Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

I grew up in Elmira…I moved back to “Hellmira”

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I was born and raised in a city called Elmira, situated in upstate New York.  The town is nestled in the folds of gently rolling hills that display a gorgeous array of color during the fall.  It was this vibrant display of reds, yellows, golds, and greens that I missed all the years I was away and every fall longed to see again.

Despite missing certain things about Elmira, I vowed never, ever to move back.  Too much crap in my life that I didn’t want to deal with and too many haunted memories of a life I buried with the family members who had passed on from this life.

Being away for 29 years things most certainly didn’t stay the same. Before I even returned home, I was told, “there’s nothing here.” “It’s a welfare city.”  “There’s nothing but drugs and inmates, ex-cons with their worthless families here.” Elmira was being referred to as “Hellmira.” After I moved back and would tell people I had lived in AK for several years, they would say, “what are you doing here?” with disdain dripping from their tongues. I began asking myself the same question.

Back in 1972, the city suffered from a major flood. Those who lived here then and still do today will say “Elmira never recovered from the flood.” In 2012, an F1 tornado actually touched down and did some damage. The city is home to the Elmira Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison and just a couple miles away in neighboring Southport is a “supermax” prison.   Indeed, why would someone want to move “here?”

A year ago, I wanted nothing more than to go someplace else. I had my sights set on Charlotte, NC for several reasons and was further convinced after being able to visit the area.  I was tickled pink about moving. I told my friends and family I was moving and started the wheels in motion. Then something unexpected happened.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”~~Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

I was doing an online Bible Study with Proverbs 31 ministries called “What happens when women say yes to God,” by Lysa TerKeurst.  It was about being obedient when God calls.  Saying yes, even when you don’t understand or want to, but you know, deep in your heart that God is asking you to say yes.

A girl that I used to play with growing up here in this city of Elmira, now, like me, a grown woman asked me to a ladies lake retreat.  She said in the message, she knew it was last minute but she was learning to be obedient when God nudged her.  Funny, here I am doing a Bible study about obedience, and an old friend not doing this Bible study was being obedient.  Let’s just call this a Godincidence.

After the lake retreat, I told my new friends I would attend their church.  Gonna be honest, I really didn’t want to because I really loved my on-line church.  The church my friend attended was located on the Southside, where I grew up and too close to the very homes I remembered, or wanted to forget.  After the worship service, I felt the nudge to drive around the old neighborhoods.  It wasn’t pretty.  A lot had changed and not all for the better.

As I was driving, I got the distinct impression from my Heavenly Father, this was a city in need and where I wanted to go was well taken care of, and in good hands.  I heard the door to North Carolina close.

Ughhh!!  I argued…”the people of this city clearly don’t care, why should I?” “What can one person do to change a defeated attitude that was reflected everywhere I looked?”  And as if that wasn’t enough, when it was time for me to move from my then, current living situation, and after having told the realtor the one area of town I didn’t want to move was the “Southside,” where did I end up?  Yep, the Southside.

Could I have moved to North Carolina?  Sure, I could have moved there, but then I would have missed out on some pretty amazing things God wanted to place in my path.  Like meeting my half-brother who I only knew about for 27 years and who lives less than a mile from me.  And I could brag for days about his beautiful son and daughter.

In this place, He’s teaching me, refining me, loving me, and allowing me to shine His light in the very areas I was ready to run out on because I thought I was too good to be bothered with this mess.  We are called to be a light in the darkness, but before we can be the light, we have to let go of our own darkness and let Him in…stripped of my pride and haughtiness, I look to the left and to the right and I no longer see people less than me or even more than me, I see people just like me, created in His image.

This city of Elmira, is not dead.  The people of Elmira are very much alive and we have the same resurrection power in us as Jesus did when He rose from the grave!!  Has this city had some setbacks?  You bet it has!!  Is it defined by those setbacks?  Only if that’s what comes out in our attitudes and actions.  It’s just as easy to sing praise about our home as it is to complain.  We can’t very well show love when we’re busy knocking down a city whose motto is “honoring the past, building the future.”

What kind of future are we building if all we can do is talk about how our city never recovered from a flood that happened over 42 years ago?  Seriously, 42 years ago.  That’s longer than the Israelites had to wander in the desert for their disobedience.

