You cannot save people

Absolute truth here, folks. This is something I really needed to be reminded of.

Cristian Mihai

“You cannot save people. You can only love them.”Anaïs Nin

It was not until a few days ago that I realized how much truth hid beneath these two simple statements. I also understood that I’ve been trying to save the people I love for as long as I can remember.

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I’m Turning 31 Soon!

Income Tax day is coming up in a few weeks, and so is my birthday! Yep, I’m an income tax baby. I’ll be 31 this year and I’ve decided to share 31 reasons I’m thankful. I’m on a journey to appreciate the little things in life, so here goes:

  1. The squeal of a happy child as they’re being chased by the Tickle Monster
  2. Rosie’s reaction to the cat toy on a string. Apparently my French Bulldog/Pug mix thinks she’s a cat, too.
  3. My neighbors daffodils, dancing in the wind
  4. Reading two of my favorite children’s books to my daughters – Bob by Tracey Campbell Pearson, and Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
  5. The sweet sigh of happy children falling into a deep sleep
  6. Dog toots. Rosie has hilarious, squeaky toots that freak her out. She runs in circles, attempting to find the source of the squeak.
  7. The smell of my husband’s cologne.
  8. Our bedside lamps. I’ve wanted matching lamps for years and this year I found the perfect ones at a church rummage sale
  9. Coffee first thing in the morning
  10. The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide. I’ve been really blessed by both the daily scriptures and the insights from various writers.
  11. My husband’s hugs.
  12. My Student Bible. I love the deeper look into the origin of certain passages. I get so much more out of my daily reading this way
  13. Long burning white candles, no scent. So worth the money! And I don’t get a headache from them since there’s no scent.
  14. Fred Meyer‘s coupon system. They send me so many coupons for organic products, produce and grass-fed beef that it really pays for me to shop there.
  15. Netflix. I’m currently hooked on the 2010 show Parenthood (I’m on the 3rd Season out of 5) and I’m really hoping Crosby can get it together soon.
  16. The silly lawn gnomes and other garden sculptures I see at the store near the entrance/exit. They’re so fun to stop and look at.
  17. Putting pancakes or bread crumbs on my back porch to attract blue jays. They’re so cranky and they have the nerve to shout at me before taking a mouthful of sustenance back to their nests.
  18. Playing Toy Story 3 Yahtzee Jr with my 4-year-old. She rolled three “Poctor Dorkchops” and got really excited. (Evil Doctor Porkchop)
  19. Pig tails on little girls. So cute!
  20. Looking at baby pictures of my girls, with my girls and attempting (futilely) to explain to them that they can’t actually remember the events they’re looking at.
  21. Sun setting over the ocean
  22. My 4 year old’s unique sense of fashion
  23. Hugs from my 6-year-old.
  24. Watching my 6-year-old practice Tee Ball
  25. Listening to my husband rant about work. (He works in corrections, so his rants can be particularly hilarious on any given day)
  26. Reading Flywheel for the fourth time and still learning new Truths from it
  27. The Cinderella adorned Laundry and Chore charts I just printed the other day.
  28. The pink and purple curtains in my daughters’ bedroom. So pretty and such a pop of color in a white rental house bedroom.
  29. My husband’s excitement over the blackout curtains I just purchased for him.
  30. Growing my own food. Right now I have strawberries, tomatoes, garlic, key limes, Meyer lemons, venous oranges, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, oregano, rosemary, mint, chocolate mint (delightful for tea!), kale, and basil growing. And I live in a small apartment with 2 kids, 2 pets and my husband and I. Oh yeah…it can be done folks! (I’m also going to start growing green onions and potatoes soon.)
  31. Pastor Yang. I’m so grateful for my Pastor’s wisdom and insight that he shares with us each week.

I’m thankful for so much more than this. I had a hard time stopping. 🙂 I’ve provided links for many of the items I’ve mentioned here so that you can be blessed by them too. I love sharing tips and ideas with people.

Armor of Light

Desires of the Heart

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 NIV

 

I’ve been thinking about this verse a lot. I have it framed, sitting in my kitchen window sill. My greatest desire is  to raise up a family that honors God above self, ambition and the world. I’ve joked for years about wanting to be June Cleaver, but there’s so much more to my desire than the outward image of who the TV personality of June Cleaver is. I want a family that doesn’t break apart at the seams when trouble comes, but pulls others in (in good times and bad) and starts sewing them into the tapestry as well, making something more beautiful than any of us ever would’ve imagined.

