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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The Best Dad in the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The journey was long and tortuous

Like being stuck in quicksand

The harder I struggled to get out

The farther I was sucked down

Into a slimy pit of depression

Anger and rage

Visions of my dad were ever dancing before me

Like a blazing fire

Burning holes in my soul

Ravaging my spirit

Destroying every flicker of faith and trust

In God

In my dad

In the human race

Voices in my head condemned me

Punished me

Convinced me that I was worthless

Un-lovable

Unworthy

Feeling connected eluded me

Friendships lied to me

Love slipped through my fingers like burning sand

Night and day my heart cried out to God

But He seemed deaf

Cold and distant

Just like my dad

Hope flickered and died

My soul was a heap of ashes

The will to live was gone

Then

One dusky

Mystical morning

I was awakened from my slumber

And beside my bed

A shadowy figure stood

As if waiting for me to open my eyes

He whispered my name

He clasped my trembling hand

And through the smoldering fire of hurt and confusion

Anger and rage

He led me straight to God

Without hesitation

He opened His arms as wide as the ocean

Where I ran

And collapsed

And sobbed and sobbed

Love unimaginable ignited my soul

Cleansing my mind

Renewing my strength

My hope

My faith

And I knew

And I know

And I believe forever more

That God loves me

He really loves me!

Now my sighing soul is at rest

The scary ghosts are gone

And God

My Heavenly Father

Is forever by my side

Helping me

Teaching me

Encouraging me

Every minute of every day

I can’t tell you why He loves me so

I can’t tell you why He cares

But this one thing I can tell you

He is the best Dad in the world!

Our Nest

Digital Designs by Sandi

Digital Designs by Sandi

I can’t tell you how many families have moved in and out of the old, weathered birdhouse in our flowerbed in the front yard. I can’t tell you all the materials used to create their nests. I can’t tell you how many eggs were hatched or how many babies were tossed to the ground to fend for themselves. But I can tell you about the family of two living in our nest.

I hate change, so it was tough moving from the city of fifteen years to the country thousands of miles away, it seemed, from civilization, wondering if anyone would ever visit us again. To make matters worse, my son had just gotten married and we made our first move ever without him. Hardly adjusted to the empty nest syndrome, I felt lost, lonely, abandoned. Walking through each dimly lit room, looking through windows into unfamiliar surroundings only intensified my grief. Finally, I crawled in a corner, buried my face in my hands and bawled. Not quite the reaction anyone would expect after buying a new home. And if my husband was confused, I was totally flabbergasted!

But it would be years before I understood why I felt I was living in a house without walls, and before I could honestly call it “home, sweet home”.

Before moving, my mother and I hadn’t spoken to each other for six years. Because of her abusive childhood, she had a ton of emotional baggage that she dumped on me. I was her scapegoat for everything that went wrong in her life. Being just a child, I couldn’t process the guilt and shame that I felt, so I internalized it and became an emotional time bomb of anger and rage.

My dad wasn’t much help either. He just sat drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and staring into space. He rarely, if ever talked to me. And when mom was in one of her rages, daddy got up and went to his shop. There was no place for me to go except my tiny bedroom. Even there I wasn’t safe from her barging in, slapping me around and screaming and yelling. Most of the time I didn’t even know why she was so angry.

My tiny bedroom, insecure as it was, became my haven. I’d go there to cry, draw, play my accordion and sing, write poems, and paint. Hours later I’d come out, hoping to find everything under control; that the “good” mother was whistling and preparing a delicious meal. That daddy was sitting at the table reading the paper. That my brothers were laughing and horsing around. That our family was back to normal again.

As I grew older I just learned to cope with the raging war inside. I wore a mask, pretending that everything was okay when it wasn’t. But that was before I stepped into the twilight zone of full blown panic, phobias, and desperation. That was before I turned into my mother.

People move to the country for different reasons. Mine was for peace and quiet. The first night in our new home the neighbor’s dog barked nonstop all night long. That weekend, an army of remote control airplanes flew over our property, sounding like a million bumble bees on a rampage. Then came the dirt bikes and four-wheelers zooming through the neighborhood, and boom boxes vibrating the windows. I felt that I had died and gone to hell!

I’m a runner when things get tough, so I cried and begged my husband for us to move. But we couldn’t afford to move. This was to be our final destination, where we would retire and grow old together. The choice had been made, the money had been spent, and there was no way out.

