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A Moment of Epiphany (From 8 Years Ago)

Note: This is copied from something I wrote in 2010.

Yesterday, my head hurt so badly that I couldn’t think straight and everything looked funny because of pressure on my eyes. But, I needed to make an effort in spite of it all because my neighbor and her baby had stopped by. My neighbor was sweeping up the crumbs on the floor and I was getting ready to take the trash out. My neighbor is nice like that — she knew I didn’t feel good so she swept the floor so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

I was gathering up the trash and having this inner monologue directed at God….

(Note from 8 years later: Please give me a little grace here — I’m not this childish and self-centered when I’m not sick — or else maybe I really did used to be this way and this incident really did have a profound impact. I don’t know. I don’t enjoy thinking about this portion of my life very much. All I know is I read this and shook my head at how self-centered this sounds.)

“You know, trash isn’t my thing. It’s cold and snowy and I’m a girl. I shouldn’t have to do this. Seriously…. I need a man here…. God, either You need to give me a man or You’ll need to do this for me cuz this is so not my thing.”

It was basically one of those “God, you have to do something” moments.

And He said, “Hold it right there, Missy.”

I knew it was God because everything — my brain, my eyes, my face — ached and I couldn’t put a philosophical thought together on my own if I had wanted to, which I didn’t want to. I just wanted to take the medicine my doctor prescribed and go to bed.

“Hold it right there, Missy,” He said. If you want my blessings, you have to submit to me and the things I put — or haven’t put — in your life.” Submission and passivity are not the same. Submission does not mean accepting things simply because you can’t change them. Submission is agreeing to not wallow in misery because your circumstances aren’t ideal.

*gulp*

“Submission is being open and honest enough to invite me into every area of your life,” He went on, “even the areas that hurt and don’t make sense and that you would give anything to be able to change.”

By this time, I had realized that what I had always thought submission to be — which was basically just sitting there and waiting for God to do something — was entirely wrong.

“Many people think they’ve submitted to me when they invite me into their lives. But I don’t make them submit. I prompt. ‘Hey, are you sure you really want to keep that part of your life in the dark away from the light of my love?’ The choice is yours. You can not experience me and my love completely until you allow me to permeate every area of your heart, mind and will. Even the broken and hurting parts.”

As far as I’m concerned, it’s so much easier to just let it lie and live the lie that everything is just fine. (I mean, except for the part where you lie in bed at night and think about how miserable you are because all that stuff is trapped inside and no one really understands because you’re afraid to even let God see it — as if He doesn’t already know, in spite of your amazing coping mechanisms.)

I guess God felt a little chatty, because He went on, “The key is in inviting. All of it — even the most hurtful and illogical parts — make sense to me. And as I walk through the pain and hardship and loneliness with you (after you invite me along on the journey), I will teach you the meaning and the purpose of it. I will teach you things you would never understand otherwise. As I walk through the valleys with you, joy will spring out of places of pain. I will draw you to myself, and as our hearts are cemented together, I will make you whole. This is what spiritual wholeness looks like.

“But, there’s a reason why that must happen. It’s easier to be emotionally whole when you’ve become spiritually whole first. It’s very hard to find emotional fulfillment — which is what you’re looking for when you ask for someone to take out the trash — if you’re not first spiritually fulfilled.”

That must be why Jesus said “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” I get it now.

And He concluded, “But it all starts with submission. It is a choice that involves being really honest. It’s praying stuff like ‘Lord, this is hard and I need You to walk with me or I just can’t do it. I can’t even walk without You holding my hand.’ It’s about asking me to be part of it, even though you hate it. There isn’t a valley in your life that is so dark that i don’t want to go there with you. If you invite me along, it will change and it will get better. I want to help.

