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Archive for the ‘Good Fortune’ Category

I don’t know where to begin. How many times does a writer start with that sentence in her head? For me, it isn’t often, but today I am overflowing with so many thoughts, emotions, sensations, and a heart-stopping contentedness, that I actually can’t find a beginning.

Clearly, if you read this blog, you know my life has been very eventful, and frequently that has not been a good thing. So I think I can safely say “I know” in many, many situations. I’ve had the “I know” feeling repeatedly over the past several days, weeks, and months. The first was in response to two friends’ relationship that quickly smudged barriers, both personal and professional. Having been in a similar situation before, I knew immediately when these dear friends of mine crossed over into the all-or-nothing chaos of a clandestine relationship. In fact, I knew instantly the day “it” actually happened, and was just as instantly thrust back into my own dark, labyrinthin time, where the supposed hedges that encased us as we walked through this maze had actually turned to deceptively soft leaf piles covering sharp, painful thorns. As time went on for me, the leaves dwindled to almost nothing, and I saw all of the thorns, and I ripped through the walls anyway. The results, as you can imagine, were devastating — both physically and emotionally.

How refreshing, then, to find an instant connection with someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind or hear me speak mine… and who is interested in a real relationship with me and me alone. From the time he first started calling me, I chose John Mayer’s “Say” ringtone for my eNV so I am reminded every time he calls that I can be myself without fear of reprisal. The labyrinthin path so shrouded with thorn and cover is now clearly lit and easily navigated.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

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Laura Merrill

 

So she isn’t house-broken yet, and
She cries when I leave her unattended, and
She has kennel cough, which cost me $50 to treat.
So what?
She’s BEAUTIFUL, isn’t she?
Ho, Ho, Ho
Merry Christmas!
–from Sparkle

 

 

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One Good Cup of Joe

Okay, I admit it: I was once a Starbucks junkie. There’s little I like more than a triple grande hazelnut latte as I drive into work in the morning. I like Starbucks because I like the taste of the coffee, to be sure, but I also like the invariably friendly atmosphere and the happy enthusiasm of the employees. I’ve tried Heine Brothers coffee–mostly to be politically correct–but I just don’t like the taste of the joe or the unpredictable mood of the workers. There’s good news though. I discovered another coffee source, and it’s led me to put Starbucks on notice, at least when it comes to purchasing whole beans or ground coffee to make at home.

What is this gem, you ask? Jackson’s Organic Coffee, located at the intersection of Lexington Road and Payne Street in Louisville, Kentucky. Jackson’s, owned and operated by Christopher Stockton and Sondra Powell, features fresh-roasted, farm-friendly, fair-trade organic coffee that is selected by what’s in season around the world–including Indonesia, Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, and Mexico. What does all that mean? Well, it means that only small farms get Jackson’s business, and Jackson’s chooses what coffee to purchase by what’s in season at the time. I’ve personally sampled the Papua New Guinea blend, and it is rich and very smooth. Stockton assured me the African blends that are due in the next month or so are something to look forward to as well.

What makes this java organic? Jackson’s web site states it plainly: “Organic Coffee is coffee grown without the use of man-made fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides of any kind. Organic coffee is better for you, better for the environment and better for the workers who pick the beans.” How can you go wrong?

Check out Jackson’s Organic Coffee (drive-through window only) at 1402 Payne Street, and you will be greeted by the always-friendly Stockton and/or Powell. Buy whole-bean or fresh-ground coffee in 12-ounce cans for about $9.00; bring your can back for a 50-cent discount next time. While you’re at the window, grab a latte or cappuccino for the road. If Payne Street’s out of your way, you can always stop by Rainbow Blossom, Valu-Market, Whole Foods, and other upscale markets. Stop by today and get a can for your best friend for Christmas. Tell ’em sillylauralonglegs sent you!

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In the last couple of days, I’ve learned a very important lesson. I’ve learned that God doesn’t have to be finished with you in order to use you.

For the longest time, I couldn’t bear to study the bible, get involved in fellowship groups, or even serve at my church because I was feeling so guilty about the sins in my life. How could I, a divorced woman, possibly open myself up to God and, even more, bring other people to God when I wasn’t “finished” yet. Isn’t that hypocritical?

The answer is a resounding NO! One of the wonderful things about being a Christian and being involved in a local house of worship is that EVERYONE is welcome to come and to serve and to lead. In fact, God wants you to come when you’re sinning because He can help you overcome those sins and lead a healthier, more productive life.

