Ah, the holiday season is officially upon us. Sometimes referenced as the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, yet in reality it can be the most chaotic time of the year with all the baking, shopping, decorating, cooking, gift-wrapping, tree trimming, card writing, events, and entertaining.
This past weekend, a friend that I had spent time with several years ago, made a surprise visit. We had some great laughs and enjoyed sharing memories from the days in our recent past (before she had kids and before I met my husband, Scott). While I enjoyed the stories and was able to recall a few scenarios, there were several instances my friend had mentioned, that I could barely remember. A part of me felt dismayed. Was I asleep or on autopilot during this time in my life?
After some thought, I realized that these stories took place during an encounter with a perfect storm of infirmity which caused a major state of flux. In addition to ending a marriage, I was displaced in leaving my home and my job (for a temporary medical leave). I was physically off-kilter with health symptoms I was too preoccupied to deal with.
I do recall after packing up a few years worth of marital memories and household belongings, my loving parents asked for me to move back home. They said, “We want to take care of you, Rachel. You need to recover.” My dad also gave me a note that was intended to serve as a reminder for me. It listed the affects of divorce. A loss of identity, purpose, and foundation. Lord, bless my parents for being there and wanting to help me during this state of flux.
I disregarded dad’s note and turned down my parent’s offer. Perhaps I was too proud or stubborn to stop, rest, and allow someone else to take care of me. I didn’t want to give any time or effort to my health issues. I was more concerned with moving forward in my lifestyle and my relationships so I could convince everyone, including myself, that I was 100% F-I-N-E. The last thing that I wanted was to be referenced as divorcee, motherless, homeless, ill, living at home with mom and dad, and unemployed. That’s pretty pathetic!
But, on the inside I was not fine.
I was frustrated, uncomfortable, numb, and tired. I was aggravated that my brain was overloaded with legal divorce-jargon, real estate transactions, and confusing medical prognoses (plural).
And so, I chose a different path than the road to recovery.
I moved into my brother’s beautiful rental property. It was the perfect environment for me to become completely self-absorbed. I dove into insincere relationships with men whom were more interested in my vulnerability rather than how unhealthy I was physically, emotionally, and mentally. I rushed into advancing my career with part-time schooling figuring when I was well enough to return to work, I would be one step ahead rather than one step behind. And, I even pushed my body to “appear” strong and healthy with ridiculous diets, weight lifting, and participating in mixed martial arts. I remember one time, getting elbowed, near my eye, while sparring a girl who had twice my strength (and anger). I received a golf-sized lump, and yet felt no pain.
Somehow my pursuits began to take precedence over my faith. My self-absorbedness caused me to make unreasonable decisions. I ended up wasting time, effort, and energy. And, I hurt a lot of people that tried to get close to me.
I did learn something significant from my experiences back then. Adrenaline does not just hit in a physical sense. For me, I had a surge of physical, emotional, and mental adrenaline. It’s like getting punched in the face and rather than retreating and walking in the direction to get help…You retaliate with crazy force. Your nerve endings are so stimulated (in a bad way) that you become engrossed with maintaining that level of intensity. You respond recklessly. Before stopping. Before thinking. You behave in a way that you will not be able to sustain.
There is another piece of paper that fell into my hands back then. It was a stress list distributed by one of my professors during a Master’s-level class. It contained some scientific formula in which you could add up points to help determine your level of stress. Items such as divorce, job-loss, a new health diagnosis, selling/buying a home, and heartbreak carried the most weight. I qualified in over 80% of the items mentioned on this list! And what was my response? I bragged about it to my colleagues. “Hey look at this. I am off the charts! Hysterical, huh? I know. I should be getting medical attention…seeing a therapist…taking anti-depressants….moving in with mom and dad. Funny! Isn’t it?”
Friends, if this sounds like you, you are not on the road to recovery. You are on the road to DISASTER.
Recently, I came across an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal referencing a minimum of 2-years to recover from a life-altering setback such as a divorce. Not sure how many years would have been reasonable for the many setbacks I had encountered all at one time. Yet, chances are I would have ignored this advice when I needed it most, as well.
My story is not an ordinary story. (I’m guessing yours is not, either.) Events, scenarios, places of residency, relationships, health issues, and places of employment did not come or settle in any typical way for me, whatsoever. Perhaps this is why my memory cannot keep up with the events in my past.
