I’ve been thinking all day about whether I should publish this or keep this as one of those writings shared between my best friend and me. Am I brave enough yet to share my truth publicly and risk the effects? Or am I still treading lightly because of that little girl within me? As I typed it out and felt the release of my truth being spoken, I realized that the reason I have not moved forward these past two years is that I am still holding back. My purpose is to help others heal through my story and to speak about the messy and ugly things that so many church folks like to sweep under rugs and talk about in back rooms. Well, today, I bring them front and center and risk it all to stand before you completely undone. Today, I share my truth with you and from here on out I speak from this foundation. I finally understand what route I want to take with this blog. This post is long and it is not for those who want a cute look at Christianity. It is for those who want real and want to heal from the stuff that was cast upon them at a young age that they have spent their entire lives working through and pretending they don’t deal with because they don’t want to offend others or be kicked out of the ministry. Today, we face these truths together. And we rise, together, from the ashes.
Yesterday I sat in counseling and tried to do the technique we have been working on that helps you bring up a memory and reframe it in your mind (EMDR). You basically retrain your brain so it tells your body to react differently when the memory pops up (layman’s terms). In the past its worked because I have known the memories well. The ones of my ex-husband are well ingrained within my mind, as I was older when they occurred and I can honestly say I made a conscious decision to stay in the relationship, so I have relived those memories over and over through diary entires, etc. Some of the things I went through with my father, I still have fresh in my mind because I have tried for years to understand my role within the struggle of that relationship and what I could have done differently to be a daughter he could have been proud of. So in the past, I could kind of fake it with the exercises because I could “see” the memory in my mind without having to actually look at it while doing the exercise. (Yes, I am publicly admitting to cheating. I shared this in the session. I don’t understand how anyone can “see” a memory while someone is waving a hand in front of your face…all I can think about is that someone is moving a hand in front of my face.) So yesterday I encountered a hitch when we tried to go back to the beginning. The genesis of my abuse. The first time I could recall someone touching me inappropriately. I couldn’t “see” the memory my therapist was waving her hand in front of my face but I could “see” it clearly while just looking at the wall without her hand moving, but that isn’t how the therapy is supposed to work. As such, we had to go another route and I have to tell you, it was VERY hard. One I am not sure how I feel about going down. I path I started walking down and found myself torn between feeling amazed that I trusted someone enough to share these details with and feeling disgusted with myself that I was saying these things aloud to someone and inviting them into the pain I have to live with when memories come up through certain smells, sounds, sights, touches, and feelings. We sat in that session and took a year’s worth of discussion – and some new content – and outlined my life on a piece of paper. All the trauma. All the “major events” that have caused pain. All that makes up the shattered pieces of me that led me to seek help last year so I could enter into my 40th year restored. All the broken. All the battered. All the bruised. All the words that say someone can never be loved, should never be loved and will never be loved. I spoke them out of my mouth and she wrote them onto a paper, highlighting various moments and phrases, putting my life under a microscope and finally saying that I am no longer going to move forward living like this but we are going to identify what it is within me that causes me to be the way I am so I can change those things (or the way I see those things, if that is the case) and enter the new year with a better outlook.
That paper. All the horrid details of my life in one place.
I am not sure how I feel about it. My heart, my spirit… it has been hurt and shattered since the session in a very powerful way. A way that feels like a seed about to sprout forth the first signs of life. All the pressure, pain, and darkness of my first 40 years laid out there in front of someone else. Sitting there absolutely naked for someone else to judge. I haven’t done that before: tell one person my full story. The whole naked truth. All my dirty secrets. All my shame. All my hurt and brokenness laid out for someone to take in and feel with me. For someone to hear about and know what a dirty and shameful human I have been. To lay it all out and see someone writing down notes about my life was the hardest thing I have ever done. And to do it without wondering what she would say or what she would think or what medications she would try to put me on as I shared all these things was the most freeing thing I had ever done. And at the same time, it was the most painful thing I had ever done because I can’t take it back. It is out there now. I have to deal with it. That little girl within me is now bleeding and exposed and hurt. She is crying and I am not sure how I feel about that.
Do I feel bad about making her cry? About exposing her? Or do I feel relieved that for the first time in my life, I trust someone enough to say this is the pain in my life and I want to use it for good but before I can do that, I know I need to heal from it. I need to deal with the feelings that have resulted. I need to deal with the fact that I have tried to silence that little girl for so long that I am now 40 and haven’t had any real relationships in my life because I am always living based upon what that little girl dictates. Judging people on whether they would be able to handle my nuances and the ways I see the world because of my experiences. Sharing only pieces of myself because even just sharing little pieces of what I have experienced causes most to look at me with pity and causes the shames within me to rise up. The little girl begins to win and I want to go to the corner and hide from the world, because that is what abused children do: they hide. But yesterday, I didn’t.
