“Used to Be” Me

0034For some unknown reason, every now and then I lose my sanity and choose to dive into the online dating scene. I’m not really sure what it is that sparks this craziness other than probably boredom and a bit of loneliness, but I can tell you it doesn’t take long to remember precisely why I never do it for long. Just in case you haven’t had the “pleasure” of this experience, let me see if I can sum it up for you.

Online dating is a tedious process wherein you must choose potential suitors from an enormous database of individuals. You search through images and profiles to find those you find attractive in some form or fashion, chat briefly online, exchange information, talk and or meet in person and then decide if you wish to move forward.

Oh, sure. It sounds innocuous enough except that, as with any online interaction, the reality of who a person is doesn’t necessarily equal who they present themselves to be in the virtual realm. The old adage “you can be whomever you want to be online” is absolutely true. Between decades old pictures and accounts stolen from others in order to be used by some Russian or Algerian prince who is “only trying to give you his millions”, the prospects become pretty…well…disheartening.

To be fair, though, dating through any avenue is difficult. It is inevitable that our own insecurities cause us to create “alternate” realities of who we are either in the way we look, act, or feel about certain things. Sometimes, we even completely mask who we are in hopes that our failures won’t become clear to those around us and then we end up losing our true identities in the process.

The song She Used to Be Mine, from the musical Waitress¸ speaks eloquently to this dilemma and it was in these lyrics that I found some truth about myself and my faith.

maxresdefault

I am, as the song says, imperfect. I am broken, hard on myself, emotionally messy, and have been known – perhaps more often than not – to be lonely. Life hasn’t given me what I had hoped for and there have been many times in my life that I neither recognized – nor much cared for – the person who stared back at me from the mirror.

For much of my life, I allowed the words that were thrown at me by others, the circumstances I found myself in, and the way others treated me to determine who I was and what my life would be. Life was, as Sara Bareilles so beautifully wrote, carved out for me and I chose to believe that reality rather than to risk the insecurity of changing it.

But during a recent online chat with a potential beau, I realized that had all changed. That is more of the “used to be” me than the current me. Not because something miraculous happened, but because of the persistent indwelling of the Holy Spirit which slowly eroded the false identity that the world created and opened up a clearer understanding of the life that God had created for me.

As the Holy Spirits presence in my soul has grown, I have become more willing and able to make bolder choices; to stand up to those who bruised and abused me or to walk away from those for whom standing up would be misconstrued or destructive. I learned how to fight for myself, to recognize my strengths, to hear God’s still small voice guide me and not question it, and to accept that my unique brokenness and messiness has been molded into a beautiful masterpiece.

Ok. I know what you’re wondering. What in the world does all of this have to do with online dating?

I am so glad you asked.

You see, the thing with online dating – and I suppose dating and life in general – is that we are all marketing ourselves; painting a picture of ourselves to others to try achieve a desired reaction, i.e., getting a date. But as I chatted with a man who wanted a “proof of life” photo to prove that I was in fact the person I represented myself to be, I realized for the first time that I am at home with who I am. All of the mess, all of the insecurities, my aging self, and my brokenness has all been blended together to create a person that is uniquely Gods and I don’t need to be bullied or coerced into being something less than that.this-is-me

Because of the things I have seen and been through, God has given me the ability to be truly empathetic to others. I can not only put myself in their shoes, but truly feel the aches that they feel so that as a Stephen’s Minister, I can walk with them through their challenges and struggles.

Because of the mercies and graces I have been shown, I am able grant these same mercies to those around me and to see a God that is bigger and more wonderful than our society often likes to portray. I can rejoice in the fact that His perfect will is sometimes painful to us individually but is wholly loving and just.

And because of the trials God has carried me through, I can be proud of the strong woman God has created me to be and know that the perfect people I need and desire to have in my life will be added when the time is right – in God’s perfect time, not mine. In the meantime, I am strong enough, good enough, and “reckless, just enough” to be the capable, independent woman I am and that being this woman is not a negative thing.

