The Idea of Christmas

blue-christmas-balls-1448214910psqI love the idea of Christmas. The lights, the beautifully decorated homes, the snow gently falling and covering the remaining leaves and grass that has lost its color from the summer leaving a beautiful, crisp whiteness to the world and creating a picture of mystery and expectation. The “joy of the season” is something I ache for, but for me – and for many – the parties, the constant reminders of others happiness like wedding engagements, anniversaries and new babies, and the overall excitement of the Christmas season does nothing more than drive home the fact that those things are not my/our reality.

I’m Christian – this time of year is supposed to be full of wonder, miracles and joy if for no other reason than it’s the time we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. But aside from the time that I get to sing some truly amazing music, those feelings often escape me.

I have thought long and hard about why I struggle so mightily at Christmas. Maybe it’s because my birthday is close to the holiday that my birthday celebrations often get lost in the shuffle. Maybe it’s because growing up in an alcoholic home, celebrations often became times filled with anger and fear and I am left with residual anxiety of what may come. Or maybe it’s because of the commercialism that has overtaken the true meaning of the season.

I think in all honestly, at least for me, it is all of these things that combine to make me feel sad, lost and alone with an overall sensation of not being “enough”. I don’t think I’m alone in this, either.

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Social media and neighborhoods alike capitalize on the race for the most grandiose or outlandish décor. Regardless of how beautiful someone’s home may be, whatever was done last year isn’t “enough”. Similarly, party planners struggle to find more unique and spectacular holiday celebrations in an attempt to outdo last years’ events because, for whatever reason, that last party wasn’t “enough”. And gifts? Forget it. Commercial after commercial shout about how we don’t have enough or we are “not enough” without this new car or that new wardrobe or some other new home. We as individuals are never enough without that next big thing.

What makes me feel even sadder is that this same message is often proclaimed just as loudly in the church as it is outside of it. In the one place that I want desperately to feel whole I am reminded time and again that I – just as I am – am not enough.

Ok. I can practically hear you screaming at me through the computer screen now. That’s not what the church says! That’s not what being Christian is about! And while I would agree that this is not what being Christian is about, I would have to say that we, as a body, often talk out of both sides of our mouths on this matter.

On the one side, we say that each and every one of us is precious to God; that He created us each to be unique and beautiful in our own ways. We proudly proclaim, “God loves you!” to anyone who is alone or hurting, encouraging these individuals to remember they aren’t alone; they haven’t been forgotten or abandoned and that they can come just as they are to receive His love, mercy and grace. We seek ways to include everyone in the message of Christmas and send packages all around the globe to ensure nobody feels forgotten at this special time of year. This is all wonderful, but there is another side to this.

The other side is where we as the church perpetuate the commercialism of Christmas by worrying more about whether children have presents under their tree than if they know what the true meaning of Christmas is or worry more about the musical or theatrical spectacle our church is able to present because the church down the street is doing something really grand this year and we want to make sure that what we are is going to be “enough”. Most importantly, to me at least, we are told that despite this lovely season, we as individuals are and will always be sinners, unclean and unworthy.

In other words, not enough.

To me, this message echoes what I have been told from those outside of the church – I can come in, but regardless of what I do or how hard I try, I will never be “enough”; I will never be pretty enough, talented enough, intelligent enough, desirable enough, faith-filled enough, or a good enough Christian. And all of this seems to be magnified during the holiday season as image after image in my mind and around me seem to reflect what I perceive to be others successes. I am left feeling beaten down; defeated.

By now you’re probably wondering just what the point of this article is. Am I doing my best to make you feel as depressed as I sound?vhq8l

Actually, no.

Here’s the thing.

Being sad during the holidays is not something to be ashamed of. It is a reality that many of us face for a wide variety of reasons. Just do a quick Google search on “Christmas sadness” and you will see just how widespread this problem is. Maybe this is a new thing for you or maybe, like me, you struggle a bit every year. Regardless, it is important to know that despite how it may feel, our feelings are not “wrong”. We are not alone and we do not need to cover up our struggle and pretend all is well. Most importantly, we are – all of us – truly “enough” just the way we are even when we don’t feel this is the case.

