Monday, November 29, 2010

The "F" Word...

Forgiveness...

...sometimes "forgiveness" is the "F" word...it seems filthy, formidable, futile, faulty...

Why is forgiveness so difficult?

I've been working with "Dr. Phil My Soul With Jesus" (that's my Christian counselor) on forgiveness...

...she had me complete a list of people in my life that I am angry with or hold some sort of "resentment" towards.  Immediately I thought of two people, two very key people in my life...and I thought that they were the only two people that would be recorded on my list...

...turns out my list was twelve people long...

where did they come from?  I starred at my list...I blinked...the names were still there.  I couldn't believe what I had written...I had no idea I harbored so much "unforgiveness"...

So, I took my list back to "Dr. Phil My Soul With Jesus" and we began working on that list...

...my list is now two people long.  The same two people that I originally thought of when the list idea was presented to me.  The same two key people in my life...

I looked at "Dr. Phil My Soul With Jesus" and simply said, "I can't." 

..."You can," she said, just as simply as I had said it to her. 

I haven't forgiven these two people...yet.  I say "yet" because I'm working on the forgiveness...and I truly believe that with God's help I will one day forgive them. 

...the point of this post isn't to share with you the "unforgiveness"...but rather the "forgiveness" that I have experienced...because the forgiveness, when it happens....is beautiful...

...allow me to share a story with you:

Roughly three weeks ago I encountered a very uncomfortable situation with a friend.  The situation left my husband furious, I was shaken, and with all of the emotions we encountered over this one happening, it left my husband and I in great stress.  The situation called for me to confront the very people that I have trusted and loved...and admittedly, placed upon a pedestal.  I waited for the outcome that I expected...and when the resolution that I desired was not presented to me, I crumbled. 

...and the devil swept in....

"They don't like you."

"This is your fault."

"They don't care about you."

"It won't ever be the same..."

My world was spinning out of control...I couldn't believe that the very people that I believed in, bragged about, loved with all my heart, idolized.....

...they fell. 

I called my friends that are professionals and relayed my delima to them, seeking their advice...looking to them to share what I wanted them to say...what I had expected the others to say....

...but my friends only confirmed that my resolution was not realistic and that how the situation was handled was indeed correct....

I cried.  I sulked.  I pouted.  I looked for different answers...my answers.

After several days of stumbling in darkness, I confronted one of the "trusted" ones...

...after several minutes of crying, pleading and disagreement, I heard this...

"Until you can forgive, you won't be free."

I was expected to forgive the very person that had placed me in this horrible situation...

...I wasn't ready...in fact, I thought, I'm not EVER going to forgive this person...I'm not the one who did the wrong...I shouldn't have to forgive...

....and I cried.  And I was miserable.

And then I was reminded of a story that my sales manager at work shared with me a few short months ago...

...he said that three years ago when I interviewed with the company that I now work for, I left the office after a lengthy interview and he and his business partner looked at the third business partner and said, "no way.  We can't hire her...she's a party girl."  And the third business partner looked at them and said, "no, I think we should give her the opportunity...there is something about her that tells me we should hire her."

....and Grace and Mercy were given....Forgiveness....it was gifted to me...

...and then I thought about the night I lay in the bed in my hotel room in New York City...I asked God to forgive me of my sins...I asked Him to come into my heart, cleanse me, mold me, love me....

....and Christ died on the Cross for my sins....He forgave.

....why shouldn't I?

And so, I sat with the person that wronged me...I listened to his cry.  I watched as this individual sat before me, broken and beaten...and I thought, "I've been where you are.  I know your pain."  I too cried with him...I felt his apology in my heart...

...and I looked at him and I softly said...

"I forgive you."

And I am free.


...why is it so easy to forgive some...

...and so difficult to forgive others?



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holy Tattoo Batman...

So...

I was prepared to write a heartfelt post dedicated to my brother...today would have been his thirty-second birthday.

