Journey of a Second Chance- Gates of New Beginnings – Challenges in Marriage -Part 6

7780 mesaI told Kevin that he had to get “fixed” since we didn’t want to have another spontaneous pregnancy. He went through the surgery and was supposed to be laying in bed with an ice pack. To this day, he tells everyone how horrible I am for “making” him climb stairs while searching for a new home in Memphis the day after his surgery. In my defense, we did have a deadline to find one. I wasn’t too hard on him though. I “let” him stay in the car after the first set of stairs. Poor guy! We ended up settling for a 4 bedroom with a bonus room and 3 bath house that we weren’t crazy about, but it was in our price range. It was close to my sister’s house and not far from my parents. The first couple of weeks I cried. I missed my home in Arkansas, and I really missed Ashley. I didn’t really know what to do without her being there. It was a hard adjustment. Kevin worked so many hours. He had to stay out of town two or three nights every week to fix commercial air-conditioning units. I was busy taking care of five babies. We needed more money than what Kevin was making at his job. A lifelong friend, Michael, offered me a job cleaning newly constructed homes. I was able to clean them on the weekends when Kevin could watch the babies. Sometimes I took one of the babies with me. Kevin had a lawn care business on the side. Michael also hired him to mow the yards for the new subdivision and we even mowed for a condominium complex in West Memphis, Arkansas. He had several other yards that he mowed for residential customers as well. It seemed like we worked all the time and we were burning at both ends. We began having marriage troubles around this time. I told him I didn’t get married to be a single mom. I started accusing him of cheating on me, because I felt he spent more time with a particular customer than he did with me. It turns out he didn’t cheat on me. He’s definitely not that kind of guy. I just had jealousy issues. One night we went on a “date night” to Willie Moffitt’s to shoot pool. There was a girl there who happened to be from his hometown. I was not looking good at all since I had just had my 5th baby, and I certainly didn’t have much time OR money to spend on myself. I was probably looking downright homely. Anyway, this girl was looking “fresh,” in the very least “childless.” She had the nerve to come up to him and grab Kevin’s knee while I was sitting there!! “Oh no she didn’t!” I jumped out of my seat and was ready to pounce on her! She turned to look for backup from her friends, but they even stepped back because they knew she crossed the line. Kevin had the audacity to get mad at ME for getting mad at HER! I was pissed! A friend of mine happened to be there and heard the commotion. He was kind enough to intervene, and probably kept me out of jail that night. He diffused the situation and I left with Kevin. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I couldn’t believe he defended HER! Let’s just say, I have forgiven the situation, but I still don’t like it.

The A/C company that he was working for bounced a couple of Kevin’s paychecks. He made them good later, but we couldn’t rely on that kind of income. Kevin’s mom told him that the Flash Market stores were looking for a good A/C – Refrigeration man. Kevin worked hard and got his contractor’s license. It took him three months to study for that test. We went through all the red tape and jumped through all the hoops and Kevin received his license. We were thankful for the opportunity so that Kevin didn’t have to be gone all the time. We started our own business…together. This was the beginning of our very own heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration business…our next Gate of New Beginnings…

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Journey of a Second Chance- Gates of New Beginnings – Life in Arkansas -Part 5

When I was a teenager I wanted 7 children at first, but changed the number to 5 by the time I was 18 years old.  My sister was taking care of our 6 month old baby, and we took our other three children to Florida for a family vacation!  I don’t remember a lot about the trip, but I do remember being very sick. We decided to go to the water park, and all I remember is heading straight for the bathroom and standing under the cold shower.  The other thing I remember is stopping by Walmart on our way home, and getting a pregnancy test, because I was familiar with this particular sick feeling.  I took the test in the Walmart bathroom (after I paid for it).  It was positive!  I was in complete shock!  We wanted another baby, we just weren’t expecting her so soon.  We had an 8 hour drive ahead of us.  We got in the van and the kids knew something was going on.  When we told them the news our youngest boy said, “NOT AGAIN!”  We laughed, but then the rest of the trip was mostly silence.  Part of me was a little scared, but most of me was very excited to have this baby grow up with our 6 month old.  I was excited to have this final pregnancy, and finally have the five babies I knew I always wanted.

