2018: A Year For Hope (Week 26)

Emotions are sneaky little buggers! So often they hide behind activities and the general busyness of life, and then when you’re least expecting them – whoosh! They jump out from hiding, completely surprising and overtaking you! It was like that for me this week.

While reflecting on my 14-year old self, my first love, and the heartbreaks of that love I was surprised by a wave of emotion. Or more truthfully, I was surprised by a revelation.

I met “M” at church when I was 14 ½. We were both in the choir, he sang Tenor and I sang 1st Soprano. I can only assume that it was because we met in church and his family was rather well known, that my mother decided it was reasonable and acceptable that I be allowed to date an 18-year-old Senior. What was she thinking?!?!?

While he was technically my second boyfriend, he was really my first (as my “real” first romance only lasted up until the time that he stole a kiss from me during a John Denver concert on TV. I was in love with John Denver and didn’t appreciate the interruption. I broke up with him 2 days later.)

Well if I wasn’t ready for a kiss, I surely wasn’t ready for “M”, nor all the feelings he would awake in me.

I still remember the first time he held my hand. We were riding in the back seat of his parent’s car (I think we were driving to their house for Sunday Supper) and oh so slowly his fingers worked their way closer and closer, until they intertwined with mine on the space of the leather upholstery between us. Fireworks folks!

The first time he took me out on a date, he took me to a French restaurant to impress me. I was impressed alright. I was also hungry as all get out afterwards! I’d never been served such a tiny amount of food for dinner in my life!

He played the saxophone … not as good as Kenny G, but good enough.

In no time at all, he completely captured my heart … and in a slow progression of compromises to my Christian morals, eventually my body.

Now before I go any farther, please understand I’m not writing this post to demonize “M”. There is a natural course of exploration and discovery that every young person will experience, we (he and I) were no different. In hind sight, I do wish my mom had put more of an effort to protect my innocence a bit longer (or at least prepared me for what I would encounter), but hormones would eventually awaken regardless of who I was dating. It is not youthful passion, nor our failure to manage that passion in a way that reflected our professed faith that made us such a mismatch. It was need. Specifically, my desperate need to be loved.

As I shared in a prior post, somehow in the unhappiness of my youth, I had come to the brilliant conclusion that everything that was wrong in my life (the emotional abandonment I felt, the emptiness, the rejection) would be resolved and disappear once I got married.

I would be unconditionally loved … when I got married.
I would be fulfilled … when I got married.
I would be happy … when I got married.

“M’s” strong physical desire for me proved he loved me (right?), and once we married all those sexual “compromises” I had made would somehow be erased from heaven’s record book. Thus marrying “M” became my goal.

Fractured HeartFrom my current vantage point, I can see that the poor guy never really had a chance. For every sexual compromise I made, I extracted a promise from him to make me an honest woman girl by vowing to marry me. And the closer I got to age 18, the more intense the concessions each of us made to secure what we wanted from the other. We married 3 months after my 18th birthday. Unfortunately, all our best days were prior to our marriage. Seems that bullying someone into marrying you (like bullying someone for sex) doesn’t lay a good foundation for a healthy relationship, and we both went into the marriage feeling that we (each of us) were owed some form of restitution from the other for all that we endured on the journey. Disappointments surfaced almost immediately, leading to emotional gameplay. Within a year, he began to confide in a married female friend of ours (obviously more his friend than mine), who graciously offered me some advice on ‘how to please my husband’. Awkward! And of course, I was too clueless (or perhaps just unwilling to acknowledge) the depth of their friendship. I needed to feel loved, he needed sex. Nothing wrong with either of those two desires, and in a healthy relationship they usually complement each other. But our marriage wasn’t built on anything healthy, and I’m certain that had I not badgered him into marriage we never would have married in the first place. We were barely two years into our marriage when he started “working late” with a female colleague. A few months later, I found a Valentines card he’d written to her. Soon thereafter I told him I was going to leave by the end of the month if he didn’t break it off and ask me to stay. Over the course of the next few weeks, he watched me pack, coordinate with family members, and physically walk out the front door of the little house we rented. It was absolutely devastating to me.

