Nine Months, One Lifetime, Part 6

The Holy Bible

I was unaware that there are rules of engagement, ethics, and professional boundaries that therapists are supposed to practice. Being oblivious to these rules, ethics, and boundaries, I could have never distinguished that a therapist can violate these guidelines.  When she said we were going to be best friends, I was flattered, curious, and taken to a different level in the relationship. Given my history and personality type, I treasure real friendships and place great value on them. I am a very kind, deeply loyal soul, and easily taken advantage of, particularly in this therapeutic relationship. I marched to the beat of her drum; I owned her imagined feelings that truly never existed; and I dismissed my inner voice. I was ripe for the picking and she knew it!

Now keep in mind I was persuaded to abandon my family. Over the next month, we began to talk about church. My husband and I belonged to a small IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churches of America) church of approximately 100 people on a good day. The college we attended was IFCA. We segwayed right in step with beliefs and practices into this church. We loved this church and became an integral part. We had developed a very close relationship with the pastor, his wife, and children, having dinner together no less than once a week. We were in attendance Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. I was the church pianist, my husband did dramatic readings, we taught Children’s Church for a number of months, we taught the Junior High Sunday School class for a short season, and we did janitorial rotations. For some unknown reason, I began feeling disillusioned; I felt like the church was consuming my very life, as if a small piece of sand was irritating my oyster flesh. I would spend countless hours prepping preludes, congregational hymns, offertories, postludes, and at times special music throughout the week. We prepared Sunday school and Children’s Church lessons. Saturday evenings began feeling like torture as my perfectionist anxieties escalated in anticipation of Sunday’s demands. At one point, my Sunday morning looked like this:

Get to church at 9:15 am to prepare the classroom for teaching the Junior High Sunday School class; teach from 9:30 am to 10:15 am making sure we were always done right on time so that I could race upstairs to play the prelude while people filtered in and took their seats; play two or three congregational hymns; play the offertory; play one more congregational hymn; children were then dismissed for children’s church and we would head back downstairs to teach Children’s Church making sure we concluded at 11:45 am sharp so that I could rush back upstairs to play the closing congregational hymn and postlude.  

At the point I began seeing the therapist, this was my weekly prep and Sunday morning routine, and I was burning out, which trickled into displaced feelings and irritations with people in the church that typically I could ignore or tolerate. Particularly, there were two curmudgeonly older women who together reigned with a cruel iron scepter making sure there would be no changes or altering of traditions. One month, my husband and I were asked to fill in for the woman who normally arranged the flowers and such at the front of the church. When not in use, a large Bible was displayed on the communion table. One Saturday when we were filling in, we decided to move the Bible to the ledge of the baptismal, place an arrangement of wheat in a vase along with a matching plate and chalice on the communion table. When we arrived Sunday morning, one of the women marched herself up to the baptismal, took the Bible and placed it back on the center of the communion table. They were bullies; I had experienced that enough in my life; and I refused to let it go without approaching the woman. I asked her why she thought it necessary to move the Bible back to the communion table. I will never forget her smirk and smug attitude, stating, “Because that is where it belongs!” I walked away and let it be as not to create a scene or conflict, which I could not manage. That morning for offertory, I played an arrangement of “Blessed Assurance” which crescendoed at various parts. Afterwards, this same woman accused me of playing the offertory in anger. I looked at her and had to walk away. This type of nonsense wreaks destruction in a church and strips away unity. Throughout the next few sessions, I shared these and other frustrations I was encountering at church with the therapist, not understanding that I was overwhelmed and fatigued.

Now I chose this particular mental health institution because “Christian” was in the facility name. I assumed all employees were Christians. Never make that assumption, ever! As I shared my experiences with the therapist, I encountered opposition to church in general. She began exploiting her feelings about church. People in the church are judgmental, critical, and she said a number of times some stupid quote about you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, just like a car does not have to be parked in a garage to be called a car. She skillfully began discouraging me from church attendance. At that time, she certainly did not disclose that she herself was not a Christian, so I believed she was a Christian. She began encouraging me to distance myself from the friendship with the pastor and his family, telling me it was not a healthy relationship. She began telling me that there are no absolutes in life, everything is relative, and there are no truths or moral absolutes about going to church or not going to church. She persuaded me into believing these people were just hypocrites. I needed to give myself permission to walk away. In hindsight, she added fuel to the fire and made the situation seem worse. She used words like, “to tell you the truth,” “to be honest,” and “believe me.” I was in the center of her fumes! I did not dare risk disagreeing with her.  

And, slowly I began pulling away from church. At first, I stopped attending Wednesday evenings. Gradually, it spilled over onto Sunday evenings. Slowly, I missed a Sunday morning here and there until I was not attending at all. As I allowed church to dissipate, I was being drawn in closer to the therapist. She continued to tell me that we were going to be best friends; she told me we were going to be sisters we never had; she told me we were going to grow old in a nursing home together. She was paying special attention to me and my little ones inside grew increasingly connected and groomed.

The one thing that I have held dear since childhood is daily reading my Bible. I love scripture! I love how it is planted in the very essence of my being and surfaces randomly in my mind. Whether I have read it in secret as a child, daily in high school during lunch quietly escaping into the library, at every job during morning break, over and over, my Bible is precious to me and is my truth. I did not allow the therapist to take that from me because I never told her of my daily scripture reading, but I did quench the still small voice within and began listening to her.

Satan masquerades as an angel of light! Satan is cunning! Satan leads astray! Satan is crafty! Satan deceives and lies!  Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy! Satan is a stumbling block! Satan does not have in mind the concerns of God! Satan accuses! Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour! Satan roams back and forth throughout the earth! Satan outwits and we are not aware of his schemes! Satan torments! Satan tempts! Satan is lawless and has no absolutes!! Satan will fool you!

To be continued…

Love you, mean it!

Nine Months, One Lifetime, Part 3

I arrive home from my first therapy appointment. I share with my husband my experience. He asks me what I thought about the therapist. I said, “She’s OK” and show him the recommended book, Codependent No More. We chat a bit about me not knowing what to do at check out. He assures me everything is fine. I kind of am able to put it aside, but truthfully, I tuck it all away inside.

I am a bookworm. I love books! I own hundreds of books. I have a list of want to ‘own or read’ that surely rivals the Library of Congress catalogs. I welcome reading Codependent No More, especially learning that the answers to my current life flailing’s were within these pages. That is right, all the answers to correct whatever is wrong. That very night, I embark upon the ‘Introduction.’ Here are a few enticing sentences I highlighted:

            I saw people who constantly gave to others, but didn’t know how to receive. I saw people give until they were angry, exhausted, and emptied of everything.  

            Yet, these codependents who had such great insight into others couldn’t see themselves. They didn’t know what they were feeling. They weren’t sure what they thought. And they didn’t know what, if anything, they could do to solve their problems…

            Sadly, aside from myself, nobody knew how badly I felt. My problems were my secret.

            I was so responsible, so dependable. Sometimes I wasn’t sure I had a problem. I knew I felt miserable, but I didn’t understand why my life wasn’t working.

            I saw people who had gotten so absorbed in other people’s problems they didn’t have time to identify or solve their own. These were people who had cared so deeply, and often destructively, about other people that they had forgotten how to care about themselves. The codependents felt responsible for so much because the people around them felt responsible for so little; they were just taking up the slack.

            And, the pain that comes from loving someone who’s in trouble can be profound.

            It’s difficult to convince codependents – those who by comparison look, but don’t feel, normal – that they have problems.

