PTSD

What does PTSD feel like? What causes it?

I remember first finding out about my husband’s arrest, then slowly learning of the betrayals, addiction, and complete destruction of our family. I felt very much like Alice in Wonderland . I would dream and cry upon waking to find that my life was real and the dream was only wishful thinking. The PTSD came on as a result of the nature of the secret lies, the public arrest and media coverage, and the fact that I was married to someone for twenty-five years that suddenly became a stranger to me.

Suddenly my world no longer made sense.

I felt like everything was unreal.  The trauma was palpable and unnerving. I walked around in a daze for hours and days and then weeks and finally it felt like years. I had to numb my heart and mind or it would not recover. The very first full day after no sleep….I cried like there was no tomorrow. I couldn’t even breathe.

I completely lost my ability to think clearly for a while. I couldn’t do simple math, and my memory came at a very labored price. I forgot simple things like names, phone numbers, and history stories that I teach. I had to read each story five minutes before I would teach it for that first year. I had to make lists for myself in every area and carry them around so I wouldn’t forget to pay bills….cook dinner….do laundry….water the plants….get gas…..and breathe!

I was able to function…talk…dress…and even teach if I didn’t have to use my memory. But anything complex became a horrible struggle. I have NEVER felt so stupid in my life. Sometimes I would just cry at night….my heart broken over the fact that I had forgotten how to spell a simple word like awful…..or couldn’t remember the name of a colleague in the hallway that day.

I would also see things out of the corners of my eyes that were not really there. I would jump at the slightest sound. Trusting anyone felt like it took the strength of Hercules…..and just desiring to eat was a conscious choice I had to make. I was weepy,  and yet prone to days when I could muster no feelings at all.

I j umped at roaches and would see them crawling in my peripheral vision. My heart would tremble and my body would go into fight or flight at the slightest stress. The slightest trigger could make me cry for hours.  I remember someone sharing a song with me….and the lyrics made me cry for hours. I would watch a movie and have to cry…..see a commercial and totally be triggered by the women……..I remember going into Publix for the first time after I had learned everything….and being completely overwhelmed by the feeling that everyone knew….and some of the women might have met up with my husband. It was completely unnerving and disheartening. Feelings of intense hopelessness and worthlessness would flood over me seemingly out of nowhere. I was in very real danger of closing up my heart and never opening the door to my emotions ever again.

I remember my saving grace was teaching. I would walk into the classroom and could immediately feel almost normal. I could be the Leslie I used to be in front of the children. I could run my classroom and take field trips and forget that I was this broken woman in my other areas of life.

There are days now when I am able to be strong. I can believe that the world will be a good place and I have worth. But there are still times when the PTSD will return briefly. My heart will falter. Something will trigger an emotion or a memory, and I will feel so alone or so unable to move forward. My whole sense of time goes off kilter….five minutes can seem like five days. I lose the ability to think for awhile. I cannot plan. I cannot execute my plans. I simply have to hold on emotionally and try not to drop out the bottom of the black hole. This week it was returning to a pizza joint. I went there with my ex-husband….pizza night….anniversary dinners…take out. Sitting there in the restaurant, I could feel the wall…the numb….the dizzy feeling of all the emotions crowding around. I couldn’t be comfortable, and I just wanted to run out. It is crazy. I know when it is happening….and can look back and see what I should have done…..but in the moment….I am not able to deal with all those emotions. I will become numb.

Sometimes during this time, I will write. I often will try to do something that has beauty attached to it…..music, art, poetry, reading……a wonderful movie.

I try to pray or read scripture but often….I am immobilized and unable to do anything but feel like a scared rabbit in the grass being hunted by a giant war eagle.

Today it is not as bad as it has been in the past but it is there occasionally. I feel the tremble. I feel the fear. I feel the spinning that could go out of control.

Time seems to be lingering and hopeless. I cannot seem to trust that Good and Perfect gifts come from my Father. I cannot seem to believe fully that I am lovable and that someday I will feel loved again.

I am trying but my mind keeps getting stuck on what I do wrong in relationships. I have been up since three am and I need sleep. I have not been able to eat much and my heart is aching. I am longing again….longing for someone to hold my hand…..someone to see me…someone trustworthy to come into this mess and help walk me out. I am beating myself up….hearing the words that tell me I am not enough.

These and ten million more thoughts cross my mind and make it difficult to even breathe.

I have been in touch with a wonderful woman, Laurie Hall. She wrote a book called: An Affair of the Mind, which I read two years ago. She has walked this road and had some wisdom for me. She said:

Your fear of trusting anyone is very normal.  PTSD is also very normal when you’ve had this kind of trauma.  I lived with PTSD for over 20 years.  It was awful: self-condemning thoughts,
panic and anxiety, that would come out of nowhere and torture me.  I have finally found peace from that.  

Try this: when you go to bed each night, remind yourself that God is present with you and loving you and then repeat, “I let the love wash over me, I let, I let it be.”  Keep repeating this until you feel the love.

Then, repeat “I let the peace wash over me, I let, I let it be”.  Keep repeating until you feel the peace.
It was so good to just hear that all this is normal….that I am not just so broken in a way that cannot ever be fixed. It is so comforting to know that this is not something I am just making up in my head. I forget that broken places can take on normal ebbs and flows and others can help guide you through them. I am not broken because I did something wrong. I am not experiencing something strange…..I am experiencing something known and that gives me hope.
I can begin to use God’s word to fight this battle. I can begin to strengthen my mind and my spirit along with my heart. God does not fail us. When He says the truth shall set you free….He means it.
So I intend to work hard to gain freedom over this PTSD….these feelings of hopelessness…panic….anxiety….worthlessness….they will pass. I can identify them and feel them coming…..and I can fight them in the power of Christ’s love. I am so very grateful to Laurie Hall for speaking into this situation….and Barbara Steffens and Leslie Vernick for their powerful books as well….three women who are valiantly fighting for the hearts and minds of women (and men) who have been scarred by someone else’s sexual addiction.

God come for me in these moments. Help me to release control, breathe  your vision into my life, and walk forward making beauty out of these ashes. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder……PTSD…..

Come Lord Jesus…..create in me …..Patience, Trust,  and Self-Control …a reordering of my mind!  PTSC……a much more pleasant way to spend a morning! Take even my mind and make it yours today!

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.

For Sale: One Slightly Used Wedding Dress

Wedding Dress

For Sale……One slightly used wedding dress.

I ran into it at the back of the closet today.

I didn’t think it would make me cry…..

But there it was….all white and beautiful and outdated…..

It looked just like it did the day I wore it……but now….

….it has too many memories to feel safe in my closet.

