Back To My First Love

Lately my time, one-on-one with God has been a spontaneous thing, which becomes steered by intention.

Something within me has changed. My perspective, or I guess my realization of the reliability— the consistent stability— of God with me. I never question His willingness to make sure I am taken care of. He has never wavered— though I know it’s certainly not because of anything I’ve earned nor do I dare think I deserve it.

This idea of “first love” is tumbling around in my brain today. Meditating in His Presence, saturating my spirit in the beautiful song Nothing Else, this idea of being taken back to my first love opens up a whole new reservoir of understanding for me.

“Take me back, take me back, take me back to my first love…” Can I say God has ever been my first love? I mean— honestly. Because, of course in “Christianese” that’s what we profess— that God is our first love.

As I just meditate on what that means to me, and question how exactly to get back to my first love when I cannot say that was God, I recognize what I need is to get back to the first recognition of my love for Him, and my first realization of His love for me.

My first time knowing this unique, soul-filling love that heals me, that refreshes me— that holds me close to Him.

“Take me back to my first love…” Take me back to that first moment the veil was torn from my understanding, that first glimpse my spirit had of You.

Take my heart back to being satisfied by sitting in Your Presence, back when things were simplified— back to the safety and comfort, like a newborn babe resting on its daddy’s chest— near to Your heartbeat. Because “Only You satisfy my heart… Nothing else will do— I just want You”

Vlogging- Venting Blog

So– I know this will be shocking, but–

I have a pet peeve.

Actually, I have a few.

But the one I am being pounced on by right now is– well– I’ll call it flabbergasted.

I am biting my proverbial tongue pretty hard right now, in all honesty.

The ignorant gall of some people brings me to a boiling point I absolutely have to surrender to God.

First off, I will point out that as Christians, I believe it must be apparent we actually follow the example Jesus set before us. My focus now is on His example and His definition of being a friend.

The greatest lack I see today is selflessness. We have “self-awareness“, “self-assuredness“, “self-esteem“, “selfie“, “self-confidence“, “self-identification“– but not much selflessness.

When a husband returns from the memorial of their recently passed-away dad– that is NOT the time a wife should decide to pack up and move out– as an example of what my pet-peeve is ticked off about.

I don’t understand how when someone needs support the most, a helpmate can turn a cold shoulder and just walk away.

It looks exactly like what the enemy of our God and our soul would convince someone to do– especially in a marriage. Friendship- nurturing is at the root of that lack.

Maybe that’s just the appearance.

I really hope that’s the case.

Someone needs to write a book about the Art of Friendship Within Marriage.

Reflections

Today is my birthday. I’m ?? years old– my Grandma always said “A lady never reveals her age.”

I’m feeling like– I made it! I survived! I feel a kind of rejunenation today.

Also tired.

I’m leaving an era behind me. My husband just retired from the military, and we’re moving into a new phase that I think we are both pretty excited about. I wish I had the same energy I had in my youth to do cartwheels and cheers. My mind is full of energy, but my body is on a whole other plateau.

My husband and I get to enjoy the fruits of our labor now– or soon, anyway. There are always hurdles and obstacles in our course. We’ve learned to weather some big, strongs storms– natural and figurative.

I find myself taking some serious deep breaths. I can let go of some of the heavy things I’ve carried over the years. I can let out that mental breath I’ve held for over 20 years as my husband was sent away from us for months at a time, waiting to find out the unknown, not anticipating the unexpected. I can start thinking about plans I’d like to make that we won’t have to change at the last minute.

I can start thinking about things I want to do.

That’s hard.

I’ve been mom, and military spouse for so long, I’ve tied most of my own interests into my family. My relationships with my kids and my husband have taken most of my energy and planning.

I have a new stage ahead of me that I get to set. I get to explore new things to find what I want to put on it.

I get to relearn, maybe even remake, who I am.

I’m still wife, mother and homeschool/violin teacher. But, now I can look around and add some other things that I want to. I’m not limited to what’s chosen for me, my plans aren’t laid out for me, I have a plethora options I didn’t have the freedom to choose before.

I have the benefit of hindsight, and the excitement of foresight.

I have so much to be thankful for to God, my husband and the military.

I haven’t felt a physical joy in a long time. It feels almost foreign to me as I feel it now– almost like that part of me is thawing out.

I’m genuinely looking forward to the next ?? years that God grants me to live.

Also– I have birthday pancakes made for me by one of my boys.

Life is good.

Don’t Forsake The Assembling Of ‘Ourselves’ Together

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Hebrews 10:25.

How many times I’ve heard that– especially when I’ve missed a service at some churches. I’ve lost count!

I’ve exhausted and frustrated myself trying to jump through those hoops that lead to acceptance.

What about when the assembly forsakes it’s own members?

Like me.

When my health started to betray me, and I was going through some honestly scary stuff– where was that assembly then?

Not rallied around me, listening, praying and cheering me on with encouragement.

No. It was silent.

Unless I asked for prayer. Then– it prayed, maybe laid hands on me too– and then it went back to whatever else was going on, and silence for me again.

And let me tell you– I have had need of encouragement!

When I was struggling as a kid and teen with things I couldn’t tell anyone about, I needed that assembly.

When I nearly died, a few times, that assembly has been nowhere around.

When it was up to me to forgive some deeply serious and scarring offenses so I could be free to move on with my life and follow God’s path for me, where was that assembly?

When my dad passed away, and I was numb because our relationship was so screwed up, I needed the assembly.

How thankful I am that I have that close relationship with my Redeemer. He has always given me exactly what I need, when I need it.

But– God made us to need others. The Church isn’t supposed to be like a game of jump-rope where you just jump in and hope you don’t mess up the rhythm or get hit or tripped-up by the ropes. There is supposed to be a mutual-ness to it. Not a sizing-up, or a dressing-down. It’s not one-size-fits-all, and yet it’s supposed to be all for people.

The safest place on earth.

That’s what Church is supposed to be.

I always thought it was like a hospital for the sick, a resting place for the weary, and a nurturing place for neglected outcasts. Welcoming and warm…

I’ve struggled my whole life with fitting in, or feeling like I fit in. We all have our family issues and personality quirks, along with unrealistic expectations.

But when, as a kid, I heard several congregations singing about being “The Family of God”, my mind formed certain expectations that I honestly haven’t felt are unrealistic.

I see others laughing, spending time together, helping one another out. I’ve watched from the outer courts on so many occasions, like the envious little girl watching the big kids skillfully turn the jump ropes while the confident kids jump in and sing rhymes timed with fancy footwork.

So when I heard the song about being family– well– I’ve been looking for the evidence of that.

I’ve wanted to find one where there is a healthy father- figure for me, one where the women are not competitive, judge-mental, or seem to actually ignore and look past me.

I am so tired of the Church acting like the world. Or worse.

I want to find that true Family of God.

One where the assembly does not forsake me.

One where God doesn’t speak to my spirit to tell me the Pastor is my enemy, not my friend.

This is what is on my heart and mind today.

Is Church Membership A Two-Way Street? 

Over the past few years, my husband and I have gotten involved with several ministries. We’ve gone to churches or chapels. We’ve gone through membership classes, fulfilled membership requirements– jumped through those expected hoops…

Then we moved, as is the military way. We’ve lived Stateside twice, for a combined 3 1/2 year total of our 19 years of marriage and military life together. 

Church membership, in my understanding, is different than any other membership. We are already members of The Body of Christ. Does moving just dissolve the local church membership? It doesn’t for me.

I carry some deep-seated disappointment and hurt, I’ll be honest, from our last church membership. More than just moving unexpectedly.

I hoped to be embraced by the church community when we joined with them. It’s such a large community, I don’t even think people knew, or cared, that we decided to make that committment. No one outside of our small class of people welcomed us. We were allowed to go to the business meetings where they were transparent about using the tithes and offerings– but there was also the expectation for us to give– sometimes until it hurt as we trusted God– to support their ministries. 

To be fair, our first Christmas there, they gave us gift cards that added up to $200 for Walmart. We needed coats and winter clothing, coming from a tropical climate. We needed groceries, dealing with less money. It was humbling, and appreciated. But, there was no conversations with us, just someone handing us a card, and maybe a gift basket– I wish I could remember it better. I think it was outer appearance they judged our need on, because no one ever asked us anything, no one took time to hear what we all had going on.

