Friday, December 16, 2011

GREEN

I find it fairly funny that Ryan and I looked at so many houses and looked so carefully but somehow didn’t realize how much we hated the master bathroom in the house that we decided to purchase. We chuckle about it now… how did that happen? How did we not notice the nasty small tub and the ugly linoleum flooring, the broken rusted tub faucet, the 1970’s mirror, the horrible faded and chipped 1980’s fake wood cabinet above the toilet, the laminate countertop and worst of all, the 1980’s strip of 9 bulbous lights right above the mirror? How the heck did we not notice that? I suppose when we looked at the house as a whole, its imperfections faded to the background. And that isn’t such a bad thing, its just surprising to have moved in and then realize how much we hate something we use daily. Our hatred is so strong, we have decided to remodel it.

At first we were just going to do a few simple updates. I bought and installed new brushed nickel towel bars and toilet roll holder. I bought a new light fixture and went to put it up but the wall had not been painted behind the old fixture and there was no extra paint… so we had to wait. We were going to take the ugly above toilet cabinet down but they hadn’t painted behind that either – or the mirror. Turns out the cabinet and mirror were a custom size so there was no way to replace them without painting the entire room. So… since we were going to paint the whole room – why not do a more in-depth remodel. We’ve run into a few more snags…

After a long search for a countertop to fit our strangely sized cabinet, we ordered one we thought would be okay. It wasn’t exactly what we wanted but it was a small upgrade. We were excited to receive it via UPS but I thought it was strange the way the UPS drive left it and ran off as fast as he could. We opened the box and found our marble counter smashed into a million pieces inside the box. Ugh. We took a piece of it out and decided we didn’t really like it anyway so… return! We found one we like much better and it will be ready for pick up the first week of January.

We ordered new tile for the floor – its called “cliks”. It’s a floating tile that can be installed right overtop of your current floor. It seems like a good quality but easier solution to doing regular tile. It took a lot of work to figure out how to get the tiles to fit together right but I persevered and figured it out. We tested the water seal and it seems like its gonna be just fine. The one trick with this tile, is you have to start at a straight corner which we figured wouldn’t be a problem. Hmmmm… not so fast. Our bathroom doesn’t have a straight wall to start from. That’s right, the corners aren’t square, the walls aren’t straight… its very uneven! Not sure what we are going do with that yet but we’ll figure something out. The easy tile isn’t gonna be so easy after all.

We decided to keep our tub but replace the fixtures with new more modern brushed nickel ones. But, we accidentally cracked the water pipe in the wall behind the shower when trying to remove the faucet cover. It was corroded and we used a bit too much muscle. It was a Saturday… so no plumbers available until Monday. We had to turn the water off in our house for the weekend and go stay with the in-laws for a few days. We had to cut out a big hole in the wall of the guest room so the plumber could access the pipes AND the ceiling in the living room now has a nice water stain. Oh boy.

A few hundred dollars later, the plumbing was fixed and the new shower fixtures were installed, mind you we still have the drywall in the guest room to replace and the living room ceiling to repair. But the finished work looked so pretty and the shower head we picked was a nice big rain shower with a few different settings. I couldn’t wait to try this thing out, after all the old one was weak! I was less than impressed with my shower experience though. It seemed this shower head was in need of some Viagra. The water came out strong, but then just drop to the shower floor… no power at all. It was actually worse than the one before. I was very disappointed. Worse, when Ryan asked me how I liked it, I felt bad telling him I didn’t think it was very good.

That night, my father-in-law came over to help Ryan do a few things and we showed him the disappointing shower. He tinkered with it awhile to see if there was something wrong or if there was something could be adjusted. He said we might need to go back to a small shower head but he kept fiddling with it. A few minutes later, he came out of our bathroom and said, “I fixed it!” I went to check it out and saw that he had fixed it. The water was shooting out with power now, the way it should have been. I asked him what he did and he handed me a piece of plastic the size of a penny with a small hole in the center of it. He proceeded to tell me that he had removed this piece of plastic from the showerhead. It had been purposely placed in the showerhead by the manufacturer to reduce the water flow.  This piece of plastic made it possible for the company to call this a “green” showerhead, and we know how everything has to be "green" these days!

Standing in my the bathroom I looked at little tiny “green” hole in the plastic and then compared it to the size of the showerhead. I imagined all that water having to be squeezed through that little opening and it made me laugh. No wonder the water was limping out! I turned and noticed the plaque on my wall. It says:

In my life I always try really hard to understand why things happen, why I feel the way I feel, what could I do differently, how can I make sense of this, that or the other… I am an analyzer.  I realized as I stood there that my analysis of things is making me a “green” follower of Jesus. The more I try to make sense of things, understand the world, myself or my feelings or even force myself to understand scripture… the more limp my faith becomes.  I mean there’s God with all His power, might, knowledge, and control and I step in and try to understand it all. My understanding is just like that piece of plastic… it means well but in the end, it reduces the flow of God’s power into my life.  I'm not trusting the Lord when I decide I must have the answer to everything.  I'm not trusting God when I try to control the flow of life and people. And faith is all about not knowing, not having control, not understanding but still believing no matter what.   I’d be so much better off to do what scripture says and just stop leaning on my own understanding!

I’ve felt a little down since yesterday and I have to honest and say I have no idea why I feel down. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it. As I was walking home from taking Brett to school this morning I was trying to analyze my emotions so I could fix them… and then I remembered that little piece of plastic. I said to myself, “Wendy, stop being green – let God’s power flow with all its might!” I decided to just let God handle it…to trust Him…to just go with the flow and see what happens.

As for the rest of our bathroom renovation… I'm sure we will run into many other snags.  Stuff will get broken, we will change our minds, hauling out the old junk will require heavy lifting... but I’m glad we decided to do more than just a few cosmetic fixes. Surface work has never worked very well for me… the good stuff in my life has always required major renovation.... mind, body and spirit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Hi Brett's Mom!"

In Texas, I used to go up to Brett's school and read to the kids so whenever I would be up at the school, lots of kids knew me and would run up to me for a hug or call my name, of course in most cases my name was simply "Brett's Mom". My favorite kids were the ones who wanted to tell me about their accomplishments for the day... like one little boy who I knew had some discipline troubles couldn't wait to see me on his good days so he could say, "I've had a green day ALL day today!" This would be followed by and enthusiastic high five! I made it a habit to give another little girl a big hug every time I saw her because she seemed to need a few extra hugs in her life. Last week I realized that one of the things I really miss since we moved to WI is my school drop-off and pick-up hellos from the little ones. I loved hearing little voices calling out "Hi Brett's Mom!" or "I'm over here Ms. Wendy!!!!" My pick-ups and drop-offs here have been quite silent.  It made me sad to come to terms with the silence.

Still feeling a little sad, something really cool happened. I was walking out of Brett's new school after dropping him off and one of only 2 kids I know happened to be walking by me.  My ears heard a little voice say, "Good morning Brett's Mom!"  My sadness ran away in an instant and I began to smile, in fact, those simple words totally made my day.  I have no doubt it was God giving me that smile and fulfilling a simple need. It motivated me to go up to the school and figure out how I can volunteer. I am happy to say, tomorrow is my first day of reading to the kids! I am so excited for it too. This is just a small little story to show how God constantly fulfills my needs, big and small, all the time. I bet I don't even notice it a lot of times. Thank you God... and I'm sorry for all the ones I don't notice... THANK YOU!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How'd That Happen so Fast????


It is hard for me to believe where I am right now… Wisconsin. I am sitting at my computer in our new basement trying to figure out where to start with the story of how I got here. I guess I should go back to the beginning…

It was November 2010… Thanksgiving Day to be exact. We had lived in Texas for about 8 years and the few Thanksgivings we had spent at home were kind of sad. Just Ryan, Brett and I trying to make ourselves feel like it was a holiday. Without family around, that was hard. But in 2010, we were invited to join two very special families for food and celebration of the holiday. We jumped at the chance to surround ourselves with others, hoping it would at least feel a little more like a family holiday. It ended up being one of the most wonderful Thanksgivings of my life and I am indeed grateful for those wonderful people – and for their invitation to include us. There were 9 kids and 9 adults there that day and it was FUN!

That night when we got home, life felt a bit empty. There we were in this nice house with only one child and a feeling came over us… it was as if God had said, “There is more I want from you Ryan and Wendy. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone and into My will for you.” We struggled in prayer over what His will was for us and finally thought we got it figured out… God wanted us to share our blessings and love with another child that was not our own. God wanted us to be Foster parents. It was a scary, huge step but we embraced it and moved forward. We picked an agency and began all the paperwork, prep work and classes it takes to become foster parents.

In January 2011, I began to have some health problems. I lost 40 pounds in a very short amount of time and I was unable to keep food in my system. I was tired and grumpy but unable to sleep. I had headaches and tummy problems that wrecked havoc on my everyday life. Doctor after doctor did test after test with no answers as to what was wrong. There were lots of theories, but no real answers. Only trial and error and nothing seemed to be working. As my health faded, we decided to put a hold on our plans to become Foster parents. There was no way I could take care of another child in my condition.

