the journey

Only Me, On My Knees…

How many roads did I travel
Before I walked down one that led me to You?
How many dreams did unravel
Before I believed in a hope that was true?
How long? How far?
What was meant to fulfill only emptied me still
And all You ever wanted…

There are turning points in our lives, points in time where there is a quickening spirit and doors are opened if only for a season. Do we walk through those doors? Do we rise to the tasks set before us and grasp ahold of that quickening with both hands and let it fling us forward? Or do we shake our heads and find ourselves focusing too much on the muck and the mire, or the comfort that surrounds us? Focus on the past or seek the future?

When these opportunities have come my way, I’ve been slow to take them. I haven’t seen them for what they were. Or was too engulfed in pain and fear and shame to see the love and desire in God’s eyes. I couldn’t see the kindness motivating the opportunities. I could only see my lack. Or my hubris. So I chose the known over the unknown and my own abilities over God’s and sometimes I missed out. Sometimes God was gracious and showered me with His gifts despite my hesitation, showing me His great kindness even when I couldn’t see it for what it was. Those acts of kindness helped me to trust that God was different.

Isn’t that just like, God, though? He chips away at our reservations and shines the truth on our fears until we start to see God for who He is, not who others say He should be?

How many deaths did I die
Before I was awakened to new life again?
How many half-truths did I bear witness to
‘Til the proof was disproved in the end?
How long? How far?
What was meant to illuminate shadowed me still
And all You ever wanted…

And what does God as in return? To spend time with Him. To engage in relationship with Him. To get to know who He really is. And to accept the gifts He wants to lavish on us.

A year ago, five years ago, I would have said I was there in that place where God and I were encountering each other. But after this last year? I realize what I’ve had and experienced is merely a taste of who God wants to be for me. I’ve made God too small and I’ve believed His love for me wasn’t deep and abiding. I haven’t truly believed that my worth is not based on works or contribution or accomplishment. My faith walk has been burdened with works and lies and living in shadows.

For me to experience more requires some work on my part. Not work so God will find me worthy. More ridding the garden of the weeds that want to grow up and choke out the fruit God has started to grow in my life. In this season of my life I’m weeding and pruning and healing the soil. Only this time, I’m not doing it alone. The Holy Spirit is right there with me, digging in the dirt with a trowel and sometimes with His bare hands. He’s pointing out which plants are the tender shoots that will bear fruit with a little care, and which plants, no matter how pretty, will choke out that young life if left to grow. He’s ruthless but tempers that with a sense of humor. And compassion.

Some of the roots are deep and require strong hands to yank them loose from the soil. These hurt initially. There’s a visceral rending within my soul and a moment of shocked silence as together we yank the weeds free. This is where the compassion comes in. While it may take time for the wound left by the evicted weeds, God is currently quick to reveal what can grow in its place. This isn’t to say He heals everything quickly. I’m still smarting from some fairly invasive species of cursed weeds we identified and removed a few weeks ago. But I can see how the lack of this wicked flora has opened up space for blessing. And renewal.

I think this is part of the process of sanctification. I used to know all these huge concepts around sanctification. Theologies by great men who studied the Bible and proposed doctrines on what it all means. I am in no way dissing these minds, nor I am putting myself up there with them. I’m not a great thinker. Not in that way. What I am is a woman on a journey to know God and to know who I am in Christ. To really know. Deep down in my bones, branded in my mind and heart knowing.

If sanctification is the process of being made holy, of embracing that image of God that has been part of our DNA since Adam and Eve, then isn’t partnering with God to remove the weeds, the roadblocks, the generational curses, the agreements we have wittingly or unwittingly made that pull us away from a relationship with the Trinity part of that process? And isn’t the journey of sanctification being able to see God for who God truly is and wanting to sit at His feet and commune with Him, worship Him, rest in Him?

There are turning points and seasons in which we are offered the path of God’s quickening spirit. If we choose to trust the hand God is holding out and walk into that choice, things will move quickly. Those weeds, God will be very quick to point them out. Never with shame. Never to make us feel guilty. Always to say ‘Do you see that there? If we plucked that out, if we ripped it away and mended the soil, this fruit, this gift will have room to grow. What do you say? Should we do that? Should we get our hands dirty and play in the soil? When this season is over, think of the glorious garden there will be.’

I’m so glad God is patient. I’m glad He has offered me the gift of this season in so many different ways, always prodding just a little deeper until I was able to say yes. And I’m glad He redeems the time. For this, for that patience and those gifts and that steadfast love, I’m truly grateful. What has God wanted? Me. Only me.