I want to do more than just have this vague idea of being better than my parents were. Revenge never solved anything, nor does anger. Our parents are human and they make mistakes too. God knows their struggles and He’s offering grace to each of our parents, and to us, no matter how screwed up we are. To simply say we want to better than our parents is a cop-out, I’m discovering. Harsh, hard to hear, hard to say, to recognize and admit, but true all the same.

Sometimes, due to PTSD, I really struggle with maturity in all areas of my life, but the place I feel the struggle the most is in my spiritual life. Pray for me, please?

Lately, God has been deepening my understanding of what Jesus meant when He said (in Matthew 10:38, 39) that we have to” die to live in Christ”. We have to set our foolishness and our desires aside so that we can raise good, God-fearing kids. And that can hurt our hearts as it rips us away from our own selfish ambitions. It reshapes our priorities and places a new purpose, new desires in our hearts. Kids are our future, and if we’re not standing up for them and fighting for them and praying for them and loving them…who is? Who is influencing our kids and shaping the desires of their hearts?

What about you? What do you want? What are your desires of the heart? What are you struggling with? Share in the comments below.

Love,

Mandy

Armor Of Light

Armor of Light

 

 

My Fight With Homosexuality

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 

Psalm 62:7 NIV

 

For the past few years, we as a nation have been discussing all aspects of homosexuality and homosexual behavior and in some respects, I don’t really feel as though we’ve gotten anywhere on the subject. Science can be a fickle mistress, but so can the Church. Both are full of ideas, hypothesis, and flawed individuals. My goodness, I am certainly one of them. Albert Einstein once said that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind“. I don’t know if there is a genetic cause for homosexual behavior, and I don’t know if it’s ingrained in us the way that having blue eyes and brown hair is ingrained in my own DNA, but what I do know is that on some level, homosexual behavior and tendencies are at least as strong in us as alcoholism, drug addiction and the pull towards abusive behavior. What this means for the population is that we have to at least consider that it’s not something that is easily changed, if it can be changed at all. It’s at least a behavior deserving of our time, attention and compassion. At most, it’s deserving of our constant and consistent prayer.

Some of you who read this blog may be intensely offended by my previous statements and consider me a bigot. Others are right there with me, nodding in tune. Keep up, please. I’ve got more to say.

When I was ten years old, I knew I was different. It wasn’t just because I’d found the courage to seek help for myself and my family by turning my abuser in to the authorities. I knew I was different because I’d experienced something very adult that at the time, I’d assumed none of my peers had ever experienced. I’d had sex. I’d been abused and torn apart by someone who was supposed to take care of me. I’d seen body parts that I wasn’t supposed to see until I was married. I was marred and masked and tossed around. I’d been marked for a life of torment, and the devil was certainly after me from a young age. I was a pot made by God to be used for someone else’s garbage, or so I thought at the time. I knew a secret that very few other kids knew. All the dirty jokes about male and female parts and how they fit together were true. I’d been hearing the jokes on the playground since kindergarten. Potty mouths start young, but I’d already known all this for a long time. My childhood consisted of adult things, adult words, adult activities, adult emotions far too complex for a little girl to understand. It’s why I never understood it when adults would tell me that I didn’t understand something or that I was too young. I got it. I knew what they were talking about. For the most part, I was an adult from the time I was born. Not because I wanted to be, but because I was forced to be. I know that now, from the perspective I have as a parent, that this is a sad, disturbing way to look at it, but it’s true in some sense. I was forced to grow up way too fast and I gained an understanding of myself and of adulthood that I should never have had before the age of 18.

In therapy, I explored all kinds of emotions I wasn’t ready to deal with. I forgave a man who murdered my innocence. He forced me to bleed out my childhood through every pore, before I was even ready to start reading and learning basic math. He ripped out my basic rights as a human being and mutilated my pride and self-confidence before it had a chance to form. He forced me to look at my life from a young age and ask myself what I wanted and what the hell was I even doing here on this earth. My teenage years were spent questioning whether or not my existence on this earth was even beneficial to anyone, especially my parents who didn’t ever seem to understand what I was going through. I’m sorry, Mom. I know you’re reading this and your heart is hurting, but you have to know. You have to know how I feel because it’s real and it’s valid and I don’t know any other way to make you hear it.

