Gripping at the final credits as the film winds through the reels, waiting patiently in the dark for the next teaser. Some trailer or scene, spoilers for a sequel. All that is the left is the on location references and music acknowledgments, bore fest. My life was turning into that same scene of musical contributions and location listings, only the equivalency was a historical ledger, best known as a resume, of career moves and an epic failure. Continue reading “Not Yet Rated”
Some of you may or may not know from a previous post that I went to work for ministry. As my husband would refer, I am “The Church Lady.” I was warned that this would be the most challenging position of my life. Continue reading “Christians so unlike their Christ”
I have done many eccentrically brave (or daft) actions in my life. All of these actions called to me at some point, I heard them, they spoke to me, so I answered without hesitation. My first tattoo as an adult, a declaration that I am me, symbolizing my adulthood, independence and personality. Moving out of my parents home, heeding the call of the wild world, jumping feet first into the business instead of college. Still a teen (an adult child of sorts), I became the boss to a gaggle of man-children in business….see mom, being bossy paid off, leadership skills. Continue reading “They Said It’s a Calling but They Called Me”
A friend of mine posted the other day about how Facebook has turned into a feed of others posting videos they have seen and no longer a forum for conversation. His comment was profound to say the least.
“Do people still actually post things here or is just a forum to share videos you found on the internet?”
Our social media venues have become more of the anti social media as we fail to engage one another. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) seem to have transformed into venues of mental masturbation to help pass the minutes as we exercise, exercise bowel movements and or exercise our lack of effort into our careers and selves.
Many a late nights I used to delve into Twitter and Facebook. Twitter especially, as I engaged on many a conversations, albeit some superficial “mom talk,” as my twins were much younger and I found an online community of other women who had the same subscription of life. Bantering, high level disagreements and even some catty non-sense. However, the result was all the same. Conversation.
Today I see Twitter as a monologue, at best. Almost like a telemarketing convention where all of the sellers are dialing out to potential consumers with their tweets in hopes someone will buy their sales pitch. I was saddened to see my own church guilty of the same actions. Services were provided with a hashtag to “join the conversation.” Really? Who would we be conversing with? Other members I suppose, but I found that to be very anti social as well with other members tweeting, never actually engaging in a dialogue.
Facebook has transformed itself into much of the same fashion…coupled with the sisterhood of Instagram. Timelines are littered with selfies and no longer original and or beautiful content. I have watched these two venues turn into a cesspool of narcissism interlaced into being “social.” Social would be how many likes you received for your newest photo and nothing really ever of a conversation.
Have we let our new technology and new forms of communication dilute, if not totally eliminate, any true forms of communication or dialogue? Or is this the way we communicate now these days with pictures, videos, selfies and emoticons? How do we begin to converse with one another again?
With advancements of technology and forms of communication have we catapulted ourselves into the age of anti social media? Recalling an email I received from my dad about 10 years ago, he provided me his new phone number when he was living in Iowa and said, “text me if you want to talk.” I replied and guffawed at such a request, “I don’t text Dad.” Was I flippant, naive, optimistic that communication would remain status-quo? Maybe a combination of all three, never in my wildest dreams would I consider communicating with my parents, let alone my friends in such a fashion. Never would I have imagined creating a blog when just six months pregnant to detail the chronology of my twins in utero, their lives thereafter, our lives in their entirety as a collective over the past eight years.
I suppose since our lives are so busy, social media helps to keep us abreast of all of friends goings-on. Maybe we help show them our interests with the different shares and social likes through Facebook and Twitter. Social media has helped us connect with one another instantly and receive updates on breaking events in the blink of an eye as opposed to waiting for the following day or the late evening newscast. Yet, we seem to be more anti social because we have updates so frequently, so immediate that we can even sever friendships with the click of a button, block the information we receive, filter our lives to seem, feel and look perfect.
Have these “social” venues created an opportunity of anti social behavior?
Social media has allowed us to avoid having meaningful and legitimate dialogues with the click of a button, removing people from our lives when conversations become crucial. While we can connect immediately, we can disconnect just as easily. As opposed to having a healthy dialogue, we just shut the conversation down with block, delete, un-follow, unlike. We can avoid sharing how our lives are imperfect by sharing some of the best photos of the day when the picture behind the camera would suggest normal humanity, beautifully broken. Suddenly we have keyboard muscles that we exert as our form of exercise, because to exercise our mental capacity to accept diversity that something is less than perfect or a comment is less than favorable we remove the threat. Our behavior on social media is dramatically different that in person, acting as if we lack any inhibition to hurting another because we may not actually have real life interaction with people.
