I Can’t Fix it

Tags

, , , , , , ,

The old woman who lived in the house obviously hadn’t cleaned while she lived there.  The mouse and rat droppings vacuumed up.  The appliances required three applications of cleaner and sound scrubbings before they quit running mud.  But, the floors!  Oh!  The floors!

My right shoulder went from aching to burning and my right wrist began to get weak, so I switched hands.  I laid my body weight into the scrub brush, desperately trying to lift the black from the linoleum.

That night I barely slept.  I couldn’t roll onto my left shoulder without being awakened by sharp pain.

I soaked in Epsom salts and essential oils.  I iced the shoulder.  I diligently performed gentle stretches.  But, the pain persisted and I was unable to lift anything with my left arm.  I first had to lift items with my right arm and then transfer them to my left to carry them.

On my regularly scheduled chiropractic appointment the doctor couldn’t get my upper back to release.  The pressure his hold was placing on my left shoulder caused me to seize up and resist him.

I asked Doc what I should tell the massage therapist needed worked on the most.  He responded, “I’m going to talk to him.”

I didn’t think that sounded good.

The massage therapist worked and worked on my shoulder, pointing out the striatians of adhesions visible just under my skin.  I knew that meant the ox bone tool was coming.  After stretching, manipulating, and massaging the shoulder girdle, he rubbed an ointment onto my skin and began scraping the old and deep scar tissue, breaking it up in order to free the left side of my body. 

I fought tears. 

The pain was intense, and it was hard at times to catch my breath.  Then, he’d move to another spot, and I could talk and even joke. 

He wants to see me back in a week.  There’s more work to do on that shoulder.

As I stood at the payment/scheduling window, I could feel the sting of tears building up and heat flushing my face.  I wanted to burst into an open bawl.  Not from the physical pain this time, but from the emotions that had been locked up in that tightened muscle memory.  A pathway had been opened, and those old wounds wanted to flow out.  Out my eyes and down my cheeks. 

My massage therapist asked if I needed to throw up.

We discussed the powerful mind/body connection, and I shared that I was aware that just saying the word “control”caused me to tighten up and pull my shoulders forward.  I wanted to control my pain and my reaction to it, and my body responded accordingly.

As I drove home, crying and praying out loud, I was keenly and suddenly aware I can’t fix it.  I can’t fix anything.  I can’t fix my ruined childhood.  I can’t fix my promiscuous past.  I can’t fix my broken children.  I can’t fix others’ perception of me.

I can’t control my painful experiences by fixing them to appear better than what they were.

I could not and did not give my children a better experience by being the opposite of my own mother.   A clean home, an emphasis on education, and home cooked meals didn’t fix the dysfunction of our family life.  My children still ended up beaten, molested, raped, and neglected.  It wasn’t my mother’s slovenly habits that allowed those things to happen to me. 

Working out to the point of pulling ligaments and giving myself a hernia didn’t keep my husband faithful.  Being thin didn’t fix his infidelity.

Graduating community college, securing a good job, and building a successful business didn’t provide us with security.  A steady cash flow didn’t fix my husband’s spending and addictions.  It didn’t fix his lack of responsibility.

Sewing for my children, planning creative parties, raising farm animals, attending church, providing extracurricular activities…..none of it fixed the gigantic holes in my heart or the scars to my body.  Nor those of my children.

After all of the exhaustive running and doing and trying, nothing got fixed.  I was beaten, starved, molested, and denied medical care as a very little girl.  Nothing can fix that.  It didn’t magically go away because I ran my daughter to horse riding lessons. 

I was brutally raped by a “friend.”   All of the sleeping around and breaking up with boys didn’t fix that.  It didn’t erase the memory.

My husband beat me, choked me, raped me, sodomized me, and tried to kill me.  All of the crafting and home schooling and canning didn’t fix what he had done to me.  My attempts at being the quintessential homemaker didn’t provide me with a loving marriage.

Texting my adult children constantly and sending them care packages doesn’t make up for my failure to protect them as children.  I can’t fix their very real pain and resentment by accepting whatever lifestyle they choose now.   Being the cool mom to my 20 somethings doesn’t mend their brokenness nor does it erase my guilt.

I can’t fix it. 

What’s done is done.  This is our reality.  It’s ugly.  It’s harsh.  It’s socially unacceptable.  But, it’s our reality.  It’s what we’ve known and what we’ve lived.  Nothing done today can fix yesterday. 

So, I laid it on Christ today.  I tacked it to His cross.  I may have to do that everyday as more scar tissue gets exposed.  But, it’s His and His alone to fix.

I’m off now to teach my children.  Not because I want to prove to anyone I’m a good mom but simply because I enjoy the look of accomplishment on their faces. And, they enjoy being home educated.  They are pleased I’ve chosen to continue with it in spite of being single and working.  That’s my pay off.

I’ll make cookies and home made soup later on to go with the homemade whole wheat biscuits I made and froze last week.  Not because that’s what good Christian wives and mothers do but because I love to cook and I really love to eat.

I’m also going to sew pillows for the sofa if I have time this afternoon.  Not because I can’t wait to post pictures to Facebook and get approval for my craftiness.  It’s simply that I want my things to match and this is cheaper.  And, I’d like to have those little projects done before I start community college next week.  This time I’m not going in order to please my mother or to fix what others think of me.  This time I’m going to learn the skills necessary to do what I want with my life.

Even that is up in the air though.  I can’t fix the mess of my divorced, lonely, post abuse life by returning to school.  Only Christ can fix any of this.  It’s beyond my control.  It always has been.

