Crushing the Christian life(confessions of a recovering ex-pastor's wife)

Rest and Relaxation with No Expectations
I was really doing great, crushing the so-called Christian life.  
Working it from every angle as if it was some beauty contest to win.  I didn't know it.  I couldn't see how deeply the river of earning approval ran in my heart.  I thought I was living in grace, I taught all about grace but I was living in an never ending race of good works.  Doing everything I could to prove that I was worthy.  Teaching and preaching was something I loved but it was tainted with this need to prove myself.

The gifts were real, I am gifted to teach, it is my sweet spot but slowly it became my grace killer.  
This is how it goes...the slippery slope from gifting and grace to religion and rules.
I had to win the approval of others, my preaching had to be the best.  If I am being honest it was not just so that the message would be powerful but rather so that I could prove I was worthy.  Grace was edged out by my old approval junkie heart.  It was disguised well, in  a very spiritual covering but below the surface my issues where lurking.  Ministry can do that, cover your issues in spiritual clothes.  It is a major pitfall for people in ministry, a hiding place for approval junkies, a sweet spot for narcissists, an all consuming job, a rule based prison, a pharisee creating whirlwind, not for everyone but it was for me.  I had won the prize.  This approval junkie had married a narcissist, become a work-a-holic, living in a rule based prison and looking quite a bit like a Pharisee.

It was like stepping from one unhealthy version of myself  into a duplicate unhealthy Christian version of myself.  There was no intent for this to happen obviously.  Rather a slow steady shift away from the goodness of God to the goodness of works.  Again, let me say not everyone in ministry struggles this way.   Many people in ministry started out healthy and whole and are careful to stay that way.  I thought I was, but looking back I see that I still had so far to go.  Pride is like that.  Convinces you that you are all better because you are doing good things, then slips deception on you and off you go.  Same issues, different circumstances.  I deceived myself into believing I could finally know love by working as hard as possible at it.   Turns out that is  not love at all, it is deception. 

So crushing the Christian life turned out to be crushing to my soul.  
I am not trying to be dramatic but imagine a new believer with approval issues groomed by her new husband who is also her pastor to believe that she should follow all the rules, raise her family as the Bible teaches, help build the kingdom, honor her husband, ignore her intuition, be at everything, preach, teach, be beautiful, dress correctly, behave correctly, make everyone like you, etc. etc.  In theory that doesn't sound that terrible but for me it was like drinking poison.   The more I drank, the sicker I got.  My whirlwind pace was masked as spirituality, when truly I just had no boundaries.  The behind the scenes secrets of ministry, the need for approval and the gnawing intuition of knowing things just weren't right drove me at times to madness and other times it drove me to the feet of the creator.  Unfortunately my skewed version of Christianity made it only possible for me to see the feet of Jesus.  It was there that I would experience His love but rarely could I climb into His lap, I could only bring myself to grovel at His feet.  My doubts and failures made it impossible to believe in His unfailing love.  I knew the theology of grace with certainty in my brain, preached it with conviction but I couldn't seem live in it for very long.  If that makes any sense?

I was ruthless with myself and my Christianity.  
I had a broken belief system that God was a hard task master and if I did everything right He would love me and my life would be great.  Therefore, I hated myself when I failed to meet these standards.  Treating myself as a failure and repeating horrid sound tracks over and over in my head.  Brutally crucifying myself for my short comings, wildly defensive about my weaknesses and struggling and striving all the while to be a good Christian.  Strict standards can make us unbearable towards others sins.  If I have to work this hard, you have to work this hard too.  The road to being religious is paved with good intentions and bad belief systems.

Please hear me, there were great highs, wonderful moments, God inspired experiences, exceptional people but I was still the little girl trying to please everyone and make everyone happy.  The fact that it was tainted with my sinful heart issues doesn't mean that it doesn't count.  I grew, I learned and I loved.  It just wasn't healthy for me.  I was in an endless cycle of trying desperately to hold onto everything, to be the best, all the while believing I was trusting and letting go.  While my then-husband was spinning plates as fast as he could trying to keep appearances up, I was working myself to the bone.  I was caught in a cycle of self hatred, doubt, fear, earning, striving and still failing.  Then the house of cards finally came crashing down, it was far worse than I had imagined.  I was never going to win, it had only been a matter of time before it unraveled.   It was exhausting and unnecessary.  Not to mention that winning isn't what God is after at all.

Life lived in the fish bowl is difficult for the healthy but for the broken it can be excruciating.
I will never know what the future would have been if I would have left the ministry and my then husband sooner.  I did the best I could with who I was at the time.  I know I cannot be the only pastor's wife that felt such pain, emptiness, fear and frustration.  The inability to please everyone,  to make a church successful, to be good enough in the endless spiritual comparathon is a trick to keep us from the fullness of life.  In the midst of the fishbowl you are trying so hard to find freedom, to be yourself but let's face it, you are still stuck in a fishbowl how much freedom can you really have?

