Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful 2010

This Thanksgiving day2010, I am thankful that:
  • My family is healthy and happy (happy most the time anyway)
  • My husband is so patient, loving, understanding and forgiving. He is surely my better half.
  • My husband loves his job and gets to work from home.
  • My son is so creative and makes me smile... and never holds a grudge :)
  • My son is doing well in Kindergarten, has a great teacher and is having fun learning.
  • I am still sober.
  • God led me to a new therapist that diagnosed me with ADD.
  • An awesome scientist created Adderall.
  • My gall bladder is GONE!
  • My new dentist isn't a thief and I don't have 9 cavities as the liar dentist told me. Thank you Dr. Jason Zimmerman (new friend and pediatric dentist) for referring me to the most honest dentist I have ever met, Dr. Dan Hong, Precinct Line Dentistry, NRH
  • God placed me with a wonderful Bible Study small group... Mary, Beverly, Cindy, Davonna, Earline, & Cathy - I will miss you while we are on break!
  • I lost some old friends but learned some very hard but valuable lessons from it.
  • I gained some amazing new friends... Suzi B., Cindy Midkiff, Stephanie C.
  • I am getting to know some new ladies I really like... Cindy Maxwell, Karin S., Jamie W.
  • I am fully committed to one church home, Peace Lutheran, Hurst!!!
  • Dustin and Kellie are still my friends.
  • My friend Suzi is the kind of friend I can tell anything to and know she is gonna love me anyway.
  • God allowed me to help Celebrate Recovery at COH get started!
  • My new pound puppy, Goldie, is a total joy and not a big pain in the butt!
  • We found Man's Best Friend NRH to help us train our dog correctly.
  • I still have a wonderful sponsor who is always there for me (hugs and kisses to you).
  • The "Heart Smart" retreat was such a success! And through the planning, Stephanie showed me true friendship and how taking friendship slowly really pays off. Thank you Stephanie!!!
  • That Heather came back from Cambodia and is healthy, happy and engaged to Richie.
  • My husband supports my weekend retreats away from the world!
  • With my hubby by my side, I caught my first fish in Florida... Surf Fishing!
  • Brett and I had a super fun summer together... swimming, crafts, bass pro fun camp, my mom visited (very thankful for that), Lido, Dallas Aquarium, play doh, playing restaurant and zoo keeper... just to name a few.
  • My hubby had the skills, patience and desire to fix several broken things on his own... sprinkler system, car window motor, washing machine... just to name a few.
  • We had a wonderful camping trip to Devil's Den State Park.
  • I have wonderful, caring In-Law's.
  • Vanessa moved to Texas (and I am super proud of all her progress and growth)
  • Marissa and I didn't drown at the Water Gardens! And that she came to visit and we had a great time together... I love you Marissa!!!
  • We are going to be in Virginia with my parents at Christmas!!! I haven't seen my dad all year and I will get to see my sister and her family too!
  • Facebook allows me to keep up with my sister and her family (I love you Kristi, Brian, Alyssa and Reiley).
  • Facebook reconnected me with two wonderful people from high school... Jennie and Stephanie.
  • Jennie calls me every time she chops an onion.
  • That attending my high school reunion is not required by law.
  • We have the best babysitter in the world for my son... Rachael is awesome!
  • There is at least one flavor of gluten free and preservative free crackers I like.
  • I have kicked my caffeine addiction completely and have learned to love water.
  • I finally broke down and got a smartphone! I'm not obsessed with the computer anymore 'cause its at my fingertips.
  • We were invited to spend Thanksgiving with some wonderful people (thank you SO much Jamie)... and I only have to make mashed potatoes and pie :)
  • God shows up even when I don't.
  • God loves me enough to want to show me that all I have to be is me, nothing else needed. I'm fighting it... but I'm trying.
  • Jesus lived and died for me.
And to think with all the ups and downs this year I was worried it would be one of the worst ever... its turned out to be one of the best! An attitude of gratitude truly does pay off.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

You might be if...

This is NOT supposed to be funny. This is a real peek into my alcoholic life and it's sad. I thank the Lord everyday that I didn't DIE due to my alcoholism.


You might be an alcoholic if...
you consistently hide your drinking from someone you love, respect and trust.


You might be an alcoholic if...

you have a picture in your memory album of the server you used most on your very first cruise AND you still remember his name (Eduardo). Don't panic... this alone does not mean you are an alcoholic.


You might be an alcoholic if...

the very first wedding planning decision you made was to switch to white wine (even though you hated the taste of it) just so you wouldn't have to worry about spilling red wine on your white dress.


You might be an alcoholic if...
the only time you drink is when you are happy... or mad... or sad... or excited... or celebrating... or blah... or lonely... or trying to embrace or avoid feelings.


You might be an alcoholic if...

the words "adult beverage" appeared on the invitation to your son's first birthday party.
(p.s. I don't live there anymore so don't even try to find me at that address)


You might be an alcoholic if...

you have ever gotten into a car (alone) with two complete strangers then ended up in some place crazy...like in a 40-year-old drug dealer's basement.


You might be an alcoholic if...
you drink even when you don't want to.


You might be an alcoholic if...

the first panic attack you ever experienced was in a grocery store isle as the clerk explained that you had just moved to a DRY town (that was in 2003 - Bedford ain't DRY no more).


You might be an alcoholic if...
you drink alone. Drinking alone is NOT normal.


You might be an alcoholic if...

you NEED to have multiple boxes of bad tasting wine in your fridge to sleep well at night (and you are the only one drinking it).


You might be an alcoholic if...

you have ever driven to a gas station to buy booze just so you could pass off the expense to your spouse as a gas purchase.


You might be an alcoholic if...

you completely ignore the warning labels on your prescriptions that say "do not consume alcohol while taking this medication". Seriously people, do you realize that consumption of alcohol nixes the effects of most every prescription drug??? I took depression meds for YEARS while drinking heavily. I could have just flushed cash down the toilet and gotten the same result.


You might be an alcoholic if...

you have ever sneaked your empty bottles into the neighbor's recycle bin on the curb so your trash man wouldn't think you're a drunk.


You might be an alcoholic if...

you promise yourself you are never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever going to drink again AND you mean it BUT you are unable to keep the promise no matter how hard you try.


You might be an alcoholic if...

filling your glass back up with wine before it is empty still only counts as one glass in your head.


You might be an alcoholic if...

you really truly believe the lie that you are a better driver when you are loaded.


You might be an alcoholic if...
you purchase your booze at several different locations just so the clerks won't realize how much you are buying.


You might be an alcoholic if...

the people you consider your "closest" friends are all regulars at the same bar and you don't know any of their last names.


You might be an alcoholic if...
the only Sunday you look forward to attending church is on communion Sunday (those Lutherans are big on Port you know).


You might be an alcoholic if...

you instinctively lie to your Dr. when he or she asks you how much you drink.


You might be an alcoholic if...

you randomly tell people you are a recovering alcoholic BUT you don't really think you are an alcoholic at all SO you still drinking regularly.
The good news here is that you are closer than you have ever been to actually becoming a recovering alcoholic... good luck!


And last but definitely not least...



You might be an alcoholic if...

you've ever wondered if you are an alcoholic. People without an alcohol issue never ask themselves that... because it is not an issue.
(You don't wonder if you are pregnant if you've never had sex. You don't wonder if you have irritable bowel syndrome if you never have problems with digestion. You don't wonder if you are a diabetic if you don't have blood-sugar issues. You don't wonder if you are a homosexual if you've never been attracted to the same sex. I rest my case.)


All of these "you might be if" statements were true in my life and as I said... this is NOT supposed to be funny. Only you can decide if you are or aren't an alcoholic. If you think you might be... get help. I quit many times on my own... only to start again. The time I was really able to quit... I didn't do it, God did it for me with the help of others who knew what to tell me to do.

Friday, October 22, 2010

You Only Know What You Know

You only know what you know… know what I mean? When you tell people you were raised in a normal family… remember normal is all relative to what you know. If you grew up in a house where there were no rules or consequences… then that is normal. If your parents spanked you when you misbehaved… that was normal. If you were raised by wolves, well that would be normal too.

You only know what you know.

