Voice

That voice has always been here. It was here before I was “saved,” before I knew who God was, before everything I have memories of.

Make your judgments and move on, stay if you are willing to hear me out.

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The Voice of Truth.

The one that compelled me to ask the Catechism teacher why we had to confess to a priest in a box when we had Jesus.

The one that rose up with indignation when told that if my husband left me and I married again, I’d forever be an adulteress and God doesn’t hear the prayers of adulteresses.

The one that questioned the sanity of a man who said dreaming was not Biblical and if I was dreaming, I wasn’t following Christ.

The one that laughed when I pulled my shirt down a little lower at the SBC convention in Nashville to show off my Mickey Mouse tattoo when the patriarchy was voting on whether or not to boycott Disney.

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The one that asks: Did Jesus come to die and be resurrected for every person or just for a few who follow certain rules?

The one that calls me Beloved and comes to me at the deepest and darkest moments, the one that whispers, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”

The one that says, “You were never alone, we were never apart.”

This voice pushes me to always find the truth. To pick out the lies: you are dirty, you are filthy, you cannot ever be enough, you are not loved unless you do this thing, you are not accepted into the fold unless you say these words, you are not special enough to be invited in because you don’t think like we do, you cannot be who you are and also be who God created you to be, you must change in order to be loved.

If God loved me enough to create me, to give me a purpose, then he loves me enough to see past the things of this world that have clouded my vision. He takes delight in my eagerness to learn, to always seek, to ask the hard questions. He cheers me on when I show that I understand the path that leads to Truth. Many tears have been cried by Jesus over my hidden and calloused heart. Men and women in this world chose to treat my spirit as an object for their warped sexual gratification, as a punching bag for their anger, as a piece of disgusting trash because I had the audacity to question misguided spiritual leaders. Because not a single person on this earth showed me the kind of love that flows from a heart belonging fully to Jesus, I closed up shop and figured it was best to avoid any kind of interaction because they were all pretty ugly.

Even then, Jesus didn’t think I was worthless. He continued to speak Truth into my life. He strategically placed tools in my hand that helped to unravel the messy ball of yarn I had become. He held on to the only strand that matters–the Truth–and He helped me disentangle and extricate myself from that mess.

I sit here now, cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by long strands of every color yarn you can possibly imagine. I know the basics of crochet. I don’t know how to knit or weave. But I’m pretty sure I can learn to do this. Deconstructing a knotted mess doesn’t mean all hope is lost. It means that the task is simpler if everything is in order before the real work starts.

People tell me all the time that Jesus only loves me if I do or say certain things. What I know is that those people are missing the mark (sinning) in their belief that His love has conditions. He cannot knit me in my mother’s womb and despise me at the same time. He has always known the true me, he created me to be her. He has never hidden from me, it has been me, hiding from him in a bunch of strings I strangled myself with, strings that other people wrapped around me, trying to force me into their ways. We’ve successfully removed those rogue strands and are now ready to create something spectacular.

Silly metaphor? Maybe. But I can breathe again and that’s a really big deal to me.

The voice has always led me to Truth. I wish I could’ve learned to listen to Him from the beginning, instead of listening to the garbage others want to wrap me in.

This is the lesson I long to teach people.

 

Making My Way Back

It’s been 20 months since my first visit with my endocrinologist.

19 months since I went (militantly) gluten free on her recommendation.

15 months since starting adrenal meds.

6 months since starting a T3 supplement (in addition to the T4 I’ve taken for years.)

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Between my last visit with Dr. LaSalle and now, I’ve also begun Removing More Toxins from my life. Last visit, my cholesterol was still not great and I asked for more time to correct it without meds. In the last three months, my total cholesterol has dropped nearly 30 points!! (I didn’t even buy the Red Yeast Rice that I was supposed to, I forgot, but I’ll get it now.)

She’s lowering my doseage of Synthroid to 137 (down from 150!) My blood pressure is a little high (152/88) but it should go down with the lower dose of Synthroid. I’ll be keeping a daily log of readings.

We talked about the MTHFR gene mutation (C677T) and how removing the toxins was a great thing. I got a seriously rambunctious high five when I told her that I bought the personal Far Infrared Sauna! She wants me to increase my Magnesium glycinate to 400mg daily.

We also talked about how I spent eight hours walking the trails of a nearby county park ~barefooted~ because I couldn’t keep my shoes on for one more minute. I needed to feel the leaves, grass, dirt, mud, sand, water, and yes, even the sticks and rocks, on the bottoms of my feet. And it was glorious. Dr. LaSalle was thrilled I spent the day grounding. I told her how I’d prayed all day and took the time to be silent and listen to what God was saying to me.  At the end of the refreshing and exhausting day, I sat still again for a few more minutes and God sent an Eagle to soar above my head. I couldn’t stop crying.