Victimitis

Tags

, , , ,

A woman I only know from Facebook (ironically we connected through an online ministry for domestic violence victims and survivors) posted a very long commentary this past week titled ‘Curing Victimitis:’

Curing Victimitis by Michael Josephson, Character Counts
Watch your thoughts, they lead to attitudes
Watch your attitudes, they lead to words
Watch your words, they lead to actions
Watch your actions, they lead to habits
Watch your habits, they form your character
What your character, it determines your destiny
These words of unknown origin tell us that our silent and often subconscious choices shape our future.  Every aspect of our lives, at home and at work, can be improved if we use our power to think, reflect, and make conscious choices about our thoughts, attitudes,  words, actions, and habits.  Instead, many of us think of ourselves as victims.  We complain about our circumstances and what others did to us.  Whatever psychological comfort there is in feeling powerless and blameless when things aren’t going right, victims lead unsatisfied lives in the end.  We’re most vulnerable to victimitis when we’re under the influence of powerful emotions like fear, insecurity, anger, frustration, grief, and depression. These feelings can be so overwhelming that we believe our state of mind is inevitable. Our only hope is that they’ll go away on their own. Yet it’s during times of emotional tumult that using our power to choose our thoughts and attitudes is most important.  We can’t make pain go away, but we can refuse to suffer. Even when we don’t like any of our choices, we do have some–once we realize we can take control.  It isn’t easy, but what we do and how we choose to feel about ourselves can have a profound impact on the quality of our lives.  Victims may get sympathy for awhile, but that isn’t nearly enough. Taking personal responsibly for our happiness and success can be scary, but the pay off is enormous.  Although we can’t make our lives perfect, we can make them better–usually a lot better.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
……………………………………………………………..

Earlier this summer my dad’s family met at a local park for their 2nd annual family reunion.  It’s nice to see them and I do love them, but they are really strangers to me.  I hadn’t seen most of then since I was 14 years old.  It was only the rapid fire succession of funerals two years ago that brought us back together. It’s surprising how much hasn’t changed in 35 years. It’s shocking how much we’re all alike!

One difference was glaring though.

As we crested the center of the walking bridge and the other side came into view, my cousin, her oldest daughter, and I suddenly saw everyone else huddled on the ground.  And, we ran.

The oldest daughter’s 3 year old had fallen face first onto the black top as she ran across the bridge with the older children.  Her beautiful face was swollen and bloody, her lip smashed and her skin scraped. It was hard to tell exactly where the blood was coming from, there was so much of it.

Her nanny was holding her, and I assumed her mother would take her to comfort her.  She didn’t. We all walked back to the area of our picnic as the nanny carried the little girl.

I ran for my car to retrieve a towel, wipes, and an ice pack.  The nanny laid her on a blanket to better examine the injuries, and I handed my supplies to my cousin.  She refused them.  Her youngest daughter stood there indignantly and asked, “Can’t this wait?” All the while the nanny sharply but calmly commanded, “Self control, A. Self control.”  She repeated it over and over.  Then, they asked me to show them the property I thought I was going to get.  There was never one expression of compassion shown to the bleeding little girl.

Last week another of my cousins complained about the problems in his love life to our uncle and me.  This particular cousin is in his 40’s and is on every online dating site we know of.  He’s out with a different woman every night yet claims he wants to settle down.  He’s restless and unhappy.

While expressing dissatisfaction with the last couple of women, he said to me, “I know you’ve got a lot of stories, too. I KNOW your childhood wasn’t good either.  But, we don’t sit around telling people, ‘I was abused.  They did this to me, and they did that to me.’  We just go on.”

As he spoke, all I could think was that he hasn’t gone on.  His life is a mess.  My uncle’s daughter doesn’t want him around her father because of his ungodly behavior.  (Though she closed an account belonging to my uncle and kept over $30,000 from it without telling my uncle.  He only found out when his power bill payment bounced. )  He stole from a previous employer.  He seems to endlessly contract one STD after another.  Yet, all he wants is a good woman to love him.

He’s a bald teenager.

I think it would do him good to sit down and pull the scab of abuse and abandonment.  It would be good for him to let go of my family’s mantra of self control because, in reality, his life is out of control.  He’s keeping such a tight rein on his real issues that they’re spewing out in other places.

However, I’m sure he realizes that if he were to reach out and express himself in sincerity he’d receive no compassion.
In Curing Victimitis, Michael Josephson seems to indicate that silence regarding wounds received is a sign of character.  My family clearly states it’s a sign of self control.  Yet, character is defined as “strength and originality in a person’s nature….someone’s good qualities…..”  Wouldn’t we say self control is exhibited by not taking money and goods that belong to other people? Or, by keeping your clothes on around total strangers you met online?

It’s hard. It does take strength to stand up and say:
I was molested.
I was beaten and choked.
I was abandoned.
I was raped.
I was robbed.

It takes a lot of strength to do that because the ones doing the raping and robbing don’t want us to tell and are going to put us down, humiliate us, and marginalize us for telling what they’ve done.

My personal experience with a particular nonprofit housing organization ended bitterly.  The “family advocate” stalked me online, seeking out this blog without invitation or permission, only to use the information found here to try to hurt me with it. When the issues regarding her dishonesty and misrepresentation of facts and property lines could not be resolved, I withdrew my application. In strength and determination to find a better solution for my family, I chose to walk away.  However, she refused to respect my concerns or my decision, telling lies about me and sending me the following email:
I felt this coming, so I’m not surprised. But after all the time and $ we’ve spent on your behalf, it’s upsetting that you would say you’ve been “misled” and not given choices.  Even at this stage you have had more choices than most ….. partners, even to the choice of three lots!  [That's a lie.]  And how were you misled?  I’m so sorry for the sake of your precious children.  I know that you were abused by your mother, your husband, and recently mistreated by your son and his girlfriend.  And now by us!  I pray that some day you will find some measure of peace and satisfaction.

She exhibited no self control here as she mocked my history of abuse, just as she exhibited no self control when her curiosity overrode my right to privacy.

That mockery is a frightening risk a victim faces when ‘coming out.’  Will they think I brought it on myself and condemn me for my role in my own victimization?  Will they hate my victim status?  Will they rub salt in my wounds if I bare them?

