Is it really black or white?!

I am literally sitting at the beach right now and I don’t want to leave! The air is cool and the ocean sounds and smells are surrounding me like a warm hug as I sit on the sand.

I have been thinking about my life and my relationships this morning. I have been talking to this guy and we are making plans to meet soon (socially distanced, of course). There is my former crush that I am definitely not over even though I am forcing myself to move on. And then my biggest relationship, with Jesus. I have been ignoring Him, too; it is almost like I don’t want to disappoint Him because I am looking for something.

But is Jesus ever really disappointed in me? All my Christian friends would tell me that God loves all his children and nothing can turn Him away. I am not 100% sure I buy all that, though. And it is almost like I am a willful child who is doing stuff that I KNOW will push the limits of His love for me. I mean, as I mentioned before I am not interested in remarriage. It has ended badly for me twice, first time shame on you and second time shame on me, right?! I am absolutely looking for a man to share my blessings with, though.

Having God in my life keeps me in check so I don’t put the cart before the horse physically so I guess I am not completely off the deep end with my search. Every text or phone conversation feels like I am sinning, though. My black or white mentality is big and strong right now!!

I suppose the bottom line is this…having conversations with someone I want to maybe spend more time with is not wrong and if I get to the point that I want it to go farther I will have to work through that THEN. All this talk about finding what makes me truly happy means nothing at all without Jesus in my ❤

Hiding my Fear behind a Mask

Do you “believe” in masks? I am not sure actually. What I DO believe in is not dying LOL!

I am the Shelter Manager at an animal shelter and we have been closed since the middle of March. Next week, however, we will open back up. For appointments only, but we will actually be there for the people that inevitably pop in. I have installed a hand sanitizer right inside the door and I will have a basket of masks for those people who “forget” to wear one. I am NOT convinced they work but I would rather be safe than sorry! Today I have someone coming in to relinquish cat. Although I want to be a helpful member of my community, I have a sick feeling about meeting her. Not her necessarily, just strangers in general actually! It turns out that wishing for things to start moving forward was a nice little dream but I am pretty terrified of that happening. I know that if I am supposed to catch the COVID-19 virus, God has already written that. I know that He has plans and I am on a need to know basis with them. Does the fact that I am afraid anyway mean I don’t have faith?

I guess not doing something because I am afraid and I don’t trust that it will work out; and doing it EVEN THOUGH I am afraid because I know God has got me is the definition of faith for me. I am pretty sure if God didn’t want us to feel fear he wouldn’t have put that emotion in our makeup. Except when the Disciples were afraid during the storm on the sea , Jesus kind of chastised them for being afraid.  “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith at all yet?” – Mark 4:35-40. So which is it? Can someone explain this to me?!

An attitude for gratitude, Day 2

Today’s response is to write out 5 things I am grateful for.  That is easy enough, I am grateful for many things in my life so coming up with 5 will be a piece of cake.  But wait, they should be a sacrifice.  What?!  According to YouVersion, a sacrifice means it hurts a little (or a lot).  So…I need to thank God for things that hurt a little (or a lot!)?  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6 (NIV)   Okay okay.  Here it goes–

The most glaring thing to thank Him for is Al dying.  I have to be honest with you here.  I know that Al’s death was something that I had to go through for me to become the version of myself that God has planned for me.  I believe that maybe God had his reasons for “taking” Al, perhaps to fulfill Al’s destiny as well.  But THANKING him for me losing my husband seems like a stretch!  I am, however, giving myself completely to God and to this process.  So I will do it.

The second thing is also connected to Al dying, and that is to thank God for the ability to care for him as he died.  I have actually thanked him for this one before.  Although watching the person you love most in this world fade away before your eyes is not even remotely “thanks inducing”, I do believe that I learned some valuable skills from the 14 month process.  I learned to not accept the status quo from the health care providers.  I learned that no one will tell you anything without being asked first and I learned that Dr.s and Nurses don’t know it all.  Most importantly, I learned that I have a loud and powerful presence and was no longer afraid to use my voice to make sure things went the way Albert wanted them to go, especially when he was too weak to speak for himself.  Recognizing that this was a gift from God that I was given to help me in my situation made it very “thanks inducing” after all.  And I have thanked Him.  But I will again because it was not an easy gift to receive from my Father.

