Monday, May 29, 2017

I Wish I Had Known This Before

Have you ever had a moment of colorful clarity where you found yourself saying, "I wish I knew then what I know now"? There are many things in our lives we lament when we look back on them. For me, the moments of clarity happen when thinking about a period of time in my life I wish never happened. More specifically, the years of alcohol abuse and sexual addiction.

Those years were a fury of emotions and actions that took me to places I never thought I would go and wish that I could have known better or had someone in my life telling me the things to be wary of and exercise extreme caution in doing. Sadly, there wasn't but it was my own doing that caused those years to play out the way they did.

I, personally, created the sick and twisted environment in which I lived. The attitudes, hatred, and profane demeanor were all owned. No one had authority over how things were done, where things happened, or how often. As a result of a controlling and strong will, I never had anyone who could get close enough to watch over me.

To have another set of eyes see what I, obviously, didn't and slap me upside the head when getting off track or readying to do something stupid. To have someone take a hold of my hand and yank me in the opposite direction of where I was going and to not stop yanking until I relented.

Someone to tell me, 'Don't do it. That man is going to shame you. That one is going to abuse you. That one over there? He's going to control and threaten you.' I never heard those words because I never allowed any person to get within a reasonable proximity of my stone cold heart.

Then the thought emerges, "Would I have listened to the warnings? Would I have heeded all the urgent calls from that person when I wasn't even in a decent head space?" In order to be completely honest with myself while looking back on that time, I wouldn't have heard them. In fact, I could argue that there would be a certainty that I would kick and scream against that good willed and caring person, all in an effort to continue rebelling.

Sad, isn't it? Especially when a special friend was the one thing I was crying out for inside but adamantly denied, verbally. Interesting how a genuine need can be so easily ignored because of anger and stubbornness. Unfortunate how that destructive period of time, the years of drinking and meaningless encounters with men, could have been completely avoided if only I had laid down the arrogance and hatred. How do you do that when you are completely immersed in it?

That answer may never be known because of what I was going through at that time. It was as though every piece of my world had been turned inside out and upside down. There was no knowledge, wisdom, or discernment at my disposal...none that was accepted anyway.

The mind was blocked to any reason or common sense. Wanting to be lost in the insanity was more comforting than dealing with reality. It was a harsh reality that didn't exist if I didn't think about it. Oh, if only I could turn back time.

Even though time can't be turned back and while I may still lament those lost and hurtful years filled with scars that will always be there, I can hold my head high today and say that those scars may have come at a price but they are being turned into packages of beauty. Tattered things that have helped me become a different person. A better person, with compassion and empathy for those facing a similar fate.

I can be the voice in someone's head telling them not to do it. Even going to the extreme of showing up at their house, dragging them kicking and screaming from a situation I know they really want no part in but feel no reason to expect better for themselves.

I can be the woman who tells it like it is, sharing the things I know now that they may have already wished they knew before diving into the shallow end of the life pool head first. I can be the one to tell them the one thing that saved me from further heartbreak and imminent death, a relationship with God. Without that, this life would have been lost.

While I also wish that I had known a relationship with God before all the messy stuff I went through, there is a reason for it all. There is a greater purpose behind the pain endured and the shame inflicted. I may not know it completely, but I can try to save someone else from saying, years later, that they wish they had known this before.

Encouragement for the week:

I think there are a lot of people in the world who wish that the knowledge they have now, could have made it to the ears and mind of the younger 'them'. Wishing they had known certain things before their life started to go downhill and off the rails.

There are many times I wish that someone had told me about Jesus a long time ago but that didn't happen. While the wish remains, there is an immense gratitude that I know Jesus now and that's all that really matters.

If you are a Christian, I don't have to tell you how great it is to know Jesus and how grateful we are to the person who first told us about Him. Be the person who shares that great news with someone else.

If you are not a Christian, and have just an inkling within you wanting something more, look for Jesus and you will find Him. You will be glad you did without wasting any more time.

Monday, May 22, 2017


"Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 
- Exodus 3:5

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

I'm a July baby, born in the heat of summer time. So, it comes as no surprise that my favorite season of the year is summer. It's hot, sunny, and, at times, humid with an inherent need to be silly and a frivolous nature to frolick, doddle, and throw caution to the wind.

