From reading prior posts, you may well gather that my life and mind moved at the speed of light. I created a life where there was no time for me; there was no time or consideration or thought that I was headed off a cliff; there was not a thought that I needed to push on the brakes; there was no reverse, stop, or park to my automatic drive transmission. I plowed through work tasks, all chores, anything and everything; I bulldozed through difficult complicated situations like Samson flicking a pebble. I shifted gears automatically from tasks, assignments, and responsibilities weaving in and out, switching lanes, and exceeding the speed limit without blinking. If it needed to be done, I got it done. There was never a question in my mind to question whether to do it or not, I did it. My life was full and fast. At that break neck pace, I could have never identified that something was wrong, I really truly believed I was “fine,” there was nothing wrong with me, I was successful and had finally achieved a life I thought I would never have or for that matter deserved. Outwardly, I was an autonomous robot that knew how to sincerely mimic life and present an appearance of being highly responsible, independent, dependable, reliable, loyal, loving, kind, persevering, all together, everything going for me, never let them see me sweat, and a tower of strength. No one saw that my mind was constantly racing figuring life out by the seat of my pants, creating a meticulous, organized, on top of everything existence.
No one knew of the severe sleep deprivation. I could only sleep 5-6 hours a night on average, at times 3-4 hours because my mind never stopped. It had always been that way. I did not understand that this was abnormal. It was when we stopped going to church that on Sunday mornings I wound down enough to sleep a little longer. This had the opposite effect on my system; I was exhausted on Sundays and on bizarre occasions found myself crashing for an extended Sunday afternoon nap. This supported the therapist ideology that one does not have to go to church – I needed the extra sleep on Sundays to refuel my tank for the week ahead. Yet, not a Sunday passed that my mind was convicted about not attending worship service; my heart and spirit were saddened because I loved church.
I kept therapy a secret from everyone except my husband. Quite honestly, it came natural not to speak of therapy; I never spoke to anyone, including my husband, about my childhood, my dysfunctional family, my stresses and labors through college, my husband’s life, our complicated relationship, my feelings, discouragements, battles, and my inner world. My husband, in his word, truly thought I had everything together, I had a busy life, assumed I had a lot going on, and I was managing it. There were no signs or evidence to suggest otherwise. I buried anything and everything that would suggest weakness, failing, falling, asking for help, or giving up. I was fortified and kept confidences like a reflex, including keeping my own secrets from myself. I had learned to cope and be all-sufficient from very little on; I learned that I could not depend on or trust anyone accept myself, sadly enough, not even God; I learned to take care of myself and figure out life by myself; I learned how to suffer and survive; and I hung no trespassing signs surrounding my inner world that allowed no one entry.
I have a genuine deeply caring sensitive spirit. My husband says, “You think about everybody. You have a spirit of compassion, mercy, and great love for others.” I step into other’s feelings as easily as sand slips through cracks. I experience another’s emotions as if they were my own, but it is as if I cannot experience my own. I cannot tolerate injustice and used to fight quiet crusades on the behalf of others. I wanted others to be happy; I wanted to relieve other’s burdens and fears; I wanted to alleviate conflict so others could have peace. I would sacrificially do and give anything to anybody to make him or her happy. And, I had abundant scripture to support my behaviors and actions. Yet, as written about in prior posts, I was unconscious ignorant, empty, self-imprisoned by beliefs and rules that filtered and sorted accordingly, bearing inner crosses, and continuously swallowing a massive heartache deep within every piece and part of me. That heartache coursed through my underground like tributaries, seeping through every crack, crevice, joint, fissure, rock, cavern, and cave. Those dark empty places within, where the heartache coursed, carried anxiety, depression, despair, fatigue, fear, grief, at times hopelessness, hurts, insecurities, loneliness, low self-esteem, melancholy, nightmares, nervousness, pain, panic, sadness, sorrow, suffering, worthlessness, silent screams for help; I needed “food” to feed my starving heart, mind, and soul. These internal demons lurked about within unbeknownst to my conscious mind. As an adult, I endured a number of fender benders, but no external severe catastrophic accidents had occurred to weaken and shatter my resilience to shine light into the internal darkness.
I did not know that I harbored a deep yearning hope for someone to unconditionally love me; a yearning for someone to authentically care about my needs and feelings; a yearning to be genuinely heard and it all matter to someone; a yearning to be fully understood; a yearning to be sincerely wanted not for what I could do or give, but just for who I was; a yearning to be accepted and cared about for just me; a yearning for someone to validate me and find me worthy; a yearning to not feel used, abused, objectified, and taken advantage of; an unquenchable yearning for a mother to hug me, sit close to me, hold my hand; a yearning to find a safe place to land; I wanted to be loved and truly matter to somebody.
The therapist imbued these yearnings and hopes and I, without question, in my vulnerability, cut a small opening in my crime tape letting her enter just a smidge into my inner sanctuary and persistently gain small measures of trust. I tethered myself to her like a small child clinging to the leg of its mother.
I remained in overdrive charging forward into my actualized life; the therapist was constant in securing her interest in me; and I continued masquerading in my illusionary world under the mantra “I’m fine.”
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.
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
Apologize if you are wrong
Try to understand and show acceptance
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
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!
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
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:
Who is the primary beneficiary of the prosperity gospel? The leader?
Wouldn’t Jesus have been the wealthiest man on earth?
