Tuesday, May 25, 2021

He is

 I am caught up in a current.  I'm realizing a few things about my life.  I'm a mess.  For a minute before I wrote that statement, I was slightly overwhelmed.  I have Lauren Daigle on.  It seems like she is singing right to me, personally.  It's almost like she is the voice of God reassuring me.  Can God play Marco Polo?  

I bit off a lot this year.  I know I did.  I was led to believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I tried not to make decisions based on fear.  Kicking and screaming with tears pouring down my face, I am learning to trust in God.   I am learning to trust in God with anger and curse words (I can have quite the potty mouth).  I am learning to trust God through the times when I don't think I can navigate the rocky terrain.  I am trusting God through the old dusty floors of my house that haven't seen a mop in at least a week.  I'm an angry messy Christian.  Surely, God wouldn't want one of me, right?  

I can't do anything right.  Not on my own, I can't.  Instead of Murphy's Law, I like to call it Miller's Law.  I am a needy individual.  I need... everything.  I'm definitely not enough.  I turn to God.  "God, I don't think I am enough!!!"  God tells me, "You don't need to be.  I am."  Isn't that His name?  "I am."  He tells me.  "God, I am not strong.  I am not wealthy. I am not good.  I am not so many things."  "I am."   Alleluia is literally Praise Yahweh or Praise I AM.  It's His name.  When we are not, He is. 

So, for this reason, I have to pray.  For this reason, I am thankful today.  For this reason and for this season, I am looking up to God to be Who He is.  I am reading and believing in his Word.  I am in a transition.  I am making a jump.  I suspect that there is an enemy who wants nothing more than for me to fail, for me to fall.  I want to start crying and make myself into a ball and cry.  "I can't!" He says, "I can."  So I stand.  I look at all the things I am afraid of: failure, abandonment, criticism, success, judgment, and more than I can write.  Romans 14:8 says, "If we live, we live for the LORD; and if we die, we die for the LORD.  So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord."  With this in mind, I will jump.  Praise the Lord!!! 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Widow Laughs

I just read an article on Burn Out in the New Yorker.  I am not as burned out as I thought I was.  In fact, I am hopeful.  I am discovering that I am just tired.  It's true that it is bordering on exhaustion but I think what would be best for me is getting a little bit of rest.  

I am marinating on the past four years.  I would say that the season began at the beginning of 2017.  This is when Santi's lymphedema started becoming more swollen.  He started moving less.  I became afraid.  I try to be one that confronts my fears.  This was one that I barely looked in the eye.  Looking back I suppose there were signs.  His death came as a surprise in 2018.

This year was a year of grief and pain.  Yesterday was Santi's birthday.  I was sad and maudlin yesterday, drunk off of tiredness and food.  The scars still ache when it rains.  In 2018, I was just trying to get by each day.  It was a year of survival.  It was God and my people who got me though.  Thank you.

In the summer, I tried dating and I documented here as my therapy. I was trying to sweep away what was.  It was rough.  I am thankful of that time and the things I learned from the people that I met.  It was still not an easy year.  I questioned myself and found myself in other instances.

2020 is the year that is marked by a pandemic.  It was the year that I met and fell in love with Geoff.  It was still not so easy but it was easier because of him.  It is all God's timing.  So many things on my list and now they are being addressed.  I still believe it is His timing and His sovereignty. I stand where I am because of Him.  Alleluia.

I am planning a small wedding.  I apologize if you didn't get an invitation.  I know there are some that I should invite but it would be for me not for the benefit of us.  More people stress us out and I don't have it in me to be too stressed out.  I'm sorry.  I'm planning a small wedding in less than a month and there needs to be a lot done.  If you plan on coming, don't expect a lot.  I don't really know what I am doing and I am having a hard time not being exhausted enough to fix things.  It won't be perfect but I'm marrying my love.  Does it matter?   

