Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Life...

Today is my birthday.  Forty-three years on this planet.  I have received many gifts over the years.  But I have to say that the best gift I have ever gotten was this gift of my life.  God has giving me life.  Not just a living, breathing type of life but a life to be lived. Sadly though, for most of those 43 years I never felt like it was really mine.   It seemed like it belonged to everyone else and I had little say over it.  It was like everyone else had access to my life but me.  God as well… especially God.  I can’t tell you how many sermons I have listened to about how ‘my life is not my own but belongs to God’ and how I ‘HAD to give over control of my life to Christ or how could I call myself a believer’.  Spiritual leaders can use these ideas to control and manipulate people… all for their own good mind you (that last bit was laced with heavy sarcasm).  If you are someone, like me, who really wants to do the right thing then this can be recipe for disaster.  Oh, you may be conforming to what you have been told God expects of you but inside you feel like you are in a cage with no way out.  Trapped.  And you begin to slowly die inside.  At least that is what happened to me.

Thankfully, something began to change in me.  God lead my husband and I out a very unhealthy church and I began to see things a whole lot clearer.  It is amazing what distance can do for a person’s perspective.  This whole idea of ‘my life is not my own’ began to change.  I realized that how I was seeing it was a little fucked up.  Not totally wrong but not fully developed either.  I began to see that God did give me my life.  As a gift.  To me.  No strings attached.  Because isn’t that what a gift is?  Can you imagine giving your kid a gift at Christmas and after they open it, you tell them that they HAVE to give it back to you?  What kind a gift is that?  It is not a gift at all.  And just as a parent wouldn’t expect or demand that, neither does God.  He gives us each a life and lets US decide what to do with that life.  We can choose good things, healthy things.  We can choose bad things, unhealthy things.  The point is that we get to choose… we are free. 

There is a part about ‘my life is not my own’ that rings true though.  There is definitely a theme throughout the scriptures of ‘yeilding to God’ and ‘letting go and trusting God’ and ‘losing your life to find it’ but it is not about becoming a drone or a slave.  It is a willingness to join yourself with God.  To be woven together in this perfect unity with him.  To be in the place that we were always meant to be.  That is a place I want to be.  But it is something God offers us, not demands of us.  And the only way I can give my life is if I truly possess it.  God wants me to want it.  And he is under no compulsion to force me into anything.

And that brings us to today.   A day in which I will be celebrating this life that God has freely given me.  A day in which I can begin to ‘give’ myself to God.  And even though it may be a slow process, with lots of bumps along the way, it is a sincere and honest one.  And that makes me smile and fills me with hope.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Magic Jesus

I have been a Christian for some time now and I am struggling.  Struggling with the whole idea of how God wants to change us… to change me.  How He wants me to grow and become more like him.  To be transformed and made new.  I mean, what does that look like?  How does that happen?  What part do I play in that?  What part does God play?  So many questions.  When I think about what my church experience taught me about growth I think it can be boiled down to two different things.  Either 1-Try Harder or 2-Call on Magic Jesus.  Since trying harder involves effort and work and lots of frustration, let’s talk about Magic Jesus (I will write about Trying Harder in another Post). 
If you have been a Christian for any amount of time the concept of “Magic Jesus” will be easy to grasp.  It is this mystical Jesus who will makes everything new and wonderful when you become a believer.  Does anger get the best of you more than you like? Wah-La! Magic Jesus will take it away.  Have a drinking problem?  Presto! Magic Jesus takes away your desire to drink.  Depressed? Shazam! Magic Jesus will make you happy.  Can’t seem to be responsible with money?  No worries! Magic Jesus will give you self control (or maybe He will “provide” money from heaven so you can keep spending).  You don’t have to be around it very long to realize it is total bullshit.  That it doesn’t work, no matter how hard you try (believe me, I tried REALLY hard to get magic Jesus to take away my anxiety and OCD but he never did).  What is so damaging about Magic Jesus is that you feel like there is something wrong with you when he doesn’t show up.  I mean, he seems to show up for all these other people right?  Why won’t he show up for me? 
I have a very clear memory of a Sunday morning nearly 20 years ago.  During our church service, a young man was allowed to stand up and share a story with the congregation.  He told us all about how the night before, he and his friend had been praying.  Apparently, his friend had a great deal of emotional pain from her past that she was experiencing.  As they prayed, God just took it all away.  All the pain. All the struggle. Gone. And she was now a healed woman. Wah-la!  Magic Jesus strikes again.  I remember thinking two things that day.  I wondered what I was doing wrong and then I wondered how she was going to feel when all the emotional pain came back and hit her like a truck. 

