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.

I’m All Inside Out

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October eleventh. A tiny crumble trickled down into the abyss of memory loss. Just a tiny crumb. The islands of my personality went from full color animation to unsaturated stillness. Joy, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, and Anger went into full panic, fighting over the control board.

“Find the happiness. Find the silver lining,” Joy instructed.

“What will happen now? How can we even live? Quick! Build up walls!” Fear paniced.

“Life is meaningless. Just pull the plug on it all,” moaned Sadness.

“The very thought of him with them. Bleh. Just puke. Right now,” spat Disgust.

“What the BLEEPEDITY BLEEP!?!? How dare he! He’s goin’ DOWN!” yelled Anger.

Over and over and back and forth. Fear pushed Sadness away from the controls. Anger shoved Fear aside. Disgust slinked in front of Anger. Joy tried desperately to calm everyone down.

After several days of this, Joy realized she had to take action. She began to bring up core memories… the important and joy filled memories that shaped the last 12 years of my life. She played them across the screen of my mind. But as they played, Sadness crept up to them and placed her cold blue fingers on each.

I began to see the memories through the hindsight eyes of reality and, one by one, the islands of personality have crumbled completely into the abyss of memory loss. Family Island… crash. Trust Island… crash. Friendship Island… crash. Goof-ball Island… crash. Introvert Island… crash. Parenting Island… Trickle, trickle, crumble, crash. Even Music and Writing Islands’ grayed edges began to collapse a little. Faith Island, while staying full color, quakes from time to time.

I’ve been left to look at the world void of much personality. I have no human reality on which to base my interactions in this world. I’m left empty and vulnerable and confused.

But a beautiful thing is happening. Bright orange construction signs are dotting the landscape of my mind. Islands are being built. Slowly, new personality islands are taking the place of the old. It’s a tedious process that has only just begun, but it’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Sadness has sidled up next to me, wrapped her arms around my heart and offered genuine empathy. She is teaching me the value of sadness… the depth that it brings to life… the lessons that it teaches… the growth that comes from it.

I noticed an “Opening Soon” sign on one of the new islands a couple days ago. Bold letters across the top read, EMPATHY ISLAND. As I look at the world around me, I see walking hurts. I want to reach out and hug them. I want to say, “I don’t know you, and I may not know the exact pain you’re feeling right now, but I know pain and I just want you to know you are loved.”

I’m not sure yet what’s coming soon to the other islands under construction, but I look forward to finding out. I look forward to getting to know this new defined me. There’s been a shift in the universe, and I am the epicenter.

A Little Game of He Said/He Said

wash in truthWhen words cut to the very heart of your soul, there is only one way to heal, and that is to replace them with truth. It’s time for a little game of he said/He said.

he said…
I don’t love you anymore.

HE said…
You are loved with an everlasting love that is steadfast, and nothing can separate you from that love. (Jer. 31:3, Psalms, Romans 8:35-39)

he said…
I’ve been trying to escape you.

HE said…
I’ve been pursuing you since the moment of creation. (Proven over and over in His Word.)

he said…
I choose someone else over you.

HE said…
I chose you. (John 15:16)

he said…
I don’t know if I ever wanted you.

HE said…
I have wanted you since before time began, and I prayed for you over 2,000 years ago, that you would be one with me. (John 17:20-21)

he said…
You are not attractive enough.

HE said…
I created you as a beautiful image of Myself. (Genesis 1:27)

he said…
You are not important enough for me to truly get to know you deeply.

HE said…
I know everything about you from the hairs on your head to the thoughts in your thinker. I know you inside and out and back again, and you are precious to me. (Luke 12:7, Psalm 139)

he said…
I do not take pride and joy in you.

HE said…
You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and everything that I make is good. I am proud of you, My Creation. (Psalm 139:13-16)

Hear, oh my heart. Hear these words. Let them seep into every jagged crack, filling in those broken places, making you whole. He will rebuild you and make beauty from ashes. He is God, and He can be trusted.

Three Benefits of a Recovered Identity

Our idnetity is something we investigate.“To thine own self be true,” said Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

But why? Why should we know and embrace who we are?

Why not just follow the masses? It’s more popular that way.

Why not just live the average Joe life with a white picket fence and money in the bank? Is the American dream, after all.

