Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Perfect Friend

I wrote this in July 2010 when my mentor and friend asked me to write down my journey so she could possibly use it in a book she is working on.  I wanted to share it, because it is part of why I am who I am today...and how I am 'ok' 9 hours away from most everyone I love.

For as long as I can remember I had placed large amounts of importance on having a true and perfect 'best friend.'  It took me 29 years before I figured out that that perfect friendship does not exist quite like I thought it did.

Growing up and throughout school I had no problem having making friends or having best friends.  Although I was not a Christian and neither were they.  There was a lot of sin entangled and I was not able to recognize it.  As I fell in love with my husband, I didn't place a lot of importance on girl friends.  Things had changed in my life, like becoming a Christian, getting married, and having kids, and suddenly I longed for a best girl friend to share life with again and it was hard to find one!  I began praying for a friend.  Each time a new friendship formed I just KNEW that she was 'sent from God.'  I would dump out my whole history, my problems, my expectations and expect since she was 'sent from God' that she would fix my problems and meet my expectations!  What pressure I placed on these women!!  Sadly, more than a few, understandably, could not handle this pressure and bailed.  I wanted a friend so badly.  Someone to reassure me, love me, want to spend time with me, and to say, 'I choose YOU!' 

After this pattern cycled several times I sought counsel from someone I trusted.  "Why do I keep getting hurt?"  "Why is everyone so mean and inconsiderate of me?"  I was hurt, bitter, and broken.  God began a work in me.  Was I in for a ride!  He revealed who I was, who He wanted me to be, and who I must be in order to be a healthy and Godly friend.  It was not pretty!!  I realized that until I was a healthy individual, I was most likely not going to have healthy relationships.  I also really needed to work on my relationship with God first.  Until I acknowledged and accepted that God is my Strength, my Counselor, my Encourager, my Friend, my Everything -- instead of trying to make my best friend that -- He would not/could not reward me with a healthy friendship!  I was looking to friends to fill those needs in me that only He can fill.  I had fallen into a trap of idolatry that my jealous God despised.

After a year of growing in my relationship with God, getting over the embarrassment of struggling in this area as an adult, and repenting of my sins, God began blessing me with several healthy friendships.  It amazed me the differences I saw in healthy friendships and how much more enjoyable they were!  Yet...I still had a fear of these friends deciding I wasn't good enough for them and leaving me in the dust.  I was often quite miserable obsessively worrying about something someone had said or hadn't said or done or hadn't done. 

God loves me so much that in my 32nd year (3 years after beginning the journey of being a healthy friend) He made me aware that while I could proclaim that 'God loves me,' I didn't really believe it in my heart.  I believed I wasn't good enough to be loved by a Holy God, that I could maybe be lumped in to a group of "Jesus loves US" but not an individual, "God adores ME."  I had never accepted His love that He freely was giving me.  And how could I love others without accepting His love for me first?  My focus was still getting love from my friends instead of just loving my friends.  How in the world was I STILL not getting this?  I thought I was fixed!!

After wrestling with this and reading every book I could get my hands on about God's love, I finally just simply asked God to make it real to me and told Him that I believed and I ACCEPTED His love.  I had never allowed myself the privilege of having it although it had been there all along.  I physically felt His love wash over me and a joy that had not been there before became a part of me.  I gained a confidence -- now I can say that without a doubt, 100%, God loves me, accepts me, wants me, thinks I am worth spending time with, and will never leave me!  It is awesome to be able to say that and mean it.  And knowing that this was what God thinks of me makes it so much less important that I get that from friends.  My new goal is to love people more and need them less.

Accepting His love and friendship that comes with it has made every relationship easier.  I am relaxed and at ease.  Satan still likes to attack me in this is a weakness.  But I am armed with some pretty fierce ammunition now that I know how much God loves me.  I pray regularly to be filled, as a pitcher, overflowing with His love so that His love splashes onto those around me.  I spent way too much of my time behaving as a leaking cup, grasping at others, being disappointed that they could not keep my cup full.   The search for the perfect friend has ended. I am left trying my best to love my friends like He loves me now and keep my focus on the only perfect person - Jesus - who has been my friend all along!

