Aftermath

In the aftermath of a storm comes peace. Sometimes we are greeted with blue skies and sunshine, light breezes and clean, fresh air. Other times the aftermath is less peaceful as we view destruction all around us and hot, stifling air that makes it almost impossible to get a deep breath – almost as though breathing under water.

That’s how it is with me today. I am in the aftermath of a storm and around me I see all the years of destruction this storm wrought in my life. My breathing is shallow and the ache in my heart is real and very deep. This wound is deep and the infection within it was massive. Now, with the scab ripped off the infection is oozing out and I am on the bench, trying to remain calm as the depth of the infection and the stench of the wound make me weak and ill.

As I sat with Father this morning He led me to verses about anger and wooed me with words of love and healing. He wants me to acknowledge the anger – give myself permission to be angry. He wants me to rage and scream and let it all out so that the infection will be washed away but I am too weak and still too much in shock from what has been revealed. I am still surveying the damage all around. The realization that my own wounds caused me to make choices that inflicted the SAME WOUNDS on my children has left me in an almost vegetative state. I cannot change my past but I can confront it and be free from it. BUT HOW DO I HELP MY CHILDREN? I cannot change THEIR past AND I CANNOT CONFRONT IT FOR THEM SO THAT THEY CAN BE FREE!!   O God, help my babies!

Anger. There is so much anger. How could he? We are his children and supposed to be protected by him, not terrorized and abused by him! How could he?

But then I know the answer to the question. He abused because he was abused. He hurt us because he was hurt. He suffered not only the trauma of an abusive childhood but also the trauma of being in the trenches during WWII – at Normandy, on the road to Paris, and into Berlin.

My heart of compassion only hurts for him. I cannot release the anger yet because I am still making excuses for him. I am still giving him the benefit of the doubt and offering forgiveness when none has been requested. I am offering unconditional love in return for betrayal and abuse, terror and neglect. I am still a very sick little puppy.

This is so hard. The tears come unbidden without provocation, it seems. I try to stifle them because it won’t do to cry in public without reason. My pain is real and the hurt so bad I can hardly lift my arms. I am mourning for an entire lifetime lost to abuse.

Today I have been in contact with my sisters but no response yet. Today I have stripped off the mask – no longer willing to be a silent partner to the abuse of our shared past. Perhaps they are still in hiding. Perhaps they are still in denial. It doesn’t matter – I am giving them an open door to be free and I pray they will take it.

Even as I write this I feel the ache in my heart lessening. The truth will, indeed, set you free.

John 8:32  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

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Old Things Are Passed Away

Sitting here watching an old movie. Nothing else to do right now but relax so I tuned into TCM – my favorite channel because it has no commercials and the movies are usually just my kind – old, black and white, with lots of real acting going on. The movie guide says it is called “Something Wild” and is about a mechanic who saves a potential suicide victim and give her love. Looks innocuous, so I tune in.

And now, after just 20 minutes of watching I am sorry I tuned in. The story isn’t as innocuous as it is made to sound. Yes, the mechanic rescues her and takes her to his home where she can sleep while he goes off to work. So much for the love angle. Now he locks her in and won’t let her leave. Days pass and she is locked in every time he goes out. She never gets to leave the apartment. He comes in drunk and tries to attack her and she defends herself with a quick high-heeled kick to his eye, practically blinding him.

The acting is excellent, so why am I sorry I tuned in? Because I feel in my chest that same suffocating feeling of being imprisoned with a violent drunk. The suffocating feeling of not being able to escape, of being a prisoner in my own home without the freedom to go where I want or do what I want. A prisoner not only in body but in spirit, without any say in my own life. A prisoner, afraid to speak up for fear of the violent outbursts. A prisoner that tries to keep everything calm and stay in the background unnoticed, always afraid of what will happen next. No freedom. No autonomy. No hope. And the constant dread and fear.

The television screen is filled with his rage as she denies him, once again. (Yes, I have left it on because it is clearly something I need to finish working through.) I remember the rages in my own home. I remember my fear. I remember the pain. I remember the years of being lost – not able to find ‘me’. And as I remember I rejoice in being set free.

As I relive those moments of my past I am filled with compassion for all the women who are in like positions. I know how horrendous it is and I wonder that there aren’t more rescue centers for such women – centers that are equipped to handle women with children – all of whom have been physically and/or psychologically abused.

The movie continues as he has forgotten and left the door unlocked. She escapes, and my heart is racing as I wait for him to be just around a corner, waiting to grab her and imprison her again. I am remembering my own circumstances and am almost panicked for her. She sleeps in a park and washes in a water fountain, finally smiling and taking deep breaths of the fresh air and the freedom she is enjoying. She continues to walk, heading for her home but suddenly finds herself at his doorstep. And she returns – for him!

Classic! The abused returns to the abuser, hoping to make a life, sure that it will be better now.  The trauma bond is too strong for her to escape.