Marriage was supposed to fix everything, it was supposed to mean forever and always. And yet there I was, 20 years old and so completely unloved and unwanted that my husband watched me move out without doing a single thing to stop me.

“Off they went to the shores of Loneliness, and Much-Afraid now had to endure a time of dreadful assaults. It is true that her enemies soon discovered that this was not the same Much-afraid with whom they had to deal. They could never get within close reach because she kept so near to Sorrow and Suffering and accepted their assistance so much more willingly than before. However, they kept appearing before her, shouting out their horrid suggestions and mocking her until it really seemed that wherever she went one or another popped up (there are so many hiding-places for them along the rocks) and hurled their darts at her.”
~Hinds Feet On High Places

While considering what to include and what to leave out of the story of my first marriage, I was surprised by the wave of emotion that emerged from hiding to ambush me, revealing that regardless of how many years have passed, not much has changed. I mentioned at the beginning of this post a revelation. Here it is.

My 57-year-old heart isn’t all that much different from my 14 ½ year old heart.

I am still longingly waiting for someone to love me, for my “happily ever after”. And while most days are joy-filled and emotionally grounded in the love I enjoy from friends and family, there are still “hiding places” in my heart where decades old unfulfilled longings cry out in desperation to be satisfied.

The difference is that my name is no longer “Much-Afraid” and I now know that there is only One who can truly satisfy my deepest need to be loved. We have journeyed long and hard together, my Love and I, and I have changed much along the journey. His love has brought healing to the deepest and most desperate places of my soul.

“And now for the promise”, said he, “that when Love flowers in your heart you shall be loved again.” Taking her hand in his, he said, “Behold, I have set my love upon thee and thou art mine. .. yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). After that he said, “Give me the bag of stones of remembrance that you have gathered on your journey..” ~Hinds Feet On High Places

When I was a child, I used to think of myself as being “one half”, that my desired husband would fulfill the role the “other half”, and that together we would make “one”. Now I know that a healthy relationship requires two “whole” people. Sadly, as damaged as I was going into my first marriage, I didn’t become a whole person until long after a second marriage that left me bruised and bloodied. But that’s a story for another week.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love – out of faithfulness I have drawn you close. And so it shall be again, My virgin Israel; I will build you up, and you will be rebuilt. ” (Jeremiah 31:3-4, The Voice translation)

Friends, whatever your marital status … single, married, widowed, divorced … and whatever the condition of your love life, let our prayer be that we would take our deepest need, our most desperate and raw need for unconditional love and acceptance, to our own Good Shepherd, our Abba (Daddy-God). For no matter how wonderful your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife … they are flawed and limited, and it is quite unfair to set that type of burden upon their shoulders. They will disappoint. How can they not?

But there is One who will never disappoint. His Love is without condition and without measure, and able to reach into the deepest cracks and crevices of your fractured heart. He alone can quiet the noises of unfilled longings, and bring joy and peace in the process of transforming you and I from “one half-ness” to “wholeness”.

He is the One, and His name is Jesus.

 

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 25)

“This is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where “perfect love casts out fear.”

“Hinds Feet on High Places”, Hannah Hurnard

Me

When we are young, we have such a narrowed perspective. As small children we tend to learn and see things as being black or white, right or wrong.

As young adults, we begin to push against the simplicity of that perspective.

We experience betrayal and disappointment.

We recognize the frailty of humanity.

We understand that truth can be manipulated without being completely distorted. We learn the power of nuance, and so on.

Thus begins the long journey of stumbling our way through the various colors, shades, and shadows of life.

“There was, however, another even greater trouble in her life. She was a member of the Family of Fearings, and her relatives were scattered all over the valley, so that she could never really escape them. An orphan, she had been brought up in the home of her aunt, poor Mrs. Dismal Forebodings, with her two cousins Gloomy and Spiteful and their brother Craven Fear, a great bully who habitually tormented and persecuted her in a really dreadful way. ….(Until) one dreadful day they laid before her the family dictum that she must immediately marry her cousin Craven Fear and settle down respectably among her own people. If she refused to do this of her own free will, they threatened to use force and compel her.”

“Hinds Feet on High Places”

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The process of chronicling my testimony has been rather like looking through an old family album of black and white photographs adhered by those little corner stickers used to hold the picture in place. It makes me think of my lineage; of where I came, and from whom I come.

