Got Hope?

Have you ever felt hopeless?

I have.  In fact, there have been many many times in my life when I’ve gone through something that left me feeling blindsided and in deep despair.  

Like when my 3rd marriage ended in divorce. Or the day I came home from work to find my daughter had taken all of her stuff – including my 11 month old grandson – and moved out of the house without telling me where she was going.  

As an early 20something, living with a boyfriend and addicted to drugs and alcohol, I remember being down on my bedroom floor crying. It was after yet another night of partying until I was puking my guts up. I had done something or said something amazingly stupid, and felt ashamed because I knew I was killing myself and couldn’t stop. 

Over the years I’ve had friends – best friends – walk out of my life without a single word.  In 2015 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer with 18 months of treatment to go through.   I have been ambushed with an unexpected job lay-off – more than once – and me, a single mom of two to support.  I’ve experienced the unexpected death of a parent, and nearly being homeless – along with my husband and 2 children – after a real estate agent sold our home from out from under us because “he had bills to pay”.  We had 1 day to find a place.

These hard times, while differing in particulars, all produced the same result:  A dark cloud of hopelessness and depression that threatened to consume me, and which I wasn’t sure I could – or would – survive.  On my own, I didn’t have any of the resources or strength or to change them.  And in a couple of instances, my literal life was at stake.  My life was in the balance, along with my sanity.

Several times I wanted to die, and even prayed for it to happen.

Obviously, those particular prayers weren’t answered.  And oh, how grateful I am for that!  In each and every instance, things did eventually turn around – most of them in quite miraculous ways.

My husband and I are nearing our 7th re-marriage anniversary and we’re closer now than ever. After 18 months of no communication whatsoever, my daughter contacted me out of the blue and re-established relationship. We’ve been a vital part of their lives ever since, and both she and my grandson have lived with us for over 2 years now.  He’ll be 10 in just a few weeks.

I stopped using hard drugs decades ago and only enjoy an occasional drink now and then when out with friends or with my husband.  The weed addiction – it was the strongest of all of them – was finally broken once and for all last summer.  It took 45 years, but I am free. At last!

New friends showed up, I’ve been cancer free for almost 4 years, and I was never without a good job for long until I semi-retired a few years back. In fact, they just kept getting better, and better paying.

Naturally, Dad didn’t come back from the grave (wouldn’t THAT have been a miracle!) but Mom is still around at 86 years old and I see her at least every other weekend.  Her body is in decline, and she’s a wee bit forgetful, but her mind is still sharp and on a good day, it’s a good day.

And lastly, none of us – not me, my husband, my children or grandchild – have ever spent a single day of our lives without a roof over our heads, clothes on our back, and good food to eat.  We’ve haven’t always had “extra”, but we’ve always had enough.

All of these difficult experiences had one thing in common (besides me. Ha!)  They all changed for the better, changed me in the process, and turned that deep, dark hopelessness into joy.  

Was it a 12step group I attended that freed me?  Weeks of Therapy?  One (or more) of the New Age accouterments I tried?  Everything from Tarot to OMing, Reiki to Past Life Regression, Visualization to Crystals?  Did Buddhism or Paganism or Goddess worship help me?

No.  (And trust me.  I tried them all.) 

In each and every case, it was Jesus.  

Jesus delivered me, healed me, restored my marriage and my family and my life.  He protected and provided, comforted and encouraged, and gave me not only a reason to get up in the morning, but a sense of real purpose for living.

And that’s why I’ve come here today.  I felt compelled to tell of just a few of the things that the Lord has done for me.  I know, with all that is within me, that if He would do these things for me, He will do them for anyone because there’s absolutely nothing special about me.  I wasn’t the Favorite Child. In fact, in many of these instances, I wasn’t even a Christian (or if I was, I wasn’t acting like one).  But even then, even during the times when I walked away from Him, He never walked away from me. No matter what dark road I had chosen to walk, He walked it with me just waiting.  Waiting for me to ask for help.

