Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You Should Be Embarrassed

It was a a year ago, that I dropped out of school that is.

My mom told  me if I left school, I would regret it. That she would not lend her support no matter how many convincing words I shared. I figured she would come around eventually and she has. But it still lingers beneath just about every conversation, I hear the doubt. I feel the building momentum of the moment she still believes will come--the one where she can say the coveted "I told you so."

I'm back in school, just several months from graduation actually. But it's not the conventional type--it's not the noteworthy college name every mom dreams of. And it will never be enough.

Last year, when I actually went through with it, I think I shocked her a bit. She cut off her financial support in her attempt to control and I knew there was no turning back. I needed a job. In one week, in fact. A real one though, one that could put me through college.

I remember it so vivid. It was a Friday and I still hadn't found a single lead. Come Monday, I had rent to pay (at an apartment I wasn't even living in nonetheless) and I simply didn't have the money. Oh mom and grandma were a double act all right, a dream team just loving the way I was failing. It's funny that they don't talk to each other out of decade old spite, yet their words echo scars deep, taking up pages long in my voicemail box.

The family I was living with, the ones that God used to walk me into freedom this year, he called to tell me around four I needed to go meet his friend who had a company. He said he might have a job for me. I'd been doing some part time labor and I raced out the door to make it across town in time. Not long after I found myself sitting across from this man and he spoke quickly and I answered simply. He said that he trusted K (the dad of family that had taken me in) very much, that his recommendation meant a lot. I left with a full time job, one that I would start that Monday in fact.

I left with something they might be proud of.

Little did I know this job would also come with another adopted family, fellow believers that encouraged me daily and covered me in prayer. I haven't always loved my job as it often seems menial if that, but I come to work everyday because I love the community, the people. I wrote about it a while ago over here.

Last week, I lost this job, quite unexpectedly.

I knew the season was winding down and five o' clock sure has dragged from lunch on the past few weeks, but I didn't see it ending this way or in this time. In fact, I am slightly freaking out.

Tomorrow the job search begins and there is talk of a move being thrown around too. I am tear-filled tonight as it is that time of the month atop the realization that I have no alarm to set, no Monday morning emails to get to. It is a rather uncomfortable place to be.

And one year ago it was there His hand hath provided--this job, this family, this safe place to come to work everyday as my nights and weekends were spent wrestling my sin and shame and learning to trust and submit. No one knew what was happening outside of the office and no one knew the way God ordained my position within this company for this season of time--but oh He did.

My grandma left me a message today and told me that I should be embarrassed by what my life has become. She went on for the full four minutes (before it cut her off) to explain how she makes up heroic stories to tell her friends about me because she could never tell them the truth. That I am a disappointment. The truth that I am a college drop out, screw up, and will never amount to much (not in the world's eyes). Now we can add unemployed to the list as well. Oh, she will love the new material.

I haven't gotten up the guts to tell mom or granny yet. Because I hear the accusations in the quiet of the night and I know their noise will prove too much to bear just yet.

You see the Truth is, God provided a year ago--this job. At the time I didn't see Him doing anything. In fact, I felt He had left me to my mess. But He hadn't--He just had to strip me of the distractions of the temporal life before He could cast vision for the eternal. If I had school and my mother's provision and an apartment with limited accountability there would be no reason for me to search for anything greater because those things seemed satisfactory.

I think sometimes God has to pull out these basic things from beneath us before we will credit Him at all worthy of something more because so often we find contentment elsewhere.

I am not embarrassed by God's work in my life this year. And while it might not play out this way for all of us, if that required Him stripping me of a college degree (for a time), trusting Him to provide a job, and moving me into a family of eleven where privacy is no longer a concept--well then I'm not embarrassed by any of that either.

And so, if He was faithful in those seemingly embarrassing things, then I simply cannot continue to shame myself into failure once more at the loss of this job.

It just means He is calling me to to trust in the eternal plan He has authored and perfected, far more then the temporal that my family speaks of. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On Why I Won't Give Up Chocolate for Lent

Forty days.

No food or water or people.

