The Right Time

Sometimes we don’t have the benefit of knowing when our words or actions affect someone else, and sometimes we can’t see how or why things happen.  This post is about a chain of events that has affected me deeply- where everything happened at the right time; so perfectly that I know it’s more than coincidence.  This post may get lengthy, but I do hope you take time to read it.

I saw this rainbow when I stopped at the store at just the right time
I saw this rainbow when I stopped at the store at just the right time

I’ve wanted to write this post for nearly two weeks, but I couldn’t figure out where to begin.  Now I’m thinking it simply wasn’t the right time because more has happened since the initial events I wanted to write about.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I sat in church as the pastor delivered one of the most dreaded sermons: giving.  It has to be one of the most uncomfortable topics to discuss, both for the pastor and the congregation.  I have sat through many of these sermons, and frankly, have found some of them to be offensive and condescending.  I felt differently this time, though.  I heard the right words at the right time.  The thought came to me that I should write and let him know.  Just as quickly, I told myself that was crazy talk because of our history.  Here’s a brief summary:

I won’t go into a lot of detail because my kids could possibly get their noses out of their games and come across this blog, but earlier this year, after I filed for divorce and other things didn’t convince me to change my mind, my husband scheduled a counseling session for us with my pastor- behind my back.  He isn’t Christian and rarely attended church, so I saw it as manipulation (also concluded by other things he’d done.)  I went to the session, but felt forced into it.  The pastor affirmed that divorce is wrong and made a comment about how my hardened heart would cause me trouble in the future.  I was upset because I felt unfairly judged, but I continued to attend church, however, avoided the pastor when possible.

Still, for nearly a week, my thoughts drifted to the pastor’s words from the giving sermon.  On Saturday night, I wrote an offering check to give on Sunday.  I then penned a hand-written note to the pastor and folded it around the check before sealing it in the envelope.  In this note, I admitted that I had been thinking I would give an offering once my credit card bills were paid and I wasn’t living in a house I couldn’t afford and I now realized that this showed my lack of faith in God.  That check was a symbolic leap of faith to show that I was finally putting my trust in God that He would provide.  I also wrote that I didn’t really feel welcome there since the counseling session, but the money was for God not the church.  I wrote other things- a full page, in fact, but I can’t remember exactly what.

To my surprise, I received a letter from the pastor.  I don’t check my mailbox often, but I did on my way to work on December 9th (over a week after he wrote it.)  In this letter, he told of how he’d been discouraged because the offerings once again didn’t meet budget.  Some of his exact words:  “I said to myself, “You know, I’m not going to preach on giving anymore because it never makes a difference.  I don’t know how people can take it so lightly.  Then I read your letter.  Wow! It didn’t raise the offering any, but it reminded me of the real truth that it is God’s money and He always provides.  Your letter was like the voice of the Lord to me.”  He then assured me that I was welcome there and to let him know if I needed financial or emotional support.

I teared up.  My words reached him at just the right time.  And the knowledge of that reached me at the right time as well.  I would never ask for a handout, but knowing emotional support was available came as a relief.  He ended the letter instructing me to be at ease and know they were here for me.  Life didn’t feel nearly as heavy.

That is where I first thought this post would end, with the message that we should never shy away from complimenting or showing love because it could very well be a case of the right words or actions being delivered at the right time.  But like most late-night infomercials, life said, “but wait… there’s more!”

The same day I read the letter from my pastor, I got home from work to find a pallet of pellets sitting by my front door.  (Pellets are a type of fuel made from recycled wood products and sawdust and are packaged in 40-lb bags.  I use these in my pellet stove to heat the house.)  I searched the plastic wrapping and found the store phone number and called because I knew there was a mistake.  The woman looked up my information and said, “aw, that’s so sweet…. all it says here is ‘gift.'”  I asked if she was serious and she said, “sweetie, someone gave you a $300 gift, be happy.”  I was, but I still cried.  I have no idea who did this, but I hope they know how grateful I am. I’m able to keep the house a little warmer, which is good for my younger son (that is another post.)