As I reflect back on the off and on relationship I have had with online dating, I am grateful that I no longer feel the need to actually “market myself” – to craft a profile that will attract a certain type of individual in hopes that he might be “the one”. Instead, I feel comfortable showing this online world who I truly am without fear of not being “good enough”. There is a fire in my eyes that God has placed there and that fire will not only attract the right person to my life, but will be the fuel that enables me to continue developing into even more of a beautiful “mess” than I already am.

Advertisements

Enough

iamenough-brenc3a9-brown-largeThe Olympics have recently finished and I have finally gotten back to feeling a little less like the worst athlete on the planet. I mean, seriously. Where do these amazing people come from? I couldn’t qualify for an Olympic event unless the sport was Olympic power napping or procrastination. I tell ya, if those were events, I would ROCK!

It’s funny, isn’t it? Even with elite athletes like those amazing men and women there are those who returned home feeling as though their accomplishments were “not enough”.  While I can’t imagine how painful it would be to qualify for an international event of such esteem and then not bring home a medal, the mere fact that one qualified should feel like a success, right?

But it doesn’t. Living in a world where nearly everything is competitive, it seems that we have to always be striving to be more than what we are; that we must be challenging ourselves to be “enough” and sadly, our faith doesn’t relieve any of that pressure.

As Christians, we are told from the time we are babies that we are sinners and therefore “not enough” by ourselves; we are unworthy to be loved by the God who created us. The mere act of being born has made us unworthy and there is nothing we personally can do individually to fix this. We must rely on a Savior, Jesus Christ, to cover up our sinful nature; remove our sins from God’s sight so He will willingly admit us to His kingdom.

Now I know I am supposed to feel amazed and in awe of the fact that God’s only Son chose to die a horrible death so that my relationship with His Father can be healed and maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Maybe that’s because I bring a lot of baggage with me to this whole being “enough” issue.

As a survivor of abuse, I often felt that being me was so “not enough” that I was really unworthy of better treatment from others. I was so convinced of this that I frequently put myself in situations that were abusive because I felt that was all I deserved. I had thought that attending church would make this better because church is where you find God and God is Good and God is Love.

But, at least for me, this was not the case. While the church didn’t tell me I deserved to be abused, it did say – and does still say – that I am not enough all by myself to be welcomed into God’s kingdom. I have to be more; different; changed. Now, while I understand the purpose of the message is to get people to turn away from doing things that are harmful to themselves and to the community, for a person like me, this just solidifies the internal belief that I and people like me are not enough. We never have been and we never will be.

And then it struck me.635936613667970449-1699337088_music-good-enough

This morning as I was walking and praying, I was reminded of some wisdom that I both read recently and has been shared with me in other ways in the recent past.

I am good enough just as I am because I am as God made me. Period. Am I perfect? Nope, never will be but then that’s not the point of my existence here. God placed me here to learn and grow in my likeness of Him, but because I am created by Him – in His image – I am good just as the rest of this earth and the beings on it are good.

Now before you get upset that and rant about how I sin and therefore make myself less worthy, let me stop you. I fully accept that I fail on a daily basis and am absolutely responsible for my own actions. God does not protect me from the consequences of my poor decisions but rather provides me with the ability to learn from these actions and make better decisions in the future. Additionally, God already knew that I would make these poor choices at the time I was sent down to this lovely planet. As I have said before, I do not believe that there is anything I have done – or you have done – that God didn’t foresee. The Bible says in Genesis 1 that God created the world and all that is in it and it was good. Period. Not it was good until; not it was good, but…nope. God created the world and all that was in it and it was GOOD.

Now, since I believe that God is good and because of His goodness He literally cannot create anything that is bad, that means that you, me, all of us are good just by being who we are. We may make bad decisions, we may do stupid things, but we are all good and therefore we are enough.

So where did this idea come from that we had to be saved?

Man.

Well, ok, Satan started it, Adam jumped on board, and we’ve been in this never-ending pointing of fingers since. The point is that God didn’t need to send Jesus to die for my sins because when I was created, I was already forgiven. God already knew what my life was going to be, how I was going to live it, and what impact it would have on others. The same is true of each and every one of us.