I have had a friend bury hers. She took it out….had a ceremony….. and actually buried it six feet under.

I have had a friend sell hers and another give hers to someone who needed one….online I have read about people who made theirs into pillows to give to their daughters. I don’t think mine want any reminders currently…..

I cannot decide what to do with this dress.

None of my girls want it…….I wouldn’t want it if it had been my mother’s….a constant reminder of failure.

………..and I do not want it either. I find I don’t want anything from him anymore. I want to be completely done. I want to put my face forward and I don’t want to look back.

I am still dealing with how to be happy at any weddings that actually do take place…how to overcome the shame of a failed marriage….how to be a mom giving a bride away because there is no father…..how to stand there and wish them well…knowing that in their heads they might be thinking …”Well…it didn’t exactly work out for you now mom did it?” or they may just be hoping their marriage will work out better than mine did.

I brushed against the garment bag…..I heard the familiar rustle of the taffeta ….the organza….the ruffles.

I chose this dress because it seemed beautiful to me at the time….a lot like I thought my marriage would be.

The dress was flowing and feminine…..and so much like a  princess in my head. I wanted to be radiant and beautiful. I wanted to be a woman who felt her husband thought she was beautiful that day….

I desired to make a memory that would last…year after year…watching the video and reminiscing about how wonderful the first day was and all the wonderful days that followed.

In the closet, it brushed against my arm…..now a reminder of all that did not happen….and all that I failed to do….all that I had dreamed …….and all that came crashing down in an instant.

It is hanging there in the closet…..

…….and I am sitting here crying…. I am allowing myself to grieve.

I need to figure out what to do with one slightly used wedding dress…..

I need to figure out what to do with one slightly used heart.

Phone Calls

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I hadn’t realized how much I missed my friend until I heard her on the phone. I called her after she requested that we talk…she is kind and thoughtful like that….demanding to speak to me after I have not called for so long!

Her husband picked up the phone….we talked for about twenty seconds….just pleasantries…but then as he was about to hand the phone to my friend…..he paused….

“It is so good to hear your voice!”

The sincerity and simple honesty in his voice touched my heart.

Then it struck me……

It WAS!

It was SO good to hear his voice and then to hear my friend’s voice.

There is something in hearing someone’s voice….it is unlike a letter…unlike a text….unlike anything else in the world.

I have missed their fellowship and time has slipped by unknowingly…..imperceptibly….like a rushing river to the ocean…….

But the voices brought them close again…..suddenly they were here….in my living room…..their bodies were in Hawaii….but their voices were right here….in my house!

We talked for hours! It was like trying to drink from a fire hose….so much has happened in the past year and a half….so much to remember….so much of our hearts to share.

The two hours on the phone slipped by so quickly….we laughed….we cried…..

There is nothing quite like hearing the voice of someone who knows you….someone you trust to hold your heart…….

I so miss my friend. I miss seeing her face and just being able to call her and know she could come if I needed her…….

But then I realized….if I truly needed her….she would come! If she needed me….I would find a way!

We are made for fellowship like this. Our hearts grow cold without people to open up with and friends to trust completely. This friend is someone who has been here for most of my life…..

We went to High School together….but didn’t know each other there. We met right before we were married women…..

We used to talk about pregnancy and babies….nursing and toddlers…..the frustrations of parenting and the joys of little children…….husbands and mothers….and just life and living.

We still talk about all the same things….just not little babies anymore (until grand babies come I suppose).

Now we can talk about anything….and I trust that she holds my heart………. and it moves me to tears when she cries…..and I cry….and then we are both crying….and then laughing because we are crying for each other……

Love comes in so many lovely ways throughout our lives…..

This week it came in a phone call!

Questions for a Daddy

Beloved daughter, wandering, rejected, found, rejoicing

I was so anxious and filled with trepidation at the time.

He was going to call…..my dad was going to call.

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I hadn’t spoken to this man for 30 years……

I was frightened.…I was excited.

The Facebook message I sent him was filled with questions…..Why did you cheat on my mom?…..Why did you never pay child support?…..Why did you never call me?…..Why did you want me aborted?…..why…why……why?………………every mean thing I could think of that my mother had told me….. I fired off every mean question I grew up with. It was a horrible message. Not exactly a friendly…”Hey dad….how are you?”

He didn’t write back.

I remember worrying for days. I was a nervous wreck wondering if he just hated me. Perhaps he was just indifferent and didn’t even want to open the door to a conversation. Perhaps I had hurt him deeply with my questions……the days dragged by.

Then my sister told me that he probably didn’t even read Facebook messages. He was a newbie to Facebook. So I copied my message and wrote it on an email.

I got a quick reply.

“Leslie, these are a lot of questions to answer in an email. Can I call you?”

Can I call you?

I had waited forever to hear words like that….I had been desiring to know him a long time. I wanted him to call and at the same time, I was afraid of his call. What if my heart failed me? What if I couldn’t hear the answers or even ask the questions? What if he was unkind? What if all the horrible things I was told were true? Would I be able to discern who he was? Would my heart be able to withstand someone else being dark and hidden…..It was not pleasant….waiting and wondering was painful.

But my little girl heart wanted to hear his voice and the grown woman needed his answers.

So I took his call.

It was strange to hear his voice over the phone. I had to go down to the car to take his call in order to have some privacy. My girls didn’t even know he existed. They grew up not knowing that I had been adopted by my step father….for the most part…they thought my childhood was idyllic and that their grandparents were my parents….end of story. I hadn’t shared my pain or my story. I didn’t think I ever would. It wasn’t until my ex-husband’s arrest that any of the old longings and old emotions began to surface with a vengeance.

I remember that he let my questions from the email tumble out without interruption. Then he told me the story………

…..as if I was ten.

He kept it very age appropriate….but there is was…..a story so different from the one I grew up with. His story was not like my mother’s at all….it was the opposite….she had left….she had found another….she had needed more and wanted more…..he was the one who loved….he wanted the kids….he always wanted me…….she kept me from him. She made it difficult…he had loved her very much.

What do you do with competing stories?

Suddenly my life had more competing stories than I could deal with……my heart just burst…right there on the phone….I couldn’t stop crying…..all the desires of childhood….all the love I had wanted to have for this man…..all the anger at my mother…all the anger at my ex-husband and his lies…..all of it came crashing into waves of tears.

My dad just listened and talked to me. He told me I was strong, and I could make these decisions….no one could tell me who to love and no one should. I could let go of the past and move forward………He told me about some of his story……….. growing up and being a boy without a dad. His dad left the family…abandoned the family and he didn’t get to know him until he was in his twenty’s. He told me some of his story of life with my mom………. Saturday morning cartoons when I would snuggle up in his lap before mom would wake up. He patiently let me ask questions and patiently answered them.