The third thing I will thank my Lord for would be the death of my brother, Kevin.  This is another one that I am able to see the gift from God in because the senseless death (he committed suicide) opened my eyes to the fact that I had a senseless existence in a lot of ways.  You never really know why a person takes their own life, you can only speculate.  I surmised that Kevin was unhappy with how his life was going and chose to just end it instead of working to make it better.  I know the decision was NOT that easy for him and their were undoubtedly other variables, but this simplistic theory made me take an account of my own existence.  I changed a lot about myself and my plan for the future.  I went back to school online to get a Bachelors degree in Library Science and moved to a new job in the daycare field that I was in.  After graduating, I got a short gig working Saturdays at a library and to quote “In Living Color”…Hated It In Living Color GIF from Hatedit GIFs

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!  Still, I thank God for giving me the skills, time and energy to complete my degree.  And I never would have even gone there if my brother hadn’t died and forced me to question my own life.

The fourth sacrificial thank you I am offering to my Dad is the birth of my children.  Having children is one of the biggest gifts I have ever received, but also one of the biggest challenges of my life.  My first child was breach and born via C-section, pretty scary for a 21 year old girl who is basically a child herself.  Worrying about how they will all be every minute of the day is quite a challenge.  Throw in a few grand kids and I am surprised I even have time to think about anything else!  However, the birth of my three children coincided with three life altering events.  My brother Greg died in a car crash a few days before I found out I was pregnant with my oldest, my Grandfather died a few days before I found myself pregnant with my second, and truthfully I found myself pregnant with my third right around the time I was really having doubts about whether I would stay in my marriage.  We did ultimately divorce, but not for three years after.  That pregnancy was what convinced me to stay and even though I don’t know what it is, I am sure there was a reason God needed me to be where I was for a little bit longer.  So thank you, God!

For a fifth thanks, I am struggling.  Who would have thought I could struggle to decide on painful things to thank God for?!  I could thank him for my childhood, it was pretty rocky at times but also pretty great.  But maybe too broad a topic?  Thank God for the trials and tribulations of starting my pet sitting business?  I definitely cried out that I couldn’t do it anymore and put it in God’s hands before I saw any kind of spark that the business just might fire up and become the bonfire it was.   I am kind of in that position again while I get my cat behavior/cat sitting business off the ground but I am not afraid this time because I know that God has got me in his hands.  My earthly step-father dying was pretty awful.  I still haven’t been able to find the “reason” for that death, so I think that is what I will pick.  I feel like thanking God for something that I have been able to see the path it has pushed me on is cheating in a way.  Faith is something that I feel in my heart and soul, even when I can’t or haven’t seen the end result.  But thanking him for making things sometimes hard and uncomfortable to shape me into the person I am today and the person I will become doesn’t seem hard at all!

 

 

21 Days to a grateful heart…

I have started (and recently restarted because I wasn’t giving it the kind of attention that I wanted!) a plan to help me see the gratitude in my life instead of just seeing the big holes of ugliness that seem to keep popping up. I have been reading different bible plans over the years to coincidence with my life and this one is no different.  To be sure that I follow it and put the energy and focus in that I think I need, I am going to write down the reflect section here. Starting today!

So today’s reflect–Gratutude is a condition of the heart. Let’s kick these 21 days off with a heart-check. What was the last thing you thanked God for? What’s in your heart that is blocking you from cultivating gratitude? Are you more focused on what you didn’t get rather than what has been given? (courtesy of YouVersion “21 Days to a Grateful heart”. http://www.elevatehim.com )

I thank God every day for another day so I would say that was the last thing. The thing in my heart that is blocking me from cultivating gratitude is my doubt. It isn’t that I don’t believe in God’s almighty power, but I don’t believe He will use it for me. Does that mean that I don’t feel like I am worthy of having a life that my Father would have planned for me? Or am I just so convinced that everyone eventually lets me down so why not
have a “plan B” in case God does, too? I am not more focused on what I didn’t get than what has been given to me because I know in my heart of hearts that everything I have been given (or denied!) is part of His master plan for my life. But there again, are those just words I am telling myself or do I truly believe that God has a plan for me? Doubt. It is a wormhole the Devil has used often to work his way through my brain! But not anymore. Starting right now, I say “Not today Satan!”

How about you?  Read the reflect section above and answer the question for yourself.  Was it an eye-opening experience for you like it was for me?  Let me know in the comments 🙂    Until tomorrow, Peace and Love!

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First Mother’s Day—check!

