Plotting Along…

Hi y’all. As you know, I’ve attempted to be mostly off of social media for a bit. I’m still at that point but I may post to the blog a little more often than I have. I’ve had a few friends ask me about my blog and tell me they were missing it so I’ll schedule in time to post at least once every other week if not once a week. I must admit, I have missed speaking to you guys on a regular basis. I miss our engagement, our connection. Alas, the life of a writer is much a solitary one, and I admit to appreciating that also. Working from home is right up my alley, as I no longer have to deal with fake gossipy drama-mamas in the corporate setting. Thank You, Lord! Plus, it doesn’t hurt to love your job, working from home and the people you do work for.

Lately, I’ve been going through so many mood changes, and I’m presently experiencing a shift – hard to explain but I’ll try. The mood changes are mostly just a roller coaster of emotion, due to my daughter being a senior in high school, her being accepted to her college of choice, choosing her dorm roommate, planning her grad party and trip, her just turning 18. It’s exciting. It’s an adventure. It’s emotionally draining and bittersweet. As most of you know, Hallie and I have always been extremely close. Our nicknames for each other are Lorelai and Rory (you’ll understand if you’ve ever watched Gilmore Girls). And it sickens me to think of her moving to college next year and not living in this house – only to visit on weekends, holidays and summer break. I don’t even want to imagine what it’ll be like because I want to cry, and then, honestly, to throw up. I know I have to let go. I’m just not ready. It hurts my heart too much. I’m used to her going on trips for a week or two. I miss her, of course, but I take comfort in knowing she’ll be home, as I count down the days. Don’t misunderstand. I do have things on my ‘To Do’ list that I take pride in accomplishing while she’s gone and I do appreciate my alone time. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss my little love monkey. Maybe I can’t use the word “little” anymore, but she will always be my little one, my wee one, my baby, even after she’s 40. Thankfully, she doesn’t mind my nicknames for her. She has nicknames for me, too.  😉

The shift I’m undergoing is multi-faceted. I’ve been on a journey of exploration – not just for the self but being more mindful of others and taking in all of the possibilities for connection with others – looking out for like-minded people to associate myself with but also “trying” to be mindful of others in the sense that no matter their mood, I have to take into account they may be going through something I know nothing about. Such as the clerk at the grocery store or the clothing store we normally frequent. Many times, we think these people are there to serve us and be kind and high spirited while they do it. However, we must put ourselves in their shoes, if only for a moment. If we do this, we may consider that perhaps their grandpa that they were raised by just died, or they lost their best friend in a car accident, or it’s that horrid time of the month and they are in great pain. 

You never know what someone is going through. These people are not there to only serve us. We are here to serve them, as well. We can offer a smile, a kind word, something funny to say to maybe lift their spirits. If nothing else, we can offer our gentle understanding. They are just like us. They have to work to pay the bills. They have to work when they are sick because they have a child to feed and have to make the rent. I admit to sometimes being a harsh judge of people when they are hateful or rude and I have been rude as a retaliation. What sense does that make?! That’s easy. Why is it so easy to fight back with hardness and more difficult to reply with love and compassion? This is something I’ve been mindful of lately and I feel it’s changing me. Mind you, I do still have much work to do in this department, as I am still trying to rid myself of anger I strongly hold on to. I have no idea why I hang onto it.

Not only with others but within myself. I’ve always been my toughest critic, being more hard on myself and sabotaging myself rather than romancing myself, appreciating myself and my accomplishments. I tend to beat myself down over everything – every little thing. But lately, I’ve been watchful of my words, noticing how negative I tend to be on myself, trying to change the language I use. If it’s negative, I’m trying not to say it or change the wording I’d normally use. I’m trying to believe in myself, have faith in me and my abilities. I’m writing down all I’ve ever been good at, then and now, and everything I’ve accomplished. Turns out, I truly have been more of a success than a failure. Many of the things I’ve wanted to do and truly made an effort with have come to pass and I’m practicing daily gratitude for each of these things and in everything I have in my life that makes me thankful and happy.

Normally, I have resting-bitch-face – not because I’m feeling bitchy or depressed or irritable, but because I don’t think about how my face is resting. LOL! Often, I’m contemplating something and that’s how my face is – in contemplation mode, or I’m extremely tired because I walked the dog like 10 times during the night, got up at 4am to go to the gym, worked all day, worked on my book after that, had to go to a meeting or event after that and I’m feeling very DONE with the day.