I truly believe that God sent Jesus not because we aren’t “enough” as we are, but for two entirely different reasons.

One, Jesus came so that each of us can forgive ourselves and continue forward on the path that we were created to be on rather than spend time feeling guilty for bad decisions. Second, Jesus came to remind each of us that we all fail in order to curb the need to point out everyone else’s failures as being bigger or worse than our own in order to make ourselves feel more worthy.

We as human beings strive to feel better by making others around us feel worse and God knew this would be a failure of our independent nature and therefore sent Jesus – and the numerous prophets prior to Him – to remind us that none of us are superior to one another.

enoughHere is the bottom line.

We all have the same pluses and minuses on our scorecard but in the end, we were all created by a kind, loving God who’s mercy, love and grace are always enough and created us to be enough just as we are.

We need Jesus because we to remember this life isn’t about us.

We need Jesus because we need to remember that being enough doesn’t mean we don’t need to learn and grow.

We need Jesus because our time on this earth is not about becoming “good enough” but about being a piece of God here on this planet at this time for His purpose.

 

Celebrating Dependence

25085-thinkstockphotos-478624257-1200w-tnI cannot believe it is already the beginning of July! Seems like we just celebrated Mother’s Day and now it’s time bring on the fireworks and barbecues!

I am a huge fan of fireworks and the celebration of our country. If there is really such a thing as past lives, I swear I must have been a soldier or somehow tied to the military because the patriotic songs and spirit that comes with 4th of July celebrations always makes my heart swell and my eyes leak. I believe that we as a nation have much to be thankful for and rejoice in but it is also important for us to remember that neither freedom nor independence is something that comes without cost.  As I think about this upcoming holiday I can’t help but be reminded that thousands have sacrificed their lives and continue to sacrifice so that I may have the freedom to even type this post and I am forever in their debt.

omaha-cemetary-22

We are a fiercely independent nation. Not only are we not ruled or tied to another nation, but we are independent in the way we live, work and raise our children. That sense of independence – being able to reach for and obtain a dream – is what has made America great. Unfortunately, as I look around our amazing country, I see that focus has been slowly been replaced a focus on “self”. Success is no longer about a scrappy immigrant coming to our nation and building a successful business with the sweat of his brow and the support of his faith and family, but about pushing, shoving, and climbing that ladder of success regardless of the cost to anyone else. The “I don’t need anyone to get what I want” mentality has been molded and formed to perfection over the past 240 years and I don’t expect this to change any time soon.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t see independence itself as a bad thing. I mean, I’m fairly certain nobody reading this would be a surprised to hear that I am a fiercely independent person. I grew up as a latch-key kid (for those of you too young to know what that is, it meant that I was home alone after school due to working parents) and quickly learned how to fend for myself regardless of the situation.   To me, the skills I learned growing up the way I did helped me to be more creative and adaptable. They have also helped me get through some extremely difficult personal times.

When my ex-husband and I separated 10 years ago, I was left with literally nothing – no
job, no money, no home, and virtually no support system. My independent spirit helped me find ways to dig myself out while my faith strengthened me.  I was able to pull myself up by my bootstraps and claw my way back out of the hole I found myself in. The sense of accomplishment I felgodlywomant when I found myself on the other side of that challenge was greater than perhaps any other I have felt before or since.  I literally praise God for it every day.

Needless to say, I am forever grateful for my independent nature. But there seems to be a growing problem with the way we personally identify with independence today and this has created a crisis of faith that has affected the entire nation.

By definition, independence means that one is free from “the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others,”(dictionary.com). Taken literally, this very definition removes the authority of God from our lives making each of us the center of our own little universes. As I look at our society today, it seems clear to me that this is the image of independence and freedom that we have been rapidly moving toward.

No longer do we as a country or as individuals long to be controlled by rules, mores, or (heaven forbid) religious ideology. We want to be able to not only believe what we want to but also to have the “freedom” to abuse those who do not think the same way or join the battle we have chosen for the moment. Our nation is so fiercely focused on individual freedom and independence that we have effectively created a nation of 300 million individual countries.

