The Blessings Begin

I can’t find the words to express what wonderful, beautiful experiences I’ve been having. I arrived in my old hometown on Tuesday, May 16th. I guess I’m on a bit of a pilgrimage, visiting important places and people from my past. My spirit has been filled with each hug and reminiscence. The graciousness and kindness of my youth leaders from decades ago welcomed me into their beautiful home. They launched me into what seems to be non-stop blessing and a feeling of being covered with God’s favor. Their home was the haven that I’ve needed for so long.

Thursday night was a beautiful reunion of old friends (past friends? previous friends? friends from an era long gone?) Let’s say friends who haven’t seen each other for years. Some I haven’t seen for thirty years!

It was a little harder than I’d anticipated to see the friend who introduced Doug and me in March of 1986. He nudged Doug to ask me out that first time. Seven months later he was best man in our wedding. It was bittersweet to see him because I felt a little pang, and I hadn’t expected that, but mostly it was like a breath of fresh air. He’s someone who really knew and loved Doug back then. He was such a close friend and I loved seeing the man he’s become. Then the rest of my high school and youth group friends! Oh, my goodness! There were screams and hugs and tears, and not just from me!

We’ve changed, but we haven’t. We’ve grown. We’ve experienced death, we’ve become more than we were; we’re retiring, we’re beating cancer, we’re becoming grandparents, we’re changing careers in mid-life, and we’re making huge decisions like nobody’s business. Oh, I love these people! I felt a part of me that was a little crazier, a little freer, a little sillier than I have been for a long time. Not that I’ve become stoic, but having been absent from their lives, and then suddenly reunited with them, my high school self was waking up and she wanted out!

I got to see family friends, friends’ parents, my youth leaders and pastors. I felt a bond that gives my soul strength. To have these people in my life as a teenager was a blessing that I hadn’t grasped then. I’ve always felt my life was charmed, and now that I look at such people, I realize they’re part of the reason why. Good people, solid, God-loving people are God’s gift to us, just as we are to be that gift to them. God’s smart that way. I am so grateful for them all, and for the love and care that was shown me. I have a renewed sense of the importance of their place in my life.

I was sent forward with prayer and encouragement and words that were exactly right for where I am and where I’m going. What a beautiful group of friends! Old friends become new. And so, the blessings begin.

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Taking Steps, Always Forward

I just took a huge step toward my future. I applied for a grant for an administrative assistant certification course. It doesn’t start until the fall, but I had to get the application in now. I also delivered the last of the proofs and paperwork for cash and food assistance, and the Displaced Worker Program.  There won’t be enough cash to even pay a third of the rent, but it will help, and the main thing is getting help with finding a job.

I keep adjusting to this new life. It’s not what I wanted, but I’m learning so much that I’ll be able to use when I get into the life I’m working toward.

Our immediate financial situation doesn’t appear as peachy, but God also has that in his hands, even though I don’t see his solution. There is literally nothing we can do to help the situation with the cars. If someone would like to buy either one, that would be great, but you’d have to bring the loan up to date and take over the rest of the balance. We would love to do that rather than have them repossessed, but it would have to be soon.

Our family passed another couple “firsts” this weekend. We went to the first wedding without Doug, and had our first Mother’s Day without him. Firsts can be okay, but they can also suddenly hit you in a moment. I should have made sure I had tissue during the wedding. “In sickness and in health—” It holds so much more meaning than we feel when we’re young and healthy. It’s so literal. After the dinner, when things were winding into the dance, I was tired and ready to go, just waiting for Aleina to finish visiting. As soon as the father-daughter dance started, she was ready. Bittersweet. We love this father and daughter. We’ve prayed for them and with them. This was Doug’s best friend. We love the whole family dearly. They’ve been with us and we’ve been with them through some of life’s hardest times. We’ve fought in the trenches together, sometimes the wounded warrior, sometimes the guardian. You don’t lose experiences like that. There’s a bond that reaches beyond the soul, deep into the spirit.  It’s time to catch our breath again. Time to move forward again.

Mother’s Day was truly good. It was something I’ve needed; calm. It was calm and peaceful and quiet. I think it would have been false to have had a day filled with activity. Nothing was going to disguise the fact that the father of the kids who call me mother was not with us. There was a lot of love, and that’s what our family has always been about. I had to run some of those last-minute errands for my trip, and shopping means Aleina and me and Caribou; and the kids took me out to Vo’s for dinner. It was fun and sweet. The rest of the day was sitting around watching goofy videos and The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass. Then to bed, but not as early as I should have.