However...as I just signed on to my computer and checked my facebook page, I went to my sister's page to leave her a quick "I love you and miss you" note (she lives in California)...

....and I decided that my sister's unique way in how she "celebrated" our brother's birthday was MUCH MORE BLOG POST WORTHY...

....and there is no need for words, because the photo will do it ALL the justice in the world...


Okay, I'll add a few words...

First, that's my sisters wrist....she's laid it next to a photo of my brother that just so happens to be funny because he's "pointing" to her wrist...

Second....that's our brother's name that she just had tattooed on her arm today...

Third.....yeah, I got nothing.....I'm speechless....

....except to say...I can ALWAYS count on my little sis to entertain our family and keep me laughing!!!

I love you Jordan!!

....and....HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAL, I LOVE YOU ALWAYS!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Firsts...

Tomorrow will be the first Thanksgiving holiday celebrated without my brother...

...a year of "firsts" are in front of us...

...first birthday, he would have been thirty-two this Sunday.  First Christmas, first birthday celebration of his baby girl who be three in January.  First birthday celebration of his baby boy who will be two in February.  First Easter, first Father's Day, first Fourth of July....

...first year since he's been gone, in July...

Last year my Thanksgiving post focused on the price paid for my redemption, a gift that I am thankful for every day. 

...admittedly, this year I wished that I could simply close my eyes and sleep through the next five weeks...waking up to a new year, leaving behind a year of sickness, loss and hurt. 

Last night I watched my mother melt in her pain...again, I felt helpless, unable to give her the only gift that she truly wants...her only son.  I cried myself to sleep, tossing and turning through the night, pleading with God to take the grief, the pain...fill me with love and understanding.

Isn't it interesting how "Firsts" are typically a moment of celebration in life...first birthday, first day of school, first boyfriend, first day of college, first job, first holiday as a married couple, first baby, first anniversary...

...but this year the "firsts" will not be a celebration, rather a reminder of the loss of someone we love.

But it's okay to grieve...it's okay to be sad, to cry, to be angry, to hurt...

...but it's also okay to laugh, to smile, to share memories, to celebrate...

...in fact, it's imperative that we continue to celebrate....

....to live. 

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the beautiful babies that are pieces of my brother.  I'm thankful for the gorgeous and amazing mother that those babies love, the woman my brother loved and adored.  I am thankful for my own mother...her beautiful, loving ways...her contagious laugh and her incredible cooking!  :)  I am thankful for my three handsome and healthy boys...the love that they have for me.  I am thankful for my unbelievably fabulous husband, who has been my rock, who exudes patience and love like I've never known.  I am thankful that my brother knew just how much I love him.  I am thankful that I took initiative to share with my brother what an awesome father he was, how proud of him I am! 

I am thankful for forgiveness...although I struggle still in some areas of my own life, in others I have found the courage to forgive and I, myself, have been forgiven.  I am thankful for the love, the peace and the gift of life that my Father above provides to me each and every day...

....and, I am thankful for the "firsts"...the celebrations of new life, the life that will continue and memories that we will all share....


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Calling All Angels...

Saturday night.  My husband has taken our boys to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I am laying in my bed, wrapped in my pink terry cloth robe, fur lined slippers warming my feet.  The television is on, Pay It Forward, a favorite of mine...and I watch as if I were watching it for the very first time.

...the plot of the movie circles around a young boy who, for a social studies project, begins a "movement" that spreads across the United States.  The concept of "paying it forward"...changing someones life for the better, lending a helping hand, offering hope in a time of desperation....

As the movie reaches it's ending, the song "Calling All Angels" flows from my television and I turn up the volume...I close my eyes as I hold on to each word;

"calling all angels

walk me through this one

don't leave me alone

calling all angels

calling all angels

we're cryin' and we're hurtin'

and we're not sure why... "

I slowly open my eyes and my tears spill over... 

...Pay It Forward...Calling All Angels...I think back to the day after my brothers death...