It was a conversation that I had waited 30 years to have, and I was so sad to know that it took me that long to finally stand up for myself and talk to my dad. I was sad that he hadn’t broken through my wall and come for me himself. I was angry that my mom made this relationship so difficult. I was heartbroken that my world was so very broken.

I got off the phone and realized that I now had a daddy. I had been longing for one forever! I was someone loved by a father. I was someone’s little girl. He HAD delighted in me. He even remembered it! And even if I hadn’t received all the truth or even if I never learned what the true truth of the story was….I had done the impossible….I had talked to my dad….and my heart got a little larger.

Files

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I was divorced exactly one year ago today. It was a simple proceeding…..I really was in shock at how God wooed my heart that day. Everyone in the courtroom seemed to me to extend an extra measure of kindness and concern for my heart….the guard who opened the door and pulled out my chair like such a gentleman both at the start and finish of the proceedings…the judge who asked me no questions except to state my name and who looked at me so kindly and told me I was done…. with such concern in his eyes for my children…….and the friend who was with me…walking me through such a difficult day. There are days when I still cannot even remember how I got to this point in my life…..where did the tapestry unravel and how was it that I didn’t see the tear before the whole thing unravelled? But God has walked with me every step of the way and has shown me that He is not willing that my heart hide and be overlooked. I feel like the one sheep that he left the 99 for….I feel like I am in some ways more than I was…..in some small way, I have been brought low in order to be strengthened and shown the depth and breadth of His love. So today….I remember……..and I am preparing to start a new file!

I just picked up my divorce file from my lawyer. The case has been closed since last year and she wrote me and asked me to come and pick it up. It was an unceremonious proceeding. The divorce was simple. The only complicating matter was that my husband was in prison at the time. Some things had to be routed to a police officer up in the area who would deliver the materials to get signed and then bring them back out of the prison. The only complicating matter on my end was the cost and the heartbreak.

My life with him now sits before me in a brown expanding file. There are four sections. Each one has different information about my marriage and my life stored in them. Each one is a reminder that nothing went according to plan. There is a file for the original workup, one for the bankruptcy case, one for the mandatory disclosures and then a final one for the pleadings.

I feel like they are a metaphor for my own journey.

The original work up was the wedding and my life before June 15, 2012. It should be full to the brim with details about birthdays and Christmases. There should be a whole sheet in there on the birth of each baby and the adventures we had moving so many times when the kids were young. A page on Seminary, long walks, and holding hands would fit in here. There could be a section on the visiting of relatives and the friends we shared and kept in contact with from high school.  The school where we taught, the church we attended, the lives of our girls, and vacations would all have a page. And it might be mentioned in there somewhere that we rarely fought. We were friends and enjoyed talking to one another.  All the good and wonderful things about our marriage would go in here. All the love, joy, and happiness that filled those years carefully and lovingly written all over the pages of this file.

The bankruptcy case would be full of all the times I felt unprotected. When he left his teaching job unexpectedly after his first year, that was the start of eight jobs in twenty-four years. The disengagement and the yearning for a different life that was expressed so regularly are slipped in on a scribbled note on the bottom of the file. The abandonment I felt, and my inability to express my feelings and thoughts all get to go in here. All the times I was told I wasn’t enough, or that I was holding him back fit in this file. The moments of loneliness and the slipping into an addiction that slowly happens over time all crowd this file. This is a terrible file. All the notes are red or black. They are written with heartache and unresolved anguish. I feel like the bankruptcy file was never-ending.

The mandatory disclosure is the file that contains the story of what really happened. It is where I found out about the addiction. I found out about the shadow. The ugliness of what I discovered fills the whole file! Disclosures are mandatory….but they hurt. Even my own disclosures are mandatory. They go in this file too. It is full of the moments when I failed and the moments when I was small and unkind. The story of my life is in the disclosures.

The final file is the pleadings.

What exactly are pleadings? The dictionary entry was surprisingly accurate here. The sentence they chose was poetic.

  1. the action of making an emotional or earnest appeal to someone.
    “he ignored her pleading”
  2. LAW
    a formal statement of the cause of an action or defense

I filled this one with my tears. I pleaded quite a bit. I know I didn’t always say what I should have, but I did have pleadings. I didn’t have the boundaries I should have, but I did make earnest appeals for what was right and good and beautiful. I am allowing this file to be the formal statement of the cause of my actions. My earnest appeals are done. My time of grieving is continuing. My understanding of the reasons I walked away are clear. I am done pleading. I am instead going to choose. I choose to walk forward, and I choose to see clearly. Pleadings won’t help. I am finding that only facing things squarely and speaking truth help.

As I carried my prize back to the car that day, I passed a man and his two children. His little boy and he were out walking with the cutest little girl. I stood watching  this lovely scene. Her guide stick got stuck and her father was patiently guiding her and teaching her how to see in this new way. She was smiling and bouncing along tapping her stick out in front of her. She was just a seven-year old girl out on a walk………..walking blind and trusting completely.

As I got in the car, the grey rain falling down was mirroring the tears falling inside the car. I realized that I longed to be blind. I wanted to be blind to this ugly mess. I didn’t want to be left holding this particular file. I wanted to believe again that someone could love me faithfully. I wanted to believe that someone IS who they say they are, and can be trusted to tell the truth. I wanted to skip along confidently knowing that someone knows me and guards my heart. But I am not blind. I am not innocent anymore. I have a file full of memories.  I would like to burn this file and start a new one some days, but I know that I love too much in the files to get rid of it. Files like these are an all or nothing proposition.

So, I will keep my file and learn to be thankful for it. I know it will be in the learning to be thankful, that I will truly learn to see.

Disclosures

I want to scream at him……

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“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”

It hurts so deep that even tears cannot touch this. Where did the happiness go? Where is the trust? Where is the carefree girl who could laugh and play? Where she went is a mystery. In her place, there is this woman who is grieving and hurting and questioning….”What have you done?”

The question bubbles up and sticks in my throat. I cannot utter it out loud. I cannot cry it out of my chest. I cannot make it go away.

“What have you done?”

 My head wants answers. I want reasons and things to fix. I desperately want to fix all this and make it as if nothing ever happened. I want someone to come and tell me that I am mistaken. I am not seeing clearly. I want someone to hold my hand and let me know that this craziness is just a dream.

“What have you done?”

How can I get an answer from the one I do not trust? How can I get answers in the dark and hopeless place which this has sent me into?