Sexual awakenings are totally normal for teenage kids, but mine was so scary and I was so emotionally scarred and stunted by that point, that I just didn’t know what to do with any of my feelings. There was this amazing boy that I just couldn’t get enough of. He was so quiet and shy. I met him in the eighth grade in math class. He sat in the back of the class and never really spoke to anyone. Every day he wore a San Francisco 49ers hat and I could tell he was wounded too. I think it’s what most drew me to him. He tried to hide something behind that hat. I assumed we were the same, but I came to find out later that we weren’t. I’ll get to that later. For now, just know that I was completely intrigued by this quiet boy. I’d steal glances at him, knowing there was something about him that I just couldn’t get past. He was, from the moment I met him, completely unforgettable.

Time passed. This boy and I didn’t speak. I assumed he’d never noticed me and so I went on about my own life. I tried to convince my friends and myself that I was totally and completely into boys. In some ways, I was. My room looked like a typical teenage girls’ room – band posters all over the walls, cute celebrity boy pictures cut out of magazines and pasted on the walls. It was all pretty standard stuff, but inside I was reeling. As my friends went about kissing boys, all I wanted to do was kiss my best friend at the time – a girl. I wanted to know what it felt like to be loved, tenderly. Not the painful “love” that was inflicted on me by my abuser. Not the forced love that I felt from my parents, or even my grandmother (whom I still love, even in death.) I wanted what you see in the movies. I wanted to know that tenderness and compassion existed and I assumed for a very, very long time that it only existed in romantic love, so I wanted that. From my experiences with sexual abuse, I “knew” that it didn’t exist from the opposite sex. So while boys were certainly cute, especially that quiet boy from school, it just wasn’t possible for me to develop feelings for them. They were all corrupt.

High school was an interesting time for me, and by interesting, I mean hellacious. Despite my true feelings and desires, I allowed myself to be forced by a family member to allow my abuser back into my life. He entered back into the picture full-time just a few weeks before High School started. My family was elated. I was crushed beyond repair. It’s been nearly 17 years and I’m still not healed from that soul crushing moment. Forgiveness takes time – a lifetime apparently. Anyway, the boy was back in my life. He actually spoke to me, thanks to my best friend at the time. (Not the one I’d wanted to kiss, but another friend. Kids are so fickle, and I was certainly fickle too.) This boy captivated every part of me. I wanted to know him, to understand how he could penetrate walls that I’d fortified to keep everyone out – especially his kind (boys), but I didn’t know how to do that when I was so absolutely terrified. So I pretended to be just like everyone else. I flirted, wrote him cute notes, dressed differently when he was around, and I let him in little by little. I always knew he’d hurt me. He was a boy (read: monster) after all. Monsters have no compassion, right? And he was no exception. It was only a matter of time. The more I felt for this boy, the more I wanted to be someone else. There were many days I used the mental techniques I’d taught myself during the abuse, to disappear from my body and still remain in conversation with someone. I became a shell with no soul, existing somewhere else that no one could really see. They were speaking to someone who wasn’t really me. (It was like I was tricking everyone, but looking back, I was only ever fooling myself.) Inside, I was different and I knew it. I would never kiss boys like my friends did. I was a lesbian. I knew it as instinctively as I knew my hair was brown and my eyes were blue. I was 16 years old and I just knew.

The boy and I “dated” off and on for three years of high school until the summer after junior year when he went to stay with his father in another state, hundreds of miles away. At the time, it was devastating, but looking back, it was best for our relationship. I’m not sure it was best for the boy, but I’m not sure it’s for me to say. I don’t know what would’ve happened had he stayed. I’d like to think he’d have been hurt less, but I just don’t know. (His father was not good to him, and he’s still recovering from that, 14 years later.)

For me, it forced me to dig deep in myself and look at what I needed and wanted for my life. I could never be honest with the boy. He had no idea I wanted to kiss girls and to hold their hands. He thought I was in love with him, and I was, in a very immature, unhealthy way. I was in love with him the best way I felt I could be at that time, given what I was going through on the inside. His mom was right to ask him not to see me anymore.