...let me explain...

My brother passed away on a Thursday evening...the same day that my parents moved from their home of twenty-six years to a new, one level home, to better suit my father who suffers from MS.  My mother was already not herself...having spent the entire summer packing up years of home making and family memories.  Selling the home that she raised her children in was difficult on my mother, to say the least...and then, as she was beginning to unpack her new life, she was told that her only son was gone. 

My brothers death was unexpected.  He was only thirty-one.  He has two small babies and the love of his life waiting for him to heal from a terrible disease...but not a disease that people die from....so "shock" is an understatement.

I remember on the drive home from the VA Hospital in Columbia...late in the night, difficult to process leaving my brother behind and never seeing him again...I thought about the move...just hours earlier friends and family were gathered, moving boxes, organizing dishes, sorting through clothing...and there was still so much at the old home that needed to be done.  The old home needed to be cleaned, dusted, vacuumed, bathrooms scrubbed...there were still so many boxes to be brought from the old home to the new....but it was the last thing on any one's mind.

Pulling up to my mother's new home, the darkness of the night enveloped the sky....cars lined the street outside the new house and every light within was brightly shining.  As I entered the house, my parents closest friends, along with my mother's sister and her daughter were seated in the kitchen.  Silence was thick within the room...and then I heard my mother's cry.  Helpless...it's the worst feeling in the world...and it consumed every part of me in that moment...all my mother wanted was her son...and I couldn't give him to her.  My heart was heavy...

...After a long night of tossing and turning...fits of rage...pleading with God and deep crying, the morning finally arrived.  The sky was still dark...clouds covered every inch and the rain pelted the windows of my room...tears from the sky, it seemed so appropriate. 

A long, hot shower and a cup of coffee seemed to soothe my mind for a moment and I drove to my parents home.  My father was sitting at the kitchen table, boxes towered high around him, dishes wrapped in packing paper lined the counter tops...my mother was still sleeping in her bed, drugged with a sedative that I had asked our family doctor for the night before.  I sat at the table with my father, neither of us said a word.  We sat for a moment, watching the rain, listening to the sounds of the new home...

...I heard the door of my parents bedroom creak open...and my mother shuffled into the kitchen.  Her eyes were swollen, her face pale, her shoulders sagged with a heaviness that no doubt was weighing on her heart too. 

"Do you see them?"  she whispered in a voice hoarse from a night of crying..."look out the window."

I turned my eyes from my mother to the window that my father and I had been looking out of just moments before...and there they were...

"Who are they?"  I asked.

"They're my students" my mother cried....and my eyes filled with tears once again.

You see, the news of my brothers death traveled the social network of Facebook the night before...and my mother, who has been a teacher for over thirty-two years, was the topic of many "status updates" and "conversations"....a group of my mother's students rallied together and early the morning after, in the cold and stinging rain, they carried boxes from the old house to the new house, they dusted and vacuumed the old house and they one by one came in to share with my mother how much they love her.

It was an incredible sight.  It was an incredible feeling.  It was...just incredible.

"Calling All Angels"...the song means so much more to me now then it did the first time I heard it, years ago.

...I'm writing this post because this Thanksgiving I have so much to be thankful for...yes, there has been great loss and great hurt in my family...but there has been even greater healing, greater friendships, and greater love that we perhaps would have never noticed before...

...thank you to all those "angels"...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...

This is me, as a brunette.  I'm thinking about going back to this color....thoughts?!? 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Not So "Uplifting" Experience...

My sister-in-love called me this morning and asked me to drop a copy of my brother's death certificate at the Veterans office in the Jefferson building, downtown.  "The guys name is Marc, and he is on the twelfth floor."

...easy, right?

I pulled up to the building with the big bear in front...my father worked in the Jefferson building when I was little and the memories of climbing up onto the bear and planting a big kiss on his cold, stone body came rushing back...