Everyone is planning summer holidays, kids are free from school, and the opportunity to do and be ridiculous increases, exponentially. For me, it means taking things slow, breathing in the warm air, and basking in the joy of covering up this pasty white flesh with a coppery, glowing tan.

Yes, that time is almost upon us and the anticipation of longer days and iced drinks enjoyed on the back deck become a ritualistic reality. When time is spent with friends and family on the lawn, splashing in the make-shift pool, filling the air with sounds of laughter and fun.

It's even a time that opens us up to deciding that we've had enough of life kicking us in the butt and breaking away from the burdens, sorrows, and disappointments, if even for a short while. To turn our backs on the things that, while very much a part of our heart, still remain unfulfilled. To bring a little ridiculosity into the mix.

I think Marilyn Munroe summed it up best when she said, "Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." Agreed. Life is too short to be serious about everything, especially when it comes to our circumstances.

As you know, I have a great desire to be married. It's been that way for about ten years but has grown in intensity over the past five years. I have even come to believe that not only is marriage a part of my future, but that I believe I know who my husband will be. If that's not the epitomy of ridiculosity, I really don't know what is.

No, the belief never came in the form of God speaking to my heart upon entering a room, that the man I was looking at would be my husband. Nor did it come in waking from a dream that showed me my wedding day with vivid colors and details. My indicators were a bit more subtle but, nonetheless, convincing.

They came in the form of what many would describe as ridiculous, unheard of, and unbelievable. Trust me when I tell you that it was never more of those things to anyone as they were to me. The sheer matter-of-fact nature in which some of the indicators were revealed, were no less baffling than if someone were to approach me and tell of every detail that lay in my future.

The more things happened to confirm what was set in my heart, the more ridiculous it seemed. How do you deal with an absurd line of situations, some people drumming them up to be mere coincidence, and believe them to be true? To some the answer would be cut and don't. It's just a series of 'things' that happened in a way that seemed to be pointing to the same thing but, really, they weren't. It was just a huge coincidence or deja vu.

If I were not a Christian, that's exactly how I would have understood it all to be, but I am a Christian and no longer believe in coincidence. I believe that I was created by God and that He is capable of doing anything, even the impossible and unimaginable. So, is it really ridiculous for me to believe something so strongly for ten years even if it hasn't happened yet? No, but how can I say it with such confidence?

In the Bible, which is also called the Word of God, it speaks of timing. More specifically, God's timing and that it rarely aligns with our perception of timelines. That how we think God should act and react is far different from how God truly operates. He finds the best situation, at the best time, and in the best place. All in an effort to show us that His way is not only more beneficial because we're now in a place to see and experience something significant happen, but also because He loves us beyond measure. What parent wouldn't want that kind of excellence for their kids? I can't think of a parent who wouldn't.

So, as ridiculous as it is, I continue to believe. Wanna know something even more ridiculous? There was a time when I felt this desire for marriage overwhelm me so much that it caused a writing flow. More specifically, one page laying out wedding vows and the other, a poem describing my husband (maybe I'll share the poem with you all someday).

I still have those documents and, to be honest, whenever I come across them, they cause me to laugh. Not only at my own ridiculousness for writing them but also at having a sense of humor about a situation that hasn't always been easy to swallow...singleness.

As a matter of fact, I would recommend to all of you to travel to the edge of the cliff of ridiculosity and jump. Do something completely opposite to what you normally would do or others would expect you to do. Shock them and yourselves. Don't let time pass being weighed down or disappointed another minute. Do something utterly ridiculous and laugh at yourself about it.

If you are a bit crazy by nature to begin with, share it with a friend but don't go another day allowing your situation dictate to you how you should feel or act. Don't allow a piece of yourself to be lost. Be ridiculous. Have a competition with yourself to surpass the last incident of ridiculosity with something even more ridiculous.

Encouragement for the week:

I needed to write about this today to break out of the funk I had been in. Deciding to defunk myself was the best thing to do. It came in the form of dancing like Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. You know the dance because you've danced it yourself.