Now, I know that Jesus can do miraculous things.  I do.  I know he could take away and heal anything he wanted too. I just don’t think it is the norm, more like the exception.  I don’t think Jesus came to just make life smooth and easy.  I think he came to save us and set us free… from ourselves.  I think he came to show us unconditional love and complete acceptance. To show us forgiveness and mercy in a way we could have never thought possible.  I think He came so we no longer have to run and hide.  I think He came so we could face our shit.  I am beginning to think that growth actually comes from dealing with pain and difficulty.  At least that has been my experience as of late. This is where real growth and transformation can happen.   

There is something amazing that happens when I allow myself to look deeply at who I am.  The good stuff, the bad stuff.  The beautiful, and the ugly stuff.  When I begin to realize that I am deeply loved and accepted, just as I am.   That Jesus already knows all of this about me and is only opening my eyes to it.  It makes me understand Him in a whole new way.  And change can happen...in the core of my being.  Because I am no longer trying get God’s acceptance and love.  I already have it.  It is complete and lacking nothing.  So, I can face whatever I find lurking inside of me.  Those things that hide in the dark recesses of me that I am afraid to have exposed because who could love me then?  The stuff that I bury down deep because it hurts too much to feel.  Yeah, all of that… I can face it now. 

I don’t get all that with Magic Jesus though.  I may get a quick fix but in the end I am alone.  That makes Magic Jesus kind of a cheap Jesus to me.  Kind of shallow and empty.  Even though it is harder, I think I would rather have the Jesus that is willing walk through my shit with me and bring me to the other side… a little more changed, a little more whole.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


The past few weeks have been really hard for me.  I am confronting some difficult things in therapy.  It has been overwhelming to say the least.  At times, it feels as though it will consume me…eat me alive.  Some of what I am dealing with has to do with feeling like I am not allowed to make mistakes.  That I should know better.  That I am clueless and stupid.  These feelings come from long ago…

As a child, I heard “What are you stupid?” from my father often.  And if he didn’t say it outright, it was implied when I did something ‘wrong’.  Most of the ‘wrong’ things I did were task related.  I remember trying to carry too many things upstairs at once and them falling all over the place.  This type of thing would warrant a “What are you stupid?” from my Dad.  He never seemed to be interested in my thought process (making one trip instead of two seemed pretty smart to me) but focused on how I did it ‘wrong’.  Wrong meaning ‘not the way he would do it’.   I heard similar things from my Mother as well but in a much different way.  Where my Dad was focused on tasks, my Mom was focused on the relational aspects that I screwed up in.  For as far back as I can remember, my Mom suffered from depression.  Actually, we all suffered from her depression.  She could be really moody and I spent a good amount of my childhood walking on egg shells and trying to figure out how to change her bad moods to good ones. I also felt like I had to be a mind reader.  I have such strong memories of asking my Mom what was wrong… why was she upset and the response I would get was, “You don’t know?  Well, go think about it!” Awesome.  Obviously, I didn’t know, that’s why I asked.  Unfortunately, my take away was that I was thoughtless and stupid for not knowing what I had done wrong.  Consequently, I began to assume that everything MUST be my fault and I would own other people’s emotions and feelings.  I thought this was normal and right. 

So, here I am.  A 42 year old woman, wrestling with some difficult demons.  Feeling really fucked up.  Being really hard on myself.  And I am tired.  I am tired of trying to NOT mess up.  I am tired of feeling like I have to be perfect.  I am tired of hearing “You are so stupid” and “You are so thoughtless” in my head when I feel like I have messed up. 

