Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Two Hearts Meeting

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I walked to the car to start my search for my daughter who moments before was so filled with hurt that escape was the only option she could think of. Though I knew she’d come home on her own, safety was an issue and she needed to know I was pursuing her. It was then that she stepped out of her hiding place. Relief washed around me and through me. I knew by her face we were alright. I knew I had the go ahead to talk about it.
Words got us in trouble. Again. We always find the wrong ones to say. She says one thing, but I feel like those words tug and push and pull me where I don’t want to go and I resist. I counter. And I am left confused as the anger mounts and my own rage poses to annihilate us both as it storms in to bring order. So I retreat. It’s the only safe response. And she retreats, too. And I realize I’ve done it again.

She was hurting, but she presented anger. She was struggling, but she presented control and manipulation. And I took the bait.

Why do we do that? When we want love we get mad if it’s not given on our terms. When we need comfort we expect someone to read our mind and offer it. And when no one extends to us what we longed for, we find anger rising and we eventually engage in an argument where a fear of rejection is exposed. Then it all comes together in one blaring message that I’m sure my daughter heard loud and clear, “If Mom really loved me, she’d know I’m hurting and she’d want to comfort me. Now she’s fighting with me. I knew she didn’t love me.”

From my perspective, I’m wondering what just happened and I’m hurting that I blew it again.

We stood under our mulberry tree with toes fidgeting in the grass and the sun edged into evening hours, illuminating the blades and leaves bright green around us. Away from siblings and noise I was able to ask her questions that dug past the anger. We started way back on the timeline. It wasn’t about the moment words started to fly. Something hours or days before had festered. We needed to find that tender spot. And I listened to her as she shared about an event that was embedded with hurt and betrayal and frustration and shame. We talked about how she felt and I was able to validate those emotions. As all the toxic energy leaked out of her stance, I was able to reach out with tender affection. In that comfort I felt things settle into their place again.

I have come to understand that our daughters need to be taught this process. We need to be brave enough to dig past the anger that often confronts us and gently ask and probe and explore what led up to the anger. Most often, anger was not the first emotion that had come: a friend’s skewed intentions triggered feelings of helplessness, a coach’s accusing rant stirred feelings of failure, the parent on the sidelines with taunts that pierced triggered shame, a moment of moral failure produced its own set of landmines. I have discovered many of these things behind my snippy, moody preteen’s angry retorts. I could have easily decided to hide behind the dismissal, “Oh she’s just hormonal,” and I would have missed my daughter’s heart.

Many of us don’t naturally have language for emotions, especially if we were raised in environments where painful feelings could not be tolerated. But acquiring the ability to admit that we feel sad or hurt or betrayed or manipulated (or anything else, there are so many emotions) and being able to ask for and receive comfort for that emotion would set us on the path to emotional health that many of us have long needed. Teaching our daughters this can put them light years ahead of us.

This process is so terribly difficult. It requires more from me than just empathizing with a daughter’s blossoming heart that soars one moment and sours to everything in the next. It has required me to look at my agendas for her. I wanted her to play soccer. The competition was not a great environment for her budding sensitivity. But she was amazing on the field and I received a lot of personal affirmation from other parents. I was forced to do my own soul searching to compare my agendas to the emotional and physical toll that the sport was taking on her. It has forced me to take my daughter’s heart seriously and it has cost me my adult agenda for her. That has been hard. But I am finding it is so worth it.

My biggest struggle has come when I have had to practice what I preach. I have been forced to look at my own anger and the emotions behind it. I find myself going back on the timeline as well but it’s more complex for me than it is for my daughter. My timeline often has two layers because something from the present triggers unresolved emotions from the past. My son’s teasing of his sisters and his bull headed interactions with me can trigger the helpless feelings that I experienced when I was chronically bullied as a child. My anger was the only thing my son saw, but as I looked deeper I found several emotions that had been buried and had played me like a puppet for many years. The pain that came with learning to identify emotions from that second layer of my timeline forced me to reach out for help. I found the courage to risk vulnerability as I allow gifted healers and close friends to step with me into my past to help me make sense of the emotions rooted in
childhood experiences. They offer to me the gift of validation and comfort that had been denied me in earlier years. This too has been worth it.

We are starting late in the game and so the catching up on all this stuff has been hard. We have had days where we have all been grumpy and unaware and we’ve failed in our attempts to get through all the issues unscathed. There are days where anger runs so high that attempts to talk and walk back over the events becomes an insurmountable mountain. But, as we strive for consistency, I know we’ll make it through the back log of junk that wrestles us to the ground and we’ll get much better at listening and empathizing and comforting. I’ve seen enough healing through this to know it’s very much worth it.

