Ragamuffin Bible

Talk about eleventh hour.

It’s Fat Tuesday and until just a little while ago, I had no clue what, if anything, I would do for Lent.

After burning my journals, a soul-sister of mine mentioned having her own writing/burning session and using the ashes in her own private ceremony. I thought that was an amazing idea and I do believe I’ll be doing something in that vein.

Last night, though, I was compelled to read the Gospel of John. Oh sure, I’ve read it plenty of times, but honestly, because it feels so emotional, I often dismissed this Gospel. Then a double whammy of grace and emotion piled on because I am reading the Ragamuffin Bible

“Meditations for the bedraggled, beat-up, and brokenhearted.”

yeah.

*raises hand*

that’s me.

I remember reading The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning.

“Christians find it easier to believe that God exists than that God loves them.”

 

“When a person is evoked for who she is, not who she is not, the most often result will be the inner healing of her heart through the touch of affirmation.”

 

“…the outstretched arms of Jesus exclude no one, neither the drunk in the doorway, the panhandler on the street, gays and lesbians in their isolation, the most selfish and ungrateful in their cocoons, the most unjust of employers and the most overweening of snobs. The love of Christ embraces all without exception.”

The extent to which this man understood and practiced grace scared me. Maybe because I have to reveal all those long-hidden, painful secrets and memories before they can be washed with grace? I don’t know. I just know that grace is something I often feel I’ll never have or receive beyond what has already been seen. Like grace is commodity and I’ve received my share. Next! Move along please, you’ve got yours.

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I have lived too long struggling to live up to a projection of God. You can scream until you pass out the things God hates, what he’ll punish me for, the prayers of mine he won’t hear, the sins you checkmark for me. That’s on you.

 

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How long have I repressed my emotions in exchange for a false sense of control and healing? Far too long. Far, far too long.

What I long for most is simply to be me.

The girl full of spirit and wonder and love that God created me to be and man broke.

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But Jesus was broken, too.

So tomorrow He and I will do some healing together. Not out of guilt or law, but in love.

 

Burn, baby, Burn

So how do I feel the morning after burning my journals?

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When I wrote  in my journal, it was a process that allowed me to release the memories so that they no longer belonged to me. It was not a part of me. Once out of my head and on paper, I was free to carry on without carrying the mental weight.

I added physical weight though (and this picture only shows about half.) For 32 years I’ve been hauling these around. I talked to my journal as if it was a person. The times I said some variation of “you’re the only one who understands, Journ,” or “you’re the only friend I have” were astronomical.

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It’s odd. The 42 year old me looks back at the child that poured her tortured soul into these notebooks (and yes, there is still a disconnect) and wonders where were the adults?  Why didn’t they stop the abuse? After the abuse came the promiscuity. The names, the dates, the details of a child’s sexual escapades. Later, just dates and details. Names didn’t even matter. I wanted desperately to be loved.

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But that little girl didn’t know what love was. I say that not in a wispy, naive, youthful way, but in an ugly, violated way. I did not understand that there was anything beyond sex. I was used inappropriately and everyone loved the man who continually did these things to me. Often, they saw it happening and turned away or went into another room. What could I have known of love, aside from pain and confusion? If they loved and adored him in spite of what he did, then that must be the way I would achieve love.

The first boy I dated was a few years older than me and wanted to have sex. I politely refused. Thank God he was a gentleman (and he still is.) I broke up with him soon after because I felt so awkward with thoughts of sex swirling around me and I didn’t know how to be a person in a relationship because all of my other familial relationships were so very broken. After him, I dated someone my age, he ended up being my first. It was ok in the beginning and we dated quite a few years. We were like fire and gasoline, though, and it ended in quite the explosion.

That’s when the proverbial flood gates opened–or should I say that’s when my legs opened for pretty much any boy who came near? I realize that sounds like I’m degrading myself. It’s less of that and more “just the facts, Jack.”  So. For about six years it wall all sex and alcohol. I had a couple of friends during that time who tried to tell me I was harming my reputation, but I already knew I was worthless, what did it matter if other people knew, too?

