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Choices!

Back in July I wrote about going to see my spiritual counselor and what God showed me at that time. I also mentioned that my counselor made a second observation and I would share it in the next post, well, I didn’t….because honestly, I was truly grappling with it. I didn’t like her suggestion or observation. I didn’t want to look at it and to some degree I am still wrestling with it.

What she shared with me was the Serenity Prayer; the first part of it. If you are familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous then you have encountered the Serenity Prayer. The prayer has worked its way into so many cultural outlets that many non-Christians know it, or at least the beginning, by heart:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.serenity 1

The rest of the prayer goes like this:

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

I admit I reacted to her strongly because deep down I was truly afraid to accept the things I could not change and feared I didn’t have the courage to change what I could…..and would I really know the difference??

Why did I struggle to “accept” things? Because I believed that accepting something was laziness. I was afraid that accepting that there are some things I could not change would make me complacent. But slowly (very slowly) I am beginning to realize instead that acceptance constitutes a leap of faith — an ability to trust, as the prayer goes on to say, “that He [God] will make all things right if I surrender to His Will.” I then make the choice to let go and have faith in the outcome.

acceptance

Accepting or surrendering takes courage…..for me the word “surrender” like acceptance, had mostly negative connotations. I associated it with resignation, failure and weakness. But the Serenity Prayer reframes the notion of surrender as an act of faith and trust. The wisdom of the prayer lies in exchanging a life of endless “what ifs” for a life of trust in powers beyond ourselves. That changes my perspective!

Another thing I am coming to realize is that acceptance takes courage, it takes courage to change ourselves. And I didn’t want to be courageous anymore, it was too much work.

One of life’s greatest challenges is imagining how our lives could be different than they are now. Often, my own deeply-ingrained habits are my own worst enemies, and simply identifying them is half the battle. Since habits gain power through repetition, it takes real focus and perspective to take a look at ourselves and our habits and ask, “Is this how I really want to live?” As the prayer states, this act of self-investigation is nothing less than an act of “courage.”

And in my mind it also meant that I must accept “hardships as the pathway to peace.” What??? I didn’t want hardship, I wanted easy, painless even!!
Yet, every person confronts obstacles in the course of his or her life. Yet, it’s what I do with these obstacles. Do I view them as frustrations or failures, or as opportunities for growth and learning? If I choose the latter then I can transcend my circumstances.
courage
Accepting what I don’t like may be one of the most difficult aspects of life, because there will be people, situations, and events I don’t like and I am not able to change.

Yet, it is true, acceptance is not the same as resignation or passivity. I can continue to push forward despite accepting that there are things beyond my control. It is not passive when I lean into and trust God with my life, situations and relationships. It is not passive when I seek His wisdom and ask for His supernatural courage. It doesn’t take resignation it takes strength, perseverance, faith and trust.

Please understand what I am not saying….if you are in an abusive relationship or have been abused, I am not saying that you should just accept what is happening or what happened. I am not talking about abuse. I am talking about situations and circumstances that affect us and that we feel we have no control over, maybe in our workplace, our marriage or our relationships.
It truly takes supernatural wisdom to know the difference of what we can or cannot change.

serenity-quotes-7

As you can see I am still chewing on this, wrestling with it and walking this out…..to be continued!

What about you? How do you see “acceptance” or “surrender”?

Two Streams

Two streams cut through the landscape of my life.  Two disparate paths in the fabric of time.  They begin in my infancy, intersect in my childhood, and push forward into my future.  The first stream is the sum of all my positive influences.  Every life lesson, every purposeful moment, and every encouraging word I received is recorded here.  This stream is my life as God intended me to live it.  

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

But I was prematurely expelled from this stream, having been cut off by an alternate timeline.  The place they cross is the nexus of my shame.  It’s the day in elementary school when my private problems first spilled out into my public life, forming a wet smelly puddle on the floor next to my desk.  That day I became an alien living among human beings. 

The bad stream, continuing unbounded, flows into the bowels of hell itself.  In this river, if followed to its natural end, I see all humanity as a seething mass of deformity, masked by a pathetic shell of hypocrisy.  I hate them all for hating me and teaching me to hate myself.  And in the end I will become exactly what I most despise.

