Thursday, August 6, 2015

On This Day - You Are Not Alone

This is a repost from a year ago. We are in the middle of some unexpected chaos that has totally turned our world upside down. When I read this again, I needed it in the worst way possible. I figured if I did, someone else may need it also. 

Maybe that person is you...

There have been moments filled not with joy and hope, but with hurt and despair. Those not filled with peace and love, but with bitterness and loneliness. I know for some of you, that's where you find yourselves as you read this. You are simply going through the motions because that's what friends and family expect. You don't want, nor do you have the energy to let anyone know just how empty you feel. And that's okay. It's okay to feel all the things. It's okay to simply lean into the moment.

I want to let you in on a little secret. The pressure is off. I know exactly how you feel...

I know what it's like to be mistreated by the church. Stripped of a position simply for being a woman. To be lied to by the very ministers you worked so closely with and who you trusted.

I know the heartbreak of never seeing the faces of children that were long waited for. Never counting tiny fingers and toes. Never taking in the scent of my newborn's breath on my cheek.

I know what it's like to be made to feel less than because I've had to rely on government assistance in order to put food on our table.

I know what it's like to get an early morning phone call from a hospital chaplain, "your son is here, he's been in an accident." And then to spend the rest of the day with emergency room physicians as they talk about chest tubes and open heart surgery.

I know what it's like to be paralyzed by fear awaiting MRI results and subsequently, pathology reports for my daughter.

I know what it's like to be afraid and confused because I've screwed up and hurt people I've cared about. Left standing alone and hopeless in the shattered pieces of what God intended.

I know what it's like to live with fractured relationships. Knowing that distance is the best option but longing for restoration.

I know the devastation of betrayal. When the person you trusted with your heart, the one you vowed to love before God, has chosen someone else. When the feel of someone else's skin under their fingertips is what they long for.

I also know that there is always hope...

When we feel abandoned and forsaken. Hopeless and alone. When we are drowning in the ocean of tears we have cried and the hurt threatens to swallow us up. When we feel like we just can't take another breath...God with us.

And that hope came in our weakness to experience everything as we would. To know what it's like to be cold and hungry. To be hurt and disappointed. To be lonely. To weep over loss. To ultimately be betrayed.

Hope came. Immanuel, God with us. God with you. Sitting with you in the middle of whatever mess you find yourself in. He knows. He's there to wrap you in arms that are bigger than everything else happening at this particular place and time in your life.

You are not alone. 

He is Grace for every moment. 

I am with you always...
Matthew 28:20

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mirror, Mirror - On This Day

This was a post from a year ago. I was reminded of it by the 'on this day' feature on Facebook. As I read it again I realized that I needed to be reminded of the message...

We are more than what we see on the surface. We have lifetimes of experiences that are unique to each of us and worth sharing with others. Because we are indeed beloved. We are not mistakes, we are never too old and it's never too late! 

Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

We all know the story that goes with that phrase. We know about the evil queen and the mirror. Her obsession with it. Her compulsion to be the fairest of them all. Until one day, it wasn't true any longer. Someone younger and fairer had come along.

Don't we all have one of those mirrors? The one that we go to for affirmation. For confirmation that we do indeed still have it all. Until one day, we don't any more.

And don't we all have that inner evil bitch queen? The one that tells us our looks and the things seen on the surface are where our worth lies. The one we believe over and over again, especially the older we become.

When I look in that mirror these are the things I typically see...

...old hair (as one sweet 5 yr. old once said). Hair that some days I wish I could afford to color and keep colored. Because I'm tired of being mistaken for my daughter's grandmother.

...eyes that are surrounded by wrinkles. A face lined where it shouldn't be and I wonder, when did all this happen?

...those extra few pounds that are determined to stick with me because I love chips and queso. And pasta. And bread. And exercise? Not so much!

...a body that frankly has seen better days. Gravity, while it keeps me tethered to this earth, is not my friend. Not now! Not ever!

I see someone who is 53 years old. Someone who doesn't seem to have a place, or a voice, in this blogging world. A world dominated by those who are younger. And smarter. And more clever. And more talented. Those who always have something relevant to say and the ability to say it so well. I see unfulfilled dreams. I see failure. I see regret.

