Monday, July 28, 2008

Audience of One...

Who are you performing for today?

Are you performing for yourself, to meet your expectations? Are you performing for your spouse or kids, being who they want you to be? How about for your friends? Co-workers? People at church? Your neighbor?

Are you trying to look like you have it all together? That your life is perfect, married to the perfect husband with the perfect kids… no matter that you are crabby and cross with your husband when he comes home and you give him the cold shoulder the rest of the night, or that you yelled and picked at the kids all day, just because they were getting on your nerves, being kids…

Or you are perfectly happy as a single because it frees you up to do all sorts of ministry, and you have great friends, and you are free to make a split second decision to go anywhere do anything because you don’t need to ask anyone else about it… no matter that when you go home alone at the end of the day you are consumed with loneliness (God forbid that anyone knows that) and you really long to have someone to talk to about decisions you make, even simple ones of going to the store or bike riding…

But hey, isn’t there more?

What about the audience of One?
Isn’t God the One who really matters?

I know when I was single, I put on the face for everyone but my closest friend that I was perfectly happy. But many nights I went to bed, sad and hurting, the loneliness deep inside… the longing I to have someone to share my life with.

Now being married, even though it might look to outsiders that our family is perfect, husband and wife seeming perfectly in love with two perfect, beautiful children who behave all the time, and listen and do what they are told…


I have been learning there is nothing that is perfect in this world. And no life is perfect, no matter how much someone wants you to believe it.

There is One who will never let you down.

No matter what you do, no matter what happens to you, no matter how imperfect your life is, God perfectly loves you.

Yes. You. Perfectly loved.

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

You are saved… He saved you from everything you ever did, and everything you will ever do. He saved you from all that was done to you (even when it doesn’t feel like it) and he will save you from everything that will ever be done to you.

He takes delight in you. That means when he looks down at you, he doesn’t say, ”Hmm, maybe I did make a mistake with that one.” Instead, he looks at you with this glow in his eyes, thrilled to know you inside and out. He rejoices over you, with singing…

That hint of a song you sometimes hear in the air… that’s God. Singing over you.
He can take you in the midst of your anxieties, in the midst of your fear, anger, despair, panic and he can quiet you.

With. His. Love.

How incredible is that? I mean, really, think about it. God can quiet you, can quiet me with his love. When I feel out of control, when I need help, when I feel desperate, and in pain, and discouraged and fearful… if I look to God, He will quiet me with his love.

And isn’t that the whole thing? We need to look to God. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

If we look to anything else, any other thing or person in our life, to settle us, or satisfy us, it won’t work. We will find that alcohol, sex, food, exercise or lack of, watching TV, reading… anything that is good taken to excess, really doesn’t satisfy in the end.

So many times I have looked to other people to fill the void I have felt. No matter how much I have looked to others for approval, attention or love, it fades when I am alone. I find myself doubting and second guessing that anyone even really cares about me. The thing is, people are fickle. They are imperfect and can fail us. They have failed me, and probably will again. I have failed them as well, even if I don’t know it.

There is always the fear that if I say something wrong, or do something wrong, I will end up alone, ridiculed, pushed away, ignored, hurt or abandoned. Because I can’t be perfect for everyone all of the time. If I am perfect for one person, I won’t be perfect for another, and all I will do is tear myself in two if I try to be something for everyone all the time.

With God, there is no escaping him. He sticks with me. He is the great I AM. He loves me more than I could ever ask or imagine. If I do something wrong, He corrects me, but never leaves me or forsakes me. Nothing I do, or say will turn him from me. He is always pursuing me, wooing my heart. He gives me approval when I do his will, and gently corrects me when I don’t. He longs to fill my empty places, and satisfy me. Nothing in this world can do that.

And that is the thing with God.

No matter how terrible our pasts may have been, no matter how guilty we feel, or how much we think we need to cover up, our Lord is greater than all of that. Psalm 123 talks about choosing to lift up our eyes to God in heaven, looking to him until he shows us mercy. Our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth (Ps. 121). Nothing else in this world that we could turn to compares to the creator of everything in the world. How can a created thing satisfy and fill the hunger that is placed in all of us for the Creator?

