Monday, June 14, 2021

What Forgiveness Really Is

I had a big issue with forgiveness, mainly because of the phrase 'forgive and forget.' Was I supposed to forget everything that was done to me by this person and just let them hurt me repeatedly? If that was forgiveness, then I wanted none of it!

Years ago, I met a woman at a writers' conference that changed my perspective on forgiveness. I can't tell you exactly what she said (my memory fails me), but the heart of the lesson went deep into my soul. I was so angry at someone that it was blackening the spirit within me, and this womans' words made me decide it was time to forgive.

I'm not going to lie. I cried—a lot. The person I needed to forgive was toxic. They were mentally abusive. They tore holes in my heart with every guilt-ridden, angry word spoken. But I needed to forgive them; otherwise, I'd never grow in God's love.

So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is letting go of your anger towards the person you need to forgive. You try to see the heart behind the behavior and find compassion for them. You try to understand why they act the way they do and give your anger to God- He'll be happy to take it off your hands.

Does that mean you forget everything they did? Absolutely not! Once the anger is gone, you need to decide for yourself if you want to reconcile with this person or not. Even if they are your best friend. Even if they are family. Even if they are your spouse.

Reconciliation is not forgiveness. Reconciliation means you decide if and how often this person is going to be in your life. 

You also don't forget what has happened. Letting go of the anger blunts the pain of the memory, but you don't let go of the memory itself. Our brains won't let us.

Forgive, yes. Forget? No. You learn best from past experiences, and sometimes the best thing is to let those people go.

Even if they were your best friend, family, or spouse.

But what if, once you forgive them, you're unable to let them go entirely? Most times, you can. Best friends aren't 'best' friends if they're constantly causing you grief. Spouses can be divorced. You can distance yourself from family members- even toxic ones. It stinks, but the truth of the matter is, forgiveness doesn't make you a doormat. Instead, forgiveness means you move forward over the bridge to a more peaceful life. 

Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay 

You get to decide who goes over that bridge with you.

I forgave several people. Most wanted reconciliation, and one didn't. 

The person that didn't forgive me was indignant because I forgave them. How dare I forgive them when I was the one clearly in the wrong? So I gently asked for their forgiveness again, and they refused. 

I moved on. Guess which one of us had a lighter heart afterward?  

Want to know something else? One person I reconciled with was toxic. But I had to have a relationship with them. They were close family, and I was all they had at the time. So I distanced myself, did what I could for them with love, and refused to get into any toxic arguments. 

That person passed away a few years later, and I'm so glad I forgave them. I'm so glad I had that conversation with my writer friend. I never realized how burdened my heart was until I released all that negativity through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is remembering without hatred.

Free your heart of anger, hate, and fear. Forgive that person. Even if that person has passed on, you can still forgive them- and yourself- and move forward with a happier heart. 

Talk with the person you want to forgive. If that isn't possible (even dangerous), God understands. So tell God that you forgive them. And if you're the one that needs forgiving, go to the person and ask for forgiveness. 

Your spirit will thank you for it.

Monday, May 17, 2021

God, Me, and Limbo

It's not easy waiting for God to tell you what to do.

Years ago, I asked God where He wanted me. I felt lead in doing creative things, but I wasn't sure which one I was supposed to follow. So I fasted and prayed, listening for His word to come to me.

Three days into the fast, I cried out to Him. I'm such a weenieburger of a Christian. Three days isn't much from a biblical standpoint, but I'm human, impatient, and at the time, famished.

Please, Lord! I cried, throwing myself face-first into my pillow. Just tell me what You want me to do!

I took a calming (if muffled) breath, and to my surprise, I heard Him. Write books, He gently replied.

Now, being the excellent weenieburger Christian that I am, did I thank Him? Did I praise Him for answering so promptly?

Nope. I actually turned my head to the side and blurted, All for them?!?

His voice was commanding but also slightly amused. Yes, all of them.

And then, silence.

Image by nugroho dwi hartawan from Pixabay

Did He have any idea just how many books I had in my head? Not to mention the notes, folders, and files I had that were only partially filled? The children's books, the stories, the how-tos, and the puzzle book series I'd just begun to fathom?

Of course, He did. He's God. Duh.

So what did I do? Procrastinate. I got a job. I did other things and barely wrote at all. I cringe now when I think of it. I know what He wants me to do, but I still feel unqualified- though more qualified than I did when we had our little God-talk.

I became a better writer. I bought supportive software to improve my faulty writing habits. I even had a few illustrations done. But I still felt in limbo because it takes more than writing to create a book. 

