The root of bitterness…

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When we are blind-sided by the trials of life and get the “wind” knocked out of us, it is natural for us to be angry, resentful and wonder WHY did God allow “this” to happen to us. When we suffer because of the actions of another, it adds an additional layer of angst to our circumstance.

I have known many people that have experienced divorce. Some never recovered and it has been over 30 years. Some moved on, but did they really recover? Others, believed that the best way to get over a broken-heart is to find someone new. I have found that the human soul responds in various ways to emotional pain and devastation.

I am soon approaching 7 years since the break-up of my marriage. As I have entered the New Year, it has been a time of reflection and I recall my journey through bitterness.

My divorce left me extremely bitter. Who wants to start over at mid-life? My bitterness had to be processed and at times, God would “reign” me in because continual bitterness leads one to a very dark place in life where eventually, nothing will seem good any more. For this reason, I am ever grateful for my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He was, and is, my constant companion and His Holy Spirit reminded me that it was okay to be angry, but it was NOT okay to allow my anger to lead me into sin (sinful thoughts, words and actions).

 Ephesians 4:26 (KJV) – Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

I cannot tell you how many times I violated this commandment. In my weakness, I allowed my bitterness to lead me into sinful thoughts and words against my ex-spouse. Night after night, I nursed my anger and did not seek to resolve it before sun down.

I see the mercy of God. Although I was in violation of His command; He still loved, cared for and provided for my every need. I did not deserve His blessings, but He chose to bless me anyway. Sinful humanity continually stands in need of the mercy of Almighty God.

I cannot recall how long it took me to resolve my bitterness. I use the word “resolve” because it was up to me to do something about my condition. I had to work through my bitterness. Oh how I wished that I would just wake up one day and be whole again! Not so. My bitterness was used as an instrument in the hand of God to show me my own sinfulness, His mercy towards me, and my dependence upon Him to be free of it!

As I would sit and brood on the injustice done to me by my former spouse, God reminded me of Romans 3:23 (KJV) – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;. In other words, “Cathy, you have sinned against me also.” I could sense God saying to me, “What was MY reaction to your sin?” His reaction was to sacrifice His life to redeem me.

Romans 5:6-8 (KJV) – For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

I have often defined mercy as “God bestowing upon us blessings we do not deserve”. I had many bitter days. Yet, on each and every one of them, God preserved my life, provided for my needs, gave me the physical and mental strength to go to work each day and do my job despite my brokenness, and remained my constant companion. He would actually show me “signs” that He was present. For example, one day, I pulled into the church parking lot (a bit late!) and was prepared to drive all the way to the grassy portion of the back of the building to park my car. However, upon entering the lot, one of the brothers stopped me and greeted me. He said “Sister Cathy, I’ll park your car for you so you don’t have to walk all that way and I’ll bring your keys to you.” I was overwhelmed at this undeserved kindness extended to me. I knew God orchestrated this encounter to remind me that I was still “special” to Him. I needed that inspiration that day.

 Psalm 103:8 (KJV)The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

I realized that I could not rid myself of the bitterness that infiltrated my heart. I came to the point that I wanted to be free of it, but it seemed to be so deeply interwoven in the fabric of my being that I was a “slave” to it. The remedy? I continually placed myself in a position to interact with God. I maintained faithful attendance at church to hear Biblical sermons, I attended Bible Study on Wednesdays, I played radio broadcast teaching God’s Word, I listened to worship music that glorified God and I kept company with Christians who were surrendered to the Lord. One other thing, I removed television from my home for 1 year! I had to take RADICAL action to uproot this seed of satan that lodged itself in my heart. I IMMERSED my life in the Lord!

Hebrews 4:12 (CEB)because God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions.

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My friend, I do not know where you are in your divorce journey. But, if you have not taken the time to address any root of bitterness that my be “lurking” about, please do so. Be honest with yourself and God and if you are struggling to resolve your bitterness, God understands exactly where you are but it is not His plan that you remain there. He wants to deliver and heal you and advance you from bitter to BETTER! If you need His help, you need but simply ask:

Psalm 61:2 (KJV) – From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Until next time, God bless and keep you in His care.

