Tag Archives: Recovery

It’s a Great Place to Visit, Just Don’t Move in

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This is an entry from a blog I authored several years ago.  Sometimes it’s good to take a trip back and revisit difficult times so as to see the work of His hands since then.  I am grateful for my journey.  All of it.  The horrific chapter that almost became the final scene and the stories of real and deep love, joy and laughter, and every chapter in between, before and after.
I believe in visiting the past for a short time to work through and grow, because if we don’t, the past will show up in our present and cause it to be less than it was meant to be.
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2009:
Big question of the day: Can I really trust God if I don’t fully believe He loves me?
Nope, and therein lies the problem. My big, bad wolf is that I don’t believe anyone can love me unconditionally – even the Big Guy. Deep down I have always believed that I’m not worth loving that way. The thing is, is that to trust someone kind of requires that you need some proof, and proof only comes when you go through junk together. And sometimes when you go through the junk, the way you go through it or come out of it, isn’t the way it happens in the movies.
His ways are not mine.
I know that sounds cliche’, but it’s still true.
I understand that sometimes terrible accidents happen, cancer or other terrible illnesses strike, financial junk, etc., but what about when all of the people you’ve come to trust and depend upon choose to pull away just when you need them most? What about being the “strong” one that everyone leaned on and when, for the first time in your life, you need to do the leaning, your inner circle disintegrates? What do you do when the person closest to you steals your reality when you are at your lowest point? What about when you cry out to God and beg Him to be real to you and help you through this awful extended darkness and you hear nothing… for years? What about when you start to “feel” Him again and things are getting so great and then you find out you were right… No one can really love you sacrificially? Do you fold? Do you try to trust Him after He just let all this horrible stuff happen to you? Can you believe He loves you?
His ways are not my ways.
Sometimes the most painful experiences are the only things that create trust and force us to accept His love.
I used to be really irritated by this woman who lived in my old neighborhood, went to our old church and had a son who was friends with my twins. She never did anything with abandon. She was kind of a Stepford wife, you know? She got a new car every other year and she alternated between white and tan. Her house was all painted beige. She never risked anything. She always seemed a little afraid of everything. She would ask our mutual (seeking) friends what their doctrine was and junk like that when they didn’t even know if they wanted to visit a church or not and probably didn’t know or care what doctrine was. She drove me crazy! I remember wondering why everywhere I lived or spent time, God always placed one of “those” people in my path.
We are all one of “those” people to some extent. Some of us just hide it better than others, some don’t hide it at all, some don’t even realize there is a problem, nor do they want to. Some of us have looked the things we fear the most, right in the eye, and survived because of His love and we just trust Him a little more than we used to.
I had gotten so good at believing my life was so good, especially compared to what it was before I was a believer, that I was afraid to not be grateful enough or to appear to be less than a “good christian” wife, mother, daughter, woman, etc. I was especially careful to make it all look good to my “unbelieving family members” and anyone in any of the christian groups I led. Besides if I let down my guard, they would probably reject me and I’d have to face that they didn’t love me if I wasn’t “on”. I told myself that it was all okay and God would probably even bless it because I was trying to make Him look good – because, you know, I’m that important to His reputation.  If my life wasn’t full of love and patience, then what would people think of Jesus, since I was always giving Him all the glory? I didn’t trust Him to love me just as I was. I didn’t trust anyone to love me just as I was and after almost 20 years of that I was SO effin’ tired that I couldn’t just fall back into His arms. I didn’t know how to fall back. I was too busy trying to hold up the wall I had constructed. Why did I do that? How do I make sense of the past 20 years of my life? So much of it was a lie. So much of it was beige…
I feel like I’m waking from a dream. I’m ready to be who He wants me to be, and not because I’m so strong or wise now, but because I’m too tired to go back to the old way and I refuse to stand in bitterness and stagnation. He has something really awesome in store for my life and I am terrified and excited all at once. I am ready to take a baby step or two because I really want His way to be my way…

Houses of Cards and Undersized Shoes

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card  igloos

Typically coming into one’s own is thought to happen sometime in one’s early 20’s.  We leave the secure (or often unsecure) nest of our parents.  We see that other people live differently, the world is a big amazing place and we shift our way of thinking.  We begin to feel as if we rule the world.  We get a little arrogant about our parents and the way they live, the things they believe in and instilled in us somehow seem silly, small minded.

So, we create the adult “us” because now we know.  We’re 23 or so and we won’t make the same mistakes as our parents or any of the other clueless adults who have ruled our world for the past couple of decades or so did.  There is also this disillusionment that happens when we realize our parents aren’t perfect, and that they were actually wrong about a few things.  Honestly, this can shake up our entire sense of  how the world works.  It makes everything seem like a lie, so we’re not sure who or what to trust anymore.

This can also be a truly wonderful time.  We are young, beautiful, driven.  The world is our oyster…

We begin our adult lives.  We may start an amazing career, get married, start a family or not. . .  and then we’re just busy.  Responsibilities multiply all of a sudden, and we fall back on the examples, good and bad, that were set for us.  We don’t really know any better unless our upbringing was laced with the biggies – some kind of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) that the world told us was terribly wrong.  Then (usually) we fight with all that we are to NOT make the same mistakes – to not treat our spouses like that or put our children through the horrors that we experienced.  

