Sunrises, Sunsets, and a Father’s Love.

Let’s talk about what got me back here writing again; it’s been a while.

It’s about yesterday. I could start this post off like Charles Dickens’ book A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Only yesterday was different because it was the best of days and the worst of days, but because of God in my life, there were two possible outcomes.

Yesterday started off like any normal day, waking at 5:45, on the road to work by 6:15. The joy of my two hour commute is seeing the sunrise, different every day, and presented to me by God. I take lots of pictures. It reminds me of when I was little, and my daddy used to stop the car so we could watch the sunrise. It never mattered if we were on the way to school, or he needed to get to work. He would pull over so we could watch the sunrise, even if just for a few minutes. We’d take in the beauty, the colors, and the majesty of it all. We knew we were loved by our daddy. Even if we were just happy about not getting to school so early – and you gotta give me a break here – my sister and I were young, that’s what kids get excited about, you know?

I bet at the time, 30-something years ago, my daddy had no idea how much this would mean to me as I grew up. Even now, as I write this, I’m teary eyed because, daddy, every time I see a beautiful sunrise, sunset, or sky full of stars, I wish I were watching it with you. Because I know that no one would enjoy doing that with me as much as you would.

I send pictures to my dad, but pictures don’t do a sunrise justice. Just like anything created by God, you can’t capture it. My camera can’t capture the beauty of a sunrise, and there’s no way to hold onto it like a balloon on a string, keeping it with you all day long. You have to experience it for yourself. See the glow of the rising sun, smell the fragrance of a beautiful flower, feel the breeze on your face during a hot day. God gifts these things to us because he loves us; because we are His children. Just like daddy gifted my sister and me a chance to stop and watch the sunrises. You have to experience God for yourself, no one can gift that to you, and even if they did, it wouldn’t be nearly as awesome.

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Sunrise
On the way to work yesterday I ran into terrible traffic for miles. Literally 3 lanes crawling down the interstate; there was an accident right in the middle of downtown. Busiest section of the road. Waiting until the last possible moment, hoping not to have to, I finally sent my boss a text message that I was going to be late and why. He wasn’t happy. He’s an amazing lawyer and a businessman. He’s actually one of the best lawyers I’ve ever worked for. However, he hired me to do a job, which requires that I’m at work by 8:30. He doesn’t care how far away I live or if an accident is holding up traffic. He needs me at work by 8:30 to open the firm, among other things. Though I’m rarely late, when I am, the entire firm is affected. I get it. I understand. Someone has to answer the phones and do all the things I should be doing. Meanwhile, that someone is missing out on time to complete their own work. I know his reaction to me was not personal.

When my boss arrived to work, I asked him if I could talk to him (before he had a chance to call me into his office). No one wants to be called into the principal’s office, right? I wanted the upper hand, or to at least feel like I had it. I prayed before going into his office. We spoke. I left, and prayed some more. I told God that this was difficult, I was scared for my job, and upset because everyone was mad at me. I asked God to help me find a silver lining to this situation. I told God I did not want to stay angry, upset, fearful, sad, or worried. In fact, I made a decision right then to not be any of those negative things. To do that, I needed to focus on something positive. So God and I “collaborated” in prayer and came up with an awesome idea; or, rather, He came up with an awesome idea.

My “conversation” with God:

God: You know all that time you’ve been complaining about, Bree? Unable to write, unable to blog, or to even participate in the IF:Equip Bible Study you love so much, because you’re commuting for work so many hours per day, and don’t have internet at home? How about you leave home extra early, and when you inevitably arrive to work early, you can use that time to blog, or study the Bible, or read. You’ll be on time for work, and get your blogging done.

Bree: Yes! That’s a great idea, God! Instead of staying late after work to blog, I will do it in the mornings before work. Great solution! (God and I make a good team.)  🙂

Let me tell you that for the rest of the day I felt amazing! I felt like the favor of God was with me all day. It was as if I had a basket of blessings, one after another, that kept popping up. By the time I left work, I was in a great mood. I was so excited about starting to blog again.