The answer to all of those questions is:  That is their problem!  They need to turn the mirror on themselves.  We have already exhibited self control by dragging our damaged bodies and psyches to school and work each day.  We have exhibited our strength of character by surviving in spite of great adversity!

Also, not everyone can be divided into one of two categories, 1. Victim in need of validation and compassion.  2. Heartless abusers and enablers.  There is a third category… those who do stand ready to greet the victim with understanding, love, and sensitivity.  When we hide ourselves and mask our trauma with problematic behavior, like my male cousin, we also hide ourselves from other victims who need to know they’re not alone.  We hide ourselves from those good Samaritans who would bind up our wounds.  We hide ourselves from everything that will help us truly heal.

When they remove our right to feel grief and experience the sorrow of legitimately being a victim, they remove their duty to feel compassion for others.  Their good deeds then become all about them and their own goodness–look what I do–rather than about a genuine concern for helping those who have been wronged or those who are disadvantaged.

How do I think you cure Victimitis?  By condemning those wicked acts done in secret and expressing concern for the victims, allowing them time to grieve what they’ve suffered and lost, and helping them find the tools to move forward as a securely loved human being.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat:I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in?  Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came into thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it into me.

Facebook

Tags

, ,

I loathe Facebook challenges and games.  In fact, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook itself.  I swear one day soon I’m going to deactivate that account, but it’s the first thing I check upon awakening each morning!

I’ve been noticing a three day thankfulness “challenge” circulating lately, but no one has included me in it.  Instead of being hurt and waiting like a wall flower for someone to tag me, I jumped in on my own.  I’m not afraid to dance alone and look like an idiot!

I’d like you all to know that this goes for you as well.  That’s why I’m posting it here also.  YOU have been incredibly important in my healing!  And, I’m grateful for you being here and taking this journey with me!

Here’s what I posted:

No one nominated me for that three day thankfulness thingy.  I’m wondering if it’s because I kvetch so much, no one figured I knew how to be thankful.  Hmmmm……. so, true to narcissist FB fashion, where we’re each the star of our own reality show, I nominate ME!
1.  I am thankful that the Lord God of the Universe looked down on me in my wretched state of horrendous sinfulness and loved me into His arms.  I am in awe that He takes notice of someone like me and speaks to me as though I’m a beloved daughter.  I praise His HOLY NAME!
2.  I am thankful for my beautiful children and grandchildren.  What a beautiful day it has been!  What a beautiful month it has been!  I sat next to my 3rd son in church today.  He hasn’t been to church in a year but asked on the way home if we can go Wednesday night since he’ll miss next Sunday due to drills.  I’ve texted with my oldest son’s girlfriend and made goofy faces on Snap chat with my 3rd son’s girlfriend.  I’ve talked on the phone to my oldest son in DC.  I ran into my oldest daughter and my son in law at the mail and when I peeked my head in at my youngest granddaughter she reached her precious arms out to me.  I’ve been blessed to watch her weekly for the first year of her life–what a JOY!  My 2nd son is so good to text and call and respond immediately to my texts!  I’ve looked at pictures of my grandson at the beach in his skivvies.  I watched my youngest child get baptized today. I am amazed at God’s goodness–every one of my children has made a public profession of faith and been baptized as kids or teenagers.
3.  I am thankful for the extended family that my adult children have brought into my life.  I’m so looking forward to the *** clan coming to my house for a work party/BBQ.  I love those sweet  *** children!  The *** and *** are such wonderful people and so much fun!  And, my oldest granddaughter’s family was gracious to include us all at my oldest granddaughter’s 2nd birthday this month. Another fun day with all of them.  I so appreciate that I really enjoy the company of these people my children have chosen to make family.
4.  I am thankful to be blessed with THEE BEST friends in the entire universe!!!!!!!!!  Some have been beside me for decades, some for just over a year……but ALL are faithful, loyal, beautiful, gracious, selfless, thoughtful, prayerful, committed, genuine, raw, honest, amazing beyond belief!  They cry with me and laugh with me, mourning alongside me and rejoicing beside me.  They support me, literally sometimes!  They have stood in the mire and yuck with me and not been ashamed of the mess of my life.  They have loved me unconditionally.  And, I love them deeply.  I’ll never be able to express what they (YOU ALL) mean to me.
5.  I am thankful that I have this awful, falling in house to call home since the Habitat for Humanity house isn’t going to happen.  It’s a disaster waiting to happen, but it is still shelter.  It is still a place to lie down at night.  It’s where some of my children learned to shoot and read.  It’s where one child was born.  It may be a nasty (and most likely unsafe) house, but it is, regardless, still our home.  I trust God to keep it standing until He’s ready to move us on.
6.  I’m thankful for a wonderful church and church family.  I’m grateful for my pastor who has now baptized my youngest three children, laid hands on me for healing, and buried my dad.  I’m grateful for the teachers who stayed today to watch D get baptized, putting their plans on hold for an hour just to be with us.  I’m grateful for their faithful prayers and keen attention to teach and lead my children in holiness.
7.  And, I’m thankful for Facebook!  I’m thankful that when the muck of my life gets to be too much I can hop on here and vent and kvetch to y’all, and you are a click away from praying for me and sending me encouragement.

Have a safe weekend, Everyone!  I need you in my life more than you know. Whether I see you often or once in a blue moon, YOU are important to me!  And, I’m grateful for you!

That goes for you, too, my blog world friends!   xoxo

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Tags

, , ,

Pictures are strewn all around me.  Broken photo albums lie on the floor at my feet. And, a mountain of black boxes are stacked on the coffee table, holding the recordings of my life and the lives of my children.

There is nothing bittersweet about them.  They are simply bitter.

I take a ridiculous amount of pictures.  Click, click, click–every second is snapped, like a photography shoot.  These pictures haven’t wrongly captured one bad expression. They are a legitimate visual record.