Only me on my knees
Singing holy, holy
And somehow
All that matters now is
You are holy, holy

(Nichole Nordeman. Holy. Sparrow, 2002. CD.)

Am I Standing Still?

As I write this, we are 36 days into a new year. I used to love New Year’s Day. There was this bright promise of a fresh start. The sort of fresh start that came with the beginning of summer and the end of a school year with nothing but freedom ahead until September. And reprised again with a new school year, new teachers, new things to learn. New beginnings. Yet, when New Year’s spun around, it didn’t seem to spin with it any new beginnings. It seems to…stand still.

I look around me and I see the same things I see every day. Home renovations that drag on and on. Assignments at work that I feel woefully unequipped to fulfill. Snow. Bitter cold. A Father who seems rather silent.

Winter is a time for the land to lay fallow, dormant. The land is allowed to replenish nutrients and, in some cases, heal. Sometimes healing takes more than a season. Sometimes it can take years. Land that has been deeply saturated with toxins takes decades to rejuvenate and become fertile once again. Much activity takes place beneath the surface and what looks still is full of unseen activity.

I feel like that land. Tired and battered and barely gasping with life, now lying dormant. That new beginning? It feels so far off in the future that it might as well not exist right now. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe I need to stand still in order to grow.

I didn’t realize just how scared I was until last year. I’ve been through therapy. I’ve been a therapist. I’ve worked as a life coach and have worked with a life coach. All of this is to say, I’m no stranger to doing the work. I am responsible for my happiness; that task doesn’t fall to anyone else. So, when a mirror was held up to me I had to take a long, hard look. Sure, work had been done and I had grown and become a stronger person. Stronger for what?

This last year has taught me, or rather reinforced for me, the truth that God will give us what we need to become a little stronger, a little more who He knows we are. He wants to provide for us, to be for us what we need in this moment. And when this moment is finished, He wants to be what we need next. To think that we’re finished, that the overcoming and growing and healing is finished is perhaps arrogant. Phew, I dealt with my borderline grandmother. That was hard work. But, hey, I’m finished now. I’m complete. Right.

I’m a trained therapist, you would think I would know better. Life is a process. A journey. We have victories along the way and God does indeed provide what we need in this moment. And a little more because He knows what’s ahead. There’s another beginning somewhere ahead of me. There’s another story to write, another passion to pursue, another layer to my purpose. But right now, it’s time to lay fallow. To renew. To grow. And perhaps to learn anew who God is for me. To spend time in a word that is near and dear to my heart and rely upon the Holy Spirit to write it upon my heart. And give it meaning in a new way.

In a sense, isn’t that a new beginning? It’s not the lush growth of spring or the wildness of summer. It’s not the loamy richness of autumn. It’s the rest of winter. Resting is not standing still. It’s allowing for rejuvenation and healing. It’s finding that secret sacred space in the Holy Spirit where our wells are filled to overflowing within the empty and broken places inside us. It’s a quiet revolution that yields a quiet strength.

These Foolish Games Are Tearing Me Apart

Hearing my parents’ ringtone two days after I had just spoken with them was jarring. We speak once a week and email or text other important – and unimportant – news as we feel led. Additional calls during the week signal BAD NEWS. Family members dying, in the hospital, losing jobs, getting divorced. Crises.

This was the sense of panic I felt as I answered this unexpected call. It was a crisis and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

My grandmother Zelda is in the hospital. She has COPD due to years of heavy smoking and late last week her health care worker found her struggling to breathe. The episode was so intense that an ambulance was called and my grandmother was rushed to the hospital. Tests were run, as the staff at hospitals love to run tests, and it turns out my grandmother has a couple of life threatening issues beyond the COPD.

Apparently Zelda has cancer that started in her colon and is now in her lungs. She also has an extremely large aortic aneurysm located in her abdomen. Doctors are concerned. A vascular surgeon is being consulted regarding the aneurysm. Zelda would not be able to withstand treatment for the cancer so that will not be tested or treated. For now.

I feel as though I should be sad. My grandmother is basically dying. I’m not sad. When I first heard the news my first thought was one of immense relief. Behind it came shame. How could a granddaughter feel relief that her grandmother is dying? Joining shame for a little shindig was anger. When it comes to my grandmother, there’s always a little anger swimming around within my psyche. Why? To explain you need to know that Zelda has an axis-II personality disorder: borderline personality disorder, or BPD. Like many people with BPD, she can be manipulative and she is not a safe person.