At the age of 5, my son Brett has now been a ring bearer in two weddings. The first time was for his Aunt Marissa and Uncle Richard’s nuptials. Even though his title was “ring bearer,” little Brett’s job wasn’t really about the rings… it was more about the dog. He walked Marissa and Richard’s dog down the isle and to say it was the cutest thing ever would be an understatement. Brett’s second stint as ring bearer was just last weekend at my cousin Ceci’s wedding. This time, it was all about the rings. He was given a little pillow with two rings attached to it and his job was to safely take the rings to their destination. He was even given a t-shirt that said “Ring Security.” Very cute. Brett was excited, I mean he was having a blast as the hours ticked down to the actual wedding but for some unknown reason, Brett’s attitude changed dramatically right before it was time for him to do his job. I ended up having to walk with him down the isle… and once he was up front I sat down. I was watching him, and the only thing I can say was he was not happy. As a mom, I was embarrassed by his scowl and attitude at such a joyous occasion. I figured it was better for him to just come and sit with me than to stand there with that look on his face… mad, or whatever it was. I was mortified. I motioned him to come sit with me and he did. He sat on my lap and began to cry… and they were real tears from a boy who was truly upset. I took him to a room in the back of the church as the ceremony continued without us. Once there, he bashfully showed me the ring bearer pillow… only one ring remained attached. Through his tears he barely was able to confess, “I lost one of the rings mommy. I’m sorry.” The embarrassment of my child’s behavior melted away and compassion along with empathy filled my heart for this boy whose only desire was to do a good job. He was truly sorry and all I could do was hug him and tell him it was going to be okay. What little Brett didn’t know was this… the rings on his little pillow weren’t real, they were just for show. I’m pretty sure people stopped putting real rings on ring bearer pillows a long time ago for this very reason. I told him the real rings were in the best man’s pocket. My explanation didn’t really help though, because Brett only knew what he knew.

I didn’t know I needed to explain the fake rings to him. I didn’t know I needed to tell him his walk down the isle was really just for show. I didn’t know I needed to protect him from the pressure he was putting on himself. Had I known, I would have better prepared him but… I only knew what I knew at the time.

Yep, you only know what you know.
Have you ever seen something you wish you could un-see??? Back in 1991, I was driving down a highway in Georgia, I saw a medium sized black lab with a red bandana around his neck come running full speed toward the highway. I saw him and knew what was about to happen and I was helpless to stop it. He looked so happy and free as his paws galloped in front of the white beat-up Ford truck driving in front of me. I have a vivid memory or what happened next. I can’t even tell you how many tears I cried trying to get that visual out of my head. The thing that made it so hard was the bandana… the red bandana that had been so carefully and thoughtfully placed on the dog that day. His owners no doubt loved him. Nope, I can’t un-see that. And just recently, I witnessed a 6 month old baby falling out of the high cabin of a truck. He toppled out head first, landing on the cement. It was a pure accident which happened in my view in slow motion as his mother turned away from him for only a split second in order to prepare his stroller for the walk they were about to go on. I can’t un-see that either.

How about this… have you ever found something out you wish you didn’t know? Maybe a best friend confessed to you that they were having an affair with another best friend’s husband. Try as you might, you can’t un-know that. Maybe you discovered that the person you have been charged with sponsoring in a recovery program has fallen off the wagon… and has been lying to you about it for weeks or months. You know it’s not your fault, but at the same time knowing it changes everything about your relationship with them and it hurts. Your fiancĂ© comes home from work one day and says, “We need to talk… I can’t marry you because I am already married, and I am not getting a divorce.” As much as you want to un-know that… you simply can’t. Things will never be the same. In these situations… knowing certain things can really present a problem. Yes, you can’t un-know what you know… and in these cases ignorance certainly seems like bliss.

But do you know what I think is more of a problem than knowing things you don’t want to know… is not allowing yourself to learn the things you need to know. After all, you only know what you know… and that can be a great excuse not to change.

I see this all the time in peoples’ lives as I work in ministry... I also see it in my own life. Ignorance can seem like such bliss for a time but in the end, ignorance leads to hell (figuratively and quite possibly literally too).

A few days after my little ring bearer lost a ring, he asked me a very interesting question. “Mommy, if the rings on the pillow weren’t real… why did they have me do it?” What a profound question from the mouth of a five year old.

In life, it seems we do a lot of things for one reason… because that is the way we have always done them. We only know what we know so we stick with it. Change is hard. The thought of change makes us afraid we might see something we can’t un-see, like the dog whose life ended abruptly in front of me in such a cruel way. Or the baby whose blood I wore on my shirt for an afternoon after I helped his mother. We might be forced to look at how our drinking is affecting the people we love, how our attitude makes people not want to be our friends, how our lack of humility makes us appear judgmental, how our foul mouths show what’s really in our hearts, how our soft parenting is creating insecurity within our children, how our lack of trust is driving our spouse away, how our gossipy mouths makes us untrustworthy, how our lack of follow-through makes us seem undependable, how our need for attention displays our insecurity, how our reluctance to pray is an indication of our lack of faith, how ,when we look in the mirror, deep down inside we know that most of our problems… are our own fault. When we finally see that… we can’t un-see it.

So we put the fake rings on a pillow, and smile as we walk down the isle so the show can continue. After all, putting the real rings on the pillow is a risk most people aren’t willing to take.

You only know what you know.

I’ve learned through the years, that my own private hell isn’t very fun… even if it is all I know, its still not fun. I decided to open my eyes…and yes, I saw the death of a dog and many other unsavory things but with it has come something beautiful… the realization that I care about life, even the life of dogs. I care about people enough to wear a stranger’s blood on my shirt. I care about myself enough to see how my drinking affected the people I love, how my attitude in the past has made people not want to be my friend, how my lack of humility has made me appear judgmental, how my foul mouth has shown others what’s really in my heart, how my soft parenting has creating insecurity within my child, how my lack of trust has driven my spouse away at times, how my gossipy mouth makes me untrustworthy, how my lack of follow-through makes me seem undependable, how my need for attention displays my deep insecurity, how my reluctance to pray is an indication of my doubts, and how, when I look in the mirror, deep down inside I know that most of my problems… are my own fault. And I care enough about my relationship with God to want to face those things one at a time so that I might be closer to Him who loves me more than I can fathom.

You only know what you know... as for me, I hope I never stop wanting to know more.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Argue

In my humble opinion, anyone who allows the opinions of others in the matter of politics create discord and hatred is missing the entire point of politics in the United States. Part of being here is being free to think, believe and speak what we feel and think. I believe choosing to be bull-headed and unbending to the point of losing a good friend just to stand firm on a particular politicians platform is so silly. I highly doubt any politician would be passionate enough about YOU to lose his or her good friend over you. I know not everyone I care about feels the same way I do about certain things, but I don't let that effect how I feel about them. A good friend will let you be who you are, say what you think and not necessarily have to argue with you about it. They will, let you be you.

The same thing could be said about Christianity... anyone who allows the opinions of others in the matter of Christianity create discord and hatred is missing the entire point of Christianity. The point of being a Christian is to be molded and formed into a "Christ-like" shape. I believe choosing to be bull-headed and unbending to the point of losing a good friend just to stand firm on a Christian point of view is so silly. I know for a FACT that Jesus died for ALL of us... believers and unbelievers, sinners and bigger sinners, republicans and even democrats (sorry, I couldn't resist). I believe whole heartedly that God IS more passionate about YOU than you can ever be about Him... whether you believe it or not. I know that not everyone I care about feels the same way I do about Jesus, but I don't let that effect the way I feel about them. A good friend will let you be who you are, say what you think and not necessarily have to argue with you about it... but a good friend will also pray for you while letting you be who you are. A good friend will also share the Good News with you when the time is right.

In the end, the one thing I believe about arguing is this... arguing is a supreme act of faithlessness... for if you truly believed with all your heart you would never be so insecure about your belief that you would HAVE to sway someone to YOUR side. You would just simply believe and have faith in that.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a silent Christian... I am not a Sunday Christian and I am not a Christian who does nothing and simply says I'm a Christian. I am a proud Christian (sometimes too proud)... but I know that it isn't me that created my faith. God put His hand on me and gave me the gift of this faith. I humbly thank Him for that. I humbly thank Him for the journey.

If you want to argue about politics, whether the democrats or the republicans are better or smarter, if an elephant can kick an asses ass, or if Obama is great or the devil incarnate... go ahead ... but not with me. The truth is... we are ALL flawed. I'd much rather talk about and try to be something that is more eternally important... love. It's a hard job. It's a tough thing to do... and I fail everyday. But I try then I dust myself off every morning, clothe myself in the cleansing waters of my baptism, allow God to turn my crimson red sin into freshly fallen snow and with all the good intentions in the world, I step out and I try again. I stand firm on my Christianity, I have faith in my loving, incredible God and I will not argue about Him. And if I won't argue about something as important as God... I surely will not argue about something as pointless as politics.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

365 Days

I want to start out this writing by saying that it is not meant to cause anyone to feel any particular feeling. It has not been put to paper to force any sort of reaction and I have not posted it to my blog to gain any sort of feedback or response. No… I am writing this for my own purposes, for my own mental health… and perhaps to just help me reconcile my perception with reality and recognize my unrealistic expectations of others.

