Wile E. Coyote, Simon Peter & Me: A Christmas Story

[Note: This is a long one! And it’s not for everyone; in fact, it may only be for my own edification. Just know that while this post may appear to be a snapshot of discouragement, it’s actually about the ashes from which I anticipate beauty. To paraphrase Rumi, this is my descent from which I plan to rise.]

If you grew up in the Warner Brothers generation, your first physics lesson probably came from Wile E. Coyote. You are not bound by the law of gravity unless and until you look down. Then you crash. Simon Peter combined this lesson with a more powerful – and  authentic – lesson in faith when he took Jesus’s invitation to step out of the boat and walk on water in the midst of a raging and terrifying sea storm. Gravity is a bear if you take your eyes off the One who created the earth & its natural laws and start to look around. Then you get wet.

And me? For as long as I can remember, I believed that I was holding my world in balance, everything held in place by two other laws: The law of motion and the law of cause & effect.  If I did this, then this would happen, and as long as everything kept moving along, everything was fine. I truly believed I could keep myself safe by maintaining careful control over everything.

I need that!

  • Say the right things and be seen as bright, competent & clever; always offer to help, and I’d be liked.
  • Keep all the bills paid on time and in full because that’s what responsible grown-ups do.
  • Make sure the family has food to eat, and they stay healthy and happy.
  • Work harder than everyone else at work and be rewarded with respect, raises, better opportunities and preference.
  • Above all…Don’t make a mistake!

However, I’ve been in the process of having any of the identification or security I thought I had ripped and stripped away from me.

Old Hag by TurnerMohan on DeviantArtTo be brutally honest, I am a 55 year old woman who stands 5′ 1″ and weighs about 225 lbs. Both of my knees are in great pain, so I waddle. I also lose my balance easily, so my gait is unsure and cautious. When I’m tired, excited or frustrated, my speech is slurred. My left shoulder, being dislocated, fails to fill out my clothes the way it once did, so it’s not unusual for my shirt to be nearly falling off my shoulder. I seldom notice my bra strap showing because I’m busy trying to stay focused and on task. The hair on the top of my head is so thin that there’s as much skin showing as there is hair, but I finally gave up wearing wigs because they insinuated a deeper shame than my thin hair did. And in the last few months, I’ve lost two crowns – both of which are right up front.

I am not attractive to look at. And some days I feel a deep sympathy for anyone who has to look at me. (Not really, but pretty much.) I’ve given up my driver’s license in the best interest of everyone because my brain and body don’t work they used to.

I wonder what people see when they look at me. Do they see a woman who’s had too much to drink staggering through the store? Or perhaps a “special needs” woman who needs to hold someone’s hand? I’m confident they don’t see an intelligent, clever woman whose wit puts others at ease and makes them laugh. I’m sure they don’t see a woman in pain who’s absolutely terrified of falling. I do know they no longer see a woman who is quick to flash a wide open smile at a total stranger because it just bubbles up out of her spirit.

I’ve whined, complained and explained so much of this in previous posts. It would be simple enough to say I have been a big baby, but in all fairness I don’t think I’m all that different than most people. In the past 12 months, I’ve dealt with a lot of unknowns that, quite frankly, I can’t even Google. If I can’t Google it, I can’t research it. If I can’t research it (for at least 36 days in a row until 2 am each day), I can’t understand it. If I can’t understand it, I can’t control it. And if I can’t control it, I am vulnerable. 

I can’t bear to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a sure opening for pain, fear and discomfort. And I am no match for pain, fear and discomfort. This last year has changed me more than any other year.

So now, I have to reset my idea of who I am. Who is LaRonda now?

Festival oder eine Person zu erinnern oder um zu akzeptieren @ 宁馨 郁金香 éI know the answer is that I am a beloved child of El Roi, the God who sees me. I know I am loved by a Father who is merciful and gracious and who longs to bless me for his glory. I know that when my Father looks at me, he doesn’t see a short, fat, toothless woman who can’t walk straight; he sees the child he formed in my crazy mother’s womb, a child he chose before I could choose him, a child who now stands before him covered in the purifying, sacrificial blood of his son, Jesus Christ, redeemed and his.

That should be enough, shouldn’t it?   

But it’s not. What I know and what I feel are often mutually exclusive. I need to feel affirmation, appreciation and affection.

I can’t be the only one who didn’t get those things from their family or had them kept away from them as a means of punishment and control or had them horribly perverted.

I can’t be the only one who bartered herself for attention or affection, hoping to be “picked” by anyone, even if it was closing time at the bar and I was the last girl standing, feeling like the last kid left to be picked for a miserable game of dodgeball. Again.

I can’t be the only one who wanted a baby, thinking that if no one could love her, she’d give birth to someone who would love her – because that child wouldn’t know any better – for a few years at least.

At 32 years old, I was still hoping for a man who would keep me. I wasn’t delusional enough to expect love. I would be content with someone who would just help me make sure my needs and the needs of my daughter were met – shelter, food, clothing and – eventually – wifi. In turn, I would do a good job of making sure we had groceries in the fridge, all the bills were taken care of, and I didn’t embarrass him among the people he knew. That’s when God gave me John. And since God always seemed to know what he was doing, then I figured John would keep me, and I would secure my position by doing for him everything that needed to be done.