Sound ideal or terrifying?

To me, it sounds not only terrifying, but heartbreaking.

e60b95d2808f38272966617552fc640d

God did not create us to be independent but dependent on Him and His guidelines for our lives. We are made to be in communion with one another – leaning on each other, loving each other, and learning from each other so that we can all grow in faith and community and thus glorify the God that placed us here. Instead, we have returned ourselves to the slavery from which God released us.

I know. You’re saying “I’m not a slave! I’m free! I can make my own decisions, do what I want and live the life I want!” While that all sounds wonderful, I don’t believe this is true.

We are now enslaved not by physical chains, but by the chains of pride, greed, and selfishness and we are so weighed down by these chains that we often can’t even see that this ever-increasing charge toward independence has left tremendous carnage in its wake.

Our own identities have become so beaten down by the charge that we are often no longer able to recognize ourselves. We reach for others but the chains we have created are so large and convoluted they have become like barricades around us keeping not only our friends and family from us, but God. Our self-focus has made us each feel isolated and alone.

We have achieved true “independence” and we are ruined because of it.

0e059098fb66fc80f2ad4b863aa4bb5a

If you find yourself in this carnage, please know that you are not alone. God has not lost sight of you. He is there to minister to you, to release you from your chains, and to bring you to true freedom that can only be found in Him. The best part is, you don’t have to do this alone.  Instead, you, like me, can move back toward dependence.

Dependence on one another to carry us toward the goals we have on the horizon and on the wisdom of God to show us if these goals are His.

Dependence on our community to stand together in times of distress and the faith to know that even in the darkest times, God is with us and will provide a lamp for our feet through His Word, His disciples and His grace and mercy.

As you get ready to celebrate the birth of our nation, I sincerely hope that you will also celebrate a return to God-dependence and break free from the chains we have all created. If you feel you have nobody to walk with you through this jouney, reach out to me and let’s walk it together.

Not Even a Slap on the Wrist

“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.”

This disturbing and heartbreaking sentence is one I am sure many of us have read over and over again this week as we learned of the sentencing of Brock Turner, a former student at Stanford University, was convicted on 3 counts of felony sexual assault for sexually molesting a woman with whom he attended a college party.

While it was unanimously agreed by a jury that Mr. Turner forced himself on this unsuspecting and unconscious woman, the judge in the case only sentenced to 6 months in county jail, probation, and mandatory registration as a sexual offender.

6 months. 2 months’ time for each felony.

Not even a slap on the wrist.

Surely there must be extenuating circumstances, right?

Of course there were.

Brock Turner, as it turned out, is a swimmer of some esteem and the judge was concerned that a stricter sentence might negatively impact the young man’s future.

Interesting.

The judge, Aaron Persky, was concerned about the young man’s future but not the future of the victimized woman.

How did we get to this place where we care more about the rights of a person who may potentially be a successful athlete than we do about the people who are victimized along the way?

Sadly, this is a dirty little secret that has been in and out of the media for decades but one which no significant strides have been made for betterment of the situation.

In a survey of over 150,000 students at 27 universities it was discovered that nearly 1 in 4 female students are victims of sexual assault or misconduct.

That’s one in every four students.

I can only wonder how many of you reading this article today – male or female – would identify as being one of those victimized students.

The question becomes, then, why is this such a prevalent problem? Why do not more of those victimized persons come forward so we can change the dynamic?

Just ask Brock Turner’s victim.

As this woman so painfully learned, in a court of law the victim not only has to relive the experience he or she was forced to endure once before and likely has every waking hour since, but must also have every minute action of that given day dissected on the stand to allow the defense the opportunity to find potential proof that the person “asked for” the assault or misconduct.

We do not treat the victims of these assaults with compassion or grace, but rather treat them as science experiments – poking and prodding their actions and inactions trying to find the one place of weakness that can account for the actions of the accused. Perhaps it was what she wore or the way she was dancing. Maybe, as in this case, both parties had too much to drink or there were drugs involved. Maybe the victim’s memory is faulty and he or she actually did give consent but is now too embarrassed to say so.

