Happy Birthday to Me

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On January 30th, I happily celebrated my 43rd birthday. It was a great day. It was exactly what I envisioned and most importantly, I embraced my sobriety. There was no going to bed wasted and waking up feeling like crap. Nope. Not this year. I enjoyed every minute of my birthday and for that, I feel extremely blessed.

Birthdays are a really big deal in my house. In fact, my children make fun of me because I don’t just celebrate my birthday on the day I was born, I celebrate it all month long. At the beginning of every new year; the 29-day countdown to my special day begins. The month long observance of multiple festivities (this year sober ones) culminates with The Birthday Week Countdown whereby one of my best friends, Sheila “Dizzle” Diaz, gives me a precious gift everyday for the five days leading to the big day. She totally gets me and loves me so much that she has “bought in” to my birthday magic.

I love her for that. Another Witt birthday tradition is that my son Chantz slaves over a delicious breakfast of Texas french toast complete with candles and serves me this feast in bed. And sometime during the day, my adoptive parents, the Campbells, send me a beautiful bouquet of birthday flowers that never ceases to amaze myself or my students. And then of course there are my daughters who, no matter how little money they have, make the dollar store merchandise as appealing as that of a high end department store. I’m not kidding, they always go above and beyond the normal and create dimestore chic.

The celebration continues into the evening as the Birthday Queen gets to select the dinner menu and then my fabulous husband, amateur chef Ken, prepares the meal. This year I chose steak, scallops, sautéed mushrooms and a green salad. Every single bite was amazing and paleo-friendly.

After dinner, we go around the table taking turns sharing what we love most about the guest of honor. I absolutely love that part, even when it’s not me they are praising!  I must admit that this year was one of my favorites, as my daughter Shelbee gave a detailed speech about how much she loves me and why. However, the other birthday attendees weren’t as thrilled as I due to the lengthy nature of her tribute. Ummm…too bad, so sad. Ask me if I care. I don’t. (Insert cackle here.)

There is no doubt; I am loved. So, why then, with the love fest that I call my birthday, does it bother me so much when my father doesn’t acknowledge my birth? Not a card, not a phone call, not a text…nada, nothing, zilch. And not just this year, but every single year. I should be used to it. It’s not like it’s any surprise when my special day comes and goes without so much as a peep from my dad. I should be used to it, but I’m not. I wanna be; but I’m not.

Grow up Kristen! My goodness, you are 43 years young and you care about what your absentee father does? Yes, I do. But, I don’t wanna. It’s painful and I don’t like pain.

So, here I am, six days later and I finally had my annual post-birthday meltdown. I cried, I yelled, I screamed, and I questioned God as to why I was “gifted” with such a crappy father. Why me, oh Lord? Why is my father so self-absorbed and selfish that he doesn’t acknowledge my birthday, or me, for that matter? What in the heck did I do to deserve such an unkind and basically nonexistent father?

Yes, I RSVPed to this pity party and spent a good part of my day there. After much questioning and a horridly poor attitude on my part, I finally admitted to my husband what this “mood” was all about. His response? He just hugged me and let me cry, as he’s done a hundred times before where my father is concerned. And I appreciate that. I love him for that. He, too, gets me.

Sometime during the evening, my mom called and left me a message. Know this: I love my mom, but we have had our issues. She has had her addictions and problems and I was forced to shut her out of my life and the lives of my children several times. We don’t speak on a regular basis and she did not call me on my birthday.

Still, in her defense, I have never doubted her love for me. My mom has a good heart; she just got sucked into the addiction nightmare. After all, she absolutely refused to abort me after my father begged her to. That speaks volumes in my book.

I took a deep breath and pressed play on the message. “Hi Kristen. This is your mom. I couldn’t go another day without wishing you a happy birthday…I love you. Goodbye.” Tears. But, happy ones. And she sounded good! I could understand every word she said; no slurring and no going off on a tangent. And suddenly, my entire mood changed. I felt joy, I felt peace, I felt love.

And I called her back. And we talked for twenty minutes and we haven’t done that in years. My mom loves me and I love her. And that feels so good because that is the way God created us.  As humans, we are born to love and be loved. And I know that I am so loved, by so many. It’s like God has put people in my life to love me because he knows that my father isn’t capable of that in his humanness. But, sometimes I forget that and today my mom’s phone call reminded me of that. And I am thankful.

Rachel Barrentine sings a song called Sacred Symphony. It’s about how God loves us so much that he sings over us with a sacred symphony. The tune continues with us asking him to open our ears to hear this beautiful song that he’s written just for us. It’s a virtual love song written by God, especially for us.

