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.

Why My Defensiveness Is A Reflex Reaction For Me With Some

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Last night, I had the most wonderful time having dinner, talking, then just listening to a dear friend. I learned so much about her, things I never would have guessed! It’s even easier to see why she is such a beautiful, loving, sincerely kind woman of God.

As is the usual case with me, it’s also hard to not also see that deep contrast between her life and my own.

Again I come face-to-face with why I have often felt a type of rejection from some I’ve hoped to get to know. I’m no Miss Congeniality or Miss Anything.

Often in my lifetime I’ve been left feeling as though I’m not worth people’s time. Some of that is cultural, sure. Some of it is personality-clash. I can be abrasive. I’ve even been described as a “bull in a China shop”.

There aren’t many “boxes” I allow myself to be put in. I tend to fail under heavy-handed expectations. I am as God designed me, also molded from my unique life experiences, which also at times have borne the weight of heavy-handed expectations.

I have learned that not everyone is alike, not everyone does things the same, or reacts to expectation the same way.

I probably will never meet any human’s expectation.

I can only try to meet God’s. And, I fail… All. The. Time.

One of the toughest things to put into practice is listening when it feels like you are not heard by others– that’s where my reaction of defensiveness tries to overtake me.

My life is full of many amazing, even some miraculous testimonies of God’s work.

It’s easy to focus on things that happened because God was not in the circumstances. It’s best to focus on contrasts caused by God’s healing, intervention, love, kindness, miracles and His Mercy.

While the contrast between our lives is somewhat vast, my friend and I have one very important thing that is similar– the knowledge of Who God Is in contrast to who we are and how amazing it is that He loves us.

Why I Am This Way, And How It Applies To My Dating Daughter

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I grew up a fighter. At a time when women were belittled– not taken seriously while harassed for wanting to break out of the “norm” set for us by men– I decided not to just accept that, but to push past it. I have dealt with that issue head-on for many years now. From a grandpa who refused to call me by my given name because it was a “boys name”, to being treated as an emotional idiot, I have learned how to stand my ground and not ever just take what someone has dished out.

I’ve fought for jobs that “girls aren’t hired for”, and won. The pizza place that refused to hire me to work in the kitchen because “girls only work as cashiers and hostesses”– I worked in the kitchen. The Air Force recruiter who thought I should enlist to be a cook– I became a plumber. The plumbing shop owner who laughed at this female Veteran AirForce  plumber– because “girls don’t get hired as plumbers”– I was hired by someone to help with their in-house plumbing problems. (Nevermind that I had mostly worked on Japanese plumbing, and as a side-effort, I tried to help my aunt in her older house. Let’s just say, I screwed that up REALLY bad! That’s one of my biggest regrets.) 

I drove heavy machinery in Korea when women still didn’t drive there. I drove a Humvee in the middle-east where women aren’t allowed to drive.

When I am backed into a corner and told I can’t do something just because I’m a girl– watch me do just that.

I don’t deal with that so much anymore, as a military spouse and stay at home mom.

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Now, I’m dealing with a new kind of thing– I’m now the teen girlfriend’s mom. Oh yes. So far her boyfriend has referred to me as not knowing what I’m talking about, and childish. This 18 year old boy that I am allowing my 16 year old daughter to date– with getting-stricter monitoring.

He has some nerve! I am struggling to not take my “childish” attitude and sever his relationship with my daughter!

How do I get it across to my daughter that how he treats me and his own mother will be how he treats her, once they move past all the hormonal ushy-gushy crap?

I am angry that he has the nerve to say things like that about me.

I am concerned that he does not have a relationship with Jesus at all. I want to put a stop to them dating, but at the same time, she is not going to learn important life lessons if I do that.

I am uncomfortable with my daughter dating him at all. Very uncomfortable.

So, the fighter in me has taken to prayer and sobering interaction.

I am accountable to God for my daughter. I will not take that lightly, but I’m not going to give into the temptation to “fight” with her boyfriend. I’m gonna let God fight that battle for me.

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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?

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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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