For me, reality is somewhere in between.  Day by day, I strive to get back to the beautiful river.  I often spend time running in the green grass growing on its banks, its glories just beyond my grasp.  I occasionally fall in and enjoy the ride.  The sun shining on my face, I float along on my back like God’s favorite child.  In this timeline I know who I am and I know why I’m here. I’m not alone.  I’m surrounded by companions I meet and greet along the way.  I hail their courage because I recognize that they have two streams too.

My respite doesn’t last forever.  It’s never long before a sound, a smell, a circumstance that smacks too familiar sucks me as a vortex all the way back to the other place.  Falling into the malevolent torrent is not my fault.  It’s more physiology than philosophy.  But after a while, I come up for air.  The fog clears a little and I realize I am not where I belong.  God wants Better for me.  I’m faced with a choice.  I can sit back, give up and allow the current to push me along where I do not want to go, or I can choose to fight.  I can claw my way out and pull myself back toward the life I was created to live. 

My life is a war.  And my future is not the only thing that hangs in the balance.  Just as bits and pieces of a thousand souls fighting on both sides have propelled me along the ebb and flow of the tide of my struggle, so too my fate will affect others in ways I cannot predict or imagine.  The truth is I matter.  The truth is we all do. 

 I am not in this fight alone.  Thus far I have come by the help of the Lord, and on this day and in this place, I stand and raise my sword to the captain of the guard.  I choose to fight!  I have come to believe in the future.  I believe in Hope.  I believe in Living.  I believe the sun has not yet risen on the noblest day.  I believe the most glorious battle has yet to be fought.  I believe the most beautiful song has yet to be sung.

My Daily Prayer

God,

You are my Dad.

You are my Real Dad.

You have always been my real Dad.

Thank you for being my Dad.

Thank you for being such a Great Dad.

God,

I want to Live today.

I want to Feel.

I want to Be.

God,

Thank you for the victories you will send me today.

Help me to recognize the stumbling blocks,

Both large and small,

For the fiery barbs they really are.

May I take the battle seriously,

But not take it personally.

Bring me home soon.

Love 

Lisa

The Gift

I had a dream.  In my dream there was a very steep hill.  Two people were struggling to climb up the hill at the same time.  One was climbing from the left.  One was climbing from the right.  The two people were each carrying a gift.  They were making their way up the hill so that they could meet each other for the first time and exchange their gifts.  When they finally reached the top, I noticed that both the people looked exactly alike.  The two identical people exchanged their gifts and opened them.  When they had unwrapped them, they held their gifts up next to each other and smiled.  Each gift looked exactly like the other one.

Both the people are me.  I am both the strong person who survived and the weak person who was ignored.  I am both capable and helpless.  I am both whole and broken.  I am both forgiving and angry.  I am both healed and deeply wounded.

The gift is that I know this.  Because I know, I feel both stronger and more vulnerable than I have ever been before.  Because I know, I feel both more courageous and more frightened than I used to be.  Because I know, I feel both more prepared and less ready to live out the rest of my life.  Because I know, I feel more truly myself than I even knew was possible.  The gift is knowing the truth.  The gift is being Me.

The Man With No Face

I am small in my bed.  I must be five or six.  I am on the bottom bunk.  I look up at the wooden slats supporting the mattress above me.  The glow-in-the-dark stars are there so I won’t be afraid.  There’s an amazing mural painted on the wall.  The Cat in the Hat balancing on a ball.  My mom painted it.  My mom is the best artist I know.  Two squares of light appear in the corner and move slowly across the wall, then disappear into the closet.  After a minute they appear again, this time starting from the closet and moving in the opposite direction.  The fading whine and rumble was louder that time.  Must have been a truck.

There is someone in my room.  It’s a man.  His hair is black.  He is over me.  I am being squished.  I am being pushed.  I can’t breathe right.  His hand is over my mouth.  His hand is on my mouth and I can’t scream.  My hips are being pushed down, down deep into the bed.  I struggle to get free, but I can’t.  I can’t move.  I am too small.  The man is too big.  Pain washes over me.  Waves of pain.  Wave after wave of unbearable, unimaginable pain.  Oh God, make it stop.  Please make it stop!  I am being punished.  I am being vivisected.  I am … BAD!

   In my memory, there is something strange about the man’s face.  It’s all gray.  It’s missing.  Somehow I took a giant pink eraser and rubbed it out from the picture.  The man’s identity was something I refused to see.  It was the truth I refused to know.