I would lose my ever-lasting mind, I think. Just with no one to talk to. No physical person standing there to process and laugh. Let's not even talk about the food and water lacking. Not physically possible for a reason, I think. And I'm glad that I don't have to give up all of those things in preparation for the resurrection, and I know I am selfish.

I've never participated in lent because it feels too religious. It makes me feel chained down by the law and I'm free from that. But if feelings aren't enough, I have some solid ground for my unwillingness to give up _____ these forty days too.

I don't think missing chocolate would leave much of a lasting impression looking back in a few years anyhow. I see sacrifice of a dear Pastor in India who has nothing and gives everything and completely trusts God. I see the persecution and need and I am shamed into ignoring lent altogether because none of my worldly junk given up for a few weeks compares. And yet I know that one day He wipes away all of our tears and I've had my share too—so I have to stop playing those games.

I bet the coffee and chocolate sales plummet during this month or so but I don't really understand it. Withholding myself from chocolate doesn't make me love Jesus more. It doesn't make me pray more. It doesn't lead me to His Word. It's just another diet—with restricting of something to be replaced with another fleshy thing. Like gummy bears. Yum.

I don't think using self-denial as a tool to rely on my own will makes a whole lot of sense since my own flesh never leads down the straight and narrow. Paul reminds us self-denial doesn't stop the flesh either. 

So this year, I added something.

My friend Sydney and I are praying. A lot. At various hours of the day and night. For forty days. At this really sweet prayer room in my town. {If you're a Fayetteville local, sign up here!}

They're keeping it open twenty-four-seven for these forty days of dersert wandering and I pray to get lost there, curled up on that red rug near the back beneath the dim lighting as some sort of music strums to the movement of fingers up front somewhere.

It's a blessing to do this together and very much one of those only God could be the author of this because our hearts are so intermeshed that sometimes when I am in the middle I forget if I'm praying for her or myself. This strong cord is gaining and I don't think it will break, even on those days we both come in heavy and weary. That's been me lately and I walk out persevering because I remember who He is outside of me and my mess.

Oh, He is bigger. 

This time spent looking at the throne feeds that into my deceitful heart and it changes me.

We are specifically asking God to give us vision for international ministry in the weeks and months to come. For next year too. It sounds like God has called us both to stay in Fayetteville for another year and for me it is slightly disappointing in initial glances [at least through these eyes of mine that filter life through my plans and my timing]. But ultimately I know another year[ish] of steadfastness is needed and for His glory as I am learning to trust His plan more then mine. I'm glad we get to do it together!

James talks about asking God for wisdom without doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. Ya'll, that is me! Even last night I found myself on the floor just weeping because I know I am supposed to trust Him and believe He will answer but I don't—I just don't always believe Him.

It's been sweet to see the Lord already answer two specific prayers and I just cannot imagine what these forty days will bring—literally cannot imagine. But it's okay because the talking and worshipping and proclaiming and reading and asking and waiting and trusting and seeing Him work—it's all how faith comes and shields. 

I think prayer drives me deeper into the desert then a lack of chocolate, though I should probably do away with that anyhow.

Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.  
                                                                                    ~ John Bunyan

Do you pray believing God will answer your prayers? How have you seen Him do so this week?

Monday, February 18, 2013

In Which They Remind Me

I will never forget it.

We were sitting in a living room infiltrated with scents that weren't found naturally in this Western nation of ours. Some things I'd never smelled and couldn't even articulate words to describe the uptake into my nostrils if I tried. I just remember thinking it was weird. And not wanting to offend. And being scared to complete a full sentence for fear they might respond and I wouldn't be able to understand their intent covered in that thick accent. So I kept quiet and labeled it my introvert tendencies.

The truth—I was so prideful and blinded by it too.

It was my first time around internationals and I had no idea what I was doing. 

That night I realized it was my duty, my call, my loving of others to actually eat these funny smelling dishes—and smile no matter how slimy or potent as it slides on down. I can compliment bad food without a problem. This was much more a personal dilemma of—what in the world am I about to put in my mouth? But I did it. And some of it was not my flavor of choice, but some of it was the best thing I'd tasted in weeks. And I learned to give up some control.