If you find yourself today in a place where you feel hopeless, and beaten down by life or your own bad choices, I beg you.  Give Jesus a chance.  Even if you have before, invite Him into your circumstances, into your heart, and to turn things around. He longs help you – physically and spiritually – and to demonstrate His Unconditional Love. It’s not about you joining a religion. It’s about having a relationship with the Son of the Living God.

God is a good God. His mercy endures forever, and He is near to those who are broken and brokenhearted.  Ask Him for help. Do it now. You won’t be sorry.

“I love the Lord, for He heard my voice,

He heard my cry for mercy.

Because He turned his ear to me

I will call on Him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me.

The anguish of the grave came upon me.

I was overcome by trouble and sorry.

Then I called on the name of the Lord:

Oh, Lord, save me!

The Lord is gracious and righteous.

Our God is full of compassion.

The Lord protects the simple hearted.

When I was in great need,

He saved me.

Be at rest once more, Oh my soul,

for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Oh Lord, have delivered my soul from death,

my eyes from tears,

my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before You in the land of the living.”

  • Psalm 116:1-9

Something’s Gotta Give

I’ve always had a natural inclination to look for (and find) the pattern in things….the webby gossamer strings that connect one thing, one person, one event to another to produce a certain outcome.

So it’s no surprise that I’m here writing on the blog again after 9 months in absentia.  Why? Well, I’ll have to go back a bit.

Over two years ago and after nearly 9 years (oh, gawd), I dumped my Facebook account. For real.  I say that because, like any addict worth their weight in denial, I had taken “breaks” and “vacations” and “time outs” from the platform only to jump right back into the energetic cesspool within a short period of time.  I did this over and over and over again. I uninstalled/re-installed the app on my device of choice more times than I can count, and each time I went back, I felt weaker. More powerless.

Hooked.

But in December of 2016, after a long and increasingly painful journey, I shut ‘er down for good and never went back. Praise Jesus! And I did this in order to draw up positive, real-time life boundaries I hoped would greatly impact my well-being and relationships.

The positive effects could fill an entire blog post.  But it didn’t stop there.

Last year I ditched my Twitter account after a shorter, albeit equally dysfunctional time. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the cultural changes that the US has undergone in the last 3 years, particularly as they relate to social media and the “mob mentality”, will understand what I mean. I kept engaging in The Crazy, and I didn’t want to. I didn’t like it. It’s not who I AM.

Again, the positive effects were felt almost immediately. But I’m still not through.

This year, as new as it is, brought with it yet another tie I felt compelled to unbind.  I un-installed the Instagram app from my phone and now only check it infrequently from my PC – and only because I have kids in another state and they post there. It supplements the texts and phone calls that feel too few and far between for this Mama.

The overall impact of De-SMing my life over the last 2+ years has been incredible and, I believe, long reaching.  Gone is the neurotic twitch to check my phone every few minutes. (A habit I now find annoying when others to it – sort of like the self-righteousness exhibited in some ex-smokers or new vegans. I’m trying hard not to be that way).

I’ve also said goodbye to the impulse to make every important (or, dare I say, vaguely routine) moment of life documented, photographed, tweeted, or uploaded.  I no longer feel drawn into leaving passive-aggressive comments.  You know the type….those “helpful” little critiques or suggestions, the “friendly” countering of another’s ideas or opinions, the pretend prescience making me think I could possibly know the full intention of a poster’s thoughts from a minimally worded status update that may or may not hold grammatical or spelling errors.

I’m no longer on the receiving end of these things, either.

In the free space I’ve created by wiggling out of the Web, I am very rooted in real time, real life. I’ve also rediscovered a couple of my favorite pass times:  Reading (these days to the tune of 2-4 books a week) and writing.  