To say we humans are selfish is an understatement. We were born that way. We have an intrinsic nature that makes us naturally concerned with numbero uno… me, myself, and I… the big kahuna… the center of the universe… me, me, me… ME!!!!

Even those of us who work diligently at helping others, attempting to step outside of ourselves and trying to be a good example of Christ… still have an ego to contend with. I bet even Mother Theresa had moments where she felt like, “can’t it just be about me for once?”

Because of my own selfishness through the years, I have come to really dislike my birthday. I suppose I have always had unrealistic expectations of others around me to think they would find this one day of the year, July 1st, to be something special. After all, it is just one day of 365 of them. Why would July 1st be treated any differently than the rest of them? But for some reason, my birthday has always brought about hopes that it would be nice to special, at least for the day.

What’s really funny is my birthday really shouldn’t be about me at all. It should be about my mother. I mean she’s the one who did all the hard work… she’s the one who suffered pain to give me life… why shouldn’t my birthday be a celebration of her sacrifice? After all, what did I do on July 1, 1972… nothing really. God had created me and He knew me long before that moment in time. Yes, my mother deserves the special treatment on July 1st… but society’s selfishness rears its ugly head again… and makes the birthday about me, me, me.

Keeping in mind that selfishness is the biggest disease of our humanness… it only makes sense that the people around us… strangers, acquaintances, friends and family alike are much more vested in their own existence than in anyone else's. And it is for this reason, the birthday of importance in their lives is most definitely their own, and not anyone else's. To take part in the celebration of another's birthday is a beautiful thing… but it takes intentionality and care.

I mean, the first thing you need to do is actually come into the knowledge of when a person’s birthday is. That information doesn’t normally just fall into your lap; although there are some people who walk around announcing their birth date to everyone they meet. But even after that, it takes mental acuity (or a pen and a calendar) to set that date aside as a day to, at the very least, say “Happy Birthday” to someone. Beyond that there are different levels of celebratory gifting. A greeting, a card, a gift, a party… a surprise party, a trip… and it can go on. I know people who actually celebrate their birthdays for an entire week. Geez!

It is no surprise that the ones closest to us are the ones who take more care and interest in remembering our birthdays. After all, they care for us, they are part of our lives, they are around us, they don’t want us to be disappointed or sad… and certainly don’t want to get on our bad side because we all know that can be trouble.

This year, July 1, 2010, I had a lovely birthday. It was very quiet and low key. I spent the day with my son. Opened some presents when my hubby got home. Went out to dinner and got my favorite meal. We had a really great time as a family and I have to say – it was one of my best birthday’s ever just because my happiness in those moments with my son and husband were so genuine and real.

My parents sent me some very special, well thought-out gifts and I felt very loved. I suppose I should mention that my love language is “Gifts” so give me a gift… and boy do I feel special!!! My mother and father in-law also sent me a few things in the mail that were also special. Hubby did great with his gifts to me (nothing that plugs in – yay). I got a few phone calls, one from my sister and one from my brother. I spoke with my sister-in-law, Marissa, and one other friend. I got about 20 facebook Happy Birthdays on my wall, which was nice… but I know how that works. When it’s someone’s birthday it shows up on your page and its one of the easiest things in the world to just click on the reminder, get to their page and type “H-A-P-P-Y_B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y” on their wall. It’s nice… but let’s face it, probably mostly coincidence and surely in most cases, not very intentional. I did however make sure I sent back a personal note to every single person who wished my H.B. on my wall because whether they realized it or not, I reallyappreciated the time it took to do what they did.

But something happened after my birthday passed. Remember I said it was a good one… simple but very meaningful... my Husband, my son, parents (regular and in-law) succeeded in making me feel very special! But even with that, the devil began chatting in my ear. He knows this is one of those sore spots for me and it was a GREAT opportunity for him to dig at me. I have a handful of what I would consider really good friends… not one of them even called me. Not one of them sent me a card… of course no gift… and out of the handful… only 3 wished me happy birthday on my facebook page. Hmmmm…. I thought a little further… I didn’t get one birthday card in the mail this year. And… 3 of the people who are very involved in my life… who I know are aware of my birthday… didn’t acknowledge it at all. I recalled 365 days earlier… my first surprise birthday dinner ever thanks to my husband, but with that recollection I also was faced with realizing the person who helped plan that surprise dinner, didn’t say word one to me this year about my birthday. Granted a lot has changed in that 365 days.

I know this is selfish! I know it… I know I am whining… but this has been wearing at me. These thoughts… these selfish thoughts about what I didn’t get have been stealing the joy of what I did get. This intrinsic selfishness that drives unrealistic expectation of others who they themselves are just as selfish as I am… has dampened my mood and I again have this feeling of not liking my birthday… at all. I suppose I have the devil to thank for all of that… I have myself to thank for listening to his nonsense. But is it all nonsense? Is there this appropriate reality check that needs to happen regarding my boundaries that says... if someone doesn’t know me well enough to know how I feel about this... if someone doesn’t care enough about me to even attempt to remember... perhaps we aren’t as close as I thought we were? Is that the devil? Or is that real? I don't know.

I know life happens, and everyone has stuff going on I am not aware of… and I even have to admit I have forgotten birthdays of great importance to me – and I have felt AWFUL about it because this is something that is obviously near and dear to my heart. I am fully aware that my selfishness is of less importance to others than their own selfishness. I just wish this whole birthday thing didn’t make me feel so… conflicted. I suppose I’m the only one who has control over that. I suppose the only way out is to give those feelings to Jesus and ask Him to bear the burden of it for me.

Ah ha... God just told me of something. It doesn’t matter who does and doesn’t help make me feel special on July 1st, or any other day of the year for that matter. Because guess what... in God’s eyes... I’m special EVERY SINGLE DAY... not just on July 1st. The creator of the universe desires to make me feel special ALL THE TIME but I, selfish me, stand in the way of that by letting the devil, society and unrealistic expectations of others sour my view, by focusing on what I didn't get rather than what I did get. I NEED to be fully satisfied with God' love for me... He didn't give me perfection but He did give me eternal life through Jesus, a gift to be truly thankful for. With that I will stop my whining and try to move on being less selfish.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Easy Equals Dead Sod in the Front Yard

Our neighborhood has had an across-the-board problem this year… dead grass. Some yards lost nearly all their grass while some yards just had spots not make it. It seemed to be all types of grass too, not just one particular kind. The neighborhood we live in takes this pretty seriously, since everyone, at least that I can tell, finds it a high priority to keep the entire neighborhood looking very tidy. There is a lot of pride in our neighborhood (in a good way) and it shows in the appearance as you ride down the street.

I must let you know that taking pride in the yard upkeep doesn’t necessarily mean the people in our neighborhood take pride in doing it themselves… no. It is quite the opposite. I would say that 95% of the residents in our neighborhood hire this job out to landscaping companies. On any given day, you can see one of those trucks with the long trailer with 3 mowers and a bunch of other lawn equipment on the back of it parked in front of a house with 3 to 5 guys hard at work to ‘get er done’ (coincidence that there are empty beer cans in the street after they pull away??? That’s a whole other article). My point here is that taking pride in something doesn’t necessarily mean that you are willing to do the hard part yourself. Sometimes it is just easier to let someone else do it. And that isn’t always a bad thing… it’s simply a reality… a choice… and sometimes a necessary choice. Ryan and I are part of the 5% of residents that take care of our own yard, on our own time, along with our next door neighbors, Tom and Jane.

This summer, when all the grass problems came to light I heard a myriad of reasons passing through the neighborhood. Some people thought it was the root systems of large trees that caused the damage. Some people blamed it on bugs. Some people blamed it on the cold weather…. or maybe even the hot weather… poor watering??? But the explanation I heard most often was… fungus. Okay, so collectively, the neighborhood has blamed the grass problem on fungus. But the blame didn’t stop there. Residents have gone a little further and said that the landscaping companies must have brought the fungus in on their equipment and infected the neighborhood because they were not taking proper care of their mowers and such. Hmmmm. Sounds like a good excuse to me… could even be true but if that were the case… why did our grass suffer the same fate? We have St. Augustine grass and we lost almost all of half of our yard and then a few patches on the other side.

