Well, Hello 2020 (a coronavirus rant)

2020.

It’s been a year, hasn’t it?!

As we settle into our new reality, one that the donald gaslights now and again (and again), I find myself trying to absorb it all, not just as my husband, children, grandbaby and I experience this, but from a bigger picture kind of viewpoint.

I have loads of opinions.

How are we (Americans) SO incredibly ignorant that we are blaming Asian individuals for this pandemic?!  I’d like to say that it’s especially stupid because most of the people getting attacked by white Americans are also American, but blaming any one people group for something like this is ludicrous.  Even if an individual from any people group has been proven to intentionally try to infect others with something deadly, why in the world are we aiming hatred toward an entire group?!  Also, these racists are so blinded by ignorant hate, that they are targeting anyone who is Asian, not simply Chinese.  At least during 9/11, Bush advised the country to be better and treat fellow American Muslims with respect, but now we’ve got the donald who continually refers to the Coronavirus as the Chinese virus, spurring on increased hatred toward our fellow Americans of Chinese decent.  We need to do SO MUCH better.

I’m TIRED of peeps in their 20’s, give or take, being reckless because they believe they are untouchable, while (ONE) they aren’t, (TWO) they can harm others, and (THREE) they are just setting a selfish, ridiculous example for other human beings on how we should care for one another.

Money is NEVER more important than human lives, and just because you have buckets full of it and the ability to get the best medical care does not mean you get a pass on insinuating you are some kind of freakish hero because you claim you are willing to risk catching covid-19 so that your heirs can have a wealthier future.  The fact that you have the luxury to be concerned about your “heirs,” while the people you represent aren’t sure if they can pay their mortgage next month is your sign.

This bailout situation is driving me a bit batty.  Why are we more concerned with bailing out big businesses before the average American?  The general attitude seems to be that the average person should be ashamed for not having 6 months of wages saved away, but somehow we are panickedly trying to save big corporations who haven’t put away enough to make it through the month – except their shareholders all seem to be living their best lives, still.

Toilet Paper?  Need I say more?  ALL OF THE FOOD and everything else in EVERY grocery store around the country?  It feels a little bit apocalypse-y, right?  Leave some for your neighbor.  Be kind.  It’s so much better than being greedy.

Homeless people, elderly people, immunocompromised people.

Those babies in cages, still.  The adults in cages, still.

A “president” that holds back help because his ego isn’t stroked enough.

Our exhausted, dedicated healthcare workers.  Pray for them, send them notes of encouragement, support them and be thankful for all they are doing and enduring during this tremendous crisis.

Churches and bars that continue to open their doors and invite people to risk their lives.

Did the owner of HL really treat his thousands of employees like that and try to blame the Holy Spirit?!

It’s been a year.

I pray we get still before Our Pappa God and hear what He is calling us to.  I pray we find a way to be kind to one another, to love one another as He would have us do.  I pray we come out of this so much more faithful, loving and relaxed than we’ve ever been.  Let’s not waste this time we’ve been given.

Grace Reins Down

How soon I forget, when shame overtakes and the spiraling begins.

Searching for Your guidance and feeling unsafe, exposed to the critical scrutiny of Your other children.

Setting my own bar too high because of my pride.

Panic.  Self-loathing.  

Crying out.  Remorse.

Getting still.  Listening.  

Going.  Confessing.

YOUR GRACE reins down through Your daughters, my sisters.

Thank you, my Faithful Pappa-God.

Thank you, faithful daughter, sisters.

It is sweet humility to be reminded that I’ve so far to go, but I am never alone on this difficult, grace-filled journey.

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time

#TimesUp #MeToo

Sexual Abuse Lindy West quote

I feel like we’re living in history making days.  Things are shifting.  Big things.  Terribly uncomfortable, but incredibly necessary things. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have brought much to light for many in our country.  There’s a feeling of our entire country being overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, while too many are still trying to shift the blame back to the victims.  I’ve spent a bunch of time processing my experiences and feelings as someone who has also suffered sexual abuse on more than one occasion.

I recently shared in a post about the first time I was abused by an older neighborhood boy, but that wasn’t the last time.  There was the time a family member repeatedly came in while I was bathing (age 8 or 9) and touched me inappropriately.  I knew it was icky, but until years later when a friend shared about the incestuous relationship between her father and sister, I couldn’t give the incident context.  There was the man who graduated a decade before my friend and I who would drive down our country road and slow down to expose himself to us when we were in elementary school walking to meet each other for playdates.  There was a time an older boy from the middle school showed up at my elementary school and pinned me up against a wall, while telling me how pretty I was and attempting to unzip my blue jeans with my Tony the Tiger iron-on on my knee before I pretended someone was walking in behind him and ran away as he was distracted.  There was the time I was babysitting for three families – two of the dads were brothers – and one of the men showed up just after I had gotten the kids to bed and became quite sexually aggressive.  He was laying on top of me on the couch, I scrambled for the phone and pretended to dial a number, threatening to call his wife.  He watched me dial the phone, accusing me of not knowing her number.  In our town at that time, EVERYONE’s numbers began with 266-4.  He wasn’t incredibly intelligent and left quickly as I dialed the 4, saying something about this not being finished as he walked out the door.  I can still feel the relief wash over me as I fell against the wall next to the phone.  I called no one, not my mother, not a friend.  I gathered myself and began to clean the kitchen up.  A couple of hours later his inebriated brother showed up and scolded me for not being ‘nice” to his brother during his earlier visit.  I was 11 or 12 years old.  I continued to babysit for these families for years.  I would invite a friend or keep the children in close proximity, often having one sleep on the couch in the living room.  In all honesty, there were very few families that I babysat for that I didn’t have to deal with an overattentive “father.”   It was commonplace for my girl friends and I to talk about this happening to nearly everyone.  We would warn each other about the really bad ones.  There were also teachers who were inappropriate in middle school and high school.  Again, we discussed which teachers to avoid being alone with or getting too close to in proximity for fear they would “unintentionally” brush up against us or touch us inappropriately.  These conversations were often laced with giggles as we tried to minimize the fear we felt in the normalized sexual abuse culture we were growing up in.