While we were there, I got very sick. There were doctors visits, blood tests, exams, other tests– some very painful or uncomfortable. I had blood tests done over several years past that had problems revealed and recorded, but no one had ever told me or did tests to diagnose the causes. 

I wasn’t able to serve as my heart really wanted. I tried to communicate to leadership a couple times about my limitations and my need for prayer, but honestly– I never felt heard, and I did feel judged because of my lack of involvement, or needing to sit down when I tried to serve with the Thanksgiving ministry. 

On top of health concerns, we had one vehicle, new to us but on it’s last legs. Having spent the majority of our marriage living overseas, we had to start our household all over again. Taking that assignment also meant taking a pay-cut for my husband, and we owned nothing in the states. We had so many obstacles to overcome.

I went from driving on the left side of the car and road, to the right, slow speeds to fast, terrifying highways… Driving anywhere was an enormous stress, scared I’d wreck our only car, nervous I’d drive on the wrong side of the road or get confused… I was a wreck!! 

The church environment was one unlike I had ever really experienced. Instead of any type of an outreach for people new to the area, there was this expectation that we just “jump in.” 

I was overwhelmed– entirely.

I was scared about my health– at one point I honestly thought I might be dying. 

I was drowning just trying to stay afloat and maneuver this new, kind of cold, environment.

Thank God I have a healthy marriage!! 

My husband and I were quick to try to jump into music ministry, as we have everywhere we are, as much as we could. Even that was a new experience– from having to audition, to figuring how to fit my music skill into a completely new dynamic– it started on a high note, but faltered completely by the time God decided to surprise us and move us on. We were actually looking into buying a home and settling there, but God had different plans for us.

I’m not a very social face-to-face person, and I found it incredibly difficult to find even one close friend.  I tried over and over. I met so many nice people at that church, and I did find friends through our writing group outside of the church we were at. But, in the church I felt like I was held an arm’s length away by most people. They were polite, and extremely helpful in so many ways– I love the people. But no one asked about me. No one asked how I was adjusting. No one was interested at all in things I had experienced living in another nation, or as a military spouse, or even as a Veteran.

I was surrounded by so much activity, so much joy– I don’t think I’ve ever felt lonelier.

Overwhelmed, I tried to give all I could, but the more I didn’t get back, the more my attitude about having to jump through hoops that I honestly wasn’t able to jump through soured.

After months of medical tests, including 2 different MRI’s, a full body x-ray, some horrible test of my nerves that I couldn’t even finish– my main doctor gave me a partial diagnosis– some rare, unnamed immune disease I was born with but didn’t know I had. 

My whole life I’ve fought to overcome this tiredness that I learned was actually a physical fatigue. Daily life wears me out. Interacting with people, especially in groups, often leaves me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted– sometimes to the point of tears.

I remember, over 20 years ago, crying out to God during a time I was dealing with fatigue, He spoke into my spirit– “I will bring friends to you. I will bring ministry opportunities to you. You can rest in Me.”

So, I waited on the Lord, and He has been so wonderful to me!

He brought my husband *to* me. He brought a new career and love of teaching violin *to* me. He brought me ministry opportunities and friends who really know me *to* me through various online avenues.

The church we left was a place I had to go to to exert myself in ways that left me not just depleted of energy, but empty emotionally. It wasn’t a refuge– not for me, anyway. 

The small group setting was really nice and friendly, but when it was over, most people there moved on and forgot about me. Not everyone, but most.

The church is there for ministry– even for its own members. I needed to be ministered to, I needed what the people weren’t equipped to provide. I felt no one cared. Even when I asked for prayer. Since we moved nearly 2 years ago, not one of the leaders has kept in real contact with us or inquired after us in anyway. There is no interaction over Facebook at all, no messages– nothing. 

We became members, but they never joined with us. 

I will say, 3 or 4 of the members still interact with us, and I am so thankful we’ve stayed in contact. They are truly amazing people.

There is an expectation that as Christians we should just be able to stand on our own, to fit into those premade “molds” everyone *has* to fit in. But, I don’t. So then– what? I’m just on my own because I don’t meet the expected standards? 

Will church leaders ever stop to assess the damage caused to members through expectations and standards? Will they begin to look for each individual’s best interest here on earth, as we participate and join together to be about our Father’s business?

One can only hope. 

 

Just Stop–

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Daily busyness mutes His voice.

So many things clutter our lives, clutter our hearts– clutter our churches. So many good things. So many good intentions. So many ideas to please God, programs to help people, traditions we’ve convinced ourselves we need.

Abel understood the very heart of God. It was more than just hearing and obeying God. It was more than the best of what he could come up with, within himself. Cain gave of his best efforts, his strength, his creativity, but it wasn’t the same as Abel. Not because it wasn’t the exact same offering. Cain did what was required, and he lacked the understanding or caring of why.

Mary sat with Jesus. She was bold and brave, in a culture when women did not sit with men, she sat with Him. She listened intently with her heart. She understood and openly sought the heart of God– despite what anyone else would say or think. We might, in our culture and time, think Mary was being lazy and trying to get out of work. She sought Jesus while He might be found. Martha was steeped in her culture and the burden of what had to be done. She prepared the meal, and she openly complained to Mary about her not helping. Martha did what was required of her in her culture’s role for her. She lacked understanding of why Mary did not. Maybe Martha had a bitter root planted in jealousy, as well as offense that it looked bad. There was Mary– sitting down with the men– listening and being taught, but not pulling her own weight in the work of serving.

For many of us, we try to do the minimum requirement when tasked. We have a mental checklist, and at the end of that checklist is what we would rather be doing– if we’re honest. Our heart’s are not in it. Like Martha, we look at someone else not doing what we think they should be doing, and we get jealous. We complain. We give in to frustration and allow bitterness to plant a root.

Cain had a jealous and bitter root, which produced the murder of his own brother. Like his parents with God, he tried to hide it.

What does God require of us? Is it perfection? Maybe exhaustion? The best programs? The most outward sacrifice? Praying the most profound prayers? Knowing the most and best Scriptures?

There is a plan layed-out through Scripture that highlights what He requires.

Come as you are.

Trust in the Lord your God.

Fear not.

Rest in Him.

Beloved– He requires us. Everything that we are.

He inhabits the praise of His people– not our works or sacrifice.

Take a deep breath… just stop– worship Him, meditate on Who He is, thank Him for all He has given, all that He is, and that He will do and has done.

When He Walks Into The Room   https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r50EGH7x2nw&feature=youtu.be

The works will happen as we regain our focus. Not our works– His work through us. We will be more in tune with Him, He will lead us to be about His business– not our busyness.

When was the last time our heart started to burn for His Will, or the darkness trembled at the Light of God breaking through our lives?

That’s when the miracles will happen. When His Spirit will pour out on all flesh, sickness will be healed, mountains will be moved.

But first, we need to stop and get reaquainted with Him and remember our first Love.

Happy Birthday, United States Air Force– What Is There To Even Celebrate Now?

As a veteran and military spouse with 22 years of Air Force experience, what can I say about my beloved branch of service on its 69th birthday?

I was proud the day I stepped out of MEPS with a promised new, exciting yet completely unknown future.

At 24, after a failed marriage to a man who was abusive and mean, I was beginning a new life– one I’d be proud to say I’ve lived.

I think I was a joke to my first recruiter, but I found another recruiter who took me seriously and helped me find my door out of the destructive life going nowhere that I’d made for myself.

To the Air Force, I was a female body filling an empty spot in a predominantly male career field. I had high expectations of learning my job, being trained exceptionally. I trained waitresses before I enlisted, and I expected at least that same level of professionalism and depth. My expectations were not met– it wasn’t even close. I was a female after all– someone to flirt with, try to date, but keep at arms-length in what was, after all, just a man’s job.

I’d faced that challenge my whole life with relatives that mocked my efforts because of my gender, as though I were less than any male.

I rose to the gender challenge in school by taking a car repair class, acing it. I knew my way around a car engine, transmission and a/c– you know, back in the day when things were repaired and replaced, not sent to someone to fix or throw out.