The first time I heard this song, I absolutely sobbed. I was at a women’s retreat and the flood gates just opened up far and wide and I didn’t care who heard me. For the first time, I just the Father come in and love on me and more importantly, I felt deserving of this honor and not because of anything I had done, but because what Christ did for me.

One particular verse changed my life, “You formed my heart before time began. You smiled at me, the day I was born. So fearfully and wonderfully made, by your hand oh God.” That was all it took, the chains were broken. You see, not many people smiled on the day I was born; teen catholic pregnancy, a father who didn’t want me and was angry that he had to give up a college scholarship to become a a responsible human being and care for his child. In any case, the smiles were few and far between. Except from my Heavenly Father who smiled and smiled and smiled and wrote a song just for me.

I don’t know why, but it took my mom calling this evening to remind me of how much I am truly loved. He handpicked both of my parents and he knew exactly what he was doing. He just doesn’t make mistakes and that’s good enough for me. So if my dad continues to live a life devoid of myself and my children, it’s okay. God has my back and His plan for me is better than I could ever formulate on my own. I truly believe that.

In the meantime, I will continue to do birthdays with my family like we are “rockstars” because after all, God sings a sacred symphony over us every single day of our lives.

Can you hear yours? I hope so. You are loved.

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Day 34: The Heart of the Matter is Forgiveness

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Today is Saturday and I’ve been up since 4:30 AM. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I have a few theories.

Theory #1: My 42-year-old, soon to be 43 year-old bladder is not what it once was. When I have to tinkle, I gotta get in there and do it like pronto, no messin’ around or else there will be a mess. This might be too much info, but I’ve been known to pee myself on the front porch because I waited a little too long to use the facilities. So this morning when my bladder alarm sounded, I was up and at em’.

Theory #2: I have a lot to do today and God needed to have a talk with me before I embarked upon this busy Saturday. Some of my priorities have gotten out of order, and well…I needed a bit of loving correction. And, I am happy to report that I took it like a champ. I received what was being said and now I am moving on in hopes of becoming that better person.

Theory #3: And the winner, winner chicken dinner; I’m gonna go with a combination of the two. So, here I am, an hour later blogging for the first time in almost two weeks. I am woman, hear me roar. I feel like the Energizer Bunny on coffee…gallons coffee. But I am fairly confident that today’s blog will touch many, even uplift and inspire some, so here goes.

Today I want to talk to you about forgiveness. Yes, again. Don’t roll your eyes, just hear me out. I must admit that when my devotional this morning was on forgiveness, I was a little irritated. I mean, I’ve been working really hard on forgiving others, myself and asking people for forgiveness. I seriously thought that I was working overtime in this area and was evolving into a master of amnesty. Then, two names popped into my head and there it was.

I have been harboring resentment and unforgiveness for two of my best friends, more like sisters, for over five months. When we house any form of unforgiveness or resentment, things aren’t right. Our lives are out of sync and we block our blessings. For me, it’s like an uncomfortable itch that absolutely will not go away until it is dealt with. This itch has become excruciatingly painful, so today is the day of reckoning and I do believe part of the reason for my 4:30 AM wake-up call.

In August we moved from the town that my husband and I and our four children grew up in. I was in the midst of my alcoholism and I had successfully isolated myself from many people. I didn’t want them to know that I was drinking everyday and if I didn’t see or talk to them, my secret would remain safe. Besides, we were busy with the move and that would be good enough reason to avoid them.

On August 4th, I had my tonsils removed and I promised myself that I would stop drinking. And I did… for about six days. But in those six days, I allowed the devil to come in and take hold of my thoughts and plant some pretty vile seeds. In my mind, I became the victim of a “friendship violation.” How dare my friends not come and visit me while I was recuperating from my surgery. How horrible they were for not making me broth and bringing me flowers and sending me to my new life on a float with a parade in my honor. Duh…I was ready to receive them in my life again. I was free of alcohol; didn’t they know this?

And I swear to you, some form of this pity party continued until just this morning. The difference is; today I did not RSVP. Nope, I sent off two text messages at 6:33 and 6:35 AM and asked my two friends/sisters to forgive me for harboring this resentment towards them. And guess what happened? Those chains were broken and I have been set free. My heart is lighter and my “itch” is gone. I’m not kidding. Gone! And I refuse to take it back.

Newsflash: We should let go off all fear after we ask for forgiveness. Remember how Joseph’s brothers feared retaliation from him after their father’s death? He had already forgiven them, but they had not fully received his forgiveness. They threw themselves at his feet and begged for absolution again. Joseph was moved to tears by their pleas and then reassured his siblings that his grace and mercy remained in tact and nothing would change that.

