Thursday, December 31, 2015

Good Riddance 2015, Welcome a New Year, New Me, New Life

For the past few weeks, I've been spending a good deal of time trying to figure out what exactly to put on my list of Lessons Learned in 2015. And I've really been having a difficult time. Usually, I have no problem tossing out a bunch of "lessons learned"... often times they're little mishaps and funny things that have happened, as well as some light-hearted loving ones.

This year has been different. That's not to say it's been bad... it's just been a more serious year in many ways. This year, Tyler has avoided any long stays in the hospital for a change - I think the only time he was in was for two nights. The kids have avoided any serious injuries or hospital stays. Things have actually been relatively good when it comes to physical health. But, not so much for me and my mental health. So, I apologize if this list is a little more on the serious side...

Anyway, enough rambling and onto the babbling....

Lessons Learned in 2015:


1. Making snow angels just after midnight on New Years Eve/Day is still a wonderful tradition... and one we will be doing again this year.

2. There really is such a thing as unconditional love.

3. Being told I'm like a sister, and that I am loved, by someone who doesn't say those words very often to anyone is incredible.

4. A hug from someone you love, and someone you know loves you, can make all the problems in the world disappear for a short time.

5. I have an alcohol problem. (Yeah, some day I may expand on that a little more)

6. I have the most amazing husband and children. No, things aren't perfect... but they are incredibly supportive and understanding and willing to stand by my side through thick and thin (even when I'm a complete and utter idiot).

7. I have the most amazing friends - ones who are supportive and understanding and willing to stand by me through thick and thin... and who aren't afraid to tell me when I'm being a complete and utter idiot.

8. I am incredibly blessed.

9. Sometimes, there just aren't the words to express the deep regret I feel for hurting people time and time again. There is just no words to express how truly sorry I am for the pain and stress I have put people through this year.

10. Sometimes, there just aren't the words to express how incredibly grateful I am to these people for not just giving up on me, even though I've given them ample reason to do so.

11. It doesn't matter how long I go without talking to my sisters - I still love them dearly, and each time we talk it's like no time or distance has passed since the last time we spoke.

12. I have depression and anxiety (the depression I've known for quite awhile)... and when those mental health issues are coupled with alcohol, bad things happen.

13. My way of dealing with high stress when severely depressed and/or anxious is just as it was 20-some years ago - run away!

14. Walking around in the snow in middle of the night in stocking feet isn't all that brilliant of an idea.

15. I'm not too horrible of a sermon writer. Standing in front of a bunch of people preaching those sermons, on the other hand... well... that's a different story.

16. There are some moments in life which are just so intensely moving, they shake a person to the core... and can never truly be expressed in words.

17. I am a lot weaker than I like to admit, and a lot stronger than I think.

18. Baby therapy (or, now, toddler therapy) is still one of the best therapies available.

19. Putting bubble bath in the swimming pool really doesn't work all that well - but is fun all the same.

20. Fire pits with great friends is a fun way to spend a summer night. As are movie nights, cook-outs, swimming, dancing, and well... just hanging out.

21. England is absolutely beautiful! A six hour time difference, and being away from family/friends isn't all that great... but it was worth it to get to see that wonderful country.

22. When the snow just starts to melt, making huge puddles while there is still tons of snow on the ground.... that is one of the most fun times to go walking with my girls barefoot (or stocking footed) through puddles, or sit in those puddles. Long summer walks, singing and dancing in the street, is also tons of fun.

23. I am really going to miss Caity when she heads off to college in 2016... She's my twin... Kooky and crazy :) And I am really going to miss Alex when he moves out in a few weeks. He's been a big strength to me the past couple years.

24. Did I mention I have truly amazing kids? I don't know how it happened, but I have the most giving, loving, caring, kind, compassionate, empathetic teens I have ever met.

25. Trust and love are two things not to be feared. I still don't give them out lightly... I'm highly selective... but every now and then someone comes along who is definitely worth it (even if it does take me a year or two to recognize that).


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Ok, I guess I was able to come up with more than I thought I would. And they aren't highly depressing (or, not all of them). And, I could probably spit out several more. But, I'll keep it at 25.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's Eve, and a beautiful 2016. I will be ending this year on a positive, sober note... and I look forward to starting 2016 alcohol free, surrounded by family who love and support me unconditionally.

God bless you all!



Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Least Likely



New Years Eve is quickly approaching. Often during this time of year, people begin writing New Years resolutions - things they plan to change or work on or do throughout the upcoming year. After realizing how horrible I am at holding to these resolutions, I stopped making them. Instead, each year on New Years Eve (or, around there anyway), I write a list of the lessons I learned that year. I've always found these fun to look back. Each little lessons brings back memories of people and events that made an impact on me.

The past couple days, I have been starting to collect my thoughts on which lessons from 2015 will be included in my New Years Eve "lessons learned" list - and there have been a lot - and realized many of them center around one theme. I reread my posts from the past four years and noticed that many of these also have this same theme. I started thinking back on my life, and the lessons I learned even as a child, and again found this same theme.

This theme is the fact that I have found God's presence in what I would have considered the least likely places, during the least likely events, and in the least likely people.

Who are these people? They are the homeless, the mentally and physically disabled people, children, babies, unwed mothers, single fathers, those living in poverty, those living with depression, those who've been abused, alcoholics and drug users, and those whom I have tried to avoid simply because I didn't like them for one reason or another. 

Through all my years of Sunday School, confirmation classes, Bible studies, and even worship services I have not learned nearly as much as I have from these "least likely" people. Every moment I have grown spiritually, and have felt God's presence, and have learned what it means to be Christian has happened not because of any kind of Church education or service, but through those God has placed in my path.