It’s time to rise up, dust that flood mud off, and get stepping into a land flowing with milk and honey.  A land our children want to run to, not run from.  A land where Gods love shines bright for all to see.  To once again be the crown jewel in this area.  I’m ready for that land, how about you?

If you haven’t read up on Elmira and it’s rich history, you can check it out here on Wikipedia: Elmira, New York  Don’t feel like reading? How about a video?  

 

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My life as a Cow…giving my milk away for free

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We’ve all heard the saying…”why buy the cow, if you can get the milk for free?”  But, who really pays attention to that nonsense?  I have to say, I wish I had.

As a young girl I can honestly say I didn’t value myself or the wisdom of my elders.  After all, there was no way my mom could’ve ever been through the life experiences I had.  To be honest, she was part of the problem.  Always critical of the way I looked, constantly telling me all the things I wasn’t and couldn’t be instead of looking at me for all the things God created me to be.  Speaking of God, therein lies another issue, I had no clue that God created me to be something special because I didn’t know I could have a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Sure, I knew God existed, but I felt like He was just another “person” giving me the stink eye with every move I made.  It was bad enough I could never get my parent’s approval, so why would I try to garner the approval of “someone” so out of reach and was nothing but a giant rule writer and fun spoiler?  Screw that noise! It was time to start living MY life.

It was New Year’s Eve. I was 16 years old and my boyfriend was going to be spending the night. Everything was going pretty well that evening until I wanted a picture taken of me and my boyfriend.  My dad was in his usual drunken state and said he would take the picture if we wore these New Years Eve hats.  What?  No!!  I wanted a “normal,” no hat photo, please and thank you.  The typical yelling and screaming began and next thing I knew, my boyfriend freaked and walked out of our house.

Giving my father the teenage death stare, I turned on my heel and went after my boyfriend.  I found him down the street by a tree.  As I approached him, he punched the tree with his fist.  Apparently, he had never experienced the type of yelling and screaming that was typical in my home.  He actually started to cry because he didn’t know what to do.  I remember thinking…”I guess, punching a tree is the “normal” thing to do?”

We decided in the next few minutes we would not go back to my house, and we couldn’t go to his house.  The “obvious” choice was to walk 10 miles in the cold to his sister’s house.  We walked and talked along the way and when we made it to his sister’s house; she said we could stay on the couches in her living room.  He was on one couch, I was on the other.

For the first hour we tried to fall asleep, but then one of us made it to the other’s couch and we started to “fool around.” Eventually one thing led to another and we muddled our way through the awkwardness of the whole sex thing.  I remember thinking…”this is it?  I can probably go my whole life and never do that again.” It wasn’t pleasurable, it was just…messy.  I was fortunate in that I didn’t get pregnant or contract any sexually transmitted diseases, but I did get a yeast infection.

Never having had a yeast infection before I had no clue what was going on, so I had to tell my mother.  So off to the doctor’s office we went.  They asked the normal questions…age, how long had this been going on, etc.  Then the doctor asked if I had been sexually active.  My mother was in the room, so I lied and said no.  By the end of the exam we all knew I had lied and so my shame and embarrassment now hung over me like a wet blanket.  Not only did my mother know, she went home and told my father, who told my brothers and now I was the family joke.  Hey sis, “did you “rise” out of bed this morning?”  Get it? Yeast infection…rise?  So not funny. They got a good laugh for days, while I walked around in shame and humiliation.   By the way, I broke up with my boyfriend shortly thereafter.  I just could never look at him the same way again.

I would like to say I held true to my thought “I can probably go my whole life and never do that again,” but I didn’t..that thought got buried under self-doubt, low self- esteem, self-hate, and loathing, just to name a few.  I believed my power was wielded in the number of men I could attract and conquer. It would take far too many years to understand the damage that type of wrong thinking created in my life and the many others I snared.

You see, that story…that lifestyle is my past…it’s not my present.  But, that lifestyle, that past was almost the end of me.  But, my Heavenly Father had other plans as He reached down, pulled me from my pit of despair, and started lovingly turning this “free milk giving cow” into His precious lamb. My “present” is a story of redemption, forgiveness, grace and more love than I know what to do with. All I had to do was let Him in.  He was waiting…He rescued me….again.