If life is getting you down, turn your back on it. Get up and dance, sing or just do something ridiculous to break the hold that moment or situation is trying to keep on you.

If you are a Christian, there's nothing that says we can't be free to enjoy life and that includes being ridiculous sometimes. Break the hold the enemy is trying to keep on you by being silly for a little while.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him. He will help you to live life to the fullest when all it seems to do is pin you to the ground. He will help you break through the pain to experience laughter and joy.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Exotic Engineering

Audi R8 V10 Plus, Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Short, Bentley Continental GT Speed, Lamborghini Veneno, Ferrari Enzo. These are just a handful of the extreme and opulent vehicles of our day. It's not unheard of for a car to fetch a price tag of $250,000 or more. Some are even millions of dollars in value.

Years ago, I used to be fascinated by the style, speed, and price tag of cars. More specifically, American muscle cars, which took up most of a top 20 list. It wasn't until watching James Bond in Casino Royale that the number one car became the Aston Martin DBS V12. It was captivating as it raced along an isolated road, nearly running over a Bond damsel tied up and placed in the middle of that road. The car was, inevitably, destroyed as a result of the near miss.

At first it seemed to be a great tragedy when that scene concluded and the car was nothing more than a distorted piece of engineering. I couldn't believe that I was feeling remorse for all that torn metal and shattered glass, something that took a person from point A to point B, safely and elegantly. My own reaction, while surprising yet not completely unexpected, got me thinking about the fascination many of us have for expensive or opulent possessions.

That an incredible amount of value seems to be placed on something we own or even drive. Whether it's the popular VW Beetle or the Mercedes Benz, our mode of transportation is no longer an experience, it has become a relationship. With cute pet names and careful detail put into its appearance and cleanliness, it seems our vehicles have taken on a greater significance.

Back in the day, there were times when I would assign a gender to my car and, admittedly, found myself carrying on a conversation with the inanimate object. Remembering those kinds of things make me chuckle now. How it was nothing to spend an entire day washing, drying, vacuuming, and dusting the vehicle. Taking great care to clean every inch and being proud of a job well done. Only to have it get dirty a couple days later due to inclement weather or muddy/wet shoes.

Today, with a change in perspective and seeing the world in the mess that it is, a lot of material things that once held great value and pride for me have, well, fallen away. It now perplexes and saddens me that many objects of apparent wealth hold a higher status than the emotional, mental, and spiritual wealth of a human being.

That there are actual places in the world where a human life can be and is exchanged for a loaf of bread, bottle of alcohol, or bag of drugs. That the desperation to feed an addiction or a family overtakes an individual so much to cause them to use humans as bartering tools. I remember, myself, feeling the desperation to feed my alcohol addiction by selling my own possessions. How the value of that object no longer mattered. Only the satisfaction of my need, did.

I was willing to do whatever it took, at the time, to get that 'high' so that the pain that was haunting me would be silenced, if only for a little while. The little while was far more valuable to have than the sentimentality of the material object that was sold to get the small piece of time. The same could be said for my sexual addiction, except the thing I was selling to get that 'high', was a piece of my soul.

A piece of the soul is not easy to get back once it's gone. There is only one way to feel whole after years of giving away something that was always meant to be sacred. That one way being a choice to accept Christ into my heart and life. That is where the wholeness started. That is where the value of my life was restored to priceless.

It was never about the material or shallow things that really made the difference. It was never about putting all of life's value into a trinket, vehicle, or hope chest filled with memories. It was all about feeling worthwhile and valuable.

As many times as the fulfillment of a high went up, it never satisfied the drop of this human currency. The more this heart and soul was abused, the more the value of this unknown gem dropped and the more it didn't matter that there was any value on the inside.

At the time of Jesus, He never looked for the material to bring any value to others. He always looked at the person, perceiving something beyond the superficial ways in which that person lived. He could always get to the root of the individual, drawing out awe and disbelief from each person He came in contact with.

He had a way of disproving the currencies of His time and placing immeasurable wealth on every man, woman, and child that He encountered. He was never interested in what they could offer Him or how much money they had for bribery. He was interested in the currency of the soul. What value lay there? He knew the answer because He was the answer.

