September 2019. The Shattering Power of Forgiveness

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In my previous (May) blog I shared some thoughts on “Accepting the Unexpected”. At that time I was dealing with a situation that was not only unexpected, but by all means of reason, totally unacceptable. To quote my May newsletter, I was struggling to move forward from “the emotional cost of the unforeseen, unfair, unwanted, and undeserved, down right stinking circumstances that had [come my] way”.

It involved someone who was in a position with the power to greatly influence my life, not just personally, but professionally. This person’s thoughtless and disrespectful behavior was deeply offending. My world felt as though it had been turned upside down.

Just as the effect of this incident began to really sink in, as I was working to once again find my emotional stability, several more very personal and emotionally stressful situations occurred. It was the perfect storm of stress that set up my immune system to be compromised and I became very sick. I even lost my voice for nearly a week.

During that time of enforced rest, recovery and silence I had a lot of time to, “Think on these things.” As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t seem to find relief from the sting of my offenders’ harsh words that played in an endless loupe in my mind.  I knew I needed a way to break free of the anxiety and feelings of depression threatening to engulf me in their dark cloud. I longed for the joy and peace that were my usual companions to return.

Eventually, my stressed out emotions began to settle and I regained my voice.  After nearly two weeks of isolation I felt ready to face the world. My husband Lee suggested we go out for brunch. As we waited for our food we talked at length about the chain of events that had seemed to turn my world upside down. I shared with Lee that although I had come to a place of acceptance and I felt ready to discover what my new normal would soon be, I was still struggling with truly forgiving my offender.

“I know that as a Christian I am admonished to Forgive as the Lord forgave me”, I told Lee. “He even left us with the most perfect example of forgiveness. When He was being tortured and crucified, He cried out “Father forgive them, for they no not what they do.”

“And not only that”, Lee, “I am encouraged to Love my enemies and to pray for those who persecute me! I’m not suggesting that I should become a door mat or to allow others to abuse me. No, not at all. But to hold onto a grievance, to allow the hurt to fester into resentment has been likened to my drinking a poison in hopes that my offender would die. I need to find a way to forgive so that I can be free from the poison of resentment.”

I shared with him how my older, more saintly sister has a saying when she has been offended. “I forgive you and I bless you.” My initial response to her was, “How is that even possible, especially if my offender is not even the least bit remorseful?!”

As we were talking the waitress approached our table and when my food was served it came on a plate that I recognized as one of a set that I had acquired in the late 70’s/early 80’s. This little cafe serves their food on an eclectic collection of mismatched dishes.

As I sat staring at my plate I was flooded with the memory and the emotion of a night that my ex-husband and I had a big fight. In my frustration I flung a number of these plates across the kitchen where they shattered against the dining room wall.

It was NOT my proudest moment! Well, as I sat in that café staring at my plate, I knew just what I needed to do! I asked and the restaurant owner agreed to let me keep the plate if I brought back one in exchange.

When I got home I took a sharpie pen and wrote every name I could recall of those who had deeply offended me. Then I began to write words; feelings, emotions associated with their offense. Then as an afterthought I wrote, “I forgive you and I bless you.”

Then I took my 20 gauge shot gun and went into the forest behind my house. Lee set up a way to secure the plate in front of a large stump and spread a tarp at the base of the stump. After he stepped back, I took a deep breath, took careful aim and when I fired into the plate it shattered into a myriad of tiny fragments.

I felt an exhilarating sense of release and shouted out a loud, “Yahoo!!” doing a little happy dance and some fist pumping before gathering up the tarp and carrying everything to the house.

I spread the tarp on the ground before tossing the pieces into the garbage can and felt an overwhelming sense of God’s peace as I Knelt there poking through the shards. The heaviness that had weighed on my heart lifted as I thanked Him for His Spirit’s gift of forgiveness. As I continued to sort through the broken pieces of the plate what I discovered was this…

Among the shattered fragments were parts and pieces of words, one or two letters here and there, nothing legible, save for one chunk from the bottom of the plate where I had written, “I forgive you and I bless you.” What remained was the message I needed to receive…From God’s heart to mine…

forgive and I bless U.

