Is It Real?

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I was but a tiny girl.
I peered around the corner at my mother, sitting in the kitchen.
The ashtray overflowed with ashes as a pillar of smoke rose from the center.
Beer cans were scattered across the surface of the table.
Her eyes met mine for five seconds – long enough to pierce my soul with fear.
But she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

She sat in the rocking chair, tears trickling down her cheeks.
“Mommy?”
I placed my hand on her hand and turned my empathetic face up to hers.
She shoved me, knocking me to the floor.
I knew I must have done something wrong.
It was my job to keep her happy, and she was not happy.
But she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Nineteen. An adult.
No job. No college. Just obedient toe kissing.
Baking. Cooking. Cleaning. Teaching. Parenting the young siblings.
Twenty-three.
No job. No college. No dating. No parties. No hanging out with friends.
Just more obedient toe kissing.
Wearing homemade dresses. Dedicating my young years to domestic “ministry”.
“It’s for your protection,” she said. “It’s God’s design for girls.”
And she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

“Giving the world a new approach to life!”
Follow these ten steps.
Drink these seven basic principles and drown in them.
They look like Biblical righteousness from where you sit in the stadium, but really they are chains of slavery.
Beat yourself over the head with these 49 character qualities.
And remember that grace is you doing what you’re supposed to be doing… perfectly.
Dating is fornication. Once attracted, you must marry.
Hook, line, and sinker… I swallowed it all.
But God said “I love you” in John 3:16.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Long eyelashes. Hazel eyes. Best friend turned something deeper.
Engaged just 2 weeks after realizing it’s more than friends.
Married 4 months later.
We did it right. We were righteous.
Courtship trumped worldliness.
We waited to say “I love you” until we were promised to each other.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Eleven and a half years of total dedication.
I made myself everything I thought he wanted.
Always quick to forgive. Very slow to judge.
Everyday I strove to trust and give the benefit of the doubt.
Shove the paranoia to the back burner.
Smile.
Hug.
Kiss.
Believe the best.
Ignore the warnings.
Say “I love you” every day and every night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Go to work.
Leave work.
Walk in the door.
Hang up the jacket.
Kiss the wife.
Whisper, “I like us.”
Chat over dinner.
Sit in the living room with the computer, ipad, or phone.
Tuck kids into bed.
Watch TV.
Get intimate in bed.
Fall asleep.
Repeat.
He said “I love you” tonight.

Is this love?
Is it real?

I thought it was all love.
I thought it was all real.

“You mother suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.”
Reality shattered. There is no fixing it. There is no healthy, loving relationship.

“Your over sheltered life has your thinking and belief system in complete turmoil and bondage.”
Reality shattered. Protection from life is psychologically harmful.

“There is no new approach to life. The greatest approach was given 2,000 years ago through the life and death of Christ.”
Reality shattered. There is no man who has “new revelations” from God.

“All your striving to be perfect has made you resistant to His amazing grace.”
Reality shattered. There is no doing what’s right, because it’s right… perfectly.

“I’ve spent our entire marriage trying to escape you. I don’t think we should have ever married.”
Reality shattered. There was no best friend. There was no “us”.

“Working late again.” Coming home smelling like perfume. Texting pictures back and forth. The list goes on.
Reality shattered. The words “I love you,” “I like your body,” “You’re beautiful”… they mean nothing. Just empty words to hide a lie.

There is no love.
Nothing is real.

But then He whispers.
He shows me that grace is not a list of rules to keep. Grace is Him looking down, loving me just where I am, and wrapping me in Christ’s righteousness.
He shows me that He is a good, good Father. Always providing. Giving good things. Holding. Hugging. Listening. Always patiently listening.
He shows me that His heart knows brokenness. Betrayal, deceit, abuse, devaluation… He’s felt it all.
He shows me that being human means always questioning. It means blood and tears. And He’s ok with that.
He shows me that He is the God who sees me… ME… in the midst of crap I never asked for.

This is love.
This is real. This is the only reality. It will never shatter.

The Journey of a Maple Leaf

mapleleafA crisp fall wind pushed its way through the branches, fluttering the last three pointed leaf wildly until it broke loose from its lifelong home. Up, up it soared and then back down again, diving into the picture window of the house it had stared at every day. Inside, a small girl huddled in the corner peering over the tattered ear of her teddy bear at her fighting parents.