All scripture references taken from biblegateway.com. Images taken from Google Images.

 

New Beginning…

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As I approached the 3 yr. mark of the ending of my marriage; I began to ponder the question, “What do YOU want to do with your life?” I was free to make whatever choices I wanted and for the first time, in a place in my life where I only had to consider myself in my decision-making. I must admit, it felt strange to be so liberated. But, it also felt good at the same time. The thought of going to college, AGAIN, came back to me. I had tried so many times in the past and never followed through or was inconsistent for one reason or another. Yet, that aspiration never left me. I always wanted a college degree. At the time, I was a month away from my 49th birthday and absolutely terrified at the thought of returning to school. So many negatives began to sweep through my mind – What if I start and stop again? What if I don’t do well? What if the roads are bad in the winter? On and on I went with excuse after excuse! But, after talking to my daughters about my lifelong dream and receiving their support and encouragement…I made up my mind that I was going to DO IT! I made the call, went for orientation and enrolled in Spring Arbor University’s Adult Professional Studies Program to pursue an Associates of Science in Business (ASB) degree. I knew this was the right choice and perfect fit for me as it was a private Christian college, small class sizes, meetings one night a week, and the professors were Business professionals themselves and many of them earned their degrees at mid-life and personally understood the challenges of adult non-traditional students like myself. I felt right at home! Often, I was the oldest person in the class, but I saw that as a plus because I brought to the class experience and knowledge gained from 32 years in the work force. I was able to contribute in meaningful ways.

I LOVED learning, always have, and I approached my studies with a commitment and dedication that wasn’t there before. What was different? I was older, “seasoned” and at a different place in life, able to focus earnestly on my studies, learned the value of education through my years in the work force and I needed to feel a sense of accomplishment as a person. Best of all, between work, school, homework, ministry and time with family; I had a very full life! No time for focusing “backwards”…my future was before me. I was, and still am, an excellent student. I completed the 2-year program with all A’s and (1) B! However, I chose not to receive the Associate’s degree, but to continue on to a Bachelor’s programs in Social Work (BSW). I am currently a Junior in my BSW program with a GPA of 3.8.

At age 52, I now have a life plan of completing college and changing my career to a Human Services position after retiring from the University of Michigan. I am praying for God to direct me to the proper internship (required in my Senior year) that will lead to an employment opportunity that allows me to utilize my 23 years of Christian ministry experience and Social Work degree to help people with natural and spiritual needs.

It is never too late to do what you’ve always wanted to do with your life. I met with a colleague, who is also a Therapist, and shared with her that I WISHED I had gone to college as a young person, but for some reason I just didn’t want to. She said “You weren’t READY then and wouldn’t have had the level of success you are experiencing now.” She was right, I wasn’t ready, although everyone around me wanted me to be. Funny how the journey of life prepares us to become the person God created us to be! That is what I feel has happened in my life. The worst thing I had ever experienced was not wasted, but God found a way to make it useful to not only position me to fulfill my dream, but HIS purpose for my life…ministering to the needs of the “least of those” in our world.

Romans 8:28 (AMP) – ” And we know that GOD CAUSES all things to work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called for His plan and purpose. (biblegateway.com)

Divorce – hmmm…it can be a bitter ending of your life or a NEW BEGINNING! What’s your pleasure?

Self-Talk…

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(It is my intent to publish weekly. However, there may be times where that is not possible. Thank you for reading my Blog and I hope it is encouraging to you).

The thing about divorce is that you feel like an “outsider”. It seems everyone is married and it seems everyone else is doing just fine in their relationship.

I remember noticing that I was developing Social anxiety. I did not want to walk in a crowded room because I felt like EVERYONE would look at me and identify me as a “Divorcee”. I felt like a Red bulls eye was on every piece of clothing I owned that said “DIVORCED”! In my own mind, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was allowing the experience of divorce to become my identity and this was happening via my own negative self-talk.

It took a while for me to learn to separate my experience from my identity. Divorce is what happened TO me, it does not define me as a person. So there is so much more to me! I think it is critical that persons experiencing divorce realize that it was an EXPERIENCE and it is NOT the sum total of who you are.

