Sunday, May 24, 2015

MORE.

The current preaching series at Grace Chapel is entitled "More: Life, Love, Spirit".  It has been a refreshing and much-needed deeper look at walking a more fulfilled and Christ-filled life.  I have really enjoyed it.

This morning was no different.  Our campus pastor Dave Ripper spoke today, and while I did not get everything written down, I DID get the part that really impacted me.

Dave's main point was: "To experience More, LOVE more, and FEAR less."

He talked a bit about Loving more, but the FEAR was what jumped out at me.

His points:
To FEAR less:
1) REALLY trust God.  (2 Timothy 1:7, and Hebrews 13:6)
2) Receive the love of God.  (1 John 4:7-9)

Interesting to note....MY verse in recent years has been 2 Timothy 1:7, and Jason's life-verse is Hebrews 13:6.

FEAR.  Life is so much MORE without FEAR.
I know so many verses about fear.
"Perfect LOVE casts out FEAR."
My favorite:  "for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind;" (Young Living Translation).  
Jason's life-verse: "So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?"

I used to think that I NEEDED to "think about" things for it all to go well.  If I wasn't constantly "thinking about" what **MIGHT** go wrong, or what others *might* be thinking about me, or how to prevent what *might* happen to my children, I was not being conscientious in my parenting, wife-ing, person-ing.  

(yes, I know I just made up those words.  You're welcome.  Please feel free to use them.)   

The very sad thing was that my "thinking about" whatever I was fearing might happen only created MORE fear.  In fact, I was not "thinking about" things, but was WORRYING myself sick.  

I remember distinctly the day that I gave myself permission to stop worrying about everything.  I remember realizing that my worrying wouldn't change whether or not Jason had a wreck on his motorcycle, or whether my kids were hurt, or bullied, or victimized, or whether people would like me or not.  It was a HUGE weight off to realize that I could just STOP, and the world was not going to end.  

I realize this sounds simplistic.  
I am guessing that some of you already have this down pat.  
I am guessing that there are others who still feel as if the world will stop of they jump off of their particular worry-wheel.  

Let me reassure you.  
The world did NOT stop.  
As a matter of fact, I doubt that many others recognized the change.  
I know that Jason did.  In fact, he was HAPPY for me.  

Let me also make clear that I HAVE NOT arrived.  
I am still fearful.  
Some days I slip back into my old patterns of worry.  

The difference now is that I KNOW I can just stop the worry.  
I KNOW that there is SO MUCH MORE.  
I KNOW that if I can stop the FEAR, there is SO MUCH more room in my life for LOVE.  
Because Perfect LOVE casts out FEAR.  

You can now go see the sermon for yourself....
EDITED to add the link for the sermon.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

REPOST: May 11, 2011

Originally written May 11, 2011, and titled "A Place to Begin", this was written while Jason was deployed to Bahrain, and I was a full-time student at Regent University.  This post really reflects where I am today.  I have since finished school, and have been in counseling the whole time.  Some days I feel as if I have made no progress whatsoever, and some days I feel as if I have made a lot of progress.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Some days I feel totally disconnected from the world.
I feel like an orphaned child,
Unwanted,
Unloved,
a "whipping boy" in the family where I have been placed.

Some days I feel like the king of the universe.
I feel as if I can take on anything,
do anything,
be anything.

Some days - most days - I feel as if no one cares who I am,
what I feel,
what direction I go.

There are things that I know in my head to be true, which I am afraid I will never feel inside of me.

I KNOW that I am loved.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love..." Jeremiah 31:3
I know that my husband loves me...that I *do* feel, sometimes.
I know that my children love me.

I KNOW that I have potential, promise, possibility.
I KNOW that I am a good mother.
I KNOW that I am a good student.

I do not feel any of those things...except the *rarely* feeling loved.

I doubt myself.
I doubt my abilities.
I beat myself up over things that are not my fault.
I battle the tapes that play in my head on a daily basis....
...those tapes that say I am not enough...
...not good enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not cheerful enough, not spiritual enough, not industrious enough, not organized enough, not a good enough friend.
I feel like if I only *tried* harder I could be/do enough.

So I battle on.
I am in counseling.
I am in a body of believers, learning and studying, and fellowshipping, and ministering.

This journey I am on is not easy.
I can't just "snap out of it," whatever "it" may be today.
I am learning how my past affects me on a daily basis, and I don't like it.
I am relearning things about how others see me...*VERY* different from how I see myself.
I am trying to give myself grace...room to grow and change, and to stop beating myself up.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Well, THAT was helpful (or NOT).