I see my time quickly running out...

So some days I think, why bother?

"You are not a mistake, you are never too old, and it's never too late." POTSC

And then I came across the quote above. How in the world do you embrace that? Believe that? Live in that moment every day? It's difficult for me. I'm sure it is for most of us. We have this inner voice, our inner evil queen, that continually tells us what we see in the mirror is all there is. All that's important.

This has always been my struggle. Believing and accepting the fact that I am beloved. I think that's true for a lot of us. I'm learning that I can't find it in people. We are fickle that way aren't we? I certainly can't find it in that damned mirror. You just can't get a complete picture with it. We are more than the sum of our surface. And that evil queen? She lies. All. The. Time.

I'm finding that I have to make a choice every day not to give in to those lies. To make a conscious effort to say to myself that I am beloved. In order to silence my inner critic I need to change my inner dialogue. I need to see that reflection through the eyes of the One who says I am beloved. I need to also look past that reflection to see that I am more than what is on the surface.

When I look in that mirror these are the things I will see...

...silver hair. Hair that people tell me all the time they wish they had. Because it's beautiful. And I know that when I finally do become a grandmother, I will be a damn good one. Not simply because the color of my hair says I'm one.

...brown eyes flecked with gold. Eyes that have seen a lifetime of sorrow and happiness. Eyes that are looking forward to what's ahead. And those lines? They are the map to that life. Showing that I have lived well and laughed much.

...those extra pounds and not let them bother me quite so much. I'm going to start walking again. I'm going to enjoy spending time with family and friends over good food. Because there's love and laughter at the table. Communion at the table.

...the body that gravity has a fierce hold on and embrace it. Because I still have curves that I will celebrate. Because it's still beautiful and desirable to my husband. Because I'm not ashamed of it any longer.

I see someone who is 53 years old. Someone who has a place, however small it may be. Someone who does indeed have a voice because my story is uniquely mine to tell. And I know it is relatable. Someone who is wise. Because some things you have to live to understand. I see dreams waiting to be fulfilled. Failure that I can learn from. Regret that spurs me to make different and better choices.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall who's the fairest of them all?

You are, my beloved, you are.

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves
rests between his shoulders.
Deuteronomy 33:12

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Under Amber Skies - Finding Beauty in the Chaos

I've been spending a lot of time with Instagram lately. I've decided I needed to focus on something besides the chaos that is my everyday life. To look for something positive. To find the extraordinary in the ordinary moments and share them with others. I've been making a conscious effort to look for the beauty in the everyday. Sometimes I will write a description or a snippet of poetry to accompany them. At times a title is as far as I get and sometimes that's enough, hence, Under Amber Skies.

Instead of seeing beauty, I feel as if I am drowning under those amber skies.

An apology twisted and wrung out to hurt. A fractured relationship. A financial crisis. A letter ripping an already uncertain future right out from under us.

Standing in the face of that uncertainty is a difficult thing to do. Watching the life you thought you had, the life you always wanted, slip away so quickly it feels like you never really had it. It feels like a betrayal. Yes, mistakes were made that have contributed to where we find ourselves. But where is the God who promises all things work together for the good of those who love him?

In the midst of the chaos those are empty words that offer no solutions.

Why has he abandoned us? Why doesn't he swoop in and rescue us from this difficulty? Oh, I know there are lessons to be learned. Trials are supposed to make us stronger; show us how to trust unconditionally. But how much can we take before we break beyond repair? When does restoration come?

My already shaky faith waivers almost to the point of non-existence. All of the legalistic, name it and claim it theology that was used to beat me over the head and heart come back to haunt me. I'm at a loss as to how to reconcile a God that loves me yet allows every security to be ripped away. For this black and white, need all of the answers girl, this is a precarious place to be. It's uncomfortable.

And scary as hell.

Even as everything falls apart, I'm still drawn to finding and actually seeing the extraordinary moments. In the play of light and shadow. The intricacies of design and color found in flowers. The curling bark of a Birch. The acorns clustered on the Oak. Lichen finding life in the boards of a fence.

