Pictureseque

The last few weeks have been nice weather, busy schedule and ho-hum in my recovery journey.  I have been wondering what is up with that, whether I needed more meetings, less commitments, better discipline, it made me tired just thinking about why I felt blah about the whole thing.

What I arrived at the other day was an epiphany of sorts…basically my recovery had become much like my grandmother’s living room bible.  Most of us had an older relative who had one of these gigantic books, complete with color photos of Moses, Jesus and the apostles.  I would look at the pictures and wonder if that is really what they looked like, or if it was someone’s educated guess.  Anyway, they always looks clean, almost glow-y and had a Hollywood-aire about them, like these people didn’t ever really get angry, tired or grumpy…they just looked ~ HOLY.

So in some ways, my recovery was sitting in my head, between my ears, looking very glow-y, and therefore not very accessible.  I had somehow become detached from it and spent time polishing the panels and placing them on a shelf, admiring them but then walking away and feeling tired, grumpy and as I would discover later, very angry.

When a stall is experienced in recovery, we are encouraged to look for “unfinished business” or stuff that could be lurking in the shadows.  Hmmm.  Okay, I’ll bite.  So I dug.  And what I found was shady indeed.

You see, I betrayed a friend during my husband’s relapse, in a most heinous way.  I hope someday to make my amends and even have God restore the relationship.  But that is not up to me.  My part is to continue to walk out my amends and be ready should the opportunity present.  But there was someone else in my family who was disloyal to me (in my opinion) and  I felt hurt by their actions, so much so that I had only superficially given lip service to a forgiveness that I really didn’t feel, because this person is continuing to treat me in a way that feels hurtful to me.  Kind of like continuing to use an eye dropper of salt water onto a wound that is trying to heal.  So, I have let this resentment travel deep into my heart and lodge itself there, and it has created a well (pit?) of soupy, gloppy fury that knows no bounds.

Some of this came spewing out last night as I explained this to my group and to my husband.  I was taken aback by the sharpness and raw anger of it.  Time to dig it out and dump it.  God gave me the word picture almost a year ago, and I need it now.

My sin against my friend is written on a paper that is nailed to a cross, and Jesus’ blood covers it.  But I stand at the foot of the cross, daring to pull the sin/trespass of this family member who has hurt me from off of the cross and leave mine there?  Jesus says “My blood covers all sins and was sufficient to save all”.  What right do I have to consider my sins more worthy of His sacrifice than someone who has hurt me? Christ calls me to be “Christ -like”.  That means leaving the sins where they are, seeing the blood obliterate those sins, and knowing that it is my choice to allow His healing blood to cover the transgressions I commit, as well as those against me.

But again we visit the magic word in recovery…(say it all together friends!) WILLINGNESS! Am I willing to have Him work on me in this way? Do I see that I can have freedom from carrying the soupy gloppy muck around with me?  God says he wants us to live in freedom, in abundance.  There is no way to do this in the darkness of the muck.

I choose to bring my good, my bad and my meh to God, to have Him help me sort it out, so I can move forward unhindered by sins and old hurts that want to hold me captive.  But God will not wrest them from me.  It’s not that I think my recovery should look all fancy like the colored panels that were in my grandma’s bible, because that’s just not the real world.  But it should be in motion, with God working throughout and accessible to others that are still to find the steps.  And onward we go!

Much Love,

G

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Just Passing Through

This has been a week of learning. Even though I did not register for a class, nor did I think I was lacking in a particular spiritual discipline or grace, my Teacher and Master used a moment of fear and bewilderment to bring me to a greater understanding of life and those around me.

2 weeks ago, I came down with a nasty stomach complaint.  Suffice it to say, you basically do little and eat less, because nothing you ingest would reside for long in your angry digestive tract.  The next 2 days were challenging, but by day 3 when I was still in pain, I was ready to seek additional help.  By Day 6, I was at the hospital having my insides looked at for any possible structural defect, and when none was found I was handed a script for meds and sent on my way.