I recall talking about this with my girl friends in front of boys and their comments would generally insinuate that we should take it as a compliment because grown men shouldn’t be expected to have self-control around those they considered attractive teenage girls.  And, if I’m honest, I believe most of us bought into that theory.  On some level I know I felt some confirmation that I was attractive if men showed interest in me, even if it was perverted and/or abusive.  I also believed that it must be my fault because every time a girl or woman spoke out about sexual abuse, I watched the adults in my life, as well as my peers, find a way to blame the victim or convince themselves that she was lying – that it never really happened or if it did, she wanted it to.

At a football game at the beginning of my senior year of high school, some friends and I were drinking.  I remember running into a much older friend of my brother’s.  He told me he would give me and my friend a ride to a party after the game.  We were drinking alcohol before going to the game and I was tipsy, but not drunk.  He gave me something to drink on the way to the party.  I don’t remember much after a vague memory of an outdoor party with loud music and then getting into his vehicle.  I don’t remember getting home.  I know I woke up in the morning with bruises on both of my inner thighs and what appeared to be semen on my pubic area.  Every time I saw that man over the next several years, he treated me as if he was disgusted with me.  When I finally shared this story with a friend who knew that man, she became very uncomfortable and told me that I couldn’t really know what happened, especially since I had been so drunk and may have even encouraged him.  She then made it clear that she was done talking about it.  I walked away from that conversation wondering if I had wanted something to happen with that man or at the very least wondering if I deserved it.  I have never blacked out in my life except for that night.  I often wonder if he put something in my drink.  I wonder a lot of things, but the truth is, I’ll never know what happened that night.

I remember as an adult being violently knocked around for hours in my home, kicked, shoved and slapped, and then raped by a man I was in a relationship with, as I tried to break things off with him.  When he left that afternoon I showered and got dressed before going to a family gathering.  I choked on my sobs during my shower, but I didn’t allow myself to cry because I was afraid he would return, hear me and continue his violent attack.  I focused on behaving normally during the gathering, numbing myself to what had happened earlier that day.  Because my family didn’t want me to date this person, I never told them about what actually happened that day.  He stalked me at my college, getting my class schedule somehow. I changed my number twice because he got the first number change and kept calling me to let me know it wasn’t over. A month or so later, he showed up at my house late at night, watching me through the glass door I had just walked through, arms full of groceries and I had sex with him because I was terrified he would kill me.  I was all alone and I didn’t know any other way to get him to leave.  I remember telling him I loved him as he left to insure he would keep walking out the door.  Later when I shared it in a detached way with my boyfriend (now, husband), his initial reaction was to blame me for not fighting harder and to accuse me of wanting to have sex with my rapist.  I was filled with shame for a long time about the choices I made because I didn’t understand them and I loathed myself for being weak and trampy. 

I think the thing that keeps blowing my mind about this is that women aren’t really shocked about any of this.  We’ve been sharing stories with each other, sometimes supporting one another, sometimes blaming one another, since the beginning of time.  The reality is, it is a rare (and extremely blessed) girl over the age of 8 that hasn’t been sexually abused in some manner.  It’s even less rare to find an adult woman who hasn’t been sexually abused by more than one person in her life.  

Think about that for a moment.  In a recent poll they found that over 80% of women have been sexually harassed or assaulted.  There is also evidence that women will often block memories out of their minds or minimize it if they weren’t forcibly raped by a stranger, blaming themselves on some level if they knew the abuser and not acknowledging abuse less than full-on rape.  I know that just a few years ago I would’ve said I was never really sexually abused because I always knew my abusers.  The few times I shared my stories with others I was usually filled with shame.  It wasn’t unusual for the listener to question what I was wearing at the time, what I said or did, or to ask why I didn’t do something else, especially if the listener was a man and/or a christian.

We wonder why women don’t speak out.  

I wonder why we don’t see that victimized women, by and large, don’t think they are worth fighting for in these situations, until others are possibly in harm’s way.  Then, when they courageously speak up, we make them reopen their deep wounds while we coldly inspect them with doubt and judgement only to usually find a way to blame them or disbelieve them.