I fought against that whole “weak girl” mentality, and the Air Force decided to throw me into that, once again. I was left at job sites by my supervisor, to figure things out without his help, tools or replacement parts. My 25th birthday was spent alone in my dorm room until my supervisor called me to go on a call at the dorm next to mine. The lighting was nearly non-existent  outside, and as I was walking, I didn’t see a step in the sidewalk, and fell. I got up, and not realizing I had a concussion from the fall, I went to try to stop a broken shower. I had no user’s manual, no training, and no supervisor taking me through the troubleshooting steps to fix it. 45 minutes later my supervisor finally showed up, disappointed that I hadn’t magically solved the problem. I went back to my dorm, finished that birthday by falling asleep. A week later I went to the doctor because my head had been hurting since I fell, and that’s when I learned I had a concussion. God still had plans for me, even if my co-workers thought I was just a waste of space in their career.

I’d love to say there were many high points, but I was constantly held back. One guy even became my supervisor, after being turned down over the phone for a date. I’d never seen him face-to-face, so I didn’t realize who he was until my career was nearly ruined. As soon as I figured it out, I changed supervisors and shops, but he had already said too much negative about me, gave me a bad EPR and convinced me I needed to work on my CDCs rather than drive around to jobs we never had the parts to actually fix. My personal challenge was a ruined opportunity, I’d never make Msgt by 13-14 years. I also no longer cared.

After that, I learned the outdoor part of my job. I had better opportunities at being trained, and hands-on repairs. I learned a lot and I worked hard physically. It was a better fit for me, but my shop boss hated me and I got another low EPR because he didn’t agree with the positive things my new supervisor reported in it. My shop boss never actually went to my job sites and saw how hard I worked, or how good I had become at everything I was given the opportunity to actually do with the right parts, tools, and training.

I received orders, so I moved to another base. I wasn’t hated because of my gender, this time I was too delicate to do my job. I was given jobs like painting, hammering a few nails in, controlling and sitting-in for my commander’s secretary. I volunteered to deploy to the desert, and my leadership nearly had a heart attack! They fought me on it, tried to keep me from going, but no one else was volunteering. So I went. But, not to do my actual job. No. I was an escort for the local nationals. And then, because I couldn’t be alone with the local nationals, because I’m a girl, I was put at the gate for 12-16 hour days, in charge of who was allowed in. Over Muslim men. You can probably guess how good that went over. Besides the fact that I was a girl, I was a girl that drove, told men what to do, and read her Bible openly in front of men. Now, I had no idea women weren’t allowed to read religious stuff, and as a Christian I read my Bible because I needed God’s encouragement and wisdom to handle some difficult people and situations– like bomb threats and air tests, and men who hated me, refusing to follow my instructions without cops threatening to pull out their guns telling them they had to do what I said.

Anyway– that was much of my enlisted experience, though definitely not all.

As a spouse, I’ve endured 18 years of constant changing plans and the results of the spectrum of various leaders my husband has worked for- from awesome to abusive at times. We have been blessed, and most of the time he has had awesome local leadership. Though it often feels like he’s away more than he’s here, we have had it better than many.

His extended leadership has gotten worse, though. Most of the time they’re clueless about what they put their people, and their people’s families, through. They are uninformed, and “yes men”, not professional enough to get needed information or listen to the needs and complaints of the workforce they are near breaking.

It’s not unlike Benghazi, where they are communicating needs, concerns, and asking for more bodies– but being ignored, blown off, and having more work than is even possible dumped on them. I have watched my good-natured husband, who has already put his 20 in, in a much needed career field, be crushed by unrealistic expectations, pushing of regulations, as well as physical and mental exhaustion to the point he falls asleep as soon as he gets home some nights. His schedule is all over the place, he has no time or energy to keep up with the rigid demands of PT because the nature of his job is already far too physically and mentally demanding.

And now, we celebrate the birthday of a force to be reckoned with– by its own people. From leadership that sexually abuses and assaults those lower-ranking than themselves, getting a “pass” from being held accountable, to leadership that has no clue what they are putting their people through– this year, I’m not celebrating the birthday of my beloved Air Force.

This year, I mourn its self-destruction, from the inside-out.

Fighting An Invisible Enemy

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I have an invisible enemy. I’ve fought against it for as long as I can remember. This enemy does not fight fair. It hides in the shadows. I have exhausted myself many times throughout my lifetime trying to fight back, but it dodges every retaliatory jab.

My enemy catches me off-guard, though less often now. It strikes with the intention of crippling my efforts. It dismantles my credibility. Mocks my accomplishments, experience and concerns, rendering them invaluable– useless. It attempts to define me as “too emotional”, “uneducated”, “ridiculous” or “ignorant”. It laughs at me, or rolls its eyes with a sarcastic dismissal of my importance.

It steals my confidence– tries to steal my joy.

I’ve learned to stand back and just observe how this enemy attacks and come to recognize that part of its victory over me has been through the use of decoys. It’s as though I am blindfolded, and I think I know its location through a sound or a movement. But, when I attempt to retaliate, I punch through thin air, exhausting– even injuring– myself in the process.

It’s impossible to fight this enemy.

In an effort of self-protection, I surround myself with people who have proven their trustworthiness to me over time. People who value me and don’t laugh at my creativity, experience, or blow off my concerns. Sometimes those people disappoint me.

I have begun to realize, the best way to defeat this enemy is to guard myself during its assailment and then assess the damage.

The damage hardest to overcome or heal from is the friendly fire. I know my visible enemies will not care about or recognize the truth over their opinion of me, so their words no longer hurt me. But, those closest to me– their opinion becomes the fiery darts my enemy uses to go straight to my heart.

When I remember to hide in the shadow of God’s wings, the damage is minimal, often non-existent.  Psalm 63:7 reminds me: “For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy”. Hosea 14:7 encourages me that:  “Those who live in his shadow Will again raise grain, And they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon”.

Then I know, the only thing that ever matters is God. He sees all, knows all, and He’s with me every step of the way, guiding me with the light of His Word, working through me regardless of how useless or unimportant any person believes me to be.

God is my strength, and He helps me defeat the intentions of my invisible enemy, by praying and believing God’s Word– His promises. Every time.

What You See Isn’t Always What You Get

We live in a timeline of illusions. Photoshop and other apps often help us give the appearance of faked perfection. Movies and tv shows take us to other times, places, worlds, universes, and realms of perception. Even Reality shows are not very “real”.

We are so caught up in a culture of perfection that the imperfect, as defined by popular societal opinion, is often thrown by the wayside.

We measure others by a set of standards we’ve been told everyone should just fit into, or else they are wrong.

Worse– we measure others by the standards we have set for ourselves, and that our parents or spouse have set for us.

If we are honest, we can admit: anyone who doesn’t conform is wrong and not worthy of our time.

In Christian circles, I see so much of this “Put your pretty face forward” junk. “Think Positive!” “Focus on the prosperity God wants to give to you!” “Be happy! The joy of the Lord is your strength!”

I’m caught in the middle of imperfection. I used to be able to fit into an appearance of perfection. Now I have way too many openly apparent flaws. I’m ok with that, but a lot of people are not. If some things were suddenly reversed, I’d have it made! Like, if being overweight were looked at as a trophy of having carried and cared for 4 children, for instance. I’d fit right in there!

My imperfections on the outside are right there for everyone to see.

My imperfections on the inside aren’t easy for anyone to see unless I draw attention to them. Like I’m about to do. But, it’s going to get ugly. Because some of my memories just can’t be prettified. They can’t be made into happy ones. There is no prosperity to be gained from them.

I have found it difficult over the years to find people who can, or want to take time to try to identify with me. My life has never been average, but I rarely invite anyone in to look at it.

These days we are drawn to dark things, but not the kind of dark that I have faced– the kind of dark that makes you beg for the Light.

It’s intense. That’s not my fault. I didn’t author my life.

I’ve just survived it.

I don’t know how anyone else would have lived through– survived– the kinds of things I have had no choice about. I suspect they might treat other imperfect people with more compassion and understanding.

I’m drawing this out because I don’t want to write about the dark memory that’s been on my mind.

When a bone is broken, there is something on the outside to make that apparent. Lots of pain. Bruising. Swelling. It can be x-rayed, set or fixed with surgery and put into a cast until it heals.

When something happens in our lives that causes us to be broken inside, there are no x-rays, no setting or fixing, no doctor that puts a cast on it until it heals.

Yes, God heals us. But, that’s not what this is about.

