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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One Day at a Time: Day 23

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I returned to work on Monday after two glorious weeks of vacation. I’m not exaggerating. It was by far the best and most fulfilling Christmas season that I’ve had in a very long time. I was ready to go back to work, I love my teaching job and my body was craving a return to a “normal” routine. Of course, the kids and I enjoyed staying up late and sleeping in past the sunrise, but we had all packed on some holiday “celebration” pounds that needed to be dealt with. I knew that a return to reality would most certainly assist us in shedding our winter coats.

Monday arrived and so did the lullaby of my alarm at 4:50 AM. I’m totally kidding. At that ungodly early hour, there is no such thing as a lullaby; it was more like a nails on a chalkboard kind of awakening. And with that, I joyously jumped out of bed and began my 30-minute workout with my 21-Day Fix video pals.

I’m lying. I didn’t get out of bed and I didn’t work out. I laid there and surfed Facebook and checked my email. I told myself that I would workout when I got home that evening.  The only morale-boosting activities I accomplished before leaving for work were reading my daily devotional and praying. Had I not completed those staples, I do believe a full meltdown would have ensued at some point during the day.

I didn’t work out when I got home that evening and I I ate a half a box of red licorice before I went to bed. I felt “blah” and I just felt sad, maybe even a bit depressed. I wish that I could say that I snapped out of my mood on Tuesday, but I didn’t. The only difference was instead of devouring licorice, I sucked down a half of a box of Bottlecaps. I was in a funk. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why; but I felt down and out.

I was frustrated and a bit ticked off that I wasn’t experiencing joy everyday, all day. I mean, I was sober now and was finally allowing myself to live my life and be present in the moments of my day and I here I was practically in the fetal position inhaling every carb I could get my hands on.

I began to journal and pour out my heart to God. I just wanted Him to understand how I was feeling and since I couldn’t seem to talk to Him without crying or popping an M&M, I figured writing would be my best option. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but what ended up on paper was amazing. The bottom line was this: bad or good, I was living. Not only was I living, but I was doing so without drowning my feelings in a bottle of wine. Yes, I was feeling a bit melancholy and frustrated that I wasn’t in the best of spirits, but I was working through these thoughts and feelings in a healthy way.

In the very recent past, two bad days would have ended in a pattern of drinking, self-loathing, condemnation, guilt, and disgust. And though I know that my Heavenly Father has loved and will continue to love me unconditionally even in my darkest hours, on this occasion,  I was able to spend time in His presence and actually remember and enjoy our encounter. I was able to let my tears flow and allow Him to just love on me.

This is such a new concept for me because my earthly father has never been there for me. He once told me a “funny” story about how he begged my mom to abort me. She refused and here I am. I don’t say this looking for sympathy, or for shock value, but to make a point. Unfortunately, those of us who have absentee fathers often find it difficult to allow our Heavenly Father to swoop in and just hold us. We struggle with hearing him brag on us and have a hard time believing His unconditional declaration of love for us. I’m his favorite kid and so are you! And it feels good; not it feels phenomenal. Let’s enjoy being “the favorite.”

Look, everyday of our lives is not going to be a 5-star, lottery winning, Disneyland-visiting type of awesome day. I know this, I mean I’m not delusional. And as I go through this process of healing and allow God to guide me through the peaks and valleys, I am able to experience the life that He created just for me. And you, my friend, are able to do the same; anytime, anyplace, anywhere. He’s not only the absolute best daddy, but He’s a pretty darn good tour guide, as well.

Bryant McGill of simplereminders.com says this, “Don’t be afraid to express your love. Open yourself to feeling everything. Living without feeling is no different than not living at all.” And I must say, I totally agree with him. I thought that I was pretty awesome at expressing my love. But, looking back, when I stopped allowing myself to experience my feelings and began drowning out my emotions and life in an unrelenting storm of alcohol, that gift began to fade. The toxic blend of shame and unworthiness really stopped that love flow.

