What’s in a Name?

Inspired by our ever changing society and the way we as humans grab at the “quick fix” and forget to seek real change through Christ.

Much ado is being made today

On the subject of branding and mascots,

As we squirm in the spotlight

Of our less-than-exemplary days.

Fiddling with age-old monikers,

Wielding a heavy broom at the past,

Banishing chapter and verse,

Seeking to make vanish

Anything remotely troubling-and fast!

Understandable? Well, yes, I can get the desperate acts of contrition.

Yet, I feel compelled to express this cautionary addition…

What exactly is in a name?,

(As wise old Will might say.)

To be sure, some rightly evoke

Centuries of grief and plenty of pain.

And it’s certainly not that I stand

Stubbornly in the camp

That such words should forever remain…

But, still, I find I must also say-

All this panicked wiping away does

No earthly good

If the heart forgets to further pursue

What it should!

For, you can change a name all you desire,

Take a scrubbing brush to history,

Sand out the surfaces of blame,

And hope ugliness will expire.

You might even extend a

Well-versed,

Expertly rehearsed apology.

But, none will ever wash the years of shame

Nor fix a broken philosophy-

Especially if we allow ourselves to plunge from one dissonance to another,

Refusing to embrace the opportunity afforded

By the Lord to lift us

From opposing forces to brother.

For what we ought to ask,

Perhaps,

Is- what’s in His name?

Meekness.

Power.

The ability to bless.

The sin-cleansing shower.

What’s in His name?

Well, friends, that’s called change.

Real change and healing.

And only in Him will ever come the

Much-needed, ever-alleviating rain.

Oh, nothing can ever replace that feeling!

May we seek after that real change in a world addicted to quick fixes. Blessings and prayers, friends! Thanks for reading! ❤

Listen for the Whisper

Read about Elijah the other day in his fleeing of Jezebel and listening for God. In the tempests both within and without this week, this was born. Figured it was worth a share…

Not in the rumble,

The tumbling down of stone.

Oh, how the ear strains in my stumble…

To snatch at thunderous voice resounding…

Monsterous choice to lean on flames

Forever pounding

Or to steal into the quiet cave,

Await the peace You generously gave.

And respond but to the gentlest of whispers,

Wrap my cloak about me

As You and I discuss what’s been

And what’s yet to occur.

Ah, trust how elusive!

Yet, I know it’s freedom You yet give.

By tenderness we are fed

Even when brutal violence demands blood be shed.

Somehow, the two though seeming to oppose,

Into twain in Your hands have arose.

Keep speaking the soft words to my troubled heart, Lord.

As in these ugly, calloused times we must ford….

Thanks for reading, dear ones. Keep listening for His voice. Hoping I can continue to do likewise. Blessings and prayers. ❤

Pastor Don is Free!

Well, here we are, friends. Mere weeks from the beginning of my request for prayer to this moment I honestly thought I’d dread to report.

And yet…it does not speak well of the body of Christ nor the glorious truth of life eternal to approach this with dread.

So, rejoicing through the tears, I will just say that at 2:40 pm, our dear Pastor Don left this earth.

He leaves behind his wife, Deb, and three grown children-Michael, Andrew, and Michelle.

They are blessed to know he is pain-free and waiting for them on the other side, but, of course, will sorrow in this separation, temporary though it may be.

They will treasure any prayers offered for them.

And, may it be noted for those of us privileged to have known him, he also gave us the gift of both a legacy of faith and a humble determination to lift the name of Jesus high.

Lord, may this inspiration continue to serve me well.

I appreciate so much the uniting of your prayers with ours. It has been such a comfort to know where we are separated by miles, we are near in our hearts, thanks to Christ.

Blessings and prayers. ❤

When God Makes a Match Out of Our Mess, or the How Marisa Met Joe Story, Part Three

Hello, friends! Thanks again for all the prayers going up for Pastor Don, his wife, and church family. I will keep you posted as this continues to unfold…

So…in honor of Father’s Day, I thought I’d lighten the heaviness in so many hearts and share my final piece.