Yellow and blue.
Like my body so many times in my life. So many times when people thought it was okay to just use their hands to take pieces of my soul with them. Leaving me at this place where I feel so worthless that when someone does see my worth, I wonder what they are trying to take from me. I can’t believe anyone just wants to be with me for me. They always want something – connections, writing, free services, events, rides. It’s so hard for me to believe someone just wants to be around me for me. And when someone does, I sabotage it because I am not used to it and I question their intentions. (I am working on this, hence being in counseling. Our first step is to identify these behaviors and work on them so we can STOP the behavior.) I don’t know how to just be with someone because being with someone hurts, and hurting makes me go back to those moments of bleeding, and well, those moments, I don’t like to remember them. So instead of just being with people, I am always doing something, or talking about something, or going somewhere. I cannot recall the last time I just relaxed with someone. I am not sure I know how to do that with anyone other than my children and family.
Filled with so many hurts.
When we are hurt, we hurt others. When we are hurt, we can’t believe that people see value in us. As I shared in my last blog post, I have a really hard time showing up for myself because I can’t see my own worth. I can’t see my own value. I have done all these exercises to see my identity as God sees me and to see myself as others see me now, but they don’t change that internal chatter that says because of what happened to me I am not of value to anyone. I have been unable to silence this inner child who says the terrible things that happened make her forever stained. Until yesterday. Putting all of the truth of who I am out there was so freeing because it made me deal with some very real facts, some very hard facts that I didn’t realize until I spoke out all these truths about my life and then answered questions. At one point my counselor asked me if there is anything I wish I could have said or someone would have said to me back then. Yes… there is. I wish someone told me I was worthy of love. That someone had not given me the church standard that I was unworthy and was a sinner and was no good and that only through Jesus was I good. Do you know what that does to a young girl who isn’t good enough for her father? How can JESUS love her when her own father does not? But that’s another blog post… let me keep to topic since I already know this will be long today. I wanted someone to tell me that I was loved and that I was worthy of love. But that never happened and so I spent so much time and energy searching for it. Different people, religions, genders, drugs, adventures. By 17, I’d lived such a full life of hell that I don’t know how I woke up each day. So in my relationships over the years, I hurt people. Because I didn’t love myself, I hurt others in my life. I have never had truly great relationships with anyone who has been in my life for a long time who doesn’t have an understanding of hurt people because I have been incapable to commitment to anything. I come and go. I don’t stick around through hard times. I get bored with easy times. I switch jobs every few years because once I conquer something I am bored. Again, all of this is what led me to counseling so all these truths can be changed, but they are all my truths. You can understand my fear of putting this out there.
My life. All that’s wrong with it.
It made me very sad inside. A grief kind of sadness, like someone died. I came home exhausted last night and woke up fighting wanting to sleep more today. To deal with some of the sadness, I wrote a piece to my best friend last night about some feelings I was having and talked out with her some of my inner thoughts. As I dreamed last night and saw myself continually falling underwater and not being able to keep my head above the waves. And I realized: I am full of shit. I don’t have hope. I have lost the hope that I tell each of you to have. That I write about in these blog posts. That I have spent the last two years telling everyone I still believe in. That I have based my very faith upon. It seems like this realization caused me to wake up with a deep sadness that I couldn’t shake this morning. So I am here writing to you and exploring it.
So now that that’s out, let’s talk about it.
As I think about the dream and how I kept falling underwater, and about this realization that I don’t really BELIEVE that I will live out my dreams or find my dream job or write my books or do any of the things others think I am capable of doing, and how I have seemingly found myself not showing up for my own life and living in this place of “used to be” instead of “am”, I find a deeper sadness. One that goes beyond feeling shame for letting out what happened to me and what I have done and enters into feeling like a liar and a scammer. I don’t truly believe on the surface that there is more for me – and not in a suicidal way like I have nothing to live for but in a way of maybe I have used up all of God’s grace by throwing away all of my chances to change and not going for it. I believe it for everyone else, but when I think about these things for myself, I am writing a story or sharing a thought that doesn’t really resonate deep down. It’s fiction. It’s an idea. The last few years have beat me down. Something in driving back from Florida broke me apart and I lost hope in a future as I knew it. (Don’t walk away here though, because in this realization I also came to a very real discovery that encourages me.) I had finally taken a jump and done something for myself and taken this risk to move myself and my business and then fear got the best of me when one person made a decision that has changed the course of my life once again. That one decision basically said to me that my past will always dictate my future and that got inside my head and caused me to give up. I tapped out. I went down for the count and stopped believing in myself. I stopped believing scripture promises were written for me. I stopped believing the words I sang applied to my life. I lost hope at the surface, though there was a glimmer of something somewhere deep, deep within me.