When I walked away I took a few friendships, knowledge, experience and good memories but along the way I lost myself, a son and my family. 
This isn't what the Lord had asked of me.   I know there is fruit for all of us, I know my children reaped fruit and love from our experience but they also reaped pain.  Mind numbing betrayals that are hard to recover from.  It is the reality of living in a f*cked up world and trust me when I say, the church is just as f*cked up as the world.  It is a house for the broken that can often get so turned upside down that it becomes a weapon instead of an instrument of love.  We were just broken, every last one of us, just in different ways.   I have heard it said that you attract what you are.  Eventually there was no denying the unhealthiness of it all.  Thank God, it brought a necessary ending that hopefully freed us all to experience God in a different way, in deeper truth.  There is nothing I can do about the past but embrace it as part of the journey to bring me here, to this place of grace.  My heart has expanded during this season of revelation, of seeing things with new eyes. Perhaps every last ounce of pain is necessary for people like me to really change.

God didn't create me to strive and earn other people's approval or even His. 
 I was created to be true to how he designed me, not anyone Else's expectations.  He loves me, right now and right here in this very messy place of grace and relationship.  Not that I am done.  It is difficult of course even now not to want to be liked...who doesn't want to be liked?  I recognize it when it crosses over into determination, an unhealthy demanding desire within my soul.  "I will make you love me", was a mantra I have heard in my head over and over throughout my life time.  No longer.  I will make no one like or love me, they either do or they don't.  Period.  I will continue to grow and change but the essence of who I am will remain.

I am experiencing grace in new ways, authentic ways. 
Recognizing my worthiness based not on any of my works but on who He is.  I am a degenerate sinner.  My life is wildly imperfect and I am okay with that.  I am not crushing the Christian life, as a matter of fact I have kind of opted out of that life and now just live a spiritual life.   I have lost my drive to do anything other than love.  I am kind to myself, I work at loving and accepting my imperfect self, I have low expectations on myself and others, I sit in the place of grace and I rest. Did you know the only place the bible talks about striving is to rest?   I cannot earn anything because it is a free gift.  I suppose I could end up in the lesser positions of heaven if you subscribe to that theology, I don't.  My theology is so simple now, isn't that what Jesus exampled to us.  A very simple message of love.

Today I prefer to sit with the broken, speak of love and find rest in the gracious act of unraveling my messy heart.  
I used to think loving yourself was a sin, I now understand loving yourself is a spiritual act of redemption.  It is what empowers you to love others.  When you are kind to yourself you will be kind to others, when you don't judge yourself harshly, you won't judge others harshly.   I share my heart, love others and am constantly finding new paths into relationship with my creator.  In this place there are no rules only relationship.  Yes, I believe in the Bible but I also believe in the power of love to lead you.  It is a gentle unfolding, centering experience and I love it.  Sometimes I over think it, I begin to strive and then I am reminded that I get to choose and I choose rest, peace, love and acceptance.  I am not perfect, I mess up.  I see new things within me that are holding  me back and I keep striving for growth, for deeper spiritual understanding of my own heart. Everything else will fall in place, transition or stay the same.  Anyway it goes, I will be okay.
Set yourself free from striving. 
I hope you can hear my heart and understand that I write this because I want other people to find freedom from the constraints of what so easily entangles us.  Those things that can seem righteous and good on the surface but in reality are just spiritual window dressing allowing us to stay somewhat stuck in old patterns.    Let's learn to love ourselves, leave judgment behind, grow with open minds rather than stifling rules, live in relationship with our creator in whatever way is healthy and balanced for us.  Let's stop the spiritual comparathon, that is just pharisee behavior.  We can find our freedom, learn from our past while leaning towards the future with hope.  It is brighter than we can imagine when we step out from under the "heavy taskmaster" theology.  Thanks for reading sweet friends, may we all find our way daily towards more and more freedom and light.
We live in hope,
Debbie

Presence

These are my recent angels; one who helps me to blast off, one who brings the promise of the new hope and one who reminds me to look up.  


Thinking about presence


Thinking this morning about Presence.  How easily I forget that God is with us, and that He manifest His beauty and wisdom throughout my "day to day" living.  He is the unseen that is all around us.  The wind that blows gentle and strong.  The storm that rolls in and the sun that shines.  

As I looked at the sky dotted with clouds this morning, I was reminded of how much I love clouds.  I love that they paint a new picture in the sky every day.   I am grateful that I often see something in them that no one else does, it is like a secret between God and I.  I love that as they float by they reflect the sun with white brilliance and as the sun sets they create a glorious reflection of a creative God.  I love that sometimes I get a gift, a glimpse of heaven through the clouds, a sense of something so amazing that it washes my mind clean and restores hope. 

I encounter my creator every day through angels among us.  No, I don’t mean that I see angels but I do see people that are wearing Jesus.  To me they have wings.  These people often help lead the way.  The hope that is generated from a smile, a kind word or a simple nod.  The person that puts my groceries in the car and seems to say something mindlessly that actually has deep meaning to me.  The wildly open heart I encounter that shares their pain as an offering.  The brutal truth brought forth out of a loving heart.  The belief in my vision shared by others.  The stories shared that I find life lessons in.  These are the moments where His presence is shared with me through others. 

