Wednesday, February 11, 2009

AKA ~The most valuable things in life aren’t things

I grew up in a single mother household. Even though my mother made mistakes, she was Godly and always kept my brother’s and my best interest at heart. True to her namesake, “Judith”, she was a self-sacrificing warrior. On the other hand, my father was the one with the new wife…house…cars…baby… To say their relationship was dysfunctional would be an understatement. Their version of getting together to talk about how the children should be raised was in front of a judge. However, they both instilled in me the lessons of being educated, hardworking, and thereby self-reliant. As soon as I could get out on my own and live the American Dream, I did and swore I’d never look back. At 27, I was a successful teacher who owned a four bedroom house in the suburbs. By 31 I was a classic “overachiever”: accountable for my alcoholic husband, a full time graduate student with a 4.0 GPA, a respected teacher, and a mother to a precocious three year old. I went to church, but to say that God was in the center of my life would be a lie.
I likened myself to a Martha Stewart~ I hosted parties and was generous. Because I had done without as a child, I over-valued materialism. Ironically, I was similar to the Biblical Martha as well. Martha complained, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?...the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.’” Luke 10:40 I would be so trapped by the “devil in the details” that I would not take time to enjoy myself or the guests. As a result, I am sure many friends and family members were left uncomfortable by my frenzied rushing about and insistence on things being “just so.” To this day, I struggle with balancing a clean home and spending quality time with my children. I often feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of working full time; being a gentle, wise mother to one year old and ten year old daughters; being a considerate step-mother to two teenage boys; being a loving wife; volunteering faithfully at church; keeping a tidy home; and making righteous decisions. When life gets chaotic, I clean…at least, I have control over that. My husband says that I get a “look in my eye” and he knows I have 12 D-I-Y projects going on at the same time. I have to remind myself that the most valuable things in life aren’t things. The story of Martha clearly demonstrates that Christ would prefer that we focus on fellowship and worship; rather than temporal, worldly concerns.

In addition, I passed judgment on those not leading a lifestyle that I felt was right~ Poor people were poor because of bad decision making or secretly believed that Poor people are bad people. That’s when the bottom fell out…I hadn’t listened to God’s whispers, so He sent the earthquake. I’d forgotten the story in Matthew 19: 16-24 “Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.’…. ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’ Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."’ My sin was that I was proud and self-righteous.

I had a life-changing experience which refocused my perspective. The catalyst was a miscarriage, which revealed my husband’s infidelity. Instead of pleading for God’s mercy, like Job I shook my fist and said, “Why me? I am trying to lead a righteous life!” I let that event rip off the scabs from a troubled childhood…it inflamed all those negative feelings about men. I determined if being “good” didn’t insulate me from tragedy… then, let’s find out what is so wonderful about being “bad.” After all, my husband and father were ungodly and it looked like they lived an unscathed life. Unfortunately, I am the voice of experience and I didn’t always follow God’s commandments. For a while, I felt abandoned by God and rebelliously embraced a sex, drugs & rock-n-roll lifestyle. (My grandmother refers to this as the school of hard knocks; if so, I have a Master’s Degree.)

As a result of severe depression, I was unemployed for 7 months. My bills however, reflected a life of a middle-class family. I didn’t qualify for unemployment or worker’s comp until an entire 365 days had passed. Obviously, having no income and a mound of bills did nothing to help my depression. I experienced extreme weight loss/weight gain, sleeping 27 hours straight/ not sleeping soundly for weeks, panic attacks……. I state these challenges in order to let you know I can relate to your trials. In addition, I was in the midst of a divorce, grandparent’s terminal illness, and lawsuit with my uncle over my grandfather’s estate. More importantly, I was faced with losing custody of my child since I was unable to provide for her. Based on my personal experiences, I believe that the more potential you have; the more the devil will wage full out spiritual warfare to rob you of your blessing and fulfilling God’s path for your life. If Satan can destroy the mother, he can profoundly effect the children; her greatest potential.

Once again, I proudly clung to what had “worked” for me in the past: tenacity, hard work, self-reliance. I fought the doctors to return to teaching before the calendar year had passed; therefore, I would not be eligible for disability compensation. When I say “fought,” that is an understatement! After all, I was losing every material possession I had worked so hard for. Even though I had many things repossessed, foreclosed, given away, sold…I felt secure that I was back to work and living in a two bedroom apartment~ My daughter and I were together and we had survived…or so I thought. That spring, my teaching contract was “non-renewed” due to levy issues (But in reality, one could conclude it was due to my hospitalization for major depression). What would I do now? I was Mrs. Mitchell, the teacher for 10 years with a Master’s Degree. How would I provide now as a single mom?

With my life in ruins, I decided that my child was better off without me and that I would end my life. Unconscious for hours, I was awakened by a calm voice instructing me, “This is your second chance; go home.” Instinctively, I knew it was the voice of an angel, a messenger of God. Groggily, I woke up and he repeated the instructions. In my heart, I knew there wouldn’t be another “wake up call.” I knew this was my second chance at life to go home, take a shower, and return to my normal work day; I followed his message and was instantly delivered of suicidal tendencies. I’m not saying that I never feel worthless or hear the enemy of our souls whisper that I’m better off dead~ but now, I rebuke Satan and don’t let those thoughts linger. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not advocating a suicide attempt as a breakthrough; however, I am sharing my testimony and personal low point that lead to my deliverance.

The goal of this blog is not to come across as “preachy”, but rather, to say I share these struggles—after all, what people need is
1) Not to feel alone, that someone cares about their well being and understands their struggles
2) Appreciated and admired
3) Forgiveness and redemption
4) Unconditional LOVE

Now, I am grace-driven and am able to share my testimony with compassion. As a result of these devastating events, my attitude has been humbled and I realize there but the grace of God go I. I understand why someone would turn to drugs and alcohol, prostitution, or sin in general. Sometimes we feel that not even God could love us, or that we couldn’t possibly ever live a good life; so we might as well succeed at being hell-bent. There is a powerful attraction to rebellion, having the power to not listen to anyone. Humans are desperately seeking to fill a void that only God can fill and the self-destructive lifestyle temporarily may provide a “fix,” but this compounds physical, mental, spiritual, financial health issues. I’d forgotten the Biblical principal, “Therefore, do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Four our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. When I reflect now, I truly believe this is what kept my mom going; somehow she never lost sight of this verse. I’d forgotten the principle she’d held fast to even on her death bed…when people would ask, “What can we do for you?” She’d humbly answer, “Pray for my children.” She knew that the only thing you can take to heaven is your loved ones!
I have found out time and time again that when I get my priorities out of whack and God isn’t the apex in my life, I feel pressured and anxious~ I lose sight of God’s real purpose for my life.

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