This realization hurt because I don’t like lying or scamming. I went back and read through some conversations, journal entries, and blog posts, and I was like, “I am full of such SHIT”! (Sorry for my language, but let’s keep this REAL today.) I tell EVERYONE ELSE that this is just a season and that tomorrow could be the day everything changes. I speak life into everyone else and for myself… I don’t believe I am worthy of any of that because of all that was done to me and that I allowed to happen to me. Because of what a horrible human I was for so many years of my life. And it doesn’t matter to me that all of my “bad” stuff was before I was 25 or that I have been a pretty amazing human being since that time. No, what matters is that sometimes when I am out with new friends, I will see an old friend and the panic inside my chest will paralyze me for moments because I don’t know what words will come out if the person sees me. I don’t know whether they will realize we are older and wiser now and people change, like the young man I ran into when my long-time family friend died two months ago; or if they will look at me and hope I didn’t see them just as I am hoping they don’t see, like the young man I saw this weekend while out with a friend. I never know what is going to happen. And I hate that feeling. That shame that washes over me when I venture out and think of things I used to do and the person I used to be. And that shame washes out hope because the self-talk becomes a track of bullying where I think, “What man will want someone who has been through what you’ve been through? Any man who does will only be taking out the trash. Pitying you. He will surely be doing things on side. All you will ever be good for is a side piece. Besides look at you.” It doesn’t help that each time I hit a certain weight I self-sabotage to ensure I don’t get to a place where someone will think I am beautiful because then I will be putting on a false front for folks: having nice packaging for a damaged product. Like the Christmas present that is nicely wrapped and looks like the best gift you wanted but actually contains the thing you want the least. (I’d say a book, but I always loved getting books, so insert that gift you always thought was the worst one.) And when I type that out, I think to myself, “Do you know how truly sad you would be to hear one of your friends say that about themselves?” But that is my truth right now. When I am out with friends, I always think they would rather be a million other places and are just taking one for the team. It’s an awful existence to feel inside like people are doing you a favor to be your friend. I imagine it must be hard being the friend of a person who is truly thankful for others being willing to be their friend, all the thank you texts and truly being told that you are loved and valued. I get tired of being told how deep I am just because I do make it a point to ensure the people who put up with me know how much I respect and value them. Those with during this chapter are getting me at my most broken and I completely am thankful for them. This is my make or break season for sure.
And that last comment… right? Hope. It is an interesting thing. We serve a God whose entire existence is based upon it. Our entire belief in Him is based upon it. Without hope there is no Christianity. Without hope my entire faith is a sham. Without hope, what am I? So this morning I have been in prayer and reflection over the thought, “If I have lost hope, what does that mean?” What did it mean that I kept going underwater and losing my breath but then resurfacing, and each time only being able to come back up for a little bit of water and being able to JUST see above water… like if my eyes were half above the line and half under? What is this message and what is going on with me because I know that these next 40 days are vital to ensuring I don’t carry this all into 2018. (40 is such a KEY number in the Bible.) While I have been typing it forever and I have been saying it for the last year, I know that I know that I do not want to carry any of this baggage into 2018 and I believe that 2018 is going to be a good year for me with many breakthroughs — and there is an answer! That is something – that is hope. But if I don’t have hope, how do I have … hope? How can I not have something, yet have it? How can I not possess or believe something, yet it comes so naturally within me, just escapes from my mouth and thoughts as if it is ingrained within me? So I continued to reflect.
How can I have no belief that life is going to change yet deep down believe that I need to let all this go so I can step into 2018 ready to receive all that is mine? How can I not believe in something, yet believe in it so strongly? I needed God to show me this and show it to me without ANY room for error in understanding, as this is my faith we are talking about. I needed to truly “get” this without any confusion because when I woke up this morning, I felt like a fraud as I was talking with a friend, praying with her over a situation yet sitting there thinking about how I didn’t believe that my own situation was truly going to change… and yet looking forward to a call I had scheduled for hours later about a venture with a friend. I needed clarity. So I postponed my planned morning activities to ask God to show me something, anything that would allow me to understand this clear contradiction that is my mind at this time. I listened to this song while I did and enjoyed clearing my head with some worship music.