As I’ve mentioned before, I felt called by God to serve the homeless for many years, but I ignored that call because I was feeling so self-absorbed in my own depression. I knew in my head that it would help me feel better if I helped others, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. At one point, I thought about serving in the area of children’s Christian education. But I looked at the people around me, assumed they were perfect little robot Christians, and couldn’t bear the thought of being “found out” that I wasn’t perfect. So I didn’t serve. The result: I continued to feel depressed about my life and my marriage, and both of these things began to fall apart.

Soon after I was divorced, I spoke to someone at my church about wanting to get involved in a singles’ ministry. However, when my friend asked me to serve and help start that ministry, I freaked out completely. Again, the thoughts raced through my mind: How could I–who had so obviously let God down–possibly help other Christian singles? Likewise, I was asked to help out with the church newsletter, but I just ran away. In fact, I completely left the church, stating publicly–and believing it was true–that I was doing so because my daughter didn’t like the church we were attending. In my heart, I knew this wasn’t true, but I couldn’t face my own frailty.

Fortunately, I came to realize that God wants me the way I am today (and the way I was yesterday too), and He welcomes me with open arms to serve Him regardless of how I’ve sinned in the past. He’ll even want me when I sin again, which I most certainly will do. I am thankful for this newfound knowledge, because it frees me to be ME. It invites me to do what God calls me to do despite my imperfections. A few of my special friends have made this knowledge clear to me, even when I battled against them and ran away from them. They never let me go, and they forgave me. They also assured me that God forgives me too, if I will only ask Him.

And so I say to Him today, “Thank you for letting me serve You. Will you please forgive me?” And I pray that I will welcome and absorb His forgiveness to bring even greater healing.

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I feel a compelling need to say some things on here, and I am sure that what I say will come as a shock to some. But I have changed and grown in many ways since my recent hospitalization, and I feel I must say them. Bear with me.

First, let me explain something about myself. After much introspection over these last several weeks, I’ve realized the extent to which I did not form my own opinions about many things–even very important matters in my own life. This became painfully obvious in the past week when I listened to the strong–and varied–opinions of a few people who mean a lot to me. This was a difficult week for me, as was evident from my last post. But it turns out that I needed to hear these strong opinions in order to realize how I had failed to decide how I feel about things. (The social worker in the hospital referred to people like me as “lost children.” I’m sure you can check on Wikipedia for an apt description of this personality type.)

Here’s a little of what happened this past week: I got a very upsetting email from one of my best friends, and my family–in their efforts to protect me–began to express in earnest their poor opinion of this friend. I, too, became livid and wrote vociferously of all of the horrid things I wanted to do to this person to get my revenge. My anger was definitely justified, and I never intended to actually do any of the things about which I’d fantacized. Now, hold that thought for a minute.

Only a few of us celebrated Thanksgiving together, because, as I mentioned in my last post, my family has been in a feud since I was first admitted to the hospital because I asked that my sister not be told of my admission. The result has been that my family reached an impasse, and I wasn’t sure if we’d ever reconcile. At Thanksgiving, we all spoke bitterly about my friend and about my sister. I want to emphasize the WE: I was an active participant in these discussions.  And then I realized how entirely empty I felt… about my friend, about my sister, about all the broken relationships I’ve experienced or witnessed in my immediate family… and I just felt sad.

On Saturday, my daughter and I went to my church with a friend of mine. The minister preached a sermon entitled “Radical Change.” In it, he talked about how we as Christians need to stop fighting in order to get people to believe what we believe and instead begin loving each other unconditionally because of our faith. Sermons don’t always “speak” to me, but this one spoke directly to my heart. I realized I had to speak out.

Rewind to the lost child I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Here I am, this person who couldn’t form an opinion for the life of her, and now opinions were flowing out of me. One: I–and no one else in my family–know my friend, and I know he is a person of good character who has made mistakes just as the rest of us have. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t my friend, and it doesn’t mean that I have to blow him off completely. So I wrote to him and told him how the email affected me, and I told him that I disagree with the opinions of my family members and will continue to value our friendship.

Two: my sister lives out her faith very differently from how I do. She, too, has done things to hurt me very deeply. However, as a Christian, I am called to respond to her differently than I did. So I called her up, told her I was through fighting, and said I would do whatever it takes to keep our families together.