It seems we will look for anything to remove the blame of sexual assault from the accused and place it on the victim. Why is this?

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that at some level, sexuality and intimacy are still issues that are forbidden as topics of discussion particularly in faith circles. Perhaps it’s because the actions themselves are so horrendous to imagine that we immediately seek to find some reason this occurred rather than come to terms with the fact that someone consciously chose to shatter another persons sense of self in such a drastic manner. Or perhaps at some level we as a society are still so tied to our patriarchal roots that we feel that men are innately aggressive and therefore these actions can be somewhat understood.

I personally don’t understand any of those “perhapses”.

Sexuality and intimacy are discussed throughout the Bible. They are one of the most significant gifts God has given to His people and they are to be treasured. To be still tied to the Victorian ideal that sex is dirty and therefore not to be discussed sets us up for victimization. Also, at a very basic level, assuming that sex is dirty presupposes that God was wrong to give it to us and is therefore fallible and not God at all.

To believe that sexual assault and rape are too awful to think about or deal with is, in this day and age particularly, ridiculous. We are faced with bloodied bodies and horrendous imagery nearly every where we turn our eyes these days. Yes, rape and sexual assault are not (always) murder, but to put these actions at a level different from murder indicates that they are removed from our life as human beings, not a part of it. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Sexuality and our ability to express and enjoy it is one of the things that makes us truly human.

I would agree that we are still  quite tied to our patriarchal roots, but that does not mean that we should accept aggressive and animalistic behaviors from men just because they are men any more than we should accept women being victims of rape or assault just because they are women. To suggest otherwise means that we are truly no more intelligent or morally responsible than the average dog or monkey. God created us to be more than the animals – above the animals. We have the ability to think beyond our animalistic instincts regardless of our roots.

So if none of these things are true, what is it that we have going on around us that allows for celebrities and athletes alike to be treated as more than just mortal?

To me, I think it’s because celebrities and athletes of today have become the golden calves of ancient time.

We are desperately seeking something greater than ourselves to make sense of the trials of our lives but rather than turning our eyes to God through prayer and study of His word, we are furiously making idols of anyone we think does something greater than what we think we are able to do. By doing this, we not only make for ourselves false idols, but we diminish ourselves in our own eyes. No longer are we important; no longer are we something of value. The lesser our own value, the easier it is to dismiss the things that are done to us which would otherwise be recognized as heinous.

Our job as Christians and members of other faith communities is to remember our own value in God’s eyes and help others to recognize their own value as well so we as a community can be the people God put us here to be.

I know. It sounds like it should be so simple but is in reality nearly impossible because in reality, what I’m saying is we have to acknowledge that no one person here on earth is greater or lesser than another. The homeless person on the street corner is just as valuable a person as the President of the United States; your favorite movie actor or actress is no more valuable a person than you are; Brock Turner’s victim is no less worthy of grace and mercy than Mr. Turner.

And that’s where we have the problem.

In our human eyes, we place everyone in different categories; on different levels of worth. But as Christians, we are called to see everyone the same way that God sees them. Each and every one of us was created by God and each and every one of us is loved by God equally. More importantly, we are all created by God so we all belong to the same family.

If we remember that we are all part of the same family, our hearts will break for both the perpetrator of a crime as well as the victim and we will work to provide healing for both members of the family because it’s important to the overall health of the family.

We don’t let the Brock Turner of our family off the hook for the things he did because of his excellence as an athlete or scholar or businessman or whatever. We help him take responsibility for them and love him through the process of making amends.

We don’t blame the victim and disregard her pain. We circle with love and help her move through the pain so she can let go of her anger and bitterness and come out the other side healed and at peace.

Now I know that this all sounds impossible and honestly, it is, particularly in this day and age. But here’s what I would like to believe.

If each one of us starts loving the people around us like God loves us, then perhaps there will be less brokenness around us. If we each respond to brokenness with grace and mercy, perhaps we can help heal the wounds that were created by another’s actions.

