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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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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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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