I needed the means to publish a book. For me, that means illustrations, printing, and a way to sell the books. It also means I need the funds to pay for all that stuff. For you, the needs might be different, but the same rules apply to your calling. You need to do something to accomplish something else that you're called to by God.

At first, I thought my job would provide what I needed, but I soon realized that the costs of the job outweighed the benefits. So I gave notice and left. Then had to fathom what to do next, so I could accomplish what God wanted.

This was when God granted me a bit of wisdom. Use the talents He gave me to support what He wanted me to do. Back then, I thought I had to choose one creative outlet, but God showed me that I can do more than one thing to further my calling. Hindsight is always 20/20, and when I look back, I regret all that wasted time floundering.

I don't think I was in limbo, now that I look back; I think God was just waiting for my little lightbulb to activate. Now that it has, I have a better idea of how to accomplish what I'm called to do. It won't be easy, but it will be awesome!

The same goes for you. Feeling like you're in limbo? Ask yourself why. Pray on it. Try starting at the goal and work your way back to map out how you can accomplish what God wants. Maybe your little lightbulb will go off too! I hope it does. We need to shine bright in this world!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Discontent vs. Being Content

I'm going to be honest here...There are rare times I've ever been content with life. I'm not sure I know how to be content- I mean, what does 'being content' really mean?

I used to think being content meant being happy, All. The. Time. Unicorn farts, rainbows, and all that cotton candy-type fluff. The good life I'd wanted, filled with no strife nor stress because all of my needs were met, and everything was running smoothly. 

Hah! We all know how that turns out in our own lives, don't we? 

My friends would tell me the verse in Philippians 4:13- 'I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.' That's a nice sentiment. It's taught over many pulpits and put onto a myriad of mugs, T-shirts, and plaques. But what does that have to do with contentment, I wondered? 

So I decided to look it up. I wasn't familiar with the previous verses that put everything in context. So here's the gist of contentment, according to Paul...

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

Interesting.

Paul's needs weren't met all of the time. In fact, his needs were not met a lot- and he was in trouble most of the time! So what was he doing that I needed to do? I thought Christians are automatically supposed to be content with life!

But read verse eleven. He learned to be content. He wasn't given a free pass into the life of satisfaction; he had to learn, step-by-step. He felt the same whether he was living a rich life or not- 'No matter the circumstances.' He was satisfied that God would provide for him when he needed it, no matter what 'it' was.

So contentment isn't the same as a provision. It's the feeling that God's got your back and will give you what you need when you need it- not necessarily when you think you need it.

Big difference. 

Being content is not where you are, what you have, or what you're doing. It's trusting who you're with. So if you're with God, He will give you what you need when you're ready for it. You don't need to worry about all that other stuff!

And if you're doing what He wants you to do, He will also give you what you need to endure the trials and enjoy the blessings in between. 

Energy. 
Time. 
Provision. 
Strength.

Wow. Contentment is pretty powerful. 

We live in a world that teaches- no, revels in discontent. The world rolls in discontent like a pig in slop. The more discontent we are, the funnier we are, the more attention we get, the more clicks/likes/whatevers we collect on social media. 
Image by Chetan Dhongade from Pixabay 

And when we do feel that contentment? Someone comes along and plants thorns in our heads about how rotten life is, and we shouldn't be content at all. Discontented is how the world wants everyone to be! No wonder we have such a hard time remaining content- it's a rare gift that is only seen in those that have practiced it for a long, long time. 

Look at people who are contented (and I'm sure you know at least one person that's like this.) They aren't blasting their contentment from the rooftops. They are the ones working quietly, maybe with a smile of satisfaction on their face, exuding a peace about them that can be felt even in the worst of the chaos surrounding them. How do they do it?

'Be still and know that I am God.' (Psalm 46:10)
They trust God with everything. God never said it would be easy. Just take a look at Paul's life. It took a lot for him to get to that level of contentment. But he did it one step at a time. 

So can we!

Being shaken from my contented treehouse happens more often than I'd like. I need a lot more practice. I'm glad God is a patient Dude willing to wait for me to learn all this. I'm like a toddler, taking one step at a time. But He's always there to catch me when I stumble!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

When God Speaks

Almost every story in the Bible talks about how God spoke to them, and for the most part, they listened.

For the most part. 

God talks to us each day. Sometimes we can hear Him, and sometimes we are deaf as a stump. 

