Hear Me Roar

Amanda Elder is about to PA-REACH!  I’ve got a feeling this may be met with some resistance, but I welcome any and all comments- especially those of opposing viewpoints.

I had an experience this week which has caused me to stop and reflect.  While sitting in an office discussing my impending (allegedly impending) divorce someone (who shall remain nameless) looked at me and said, “You know, Amanda, I’m not worried about you in all of this.  You’re a good-lookin’ woman and you’ll find some man to take care of you.”  Hmmmm.  Quietly thought to myself, “really?”.  Wonder what it is about you (still nameless person) that would cause you to believe for one moment that I would need- much less want- a man in my life to “take care” of me.

I was immediately taken back to three summers ago when I first drove myself to the local police station on a dark night to file an order of protection.  No need for lots of details, but I was a mess- sobbing, crying, mascara running down my face.  One of the gentlemen on duty that night, not meaning to be an insensitive jerk I’m sure, was helping me through the process of filling out the necessary paperwork.  My hands were trembling and I was upset.  He says, “Oh, honey, you’ll be just fine.  Pretty girl like you will find someone else in no time.”

{Let me interject here that I thought strongly about leaving out the “pretty girl” and “you’re a good-looking girl” references for fear that people may think I’m trying to stroke my own ego, but I’ve left them in so that you will get the point and because this is indeed what was said.  I’m not a vain person.  Anyone who knows me knows that.  Please remember that I’m the gal who won’t hesitate to run into Wal-Mart in no makeup and my pink, fuzzy pajama pants.}

Before those words had even finished dropping off his lips I remember feeling flabbergasted.  Am I supposed to be thankful that some in the male race find me acceptable?  Whew, good! (sarcasm)  I’m decent looking so my life will go on.  What happens to me if I’m homely looking?  Is there no hope for my future if I can’t land a man?  I know he was trying to be of some comfort to me, but come on now.  I am crying because the man who is most supposed to love me in this world is being such a *&^% that I feel it necessary to take legal action against him.  What about this scenario makes you think I’m secretly dying to find another man?  Nope.  I’m pretty set as it is.  I think my “relationship cup” is just about full.  I wondered if this horrific error in his judgment could be attributed to a “male” thing or just to a “stupidity” thing.

I recently had a friend tell me that although she was unhappy in her current relationship she couldn’t image leaving because she couldn’t be alone.  Those were her words, “I can’t be alone.”  My heart sank.  Please understand, I’m not on a crusade trying to get all my friends to be single and burn their bras (although wouldn’t it be nice not to feel the pointy end of an underwire ramming into your ribcage like the foot of a 7-month-old fetus?).  I would like to see the women in this world become empowered and to realize their own worth and their own strength.  Depending upon another person for fulfillment and to find your worth is a dangerous place to find yourself.  People aren’t perfect.  They will let us down.  Find your strength and value in something which is impenetrable and unshakable.  Find your inner strength.  (Cue a Whitney Houston song)

My mom and I were laughing today that just weeks after my father’s death well-meaning friends were encouraging her to “get back out there”.  Dating.  Seriously?  This woman was married to this man for 42 years at the time of his death.  Maybe it should cross people’s minds that some respect and attention should be given to this relationship which has just ended.  Is it truly unthinkable that my mother isn’t burning with desire to go on a date with another man just 14 days after my father left this earth?  Do you get my point?  Not all of us find our importance and our meaning in a relationship with a man.  She had to go through a time of adjustment.  She still is.  She’s allowed to be there as long as she needs.

I’m a fairly strong, independent woman.  I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time.  In marriage financial security is important, but I’d dare to say that emotional security- feeling love and respected- is equally if not even more important.  It makes me so sad that men and women in this community/world think that in order for a woman to achieve true fulfillment in her life it must climax with her finding happiness in a relationship with a man.  I’ll admit that I was one who probably grew up with these same feelings.  It wasn’t anything that my parents instilled in me, but more so society.  From the time we’re little girls we’re told stories of white knights on lovely horses who will sweep in during our hour of need (whether it’s being hypothetically locked up in a castle or being at the mercy of a wicked stepmother).  These knights and heroes come charging in and rescue us from our problems.  Then the story has you to believe that there will be a “happily ever after”.  I do know some lucky men and women who have found that.  I’m so thankful for them that they did.  I believe if we are in touch with God when the decision comes to chosing a mate He will guide us in the direction we should go.  Some of us, for one reason or another, still chose unwisely.