I entered the building through the revolving doors..."eww, rusty" I thought as I looked down at the worn floors and I squinted my eyes at the piercing sound of rusting mechanical parts that spin the doors...

As I stepped onto the elevator I pressed the number twelve button and the doors shut immediately. 

Whoosh....

...the numbers on the lighted board above the door seemed to instantly change...1, 2, 3....12!  It was honestly the fastest elevator I had ever ridden and it left me a bit woozy.

The doors opened and I stepped off the elevator and stepped into the Veterans office.  Marc was readily available and the drop off took no time at all.

Seconds later I stepped back onto the elevator and I pressed the first floor button, the doors closed.

...12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6......

HAULT!

My body jolted and I began to loose my balance.  Reaching out to the sides and grasping the walls, a feeling of panic set in...



I waited...

Nothing.

"Really?...

....Really??!"

I picked up the phone on the wall...an operator on the first floor answered:

"May I help you?"

"Um, yes...this is Betsy, I'm stuck in the elevator." (what am I? A celebrity? Why did I say my name?)

"Okay mam, I'll send maintenance right away, hold tight."

"thank you..."

approximately sixty seconds later (but seriously, it felt like hours!) I picked up the phone again:

"May I help you?"

"yes, um, is someone working on the elevator?"

"yes mam, we are working as quickly as we can."

"okay.  Thank you."

click.

approximately thirty seconds later (but seriously, it felt like hours!)

the elevator phone rings...

ummmm....am I supposed to answer?  What?  It's a legit question, right?

"This is Betsy." (don't judge me, it's how I answer my cell)

"Yes mam, this is maintenance (does he not have a real name?) and we are working on the situation at hand.  Are you okay?"

"ummm, I'm feeling warm....and like I might cry....yes, yes, I'm going to cry....here it comes."

Crying.

Silence.

(What I imagine was going through "maintenance's" head:  "we've got a nut on our hands, work faster!")

"Okay mam, stay calm.  We are working as quickly as possible."

"Ummm, sir?  Can you please tell me, am I between the fifth and sixth floors or the sixth and seventh floors?"

"fifth and sixth."

"Ummmm, okay...can you now tell me how many feet, approximately of course, is it to the ground floor?"

"mam?"

"well, I need to know how many feet it is to the ground floor so that if the cable breaks and I come crashing down I can brace myself for the severity of the fall.  I mean, are we talking hundreds of feet?"

Silence.

(inside "maintenance's" head:  "yep, we've got a nut on our hands...and she's cracked.")

"mam, we are working quickly.  I'm going to hang up now, but hold tight, we just about have the problem solved."

click.

Ummmm...he didn't even wait for me to acknowledge that he was going to hang up.  Rude.

...approximately twenty minutes later (but seriously, it felt like days!) after checking my email and attempting a few phone calls (nobody was available...figures) I realized I was drenched in sweat.  Man alive, it was HOT in the two square feet that I was occupying (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration...but seriously, it felt like two square feet!).  I picked up the phone:

"May I help you?"

"yes, this is Betsy again.  I'm curious, did you think it would be someone else?  Is there more than one phone line from the elevator?"

(I'm kidding, I didn't really say that...but I certainly thought it...I mean, come on!)

"yes, this is Betsy again.  Are they any closer to fixing the elevator?"

"mam, there is a short in the electrical wire and they are working on it now.  I apologize for the inconvenience.  Are you doing okay?"

"oh, yes, sure!  I'm great!  I'm just closing my eyes and breathing deep, I'm trying to get to my happy place, but for some reason, my mind has me trapped in a box!"

Silence.

"thank you."  and I hung up.

approximately FOURTY-FIVE minutes in the elevator (I'm SO serious!) the elevator jerked into motion and threw me to the first floor.  The doors opened and I literally JUMPED off the possessed and cursed elevator and " maintenance" was there to greet me, smudged in filth, tool box in hand:

"are you okay mam?"

my crazed eyes, sweaty clothing and matted hair said it all...