I’d always wanted this blog to be my confession, and my testimony to the Glory of God and how Jesus has changed my life. I’d been feeling guilty for not writing, especially after getting all these followers and people who liked my writing and truly wanted to hear my story. I felt guilty about not continuing to tell my story of how Jesus was changing my life. God gifted me with the ability to write well, and I wanted to use it, I needed to. I want everyone to know the God I know. And I want to know Him even better, growing in my faith.

This lesson I learnedgo to God first with my problems, and wait, with expectancy, for the right answer. What you learn will be with you for seasons to come. Certainly, I will need to do this again. Answers don’t always come right away, but they will come. His will will be done, and His will is always good for you. I felt so safe and warm. Surrounded by God’s army of love. It felt like the unconditional, unstoppable, unchangeable love that my daddy has for me.

How lucky am I? I have a Father in heaven making beautiful skies for me to see daily, and I have a daddy on earth who taught me to stop and enjoy the beauty God creates for us. Even though it wasn’t explained to me like that as a child because I wasn’t raised in Church, it’s completely relevant to my life now. I am so blessed. I am so loved. I am so lucky.

Thank you, daddy for teaching me how meaningful it is to stop and watch the sunrise.

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Sunrise through the fog.
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IF this week: I can ascend too.

Amazing week studying the Nicene Creed with IF:Equip on the IF app. (See my post about how to get the app, it’s free!)

This week has “hope” written all over it! Hope is what I need. What do you need? You can find it in Jesus.

Knowing that Jesus chose to become fully man, and experience what I experience is amazing. Given the choice, would I do the same? Probably not, if I’m honest. Life, especially now, is hard. Keeping my focus on Jesus literally sustains me throughout the day. If not for Him, I don’t know how I could be me. I don’t know how I did it for 3+ decades without Him. I almost didn’t; choosing to give up too many times. Thank God I finally found Jesus. God has a purpose for me.

Jesus ascended into Heaven after conquering death. I can apply that to my daily life. I now know that through His strength, I can ascend above the trials of my day. I can ascend above pain, I can ascend above fear, I can ascend above worry and doubt. He is forever with me, in every situation.

Yesterday, after a bad morning I changed my attitude by literally thanking God for everything I could think of! (Thank you, God, that I can walk, thank you that I have clothes, thank you that the lamp turned on, thank you for my coffee, my job, my husband, my dog…. Thank you God.)

What a blessing coming to Jesus has been for me. After nearly ending my life years ago, to be saved by Grace is the most amazing feeling. To be forgiven my sins, all those things that haunt my mind daily; amazing. To be given a renewed dose of hope, grace and mercy each day, to be sustained through Christ Jesus; amazing.

I don’t even mind waking up too early, like today, because it’s just more time to spend with my Savior. Good morning Jesus!

And, even though there’s hope, if I were a betting girl, I know the odds are there will be difficulties today too. But I’m not alone anymore in my dark moments. In those moments, I draw near to Jesus and seek His face, God’s Word made flesh, to get me through. Amazing.

Sunflower grown from a single seed. Ascending toward Heaven, taller than I’ll ever be. Perfectly imperfect, just like me. Radiating beauty to all who see.

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Part 3: The blessed darkness.

This is the hardest post I’ve written so far. This post, when written the first 3 times, included my family and my husband.

But I trashed all those drafts. This is my testimony. Mine. Not “ours”. I had to find a way to tell my story, which I’m so ready to tell, without disrespecting the privacy of the people in my life.

My mom introduced me to Mark around 2004 and we fell in love. I remember when he told me he loved me. I said “I love you too”, but he protested, saying “no! This is my time, I’m loving you right now”. He’s loved me that way ever since. Even when my moods and addiction made it difficult. He loved me despite me being me. I still don’t know what I did to deserve such a loving man. Not everyone saw that though, which is my fault. I was never really good at sharing myself, or my life, with family or friends. After all, I had a secret to hide, and my bipolar mood shifts didn’t help. So opinions of Mark suffered because of my selfishness. I’m so sorry for that.