What about so many of us who were raised in homes with families who looked good on the outside and even on the inside – at least to the child who only knew this family and even to the damaged adults who were the leaders in those homes?  

I think we usually grew up believing we had a “normal” life.  We become the damaged adults who raise another generation of damaged adults, who raises another generation…  All the while, I think we feel a tug to be more, to be real, to be authentic.  We simultaneously run as fast and far from the raw truth as we possibly can.  In order to get down to the “real” of who we are, we have to flesh out the ugly that has been buried for so long.  We have to face the lies, the hurts, and the junk that have layered themselves in who we are.  There is no guarantee that we will like the new “me” we become.  It is a pretty sure bet that the journey will be painful and  very few people will support us.

Have you ever heard the theory that a family is like a house of cards?  Even when the house is standing with very little that is structurally sound, most all of the cards will do everything they can just to keep the house standing just as it is.  We find some sort of comfort in our dysfunctional family units and when one person tries to shift, i.e. get emotionally healthier, become more independent, branch out in a healthy way, the rest of the deck will do whatever they deem necessary in order to avoid change.  They may try to shame the lone card, even disown the lone card, often involving others in the hopes that feeling ganged up on, the lone card will go back to his/her old ways and everyone can just be comfortable again.  When the shifting card “moves” too much, the entire house of cards falls down, and in order to rebuild itself, the other cards are forced to face their fears, their ugliness and their secrets to some degree.  Truth be told, not too many of us are crazy about dealing with our junk because someone else pushed it on us.

I’ve seen this happen with friends who were sexually, emotionally, or physically abused as children.  Family members try to keep the uncomfortable truth in the dark because they think it’s easier than dealing with the pain that bringing it into the light would cause.  I’ve witnessed the agony of adult friends discovering years after their childhood abuse that other adults were aware of what was going on at the time, but chose not to speak up because it would hurt too many people if they said anything.  It breaks my heart to know what that did to their sense of self-worth, to their belief that they were worth loving and protecting by the people closest to them.

I think the hardest part of stepping out of the crazy darkness is the incredible loneliness and the self-doubt.  Being shunned by your family of origin or the family you helped create is a special kind of hell.  In spite of the plethora of strained family relationships in our culture – (so much so, that joking about the difficulty of holiday family gatherings is often seen on greeting cards, sitcoms, etc.) – we still are inundated with facebook postings, books, t.v. shows, billboards, etc. that cause people not in the “perfectly happy family club” to sting in silent pain.  It’s not that you resent the person that has a loving relationship with their parents, siblings, children. The opposite is true.  You are happy for them.  It gives you hope to know that unconditional love and grace exist in families.  It also hurts deep down to your very core to be reminded that you aren’t loved like the facebook or twitter postings I see on the regular:

“Love your mom no matter what you go through and how much you argue because, in the end, she’ll always be there for you.” –  No, not necessarily…

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“Because I have a brother, I will always have a friend.”  – Not in my case…

or

“Family is a circle of strength: Founded in Faith; Joined in Love: Kept by God; Together Forever!” – That sounds wonderful, but not my reality…

As the holidays approach, it becomes even more difficult to stand firm.  The fear of spending these very special family days without family can cause you to run right back into the dysfunctional routine that chips away at your sense of worth, but still feels comfortable, normal to some extent.  It’s all good and well to be committed to breaking the cycle and even suffer in order to make things better for everyone by bringing the junk into the light or refusing to engage in the old messed up dance that you’ve done For-Ev-Er, until you’re faced with spending Christmas Day with no one except the cable t.v. channel that is FULL to the BRIM with stories of loving families on Christmas and even the families that aren’t perfectly happy at the beginning of the hour are full of joy, love, forgiveness and all tied up with a pretty bow by the end.  And when others ask what you’re doing for the holiday, you have to decide if you should make up a story about how you’ll be spending the day with your big, loving family, or make up a different story about not being able to see your family because they’re too far away or a horrible sickness is making its rounds through your family members, or if you should just face the music, be honest about having no one to spend the day with and leave everyone listening to you in awkwardness or even worse, offering you “pity” invites to their family gathering!

Gosh!  It’s a hard thing to be a member of a family that is made up of other flawed human beings!  It’s almost impossible to step out into the light and make a concerted effort to choose honesty, health, depth of relationship when you’re not really sure what that looks like and not a bunch of people desire the same depth or transparency.  I think that mostly we only choose this new path because we simply cannot keep doing the same dance we’ve always done.  It’s just too painful…

Trying to go back once you’ve stepped out into the light is like trying to fit your foot into a shoe that is 3 sizes too small.  Some of us are crazy enough to try, all the same, but I don’t think we can stay there for very long.  Once He frees you and you see the truth, really SEE the reality of your story, then you know you have the power to choose to be in His will and become all you were meant to be.  It’s a new kind of pain, not less or more, just different…Cleaner, more pure, I think, but still excruciating at times.