I'd never met these middle easterners but my roommate spoke of them enough where I could easily match faces with names and tid bits of stories she'd shared. Actually, she talked about them a lot and she saw them often. They were generally students and a couple were even married and raising babies. She took them to Walmart or the doctor. She showed up when a new baby arrived and she handled all of their car troubles. I didn't see it then, but she was living life with these sojourns and she understood something I didn't. She had my attention and that night was the beginning.

That's all of us, you know. Sojourners, exiles, people not belonging yet very much here for now. 

It's so temporary? We are fooled into believing death is the end and yet it is very much the beginning of fulness or the beginning of wrath, depending. 

I've just been remembering this week as I've been asked four times in a row over the past several days, quite randomly, how it all started. It started with my roommate loving on these internationals and me tagging along.

Looking back, I see this longing for home and the way they draw me back to it. They pull me out of myself and into Christ all the more. 

It just happens. You can't even think about the chasms much because you are there to build relationship. Eating their food the way they do it, even if that means sitting on the dirt floor scooping up mush with my fingers—it never becomes normal. I used to label it sacrifice and plug it into the verses about suffering for Christ. Now it's just part of the experience—a joyful one actually. Sometimes, it's flat out hilarious.

Last week I drew out the gospel for one of my Korean friends and I remember a couple years back sitting outside of Starbucks on campus beneath the warmth of the sun as I learned how to draw that gospel cliff for the first time, how to portray the bridge lacking through which the brokenness of man might attain relationship with a perfect and holy God.

The bridge—Jesus. 

And I come full circle and realize He himself was a sojourner on this earth and in His image we were made to glorify. That is, before Eve ate the apple that whispers this is the best that will ever be, this job and salary and house and family.

Let's live it up because it might not last forever. 

Well, it won't.

So in the meantime I plan big dinners and bonfires to meet new international friends and I study the bible with a group of girls and I have these four that call me "mummy" and I create this program for more college students to get involved because it won't last forever and I want them to hear. 

I love being in these funny-smelling, what am I about to put in my mouth, smiling and nodding a lot make up for the language discrepancy, meals shared because the root of it all makes me feel so uncomfortable and I need to remember hour by hour. 

This world is not your home. Don't get too comfortable. Don't depend on the food or the conversations or the comforts that make this home because it's just a blink in comparision. Just a blink.

My international friends remind me that I'm not home yet. They keep me longing for this day where every nation, tribe, people, and language will stand before the throne of the Lamb, shoulder to shoulder, draped in white as we cry out salvation belongs only to you, oh God!

And I want them there. I want them next to me. 

So I say stupid things [a lot] and we eat together [a lot] and I make faces when I don't like their food and they complain about my food making them fat and we belly laugh [a lot] and we miss home together [a lot] and I love them [a whole, whole lot] because Christ first loved me and we tell each other this is all just a blink.

A dinner at my apartment with lots of friends...on display some legit PadThai I made!!
Three of my "daughters" (with one back in Korea)
Our bible study Valentine Celebration
Movie Night!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In Which I Tell the Part Untold {And Hope You See Redemption Too}

*Let me first advice this is a tough one—it's been months in the writing and revisions have been plentiful. Some content is for mature readers only. I hope you will have grace with me in these words, as they are part of my story that's yet to be told. I know I am one in every four and I hope these words offer hope for us all. 

I was not quite to puberty and I stayed with him on the weekends. He hid the VO under the kitchen sink as if it was a secret yet to be revealed. I guess passing out on the couch by seven or eight didn't give it away though. Neither did the slurry attempt at English or the flipping over the kitchen table after he tried to sit on it once, twice. Anger and sorrow filled the room most nights, though, heavy and thick hanging in the air. Combined with the smoke, I remember suffocating.

His stenchy breath carried across the mattress and I knew his attention was all mine now.

I still remember the big fish tank he bought me and the food. He let me eat junk--and lots of it. All the carbs you can get, right here, he could have had a sign. Ice cream and chocolate chip cookies always plentiful to wash down my heapfuls of pasta and meat and garlic bread. The stuff mom never let me touch. I think I binged even back then and I just didn't get it yet, I didn't know about the hole deep down I was trying to fill and I didn't know how to fill it. I didn't know how big it would grow or how much it would hurt. There was a lot I didn't know. I was a little girl.