And if we each remember that God placed nobody – man or woman – above the other than perhaps we can begin to treat one another with the equality and respect we all deserve.

 

Book by the Cover

cat-window-waitingI have a confession.

I am a bit of a voyeur.

Not in a creepy peeping in people’s windows with binoculars kind of way, but I have to admit that I often look in the windows of cars as I walk by just to see what’s there. I don’t do it for any malicious reasons. Sometimes I look just to see what the inside of that kind of car looks like, sometimes its because it just happens to be where my eye land when I turn around, and sometimes I’m just curious to see if the inside is in the same condition as the outside

I often wonder if as I glance into these car windows if the image there is an accurate representation of the owner and how well they are dealing with the life around them. Does the mom-mobile with the juice boxes, Goldfish crackers, homework  pages and car seats look like the car of an average busy but happy mom or have the juice boxes and such so overtaken the seats and floor that just by glancing, you can feel the sense of exhaustion and anxiety emanating through the windows like sweat from pores?

I certainly think this can be the case. As we individually become so overwhelmed with the pieces and parts of our lives we are no longer able to do even the smallest little things such as cleaning out that trash on the car floor. Soon we don’t even see it anymore. Piles begin to grow and soon the only space that is habitable is the driver’s seat and steering wheel.

I recently saw a car like this as I was walking into a Barnes and Noble store and I at once felt sadness and fear for this person. The exterior of the car was relatively tidy – not new by any means, but seemingly  well cared for, but the inside had become a giant mountain of paper, fast food containers and clothing. I wanted to find this person and see if there was some way I could help ease the burdens in their lives.dont-judge-me

Now I realize that I am doing exactly what I was always told not to do – judging the book by the cover – and I also realize that despite the 3 second glimpse I have of that person’s life via their car’s interior and exterior I am absolutely incapable of making a well-informed decision about that person and their life.

And yet, glancing inside this car just opened my eyes to how broken some people’s lives can be. Sure, the person could just be the Oscar Madison of Colorado, but they could also be doing their darndest to function on a daily basis but the only energy they have is to try to make the outside as attractive as possible so nobody will see the mess that resides inside.

Fortunately or unfortunately all of us are really like that car. We may work hard to keep the outside clean and well dressed, but the inside is an episode of Hoarders. Room by room, our heart and mind are filled with the clutter that is past disappointment and shame. And people of faith are no better than those who struggle to find God in their midst.

herschel-walker-athlete-quote-lets-not-push-it-under-the-rug-or-pushFor years, I swept the corners of each “room” of my heart and mind trying to make it all look like everything was where it was supposed to be and I was strong and healthy, but the reality was that all of that garbage I carried around with me had been swept under the rugs and shoved in the closets and under the beds. I thought that if it all looked right, then God would bless me more or I would receive the accolades other were getting.

But that’s not how life works.

The hard part is I and every one of us have to do the hard work. We have to deal with all of that garbage that has taken up residence in our soul and be willing to throw it out for good rather than run after the garbage truck as it gets carried away and bring it back like a treasured toy.

A funny thing happens when we are able to do this.

We begin to see ourselves and others with the loving and gracious eyes of God.

We stop focusing on the little things that aren’t quite right and grant ourselves mercy.

We treat the people around us with kindness and acceptance.

In other words, the moment we accept that the judgement and criticism we express toward others comes from the insecurities and brokenness within ourselves thrich heartat we are working so hard to keep from being exposed we are suddenly freed to just live and love and see the world the way God intends us to see it.

Now I’m not saying that by slaying the dragons of your past you will no longer have any troubles. While that would be lovely that is simply not life.

What I am saying is that once we clear out the clutter and start with a clean space it becomes so much easier to deal with the garbage that comes in. Life becomes less about living from crisis to crisis and more about just enjoying life whatever it may bring.

This isn’t an easy way of life. Being honest with ourselves is often significantly harder than being honest with others but the end result is worth every teardrop.

At least, that’s what I’ve found so far.