Although I was in desperate need of recovery, I chased worldly pursuits that had me on a road to disaster. It actually took years and sporadic events here and there before getting on the road to recovery.
So, where was God in all this? Before I can explain this, let’s first reference WHO God is in the the example of Christ in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and/or John.
- Jesus did NOT chase people or things in the world. Crowds were magnetically drawn to Him. Those who came (or were brought) to Him in faith were HEALED.
- Jesus rebuked worldly temptations even upon being tempted by the devil.
- Jesus did not RUN around all crazy and fanatical. He was cool, calm, and collective. He walked. He rested. (For crying out loud, he even slept during a storm that had his disciples in a tizzy!)
- Jesus ate when He was hungry. He took care of His body.
SO, GOD WAS THERE ALL ALONG IN THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST.
He was telling me to rest, take care of my body, resist the temptations of the world, and go to HIM for healing and everything else I needed. There were so many other things to notice along the way, but I was too self-absorbed and looking to the world rather than choosing to recognize God through it all. But now, I see it.
- I see it in the unwavering and unconditional love and support that my family gives me every single day. NO MATTER WHAT.
- I see it in the people I meet.
- I experience it in the extraordinary relationships I have with my female powerhouse friends. The ones who are not afraid to give me a loving smack upside the head. (Yes, I have friends that are unbelievably effective in getting my attention.)
- I recognize it in the MIRACLE in how I met my husband, Scott, (years after my divorce) when we both were not looking. And, the miracle in how I love Scott. I was beginning to fear that my heart would never recover nor allow me to love a man, unconditionally, until I met the one who would capture my heart forever.
Also, these verses in scripture are spot on:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:30
If you can relate to my story or if you are currently going through a state of flux, will you please consider waiting for God to heal you, empower you, and re-establish you?
Hopefully, after reading this today, you are on the road to recovery. And, not the road to disaster.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I have this prayer in quite a few places. Perhaps you do, too. I like it because it’s fairly easy to memorize and relevant in our day-to-day struggles. However, for me, it’s easy to recite the words on paper, but so difficult to put them into action.
I have a difficult time with change. And, I have an even harder time with accepting things I cannot change.
Once, I became extremely frustrated with this so-called Serenity (which means peace and calm) Prayer. It was during a time that I was not feeling peace, and I was not feeling calm. In fact, I was starting to believe that perhaps my handwritten version of this annoying Prayer would be more effective as a paper airplane.
In my opinion, I had already exceeded my threshold in accepting things. I accepted the endometriosis and the debilitating pain that came with it every 3 weeks. I was accepting my lonely battle with PMDD and dealt with at least 2 weeks of emotional instability, lack of mental clarity, and the inevitable consequences that occurred as a result of these symptoms. I was accepting prescriptions for medications I could barely pronounce. Not to mention, after my primary care physician declared that I was unable to handle the stress in the workplace, as much as I hated to admit it, I chose to accept this.
I think that’s a fair share to accept.
However, there was one thing that I would never, ever willingly concede to. This wake-up call came about a year ago from my infertility specialist after an exhausting round of infertility treatments. “Sorry, Rachel, but… it did not work. Please don’t despair.”
Okay, hold the phone.
You may think by this time, I had already come to terms with the issue of infertility, especially by my late 30s, but I always had something to temporarily refer to as the scapegoat. My first marriage didn’t work out, so that was the reason I did not conceive. After that, I was doing well in my career, which I could partly contribute to having zero dependents at home to worry about! And then, after Scott and I eloped only after 8 months of knowing one another, we had so many differences to work out. This was yet another reason why this hadn’t happened… YET.
Friends, I was not ready to accept the once-and-for-all-ness of NEVER, as opposed to NOT YET.
According to the experts, my ovaries, the same ovaries that gave me unnecessary and agonizing pain every single month for years and years and YEARS, were basically closing up shop. Oh, no, the menstrual cycles would continue (hip, hip, hooray!)… but the pregnancy mechanism, you know, the entire reason for going through these awful cycles, THAT was NEVER going to happen. So it was time to say goodbye to the idea of a biological pregnancy.
Well, let me tell you. I was not willing to accept this. I took it up with God, immediately.
“Hello, God. So, how’s it going up there? Yeah, I’m sure you’re busy. I know that. I need to bring something to your attention.