I am grateful! I am grateful for what You've done!

Happy Fish/Turkey
The visit with my mom and dad was so nice.  It was fun having them here!  The kids were so surprised and we had a great visit.  They had to leave on Wednesday to get back home so my dad could work.  Thursday Tony and Sue came over for Thanksgiving.  It is only the second time we have hosted Thanksgiving since we've been married - the first was in 1998.  It was a yummy meal - we had a fried turkey from Bojangles (a fried chicken fast food chain in the South).  After lunch we went out to one of the ponds here and fished.  The kids caught their first fish.  It was fun!

Thursday night I went shopping with Mary Kay (the neighbor I met from California).  We had a nice time and had a lot to talk about.  I was home and in bed by two.  Jeff worked on Friday, so the kids played outside with neighbors and I decorated the house for Christmas.  It is hard to decorate and not know where to put anything, but I think I like it.  The Christmas tree made it, even though the movers threw it a few times. I got rid of a ton of outside decorations since we don't have room for them in the garage.  So, less is more, is my approach for the outside.  It looks nice.

Today was a visit to church #4.  Elevation Church in Matthews - about 15 minutes away from us.  This church has been recommended to us by a few people back in Evansville. Lysa TurKeurst evidently attends this church.  And when Jeff and I were on the pastor search committee at CFC we had to listen to sermons of pastors online of different churches.  Ironically this church was one of the ones assigned to our group.  We did not care for it then.  Seemed like they all have an overzealous love for their pastor and his vision for the church.  It is one of the fastest growing churches in the country.  5 locations in the Charlotte area I believe.  And they tell about all of that on their website.  So, we had the impression that it was kind of 'cult-like' - isn't that a horrible assumption to make!!  We were judging without experiencing it ourselves.  Anyway, we thought we needed to give it a try because of the recommendations from those we trust back home.  We left this morning after experiencing the service and looked at each other.  "I think I need to eat my words," I said to Jeff.  "Me too," he said.  It was really cool.  We really can't find much to complain about.  It is different than what we are used to, but it was ok with us - a good different.  When we were there this morning it was really a wonderful worship experience.  The music was loud, yes - set up like a concert with lights and stuff.  But then the pastor had us sing a song that just had the words "I am grateful.  I am grateful for what You've done." over and over, then he had us raise one hand then the other while we sang.  It was nice.  Then he gave his sermon - the most engaging one yet for both of us - on God's favor.  So many good points.  Lots of scripture.  Lots of examples.  The short version:

How do we walk in / receive the favor God already has for us?  
1.  Expect - frame your world with favor.  Ask "How is God going to bring success and greatness out of this?" - it is not an entitlement mentality - we KNOW the end of this story.  We don't lose.
2.  Recognize - open your eyes to opportunity.  Greatness can walk right past us but we are thinking about something else - something silly or insignificant.  Even in our setbacks recognize His favor - it might be a set up for success.  
3.  Respond - give yourself to obedience. Obedience positions us to receive His favor (spending time in His presence, having faith that He will do what He says He will do, confession of sin, serving God, running with a purpose.)
No matter what your circumstances, open your eyes!!!  He is giving you favor.  And be grateful.  We ended by singing "I am grateful" some more.  I was not in awe of the pastor - who many times said it was not about him, but what God is doing through him - I thought he was fantastic though!  I can see how/why everyone likes him.  We came from a church where everyone likes certain pastors is that wrong/how does it get wrong?  I don't know.  The kids both liked this church a lot too in their separate areas.  I also liked the fact that they reported on how much and where money was being used over the past month and it was all in the Charlotte area.  I liked that.  I do not see where they have anything for the kids though past 5th grade, so that is something we will probably consider.  We have one more church to visit next week.  Then we will go to a few that we liked for a few weeks in a row to see what we need to do.  I am praying that God places us in the right church - how important this choice is since we are here without family - these people will be our family.

We had a call a bit ago that our house was being shown to someone for the second time!  That hasn't happened yet that I know of.  Praying praying praying.  But knowing and resting that it will be ok.