I remember 6 years ago thinking that I would NEVER make it through the holidays.  My entire life was shattered… and then the person who shattered it came along side of me, held me up and made some beautiful bittersweet memories that I hold gently and very near to my heart.  Two years later was when I finally and fully stepped into the light and lost a big part of my family of origin and my extended family.  It was almost as unbearable as two years earlier, but I was different – stronger and much more fragile.  He had begun to show me who I am in Him and that was enough.

Unfortunately, satan knows where I am weak.  The holidays will again be difficult this year.  My heart is sad, my head is baffled, but the shoes don’t fit anymore and I can’t dance my new dance for Him in shoes that don’t fit, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the people still sitting at the card tables in the dark corner of the room…

shoes too small

Forgiving that little brat…

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I find that whenever I write about my childhood or almost anytime before I was a “grownup,” I have a tendency to apologize for who I used to be, almost as if I was her just yesterday.  I still feel HUGE shame for the person I was pre-adulthood. I didn’t torture small (or large) animals as a child or anything, but I was outspoken, pushy and downright mean to some of the girls who were bullies back in the day.  I was a kid…

I read this really neat thing on a dear friend’s (who I have known since my days of shame) facebook wall:

 

Forgive Yourself

Now, while I think this is a bit of an oversimplification because I’m a 12-Step girl and I believe in making amends and all of that, my first thought when I read this was, “AMEN!!” … and then I realized the person who judges me most by my past is me.

Even while I type this I am imagining old school friends, family members, and others from my past reading this and I have this overwhelming urge to explain why I was so awful or to justify the many bratty things I did.  I want to say, “I’m so sorry for the way I acted!  Please forgive me and know I’m not that girl anymore!  I’m a good person now.”  I was a child…

I’m not that girl anymore, nor have I been for a very long time.  She was not as terrible as I was led to believe she was.  She was NOT evil.  She was very sweet at times.  She wanted to be accepted for who she was.  She wanted to be loved unconditionally and feel like she was even likeable at times.  She wanted to be really good at something – anything! – And have her family, especially her mother, notice it and be proud of her.  She defended the underdogs always.  She was scared and insecure ALL of the time, even though she was a phenomenol actress and appeared to be overly confident to other children.  She loved to argue with people because she was pretty good at that… but an argumentative girl is not something people notice in a good way, nor is it something to be proud of, apparently…

I left the town I grew up in a long time ago.  Part of the reason I did that was to leave it all behind.  I wanted a fresh start.  I wanted to be a new person and I couldn’t really get a clean slate there.  In the decades since then it has been a rare new friend of mine who doesn’t hear about what an awful person I was back then.  I guess I thought if I confessed it enough, it was a kind of repentance.  I wanted my present friends to know who I used to be.  I wanted to be upfront and transparent.  I wanted them to have an out… 

I wish I could tell you I was protecting them, but I think it was me I was protecting.  No one wants to be friends with girls who are bossy and argumentative.  Right?

When I write it all down, I realize how silly this all is because it was SO long ago and I’m not that girl anymore… Well, I am outspoken if it’s something that I feel really passionate about…  Maybe I am that girl.  I’m just grown up, my edges have rounded out, my heart has been broken and softened, I REALLY love people, some of them even love me back, and I’ve found a few things that I’m REALLY good at.  He loves me unconditionally and that’s enough. 

I think of friends who have been through so much more as children – sexual abuse, loss of parents or other loved ones,  divorce  – and I feel like a drama queen.  This is how I’ve stayed in this rut for so many years.  I minimize my pain.  I think a lot of us do that when we become adults.  We file our childhood pain under “Get Over It” and move ahead… only not really.  It’s there.  It always shows up even if we don’t recognize it.  It’s there and leaving, burying, pretending, none of those things heal it.  Pulling it out, really looking at it with blatant honesty, forgiving the necessary parties, and then putting it to rest forever or until we’re ready to deal with a little more of it – that’s the way to heal it.

And, still, I haven’t forgiven myself.  I’m not sure how to do that, not even sure how to begin.  I just know it’s looming in the background and affecting my present relationships.  I know that I still feel genuine embarrassment at the little girl I was (sometimes).  I know that this may all sound very silly to someone who is not me, and that’s okay.   If one of my friends came to me and told me that s/he was struggling with forgiving the person s/he was 30-40 years ago or more, I would tell my friend to let go of that and embrace their present self.  I would reassure him/her that no person in her right mind would still be holding a grudge against a child this many years later for things that children do.  Right?

Right?

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship, Motherhood, Girl Struggles…

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grace

I’ve been avoiding writing on my blog because I’m feeling a little like once I get started, I might just vomit my junk all over the place, and, really, who wants to be on the receiving end of that?! 

So, I’m apologizing in advance for any emotional puking I may do. 

I have had mostly unhealthy friendships for most of my adult life.  I used to want to save people.  Truth be told, I still want to save people, to love them unconditionally, make sure they feel included, valued, important.  The only difference is that now I know how unhealthy that can be.  I have an almost neurotic fear of anyone feeling left out.  I also can’t stand for anyone to feel unloved.  I am, by nature, a “fixer” and it looked pretty noble and sacrificial from the outside for most of my life.  But, as happens with most illusions, the truth begins to rear its ugly head eventually.  About 5 years ago, when my life was falling apart, a wonderful counselor, who is now an even more wonderful friend, helped me uncover my other motives for my choices in friends and how I behaved in close relationships (my husband, my children, my family of origin, etc.) in general.  It all began with the profound question, “So, how’s that working for you?” 

