Control-Freak

I grew up in a middle class home with my mother, father, and two sisters. My parents both worked full-time outside the home. My mother ran the pizza restaurant we owned and when my father wasn’t at his full-time job, he volunteered for the local fire department. Needless to say, they were never home and when they were, it wasn’t pleasant. Someone was always mad about something. Most of the time it was my dad yelling because the house wasn’t kept to his standards, but I never remember seeing him help out with anything. When I was about 9, my parents hired a woman that was here from Mexico looking for a better life for her and her daughter. They moved in with us in trade for cooking and cleaning. It was then that I discovered having a clean house made everyone happier.
Fast-foward twenty years and I am married with three kids and a husband that is rarely happy. Because of my childhood, I learned at a very young age that a house isn’t a home if it isn’t spotless. Almost all of my husband’s complaints were because the house wasn’t clean 24/7, and like my own father, never helped out. But I was a stay-at-home mom and that was my job.
Fast-forward another year and this is when I discover that my perfectionism in that area of my life was a very unhealthy form of control. My marriage had been a wreak for years and the only thing I could control was how clean my house was, so I made sure it was perfect. The sad thing about my illness was that I actually thought that my husband would love me more by doing what I was doing. In the back of my mind, since the only thing he ever complained about was when he found a toy laying around or laundry not put up by the time he walked in the door, I thought he would be faithful to me once I made him happy in this area. Now I know that his problem was not my fault, but I had a long road of healing that had to take place in the area of control in my life.
You see, when one area of our lives is out of control, we tend to cling to something we do have control over to make ourselves feel safe. That then becomes an obsession, which is never a healthy alternative. 
It makes me sad to think back to that time in my life because I missed out on so many things so that I could keep the house perfect and avoid arguments later. My thoughts were always focused on cleaning instead of spending quality time with my loved ones. I still struggle with this to some degree today. I have to make a conscious effort to walk away from the mess because I was conditioned from an early age to believe that a man will hurt you if you do not present your home in a desirable way. This is the first time I have actually put these thoughts on paper and as I do, tears are running down my face. One day I hope that I can finally say that I am completely healed, but right now the scars remain and every time I hear my husband comment on a mess, I find myself reverting back to that control-freak that I once was. And just for the record, my husband is amazing and is in no way, shape or form like my ex. The point is that because of our pasts, we are conditioned to respond a certain way. If we live our lives without examining why we do what we do, we will never become the person God intended for us to be. Thankfully, God is bigger than my past and with Him by my side, I am replacing the lies with His truths.
I pray for each person that reads this. May God reveal to you the areas of your life that you attempt to control to feel safe and secure. May He replace those lies with His word so that your heart can begin to heal and you can become the woman or man that He created you to be.
Our security is in God alone and His love has the power to change the world, one control-freak at at time!
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Wake Me Up

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A year had passed since my divorce. I had met a man that seemed to be everything I had wanted in a man, except for one little problem. He was expecting a child with another woman. When we started talking, he was open and honest about his predicament, so I felt he was safe. All I wanted was an honest man who treated me with love and respect and so far so good. In the back of my mind, I knew better. A very small voice told me to be careful, but not only did I ignore it, I rationalized everything this man did that were huge red flags right from the beginning. And because he was honest on day one, I assumed he was an honest person. I never questioned anything he told me until he ripped my heart out by walking away.