Have you found yourself in the vortex of anti social media? Have you found you are only sharing videos and other posts and never really engaging in real, healthy conversations or dialogues? Has your social media become a monologue and not a dialogue?
Have you ever considered the statement, “You are in my thoughts and prayers.” I have found that this is such a statement of
(in)consideration, truly a good majority of people say this as a form of pleasantry and never with intention. I am not quite sure why this irks me, but when people say “you are in my thoughts and prayers” I want to reply, “Am I really or are you just saying that because it sounds heartfelt and reassuring?” What people may not realize is the power of a prayer. To be a pray-er you have a conviction that you believe what you are saying, that there is power on a very human and supernatural level that God and the cosmos will hear your pleas, cries, and requests.
I never understood prayer. Being boldly honest, I was that smug, ass of a human to say, “I’ll pray for you” of which I thought quietly to myself how horrible their situation is and wish it better. I never clasped my hands, closed my eyes and opened my heart to the possibility that God may hear my plea. Albeit I was selfish, only praying for myself when the moment seemed dire or I had tremendous fear: a long road trip, a flight, or any other personal want.
I never understood how to pray. One might think, well you bow your head, close your eyes, clasp your hands, maybe fall to your knees, or raise your hands to the sky and plea to our Almighty to hear our requests. While these are a few forms, to pray means to really believe in your request. You must feel in your heart, soul, in the very fiber of your DNA, that you believe in the request you are asking of your Father. I compare this to my kids asking for something they really want. They come to myself or The Chad, mostly The Chad(…since I have a tendency to say NO…go figure God would be our Father, Dad’s are better about giving us what we ask for) and make their request with the strongest possibility that we will say yes, but they do not expect any let down. They are open to unimaginable possibilities with our answers, that we may offer up a concession to their request in which we have an answer, with a twist.
A year ago I attended a conference on prayer. Before the conference I read a book by the keynote speaker, Mark Batterson called The Circle Maker. Mark heads up a church in Washington, DC and he prayed circles. By circles I mean he would walk the blocks in the area in which he wanted his church to be planted, he walked circles around the lives and neighborhoods he wanted to transform, he walked circles and prayed while making those circles. His continuous efforts meant that he prayed with conviction and specificity for what he was looking to accomplish, by his consistent efforts his prayers were answered. Maybe not how he expected to a tee, but they were answered where needs were met.
His book and conference transformed the way I looked and thought about prayer.
Nothing happened. I even became bored after just two short weeks of writing in the journal of these prayers.
I cursed. I was pissed. I wanted to throw in the towel. What in the bloody world would make these prayers come to be? I believed in these prayers. Requests happened for others, why not me? Why wasn’t God listening to what needed to happen, what needed to be fixed, healing ills, healing hearts, completing miracles.
I found I didn’t believe enough in my requests. I wasn’t broken enough. By broken, I was not allowing myself to succumb to the possibility that He could be moving in my life. By broken, I was not allowing for my life to be transformed by faith. Lacking in conviction I tossed aside prayer because quite frankly I wasn’t feeling it. As most do, they don’t feel the stirring that true conviction in prayer can bring. I also lacked the faith that God saw a higher plan for me. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Take getting fired. Praying with conviction and stirring to find a new job, to escape the confines of my misogynistic boss. My prayer needed to be less about me. So when I began praying to find a job that made me happy, that made a difference in the world because I felt I was destined for something greater for Him and when I prayed for wisdom for the misogynist…
BAM! Prayer answered. Literally. Less than one month into praying for the boss to have wisdom I was fired.
God has a wonderful sense of humor.
We make these bold requests, prayerfully and faithfully expectant that He will eventually answer those prayers. Sometimes what our prayers need is more specificity in seeking answers. Sometimes we fail to remember is that the answers come in His time…
We so desperately want things to happen overnight. We so badly want our circumstances to change that we begin to muddle the situation. Meddling in the fine details and operations that we then change our prayer direction because something broke. So we pray for the broken to be repaired and we pray for those changes in circumstances.Â In those moments I found the best action to take is nothing. Do nothing but pray. God likes to let things break to show us that our earthly ways are not working, stop getting in the middle of the plan.
For example after being fired I immediately began looking for another job. Futilely and completely in vain I hunted for months. Broken, depressed and feeling less than worthy, struggling with what felt like impending doom with the holidays and tightened finances. I took to writing again in order to relieve my struggles, coupled with bold prayer. Admittance I was broken both in my posts and my prayer. What happened next was less than extraordinary.