I realized that I felt left out much of the time growing up.  I’m the only girl in my family of origin with four brothers, so being left out on some level is kind of a given.  My mom and I were not close while I was growing up. The public schools that I attended, like most institutions, did not lend themselves to inclusion of all.  It is heartbreaking to me to see how unaccepting children and teenagers can be.  Even as an adult, I am usually the “odd girl out” when we have a get-together with my family of origin. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why I want everyone to feel part of things or why I have a deep need for people to feel loved without condition.  Nor does it take a brain surgeon to realize that I long for people to return the favor so that I can feel part of things and truly loved.  The crazy part of all of this is that it took confirmation from some of the people closest to me that I was not loved unconditionally by them, not really even worth fighting for, for me to see who I am truly, deeply, madly loved by and who thinks I am worth fighting for no matter what. 

He thinks I am worth it.  He loves me and all of my junk and He knows all of my junk more intimately than ANYONE else ever could!  That may sound cliche’ to some of you, but the realization of this truth wrapped its lovely arms around me and enveloped me in a blanket of peace, grace and joy such as I had NEVER known before.  It saved my life.  It has changed my relationships with others in many ways.  I feel more free to love others with grace.  I don’t feel like I have to “save” people like I used to because I trust Him to love them SO much more than I could ever imagine.  I understand that until people are ready to take the steps toward healing, no other person can “fix” them or love them out of it.  But I can love them – no matter the path they choose.

I wish I could say that now I only have completely Christ-centered healthy friendships with other women, but it just ain’t so…  I still find myself longing to be loved unconditionally, to be part of the group, to be wanted…  I am struggling daily with knowing how to be in a healthy friendship – with give and take, seasons of unbalance that are just part of life, but grace abounds and love flows abundantly, where both people give each other the benefit of the doubt and trust each other because they’ve earned each other’s trust through their journey together. 

I wish I could tell you that when a friendship blows up in my face I just tell myself that He loves me completely and that is enough – and I wish I could tell you that I come to this conclusion immediately after the pain of betrayal and loss set in.  I can tell you that I always come back to this truth, but it’s usually after spending a lot of time feeling indignant, hurt, sad, angry, etc.   Pity parties do occur, I’m ashamed to admit.  I can also say that this truth still wraps its lovely arms around me and saves me so much quicker than it used to.  Knowing that we are all worth loving with all of our “junk” helps me to understand that someone else’s inability to reciprocate friendship is probably more about them than it is about me.  My shortcomings are not a reflection of someone else’s worth, but simply my junk getting in the way.  This isn’t an excuse.  I have to bring my junk out into the light so that it can be worked through, dealt with and deflated so that it doesn’t have the power to hurt anyone anymore.

The part of this process that I struggle the most with is what 12 Step people call step 3:  “Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”  I am aware of the problem, aware that He is God and He knows best, but I’m always unsure of what my part is after that.  This is probably my biggest struggle as a mom, and I think my kids are more frustrated with me than I am.

I was one of those moms who rocked all of my babies to sleep, made homemade baby food and my own healthy wipes.  I never missed a game or an event that our children participated in.  I was the PTA president, homeroom mom, and had HUGE weekly pool parties for 30-40 of my children’s friends and family members each summer.  My children had haircuts ever 4-6 weeks, dressed to the nines, and (most) always minded their manners.  In 2003 I became aware of the lunacy I was living one night when I was reading my daughter’s report card which complimented me on what beautiful outfits she wore to school!  I realized that I once took great pride in this and now I was full of conviction about the example I was showing my children and I began to question the why of it all.

Several things happened in the next couple of years; we began to homeschool, we changed churches, and eventually we moved across the country.  We began to value stuff less, sometimes too less, I would think as my ragamuffins would walk into church barefoot many Sunday mornings.  I would also feel thankful that we had changed churches, as this would not have been accepted at our former place of worship.  All of this made our family closer in many ways, and I am thankful for that, however, I was still overly mothering our children.  I would tell myself, in a very smug inner voice, that I was a wonderful mom, willing to sacrifice for my children unlike so many other moms who behaved so selfishly.  I knew that one day my children would arise and call me blessed because I had made them and their father my whole life.  I had loved them all unconditionally and created wonderful memories for them, so they would always love me.

ICK!

So, when we moved to Texas and everything fell apart, I found myself sitting in a chair in one of the offices at our church.  I was lamenting how unfair it was that I would have this horrible thing happen to me when I had been such an amazing mother and wife.  I had sacrificed EVERYTHING for my family!  The next question changed my life…

Counselor:  “Why did you do that?”

Me:  “Because I’m the mom.  I’m the wife.  That’s what good moms and wives do.  They’re my life.”

Counselor:  “But why did you do that?  Who asked you to?  What were you hoping for?”

Me (indignant):  “Well, no one asked me to.  I didn’t want anything.  I just wanted to… I don’t know…”

Counselor:  “What did you sacrifice?”