These few insights lured me into a place of hopeful thinking. All I needed was to complete this book, attend and talk in a few therapy appointments, and I could wrap this investment of time and money up in about (my thinking – 20 chapters, read one a week and do the exercises, see the therapist every other week) 20 weeks, about five months! I can do this; this is nothing! I like to read; I like to write; and I like learning. I will know what is wrong; what to do to fix it; and permission granted to speed along my fair maiden! And, they lived happily ever after! The end! WHAT A FANTASY! I had no inkling about what lie ahead!! Ignorance is NOT always bliss!

I buzzed through chapters one and two like they were children’s books, picking up ideas, words and phrases like fatigue; some things were becoming an effort; my family and friends think I am a tower of strength; always in control, always ready to help; fear; believing lies; sick of shouldering the burden and feeling responsible for the success or failure in relationships; guilt; I’m falling apart very quietly; have I been depressed for years?; I should be able to snap out of this; long ago I had shut off my need to give and receive love, I had frozen that part of me that felt and cared, I had to  survive; I am trapped and cannot find my way out; something dreadful that I couldn’t explain had happened to me and has now snuck upon me; “adult child”?

The only chapter assignments thus far were to purchase a large notebook and record my responses to assignments, the above being the first, identifying these things (and people, which I did in my large notebook!) All done in two days! Hmmm…this might move a bit faster than I first calculated. But…all this is something to be considered. Little did I know that this was like peering at the Hubble Deep Field, ten billion light years away!

You can be assured that I did not stop at chapter two. In fact, I sailed through half the book and exercises up to chapter eleven by the time of my next appointment. I learned a couple definitions of codependency. One particularly stood out, referred to by Robert Subby in his book, Co-Dependency, An Emerging Issue seemed most to have a ring of truth for me:

      “An emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules – rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”

You see, silence and secrets fell on me like snow on the mountain peaks. I never spoke to anyone at any time about my childhood; about feeling alone in this life having to figure it all out for myself; about learning to survive on my own; about my husband’s problems and the struggles in our marriage; about an entire host of things inside of me that I did not, could not, and should not discuss, and furthermore did not weigh in as conscious topics to be discussed. For the first half of the book I sponged in information, identified concepts, learned characteristics, learned about detachment, undependence, removing the victim, the concept of setting myself free, and living my own life. I cognitively had an influx of information. Now I am one to extract knowledge, think on it, dwell on it, break it down, shred it apart, ponder on the pieces, mince it to fragments, toss it into the fire for purification (scripture reading and prayer,) and construct my truth. This I had done and I was all set for appointment number two!

This time, I did not feel like I was driving to my funeral; I was filled with a little more confidence; I knew where I was going; I was prepared with my homework in hand; and I moved with familiarity. I arrive at the facility around 5:30 pm for my 6 o’clock appointment. I assumed I was to check in with the back receptionist as I did on the first visit, as the sign indicated. When I got to the back receptionist, there was no receptionist; in fact, there was no receptionist at either the front or the back desks. I thought maybe because the appointment was after normal business hours that I should wait in the back waiting room, where I sat at the first appointment. I sat there thirty minutes; no one came, not one person. There was not another patient, another therapist, another body anywhere; there was silence. At 6:30 pm, I thought perhaps I was wrong on the appointment day and/or time. Maybe I already missed the appointment, maybe I wrote down the wrong day, maybe I’m not supposed to be here, maybe I went to the wrong place and don’t even recognize it, am I in the right place, and onward my inner confusion mounted. I decided I would leave and be done with this entire unsettling mistake. I stood up quietly and quickly began to make my way to the exit. I get a couple steps past the front receptionist desk and here, “Deeon?” I turn around and there stood my therapist in her stilettos and fine clothing. She asks, “Where have you been?” I said I was in the waiting room where I was last week, there was no receptionist to check in with, and so I waited back there. Now, I am quite keen on discerning people; she was miffed! She looked at the clock, and said, “Well, we have a half hour, so let’s go to my office.” I felt like a child being whisked away to the naughty room. I sincerely felt terrible about the confusion. When we sat down in her office, she asked why I had not gone up to the receptionist area again to check in. I again stated there was no one there. She boldly told me that I was responsible for checking in, otherwise no one would know that I was there. Between her edge and my guilt, internally I took full responsibility for the mishap, blamed myself, and completely lost my voice to speak. I have no idea what she said for the remaining twenty minutes, not a clue. Departing, I took a deep breath and said, “What would you like me to do with this homework?”   She said, “I’ll take it” and she did. And then she further stated in a nonchalant manner, “There is no one to check you out or set up another appointment. You will need to call in tomorrow to schedule your next appointment.”

I was never so glad to step out into the dark night and cold air. On the drive home, I wondered if I was losing my mind. What are you doing? Why are you doing this to yourself? Maybe I should not be doing this. I do not think she likes me. Why doesn’t she like me? Why didn’t she check for me in the waiting room? I do not think I should call tomorrow for another appointment. I think I should stop now. Maybe this is how therapy goes. Maybe you are the one responsible. Maybe they do not tell you how to do things to see how you will do things. Maybe you are being over-sensitive. Perhaps your misery is actually just your own melancholy, your personality type. Maybe some pastors are right – maybe my issues are really a deeper spiritual challenge. But, I read my Bible every day on morning break, I pray every day throughout the day, I go to church, I try to live a responsible life of integrity, and I certainly sacrificially help others. What is wrong with me? You know that self-talk? I had so much chatter going on in my head; I thought a large family of hungry squirrels had taken us residency.

By the time I arrived home, I was convinced this was not what I should be doing and shouldered the responsibility for this failure. Now, my husband is an easy-going type of guy. Through the years, I have learned that he will take the opposing side, but had not wisened up to that yet. I shared with him the situation and he convinced me that everything would be fine, I needed to call the next day to establish my next appointment, it was just a coincidental mistake, and she likes me otherwise she would not have told me to call for another appointment. In his own ignorance, he neutralized and counterbalanced my thoughts, he too not knowing what lurked ahead. I called the facility the next day. My next appointment was scheduled out for two and one half weeks later. Truthfully, that did not set well with me either, but I thought it must be normal. Despite my internal uneasiness, I did not know what was abnormal.

To be continued…

Love you, mean it!

Nine Months, One Lifetime, Part 2

After reading Part 1, perhaps you can sense the pressure gauge inside of me very slowly climbing. The 2004 holiday season was finally over, the decorations put away, and the home put back in order, but for some reason I could not get myself put back in order. Yearly, beginning sometime in October, my tender and sensitive spirit always turned downhearted throughout the approaching and during the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I did not know why. Outwardly, I appeared “Tis the season to be jolly…fa la la la la la la la la.” Inwardly, I could not explain what I felt; now I know it as empty. This year was no exception, other than I noticed a deeper melancholy was hemorrhaging.  I blew it off scurrying as always through the demands, commitments, and festivities thinking, come the solace of January my spirits would settle into a calm, respite, familiar routine place. Surprisingly, I did not regain my composure. The melancholies hung around like a London fog, creating a haze inside. I was having difficulty concentrating at work, struggling to accomplish the high volume of work I took on, lagging behind at home, occasionally missing church, and constantly hearing my inner voice, “What is wrong? Come on, we got this! We’re fine” and praying God would give me the strength each day to manage that days demands. Abnormally, I took a vacation day from work the second Wednesday of January just to catch up at home with cleaning, laundry, ironing, etc. hoping that would resolve my sense of being overwhelmed. Unusual, I fell behind again. I repeated taking another vacation day two weeks later. The turbulence inside of me was creating chaos in my typically highly organized, structured, meticulous world.  I was struggling to maintain my ‘normal.’

