Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Broken and Spilled Out

shattered-glass-1-daniele-smith

Often when reading blog posts I’m triggered.  Not into a downward spiral of despair.  More of a remembrance.  A remembrance of who I used to be.  A remembrance that causes me to take note of who I am today in relation to that person.

As I read this post at VictoriaNeuronotes and the subsequent comments I was brought to just such a remembrance. I remembered when I thought so little of myself that wanted nothing more than to be broken and spilled out because of what my supposed savior had done for me.  I was, in my mind, such a wicked person; so evil and vile that only a perfect blood sacrifice could atone for my shame, my depravity, my iniquity.  Unworthy of such a sacrifice I would be willing to sell my soul to the one who had made such a sacrifice.

I was reminded of this song by Steve Green which used to be a sort of personal anthem:

Broken and Spilled Out

One day a plain village woman
Driven by love for her Lord
Recklessly poured out a valuable essence
Disregarding the scorn

And once it was broken and spilled out
A fragrance filled all the room
Like a prisoner released from his shackles
Like a spirit set free from the tomb

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of You, Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on thee

Broken and spilled out
And poured at Your feet
In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

Lord, You were God’s precious treasure
His loved and His own perfect Son
Sent here to show me the love of the Father
Just for love it was done

And though You were perfect and holy
You gave up Yourself willingly
You spared no expense for my pardon
You were used up and wasted for me

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of me, Jesus
God’s most precious treasure
Lavished on me

Broken and spilled out
And poured at my feet, in sweet abandon
Lord, You were spilled out
And used up for me

I so identified with the very first verse of Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

I even took to heart that John Newton had originally written, “…that saved a worm like me.”

A worm.  I was nothing more without Jesus than a wriggling worm in the dung heap of life. As a result of being told over and over that I was born as an affront to God, his enemy, I needed Jesus to mediate on my behalf. Made in God’s image, of course.  But I marred that image from the start by my own unrighteousness.  Anything good, and noble, and beautiful were the remnants of God’s perfect image.  The blackness, the ugliness, the humanness, that was all me. And that part of me deserved eternal damnation in a lake of fire. I needed a savior. And like anyone who has ever been saved from a sure fate of hell I was enamored with the savior.

This, folks, is the prescription company defining the disease and selling the cure.

I wanted to be broken and spilled out and used up in sweet abandon for any cause to which my savior called me.   And I was.  I was broken.  Every bit of my essence spilled out.  Shattered into a million little pieces.

You see, just as Victoria states in her excellent post, this all comes at a price.  Any notion of self-worth is hijacked and jack-knifed. Why would any loving parent want their child to be so broken?  How can this be called love?  In any other setting, if you removed the super-natural being from all of this, we would see it as twisted and abusive.  How can we just excuse this and say that because this is God there is some sort of caveat that makes this all different?somethingnew

So I’ve taken my million little pieces of broken and spilled out mess and I’m putting them back together.  I’m making something new.  I am reborn.

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Childless

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BFFs

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I love these dogs!

Sigh…

Prepare for whinging.  Yes, I’d love some cheese with this whine.  Thank you for asking.

I’m not sure I should even be writing this.  It’s…personal. Perhaps it would be better if I didn’t but writing is cathartic for me.

I have helped to raise children that were not mine who I loved(and still do).  Because of my divorce they don’t really want anything to do with me.  I tried for a while to stay in touch but it became increasingly clear that maintaining a relationship with me was more difficult and awkward than it was beneficial.  I have gracefully bowed out.   They know I love them.  They know I’m here.  There are consequences to decisions we make and we don’t get to choose them.

When I met The Brit a whole new world opened up for me.  I began to hope against hope for things that I had long ago given up on. I was getting a second chance.  For reasons beyond my control but which had nothing to do with an inability to conceive(to my knowledge) I hadn’t been afforded the opportunity to have children of my own. When TheBrit and I got married we decided to start trying to have a baby.

I knew going in that my age was going to be an issue for fertility. I told myself not to get my hopes up.  A year went by and nothing happened.  My doctor prescribed Clomid.  Each month that has gone by since has been a let down.  I’m now in my sixth and final round of treatment.  I’m disappointed.  I’m beyond disappointed.  I’m sad.

I’m not just sad.  I’m angry.  I’m pissed at my ex for not allowing me to have my own children.  I’m pissed at myself for not leaving him sooner.  I’m pissed at myself for having waited too late.  I know it’s irrational to be angry about this.  It’s not fair for me to be angry at my ex for not wanting children with me.  He had a right to his feelings on the matter.  But still.  I am. It’s stupid to be angry at myself for hanging in there and trying to make a thing work that was busted from the start.  But still.  I am.

The what ifs in life can drive a person mad, you know.  If only this.  What if that.