This is what a pallet of pellets looks like after I unloaded it into my garage
This is what a pallet of pellets looks like after I unloaded it into my garage

The gift of heat came at the right time.  Knowing I have what I need to heat the house until at least mid-January lifted a huge burden.  My house has been on the market since before summer and I’d been told winter months are slow for real estate, so I settled in for a long winter.

A few days after that generous gift, an offer came on the house – it’s now in escrow.  I found another (much smaller) house and she accepted my offer.  Inspections are next week.  It’s all happened so quickly and it’s a blur – especially during the holidays, but it’s all happened at exactly the right time.

Last week, I qualified for a home loan.  Even with the worst-case spousal support payout to my soon-to-be-ex, I qualified.  More relief.  As I was reading through the required documents, I saw ‘divorce decree’ listed.  The loan officer confirmed that the final decree was needed to fund the loan.  Trial is scheduled near the end of January, and my new house is scheduled to close the beginning of February.  If my house would’ve sold during the busy summer season, I wouldn’t have been able to get a loan.  I didn’t know that.

All of this is proof to me that even if things don’t happen on my time, they do happen at the right time.  It’s also shown me there is comfort in loosening my white-knuckle grip on control and trusting that God will provide.  I have a feeling that as I learn to share more freely, I will experience some positive life-changing side-effects.

If you’re reading this, it means you survived this lengthy post.  Thank you for not giving up!  I will keep up with blog reading as best I can, but the next month or so will be really crazy for me.  Just know, it is only temporary:)

Have a beautiful Monday and I hope you enjoy the blessings of the season!

Beyond The Fog

We don't always see where we're going, but we have faith we'll get there
We don’t always see where we’re going, but we have faith we’ll get there

Faith isn’t walking into a fire, certain you won’t get burned.  Faith isn’t blind, either, but it does mean facing the unseen and the unknown with the conviction that we are not alone and the experience will somehow sculpt us into a new version of ourselves.

Faith is easy to proclaim, but when it comes down to it, it can be really hard to live by.  It’s kind of like putting on a blindfold and running down a busy street (if the street is in Phoenix, this would be insane.)  In our minds, we recognize the dangers- we could stumble into a light pole, wander into traffic, get hit by a bus, fall into a ditch… the list goes on.  Would you have enough faith to do this?

When adversity hits, my tendency is to obsess over the facts, mentally travel the possible actions and their consequences, and then I make decisions accordingly.  I rush in and “do” something.

To me, faith is the ultimate trust.  Kind of like running down a busy street blindfolded.  Faith is relying on something other than my own abilities.  Faith is believing that there is hope even when all the evidence I see says otherwise.

What is faith to you?

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If you’re looking for fiction, please stop by next week.  I plan to have a response to another one of Emilio Pasquale’s amazing photos.  Hope you’ll check it out:)

Between Faith and a Hard Place

02-20 Steeple

I recently found myself at a crossroads of sorts; sandwiched between my faith and a desire for freedom from my circumstances.  For many crushing weeks, I’ve wrestled with the rub of choices (mistakes) I’ve made. I’m coming to terms with my life being an “is what it is” situation, for now. I don’t see hope when I look forward, but I’m trying to have faith that God has more planned for me than what I can see. Some days it’s harder to have faith than others, but I take each day as it comes.

In the depths of all-consuming darkness, I came to a realization: rather than focus on what’s missing or what should be, I need to turn my attention to what I already am. It occurred to me that I’ve never depended on anyone to provide me with happiness, so why would I allow someone to steal it from me and disrupt my inner peace? My answer: I shouldn’t- and I have to change this.

I have obligations to keep.  Most of the time, the weight is too much to bear and I want to just sleep, but I can’t allow this to immobilize me any longer.  I can’t let my future to be so burdened by past mistakes that today is lost. In this moment, I see my life is worth more than that. Tomorrow, I may be snared once again by the trap of what isn’t, but I will try to refocus and remind myself that my success/failure is not dependent on only one aspect of my life.