In June, answers finally started to come… we discovered that I have celiac disease which is basically an allergy to wheat, barley and rye… gluten. Luckily, my allergy to gluten isn’t as severe it could be, but it is still very important for me to steer as clear of it as possible. Weeks after I deleted gluten from my diet, I finally began to feel better. My body began to heal slowly but I was still severely underweight. The challenge then became to figure out how to gain weight on a Gluten free diet… no small task. As a result of this health issue, I actually learned how to properly care for my body. Eating had never been a priority for me before. I rarely ate 3 meals a day and when I did eat, I would eat less than healthy foods. Having to watch all food intake and try to gain weight made me really learn to give my body what it needs. I have always cared too much what others say about me and perhaps God was using this as a way to try and break me from that. So, when the rumor that I was “anorexic” blew by me, I was disgusted, especially since I had been feeding my body better than I ever had in my whole life. I had to separate myself from some other unhealthy things, and work on relying solely on what God thinks of me instead of what others think. I don’t know if I will ever fully be able to do that, but I am getting better at it.

As my health began to improve, Ryan and I re-visited our plans to foster. To both of our great surprise, it no longer “felt” right. In fact, it felt really wrong and against what God wanted for us. Personally, I was very disappointed and ashamed when we made the final decision not to pursue fostering. I felt selfish and as if I had left yet another “idea” in my life unfinished. I was embarrassed I had told some people about our plans and now, we were going to have to tell them we weren’t doing it. Mostly, I was confused over my understanding of God’s desire for me. I felt so sure He wanted us to foster… and then for Him to turn around and say “No” made me question everything about the way I hear God. How could I have gotten it so wrong? Or worse, why did God change His mind? Were we not “good” enough to do the job? Luckily I have some very wise ladies in my life who were there for me and helped my make peace with those feelings. I wasn’t sure what exactly had happened between my understanding and God’s will, but I kept trying to hear Him correctly.

Ryan and I still felt like God was telling us we were supposed to provide care for a child that was not our own. Our next thought was that He meant for us to adopt. Excited, we looked into that as our next option. Quickly we discovered, we did not have the money we would need for adoption and soon we felt that door shut as God said, “Nope… that is not My plan for you either.” Ugh. I had been so restless about figuring out what God wanted and it seemed no matter what I did, He was saying no. It was frustrating! I finally just threw in the towel and said, “Hey God, when You’re ready to let me know Your plan for me just tell me… I’m gonna stop hunting for it!” That sounds so funny to me, as if it ever matter for one second that I was hunting for it. God’s timing is perfect and I should have been trusting Him all along to make His plan apparent to me instead of worrying about missing it.

In August, I took a weekend trip up to Janesville, Wisconsin for Ryan’s sister’s baby shower. I consider her one of my best friends and was so glad to be able to be part of her special day. Her first baby was due at the end of October! It was a quick trip, but a meaningful one. I got to spend some special time with both my sister-in-laws and I felt like we all really bonded. The shower was wonderful, the food was great and a friend of the family ended up stopping by unexpectedly… Chuck always has the best timing! It was Saturday afternoon after the shower and we were all sitting on the deck enjoying the sun and Chuck asked the mom-to-be, Marissa, what her child care plans were once the baby was here. He asked if she was going to be staying at home or going back to work… to be honest it was one of those side conversations that I wasn’t even part of, I just happened to be overhearing it. As I listened to the discussion unfold between Marissa and Chuck I heard God’s voice in my head as clear as a bell… “That is the child. You. Daycare.” I kind of chuckled at God, having to remind Him that I lived in Texas, not Wisconsin. If I was going to watch Marissa and Richard’s baby – that was gonna be a tough commute. God laughed back at me and said, “Move.” I was stunned in that moment… didn’t God know how much I hate cold weather? I’m pretty sure He did, perhaps He didn’t care. I bet if there had been a picture of my face at that very moment… it would be priceless. I thought of little else besides God’s words to me in the days that followed. I arrived home to Texas on Sunday night and Monday afternoon at lunch, I asked my husband what he would think about moving back to his hometown of Janesville, WI.

As they say, the rest is history. At the end of August we had our agents out to the house to tell us what kinds of updates we needed. We did the updates in 2 weeks, we listed our house, we had an offer in 8 days, we accepted in 10 days. We went on a house hunting trip a week later, looked at 12 house, picked one and made an offer, got accepted and came home to pack. October 31st we closed in Texas, November 1st and 2nd we drove to Wisconsin, November 4th we closed and moved into our new home.

So, the answer to "How'd that happen so fast?" is very clear... God. Only He could have orchestrated a move such as this. And one of the most beautiful things that happened was that little Grace Olivia was born unexpectedly while we were in Janesville for our house hunting trip. We got to meet her before we headed back to Texas to pack up. The minute I held her, I knew 100% for certain God had me right where He wanted me. Yep, God doesn’t need me to hunt for His will, He just needs me to do my best to listen and wait for it. In addition, God won’t let me make a huge mistake when I misunderstand Him (like fostering or adopting) because He has His ways of re-directing me. When a door closes, He is merely guiding me towards another door that is already open but not yet in my view. And, thanks God for sending down a tangible reminder of Your awesome "Grace"!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Was Wrong

The day I graduated from high school was one of the happiest days of my life. I don’t think I had ever felt that kind of joy. I hated those years and for some reason, I just never thought I would make it to graduation. It’s not that I thought I would flunk out or that I wouldn’t be alive… it was that I didn’t think high school would ever end. I never thought it was going to happen, but I was wrong…it did. Thank the LORD! I do still have a recurring nightmare occasionally and it is about being back in high school. I usually wake up in a cold sweat.

I never thought I would ever have a healthy relationship with a good guy who treated me well. I just didn’t think that was in the cards for me. Back then, I guess I didn’t think I deserved to be treated well and I’m sure it didn’t help that I had an assumption that every relationship I was in was going to fail. Basically, I thought every guy who was willing to spend time with me was doing me some sort of favor and it was only a matter of time before he realized he was too good for me. Real love would never happen for me. I was wrong though, God crossed mine and Ryan's paths in 2001.

I never thought I would ever get addicted to alcohol. In fact, right before I became the most active in my drinking, I decided I hated alcoholics… all of them. I thought not being able to stop drinking was an excuse. I didn’t believe alcoholism was a real thing and I surely didn’t think it was anything that could ever happen to me. I was never going to fall victim to another supposed alcoholic’s issues. I was wrong… I fell victim to myself, a gallon a day alcoholic who realized in 2007 I couldn’t stop, even though I wanted to.

I never thought I would ever have a book published with my name on it, but I was wrong. It turns out that anyone can get their name published on a book if they have enough money, regardless of talent. After realizing what a bad writer I was, I never thought I’d be able to write well. I thought my desire to be a writer was just a dream, another thing I would never accomplish. I was wrong… as soon as I let God start driving my writing … my writing improved and now, I’m pretty good at it (even though I’m a terrible speller and suck at grammar).

I never thought I would ever be a good enough artist to have anyone use my work for anything important. I flunked art school, mostly because I stopped going to class. But I stopped going to class because nothing I did was ever good enough for my teachers. I’d never succeed, I sucked. Little did I know, I was wrong about that too. In 2008, God gave me the opportunity to do digital graphics for Him in a modern church environment. I did this for two whole years. He also connected me to a professor who asked me to do some artwork that ended up being published in a college text book.

I never thought I would be able to stand in front of a group of people without being completely self conscious and on the verge of peeing my pants. When I was in school, I dreaded giving oral reports. One of the classes I flunked in art school was art history and I stopped attending because I was required to stand up in front of the class and give a speech. I knew I could never do that. I was wrong… I was the guest speaker at a women’s retreat in October 2010. I have spoken in front of many, many groups since 2008 and haven’t pee’d my pants yet (almost though). Just yesterday I stood in front of over 50 people and shared a 25 minute lesson about how we can give to others the way God desires us to. I’m going to stand in front of a group next week and share my personal testimony. I love being up front and it turns out, God has given me an incredible gift for it. Who would have ever guessed?

I never thought I’d get married, never thought I’d own a home, never thought I’d be pregnant, never thought I’d have a child, never thought I’d have good friends, never thought I’d go to Grand Cayman, never thought I’d live overseas, never thought I’d become a Bible thumper, never thought I’d be able to forgive my ex-fiancé, never thought I’d pay-off my car, never thought I’d be a good sponsor, never thought I’d swim with dolphins or stingrays, never thought I’d enjoy reading to a class of Kindergarteners, never thought I’d enjoy eating fish, never thought I’d have arthritis, never thought I’d believe I’m beautiful, never thought I’d weigh less than I did in high school, never thought I’d have more than 600 Pez dispensers in my collection, never thought I’d be able to accept God’s love and grace… but…

I was wrong. All those things have happened.

We moved to Texas in January of 2003. I was so glad to leave the cold weather of Delaware behind. We had a really bad winter on the east coast that year and because I worked as a payroll tax accountant, I didn’t have a choice about going to work or not on really bad weather days. People still needed to get paid, even when it snowed. Getting to work was such a hassle on those days, especially since the little town I lived in didn’t plow the streets. My Mazda Protégé had a really hard time getting over 4 feet of snow… and my stress level was out of this world. Once in Texas, I vowed I would never live in a cold winter weather environment again… never. My husband is from Wisconsin, so the cold didn’t bother him, but the heat doesn’t bother him either. He never complains. I knew I would never get tired of Texas weather, it was perfect! Hot, hot, hot… one day of fall, one day of winter and then right back to hot. PERFECT!

My husband (did I mention that he never complains), began complaining the summer of 2010. I think it was the day he got in his car after a long day of work and the interior of the car was so hot that the rearview mirror came unglued and dropped to the floor. Now that is hot… and he came home disgusted.

The summer of 2011 has been a beating for most of us Texans. I never thought I’d enjoy being in the 104-106 degree heat working in the yard all day everyday, but I was wrong… I did it all summer. I never thought I’d have that kind of endurance or be able or even willing to work so hard at manual labor but again, I was wrong. It turns out, I’m a good little worker bee and I can push myself really hard when I want or need to. I never thought I could be tough, but I was wrong, with God’s help, I can.