Linking Up With:
Teaching What is Good

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Finding Relief in Unexpected Places


It's my anniversary today. I wrote this about a moment the Lord gifted me with last night that speaks so much about my marriage and about God's goodness.

The heat crept into our valley weeks ago, and each night the kids migrate to the living room in order to sleep close to the swamp cooler. Five restless bodies try to settle on sleeping pads and couches. There are three books splayed open while last minute stories usher in the calm that has so far eluded us. An ipod takes a final zip through intagram before resting on the charger. Sweet loving 4 year old arms finally relax into slumber making my job much easier during this bedtime routine. My husband plays gently on his guitar. His voice becomes a lullaby to me and tears somehow slip past my attempts to blink them back because my heart can’t hold it all in. The peace in that room fills me and I find the words to the song stirring something deep.

“Rock me, Mama like a wagon wheel. Rock me, Mama, any way you feel, Hey-eh Mama rock me.”

It’s not an inspirational song.

It’s not even a God song.

But, to me it has become something more. 

It’s part of seeing a new thing. 

My husband is a simple man with a simple faith.

I used to hate that… wanted to change that. I needed hyper spiritualism to hide from the reality of life. I clung to a thick religious code because I was trying to wring from God sacred relief for the soul pain that plagued me day in and day out. I wanted my husband to join in the game. He wouldn’t, so I despised him. 

And I was oh so wrong. I thought I was inviting this man to a cathedral of spiritual experience that would offer all the answers to my problems, his problems. I thought he was robbing me of my healing when he rebuffed my invitation and it fueled my frantic efforts to draw him in even more. What I didn’t see was that I was actually luring him to a white washed tomb and slinging guilt all over him when he refused to come. Our hearts were far apart. Thick walls stood between us and I despaired.

My pastor and my friends saw right through me. They would not let me stay stuck in this performance based dance of death.  I was gently exposed. My religious pursuits were no more than idol worship; things I performed to get God to perform. God wasn’t interested. He wanted my heart, not my sacrifice. My religious spirit not only prevented me from connecting meaningfully, it was hurtful and defiling to others. Most of all, my husband.

So, I let go. I continue to let go. 

It was right at this point that I found an unexpected practical application. I started listening to my husband’s music. Country music. Real life music about somewhat real people who are at least a little more open about their problems than I had dared to be. 

And right in the middle of the choruses and verses, I discovered my husband’s heart. When I had no need to despise him, I was able to see strength and giftedness. A gate between our souls began to open. It had been hidden by my need for it to look a certain way but I am finding some common ground now and it’s in the words and tunes of my husband’s favorite singers. Did I expect meaningful connection to occur through country music? No. But I’ll take it, and you’ll find me greedily drinking it all in.

The hum of the cooler fills the air. Pages turn on books that will soon tip and fall from sleepy hands. The guitar’s strumming soothes me and words drift in and out as my husband continues to sing. My heart is raw, ravaged by sorrow and memories that visited this morning. It leans in to the lullaby. Comfort seeps in. The melody embraces me in a way that arms can’t. In simplicity, my husband deeply ministers to me. Tears still flow as I quietly join in, “Rock me, Mama like the wind and the rain. Rock me Mama like a south bound train. Hey-eh, Mama rock me.”

Linking up with:
The Alabaster Jar
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Letter to Explain {Why Words Have Escaped Me}

Let me explain why this is so late.

Yes, I knew the link opened on Monday. Yes, I knew we were writing a letter to explain. Yes, I did know that a couple of weeks ago, too.

But, let me explain.

Lately, I’ve been more speechless than usual. My heart expressions that typically get put in words are more like groanings and sighs.

Don’t worry, it’s a good thing. A God thing. Just a hard to write about thing. A hard to explain thing.

The words I’d love to say are to people and about events that need a different forum for exposure. The insights and truths that have been breaking forth in my soul lead to long stories that involve weaving and building. Much too much to explain here.

So let me explain this.

When God says he’s good, he is.

A little girl was broken and should never have survived what she did. But here I am. The damage is severe enough that I should have no hope, but joy has decided to break through. I know my God sustains. Especially in the midst of this dark plunge into revelation.