My Real Dad

Driving home in the dark.  Deep in thought.  Pulled back for the thousandth time to the scary room.  I am small in my bed.  I must be five or six.  I am on the bottom bunk.  I look up at the wooden slats supporting the mattress above me.  The glow-in-the-dark stars are there so I won’t be afraid.  There’s an amazing mural painted on the wall.  The Cat in the Hat balancing on a ball.  My mom painted it.  My mom is the best artist I know.  Two squares of light appear in the corner and move slowly across the wall, then disappear into the closet.  After a minute they appear again, this time starting from the closet and moving in the opposite direction.  The fading whine and rumble was louder that time.  Must have been a truck.

The memory fades out and disappears.  I can’t remember what comes next.  I can’t remember why it’s so important.  What happened in that room?

My mind wanders to thoughts of my father.  I think about the prayer, the Big Prayer that went unanswered.  I prayed the Prayer for years with all the child-like faith, persistence, and courage I could muster.  I spent all my Hopes and Wishes on the one Big Prayer, the Prayer of my Life.  I laid it all down.  I bet the farm.  When God said no, things were never the same.

I asked God to make him Good.  I asked God to make him love Him.  I Needed a dad.  If God would just do this one thing, just this one small favor, I could live with the rest.  The Big Prayer was, ‘God, please make my dad Good’.  What I prayed in ignorance, I now know to be wrong.  God’s hands were tied.  He couldn’t answer my prayer.  God won’t force love.  It’s against His Religion.

  Focused on the road and the lights of the cars ahead of me, a thought comes to me.  It buzzes around like an annoying fly for some time before I even realize it’s there.  Here it comes again, a little louder this time… Let me be your Dad.  Hmm, I wonder.  What’s that supposed to mean?  Let me be your Dad. I think again, I’ll be your Dad. Now that’s just confusing.  Let me be your dad?  Whose dad?  And why dad?  Don’t I mean ‘let me be your mom’?  This just doesn’t make sense.  But here it comes again.  A thought so tender, so pained, so gentle.  Not controlling, not even urging.  Just a simple, quiet invitation, a patient, hopeful expectancy.  Let me be your Dad.  I want to be your Dad.  

 And then it dawns on me.  The source of the thought.  God is my Dad.  God has always been my Dad.  He’s the one who somehow kept me alive, kept me sane under impossible circumstances.  He’s the one, the only one, who has watched me and helped me build a life based on truth.  A life not free of mistakes, but always pressing on in the right direction.  He’s the one, the only one, who has always looked on with pride when I made the right decision, when I won success.  He’s the one, the only one, who has always cried with me when I suffered.  I bore up under the pain because of Him and only Him.  God is my Dad.

I struggle to keep the car on the road as my body begins to shake.  Tears flow freely from my eyes, turning the lights from the cars ahead of me into blurry X’s.  I’ve been given a gift.  A new Big Prayer.  The Prayer of my Life for the rest of my life.  God, you are my Dad.  You are my Real Dad.  You have always been my Real Dad.  Thank you for being my Dad.  Thank you for being such a Great Dad. 

The Train

We left Alabama for Michigan, but my dad never stopped looking for us.  He hired a private investigator to find us.  We moved a lot to throw my dad off our trail.  Sometimes we changed schools in the middle of a school year.  In sixth grade I changed schools in the middle of a school year twice.

When Hansel and Gretel were kidnapped by an evil witch, they secretly left a trail of bread crumbs so that their parents could find them.  Maybe they knew, or maybe they didn’t, that birds were coming along behind them and eating their bread crumbs as fast as they were throwing them down.  It must have made them feel better to drop those bread crumbs either way.

I left my own secret messages for my dad.  I’d write my name in big letters in the dirt by my house.  I knew the wind and rain would just come and wash the letters away, but I traced them over and over just the same.  Sometimes I’d find a big tree and climb as high as I could until the branches looked too thin and weak for me to climb any higher.  I’d look out from the tree and think about my dad.  I knew he was out there looking for me and I knew he wanted me back.