Oh, how I long to better understand the journey made by those who came before me, their lives and struggles and experiences. For just as surely as my experiences have shaped my life and influenced how I parented (and therefore impacted my children), an understanding of the experiences of my grandparents and parents lays the groundwork for empathy, and releases forgiveness to do its work.

“It took me a long time to get to this place of understanding, but I now know that the people who inflicted the most pain on my young soul were each dealing with their own family histories and experiences as best they could. The truth is, when you put broken and wounded people together in a relationship – you usually get a big ol’ mess that often spills out onto others. I should know, because for a long time, I was broken and wounded … a big ol’ mess just waiting for a place to happen.” ~But God

Picking up where I left off at Week 23, I think my teenage years were fairly typical. The dreams had stopped by then, and I had safely tucked all memories of them away. I discovered a passion for music and was active in school and church choir. I started working part time. I got my first car. All pretty normal stuff.

But underneath all this normalcy was a low-boiling anger towards both my parents. By the time I hit my teens, whatever passion they once felt towards each other had degraded to a sort of platonic friendliness. Sadly, I do not recall ever seeing my parents kiss or embrace, and more oft than not there was a very tangible presence of hostility emanating from my mom towards my dad. I think he put up with it as a form of doing penance, and perhaps justifiably so. But it made for a very prickly environment, and the absence of affection in the house left gaping holes in my young heart that begged to be filled.

I was incredibly lonely inside, and for hungry acceptance. And so by the sage old age of 14, I had started to date. [Yipes!! In hindsight, that just makes me cringe. I had absolutely no business dating that young, that naïve -– but of course when you’re 14 you think you have the wisdom of Solomon.]

At 14 ½, I met “M”, who would turn out to be my first husband. I’ll pick up more on that next week but for now invite you to read a little more about the desperation that was driving me..

“I have loved you with an everlasting love – out of faithfulness I have drawn you close. And so it shall be again, My virgin Israel; I will build you up, and you will be rebuilt. ” (Jeremiah 31:3-4, The Voice translation)

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 24)

When I started this series “2018: A Year For Hope” in December 2017, chronicling my story was definitely not what I envisioned doing. And yet here I am, picking over and kicking over memories like rocks that haven’t been disturbed in decades. Truth be told, all this wondering down memory lane has been a little exhausting.

But I’ve also been rejoicing in the recognition of all that God has brought me through. He redeemed the pain of my childhood, rescued me from cruel and abusive husband, healed my/my children’s hearts, and completely re-directed the spiritual trajectory of my seed line. All that would be plenty enough – but He didn’t stop there. He also blessed me with a successful 20+ year career that I love, inspired me to Entrepreneurship in 2014, and continues to lead me into new and exciting adventures of business as a ministry including a side-gig that launches this month. He alone has transformed my life and truly given me beauty for ashes.

For those readers who know me personally, you can attest to the fact that I work hard at being a “glass-half-full” type of person. Occasionally, life will kick the stuffing out of me and leave me a bit ‘wobbly’, and I may take a while to rally back. But give me some time, and I’m gonna get back up, dust the dirt off my boots and hat, and get back at living life with a positive attitude. I’m gonna “take another swing!

Hey, I bet you have ‘wobbly’ days too. We all do.

So today I’m going to take a short break from my life saga to share something else. A revelation or epiphany. I’ve had it before, but I had forgotten it (as we are prone to do).

Buckle up and get ready for another spaghetti trail story. 😊

A few weekends ago I went camping – the first time I’ve camped in probably 20 years. And along with a car load of borrowed gear, I took my rarely-used fishing pole and the saddest little tackle box you ever saw in your life. I was living the dream, baby! I fished Saturday morning. I fished Saturday afternoon. I even fished Sunday morning before it was time to tear down the campsite. It was liberating and refreshing, and I had such a great time I committed to going again in a few weeks.

Take A Swing, PuttingHopeToWork.com
Take A Swing!

I returned home on Sunday and by Monday afternoon, my right shoulder started hurting – and I mean REALLY hurting. Can hardly move my arm hurting. Winced and yelped a few times hurting. Can’t get to sleep hurting. By Tuesday, I seriously considered cutting my PJ’s off because I couldn’t manage the shoulder movements.