As I sang, I thought about gifts. I was a “State kid” for my teen years so we would have to write lists and give them to staff, who would then provide them to folks in the community. Living in a group home, foster home, shelter, etc., no one would want to buy anything fancy because things getting stolen was a daily reality, so though we would put “special” gifts on our lists, we would not expect to get them. When we would see the gifts under the tree we would try to guess if we got what we requested. This is sometimes what the hope feels like… like looking at those gifts knowing darn well I wasn’t getting what I asked for but yet having a small fragment of hope that I would be surprised.
But this metaphor doesn’t help me with my situation of feeling like I’ve lost hope in my life and how I am feeling confused about why it is SO EASY to believe for others and not for myself. When I see others in terrible situations, I truly believe for them that things are going to get better and truly believe that it’s going to get better. When I pray for people be healed, I pray with full conviction they will be. I am actually quite upset with God when I hear people report back that they aren’t better. I feel like I am not praying hard enough or maybe my wires are getting crossed or maybe there is someone in my life hindering Him from answering me. It is never a belief that they won’t get better or be healed. So I kept meditating and praying, searching my heart, pushing aside the little girl who was upset that all her scars were cast out on paper yesterday for someone to see. She wanted to kick and scream and push me back into a place where I couldn’t find the answer to this question because finding the answer brings me closer to freedom. I was determined to understand what is going on and why I feel this way and tackle it head on, because only by understanding it can I fix it and make it better.
And then it hit me:
It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches. ~Luke 13:19 (NLT)
The mustard seed.
The hope that is within me feels like a long shot. It feels far removed. I can’t touch it and it feels like it is lost. It there, but I struggle to tap into for myself in terms of showing up for myself. When I talk to others, I feel like I am speaking from a place I don’t know for myself because I feel like while I have these dreams, that all they are. When I made my vision book at the beginning of the year, I really struggled to connect with the elements I was placing in the book – they seemed like dreams more than goals. When I speak about about what I want to do in my life, I struggle with connecting the dots. Part of this is just the ADD I am still learning how to live with. I have learned to deal with it professionally and when it comes to showing up for others, but I still haven’t learned how to deal with it within my own life. That has frustrated me to no end because I now am focusing all of my time on career search, writing, and becoming my best self. I am more aware of it. I am more aware of the fact that I SAY I am hopeful but don’t feel it on the surface. I have to dig DEEP to find it. But I think this is where the mustard seed comes in. Let’s look at that in some depth.
When most people think about the mustard seed, they cite the verse about moving mountains (Matthew 17:20) and how you can have the faith of a mustard seed and cast mountains into the sea, but I don’t need to move a mountain right now. I have been moving mountains into the sea my entire life. I have been climbing and conquering mountains, going through valleys, wandering the wilderness, enjoying the mountain peaks. I have scars across my body and my heart. There are scars that still remain from some of the excursions. What I need right now is to learn how to be ROOTED.
That is why this verse stood out to me. I have never actually seen this verse before despite having read through the gospels several times. Let’s look at it again, and if you are one of the brokenhearted who need restoring, like me, meditate on it. Let it really sit in before moving on to see what I found in it. If you have been reading this post and you have needed to take breaks because the snot has been overwhelming as you have read my story, take some time to really sit with this verse like I did this morning, and then you can read what I learned about my own situation to see if it helps you at all with your own. Too many times we hear someone else’s take and forget to take what we need from something. Don’t do that to yourself. Show up and take what is here for you. You are worthy of that.
It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches. ~Luke 13:19 (NLT)
A mustard seed is so tiny. You can drop it really easily if you aren’t focused on holding it. To think that a seed so tiny could possess within it a tree in which birds would make their nests was a powerful thought to me.Within a tiny mustard seed that I could drop if not holding onto it with purpose lies the ability to produce a tree in which birds can find shelter and create life. What?! Within a small seed of hope. Small. Like that little spark of something deep within me that I can feel when I say that one day I will publish my book and see my angel investing firm come to fruition and that I will get this dream job I am in the running for…that little spark deep, deep down that shows a smile on face when I am with certain friends that says maybe there is more to life than sitting inside and maybe there is more to me than feeling like folks are doing me a favor to be my friend. That tiny little spark of hope, if watered and fed and nurtured could again be alive and produce a great tree in which other lives could be changed! What a thought!
