Are You Still Looking for the Golden Years?

We lost our jobs. We struggled from month to month on our skimpy Social Security checks. We battled depression, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness. We beat cancer and survived the seemingly worst years of our lives together.

It wasn’t until my husband started receiving disability benefits from the VA that we were finally able to come up for air and break free from the financial monster we faced every waking moment of every single day for three long, stressful years.

We planned many things before reaching retirement, those golden years we looked forward to spending debt free in splendid bliss traveling and cruising and collecting seashells on a sunny beach. But owing a mortgage wasn’t one of them. Nor did we plan on the tiny trees we planted to get so big and messy, and the lawn to get so bare and sparse, and the driveway to start cracking and growing weeds. Sure we occasionally stained the cedar siding and created flower beds bordered with tons of field rock we collected from a neighbor’s farm. But like a nagging shrew, a house is constantly demanding special attention and could care less if you’re old or sick or broke or if it’s too hot or too cold or if you throw up your hands and bawl your eyes out.

In a dream world, our hard-earned golden years would be having a bottomless money pit, hiring professionals to renovate the house and manicure the lawn, Molly Maid and Chief Ramsey to cook and clean and the Dog Whisperer to teach our wannabe, four-legged queens to behave.

But those are someone else’s golden-years, certainly not ours.

So, here we are, a pair of dried up bones, our house falling apart, feeling too hopeless and frustrated to do anything about it.

Still, more than the dead trees in the yard, weeds in the flower beds, and saplings growing in the gutters, we wanted that dirty, stinking, pee-stained carpet gone!

So, with a glimmer of hope, we convinced ourselves that we’re only half as old as we look, and if we want that carpet gone, we’re gonna have to get off the pot and make it happen. So, we watched a few how-to videos, high-fived each other, and with the adrenaline of a pair of goofy teens drunk on energy drinks, we decided to renovate the house.

Easy breezy, like sipping lemonade on a warm summer day by the pool.

NOT!

It’s been more like crawling across a hot desert with our shriveled tongues hanging out and furrowing the sand beneath the blazing sun.

On May 27, 2019, we began moving furniture and pulling up carpet, staples, nails, and carpet strips. Two days later while we were out, a woman ran the red light and plowed into us causing over two thousand dollars in car damages and six weeks in the body shop for repairs. Thankfully, other than being shook up and mad as a hornet, no one was hurt. It did, however, throw us off track for a few weeks dealing with insurance agents, numerous phone calls, and the rental car breaking down.

We have never laid flooring before and will never ever in a trillion years do it again. I’d rather kill a grizzly bear with my bear hands!

Being a perfectionist, having my house torn asunder with nothing in its place for weeks and weeks on end, hubby working an hour and resting four, the dogs acting stupid, and me going stark raving mad conjured up evil that would have made Charles Manson tremble in fear.

I’ve screamed, I’ve yelled, I’ve cried, I’ve threatened divorce, running away, pitching a tent in the woods, signing myself into a nursing home, seeking refuge with the homeless and hearing what they have to say about the golden years.

And as if it couldn’t get any worse, we ran into water damage and huge pee stained circles . . . lots and lots of circles like stepping stones zigzagging across the sub floor. Replacing one of those boards became a crumbled mess of sawdust like a box of Nilla Wafers smashed to smithereens with a sledgehammer.

Several grueling hours later we finally cleaned up the mess and nailed down a new sheet of ply board only to discover it was too thick. By now, we’re threatening to black each others eyes and I’m thinking of sticking a For Sale sign in the yard and moving to another planet where I’m sure the golden years must be hiding.

Then, to my husband’s dismay, I do the unthinkable. I caved in to my impulsive personality and stopped everything in midstream to refinish my grandmother’s cedar chest. I got tired of moving furniture, straining my back, and crawling on my hands and knees snapping vinyl planks together. I needed a change, a creative boost. I wanted to see instant results. After all, these are my golden years, right? I don’t have to abide by a set of rules telling me I’ll drop dead if I don’t finish everything by Christmas.

Besides, it’ll only take a few days.

Ha!

That little project took three long weeks of stripping paint and sanding and re-sanding and sanding again before it was ready to be stained. Then we did the blanket chest. Then I painted hubby’s computer desk. TWICE! I didn’t like the first color choice; it didn’t go with the furniture.

Obviously, we charged into this renovation with our eyes squeezed shut. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we didn’t know it would be like wrestling a thousand pound bull to the ground. And we had no experience or help from anyone other than Almighty God. I’ve fallen, banged my head, bruised my knee, scraped my elbow and bled on our new vinyl floor. I’ve questioned God, fought with my husband, hated the grimacing old woman in the mirror, and feared that I’ve gone totally mad. I’ve crumpled to the floor sobbing and feeling sorry for myself, envying those enjoying the golden years with their manicured homes and lawns and long, luxurious vacations. I’ve cursed myself for not planning ahead for the future and succumbed to feelings of shame and regret, and wishing for someone else’s golden years.

And here we are, at the end of August, celebrating our seventy-third birthday’s still pulling up carpet, counting the weeks when we’ll finally get finished and wondering when the golden years will suddenly appear.