You’d think by now I would know that "never" is a word I should delete from my vocabulary but yesterday, something I never thought would happen, happened. Our beautiful home in Bedford, Texas that we love and adore went up for sale. I cried when I looked out the window and saw the “For Sale” sign out there. We are attempting to sell our home so we can do something I swore I would never do… we are planning to move to Wisconsin. Can you say cold winter weather environment? I guess I was wrong again!  God had actually laid it on my heart long ago, but I didn’t want to face it. But as with all things, God’s voice gets louder and louder the more we try to ignore Him. All these things began happening in our lives and God’s will for us to move seemed undeniable to me. Finally, it came out of my mouth. Ryan almost fell out of his chair when I asked him how he would feel about us moving back to his hometown. He has wanted to go back, but has always very graciously accepted the fact that I would never be willing to live someplace cold.

There are only two things holding me here… our church family who I love more than words can say and the Celebrate Recovery group that I am a part of in my area. If it weren’t for those two things… leaving would be so much easier. I have developed some really great relationships in the last year as a result of those two things and if I’m right, and it’s God’s plan for us to move… it’s going to be really hard to say goodbye. Looking back, I can see how God has been preparing me for this for quite some time. Looking forward I know He will give me exactly what I need to fulfill His desire for me and my family. If that includes Wisconsin, I’m confident He will make sure I have a heavy enough coat.

It’s in God’s hands now, the house is fixed up, the price is set and we have our first showing scheduled bright and early tomorrow morning. I suppose I better get off the computer and go wipe the doggie nose prints off the front windows. I guess the moral of the story is this… when God’s involved….never say never.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bee-side

Yesterday I was in the front yard trimming my Zinnias back so new growth could come in. There I was trimming, just minding my own business. I felt a little tickle on my right upper arm and figured it was probably a fly or mosquito so I did what I always do… I lightly shook my arm to encourage the bug to fly away. About four seconds later, I felt a strong pinch in my underarm. The pinch quickly turned to a slight burn and then BAM… FIRE! I screamed at the pain, threw all my stuff down and jumped away from my Zinnias as I realized I had just been stung by a bee.

The last time I remember being stung by a bee was when I was a sophomore in High School and I don’t remember it being anywhere near this painful. I ran inside, had my husband look to see if the stinger was still in there and then put ice on it immediately. I felt like such a pansy as I sat enduring the pain of this fiery sting for over four hours! I could not believe how painful it was. Perhaps it was because of the tender place he had gotten me, the underarm – or maybe I just am a pansy.

When my husband and I were lying in bed last night, he asked me how my sting felt. Thankfully, it was fine by then; the pain was gone. I looked over at my husband and began to vent about my experience with the best humor I could. I said, “Dumb bee. I hope he is dead. I hope he died fast. I hope all his little bee friends miss him. I hope his little bee boss uses him as an example of how not to react to a human who doesn’t even swat at you.” I paused then said, “Dumb bee.”

Ryan laughed.

Enjoying the sound of my husband’s laugh, I decided to continue. I said, “He really was a dumb bee. I mean, I didn’t do anything to him… I didn’t even see him. I didn’t even swat at him. In fact, I was helping him out by trying to cultivate more flowers for him. Dumb bee.” I paused again before continuing, “What was he doing anyway, trying to pollinate my underarm? I know I smelled really great with the intoxicating aroma of deodorant and sweat mixed more heavily on the sweat side but dang… what a dumb bee!”

Pollinate my underarm… haha, I made myself laugh. I was done though. That was enough bee talk. May you rest in peace little bee, little dumb bee.

I’ve been in recovery for four and a half years now and in that time I have met a lot of different people who are just like me; struggling with self-control, struggling with learning how to make good decisions, struggling with their trust in others and in God. I’ve had many people come and walk beside me to show me the way they did it, to help me think straighter and remind me to turn my face upwards to God first instead of last. After awhile, I started to walk beside others and show them the same things…how I started the process by becoming teachable, how I began to learn to make better decisions by creating necessary accountability and giving them the reminder that God is right there ready and willing to be our first choice for help and answers.

I moved forward into sponsoring others, leading meetings and even helping plant an entire recovery ministry… all the while not realizing I had lost my focus and I had developed an unhealthy approach to how I could help others in recovery. Essentially, I had become just like the dumb bee; trying to pollinate an armpit.

It hit me like a ton of bricks just last Friday. I was sitting at my kitchen table with my sponsee and we were reading through 1 Corinthians 13 verse by verse, taking time to talk about what each verse said to us. As we spoke our hearts and minds to each other, I realized that even though I was her sponsor and even though I had a few more years of sobriety than she did that my place in the journey with her was not to somehow be ahead of her or above her in any sort of wisdom or heightened knowledge. My place in the journey with her was not to be her leader or conscience. My place in my journey with her was to simply walk next to her. And what really amazed me as these thoughts rushed to me was that it wasn’t a struggle to hold myself back so I could walk next to her… I was very comfortable walking beside her because it felt natural and real. There was no pretense, no ego, no pride… just two people beside each other.

Is it perhaps that God wants me to treat all people in life with this same approach? No matter who I am with or what I am doing… I am simply walking beside others? Yes… I think that is what God wants me to see and wants me to try to be.  I am nothing more than a bee trying to pollinate an armpit if I think for one moment that I have any control over anyone else’s growth – or that I have anything to offer without Christ. It is God who changes the hearts and minds of others… not me. It is God who changed me… not the people who walked next to me. Of course He used them to help me which is what I feel He has called me to do too. But to do that I have to get out of His way, let Him prune the flowers, let Him cultivate the growth and do my best to follow His lead. And as I am all keenly aware of now, armpit pollination leads to one of two things: a lot of pain or death. Dumb bee.

I’ve been on a leadership hiatus for awhile, not wanting to make the same ego and pride related mistakes I have made in the past. I felt God calling me to come back to some leadership roles, which I have done but I have been so scared about it. I haven’t even actually begun yet. But with this new realization, I feel a lot less afraid. I’m just going do my best to walk bee-side others and not be a dumb bee.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Compassion

I don’t think there is a person on the planet who can say they have never been hurt by another person’s action (or lack of action). I also don’t think there is a person on the planet who can say they haven’t struggled with forgiving something that seems nearly unforgivable. This may sound strange, but I consider myself rather lucky to have been given the disease of alcoholism, if for no other reason than it introduced me to the Twelve Steps of life recovery. Staying sober has meant I have had to live my life by these Twelve Steps. Now I gravitate toward the Christian version of the Steps which are called the Eight Principles and are based on the Beatitudes. Principle Six is a doozy… “Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I have done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.” The scriptures that are paired with Principle Six are these: “Happy are the merciful.” Matthew 5:7 and “Happy are the peacemakers.” Matthew 5:9. This same idea is covered by Steps 8, 9 and 10 in secular recovery.

Back when I went through the Steps the first time, there were some people in my life who I didn’t think I could ever forgive. The hurt was too much and their negative impact on my life seemed too great to ever even consider offering them a pardon. But the more I looked at myself and took responsibility for my own actions and decisions in life, the burden of forgiving others seemed to lighten. Still, there were some I just couldn’t imagine ever letting go. The people by my side told me to just have faith that God couldn’t handle it, all I had to do is pray for the willingness to forgive and some day, it would happen. I trusted them because they had what I wanted (sobriety)… and I pressed forward, asking God (many times begrudgingly) for the willingness needed to forgive.

The willingness began to come and like a miracle… I slowly found myself free from resentments because of God’s gift of forgiveness in my heart. But, there was one particular person in my life I was having a really hard time with. He was a past boyfriend who had been extremely abusive emotionally and physically. He had stolen money from me, lied to me, and cheated on me repeatedly. I gave up my college education and family for him to move to Europe and be with him. He was my first experience in dealing with a true alcoholic and I myself had not yet set off my disease. In fact, I didn’t drink much at all back then for fear of his behavior. One of us needed to have our wits about us, and it was usually me. Looking back, so much of that was my decision… I decided to leave everything behind for him, I decided to stay with him after being beaten and discovering his infidelity and lies, I was the one who was so full of pride that I refused to tell anyone, I was the one who was so narcissistic (and codependent) that I believed I could change or “save” him but I was also the one who finally decided to leave him when I had had enough. I am thankful I did, even though it took me well over a year to do it.

Over a year into my sobriety, I was told by my sponsor that I had to work on forgiving… him. Wanting desperately to remain sober, I prayed. I prayed more… and then some more. I had learned from my other acts of forgiveness and amends, timing was everything. And more important than my timing, was God’s timing. One day something deep within my soul made me go out on Facebook and look for him… I wasn’t sure what I would do if I found him, but it was at least a step in the right direction. I didn’t find him, but I found his daughter (she was about 3 or 4 when he and I were together). My heart pounded in my chest as I considered what my next step should be. I waited a few weeks and finally I felt prompted to contact her. I knew she wouldn’t remember me, but I messaged her just asking her if she knew how I could get a hold of her father. I also took that opportunity to apologize to her for my selfish behavior when I was involved with her dad. I was extremely jealous of his relationship with her and felt like perhaps that had made things more difficult than they should have been for them at her young age. She wrote me back a few days later. She was sweet and said that my apology was accepted although she felt unnecessary. She went on to tell me that she had not had contact with her father in over five years. In the years that had passed, he had turned to major drug and alcohol use, was unable to hold a job, was homeless and basically a nomad. She had no idea where he was or when she would hear from him again. She told me she would be happy to pass on a message to him if I wanted her too. I apologized for her pain in dealing with her father and thanked her for getting back to me but just left it at that. No message needed.