Um, well… I think you made a little mistake. (sarcastic chuckle) Yeah, just a teensy one, but I wanted to do the right thing and bring it to your attention right away.
Apparently, there is a mistake in your Big Old Plan Book you have up there. Yeah, you see, I think you have me down in the “INFERTILE” column. And um… well, that is not where I belong. Remember? I’m the one who has been praying for my unborn children for a long time. So, there’s obviously a mistake.
Oh, I don’t know… maybe one of your angels had a rough day and accidentally mixed up my name with someone else’s.
Look, can you please just check into this oversight for me? I don’t mind waiting while you double check this for me. And, just so you know, I will not tell anyone. It will be our secret. I mean, you have forgiven me for all of my mistakes, so I can forgive you for this little mess up. You do have a lot more on your plate.
OF COURSE I REALIZE THAT THIS PRAYER IS A LITTLE PATHETIC.
I just cannot believe that you are keeping this from me! You can fix this!
WHY ARE YOU NOT LISTENING? PLEASE! HURRY UP AND FIX THIS!’
Well, eventually God did begin to speak to my heart. Things had to get a little worse for me before they got better. However, after I had exhausted every attempt to change the inevitable, I finally decided to accept God’s will no matter what. It was only after this that I began to truly experience the peace and the calm in the Serenity Prayer.
Friends, this is the pinnacle of faith. This is when and how we can start living an EXTRAordinary Life, when we choose to trust in God’s plan over our own plans.
A few promises in Scripture that have helped me:
- God does not make mistakes. God takes OUR mistakes and works them all together for good. That’s what HE DOES. (Romans 8:28)
- We are wonderfully made and God created us with unique qualities, gifts, and desires. (Psalm 139)
- God promises to give us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4)
- Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)
- God gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. (Psalm 113:9)
Thanks to the wisdom and promises in His word, I found myself yielding more and more to faith. I made a decision to live an EXTRAordinary life in spite of not having my own biological baby.
I realize that I have so much to be grateful for!
Scott and I have recently purchased a fixer upper home with several (hint, hint) spare bedrooms. I KNOW God will help us make use of these bedrooms according to HIS perfect plan.
I am blessed to be a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and an AUNT! (Have I mentioned how unbelievably AWESOME it is to be an AUNT? I get to love babies and children…kiss and hug them…spoil them a little…But whenever I need a break I can easily say to Brother or Sis, “Here ya go! I had fun. I’m going home now with the hubbs to watch a movie and get to bed early.”
It turns out some of the things I did not plan, manipulate, or change have become some wonderful blessings!
Are you currently longing for something that is a desire in your heart? Are you trusting that God will fulfill this in HIS timing and HIS way? Are you willing to accept the things you cannot change and the courage to change the things that you can?
The Living EXTRAordinary Woman chooses to put the Serenity Prayer in action. She chooses to accept the things she cannot change or change the things she can.
May God continue to give us the wisdom to know the difference.
Have you ever had a momentary lapse in which you temporarily tune out of existence to reflect on a memory from the past? This just happened to me, earlier this week.
It was a beautiful Autumn afternoon. After running a few quick errands, I decided to check out this quilting and fabric store, located in a nearby historic town.
After my brief visit, I strolled in and out of a few other charming shops. I took my time to savor the intimate delights that I normally wouldn’t pay much attention to…the sound of the bells on the door and the creeks in the hardwood floors, the smell of pumpkin candles, and the traditional vintage ornamentation that I hope to replicate at The House on High Street, once it’s renovated.
Fortunately, I have grown quite accustomed to window-shopping these days, as Scott and I are currently living off of one salary. And yet, as I tiptoed around the delicate and pricey displays from one shop to the next I felt overwhelmingly grateful.
I reflected on where I was a year ago, and how we could have easily afforded most of the items that caught my eye. And yet, on this particular afternoon, I experienced a feeling of contentment that was unfamiliarly pleasant to me. A feeling I wouldn’t have traded for anything else in the world.
As I pulled away from the metered spot alongside the pretty tree-lined curb, I whispered a silent prayer, “Thank you, God, for all that I have…and for all that I don’t have.”
A year ago, I was in the perfect position for God to bestow something extremely significant that would in turn, change my priorities and perspective of life. I was dealing with the Epstein Barr Virus, amongst other debilitating health issues, that were eating away at my physical strength and monopolizing my day-to-day routine. Reading was the one thing that I was able to do successfully during this time, and so I read a lot! I read novels, historical fictions, inspirational stories, and a little from the Bible, each day. This was like food for my soul and healing in my bones.