My fat, smiling babies became huggy, loving toddlers and then playful, active children.  There are tender moments between siblings.  Themed birthday parties.  Christmas gifts galore.  Trips.  Dance lessons and music productions they participated in.  Laughter and silliness with extended family and friends.

Throughout those chronicled years they appear healthy, scrubbed, well dressed, content, and happy.

And, then, I married R.

There is no transition.  No downward spiral. It is abrupt.  Sudden.  There is an instant change.

They look dirty.  Their clothes don’t fit right.  Their clavicles stick out, and their faces are gaunt.  They look forlorn.  Their half hearted smiles are forced. The extended family is gone. There are no more lessons or activities. Nearly every picture of a child is photo bombed by R.  He’s the center of every happening.

In the beginning I tried fruitlessly to explain to R this was culture shock for my children.  I begged him to understand their perceived misbehavior (like a 7 year old spilling the vacuum water accidentally). He said they were “spoiled fucking brats!” that needed a man in their lives.

They were children.

They were hungry, sickly, scared, lonely, beaten down,  and beaten children.

Before I married R they’d had a childhood filled with love from many people.  They experienced a multitude of opportunities for growth and enrichment.  They were, somewhat, protected from my family’s craziness.

They had been allowed to simply be children.

He robbed them of their childhood and their joy.

My oldest daughter, my beautiful firstborn child, was the first of my children to rebel in anger.  Like dominoes, one by one, they released the wounds in their own ways, none of them positive.

After weeks of locking herself in her room, not showering and barely eating, I forced my way into her room.  It was past noon and she was still in bed, though wide awake.

“A, I know what’s wrong.”

“What?” She looked genuinely interested as though she herself had no clue why she was so miserable.

“You’re turning 18. Your childhood is gone. There’s no more hope things will get better and you’ll have a happy childhood.  This was it.  It’s over now, and you’re mourning it”

She cried out, “I feel so transparent!  How did you know? ” and burst into sobs.

Both of my oldest two children seem to be trying to recreate the years they lost.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas,  cartoons, fun day trips with friends (more than is typical), extravagant parties and celebrations…….as though they can give themselves now what was denied them then.

R didn’t pay child support this month. August.  School is starting soon, and it’s county fair time. Whenever he does this, it’s an “important” month, knowing it will hurt.  He’ll show us–there will be no fair and no school supplies.  He’ll make us suffer!

However, my oldest daughter bought season passes to the fair and then won a pair of passes, so she gave those to us.  She and her husband bought four preseason armband tickets to give me as an extra thank you for baby sitting.  We were going to the fair and ride the rides, child support or not!

The curriculum rep was traveling through town the day we planned to attend the fair.  He was offering a 15% discount and free shipping on all orders placed at his event.  So, we stopped in and placed our order before heading to the fair. We’ll have school books, child support or not.

When the kids told R they were going to the fair, he was obviously shocked. His response was priceless and proved he had been hoping to rob us of that joy.

He couldn’t though.

We had a BLAST.  Both of the younger children expressed this was the best fair ever and they’ve never had so much fun.  The pictures I took captured their elation. Childhood happiness exuded from every pore.

As they again told me the next morning that they’d had the time of their lives, I concurred.  “It was a lot of fun, wasn’t it?”

J responded, “YOU were a lot of fun!”

It was an echo of something my adult children said not long after R left.  “We feel like we got out mom back.”

Our fair pictures this year show clean, healthy children smiling broadly and genuinely, just like those pictures of my older kids from before I married R.

All of those years I felt trapped, I feared so many things:  he’d take the children from me if I left.  He’d kill me.  Or, the kids…..to punish me.  I couldn’t provide for the kids on my own.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  These words scattered all around me tell the story of how one man nearly destroyed everything I love. They speak of restoration of personalities and joy.  They exclaim how much better off we are without him, no matter how difficult life still is.

Discount Comfort

Tags

, , ,

The valley has been filled with smoke, the cars covered in ash. Our mountains are lit with fire.

But, this morning I awoke to cool rain. I pray it continues. I pray these fires are put out.

There are fires though I’d like to see lit.  Like a hot, passionate fire of compassion.

As soon as it became evident R was not coming back…as soon as it became evident I could not find work… as my family began dying off…people began to come forward to bring me comfort.  I could not have survived without it.  I’ll say that again; I could NOT have SURVIVED without it. Whether it was tangible and touchable, like food, wood, money to pay bills, or soft and invisible,  like an early morning visit over coffee, I desperately needed those comforts brought to me.  At even a hint of the possibility of help, I ran headlong into the arms of my rescuers.

Most of them were sincere.  Most were genuine.  But, from day one, in every phase of our grief, there have been those who discounted me while feigning comfort.  Some seem to actually enjoy the superior position, as though my life circumstances make them better than me. They’re like a benevolent little god in their own eyes answering my prayers.  Some take advantage of my weakness and vulnerability by saying rude things that they would never say to someone stronger, someone they met elsewhere. Some seem to enjoy basking in the glory and notoriety of helping these poor souls.  Some extend the gift in their hand while suspiciously eyeing me, judging my intelligence and character.  Why else would I have ended up here? It is quite obvious to them I need someone to do my thinking for me.  And, those are usually the ones who disregard my right to privacy.

These all brought discount comfort.  They brought a measure of comfort, but they discounted me as a human being.

A man died last week after wandering in front of a Tram.  An eyewitness said the man seemed disoriented and confused preceding the accident.  But, the trolls lit up the comment section of the news feed saying he deserves to die for being so stupid as to walk in front of a slow moving Tram.  There was no compassion for a man who lost his life.  His life was discounted.

Robin Williams died this week and, while there are still trolls using their keyboards for cruelty, the majority of what I see online is compassion.  Sorrow over his sorrow that brought him to take his own life.  Comfort for his family. He has been deemed by the majority to be worthy. His life counted.

