So I have made a commitment to you, my friends. I made a decision to put my gift of words to use and make a point of staying consistent with it. I promised you that I was going to be here, sharing uplifting words and insights with you, on a consistent basis. Well, it only stands to reason that after a commitment like that, my normally overactive brain, decides its time to go blank. I have spent two days wondering what on Earth to write about. Now if you know me at all, you know I love to research. I have a host of knowledge on all types of subjects, and can learn about any subject I don’t know. I had considered just picking a topic out of the bag and doing some research and doing an essay type entry for the day, but that didn’t sound appealing either. In the end, I decided to just come write and see what God has for me to say today. I decided I would ask you what you want to read about? What topics do you feel compelled to think or learn about right now? I fit in the “Jane of all trades, master of none” category. This used to be bothersome for me. It made me feel like I had no skills that were marketable. That there would always be someone better at every skill I had and that I would always come in second best or mediocre with my talents. It is a good thing I am not very competitive. In retrospect, I see all kinds of value in this very defining personality trait, and especially as I get older and come to realize what I really want out of life, this is a blessing, but it took hindsight and healing to see that.
Hindsight. What an amazing tool it is! Hindsight helped me heal more than any other single factor. When I was able to look at the obstacles I had overcome. As I look back at those oh so difficult days, I am reminded that hindsight is the tool that helped me to trust God more than any other tool I could find in my extensive bag of tricks. Let me back up a little bit. I, like most of you, had a few really trying issues to face in my childhood. As a child, I hid behind a smile. Behind the gift of finding the bright side. I always told myself, and others, “I have a roof over my head. I have clothes on my back. I have food in my mouth. I have a family that loves me. I am warm. I am not beaten. I have it better than a good portion of the population of the world” I smiled big. The more I hurt, the bigger my smile. Crying. that wasn’t going to work for me. Self pity. No thank you. I lived behind a mask of denial. Little did I know that those tools for finding excuses to not hurt would end up being some of my greatest gifts later in life. Oh I would have to move mountains to see the blessing in them, but for my youth, they were just the coping skill I needed. Unhealthy at the time, but today, one of my most abundant blessings! I knew how to choose joy all along, I just didn’t understand how the tool worked and instead of using it properly, I was using it to hide from healing. I spent years in therapy, learning to fill my tool shed with new, shiny, well oiled tools. Ones that would prepare me for any breakdown. Ones that would allow me to fix any malfunction in my life. I learned about faith, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude, but not in that order, more like, little overlapping bits, all at once. I learned about intention and about being able to choose my joy. All the tools we need to sustain lasting contentment. But hindsight is the one that made trusting the process possible.
Hindsight was the tangible. The rest were just theories, but hindsight proved that they were true. That childhood of convincing myself I had it so much better than so many others, well, that backfired when I hit 19 and ran away to another state. By this time I had started dabbling in some less than savory behaviors and the unchecked shame that had been building in my youth was in full control of my emotions. At 19, my world turned upside down and inside out. A combination of things affected my emotions and for the first time, I was officially depressed. I had no idea yet. I just thought, “poor me! I got a really crappy deck of cards”. I also started an oral contraceptive at this point in my life.As a disclaimer, I believe that this oral contraceptive played a huge role in the drastic change in my personality and behaviors at this time, but I would not make the connection until years later, when I was 36 and stopped taking birth control. This is a subject for another time. I feel strongly that tri-cyclic oral contraceptives mimic bipolar disorder in many women, and I have a few reasons for believing this, I just don’t know who you talk to about getting this kind of study done, and neither did the doctors and mental health professionals whom I discussed it with.