Coming out of the corner

Coming out of the corner

When you were a kid did you have to stand in the corner for punishment? I don’t think I did. I got my fair share of spankings. I was sent to my room. Only one time did I ever miss a meal. I was grounded as I got older and remember losing car priviledges, too. But I don’t remember my nose stuck in the corner. Oh, and there was no such thing as a time out chair in my house.

So as an adult, who is almost fifty-five, today feels very odd to me.  Recently,  I completed the final phase of punishment for a crime I committed ten years ago. I was not the kid who got in trouble. Never even got a speeding ticket. A friend made the statement that my worst crime was probably the way I cooked meatloaf.

Before I recieced my sentence, I completed a psychological evaluation to determine the likelihood of my reoffending. I was deemed low risk for reoffending. A PSI (pre-sentence investigation) was also done and it supported the Psych eval. So when it came time for my sentencing, the judge ordered me to spend sixty day in county jail, pay a $500 fine, and serve five years on community control (aka probation). Additionally, this crime automatically carried a ten year period of community registration which came with its own restrictions. This final component has been the mostndifficult for me. In many ways it has been like being in a prison without bars, because of the legal restrictions and the self-imposed shame. There wasn’t a single day in that ten years when I didn’t feel some level of judgement, real or imagined.

Today the bars are gone completely. All phases of that original sentence have been completed. It seemed very fitting that the sun should be shining the day it was all done, because I certainly feel like I had come out of a very dark place.

Putting someone in time out, whether it is in the corner or in prison, can provide the separated individual an opportunity to reflect and plan. My encounters with people seems to reveal to me that much more time goes into the planning than into reflection. The plan may be as simple as how not to get caught again or to exact revenge on those the “prisoner” blames for his or her incarceration. As for me, there was much  more reflection than planning. I have spent a lot of time, both in therapeutic counselling and journalistic reflection, thinking about what got me into the place where I made such devastating decisions and what I need to do to be sure I don’t ever repeat those mistakes.

So now I’ve crossed into a new place. In some ways life doesn’t look any different than it did a few days ago, but I can feel the difference.

Sunday morning in worship we sang the chorus, “Trading My Sorrows.” It starts out by saying!
“I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading my shame. I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord…I’ll say yes Lord…” I get that. I have exhausted myself. Ten years of shame carrying can do that to a body.

I was trying to explain this feeling and the “change” to a friend.   Never having walked this path she just couldn’t wrap her brain around the difference. She has only known me for the past four years, so she didn’t know the pre-crime Tina. She couldn’t understand what difference a day would make. This isn’t the first time we had this conversation, either.  So once again, I tried using a current example to help her see.

There has been a job advertized online and in our local paper for a counselor position at the local drug and alcohol counselling center. There is licensure requirement listed. I have a counselling degree and experience. I could do the job. Last week I wouldn’t even considered applying. What makes the difference? Two things. First, I have completed my sentence. That means something. And through the process I re-established my credibility and I have the references to support that. They are the same references I would have had last week, but now it’s their word and my action. Even more than that, I have hope. And that is poweful a thing.

What I know for absolute certain is that I am out of the corner.  I sometimes wonder if the paint was wet in the corner where I stood.  Or perhaps someone stuck a “Corner” tag on my back when I was reflecting too deeply to notice.  I wonder this because there are some people who treat me as if I still belong in the corner.  Good therapy has helped me in handling this.  I just remind myself: they can’t put me back there unless I let them.  And all their fretting about my being “restored” is about them.  I don’t have to try and carry their stuff–I have enough of a load of my own to deal with thank you very much!

So I’m going to kick around and enjoy a little fresh air and freedom.  No more corners for me!

A Latte Love (Factor of 7)

This is such a cool idea. What a great way to be a blessing to others. I’ve heard of others paying, but then to follow through with praying. I was very excited to share this ministry with others.

A Latte Love (Factor of 7).

Sitting on the Floor at the Library

I think I had a revelation today. I was sitting on the floor in the stacks of the library, scanning the titles in the section on writing and publishing. And with a sigh of resignation I decided I just don’t fit.

During the summer when I was ten, my friends and I set out writing our own great novels. Proudly, I showed my work to my extremely critical father, who quickly pronounced that nothing I ever wrote would ever get published. Parental pronouncements can be very powerful…and defeating.

Sitting there on the floor, though, I began to consider that perhaps he was giving me a gift. I have never been able to see myself writing a novel. My brain just doesn’t seem to work that way. I love to stories, the stories of my life. I believe they have purpose and I love to share them. So I felt released from having to come up with the next best novel. There are more than enough people working at that.