In the undoing of the day, beauty chasing its ending with each sunset.

The promise of new mercies in the celebration of each sunrise.

And maybe, in capturing those moments, I'm seeing a glimpse of hope under those amber skies.

Yet, more often than not, I become so focused on the disaster happening around me that I can't, or more honestly won't, lift my eyes long enough to take notice. I am held captive by my fear. Fear that I won't be loved. Fear that I won't be rescued. Fear that this storm will never end and I will indeed drown. And in trying to fix things, holding on to the ever wavering control I have carefully constructed, I make things infinitely worse. Holding on so tightly that hope slips through my fingers.

But in that small glimpse, I have to believe that God is there. That he reaches in to those deep, dark places and lifts me out of the sinking. That when everything is failing, he meets me at my lowest and heals my wounds. That at the end of darkness a new day awaits with the promise of new beginnings. That the same God who creates the beauty in the ordinary, loves me enough to always be there. Without that small glimmer of hope, what would be the point?

I have to believe that if I will open my hands to receive the grace that hope brings, I don't have to be afraid any longer.

"I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43:19

"All that is required of you is to be in the now, in this moment which has been given us."
Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, June 19, 2015

In the Broken

I stand here in the broken
Shards all around
Lost in the dark of lonely hours
Trying to hold my ground

I am the stranger broken
Discarded on the side of the road
Watching as you pass me by
You never even slowed

I am the woman at the well
Alone in the midday sun
The reminders of my sin
Can never be outrun

I am the woman scorned
Standing naked and ashamed
You in your robes of righteousness
Your stones held high and aimed

I am the woman on the rooftop
The victim of one in power
You cast all blame upon me
From the confines of your ivory tower

The price for redemption's high
Requiring blood to be shed
But how long can I bleed
Before there's nothing left

I stand here in the broken
Longing for the love you spoke
Drowning in your platitudes
You smiling as I choke...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Standing with the Victims

I know we have all seen the stories surrounding the latest with the Duggars. You can't connect to social media without being bombarded by it. Everyone has their opinions and aren't afraid of expressing them. The comment sections are particularly brutal in many cases on both sides of the coin.

Why can't we forgive and forget?

Haven't we all sinned?

Didn't we all do something as 14yr. olds we are ashamed of and wouldn't want to see made public?

All sin is the same in the eyes of God. He has forgiven Josh, so should we. After all, it was a long time ago.

He was only a child when it happened.

Let those without sin cast the first stone.

He said he was sorry...

In his official statement of apology, Josh Duggar also says, "I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."

The thing that bothers me the most, and that none of these statements takes into account, is what has happened to the victims. Their childhood was ripped away from them; their innocence stolen in a moment. How in those moments of "acting inexcusably" their lives were forever altered. Altered in ways you could never understand. Physically, mentally, behaviorally, and spiritually. These are things they will deal with for the rest of their lives. The will carry this with them into relationships with friends, with family, with authority figures, with the church, and for many of them, with spouses and children.

Statements like those above are dismissive of victims. Period.

Please be mindful of that the next time you want to post to Fb or Twitter; the next time you want to comment on someone else's post or article. Unless you have been a victim or are walking the hellish road of healing with someone who has been molested, you have NO IDEA how hurtful and dismissive your words and attitudes can be. 

Be a safe place for them to fall. Let them know you are there for them no matter what. No judgement. No platitudes or quick fixes. If you don't understand, say so. Help them find someone that does. Someone trained to deal with what has happened to them. Cry with them. Hold them if that's what they need. Sit with them in the sorrow and anger. Mourn the things they lost with them. Be strong for them. Be the light in their darkness.

National Sexual Assault Hotline

(Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Lament for the Lost

It seems fitting that as I write this the skies are heavy with rain. Proclaiming their discontent in loud crashes of thunder and menacing flashes of lightning. Today is Good Friday. Ironically named, as it is a day of silence and sorrow. A day of sadness and shame. A day marked by the death of hope. A day of lament for those of us who are lost...

Lost in the silence
Lost in the sorrow
Lost in the nothing we've become
Lost in the sadness
Lost in the shame
Lost in the hurt we're running from

Today is a day for those of us whose voices have been silenced. Whose words have been stolen by the accusations of others.