For years she has pulled out the Queen/Witch persona and reigned hellfire down on people in her path. She emotionally, verbally, and quite likely physically abused my mother and my two aunts for years. Zelda’s favorite form of abuse is to withhold her favor from one or two of her daughters while singling out the other daughter as the “Favored One”. Her favor is never without strings. You must kowtow, placate, do anything to please her or she will yank her favor out from under you so quickly you won’t see the floor rising up to hit you on the ass.

While I have no doubt this is a frightening time for my grandmother, I can see her using this as a final opportunity to force her children to care for her while she criticizes, manipulates, and spews toxicity upon them. She will want them to suffer as much as she suffers. She will blame her discomfort on them.

I’m not saying this to be mean or to malign my grandmother. She is God’s child. She is also mentally ill and that illness has been untreated all her life. I struggle as I write this. How vulnerable can I be here in this space where I chronicle my journey? What does it help to talk about a woman who has BPD and is so very mean within her mental illness? What point is there to sharing about her repeated abuse of her daughters, her grandchildren? Why write about a woman to whom I haven’t spoken in years?

In some ways, Zelda holds keys to my identity and some of the spiritual issues I have been dealing with as of late. I have very real and twisty feelings toward my grandmother and layers of things to forgive. I have guilt that is displaced and needs to be shed. I have anger, pity, compassion, and shame all having a party within me.

Despite or because of her mental illness, Zelda is a very angry, very bitter woman. When she is not locked up in her apartment avoiding the world, she reigns supreme and demands…everything. Grown men have walked in fear of triggering one of her cold rages. Lesser mortals shrivel and die a bit inside when faced with her displeasure.

And as I write this, flipping through my mental picture album for those few and far between good memories of time with her, I realize that I am also angry and if left unchecked I could become very bitter. There is legitimate anger within me, but very little mercy. At least not toward her. Not toward the woman who spoke curses over me when I was a very young child. Not toward the woman who emotionally eviscerated my mother in front of me every chance she got. Not the woman who, at my high school graduation, told me a looked like a tarted up slut. Who seemed to find pleasure in criticizing a person for dreaming or reaching for something more.

As I type, that anger starts to seethe. And that scares me. Is this the legacy Zelda is leaving me? Anger and bitterness and judgement? Is this who I want to be?

I think there’s a place for anger when there is injustice. I think that mercy must also exist alongside anger. And that anger, it can’t be where a person stops. There will be justice, but that’s in God’s hands. And what does justice look like? Is it suffering due to illness? No, what Zelda is experiencing are the natural consequences of her choices and of a fallen world. That’s not justice. Sure, I could call it that and feel self-righteous that she’s finally getting what’s coming to her. That doesn’t make me any better than she is. It makes me smug and arrogant and hard-hearted.

Maybe justice would be Zelda understanding she can make different choices. Maybe it’s contrition. Maybe justice is her three daughters undergoing therapy to undo the years of abuse and manipulation so they can lead stronger, healthier lives. Maybe it’s coming to Papa and falling into His arms, a broken woman in need of healing. Maybe mercy and justice aren’t too far apart.

My grandmother is dying and I still don’t completely know how I feel. I do know this – it’s more than time to stop living under Zelda’s legacy and instead live the life God wants so dearly for me to live.

You’re F**kin’ Perfect To Me

Claire had a word for me earlier this week. A profound word that I received from her while I was at work. A word that drove me to my knees, figuratively cuz, you know, at work. But there in my cubicle I fought the need to cry until the desert within my soul was saturated with tears of release and longing. To rage at the sky at the hurts I have buried deep within my soul, at the things that have been said over me and done to me and agreed to by me that have done nothing but tear away at my sense of self. This word has ripped me apart inside and when the pieces are put back together I know I will never be the same.