One morning, I came across Proverbs 31 verses 10-31 which describe a virtuous and capable wife. I was already somewhat familiar with this chapter; as the book of Proverbs in general was so helpful to me when I was working in a leadership capacity. Anyway, after reading it on this particular morning, I felt a bit intimidated by this so-called virtuous and capable woman.
There was very little in this description that I could relate to. Not to mention, who is to say that Solomon, son of King David, who apparently was referenced as the “wisest man who had ever lived” really knew the true definition of a virtuous and capable woman? From what I understand, Solomon had several wives. Clearly, he must have been setting the bar a little too high.
Yet, as much as I attempted to discount Solomon’s portrayal, I knew in my heart that this depiction was God-inspired. Therefore, I felt compelled to search for the meaning behind it all. In spite of my dissimilarity of this disgustingly perfect super woman, wife, and mother, I found myself attempting to justify that I couldn’t fit this description even if I tried.
Please allow me to break down these verses bit by bit, followed by my personal and honest response, at that time.
10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies. 11 Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. 12 She will not hinder him but help him all her life.
“Hmmm, I am certainly no Wife of the Year. I can barely get out of bed. My body is too sick to conceive my husband’s children. So, I don’t believe that I am greatly enriching his life these days…”
13 She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. 14 She is like a merchant’s ship, she brings her food from afar. 15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
“Gets up before dawn? I can’t even get out of bed without my husband bringing me coffee. I don’t even have a job or the energy right now to plan a day’s work.”
16 She goes out to inspect a field and buys it, with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
“She plants a vineyard? Must be nice to have such an opportunity.”
17 She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.
“Hmmm. Not feeling energetic or strong these days.”
18 She watches for bargains, her lights burn late into the night.
“I can barely stay awake after dark. But, I do try to watch out for bargains.”
19 Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.
“Okay, God… Give me the skills and the energy and the time to sew and make bread, then I’ll make quilts and pizza for everyone I know! I believe You’ve given me a heart and some talent in the domestic department.”
20 She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
“Oh, Lord… You have given me a compassionate heart. This I know. And, you are pleased with my generosity, right? I just don’t have any income to donate right now, and not much energy to do anything charitable. I mean, what kind of charity would be willing to revolve around my irregular health patterns? I suppose I could make an attempt to look for something.”
21 She has no fear of winter for her household because all of them have warm clothes. 22 She quilts her own bedspreads. She dresses like royalty in gowns of finest cloth.
“Household? I have no children, remember? I don’t even own a house. I am a career woman, and if you can heal me and get me back where I belong I can buy quilts and dresses!
23 Her husband is well known, for he sits in the council meeting with the other civic leaders.
“Well, my husband is on the board for Habitat for Humanity. Does that suffice? Perhaps one of us is meeting the description here. But is that all you’ve got in the virtuous husband criterion? Really?”
24 She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.
“There goes that sewing reference again. These verses are clearly irrelevant to the times I am living in!”
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future.
“I don’t feel strong. I am not even liking myself in this condition. I am too tired to even anticipate a future let alone laugh at it.”
26 When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions.
“I do my best to be kind to others. And, I’m wiser now than I was in my 20s. I admit there are times when I forget to wear my verbal filter. I suppose I can work on that.”
27 She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness.
“Once again… I do not have a household! But at least I’ve never been considered lazy… so, that’s good, right?”
28 Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her.
“Have you forgotten me, Lord? I guess these verses do not apply to me after all.
29 There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all! 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last, but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. 31 Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
Verse 30 really struck a chord. I had to think for a minute. I understood that God does not want us to fear Him in the sense that we have anxiety. Rather, this type of fear means respect and reverence. I found myself humbled upon reading and really meditating (for the first time) on these verses.
As it turned out, my heart was longing to be this woman.
And I knew that I needed to make some changes.
Shortly after, I created a list of things that I could do in order to fulfill God’s description of a virtuous woman. I figured if this was in God’s Word then I wanted to at least make an effort to see if (with God’s help) I could meet this description.
The first thing on my list was extending myself to the needy.
One day I called a women’s shelter that was nearby, offering to make prepared meals from time to time. I mentioned that I had sporadic bouts of energy and unpredictable good days, figuring they would reject my volunteerism. But surprisingly, they welcomed me whenever and however I was able to help.
