Never say never

At the homestead, 2011

At the homestead, 2011

I’ve said NEVER about plenty of things.
And eaten my words plenty of times, too.

“I will NEVER get divorced.”

Done. Twice.

“I am NEVER going to be one of those people who moves back to the middle of nowhere as an adult!”

Done. Here.

“I’m never going to date another alcoholic or addict, EVER!”

Done. Remarried one. Subsequently divorced him.

“I am NEVER going to wear leggings. Gross.”

At my friend's infamous Festivus party, 2011

At my friend’s infamous Festivus party, 2011

All right, maybe I came close to holding true to this one, but I did don a sweet pair of leggings with the ugliest Christmas sweater EVER a few years ago.

When it comes to saying “never” these days, I try to catch myself and rephrase things.

“I can’t say I will NEVER have another baby, but I’m leaning that direction.”

Our daughter's christening, 2013

Our daughter’s christening, 2013

 

“I won’t say I will NEVER join another Baptist church, but I’m pretty happy attending our Methodist church right now.”

“I won’t say I will NEVER teach again. But I’d rather work as a waitress than teach again.”

Well. This has proven false.

I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to put my recently earned Master’s degree to work and to teach one course this fall at our local community college. Not only am I glad to be able to use my degree, but I’m excited about TEACHING. I can’t wait to wade through the text and create my syllabus, incorporating things I’ve learned and ideas I’ve mulled over the past few weeks. I look forward to being on campus, even for a few hours a week, and helping students in some small way to better themselves and prepare themselves for the world of work that lies ahead.

My first experience as a teacher left a bad taste in my mouth. I taught, as my second job out of college, as a high school teacher (teaching English and Religion/Philosophy) at a private high school in an affluent area of the city. I was the third teacher that year–and I started in the middle of September. That probably should have raised a red flag, but it didn’t. I was naïve and assumed that teaching there would be easier because the students would certainly be better behaved due to their upbringing. And the Christian environment would be really supportive, encouraging, and positive.

I do keep in touch with many of my students. And I built some great relationships with many of them. If I could have stayed inside the four walls of my classroom without any interruptions from the outside world–namely parents and administration–I think I might have stuck with it. But that didn’t happen.

I received a handwritten letter from a student threatening to bring a gun to campus after my first month teaching because said student was failing my course and wasn’t thrilled about it. The principal blew it off and suggested I change her grade so she would have fewer worries about graduating. I was not wise enough at that point in my life to simply report the incident to the police, so I just moved on. Countless parents scheduled conferences with me to voice their concerns about my zero-tolerance policy regarding cheating and plagiarism. Couldn’t I be a little more forgiving and overlook those things? When I sent students to the office or reprimanded them, they were often sent immediately back to my classroom, receiving no consequences for their actions.

I wasn’t a perfect teacher, but I tried my best to stick it out (and I did, for a year) for the sake of the students, who were a year away from heading to college, to improve their writing and reading and critical thinking skills. I knew that what I was doing would prepare them for what they would encounter in college. But dealing with the lack of support from parents and administration proved too stressful for me. I opted out of contract renewal in May and went back to working with emotionally disturbed teenagers. Believe it or not, the environment at that facility was much more supportive, encouraging, and positive. And I felt the students truly appreciated my efforts to help them.

After that negative experience with teaching, I vowed to avoid teaching at all costs. And yet I continued to find myself in work environments and volunteer situations that demanded that I lead or teach. I led support groups for sexual assault victims. I taught summer courses for high school students as part of a grant-funded program. I led workshops for college students when I worked in career services. I created curriculum for training employees at multiple job sites. I led Bible studies for students.

And now I find myself preparing to teach college students.

One of the wisest women I know repeatedly tells me that “always and never are God’s words.”

She is right. I NEVER know what my future holds because I do not hold it.

God does.

And He ALWAYS knows what’s best. And I won’t say NEVER, but it’s rarely what I had planned :).

What does EASTER mean to you?

*Much thanks to Debra Dickey-Liang for serving as today’s guest contributor!*

E is for eggs we deco-ra-ted,

A is for all of them to hide.

S is for children who were see-king,

T is for the tots who find the most.

E is for extra help from Mommy,

R is running back when you are done.

Put them all together, they spell EA-STER, a word that for the kids means fun!