With that, the garbage was bagged and ready to go and I felt like some of my internal garbage — some of the lies I had been believing about how dark and hopeless my life was — had been taken out too.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up. James 4:7-10

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Posted by on February 23, 2018 in Old News, Uncategorized

 

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Being a Boat in a Storm

Now, when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose and the waves beat into the boat so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace, be still.” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4:36-41

Sometimes we are like that boat.

Tossed about on uncontrollable and unpredictable waves.

Drowning in the Sea of The Unknown.

It’s easy to focus on the storm raging about us. Noise and chaos grab our attention and drown out any hope of sweet rest and peace.

But the Truth. Jesus dwells within my boat. He lives there. He is intimately acquainted with every minute detail of my boat. He knows exactly what kind of storm rages within and around me. He knows when to whisper “peace” and He knows when I need Him to shout “PEACE” at the chaos raging within. He knows the struggles. He knows the storms. The Prince of Peace, the One who made all that is with just the words from His mouth, calms it all with just one word. Peace. Be still.

Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:10-11

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2018 in Profundities

 

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Significance

In the span of two days, I had two conversations with people about how and why I’m not going to get married.

The first conversation took place after someone introduced me to an eligible bachelor. Several hours later, she asked why I didn’t talk about him after he left.

There comes a point in life when you know that no matter what you do, nothing is going to change and you just don’t try anymore because every effort you put into it just breaks your heart a little more.

I’m reminded of a time when my friend called me and said “My car won’t start! Can you fix it?”

It was so cold that day. I gave it my best shot and tears froze on my cheeks as I banged around trying to get that dang car going. By the time I gave up in frustration, I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes anymore. I cussed out her worthless husband who had more important things to do than to be tied down by his wife and children and their needs. I told her to tell him to get his good-for-nothin derrière over there and fix it. I took my tools and went home.

I sat there and shivered and cried and God said, “Some things are not meant for you. Fixing cars is one of those things.”

It was such a freeing moment for me. I wanted to help but nothing I could do would make a difference. And God said, “It’s ok. This trial is not meant for you.” I took a few minutes to brainstorm with my friend to develop a plan for next time — because there will be a next time. And fixing cars will never be a task that is meant for me. But that was the last time I worried about somebody else’ car — because that stuff isn’t meant for me and we have a plan for next time.

Marriage is another of those things. I will never be married. I’ve known this since I was 3 years old. Sometimes you just know these things.

I told my friend that I have no reason to think this will ever change because there was the guy who just wanted a place to live without having to put any money into it. She laughed and said he wasn’t worth my time anyway. Unequivocally.

Then there was the guy who told me I was hot while he was drunk, in front of the girl who had had a crush on him for years and years and she destroyed my life because of it. (Because it’s my fault he was more interested in me than he was in her?)

There was the other one who never showed up for most of the dates he scheduled with me because he slept through them.

My friend chuckled at these anecdotes.

There was the guy that my “friends” tried to hook me up with but I said no because I didn’t much feel like being a nice little doormat for him to wipe his shoes on for the rest of my life and when I asked why they were so convinced that he and I should be a thing, they said, “Because if you were together, he’d talk to you instead of bugging us all the time.”

Dang.

There was the guy who monopolized my time for 8 months and then I found out that he had a girlfriend in another state the whole time.

My friend had stopped laughing by this time.

The guy who kept giving vague promises of “maybe….. Someday…..” and ended up breaking up with me 4 times in the same restaurant over the course of about a year. Two of the breakups happened in the same booth at that restaurant.

The guy who hadn’t been employed for 4 years and was content to not talk about it until after I confronted him with the evidence I found 2 days before he came to meet me in person. It turned out that he looked like he was at least 25 years older than he said he was and he was looking for someone to be his mother or nurse or something. He was very disappointed when I told him that his dishonesty was a deal-breaker for me. Maybe I was a jerk, but I thought it should go without saying that no girl wants to be stuck with an old man who won’t work.