There is no bandage that is able to heal the memories of what I have seen and experienced as a child with an abusive, mentally ill parent. The legacy I have been left by my dad is painful memories. There is no amount of  “Put on your pretty face and be happy because the joy of the Lord is your strength” that I can apply like a balm of Gilead.

Happy is not the same thing as joy.

I have an inner joy because Jesus Christ has given me eternal Salvation. I have an inner sadness because something has been stolen from me that has not and can not be replaced: my dad. Even while he was still alive, things could never be repaired into a normal, healthy relationship. Because he wasn’t normal or healthy.

He was broken.

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No medicine could fix him. In fact, for years, it made things even worse.

Sure, talking with a counselor often helps with inner healing. But, let’s be honest: what’s been seen can not be unseen. And the darkest memory I have fits into that category. I don’t really think about it often. I remember that it happened but I don’t actually look at the memory.

Because it’s the crippling kind of painful.

I feel an anger and a sadness I don’t want to acknowledge. It makes me feel like crying, but the tears are stuck somewhere deep.

It’s the horrifying picture of when my dad tried to kill my mom on Mother’s Day of 1980. I witnessed it. I might have even helped stop it. But, what I remember is that nothing I said, or yelled in desperation seemed to have actually been heard by my dad. I heard my dad shouting early on that morning, and I opened my bedroom door to find my mom lying on her side, under our dining room table– under my dad– curled up in the fetal position. My dad was pounding his fist against the side of her head. She was crying, trying to get him to stop.

I nearly lost my mom that day.

When I stop to really think about what happened that day, Mother’s Day is not a happy day for me.

When I gloss over it and instead think about how I am now a mom of 4 amazing miracles, there is happiness.

So, is the answer to just gloss over it all the time, and never really remember? I don’t think it is.

I can’t change the fact that it happened. I can ignore it, but it’s going to pop up in other areas.

That deep anger creeps into my interactions and reactions.

The sadness tries to take over as depression, but I don’t usually let it.

There is a gratefulness that we didn’t lose my mom that day, to God and the family member that made my dad stop before it was too late.

I don’t think I’ve let myself think about the full impact of that.

My mom was almost taken from us in a horrifying way.

There is nothing to make that memory “pretty” or happy. That day impacted me deeply. It’s a thread sown into the tapestry of my life. I can’t remove it, or ignore it forever.

It caused something in me to break. No x-ray machine will show where the breaks are, or help anyone diagnose how to help it heal.

I can’t explain how it’s made me want someone to reach out to me. I can’t talk about it. The rare times I’ve tried to, people get put off because they don’t know how to react to it. It’s not the kind of thing that societal advice applies to, there is no Joel Osteen quick fix.

It’s not pretty. It’s not happy. It’s not the popular kind of “dark” or traumatic.

There is no box my life fits into comfortably, without trying to conform me to some unrealistic expectation.

I once asked a Pastor to counsel me, and she told me I didn’t need to be counseled. She finally agreed, but ended up she blaming me for reacting badly to things– like crying and irritating my dad when I was a baby.  I was told I need to just “let go and let God.”  I have done that, and I still hurt when I remember. I still feel angry.

I forgave my dad. I moved on.

But it still happened.

I appreciate my mom’s strength. She never divorced my dad because she made a covenant with God when she married him– For Better Or For Worse. Many marriages end with things less worse than what my mom endured. She stayed with my dad because if she had left him, he would have no one. She felt compassion for someone who behaved like a monster to her. In this day and age of impatience and perfection– who does that??

My mom is a brilliant example of loving someone unconditionally.

Am I advocating for someone to stay in a marriage they are not safe in? NO. Absolutely not! I can’t tell you how much I wished she would divorce him throughout my childhood.

God protected us all as she honored Him. I believe that. I’ve seen proof of that more than once.

Before my dad died 3 years ago, my oldest son wanted to make sure he was Saved. My dad said to tell my son that he loved Jesus. I’m sure he had to work out his Salvation with fear and trembling because there were still some ugly things that had a hold of my dad’s understanding.

But, isn’t it good that God has made Salvation so simple “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10 NASB) We like to make it more complicated.

Mother’s Day is coming up. This year it will be tough for me to not remember that day so many years ago.

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I’ll try to acknowledge and embrace my inner devastated, heart-broken, frightened child as I also embrace my beautiful children who are like the sunlight lighting up that darkness.

I understand what I’ve survived God has used to make me stronger, but the scars will always remind me of the brokenness I’ve suffered and what God has brought me through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Reflection: Looking At The Painful Past

I hate looking at my past. I hate remembering. I have set out so many times to write “my story”, but something always blocks me.

I think it might be “this” me hating the “old” me.

I don’t want to look at it through my memories.

Why would you?

Today my youngest was playing with a rubber band, joking about shooting it at me. Even something as silly and simple as that reminds me, like a scar reminds us of a painful wound.

What is the big deal about shooting a rubber band, right? If you could look into my memory, and “feel” with my emotions, you’d know. You might even hate it, too.

You’d see the man who molested me, aiming then shooting a rubber band at my butt as I laid on the couch watching tv. You’d feel the sudden surge of rage consume what might have been a semi-peaceful moment. You’d watch my leg shoot out, my foot connect to the back of his knee as he walked by. Full rage force. Knocking him off his balance.

The rest of that day is a black hole.

One thing I really want people to understand is that I don’t live in my past. I don’t need advice on how to forgive or heal. I have overcome tremendous odds, and I only have God to thank. My experience has often been that those who hear what I’ve been through assume I need their help, that I’m asking for help or advice.

I share my story because it’s God’s testimony of Him transforming an ugly duckling into a swan– the traumatically-challenged, nearly bitter woman into a trusting Christian.

If this encourages you, I’ve accomplished what I never used to believe I could. If it hits home, I am deeply sorry.

Please feel free to use the comments section to tell how God helped you heal or overcome a troubled, painful past. We all need to hear more about what God is doing to heal the broken-hearted; to set the captive free, transforming us into the likeness of Christ.

What Do Women Really Want?

We have all heard the sarcastic jokes about how girls are so difficult to understand. If we are honest we have either told a few ourselves, or agreed with them.

But, are women really that difficult to understand?

Being a woman myself, I feel qualified to answer this.


  

Flowers, chocolates, jewelry, a spontaneous trip somewhere, getting us that dress we have been eyeing as we do our online Windows shopping– believe it or not, they all have something in common.

Being valued. Being remembered. Attention to the details that matter to us being acknowledged. Being that priority in thought and heart.

Not out of guilt. Nope. If guilt is the motivator then you have lost.

It’s not the amount of money that makes something valuable to a woman. No, really, it isn’t. It’s the motivation that created the desire to buy or make and then give the gift. That is what women most care about. What is your motivation for what you do, say, or give to your wife or girlfriend?

Behind the motivation, your heart towards her is revealed.

Women are sensitive to that. We do not want gifts, compliments or acknowledgment born out of guilt, manipulation, or stubborn obligation.

Us women, we need to know you are thinking about us. That you are appreciating us. That we, alone, satisfy you. Show us that an evening alone with us is enough, it doesn’t make you cringe or fall asleep, or day-dream about when we let you go play Fallout 4. Let us see first hand that holding our hand satisfies you more than that game controller ever does, or that iPad, or even that drink or cigarette. Put your phone on silent and look into the eyes of your special lady, without thinking about all you need to be looking into your phone’s screen to check. Dazzle us with your full attention so we know you think highly of us, you are interested in our point of view– that you value how we are different from you.

That is how we measure how much you value us. Not by how much money you spend on a gift. That you would willingly spend as much money as possible to show that you value us even more than the cost of what we have our eye on.

Make it a point to notice what we have our eye on.

We need to know we are the most valuable part of you.

When you met us, you craved our attention, you dropped what you were doing when possible to spend time with us.

You showed us we were important.

After becoming confident you had “won” our hearts, a shift happened– you began telling us we are important. Not wanting to be “needy”, we’ve adapted and accepted, until pretty soon that’s all we have.

That becomes our value. How much we adapt, accept, overlook…

This is not at all what women really want. It’s definitely not what we need. It does not satisfy or make us happy.

All too often we become part of the background of your attention or memory.

An after thought.

The least in your list of priorities.

There are too many things competing for your attention, and your affection– those things the woman in your life most deserves.

