Spiritual Growth

STOP! Before You Kill Someone

flagman-190063 (1)After a long days work, I was barreling down the two-lane country road that led me home. My mind was spinning with anger over something Tim had done. All these years later, I don’t remember what it was. But I do remember the rage.

I didn’t see the flagman holding one of those Stop signs on a pole. I didn’t even notice him until he had lifted his sign, and sprinted for the shoulder. I slammed on the brakes and came to a screeching halt. The jolt catapulted me out of my fury.

We shared a few sideways glances. Then the man picked up his sign and walked right to the front of my car. Without saying a word, he glared at me and turned that sign to clearly declare the word “STOP.”

As if that wasn’t enough, he then picked it up and banged the pole into the ground, not once, not twice, but and over and over for what seemed like an hour.

Then he calmly turned the sign around to say “SLOW.” And I did slowly make my way past him.

But as I crossed the bridge over the Occoquan River, I kept thinking how my anger had taken over me. How it so distracted me that I almost took a persons life.

In the few minutes I had before reaching home, I chose to think differently. Instead of focusing on what Tim had done wrong, I began to think of some of my fondest memories of him.

I thought of the time we drove all night from Georgia back to our home in Virginia. Kelly was not yet a year old. This was before car seats, so we had put the back seat down in our old VW bug, and made her a soft bed to sleep on.

It was past midnight when we pulled into a gas station and Tim got out. After pumping gas, he opened the drivers side door and I looked over at him. Something in the back seat caught his eye, and his face melted. In a voice so tender it touched me deeply, he said, “Hey boogh, did we wake you up?”

I turned around, and the warm glow of the lights fell softly on Kelly’s chubby little face. She was sitting up, caressing her security blanket close to her chest while sucking her thumb.Tim, Kelly, and Ellen 1974

The more I thought of that moment, my heart softened, and my rage subsided. By the time I got home, whatever Tim had done wrong, was now in it’s proper perspective.

We do get to choose our thoughts. And we do get to bring them captive to the will of God. And God’s will is that we think on good things. And not the things that bring us down.

So, what track are you stuck on today? And what thoughts can you bring captive? Isn’t it time to change direction?




Peace at What Cost?

She sat across from me at the table. I wasn’t sure why she wanted to have lunch. For the past couple years she’d been asking that we be friends. She said she envied mine.american-cut-table

But it’s hard. There are just too many unanswered calls. Too many texts that get no response. Too many canceled lunch dates.

As a single mom, I know she’s got her hands full with two of her four children still at home. And she does understand the challenges she handed them with her three divorces. But she’s trying to overcompensate by being super mom.

And I do think, considering her past, she’s wise to not date. But I question her insistence that she values the peace she’s found in being alone. Especially since she repeatedly laments how she’s not close to her family, and she has no friends.

So, I came to lunch. But until I saw her in the restaurant, I wondered if she’d show up. But she did.

I try to make her feel comfortable by sharing some of the struggles Tim and I had in our marriage. I don’t want her to feel badly that she’s divorced. I want to love her right where she is.DSC00410

“Sounds like he was really selfish,” she says.

I back pedal. My intent wasn’t to degrade the guy.

“We were both selfish.” I responded. “Truthfully, I was as horrible and wonderful to him, as he was to me. In our forty years together, it was a draw.”

She sat up straight, drew in a long breath that puffed up her chest. “I used to be selfish,” she said.

I sit back kind of stunned. Because with no one in her life except her kids, who pushes her buttons? And since she stays at their every beck and call, they’re not pulling her trigger. So I wondered, what are her indicators to say she’s not selfish?

Because I just don’t think we’re to wipe out our struggles by isolating ourselves from difficult people. And if that’s the only way we can find peace, I think we might be doing it all wrong.

The bible tells us in Ephesians we’re to be completely humble and gentle. To be patient, bearing with one another in love.  To make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Looking back at the difficult people who have crossed my path, I see how those relationships changed me the most. And the ones I wanted to walk away from were the ones that caused me the most growth.

Because we can’t win the fight over our sinful nature, if we don’t get back in the ring. And those difficult relationships help to identify the areas where we need to change the most.

Selflessness never comes easy. And sacrificing our lives for others exacts a high price. But consciously bearing with one another, in love, changes us at our core. And if we don’t spend our lives incrementally laying them down, at the end, the only way we will have peace, will be to live alone.

Bitesize Pieces of Perfection

I’m sure it came inside a card I no longer have, but this little strip of paper made it’s way into a box of keepsakes. When I ran across it several months ago, I took it out and glued it into my art journal.AJM I Wish

Aunt Jeanne Marie has often sent me such treasures. When I was younger I didn’t realize their long term value, and many didn’t get saved. But somehow, I began to see these jewels of wisdom and I started tucking them away.

Today, I read this one over and over. Of all the things listed here, my mind got stuck on the, “…ordinary little bite size pieces of perfection…”

It got me thinking – just what does a bite size piece of perfection look like?