We wonder why victims don’t speak out.

Several of my abusers were family members, close friends, bosses, and teachers.  I should have, as a young and very innocent girl, been able to trust these authority figures, these loved ones.  I should’ve felt safe.  Instead I felt like my discomfort wasn’t important enough to disrupt the “peace.”  I didn’t believe I would be believed.  I believed people would think I was to blame.

I didn’t feel safe at home, at school, at some friends’, at my babysitting jobs.  Why would I speak out?  Who would I have trusted?

Of all of the men I’ve told you about only the flashing car driver ever got in any trouble for what he’d done.  One of them became an attorney.  One of them was serving on a school board, last I knew.  Both of these men were known for their sexual deviance in that little village, students even joked about it.  The adults never did anything about it because we have a “boys will be boys” mentality in this country.  We hush and shame anyone who tries to bring it out into the light, so that the people in power get to stay in power.

Although I say women aren’t surprised because the vast majority of us have endured sexual abuse, from threats to violent attacks, I have to admit I haven’t often shared the abuse I’ve gone through because I believed something must be extra wrong with me because it’s happened so many times.  In recent months as I’ve had conversations with other women of varied ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, I’ve come to realize that not only is the frequency of times I’ve been abused or harassed not excessive in comparison to the women I’ve spoken with, but the degree to which I’ve experienced abuse and harassment is less than almost all of the women who have shared their stories with me.

While I haven’t enjoyed that the incredibly painful abuse of too many women has stirred up memories I’d rather pretend to forget, I am entirely indebted to the amazingly courageous women who have chosen to lay bare their deep and horrific wounds to an audience that has a less-than-shiny track record, at the risk of everything:  their jobs, their income, their reputations, their families, and at times their sanity.  They have jeopardized everything so that we can finally begin to purge this evil from our society.  It’s way past time to speak openly, even when it makes us uncomfortable (like when I typed semen up there) because bringing this scourge up from the depths of darkness and exposing the numerous layers of accomplice for how awful and harmful it is may be the only path to beginning a different way, the way I pray my daughter and  granddaughters can walk fully in – the way I pray my sons and grandsons can walk fully in.  

We have to look this misogynistic way of living full in the face, with all of its discomfort, own our part in the ugliness of the perverted abuse dance and then stand for and live in what is right.  Begin by understanding that ALL people, women as well as men, people of color as well as white people, are truly EQUAL.  When we begin to listen to women and people of color as equals, while believing their stories, the entire everything will shift in the most glorious way. 

It’s past time

  • to believe victims and stop blaming them
  • to empower women and people of color
  • to reject our “boys will be boys” acceptance of abusive, predatory behavior
  • to hold abuser accountable
  • to make this a safe place to hear the truth and change our destructive pattern

I don’t want to wonder why.  I want to be a part of a community and culture that holds ourselves to a standard of respect, love and humanity.  Women shouldn’t have to dress a certain way, lest men can’t help but violate them.  Victims shouldn’t alone bear the burden of proof in a culture that shames us for stirring the pot when we accuse our aggressors. This way isn’t working.  Sexual sin can’t just keep being covered up.  The rug isn’t that big.  God isn’t that complacent.  He loves us too much to turn a blind eye for very long.  It’s time for His children to take their just punishment and turn away from this too common debauchery. It’s time for the church to stop dressing up the misogyny of white men in an expensive suit holding a Bible, and downplaying the abuse of the women and children whom Jesus calls to be honored as His beloved.

Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God in everything you do, for then you will represent your Father as his beloved sons and daughters. And continue to walk surrendered to the extravagant love of Christ, for he surrendered his life as a sacrifice for us. His great love for us was pleasing to God, like an aroma of adoration—a sweet healing fragrance.  And have nothing to do with sexual immorality, lust, or greed—for you are his holy ones and let no one be able to accuse you of them in any form.

It’s WAY past time, isn’t it?

#TimesUp

#BelieveSurvivors

 

Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer's Remorse and Sales

That post yesterday?  Violated?

Yeah.  I’m having some buyer’s remorse.  I think this might be similar to what one feels the morning after a one-night-stand or a drunken escapade…

“What did I do?!”

I considered deleting it because I keep thinking it makes people uncomfortable, but in all honesty, it makes me uncomfortable because it was humiliating and I never worked through it or discussed it with anyone in a healthy way.  So, I’m leaving it and praying it helps another person who shouldn’t feel embarrassed or humiliated because someone else violated them.  Bring it out of the dark.  Take away the power that story holds over you in secret.  You are worth the risk.  You are. 

Violated

shrubs (2)

It was summer time.  We lived in a quaint little cul de sac with a beautifully landscaped circle that the other houses all faced.  Our house was on the corner lot, furthest away from the pristine circle.  The back side of the cul de sac had no houses because, as I remember, there was a rain basin, which was a fenced off area with claylike dirt and rocks inside.

My older brothers had found a way into the basin area, but I never knew where it was, because that was an adolescent boy thing, not a thing for a 5 or 6 year old girl to know.  Until this summer day.