I am incapable of fixing this one. I am incapable of bringing healing. I can only lay prostrate on the floor and utter the question.

“What have you done?”

I am sick in my heart. I am sick in the pit of my stomach. I am sick in the very place where I am supposed to feel his love. I am tired and walking in a fog.

The tears stream down and the cries are painful and deep. I cannot wish for a father to hold me any more than right now. This is the time when a girl desires that her daddy come for her and take her up and just be a father. This is the moment when a girl longs to be known and protected and given assurances that her father will always cherish her heart.

“What have you done?”

I want to know and I don’t want to know. I desire the facts and yet the facts feel as if they will kill me.

This tsunami is flooding in and I am ready for it to pass and be done. I am ready to be beyond the knowledge that there is always more. I am ready to move beyond the brokenness and into a place of healing. But I am not able to yet. I have to face every piece. I have to hear the answers that I don’t want to hear. I have to face the things which I do not want to face. I have to walk one more road.

 Instead I will ask Him…..”What have you done?”

And I have to let Him come and gently take my heart and lift my face and tell me that He has done all this for my good…..for my salvation….for the love of me…..in order to draw me to Him that I can live with Him forever.

“What have you done?”

“Lord, you have come for me and that is all I have ever needed.”

 I will rest in that tonight.

Ordinary Me

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People have asked me if I feel ready to date. The minute I hear that question, fears begin running around in my head.

I was married to the man I met in 10th grade in high school….

I dated (and I mean one date) a boy named Derrick…he took me to a movie. We drove in his truck. It was so high off the ground you had to jump to get in. He was a fun date….but he moved away!

Then I had my first real boyfriend….we walked around the mall…we went to homecoming….we sat at my house and talked. We hung out with our circle of friends.

I went out on one date with a body builder the summer of my senior year of high school. He took me to see Cujo and then to Pizza Hut for dinner. I literally ate one slice of the large pie and he ate the rest while he showed me the multiple pictures of his flexing poses that he kept in his wallet. He listened to me though…he heard a little of my heart as I mentioned that I loved the park, sitting on the swings, and watching the stars. He took me there before the night was over. He was at least a gentleman.

That is it. Then I dated the man I married.

That is my whole dating history. It is not exactly stellar and varied.

Lately I just feel like…………………….. a wanna be…I wanna be younger…I wanna be special to someone….I wanna be healed already….I wanna be prettier….I wanna be more confident………….….I wanna be secure in myself……………I wanna not cry anymore and I wanna be all God desires of me and perfect!

There is so much to being an adult, and I am finding there is so much to being a woman who has been hurt.

But all these fears would be able to fit in a tea cup….I could get past them easily if someone came for my heart. I could easily talk and share if someone just helped me open the door. These are not the fears that make my heart stop beating.

It is  other fears that stop me in my tracks. The ordinary life fears.

Isn’t that funny?

It is the ordinary every  day things that have hurt the most.

I am brushing my teeth and it hits me….no one else on earth has shared this moment and seen me with my towel on my head…brushing my stupid teeth….rinse…spit…the very ordinariness of it makes me cry. I am afraid that it is here that I was not enough….perhaps I am too …..too….lacking in these ordinary places?

I wake up now in the mornings and look in the mirror….I am distraught…perhaps it is here…perhaps the lack was in the morning….my bedhead and wrinkles? It is horrifying! I am not making this up! It is actually horrifying to me to even consider letting someone see the ordinary me again…ever!

The me without any makeup…the me that leaves her shoes on the floor by the bed and gets way too many clothes out in the morning and doesn’t have them put away by bedtime neatly in the closet. It is the me that was too tired to get the dishes done so the kitchen is a wreck in the morning at times….the me that didn’t take out the trash right away so the bag sits by the front door for a couple of days…..the me that doesn’t have time to vacuum the car so the jackets are piled up on the back seat because I haven’t had time to take them upstairs.

It is the me that sniffles in allergy season….the me that has puffy eyes after a night of crying….the me that wants to complain about a small hurt someone gives me and the me that has four books open to the page I left off on strewn about the bedroom. I have piles of papers that need filed and eyebrows that aren’t always plucked to perfection…..I can ruin good clothes in the wash and easily forget to be kind to my daughters.

It is the real me…the ordinary me that I am most fearful of lately.

It is the horrifying moments when I remember that I am just this ordinary, less than perfect by far, completely stubborn woman. That thought make me shrink back and know that I am incapable of being anything like one of those girls in movies that can be everything all the time. I am incapable of being witty and smart and generous and loving all the time. Most of the time, I am just a small, ordinary, run of the mill, slightly selfish, sinful human being that gets most of the things wrong in her life. I see every fault, every flaw and every weak area so clearly now.

It is these moments of terror looking in the mirror for rinse and spit that I realize where the deepest wound is…..

He saw the ordinary me and decided he needed something much, much more……

I have been known and rejected.

That is the wound that just won’t seem to heal…………… because……….. I see the ordinary me too…………and I certainly don’t think she is exciting in the least.

She is just……ordinary.

It is in these moments that I have to step away from my feelings.

I have to step into being a beloved daughter on faith alone.

I have to remember whose I am, and that He made me for a purpose.

I have to trust that His plans for me are good and He is faithful.

I have to trust…………even when I don’t see or feel any truth.

I have to remember that I don’t see clearly……and I don’t  remember who I am yet. I am still healing and still becoming.

I have to trust that it is OK to be ordinary.

God help me see myself through your eyes today.

Liesegang Patterns

I  was mindlessly wandering through my Twitter feed ……..detoxing……and I came across this post.

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. At first glance, I thought it was just another photo of bricks…..until I took a closer look. Then the beauty of it leapt off the page at me.

Ah beauty….how often I miss her because I am only thinking she comes in great, grand paintings and poetry. I saw this photo, and I suddenly realized how often I must miss the greater portion of beauty every day simply from blindness, misunderstanding, and pride. Would I have ever thought about the swirling patterns in grout….in mortar….as beautiful? How small and prideful I am to simply think that beauty only is found in things I consider worthy of beauty. I am like that with people no doubt. I consider only certain qualities beautiful and instead of looking deeper or in a different way, I can write someone off as not worthy of the title. What happens when I look deeper?

I often find beauty startles me. She is seen as I stare at a woman standing before a bunch of people teaching …..expressing her doubts and misgivings…… and showing the most beautiful parts of herself without regard to my opinion.

I find her in the mother…..the newcomer……. who is simply looking for community and sharing her love for writing and blogging with me one afternoon. I might have missed beauty here, because I was tired and had no connection yet.

I see it in the details….of someone else’s love of details. The beauty of their service simply given and the ideals held in such esteem…..