We do not need to search for that new person, item, job or experience to be “enough”. What makes us “enough” is the real joy of the season – that our Savior was born not to free us from being who we are, but rather born to fill us with a greater understanding of who (and whose) we are and how great that is.

We are each unique individuals created by God to be just who we are. God does not make mistakes and doesn’t compare the way each of us walk through this life hoping and wishing we would be just like our “better” brothers and sisters. Certainly, God created us to experience joy but He didn’t build a specific “Christmas joy” emotion that is either broken or forgotten in those of us that don’t experience this the way we think we should. Instead, He created grace, love and understanding to help us move through these difficult times and help others along the way.

Throughout the years, I have gathered some methods to cope with the “Christmas Blues”. Here are just a few:

  • Set realistic expectations: None of our Christmas celebrations are going to look or feel like a Hallmark movie. Do your best not to go into a situation hoping that this one time it will all live up to the movie in your head.
  • Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outside: Remember that we all have masks we put on in public. None of us has any idea what is going on inside someone else at any given moment and just because someone looks like they are having the time of their life doesn’t mean that’s their reality any better than yours.
  • Don’t isolate: It is easy to hide from others when we feel depressed but that isolation only contributes to the feelings of sadness. Do your best to reach out to those around you and, more importantly, be willing to accept their love and care.
  • Attend a Blue Christmas or similar healing service: Many churches offer a “blue Christmas” service which is an opportunity to, through music, prayer and meditation, come for healing and comfort for those struggling during the holiday season. These services are often non-denominational and very easy services to attend regardless of where you are in your faith walk.
  • Be the imperfect perfection you are: None of us is perfect and regardless of how hard you try, this season will not be perfect either. Relax into the imperfection that is being human and living life.6031-christmas-messages

As we enter full force into this Christmas season, I wish you all joy, hope and peace. Mayyou sense God’s presence, know you are His and, despite what the world may indicate, you are truly “enough”. You are enough because God chose to create you. Period.

 

Merry Christmas.

 

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Judgment

Judgement Day. That day when the trumpets will resound, the earth will cease to exist the way we know it today, and the Lord will make His way to use on a chariot of white steeds. It’s a day that believers see to equally anticipate and dread and it seems as we get closer to Christmas, the return of Jesus our human mind turns to the concern about what will happen when this actually occurs.

Our church has discussed this topic a good deal during the Advent Season. It makes sense. Here we are a mere 10 days from the celebration of the birth of our Savior and it’s only logical that we talk about what happens next.  I must confess, however, that the more I listened to the messages about this fantastic event, the more I had to wonder if the idea of a judgement is truly a God-inspired thought or the result of the mindset of the Gospel readers.

During my time studying at various biblical and non-biblical schools throughout my life it has been made pretty clear that the disciples, even to the end, had a hard time reconciling the idea of a peaceful savior. They, like us, were looking for a military leader; a King to come and destroy their enemies and put them in a place where they felt honored and respected. They wanted to see those who had been oppressing and enslaving them crushed so they could smirk in cool satisfaction as their cries were finally heard and their prayers answered. Maybe they, again like us, were hoping to see the roles reversed so they could treat their oppressors as abusively as they felt they had been treated.

Of course this is understandable. Of course those who have been enslaved ache for redemption from the horrendous life they have lived but the dividing of good versus bad as described by John in Revelation feels, at least to me, more like a human desire than a Godly vision.

Let’s just take a moment to look at it.

If we as Christians have truly been saved from our sins; if all of our wrongs have been made right do to our faith in Christ; if our hearts have been changed and we, despite daily failures, are striving to serve the One we love and worship (some days more than others, of course), what then will we be judged for on Judgement Day?

Will God be holding court for all of us individually, as represented in the movie Defending Your Life?

If so, then God is just as hypocritical and passive aggressive as our worst enemies.

You may think I’m must being blasphemous, but I truly think the Bible supports me in this.

According to Psalm 103:12, the Lord promises to move our transgressions as far from us as the East is from the West. He’s already forgiven us and forgotten the things we have done.

