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, of course),  conclusion: It was clearly my husband’s fault. What a relief it was to be able to finally wrap up this mystery and pit a big bow on it in time for Christmas. 

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 don’t know how our marriage had lasted as long as it had because I obviously 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’s 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.

 

 

 

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.

A NEW THING

I have always had a passion for sharing what I knew and what I thought. Anytime, anywhere. Usually without invitation. And that seemed to be a problem for my teachers. All of my teachers. From First Grade through my senior year of high school. (I don’t think anyone noticed in Kindergarten because none of us had much self-control then.) But I still have the quarterly report cards that pointed out, “LaRonda talks too much in class.” When this came up in a conversation with a college professor, she said, “Well…we don’t have report cards in college.”

The thing is, I was never talking about how ugly I thought Heather’s dress was or how I couldn’t decide if I wanted to marry Shaun Cassidy or Leif Garret. I was almost always making comments on the lesson the teacher was teaching us – at that precise moment, unfortunately.

Equally unfortunate is the fact that the teachers never seemed to understand that. They seem to have thought I was talking about silly girl things and simply being a distracting nuisance when, in fact, I was only being a distracting nuisance. I’m realizing now that it was my way of learning and actually actively engaging in my education. It was how I learned best, and I had the grades to prove it. I just didn’t realize that no one else in the room worked that way, and I was making education and educating harder for them.

But because everyone believed the problem was that I talked too much in class, that became a source of shame and insecurity for me. To this day, my husband and I will go home after a Bible study, and I’ll say to him, “I talked too much again, didn’t I?” Sometimes I feel enough shame that tears come to my eyes (just as they are now by simply mentioning it).

What I’m getting at is this: I have an inherent passion to share my thoughts, and back in 2011 I thought blogging would be a great way to do that. If no one cared to know what I thought, they simply didn’t need to read what I wrote. But I had no direction, no substantial focus, so I quit.

Then in 2018, Maggie thought it would be fun to do a dual blog in which we would follow up each Bible study with her take on it as a daughter/teen, and I would share my thoughts as a mother/”mature” woman. I thought that sounded exciting, so the next Sunday night I blew off the dust on my old blog site and wrote down my thoughts on the Bible study. I kept waiting for Maggie to join me as I continued to find things to write about. I’m still waiting.

Eventually, I decided to change the name of my blog since I was obviously going to write about what I was learning about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. I’d finally found a direction, a substantial focus. However, I have recently felt “committed” to “righteous writing”, and I’m no preacher. I’ve also learned that I absolutely treasure feedback because that’s when a conversation can begin. (I’m not foolish enough to suggest that there’s no emotional satisfaction, too. I enjoy encouraging comments, and I’m grateful I don’t have enough followers to say mean things. And I doubt there are many who don’t feel the same need for acceptance and fear of rejection.) One day, I hope I can genuinely say, “All glory goes to he who gave me this gift. None of it is me.”

Which brings me to this post. I have a story to tell. We all do. I’ve long thought that my story was about the pain I felt growing up with a mentally ill mother who was often quite cruel; the difficulty I had in my 20’s trying to meet so many unmet needs in a healthy way – and failing miserably; the challenge of acting “normal” in a world that had no idea that I only understood over-achievement to avoid being punished, all the while feeling inherently defective and unlovable; and taking 16 years to believe that my husband and children loved me “just because” and weren’t going to suddenly tell me they were just trying to be nice all these years, but the truth is they never loved me.

Most important, it took me this long to learn that my Father is nothing like my mother. And that is what I believe my story is. My story is God’s story; I’m simply a character in a story that reveals his nature.

I’m equally aware that I’m not the only one out here who has been abused, misused and lied to about who they are. Even the best-intentioned parents will manage to smudge God’s picture of who his children are. I also know there are others who have survived against the odds – literally. Some of us have experienced things that most of us couldn’t conceive or process even if we knew the story; and we’ll seldom hear the story. In fact, you’d be surprised at who you work with who’s grown up in truly damaging homes. Some of them may even be the friends you think you know. Chances are, they work very hard to make sure you never discover their secret.

d1ba7bbea3209253914a4f0f9a386b2c

But the only story I can tell is my own. And perhaps someone can see that they’re not alone, their abuse and misuse was not their fault, their Father loves them very much, they are enough and they are lovable. I’m not talking Stuart Smalley stuff. (Yes. Yes, that is former Minnesota Senator, Al Franken, on Saturday Night Live. My state also elected Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura as governor, so…). No, I’m talking about discovering who we were born to be and finally living like the child of God that we are, rather than the child of                      _     we were told we were.

bloomingTo be honest, it’s scary for me to consider being vulnerable; but for the most part, those readers – who are fortunately small in number right now – will either not read what I write or will likely be very gracious. Those readers who are part of my church family and only think they know me, well…I don’t know what to tell ya! 🙂 Those readers who I know peripherally, I guess a more intimate introduction is imminent, huh? (I love a good alliteration!) Just understand that this has nothing to do with getting pity. Although there’s still some pain when someone accidentally and unknowingly bumps into an old wound that hasn’t quite healed or has very recently been re-injured, I know I’m loved and safe now. This is intended to be a story of healing – how and from what God is healing me.