Tithing 10% of my small unemployment and praying. Emails began to roll in for Christmas promotions. A friendship was rekindled that helped me utilize my God given ability to put emotions and thoughts to words, this same friendship encouraged me to begin promoting on my blog for Christmas. In just a few short months leading up to Christmas I was able to stuff my tree with items that were promotional goodies that you see posted on my blog. These items were transformed into gifts for my children. Yielding enough money to pay for all of Christmas, simply because I have a passion for words. A God given gift to write. A heaven sent answer from prayer. What was even more spectacular was The Chad’s bonus that we had not expected had allowed us to help answer one of our children’s prayer circles that they had: quads.
Prayer moved me more than just these superficial moments. At our 24/7 Prayer event that we had this past fall I signed up to pray for two hours. The church does a phenomenal job of providing prayer prompts to guide you through some of our most basic struggles with life and prayer. I attended with zero expectations and opened my heart. Guided to a black curtain station, setup for privacy reasons, I was greeted with the most uncomfortable and life changing of prayer moments.
What was suppose to only be about ten minutes of prayer in this station, where I would move on to other stations, resulted in a full 60 minutes of deep, trembling, crying until my eyes hurt, prayer for forgiveness. I prayed for those who had wronged me, forgiving them because I was holding onto the pain for me, I thought I couldn’t forgive them because that would mean they won, so I prayed for forgiveness.Â At the close of my session, I prayed for myself. I prayed that all I had done wrong to myself, how my horrible choices inflicted so much pain, the pain I felt just fueled more pain. The one person and event whom I had total control also resulted in being the most damaging at times. Exiting that day after my hour I felt rejuvenated and freed. The bonds of torture no longer applied to me. I let go of my anger. I let go of the pain. I embraced the power of prayer.
Looking back at those moments in prayer, observing our prayers and prayer circles, a gritty, raw, realization was made. Everything we wanted as a family, as individuals, had to do with passion. We update our prayer circles based on our passion, specificity and knowing that everything happens in time based on His plan.
I prayed for a new job and was fired. I prayed to become a mom and was gifted three amazing children. I prayed to provide for Christmas, tithed and received an abundance to give to my children. Today I pray more than I have ever prayed before because I know that He is listening. He provides me the comfort in taking away the superficial worry of occasions, events and happenings that are out of my control. He provides me guidance in struggle, clarity in uncertainty, resolve in our conversation. Feeling a conviction that sweeps over you with chills, that makes your very being tremble and shudder is powerful and brings us to our knees in joy and thanksgiving. Take the discomfort out of the thought of prayer by finding comfort in prayer. Believe it, feel it, and see what happens next. Stop using prayer as a conversational consideration but as consideration for conversation.
Last night while trolling Facebook I couldn’t help but to comment on a status about how a cheap wedding leads to a successful marriage. Being that I can’t help my flippant self I commented about how its not about the wedding but its about the after-party and the honeymoon. Yes, I have a dry sense of humor, much like a fine Bordeaux. I digress. My husband and I just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary and have been together 18 years. We have a secret sauce for our successful marriage; trial by fire with various traumas that require us to come together as a united front. You want to know if a marriage is successful, go from the frying pan to the furnace to see how they handle a crisis.
The Chad and I were a very tumultuous couple when we were initially courting. Fighting over the most trivial issues and concerns. We both have Type-A personalities, Einstein brilliance, and a will that won’t break. Spliced with our youth, we were a recipe for disaster. Aside from that, we love(d) each other unconditionally which prompted us to spend the rest of our lives together. Our marriage for the first years was a lot of fun. We enjoyed a great amount of freedom just the two of us. Traveling, socializing and exploring what new adventure we would take on next. The next big adventure happened to be having kids.
Crisis number one.
By all means our first crisis of having a child is not negative, but as young 20somethings having a child is crisis management because your entire life changes. Late nights having drinks are now late nights of your child taking drinks…of breast milk. Building dreams are now replaced with building dream palaces for your child. Fashion and couture are replaced by burp cloths and onesies. Adjusting to having a child can be hard if you struggle letting go of your old self, which both of us struggled with a bit. We still wanted to be “THAT” couple. We still wanted to be ourselves, but with having a child you have to evolve, which means your marriage does as well.
Crisis number two.