It’s not the issue of finding true love and happiness in marriage that I’m balking.  It’s the idea of the man being portrayed as the “rescuer”.  The only thing that Amanda Elder needs any rescuing from is herself.  Bad decisions have been my weakness and it’s something I’m prayerfully working on.  Will life pose challenges?  Sure, but I’m fully ready and prepared to start this next part of my journey as a single mom.  I’ve got more than enough on my plate with a 7 and 8-year-old to keep me PLENTY occupied.  Trust me.  I am also able to take great comfort in realizing that I’m not on this trip alone.  My support system which starts with the Lord and beautifully trickles down through an amazing assortment of family, friends, and confidants is more than enough to help get me through.  No rescue necessary.  It’s already been taken care of.

When women meet someone and fall in love I’d like to think that it’s because they have realized their counterpart in another person.  I’d like to think that Christ is the very foundation of that partnership and in turn He will bless the union.  I would wish all women could realize their strength and their worth.  What a dangerous place to be to feel that you can only find your value and worth if it’s attached to another person.  Dangerous.  People can disappoint us.  Plant your foundation in something firmer.

I guess that’s the end of my rant.  I wish people would think before they speak.  If you see me on the street just know this- I don’t want to hear about this GREAT GUY that you work with or the friend of your cousin’s who you think would just be “perfect” for me.  I’ve got this.  When and if the time ever comes that I decide to give a relationship another try it will only be because the Lord has instructed me to do so.  I’m listening to Him so deliberately that I’m not gonna leave even one inch of room for error.  I truly mean it.  Don’t worry for me.  I’m stronger than you know.  And ladies out there reading this, you are too.

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Running Ahead (stop watching the clock)

My 9:30 a.m. meeting today served as an unfortunate reminder of my seemingly-neverending divorce. Let’s just say that I didn’t hear everything I had hoped. Details are unnecessary other than pointing out the obvious- a year is a mighty long time to wait not to have even had a moment of face time with a judge. Okay, we roll on…

I left that office discouraged beyond belief. I’ve been tough, trying to keep holding my head up. It gets challenging when it seems each turn is met with an entirely new maze of questions and complications. My diet is usually rather poor on the days of such meetings because my stomach is in knots. I met today’s challenge with a grand total of 1 banana and 2 Diet Cokes in my system. Not much of a help, I know.

Always in the midst of my sadness it is comforting to me to know that I have strong, Christian, supportive friends and family I can turn to for advice and words of wisdom. The moment I sat in my car the emotional support chain of command began. What I love most about the people in my life is that instead of them hearing the news I shared and all of us lying around in a puddle of crying and whining and feeling sorry about our situation(s) and lamenting about the woes of life and how unfair life can be, they are all such encouragers and problem solvers. One of my sweetest friends (who secretly kinda hacks me off because he completely messes up my theory that all men are pigs- lol!) begins telling me that I need to immerse myself in the Word and listen to God, that He will tell me what I need to hear. I was encouraged to read Psalm 37. Which I did. It was perfection. Encouragement from my Heavenly Father and a reminder that He’s still here with me. Two of my girlfriends who have been with me through this entire portion of the ride allowed me to vent my frustration and immediately said, “So what’s the next step?” Mom and Jess did the same. During times I feel like crawling up into a bed and throwing a huge blanket over me and never coming out I’m so appreciative that I have people in my life who won’t allow me to do that. Well, they may allow it if I fussed long enough, but I can assure you it would be a short-lived pity party.

I have children home from school today and also ended up watching my two sweet nieces. There I was in my living room- empty belly in knots, two kids complaining about who is on the wii and who should get to watch a movie, Bible pulled out onto my lap turned to Psalm and I’m reading. I’m praying- out loud- claiming all the promises God has shared through His Word. He has plans for my future-

Jeremiah 29:11

New International Version (NIV)

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I started to feel better. Sometimes when we read Scripture it’s a reminder to us of truths we already know. I don’t have all my answers yet, but at least I have my starting point. I’d cleared my head somewhat and the heaviness in my chest was beginning to lift. My spirit and my mind were being massaged and now I wanted to do more. I needed to get out to the track. I’m in week number five of a 9-week program to help prepare non-runners for a 5K. The first five weeks have been hard, but not impossible. There have been times I’ve hurt and wanted to stop, but I’ve not let myself.

I tell my oldest niece that I’ll be at the track for 35 minutes. She knows to call me if anything is needed and I head out. It’s a little chilly here today, but at least it’s not raining. I’m happy to get out there. I have only exercised one day this week- as opposed to my required three- due to snow, rain, or sick children. This session with the track was long overdue. In week five of the program you begin running in 5-minute intervals. From the offset five minutes of running doesn’t sound like much. If you’re not a runner by nature I’d encourage you to try it. The first day I did it (after four weeks of building up to it, mind you) I literally stopped twice on the track fearing that I was about to get sick. I fought through it though and within the next two days the five minutes of running became less daunting. So, I plug in my headphones, turn on my ipod, start my C25K program app on my phone and take off for the warm up portion of the session. I enjoyed those minutes of walking and listening to some good music. I felt myself relaxing as I got more into the groove of things.