I just read another post from a widow that was so much more engaging than mine and I was upset (jealous?). Then I heard a voice (God probably!) reminding me that I am speaking my heart for myself, not anyone else. He also reminded me that I don’t always speak my whole truth, because I am afraid of offending or hurting someone’s feelings. I heard you loud and clear! I am trying not to forget that I started this so I could speak without fear of what other people think. And I am following my instruction book, the Bible. All that being said, here is today’s musing 🙂

When Jesus went to the cave that Lazarus was buried in, he wept. Not because he didn’t have faith in God’s will, but because he was troubled about the sorrow and tears of his friends around him. He had to have known he was going to raise Lazarus, but instead of smiling and saying to Martha and Mary, “It’s all good. Watch what I can do!”, he wept along with them. I guess the moral of this story, for me, is that even Jesus grieved a dead friend. He knew in his heart that it would be okay (like I know in my heart that Al is alive with God and is better than he has ever been) but he still had the human emotion of loss and grief. I am not sure if this makes sense with the story I am telling, but they are completely tied together in my mind!

Yesterday was my last bereavement group meeting. We shared memories and photos about our lost loved ones, and also we talked about the last holiday (Mother’s Day) and how that went for everyone. It was interesting because we all have lost someone we loved, but Mother’s Day was a different holiday, depending on who we lost. One of the women in the group lost their Mom so the holiday was really hard. Others had lost children, and that was hard for them as well. One thing I have learned is that time is never an option for how easy a holiday is. You just learn to work around the sadness and loss. Mother’s day was not hard for me, at least not harder than any other day that I had to be around people. Just getting out of the house is a big accomplishment!

The hardest thing for me is always the fact that Al cannot speak. People that I know he did not get along with are trying to act like they were best friends and it makes me so angry! Because I know that I am alive and have to live with the people around me, I don’t try to alienate anyone 🙂 Instead, I just avoid situations (or people!) where that is going to happen.

This was true on Mother’s Day. My Mom and Al never got along. She doesn’t try to act like they were besties but she does try to say things to comfort me when I am upset and I feel like she is lying. I just remember that she gave me grief about us moving to the shore (and farther away from her) when we told her that Al wanted to be by the water. And that when I told her his cancer was stage 4, she told me that her friend was a nurse and she said stage 4 is not terminal. I am not sure where she was going with that and I didn’t ask because I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere good! I know she is trying to help and I know she doesn’t mean to make me angry, so I don’t do anything that will get that movie started. On Mother’s Day, we went to my cousin’s house for lunch. She has a new grand baby that I got to meet for the first time. The thing is, I didn’t hold him. I was worried that holding him and smelling his sweet baby smell would make me cry (not unlikely since everything makes me cry these days!) and I did not want to give my Mom a reason to comfort me. As soon as I start crying, I can’t always stop. And, of course, when I am crying in front of people I feel the need to explain why (which makes it worse and makes it hard to me to calm myself.) I recognized that I was playing it safe and not enjoying myself, so I eliminated the trigger. I brought my Mom home and went back to hold the baby. My cousins and I talked about Al a little and hung out. I even cried a little without anyone asking me if I was okay or what they could do. My cousin just got me a tissue and kept talking about Al. I think that was the first time anyone just talked about Al without it being a sad or awkward story and that was so nice!!!

Hopefully I will be able to have more interactions like that and I need to learn how to spend time with my Mother and not feel like she is lying to me. I love my Mom, even though I don’t always understand her. And I know she has my best interest at heart.

Matthew 25:15 to 30–Parable of the Talents

Today in Crew we talked about the parable of the three Servants who are entrusted with caring for the Master’s money. God is the Master and the servants are basically us, in case you don’t know the story! The first two make good choices and double their Master’s money. The third Servant is afraid of the Master and buries the money he is entrusted with. When the Master returns, he tells the first two what a great job they did and that he will be giving them more responsibilities because they can obviously handle it. The third one, however, he pretty much tells him that he sucks and throws him out.

The thing that was pointed out in my crew was that the third Servant did not have faith in the gift that God had given him. He didn’t really know God, he said he was basically mean and he stole stuff that he didn’t work for. By burying the money, he let fear override the ability the Master thought he had to handle the money.

I would like to bring this story to modern day time and my life. I know what you are thinking…It’s not always about you, Amanda…except, I am the author of this blog so it kind of is! Seriously, though. Follow me here, this hit a cord.

I just graduated from my Diploma in Cat Behavior and Psychology. The goal had been to use the degree to advance my career as a Cat Sitter and maybe move into cat behavior jobs. I posted on Facebook when I graduated with a picture of my degree. I feel really good about myself. I know that God is the push that led me to pursue this in the first place. In some ways, I think Al getting sick and not being able to be left home alone was God’s way to put me on the path I needed to be on to even think about this. Maybe it is a stretch, but being a cat behaviorist seems to be a gift God has given to me.