After Alyssa was born, I couldn’t afford to work at the law office any longer.  I can’t remember whether the cost of daycare equalled my pay, or exceeded my pay with four children.  Either way, it wasn’t feasible to work there anymore. Part of me wanted to be a professional and work in a challenging environment, but most of me wanted to be at home raising my babies and to be an attentive mother.

“The Devil made me do it,” said little 3rd grader, TJ. I remember his name because my response was, “NO! TJ made him do it!” I took a job as a substitute teacher for the Marion, AR schools. (I could do that while my three oldest babies were in school. By this time Kelsey was in Kindergarten. I only needed a babysitter during the day for Alyssa, since Kaitlyn wasn’t born yet.). Anyway, I’ll never forget little TJ. No matter what I said or did, TJ was up and down, in and out of his chair. He wouldn’t sit or focus on anything. I had a hunch that he was the reason the teacher may have been sick that day (Haha). He was such a distraction in the class, that I sent him to the office. He was sent right back to the class. I tried reasoning with him. I asked him why he was choosing to act that way. He told me that the devil made him do it. He continued his erratic behavior. It was more than I could handle. I sent him back to the office. The office sent him directly back to me. I endured the day, but decided from that day forward, I preferred to teach ONLY high school students! I sometimes think of little TJ and wonder where he’s at today.

Subbing at the high school was an incredible experience! I developed good relationships with those students. We lived just up the street from the school. Sometimes the students would come down and play basketball in our driveway. I thought it was pretty cool going to stores and restaurants around town and being recognized by them. They’d always make me feel good when they’d say, “Hey, Mrs. R!” (They couldn’t pronounce my last name, so I became…Mrs. R!) Some of them became long term friends. My neighbor, Ashley, was one of the teenagers that became more like family. She came over most days, and it was obvious she loved Alyssa so much. Alyssa loved her too. There were times she preferred going to “her Ashley” over her mom. I didn’t mind. I loved and appreciated the bond they had. Ashley and I had a lot of good times together. We cleaned house together blaring our Brittney Spears and Christina Aguilera CD’s! Those were some really good memories. Yeah, high school was a much better fit for me. I loved the job and I loved the students. I also had a few piano students that I taught piano lessons to. I really enjoyed that as well. I loved helping the youth and spending time with them.

We made a lot of new friends while we were in Arkansas. I have to mention JOHNNO. He was such a good friend to have. Kevin liked to hunt on his time off work, so there were several nights I was home alone with the children. I’d call Johnny to come over and play cards and keep me and the kids company while Kevin was away doing what he loved. I am sure some people would love to judge that and make it something it wasn’t, but I was thankful Kevin trusted us, and was thankful for the friendship we had with good ole JOHNNO!

The missionaries came to our house often during these few years. Some of them became like brothers to us. We nicknamed Elder Peters, Elder Petey! How we all loved our Elder Petey! Even the children cried when he had to leave our area. To this day he has a special place in our hearts.

The farmers at this time were struggling.  They had a difficult time paying their bills.  Kevin was getting less and less work, and some of the work he did get, he wasn’t paid for because the farmers simply couldn’t afford it. We needed a way to make more money.  Kevin had been through my dad’s heating and air conditioning training classes because my dad told him (when we first married) that if you have a trade, you’ll always be able to feed your family. He started repairing heating and air-conditioning for friends and neighbors (on the side). A member of our church offered Kevin a management position in South Memphis at a valve company. It was a difficult decision, but we decided to leave the farm, and he began working a J.O.B.  It was disappointing, but we were thankful for the paycheck.

Kevin worked at the valve company throughout most of my fifth pregnancy. The work environment there was literally going to kill him. He had several threats, including a gun and knife being pulled on him while at work. He had chest pains from all the stress almost every night.  I wasn’t going to stand for it. We knew we had to do something different.  My parents told me that their friend was looking for an air conditioning technician in Memphis.  We had to make another difficult decision. Kevin took the job and started working full time in the A/C business. Our dream of living on a farm was moving further and further away from us.

On February 20th, Kaitlyn Nichole made her debut and blessed our lives once again with so much joy! Two months later we sold our home, packed the moving truck, and moved back to Memphis, TN, to start our next Gate of New Beginnings!