 

CrossAnd, of course, the other way to look at Easter would be, the Resurrection.  There is no question that I am eternally grateful for the sacrifice on the cross that was made for me, and all humanity, by the Son of God, Jesus.  Although I know, and He knew, that He was part of a Greater Plan, I cannot presume to even minutely grasp the suffering He endured to bring that plan to Perfect Fulfillment , nor as a mother, can I even begin to comprehend the anguish that Mary bore during that terrible, but fateful time, as she watched her son perish, in Absolute Submission and Perfect Obedience for the cause that He was sent to earth to accomplish.

I am grateful that Jesus rose again, and that He lives among us still.  I am grateful for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within us, testifies of Christ, leads us, strengthens us, encourages us, and intercedes for us.

I am grateful that the Power of God is Ultimate, Omnipotent, and Final.

I am grateful for my generous and childless great-aunt Dean who cared enough to pick me up to go to church with her when I was younger, then bring me home again, so that I might come to know these things, and therefore have the opportunity to begin a personal relationship with Him.

I am grateful for the many followers who loved and cared for Jesus while He lived and walked among them on this earth.  I am so grateful for the love that God gives to me, as His child, the care that he extends because I am His, and the ‘peace of God that passeth all understanding’… (Phillipians 4:7) because I belong to Him — all possible because of the selfless and hallowed supremacy of Jesus Christ my Lord.

At this season, and always, let us truly remember the price that was paid for our everlasting spiritual freedom, the cost of which can never be measured by mortal description.  Hallelujah!  He arose!

 

Transcending my reality

*Special thanks to Gloria Bolton, a former student of mine, who has grown into an even more beautiful and enlightened person over the years, for serving as today’s guest contributor.*

Transcending my Reality: How I Found Christ  

Image “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” Marianne Williamson

Let me first preface this by saying, you aren’t going to agree with me. You just aren’t. Many people, when I tell them about my beliefs and my spiritual journey, assume that I am not a Christian. Or that I am a “bad” one. But I’m not going to tell you about my Christianity. I’m going to tell you about my Reality. The two just happen to coincide. Thus begins my story…

This is the story of a journey-My Journey, as you now know. It is not filled with adventure, and we will make no stop at the ancient sacred temples of Earth, except to mention that I am fascinated with awe by them. Instead, this is a journey I traversed in the mind, with Christ as my guide, and the re-emergence of my Soul in a state of elevated-if not quite enlightened-Consciousness.

This journey begins when I was very small.

I was born into a special state of being, blessed before birth. A contract was constructed, and my Soul became the daughter of my Mother. My Mother- a special woman, a walking angel among men. Her Soul is not from here- and I have always recognized a strong but silent power within her. My mother has always been my spiritual leader- we congregated at home and she loved reminding us that “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am among them” Matthew 18:20. Thus I began my spiritual life much where it may possibly stay for all time: with a Knowing. Knowing that Christ was with me. Knowing that the Creator loved me- and knowing that my study and solitude would be the key.  

So-you may be wondering if I am a nun and if this journey ends in some misty-mountain-monastery where we bake bread for orphans and perform last rights for the devout. No-it does not. I’ve never even been there. Not even on drugs. I guess this journey begins with me, a small kid, surrounded by personal gurus and open hearts of Love. My mother and grandmother have been the two singly most important influences on my path toward awareness. There were many others along the way- too many, in fact to credit here; some have been human, others have been beast. And what I know for certain is that God, and the powers that be, have always provided me with the people, places, events, books and mind to carve my path in this mountain that is life.

As a teenager, I traveled on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays from church to church, joining in communion with my friends. I met a lot of open-hearted people. I felt like a traveling Christian soldier- welcomed by the open arms of many communities. Still, I had my issues with organized religion. Surprisingly, the non-denominational churches I visited were the least welcoming-but perhaps the most inspiring. A paradox-I know. I had always been told by my mother that we, in fact, were non-denominational Christians. Because of this, I was wholly surprised when, at two separate churches, and by two different pastors, I was sought out, or at least felt sought out, to be told that I was in fact- not saved!

What an outrage, I thought! And I told them so. You do not know me, I would say. I am saved- I have been saved many times. I had not only accepted myself as a sinner, but had also asked Christ into my heart, many times. I felt like a dog being reminded that I am just a dog. And I didn’t like it.

Suddenly within me, I felt moved to separate the curd from the cream. That’s not what these pastors had intended. They had intended for me to give myself over. To latch on to the bosom of their churches and suckle the existing cream, cultivated to Grade A Fancy, by the knowledge encased therein. But, I could not do this. I knew that if I was ever to be happy, to be truly fulfilled, I had to make my own cream. And thus the journey continued….