This goes out in tribute to the man who went from single guy to instant father for me and my precious own. Love you, Joe. ❤

If you missed the first two parts, check here and here. 🙂

So…ready? Ok. Well, let’s see…

When last we met over this winding road, Joe and I had “met” over the mysterious space out there known as the internet and began paying our gratitude to Alexander Graham Bell for the spiffy invention of the telephone.

But-

We had yet to meet in-person, though the idea had been furtively nudged at.

Nor had we introduced my kids to him, though they did witness a lot of mommy giggling into the phone or merrily tippety-tapping keys on the computer.

They knew there was something to this.

Much more than the vague “dates” I was out on prior.

So…eventually the nudging formulated into actual plans.

And these plans became one of my first inklings this all could be for real.

Because, he wanted this first date to be all of us!

Oh, I still tear up nearly a decade later on this point…

Never had that offer ever been extended in all these long and troubled months of grappling with the nightmare of online dating.

Ever.

And, to top it all off, he wanted it to be the kids’ favorite spot.

So…we met at our neighborhood McDonald’s on one of his days off.

My mother dropped us off so she could get a gander. He immediately won her over with his politeness and good humor.

Ok. Good. Passed the mama check. 😉

He was as fun and animated as he had been in our chats. My nervous self was definitely still present and accounted for, but had rarely banished itself to the background so quickly!

Part of what warmed me was that he became a kid with the kids, an avid listener to their tales( which were extensive in those days, especially for my oldest!😊 ), and quite the clown to their delight.

He also handled every sensory- issue-laden order with ease, ensuring Elijah’s burger was absolutely pickle-free, Timothy had his root beer, and Sarah had her usual pile of ketchup packets.

As if he had always been there doing this very thing with me.

It was…surreal.

I kept waiting for the bubble to burst. Fearing it. It always happened, after all.

Yet…it never did.

Our sweet Sarah, blunt autistic beauty she was at just 6 and still is at nearing 15, assessed the situation with a moment that is still one of the richest in our family history.

She slid in between us in the booth at one point, slipped an arm around us each, and with all the seriousness she could muster, stated the facts:

“You two on a date. You two gonna get married.”

Of course, we each laughed nervously, blushed like mad, and I think would’ve liked to have hidden under the table.

Her older brothers each had raised a brow then but did not comment. They were still in that boyish “eww-romance?” phase.

And yet…here we are. More than eight years later. 😊

The night continued on in that same homey vein.

On so many points, though each of our stories had their own unique struggles and joys, we could match experiences.

Rough childhoods and painful rejections. Awkwardness, failures and triumphs in carving out places for ourselves.

Where I had struggled in abuse, abandonment and seeking self-worth in relationships, his foster care beginnings had led him to addiction,theft, and some youthful years locked up.

Yet, for us both, the best of what we could share was our respective new lives reborn in the Son.

When at last it was time to take our reluctant leave, Sarah begged for a piggyback ride on the stroll back to our nearby apartment. She was obviously officially sold. 😏

The boys were also chatty and playful. They may’ve been “eww-romance” but they were also loving having a guy around to bounce their superhero discussions off of.

And…me? I was… full of wonder.

Still am.

At God’s astronomical providence.

His awesome love.

His astonishing attention to detail.

For He reaches through the messes we make of ourselves, plucks us up, and matches us with just who we need.

Not that all has been as easy as that, of course.

There have been falls from grace aplenty and graces extended once more.

I wish I could say our mutual hold on God had always kept us from spiralling into sin.

But, alas. I cannot. For we are human.

Banged-up, prone-to-sin humans.

For, the drawing together of so many scared and hurting souls naturally brings out the ache of scars and the risk of new wounds.

Both will press deep into the heart and bring emotions and wills to bear.

And…sometimes, we embrace the victory over sin He has given us…and sometimes, we don’t.

Without going to details best left to themselves, I will just say a bonus baby entered swiftly into the mix in our case.

He would be treasured, to be sure.

But, he was coming before we were ready, bringing us to a painful and needed place of repentance, reminding us of both the vulnerabilities and the joys of being human.