The guy who asked me to commit to seeing him not less than 4 times before deciding for sure about him. He emotionally and mentally checked out about halfway through the second date and although he was physically present for the other two, he never emotionally or mentally returned. He was shocked when I told him I knew half-way through the second date that he wasn’t into it and I had seriously contemplated telling him he didn’t need to come for #3 or #4. (Oh, why did I waste my time on that one?)

With a history like that, what reason do I have to think anything will ever be different?

Her response was “You need therapy.”

(I’m getting used to being told that I need therapy. It happens approximately 3 times a week these days.)

What reason do I have to dream of ever being something more than a pile of garbage to anyone? It just doesn’t seem worth it to make an effort toward this anymore.

A few days later, I talked to my grandma. My grandma is amazing. I love her so much.

Grandma was telling me about gifts she had made for my cousins and brothers for their weddings and I said in a dry, sarcastic tone, “I’m not going to get married so I guess I don’t get any.”

Grandma knows my heart. She knows I wasn’t asking for anything. I was just stating a fact. We’ve talked about the state of my life before and she understands better than anyone.

The next day, I drove the 3+ hours to her home. Last year, she and I and several other family members had gone on a genealogical expedition in which we had visited dead relatives in several cemeteries. My family likes studying genealogy and whenever we get together, Grandma tells me about the latest pieces of information she has found. It’s really fascinating and I love hearing stories about my people.

But it’s also really, really heartbreaking. There will come a day when no one is going to care about whether I had ever existed. No one will care where my grave is. No one is ever going to say “And this was my great, great grandmother Mari…..”

I cry about this sometimes.

Actually, I cry every time I think about it.

Some of my family members think I need to be part of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Mayflower Society or some such thing that I really don’t care about. Those things are for people who have children and people who have the possibility of having children. That will never be me. I wish they would stop asking me. It’s just another reminder of how insignificant I am.

Grandma told me a story about when someone wanted to get me into those clubs and I reiterated that I don’t see a point in it because I’m never going to have children.

We went about our business. You know, playing cards, fixing the stapler, and failing miserably at trying to fix the showerhead — apparently staplers aren’t the right tool for that. And, showerhead fixing isn’t meant for me either, apparently.

A little while later, Grandma brought in a soft, patchwork baby blanket she had started making. She said, “Would you like this to put in your hope chest for when you get to adopt a baby? I can finish it for you if you want it.”

I almost cried.

Yes! Yes, I want it!

I want it because it’s a symbol that someone believes there is hope, even when I just can’t.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Current Events, My Story, Uncategorized

 

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Hold Me Jesus

I began writing this in 2016 and just discovered it. Oops. I don’t know how to bring it to a conclusion so what you see is what you get.

Well, sometimes my life
Just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains are so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus, cuz I’m shaking like a leaf
You’ve been King of my glory
Won’t you be my Prince of Peace?
(Hold Me Jesus, Rich Mullins)

Those eight lines describe how my life has been the past several months.

It was one thing after another.

Attack. Rejection. Anxiety. Depression.
Pain.
Confusion.

Trying to cope.
Every person and place I turned was a dead end.
Friends.
Family.
Church.

I went through all the options and found no comfort.
At times it has seemed too much to bear.
The things that are supposed to help didn’t.

I cried a lot.
I was numb a lot.

I have cried through church so many times.

Through all the times I’ve cried “WHY??” and tried to give up on my faith and my convictions, I can’t. I’ve wanted to. There are lots of things I’ve wanted to do through the tortuous fog of pain. Convictions I thought I no longer cared about.

But I can’t.

Because no matter what anyone does, Jesus holds me.
When my life makes no sense, He is holding me.
When it’s too hard and too big, He is holding me.
When my faith is almost gone, He is holding me.
He sees my small and broken self, searching desperately for a place of rest and safety.
He holds me even then — even when I’m convinced that there is no rest and no safety, even with Him.