The season of thankfulness.  I am so grateful this year for what He has done for us.  I am so grateful that He prepared our hearts through past experiences and past growth for what He had for us to do (and WHERE He had for us to do it!) - as if He would just throw us out there to the wolves without preparation!   I am grateful for what He has done in me - the work, the change, the healing.  I just look back over the past 5-7 years of my life and am utterly amazed at how changed I am.  I am so content with who I am at this stage of my life...and He is the One who shaped me into who I am.  It is not of my own doing.  And I am still SO far from where I need to be - don't get me wrong.  The progress I have made, did not come through willpower.  I was unable.  But He is able.  He brought me out of a pit and placed me on a rock, gave me blessings through mentors and wise friends, insight and revelation, and tools from His Word such as the knowledge of who I am according to Him, why I am loved, and what He has asked of me.  He reminded me that I need not be alone because He is always in me, helping me be more like Him and less like me.  He forgave me for always striving to be in everyone's good graces and and being addicted to pleasing others in order to feel loved.  He released me from the bondage of self depreciating thoughts and actions and negativity.  He taught me that just because so-and-so says I am this-or-that, it does not define me and he/she does not have control over me.  I am free.  Free of negativity.  Free of addictions to people.  Free of a need for a friend to fill that emptiness in me. He is the only One who can do that.  The devil knows how to get me though, just like he does you.  And during times when I am tired, hungry, sick, sad, away from His Word, or pms'ing these weaknesses make a reappearance!  Sigh!  The difference in me now is - I can 'shake it off' instead of being bound in obsession for long periods of time.  Yes, I have down days, and sometimes weeks.  But, no, I am not who I any means...and for this, I am grateful.  With change comes some loss...and unfortunately I am mourning some losses right now.  But I know that He is leading me.  I am waiting in expectation for the favor that He has in store for me and my family here and know that He will heal my heart.  I am grateful.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

He Still Blesses Me - Even After Temper Tantrums!

So, today we visited church #3 - Calvary Church, which is the one that I have been doing my women's study at on Tuesday mornings.  I figured that it would be more of a classic/traditional service opposed to the contemporary style we lean more towards.   But, whoa!  It was definitely the most traditional type service (except for a Catholic service) that I've been to.  Jeff wore jeans and was a tad uncomfortable.  Men in coats and ties and definitely your 'Sunday best.'  The huge sanctuary was beautiful with a huge pipe organ and large windows.  Full choir and orchestra on the platform with very 'pretty' songs and traditional hymns. This church was as far as a drive as the one last week.  And they did not have a class for 4th graders on up.  So Emily had to go to the service with us.  She was not happy.  The idea is that everyone stays for the second hour for a Bible study and that is when they have something for her age.  Not a huge fan of that for her sake.  Although, the pastor was fantastic.  Dr. Munro is from Scotland and was a criminal prosecutor, then went to seminary to get a Master of Theology degree.  He was fun to listen to with his accent and he taught right out of the Bible, straight scripture - kept my attention.  Loved him!  Unfortunately we didn't like much of any of the rest of it.  It was ok if we are looking for something so traditional, but I guess we really aren't. 

This past week we got some extra dirt in my landscaped area and three piles of the great big rocks.  It is going to look so great in the spring when I can plant more stuff.  I got a few clearance grasses at Lowe's to start with.  We will still need to move the smoker off of the deck and down to this area here in the next week.

I started and finished my first crafty project for the house:  two window cornices for the living room.  I have wanted to make some since a friend in Evansville made some of her own, then the model home had some.  So, my dad built the wood frame and I covered them - which was a lot harder than I thought it'd be. They turned out great though - I am happy with them!