Evolution of self and marriage. Personally, I struggled embracing and juggling all my jobs. Wife. Mother. Woman. Food source. Business woman. Sex kitten. Karie. Suddenly my self was a swirling smorgasbord of uncertainty. I didn’t know how to handle all these people, responsibilities, who came first was my child, but I needed to make sure I was able to care for him. My husband needed attention, but I needed to make sure I had taken care of G which meant I needed to be in tip top shape. An internal argument of Darwinism, which came first the chicken or the egg. I began to get lost in myself and the search for who she was and is. Somewhere in there our marriage started to become disoriented.
In all the disorientation we really complicated matters as I found I was pregnant again. Our son was barely eight months old and now I was pregnant again. The crisis threat level was now about to go supernova, but we were able to bear down. Coming together we grieved the loss of ourselves and that our dream included these extensions of ourselves, extensions of our love, our children, our new world. Just as we were finally comfortable again we were hit with devastating news that our pregnancy was doomed and I would miscarry at home. Not an ordinary miscarriage though, this was a premature delivery with labor pains, pushing in order to counteract the pain, a battle I fought alone through blood, anguish, loss and solitary despair. Yet another crisis, but one I chose to conquer on my own.
Looking back I probably should have included The Chad but I know his heart and I wanted to spare him the horror that I was experiencing. The war I waged through my loss that late night and early morning in my bathroom is not one for any human to experience, ever. I just couldn’t bear to see his pain, our pain, maybe I was selfish but I couldn’t let him have that memory. From that day forward I got lost again. I battled with postpartum depression. Somehow The Chad and I were making it through, maybe by grace.
Crisis hit again as we came to arms with my mental capacity to overcome depression and how the medication nearly destroyed my life, more evolution of selves. We then became that couple as we sought counseling. Barely married six years, late 20something, early 30s, suburbia yuppies seeking counseling. How cliche I thought. So gauche. I ate my thoughts as we discovered so much about ourselves, our marriage, our family in those sessions. We learned to become a united.
Sitting on a couch bleeding your emotions of anger, rage, hurt, sadness, brought forth so much information, elightenment and respect for each other. Though we had to get through the emotional grenades and gun cocking and firing at one another, we saw light, we saw each other. We saw we were people, with faults, with love for each other. The moment of truth came when we went to bed after a session and we said it was time to move on, too much damage was done that we could no longer swim to shore in a sinking ship. Admitting love for each other but that we might be better off without the other for the sake of our child.
Laying under the sheets, looking at each other through clenched jaw muscles and tears, breathing through the pain that felt as if gravity would crush me, I saw lifetimes pass by, almost as if on fast forward. We both took a deep breath and went to sleep, stubborn love saying goodbye.
The next morning we agreed divorce was not on the horizon, we made the commitment to work on our marriage, ourselves; we were finding a way to let the wounds heal and move forward. The path was not easy, the hurt, the pain, almost numbing. No one said this would be easy. We wanted this, we chose this life; love isn’t easy, life isn’t easy. Anything of value does not come easy but through hard work and a great deal of effort. Boundaries were set and agreements were made, compromise, understanding, and we started to listen to each other again instead of placing blame.
Progress was being made. We were at a pivotal point when we found we were pregnant again, pregnant again with twins. Crisis.
This crisis really was an eye opener as we melded as a team. Twins taught us about how two people should and can truly be different, yet so similar. G defined this ideal. For eight months I told him Seth and Sara were “in my tummy.” I understood two people. His understanding was that Seth and Sara was one entity; imagine his surprise when he saw two baby carriers the day we came home. He guffawed as he pointed at each of them and asked why there were two, we had to tell him one was Seth and one was Sara. His innocent outlook about his siblings was the definition of our marriage and how I would raise him and these two blessings. Individually plural.
The Chad and I struggled with various other marital struggles that arise as you age and life lobs softballs of challenges. The single most important fact was that we were the same people, changed by the events and environment of our experiences. Admitting we loved each other and we wanted to make it work, took acknowledging that our marriage, our family was not about us as individuals, but about the other person. Compromise was admitting when you are wrong, no matter how much damage you took to your pride. Communication was about taking out the fault, the finger pointing, having a poignant conversation about facts, proposing solutions that worked for everyone, including the kids, especially the kids, even if that meant looking to divorce.