So where did that leave me? Other than frustrated? People keep telling me I need to write more. I have always thought that meant writing a book. But Dad said I couldn’t do that. But you’re an adult and you don’t have to listen to that anymore. He’s been dead for over twenty years, don’t you think it’s time to stand up for yourself? But what if he was right? Ack!

I have enjoyed blogging. I like writing short pieces that inspire and encourage. That’s who I am. But I want to do it better. So I went to the library computerized card catalogue (does anyone else miss flipping through the old fashion drawers?) and looked for a “Blogging for Dummies” book. And there was one! And it was actually available! I have it in my possession and I may even break down and buy one for myself.

I’m going to change my twitter profile from “wannabe writer” to blogger. I’m going to learn to excel at this medium and then see where it takes me.

This feels good and right.

Donuts or Honey?

I’m not sure whether God has an incredible sense of humor or just the most uncanny way of getting my attention, or both, but He did it again this morning in my quiet moments with Him.

It had been a rough morning.  Perhaps you have these kinds of mornings: I felt fat and ugly and I was contemplating just wearing a Snuggie (think weird looking blanket thing with sleeves).  I had made the mistake on this kind of morning of also stepping on the scales to check my weight.  What I saw was quite disheartening.  I have put back on  lmost all the weight I had proudly worked so hard to take off during the summer.  I was quickly sliding down a slippery slope into depression.  I began thinking that  I might need to stop at the grocery on the way to work and buy a big fat apple fritter to drowned my sorrows.

I didn’t stop.  I did find a pair of sweat pants that were baggy enough to hide in.  I got to work and while I was downing my egg sandwich on diet bread and dish of fruit, I decided to pull up a couple devotional readings.

The first devotional drew from Hebrews 6:1-2 and discussed how as believers we need to move from spiritual baby food to the meat of scripture so that we can grow strong in our faith.  The second one I pulled up was based on King David’s words in Psalms comparing the Word to the wonderful sweetness of honey.  Irony?  Coincidence?  I think not.  God knew what my heart needed.  And it sure wasn’t an apple fritter.

When I was losing the weight this summer I was being very intentional about my diet.  I counted everything and journaled each calorie, carb, and fat.  I was also exercising on a daily basis and in a variety of ways.  I felt good.  And I was starting to look better.  But I started to get lazy and I took my eyes off the prize.  I began to reward myself with the poisonous things that I had been cutting out of my diet.  Then right on schedule I developed plantar faceitus.  It became too painful to exercise.  I had some chest pains so llowed fear to park my bike.  Then I caught a cold that cut my breathing way back.  Of course I became depressed as I watched the numbers on the scale creep back up, but I kept telling myself I would get back to doing what I knew.  What I knew was that I knew better.

What I also knew is that what was happening to me physically mirrored what was also happening to me spiritually.  I carry my Bible and my journal with me everywhere, and I have great spiritual apps downloaded on my phone and wonderful sites constantly running on my Twitter feed. But having these things is not enough. Being satisfied with appearing pious is like spiritually drinking poison.

Thankfully I woke up feeling fat and ugly today or I might have continued drinking the poison and sliding down the slope.  Thankfully I have enough strength and desire right now to begin eating healthier, both physically and spiritually.  I’m probably going to have to endure a lecture from my doctor when I see her later this week.  I deserve it.  But I’m back on track.  My head and my heart feel like they’re reconnected again and I’ll be able to put into practice the things that I know to be good for me both physically and spiritually.

I’m not saying I won’t eat another donut, but I’m not going to be looking for one to solve my problems.  Hopefully with a more steady diet of the sweet honey of the Word, I’ll be better equipped to face the problems, avoid the poison, and live stronger with my God.  That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it. (honey, sticky, sticking to it…get it?)

It Said Pray

Something seemed to whisper in my ear that I should go home by a different route, but it was such a pretty day that I ignored the prompt and headed home the route I travel  daily and enjoy for it’s winding around town and by so many beautiful trees.  My smile faded as I pulled into a long line of cars traveling about 25mph (on a 55mph state route) following a huge piece of farm equipment lumbering down the road.  I was going nowhere fast.

Too merely say this was a huge piece of farm machinery barely describes the enormity.  Its right back tire was riding in the berm and took up the whole berm.  Its left back tire   riding on the center yellow line.  It’s not too surprising to come upon machinery on this road, and the sizes and speeds all vary.  Sometimes the slow down could also be a horse and buggy, in no hurry to get anywhere.  Perhaps my expectations were exactly what helped me to be more comfortable with slowing down and not wigging out about the delay.