But instead of using it to double my income, I had every intention of adding it to my list of things I have gone to school for but will never really use. Except, God was not okay with that. Instead of letting me bury the money, He sent a few people to remind me that I am worthy in the way of needing a cat behaviorist to help them with their cat problems. And I have grown enough in my Faith to believe that I do possess the gifts from God needed to help people with their problems. The bottom line is, I am like the middle Servant. I have a bit more skill that the least entrusted and less than the most entrusted. Eventually I will be in the Most Entrusted category because I will not just bury the money and sit in the dark waiting for judgement about it. The reason the first servant got the biggest amount of money was because he had the biggest ability to watch over the Master’s prized possessions. Everything I do in God’s name gives me more abilities to care for his possessions.

I am still learning because I refuse to just sit stagnant. God will present more to me as I accomplish what he gives. I think that is the beauty of being a Christ-follower. You never really know what gifts you will be given but you can’t just sit around with your Master’s money buried under the tree to keep it from being stolen. You have to just know that God has got you in his sights and step out in faith. His answers may not be the one you are expecting but they will always be the right ones!

If God had a face,what would it look like?

The sermon today was thought-provoking.  I mean, they all are usually…but sometimes a thought just pops into my head and I can’t shake it.  Usually I just think it is the devil trying to distract me and I get myself back in focus.  Except, sometimes the thought just builds in my mind until it takes over and refuses to be let go!

So here is today’s takeaway thought.  When God returns, who will He be?  I have been  looking for another Jesus to come but my God is not really cliche enough to send another son.  And Jesus was his only begotten son, so wouldn’t that cheapen the whole John 3:16 thing if he changed it to be his first (instead of only) begotten son to include the “new son”?!

Do you think it will be another son…maybe a son of Jesus Christ?  God is a wonderful and loving God, so maybe it will be a daughter!  And what would her name be?  There were a lot of Marys in the Bible.  There was Rachel, Rebecca, Ruth, Martha…  There were so many other powerful women in the Bible but something tells me God would pick a new name.  Amanda maybe?!  Just kidding (not really–it is an amazing and empowering name, if you ask me!)

And, since it is the option I like the best, if he does send his only begotten daughter–will she be a baby?  Will he impregnate another virgin to carry her?  In this world, finding an unmarried and holy virgin will not be as easy as it was when Jesus was conceived.  Now I think having a woman claim to be carrying the next Savior would be a quick ticket to the loony bin.  Mary risked being stoned to death if her fiance Joseph had turned her in and that (usually) doesn’t happen now.  But…finding a Holy and pure woman who is in line to marry a Holy and pure man so she can carry the next reincarnation of God is not impossible; but definitely not the norm.

What if the new Savior is not a baby?  What if she is a teenager or a single mother who has always had special “gifts” she couldn’t explain (like thinking she only had two fish and feeding a party of many with them)?  How would she find out that she is the Savior?

And while we are on the subject of finding out, do you think Jesus knew all along that he was the son of God made flesh?  Did Mary tell him before she kissed him to sleep at night that he was a special little boy who would one day save the sinners in the world?  I know Jesus was perfect as an adult, but do you think there was ever a time he used Joseph’s tools without permission and when Joseph confronted him he (Jesus) replied with, “You are not my father!!” like kids like to do to their step-parents?

A lot of extra questions and not a lot of answers but that is okay.  I miss being able to get Albert’s opinion on these questions that just pop into my head and rattle around until I confront them.  He seemed to have the answers, where as I come up with a few hundred more questions when I think about it.  I am like that song by Lamb Chop (the puppet on tv when I was a kid) “This is the song that doesn’t end-yes it goes on and on, my friend-some people started singing it not knowing what it was-and they’ll continue singing it forever just because…this is the song that doesn’t end, etc.”

I am going to keep developing the thought that the new Messiah will be the daughter of God.  Any thoughts on this or how it couldn’t possibly be?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Peace!

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Invisible Force Field?!

I have had issues going to church since Al died.  I went on Easter, and it was really nice.  But then today I did another “drive there and then leave without going in”.  What gives?  Maybe there is an invisible force field that keeps me from entering the building?  I am probably saying the same thing as I said in my other post (Some keep the Sabbath going to Church…) but every time it happens I am caught off guard!

I am not mad at God.  I don’t think that has anything to do with it because I am also avoiding the gym.  I am not sure if I am avoiding being around a bunch of people or just avoiding the bunch of people I was routinely around while Al was fighting his cancer??  I go to a bereavement group every week and a bible study every other week without any problem at all.  Those groups are all very small though; and they are also “new” groups that I began in my new chapter of my life.