Then the unthinkable happened- when my app switched over to the first session of running it instructed me that I would be starting with an 8-minute run. HUH?! Eight minutes is almost TWICE what I had just taken three days to build up to without vomiting. Surely today of all days this stupid computer app could understand that my world is legally, mentally and emotionally in a tailspin and should take it easy on me. I mean right? My initial thought was that I’d just shut the program off and walk for as long as I felt like it. I wasn’t sure my body or mind would even allow me to consider pushing myself. Then an unexplainable wave of peace fell over me. Of course this is possible. I found one of my favorite songs on the ipod and I went to it. Only this time I made a few adjustments. I focused solely on my breathing and my foot falls. I counted slowly in my head the one-two-three-four rhythm of the music playing against the sounds of my feet on the pavement. I changed something else- something vitally important- I stopped watching the clock. Instead of watching each second countdown as I had during my 5-minute run session earlier in the week I turned my attention to the task at hand and stopped worrying about the time. I’m still breathing and I’m putting one foot down…then the other. Before I even realized it my eight minutes was over and I was still standing! Shocking. Not only was I able to conquer the eight minutes once today but twice. That silly 5K program suddenly became a mirror-image of the rest of my life and there was nothing that was going to prevent me from finishing.

Interesting that I have been told on a few occasions recently that perhaps it would be beneficial to me to stop trying to foresee and map out the entire rest of my future when what I need to be focusing on is the task at hand. Stop focusing on the time. Stop watching the clock. Maybe it’s true that when we look to far ahead we lose sight of all of the important structural and foundational areas we need to be grooming today for the success of our future tomorrow. I know the Lord expects a lot from me especially when I’m expecting a lot from Him. I’m committed to delighting myself in Him- finding my way back into His Word and staying there- because I want Him to give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4). Today that desire is simply peace. I know it’s an attainable goal.

 

The Greatest Love

I was tossing around the idea tonight of a pre-Valentine’s Day blog I wanted to call “All That She Wants”.  It was to be a funny, but truthful reflection on what women truly want/need/expect from “love”.  Then the sweetest thing happened… I decided that posting John 3:16 was a far better way to explain what true love is really about.  My dear friend Melanie has posted a video which explains things as perfectly as my words could ever hope to accomplish.  It is about 18 minutes, but I’d guarantee the best 18 minutes you’ll spend all day:

http://youtu.be/BjSio8jur2Y

See, when we think of “love” so often we default to the earthly definition that it must involve two people in a romantic relationship with one another.  As we all know those relationships have many highs and lows.  Love is so often defined and weighed by feeling and emotion.  There is one love, however, which is unwavering in its dedication, its commitment, and its magnitude.

If I could send anyone a Valentine’s Day gift today this would be it- please be aware of the purest and most important love you will ever have the privilege of knowing in your lifetime.  The love of Jesus Christ never fails us and it has been here since the beginning of all creation. 

John 3:16 states “For God so loved the world (that’s us) that He gave His only begotten Son (that’s Jesus) that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

There is no valentine more important.  For the people in my life who know me, I hope you know the greatest romance in my life is the one I have with my Lord.  It’s easy to get caught up, just like the people on that train, in the daily stressors of life and to lose sight of the relevance and importance of the gift He gave to us- so freely, so without merit on our part.  God sent to us His ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in the true fullness of life as He intended it.

I’ve been guilty of allowing life/relationships/pressure to take precedence over the one fact which I know in all certainty to be true- we are here to lead others to Christ.  We must be a living testament to the power He has in our lives and to show the world what a difference Christ makes in us.  I encourage each of us today, sure, tell your loved ones how much they mean to you, but there’s a greater calling here- we must tell the world of God’s love for us as demonstrated to all of us through the sacrifice of Jesus.  I would encourage each of us today to take a moment and talk about Him and the gift of salvation to those in our lives who may not know- or who may have lost sight of it.  Pray that God will give you opportunity to speak to friends and strangers alike about the importance of knowing God personally.  I promise that if you pray it He will bring it to you.  He wants to lay those opportunities at our feet.  We simply have to be willing to do it.

If you’ve never talked to others about Jesus and the gift of salvation just start with John 3:16.  You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to share the news of this gift.  Thank you to Melanie for helping to put that into perspective for me tonight.  Thank you to each of you just for reading this.  I believe in doing so God is commissioning you to act in His purpose.

Happy Valentines Day 2012.  Welcome to the greatest love the world has ever known.

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