Journey of a Second Chance- Gates of New Beginnings – Raising Babies -Part 4

The love we had for each other was strong. If not, our marriage might not have lasted through the first year. I soon realized I lost complete control of raising my children the way I wanted. Co-parenting was not an option with my ex-husband. I asked his new girlfriend not to smoke in the car with my children. (How hard was that? They only had them every other weekend.) Instead of respecting my wishes, she smoked even more with them in the car. The same pattern happened with climbing trees, unsupervised four-wheeling (at ages 6 and 7 years old), playing violent video games, etc. To say it was hard is an understatement. There are no words for how I was feeling as a mother. I was afraid and I was angry! I yelled, screamed, begged and pleaded with my ex-, but it did no good. I hired an attorney for help, because I felt the children were in danger. He told me there was nothing I could do since he was their father, even though one of my sons broke his collar bone in a 4-wheeler accident. My other son rolled backwards down a hill, and was lucky he wasn’t severely hurt. I couldn’t stop their father, but I found a way to slow down the four-wheeler accidents. My attorney and I decided to draw up an Agreement that would forgive back child support plus interest, if he agreed to keep them off 4-wheelers while they were young. He agreed to the terms. I learned to keep my mouth shut about things I didn’t like. I learned there were things I could change, and things I couldn’t. I had to detach from the fear and let it go. I prayed and gave it to God. Like I’ve said before: Life is a journey. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.

We didn’t think Kevin could have children. We weren’t preventing pregnancy for over a year. I had been pregnant three times before, and I knew something was up. I went to the store and bought a home pregnancy test. The year was 1999. We didn’t have a cell phone. I took the test and to my delightful surprise, it was POSITIVE!! I remember pacing the floor with excitement and I called my mom! She was happy for us! She could tell how excited I was. I was bursting at the seams to tell Kevin, but he was out farming. How should I tell him? Should I wait and spring the news on him at dinner? Should I get a “Congratulations” card? I couldn’t wait that long! I wanted to tell him right then! I paged him on his beeper and waited for his call. He called me from a payphone on the side of the road. “Guess what!? You’re not going to believe this! WE’RE PREGNANT!” Kevin was very happy, but he said he wasn’t surprised. “Really?” “Why?” We went to the LDS temple a month or so prior, and he received a blessing of healing. He said when they prayed over him, he knew at that moment we would have more children. We definitely have a testimony in the power of faith and prayer.

In October, our sweet baby girl, Alyssa Lauren, entered the world and blessed our lives. Six months later, we found out we were expecting baby #5…

Journey of a Second Chance- Gates of New Beginnings – Moving to Arkansas -Part 3

There were many reasons we wanted to move.  The house we lived in was the house from my previous marriage.  Kevin was from Arkansas. Memphis is nothing like Arkansas.  If you’ve read “2nd Chance To Be With My 1st Love, Albeit With a “Scarlet Letter” on My Chest,” you understand how I was feeling.  I felt like I was being judged by everyone, especially by friends at church.  (I don’t know whether or not they were actually judging me; I just felt that way.)  We wanted a fresh start with everything.  We definitely didn’t have much money, however, what we lacked in money, we surpassed with desire.

I worked in downtown Memphis.  At lunch I would drive across the Memphis-Arkansas bridge.  Just across the bridge, was a road that went off to the right that circled through crop fields.  I drove that road alone several times a week just to clear my mind and sort things out.  It was peaceful.  It was Marion, Arkansas.  We began searching for a home there.  We found one that wasn’t perfect, but we thought it would do.  We started the process of applying for a loan.  We found out that my credit report was fine, however, Kevin’s needed some work.  Let’s face it, he was a single guy for 8 years, and credit wasn’t exactly his priority.  To show enough income, we both had to be on the home loan. We got a printed copy of his report, and started making phone calls, clearing debt he forgot he even had.  It was a lot of work, but we had determination.  Our next obstacle to overcome, was a little thing called money.  We needed a down payment for the house.