While the coin on which Caesar's face was stamped, held a certain value to the people of that day, it never accounted for the person who had worked for that coin. Jesus saw beyond all the things that the people were placing value on, right into the person themselves.

As we look at the unsteady trends of the stock market and exchange and see the value of numerous currencies rise and fall from moment to moment, a human life will never change in value. It is set in stone even though much of the world goes to great lengths to squash human worth by pandering individuals out via human trafficking and prostitution...much of it underground and unseen. Along with many other ways a human life is devalued nowadays.

We all know these things exist. Depending on the strength of your stomach, the queasiness that comes as a direct result of knowing these things exist, will vary from person to person. I believe it's time to place great value on every life. Not only that, I believe we have a responsibility to speak value in some way to each person we encounter.

That the exotic engineering we see would be in our words as much as our actions to one another. There is a great deal of uncertainty within the world we live. May each of us take on an air of intentionality to say or do something to build the worth of another person everyday.

Encouragement for the week:

In these days of brutality, violence, and shaming, is it worthwhile to be a person of change? To engineer something good within ourselves even though it may be a small thing and have that small thing take shape as a word or gesture to feed into someone else's value?

If you take a twenty dollar bill then crinkle it, step on it, and then spit on it, it never loses its value. A human, which may feel like that twenty dollar bill, will never lose its value no matter what he or she will go through.

Though it's hard to see value in yourself because of what's happened in your are valuable beyond any material possession that exists in the world. If you find that hard to believe, I understand. I used to feel the same way but what I'm telling you is true. You are priceless.

If you are a Christian, I pray you know that what you hold doesn't dictate your value. It's who holds you who dictates that. Lean into Jesus and allow Him to tell and show you your value.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find someone who will tell you who you really are and what your value truly is.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Art Of Perseverance

"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." - 2 Chronicles 15: 7

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

If you read last week's post, it mentioned that I was part of rescuing a red-tailed hawk caught in barbed wire. After rescued, it was brought back to my house and laid on the lawn. There was an inner compulsion to help it.

I gave it food and water in hopes of strengthening it. Then found and called a wildlife rehabilitation facility that took the hawk and administered emergency care. I persevered by seeing the task through.

I even did a follow up call to the rehab center to find out the status of the hawk. Unfortunately, it had to be euthanized due to the severity of its injury.

While I had no expectations of the outcome, I have to admit that I was thrown for a loop. At first there was shock which turned to sadness, then disgust.

Why did I put so much time, energy, and resources into trying to save this bird? What was the point of persevering? Everything done in an effort to help the hawk, now seemed completely useless and futile.

Okay, wait a minute. Back up.

After thinking about the sequence of events for a couple days, the answer to those questions came. A great truth emerged as to why I did what I did. A truth that calmed the inner turmoil, instantly.

Hope. I persevered in seeing things through, hoping for a positive outcome. It was the possibility of something great coming out of a dire situation that drove the perseverance.

This overwhelming realization was causing me to reflect on the reason for perseverance in the bigger areas of my life. The reason was the same. Hope. I persevere in praying for a husband because of the hope of being married...soon.

I persevere in pursuing my passion for writing and speaking in hopes it will pay off, even though there is no real promise that any of it will. It's hope that comes as a result of persevering but it's also hope that encourages perseverance, producing even more hope.

The Bible talks about this very thing, perseverance. Romans 5, verses 3-5 say, "...we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us..."

It's true. In my own life, as time passes by and some things in life get really discouraging and hard, it's hope that just will not loosen its grip on my heart. As small as hope can become, it remains as a result of my perseverance to see life situations through. No matter how big or small.

It's like a fuel to my inner fire, keeping things going when reality bites and draws blood. It's the tag team of perseverance and hope that keeps me praying through the painful stuff.

I would rather learn the art of painting the portrait of perseverance than brushing the stroke of regret. The outcome may be unknown but it's the drive of perseverance that will keep me going, as long as it takes.

Encouragement for the week:

Ever wonder what the point of perseverance is if the outcome might be negative? What if the outcome wasn't negative but you gave up before knowing?