Just as the leaf began to slide down the pane, the fall wind yanked it away to the windshield of the red car driving down the street. In the backseat, a little boy sobbed uncontrollably. “Shut up!” the woman behind the steering wheeled yelled as she impatiently flicked on the wipers.

The leaf flew to the side of the road and into a ditch, but before it could catch its breath, it was pinging between grave stones, crashing into one right after the other. Each stone bore the etched name of someone dead… someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, child. So much death. So much dreary coldness. Relieved to finally reach the other side of the graveyard, the leaf fluttered to the curb and lay silent for a moment, trying to forget the names it had slapped against.

Suddenly, it began to vibrate. What was that rumbling sound? It was getting louder and closer. Before it could find the answer, the leaf was forced into the air and pressed against the window of a passing city bus. It studied the face of the woman only inches away. Her eyes were distant and sad, and her hair hung in greasy lumps against her tear streaked cheeks. She gingerly pressed her fingertips against the glass separating her from the leaf, and as she did, it was pulled away once again by the invisible force of the autumn wind.

It pushed and pulled and tugged the leaf right into the revolving door of a tall business building. The clumping and clacking of sophisticated footsteps over and around it overwhelmed the fragile leaf. A rather large rubber sole trampled carelessly onto it and the leaf found itself stuck. Up it went, then down again, pressed firmly between the sole and the floor.

The breeze created by the man opening a heavy wooden door loosened the leaf and it fell freely to a cold marble tiled floor. The man plopped his brief case on the floor and leaned against the sink, glaring at his own reflection before him. “You really messed it up today, Max. When will you even learn?” He slammed his fist against the counter, picked up his briefcase and stomped back out the door, sending the leaf back into the swarm of feet.

“Everything is so sad and ugly,” thought the leaf to itself, as it lay face down on the shiney, hard floor. “What a useless, miserable existence!” It no longer cared if it the feet squashed or torn into its veins.

Suddnely it felt itself being curled and lifted by a chubby, little hand. “Weef, Mommy!” a high pitched voice exclaimed. “Yeah. You found a pretty one,” a woman’s voice answered. “I keep it?” the little voice asked. “For a little while,” the woman answered again. The leaf swung in short swoops up and down as the chubby little hand transported it through the revolving door and down the sidewalk.

The wind gusted, yanking the leaf from the clutch of the sweaty palm. Up and up it soared. It looked down and watched as the little hand waved. “Good bye, Happy Weef!” the squeaky voice called. “Good bye, one and only happy child,” the leaf called back.

The leaf found itself flying higher than it had ever been. Up higher than the towering buildings of the city. It looked down, saw the scurrying people, small as ants, the glint of the sun on the skyscrapers, and the orange and red powder puff tree tops lining the streets. What a breathtaking view!

It wanted to stay up there forever where there are no tears, no yelling, no death, no ugliness, but the wind force had other ideas. It plummeted the leaf straight down toward the river snaking through the city. The leaf was sure this was the end, but just as it was about to hit the water, the invisible wind caught it and cradled it.

Faster and faster it sailed, hovering just above the surface of the sun sparkled water, between the rows of orange and yellow and red. Other leaves joined it and together they soared over and through the mystical tunnel of beauty until the wind puffed, scattering them into their own journeys.

The maple leaf floated into a park and onto the back of a running dog. It found itself being jostled up and down as the furry beast playfully chased three giggling kids. This was fun! The leaf hung on as tight at it could and felt a giggle burst out from deep inside itself.

But the three pointed leaf could not hold on tight enough and it was soon zipping through the air, doing loop the loops and nose dives. “It feels good and happy to dance,” the leaf thought as it soared right between a man and woman holding hands and straight into the hair of a mother. The leaf inhaled deeply, letting the fragrance of her shampoo and perfume engulf it. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

“Higher, Mommy!” The swing pushed the wind and again the leaf fluttered and swirled, this time landing inside a stroller right on top of a sleeping baby. The leaf lay as still as it could, feeling the gentle rise and fall of this tiny chest. It leaned in close and listened to the rapid heartbeat of this precious life.