But I did know that food made me feel safe when the gunshots rattled the windows and when my dad sexually abused me in the bed late at night.

It lasted a few years, on and off and I lost my voice somewhere in the process. Maybe because I was too busy stuffing it with food or running for miles on end. Maybe because the suffocation nearly drowned me. Maybe because the hole was growing quicker then I could fill it and my attempts seemed futile. And maybe I just wanted him to love me—even if I had to give my body to get it? One day mom stopped making me spend my weekends with him so it stopped and I stopped thinking.

In fact, I didn't think about it at all for the next five or six years because I had no memory of it. They call it "repression" and I call it God's unfathomable grace. Either way, nearly half a decade later all the memories plummeted into recall as I listened to two dads talk about protecting their young daughters from the neighbors boys' on a car ride to Chicago.

There were three who abused like that and one was a neighbor boy.

I thought I was crazy, truly. How could I just 'not remember' all those years and then suddenly...

Until a close friend points out, if it had come up even days before it did, I would have ended my life—successfully I think. Grace.

I might have been spared the memories for a season, but there always was this underlying darkness that enveloped me and I never could explain it {or break out of it}. I had spent much of those years in and out of hospitals and treatment programs for bulimia, depression, sexual sin, self-harm, and suicide attempts. I had a whole lot of daddy issues too. Just six months prior to remembering the abuse I had graduated from a biblically based treatment program for young women with life-controlling issues called Mercy Ministries. I fell in love with Jesus there and my life was impacted greatly.

When the abuse surfaced, my world did a 180 and I had no control over any of it. At least that's how it felt. I felt so dirty and no matter how hot the water, I could never get clean. I hated him so much. And yet I longed for his approval and his love, even still?! The darkness of the night gave way for me to relive this nightmare night after night after night. I remember staying awake for days at a time because I just couldn't see his face again that night. I couldn't watch it all happen. I couldn't save that little girl. For years, I would wake up in the middle of the night and find myself huddled under a desk or in a corner. I couldn't stop the pain. I saw no way out.

For awhile, it was my fault. I tried to pay for the way he hurt me by hurting myself. My bouts of depression and bulimia raged once again and I flailed aimlessly beneath the weight of it all and some days I begged for the waves to just draw me under already.

What I would give to have my innocence back. I think I still grieve the little girl lost, even today.

But not everyday--there are glimpses as of late, moments where I see her redeemed living fully.

I don't really remember when, but one day I saw a glimmer of light. It started to grow slowly and a path began to form before me. Eventually I began to follow, through the thickets and mud, pressing on towards the light. I am still not there but my world isn't so dark anymore. Everyday, I choose life and relationship with Christ provides a steadfastness in the ups and downs of this path {life}.

Sometimes, our pain just cannot be broken down into 12-step programs or quieted with a drug, though there were days I wished for both. The flip of the calendar has truly been my saving grace, though.

For the past several years I haven't had much a voice but those who knew have held me up and I have spent months swimming in pools of grace. It seems my swims are more regular these days, as the ashes continue to float away from me.

My dad is in a half-way house now, about seven months sober, a first in these past fifty years or so. I haven't seen him in a year but maybe one day I will. He will never be the dad I long for and it is making me all the more dependent on my heavenly one. Oh grace.

And God has used this last year mightily. He's restoring my trust of man through an adopted dad and mom who moved me into their family for a season and it has been a journey worth the pain and I see healing. He is redeeming so much that was stolen through this family. But more then that He's restoring my ability to trust Him as the Perfect Father, something my dad never was and never can be.

My fear does drive me to shame and fig leaves when I let it.

But one day I will choose to joyfully submit to my husband because it is what He intended in the beginning and abuse does not negate me from His plans. In fact, it draws me all the more tightly to the hope and the future He promises because life apart from Him seems all the more messed up.

I remember suffocating in the bed after it was all over, under all the smoke and secrets and shame. I remember closing my eyes and teleporting to a beach with an ocean and I remember breathing easier listening to the waves and sucking up that warm ocean breeze. That was my way out, my light in the darkness as I curled up tight.