My heart was unreachable through the protective defenses that I created, but God is clever. He sought me. He touched me. He gave me the gift of seeing my methods of coping in my own strength apart from him. He sweetened that gift with a wave of repentance. I wrote awhile back about all my frames of brokenness. For one small moment, my good God helped me connect and I was able to grieve for the broken me. That, my friends was a miracle, pure and simple.Words escape me, that he would do that for me.

So what has changed? In a nutshell, I see a new thing, so I can be a new way. I was blind, stumbling in the dark, thinking I could see. Now, I see and I realize how blind I had been.

But there is one more thing to tell. I didn’t do it alone. Of course my good God was with me. But, this year, for the first time in my life, I have entrusted the whole of myself to trustworthy friends and to gifted healers in my church who offered their time, their prayers and their hearts in such a way that I have been enfolded into safety and my heart has found the courage to bloom. As I relaxed and leaned into the embrace of my friends and my healers, God’s spirit began to flow. Through their warm hugs, their pointed questions, their listening ears, their encouragements, their hard and painful truths, and their spirit filled prayers to draw me forth into life, God has become more real to me than I have ever known. And I believe he meant it to be that way.

Some might wonder about this. Some might say my healer is God, I should only entrust myself to him. I did. For many years I relied solely on him to help me. But I was broken in the context of relationship. He wanted to heal me in the context of relationship.  So he sent his appointed servants to take hold of my hands. They led me away from the blind path I had chosen out in the desert (away from relationship) so that I could find him. I’d wandered long enough to know I was hopelessly lost. I was finally desperate enough to risk joining with others on the journey. They helped me find what I could never discover alone.

So, I have a new outlook, and you know what I see. A long road. A road that lasts a lifetime. Wholeness is yet a long way off. I have yet to risk the search for healing on deeper levels of relationship. My family and my marriage have suffered long years of receiving the bare minimum from me. It’s a new level of courage I’m looking for now. It’s a new level of risk that faces me. But, might I explain once more? When God says he’s good he is. He sustains. He is clever. And, he is jealous for me, every broken frame.

I'm linking up with Ruth Povey at Letter's To. Hope to see you there!
Letters To

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Letters to The Brave

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There is something you may not realize that I feel the need to share.

I’m looking at you, watching you, reading your words.

And I see all your brave.

There are days when I take hold of your courage that so beautifully trails behind you like a sash waving freely in the wind and I grasp tight. It’s the only way I keep moving forward.

I know in my heart that your bravery was hard earned and probably doesn’t feel as brave to you as it looks to me. But, there it is, all the same, flowing wildly as God breathes over you and the colors and patterns of it all say something to my heart. "Don't let go, friend, it’s worth holding on."

So I listen closely to the sound of courage in your shared heart stories and I grab a hold of your bravery, my friend, until I find strength to renew my own. I borrow some of your courage, sister. Mine is temporarily gone. I reach out, and you are there, so I take hold of your words, your encouragements, your touches, your faith, until mine returns.

My feet have stumbled on the broken pieces of my heart lately. Fear has been gnawing at the edges of all that is me and anger fully blossoms and sometimes spills out onto tender hearts that don’t understand. My wind has been knocked clear from me. My words come in gasps, painted in deep hues of emotions that I'm struggling to put into print.

And I've come to realize this: One truth pursues me that I cannot easily face. I believe that I’m actually angry at God. And just between you and me, it's not a nice anger. In fact, I am not brave enough to face that deep, that raw an anger.

It is not Him I fear. My small fists pounding on his chest will stir only the pain of compassion in his heart. It is my depth that terrifies me, for its seems to yawn wide, and I fear I will fall in and it will swallow me in its pain. So, I hold back. Courage is not something I can muster.

If I look into your eyes, don’t turn away, please. I’m looking for acceptance, for strength, for confidence that this is something I can get through.

 If I seem like a blog stalker with the comments that don’t stop coming, please trust I’m not maniacal, I’m reaching out and steadying myself on something I found in your words.

Thank you, brave one, for making your courage authentic, for not flying it so proudly I can’t catch hold of its flicking tail way up in the sky. You keep it real and ordinary and rooted in the holy and knowable love of our God.

Don’t worry, brave one. I know you too are reaching out and taking hold of the courage of someone else. In fact, I hope it is so. I don’t need you to stand alone and be more than what you are to me in this moment. You have been real. That is enough.

We were not meant for isolated strength.