Isn’t she worth more to you than you often make known to her?

Don’t Talk About It

There is an unhealthy attitude. Within the Church. You may not want to hear about it. You may not want to listen. But, that will not make it go away. Confronting it will. Confronting it is the first step to healing.

And, the church needs some major healing and repairs.

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So, the attitude is this: if something about a church congregation hurts, disappoints, offends, or puts you off– don’t talk about it. Don’t talk to anyone if your feelings are hurt. Don’t mention that the lesson might not be quite Scripturally accurate. Do not show your true feelings, because the attitude is– “that’s unGodly“.

But that attitude is wrong.

Jesus never said “Blessed are those who pretend everything is fine when it’s not.” No, He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

Who are the poor in spirit? It includes those who have been hurt within the Body of Christ, sometimes from the Body of Christ.

We need to pour healing into our own.

I am going to talk about it, and we all should.

Because this pretending like everything is fine, it’s not worshiping God in spirit and in truth. It’s lying.

Everything is not fine.

And, it’s not ministering to the ones who need ministry the most– those that have been hurt. Often hurt by people within their own congregation.

I have been to several churches regularly since I turned my life over to Jesus, because I move around with the military, and sometimes God just moves me on to another church.

I have been hurt. I have been devastated.

By a church split. By a Pastor I respected like he was my own dad. By a pastor’s wife I hoped would be like a mom for me. Then I wised-up. I stopped trying to fill a need I sincerely believe God wants church leaders to help fill in their congregants lives.

But, it hurts.

Because that is a realistic, honest need. Maybe not for everyone. But it is for a lot.

How many people can actually talk about this disappointment, this failure in ministering to our own?

Most won’t because they feel shamed. They feel their needs are unimportant. They don’t know who they can talk with and be real with.

They get blind-sided with remarks about lack of faith, or about not trusting God enough.

It has NOTHING to do with not trusting God or lacking faith.

It has everything to do with not making oneself vulnerable to and not trusting Church leadership. Those God has put in place to represent Jesus. Many times, they are the ones who are not trusted. And, by every account, they should be the most trustworthy.

The most approachable.

God made people to need other people. God uses His people as His vessels to speak through, to pour His healing through, to help draw others nearer to Him.

I know, I know, God calls humans… so human weakness and faults… I get that. But, it goes way beyond that, into a seeming hardheartedness.

Why is there such an attitude of busyness, but not a deep healing ministry for everyone who walks through the doors?

God does not want Christianity to be a religion of individuality. I don’t believe He ever meant it to be such a hands-off thing.

God’s heart is for the hurting within the Body of Christ, not just without.

Who are the hurting within the congregations? Widows. New moms. New members. People moving from different communities, states or even countries. Divorcee’s. Military spouses and kids. Singles, of all ages. Teenagers. Homeless. Those untrusting of people.

The Body of Christ often can’t see beyond Its nose.

It’s time to wake up. Judgement comes to the House of The Lord first, and I do believe this is the 11th hour– perhaps even the 11:30th hour. Do we think God will “see our hearts” and just have His Judgement pass over His Body?

Lord, please pour out Your healing in all those who are hurting, who are lonely, or who just don’t know who they can trust. Please reach out to the broken-hearted, and minister to their every need. Soften the hardened hearts towards the weak, the hurting, and the ones who don’t seem to measure up or step up under the heavy weight of human expectation.

Lord, please help Your Church to walk in Unity, as well as to walk like You did as You prepared the way for us.

Please help us to make ourselves ready, to clothes ourselves with Your love and compassion for all. Remind us of our own weaknesses that You strengthen, and help us to be encouragers and extensions of Your healing Grace. In Jesus Name, Amen– So be it.

I Once Was Not A Christian

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I have had a lot of experiences in my lifetime. Way too many to write about here. I’ll break it down into two parts: Before Christ and After Christ. I’ll even throw in some Why I CHOSE Christ, for added tangibility.

So, BC:

I was born into a family that loved me, but that love didn’t create a safe, warm, snugly, nurturing environment. We are often hurt the worst by those that love us, and that was certainly the case for me. Do I need to go into details of abuse? Goodness, I hope not, but I’ll touch on a few of the “highlights” of my BC life:

I was sexually, emotionally and mentally abused by my dad. Maybe he treated me better than his dad treated him, but I HIGHLY doubt it because my dad was mentally ill. I don’t mean the catch-phrased quirky kind that seems acceptable, or even coveted by some in our modern society. He was severely mentally ill. I think I can honestly say I’m one of very few who watched their dad try to beat their mom to death as she laid huddled in a fetal-ball beneath him, his fist pounding into her temple. On Mother’s Day. Then there was my dad escaping the mental hospital hundreds of miles away, hitchhiking to try to come back and finish killing her. There was lots of yelling in my house, sometimes my dad even acknowledged I existed and he yelled at me. Once he punched me in the jaw, which made it painful for me to hold my violin for a few weeks.

As a result, I was a pretty screwed-up kid and I nearly died when I was 16 because of my own stupidity.

Let me just say this: I lived in a house of horror because of mental illness as a child. There is NOTHING in Christianity that comes even close to actual mental illness.

Thankfully I got to spend the summers with my grandparents, who were Christians. Things weren’t perfect there, but they were better.

I hated myself for bad decisions I made.

So at 20 I made another decision future me would hate: I married  someone I had convinced myself was “my best friend”. The problem was, I only knew him a short time before we married. The other problem I didn’t realize yet was: we were not equally yoked. He was not a Believer.

Trust me when I tell you that, yes, that absolutely does make a tremendous difference. Not only could I not share my faith with him and grow with him in that, he did not value me as God would help him if he were a Christian.

My ex-husband was abusive to me. Much like my dad, though not exactly to the same degree. But, there was also more aspects to the abuse from him. I was cut off from my family. I was locked-down at home, he had to know where I was and who I was with or talking to at every moment. I had to work and it had to be the graveyard shift.  My earnings had to pay all the bills while he kept his earnings in a separate account and he bought anything he wanted for him. Never for me. He convinced me to get life insurance, but was angry when I was refused because of extensive damage caused by an eating disorder. When I was sick he treated me like I was faking it, wouldn’t let me call in sick to work or go to the doctor until it became emergencies. Once the car he made me drive nearly got me killed, the lug nuts on the tires he had just worked on weren’t tight.

I wasn’t safe with him. He actually saved my life by divorcing me.

Now I’m thankful he decided he didn’t love me anymore. Not only am I still alive, I am married to a man I am equally yoked with, who really is my best friend and who does value me.

But my divorce was the beginning of my personal rock bottom.

After Christ:

It was at that point I finally began to “own” my relationship with God through Jesus. (Thank God Jesus didn’t return while I self-focused, because after that “blink of an eye”, I would more than likely have been left here.) I got baptized. I began making changes and reading the Bible on my own.

Because I wanted to.

I could feel God healing my life and my heart as I read His Promises.

I went through a tremendous time of grieving the death of my old self. Regret, unforgiveness, shame… God helped me work through each one of those at my own pace. He never gives me more than I can handle as He works His healing, often one-on-one with me, through His Holy Spirit.

My “conversion” did not happen because someone preached a sermon and “guilted” me in to following Jesus and obeying God’s Word.

My life changed as a result of God working in my life. Often without people.

God illuminates His Word.

He teaches me how to be a better human being. He helps me look at people as individuals, not through my own preconceived opinions.

Why I Chose Christ:

Had I continued on my own path, my life would look like the night version of how I am now. It’s like Jesus called out to me through the darkness and despair, and He whispered to me, “I have a better way for you”.

His ways are higher than mine, so much better and healthier. His way is practical. It’s loving and kind. It’s rational. It’s peaceful.

Jesus is the best way. He is the truth. He is the light with no darkness in Him, nothing evil or hateful.

I wish the naysayers would pay attention to the positives Christians demonstrate, because I lived as a non-Christian and was surrounded by non-Christians. It was destructive, mean, harsh, even deadly.

My job as a Christian isn’t to try to convince others that Jesus is the Savior of the world. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job, to do all the hard work of preparing the way of the Lord for people’s hearts and minds to be ready.

My job is to love the Lord my God, and to love my neighbor like I love me. Give them the same benefit of the doubt I give myself. Show the same grace I believe I should be shown.