I visited the shelter whenever I was able to bring food. My heart changed dramatically upon seeing these women who were so grateful to have a place to congregate, to rest, to eat, to wash their hair and their clothes. It turned out to be the most valuable opportunity for my faith to grow. My heart swelled every time I was around this group of women, and I found myself discovering contentment in my own circumstances and trusting in God to intervene in His timing and in His way.
You would think I was at the beginning of my recovery, but of course my humanness interfered…
A few weeks later, I stubbornly retreated to my old ways. I began thinking that I needed to use the time out of work productively to move forward with the application process in earning a PhD. The first step of the process was to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
As it turned out, the test date fell on a day when I was not feeling well. Halfway through the exam, my mind began to cloud and my body felt weak. I was growing anxious. I took my headset off and began rubbing my temples. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer, “Lord, can you please help me get through this test so I can get back to my career! I mean, sure, I would love to have a home and a household with land for a garden or a vineyard or whatever! Mouths to feed, and the time and the skills to make my own quilts and bedspreads! Are you listening, God?! Of course I would want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman!”
Do you want to know the single word that I heard God reply with?
I tried to convince myself that there was no way God could intervene or change my future for the better. I needed to maintain control and get through the exam so I could get back to the real world.
I somehow got through the last few sections of the test and drove towards home. Tears began to flow down my cheeks. I realized that it was time for me to stop trying so hard to be my own version of a virtuous woman. It was time to trust that God would fulfill His purpose in me, in His time, and in His way.
“Okay, God. I’ll stop trying. Help me to have the faith to allow your plans for me to unfold.”
Well, shortly after this, things starting coming together. By God’s miraculous grace, in spite of my physical limitations, I started bringing my husband coffee in bed!
Upon receiving my GRE test results, I celebrated. They were awful! But, I didn’t care.
Months later, Scott and I ended up selling our overpriced condo at the beach and bought The House on High Street for a fraction of the cost. A house with plenty of rooms to be a family household and enough land for a vineyard. I am trusting God to provide a household in His timing and in His way. I will plant my garden and whatever else can grow on that land!
My parents bought me a sewing machine this past birthday (the kind that makes quilts and linen garments). So, now you can figure out why I was feeling nostalgia after visiting that quilt store earlier this week…reflecting on my cynical days just a year ago.
These days, my health may be far from perfect. But I have the time to sew, turn our house into a home, and spend time with the needy. I feel richer now than I ever was.
God provided for me and He will provide for you, too.
Friends, do NOT give up hope. Do not surrender the desires of your heart, for God placed them there! Do not get lost in your circumstances. Are you starting to feel discouraged? If so, get out there and help someone less fortunate than you. It is merely impossible to stay in a position of doubt. Challenge your faith and trust in God’s promises. If I can do this, you can do this.
Let us choose to trust in God’s provisions and His timing…as He faithfully fulfills the desires of our hearts while maturing us into virtuous and capable women.
* 1 lb. 80% Lean Ground Beef
* Sharp Cheddar Cheese
* Worcestershire Sauce
* Bar-b-que Sauce
* Garlic Powder
* Salt and Pepper
* Red Onion (Optional)
* Mushrooms (Optional)
* Spanish Onion
* Heat Stove Top Griddle on High
* Form Patties with ground meat and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
* Cook over high heat until burger is easy to flip.
* In the meantime fry onions and mushrooms in a skillet.
* In a small bowl, combine Worcestershire Sauce & Bar-B-Que Sauce
* Spoon or Brush Sauce over the cooked side of each burger; while it is still over the flame.
* Add cheese. Cover with a Pan to help melt the cheese.
* Top with Mushroom, Fried Onions, and chopped up Spanish Onion.
* Serve on Toasted Buns with Rachel Maria’s Sweet-n-Garlicky Potato Fries!
To all the Teachers, the Pastors, and the Leaders of Organizations-
This past Sunday, I attended a church that I have recently stumbled upon by accident. How I discovered this church is almost as miraculous as the fact that I want to go back for more. This jogged my memory of the last thirty-five years of participating in church congregations, as well as learning institutions and work organizations. From what I’ve experienced, some are effective, and some are not. Some are inviting, while others are unappealing. Some grow, and some cannot retain their members. Some empower, while others micromanage and stifle.