I was riding my bike around the cul de sac and then I parked it on the circle lot so that I could play.  There were great shrubs and trees there.  It was really lovely.  A much older boy, whom I recognized, joined me and was extremely kind.  I was playing house or something imaginative and he didn’t make fun of me like my big brothers had done on occasion.  They had also made fun of this boy before, saying he was odd, but in this moment, I felt sorry for him, because he was obviously just a nice boy and they were wrong.

We talked for a bit and then he asked me to go for a walk and I joined him.  He said he’d show me how to get into the basin if I didn’t tell anyone else.  I couldn’t believe my luck!  He showed me where the fence allowed entry and held it for me to enter.  We walked a bit before he began to talk to me in an angry way and shoved me down into the rocky dirt.  I recall feeling shocked, blindsided and humiliated.

fence basin

For some reason, I am still traumatized enough that I can’t bring to mind the next few minutes or so and I remain embarrassed enough that writing what he did to me is extremely difficult.  

I vaguely remember sobbing and running into our front door dripping with urine, not my own.  My parents were livid.  They clarified who did this to me and then my older brothers went outside quickly.  I recollect someone asking me where I had left my bike and reassuring me that they would get it for me.  My mother bravely washed me up, clearly repulsed by my urine drenched clothing, asking me several times why in the world I went for a walk with that boy!

Why did I go for a walk with that boy?  Why would a young boy do such a vile thing to a little girl who obviously thought he was kind?  

For the longest time I thought I was being punished for going into the basin, even though my brothers went in there on the regular. 

Secretly I wondered if I had done something that made him treat me that way, but what could I have done to deserve that, aside from being nice and going for a walk with him?  It was the thing that my brothers would tease me about to embarrass me as I grew up.  It was a story that focused more on what my brothers did than on what was done to me in the retelling.

Shame is powerful.  The shame of victims.  The shame of those who should protect.  

I wonder if my brothers beating him up cured him of his perversion or if he ever violated anyone again after that.  I pray something brought him healing.

Process

Related image

A (n unkind) gesture

A package

The scab is peeled off

 

The heartbreak

Attempted stuffing

The dam is open wide

 

The listening

The comfort

My heart begins to fill

 

Some memories

Rich laughter

The wound begins to heal

More laughter

More memories

My mind begins to clear

 

Prayers of release

Mustard seed faith

True healing begins anew.

It’s All Relative…

relative fish

 

I’ve struggled for years with feeling shame for feeling pain at the lack of everything I received when I needed everything the most.  Compared to so many others my neglect was minimal.  The emotional abuse was a blip compared to the sexual and physical abuse so many people I hold dear have dealt with as children and as adults.

There is no winner or highest achiever because it’s not a competition.  While it may seem natural to downplay one person’s trauma while contrasted to another’s seemingly deeper trauma, it all still remains trauma.  There is no rule that if you don’t reach a certain amount of awful, you have to just stuff it down.  These are our truths. 

The irony is that often we follow this lifelong martyr routine of diminishing our own pain, when we should be bringing it all out of the darkness so that we can look it right square in the eye as it begins to lose its power in the light.  The only way to turn this agony into something good is to hand it over to Our Father and do the work of facing it in the light as He calls us to do.  Finally, we are called to walk through pain with others because we are called to love like Jesus.  We are called to follow Him as He turns our ashes into beauty as we walk it out in the relationships He brings into our lives. 

Your anguish is real.  It’s good to see that without any obstruction.  Having a counselor confirm my  grief was absolutely freeing for me.  Broken parents, teachers, friends often hurt us deeply because they don’t see their brokenness.  Our charge is to see our wounds and not cover them up so that they fester, causing more pain as we soldier on.  The truly courageous choice is to do the painful, valiant work of healing our festering wounds so that we can walk in the fullness of the identity He has for each of us. 

We can wallow for a bit.  Mourning is part of this pilgrimage.  We can and should find trustworthy people to come alongside us as we do this hard work.  I’ve found some wonderful people to help me as I’ve traveled toward health.  Counseling can be so helpful.  A good 12 Step program (not just for people addicted to drugs or alcohol) can be life-changing.  I’m a big believer that EVERYONE should work through the steps and more than once.  I’ve done it twice and plan to start my third round in the near future.  It’s like a little Jesus tuneup for your emotional and spiritual health with other peeps who are just humble enough to know they need a Jesus tuneup, too.  The Destiny Project is an extraordinary retreat for women.  The men’s counterpart is called BraveHeart and I’ve heard nothing but great reviews.  Inner-healing prayer (which goes by several names and can vary a bit, depending on where the facilitator was trained) can bring exponential healing in many cases and is something I’ve done in the past and am engaging in once again.  One of the most helpful pieces in my “health toolbox” is the enneagram.  Learning about this has helped my family tremendously. 