So here’s my short list from the past month:

IMG_3908Work has brought my son Daniel from Philadelphia to Florida for two whole weeks. So for fourteen days, we get to talk, dream, argue, and frustrate each other, just like the old days. It’s so wonderful to have my son in the house.

My granddaughter Juliette, who lives in Atlanta, shut herself in a closet to spend some quality FaceTime with me. For about thirty minutes, I got her all to myself. She told me about the recital I missed, her school work, and her latest writing projects. The memory of that conversation still warms me.

I spent the past couple weekIMG_3905s on the road for work. And in those travels, I got to eat at some amazing restaurants. All at no cost to me.

I met a new friend from Phoenix through my blog. Somehow we connected and began to support each others writing. I feel honored when she comments on my website. It’s an odd type of world we writers live in. One where we are often alone with our words. But when they go out to places unknown, and they latch onto someone else, it’s a real treat. So check out my new friend Tanara McCauley’s website. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Sometimes life just gets really hard. And it’s easy to get bogged down in the tough stuff of just getting by. And all the while, God is reaching down and handing us little bite size pieces of perfection. Moments He’s orchestrated on our behalf. But if we don’t take the time to reflect. If we just stay focused on the difficulties at hand, we’ll miss all the ways He’s wrapped His arms around us, and gently held us through the storm.

We Just Don’t Know

Tim and Ellen Gee 1998Coming up on the third anniversary of Tim’s death, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on our life together. Most of it wondering how in the world we managed to stay married for all those years. And how, in spite of our recklessness, we raised two kids, who from an early age wanted nothing more then to get married, have kids, and grow old. All with the same person.

Several months ago, I had my first relationship post Tim. And the fall out of that experience oddly shed some light on my marriage.

With all the best intentions, I tried to accept this guy for who he was, hoping in turn; he’d see the whole of me. But my intense passion proved too much, and he ran for the hills. And the pain of that loss shattered me. And I instantly began to question my own self worth.

In my despair, I remembered certain images of Tim. How he tried not to laugh as I’d go on a rage. How his eyebrows arched as I ranted about a wound I’d suffered from a friend. How, sometimes for hours, he’d sit silently taking all the blows. Letting me get it all out of my system.Tim1998

Tim was the shield that helped me corral the words spinning in my head. He allowed me to try them out in order to rein them in. And no matter how often I bounced them off him, he never gave up on us. Even when he was the intended target.

But this week I realized, I need a new shield. A buffer between the people I love and my untamed thoughts. That the gift of words God has given me has a wicked side. And most of what I think, should never leave my mouth unedited.

So in one of those quiet times of reflection, I clearly felt the nudge of God. And in that nudging I heard Him say, “That’s why I gave you the gift of writing.”

And for the first time, I saw my writing as a present wrapped up just for me. And not something that always has to be shared. A gift to help me manage this big personality He gave me. And how the empty page must now become the shield Tim once held up for me.

It’s true, we don’t know what we have until it’s gone. And in the thick of my marriage, I never fully understood all the ways Tim and I fit together. But God did. And that mystery is now being revealed to me.

I’m grateful that even when I’m not paying attention, God is orchestrating my life. And in that orchestration He always gives me His very best.


We Were Meant for This

landscaping_nb_09-2A few years ago, I managed a Starbucks in an upscale mall in Orlando Florida. Just outside my store was an open courtyard encircled by tall masts with large LED screens mounted on top. All day, loud music played while images splashed across the screens. Around the courtyard, black leather ottomans filled up with relaxed shoppers. Children, taking advantage of the wide-open space, ran, leaped, and tumbled in spite of their parents protest.

Anytime I crossed the courtyard I glanced at the shoppers lounging while they stared up at the big screens. Mesmerized, they glared at the images of beautiful countryside’s, the space shuttle taking off, and beautiful, thin, well-dressed Floridians, seemingly enjoying the time of their lives.

Daktronics-The-Mall-of-MilleniaThe feed came to a close with footage of the most recent fashion shows from around the world.  One by one, perfectly dressed models marched at you like million dollar stallions; their gowns hanging off their starving bodies.

The final shot showed happy shoppers entering and leaving through the malls massive glass doors. Large print flashed saying, “You were meant for this.”

One day, as I watched the models strut, I wondered how many of us feel we were meant for a more glamorous life. After all, I did long to be rich enough to buy the $60,000 necklace in the window of the jewelry store next to my Starbucks.Jewelry shop

But maybe we were meant for all this. After all, God promises us a kingdom with gates of pearls and streets lined with gold. And the Bible does say He’s building a mansion just for me.

So, maybe my longing is genuine. Maybe I’m not made for this world.

Perhaps when sin entered the garden, God didn’t change our desire for perfection. Maybe our longings for luxury come more from our exile from Eden, than our lack of funds. And by remembering we’re just travelers in this present age, we can stop focusing on what we don’t have here, and look to the one who promises to give us all good things.