My posts on Facebook regarding the Middle East go largely ignored. Two friends echoed my sentiments on their pages, and I was eager to say, “Yes!  Yes!  I feel the same way!”  Immediately, our thoughts and concerns were discounted.  One individual turned the entire thread into a rant about her own family’s history of suffering.  Apparently she only has so much compassion.  She already doled it out to her deceased people so has none left to feel for those families dying today.

The kinder, gentler comments drip with lame consolations.  “Those babies are in a better place.”  “They’re not suffering now.”  “They’re with Jesus.  Their attackers are going to burn in hell.”  No doubt those children are receiving comfort from Christ Himself today in glory, but they deserved a chance to live out their natural lives.  They deserved to die with dignity, not raped, butchered, and then publicly displayed.  Those poor attempts at justifying their own complacency discount those slaughtered children!  And, I guarantee they would not flippantly say, “She’s in a better place,” if it were their child’s head on a stake!

Everyone is the star of their own reality show on Facebook.  Blogging is a lot like that, too.  All of us amateur, wannabe writers can pretend someone is listening, someone actually cares about our opinion on the Middle East, biblical submission, or home decorating.  We’re a culture of narcissists.  We breed narcissism as though we could sell it commercially for a profit. And, that’s how we easily discount suffering people.

How can this benefit me?  Can I use them to satisfy some unmet need in myself?  This person’s death matters because they touched my life and made me laugh.  That person is nothing more to me than a picture on a screen; therefore, I don’t care.

I couldn’t sleep again last night, and I woke up crying.  I am spiritually tortured knowing that while I’m curled up on my feather bed, lying there in fleece pajama shorts with my arms around my own sweet daughter, someone else’s daughter is being butchered.  I’m angry that the only daily difficulties I’m facing in life right now are because someone else has deemed me worthy of being deceived, exposed, and talked down to.  I’m sick of seeing human life discounted, and I’m shocked that our culture has degenerated to such a point that we’ve lost our basic human compassion and the desire to bring comfort to those in pain.

I shouldn’t be shocked 

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves,  covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof……
2 Timothy 3:1a

This rampant narcissism, pride, lack of compassion, false judgment, and brutality were foretold.  Still, this morning, as I sit on my black iron chair on my porch, still in my soft fleece pajamas, sipping warm coffee, listening to the rain softly landing on the metal roof, I am grieved by it.  My heart is heavy and broken for the multitudes who suffer at the butt end of man’s condition.  And, I beg you, plead with you, offer genuine compassion wherever you can today.  Don’t discount anyone’s life.

ICPublishing Summer Blog Tour–Navigating the Writing Path: From Start to Finish

Tags

My friend Caroline Abbott is the author of A Journey Through Emotional Abuse:  From Bondage To Freedom.  Caroline is a domestic violence advocate who was in an emotionally abusive marriage for twenty years. Because of her faith she was determined to honor her marriage vows, but she didn’t realize she was being abused. When the abuse escalated until she feared for her life, she got a restraining order, filed for divorce, and got her life back. Today, Caroline is remarried, and she and her husband have many children between them. She spent seven years writing her book, A Journey through Emotional Abuse: From Bondage To Freedom. Her book tells her story but mostly focuses on helping other women determine whether they are being abused. If so, the book helps them decide whether to stay or, if they decide to leave, how to do it safely.

Caroline dedicates her life now to helping and encouraging other abused women via Facebook, on Twitter (@Caroline_Abbott), and her website and blog http://www.carolineabbott.com. She is currently writing her second book, A Journey to Healing after Emotional Abuse.

I’m honored that Caroline invited me to participate in ICPublishing’s Summer Blog Tour “Navigating the Writing Path:  From Start to Finish.”  http://www.ICPublishing.ca.

We’ve been asked to answer several questions, and here is my best attempt.

How Do I Start My Writing Projects?

I feel inadequately prepared to answer the questions posed.  As an unpublished blogger I don’t worry about pleasing an editor, nor do I need to conform to restrictions or requirements placed on me.  I simply write.  My writing is merely a public expression of my soul through words.

My blog posts typically begin as a revelation, an awareness, or something that gets stuck in my craw. As I mull it over or stew on it, I mentally write the post while I work my day job.  The blog then becomes a regurgitation of the thoughts that have possessed my mind all day.

I have been slowly working on a book for the last couple of years, and I do approach it differently.   It isn’t for me.  It lays as a burden on my heart for the women caught where I was five years ago.  I want to be careful with how I handle God’s word, and I want to be sensitive to the intense and crippling fear that reigns in those women’s lives.

How Do I Continue My Writing Projects?

I’m still working through so much abuse pain and uncertainty myself, and I don’t want that to taint my message. After an extended period of time I reread the work I’ve done on my book from a different vantage point in the journey and find I’m able to be more objective–do I still feel that way? Was my vision clouded by the circumstances at the time?

I am not working off a classic outline.  However, I prayerfully considered each chapter title. From there, I jotted down ideas, scripture references, and emotions under each chapter heading. Once I’ve completed the free flow writing I go over each piece multiple times, rewriting and correcting. Then, I shelve it.

Allowing myself time to put it down and come back to it has proven to be a necessary practice. On my recent flight across country I worked intensely for hours and ended up throwing out several chapters I’d written early on.

As an inexperienced writer I’m not sure if this is a bad practice, but I compile my rough draft as I’m doing my research. I don’t write from research notes. It is more of a, sometimes awkward, dance between objective research and artful expression on that first draft.

How Do I Finish My Project?

This sounds existentialist, but I feel like each piece “tells” me when it’s done. Sometimes I think it is incomplete, but the sense is there that it doesn’t want me to take it any further. Not at that time anyway.

Include One Or Two Tips Or Challenges That Our Collective Communities Could Benefit From

Write, write, and write some more: a short nightly jot in a diary, chronicle sights seen in a travel journal, record elderly family members’ stories. Make writing a natural expression within every causal aspect of existence without concern or regard to perfect sentence structure or publish-ability.

Thank you again to Caroline and to ICPublishing for allowing me to be a part of the tour!