Well, actually, He knew we would do them before we did them, had already forgiven these actions by the time we asked for forgiveness, and has directed our paths from that point forward so we can be where He wants us to be now. Unlike our human mind, God is actually able to truly forget the evils we have done in the past and does not need to remind us of them. It’s not as if He’s going to show us all of our worst moments and say after each one of them “I forgave that one…and that one…and that one…” My God is not a god who thrives on humiliation nor does He want us to feel guilt for things that have been put in the past.

The God I believe in wants to rejoice with us for being with Him; for making the choices we made so we could learn the lessons we needed to learn. I have already been judged and forgiven. It’s done.

Okay, you say, so maybe He’s judging the non-believers or the murderers or the rapists. He’s judging those who do heinous, unforgiveable acts here on earth.

Well, in theory, I get that. But hasn’t He already done that?

Assuming that He needs to wait until the end times assumes that He lives in the same linear fashion that we do and therefore won’t know the condition of our hearts – our choice for or against faith – until the day we die or the day of His 2nd coming but to believe this flies in the face of who I believe my God to be.

My God already knows the condition of my heart and those around me.

Despite our humanity and all of our sinful actions (and mine have been far too many to count), He knows what we truly believe and what we don’t. He knows each and every choice we will ever make and He knows the end result of our lives. Only He knows what will happen to those who fail to acknowledge Him and I don’t believe that part of that plan is for us to be all standing in one room watching while perhaps those we loved while here on earth are sent away from us for eternity. That would only cause us pain and the Bible says that there is no pain in heaven. Isn’t that one of the things that defines heaven?

Here’s the bottom line…

…at least from my humble perspective.

God has created each of us with the ability to seek Him and become like Him. It is His greatest desire we will seek Him, fall in love with Him, and seek to serve Him in every way we can. Perhaps He gives us all the time we need in this life – and maybe even others (gasp!) – to find our way to the right place. Regardless, I believe that if indeed there is a final day, the Lord will come to us the same way He did before…and the way He told us He would come.

There will not be trumpets blaring or cymbals crashing. There will be no 7 horsemen or destruction of the evils of this world – at least, not by God.

We will not know the day or the moment. He will come as He told us He would throughout the New Testament….like a thief in the night. He will not come to shatter, crush or destroy but to heal, restore and bless.

And this, my friends, is the kind of second coming I can truly rejoice in.

 

 

Bump in the Night

hide-under-bedThe crash from the apartment upstairs shook my ceiling and bolted me awake, heart thumping and sheet clutched to my chest.

The clock on my bedside table read 2:27 A.M.

I sat in the dark trying to slow my heart and sharpen my ears to listen to new sounds, new indications of what was going on above me. Was there an argument? A break in? My mind immediately went to the worst scenarios and started planning for how to assist.

A voice raised and I heard another bang!

My breathing became more shallow to try to make sure my presence wasn’t heard. Silly, of course, since I was one floor down and there no indication anyone was concerned about either disturbing me let alone worried if I heard their activity.

As I closed my eyes and waited, I heard raised voices…

…and then laughter.

All is well. Just some 20-somethings screwing around after a night at the clubs.

And yet, for me, sleep would likely not come for the rest of the night. I was awake with my demons again. Sure, I would likely doze for the next few hours, but my “spidey” senses had been sparked into action.

Now I realize my childhood was not the stuff of horror stories. I wasn’t raised in the inner city, leery of gunshots and drug dealers at every corner. Nor was I beaten so severely I was hospitalized for my injuries or worse yet, forced to live with broken bones to hide the abuse. Compared to that, my life was idyllic, and yet to this day I suffer from PTSD issues stemming from nights like this when the loud bangs led to screaming, throwing of drink tumblers shattered against the wall, glass shards embedded in the wall for years to come and me, cowering in my bedroom praying that the battles outside of my door would stay there.