A knowledge of our identity is not something we’re born with. It’s also not something we just know by the time we’re grown up. It’s something that must be learned, in the same way that we learn how to walk, how to read, how to add, how to tie out shoes, how to cook, and how to drive.

We research. We investigate. We experiment. We review. We repeat the truths over and over again until it is mastered.

Quite frankly, it’s a lot of work, and we’re constantly bombarded by things that try to distract us or confuse us or outright lie to us. But it’s worth every minute of effort.

Three Benefits of a Recovered Identity

1. It gives clarity and purpose to your days. From our first breath, the average human being possesses 28,835 days on this earth. Days to be spent.

Like money, these days can be spent on anything from “cheap crap” to investing in great riches.

You can buy a cheap plastic toy from the dollar store and it’s only a dollar, but it will break by the end of the week. True. it was only a dollar, but it’s a dollar you will never get back. In the same way, you can give a day to a mediocre life (or even a life of “hell”). But chances are, it will break down or dissatisfy you. And while it may only be a day, you’ll never get it back. The more days you spend this way, the fewer you have left.

Would you not rather spend every day you have on a life lived to its fullest, embracing your place in this world…in history.. in this thing we call life?

Be sure to check out Robert D.’s video for a visual of our days.

2. It proves that we own nothing and are owned by nothing. When we realize we have a reason to live, it gives us a sense of purpose, and only one thing becomes important… that purpose.

There are beautiful gifts that we enjoy along the way, such as family, a roof over our heads, a bed to sleep on. And while they may enhance or compliment our purpose, they are only gifts. We do not own them. They are not part of who we are. And they could be taken away at anytime without any warning.

In the same way, nothing owns us. Not our possessions. Not our money (or lack of it). Not any other person. Not any difficult circumstance or situation. If we are here for a purpose, than we belong solely to that purpose and nothing or no one can keep us from that.

3. It gives both confidence and humility. Like super heroes just discovering their secret powers, we see our abilities and strengths in a brand new way. We see them as assets to success… ways to reach our goals and to accomplish our purpose in life.

At the same time, it opens our eyes to the individuality of those around us… our spouse, our children, our brothers, sisters, co-workers, friends, the common stranger. And we realize we’re all super heroes. We all have abilities.

And suddenly we’re consumed with a confident, humble desire to somehow convince the earth’s inhabitants just how incredible they are.

Nothing you’ve learned in life came without some amount of effort. Most of us have never completely mastered a skill overnight. You will bleed, sweat, and cry your way through this journey to finding yourself, but I promise it will be worth every drop of blood, every drop of perspiration, and every tear.

 

*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

Beauty Standards of Grace

scaleSeveral weeks ago, I wrote of my decision to stop trying to lose weight. I was tired of feeling so fat and ugly and trying so hard only to lose absolutely nothing, which in turn made me feel even more fat and ugly, as well as a complete failure. It was a vicious cycle.

I just wanted to be ok with me. I didn’t want to feel like I was a sinner for being fat. I didn’t want to feel like I was trash for being fat. I didn’t want to feel like every bite of food or sip of drink was a choice between good and evil, because inevitably most times I chose evil. That makes me evil, right?

Well, I’m back at the losing weight thing again. But this time it’s different.

This time, I’m working at it because I love me. I am loved by my Creator. I am loved by my family. They love me because I am me. There is no reason for me to hate myself because of my body.

In fact, the truth is, if my worth were measured by my body, I’d never amount to anything, because I could be skinny as possible and my hips will always be too wide, my belly always and forever marked with irreversible stretch marks, and chances are my teeth will still remain crooked. My body will never measure up to my standards of beauty.

If my body can never measure up to my standards of beauty, it’s not time to hate my body; it’s time to change my standards.

And so I have.

My Beauty Standards:

  1. I will be a woman of confidence.
  2. I will be a woman of joy.
  3. I will be a woman of love.
  4. I will be a woman of strength.

Caring for my body should only be a reflection of my confidence, joy, love, and strength. If I lose weight because I am caring for my body, that is great. I’ll take that. But if caring for my body does not produce weight loss, you know what… so be it. I’m ok with that. I won’t let it steal my confidence, joy, love, or strength.

And just for the record, this grace filled way of thinking is changing things. The numbers on the scale are dropping for the first time in over three years, and I’m happy… not deprived and depressed.

So maybe there truly is something to this grace.

 

*photo credit