In the hours after reading her message, something very strange occurred in my heart. All the hatred I had for this man who had been so horrible to me began to be reshaped. I was overcome with a deep empathy for where he was in his life. My heart ached for him as I looked at my own past and pain and knew exactly what he must have been feeling within himself. I understood the disappointment and self loathing, the endless cycle of wanting to be free and the inability to achieve it, the sense of loss, sadness and anger that addiction manifests within the addicted. I fell to my knees in my living room and began to sob uncontrollably. For the first time in the years since our relationship ended I realized I didn’t hate him… my heart had been overcome with compassion for his plight. I’m not sure how long I cried, but I know it was for awhile. I remember praying for God to find him and heal him the same way God had found and healed me. It was in those moments I felt forgiveness wash over me and in an instant the impossible was complete. It was a true miracle, a gift from God… to this day I have no harsh feeling toward this man. The forgiveness I found through compassion healed my wounds and I have only God to thank for that. Thank you Lord!

But the story doesn’t end there. Something even more amazing happened two or three weeks later. It was a normal day and I was checking my email while drinking my morning coffee. My heart stopped when I saw the name of the sender on one of the messages waiting for me… him. I hadn’t heard from him in over 15 years and I have to say I was scared to open the message and read it. Each time I had heard from him in the past since our relationship ended, it had been threatening in some way. I wondered if I should delete it… but instead, I opened it.

My jaw dropped open as I read his message. He explained that a few weeks earlier he had found himself at rock bottom and with God’s help he entered a 12 step recovery program. He said he was working the steps and it was for this reason he was contacting me. He had Googled me and found my website and got me email address from there. He then apologized for all the things he had ever done to me and humbly asked me for forgiveness. He was Step 9’ing me… “We made direct amends to people we had harmed…” I had done this very same thing to many people but never had anyone done it to me. I thought about the timing of all of it and was brought to tears again. Because of my obedience to continue searching for willingness to forgive him, because of my obedience to the prompting to reach out to his daughter, because of the information she shared with me… God had granted me the compassion I needed only weeks early to be able to completely honestly email him back that very day with these words, “I accept your apology and all is forgiven. In fact I forgave you before you even asked. Good luck in your recovery.” In addition, I wondered if my prayers for God to reach him and intervene might have been a catalyst to him finding recovery only a few weeks later. I’ll never know, but I do know this… prayers work and God can do anything.

Here I am years later, still working on my recovery. It’s kind of like an onion… you peel one layer off only to find another one underneath that needs to be worked on. I’m not sure how many layers I have peeled so far (at least 3), but I know this… there will be another one when I’m done working on the one I’m on now. Recovery is a life journey that is for anyone, not just the addicted.  It has helped me be shaped into a more Christ like being.

My current layer is very private and I have to say has been my most difficult to date, sexual repression. There are many times I don’t even want to work on it, but God tells me there are lies buried deep within my soul that need to be brought into the Truth and Light. He tells me not to be afraid and I am trying to be obedient to His promptings… and last night I had a very similar experience to the one I just wrote about.

Last night I wrote a letter to a guy whose carelessness with me caused me a lot of pain which then set in motion a path for me that eventually turned into my current state of repression. Of course I recognize I have fault and blame in the situation too, so I’m not just pointing the finger at him (there are certainly three pointing back at me). I wrote the letter not knowing if I would actually send it. I wrote it because I felt like God told me to. When I was done, I felt some freedom. I decided to look this guy up online and see if I could find him. He wasn’t on Facebook or Myspace. He wasn’t listed anywhere I could find but something inside me told me to keep looking. Somehow I managed to get just the right keywords on Google and finally find something about him. What I found shocked me… and it wasn’t pretty. It was the type of thing that brought me to an understanding and empathy of his own situation in life. It brought me to compassion, and from my experience… full forgiveness is not far behind.

I’ll finish up by saying this, there are a few people in my life I have not allowed myself to be angry at. I suppose I have thought it wasn’t appropriate for me to be upset with them so I have not allowed myself to feel ugly feelings toward them. When I have been angry, I have ended up feeling guilty for that anger and the guilt then makes me shut the anger out and tell myself “I forgive them… its okay.” But I have learned recently that this approach doesn’t work for me. I have learned that it is okay for me to be angry or upset with anyone who hurts me, no matter who they are. I feel it is important to let others be who they are, but at the same time, I need to let me be who I am too – as long as it doesn’t lead to sin. I decided a few months ago that I was finally going to let myself be truly angry at a person I have never allowed myself to be angry at before. But I did this with a condition… that I would not do so with the intent of staying angry forever. I would do it with the purpose of finding freedom through the anger with God's help. After several weeks of anger, I began to pray for God to help me forgive. I even asked some other people in my life to pray for God to help me find the willingness to forgive… and what has happened since has been nothing short of the hand of God answering prayers. Answers have come to things I didn’t realize, understanding has been presented to me by pure “accident”, my heart has softened and the door of forgiveness has begun to open. I am so very thankful and again in awe of God’s wonder. One thing is for certain, forgiveness is a process. Sometimes it takes longer than others but it always begins with one thing... finding the willingness to try. If God can forgive me for all my crap, then who am I not to forgive others… no matter how heinous the offense.

Friday, May 20, 2011

One Hundred and One Pounds

The air was cool and soft on my skin as I walked. I was gliding what felt like effortlessly with an inner energy I hadn’t felt in so long, maybe even never. The voice of Todd Agnew singing a modern version of the most profound words ever written in a song was passing through my eardrums…

“Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear…”

A memory hit me. It was February 24, 2007. Unknowingly, God’s Spirit within me (whom I can only guess was there through the miracle of baptism) had been chipping away diligently at the highly durable, heavy-duty,  strong, crusty Damn of my Denial. With one last blow from The Spirit’s chisel, the Damn I had built so meticulously to contain all of my secrets and shame came crumbling down. My soul became flooded with awareness of what an immeasurable wretch I was. I was consumed with recognition of the truth… yes… this was the person I had become. I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. I was indeed the wretch the song was written about. Consumed with inconsolable grief, loss and total fear to the consequences of who I really was, I lost all hope for a future. Life was too much to bear. Stifled by a type of fear that transcended terror, I knew there was no way I could face the truth before me, there was no way I could ever face anyone in my life again... or myself.

The very same Spirit who had just destroyed my Damn and exposed my eyes to the real nightmare of my life stayed, even though I didn’t want Him there. I wanted Him to leave me be and let me do this my way. “You’ve done Your job now get out!... Are You proud of Yourself? You’ve broken me… You’ve made my blind eyes see and I can’t deny it anymore.” He remained. “Go… I don’t want You here. I hate You.” He said nothing. I imagined it would only be a matter of time before He gathered His things and left so I hurled more insults His way wanting to hurry it along.  I just wanted Him gone. All this awareness was too much. “Fine, if You won’t leave… I will!” With all the disobedience and disrespect I could muster, I grabbed the pills and swallowed them, all of them. “See, You’re not so tough. It will only be a matter of time and I’ll be gone and there won’t be anything You can do about it. I’m in control. I’m NOT going to let You make me feel this way for another moment.”

The clocked ticked loudly and slowly.  Anger and unrest swarmed around me until finally I closed my eyes and began to get woozy.  I lay there awaiting my final act of defiance to become real, satisfied by my stubbornness yet somehow... sad.  I knew He was still there. My heart began to race a little and I began to feel a little strange. My satisfaction became unsettled and my chest fluttered slightly with nervousness.  As the moments began to slip by all the anger and fear I had been feeling began to transform slowly into something very different. Instantly, I was consumed with a new type of fear… one I hadn’t ever felt before. The fear was one of disgrace and sadness, longing and loathing, heavy and bottomless… and it was no longer pointing outward at He who forced reality upon me, it was now deeply entrenched within myself. I didn’t hate Him. I hated me. In what I thought were going to be my last moments of consciousness my pride shattered and I uttered the only words I knew to say… “forgive me.” They were only two words, but they meant much more.  With those words I excused Him from the room.  I let Him know it was okay for Him to leave me now.  I said I knew He had done all He could do to save me and I took full responsibility for it not working out. I told Him to discard me, for I knew I deserved it. I didn’t see it happen, but I felt it. He departed and I was left all alone with my fear.

“… And Grace, that fear relieved.”

Only moments later, my wooziness jolted and I realized I was not alone anymore. Yes, The Spirit had departed but Someone much more powerful had come in His place to be with me. God Himself was at my side.  He put His hand on me and said, "I will never leave you."   I knew whole-heartedly in those moments that He loved me in a way I couldn't fathom. I knew He was bigger than all of my mistakes and screw ups. My fear subsided, I don’t know how or why… but I believed.

How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.”

This was the hour I first believed… I mean really, truly, blind-faithfully, had no idea what it meant but knew it was real, believed. God had always been in my life but this was different. This was the moment of my conversion to Christ. That hour changed everything for me even though I didn’t understand it at all.

I was a frail, weak, feeble, scrawny, fragile looking woman for many months after my conversion. I am five foot six inches tall and should at my healthiest weight and body type be at about 135 - 140 pounds. At my lowest moment, the day He rescued me I only weighed one hundred and one pounds. But it may as well have been five hundred because I felt like the heaviest underweight person in the world.

