I have been through a long period of upheaval, perpetual motion, constant instability and a rollercoaster of emotions in the past few years of my life. I am by nature a calm, stable, consistent person. I like to fly by the seat of my pants, but in my core I always keep my feet grounded. I know I am no different than anyone else, we all go through challenges in life. It just feels like this has been a very long road! But in it, I have learned some really valuable lessons! In the midst I have been shaped, formed, reshaped, reformed, thrown out, tossed around, realigned, shocked, dismayed, overjoyed and peaceful. Without realizing it in the moment, each ordeal has left me more prepared for the next situation upon the road of life.
I will refer to this phase of my life as the Tournament. It has been a time of battling opponents, sometimes winning, sometimes having to start again, but each time my ranking in the tournament changes. Each time I win, I move up in the tournament and I come against a more skilled opponent. I have to reach deep down inside and pull out some guts from the last round to give me the fight for the next. Regardless of the outcome, I know I gave it my all, and I know that I will get another chance. I truly believe that God doesn't expect us to be like another person, He doesn't compare us, He just expects us to do the best we possibly can with the equipment we have inside. He equips us for lifes experiences…but He equips us uniquely to suit our person, our being. Its amazing when I think of His creative nature and how excited He must have been as He created each one of us. Excited about our whole life, not just the moment we came onto the earth. When He created you, He actually saw your whole life unfold, He created that part of you too!
So round one of the Tournament began with these changes that started taking place at our church. Jerry and I had started going to this church when we first got together. We got married there, had our kids and raised them literally within this church family. Our church was like a culture ~intense, spiritual, healing, consuming. We were immersed in our time, our emotions, our devotion to this place and most of all to God and His people. We had strong leaders and pastors who trained us one on one to handle life and its challenges, we had friends who were like family. We were there every time the doors were open. We were involved, to put it lightly. Every Sunday was exciting as the spirit would move and peoples lives would be changed. It was the best training ground I could have asked for, but when the pieces of the puzzle started to crumble…it was devastating. This place had replaced the broken family I had come from, it was the new addiction in our lives. We watched, with what felt like helplessness and denial, as it fell apart.
So now what? What do we do with our lives, our time, our devotion, our love? Where do we go to find that intensity? How do we live normally?? The wrestle against the loss started to manifest and soon became fear and anger. It caused us to alienate ourselves from all our relationships that were formed in the midst of that part of our lives. We became friendless, or so it felt. It felt like we were naked and exposed. It was horrible, uncomfortable, confusing, maddening. It felt like we had trusted so many, and been trusted by many, and it was poof…gone. So now what? We loved God and truly believed that we had purpose and destiny. We wanted to be in the right place for our lives. I wish I could say, it was an easy road to healing, I wish I could say there is some sort of happy ending, but what happened is that we grew, we matured, we changed. We grew through the fear, through the hurt and the questions. We learned to let go of dependent relationships that were at times unbalanced and unhealthy. We learned to focus on each other~ our marriage, on our kids, on our own personal relationships with God. We learned to be forgiving and loving even when it hurts. We learned that its perfectly fine to say "no" and mean "no". We learned to find peace in the midst of a storm. We learned that we are really tenacious, we are really kind, we are really, really in love with God. We got to a point after all the confusion of our lives started to clear, that we learned to balance family, church, God, work, social lives and "me" time. Balance is the major lesson of this particular leg of the tournament….balance. When life is out of balance, things don't add up….there is a natural balance and rhythm to your life. Living out other peoples motives and agendas doesn't leave room for what God has for you. I am all for supporting others and vision and being a part of helping someone fulfill the plan God has given them, don't get me wrong. I am positive that much fulfillment comes from helping others. But when that part of your life, out weighs the love and care you give to yourself and your own family, it is out of balance.
In the Middle of fighting that round of the tournament, we got thrown into another arena of battle. We became the target of the neighbors who lived below us. We were living in an apartment that was upstairs. We had neighbors that lived below us for 14 years. The first 10 years we had no problems…then all of a sudden they started complaining that we were banging on the floors, slamming our doors, literally trying to make noise to bother them. We were so caught off guard, we are very quiet people. Like more quiet than most, so we were dumbfounded. It was horrible, we became the object of their mental illness. Our landlord would call at all hours asking us to quiet down, when we would be sleeping or not even home. The police would show up at our door, because the neighbors were adamant that they were being threatened, or all other kinds of crazy stories. We ended up in court a couple times, with our landlords trying to get them evicted, and they wouldn't budge. Talk about a stubborn opponent! Remember, the more stubborn, the more YOU grow! I was tense anytime any one would come to our home, because I didn't want to make a sound. The tension was unbearable, so we started planning on moving. It was hard, because the rent there was very reasonable, we were close to the kids school, it was our home. But we knew that we couldn't stay there much longer.
We must have won that round because then we got slung into the hardest round to date. My mom passed away. Suddenly, out of nowhere, she went to sleep and just didn't wake up. Her cleaning lady found her. No goodbye, no adjustment period, no tears, no decisions to be made…not one last hug or word of love and goodbye…she was just gone. The ramifications of the death of my mom reach farther into the depths of my heart than I would have ever imagined or can explain. My mom was my closest confidant, my biggest encourager, the gift God gave to me. She was truly my best friend and the best mom I could have ever asked for. Loosing her has been devastating….the grief has lifted over the past 2 years, but I still miss her and think of her many times every single day. I truly thank God for the blessing she is to my life, even to this moment. So I have fought and I have grown through grief. I realized that a lot of the things I went through in the whole church thing, had prepared me for this time. I had learned to feel loss, I had learned to reach out to God, even in my pain and trust Him to heal and deliver me. When it comes to this round, I could go on and on, but a part of me doesn't want to relive all those emotions, all those months and months of seclusion, depression and pain. Grief is a powerful emotion and state of mind. People try and talk you out of it, judge you in it, help you get through it, get frustrated with you because you aren't the same. Grief changes you, and it makes you much more human, much more understanding of our weaknesses and frailties, much more accepting of the gift in each person. The reality of death so close to you makes you appreciate those you love, it makes you live more fully, take more chances, open your heart when you feel it, and stop looking for others approval in your life. Death brings LIFE! As ironic as that is and as hard as it is to comprehend….its true. I have learned to accept who I am, fully, without apologies…the good the bad and the ugly.
There is more to my story after that…quitting my job after 21 years, moving into my moms home, moving to Arizona, moving back to California…..tournament after tournament, opponent after opponent…..and I have realized that there always will be opponents as long as I am moving forward. The harder the opponent, the bigger the tournament, the more you win, the better skilled you become. I am now asking God for new opponents, the kind with skills and experience, the kind that when I defeat them, I can walk confidently into a new arena. I no longer fear the tournament. I have been through battles, just like every single person I know. What I have learned is to embrace the journey, embrace Gods voice…he will definitely talk to you through it, embrace the battle, the movement, the pain….embrace it all…surround yourself with people who are for you and you are truly for them….I am being molded, I am being purified into who I was originally created to be. When God saw my whole life, He saw each of these battles, He created the tournament JUST FOR ME…….He knew what would become attached to me as a child and need to be chipped off as an adult. He knew the baggage I would try to load in my trunk at every stop, so He helped me unpack some of it and leave it behind. I am so excited about the road ahead, whatever that brings I am ready. GAME ON!