About ten to eleven years prior, while working, I came upon a daily radio show broadcast through our local Christian radio station entitled, “Minirth Meier New Life Clinic.” I would have the program streaming for the daily hour at my desk, but only caught snippets being engrossed in work. I picked up that they were psycho something with clinics in Richardson, Texas. I did not give it much credence until one day, I overheard them speaking about being overweight and implications that could suggest a deeper problem, and the faint concept of depression. Hmmm…I chewed on those for a time, but the broadcast was soon terminated and those contemplations slipped into oblivion, so I thought. My second Wednesday in January while home, those Minirth Meier thoughts resurfaced. As I continued noticing lags in my ability to keep up, an inner voice began saying, “Maybe we need to get some help.” At first, I brushed that off as quickly as it came, telling myself, “No, we don’t need help, we just need to try harder! Come on…we got this!” However, as the lagging continued and I could not get on top of everything, the thought switched to, “We definitely need to get some help.”

I had no idea where to turn. I knew of a couple psychology professors’ names from the college I attended, but that was out of the question. I could not ask anyone; I could not show weakness; I could not be vulnerable; I could not let down my guard; I could not risk tainting my image – the stakes were too costly. I had jumped high hurdles my whole life to build a life that I never thought I could have or deserved. When I moved to this city for college, on occasion I would hear people jest about needing to be locked up in a padded cell at the local mental health facility. I wasn’t even sure what that meant; a padded cell? It was years before I learned the actual name of the facility. Whoever said it, I asked what the place was. They chuckled and explained it was for the crazy people. It actually made me rather sad that they were laughing at those people, but even then, it meant nothing to me. I began looking in the yellow pages and came upon a huge ad for that local Christian mental health facility. I figured Christian; surely, this would be the place.  

It takes dogged courage to reach out for help! I had fear assaulting me like golf ball size hail from heaven. The very thought of calling constricted my throat, tightened my chest, and instigated heart palpitations. For about a week, I would pick up the phone to call, giving up before ever dialing the number. Inwardly, I am a strong soul. There is a bravery that rises inside of me that eventually pushes fear and emotions aside to face the giant. Friday, January 28, I quietly slipped away from my desk into an unoccupied office and dialed the number. A voice answered stating, “….Christian Mental Health Facility, this is…, Intake Specialist, how can I help you?” I silently wondered what ‘intake’ meant, but proceeded to explain that I was having some issues and wanted to know if I could set up an appointment. She asked if a LLC would be OK. I had no idea what that meant and said, “I suppose.” She gave me the name of the therapist and scheduled a new patient appointment for February 10, 2005 @ 4 pm. She said she would be sending me paperwork in the mail to complete and asked that I have it ready to turn in when I arrived. Ah…sweet relief…first step taken…NO!!! My mind became a raging forest fire with flames shooting in every conceivable direction second guessing myself, running through every imaginable scenario possible, who is she, will I be able to talk to her, what questions will she ask me, would I like her, what if I don’t like her, would I find the location OK, maybe I shouldn’t do this, what if somebody finds out, etc. My mind split in a million directions and I became engulfed and consumed with nerves! I thought about it every single day.

Driving to my first appointment, I felt like I was driving to my own funeral. I was somber, detached, and flat. I could hardly speak a word all day without it catching in my throat. I had an underlying nervous hum inside. When I arrived, there was a front and back receptionist area. The front receptionist area had a sign directing everyone to check in at the back receptionist desk. I checked in barely audible giving my name, handed the receptionist the paperwork, and took a seat in the waiting room. I was vigilant watching everyone, listening to everything, and taking in my surroundings! My inner voice prompted me to take flight and flee like a lone wolf into the dark of night, “It’s not too late!” The hyper-responsible part of me would never concede to such an irresponsible act! There I waited! I watched a woman walk past wearing stilettos, dressed quite fashionably nice, carrying paperwork, appearing to be someone on staff. Minutes later, she returns and calls my name. I am scarcely breathing on the quiet trek to her office with my mind repeating, “What are we doing? What are we doing? Oh my goodness, what are we doing?”  

Upon entering her office, she took a seat at her desk and left me wondering where I was ‘supposed’ to sit. I took a seat in the chair next to the door, quickly scanning her office space. I took it all in, including her. She seemed friendly and genuine, and appeared as if she knew what she was doing. She sat facing me with her legs crossed scribbling notes on a legal pad as I answered her questions. She says, “So, tell me about yourself.” I lost my mind and my voice; I did not know what to say! I muddled through a few current facts. She was pleasant and smiled. We had more exchange of my current life and slowly I calmed down, found my voice, and could audibly speak. We slowly discussed the issues that prompted me to come. I factually shared pretty much all the details from Part 1. She assessed that I was struggling with codependency issues, wrote down the name of a book on a yellow sticky note, handed it to me, and suggested I read it and do the exercises at the end of each chapter. I said, “OK,” she stood up, we exchanged parting words, and I headed to the receptionist desk by myself to check out, praising God and thanking Jesus that was over!

Here is a glimpse of the exchange at the receptionist’s window:

Receptionist:  “So, do you need to schedule another appointment?”

Me:  “I don’t know.”

Receptionist:  “Did she tell you to schedule another appointment?”

Me:  “No.”

Receptionist:  “Do you want to schedule another appointment?”

Me:  “I don’t know. What do you think?”

Receptionist:  “Well, I’m pretty sure you are supposed to have another appointment. When would you like your next appointment?”

Me:  “I don’t know.”

Receptionist:  “Would you like one week, two weeks, or something else?”

Me:  “I don’t know. What is normal?”

Receptionist:  “I’m gonna schedule you for two weeks from now. What time works for you?”

Me:  “Evening if possible.”

Receptionist:  “How about February 24 at 6 pm?”

Me:  Sure

She hands me an appointment card and I leave. I felt as ignorant as believing the world was flat! Was I supposed to know these things? What was I missing? Should I have asked those questions of the therapist? I shouldered all responsibility believing I looked like a fool and should have known something that I did not.

On the way home, I stop in at the local bookstore; I purchase the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Ironically, before my husband and I were married, his therapist, who I spoke with only once for about 30 minutes, recommended I read this same book. At the time, I told him kindly that I was not the one with the problems here; I really did not think I needed to read a book. He smirked, wrote the name of the book down, and handed me a yellow sticky note as well. Not with any anger or malice, I crumpled it up and tossed it in the trash thinking he was pointing his finger at me as if I were the one with the problems. There was nothing wrong with me; I was fine!

To be continued…

Love you, mean it!

Nine Months, One Lifetime, Part 1

Ever consider the domino effect where every choice we make represents a domino? Sometimes I imagine my entire life as a series of dominoes falling and colliding and intersecting with a forward push successively creating momentum or lethargy depending on extraneous factors with each topple. Every single day is a series of choices. All of life is a cycle of choices. There are spiritual choices, personal preference choices, obvious choices, random choices, informed choices, uninformed choices, impulsive choices, compromising choices, sacrificial choices, long-term choices, emotional choices, moral choices, physical choices, financial choices, health choices, food choices, charitable choices, educational choices, career choices, transportation choices, relationship choices,  etc. Many choices are seamless, not even recognizing them as choices; they become reflexive behaviors. It is possible that one choice could fit into several of these categories. Every category contains good or bad options, pros and cons, accordingly. At the end of the day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime, I believe it is the uninformed, ignorant choices (whatever category) which lead us into the darkest pits and deepest valleys – the choice you revisit in your mind and so wish you could take back; the choice you make in pure inexperience and unfamiliarity; the choice you make innocently fully believing it to be the right choice; the choice you make trusting God for good outcomes – the dominoes that fall on detonation sensors. I believe it is these choices that God uses to bring Him glory; to discipline us; to mold us like clay in His hands; to endure a long and painful process to purge out the dross and impurities like refined precious metals under heat; to lead and direct us to new places and understanding for our good; to discipline us to His highest value rendering wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; and ultimately to help others along their journey. Trust me, until eternity when “I shall know fully, even as I am fully known,” on this earth I may never fully know God’s purposes and reasons for allowing things to occur, but I now trust Him more.