Some people have fired their landscaping companies and hired new ones. Some people are trying to get reduced prices for services… and as always, some people aren’t doing anything but complaining and defaming others in the process.

Regardless of how the yard owners are handling it logically (or illogically), the problem still remains… dead grass and some pretty rough looking yards. The blame part really doesn’t matter does it? The problem doesn’t get fixed by figuring out whose fault it was? No, the problem gets fixed when you put a plan of action together and then work it.

Some plans are easier than others. The easiest of which is… to have someone else handle it. In some cases this is the best idea. For example, brain surgery… you wouldn’t ask your best friend to take care of that one for you (unless of course he was a brain surgeon), but you get my point.

About 15% of the neighborhood called in the experts to help them resolve their grass problems. I’ve seen many “TruGreen” trucks and technicians hard at work in the past months. I know their services are not cheap but they provide definite results so in my mind, their services are totally worth it, if you have the cash and willingness to put out the cash. The people who chose that route, well, all is lookin’ good for them!

As for me, we are kind of a do-it-yourself household. We have learned that almost everything that needs to be done around the house can be done most economically by putting in the time to learn about it and then committing to the hard work of doing it yourself. We have replaced broken concrete roof tiles, fixed leaks, replaced rotten siding, fixed sprinkler heads, rewired our phone system, we have run our own Ethernet wires and most certainly do all of our own yard work. It’s not that we don’t have money… it’s that we would rather spend our money on other things… like gifting and vacations (plus we are blessed to have the physical ability and the time to do it). Because of this philosophy (which I have to say my husband and daddy have instilled in me because it’s not a natural one to me) I decided to start researching how I could fix our grass problem myself… internet… here I come!

First, I read about possible causes of the grass problem to determine the REAL issue. For us, I believe it to be the excessively cold winter we had. St. Augustine grass is a warm weather grass and doesn’t do well with frost or snow or a hard freeze. We had a lot of all of that this passed winter. Next, I read all about sod and how to sod a yard properly. It turns out it’s a pretty intense process. Testing soil, getting acidity correct, preparing the soil to sod, then finding the right place to buy fresh sod (this was really important). After all of that… the maintenance and care for the sod was almost hourly… it was a labor of love if you wanted it to be successful.

I was tired just reading all of that… and wondered if we should just hire TruGreen to do it for us. It sounded hard. I put it on the table for a week to think it over. I decided to read about seeding… found out quickly it was too late in the season to seed St. Augustine… so that was out.

Meanwhile, the majority of the neighborhood decided to just have their run of the mill landscaping company try to resolve the problem, (and remember – they have already blamed their landscaping company for the problem in the first place). One day I sat watching a few guys sod a neighbor’s yard to see what they did. They didn’t prep the soil at all… they rolled up in their truck… threw some pretty dry looking sod down patted it for a moment then left… without even watering it. I thought… hmmmm… if that lives (but I had my doubts), I might try that. Looked easy to me. Apparently, the landscaping company hadn’t given any special instructions to the owner of the house either because they didn’t water it any extra… just the normal water schedule… once every few days like the rest of the lawn. It’s no surprise, it all died and now their yard looks even worse. I don’t know how much they spent for that service but in that case… easy equaled dead sod in the front yard. I knew what I had read about soding was true. It was gonna be hard work if I chose to do it.

A few days later, I was looking at our yard and just thought… that’s it… enough is enough! The first thing I knew I had to do regardless of how I went forward… phase one was get all the weeds, dead grass and junk out of the way. I pick an area about 12 feet by 6 feet and started yanking and scooping until it was clear. I stood back, dripping with sweat from the 95 degree Texas heat at 7:00 pm and said “Wow… that looks even worse! A big patch of dirt!”

The next day I went to Lowes to get some mulch for my flowerbeds and I asked a guy there what he would do. He gave me some excellent advice so I decided to give it a try. I bought some top soil and manure/soil mix and went home ready to act.

Phase two began…I got my hoe and pitchfork out and started tilling and digging. Texas dirt is hard… so it wasn’t easy work. It was also 98 degrees outside and mid afternoon. I sprayed the dirt with water getting it nice and muddy, mixed it some more then poured in the top soil. Mixed, added water till it was mud. Poured in the manure mix… got on my hands and knees and worked it in with the mud. It was stinky, let me tell you! It took hours… mixing and adding water… I got filthier and stinker with every moment that passed. Speaking of “passed” I seriously almost passed out seven times while I was doing this… it was HOT.

So I was done with the soil prep after hours of hard, dirty work. It was time for phase three… and phase three had to come right away or phase two would have all been for nothing. It was time to plant the new grass, but I didn’t have any sod… and it was too late to seed… so what was I going to do??? Well, the guy at Lowes told me something really cool about St. Augustine grass… it has runners, and the runners have roots so if you go through the healthy grass you have and find some long runners… you can just plant those in an empty area. And that is exactly what I did. I spent the next two hours combing through our healthy grass to find runners. I dug them up carefully and then planted them in the very wet muddy, manure mixture.

An afternoon of dirty, sweaty, stinky work was finally complete and I took a step back and looked at it. I’m not sure it looked any better yet… but at least it looked like we were trying. I got my camera and took a few pictures so I could view the progress through the lens in the weeks to come.


Since that day, the work has continued… the maintenance is so very important. I have seriously watered that area with a hose almost every 2 hours. And I know that if I chose to get lazy and not go out there to do the maintenance work… all that hard work will be for nothing. Think about it… digging into the hard stuff, mixing in some healthy stuff, getting down on my knees, getting dirty and stinky in the muck, sweating, almost passing out from the heat, transplanting the growth of another source into the bare spot to replace what was once dead, empty and ugly. I know it will take time to look nice again but I also know that all of that hard nasty work would be for nothing if I don’t do the maintenance it requires and water it when needed.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Perhaps maybe a little bit like trying to heal from the pains of life… trying to break free from the compulsions you have let kill the life within you? To repair… to heal… to break free… think about it…it takes digging into the hard stuff (the truth about yourself), mixing in some healthy stuff (advice from those who have gone before you), getting down on your knees (begging and pleading for God’s help), getting dirty and stinky in the muck (your sin, responsibility, acceptance), sweating, almost passing out from the heat (and exhaustion and pain), transplanting the growth of another source (Jesus) into the bare spot (that hole in the middle of your chest that makes you feel empty) all to replace what was once dead, empty and ugly (how you feel about yourself)… all of that hard nasty work would be for nothing if you don’t do the maintenance (trust the Lord, meet with others, read the Bible, pray) and water it (letting the Spirit guide you) when needed (always).

Personal baggage… hurts, habits and hang-ups usually come with a lot of excuses and blame (and the longer you keep the excuses and blame, the longer they will cripple you). But remember what I said in the beginning about the dead grass… the blame part really doesn’t matter, does it? The problem doesn’t get fixed by figuring out whose fault it was? No, the problem gets fixed when you put a plan of action together and then work it. I also said that taking pride in something (or having the desire to fix something) doesn’t necessarily mean you are willing to do the hard part yourself. Sometimes it is just easier to let someone else do it. Unfortunately with personal baggage, there is no TruGreen service that will just drive in, sprinkle some magic chemical on you, give you the bill and all is better. Some people think therapy is “TruGreen”… but it’s not. Therapy sure can help but if you aren’t willing to do the work required…it won’t work either. In the end, the only solution for healing the soul is to let Jesus into that empty spot in your chest… and for it to take, you are going to have to work hard at it… and you are going to have to water it with the Spirit almost hourly. It’s hard work, but it’s also really the easiest way to go! Living a life of pain is not easy. I am reminded of Jesus’ own words: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 25: 28-30

Only time will tell if my new grass will live, but if it doesn't make it I know it won't be from a lack of me trying. In that sense, all the hard work will be worth it no matter what. How much more important is your spiritual and emotional health than a blade of grass?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sandpaper

Sandpaper (sand•pa•per) noun - paper covered on one side with abrasive material (such as sand) glued fast and used for smoothing and polishing

Have you ever read a book that rubbed you like sandpaper? Maybe you thought, “This author is a pompous, opinionated, self-righteous jerk”? I am reading a parenting book with my husband right now and I think the author… well… he is a piece of work. His forward alone was like sandpaper being rubbed all over me. And not the smooth sandpaper… I’m talking the rough stuff, the course grit #30 stuff. It’s not necessarily what he is saying in the book, although it certainly is at times, it is his delivery. His confidence that he is right about everything is astounding. He speaks of the past generations as though he has intimate knowledge of a vast majority of people who lived in that time (even though he had not been born yet). Specifically, he ‘knows’ all about their parenting skills. Including intimate knowledge of how they felt about God, what they believed to be true about God, who they relied on for answers, and how their children behaved. He speaks in wide, broad brush strokes and applies it to everyone. It is truly a difficult read for me for there is one thing I know for certain… nothing thought up by a human is certain. (On second thought, perhaps I’m not so certain of that.)

