Forgive and Forget

In the late fall of​ 2014, our family was ousted from our home in the most undignified manner.

We’d been living there for a little over a year, renting from a couple my family had known since I was a half-pint. It had seemed like a dream come true when we’d been approached about renting from them; they wanted someone they knew who would care for their home, and so the rent we paid was not what one would expect from that large of a home that backed to open space and a reservoir to boot! Paradise!

When we’d first moved in, I’d asked how long they were thinking to rent to us. The answer was five or six years or until they retired and moved back to Colorado. And so, we settled blissfully into our new home for an extended stay.

Until October 6 when I received an email. They were selling the house.

Initially he indicated that he wanted us to put a sign in the front yard to sell it himself. I vetoed that, indicating that there was no way we were going to allow people off the street to come in and see the house without an insured and bonded real estate agent. He relented.

Fast forward not quite two months (I’m leaving out 75% of the sordid details) and we were fleeing the house from the imminent sale that had initially seemed like an answer to prayer: a single man was buying and willing to continue to rent it to us. That man became erratic and threatening, and after a particularly bad encounter we’d found another house and signed a lease within 48 hours.

There are so many other things that happened. I could outline them all, but let me just summarize by saying that the friendship that had lasted almost four decades between our families is in rubbles. I was saddened by their decision to sell, but understood and wasn’t angry. But, over the course of that month, things came to light that cut me to my core. When I addressed them in an email, there was only justification and obfuscation.

Whatever.

Here’s what I’m grappling with right now, and that’s forgiveness.

In the early 1990s I grappled with this very same thing and thought that I’d really become quite accomplished at the whole maneuver!

I was dating a guy and his mother had pulled a really dastardly deed that had hurt my feelings beyond belief. I relished telling the story of what she’d done. Everyone I told empathized and agreed that I’d been done wrong. Every time I told the story, I’d feel that familiar rush of righteous anger, the unjustness of it all.

Of course, I would finish the story with, “…and of course I forgive her! I really do!”

Forgive and forget, right?

Until one day I was gob smacked (or perhaps God-smacked) by the thought that while I might not ever forget it, there was no way I could claim to forgive until I stopped telling the story. Reliving the details of the wrong and the dredging up the emotions of the hurt. Claiming to forgive, but airing her wrongs to a new audience time and again.

That day I had the heretofore unthought thought that forgiveness wasn’t just saying the words, it was no longer telling the story.

It revolutionized my life in the area of forgiveness! I got quite good at it! I just stopped myself from reliving, retelling wrongs!

Except my husband. That was a different blog post. {grins}

And now today. Three years after we were chased from our home. One Sabbath not so long ago I was standing in the children’s welcome area with a friend who I had just grabbed in a hug…

…and into my line of sight walked the wife of the couple who’d sold the house out from under us.

Sigh.

Forgiveness.

The last three years, we’d lived in a home that we ended up loving! If not the house itself, then definitely the neighborhood and neighbors made up for it in spades! We made friends, I got involved with a non-profit (running the finances) that gives us free eggs and access to riding horses whenever I want!

I told myself that I forgave this couple! I told family that I forgave them!

And then they showed up at church. They live almost 13 hours away from Colorado. There are only about a dozen churches in the Denver area to attend.

No, I had to come face to face with the fact that I hadn’t forgiven. I still have raw emotion about the whole thing.

I’ve stopped telling the story, by and large. Writing it out above was the first time I’ve thought of it in quite a while. I thought I’d forgiven.

I don’t know how long it will be before they visit again. I wonder to myself if they’re thinking about it. About us. About me. I wonder if they’re talking about it. I wonder if he’s composing an email to send. I wish he would. Forgiveness is so much easier if the other party, the wounding party, asks forgiveness. Acknowledges the wrong and opens that door. But that’s not likely.

And so here I sit. Mulling. Stewing. Wishing it were different. Not yet ready to do anything myself. Seems there’s much more for me to learn.

Bringing Every Thought Into Captivity — Part 1: New Beginnings

I can do nothing but praise my Savior! God has brought us many blessings this last week; however, they have been wrapped up as a secret package in some very challenging trials. Isn’t it funny how we often look at trials and complain, yet looking back we are able to see a clearer picture of the blessings that have come from these trials? Not that it makes them any easier to bear at the time, but we can truly know that through them we are being shaped and molded into His likeness.