Our most recent crisis was financial. The timing aligned with the world financial crisis. Like most couples we could have fought endlessly, but we chose to talk. We talked deeply, passionately, about our future, our family like we never had before. Setting aside differences in the goals we had, ideals we learned based on how we were raised. The Chad lost his job and I was barely making enough at the bank to keep us afloat. We were drowning, but we did not fall victim to our misfortune, we banded together, set out a plan. Family came first, the kids were our primary concern and we were making every effort to ensure this would not affect them in the least.
Only by grace were we able to survive. If we had not connected as people and respected each other through adequate communication and compromise we would have probably been divorced years ago. I am ever thankful for each of our crises, decisions, I hold no regrets. The magic sauce for our successful marriage came in the form of hard work, commitment to do what was right, even if doing the right thing meant divorce, and above all else we had love. Today I love The Chad more than the day I married him, I am more in love with him than the day we met. I could not have asked for a better man to partner with in this adventure we call life.
I loved my job at the bank. I love my beliefs, my God. The two, however, did not love one another, a constant battle that resulted in my being fired. My family began to suffer due to extenuating and unnecessary demands for my time at work. I was engulfed in my ambitions to climb this imaginary ladder to a pinnacle with no peak. Best efforts to rise above, think outside the box to improve processes and mitigate negative customer impact resulted in negative blow back. I had to pay taxes for being a woman in the corporate game where I refused to fall on my knees in an act of fellatio to the men that controlled the future of my career. A hidden blessing came from my termination, a lesson about having faith.
What I lacked was faith.
On this day one year ago I was subject to a bank sanction for my transgress questioning regarding neglect of escalated customer files. Toe-to-toe with senior leaders, respectably inquiring of laxity on such high profile reviews. My bold actions came with an expense as my career teetered with my every breath. The sanction was harsh based on my principal to forgo a meeting with my superior and his superior. As a woman I felt bullied, ganged up on and terrified to be in a closed door meeting with my boss. He was repugnant with violent outbursts, mistrust, berating actions, I feared him. So with that, the sentence was issued for 12 months where I was hamstrung to initiate any emails to anyone above my pay grade and in the event any of my actions were seen contrary to senior leadership direction I would be subject to termination.
Devastated. I held strong as I choked down the pain and a bit of my pride. Upon returning to my desk one of my employees saw me distraught and offered comfort. She stood strong in her faith and offered to pray with me, right then, in the office. Her prayer offered comfort and strength in a time where I was floundering without. Keeping my composure was out of the question. I gasped for air through tears, heartbreak and the overwhelming amount of love and kindness from my subordinate.
What I learned in that moment, in that prayer, in my retching state, was how out of control the events were and how little I could control; how I needed to have faith.
The months following resulted in frustration, anger, my patience began to wear thin at home due to my restrictions in the workplace. Struggling to deal with these frustrations, they were improperly misdirected to my family. I began to dive deeper into scripture. I sought comfort and relief in prayer to pacify my unrest and provide answers. Everyday I prayed for a new job. Praying to be away from the tyrant who I had to answer to on a daily basis. I prayed for him to gain wisdom because his doltish ways made me want to slap my palm to my face, repeatedly.
My prayers were being heard, as each day I found more strength to tolerate my job. Job interviews were rolling in and my outlook was positive and the bleakness began to subside. However, offers for said jobs were less than forthcoming. By this time I was a month into my corrective action and I attended a conference on prayer. Bold, direct prayers were what we needed and while those prayers are not always answered right away or the way we want them to be answered, an answer will one day come nonetheless. So I stayed the course and kept on with my prayers. I was a step closer to understanding and gaining faith.
Staying the course led me into the mouth of the serpent on June 19th, 2014 as my employment was terminated from Wells based on violation of their ethics policy. The policy that I so strongly upheld based on the vision of the organization. Great irony and peace was found in my termination, and on that day my faith was made stronger. I prayed to escape the confines of the misogynist who I believed controlled my future and career. Granted my release was through termination, I was able to identify my blessing; my faith was cemented in the fact that this one event would transform my entire being and life.
How deluded I was to think such horrific thoughts that this puny, mortal man would carry such a weight. My God carried more weight and power than he did. On that day I felt an amazing peace and strength as I shook my former boss’ hand and I wished him well. Even though I was the one who was terminated, I had the strength, class and happiness to accept my fate. That was faith I had felt in the Lord as He guided me through that moment.
From that day I have had nothing but faith.