I had to do a lot of positive self-talk to remind myself of WHO I really was because negative thoughts flooded my mind continually. I had to counter them with the TRUTH of God’s Word and believe me, it was a mental war each day! I had to examine the content of my heart because that is what determines how I truly see myself.

Proverbs 23:7(a) – “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:…” (KJV) 

I had to remember that God (Hebrew name – Yahweh) saved my soul as an individual and I was His child. I was His child long before I was a wife and my marital status has absolutely NOTHING to do with my salvation. I had to be reminded that God loved me with an everlasting love because He chose to do so even before I made a decision about accepting Him as my Savior.

Romans 5:8 – “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

My thoughts had to be re-directed to what gave me TRUE VALUE. I had it wrong. I evaluated my worth by my relationships with others, so if the relationship failed, I felt worthless. It is amazing to me as I look back to see how I completely minimized THE most important relationship of my life (with Jesus Christ), which had not changed at all.

God had to teach me WHY I was valuable to Him. Married or divorced, I was committed to serving Him by serving people with the gifts He has given me to counsel, teach, preach, administrate, mentor, and write. I am a compassionate, caring individual who is capable of empathizing with the pain of others and offering comfort and support. I am generous and welcoming and believe in treating all human beings with respect. I am committed to learning how to “die to self”, as Jesus requires of His true disciples, and place the ministry of the Kingdom of God above all else. This is not a PRIDE session, this me saying OUTLOUD who Cathy really is and embracing all that God has created me to be!

Here is my question to you – When is the last time you told yourself who you TRULY are? Or, have you taken the time to figure it out? Take the time. You will discover hidden treasure. When you find what is good, embrace it, say it OUTLOUD. It is okay to affirm yourself and recognize the beautiful gifts God has given you to pour into the world.

 

Loneliness and Serving Others

 

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As mentioned in an earlier post, for the first time in my life, I was living alone. I was not accustomed to silence in my home. I always had my kids, grands, or a blaring TV from my ex-husband when I came home from work. Silence was only something I could hope for. But now, I had more silence than I could bear. I did a LOT of talking to God!

When I first moved into my apartment, I did not have extra money for the luxury of cable television or the internet. I remember going a full year without either. I would go to the local library to use the computers and I could borrow DVD’s for free with my library card. That was my entertainment. I have loved God’s Word since I was a teenager, I never get tired of it so I studied my Bible, listened to worship music on CD, listened to Bible teachings on my phone…I was just “hungry” for more of God!

I still had some incredibly lonely days. It seems that Sundays were the most difficult for me. They were difficult because we always had family dinner on Sundays with the kids. My Ex-husband was a very good cook and liked to cook so we ate good and enjoyed the family on Sundays. Of course I could visit my parents after church, and most of the time I did. But, there were times that I literally would feel panic sweep over me as the weekend approached. What am I going to do? Who will I spend time with? What if everyone has plans already? My daughters were young women, moms, and had their own families and I never wanted to be a burden to them. They deserved to have their time with their own family and friends. Although, they were more than happy to have me around and include me in things. I appreciated that. They let the grands come and stay the night occasionally and my heart would flood with JOY!

Loneliness is an emotion that weighs “heavy” on you. When you do not have a special “someone” to love and share intimately with, there is this “hole” on the inside. I spent 22 years in marriage (between both marriages), so I really had no idea how to live successfully as a single. I was a “fish out of water” and I would use social media as a means of “community” and “connection”. It helped but I knew it would not sustain me very long. I am a relational person who thrives on connections with people. I had to figure this out. I had to create a new life for myself so I asked God to show me how.

Psalm 32:8 (TLB) – I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.

One day while at the library, I decided to read the postings on the community bulletin board. I saw something that caught my attention – HOSPICE VOLUNTEER! I decided to give them a call. I went in to investigate the opportunities they had available and towards the end of the conversation; I mentioned that I was a licensed minister. The coordinator was thrilled to hear that! They only had one Chaplain serving a large region of patients and she asked if I would be interested in meeting her. I said “Of course! I’d love to!” Well, I ended up with an apprenticeship and she was soon confident that I was skilled and prepared to see my own patients. I became a volunteer Hospice Chaplain.