I would like to share a personal experience, which actually began February 10, 2005 – one ignorant quiet choice to reach out for help, one unsuspecting private phone call to establish a new patient appointment that set off a drastic flash lightning chain reaction of events that haunts me to this day! I actually sometimes ask God, “Why did we have to do it this way?” I pray He will use it for His greater purposes. My first post will be preliminary accounts of happenings prior to this date, which will help give you an understanding of the events preceding my choice. I pray sharing this true story helps someone; gives someone wisdom and insight; and perhaps disrupts potential choices that need clear discernment – maybe that someone is just me! I will share this in parts.

I was in my fifteenth year of marriage still trying to navigate a complex web of marital dynamics stemming from two incredibly shattered people becoming one with all bets against our survival. We were only aware of one atomic bomb of my husbands that spewed debris, soot, and smoke all over us while dating. We spent over a decade of married life weaving in, over, around, and through the wreckage, consequences of choices he had made prior to marriage and on occasion, we still encounter a tiny burning ember that we more skillfully extinguish. After we were married, the rubble and plume of smoke from his explosion engulfed our existence, at times choking the life out of me. During our tumultuous, peculiar dating life, he was in the throngs of a ferocious battle I could not comprehend or understand. I had little clue about the size of the crater this explosion had created, but I did know I was teetering on the edge of a level of crazy I barely survived. I was aware of the framework, but I had no idea of the actual ugly images in the picture. Once I became conscious of a few images, I began piecing more and more together and throughout the ordeal became codependent, making every attempt to rescue him from the clutches of this monster and keep everything a secret. His plume of smoke was so wide, high, and thick that it blinded me to myself. I thought all our problems were because of him. I was normal; I had no problems; I was fine! There was nothing wrong with me. Truly, it is a heavy story of God’s redemption in his life; it is a heavy story of how I lost pieces of myself in the midst of his story. I was well equipped for the mission after years and years of my own buried and repressed life, yet I did not count the cost of my own personal damage until much later. I was an expert at suffering, survival, and denial!

Another atomic bomb that unknowingly flattened me on a level I denied was infertility. At no time while we were dating had we talked about having children. I loved little babies and little kids, but growing up I was not ‘in’ to babysitting, except for a select two. My mother consistently lined up babysitting jobs for me with people I did not know, for weekends, for summers, for evenings. I was ill equipped; I did not know what to do with these children; I had never learned to play, though I had no cognition of that for years and years. At a pre-marital exam, my physician (a great Christian physician whom I respected and loved) brought up contraceptives. He explained everything to me. I was not keen on the idea of taking a pill, but I also knew I/we were not prepared in any way, shape, or form to raise a child in the debris field, soot, and smoke we were currently living within. And always placing myself as the one responsible, I began birth control three months prior to our marriage without a blip on my radar that my husband could have taken measures. We gave no thought to not having children; we were just living life. However, our mothers were not shy in making their desires known. My mother boldly asked deliberately and consistently. His mother would never ask, but instead on multiple visits be crocheting baby booties, baby blankets, and baby jackets with a faint smile on her face as if I were giving birth the next day. We did take note of these things, but again were in agreement, in the wake of everything, it was not time. Around a year and nine months, I no longer wanted to take birth control, we were not totally prepared for children, but heard from friends ‘you are never fully ready.’ We decided I would stop taking the birth control and let nature take its course. Three months later, at another physical, my same doctor brought up having children and pregnancy. I explained to him that I discontinued birth control three months prior. He looks at me quizzically and suggests I get some preliminary infertility testing. It was a world I knew nothing of, but because I am a rule follower, I am present and accounted for at all procedures. Everything is normal. The physician then suggests my husband get checked. Against his every desire, he too follows through with his testing. It is a late summer afternoon. I hear the phone ringing as I am putting the key in to unlock the door. My husband is not home yet. I rush to the phone, “Hello.” It is our physician (kind of a fatherly figure to me) with a solemn tone. He says, “Hello Dee, this is doctor…, are you sitting down.” It all took me back for a minute, as I was not accustomed to him actually calling me; I thought something must have happened to my husband. I sat down and said, “Yes.” He tells me he got my husband’s fertility test results and that we only have a 2% chance of pregnancy. Nonchalantly I say, “OK” as if I had lost a dollar, no big deal. He inquired if I was OK. I said, “Sure, I’m fine.” He hung on the line as if waiting for some reaction of which I had none; I was blank; I was fine. When my husband arrived home, I shared the news with him like telling him the mail had just arrived. It was as if neither of us felt anything, no disappointment, no sadness, nothing. That was it, case closed. This was a loud bomb that I never heard go off, leaving destruction that I never saw for years.

My mother passed away January 20, 1994 from metastasized lung cancer. I never shed a tear – her first cancer diagnosis in December 1987, July 1992 when she phoned to tell me the cancer had returned, first chemo treatment, when she called me at work crying because her hair was falling out, every time she called me on the phone crying, multiple trips rushing 300 miles home; two sleepless weeks at the hospital as she lay dying; at the funeral; or thereafter. This too was an explosion of magnitude proportions leaving debris, smoke, and soot all over my life. I went through the motions managing her treatments, pain, and death as if it were spilled milk. The only residue I carried home was guilt, guilt, and more guilt; consistently wondering if she was OK; hoarding all her belongings for her return; nightmares; and weariness that dredged me like an anchor. But, after being gone for two weeks, I immediately began running forward at a pace that dwarfed the roadrunner. Inwardly, the emptiness and melancholy were escalating, but I was still able to outrun the emotions without recognizing or identifying that was what I was doing. It was my normal; I was fine! I did not know anything about grieving. It was my normal; I was fine! Yet outwardly, I began putting on pound after pound of weight, swelling to an all-time high of 460 pounds. I had no idea food was a coping mechanism that I used my entire life to fill the emptiness within and comfort my painful emotions. You see, psychology, mental illness, depression, anxiety, panic, insomnia, trauma, abuse, PTSD, neglect, abandonment, attachment disorder, etc. were not part of my vocabulary or knowledge. I was not educated in this field. These were my every day normal; nothing was wrong with me! I was independent, successful, and needed no one. I lived under THE mantra, “I’m fine.” Other than the embarrassing morbid obesity, amazingly, I presented an outward level of surpassing normalcy, I had everything together, all was well, I was fine. Inwardly, I had more secrets than a ‘secret keeper’ and I figured out any way possible to keep the secrets a secret from even myself. It is pretty tricky how the mind splinters, divides, and compartmentalizes information removing it from your awareness.

September 5, 1998 my maternal grandmother passed away quietly alone in her home. Another story for another day. We rushed there for the funeral, spent a day helping go through some of her possessions, rushed home with a few mementos in tow, and back to the grind without emotion. It was my normal; I was fine!

Sometime in 2004, another detonation of crushing decibels was released. My family has been riddled with friction, disagreements, narcissism, anger and rage, prolonged silences, passive-aggressive silent punishments, unsettled disputes swept under the rug, cruel actions, gossip and judgments passed down, hurts, wounds, and shredded relationships. I am not pointing the finger at anyone except myself, nor is this the storyline to delve into that world, and nor am I here to break this down for analysis. We are a dysfunctional, fractured people in constant need of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration – that continual atonement! At this particular time, I once again found myself cast out into that world of dark silence with zero contact. I do not know the exact root that caused the seven years of separation, but this time I made a choice that I would no longer go crawling back with my tail between my legs, offering apologies for unknown actions, groveling to regain a standing in their good graces. I stepped away not knowing I was looking down the barrel of seven plus years of silence and separation. It was tragic. It was years of isolated aftershocks. I felt like an orphan. It was like scraping the skin off your knuckle having a constant sting. It was crushing and yet it was an all too familiar place; I was fine. I am just going to leave this here. For me, sharing the story of my family is like having a Viking reach in and rip your heart out with their bare hands.