Perhaps beauty is hiding in places and in people so that I have to search…..be an active participant…….

Perhaps a model’s beauty is so evident that I can feel no attachment to it…..because I don’t have to work at all to see it.

I wonder if I would appreciate a flower more if I had to hunt all day just to see one? Would I appreciate the beauty of the stars more if I never saw them and had to travel hundreds of miles to catch a glimpse?

Or is it that I am clouded and choked by my own pride and ignorance, and so beauty hides herself from me in all but the most evident ways in order to reveal my pride when she does shine forth in unexpected places?

I had hoped to be a tender, old woman faithfully seeking the beauty, truth, and goodness in my husband and being the tender, beautiful beloved he sought after even in his golden years. I knew in my heart that if we could weather all the storms and seek the good in each other’s hearts year after year….a well-worn beauty would emerge and shine forth…….a loveliness seen through, and in spite of, the human frailties and sin.

Unfortunately I did not count on the strength of evil. I am not someone who sees evil easily. Isn’t that funny…..I tend to miss the evil and the beauty at times.  Now I desire instead to see the good….the potential…….the beauty people have deep inside……without ignoring the evil ever again.

Liesegang Patterns……Swirling grout…..who knew it could hit my heart so profoundly today. Will I soon be able to look back at a twenty-five year set of marriage memories and see the lovely swirling patterns amongst the ruins and crumbling bricks of the demolished structure?

Sometimes the simplest things can be the most complex.

I am finding that I learn a great deal in the oddest places lately.

Disco Diva

I am staring at some words on a page right now……..”I love to dance!”

They are true……but not true ……..hmmmm.

 I don’t want to go out to meet a match that has written to me…….. because he says he loves disco and freestyle dancing.  He says he really doesn’t like to waltz or Texas two-step…….

 It just triggers the hell out of me.

One of the places I feel not enough is dancing.  I just don’t get it. I don’t like being the center of attention in that venue. I don’t feel like I look good or pretty or even remotely sexy while I am dancing like that. It conjures up all kinds of horrible feelings for me to hate disco this much and feel so inadequate around that type of dancing.

 It makes me remember someone. UGH!  I remember her ability to be a wonder woman in this area. She loved dancing. I was told she was a dancer at a local strip joint. She could free style dance and be the sexy woman on the dance floor. I actually admired her ability to be so carefree. I, on the other hand, am more like a wooden doll on the disco dance floor.

 But in social dancing…… I can be myself!  Give me a Colonial gown and I can dance the Virginia Reel and feel absolutely lovely. With a pair of boots on, I can do the Texas Two-step (albeit not very well) but I love it! I could practice and get much better. I loved Salsa lessons, and I am sure I would love to Waltz and even do the Jitterbug! I would enjoy Swing….anything that didn’t require me to pretend I am super sexy and able to think up all those moves on my own…..to impress some guy!

Ugh! It is maddening. I just don’t desire to dance like that. I admire people who can, but I cannot!

So here I sit about to write some guy and tell him that I am too busy to meet at all this week or ever. I cannot meet him. I cannot. It would take all my energy just to pretend ………the memories of feeling so inadequate would make me feel so totally crazy and not enough and stiff and unsexy and……the list goes on!

I see now that I will never be that dancing, disco diva. I am simply a silly, melancholy maiden…….who turns down dates because she cannot stand the thought of not being a good compliment to a disco man. I am not a Disco Diva. But I at least love that I am a Social Dancing girl. It is a real step forward to be able to love this part of myself!

Someday….someone, who also loves social dancing, will be interested enough in me to call or write.  They will invite me to some shindig with fiddles and waltzes  or quartets and Virginia Reels……then I can write back…

“YES….I would LOVE to go dancing!”

Learning to Live With an Open Hand and Open Heart

I am sitting here staring at a picture of a family…..a broken family. I see the mom and her children and the dad….the man I know is addicted to Porn and all manner of sexual darkness. They look so perfect in the picture. Everyone looks so happy and full and real and unbroken.

That is the crux of the madness……the looking perfect but being full of sin and sexual addiction and broken sexuality…….it gnaws at my soul just now.

I saw pictures yesterday of a bride. She was beautiful! She was radiant and lovely and looked so happy. All the congratulatory comments and words of affirmation were most likely so heartwarming to her soul.

I could only stare in disbelief as my heart did somersaults and flip-flops and my brain was screaming at me…..about how difficult this was and what would five years from now look like and didn’t she see the potential pitfalls of marriage……… and what kind of man is he really?….Will he care for the children or end up hurting everyone….EVERYONE….when she becomes not enough to fill his soul and this life not enough to validate him…..and darkness becomes the only thing he really desires.

I am sitting in my bathrobe, and it is still dark outside. Learning to sit and just be with myself is a major victory for me. Just learning to travel and go through holidays and teach and clean my condo and enjoy my sense of style in my condo and in my clothes is a victory.  Finding out what it is that I like and which foods that I enjoy and allowing that I make mistakes and allowing myself to suffer the consequences without moving into shame….and allowing that I can be late or forget something or worry about money that I have to earn…. or even desire to learn piano or how to re-mineralize my teeth….all of this has been a fun and painful journey. All of this has been me learning to be an adult….an individual.

But….learning to say no and to accept that I have desires and want things out of life…….learning to say no to a man  with whom I just don’t feel I have a connection that will lead to more…..learning to accept that I cannot be all things to anyone……..learning that I am not even pretty to everyone……learning that some men don’t feel a connection with me…..

Learning that I am small and insignificant and barely tolerable at times…..learning that I can be petty and selfish and stubborn and prideful and vain and full of the most stupid, insipid ideas of all time……. These lessons have been important too.

It takes me by surprise every year when I read The Horse and His Boy with my fifth graders….there is a  line about the war-horse that I love and hate. He is finally in Narnia and has run away from a lion instead of running back to save the others and the  main character,  a mere scrawny boy, was braver and ran back instead of away…….and this horse is lamenting and has decided that he should return to captivity instead of entering glorious Narnia because he is unworthy. And the wise old man comes to him and tells him that learning his lowliness is what will actually make him a real candidate for entering Narnia where some horses are much greater than he and others are just like him while still others may be less than he. It is the finding that we are ordinary and not as great as we thought ourselves to be that allows us to finally reach a place of becoming someone pretty good….pretty capable of being used by God.

I am finding that place.

I am finding ordinary pleasure again….the kind that allows you to sit in your bathrobe and enjoy that your bed has fresh clean sheets and a pretty comforter…….that your pictures still aren’t hung from the move five years ago but that you enjoy looking at them lined up on the floor……that the old computer still has the photos on it and still works, and you still need to log on and go through all those memories one more time for the next graduating girl…….that all this living is getting easier some days and more difficult on others and that is how it will always be because that is what life feels like……you just hadn’t noticed because your heart was so closed off.