After high school, still no word from the boy. I set about hiding in as deep a hole as I could make for myself. A lot of people were worried about me, but I didn’t care. Life was business as usual. Brood, sabotage my life, deal with conflicting emotions, hide the truth, and want what I could never have – true, compassionate love from a woman. My mother was harsher than she ever meant to be. I know it was because I was difficult and wouldn’t let her in. If I’d asked her for more compassion, I know she’d have given it me, but I just couldn’t do that. There was, quite seriously and beyond what I can share on this blog, no reason to trust that it would have been healthy to do so. I shut down. I experimented with all kinds of things – porn, alcohol, medications. I never took illegal drugs – a small comfort to me now, seeing as I abused medications for so long. I just needed something to take the edge off. There were feelings threatening to come to the surface and I had to do whatever it took to suppress them.

The boy came back in my dreams more often than I invited him to. He was so beautiful. I could always tell him absolutely everything, and while he was afraid, he never once told me I was stupid or childish for feeling what I was feeling. He has never fully understood me, but he has always loved me. In those dreams, he loved me without ever touching me. It was perfect.

In waking, I wanted to be touched and I didn’t know what to do about it. I spoke with my therapist extensively on the issue, even admitting to my pornography addiction, which by this point, was rampant and consuming. I wanted to figure out what was going on with me, and I felt at the time, that exposure was the best medicine. I know that sounds stupid now, but it was how I coped back then. I suspect that my therapist was a lesbian too. I’d researched her a bit years ago and never once had she been married, but she did live with a woman for a long time. No relation. So I assumed perhaps they were lovers. It would certainly explain her advice to me that I was probably a lesbian, and that I should explore my feelings on the subject deeper in a healthy environment – therapy.

A few people in my life who somewhat knew what I was going through at the time, suggested to me that perhaps my feelings toward women stemmed from my abuse as a child and that my fear of being hurt by a man again, lead me to these homosexual urges. At the time, this idea seemed absurd because the urges were so strong that they felt like the most real part of me. I was consumed by this idea that everything would be OK if I just became what my mind “organically” lead me to be – a lesbian.

From the point that I made the decision to embrace the lesbian part of me, I immersed myself in the homosexual culture. I joined chatrooms for single lesbians and confused homosexuals, I rented every movie made by or written about homosexuality. I joined blog mailing lists for homosexual writers, and I championed the cause for equality for all gays. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to live the way we want, without fear of intimidation or discrimination, right?

About 5 years after high school, I entered into my first and only homosexual relationship. It lasted all of 5 weeks, if that. Jammie was exactly what I thought I needed. Her identity and self-image were fiercely rooted in homosexuality. She was the leader of her local college’s Rainbow Club, she was raising her two boys to love the gays, but feel free to choose their own path. She had lived as a homosexual since she was 17 years old, and anyone who questioned her ability to parent, or live as she pleased, was given the boot from her life. Jammie was a strong, charismatic woman firmly clinging to her beliefs and ideals. There was nothing that was ever going to change her. She also was not a Christian and was extremely antagonistic towards all Christians, even me at times, when I’d mentioned that the Episcopal Church (of which I’d been a member since birth, practically) was fully accepting of “our kind”. Nothing could sway her. I see now how futile my attempts were, but I thought I loved her, so I had to try.

I remember that first kiss from Jammie. I’d waited years for it. I assumed it would feel like coming home, but it didn’t. It was exactly like what I imagined kissing a boy would be like. It was cold, impersonal. Though I know Jammie had feelings for me, she never tried to break down walls like the boy in the 49ers hat had. She just assumed I was as hard-core as she was. I had no idea what I wanted, and when the relationship ended abruptly and harshly, I thought I was devastated and heartbroken, but I wasn’t. I was on the road to healing.

A few months later, I met a man. A much older man who was all kinds of wrong for me, but still offered some insight into who I was and what I wanted. Like the boy from years ago, this man broke down walls, not because I asked him to, but because he wanted to. He wasn’t a terrible person, but he was kind and compassionate. By sharing of himself and his faith in Christ, he quietly and confidently encouraged me to do the same. An inappropriate friendship formed (he was eight years older than me, divorced once and prone to alcoholism. I was still a virgin, had never kissed a male before ever, and extremely naive), and we began speaking multiple times a day. His entire family embraced me, loved me, prayed for me, and invited me in to share their joy and their faith. For a while, it felt natural, healthy, good. I was happy again and I started to feel like I was figuring out who I really was finally. I set the homosexual stuff aside, and I embraced my feelings for this man.