Up it soared one more time, high into the vast blueness. The leaf looked down at the happy humans, young and old, loving and living in harmony together. It looked down at the sunlight glitter playing in the river and the colorful tree branches dancing in the autumn wind. It listened to the children’s voices and giggles. It smelled the scent of earth and leaves and coffee and life. Each sensation mixing with the other until it all melded into something so overwhelmingly beautiful that the leaf thought it just might burst.

The leaf’s journey had come to an end, and the invisible autumn wind gently floated it to a pile of other leaves at the base of a tall tree. “What did you see up there?” a small oak leaf asked.

“I saw that life is full of sadness and anger and dark death. It feels empty and cold,” the maple leaf answered, “But if you soar up high enough and see the bigger picture, the scene will engulf you with such beauty that when you have fluttered back down into reality, that’s all you’ll see.”

The three pointed leaf smiled and whispered, “I saw beauty.”

 

Photo Credit

When You’re Broken, and You Know It

brokenBroken. It’s a word that’s been running circles in my head for several days now.

Broken. It’s more than just admitting my childhood/early adulthood has adversely affected me. It’s more than just realizing I have issues, just like every other person in the world has issues.

It’s a personal admittance. I’m broken.

Sometimes I even whisper the words out loud… just to let the truth sink in. There are parts of my subconscious that are in dire need of repair before it completely takes over my entire being in a fit of selfish, angry rage.

And  you know what? It makes me feel weak and vulnerable. And I just want to go back to pretending I’m completely whole and happy, where even those who are closest to me have no idea what’s going on inside.

But I can’t. I’ve seen what happens when brokenness isn’t fixed. I’ve been on the receiving end of brokenness tearing out of someone’s soul and attacking my own. I don’t want that miserable life, and I certainly don’t want to spread that sloppy mess on my family and friends.

They need me. They need a whole-as-can-be me.

I need fixing, and I can’t do it alone. I need help. Because I’m broken, and I know it.

A Metaphoric Nancy Drew, Pt. 2

Metaphoric Nancy Drew pt 2

*This is part two of the series, A Metaphoric Nancy Drew. You can read part one here.

 

“Nessa Brach?”

“Yes, this is Nessa,” she had answered, wondering who the caller was.

“Don’t trust him, Nessa,” the voice warned. “He’s not good. He’s pure evil. Get away from him as soon as you can.”

“Who? Who’s evil?”

“The Leader. Dr Landon.” By now, the voice was panicked. “Stay away from him.”

She heard a rustle and then silence. The caller had hung up.

Nessa sat on her bed staring at the wall for what seemed like an hour. “Well, that was weirder than snow in July,” she thought.

She pulled her laptop onto her legs. Maybe she could look up the number the call came from. Then she could find out who called.

211-123-4567. Andrew McCoy.

But the caller had definitely been a girl… maybe around twenty. McCoy. McCoy. Why did that sound familiar?

A door slammed downstairs, and she could hear the clip, clip of her mom’s high heels across the kitchen tile. Mom would know. Nessa slid off her bed and scurried down the stairs.

“Hi, Mom. Here. Let me help you with the groceries.”

Her mom looked at her in surprise. “Thank you.”

Nessa smiled as she slid the loaf of bread into the bread drawer. “Mom. Who’s Andrew McCoy?”

“He used to work for Dr. Landon. Why?”

Nessa opened the refrigerator and slid the jug of milk onto the top shelf. “No reason,” she lied.

“You know,” her mom continued. “His daughter Skylar was Dr. Landon’s secretary a couple years ago. I guess she started ‘loosing it’ and accused Dr. Landon of some nasty things, so Mr. McCoy resigned to take care of his mentally sick daughter. I don’t think anyone has heard of them since.”

Nessa thoughtfully poured herself a glass of Coke. “Mom, why did Dr. Landon take an interest in me? I didn’t  even know the Institute existed until I came here from Dad’s a year and a half ago. I wore clothes Dr. Landon would never approve of and listened to music that he deems evil. Why did he ask me to be his secretary when Aubrey left six months ago? Why me? And why did Aubrey leave anyway?”

Her mom stopped unloading groceries from the last bag and looked Nessa in the eye. “I don’t think all that matters, Dear. What matters is that the Good Leader saw great potential in you. He changed you for the better. You were so depressed and rebellious before you met him. He saved your life, Dear. That’s all that matters.”