I prayed each day to guide me through, to show me where I needed to be in life and with my family. Prayer for assistance through my unemployment, to provide financially. I asked to be shown what He was willing for me in my life. Pleasantly surprised by the answer of I had extra time on my hands, so I began writing again. A love I have forgotten to resort to when my brain was overflowing with words and thoughts. Think Dumbledore and his Pensieve. My writing has helped open doors for me that I had previously left dormant, my expression let me explore gifts I never exploited previously. The world was a keystroke away.
Prayers showed me how deep my faith truly was when I asked to provide for my family, my children, especially when Christmas was around the corner. So I made the struggling decision to tithe, at the ten percent, when I had so little. My meager earnings I was bringing into our home was what little I could do to honor my Father, but it was enough in His eyes. Gigs began to roll in, finances began to improve little by little, Christmas was in more than an abundance. He saw me through, God deepened my faith by showing me his great will for me, my family, my life.
Time was utilized more wisely as I began volunteering more at my church. Applying my knowledge in various capacities benefited others and I was beyond joy to help so selflessly. My nature is benevolent with every fiber, so I was eager to share my dexterity in a multitude of areas within the organization that so deeply touched my life. This is what he was calling me to do.
Fleeting moments would wave over me of panic, grief, fear. I would be celebratory with joy, overcome by anger, frustration, and then emotional exhaustion. While I would have momentary lapses and succumb to the weakness, faith is what carried me through. Praying in the heat of that moment got me through. God, carried me through. I was meant to feel the pain, to work through my feelings, I needed to learn what He was telling me. The uncertainty was all part of the learning process. Learning to have unwavering faith in the face of our darkest moments. Moments that we would dwell upon, share with others; misery loves company, but I just couldn’t share with anyone else but Him.
When I would apply for positions I was more than amply qualified for, hear nothing in response to those applications, I learned to have faith. When I questioned why I didn’t get those jobs, my daughter would come to me and beg that I not go back to work as her eyes welled with tears, I had faith. When finances began to strain, I dug in with my tithing and never faltered, I had faith and then He provided. Hebrews 11:1 speaks of faith, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I hoped for happiness, success, freedom. All of those were provided for me because I prayed enough, believed in my bold prayers enough, had enough faith that this wouldn’t be easy, but my outcome would be the most beneficial.
I could not see that my happiness, success, and freedom was within me, God given. I just had to see what made me happy was being myself and not letting others try to change who I was, who I am. I just had to see that my success was in the eyes of the beholder; three priceless sets of blue eyes who saw that I could create in my kitchen what Van Gogh did on canvas. More so was the partial stranger who read this blog and sang praises of the raw beauty in life and the emotions I painted from writing about those moments.Â I found an immense faith in being fired when I learned to see. I just had to see that my freedom was in letting go, relinquishing control of a life so out of control, having faith of His greater plan for me.
My tone has changed as of late. If you have been around me long enough, you know that the holy roller seems a bit fetched, if not out of character for me. I was likely to quote Andrew Dice Clay before I ever quoted scripture. Oh! I digress. Funny thing about character is how we evolve. Changing with the seasons, age, enlightenment of our environment, as if a light switch was turned on in a room of pure darkness. Life for me seemed to be spiraling into that room. I was not walking with God as I am today.
Walking wasn’t easy either. I tripped along thinking karma would float me along through the nethers of the universe. A magic carpet ride of listless engagement on my part, that basically if I lived a decent life and acted as a decent person everything would turn out alright. Even if I effed up royally, in the end my karma bank would be in the black.
Or so I deluded myself to believe.
The deeply human part of me was calling for something bigger, to be a part of something bigger. My purpose was far greater than anything I could imagine. Not that I would break out into a leotard jumpsuit of red and blue with fabulous hair like Linda Carter (who was friends with my grams by the way), more so that I knew my purpose in the mortal realm was temporary, there was more to life than me.
Truer words could not have been spoken to me one summer evening while visiting my brother. The Chad and I sat out on the back patio slash balcony of my brothers home in Northern Arizona in a small town called Show Low. His home is on the side of a mountain with breathtaking views. Overlooking a bluff, Show Low creek, and sprawling meadow lands with tall, wild grass, spotted with feral sunflowers, littered with sage and speckled with wild horses, elk, and an occasional jackrabbit. A view so picturesque, one could only paint with their imagination. We sat in the cool night air listening to the pines whistle in a monsoon storm as rain patted on the roof above.
Our conversations were light and airy, typical chit chat to warm up the tone of the evening. Just then, my brother fired a grenade into the conversation. “When I die, I want to know that my sister will be joining me for eternal life. I want to know you will be joining me in heaven. I love you Karie and I am concerned you don’t have salvation and we won’t be together forever.”
