Seasons of the Heart

When I was a child, going to Sunday school and church was as much a part of me as putting on my clothes. I wasn’t made to go, I wanted to go.

Childhood memories flood my mind with Billy Gram crusades, Oliver Green tent revivals and meeting in the preacher’s house, then in his garage, then in a circus tent while the church was being built. Laughing, I remember the preacher’s rattle-trap van bouncing me up and down and banging my head against the window as he drove through deeply creviced ditches to pick up poor kids for Sunday school. Mr and Mrs Sterling were more than preacher and wife; they were our family’s best friends.

Mr Sterling often brought us bags and bags of groceries telling mom that God told him we needed them. He prayed over my baby brother one day who suffered a bowel obstruction. When mom sat him on his potty, everything broke loose and he never suffered bowel problems since.

I felt safe in the church; like I belonged there. I enjoyed being with my friends, memorizing scripture, having Bible drills, and singing and playing my accordion. And I liked that the church was plain and simple, not big and fancy that seemed more like a morgue than a church. It was a little, cinderblock mission where babies were allowed to cry, Baptisms took place in freezing cold creeks under God’s blue skies, and get-togethers were hot dogs and weenie roasts and kids wading in the creek and catching tadpoles in jars.

I always felt that people needed to be in church and always encouraged my brothers to go, thinking that it would somehow change their lives. And I’m not saying that it doesn’t change people’s lives, but it’s not the church that changes people, it’s a repentant heart and the cleansing power of Jesus Christ. And there are many people sitting in their pews thinking that because they go to church they are going to Heaven.

Sadly, along with many years of attending church, come heartaches and misunderstandings, gossip and quarrels, cliques, and favouritism, frustration and burn-out. Instead of being the perfect place for coming together and working things out, some leaders prefer to sweep conflicts under the rug and hope no one notices there are problems in the church. And then they wonder why people emotionally and physically drift away.

Sadly, I feel that many in the world today are either looking for something they long for in church or have lost hope of ever finding it and given up. And many may never find Christ as a result of it.

I’m thankful that I grew up in church and remember the good times. I’m thankful that I asked Jesus into my heart when I was five years old. I’m thankful that we have a warm and loving relationship and that He is always by my side regardless of whether I’m praising Him in church or sitting on my back porch or in my living room in front of a cozy fire.

I wish I could say I miss going to church. The truth is, my heart is totally at peace with not going. Many don’t understand why I feel the way I do, but God does. He knows and understands the deep hurt and the tears I’ve cried over things that destroyed my trust and turned my heart away. And where I expected to find love and understanding and let’s sit down and talk about this I found cold indifference; a total lack of concern.

After more than three years, I’m still struggling with hurt and anger and confusion. Call it a bruised ego, an unwillingness to forgive; whatever you want to call it. I call it a grieving process; and as with all grief, it takes time, for some longer than others.

And if anyone comes to the conclusion that the only way you can be a real Christian is to attend church, where does that leave our shut-ins and those in nursing homes?

I don’t apologize for my feelings, they’re mine and God allows me to have them plus all the time I need to work through them. Just like life itself, the church has its ups and downs, hurts and confusion, but it’s how it deals with it that matters in the long run.

 

 

 

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Our Fur Babies

We rescued Bella from the Animal Shelter over a year ago. One dog has always been enough for us to handle at a time. But, this summer, when we rescued hubby’s sister after being abandoned for three days without food or water or electricity, we couldn’t resist rescuing the puppy as well.

She was light as a feather. Skin pulled over bones. More dead than alive. How could anyone be so cruel? There were other dogs, too. Thirteen in all. But we could only rescue this little one. We called Animal Control for the others.

It was love at first sight for Bella and Pepper. The two are inseparable as if they know they share a common bond of being abandoned and left to die. We love them both and are so glad we made room for them in our hearts and home.