The two go hand-in-hand, you know.  At least, for me this is true.  Hindsight has shown that feeling inspired to write is directly proportional to the time I spend reading.  Not just skimming an article here or there, but a fully submerged, time-warping dive into a good story.  The kind of story where you see the characters come to life in your mind’s eye, moving through their sorrows, joys and adventures with them, and are left feeling slightly (ok, greatly) annoyed when the demands of life intrude. Time to get on with your chores, go to an appointment, or take a shower.

And so, I’m writing. After playing around on a cookbook for some time in a “scrapbook” format, for the last two months I’ve been putting recipes and photos together in a systematic way in a program that allows for printing.  I’m super excited about it and figure I’m about two-thirds done with the initial input, with nearly 50 recipes in a half dozen categories.  Who knew that my long held habit of photographing the food I made would one day payoff?  Turns out that I already had nice photos for most of my “important” recipes, the cover art, and all but 2 of the dividers.  My goal is to have it finished and printed in time to give copies to a select few family and friends by years’ end.  Christmas presents, perhaps. And I think my family is enjoying this journey as well, as I’ve been cooking up things I want to add to the book, just so I can take photos of the ones I still need.

Writing this cookbook, which includes snippets of personal and familial history and antidotes, has given me a sense that I will leave my kids and grand kids a “legacy” of sorts, linking one generation to another.   My hope is that, along with actually USING the thing, they will find it to be a source for feelings of connection to their ancestors and finding the warm soul-fuzzies – the GIFT – to be found in feeding people good food.

Of course, it’s equally possible that,  over time, my book will get shoved to the back of a closet or boxed up for storage, eventually finding its way to the trash or donated to the local thrift shop.  My ego demands that I hope not, although in the later case at least there would be the chance someone like me, someone who collects vintage and unusual cookbooks, would snap it up.

Maybe.

But for now, I don’t care what happens TO the book. The main thing is that I’m putting it together.  Finally.

And I’m writing again.

I Am Not Afraid

Stumbled across this song by Red Rock Worship this morning while I was listening to some teaching on YouTube.

What first caught my eye was their name, and I wondered if they’re from the red rocks of Las Vegas or  Sedona, Zion or Bryce.  Could they be from the King’s Canyon area, or other parts of the Sierra Nevada where we’ve explored and camped?

I still don’t know because the 2nd reason I decided to listen  immediately sucked me in, and I ended up in worship, tears streaming down my face,  in my kitchen at 6 a.m.

This happens a lot to me lately.  Jesus has been showing up.

ANYWAY, the guy singing this looks so much like my son, Adam, it’s amazing.  And I like to think that in a parallel universe, this IS Adam, who’s a musician and singer himself.  Serendipitously,  we’ll be seeing he and my daughter-in-law later today as they’re down from Seattle.  So it was extra sweet.

But I immediately forgot all that when I put my headphones in, cranked up the volume, and pressed the Arrow.  The first several bars in, and I loved it.  It reminds me of some of the melodies from the 50s and 60s, the decades of my childhood.

And the lyrics! This is literally what I’ve been saying for the last three years in particular, and the last several decades overall:  That I may have to walk through the Fire, but I’ll come out of it not even smelling of smoke, for the Lord is with me.  I shall not be afraid (….saying this even when I have been most afraid….)

God never promised life on earth would be easy.  In fact, we’ll be presented with all kinds of trials and experiences as we journey along.  They come along for all sorts of reasons, but for one purpose:    to demonstrate the power of God to heal, to deliver, and to save.

If you’re going through the fire, please listen.  You are not alone.

Do It Again

 

Lyrics

Walking around these walls
I thought by now they’d fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle’s won
For You have never failed me yet

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet

I know the night won’t last
Your Word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again
Jesus You’re still enough
Keep me within Your love
My heart will sing Your praise again

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed
Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again!
I’ll see You do it again!

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed
Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

And You never failed me yet
I never will forget
You never failed me yet
I never will forget

Songwriters: Christopher Brown, Steven Furtick, Mack Brock, Mattew Redman
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP
For non-commercial use only.