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I read through those journals yesterday and I wanted to throw up. Why do I still carry that torment with me every moment? Most of the adults who could’ve protected me are dead, so there’s no chance of apologies or reconciliation or forgiveness.

I did have a couple of relationships that lasted more than a night.

And a come to Jesus moment. 

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A four-month marriage.

A divorce. 

A super-sickening sexist, legalistic church experience.

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And I turned away from God because of his so-called people. And I started back up with the men, alcohol, and sex. I was out of control. Wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to tell me I was destroying myself–I didn’t care. I practiced a form of self mutilation that said if I use men first they couldn’t have the power to use me, discard me, or hurt me.  And I wrote all about it. In very colorful detail.

I also wrote about how I shared with some people that I was going to take art lessons and they all laughed at me. I was writing through my tears and hoping that someday I would “make it big and show them all up.”

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Throwing those pages in the fire was hard for the first few minutes. The tears outnumbered the pages ripped from the notebooks. Every page that caught fire produced a tangible wave of heat.

“Fire is the energetic combination of various substances with oxygen to release light and heat.”

I absorbed the light and heat on my face. I took all of the energy and it became me. In a few transcendent hours, I consumed the energy and I was consumed.

A vision I had last year during my fast:

I was sitting at a rustic dining table, the floor was dirt–we were outside. It was dark and I believe there were a couple of small candles on the table. No food, just a drinking cup made of pottery with water in it.

God was standing behind me. He was picking up morsels out of the air and eating them. I was confused and then I realized that what he was plopping in his mouth like popcorn (one morsel at a time, kind of throwing it in the air a bit and then he caught it in his mouth) so what he was tossing in his mouth was me!

I stared at him, totally confused. He kept doing it. Finally I said, “God, why are you eating me?”

He said, “I consume you.”

And in that message, “I consume you” was a vision of him entirely taking me over, dominating me, filling me, lavishing me, captivating me, immersing me, obsessing over me, wrapping entirely around me–

Then another sort of vision of inhaling and exhaling nothing but him, being in his belly (not in a gross way, but more like if I am inside of him as a morsel of food would be, there is nothing else, only Him.)

I feel like I’m in his womb. Like I’ve been conceived.

I listened to the pages burn. The pages that told me what a slut I am, how worthless I am, how undeserving of love I am. They crackled and sizzled, gave up their power and I closed my eyes and inhaled the smoke, drank the heat into my skin, exhaled freedom. They had always whispered destruction, anguish, and pain. The voice of Truth spoke (disguised as my old, dear, and trusted friend, “Journ.) to tell me I that I am valuable, I possess worth and beauty and am worthy of love and would I please just listen?

{listen}

My word for 2014.

{listen}

She said to me last night, “Maybe listening is also about what we need to abandon listening to.”

Strings of never ending words are now nothing more than the energy I took from them last night. It warmed my skin, my body, and at times the power of the heat was so overwhelming I had to back away. The tears dissipated to nothing, spread out into their separate elements while I was becoming whole.

Being purified by fire.

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.”

I had not been ignored, God did not turn his face from me. I was chosen in the furnace of affliction and refined. Purified. Cleansed. Silver does not corrode, does not react to the atmosphere. At high temperatures, the imperfections fall away.

“Mat 3:11 “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

“As the silver nears the final stage of refining it experiences an action known as “brightening”, at the time that the last of the impurities are consumed, the now pure molten metal suddenly emits a bright flash of light and immediately solidifies.”

Immediately solidifies.

That is how I feel after burning my journals.

 

Reflecting {restore}

My word for 2013 is {restore}

This time last year, we didn’t know where we’d be moving. I had fasted through Advent. Phil was out of town for work almost all of that time. My dad had been diagnosed on Thanksgiving with an aggressive form of cancer and we didn’t think he’d make it to Christmas.