One day years later God would provide relationship with my grown siblings {my dad's kids}. One way or another they would actually take me to the beach on vacation with them. Sitting on the sand gazing out over those waves and soaking up the warmth and their love--none of which I deserved--I would first realize my need for and confess my belief in God. Over the next year those siblings would play a pivotal role in my salvation. They simply loved the heck outa' me like no one ever had.

Ya'll, do you see the redemption?! Oh such mercy makes me weep buckets remembering. I deserve none of it, yet He made a way in the wilderness, streams in the wasteland. It makes me trust no matter how messed up this world. He is bigger and none of your pain is in vain--ultimately He will glorify Himself through it and the way that He uses us--that is simply grace.

And I know it's nothing shy of divine that brought me to that place in my own little world, as I lay sprawled across that mattress. Those moments brought a foretaste of what was to come, of what is coming still.

It took a long time and I don't feel so dirty anymore.

Redemption is evident with each of flip of the calendar and today, today remembering is overcoming because of the blood of the Lamb and word of my testimony. I am redeemed.

Do you see it? The chain of redemption shaping your story, the way telling is overcoming?

Let's hear it. Let's hear your story.

And for the other one in fours who have hidden away, there is hope. I only know one thing for sure--in Christ there is life everlasting and hope abundant. It's there for you too.

*Child sexual abuse is not rare. Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.1 However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported.

Friday, February 8, 2013

In Which I am Silent—Again?!

Okay, ya'll.

I just need to rant.

Winter sickness and work weariness in full swing, there are less of us tonight. We gather up in a circle as usual and we chat lightly over some pizza and brownies. I think we're all a little exhausted this week and it shows. There more quiet then normal but not the awkward kind. I feel safe here in this crowd and I know God is at work among us. I see it even in the fact that I tend to run from these kind of things after a week or two, but not this one. In fact, on the weeks we don't meet I find myself wanting.

We're all young adults and generally post-grad. I might be one of the few execptions. But I love that. I love walking with friends who have gone before—what wisdom and grace they offer. We know all the names without tags and we remember to pray during the week. We talk about real life and it's messy sometimes. It's real community, ya'll and there is nothing sweeter.

So here I am sitting in this circle that connects us and the Word lays open on my lap and I lose my voice when it does. Like literally. It's not the thoughts I lose because the Spirit is continually prompting me to share. Over and over and over. It's just the ability to make sounds come off my tongue that suddenly ceases—every single week. Ridiculous I know. In fact I can't even believe I am writing about this, using words on it, but this is my battle and I am so sick of it reigning over me.

Anyone relate?

I label it all sorts of things and toss the blame around afterwards, as I drive home down those windy roads in frustration once again.

-If my dad hadn't messed me up so bad, well then I would trust people better and I would talk more about what I'm really thinking. It's all a trust thing and it's just not my fault. 

-Then there's the people pleaser blame game. Well, I guess I just care too much what everyone thinks. They obviously do fine without my commentary, so why mess up the flow with my awkwardness now? What I could I possibly have to say that they don't already know?

-Next comes the blame it on the personality that doesn't even believe the word extrovert should be in the dictionary. It's just who I am—I'm just a quiet person and it's okay if I don't talk as much as they do.

-I can also live in fear and blame it's masterhood over me for the silence. Fear of man and fear of rejection and fear of things I can't even name. Fear of sounding stupid and under-taught in my knowledge and understanding of scripture. 

I guess sitting in a circle half filled with brilliant seminary grads doesn't help the fear recant much.

After months of this building and no victory in sight, I got in the car last night and wept. Yep, I was pretty pitiful. It's a good thing the Lord is gentle and compassionate when needed. I cried out and begged Him to set me free. From what I don't even know, all of the above and everything underneath?

Then came the okay let's get past the emotions and be real here part of our conversation. That's when I confessed pride. That's the root, right?

Pride smothered in insecurity because that sounds more helpless and less my fault? Yep, I do that. I call it a lack of trust or fear or my personality just so that I don't have to tamper with that ugly "P" word that none of us want to claim and yet I think its a fight we need to engage in more offensivley.

At least I do.