Like most educated, well-read people, I did no research on what the side effects of these new meds could cause, and considering my track record with meds, that was my bad.  Really bad.

By Wednesday, 10 days after the original problem, I was sitting at work, anxious and having intense feelings of self-harm.  Mind you, I have NEVER EVER even attempted to harm myself, unless you count eating too much sugar and carbs (mommy issues), or drinking and driving as a youngster (stupid). I later learned I was experiencing a psychotic episode.  Wow.

This faded in and out for almost 3 days. New meds went in the trash. By the end of day 12, I was able to talk with a friend who had the same experience (different med) and I felt a 2 ton weight fall off my back.  I really had wondered if I would continue to have these feelings the rest of my life.  By day 14 (today) I feel mostly normal, however I still feel a little traumatized by the whole event.

I attended church this morning and while the message was good, God gently bubbled the answer that I subconsciously asked deep down…why? Why did God allow me to go through such a traumatic event?  He revealed the purpose to me, in that I would now be able to empathize and have some understanding of people who suffer this kind of thing in their lives.  Only they are not just “passing through” like I did, kinda like a tourist, but that is their country.  They must live in it every day, and try to function in our world despite this nightmarish experience they are living through every moment.  Perhaps they can obtain help, meds, therapy, but maybe not.

What I am pulling out of this first, is that I need to have more patience with people that have these struggles.  That I need to extend a little more understanding, and when it’s within my power to do so, be appropriately helpful, because this is a frightening world to folks who struggle with mental illness when the nightmare inside of you competes with the harsh realities of our modern life. Just negotiating a trip to the store, or paying a fare on the bus can be a major event that is truly an obstacle for them.

God has shown me that my compassion could use some work, and so He took this event and used it to pull my focus in on what had become a calloused view of those who have these challenges.  I am grateful for His loving care of me, even though this was a very hard lesson and if I never have another “episode” like this in my entire life it will be too soon.

Yes Lord God, help me to be quick to love, listen and care, and slow to become angry, impatient and indifferent.  Thank you for your many blessings, and thank you that I have the gift of a sound mind and a willing heart.  In your Holy and precious name, AMEN.

Coming to Terms ~ Recovery

There is no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.

Woke up to this rolling around in my head this morning.  Found out yesterday that another one of our beloved recovery family lost thier fight with addiction and passed into eternal life with Christ.  Certainly, to be absent from this body of pain and suffering and to be welcomed back into the arms of our loving creator is what we all look toward someday.  But when the road to that day is fraught with sorrows and pain that seem, in our finite vision, to be insurmountable, it is easy to forget the infinite love and grace of God if we know Him, and if we don’t, well, then there isn’t much to grasp onto.

I have spent much of my adult life trying to “unpack” the mystery of addiction and suffering as my mom ran after one thing or another to quiet the voices and dull the pain she felt on every level.  She would confess from time to time that she never felt loved by her codependent and over indulgent mother, that she felt abandoned by a father that was absent and for all intents and purposes unknown.  These were deep hurts that she kept tucked in tight, and likely were sources of resentment that she used to justify her addictive behavior.  She looked for love and security with a variety of men, and to mask the pain of disappointment,used prescription pills and alcohol.  Later, illicit drugs would enter the picture, however it was always easier for her to cajole and coax pills out of doctors and friends, and wash them down with alcohol.

During one of her excesses, she was incarcerated for a year and I went to visit her after she had been in for about 6-7 months.  It was the most clear she had ever been in my memory.  She actually seemed like a real person.  This is someone I wanted to know, someone I could possibly place love and trust in someday.  It filled me with hope for the first time in 28 years.  But, once released, she headed straight back to her old ways of doing things and, 20 years later in 2012, was to pass away from the complications of the ongoing abuse of prescription medications and smoking.  In reality, she died a long time before that, as she ceased to care about being part of the real world, and instead wished only to continue staying away from the pain, as far away as she could.