I was a severe workaholic at work and home, which I learned as a coping mechanism to outrun and deny any ounce of emotion. Though I changed jobs four times of my own choice, I excelled at surpassing standards, cranking out work beyond imagination, and working overtime – often going in a 6 am and working until 6 pm, working a double plus shift at the end of each month from 6 am until 2 am the next morning, or going to work at 7 am on a Friday and not leaving until 3 am Saturday only to go back in after church on Sunday, then back to the regular work week on Monday. At home, I managed ALL affairs, and I do mean ALL. In silence, we fell into these roles. For years I just did anything and everything; if I saw it needed to be done, I did it. I was hyper-vigilant, hyper-responsible, hyper-organized, hyper-meticulous, hyper-clean, hyper-whatever. I lived at a pace unsurpassed by Hermes. That was my normal; there was nothing wrong with me; I was fine! As time progressed, I began to see that I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and my husband was whistling off to work happy as a lark without a care in the world. He was fulfilled. Now I gave the appearance of unbelievable stability, dependability, super employee, church pianist, served in various roles in the church, and happy, yet on the inside, I was empty. My entire life I carried a measure of melancholy that steadily increased like a growing stock market price. We began to have a few tussles, but I had crippling fear that his past would resurface at the scent of conflict or disagreement. I chose to remain silent.

My body was letting me know it was under extreme duress!  May 1985, April 1992, and December 1998 I was in the ER for heart palpitations and chest tightness – all three visits diagnosed as benign. March 2003 I visited my doctor for heart palpitations and chest tightness. He administered a stress test – diagnosed benign. Not one person spoke anything about anxiety. I now find that bizarre. September 1993 through May 1994 my thyroid levels began functioning at 170%. Specialists could do nothing to slow it down except radioactive iodine treatment. There was never a root diagnosis – no goiter, no virus, no cancer – nothing! August 1996 another ER visit for a 104-degree fever with delirium. They thought it to be a kidney infection, but nothing was ever confirmed. May 2000 and July 2004 broke my right foot, twice in different bones. Except for the ER visits, I went through all follow-up appointments, testing and procedures alone, including fertility. No emotions; I did not need anybody; that was my normal; I was fine!

I praise God for His enduring love, grace, mercy, and presence in my life.

To be continued…
Love you, mean it!

“Burn the Ships!”

The group ‘For King and Country” released their third studio album in October 2018, which included a song entitled “Burn the Ships.”  In an interview, they shared that one of their wives became addicted to a prescription drug and had to be admitted into a psychiatric treatment center for substance abuse. She had to leave the past, surrender the addiction, and commit to abstinence.

Lyrics to “Burn the Ships”

How did we get here?
All castaway on a lonely shore
I can see in your eyes, dear
It’s hard to take for a moment more
We’ve got to

Burn the ships, cut the ties
Send a flare into the night
Say a prayer, turn the tide
Dry your tears and wave goodbye

Step into a new day
We can rise up from the dust and walk away
We can dance upon our heartache, yeah
So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships
And don’t you look back

Don’t let it arrest you
This fear is fear of fallin’ again
And if you need a refuge
I will be right here until the end
Oh, it’s time to

Burn the ships, cut the ties
Send a flare into the night
Say a prayer, turn the tide
Dry your tears and wave goodbye

Step into a new day
We can rise up from the dust and walk away
We can dance upon our heartache, yeah…

The term “Burn the Ships” originated in the early 1500’s when an explorer arrived in the New World with six hundred men after a long, dangerous voyage. The explorer was ready to leave safety and head into a new place. He told his men, “We are going to conquer this new territory!” All the men were terrified and the commander realized that the cramped, damp, unsanitary, rat infested conditions of the ships were where they wanted to remain because it was familiar. The next day he called them out and when all the sailors were on land, he gave the command, “Burn the ships! We are not going to retreat!” In that instant, he totally committed himself and crew. He sent a clear message to his men: “There is no turning back!”

What an awesome metaphor!! What “ships” do we need to burn? What are the things that we need to surrender?  What obstacles litter our paths that hinder us? What are the sins that strangle our lives, need to be crucified, and left behind? What weighs us down and pulls us under water? What griefs consume us? What idols do we cling to, trap us, and ensnare us? What are our immoral behaviors and habits? What are our chains of bondage mentally? What do we need to abstain from and leave behind?

Abortion

Abuse of Animals

Adultery

Anorexia

Anxiety

Any Involvement with the Occult (i.e. Witchcraft, Sorceries, Casting Spells, Demonology, Satanism, Black Magic, Voo Doo & White Magic, Divinations, Tarot Cards, Ouija Boards, Séances, Fortune Tellers, Etc.)

Arrogancy

Bestiality

Being a Negative Influence on Others

Believing That God Will Refuse to Forgive You or Could Not Love You

Bitterness

Boasting

Breaking Promises Deliberately

Covetousness

Deceit

Deliberately Choosing Evil

Depression

Despair

Destruction of Other Persons’ Property

Dishonesty

Disobedience

Drug Abuse including Prescription, Over-the-Counter, and Street Drugs

Drunkenness including any Drinking under the Age of 21

Embezzlement

Envy

Evil Thoughts

Excessive Gambling

Extortion

Fear

Filthiness

Foolishness

Gang Activity

Gluttony

Gossip

Greediness

Grumbling

Hatred

Homosexuality

Idleness

Idolatry (taken from the book by Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods)

  • Anything in this world that becomes a God alternative; a counterfeit God
  • Whatever captures the human heart or takes priority over God
  • Things turned into supreme things
  • Anything we build our happiness and security on
  • Anything more important than God
  • Anything that absorbs our hearts and imaginations
  • Anything we seek more than God to give us what only God can give
  • Anything so central and essential to our lives, that should we lose it, our lives would feel hardly worth living
  • Anything that has a controlling position in our hearts that without a thought we spend most of our passion, energy, emotional, and financial resources
  • Whatever we worship or serve as a deity (whatever we love, trust, and obey, we serve)
  • Anything that becomes more fundamental than God
  • Anything more important and non-negotiable that becomes enslaving  
  • Strongholds – causes or beliefs that we strongly defend and uphold

Impatience

Impure Language

Impure Thoughts

Incest

Indifference to Good or Evil

Ingratitude

Intentional Violation of Rules

Irreverence toward God or Toward His Holy Name

Jealousy

Laziness

Littering

Lude Jesting

Lust

Lying

Malice

Materialism

Mocking

Murder

Narcissism

No Absolutes or Conscience of Sin

Not Practicing Spiritual Disciplines (Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Fellowship, Stewardship, Submission/Obedience, Study, Evangelism, Confession, Solitude, Gratitude, Self-Examination, Silence)

People We Need to Separate Ourselves From

Perjury

Physical, Emotional, Sexual Abuse

Premarital Sex

Pride

Rage

Rape

Reckless Driving

Resentment

Ridiculing Others

Rioting

Rudeness

Selfishness

Self-Superiority and Importance

Sexual Immorality

Slander

Stealing

Stirring up Trouble

Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain

Theft

Unbelief

Unforgiving

Unmerciful

Unthankful

Using Others for Your Own Personal Gain

Watching or Looking at Pornographic Materials

Worshipping False Gods

I am not pointing the finger at anyone. I had absolutely no one in mind as I compiled this list, except for the glaring, flashing red warning lights of my own. You see, we ALL have ships we need to burn; we ALL have sin! The Bible says, “for ALL have sinned and fall short,” – we are ALL guilty before God! We ALL struggle with sin every single day. However, I am solid in this belief – “Apart from Christ, I can do NOTHING!” – I cannot overcome anything; I cannot have victory over sin without Christ. Oh yes, absolutely I can burn some ships, but how often have I found myself constructing another ship, sinner that I am!