Banker man, as I’ll call him from now on, was a wonderful person to talk to. He had no idea what went on in the few months before I came to know him, and I appreciated that he never asked, or knew to ask. I felt silly and stupid for ever thinking that I was a lesbian. Surely, with the things I felt for this man, it could not be the case. I was not a lesbian. Finally – I was just like everyone else.

The relationship with Banker man (an investment banker who bought and sold high quality real estate for a living) progressed to the point where he asked me to come and live with him. His entire family was on board, and excited about the idea. We began making plans toward that end. I even invested financially in this.

It was one week before I was to move in with Banker Man that I saw the boy again. I’d been secretly speaking to him on MySpace (the cooler version of Facebook at the time). I went out with the boy for a night, and from the moment I saw the boy – now a man, I knew I was in love with him and I never, ever wanted to look back. I called Banker Man and broke his heart. I told him I couldn’t see him again, and I couldn’t talk to him, and I couldn’t look back on my decision. He didn’t accept that too well, and kept after me for the next several years to change my mind (even recently, he attempted to come back in my life) but I couldn’t. I can’t. I married the boy three months later. He still had the same 49ers hat and wore it often, especially when we went to the beach. I hated that hat because the colors weren’t right for his skin tone, but I loved him so much it hurt. It hurt us both.

The boy knew about my past. I’d always been honest about that with him. I even told him about Jammie and about Banker Man. I told him about all my feelings, whether he wanted to know or not. I know his mother was still worried about him. I was too. My feelings for Jammie were gone, and I only wanted to kiss the boy. He was the only boy I’d ever kissed. Even Banker Man didn’t get that honor.

I still struggle sometimes with feeling like maybe something is wrong with me, and I wonder if I can handle the memories of what happened to me. I have PTSD from the abuse. I remember wanting to kiss girls and the mental escape from reality that porn, medications and alcohol had been for me, and that it’s easier to escape into those behaviors than to face reality, but I fight those feelings with such intensity that it nearly breaks me sometimes. I don’t allow alcohol in my house most of the time because I refuse to go back to that place mentally. I make sure I’m being accountable when I’m on the internet, and I pray fervently when thoughts of homosexuality enter into my brain. It might be easier at the time for me to escape into these addictions, but it’s not what I need in the long run.

I spent years running from healing, from God, from Jesus. I bought the lies that the devil sold me over and over and over again. Jesus told His disciples that “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” and I know that it would’ve been better for me as a child if I’d never been abused in any way. Maybe I’d be whole now and not suffering from anxiety and PTSD. But you know, as bad as it can get sometimes, there is such beauty in this pain. There is such healing that can come from fighting so long and so hard for what is right, and what is true. I’ve learned through all the pain and heartbreak and stupid choices that there is a God and He can reach down to us wherever we are, and offer us a hand up out of the muck and mire of our own lives. I’ve learned that a lot of people are scared, and most never tell their stories the way that I have learned to do. Most people just stay stuck in their fear. I’m terrified. I’m still in the fear most days, but I’m so tired of allowing it to consume me. I want the blessings that God has given me. I don’t want to lose them or to sabotage them. As hard as it is, I’m running towards healing now. Sometimes I take a few steps back, assessing the situation, making sure it’s right for me, but it’s only because I’ve trusted the wrong people to help me before. I don’t want to make that mistake again.

I know now that homosexuality, at least for me, is a choice. I can’t speak for everyone else on the issue, (though I sometimes make the mistake of doing so) but I do know that for me, for Jammie and for my other friends who root their lives in homosexual behaviors, it’s borne out of pain and fear of the opposite gender. It’s a learned behavior that eventually becomes a lifestyle. I’d like to believe with full certainty that there is absolutely no way that people can be “born gay” but I just don’t know for sure. I’m not God. I’m not fully open to changing my mind on this, but there’s a crack open, because of what Albert Einstein said, and because I know how hard it was for me to fight those tendencies towards homosexuality.

What we need to practice is compassion and understanding towards those who are engaging in homosexual behavior, whether we understand it or not. Some people are so convinced that there’s absolutely no way they can every change, that we start to believe them, and really – in some way, they’re right. No one can change who they are without grace and without a willingness to allow that grace to permeate their existence.