Me:  “Myself.”

Counselor:  “What do you mean?”

Me:  “I gave up my dreams.  I lost me because I was so busy supporting, encouraging, and saving all of them.”

Counselor (patiently):  “Did someone ask you to do that?  Did they expect it?”

Me:  “Yes… No…  I don’t know.  It’s just what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it?”

Counselor (kindly):  “What dreams did you give up?  Why did you do that?”

Me (feeling defensive):  “I don’t remember.  I feel like you’re attacking me for being a good mom and wife.”

Counselor:  “I want you to really think about why you gave up everything for everyone around you when no one asked you to.  I want you to think about what you expected to get out of that – not in a selfish way, it’s just that whenever human beings do something there are always expectations, some unselfish and some not.  Try to figure out what kept you on that path.”

I went home that day feeling really beat up!  I had been respected for the kind of mom I was to our 5 children.  Our marriage was idealistic on the outside.  It wasn’t easy for me to be honest with myself about the why after convincing my “self” for two decades that I was a model wife and mother for no other reason than I loved my family immensely and this is what God called on me to be.  This was a big part of the reason I lived the way I did, but it was not the only reason.  He revealed to me that as long as I was putting myself behind everyone else’s dreams and struggles, I didn’t have to put myself out there and risk falling on my face pursuing my own dreams – or more importantly, becoming who He wanted me to become.  I also believed on some unconscious level that if I loved my husband and children unconditionally and completely that they would always love me the same way.  I guess I thought I was taking out “love insurance,” guaranteeing I would never have to feel that I wasn’t worth loving again. 

I’ve done a bunch of work since then.  It hasn’t all been pretty.  Honestly, most of it has been ugly and uncomfortable.  I’ve pulled back from being SO involved in my kids’ lives and tried to trust Him to take care of them and to allow them to stumble at times.  Most of the time my kids feel abandoned by me.  They feel like I went from being all over every aspect of their lives to not really caring what happens to them.  I’m just not very good at finding that healthy place, yet.  I think that it’s natural for them to want things to be as they were, but I know that is not what He wants from us.  I know it’s not what is best for them.  I just wish I could find that healthy, balanced place where my kids feel loved and they know that I really believe in them and where I am involved just enough.  I’m working on it.  I cling to 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  I know it sounds like a cop-out, but really it’s just me being thankful that He knows my heart.  He knows I’m trying to be in His will and His grace and love coupled with my love will cover my sins in being a mama and in my other relationships.

He’s freed me from a lot of the superficial things that used to enslave me.  I don’t believe all of my children have to fit into a “Tricia-shaped” box that says they must earn a 3.5 or higher gpa, and then attend college immediately after where they will meet the perfect partner during their last two years at university, get married upon graduation, have big money jobs and live happily ever after.  I trust each of them to find their way.  Each of our children is a truly amazing human being with more talent than I could ever muster.  None of them fits into the ugly box that our society deems “good” and I am thankful that they are all finding their way in this world with no need for any shape box.  I wish I knew if and how to help them during this part of their lives.  I’m kind of like a drug addict.  If I start to get involved, I’m afraid I won’t be able to quit and I’ll just want more and more…  So, I pray a lot and I continue to be thankful for 1Peter 4:8, because I’m still feeling around in the dark and His love and grace are the only reason I’m still standing.

Life AND Peace?…

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Life AND Peace?…

I’m in a funk… 

Writing is my drug of choice.  If I’m feeling “out of sorts” or simply not centered, it is usually because I haven’t written in a long time.  I can usually figure out what is going on in my heart or my head when I set aside some time and just write.  Once I put it all down on paper or a computer, I feel this freedom and balance that is simply beautiful.  Last month I decided to keep my posts private for a little while because I could tell I was not writing pure.  I was doing this “what will people think of me” thing that, honestly, I’m embarrassed to admit I was doing.  I had gotten several really encouraging comments and messages from people, and I had also gotten a couple of “judgey” and not-so-encouraging comments after posting some things that I still feel a little vulnerable about.  So, I’m coming out…  My ego got the best of me.

Here’ the other thing I realized:  I hadn’t written in my journal since I started blogging again.  My journal is one of the ways I pray.  It’s how I have my best conversations with Him…  How did I think I was going to write with clean abandon if I didn’t spend time with my Father?  I’m too old to keep making the same mistakes, aren’t I?  Thank goodness, He’s patient…

Sometimes I get fixated on things that I see as injustices and I allow that to distract me from things that I can do something about and from the things He wants me to do something about.  It’s hard for me to see people hurt by hurting people and not be able to do anything about it.  As an educator it’s hard for me to watch some of our students deal with the hardships they deal with and only be able to do the little bit I am able to do.  It’s also difficult for me to watch loved ones treated harshly by arrogant, insensitive people and do nothing.  I want to save people.  I want everyone to play nice and think the best of one another, but then I remember that this is real life and we all come from different places.  I remember some people don’t know Him.  Some people don’t know how to do things better or even differently because that’s all they’ve ever known and familiarity is comfortable even when it’s toxic.  I lived for years in that cycle and still struggle with it at times.  All people come from a place of hurt.  It’s the human condition… and here’s my disclaimer:  I don’t mean that it’s okay to live in toxicity and allow it to hurt those around you.  I don’t mean that we just say, “Poor thing is hurting,” so we should continue to make concessions and enable toxic living.  I do mean that we should extend love and grace and allow Him to work and know when we are to step in and “help” and when we are to step back and let Him move in whatever way He sees fit.