Some call that cutting people slack…

I just know– I’d personally rather have Jesus than anything this world could ever hold. I have known both– life without Jesus and life with Jesus.

He makes the difference. Not me. Not my choices.

Only Jesus.

God Loves Divorcées

I get it. God hates divorce.

Divorced people also hate divorce. It’s ugly. It’s destructive. It tears apart what God put together. It turns a peaceful union into a war zone.

Moses gave permission for divorce because mens hearts had hardened against their wives. A hardened heart makes way for cruelty and abuse. Moses was protecting the wives by allowing it.

As one who went through a Scriptural divorce– it sucks! It hurt!

Divorce rips apart lives, hearts and families. It destroys reputations, confidence and dreams.

Divorce is Hell on earth. It separates two people who were once bonded together by love and agreement.

Every divorce is different, it happens for different reasons. It’s a deeply personal experience that cuts through the one-flesh union down into the marrow of our spirit. If you have ever had to have a bone marrow biopsy done, then you know how much that cutting hurts the spirit of those split apart by divorce.

Divorce is more destructive and devastating than losing of a loved one to death. It’s cancer to marriage.

Going through a divorce is pain-filled dying yet still living. 

Can we as the Church, the Body of Christ, just stop? Stop judging our wounded family. Stop throwing stones. Stop rejecting. Stop pouring on our salt… Just stop.

Can we just love one another?

Can we just reach out and encourage each other, especially those in our church memberships that we haven’t taken the time to really get to know?

Let’s trade rejecting for compassion. Hatefulness for love. “Tough love” for gentleness, kindness. Anger for patient listening. Judgment for hugs and healing words.

We can do this. We need to do this. We’ve got to stop wounding our wounded.

I hope to see more teaching to couples and congregations about the difficulties of marriage and the solutions God provides through His Word and through praying together. I hope to see less rejecting of divorcées, and more kind and gentle ministries offered compassionately towards them.

Come on, Church. We are better than this ugly, hate-filled rejection of those who are hurting and struggling to get the pieces of their lives together, alone.

What Would Jesus Do? What does He expect us to do in His Name?

One Anothering

My husband and I got into an argument early this morning. Which, in all honesty, is an uncommon, even a rare thing for us. We both had had a long night for different reasons, both feeling tired and some stress. He was snippy with me, I was short-fused because of that and the long night… And the collision of our frustrations happened.

I snapped.

Years ago, in a far away land in a different lifetime, I was married to a different man. We fought all the time. He insulted me, called me degrading names, and treated me with such rudeness that my mom, who gets along with everyone and their dog (she’s a dog lover), hated him. He was mean and nasty to me, and I was defensive and fought back. I was a different person back then. Language that could make a sailor proud, a tongue that could tear an enemy to shreds, I held nothing back on him. After our divorce, I decided to make some drastic changes about who I would allow to get that close to me again.

I promised myself I wouldn’t let anyone be verbally abusive, or degrade me again. I deserved better.

This morning, I reached a point I just never get to anymore, and I angrily told him how I was feeling. I expected him to get mad. I thought about how my ex-husband would have reacted when I had gotten to that point with him.

Mean and nasty…

I braced myself, wondering if I needed to gear up for a bigger argument.

He apologized.

We discussed it all rationally.

I apologized.

I forgave him. He forgave me.

We discussed a bit more, looking at the circumstances and reasons for the pressure build up. It started last night when I missed his telling me he had a headache and then I was loud and silly, obnoxiously happy because my character in World of Warcraft could finally fly. He tried to let it go. He snapped at me, I tried to let it go.

Then the long night of little sleep involving a cat scratching him as he accidentally rolled on it, and I was having a rough night as well…

Then more snapping, and I no longer was able to just let it go.

The actual argument lasted maybe a minute, the discussion maybe 5.

Now I am patting myself on the back at a job well done for picking a man who treats me even better than I expected.

John 15:12  (American Standard Bible), “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

He has One Anothered me.

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Depression IS A Thing

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Did you know that King David dealt with Depression? In Psalms 42:5 he wrote: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” (NASV) He then wrote it again in Psalms 42:11, and again in Psalms 43:5. It was a recurring issue for him.

Everyone deals with Depression, at some point, in some way, for all kinds of reasons. It’s a dilemma we face caused by different circumstances.

It does not have to be a permanent part of who we are. There are ways to deal with it. There are ways to combat it, and even conquer it. I know, because I have conquered it. More than once in my life. From terrible circumstances in my childhood, to dealing with the rejection of divorce. From joining the military and never quite fitting in, to discovering my mom had cancer while I was stationed in another country. I’ve been temporarily homeless, jobless, and friendless. I suffered near-severe postpartum depression with my first child, before it was a recognized problem with available help. I developed PTSD while deployed in an area with bomb threats. I’ve had my life threatened, even nearly died more than once. I was depressed in my teens and almost died from alcohol poisoning when I was around 16.

I am no stranger to Depression.

I am also no stranger to the fight to overcome it. I have never taken medication for it, but I don’t think negative of those who need or choose to do that. It’s ok. Whatever helps, that is what is important. Take hold of that necessary help.

I have learned there are things that trigger it. Certain words, memories, even people. I have adjusted my life to include a group of those hand-picked by me that I know will stand by me no matter what so that I have that source of necessary encouragement. That is part of walking in freedom from Depression’s debilitating grip.

I have a personal relationship with the greatest Encourager mankind has known, or ever will: Jesus Christ.

I have learned tactics and techniques to pull myself out of the downward spiral. I also have learned not to focus inward so much, to get busy, find an outward focus, become the encourager for others that I often need others to be for me. At times I find out that as I encourage them, I also encourage myself as I remind others of all those positive things depression can tend to overshadow and hide.

Depression is a stealthy force that can render us overwhelmed, unable to cope or do much. But it doesn’t have to remain that way. I was inspired to write this for a couple of reasons.

The first is an important movement started by Jared Padalecki, #AlwaysKeepFighting. I cannot begin to tell you how relief has overcome me to see there is such an amazing place for people to reach out and become a part of!! I fought my battles mostly alone for so long, though when my battles were toughest there was always at least one person I could lean on. I’m inspired to see so many reaching out to one another, as well as to Jared Padalecki himself.

The second reason for this writing inspiration is because of a recent letter gone viral over Facebook. The writer is Bekah Miles. In her letter she asked, “…why aren’t we having a conversation about it?” It’s a good question, an important question. We should be having a conversation about it so we can move past it. So people know there are others who care, who understand, who identify, and even some who have moved past it into content and happy lives.

The thing I’ve learned that has stuck with me the most is: It’s only temporary. It does pass. Circumstances change. Things that caused me to feel depressed have lost their hold or have been forgotten over time.

So, let’s talk.

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Comfortable In My Faith

Do you find yourself being a reactionary or responsive Christian?

I want to be responsive, but I have reactive tendencies far too often. My reflex at feeling attacked, questioned, put on the spot or called names like hypocrite used to be to jump into action and find Scripture to back up my actions, words and belief.

I fell into the false belief that my job as a Christian is to be on the defensive, to fight back with words, to defend my faith, my belief, my Savior from attacks. I thought that was what being a Christian looked like, what it meant.

I was wrong.

My job has never been to convert anyone to my beliefs.

My job is to live out my faith, while living at peace with others as much as is possible.

And, it’s not actually my job. It’s who I am.

Christian is what defines me.

Not my appearance.

Christ within me.

I am comfortable in my faith, because I am able to rest in God. I am able to trust God. Everything I am now, in this moment, is because of changes God made in me, because I am His. And He is mine.

He is Worthy to hand my complete trust to. He is Worthy to give over my plans and decisions to. He is Worthy to live for. He is Worthy to represent.

This past week I have been reminded where He has Saved me from. I remember who I was. Because of a nightmare and a school friend’s recent death, I’ve been taken back to where I’ve come from.

I needed to be reminded.

I have the loveliest peace resting in my heart, because I am comfortable in my faith.

I don’t pounce on those who say things to make me feel defensive. I don’t jump on people who mock us, hate us, and live in ways we don’t agree with. Because that doesn’t reach hearts or change minds.

I live to be a heart changer, to have God’s healing work through me. Defensive fighting doesn’t heal or help others see Who God really is.

