Weekend Coffee Share: God?

17190510_1429948397016251_5647698492734907314_n

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d tell you that it’s been an ugly week here. On the positive side, I managed to pass my apartment inspection; on the negative side, I’ve been sort of stewing about something.

Grab yourself a fresh, hot cup, because we’re going to talk about God today and it may take a while.

About a year ago, I was approached by someone who was a friend a long, long time ago. Confronted, really. She said she sampled one of my books and was sad to see that God is not in my work. She wanted to know why I have turned away from my faith. I blogged about it at the time, and I felt pretty good about my response to her. I thought I did a good job of explaining that I haven’t turned away at all.

I spoke with her again this week. Again, she expressed sympathy for what she sees as my straying and turning away from God. She condemned me in the kindest, most condescending way possible, letting me know that she’ll pray for me to find my way back. She mourned my lost faith and told me how sad she is that I’ve become callous, that I’ve hardened my heart.

I’m not going to lie; that hurts. I feel judged.

I am a Christian. I do my best to be a good one, but I am human and therefore I am flawed. The fact that I see faith as a private and personal matter doesn’t make me any less of a Christian than those who are more vocal about it. I may not be able to quote random Bible passages at will or show up at every Sunday service like my friend, but that doesn’t mean I’m going straight to Hell.

Folks, Christianity is NOT a competition sport.

You see, God IS in my work, because He is the One who gave me this gift of storytelling. He is the One who changed my life and gave me this opportunity. I thank Him every time I pour a little bit of my heart and soul into a story.

God is in my work because God is in ME.

He is the One who gives me courage and strength on the bad days. I have leaned on Him through pain, through heartache, through everything. And you know what? He’s always there for me. He’s never shamed me for not living up to His standards. He loves me, no matter what, and He forgives me when I screw up.

My books aren’t Christian fiction, even though I like to think that my sweet historical romances are somewhat inspirational. People in my contemporary romances have sex before they are married and they swear once in a while. Some of the stuff I say in my humor collections can get pretty raunchy at times.

I’ll be the first to tell you that not everything I write is appropriate for every audience.

But my characters always find love. There is always a commitment that comes with the sex. I try to write them as basically good people who grow and become better people by the end of the book. It is my goal to inject at least a little bit of hope into everything I write.

A little bit of love.

A little bit of joy.

That’s my version of Happily Ever After, in romance novels and in real life.

If my friend insists that God is not in stories about hope, love, and joy, then one of us doesn’t understand Him at all.

Grasping at Straws

No one was around when it happened, but I got a hug yesterday that turned my world around. I was feeling pretty alone in a crowd of people, and I don’t think anyone else realized what that hug did for me.

It’s been another rocky week around here. I’m doing my best to stay positive and keep a good attitude, but as one of my favorite bloggers said in her post for today, “Life is full of overwhelm.” I’m dealing with money problems, small-town-gossip issues, a broken lawnmower, a job opportunity that fell through, and now there’s a dead mouse in my basement. Life is sucking big-time right now, and not even bothering to use a pretty curly straw.

To be honest, life isn’t really all that bad.  We’re all healthy, and there’s been a lot of good stuff going on, too.  I’ve got my book signing tomorrow, and a possible girls’ night out with a couple of old friends; there’s a visit from my sister and a new used laptop from a friend, and the little store in town just started carrying Toblerone. If I could get Netflix to work on my TV so I could watch something with Randolph Mantooth or Eric Allan Kramer, I’d be content.

sister

It’s just that I argued with some friends this week, and that hurts. They weren’t my best friends, not by a long shot. But they were friends, and life is too short to let any friends go easily. We might not have shared our deepest secrets with each other, but we enjoyed each other’s company. To put it differently, they were the kind of friends who might not have gone into the basement for the mouse for me, but they would have stood at the top of the stairs and squealed in sympathy while I did it myself.

When this passes over – and it will – it’s going to be hard for me to smile and go on with these people as though nothing has happened. I’ll do it because that’s what grown-ups do; I’ll encourage our kids to play together and we’ll all sit together in the bleachers during the different sports seasons. We’ll fall back into the same routines, the same patterns, and I’ll have to remind myself not to hold a grudge. It’ll be a struggle, but everything will be just fine.

For right now, my feelings are hurt. I feel like my soul has been bruised.

There are so many people out there with real problems. It’s foolish to waste even one minute stressing myself out over some petty he-said-she-said rumors and silliness. I just needed something or someone to give me a little kick in the butt or slap upside the head to remind me to prioritize this mess in the appropriate manner.

And that’s where the hug came in.

When I go to the elementary school to pick up my son at the end of the day, there’s a little girl who refuses to smile at me. Absolutely refuses. She’s an utterly adorable and very opinionated little girl with a strong and unique personality. I always ask her if today is the day I’m going to get a “Molly-smile,” and she takes a long, serious moment to study me and consider my question before shaking her head and walking away. Our little routine has become a high point of some of my days.

Yesterday was my rough day.  I was wallowing in self-pity and seriously considering plans for the evening that involved devouring the equivalent of my body weight in food that’s really, really bad for me; I had a hard time holding my head up and ignoring the whispers when I walked by the cluster of friends who are so upset with me. For a few minutes, I felt like a self-conscious sixth-grader trying to find a safe place to sit in the cafeteria on the first day of middle school. I wished my little boy was big enough to walk himself home from school so I didn’t have to face any of those people.