They’re Nicer Now

Tags

, , , , ,

Frantic and breathless, I jumped from the old Suburban and ran for the church.  Without air conditioning or even a headliner in the big, blue beast, the ambient temperature increased to create an oven on wheels.  Drenched in sweat and wild eyed, I flung open the two glass doors of the church. 

The foyer was dark and cool.  The smell of gourmet coffee wafted from the cafe bar to my right.  A guitar and happy singing could be heard coming from somewhere deep in the bowels of the building.  But, no one was to be seen.

I don’t remember what R had said or done or threatened.  I just remember I was scared to death, and I needed prayer. I needed money.  I needed safety.  I needed my health and strength back. I needed people to step in and act as a surrogate family for my children.  I needed wood for the winter.  I needed so many things.  But, in that moment I just needed prayer.

Relief washed over me as the church secretary appeared from the corridor of offices.

“M!  I need someone to pray with me!” I recall blurting out. No pleasantries.  Just a desperate plea.

Without stopping, she handed me a yellow Post It pad and a pen and instructed me, “Write your request down and leave it there.  I’ll see that someone gets it.”  With that she disappeared into the sanctuary.  And, I was left alone, sweaty, scared, disheveled, and longing for someone to touch my hand and pray WITH me.

There were countless of those moments until we left.  We visited church after church and received similar dismissals.   One church was generous and came alongside us in friendship, but an elder there was harsh and condemning of my martial status.  He left the children and me feeling rejected, like dirty outsiders merely granted the grace to sit among them.  No matter how warm the rest of the congregation was we couldn’t sit under his stern eye, so we left there, too.

We unknowingly visited the home church of the supervisor at the vistation center.  I had great difficulty singing praise songs right next to the woman who accepted gifts from our abuser and snapped at my children when she was contractually bound to remain neutral while supervising his visits.

I knew my kids needed a church.  But, where?  I was okay at that point.  I’ve been a part of the most incredible Bible study group for almost a year and a half.  Those four women have become my life lines, my prayer warriors, my closest confidantes, my material support, and my fun gang. We share wine and concerts and dinner and tears. They’ve brought me back to truly living. My poor children had nothing like this though.

Oh God, where? We’ve been to nearly every church in town!

I did what was easiest. And, hardest. I went back to where we started.

The pastor, afterall, baptized my two youngest sons. He was there, really there, for me when my dad died. He performed the memorial service and drove 45 minutes to the internment without reimbursement. He defended me when my brother–a non church going non Christian–showed up at my church to convince my pastor to condemn me and lead me in the direction my brother desired. He and his wife laid hands on me and prayed for my physical healing.

We just had so many unmet needs. We were so incredibly needy and lost in those early days. We needed church members to come alongside us daily in some huge ways, and they didn’t. They attended luncheons and sang happy praise music while we floundered. So, we were hurt and angry, and we went searching.

Our first Sunday back the kids went off to their class and my young teen went upstairs with the kids his age while I enjoyed to the sermon. A few weeks later they all spent the week at Vacation Bible School, E as a helper, having a blast with their friends and the adults who were old, familiar faces to them. After one fun filled morning of Bible stories, games, water fights, and treats, the children piled into my car, and J exclaimed, “They’re nicer now!”

But, they’re not.

They’re always were nice.

They haven’t changed.

We have.

Our greatest needs now are for fellowship, friendship, housing, wood for this winter, and child care while I work. That’s it.

The refrigerator is full.

I have a big pile of bills to pay, but I also have jobs lined up and a waiting list of potential clients.

I have a new, dependable car.

We have clothes and furniture.

The divorce is final, which gives us a legal reprieve for now. The constant threat exists that R will get mad and fight over custody or reduce the child support, but for now I have no reason to set foot in that corrupt courthouse.

We have a house coming.

We’re working through the remaining problems.

We aren’t quite so needy anymore. What we do need from the church, they are very capable of supplying–fellowship.

This past Wednesday a family from church took E up north with them on a fun day trip. He needs their grandson’s friendship. Need met.

While we found our solace during those dark early days in A Cry For Justice and Give Her Wings, and I am GRATEFUL for them, I still believe the local church body should have been there. They are great at potlucks and parties, but they suck at “bearing one another’s burdens.” That pressure simply can’t rest solely on the pastor’s shoulders. We’re all a part of this.

“They’re nicer now! ” J exclaimed.

I responded, “They’ve always been nice! They didn’t change. We did. We’re better now, stronger now, so we can enjoy them. But, let that be a lesson to us because we know what it feels like. When you see a sad little boy or girl come to Sunday school, go sit in the shade with them. Don’t run off to play with the other kids and leave them behind.”

I’d love to say those words to the grown ups in our local churches, “When you see a sad man or woman, go sit in the dark, lonely place with them. Don’t run off to a potluck or singalong to have fun, leaving them behind, alone in their sorrow and cares.”

I’ve Got A Lot Of Girlfriends

Tags

, , , ,

I didn’t think it would hit me like that.

I mean hit me. Like a sucker punch to the gut.

I cried on my way home.

It’s been an emotional weekend anyway, but that came out of nowhere.

My son flies out tonight for his military exam.  With all that’s going on in the world, he’s enlisting. He scored a 93 on his ASVAB but is considering infantry.  His recruiter encouraged him to split his life insurance 50/50 between his dad and me.  His dad.  The man who failed to provide anything except torment will benefit from my son’s death.

His dad called last night to talk to the younger kids and asked them,  “This is my weekend; do you want to come spend the night?”

“No!” was their emphatic response.

That angered him.  He began threatening them in a very harsh tone that he could take them anyway for the entire weekend.  He then stated, more like a threat, that he could take them every other weekend.

They went silent.  He then began berating them about why they were mad at him.  He demanded, “What’s going on over there that you don’t want to come see me anymore?”

It went on and on until my 14 year old took the phone from the two young,  bewildered children.  His dad started in on him.   Then, it was my turn.