Sometimes these things ended as quickly as they began. Drunken voices trailed off down the hall as my mother and stepfather made their way to the bedroom to sleep off some of the bourbon from the day. But sometimes the rage came through my door, dragging me from my bed to take care of some forgotten chore or another. Rarer still, but even more frightening,the door would open quietly, softly, the figure of a man – someone my mother trusted and confided in –  would enter to create nightmares in a completely different way.

ptsd-cloudTo this day, despite the years of therapy and work, raised voices make my heart stop in fear. I know in my head that a raised voice doesn’t lead to crisis; that some people just talk loudly out of necessity or habit, but in my heart still resides that irrational place; that basic instinct that has been honed by the fight or flight response over the years and is not convinced the danger has passed. Part of the reason is that despite all of this work, I still managed to marry two me who, in their own ways, helped reinforce those feelings of fear and trepidation. Though I managed to escape the place where my nightmares began, I spent years finding others who would use manipulation, lies and emotional abuse to keep me off balance.

So here I am, a blogger professing faith and confidence in the Lord and in His grace and mercy still haunted by decades-old memories that still have power over me in moments like this. Why is this? Shouldn’t I, as a person of faith, feel secure in the grace, mercy and power of my Lord? Certainly those who don’t believe think that should be the case.

I understand. I have fought this battle for a long time and have heard many atheists angrily shout their belief that the fact that these things happened to me in the first place was absolute proof that there is no god; that a loving god, like the one I profess to believe in, would not allow his children to suffer.

Perhaps they’re right.

But I don’t think so.

As the news blatantly proclaims every moment of every day, nobody is saved from suffering. From the youngest to the oldest of us, the headlines scream the horrible things men and women are able to do to one another out of greed, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or pure evil. But the thing is, God never said that we wouldn’t suffer. Even Jesus, who lived a sinless life and was God had to suffer. He suffered temptation, starvation and dehydration for 40 days in the desert, suffered criticism and anguish throughout his ministry, suffered the loss of friends and family due to illness, injury and abandonment, and then suffered untold fear, pain and physical pain at the end of His life. Jesus came to this earth so that He could experience sufferings from our human perspective in order to give us a true representation that with faith, all suffering could be conquered, not that with faith we would be saved from suffering.

See the difference there?

 

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Faith provides each one of us the ability to call upon the Lord and receive His peace in times of fear and strive.  Even in those dark nights when I am awakened by every day sounds that remind me of not-so-ordinary circumstances, my prayers for peace are answered without question.

Perhaps more significantly, unlike some people that may shame us for our fears and insecurities urging us to “get over it” or “move on”, God doesn’t mock  or shame us for being afraid of the things in our lives that we find challenging. In my life, God doesn’t ignore my cries for peace due to my inability to dismiss those noises for the innocent things that they are. He loves me, understands my fear and walks with me through it.

This, my friends, is just a tiny glimpse into the peace Jesus promised His believers; the peace that passes all understanding.

God doesn’t need to know why we need comfort because He isn’t going to try to explain away our feelings of distress or shame us out of expressing it. Our God readily provides peace to us not only because He already knows what our struggles are, but also because He doesn’t need to know why. We ask and He provides.

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Even more importantly, God also gives us the courage to head into the fearful circumstances of our lives. He is that still small voice in our heads and hearts that tells us that we can move forward despite the seemingly insurmountable odds. He does not promise we will always win because the reality is that we won’t. What He does promise is that when we reach out in faith and ask, He will provide the peace in our heart to acknowledge the fear, the courage and strength of character to try despite the understanding that we may fail, and the ability to reach out in faith when there is no visible rope to grab on to.

Here’s to hoping that if you, like me, have demons that go bump in the night, you, too, have the faith to reach out for peace and courage.

Hard to Say Goodbye

13667727_10206694363826567_1814928283392333504_oThe blue lights of the sanctuary covered the back wall and reflected off the horns that were scattered across the stage. Trumpets, coronets and flugelhorns all caught the light and reflected it out to the seats below creating an atmosphere that was at once soothing and sad, much like the jazz that my friend had played on them.

I was walking in to say my goodbyes along with several hundred other people, all of whom were touched in some way by this man.

His death was unexpected and heartbreaking. He was a grandfather, husband, brother and father – all of the things one would expect of a man of a certain age – and yet he was so much more.