Not everything will work for everyone.  I went to counselors that I just didn’t click with.  I didn’t do every step of the twelve perfectly.  That’s why I’m so thankful that there are so many options.  I’m grateful for people who have helped me speak my truth and didn’t shame me or compare my  pain to other people’s pain.  I spent too many years allowing satan to tell me that I was being a baby, (*See enneagram 2 and shame) so that I wouldn’t face my junk and move toward health.  I pray you decide to ask Jesus to help you bring your stuff out into the light and begin your mission toward the beautiful identity He has for you.  I pray you are protected from people who want to minimize what you’ve experienced.  Lastly, I pray you have the courage to walk through the especially painful parts of the journey, knowing there is abundant freedom along the way.

 

Family Secrets

Proverbs-28-13

Every family has them, right?  It’s just how things happen in this American culture, especially in the generation before mine, which I often call the “sweep it all under the rug” generation.  My mother was a pro at this.  It always seemed so bizarre to me that she would preach to me about my siblings and I getting along better, when she kept so much from her own sisters.  I would argue that it wasn’t really getting along and loving if you didn’t really know one another, but it was an argument that never saw resolution, because my priority was being known and loved, while hers was having “peace.”

I remember when I was around 10 years old and a cousin told me that she had visited the cemetery with her mother and there was a headstone with the name, “Baby McDowell,” (my maiden name).  When she asked about it, her mother told her that my parents had lost their first child, a girl, when she was born.  I was blown away!  I had a sister!  I know it sounds ludicrous, but with four brothers and a mom who wasn’t super chummy with me, I was thrilled that I wasn’t alone on some 10 year old level.  When I went home to ask my mother about it, probably not with an abundance of sensitivity, I was met with such anger, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  She refused to answer any of my questions and told me it was none of my business and my aunt had NO business telling her daughter about it.  In the over 40 years since then, she’s never discussed it with me.

Later, as a young adult, I had to keep mum at extended family gatherings when another family member was in jail, for months at a time – not only once and not the same person.  My mother was adamant about this, so the rest of us fell in line and helped keep up the facade.  This meant telling our children to also lie to their relatives (because that’s healthy…).         When I tried to explain how uncomfortable I was, asking my kids to do this, I was berated for telling my children the truth in the first place, as if I had done something completely idiotic and detrimental to my offspring and my family of origin all at once.

 I was 19 and in college, dating the boy who would become my first husband, when I became pregnant and, as a result, had an abortion.  My husband and children are all very aware of what my experience was and how it’s affected my entire life.  While I wish this was not a chapter in my story, it is, and I believe the only way to change the trajectory of my children’s lives and their children’s lives, and so on, is to bring my secret sins out into the light and talk about what led up to and what happened because of those awful choices I made.  I can say with some disgrace and a bunch of freedom that I have been relentlessly upfront about my bad choices with my children and that the good that will result from my transparency far outweighs the shame I’ve experienced.  

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:  ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  (Ephesians 5:13-14)

With so many wounds, secrets and lies layered upon one another through the years, eventually my family of origin imploded.  Secrets of abortion, miscarriage, a shotgun wedding, an illegitimate child, affairs, stealing money, the list goes on.  It was both heartbreaking for me and somewhat of a relief.  The carnage is still scattered all over the place and I’ve collected all of the pieces of the implosion that I want to keep.  The ones I left behind are not pieces I want to include as I go forward.

The irony is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a family that doesn’t have these same or very similar skeletons in their proverbial closets, and yet, we all freak out and try to hide it when it’s ours.  THIS is normal.  We Sin.  We make terrible choices.  We are HUMAN.  The goal isn’t to get through with less embarrassing sin than your other family members or the neighbors.  The goal is to know each other and love each other through the good and the bad choices.  The goal is to take the bad stuff and help others to not take the same detours, because if we don’t use that junk to cause some good, what in the world is the point?!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—  to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,  the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”  (Isaiah 61:1-3)

When my husband betrayed me several years ago,  I remember so many things going through my mind.  I felt horrible shame because my husband turned to someone else after I had tried so hard to be a great wife in every way I knew how. I did not want anyone to know about this and possibly take pleasure in it at my expense.  I reached out to our church and they connected us to another couple who had gone through something similar a few years before us.  They advised us to tell our children immediately.  We did NOT want our children to know anything – which is ridiculous when I think of how I didn’t leave my bedroom for 2 solid weeks and they must have heard all of the crying and screaming I was doing on the regular.  After a lot of prayer and some time, we took their advice and told our children.  We also shared with them that this had happened with other family members in the spirit of getting it all out into the light and moving forward in freedom.  It was one of the most devastating nights of our lives.  I honestly didn’t think we would ever recover from all of the horribleness.

I’d love to tell you that we instantly became better than ever before, that once the truth was out, we all instantly forgave one another and moved on in perfect harmony.  I could lie, but then I’d be starting that crap again and what would be the point of this post?!  We did couple’s counseling, individual counseling, teenage counseling, and in the process of working toward health with boundaries and all the glitter, there was lots of fallout and sadly, some of it has not been resolved, yet.

I know one of the biggest reasons family secrets begin is because we are concerned about what other people think of us.  We want to appear better than we are.  I often refer to the time before the betrayal as our Stepford Family years because we worked SO hard to make it all look perfect – and by we, I mean me.  On some level (and this is where my 2-ness came into play, HARD.  * See Enneagram) I always believed that if I did enough for the people I loved, they would keep me in their lives because I wasn’t worth loving just because I was me.