I understand God expects me to reach up towards Him through prayer and demonstrate His higher ways. That is a tall order from God, but to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much experience, much forgiveness, many, many chances. Should I not give those to others, as well, where it’s appropriate?

So What?

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This is what my insides feel like every time I try to write my story. Gut-wrenched. I describe that feeling to my husband as killer moths flapping around in my tummy.

Every time I tell a portion of my story it feels like someone reached inside of me and yanked a piece of me out.

 

I wasn’t supposed to tell. But I did, and cops were called. I wasn’t supposed to talk to anyone about it, but I did. I had to. It was destroying me from the inside-out to not try to get someone to hear me. Then the worry and fear of having told would try to destroy me from the inside-out. I told someone, and then the one who hurt me, who tried to intimidate me to stay silent, tried to take his own life. Part of me grieved and blamed myself. Part of me wouldn’t miss him, would be relieved.. Which then kicked-off a worry-guilt-hatred cycle.

All that turmoil I felt for years, so many years ago, comes right back when I am writing my story. It’s agonizing and spirit-crushing to remember, to admit it all in writing.

I was molested as a child.

I was raped as an adult.

I was emotionally and verbally beat-up both as a child and as an adult.

But I’m not anymore.

I’m not anymore…

The feelings, as I recall things and relive them in my memories, they are tumultuous.

I’ve convinced myself what has happened in my life, all I have survived, is nothing special. Everyone goes through traumatic things at some point. And then as I tell someone something I realize– I have a unique story to tell because so many things have happened to me.  And I lived through them, and passed through to the other side where things are instead normal.

It will take me awhile to write my story, because there is so much to it, and very little is easy to pass on to others. Part of me goes in to all I write and share.

Please be patient. Please stay with me, even if it takes awhile. What God has done through every experience is nothing short of miraculous.

180 Into Momhood

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It started with a carnation.

Just over 20 years ago I walked into my church service on Mother’s Day Sunday. A divorced Airman, stationed in Japan, I assumed everyone knew my status. But a boy handed me a red carnation, my favorite flower. I started to give it back, saying I wasn’t a mom, and he told me not to worry about it. I could keep it.

As I went to find my seat, I saw a friend who was a mom. I told her I felt bad for keeping the flower, and she said, “Don’t. It’s a promise from God that you will one day become a mother.”

A few years before that day, I nearly made an appointment to have surgery so I wouldn’t have children. I had a sad, awful childhood, and I didn’t want to bring kids into this world full of such ugly hatred for innocence and vulnerability. A friend talked me out of it.

Today I have 4 children. Each one carried and formed within my body. Their lives are so different from how mine was.

The change to motherhood began in my heart, a seed desiring children was planted the day I received that carnation. I wasn’t in a relationship, but I began looking into adoption options. I pondered the future, thought of ways I could include a child. I thought I’d be a single mom. I believed I’d never find a man I could trust to be the father of my children. I refused to have children with the  man who divorced me because I did not trust him.

God did a work in my heart that caught me off guard. I don’t know how or when He made the changes. I made a list of 50 things I believed I’d find in the man He would bring into my life, if He wanted me to remarry.

Months passed. I forgot about the list I had written. I was introduced to a guy, and we started walking and talking together. We went to church together. It wasn’t long before I found the forgotten list. I could check off 46 out of the 50 things, and I recognized evidence of God at work on the 4 things unchecked. A short time after, he asked me to marry him.

I said yes!

The next year and a half was a jumble of long distance, high phone bills, separation anxieties, misunderstandings, making up, praying together, wedding preparations, family frictions, and finally we were together as man and wife. During that long year and a half, God spoke to my heart about the promise of a daughter, and He gave me her name. Deborah.

I got pregnant immediately after rejoining with my new husband.

It was not an easy pregnancy. I had awful morning sickness, and a terrible rash some first time moms carrying girls got… I knew that child was fulfillment of God’s promise of a daughter. Everyone thought I was carrying a boy, but I knew she was a girl.

My water broke 30 days before she was due to be born. She was a tiny 5 pounds 8 ounces. Then she lost a full pound the first week. Our first two weeks together were the hardest I have ever endured. I was fighting to keep her alive. She slept all the time, nursed constantly. I was sore, tired, scared… I had no family nearby to get help from. There were ladies at our church that supported me and prayed for us, and I know God used them to help me continue.

When my daughter was born, my mom-hood was born as well.

I went from fighting as a survivor from my own circumstances, to loving a tiny human who was part of me and yet separate– loving her so much I could feel my heart tearing to be able to fit more love inside of it.

With each child, my heart has stretched and broken apart to fit even more love inside of it. The eye can’t see that, but I have felt every tug, pull and tear. Each child and I have our own story, our own bondings, as well as our own conflicts.

God has been incredibly good to me. He fulfilled His promise and gave me so much more! He provided me with a safe, healthy environment to raise my own children, with a man who selflessly displays so many of God’s characteristics.

I am indescribably thankful that God helped me find my way on to a different life course than I started out on.

 

 

 

Exposed

I hate my past.

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I hate the parts of my personal story that involve my past. I don’t like who I was, I don’t like what I lived through. I abhor my reactions and choices. I despise where I had no choice or that I had no one to help me, to comfort me, or just talk with.

Yeah, I hate my past.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to get my book written. I hate reliving it. I hate thinking about it. I hate how when I am in a group of people and I just want to fit into the conversation, I feel compelled to share my experiences so I can identify with others. And I hate how vulnerable and

exposed

I often feel when I tell something deeply personal.

Who really wants to hear about the horror experiences of my childhood and teens, and for what reasons do they want to hear about them?

Who cares? About me?

I loathe feeling like other people think I’m competing in storytelling. I hate how it just feels normal to me that I have gone through so many things, and then I see that look of shock on the face of someone I’ve opened up to- then I realize, my life has been anything but normal.

It’s like a thorn in my side.

The parts I don’t hate about my past are when God shines through, as a warm, magnanimous Light, as if He has given my heart the most loving hug.

Healing me, bringing completeness to my injured, abused soul.

Exposure reveals the miracles and even the heart of God throughout my life.

Hating my past has helped me to love and appreciate God. Living my life, I’ve learned there is no one more trustworthy and faithful than God.

What’s In An Opinion?

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I have always liked people.

Anyone who really knows me, knows it’s kind of my nature to try to put others before myself. Sometimes I’m clumsy about it, often I appear to just be trying too hard. OK– yeah, I try too hard.  Always I just want others to know they are important, that they matter. If no one ever tells them that, well, I want them to know they matter to me.

But.

There are times when the harsh cruelty of others knocks the wind out of me and I temporarily lose sight of my heart’s main focus. Maybe it’s like a spotlight on certain behaviors and treatment of me, and everything else dims while my mind works to process it. It’s unfamiliar territory for me. Sometimes it takes days, even weeks, before I realize what’s happened. I’m slow to react. I’ve never understood how anyone can decide they don’t like me, as a person, just because I view life differently than they do. It catches me off-guard when someone positions themselves as though they are above me just because they don’t like what I believe or I do.

I used to think that I need to explain myself. But recently it suddenly struck me: I don’t owe anyone any explanations. Their opinions do not make them superior to me, no matter how much they believe they are.

Just like with anyone, all I have ever wanted was to be known outside of judgement. Could those who look down on me live my experiences and end up as I am now? When I look back over my life, I am so surprised by the success I have become. Not famous, not special, not super talented or even kind of known.

I am loved. I have a handful of people in my life I can count on. I have a husband who has, for whatever reason, decided to stick by me, even through times I consider worst. I am not at my best. My ex-husband abandoned me at a time when I was not at my best. This man, he stands by me. And he actually likes me. I am well aware that I do not deserve him. I don’t believe I have ever been so grateful for anyone. Not only does he know me, he knows my story. If it wasn’t enough for me to tell it to him, he’s heard things first hand from my dad and mom. There is not another person who knows me as well as my husband.

And he still loves me.

My relationship with my mom has gone through some repairs, and it’s stronger I think, now, than ever in my life. We talked through some major things, and we learned so much that we both just didn’t know about some horrible life events and circumstances. I have her permission to write about my childhood traumas, now that my dad has passed on.

Reliving those things I have forced to the back of my memory, that’s what has held me back. I cringe at the thought of reliving so many things.