There it was again… the “you owe the Good Leader your life” line. Nessa raised her glass slightly. “Thanks, Mom. I’m going upstairs to study.”

She was glad her mom didn’t ask her what she was studying. She had plenty of research to do, but it wasn’t for any of her college classes. She had to find out more about Skylar McCoy. This research project just might be more interesting than a jar full of fireflies to a six year old boy.

 

Read more from this series:

A Metaphoric Nancy Drew, Part One

 

*photo credit

The Post I Secretly Hope No One Notices

Fix It

In the five months this blog has been alive, I’ve had two goals. Inspire others to overcome everything that holds them back from living out who they are. And don’t make anyone mad.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way human nature works. We stay stagnant until someone is brave enough to slap us in the face and wake us up from our stupor.

So, here’s to making people mad. If it inspires even just one person, I’m ok with the rotten tomato brigade.

Today, I will stop trying to live by the popular Pinterest saying: “Be brave enough to tell your story, but polite enough not to tell the story of others.” Our lives as humans are so tightly twisted and mangled together, that that’s just simply impossible. You can’t tell a story of triumph without speaking of the darkness. But you can’t tell of the darkness without speaking of the person who caused it.

I’m on a journey to break through the darkness of a hostage identity. The one holding it hostage was my mother. She really messed me up.

“Yeah, well none of us had perfect parents,” you say. “At least you had a mom. At least she wasn’t a druggie prostitute living on the streets.”

Both of these statements are true, but there’s fallacy in the thinking.

If we’re honest, we don’t shrug our shoulders at our parents’ mistakes out of kindness, but out of fear. Fear of confrontation. Fear of drama. Fear of rejection. But mostly, fear of responsibility.

If we acknowledge their parenting failures, we’re forced to act upon that acknowledgement. We’re forced to confront the “messed up” parts of our life and fix them. We’re forced to take action to prevent making the same mistakes they made.

But here’s the rock solid truth: If you don’t stand up and acknowledge how your parents messed you up, no one else will. If you don’t fix what’s messed up, no one else will. Your parents cannot do that for you, no matter how many times they anguish, “I’m so sorry. Forgive me. I only did the best I could.”

So today, I’m taking my stand. I’m standing up on the wooden soap box in the park to say…

My mother made mistakes. These mistakes messed me up. It doesn’t matter if the mistakes were huge or small. What matters is I’ve spent the last 9 1/2 years trying to fix what’s messed up, and I’m not done yet. That’s huge.

I’m messed up because I spent every waking hour of my first 25 years of life doing exactly what she wanted, when she wanted, and how she wanted because it was my job to make her happy. It took me 9 years to even realize that this emotional control had polluted my thinking.

I’m messed up because my mom taught me that every.single.man had only one thing in mind: sex. And that they will take every opportunity to get it from any female body. She would stop our homeschool afternoon and drag us with her to my dad’s job site to make sure he wasn’t messing around. I struggle with trusting my husband a lot… I mean like beyond the normal trust things that come up in a marriage.

I’m messed up because my mom decided our family should join ATI. My dad went along with it to make her happy. She gave herself to following Bill Gothard and conservative family Christianity. She set up “standards” we had to follow so we could be Gothardy. I resisted, then fell for it, then resisted, then fell for it. Funny thing was, the only time I resisted was when I was away from my mother. The only time I began to fall for the legalism and strict authority focus was when I was home with my mom. Even in my 20’s, I submitted like a child to her rules and wishes, because Mr. G said that’s what a godly daughter does.

I’m messed up because my mom abused me physically and psychologically. She became the dictator, in the name of parenting. It’s made me so confused in my own parenting. I hate the concept of authority because of it. The recent realization that I am a teacher, and have no reason to even try to be a dictator, has been the most freeing thing to me as a parent. I’m so relieved. ‘Cause if being a mom means being a dictator, I can’t do it.

There’s many more ways I’m messed up, but that’s enough to get the point across.

woodcrates

I can’t just shrug my shoulders and excuse her with “she did the best she knew how” and “she was probably messed up by her parents too”. Excusing it doesn’t address the problem; it simply shrugs off responsibility.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not a blame game. I’m not throwing mud. I’m not lashing out. I’m just being honest and shouldering the responsibility to do something about it.