Once again, I am amazed at the way Abba works in my life.  Even as I identified with the victim in the film, I am so grateful because as I watched this movie not once did the old rage surface. The anger is gone. Forgiveness reigns. Hallelujah!

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

The Alligator

Once when I was a little girl I had a pet alligator. Okay, so he wasn’t alive and he wasn’t very big. He was actually only about two feet long and had been stuffed, taxidermy style. I found him in a closet of a house we had just moved into – another short term rental in a long line of short term rentals. I had never had a stuffed animal though always wanted one and now, at about eight years old I finally had one that was all my own. This was one toy I didn’t have to fight my brothers and sisters over – no one else wanted it! He was kind of hard to cuddle. I mean, alligator skin is pretty hard and it clearly had not been tanned to make it soft and supple. He left a lot to be desired in the friend department but to a lonely little girl with very few toys he was wonderful!

I used to tuck him under my arm and crawl into the closet to play. There, in the semi-darkness with just the light that crept under the door, I pretended to be on safari with my alligator guide. Sometimes we traveled to faraway lands, escaping the dreariness and monotony of my everyday life into fields of heather or miles of sand dunes. I had quite an imagination and I put it to good use in an effort to distance myself from …. myself.

For many years I thought I was running away from my family. Then, I thought perhaps I was running away from my circumstances which included my family. And for a while, I was running away from the memories that included my family. But ultimately I have been running away from myself. Unable to be what I considered ‘normal’, I escaped whenever I could either in fantasy or simply by moving. As a young woman I married to escape, only to discover I had entered into another abnormal circumstance. More running, divorce, and another marriage led me to discover that not only was I GOOD at picking out abnormal men, I was expert at surviving in dysfunctional relationships.

But survival isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A person can survive almost anything but that doesn’t mean that when the situation changes they will be normal or healthy. The psyche of a human being is really quite fragile, and even though people talk about how resilient children are, the fact of the matter is that those same children carry wounds that are so deep that without constant, loving care they will never be healthy, normal people.

Somewhere along the way I lost my alligator. It was left out of a moving box ‘by mistake’ when we left one location to move to another, as we so often did. I didn’t cry about the loss – I simply crawled into a new closet to harbor the hurt and create a fantasy world where my alligator guide took on invisible qualities. But the little girl was still hurting and the alligator is just a symbol for all of the things that were taken from me in my childhood.

Today I am in the last stages of mourning the alligator and all it represents. I am releasing the past to be the past as I bask in the amazing constant, loving care of Abba. And I think that this coming Christmas I will buy a present for myself – a soft, cuddly stuffed animal, perhaps even an alligator!

May Abba heal all your wounds.

Exodus 15:26  “….I am the Lord that healeth thee.”

The View from the Top

There are lots of quotes and half-quotes circulating which have the one mission of making everyone who isn’t in the lead or isn’t on top of the heap feel inadequate and without value.  One I heard many years ago:  if you aren’t the lead dog, the view never changes.  Another:  if you aren’t on top of the heap you are the heap.

There are others that I used to quip in response.  My favorite:  even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.

I confess that I was swept up in the ‘American dream’ of big houses and fancy cars and corner offices and vacation homes.  From my childhood those ‘ideals’ were held out as goals to be attained and the only possible way to happiness.  I learned the lessons well and I spent my entire career climbing ladder after ladder, changing ladders when it seemed I could go no further where I was.  I maneuvered and worked — sacrificing quality time with my family for larger paychecks and longer commutes.

And then one day it hit me:  I wasn’t happy.  I did not like the work I did and I loathed the unethical behavior of my peers.  It was at that point that I began to plan for an early retirement.  EARLY.  I wanted to be done with the workforce by the time I was fifty.  I wanted OUT and I planned accordingly.  Now my maneuvering took on an entirely different objective as I reorganized and rearranged myself out of one job after another.  I could cut through red tape and abolish positions by analyzing work processes and determining which were necessary and which added no value.  And I maneuvered myself right into a job that was entirely necessary but anyone could do.  From there it was just a short jump to early retirement.  I didn’t make it at fifty, but on my fifty-second birthday I said goodbye to the rat race for good!

I’ve been at the top.  I had the huge office with panoramic views of the U. S. Capitol.  I’ve been on junkets and traveled extensively as part of my work.  I’ve had it all, and if I learned one thing it is this:  the view at the top isn’t any different than it is at the bottom.  The faces may change and the spaces may be larger, but the meaninglessness or meaningfulness of the job is dependent not upon its position on the ladder or upon the incumbents position in the pecking order — it is dependent upon the internal well-being of the incumbent: upon that person’s own sense of self-worth and whether or not they derive satisfaction from the work that they do.

I have been ‘retired’ for quite some time now, and I find I enjoy each day more than the day before.  There is so much to do that it is sometimes hard to decide!  But the view — the view is incredible!  Because I enjoy what I do and I do it with all my heart, giving it everything I have.

My prayer for you is that you will do the same.