The hard part for me is moving beyond the temporary, the now.  Not getting caught up in the moment, so that I can see the big picture, is a challenge for me.  One of the ways I find my way clear of this is to move away physically from my day-to-day surroundings and force myself to “be” in a different place.  It is always amazing to me how much this simple act can change my entire outlook, and how difficult it is for me to actually do this.  Self-sabotage is one of my specialties.  I am a martyr by birth, or at least by example.  It’s something I truly dislike about myself and it’s also something I believe I am getting better at as the people closest to me show me how silly and senseless it is when I try to fall back into that behavior.

The other part that is hard for me is going to Him for the directions.  I want to DO instead of BE much too often.  It’s another one of those things that I am too old to still be making the same mistakes about.  I can’t think of one time in my life that I regretted going to Him in order to be pointed in the right direction.  He always heads me the right way.  There have been too many times to mention when I thought He was wrong or I struggled because of my own pride, but I can say now that He has ALWAYS been spot on – and all of those times that were too many to mention were the times that I grew the most spiritually.  He’s cool like that…

The big picture is being in His will and having an ongoing relationship with Him.  Everything just falls into place when that happens and even when a piece of the puzzle falls out and shatters, I know He’s there with me, so it is all bearable, …  So, why is that such a struggle for me?  I’m guessing it’s a struggle for most people.  Finding time to just be with Him has always been the best peace I have ever known, and yet, I put it off and find a bazillion other less important, temporary things to occupy my time.   I used to have a piece of paper taped to my bathroom mirror at our last house that said, “If satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”  Which is not to say that I’m not “bad” now and again, also… 

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  (Romans 7:15).  

We can’t do this alone.  We need each other.  We need relationships that are based on His love and grace.  I know that doing that without the support of someone who really knows me and who will hold me accountable in love is SO hard.  But not having that someone in my life right now doesn’t let me off the hook… 

Darn it. 

I asked Him to draw me nearer to Him.  Now I have to do my part.  My journal is my love letter to Him and writing to Him sporadically is not setting a solid foundation for a relationship with my Father.  If I only heard from my husband or my children as often as I truly communicate with Him, I would be deeply injured.  I have to be better.  I want to be better.  Submitting to Him…  I can do that, because it’s really the only thing that makes any sense…

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

Life and Peace?… 

I’m in…

My Dresser

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dresser drawer opened

There are a bunch of reasons why I believe in God.  Until my faith was TRULY tested a few years ago, I wasn’t sure how I’d fare if and when that all came about.  I mean, sure, I thought I was a regular Job (the guy in the Bible, not a career) when I went through some struggles in my life – financial, minor health issues, my scary pregnancy with our twins, but until my world was completely upside down, I had NO idea.  We just can’t know until we’re there…

What brought me to consider Him began when I gave birth to my second child.  I thought I was all modern woman, agnostic, guilt-free.  In fact, I had struggled with my past choices for years, but had managed to shove it all down pretty well for a very long time.  When I first saw my son, I could not believe that I got to have such a perfect, precious being – not after I had done something so horrible…

I was 19 years old and a freshman in college.  I had dated the same boy since I was 15 and a freshman in high school.  My roommate and I had saved up our money for months to buy a loft in order to have more space in our obscenely small dorm room.  The loft beds were wobbly and not really safe for us to sleep in, but we could afford them and so up they went! 

About two weeks after we got the lofts, I got terribly sick.  Just as I would wake up, I was having to jump down from my unsteady loft to lose my cookies down the hall in the community bathrooms.  One morning my roommate asked me if it was possible that I was pregnant.  I told her that of course I couldn’t be because I was on “the pill.”  When it kept going on for several more days, I decided to visit the campus clinic.  The doctor called me in, told me that I was pregnant and informed me that because I was on the pill, the baby would be born with many health and development issues, if it even survived the pregnancy.  He then gave me a card with information about how to terminate my pregnancy and told me I should do this as soon as possible.  I acted very “college-girl” and agreed that there was no other real choice.

I was a modern woman and I had little patience for those girls who “trapped” their boyfriends into marrying them with a baby, so I called my boyfriend, told him I needed $200 as soon as possible and informed him that I did not want to see him anymore.  My mother called me a few days later and even though I had no intention of telling her anything, I broke down (mostly from shame) and told her I had an appointment for an abortion.  She told me that she and my father would take me.  I objected a little, but I think I wanted them to be with me deep down.   I remember my mom telling me that she would support me in whatever decision I made.  She asked me if I wanted to keep the baby and I quickly told her, “No.  I can’t.”

I told myself that this wasn’t a real baby, yet.  I told myself that it would be born with too many problems and that wouldn’t be fair to the baby.  I did not want people to think that I did this on purpose because I was having a hard time adjusting to this huge college and wanted an easy excuse to quit and settle.  I also knew I should not marry my baby’s father.