I’m so grateful for the boy (Anthony) and his mother. They love me even when I don’t deserve it (which is most days, I’ll be honest). Neither one of them can fix me or heal me, or change me, but they can and do love and support me and that gives me the encouragement I need to keep fighting for full and complete healing from the past.

Christ has begun a good work in me, even long before I could see it. Every step I’ve taken in this life, Christ has been with me. He knows how I hurt, He knows what has happened to me. He knows what I’ve done, and He loves me anyway. He loves me – a broken sinner in a fallen world.

I fell yesterday. Broke into a thousand pieces. Stopped breathing during a series of panic attacks, and then I rushed myself to the doctor without telling anyone where I was going. I was afraid to stop fighting for the healing that I so desperately need. God is with me every step of the way, and He is with you, too. May my words and my transparency bless you in some way that the darkness cannot. For the love of your own healing, don’t let the darkness win. Shove your pain into the light and learn to fight harder. Learn to love those who don’t deserve to be loved, and learn to accept the love that others give you. God knows we need it so badly it hurts.

 

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

 

Teaching Forgiveness

This week I was talking with Anthony about something I felt I was doing all wrong, and he suddenly stopped me and said “You know what? You teach me about forgiveness more than anyone else I’ve ever known has.” I just sat there, slack mouthed. I mean, really? Me? I’m the woman who holds grudges from middle school because some kid bullied me for eight years, non stop. (I still don’t speak to Matt G and I have no intention to ever speak to him again!) So when Anthony told me this, it was all I could do to close my mouth, and then reopen it again to ask “What do you mean by that?”

He went on to tell me that it’s not usual for someone to forgive their abuser and then go on to have an actual relationship with them. (Non romantic in this case, folks! We’re related.) He told me about a person he had a recent encounter with who was going through a rough time in her life, seeking retribution for a similar type of abuse, and wasn’t getting it. He said that he still struggles with forgiveness, and he doesn’t get how I can move on from something so awful and pray for my abuser to find peace.

I’m not sharing this to praise myself. I’m sharing this to praise God! Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, God worked some massive healing into me and gave me a heart for all His people. I’m not sure how He did it, but He did. I pray for my enemies. Not just my abuser, but others as well, which Anthony pointed out. That is a miracle. That is something to stand up on the rooftops and shout praises to the Lord about! That is a miracle straight from God, isn’t it? (And now I need to look up Matt G on the internet and pray for him!)

I want to encourage those of you who feel like you’re doing absolutely everything wrong to stop and consider these words from my own husband. “You are beautiful and your life means something.” I know that he meant these words for me, but they’re also a universal Truth from our Creator God. You are beautiful and your life means something. You are not struggling or suffering in pain.

This is why I blog and I share such humbling, hard experiences. When we struggle, people are watching to see how we handle it and sometimes we really reach someone in that moment. It’s ok if it’s only one person, or even just one time that we reach someone. The fact is that our struggle was not in vain, and we helped to further the Kingdom of God. With our actions, we can spread the Gospel. Isn’t that amazing, brothers and sisters? No words necessary.

In Christ and In love,

Mandy T.

Taste Your Words Before You Speak Them

There is a very wise man at my Mother’s church who is constantly inspiring me to consider my surroundings and do better each day. Some of the pearls of wisdom that he’s imparted on me has saved me from making some pretty big mistakes in my life. I’ll never forget the words this man told me on my wedding day.

K.P.: “You want to know how to avoid an ugly fight in your marriage?”
Me: “How, K.P.?”
K.P. “Never go to bed angry.”
Me: “Ok.” (slight trepidation here, as that doesn’t seem to be enough to me.) “Anything else?”
K.P.: “Yes, when you get mad at your spouse, talk to him. If one of you tries to start a fight and then just shuts off, it doesn’t help. So you know what you do?”
Me: “Nope. What do I do?” (I’m an intrigued 22 year old bride now! I think he’s about to make a joke of some sort, as he’s smiling a big, cat-like grin.)
K.P.: “You look right at your spouse and you say ‘OK. Let’s you and me fight.’ and then you go at it until you’re done. But you can’t go to sleep until you’ve made up.”
Me: (open mouthed. What?)