Paul says in Romans, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  Romans 7:18-25

James states, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully-grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived…” James 1:14-16

And Peter says, “many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed…and in their greed they will exploit you with false words. For if God did not spare angels (Satan and his followers) when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if He did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others (Noah’s family), when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;  if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes He condemned them to extinction (death), making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if He rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them (the wicked) day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority… For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.  II Peter 2

This all sounds so fatalistic! Satan loves nothing more than to attack us with discouragement and defeat. Where is our hope? Here is our eternal hope, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him (Jesus) should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 Christ is our hope for overcoming our sin, not a New Year’s resolution. Satan never has the final word. In Christ lies victory! I believe our sins are in need of continuous atonement. Christ is our once for all atonement for all sin, but I need to continually apply His blood over all my sin. No matter how many mistakes I make, no matter how many setbacks I experience, I can always start again. In humility, confessing my sin and asking forgiveness, He always offers atonement for me; he always welcomes me home.

It does not have to be a New Year, a New Month, a New Day, a New Moon, or a New Dawn to try again. It does not matter how many times you have tried in the past. Through Christ, you get a second, third, and fourth onward chance to try repeatedly for however long it takes. We get innumerable chances to try again – yearly, monthly, daily, hourly, or by the minute. Our goal is continuous progress in the right direction for however long it takes. Change is a process; repentance is an action of sincere remorse; and Christ’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness offer renewed hope each and every time. Never give up! Never stop trying! You get to start fresh each and every morning!!

  • “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23
  • “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
  • “…greater is He who is in you than he (Satan) who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
  • “… we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
  • “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” 1 Peter 5:8-9
  • “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper… Isaiah 54:17
  • “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11-17
  • “In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
  • “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
  • “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6
  • “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3
  • “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” Luke 10:19
  • “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
  • “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
  • “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
  • “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
  • “Fight the good fight of the faith…” 1 Timothy 6:12
  • “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
  • “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” Romans 8:31
  • “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
  • “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Surely, he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart…” Psalm 91:1-4
  • “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15

Let’s ‘send up a flare into the night, say a prayer, light a match, leave the past, and burn some ships!!’

Love you, mean it!!

Crosses to Carry

Raise your hand if you have burdens you bear. It does not matter if those burdens are permanent or temporary, heavy or light, exposed or hidden, or even perhaps you are driving with your eyes closed, trust me, eventually you will crash! Come on, raise those hands, we ALL have our crosses to bear in this life. Some crosses are unchangeable and interminable. Some crosses are an adversity lasting an indeterminate, but limited amount of time. Some crosses are things that ‘happen to us’ causing severe ripple effects throughout our entire lifespan. Some crosses are consequences from conscious or ignorant choices made. Some crosses are life, redefining moments that establish a time marker of before and after where life breaks forever, you are now stumbling through an unfamiliar dense forest, and your life story is instantly getting re-written; life will never be the same.  Now that all of your hands are finally raised, you ALL can put your hands down now.

If we put together an impromptu list of crosses people bear, I imagine it would be a scroll stretching out unfathomable miles and truthfully still would never be all-encompassing.  I have my truly unbelievable ‘stuff’ to me, but I know every single person on the face of this earth has their personal story filled with hardships. I wish I had an anonymous PO Box to receive anonymous stories from willing people about their adversities. I think it would be quite therapeutic and safe to unload a portion of that weight. Whatever your crosses and however you define them, at times the pills seem too hard to swallow. To me I can feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up that steep hill; sometimes I would like to let go of that boulder and just let it steamroller over me. Crosses equal suffering! Suffering equals grief, pain, agony, anguish, despair, temptations, trials, and tribulations. I have had times when I felt like I simply could not tolerate my constant-never-ending-at-times-desperate struggling.  

For me, I did not exactly win the “Wonderful Parenting, Happy Childhood” lottery. Life was MESSED up!!! Nevertheless, I drove through life with my eyes closed. Externally, I gave the appearance of all together, life was a bed of roses – clean, pruned, good job, faithful employee, bills paid, nice clothes, friends, attend church and served, practiced personal spiritual disciplines, warm and cozy tidy meticulous home (all things said in no certain order,) the only external red flashing beacon of light giving off urgent warning signals was my ever-increasing weight. I was over-qualified at surviving, recovering, and denying and onward I raced through my inner obstacle course. On the inside, I was MESSED up! Weedy vines began choking out and killing my roses! Those vines intertwined around everything; they were killer vines invading and smothering my landscape. Yet, I was merrily speeding through life with my eyes closed at a high rate of speed. I did not even realize these vines had suction cupped and attached themselves to every piece of me, until eventually, I crashed. In reality, I was being internally strangulated by choking vines; I was being attacked by rose thorns causing injurious deep scrapes and cuts; I was slowly fading and dying. I carried crosses labeled spiritual, physical, gender, marital, financial, bankruptcy, loss of house, moving, friendships, family, financial, employment, disability, death, mental issues, therapeutic abuse, medical nightmares, insomnia, buried feelings of emptiness, loneliness, resentment, shame, PTSD, etc. – all symptomatic seepage from my internal brokenness.  I was fighting a fierce battle of survival, trust me I had an extreme arsenal of weapons acquired in childhood where I learned how to survive. Eventually, profound despair, exhaustion, and hopelessness turned into a daily crusade of desperately wanting to take my own life. I would sit at work on the third floor, thinking about going down to the vacant first floor restroom and slashing my wrists. I would think about OD’ing on pills. The abyss kept getting deeper and darker the further my mind slipped into searching for an escape hatch.

This is just a mere glimpse at the tip of my iceberg; it is the unseen mass below the surface that truly needed to be worked at chipping away. It takes a whole lot of courage to choose life; it takes a brave soul to look at what lies beneath the surface. It seems the holidays and winter months can capitalize on my weaknesses, even though I have gained many coping skills. I know that I am not alone. There are oh so very many who suffer during this joyous season – sadness, loneliness, estrangement, anxiety, stress, sleep disturbances, fatigue, isolating and social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities, depression, PTSD, grief, tearfulness, financial constraints, fear, shame, perfectionism, frustration, irritability, fixating on the past, physical ailments, aches, and pains, etc. These too are symptoms of floating icebergs. It takes bold audacity to drill down inside those frozen parts and take a hard long forward look at what is actually causing behavioral and symptomatic manifestations of deeper causes. It is hard work! It is hard to get gut wrenching honest with yourself and begin identifying your junk. And, it is even harder to implement the life-long changes in order to stop the hemorrhaging. There is always a different way to manage carrying our crosses. Now, I am no authority or professional, and quite honestly am still in recovery, but we have been able to cut away some of the vines, remove some of the thorns, I am breathing a little better these days, and definitely I am not suicidal.