This is the part where the old me would have prayed.  Then prayed harder.  Then prayed some more.  This is the part where I would have begged for healing and forgiveness. This is the part where the old me would wonder and search my soul to find out what cherished sin I had that prevented God from answering my prayers.  This is the part where I would have driven myself crazy wondering what I’d done wrong.  This is the part where I’d assume that God just said, “no”.

I know, I know, I have so much to be thankful for.  The Brit and I have each other.  We have Dottie and Sarah.  And just think of all the things we can do, like travel and have our freedom if we don’t have a child.  I’ve just never heard anyone on their deathbed regret not taking one more trip or having a bigger house or a nicer car.

We could try IVF but  I don’t think I can handle the roller coaster ride that would be.  Not only that, TheBrit and I both started over with nothing.  It’s a side issue, really, but it isn’t cheap. Insurance doesn’t cover it for obvious reasons.  I’m not sure we could afford to pay for IVF and then a child as well.  And if it didn’t work the money we spent on the IVF would eliminate the possibility of adoption.

Adoption is an option.  I may get there.  It’s quite selfish, really, but I wanted the experience of becoming a mother.  I really wanted our children.  Selfishly I wanted children that wouldn’t just flip a switch and just like that I don’t exist.

This is just a rambling rant about something I have little control over.  It is what it is.  It will be what it will be.  I’ll probably get over it.  Maybe.   And who knows…it could still happen.


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Why I Stayed

October is domestic violence awareness month

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Photo credit:  Ruth

Photo credit: Ruth

love

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

I loved him. I believed these verses.  I wanted to live these out even if he did not.  I thought I could love enough for two.  Love was a decision I made every day. Besides, I loved Jesus even more and after all I had been forgiven for – what with nailing him to a cross – how could I not forgive?  Forgive and forget.  So I protected the lie and kept it cloaked in the darkness.

We had watched as his grandparents eclipsed their silver anniversary and sailed on seemingly calm waters into their golden.  I wanted to be a member of that club.  I wanted ’til death do us part.

it was against my religion

Divorce was a dirty word.  In a world where 50% of self-professed believers’ marriages end in divorce I didn’t want to be part of that number.  It was sinful to even think it.  According to scripture there really is no exception.  I felt guilty for even entertaining the thought.

I trusted in every promise of God I could cling to and decided that even if my loyalty brought about my death then I would be a beacon, a martyr, a testament to the sanctity of marriage.  I hid these words in my heart:

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps….Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” 1 Peter 2:18 – 1 Peter 3:6

shame

The first time it happened I thought it was a fluke – a one-off.  The second time I thought it was my fault.  The third time I knew I was in serious trouble.  Serious trouble with no way out.  Not in my mind anyway.  I was ashamed that I had caused this.  I was ashamed that I didn’t see it until it was too late.  I was far too embarrassed to tell anyone. Who could I tell that I made my husband angry enough to do me harm?

By the time I realized that it wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t causing these temper tantrums, it had gone on far too long.  I was ashamed I’d let it get this far. I was ashamed I had ever allowed it to happen to me.

I was ashamed for my abuser.  I didn’t want anyone to think poorly of him.

I was ashamed for anyone to know my secret.  What would people think?  Would they think that I was stupid? Would they think that I asked for it?  Would they think I was getting what I deserved?

I was weak

Having always been insecure and self-deprecating I found esteem in being the perfect wife.  Not from my abuser, but from my God and from those in the church.  Being a help-meet is what I was created for.  It was noble and prized.

My abuser detected my weaknesses with pinpoint precision and exploited them at every turn.  He knew my propensity to be a people-pleaser and reminded me often that I didn’t want to disappoint him…or God.  Who was I to deny him even the smallest of things as his God-ordained completer?

Having been emotionally tied into knots I saw the belittling as a challenge to be better.  If only I could be better.

i was strong

I have been told that I’m tenacious.  Stubborn is more like.  It can be my greatest strength and my achilles heel.  Like the doctor who continues to compress the chest of a patient whose last breath has long left their lifeless body I continue to attempt resuscitate the deceased.

If I am a failure it won’t be said that it was because I didn’t try.  I think I can, I think I can…no, I know I can fix anything. 

I also have a high pain threshold.  What signals to most people there is something wrong provides me little information.  I have a tendency to tough it out and push through the pain.  I have also been told that if something would hurt my feelings it might draw a blister on a wash pot. I have, myself, made the joke that if you’re trying to hurt my feelings you’d better tell me.

denial – not just a river in egypt

It isn’t that bad.  It doesn’t happen that often.  It could be worse.  He won’t kill me. He isn’t hitting me.  It’s not really abuse if he’s not hitting me.  Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.  All of these are the things that I told myself.  Even when I wasn’t in complete denial I seriously minimized the condition I was in.