He took my breath away as I sobbed. I knew exactly what he was saying and I knew my life needed a change. We discussed the outlook of karma, living a good and honorable life, being good to others in spite of ill will or harm. Further discussion about how The Chad and I have embraced various religions and their sound beliefs. Not that anything was wrong with Christianity, but at the mention one might be confused with extremists due to media exploits.
For the years leading up to this moment I was engulfed in a rat race of desperation to grapple to the top of an imaginary corporate ladder. Hyper-focused on a goal that would offer me what? Happiness, success, notoriety within the corporate realm? Further separated from my family in order to serve the overlords of big bank. Aching in my heart, a burning in my chest, my eyes bled tears as my soul felt as if it were ripped open to expose a truth I had been denying myself.
Our discussion tripped further down Alice’s rabbit hole yet rose towards the Kingdom.
The next morning I attended church with my brother for the first time in over 15 years. His pastor spoke of living a life under the idea of karma, a life devoid of the Holy Spirit. Could he have been at our table on the balcony last night? I took communion for the first time in over 20 years, I was a small girl shortly after my baptism when I took part in this ritual to honor my Savior. Fighting tears to prevent others from seeing my brokenness as my brother and I held hands during the service and worship. I left the service that day feeling a sense of redemption, as if I came home.
The week after was a struggle. My renewal was tested as I returned to work and I struggled with situations that would push my every limit. I prayed to tolerate my boss just a few days longer. Yearning to be in the word again, to hear what my soul was craving, I needed strength.
So I found my home at Central that upcoming Sunday. I walked in alone and afraid, my uncertainty felt like a 600 pound gorilla. The message was more than appropriate and befitting to where my situation lay. After the service I knew I had found my home. Week after week I attended and sat in the seats alone. I took the time to soak in the message, but felt an emptiness that I couldn’t share my new understanding of the world. My life felt like it was moving forward but my marriage was askew.
The Chad is the love of my life, but I felt as if we were not connecting on the same plane. Mostly due to my Sunday absences. So we felt a strain, until my prayers were answered. Praying for Him to touch Chad, open his heart and mind. He agreed to attend with me, upon the condition I kept the hellfire, brimstone and flames at bay as he entered the worship center. Pft, as if I had a say with The Big Guy on what happens.
His decision was not light, but he was surprised at his lack of spontaneous combustion as he entered the worship center. We discussed at length the message our senior pastor shared and he thoroughly enjoyed the rich history that came from the simple Bible teachings. One of the many qualities that drew me to Central.
My heart was full and my soul lightened as I could share this evolving part of my life with my best friend once more. Our conversations engaged a new level, we saw changes with our children, this new life we were living was infectious. Even our best friends joined our fellowship and our relationship with them changed. A strength, peace and love we had never felt before engulfed our way of living. Transforming our professional lives. Infusing our spirits.
These changes were not without a cost of pain or death. A slow and excruciating death to the person I once was in order to envelope my life with Christ. Spiritual warfare at some level raged on between my old self and the person I was becoming. My career began to change on the most drastic levels, so much so that being fired is just what He wanted to truly ensure my proper path in life. Even then I had unrest. Bouts of darkness as I would retreat to my head with thoughts of not being good enough, a failure, self deprecation seemed to be normal. Prayer seemed in vane. Staying the course because there was no turning back. Following Christ came with a stigma that seemed to spark shame at the mention to others, hushed tongue…I am a Christian. Realizing so many had brought shame to the the true word of God, Christ; their misinterpretation would not be my shame, I would sing the praises of what being a follower of Christ truly represents.
What He was telling me taught me about faith, hope, patience, trust and love. In all of this was whimsy. Life seemed to have a bit more spontaneity and I found a new appreciation for people, community, and the richness we offered each other as a collective. Above all else he showed me that had I stayed my course I would have found more pain than happiness, more destruction than what we were building as a family, and the semblance of myself would be far from recognizable.
As a follower of Christ, walking with God has been the most rewarding and challenging transformation to my life and that of my family. With every change comes the exit, or death, of the former self.Â I wouldn’t change my choices for the world and am ever grateful for the summer evening on my brothers balcony.
Last November we made the decision to make an update to our lifestyle. You see, The Chad and I have always been outdoors people; camping, hiking, the open road and the wind at our feet describes our nonconformist hearts. Our life prior to children was filled with impulsive joy rides and haphazard escapades. The main aspect of our willy nilly adventures came in owning a Jeep. If you have never owned a Jeep you miss the mystique of breathing in the fresh air on this off-road convertible. As I mentioned we updated our parental lifestyle; we went out and bought a four door Jeep Wrangler, because life is better in a Jeep.