Through the pain, He is the Prince of Peace.
The nights I toss and turn, my mind and stomach twisted in anxious knots, He is the Prince of Peace.
The days that I’m overwhelmed by dirty dishes and snow and bills and having to go grocery shopping, He is the Prince of Peace.
The times I’ve tried to go to church and, He is the Prince of Peace

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2018 in Current Events

 

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When Your Safe Place is No Longer Safe

I used to love to write.

Words were my safe place.

In the peaceful solitude of the written word, I found comfort in my darkest moments. In the midst of chaos and upheaval, words grounded me. They allowed me to push through the hardest moments of my life.

Then something went horribly, awfully wrong.

My professors in college suggested that since I could express thoughts and emotions so beautifully in writing, I should consider pursuing a degree in writing.

Let me begin by saying that I do not regret exposing myself any of the valuable ideas and concepts I learned while pursuing this degree. Let me also say that I have utmost respect for my professors and I am grateful for everything they poured into me. I am absolutely grateful for them and for all of the things I learned.

But.

There is always a “but.”

I want to continue by saying that everything I’m about to say is a “me” thing. It is my problem and I have to be responsible for solving it.

Emotionally, I was a wreck when I entered the program.

That’s ok. Things happen, but “things” don’t have to paralyze you. Even if you’re an emotional wreck, education is good. It is helpful. It is meant to be a growing experience.

But for me, it wasn’t.

I entered the program having only ever written privately. I wrote for myself, which means that 100% of the time, everyone who read what I wrote loved every word, every sentence, every punctuation mark. I’d never been critiqued or offered guidance on how to be better.

I took Freshman English Comp and I loved it. For the first time in my life, someone wanted to read what I had to say and my professor loved every word.

It was September 2002 and we were given the assignment to write a reflection regarding September 11, 2001. I wrote mine and turned it in and then we were told that each group would be given one random paper for each person in the group and we had to read them and choose one to read to the class and comment on why we chose that one.

My group consisted of myself and a bunch of teenage boys and I did not enjoy this part of the assignment because they insisted on reading the one in which every other word was an expletive. This rankled my sensitive spirit.

Really, fellas? Really?

But then…. someone read mine. They said they liked it because it was so different from everyone else’ experience and that they thought there were many striking things about it.

Afterward, the teacher asked me to stay after class and she invited me to enter the writing program.

It was a difficult decision for me because I was very religious and felt that everything I did should have some sort of spiritual meaning. How do you get spiritual meaning out of putting words on the page to make pretty sentences?

I put this idea on the back burner for a couple of years. I wanted to be a nurse and I was going to do everything I could to realize that dream. But then there was Microbiology. I didn’t have a good grasp of biology to begin with and the class was hard for even those who had done well in previous science classes.

It was finals week and I was supposed to be studying for the Microbiology final. I could not focus. I knew I wouldn’t do well enough on the final and I wasn’t going to be getting into a nursing program. I tried to study. I gave up and I prayed instead.

I remember exactly where I was, sitting in my dorm room, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do now.

God, what do I do? I have nowhere to go….

And then I heard an inaudible voice. A searing of my soul. The words “You have a story to tell….” etched in my spirit. And peace, because I finally knew what I was supposed to do.

A few weeks later, I began my writing career. The first few classes were terrific. I learned a lot. I enjoyed reading everyone else’ work and providing feedback.

The problem came when it was my turn to be critiqued. I don’t know how other programs work, but at my school, during each class period, one or two students would sign up to provide a piece for the class to read and critique. You produced 2-4 pieces each semester and then you had to take the information you got during your session and use it to rework your piece for your final portfolio.

I’m not saying that this is bad or wrong.

I’m saying it ought to be done with utmost care.

No matter what your genre, you write from your experience and everything you write is very, very personal.

The feedback process felt, to me, like I had produced a baby and it was being stabbed repeatedly by people who didn’t realize that it was a baby.

But it went deeper. The “baby” was part of my soul.

Every negative comment tore me apart.