There are the brave in your life that you reach out to grip firmly, just as I take hold of you. We are all linking with sisters who live in the authentic open, in reach, willing to be known. By that simple act, the offering and the receiving of courage, we will know collective strength. We will know God’s beautiful strength through His Spirit and find our hearts secure.

Secure because there was One who chose to be real. One who chose to be authentic. One whose bravery flowed like a red banner from a tree as his blood poured forth and he chose to love nevertheless. He kept His heart open when wounding was all he could expect back. That brand of brave now touches each of our hearts and we see it in each others eyes, in each others words. And I thank you, brave one, for allowing me to see that in you, when my head can’t find the strength to lift up to see it in Him.

And on another day, when your burdens seem heavy, and your gaze is limited by pain, I hope that I can show you brave back.

I am linking up with Letters to, hosted by
Ruth Povey and Sabrina Fowles. The link up is found at Sabrina's this week. Hope you'll join them every first and third Monday of the month for their Letters To Link Up.

Letters To
Letters To
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Monday, July 1, 2013

The Grandest Story of All

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I fell in love with a movie once. Actually twice. Two movies, same story. I watched them over and over and over. There was a power in the theme that stirs my heart like no other.

The first was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I confess I was well into my 20’s when I came upon this version of the tale as old as time. This was not just a good story. It was a Grand Story. It echoed The Story. I was swept up in it. Captivated beyond my ability to offer reasonable explanation.

Here’s what it came down to:

A beast. The tainted.

A young maiden. The undaunted.

A bitter angry heart learned to trust and receive love. Then it surrendered to that love by offering freedom at a high price. And wonder of wonders, she saw something revealed deep within him that was of value in spite of the hideous mess that he made of himself. And the beast found redemption. He was released back into the wholeness he was created for. Freedom.

That’s not the only story to resonate through the very core of me.

Produced by Feature Films for Family, Rigoletto captivated my heart even more profoundly. An elfin prince is cursed, and his face and heart are scarred by the ugliness. He came to our mortal world to find the love that can break the curse. A young girl was drawn into his life and refused to be intimidated by his temper and gruff demeanor. She saw something more to him. She heard it revealed in his song. And she, in her innocent pursuit of that goodness, opened the door for him to step into redemption. He in turn released her into her purpose at great cost to himself. In the end, freedom was realized by the children who chose to love the beast as they began to see more clearly the fullness of the fairy tale they had just lived.

Again. The tainted. The undaunted. The revealing. The redemption. The release. Freedom.

What causes stories like this to be told over and over? The truth to this is found where Paul proclaims that our hearts know God without being taught. He has placed within us an imprint of his love, and when we hear a story that resonates, our hearts glow warm and true with these things that we understand to be true.

We know this is how we want to be loved.

We know what it is to be tainted.

We know we long for the undaunted to pursue us despite our mess.

We know in our depth that something of value is waiting to be revealed, but oh, how we struggle with fear, anger and bitterness.

We breathlessly hope for redemption.

We dream of that release into fullness, into freedom.

And we hit rewind, and watch it all over again, because we know.

And when Christ comes along, and we hear an honest presentation of His story, it is familiar to us and we are more willing to accept.

God tells his grand story over and over in the complex work of truth that somehow continued the same theme over the thousands of years of its writing. Just look at this part in Ezekiel. You can often find me pausing at chapter 16, hitting rewind and savoring every word of the first fourteen verses. Every word. All the elements are there:

The Tainted:
'This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.

The Undaunted:
'Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, "Live!"

The Revealing:
I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare.

The Redemption
" 'Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.

The Release
 So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Oh sweet freedom.

My heart was created for this story. I am the tainted. I am pursued by an undaunted lover. He tenderly reveals his thoughts towards me. He saw me abandoned and had compassion on me. He did for my soul, what should have been done for me, but was not. He called me forth into a redeemed life. He is awakening within me beauty.  He is slowly releasing me from fear, from shame. He is releasing me into who I was created to be without all the masks and walls. I am taking tentative steps into freedom, strength building in my legs.

I, the tainted, am part of something big, something Grand.
I, the tainted, am part of a Grand Story. The Story. And you are too!

I wonder if there is a grand story that speaks to you in inexplicable ways. For me, it’s all forms of Beauty and the Beast. Also, Hugo, as odd as that might be. What stories captivate and sing to your heart? I'd love if you share it in a comment below!

I'm linking up at Nacole's site today for Concrete Words. The prompt is The Tainted. The guest writer is the lovely Ruth Povey whose words I drink in as religiously as iced coffee! Hope you join us!

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