I am so thankful that this dam is breaking. The demolition crew has arrived and I am being liberated. I realize allowing ourselves to feel everything is not an easy task and one that will require commitment. But, I truly believe that it is one that we will never regret making. There is no doubt that we will experience bad days and good; sad days and joyful ones. The key is to experience them fully, knowing with absolute certainly that our Heavenly Father is there through it all and always has the best plan for our lives.

Today was a better day. On our walk this afternoon, I couldn’t help but look around at the beauty of our surroundings in absolute joy and awe. There was an added pep in my step and overflow of love in my heart and I knew that everything was going to be better than okay. After all, I am loved by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and so are you. This truly makes my heart want to sing.

One final note, I know that this winter coat will be shed. Stay tuned for that transformation, it’s going to be amazing.

Blessings and hugs to you my friends. ❤

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A New Kind of Go-Go Juice

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I went to sleep last night and woke up this morning with the realization that I am returning to work tomorrow. As some of you know, I am a high school English teacher and my Christmas vacation is quickly coming to an end. It’s okay. It’s been the best vacation I’ve had in a very long time and I’m ready to go back. Shoot, I would even go so far as to say that I have missed my students and colleagues. So, I’m okay with jumping back into a routine on Monday morning at 4:00 AM and making 2015 the best year of my 42, almost 43 years, on this planet.

Still, something has been nagging at me. Something is bothering me and it is most likely the same something that is always trying to make a mess out of the balance of my life.

You see, I am a two-speed kinda girl. For the majority of my life, I have either functioned at the snail’s pace of procrastination or the you-know-whats to the wall speed of do it and do it now! Woot woot! God has been dealing with me on this issue for some time, but unfortunately, His wise words have fallen on deaf, prideful, stubborn, or even hungover ears. I mean, I was doing okay. Stuff was getting done; well the stuff I wanted to get done was getting done. The rest, well, it got done, too. It was just taking a wee bit longer.

So, there you have it. By limiting myself to only two speeds, there was absolutely no balance in my life. Within those RPMs or MPHs, lived dread and chaos. What I mean is that in the endless maze of procrastination, feelings of anxiety and trepidation clawed their way to the surface. I created all kinds of scenarios of failure where new endeavors were concerned, so I just didn’t do them. If the tasks at hand were mundane, such as cleaning out the closet or garage, a little liquid “go-go juice,” or wine always helped me put the petal to the metal. Either way, the fuel to change my gears from hesitation to full-blown implementation was chardonnay, merlot, white zinfandel; you get the picture.

Hmmm…well today is day twenty of my sobriety, so that pumping station is closed. Now what. The “flesh patterns” of my past needed to stay in the past. And I needed to replace those toxic habits with healthy ones. I’m not going backwards and God doesn’t want me to.

And so I began dialoguing with Him. It went a little something like this:

“Father, I absolutely do not want to be limited to only two speeds anymore. And I know you didn’t design me to only function in two speeds. And since the fuel I was using for so long is no longer an option, please help me find what I need to be who You designed me to be.”

Silence.

I continued to pray and talk to God. I read my daily devotionals. Then, I put on my walking shoes, leashed the dogs, enticed Ken into going on a walk and began my trek to discover answers.

God never, ever, ever disappoints. First off, he instructed me to enjoy the “here and the now” of our walk. That meant that when my mind started to wander, He gently brought it back to reality. I was able to actually enjoy the flowing water, the tress, the pine cones, the acorns, the smell of wood burning and the sound of my own breathing as we hiked up the hills. It was mesmerizing!

“Think about how much you love your children, Kristen.”

Instantly, tears erupted from my eyes. I know I’ve mentioned this, but since entering into sobriety, my emotions and feelings have been allowed to surface and though it can be a bit overwhelming at times, it is so beautiful. I spent many years pushing them down and choking on them. Not anymore, they have been liberated and will not be imprisoned again.

“I cannot even describe how much I love my children, Lord. I have no words,” I whispered.

“I love you infinitely more than that,” He replied.

