Plenty of Fish

I just spent some time looking through a website for dating….Plenty of Fish.  I heard about it while having coffee with someone. I am laughing and horrified and so aware that I am feeling like a high school girl all over again….you know….the one who walks down the hallway carrying her books….carrying her dreams in her head….carrying her hurts in her heart…..wanting someone to see her but terrified of rejection. THAT girl!

I cannot believe we have come to this. We put up some pictures of ourselves….some look professionally done and others look like the person doesn’t know how to take a good picture……We write what we consider to be a witty opening….”Will You Be My Valentine? Are you Looking for Me? A Cutie with a Booty” (that one made me laugh out loud!

Then we fill out all the statistics about ourselves….5’8″ tall….brown eyes….desire a woman between 34-47…..looking for someone honest, caring, compassionate, and sexy!

Wow! I am reading through these and the fear is sky high! I see men that look absolutely crazy….others who look great but sound absolutely crazy…..some that look lost….a divorced, shy man who has young kids and admits that they are just getting by and things are tough because of the divorce….another that says he has a brain injury and is so lonely…..another who looks so arrogant…..and another that has posted close ups of his biceps and every picture shows off his chiseled physique.

My mind is spinning….I cannot make myself sign up. Online seems like an irrational place….a place where people go to pretend they are real people…a place where we go to look through shop windows and try to find someone in two dimensions when real people exist in three. How on earth could I click on someone’s profile and invite them to a cup of coffee? I would not sleep every night before the coffee. I would have to have my friends do a complete background check…fingerprints would be great, and then I would need three references and would need to find someone that I know that actually knows this person and their story! I would have to find someone from my area, and I would have to actually find someone who knows them first and could introduce us in person……perhaps dating sites need to be like LinkedIn….where you can see how you are connected to people…..then you could date within a real life realm….if everyone in your Facebook or LinkedIn or Pinterest…or Google circles who was single would show up…and it would tell you who you know that knows this person….then a dinner could be arranged…..a background check could be done….their story could be shared and there wouldn’t  be flipping out ……worrying that this stranger was not really who they claim to be!

How on earth could I trust someone to tell me the truth about who they are?

And that is the reality….I think online dating just sets it right up there in front of my eyes….on the screen….I am seeing my ex! I see him in every profile….

I remember sitting at lunch with someone who was telling me their story. She was telling me some very tough things about her ex-husband and she stopped a minute and looked at me….”But if you met him….you would think he was wonderful! You would think he was one of the nicest guys you had ever met!”

That stopped me in my tracks.

It made me think about people and their stories. How will I move into a place of trust? God this is scary! I know that for me…online dating can probably never happen….my story is of such a horrible online betrayal……I know for others online dating has led to wonderful marriages….my own dad found his wife online, and they are very happy. I have heard stories of lots of women who find  online dates and have met wonderful people.

I am the one broken…..and I can see that now. I just need to quit beating myself up over it and realize that for me….God will provide a different way because He knows my heart. He knows what I need.  I need to continue to live into “Try less and trust more!” So online dating is really no different in the end. Someone can deceive you in person as well as online. I am well aware of that!

There are plenty of fish in the sea….I am still trying to figure out how to trust just one of them someday.

Reaching Out and Letting In

photo (51)I am going through a lot of emotions around reaching out and letting someone in.

Reaching out is difficult because I feel so much difficulty about sharing my story. Part of me feels like I have to throw it out there very early in a conversation…..a way of saying…or gauging…if someone is strong enough to handle this difficult part of me……

I feel like I need to let them decide very quickly…very early…if this is something they want to allow to enter into their life….four daughters….an ex who was in prison…a woman who is still grieving and probably will be at least hurt and healing….for quite a while.

That is a heavy load.

I know that.

And I am not someone who like to add burdens to people. I would rather be able to serve them….to make their life easier….to add sunshine and roses to their difficulties…not add more than any one person should carry.

Then there is the part of me that just feels some shame remaining around being a failure….a failure at marriage. I failed. That is how I see it some days. I know it is not the complete truth….but the grain stings completely. The part where I was sinful is enough to make me cry even as I write these words. I failed him in a lot of ways. I didn’t speak up….I didn’t shout and stomp my feet when I should have. I didn’t’ voice my heart at times, and I just began to despise my marriage in areas when I should have brought them to the light. I am still working through my failures. I have to come to accept my part completely without the guilt and the tiny drops of shame that remain. I need to take the guilt and let it change me…..I need to work through the shame and let it force me to the cross.

