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?!

Every Day is an Adventure

I love working at the animal shelter. I have had a bunch of opportunities to be a super star at work and that feels really good. I am cutting down on cat sitting so I can focus more on cat behavior and get my name out in the area I live in. I am pretty well known in my former town but no one around my current town knows me. I have two guys I am interested in, one that I have been emailing. The one I have been emailing is the only one that is a christian, although the fact that he doesn’t want to meet just yet has made me weary of him. The other believes in God but that is as far as it goes. I want to think he would enjoy going to church with me but I also don’t want to be trying to change someone. Is it changing him or would I be disciplining him to God?

I never realized how much Al configured the ins and outs of our life. Even when I didn’t live together, he was able to guilt or persuade me to do things he wanted me to do. He was so good at it that I never even realized it! Of course now I need to make decisions and life choices and I am like a 20 year old in a 46 year old’s body!

Oh well, every day is an adventure 🙂

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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5 things I am grateful for

A good friend of mine talked to me a few weeks ago about my fear. She told me she also has fear that is sometimes crippling. Her solution was gratitude. Not the only solution but a solution that worked well for her. I told her that I am thankful every day but she told me gratitude is different than thankfulness. So, I am trying to be thankful in my prayers and in addition, grateful.

What does being grateful rather than just thankful to God look like, anyway? It turns out this is the true question. I have been pondering it and today I spoke to my heavenly Father about it while I walked. I thanked him for the trees, the birds, and the plants. I thanked him for the sweet smell of the springtime air and I thanked him for my ability to smell the air and have the lungs and legs to carry me on my walk. But was I grateful? I told my Father that I had a hard time feeling gratitude for my life as it is. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am on a path that God needs me to be on. I also know and believe that all the things in my life that are hard and uncomfortable are God’s hands molding me into the person I am destined to be. But am I really grateful for it?!

God told me to look in his Book for the answers. I have been writing down the verse of the day from an app on my phone but I am going to start writing down a verse of gratitude instead. I think today would be a good day to start! I found a plan that focuses on 21 days to build a grateful heart so I am reading that daily. Today it told me to read the verse below and to write down 5 things I am grateful for.

Lord, I thank you for my brains that lead me in my business and in my life. I thank you for my dry and warm home, for the family and friends who surround me, and for the car I drive to work every day. Finally, I thank you Lord for the ability to hear you speak to me!

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy! Know that the Lord is God–he made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture. Enter his gates with thanks, enter his courtyards with praise! Thank him! Bless his name! Because the Lord is good, his loyal love lasts forever; his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.” Psalms 100:1-5

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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Eureka! Gold!

I had an epiphany today.  I have a friend who has had a some really serious things happen to her.  At first I felt bad for her because she really didn’t ask for this stuff to happen but now I don’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not heartless or anything.  I realized that God puts people in my life to help put or keep me on the path He has laid out for me and this is no different.  Let me explain 🙂

Since Albert died, I have been in a funk.  I want to stay in bed all day long and I don’t want to work on my business.  Even though in my mind I know that I am the best cat sitter and that my schooling has put me above my competition, my heart is broken and doesn’t care!

I have been going along thinking that I would really like to start living again, but also thinking that it would be good to do that…tomorrow.  I don’t think anyone will blame me for taking one more day to feel sad and sorry for myself, right?  But that is not right.  I blame me!  It is like a bad loop that is playing over and over–I don’t want to do anything, I feel bad about not wanting to do anything, which makes me not want to do anything…and so on.  I am dizzy just thinking about it!

The thing about my friend is that she has passed the point of being a victim to being someone who just won’t help herself.  When this stuff first happened, she reacted with anger and bitterness (completely understandable.)  However, it has been long enough where she should be trying to make her situation work for her.  She has some ideas that would definitely work but instead of doing them, she just keeps bringing up how horrible her situation is.  After listening to her for days and trying to help her but with no success (because she doesn’t truly want the help, I think), I am tired of it.

Then it hit me–this is God spitting a spitball at me to get my attention!  Okay, if it offends you that I talk about God doing something so obnoxious, perhaps this site isn’t for you.  I mean, my Father would definitely do that.  I can’t believe that God is some stuffy guy who doesn’t act like me!  But I digress…

While taking a walk today and talking to my Dad, I realized that by going back to bed every day and waiting until tomorrow to begin to heal, I am doing the same thing as my friend.  It is definitely not the same situation and there is no magic number for when I should be moving forward, please don’t misunderstand.  Grief is different for everyone and maybe it hasn’t been long enough for some people; but it is time for me.  Not time for me to “move on” (frankly it will never be time for that because I will never be able to just forget my Love!) but time for me to use the tools God has put in front of me to make my life work for me again.  I know he is up there telling Albert that he never doubted my strength!

Job 17:9 The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.