Monday, January 5, 2015

The Legacy We Leave

Hi everyone,

I do not know about you, but I love running into people who may be in town visiting family or those I have not seen in a while during the holidays.  This happened to me during the week of Thanksgiving as Sam and I went grocery shopping for my step-father.  I ran into Mrs. Ruth O’Quinn, my high school Honors English teacher.  It has been over 30 years since I took her class, but she still looks exactly the same.  As people in small Southern towns often do she gave me a hug and also asked about my brother, whom she also taught.  She then proudly announced to me, “Well you do know that I am 90 now.” 

I could not wait to introduce Sam to this lady who has touched so many young people’s lives in our town.  But when I went to introduce Sam to her, something else took place.  Sam had been in another part of the store when I first encountered her, so when I went to find her again she was talking to a very sweet lady in a scooter.  She asked me if I remembered Mrs. Miller, who taught at the local junior high school, and while the name sounded familiar, I had not had her as a teacher.  Not missing a beat Mrs. O’Quinn turned to Mrs. Miller and said “Oh, but you would know her grandmother.”  “Oh, and who was your grandmother,” Mrs. Miller asked me.  To which I replied, “Catharine Mattis.”  “Oh heaven sakes, EVERYONE knows Catharine.” 

Now keep in mind, it has been almost 12 years since my grandmother passed and yet, her legacy shines just as brightly today as it did many years ago.  I come from a long line of educators and have been blessed to have incredibly strong women mold me into the woman I am today.  But this simple conversation in a local grocery store during Thanksgiving has been on my mind for weeks now.  It made me ask myself the question “What kind of legacy am I leaving to my children?  And I think it is the PERFECT question we can all ask ourselves as we start off this New Year.

What kind of LEGACY are we leaving behind?  Webster defines legacy as either 1) a gift by will especially of money or other personal property or 2) something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.  What I am talking about here has NOTHING to do with money, because let’s face it; everyone knows that educators are some of the lowest paid professionals in our country.  Not to mention that some of the strongest women who have the biggest impact on my life lived very simple lifestyles on very modest incomes.  I have watched money destroy so many and yet I have watched those that have so little in terms of financial means have the greatest impact both during and after their time here on this earth. 
So what kind of legacy does a woman leave that still has people talking about her almost 12 years after she has left this earth?  This is what I wanted to know and this is what I wanted to examine in my own life.  It is not just a simple cut and dry answer either, because this question then caused me to look at some of the other amazing women that have guided me along the way.   

A common thread among all of the women who have left an impact on my life was their faith.  They all seemed to belong to different denominations, but their faith was strong.  Several of the women that had such a strong influence on my life where single moms before there really were single moms, so these women dealt with much more in terms of peer pressure and the glaring eyes of society than we could ever imagine having to do today.  Some had college degrees and some did not, but what they all held in common was a strong work ethic.    Some of the things that I embrace in my own life were very foreign to them, call that a change in the times or maybe it was just a result of the personalities of these often very different women coming together in a melting-pot kind of way with me.  I think it may also be hereditary to some extent.  For example, I share so many similar personality traits and creative talents with a great, great aunt and yet I did not see her much when I was a child. 

These women taught me to laugh, honor The Lord, dance, create, hug, love others, embrace education, read my bible, pray, and know that things always happen for a reason.  The legacy that these women left me did not involve anything monetary, but what it did to mold me into the woman I am today is priceless.
So what do I want to leave to my three children?  Well, while all of my children know The Lord, I want them to have more than that.  I want my children to see the relationship that I have with The Lord and this to be something that their hearts long for.  They know I have faith that can move mountains and they know that I love to tell people what He has done in my life.   My faith is dynamic and real which is something that I want them to see and experience, because there is just nothing in this world that can compare.  I am an educator, that is what The Lord has called me to do and I LOVE what I do, but that also means that when my time here on this Earth is over my children will not be made rich on my account.  If I can show them all the INCREDIBLE things that I am blessed with on a daily basis, instilling in them the desire to have a dynamic relationship with The Lord, well then there will be no greater legacy that I can leave them.  

I encourage you to take some time and think about this in terms of your own life.  This is not something that we often do in our fast paced world, but what better way to start the New Year and examine where we might all want to make changes.  After all, what kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Hi everyone,

Sunday has long been my favorite day of the week.  For me it is about having a RELATIONSHIP with the Lord and not about what RELIGION that one claims.  As long as I can remember I have been able to hear when the Lord speaks and obey when He gives me direction.  Some would say I have "child like" faith, which has always been fine in my book.  My enthusiasm for wanting to obey and follow where the Lord leads has at times also taught me that He does have a sense of humor.