And I just let the river flow. His love absolutely saturated me and I was present in the moment and suddenly “stuff” began to make sense. As a mom, I go out of my way to make sure my kids have everything they need to experience joy and live successful lives. Still, my “adult” children are now 20 and 22 years old and sometimes, many times, much to my dismay, discount my advice or “gentle recommendations.”

Well, I am God’s adult child and I made a flesh pattern of doing the same darn thing, especially when his “advice” involved something I didn’t want to do or disagreed with.

Revelation. Yet another, “Aha” moment. God is my “go-go” juice. My Heavenly Father is the fuel that propels me into exactly the right speed at the precise moment for the task at hand. He always has my best interest at heart and His plans and dreams for me far surpass my own. There is nothing and nobody who could possibly love me more than He does. Today, I experienced His Agape Love. Today, I received His love. Today, I believe in His love.

If He tells me to do something, I’m gonna do it. If He tells me to say something, I’m gonna say it. His plan for me is perfect and I would be delusional if I thought my plan was better than His. Make no mistake, I have been delusional in this thought pattern before. It absolutely does not work. I believe that with each passing day, more of His plan for me will be revealed and day by day, I will walk, skip, jump or run out that plan. I will travel that road at whatever speed He deems necessary.

Something else I was reminded of today is that God will never tell us to do something we aren’t equipped for. I know that in the past, my flesh has risen up and talked me out of doing some things God told me to do. Blogging was one of them. I am so glad that I finally listened and obeyed.

Fear can be debilitating and the enemy knows it. If satan can keep us in fear, ain’t nothing getting done. We need to remember that fear is not of God. Look at David. He was a 17 year-old boy when confronted with the daunting and terrifying task of defeating Goliath. Goliath was a giant. In the natural, Goliath should have crushed David. Even the spectators and David’s supporters referred to Goliath as a giant.

You know what? David didn’t. Nope, he referred to his foe as “an uncircumcised Philistine.” What he was saying was that Goliath was not of God and therefore held no power over him. That teenager refused to see Goliath in the natural and made the choice to have faith and see his situation spiritually. He saw himself as the  victor and not the victim. And you know what? That giant went down!

Whatever our giants may be, God has given us the power to defeat them. He has given us the keys to the kingdom and He wants us to use them.  When we actually involve the Lord in our planning and let Him take the lead, He will most certainly bless all that we put our hands to. We can no longer allow the busyness and chaos of life drown out or water down our relationship with Him.

I want to be the kind of woman who chooses wisely and plans well. That means that if it’s not the Lord’s will, I want whatever it is to slip through my grasp and I have faith that He will give me the peace not to worry about it. Meditate on that. Following God’s plan is like batting a thousand. It just doesn’t get better.

If we stay in constant communication with our Heavenly Father, He will reveal whatever the plan is for that day or season. All we have to do is follow it. Let’s encourage each other to live faith-filled lives. Let’s keep each other uplifted, while holding one another accountable for our decisions and flesh patterns.

Let me encourage you, friends. God is the only “go-go” juice we need. His fueling station never runs dry and if we stay connected to Him, neither will ours. Our tires will always be perfectly balanced and we will always travel at the right speed.

Blessings and hugs! 🙂

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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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Happy Birthday, Dad

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Today is my dad’s birthday. He turned twenty years old exactly one month before I was born. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually celebrated my dad’s birthday with him. And, I need even fewer fingers to acknowledge the number of times my father has wished me a happy birthday.

Let me be clear; I am not bitter. At times, I mourn the loss of the father that I never had, but since my dad isn’t dead, mourning is probably the wrong term. I mean, after all, how can you mourn something that you never had to begin with and it sounds even more silly to pine over a relationship with someone who wants nothing to do with you or your children.

For most of my life, my father has been MIA and when he has made brief appearances, it has never ended well. Our relationship is certainly not a conventional one and the roles have always been reversed. What I mean is that I have always taken on the parental role, while he has been comfortable in the role of a child or adolescent.