I had never felt so frustrated, so helpless, so hopelessly trapped as I felt during the first ten years of living in this house. Sometimes I could barely make it through the day without crying. Other days I’d go through uncontrollable fits of rage. The least noise threw me in panic mode and I wanted to bolt out the door and run off the face of the earth!

I believe in God. I believe in faith. I believe in miracles. I also believe that God gave me a brain and expects me to use it. So I began researching my phobias online as well as proper treatment for them.

Not that it came as any surprise; I have an anxiety disorder and will be on medication for it the rest of my life. My only regret is that a doctor didn’t diagnose it sooner. I would have been a far better person, wife and mother. I would have spent the days laughing more and crying less. I would have been more trusting, caring and loving. I would have embraced our home and felt safe as I do now. But I can’t dwell on all the-would-haves of yesterday. My focus is on doing my best today with all the wisdom and understanding that God has given me.

Our neighborhood is much quieter now. Not because I’ve lost my hearing, but because I fought for a noise ordinance and won, and confronted the property owner where the club members flew their planes. They found another place to meet. Highway Patrol eventually weeded out the dirt bikes and four-wheelers. The dogs don’t keep me up barking all night. I didn’t shoot them, I wear earplugs. My mother and I worked things out. Although our relationship was never what I wanted it to be, it was the best it had ever been.

Had we not stayed and worked through our difficulties we would not be experiencing the peace and joy we have now. I’ve learned that running from my problems never solves anything. Sometimes we have to trudge through the mire of painful memories before we can experience real joy and happiness. I will always have anger issues, but talking and medication help me keep it under control.

God has a plan for each of our lives. He wants to have a personal relationship with us. He wants to free us from our fears, our anger and rage, our rusty chains of the past. And He will do whatever it takes to help us see the brokenness within so that we can experience His healing touch.

Together we’ve built our nest, my husband and I, securing it with love and faithfulness, prayer and dedication, honor and praise. We are blessed with four awesome grand-children and a great-grandson on the way. We’ve weathered the storms of sickness, sorrow and grief. We’ve argued, kissed and made up. We share our failures and shortcomings, hopes and dreams, fears and concerns. Best of all, we are sharing our golden years together; hand in hand, heart to heart . . . till death do us part.

A Brand New Day

Embellishment Cluster Birdhouse Scene

Call me crazy, but I look forward to going to bed and waking up to a brand new day. A day that my husband and I will share together on the back porch drinking coffee, talking and watching the birds. A day that I will laugh at his silly antics, play with the dog, and design another critter. A day that I will thank God for my family and friends and for blessing me with a long and healthy life. A day that I will remind myself how short and fragile life is and that I must be very careful how I live it!

Encouragement is the Oxygen of the Soul (John Maxwell)

Lady Bugs Trio1

In today’s hectic world of computers, cell phones, and video games, we have a tendency to ignore the ones sitting in the same room with us. The ones who want a real, eyeball to eyeball conversation. The ones who need to know that we value their thoughts and concerns. The ones who want to scream, “Will you PLEASE shut that thing off and pay attention to me?!”

People need encouragement today more than ever before. Just a smile, a hug, a phone call, a genuine, “How is your day going today?” is food for the weary soul.

I’ve been going through a tough time the past few weeks; a time of uncertainty, anger and grief. Finally, I shared it with a dear friend who gave me words of wisdom and encouragement. That was all I needed to get me back on track; to refocus and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you want to be more like Jesus, be an encourager!

Happy, Happy, Happy

Happiness

She isn’t on a shopping spree. It’s not her birthday. Her husband didn’t buy her a big fat diamond ring. No, Tilly is happy cause she’s free. Free from bondage. Free from guilt and shame. Free from lofty expectations; of herself and the world in which she lives.

But it hasn’t always been this way for Tilly. She remembers well the torture of playing the pleaser game and never winning, and jumping through fiery hoops and always getting burned. She remembers the scalding tears, the aching heart and stretches of depression. She remembers running for safety and building walls around her heart. She remembers the anger and rage that ripped her world apart. She remembers the scornful voices shouting in her ears. And she remembers stuffing her pain way down deep and pretending she was fine. Heaven forbid that she ever let anyone see all that ugly inside her!