Lately, I’m practicing mindfulness on the muscles in my face. I actually think I may have inherited my grandmother’s facial expressions. She even frowned in her sleep! I don’t want her facial expressions. So I’m focusing on a slight constant smile, just barely there, enough to lighten my forehead muscles. I’m focusing on every blessing I’ve been granted each day and I’m being actively thankful – meaning thanking the Lord daily, telling these special people how much I love them and how amazing they are, hugging and smooching and laughing at my silly dog, appreciating our home and land more, loving working from home and the jobs I do and the income to pay our bills and save for important things, appreciating going to a great gym and getting healthier, and just every special thing and person, even what may sound small to some – sometimes it’s the smallest blessings that make the biggest impact/difference, and I’m thankful for each one.

Another thing I’m trying to learn is to Let Go and Let God. Being a control freak, this is a hard one, but I’m learning little by little. I am letting go of things and people that no longer serve my life in a positive way. I actually just joined a group that I thought would strengthen my character and spirituality as well as offer friendship and connection but learned that group was not the answer so, after 2 meetings, I let that go. I no longer have space or time in my life for what does not assist me or help me grow in some way on my journey. Joining and leaving that group only helped to further teach me that lesson.

Another mood swing is the novel I’ve been working on since 2013. I cannot count the varied emotions I’ve been going through. I birthed this story with great enthusiasm and excitement, only to set it on a shelf because I had too many clients at different times, too many things going on and I did not have any further time to devote to it. I did have to pay the bills and that was more important. As time went on, I got better clients, bigger contracts, but didn’t want to face the book, because I let fear distract me – fear and lack of faith in myself.

So now, I’m happy to say that I am 95% finished with the book. I thought I was actually finished but am reworking chapter 6. I’m thinking I may even interweave it with chapter 5 or 7 or just leave it the smallest chapter in the book. I kept giving myself a deadline, which in many ways is helpful, while at the time was putting an obstacle in my path. The deadline was more stifling my writability and creativity than bolstering my motivation and ambition to get in touch with my muse. My muse heard DEADLINE and ran for cover! So I will work on my book daily, finish when I finish, revise, revise, revise, then query agents and publish. And then become a #1 New York Times bestselling author.

I am learning to have faith in myself. I am learning to trust myself, love myself, believe in my pursuits – my dreams – my goals. I’m learning to lift myself up to new heights and tell myself only good things and reaching, stretching for a higher plane of existence. There is nothing wrong in bettering myself. I have everything I have ever prayed for, except the one. And the one? It’s only a matter of divine timing, inspired action, and persistence.

What have you been up to lately? Share all your joys, your pursuits, your progress, your fears, your expectations, your news. I have missed you greatly and I only wish for you good things, always.

Love you!

Carol

(P.S. Oh, and that picture? I’m just dreaming of cool Fall weather, wishing for long-sock-wearing, gushy-sweater-wearing weather. Please, chilly Fall breezes – come to Mississippi?). And sorry for the very wordy post…

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Put Out the Sun

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

__________

Trying very hard to not be that lunatic today.  If you are a praying person, I could definitely use some.  Trying not to fall deeper into the darkness.  A very trying day.  God is testing me and I’m afraid I’m failing miserably.  I try to be upbeat and encouraging most of the time, but can’t find it today.  I apologize.

I usually try to put out the sun – bring forth light – make it shine brighter.  Today, I feel I put out the sun – scribbled it out.

I know things will be better.  Maybe tomorrow.

Where Is God? Where Did He Go?

questionDon’t misunderstand.  Many miracles have been performed in my short life so I know God has shown up.  I have much to be thankful for and I’ve been showered with blessings — my daughter, my mother, true friends, our homes, our land, the vehicles we drive, different interesting and fun jobs, the ability to work from home so I can raise my child, forgiveness, love and laughter — just to name a few.  But as many struggles take place in our lives, I suppose our faith (or lack of) is tested.

I realize we weren’t promised a rose garden.  We were warned this life wouldn’t be an easy one.  We are asked to believe in God and in Jesus and what Jesus did and still does for us.  I believe all that without question.  Miracles have transpired to cause me to believe in God.  I’ve never questioned Jesus.  I have a great love for him.  And it’s not that I don’t love God.  I do.

A friend brought up some relevant questions concerning God that have me questioning his intentions.  Actually, I had already been questioning.  While I understand we are not supposed to question God and we do not have the capability of ever understanding his reasons or intentions of why he does what, isn’t it the human condition to question when it comes to things that are so tragic and impossible to understand?  I mean, it’s in our nature to want to understand, right?

We are expected to have blind faith, to rely on God, to trust in him and not to worry.  We are not to worry about tomorrow because it’s not here yet.  But what about today?

What about the person who lost their home because they didn’t have enough money to pay their mortgage?  And they didn’t have any family they could stay with until they got back up on their feet?

What about the homeless man that’s too far away from a shelter or food pantry to eat or sleep?

What about these horrific acts of terrorism that abruptly and senselessly steal the lives of hundreds and even thousands of people (men, women, children, infants)?  How are we to make sense of this?

How are we to send our tiny innocent children to school when a crazy person might show up and change our lives forever, breaking us, tearing away pieces of our soul?  We are not supposed to live in fear because exhibiting doubt, worry and fear is to not fully trust and have faith in God?  How can we not live in fear when all this is going on around us?  Our God is bigger?  Bigger than we can understand?  Bigger than all these tragedies?

We are supposed to pray and petition God daily.  We are to put our faith and trust and reliance in him to take care of us and to answer our prayers.  All we have to do is ask and trust and believe.  That’s what the Bible tells us.  But the Bible was written by man, yes?  By several different men, in fact.  It’s been translated so many times, has it not been twisted to distort or even completely eradicate the truth?  Some words and meanings in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek (the original texts) do not even have correct English translation.  Just something to think about.

I read Matthew 7:7 (NIV) all the time:  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  As well as Matthew 21:22:  “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  And Mark 11:24:  “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  While I realize when we ask God for something (and yes, I know he’s not Santa), his answer to a prayer can be no, don’t these verses say “it will be given to you?”  And I know that it’s in his time, not mine.  I’m glad he waited on some of the answers he’s delivered.  Sometimes, he’s been lightning fast to answer, which I’m also happy with, thank You, God, by the way.

What about the other stuff?  How are we to make sense of these things that make no sense?  God has a reason for everything.  I understand that.  But what are we to do with that?  How do we get out of bed in the morning when we know what could be potentially waiting just outside that door?  How do we let our children out of our sight for a moment?  Why does he wait so long to answer when we do need him right away?  Why does he perform a miracle to cause a non-believer to all the sudden believe but not do this for another?  He doesn’t give us more than we can handle?  What about the person who just committed suicide because she just couldn’t take it any longer?

At times, I’ve felt God turned his back on me.  I know deep down in my heart that it’s not true.  He’d never do that.  Even though I can be filled with bitterness, anger, resentment and blame and even scream out at him with what can be a trash mouth at times, he does not and will never turn his back on me.  I have found great comfort in this.  At other times, I feel the need to turn my back on him.  Yes, I said it.  I feel a bit of guilt admitting this but I’m just being real.  How many of you have felt the same?  And I consider myself a Christian.  I am a Christian.  I am also human and filled with human emotion and feel the need to express myself to God and to Jesus.  I know they understand my heart so I feel a little less guilt for being real.  God appreciates authenticity more than fake respect/reverence.

No, I’ve not read all of the Bible, yet, but I’m working on it.  I also know the devil can tempt you to do bad things and maybe it’s the devil tempting me to question God.  But maybe it’s also my humanness to question.

Don’t you question?

What do you believe?

How do you deal with all the struggles of daily living and all the evil that’s in the world, just outside your front door?

How do you deal with not knowing?  Not understanding?

How has your faith been tested?

And how do you stay faithful?

Do you believe it’s sinful to question God?

 

 

(Photo courtesy of mashable.com)

How to Pray: The 411 (Part 1)

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before and I’m positive I’ll revisit this subject many times but I wanted to share with you my experiences of how I have prayed and received God’s answers.

Deals with God

I’m not sure what the Bible says about making deals with God.  I haven’t read the entire Thing yet, although I’m working on it, slowly but surely.  All I know for certain about making deals with Him is that He has come through for me, perhaps not every time, but a lot of the time, when it’s something I truly needed and I made a great offer.

When I was 14, I questioned his existence.  I wasn’t sure he was real.  Many tragedies had ripped through my young life and everything that had happened to me forced me to question everything about God, love/protection/safety and life in general.

My best friend (a very wild girl with terrible parents who didn’t give a rat’s ass about her) ran away and I was to go with her but a series of events transpired during this crazy day that caused me to stay.  She took off.  I felt surely she’d call to let me know she was okay, she’d found somewhere to stay, she was safe, but perhaps she was angry with me for not being able to go, although she was there when the events took place and probably understood why I couldn’t.

I was so terrified for her.  She was the kind of girl with a wild boy-crazy in-your-face sort of personality; the type of girl that would get picked up by a carload of guys and get…well…you know.  So, I feared greatly for her life and her protection.  I prayed for really the first time in my life.

Oh sure, I’d talked to God before, as I prayed for a daughter since I was a toddler but it was a bit different sort of prayer.  I guess when you are little, you maybe have a stronger innocent connection to God, because it hasn’t been that long since you’ve seen him, so your trust in him has not been trampled on yet.

My prayer on this particular evening was a prayer in tears and in fear and hope and not so much rudeness but just more of being authentic in my prayer.  It was a short conversation in my room.  I don’t recall if I was laying in bed or kneeling or sitting down and it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is your words and how you use them, how you are feeling in your heart.  It’s about speaking in truth — your truth.  I made a deal with him.  I guess I sort of gave him an ultimatum, which probably wasn’t the best way to handle it.

I pretty much said, “God, if you’re real, now is your time to prove it.  I’ve never really asked you for anything.  If you want me to believe in you, please do this one thing.  Please just keep (we’ll call her:) Stacy safe.  Protect her.  Let no harm come to her and I will never question your existence again.  Do this one thing.”  I don’t remember if I ended it with “in Jesus’ name” or if I said “Amen,” as I didn’t really have much experience with prayer.  I simply told him what I needed to believe in him.

Well, it seemed like days passed and maybe they did.  It was a few years ago so I don’t recall how long it took.  For all I know, it could have been the next day.  To a 14 year old, I’m sure it seemed longer than it actually was.

So, on this other day, the phone rang.  Mama answered and she hollered, “Carol, it’s Stacy!”  Not that she needed to holler, mind you, as I was listening at the doorway of my bedroom.

“Stacy?!  Are you okay?  Where are you?”

“I’m okay.  I’m with these new friends.”

Om, of course hearing that scared the crap out of me.  New friends?  What new friends?!  A bunch of guys, like I feared?!

She continued, “So I was walking along the highway with my stuff, right?”

“Yeah!  Yeah?”

“And this car started to slow down and pulled over a little ways in front of me.  A man got out and started coming toward me.  He asked me if I needed a ride and I told him I had run away.”

“Oh my gosh!  Seriously?  You told him you ran away?!”

“Yeah.  He asked if I needed a place to stay.  He said he was a preacher and that I was welcome to stay with him and his wife.”

“Oh, I’ll bet he did!  You didn’t really trust him, did you?”

“I looked at the car and there was a lady in the front seat so I felt like he was telling the truth.  He seemed like a nice man.”

“Oh, Stacy!  You didn’t know those people!  You got in the car?  Seriously?!  Are you at their house?”

“Yeah.  Carol, they’re really nice people.  He really is a preacher and he made me promise as soon as we got to their house, I had to call my parents to let them know I’m safe and then I can stay with them as long as I need to.  That was the deal.”

There’s more to this story but you get the gist.  Anyone could have stopped and picked her up and I’m 95% sure she would’ve gone with them.  But it was a preacher and his wife.  That’s no coincidence.  I used to believe in coincidence.  I know now that every single thing happens with a reason behind it or a reason in front of it or both.

I was a very hard-headed, stubborn, dense teenage girl and God showed me loud and clear and ever so brightly that he is real.  He protected her and he brought her home again, safely, by none other than a man of God and his wife.  He couldn’t have answered better.

(updated)

Maybe he answered because I prayed for the safety of someone else. Maybe he answered because I needed to believe in him. Maybe he was protecting her anyway and it wasn’t even about me and my prayer. Maybe he answered because he’s good and he could kill two birds with one stone. Maybe I shouldn’t question why he answered and just be thankful he did.

There Are No Words

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For all the families in Newtown, Connecticut.