SO, if you pour all you’ve got into being the perfect wife, then you finally burn out after 20 years and in your exhaustion your husband turns away because you’re not revolving around him anymore, all of your worst fears are pretty much confirmed.  Which is why I found myself rocking back and forth immediately after the discovery and chanting, “I always knew I wasn’t worth it.”  Satan had been whispering this into my ear my entire life.

In my diligent and often treacherous pilgrimage back to who I was always supposed to be, I discovered that I’ve always been worth it to My Father and that is more than enough.  As the layers of lies were peeled off of my self, my marriage and my family, I could finally hear the voice that mattered most, the voice of My Father.  Instead of the lies drowning Him out, His voice now drowns out satan’s lies.

Once I could hear His truth and accept His love, I was able to face my own “less-than-lovely’ traits and begin to work on replacing them with healthier tools.  This meant more counseling, attending a Destiny Project weekend, working through the 12-Steps (again), inter-healing prayer, revisiting boundaries and how they are healthy, and loads more time with Him throughout.

In the year after the discovery of the betrayal, I was betrayed by one of my oldest and dearest friends (the only one I shared this horrific news with), some people in my husband’s family began (and continue) treating me awfully, and my parents requested that I stay out of their lives forever (and so I do).  There were also many other incidents that were challenging during this period, and I can say it seemed more than I could bear at times, but mostly I had a peace like never before and because I FINALLY knew I was loved fully and unconditionally, I was able to not allow the rejection of me by other people’s brokenness to be my scale of self-worth.  It was all very painful, but I can now look back and see that God was preening my life.  In order to grow He has to trim away the unhealthy stuff, so that we can move forward without that unnecessary weight dragging us down.

In the past I would continue to insert myself into the lives of family members and friends regardless of how they treated me because I thought this is what good, christian women were supposed to do.  I have more broken relationships with extended family than I would like to have, but I know that this is a chapter in my life and theirs, not the whole story, and if I continue to be in My Father’s will and follow His lead, then things will work out just as they should.  Sometimes there will be reconciliation and sometimes there will not be, and in the meantime, He is growing me and preparing me for the next step on the path He has for me.

The other thing I want to say about bringing secrets out into the light is that you don’t have to share your stuff with the anyone who feels unsafe, especially if you are still working through the pain of it.  Mrs. Smith, down the street, doesn’t need to know that your niece had a baby out-of-wedlock, especially if she is prone to gossip!  But, if it’s about someone in your family, you should probs tell your family.  The thing is, that too often those family secrets affect the way we parent, or love, or live.  We may not even realize it, but once it’s out in the open and some time has passed, we may very well notice that we are living more from a place of freedom than ever before and that’s just better for everyone.  I often wonder if the reason my mom didn’t really seem to get close to me as a child is because her first precious baby that she lost was a girl and since I was the only other girl, maybe I reminded her of her profound loss.  Maybe that’s the reason it was easy for her to walk away from me several years ago over something very trivial.  I don’t know.  I probably never will, because family secrets.

The last thing I want to say about family secrets is:  Just ask.  Don’t do it like 10 year-old me probably did, but ask with gentleness and grace.  If you think there is a family secret that you should have knowledge of,  go IN LOVE to the person you think it involves and ask for the truth.  Help him/her bring it out into the light and then extend grace.

I’ve had people come and ask me about choices I’ve made with such grace that confessing to them was a blessing for both of us.  I’ve experienced other people coming at me with such judgement and condemnation that the only result was broken relationship and betrayal.  We’ve all sinned.  We all need grace.  When we remember that and approach the people we LOVE in humility, God can make miraculous beauty out of our messiness.  I know this because, many years after that horrendous night of bringing our devastating secret out into the light, my marriage is more authentic than it ever was and my husband & I have walked numerous others through this devastating journey to healing on the other side.  Our three youngest children will always carry the pain of that chapter of their lives with them, but they have chosen to use it to help others and to grow with a kind of dependence on Our Father that often only comes from walking through a period of anguish from facing hard truths.

While the temptation to have others see me as having my stuff together is always lurking, I don’t ever want to go back to living in the dark.  I know that living with my junk in the light is how I can best follow Jesus.  It’s where He lives and even when my junk is in the dark, He knows, RIGHT?!  In those moments of shame or rejection when I’m tempted to hide a detail or two, this thought will usually cross my mind, “HE ALREADY KNOWS!!”

  “God, you know what I have done wrong; I cannot hide my guilt from you.” (Psalm 69:5)

– and it isn’t the fear of Him that steers me back onto the right path as much as the knowledge that living in truth and transparency is living in freedom.  Living with hidden secrets and festering heart wounds is a life of imprisonment.  I’ve lived there and while I struggle daily with how I appear to others, ultimately I want to be able to come to My Papa day after day, more and more in the identity He has for me.  This isn’t a straight road with no detours or break downs, but it is a well-worn path of persistence, humility and surrender with light and freedom along the way.