I guess we’ll see what happens! By the way, the other thing my mother read on every single report card was “She is not living up to her potential.” Perhaps I can do something about that. I may be over 50, but some of my teachers also said I was just a late bloomer.

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!

 

 

RISE AND SHINE!

The other morning, I turned off my alarm and laid under the covers wondering why my alarm had the audacity to go off so early in the morning. Then I remembered. I had a job to go to. I needed to shower, dress, and eat breakfast.

I did a quick mental inventory of what was in the fridge that I could eat. That’s when I remembered…

There was a large diet Coke from McDonald’s waiting for me in the fridge!

That alone was enough to motivate me into a vertical position, feet planted firmly beneath me. My morning leveled up just a bit more as Sheryl Crow’s voice wandered aimlessly through my mental fog…

All I wanna do is have some fun. I’ve got a feelin’ I’m not the only one.

No, Sheryl, you are not the only one. But we can’t all run around singing all day, can we? Fun would have to wait because I had work to do.

Then I remembered the countless times my husband would drop me off at work. He’d tell me to be good and have fun. And each time, I would smile at him and shoot back, “You’re going to have to choose one or the other, because I can’t do both.”

Not every day is sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. But if you can find one thing to smile about, it can make a difference. Even if it’s only the promise of a large diet Coke from McDonald’s.

 

 

REALLY, GOD? REALLY?!

In 1989, Tom Hanks was still 5 years away from playing Forrest Gump. He was still in his early comedic element what he starred in The Burbs, in which “an over-stressed suburbanite and his fellow neighbors are convinced that the new family on the block are part of a murderous Satanic cult.” (Stay with me here!)

It was a scene from the end of this movie that came to mind as I listened to 1 Kings 19:1-19 (NIV). (You’re about to learn a lot about how my brain works!)

Long story, short, Ahab told Jezabel about all the trouble Elijah had been stirring up. Jezabel sends a scathing message to Elijah, informing him that he’s as good as dead. So Elijah runs to Beersheba in Judah, where he drops off his servant and sets out for the wilderness another day’s distance away.

It’s here in the wilderness that Elijah plops himself under a broom bush and begs God to take his life. He’s tired! He’s fed up! He’s had enough!

So had Tom Hanks’ character, Ray Peterson. All Ray wanted was a few days of quiet, relaxing restoration at home. In no time at all, his neighbors have pulled him into an unbelievable story. In just under 1 hour and 40 minutes, Ray – like Elijah – has been pushed to the edge of reasonable limits and was fast approaching his breaking point.

No, Elijah is not an over-stressed suburbanite living next to some satanists, but I know a tired man when I see one. I also know a hissy fit when I see one. Elijah had been faithful to God. He squared off against 450 prophets of Baal, demonstrating that there were no other gods than Yahweh. And what does he get for his faithfulness? A death threat from an unstable woman.

What about him?!

Now we get to the source of his troubles. His victory has been rooted in the strength and power of God. His fear is rooted in his focus on himself. To be fair, Elijah needs a break. He needs some care and encouragement. He doesn’t really want to give up or die; he just wants some time for restoration. He is human, after all. His body needs sleep and food. His spirit needs encouragement. And God is gracious enough to meet him where he is. He even sends warm bread for Elijah.

After Elijah had fallen asleep, an angel touched him saying, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank.” (Personally, I would have been tempted to ask God if he hadn’t heard me – I’m done!) But not Elijah. “Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.” (1 Kings 19:6-9 NIV)

And now God has Elijah truly alone. Elijah has had 40 days and 40 nights in which to contemplate God’s question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

There’s so much more to Elijah’s story, but that’s for another post. Today, just be encouraged that even the mightiest of God’s chosen can grow weary. And even when we beg for it to all come to an end, our gracious Father will meet us where we are and give us what we need to keep going.

 

THAT ONE TIME WHEN I DIDN’T DIE

I love TED Talks! As in anyone-who-says-they-enjoy-TED Talks-is-automatically-my-new-best-friend kind of love. And, no, the poor souls never see it coming. This morning, this 16-minute talk showed up in Twitter and I’ve been excited to share it all day long!!

The title reminded me of my friend who celebrated his first birthday after surviving necrotizing faciitis (flesh-eating bacteria) as his I Didn’t Die birthday. And it reminded me of so many of my fellow survivors in the Aortic Dissection Support Group on Facebook. I hadn’t expected to hear so many of my own thoughts come out of someone else’s mouth.