For there are so, so many of both, my friends.

And I could’ve either shrugged it off as “just the way of the world” or swept it under the rug unacknowleged altogether.

Or else lingered in the shame of taking His gift to me and misusing it.

I still could.

But, then, what would that say for His tender mercies to us?

That which indeed are new every morning.

Not at all that they should ever be taken advantage of!

But, neither should they not be allowed to do their miraculous healing work in our hearts.

So…we were set to marry as it was but the ceremony was somewhat hastened with this turn of events.

Still, it was beautiful. A bringing together of us all under one umbrella kind of beautiful.

And, indeed, what a beautiful way He has of taking the splotches our fumbling hands create on the sketchpad of living and etching out masterpieces!

For, here we all stand, over eight years later, a testament to His amazing grace.

With so many more stories than I could ever fill these online pages with.

Suffice to say, in my myriads of current struggles, this is what my heart must stir itself to rest upon.

And, so, where there is so, so much more I could say, I will end on that note, dear friends.

It’s been fun to share these tidbits with a new audience.

If you find yourself wanting more of this testimony in greater detail, I will fight my usual tendency to break out in a rash on salesmanship at this point. 😏

Here is a link to my book from a few years ago:

I don’t know what God will do here. Don’t know if this is a resurgence of my work or just a rebirth of the joy in sharing it.

Either way, it’s in His hands. 😊

At any rate, thanks so much for joining in on this reading journey with me! Blessings and prayers! ❤

Pastor Don Update

Not what I want to be posting right now. I will get back to the fun “how we met” story. But this must be shared.

A quick word for my wonderful prayer warriors-Pastor Don is continuing to go downhill. Deb has requested we pray he goes quickly if that is God’s will. He is in so much pain.

This is so hard. He has been such a father figure to us. But, we love him so much we just want him to be free.

And praise the Lord we know he will be in Him!

Thank you so much friends for your continued prayers, support, and love! ❤

I will keep you posted.

When God Makes a Match Out of Our Mess, or the How Marisa Met Joe Story, Part Two

Well, hello there, friends! Ready for part two of this crazy tale?

If not, you can find part one here.

Ok. Ready now?

Let’s see…when we left off, I was fed up with being a lonely single mama.

First, I admit I did look around my church with a fresh eye, hoping someone I hadn’t noticed in my “waiting on a miracle” days might have possibilities.

But…

Honestly, even though there were a couple of nice guys, there weren’t really any leaping at the opportunity to date a hurting mom of three, two on the autism spectrum.

Well, understandable. It isn’t for everybody. 😏

So, that idea dashed, I grabbed my phone one night (after about the umpteenth time bawling with deep-seated envy over old movies with “happily ever afters”. ).

I did the googly thingy and found one of the more famous dating sites, let my somewhat windy writing style have a field day, agonized through selfies and set up shop in the “looking for love” business.

A rather silent affair for a time, frankly. I reached out to the nice-sounding ones.

I found myself ignored.

I attempted aloofness.

Aloofness was what I got in return.

Go figure.😉

And then, I think I really let myself get angry with God.

Not a good place to be with your Creator!

Because I found the most anti-God, albeit charmingly dark-humored sort I could and dared him to go out with the nicey-nice Christian girl.

He took me up on it, unfortunately.

And what followed was a horrifying few months, swinging between outright rebellion and missionary dating.

Either way, I plunged my heart in and felt pieces of soul begin to give way before he decided he was through with me.

And after he was done, I found what felt like the whole World Series of Mr. Wrongs.

To each I kept flinging out piece after piece of myself, hoping for some shred of love for my trouble.

Some were kinder than others, admittedly, but none possessed for me the love I craved.

I was too ashamed to introduce a single one to family.

To this day, I am grateful I never did.

I still carried the knowledge of God in those days, trying to straddle that proverbial fence but, of course, finding it painful.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I could feel the enormous weight of the grief He felt for the state of my life.

As time and the hole in my heart wore on, I stopped recognizing myself.

Though the specter of suicidal thoughts did seem dismayingly familiar.

It was about this time I decided I had had my last with this website.