Our Gospel lesson today (Luke 1:39-55) shows this same theme.

God's presence (or, rather, God himself as Jesus) is found in a pregnant, unwed, peasant girl. God is found in what seems to be a least likely person. He could have come to the world in a rich family. He could have been born a prince, to a royal family. He could have entered into this world with wealth and status. But no. God came to us in human form in a stable to the fiancee of a carpenter.

And just as God came to us through this unwed peasant girl, and just as God has shown his presence to me through those less fortunate than others, we also have the ability for God to show others his presence through each of us. He wants to show his presence through each of us. Through our love to others - our kindness, generosity, service, comforting words, and so many other actions - we are showing God's presence to someone else.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Repentance





“I’m sorry.”

I think I’ve said those words at least a few dozen times to family and friends just within the last week. And, I’ve meant them. And I was told “I forgive you.” But often times, while hearing “I forgive you” is much needed and comforting, it’s sometimes a difficult phrase to believe – especially when we know we’ve hurt someone else. How can we be forgiven by simply saying “I screwed up. I’m sorry.”?

We often feel as if we need to do something more than just say those words and mean them. We feel we need to make up for our mistakes. This is even true when we ask for forgiveness from God. We’re told we’re forgiven. And yet, that forgiveness is often difficult for us to believe in, or to hope for. All we did was simply repent.

And yet, that is the key. Repentance. When we repent – when we say that we are sorry, and truly mean it – we are not simply saying “oops, I screwed up” and then go about our lives making the same mistake without a second thought. We are instead changing – we are recognizing that our behavior or action was wrong, and that we should not do it again. Repentance changes us on the inside.

This of course isn’t to say that we won’t repeat the same mistake. And sometimes repeat it several times. But it does mean that we recognize our error and are trying to change that within ourselves, with the help of God. It means we are asking God not only to forgive us, but to help us change that behavior.

In the Gospel of Luke, we’re told that John is preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This is the baptism we have all received. Through this baptism, we understand that we are forgiven for our sins, both past and future. We’re given hope through this baptism of repentance. And this hope is not only for us, but for our world.

This gospel reading continues on by quoting from Isaiah – “every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.” This text paints a pretty picture in my mind, and yet it is so much more than just a winding road going over hills and valleys. It is so much more fantastic than that.

Through repentance and forgiveness – through us, with God’s help, changing our hearts and actions – we are given the hope that the proud will be humbled and the broken will be lifted up. The winding, crooked, rough ways of our world will be made straight and right.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Just as you did to the least of these...

A week ago, I was up at one of our local bars enjoying time with friends. A group came in asking where they might get a tire. Theirs had blown, and they were pretty much driving on the rim. All four were adults, but there was just something about this group that touched my heart. Perhaps it was the vulnerability the lone female of the group tried to hide. Maybe it was the fact that the older gentleman was a diabetic. Or perhaps it was something much deeper that cried out they needed help.

Regardless of what it was, I wasn't the only one who picked up on it. That night truly gave me hope as I watched those working make sure this family got a hot meal, and friends make sure they had a warm place to stay for the night and that they had food the next morning. And the tears in the eyes of this group as they gave thanks to those who helped them was all I needed to know that we touched hearts that night and gave hope to people in need.

I was going to write about this the day after all this happened, but sadly I let it slip from my mind until tonight. Tonight, I saw many people once again complaining about how we have our own people in need - we shouldn't let others in and help them. I call bullshit. Please forgive the language, but honestly - if each one of us just gave a little bit more of ourselves, whether our money, or time, or even just a few spare bits and pieces we have tucked away in our pantries, we'd be able to take care of our own AND others.

But we don't. Sometimes it's out of greed. Sometimes it's simply out of that thought of "all I have is a couple cans of veggies... that's not enough to help". Sometimes, we're just too absorbed in our own struggles to even recognize others need help. Regardless of what it is, we don't help as often as we should. And I am just as guilty (of all these reasons) as the next person.

Please - let's all take a little more time and effort this holiday season, and beyond, to recognize those in need. If all you have to give is a winter coat you never wear, or a few cans of food, or even just a hug... give someone hope. Show them God's love. Be God's hands.



37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Extra Love for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. In just a couple days, many of us will be gathering with family and friends to give thanks for everything in our lives. And then out comes the tree and lights, and Christmas music. There's concerts and programs to go to, and gifts to give, as we wish everyone some holiday cheer.

But I urge you all to please remember that for many, this time of year is not cheerful. For some, this time of year is incredibly heartbreaking and difficult to get through.

This is a time of year when, while many are smiling and laughing and enjoying loved ones, many others are struggling to not break down, wishing they had just one more day with a loved one.

This is a time of year when, while many are out buying gifts and all the fixings for a wonderful turkey dinner, many others are looking through the shop windows with tears in their eyes, and empty pockets.

This is a time of year when, while many are giving thanks for their health and happiness, many others are going through chemotherapy, or sitting in a hospital room, or are too ill or depressed to enjoy the season.

This is a time of year when, while many celebrate with family and friends, many others are stationed overseas and unable to come home, or are sitting alone in nursing homes.

Please keep all these people, and everyone else who may be having a difficult time right now, in your hearts and prayers. And take it a step beyond that... give someone the gift of love. Reach out and hug the person who is hurting. Donate, if you can, to places that can provide food and gifts to those in need. Set an extra plate at your own table. Visit someone who is alone, or who has lost a loved one. Bring them a meal and enjoy it with them.

Do something in love... be the answer to someone's prayer this holiday season.