I’m still surrounded by uncertainty, but if my state of mind holds, I hope to return to more regular writing – once a week for now. Thanks again to all the wonderful people (both online and in person) who have encouraged, prayed and otherwise helped me during this low period in my life. You are special to me:)

“Religion”

I love clouds and sunlight photos. That's how God's love makes my heart feel.
I love clouds and sunlight photos. That’s how God’s love makes my heart feel.

My Trifecta writing challenge post on Friday, about a demon led to a church sanctuary by the poor mapmaking skills of an intern demon, was meant to be a funny tale about a beast outside the “comfort zone.”

I think some read more into it than what I intended, which is fine.  Great, in fact.  I want others to relate to my words.  Even more so, I want my words to promote thinking.  What I don’t want is for my words to be made into something they aren’t and then attributed as my thoughts.  So, more fully than I could explain in a comment reply, I’m going to clarify (I hope) my views on religion.

I believe that Jesus died for our sins.  I go to church, but I’m reserved and stay on the outer fringes of the mass.  I enjoy going there to learn with others who are supposed to be of like beliefs.  I grew up in Baptist churches, but in adulthood, I’ve chosen non-denominational churches.  I don’t want my belief in God to be firmly attached to a sect of Christianity; I want it attached to the Bible.

I don’t like the clique feeling of some congregations.  I don’t like when worthiness is based on whether or not you wear a fancy church dress.  I don’t like the looking down perfectly powdered noses to cast judgment on strangers.  I don’t like the insulation from community, whether from non-believers or those in need of a helping hand.  Not every church is like this, but I’ve seen enough to know they are out there.

God’s intent of believers congregating:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”—Hebrews 10:24-25

I heard a quote on the radio that expressed what I felt more eloquently than I could.  I found the following on Lysa TerKeurst’s blog:

God doesn’t want us to have a religion. A religion is where we follow rules hoping to do life right, and we serve God out of duty because we think we have to.

God wants us to have a relationship. A relationship where we follow Him. And we serve God not out of duty but out of delight because of the realization of who we are in Him.

Biblical reference:  The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”—Isaiah 29:13

When we live with the purpose of strengthening our relationship with God, love just happens.  We have compassion for those ignored by society.  We follow Jesus’ lead and embrace those who have been scarred by sin. (That’s all of us, by the way.  No matter what Christians want others to believe, none of us are free from sin.)

I stumble.  A lot.  Perfection isn’t even on my horizon.  But I find comfort in knowing that God doesn’t expect it.  He expects me to follow not by sight, but by faith.

That, I’m learning to do, every day.

I want to be amazed by the ordinary.
I want to be amazed by the ordinary.

Thank you for stopping by and taking time to read this.  If you have any thoughts/opinions, please share by leaving a comment.  Have a beautiful Sunday!

Finding Color In Gray

photo taken in my yard
photo taken in my yard before a monsoon storm

Most times, it’s easy for me to see the bright side and find beauty in almost anything.  The last couple weeks, it’s required more effort.  My tendency has been to see clouds as darkened, my glass half-empty- basically the negative side of any situation.  Old insecurities have seeped back into my consciousness.

But I’m not giving up.  I know whatever this is will pass.  I’m not sure why this is happening, but I don’t suppose my understanding matters.  I will not be swallowed by the shadows, or stifled by the storm clouds…at least, not without a fight.

Give me the strength,

Provide me the will

To appreciate the small joys,

To gravitate toward the uplifting.

At times, I will rest in the shadows,

But please, don’t let me dwell too long.

I forget to let go and my burdens get heavy-

Remind me again, I don’t walk alone.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  Psalms 42:11

I’ll end this post on a colorful note.  I’m striving for the mood I want, not the mood I have.  Have a beautiful Sunday!

Photo taken on a back road near Fossil Creek, AZ
Photo taken of sunset on a back road near Fossil Creek, AZ