By the world’s standards, Joseph had every right to make his brothers pay heartily for selling him into slavery. But Joseph didn’t live by the world’s standards and neither should we. He knew that God had a plan for him even in the darkest of times. And he knew that the actions of his brothers were meant to harm him, but that God intended it for good. That is faith, my friends.

I am hopeful that my sisters will allow God to take the ashes of our friendships and turn them into beauty.  I think that is the hope of most people when asking for forgiveness. Still, we cannot allow their decision about whether or not to grant us clemency to influence our decision to ask for it. If they decide not to forgive us, that’s okay. It’s not the outcome that we desire, but it is and will continue to be okay. God loves us that much and if a void is left, He will fill it if we allow him to.

Today, do yourself a favor. Take a forgiveness inventory. If there are people that you need to forgive, or people that you need to apologize to, talk to God about it. He will help you find the peace that only authentic forgiveness can bring. Open your heart to Him and allow Him to gift you with the necessities for your own forgiveness journey.

One thing is for sure; forgiveness is a gift and so is sobriety. My journey is allowing me to clean out my closets and dust off the cobwebs in my life. And with that comes clarity of heart, soul, spirit and mind. And for this, I am truly blessed and so are you.

My cup runneth over. I hope yours does, too.

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The Past is the Past is the Past is the Past

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The past is the past. Those were my first thoughts when I woke up this morning. Well, that and the fact that my dogs were more comfortable in my bed than I was because they had more room and more pillows than me. Oh, the sacrifices we make for our fur babies!

I laid in bed for a few minutes and my mind drifted back to my first thought. I was a bit irritated because I already know that the past is the past. A piece of my blog yesterday was dedicated to just that. So, why was I fixated on this statement?

“Okay, God. I need a download here.” And so it began.

Today is day eighteen of my sobriety and one of my focuses has been allowing myself to really “live” life in the here and now, without beating myself up for past mistakes. And believe me, there are a lot of them. Though I am a work in progress, I am allowing God to show me the difference between conviction and condemnation. God convicts, or gently corrects, satan condemns. Slowly, but surely, I am understanding and happily accepting this. You should, too. It’s freeing and there have been several times where I have stopped in my tracks when the condemnation tried to saturate my entire being.

“No, no, no.” I said it out loud and it shifted my entire mindset.

Whatever I did, did is past tense, it is done. I will not relive it. I will not take another beating over it. I will not let it muddy up today’s clear waters. It’s over, it’s done, I learned from it, took what I needed from it and now I am moving on. Perfect.

There it is Lord. I think I’ve got a fairly decent handle on the “past is the past” lesson. Of course, like any life lesson, review sessions are necessary and I will participate fully when these opportunities present themselves.  As a recap, whenever the the ugly deeds I did in the past try to rear their dead, ugly heads, I will dust my feet and move on.

Perfect. Ummm…not so fast. Thankfully, our pasts are not solely made up of ugly, dastardly mistakes and deeds. Our pasts are a culmination of everything that has happened in our lives. At this point, I needed to digest what God was sharing with me. I got up, made coffee, pulled out my laptop and began taking notes.

“Quit hanging on to the past. Let it go…all of it.”

Wait, all of it? The good stuff, too? But, I like thinking about and reminiscing about the good stuff. How often do I replay, fantasize, dream, recreate, or pine over the awesome past events of my life? Crap! If I combined the time that I spent reliving the negative events as well as the positive events of my past, when in the heck was I actually living and enjoying the present moment?

Revelation. I have been spending entirely too much time in my past. It’s like I’ve been going through the motions of life, but haven’t really been living in the here and now. I mean, how could I if I was spending my time beating myself up over my drinking addiction and then pining over how good I looked in jeans that now won’t go past my thighs?

And there was my “aha!” moment. Look, there is absolutely nothing in our past that we can change. We cannot got back and erase the bad and we cannot go back and relive the good. We are different now and if we are not allowing ourselves to be present in the here and now, we will never realize who we are supposed to be today.

We are made to evolve and grow and we no longer need what the past had to offer. Our lives are here, right now, today. Even better, the greatest moments are yet to come because God says so. He says that our latter days will be better than our former days. That means, my friends, that the best times have not yet occurred, but they are coming. They are set to occur in the here and now and in the tomorrows, but we cannot experience them if we are living in the yesterdays of life.

Carpe diem! We must seize the day before it too, becomes the past and we miss out on what it had to offer. It might sound nutty, but it is never too late to live a happily ever after, God-type of life. And in order to do so, we must be present in every moment.