However, as my journey continues into this new chapter in my life I have had to come to the sad realization that while I may pray and seek the Lord, there are those who can take our "child like" faith and exploit us. While we pray, they prey on us.  Always being one to see the best in people, this has been hard for me to grasp.  

As I have sought to try and understand what has really been incomprehensible, the Lord helped to shine a light on the situation.  This morning part of the sermon was on John 8:43-45.

43 "Why do you not understand what I am saying?  It is because you cannot hear my word.  44 "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 :but because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me...

This goes back to what I wrote about several weeks ago - the Lord can send people into our lives so that we can truly be their helpmate, but if their lives are shrouded in the darkness of their past - which they strive to eloquently hide, their is nothing we can do to help them.  Sometimes the schemes become so entangled that what is the truth and what is an entangled web of lies all blends together.

The Lord will truly help those who help themselves, but if they think life owes them a silver spoon, then their is nothing we can do to help them.  If they will not listen to the Lord and see the blessings He has tried to impart on their lives, but instead chooses to make up lies in their quest  to prey on someone new, then we have no control over that.  It again goes back to free will.

Has this shaken my faith?  No, in fact it has actually made my faith that much stronger.  I am the Lord's child and I praise Him and look to Him both in good times and bad.  I can rest at night knowing that I truly lived as the wife the Lord called me to be.  But in the end, when we are unequally yoked, only the Lord can appreciate what we tried to do.  When one spouse prays while the other is only looking for prey, reaching all the potential and blessings the Lord tried to impart is impossible.

Am I angry and bitter?  No, because again the Lord has this and He will give me back all that I have lost. He is my Father and Protector.  He promised me in Isaiah 54:17 that "no weapon formed against me shall prosper."  I have seen Him work in countless ways in my life over the years and I can have peace in knowing that He is a man of His word.  In the mean time I continue to pray "Lord, forgive him because he knows not what he does...Please have mercy on his soul."

PRAY and PREY - they sound the same but the Lord knows the difference.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

When "Why" becomes "What"

Hi everyone,

It is funny how this week off from work has really brought me back in time…or maybe when we have to walk through storms in our lives, it is through clinging to the rays of sunshine that we once knew that help us endure until the storm passes.

Having spent time around a campfire this weekend, it took me back 30+ years to Thanksgiving spent in the woods with family and friends.  It was an age of innocence.  This Thanksgiving I was also reminded of my first Thanksgiving away from home in Germany.  It is not a holiday celebrated there and doing so on a snowy day far away from my family was a memory I will always cherish.  I guess reminiscing about this time of innocence and my love for Germany just left me with feeling that I wanted and needed to put up a real Christmas tree this year.  Not just any real tree, but my first Christmas tree in Germany was a live tree in a pot.  This year to me it symbolizes bringing life back into my home.  Family and friends have been absent from my home for the past 2 ½ years and being given this gift back – well it means more than any gift that Santa could bring me on Christmas morning.

When it comes to gifts, there is no greater gift than to do things for someone else, though I have now learned the hard way that there are those in this world that thrive on exploiting kindness.  Though I will never be able to answer “why” a person would be this way that I will leave up to the professionals what I do know now is this, during those early adult years God spoke into my heart and told me that I was supposed to be doing something important.  For years though I have not been able to put a finger on what that exactly was that He wanted me to do.  So as November comes to a close, what I am most thankful for is that I now have moved past the “why” that I mentioned in a previous post and am embracing the “what” with the enthusiasm that I had in my young adult life. 

They say that the only way you can help someone go through abuse and recover is if you have been there yourself.  Unfortunately, like so many women in our state I have.  However, I can take my experiences and now use my gift of writing to tell my story.  Abuse knows no age, color or economic status, it does not care about a person’s educational background and it can come in different forms.  However, the common denominator though is 9 times out of 10 always the same – there are red flags which we as women do not see through our rose colored glasses of love.  

If I can use my story to help save the life of just ONE woman, then I have used my talents in a manner that God has intended for me.  I silently prayed and told the Lord that if He would lead me out of the storm, so that I no longer had to just “endure” life, but would finally be able to live it, then I would shout from the mountain tops what He had done for me.  I would use my life to give a voice to the silent and hope to those who feel hopeless.

Though I have been working on 3 books for several years, I think it is of the utmost important to now put all of my energy into this project.  The words are just coming to fast to ignore.  I have been asked does taking on a project like this scare me and my answer is NO because God has this!!  All He ever asks is for us to listen and follow Him when He asks.  So I shall…      

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Finding Forgiveness

Hi everyone!

Well I decided to tackle the topic of forgiveness today.  I have to say this is a tough one!!  It is a quite lengthy post, because it is such a tough topic.  Why am I looking at this so soon?  Well since the writers before me all talk about the topic and the need to reach this place before my life can truly move on, I felt the time was now.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not so naive as to think one blog post will solve this, but life is too short to be stuck in a valley and let the wrong doings of one keep me from moving forward.  So I first looked at what scripture had to say about the topic.  This led me to The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15.

"This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ' For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

I understand and I do want the Lord to forgive me when I sin, because we all sin, but I cannot help but struggle with what exactly is forgiveness.  Does this mean you just pat someone on the back like a buddy and send them on their way to wreak havoc in someone else’s life?  Given my love of research, I wanted to explore this further and thought I would start with the definition of forgiveness - “to stop feeling anger toward.”   Wait a minute, now I am getting somewhere.  Pastor Rick Warren then really helped me investigate this a little further. 

“There are a lot of bad things in life that are evil. Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will, but that’s why we need God in our lives. So forgiveness isn’t forgetting what happened, it’s about finding what good came out of it.”

“What good came out of it” – I am assuming the “it” in this case means the evil.  He goes on further to say that “Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves that allows us to get on with our lives instead of being trapped in the past by resentment.”  Wait, did he just say “gift”???  And isn’t my birthday in 2 days???  So this means that I could possibly give myself THE BEST gift(s) ever??!!!

So what are the gifts that I have received from this “life lesson”?

1) I have gotten to observe just how blessed I am with the incredible friends and family in my life.  These are the TRUE friends and family, not someone just pretending to be.

2) I have also seen once again that God protects His children.

3) God has also shown me that this was NOT about me.  Sometimes bad things happen to good people. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, God can bring people in to our lives for good, but the other person has free will to choose what God has planned or to throw it away. 

4) Sometimes “the enemy” can use those closest to us to keep us from fulfilling all that God has planned for our lives.  But God will take care of this too.  Forgiving will allow me to go where God wants me to.

Joan Lunden once said that “Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth.  Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life.”  WAIT A MINUTE – STOP THE BUS!!!  Forgiveness is a GIFT AND will make me look better too!!  Why yes, this is true because my laughter and smile has returned and there is a spring in my step!!  Happy Early Birthday to me yet again!!!
Maya Angelou wrote “You can’t forgive without loving.  And I don’t mean sentimentality.  I don’t mean mush.  I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive.  I’m finished with it.’”  The key phrase being “I’m finished with it” and what exactly is the “it”?  For me “it” means having the courage to stand up and say “I am finished with being taken advantage of and used,” not just for my sake but for my children as well.

Well Gerald Jampolsky says that “Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness.  Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is therefore the means for correcting our misperceptions. “  So, the “it” were also my misperceptions and as Jane Austen so eloquently put it “Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope for a cure.”  No matter how hard we might try, we cannot help those with a selfish spirit – there is no cure, so me must forgive and move on.  Tyler Perry knows himself, “It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people.  But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.”  

Courage, Freedom, Laughter, Peace, Power…just a few more gifts that forgiveness is giving me!!  The poet Clarissa Pinkole Estes wrote the following.

“How does one know she has forgiven?  You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him.  You tend to have nothing left to say about it at all.”

I think this is so vitally important and sums this up so perfectly!  I can forgive and yet feel sorrow.  God gave someone such an amazing gift - a home, a Godly wife, and unconditional love, but they chose not to accept or cherish that gift, for this I can feel sorry for him.  And while I approach midlife and find myself surrounded with the most amazing group of family and friends, and I know how truly blessed I am, he feels friendless.  That is incredibly sad, but something that happens when one has spent their life trampling on the hearts of those who have loved him.

Author Lewis B. Smedes said that “You will know the forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”   Because if he could not find love and home with me, as he approached the latter part of life then you can only hope that he finds it before his time here on this earth is done.  I wish him well on his journey and pray for all of those in his path.

Though the MOST precious gift that I will ever receive this year is the PEACE of knowing that I did all that God ever asked me to do as a wife and while that may not have been good enough, God has blessed me beyond measure with the people that I do have in my life.  I forgive because I am not going to waste the life that I have been blessed with on anger.  God taught me a long time ago that He will take care of those who hurt us and betray us, so I will let Him handle the rest.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet shed on the heel that has crushed it.” ~ Mark Twain

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Talents for HIS Glory

Hi everyone!

It has been amazing how God has gently guided my writings over the past several weeks.  When He places something on my heart I take several days to put it all into words.  I think it is important to look for the sunshine in the rain.  Everyone in this life has to go through their share of storms at some time or another and I just think if I can help others to also find a message while they are dealing with a mess that I am putting my talents to the use God intended for them.

We all are given talents, but how we choose to use them is the key.  This can pertain to money or the actual “talents” that God has given each of us.  God explains this very clearly in Matthew 25: 14-30, The Parable of the Talents. 
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Those who know me also know that I have always given God the credit for my talents and how He guides me to use them.  I think it is important to use our talents in such a way that we can teach others about God and thus glorify Him in our lives.  Because I have lived my life this way it never even occurred to me that someone could use their talents in a deceptive manner.  Like the man that wanted to talk about the one talent that was given to him, but chose to not do anything with it.  If anyone uses their talent(s) in a manner to deceive others instead of using them to glorify God then the Bible is very clear of the consequences.  We have reached a point in our society where people tend to try and explain away what the Bible tells us.  However, God gave us His Word for our good, to serve as our lighthouse, and if we do not follow His instruction then we will never find peace in this world.

To me it is incredibly sad when God gives us a gift – the gift of someone who does see your talents and has devoted their lives to try and help you reach your true potential, but the reality is that you never had any intention of doing anything with that talent.  This parable also reiterates the fact that the Lord helps those who help themselves.  I think it saddens Him to see His servants taken advantage of, but I also know that He can take any mess and turn it into a message.
So will this stop me from using my talents to glorify God – oh no!!  For in the midst of sadness it is listening to His gently whisper and guidance that are my comfort.  I have given my best and will continue to do so and that is all that He ever asks of any of us.  For me and my children, I cannot imagine any other way!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wings on the Mend

Hi everyone!

As we get closer to Thanksgiving and I head into the weekend I cannot help but reflect upon the week and all that I have to be thankful for.  I will turn 49 next week and while some people dread the thought of turning 50, I CANNOT wait to see what God has in store for me during the next year!!

In my very full life I have been so blessed with such INCREDIBLE friends to help me walk through life's journey.  Supporting me in good times and bad, encouraging me along the way - well that is all any of us could ever hope for!

When Robin Williams died in August I took it very hard.  I think it was because his words were so meaningful to me...  "I use to think the worst thing in life was to end up alone.  It's not.  The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone."

Sometimes we inadvertently allow people into our lives, who while on the surface may appear to have our best interest at heart, yet in reality all they are ever really concerned about are their own interests - even to the point of making us feel completely alone.  If we are not careful they can bankrupt us emotionally and financially.  Sometimes our true friends have to help us metaphorically throw water on our face in order for us wake up.

Once we take off the rose colored glasses we can then take the lemons that have been given to us and turn them into lemonade.  Slowly but surely our crushed spirit realizes it really does have wings and can fly yet again.

When traveling down a road such as this, the biggest blessings come in the form of unexpected God Winks sent from far away angels.  Angels sent to illuminate all that God has been trying to show me for so long.  Angels, who have also had their wings broken.  Yes, this angel will indeed fly!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Step at a Time

Hi everyone,

As I have struggled over the past several weeks to make sense of all that is transpiring in my life, these words by Oswald Chambers left me saying “WOW”!!

"If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; or even if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential will of God means a hard and difficult time for you, go through it...You must go through the trial before you have any right to pronounce a verdict, because by going through the trial you learn to know God better. God is working in us to reach His highest goals until His purpose and our purpose become one."
~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Ok, let me examine this a little closer.

If the providential will of God means a hard and difficult time for you, go through it... because by going through the trial you learn to know God better.”

I have to admit this is tough for me on so many levels.  In part because I have so many questions that will probably always be unanswered.  Up until this point in my life, when life has thrown curve balls my way I have done a good job of asking God “WHAT do you want me to learn from this” and not “WHY”.  This time it is all the unanswered WHYs that haunt me.  I have always been one to focus on my relationship with God and not a certain religion.  So I guess that is why my dialog with Him these days resembles more of that between a parent and a heart broken teenager.  Just like our parents know what is best and we have a hard time grasping that concept when we are in our teens, so now do I have a tough time grasping all that has unfolded in my life.

Dr. Dobson’s book, The Strong Willed Child, states that “The difference between life as it is and life as it out to be is a frightening and distressing bit of reality.”  I cannot help but smile through the tears – boy Dr. Dobson, did you ever get that right??!!!

While there have been days when I have wondered if my heart will ever heal, I find comfort in knowing that when we indeed follow God’s guidance He will restore all that has been taken from us.  For me, that makes me so thankful this time of the year.  Yes, He can take a mess and turn it into a message.  One step at a time!!  

Thank you for walking along this journey with me.


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