[Y]ou are a talented, intelligent, beautiful, capable woman. You are gifted. The Lord has deposited His image in you. It’s a unique image. No one else on the planet, past, present, or future has this particular image. Your expression of this image is your own, and He is excited to continue revealing it to you and others day by day. You, therefore, have no need to compare yourself to others.
Comparisons are pointless. It’s like hummingbird comparing itself to an orchid. The hummingbird is iridescent and beautiful. One must look hard to see it. It is made with purpose. Everything about the hummingbird allows it to do exactly what it was purposed to do. The orchid, on the other hand, lives in rainforests. It’s not even a bird! Like the hummingbird, it’s a rare beauty, but it’s wildly different. The two cannot be compared. How are they alike? They are alike in that they are  magnificent. They are wonderfully made. They cause one to stop and stare.
When hummingbirds are in action, pollinating flowers, sipping nectar, people gather because the hummingbird in action is a wonder. When the orchid is at rest it seems to just be a collection of leaves. Nothing special. But when it blooms, it stuns. Each variety of orchid is different. In fact, one can’t even compare orchid blooms to each other because they are so different and beautiful.
To compare a moth orchid to a Lady Slipper seems almost like a crime. It denigrates their beauty. Each one is incomparably lovely.
For you to compare yourself to another person decreases your worth. It insults God. He thought you up before the foundations of the world were set in place. Everything about you; your laugh, your eyes, your spirit, your hair, even the way you walk. The name given you. The way you drink your tea. Your creativity. Your longings and secret desires….your desire for more. It’s all known by Him and to compare yourself others, to agree with anyone else, natural or supernatural, that you, as you are, in the eyes of God are somehow lesser or less beautiful or too much or not enough in comparison to someone else is wrong.
Come into agreement with who God says you are. On the day He thought you up, He declared to the Heavens–“I  made her. And she is. ‘She is fearfully and wonderfully made.” Agree with that. If you ever get confused go back to that. If you ever lose your way go back to that.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am good.”
“I am as magnificent as a hummingbird and lovely as an orchid.”
“Incomparably beautiful. There is no one like me.”

This was the first part of the word. It went on from there to show me generational sin and agreements in my family line. In my own life. God used Claire to show me how God sees me and to let me know that in some of the deepest and darkest moments in my life God didn’t abandon me. Which I have always known on an intellectual level but truly believed? No. You see, there’s always been this voice in my head telling me I’m not worthy. I’m not worth God’s love. I’m never going to really be His daughter because I’m broken beyond repair. How could a good and perfect God love someone like me.

That voice sounds an awful lot like my grandmother. But it’s not her. Sure, she spoke words over me that were curses rather than blessings. And the spirit of victimization, the spirit of poverty, a spirit of jealousy started to become empowered in my life. It hurts to type this. I am looking back over events in my life, at social ostracization, at always being on the outside even within my own family and I see a girl who had no idea what was at work in her life. And I see a broken view of God. He wasn’t big enough or didn’t care enough to stop these things. He didn’t stop my grandmother from speaking curses over me time and time again. He didn’t stop the mean girls from making sure my life was a social hell. He didn’t stop the sexual abuse or my own choices that occurred after.

I’ve been harboring anger at God. As for how I feel about myself, I’ve been seeing myself as too much and not enough. Always reaching but never deserving.

God spoke to Claire and she imparted to me that God was with me through it all – the good and the bad. And God has never seen me as lacking. He was with me and He knew He would heal me. God is outside of time. Heal me then, heal me now, does it matter? There is healing. God is there, holding my head through the darkest memories and like a good parent, He is telling me that it will be okay. Telling me He knows it hurts, and hurts horribly to the point where I don’t know if I can stand through the pain. But He will heal these hurts and tend to my wounds. And He wants to do that now.

God also knows that like Thomas I have doubts. Prove it to me, Papa. Prove to me that you were there and that you have always planned to heal these wounds. Prove to me that you can. Prove to me that you loved me when I see myself at my worst. Prove to me that nothing I have done to dare Heaven has diminished your love for me. Prove it, Papa.

Since God knows this part of me, He had Claire tell me that it was okay to ask the hard questions and go into those dark and devastating memories and look. He will be there. He has always been there. Even when I raged at Him for not loving me enough, for playing favorites, for letting dreams fall to dust. For not saving me from myself. God basically dared me to bring Him any bad memory and He will show me where He was and what He was doing. He will show me His goodness.

Funny how well God knows us. Had He not dared me, I wouldn’t be writing this post. Had He not said, “bring it” I would have taken this word and I would have tucked it away. But I wouldn’t have done anything with it. I wouldn’t be sitting here telling God to show me exactly where His goodness was when in sixth grade all it took was one sick day for the head mean girl to turn my best friend of a year against me. When upon my return to class she was mocking me during lessons and ridiculing me at lunch. Where was HIs goodness when that same mean girl made it her mission to turn every new student our age against me to ensure that I was always on the outside and alone? Where was His goodness when I was abuse by babysitters, by a family member? Where was His goodness when my grandmother told me time and time again that I would never be enough. When she would destroy my mother in my presence and then turn to me, daring me to cross her, flaying me verbally when I did.

And God wouldn’t be patiently showing me exactly that. Or He would be, but I wouldn’t be listening. I would have my eyes closed and my fingers in my ears chanting, “la la la, I can’t hear you” like a stubborn strong-willed child.