That giant rule writer and fun spoiler was trying to protect me all along.  He knew those paths I went down were all wrong for me and would hurt me.  I just didn’t or maybe I wasn’t ready to listen.  I didn’t know my Heavenly Daddy and I found if you don’t know God, you don’t follow Him.  Instead, you follow everything else that feels good in the moment.  That’s not living…that’s chaos every which way you turn.

Turning from chaos and falling into the arms of my Savior transforms my life everyday!!  Knowing Him, opens my eyes to who He created me to be.  I pray you don’t waste another second wondering who you are and why you’re here.  Fall into the arms of Jesus, friend and let Him show you all He created you to be.

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You Never Forget Your First…

Pick a first…any first in your life that you can remember from the time that you could….well, remember.

You’re first kiss.  The first time you held hands with a crush.  The first time your heart was broken.   You’re first roller coaster ride or plane trip.   The first time you “knew” what you wanted to be when you grew up.  The first time you got humiliated, or bullied, got detention or even the paddle at school.  Your first team win, or loss.  A realized dream come true, or a dream crushed.

I remember the first time I got caught singing by a total stranger.  I was walking home from the store and I sang the words, “baby, baby, don’t get hooked on me, cause I’ll just use you, then I’ll set you freeeeeee, baby, baby, don’t get hooked on me.”  The song was by Mac Davis. Ironically, he also sang the song, “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.”  I digress.  When I finished singing, this guy passed me, turned around, looked at me and smiled.  I was a bit taken back that someone had heard me. For whatever reasons, I liked these songs…very self-absorbed songs.

I remember saying on more than one occasion growing up, life was too short to be unhappy, and if I ever got married and it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t stick around.  Yep, I made that all about me!  I also said “people weren’t made to stay married for 50 years!!”  “Back in the day before medical advances, people got sick and died or were killed, and the widower remarried.” As you can tell, I didn’t have any relationship role models.

This leads me to the first I never thought I would have.  I most certainly never uttered the words,”I can’t wait to grow up and cheat on my spouse.”  And yet, I did.  It’s a first I will never forget.  I never dreamt of divorce, I dreamt of marriage.  I did both.  Firsts, I’ll never forget.

I wonder if the woman who was brought to Jesus to be stoned for her sin of adultery actually did as He said…”go, and sin no more.”  I wonder what she must have looked like from the inside out.  What mess in her life brought her to commit adultery?  How she justified the act in her mind.  I wonder if she considered herself fortunate to escape her punishment?  Knowing that women thousands of years ago committed the same act as we…I did…sure hasn’t stopped history from repeating itself.  I dare say, sexual immorality runneth amok!!

It would appear instead of adultery being frowned upon, it’s glamorized in tv shows, movies, reality shows, books, etc.  I can look back and remember my favorite soap operas being all the talk about who was cheating with who.  Or is that whom? To be honest, I’m glad most of them are now off the air.  I stopped watching them, years ago.

The tragic part of all this glamorization of adulterous living is in real life… getting cheated on hurts.  Truth be told, there is no victory in this tangled mess.  I can tell you from personal experience that no good comes from committing adultery.  Eventually, there is a price to be paid.  Your conscience will catch up with you, and you will never forget those firsts.

You can no doubt go back through your mind and pick out all kinds of happy and sad “firsts.”  Hopefully, you have more smiles than tears.  But whichever that may be, today is a new day that can be filled with firsts.  You’re here, life is not over!!  You’re story is not over, it’s just beginning.

And just like the adulterous woman, you too can come to Jesus, repent of your sin, be forgiven as far as the east is to the west, (because God is just that awesome) and with God’s help, “sin no more.”  But….what devastation did you leave in the wake of your lust?  No sin goes unpunished.  Someone will suffer. There are consequences to every choice we make.  What choice are you making?  More importantly, who are you making it for and what will it look like when the choice has been made and the action completed?

Some of the hardest lessons learned come from being all about self.  I’ll never forget the first time someone told me, “everything in life is not about you. “  It was like I just got slapped upside my head.  So this is me, paying that forward. Consider this your slap upside the head if you’re living life all about you.    Wake up!!  Life is not about you.  It has never, nor will it ever be about you.  It’s about the One who gave His life for you, the One who suffered and died for your sins.  Get over yourself already and start living for an eternal life.

“Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?” ~~Matthew 16:24-26 (The Message)

“What could you ever trade your soul for?”  Think about it.  Where will you be spending eternity?

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