This happened to me when my brother died ten years ago.  It took me about two years (and some help from a therapist) before I started going to church consistently.  I don’t know what made it okay in my mind– but I didn’t return to the church I went to when he was alive.  It was a lot like the situation I am in right now, I had joined the church just a few months before he passed.  I guess building the relationships I had started as the girl whose brother committed suicide was just not who I wanted to be.  So I joined a new church.  They were supportive and wonderful, but too rigid for me.  I tried a few more Episcopal churches before landing at a church in Middletown that was non-denominational.  Everyone there welcomed me and since my other brother was a member, they knew that chapter in my story.  But it didn’t define me, it just added to the book of Me.

I stayed at this church for a long time, although I never became a member or got baptized or anything (still a little gun-shy I guess).  When Al got sick and asked if we could move to the shore, it just made sense to find a church that was closer to our new home.  When he passed away, I could always move back and go back to my Middletown church family.  Except that I found a home down at the shore.

For the first time, I feel like I am at home in my community.  I love my neighbors, I love the area I live in, and I love my church.  As I stated before, I don’t have any desire to start new as someone else.  So why can’t I go into the church?

I am going to keep pondering this but I will continue to make my weekly tithe online and download/listen to the sermon as it is released.  And I will keep driving to the church and sitting in my car outside for as long as it takes for me to get the gumption to go in!

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Some keep the Sabbath going to Church…

I keep it at home.  (Emily Dickinson)  I wonder if she is right?

It seems that I cannot go to church.  It has been a month, 4 Sundays, since I darkened the doorway of my church.  I GO to church, but usually just sit in the parking lot trying to convince myself to go inside.  I love the worship, I listen to the Sermon as soon as it is released.  I miss the music.  It is just…too welcoming.  Having people ask me how I am is too much for me to even try to deal with.  And if NO ONE talked to me, I would be hurt about that, too.  Make up your mind, right?!

I have been here before.  Something traumatic happens to me and all the relationships I have begun to form reach out to check in on me.  It makes me uncomfortable and I usually just change my church and move on.

Except I don’t want to do that this time.  I love this church.  I love Pastor Darren and all the people I know.  I love the crew meetings (bible studies) I have been a part of.  Even more, I love that I don’t feel stupid or left out when I don’t know what is happening in the passage we are talking about and no one pressures me to read.  I feel like I am a part of something instead of someone who needs help from everyone there. And if it takes another month before I am able to actually go inside, I am sure that no one will ask me where I have been or make me feel like I am wrong for not coming.  They will just welcome and support me for being there.

Every day I tell myself that tomorrow I will be stronger.  Tomorrow I will take a walk because the exercise will help me.  Tomorrow I will eat better because I am not happy in my overweight body that I built while Al was sick.  Tomorrow is another day, maybe I will wake up with the energy needed to tackle the day.  Or maybe I will go do my morning jobs and then go back to bed for the rest of the morning.  Either one is okay, it is what I need to do for myself tomorrow.  The most important thing is not feeling bad about surviving how ever I need to survive!

…Lord, I believe; Help my Unbelief!–Mark 9:24

Every day now, after saying thank you to the Lord for all he has given to me and asking for protection and safety in the way He needs it to be, I ask the Lord to help me have blind faith.  I feel kind of stupid asking for something that I should JUST HAVE.  I mean, isn’t that the very definition of blind faith?!

Then I remember the passage in the Bible about the father who, when talking to Jesus about helping his son, kind of infers that he is not 100% sure that this “Jesus thing” is truly going to work.  Especially considering the Disciples couldn’t cast the spirit out of the boy.  Not unlike me, he has faith.  Enough faith where he brought his son to Jesus in the first place, but he is still thinking with his Earthly mind.  He is still probably thinking that he has tried everything else so if this doesn’t work he won’t be surprised.  Disappointed, yes.  But not surprised.

You see, I think that is the core of my problem.  It isn’t that I don’t believe because I do.  It isn’t that I don’t think God has aligned everything to work the way He needs it to for me to complete the story he has written about me.  Because I do!  I have been disappointed in my earthly pursuits in the past and somehow I also believe that is God’s doing.   Even though I remind myself of how those disappointments have lead me to become the person I am today, I am still holding a grudge.  The hurt and feelings of abandonment I felt are so strong that I can’t look beyond them.  I mean it completely when I say that I would not be where I am without the Lord’s help.  But I also mean it completely when I say, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” mark 9:24