At that moment in my life, I was attending church religiously. I was the photographer for the women’s ministry and I attended every church event that I could. I felt that there was no way for me to be going down the wrong path because I was doing everything God’s way. Boy was I blind! Church was my crutch and that man was an idol.
I was working for a local company at this time as well and everything seemed great on the surface. I had been hired as a referral and the job was a God send. I thought my life was finally getting better. But when my personal life started to crumble, my health took a downward spiral. I wasn’t eating, I couldn’t sleep at night and everything made me cry. I was depressed. I forced myself to get up every morning, take my kids to school and go to a job that promised me security. Somewhere along the way, my job security also became an idol. God was preparing me for what would be a huge turning point in my life. Two weeks before the next big blow, I prayed this prayer, “Lord, please show me what is best for me and give me the strength to go through the fire one more time if I am not where you want me.”
One month after that man walked out of my life never to return again with no explanation to me or my children, my boss fired me. Everything came crashing down. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. During that time frame I had been to see my doctor and my friend suggested that I go get something to help me get through this. The doctor recommended an anti-depressant, but God kept telling me that I needed Him, not a quick fix. The doctor suggested that he call in the prescription and if I decided to pick it up great, if not no harm done. So I agreed. I also requested a sleeping pill so that I could get some rest at night and he prescribed a Vitamin D supplement because I had a deficiency. He said he would call them in. That day I prayed about what I should take and not take and when I went to pick up the medicine, the doctor had only called in two of the medications. The pharmacy tech said there was not a sleeping pill, so I went ahead and picked up the two she had ready. I contacted the doctor’s office, but they were closed and I would have to wait until morning. I had been crying all day and at bedtime I prayed that God would let me know what to do about taking the medication. My friend called and was an answer to my prayers. She explained that she had taken the same medicine after her divorce just to take the edge off so she could get through that rough time more level headed. So I took two Tylenol PM and what I thought was the anti-depressant and laid down. I remember having a conversation on the phone with my sister. I was feeling very light headed and although I had never been drunk in my life, I felt wasted. She even said I was sounding crazy. The last thing I can recall was telling her that if I didn’t wake up in the morning, it was that stupid medicine I should never have taken. What happened next still shakes me to the core.
I woke up and all I could see was a bright light. I walked closer out of curiosity and there I was standing at a huge pearly gate that extended as far as the eye could see. It took me a minute to figure out where I was and then I knew. I was at the gates of Heaven but I was’t afraid. I felt at home for the first time in a very long time and my joy had returned. But then I heard a familiar voice. It was the voice of my Heavenly Father and all He said was, “Shannon, it is not your time.” The next thing I know, I am awakened with severe stomach pains and violent vomiting. I honestly thought I was losing my mind at this point. I went straight to the medication I had taken the night before and discovered that I had somehow brought home Ambien, a very strong sleeping pill, instead of the anti-depressant. So I had taken two sleeping pills and an Ambien. I knew immediately that I had overdosed. I called my doctor and saw him first thing that morning. I explained what happened and he said that I was lucky to be alive given the fact that I only weighed 105 lbs. and had taken what I did.
My life took a dramatic turn that day. God had given me a second chance and saw a reason for me to stay on this Earth for a little while longer. I never took another pill. I knew in my heart that God was the only thing I needed to get through the pain. He was my rock from that day forward. He proved that only He would love me the way I longed to be loved and only He would meet all of my needs. No man, no job security, nothing but Jesus could mend my broken heart and start putting the pieces of my shattered life back together again.

Matters of the Heart

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We live in a world that is constantly telling us to “follow our hearts.” We see it in movies, on television, reality shows, even hear it in the music we listen to. And for years I did just that. If I felt something, I believed that it must be God’s voice speaking to me, so I let my “feelings” be my guide. In January of 2007, I learned something that put me on a new path.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” I learned that our emotions, our feelings, are not always reliable or even accurate, certainly if damaged. Because the heart is our control center, our emotions play a major part in our reactions and decision-making process. This scripture opened my eyes to the lies I had been believing all my life about following my heart. An injured heart is Satan’s playground. When he is able to gain access, he toys with our emotions, whispering lies to our ears. Wow! That is a scary thought, certainly knowing that my heart was severely injured. I had been allowing Satan to play around in my life for way too long.

That one scripture took my life, flipped it upside down, and forced me to reevaluate everything I had ever believed. It was then that God started revealing to me all of the unhealthy relationships I was surrounded by due to my own ignorance of following my own heart instead of listening to God’s. It has taken me years to clear out the lies and replace them with His truth.

The following was my prayer to God on January 12, 2010, exactly three years after discovering this truth.

Today I begin as a new creation. My past has kept me in fear for long enough. On this day, I give it completely to you. The past few days have shaken me to the core, afraid of so many things I have no control over. Thank you God for speaking into me in ways that get my attention. You always know exactly what I need, at the very moment I need it. Three days in a row you woke me up at 5:51am. I searched for the word you had for me a few days ago and couldn’t find anything. Today started out rough. My heart is burdened with so many things. The man I love has a new baby with another woman. The man I loved for 15 years has damaged me so much that I am afraid of getting hurt all over again. My mind has become Satan’s playground for about four days now and today it ends. Satan, you are a liar and a thief. I will no longer allow you to steal my joy and peace. God, thank you for your unending love and patience. You love me like no man ever can and I need you to carry me through my fears and insecurities. So today I opened Bible Gateway and went straight to Psalm 55:1. I couldn’t stop there. The entire chapter spoke to me. It says, “This is my prayer, please hear my cry for help. Please listen and answer me, my troubles overwhelm me. Satan is yelling at me, threatening my very happiness. He brings fear and angrily hunts me down. My heart aches and the fear of hurt takes me over. Fear and trembling overwhelm me and I can’t stop shaking. I need to find rest in you. I must escape this storm.” That is my prayer.