I can speculate that the reason he gravitates to the adolescent role is because he was never shown how to be a father. His dad was a “Disneyland” dad and wasn’t very involved in his upbringing. I think my dad was starved for the affection of his father and was disappointed that he never received it. To make up for his absentee father, my grandmother spoiled my dad and became very possessive of him. She remained that way until her death two years ago. He was her puppet until the very end and with her death, came his freedom.

My dad has never been there for me. And that hurts. He missed every single one of my milestones in childhood and adulthood. He wasn’t in the audience of my high school graduation, nor did he visit me in the hospital during the births of my children. He doesn’t acknowledge my birthday and he doesn’t know the dates of my childrens’ births. These are facts. I accept them. I don’t like them. But, I deal with this reality.

When my little sister died of complications due to alcoholism at the age of thirty, I hadn’t spoken to my father in over three years. I was forced to cut ties with both him and my sister due to their addictions. I could not allow them to be around my children because their behavior was nothing any child should be subjected to. It was a behavior that I had seen all through my own childhood; needles, baggies, slurred words and sporadic behavior. But it was one that I was determined to shelter my children from.

The morning of Jaimie’s death, the phone rang at 7:59 AM and I knew something was terribly wrong. The phone never rings that early on a Saturday morning unless something is wrong. My husband handed me the phone, and my father screamed, “Your sister is dead. Jaimie is dead.” I remember thinking, this has to be a joke. She’s just a baby. But, my heart began to sink because I knew that the reality of her lifestyle often times leads to death.  Still, why her? Both of my parents had spent much of their lives as addicts and they were still alive. But my sister, their daughter, wasn’t. How was that fair? It wasn’t. But choices lead to consequences and sometimes those consequences can be devastating to those left behind to pick up the pieces.

Jaimie was my dad’s favorite child. We were his only children and he had always wanted a boy and Jaimie was the closest thing to a male. She was an amazing athlete, as was my dad, so they had a lot in common. She was fit and competitive and was beautiful to watch on the soccer field. Even in the dysfunction of their enabling relationship, she remained his favorite. So when she died in his house, it devastated him. And there I was, “Mother Hen” to pick up the pieces.

Since he was incapable of doing so, I planned and organized my sister’s funeral. He was barely functioning, so my husband and I took over. The funeral was pathetically sad, but I survived. And for a while, my dad came back into our lives. I made every effort to make him feel welcomed, but it didn’t last. Another relapse and and he was again out of my life.

There was a brief reconciliation after his mother passed away, but he was now free to pursue his life without answering to her and so that was what he decided to do.  I still text him on Christmas and his birthday and on Jaimie’s birthday and death day and he still does not text back.

Sometimes, that really makes me want to scream. I have never asked him for anything and everything I have ever accomplished has been without his help. So, why then is a return text message too much to ask? I mean, I love my children unconditionally, so as a parent, I just don’t get it.

Then it happened. I sent my dad the annual text on my sister’s birthday and worded it like this, “Happy birthday to your baby girl. I bet she’s eating a ton of birthday cake.” And much to my surprise, he texted me back. “Tell her I said happy birthday.” Ummmm…what? After a few more texts, I figured out that he didn’t remember his daughter’s birthday and he thought I was talking about one of my daughters. (His granddaughters)

I feel guilty even admitting this, but I was relieved. I mean, maybe he didn’t actually hate me. And if he couldn’t remember his favorite daughter’s birthday, then I shouldn’t feel so bad that he could never remember mine, either.

I would be lying if I said that at times I don’t get mad or sad about my absentee father. I do. It would be nice to have him around to be a dad to me and a grandfather to my children. But I was reminded at Bible study last night just how much my Heavenly Father loves me and boy, is He an awesome granddad to my children.

I am hopeful that someday my biological dad will become part of our family. I think every child desires to have their parents in their life and I just don’t think that desire goes away.

But, until then, I will continue to pray for my dad everyday and send him those text messages in hopes that he will someday reply. And today, on day fifteen of my sobriety, I choose to open my heart to others and experience all that life has to offer.