“PAIN IS LIKE A MIST”

Now most of you probably know where this is headed and what was going on. But I’m a little slow on the trigger sometimes, and I’ve also got an enemy. Oh wait – you do too!

Well that enemy (of my soul) was busy whispering into my ears everything that could possibly be wrong with me:

• I got a mosquito bite and am now suffering the initial effects of West Nile Virus
• I somehow dislocated my shoulder while sleeping on the hard ground for 2 nights
• Tent camping triggered a family history of arthritis and I’ve not got arthritis in my shoulder
• I’m an old woman and my body is starting to decline
• I have tendonitis in my shoulder that will take 8+ months to heal (that’s how long it took for my hand to heal after a gardening incident last year – but that’s another story)

And on and on and on. Taunting me. Ridiculing me. Trying to make me afraid. Trying to get me to open my mouth and come into agreement with him.

I’d like to say that I’m much too spiritual to fall for that old trick. Basically, it’s the same old trick he’s played me with about 5,497 times over the course of my life. And unfortunately, he’s had a greater than 50% chance of my taking the bait (pun intended) … at least for a little while. It was no different now. I’m not going to embarrass myself by telling you how fear-filled my response was, but I will tell you that at one point I broke down and cried a little for the frustration that my body isn’t doing as easily (and painlessly) in my 50’s what it could do in my 20’s and 30’s.

 

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My Tackle Box and Catch of the Day

 

Eventually, I figured out that I had overworked some unused muscles with all that casting and reeling I was doing to haul in my ‘big fish’ pictured above! Pfft!

By day number six I was settling into a pattern of icing and muscle rubs and pillow cradling at night when the miraculous happened. I woke up one morning and my shoulder didn’t hurt.

And here is the revelation. My epiphany.

Pain is like mist. The more attention you pay to it, the more it closes in on you. Blinding you. Choking you. But if you will just relax into it, and breath through it, the wind will carry it away.

Isn’t that so true? Not only about physical pain (such as a fishing-shoulder injury) but true about emotional and spiritual pain. Our tendency when hurt is to recoil, withdraw, self-protect. But friend, you and I make lousy protectors of our own hearts and souls. We are easily duped and confused and misdirected to people and circumstances that are not really the source of our pain.

But there is One who is a most excellent Protector. One who will give you the strength to “breath through’ the pain of transitioning from the place of hurt and fear to the place of forgiveness and liberty.

In hind sight, I realize that what brought me to tears wasn’t the actual shoulder pain itself. It was listening to the voice of fear tell me that my life was going to be “less” because of this. That I would have “less” healing and mobility. That I would have “less” joy because I would be able to do “less”.

Grrr – I fell for it again!

But thank you Jesus, it was not very long before the Voice of HOPE spoke up in a louder (and more familiar and loving voice) and said “Not so, daughter. For I’ve purchased an abundant life for you, and you are Mine.”

I hope this truth (of knowing who you are and whose you are) is as much an encouragement to you as it is to me.

And hey – guess what? Yup, I’m going fishing again in a few weeks!

I’ll resume my the continuation of my childhood and testimony next week. Until then, be blessed and do this. Pray, Trust, Breathe.

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 23)

With my nightmares boxed up and locked up securely in the attic of my psyche, I was able to move forward. I don’t have very many memories of from my early childhood, but I do have some that stand out and are pleasant to revisit. These are the memories I carried with me into my teens and early adult life, they are the construct for my (not so) typical (not so) all-American “middle class life”.

  • Family camping trips, usually lakeside. Sometimes just us, sometimes with extended family on my mom’s side. Floating in old automotive tubes, playing with my cousins, listening to the muffled sounds of grownups talking late into the night.
  • Fishing. I learned to fish young and we always fished on our camping trips. When we weren’t camping, my dad often took me lake fishing with him in our hometown… until he suddenly stopped. I always thought that was somehow my fault.
  • I remember attending Sunday School as a wee girl, inviting ‘felt board Jesus’ into my heart, and going home with “Fish Wrappers” that recapped that week’s lessons. There was a lot I didn’t understand about God, but this I heard loud and clear – Jesus loves me!
  • The walk to my elementary school, and the grocery story just a ¼ mile farther. The walk to my Jr. High. The walk to my High School. And I mean I “really” remember them … in detail. Weird, huh?