One day he almost got me.  We were driving to our friend’s house and he was there.  He had driven up from Alabama.  His car was parked in our friend’s driveway and he was at the front door, knocking.  When my mom saw that it was him, she drove away fast.  My dad heard our tires squeal and looked up.  He got into his car and chased us.  Mom led him out into the country, down a dirt road.  We kids were bouncing all over the back seat and looking out the window at my dad’s car, gaining on us, with a big cloud of dust billowing behind it.  We heard the whistle of a train and felt out tires skip and rumble as they rolled over some tracks.  After that we couldn’t see dad’s car anymore because a train was in the way.

Once I asked my mom about what had happened between my dad and her.  “Mom, why did you and Dad get divorced?” I asked.  Mom put her hand on my shoulder and said, sadly, “Lisa, your dad just never liked kids very much, especially you.  There was always just something about you that your dad couldn’t stand.”  I didn’t say anything, but I knew she was lying.  I knew my dad was out there looking for me.  I could feel deep down, all the way down to my toenails, that he loved me.  Nothing my mom could do or say could ever make me stop believing that.

Missing my dad is a lot like missing God.  I know God is out there, and I know He Loves me.  I can talk to Him, but I can’t feel Him holding me or see Him face to face.  God sends me presents so I won’t forget Him.  He sends big, medium, and little secret messages, saying here I am, are you still looking for Me?  No matter where I go, no matter what I do, God is always seeking me.  I know that if I turned my back on God and ran away from Him, He would come and find me.  He wouldn’t quit working until He’d done everything He could do to bring me back to be with Him again.  Not even a train could stop God.  And nothing anyone can do or say could ever make me stop believing that.

The Scorpion

Once there was a scorpion who wanted to cross a river.  He asked a fox to give him a ride on his back and the fox agreed.  When the fox had swum halfway across, the scorpion stung him.  The fox asked, “Why did you do that?  Now I’ll never make it to the other side.  Now we’ll both drown!”  The scorpion answered, “I had to do it.  I’m a scorpion.  It’s my nature.”

I feel like that scorpion.  My greatest enemy is my own nature.  I was abused as a child.  My parents before me were abused as children.  Their parents before them were abused as children.  I am just a link in a long twisted chain.  How far back the chain reaches, only God knows.  I am not a perfect parent.  I have made mistakes, mistakes which have hurt my girls.  But when I look at it honestly, the truth is, I do not abuse my children.  I am just a link in a chain, but at least I am the last link.

Other people don’t get it.  I’ve heard them talk about child abuse.  It just doesn’t make sense, they say.  How can someone who was abused as a child and knows how wrong it is grow up to abuse their own children?  I think those people are asking the wrong question.  The real question is, how can they not?   How can people who never learned to love themselves find the power to love their children?

Loving my children is unnatural.  It’s like struggling against the weight of history.  It’s like fighting against my destiny.  I am dangling at the bottom of a chain with an empty void hanging under my feet.  The links above me are angry.  Misery loves company.  What makes you think, they seem to say, what makes you think you’re so much better than we were?  It’s a reasonable question.  Am I better than they were?  No.  Am I stronger than they were?  Not at all.  Do I have more willpower, more determination?  In fact, I have decidedly less.  And yet here I am, with a heart full of love for my children.  I love them enough to die for them.  I love them enough to make tough decisions that they don’t always like.  I love them enough to learn how to love myself.

Maybe that’s the secret.  Maybe when I reach out and grab God’s Grace with both hands – when I smear it all over myself and go back for seconds – that’s when I get it.  I get the transforming power that’s made perfect in weakness.  You see, I can’t accept God’s Love without admitting that I am lovable.  When I accept His Love, I have the power to choose my own destiny.  When I accept His Love, I am set free.

 

The Blame Game

When I write down my stories and read them back to myself, they sound bad. If a different person somewhere in the world had stories exactly like mine and one day told her stories to me, I would feel sorry for her. I would understand if that person were sad or angry or had problems dealing with her life. But I don’t feel that way about myself. When I think of something that happened to me, something that still hurts and affects me, I tell myself impatiently, “it wasn’t that bad.”

My parents had a bad fight when I was nine. My brother and I snuck in to watch. They were in the living room. She was lying on the floor. He was sitting on her. His hands were around her neck, pushing down hard. The memory is fuzzy right after that. Maybe my dad noticed we were watching and decided to let her go. My mom got up and ran out. It was dark. It was raining. It was muddy outside. I felt guilty for being warm and dry when my mom was cold and wet, so I grabbed her coat and ran to her. I walked around in the rain for a long time trying to find her. When I found her, I gave her the coat and walked away. Taking her a coat was all I could do to fix it.