On occasion, He can be heard quite clearly. I had that happen a few years ago (if you read my other blog posts) when God told me to write all of the books. My reaction was less than stellar- and I'd heard the Big Dude Himself.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay 

I partially wrote some of the books. Partially. Some. I might have finished a story or two since He told me what to do. But it took me years of on-and-off obedience before I finally decided to truly listen.

At least I thought I was listening.

I tried to make time to write, but I kept getting distracted. It's so easy in this digital world we dive into each day. But in the end, I kept berating myself because I, once again, was caught up in the digital world, wasting the time God gave me.

This past week I'd had an inkling. A feeling. A persistent need to make changes. But this wasn't the same voice I'd heard out loud years ago. This was inside. The little voice everyone thinks is their conscience. It's really the Holy Spirit. 

It wanted me to give up something I loved. I was lead to give it up. I was urged to give it up. The Spirit wanted me to give up my phone games. However, I'm a game addict. I'd limited myself to a few games, but they still stole a lot of my attention, money, and time. That persistent little voice came when I wasn't ready to give them up. But I did. Well, I almost did.

I deleted all but one.

I was actually willing to give it up, but I hesitated. I was a long-term player, I was in a group, I'd made friends (Christian ones!) and I'd gotten to a significant level that I was a great benefit to my group. They needed me. 

But did they? Or did I need them more? Did I need them more than God's blessings?

Ouch.

At first I decided to make myself dormant for gameplay. I wouldn't delete the game app, but I would just stop playing. That should be enough, right? Even I knew that wasn't the answer. I'd been playing this game twice a day for almost two years! I felt the Spirit nudge me again. I had to delete it.

The Holy Spirit wafted over me and I felt myself separate from my addiction. I didn't need these games to be happy. I'd be happier without them- especially this one. So I told my gaming buddies I would be leaving, and gave myself one last day for others to get on so I could say my gaming goodbyes. 

I went out in a blaze of glory, fighting one last big battle, using all of my saved up items (read: hoarded items) to beat the bad guy and said my farewells to the other players. (I talk to a few of them on a different chat platform- we'll keep in touch and maybe even meet in real life.) And after everything was said and done...

I deleted the game.

It took three days from the initial urge until I'd finally obeyed everything the Spirit indicated. My obedience was delayed, but I still listened. I want to be able to listen better (and faster) in the future.

Two hours after I deleted the game, my husband called. We were immensely, unexpectedly blessed. I felt like my obedience was possibly the last pebble that needed to be removed to release the flood of blessings!

I still wonder what would have happened if I'd stayed stubborn and didn't delete that last game. Scary.

There are still struggles and distractions to contend with. This laptop (the new one this time!) still needs files transferred, programs installed, and tweaks here and there. I won't be bored! I still have files that need to be sorted, but the writing ones are ready and waiting for me to work on them.

And when I woke up this morning? I didn't miss the game. In fact, I was looking forward to using the 'extra' time to write this blog post!

God is good. The Spirit is good. Jesus is good. I'm part of the best team ever!

And I'm really glad I listened.

Monday, January 4, 2021

A New Lap- and Laptop!

Lots of new things this year!

I've been intermittent fasting for nearly four months and have lost 25 pounds. I can now fit into leggings I had hoped to fit into when I initially bought them, but it was like trying to stick a bowling ball in a marble bag. My thighs and rear lost some serious inches, and now my leggings fit like a glove! My belly shrank too, so I can now see my lap- I thought I'd never see it again!

Yesterday was my birthday and my husband and kids gifted me with something completely unexpected- a new laptop!

The laptop I have now (and that I'm currently typing on) is quite old (maybe 5-8 years?) and the memory is warning me it's full. Not with my writing per see, but with things that go along with my writing, including pictures and artwork I'm doing for my blogs and books.

Another friend gifted me her old digital art tablet, but I haven't been able to download any art programs to use it; my laptop takes forever to boot up. I don't want to risk losing data just so I can practice doodling!

So much to do, so little time. Ah, the things I want to do with this new laptop are going to be epic, if I can stay focused!

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 

The only resolution I'll make for the New Year is to try and stay focused. I need to write and want to learn computer art for both my books and my hobbies, which now includes cookie decorating. I've been talking about starting a business forever, but to be honest, we really need to concentrate on paying off debt and saving funds for a startup first. A business plan can be made as we pay things off.

In the meantime, I'll be working, learning, and creating!

I don't know what surprises this year will hold, but I know with God watching over me, it's going to be stellar!

May your New Year be filled with prospects, progress, and prosperity!