I have lived in Christian circles ALL of my life.

One of my first outings as a newborn was to go to church.

I went to church, and school, and every single extra-curricular activity with the same people.

For a lot of years every single relationship I had was with someone who claimed to be a Christian.

Most of the advice I received over the years has come from Christian sources.  Word-of-mouth, preachers, Sunday School teachers and school teachers, parents, youth leaders, writers.  All Christians.  Most very STRONG believers.

I have learned a LOT over the years about Christians and advice.



I have learned that Christians LOVE to give advice.  We KNOW we have a corner on the market of TRUTH, and we have to share it...because that is what the Gospel is all about.  We forget that some of the stuff we have heard as truth is just someone's opinion, or that the truth we speak may do more harm than good.

I have learned that we are all good at repeating things we have heard from others.  And that we are not necessarily good at verifying whether what we repeat is good or helpful.   Because of my next point, things that are not true will still be part of how I view myself, even after they have been proven untrue.




I have learned that, whether or not what I have been told is good or helpful, I ALWAYS internalize a message about ME when I hear it.  I internalize "do more", "try harder", "trust more".  I hear that I am not enough.  Not good enough, not strong enough, not trusting enough, that I don't have enough faith.



I have learned that living in a fallen world means that the advice we give, the truths we know, and the care that we try to express to others can all be misinterpreted, misapplied, twisted to mean something that was not meant.





I have learned that even very good people and strong believers can give bad advice.







I am still in the middle of the process of learning how to deal with advice without basing my view of myself on the advice given by other people.  I know that not everyone knows this.  I also know that there are some people's advice that needs to be thrown out with the garbage.  I am learning who to trust, and who to politely listen to and NOT to take their advice to heart.  It is a process, like the rest of my healing journey.  I hope that people are willing to show me the grace that they also hope to receive.






Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How do I cry?

(and what does this have to do with my lack of feeling connected?!?)

I regularly see a counselor.  In my profession (Clinical Mental Health Counselor), we call it supervision...except that *I* really need this therapy.  I have seen a LOT of therapists over the years.  Good ones, not-so-good ones, and really great ones.  They have all been instrumental in getting me to THIS place in my healing.  I am grateful for the work they have done with me.

My most recent therapist is good for me.  I don't always like her.  I don't always agree with her.  But she is good for me.  She challenges me.  I need that.

This week, we were talking about how I have a VERY hard time connecting with people.  For as long as I can remember, I have felt like people felt more connected to me than any connection I felt for them.  It has been awkward.  It has been lonely.

I have people I consider my friends.  I enjoy spending time with them.  I miss them when we move.  But I have never had a close enough friend who actually came and visited me after we left the area.  I AM still friends with people from high school, and especially friends from college, but again, no one visits.  Really, my family doesn't visit, either.

So, my therapist and I were exploring why that was the case...why DON'T I have friends with whom I feel a deep connection?

She made an observation that originally put me on the defense.  She said that I don't connect with people because I do not interact on an emotional level.  All of my interactions are on an intellectual "head" level.  It is easy.  It is safe.  I won't get hurt.

This realization stings.  I have worked long and hard to NOT been seen as overly emotional.  I remember crying at the drop of a hat.  I remember being so angry that I scared myself (knife-throwing is not just a circus-trick!).  I was told I was a cry-baby, and to stop being such a stereo-typical hysterical female.  I was told that my crying was an attempt at emotional blackmail and manipulation.  My opinions, hurts, and frustrations were dismissed because I cried when I felt things deeply.

So, I quit crying.  For a LONG time.  It was not healthy.  It was lonely, and it was hard.

Then I started my healing journey, and allowed myself to cry again.  And THAT was really REALLY helpful in the healing process.  And I cried a LOT.

But life (God!) has a way of cycling us back through things, so that we can learn lessons from our repeated experiences.  And when Jason deployed in 2010/2011, my tears became depleted.  Besides, I had to be strong for my kids.  And then Jason was home, and was a pastor, and I had to be strong and "on" for the people in our church.  And more hard things assaulted us, and I still had to be strong.  So, I was right back to suppressing the tears.

So this brings us to NOW.  Life is still hard, and I still need to be strong.  And the tears that I now WANT to cry won't come.  They have been suppressed for so long that I find it hard to let them out.  I NEED to let them flow.  I need friends who are able to sit with me through the tears, and to help walk me through the process of tears and anger and a normal range of emotions, and still be there on the other side of the flood.