So, I had a very pity party kind of week.  I am lonely and it became magnified when Em came home from the Jr. Scout meeting that she had looked so forward to going to.  She was just bummed.  She misses her group from home that she'd been with for years.  Of course these girls all know each other and Em was sad that she didn't have a friend there.  It broke my heart.  The same day I got a call from my mom saying that her and my dad are going to be here on Monday through Wednesday - which was a total surprise!  I was and am very excited!  But, then I was irritated that they have to make a 9 hour drive in order to see us!!  I got mad again about this whole situation - had my "it's not fair!" tantrum and a good cry that night and the next morning and felt a bit better.  Dreary weather and 5 days worth of headaches haven't helped much either.  I miss my girlfriends and even my acquaintances - seeing people I know almost everywhere I go. I am thankful that a phone call and texting and everything else makes my friends seem close still, but it is not the same as seeing them on a regular basis.  And it is hard that communication with a lot of people have lessened and lessened.  I know it is hard to be far away...and I've never been good at maintaining long distance friendships.  Argh!  So I definitely don't blame anyone  - life is busy - and if you aren't in someones life regularly then it is hard to be intentional.  'Out of sight, out of mind' right?  So sad, but so true.  I am confident though that God will help us maintain friendships that are good for us and that He has amazing friendships planned for all of us here - patience is going to be necessary.  Friendships don't develop overnight, right?  I read in When the Boxes are Unpacked book this week:

"Who better than Christ would know what it's like to leave great fellowship and a home He loves, to come to a new strange place?  I wonder if Christ ever got homesick for heaven?" 

He is the One who will remain constant during this time in my life.  No, I don't have my friends and family here, but I have Him ALL the time, any time - and He understands perfectly how I feel.  He (even after my temper tantrum) provided these interactions/encouragements this week for me:  He had Petrina send me a message telling me how she loves my blogs and how to remember that I have new friends here.  She's even one who is in a similar situation as I am just moving here this summer...I am not the only one going through this type of thing - I need to remember this.  I also met a mom at the bus stop this week who moved here from California this summer.  MaryKay is so sweet and we got along perfectly - excited about this potential friendship!  At the Spring Fling Thing meeting on Friday I met a mom who just moved here this summer too!  The meeting was fun - I love event planning!  LOL.   I keep thinking it would be fun to have a get together for all of us newbies (new to the area in 2011 party)...must keep this in mind.  I keep comparing this place to being away at college.  Everyone is here from somewhere else, a lot are away from home and family, and are entering a new phase of life.  I am tossing around the idea of starting a bunco group for the ladies in the neighborhood - there isn't one yet!  And this morning in church I had a thought about doing a women's Bible study out of my home - I was just complaining that there aren't hardly any churches that have women's ministries and during the day studies going on.  These are some ideas I've had, but not acted on at all - definitely a way to make some friends.  Oh - we went out with Steve and Wendy and their girls on Friday night.  She is the one I met on the online moms group and go to Transformation Church.  We had a really great time!  

Since we've moved in I have not had as much anxiety about our house in Indiana.  Jeff and I have talked a lot about it and are accepting that it might be a long time before it sells.  We also remember that we made sure that we could do this financially before we agreed to all of this.  It is not going to be fun, but it is going to make us rely fully on Him for His provision.  I can not believe how much 'favor' He has provided me over just this past week with buying certain things, finding certain deals, and being given huge discounts - I could call it just good luck or the right place at the right time or savvy shopping, but it is not.  He is going to provide for us during this time.  We have had a couple week lull in activity on the house.  We've had a few showings this weekend though.  Jeff and I certainly are not thrilled about having two houses payments, but we are at peace...and we are trusting.  Evan was not heartbroken when we told him that we could not pay the almost $200 in fees just to JOIN boy scouts.  (But we are looking in to Awana for him.)  And the kids did not pout when we said we are going to get one family gift this year instead of gifts for everyone.  It will be ok...we will follow Him closely, going without a few things so that we can continue to be a part of this plan He has for us. 

Oh- please pray for safe travels for my parents who will be driving Sunday evening and Monday morning and then again on Wednesday evening and Thursday.  Thanks!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Taking the Time to Allow Debridement is busy again.  So many things to do.  Just made a to-do list.  That always helps me feel less overwhelmed actually.  This week holds:  Emily's first Jr. Scout meeting, a few Spring Fling Thing meetings, a few basketball coaching meetings for Jeff, and our first dinner out with another family on Friday!