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You can find the reasons why I left here:  Why I Left

 


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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Photo Credit: Ruth

Photo Credit: Ruth

 
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
 

Prayer.  It’s supposed to change things.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5:16-18

When I was a Christian I prayed every day.  Several times throughout the day.  Before I got out of bed I started praying. I talked to my imaginary friend about, well,  everything.  I could tell him anything.  Why not?  He saw it all anyway.  It was an internal dialogue that was continually going.

Whatever thoughts I had, some scripture would come to mind for me to apply to that thought.  I was ‘taking all my thoughts captive to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I prayed for change within myself, to become more like Christ, to be less of me and more of him.  I believed that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  In fact, I believed that the only way he could increase was for me to decrease.  I wanted there to be nothing left of me.  Slowly, over time, this did begin to happen.  I put myself away and made more of Jesus.  Or at least what I thought was Jesus:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

But I also prayed for some very real, very tangible things.  Salvation of loved ones, healing for the sick, my step-children, my then-husband, ministry opportunities.  Oh, sure, I prayed the selfish prayers too.  Though I never really expected the selfish ones to come to fruition.  I knew when I was praying selfishly.

The only prayers that were ever answered in the affirmative were the prayers to change me and the selfish prayers.  Never, in 20 plus years, were any of the prayers for salvation, healing, the suffering in the world or other non-selfish prayers answered in the affirmative.

I consoled myself on the healing prayers with platitudes about it not being God’s will.  I told myself and others that the person who died from their ailment received perfect healing rather than divine healing.

The lack of affirmative answers on prayers of salvation were always the most perplexing to me.  If it is God’s will that all should be saved and that none should perish, then why would that prayer not be answered?  At least some of the time?  It wasn’t for a lack of my attempting to evangelize them.  I didn’t just pray about it.  So then I would console myself in the knowledge that I had planted a seed and it was God’s job to water it.

I consoled myself that the suffering in the world was part of God’s plan to get his people involved in his work.  That God wasn’t in the business of snapping his fingers to alleviate suffering.  He expected us to do it.  Then why aren’t we?

No, the only prayers that were ever answered in the affirmative for me were the ones that I had control over.  Not all of my selfish prayers were answered.  Only the ones I could make happen.  And as for transforming my inner self.  Well, I did that too.  Using scripture and prayer I was able to change myself until there wasn’t much left of me.

So when I began to doubt, to question, and to learn that maybe everything I had once believed wasn’t true, it was somewhat of a relief to learn that the reason my prayers weren’t answered wasn’t because God didn’t care.  It wasn’t because God was ignoring me.  It wasn’t because I had some secret sin in my life that I had wracked my brain to find which was prohibiting God from hearing me.

It was because imaginary friends just aren’t very powerful in the lives of others.


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Writing the Wrong

“Words! What power they hold. Once they have rooted in your psyche, it is difficult to escape them. Words can shape the future of a child and destroy the existence of an adult.  Words are powerful. Be careful how you use them because once you have pronounced them, you cannot remove the scar they leave behind.” ― Vashti Quiroz-Vega

“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.”
― Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls

We sit behind these keyboards and type out words sometimes forgetting that there are actual people on the other end of the computer screen.  We type out these words knowing the intent we have, the thoughts that are running through our own heads, and having no control over how the words are received or perceived.  In the blink of an eye, in a second’s time, the time that it takes to click the ‘publish’ button our words are out there in black and white for all to see. Once the post or comment is published we know with the responses that come back to us that we have communicated ineffectively or, worse, errantly.  Wait, wait, wait…no, that’s not what I meant!, we sit here shouting at the words displayed on the page.

Speaking or publishing words is much like squeezing a tube of toothpaste.  Once the paste has been squeezed from the tube it cannot be put back in.  No matter how much you’d like to or how hard you try you’ll never shove every drop back in the tube.

Words have the power to build up or destroy, to build bridges or walls, to start wars or end them. Words have the power to give life and the power to lob off the head of the one they gave power to in one felled swoop.  They convey love and hate. They can tell our significant others that they are the most important thing in the world to us or tell them they have no value.  Words have power.  Sometimes more power than we are even aware. The saying goes, ‘Actions speak louder than words’, but sometimes words are action; they are our thoughts in action.  Whether carefully crafted or thoughtlessly strung together, words mean things.

What seems benign and unassuming to one takes on a different meaning and one of more import to another.  Within a few clicks of the publish button one comment can take on a life of it’s own, filled with meaning that was never intended, simply because we presume intent upon another that was probably never there.  Presuming intent upon another leads to all manner of misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and collateral damage left in its wake.

