My Broken Hallelujah

lineGod, I’m not even sure where to begin. Do I start at the beginning, in the middle, in the right here and now, or with my hopes for the future?

I have nothing… nothing to hold up for myself to say, “THIS…. This is my good. This is the part of me that got it all right… that knows where it’s going… that knows what to fervently embrace and run with.” Instead, I’m here… wandering in the fog of confusion, surrounded by millions of voices yelling at me, forcefully luring me to come to them and follow their path.

But I’ve tried so many paths. At impressionable ages, I was led down twisting trails, told what to believe and what to strive for. I left these pathways for one of my own. I wasn’t going to let someone else choose my way. I would find it on my way.

Sometimes I was sure I was getting somewhere good, but most times it was just way too foggy to even see where I was going.

You see, I’m broken… so very broken. I’m broken in my mind, in my heart, and in my soul.

I was taught that you wanted me to follow long lists of rules to be holy. I was taught that a position of authority was a free pass to blissful manipulation. I was taught you needed me to meekly submit to this type of authority before you would truly be pleased. Until then, I was rebellious and deserved to be stoned.

I came to see you as a manipulative God, ruling your subjects from your royal throne, laying down law after law and withholding love unless they were followed. I strove everyday to be able to hear you say, “This is my daughter. She is holy because she holds my standards high in her heart.”

Then came the slow realization that these standards I strove for were not even your own. They were standards set forth by a man, claiming to be your favorite minister. They were standards enforced by the authority positions over me. And I could never, absolutely never, uphold these standards perfectly.

Then I did it! I broke away from these chains wrapped around my ankles. I was free… free from the chains of legalism. And you began your work of healing. You showed me that you love me, no matter what.

But as these fallacies and half truths have slowly been picked out of my mind and heart, they’ve left holes… holes that need to be filled with truth. And I don’t know where to get this truth, God. How can I ever trust another teacher? How can I read your word and hear just you and not the words of others?

I need you to take my broken pieces. Sweep them up, every sliver, and piece me back together in the image of Christ.

Sort through the twisted wires of thought patterns in my mind. Untangle them and connect them correctly.

Fill in these holes with you and your truth.

I come to you broken, Father. I love you. I trust you. I know that you are sovereign and full of grace.

Here’s my broken hallelujah.
Your Daughter

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

twirl
 

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

A Letter to my Pastor

writingDear Pastor,

Five years ago our little family was in need of direction and healing. God lead us to you and to the church family you shepherd. You probably don’t know that the words God spoke through you and the circumstances (both good and bad) that were taking place within the church were like stiches sewing together the rips in our hearts and in our marriage.

Your words and your leadership added water and sunlight to the seed of faith within us… the faith that God truly is 100% sovereign in all things… ALL things… even when it doesn’t make sense. The faith that God is not a list of rules and do’s and don’t’s that’s thrown for a loop when we mess up… but rather a God who is in control of all things and who works all things for good and for His glory.

Yes, it’s been five years. The rips are healed… though there’s still some light scars. The seeds of faith have sprouted and began reaching high toward the heavens.

And yet, I’ve never said much more than “hi” to you. You don’t see our family at Sunday school early every Sunday morning. You don’t see us on Wednesdays and Sunday nights. In fact, we’re probably present only about 70% of the time on Sunday mornings.

Why? Why are we ghosts flittering in the doors barely seen and back out again before anyone notices? Short answer… I don’t know exactly.

Long answer… it could be any of these or all of them…

I can’t speak for my husband, but me… I’m scared. Scared of committing myself to a thing… a church… a group of people… a leader. I’ve seen the danger of cult like religion. I’ve seen people who love Jesus place their hearts in the hands of the leader. I’ve seen these people lose their love for Jesus as their hearts turn to stone. They faithfully follow the standards of their group’s leader and judge those who do not. They religiously read their Bible. They claim to have revelations from God, but they are conclusions of their own. I’ve seen these people, and I’ve been one of them.