I have not perfected this process nor have I overcome every burden, but I’m working on it. I’m cleaning out the clutter and working to have an interior that more closely matches the exterior. That way, when people do judge my book by its cover, they will get a good representation of what actually lies in the pages beneath.

 

 

 

Motherless Child

mothers-day-pic-848x350It’s Mother’s day weekend and though the sun has made the random appearance here and there today, it has otherwise been a cloudy, rainy day prompting me to spend more time than normal thumbing through Facebook posts and online news media. Everywhere I look there are pictures of friends and expressing their heartfelt love for mothers here or past. Looking at these pictures, I rejoice with my friends for their bond with their mothers and ache for them if their mother is no longer here but a part of me also feels a prick of pain for entirely different reasons.

My mother and I never had what one would consider a strong emotional bond. Though I have some positive memories of her and she certainly taught me some good lessons on how to behave and treat others, being with my mom was always fraught with uncertainty.

As an alcoholic, my mom was unpredictable and volatile. One moment, all seemed normal as we ate dinner or laughed at a show on television and the next moment, all hell would break loose. Her anger would erupt like a volcano as she spewed accusations, insults and threats to anyone near enough to hear. Physically violent or not, as these events occurred I would find myself withdrawing into my own little world to wait for it to end.

under stairs

I would hide under the stairs in my moms house and daydream of having the type of relationship I imagined others had with their mothers. I would picture us baking cookies or shopping, confiding in one another and always knowing that regardless of what life threw at us, we would always be mother and daughter, connected by an invisible, unbreakable bond. But this was not to be – my reality was different.

Reality for me means that my birth mom didn’t want me. Understanding the whys and hows didn’t and don’t take that pain away, they just soften the edges a bit.

Reality for me means that my adoptive mother, though she longed for children, would forever rage inside herself because she was unable to bear children of her own and maybe it was this failure that caused her marriage to fail; maybe it was me, the adopted child – the constant reminder of her failure – that caused her marriage to fail.

Reality for me means that the person I was told was supposed to care for me and shield me against the troubles of this world was the very person putting my safety at risk.

Reality for me means that the word “mother” is so tainted with negativity that I never really wanted to have anyone in my life assume that role for fear that relationship would turn out to be just like the other one nor did I want my stepsons call me “mom” because I was afraid that if they did, I would begin to emulate the type of mother I was was exposed to growing up.

Reality for me meant I longed to be a “motherless child” because I were truly motherless, I could write my own definition of what a mother is supposed to be. That word would not be colored with my own experiences but would be fresh and new.

As I look now at my boys and how they have grown up I realize that through my faith in God, I have been able to rewrite what motherhood means. God has allowed me to overcome the fear that kept me from letting them get too close to me emotionally and instead has shown me how to open my heart to them without reservation.

godhealsbanner

God has allowed me to embrace my boys and provide them as much unconditional love and support as I can. I will not always agree with their choices or actions, but I will always love them and I am constantly striving to show this to them.

God has allowed me come to see that in being a “motherless child” my trust has to be on Him, the only One that can truly provide the unconditional love, support and guidance I was seeking from my earthly relationships.

Does this mean that not having children of my own doesn’t still ache? No.

Does this mean that the sense of loneliness from not having that mother figure in my life has been eliminated? Again, no.

What it does mean is that God has shown me there is a greater purpose at work here.

God in His infinite wisdom created in me a heart to turn to Him in my pain and loneliness and find there the tools to minister to others whose lives were similarly challenging.

God has given me the ability too look on my past with new eyes – eyes of love, mercy and grace. I cannot change what happened, but I can accept that the things that happened were done by hurting, broken people and that my mom, in her brokenness, was unable to save herself let alone me.

Finally, God has shown me that there is nobody who is truly motherless or fatherless. We were all created by Him at His perfect time, in His perfect will and allowing the difficulties of this world to take replace that knowledge is the only way I could ever be truly orphaned.