Here’s the interesting part, I actually agree with the majority of what the author is attempting to say. And I think, personally, that what he is saying could have a wonderful impact on the way today’s Christian masses parent their children but unfortunately, his message gets lost in his pompous, opinionated, self-righteous jerkiness. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that a majority of people who buy this book put it down and send it to ‘Half Priced Books’ before they even get to Chapter 2. It’s unfortunate.

(I pause to wonder if this same thing happens in my own writing… do I come across as a pompous, opinionated, self-righteous jerk in my writing? Do my sometimes good messages get lost in my delivery? I know it does for some people. Hmmm… food for thought.)

On the flip side, I am also reading another book by an author I absolutely love! It’s about Christianity and how we have messed things up through the years. As I said I really like this author but… right off the bat in chapter one he made a statement I completely disagree with. It turns out his entire book is based on a statement I vehemently do not agree with, so, this one is also a difficult read for me.

An author I seriously dislike with a message I agree with. I have to work hard to focus on what he is trying to teach me because of my dislike of his approach and style.

And, an author I love, with a message I fundamentally disagree with. I have to work hard not to get sucked into his belief, just because I like him.

Who knew reading could be so much danged work.

Are you ready for the most interesting and coincidental part of this scenario? In both cases, the author I dislike with the ‘thing’ I agree with and the author I love with the ‘thing’ I totally reject… well, they are both talking about the same ‘thing.’ Crazy… that the planets would align themselves in a way in which I would be reading two completely different books on two completely different subjects written in two completely different decades and have this fundamental belief be the center of both… at the same exact time. God-incident? Of course. Nothing is ever an accident when it comes to stuff like this.

What is this ‘thing’ I speak of? Here it is in a nutshell: Human nature. Good vs. Bad. Moral vs. Evil. Sinner vs. Saint.

The author of one book believes people are generally good by nature and that we all live by some invisible moral code that keeps us intrinsically knowing right from wrong. This unseen system of good is what gives us a sense of fairness and is also what guides us to make good decisions. This author seems to think we all have a ‘do unto others’ attitude deep within our soul.

The other author believes that nothing good lives within us. We are bad from the start and because of that we must learn to make good decisions the hard way, by taking full responsibility for our own actions, sin nature and our shortcomings. It’s a tough road, not made or meant to be easy.

If you know me well… especially if you are a Celebrate Recovery leader with me, you know which of these statements I think is a bunch of hooey and which one I stand firmly on and say “right on brotha!”

So which is it? More important than what I believe… what do YOU believe? The Bible only backs up one of these statements… while society totally backs the other. I believe society has completely blinded us to the truth (yet again) and in the heart of this basic belief rests the undoing of how God desires us to live in this period of time. It’s happened many times in the past… a period of great belief in God is followed by a period of abandonment of Him. One thing is for sure, God stands tall through it all. He is the victor regardless of who believes and who doesn’t.

If you are reading this and think you know the answer to which statement is “the one”… email me… I’ll tell you if you got it right (please excuse the opinionated, self-righteous jerk in me who thinks I know the answer).

As for me, I’m going to keep reading both of these books. They have a lot to teach me, the smallest of which is how to absorb truth from a source I don’t like and how to reject falsehood from a source I adore. In addition, I have a feeling some sandpaper on my parenting skills isn’t such a bad thing… after all, I could use some smoothing and polishing in that area of my life. Have a blessed day everyone!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

My New Book

Here is my new book.... okay so really my son and I were making up stories this morning and drawing pictures... mine is actually a true story.... ENJOY!

"Fountain Fishys"
A chilling true story by the author of the terribly uninspiring novel "Desco"
Wendy Stenzel Oleston



First there was Goldie...
Then there were fountain fishys...



There were no more fishys after Goldie!


The End
(no pun intended)
copyright pending
Don't even think about stealing my story or I'll stick you in my fountain and let the dog have at you!

Behind the book: We have a fountain in our backyard and in the summer time we always put goldfish in it to keep the mesquitos and other bugs from invading. Our prior dog, Tori, never once bothered the fish. But... our new dog, Goldie... well let's just say she is true to her breed... a retriever. The minute I put those fish in the fountain, she became obsessed. She would stand there and stare then attack! I had some ladies over that first night, and they can attest... it was hilarious. This dog actually got IN the fountain... all fours and stuck her head underwater.

I was able to protect the fish for about 4 days... then... while I was napping, my hubby let the dog outside unmonitored. Later, 4 fish were found laying on the ground dead. I was hoping we would be able to save the rest of the fish but systematically she got them all one way or another... except the last one. I brought him inside to be Brett's pet. Sadly, "Orange Legs"(Brett's clever name for the goldfish) only survived 2 days in the fish bowl.

We are never going to get fountain fish again... but Brett is the proud owner of a new Betta... "Spikey." Hopefully Spikey will last for awhile. I am tired of flushing fish. "...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Monday, April 12, 2010

What a Waste

I went to a church design conference in Arkansas last year. It was called DIRT… it was about how to make something out of nothing. This was a great tool for church design ministry since most churches don’t have a ton of money they want to spend on media and design. At the conference, they also taught us some great ways to recycle things… so nothing ever has to be wasted. It was a great conference, although it did have a few unexpected moments I have wrestled with that had nothing to do with the conference.

It was only a 5 hour trip so we drove. The conference ended in the evening so we drove home at night. I was sacked out in the back of the car listening to my MP3 and staring out the window. I had one of those moments I hope I'll remember for a long time.

Staring out the window, I watched as a big Mack truck passed us slowly. He was hauling a load of livestock, specifically… chickens. This truck was loaded… I mean wow… that was a lot of chickens. So many chickens were stuffed in each cage they couldn’t move. Their faces, wings, feet were pressed up against the sides of the cages. The wind from the highway travel was harshly blowing around them and feathers were flying out of the wire openings. As I watched, it seemed they were passing in slow motion. I knew where they were headed… to their doom no doubt… so I stuck my bottom lip out to pout. I was sad for them. Stuffed in cages; trapped with no control over their future. It made me sad, even though they were just chickens.

Something about that impacted me…I saw them and thought of the sacrifice they were part of, their life traded for my nourishment. I’m an animal lover but I’m not over the top, and I’m not a vegetarian… in fact, I enjoy meat. But, I don’t think I could be part of the ugliness behind getting the meat to the grocery store. I’d rather just not know so I can enjoy my fresh meal in peace and quiet with no guilt.

Seeing that truck with the chickens on it brought me great guilt though, but not for the reason you think. I usually purchase huge packages of raw chicken to split into small baggies and freeze. Earlier that month, I had taken one of those bags out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost so I could make it for dinner on one of the coming days. I waited a few too many days to make it though, and when I opened the bag the smell that hit me in the face told me if I made this chicken for my family… none of us would feel very good for a few days. I ended up throwing it in the garbage – 5 large chicken breasts gone… just like that.

What a waste.

Back to the truck… it hit me like a Mack truck full of chickens how irresponsible I had been as a living being. I not only wasted precious food… I wasted those chicken’s sacrifice and life. Everything they had been through had been for nothing. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not over here projected human emotion onto a chicken, I realize they don’t have a sense of things like we do – but even still… whether they realize it or not… they are still a living creature, a creation of the Father and I have a responsibility to be accountable for their place in my world. I should not waste them, or anybody or anything else for that matter. I felt disrespectful. I felt irresponsible in that moment…

What a waste…

But it was the kind of emotion that was productive, I didn’t waste my wastefulness. It made me want to do better and be more conscious of my actions, or lack of action. I realized I have an opportunity to be disrespectful and irresponsible with every single thing I do and have in life. The opportunities to fail at protecting the most important things in life are there all the time. I could easily put my attention on a man who is not my husband because of my ego… I could easily turn my back on a friend I care about because of the crowd or a lie… I could easily let a good deed turn sour by being selfish and judgmental… and I could easily snap at my child and tell him he is acting like a baby just because I’m in a bad mood and not realize how that may effect him for the rest of his life. Disrespectful, irresponsible…

What a waste.