New Year’s Eve 2014 was the first one that I spent sober in many, many years. I experienced every moment of the 1920’s murder mystery dinner party. I breathed it all in and I enjoyed myself. I’m telling ya, Diet Pepsi never tasted so good. And even better, January 1st never felt so good! My point is, I didn’t allow the goods or the bads of my past to cloud the present. I’m new to this way of thinking, so I had to keep reminding myself to enjoy the moment. I am sure that after a time, this will just become the natural way I live my life. It felt great to be sober in mind and heart and enjoy all that those moments had to offer.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t to cherish our memories and learn from our mistakes. But, let us stop fixating on them and allow ourselves to really experience life in the here and now. After all, that’s where our true joy can be found.

Blessing and hugs to you all. 🙂

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Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

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Oh, how I love a good t-shirt saying! It may sound ridiculous, but I am always on the hunt to find mottos that I can wear out loud and after struggling a bit to narrow down my blog topic today, Facebook again, saved the day. “Thankful, Grateful and Blessed” perfectly sums up my 2014 and the first day of 2015, so much so that I am indeed, ordering that shirt!

It should be said that in no way was 2014 a fairytale year for me. But, I didn’t want today’s blog to talk about the hundreds of resolutions that I need to set, nor do I care to highlight the plethora of mistakes that I made in 2014. And though I woke up with my head swimming in a sea of blog ideas, my most predominant thoughts were those of gratitude and peace. And let me tell ya, it’s been a long while since January 1st has felt this good. No hangover, no condemnation for drinking too much the night before, and no guilt for wanting to drink again to dilute the stew of toxic feelings. Wow. Today is already a blessed day.

My heart is so full of joy, that I think it may burst. And if people are encouraged by the overflow of others, then I could surely pep talk a small city today. I am so thankful for this life that if I were to make a list of all the things I hold most dear, it would no doubt end up a novel and not a blog. So, I’m going to make an effort to only type the words God gives me. After all, He knows what needs to be said and how to say it, so I will stick with His plan.

First and foremost, we need to stop beating ourselves up over past mistakes. A mistake should only become a regret if we refuse to learn from it. God is “all abut that grace,” so why shouldn’t we be, as well? He forgives us, so why is it so hard to forgive ourselves? We are sons and daughters of the Most High; that’s royalty. Let’s start seeing ourselves for who we truly are; kids of the Kingdom with a Heavenly Father who puts no conditions on HIs love. So, let’s do the same. Let us love ourselves and others without conditions. We aren’t perfect, so let’s stop expecting perfection from ourselves and others. We are our own worst critic; let 2015 be a time of becoming our biggest fans.

No matter what season we traveled through in 2014; we were and remain warriors. We are alive and breathing today because we not only survived the trials and tribulations thrown at us, but we came out victorious. Let’s see ourselves as victors; not as victims. We will not be naive and pretend that 2015 will be a battle-free year. No, we will most certainly have days where the combat will dominate and we will be exhausted. This is life. The key here, is to approach each day battle-clad, and proactive. We can and will win the battle as long as we follow God’s plan for our lives.

I want to encourage you and say that you did well in 2014. You are here and you have a definite plan and a purpose. This is not new, or something that I am flattering you with. God has always had a successful plan just for you and it was formulated before you ever took up residence in your momma’s womb. True story! Bless you for all that you have done and will continue to do in 2015. Take a bow, friends; you “done” good.  And if no one has told you how awesome you are today; let me be the first, “You are awesome.”

I know that this may sound corny or cliche’ but today really is the first page in our 365-page book. Anyone can write a best-seller, but I think it’s important to determine why people would want to read our books. I mean, is it like a train wreck where people cannot take their eyes off of the tragedies and poor choices we make? And the reader remains entertained simply because we make a mess of things and never learn from the poor decisions being made. Ummmm…Best-seller or not, I’m gonna respectfully decline authoring a novel that has no real value to those who read it. How much better would it be if our best-sellers had a plot line  where the characters aren’t perfect; no one is, but one where we learn from our imperfections? A novel where the reader is encouraged, or even inspired, because we offer them hope. Hope that even in the darkest of times, just a glimmer of light can turn things around. After all, light always outshines the darkness. And make no mistake, the light is present in each of us.

I want to leave you with a final thought. You are an an overcomer. It matters not what others say about you. You will never please everyone and there will be people, gasp…who don’t like you. And guess what? That’s okay. What matters most is what God thinks and says about you. He calls you, “beloved.” Take that in. Meditate on it. He has only the most perfect plans for you and when storms come, He equips you with what you need to survive and overcome.

This is my final thought, for real this time: You can be sure that there is something beautiful in everyday; you just have to find it. Sometimes, it’s an easy find; other days, we may have to use GPS. But, something beautiful can always be found. Happy New Year, friends. Hugs and blessings to you all. 🙂 I think I’ll order that shirt now. My cup runneth over.

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