He wanted me to answer him:  What’s going on that all of a sudden the kids don’t want to visit.

I had to gently remind him that they’ve never wanted to visit.  I’ve, at times, told them they had no choice.  But, I’m not doing that anymore.  He started to balk at that, as though he expects me to force the children into visitation.  He used the word “we” in an us against them, we can’t let them run us, argument.  He zig zagged in his direction, accusing me of telling the vistation supervisor that I didn’t want him giving the kids soda.  That was three years ago.  That wasn’t an affront to him.  It is a dietary choice I make daily for the sake of their health and to keep them from going ballistic on high fructose corn syrup.

Forty five minutes later I had diffused him; the kids were free from a forced overnight with the man they rightfully fear; and he was thanking me for helping him understand what’s going on.

The day was a long one.  I needed a glass of wine.

I’d gone to bed at midnight the night before because I hadn’t got off work until 10:30 p.m.  I awoke early though to get the kids to church on time since they were part of the worship team this week.  As I sleepily let the hot water of the shower pour over my face, I realized it was rising around my ankles.   I was horrified to open my eyes and find sewer backing up where I stood.

We made it to church on time but hurried home to fix the plumbing issue.  I bought a snake and some sulfuric acid, and we got it flowing out again.  Hurray!  We still had time to clean up and get to the family reunion!

As we stepped out of the bathroom my 18 year old, not thinking, began to remove his mask with his gloved hand, accidentally touching his cheek below his left eye. I yelled, and he dropped his hand.  But, it was too late.

He argued with me that we can’t afford a visit to the ER, but he agreed once his eye began to get glassy and sting.  He became worried, too, at that point that the acid was continuing to burn deeper.

By the time we left the urgent care facility the family reunion was well under way.  I decided, however, that we needed to show up though we’d certainly missed all of the games and picture taking at that point.

Everyone was nearly finished eating by the time we got there,  and most of them left shortly after.  I missed my dad’s family gathering because of another problem with and caused by this dump.

Fortunately, a few of the family members were getting together for breakfast this morning, so I had a second chance to spend time with and get to know these strangers with whom I have so much in common.

More in common than I realized.

I stayed with my uncle and his cousin after everyone else finished breakfast and left.  And, that was when the sucker punch came.

They shared memories from their childhood, and we laughed.  The cousin said that my dad had always been her favorite.

(Mine, too.)

She said he was effervescent.

(He was.  He smiled with his whole face.)

Their stories continued briefly when my uncle teased his cousin with a play on words and, chuckling, asked, “You mean I made a pass at you?”

She looked serious and responded, “No!  That was left up to Uncle H.”

My uncle tried at first to laugh it off,  “The old man always wanted to keep it in the family.”

The cousin didn’t laugh.

Neither did I.

She said she’d told him to stop.  They expressed that he’d always “had his thing.”

Sucker punch.

When grandpa quit coming after me, I didn’t understand.  He’d said I was his special girl.  He said I was his girlfriend.  Suddenly he acted like I wasn’t even in the room.  So, with the last bit of 5 year old innocence I had left, I crawled up in his lap and asked, “Grandpa, am I still your girlfriend? “

He shoved me off and snapped, “I’ve got a lot of girlfriends!”

With my dad’s cousin’s confession I was hurled from the diner and back to that couch over forty years ago.

His other girlfriends were the other girls in our family.

I sat quietly trying to recover from the revelation while she talked about her mom’s bitterness and my grandma’s bitterness over (she shifted her eyes downward) “their things.”  I felt she was implying someone had got to them as little girls, too.  She pondered why they couldn’t let it go even in old age or for the sake of their children and instead remained “mean.”  She stated that the rest of us try every single day to be better than what was before us, better than that for our kids.

It was like she knew my dirty secret and was encouraging me.  In just sharing her story and feelings, she was speaking to my spirit.

Get up.  Keep going.  Don’t be bitter over it.  Give your kids better than what you received.  You have a choice.  Don’t make your kids suffer for your pain.  Let it go.  Love them and live your life like it didn’t happen.  Don’t let him rob you of anything else.  It’s not his to take.  It never was.

Grandpa had a lot of girlfriends, and I was one of them.  That was a long time ago though.  I’m old and tired now.  My heart aches, and my body is weary from dealing with daily life in a slum and an abusive ex husband while working hard to climb out of this pit. But, I don’t want my kids and grandkids sitting in a diner fifty years from now saying that I was mean and bitter because of my painful memories.

So, I’m going to get up.  Keep going.  Not be bitter over it.  I’m determined to give my kids better than what I received.  They aren’t going to suffer for my pain.  I’m learning to let it go.  I’m going to love them and live my life like it didn’t happen.  No one–not my mom or grandpa or R–are going to rob me of anything else. My life was not theirs to take.

 

 

Love Thy Neighbor; Part 2

Tags

, , , ,

“Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Matthew 16:23 NIV

Pretty harsh to call someone, a close friend even, Satan.  Jesus Himself is the one who said that to Peter, the friend He chose to build His church upon.  But, He didn’t mince words when Peter needed corrected. 

Since I got admonished merely for stating someone overstepped proper boundaries and offended me, what would be said to Jesus for calling someone a derogatory name? 

I wonder.

Would He receive similar treatment to that found in Dostoyesky’s The Grand Inquisitor?

It isn’t just Jesus though.  The church’s beloved Paul is also guilty of “unloving words.”  In Timothy 4:14 he declares,  “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil:  the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be thou ware also…” 

Not only does Paul say the dude’s works are EVIL, he encourages others to avoid the poor guy and hopes he gets what he has coming to him!

That isn’t the only instance of this type of “unloving” expression. 

The NET Bible interprets Psalm 1:1 as, “How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! ”  But, isn’t it unloving to call people wicked, or judgmental to call them sinners?

Someone does it again in Proverbs 4:14.   “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.” 