A month and a half ago we moved in with my in-laws so that my husband could go to school full time. (It has been quite the sacrifice on all of our parts as all of us are all staying in one room, so it’s tight quarters. We are blessed, however, that we have a big yard for the kids.) We have been handed free schooling through a wonderful program called the Trade Act. He has decided to get his heavy duty diesel mechanics degree. Of course we couldn’t pass that up!!! He’s only been dreaming about this for years, but we have never had the money for the schooling, let alone the needed tools.

We got moved up here and got settled, and two weeks into school he started freaking out about needing a ton of money — that we don’t have as we are living off of unemployment for the next two years — for tools. What in the world? The Trade Act is supposed to provide the tools. My husband suffers from PTSD from when he served in the Navy during 9/11, and before converting from atheism to Adventism. Due to his PTSD he isn’t exactly the best of communicators. After weeks of frustration on my end, knowing something was wrong but him denying it, I found out that he didn’t have any tools yet and was starting to fall behind in the shop part of class. That didn’t, however, end the quest for a tool fund. Fortunately, at four weeks into his classes, he finally got his tools. In spite of the negative, it has been a blessing. He is getting quite spoiled with a new tool box, etc., so it was worth waiting for!

In every marriage there are issues, things that each couple has to work out, and things that bring them together to the same mindset — but often times it takes quite a bit of trials to get to that point, not to mention the pain suffered on both sides of the relationship. I heard it said once that couples’ biggest problems usually stem from sex, finances, or child rearing. I understand too well the struggle, and the area in our marriage has definitely been finances.

As we struggled this last week, we went to our in-laws for counsel as to how to solve some of the issue with the finances so that both our needs were being met. We originally decided to move in with our in-laws to save money to pay off debt, which met my need. Unfortunately, our unemployment was cut to the point that it became necessity. My father-in-law lovingly but sternly chewed me out and told me to find a way to make the budget work and to get my husband his tool fund. That really made me mad, especially since I knew he didn’t understand what we have gone through financially. (When we got married we were both out of debt and debt was not an option. As life’s circumstances dealt out, we ended up in debt — not a ton, but enough to be difficult to escape on a limited income.) I was so mad that I responded in anger.

I sat there on the couch, stunned as I listened to all of the anger at my husband that spewed out of my mouth. It seemed like a waterfall that had a huge dam that just wouldn’t quit behind it. I knew I loved my husband and was being faithful to the vow to love and obey, and yet I had so much hate in my heart toward someone I was supposed to love deeper then anyone on this earth. How could that be? How could I have hidden this much anger in my heart for so many years? We ended the conversation with me saying that I needed time to process everything. I went in and went to bed about 4 p.m.

That evening and most of the next day (which, praise the Lord, was Sabbath), I analyzed where the negative feelings were coming from, and what was truly going on inside my head and heart, and prayed that God would take the feelings of hate I had developed toward my husband away. I then talked to my husband and told him how I felt and what was going on inside of myself. I am grateful that I have a deeply committed husband and that in spite of all of my flaws he still is willing to work at our relationship and keep moving forward. (In spite of his own flaws, I do see Christ’s love for me reflected in my husband’s patience with me.) Today we are working on rebuilding and renewing our relationship, and it’s amazing how releasing the anger that I didn’t know I was harboring in my heart to Christ has made a dramatic difference in our relationship. Things I didn’t realize were broken are correcting themselves, and I’m beginning to see the blessing that marriage can be. I am sure being human that we will still struggle, but I pray that God will show us the true state of our hearts and keep any resentment, bitterness, etc., out of our hearts toward each other.

As I sit back and think about this last week, my mind is drawn to the Bible verse, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who shall know it?” Jer. 17:9. I certainly had no clue I felt toward my husband like I did. He was my husband; I had waited for him for 26 years. I had dreamed about the things we would do together, about how we would serve the Lord, the children we would have.

Do we as humans intentionally deceive ourselves, or is it something that happens unconsciously? “From within the hearts of men come every evil thought, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,” Mark 7:21. So, how do we obey 2 Cor. 10:5, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” How do we bring every thought into captivity if we can’t know our hearts? What about Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Several years ago we were introduced to some videos called Who Switched Off My Brain, by Dr. Carolyne Leaf. I laughed watching the videos. I am not sure she is an Adventist, but she sure quotes a lot of Ellen White almost word for word. Dr. Leaf specializes in working with people who have had traumatic brain injuries, car accidents, coma survivors, etc. It is amazing the research that she has done. She approaches science as backing up scripture, and explains exactly how your body and mind work and the connection between the two.