Taking the Message translation brought even greater life to this scripture, even though it changes the nut to the larger pine nut (it also upgraded the bird to an eagle):
It’s like a pine nut that a man plants in his front yard. It grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches, and eagles build nests in it. ~Luke 13:19 (MSG)
I love that in the Message version says it is in his FRONT yard! Gardens are typically in a side or back yard, but this tree is proudly displayed in the FRONT yard. And it’s a HUGE pine tree with THICK branches. The depth of the Message, which not always true to the Greek and Hebrew text brings the scripture alive to me. That small spark of hope within me for myself, can grow into the same hope like I have for others. Because what I have for you when I type, what I have for others when I speak over them and pray for them, that is the FRONT YARD kind of tree with thick branches. That is the pine tree growing strong. That is the Psalm 1 tree that is growing strong by the water and producing fruit in its season. I believe in that tree with such faith. But for myself… my own hope for my own life … well, I had a little epiphany while looking at these two verses.
My problem is that my hope all these years has been like a seed in a packet! It feels so distant because it is just lying there: unplanted, unfed, unwatered. Like the packet of Cilantro and Cucumber seeds I bought my mother last year for the garden, my hope is just something that sits within my mind and isn’t really used for myself. My tree can’t sprout because I haven’t planted it! I have not dug it deep in my heart and allowed it to take root (which is a post for another day about how I don’t allow things to take root…this is a reoccurring theme in my life and perhaps will be my word of 2018: Rooted). I have not treated it with care, but instead gone around helping others water their hope. My tree is sitting inside a packet still! It’s time to take it out and plant it because I have businesses, relationships, lives that depend upon me turning those dreams and thoughts into reality! I have books of ideas and half-written novels to which lives are attached but I won’t put them into the atmosphere because my hope has been sitting in a freaking packet waiting to plant itself! I have Messenger conversations and people who have asked me to do workshops and travel with them on the other side of which are lives that want to be changes and to whose prison cells I have the keys but I’m just sitting here waiting for a sign to drop on my head. I owe some apologies to people who have been waiting for me and have been victims of my insecurities and lack of belief that my timing is now! (If I had emoji’s here you would see a crying face and praise hands because I have tears streaming down my eyes and am practically jumping out of my seat.)
I want to have my life like the tree with thick branches and for me to be rooted in a career, and a church, and to have solid relationships, to be able to commit to people and hobbies and things. For me to be a woman of my word and for me to be able to read my own words and KNOW that I am one who speaks truth into my own life like when I speak into others. Because right now when I tell you that I feel like I am on the edge of a breakthrough, it means nothing if I am talking about myself because in my own life I am pretty much ALL TALK (I see myself that way anyway). I read through my old blogs and for years I have been saying I am on the edge of a breakthrough and here I am in the same place…the only thing that has changed is my heart (which as I type that I acknowledge is actually pretty big for me). I am finally learning to open up to love, for myself and others. Even as I sit here typing, it doesn’t escape me that I am sitting here typing this in a room where I once had one of the worst and most heartbreaking fights of my adult life. I see that God truly has me where I need to be. And for the first time, I say that without crying wolf. I say that believing it deep inside my heart. I say that believing that He is up to something and that if I just continue to press in and let Him lead me, and continue to shed the dead weight (figuratively and literally) I will find myself in a place that is beyond my wildest imagination and expectations. And if you’ll join me on this journey, we’ll get there together.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
By identifying what is holding us back from planting our faith and taking actions toward change, no longer shall hope be deferred. Today, we fulfill the longing to feel again and to silence that little child within us that says, “Stay here”. We close the door and let her / him know that s/he is safe and it’s time to grow into the adult that we can proud of!* More to come in the days ahead as we embark on the last 40 days of this year and take steps EACH DAY to ensure we are moving forward together to make 2018 our best year yet. We rise together and we sharpen one another. Thank you for being part of my journey. I am honored to also be a part of yours. Each of you who read this, send me emails, comment on FaceBook, comment here mean so much to me. I do this for each of you out there who may have experienced similar pain that I have lived with and who don’t know where to go or what to do. I don’t want anyone to ever feel they have no hope. There IS hope and things can get better, we just have to find it within us to take the steps necessary to make the changes that will help us get there. Let’s identify the tools over the next weeks and develop habits that will help us to create the life that brings us to where we want to be. Let’s stop striving and start enjoying the moments we are living in. That has been the biggest blessing of my life in the last two months and has led to me being able to share this today. Understanding truly that our next moment is not promised. I am thankful for you and I look forward to walking this out with you as we get real and walk this path toward healing together.
Let’s take a few minutes to close out together with this song. Let the words wash over you. Take them in and let them fuel that seed of hope like water over a garden.
Until next time,
*If this post brought up memories or triggers for you, please seek a pastor, friend, or trusted counselor who can help you process the emotions, memories, etc. that arise. We are NOT meant to do life on our own. I am not a licensed counselor and am only sharing things based upon my own experiences so it is important you talk to someone who can help you based upon your own experiences, beliefs, personality, and diagnoses.