Wow!  So much unloving name calling going on here!  And, repetitive advising of avoidance!  Geesh! 

Paul really let’s loose in the fifth chapter of 1st Corinthians, not only condemning the church there for NOT judging a misbehaving member, but he tells them to “deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh!”  And, he mentions that their “glorying is not good.”  What are they glorying in?   Being loving and accepting perhaps? 

Turn with me now in your Bibles (yes, I’m full of sarcasm today!) to 2nd Thessalonians 3, the final chapter of that little book.  Here, we find Paul requesting prayer for deliverance from unreasonable and wicked men.   But, he’s a missionary.   Isn’t his job to convert the unsaved?

Oh!  Does that indicate there’s a difference between the lost and the wicked?

Last week I was helping support and advise a young mother who is literally trapped in an abusive marriage.  Her health is deteriorating rapidly as she is weakening under this horrible man.  She made a reference to him treating her wickedly, and I concurred.  That’s when one of her friends chimed in that we’re all too quick to call others wicked when they’re just lost, in need of a savior.

What would Paul have said to that?

Well, he tells us bluntly in verse 6 of that same chapter in 2nd Thessalonians how to deal with those claiming to be saved already yet behaving wrongly. 

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

According to Paul, not only should she withdraw herself but so should we all.  That man should find himself standing all alone and ashamed of what he’s done.

But, didn’t Jesus say to Love Thy Neighbor?  This all seems so unloving.

What He really said was, “Love Thy Neighbor as yourself.”   Sounds like He’s making a presumption that you already love yourself and desire what’s best for yourself.  He doesn’t say, “Love Thy Neighbor but hate yourself.”  Nor does He say, “Love Thy Neighbors who hurt your other neighbors, raping and beating them, showing them no mercy, stealing from them.”

The story of the good Samaritan is often used to defend the position I stand in opposition against.  But, the good Samaritan helped a wounded and helpless man.  He didn’t kneel down and preach to that man to forgive his attackers and those who had passed by without helping him.  He didn’t scurry on down the road to express some acts of kindness to the robbers.  He took care of someone who’d been wronged!  He did NOT ask him what he’d done to put himself in such a vulnerable position.  He simply went out of his way to care for someone who was unable to care for himself.

That,  my friends, is Loving Thy Neighbor.

Love Thy Neighbor; Part 1

Tags

, ,

“Excuse me!  Excuse me!  I left a yellow note over there for you to let you know that’s a grape vine in case you want it.”

That was how I met my soon to be neighbor.  No pleasantries.  No self introduction.  Not even a smile.  Just a holler to let me know she took the liberty of marking plants on my new property based on the assumption I’m too stupid to know the difference between a food plant and a weed.

It was socially awkward at best, insulting at the worst.

I walked toward her and thanked her, basing my reaction on the hope it was the former.  And, in doing so,  I opened the door for thirty minutes of non stop negativity.

She told me that others had warned her not to divulge what she knew, but she felt I NEEDED to know.  Someone needed to tell me what things are really like.

She proceeded to say that I’m a fool if I think my new house will be built in a year.  There are things “they” don’t tell you about.  “They” misrepresent the true costs.  She made assumptions and hurled accusations and insults at “them” and me. 

“They may appreciate the little cookies you bring, but that isn’t going to get your house built!”  Well, I never planned on bringing cookies, but if I did I assure you they wouldn’t be little. 

“You need to get some volunteers!  Look around you!  Who have you got?  No one!  You and your boys can’t build your house alone!”  I’ve had people offer to help us weed eat, but I’ve turned them down.  I don’t want to burn them out before I need them for the build.  My son and I are quite capable of clearing a little brush.

Before she walked off, seemingly satisfied with herself, she informed me I have a stray cat on my property that she is feeding for me.  I emphatically stated I don’t want a stray cat; I have enough pets.

“Well, you’ve got one now!” she yelled over her shoulder as she walked away.

I stewed over that “conversation” for quite some time before I finally shared with a couple of friends just how bothered I’d been by it all.  After all, she’s a cancer survivor.  How harshly can I judge her?

I was honestly very busy and couldn’t get back over there to finish.  But, my heart wasn’t really in it anymore either.  She’d stolen some of my joy, and I didn’t want to face her again. 

When I did return, I arrived to find her vehicle with a trailer attached to it parked smack dab in the middle of “my” property.  She immediately let her little dog out, and it ran over to us, barking incessantly and scaring my animal loving 5 year old.  She didn’t call it back.  She didn’t offer to move her vehicle.  She just wandered her yard, watching us work around her belongings.

This isn’t starting off good.

Naturally, I posted a picture of our finished work on Facebook, complete with her stuff, along with a comment about my “neighbor.”  Some people had some not very nice suggestions as to how to deal with her.  All were sympathetic.  Except one.

The last comment was an admonishment to me to “love my neighbor.”

I’m not easily provoked.  My personal history testifies to that.  But, telling me to “love my neighbor” when I shared what she’d done took me back to the multitude of times I’d sought help over the years. 

The standard Christian advice I’d received was to “love my husband with the love of Jesus.”  Or, “Honor my mother that she may be won through my good behavior.”  My favorite was the finger pointing correction that I needed to “forgive them because I’m a sinner, too, and one sin is not worse than another.”

Not long ago I saw a meme on Facebook and reposted it.  It didn’t receive many likes or comments, but I thought the brutal honesty was hilarious.  It reminded us that the next time we ask What Would Jesus Do? we should remember turning over tables and flogging bankers isn’t out of the question. 

It was funny, but it also was a sly reminder that Jesus didn’t let people get away with stuff. 

My grandma’s favorite quote was Edmund Burke’s, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

Now, I’m not comparing my neighbor’s rudeness to my mother’s cruelty, nor am I saying she’s wicked.  I’m DEFINITELY NOT advocating flogging anyone!   I’d just like to pose the question:  Is it unloving to call out, correct, or acknowledge ill treatment?

To be continued…….

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 941 other followers