But it’s been some of the best advice for marriage that I’ve ever received! It’s also led to some pretty sleepless nights over the course of our eight years of marriage, but Anthony and I have (mostly) stuck to that pearl of wisdom and every time we’ve stayed up to fight, we’ve resolved it within hours. Not days, hours. And we’ve had some pretty silly, knock down, drag out fights. But here we are. We’ve made it through a lot and I think that really says something, especially considering I’m an Aries and he’s a Taurus and we’re both extremely passionate and stubborn.

Something else K.P. (the wise man) has taught me is to “always taste my words before I speak them.” I just recently picked that one up, and I’m using it to my (and others’) advantage. I used to have a big, big problem with cursing. I know that I still curse from time to time, especially when passionate (or tired) about something, but it’s miles better than it used to be. I’m a work in progress and I’m happy about that.

Not too long ago, I was blessed with the privilege of being a part of my Mom’s church’s book club. We read R.C. Sproul’s the Holiness of God. I was the youngest one in that group by about 30 years. There were six people who regularly attended the group, including me. In all, there was a collective 370 years (give or take 5-10) of life experience and wisdom in the room, not including my 30 years. I remember sitting in the room, thinking “Wow. How did I get so lucky to be here?” It is a blessing to gain wisdom from your elders. Do not neglect this blessing when it comes your way.

The following wisdom from Titus, chapter 2 has surfaced to mind each time I consider the blessing of gleaning wisdom from my elders.

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Titus 2:2-5 NIV

 

I’m so grateful for people in my life who have mentored and disciple me thus far. I hope someday I can return the favor and pass it on to someone else.

Do you have anyone in your life that is consistently encouraging you to do good? Leave a note about them in the comments.

The Struggle with PTSD

When I was a little girl and very scared of what was happening in the night, I would hide under my blankets, sure that they were some sort of super power that coated me, protecting me from the world. I remember feeling so hot that it was difficult to breathe, but still I stayed under those blankets, afraid to move. I was so sure that if I moved even an inch, I would die. I would cease to be who I was right then in that moment, and I could not lose who I was there in that moment, because it was all I knew. 

I know this must sound strange – very strange to some of you, but it’s true. I remember it vividly. I still have those thoughts sometimes. Let nothing change, because I will lose a part of me, and I don’t know who is coming next. I’m not schizophrenic, though it probably sounds that way. 🙂 I’m talking, of course, about fear – fear of being hurt, of being abused, of being somehow “found out” (that I’m not as perfect, happy, or together as I seem to be). I do not want to leave this moment because in this moment right now, I know exactly who I am, where I am going, and what is happening to me. I do not want to lose control of my body, my mind, my emotions, or my choices. Sometimes I do not want to be loved, cherished, or held. I do not want to be a friend, a sister, a wife or a mother at other times because that may alter who I am in this moment. I am living, stuck in fear and it drives me absolutely nuts inside because I know that this is not the life that Christ has called me to. This is the life that Christ died to save. And here I am, wallowing in mud like a pig in a sty. I am the prodigal son who has not yet learned that he should quit eating the slop and go home to his Father. 

There is a party waiting for me. Angels will sing and Christ Himself will rush out to meet me. But I am not yet ready to go. I don’t want to lose who I am in this moment. 

It’s not that I think I’m all that great – I don’t. If you ask me what my flaws are, I’ll give you at least a dozen examples before I’ll allow you to momentarily interject. All the while, I’ll be thinking, “oh my God…what if I forgot something? I’ll be found out. I didn’t clean the toilet this morning. Shit. I screw up everything. I’m so damn lazy.” And I will have missed everything you said. When you’re done talking, I’ll smile and thank you, through a tear stained face because somehow a very small part of what you said did get through – but not really. I’ll forget it soon and cover it all back up with the muck again. Fear always wins. Because I let it. 

It doesn’t feel that way sometimes though. I do feel Him – Jesus. I do feel Him talking to me, surrounding me, embracing me. I feel Him changing me, growing me, urging me onward and forward. I think I’m obeying Him, but I’m never quite good enough. He’s so lovely, that Jesus. 