I drove a mini-van since I had three sweet babies.  Kevin had a pick up truck and a beautiful, RED, Toyota Celica, with a SUN ROOF!  I drove that car every chance I got, usually blaring our Tracy Chapman CD.  I felt like a mom driving the mini-van, but I metamorphosed into a cool chick driving that car.  I sold my house to my best friend, who was moving back to Memphis, but there wasn’t enough equity to cover the down payment on a new house.   Kevin has always been creative with making things happen.  (If I don’t see a way, he finds a way.)  He suggested we sell the car.  What?!? NO!!!!!!! Not the car! Let’s sell something else!  There was nothing else.  We sold the coolest car ever, but it provided enough money for the down payment.  I loved that car, for so many reasons.  To this day, when we hear a Tracy Chapman song, it still takes us back to that beautiful, red Toyota Celica!

Between clearing up bad debt, finding a buyer for my house, and coming up with down payment money, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to qualify for a loan.  We cancelled the contract on the original house that we were settling on.  Once approved, we started looking again.  We were already driving from Memphis to West Memphis, Arkansas to attend church on Sundays. (West Memphis connects with Marion.)  The members received us with open arms, and became our extended family.  After church we drove around town searching for a house.  Some days after work, we drove through, still searching.  We couldn’t find our home and almost gave up. One night we pulled the car over and started praying.  We just knew we belonged in Marion.  (I can tell you about many experiences that we’ve had with prayer, but for now I’ll just share this one.)  We finished praying and he started driving again.  He turned the corner and stopped in the middle of the road.  I asked him what he was doing.  He backed up to the house we’d just passed on the corner.  There it was…”For Sale By Owner,” right there in the front yard!  It was on a corner lot and had a fenced in back yard!  I could hardly contain the excitement! Could this be it?  Have we found our new home?  How much do they want for it?  Is it in our price range?  We called the number on the sign and the homeowner was home!  He allowed us inside to look around.  It was PERFECT!  It had 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms (a huge master bathroom), vaulted ceilings, and a fireplace! The best part??…it was LESS expensive than the house we were going to settle for!  It was exactly what we needed, exactly what we wanted, at exactly the perfect location.  We moved into our new home in Marion, Arkansas!

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We became close friends with our neighbors.  Ashley, the daughter, babysat our three children.  She became like a daughter/sister to me.  A little over a year passed and we found out we were expecting baby #4…we found out we were about to enter our next Gate of New Beginnings…

Journey of a Second Chance- Gates of New Beginnings- (Part 2)

So the new journey begins…At the time my three young children were only ages 3, 5 and 6 years old.  We were rich in love, but we lacked significantly in finances.  Poor Kevin.  He came into this new marriage with no debt and no dependents.  I, on the other hand, blessed him with a house note, house bills, three cute little dependents, and plenty of credit card debt that I accepted in the divorce.

Kevin had a custom planting business.  In that business he planted crops for farmers with his tractor, trailer and grain drill.  I didn’t even know what a grain drill was, until I started dating Kevin.  It is basically a large piece of equipment that you fill with seed and hooks to the tractor (with a 3-point hitch).  It’s what drops the seeds, several rows at a time.  One time Kevin instructed me to “watch” the seeds to be sure none of the discs on the grain drill were clogged.  Well…let’s just say that I didn’t really know what I was doing, and for the first time ever, Kevin was made the laughing stock of the town for “stripping up” one of the farmer’s fields.  To make matters worse, it was on a main highway for everyone to see every day!  That farmer told him to, “Get the girl out of the tractor!”  Kevin still reminds me of that incident to this day (almost 20 years later).  🙂  I loved riding in that tractor.  His tractor, to me, was like riding on Aladdin and Jasmine’s magic carpet; and being out on the farm was like being in a whole new world, away from all the chaos.  There was something magical about it.  I can promise you, you’ll never see a more beautiful sunset, than an Arkansas sunset.