How do you explain the persistence of suffering, sickness, and disaster among Christians?
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.
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.
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.
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
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
I do not know about you, but I have a lot of “stuff” swept
under my rug, not literally, but figuratively. Things I want to ignore, avoid,
deny, and conceal. It is peculiar how we think things magically disappear
forever if we sweep them under that rug. The irony is this, those hidden
“things” might be out of sight, your conscious awareness, but I am here to tell
you they are not vanished and gone! I’m talking anger, resentment, conflicts,
injustices, grudges, problems, unforgiveness, pain, hurt, secrets we hold as
weapons against others, secrets about our pasts, responsibilities, other
people’s feelings and problems that we have taken responsibility for, mistakes,
fears, sadness, loneliness, guilt, things we don’t want to do, inappropriate or
embarrassing behaviors, addictions, and unconfessed secret sins – anything that
we want to keep in the darkness; anything we do not want exposed to the light,
anything we have not dealt with appropriately, anything we do not want to own
or deal with, and anything that holds us in captivity. The things we have under
our rugs hold us prisoner, bound by shackles and chains to our current
existence! Those things are not dead or departed, they are very much alive and
present! In fact, they compound, intensify, and worsen the longer they remain
under the rug. Those high, wide, and deep piles under my rugs created grave
damage, horrific pain, and frightening levels of exhaustion the longer I
remained in ignorance, the more I kept tripping over them, and the harder I
Now, I believe we consciously choose to ignore things and
brush them right under that rug, but once the situation is under the rug and it
is a continuous ‘state of affairs’, I believe we begin a pattern of
unconsciously and reflexively tossing any related circumstance on that interrelated
pile under that rug, creating a mountain and quite a mess. It becomes an
undertow. Those unseen currents below the surface of our rugs are moving in a
different direction. They are dragging us backwards all the while we are fighting
a losing battling to move forwards. They become weighted burdens that create a
constant force of resistance and restrict us. They hold us back; they break us
down; they create anxiety, depression, hopelessness, addictions, whatever
unhealthy means you choose to cope; they destroy life! Here is the hard truth,
it is HARD WORK and takes a lot of energy to clean up!!! It’s about being
willing to put yourself under the microscope; it’s about dissecting every part
of who you are; it’s about methodically looking at every single piece and part;
it’s about being authentic and down in that pile of dirt under the rug all the
way to the core open and honest. HARD WORK!
As a living example of what I mean, let me share a little
trail of breadcrumbs from my life. Growing up, as a family we did not deal with
emotions or feelings; we did not talk about, acknowledge, or give credence to
their existence. I became a blank slate. I repressed my emotions and feelings
continually. It was nothing intentional; I knew no different; it was my normal.
It is not that my feelings and emotions did not exist; in ignorance and led by
example, I concealed them under my rug. Repressing them became reflexive; I did
not even know I was doing it. Who knew what a repressed feeling or emotion was
as a little child. I normalized the environment. I did not know it was abnormal
not to cry, not to show anger, not to talk about how I felt, and not to share
painful heartaches. I interpreted normal as no outward reaction to anything.
However, I became quite adept at monitoring and reading the atmosphere, the actions,
and the faces of my family; I became a vigilante, unconsciously annexing my own
and everyone else’s feelings and emotions, like extra-sensory perception. I
harnessed and retained them all unbeknownst to me. They became a monstrous pile
under my rug, which in turn created a riptide undercurrent effect in my life – generating
an addiction, crafting destructive behavior patterns, producing mental and
physical health issues, and a whole host of other crusades. I must say this, my
blank slate of feelings and emotions piled up under my rug are not the total cause
and reasons for my issues, but they are a huge piece of the pie. And now, my
feelings and emotions can bleed out inappropriately. Though in many respects I
still have that reflex to hide my feelings and emotions, I am super
tender-hearted as when unhealed skin weeps; I can be reactive; I can be like a triggered
pressure cooker to something totally unrelated; I can be a workaholic racing
through life at warp speed trying to outrun my amassed pile of feelings and emotions;
and at times I devour isolation and quietness to still the screeching chaos
inside. Hopefully, you can get a glimpse of this trail of breadcrumbs that
leads to the piles under my rug.
So, here’s the question – what’s under your rug? What are
you ignoring, avoiding, denying, and concealing? Only you can answer that
question. Only you know your story. I suspect, if you are willing to look closer,
you can follow your own trail of breadcrumbs to your own piles under your own
rugs. About a year ago, I got the absolute best broom in the world to help me
clean this all up. It took many, many years and a whole lot of heartache, fear,
and frustration, but God in His mercy laid His trail of breadcrumbs to guide me.
Now I do not know why He waited so long and I do not know why I had to endure
what seems to me wasted years, but I have learned to trust His sovereignty and
timing. If that still small voice within is speaking to you, listen and pray.
If that still small voice is nudging you and whispering that something is not
right, listen and pray. If that still small voice is telling you it is time to
move on or to do something different, listen and pray. I am telling you listen
and pray. Give yourself permission to say, “No, it doesn’t have to be this way!”
You do not have to remain stuck. You do not have to be miserable. You do not
have to stay in unhealthy relationships or patterns of coping. You have
permission to live and breathe. The breadcrumbs will lead you; give yourself permission
to follow them even if it is just baby steps to the piles under your rugs. Even
in writing this, it is like continuing to give myself permission.