If you are hurting, broken, in despair and feeling hopeless; Can I suggest that you find a way to serve others? There is something about heartfelt service to those in need that revitalizes the human soul. I now had something to look forward to that was meaningful to me and to my patients and their families. Sometimes, I just listened as the families shared emotions, sometimes I offered words of comfort, sometimes I prayed with them or for their loved ones, and sometimes I said nothing…just a gentle touch on the hand was sufficient.

Luke 6:36 (KJV) – Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful

Yes, I was reeling from divorce; but their pain put mine in proper perspective. My family was well and healthy, I wasn’t watching my loved ones deteriorate before my eyes, my parents could recognize me when I walked in the room, and I wasn’t having to make end of life decisions for the people I love most in this world.

God used this opportunity to bring healing to my life by re-directing my focus.

Don’t just sit there and sulk over what is gone. Create new opportunities for yourself and get out there and be PRODUCTIVE! LIVE! Divorce only ends your life with your permission.

Jehovah-Jireh…my Provider

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One of the most impactful hits after divorce is the loss of financial resources. After 9 years of marriage, I was accustomed to living life at a certain income level. After divorce, that all changed. I now only had my income and of course, I had my share of the marital debt.

I was in despair and initially had trouble making ends meet. I did not see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone to help, but God intervened. One of my dearest and closest friends, who walked with me through this entire ordeal, told me one night on the phone, “I’m going to help you Cathy.” She did just that. She sent checks to me on a regular basis and she NEVER missed, not even once.

God reminded me that He promised to be my husband. (Isaiah 54:5). One of the roles of a husband is to be a provider. He provided from a resource that was a total surprise to me.

What did I learn from that? I learned that sometimes, we are so worried and afraid because we cannot see HOW a situation is going to work out. But, if we belong to Almighty God (Yahweh), He will provide for all of our needs just as He promised. Philippians 4:19:

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

I would get many unexpected financial gifts in the mail. One Sunday, I went to church and my Pastor gave me an envelope. He said “This is not from me, but the person wants to remain anonymous.” It was a crisp $100 bill.

One evening, I was at home on the couch and there was a knock at my apartment door. When I opened the door, there was a vase of beautiful Red Roses sitting in front of my door! There was no card and I saw no one. I never found out where they came from.

A few times, I received the gift of a weekend get-a-way to Chicago from a dear cousin. She not only paid for my trip, but she took me on a shopping spree once I got there.

Isaiah 54:5 – “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

God is not bound by ANYTHING. He can move on the heart of anyone at any time and command them to bless you. Do not make the mistake of “limiting” Him by a lack of FAITH.

Everything belongs to Him so He is not short of resources to meet your need.

Psalm 24:1 – “The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”

(Scripture references retrieved from biblegateway.com, KJV)

Redemption and Co-dependency

Dear God…         thank you text on black and brown board

Redemption, by definition, is the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil. The action of gaining or regaining possession of something in exchange for payment or clearing a debt. (google.com).

For the Christian, the redemptive price paid for our sin debt is the innocent blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. We acknowledge that because of Adam’s disobedience; sin entered the human race and everyone born after him was born in sin – spiritually separated from God.

For this reason, God created a “Redemptive” plan of action to break the dominion of sin and reconcile us (humans) to righteous standing with Himself. This is done by placing our FAITH (complete trust) in Jesus Christ’s blood sacrifice as payment in full for our sins eternally. To think, God did this because of LOVE. He wants relationship with us.

So, if I was already a Christian when I got divorced, why did I need to be redeemed…AGAIN?

This redemption was not one to salvage my soul, it was to redeem my mind. The Lord showed me that my mind was not healthy.

You see, not much will change in your life until you change your mind. I had to go through an emotional detox. God helped me identify all the unhealthy emotional crutches in my life. I had to be de-programmed from low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, a “savior” complex and more. I had been a woman suffering from Co-dependency and did not even know it. Co-dependency is defined as “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.” (google.com). 