From last December to now, I have spent more weeks fasting than not. This once-atheist girl just spent more time fasting in  a year than not? This past year, I chose (willingly) to seek God instead of His people by way of a local congregation and He let me. He let me find pleasure in Him, security, protection, joy.

“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast…”

Jeremiah 30:17

This word “restore” in this verse in Hebrew seems to mean to ascend, to spring up, grow, shoot forth, to come up (before God,)  to bring up, draw up, train…

 

I haven’t met any new friends in Cedar Rapids. We’ve been here nearly a year now and it’s ok with me. I have absolutely loved this time of being alone with my family and with God.

I do really feel like I’ve “come up before God” this year.

Not everything has been easy or nice. I had to make hard choices, some impacting familial relationships that just wrecked me. I really struggled with the fact that bread and wine are poison to my body. Good stuff happened, too. My dad is still alive today. I am back to editing and writing. My ex-husband apologized after 20 years. God freed me completely from I lie I was believing, a lie that really held me back. My health had indeed been restored.

It’s been a year of this:

Your job is to pull up and tear down,
take apart and demolish,
And then start over,
building and planting.

Jeremiah 1:10

Spiritually, professionally, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Old ways have been demolished, pains, fears, beliefs–all torn down. I guess this is where the work of starting over begins? Building and planting.  I feel like I’ve been in somewhat of a rut for the past decade. It doesn’t feel like that anymore.

Looking back at my words, it seems there is a clear message:

Simplify. {2008}
Simplify. {2009}
Simplify. {2010}
Believe. {2011}
Grace. {2012}
Restore {2013}

Get rid of stuff–simplify. Then Believe, Grace, Restore. They’re all very much connected to the bigger picture of healing that God has had me working on for so long. I’ve had a full year, but honestly, one of the better years of the past decade. It was a very profound year, indeed.

Fasting {weeks 14-24} {the last half and up to the end} Where we discuss apologies and healing.

This last week of my fast was so full of stress it’s hard for me to even blog about it. Monday both my personal and professional lives simultaneously melted down. The whole week was full of phone calls and messages and analyzing and explaining.  I cannot recall a week filled with more tears–and I’ve had some seriously shitty weeks in my 41 years. I’d be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the fact that both situations escalated to white hot at the exact same moment on Monday *and* some of the parties in each of the situations extended forced apologies to me at the same time on Thursday. Which just happened to be the last day of the 24 week fast.

By forced apology, what I mean is this…Something threatened the parties involved. That threat pushed the apologies forward, but the apologies didn’t come from a place of true repentance, they were meant to help maintain something important in the lives of those issuing the apologies.  The people who apologized to me didn’t feel bad for hurting me, they were upset that something in their life was going to drastically change if they didn’t apologize. Blog comment that made someone panic to apologize or the threat of returning cancer, the threats were different with the same effect.

Compare that to another apology I received during this fast (and how ironic is it that this also dealt with my personal and professional life?) During the third week of the fast, I’d written a guest post about a suicide attempt 20 years ago. My mom and ex-husband were the only ones who knew. My mom is dead and my ex is no longer a US Citizen, so what happened was totally unexpected. I let go of that secret on this blog and on the same day, my ex-husband (who I hadn’t had contact with for 20 years) somehow found the post and apologized in public in the comments section of the post. He had nothing to gain by apologizing. There was closure for both of us in that apology. And while I won’t ever seek to restore a relationship with him, there is peace.

I accept the apologies of the others. I believe they are giving as much as they are able. I don’t know if they’ll ever understand the differences that I just discussed. It’s not my responsibility to change them, that is something each person has to work out on their own. Of course it would be awesome if these people weren’t forced to make peace, but sometimes in situations like this, you have to take what is offered and for the sake of peace and moving forward, I do accept their offers and harbor no bitterness.

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The spiritual battles during this fast were intense. I turned to these prayers twice during the fast.