I don’t think I will ever fully understand it, but I am coming to terms with the fact that there is sorrow that won’t be healed on earth.  I understand now that I was not the cause, not was I to be the cure for was ailing my mother. I have stopped questioning why my mother didn’t find sobriety and recovery before hitting the ultimate bottom. I can only hope that somewhere in her heart she found time to trust Christ and that He has now healed her sorrows and pain.

For each of the addicts in recovery that we lost last year, and now with this new loss, it serves as a painful reminder of how important it is to STAY in recovery, to continue the work, to stand in the gap, to tell the stories, to pray, to press in, press on, until the work is finished or we see Jesus face to face.

Romans 8:38

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ah, Grace and Scarlet

Sitting in a study group last week, reading my answers to the questions from our book, another participant turned to me and told me that they love the way I write.  I immediately thought of my lonely blog out here, waiting for a visit from its wandering owner.  Much like the family pooch, it doesn’t seem to notice how long I’ve been gone, but I see the date stamps and, ouch.

So, In the interest of kick-starting this baby again, here we go. 


To live above with the Saints we love,
Ah, that is the purest glory.
To live below with the Saints we know,
Ah, that is another story!

-Irish Saying

Certainly, some of us read the cute limerick above and chuckle, picturing a number of people that continue to challenge us within the fellowship of believers.

In the area of service that I am involved in (recovery ministry) we strive toward honesty and rigorous self-examination and encourage accountability amongst members to keep up going forward (or at the very least not rolling backwards). However, with self-examination can come a tendency toward looking at others and examining them for the same things we are struggling against. And when interpersonal conflict is thrown in, it becomes all too easy to become righteously indignant (an oxymoron?), feeling as though the other person needs to “come clean” in their treatment of us or their behavior in general.

I have watched this play out time and again amongst believers in all sorts of churches and ministries. Sadly, I have played a part in it at times, and feel it is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to our witness to the outside world.  It also causes hurt within the fellowship.  People begin to take sides, and soon, the meaning of the original issue has been lost and hearts come out a little bit harder, with more scar tissue built around them from the battle.

  • Grace.  According to Dictionary.com, is defined as mercy, clemency and pardon.  Also, to favor or honor.

Laid on my heart this week, is GRACE.  The true heart, if you will, of the matter.  As we argue and have issues with our fellow believers, let us not forget GRACE.  As angry and indignant as we might wish to be, remember, the person you are so angry with is:

  1. Also loved by God, just as much as you are
  2. Your sins are just as red as theirs
  3. And you need the GRACE of Christ just as much as they do.

When my husband relapsed and there were a lot of transgressions committed between us, I tended to feel as though his were just a bit more “scarlet” than mine and it kept me in a place of unforgiveness and superiority.  My heart was hardened and I could not freely let grace flow in my life because of this.  Some outside the church said I was justified in my stance, but that did not make my heart feel any softer or cure the lingering ache in my soul that a hard heart produces.  I had to “come clean” to Christ, to see my husband as Christ sees me and my sins, as no more or less red, as nailed to the same cross as mine.  Only then did the peace which passes all understanding truly flood my soul.

When I choose (notice I use the word choose, this is not an instinctual thing, meaning it does not come naturally!) to see a person the way I am sure that God looks at me, with all of my imperfections and failings, it becomes a whole lot easier to let it go.  Yes, you heard me.  Let it go.  Not because the person is right and you are wrong, not because it’s going to give you an immediate warm fuzzy.  But because Jesus “let it go” for you, and in the moments and days following, you will feel the grace and peace of Christ descend upon you.  There is no way to fake or manufacture this.  It must be real. And trust me the peace you will experience will be real too.

Beyond grateful that I stuck it out, and no, it wasn’t easy.  Yes, I cried a lot.  But it was so worth it.

Peace and Love,

G

Yes, Pain is Real, but so is Healing

Scrolling through my newsfeed on FaceBook before bed, something which I should likely refrain from doing if a good night’s sleep is on my to-do list,  I came across an article from a well-known and (generally) respected news outlet that covered several points regarding abortion.