Yet, through it all, God is teaching me more about Him and reminding me that life spent in His love and care and protection are the golden years. We don’t have to wait till a certain age to lounge in His comforting arms, travel the heights of joyful bliss, and sip the nectar of His eternal love, peace and comfort. Life is never gonna be what we expected it would be and many never live to get a mere glimpse of the golden years and those who do often feel cheated and disappointed. So, I’ve decide to paint each precious moment, each precious day, each precious year with gleaming joy and love and happiness and claim them as the golden years.

 

 

 

 

My Grace is Sufficient

I AM A GOD WHO HEALS.

Those are the first six words I read from my daily devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

And they got my attention.

But what awakened my spiritual slumber are the words in the last paragraph: I rarely heal all the brokenness in a person’s life. Even my servant Paul was told, “My grace is sufficient for you,” when he sought healing for the thorn in his flesh.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Wow! So that must mean that no matter how mighty our faith or how shiny our halo, we’re not always gonna get what we ask God for.

As a kid, I had faith; lots of faith. Or, at least I thought I did until a boy accidentally broke my glasses as we were horsing around on the church bus.

Great! What am I gonna tell mom and daddy who can barely put food on the table let alone buy another pair of glasses? What am I gonna do? I’m as blind as a bat without them.

So, with all the faith a ten-year-old could muster, I pressed my glasses together, squeezed my eyes shut, and prayed,  “Lord. You gotta fix my glasses. You can do it! I know you can!”

You can imagine my disappointment when I opened my eyes and realized my glasses were still just as broken as they were before I asked God to magically put them back together again.

As a child, it didn’t matter that it was just a pair of glasses. They were broken and I knew and believed with all my heart and soul that God had the power to fix them.

But He didn’t.

And when the family walked side by side with my sister down the church aisle to pray for her healing, we had faith that God could do it. Yet, cancer claimed her life anyway.

But God healed my brother years ago from a heart condition caused by rheumatic fever and my baby brother from a bowel obstruction immediately following the pastor’s prayers when he came to the house. He even healed my mother right before she was wheeled down to surgery. The X-ray proved the mass was gone!

I don’t know the mind of God; why He heals one person and not another. But I do know that no one has the right to tell anyone that healing doesn’t come because of a person’s lack of faith.

I saw this happen once when a group of Christians gathered around a young woman with MS slumped in a wheelchair, scolding her for not having enough faith to get up and walk! And I was so proud when our assistant pastor marched his small, indignant frame toward the holier than thou group and boldly put an end to their vicious bullying.

In my own life, like those broken pair of glasses, God doesn’t magically put my brokenness back together. It’s been a long, painful, drawn-out process of anger and frustration, of jerking away and running back. A roller coaster ride of failures and victories, tears and laughter, sadness and joy. Walking the green mile through depression, anxiety, and fear. A never-ending cycle of I’m okay, I’m not okay and maybe I’ll never be okay.

Yes, the struggle is just too much at times. But, it’s through the grueling struggles, not the instant healing that God reveals His endless love and care and mercy toward me. It’s through my quiet times with Him and the tears rolling down my face, and His light shining in the dungeon of darkness, revealing my weaknesses, my stubbornness, my fears, anger, and rage; all the prickly, painful thorns that keep me dependent on Him. Without those struggles, I may never know how much God wants me for Himself. I may never know His love and protection. And I may die not ever knowing a father’s love.

So, the way I see it, healing is not healing if it separates me from God; If it causes me to develop a doctor-patient relationship where the doctor heals and the patient doesn’t need him or her anymore.

It’s horrifying to think that everything I ask God for would sever our relationship if He gave it to me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diggin’ Up Bones

While letting the dogs out this morning I frowned at the holes Bella, our greyhound mix, has dug in the backyard. I don’t know what she’s digging for, bugs, probably, but I don’t like it, especially when I nearly break my neck stepping in one of them.

It got me to thinking, though, about my digging adventure. Not in the backyard, although that would have been much easier, less time-consuming, and a lot less painful. No, I picked up my shovel of determination and began digging up bones buried deep beneath a ton of hurt, anger, and confusion. Of course, God orchestrated the ordeal, otherwise, I never would have done it. But first, He had to do something to open my eyes real wide.

I’ll never forget the day I got zapped; sanctified, the preacher called it. Doesn’t matter to me what it’s called, I got a bath. Well, my heart and mind did. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all religious on you. I’m just going to try my darndest to show my deepest feelings and my personal experience with God.

My heart was as battered and broken as a fatal car wreck. My mind was a cesspool of depression, anger, rage, panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, noise phobia, mood swings, all adding up to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Of course, I didn’t have a clue what all that stinking garbage was called, I just knew the hellish torment it was causing in my life and I wanted to know why. That’s when I became a digger. And that’s when everything got much worse before it got better.