Monday Mullings

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I planned and executed (with the help of my precious and sneaky youngest 3) a marvelous surprise birthday party for my Honey this past Saturday.  He’s reasonably easy to be sneaky with because he’s very trusting.  I often tell him that if I were a woman of less integrity, I could get away with SO VERY MUCH…  He never even had a clue and seeing the look on his beautiful face when he walked through the door while 70+ of his favorite peeps screamed, “SURPRISE!!!!” was just about as perfect as it gets.

Yesterday I helped coordinate a women’s network luncheon at church and it went off without a hitch.  My friend, Tamera, spoke beautifully and the food was pure yumminess from La Madeline.  I watched several women reach out and connect in such lovely ways. It was beautiful.

The past couple of weeks have been FULL of extra work days, extended insomnia, and loads of fun meetings with friends.  I recall noticing that my throat was a little scratchy last Thursday and I was fighting off a 3 day migraine along with it, but I just kept moving through, because there just wasn’t time to do much about it.  I had things to do, places to go, a husband to surprise!  So, yesterday, as soon as the luncheon was over and I walked through my front door, I realized I felt beat up.  My tickle turned into a croupy cough in less than an hour.  I was suddenly exhausted even though I had gotten 9 hours of sleep the night before.  So, I’ve been in bed for nearly an entire day.  My throat and chest feel worse, but I feel more centered and less beat up.  Sometimes, He slows us down in such inconvenient ways…

because, in my case, it’s the only way I will listen.

Some of the best things have happened in my family in recent months.  We are in such a great season.  An old friend of mine, who turned out not to be much of a friend at all, once shared this sage advice, sprinkled with a bit of profanity:  Enjoy the good times that you go through, because the %$&* times are coming!

I had spent way too much of what should have been joyful seasons, fretting about what was coming next or even believing on some level that if I enjoyed myself too much, God would punish me because I didn’t deserve to have joy.

Who does?!

So, the lesson He has been renewing in my life is to BE in this season of joy with my family.  Celebrate.  Give exuberant thanks.  Praise Him for this blessed season.  I know the junk is coming, as well as more beauty, and worrying about what’s next will do nothing to prevent anything bad from happening.  It will, however, steal the joy of this season.  I’m also a firm believer in praising Him in the dark times and I believe the joyful times fill me up in a way that makes it easier to walk through trials with faith.

Our world is crazy right now.  Two Black men were waiting for a third man to join them at Starbucks.  The barista called the police because they hadn’t ordered anything…  yet.  Several White patrons stated that the men were never asked to order or leave or even spoken to.  They also stated that the men had done nothing wrong.  The police arrested both men, taking them out in handcuffs, as the friend they were waiting for showed up. WHAT IN THIS CRAZY WORLD?!?!?!?!

I’ve gone to many coffee joints and seen multiple peeps on their computers for HOURS, never ordering anything OR ordering only a $1.50 cup of coffee.  I meet with friends regularly and wait for them before I get my chai or whatever.  I have NEVER in several decades of being white, been asked to leave, to order, or had the police called on me.  Never.

The sadder thing is that Starbucks had a similar incident in Redondo Beach just this morning.  You can watch it here:  starbucks-accused-racism-yet-new-video-surfaces .  Now, if I’m honest with you, I probably go to Starbucks twice a year.  I’m very much a “support local” kinda girl, but now I can assure you I won’t be going there at all.  We have to support the disenfranchised with our dollars.  It’s the most effective way to make your voice heard.

Lastly, there’s this Cohen-Hannity debacle. What in the world?!  As I begin to process this news, I have a few random thoughts…

It makes so much more sense now that Hannity has been almost obsessive in his support of Trump and his constant criticism of the FBI’s raid of Cohen’s files.  Those two know Hannity’s dirt.

I’m not sure why Cohen is called “the fixer” when he clearly is not.

If Cohen was “fixing” the same stuff for Hannity as he has for his only two other clients (Trump and Broidy), then that gives “Fox & Friends” a whole new meaning.

Hannity is claiming that he only told Cohen things as a friend.  So, why did Cohen keep files on his friend?  If it was just friendly conversation, there is no attorney-client privilege, correct?  Yet, Hannity says that there is.  Pick a side, Sean.

What a day!  

The Evolution of My Sin

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Growing up in my family of origin, it was normal to discuss how absurd other people’s choices were.  I heard (and eventually said) things such as, “Who does that?!” and “Iwould NEVER act like that!”  We pretty much had the corner on the market when it came to how to parent, how to behave in public and just generally how to do everything and how to be at all times.

I carried on this tradition with my own family for longer than I care to admit.  At some point I realized in the midst of utter shame that I was the leader of my “judgmental & gossipy pack,” so I began praying a bunch and worked toward not criticizing almost everyone we encountered on the regular.  It was clear to me that, while I believed almost every “normal” family did this on their way home from gatherings, it was not healthy, nor very Christlike, and I wanted better for my children.  I wanted better for myself and my character.