Now that we made it through the weekend, it’s time to catch my breath and pack for my trip. Again, moving forward.

God is so good! I leave for my trip tomorrow. I’ll have two weeks with friends I have longed to see for years. I’m blown away that almost all sixteen days are now filled with lunches and parties and get-togethers with different people. I know that God is going to do something wonderful and amazing. I want to bless those I touch, no matter where I am! Good things are coming.

I feel a sense of accomplishment after getting through the weekend and all the paperwork I’ve conquered. (Seriously! Have you ever applied for assistance, or a student grant?! Holy wasted forests, Batman!) These experiences are new and baffling, and the changes feel extreme. I choose to embrace every transformation because only God is leading my way. Not for the first time in my life, I’m glad that he knows me so much better than I know myself.

As I told my employment counselor; This was not my plan, but it is my adventure!

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The Ugly Side of Honesty

Sometimes, honesty is hard. Sometimes, it’s really, really hard. I’ve been honest with you all along. I promise, every bit of uplifting and positive attitude has been real. It’s where I live. I’ve shared some of the tough times and thoughts that are part of this journey, but I don’t like to share all the hard times because I abhor the idea of being weak and whiny, or high maintenance; and I expect those times to be moments here and there, and then to get back to home base where I abide in God’s peace and love for me. However, this other part of my experience has been dragging on for a couple weeks, and creeping up even before that. I feel that it’s necessary for me to share what’s going on even though it’s not positive, and at the moment, I can’t even see a positive spin to put on it. I’m just not doing well. Maybe after I spill my guts I’ll have my equilibrium back and will see my way back to resting and hiding in God.

Some of the emotional upheaval I experience is part of the grieving process, but some of it is leftovers from My One Big Battle: Fear of Financial Ruin. That’s a horror movie to keep the crowds awake at night. I told you before that God has taken care of us and we have the basics paid for. This is true, but it’s getting harder and harder to meet those needs. In addition to rent and utilities and groceries, I realized that there’s a basic need in our society that I forgot about; transportation. We already lost my car, and we’re about to lose both Evan’s and Doug’s. We just haven’t had the money to make the payments. I know that God is taking care of us, and that he knows about the cars, but my battle is in my mind. Fear takes over where faith and trust had left doubt in the dust. The tables are flipped on me, and I’m the one who flipped them!

My frustration is not necessarily with our situation, although that is a small part of it. My frustration is from not having control of my thoughts, from not winning in this battle against fear. Perfect love casts out fear. If fear exists, then I need more love. God has shown me his love over and over. I feel foolish coming to him yet again, needing more of his love to get past this. At some point, aren’t I supposed to grow up and just stop? Stop it. Stop being fearful about money. Doesn’t he deserve my trust? Hasn’t he proven himself? I don’t understand how I could get through everything I did last year and trust him through such frightening, unknown territory and such heart wrenching experiences almost daily, and trust him with everything, even up to the end. And yet…why this fear? Why this old enemy?
I realize that I’m only human and that everyone has something like this, and that it’s understandable considering what our financial situation has always been (we have been destitute and homeless.) I’m not beating myself up or expecting too much from myself. I just don’t want to pat myself on the back and say it’s okay and stay in this place. I want to bust past this and live the full life that God has for me! I want to be triumphant and victorious! I want free! And, I want to help free others. I am only frustrated because I know, without a doubt, that I can have this. I will live in freedom!

So, whew. This is me being honest. I make no excuses for myself.

I have a vacation coming up. Out of the blue and totally unexpectedly, a friend paid for my airfare for a 2-week trip, and other friends have opened their homes to give me a place to stay. This is a huge gift! This is something I need desperately and could not have dreamed of doing, but God used some wonderful people to bless me. I’m going back to my roots and I have a sense that God has something more planned for me than just a bit of R & R. I want to minister to the people I see throughout that trip. I want to bless others so much that they want me to come back over and over!

God is blessing me and carrying me. I won’t be able to conquer fear of financial ruin until I can look it in the face from the place of abiding in love and know it has not sway over me. I guess I don’t have a positive spin for this issue. All I have is honesty and the determination to keep fighting the habit of fear. I need your prayers if you can bring me to our Father in your own conversations with him. I wish I had a nice, neat ending for you, but this is the best I can do. I will not give up. I will not forget all that God has done for me. I will continue to look to him, even when I must drag my eyes off the problem every two minutes. I will continue to look up from fear and into the face of love.