So not wanting to be associated with the ugliness of my pride, not wanted to be a slave to it, I must simply walk obediently to the Lord—and look at things a little more objectively. Sharing my thoughts as the spirit prompts is obedience to the God. Not sharing is disobedience, {not always of course but in this situation for me personally}. Simple.

There is community lost and encouragement drowned in the silence. Not because I'm that great, just because God gives us more grace. That's why it says he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. I never knew the way my silence among others could separate me from God, but it has. 

Maybe this fellowship time is more about the strength rising up as our dozen comes together to love one another and speak hope in the messiness then it is about me. Surely a cord of that many is not easily broken? It's about loving one another in a way that shows the world we are indeed disciples of Christ.

It's about Him and all for His glory because someday that will be enough. Someday we won't grow tired of worship. Someday we won't be able to do anything but fall on our face before Him in awe.

My pride creates opposition, it blinds me from standing in awe of Christ like that. 

And in this messed up world I need more of that that, not less. These brothers and sisters remind me of the more that is to come as we talk out the word in love every week and part of the worshipping is the talking and I want to be apart of that because it's not about me.

Oh grace how sweet the sound. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On Why I Want{ed} to See My Dad & Belonging

I spent the morning on the treadmill chasing my own feet for several miles and talking to myself {not out-loud of course because that would just be weird}.

This weekend I guarded and I tried so hard to keep it quiet. Life's pace has been as fast as you can these days and reprieve called. I've needed this time just to remember how to breathe slow and stay in bed after the sun comes up. It is good for all of us I think, to just bask in the natural rays as they glare through the crack in the curtains. It warms something in me that the heater just can't reach beneath this winter chill.

A Saturday night spent alone had been a dream in the chaos but sitting there in the quiet and hearing the girls beneath me laughing made it all seem lonely. My grandma had made me this little album and snuck it into my bag when I was home visiting. I've glanced through it with friends a couple times since coming back, but as I cleaned my room to the sound of my own voice I stumbled upon it again.

Grandma always tells me of the day I was born, how the nurses said I was the most beautiful baby they'd ever seen. I'm sure they say that a lot {like everyday}—but no use bursting her bubble. Ya'll, I really was a cute kid {see below}. And as the album nears the end a few more faces come into play—mom and dad. It's funny to see them together, her resting in his arms with flowers and mushy eyes that fool even me.

I gaze at him holding me close and playing with me by the pool and I really have to work to convince myself that is me in those images because none of those memories exist no matter how hard I think back. And I wish they did. I long for just some sense of claiming him as mine and that being something to rejoice in. I remember wishing I could wear him on my arm to the daddy-daughter dances, showing all my friends how great. And now, now I wish I had tears to cry when he walks me down the aisle into the the arms of my husband, I wish I had a loss to grieve in leaving my father's house and yet reality makes it not so. A grandfather to love and spoil my babies lost yet here.

He is still in rehab an hour north and his year there is more then half way up now. I don't know what is keeping him there this time as opposed to the hundreds before, but I don't ask much anymore I just give thanks.

I decided a month ago I was ready to see him and then I changed my mind. Daily for a week.

The truth is, I feel ready to see him. Some days, I actually want to see him. Like something in the actual meeting of my eyes with his will cause the divine. Okay, I don't even know what that means. But I know the root is I want his love even still. I want to claim him as my dad and beneath his protection I want to belong.

Sometimes I can feel my creation imperfect by sin groaning to be whole again. 

My brother took dad his car a couple weeks ago. It sounds like he is the big shot on campus now, the popular jock, homecoming king and all. His big Saturday night out, driving his friends to Blockbuster and ice cream has left him bragging on the phone to my brother and that is hilarious! He's re-building a life long devastated and it is slow but he is enduring. He has been there longer then most, beat the odds against him. He's watched his friends wimp out of their commitment, watched them go back to the chains. I hope he is learning perspective. I sure am. He is still sober and the newbies look up to him. He belongs. 

Maybe that's why he stays...

I flip through the album and I see my parents and I remember the first "whos" to whom I belonged and I want to rest there safe between them again. To feel whole again, even if I'm not. I want them to belong to each other too, I want to stop the searching and the empty answers that have left them hurting over the years. Life with a dozen made me belong as the twelfth and in life without them so close I've wavered some too, just trying to remember my place set apart.