Mom didn’t like the idea of my digging up the past because she didn’t want to face or feel responsible for the role she played in it. Daddy didn’t care one way or the other and my sister and brothers chose a destructive path to deal with their pain. So, that left me, the crazy one in the family to go digging for the painful truth for my sanity. And because mom was the fuse that lit the dynamite inside me, I severed all ties with her for six, long years. Did I feel guilty? Did I care what people thought? Did I cry my eyes out? Did I agonize over whether I was doing the right thing? YES! But that was my first, gut-wrenching giant step toward freedom.

With the sole support of my husband and my son, I began psychological therapy sessions once a week for two years as well as months of counseling sessions with my pastor. But, my number one Hero in teaching and leading me to the truth, is God. He is the only One who knew and completely understood my unbearable pain. He’s been there every step of the way. I’ve never known such love from anyone on this earth. And it’s His steadfast love and encouragement, His longing to set me free, that kept me digging up those ugly, dry bones buried in the darkest recesses of my mind, heart, and soul.

In the end, instead of casting blame on him and her and this and that, I took full responsibility for my lack of understanding, my anger, and rage, my unforgiveness, my stupidity, my choices. It was no longer about what happened to me but how I responded to it. It was no longer about the unfairness of being controlled and manipulated by guilt and shame and being my mother’s scapegoat and feeling emotionally raped. It was no longer about making excuses, getting revenge, seeking justice, but about healing and forgiveness. I wanted to break the chains of the past, to be free, to think for myself, to decide my fate, to be happy in spite of my brokenness. I wanted to learn more about God, about myself, about what having an abundant life means that God promises His children (John 10:10b).

There were times I wanted to give up. There were times I did give up. There were times I wished I had never been born. But I always got back up and kept going. And like a loving father rewarding his child, God turned my tears to joy. He never left me stranded. Through the darkest, scariest tunnel, He never left my side.

Am I there yet? NOPE! The journey will never end for me this side of Heaven. But I will never stop moving forward in my quest for freedom, knowledge, and understanding.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him (Psalms 34:8).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face, to Face

Into the darkness, He came

He whispered my name

He took my hand

And the journey began

Down the steep winding stairwell

Into the dungeon of my soul

Where I dare not tread before

And I was afraid

Of the ghosts from the past

With glaring eyes and scornful frowns

Violent screams pierced my ears

Shattered my soul

Shook my world apart

And I felt worthless

Unloved

Unwanted

And I wept

I wanted to run and never stop

Then I felt His gentle nudge

So we moved on

To the bottom of the stairs

Where I saw a little girl

Gazing into a hazy room

Where her dad sat

Like a corpse

Oblivious to her tears

Her pain

Her longing to crawl on his lap

To fall into his arms

To feel his heartbeat

His love

His protection

From the angry world in which she lived

But he never looked her way

Ever

Then she turned

And saw a face

Shining like the sun

Smiling

Arms extended wide

She ran to Him

He hugged her tight

She felt His love

He dried her tears

And there at the bottom of the stairs

In the dungeon of my soul

I met my Heavenly Father

Face to face

He Was There All the Time

He was there at conception, knitting me together in my mother’s womb, watching me grow, delighted with His handiwork. And He smiled.

He was there when I took my first breath, beaming with joy as my mother held me to her breast and kissed my downy head. And He smiled.

He was there when I took my first step, picked my first flower, and chased my first butterfly through hills of green. And He smiled.

He was there when I grew up, fell in love, got married and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. And He smiled.

He was there when my body was slammed against the wall and vice-like fingers squeezing my neck. And He cried.

He was there when anger consumed my heart, hatred ravaged my soul, and darkness flooded my mind. And He cried.

He was there when I sobbed in the darkness searching for His face, questioning His love, cursing the day I was born. And He cried.

He was there when I ran away, far from His beckoning call, ignoring the thorns and choking vines along the foreboding path. And He cried.

He was there when my heart was shackled by fear when my eyes were filled with tears when my lonely soul was shivering in the bitter cold. And He cried.

He was there when I fell on my knees calling His name, surrendering my stubborn will; deeply grieved that I made Him cry. And He smiled.

He was there all the time patiently waiting to set me free, to prove His love, to draw me back to Him. And we smiled.

He Loved Me to Death

God gazed from heaven upon the earth

Through tears of remorse and disbelief,

His heart was pierced by transgressions of man

And was broken by sorrow and grief.

He cried to His Son, “What shall I do?

My children can’t go on like this,

For when it comes time for them to die,

My kingdom, they will surely miss.”

So, Father and Son both lovingly agreed

As they fathomed what must be done;

In order to save all the world from sin,

The Father must send down His Son.

So, Jesus came down as a tiny babe,

God’s perfect, loving gift to mankind;

In hopes that one day His words they would heed

And their eyes would no longer be blind.

Jesus was tender, so patient and kind

As He spoke of His Father’s love;

But many were they that refused to believe

That He was God’s Son from above.

After years of teaching and healing the sick,

The Savior’s hour had finally drawn near;

Fo the time had come, God’s will to be done,

Though the cup brought forth bitter tears.

He willingly gave His life on the cross

And bore much suffering, sin, and shame,

But many today still don’t understand

That is the reason He came.

But I believe with all of my heart

And want to give the Savior my best;

 It was for me that He shed His precious blood

For you see, He loved me to death.

Sandi

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.