Bonfires and Bluejeans

Randoms from my spot next to the fire

Knee Deep In It…But Not Wanting Out

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     The last few days have been better.  So much better.  Writing has helped me wade through the overwhelming emotions that can be brought on by the simple action of living life…going back and rereading what I both posted and kept private has given me so much insight into what I have been feeling and experiencing.  I can’t be too much different than many people out there…although I could be labeled complicated, at best.  Where the difference becomes apparent is I have the love and support of the most patient, understanding and accepting husband a girl can have and he has helped me work through a variety of issues.  Not saying I’m a complete basket case or anything…but hey.  I am a girl.

Going through the last several months, I have had the notion that deep down, in the dark unseen recesses of my heart, something has been disturbed, in a knock the dust off the antiques kind of way.  Not sure what, but there was a stirring deep in that area that I had long ago shut everyone, including myself, out of.  It is so dark and dreary, and the dumping ground for every hurt, pain, and slight I have ever felt and experienced.  Even though I have told myself that I’m a big girl and I need to let those things go, they are still there.  Collecting dust.  Growing.  It’s a lot like the back corner of my closet…it’s there, we all know it, but nobody dares to venture in to explore.  And, quite frankly, I don’t blame them.

There hasn’t been any light in that area of my heart in many, many, many years.  So many of the hurts began from when I was a child…I still can see the hurtful words and actions of others lining the walls of the cornered off area.  There are tall, thick walls that would take the skill of the best mountain climber to conquer.  Walls built with the negative and defensive thoughts I dwell on mingled with the confirming words of others.  And that’s just to get inside.  Once in, the overgrown areas of doubt, hatred, and pain intermingle with condemnation and the roots of guilt and shame.  Not to be outdone are the ever growing weeds of comparison and jealousy.  Always competing for attention: the vines grown from the seeds of fear, self-loathing, and pity.  Not a pleasant place to be.  Trust me.

This dark recess of my heart is a small fraction of real estate when placed in comparison with the rest of who I am now.  I’ve slowly, with the sure and constant work and guidance of God and those who love and support me, pruned, weeded, and cleaned out so much of this trash that threatened to choke out all of the good in my heart.  And I have no doubts in my mind that it would have…it was well on its way.

Just like in a physical garden, there are seasons where there seems to be constant pruning and working.  You never get a break; it’s as if you don’t ever set foot out of the boundaries of the garden.  Other seasons, though, you see the hard work paying off.  The weeds just aren’t as bad and you get to enjoy the beauty as you work among the flowers and the weeds.  The actual work doesn’t feel as laborious…in fact, knowing that you are making room for more beauty is almost enjoyable in a sense.  Almost.   It is still work.  🙂

I can see this ebb and flow in my own life, and in the process of changing my heart.  However, it’s come time to scale the big, scary wall and tame the vines that still remain a threat to my peace.  Just like many of these vines and weeds took root many, many years ago and took a long time to grow as large as they have, I realize that it will take a period of time and work to fully rid them from my life.  And they will try to come back, season after season, just as the weeds do in a physical garden.  This past few months has really opened my eyes to my need to let go and give up this last corner of my heart that I have been so reluctant to sacrifice.  I don’t know why…with all the pain, suffering, and hurt associated with it, you’d think that would be the first to go!  But, who knows why we do what we do, with me being a prime example.

I must admit, I am becoming exhausted from trying to keep hiding this dark, off limits area of my life.  The charade of protecting this valuable piece of real estate is up…I have to take the attitude of all or nothing.  There can never be an area of a garden devoted to growing detrimental weeds; they will eventually take over the entire area.  Maybe not overnight, but eventually.  And that’s the danger of it all.  It I don’t take action, all of these issues will do just that…take root again and eventually, slowly, and unknowingly to me be the entirety of my heart.  As painful, hurtful and even shameful at times this process has been and even will be well into the future, I know the pain is so worth the reward of allowing God to be the gardener of my heart.

This verse has become my guiding point throughout this process.  It’s pretty self explanatory to see why:

1 John 3:18-21 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.  This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.  It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it.  For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.  And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God!  We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him.

What better to rely on than a verse that states God is greater than my jacked up heart, knows more about me than I know about myself, and loves me despite my could-be-true issues?  Pretty sure I’m going to have to reference back to this one.  A lot.  This is going to become my go-to verse throughout this process.  And being that this is going to have to be a life long ordeal, I had better get used to pickin’ and prunin’…and doing it right.