I certainly wouldn’t be listening to Pink’s single F**kin’ Perfect over and over again, the words a love song to the child I remember and the adult I am becoming because seriously, I think God wrote part of that for me.

You’re so mean, when you talk
about yourself. You were wrong…
Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever  ever feel
Like you’re less than, less than f**kin’ perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever ever feel
Like you’re nothing, you’re f**kin’ perfect to me

There’s more to be done. More conversations to be had between God and I. There are old  agreements to abolish. There is bondage to work through. Legal rights to revoke. Exchanges to be made. And healing to be had.

This is an opportunity. An open door. And I have a choice to be made. Will I hesitate to walk through that door and enter into the work of healing and divine acceleration of growth that God has placed in my life? Or will I exchange poverty thinking, fear and judgement for compassion and knowing, really knowing my God-given worth and step through that door?

We all have these moments in our lives, moments of great opportunity that may seem like they carry great cost. And evangelical teachings tell us that the cost is to be weighed and never taken lightly. However, I am reminded that God gives us all we need in order to pay the cost, which in essence means we don’t really pay anything. God does. Why do we fear then? Why do we resist? Because we believe the lies and look at what we have and decide it’s comfortable enough here, where we are. And we miss out on so much.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to see myself as God sees me. I don’t want to be angry anymore or tired of fighting or lonely in a crowd of people. I want something more. Don’t you?

Who Are You, I Really Wanna Know

Confession time. I’m not trying to be cute with my blog post titles. The vast majority of them are lines from songs, titles from songs or plays on lines from movies. This is not to be cute. This is how my brain draws parallels between what I’m learning in the spirit or the abstract and how it applies in the natural. Said differently, it’s my own personal mnemonic device.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Now back to our regularly scheduled post.

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity lately. Claire and I seem to be on similar paths in this season of our lives. Our conversations seem to always circle back to identity. The dreams I wake up remembering all have this component that relates to identity. We even attended a seminar this past weekend where the focus was on identity from God’s perspective. I’ve decided to go with it. If this is the area God wants me to focus on right now, that’s where I’ll focus my time and effort.

I’m not new to the idea of identity. In my graduate work in psychology we discussed theories of personality and core identity. How when behavior deviates from how a person presents themselves you have a window into where there may be hurts, distorted beliefs, mental illness, or potential gaps in a person’s development and internal integration, or a window into what that person really believes. For example, if I say I love and respect my parents, but am always mocking their decisions or putting down their beliefs, then I either have a very distorted and disturbing view of love and respect that needs to be addressed, or I’m showing you my true colors and I really don’t respect my parents at all. Or something in between. Either way, something needs to be addressed so my beliefs and my behaviors can align.

It’s similar in the spiritual. What I believe about myself, about God needs to align with what is true about God and how He views me. It’s sifting through the stories I’ve told myself about who I am and letting go of anything that isn’t reality. It’s being willing to shed the labels others have placed on me so I can find out who I really am underneath all the labels I’ve accumulated over the years. And being willing to reclaim parts of myself I’ve allowed to diminish over the years.

After Saturday’s seminar, I had a dream that I was a superhero with a benign every day persona and a larger than life superhero persona. Then God reached down and ripped off my mask. He told me that when I wore the mask, I only wore the parts of myself I thought had value, that were accepted and admirable. The parts I considered strengths either because they were needed by others or because I believed they were what other people wanted from me. Everything else about me faded and became so very small no one could tell they were there.

When I wasn’t wearing the mask, those larger than life parts of myself diminished and these other parts of myself started to grow and develop. People who saw me with my mask didn’t recognize me without it. I didn’t recognize myself.

So when God took away my mask, I was devastated. I need it! In order to be what everyone else was telling me I was, I needed it, otherwise I was lost. No one wants to be lost.

Just before I awoke and the dream started to fade into the misty memory it is today, I remember God whispering in my ear as I was panicking. He said it was time to reclaim myself, to be reacquaint myself with the parts of myself I’ve let go in order to live up to these other expectations, including expectations I’ve heaped upon myself. It’s time to meet the me God created me to be.

I figure in order to grow as a prophet, or to grow in any of our spiritual gifts, we need to really know who we are. This takes work. Sometimes difficult and trying work. But always rewarding work. Identity is the next step for me. It’s time to mine my inheritance words and the prophecies I’ve received and layer by layer dig and sift and dig some more to learn all about who God has already said I am. The answers are there, waiting for me.

It’s there for you, as well. Who are you? Who does God say you are? Don’t you want to know?