“One of the most important lessons in life is learning to turn what seems like senseless pain and suffering into something meaningful for yourself and others.” Through all of this pain and confusion, I choose to love my dad. I choose to forgive my dad. Because after all, unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. No, thank you. I choose forgiveness. I choose life. You should do the same.

And who knows, maybe my dad will text me back a simple, “thank you,” for wishing him a happy birthday. And if not, that’s okay. I will survive.

Be blessed, friends.

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Trading My Sorrows (once & for all)…

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This Christmas vacation has been the best one I’ve had in years. For the past couple of years and for numerous reasons, I just was not in the Christmas spirit. It seemed that no matter how many pep talks I gave myself, or how many to-do lists I drafted, I just couldn’t bring myself to go gung-ho, ho, ho into the Christmas season. Much to the dismay of my family, we were lucky if I got the tree up the week before Christmas. Decorating the house was a chore and in all honesty, probably would not have gotten done had it not been for my children. I know, not fair right? Still, though I knew this, I just wasn’t in the mood, so to speak.

I would be lying if I said that my kids went without materialistically where Christmas was concerned. “Santa” was always abundantly generous with all four of them. That was never the issue. The problem was that with each passing Christmas, I became emotionally unattached and vacant. I seemed to always get sucked into a pit party for myself when it came to thinking about family during the holidays and I let the absence of my own parents handicap what I had always hoped to create for my own. Let me be clear, my parents are not dead, they simply have chosen not to be a part of my life and by osmosis, the lives of my children. This is certainly a subject we will touch on in later blog entries, but for now that’s all I will mention.

Though I have always loved the Lord, I have always had a problem with allowing Him to love me unconditionally. If my own father was unable to to this, why would my Heavenly Father want to? So ruled by this mentality, I allowed the darkness to overtake me and it seemed to intensify during the holidays. Though I always had grand plans to celebrate Christmas, clean and organize my house and even start a blog over the Christmas vacation, it seemed that none of this ever came to fruition. My days consisted of laying in bed, watching reality television and dare I say, having many afternoon Chardonnay cocktails. So, rather than seeking Jesus, I chose to drown my sorrows in the liquid depressant of alcohol. There, I said it, the cat is out of the bag. I’m not proud of it, but I’m owning it.

So, why is this Christmas different? How is this Christmas different? First and foremost, the winery is shut down. Instead of chatting with a glass of wine, I’m having constant dialogue with my Heavenly Father and I feel fantastic. I am allowing myself to experience my feelings, but I am not letting them dictate how I live. By a twist of fate, or what I like to call actual faith, I was introduced to doTerra essential oils and it has changed my life. The body has an amazing ability to “heal thyself” when given the opportunity. It is simply inspiring!

I purchased our tree in November through a school fundraiser and it was decorated the first weekend of December. Our house looks like a winter wonderland and the Christmas spirit has thrived this season. The kids and I even baked treats and delivered them to our new neighbors and community members! Yes, I made things from scratch and actually enjoyed it! Woot woot!

This morning, after stockings, of course, the kids prepared our traditional Christmas morning breakfast and actually served it to me in bed.  I was so surprised and incredibly thankful!  Tonight’s dinner will be spent in our new dining room and the twice baked potatoes being served were created by my own hands…solo. Can you believe it? In about an hour, we will open presents and I am fighting back the tears because I am so thankful to have rediscovered the joy of Christmas. God is good, all the time.

I would be lying if i said that I wasn’t super excited about finally starting a blog. I love to write and have put my creative juices on the shelf for far too long. And, even though I teach writing everyday, I buried my love of putting pen on paper, or fingers on a keyboard for many years. So today, right now, I have metaphorically blown the dust off of the typewriter and have been reborn. I am excited.

I saw a meme of Facebook last night that I believe will be the theme or motivation for this blog. It read, “One day soon these trials will be in the past & you will be telling an incredible story.” And there it is. Each of us has many incredible stories that can either stay a mess, or become our message. Tests can either drown us, or they can become our testimonies. So today, I am making the choice to open my heart and send out messages and testimonies that will hopefully help others. Isn’t that what life is all about?

Merry Christmas.

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