My memory of that day was over and present time came into focus again. Four and a half years from that life changing night and many things have changed. I’ve been sober all of it, I live in a new house, my son is just about to finish his first year of Kindergarten, my relationship with my husband is amazing, my sister-in-law is now married and having her first child, I have a new church home, and a new recovery program. I have different friends, a different therapist, a diagnosis of ADHD and medication to improve my quality of life, I have new insight, I have a deeper Spiritual growth than ever before, I have new successes and new failures spreading out all over. I’ve lost some character defects and I’ve gained a few.

Just last week I realized there are a few things that haven’t changed in the years since God told me He would never leave me. I also realized that these things really needed to change if I was going to ever be able to accept the true gift of God’s Grace. In the years that had passed since then, my head knowledge was strengthening but, something else far more important had remained dormant. As if out of nowhere, knowledge and brain power joined with the essence of my spirit and the core of my heart and they began to converge together. It was a perfect storm which awoke me to some secrets within me. Secrets which had been meticulously hidden so far down below in my consciousness, that I had most certainly lived with them my whole life. These secrets had become such an intrinsic part of me that they weren’t really secrets at all. They were the defining facts of who I really was. They were me. But it didn't fit together anymore. God’s grace and those secrets didn’t go together at all. Upon further reflection, I recognized I had been holding onto things that could have only been placed there by one source, and one source only... the father of lies. Even through all the Grace I had felt and seen and heard in these years, I was still being bound by the biggest lies of all time….

I am a bad person.
I am not lovable.
I can not escape by past.

I felt the cool, soft air on my skin as I walked. Again, I was gliding what felt like effortlessly with an inner energy I hadn’t felt in so long, maybe even never. The voice of Todd Agnew singing a modern version of the most profound words ever written in a song were passing through my eardrums…

“Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear…And Grace, that fear relieved.”
“How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.”

And then came the next part of the song…

“Hallelujah, Grace like rain falls down on me…
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away…
they’re washed away.”

Four and a half years after my conversion to Christ, four and a half years into my walk of trying to understand God’s Grace I finally felt His Grace upon me in a way I never had. This incredible gentle breeze of Grace touched my skin as I was gliding on this energizing euphoric walk. I felt hard, dark pieces from deep inside of me begin to unwind from the places they had been stuck for years. Stains were rising to the surface of my skin and were lifted by the movement of the air around me. It was like the past was being freed from my soul and all of its residue was being cleansed from my inner spirit. I began to feel lighter as it happened. I could envision the mist and vapors dissipating off of me, peeling off, blowing backwards into the wind with great swirls, stirring and rolling, being left in the wind never to be seen again. My skin felt fresh and new, my body felt so light and free. I felt a peace and calm within me I never knew existed. Four and a half years into my conversion I knew with all certainty that I was finally allowing God’s Grace to truly free me from my past. As the air tingled my skin, I surrendered to the only truth I ever need… His Grace Is Sufficient For Me.

With absolutely no desire to look back and see where all of the junk and lies of the devil that had been pulled up out of me were going, I turned the corner of my walk and committed to never ever look back there again. I saw the slight incline of the sidewalk ahead of me and had to smile. I’m ready God. I’m ready to finish this conversion thing with the rest of my life journey. I’m ready to believe what You want me to believe about me.

It has taken a health battle to bring me to this point in my surrender to God. The night of this walk of Grace I looked in the mirror and saw a frail, weak, feeble, scrawny, fragile looking woman, not much different than the woman I saw in the mirror back in February of 2007. Still five foot six inches tall with an ideal weight of 135 - 140 pounds, the mirror couldn’t lie. Seeing every rib easily, viewing the bruising and skin discoloration of a body that has been fighting to become healthy again made me sigh. I stepped on the scale, just out of curiosity. The number that appeared was no coincidence, one hundred and one pounds. But this time, the load felt a lot lighter. This time, the past wasn’t getting to weigh in with me. It was somewhere outside blowing in the wind. I may be standing frail, weak, feeble, scrawny and fragile but His Spirit is strong in me. My flesh will fail, but my God, You never will.  My conversion to Christ is continuing and I have most certainly, turned the corner. 
(Amazing Grace written by John Newton, Grace Like Rain by Todd Agnew)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Slow Driver


I never thought it would happen to me… no… never. But it has. I am embarrassed to admit that I have become one of those dreaded… slow drivers. I’m not 100% sure how it happened but I have my guesses and I suppose when I sit down and put it all together, it does make a little sense. Looking at my past driving record, it's probably a good thing!

I think it started back in November 2010 when my therapist told me I needed to learn how to slow down and learn to take care of myself and relax. Since slowing down was not my forte, it really took a large effort for me to do this. I supposed slowing down even seeped into my driving skills a bit back then.

In December, someone got mad at me on the highway for driving too slow in the left lane. When I looked down at my speedometer I realized I was going only 75 in a 70... only 5 mph over the speed limit. I got out of his way as he flashed a nice finger gesture at me and sped off. Three things happened in my mind that day.
  1.  Anger: I got a little angry as the self-righteous part of me awakened and said, “Hey… my tax dollars pay for this road too! The law says the speed limit is 70 and if I want to drive in the left lane going 70, that is my right!”
  2. Realization: I realized that when other people are in a hurry… it has absolutely nothing to do with me. We are all responsible for our selves and if he was late… it wasn’t because I was driving the speed limit in “his” lane. It was for completely unrelated reason.
  3. Grace: Certainly not grace from me... but a heavenly gift of grace from God... a glimpse into His way of doing things came over me.  I became acutely aware that everyone we come across everyday has their own battles and secrets. Instead of flaring up, I said a prayer for the hurried driver's safety and the safety of the people around him. I asked God to give him peace.

I have since spent more time driving in the middle lane to avoid making others mad but hey… my tax dollars do pay for the road too so you might still catch me in the left lane from time to time.

In January, as I drove my son to school in the mornings, I became keenly aware of the people who were using our neighborhood as a cut through to avoid the stop signs and a school zone on their way to work. It began to annoy me. Not because they were using our neighborhood roads, but because these “cut-thru-commuters” were speeding and ignoring our stop signs. In addition, if one of them got stuck behind me, they would get mad because as I stated in my title – I have become a slow driver. In my neighborhood I especially drive slow since there are lots of kids, bikes, dogs, cats and families. Why wouldn’t I respect my neighborhood, especially on my drive to take my son to school? I recently wrote a letter to our mayor and city counsel asking what could be done about the cut-thru artists. That is so not me.

In February, I got really sick. One thing I have noticed about myself through the years, even as a young lead-footed whipper-snapper… when I was sick… I drove slow. In fact, that was one of the ways I would judge how ill I was. “Oh man… I must be sick. I’m driving under the speed limit!” As you probably know, I have remained ill for quite sometime, I am working at my recovery from a bad bacteria infection but it is a long, slow and tedious process.  I stopped looking at my speedometer to gauge how sick I was feeling because... I was feeling sick all the time.

I guess through all of this, driving slow has just become my new normal.  I said in the beginning I was embarrassed about that but now that I'm typing this, I don't think I really am embarrassed.  I think I'm thankful.  Driving slower shows me that I am doing something right in my attempt to listen to God and slow down my life.

I went to the post office to mail two packages a few weeks ago. The line in the main area was really long, 15 or so people, and there were only two tellers so I decided to use the self-service postage machine. It’s pretty cool and I’ve done it many times so I knew I could fly right through the process without much trouble. As I began to weigh my first package, a man came and got in line behind me. As I progressed through the machine prompts he began to sign louder and louder to show his impatience, as though his noticeable displeasure would make me go faster. I was definitely in his way. Another woman got in line behind him and then another… so I was at the machine with three people behind me. I zipped right through the first package and started my second one. The man sighed more, and began commenting about how long I was taking. Seriously though, it had only been maybe 90 seconds. I ignored him, and neither of the people behind him in line said anything either. I was literally about to push my last button to retrieve my postage sticker when the impatient man behind me said, “I’m just going to go get in the other line… you are taking entirely too long!” then stepped out of line and huffed off to the main postal area line. Right then, my sticker popped out of the machine and I was done. I turned and looked at the lady who was next and said, “His impatience is your gain… I guess its your turn now.” She smiled and said, “Yep!” I let my son put the packages in the super cool alien-esk package eater and we began to leave. I decided to look over at the main postal area to see where Mr. Impatient-Pants was in line. I counted the people in front of him in line now… 22. He was going to be there for awhile. I’m not going to lie… I did a little evil laugh in my head… but only for a moment (okay, maybe two).

As I drove home from the post office, God really spoke to me through this experience. I have lived most of my life in an extremely impatient state. I want what I want and I want it now. I don’t want to wait in line, I don’t want to have to work too hard, I don’t want to be obedient… I want immediate gratification. I want to cruise right down the highway as fast as possible so I can just get where I’m going and get on to the next thing. God has been telling me to slow down for awhile. But I realized, that wasn’t all He had be asking of me… He was also asking me to enjoy the journey along the way.

I went to a class called “Renewal In Christ” several months ago. One of the big pieces of wisdom I took from that was how important it is to remove hurry from my life. I realized hurry and busyness have become the devil’s playground in my life. I had been working at slowing down… did pretty well at it for a time but then got right back into hurrying, worrying and trying to keep myself busy. I believe God allowed me to become ill so He could MAKE ME slow down. Because of the illness, I had no other choice.