Since my dad’s passing, I have felt this new freedom to miss him. There is no more frantic fear of what he will say or do. No more added reasons to need to release forgiveness to him. No reasons to work through hatred or hurt. It’s all in a neat tidy package now ready for me to deal with, with no added pressure or painful experiences.

I’ve spent years writing circles around things, because I didn’t want to upset my parents or else I just haven’t wanted to look at what’s in the middle of the circle. It’s time to dive in.

How did I get to this rabbit hole from the beginning of this blog post? I’m recognizing a common link. I loved my dad, I always had this lingering hope we’d someday, somehow, have a healthy relationship. But, because of how he often treated me, I have let others look at me through the same horrible opinions my dad saw me through. I have had myself convinced that others have a right to question me or treat me as though I’m an idiot.

I  have nothing to prove or explain, and I have nothing to fear now by talking about my past.

I’ll be moving forward as I look backward and share some very hard times. I’m hoping there will be some who will travel the journey of my life with me. Going through it alone once was enough. I’d love and appreciate some company this time around.

 

 

 

Embracing Pain and Fear

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It’s on my heart to share this, and given recent events in the Middle East, I can see that in some respects, it could be a timely message for some.

As an American, I’d say–in our modern American culture, there seems to be a strong growing trend to avoid pain and suffering. We’re a first world nation, we should expect to have comfort and some luxuries, isn’t that the mindset we have all just accepted as normal, healthy living?

We tell ourselves we deserve it.

I think this has, in some ways, weakened some of our resolve and even work ethics.

In today’s America we often expect to be well paid for a job we put minimal effort into doing well. We complain about working, about customers, about our bosses, about not getting paid enough–so little contentment with so much expectation and even an overreaching of an attitude of entitlement of money, healthcare, cell phones or the latest electronic device, of getting everything we want and having every convenience possible, with as little effort as possible.

Us moms, we often give in to the temptation of having a pain-free birth. I gave in with our 4th baby, but I felt like I had somehow cheated. I’m not saying I think that’s wrong, but it seems like it could be a symptom of pain avoidance.

My first 3 births were natural, no pain killers at all. Our second child came so quickly, there was no time to even have an IV put in.

Through childbirth, I learned how to embrace the pain of the contractions, to use that pain to know when to help my baby come out into the world. I bonded with my babies, I struggled and strove to help them. The pain wasn’t something I feared, but something I embraced, I used it to accomplish purpose.

During the labor of my 3rd baby, God spoke to me through the pain.

He told me no one could touch my soul because it’s safe with Him. No matter what happens to my body, my soul can never be touched, harmed, or stolen.

With the recent growing number of killings of Christians, this is something He has reminded me of, to share and have others meditate on.

Pain is fleeting. Salvation is Eternal. Our soul is safe when we give it to God through belief on Christ Jesus. As a result, I know deep within, I Never have to be afraid of any pain. I know that God will avenge me for anyone who hurts me, because I belong to Him.

I know that God will avenge every Christian murdered by those who have set themselves up as enemies of The Most High God. We may not see how He does it, but their souls will never have the comfort, peace, rest or safety that the souls of those they murdered will have for ALL of Eternity.

God’s judgment is coming for those who dare to touch the ones He has claimed as His own.

I have no fear, because I know Who I belong to. And, if I stumble into fearfulness, God reminds me that it’s His perfect love that casts that out. I don’t have to succumb to it, to let it take over my reactions, my emotions or my actions and words. I don’t have to let it take control, I am not helpless because I have Help.

I have read and heard quite a few interpretations of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo–from prosperity encouragements, to commitment, to God’s faithfulness to us. But, what I get out of that account is that no matter what–no matter the pain, no matter if God chose not to intervene or help them–No Matter What, they would remain faithful to God. Because they knew Who they belonged to. No amount of pain, or manipulation, or fear-inducing circumstances could make them turn their backs to God.

He chose to help them. I have no doubt if He hadn’t, they would have died in that furnace still completely faithful to God. Because they knew He knows the end from the beginning. He knows the reasons He does, or does not do things.

Do you know Who you belong to? Do you believe on Him so deeply, that no amount of pain or suffering will manipulate you into relenting and turning away?

We need to pray that those being killed for belonging to Him through Jesus know Who they belong to. We need to pray that God will intervene, that Jesus will return, and that this persecution will be stopped. Only the return of Jesus is going to stop it.

When we obey the command to pray for peace in Jerusalem, we are praying for Jesus to come back and intervene on behalf of those who are suffering because of His Name.

Return, Lord Jesus, return quickly!

When we Christians unite, the power of God is manifest through our agreement in prayer, through our worship of God, and that is what causes fear in our enemies. That is why they kill, because Satan knows and wants to stop God’s power from flowing through His body–The Church, The Bride of Christ.

We are part of something so much greater than we are just in ourselves.

Satan is using people who believe his lies to try to stop God from working through us. He will not succeed, we know that from The Revelation of John.

But, where 2 or 3 are gathered, He is in our midst. When we have faith, we can tell a mountain to move, and it will.

Do we ever challenge our own faith?

Paul had a thorn in his side that God chose not to remove. There is debate of what that thorn was, but what I understand is–Paul chose to continue to faithfully serve God with that thorn unremoved. He didn’t complain. He didn’t yell at God. He didn’t quit. He didn’t rebuke it.

Paul focused on God, not on the thorn.

Our faith and our commitment need to grow up. We need to put off the American part of ourselves and embrace the Eternal, like putting off our old selves to put on the new. Ephesians 4:22-32 Colossians 3:1-4

We can’t, after all, take America with us, and America can’t keep our souls safe Eternally.

Only the One True God can do that.

My Mom Is One Of A Kind

The things I learned from my mom are perseverance, strength, wisdom and loyalty.

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My mom is:

Practical

Economically minded

Resourceful

Supportive

Effective

Valuable

Excellent

Rational

Authentic

Needed

Courteous

Encouraging

 

Strong-willed

Tenacious

Realistic

Engaging

Necessary

Generous

Thoughtful

Humorous

 

Wise

Intentional

Selfless

Daring

Outgoing

Magnanimous

 

Logical

Original

Yielded to God

Ambitious

Love-able

Truthful

Young at heart

 

My mom is beautiful.

Before and After: A Matter of Perspective

Here is my dad David was able to get a picture tod

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been 2 months since my dad’s passing, wow, to the day. My timing isn’t planned, just lucky coincidence.

This picture accurately represents something unexpected for me.

My dad is smiling here. He was happy because my husband was able to visit him.

When my dad was alive, it wasn’t his smile I remembered, or his comforting shoulder hug when he walked up next to me after not having seen me for a long time.  It wasn’t the twinkle of kindness and love in his eyes when he looked at me during my short visits so far and few between the passing time. It wasn’t his jokes, or the happy tone behind all he said.

The thought of my dad when he was still alive wasn’t anything warm and fuzzy.  It was sadness that he was in hospital or nursing home care. It was frustration that so much of a normal relationship with him had been stolen from me because of mental illness (also PTSD misdiagnosed and neglected) and his “guinea-pig” status with the VA. It was anger that he was so unpredictable, I never knew what to expect when I was able to visit him. My mom claims he had no “filter”, what I know as practicing self-control and taming the tongue. The last time I saw him when he wasn’t being kept alive by machines breathing for him, he told my husband some really awful things, stuff he said he was confessing to concerning me. There are so many holes in my childhood memory, some of what he said I  can’t even verify.

He was moved around so often by the VA that I rarely knew where he was, and he did not always have access to a phone for me to call him. My mom stopped remembering to tell me he had been moved, it became part of her normal life. And, the truth is, I often cringed at the thought of talking with him on the phone. What would I say? What would his frame of mind be?

The most surprising aspect of his passing is that all those fears and negative emotions have just sort of evaporated away. I am finally free to feel the good feelings when I think of him now. My guard can be let down, I don’t have to defend myself, or prepare for the worst. I don’t have to remind myself of the bad things.

I never once wished him dead- well, after I forgave him, that is. So, there is no guilt to deal with now. Life circumstances kept my family and I far away from him, so again, no guilt about any of that. It was out of my control.

I can let the little girl I once was think about my dad and remember what I loved most about him.  No more guard, no more self-defense, no more cringing as I think of him.

My heart is free to remember safely now.