Sometimes in an effort to be humorous or witty we(read: I) use poor judgement and in the blink of an eye the readers’ perception of the us is changed.  It only takes a moment.  It only takes one word and suddenly the miscommunication is blatantly obvious.   It is too late and even more difficult to communicate with two feet in your mouth.  Just because a thing can be said doesn’t mean that it should be said. A thought in one’s head doesn’t always translate well in print.  Is the pen(or keyboard, in this case) too mighty a sword in the hand of this, sometimes incompetent, communicator? Perhaps, but I refuse to be defined by my failures.  These recent words of a much more competent writer than I come to mind:

“We err. The strong and honest admit it, and make amends.” John Zande
 

Can I get a R’amen?


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Life is not a Meme

strengthofcharactermeanstheabilityto_zpsb301397fHide hurt feelings.  Forgive quickly.  Hold no resentments.  Forgive and forget.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Turn the other cheek.  These are the characteristics of the strong.  How many times are we supposed to forgive?  Seven times seven?  No, seventy times seven.

What does forgiveness look like?  What does forgiveness feel like?  What does forgiveness mean?  Is it restoration of relationship?  Is “I’m sorry” even enough for this?

Let me tell you this:  Forgiveness is mine and yours to give.  It is not something that can be demanded of us.  “I’m sorry” does not look like this:

unoforgive I may choose to do this:

forgivethemeveniftheyarenotsorryAnd if I do it will be for my sake, not yours.  But don’t expect it.  Don’t expect me to be the “bigger person”.

When you do things that hurt others you do not get to choose the consequences. When I do things that hurt others I do not get to choose the consequences.

Just because forgiveness is extended does not mean the hand of friendship is.  Some abuses of relationship just make this so.  The injured party gets to decide if and when that is even possible.  Forgiveness is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

What if an atheist feels a remorseful sadness–in your heart of hearts you recognize that you’ve done something that hurt someone else, so it is true guilt for something you are truly responsible for–and you need help to cross a “bridge” in order to mend the brokenness in that relationship?

Whether you are an atheist or theist is of no consequence when you have hurt another.  This should be the response:

sorryYou do not need divine intervention to know this.  Make no excuses, make no demands, have no expectations.  You have no right to do so.  Pray or don’t pray. When you know you’ve hurt someone else the best course of action is apology and/or restitution. It doesn’t take God for me to know that’s what I should do, and it doesn’t take God to make it happen. I’ve found that neutral third party real people build bridges that are less…invisible.  It doesn’t make me feel better to think that God has forgiven me if I’ve injured a real person.

You see, for too many people forgiveness looks like forgetness.  Sometimes “I’m sorry” isn’t enough.  Sometimes you can earn your way back into a relationship and sometimes you can’t.   If you’re given the key to someone’s inmost places, if you’ve been awarded trust, and then you’ve broken it; you don’t get to be disappointed in having to relinquish the key.

Life is not a meme.


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Holding God Back

“When all is said and done …. Two wrongs do not make a right…. And revenge is a sin in itself, the best revenge is forgiveness … Cause until you forgive, you are holding God back from His Vengeance. In layman’s terms as long as you hold onto the transgression you hold God powerless…. Let go and let God “~ A Facebook ‘friend’

“no matter what someone says or does to you. stand your ground and dont do or say anything to hurt them or put them down. Remember GOD DOESNT LIKE UGLY and he will ‘get them’!!” ~ A different Facebook ‘friend’

I have a few Facebook ‘Friends’ who, when they go through anything remotely challenging, blow up everyone’s news feed with cryptic messages about their tribulations on their favorite social networking medium.  And they post this kind of….stuff.  Yeah, that word will do, I guess.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.  Heard that one all my life.  And it’s true.  It’s the rest of that stuff that gets under my skin.  I know everybody reacts differently to being hurt.  Some people are hurt at the smallest perceived slight and others it takes quite a bit for them to get to the point that they are aggrieved by continual abuses.

Regardless, if you take the position that revenge is a sin, wouldn’t wishing vengeance on said foe be a sin as well?  Isn’t that what’s happening here?  And do people really believe that God is that weak?  Or that powerful for that matter?  Is your lack of forgiveness all that’s holding God back from the revenge you wish to see inflicted but believe would be a sin to personally inflict?  What is the difference?

Me, personally, don’t care about revenge.  I don’t think it has anything to do with it being a sin.  It’s a personality thing.  If you hurt me it’s my choice whether or not to forgive.  I don’t think it’s a sin not to forgive (I’d have to believe that there is such a thing as sin).  If you inflict undeserved pain on another you have no right to expect forgiveness.

But, if God is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present entity, is it possible to hold him back from anything he chooses to do?  There’s irony in believing in a powerful being who can vanquish your foes and believing you are more powerful than he. What’s more I find it odd to believe that God is your hit man.  Unfortunately I know so many Christians who honestly believe this.  And they believe that they are offering forgiveness by ‘making nice’ all the while praying for their God to “get them!!”