Let’s go deeper… to even more important things in life.

Jesus died to give me life. Jesus died so I could have a personal relationship with God. Jesus died so I could be forgiven. Jesus died so I could live in eternity with God.

I realize when I don’t live in a way in which I am moving towards God, I’m tossing Jesus’ raw flesh in the garbage. When I don’t take advantage of the one-on-one personal relationship with God that I have been gifted, I’m tossing Jesus’ raw flesh in the garbage. When I don’t forgive others who have hurt me or wronged me; when I continually beat myself up over something I have done by not allowing God to forgive my mistakes, I’m tossing Jesus’ raw flesh in the garbage. When I live my life in a way that indicates this life here on earth and what others here think of me is more important than the eternal life I will have later with God, I’m tossing Jesus’ raw flesh in the garbage. Talk about feeling irresponsible and disrespectful.

What a waste.

My nature being what it is makes it impossible for me to walk through life without being disrespectful, irresponsible and wasteful. Even when I am trying my hardest, I simply can not help it. In recognizing this I have a few choices. I can choose to just do whatever I want knowing that I’m going to fail anyway so why not just have a good time and fulfill my needs as I go. I can choose to deny the whole thing; pretend all is well so I never have to face it. I can choose to beat myself up continually for my failures and live in a lowly place, ducking my head down in shame, living in fear of wrath, never fully accepting the freedom Jesus gave through His sacrifice. I can choose to accept the fact that no matter how hard I try, I will fall short – BUT also accept I am covered in God’s grace so I don’t need to beat myself up. I just need to keep trying. In my opinion, the only one of those choices that reestablishes respect, responsibility and honor is the last one. To the other choices… all I can say is… what a waste. I leave you with this question, is there an area of your life in which you are tossing Jesus’ raw flesh in the garbage? If so… what are you going to do to reestablish respect, responsibility, honor and stop being wasteful of the King’s flesh?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dead Squirrel

We cut down two trees in our front yard. One was way past dead and could have fallen on our house at any given time. I’m glad to have that eyesore gone! The other was hidden under a canopy of other trees so it has been reaching to the west for sunlight since it sprouted. As a result, it was leaning excessively and not looking all that healthy. We made the decision to cut them down and what had taken decades to bring into current form, only took less than 30 minutes to bring down to the ground and cut into small pieces. It’s amazing to think about how one decision can drastically change everything.

The next thing we had to do is get all the debris out of the yard. We hauled the small pieces to the wood pile in the backyard to be used in the fireplace next winter and we cut and bundled the brush so we could leave it on the curb to be picked up by the trash company. Thirteen very large trunk pieces remained and littered the yard so we had to figure out what to do with them. They were too big for trash pick up and too big to burn in the fireplace. We didn’t have the tools needed to split them and didn’t have a vehicle to haul them in. My husband rolled them over to the side of the yard and made a neat pile, hoping we would figure out a solution quickly.

The next day when I went out to get the mail, I was startled by something I saw in the pile of huge trunks. A squirrel tail was poking from between two trunks on the bottom of the pile. I took a closer look and saw the squirrel tail was connected to a very dead squirrel. It was strange. It was like he just crawled into that nice little spot to die… he wasn’t stuck under anything and didn’t appear to be injured… just dead. Poor little guy. I have never gotten rid of a dead animal on my property before and I was really hoping my husband would take care of it… bless his heart, I think he was hoping I would… we both ignored the squirrel in an effort to wait for the other to take care of it (sad, but true.)

A few days later, I had worked out a deal with a landscaping company. I paid them a few bucks to come and pick up those trunks and get them out of our yard. After lunch, my hubby decided to take the dog for a walk… off they went while I cleaned up the dishes from cooking eggs, bacon and hashbrowns (a Sunday favorite at my place).

A few moments after he left with the dog, I hear the garage door open and in a slightly alarmed voice, I hear Ryan say, “Babe… we have a problem!”

I walked over to the door to see what was the matter. My eyes fell on my husband and thankfully he looked fine. I felt a little relief. I then looked down towards the dog, she walked into full view… cute little Goldie, the Golden Retriever, proudly hauling… the dead squirrel in her mouth.

I screamed “GROSS!” as loudly as I could. Then heard my husband explain, “I can’t get her to let it go… what do we do?” I began laughing in between my loud “GROSS” screams. I grabbed the training tool I have that makes a buzzing sound that only dogs can hear. She hates that thing and usually just picking it up makes her do anything I ask her to do. We went out into the driveway and I pushed the button… five times… and it became obvious that she had no intention of giving up her new toy. Her jaws were clamped tight and we could not budge her. Now, imagine for a moment, trying to open a dog’s jaws to get a dead squirrel out of its mouth… while trying desperately not to touch the dead squirrel… not easy I tell you. By some crazy miracle, she finally gave it up… and the squirrel’s limp, lifeless body hit the ground.

Hubby dragged the dog away from the carcass and that left me as the leading candidate to do away with the body… lucky me. He (yes, the squirrel was a he) was gently placed in a hefty bag then triple bagged for safe keeping until tomorrow, trash day.

I can’t get the image of my dog standing proudly with a gross, disgusting, three-day old dead squirrel in her mouth out of my head. It is totally cracking me up! Here’s the sad part though… I don’t think we humans are all that different than my dog in matters like this. How many of us have our jaws clamped tightly on something that is so bad for us that everyone around us is trying their hardest to get us to let go? They are buzzing us or maybe even commanding us to put it down. We know it’s because they care for us, we know that it’s probably the right thing to do… but because of our sinful nature… we just can’t part with it. I believe 100% that it takes a miracle to pry it from our grip. It’s only God’s power that can remove the stinking carcass from our mouths.

I’ve been working so hard for over a year now to make God’s current plan for my life come to fruition. He tasked me, along with my sponsor Jerry, with starting a Celebrate Recovery group at Community of Hope in Mansfield TX. We have been so blessed to have 10 of the most awesome people ever created, all special in their own unique ways, all people who have let God’s power free them from their own personal dead squirrels… come into view to partner with us on this project. Opening night is April 7th and I am filled with anxious energy… most of it good. I can’t wait to see how God is going to use the obedience of myself and the rest of the leaders to help others open their jaws and release the stinking carcasses that are literally ‘reeking’ havoc in their lives.

If you are reading this and you have thought that perhaps you might be interested in Celebrate Recovery… but you are trying to talk yourself out of it, maybe you don’t think you really have a problem, maybe you don’t want other people to know your struggle, maybe you’re too embarrassed, maybe you think we’re just gonna sit around and complain… or maybe you don’t think your issues is “big” enough to go to a group like this over… I ask you to loosen your jaw a little. I ask you to set your excuse to the side and just make the decision to come if for no other reason but to support me in my venture… I really hope I won’t be standing up front looking at 100 empty chairs on opening night. Come… support me… check it out… however you make yourself get there, make the decision to come. It’s amazing! One decision truly can drastically change everything.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Say "Cheese"

It’s been a little while since I posted my last article. Have you missed me??? Just kidding. It’s been a very interesting last month and a half. This story will give you an idea of what I’ve been up to... thankfully, it’s all over!

It was Friday night, I had been sick with one of those stomach bugs so I hadn’t eaten anything for a few days. My son had enjoyed the most expensive Valentine candy in the whole world earlier that day… Fun Dip. Why was it so expensive? Oh, because we found out he was allergic to it the hard way. I rushed him to the doctor at 4:00 then stopped off at the pharmacy on the way home to get him the steroids he needed to not scratch all his skin off before morning light. Now 6:00ish, I was getting dinner together for my hubby and son, but I wasn’t going to eat since food still wasn’t terribly appealing to me. Out of habit, I stuffed a piece of sliced Colby cheese in my mouth as I prepared my son’s dinner plate. Oh how I love cheese! In only minutes, a pain begin at the base of my sternum. I thought maybe it was a hunger pang, so I ate another piece of cheese. It got worse as I handed out dinner and tried to do a little living room clean up from the busy day. Before long, I couldn’t stand up straight… the pain grew and grew. I tried everything I knew… antacids, sitting, lying, I even tried to make myself throw up with the wrong end of my toothbrush, but the pain got worse and worse.

I felt like such a wimp. I mean, normal people don’t writhe around in pain when they have a little heart burn, why was I almost in tears. It got worse and worse to the point I felt I might actually explode… in fact, explosion would have been a nice relief. In probably the worst pain of my life I broke down in prayer, praying the prayer God always responds to with immediacy when it is spoken from my heart…

“God, I am in so much pain. I know I deserve this pain… I deserve worse pain for being the filthy sinner that I am. The pain Jesus endured for me is so much greater than this… help me put this in perspective, help me Lord… Help me!” a few seconds later I added, “Tell me what I’m supposed to do!”