I've made some friends at church and they are in the same life-stage as me—the waiting for the next grown-up step and secretly longing for a glimpse of the whole plan. When we study the Word together I see the church differently and I need it so much more. I love the body right through her sin and I don't think I ever have until now.

She {the church} teaches me about belonging and I feel whole inside of her and I think it's just a foretaste of what's coming, a sweet gift to hold near in the waiting. 

As I finish my three miles and settle into a steady strut, I decide I just really want to fit into the puzzle somewhere and I have no idea where I go. Waiting is painful sometimes and eventually tiresome, kind of like running. Oh, and seeing my dad can wait.

I gaze off ahead looking across the same scene as every other morning. I don't know if I was blind before or they did a quick paint job in the middle of the night, but I never noticed these big yellow letters plastered on the wall ahead and they jump off and read...

I think in time He will bring me into some tangible, physical belonging too. Maybe it's within His Bride here or on the other side of the world. Maybe it's in my dream of wifehood and discple-maker of my babies. Maybe it's in restoration with my dad one day and maybe he will always be a memory I just can't find. Pray with me, won't you?

We all wrestle here, right? All of us desperate to fit somewhere, to be known and loved?

In the groaning and the wanting to belong in his arms, I have to remember I really groan for more then he can satisfy—and surely those arms can't hold all twenty-two years of me for long. 

Even if my dad failed to protect and the generations before have searched for it and come up empty and chained, even if I never 'belong' to another earthly man for the rest of my life, and I have no clue where my puzzle piece meshes in, I do indeed belong to one—and that belonging triumphs all.

"But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world." -1 John4:4

Friday, February 1, 2013

Focus on Your Pain, Your Past, & Your Parents

So, this world is pretty messed up. 

Everyone I know has some kind of hurt in their life which still opens fire every once in a while. Or every day. There are those deep waves beneath which we toss and turn, those wires that feel mismatched sometimes. I think we all feel it—this underlying brokenness that was never supposed to be. 

We all fight to attain the image in which we were originally fashioned, though often times we cannot articulate it just so. And sometimes, the battle in the waiting isn't so pretty. 

How do you fight when you don't know just what you're fighting for? And how do you know that you're not the only one when we all keep quiet in our searching and tell ourselves it's just us longing and no one will relate?

My growing up years were plagued in pain and hurts that still send me flailing about into adulthood. My past is ugly and shameful and dark. I screwed up and lot. My parents both love me but it has taken years to believe it because they didn't show it. I blame a lot of the pain on them and some of that is fair. 

I have friends that had amazing parents. Some who grew up rooted in purpose and established in love. Others who had an unnatural peace with their purpose in this world and they lived it intentionally. Not everyone has flopped around so much, but each of us has more pain. Even the most loving parents screw up. And I have never met one person to claim life-long perfection. So here we are, all of us focusing our attention on something. 

I remember the midnight searches that defined my youth, in the basement sitting behind that lit up screen, desperately scrolling through page after page trying to find any indication that I wan't the only one. Anything to tell me who I was because I heard who I wasn't all day long. That someone else was messed up too. I remember spending Friday nights at Border's, hours consumed in the self-help shelves, just searching. 

Was there was another girl anywhere in the world that didn't feel loved and hated herself for it? Desperate to know someone else tried to fill the void with food. Someone that thought to cut themselves to numb the pain before I did?Anyone who doesn't have it all figured out? Anyone? Knowing someone else was hurting too gave me hope, this odd confirmation that it wasn't over for me, this sense of belonging. We all want to. 

Soon enough, I belonged. An unknowing victim led astray via the self-help of the world. 

Our solution:  pile the shelves floor to ceiling with self-help books, just give her a pill (we can figure out what's wrong later), and maybe you should go to a counselor—for the next twenty years-ish. 

I still have a shelf or two of those books, I've been on pills for the pills over the years, and I sometimes I think I was raised talking to strangers on those couches that always seem to smell like grandma's. 

And truthfully, I dream of writing books that help girls and studied several years away in pursuit my very own smelly couch. I have a best friend that is about to go for her Master's in counseling and I encourage it because it's not all bad. 