Several months ago I loaned the videos to a friend of mine. She is a medic and struggles with PTSD when she is working. She sent me a book called Switch On Your Brain, by Dr. Leaf. Since using this program she is not only PTSD free but she said that her anxiety, etc., is completely gone. How does this program work? I’m going to explain in my next blog post. Dr. leaf teaches you how to capture every thought and bring it into captivity to Christ. If you are interested in teaching your kids this as well, I highly recommend finding the book online and ordering it. It is well worth the read.

As we are advancing in our new beginnings, I look forward to sharing how to master each thought for Him.

The Road Less Traveled

Every day we trudge on, fighting fights we weren’t meant to fight. We get to an age where our crises have momentum. Our kids struggle and the things we thought were hard when they were young seem trivial. Our marriages have become a boulder racing downhill with destruction ahead.

Then we have another fight in a different arena, then another. Things pile on. The new day-to-day things may not be BIG issues, or fights, but when we’re barely hanging on emotionally, anything is a big deal!

Every day, we stand at a crossroads between two distinct paths, two possible reactions. Most people live life having no clue that there’s another option…a road less traveled, as it were.

The options are this: continue fighting, becoming wearier and wearier. This path you are 100 percent responsible for the outcome. If there’s a shift and it improves, then YAY ME! You get the glory! But, if things don’t improve, then you carry the burden of guilt and fear.

Fear has you parent — or deal with any situation — from a foundation that’s crumbling. It makes your chest tight. It makes you angry. It makes you attached to the outcome. It has you scream, say things with venom and sarcasm, or say nothing in a stony silence that speaks hate.

Guilt is even worse. It’s like a running charge at a store that is ignored for years. It may seem like the balance will never come due, but it will. And, there’s no escape. Except there will be escape…from the fight. But, that escape will be into death or dementia.

The other option is just so wildly improbable that it will seem like no option at all. It will feel like a cop out — like letting those you’ve been fighting with “get their way.” It will go against everything we’ve been trained, indoctrinated, to believe and do. And, so few do it that there are few to testify.

This other option is to stand back and say, “Okay, God. I am done. It’s now all YOU.” What comes next will probably — if we’re really, really honest — sound something like this, “I don’t trust You. I think everything will go south fast. Let’s see what YOU can do…which is nothing…because I’ve never seen any kind of proof of the ‘power’ that You supposedly have.”

I’m just keeping it real. This is stuff we often don’t even admit to ourselves!

Our deepest, darkest secret is that most of us don’t trust God. We give reeeeeeeeally good lip service, if anything. But, it’s just that. How many of us have proof that God really still does what He did in the Bible?

I believe from the very most honest parts of my heart that it’s because we are really good managers of our homes, our lives. Our emotions. We rarely need God in a miraculous way! And, in the very first moment that we do need Him (typically in our early adult years), we have no example, no modeling, no reason to trust! And so, we begin our life of fighting fights.

By the time we get to the really big fights — the fights for our marriages, the fights for our kids’ hearts, the fights for our relationship with God — we have a life of proof that God doesn’t work miracles, that it’s only by our own striving that anything gets done.

But, I’m here to testify that there IS another way. This way is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, going in. I didn’t take this road because I wanted to!

I think of this analogy. Our life, fighting alone, is like standing on a cliff made of dirt. Sometimes in our lives, the dirt feels pretty stable under our feet. Other times, it’s like that cliff crumbling! We struggle to keep our feet, remain standing. Other days, we just lay there gasping for breath as we grapple to hold onto the ground as it falls away under our fingers, past the ability to even fight it!

In 2010, the cliff under my feet was just gone. Gone. Nothing left.

The crisis in 2010 brought me face to face with this second choice — the wildly improbable path at the crossroad is one of swallowing pride…one of just taking a deep breath and stopping the fight. This literally means stopping. The. Fight. All the fights.

We read about the Bible stories that are miraculous. Peter walking on water. The fish and loaves. Healings. It all seems so far removed from the REAL issues we deal with! Those are nice for sermons and Sabbaths and all! But, they’re not applicable to the day-to-day problems I deal with!!