This subject can tend to polarize folks, and I am not writing this entry to add to the shouting match.  However, one item on the list caught my attention and I immediately felt drawn to write about it.  The writer opined that post-abortion trauma is not a substantiated disorder, and that women who experience or describe experiencing it usually had other factors in their lives that gave rise to PTSD symptoms.

Any person contemplating this action is in a compromised position in their lives; it is not a decision that is made lightly, such as paper or plastic, or the decision to stop eating sugar for a week.  I wanted to contact the writer and ask if she had been in the position of making such a choice, but then that is a personal matter and none of my business.

It was 1979, I had just finished up with my sophomore year of high school and I was looking for love and comfort.  My dad was out of the picture, not so much by choice as by geography and living across the country, my mother was an addict and serial dater who went through men like socks.  I found comfort in physical closeness but did not fully understand the consequences and wound up with a positive pregnancy test in late July.

Of course I called my best friend, who, with her mother assured me they could help me with whatever but that I needed to tell my mom.  I remember walking into the living room, stomach in my throat as I told her.  She immediately clicked into damage-control mode, telling me that we would be seeing her doctor to arrange for the “procedure” that would take care of this. I stepped back, and became a passive participant in my life and its direction. The procedure was done in a hospital.  I came out of anesthetic in so much pain I could not bear it; I began to shake the bars of the hospital bed and cry out for someone to help.  The nurses did not seem especially empathetic and the pain gradually subsided. I had to stay the night, as I did not come through the 1st trimester abortion process very well.

I spent the rest of the year in grief-mode.  My heart was broken in so many pieces I couldn’t seem to find them all.  I turned to drugs and other mind-altering substances, which provided temporary and incomplete relief.  There was no escaping the ache in my heart.

As the years reeled on, the ache grew less, but was always with me, and certainly grew sharper when I was in a church meeting where the evils of abortion were expounded upon.  I felt like God was disappointed in me, as much if not more than I was in myself. I did not share with anyone what had happened; what would people think?

Finally, I found and went through a post-abortion healing study group with a several other women which dealt with the anger, grief and pain that had persisted.

These women had similar stories with respect to the issues of their heart; even though their circumstances may have been different, the emotions and pain they felt were real and an ongoing limitation to true freedom and spiritual growth in their life.

Whatever the politics of this issue are, whatever a persons stance is, all I can say is talk to someone who has traveled the way of grief and loss, and then healing and restoration.  I am grateful that I am now able to share this experience with others that still struggle in the valley of sadness and pain.  There is light, love and healing on the other side of this, if you are willing to step though the process.

Much Love,

G

*  You can search the web for support in your area if you are looking to join a study or ask your pastoral counseling staff. 

Choosing Love and Accepance

Based on my Pandora song list, (imagine ’70’s southern rock) it seems it is a prompt to begin writing.  I know that I can get caught up in my anger and resentments when I do not have good friends to talk to about them.  I can then justify the most vile of behaviors.

I grew up in a household, well, let me clarify. I was actually co-located in a domicile with the adult that brought me into this world, and then observed while she continued to listen to the self-destructive voices coming from somewhere just beyond where anyone else could hear them.

I saw her travel through more men, for numerous reasons, than I could count.  And I swore up and down that I would not repeat this behavior.  I would never pursue a man for the sheer pleasure of seeing him chase and gnash his teeth in pursuit of me, and to cause jealousy and anger in another.  I would never forsake my values and relationships for my own selfish desires and cause wreckage and pain.  But in reality, sometimes what we swear we will never do is exactly what will take us down.

Cue the anger, burning resentment and opportunity.  It is not important, the sordid details, we’ve all heard them before, in the news, reality tv, a friend’s divorce or break-up details.  Just suffice it to say, that there are no justifications or reasoning that make physical relationships outside of marriage okay.  God created our tender hearts to be protected and nurtured.  The world that we travel through knows nothing of this, only how to convince us to sell out to the most enticing offer.  I know I did.  I sought to obtain approval from men in every way possible, and when my marriage was foundering, I threw myself onto the rocks of self-destruction. I became broken, unsure of my worth.  God has walked me through a slow and painful process of restoration through recovery and the steps, but some of the consequences cannot (it seems) be undone.