Is the fear of the ending a better reason to quit while you might be ahead? Wouldn't you always wonder, "What if?"

While these are all questions I have asked myself, many times, I always chose to see things through, no matter the outcome.

It was more important to persevere and overcome the fear of what the end might bring, than to never know. I pray that you would make that same decision in your own life this week, no matter what you are facing.

If you are a Christian, we have the joy of receiving great hope when we persevere in all things, difficult and easy.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and the greatest hope to ever take up residence in your life and heart.

Monday, May 1, 2017

I Need A Hero!

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Found this amazing creature entangled in barbed wire yesterday. After much effort, he/she was freed but not without sustaining permanent damage to its right leg. It's currently grounded on my lawn but I pray it musters enough strength to take flight and reach a safer place.

Like this red-tailed hawk, sometimes we need to be rescued. We find ourselves in unexpected predicaments that cause us to cry out, "I need a hero!" Someone that will come along to take over and give us rest from our anxieties.

In my singleness, I have had times of anxiety and worry in having to deal with and take care of all the things that will happen in life. Like having my transmission die while driving on a country road, getting a flat tire, or troubleshooting a frozen septic tank.

I'm not fully versed in all the backwoods issues having to do with cars or houses but with the help of heroes that have come along my path, the rescue has been gratefully accepted and abundantly appreciated.

It would be very easy for me to hand all of my life's hiccups over to someone else to navigate. I would be completely content with that...or would I? This is something I have often pondered and wrestled with as a single woman.

To have someone come alongside and take charge is reassuring and comforting because life can throw you some curveballs. The fact that I have muddled through the curves to the best of my ability does not dispell the fact that it was with extreme frustration and stress that I muddled.

However, if I have someone to look after the bigger things that cause me grief, that means I am now having to depend on that help for, possibly, lesser things, doesn't it? That scares me and I'm not sure why. As you all know, I have a great desire to be married. No, it's not so that there is someone who will ride in on his 'white horse' and take all my problems away, albeit nice.

It really is about journeying through life with a man having the same core values and beliefs that I have strong convictions for. It is about sharing the same goals and life direction while meeting and overcoming the 'hiccups' that life will bring, together. It's about rescuing each other when there's hurt, sorrow, or confusion.

So, until my husband gets the memo, I'm learning to lean into and depend completely on God as part of my ongoing relationship with Him. While He may not be here in the flesh, He does tend to show up in other people who come to my rescue. Other times, He has given me the wisdom and strength to find and implement solutions for unexpected problems. He is incredibly faithful and good.

I have learned a lot about life and myself in this season of singleness. There have been situations that I have come up against that seemed impossible to overcome but a solution always presented itself and the rescue, a success. There are everyday heroes in our midst, some being surprising and refreshing.

Jesus was such a man. An unsung hero without any presumption of being a hero. He rescued people who didn't even know they needed saving. The refreshing nature of His unsuspecting appearance and gentle demeanor caused even the strongest to crumble and cry out, "I need a hero!" He, quickly and powerfully, became everything the flailing swimmer needed in a lifeguard, pulling them to safety and freeing them from their anxieties.

That's the kind of hero that stands the test of time. One who is always on call and never sleeps until the difficulty passes and the one in need of saving is rescued. Inclement weather, hostile advances, and a plethora of unexpected surprises don't phase or stop them.

It's great to be rescued but it's also great to be a rescuer and while I may not have cheated death in order to help save the red-tailed hawk yesterday, it still felt good to be its hero. To speak words of reassurance while handling it gently and then caring for it today by checking on and feeding it. At the end of the day, no matter what walk or species of life, we could all use a hero from time to time.

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever been in a situation where you were desperate to be rescued? What shape did your hero take on?

Life happens to all of us and it's reassuring to have some help when the going gets tough. It takes some of the pressure off our minds and hearts and gives us the peace required to navigate the emergency, calmly.

If you are a Christian, you know that you have the greatest hero in Jesus, for His promise to help you when you are in danger is real and true.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find a great hero in Him and know the safety and relief that comes from having Him as your rescuer.