In 2010 it became very clear to me that there was nothing left to fight, nothing left to fear, since my very worst fear had come true: I had lost my family. Lost my kids. Holidays would never again hold the same joy.

And so, it came to be that one dark early-summer night, I took my first step on the second path, the second option. I had no idea how it would all turn out, but I decided that I had no other reasonable choice. Had I even had a half-viable other option, I would have opted for that.

What it looked like was that I stood all alone on my back porch with my hands lifted high and I gave up. I gave it all up! I gave up my fight. I gave up my striving. I gave everything…but E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G…up. Including my children.

You see, I had this superstition, a superstition that was deep seated and based on experience. If I gave God permission to do something, He’d do it. No kidding. A decade before, I’d told him in a conversational prayer that was almost more of a mindless thought, “Whatever it takes to bring Whitney [my husband] closer to you, I give you permission to do.”

Less than two weeks later, Whitney lost his job.

He was unemployed for almost two years.

Our marriage almost didn’t survive those two years.

Coincidence? Perhaps! But, until that night on my deck, I wasn’t willing to run the risk!

And so, when I say I gave up my kids, I mean I gave up my children like Abraham gave up Isaac. I stood on that back porch and I said to God, “Okay, God! I give it all to You! Whatever I have, I give up! I give you my kids! If you have to take them [and I meant “if they have to die”], I give you permission! I give you everything, including me!”

That was the day my superstition died.

I discovered that my children, me, my family, were safe in my Father’s hands. Safe from physical harm. Safe from all the harms I might imagine.

I realized that after years of contending for my husband in his relationship with God, contending for my children on multiple levels, I had been in effect saying to the Creator God who speaks galaxies and universes into existence, “…[glances upward, holding up an index finger]…hold on a minute. I got this…”

And, all it had gotten me was broken relationships. It had gotten me guilt and fear. And in 2010, it got me the failure of my marriage.

In the giving it all up, God restored me. He gave me some good ol’ fashioned miracles!! Like…of biblical proportions!

He choreographed, in the most minute detail, the restoration of my marriage. Unimagineable, impossible, unbelievable, mind-blowing miracles!

No, my husband has not turned into a strong and mighty man of God. He still struggles with the whole concept of God, given the physical, emotional, and religious abuse he was dealt as a child. That would be my husband’s miracle, in any case. And, I’m no longer in the habit of sticking my nose in my husband’s relationship with God.

But, my husband no longer has a wife who tsk-tsks over him, trying to emotionally manipulate him, bully him (regardless of how subtlety…or not), or guilt him into “doing” religion the right way. He has a wife who respects the path that God has him on. Some days he has no clue what to do with that, and the past is a spectre he has to fight. I let him do that too.

In response to my flat-out giving up, God has piled miracle after miracle on my head and in my heart; I’m not the same woman. The biggest miracle has been me. How I see my husband, my kids. How I see their struggles. How I respond to their struggles, their failures, their missteps. It’s so humbling to watch. I am so profoundly thankful.

How about you? Many of you stand at that same crossroad. While you may not avail yourself of it yet…it took me until my mid-40s to come to it…just know. There’s another option.

Holidays Bring Opportunities

Thanksgiving holidays are over for Canadians. We’re gearing up for Remembrance Day and Christmas already. If the snow hasn’t flown yet, it will soon and winter will be settling in. For those in the States, Thanksgiving and Christmas are rolling up faster than you can imagine.

Life presents so many opportunities for discussion. One of the advantages in homeschooling is that we can direct difficult conversations — we can answer questions, or pose them when applicable. We can help our children form their own fact-based opinions in these areas. We can help them discover their thoughts, their own ideas. We can help them think through all the options and information. Sharing what others believe, what we believe, and the reasons why helps our children to critically think through the issues and form their own opinions, which will last longer than if we insist they take only hours.

One of the life opportunities I’m grateful for is Halloween. It’s also just around the corner and, even if you don’t celebrate it, we can’t ignore it. We don’t celebrate Halloween in our home, and I’m grateful my boys don’t question that; they don’t enjoy Halloween or any of the decorations. We can’t bury our heads in the sand, and we can’t ignore the celebration of Halloween when it is all around us.