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Lipstick-Stained Smiles

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I really hate days like today. Days where the weather is beyond perfect…fall is in the air yet it’s still warm and sunshiny. Days where the kids are full of energy and running and playing and healthy and happy with their friends. Days where church is extra meaningful, on target and what you really need. On the outside, today is perfect. On the inside, not so much.
Today is miserable on the inside. Today is one of those days where my patience is being tested, literally at every turn. Where each one of my decisions, no matter how minor, is being put into question. Words are being said with an intensity that are usually not said, or better yet all the words that are said between the long, drawn out silences could be summed up as huge improvisions of effort. Funny how the emotions can be so much more intense when the words are absent.
Today is a day where my confidence had decided to up and walk out the door. Every one around me is taller (that’s a given), thinner, has a prettier smile, and much more manageable hair. Their outfits are straight out of the catalogs and they never say anything stupid or irritating to other people. They don’t drip their coffee on their pants or have lipstick on their tooth. No, today it’s my turn to embody all that’s wrong with the female population. Seems I’ve taken it all on my shoulders. Funny how one little innocent comment can cause me to nosedive into a tailspin of emotional vulnerability like that. Honestly, I hate myself for allowing that kind of reaction to a simple comment, but when it comes from somebody you love and respect so much, what else is there but to internalize it and count it as truth? There is so much perfection to live up to out there.
I’ve tried to smile, keep an upbeat attitude. Cause truth be told, when it comes down to it I’ll just say it’s no big deal if anyone even asks what’s going on. I know I’m guilty of this, but we all get so wrapped up in out own drama shows called lives that we fail to notice the pain and hurt that even those closest to us are experiencing. Or that we could even be the cause of all the pain. Most of the time, we just walk on by, or just pass in the hallway, convinced that we are just not involved, or that we are right, or oblivious.
No, today is not as great day. Many would just brush it off as me being a girl. As if that would explain every emotion and feeling I’ve ever had. No, there’s a whole lot more to me than a raging ball of hormones and outbursts that can be timed to the cycles of the moon. No, I do have feelings. I do have emotions. And all of these function completely independent of any biological influence that my physical nature may provide. That being said, I am sensitive to comments, innuendos, and attacks. Personal jabs that are cloaked in jokes and innocent appearing comments do hurt. No matter how hard I try to hide it.
Like any natural process of damming water, it will eventually break. And like a dam, I will be able to hold back the emotions, pain, and hurt until that one last comment or slight, then I will break. And usually without warning. And tadaa…I will have a bad day. Like today. What could have been an amazingly perfect day wasn’t.
On the outside, the conversations were fine, the lipstick-on-the-teeth smiles where fine, and I went through the motions. But I wanted to crawl up into a ball and cry. Just cry. Then eat ice cream and chocolate. Cause that’s what any self respecting girl with apparent body issues should do, right? Nah…I’ll just pick myself up, start my diet again tomorrow and face life. Wearing this goofy, crooked, lipstick-smeared smile so that nobody will be able to tell the difference.

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Why can’t I be special?

    *disclaimer:  This story is personal.  But it’s mine.  It’s overwhelming, painful, and to a large extent embarrassing and pretty shameful.  I’m sure some will not remember the events the way that I do.  But guess what…it’s my story to tell the way that I remember.  And I will.  I don’t intend to hurt feelings or cause pain…that is the furthest thing I want to do.  But if I do, I apologize.  Please do not judge me, or those who may be involved.  No specific person will be mentioned, nor discussed.  This is just a place for me to discuss events and issues…I just ask that all who read be mature and respectful.  

Have you ever felt as though you were wearing a mask to hide your pain, insecurities, or who you truly were?  For many years, I did.  I wore the mask of smiles and happiness.  I realize that sounds so contradictory, but it is the truth.  Even though others saw me as smiling, happy, and having my life all together, I was crumbling on the inside.  My world was literally falling down around me, yet by the looks of it, I was the picture of pure contentment.  Truth was…I was miserable.

