Inspiration

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
Inspiration

The Best Breakup I Ever Had

facebook-dislikeI’m coming  up on a very IMPORTANT anniversary!

The 10th anniversary of blogging here at Grace Upside Down, perhaps?  Nope, although that did happen in September.  (Where does the time go?)

Maybe my 20th wedding anniversary? Nah, not that either, although Home Boy and I celebrated that in September as well.

So what HUGE milestone am I getting ready to celebrate,then?  Come closer and I’ll tell you.

In just over a month. I will celebrate 1 full year since…..

I kicked Facebook to the curb!

That’s right!  After nearly a decade of socializing on perhaps the most important Social Media platform there is, I quit.  Cold Turkey.   And never looked back.

For the entirely of 2017 I have lived Facebook free and, man! I cannot emphasize enough what a positive difference I’ve experienced in the quality of my life – AND my relationships!  (After a brief withdrawal and detox phase that lasted a couple of weeks…it IS a drug, dontchaknow?)

Ah, sweet relief!

Long gone the days when I agonized over why certain people didn’t like or comment on my posts any more, or whether I “had to” like or comment on someone else’s post.  No more of the constant buzzing in my head…..you know, all the conversations (even rebuttals) I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) have.    No more Unfollowing someone because they fell down some Rabbit Hole and started posting bizarre, regurgitated mythology they  apparently thought they were the first to come up with it.

I no longer feel compelled to correct someones spelling/grammar/punctuation (not that I actually DID correct them.  I just FELT like I had to…and stuffed my feelings), or comment with the name of the TRUE author of a quote that someone posted without it (a form of plagiarism that plagues online content and I find particularly abhorrent).

And, most importantly, no more Faux Friendships – many of who were identified AFTER I quit.  (“You shall judge a tree by it’s fruit.” – Jesus)

Do I miss the sleepless nights and heartbreak incurred because someone got jealous of someone else I was interacting with online, or completely misunderstood something I posted and decided to take offense where none was meant?

Do I long for the days when I agonized over some cryptic post by one of the kids, in a moment of youthful angst, that threatened to send me in Hyper Hover Mother Mode.  (The WORST)?

Ohhellno! My life in the Post-Facebook era is full of tranquility, authenticity and more real-life interaction with people than ever.   I have great friendships, and closer ties with them and family alike.

Ahhhhh, the relief! Dear God, the relief of not worrying whether a photo is “Facebook worthy” or not…whether my double chin is showing, or if the muffin top I’ve acquired since menopause is exaggerated!  How free to be with people without the knee jerk reaction of having to chronicle our every move for mass consumption!  We actually just

LIVE OUR LIVES!  DO OUR THING!  And any photos we take are, by and large, for our own personal edification.

I am, I believe, Renaissance Woman.  I spend less time online now than I can remember.  My time at the computer is just a fraction of what it once was.  I’m doing life Old School style, free from etheric tethers to what has, in recent years, become a behemoth of conflict and conspiracy, Russian “collusion” and the stifling of Free Speech, and WAY too many ads for things or ideas I could care less about.

Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!

Here are some interesting statistics about Fauxbook:

  1.  There are 83 MILLION fake profiles.    That is not a typo but it is a lot of deception.
  2.  Turns out that Facebook is BAD for your relationships.  In fact, a study done in 2010 showed “Facebook” was reported as being responsible in 30% of divorces.  That’s 1 in 3, and this study is 7 years old now!  Imagine what that statistic might be today!
  3. Not only are romantic relationships adversely effected, Facebook can be a  friendship killer as well.    I lost 2 long term, real time friendships because of something Facebook related.  Did I insult them online?  Did I post a death threat or a photo they didn’t want to be seen?  Did I go suddenly crazy and become someone completely different , or reveal their deepest darkest secrets to all 350 of my closest friends? Nope.  In fact, in BOTH cases, the women just bailed on me without explanation – unfriending me online AND in real life in the new chickenshit, cowardly, immature way  of “dealing” that has infiltrated our society. And I’m not the only one to experience this.  Three of my close girlfriends have as well…and we’re talking about 30 year relationships just GONE, just like that, over social media.  All of us were left hurting, confused and bereft.  Never again.
  4. Not only a source of jealously and infidelity, Facebook has been shown to cause depression, narcissism, anxiety, low self-esteem and a number of other mental health issues.  If you’ve ever logged onto your Facebook account in a relatively good mood only to log off 30 minutes later feeling like shit, you know what I’m talking about.  Just ask anyone who finds out their ex, only recently to have broken up with them via text message (another chickenshit move used these days), immediately started seeing his old flame.  The one that always seemed to show up on his posts with some flirty thing to say.  (This happened to my daughter).  And don’t even get me started on a personal pet peeve of mine –  the seemingly never ending Selfie Parade some people engage in.  I mean, how many times do we have to see yet another fish-lipped, “I love myself!  I’m so awesome!” post before we start asking, “Who are they trying to convince?  Me or themselves?”  Turns out posting too many of these photos is another big contributor to the Death of Friendship and intimacy – and it’s annoying as hell!