Halloween has been a time of less media because we don’t enjoy shows that highlight Halloween. It does however, open up many conversations. Some of the conversations revolve around vandalism and lead to respecting other people’s property. We live in the city and during Halloween there are houses TP’d, graffiti increases, and things are destroyed. We have conversations about God vs. Satan, the war between good and evil, and how we must choose which side to be on. We discuss healthy eating, even during holidays — showing self-restraint when the temptation is all around us, even being pushed on us. It’s an opportunity to respectfully engage others in conversation, to be kind even when people disagree with us.

Every opportunity is one for education, for improvement of character. Let’s not miss any simply because we don’t like the holiday or event at hand.

Inspiration: Finding Your “Treasure” and Your Purpose

This past week I was filling in the “About me” section on a crafting site I run, and one of the questions that was proposed was, “What inspires you to come up with original designs?” This got me to thinking more about inspiration and motive. What is it? Why/how do I use it? And ultimately, what does it reveal about God’s heart?

I invite you on this journey today, and believe this is something that will not only benefit us as parents, but can also be a good tool for teens who are just starting to grapple with the bigger questions of life, such as purpose, and how inspiration/motivation can lead to finding our purpose, especially when we keep God at the center. I would highly recommend taking the time to write the questions in this article down in a journal, and prayerfully answer them for yourself.

Inspiration

It should be noted that inspiration (or motivation), in the sense that I’m writing about today, means taking an idea or emotion, and expanding on it, either mentally or physically. And, not only expanding on it, but applying the results to my life in a broader perspective — that is to somehow be a clearer reflection of God’s character, and heart, as mother/wife/daughter/business woman/teacher. Inspiration put toward a higher purpose, if you will. This is different than perfectionism, and should not be used to compare yourself to others.

What inspires you? When you find that out, you will find where your heart is.

Personally, I’m inspired by beauty in many forms, both the physical — such as flowers, sunrises, family, lace, ruffles, cozy pajamas, and clean sheets (I can almost hear angels sing when climbing into a clean bed); and intangible — like kindness, love, confidence, and selflessness.

I can either look at these things in a passive/dismissive way, or dig deeper and find some truths that may not be so initially obvious about God, and how He designed me. But, not just me; rather, the whole of humanity. You can also think of inspiration as being where your treasure is.

Now it’s your turn: What inspires you? What breathes life into your heart? What makes “birds sing and flowers bloom” in your soul? What is the “treasure” that draws you to a place so lovely, and sweet that you wish everyone knew about it, and could experience it for themselves?

But why?

Once you’ve discovered what it is that inspires you, look deeper. Why does this inspire or motivate me? What place does this touch in my heart? Take some time and write these down in a journal and answer them for yourself. The way I answer (based on the previous paragraph) is because beauty is comforting, it is healing. It reminds me that there are good things in this world. That there are things worth believing in. That all I have dreamed for and of is not in vain, and that one day, all that is ugly and miserable and sad will be removed. That one day I will behold Him face to face — the One who first dreamed of us, and then created the world and everything in it — purposely. Notice how inspiration came before creation, even for God.

What do the things that inspire me say about God’s heart? How does this reveal a greater plan or purpose? And finally… How can I pass that inspiration on to others?

For one, I need to stay connected to the ultimate source of inspiration, blessings, and love. When I seek to know and understand God’s will through prayer and Bible study, the desire for competition ends. I don’t harbor hate, bitterness, and anger, because perfect love drives out fear (fear being the root cause of anger, hate, negativity). I am free to let the peace that passes all understanding take up residence in my heart. I am free to be the person God made me to be, and He becomes my ultimate inspiration.

It is He who inspires me with grace to become a more effective and focused teacher, He inspires me with patience when my children are having a difficult day, and He inspires me with mercy when a friend says something unintentionally hurtful. He shows me that my purpose is to glorify Him in all things. That by seeking His will, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, I will bear the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). I can’t think of anything more beautiful or inspirational than that.

“…Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things,” Philippians 4:8 (NIV).

Below, I’m including the questions asked in this article in one easy-to-see area to make this study more simple.

Questions to Ask Yourself

What inspires or motivates me?

  • What breathes life into my heart?What makes “birds sing and flowers bloom” in my soul? What is the “treasure” that draws me to a place so lovely, and sweet that I wish everyone knew about it, and could experience it for themselves?

Why does this inspire or motivate me?

  • What place does this touch in my heart? Why do I believe in it?

What do the things that inspire me say about God’s heart?

  • How does this reveal a greater plan or purpose? How can I pass that inspiration on to others?