After 4 semesters of writing workshops, I produced my final portfolio, I participated in my Senior Reading event (which was actually really fun!) and then I was done.

I was so done.

I couldn’t even write for myself anymore. My words were gone.

Prior to graduation, I told myself that I was going to write a memoir one day. I gave myself a timeline. I developed a title and a rough idea of what the cover would look like. Four years later, I started this blog as a way to get my creative side going again and to brainstorm my stories.

I wrote what I believe will become part of my book. But the thing about memoir is that you have to be ok with your story. If telling your story traumatizes you, you aren’t going to get very far, very fast.

I hit a brick wall when I got to the part about going off to college. My story really begins in college and I didn’t have words for it. So, I gave up.

I have not written at all for the past several years. Not in this format, nor in any other. I haven’t been able to bring myself to do so because it doesn’t feel safe.

You have a story to tell….

It echoes in my soul in a tortuous way. The story is there, but it won’t come out.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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One Man’s Drama is Another Man’s Trauma

This afternoon, I was thinking about how certain people would respond if I told them some of the things I’ve experienced.

You know. Like, “this is gossip.”

Or “I don’t need to know that.”

Or, my favorite, “you’re such a drama queen.”

I realized that just because someone classifies something as “drama,” doesn’t mean that they’re right.

One man’s drama is another man’s trauma.

Victims of abuse and trauma are sometimes accused of exploiting their situation for attention. And yes, sometimes that happens. Sometimes people don’t want to be responsible for themselves and their problems. But not everyone is looking for a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

Many of us just want someone to acknowledge that what we experienced was real, it was painful, it was unequivocally wrong and it should never have happened. We need someone to acknowledge that it affected us then and it affects us now and it’s just not fair.

We don’t need or want anybody to walk on eggshells around us. We just need to be treated with respect in spite of it.

Some people are genuine drama queens. But the rest of us? We live in pain, hoping and wishing that someone begins to see us for the lovely people that we are.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Ideologies and Things

The other day I posted something on Facebook that some people find controversial. I stated that I wasn’t posting because I wanted to debate the topic. I just found parts of it interesting and whether anybody agreed with it was irrelevent to me. I understand that not everyone agrees with me and as far as I’m concerned, if somebody believes wrongly about something, in the scheme of things, it probably doesn’t matter very much.

Some things do matter. They really do. But, a post on Facebook is not the place to expect someone to experience a revelation that will cause an ideological change. I reserve those expectations for personal, private conversations in which the person I’m talking with feels as if they’re swimming in grace and love. You don’t get ideological change without drowning a person in love. It just doesn’t happen.

I posted the content with a statement that I don’t care what people believe about the rest of the content. Just consider this one thing that is absolutely, unequivocally true.

And somebody commented on it.

And commented….

And commented.

I told her that I had no desire to engage in a debate.

I told her that 3 times. Then she said “well maybe you don’t want to debate, but everyone who reads your wall deserves to know what I’m saying.”

?!?What?!?

I know the people who read my wall. I know that the ones who agree with her viewpoint already know what she has to say. I also know that those who don’t agree with her are not going to be swayed by words that are not backed up with solid scientific facts and that most will not be swayed even with solid scientific facts (with links to relevant studies) because they trust the truth of the Bible more than they trust the falliability of mere scientists. I’m sorry folks, but no matter what you say and do, you’re not going to convince someone with strong religious convictions of anything, unless you’re using the Bible, prayer, humility and mostly, a heaping helping of love to get it done.

She unfriended me.

Life isn’t about being right and because life isn’t about being right, debates have no meaning in the scheme of things. It’s ok if someone is wrong. It really, really is.

And, if you feel strongly that someone is so far off that you have to say something, do it gently. Do it privately. Do it with humility. And most of all, do it with love.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths (or through your fingertips), but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (or read). Ephesians 4:29 (NIV with itallics from Mari’s Culturally Relevant Version)

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 
 
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