{Listen}

photo (6)

Simplify. {2008}
Simplify. {2009}
Simplify. {2010}
Believe. {2011}
Grace. {2012}
Restore {2013}
Listen (Silent) {2014}

I am definitely not the same girl. I am less of her and more of her.

I listened. I did. More than ever. I was silent when I wanted to speak and I sat in silence and listened to messages meant for my soul.

I fought inwardly and outwardly–wanting to shed the negative, but finding the comfort of negativity a strange bedfellow. I think in the end, though, I have risen up and become a more loving person.

A lifetime of healing happened this year. I’ve revisited previous posts where I’ve said that I’m not sure complete healing can happen for me.

It has happened.

It was excruciatingly hard at times. I lost some friends along the way and accidentally drove others away with my cumbersome plodding through this new territory. I suppose it all works out as it should and I’m done forcing things.

2014 feels so far away.

For once, I’m entering into a new year with no trepidation–only excitement! (and I can’t wait for my 2015 word to find me!!)

June 7

Four years ago, I didn’t think I’d make through any June 7th without crying.

I didn’t know such deep healing could occur in my life. I actually didn’t believe I could be healed inside my head. I thought I’d always carry around the abuse. Spiritual, sexual, physical, mental.

June 1 was my best friend’s birthday. She’s been gone six years now. I didn’t cry on June 1st. I didn’t feel sad. I thought about her with such a supernatural peace that I actually thought it was a fluke. When the sweat lodge ceremony I was looking forward to was cancelled, I did cry. It was to be a very symbolic ceremony for me. The lodge represents the womb and you come out spiritually new. Considering all the healing I’ve been doing, the fact that the ceremony was to be held today, on the anniversary of my mom’s death, I thought that was important to my healing. After I received news of the cancellation, I asked if something else could be done. Hawkwoman volunteered to facilitate a drum circle. But this huge rain system was moving in and I was pretty certain we’d have to cancel. But we went. And it didn’t rain.

003-3

I had decided I wouldn’t mention the significance of the date unless a clear opportunity presented itself. After a hour or so, Hawkwoman sang a prayer and after she mentioned mourning. So I mentioned the date and that led me to share some things that I’m not quite ready to share here. Phil and two others know the story, it deals with birth and death and it is, I believe, the pinnacle of my healing story.

A buck came out to say hello to me as well as a few crows.

Two and half hours later, after many gratitudes, prayers, offerings, and relaxation, it started drizzling.

And then it was a monsoon-type downpour.

Untitled

When I got home, I was soaked. I changed then grabbed the pics off my camera and sat down to blog this. I texted my brother to find out how he was doing today. I think he’s ok. He asked how I was and I told him about the drumming circle and the rain.

“Tears from heaven.”

Yep.

I didn’t have to cry, I didn’t need to cry, and it wasn’t just a fluke.

It’s real and I didn’t believe it could ever happen.

002

Untitled

Untitled

When Forgiveness Doesn’t Lead to Immediate Healing

I have forgiven.

My grandmother for watching it happen and not stopping it. My mother for knowing and not protecting. My father for the angry beatings. My great-grandfather who did it. The teachers who should’ve known.

I truly thought I was healed.

Turns out forgiveness isn’t a one time act. Neither is healing.

I guess there are stages. And at this point, I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely healed. (I’m guessing probably not.) How can a shattered soul be put back together with no scars?

There is a certain sect of Christians that would have you believe that Jesus heals without leaving scars. I don’t buy it. Jesus showed his scars to the disciples and when they saw them, it was then they believed it was him. They didn’t even recognize him until that point. So while I fully believe I can be healed, I don’t think it’s possible to do so without scars.

I’ve also been having a hard time with the fact that what took place was witnessed and watched by God.

Untitled

 The Wounded Heart–Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

I forgave everyone but God. I believe he loves me, but I don’t trust him because he watched it all happen. And yes, I feel like this is a harder thing to deal with than other people’s things. Sexual abuse destroys so much. It’s not like I chose it. Someone else made that choice for me. So all the talk about the fall of man and sin and free will doesn’t do much for healing after this. I accept that my family was horrendously dysfunctional, I accept that hurt people hurt people. I accept that those who abused me or watched it without stopping were probably stuck neck deep in the abuse cycle. They were all probably abused as well. So while I’ve forgiven them, I still wonder what made them cower to the abuser and let the cycle continue? What made me different in that almost every choice I’ve made in parenting has been in some part to protect my son from that same cycle?

I didn’t think wondering meant I wasn’t healed though.