And so we hunger for answers, fixes, and wholeness. In our desperation, we blame because it makes more sense that someone caused it then it does that it's just this abstract feeling that we can't get a grasp of, that something is broken but what? We are an instant gratification society and we want answers. We want quick fixes. And we want to be on top of the next best. We want to save the world and ourselves too. Today or tomorrow. If this is gunna make me feel even less, I'll take it. If reliving those years of his abuse will make it hurt less, I'll do it. If telling her I forgive will erase the memory, I forgive!

In counseling all those years it was most often breath spent focusing on these three. It's a funny triad, a three tiered web of intertwined madness. Especially when I focus on it, I go crazy. 

It's been four years this month—four years since I walked through the doors of Mercy, the place that really challenged me to think about what I think about. Does that make sense? 

I had spent nearly two decades focused on my pain, my past and my parents. Generally (with a few exceptions of course) every website, every book, every counselor and doctor—their approaches differed yet their solutions coincided—look deeper within yourself because that's the only way you'll overcome the pain, relive your past until it explains why you do the things you do now, oh and most of it is your parents fault, but you should forgive them just never forget. 

In other treatment programs and hospital stays, I had always been encouraged to share the depths of my darkness from the past and present. I can remember being reprimanded in one inpatient stay for saying that I didn't think my bulimia was all my mom's fault. We bonded over our issues in treatment, and competed. I never would have known how to abuse laxatives if it weren't for another girl in treatment teaching me. I called them friends but we all just used each other to prove who could be better at dying. I don't think I ever would have come that close if they hadn't paved the way, encouraged me deeper into myself, my very messed up self.

But now this place was telling me I couldn't bond with the others over my past sin. In fact, we were encouraged not to tell one another why we were there until graduation, a day of celebrating God's redemption of the pain. Living in a home for young women with life controlling issues would make it so easy to find hope in others' brokenness, the way I had much of my life, to go down together, so to speak. I think this is one huge reason for Mercy's 93% success rate. They simply change the focus. There is a time and a place for wrestling through the pain, the past, and parents. But that time comes once a week in the wisdom of a counselor with a different focus. 

This idea that we must look deeper into ourselves to find strength needed to overcome is actually quite contradictory if you think about it. If I am born with a sinful nature (no one ever has to teach me how to lie), then would it really make sense that the strength to overcome could come from somewhere deeper down? Personally, I don't think so. I don't know about you, but the deeper down I get into myself, the more I realize just how messed up I am! Strength to overcome myself has to come from something greater, someone bigger then me. Someone not so messed up like me. Reliving the pain over and over again just makes me hurt more. And focusing on the past only keeps me from experiencing God's grace which is sufficient only for today. And truthfully, dwelling back there makes me forget to live now—it makes me forget who I am now and the way that God is redeeming. The past can blind us.

I came home from St. Louis last week really obsessed with food again. I tried a few days down that road too—well, it still didn't work. This was all after my mom paraded my slimmer body around and told me how jealous she was. After she told my step-dad to look at me and marvel. All I heard was how ugly I must have been before I lost some weight. It was a man admiring my beauty that made me want to eat it away. It set something off in me, something engrained in my deepest pain, my past, and both of my parents. 

These days, freedom for me is coming in "forgetting" my pain, my past, and my parents and "focusing" on the only one bigger then myself, the only perfect one—the one who formed my inners in the darkness and has been light ever since. 

It's not that I never think about this triad or will forget it all together. I talk about it when I need to, but not like I used to. Thinking too much is always destructive, I'm learning. Sometimes we just have to stop thinking and proclaim what is true. The Truth is active now, no matter what used to be so we have to fix our eyes on something more because the past isn't changing—it might never hurt less and your parents might always have something to do with it and yet there is a way out. 

When the Israelites were headed to the promise land, they got mad and cursed God. Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the desert where there is no food? They cried out. So God sent venomous snakes among them and many died. Moses prayed for the people and God told him to make a snake and put it on a pole. Then anyone who got bitten can look at it and live.

When this journey out of the past seems hopeless and when your parents spew venom that stings, fix your eyes upon the man nailed to the pole. When you look at Him, you will live.