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I think my birth control pills caused this issue, just that they forced it to the surface where I couldn’t hide behind that big old smile anymore. I spent the next 15 or 16 years wrestling bipolar disorder. Depression, and all of the emotions that come with this diagnosis. I searched for fulfillment in all the wrong places. I projected and blamed others for my misery. I asked “why me” a billion times over. I did not have God in my life, and from the little I learned about Him as a child, I didn’t want or need Him, or more judgement, in my life. I became a single mother. I moved halfway across the country away from all those people and places I believed were making me miserable. I jumped from one whim obsession to another. I cried and blamed and asked “why me” when each of those whims failed. When life hit me hard, I raged on the phone to anyone who would listen. I cried. I screamed. I used all the “but, can’t won’t” excuses I could find. Such a shame looking back, I was awful. I had no idea. No one told me I could change this. Well. I take that back. Alot of people told me I could, they just didn’t teach me how. When you are in a broken cycle of shame and self destruction, and people tell you that happiness is a choice, but don’t teach you how to choose it, you just think they are an ignorant person who is clueless to your very real life struggles and that it desperately feels that you have no control, how could you possibly force life to give you joy. In a way, it helps to perpetuate the “can’t, but, won’t” attitude. I lost so much respect, so many potentially great relationships, over people telling my that happiness was my choice, and then not showing me how that was possible. They were all “idiots” who had no idea what it was to be a broken single mother with a special needs child and no marketable skills. They were clueless to my plight. At least, that is how it felt at the time. Today, I would not call them idiots, or judge them at all, because I have learned that acceptance is critical in choosing joy, but I would advise them, if you are going to tell someone that happiness is a choice, don’t say it and turn your back to walk away. Teach them what that phrase means instead of just sounding like an unempathetic fool who doesn’t “get it”. To someone who doesn’t have the tools to choose joy, that is exactly how you come across. Condescending and haughty. “Joy can be yours too, if you just choose it”. Clearly, a person in this state of mind does not have the tools to choose it, or they would be doing so. This kind of advice with no follow up just feels like judgement and lack of understanding, to the person who does not have the tools for choosing joy.
But I digress. We are talking about hindsight today. Understanding the journey is an important part of hindsight. You have to just imagine some of the trials I faced as a single mother, with a special needs child, facing dropping out of college, bipolar disorder, and poverty. Most days it felt the world was out to get me, and that nothing would ever go my way or be on my side. I overreacted to every tiny detail of my life. I had no idea what patience was, or that I could be the change I wanted to see in my life. Here I was, in low income housing. A disgusting, gray, poverty stricken, moldy, housing complex. I was surrounded by people with habits at least as unhealthy as my own, many much less healthy than even my pathetic self was. There wasn’t anyone around to show me what healthy looked like, or how to attain it for myself. I struggled through one day after another. As I left school, I found myself without a source of income and somehow, just at the perfect time, God opened a door for me. I didn’t realize that it would forever alter the course of my life. It was a foreign world. One I had never dared to even peek into before. I took that ranch job 26 miles from home because I didn’t think I had any other options. Little did I know, that it was God intervening. It was God saying “It is time for you to see me, my darling child.” Don’t get me wrong. This didn’t happen overnight. I spent years in that barn with my mentor, crying over the wrongs and injustices of my poor pathetic life. And he was so patient with me. He didn’t shame me. He did not judge me. He did not condemn me. He gently guided me with patience, understanding, empathy, and I am sure a plethora of prayers that I never heard him utter. He may never know how truly grateful I am to him, for showing me what a spirit in love with Christ looks like, and for showing me that the God of my childhood was not the reality of God at all. For his prayers for my salvation. I had rejected God for one reason. He was not rational. The God I was introduced to as a child was presented as a hateful, mean, judgmental creature, much like I imagine the enemy to be. I was not willing to embrace that God. But this God. The one my good friend was showing me. Not telling me about. He obviously told me some things about God, but it was his behavior and demeanor that showed me the truth about God. I pray that God rewards him when he gets to Heaven. That man saved my life! By being a shining example of Gods love, he saved me from myself. He opened my heart and made it possible for me to receive Jesus and forgiveness. Its all a new book from there. Day in and day out he patiently dealt with my ugliness, because, I imagine, that is what God told him to do. I don’t know that he will ever realize how much he changed my life, or how thankful I will always be to him for that. I have told him, in the best human words I can find, but the gratitude goes so far beyond what words can say.