As Facebook (d)evolves over time…the more FB execs testify before Congress and are in news about their shady dealings (influencing in the 2016 election and censoring certain content, to name two), the happier I am that I’m not a part of it. I don’t belong there.  My peeps are in real time, not virtual time.  A day (finally) came when the Cons far outweighed the Pros (I speak for myself personally), and I had the will to say Good-bye forever.

Ever since I unfriended Facebook, my days are richer, more productive and peaceful, and involve more real-time friendtime than ever.

It’s been the BEST break-up I’ve ever had.

Blogroll, Inspiration, Life, Love, Spirituality, The Wild Pomegranate, Writing

When The Wild Things Speak

Continued from the previous post…

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Sitting in the shade of the old olive tree in her back yard, her eyes red and swollen from crying and the weed she had smoked, The Woman stared off into inner space and pondered her next move.

After a year of soul wrenching self-examination, spiritual inquiry, and marital counseling, it still wasn’t enough to save her marriage and she knew she needed out. No longer a matter of “IF”, her brain whirled with all the other questions of “When”, “How” and “OMG Can I Do This?”

Middle-aged with two teenagers to support, the prospect of starting over again was damn scary. Was it right to jump off the cliff into the unknown because SHE was miserable? Because SHE needed a new life? While The Woman understood that life couldn’t go on the way that it had been, she longed for some sign that she was making the right decision. That she could have – and deserved – a different sort of life.

And that’s when she saw it.

It appeared from behind the house, a small blood-colored streak that came to a sudden stop in perfect parallel to the ground – a gymnast using all six hands to firmly grasp the Agapanthus growing in the planter not more than 10 feet away from where she sat.

It stayed motionless for several minutes while she looked on, afraid to move lest her little visitor startle and fly off. Eyes wide in excitement, smiling from ear to ear,  The Woman boggled at the biggest, reddest dragonfly that she had ever seen. What a beauty!

As she watched, the insect shifted slightly to get a better hold on the plant, it’s translucent wings sparkling under the summer sun like they were webs of gold dust.

“Hiya, little buddy!” She greeted her winsome guest internally, not wanting to scare it away by speaking out loud. “Oh, aren’t you a beauty!”

“Hello!”

A tinkling bell of a word that was at once human and Other floated across the space between them, landing in her mind. Or was it her heart? The Woman’s eyes widened at the sound, and her insides instantly snapped to attention.

The dragonfly remained still on its perch. Alien eyes, round and dark, appeared to be looking directly at her, penetrating and knowing.

“HELLO!” A little louder, a little more emphatic this time.

And just like that, all thoughts of trouble and despair were replaced with a joy so profound, so…unusual…it caught her breath at the intensity. The dragonfly was speaking to her!

“Yes, I am speaking. I’ve been sent to tell you that All Is Well. Even though you can’t see it now, even though you don’t know how everything will work or what you will do, life will not always be this hard…this painful. Better days are coming and healing is here. You and your children are safe and will be cared for. A deep transformation is happening in you – So deep that one day you will look back at this time and it will be as if it had happened to another person. Do not be afraid. Trust.  Do the next right thing. Forgive and bless your journey. You are not alone, and you are so dearly and forever loved.”

Whether a minute passed, or an hour, she didn’t know and didn’t care. The Woman smiled while tears streamed down her face, unabated. Tears of wonder…of release….

Of hope.

While her mind tried to analyze away the magic and miracle of what was happening, her heart told her that it was TRUE.  God had sent a messenger to her, and with renewed faith in a future she couldn’t see, she felt peace envelop her like a warm embrace.

The dragonfly rearranged it’s wings, turned it’s head, and lifted two front legs in a gesture that resembled hands in Prayer. After several more minutes in companionable silence, the woman in her chair and the dragonfly on her stem, the crimson messenger lifted up and flew away.

Thank you! The Woman’s heart whispered after her new friend. Thank you!!! 

Getting up slowly, not wanting to break the mood, she went inside to lay down and slept like she hadn’t slept in months. She knew now what she had to do.

And she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they would be alright.

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This is a true story. It happened to me.  Before you Poo Poo the thought of an animal speaking or dismiss it as the hallucinations of a stoner, I would encourage you to keep an open mind.  We don’t know what we miss through unbelief. (smiling) Life is far more magical and mysterious than we know. 

That wasn’t the last time that an animal spoke to me.  I have more stories.  Just remember: All living things have a voice – we only need to listen!

This is a photo of a red dragonfly that I took in 2007 while visiting the Huntington Library with my then ex-husband. We had divorced 2 years earlier, and remained friends through the process. 3 more years, and all of the kids grown and on their own, we reconciled completely and remarried Easter weekend, 2012.  The Dragonfly’s message was absolutely spot on.  Better days did come.

dragonfly