I managed to go to the living room and fell at my husband’s feet in pain. I was in tears, and writhing in pain. He didn’t know what to do. I repeated in my head to God, “Tell me what to do God…. I don’t know what to do.” At that very moment, my body began to go into shock. I was hyperventilating, and the blood rushed out of my arms and legs so they curled up became rigid. I began to feel numbness all over my body and I couldn’t speak normally… I was speaking very slowly and stuttering. That was when my husband called 911. The beauty of going into shock is that the pain actually seemed to subside slightly, so as scary as it was to be “in shock” it was a relief, at least from the pain.

The ambulance came and two very kind paramedics took very good care of me. Shoeless, they strapped me to the gurney and put me in the back of the ambulance. They hooked me up to an IV then offered me some morphine. As a recovering alcoholic, morphine is a dangerous drug for me so I had to think about it… but ultimately I said yes. The pain was incredible.

Once at the hospital they kept pumping me with more and more morphine, but no matter how much they gave me, the pain was incredible. I became nauseous, no doubt from all the morphine and they eventually gave me an additional drug to take the edge off the nausea… they basically knocked me out and the rest is fuzzy. Although I do clearly remember the devil women who gave my a sonogram, jabbing her sono-gun into the areas that hurt the most while it hurt the most. To her I say… I know you were just doing your job but… REALLY!!! It hurt. I will try to forgive you.

It was almost midnight and I was released. The pain had subsided (or the drugs had finally worked, not sure) and I slowly walked, shoeless, to the waiting room to wait for my hubby to pick me up. I was high, still in some pain and felt like a little kid, helpless and wandering in the desert waiting for salvation. I held a single piece of paper in my hand that said, “Follow up with your doctor for elevated liver enzymes.”

The emergency room had sent me home with drugs… Vicodin and another kick-ass nausea/anxiety medication that supposedly worked well with Vicodin. The instructions were to take them as needed for pain. In the morning, I was groggy and afraid the pain would return full force so I took the meds right away. By late afternoon the drugs were beginning to wear off and I felt another panic…what if the pain returned? I took another round of meds and went back to sleep. I awoke as my husband began to get into bed. I felt the addictive part of my personality taking hold of me as I saw the Vicodin bottle and thought, “I better take another one, just in case.” I realized I wasn’t in pain at all and thought about lying. I weighed the “high” feeling against my integrity and by pure instinct I grabbed the bottles… and handed them to my husband and said, “Take these… hide them… I don’t trust myself!” He was a little shocked but did as I said. He would become my drug dealer for the next few weeks.

The next morning was Sunday. I got up out of bed determined to go to church. I felt I needed confession and prayed it was a communion day. Guilt was washing over me… I was questioning my sobriety and I was close to tears every second. I recalled my old AA days when some of the AA nazi’s would pound on the table vehemently saying use of any drug nullified their sobriety. I didn’t believe that crap… but I did believe that inappropriate use of a drug was grounds for sobriety interruption. I was about to celebrate 3 years of sobriety and I was wondering… had I used the drugs inappropriately… had I abused them and thus interrupted my sobriety??? We went to church, I had communion and I cried and begged for forgiveness and clarity.

I tortured myself for about two days over this… was I still sober… had I crossed the line??? Here I was getting ready to launch a recovery ministry in Mansfield, Texas on April 7th 2010 – a ministry that has been in the works for over a year and… was I, the ministry leader a fraud? Had I let everyone down… my husband, my kid, my sponsees, my sponsor, myself… God??? Finally it hit me… the devil would love nothing more than for me to question myself and my sobriety to the point of breaking down and quitting the ministry and life style I have grown accustom to. Who cares! My new life is a life of GRACE and LOVE… and in the very moment I recognized I didn’t need the meds for pain, I did exactly what I was supposed to do - I gave them to my husband. I told him I didn’t trust myself. I asked for help.

Well, it turns out I had a bad Gall Bladder. I had it removed on March 19th and everything went perfectly. I have released my husband from his drug dealer duties because I believe with God, I can be okay dealing with the pain and the pain relief.

Before my Gall Bladder surgery but after my 3 year sobriety anniversary, we had a family photo shoot done with SGLY Photography. The pictures turned out INCREDIBLY. Tiffany, the photographer, took some extra time with just me and she captured a great shot of me with my three year sobriety coin. It seems every year right around my sobriety anniversary, something big happens in my life as if the devil were trying to trip me up. I think this whole experience was part of that little idiot’s plan. To me the photoshoot was a celebration of getting through one more of the devil’s schemes. An irony hit me… saying ‘cheese’ is what got those pretty smiles captured on film; a record of joy and achievement. But cheese, Colby to be exact, was also the catalyst to all of the trouble. That’s right, that little piece of cheese I put in my mouth that day was what made my gall bladder finally totally freak out. The pain that cheese caused me makes me wonder if I will ever eat cheese again, but how about I just take it one day at a time instead of swearing it off completely. I am so very thankful for the ability to walk through life one day at a time... with sobriety and with cheese. Thank the Lord, my King!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Ashes, Ashes... We All Fall Down"

A pastor friend of mine decided to give up coffee for Lent. To the average coffee drinker, I’d say this, “Are you sure… I mean really sure you want to do that?” but to this particular friend I said, “Are you insane??? Holy crap… What are you thinking???” He loves his coffee… I mean LOVES coffee! I am not lying when I say… he even drinks coffee when he is preaching.

His response to my “Holy crap” statement was so perfect. He basically told me that even though for him it was a big deal to give up something like coffee for Lent… when comparing his sacrifice to that of Jesus’ sacrifice for us… giving up a thing like coffee was no big deal. His answer, as perfect as it was, as right as it was… was like a dagger to my heart. Oh, I am so selfish. I support my friend with all my heart in his commitment and sacrifice to give up something he loves to celebrate this season… this beautiful season of sacrifice. Because of him I decided to give up something myself for Lent. This is my first time EVER fasting from something for this season. It might sound silly, but I gave up Facebook. Trust me, that is a sacrifice for me. It’s like digital crack. In addition, I decided that every time I think about Facebook in any way – I’m going to stop what I am doing and talk to God. I think I’ve spoken to Him about 35 times already… and it’s only 1:22 on Ash Wednesday.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve lived my entire life… a Christian childhood, destructive youth and early adulthood as well as into my new life of salvation in Christ without knowing what Ash Wednesday really meant. Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m sure along the way in all the years of Christian parenting, church services, Sunday school, confirmation, youth outings and more recently lots of Bible reading, Christian study and Jesus based recovery work… someone… probably many people have told me what Ash Wednesday was all about but for whatever reason, I forgot, or didn’t listen (probably the latter) so I ended up here at 37 years old ignorant of the meaning and purpose of Ash Wednesday.

This morning, Ash Wednesday of 2010, I decided I was going to educate myself a little… so here is what I learned. Ash Wednesday is supposed to be a day of fasting and repentance in preparation for the season of Lent. In Lent we go through the stages of Christ’s sacrifice for us…. we pause at Good Friday for reflection then rejoice on Easter as we are reminded that the war has already been won. I knew some of that already… here’s what I didn’t know…

The ashes of Ash Wednesday are what make it so significant. It’s not that it’s cool to walk around with a black cross on your forehead or that there is any medicinal advantages to the ashes. The ashes actually MEAN something. Ashes were a sign of deep mourning in the old days. It wasn’t regular old mourning though… dusting yourself with ashes was a way of expressing sorrow for YOUR OWN sins and faults. Job 42:6 says, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." Wearing sack cloth was similar. It was a way of admitting wrong and repenting. I can’t really think of a way we signify that in today’s world at all, other than… pointing at someone we don’t like and saying “It wasn’t me!” (that was a joke). Oh wait a minute… that’s exactly what Ash Wednesday is, DUH! Wearing ashes, choosing to fast (from at least one thing) in an effort to admit our wrongs and sins to our Lord. It has always been about that, I just didn’t realize it! And those ashes… they weren’t just scooped up out of your pastor’s fireplace. Did you know that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday are produced by burning the palms used on the prior Palm Sunday? I thought that was a particularly interesting fact and I wondered how many churches really still do that.

Ezekiel 9:3-6 says this… “Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary." Based on this, there have been a bunch of Ash Wednesdays I should have been slaughtered for not taking the time to get “marked” or grieve appropriately for the horrible things I myself and society do everyday.