The farm was wonderful…but Just like with anything, with all the good, there were also challenges.  I worked my regular job throughout the week, took care of our three babies, and every other weekend, (when the children went to their father’s), we worked very long hours.  The farms were in the middle of nowhere, and there were no bathrooms and no place to get food.  One day he offered me a ragged, melted chocolate bar that he kept cooled in the air conditioning vent of his tractor.  At first I said, “No thank, you.”  After several more hours planting, I said, “Hey, how bout that delicious sounding chocolate bar!”  We had gotten up very early and had been working all day.  We decided that we had put in more than a full day’s work, and we had earned a “date night.” We parked the tractor, jumped in his pickup truck, and were heading to the house to get cleaned up.  We barely pulled out of the farm and started down the road when in the dark of the night, we saw headlights coming toward us.  They got closer, and the driver started flashing  his lights at us.  I had a bad feeling about this.  I wanted to keep driving, but apparently you can’t do that in small towns, (only in bigger cities, like Memphis 🙂 ).  Kevin slowed down, then stopped and rolled down his window.  I’m still not exactly sure who this guy was, but I remember distinctly what he said.  He said, “Mr. Paul said to get back out there on that tractor, because rain is coming!”  Kevin told the guy that we were exhausted, he was going to take his girl out on a date, and we would be back early the next morning. Well, apparently, the guy knew exactly what to say in response.  He said, “Then give me the key to your tractor, and I will finish the job.”  Apparently, in small towns, guys don’t let other guys drive their tractors either.  So as exhausted as we were, we climbed back up in the cab, watched the sun come up, and finished planting Mr. Paul’s field.  (By the way, it did set in to raining for several days, so it was a good thing we stayed.)

There were no fields to plant in the wintertime.  I had been working for a law firm for several months, but I didn’t make near enough money to pay all the expenses we had.  To make ends meet, we did whatever it took to bring in extra money.  I babysat and sold Tupperware on some evenings and weekends.  My neighbor, (and very good friend), offered Kevin a job repairing roofs.  I can honestly say, Kevin must love me, because he was terrified of heights, but he was suddenly in the roofing business.  We did whatever it took to be sure we had enough money to pay our bills and feed our family.

Living in Memphis was very uncomfortable for Kevin. We began searching for a home in Marion, Arkansas…looking for our next Gate of New Beginnings…

Journey of a Second Chance- Gates of New Beginnings (Part 1)

Gate of New Beginnings

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve written and shared personal experiences in the blog post: 2nd Chance To Be With My 1st Love, Albeit With a “Scarlet Letter” on My Chest.  Some may wonder why I wrote then, and why I am choosing to write another chapter of my personal life.  For those who want to know why, it’s simple…I want people to know they are not alone in this journey. We all have stories to tell.   Together, we are all experiencing this thing called life.   Life has ups and life has downs.  Ultimately, life is meant to be enjoyed with all of it’s adventures, uncertainties, successes and failures.  I strongly believe that our lives are full of purpose when we First: Learn to forgive and love ourselves, all the good and all the bad; and Second: Give that love to others by helping one another.

Basically…if my story can help one person, I’ll keep writing.

I told him…”If I could only have 1 day with you, I would give up the rest of my life.”  It sounded crazy, but I meant it.  “Falling in love” is an exciting event that is usually easy to express with words and feelings.  It’s only, however, a brief moment, compared to the remaining time in our lives.  “Being in love” over a period of time, may have boring, seemingly insignificant events thrown in the mix, however, when we choose to perceive it this way, it can also contain many exciting (sometimes happy, even joyful — sometimes miserable, even almost unbearable), very fulfilling events.  Life is 10% what happens, and 90% how we think about it.  Maybe I’m a dreamer, but this is how I remember it…

I have a Thomas Kinkade painting on my wall called, “Gate of New Beginnings”.  I love it because life is full of new beginnings.  One of those beginnings began in November, 1997.  Since I had been married before, and the divorce was still fairly fresh (only 4 months prior), a large wedding ceremony wasn’t even close to what either of us wanted.  Even though part of me was feeling so incredibly blessed to be with this person whom I connected deeply with in 1985, when I was just 15 years old; I still carried so much guilt about my children having to live with the consequences of the decisions that their ignorant 18-19 year old mother made in 1989.  (I didn’t regret the divorce, I was free from that 8 year bondage.  I didn’t regret the marriage, since that marriage produced three very wonderful, truly unconditionally loved children.  I couldn’t put my finger on what I regretted exactly, but whatever it was, I held on to that regret for many years.)