Part of the delay, other than just snailing behind the bouncy mammoth on wheels, was that there is very little opportunity to pass on this stretch of road.  It is well traveled and there are very few sections where a brave soul can pass.   This afternoon there was no passing happening.  And the guy in front of me was fit to be tied.  His arms were flailing and he was jerking across the center line checking on whether he could pass.  This behavior was interspersed with long periods of laying on his horn.  I must confess that the longer I followed him the more I found myself laughing at his exasperation.  I might have had a bit more compassion, but he had already passed up three opportunities to turn  off and thereby get around the frustration.

I had been keeping my distance from the erratic driver in front of me and then I noticed a small green oval sticker on the back of car.  I thought I was reading it right, but wanted to be sure so I eased a little closer.  Sure enough.  The sticker contained one word: Pray.  It hit me so funny at first that I busted into a full out laugh. Really?  Hey buddy, did you forget your faith?  Your fickleness is showing, and it’s not becoming of your witness.

And then I got one of those nudges from the Spirit.  You know the kind.  It sounds very much like your mother, or teacher.  It starts simply with a throat clearing—just enough to get your attention, that is if you’re paying attention. That’s always followed by The Look.  Now, I’m not sure how the Spirit manages to give a look, but the feeling is just the same. I was caught and I knew it.

So I did the one thing I probably should have done to begin with, the one thing that I was being passively asked to do all along: I prayed.  I prayed that the driver would be safe.  I prayed that other drivers would drive safely and intelligently also.  Then I asked for forgiveness.  How dare I question this guy’s faith?  In my attitude I threw a stone when I had no right.  My fickleness hangs out way more than I care to admit. Someone might mistake me for Peter’s little sister.  I guess that’s why I never put any Christian symbols or stickers on my car.  Maybe that’s why I laughed so hard and quick.  That guy’s behavior was too familiar.  Oh, sure, I was cruising that afternoon, peaceful and unruffled, but it was because I had nowhere special to be.  What if I had been late for something very important?

I think if I were to have a pray sticker on my car, it would be better for me if I put it on the dashboard, not the bumper.  It’s on my list now to get this week.  I wonder if I could find one that said, Pray first,  Laugh later.  I’ll be looking!

Make Every Effort

This week I led a midweek Bible study at church.  My text was 2 Peter 1:3-11:

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The eleven of us gathered had a good time looking at the verses and discussing their meaning, and how to apply them to our lives.  Early in our conversation one of the men present made a reference to the older portion of the population in the congregation.  He referred them to the “experienced” members.  I liked it.

So there I was, surrounded by several of the “experienced” members of the congregation, talking to them about “making every effort.”  How crazy was that?  I’m not sure I would be able to add up all their combined years of following the Lord.  They were at a phase in their lives when perhaps they could rest in their walk.  And then it hit me: being there was part of their making every effort.  One woman had a walker and two others came in with canes, but there was no place they would rather be.  They are living proof that the pursuit of knowledge and a deeper relationship with God is life-long, and the process is well-worth it.

Being there with them really started me thinking about what I am doing.  I found myself taking stock of my effort level.  I have a lot of room for improvement.  Some of the holiness people I used to know made reference to how we are “saved, sanctified, and on our way to heaven,” but their lives appeared to be more “saved, sanctified, and satisfied.”  I pray that God never lets me get satisfied.  Like Paul, I want to press on (Phil. 3: 13).  How about you?

I’m Here!

(Now that kind of entrance should be sort of sing-songy, and since it’s me, probably accompianied by a kind of Dick VanDyke entrance-picture the Mary Tyler Moore show…hopefully you’re old enough to remember or get oldy reruns on one of your cable networks.)

I feel like a little kid with a brand new box of crayons: overwhelmed by all the possibilities.  What shall I draw?  What colors shall I use?  Will it be a good picture?  What happens if no one sees it?  Or worse, no one likes it?

I’m a simple writer.  I tend to see God in the ordinary, and point him out to others.  I’m not very deep.  I’ve been told I’m pretty naïve.  Oddly, I’m really okay with that.  I don’t pontificate.  I ponder.  Sometimes I wonder.  And true to my ADD, I think out loud–or in this case through my fingers.

Hopefully as we journey together we’ll into new areas of understanding, but also into the big expanse of awe!


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