As a child I had been aware of the several religions that existed. I knew about the metaphysical “realm.” I had listened to my grandmother speak about the Christian Mystics. I knew what Judaism was and its basic elements and commonalities with Christianity. I knew what Buddhists were, and was vaguely familiar with Hinduism. I was also keen on many Native American beliefs. I believed that dinosaurs were in fact real, but also felt wholeheartedly that there must be truth in the Creation. I knew even then that the seed of Truth and Love resided within the heart of all these communities, and I hungered to finish the puzzle.

I began studying more feverishly than ever before. I read Cosmic Consciousness at the age of 13. I flocked to the most open minded hearts and Souls I could find. I met a man named John Chiaromonte, a personal guru, and admired his intermingling of Buddhist and Christian beliefs. In college, I took classes that opened my eyes to the interconnectedness of different religious groups. I studied the cultivation of religious extremism, particularly among Christian and Islamic groups. I became at peace with the trinity of the three dominant dogmas: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. I read, and read, and read. I became aware of the occult, learned about the teachings of Aleister Crowley. I was fascinated by Numerology, and dabbled in Astrology. I joined the Society for Learning All Cosmic Knowledge of Epistemology and Religion (SLACKERS). I was part of faith based organizations dedicated to the growth of love and knowledge between people of every faith. I celebrated uncommon “pagan” holidays. I loved it. But, I became tired.

You see, in college there were four dominant levels of spiritual awareness. A reality I dealt with on a daily basis. There were: 1. Atheists, most common. 2. Agnostics, usually their fathers or grandfathers had been priests or pastors and turned them off of any religious beliefs. 3. More agnostics, these ones had no beliefs, but claimed to be cool with everything. 4. Hard Core Christians. My kind of religion didn’t seem to fit anywhere. I was a Questioning Christian and Soul Searcher. The environment became stagnant. Until I met my Adam (as in, the first man J)

Adam is my boyfriend. We live in sin, ha ha, because it is not financially wise in today’s world for us to marry. With my student debt and a shady credit history, I do not want to burden him with my financial ineptitude. He says he can’t afford the ring I deserve. But- we are married, body and soul, in so many deeper ways.

When I met Adam, I had really hoped he would be the like-minded Christian Soul Searcher that I had been searching for. Alas, he was not. “What are you then?” I asked, “Atheist or agnostic?” “Neither,” he told me, “I believe in Energy.” Hmm…Energy- that is interesting.

Let me stop a moment and rewind. All my time spent studying the beliefs of other people left me with just one, unshakable conclusion: as long as there is Love, there is Christ. And as a Christian, I still believed what my mother had taught me. A Christian is someone who follows Christ. I mean, seriously, I saw God everywhere. The puzzle pieces weren’t fitting together quite smoothly, but they were all there for me to do the work.

Energy-ah- that force that keeps the Universe together- keeps the Earth rotating around the sun and on its axis. The same Energy makes up every atom of my body, the table I’m sitting at, the pen in my hand and it is Energy that triggers the synapses of my brain as I write. I had to know more about this Energy. Adam was talking about his Reality though, not his religion. And his Reality was founded on the basis of the Law of Attraction. For anyone unfamiliar with the Law of Attraction (LOA), a brief definition: like attracts like; good attracts good, bad attracts bad. Makes sense, huh? When it rains, it pours, good or bad, happy, sad, neurotic or normal. The Energy you emit comes back to you. Sounds a little like the Western understanding of Karma, right? Here I’d like to ask the reader, are you familiar with the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Either way, go listen to their song “Minor Thing:” You make a sound the spell is bound to come around. I didn’t have to study too long before again, I found Christ.

You see, the LOA can be used for attracting to your life more of what you want. This practice is rooted in the requirement of pure, blind faith- like most religious belief. In order to attract, or manifest good things in your life, you must first state those good expectations and know that if it is wanted, it exists already in Creation. After declaring your expectation of the gift, you must release all resistance by becoming detached. You have to know you want it and that it exists, but also live as if the having or not having of this good thing cannot, will not and does not affect your state of being. In other words- You put the wheel in God’s hands, and remain happily anchored in your present state of being. Remember, I’m talking about a Reality here, not a religion.

It made perfect sense to me. Say what you want, believe it is so, and it will come. After all, my own family had experienced first-hand this sacred knowledge of the power of faith, as pertaining to a certain Miracle Baby.   