I had this dream after the cleansing prayers:

God was sending me in to clean up a mess. Before I went to the place he was sending me, 2 angels appeared. One stood in front of me, one stood behind me. They were both warrior angels. Very tall compared to me at 5’2″. I’d say they were 6’7″ or so. They raised their arms around me. They were like wings, but not wings. God commanded them to pray and held His hand over the top of us. There was a surge of power so incredible it is beyond description.

The angels prayed protection prayers over me for a really long time.

And then I painted this

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I said the prayers once over my home and about a month ago over my dad’s, brother’s, and sister’s homes. Just this week a friend rebuked evil spirits in public and came to me in private saying that I was not dealing with humans. I was being spiritually attacked and she recognized that.

{For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.}

{you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good}

The words God spoke over this fast were “healing” and “prepare.”  And my word for this year is “restore.”

During this fast, I was restored to my position as Editor-in-Chief of The Midnight Diner. I never thought I’d be back in publishing. And now I’m being encouraged to start submitting my stories again. And I might just do that.

I wrote a piece for Listen to Your Mother, was accepted, and read the piece on stage. It was about accepting the kind love my mother knew how to offer.

My dad was alive for his birthday and I drove to Indiana to surprise him and I saw tears in his eyes. He was also alive for Father’s Day and I got to spend more time with him. He’s still alive on this day and even though we got some bad news about his illness, he is alive today and the fact that he made it into 2013 and is here today is a blessing we didn’t expect to receive.

I had the opportunity to mentor a young writer through The Midnight Diner. She later expressed in beautiful words that Phil and I helped change her personal life in ways I’m not sure I could have ever realized had she not spelled it out. We were really quite oblivious since we were just living out lives as we always do. We didn’t know that what she was seeing was changing her. I never expected it to be about more than writing and publishing, but I’m glad it happened.

I became a grandma again 🙂

I read a book for a second time and it changed my life, again. I haven’t yet wrote about the second reading and what came to pass.

My body continues to heal from the adrenal issues. It’s a long road, but it’s now been a year of eating militantly gluten free. It could take up to two years before total healing and restoration occur. I have hit the halfway mark!

The visible healing has happened in all areas. Personal, professional, spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. But the “prepare” part? What about that? There are still so many more questions I have and things I don’t understand about the fast, though. I have hope that God will tie up the lose ends for me in the days and months to come. I’m sad this fast is ending, but it wouldn’t be a fast if it was all the time and I need to remember that I was called to this fast for a purpose.

We’ve been in our new house and new city 28 weeks and I’ve fasted weekly for 24 of them. It will be weird to not fast and I don’t know what to do with that.

If you’d like to read the rest of the posts about the fast here are the links:

Blogging Through My Fast Seems Wrong

Week 1

Week 2

Weeks 4-10

Weeks 11-12

Week 13

 

Fuckin’ Perfect

Brave.

I’ve been hearing that a lot lately in regards to both my professional life and my private, personal life.

Yet I sit here and my eyes overfill and pain spills down my face. I listen to this and I tell myself I am not what they say I am.

Pink “Fuckin Perfect”on Vimeo.

I can ignore it for a long time. I can give second chances. I can forgive, I have forgiven, I will forgive again. again. again.

But what I will not do is submit myself to the abuse that others dish out with no regard.

I don’t know how it happened. How it all came to blows on the same day, the same moment.

I was making a professional resignation from an organization I’ve been a member of for nearly a decade.  Y’know what. Wait. Let’s be clear here. The people  in that organization have become family to me. We’ve fought, argued, debated, grown, and always–always we’ve loved.  It is not those people I walked away from, those people joined arms in support and walked away as well. It’s really two of the officers of the now disbanded Indiana Horror Writers that I took a stand against. A couple of the officers made some poor choices with sexist language and after trying to deal with it as a group, without resolution, six of us gave our resignations and ended our affiliation with the Indiana Horror Writers. One of us has control over the digital assets of the organization and we’ll see what happens next.  The two men we had problems with are forming another group, people are taking sides. More than that though, I’m accused of being unprofessional, a liar, unreasonable. My posts were deleted, I was removed from the organization’s forums, blocked from one of the officer’s Facebook friends list, was told I couldn’t resign because I wasn’t an officer, talked about in a private forum I was removed from, but all the while told that the doors are open and it’s a safe and comfortable place to discuss the issues. I was told it’s my fault. The message is clear: Shut up.