I don't have a lot of answers for how this plays out.
My friends that feel safe to me are more than 12 hours away.
Besides, my life is full and good.  Some days I don't want to rock the boat.
But there is more...Oh, so much more...and I want to be free to experience the whole spectrum of emotions.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Changing Perspectives

Do you remember how, as a kid, all of the teens and young adults looked so "OLD!!"?  How they were super-cool, and yet you couldn't imagine actually BEING that old, and especially could not imagine life AFTER that?  How as a teenager, seeing people in their 30s and 40s as being REALLY OLD made them super-uncool, and you really couldn't imagine being that uncool?

What happened between then and now?
High school graduation.
College.
Marriage.
6 children.
Military life.
Grad school.
17 moves.

Perspective.  I have gained the perspective that only age and experience afford us.  I am now that super-uncool 40-something, with children in elementary, middle, high school, and college, two cars, and bills.  My focus is VERY different than it was when I was that bug-eyed kid looking up to the young adults surrounding, drooling over their "privilege".

The same thing that happened with my perspective on aging has also happened in other areas of my life.

I could not imagine, now, going back to the sheltered life I once lived.  The thought is enough to make me hyperventilate.

I enjoy many different foods.

I LOVE seeing new places.

I thoroughly enjoy traveling.

The stuff that used to bring me comfort now threatens to suffocate me.

The anger I used to feel about ways I was treated in the past has faded as I recognize the way God has used those experiences to change me.  Yes, there is hurt...the way an old scar is sensitive, an old broken bone aches from time to time.  It is enough to remind me that those scars and breaks are the catalysts to growth.

I am grateful for the changes brought about...not because I enjoyed the pain, but because I know now that God is taking what was designed to break me, and is using it to make me stronger and more useful to Him.

To borrow a much-loved phrase from a friend, "Soli Deo gloria."  Glory to God alone.  He has done this.  Not me.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Realizations

The love expressed by my friends has been amazing.






For far too many years, I have felt alone.

Unloved.

Unseen.

Invisible.

None of this is the fault of any of those friends who have walked this path with me.  Brokenness of mind, body, and spirit happen as the result of abuse.  I could not feel love from others.  I felt my own love, reaching out to those around me, but I never ever felt anything reciprocated...with one exception...my husband was somehow able to break through to me.

So, for many, many years, I was groping my way through my life, feeling blind to love.  I knew what *I* felt, but I could not see that others felt that same way towards me.  I did not know how to be a friend.  I scared people away with my neediness one minute, and my walls and barriers the next.

Repeatedly, I asked for help.
Not in so many words, because that would be admitting that I was broken.
Rather, I tried to find a best friend.
A mentor.
A grandmother.
A mother.
Someone.
ANYONE who would love me.

With the help of my husband and several amazing counselors, over the last few years I have started to actually feel loved by and connected to people around me, and by extension, I have actually begun to KNOW that I am loved by God.  It is an amazing thing.

The growth that has happened, the recognition of my own woundedness, and the application of a LOT of years of hard work, both by myself and by my counselors and husband, and especially God's work in my life, have gotten me to this point.

What I have learned in this process:
1. The need for a mother's love never ever goes away.
2. God has brought me a LONG long ways.
3. I still have a LOT more to learn.
4. Really learning about God's love is AMAZING.  For that, I am eternally grateful.




Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Conflict of Mother's Day

Most of the time I HATE Mother's Day.

All of my friends are posting these glowing tributes to their amazing mothers.

I'm jealous.

They change their profiles to pictures of themselves with their mothers, or just pictures of good ol' Mom.

I never...

They speak of Mother's Day plans, and Mother's Day gifts....

I DO love my mother.
I love my mother the way every abused child loves the parent that abused them.
There is conflict.
The sadness overwhelms me.
I always wanted a good relationship with my mom.
At one point I thought I had a good relationship with her.
And then I started learning what healthy, good parent-child relationships looked like.
And all of the years came crashing back around me.
The abuse.
The control.
The manipulation.
The deception.
Because I was the child, and she was the mother, and I didn't know any better...
I thought that was how I was supposed to be parented.
And now I mourn.
I mourn for the relationship I thought I had.
I mourn for the mother she could never be to me.
I mourn for the mother I wish I had.
I mourn for the relationship my children cannot have with her.
I mourn that she is not healthy.
I mourn that her refusal to care for herself means that on her "bad" days she is nice, and on her "good" days, she is the same negative, sad person I remember.
I mourn that I will never have a chance to have a good relationship with my mother.