No! Not me, (although I will say I caused a rather fair amount of physical commotion upon my arrival) thank you though! Actually my sister had at birth suffered a massive stroke. Mom was told that Nicki wouldn’t live, but that if she did, we would be lucky if she ever reached the ability to make her own bed. My sister was given a death sentence at birth. The doctors and hospital really did their best to prepare my mother for the death of her first child. They didn’t want any surprises. Not this child though-

My mom had been told as a teen that she was incapable of carrying a child to term. Scars on her uterus would prevent an embryo from attaching- and mom’s prospects to become a mother were grim-doomed to a life riddled with half-termed miscarriages. Mom prayed, together with Nicki’s father, that God would send her a baby, and when He did, at the age of 19, she was filled with nothing but gratitude for the soft human body growing inside of her. Mom was not gonna let Nicki die. She prayed to God- “Why? Why my sweet, innocent child?” She opened her Bible- “Nothing clean can ever come from anything unclean.” Job 14:3

Stop! I’m sure you can guess mom’s reaction- surely remorse for her sinful ways. But just once more I must weave the fabric of this Miracle Baby’s story with my own journey of self-awareness. Nothing clean comes from the unclean. In practicing LOA I have learned that “problems” still arise in my life. Life is not always smooth and besides, I wouldn’t want it to be. Contrast is healthy. But, for the first four years of my knowledge of LOA, I did not understand why I was not attracting the good that I so desired. Bad situations just became worst. Now I know this: the solution to an issue can never come to you while you are still offering the vibration or the energy from whence that problem was created. Even Einstein knew that- look it up!

The second time my mother opened her bible that day she read “Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them and they will be granted to you.” Mark 11:24. Law of Attraction and faith in action. Ask, believe it is already yours, open your heart and receive.    

And guess what? My sister is alive and well, mother of my beautiful nephew, age 10. She recovered in less than two years- with a lot of faith and a little consistent work to strengthen the Miracle Baby’s body (at that time, it was also unknown that the rate of brain cell regrowth in newborns is as high as it is). Mom still says it was the easiest faith she ever had. The words were from God and the faith from something higher than body or mind.

It was not hard for me to accept the power of LOA, and many related teachings. I had seen, witnessed through my sister and mother, the power of faith. Different words, slightly different paths, one a religion, the other a Reality: One Destination.

So now I thought I knew the secret, but knowledge is not power when left unused. It is more like an atrophied limb stuck inside a plaster cast. And thus I spent four long years knowing that dormant Knowledge of the Cosmos. Until one day, not too long ago- November actually- I awakened to the awareness that I, in fact, was not using this power to create the life that God and the Universe had intended for me. So I started practicing. A little at first, as much as my mind and body could muster. I started with Gratitude-

Today, and for the last 67 days, I have started and ended my day by practicing Gratitude. It has become my prayer. And would you know- I was shocked to find what would come into my life when I opened my heart! At one point I declared my gratitude for all the “free stuff” I was getting. I also declared my intention to receive more. And it happened! The list of free stuff to feel grateful for is long, and would most definitely sound absurd to some. It includes clothing, classes and cookies 😀 But, it is real, nonetheless.

ImageI have also begun to meditate daily- and this is another instrument in the toolbox to my Reality. I realized and really felt- I am not my body, nor am I my mind. The essence of who I am is sourced from a higher power. A Divine power. That is what I am, and who you all are. We are much more than we were ever led to believe. Energy is everywhere and it is our job to choose how we interpret that great force. Look at your mother’s dining room table, for example. Most people will just see a table, modern or classic, wood or plastic. But your mother- you, your family- see a place where she feeds her family. A place where we play, laugh, joke, pray and reside in the hearts of each other. You can change your Reality, and you have chosen, are choosing, and continue to choose it for yourself.

Christ is everywhere, when we choose to see him. And so is God. That Christ Consciousness flows through everything and everyone. It is the Universe, to me. Good and bad no longer exist, unless I choose to see them. There is merely existence, experience, and the ability to harness your energy. In other words, nothing is “good” or “bad,” it just is, and what we choose prevails.

So where am I now? No closer to the end than from where I began, I’m afraid. But opened now. I opened my mind and body and felt my way to the Chamber of my Soul. The door was opened and when I looked within- I saw the sacred peacefulness that is to be my life. I found so much within.