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May 2019. Accepting the Unexpected

Most people are familiar with the adage, “Expect the Unexpected.” While this is an ideal attitude, especially when the unexpected is a joyous surprise, such as the long awaited announcement of a new grandchild, a salary increase or the blossoming of a late life romance, what about when the unexpected is tragic and heartbreaking? A career or financial loss can threaten to turn your verdant and happy world into a dry and barren landscape. The shock of the untimely death of a loved one can absolutely alter the course of your personal history.
There are a multitude of possible scenarios that can and will occur over the course of a lifetime. One can be solidly grounded, secure and confident one day only to find themselves suddenly lashed about and unmoored by the hurricane winds of a major life event.
The question is not if, but when Life Happens – How will we, as mere mortals, even though expecting that our lives will be filled with a variety of  unexpected twists and turns – How will we  respond? Is there any way to be truly prepared? Insurance companies, financial saving accounts and 401Ks asides, I’m talking about the emotional cost of the unforeseen, unfair, unwanted, and undeserved, down right stinking circumstances that come our way.
I’m asking myself all of these questions today as I face the above mentioned stinking “uns” in my own life. And I am finding myself reaching into what I call my emotional and spiritual savings account. These resources have not only helped me through a number of unexpected situations, I have also been able to withdraw the “funds” needed to navigate through what many would describe as totally unacceptable.
I have the tremendous good fortune of having a supportive network of friends and family that I am able (and often do) call on for help, prayer and/or advice. The lessons learned during years of attending 12 step recovery meetings and the shared experience, strength and hope of its members have served to strengthen and heal the brokenness of my heart over my own and my loved ones poor choices.  I am also blessed with professional relationships that encourage, mentor and advise on a regular basis. And my faith community is by far the greatest asset in my spiritual account. But above all of these precious relationships, I most assuredly rely on my faith in a Personal and Loving Higher Power to see me through whatever life throws my way.
Now as noble and good as all of that sounds, I will confess, more often than not, what gets me through isn’t being prepared or having emotional and spiritual resources at hand. What is getting me through my recent life event is wrapped up in one word. Acceptance. Let me say that again. Acceptance. Not resignation, not giving up or giving in or saying in any way that it is good, fair, right or ideal. It is simply saying, “It is what it is.”
No, I don’t have to like, celebrate, embrace or in any way want this outcome. I give myself permission to cry and rail (for a while), to mourn the loss of my dream of a different outcome.  I do choose to believe that it will ultimately be for my good, though I am not seeing that as yet. I choose not to ask, Why? but, What? What do I have to learn in this? What lessons am I open to through this? And the most important question in my heart today is What is the gift in this?
For I know that the One I serve truly desires only His best in my life. So, ultimately for each of us, it’s really about trust – Trust is the glue that holds us together during the process. Even if we have not prepared for the unexpected, God can and does meet us right where we are.
So, the next time life throws you one of its little surprises, won’t you reach for The Greatest Resource for seeing you through? Better yet, won’t you open your heart to Him today and begin a new and exciting journey – One in which you will never walk alone. He is but a prayer away. I guarantee your life will never be the same!
Be well, Be Blessed,

Mary A. Mills

April 2019: The Season “In – Between”

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There is no glory in star or blossom till looked upon by a loving eye; There is no fragrance in April breezes till breathed with joy as they wander by. William Cullen Bryant

Spring is late in showing herself here in Western Montana, and this year she is determined to tease. Just as the welcome dripping of icicles from rooftops and the rare sightings of a few timid crocuses give cause for celebration one day, the following day turns gray and chill and a wild flurry of snowflakes cover their tender blossoms. But, such is spring here in the Rocky Mountains. Right now we are in the season between winter and spring – Mud. But before we know it, we will awaken to verdant fields covered with wildflowers and a rush of water flowing from countless mountain streams into the river at the heart of our valley.

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair. Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Perhaps you too are experiencing a similar challenge in your life – An ‘In Between Season’. You know that spring is just over the horizon and even have days sprinkled with bright and sunny moments but alas, the clouds move in and gray clouds of worry cast their shadow and the dampening winds of sorrow, angst or regret tear at the tender blades just beginning to appear. Aren’t those the times that we feel most vulnerable? When it is nearly impossible to sing – the times that we are most in need of a dose of joy.

All true happiness, pure joy, sweet bounties, and unclouded pleasure are contained within the knowledge and love of God. Said Nursi
When I find myself in one of those dreary in between seasons – that is when I am most in need of a friend. Someone who will come along beside me, in spite of the damp blanket I bring to the friendship. A good friend is like that – Loyal, faithful and who loves unconditionally. It is a rare person that fits that description but if you are lucky enough to find such a friend you are indeed lucky enough.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5 NKJV

Personally I am lucky (blessed) enough to have many such precious friends in my life – a wonderful husband and a number of sisters, both genetic and spiritual, of which I feel comfortable calling on in a time of need. I too make whatever effort I can to be that kind of a friend.

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverb 18:24 NKJV

There is one friend that I know I can always count on to lift my spirits. A constant companion that promises never to leave or forsake me – Jesus. What a privilege to have such a friend – the best and truest, highest friendship. And He is The Friend that I love to share with as many as will open their hearts to Him. Won’t you take the hand of friendship that He is holding out to you today? It is as easy as that – reach out your hand, open your heart and He will NEVER disappoint, leave or forsake you. He is the best friend you will ever have.