Relationships are being healed now. Slowly but surely. I love my family and their willingness to just love purely. Despite mistakes and lies, despite time lost, my family has always loved me. They always will. I have no doubt about that. And for that, I know I am one of the lucky ones.

Mark & I moved in together, and lived in several cities, moving for jobs. At this time the economy was faltering and jobs were difficult to come by. But life was difficult for many reasons. Self inflicted reasons. Like razors taken to the goodness of the skin of my life, my poor decisions cut that goodness into bits and pieces.

One day I’ll be able to fill in these blanks. When I’m ready. When we’re ready.

I’m skipping a lot of years here because I haven’t figured out how to talk about those years yet as just my story. But I want to keep going so I can tell you about my Savior, and we’ve still got two years to go.

We landed in Jacksonville in 2012 for the best job I’ve ever accepted. I was so happy to be leaving home. Honestly, I was always happy to leave home. My life was so miserable there because of my poor choices. Choices which affected everyone I loved, and the guilt of which is so hard to let go of. I’m good at letting go of anxiety, fear, sadness. But guilt? Guilt is difficult to get rid of, to leave at the foot of the cross like I do with my other negative emotions. Guilt sticks like a stain in your head and heart that you just cannot get rid of. That guilt, is always in the back of my mind, and has seeped into the depths of my being. I carry this guilt of what I did to my family. Hopefully one day I will learn how to let that go.

Am I even supposed to let that go? Because I feel like I deserve to carry it with me forever.

After one month of working at that job I moved to Jacksonville to accept, I was fired. They never told me why. Shortly thereafter we were evicted from our apartment, which was always more expensive than we needed. We moved into a hotel. We thought it would be temporary, but it wasn’t. We lived there for almost two years.

And so here we are, the point in my story where, believe it or not, things start getting really difficult. I was spiraling downward faster and faster. Life actually got worse. Worse than the years I cannot talk about yet because they’re not just mine to tell. Worse than the years I spent in South Florida in a relationship with a serial cheater. Worse than threatening myself with suicide.

Things were about to get real.

What comes next are the darkest of days. Days when I didn’t know what I would do from one second to the next. Times so foggy that I could not see beyond the next second of life. When I didn’t know if there would even be life in the next second. It was so dark, I couldn’t see myself in the mirror anymore. It wasn’t really me I was seeing. My mind was failing, then my body started failing. It was scary and strange. For example, at work, I could not type as fast, my fingers were slower. Something was wrong with my neurological system. My whole body with being affected by the darkness in which I was dwelling.

I can now say that I now thank God for those days. The days full of prolonged seconds which seemed to last hours. Those millions of miserable moments spent alone in the darkness of my mind. I lost myself there. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, that was the best thing for me. I needed to lose myself before I could find God.

But like I mentioned, we’re still 2 years from that. I was still trying to fix things on my own. I hadn’t yet considered giving God a chance. God wasn’t a blip on my radar, or a thought in my head. Not yet. God was the furthest thing from my broken mind . Or so I thought.

God was there, but it would take a miracle 20 years in the making for me to see Him, and one question to one friend that would change everything.

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The before, the after, and the Savior

My story has two parts.

The first part is scary, filled with debilitating fear caused by poor choices that lead to a life of addiction, depression, loneliness, homelessness, and despair. I was just trying to stay alive, but I was doing it wrong. I was making all the decisions, all the rules, and thought I was in control.  So despite a great childhood and amazing parents, I ended up wrecking my life.

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The second part of my story started in 2013, at age 36. That’s when God completely turned my life upside down (because apparently I didn’t realize the wreck that I was already) and I realized that I was not in control and I needed help. I wasn’t raised in church and didn’t know anything about God. But in that moment, when my life was wrecked, I knew I needed him.

So how does an atheist find out about God?

That’s what this story will be about. It’s too long of a story to tell just one blog post. So I’ll try to break it up, and on some days I’ll just write about my daily life and how God helps me to get through tough times and celebrates with me the in good times.

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