We decided on a Sunday to get married the next day.  We called the Bishop of our church, and asked him if he would be available to perform the ceremony.  He agreed to marry us, if we agreed to meet with him for an interview, prior to the vows being exchanged.  Of course!  We would be happy to have an interview!  After all, I KNEW I loved this man, and I HOPED he loved me.  I knew an interview with this Godly man wouldn’t stop the magnificent force that seemed to be carrying us along and putting our lives back together.  At the same time, I couldn’t believe it!  We are actually going through with this!  I was going to be the wife of the man I loved with all my being.  How did this happen?  How did life suddenly change so drastically?  Was I dreaming? If I was dreaming, I never wanted to wake up.  For the first time in a very long time, I felt JOY.  My feelings were mixed with some sadness, but I was actually feeling some JOY! We called a very few friends and family members to tell them what we were up to, and invited them to share this moment with us if they weren’t busy.

I woke up that following day, and hit the ground running.  We met at the court house in West Memphis, Arkansas to get our marriage license.  We drove to the mall and purchased simple wedding rings.  I picked out a church dress from my closet, and we were all set!  We drove to our small church building in West Memphis, Arkansas.  The interview went as suspected, and the Bishop agreed to perform the ceremony.  Only a handful of friends and family came to witness.  They didn’t know it fully, but they were witnessing us, together, walking through our very first gate of new beginnings…

FINDING FAITH -Life Group-1st Class

Faith is one of the most important (if not the most important) parts of having JOY in this life.  So, what is faith?

One definition of faith in the dictionary is:

1.complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
synonyms: trust, belief, confidence, conviction

The opposite of faith may be described in one way as:  FEAR. You may already know this common acronym for the word “fear” which is:
False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

FEAR is one of the biggest things that can really hold us back.  We fear rejection.  We fear we will lose what we have.  We fear what others will say about us.  We fear what others will do to us.  We fear what others think of us.  We fear failure.  The list of fears goes on and on.

Why do we have fear? The answer can be summed up in one sentence. We lack faith. (Matthew 8:26 -And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm).

One of the points discussed in class is described in an article from the Huffington Post.  In the article it says, “…it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/don-joseph-goewey-/85-of-what-we-worry-about_b_8028368.html)

Did you catch that?  97% of what we worry about is only in our minds!

And it gets better.

When challenges (the 3% of things that we fear) do come up, we have a choice. We can either give in to the fear which causes misery and depression, or we can “surrender” to God, and choose to “believe” that things will get better and that we can handle whatever we are facing and push through it. We can choose to have FAITH.  When we choose faith, we actually grow through the experience, and usually become better after going through it. The hard part is keeping faith when we are in the middle of the challenges.

There are different levels of faith.  The amount of fear you have can be an indicator of what level of faith you have.  The less you fear, the more faith you have. So you may ask, “How do we acquire or increase our faith?”  The answer to that is simple.  Practice.  Just start praying and asking.  Oh, and while you’re practicing, the most important thing to remember is to:  BELIEVE that your prayers will be answered. It’s really that simple.  The only reason it would be a complicated process is if we make it that way.  It’s not meant to be difficult. As you start receiving answers to your prayers, your faith increases.  You will be astonished at some of the ways your prayers are being answered!  I can tell you from experience.  There is absolutely no way, no how I would be living where I am living today, doing the things I am doing today, without praying and receiving answers to my prayers.  God has shown me how good He really is, and He will show you the same.  You just have to ask and believe.

The second part to having faith is GRATITUDE!  Start with being thankful for what you have today.  Even if life seems to be throwing every curve ball possible at you right now, there is SOMETHING to be thankful for.  Feel that gratitude and connect with our creator on that level.  When we have gratitude for what we already have, that creates feelings of love which moves us closer to God.  When we are connected to God, that gives us freedom and connects us with our purpose, which we will discuss in the next blog.

Life Group: Lost and Finding Joy: A Path to Finding Faith, Freedom and Purpose

If there’s ever been a time in your life when you just felt like life was difficult, people suck and possibly thought, “Just FORGET IT!”;
OR
Even if you’ve just felt like life was okay and people weren’t too bad, but you just didn’t have the drive or passion to do anything anymore…

If anything like that has happened to you so far on this journey, we call life; you might actually understand why we started this life group called, Lost and Finding Joy: A Path to Finding Faith, Freedom and Purpose.

I, personally, had a very difficult year in 2013. I’ve had other difficult times in my life, but this one really almost took me down. I felt like the world and everyone in it was against me. I had all but given up. In fact, I didn’t want to do anything. I had no desire to set any goals (if you know me well, you know that was totally out of character for me). I had no desire to speak to anyone other than my husband and children. I had no desire to leave the house. In fact, I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide, preferably under some covers. The only thing that kept me going could be summed up in one little word…hope. The details of the problems that year are not important and not worth reliving. Looking back, it may sound ridiculous, but it simply all boiled down to a lot of pride and ego, from several people, including myself; which can be extremely destructive. However, through all of it, I did learn some very valuable lessons.

I had a painting above my bed that was called, “Footprints in the Sand”, by Thomas Kinkade. I would look at that painting often and ask God to “please just carry me” (like in the poem “Footprints in the Sand” -Author Unknown). I can honestly say that He did “carry” me. The healing and all the good that came from it, simply started with a little hope, which turned into faith, which has now turned into TRUST.

The truth is we can get “lost” sometimes. We can lose faith in ourselves, lose faith in others and/or just lose our faith in general. I guess before we can lose faith, we must first have to have it. Either way, we need FAITH to find FREEDOM (from fear, guilt, shame, worry, all that stuff that keeps us from connecting with our true selves); AND we need to find FREEDOM to find PURPOSE in this life.

The goal of this Life Group is to help others find all those things; faith, freedom and purpose. Those things are critical to finding JOY in our lives. The life group is only going to be about 6-8 weeks long. Since many of you cannot go to the classes, I will post information from the classes here in this blog. It won’t be exact notes, but the messages will be the same.

(If you happen to be going through challenges in your life right now, you may want to take a moment to watch the video posted at the beginning of this blog. It’s a song called, “Beautiful Heartbreak”, by Hilary Weeks. I love this song, because it reminds us that even through our greatest challenges, beautiful things can come from them. For now, just hold on to hope, and most importantly, don’t forget to pray.)

Life Will Always Bring Us Challenges Through People and Circumstances, Is Life Still Good?

This past week was a challenging one for me and, I am certain, for many others that knew Bradley White. Even though many lives were deeply affected, I can only speak for myself and from my perspective about this horrific event. My deepest sorrow and regret goes out to Bradley’s family and close friends.

I moved here to Maryville about a year and a half ago, seeking to find joy in this life. I knew that I found my greatest joy when I served others. If I could help someone in need, I felt I was “in tune” with my purpose in life. I still feel that way. I find myself “seeking” or looking for “signs” as I meet people or when I find myself in just about any situation. I ask myself, “Am I meeting this person for a reason?” “Is this person someone that I can inspire, or is this a person that can inspire me?” I tend to try and stay away from people that pull me down, however, if I feel I can bring them up, I won’t “shut out” that person. Even as I am driving down the road, if I see someone driving reckless (especially motorcycle drivers), I will say a silent prayer for them that they will be safe and that those around them will be safe. I love serving others.

I met Bradley one day at church. He was talking to Kevin and I walked up to him and introduced myself. Kevin said that Bradley might be available to do some subcontractor work for us in our heating and air conditioning business. At first I didn’t know how I felt about that. Looking back, I think I felt some of the sadness he had inside, although, at the same time, there was something so like-able about him. He had a charm about him, and little did I know at the time, but an instant connection was made between us. Before I knew it, Kevin was calling him about doing some subcontractor work for us. Bradley was a very dedicated, hard-working man. We were pleased with his work, and he was pleased with the income he was making. I didn’t know exactly what all he had been through in his life, but I could tell he was working hard at turning his life around. Everything seemed to be falling into place for him. He came to us one day and asked if we would hire him full time. At the time, we weren’t looking to put on another truck, but it just so happened, that one of the guys we had working with us had another job offer. That is why we decided to go ahead and hire Bradley. We knew if the other guy left, we had a spot available. It turned out that the other guy stayed, and we were able to keep both of them. In fact, we needed both of them.

Bradley seemed so happy. He had certain things going on in his life, but he was doing his best to rise above it all. We sent him to Memphis to get specialized A/C training, and while he was there, he got his EPA certification. He was so proud of both. Everything seemed to be picture perfect. But then…he hadn’t worked for us long, when circumstances came up, and we felt we had no choice but to go separate ways as far as employment. I implored him that that situation did not need to define him. I told him he was just brought to a crossroad, and that he would be fine. I told him that he would do great out on his own, and that things were going to be okay. He looked me in the eyes and said, “No, they’re not.” He meant that things were not going to be okay. He turned to leave, opened the door, and said, “Bye, Lisa.”

A few weeks later, on Sunday, a feeling came over me. I texted him. I told him that we missed seeing him. I told him to come see us. The very next morning, we got a call. They asked if we had seen Bradley. They told us that Bradley was missing. They found him four days later. It was a horrific crash. His life was taken instantly.

The title of this blog is, “Life Will Always Bring Us Challenges Through People and Circumstances…” My brief but profound interaction with Bradley did bring some challenges that forced me to look deep within myself. He appeared in our lives and made lasting impressions in my heart and my soul. I can honestly say that I love him deeply. I pray that I will see him again one day. The second part of the title to this blog is, “Is Life Still Good?” The answer is, YES. Life is good. Our minds (perceptions), ultimately determine whether or not life is good or life is bad. I will never know whether or not I fully did my part to help Bradley. I struggled with thoughts of feeling like I let him down. Could I have done more? Should I have done more? I won’t allow my mind to go all the way there though. I choose to be thankful for the time I shared with Bradley. I choose to learn from this experience and be more proactive when helping the next person. That doesn’t mean that I will never make mistakes. I am sure I will. For as long as God is willing, I will keep living my life for others. As long as I live, I will continue to strive to make a positive difference. I know that Bradley is now free of this temporal world. Wherever you are at this moment, Bradley White, I want to say two things. I am sorry if I let you down, and Thank you for blessing my life.

2nd Chance To Be With My 1st Love, Albeit With a “Scarlet Letter” on My Chest (Part 3)

So, that last Part of my story was not a fun one to write, but it had to be done.  It is what it is.  This part is just a final thought of Part 2.

People will always come to their own conclusions and make judgements based on the limited information they have, no matter what I or anyone else is doing with their lives.  I agree that what we do with our lives affects other people.  The most affected are the ones we care about the most.  Does that mean that we base every choice we make on what others may think about it?  Of course not!  I always say that there is a Yin and Yang with everything in life.  We should be very careful with the choices we make and care about how it affects others; however, if someone doesn’t agree with what you are doing, that does not mean you shouldn’t do it.  I have read somewhere that it is a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 world.  NO MATTER WHAT YOU ARE DOING, 1/3 of the people will like you or LIKE what you’re doing.  1/3 of the people will hate you or HATE what you are doing and finally, 1/3 of the people won’t care about you or WON’T CARE about what you are doing.  You have most likely heard it put this way, “No matter what we do, we can not please all of the people all of the time.  We can only please some of the people some of the time”.  That is why it is so important to make decisions based on what makes YOU happy.   The key is to find yourself, love yourself and BE yourself.  Then, surround yourself with the 1/3 who loves you!

But, yes, having people, (some of which I really cared about), suddenly turn their backs on me, realizing how many people I negatively affected, and finding out how many people conditionally loved me, was a difficult thing to go through.  However, there is usually a silver lining when we go through challenges in life…It is true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!  Because of going through some of that, I live my life for me.  I don’t live it for the approval of anyone else.  At the same time, I try to live my life harmoniously with others.  I try to treat others the way I want to be treated.  I don’t judge people.  I don’t care if someone judges me, because it doesn’t hurt me.  It only hurts them.   It’s a shame, but sometimes even church goers forget this scripture:

Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Well, enough of that.  I wanted to write that at the end of the last Part, but I have to admit, writing and reliving some of that got a little emotional, so I cut it short.

If you look at my blog, you will find “The “Wemmick Story” by Max Lucado, which talks about people “trying” to label you.  If you haven’t heard that story before, you should check it out.