Years of unhappiness due to emotional and mental abuse and control lead to a real internal struggle with who I was…and this wasn’t one of those “needing to find myself” phases.  My problem stemmed from having many of my personality qualities called out as though they were issues needing to be dealt with.  “Why are you so…happy?  You know, you might want to get some help for being so…free spirited.  Don’t they make medication for people like you?”  I seriously began to doubt that God could have loved me enough to give me any good…or at least decent…qualities and traits.  All I was hearing was the bad.  Seriously.  I must have been so absent minded that I couldn’t even show up the day God gave out all the good stuff!  As if…

Hearing how you fail to live up to a particular standard somebody has put out there for you year after year will do a number to your self esteem.  It took everything I had on some days just to get out of bed.  The perceived failures I had committed made me out to be an immature oxygen sucker who shouldn’t waste the time or energy of the real achievers.  Of which I was not one.  It really took a toll on me.  My usual outgoing, positive, and free-spirited personality slowly morphed into a withdrawn, insecure, introvert.  A shell of who I used to be.  A far cry from who I knew God had created me to be.

One thing about mental and emotional abuse is that it doesn’t leave the scars and outward reminders that the abuser intended.  However, it leaves a much longer lasting effect that is seen and felt in any relationship…effects that can be passed down from generations on.  Even through some of the issues I’ve managed to get past in this process, the gradual understanding of who I was created to be, and not what I should have been has been one of the more difficult aspects of my journey.  Knowing you’re marred, or flawed, and it’s something that just can’t be fixed does so much damage to one’s concept of who they are in Christ.  Questions like “if I were created in His image, why am I such a massive failure at so many things I do?  How come I’m continually being asked to change if I was created to be a different way?  Why am I not able to even try my hand at what I want to do…everyone already expects me to fail.  What’s the point?  What’s wrong with me?”  (Don’t answer that one :))  Everyone else had their purpose, their divine reason for being alive, and was using their talents and gifts to make this world a better place.  Me?  I was just struggling to get by so nobody saw who I really was.  God forbid anyone else get close enough to see my flaws.

Through a series of very difficult events and happenings…I found myself away from that abusive relationship.  While many would look at the situation and think that it was awesome to be free from such a negative environment, I found myself spiraling down even further.  I had become so co-dependent on the abusive input into my life, that having none created a drastic void.  The cycle of abuse was very real in my life at that point.  Other behaviors quickly took the place to fill in the void…but the process of self-discovery was already beginning, even if I didn’t recognize it yet.

Rebuilding your sense of self is a drastic, painful and ongoing process.  There is no way to even begin to describe the mental anguish involved with having to change your whole entire thought process…going from all negative input to kinda bad to getting better to somewhat positive to typically good is not a fun process.  I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.  Well…there might be a couple of people.  If you thought about it, you’d say the same thing too.  Right or wrong, it’s the truth.  I would take one step forward and two steps back.  There is no way to even begin to describe how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted I became.  Looking back, it’s a wonder I didn’t break under the pressure.  God’s hand on my life is so evident during this time, in hindsight.  One passage that has really helped me in particular: 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 “The world is unprincipled.  It’s dog-eat-dog out there!  The world doesn’t fight fair.  But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will.  The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture.  We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.  Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.”  I hate to admit it, but when I really wanted to stoop to other’s immature levels, this verse would REALLY jump out at me!

The long process of building back what was torn down will probably never be completely done.  With the incredible patience of my husband and kids and the grace of my God though, I am starting to see the scars fade.  That’s all I can ask for, really.  I would love to use my experiences to help others caught up in the same difficult situations, so I don’t want to forget about my past experiences altogether.  Having been through such a dark period in my life, I can honestly say it causes me to appreciate the blessings I have in my life so much.  I don’t take for granted for a moment being blessed with a husband who loves me for all I am and what I have to offer.  He appreciates me, and encourages me to remain true to who I was created to be when I fall back into old habits.  He is truly a gift that is so much more than I could ever have imagined or hoped for.

I believe that we all have a choice to make.  Like I told my daughter the other day…nobody escapes life without difficulty.  Illness, pain, loneliness, you name it.  We all have some sort of bag packed with emotions that we carry forward with us.  But…we have to choose to use it to make ourselves better, and stronger.  We will never be done with struggles and trials.  In fact, truth be told, they just get more difficult as we get older and more mature (woo hoo!).  Having a firm foundation on which to base our comeback will not only give us the footing we need when we stumble, because we will, but also help those around us.  And, ultimately, that is what we are to do…learn from our struggles and trials and help others during theirs.

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