Learning about myself from sitting across the table from dates and learning about myself through close friendships and learning about myself through writing……and learning about myself through soaking prayer and counseling and living and family and just being a person has been a journey……and continues to be a journey. Perhaps all the blithe stickers are right……it is not about the destination….it is about the journey.

As I prepare for a journey that quite frankly feels larger than I am able to handle……..I am seeking God’s will. How do I reach the hearts of other teachers? How do I communicate with people who do not understand me completely? How do I fly so far away? How do I trust another man with my heart? How do I open up and have a voice for all these desires inside this head?

Learning to live with an open heart and an open hand before God has been quite a journey in the last few months.

I am getting lots of practice!

Mostly Dead

I don’t want to slay dragons!

Right now in my bathroom  there is a roach! It is under a bench and lay dying. It is legs up and wiggling its antennae and front two legs……and I don’t want to have to go in there and drop a book on it. I discovered it last night as I was on the floor texting a friend. Just sitting in the dark talking electronically about a college trip upcoming and asking how a flight went, I was startled when it climbed around making noise in a box that had delivered a package to me a few days earlier. The packing peanuts were making noise.

I screamed and flicked on the light and out it jumped….terrified like me,  I suppose. I ran to the kitchen and got the roach spray. I hate pesticides and try very hard not to use chemicals….until a roach jumps out at me. I stood up on the bench in my bedroom and sprayed the whole can at a bug that was only an inch and a half long. It ran around like a crazy out of control creature….which of course it was. I then ran out of roach spray and got some gardening chemicals left over from a plant my daughter had left with me years ago. I sprayed that on the bug next….well really I sprayed it in the general direction of the box and bug. It jumped out of hiding again and ran for the bathroom……

I sat in my bed brooding. What do I do now?

I decided to turn out the light and call it a night. I sat afraid and grumpy and hurting in my heart….in bed….in the dark….

Angry.

I always get a little angry with God when bugs show up. It is an ongoing argument.

Me: Really God? I simply hate bugs. You know this, and yet here is this disgusting, large, horrible, scary bug….and I am alone and supposed to get rid of it?

Him: Silence

Me: But I hate bugs….and I hate the helpless feeling that being scared of them gives me. And I hate having to squish them and hear the crunch and feel all weak and scared inside over a bug. I know this bug won’t hurt me, but I am afraid all the same.

Him: More silence and a gentle smile……

I brushed my teeth in the front guest bathroom, crawled into bed….got out of bed….turned on the light….hunted for the roach and found him lying under a bench in the bathroom wiggling slightly but legs up.He was mostly dead.  It was good enough for me, and I went to bed .

This morning however…..I had to check to see that he was still dead. He is still only mostly dead.

I am debating about which book to use to crush the remaining life out of him. I am still conversing with God. I am still feeling small and afraid of a roach. I feel vulnerable here.

That is it.

I hate feeling alone and vulnerable and desiring a protector.

I want someone who isn’t afraid of roaches. I desire someone who would protect me from bugs.

Isn’t it silly? Here in the 21st century, I desire a Knight.

I just don’t want to be the bug killer and have to make myself safe in every situation.

I want to trust and be protected and not have to hear crunching bug bodies. I desire protection.

It is very simply a desire of my heart. I want a hand to hold and a man who will hear my screams about bugs.

It is ridiculous and old-fashioned and so….so….disheartening to me when I am not able to feel safe and not able to just be brave.

In my fifth grade classroom, a boy usually steps up and kills bugs easily,  or I put on my teacher face and simply step on them, and it is done.

But in my bedroom…..in my own house….I want a protector. I desire a Knight to come and protect me here.

Ugh!

Off I go to face the dragon….er…I mean cockroach.

Yuk! I hate this part of being single!

The Question

After being a wife and mother for most of my adult life and being a child who was both a baby of a family and the oldest of another family…..

I find myself having difficulty finding the me….the I …the wants.

I want…….

What do I want?

I find it much more comfortable to help others achieve their dreams…..my girls need weddings…..and college help……. and advice with various things….I want to help them.

I want to cook the food that they like.  What foods do I want? I have been slowly developing the answer to this as I prepare to be an empty nester next year. It is not that I won’t cook for them….just not every day moving forward. Now I will cook for me and cook for them only on special occasions.

What do I want? In daily life….how do I want to structure my day? I have all the freedom of a single woman. I can eat out when and if I desire and even pick the restaurant. I can go to a movie…..sleep in on Saturday……go to the farmer’s market and browse old books…..look over veggies to my heart’s content…..linger over the gardening section.

I can read books by the pool…..play piano, paint, write lesson plans and grade papers.

The question becomes what do I want today?

Will I learn to take walks and visit with friends and go to plays at the Shakespeare Theater?

Will I take a class or write poetry and novels?

What do I want?

Why does that feel so lonely to me right now? It feels exciting on one hand and lonely on the other.

Ugh!

Why can I not get to the place where it only feels super exciting?

I think it is because I have done so many exciting things….and I do have fun and love getting energized and creative. I traveled to to a foreign land…..I co-wrote a week long teacher training….I taught teachers in a foreign place…..I walked on a continent half way around the world. I ate at their restaurants and looked inside a gorgeous Catholic church that was amazingly beautiful…….it was so fun to see the hymnals and Bible in another language. I walked around markets and saw people bent over working in rice fields. I went to people’s homes and saw a different kind of life than I am used to here. It was amazing! And yet….a simple phone call from someone back home made my heart lurch…..the suddenness of the homesickness was surprising even to me. I was crying after that phone call simply because I immediately saw it…..

What do I want?

I want to be in a family. I desire to be a wife in a family with my children and have the ability to wander so far away and be missed……because I am known and safe and loved.

I want to be able to have wings to fly half way around the world and feel loved even there knowing that I have someone to fly home to who is desiring to see me and looking out for my good and building a life with me…….and missing me enough to call me and hear all about my silly adventures.

I know what I want.

I want to be a wife.

I heard myself not long ago on a date…..he asked me, “So, what are you looking for?” He meant what am I doing going on dates….what is my ultimate goal here? He told me all about what he was looking for. I couldn’t quite voice what I was looking for other than…..”I desire a godly man…..someone trustworthy and someone who would desire to marry and love me for the rest of my life.”

I know what I want. I want to have the passion and fire and creativity to live out my dreams…..all the while…..walking with someone else who has a passion and creativity and desire to live out theirs while walking with me.