The day that I went to the clinic was nightmarish.  My parents were hard for me to read.  It was a long, silent ride to the clinic.  The pain of the procedure was excruciating.  The people that worked there were very kind.  Afterwards, they told us that I should get something to eat right away.  The one vivid memory I have of my parents that day was pulling out of our parking spot and my dad asking me if I wanted to get something to eat at the Big Boy restaurant that was near there.  My mother abruptly said, “NO!  Just go home.”  I was so sure that she hated me then.  I’m sure now that she had a million emotions going on inside of her, but I was 19 and all I could seem to do was focus on closing my heart to what I had just done.  I couldn’t show any emotion because I was not the victim, my baby was, so I did not deserve any sympathy!  I slept most of the weekend and then returned to school with very little outward evidence as to what had happened.  A liberal arts college is the place to be if you want to behave like a liberated woman and stuff your junk down in the name of being modern…

It wasn’t long before I began to date my boyfriend again.  I drove him crazy with my accusations of him blaming me for killing our baby.  He never said a word about any of it, but everytime he did or said anything I saw it as a way to punish me for what I had done.   Guilt had become the ruler of my life.  Our relationship was awful.  It had always been a rollercoaster ride, but now it was even worse.  So, of course, we decided to get married.  Months later I called it off after everything was planned because I had a moment of sanity.  He moved several states away, my parents sent me to California for a couple of months and it seemed we were getting on with our lives.  He came back to Michigan for a visit and we decided we should get married again, and I would move to New Mexico with him.  My poor parents… I was a train wreck happening over and over again…

See, I thought he was the one because I had shared myself with him and deep down I believed that I was bound to him forever.  I also believed in my heart that I had murdered his baby and I had to make it right somehow.  I didn’t think any of this consciously, I had worked very hard to entomb my guilt and it wasn’t until more than a decade later that I could begin to see why I had made so many terrible decisions as a young adult.   I remember my father saying once that he couldn’t believe how little I cared about having an abortion.  I didn’t have any response.  How could I begin to tell him how I felt at 19, just trying to do what I believed was “right” for everyone and struggling to hang on to my sanity?

My marriage was awful in almost every way.  I cringe when I think of who I was during those three years.  The one thing that I still can hardly believe is that God blessed me with my precious son during all of this.  The truth is that without him, I would have probably stayed in that mess for longer than I want to believe.  I didn’t believe I was worth more than that.  I knew my son was.  I understand why this sounds like crazy logic, and it sounds very unfair to my son (and it WAS!), but I believe that it was His plan.  I found Him because of Scott.  I didn’t immediately become a full-fledged Christian.  It was several years before that happened, but I KNEW when I looked at my baby that very first time that there was a God and He loved me.  Unfortunately, my next thought was that if I was a good enough mom, He would forgive me for what I had done to my first child…

So, that’s what I did.  I tried like crazy to earn grace.  It seemed to work really well while he was young.  When he was three years old, I married my husband, whose father is a pastor.  We began to visit his church and I asked LOTS of questions.  I drove my husband crazy.  My father-in-love was such a patient teacher.  He never got upset with my doubts or my questions.  He helped me see Jesus in a whole new way.  Four years into our marriage, I was pregnant with our daughter and Scott was almost 7 years old, I was baptized and crazy about Jesus.  The one thing I still claimed to not completely agree with other Christians about was abortion.  I taught at an innercity school where I witnessed some unbelievable life situations.  One of my special ed. girls had two children.  One of them was her biological father’s and the other was her stepfather’s – both of which were in jail for what they had done to this child.  I used to tell my Christian friends that this was one situation where abortion may have been the answer.  It helped keep all of my junk stuffed and no one any the wiser.

In 1995 we had twin boys!  I was in the hospital for months with complete previa and they were born 6 weeks premature with several issues.  I lost so much blood during their delivery that they lost me on the table briefly. It took us awhile to get back on our feet again, but less than 18 months later, we were moving into a wonderful new home in a cul-de-sac with a beautiful inground pool and 4 bedrooms!  The first thing I did was had a fence put up around the pool for safety after walking out there with our little ones for the first time and watching them all scatter three different ways.  When it was done, I took our three youngest out into the backyard to run around freely.  It was a gorgeous sunny day and my babies were poetry in motion running around back there! As I watched them from a bench in our yard, I was suddenly overcome with deep mourning.  The emotions were so strong that I remember feeling overwhelmed with fear of such sorrow.  I took my babies into the house, laid them all down for their naps and went into my bedroom down the hall.

I mourned for several days.  I mourned the death of my little girl, because I always knew she was a girl.  I mourned the choices I had made because of what I had done.  My Heavenly Father sat in that room with me and it was as if we opened each drawer in my dresser of stuffed junk and He helped me clean it out with such love as I had never known.  Drawer by drawer, we cleaned, folded and put each thing away neatly.  He showed me that I could never do enough to earn grace.  So, I asked Him to forgive me, even as I told Him I didn’t understand how He could.  It was a lengthy process that took days to work through.  It was beautiful and sorrowful.  My tears seemed never ending.