So THIS is why I ended up marrying an alcoholic – twice. As I learned more about this unhealthy, dysfunctional, mental state…suddenly, my life started to make sense. I want to share this information in hopes that it may help others:

(retrieved from: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/codependency-definition-signs-worksheets/#signs-codependency)

20 Signs Of Codependency

So what does codependency actually look like? Some of the things that have been found to correlate with codependency include (Marks et al., 2012):

Other signs of codependency include (Lancer, 2016; Mental Health America):

  • Having a hard time saying no
  • Having poor boundaries
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Always feeling compelled to take care of people
  • A need for control, especially over others
  • Trouble communicating honestly
  • Fixating on mistakes
  • A need to be liked by everyone
  • A need to always be in a relationship
  • Denying one’s own needs, thoughts, and feelings
  • Intimacy issues
  • Confusing love and pity
  • Fear of abandonment

Remember I said God can take something as brutal as divorce and bring GOOD out of it? Divorce led me to seek God like never before. Seeking God like never before allowed me to “hear” His voice. Hearing His voice revealed my co-dependency dysfunction. Recognizing this dysfunction explained WHY I operated the way I did all of my adult life. Understanding the “why” of it all relieved a burden for me and sent me on a research endeavor to find out more about this “unhealthy place” I have been in for years.

THIS was the beginning of discovering who I am and what’s more, who I wanted to be! THIS IS GOOD.

He Is With Me…

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Isaiah 40:11 (a) – He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom…(biblegateway.com) 

I was a lost lamb. Nothing made sense. I needed God’s guidance. I found myself doing a lot of reflecting. It was important to me to understand how I arrived at this station in life so that I could determine what behaviors I needed to change to ensure THIS was the last time I would ever end up in this horrible place.

The most profound discovery that I made was that I did not know my value and worth. People have always had positive, encouraging things to say about me and have told me how I have impacted their lives for good, yet, I did not know my value.

As I consecrated myself to the Lord and decided that I would be exclusively HIS for an undetermined amount of time (I am still exclusively His), He began to show me the gifts, talents and abilities that He put in me. He would lead me to Bible passages that spoke to my value as His personal creation that is unconditionally loved. He led me to promises in His Word that assured me that He would never leave me nor forsake (forget about) me. (Hebrews 13:5(b)). He led me to Isaiah 54:5-6 (KJV) which I held on to for dear life:

” For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.” (biblegateway.com)

In the days, months and years that followed, I would come to know God in ways I never have before. The Lord became my personal companion.

I even felt ashamed to go to church. I was convinced that every time someone laid eyes on me, all they saw was “DIVORCED!” I was ashamed. I felt like a failure and a poor example to those who respected and looked up to me. Did I mention that I have been a minister for the past 23 years? I felt condemned. When a house is condemned, it is good for nothing and ready to be demolished. But, I read Romans 8:1 (KJV) – “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  It was not God condemning me, it was satan. There is POWER in TRUTH! Knowing God’s truth empowered me to dismiss the lies of satan. If you do not have Biblical TRUTH, you have no defense. I would spend weeks and months sorting out what was a lie and what was the truth.

God’s perspective of my situation was the total opposite of satan’s. Psalm 34:18 (TLB) states, “The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking; he rescues those who are humbly sorry for their sins.” 

God showed me that I married men who were never intended to be a part of my life. I married for the wrong reasons. The first time, I was 21 and pregnant and did not want my child born into an illegitimate situation. The second time, I allowed my financial needs to lead me to compromise even though there were Red flags. It is not easy to be this transparent, but I hope my transparency will ignite caution in others so they do not fall into the same “traps”.

Ladies, please know that we have the ability to talk ourselves into relationships that God has not sanctioned and we, at times, open doors to men that are not even worthy of a conversation with us.

…yes, I have been foolish and I have paid dearly for my mistakes. My children have been hurt, my extended family and friends have been hurt. Divorce does not just happen to the married couple, it happens to everyone that loves them. It is the “ripping” apart of two souls.

Thank God for redemption…