I’m currently in the process of organizing and founding a non-profit corporation. My energy and faith therein, have carried me so far in such a short amount of time. My “organization” went from an idea within my mind on how to serve others- to an actuality in two months! I’m even meeting with potential partners on Sunday. This could not have happen in my previous “reality.”

I am healthy, invigorated, inspired and moved to action. The sun rises and sets for me. My once dormant orchid is now in full bloom (literally speaking, it has six flowers) and I know that it is all for me. There are no coincidences, only what you create or co-create with others.

I am aware that I have only really begun to scratch the surface of this: My life, as it should be, as it was intended to be. I don’t believe in hell or sin, because my Lord is Love, and in Love, the seeds of darkness never existed: they were all just lies. I have awakened unto my true self- and to reiterate, I felt my soul, and there I found Christ and Creation. I witnessed the birth of my Reality as a Spiritual Being experiencing a physical existence. In the words of Walt Whitman, “I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,” (Song of Myself).

Paying it forward

*Thank you, Henry Petty, for serving as today’s guest contributor!*

One day, Bethany posted something on here from her friend, which led met to her post about a friend in need of trinkets and charms – it was a crafty web site, definitely man-card revocable content.  Anyways, I responded by getting a neat angel trinket from a small Christian supplies store up the street from where I worked and mailing it to the address as requested.

Fast forward a couple of months later . . .

This package arrives on my doorstep much to my surprise and shock:

Because Bethany’s friend has a crafty website, she sent me a bunch of crafting books as a thank you.  I really wasn’t expecting this at all.  It didn’t take much pondering on what to do with the books, as I have a good friend, Jennifer, whom I work with that makes hand crafted jewelry.  I left it on her desk, which completely took her off-guard.

She asked me if they were on loan, and I said absolutely not–they’re yours.  I’m just paying it forward.  To MY surprise, she came back shortly afterwards and showed me a beaded handkerchief holder she made inspired by the books.  Then, she gave me a necklace and earring set to give to my girlfriend.

My girlfriend was graduating soon, and I needed a really good present to give to her.  It very well could have been the best gift I’ve ever given. 

I had never intended to receive anything back from the little trinket I sent Bethany’s friend in need, and almost feel bad because the rewards I received were almost far greater than what I have given.  I take consolation ib knowing Jennifer will take those books and expand her knowledge, thus creating some awesome jewelry for others to use.  And my girlfriend graduated with her Master’s degree in style.

Isn’t it funny how things work out?

*For more from Henry, check out his blog.*

For those who don’t give up

Please enjoy this post from guest writer Amy Driskill, who was kind enough to share her gratitude transformation with us.

I have a confession.  I am not sure I am qualified to write about gratitude.  Recently, my husband and I got into an argument.  In the middle of it, I felt that I was living a lie.  I felt like he was attacking my character.  I wanted to run and hide.  You see, I do not tolerate lies from other people.  I cannot stand it.  I want to run, or in this case drive, away.  I live this hypocrisy because, while I abhor lying, I can somehow tolerate it within myself.  I tell myself lies every day.   I tell myself I am not good enough or that I’m not likeable enough.  I think other people are more qualified to write articles for great blogs such as this.  I let myself get away with lies!  It is a struggle I continue to deal with.  Old habits and hang-ups rear their heads from a childhood effected by abuse.

After our argument, my husband called over a great Christian friend of mine.  Emily is one of those no-nonsense people.  She’s a steady rock for her children, and I do not have to dance around the whole friendship issue.  I know she doesn’t play games.  Emily sat down with me and helped me see the old patterns I hold onto.  I knew what I was doing in the back of my head, but I had a hard time getting past the hurt.  We sat and talked for a while, and then she took care of my children as my husband and I talked.  It is such a blessing to have friends to depend on.

It’s also great to have a husband who can see past the hurt and habits.  He knows how I react, and he does not give up on me.  I have this underlying fear of abandonment, so he gets pretty stubborn with me.  I know he’s here to stay.  I know it’s just Satan telling me lies.  Obviously, I am a work in progress.  I wish you could have seen me years ago.  Ok, maybe not.  On the outside, I functioned, but I think that was about it.  I was a complete mess on the inside.  I also did not know the love of a Risen Savior.

I write to you today because of gratitude.  I am grateful for the love of my Heavenly Father.  He saved me from myself.  I’m grateful for a loving husband, who refuses to give up.  Finally, I am grateful for friends who hold me accountable and show their authentic selves without playing games or thinking they have to compete with other women.

Special thanks to Amy Driskill, today’s guest writer, for sharing her story.