I love God with my whole being. I’ve sought Him like a crazy person these last five years. And what I’ve found has taken my breath away. I’m scared that by committing to the church… to faithful attendance… to participation in Bible studies… to fellowship with other believers… I may lose this personal thing I have going on with the God of my soul.

Then there’s the fear of people… the fear that I will be found guilty of something… I’ve no idea what. I may be judged. I’m more of a black tea person who likes to percolate the deep concepts of life. Small talk… getting to know you talk… it’s hard. I stumble over my own words. It’s like I can give an entire speech on the incredible sovereignty and grace of God in the workings of life, but I can hardly manage to ask a genuine “how are you?”. The friends I have managed to make at church tend to leave about the time we get past the up front hellos. I’m scared to lose another friend.

I also have this strange fear that any time I even smile at a man in church, I will be found guilty of flirtatious behavior. In the religious circle in which I spent all of my teen years and half of my twenties, speaking as a friend to the opposite gender was just not right. People were punished for it. In those so important years when normal people were learning how to appropriately interact with the other gender, I practiced the standards of looking the other way when a man or boy my age walked by. I did not smile. I did not speak. And when I did, I always felt guilty. How can I comfortably interact with my family through Christ with this weird fear and false guilt always at the front of my mind?

Then there’s just the plain old fear of commitment to anything other than my family. I get easily overwhelmed with life as a wife and mother. How could I possibly join another family and the commitments that go along with it? Could I really give? Do I even have anything worth giving?

It’s just easier to not to…. to not commit.

So in case you were wondering… there it is.

Sincerely,
The little lamb that slinkers past you on the way out the door

 

*photo credit

My Love Hate Relationship With Fall

Leaves6Fall… the very word conjures up visions of cloudy days, chilly fingers, and a depressing gloom.

Everything bad happens in the fall. For real. My cat died in the fall (on my birthday). Bill Clinton became president in the fall (also on my birthday). I witnessed a near murder in my own family in the fall. My marriage was tested with torturous flames in the fall. You see where I’m going with this? Fall = Bad!

Oh, and also Fall signifies the start of winter which lasts far too loooooooong in Indiana.

In my teen years and early adult years, fall was a time of depression for my mother, usually resulting in thick tension. Depression slithered through the house threatening to swallow all of us into its stinky belly. During these times, I took on the role of mother for my younger siblings and the role of counselor for my mother. Two roles a daughter should not take on. It’s not her place.

I’d known nothing but depression during the fall when I married my love. It took me four years to finally get to a place where fall did not send me down into a spiral of darkness. I finally felt like maybe fall could be my friend. I reached out my hand in a peace offering to fall. It bit me. Fiercely.

Just a few short weeks into the fall of ’08, our marriage hit a painful hurdle. It was confusing hard. And once again, fall swallowed me up in depression. It didn’t help that I gave birth just a few short days before. Post partum hormones do not mix well with sorrow and pain.

Last year, toward the end of September, I packed up my kids and my camera and went out to find something to love about fall. I was determined to beat fall at this game of darkness. Where he loomed in shadows, I found light and beauty. I’m not sure that I really felt happy right away, but I forced it in an effort to trick myself into being happy. I chose to fight the gloom.

And I won. For the first time in all my life (that I can remember), I enjoyed fall. Before I knew it, Christmas had arrived and fall slithered away.

It’s mid-September. Fall is sneaking up again. The days are more often gloomy and chilly. I want to stand up to it… not let it win. But it’s so easy to just let it grab my foot and pull me back down. It almost sounds snuggy to be in the sorry-for-myself-in-my-sweatpants mode.

I think maybe now I know why it was so darn hard for my mom in the fall. It was habit to fall into depression. And habit is easy and safe. It takes bravery and strength to resist the comfort of gloom.

For the sake of my kids and my husband, I will choose to stand and fight. I will choose to wear clothing that makes me feel dressed for the day. I will choose to wear makeup and jewelry to make me feel pretty. I will choose to smile when I’d rather cry. I will choose to use gentle words when I’d rather snap.

Fall, you cannot have my soul. You just canNOT.