I don’t begin to know or pretend to know what cross you are bearing; I don’t know if it is a thorn in the flesh, a death, a divorce, a sick child, someone terminally ill, mental illness, personal injury or illness, addiction, family issues, troubles at work, change in work status, less than favorable custody arrangement, financial decline, foreclosure, change in residence, school, or church, betrayal, loss of trust, loss of safety, violated, crime, imprisonment, a bad hair day, or hell on earth. Here is what I do know. There is ALWAYS hope, there is always something to be thankful for, and there are acts of service we can do for others to switch our focus!!  I do not mean denial; I mean concentrating on good things. Your situation might not change tomorrow, next week, a month, or a year from now, but there is hope and something to find gratitude for in the midst. You may spend a lifetime praying for something that will never be and at times, it makes your heart so painfully sad that you recoil from life for a bit, lick your wounds, and slowly emerge with renewed hope. Press the reset button and do a good deed for someone else. Somehow, find gratitude and bless someone else. You may spend a lifetime battling an addiction – rising and falling, rising and falling, time after time hoping this time will be victory at last. Do not give up hope! Extend grace and mercy to yourself. Stand up, brush yourself off, and try again! You may be carrying a hidden grief so heavy and painful that at times you are drowning and suffocating. Do not let hope slide away. Look around for even a miniscule something to be thankful for and spread a little joy somewhere. Whatever your cross, keep hope alive, find gratitude in the waiting, and grasp that little mustard seed of faith. Miracles happen everyday!

I want to share a writing by someone anonymous to me:

THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS

The whole Christmas story is full of miracles. 

I personally find them hard to comprehend. 

It makes no sense. 

How could the infinite eternal God become a baby? 

Not only how, but also why? 

Why would He choose to be born to peasant parents? 

Why would He empty Himself of every advantage of His divine nature? 

Why would He choose to become a servant and become obedient to death?

even death on a cross? 

Why to sinners like us did He do it?

It is because of his all-encompassing love.

I cannot explain it, but I believe it.

I thank God for sending His Son to an imperfect world. 

To a world that celebrates the spirit of consumerism

Where Christmas comes from shopping lists, catalogs, and the almighty credit card.

I pray God delivers us from empty cheer and season’s greetings born of obligation. 

I hope He delivers us from all the social events that supposedly honor Jesus. 

Surely, Christmas is supposed to be more than packages, paper, bows, silver bells, Frosty, Rudolph and all his reindeer friends.

You see the true spirit of Christmas cannot be found in a store window or in a Christmas carol.

Christmas is not giving bigger and better so we can get bigger and better.

You cannot count Christmas by the number of decorations you use.

We cannot even count Christmas by the number of manger scenes and stars we have on the tree. 

In fact, we cannot even count Christmas by the number of verses we memorize. 

I pray God would grant us the true spirit of Christmas:

Generosity of heart and the love, which caused Christ to wrap Himself in the garments of our humanity.

I pray God shows us the true meaning of Christmas and affirms our worth apart from what we have or what we do.

For reasons which only His Holy love can explain, God gave Christ to become one of us and to suffer the consequences of our sin.

This Holiday season as we’re in the middle of singing carols, baking cookies, decorating our homes and opening our gifts

remember to leave room for CHRIST.   

“For unto us was born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.” 

“And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Prince of Peace, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father.”

As we celebrate Christ’s entrance into the world, let us try to make our world a little better.

Mend a quarrel

Call a friend

Seek out a forgotten friend

Do random acts of kindness

Give compliments, encouragement, and appreciation

Do not be critical of others

Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust

Write a letter

Send cards of kindness

Share some treasure

Cook dinner together

Bake something and take it to a neighbor

Pay for someone else

Let others go first

Give a soft answer

Say ‘Thank You’

Encourage one another

Be loyal in word and deed

Keep a promise

Listen

Love unconditionally

Apologize if you are wrong

Try to understand and show acceptance

Disregard envy

Be joyful

Express your gratitude

Welcome a stranger

Invite a friend for hot chocolate

Gladden the heart of a child

If you’ve wronged someone, fix it

If you think you’ve wronged someone, fix it

Forgive

Go outdoors and take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of this earth

Make a difference

I am not talking about the other person

I am talking about you; you are the one that can make the difference.

It starts with you.                    

At Christmas, we tend to believe all things are possible.

“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.”

Sin can be forgiven.

Broken relationships can be restored.

Hearts can be healed.

Try to make your little corner of the world a better place!

To those who believe:

EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US!

Anonymous

Glad tidings of joy!

Merry Christmas!

Love you, meant it!

Maybe Life is a Little Bit More

For some reason, I have lost my blogging mojo! I have not lost my enthusiasm about the blog; I love writing and I love my blog. It is as if I have lost my energy and concentration. It is at these junctures, I need to push myself into deeper water. In deeper water, I can either give up and drown or dig into that well of reserves and swim with more determination.  So, here I am swimming with determination, but in what direction? I am floundering with what to whittle out, though in reality the pickings are truly abundant. Hey, there’s a word — “abundant.” Seems like a great word for the Christmas season. Now, I am not talking about prosperity, I am talking about abundance. Prosperity, on the other hand, has more to do with material possessions and affluence. Scratch prosperity, that is not what I want to talk about, though I think the two get mingled together into one ideology never considering the distinctions.  

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the Prosperity Gospel or New Thought) peddles a controversial religious thinking filled with accusations of hypocrisy. This notion promotes the will of God as always being financial blessings and the alleviation of sickness and poverty. Faith, prayer, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. If humans have faith in God, He will deliver security and prosperity; after all, it is God’s will for His people to be blessed. One prominent proponent of these teachings is Joel Osteen. Osteen owns a $10.5 million, 17,000 square foot mansion with 6 bedrooms and bathrooms, 5 open wood fire places, 3 elevators, a guest house, an outdoor pool, and pool house in River Oaks, Texas (a ‘burb’ of Houston, Texas, paying over $260,000 in property taxes yearly.) *Picture below

Joel Osteen’s Mansion

His lifestyle includes fancy cars (for sure a Ferrari), private jets, yachts, tailored suits, a wife refined by lavish jewels, attired in top quality garments, etc. His estimated net worth is $50-60 million. A satirical joke by the Babylon Bee circulated during Hurricane Harvey saying, “Joel Osteen Sails Luxury Yacht Through Flooded Houston To Pass Out Copies Of ‘Your Best Life Now.’ ” (it is worth a little chuckle!) Now, I am going to just leave this right here because I am not a proponent of this doctrine. However, I will toss out a couple questions to ponder:

  1. Who is the primary beneficiary of the prosperity gospel? The leader?
  2. Wouldn’t Jesus have been the wealthiest man on earth?
  3. How do you explain the persistence of suffering, sickness, and disaster among Christians?
  4. Where are treasures laid up under this religiosity? – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…”

I really want to try to keep this simple. Abundant living is not material blessings as I interpret scripture. I believe abundant living is quite the opposite. Abundant living is:

  • Faith and hope in Jesus; eternal life –
  • A true personal relationship with Jesus – “…the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God…”
  • Pray, Pray, Pray about everything – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”
  • Reading the Bible – learning and maturing in wisdom and knowledge of truth – ““Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”
  • Trusting in God’s power and presence in your life – “”I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
  • Trusting that God is all knowing – ““I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning…”
  • Desiring God more than what the world offers like material possessions, status, achievement, recognition, popularity, approval, acceptance, attention, idolatry, fulfillment of the flesh
  • Practicing the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
  • Confessing our sins regularly; asking forgiveness from God and others; apologizing; swallowing pride and humbling oneself to specifically say “I’m sorry for…”  – “The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in loving kindness.” The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth…”
  • Asking God for help and helping others – “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
  • Choosing gratitude, being thankful for EVERYTHING – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in ALL circumstances” (not some), “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you…”
  • Contentment in ALL circumstances – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” “O, taste and see that the Lord is good…”
  • Choosing joy and peace amidst grief, difficult circumstances, and painful struggles (the list is not comprehensive, but here are many to contemplate choosing joy and peace amidst the pain) –