My mom and I had a bad fight years later. Before I knew what was happening, I was lying on the floor. She was sitting on me. Her hands were moving toward my neck and I thought back to that rainy night. This is what that must have felt like, I thought. She put her hands not around my neck, but a few inches higher. Her hands went around my chin and pushed down hard. My dad had given her something she didn’t know what to do with. She couldn’t keep it forever and she didn’t know how to get rid of it, so she tried to give it to me. The look in her eyes and the fury in her screams told me that more than anything at that moment; she wished she could kill me. If she could kill me she could be better; she could be happy and free. I felt guilty for being happy and free when my mom was burdened with so much pain. I didn’t want to die, but at that moment I wished the consequences would be removed from her so she could do it. So I took her pain and wrapped it up. I pushed it down deep inside myself and kept it for her. I still have it. Taking her pain was all I could do to fix it.

When you start keeping pain that belongs to other people, it’s hard to stop. When something goes wrong, I take the blame. It’s the game I play. I’ve gotten so used to it, that the pain almost feels good. At least it feels familiar. Blame feels like a burning on the skin of my arms and chest. It feels like a punch in the stomach. Not taking the blame feels scary and unpredictable. Taking the blame feels safe.

Now God wants me to stop playing the Blame game. He is asking too much of me. I don’t know how, and to be honest I’m not sure I want to. I don’t believe I can do it. It’s more than I have to give. I’m terrified of the pain inside of me. I want it safely wrapped away; pushed down where it can’t hurt anyone but me. I can handle it. I’m used to it. It’s no big deal. It’s not that bad.

Angry at God

I am angry at God. I have looked deep inside my heart and found a secret so private I have kept it hidden even from myself. I, who Love God and have spent my life trying to serve him, have protected a buried green and purple festering mass. I have denied it. I have lied about it. I have belittled others who had it. But there it is.

I AM angry at God. The horrible paradox sends sharp stabs of pain through my temple, down my neck and into my shoulder. I have not slept well, eaten much, or thought clearly since the moment I realized the terrible truth. But it is true. I can no longer deny it. Surely God, who cannot lie, must have known all along. Surely God, who sees my heart, must have been wondering when I would have the courage to look. Surely God, who has searched me, is not shocked. But I am.

I am ANGRY at God. This isn’t the feeling I want to feel. I want to Love Him. I want to Trust Him. I want to Adore Him. I even want to Fear Him. I order myself to feel differently, but my heart defiantly shakes its furious fist. I feel what I feel and that feeling is Anger. Why did God fail to protect me? Why did He send me to such an unloving home? Why did He fail to meet my most basic needs? Why did He not keep me safe?

I am angry AT God. If I could only be angry because of God. If I could only be filled with a Godly, righteous anger. I would stand beside Jesus with a whip and drive out the money changers from the temple. I would tie a millstone around a child-corrupter’s neck and throw him into the depth of the sea. Or let me be angry for God. Let me fight with Caleb against God’s enemies. Let me drive evildoers out of God’s righteous land. But instead I am angry at the only One I cannot be angry at.

I am angry at GOD. God, the author of everything cool. God, the origin of everything I love. God, who gives every ounce of joy and peace and importance to the life I have. I am angry at God. God, who is Love. God, who is Truth. The truth is I am angry. If I deny it, I deny myself. If I deny myself, I deny Him. If I deny my anger, I am calling Him small. I’m saying He is petty and cruel and demands dishonest love. If I deny my anger, I’m falsely accusing Him. I’m saying He wants mindless minions who flatter His ego. I’m saying He can’t handle the truth in my heart. If I deny my anger, I’m saying He doesn’t really Love me. I’m saying He doesn’t know what Love is. True Love wants the Truth. Perfect Love casts out fear. True Love Trusts, and I trust Him with my last hidden truth. I fall at His feet, pounding my fists on the floor. I have nowhere else to go. I yell and scream and rage and God pulls me up onto His lap. He looks into my eyes and for the first time in my life, I know He sees me just as I am. My anger turns to tears and I sob into His shoulder. I am angry at God.