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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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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