Death of a spouse
Divorce or Marital separation
Imprisonment
Death of a close family member
Personal injury or illness, major surgeries
Mental Illness
Abuse
Job termination or resignation
Retirement
Change in health of family member
Loss of Pregnancy or child
Sexual difficulties
Change in financial state
Death of a close friend
Change to different line of work
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
Bankruptcy
Disability
Change in responsibilities at work
Child leaving home
Trouble with in-laws or family members
Spouse starts or stops employment
Change in living conditions
Revision of personal habits
Change in residence, moving
Change in church
Change in sleeping habits
Change in eating habits
Christmas & Holidays & Anniversaries
Home invasion, theft of property or threat of
Loss of Trust, Betrayal, Loss of Approval, Loss of Safety  

  • Deep, abiding peace that passes all understanding that does not come from deep breathing and counting to ten
  • Choosing to live a changed new life as a new creation through the power of Christ
  • Surrendering our will and desires over to God – one example is addictions, which includes failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, overcoming, over and over until we have victory
  • Resting in God’s sovereignty and timing – “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” “I the Lord do not change.”
  • Loving and giving to others – “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  “…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

You see, the abundant life is NOT an abundance of tangible “stuff” purchased at stores or online amassed in our homes or owning finer things keeping up appearances or keeping up with the Joneses, accumulating treasures here on earth. The abundant life is about the abundance of Jesus. I have often looked around our home and wondered what if I literally sold it all? A young man approached Jesus asking what good thing must he do to receive eternal life. Jesus replied, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Just think about that for a minute. What if we sold all our material prosperity and gave the money to the poor? What if?

Charlie Brown struggled with the meaning of Christmas and the trappings of consumerism until Linus tells him the true meaning of Christmas.

And, even the Grinch in all his grinchiness finally grasps:

“He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling. “How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

He puzzled and puzzled til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

The abundant life is about eternity with Jesus – “setting our minds on things above” and “storing up treasures in heaven.”  The abundant life is a state of being from within and living it outwardly toward others. The abundant life is a continual, un-ending season of giving; it is living out our faith through good deeds and blessing others. The abundant life is following Jesus.

Love you, mean it!

Gabriel’s Oboe

The Mission

Today on my playlist, Gabriel’s Oboe broke through. The first time I heard this music while watching the movie The Mission, I searched it out and listened over and over and over. Today it offered me reason to pause, take in a deep breath, close my eyes, and become enthralled by the absorbing abundance of heaven. Ennio “Maestro” Morricone, a native Italian, composed the music. The music carries an exquisite courageous beauty. It is elegant, refined, and sensitive, yet excruciating, piercing, and intense.  It astounds me!

The movie, The Mission, tells the (mostly) true story of 18th-century Jesuit missionaries who died defending Guarani Indians from Portuguese slavery in the South American jungle. The missionaries dream was a society in which Christian natives would live in harmony with the Spanish and Portuguese. The colonial governors found this vision to be dangerous; they would rather enslave the Indians than covert them. They issue orders for the mission to be destroyed. The brutal film depicts a French Jesuit’s dogged but ultimately failed work among the Iroquois, Algonquin, and Huron in 17th-century Quebec. The Mission is a deeply moving film that reminds us of the vitality of love, the miracle of grace, and the transforming power of acts of conscience. It is powerful, compelling, and spiritually stirring.

Coupled with the music, my emotions become intensely enmeshed. There are a few scenes in which I literally break down crying, but in the end I am overcome by a melancholy silence, a feeling like something profound and momentous has come to pass. The movie ranks as one of my top five.

Love you, mean it!

There is More Than One Kind of Prison

There is More Than One Kind of Prison

I have never been arrested or confined in a literal prison, bordered by multiple barbed wire fencings, limited by brick walls, enclosed in cells, surrounded by criminals, and observed and inspected 24/7 by guards. The objective of imprisonment is to deter those who would otherwise commit crimes, to ‘pay’ the consequences for committed crimes, to safeguard society, and to be a “house of corrections” for hopeful rehabilitation and education for the prevention of future crimes up on release.

Yet, incarceration takes an altered dimension when it progressively materializes in the mind! My mental captivity, for all intents and purposes, was never intentional. From birth on, I began erecting a wall brick by unseen brick, a wall so tall and so thick that neither I nor anyone else could see over it or breach the stronghold.  In fact, I was ignorant that I had constructed a wall, let alone know when the construction of the wall was completed. Truly, it is an ingenious work of art. It is strong, stable, and resistant. It has weathered the storms quite well. However, here is the real truth and recent revelation – my wall takes an incredible amount of energy to maintain; my wall comes with a titanic price tag. On several occasions, I just wanted to give up — the wall has nearly cost my very life.

The greater question is, “What’s behind my wall?” This wall actually serves to protect me from what is on the other side; this wall serves as pseudo safety and security; this wall serves as a barrier and coping defense. All that is behind my wall is all that holds me hostage.  What is behind my wall? Years and years and years of denied unspoken pain; my trust is behind that wall; my emotions are behind that wall; unforgiveness is behind that wall; emptiness; all the tears I’ve literally never shed; grief, sorrow, and heartache beyond measure; unexpressed fear and sadness; loneliness and isolation; bleeding wounds of abuse, trauma, suffering, neglect, abandonment, silence, cruelty, intrusion of boundaries, indifference, gloomy days after days, conflicting gender identity issues, suffering, disappointments, timidity, and humiliation; loss of childhood; powerlessness; the darkness and melancholy; PTSD; sleepless and restless nights, anxiety and panic; depression; social anxiety; a host of physical ailments; every pound of excess weight and food addiction; feelings of being a disappointment, unacceptable, an embarrassment, inferior, a misfit, left out, being bullied, and overwhelmed; all the pieces of my broken yearning empty heart; all the shattered and devastating losses of hopes and dreams; denial and defeat; regrets; the attempts to reach out for professional help only to have it cause more destruction; anger, resentment, and at times hatred and bitterness toward each person who contributed to my wall and all the debris and trash that lies behind. I have lost myself and my identity in the rubble.

You see, there is more than one kind of prison! My wall and all the ruins that are piled up on the other side limit me. I am paying severe consequences. The wall is my attempt to deter more bricks and wreckage, yet the irony is that the wall is actually creating more. Only by finally receiving quality professional help am I willing to identify and acknowledge the brevity of all of my pieces and brokenness that I have tossed and stored behind my wall. Frankly, the wall has little breaches and it is time for the wall to come down brick by brick; it is time! The light must shine in and expose all that is hidden in the darkness. It is complex and deep. Though I am externally freakishly meticulous, clean, organized, and orderly, behind my wall I am an emotional hoarder. It is time to sift through each component and determine what to keep, what to give back, what to trash, and what to let go. It is time to set the captive free. To be quite honest, I am tired; I have sheer exhaustion and chronic fatigue and no longer have the emotional capability to preserve my wall! It is scary to me, but I am committed to healing.

And, here is what I know to be truth: 

[The Lord says,] “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:4

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Love you, mean it!

Come, Emmanuel by Twila Paris

Album: House of Worship, 2003

Come and speak to us
Come and renew us
Come and live through us, Emmanuel
Grace to implore us
Ever before us
Come and restore us, Emmanuel

Come Emmanuel
Come Emmanuel
[x2]

Once mercy found us
Still You astound us
Hold and surround us, Emmanuel
Living inside us
Faithful to guide us
Cover and hide us, Emmanuel

Love that begins us
Pardons and wins us
Come and reign in us, Emmanuel
Come and speak to us
Fill and renew us
Come and live through us, Emmanuel