The guy I was seeing at this time didn’t even make a pretense of being interested in anything more than convenience.

I tried to put on a jaded air in return, but it was like an ugly Halloween mask that didn’t quite fit.

Inside, I was crying out in my heart to God for an absolution to all this madness.

I didn’t want this anymore. Never really did.

So…quickly as I signed up, I made up my mind I was going to pull the plug on this demoralizing mess.

It was the only way.

Yet…an irresistable tug caused me to take one last scroll through these ill-fated, soul-crushing profiles.

And…all at once, there I saw him. My Joe. ❤ ( Told you he was coming! 😊) Never saw him on the site before, though he’d been listed a good two years.

He had a sweet, goofy smile and twinkly blue eyes. He looked approachable and unaffected by any attempt to be something he wasn’t.

His profile spoke a lot of the simple things in life, something my complicated world begged for.

So refreshing was his write-up, in fact, that I forgot about pulling the plug.

Instead, there I was writing to him. I told myself I just had to tell him I appreciated his words.

I really didn’t expect a reply, reminding myself how the nice ones never did that.

They were too busy with the girls nicer than me.

And, for days, I heard nothing.

I thought I was right. The disappointment stung despite the vindication.

I had had hopes in spite of myself. Sigh.

And then, one evening after I had shoved the whole idea from my head, there went the little “bing” on my phone!

I had mail, it read. From some guy named Joe. 😮😊

I had not been so eager to open and read something in a long while.

And what I read? Well, it truly floored me.

His two chief priorities in life: Christ and family. He hoped I felt the same.

He was a regional truck driver, hence he had not had opportunity to reply till now (Aha! Little Cynic, my brain chided). Feel free to write back, he added.

In fact, he hoped I would.

And, naturally, I did, with fingers flying. 😊

These exchanges kept up for quite a few weeks. Phone numbers were added to the mix.

We discovered we both had a thing for nostalgia and that we could neither one dance.

We shared the hurt of a failed marriage and frustration with the whole dating scene.

Most importantly, we shared Christ and the redemption to be found only in Him.

In fact, I attribute this momentous meeting to reawakening my heart to this truth.

But, still, in all the goodness was yet a rather pertinent question-

What about my kids? Hmmm…

And that, dear friends, shall be covered in part three…😉

Thanks for reading. Hope you are enjoying. Blessings and prayers!

When God Makes a Match Out of Our Mess, or the How Marisa Met Joe Story, Part One

And now, for something totally different…

Inspired by my sweet blogging friend, Tina, over at Pippi’s Poetry and her recent wonderful posts on how she met her husband. Hello, friend! 😊

Also, honestly, further fueled by the struggles mentioned here.

I think it’s safe to say I could really do with some sharing of this piece of my story at this particular point in time.

To be reminded of His unparalleled goodness to us.

For those who have travelled with me one blog to another or read my book, this all might not be exactly different. My apologies.

Still, with each writing, there are fresh insights to be had. So…there’s that. 😏

Anyway…I have alluded in a lot of posts to having been married before.

It all figures into where I am now. Therefore, this portion impresses upon me to be told first, like it or not.

So…onto to laying the groundwork…

Husband #1 was my high school sweetheart.

The only guy I thought would ever stick around the likes of shy, dorky me.

The one I honestly assumed a lot of my identity through, as I had never felt much of my own.

I had grown up in the confusing atmosphere of a series of charismatic churches.

I had said a prayer to accept Jesus at age 5 that I didn’t really understand. No one truly helped fill in the gaps with anything more than to introduce the concept of being separately filled with the Spirit.

It was indicated such a “baptism” would bring me the “benefits” I witnessed weekly: supernatural healing, speaking a “heavenly language”, and the ability to worship in a “freer” (read: frenzied) fashion. Maybe even prophesy.

I could never figure out why none of that stuff came to me despite my sincere longing. I wilted in rejection.

At age 13, a lot of years of that later plus the abuse my mother administered at home, and I was back at the altar crying out to God to take my heart and change it.

To make me worthy. Because I sure didn’t feel much of that.