As a musician, he challenged everyone he played with to be better; to be more than they were before the set started. As a man of faith, he carried with him a sense of peace and joy that exuded through every part of his being and showered down on those he came into contact with. I don’t doubt that he had days of uncertainty and struggle, but during the brief time I was blessed to know him, I never saw a glimpse of that. As the song from then musical Wicked says, I have been changed by knowing him.

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It’s hard to say goodbye, isn’t it? Even at times when the goodbye isn’t necessarily permanent, the very word seems to stick in our heart like a barb. It isn’t supposed to be like this, our heart cries! My time with this person was supposed to be longer! I never got the chance to say thank you or I’m sorry or whatever it is we so desperately want to say when the option no longer exists.

As I listened to the sermon during this somber event, the pastor of the church indicated that God didn’t intend for us to say goodbye; that our need to do so only exists because of the fall of man in the garden. While this may not be a popular opinion, I beg to differ.

I don’t, as I’ve said in the past, believe that God makes mistakes. Therefore, it only logically follows that God absolutely created us to feel loss and ache at the departure of people and things we love. To me, to believe otherwise means that God neither foresaw Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit nor planned for the repercussions thereafter. For me, my God is bigger than that. He knew before He created a single microorganism that we would fail. Actually, to me, He created us to do so because the bigger plan was dependent upon our human curiosity to overtake our desire to obey.

Sounds contrary to probably everything you have ever been taught, but follow me on this for a moment.

Without failure, we would never learn that we need God. We would mindlessly follow, devoid of passion or conviction. The God I believe in wants so much more for us than that.

 

I believe that God created the ability for us to sin so we would learn to turn to Him; that he created the ability to stumble so we would feel the security of being carried; the ability to mourn losses great and small so that we could know the full breadth of love.

Love is bigger than happiness and joy. It aches with yearning, cries out with pain, and sobs uncontrollably for endings. The ability to feel these things is what makes love such a unique and complex emotion and is the one thing that makes us truly a part of God.

At times like this – the death of a friend or loved one – it certainly doesn’t seem like much of a gift, but it truly is.

Without the depths of despair that loss brings we would never fully realize the heights of bliss that are also part of our emotional spectrum.

Perhaps more importantly, without the stillness that comes with loss we would never come to experience the excitement of renewal. If nothing ever left our lives, there would be no need for us to reach out for something new – a new hobby,  a new friend, a new life experience. The life that God envisioned for us would not exist.

Maybe it seems odd to say, but I would absolutely choose the life of emotional ups and downs over a life of status quo. It seems to me that God created me to be able to feel these things so I could know Him more fully; so I could more fully grasp the extent of His love for me and the purpose He has for my life.

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I know what you’re thinking. What kind of sadistic god would want me to suffer?

The thing is, it’s not that He wants us to suffer per se, but  that He wants us to realize that through these experiences we can grow to be so much more that who we were before them. Oh sure, we can choose to wallow in self-pity for the rest of out lives, or we can change.

As I thought about how this particular death was calling me to change, I took a moment to look around the sanctuary all of the various people who had been affected by this person – and it hit me.

I desire to make a difference the way my friend did. No, I’m not going to take up brass instruments and try to teach or try to replicate his life. That would just be silly and I would be an utter failure. But what I am going to do is make a conscious effort to be that person that makes others feel welcome and comfortable; to be that person that creates a sense of peace and laughter.

On the day of my first gig with the band I met this wonderful man in, I was nervous and felt uncertain of my ability to carry the role I had been given. This man not only told me at every opportunity that I was doing a great job, but caught my eye to do silly things like use his horn as a dancing snake making me laugh and relax. This is the piece of my friend I want to carry forward.

Thanks to my friend, I am going to work harder to reflect the characteristics of God to others so they can feel His presence in their lives, even when they don’t realize that’s what they feel.

I only hope that when I meet him in heaven, he will be able to see the change he made in me and the way I was able to carry the torch for him.

 

Expectations

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Father’s Day was just a week ago and all week long I’ve been thinking about my dad and dad’s in general. I know. I’m behind. I should have been thinking about this the week before Father’s Day, but Ce la vie.