"sorry about that mam, have a good day now!"

I bolted towards the doors (choosing to use the "standard" doors, fearing that the revolving doors would trap me next) and I walked up to the stone bear that stands in the front of the building...

"Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"

From now on, I'm taking the stairs.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oops...Wordless Wednesday (On Thursday)...

Natalie Grant at the Women of Faith conference this past weekend...

...I was so close I could almost touch her!!

(yes, she is eight months preggo)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Knock Knock....Who's There?

Five O'clock on Wednesday evening...

...I had just walked through my front door, my purse on my shoulder, mail in one hand, car keys in the other...

...I yelled for the boys to put the dog, (who was jumping excitedly, indicating that he needed a potty break) out on his leash.

I slipped off my heels (ahhhhhh...relief) and I tossed the mail onto the kitchen table. 

Ding! Dong!

"Really?!!"  I rolled my eyes as I released a heavy sigh..."Who could possibly be at my door and why?!"

I sauntered to my front door to find two very young, well dressed men standing on the other side of my screen door. 

"Hello." 
I greeted the young men, worried that they would see right through my fake smile...

"Hi!  My name is Ben (they are always named Ben) and this is Joshua (of course).  We are Jehovah's witnesses, are you available to hear an important message?"

.....*inside my head*...."ummmm, no...I'm not available to hear an important message, not only because I'm tired and cranky and I've just come home from a long day at work, but because I'm pretty sure that your "important" message is not really that "important" to me..."

....*inside my heart*...."absolutely!  I would love to hear your "important" message, because I am a Christian, and Christians should show love and compassion...and believe me, I have compassion for you, and your "important" message...."

"Sure, I'll listen to what you have to share,
but may I ask questions?"

"of course!"

"And when you have shared
your important message with me,
 can I share my important message with you?"

...stone faces....

(What I imagined was going through their heads:

"wait...what do we say?  What is protocol?  Can we listen to her important message?  I don't know what to do!  Quick, jump on your bike and ride....ride like the wind!")...

"Okay..." (it sounded really unsure)

I opened the door and allowed the two men to enter, motioning towards the couch I offered them a seat.  As I sat in the recliner, I reached over to the coffee table that separated me from them and grabbed my Bible...

the saleslady (and the desire to dominate every conversation) in me began the conversation...

"I have to tell you, you are not my first Jehovah's witnesses...I've been approached a few times!  In fact, and I hope this doesn't offend you...I told the last two that came to my door that if I were a Jehovah's witness, and I believed that only 144,000 people will be raised to heaven to spend eternity with God, I sure as heck wouldn't be out recruiting people...I'd want to make sure I am one of those 144,000!"

...sideways glance at one another...

"We believe that when a person dies, his soul ends. If a person accepts salvation, he or she will be resurrected by Jehovah and will live on Earth. Some souls, however, were created by God to be kings and rulers. There are 144,000 spirits created by Jehovah before the creation of the Earth and they will go to Heaven after the resurrection. The remaining saved souls will dwell on a glorified Earth for all eternity."

"I think I'm one of those that God created to be a ruler....ha!"

yeah...they didn't get the humor in that.

"I should share with you that I gave my heart to Christ about two years ago, I'm a Christian."

"Great!  So you know what the true riches are!"

"I do!  I know that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for my sins, and He rose again.  I know He extends great mercy and grace to me each and every day.  I know that He is with me, even now, sitting here with you.  I know that He has changed my life, He has changed my family's life and He has great plans for me!"

Ben handed me a magazine titled "Awake"...I took the magazine and placed it on the coffee table.

"I have my Bible, it's the only book I need to find the Truth."

Ben looked frustrated, "When you invited us in you said you would listen to our message and we then agreed that we would listen to yours, but you haven't allowed us to share our message yet..."