I’m sure there is a lot more to the meaning of Ash Wednesday… but those were the basics I found that satisfied my thirst for knowledge on the subject. I thought I was so clever when I had the idea to name this article “Ashes Ashes… We All Fall Down”. I actually did a little giggle to myself about it because it seemed so perfect. Ashes will sure remind me from this day forward of how flawed I am… how no matter what I do I will always fall down. Thank You Jesus for Your obedience to Your Father. Thank You for Your sacrifice for such undeserving people. And thank You for showing me that even if I were the only person on the planet… the only being to have ever lived… You still would have done it… You love me THAT much. You’re right, Joe… coffee ain’t nothing!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Radio Experiment

I am one of those people that is truly affected by music. Music has always been an important part of my life. I had major reconstructive surgery to my face after being hit by a car while riding my bike at the fresh young age of 10. As therapy, I learned to play the flute to gain control of my mouth again. In addition, I played competitive piano for years. I learned to play the saxophone, and the baritone and even had a short love affair with an oboe (double reeds and I didn't get along well though, so that had to end). I was in marching band, concert band, concert choir, show choir, took voice lessons to widen my God-given alto voice into that of a soprano, even participated in State. In college I was first chair flute in the community orchestra, which was unheard of for a freshman. I was talented mostly because I practiced a lot and I used that talent daily in an attempt to enhance my world. It was one of the only things in my life I had any control over… an instrument. I think that’s why I liked it so much. In addition to playing and being part of music, radio play was also an important part of my existence. So much that if I want to remember a specific piece of my past, all I have to do is think about what song was my favorite at the time. If I listen to that song, it's almost like a time machine that transports me right back with all my senses fully aware of what it was really like in that moment. Simply put, music invades my soul.

My life took a turn after college. Truth be told, I made the turn… it was a conscious choice and it wasn’t a good one. My participation in the making of music stopped abruptly… and then I never ever got it back. Like the old saying, if you don’t use it, you lose it. All of that time and effort, all of that talent and commitment amounted to nothing as I let it slip away by not choosing to stay connected to it. Funny, it was when I let go of tuning my instruments that I began to realize just how out-of-control my life really was.

Radio play stayed an important part of my life though. Here are some musicians that bring back STRONG memories for me: the Monkees, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, INXS (I went into a deep depression when Michal Hutchinson died), Depeche Mode, Jon Secada (I was sure I was gonna marry him), Sarah Mclachlin, Fuel, Limp Bizkit, NSYNC (yes, embarrassing but true - I was totally in-love with Lance... very funny now), … just to name a few. My first book was written while listening to only one album… “The Long Road” by Nickelback. I called it the soundtrack to “Desco.” I can’t even tell you how many times I listened to that CD… I mean… the entire book was written to that, and how long does it take to write an entire book??? Good memories and ones I’d like to forget are tied to music… I’d be happy to never have to hear the song “Hanging On a Moment” ever again! Booze really was not my friend. Sometimes I’ll hear that song in passing and it makes me cringe… but it’s a great reminder to who I never want to be again.

Since getting sober, my relationship with God has strengthened to the point that He is the most important relationship in my life. Just like with music, it’s real easy for me to stay in my comfort zone with God and only surround myself with Him…listening to the same CD over and over again, never venturing outside of my favorite album (I’ve been known to listen to the same CD for over 6 months at a time). One of my spiritual mentors taught me how important it is to keep myself open to the whole world, and not live my life in a God shaped bubble that only includes people who are also in a relationship with Him, or at least searching for Him. We need to stay relevant, knowing what’s going on the world, experiencing the challenges and reality around us to be able to truly share God’s love with real people in this very real world. Maybe it’s because I’ve been work in recovery so much lately, but that is no excuse, but I noticed several months ago that my world has slowly become focused only on my favorite artist… God. My world is filled with mostly just Christians. Along with that I noticed that my music life has changed to primarily spiritual, praise and inspirational music. It is rare that I listen to secular radio play. Part of it is that I have become a lot more comfortable with silence these days… so I’m not listening to as much music as I used to. When I do have music playing, I want to use that time to focus on God and give Him the praise He deserves. I have come to really like Christian contemporary music… it keeps my mind in a better place, and I need all the help I can get keeping this head under control.

I’ve been wondering how I can make some changes in my life to try and branch out a little bit… as to not just live in a Christ shaped bubble. Two weeks ago I decided to start listening to regular secular radio again. I considered it an experiment. I wanted to see how reducing spiritual sound waves affected my life… if at all.

At first, I listened to mostly talk radio. I found it quite interesting how different the topics of conversations I was hearing on the public airwaves were compared to my normal everyday conversation ear shots. I wasn’t shocked by any means to hear all the cursing, name-calling, talk of casual sex, affairs, strip clubs, boozing, drugs or racism. It didn’t shock me at all, what it did was reminded me why I stopped listening in the first place! But there is a lot to be gained by listening to the insanity of what’s accepted in today’s society. I mean… how could I ever speak with any intelligence about what’s happening in the world if I completely shelter myself from it. For example, when the movie “It’s Complicated” came out, I decided there was NO WAY I was going to see it. The previews basically seemed to show how it encompassed everything that is wrong with our society today. To me, it looked like an abomination to God’s Word… absolutely wretched. I started to hear people talk about what a great movie it was. WHAT?? But how could I possibly have a conversation with them about the message of the movie if I didn’t go see it? No, if I choose not to go see it, I’d have to keep my mouth shut. If I wanted to speak intelligently about the wrong or the right messages in it, I’d have to see what it was really all about. But I digress.

At the talk radio commercial breaks I began switching to music stations and found myself enjoying a good combination of familiar tunes and brand new ones. I have to admit, I was kind of digging it. Jammin’ in my car, remembering the good ole days… soaking in the new lyrics and rifts. Good times! You just gotta love a good love song, I mean really. Who can resist a hot-blooded musician pouring out his heart and soul to the woman of his dreams, telling her how he doesn’t want to miss a moment of her existence. How he wants to breathe her in and keep their love alive forever and ever, always feeling that hot touch and racy beat between them. Yes… good stuff! Made me remember the days when my hubby and I first met. I began to reminisce. And with each song, more reminiscing of things once part of my life.

All in all my secular radio experiment wasn’t going badly at all… until one day I was listening to another one of those good rock tunes about love and I noticed that my heart actually ached for a moment. It was an ache I hadn’t felt in a very long time. A thought raced through my mind, “Why isn’t my love still like that? Why doesn’t my husband love me with that hot-burning-can’t-live-without-you kind of desire? I deserve that, don’t I?? I’ll never have that again, will I?...whoa is me…”

WHOA NELLY!!! Back the truck up, Wendy. I literally slapped myself across the face – hard. What the hell was wrong with me??? I was slowly sliding into a fantasy world I had fought my way out of a long time ago. I did NOT want to go back there! Radio love is NOT real love, just like movie love is not real love. Real love is… well, real love is exactly what I already have with my husband. It doesn't get better than what I have!!! Not that it's easy or perfect... but it's just as it should be. I’ve had that other stuff, that fake love that’s all about stomach butterflies and nervous energy, “When is he gonna call me?”, “If I sleep with him, will he love me more?”, "Yes, I love watching football!!!" "I love all the music you love dear" “He is so perfect… he will never let me down…” crapola and that is all it is… CRAPOLA! Why the heck was my mind trying to trip me into this trap? It was this darned music I was listening to! As I told you before, music invades my soul… it seeps into my heart and mind… it has the ability to change my mood and make me FEEL, or think I’m feeling a certain way. For me… I have to protect myself from the unrealistic fantasy world that society loves to pass around through music and visual means. I’m sure most people don’t have a problem separating music (or other media) from reality… but me… I gotta be very careful. One night during my radio experiment, I had a very un-cool dream about ‘something’… and the devil would have LOVED for me to wake up and smile about it, comb through it in my mind and embrace it. Instead I laughed at him and called it what it was: an invitation to temptation. Good try idiot, but no thank you. FLICK!

My radio experiment is now over and I consider it a success. No, I’m not going to shut secular music or television or talk radio out of my world, but I sure am going to be careful how I use it… and how I limit it. My mind is so impressionable, and as I said before, I need all the help I can get staying focused on the important things in life. Being a musician used to provide me with a way to feel control over my out-of-control world, and what I’ve learned is that listening to music is a good way to hand control over… to society… or to God. I choose God... society is a train-wreck!