I did feel a change then, though again, there was a bundle of confusion handed to me with it when camp sponsors attempted to force me to speak in tongues.

However, older and a bit wiser, I tried to brush that aside this time and place my focus on that change I was feeling Him make within me.

I needed that change within me. I knew it was there.

Yet, I was still so unsure of His love in this process. Of any love, for that matter.

That was something, after all, so often given only to be snatched away when I proved less than pleasing, or so I thought.

I think that rampant insecurity as much as anything made it easy for me to latch onto this guy in my Drama 1 class.

He was funny. He was friendly. He said he believed in God, went to a church that was a lot simpler to understand.

And he seemed to like me.

But, it was never really what I could term as healthy. Lots of overattachment, plenty of push and pull.

Yet, I convinced myself we were destiny, as was the ministry we would unite in.

We married a year out of high school.

It proved a lot harder than anticipated. Neither of us was mature enough to sustain the necessaries of a God-centered relationship.

Children were born, responsibilities weighed, depression haunted.

And…we collapsed. Studies were abandoned and his dreams shifted another direction, with another person.

And the kids and I?

Well, we were left largely to fend for ourselves, beyond the very occasional visit, the very occasional financial contribution.

I was dangerously near suicide, saved by the love of my children and their need for me.

And…for a long while, the foolhardy hope he’d somehow come to his senses and come home, if only I behaved dutifully and prayed hard enough.

I really thought I was hearing from God on this, even.

In the meantime, I took up a new way of life:

Raising kids, discovering their autism and developmental delays, teaching a class of toddlers, learning to lean on God as my husband in that season, drawing my strength from Him.

It was brimming with opportunities for wisdom and fraught with fountains of tears.

New ways to find His joy were latched onto.

Yet, I also held onto my hope for a restored marriage-so tight the fabric of it grew frayed.

And on that fabric was written my mantra: Just waiting on a miracle here. I neither need nor want any other man.

Unfortunately, in the wake of the abandonment, I had found myself vulnerable to the teachings of my childhood and began to swallow the charismatic line whole.

However, as time and circumstance wore on without a glimmer, the words blurred to an unrecognizable blob in my hand, the fabric I carried like a security blanket long since past its use.

Until, finally, one day, I just decided.

I looked around and admitted it. I was lonely. Desperately lonely.

And quite fed up.

He wasn’t coming home because that wasn’t God’s answer to my many prayers.

The answer was I was a fool to believe God was speaking this false hope to me!

I had wasted six years of my life in unrequited longing.

I was done.

And, so, in this moment of revelation, where I wish I could say I had laid it all at His feet, I instead snatched a major chunk of it up for myself, pulled out my mobile phone, and signed myself up for something I never imagined I would do in a million years:

Online Dating. 😳😬

And….whew. That took a lot more words than I anticipated, though I should know my tendency towards windy phrasology by now.😊

That said, I think I shall have to stop there. Seems like a good spot, anyway.

All right. So, I know it is titled, at least partially: “The How Marisa Met Joe Story”. And…we aren’t even to anyone named Joe yet. For any dangling, I am sorry.

But, I promise, he is coming!😉

Stay tuned. I will likely have Part Two for you by Friday. 😊

Thanks for reading! Blessings and prayers, friends! ❤

Quick Update on Pastor Don

Hey, friends! Just wanted to share a praise:

Reports, as you may recall from the other day, were little to no eating and massive pain.

A bleak outlook, to be sure.

And then, recently, to add to it all, Pastor’s kidneys were actually beginning to shut down. He wound up being hospitalized.

Hard not to wonder if this was it.

But, ah, usher in the mighty Lord and His prayer warriors faithfully on their knees…

Today? His numbers are improving, he’s actually eating and drinking, and pain, while still there, of course, is easing as well!

His doctors say if this upswing continues, he’ll be released to go home tomorrow, praise God.

Chemo is set to start soon. The goal is to target the largest mass.

So, obviously, there is still a long road ahead, but things are beginning to present a ray of hope! 😊

He, Deb, and his family contribute this to the countless prayers going up to an incredibly gracious Father who loves us all so.