Now that I’ve realized it, stated it, and believe it, I have the power to change it. I see where I’m messed up. I realize why. Now, I can take the action to fix what’s broken and do my darnedest to mess up my kids a little less than the previous generation.

So stand up on your soap box. Admit how your parents messed you up, so you can fix it.

 

*photo credit

Your Story: A Girl’s Just Gotta Twirl

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Ginger is a dear friend of mine. She has walked the journey through the shadowy darkness and broke through the other side. She blogs of her experiences, as well as many other things, over at Just One of the Boys. Today, she shares with us a glimpse into her journey…

I remember twirling in my fancy dress as a little girl. Time seemed to pause just for me as I spun around and around on my tip-toes. My ruffled dress and I whirled about the room so fast that everything around me simply faded away. That dress transported me to my own little world where I could be a ballerina, a fairy princess, or Cinderella at the Ball. I wanted to dance in my special little place forever…

But what happened to the imaginative little girl that I used to be? Her heart had been bursting with endless hopes. The dreams that she held so dearly knew nothing of limits. Her little world was full of light – a beautifully magical place where good always prevailed over evil, no real harm could befall her, and where Prince Charming was coming to rescue her, dressed in his shining armor.

Dark shadows crept toward her, and she gradually stopped twirling. As she was confronted by these ghosts, she let her dreamland slip away. Over time she sadly gave into the idea that she would never be a fairy princess. When she stood still, darkness crept in to surround her.

Amy's flower girl

Other girls laughed at her. She buried her desire to once more twirl around and around. She tried to fit in…and failed miserably. “You’ll never be good enough,” the Shadow of Inferiority hissed.

“I’m not hungry.” The lies that she told herself over and over again were so ardent that she actually started to believe them. The lower the number fell on the scale, the closer she thought that she would be to perfection. She thought that she was almost there, but perfection never came. “Just a few more pounds. Just a few more inches,” lied the voice of Self-hate.

She felt in her heart that something was not perfectly right, but he seemed like such a nice guy. He sought her out. No one had ever paid her this much attention. He said that he couldn’t imagine life without her. Surely, this had to be her long-awaited Prince. The Shadow of Deception felt too good to be true.

“It’s your fault. You made him angry,” the Shadow of Abuse deflected the blame at her.

Crashing through her little home, The Storm of Infidelity left a trail of devastation in its wake. Once more she allowed her heart to listen to the vicious lies in her head. If only she had been prettier. Maybe then he wouldn’t have betrayed her trust. Maybe then she would have been good enough. If only…

As the shadows of Divorce and Loneliness threatened to surround her, she realized that she no longer had to be frightened by the ghosts of the past.  Wondering why she had ever stopped dancing through life, she worked to slowly unravel the darkness that had been her constant companion all of these years. She found courage that had sparked deep within her. She could now face the darkest of shadows without allowing them to overtake her. She gave herself the freedom to cautiously begin to twirl once more.

Days turned into weeks, weeks eased into months, and the months flowed into years. She gathered a strength and assuredness that can only come from staring down the darkness. With a new radiance, a smile graced her face for the first time in years. A deep and meaningful happiness welled up in her soul. She learned more about her true self as she grew as a woman, and she found that her real life journey far exceeded anything in a fairytale.

When the wounds of the past had started to heal, someone new entered her life. More than just a brave prince, he was a kind and selfless spirit. As their friendship developed, and then grew into something deeper, she found that she did not have to stop twirling for him, or anyone, ever again. He, too, was on a path of healing, and their separate lives began to mesh into one beautiful dance. She now had a partner, a friend, a Beloved – and the ability to keep twirling as life moves forward. Shadows will come and go over time, but she now felt confident that they no longer had the power to hold her back from pirouetting joyfully through life.

The little girl grew up, and as she fought, lost, blossomed, and triumphed, she began to twirl once more – and she vowed to never stop.

I vowed to never stop…

“Those who look to Him are radiant, 

and their faces shall never be ashamed. ~ Psalm 34:5

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*Photo credit: Top photo – by Joanne Funk. Post Header & Bottom photo – by John Zimmerman