Safe does not equal degrading me, attempting to shut me up, or trying to control me.

At the very moment I hit submit, and I’m really not kidding, the very moment, I received a phone call from my dad, who proceeded to tear me to shreds verbally. I was called names, accused of stealing money, threatened, and made to feel guilty because it’s my fault. I was hung up on more times than I care to count. And then, one time, the phone didn’t disconnect and I heard what dad was saying to my sister about me. I heard the names they were calling me. The message is clear: Shut up.

If I listen to these people I’m a liar, a thief, a bitchy broad, a hard head, I’m unprofessional, disrespectful, lazy, jobless, and nothing is enough. I’m not enough, I didn’t do enough, I don’t do enough, I’ll never be enough. Never.

{like when I was a child, I was a slut, a bitch, a whore, a liar, a thief, worthless, told that I should have never been born, told that I was brought into the world and can be taken out of it. I used to pretend I was adopted because that made more sense to me.}

I listen this the song again. again. again. Fuckin’ Perfect…

to drown them out.

because they think they’re the victims.
they cry about injustice and how they’re being wronged by me.

Months ago, they were all told how to fix the issues that came to a head on Monday. Resolutions were spoken. Ignored. Because they won’t own up to their parts, I am the punching bag.

{brave i am not}

After the dual meltdowns Monday morning, so much adrenaline ran through me I thought I’d puke. I was shaking so much for so long and I couldn’t make it stop. I cried more that day than I cried when my uncle hung himself and when my mom died.

I stood up and said, Fuck this. This is why my body is in adrenal failure. Because people who say they love me haven’t the first fucking clue of what it means. I will not submit myself to this for one more second. And if you hate me, it will eat you alive, not me.

You don’t like my attitude, my words, my language, my song? Leave. Yes. These are my true colors they have always been my true colors and one thing I have never, ever done is hid this side of me. So you go ahead and blame me so you don’t have to look in the mirror. So you don’t have to change. So you don’t have to own up to what you did. You go ahead and post about me and talk about me and call me names. Tell stories so people take your side.

I do not care if another soul on this earth believes me or thinks I’m a horrible. Turn the whole world against me if you must. I am ok with that. I thought I couldn’t live with these decisions, but I found out I can.

This is not brave. This is survival. This is the last straw in a long line of straws that I have allowed to decimate my physical, mental, and emotional health. If you think this is about just one little incident, think again. It’s about a lifetime of people treating me like shit and I’m not doing it any longer. So if that means leaving organizations I love and walking away from people I love, so be it. Go tell someone else what I horrible bitch I am. I’m not going to shower myself in insults and bathe in lies. I’m not going to eat your hurtful words nor drink your warped version of love.

Dream-Warrior Angels

I had a dream the nigh before last.

God was sending me in to clean up a mess. Before I went to the place he was sending me, 2 angels appeared. One stood in front of me, one stood behind me. They were both warrior angels. Very tall compared to me at 5’2″. I’d say they were 6’7″ or so. They raised their arms around me. They were like wings, but not wings. God commanded them to pray and held His hand over the top of us. There was a surge of power so incredible it is beyond description.

 

The angels prayed protection prayers over me for a really long time.

 

I was then with my Uncle Ed. He had on a blue, down winter coat. We walked up to the red house I was supposed to clean. It was overtaken by tall dead grass on the outside. When we got to the door, there was a decrepit voodoo doll hanging in the window. We opened the door and I was saying, “Wow. No one has been here since we lived here.” I then realized it was the Westville house. We started scrubbing everything clean.

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