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Baptism and Pie Crust Cookies

Kruse Kids 1971ishToday marks a year since we lost my brother, Brian. I’ve been missing my family, worrying a bit about my parents, and thinking about my siblings. Last night I made chicken pot pie for dinner and had leftover crust. So, of course I had to make pie crust cookies. You see, when I was four years old, my dad went away to the war in Viet Nam. Continue reading

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Do Me A Favor?

It’s been a rough week. I’m getting to know myself all over again, and in some ways, it feels like the first time. I was nineteen when Doug and I got married, so I was never a single adult. I’m still me, still that crazy girl, but I love the person I’ve grown into over the years. I know I’m better because of Doug. He was so good to me, so patient and affirming. He adored me and pretty much thought I pooped rainbows. If I believed everything he said about me I wouldn’t be able to walk through the door, my head would be so big.

He always pointed out my strengths. If I were bemoaning a weakness, he made excuses for why it was okay or not as bad as I thought, or he’d say that I had already improved in that area. One of his attempts at deflection that made me laugh was when he would point out some strength that had absolutely nothing to do with what was bothering me, and say that because I was (insert anything good here,) nothing I was worrying about could be a problem. But the thing that always seemed to turn my face back to the path ahead was when he talked to me about how much he loved my relationship with God. It wasn’t just the details that he observed in that relationship; he gained strength and encouragement from it. My churning emotions would become calm. I was like Peter, walking on the water but looking at the waves; and there was Doug, lifting my face to look back at Jesus.

How amazing that someone so broken and hurting could be so strong and tenderhearted. I am blessed to have been deeply loved. I am blessed to have been greatly admired. Will you do me a favor? Look at your spouse, children, loved ones of any kind; and when you find what you can admire in them, do it with intention. Look at those beautiful and good things about them and thank God for them; then tell them what you see. Look at their relationship with God with an eye to see the uniqueness, and love that part of them more; then tell them what you see. Live that way. It will change your lives and the world around you. It changed mine.

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I paid the bills today. This process of being open and honest as I walk this journey is painful. I want to be strong all the time, and I know God is worthy of all my faith and trust, but I’m weak. I prefer to look at the growth and transformation in me, and it’s a beautiful life in God that I have, but I’m still weak. The area I struggle most to trust God with is our finances. That’s probably true for a lot of you. Here’s the thing, though. It’s been a year now since we had Doug’s work income, but the household bills have been covered each month. Continue reading

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Attempting Honesty

This is attempt number four in the last couple weeks at a blog entry. It’s never been so hard to put words together. I’m writing in my journal more, but not the kind of thing that I want to blog about. There are a couple impressions and areas I feel God is expounding to me that I thought you might like to hear, but I I’ve tried to bring them from journal to article, and all I get is evidence of how disconnected my brain is. Today, I decided I’d share something from my journal and leave it at that. I want to be honest and raw, and this is the only way I can think to do it. It feels self-indulgent, but I’ve been told more times than I can remember that I need to share these things and that it will help others. I hope somehow it does.

“So many emotions. Thankfully, the one that keeps threading through them all is gratitude. God, how do you do it? How do you bring the dross to the top, scoop it off, and let me cry out my confusion and regret, leaving me feeling your love? I know you’ll never leave me, but I can’t help begging you to stay.”

God is helping me move. My heart has been numb, my arms limp at my sides, and my feet uninterested in any activity. We start the day together. He’s surprised me again with how he works in kindness and grace in my spirit. I start every day blessed.

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I’m learning a lot about myself, life, and God as I walk this new path. I want to be fully aware of what God is bringing about in me and soak in every moment. I don’t want to miss anything that God is doing.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that somewhere in the last fifteen or so years I’ve become a team player. Continue reading

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There is a gone-ness. We shared everything. We were one. It seems we must have shared a heart and lungs and countless other essential things, because everyday, ordinary parts of myself don’t seem to work right these days. I know he didn’t take all of my heart with him, because I can still feel the love I have for my kids and friends; indeed, I’m more aware of that love than ever before. And yet, it doesn’t feel quite right. There is a certain feeling of something, someone, some vital piece in the beating of my heart, just…gone. Continue reading

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It’s All Good

I talk a lot these days about mindset changes. I know it’s a buzzword in the world today, but I can’t help what the world will say about something God wants to do. What a man thinks in his heart, so is he; so we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  (Proverbs 23:7; Romans 12:2) I cannot adequately express how transformed my life is since God renewed my mind. I traded in my victim mindset for one of a conqueror. Continue reading

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