That was my breaking point. It took me three long, painful years for it to finally click. I knew that my heart was deceitful, but I still trusted it way to often. After my divorce, I quickly jumped into a relationship with a man I thought God had put in my life for a reason. I was wrong. Satan had his hands tightly around my heart, just waiting to destroy me. His lies and schemes put me right back in a place I swore I would never return to. And it was all because I was listening to my heart instead of focusing on healing it.

I share this in hopes of helping others. If you have been hurt in the past, instead of running to the next quick fix, turn to your creator. Only He can mend your broken heart and make it whole again.

Anger Do’s & Don’ts

Anger Do’s:

Be Honest: “I am very angry with you right now.”

Be Kind: No name calling, belittling, devaluing allowed.

Be Direct: Useful anger is face to face, not a cowardly blow from behind.

Be Responsible: We own our anger. No one can “make” us angry.

Be Fair: Cruel jokes (in public and private) are off limits.

Be Contained: We don’t get back at others.

Be Controlled: We invite the Holy Spirit to take control of our anger

Be Interactive: Anger is expressed in relationship where it can be talked through.

Be Outward: No under-cover anger is healthy. Anger turned inward hurts us and others.

Be Real: It is dishonest to use our anger to manipulate others.

Anger Don’ts:

Passive Aggressive: Under-cover anger. Anger is presented in subtle ways—forgetfulness, chronic lateness, “accidents.” On the outside you seem pleasant and compliant. On the inside you are resentful. Those who express their anger in this way don’t feel safe or permitted to have anger or express it openly.

Sarcasm: Speech designed to cut and wound. The word “sarcasm” is derived from a Greek word that means “to tear the flesh.” It is another way to express anger indirectly.

Verbal Abuse: Intentionally wounding another with our words. Name calling, belittling, devaluing, and humiliating are examples of verbal abuse.

Blaming: Blaming anger makes other people the problem and deflects personal responsibility. Blaming anger says, “You make me so angry!”

Guerilla Humor: Attacking someone verbally then smiling and saying something like, “Can’t you take a joke?” or “I’m just kidding.” Another indirect way of expressing anger.

Retaliatory Anger: Expressing your anger by getting even with someone who has wounded you–i.e. having an affair to show your spouse what it feels like or spending loads of money shopping because your spouse “owes” you.

Blind Rage: Intense anger usually acted out physically—hitting, smashing, destroying, etc.

Isolation: Withdrawing from relationship with the one who hurt you and/or from others altogether.

Anger as an Excuse: Secretly you want to leave or behave in a particular way, so you find a way to provoke a fight in other to justify your choice.

Betrayal to Forgiveness

This is the poem I wrote to the women in my past that betrayed our friendship by sleeping with my husband. This is very raw and it still pains my soul, but there is healing in taking the last step to letting it go. I forgave my ex years ago, but my friends were the hardest to release. Holding on to the pain has held me captive and it has also kept me from letting other women get close. I pray that if you read this and have scars like me, give it all to God and let Him set you free!
He played a game, your heart his pawn.
Betrayed your trust, he led you on.
You always thought somehow you were special,
But that’s never the case when you dance with the devil.
He feeds you lies, consoles your cries,
But day by day a part of you dies.
Little did you know, you weren’t alone.
I too had placed my heart on his throne.
He became my God and I his slave,
which led my soul to an early grave.
For years the one I blamed was you.
How could you betray what I entrusted to you?
I shared my hurts, my fears, my dreams,
And you used that knowledge to fulfill your schemes.
You took what was mine and lied to my face,
but my problem was putting my husband in God’s place.
It has taken me years to break free from these chains,
But with God by my side, I have healed from the pain.
So thank you for opening my eyes to finally see,
And I forgive you because my God forgave me.

What Are You Hungry For?