And then, out of the blue, I didn’t get a Molly-smile.

I got a Molly-hug.

God alone knows why that child chose yesterday, of all days, to run up and hug me. She never said a word. Just trotted up, threw her tiny arms around me for a split second, and ran back to her mother.

That was all it took to put things back into perspective for me.

Life is short. Sometimes, it’s “full of overwhelm.” But the world is always going to keep turning; tomorrow’s going to come, the sun is going to rise, and life is going to go on with or without our permission.  We can hang onto hurt and anger and self-pity, or we can allow ourselves to thaw in the warmth that comes from a child’s hug.

We can focus on the bad or we can embrace the good.

We can complain about the mouse in the basement or we can put on our big girl panties and march down there, get the damn thing, and move on with life.

And I guess, if life is going to suck sometimes, we might as well give it some pretty curly straws and enjoy the show.

straws

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “No one was around when it happened…” This week’s FTSF is hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Lisa at Flingo and Jessica from Ramblings of an add mommy

Facebook “Friends” and True Colors

I just spent two hours writing a blog post that I will never publish.  It was an angry post that ranged in tone from red-hot fury to frost-blue sarcasm.

It was called “Open Letter to An Idiot” and it was not nice.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  I used twenty-seven different synonyms for “idiot” and I droped the f-bomb thirteen times.

You see, I have just learned that some of my “friends” are annoyed by my behavior in recent years.   I put the quotation marks around the word friend because there are people involved who obviously have no idea what the word means.

I have talked too much about my car accident and about my lingering issues with pain.  I understand that now, and I wish I had been more stoic about it.  I am, after all, not the only person to undergo a traumatic event.  And let’s face it, there are a lot of people dealing with worse pain.  I’m embarrassed when I look back at some of my whining and I wonder that I haven’t lost more friends because of my constant complaining.

The night of my accident, I wasn’t thinking about getting sympathy or attention.  I was thinking that the sky had that funny green-yellow color that sometimes comes with tornado weather.  I was thinking that my children and I were going to die.  Later, when the storm was over and they were wheeling me around from ambulance to ambulance, I stared up at the violets, oranges and indigoes of the sunset sky and wondered if I would ever walk again.

Afterward, I guess I should have moved on better than I did.

My bad.

My angry and unpublishable blog post was prompted by a conversation that took place on Facebook yesterday between people that I had thought of as my friends.  They discussed my accident and my recovery at great lengths, and made quite a few jokes at my expense.  Apparently, these chums of mine decided to advance the theory that my accident never really took place.

I am lazy, they decided.  They called me an attention whore and speculated that I made up the whole thing as a way of getting sympathy and finding a way to get out of working for the rest of my life.  They voiced the opinion that I need to STFU.

Look, people are going to gossip.  I can accept that.  Hell, I’ve been caught gossiping a few times.  More than a few, if I’m going to be perfectly honest.  But I can’t even comprehend saying the kind of spiteful, vicious things these people said.  And right out there on Facebook, in a public forum for all the world to see!

In a conversation that showed up in my newsfeed.  On my page, where I could read every poisonous word they said.

I attacked them in my blog.  I lashed out at them . . . and I did the same thing I was accusing them of doing:  I mocked them in a public forum for all the world to see.

But I won’t publish that post because I want to be a better person than they are.

I know I’ve talked about my accident too much and I’m trying to stop.  Really, I am.  I realize that I can never heal as long as I keep dwelling on it.   It’s a hard lesson that I am constantly re-learning; for example, I recently shared a few details about it with a new friend, and regretted it almost immediately.  It’s part of my past, and it should have stayed there.  I dumped far too much on him when I should have kept it to myself, and I am afraid that I have done irreparable damage to a budding friendship.

I’ve whined a lot lately about pain because it’s aggravated by cold weather – and since Michigan is in the grip of something called a “polar vortex”, it’s really cold here.  I have had to go out into that frigid weather to shovel snow off the steps, and the combination of cold and overuse of shoulder/neck muscles has left me with a level of pain that is nearly blinding in its intensity.

Still, I should have been more considerate of others who are worse off.  I know that nobody wants to see a long string of negative, whiny, aww-poor-me status updates; I should have just put on the big girl panties and kept it to myself.

But to mock me?  To claim that I was never really hurt, to say that my accident never happened, to say that I am “milking” a disability claim because I am too lazy to go back to work?   That takes a special kind of person.  The kind of person I hope to never be.  The kind of person who cannot be my friend.  Not now, not ever.

Because this happened.

Whew!  Luckily, it's a figment of my imagination.
Whew! Luckily, it’s a figment of my imagination.

That’s Todd, holding my head.  Rey taking the picture.  Dave in the yellow coat.  Not a clue who the arm or butt belong to –Mitch, Brian, JC? — but the fact remains that it happened, and they were there.  And so was I.

The “friends” who are mocking me and suggesting that it never happened?  They weren’t there.  Not at the scene, not in the aftermath, and certainly not now.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/daily-prompt-colors/