The only treatment for my illness is complete diet change... gluten free, casein (dairy) free, wheat free, caffeine free and most importantly… SUGAR free. And when I say sugar free… I mean all sugar, not just plain white sugar. Even the natural sugars in fruit are a no-no for me right now. And it’s not a quick fix… it’s a long tedious process that is going to take time and patience. I will have good days and I will have awful days. And for me, a person who wants what I want and wants it now, a person who doesn’t want to wait in line, a person who doesn’t want to have to work too hard and a person who definitely has difficulty being obedient… this is hard work. I have had to learn that immediate gratification means nothing. I have had to begin to find the joy in the journey. 

There are times, like today, when I want to give up and just say “Screw it… I’m having chocolate pie!” but then God helps me remember Mr. Impatient-Pants at the post office. Hurrying will get me nowhere. In fact, changing my well-thought out, God-directed path purely out of impatience will do nothing but delay my results. The temporary joy I may get from instant gratification is a short-lived lie of the devil. Real joy comes from obedience to the God-guided journey.  I’m glad God has made me slow down, I’m glad God has made me change my ways and I am even glad I have become a slow driver. I don't think I could have begun to learn this any other way and now that I see it, I don’t want to miss a moment.  Not even the sucky ones like today when I have zero energy, a headache and a huge poison sumac rash all over both arms.  Can I just tell you, poison sumac is not fun at all... but I hear God in the back of my mind saying... "be obedient... don't scratch... be patient."

(yes... thats me in the picture... do you like my new hairdo??? )

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Art of Sacrifice

So I have made a pretty big decision in my life recently… to give up sugar. Those of you who know me very well are probably shocked. This was something I swore I would never do. Sugar, candy, cookies, cake, peeps, candy, sweet rolls, sparkling cider, and of course more candy have been the main staples of my diet, especially since God helped me quit drinking in 2007. I could easily blame my sugar addiction on the advice I got from a follow recoverer who told me, “be sure to eat sugar when you crave it… if you don’t you might end up drinking again,” but ultimately it is my own fault for taking this advice and making it into what I wanted it to be: an excuse to eat as much sugar as I wanted to, forever.

I got very ill recently and it seems my poor choices in diet are much to blame for my failing health. On April 19th I made the decision to give up sugar completely. I have adopted a new extremely healthy diet and am trying to cut out all sugars, even most of the natural ones for now. I started a new website called “Beat the Bad Bacteria” that has a lot of nutritional info and some really great easy recipes on it. Feel free to check that out.

I have successfully been sugar-free for 17 days now and I’ve got to tell you, it is hard. It reminds me a lot of getting sober but this time I have something I didn’t have before. I am blessed to have a different level of spiritual maturity. When I got sober from alcohol, I had to be teachable and humble and ultimately God did all the work for me but if I had to tell you how He did it, I couldn’t. I don’t think I was spiritually mature enough to even understand even the slightest part of how He could back then. Today as I give up sugar, I can tell you this… the difference in my spiritual maturity allows me to consciously seek Him in my times of trouble. I truly have nowhere else to go when the going gets rough. Not having sugar makes me feel horrible sometimes and that makes me want to give up and indulge. This morning I am so fatigued and I know its all about the sugar. The only answer is to turn to God and ask Him to give me the strength to deny my craving. God help me not give up on the task I feel you desire for me.

I’ve never been much of a faster (meaning, fasting – giving up food) but someone recently told me that what I am essentially doing as I give up sugar is learning the art of fasting which is essentially the art of connecting to God for the purpose of sacrifice. It’s very difficult to be so disciplined, especially since I have no discipline in and of myself. It’s difficult to be patient about the long term results of this decision, especially since I have no patience. It is difficult to be tenacious in my efforts, especially since I have no endurance. Discipline, patience, endurance… all things God didn’t seem to gift me with naturally – yet I’m realizing they are things He really wants me to learn.

Giving up sugar might sound silly to some people but I feel deeply that it is necessary for me to sacrifice something I love and swore I would never ever give up in an effort to follow God’s will for my life. I love the words of Jesus in this beatitude, “Blessed are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.” Matthew 5:6  I feel in my heart, doing God's will is my greatest desire and because of that I do feel blessed… and proud in a humble way that God has chosen me to learn some really important things in my life the hard way, just so I can learn more about who He is, how He is ultimately in control, and how much He truly loves me.

On a funny note, there has been a lot of talk around our house about my sugar sacrifice as well as a huge change in diet for all of us. Brett was not very thrilled about the grilled eggplant I put in front of him last night. But what was really funny to me was this morning when my little 6 year old came to me and said, “You are giving up sugar mommy and that is good. I’ve decided to give up something too.” This proud mama looked down at her smiling son and asked what he had decided to give up. I couldn’t help but laugh when he answered, “Broccoli.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sponsorslip

PREFACE: This Easter season was one of my most meaningful ever, even though I have been struggling with my health. I think perhaps that is one of the reasons it was so touching for me. God has been teaching me through this season - and its like a growth spurt. He is renewing me; mind, body and spirit and I am having to learn to seriously deal with my tension, stress and ego in a more effective way. I truly am powerless, and nothing teaches me this more clearly than having my body begin to breakdown. I wrote this article as a tribute to one of the most amazing women I have ever known. I also wrote it because reflecting on my past has really helped me learn to have a better future. Yes, its about sponsorship but it really applies to anyone who is in a position of power of others ... at work, church, home... anywhere. I think we are all sponsors in someway in our lives, even if only to our pets. Jesus was a "sponsor" of his disciples. But never forget "The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served." That makes all the difference.



For as long as I can remember I have been the kind of person who had to learn from my own mistakes. I have countless memories of my father telling me not to do something just for me to go off and do it anyway. For example, he was very clear with me about how dangerous credit card debt was. He told me to never ever use a credit card unless I could pay the whole balance when it was due. He repeated this often and with passion. So what do you think I did? Yep, just like every other good American, I got myself so overloaded with credit card debt that I could barely survive. I couldn’t even make minimum payments! The best part of this lesson for me was that when I finally got out of debt… I turned around and did it to myself again. Geez. I never thought I’d say this but I want to thank the lady who rear-ended me going 60 miles per hour while I was sitting at a red light. Even though you put me through a lot of pain and 8 months of physical rehab, I am grateful because the court settlement I got was enough to pay off my second set of credit card debt. Because of you, I was able to enter my marriage with no debt at all so… thank you.

Yes, I am one of those people who jumps out there in the world and tests things out, just to find out if the hype is true. I believe this “adventurous” side of me to be a positive trait, as well as a negative one.

On the positive side, I’m glad I am bold and curious. I’m glad I don’t have to live in a box and just have to take everyone’s word for everything. I’m glad I have the personality to “go” and “do.” I’m glad I am not stifled by fear. I am glad this is the Wendy God created because Wendy without this wouldn’t be Wendy at all.

On the negative side, having to figure everything out for myself has created a very self-reliant world for me which in turn has created a major ego problem. I’m right… don’t you know. I’m always right. Except for of course when I’m wrong but absolutely, positively refuse to admit it to anyone, even myself. This part of my personality has allowed me to continually be disrespectful to authority and to rules. This “adventuresome” part of my personality has lead me to impulsivity which has led to many, many poor decisions. The beautiful part of all of that is the way God has taken those things through the years and molded them into new understandings of who I don’t want to be. True lessons learned the hard way, but completely worth it because with my personality, I’m positive I never would have come to love and respect Jesus the way I do now by any other means. I HAD to screw up so I could see the miracle of His love in action in my own life. Just being told of His love, wouldn’t have ever been enough.

Getting sober was obviously one of those tough lessons. To get sober, I had to let go of my ego so I could stop saying my favorite two words, “I know.” I had to humble myself and admit… I don’t know anything. Walking around admitting I knew nothing turned out to be a lot easier than the other way. It turned out to be freedom.

For a person who works recovery out loud, there will invariably come a day when a new-be will come to them and say the five magical words every egomaniac secretly longs to hear. Those words… “Will you be my sponsor?”

When that day came for me… I was ready! At least my ego was ready, but not much of the rest of me was. I said yes, of course. I had been warned to be very careful about sponsoring others. I was told that sponsoring before I was ready could put my own recovery in backward motion. I was told to never sponsor unless I myself was actively being sponsored, and sponsored well. I was also told that one of the most dangerous things I could ever do is sponsor others when I wasn't humble. A sponsor with extreme ego can be likened to a crazy dictator. The two most likely results of this bad scenario are 1) the "followers" being brainwashed into believing the "leader" is some sort of god. This is an egomaniacs lifelong goal, you know, but... hello first commandment... or... 2) the "followers" grow tired of being treated like brainwashed-morons and organize a complete revolt against the "leader" followed by a "burn-her-at-the-stake" ceremony. Neither of those seem like very good results. But as usual, I didn’t think these warnings applied to me. I had this figured out (a whole year into sobriety LOL) and I was going to be fine. I would like to clearly state that all of the warnings were correct... all of them were true... and I hate that I had to again learn this the hard way... but learning them this way has made them stick. And I constantly get to remind myself that God is big enough to fix my screw ups. He always has someone else to send, it doesn't always have to be me.

My first sponsorship didn’t last very long, only about a month. My sponsee went back out to drinking and I just knew, it was all my fault. If only I had done a better job, if only I had been there for her more, if only I had said the right things or done more for her… she’d still be sober. I vowed I had to do better the next time. I wasn't going to let another sobriety be broken, not on my watch!!! Hello ego!