Over the last week I've slowly put pictures up on the walls.  I am on a quest to move anything out of the garage that I possibly can.  Our garage is teeny and our priority is to both park in it.  I also have been moving large rocks from the pile in the next lot over and making an outline of where our area of landscaping will be that holds our picnic table, smoker, firepit, etc.  I just asked our builder if he knows any guys that would give us a few scoops of dirt to help us out for a small fee...both Jeff and I have been doing so much lifting, carrying, and odd over the head work that our necks and backs are a mess!  Jeff grilled out a few times this week.  We went to some garage sales on Saturday and found some shelving for my craft room that was cheap.

I, emotionally, have had a hard week I think.  Between not interacting with too many people and no cable tv to flip on during the day - I'm lonely I think.  I need to be filling my void with God and I am filling it with food instead. 

The kids were off on Thursday afternoon and Friday, so they both invited a friend over.  Evan's friend Brayden played on Thursday afternoon.  He reminds me so much of his friend Colin from home.  And he said "yes mam" when I asked them to start cleaning up.  Wow!  Emily had Carissa over on Thursday and she stayed the night.  We got in the van to go get Wendy's for dinner and the radio came on.  Carissa:  "I love this song!  Is this 91.9 (the local Christian station)?"  Me:  "Yup"  Emily:  "Are you a Christian?"  Carissa:  "Yes, are you??"  Emily:  "Yes"  - which lead to some neat conversations at dinner.  I was SO thrilled.  They stayed up late doing hair, makeup, games, movies, little skits, and laughing more than I've heard Emily laugh in months.  It was so neat.  They had so much fun that they convinced Carissa's parents that Emily then needed to go spend the night at her house, but we just let her go spend the day there...too little sleep for Emily makes her not very much fun to be around ---who's daughter is she??  I reminded Emily how we had been praying for a good friend and how Carissa is becoming one.  God is faithful.

Yesterday we visited church number 2.  This one was the one that my new friend Wendy and her husband attend.  It right over the border in South Carolina - Transformation Church.  The pastor is Derwin Gray - he used to play football for the Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers - then he went to seminary.  He was an extremely dynamic speaker and preached doctrinally sound.  It was a 25 minute drive though which would most likely limit our involvement some and all 4 of us felt more 'at home' at the church the previous week.  This church is doing some amazing things though in South Carolina and just announced that they are expanding to another building and another city!  They are definitely reaching people in an area that is "poor and multi-cultural" as Pastor Gray put it!  We have 3 more to visit.  All four of us are praying for God to show us the right church!

So, as I was carrying rocks yesterday afternoon I had a lot of time to think.  And last night I had a lot of time to hurt with the heating pad - ha ha ha.  First of all, I find this type of work not even work...I know, weird, right?  Love getting in the dirt and creating gardens that are peaceful and nice to look at.  It was so pleasant out - breezy and cool enough to not get sweaty.  Tons of geese on the lake and I LOVE the sound of the fountain on the lake.  Water is so soothing to me and it always has been.  Which, off track for a second - when I can HEAR water it is soothing to the ocean, rain showers, a fountain, a babbling brook in Gatlinburg, even a bubble bath running.  You don't even notice water that is not moving unless you can see it - and water that doesn't move just gets nasty and weird stuff growing on it - unfit for use.  Jesus is the living water inside us.  He says in John 7:38: "Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."  and John 4:14:  "but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The water (the Spirit in us) is living and moving - you can hear it and see it from our is soothing and a comfort for us.  It is a source of strength and peace.  In the Bible there are so many analogies about us being like water that is moving - living water, peace like a river, righteousness like waves...  But not so many about us being like water that is puddled up with sludge on top attracting mosquitoes.  Let His peace flow through us like water would - touching every open spot, every hole, nook, cranny...  Let it soak and debride and cleanse... And let His Word flow on out of us to others in everything we do....I SO needed this this morning.  Guess I really didn't get off track...  I was going to write about something else that I was thinking about while I was moving rocks, but He blessed me with the reminder that I CAN be at peace if I take the time to let Him touch every single hole of emptiness that I have right now.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Boxes Are Unpacked

Well, the boxes are unpacked.  I can see the floor in some places.  We're getting there!  I've been busy for sure...lots to do.  So thankful to be in our house.  It doesn't feel like home yet, but it will come.  The kids are so excited to have their rooms, beds, toys, etc.  They are suddenly getting along better - go figure!  They got to meet some kids in the neighborhood this past week too.  The bus ride home is nice for me - I can see the bus stop from our front porch - I am enjoying not driving two hours every afternoon!!