Keep them coming!! He is MOVING!

Thank you so much for reading and joining with us on this journey! Much love and many blessings! ❤

When Joy Gets Lost in the Gray

Hey, friends. I always try to come to you with raw honesty yet hope.

Not rah-rah-false-cheer, mind you.

That is just implausible.

Plus, it unhealthily glosses over troubles.

Of which, yes, I do admit to many.

But, I strive ever for that underlying joy of the Lord that rests in the heart despite hard times.

Yet…lately, I have to say I am having major struggles tapping into it.

Yes, between covid fears, grievious tension in our country, and grief striking agonizingly close to our church home, it’s not unfathomable to have reasons why.

Yet, all that I have been enduring and still finding reasons to praise.

No, the source of this growing grayness inside feels much more selfish.

However, I can no longer deny it’s there.

So, I will do what He has put inside me to do.

I will write about it and pray by the end the joy kicks in…

Eight years into my second marriage-that which I have counted despite every struggle a gift from a gracious God-I am lately feeling more and more broken.

Oh, I have had bouts of this before.

Coming together from our respective, extremely wounded pasts has not been the proverbial picnic.

Unless you count one with ants carrying your cake away. 😏

But, this. This feels deeper.

Differing ideas, differing parental tactics, differing opinions, differing desires…

Things I should be mature and wise enough to figure out how to dovetail by now!

Yet, I am finding myself at an impasse to be able to do so.

And, I can see on the other side, my husband does, too.

Perhaps, it is the sheer weariness of the deadlock.

The idea that this is indeed how it will always be.

But, really, I also think part of why this is so hard is I have been here before. The eight year mark was my last the first time.

The last and then, he was gone to another.

Eight years of hopes and dreams crumbled-though I know the crumbling began long before I could recognize it.

Long before I could acknowledge my place in it, though I no longer blame myself entirely.

At any rate, it is always such an incredibly painful place to be.

And to be abandoned in

Alone with two tiny boys and a daughter still on the way.

I admit, fifteen years down the road, there are days the scars still twinge mightily!

Oh, but, we are not looking at that exact situation this time, I must remind myself!

Infidelity, frankly, is sometimes feared by me in my tendency to apply ugly past to present circumstances. But, it has not manifested in reality.

Divorce has not really cropped up in our conversations, though I do have disconcerting thoughts of wanting to be the one to run this time.

Not to escape so much but to provide escape to him, he who I view, rightly or wrongly, as too honorable to do so.

You see, due to my limitations-some of which we really didn’t know he was signing up for at the time-I can feel like a millstone around his neck at times.

He will usually flatly deny this verbally, but actions sometimes-honestly, more and more-say otherwise.

And, in the heat of anger, his verbal will even sometimes slip and remind me of all I seem unable to fulfill.

I can feel like a shell of a partner in those times.

Even like he got a raw deal.

But that’s not a Godly way to think of oneself, Marisa!!

Yes, I know. I also am aware after counseling galore that my abusive past from childhood on points to deep-seated self-esteem quarrels.

It’s all in my book, even.

Meaning what, exactly?

That I should be better at all this?

Yeah, I think that sometimes.

Ok. Lots of times.

And, yet, I am reminded of my humanity.

Fragile. World-worn. Just not there in the well-muscled spirituality department, though I ever long to be.

And, maybe, just maybe, that is the place to begin in.

Admittance I am just not there.

That weakness needs a Savior.

That marriage needs more than two googly-eyed people who like all the same things and do things the same way.

That marriage is not doomed to impasses even when it involves two people marked up by hurtful, hair-raising pasts.

Not if we keep remembering this key thing:

1 Peter 5:7, NIV: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

It is not an automatic grayness-lifter, to be sure.

But, as I keep casting, He keeps listening.

And as He keeps listening, I do feel less alone in these gray times.

So…am I feeling that joy that abides just yet? Has it kicked in?

Perhaps a smidge more than when I began this ramble.

Rest assured, I will be all right in His hands.

Thanks for listening today, friends. Blessings and prayers to you!