Sponsee number two came along and we worked together for about 6 months and from what I saw, I thought it was going great. I was telling her exactly what to do, I was making sure she was doing it, I was on top of all the ifs and or buts and I was in her business and working hard. I wasn’t going let this one go. I taught her the way I had done this sobriety thing and that was the gospel. I was shocked the day she handed me my sponsor pink slip… FIRED. It was like being blind-sided at a Survivor tribal counsel. Being voted out by my peer was painful. Upon reflection, I realized I wasn’t giving her any freedom to work recovery the way she needed to work it. I had believed my way was the only way. I realized I was wrong. I realized I wasn’t mature enough in my own recovery to do this job and do it well so I decided not to try again for awhile.

A year later, I sponsored someone briefly but that ended purely because they couldn't get passed the first step. They couldn't admit they were powerless and that God was really the one in control so I didn't even try fight it. I let God have that one and I walked away. I have no idea how that worked out.

Another year later, I allowed myself to try again when I was asked to sponsor three different ladies. I had grown a lot and felt I had my ego in check. Since I was sure I had learned from my mistakes, taking on three at once was going to be just fine. I honestly think I did a pretty darn good job with all of them. I feel like I let them go at their own speed, let them figure things out by simply asking questions instead of telling them the way it was. I feel I let them experience what they needed to experience in their own time. I feel like I did as well as I could have for where I was in my own recovery and quite frankly, I had a lot of recovery knowledge to share so it was all working out well. I did however make a different but crucial error. I became very close friends with all three of these ladies and thus became involved in a codependent relationship with each of them. I enjoyed being needed, I enjoyed being relied on and as a result of those feelings, my ego began to show up. Ultimately my lack of boundaries in our relationships blurred the lines between sponsor and friend so badly that I was unable to effectively be either. The friend in me lacked empathy because she always sounded like a sponsor and the sponsor in me wasn’t able to push growth because she sounded too much like a friend. Once I realized this, I gave myself the sponsor pink-slip. Just for the record, firing myself only felt a little bit better than being fired. I learned a lot from all three of these ladies and I am so thankful for the experiences. I’m thankful they are all still in my life.

In October of 2010, I met a young lady who transplanted here to Texas from the mid-west. I had an immediate Godly love for her. When she asked me to be her sponsor, I was scared to say yes but something inside me allowed me to go forward. I didn’t want to mess it up for her. She was fresh and young and seemed to want a new sober life so badly. I didn’t want my failing, ego, immaturity or codependency to get in the way of what she was searching for. So, I looked back at the things I hadn’t done very well in the way I had sponsored, my sponsor-slips, and I took them to heart. I asked God to help me be better at this. I asked Him to show me the way.

It’s funny, here I sit typing seven months later and she hasn’t fired me as her sponsor yet. There have been some rocky times for her, and for me but I believe God has given me exactly what I have needed to let her be exactly who she has needed to be this entire time. In the last 3 months, she has soared. Recovery has finally really stuck to her. God has made His way into her soul and He resides there permanently now. She is hungry for this new life. She works hard, she listens, she asks questions, she is obedient, she is tenacious, she is painfully honest with herself, and she isn’t doing any of this for me… she is doing it for Him. She is AMAZING! I was lying in bed and realized that sponsoring her has been the easiest sponsorship I have ever experienced. It has also been the most rewarding AND the one I have grown the most as a result of. I realized there was one simple reason for all of that. She wants recovery for herself so badly that I don’t have to want it for her. I do want it for her, but I don’t carry that responsibility around with me all day. She recognizes that her recovery is her job and she takes full responsibility for it. This is the way it’s supposed to be! The sponsor isn’t supposed to try to work the sponsee’s program for them… the sponsor’s job is to merely work their own program. Letting her be responsible for her recovery allows me to be responsible for mine. There is no codependency. There is no ego. I have finally gotten it right.

Now that’s not to say I always do things right in our relationship, but it’s the most right I’ve gotten it so far. I am so very proud of her for her dedication and growth. She is amazing. She reminds me of myself way back in the beginning when I allowed myself to be humble and painfully honest with myself. I feel like I am learning to be that way again because of her example. I am growing so much because of her and I hope she knows that she is a superstar! Never have I seen anyone grow in Christ the way she has. Thank you Jesus! My prayer for her is that when the day comes and those 5 words are said to her… “Will you be my sponsor?”, that she will humbly say yes, she will let others be exactly who they are and let them find their own way and that she will never, ever want recovery for someone else more than they want it for themselves. But most importantly, I pray she never stops working her own program to work someone else's for them. I know her pretty well though and I don’t think any of those things will be a problem for her. She isn’t quite the ego-maniac I am.

Thank you for all you have taught me. You are a true blessing to me and to the world.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Good vs. Great

Self care has become an important part of my life. At first it felt selfish, but I slowly began to realize it is more selfish NOT to take care of myself. I have admitted to myself that I am the kind of person who NEEDS alone time, down time, selfish “me” time. I am the kind of person who needs to have a time to shut the world out so that I can function productively as I live in the world. Admitting this is one of the best things I have ever done. Through this admission, I am learning to put myself before others… and not feel selfish or guilty about it because when I take care of myself, I am better prepared to be who God calls me to be for others.

Yesterday, I was struck with a heavy feeling…sadness. I wasn’t able to identify why until much later that evening. It was plain and simple loneliness. But that didn’t make sense to me because I usually have a lot of people around me. Plus I have people calling me, emailing me constantly. I shouldn’t be lonely!

I decided to do a recap of one of my recent regular days. I counted the number of phone calls, emails, and other contacts I had in that day. The number was very high… so if the number of interactions was what mattered for loneliness then I shouldn’t have been feeling lonely at all.

God asked me to look at something else… quality of contact. My heart felt like He was asking me to look at the self-care quality… not the quality of the person or the conversation… but what that interaction added to my quality of life. I reviewed my emails, phone messages, and memories of conversations through-out the day and I knew quickly, God was showing me exactly why I was feeling lonely.

95% of the contact I had on that random, normal day had been all or mostly about what someone else wanted or needed from me. “Can you help me with… Will you volunteer for… Are you available to show me… Can you give me… What should I do about… Will you read my… Can you help me… Will you write my… Will you listen to my… I want to tell you about my… Call me so I can ask you about my…” Just reviewing it was EXHAUSTING. And all of that was outside of the needs of my family. No wonder I was lonely. Most the people in my life don’t contact me because of me… they contact me because they want something from me. That is not to say they don’t care about me… I know some of them do… but wow…everybody wants some thing and allowing this to continue is SUCKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME!!!!! And this was my own fault! Allowing people to need me or want me is a sick way for me to feel good about myself. This was an awakening for me. This was about self-care. This was about me looking at my defects in this area and figuring out how I had created this madness in my life. This was about me figuring how to work toward changing for the better. This was about me learning that I NEED to allow others to care for me too.

My therapist told me something recently that made me think. He told me that I seem to be a person who does a lot of good things with my life and time. In fact, there probably isn’t much that I do that isn’t for the “good” in some way. It felt nice to hear that… but he had more to offer. He said… “Good things are good… but maybe you need to start looking toward the GREAT things God has in mind for you, instead of the good.”

Being there for others is one of the main ways I achieve good feelings about myself. I mean it’s good to help others. It’s good to volunteer. It’s good to teach others. It’s good to give. It’s good to share my experiences. It’s good to listen. It’s good to answer. It’s good to reach my hand out. It’s good to walk next to others.

But being lonely is not good. Working for acceptance is not good. Continuing in one way relationships is not good. Never letting others care for me is not good. Allowing the life to be sucked out of me is not good.

So, I know what is good and I know what is not good… let me now ask myself…

What would be GREAT?
Great would be to feel good about myself and who I am just because I am Wendy; God’s daughter… a daughter who is able to receive just as much as she gives. Great would be to depend more on what God thinks of me than anything else. Great would be to feel like I am moving toward His plan rather than just staying busy.

I’m shooting for great now and it’s time for action. Self care has got to come first and the life suckers have to go! (I have a feeling it will be pretty easy to figure out who they are… for starters they probably won’t read this article.)

Ryan and I strongly believe God's new direction for our lives is for us to be foster parents. We are preparing for that with classes, prayer, community and lots of paperwork. I have to prepare for fostering personally by learning to take good care of myself so I can be the best darn foster parent I can be. Preparing for fostering has got to be my priority in life. To do that, I have to let other things go, no matter how good they are because God's plan for me to be a foster parent is going to be GREAT.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Off Target

It was spring in the late 1990’s in Delaware when I walked into Target for the very first time in my life. It was a defining moment in shopping for me… I was in love! In the same way love for all the wrong men had blinded me in the past, my love for the “Red-and-White Bull’s-Eye” also blinded me. Finally in 2009... cold, angry, cash depleted and left with a pile of possessions that looked really cool but were completely unnecessary for anyone to own, I finally cut the cord. I shouted bravely, “Never again shall I darken your doorway Target!” Many stood by nay-saying, “You can’t do it, Wendy! You’ll be back in there in a week tops.” But I was serious; determined that this would be it! Many doubted and wondered how and why I could possibly make such a bold and drastic decision. This is my story. Your questions will be answered; your curiosity will be quenched as you read this article of why I decided to get “Off Target” for good.

The first incident should have been the last. I risk losing the respect of every one of my readers by sharing this with you, but it must be told, basically just so I don't have to keep telling it over and over... now I can just point people to my blog. December 2003 was Ryan and I's first Christmas as man and wife, and our first Christmas in our newly purchased home in Texas. We were starting our Christmas decoration attic box from scratch with only a handful of ornaments from each of our childhoods. We wanted to decorate, so I headed out to my favorite store to get some trendy yet reasonably priced stuff.