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 NKJV

 

March 2019: Hope Springs Eternal or Eternally Hoping For Spring

 

“It is never too late to not give up.” From the heart of a mother whose 48 year old son just checked himself into drug and alcohol treatment – again.

I’m going to be real, honest and transparent here – right up front – That mother is me. And I’m telling you, those opening words are not easy for me to proclaim – again. But, before you think I’m some kind of a saint or anything more than a mom who loves her son, you can stop right there. For just like you, I too am a stumbling human who oft times loses her way.

Oh, I have been clean and sober for 35 years, but there have been plenty of times that I have fallen off the wagon of my emotional sobriety. It is then that I become blinded by seemingly hopeless circumstances that obscure my foresight on eternity. And it is then that I begin to lose my grip on the true and present assurance of hope for today.

Hope. Is there any more lovely sounding four letter word in the English language? Please let me make myself clear, the hope I’m talking about is not some pie in the sky, happy in the sweet bye and bye kind of wishful, wistful dream. No, I’m talking about the down and dirty, I’m stuck in the miry pit of despair and can’t see the sky – but maybe – maybe there is just the tiniest glimmer of light in the dark – kind of hope.

Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don’t. You are in good company… You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope. John Piper

This subject of hope appears to be a reoccurring theme in many of my writings, and for that I do not apologize. Perhaps it is because I need to be reminded so often – and I’m thinking that maybe you too could use a fresh reminder today.

So, what is it that you are hoping for? Restored health, reconciliation with a loved one? All of the above and much more, I have no doubt. For don’t we all live in a world of unresolved, unfinished business? True, but not without HOPE. Let me say that again…We are not without hope.

What exactly am I saying? Don’t give up on that dream of ___________. No, don’t stop dreaming. However, I strongly urge you not to place your faith in any expected outcome to your hopes, dreams, and prayers. Honestly, my son may not maintain his sobriety. I hope he does, and I believe he can, but will I be devastated if he “fails” again? Disappointed? Yes. Devastated? Well, maybe a little, but I will never give up the hope that “one day”… ____________.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Martin Luther King, Jr.

How is it that I am able to cling to such a tenuous thread? It is because I am placing all of my hope in The One who is Hope. The God of Hope. Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom. 15:13

It is as simple (and as complicated) as that. I am counting on the promises found in His Word, His true and faithful promises. Like this one …being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in [my son] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Eph.1:6.

I don’t know what “that” is going to look like during the remainder of my days here on earth. This side of eternity I will not see the ultimate completion of His work but, I KNOW that He is faithful with what He has begun. Because as the author of the many books of our lives He does not leave anything unfinished.

In His book there is no such thing as an Unfinished Life, therefore I am …looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [my] faith. Heb.12:2

Now may you rest in His perfect peace as you trust in this promise …

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isa.26:3

 

 

 

 

 

February 2019: The End of One Era The Beginning of a New

Test 2 Lee Mary and Annie 2016

Era: a) A fixed point in time from which a series of years is reckoned.
b) A memorable or important date or event; especially: one that begins a new period in the history of a person or thing.

Last week’s passing of my 30 year old mare Annie marked the end of an era. For the nearly 25 years we shared she brought me such joy and so many wonderful memories. My husband Lee bought her for me in 1994, the summer after we were married. She was my first ever, very own, “My Horse”. Not only did she take me into some of the most amazing  back country you can imagine she also gave me two beautiful offspring to carry on that legacy. One of them, Yin-Yan, now almost 22 is pictured above at 19. Her younger sister Fancy will be turning 15 this year.

Because Annie came to me just before Father’s Day, shortly before my Dad passed away,  the memory of that day, –  how happy he was for me as I showed her off to him, is inexorably fixed  in my mind. Today I can just picture Dad riding her around heaven, enjoying the sights and showing her the best grazing ground. In the midst of my sadness, that thought makes me smile.

Ironically the same day I was on the phone with my vet  making  arrangements to put Annie down I was also in the process of making plans to breed my dog Joy in the spring. As one era comes to an end, a new one will soon begin. Death and Life — The circle keeps on turning.
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance. 

Ecclesiastes 3: Vs. 1-2, 4. (NKJV)
Where does this day find you? Perhaps you are you smack dab in the midst of a season that feels as though it has no end in sight? Raising kids? Working in what feels like a dead end job, just to make ends meet?  Maybe you are enjoying the blush of a new love or the excitement of a burgeoning career just getting off the ground. Or are you getting ready to end a chapter of life — Empty nest, newly divorced or widowed? Is retirement on the horizon?

Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings. Henry Cloud

Wherever this day finds you, know this…Life never stays the same. I have heard it said that the only “constant” in this life is change. So hold on. Take heart. Live each moment fully. Mourn, dance laugh and cry. Embrace all that life has to offer in every season, in each and every era.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. Jesus.
John 10:10 (NKJV)

Be well, Be Blessed,
Mary A. Mills

 

Old – New – Different: January 2019

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January marks the beginning of a new year. And for many that beginning is accompanied by a desire for change, growth or even a whole new direction. It may be a fresh goal or a desire for the fulfillment of a long, set-aside dream. Perhaps there is an unfinished project or two that you envision seeing completed. How exciting and fun it is to dream of those things – Even more exciting – To venture ahead in pursuit of their accomplishment.

But, for some, just the simple desire to make it through another day, let alone looking ahead at another whole year, is enough of a goal in itself. Perhaps your past year (or years) have been marked by disappointment, pain or loss that has left you feeling defeated, hopeless and alone. The vison of a happy future or the energy to try again just doesn’t seem to be available, even if you thought to attempt.

Maybe you are somewhere in between those extremes – coming out of a seasons of despair or – perhaps you are beginning to feel the downhill slide into a dark and joyless place.

Over the course of my life I have lived through both ends of that spectrum including the dreary, lukewarm in-between. I imagine, if we’re truly honest, each of us will experience some degree of each one of these feelings at some time or another. It’s all part of what is known as The Human Experience – Living – Real Life. No matter where you may find yourself today, life keeps moving on. Nothing in this life stays the same.

Here’s the Good News – Just as the sun came up this morning, it will go down again tonight, it will come up again tomorrow and – Guess what? A new day! It may take a few (or many) of those up and down movements, but life will be different! It may take some (or a lot) of work, intervention, help – time – Whatever it takes – There is HOPE! And the better news? YOU ARE NOT ALONE! And the best news of all? GOD CARES and GOD HEARS and the very, very, best-est news of all? GOD HAS A PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE.

Please read those last lines again. They are not just some trite feel good words that I write to give you a warm fuzzy glow of dreamy hope. Those words are tried and true from the depths and heights of my own life experience. I came to believe those words many years ago when I asked Jesus to come into my life and make all things new. They are as fresh to me today as they were when I first dared to open to that precious hope.

Wherever you may find yourself in this journey of life, it is my prayer that you find healing for your wounded heart and renewed strength in the hope of a brighter future. Draw on the creative energy of The Creator within you to accomplish all that He has for you each day. And if you have never asked Him for the gift of His presence within, it’s not too late. He is but a prayer away. What a wonderful way to begin the New Year.

 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20 (NKJV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paying It Forward: December 2018

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In the movie, “Pay it Forward”, released in 2000 a 12year old boy puts into action a challenging social studies assignment to “think of an idea that will change the world for the better”.

His experiment has a profound effect on those who are the lucky subjects of a domino-like phenomenon of simple and in some cases, profound acts of human kindness.

With all of the bad reports portrayed in the news today, I loved that this movie reminded us that there truly is a lot of good news out there in the world. It also shines forth as a model of how just one person can make a difference for many.

I had a recent experience of this idea just the other day. I received a call from a friend asking if we would like some elk meat from a recent hunt. As we depend on wild game to supplement our diet and had thus far been unsuccessful in our hunting pursuits, this kind offer was readily accepted. As we were leaving, I expressed how appreciative we were, saying, “I just can’t thank you enough. You have no idea how much we needed this meat.” To which she replied, “Hey no problem. Happy to help. Maybe you’ll have an opportunity to pay it forward.”

And just a few days later that opportunity presented itself. After butchering and wrapping nearly 100 pounds of meat, a neighbor who also knew that we had not gotten an elk (but did not know that someone had given us half of one) came by with another haunch of elk meat as well as a box of already butchered and wrapped choice cuts. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that our freezer was now full to capacity as he was obviously blessed at being able to share from his labor.

As he drove away I thought of my friend’s suggestion that I pay it forward. While contemplating just how I could do so, I was reminded of another friend of ours who had been diligently hunting throughout the fall with his two young sons. Unfortunately they had not harvested any game yet and as the season was due to end in just a couple days his prospects were looking pretty slim. When I called him to offer the elk we received from the neighbor he was eager and more than appreciative to accept this second hand gift.

Thus I was able to be a source of blessing to those who so generously gave to us, (fulfilling the adage, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.) I was also able to enjoy the blessing of being able to pay it forward to someone else in need. I indeed felt doubly – no – triplely blessed in the deal.

With the Christmas season – AKA, the season of giving – just around the corner I want to be on the lookout for more opportunities to pay it forward and I would challenge you to do the same in whatever way you are able.

We may not have the monetary means this year to buy many gifts but we do have an abundance of food that will be fun to share as we offer the experience of meals prepared and served in our home. Is there anything better than time spent around a table with friends – The gift of hospitality, food and fellowship? How’s that for a triple blessing?!