One of the ways presence is defined is:    a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.  I live daily in the unseen presence of my God.  I do not strive for it, it just is.  Do you know that the only thing the Bible speaks about striving for is rest?  I am learning to let go of the striving. 

As I contemplate presence I can't help but think about my presence.  Do I mirror the creator?  Am I fully present with others, do I fully engage?  Do I listen to every word, every emotion and every nuance so that I can truly hear them?  Am I patient and loving in the midst of their failures?  Is my heart turned to those whom I love with passion and intention.  I have no little if any power to change lives, what power I have is to be present and reflect the love of my father.  Sometimes I do it well and sometimes I don't.  I am, as always a work in progress.  

So today I contemplate presence and the freedom I have found to enjoy presence with no rules or expectation but just acceptance.  It’s true, I see Him differently than you.  I experience Him unique to my needs every day.  Some days I pay close attention and sometimes I don’t.  On the days I forget, I forgive myself because He already has. 

Today I am paying attention, today I am remembering how His presence has lead me even when I was unaware, even in rebellion, even in the winds of adversity.  He does not remove His presence, He is faithful.  I can see him in the clouds and I can see him in you, I feel him in the embrace of a hug and I experience him as I create.  There is no end to His presence, it is always there.  It is I who forgets.  

Today I remember, He is with me and maybe just maybe I will reflect His presence to those I encounter.  How about you? 

With much love,
Debbie (your misfit friend)

Happy No Fear, New Year!

Hello lovelies,
I wrote this several years ago in a very dark time.  This new year I feel different, excited but I know many are still struggling.   So this is just a reminder as you step into this new year....You are doing great, you are brave, so be kind to yourself this year it will get better.  Keep doing the hard things.  The darkness always subsides, light always wins.  Love you --Debbie


Sometimes
Sometimes courage is simply getting out of bed. 
Sometimes faith is simply putting one foot in front of the other. 
Sometimes hope is simply knowing it will get better. 
Sometimes the best you can do is praise Him in an empty room, reading from a book.
Sometimes that is good enough.
Happy no fear, new year!

My Justin: Boy Wonder and Snake Charmer



I have refined the poetry just a bit.

My Justin:  Boy Wonder and Snake Charmer


If you have a child who struggles wtih addiction or mental illness, if you have lost a child to addiction  or mental illness, you will recognize the swirl of love and pain that is introduced through cycles of abuse. I am sharing this for you.  That you will know that all your feelings are normal, that the anger you cannot shed is normal, that you can at once be angry with your child and yet never let go of the love you feel for them.  That you can dislike their behavior and weep bitterly over their decisions.  That is a part of your love for them and your hope for them.   It simply means you are sitting in the pain of their consequences and their decisions, are a betrayal of the hope you hold for them.  Whatever the range of emotions, there is no shame in them.  Love hurts when you have an addicted or mentally ill child.  
I will forever believe my Justin was bi-polar and self medicating, unfortunaltely we were not able to see that in the middle of the storm nor was it as openly addressed as it is now.  Thank God that now many children like my Justin, will be able to receive the care they need.   I am grateful as I watch the narrative of mental illness and addiction change and the stigma and shame beginning to be removed.

I have never shared this because I felt such shame at the depth of diappointment and anger displayed in it.  I felt as though I was betraying his memory in some way or even that it showed too much of my pain.  The thought of sharing it made me feel deeply vulnerable to judgement.  I, like so many of us who have children struggling, was reticent to share my pain out of fear that others would not understand it. That others would offer opinions of what I should have done, could have done, what they would have done, etc.  This side of the story was isolating and shameful.  While my son was alive I had already had someone plant a deep seed of shame in my heart and I had no desire to revisit it.  As a matter of fact I have worked hard to uproot it from my heart.  To rewrite that narrative with the grace it deserves.  Somehow I  wanted to preserve a memory of Justin that portrayed all the good times but the truth is there was a pain that will forever be a part of our story.  That pain does not devalue the love I had for him.

I journaled this a month or so after the death of my son from an accidental overdose.  Please don't allow his death to rob you of hope for your child.  The odds are good for overcoming many addictions especially with all the new treatments available.  Please continue to love big and hold hope in your heart.  Do everything you can each day that is all you can do.  Take care of you, have good boundries but love freely.  Get the help you need to see truth in the situation but never let go of hope.

My hope has always been centered around heaven and I hope you can see that in the midst of this tangled web of emotions.  I hope it honors his goodness and his struggle.  I pray it sheds light on the pain of a mother and her love for her child. I hope somehow it helps someone to let go of shame and step into light.  I pray it brings revelation and a letting go of judgements.

May this bring comfort to your soul and peace in your grief. 

Justin
He was a boy wonder and a snake charmer.
He was the first and a superstar.
He was sticky sweet like candy and he was poison.
He was the laughter of thousands and the weeping of a mother.
He was a master magician and a disappearing act.
He was a roller coaster and a sink hole.
He was a lover and a fighter.
He was a little boy and yet a giant.
He was broken and fully functioning.
He was the brightest star and the moonless darkest night.

He was a boy wonder, a manchild and the hope of a mother,
He was the joy of a father, a brother, a grandson and a cousin.
He was my son hard and twisted and light and love,
He was hope and darkness all rolled into one.

He was my baby and my heart shattering pain.
He was my greatest joy and my greatest failure.
He was my hope of victory and the devastation of terrifying nights.
He was struggling imperfection and tormented beyond understanding.

He is perfection and no struggling.
He is every bit of wonderful and no more pain.
He is my longing and my joy.
He is my hope of heaven and my boy.


Be comforted friends in every season with the hope of heaven.  None of us are alone in our pain, but often it can feel that way.  Please share this with those you might know that are struggling with this type of pain.  I long to see my pain redeemed through helping others. 

We live in hope,
Debbie

I am Loathe




I Am LOATHE



I am loathe to write this, loathe to put myself out there in the middle of hated debate and horrendous division.  Yet, I feel to be true to myself I must.  To be true to you, I must.  Not because I am a great writer or have a huge following but because my responsibility is to my circle of influence, my circle of love, my circle of hope gatherers and truth tellers.

I watched as Dr. Ford shared her story, I watched with a knot in the pit of my stomach and tears welling in my eyes.  I believed her.  Because I have stories of not reporting myself. I watched with an open mind as Judge Kavanaugh defended himself. I believe him to be a good man but I do believe that it is possible he committed this act against Dr. Ford.  Yes, there are inconsistencies in her story and proof is not there.  Believing something happened (I find her very credible) and wanting Kavanaugh destroyed are two very different things.

I do believe that thirty-five years ago boys, and make no mistake he was a boy with an immature brain growing up in a culture of misogyny.  Where 'boys will be boys" was a common excuse for horrible behavior.  Where that type of behavior among star athletes and the popular crowd in high school was not uncommon.  Where boys believe that they are entitled to what they want and that “no really means yes.”  They manipulate the facts to interpret their own truth.  She was a slut, she wanted it.   I do not believe it is any different today.  I have cried a river with the #metoo movement as I have come to realize little has changed in the last thirty-five years. 

As a ten year old girl I was molested by a stranger.  I told no one.  I had left a slumber party when I had been told not to, it was clearly my fault - at least that was my assumption.  My family was already in what felt to me to be turmoil.   I didn't want to add to that.  So I suffered quietly and threw my Holly Hobby pants away.  It haunted me and affected me in ways that I have fought hard to eradicate from my lifeHow can you really ever remove the stain of something ingrained in your mind for 5 years before you ever even spoke of it?  

In College as a young, impressionable girl I was thrilled to go out with a Senior "Fraternity" boy.  In borrowed clothes and fancy shoes I went with high hopes of finding a place of belonging among the "little sisters" of the fraternity.  Instead I found out that no, doesn't really mean no, to a young man. Afterward he unceremoniously dropped me at my dorm where I stumbled in the doors. I was shocked and confused.   I did not report, I was ashamed. I was embarrassed that someone I saw as so charming would treat me with such aggression and lack of concern.  I felt I didn't fight hard enough, and it is true that at some point his 175 pounds was too much for my 105 pounds. In my shock and my horror I went numb and still.  Tears ran down my face but obviously to him, I wanted it.  Fear of my word against his word, fear of being "that girl", fear of being kicked off my dance team and fear of retaliation paralyzed me.  I did not report.  He however did. He reported that I was a slut  who slept with guys on the first date.  I was an easy one night stand, he reported.  I did not. I held my head up and proved him wrong, but not without my own inner turmoil and torment.   I think he was a stupid awful boy, I can't begin to understand why he thought it was okay or what his perception was and is even today.  

I now hear that he is a good man, a family man.  

Throughout my life I have heard men say inappropriate things, bosses make passes at me and even just recently caught someone taking a picture of my ass.  I don't understand. I myself married a man who was a sexual predator(my opinion his diagnosis was "love addict"), using his position and power to manipulate women into bed with him. Saying wildly inappropriate things and using them as bait on a fish hook.  People knew but did nothing.  I believed his indignation and stood by him.  The power of a convincing liar and narcissist is hard to see.Even now I still feel that familiar shame that I allowed myself to become powerless and manipulated by him.  

I regret my powerlessness but still can see that there was also good in the man I married.  It is almost impossible for us to conceive of such evil among such good and yet it is there.  Sin and evil exist in each of us and if given space, gives birth to the unspeakable.  

Good men learn to not give into that evil. Good men grow from boys that have often made mistakes, I do believe that.  We all fall short and none of us are without sin.  

The fact that on the floor of the senate someone would say, this deviant behavior would have been a repeated pattern in Kavanaugh's life, is ridiculous and demonstrates his lack of understanding of these types of situations. Yes, there are serial rapist but there are also boys and men that are one time rapist/abusers walking among us.  They were good boys that did a bad thing.  Or that any Senator would comment on Dr. Fords attractiveness is beyond absurd.  There is a problem people and it is not just our boys.  It is a systemic problem rooted in culture and driven by hormones, sexism, entitlement and evil.  
  
I make no excuses for it only to say, what will it take to change it?  

Our boys sometimes make mistakes, sometimes become abusers, even though they have been loved their entire lives by a woman.  Even though they would say they respect women.  We cannot believe that this is not a serious problem when one in three women will be sexually assaulted according to the CDC.  Of those one in three, currently only 60% report.  If one in three will be assaulted, then how many boys and men are the abusers?  Statistically they are typically someone the girl or woman already knows.  I would assume if the statistic is one in three for the women then maybe one in six are abusers? Just my personal opinion.  I would also add that many of those men do not even realize or would categorize their behavior as sexual abuse.  How scary is that? 

I don't know how to change the "rape" culture.  I don't believe anyone deserves to be assaulted, male or female.  I don't believe that just because someone is drunk, they asked for it.  I don't believe clothes create the problem.  I do believe alcohol plays a role on both sides.  I can think of many occassions where I heard stories of many boys joining in on a girl too drunk to really know what was going on. I have been privy to even seeing pictures of such behavior because of a position I held in college.   Is that a mob mentality? It is disgusting.   I don't know or understand why this is happening.  

I want to, I really do because maybe if we can understand we could begin to fix the problem. I understand that women can be abusers as well but what is permeating our society currently is the onslaught of women finding their voice and speaking out finally about their stories of abuse.  I personally believe them, I personally am one of them and I personally celebrate their bravery.  We are not hysterical nor are we just joining in to join in, we are finding our power in our collective stories and longing for change. 

Yes, in every movement there will be some who capitalize on the frenzy by bringing false reports.  It is that way in every segment of life.  That is why it is so critical to teach reporting, to end slut shaming and to teach strength, dignity and honor to one another.  We must have ways to prove behavior and protect the falsley accused. 

I am in the middle.  I believe the totality of someone’s life should not be judged on mistakes made in High School or College.  I certainly don't want someone judging me on my High School and College years or looking at my yearbook to determine my integrity.  I am frightened that unsubstantiated assaults from 35 years ago can destroy a career and a life. What if that was one of my sons? 

I believe Dr. Ford. Something traumatic happened to her, as has happened to so many of us. Yes, over time memories can be dimmed, some parts confused, over time on both sides.  Perception is definitely interpretive for each individual.  This will always be part of the problem.  He said, she said. 

But, when will we address the real issue?  When will there be a national outcry to investigate the root causes and make systemic changes in a society that degrades women yet also loves women.  I believe in good men, I believe people make mistakes, but when will our girls learn to yell, learn to fight back, learn to not give in, unless we speak up and show them how to be brave. 


I am not trying to bash men here, I am simply saying I am in the middle.  As a mother of young men, as a women who has been abused, as a woman who has had to fight to not carry shame and self-loathing into her future, I say....When will it change?  I love men.  I believe in the power of redemption and I believe in good men because I know good men.  

I am terrified that if we as women swing too far in our indignation and hatred we will not find the truth and change we hope for. Polarizing ourselves will lead to discrediting our true desire for change.   Rage rarely produces change.  We should continue to share our stories and our indignation, but let us do so with hearts that are righteous and seeking good, not exacting revenge.  

I long for both sides to win in this battle against humanity.  That is the only chance for true change.  I pray for our country to quit warring within and fight a battle against this evil.  Divided we will always fall. Our country is at war against itself and it is a disgrace.  Our battle is not between parties our battle is against evil and on that we can all stand together.  

Let us care more about each other than we do about politics.  Let us be those who carry a banner for change with a heart of love.  

We live in hope and belong to one another,

Debbie 
P.S. Please don't bother putting up shitty comments.  If you don't like it, don't read it. 



Muzzle the Monster

SO...funny story, I had started this blog about the big bad wolf but had only sketched out a thought for the artwork.  Then as I was scrolling through the events on Facebook I saw this painting class so I took it!  It was a great experience and I loved the teacher.  To me it is typical that when you have something going on in your mind, writing or art it all comes together in unexpected ways.  Trust the process, trust God.

TAMING THE MONSTER 

The fear I lived with on a daily basis is ridiculous.  Always waiting for the "other shoe to drop".  There are seasons where it seemed to subside and seasons where it seemed to rule my life.  We all have fear.  I write about it often because I think it is such a dominant theme in our lives.  We live with rational fear and we live with irrational fear.  It manifest in many ways; fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of success, fear of risk, fear of unknown, fear of death, fear of being hurt(isolation), etc.  I could go on and on about all the different types of fear but each fear we have is individually wrapped in our life story, the circumstances of our past and our daily life.  Fear brings friends to the party like worry, isolation, anxiety, depression, codependency and insomnia.  Fear is highly individualized and yet at its very core the same.  Fear is nothing but love turned upside down.  

Recently I had this vision of fear, a picture instead of just the feeling. 
I saw little Red Riding Hood all grown up.  In her hand was a leash and on the end of the leash the big bad wolf.  He was muzzled, unable to bark at all.  I sat and thought about my old friend "fear" who at one time in my life had been the driving force.  Fear of rejection, fear of disapproval, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, fear for my children, fear of it all crumbling down, all of these things were out of control in one way or another in my life.  Ravaging my mind with constant racing thoughts of terror.  

Fear had become so familiar, I didn't even realize the intrusion it had in my life.  Fear was a constant companion. I thought I was doing as well as I could, and maybe I was.  I had a child that was addicted to drugs, a high pressure job (life) and two more children to be concerned about.  In that seasons life was thick with untamed thoughts, anxiety and restless nights.  Nights were spent ruminating on my fears and my days filled with striving to control my life in order to calm the fears. Some of my fears were rational but often those were overshadowed by the  monster of irrational fear.  I was happy but lurking beneath the surface was a tsunami of fear.  All of my striving in my own strength could not keep it down.  My faith stayed strong, it kept me a float in the ocean of destruction but I could not seem to win the battle.  I am forever grateful to those that surrounded my during those days and spoke truth and hope into my life. 

So what changed?  How did I go from that person who was controlled by fear to a person living predominantly a fearless life.  Well, in all honesty the worst happened and I survived.  Pain changes people, it just does.  I had to look hard at my life (it was a shambles) and build a new one.  I had to choose love and joy.  I truly am living out my dreams, taking risk and sometimes failing but always winning.  Winning, because I take the risk.   I am an artist, braving to do things the very things I am afraid of and doing my best to live in love.  Trying everyday not to let fear win.  I still struggle with fear in some areas of my life, those areas where the deepest wounds are but it is not consuming.  

Let me state this  again very clearly, I still struggle with fear but it is manageable now.  I try to stay engaged in the battle daily.  Here are my notes on Fear.  

1.  With fear there are two battles---one to get free, the other to stay free.  Life has to be intentional.  We can learn and grow in our understanding of fear, tear ourselves loose of it's grip but if we are not intentional we will find ourselves right back in it's grip.  It is a lifelong battle.  Fill your life with intentional choices of love not fear.  
2.  Much of our fear is based on our past.  Our wounds typically direct our fears.  Learn to heal those wounds, don't give them any more power over your life by allowing them to dictate how you live.  Here is an example from my life:  I was afraid of my art not being good enough (okay well actually I was afraid of not being enough all the time ) because I thought my art wouldn't be good enough(it was discouraged in my circle at the time) I quit doing something I love, painting.  I could give you a million more examples but you are likely already thinking of your own.  Don't let the past dictate your future!
3.  Quit feeding your fear.  Stop thinking on it, stop ruminating over and over about what could go wrong and flip it on it's head.  I love that quote, But what if I fall oh my darling what if you fly? When your mind is racing ask yourself these questions:  Is this real? What is the worst that can happen?  What is the best that can happen?  Then quit feeding your fear by rehearsing it in your mind over and over and start focusing on what the best that could happen is.  God has given us the ability to retrain our brains, start thinking on those things that are good and lovely.  Think on love. 
4.  Realize that we see things often as the big bad wolf when in reality fear is just a dog that you control.  Put it on a leash and muzzle it.  I always think of this acronym...FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.  Seventy five percent of the time, fear is not based in any type of reality.  YOU have power over it. 
5.  Fear will keep you from living fully in the present, rob you of your love and joy.  Fear keeps us focused on the future and protecting ourselves and our loved ones but that focus keeps us from living with love in our present because we are living with fear instead of love.  The absence of fear is actually a childlike faith, a joy in today, a love and zest for life. 
6.  To realize your true passions and potential you must be willing to embrace fear and take risk. Once I survived the loss of my son and the loss of my marriage I realized that i could survive anything.  You can survive anything.  I just started tuning into my fear and running towards it, that is what changes it.   I leaned into the scary things and found out they had no real power.  I failed and failed again and then eventually succeeded.  Failure is part of success but if you refuse to try you will never experience the exhilaration of success.  Choose to believe in the power of love to carry you through failure.  

I spent a great deal of my life trying to protect myself.  Creating a world where everyone loved me, where everything would be perfect.   I thought I lived in love but actually the house I built was founded on fear.  I filled it with as much love as I could but in the end a bad foundation will always crumble and fall apart.  Turns out it was a house of cards.  We really have no control over life, it is in the makers hands.   Choose to believe that in His hands love will win. 

I haven't won the battle but I am building a better foundation.  A foundation built on truth, faith and self love.  It is not wrong to love yourself, it is necessary.  I loathed myself for many years, treated myself poorly and believed I deserved to be treated like a dog on a leash.  That was what fear had done to me, my life of self protection was really just a form of slavery.  

I can only tame the monster of fear with love.  Love for myself, love for my God and love for others.  If I love myself I will fight against allowing fear to rob me of life's best.  If I love God I will trust Him and His plan.  If I love others fearlessly I will experience authentic love.  All of these things muzzle the monster of fear in my life.  This is my choice, what will you choose?

 Life isn't always easy friends, but it is "brutiful".  A mixture at times of beauty and brutal experiences.  There is always love.  Look for it, fight for it and believe in it. Thanks for reading tribe.  I write for me and I write in hopes that it will help others. 





The Messy Struggle

My messy self and proud of it~  

The Messy Struggle


strug·gle
ˈstrəɡəl/
verb
  1. 1.
    make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction.

    "before she could struggle, he lifted her up"

    synonyms:fightgrapplewrestlescufflebrawlspar;
    informalscrap
    "James struggled with the intruders"
noun
  1. 1.
    a forceful or violent effort to get free of restraint or resist attack.
    synonyms:fightscufflebrawltussle, wrestling bout, skirmishfracasmeleeMore


I have struggled with messy my whole life, just messy in general.  Sure, I had a "planner" side, a control side and I wrestled with perfection issues but lurking there was always the messy, wild child me.  This me that wanted to be foot loose and fancy free, not impress anyone, not live under a microscope and most of all not care! The struggle was real to get free of that restraint and constriction.  The brawl of control and perfection left me bloody and bruised, as it was a fight I could not win.  The messy me wanted freedom to be integrated into my whole life. 

Don't get me wrong, of course I care about the most important things in my life, my loves.  Those I love, deserve and get my messy self unreservedly and lavishly as much as is within my power.  I love a huge circle of family and friends that love me back and are not afraid of my messy life and my messy struggles.

I struggle with messy emotions, messy decisions and messy relationships.  I have had messy friendships that have turned out beautiful and messy emotions that reveal my heart in ways I could not see until the tsunami of emotions ran it's course.  I have a messy, disorganized brain that runs a muck like a bull in a china shop. 

I have come to love messy, because no matter how hard I tried I could not keep my life together.   I mean life happened and it made me feel like a failure to not be able to keep it all neat and tidy.  A neat and tidy life is a short lived myth.  I had no choice but to embrace the messy. Messy brings freedom to evolve.  Messy is allowing yourself to be created along the way, taking different paths and living in faith and hope in such a way that you can flow with whatever is happening and let's face it....its always happening.

My messy self competes with the intelectual side of my brain that wants all things orderly and planned but more and more my messy self is winning.  I am taking more risk, living without a plan (sort of), being bold and chasing dreams.  Messy feels comfortable now, I think I learned it through painting.  Painting something and trying so hard to make it perfect and then realizing it turns out better when it free flows.  Thats what creativity teaches us....free flow, you can't control you have to just let it develop.

I have come to love my messy self.  Messy is adventure and fun and sometimes it is difficulty and unraveling.  However it always feels like freedom even when there is still responsibility.  It is a better balance for me, it creates a joyful me.

What a great adventure life has turned out to be and this second chapter shall be greater than the last!!  Try it, take a risk and chase a dream, it will get messy but it will also help you become footloose and fancy free(to coin a phrase I have heard recently).  Its not a bad way to be, don't take it to far, be responsible for your stuff but cut loose and free flow.  Today is your day to choose how you live it. 

Thanks for joining me on this journey, hope it encourages you in yours!!

with much love,
Debbie

A moment that changed everything

A Moment that Changed Everything

I remember the call.  The disbelief.  The panic of his Father on the other end of the line.  He just walked in and found him like that, unconscious.  I think he's dead, he said.  They are working on him, the EMT’s.  They are doing CPR.  He is giving me a description of all that is happening. I am listening intently, my husband and I are listening on the phone and we are praying. He is calling from his phone because mine is going dead....I am screaming at Justins Dad....don’t let them quit working on my boy!  My mind is racing, I can see it all in my head. We  are disconnected, my phone goes dead.  I am sobbing great breaths, Darrik is there....my boys.  My thoughts are racing, where is Jacob?  Luke is at school he will be home soon. My mind is racing through a thousand scenarios. 

We are back on the phone with Larry, Justin is unresponsive.  He describes whats happening.  I fall to my knees, sick to my stomach in unbelief.  I tell Darrik, call someone to get people praying....calls are going out but I am numb, glued to a phone listening to my ex husband sob and mumble about what is happening.  It all boils down to a moment...time stands still...they are taking my boy away.

Larry says they are still working on him....but I know, it’s been to long.  He says they didnt turn the siren on and somewhere in my mind I know, I just know.  Im gonna throw up.  I stumble to the bathroom and reach out to steady myself pulling the toilet cover down onto my face. I throw up, then reach up to feel the bump rising on my face.

My boys come home, sobbing disbelief fills my home.  We don't know for sure I keep saying, pray for a miracle.  We stand in a circle and pray for a miracle. My husband of twenty years cries beside me.  He who is always strong crumbles, my boys unravel...Larry calls, our boy is gone.  Our son is gone, their brother is gone.  There is no miracle.

The unexpected has happened.  Our world suddenly implodes.  People come, the house is full and calls are made.  I sit. I sit where I always sit, at the kitchen table.  My brain goes into slow motion.  I think I must be dreaming, I long to slap myself awake but I know that is just wishful thinking.  I am awake, this is really happening.  Where is Jesus?  I am screaming inside my head while people play busy all around me.  Quiet whispers, uncomfortable pauses, no one knowing quite what to say. Children sitting among us peculiarly quiet.  Tears running silently down my face.  I need Jesus, I need a scripture....I can't think, i just can’t think. 

Suddenly, they are just there.  In the sea of compassionate and loving faces, they float on the surface.  They bring kleenix and a basket of goodies, packed with the wisom of those that know.  They, whom we had helped five years before when their son had gone on to heaven.  Now, they were here.   Head on shoulders, sobs coming...they don't have answers but they do have hope.  They carry sorrows scars, but they are still among the living.  How, how could you bear this kind of pain?  I can't do it, I tell them.  Yes, yes you can.  The grace will carry you through.

Unexpectedly we share something, something horrible and devastating.  We worship together and then they share a verse as only they could.

57 The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; and merciful and devout men are taken away, with no one considering that the uncompromisingly upright and godly person is taken away from the calamity and evil to come [even through wickedness].
2 He [in death] enters into peace; they rest in their beds, each one who walks straight and in his uprightness.  
Isaiah 57:1-2

Immediately I question how that verse can fit my son’s situation, a struggling drug addict that loved God and died with a needle in his arm.  He wasn't righteous...and then clearly I hear Jesus whisper in my soul...My righteousness is enough, Justin was clothed in my righteousness.  He died a sinner saved by grace. 

I sigh, I breathe again.  My son, rescued from the evil to come.  This I can wrap my mind around, this I can hold unto.  These fellow strugglers, these friends, planted the hope needed to survive this first initial shock. 

Sleep came, fitful tear filled sleep and as soon as I began to rise to the surface of lucidity I am jolted awake by reality.  Anxiety crashes in and with my heart beating, palms sweating I rise and thus begins a long journey of choices.  We choose, and by we I mean us.  Those who are left behind to struggle through the pain that can't be healed, the grief that paints everyday with new meaning. 

The redemptive work of Christ is often a violent work.  Desolate, desert times and brutal times of attack fill the stories of real life people from the Bible.  Shipwrecks, beatings, fear, isolation and false accusations preceed victory throughout the Bible.  Our own Jesus through death brought Victory over death.  Pain is never wasted in scripture but used to bring forth growth, establish trust in His goodness and propel us to new victories.  You see life will never be perfect, but God is.  My life will never be perfect, that much has become clear.  

On that day our somewhat perfect life became marked by sorrow.  Paths changed, pummeled by tragedy our lives were reshaped.  Where we had been filled with hope for Justins future and dread for the possible consequences of his struggle in and out of addiction there was now only loss. Hope gone.

And so we journeyed on.  We stayed planted in the community of faith and Jesus wore the flesh of friends and family.  They shared our pain and gave us grace and space to grieve.  They shared their stories, listened patiently to ours, brought meals, wrote cards, shared scripture and sat for hours around our kitchen table.  Sometimes, in the darkest moments they let me scream and sob...gave me permission to unravel and be angry, but they never let me set up camp in that dark place. 

Along the journey there have been treasures in the darkness.  I had to search for them, dig deep to find them.  Things that could only be learned through painful experiences.  To teach me that I don't need greater understanding, what I really need is greater trust. To teach me that I can praise louder than the pain and when I praise in the midst of the pain it reveals the wonder of the empowering grace of God for others to see...I learned it's never just about me.  To teach me that heaven is my home, not this earth and so I hold on loosely to this world. 

God is not the author of the hell that permeates this earth, but He is the redeemer of it all: the one who turns it all to our good. He is using what the enemy intends for our defeat instead to make us stronger, more compassionate and more invested in heaven.  To create warriors for His Kingdom, that are fearless because they know this is not their home.  To create warriors who don't ask why anymore, but just follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I am no warrior but I am stronger than ever. 

He uses the most painful experiences to be the birthplace of our deepest passion and most profound encounters with God. My son was rescued, his greatest moment happened at the same time that I suffered my greatest loss. The pain has never left, subsided but never left.  

Life is valuable because it ends, life is valuable because it is a precurser to real life.  We are created to be conquerers but victory always involves a bloody battle.  Sometimes it is physical and sometimes it is a mental battle but it is a daily battle one way or the other.  There is so much beauty to be seen and sometimes it shines even brighter in the dark.  

I wish I was all better, I wish my life hadn't crumbled into a million pieces but I can't change what has happened only how I react, how I am changed by what has happened.  I haven't done it perfectly but I have done my best.  Five years later I am still untangling the pain, still examining my complicated relationship with my God and hoping for Gods best possible outcome for my life despite my human frailty.  I am still fighting for hope every day of my life, still fighting to live my life with joy, still fighting to believe the best is possible, fighting for my dreams and most of all fighting for a chance to bring glory to God in the midst of this lovely, brutiful life.

For the most part I find happiness in the "new things".  In the new grandbaby coming, in the new friendships, in the new me, in the new art and in the new life that is slowly being laid out before me step by step.  I am no warrior, just a fighter and I am a believer in hope.

Thanks  for joining me on this journey.  Be encouraged, we can each survive the worst and find hope, healing and joy.  Dig deep, search hard and hold on to hope.  I still believe it is going to be a great next chapter.

Debbie






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