As I mentioned before, facing this part of me, has been overwhelming.  Sometimes, I can’t seem to get my barrings and have no idea where to start.  Maybe I need to begin by embracing  my imperfections. To acknowledge that I am not perfect and NEVER will be.  And nor do I have to be.  That I am a broken person who is in a process.  And sometimes, that process is beautiful and sometimes it is ugly.  Maybe I need to keep telling myself that God fully loves and accepts me in this process.  That it is okay for me to accept and love myself, imperfections and all. 

I don’t know where this road is going to take me but I know that I have to go down it.  I have to face these demons, no matter how terrifying they are to me.  I have a feeling it is going to lead to some long awaited freedom and to an understanding of God’s love and grace toward me in a way I have yet to know.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

All Things Made New...

I want to dedicate this post to my friend Annie who lost her son, Ethan, this past year.  The pain of being separated from a child is more than I can imagine.  But it will not always be this way Annie. One day…all things will be made new. (For more of Annie's journey and story click here)

I can’t seem to get away from Les Miserables …. So bear with me another post. 

Whether you have seen the live musical or the cinema version, Les Miserables is filled with a cast of characters that are easy to become endeared to. In my last post, I wrote about Faninte and her sad story of a life filled with hope only to lead her to prostitution and death. Then there is Jean Valjean.  The main character of the story.  He served 20 years in jail as a slave.  We are talking hard time…brutal conditions.  All for stealing some bread, to save his nephew from starvation.  They didn’t mess around back then. After his release, he is pretty much screwed and doomed to repeat history out of shear desperation.  And he does. But the priest he stole from gave him a second chance.  Actually gave him what he stole and told him to use it to make a new life, a life lived for good and for God.  And he does.  He changed his name and turned his life around.  But he broke his parole to do this.  Enter Javert.  The prison guard/police officer that will hunt Jean Valjean for his entire life.  Relentless and unforgiving.  He doesn’t care about the good man Valjean has become, only that he broke the law and needs to pay.  So, as you can imagine, Valjean spends his life looking over his shoulder, trying to stay clear of Javert.  Trying to redeem himself from his past crimes.  Trying to make the wrong right.
It is the final scene that I can’t seem to shake.  Jean Valjean is in a church, dying, as his daughter begs him not to leave her.  He is torn.  He loves his daughter but he is tired.  So very tired.  He has been fighting for so long.  As long he can remember.  And he knows it is time.  As he sits on the edge of these two worlds, Fantine appears to him. She is beautiful and radiant.  She is healed and whole.  And she sings to him, “Come with me, where chains will never bind you.  All your grief at last, at last, behind you. Lord in heaven, look down on him in mercy.” And he lets go. He lets go of the pain, the struggle, the fight.  He takes her hand and she leads him from this life to the next life.  As she leads him, we see all the characters that had died throughout the story….all healed and whole….triumphantly singing.  It is a grand reunion.  And something inside me swells.  Something inside me cheers. What seemed tragic and final was anything but.  It was only a part of the story. A story so much bigger than we could see. The end was not the end but the beginning.
I think the reason this scene touches me so deeply is because I can relate.  I think we all can.  We know what it is like to struggle in this life.  We know pain… deep pain.  We know failure.  We know loss.  We know hopelessness and despair.  We know what it is like to get out of bed in the morning and have to fight our way through the day.  We know what it is like to be tired… to be done.  We live broken lives.  With broken relationships and broken bodies and broken minds.  We know that the world is not right… and we long for a happy ending.  A triumphant ending.
I guess I want to hold on to that.  That it will not always be like this.  That life will not always be a struggle and a fight.  That there will come a day when the pain of this life, as impossible as it seems, will become something of a distant memory.  I know that day will come.  I don’t know when or how but it will come.  I will no longer have to fight. All I will have to do is take the hand of those who have gone before me and let them lead me to the next life.  A world where we are all healed and made whole.  A world where all the wrongs have been made right.  A world where all things are made new.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Dreamed a Dream...