Today is a day for those of us full of sorrow. For the wrongs that have been meted out by our own hands. For the forgiveness we withheld. For the grace we failed to give.

Today is a day for those of us drowning in sadness. Because relationships have been broken. Dreams have been destroyed. Lifetimes are slowly unraveling right before our eyes.

Today is a day for those of us who live in shame. Because we don't live up to the expectations of others. Expectations of perfection. In our relationships. In our churches. Or because we no longer go to church as the church is the very place that shame was forced upon us.

Today is a day for those of us who continue to run. From the hurt. From the silence and the sorrow. From the sadness and the shame. From our own expectations of who we should be.

Today is a day for those of us who want to feel nothing. Because the feelings are overwhelming. For those of us who want to become nothing. Because being is too painful.

So we all come together at the foot of that empty cross. All of us who are weary and worn down. Where we sit silently. In the midst of our sorrow, our sadness, our shame. With others who share our hurts. With others who share our tears. With others who understand we have more questions now than answers. And we wait.

Because we once were lost...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

On OneWords and a Crisis of Faith

2015 came rushing in as fireworks lit up the neighborhood skyline. I didn't care to watch this time and be reminded that beautiful things last only for a moment.

And then they are gone.

Instead, I sat with tears steaming down my face at midnight. Tears for the things that should have been. Tears for the things that were promised. Tears for those things that I had a hand in didmantling. Tears for the year that was supposed to be better than the one before. Tears for OneWords and promises from God that were as fleeting as the beauty of those fireworks. And likely just as costly in ways of the heart.

I decided I wouldn't choose a word for this year.

I simply don't have the energy to focus on something that is likely to bite me in the ass yet again. I've forgotten what it's like to be excited about a word from God. Does he really care about something as small as a word? I just don't know anymore. And I think that is part of the problem and why I find myself where I am. In this crisis of faith. Or maybe more accurately, this crisis of belief. I've always  had a problem with the whole faith thing. I want to know when things are going to work out and more specifically how they are going to work out. It's only been made worse when people tell me that things aren't working out because I don't have enough faith. Reinforcing the whole works based approach to God.

If I do enough good things then God will love me enough to work all things to my good.

But I found I could never do enough or be enough to make that happen. Yeah, I know that sounds dramatic. And for some of you, overly churchy. It sounds that way to me as well. Yet I have no better way to describe how I got here. At this crossroad. This proverbial fork in the road of life. Torn between the right path or the left. Which one will lead me to the answers that will satisfy the endless sea of questions? Are there ever any real answers? Does God ever throw the life preserver?

Or are we left to drown in the endless tide of doubt unless we make our own way out of the madness.

I simply don't know anymore. I don't know that everything will turn out for good. There are more things falling apart than being restored. And maybe that's the point of all of this. That there has to be a falling apart before there can be a coming together. Death before life. The waiting and the struggle have become overwhelming. I'm tired of fighting against what I used to believe and all of the things that I know now that contradict those beliefs. I bought in, or sold out, depending on which side of the fence you are on. I drank the kool-aid and now I'm left with the bitter taste of something that's gone bad.

I used to have that assurance however misguided. And now, I miss it.

I miss the person I used to be even though I was never really satisfied with who I was. Maybe I only miss the person I thought I was. The person that everyone else thought I was. The illusion of who I wanted to be. Now, I just don't know anymore. So, instead of choosing one word and having that be my sole focus for the year there has been a phrase that just won't let me go.

Be still and know.

I don't know appears to be the theme here. It's time for me to stop forcing the issue. To not only embrace the stillness but also the knowing that comes after the and. I think that's the most important thing for me. Taking the time to sit still in this dying in order to know that new life is around the coner. Knowing that being still is not all there is. The and says that there is more to the story. More to my story. It's time to let my story write itself the way it's meant to. Hopefully finding my way back to the assurance I used to have. Not because I've bought into someone else's experience but because I've lived my own. I want my faith to be hard earned. A living, breathing, progressive thing that's borne out of the stillness. A faith that continues to grow after the and.