Then, one day, Tilly couldn’t pretend anymore. The dam of hurt was too hard to hold back. Little by little it began to leak till finally it broke, nearly drowning her in grief. She dropped to her knees and cried out to God. He must have been there all along because immediately he scooped her in His arms and held her as she sobbed. Amazingly, He was not appalled by the ugliness that poured out; all that anger and rage, rupturing like a festered boil. Instead, He touched her hurt, washed her clean, and dried her eyes. For the first time ever, she was free!

Every now and then Tilly gets off track. She takes her eyes off God and pulls away from His hand. She gets lost; angry, hurt and confused. Suddenly, she remembers God. She calls His name, and there He is again; just like the thousands of times before; loving her, encouraging her to keep up the faith and reminding her that He will never leave her nor forsake her. And that, my friend, is why Tilly’s so happy!

I Believe in Miracles

 

Desktop Designs Miracles

I Believe in Miracles

Battered and bruised was my bleeding heart

embittered by Satan’s poisonous darts

Anger and rage consumed my soul

like a blazing fire burning out of control

Fear and anxiety battled within

waging a war I could never win

I can’t take it anymore I cried to the Lord

then like a rag-doll I crumpled to the floor

God knelt down beside me and I felt His touch

I never knew that He loved me so much

He changed my life forever that day

when He cleansed and washed my sins away

Once I was blind but now I can see

because God worked a miracle in me

Sandi Staton

A Coat of Many Colors

A Coat of Many Colors

This poem came to me one quiet morning during a moment of meditation. Suddenly, across the screen of my imagination, flashed a brightly colored robe . . . a token of Jacob’s love for his son, Joseph. This robe symbolized a position of honor and esteem. “I wish I could have known a father’s love like that,” I thought enviously. Then, like a gentle breeze, I felt the cloak of God’s love wrap around me, reminding me that I am precious to Him. All the finest and brightest treasures of this world pale in comparison to God’s unfailing, unchanging, unconditional love for humankind!

A Coat of Many Colors

With loving care and tenderness,
my Father made for me
a coat of many colors for all the world to see.
He didn't have to tell me;
I saw it in His face,
this coat of many colors must ever be worn with grace.
Threads of pure gold proclaim His birth,
purple, His royal descent.
Stripes of snow white and patches of blue
proclaim His purity, honor, and strength.
And to complete His glorious masterpiece,
He trimmed it all in red,
proclaiming the cross at Calvary
upon which His blood was shed.
Father, thank you for your wondrous gift
so precious, rich, and free,
for the coat of many colors you have made for me.
And lest in arrogance I wear your gift,
forgetting from where it came,
remind me of the price you paid,
to cover my guilt, my sin, my shame.

Sandi Staton

Renewed!

 

Butterfly
Renewed
Sinking low in the pit of despair
my soul was trapped in Satan's snare.
In anguish I cried, "Lord, do you really care?
Do you even hear my earnest prayer?
You seem so far away,
I can barely make it through the day.
My heart is breaking in two.
Lord, I can't make it without you!"
Then, gazing through my window pane
I heard his voice again.
The trees must have heard it too,
cause the leaves were clapping neath the sky so blue.
Robbins and bluebirds, too rejoiced
as from limb to limb they flew.
And in that glorious moment,
my spirit was renewed.
My heart had forgotten
to worship the King,
my soul, too down-cast
forgot how to sing.
But, engulfed in the beauty
of God's wondrous Creation,
I heard His voice, I saw His face,
I felt His warm embrace.
He captured my soul from the miry pit,
and chased my blues away.
He gave my heart a new song to sing,
and the courage and strength to live each day.

Sandi Staton

Redeemed!

The Cross

Redeemed!

Sugar and spice and all that’s nice

That’s what Eve was made of,

And placed in the Garden of beauty and charm

To bask in the warmth of God’s love.

Then along came a serpent so charming and sweet

With a hellish mission in mind,

To crush and destroy the apple of God’s eye,

And to rob her precious soul blind.

How foolish was she that fateful day

When she ate from the forbidden tree,

And stripped herself bare of God’s righteousness

For all eternity.

But even before He formed the clay

God had a plan for man-kind,

To redeem and restore our broken soul,

And give us life sublime.

He sent to earth His only Son

To die on a splintered tree,

To wash away sin’s ugly stain,

And set our spirit free!

Sandi Staton