Till Death do us Part

I didn’t want another pet

Not that I don’t love animals

I do

As a tender-hearted kid

I rescued a skunk once

And wanted to keep it

Till it sprayed me

Then there were the two baby squirrels

That in spite of all my efforts to save them

They died

And I will never forget the huge tomcat

 With a nub for a tail

That completely stole my heart

He went on the prowl one night

And never returned

And there were puppies and kittens

And hamsters and guinea pigs

And a talking parakeet

All mysteriously went missing

Except for the parakeet

That got sick and died

Then

Not that long ago

Fate delivered to my doorstep

A rambunctious homeless mongrel

That wriggled his way into my heart

And broke it to pieces when he died

 That’s why I didn’t want another pet

You love them then they go missing or they die

Yet

Here I stand gazing into the dingy cage

Tears streaming down my face

Falling in love

With a floppy-eared

Skinny

Long-legged

Thirty-pound mutt

Her wet nose pressed against the heartless cage

Her soulful eyes pleading

Her tail wagging ferociously

And in spite of all the what if’s and’s and but’s

That stormed across my mind

My heart told me I couldn’t leave her

In this stinking noisy prison

Where her beautiful life

May soon be put to an ugly end

So I brought her home with me

To care for her

To play with her

To protect her

To stretch my patience to the outer limits

Through all the chewing

And pooping

And peeing on the floor

And the frenzied running and jumping

And boisterous demands

And to promise to love her

Till death do us part

Broken Wings and Crooked Halos

I avoid calling myself a Christian these days

I’ve had to work too hard at trying to be one

Just when I thought I finally was one

I’d lose my temper

Fly into a fit of rage

Do and say un-Christian stuff

Feel guilty

Beat myself up

Get depressed

A never-ending cycle of madness

Sick to death of it all

I looked deep inside

Through all the muck and mire

Of judgment and ridicule

Of pride and self-righteousness

Of fake joy and happiness

And faced the stark reality

That I wasn’t a Christian

I was a broken mess

Just like all the other wanna-be Christians

Sitting in their padded pews

With their broken wings

And crooked halos

Finally

I called on God to fix me

To change me

To free me

To wash me clean

And He did

Now

I’m just a sinner saved by Grace

Free from the chains of religion

Of having to keep my halo straight

Of pretending to be something I’m not

Free to just be myself

While striving to be more like Him

 ~ Sandi

Fixer No More

As a committed Follower

I thought God expected me to fix things

Broken hearts

Broken relationships

Broken lives

Broken anything that was still breathing

But when I couldn’t

I’d sink into a slimy pit of depression

Where I became more broken

Than the ones I was trying to fix

Again and again

I’d try

Again and again

I’d fail

Till one day

Weary to the bone

God opened my eyes

And told me loud and clear

That those lofty expectations were not His

That He never gave me the authority to play God

And that He is the only One who can fix

All the brokenness in the world

What a relief to be rid of that cumbersome burden

To turn it all over to God

To let Him handle it from now on

What a relief to know that

All the brokenness I failed to fix

Is in His Mighty hands

I no longer have to worry about it

Never

Ever again

~ Sandi

Hope at the End of the Rainbow

Bludgeoned by sorrow and grief

My heart was mangled and bleeding

 No one could fix it

No one could ease the piercing pain

Comfort my soul

Calm my fears

No one could deliver hope for today

For tomorrow

Or ever

Then after the pouring rain

God appeared to me in a rainbow

Reminding me of His promises

His love and faithfulness

His ever-present nearness

His healing touch

 And in that moment

Hope was restored

And my battered heart began to heal

~ Sandi

Nothing

As a child, I would lay in my bed, stare into the blackness and think scary things, like monsters being under my bed, or ghosts hiding in my closet or little men with knives crawling through my windows. But the most frightening of all was when the darkness transformed into a gigantic scary monster of nothingness. Total void and emptiness. No beginning and no end. No God. No heaven. No earth. No life. Nothing! And I’d cry till my crying became sobs.

Panicky, mom would rush to my side and ask what was wrong, but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t explain it to her. I didn’t know how to tell her that my mind had spiraled down a deep black hole of fear and despair; a bottomless pit of absolute nothingness.

Frustrated, mom would leave me, still crying, still consumed by the void and emptiness.

Then, through the oppressive darkness of my mind, I saw a soft glow and I knew God was there. Hope began trickling through my veins, the darkness dwindled and I drifted into a peaceful sleep.

Even today it is difficult to explain what I often felt as a child, especially in the oppressive darkness at bedtime. But I can tell you clearly that I am so thankful that my mother taught me that there is a God and that she took me to Sunday School where I learned more about Him and His awesome, unfailing love for me. I’m thankful that I learned to believe and trust in Him and that He has the power to dispel the darkness that often overtakes me. Most of all I am thankful that because of God, the Author of life and Creator of all things, the feelings of nothingness are mere ashes in the wind.

The Great Pretender

Pretenders

Rather than a game

Pretending was a way of life

I became a master at hiding my feelings

I’d just pretend I didn’t care

That I didn’t need friends

That it didn’t hurt me at all to feel invisible

Over and over again

Day after day

Year after year

I stuffed down the pain

And pretended it didn’t hurt

I didn’t realize I was building a bomb inside me

A mighty bomb of anger hate and rage

With a hair-trigger

That kept exploding inside me

Blowing up my sense of reason

My self-control

Shattering my mask

Exposing my nakedness

And I couldn’t pretend any more

It’s been a long painful journey

And it’s far from over

I’m slowly putting back the pieces of my life

Embracing the good the bad and the ugly

Changing what I can

Accepting what I can’t

And enjoying the freedom

Of not pretending anymore

~Sandi

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Old Woman

Mirror mirror on the wall

I am my mother after all

My face is lined and wrinkled

My eyes are growing dim

My throat looks like a turkey’s neck

And hair’s growing on my chin

My butt’s the size of a barn

And my belly’s not far behind

All my body parts are sagging

And I’ve nearly lost my mind

I hope I’ve finally made her happy

As she looks down from heaven on high

To see that her fateful words came true

Before I roll over and die

~Sandi

Quiet, Please

QUIET!I don’t like noise

loud music

Barking dogs

Four wheelers zooming through the neighborhood

Sets my soul on fire

I feel violated

That the walls in which I live have been torn down

That intruders have stormed in

Destroying every thread of inner peace

And there’s no place to run

No place to hide where I feel safe

Where I can drown out the noise

Where My heart can stop pounding

Where my nerves can settle down

And all is at rest again

~Sandi