By the time I hit the 6th grade, I had discovered choir and I was hooked. In my Freshman year of High School, I joined the backpacking club – that was fun until I had to sleep in a wet sleeping bag after falling in a creek. Around age 15 I secured a place in a small music ensemble called “The Sounds of Praise”. I sang in that ensemble for almost 3 years, mostly at churches up/down the west coast but there was one year we flew to Hawaii to sing at a Christian camp! This was back in the mid-late ‘70’s when The Imperials and Gaither’s were reinventing Christian music. It was such a privilege to be able to use my voice to glorify God in song, and I deeply treasure the remembrance of those days and the enduring friendships made with my fellow SoP members.

“Sail On” by The Imperials
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ove-6A9qVD4&index=4&list=PLumJY4t6tnSUDTK5nGzgHK1LeIqyBd42K

“Rise Again” by Bill & Gloria Gaither
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYc2HyFR3uQ

I’m not the first one to have experienced trauma (be it abuse, emotional abandonment, loss or other tragedy). This is a broken world we live in, and it (at least for a while longer) does not operate according to God’s original design. Thanks a lot Adam and Eve!

Because of the effects of sin, darkness encircles, the chords of death entangle and bind.

But sin is not the only power at work on this earth – the love of the Father is also at work.

His Light seeks out and finds points of entrance through the darkness of fear, shame, loss and evil. Streaks of light break through the barrier of trunks, branches, leaves and overgrowth. The illumination of His love provides a roadmap for a way out.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21 (NKJV)

This is a tender subject, I know, but while God is all powerful and all sovereign it is a mistake to believe that He has complete rule over everything that happens on this earth. If that were so, every person would immediately accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and choose to live obediently to the rule of the Holy Spirit. And we know that’s not happening.

View From The Underside
View from the Underside

From the vantage point of age 50-something, I can now see that God was not absent during my childhood as some might think. He did not turn me over to the Stickman, or a turn blind eye when my innocence was being violated. Instead, He was working a means of protection for me, a way of rescue. While the enemy of my soul was weaving dark threads into the tapestry of my life, God was at work weaving in threads of Light.

“Fear Not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” Isaiah 43:1-2 (NKJV)

I now see that the dissociative amnesia I had as a small child was rather like the hands of my Heavenly Father “covering my eyes and ears” so that I didn’t fully take in all that was going on around me. He sheltered me in the Secret Place, taking those shadowed memories onto His own shoulders to bear until years later when I was old enough to confront them in a healthy way. And while my eyes were safely covered by His love, He carefully wove threads of purple, orange and gold into my life which would later be revealed in the artistic tapestry of a redeemed life.

Heart trusts you for certain
Head says it’s not working
I’m stuck here still hurting
But you tell me
You’re making a masterpiece
You shaping the soul in me
You’re moving where I can’t see
And all I am is in your hands
You’re taking me all apart
Like it was your plan from the start
To finish your work of art for all to see you’re making a masterpiece

Masterpiece by Danny Gokey (excerpt only)

Friend, if you are reading this and recognizing similarities of your own story in mine

(that told thus far, as well as what is yet to be told over the course of coming weeks), my prayer is that you will be able to hear the voice of your Heavenly Father calling out to you. In ways that only a loving Parent can, His heart grieves with you for the dark days you experienced. He longs to take the weight of that pain from off your shoulders, and He is able to do it. But you must relinquish it to Him, and I know from experience that letting go can sometimes feel more threatening than the familiarity of remaining captive.

Perhaps that’s why I find Isaiah 43:1-2 so comforting. I’ll share more about this particular passage in the coming weeks, but for now I invite you to consider what it would look like if the Risen Lord Jesus stood right next to you and walked with you through the waters, and escorted you through the rivers. That when the fires of hell encircled to harm you, He surrounded you like a shield so that you were able to walk through them without even the smell of smoke.

This is your Father. This is the One who calls you by your name. The One who says “You are mine.” And if you will allow Him, He is well able to transform your brokenness into a Masterpiece.

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.