I’ve spent all of two decades working on becoming healthy. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I made a break from toxic people–family and friends. I moved away (literally and metaphorically) from their toxicity and have found myself, for the first time ever in my 42 years not in the company of severe and destroying dysfunction. I really, truly thought I had made it. That I had achieved what I’d been working towards. I did it with God, I gave him the credit. I thought I could now look forward instead of the past constantly pulling at my back, tugging me, slowing me down, weighing and exhausting me. I MADE IT!!

Then God was all like, Uh. No. Now we have this little trust issue. You don’t trust me, remember? 

Defeated. Discouraged. Just fucking over all of this pain and misery. Now I have to do more work (because I choose to. I know it’s the right thing to do, but dammit if it isn’t just pure torture.)

So I start with reading, because it’s the best way I know to learn.

Forgiving our Fathers and Mothers by Leslie Leyland Fields
Not Marked by Mary DeMuth
The Gospel of John in The Ragamuffin Bible
Wounded Heart–Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Note From {over} The Edge by Jim Palmer
The Truest Thing About You by David Lomas

True to form, I’m reading six books at a time. Which is kind of ironic. Every big spiritual breakthrough I’ve had has come during the months leading up to Lent and Easter and I’ve documented the books I’ve read in the process. Though now that I’ve burned my journals as a part of this process of healing, you’ll have to take my word on it.

I haven’t processed the culmination of concepts, but this I know…I have not and do not trust God. I feel like I’ve been let down by him before and rather than face that kind of pain, it’s better for me to just

check out

focus on other things

ignore

deflect

In other areas of my life, I’ve learned to trust God. When Phil was fired in 2011 we were left jobless and homeless. My anger burned for the people who fired him, but when I prayed, I heard God ask me, “Who is in control of your life? Them? Or Me? Your anger should be directed at Me. They do not control you.”

Just like *that* my fiery anger was extinguished and I moved on with great expectations of a more abundant life.

But ask me to trust God to heal me from my childhood sexual abuse? Nope.

I’d rather be alone in this, thankyouverymuch.

But it’s really not ok to be alone in all this. I cant’ bring myself to see a therapist because honestly, I don’t want to face all that shit again. I try not to look back there. Leave the past behind you and all that feel-good-but-not-true crap.

The ripping apart of a soul doesn’t ever go away, it’s never forgotten. It’s as much a reality as my birthday, only worse. Even if I never knew the date of my birth, it would still be there and no matter what technique I employed, it wouldn’t ever go away or be forgotten. You don’t think about your birthday every day of the year, but there are times you do and especially close to the date. It’s like that with trauma. And so it is in my life.  The abuse can’t be erased or forgotten, and while I’ve forgiven, I’m not healed.

What I can do is work towards healing. Make things better than they were before. I can accept God’s offer of redemption. I don’t know what that looks like and I don’t know how I’ll trust him fully–if that’s even possible? But I know that he’s been pretty good to me for the last twenty years. It’s not always been easy or gentle, but it has been right for my soul.

I wish no one ever had to go through this. But since it’s impossible to eradicate, I guess all we can do is try to overcome.

Let Your Spirit Shine

My husband asked, “Why now?”

I don’t have an answer for him. Maybe because they’re all dead or closer to death than they’ve ever been–all the people I thought should’ve protected me back then. Maybe because I’ve lived long enough to understand grace and forgiveness? I don’t know why all of this gunk from my past is bubbling up now. Maybe because writing didn’t help, it only suppressed and allowed survival and maybe painting allows me to fully live? Maybe because clearing the dysfunctional relationships from my life has allowed me to stop being dysfunctional myself and has cleared the way for real healing?

All of that? None of it. I don’t know.

I’m reading a couple of books on healing. I’m about halfway through both. I’m taking it slow on purpose.

Burning my journals was a huge step for me.

Untitled

 

But then I took it a step further.

I took part in my own private Ash Wednesday ceremony on a different day of the week. This same day I had this overwhelming realization. I don’t think God care which day I did this or who put the ashes on my forehead or even that the ashes weren’t from the palm fronds of the previous year.

They were the ashes from years of misery and suffering.

Untitled

 

I put them on my forehead and prayed for the redemption of those years.

I sprinkled them on my painting. Rubbed them in. Moved them with my fingers and my brush so they’d become part of a new creation. A beautiful creation born of suffering.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.

Untitled
Beauty instead of ashes.

It’s the cry of my spirit.

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.

Untitled

 

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.

 

Untitled

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.

Untitled

 

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?

Untitled

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.

Untitled

 

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.

Untitled

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?

Untitled

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. 

Untitled

A four-month marriage.

A divorce. 

A super-sickening sexist, legalistic church experience.

Untitled

 

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.”

Untitled

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.