Colossians 3:23-24  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Danger Ahead

There is danger up ahead.  At least, that is what the enemy of our souls wants me to believe.  Danger so frightening that I mustn’t move forward or make any changes in my life.  The enemy uses scripture verses out of context to try to contain me, to make me stay in a position of defeat and fear.  Danger up ahead . . .

I decided not to listen to cries of ‘danger!’  I decided to go back to my life source and renew my strength to choose life and health over stagnation and fear.

Isaiah 41:10  Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

And now, having made the decision that was so fraught with danger, I find I am resting in a peace that passes all understanding.  While I was in the midst of taking that step — making that decision and acting upon it — my insides were shaking and fear tried to take control.  Fear of what?  Of the future, of course.  Change can be frightening, and drastic changes in our lives and circumstances can be extremely stressful.  But when we are the ones instigating the change, it can be downright terrifying.

Nevertheless, after months of vacillating and wanting someone else to tell me what to do, I have finally set the wheels of my new life in motion.  It is exhilarating!  My mind is rapidly cataloging and planning, neatly organizing what needs to be done and when.  My heart, however, is at perfect peace.  No fear.  No anxiety.  NO DANGER!

Who was it that said we have nothing to fear but fear itself?  Oh yes, Franklin Roosevelt.  And he was right.  There may be a battle looming on the horizon but victory is assured when we follow the Lord into the battle.  We may lose a skirmish or two, or even a battle now and then, but we know we win the ultimate war.  It says so in the Book!  (I peeked at the ending!)

So perhaps there is danger ahead but I know who holds the future and I am resting in the blessed assurance that action — any action — is better than stagnation.  There is no life in a stagnant pool.

 

Fear and Trembling

My heart, my soul, my life belong to Jesus!

How many times have you said that? Prayed that? Believed that? I can’t begin to count the number of times I have told the Lord I loved Him alone and that I was His to do with as He wanted. I’ve promised to serve and sacrifice and be whatever He wanted me to be whenever He wanted me to be it. Haven’t you? When we get lost in His embrace and the wonder of His amazing love, we promise Him anything and we mean it – at least right then.

I really believed it. I thought I was doing everything He wanted and more. I thought I had it all together and that there was nothing I wouldn’t do for Him – all He had to do was ask. You too, right?

This past week I discovered what a liar I am and how empty those vows to Jesus have been. I was willing, all right, as long as He didn’t invade my secret place and require me to give up my treasured times of relaxation and peace. I put conditions on my service and on my love. I placed myself above the Lord in a position of authority, letting Him know what I was willing to do and what was ‘for someone else’. I made the rules and I expected He would follow them because, after all, He loves me and wants me to be happy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Lord has been gracious and has given me just enough rope to hang myself. My wake-up call came two weeks ago in jolly old England. While attending a conference of ministers and evangelists I was humbled and awed by what I heard. I was surrounded by truly GREAT men and women of God. Among them was the head of world missions for an international organization; also, an evangelist who has led hundreds of thousands of people to Christ in Europe and the UK; and, a woman who is the Chaplain in the highest maximum security prison in England – she ministers to heads of terrorist groups and these leaders are beginning to seek answers about Jesus. There was a man who heads another international missions group which was founded by his father who spent 13 years in a Communist prison being tortured because he would not renounce Christ. In the entire group there were no ‘peacocks’, only hard-working, spirit-filled men and women who love Jesus and love serving Him. I felt entirely out of place and ashamed of having spent so much time on myself this year.

Oswald Chambers wrote in “My Utmost for His Highest” – “Never disregard a conviction that the Holy Spirit brings to you. If it is important enough for the Spirit of God to bring it to your mind, it is the very thing He is detecting in you. You were looking for some big thing to give up, while God is telling you of some tiny thing that must go. But behind that tiny thing lies the stronghold of obstinacy, and you say, “I will not give up my right to myself”— the very thing that God intends you to give up if you are to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

That’s me, in a nutshell. I refused to give up my right to myself. I wanted to do only those things for which I felt equipped and in which I was comfortable. I literally picked and chose which things I would do for the Lord based upon my needs and desires instead of on His great call. May God have mercy on my soul!

My love, which I thought and felt was so deep for the Lord, is truly a sham. Oh, I love Him – but I’m not sold out for Jesus, like those people I met this month. I’m sold out on the idea of being sold out for Jesus. But don’t press to hard or you might see this cold, black heart for what it truly is: selfish.

This past week a ministry friend shared about children in Iraq who are being beheaded because they refuse to renounce Jesus Christ. CHILDREN. Little babies who have been taught by their parents that they must never, ever say no to Jesus. These children have been martyred and their parents have been left alive to suffer the torture of constantly reliving the beheadings, always seeing the sight in their minds.

Whatever these people have, I do not have it. I am weak and lowly and thoroughly corrupt. I have no excuse.

Please, pray for my salvation and a true love relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that if I were to die at this moment I would spend eternity in outer darkness – a thoroughly unprofitable servant.

In fear and trembling.