I am now keenly aware of the fact that love is a choice, not a feeling/emotion.  We can certainly experience emotion toward others, but this is more accurately described as infatuation and will come and go like the tide.  Much like approval and acceptance, I must choose to obtain this from God and myself, for that is where is all begins.  If I cannot accept myself, there is no seeking it from others; it will never suffice.

Sadly, my mother never found this pathway to peace.  She continued to struggle with her hurt and anger toward a world that she did not understand and constantly battled against.  Her battle with addiction and life in general came to an end December 2012.

As I sit in meetings and hear stories of recovery from those about her age, my heart is wrenched.  I wish I would have been further along in my journey, possibly of more service to her, but I must submit this, like other things I regret, to the Lord.  He knows, and, that I have today, to do my best.  That is all I have, and all that is expected from any of us.  I am so grateful. Today is a good day.

Much Love

G

Journaling and Just Getting Going

Sometime back in the mid-70’s, I was given a hard cover blank book, with lines in it, to begin writing my thoughts and to journal.  I was an only child until the age of 7, and had few friends growing up, and spent much of my formative years quite isolated from social contact.   In thinking about when I would pull it out and begin writing again, it was usually during times of great change or turmoil in my life, as though writing it out may somehow help me to sort out the thoughts and ideas that rolled endlessly though my head.  I wrote in the book several times a year, eventually losing track of it altogether due to the many moves over the last 40 years since receiving it.

It is now demonstrated that journaling is an effective tool for those of us seeking to change some aspect of our lives, or as part of a spiritual discipline.  How interesting that so many years later this should come to mind.  I really wish that I could find my old journal again, to see what it would reveal to me about my state of being at different places and times in my younger life.  Instead, I do my best to listen and attend to where I am now, and how that might relate to something past that I might need to resolve.  I am grateful for those that I have now let into my life that see the real, whole me now, and can gently prompt me toward realization of things that I would have never seen on my own, much like the fact that we cannot (without a lot of mirrors) see the back of our own heads.  Or sometimes that I can be so close to something that I cannot see it for what it is and deal objectively with it.  That it the purpose of this community that I now live in, they are a “living mirror/journal” of sorts, helping to reflect back to me who I am, to love me and provide loving correction when needed, because that’s what people who care about each other provide.  When I was cut off from that connection, I was only able to surmise and suppose what should be in my life, even my relationship with God seemed very one-dimensional.

Now, my life has layers and colors and love of every kind in it.  Sometimes it gets a little messy and crazy.  When you are alone, you can keep things sterile and in order, but you miss so much.  When you let people in, they are woven into the fabric of who you are and you carry them with you wherever you go, wherever they go.  It is a comfort and a joy.  It can be painful too, when people we love are taken from us for whatever reason, but there is a cost to everything worth having, if it costs nothing, likely, it’s not worth your time.

I now journal my conversations with God, as we discuss my concerns with life, mostly my every anxious thought.  Mostly He tells me that He wants to bear the burden of my anxiety and that He will open and close doors.  That He asks me to trust Him.  Through my new family in Christ, He has shown Himself trustworthy.  He continues to come to me in dreams, encouraging me to write, and when I sit down to the computer, I can find innumerable things to do other than write.  Then when I do write, I am so overly critical, half of it does not make it anywhere; I hit “delete”.  Ah, the days of when I had that little hard-cover book, I would write something and typically leave it or possibly erase or cross it out. I am going to submit this critical spirit to God, and my friends to hold me accountable.  I want my talents to be used for the best possible good, and this will be a bumpy ride if I keep getting in the way with my own insecurities.

A bit rambly today, but you know, not a bad start to just getting the thing going, you know?

Much love,

G