It is just this little question that keeps getting in between me and dating….

“So…what is your relationship with porn?”

I keep getting answers like, “Well….I don’t have a problem with it. I simply look at it. Every man does. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.”

“I cannot believe you asked me that question. I …..I have looked at porn. I can see how it doesn’t really add too much to a relationship….but I cannot promise I would never look at it again.”

” My ex and I used to watch it together.”

“Porn? What’s wrong with porn?”

“I have no interest in porn but if you aren’t willing to be intimate before marriage……then we are not a match.”

None of these answers makes me feel safe.

Some day.….I will find a man who answers that porn has no hold on him.

 He will also be interested in staying and talking and learning about me at deeper and deeper levels and open to sharing himself with me at deeper and deeper levels.

I will find a man who desires to pursue me. Who sees something in me that he simply cannot seem to walk away from. He will desire to fight for my healing with me…..and will be able to push past a little bit of a broken heart that stops me from always seeing clearly and sometimes makes me afraid.

Someday…..someday I will either be so wrapped up in just being single and loving life in the fast lane of my dreams and passions….writing and teaching and grandmothering and traveling and all of that…..so much happening that I will lose this desire for a husband….

Or….someone will see me and desire to learn my heart and walk with me into a relationship that can move forward into a new chapter.

Thank You Grief :)

I have been processing again lately.

I never know when it will crop up….

Sometimes it is for a moment and then swiftly flies by, and I can be sunshine and happiness again. Sometimes if comes in for an evening and I am better in the morning. Sometimes……like the last week…..I have gotten a massage, and it has released some of the trauma from my cells (isn’t it strange that our bodies keep track of trauma, and we have to work hard to remove it?)…..and I cry at anything that reminds me of the betrayal. I cry when I read about G.K. Chesterton’s quote about the importance of mothers ……because I remember that I thought he was working toward a family with me. I have to release the horror of finding out that motherhood was meaningless to him and that the only thing worth anything in his world was how much I could give him physically…..or what strangers and excitement could give him physically. Sometimes I am sitting in my living room just aching in my heart….remembering that I wasn’t acting or pretending, and he was. I wasn’t making believe that family was important….to me ; IT WAS.

I have deep, deep memories of the emptiness that I thought was my fault. I have deep aching places where I was rolling a huge boulder uphill and wondering why….why it felt so difficult to be married and raise children. I believed it was all my fault……that I just couldn’t feel deeply enough and see clearly enough and appreciate fully all the beauty that I had. I truly didn’t see and understand what darkness was eating away at the fabric of our lives. It has taken five years and some odd months to even begin to process the depth of the hollow shell that made up the pretending and acting and living of a separate, dark, evil life.

So I sit and feel those moments now……the ache actually pulses through my chest and sits in my throat just now…..it is a releasing of a memory …….one in which I desired something so deeply. I desired to be a beloved wife. I desired to have a husband who learned to love me….my mothering….my cooking…..my shape…..my mind…..my love of words…..my stubbornness……my creativity……my small places…..and my love of all things Lewis, Chesterton, Assisi, and bookish or gardenish or butterflyfish or colorish or…..you know…all my ishes and wishes.

I desired to have a husband to honor and respect and come to trust completely. I desired to feel his care and sacrifice for me daily and to never doubt his faithfulness. I desired to care for him and learn his places and dreams and …….and to always….always fight alongside him for God’s glory and our family’s legacy.

But tonight life is so very far from that dream picture of what I desired.

My dreams are shattered and never….never will they be reformed. And not only that…….but the level of betrayal cut such a deep gash in my heart that my very survival has been in question in my heart and soul. The very flicker of hope has sometimes been at stake. Sex addiction can be such a painful blow when a man has been acting for 25 years…..and you ….you were not. The pain of unraveling all of that can be tremendous at times….overwhelming……and exhausting.

So I just allow myself to sit and feel it now. I can cry and process and talk to myself……call friends…write…..talk to people….. and even listen to music.

I can slowly make room in my head for more revelations and more learning about how my body and mind and spirit have been affected…..and most importantly….

I can feel this grief and allow myself to walk through it knowing it doesn’t define me. It only hurts…..for a time…..and then God uses it to make me stronger and more compassionate.

So grief…..do your thing. I have a free night. Go ahead and come out. I can sit here with my heart bleeding tonight……

Tomorrow I will wake up refreshed and ready for a sunny, gorgeous, Autumn day filled with lovely fifth graders, a gorgeous senior planning a college trip, and a heart that has endured and felt emotions that have made me tender in places that needed to be made tender.

Thank you grief for teaching me kindness and patience and compassion and empathy and how to ache without giving up hope.

Thank you Jesus….for walking even here with me as I navigate yet another set of holidays.

One day…..these days will slip by, and I will be too busy playing with grand babies and puppies and friends and family to even remember this grief in more than a passing way. I will nod and smile and knowingly remember to be thankful for how it filled me with a new kind of wisdom that only this particular road can give.

So I will be thankful now……even before I get to that place.

Forgotten

I have forgotten……

I have forgotten how to simply be….

It seems like some days it should be easy…..light….tremendously freeing to just be.

But I have forgotten……

Some days love seems as if it may chase me and find me and fill my heart with sunshine…..

But then night falls, and I am alone and my body remembers that I desire a partner on this journey….

I have forgotten how to smile and relax and have fun.

I smile and laugh and have fun….I just never relax.

I have forgotten how it feels to simply invite someone into my world.

My world ceased to be for a while, and now I feel like it has no doors……only windows with which I stare out at all the other happy people.

I have forgotten how to love someone……

I used to allow my heart to share memories and pictures…… places and events and babies and bodies and food and talks and books and baths and chores and family….. with another…..

But I have forgotten how to build that again……how to let the process start over…….how to simply be this woman……… and flower into a new creature amidst the ashes of the old.

I have forgotten……

Some day…..a someone may come who desires to awaken the forgotten way…..

He will help me remember and awaken…..

And I will walk in sunshine and roses and tears and laughter again…..

Building a life out of the grief and the pain…..the glory and the daughters…..

He will remember with me and suddenly all the forgetting will seem like a dream.

But today……

I have forgotten how to fall in love.

Sweetness

KODAK Digital Still CameraToday was beautiful.

Today was one of those gifts in so many ways.

Let’s start with the obvious…I live in Florida…..and today was gorgeous! The sun was bright, and the sky was that deep blue that makes you just want to dive into it! The air was clean and crisp in the morning yet gentle and warm by afternoon…..oh…to sit out and watch the pond warbler out by the playground….that was my real desire….to walk the beach…..to sit by a lake and to read and look at clouds!