And yet.
These are things which cannot be spoken.
Obviously, in the eyes and minds of many, I must have done something terribly wrong for our relationship to be so broken.
When I DO say something, no one knows how to respond, so they don't...and conversation continues as if I said nothing.
When I DO say something, I get told I need to reconcile.  Which reconciliation requires the participation of two willing parties, who both acknowledge their own part in the problem.  And this will never happen.
When I DO say something, I get told to forgive her.  I have.  100-thousand times.
So, I get the message that no one wants to hear that a mother could hurt her children.  That my words and my memories are wrong, because no one saw the horror of how I lived.  That I am not supposed to tell, because to tell is to tear down the image of motherhood...the one she worked so hard to perpetuate, so that no one outside the family knew the truth.

More than 35 years since life descended into a hell no child should ever have to endure, people still cannot fathom why I hate a holiday that stirs up the painful memories.

And yet.
I have 6 amazing children.
And an absolutely wonderful husband.
They love me.
They heap me with praises, and flowers, and jewelry, and so much love.
They love to show me that they care...and they all do a great job of it.
And some of them need the reminder of a set-aside holiday.

So, while some of me is in conflict, some of me also is grateful for the love my husband and children show me on this holiday I hate.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Life on the Move, and Finding a Church

As a military family, we have moved a LOT.

"Home" is in South Carolina.
That's where our families are.
That is where we were married and lived for the first 8 years of our marriage.
That is where 2/3 of our children were born.




But then, the Navy...yes, Jason IS a reservist.  AND he is active duty.  Welcome to my confusing life.

And "A" school in Meridian, MS (The kids and I were still in SC).






And two homes in Portland, TX...because we added another child!










And two homes in Helena, MT...because we added another child!







And two homes in Virginia Beach, VA...because we bought a house!






And ONE home in Bedford/Lincoln/Lexington, MA.






Of course, prior to Jason going active duty in the Navy, we moved a LOT, also.
We were in a trailer in Gaston, SC for a couple of months...
...stayed with Jason's parents in SC for a month or two...
...an apartment in Columbia, SC for a couple of months...
...9 months renting a house in Due West, SC...
...6 weeks house-sitting...
...about a year in a make-shift house outside of Columbia...
...about 2 years in a duplex in Columbia...
...about 2 years in a trailer outside of Columbia...
...about 3 years in the house we built in Gilbert, SC...
...and six months at my brother's house in Edgefield, SC.

That is a total of 17 different places our family has lived in 22 years of marriage.

All of that moving has meant that we have had a LOT of neighbors (howdy, good neighbor!), and been part of a number of churches...and have many friends from all of them.

West Columbia Evangelical (now named Augusta Street Church) was home for 7 years.
Calvary Chapel of Greenwood, SC was where we attended for the time we lived in Due West, SC.
In Texas, we went to Calvary Chapel Coastlands for about a year, and then to New Community Church in Portland for the remainder of our time in TX.
In Montana, we were happy to quickly find Hannaford Bible Church, and attended there for all of the 4 1/2 years we lived there.
In Virginia Beach, we were part of Reality Church for 7 years, and then at Tabernacle Church in Norfolk, VA for a year.
Now we are part of Grace Chapel, in Lexington, MA.

Even though we have been far from our biological family, God has provided His family for us in many different places, and during some very difficult years, and we are grateful.

If there is one thing I would tell any nomadic family (be it military, missionary, or otherwise), I would STRONGLY urge you to find a good church family.  That family will be who walks with you through transitions, and who provides support and encouragement during those times when your family-of-origin cannot be with you.

Of course, finding a church family that feels like home is not always easy.  Different areas of the country have different expectations and cultures within their churches, and you may have difficulty finding a church that fits your family, or that fits your expectations of how church is "supposed to" look.

A few tips on finding a church in a new area:

1. Pray.  Ask God to guide you to where He wants you to be.



2. List.  Make a list of what you need to have in a church.  Theology?  Affiliation with a particular denomination? Programs for kids? A good choir? Men's/Women's ministry?


3. Pray some more.



4. Google.  Using your list, go find websites for churches in your area.  Look at their "What We Believe" section, the programs they offer, who they are affiliated with.



5. Pray over the churches you find that fit your criteria.


6. Visit the churches...plan to attend each church for at least two Sundays, and as many other meetings as you can get to during that time period.


7.  Pray some more...keep asking God for His guidance.

If you find a church that feels/seems right, visit it for another couple of weeks to months, making sure that it is the right place for you.  Plug into small groups, get involved in learning about the way this body of believers does life together, make connections with people.  A good church is not just about theology and programs...a good church provides a place for people to connect with God and with each other.