I couldn’t share anything with my husband until my Father was done with me. He already knew about the abortion, but he didn’t know for several days that God was dealing with me about it.  At one point, Bob came to me and said, “I’ve been trying to figure out why you’re so sad and I want you to know that if you’ve done something, found someone else, we can work through this.  I love you and I don’t want to lose you.”  I don’t think I had ever loved my husband as much or felt as loved by him until that moment. 

When it was time for me to close the last drawer, I had a new understanding of His love for me.  I had a peace that was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.  I felt lighter and clean… Really, really clean, inside and out. 

Since then I still have moments when I ask Him to help me accept His grace, love and forgiveness.  I find that I love more fully now.  I am able to extend grace in a way I wasn’t able to before.  I encourage people to open their drawers and deal with their junk, because we all have it and I believe we’re supposed to help each other not feel so alone by sharing our stories.  I hope my story helps someone else feel less alone and more able to be transparent so that He can show him or her His grace, love and forgiveness.  He knows when we’re ready and He’s waiting for us to allow Him to help us.  That is one of the things I hold onto when I have my doubting moments.  He came when I was ready.  He didn’t condemn me in hate, but He convicted me in love when I least expected it – when I thought I was all better and it was all over and life seemed so good, even though my past choices were controlling so much of my life still. 

That’s what sin does in the dark.

 

What’s Your Thing?…

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breaking free

We were all at church this past Sunday, my Honey, our babies and the youngest baby’s girl and the messages have all been focused on the 12 Steps this month.  This week we had gotten to Steps 4 and 5.  Years ago, I attended a recovery group at our church in Michigan and since then I’ve realized it is an essential part of growing for EVERYONE, not just those people, because we are ALL those people.  When I first started going to the meetings back then I remember feeling like I didn’t really belong because I was not as screwed up as most of the other people at the meetings.  I’m not an alcoholic, or a child molester. I’m not a recovering drug addict or a cleptomaniac. My life seemed pretty Holly, Molly, Polly to me back then. I kept attending because I trusted friends that encouraged me to go.  When we moved, I was surprised to find that the churches we attended in Texas weren’t really familiar with the program outside of AA.  It was something I wanted to continue when I came here seven years ago.   It was a lot of HARD work that I led to great peace, but over the years I’ve become complacent and gotten pretty good at remaining anonymous.  So, I’m full of mixed emotions now that I have no excuses because my church is all in about this ministry, and now I am completely aware that I am just as screwed up as everyone else.

After church we went to this yummy, cheap Mexican restaurant with our three youngest, plus Aaron’s significant other. Just as an aside, the whole meal for 6 of us cost $35.00 and was delish!  We started talking about church and asking each other what we thought our “thing” was – and reminding each other that if you think you don’t have a “thing,” then denial is probably your “thing.”  (I’m sure Aaron’s girlfriend was thrilled about this discussion!) A couple of people asked to have “thing” redefined.  “It’s what holds you back, what gets in the way of you being who God means for you to be,” someone said.  If you can’t think of what yours is, you are supposed to ask those closest to you, because they definitely will have an answer for you. We’re helpful like that, aren’t we?!  I reverted to several years ago and tried to think of a “REALLY BAD” thing (UGH!).  Of course, when I couldn’t think of one, my daughter said, “Mom, you KNOW what your thing is,” and then gave me “that” look.

Several seconds passed while I racked my brain. (Is that how you spell r-a-c-k?…)
OH, yeah…  I shut my kids down, in the name of “respect me because I’m your mom” and treat them with no respect when I feel threatened or insecure… Now I remember…

and I remember the other thing that was said at church was that step 4 was the most difficult –  because you have to honestly face your junk and you have to do it continually.  I’m confessing right here and now that because I have previously admitted that I do that to my children, I had kind of put it away.  I wish it was because I’m over it and I won’t ever do it again, but I’m pretty sure it was because I just don’t want to look at it anymore and I want to think I’m all better… Yeah, no… I need to work on being so defensive.

The next step is making amends.  I’ve admitted this to my children.  I’ve even apologized to some degree…  I mean when I do this it is because one of my children is being a disrespectful brat and I’ve had enough…  Doesn’t that make it a little bit okay for me to raise my voice and shut him/her down?…

No?…

Hmmmm, I’ve got some work to do, more submitting to Him, more confessing to them and sincere apologizing.
Okay…

Now I know why these two steps are so difficult and SO necessary. I also realize that it’s important for me to follow through with these steps continually throughout my life if I want my children to be all that He means for them to be. I want to be an example to my children and to my grandbabies. I want them to respect me because I’m transparent, and after God’s heart.
I wish we could just line up the “junk” and work on it for a couple of weeks and then be completely clean! Wouldn’t that be the BOMB?! Wrap it all up in a nice box with a pretty bow and move on to Eden…

My pre-step, Step 0, as it were, is to find a 12 Step small group to be a part of. Right now that feels as huge as steps 4 and 5 combined. I know that this is an answer to prayer on a couple of levels, so I’m going to try to shed my complacent skin (another one of my “things”) and follow His lead. He knows what I need more than I do and I really want to be in His will. I’m pretty okay with answered prayers for the most part, too…