Three: Since my arrival in the hospital, I have felt this constant nagging to call my ex-husband and apologize to him for giving up. So tonight I did it. I told him that I know we had many seemingly insurmountable problems but that when he began to change, I told him he was too late and I continued to hold onto my anger. I had no agenda in telling him this, except to seek his forgiveness. I have witnessed the transformation of a horrible marriage of a friend of mine, so I know that God could have done miraculous things for my marriage too, if I had listened to God and lived out my faith appropriately. (Caution: I do not take full responsibility for my failed marriage… only full responsibility for my portion of the failure.)

Four: I had a heart-to-heart discussion with my daughter telling her that I’ve done her a disservice in the way I’ve fought with my sister and in my decision to give up on my relationship with her daddy, and I asked her to forgive me too. I told her I feel great remorse for having given up like I did. I told her that when she grows up and decides to get married, it is for life, regardless of how hard it is. I told her what I did was a mistake, and that as a Christian it is important to keep your promises.

I am sure what I’ve said is shocking, especially to my family. But I cannot stand the thought of losing one more person in my life because of stubbornness and unwillingness to sacrifice myself for the good of my family/relationships–I feel this way BECAUSE I am a Christian. No, forgiveness and sacrifice are not concepts that are exclusive to christianity, but in MY life, I learned these things through my Christian faith… a faith I saw demonstrated by some of my best friends.

Thank you, my family and best friends, for all of the support you’ve shown me since September 21. I am eternally grateful.

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For the first time in many weeks, I’ve experienced clarity. After weeks battling severe depression, I reached a place of thanksgiving for the life I have, for my family, for my friends, and for honesty.

As a patient in a local mental hospital, I’ve listened to countless stories of suffering and despair. My fellow patients recounted years of abuse at the hands of their parents and spouses, the sting of betrayal by best friends, the agony of addiction to alcohol and drugs, and the oddity of relying on the pain of “cutting” to bring comfort and healing. Time and time again, I was reminded by staff of how brave we all were simply because we were there. At first, this admonition seemed ill-founded, even silly. I mean, we were in-patients (and later out-patients) in a psych ward. We were crying out loud in pain, visibly shaking with anxiety. But after conversations with family and close friends, I know that what the social workers and doctors said was true. We are brave.

I am thankful for my life just as it is today because of this bravery. While there are life circumstances that I long to be different with all of my heart, I am thankful that I can express my deepest feelings to my family and friends without fear of reprisal. Based on some of the comments I’ve received on this blog over the years, I know my candor has enabled others to work through their suffering, and my forthright words have touched readers in ways I couldn’t have predicted. What’s more, I wrote a comment on another blog about some of the challenges I feel in following God’s will in my life. Apparently, my comments inspired my fellow blogger’s family to look at their own faith journey with new eyes. Clearly, my bravery is healing for me and for others.

Since September 21, I’ve realized how fortunate I am to have the family God gave me. My mother never left my bedside at the emergency room, and she visited me nearly every night of my 18-day hospital stay. My oldest brother flew in from California to support my mother and me during that critical first week, and then he and his wife talked to me at least once a day for the duration of my stay. My “birthday brother” (the one with whom I share a birthday) visited me regularly and implored me to tell him something–anything–he could bring to me that would bring me comfort. Each of these people reminded me daily that they loved me and couldn’t imagine life without me. Their kindness baffled me, but it kept me going.

I told my friends the truth about what brought me to the hospital, and they didn’t gasp in horror at my frailty or shun me because of my inability to “deal.” Rather, they prayed for me, comforted me, reassured me. I am so lucky to have such friends.

Honesty has been my friend through this difficult time. For several months, I had encased myself in a wall of deception, pushing my feelings down so far that I couldn’t even identify them. I needed the 63-face feeling chart the nurse in the out-patient program gave me in order to find a name for the emotions stirring within me. While at first I was afraid to share my story, I found that when I did, lots of people were helpful; others were thankful for my insight. I realized that by sharing my storing, I was healing myself and others.

I am still afraid in many ways: I’m afraid about moving back home; I’m afraid about going back to a job that I find unfulfilling; I’m afraid I won’t find love again. But another part of me feels beautiful for the first time in my life and is confident of who I am and what I have to offer.

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Let’s just get it out right from the start: I’m really, really weird. Okay. Now that we’ve settled that, I can get to the business of this post: pleasure reading.

For the past eight weeks, I’ve been spending most evenings and weekends reading. “Well,” you ask, “what in the world kept you from putting your reading aside to give us something to read about?” The answer is simple: I was reading for pleasure and just couldn’t put the book down. (more…)

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