Sans kids, The Chad and I went everywhere in our Jeep. One most memorable trip together was when we lived in New Mexico, we made an impromptu decision to load up camping gear and head north. Exploring the open wilderness we set out for the Jemez Mountains. Natural hot springs, preserves littered with Ponderosa pines, volcanoes and elegant rock formations color the landscapeÂ of this region outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
We set out to the local grocery story and loaded up on supplies and off we went. As we wound around the abandoned railroad track areas and deep into a wonderful clearing outside of the Gilman Tunnels. A breathtaking pasture of green, a flowing brook and cows.
I can digress on the cows, but lets face it, this is about life in a Jeep.
Only one of the many adventures The Chad and I tripped along while together with our Jeep. So when we purchased our first family Jeep we took our first family camping trip this past June. We came across a four wheel drive-Jeep club on Facebook, joined and set out on our first adventure.
What better locale to take a Jeep Adventure: Sedona!
This was no pink Jeep expedition either. We were blessed to have met an excellent group of people that had previously started out as sheer strangers. An entire day of roaming around the red rock wilderness of Sedona. All of our families and our children forging friendships, building relationships, life of a Jeep owner.
Views were breathtaking. Submarine rock. Chicken rock. Covered in red dust, bull nosed rock edges, smooth from years of weather and age and our Jeeps crawled over these high desert spectacles. A full day was spent out and about and we returned for a mid-afternoon break before heading back out for a night run with some other new found friends.
Our evening adventure was not as pretty as the mountainous red rocks that decorate the surrounding area of Sedona but nonetheless beautiful. Creeping along in the evening hours our group was a literal parade of Jeeps, a band of brothers and sisters sharing the same passion and love for life, the great outdoors, and doing it all in a Jeep. We all watched out for one another. Validating no one was losing fluids, making sure everyone was whole. Being a community.
That weekend was a day after I lost my job at the bank. A weekend I truly was dreading because of the unfortunate circumstances, but it turned into a life changing weekend for The Chad, I and our family. We met some amazing people, these same folks today we call friends and try to get together with as often as we can despite the miles in between us all.
If you have ever heard that it’s a “Jeep thing” or “Jeep life” it is an unspoken way of life. Hard to believe that experiencing life could be different, but there is something to be said about having the top off on your Jeep, experiencing the sights and smells that accompany a life of unbridled adventure where roads are optional. Above all, the relationships and friends you make along the way who share the same values and love for life as you do, those friendships are priceless and cherished. Let’s face it, life is just better in a Jeep.
I am normally a huge fan of desserts. Starting any meal with a dessert is truly living. But I live in a world where the reality is we cannot always have our cake and eat it too. So I substitute with some amazing comfort foods that warm my family’s belly’s as well as their hearts; The Chad loved to eat this favorite while growing up on air force bases. It’s a fairly inexpensive and goes the mile type of meal, sure to have plenty of leftovers, and let’s be honest….the leftovers are ALWAYS better the next day.
1 & 1/2 c of Kirkland Organic Mixed vegetables (potatoes, corn, green beans, carrots, celery), I like frozen, you can just toss them in and forget about it.
Organic Chicken broth (generally about 3-4 cups depending on how many people you are feeding)
Cream of Chicken soup is the shortcut way, I like to mix some heavy cream with my homemade Organic Chicken Broth.
Salt and pepper to flavor
1 bay leaf
For the Dumplings:
2 1/2 c Bisquick (I like to scratch bake my biscuits as opposed to using Bisquick, the choice is yours)
2/3 c. milk
In a large pot, dutch oven, crock pot, or Cuisinart Multi-Cooker like mine, simmer chicken, broth, vegetables, until vegetables are tender maybe an hour or more depending on how much flavor you want your vegetables to absorb. I personally slow cook my chicken overnight to have them fall apart and shred on their own into the pot.
Slowly add cream of chicken (or cream) and stir gently ever careful not to boil. Add bay leaf and let simmer for 20 minutes, skim out the leaf before the dumplings. While simmering mix the Bisquick and milk until a dough forms and slowly drop into soup mixture, cover and let cook for 10 minutes or until dough rises like bread and biscuits form. Remove from heat and ladle out into a bowl, serve with butter and pepper.