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I’m now taking:

137mcg Synthroid
5mcg Cytomel
Vessel Care
65,000iu Vitamin D3 weekly
4000mg fish oil daily
1000mg Evening Primrose daily
200mg magnesium glycinate daily
B complex

We moved into talking about the flashbacks I had the first day I used the sauna and touched on cellular memory. I told her that I was reading several books to help heal my mind from past abuse, which I feel is extremely important in this journey. I’ll list them again here, because I’ve added another, extremely important book.

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

A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Spritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever  by Marianne Williamson. This one is the one that is changing everything (along with Wounded Heart.) This is less about weight loss and more about getting rid of dysfunctional thinking that was never meant to be around for a lifetime, yet so many of us carry this other person inside of us who is always ridiculing, chastising, degrading, and speaking painfully to us, making sure we stay “safe” in our pain.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too keen on starting this one. My beautiful friend, Carrington, suggested I read it. I looked at the title and thought it probably wasn’t for me. I didn’t want another weight loss plan to try and fail at. But then, after Carrington saw my posts about Wounded Heart, she dug a little deeper into the how/why of this book and I decided to buy the ebook and upon her urging, the audiobook. I listened to it while sitting in an airport waiting to fly standby, then for six hours on a drive from Iowa to Michigan. I broke down a few times during that drive and sobbed and grieved. I remembered things I’d been hiding, protecting, shoving down, not dealing with. And for once, this book gave me solid ways to help change. To shut up that voice of fear that is constantly drowning out anything good.

From here, I think the Jim Palmer and David Lomas books will help me take my deconstructed self and with God’s guidance, become the me I was created to be instead of this shadow of a person haunted by the past and built from bricks of abuse and unworthiness. I’m very much looking forward to what emerges.

I also finished Forgiving Our Mothers and Fathers just in time to have a visit with my dad for his birthday. It was different for me. Working through remembering, considering his story, forgiving, and accepting today for what it is, I felt like I could be in his presence without comfortableness.  Which is a big step in the right direction. Our time left together is probably slim, he has terminal cancer and receives results from his latest scan this week.

This is the body-update. I have to compose a mind and spirit update, too, but that will take me much longer. I need to get into a space that I can put together and process all that I have been learning. It’s been coming at me machine-gun style and I don’t know that I can regurgitate all the things swirling around in this blender brain of mine.

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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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Beauty instead of ashes.

It’s the cry of my spirit.

Every Storm Runs Out of Rain

I remember starting this painting, though I couldn’t have told you the date until today.

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I knew what I wanted to do for my sister-in-law. Her dad was diagnosed with cancer. She loves Gary Allan and when I watched this the video for Every Storm Runs Out of Rain and saw this image and I knew.

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The canvas was huge. 36″ x 48″ and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. I prayed I could because it was so very important to me to be able to offer my prayers this way. I worked on it for months. Slowly. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more intimated by a painting, yet I knew in my soul I had to do it.

I started it exactly one year ago tonight. March 7, 2013.

I finished it on January 6, 2014.

On January 6, Missy called to tell me her mom was going to talk to the nurses about taking her dad off of life support. I got off the phone with her, poured a fresh glass of wine and went to work. There was another blizzard in Northwest Indiana and my brother was out plowing. I was texting him pictures of my progress. Waiting to hear anything about Missy’s dad. I put the song on repeat and just worked. I sent my brother a picture of the words I’d painted on. He thought they were too big. So did I. I took them off and made them smaller and I liked it. I thought it was finished, so I took another picture and typed my message to my brother, but as I was moving my finger to the send button, Johnny called me. I answered it all chipper, “Hey! I was just texting you! The painting is finished.”

He was bawling.

And I broke down.

His father-in-law was gone.

The realization that he was taking his last breaths as I was making the last brushstrokes overtook me.

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I shared the picture on Facebook for my brother and sister-in-law. I said, “For my sister-in-law.” A friend who had no clue what had happened said, “Breathtaking.”

My brother responded, “You have no idea.”

And I lost it.

I was completely undone.

I tried to get to Indiana the next day to be with Missy. But–winter of 2014, she had another tantrum. Another blizzard. Impassible roads. I couldn’t get there until the next day, which happened to be sixth anniversary of my best friend’s death.

So much pain and death.

but Every Storm Runs Out of Rain

Right?

I finally got there. I felt pretty useless, but I tried. Then I went back to a month later for the memorial service. Another blizzard.

And another death.

One of my brother and sister-in-law’s best friends died the morning of the memorial service. Mike was a long-time friend of ours, as well. One of the most spiritual men I’ve ever met. He engaged in deep conversation from the minute he looked in your eyes. He knew so much more than was possible.

So much death and pain.

And today, just over a month after his passing, today is Mike’s birthday. March 7. One year ago today, I started the painting for Missy. I finished it as her dad was taking his last breaths. Mike died the morning of the memorial service. And I started the painting one year ago on his birthday.

I don’t even know how to begin processing this.

 

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.