Several years ago, after I had been intentionally working on extinguishing this ugly behavior,  I felt very convicted and decided I didn’t want to participate in it with my family of origin any longer.  This is when I realized that what we were doing was gossiping and I could put a name to my sin. Up to this point, it had honestly not dawned on me that what we were doing was judgmental gossiping.  The next time I was on the phone and my family member began to criticize another family member’s parenting and marital choices, I calmly said, “I feel like what we’re doing is gossiping and I don’t want our conversations to be about this kind of stuff.  I would prefer to talk about you or something else because…”  And at that point the other person began screaming at me a bit maniacally, hung up on me, and then did not speak to me for almost 4 months.  This was not how I envisioned this scene.  I was certain that after I had poured so much prayer into it and was speaking out of my own shame and love that it would be received in kind.

I’d like to tell you that I never get in the car with my family and begin to chat it up about how so-and-so spoke to so-and-so very rudely or how much so-and-so bragged about his whatever, but that would be a lie.  The good news is that since we’ve been working on this as a family for years, I can usually count on someone to guide me back to Jesus in love.

It’s not unusual for my husband, our three youngest children and I to occasionally discuss what we believe is gossip.  Because while we believe that our family is a safe place to vomit without judgement, we also, now and then, cross the line into the realm of gossip and/or judgement.  It is a fine line, and sometimes, when our emotions are high or our egos are bruised or someone’s heart has been broken, my mama-bear comes out in all of her ferocious “glory,” instead of my faithful daughter in her beautiful humility.  Sometimes because we are all reeling from the unfair blow one of us received, we forget Who has us and we don’t pull each other back into His will, or toward the faith that He’s working it all out for a minute.

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Now, let me just say that the only thing worse than not being gently pulled away from the ledge of judging and gossip is a confidant who immediately throws anecdotal christianity all over my pain, so that I don’t feel seen or heard, but I do feel as if I’ve been served a big old judgement sandwich.  I know that people think that they are helping and pointing me back toward Jesus, but before doing that, a wounded person needs to feel safe, heard and not judged.   (and if you ask my kiddos they will tell you I’ve done this a time or two)…  Just the other day, one of my precious children was sharing the anxiety he was experiencing, and I immediately began wrapping it all up in a nice little b.s. Jesus package to which he replied, “I know all of that, Mom, I just need to express my feelings in a safe place before I can get there.  Please don’t shame me.”  I thought I was making him feel better, but, really, he just needed to be heard without judgement and without me trying to fix everything.  – Like I could do that in a million years, anyway!

So, initially I joined right in to the sin of my family of origin.  As an adult and especially, as a mama I realized this sin was wrong.  Years after that I could name the sins – Judgement and Gossip. All the while, I have been praying about this, feeling shame off and on as I stumble, and then I heard about something called the enneagram.  I’ve done plenty of personality tests, many of which have been extremely helpful and had a positive effect of my life such as MBTI, StrengthsFinder, love languages, and spiritual gifts tests.  The enneagram, however, has definitely had the biggest impact on my life.  In the evolution of this particular sin, it has been a game-changer.  Your enneagram number is not a personality test, but it is more about determining the essence of who God made you to be.

I’ve been studying the enneagram for almost three years and my whole family is very into it.  It has helped me see how I behave in unhealth and understand why I have been and done SO many of the things I’ve done and been since forever.  Partnered with the other personality tests I’ve taken, I’ve been able to walk more fully in my daughter identity than ever before.  It has also helped me understand more fully the people I love most in the world – and often other people who may offend or hurt me.  As a 2, I listen to and read anything I can get my hands on that explains my husband and our children so that I can meet their needs in just the way they need them met.  I’m all about meeting the needs of people before they even know that they have that need.  As I’ve taken in this knowledge about other people’s essences/enneagram strengths, I feel as if my eyes have been opened anew and I am understanding how others view, react and behave in a way I never did before – especially considering my family of origin and the fundamental belief we cultivated that our way was the only and right way.

Which brings me to the next stage of the evolution of my sin…  As I’ve learned more about others and their essences, I’ve realized how arrogant I’ve been in judging people through the years.  Of course, I realized years ago I was gossiping and in that I was being judgmental, but now I also realize how arrogant it is to believe that the way I am motivated is the only correct way to be motivated – and that, of course, we all think the way we believe is the correct way or we wouldn’t behave the way we do.  This may seem very obvious to most of you, but it has been revolutionary for this girl.  In learning about each number of the enneagram, I’ve learned more about the lenses we each look through because of childhood wounds and what motivates us at our core.

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There are times when I wish I would’ve known about the enneagram before I had married or had children, so that I could’ve been a better wife and mama, or just before I made SO MANY MISTAKES, not because I would not have made any, but because I would’ve made less and had more grace for myself and everyone who crossed my path.  I’m more than thankful that my children have this tool at such a young age and that they understand it isn’t just a narcissistic information source so that they can talk about themselves or make  excuses for their personality flaws, but a rich source of information about how they can work (hard) toward growing into the person God is calling them to be.

I’m thankful for the evolution that God has enriched my life with.  I won’t lie to you and say it’s been a joyful journey…  not even most of the time.  It’s always been worth it, though, and the alternative is not even worth considering for this girl.

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