And there it is – the ugly, ugly truth. Welcome to my brain. I want to smash these thoughts, destroy them, delete them, but I know I can’t. I shouldn’t. Because they’re not just my thoughts. It’s not just my ugliness on display here. No. This is not a cry for help, though I’m sure it looks like it. This is a reminder that you, the abuse survivor who is trying so hard to be strong – you are not alone in what you’re thinking. This is a reminder for the soldier fresh out of battle (or maybe you’ve been home awhile?) are not suffering alone. This is a reminder for hurting souls everywhere – these thoughts are thought by countless others and when you think absolutely no one else understands what you’re going through, remember this: That is a lie. I know. And I’m sure there are others out there who know, too.

This past month has been so hard. For those of you that aren’t aware, I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). (I’ll post a link at the bottom of the page, for those who want to know more about it.) PTSD comes with a whole host of issues and problems – flashbacks, anxiety, dreams, inability to cope with loud noises (so much fun dealing with that one, with little ones running about), irritability, anger, memory problems, and a whole host of other issues. This week alone, I’ve dealt with all those symptoms…and more. I’m tormented by the abuse from my past, and it’s almost as if I can never, ever, ever escape it. It’s happening all over again…except…it’s not. I’m not there anymore. No one is hurting me. I’m safe and I’m making my own, healthier decisions. I’m not a kid anymore who has to hide from the boogeyman, but yet – I’m still in hiding. I’m convinced he’s coming to steal something from me and I just cannot run fast enough to get away. I am fighting something completely invisible and non-existent at this point, but I will never stop fighting. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12 NIV

 

I remember some of those nights under my blankets in bed. I had one recently. There was absolutely no one else in my room and nothing was physically out of the ordinary. Anthony was downstairs on his laptop doing school work and the girls were sound asleep in their beds, with both pets shut in their room.  Of this I am completely sure. Yet, as I lay under my blankets, praying to God to heal me, I felt something sit on my bed. I felt a heavenly presence surrounding me. Something inside me was very, very scared, but I knew it was Jesus. I had called Him and He came. I closed my eyes, and I saw an image of my beloved sister, Melissa who passed away in 2003 very suddenly. I saw her comforting me and stroking my hair. She was whole and healthy and beautiful. I prayed and cried some more. I begged Jesus to leave because I was not worthy to have Him here. I was so scared He would take my life, sinner that I am. He did not. He breathed life into me. He breathed Truth into me. 

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,

Colossians 1:13

 

God reminded me that I am beautiful and that I am not trash, but the King’s treasure. I am not a dog to be abused, but the daughter of a King. What happened to me was not my fault. I had no choice in the matter. I was a child. My innocence was stolen, not by a man, but by a power of darkness that lurks in this world, tormenting what belongs to God. 

You are not alone, survivor of abuse, fighter of PTSD. You are not alone in your fear, in your fight or your compliance. You can stand up and kick that devil in the throat and shut him up. You can get mad. You should get mad. Very, very angry. And then do what a very wise man taught me to do today. Count backwards, breathing deeply as you go. And then you tell that devil that you belong to Jesus. This is not his space. Fear does not belong here. And then drop kick that sucker right to the floor and smash him. If you’re any good at visualization, you’ll know what I mean when I say it feels so good to hit Fear right where it hurts. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – you have to fight this. You can’t give in to the Fear. You have to give this to God right when the devil tries to give it to you. You weren’t meant to walk this path alone, and you don’t have to. God has been reminding me that I am not alone, and this battle is not mine to fight alone. He’s been reminding me how special and amazing I am, and that He’s right here with me. When I struggle and feel like everything I am doing is wrong, He is right there reminding me that everything I’m doing is pretty right, actually, and He’s so glad I’m there talking to Him. Engage Love in a conversation and don’t allow Fear the chance to speak his mind. Even a whisper from Love can drown out the screams from Fear. It’s a reminder that I often need, and I’m sure you do sometimes too. 

A very controversial verse that Christ has placed on my heart is this: 

He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.

 

Luke 17:1-2 NIV

I know that it’s not my fault that I’m suffering right now. I know that Christ will win this battle for me. I just need to press into Him and trust Him. I am not the prodigal son who needs to come home, nor am I wallowing in the mud like a pig in its sty. I am a daughter of the King, who has been pushed, against her will, into the mud, and I am reaching up for my Father, for Christ the King, for God the Holy Spirit to come and save me. And He will. He always does. 

 

LINKS:

*PTSD: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20022540

**http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/symptoms_of_ptsd.asp

***http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml