Saturday, April 18, 2015

Child of God

Maybe it's because I didn't have good parents. Maybe it's because I didn't have the comfort, love, and security we associate with parents when I was growing up. Maybe it's simply my own emotional immaturity.

Whatever the reason, when we were asked at Bible Study the other night to read Ephesians 1:3-14, and share which verse(s) spoke the most to us about our identity in Christ, I had no hesitation in selecting verse 5:

He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will (Ephesians 1:5)

All over social media (especially Facebook), I see memes posted: "share if you had a wonderful father"... "share if your mom was always there for you"... "share if you had hardworking parents". I used to get a little jealous because I couldn't reshare those images. That wasn't my childhood. And today? I don't even speak to my parents (more their choice than mine).

As humans, we generally equate parents with the people who provide for our needs - physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. They provide us a roof over our heads, and food and clothing (these things my parents did do). But, parents generally also provide a safe place to go to when we're sad, or hurt, or angry. They offer us comfort. They celebrate our accomplishments. They teach us and love us. They kiss our skinned knees, and embrace us when we're crying.

I didn't have that. This simple fact alone is what kept me from God for many years. God is our father (and mother)... and my only examples of what a father or mother portraits was not so great. But now, I realize that God is not our earthly parents. All those things we equate with parents, God provides. He provides our basic necessities. He is there to embrace us when we're hurt and scared and angry. He is there to guide us and He loves us unconditionally.

We are children of God. We have been adopted by Him, through Jesus Christ. And this, above all else, provides me with comfort and peace. I am a beloved child of God.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Through the Fog

The fog has grown dense. I cannot see the trail in front of me, nor behind me.

I do not know if the monster which has been stalking and attacking me the past few weeks has finally moved on, or if he is hiding behind the trees, waiting to attack yet again.

Fear grabs hold as I realize I cannot see if God is here with me. I cannot feel His presence, though I try to trust that He walks beside me.

Uncertainty of what lies ahead slows my steps, my heart quickening, my breath shaky. Where does this pathway lead? Am I even on the right one, or have I somehow wandered off the path, to be lost and wandering forever?

Tears threaten to slip from my eyes, to mingle with the fog. I am lost. Unable to find the path, or my Lord, or myself. Frustrated in the knowledge that I have no knowledge of if or when this fog will lift, giving me back some clarity.

What if it never lifts? What if this is what it will be like for the rest of my days? Waiting on that monster, constantly uncertain if there is light somewhere, forever unsure if I am not alone, always frightened.

Please Lord, help me to trust in Your presence, and that you will see me safely through this fog.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Would You Still Be You?

Ever have one of those annoying friends who always has a tendency to make you think? Well... I do. And, he did this to me again last night. I'd been telling him he needs to wave a magic wand and make my depression go away. His response was that if he had such a magic wand, he'd consider removing my depression... but then asked "though if I did, would you still be you?"

We are the sum of our experiences

I've said for many years now that if I could go back in time and change the way I grew up (no abuse, no abandonment, no rape, etc), I wouldn't do it. Even if I could go back in time and not leave home the way I did (which is one of few regrets I have, and only because I feel this added to my siblings' pain and suffering), I still wouldn't.

Who we become is made up of all these experiences. True, they weren't healthy experiences. And true, they caused some deeply rooted issues within me... issues that I sometimes wish I didn't have... but they are still a part of me. They are me. This isn't a case of living in the past by any means, but rather a simple fact that these events and experiences and traumas shaped me... shaped the core of who I am, how I feel and act, and what I do and dream.

These experiences include our "issues"

Whether we suffer depression, or some other personality, psychological or mood disorder, we are still shaped by these. No, they do not define us, but they do have a huge impact on who we are, who we were, and who we're becoming.

Now, in thinking about this question my friend posed - "Would you still be you" - I recognize that I've known the answer for many years. When I was 18, I was placed on anti-depressants. Yes, they did work. They took away my depression. But I wasn't me. My ability to write disappeared. My ability to understand and/or care about the issues of others was diminished. So much of who God had made me to be was masked. It's why I threw out the medication. And it's part of why I can honestly answer that question with a resounding "No!" I would not be me. And, well, no one else wants to be me, so I guess I'll have to keep that job for myself.

Bring on the depression! :)

Embrace who you are

God has made each of us, and continually molds us through the experiences we face - both the good, and especially the bad. Embrace these trials and problems and experiences. And pray that God continues to use our experiences to help us grow emotionally and spiritually.

God bless!

NOTE: Please understand, I am in no way knocking those who are on medication for depression (or any other issue). Some people truly needs these meds... and to be honest, I probably should be on them as well for my own sanity, and the sanity of those who put up with me. It's simply a personal choice of mine to not be on them. Sorry to anyone I upset.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Family.... more or less...

I came from a mixed family. My mom left when I was 2 years old. It was just my dad, my older sister Jenny, and me until I was 8. When I was 8, Dad remarried a woman who brought two more kids into our little family. Brandon was 2 at the time, and Tanya was 1. Together, Dad and Mom (my step mom) had two more children - Ray (who was 9 years younger than me) and Matthew (11 years younger).

Dad was a reasonably good father before he remarried. He was gone a lot (work, depression, etc)... but he always made sure my sister and I were taken care of, and he never hurt us. After he remarried however... she was abusive, and he followed suit just to hold onto her. We siblings were always close though. Yeah sure, some of us fought from time to time, but for the most part, we had each other's backs as much as possible through the rough times.

And now? I don't speak to my parents at all, and two of my brothers are gone.... they killed themselves.... hung themselves... unable to take the pain anymore that they were forced to deal with on a daily basis. I still blame myself for their deaths, even though that logical side of me knows it's not my fault. But... I digress...

Replacing Family

So often, I find myself unintentionally pushing others into the position of those I don't have anymore. One person I learned to trust, I started looking at as a father figure. Another, as an older brother (even though a: Brandon was several years younger.... he still acted like an older brother would; b: the person I put into that role was also younger... but acts like I would expect an older brother to act). And another as a younger brother (though there is no way I will sing him to sleep at night). 

Is it wrong to put these expectations on others? yes. And I do know this. However...

I truly do believe God had a hand in all of this. He brought these people to me when I needed them most. True, I do not believe He placed them here to be replacements for my own family - thinking of them this way has been my own doing - but He still put them in my life for a reason. Each of them has filled a hole that needed to be filled. Each of them has enriched my life more than I could have imagined. Each of them has been a major contributor in my growth.

What's my point to this post? Heck if I know. Just need to ramble....

But seriously... on top of these wonderful people, I've also had a few others I am happy to call sister... and one whom I call my twin brother. And a couple beautiful women I will always call Mom. Family is not who donated genetics. It is not who raised you. It is not who grew up with you. Family are the people whom God has placed in your life to help you grow. Family are those whom you've helped grow. Family are the people you turn to when you can't see the light, and are the people who turn to you when they're in the dark. It isn't about blood... it's about the tears shed, and the hugs given, and the dreams shared.

Thank you God for those you've brought into my life... those who have helped me grow.... those who've helped lead me to you... those who've held me in the darkness, and have allowed me to hold them. I am truly blessed to have them in my life. 

Probably Not Good Reasons to Go to Church

An email to a friend earlier today got me thinking (I know... scary!). I had mentioned how some people go to Bible Study for the wrong reasons. And, after babbling about this topic to him, it made me realize that a) I have attended Bible Study for the wrong reasons before; and b) this isn't necessarily a bad thing. And, it also made me wonder how many people go to Church for the wrong reasons, and what might those reasons be. Which, of course, made me realize that I, too, have probably attended Church service for the wrong reason.

For example, I've read on many articles (while trying to gather up a few more "bad reasons to go to Church) that we shouldn't go to Church simply because of the Pastor (i.e. going because we think the pastor is handsome, or dynamic, or popular, or just a good guy). Well, this is actually a big part of the reason I started attending the Church I belong to now. Not that I thought he was handsome or popular or anything... I mean, I don't think he's not handsome or popular... but... Ok, I should probably stop babbling before I get myself into trouble. What I am trying to say is that this particular pastor had become someone I could trust, and someone who made Church sound like maybe not such a bad idea.

And because of this, I started going; and now, my reasons for attending have nothing to do with him, or our current pastor, or any one person. This is why I say that having a bad reason to start with isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, regardless of why we walked through the door, we find something much deeper and more meaningful which keeps us coming.

So... the list below is more of a list of bad reasons some people continue attending a Church.... Oh, before I begin... please note that some of these are not necessary bad (i.e. singing in the choir is good), but if it's the sole or main reason you're attending, then ya might want to reevaluate..

Bad Reasons to Go to Church: 

1.    To find a spouse
2.    To call yourself a Christian (sitting in a Church makes you as much of a Christian as standing in a garage makes you a car)
3.    To appear religious to family and friends
4.    To find clients for your business
5.    To sing in the choir or play instruments
6.    To get right with the Lord (hey, hey! I go to Church, therefore I am saved!)
7.    Because of the Pastor/Preacher (he’s handsome, dynamic, friendly, smart, etc)
8.    For the entertainment
9.    So God will answer your prayers
10.    Because you feel obligated (i.e. your family goes there, it’s where you got married, etc)
11.    To show off your body or clothes (this one could probably be lumped in with the first one on this list… although, if you’re dressed [or undressed] to show off your body, you may not necessarily find yourself a good wholesome Christian spouse..)
12.    They have a school
13.    It’s a beautiful, ornate church (obviously, the more elaborate the building, the more prestigious you’ll appear if you are a member)
14.    The people are very nice
15.    To get your needs met
16.    It offers enticing programs and events (midweek daycare, craft classes, ladies tea time [read: gossip hour], has family social evenings, youth group, retreats, bingo night, raffles, etc.)
17.    They have a popular TV program
18.    Building is geographically convenient (ok, this doesn’t work for many of us who live in a small town and are seriously limited as to available Churches… but I left it on this list anyway)
19.    Monetary & food gifts for members (some Churches do this??? I always find the wrong ones…)
20.    You agree with their political views
21.    You are dating one of their members
22.    The church needs me
23.    Important/influential people attend