I recently saw Les Miserables with my husband.  It is a wonderful, heart wrenching story of sacrifice and grace. Of forgiveness and second chances.  Of those who think second chances should not be given.  Today, I am listening to the soundtrack and can’t seem to shake the story of one of the characters, Fantine.  She has become a prostitute in her desperation to provide for her daughter, Cosette.  Her song is entitled, “I Dreamed a Dream”.   She tells of better days, of the dreams she had, when she was young.  She tells of the man who came into her life and promised her the world, only to leave her when he was done with her. She carried his baby and now she carries the shame. Shame for falling in love, for making a mistake. She is tainted. Her life defined by a single act.  The world will make sure she never forgets what she has done.  They will make her pay; little mercy shown to a whore.  But not Jean Valjean.  No, He is a man who knows of failure, of mercy, of forgiveness and of second chances.  He shows kindness to Fantine.  He picks up her fevered, diseased ridden body and cares for her until she slips away in death. 

The irony of this young woman’s life.  She was accused and thought of as being a whore long before she ever was one.  Her only crime was falling in love and giving herself to a man she thought loved her. It was only later, after she was made an outcast that she became the very thing she never intended to be….never wanted to be. What choice did she have?  Her sin had been exposed; little grace is to be shown to an unwed mother.  Any reputation she had was shattered.  No one would hire her. And so she succumbed.  To survive.  To provide for her daughter. 

To the men who came to see her, she was only a body to be used and discarded.  To the world around her, she was only seen as something vile and wretched.  Her humanity gone.  It is so easy to dehumanize people.  To reduce them to nothing more than a societal problem.  An inconvenience.  Something to be disposed of.  I wish I could say that I am not guilty of doing this to people.  I am not.  For a variety of reasons, some of which I am not even aware of, I can do this to others.  Sometimes it is just easier, less emotional, to write people off.  To come up with a reason why they are what they are or do the things they do.  But this is not the person I want to be.  Not in the least.  I want to be someone who sees past the exterior.  I want to see the person.  I want to remember that there is a story behind ugly, behind the unlovely.  I want to be kind and compassionate.  I want to be merciful and forgiving.  I want to give second chances. 

I am so thankful for the people God has put in my life that have loved me when I wasn’t my most lovely.  When my body was fevered and sick. I am glad they were able to look deeper, past the ugly and to the me inside.  I am thankful for the Jean Valjeans in my life and I hope I can be that for others.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This New Year...

I was at the bank recently and the teller asked me of 2013 was going to be a good year?  I answered with an affirming YES but as I thought about it, I realized I have no idea what this year is going to bring.  I was struck by the realization of how little control I actually have over what is to come.  Will I have to bury a loved one? Will my husband lose his job?  Will I get a phone call telling me that the test results we not good? No, I really have no idea what this year will bring and that can be kind of scary.

The future and the fear of what it might hold is something I struggle with.  I have a feeling I am not alone in this.  It is hard not knowing…not being able to control the outcome.  I worry about my kids and the choices they will make.  I worry about my health; will cancer take me like it did my mom?  I worry about Eric dying and how I would survive that.  It is easy to worry once you get going.

There is a part of me that believes that by worrying I will somehow prepare myself for the things I fear. That I have some control.   That I will be able to get through it easier.  That it won’t hurt as much.  Which is the furthest thing from the truth.  In reality, worry accomplishes nothing good in my life.  When I worry about the future it only serves to cripple me in the present.  It robs me of experiencing and participating in the goodness and love that is happening all around me in this very moment.

I want to learn how to live in the present.  I think that is where God wants me to be.  He doesn’t want me live in the past or in the future.  He wants me to live in the here and now.  He wants me to trust Him with the future and not worry about what may come.  He wants me to enjoy the life he has given me.  He wants me to love and experience being loved.  He wants heal my hurts and make me whole.  He wants me to laugh and sing and dance. 

I don’t know what this year will bring.  I am sure there will be difficult, hard things I will face but there will also be good things as well.  So, I am going to try to worry less about the things I fear might happen and focus more on what is actually happening.  I am going to try to live in the present and leave the future to God.  I am going to try to live… really live.