I just have to take a minute and say, I am SO completely thankful for the time that we spent at Tony & Sue's over the past 2 1/2 months.  The kids loved learning different things from them and having the extra attention.  And I really enjoyed getting to know Sue and hanging out with her.  Sue is an extremely encouraging and positive person.  She taught me some good meals and taught me to sew and quilt!!  She offered to include me in everything she did.  She cheered me up when I was down.  They shared their entire space with us and made sacrifices beyond belief.  They thought ahead as to what would make us most comfortable and provided and did that.  Amazing!  I have thought often over the past few months - would I be able to extend the same gift of hospitality to others as they have for us??  It is the kind of gift that you can never express how much it meant - and you can never repay someone for!   What a blessing God provided to us through them!  We will be having our only Carolina relatives over for Thanksgiving this year.

It was absolutely fantastic having my mom and Judy here at the beginning of the week.  They flew home on Thursday.  But they and Sue were a huge help.  They unpacked all the boxes for me and organized the kitchen.  I hated to see them leave.  The week was a blur.  By Thursday when they left I had my bearings enough to make a taco dinner!  When Evan woke up Friday morning he had a sore throat, but no fever or anything else, so off to school he went.  When he got home he had a fever...bad mom!!  Off to the doctor we went.  We had already researched and decided on a doctor that is right up the road - less than 5 minutes.  He, luckily, could get us in on a Friday afternoon.  Positive strep.  Ugh.  But, at least he got started on medicine and was feeling much better by Saturday evening.  Jeff has been great - hanging blinds/curtain rods, hooking things up, hanging light fixtures, ceiling fans, etc.  He has really worked hard. We have been so busy searching for lost items, moving things around, hanging things, organizing that it still does not seem real that we are in a house in North Carolina and are 'doing life' here now.  Although it just makes me smile to take the kids to school in the mornings and be gone for 10 minutes round trip!  Halleluiah! 

This weekend in Evansville we missed the prospective pastor preach at church...and I missed the women's conference with Lysa TerKeurst and Laura Story.  It made me sad to miss out on things...things that were important to us.  I'm sure there will be many more things we miss though and time will heal...

This morning, after enjoying the extra hour of sleep from the time change, we got up and went to church!  We were all so excited!  We have about 5 different churches that we've looked at online and listened to some sermons of their pastors that we'd like to visit.  The one this morning was the closest to our house since we have so much we wanted to get done at home today.  Southbrook Church is 5 minutes away and Emily is going to play basketball through that church soon (Jeff is going to coach too!)  The kids both had a kid church type set up.  Emily was with just 4th grade girls - and one was a girl from her class at school! - and they joined the middle school for worship - it was loud music!  Jeff and I enjoyed the sermon, the pastor, the people, the set up, and most of all - the worship and music.  It was definitely our style.  I was so relieved to be back at church.  It felt good to stand in His presence and sing - and since it was so loud no one heard how off key I was...and since it was dark, no one saw the tears run down my face as we sang one of my favorites - "Oh no, You never let go, through the calm and through the storm.  Oh no, You never let go, in every high and every low.  Lord, you never let go of me!"  Jeff and I have never 'church shopped' before.  We've prayed for the right one, but don't really know what to do to choose.  All four of us liked this one enough to stay there!  But, we also want to try the others out too so we know for sure what is out there - I guess that is how you do it?  Pray for us if you think of it!

Like I said, things have been a whirlwind the past couple of weeks.  I really don't think much of anything has sunk in fully.  I know that a lot of stress has been relieved, but I am sure that the journey is only starting.