On the other hand, I wasn’t surprised that someone else had those thoughts. Suleika Jaouad gave voice to an idea that I’ve been pondering. In the years since I survived my ascending aortic dissection, I have noticed that I have as much in common with cancer survivors as I do with dissection survivors. I also have a lot in common with people who have dealt with break-ups, being relieved of job responsibilities and the key to the employee entrance, financial losses, etc. You can add whatever you want to the list.

These are the 9 things I’ve noticed so far:

  1. You are not alone. Everyone has either already endured a struggle or will eventually endure a struggle. No one finishes without at least one, and some people should probably just get their own punch card.
  2. Any loss is still a loss, any pain is still pain, and no one else gets to determine how big, bad or scary your struggle is.
  3. More often than not, you weren’t asked if it was okay with you. No, you didn’t get a vote. Yes, you get to clean up the collateral damage.
  4. Surviving wasn’t necessarily a matter of being a warrior. Let’s face it – it’s intuitive for us to do what we can to not die, and everyone around us from family to physicians is doing everything to help us survive. That being said, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to work your guts out getting to the other side.
  5. These things can change you in ways you may not be able to articulate. In fact, you may not want to share your thoughts at the risk of sounding ungrateful, because…
  6. Your new life might suck. (I’m no angel, but this blog hardly seems the right place for a word that may offend some. So I apologize for any offense, but maintain that this is the most appropriate inappropriate word I can think of.) But honestly, “new normal” is a phrase only used when the change in your life is no picnic, right?
  7. You are not the only one who went through it and came out on the other side a changed person. Your friends and family (and even your coworkers) are now the friends and family (and coworkers) of the person who survived. They have a “new normal” to adjust to as well.
  8. Your recovery doesn’t have to be pretty or polished to be progress.
  9. Finally, the biggest lie you may ever believe is that you’re the only one. Your story, statistics and survival may certainly be unique, but…See #1 again.

That’s it. That’s all I have right now. No confetti, pep talk or words of wisdom to end this post. But while you’re here, feel free to share something you think might help someone else not feel quite so alone.

Oh, you are so loved!

OK…FALSE ALARM!

OK. You know what? I think I just needed a nap, a hug, and some good friends!

norman rockwellOnce again, God gave me a crash course in assurance. Most of my lessons are like this because I think God has this tiny window of opportunity before I change my mind. Seriously, I’m like that kid – you know the one – who gets to the edge of the diving board and is too scared to jump but they can’t really go back to the stairs either so they just stand there hoping the world will open up and swallow them whole but it doesn’t so they go ahead and jump with the conviction that they’re about to drown to death but when they don’t die they figure death would have been better than being embarrassed. Yeah, I’m like that kid.

Shortly after I called the wahh-mbulance the other day, I opened an email from Morgan Harper Nichols. Unlike most of the subscriptions I get emails from, she’s gone to the trouble of personalizing her emails with the recipient’s first name. And that means I saw this as the subject line before I even opened the email: You’re not alone LaRonda.

I know. Right?

Of course, as nice as it was, all I could think was, ‘Maybe you’re not alone, but I’m pretty sure I am.’

I was wrong. So very wrong. Because I’m lazy, I’ve cut  and pasted the rest of Morgan’s message:

When you find yourself in a new place, and you are trying find your footing, may you never feel that you have to navigate it alone. Consider it a blessing that there are other people in this world that you can learn from, even if you are not able to speak to them directly.

You may not be able to be as open to your boss or a colleague as you would like to, or you may not be able to seek wise counsel from family members like you wish you could, but that does not mean you have reached the limit on who you can look to or reach out to.

And it’s okay if “reaching out” takes you out of comfort zone. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. The moment you take the step to ask a question or express a need that you have is a bold rejection of the lie that you were meant to do this alone. It does not make you needy. It does not make you weak.

So don’t be so hard on yourself. If you feel that reaching out makes you vulnerable, it does…and it has also made you strong. You were never meant to be in this alone. And the more you begin taking steps to live out this truth, the more you will begin to see just how much it makes a difference in you.

May this be the week you begin to practice stepping out of your comfort zone just a little bit more. May you begin to open your heart to possibility that vulnerability takes courage and the willingness to accept that you have no idea what is going to happen. Be honest about what you are thinking and feeling this week. Be honest with yourself. Be mindful of the moments where you feel tempted to shut down or withdraw or give up. And it’s okay to have these moments and being able to acknowledge them is a huge step in working through them.

Sincerely,
Morgan Harper Nichols

Yesterday, I went to church and was surrounded by amazing people who had not only had their faith tested and strengthened, but are in the midst of a trial right now. It’s foolishness to think your problems are more insurmountable than someone else’s. I don’t think I’m struggling with how bad I think things are. I know there are painful things that I can’t imagine having to go through, and my heart breaks for anyone carrying such a load.

Lately I’ve thought a lot about painful things that can never change until we’re Home. Two people in our church family have lost their spouse this year. Another woman had her leg amputated. A young woman I once worked with lost her five-month old boy to SIDS. People don’t return to life. A limb isn’t going to grow back. I can eventually pay off debt or purchase another car. I can even arrange things to compensate for the changes in me since my open-heart surgery. And I’ll eventually learn how to work with one good arm and one permanently dislocated arm. It won’t always be easy, but it can be done.

However, some things do not change. There are some things that I can’t fix, and that makes me feel powerless and vulnerable. (That was harder to say than you might think.)

I’ve spent most of my life garnering as much control as I could because I was the only person I could count on to not hurt me. (And, honestly, I’ve probably been crueler to myself than anyone else has ever been.)

So right now, I need help to carry things, to cook, to do my job. I have to ask for help when I need it. Here’s what can happen:

  • Someone will gladly help me.
  • Someone will help me but not exactly the way I would have done it – which, of course, is the right way.
  • Someone will help me and then hold it over me when they need to leverage it for guilt.
  • Someone will say ‘No.’

That gives me a 50% chance be being hurt. And a 100% chance that I won’t ask for help until I’m desperate.

Fortunately, God has put people in my life who are as persistent as they are kind. Fortunately, God has infinite patience with me as he teaches me that it’s okay to ask for and accept help. And that I can be secure that if I reach out my hand, there will be someone there to hold it.

ec5383b9db4af15f6f4fd41c22f70b80

Sometimes, I just have to be brave enough to jump and trust that there are lifeguards who won’t let me drown. Yeah…pretty sure.

I THINK I’M DONE

When I started this blog a little over a year ago I felt pretty strong, pretty confident, and I had fantasies of writing something that would, in some small way, touch someone. My greater goal was to help people who felt unlovable to realize that they were lovable and loved by a God who treasures them, quirks and all. The only way I felt that was possible was from the other side of my own doubts. And to be honest, I lasted longer than I thought I would.

I don’t think I can do that right now. I have no doubt that one day I’ll start writing again, but it’ll definitely take more than I’ve got right now.

A few weeks ago, I posted Are We There Yet? I think that’s a fair enough question.

Most of the trouble is that I’ve always tried to be a good girl and never ask for much. I tried o be a good student, a good employee, a good Christian. I learned at a very young age that I was not much more than an option.

I don’t recall what I did wrong, but my mother told me she’d made a call to the orphanage. The only thing I understood about the orphanage (which we actually had in our city) was that it was where children went when they didn’t have parents. She told me someone would be by later to get me. They’d put me in a dark room and feed me when they felt like it.

I waited quietly until it was dark enough to know grown-ups weren’t at work anymore, which also meant someone hadn’t come to take me to the orphanage. I asked my mother if they were still coming to get me. She simply said, “They must have forgotten about you. They’ll probably come tomorrow.”

i never went to the orphanage. I continue to live with my mother, which was probably worse than the alternative.

I’ve spent most of my life convinced that I was unlovable and insignificant enough to be easily forgotten. At best, I was tolerated. But that tolerance was very conditional, and I was constantly reminded with, “If you don’t like it, you can leave.”

I didn’t like it, but I had no where to go so I couldn’t leave. And I didn’t leave until the day before my 21st birthday.

My point is this: When you grow up without grace  or mercy, there’s no way you can recognize it when you see it. Even if you could, you can not accept it when you’ve believed that you’re something to be tolerated.

I thought I had made progress, that I had more confidence in God’s word. But I know now that I haven’t. I was starting to come to terms with the limitations after my open-heart surgery. I kept looking for the good after I wrecked the car in January. I trusted God to provide when we had to replace a new furnace in February. I even tried to remain optimistic when I wrecked my shoulder at the end of March. And somehow, we’ll find a way to pay the taxes we owe to the state.

But if God knows me so well, doesn’t he know that I am not that strong? My body had already betrayed me enough, but to have to live the rest of my life with the pain and limitations of a permanently dislocated shoulder? How does that glorify God? To be so perpetually broke that the kindness of really generous friends and my husband’s family barely scratches the surface of our debt because more debt is piled on than we can dig out…how does that glorify God?

So I’m angry and confused. I feel foolish for trusting God because there are plenty of people who are looking at me and wondering why they should trust him if this is what a Christian life looks like.

So here’s the deal: I can not write anything encouraging or motivational right now. This post is concrete evidence of that. So I shall keep all of my thoughts inside my pretty little head until I can be nice again. Besides…if I don’t like it, i can always leave, right?