I'm leaving my job of 10 years. I don't know what I will be doing.  I'm looking at options that may or may not work out for me.  I'm excited.  I had an interview yesterday and the sweet man vetting me asked, "Are you willing to work more than 40 hours and on weekends?"  LOL!!! No, I'm not.  There is a shortage of what I do.  I am in demand.  I don't know if I want to teach.  I may...  I want to take a minute to see what else is out here that I can do.  In the meantime, I'm trusting in God to lead me.  The trust part is the hard part but I'll tell you something... If He could be with me and get me through the last four years, He could do anything.  As if there was any doubt.  (She laughs out loud.  The widow laughs.)

Pray and trust in God.  Praise the Lord!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Dress-Wearing Mama

 After you go through a significant transition, you begin to question who you are.  Your identity changes because you are no longer who you were before, you have changed.  I tend to think about Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  My friend, Gandalf went through something and came out as Gandalf the White instead of Gandalf the Grey.  Gandalf the Grey was as his name suggested, not exactly motivated or pure.  Gandalf the White had more purpose, I would say.  Either way, Gandalf changed and it was evident in his appearance.  His hair changed and his clothes changed.  Why?  Because he had changed.

I have been writing now for a while.  I felt the need to write right away after the death of my late husband.  One of the things that I was contemplating was my new identity as a widow and a single mother.  I find that now my identity continues to change as I prepare to get married again.  It's weird to say my second wedding or my second marriage.  This is why I continue to write and use this platform as therapy.  I also use it to remind me of God and the greater purpose of my life.  

So, today I was walking and I have decided something.  I like dresses.  I am a dress wearing person.  When I look at clothes, I tend to look at dresses.  This is significant.  Dresses don't always befit a person.  So, I am affirming to myself that I am a person that wears dresses.  I am making a decision about myself.  You see, this means that I have tried other means of clothing.  This means that I can evaluate my closet on some of the other clothes that I have not decided on.  This means that I can determine which types of dresses I prefer and the clothing that I love.  Believe it or not, the last couple of years, I had not been able to do this.  Some of you are thinking, "Duh, Elle!!!"  But some of you, who have had busy lives and who have not had the time or the know how to think about it, need to determine your identity. 

It goes to say that my identity is in Christ.  This is another thing all together.  But because I have decided that I will allow my identity to be dictated by God, that I have time to think about the other little tangible stuff that makes me up.  For a while, I would say that my clothing style was "Clearance" because that was what I could afford.  Now I'm happy to say that it is "Clearance Dresses." You see how I am becoming more specific?  

Know who you are is important.  Asking yourself questions can be equally telling.  Every now and again you reach a question that you have never thought about before and it rocks the paradigms of your world.  Who are you?  And what are the things that represent who you are?  Well, now I have Jesus, hot messes and dresses.  Do they rhyme???  Let me find out.  So I'm a Jesus loving, wearing dresses, hot messes, mama.  Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Toxicity and Raising Standards

On social media, I have seen posts on staying away from toxic people.  The other day, a woman was advising other women to have high standards for themselves in terms of men that they are looking to date.  I don't think I agree with any of it.  I want to look at it almost as if it were a Covid situation...  If you have a vulnerable immune system, take care of yourself.  Focus on what you need to focus on.  Use precautions and stay away from people.  Wear a mask.  Clean up your home from potential germs that can contaminate you.  Healthy vaccinated people can have more mobility.  What if you have a vulnerable spiritual life?  What if you need to take care of your emotional state?  Maybe you are an immature Christian or not strong in the faith?  Let's take a deeper look.

I believe that God has made up to worship Him.  We, as humans, have the opportunity to pursue a special relationship with God.  We are made to worship, and we will worship something.  I have seen people worship their children.  I have seen people worship wine.  I have seen people worship themselves.  I have seen people worship their spouses.  They are expecting the thing that they worship to fulfill them.  God says: 

"Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love."  Jonah 2: 8

And don't read Isaiah 44:9-20!!!

"All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together. The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. ..."

People upset me.  I think I can be honest here.  They cut me off on the highway.  They seek for themselves first.  They yell their pain from their bruised and fragile egos.  They feel so much.  I feel a lot too.  I know enough not to go to anybody else but God with my wheelbarrow of concerns, every second of every day.  I'm one of those needy Christians.  

I mean... even today I was mad coming in.  I don't know what to do with my anger!!!  I want to yell and snap at people.  I took a moment and prayed to God.  Somehow, like the way that God does,  I was able to calm down a little.  Why was I mad?  I'm not so much mad but crabby.  I ate poorly yesterday.  I didn't feed my body with good things that it needs.  So... I'm probably dehydrated from the Doritos I ate (Doritos are the devil).  And then I was exposed to someone's negative thinking.  People develop their own defense mechanisms.  I bring it all to God and allow the Holy Spirit to infiltrate in the dark recesses of my mind and the dark spiritual places I am exposed to.  Praise God!

I may have a vulnerable immune system but I think I can practice Romans 12 on people.  That's the prescription, Friends.  I'm working on it.  It's not easy.  Do not repay evil with evil but repay evil with good.  I know!!!  "Man, Elle!!  That's a lot to take on.  How are you going to do it?"  I'm not planning on doing anything.  I'm planning on letting God work through me.  I'm working on taking myself out of this equation so that only God shows.  That will be the hard part.

"So... what about raising your standards for men?  What would you tell your daughter?"  I think I want to tell Janet the same thing that Jesus tells us, "Seek first the kingdom of God."  I will tell her what my favorite Psalm (Psalm 37 if you were wondering) speaks right to me: Trust in God and everything else will follow.  If she does this, then God will lead her to the life that is meant for her.  I would tell my son the same thing.  And when things go south, when both of my children are faced with the valley of the shadow of death, then they will fear no evil for God goes with them (Psalm 23).  Because the relationship that needs to be strong is not with any humans.  Humans will be human.  The relationship that will save them is their relationship with God.  Yes, my daughter should marry a God-fearing man who is filled with the spirit of God, if God leads her to this. I pray the same thing for my son. May God lead my children to be strong Christians who are spiritually strong.  I know people who have married Christian men and women and it didn't work out the way that they wanted. I want my kids to understand that their happiness is not found in another person, their happiness is found in God.  Why?  Because when I was faced with the valley of shadow of death, it was God who was with me and shone His light on me to lead me out of that valley.  If He could do this for me, He will do it for them.  He will do it for you.  

I will lower my standards for friends in my life. I will speak to them about the goodness of God to those who do not believe. I will pray for them.  When I need to rest, I will rest but trust in God.  God is bigger than our anything we have going on. Trust in God, Friends.  Praise the Lord!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

I Am Not Enough

It has been a hard day.  It is turning out to be a hard week.  I am leaving a job that I have worked at for 10 years.  I am emotional about my leaving.  I don't have anything else planned.  I just know that I have got to leave.  

There is more.  I started a degree and after several years, I may not get to finish it.  I pray that I do but I may not.  I will be a failure.  I want to finish it more than anything but I need more time and I need to not be tired.  Why am I tired?  I'm tired because of my job and my life.  I need to be awake to finish this degree.  I don't know what this block is that stresses me and I am not able to finish.  

It is now that I am getting married and planning a remodel.  I have tried to collaborate all week with my fiancĂ© on filling out paperwork.  I am not really prone to panic but Friends, I'm panicking.  My prayer has been Psalm 16 and now Psalm 46.  I find my immediate answer within the first five verses of Psalm 46: 

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day.  

I realize that the Psalm is talking about the river but it feels like a message to me too.  I have been tired and afraid.  My fear is that I am not enough.  Man, that was hard to write.  I am not enough to keep and raise my children.  I am not enough to finish my degree.  I am not enough to be of any use to anyone.  I am afraid of all of this.  I am not enough and I will fail.  I will fall.  

Could I be a river?  Could I be a river like the river whose streams make glad the city of God?  What would make God happy?  I wonder with a wedding pending and a remodel; I wonder with the end of a job and the looming ending of a degree if I can just find time to pray and love God.  What if I would just let God be within me, will I not fall then?  Will God help me at the break of day?  I hope He does.  Maybe that should be my prayer, "God, be within me."

I am not enough.  I will never be enough but I am not alone.  God is with me and He is enough when I am not.  God makes me whole.  Do you need to be made whole, Friends?  Maybe all you need is God within you too.  That's all.  Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Presence of Orange

On the weekend, Geoff bought a poppy flower, just one.  He left it on my kitchen counter to blossom.  I didn't realize that the petals are crinkled and almost look like paper.   I have watched it as it opens and bloom.  It has a fuzzy stem.  He asked me which color was the one that he should get.  He has a poppy on his arm.  I told him to get the red/orange one.  

The poppy on his arm is Geoff's story to tell, not mine.  But I associate the poppy with him now as his flower.  As I have watched this flower unfold, it has become a beautiful and vibrant shade of orange with yellow at its core.  I look at it and I am amazed at its simple beauty as it sits in a plastic turquoise cup.  There is something telling about it all but I can't put my finger on it.  

Orange is the color I have chosen as a wedding color.  I don't know when it started, this sudden love of orange.  Maybe it was when covid started and Janet and me would go to the park to watch the sunset every evening.  I would sit and watch the light show as the sun lowered down into the horizon to watch the beautiful colors meld.  I was in love with the sunset then.  I was hopeful and sad sometimes but then I would look at that sunset as the pandemic raged and would be comforted.  

Maybe it was earlier than that.  My first wedding to my late husband, our colors were purple and sage.  It was like a plum color mixed with a light green.  I think of grapes when I think of our wedding colors then.  There was so much planning!  I was overwhelmed and I had more than 2 years to plan a wedding.  A month before our nuptials, 9/11 happened.  Whatever I had planned seemed so small then. Regardless, in my white dress I had chosen beautiful roses.  Their base was yellow and the tips were red.  In the middle portion of the petals was the orange.  It was there even then.

Makes me think back in time to when I noticed the color.  It's funny.  I remember as a child that my favorite colors were orange and blue, like the Mets color (Geoff is a Mets fan but this girl is a Yankee).  I liked to color great portions of coloring pages with orange.  I liked mixing together the red and the yellow.  My favorite skirt was an orange.  My favorite American fruit is orange in color... the peach.  Hmmm....  

When Geoff asked me to marry him and I thought about a ceremony, back then I knew that I would have something peachy and maybe gold.  I knew I would have some aspect of orange.  Orange seemed to be there from the very beginning.  I love orange with teal or mint.  I love orange with turquoise.  Geoff took me on a date and bought me a beautiful bright Gerber daisy that was a dark orange, he had picked out a lavender flower to go with it.  It think it was then that I started thinking of orange as our color.

I am overwhelmed as the wedding date comes closer.  It's not that the wedding is coming closer.  I have other things on the many plates I have spinning that need some attention. The end of the school year approaches.  I am busy with being busy and I have a lot to check off on my checkboxes.  This morning I was overwhelmed for a moment.  Truth be told, I still feel a little overwhelmed.  Several Bible verses come to mind.  However, instead of all of that.  I raise my head toward my God.  I hear in my head the refrains of a song that has become my prayer, "Hold On To Me." 

There is an old Knock Knock joke that goes: Knock, Knock.  Who's there? Banana.  Banana Who?  Knock, Knock.  Who's there? Banana.  Banana Who?  Knock, Knock.  Whos' there?  Banana.  Banana Who?  Knock, Knock. Who's there?  Orange.  Orange Who?  Orange you glad that I didn't say Banana?  There is Orange again.  I see that there have been a bunch of bananas in my life and here is Orange disrupting it all with its warmth and vibrancy.  Maybe I should be hopeful.  And orange I'm glad?  Yes, I am.  Praise the Lord!