Then there are the emotions around letting someone in. I have had some wonderful dates. I have had some moments that feel just lovely. But….that triggers a lot of feelings of remembrance. I remember that I totally thought that man I was living with loved me and was guarding my heart. I totally bought his lies. I am absolutely in a panic when I think of trusting someone again. I look for the indicators from my past that could let me know exactly when and where the lies and the manipulation started…..and I cannot always find them clearly. I find that I really trusted him. I totally trusted his words….even when my intuition told me not to. I am afraid….I am afraid to believe someone….and even more….I am afraid to feel intuition…..I am afraid to begin that cycle again and find that someone else would……lie….or not see my heart….or use me again. I don’t want to just survive. I want to live life abundantly……but I know….I hear my friends…

I have to show up.

I must have strong boundaries, and I have to stick to them.

I have to care enough about myself to have hopes and dreams and desires and needs and then….not compromise them.

When I am hurt, I have to speak up. Ugh!

Part of me would like very much to just run away and join a convent. I would!

Part of me would like very much to not have to see clearly…anyone…at any time. I would like to see the world through my rose-colored glasses and perhaps….just remain…..here….perhaps this is far enough, my heart says.

But the better part of me desires relationship…a strong, healthy, completely open and vulnerable relationship.

 I am not satisfied. I am going to figure this out. I am going to become fully vulnerable. I will speak my mind. I will not give in and give up. I will build something….with someone who can and will fight with me and for me. I will not allow the past to control me, nor will I fear the future.

I may end up alone. I may end up finding someone else who devastates my heart…..but I won’t allow the fear of that to stop me from reaching out and allowing someone in.

Tonight, I am grading papers. I have cleaned the condo and fed the girls. I have listened to music and written…….and I am trying to remember how far I have come.

I listened to a sermon in chapel today. It was a wonderful reminder of the most important thing. Mr. Ingram’s sermon  started by telling the kids about all the “things” he had fixed at his house over the three-day weekend. Then he talked about broken relationships and asked them if they would stop everything to fix one of those. He explained in the most powerful terms how very important fixing relationships is….and that we need to give that the highest priority in our lives.

This is where I have sinned. I did not try to fix relationships……by showing up and always voicing my hurts and needs and desires.

I ran….I hid….I silently stewed. I am guilty.

Alleluia….God comes and shows me that I am forgiven and redeemed!

A Small Fearless Manifesto!

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I want to tackle something head on today.

Fear is a horrible thing!

I hate being afraid….I am someone who grew up afraid of my mother…..afraid of the dark…..afraid of being alone…..afraid of being vulnerable and physically small and being hurt.

I never wanted anyone to know I wasn’t perfect….and perfectly afraid of being seen for who I really was.

Well… fast forward five decades and now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt…..that I am loved. I am loved and God made me just like this…..

I do have to speak to him about these small boobs though.

How unfair in a world of fake ones and large ones and porn stars………

Why on earth would he saddle me with ones that simply don’t measure up? (Lol)

I am afraid I can never get remarried because I am not ever going to satisfy a man……

Going to the beach is a nightmare! Trying on clothes is dangerously self-esteem destroying…..

It has taken me a long time to face this fear….

But I am tackling it head on lately!

Yup….I am small.

I am short…I have short legs….short eyelashes……short nails…..short fingers….and small boobs.

It is the defining feature about me. I have a willowy figure…..and I am going to get used to it….to embrace it….to come to terms with it….to rejoice in my own structure….even if it kills me.

I refuse to get fake ones.

Not because it is wrong or somehow makes you less brave or less anything else.

I simply refuse to get fake ones because for me….it would be a defeat right now. I need to face this body….the one I have…..because I have always feared it.

My body…this one….birthed four daughters. This body nurtured and fed them…..these small parts of me helped them grow strong and self-assured.

My body delighted in a husband’s touch. This small frame loved being a wife. I loved being held, and I loved being married…..not every second mind you….there were grumpy days and days when my body ached and my sensitive nature was up in arms. There were days when I just wanted him to come for my heart, and I felt abandoned. But there were days when my little body could think of nothing more pleasurable….nothing more enjoyable…

But there were also more and more days where I felt like an object…..something to be used and discarded.

I remember feeling alone….alone even there…in the most intimate place on earth….

This little body walked though hell and still remembers it all…in the very cells of this frame are the memories. I feel them at certain times of the year.

So, I am not afraid of this body anymore. I know its frailties and its glory.

I was made small. I was made for great passion and great giving. I was made to give birth and give life and teach children and write fanciful stories. I was made to delight in full moons and flowers, gardens and art museums, stories and people who tell them. I was made to glorify and enjoy God forever. No matter what….this next year….I will live fearlessly more and more.

I am changing….I am becoming…..not even small things can make me turn back!

Preparations

Gourd

Ok…so this is going to be a difficult week…..a glorious week….a week full of lots of conflicting emotions! I must get ready! So how does my body choose to get ready?……..

A sinus infection!

Yup! A really deep one.

That is when it hits me…..as I am lying in bed…..antibiotics coursing through me….a sinus spray opening up my rock solid face……

This is a difficult week.

I hadn’t remembered until I was in Publix. I was waiting to get my medicine. Killing time is difficult in Publix so I strolled over to the card aisle. I figured I could get a jump on birthdays or thank you notes that I would need coming in the months ahead……

Only….the aisles are full of Father’s Day cards.

Ugh!

The holiday….the one that is very painful even now……

It came the day after…..the next day….the most important holiday to celebrate their father came as he was getting out of jail and trying to explain away a disaster of epic proportions….a lifetime of decisions were about to flood into our world and sweep away our family.

It is also graduation week.

My girl is graduating and becoming an adult. She will go away to college in the fall and begin a new phase of life. I am praying it is one filled with lovely memories, friends with deep and sincere hearts, boys who will treat her with the love and respect she deserves, and moments when she sees herself so clearly for the beautiful creature that God has created her to be!

She is armed with all the love I could muster in these last 18 years. I failed a lot. I succeeded in places. We cried and grieved and walked together as a family through hell for the last four years…..and now she is going to get to move past some of it…..

Except we still have to get through this week.

We still have to grieve even in the midst of lovely ceremonies and parties and friends and families all gathering to give weight and pomp and circumstance to a milestone that is no little achievement at our school.

So I am trying to prepare tonight. I am trying to honor the emotions and allow myself the space to grieve beforehand….so that maybe….just maybe….I can be wholly there in the moment and enjoy it without the stain of grief. I am trying to let the tears come now…..sort of release the pressure…..so that I hopefully won’t fall apart when I need to be strong and full of hope and happiness.

It makes me so angry though. I have to stand there…..beside all those lovely mothers and fathers……those families that are making it in a broken world…….and I have to put on my brave face and smile and pretend that my heart isn’t breaking completely in two.

I will never understand how strangers and lust and darkness were worth all this grief and brokenness. I will never understand how the chase and the power and the lower passions were worth not being here to see this beautiful girl graduate and become a grown woman.

I will never be able to understand the choices daily that led him to such a dark place….when he had all this beauty in front of him just waiting for his father’s heart to scoop it up and bask in it! I cannot understand how others were more enticing when these four gorgeous beings were just waiting for him to pray over them, open up to them, come for their hearts, and enter into their lives.

Perhaps someday I will have a different perspective….but tonight…the ache is so real. The empty spot as I sit there at graduation will sting completely even now. The single me……smiling and hugging friends, setting up parties and coming home at night to a house that is solely mine…..will be remembering the other graduations where I was part of a duo…….a marriage…..a wife with a husband……sharing in the joys of raising children.

Tonight this heart hurts for a little girl who will have an empty seat at her graduation. My heart hurts for the family that will have an empty place in the celebration. My heart aches for the wife who still grieves inside of me because her life was being slowly stolen from her even then as she was unaware of the danger.

God come and fill that spot for us all. Come and fill us with so much of You that we don’t remember anything but Your fullness. Help us to make memories that are both sweet and meaningful in the midst of these difficult moments. Help us to so cling to Your goodness that all else falls away in comparison. Help me to be enough this week….help me to be strong……and most of all….be the Father these girls need this week and always. Guard their hearts and come pick up the broken pieces as they walk forward. Make each new step and each new day a new memory of how the One True Faithful One came and rescued them even here!

FEAR

12139973_10204869344314151_2949000489767028097_oFear…..

This is a topic that has haunted me since I was a small girl.

At first it was monsters under my bed…..well…..really monsters in my house. I was afraid of the bats…..the bat….the one that lived in the corners of the attic cubbies right outside my bedroom. I would be petrified and stay awake at night fearful of the bat and not having the courage to creep down the long narrow flight of stairs to the bathroom.

I was afraid fo the big dog…a St. Bernard….on a huge, thick chain down the street. He had attacked someone before….I walked past that house daily on my way to school….trembling with fear.

I feared the dark and the alone that came with it as a little girl. I would lie in bed and just tremble with fear…….the questions crowding my mind…what if someone came to hurt me….what if someone came to kill us…what if someone stole in and was hurting my brother and sisters….what would I be able to do to save them?

Fear also had a name….it was the Ouija board….the spirits….the ghosts…the cemetery….the evil that was palpable some nights……I would feel the darkness and the evil and just shudder at the thoughts in my head…..what if the devil came to get me….what if a ghost stole me or came to harm me?

Little girl fears can be very large without a daddy to calm them.

As I grew…the fears began to subside….but still they reined large in my mind.

I didn’t like walking alone at night…..I didn’t like staying alone at night.

The fear of being hurt by someone powerful was large.

I felt powerless and small and vulnerable to being hurt.

I remember fearing the walk from school to my mother’s shop. I had to walk through the neighborhoods that were economically challenged. I had to cross town by myself, and I felt very alone and very vulnerable. I would often quicken my pace or look down and fairly fly through those places….trying to arrive to a place of safety. I look back and don’t think I was ever in danger….not real danger…..I simply felt afraid for no reason.

I remember walking up to the park to watch a baseball game one night when I was a sixth grader. The fear of the dark came over me so suddenly on the way home. It was irrational and panicked me so badly that I ran all the way home.

I never liked staying alone in the house. I could imagine all sorts of awful things happening. I remember stories from my mother about aliens abducting people….stories from my sisters about dark evil spirits…..it all became very confusing in my little girl mind.

It followed me into adulthood as a general fear….

I felt vulnerable when alone….I hated doing things at night by myself….I never liked staying alone overnight.

I can say that my fear is a defining part of me. I am only recently overcoming this fear…….

I can stay alone now…..I can walk alone….go places at night alone….not be afraid of people…..and walk out in confidence in new situations more today.

Fear has no place in our lives……caution is good….fear is debilitating.

Fearing yourself and fearing your spouse……those two things are not healthy.

I had a fear….it grew…I feared saying anything that would be construed as critical…..that would make him believe even more than he already did, that I didn’t love him….

I feared the words that would make a mother disown me…..and actions that would make others think the worst of me.

I was not living….I was living in fear.

No longer!

I will not fear what mere mortal man can do to me.

I am not going to be afraid to tell a man what I need or what I won’t put up with in a relationship.

I will never fear the needs I have been created to desire…..

I will not fear someone who doesn’t believe like I do….

I will not fear the alone or the dark or the pain or the evil in the world.

I have finally given in to the Love that frees my soul. I will fear nothing….I was not created for fear. I was created to have life and have it so abundantly that it spills over into the darkness and suddenly lights up the sky like fireworks or a sunrise spilling out of the ocean in an instant!

I will not fear being seen or being known or the fact that I need a man who can make me feel safe before I trust and honor and cherish and obey.

I need cared for at a deep heart level, and I will not fear it.

I will simply not settle for less than that.

FO NO LTD

Eye

FO NO LTD….

On Freak Out Days…….. NO Long Term Decisions! That is what she was saying to me as I huddled in my closet for a late night crying session.

Of course I will freak out….of course I will have days when I trust no one and feel like everything is wrong.

 I am on the phone with her and crying and freaking out and changing my plans because suddenly my plans seem like mountains and mistakes and certainly foolish and no one will come and no one can be trusted and I am foolish to even believe I could get past this!

I have to talk, and I have to cry, and I have to face all the new revelations as they come. I have to walk this road and not look back because it is not a marathon….I will not run forever….it is a journey, and I will have good days and bad days.

No one text is the defining moment….no one person will fill all my needs….no one moment will crush me.

I have to learn that on those days when my emotions come crashing in around me…..I have to stop and just feel….but NOT make any big decisions.

And when the emotions do subside…..I need to move from a position of strength….not fear.

I can bring those feelings to whomever I need to….to whomever I trust and care about…..and let their response to these feelings be my guide….whether to cut and run….whether to move closer…..or whether to move in a new direction altogether.

I do not have to fear my emotions nor do I have to cover them up.

This is hard work….this healing and reaching out and allowing myself to feel. It drains me and makes me feel crazy.

I like the days when I feel strong and capable. I like the days when all the clothes in my closet are great choices, and my hair just falls into place. I can plan and cook and teach and juggle schedules and never think twice about doubts or fears. Those days are easy. Those days give me strength and courage.

It is the dark days that make my soul shudder. The days when all my clothes feel frumpy….when my hair just won’t behave…..and I burn the meal. I feel like my teaching was boring and my life is falling apart at the seams. Those days are difficult and scary. I feel weak and afraid.

So here in the midst of this Freak Out Day….I am resolved to make no decisions other than to feel this….and pray……

God, thank you for friends who help me navigate the stormy waters!

Basketball and Shadowlands

KODAK Digital Still Camera

God my heart hurts tonight!

What a night! Screaming and cheering and remembering and grieving!

It is always difficult for me to go back to certain events.

This year it was the faculty student basketball game.

I sit there and love every minute of it…..of the present game! The past still haunts me though. I have to sit there and remember all the moments when my ex played….when he was one of the faculty and was being cheered on by the crowd, and I was so excited and my students were so excited that he was playing. I have to feel the sting and grieve the memories every year…..but they are getting less and less every time.

There are moments of hurt and moments of joy lately.

I talk with my counselor and he is so helpful. Of course there are moments of grieving still. Of course there are things to still work through.

Lately it is beauty again…..this time in my face.

Really?!?

 Why does it have to always come back to beauty? I can’t seem to just be finished with this topic. I cannot seem to sort it all out and get to the place where I can take my eyes off myself yet.

It really bothers me some days.

 I am hearing affirmations from people….You are gorgeous……you are so pretty….I love your eyes…..You are more beautiful in person than pictures…..

And I am able to receive the compliment now. I wasn’t always able. I couldn’t always hear it or believe it even a tiny bit.

But now….I can hear it and even feel the warmth of it in my heart. I can appreciate beauty ….even my own a little more each time.

So why can’t I look in the mirror and see my own beauty at all yet?

That was the topic today. The revelations were pretty surprising. It is always great to have an intuitive counselor like Caleb to help me see what my words are telling me and to hear between the words into my heart. I am always indebted to him at moments like these.

I was going through the feelings and impressions I have when I look in the mirror. I was telling him that I cannot help but see my mother and father in my face…..it is strongly there….each parent. I have my mother’s chin and my father’s nose…..the Sherrick forehead and eyes…..I have the Majot chin and lips. But more than the shape….I associate the voice that comes out of me with my mother and the face with my father……

After some discussion about how my desire was for my father to break through every wall and come find me…..my heart’s longing as a little girl for him to seek me out….to protect me….to never give up desiring me and never leave me even when I couldn’t run to him…..

After talking about how the words I heard were ugly and disheartening….how every story was about anger and untrustworthiness in that man I longed to have in my life….

He told me that I had a set of faulty synapses. My brain was wired to incorrectly see myself as all of those things…..I see all the ugly that I was hearing and experiencing. My self-image is distorted. I don’t see properly. I look in the mirror and see myself….sure….but I see through a veil and darkly.

I need to bring all the desires of that little girl before the throne and before my God and allow Him to redeem them. I need to bring those hopes and fears and lay them at the foot of the cross. It is only going to be there that my brain can be “rewired” and that my sight will be restored!

I had never ever thought this thought before. I had never even imagined that my brain could fire incorrect signals to my eyes, and then my eyes would tell my brain that I was ugly. I never dreamed that I was wrong. Hahaha….that is my stubbornness and pride showing right there. I figured I knew best and completely and without fault. I looked at myself and saw how ugly I was and that was that. I had never….EVER imagined that perhaps I wasn’t seeing clearly.

Now…I am not supposing I am some sort of beauty queen….but it did open up for just a moment….this idea that perhaps….just perhaps….like those models that couldn’t look themselves in the eye in the mirror and couldn’t see their own beauty….my eyes were not seeing “me” correctly.

I don’t know why that felt good and healthy….but it did.

I began to hope.

So my good counselor….he says…When you begin to hope….that is where all the hurt will come up and all the barriers to hope will spring forth….the enemy will try to use hope and the things that would kill hope to make you run back into the shadows.

The enemy would like nothing more than for me to never ever see  myself clearly….my sins or my glory!

So I am walking forward this week….trying to focus on seeing clearly……rewiring the image of myself…..asking God to bring hope and clarity where there has been brokenness and heartache.

What a big mountain this feels like. I am walking on a very long and arduous journey to get to the place where I am seen and known and loved…….

And yet….I know I have always been here …seen and known and loved by the One who made me. It is funny how He moves our hearts to deeper places even as He reveals that the ground beneath us was always solid….that it was us who were too much in the shadowlands to feel its weight and solidity beneath our feet.

Crying Days

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There will be crying days.

That is what we need to tell spouses coming out of a sexual addiction relationship. There will be days when you just get triggered and cry. You will not be able to put your finger on just why all the time. Sometimes you will. Sometimes you will know the reason so clearly that it stings like it did the very first day you found out your life was a lie.

Sometimes you will just have a numb ache and you will sit and cry inconsolably and wonder if you will ever…..ever …..feel normal again.

Today is a crying day.

I had a good weekend….but unfortunately there were so many triggers….and responsibilities are mounting…..and so in the overloaded space….in the time crunch and daily grind….in the walking out of trying to get back to vulnerable and trusting….. and in the handling things again phase……I sometimes fall apart.

Sometimes I stumble upon old Facebook messages……sometimes I hear echoes of conversations….or feel the familiar loneliness of a comfortable friend that is no longer there.

Some days it starts getting close to graduations….and birthdays …..and anniversaries again and the tears just come. I don’t always know why. Sometimes they just come because my body is remembering the events of those months, and I don’t consciously think of them until I start crying again. The trauma is still in there….locked in my cells. I am trying to learn to release it……I am trying to walk steadily forward towards something new…..

But there will be crying days.

There will be days when all I can do is hold on and remember…..hold on and grieve….hold on and hold still….waiting for this wave to pass.

So….when you find out….when your revelation comes and you are in shock and denial or grief and overwhelming pain……

Just know that in the years to come……..there will be crying days and it is OK.

It doesn’t mean you haven’t made progress. It doesn’t mean you will be broken forever. I t doesn’t mean you will not get through this.

It just means that your heart is alive and feels everything passionately. It means you are alive and you are still grieving because you did love well. It means that you are alive and being alive means being vulnerable…..and your vulnerable part is working just fine…..it just hurts because you really did love…..and it really did hurt…..so much so that it seems God in His mercy is spreading the pain out a bit…..in little waves….so you won’t be sucked under by the weight of it. It comes crashing…..and then splashing…washing…..and then lapping….and finally trickling in over the years……..

Today a little wave came washing ashore…..triggered by who knows what…..but it will pass, and I will be walking again through the season of tears….

Thank you, Father,  for the ones who walk with me. They remember with me and know my heart. You remember me and always have good in store for me….even when I cannot do anything but cry out and ask You WHY! I will trust that you have nothing but good for me!

Seeing Too Clearly

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Sitting …on the sofa….I was hoping it would be easy….to discuss what I had been pondering. Yesterday was one of those awful days…where everything seems to fall apart. I had some special prayer on Saturday. I had received prayer for some things that happened when I was just a girl….mother wounds.

We all have them.

Sometime our own mother can come and heal those….she can speak words of comfort and healing and repentance and forgiveness……

Sometimes….she is not ready or is not willing.

I am lucky enough to have a spiritual mother….someone willing to pray for and with me….who will speak the words I am longing to hear from my mother. She is one of those beautiful women who takes on other people’s hearts and does it with a love so strong and wide and lovely….that she becomes a spiritual mom. I am so very thankful for her. This is the second time she has come and prayed on my behalf with powerful prayers that heal me.

I didn’t ask her or tell her what to pray….she came and gave of herself…she and my friend, whom I love dearly, both decided that I needed to have these words spoken into my heart regardless of whether my own mom would ever be able to speak them. So  together, they prayed.

I was so thankful for their prayers. I was so thankful for the words  spoken. I didn’t give her any insights…..but the words of her prayers and the scriptures she was led to choose…..they were straight from my God to my heart. I felt as if she was looking into my soul and reading the hurts there…..God was able to use this beautiful woman to heal a very deep, deep wound.

And I am finding that whenever God moves to heal us….the enemy comes to wound us further. I have learned that in the week or so following healing prayer……I face so much tribulation that I often am tempted to run away and hide rather than lean into the prayers and let them soak in more deeply.

This was no exception.

I was having an awful week….the sky was grey….the mood of my home was grey…..the classroom felt grey…..the food tasted grey…..and when I looked into the mirror….everything seemed bleak and grey. That is how it felt…..to me. I was forlorn….there were dark and grey things happening around me….friends were suffering…..time was running low…..the holidays were not feeling a bit bright….and I was beginning to give in to the lies that would say….I should never speak again….I should be invisible……I should never have needs….and I am not loved.

So I called my friend….the one who knows me and shares my brain……and we talked and I shared and she shared and by the end we moved on to deeper heart issues….my issue….well one of my issues….I always, always look in the mirror or at photos and see…..ummmm…well…I see ugly. I see skin and bones and wrinkles and lack and scarcity and well…just ugly. And she shared what she sees in herself. And we discussed beauty and how our ability to see it in ourselves is broken. And we wondered aloud…..how do we get past this? How do we come to terms with our looks and ourselves in such a way that we won’t always feel ugly?

We didn’t have the answers.

But then I sat on the sofa….and I began opening up…and I heard my wise counselor talking to me about beauty. I was able to share with him that I see ugly. ….and I see it pretty clearly….in every area of me…..almost like my eyes were opened, and I realized I was naked….like Adam and Eve….the garden kind of clarity.

I see too much I cried.

I need filters….I need a way to see myself like I see others. When I look at my fifth graders I see potential and beauty and goodness and just beauty everywhere. When I sit in chapel….the second graders are so beautiful that it makes me cry! They love and it shines out their eyes….they care for one another in such simple, beautiful ways. When I go to coffee……across the table are women that are stunningly beautiful….they just have so much beauty. I see it all around me. When I look at my friend….she is beautiful….her lovliness is as plain as the nose on my face. I cannot help but see the beauty in others. I don’t see the sin as clearly……it is more like a distant shadow…a small speck…..God’s beauty drowns it out.

But when I see myself….there is no filter, and I see myself with the full force of the light of ten suns.  I hear every unkind word spoken about me by others in my life and myself….I see inside my heart and inside my mind and all I see is the lack and the scarcity.

So he looks at me and asks me if I want to see the beauty. He tells me that perhaps I am afraid of seeing any beauty because it is easier to stay safe if I am ugly.

That one just threw me for a loop. Me? Afraid to see beauty?

But in the end….I have been afraid….I am afraid there is none there. I am afraid that if I have beauty….I will have to live like I have worth….and then ….show someone their sin….walk away when they are unloving and won’t repent…..I have been afraid of being abandoned and thought bad…..I have been afraid that someone will see me and choose not to love me….so staying invisible is just easier and safer.

I have not allowed myself to have desires and needs and wants…..I have not felt safe, loved, or known…..and all of this makes me view myself through a lens that is harsh and unloving. I pretend that all I need to do is pour out….and pour out….and never, ever need or desire anything in return.

The only thing is…without needs and desires….you cannot ever feel loved. I had shut down my heart to needs and desires….and couldn’t feel loved.

So here I sit tonight…trying to unpack being mandated to have needs and desires.

I have to surrender them to God for His glory. It is impossible to surrender what you never feel….it is impossible to glorify God when denying that He made me to have desires and needs. This is a very difficult homework assignment. I have to go into my past and dig out the needs and awaken the desires. Yes they were there….in a small way…in my heart….but now I have to go and feel those too…..

And I have to let myself see where I was beautiful…in my marriage…in my childhood, and in my current situation.

It all sounds so simple….but allowing yourself to finally see clearly when you thought you were seeing more clearly than anyone else…..is actually really difficult.

So…I have to start telling my story with yet another layer….the one in which I see not only all my flaws….but also all my glory….the beauty God placed in me…..the desires that will lead me closer to Him….the needs that make me lovely and human…….

I have to glorify God by honoring Him with my desires and my needs. I choose to follow Him….I choose to allow Him to love me fully…even the broken parts….even the unlovable parts….honoring Him by allowing Him to desire me….all of me…..and praying into my desire that He heal me and my vision of myself….and surrendering all my desires to His plan…..after voicing them in full and honoring the fact that He made me to have them……it is not evil or selfish to desire a husband….it is not selfish to desire to write….it is not selfish to work hard and become a good teacher….to need sleep or good food or art or music or any of the other millions of things I desire in my heart. It is not selfish to need love and companionship…to need someone to see the real me…to buy me gifts that are meaningful….to desire me….to choose me….to want to be kind and to love reaching out to others. I will submit it all to Him and glorify Him even here…..I need to get past myself and trust God’s plan and His provision even here.

God come and walk me through this barren, scarcity…this lack of love for myself…..this lack of trust in your good providence and your words that you will give me good and perfect gifts.  Help me to open my heart even more….to let you show me what I look like in every place….and give me your eyes….not only for others….but for myself as well……and then let me show these four daughters how to see themselves clearly…..though the lens of Everlasting Love and not through the harsh light of not feeling safe…..known…or loved. Help me break this cycle now….here…this instant…..allow me to speak the words they need to hear that will heal them…come in and fill their deepest need….and shine through their broken places until all they see in pictures and in mirrors is the beauty You gave them and continue to give them as they glorify you in all they do!

Debates

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It was very distressing to me to hear the banter…..

“He is a jerk!”

“He has fake hair and is stupid!”

“I hate him!”

“This man is an idiot!”

I had to talk to my fifth graders about Civil Discourse.

 We were reading about the trial of Christ during the Passion Week and also watching the Presidential Oath of Office being taken for the first time in a clip from the John Adams special done so well by PBS. The thoughts swirled inside my head.

What was the debate like in the convention…..that first convention when men were choosing a president for the first time? Did they belittle one another? Did they pull out all the trash? Was John Adams called a jerk and Washington seen as an arrogant idiot? What about John Jay? Did he dig up some filth on the others and spread backhanded rumors just before the convention convened?

I somehow doubt it!

I trust that those men who had just come through a war….who had broken away from a King….because of taxes and representation and unjust seizing of power and representative governmental position……I imagine that they were truly interested in who could lead the country best. I imagine they were interested not in baggage and personalities and nonsensical things like who had wooden teeth or wore a wig….but in meaningful discourse such as who could lead in the military engagements we might face….who had a vision for what a president should do….and who had the moral character, goodness, and truth to lead in a way that honored all men and women instead of treating them as less than like a king they had recently deposed.

I talked with my students about wooden teeth. I talked with them about being short and being someone who may have had pride or other issues. We talked about what makes a man or woman honorable and what makes a man or woman capable of leading. They knew……they knew that opinions about a man don’t make a man. They knew that only their record….their own statements….their own decisions in the past could be a true indicator of the man.They understood that unless you knew the man….there was no real way to judge their character.

Then we read the Bible lesson for the day. Jesus before Pilot. They all wanted to know why the crowd could chant for his death when they had seen Lazarus and had heard about the miracles and heard him teach. How could they turn so fiercely against a man who was no threat to them?

So we discussed the High Priest and the Scribes and Pharisees. These men were trusted. These men were the ones who should have known the truth about who this man was. They should have been listening to God and hearing the truth in the scriptures. But instead….their pride and hard hearts felt threatened, and they manipulated and controlled others to the point of killing an innocent man.

So we talked about who to listen to in difficult times. We talked about having to meet a man to make a judgement about his character and how to trust what others say about a man.

And in the end….we decided that what a man says and does is important.

What others say about him is important only if we trust the source.

We decided that a humble man…someone who is like Samson…the slave from our Bronze Bow book…who bows when he is freed instead of raging and destroying those he doesn’t understand…..that is a man more likely to be good and honorable and trustworthy.

I love that my classroom offers me so many opportunities to listen and learn. I needed to hear these lessons today. I am afraid I often listen to the media…..I often judge a man before I meet him….and I often forget that even those figures on television and in the newspaper are real flesh and blood beings….with goodness and sin just like the rest of us. Those men that seem larger than life…..when you unmask them are simply someone’s son….with hearts that ache and souls that need redemption. They can be selfish and small and hurtful and ugly. They can also be loving and kind and strong and desire the same things I do….to be known….and safe….and loved.

God come and guard our hearts and minds. Allow us to send men and women into the political arena who are willing to be real and stand up and fight this machine that would rob us of good civil servants. Allow us to be people who seek truth and not soundbites. Allow us to be people who judge a man or woman by their actions and their fruits. Allow us to calmly hear opposing sides and calmly disagree…always holding in the back of our minds the fact that we may be wrong. Allow us to once again have argument and debate without belittling or ripping apart the opposition as a way to win. Let us truly honor one another even in the disagreements. Let us choose not be enemies….but help us be countrymen….all fighting for the good of a nation we love. Help us because we have lost the ability to disagree and to do so in lovely and honorable ways.

Triggers

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So….I was told that once I became open and vulnerable I would experience triggers…..moments when irrational fears take over….or words that make you feel things from the past…..

What do you do when you feel like you are down in the bottom of a million foot ravine?

It is so confusing to me….being the one down here…. objectively knowing that I hate this and wish I could simply never speak of this pain again. I have watched someone else walk through this. I guess I figured it would not hit me as hard. I am so prideful at times!

I have been feeling better at times…stronger….like I am almost finished and able to be sunny and warm and witty and funny again. But today….NO….I am at the bottom of the million foot ravine….well…perhaps only a thousand feet down.

How could a simple playful little banter make me fall this far down?

I am told that getting over this bewildering phenomenon will take being honest about my feelings with people…..people I care about and actually desire to spend more time with. I am told I have to be vulnerable and open and that walking through these feelings is the only way to put them behind me in a healthy meaningful way.

But the opposite is what I always want to do. I want to clam up and never talk about this again and just pretend I am fine. Isn’t that what the person sitting across from the table wants? Don’t they want a sunny, vibrant, happy, well-balanced person to have fun with?

iI am sitting here wondering if I am ever going to be healthy enough for a real relationship again. I am worried that I am only going to be filled with sadness and grief for the rest of my life. I am worried that I am broken so completely that vulnerable is not an option because this sadness is too much for anyone to handle. I cannot walk out and it is not fair to ask someone to come into this with me.

I hear the voices that would say….be flirty…..be fun…..be happy all the time! Don’t let the sadness show….don’t let the deep wound be seen….don’t ever speak about it again. Let it go. Pretend it doesn’t hurt. Put on a smile and just say…”Everything is fine.” If I practice…..I know I actually could pretend pretty convincingly.

I hear the voices that say….he doesn’t want a sad girl…he doesn’t desire to hear your sorrows….no one really is faithful….and no one could ever be satisfied with who you are….because you are too much and not enough all at the same time!

But today is not forever.

I can allow myself to feel these feelings. I can cry every time I get in the car alone. I can go run it out on the treadmill or take a shower so I can cry. I can write, and I can pray. I can get through today because I know tomorrow….my feelings will abate. I can make it because I know my feelings aren’t truth. The truth is…..I have grown and become healthier. I have become someone deeper and more mature. I am more vulnerable, and I can be happy…..just not all the time.

I need to remember that if someone only wants the happy parts of me….then they don’t really want me at all.

If someone only desires the flirty, fun me….then they aren’t seeing me at all.

If someone leaves because I have needs…..or leaves because I talk too much or ask too many questions…..or am too sad sometimes….or need someone to help me remember whose I am…..then I am not loved by that person at all.

I need to remember that if I am the only one building or asking or desiring…..if I am the only one interested in learning about that other person….then I am alone anyway.

I need to remember that I will not allow myself to ever be in a relationship that doesn’t feel authentic and vulnerable and honest and real again.

So today is difficult.

I am feeling so many feelings. I know some of them are just triggers…..shadows…memories of a past relationship that scare me now because of all that happened below a surface that looked calm and beautiful but that was boiling with contempt and addiction.

These feelings will pass….and the sun will shine again. I will be stronger for having felt them and for working through them. I will someday walk longer and longer stretches of health and happiness before feeling these feelings again…..but today…..some simple words that were simply tossed out ….are making my heart ache in ways that I didn’t expect.

a life in process, beauty all around us, and finding our place in the world