, no one can ever tell me he doesn’t love me. I know he does, for if he didn’t, he never would have put up with what I dragged him through in the process of wrecking my life and then getting sober. Our trip to hell and back is what showed me exactly what love really is.

One weekend, the movie “The Notebook” was on television and for some unexplained reason I started to watch it. See, that is another thing that changed with my sobriety. I came to despise chick flicks that painted such an unrealistic picture of what love was supposed to be. As I watched this horrendous movie, I went to my imaginary bucket with violent dry heaves at least 100 times. I was seriously nauseous as I watched it. Now, don’t get me wrong… it’s okay to like a good love story… as long as you realize that it is a bunch of unrealistic crap. If you can watch it, let your heart swoon and bawl your eyes out then get right back into reality afterwards… go for it. But for me, and I’m sure many other ladies out there who don’t have even a pinky toe dipped in reality…these movies are emotional poison that set up unrealistic expectations of love. These movies ruin perfectly g
ood relationships every day.

So here is my point, as much as I hate the triple X industry and don’t understand it, I was once very guilty of partaking in the same addiction. It’s just that my high was achieved from the emotional variety instead of the sexual. My movies gave me unrealistic emotional expectations of my spouse. It gave me an illusion that he wasn’t being all he could be, that he wasn’t ever going to love me the way I deserved to be loved. Basically, he couldn’t do anything right, especially after a fresh viewing of “Titanic.” Lord help him! One step worse was this… I not only watched emotional "porn" and let it seep into my soul… I also wrote an emotional XXX book and passed it on to others. When I was wrote DESCO, I was at my expectational worst!

I think one of the biggest things that contributed to my unhappiness up until the age of 34 (that’s a lot of years of misery) was the fact that I had majorly distorted and unrealistic expectations of everything. A big part of that was just that I was born with a brain that doesn’t think the way it should, but there were other factors that contributed
over the years. Reading books and watching movies that gave me that “high” certainly didn’t help. Drinking booze helped me numb all the disappointment I felt over everything in my life. In my 20’s I thought I had gotten a little bit better with my expectations by simply hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. While it may have been slightly healthier than expecting the world on a silver platter… I learned later, that mantra was just as bad for me.

The best way for me to live life is to try and have no expectations at all. When that approach was first brought to my attention, I rejected it completely. Why? Because I thought it was a negative way to walk around. In reality, having no expectations keeps things going upward no matter what. I have a great trick to learning how to have zero expectations… so if you’re interested… ask me and I’ll share it with you.

In closing I’d like to say, if you are a person who watches “The Notebook” and then goes on with life happily, able to make love to your husband without pretending he is Ryan Gosling, then I think you’re safe. But if you’r
e a person who adores “The Notebook” but feels totally unfulfilled by your totally normal, generally good natured spouse just because they don’t make you feel the way the movie makes you feel… you might be suffering from unrealistic expectation syndrome… and you just may have a little unhealthy addiction of your own.

Let me be clear… movie love is not real love. In addition, no person can or will ever fulfill you completely. While porn (sexual or emotional) can be visually stimulating, physically arousing and enjoyable in the moment, it is fleeting and leads to dangerously unrealistic expectations of others.

Only God can fulfill us. His love can make you feel true joy. His l
ove is real and therefore never fleeting. I believe with all my heart that we were meant to feel as though a piece of us is missing when we don’t allow Him to complete us. If that seems unrealistic to you then I have a question… how’s what you’re doing right now working for you? Enjoy your triple X theater, whatever variety it may be. Just remember who will be there waiting for you when all the credits have rolled and you’re stuck with that horribly empty, frustrated, unfulfilled feeling… God will be waiting.