For 22 years, I’d genuinely thought that was the arrangement. Then God’s renovation project came along. I came to the end of 2019 worn down and tired, as was John. Everything we thought we had – decent insurance, acceptable health, enough money at the end of the month, a secure relationship – all fell away bit by bit. 

Just after the middle of December, our “Night before Christmas” looked like this:

  • My husband had a $55 bonus and some rebates from Menards.
  • His weekly paycheck was half of what we were expecting because he didn’t get paid for Thanksgiving after all.
  • I didn’t know if I was even getting a bonus.
  • We had no savings account.
  • We had no credit left, and we couldn’t have afforded higher or additional payments even if we did.
  • We had already advanced our checking reserve in full.
  • And we hadn’t gotten anything for our daughters yet.

This is EXACTLY how I feel sometimes_ Why is creativity so exhausting_I was looking at our balance and the carefully maintained Excel spreadsheet that listed our bills, due dates, monthly payments due and balances (you thought I was kidding about control, huh?). When there was no reconciliation to be found, I turned everything off.

In utter defeat, I turned to John and admitted, “I can’t.”

“Can’t what?”

“I can’t do anything. I can’t pay this bill. I can’t find a way to get the money to pay it. I can’t tell you how we’re going to buy anything you can’t get with $55 cash and Menards rebates to give to our girls for Christmas. By the way, Santa’s off the payroll so you’re getting nothing, and all I want for Christmas is some Xanax.”

I’d like to say a Christmas miracle happened that night as the miserly old neighbor drove 12 miles in the moonlit snow on a sled that was full of food and gifts for our starving family, but it’s not true:

  • Our neighbor is just next door, so it would have been silly for him to drive 12 miles simply for the sake of a good story. 
  • It wasn’t snowing – which was uncharacteristic of southern Minnesota.
  • The only thing our neighbor has ever blessed us with is the excess leaves that Mother Nature (that’s what we call his trusty leaf blower) happened to leave in our yard. A yard with no tree. 
  • We were far from starving, unless not having enough dip for the chips counted.
  • Our daughters are 18 and 27 years old. They each have their own jobs and can buy what they want for themselves. As could we, and we had; hence, some of our debt.
  • None of us even needed anything!

So now that it’s too late for me to say, “Long story, short”, follow me down the spiral  recap (because I obviously like bullet-pointed lists):

  • Big changes in 2019
  • History of low self-esteem with a crumbling facade
  • Hopelessly low expectations of a marriage
  • Dismal pre-Christmas/year-end
  • I CAN’T!
  • Wile E. Coyote and Simon Peter

So…the laws of nature! Wile E. Coyote looked down and fell. Peter looked around and began to sink. And I made the mistake of looking in. I’d counted and recounted all the things that had gone wrong that year ad nauseum! I was terrified of losing what little grip or control I had on things. And I crumbled.

The Whaa-ambulance came to a sudden, screeching stop at year’s end, and everything that wasn’t tied down was hurled forward into the new year. In the stress of the mess, I questioned everything – my life, my job, my marriage. I looked to find what had gone so wrong – so I could make sure it never happened again. After sorting through the debris, labeling and cross-referencing it, I came to this irrefutable (and most obvious to me) conclusion: It was clearly my husband’s fault! 

I’d gone to a lot of effort to create a nice family letter, and I’d asked him to do one simple thing – just address the envelopes. But he didn’t do that. I how our marriage had lasted as long as it had because I couldn’t rely on him to do anything I asked. Ever! Furthermore, if he didn’t want to help me, we each may as well go to our own metaphorical corners and JUST EAT WORMS!! (Except it was nastier – a lot more Dr. Phil than SNL.)

But I submit that there may have been a Christmas miracle in there after all.

After the curtain closed on my personal drama, I sat down with my husband. I explained to him that I didn’t think I had ever asked for much from him and that all I’d ever expected from him was to keep me, not walk away from me, and meet the most basic of my needs – like addressing 10 envelopes! Then I asked him what he had expected from our marriage. John simply said, “I just wanted someone who would love me.”

I thought that was a pretty stupid thing to say! Hadn’t I taken care of him? 

I had, actually. If it needed to be paid, organized, remembered or resolved, I had probably been the one to take care of it. I’d handled the lion’s share of anything done in the kitchen. To be fair, I cannot take credit for any cleaning! But God revealed to me over the next few days that the one thing I hadn’t done is love my husband. John had given me what he needed – love – yet he was so afraid of not meeting my standards and he had a such a stronghold of anxiety that he wasn’t as confident as I was at doing. And I needed some doing. What’s more, I realized that every single day that John had told me he loved me over the past 22 years, those three words had been lost in translation because I really didn’t understand love for the sake of love.

It’s time for some changes, I think. It’s time to let go of so many of the beliefs I adopted early in life, beliefs that once served as strong survival skills but have been keeping me from enjoying what’s been mine all along. I am lovable and loved – by my husband, my two daughters, my friends and a gracious Father. It time to take comfort and joy in that love. No more keeping score.

Buh-Bye!

Saturday Night Live had a skit back in 2010 that left most people hating a single phrase: the oh-so-irritating “buh-bye”. And no one made those two syllables sound more obnoxious than David Spade. It’s almost as if this was the line he was born to say. As passengers disembarked the plane, each received the same insincere, just-keep-moving “buh-bye.” And that, my friends, is exactly what I have to say to 2019. I can’t wait for it to be over! I’m worn, overwhelmed, exhausted, broke, and so completely ready to be done with this year.

I’ve been ready for 2019 to be over since January 4th, when I totaled our car in an against-all-odds single-car accident – on an in-town, two-lane highway 20 minutes before 8:00 am on a work day. By the time Maggie got her driver’s license in October, I was more than happy to surrender my license.

I was ready for it to be over in February when we had to replace our furnace. 

I was ready for it to be over since the end of March when I fractured the glenoid fossa in my shoulder and it dislocated about 4 days later. For a couple of reasons, the specialist I saw said it really can’t be fixed, which means it is permanently dislocated.

But just as I was beginning to think some very mean person had signed us up for some twisted version of the Fruit of the Month Club, we stopped having big monthly issues. All that was left were the “regular” financial, medical, vocational and emotional things. I’d like to say things got better, but that’s not quite the same as things not getting worse. Here in Minnesota, they like to say, “It could be worse.” I don’t recall accepting that as a challenge.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, you have a year I can’t wait to say “buh-bye” to.

It’s probably too late to warn you that this isn’t a warm, fuzzy holiday post. However, it’s an honest post. It’s really not my intention to whine. (Trust me! If I wanted to whine, this would be a much longer post.) I’m writing this because I’ve had the nagging sense that I failed or have been foolish.

I’d felt so bold and certain when I wrote that I am no longer the child of my mother, but rather the child of my heavenly Father. Since that post, I’ve been wondering who I think I am to say anything encouraging. I’ve felt especially powerless and hopeless about my chronic pain, which is honestly pretty exhausting because it never goes away. And yet I keep trying to do the things I did before the chronic pain. Like Job, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering WHY? Haven’t I had enough to deal with? Why can’t I get a damn break?! Or am I really as undeserving of mercy, grace, and goodness like I’d believed I was most of my life?

It would be so easy to think I’ve been foolish and pathetic to believe I could have a happy life. Was I that stupid school girl who was so gullible as to believe that the cute guy really wanted to take her to the dance, while his friends laughed and she sat alone at home in the dress she’d begged her mother to buy?

Or had I failed? Had I done something wrong? I’m not always the most sensitive person. I can be judgemental. And I know I can have an ugly heart sometimes. But am I really that bad? I try! I try to make sure everything gets done, that the bills get paid, that every customer I help gets good service. I try so hard to be good, but it never seems to matter or make a difference.

I’m beginning to think that my deepest wound, my greatest fear, is learning – not thinking, but discovering – that I’m insignificant, unworthy of anything good and definitively unlovable. 

This scares me because it leaves me with two possibilities:

  1. This is true and there’s nothing different for me to expect.
  2. This is not true and I’m lowering my standards to make things more palatable for my sense of self.

Neither is very exciting.

Yet, as I sat pouting and kicking at the collateral damage of this year, I wondered what I could possibly have to say that could encourage someone else. Then last night after ripping out some paragraphs better suited for other posts, I found this:

Please don’t let it overwhelm you. I promise God is with you. You don’t see him working. You do not get how a loving God could allow you to be where you are, but you’re alive because he loves you. You will come out blessed, stronger and able to help others.

Don’t quit. Pick your head up. God is with you.

How about that? God is with me. As in Immanuel – “God with us.” Hmmm.

So maybe it isn’t about all the problems I have, or even how they seem to pile up. Maybe it has more to do with what I do when they pile up. Do I sit there in a mess that could show up on, frankly, anyone’s front step? Or do I continue to hope against all hope that God is real, that he does love me and he does want to hold me close to him as a child? Do I just sit where I am, or do I hold my hand out in the faith that someone will reach out to take my hand in theirs and pull me into their arms – but not in a creepy way that tells you that it’s too late to worry if you left the door unlocked.

Some, including myself, will think I’m a whiner. Others, also including myself, may recognize the childlike fear of being unwanted. And it really is an all-or-nothing, this-or-that deal, isn’t it? Either God is who his word says he is and there is hope and love to be had, or God is just another Wizard of Oz. That’s the choice I have to make next year. Which still gives me a few hours to wallow in self-pity.

I want so desperately to be loved by a God about whom things like this are said:

KnowGod_Facebook_BlogPostIf I can be convicted of my justification with a God who loves me enough to sacrifice his only son in order for me to be made righteous through his blood, then I will do all I can to convince every other aching person out there that they are not unlovable, that there is a good Father who loves them the way they were always intended to be loved, but weren’t.

That would be nice way to end 2020.

 

 

 

“LARONDA, I AM YOUR FATHER”

Have you heard of the phenomenon known as “The Mandela Effect”? It’s named for Nelson Mandela, whose death in prison had become a widely accepted truth in spite of the fact that he was, in fact, very much alive. The Mandela Effect refers to a widely accepted belief that something that did not happen or that something happened differently from the way it actually happened. For example, many people – probably those who did not actually see Star Wars – would tell you that Darth Vader said to Luke Skywalker, “Luke, I am your father” when he actually said, “No. I am your father.”

The Mandela Effect has absolutely nothing to do with this post.

But today I am spending time alone with my Father. I need to because right now, I feel like my life is full of impossibilities, and I need to spend more time with the way maker than I do with the obstacles in my way.

For the past week, I’ve been in significantly more pain than usual, which is already a lot. In addition to the bone-on-bone pain of my permanently dislocated shoulder creating a new place to call home and the accompanying nerve and muscle pain, other bones and muscles are uncomfortably adjusting to my shoulder’s re-location, and they are clearly displeased with the imposition.

The tendinitis in my left hip is getting progressively worse, and I remember all too well the last time this happened because I spent nine months in agony, only able to sleep in my recliner at night – all to get through a 40 hour work week. And most recently, the back muscles on my right side painfully seize up each time I set down my right foot, complementing the grinding pain in my knee. For those of you playing at home, that’s fifty percent of my steps. 🙂 Then I have the the gnawing, unrelenting nerve pain that goes with spinal stenosis spreading through the bottom half of my body. And I may have a hangnail.

And?

And I’ve been trying to work 40 hours a week because we need the money. Even on the days that everything in me cries, “I can’t.” Last night, I couldn’t even lay in bed without my back muscles protesting. That’s when I decided to text my boss that I would not be at work today. I’m worn and exhausted. The pain won’t be any less, but at least I don’t have to feel the pressure of pressing through. Today, I really can’t!

So I’m spending the day with my Father. And a kitten who likes to suckle on my clothes.

I just wish God would give me a small encouraging glimpse of what’s ahead, of where I’m supposed to be or what I will be doing. I could use some tangible hope. To be honest, my preference would be to have the time to write until something really good ends up on paper.

I was delighting myself in this possibility as I got ready for bed. I got out of the straight jacket we call a bra and into the comfort of a well worn nightgown, then I brushed my teeth. When I finally turned off the light and pulled the covers over me, I opened an app from Morgan Harper Nichols and found this:

74905535_2878796148797801_3271987638931816448_nYes! My spirit sang for joy at the thought that this was God’s answer. I was meant to be in bed, warm and free from the constraints of a bra! Praise God! I still hurt, but I could deal that thorn as long as I could deal with it in bed.

But I’m not foolish enough to believe this is the good plan God has for me. (Truly, I’m not!) But as I joke about it today, sitting in a quiet house with a perfectly content kitten sleeping on me, a heating pad warming my back, I think there may be an answer there for me beneath the sarcastic humor.

Maybe this is closer to the truth of where I’m meant to be:

6ccc7c70edb34738abce5fe4ae53dbc3Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)

Now that is appealing! Resting comfortably in my Father’s arms, wrapped in his provision and protection, wanting for nothing because he knows what I need. He is the good Father who delights in me and is the giver of good things. He has a good plan for me and goes ahead of me to make the path straight, lighting the path with his Word so I have no reason to stumble.

I really have no reason to worry about my future because the same powerful, steady hands that hold me up when I’m weak are same hands that gently hold me close to his side now. I never knew the comfort of a father’s reassuring embrace, but I’m beginning to believe that it wouldn’t hold a candle to the peace I feel spending time with him today. My Father is a good father. He knows me. He sees me. He loves me. And he’s got this!

I may wait, but like C. S. Lewis once said…img_e9609_400x.jpeg

 

SPILLING YOUR GUTS 101

Houses are often used as analogies to lives. I think if my life, my personality, were personified as a house, that house would be similar to the famous Winchester house.

Allow me to demonstrate.

Isn’t this a lovely home?

w h outside

Oh! It’s a bit bigger than it looks, isn’t it?

w h from top

OK. Now, that’s just wrong!

w h inside

See what I mean?

Since I started blogging over a year ago, I’ve thought a lot about what I want to accomplish through my writing. I have offered to put any talent I may have into the hands of the God who can make donkeys talk. But even before that, God’s been in the process of stripping away all those things I don’t need and all the clutter I was never supposed to have, all to reveal me to myself the way my Father intended me to be when he formed me in my mother’s womb.

And you know what? The debris crew has a lot of work to do!

I have felt defective for many of my 50+ years – anywhere from ‘not quite good enough’ to ‘how do you even function?!‘ But I always maintained that a fresh coat of cheerful paint, an attractive wreath on the front door and some bright flowers along the front walk would be good enough to keep up the facade. The KEEP OUT signs managed to keep most people on the sidewalk. Sure, sometimes that fresh coat of paint covered some rust that should have been removed, but I was always afraid that the rust was the only thing holding things together.

A few years ago, our water main broke and we had water slowly and steadily seeping into the basement. The repair was as extensive as it was expensive, and in the end our little half-lot had a section measuring approximately 6′ wide by 8′ long by 8′ deep gouged out of its soil and we had a $4,200 bill. A large lilac bush was also removed in the process, leaving our small deck to sink a few inches on the right side. What was left was an ugly scar through our front yard. To make things worse, we live on a street favored by walkers and joggers. The huge pumpkin vine we’d had growing out of the middle of our yard a few years earlier was at least intriguing, but that’s a whole other story! This was just plain ugly! And absolutely everyone could see it.

A couple of years before that, something very similar happened. This time, though, it was physical. I’d had an emergency open-heart surgery to repair my ascending aorta. Long story, short, I blew a hole in my ascending aorta and could have/should have died. Trust me, it was kind of a big deal, and I’m excited to tell you about it – maybe even in the next post – because it was pretty amazing and key to my current restoration project.

scars tatoosAnyway, I now have a long jagged scar down the middle of my chest. There’s about one inch in the middle of the scar that is now thin and nearly invisible. Below that, the scar is stretched to nearly a half-inch wide and very, very light in color. But at the top – the part that shows above the neckline of all my clothes – is a two-inch long, half-inch wide red scar. It, too, is just plain ugly. And everyone can see it!

So why are these two things so significant to me? Why do they embarrass me? Because for the first time in my life, I couldn’t keep the surface of the water still. I was unable to control and manage the damage. More important, I couldn’t hide it.

MAD HATTER 2-17Now, most people would look at a surgery like mine and be glad they’d survived it. And they’d look at the lawn and deck and know it’s just a part of being a homeowner. But not me. All I could think was that now everyone could see how “defective” I was. It was almost as if my ‘ick’ has pressed the seams, busted the stitching and poured out for everyone to gawk at in disgust. And I was embarrassed and ashamed.

That is what you’d call pathological thinking. Or just plain mad!

You’d be right.

The night of my open-heart surgery, God did something amazing and transformational. And it seems he’s been working over-time since then to apply enough pressure to my seams to push out and bring to light all the crap I’ve protected and tried to keep hidden from view. Every time something new oozes out and I’m frantically trying to shove it all back in, my loving Father invites me to look at it – really look at it – in the light and decide if I honestly want to keep it…or if it might be time to let it go.

It hasn’t been easy to watch parts of me being removed. These are things by which I can no longer define myself. My signature was once beautiful and flowing. I enjoyed public speaking and community theater. I walked sharply and confidently. I went where I wanted, when I wanted. I could push myself just a little bit further if I had to.

Since my surgery, I’ve had poor balance and waddle to adjust for it. I’ve fallen quite a few times; the most recent resulting in a permanently dislocated shoulder. I can’t even Google that! My speech isn’t as clear as it once was, and when I’m excited or tired I slur more noticeably. I know for a fact that some people have thought I was drunk. I’ve had up driving. My handwriting that was once confident and legible is now carefully written, sometimes illegible, and no longer resembles my previously smooth handwriting. I miss my signature the most. I tire very easily and have a poorer memory.

And yet, I still put in a full week as an insurance agent!

I’ve been clipped, stripped and limited. But God’s not stopping there because he knows I’d feel completely broken, defeated and hopeless, which is where I already was the night of my surgery.

When I chip a front tooth, God tells me, “Shush. That tooth doesn’t define you.”

When my husband – the poor man – doesn’t seem to appreciate me the way I want him to, I hear God admonish, “Don’t look to him for your value. He may love you, but I’m the one who gives you value.”

When our bank account doesn’t line up with our bills, he reminds me, “Money isn’t a problem for me.”

When I feel flawed and ashamed, he says, “Lift your head, Child.”

And when I feel hopeless and don’t know who I am, he whispers, “Come here. You’re mine, and I will never leave you. You are so loved!

The world, and especially he who is in the world, have had over 50 years to do their worst to bring me to condemnation, but I am in the middle of a restoration! And I simply can’t bring home this point better than C. S. Lewis:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

“Yet as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:15 (MEV)

Now, excuse me. I think I just saw Miley talking to the demolition team and I’m a little concerned!

SHOW ME WHERE IT HURTS

Anyone who’s watched Raiders of the Lost Ark knows all too well the beating Indiana Jones takes right up to the scene where he finally gets a chance to stop and catch a breath. It’s only then that he or the audience gives much thought to his injuries. Marion tries to take advantage of the moment to kiss it and make it better, but each touch is met with varying cringes. Finally, she says, “Damn it, Indy, where doesn’t it hurt?!”

Isn’t that sometimes the easier question?

But the question I’ve really been pondering has been the one Lysa TerKeurst brought up: What is my deepest wound?

Honestly, I thought it would be a bigger challenge and require a lot more navel gazing than it did!

But I think my deepest wound is the fear of being unlovable and alone.

You know, the kind of alone where you’re pretty sure no one cares about you. Because you’re broken. Because you’re hideous. Because you’re worthless.

fafa85ea347151ae2f5a50e6955a69cdAnd you know you’re broken because the thoughts you think are wrong and weird, and you can’t even pass a remedial algebra class in your third year of college. You know you’re hideous because no one ever asks you out but if they did, you’d wonder what was wrong with them. You know you’re worthless because for years you felt hatred actually emanate from your own mother.

Who could ever love you? And don’t say “God” because if the people around you – people you can see, hear and touch – don’t seem to want to see you or hear you, much less touch you no matter what you do, then how are you supposed to believe that a God you can’t see, hear or touch loves you no matter what…just “because”!

That is what you’re supposed to believe when no one wants you?

That is what you’re expected to hold onto when you’re completely and painfully alone?

That sense of being completely and forever unlovable is what I think my deepest wound is. In fact, I’m willing to suggest that it’s the deepest wound most of us have.

Why?

Because it’s the one wound that consistently threatens to keep us from the only one who can fill the gaping wound, the only one who can stop the bleeding – the very one who created us. Because that is the wound that God’s greatest enemy will always rub, bump or flat-out jab to keep us from ever being fully confident of God’s love for us.

fb573a23d61bb582e8e99f7fc665824fDuring the past six years, I’ve been getting to know the God I trusted to give me my Get out of Hell Free card when I was 12 years old in a Southern Baptist church. It was a pretty typical Southern Baptist salvation. As the congregation sang “I Surrender All”, I made my way down the aisle to the front of the church, and accepted Christ as my savior. But it’s taking a long time for me to actually surrender all!

That was it, though. I tried to be a good girl like a Christian was supposed, but my life was painful! I spent the next 20 years just trying to survive, wondering where God was. If God loved me so much, why didn’t anyone else? If he loved me, then why did I feel so unlovable?

That, I think, has been my deepest wound.

What changed? How did I come to actually believe that I was not unlovable? Twenty-two years ago, my Father gave me a husband who refused to give up on me. One day, shortly after we were married, I was considering that I wasn’t sure I loved John. I was grateful to him – which is another post entirely – but I didn’t think I loved him. I also had a four year-old daughter who was especially challenging. I wasn’t sure I loved her either. So I sat on the front step of our apartment and told God, “I don’t think I know how to love.” He gently told me, “That’s why I gave you John.”

John kept showing me love and patience again and again, no matter what I did or said. I saw how it looked. Eventually, I felt it, and I could recognize it when I saw it. I recognized it when it came from my Father.

Even before I began this blog, I was quite aware of the fact that I was not equipped to feel loved – by anyone. I felt unlovable and unloved not simply as a woman, but as a Christian, too. And that seemed so wrong to me. Something told me I couldn’t be the only Christian who was so convinced that they were unlovable, that they were missing out on the most complete love of all.

It’s sad enough that anyone would feel unlovable. It’s so much more unfortunate that many of those people are born-again Christians. And I want more than anything for us to be set free from the lies we’ve been told about ourselves so we can live a life so fiercely victorious that satan is terrified every single day of what we will do with that freedom!

But first, we have to heal.

CAREFUL! THAT’S STILL TENDER.

I know I haven’t posted anything for awhile. I’ve been busy and a bit under the weather, but the greater fact is that I’ve been hovering around a thought and can’t seem to find a place to grab hold of and land with. It’s not so much that I can’t find anything to write about. I have too much! And entire posts are beautifully composed in my head between one o’clock and three o’clock in the morning; by sunrise, it’s nothing but wisps of disconnected words. So it’s time to put something on paper and start…something…anything.

I’ll start here, because it’s where I seem to keep returning to:

A few months ago, I read Lysa TerKeurst’s post, “What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do,” and found a single sentence that I’ve meditated on every day since:

“We have to stop the bleeding from the deepest wound.”

Every. Single. Day! I’ve held this thought in my hand, turning it over, feeling it’s texture, weight and shape with my fingers. I’ve carried it in my pocket so I could just touch it once in a while. I’ve sat it on my desk at work so I could glance at it between emails. I’ve laid it on a shelf at home so I can look at it in a different light during the day. Sometimes, I think I’m looking for something that really isn’t there. Other times, I am certain I’ll find treasure in it.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I saw something! I was struggling with something in my marriage that has come up often enough in the past 22 years to really get on my last nerve. (No naming, no shaming, no details. You can fill in your own blanks!) The important things to know are:

  1. My husband did “his thing.”
  2. I reacted doing “my thing.” (Maybe it was the other way around or simultaneous, I don’t know!)
  3. We survived it.

But somewhere in the middle of it, I had some insight into Lysa’s charge. I realized I was ferociously protecting what may be my deepest wound. Alarms were being triggered and my greatest fears were at full attention, ready to protect that wound:

  1. I am terrified of not having control, especially if it means my only hope is in someone I’m not sure I can trust to be as strong as I need them to be. (This actually includes everyone I know. Because I have some serious trust issues!)
  2. I am terrified of asking for help because it would hurt too much to be denied or it might cost too much to accept help.
  3. I am terrified of finding out that I am, after all, truly alone and insignificant. Even worse, feeling the shame of daring to believe I could be loved.

Now, understand that these fears are always there, just under the surface, ready at a moment’s notice. So they’re nothing new. And any wound I have – from the most superficial scratch to the deepest gaping wound – is always there. But most of the time, I’m so busy trying to stand still  and steady as every feeling, every anxiety storms around me that I simply allow it and wait until it’s over.

I passively let it happen and wait for it to be over. I always have.

I’ve been in therapy off and on since I was 21, and I’m pretty well aware of what my “issues” are. The fact remains that I have felt powerless to do anything about it because at the very core, I have always and only seen myself as inherently unlovable. It’s like having a shirt that is so infused with a stench that no amount of Febreeze, vinegar, tomato juice or harsh chemicals can remove the smell.

you can't go backWhich brings me to today. I’m in my 50’s and have lived my life as a defective mother, wife, employee, friend. Not that I’ve been especially bad at these roles. I just haven’t been as good at them as I’d like to have been. I feel like I’ve cheated those I’ve lived with and myself. So therapy seemed like the appropriate action plan because, you see, I was defective. I was damaged. I didn’t work right. I needed to be fixed.

How did I know? Because shame was the sweater I wore to keep me warm. I spent most of the first 21 years of my life being reminded that I was optional. The person on whom I depended for food, clothes and shelter reminded me regularly that if I didn’t like it, I could leave.

I knew she was mentally “off”. And as I grew older, I came to see just how crazy it was to live in agreement with a woman who was mentally ill. Even crazier was that ultimately I was agreeing with a mentally ill woman who was dead!

What I’m unraveling now is the fact that I thought I had only two options:

  1. Be the person my mentally ill mother said I was, or
  2. Don’t be the person my mentally ill mother said I was, although I had no idea what that looked like.

But now I know that I was missing an option:

3. Be the person God created me to be.

And this option comes with an instruction manual and a love letter!

1df2fa83d020d50c90e390b7d79e1d68Believe me when I say that I do not want to write in the blood from my deepest wound. I want you to know that if you’ve been misused or abused, I know it hurts. But I want more than anything to write from the other side of pain. I desperately want to turn to you and say, “It is possible! You can get here from there. And it’s so much better here where grace abounds and mercy is freely given!”

But here’s the thing: I’m not on the other side yet. I’m writing this journey in “real time.” After all these years, I’m ready to be healthy. I want to be whole. And I don’t care if I have scars…as long as I can stop the bleeding from my deepest wound.

 

STEPPING OUT IN FAITH, IN STYLE!

On September 19th, I posted A New Thing, a preface of sorts to the direction I hoped to move in, a direction I felt God was calling to move in. I was still feeling pretty excited on September 21st. That day I was reading a few articles online when I noticed some really pretty dresses being advertised. Now I’m not a fancy dresser at all, but I like the idea of wearing something pretty and feeling pretty in it. I even have a board on Pinterest called ‘Things I’d Like to Feel Pretty In’. And that’s the closest I’ve ever gotten – thinking about feeling (not even being) pretty. And a lot of it is tied to how I was raised – like wearing a garage sale maternity top when I was 9 because it was “big”. Even so, when I dress for my office job, it’s in ‘work clothes’ because I plan to work hard and need to be comfortable more than I need to feel ‘fluffy.’

Anyway…It was a few minutes later that I clicked on a devotional about stepping out in faith, and this is a screenshot of what I saw:step out dressThe first dress is the one I’d shown my husband about 20 minutes earlier as one I especially liked. Finding this combination of article and advertisement really funny, I then posted the screenshot and this comment to Facebook:

I clicked on a link to read a devotional on stepping out in faith. Thanks to another link I’d looked at earlier, I saw that there were ways I could step out in faith looking pretty doggone good! (FYI: My favorite is the first dress and I wear a 3X. Just sayin’!) 😂

Not long after, a friend of mine replied, telling me, “Well get your walking shoes on. The dress will arrive in 10 days at your home!” (Of course, I cried!)

fc61fb67da2412164cb01972f689935bThe dress arrived yesterday, and it’s beautiful!

And I’m glad it came yesterday because every day from September 22nd to yesterday, I’ve felt unbearably hopeless and helpless. The sense of personal failure is overwhelming, and my personal mantra seems to be, “I can’t.”

I have so very much to learn about being a child of God and just what my Father is – and isn’t. His Word assures me that he doesn’t intend for me to feel afraid or without hope. I know that he doesn’t expect me to carry the load by myself. I think he’s very happy to see me in a pretty dress. And just to be sure I know he’s paying attention, 30 minutes after I freed my dress from its shipping constraints, I opened an email from Chicken Soup for the Soul notifying me that a story I submitted is in the final considerations for publication.

My Father sees me. He knows me. He loves me. Even when I wonder where he is.

And I have a pretty strong suspicion that he likes to see me smile!

6076d31c4d3038f8eba9de45a3857a97

 

LINE!

I don’t know how professional stage actors do things, but when I was in high school and community theater, there was one day we feared the most of all rehearsal days. We knew from the very first day of rehearsal that the day would come when we would be “off book”. This was the day our scripts were taken from our sweaty, tight fists and we were no longer allowed their comfort. It was usually a true wake-up call for me.

Too often, I’d be right there in the center of the stage, my fellow actors around me, everyone where they were supposed to be when a horrid silence fell over the auditorium. Someone had forgotten their line. I’d look to see who it was. All the eyes and tired faces looking at me hinted that it was probably me. And it was. So I scrambled for my next line, standing there like Winnie the Pooh with “Think. Think. Think.” running through my mind. Nothing! So I faced my embarrassment and did the only thing I could do.

“Line!” I called out. That was my white flag of surrender to whomever was in charge of prompting me. And I was always prompted and carried on a bit longer.

Lately, I feel as if I could call “Line!” as often as I want and there would be no answer.

I don’t know if I can’t hear the prompt, if it’s my turn to simply improvise for a bit, or if the next part of the script isn’t available yet, although it has been written. In any case, I don’t know what to say or do next. In fact, I feel much like I did when I only had a small walk-on part and waited long stretches of time backstage, waiting for my entrance and quick exit. Just waiting. Killing time. Not especially paying attention.

Psalm 81:10 (NIV) says: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know that I write longer posts than others. Just imagine how much more I relish the ease and immediacy of talking! I never thought I’d not know what to say. The thing is, I have a lot to say, but I’m learning that not everything needs to be said, or even said by me.

I’m certain I have a story to tell, but the trick now is to tell God’s story in which I am but a character, rather than to simply tell my story. God is doing a great work in me, and sometimes it’s more painful than other times. Currently, I feel like I’m being stripped down to what I am at my core, with God removing all the things he never intended to cover me. It’s a bit scary, this unveiling.

So I wait for my next line. I wait for God’s direction. I wait for him to fill my mouth with his story.

 

 

THE THING ABOUT FAITH

This is morning, I listened to our guest pastor discuss Hebrews 11. This is that nice chapter that starts out with: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” That’s a beautifully worded verse, isn’t it? It’s so encouraging! Then there’s the second verse: “This is what the ancients were commended for.” And a list of who “the ancients” were follows in a really poetic fashion, with the mention of each ancient beginning with “By faith….” And a sense of righteous reverence rises up in me. I think, ‘Wow! These ancients were amazing. Their faith was so strong.’

It really is an impressive list of faith. Even sprinkled by moments of mistakes and doubts, these folks finished as God intended for them to. It’s a good reminder that we will very likely make mistakes, but by our maturing faith we will be found righteous as long as we trust that God is truly a good God.

I also listened to what each of the ancients endured and came out on the other side of, even closer to God. They and all the other men and women we read about in the Bible went through some heavy, burdensome things. It makes you look back at beginning of the chapter and reconsider what is really meant by “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We’re not talking about the hope a child has that they’re going to get a pony for Christmas, or that God’s going to bless you with winning lottery numbers so you can pay off all your debt. These people did the hard things! They did things that exemplify what God means when he says his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, his ways are higher than our ways and that he’s about to do a new thing. 

08ef2004deac5eb4c1a19b7ceacc0107The Red Sea, sacrificing a son who was inconceivably conceived, a single man telling a pharaoh (himself considered a god) that his God said to let his people go, packing up a huge household, including livestock, and going “over there” because God said to, taking 120 years to build and ark while being mocked by an entire community. No one could fault any of them for saying to God, “You’re kidding, right?” Because we don’t think that way, but God does.

God has never asked me to do the unimaginable or anything as reality-defying as the men and women of the Bible, but in my small world I have had occasions to trust him more than has been comfortable. And it was while I was pondering this fact that our guest preacher moved on to Hebrews 12 which begins, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses….” As I said, I’ve never had to ask God to part the Red Sea for me and thousands of others while an army is at our heels. But I have been overwhelmed by a season of “stuff” that required more money, more energy, or more strength than I had, and stood at the edge of my next step wondering how it was going to be okay, when it was going to be okay, knowing I really had no reasonable option but to go “by faith.”

I listened to this sermon from a pew at the back of the church. I looked out at the smattering of heads covered by gray hair or no hair among the younger looking heads. And I realized that I was surrounded by my own, personal cloud of witnesses. I attend a Methodist church and you can’t accuse them of being Pentecostal in any modern sense, but I know our older members have a deeply rooted, anchored faith that came from doing hard things “by faith.” They’ve been married to the same person longer than I’ve been alive. They’ve buried husbands, wives and children long before they wanted to. They’ve done without and gotten through it anyway. They’ve gotten through things I hope to never have to go through, and things I’ll likely still go through because I’m married, have children, work and, quite simply, because I’m alive.

These beautiful people aren’t wiser simply because they’re older. They are wiser because they’ve learned hard lessons by faith. They’ve got battle scars that others can’t see. Their armor is certainly worse for wear. They’ve fought battles on their knees. They may walk slower than they did when they were younger, but I know they walk together; and in them is still the heart of a child who knows they are loved by their Father.

I have come to love them in a way I never thought I could love anyone, and I thank God for them. This is my cloud of witnesses. What have they witnessed? God’s faithfulness, provision, strength, love to name a few things. I can read about the ancients, but I didn’t know them the way I know these people. But I know I can trust in the God of Shirley, the God of Floyd, the God of Kevin, the God of Sue, the God of Cherry, the God of Gigi, the God of Phil. And I hope that my children and grandchildren can someday find hope and confidence in the God of LaRonda – because he is – and always will be – a good God who loves them.

I JUST DON’T KNOW!

You know that feeling you get when you you open the refrigerator door, hoping to find something…anything…that might taste good? And nothing sounds good.

How about this: Nothing sounds good, so you go to the grocery store. After walking aimlessly around for about 15 minutes, you stop in the middle of an aisle and have a total melt-down because you’re surrounded on every side by plenty of things to consume, but none of it appeals to you at all.

Or how about this: Back home is one husband and three or four kids. (Who knows? They start to look like tiny gang members at some point. And you’re beginning to suspect what’s-his-name is not one of your tax deductions, but his actual parents aren’t looking for him – and you understand why.) Regardless of the body count, everyone wants to know what’s for dinner.

And you don’t know!!

There’s just this overwhelming sense of too much and not enough at the same time. You know that there should be an answer, there usually is an answer, but you couldn’t even pick one out from a multiple choice question right now.

It’s a little like the lyrics from Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb:

Relax
I’ll need some information first
Just the basic facts
Can you show me where it hurts?

And the answer is NO. No, you can’t show where it hurts. You don’t know where it hurts.

All you know for certain is that you don’t know how you got here. It’s dark and cold. You hear soft but unfamiliar sounds. You sob silently because you want someone to hear you, to come help you find your way out, but you don’t want to feel the vulnerability of needing help. In fact, you’re not even sure of what ‘help’ would look like.

That’s when the God of suddenlies reaches down to touch his child and you’re flooded with assurance, peace and hope. Your Father heard your quiet cry and found you. He knows you. He sees you. He loves you.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

 

We don’t always wait patiently. OK…we seldom wait patiently, do we? But we should wait patiently, shouldn’t we? We make a list of all the ways God can help us, even though experience tells us the he’s been there for us before.  He’s never left us in the slimy pit, the mud or the mire, has he?

6884915f0952ef38160ee791a080dd18He’s even there in the grocery store, where you’re standing, virtually paralyzed in Aisle 3 and you’re holding back the tears. He’s there every time we cry, “I don’t know…I just don’t know.” In fact, it’s in those moments that we give up that you can almost hear a relieved sigh right before you hear God say, “Finally! Now we can get to work. Follow me. I know a way out.”

No matter where you are or what you’ve done, never forget that you are so loved by the very God who created you!