I nodded my head in agreement, "I know what I said, but a thought just occurred to me...I have Christ in my heart.  I choose to follow Jesus, because the Bible says that Jesus is the only way to God, to heaven.  I don't know much about your beliefs, but quite frankly, I'm not interested in anything but what the Bible says."

Ben and Joshua stood, "You can keep the magazine, there are things in there that will help you understand our beliefs and if you have any questions, here is a card with my contact information."

I shook my head, declining the card...."Ben, it was very nice meeting you and Joshua, but I won't be needing the magazine and I won't need your contact information...if I have any questions, I'll look to the Bible or I can call my pastor!  In the meantime...if you are ever interested in understanding my beliefs, I'd love to have you visit my church.  I go to Memorial Baptist and we are very friendly and loving!"

Ben and Joshua stood....jaws practically hitting the floor...

As I watched Ben and Joshua ride off into the sunset on their 10 speed Schwinn's (that's an image, eh?) I thought to myself....

"My God can beat up their God..."

JUST KIDDING!  :)



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Know I Will...

Saturday evening I returned home from an exhilarating, inspiring and motivating two days...

...as I slid my exhausted body underneath the cool, clean sheets, Mark reminded me to set the clocks back one hour...

...a change of time.

A change of season...

...a change of life, at least for me and my family.

My mind began to wander into the past as I wound back the hands of the black ornate clock, a wedding gift almost twelve years ago...

...in my mind I was with my grandmother, laying on her bed that she had just smoothed, the handmade quilt that her mother had sewn was neatly folded at the foot of the bed.  I was sixteen, my head resting in the palms of my hands as I watched my grandmother standing in her mirror, applying her makeup...

"Grandma?"

"Yes, dear?"

"What did you want to be when you grew up?"

"A mother."

I smiled.

"Grandma....really...what did you really want to be when you grew up?"

"I really wanted to be a mother.  I dreamed of being a mother, a beautiful housewife, and I wanted a dark green velvet Devan."

I remember thinking to myself that she had succeeded...she was a mother, she was beautiful, and she did have a green velvet love seat...although it was bright green, not dark.

"Why do you ask?  What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"That's easy Grandma...I want to be an actress.  I'm going to sing on Broadway someday."

"I know you will."

And I believed my grandma...I believed that she believed that I really would be an actress.  She was my biggest "fan!"

"Honey?  Are you okay?"

I was abruptly brought back to the present, Mark was laying in the bed next to me as I held the clock in my hands...

...As I set the clock back onto the nightstand and I sank into the softness of the covers, my mind reeled with thoughts of the past two days.  It was my first Women of Faith conference...and I had spent the weekend building relationships with incredible women.  Together our hearts and our minds were soaked with the Truth...God's Truth. 

"Mark?"

"Yes, honey?"

"I'm going to share my passion for Christ and all that He has changed in me with the world!  I'm going to be a Woman of Faith...I'm going to tour with those women that have stories to share.  I'm going to be God's light and help bring others to their salvation!  I'm going to do it.  I really am!"

"I know you will."

...And I believe my husband...I believe that he believes that I really will share with the world! He is my biggest "fan!"

And I smiled.


Me, Angela and Jill at the Women of Faith conference!







Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween & Birthday...

Halloween is also the day of my mother's birth (my sister and I have always said she's a "real" witch...ha!)

...the weekend was filled with family, friends, fun and birthday celebration!!

My brother's son, Henry...strawberry jello, deciding if he likes it or not!

He LOVES the lemonade!

Sophie (my brother's daughter) ADORES her aunt Betsy...
and aunt Betsy ADORES her Sophie!

My niece and nephew (hottie hubby's sister's kids) McKenna & Jamisen!

Cousins!!

My mother's birthday cake, created by one of her students!

Cake #2, also created by one of my mother's students!

My mom & dad's new home...LOVE the fall colors!

BOO!

Dorthy (Sophie) is all worn out from trick or treating...

But...the candy kicked in and she gained her second wind!

Henry the horse!  LOVE IT!