Anyway…back to my point.

I’ve been thinking about fathers and the impact they have on our lives. For me, as I’ve said in previous blogs, I am a daddy’s girl. While I didn’t live with my dad for a good part of my childhood, he has always had this almost superhero status in my eyes. Sure, some of that may have been the fact that he was well over 6′ tall and filled doorways, but even now that he’s 84 and his stature has decreased with time and gravity, he still has the same general status in my mind.

It’s not that all of my memories about my dad are good ones, but despite the ups and downs of our relationship I always felt that he had the ability to help me find my way through challenging situations.

These situations, of course, have looked significantly throughout the years. When I was little, that meant finding his finger to help me cross the road or climb the curb or using his feet to guide me as we danced at his wedding to my stepmom. As a teenager, that meant helping me to figure out that the retread tire I was driving on was losing its rubber or opening his wallet to help me go to the movies or put gas in my car. As an adult, this often has come by way of insight and wisdom gleaned from his years of success.fathers-day-gift-ideas

As I think about these memories with my dad, they all include the same thing – me reaching my hand out – physically or metaphorically – to receive help in one way or another. Maybe my request for help was just through words, but the end result is the same – I reach out and there is help provided.

But there’s a catch.

The help I received was not always what I wanted it to be, but rather, what was in my best interests as far as my dad was able to determine for me at that time.

My relationship with my Heavenly Father is the same. Regardless of my need or how I express that need, when I reach my hands out He places what I need. Again, what is placed in my hands is not always what I want it to be, but it is what I most need it to be. More importantly, unlike my earthly father, God can see the entirety of my existence here and knows fully what is in my best interest not just for now, but farther into the future than I could ever imagine.

During the homily at my church last week, this particular point was addressed clearly and poignantly.

communion-in-handAs an Episcopalian, I go to the alter every week to receive communion. I kneel and extend my empty hands to the priest for a small wafer and wine meant to remind me of the sacrifice that God has made for me in the gift of His Son. Now, for those of you who have never had a communion wafer and wine, let me assure you the wafer is no a sugar cookie and the wine is most definitely not going to be found on the top of any wine connoisseurs list of excellence. But, of course, this is not their purpose.

When I am given the wafer and wine, I am reminded of the gift I have been given through my salvation; I am reminded of the sacrifice that Jesus made for me so I can have the opportunity to learn to love and to serve. These are the things that I need.

Furthermore, just like when I extended my hand to my dad asking for gas money or keys to the car, when I go to the alter to receive communion every week, I must extend my empty hands to receive the gifts being presented.

Why is it important that my hands are empty?

First, I have nothing to offer that is sufficient to receive what God has to give me.- the gift of love, mercy, and grace. No money, no personal sacrifice, nothing can pay for these things.

Second, my hands empty because that is the only way I can truly receive what is placed there. If I came to the alter with my hands full of other things, I couldn’t take what was being offered to me. It’s like having my arms full of grocery bags and needing to use my house key to open the door. Whatever I have in my hands has to be put down so do can accomplish what needs to be done.

Every time each one of us comes to our Heavenly Father, we must remember to empty our hands of all the stuff that is so often there – our worries, our anger, our sadness, our disappointment, and most importantly, our expectations.quotation-sri-chinmoy-peace-expectation-expectations-meetville-quotes-82246

Now I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t we supposed to go to God with the expectation that He is going to provide for us?

Yes, absolutely.

But the only expectation that we should carry in our hearts when approach Him is that He will provide what we need to accomplish His will for us. As I’ve said before, God is not a genie in a bottle granting our every wish. Additionally, God is not the reflection of some people’s earthly fathers. He is not abusive, He is not distant, and most importantly, He is not absent. He never has been and he never will be.

We must empty our hearts and minds of the expectations of what will be given to us based on our perception of reality. The solution to our current need or want is often not at all what we would imagine for ourselves – good or bad.

What God gives us will always be greater than our greater hope and desire. All we need to do is reach out our hand and wait.

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.

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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.

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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