Carl Jung

 

J is for Justice

social-justice-quotes-8The People vs. O.J. Simspon has been on television recently and I have to admit that while I love a good courtroom drama, I have not watched it. I hear it’s excellent and I may choose to binge-watch it at some point, but I remember being so angered by the entire thing the first time I’m not sure I could stomach it a second time. But with all the buzz about this show, I have thought a lot about that trial and similar trials that have occurred since and and struck by how difficult the concept of justice truly is.

The problem is that justice looks completely different depending on which side of the issue you reside on. Think about it. If your son or daughter is accused of something – let’s say something terrible like a cold-blooded murder – it would be difficult for you to believe your child was capable of such an act unless they were under duress or there were extenuating circumstances. You might feel that justice would be served if your child were found not-guilty or if the charges were reduced and the sentence light whereas the opposing side – the side that lost a someone close to them – would feel that justice would only be served if your child were to be given a life sentence or even the death penalty.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
I believe in our justice system. I truly believe that we need rules and those rules need to be upheld by a justice system in order to maintain a society that is humane and civil. I believe people need to be punished for their wrongs and have even sought assistance within the justice system myself, but there are some things that the justice system cannot provide retribution for. Most significantly, justice cannot heal injuries to the heart.
This month, April, is child abuse prevention month. I have been reading a number of posts and articles about abuse and what it has done to alter the lives of those affected and it breaks my heart.
quotes-control-reduced-maya-angelou-480x480I, like many of the writers I have been following on the subject, was a victim of abuse as a child.I have been there – I know how hard it is to look in the mirror and see something other than a used piece of meat. To this day, I have a difficult time accepting compliments because in my past, a compliment was typically tied to some really ugly strings. But I have worked very, very hard to overcome the obstacles that past abuse caused me to build.
There are not many people that know my entire story, but for those that do, they are often shocked that I do not and have not sought what they would consider justice. From their outside perspective, they would love to go pound on the door of each of these individuals homes and make them somehow pay for what was done to me.While I appreciate the outrage these people feel on my behalf, I have pointedly not chosen to do this.
Now granted, when I was younger, I probably would have liked someone to come racing in on a white steed, sword swinging to behead my personal offenders…
…or something less Disney-esque…
…but through the years I have come to a place where I believe fully that justice is not for me to seek for these past wrongs. I know that probably sounds crazy to you and in reading the stories I have read about those who have suffered abuse, many would probably assume I haven’t “dealt with” the pain I suffered. There are many who get some level of healing by confronting their abusers and for them, I say “huzzah!” but for me, this is not the road I have chosen.
It might have been easier had I chosen that road many years ago. Instead, I wandered through times of playing the victim, being angry at the world, and throwing myself in the more and more dangerous situations because I felt I didn’t deserve any better. ButI thankfully came out the other side and in so doing, I realized several things about myself and my beliefs.
First, I am not a vengeful person. The reality is that regardless of how badly I treat someone that abused me in one form or another, I cannot get back the innocence that was lost or the repair the damage that was created. Even if I were to do them exactly what they did to me the only thing that would be broken would be my sense of peace for harming someone else.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, I believe that if I focus on trying to seek retribution for wrongs done to me – regardless of how big or small they may be – I am allowing that person to injure me again and again. I am allowing that person to keep a space in my mind and my heart that they do not deserve to have. Worse, because I am allowing negative people to reside in my heart, that allows less space for those who love me to be. Why on earth would I want to reduce the amount someone could love me today because of something that was done to me years ago?

Third,  I believe that my God -the only truly objective entity – can determine what justice needs to be provided in all situations and I fully trust He will take care of those things when the time comes. It is not my job at this point in my life to seek “justice”. My job is not to be bitter about my past, but to choose peace, joy and truth.

The funny thing is, in seeking these things, I actually do receive a form of justice.

My justice is found in the fact that those people who hurt me didn’t win. I was not destroyed or beaten. I am not bitter and I am not angry. If they were to come into my life again for some reason, while I would certainly keep my distance as needed, I would treat these people with grace and mercy.

I’m not saying this form of justice is easy, but I can say, at least from my perspective, it is much more rewarding than all other options.

Ghandiunnamed