I started the day off with a meeting. It was a good one. My heart was tuned to the problem at hand for the day. I saw the need in my classroom, and I began to pray. I had the tools already. God is good about providing the scripture for the morning that is exactly suited to the fifth graders’ needs that day. During the devotion that morning, we read the scriptures for the crucifixion. The students were so somber……they were listening with those ears that are beginning to hear things that they have never heard before in the story with which they are so familiar.

After the reading…..I asked the questions…..it is always the fastest way to get to their hearts. I asked them if they had ever been in a place where everyone seemed to be against them….when they felt that no one liked them…….when someone or lots of someones were saying things that hurt their hearts?

The change in their faces was visible. They had clearly ALL felt this deeply….even at such a young age….they had all been hurt. Can we be a person and not be hurt by others?

Someone started us off by offering  some insight into their heart. Someone had been in the place where someone had said something mean to them. Suddenly…all the hands were up. Everyone wanted to talk. Everyone had questions and stories and wanted to know what to do in their situation.

I could tell this was not a five-minute devotion. I could tell this need was an ongoing teaching opportunity.

Some of the questions were….What do you do if they make fun of you? What do you do if they won’t stop saying mean things?

So I walked through a couple of examples, and we talked through a few situations. I really was only walking them through how to respond in a way that wasn’t mean and hurtful.

Isn’t that difficult? When someone hurts us, isn’t our natural inclination to hurt them back? Isn’t that what our broken flesh tells us is right even though our spirit would tell us it is wrong?

So we talked through how to tell someone what they have done that has hurt you. We talked about making sure we tell them specifically……I was hurt when you…..fill in the blank.

They couldn’t just stop there. They wanted to let me know that they had tried to do that sometimes…and they felt belittled….people were apt to tell them they were being a baby if they told them they had been hurt. “What are we to do then?” They all wanted to know!

So I walked them through how to let the other person know that being made  fun of for sharing a hurt was unacceptable, and I walked them through how to allow the other person the opportunity for repentance and reconciliation.

That led to questions about how many times, and when do you give up, and what happens if you decide you don’t want to be friends with them anymore?

We walked through how and when to let someone know that you couldn’t be a friend if they continue to hurt you. We walked through how to tell them that when they are ready to change and repent, you will be there open to their change and ready to offer forgiveness. You allow someone to desire to change and allow someone to have a new slate when they are ready to truly change their heart.

Everyone was eager to talk and everyone was ready to discuss the hurts they had received. So I had to ask……..…..

What do you do when it is you that gives the hurt?

What do you do when it is your sin that is exposed?

Everyone got quiet. Once again, we all knew we had been the transgressor too.

It was a good few minutes of reflection.

Then at lunch the sweetness continued…..two of my sweet boys were having a tough time relationally…..they had hurt each other. I had them stand with me for a minute. They were ready to tell each other….they were able to name the hurts and apologize and even take responsibility for their part.

It was such sweetness.

They shook hands and then these gentlemen went and played four square. They had lived out their lesson and their hearts were lighter for it.

 I realized later, God had been speaking to my heart all day. I have been trying to work out forgiveness. I have been trying to name the specific grievances. I have been trying to face the hurt. I have been trying to tell the story. I wish it were easy as an adult to get to the lightness of heart that fifth graders enjoy.

I wish today that it were as easy as a handshake…..a smile….a quick word of forgiveness….and then off to four square. I have been desiring to move beyond the broken places and be at peace with someone who has hurt me. I have been yearning for the sweetness of innocence a lot lately. Don’t we all desire right relationships and sweet, innocent friendships? When did life have to get so complicated?

I desire to go to the Master Teacher and get a morning devotion. I will raise my hand and ask all the questions of my heart. Then perhaps, I can get to the living it out and gain the lightness of an innocent heart again.

That would be pure sweetness!

The Picture in My Head

Everything is not always just what we see with our eyes.

The picture in my head is what I am battling today.

In the picture in my head,  life could be beautiful and someone would pursue and love me.

In my head, I am someone more real, more loving and more capable of perfection…..

But in the mirror, I always see the lines where the babies have stretched out my skin……I see the lines on my face etched there by worries and time.

I see the broken places where I get stubborn and shut people out.

Today, I feel the silence as I enter the condo, and she is in her room pretending I don’t exist because she feels I have not seen her and don’t love her.

I hear the distance and feel the wall when I am not someone the girl can come to and talk about anything with, and open her heart.

I am the one who can do things…surely…I have accomplished that sometimes……I can take care of certain things…….

But I am also the mom who cannot take care of….hearts and hurts and everyday things like “What do I do when …….?”

I see just how small I am ……

But the picture in my head can be so much better…

In that picture…… I am warm and open and inviting and can handle everything myself.

 In my head…….I would be Wonder Woman and Superman and the Flash and Spiderman and all the super heroes rolled into one along with St. Theresa and St. Francis. I could plan a wedding and reception effortlessly and flawlessly….I could counsel them on every hurt and every fear…..I would be able to take them on trips and provide anything they needed. I would be someone who needed no one and nothing from others .

The picture in my head is of a woman so strong and capable….so gracious and empathetic….she can care for neighbors and friends and manages her household and teaches with perfection and skill.

In my head this person I am supposed to be is awe-inspiring and physically flawless. She is someone who doesn’t have any flaws visible or invisible, and she is clever and witty and passionate and so satisfying as a person that a husband would never leave her or even think about another woman.

In my head…….there is something I have done wrong…..and all of my dreams fell apart because if it.

In my head….there is this voice that whispers that if only I were more like that woman……I would have the happy Facebook posts about canoeing with my lovely family…..vacationing with my husband…..taking college trips or bright family gatherings…..the family….….the perfect family…..

……….all these perfect people in my head are killing me.

I am not the woman in my head.

She is a terrifyingly real person to me because she is everywhere else…..on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram….

She is all those other people and in all those other families….but I see the real me here inside.

Inside my head…..there is a real knowledge that I can never be the woman I am supposed to be, and I have screwed up  so much that I can never ever even begin to have wonderful, perfect relationships.

If only the woman inside this head would move out!

If only my head and my dreams and reality could collide, and she could take shape in the flesh for even a day.

In the meantime….the woman in my head will continue to mock, and the woman I see in the mirror and inside my heart will continue to move forward…numb….falling apart…..broken and discouraged……filled with hope….always optimistic…joyous and beloved………and forever walking a tightrope of twisting and spiraling emotions around her own broken and hurtful ways.

Someday I will let go of this mortal coil and finally be able to see just how much of the woman in my head there truly is inside this soul.