I saw these really cool and interesting string lights that I thought would look great on our bushes out front and they were only $4.99 per string. Guessing how much we would need, I purchase 5 strings of them along with a cart full of other decorations and I headed to the checkout. Life was good.

Long story short (I know, too late), only three of the five sets of lights were functioning properly. I re-boxed the faulty lights, grabbed the receipt and headed back to the “Big T” to make a quick exchange that very same afternoon. I ended up having to wait in an incredibly long customer service line. At that point in my life, my patience was about as long as the leg of a flea. (You may be thinking, “That hasn’t changed, Wendy,” but I beg to differ. Currently my patience is about the length of two flea legs, thank you very much!) Having this not-so-lengthy flea-leg patience, I was not happy by the time I got to the desk to make my exchange request.

I know what you’re thinking… you’re thinking that everyone knows that Target has an absolutely horrible refund, return and exchange policy so what’s the big deal lady… get over yourself, right? Ha! Just wait and you’ll see, exactly what the big deal is.

There was only one lady working at customer service and it was early December so the store was buzzing. I put my receipt down with my two boxes of lights and told her all I wanted to do was exchange these two boxes that didn't work for two that did. After examining my receipt carefully, she placed the two boxes on top of the receipt on the counter and told me to go ahead and get my two replacement boxes then come back and she would take care of everything. Off I went.

I returned to an even longer line, in which I had to wait AGAIN. My flea-leg-lengthed patience created an uncontrollable twitch in my eyebrow I was fairly sure no one else could see. Five eternities later, it was finally my turn again. I was ready to make my trade official and get home, but it was not to be.

The same exact lady who had carefully checked my receipt, the same exact lady who had taken the two broken light set boxes from me and the same exact lady who had sent me to get my replacement lights looked me in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, you can't exchange those without a receipt.”

I said, “Oh, I’ve already been up here. I gave you my receipt and the lights that didn’t work already. You told me to go get these and come back. I've been waiting in line.”

The same exact lady looked me in the eyes again and said, “No you didn’t. I’ve never seen you before in my life.”

Now, I recognize customer service representatives see a ton of people everyday so I wasn’t all that offended she didn’t remember me. This was going to be easy to work through since my receipt and the broken lights were right there on the counter. With confidence I said, “Oh yes, I was here just a moment ago. You took my receipt and the lights and put them down right over there….” I pointed to the spot and… guess what… they weren’t there anymore.

She glanced over to the empty spot on the counter then gave me the what-are-you-trying-to-pull-on-me look.

I said, “Wait, they were right there. You put them right there. I promise!”

She decided to humor me for a moment and looked around the area for my supposed lights and receipt but neither were to be found. She picked up her fancy-shmancy Target walky talky and asked someone to come. I assumed it was to get some help solving my problem. Imagine my surprise when the Target rent-a-cop, the stop-or-I’ll-say-stop-again man with a giant chip on his shoulder pulled me aside and accused me of running a scam. He quickly took me by the arm and forced me to the back room and…DETAINED me.

Yep… they sat me down like a criminal and pointed a bright light at my head as they began questioning me. Apparently, Target 'don’t take too kindly' to thieves.

Absolutely shocked and appalled, my sarcasm got the best of me. “Oh yes… this is a little thing I do in my free time. I travel around to local stores trying to cheat them out of $5.00 string lights… you got me! I have found it to be very lucrative! Are you completely INSANE???? Just forget the stupid lights; I don’t even want them anymore. In fact, why don’t you take them and shove them..." BLEEEEEEEEP!

But Target was taking this very seriously and had no intention of letting me walk out their door. They truly believed I was trying to “steal” from them and it seemed they were going to make an example of me. I actually got nervous for a moment picturing this turning into something serious. I tried to think of a way to prove my innocence and quickly it came to me… security footage. I suggested they take a look at the security footage ASAP!

All I can say is thank the Lord for security cams!!! The good news is they were able to find the footage of the customer service lady taking my lights and receipt, the bad new is I was locked in that room waiting for 3 hours while they searched for it. I got a very simple and insincere, “Sorry for the misunderstanding,” before I left but that was it. And, I made sure I left with my two new boxes of lights. They weren’t going to get out of providing me with working lights after all of this!

Want to hear the really funny part? When I got home (after telling Ryan all about my wonderful adventure) I discovered the two replacement boxes of lights, didn’t work either. I was SO MAD but was not willing to walk back in there to resolve it. I ended up throwing all five strings of lights away… so, in a sense, Target actually stole $25 from us (plus tax).

Here’s the funny explanation I came up with for the whole thing… I left the broken lights with customer service and after I left the desk, another store employee took the two boxes thinking they were a return item instead of defective. That employee put them back on the shelf, and since I mostly likely stopped on my way to the light aisle to look at "something shiny", the employee made it there before I did. As luck would have it, I ended up picking up the same two boxes of broken lights I had just returned. Of course, this is just my writer’s theory and not verified in any way… but it makes for a good story... and gives me a good chuckle inside.

As I said in the beginning, this incident should have been the last and probably would have been enough to make most shoppers blacklist an establishment… but I am a forgiving soul and a glutton for punishment so it took me six more years of abuse before I finally had enough. I won’t bore you with all the details of all of those other events but I have made a list of some of the ones that brought me to my final decision to never, ever shop at Target again. As you will see, most of my issues revolved around returns, but not all of them. And, by the way, these all happened at different stores… so I can’t even say it was just bad management in one store. All you Target shoppers, be ware. It could happen to you too!

  • I left my film at the one-hour-photo place in Target (yes,I know they are not owned by Target – however they are on Target's property so it still counts). They LOST my film within 65 minutes. They called me 7 days later to tell me they found it. I went to pick it up and they expected me to pay the full one-hour price. At my balking, they were only allowed to give me a 10% discount. Thanks... and how the heck do you lose someone's film in an hour?
  • I was given a set of books as a gift with a gift receipt showing they had been purchased at Target. The books were within a sealed plastic wrap that had not been opened. Target would not let me exchange them, even though I had a gift receipt and they were unopened. They stated I probably read them and just wanted money now that I had the information within the books. Yep, I can read through plastic wrap. It’s a superpower of mine I showcase often.
  • My husband stopped in and got some Luvs diapers on his way home. Whoops… wrong size. The next day I went to the same store with the receipt and simply asked if I could exchange them for the correct size, and pay any difference if needed. The customer service rep would not let me because she said the diapers were not purchased at Target. She even told me Target didn't sell that brand there. I continued to show her the receipt and even went to get another pack off the shelf that was exactly the same. In then end, I was unable to exchange them.
  • I bought a chandelier. One of the pieces was broken when I took it out of the package at home. With my receipt in hand, I took it to exchange it for an unbroken one. They would not allow the exchange stating I probably broke it myself so it was my problem. Yes, that’s another thing I do for fun. Buy stuff, break it then try to exchange it on the very same day – also very lucrative.
  • I bought a sweater for $30. I realized I had put the wrong size in my cart. I tried to exchange it the same day, but by the time I got back there, they told me the price had been marked down to $5. Here's the catch, the size I had accidentally purchased was the only size of the sweater that had been marked down so they would not allow let me exchange it for the size I needed. Really?
  • I bought a pretzel and drink from the concession for Brett. The pretzel they gave us tasted awful, as if it had been sitting there for a week or two. They had just made a new batch and I asked if we would could exchange it… they wouldn’t. If we wanted a better tasting pretzel, we were going to have to buy another one. NICE!
  • On the same visit as the pretzel…I was shopping for a life jacket for Brett. There were a bunch in the aisle and I carefully picked one out and made sure it fit him. The section I chose from had a big sign that said $15. At the register, it rung up for $30. I questioned it, and they did a price check confirming the price was in fact $30. I didn’t buy it but went to the back of the store to see how I had been so wrong about it. I was sure the sign said that one was $15. It turned out the adult life jackets were $15, not the childrens (why does a jacket that is made of less material cost more? I know supply and demand – but still – that’s DUMB). The store had hung all childrens jackets on the posts marked $15 and the adult jackets which were really on sale were in a completely different spot. I believed this to be a sales stunt. This combined with the pretzel was the last straw for me and I have not shopped at Target since.
So there you have it; some of my reasons (there are more) for not shopping at Target anymore. You may be wondering, was it hard to stop? Nope… not when I admitted the truth to myself… their prices are higher than Walmart yet their products are truly no different (although Target does have fresher fruit), Target's lines are usually longer and their selection is not that great. They may have candles, but they don’t have the color I need. They may have tea, but not the size I desire. It seemed I always ended up having to go to another store anyway, which was very irritating.

One of the things I have learned from this is the importance of not letting myself be abused. I do believe God wants me to be forgiving, 7 times 70... but I also believe He wants me to protect myself from abuse. He wants me to love others, and sometimes the best love I can give is to choose to separate. When that is the proper road, He desires me to separate with forgiveness. It's taken me a long time to learn that forgiveness does not mean I have to allow the repeated poor behavior of others to impact my life. Forgiveness means I can move on in peace. Through the years I have become a lot more careful about many things... especially self-care. I have also become a much more careful shopper as most of these issues were due to my carelessness. In addition, I have also become a lot more impressed with good customer service! It takes a big person to be able to say, "I'm really sorry you were wronged."

The last thing I’ll say is this… Target... I forgive you. However, to my friends and family who sometimes buy me gift cards… I love you and appreciate you and your gifts very much… but please don’t get me anymore Target gift cards. I end up giving them away, which I enjoy doing but then end up feeling guilty as I have subjecting someone else to possible Target abuse. Happy shopping everyone!