And we finally get to hindsight. After a few years of this man’s mentorship, I started to think that maybe I could have this joy? Maybe I could be enough for God? Maybe God wasn’t punishing me for being alive after all? Maybe God didn’t think I was awful? Could this be real? Oh I wanted it to be. I felt the longing in my heart to be good enough for God. I slowly let my guard down. I finally found the courage to step through the doors of a church. I was scared. I was timid. I hadn’t told a single one of my friends. I went out of necessity. A bargain I made with myself out of a desperate need for financial assistance, I made an excuse to take myself to church three times before I would turn to them for help. It is hindsight that allows me to see how I was pulled through that door. I loved what I found. A whole congregation of people who were trying to emanate this spirit I had seen in my mentor. A thing I had only once seen before in my life, in my grandma, that I was too young and lost to recognize at the time. A simple, loving desire, to love because He first loved them. Tears well up as I get to this part. As I think about that overwhelming love. As I remember back to the day that I gave Him my heart and soul and desperately, quietly hoped that He would accept them. Hindsight. On the day I was saved, He gave me a gift of hindsight. He showed me how every obstacle was indeed a blessing. That the bigger the obstacle, the more He was preparing me, gifting me, leading me the way that He wanted me to go. I had no idea I was already fulfilling my mission on Earth. I had no idea I was developing a set of skills that would prepare me for His exact assignment for me. He showed me how He allowed me to feel lost in the dark over and over again, so that I could understand the light, and most importantly, I realized that He had been beside me the entire time, I just wasn’t looking for him. I often find myself telling people ” God will carry you through the dark, but He resides in the light, and to see Him you must turn to it”. You can not dwell on the darkness, and expect to see light. You must open the door to it. He won’t leave you in the dark, but you have to choose to turn to His light. What I saw, when I opened the door to light, was hindsight. It was every time that I thought I was on the edge of falling into the deepest chasm you can imagine, always, at the last minute, something grabbed me and held me from the plunge. I always managed to get by. I always managed to have a warm home and food in my belly. Somehow, against all odds, I always managed to come out of those extremely emotional battles, and survive to fight another day. Time and time again, He let me feel the brink of destruction and pulled me back just in the nick of time. Little did I know that this was a blessing. That every trial He allowed me to face was a gift. That He was teaching me, so that I could teach someone else, what hindsight is. How it allows for trust. How it allows us to see every burden from a different perspective and how it teaches us to trust Him. He let me stumble. He let me fall, just like any good parent would. He let me learn the hard lessons that all children need to grow, and He was right there to kiss my knee when I stumbled. Pick me up when I fell. He never let me face it alone. Even if I couldn’t see Him, He was right there, opening doors for me before I walked smack right into them. And on that glorious day when I opened my eyes to Him, He showed me with hindsight, that He had always been there, waiting for me to open my eyes to Him. That all along He had been blessing me. Carrying me, opening doors and paving paths for me. This hindsight taught me many things, but most importantly, it showed me that I could always trust Him. That even when it hurts, He has a reason, He is still here, and good will come from it. Ultimately, He taught me with hindsight, that burden is our biggest blessing, that our most important gifts come in packages that look like a four year old wrapped them. With struggle. Messy. But beautiful. Too much tape in one corner, not enough paper on the back. The messier the wrapping, the more precious the gift. God showed me, with hindsight, that I could always trust Him to pull me through, and that the messiest packages will hold the most precious gifts. This is how hindsight helped me to heal. To trust God, and to find patience in the darkest of days. I now see my burdens as gifts that I can’t quite recognize yet, but I know that as I come through them, and get some hindsight, God will once again reveal the beauty of His ways to me. That feeling is priceless. It allows me to face situations calmly. Rationally. Without shame and worthlessness. Patiently. The tools for joy overlap and reinforce each other. Hindsight really makes a profound impact on patience, as well as all of the other tools for choosing joy. Hindsight made it possible for me to trust God. I know that I could not have this lasting joy and contentment, through the daily ups and downs, without trust for God. I am full of gratitude for hindsight, and for the gift of understanding what it means. I cannot imagine a complete, functional toolshed, without a nice sharp “hindsight” in it.
So, it looks like I found some words today. I knew they were in there somewhere. I hope your day is full of hindsight, and the wisdom and calm it brings as you meander through your routine today. I pray your day is full of peace, contentment, and gratitude as you ponder the blessings of your burdens. Much love, my friends. See you soon!