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Money? Success? Love? Material possessions? Relationships? Sex?  The list could go on and on. Hunger affects each of us every day. We fill our lives with the things that we think will quench the hunger pains. Food nourishes our physical bodies, relationships feed our need for companionship, but what if we are trying to satisfy our hungers with the wrong fuel? The results can take us further than we intended to go and cost us more than we were ever willing to pay. We end up lonely, angry, bitter, depressed, in a sea of debt, a workaholic, an alcoholic, a sex addict, a shopaholic, but never really find what we were originally searching for. We were created with a hunger that can only be satisfied by plugging in to the one who created us. He is food for our soul. You wouldn’t put water in your car when it requires gas or you would never leave the driveway. You wouldn’t give a baby windex when they are hungry or you would kill him.  So why do we try to fill the void in our soul with the things of the world that were never meant to truly satisfy?
God loves you with an unconditional love that never fails. He is there to catch you when you are falling, hold you when you are broken hearted, and carry you when you think you can’t move one more inch. There is no safer place to be than in His arms. Turn to Him. Ask Him to reveal to you the areas you are filling with things other than Him.

God is Good

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Throughout my life, I have had numerous conversations with people who have been through painful circumstances and ask how God can be good, yet allow bad things to happen. I always dreaded these discussions because I had no words to explain anything that made logical sense. My knowledge of God being good was based on faith alone and when someone is searching for an answer to that question, faith is not the answer they want to hear. They are searching for solid evidence. Something tangible they can grab hold of and cling to in the wake of a heartbreaking tragedy. I have even experienced that type of tragedy in my life and my faith was what held me together and gave me strength to live on.

As disciples of Christ, we should be able to explain this phenomenon to those searching for reasons to believe that God is good. Yesterday I came across this conversation and it changed everything.

Professor: You are a Christian, aren’t you, son?
Student: Yes, sir.
Professor: So, you believe in God?
Student: Absolutely, sir.
Professor: Is God good?
Student: Sure.
Professor: Is God all powerful?
Student: Yes.
Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill, but God didn’t. How is this God good then? Hmmm?
(Student was silent.)
Professor: You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?
Student: Yes.
Professor: Is Satan good?
Student: No.
Professor: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From…God…
Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student: Yes.
Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Student: Yes.
Professor: So who created evil?
(Student did not answer.)
Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?
Student: Yes, sir.
Professor: So, who created them?
(Student had no answer.)
Professor: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen God?
Student: No, sir.
Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?
Student: No, sir.
Professor: Have you ever felt you God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student: Yes.
Professor: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.
Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem science has.
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Professor: Yes.
Student: And is there such a thing as cold?
Professor: Yes.
Student: No, sir. There isn’t.
(The lecture theater became very quiet with this turn of events.)
Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further than that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.
(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theater.)
Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?
Student: You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and its called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, well you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?
Professor: So what is the point you are making, young man?
Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Professor: Flawed? Can you explain how?
Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.
Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?
Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.
Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going.)
Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?
(The class was in uproar.)
Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?
(The class broke out into laughter.)
Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?
(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable.)
Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.
Student: That is it sir…Exactly! The link between man and God is faith. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.

Faith is all we need, thus the reason it is so hard to explain why we believe what we believe to non-believers. But my point of sharing this conversation was to share something deeper that I learned. The next time someone asks me how a good God can allow bad things to happen, this is how I will respond.

God created the world and everything in it was good. He created Adam & Eve and they were given free will; the ability to choose. Once the choice was made to have the knowledge that only God had up until that point, sin entered the world and everything changed.

The conversation between the student and the professor uses the example of death being the absence of life, dark being the absence of light, cold being the absence of heat, so therefore, evil would be the absence of good. God is not evil. Because of free will, God lets us choose and that choice opens the door for evil to wreak havoc on the world around us. That is the double edged sword of free will. God is always good, always loving, and always merciful. Because of sin, bad things happen to good people and when that occurs, God always uses it for His glory to shine through.

Think about it this way. A man has cancer. He is a Godly man, praying every day for God to heal him from this disease. God decides to answer this mans prayers and brings him home to be with him in Heaven where there is no more pain and no more sickness. Because of sin, we see things from a worldly prospective and think that God didn’t answer this man’s prayers when from a Heavenly prospective he did.

We will never understand God fully until the day he calls us home where we belong. Heaven is our home and earth is temporary. We were never meant to live separated from God, but the fall of man opened that door and until God returns we will have pain, suffering, and heartache on this side of Heaven. Our faith is the only thing that will keep that hope alive and God in our hearts. It is our choice to believe and to attempt to see from His prospective instead of one that is void of Him.