When we think we need to cover up and put on masks for everyone around us; when we feel we need to be what others want us to be… isn’t it freeing to know that all we need to be is us? I mean, really. All God wants is us. He doesn’t want what we think he wants us to be. He just wants us to come as we are. If we seek him, he will answer us; he will deliver us from all our fears. (Ps. 34:4, paraphrase mine)

Did you hear that?

He will deliver us from all our fears… we just need to seek him… and ASK him… And here is the most important part…

“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (Ps. 34:5)

We just need to look to him. Focus our gaze upon him. We don’t need to worry about anything others might think about us. God’s opinion is the only one that matters. If we seek him only, we will never be covered with shame. Instead, we will be covered by his grace and forgiveness.

I guess for me, more than anything else, I want to seek God in everything I do. I may not always do what he wants. I may turn to other things the world has to offer. I may find myself turning from God on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning putting on the mask and pretending everything is alright. But what I really want, is to fix my gaze on Jesus and bask in his love. I want to seek only Jesus’ face, to look only to him for approval, acceptance, attention. I want to perform for him only, my audience of One, and to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, my gaze heavenward to feel the warmth of his smile on my face.

May I gaze at Your beauty Lord. May I drink it in and fill my soul with the best food - spiritual food that will fill me completely. Satisfy my soul as with the richest of fare. Help me to continually seek after You rather than the things this world offers, so that I may be able to say, “You are my satisfaction. You fill me up to overflowing. You, Lord, are my all in all, and I need nothing else besides you.” Change my fickle heart to always follow You, rather than turn aside to the things the world has to offer. They are but shadows compared to You. Amen and amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our God is so good... What's in a name #6

At Monday’s counseling session, God really did work. I am amazed every time He meets me where I am, and amazed at how patient He is with me.

When I got to Tricia’s office, she was walking out her office door as I was walking into the reception area. She greeted me and told me to go on back, and as I was getting settled, she walked in and said that she felt like she had been with me already the past five minutes. When I asked what she meant, she told me that she had been on my blog (!!!) and read my most recent post… which happened to be the one where I was asking you all for prayer for this particular session!

It was really neat because she had the background of the things I was dealing with, before I even came in, so I didn’t have to go over them too much with her, and I was blessed to know that when she had a little bit of free time (and she doesn’t have much of that!!!) she took the time to read what I had written.

As we talked about the parts of the attempted date rape that still really stood out at me, it created a lot anxiety, and made me start feeling sick to my stomach some. We started the EMDR therapy, and worked around the specific point that was so painfully vivid. That particular moment made me believe, and reinforced several lies:

I am trapped. I will never get away.
I am only good for sex.
I am damaged goods carried over from the last time too.

I can remember thinking at the time of the incident, that if this is what love is, then I don’t want any part of it. I can remember being in the session and feeling so scared and like I couldn’t breathe at all. Finally I think God broke through and I started to cry some. After some encouragement from Tricia (and prayers too I think) I was finally able to just let go and cry.

I sobbed. But I was finally able to mourn and really let the pain out as I did.

Tricia had me stop the therapy and I collected myself and tried to stop crying. Then she asked me to do something new. She asked me if I could take the memory of that incident, and the lies associated essentially, and make it something tangible.

I didn’t understand at first. She explained that she wanted me to imagine the incident, feelings, etc as something I could touch and see.. like before I saw a black box changed into a white gift box, the pain in my heart had become something tangible. So, once I understood what she meant, we started up the EMDR therapy again.

I know that God was facilitating all of this up to this point. I knew it was God who finally helped me break through the wall I had put up against the emotions and pain of that time. It was He who helped me finally cry and let out the pain.

But now it was almost visible. I got this image in my head. It may have come from reading through the “No other gods” study that I have been doing. But I think God used that example to help me visualize something tangible.

I saw Jesus handing me things out from under my bed. Lifting out the words, Dirty, Ashamed, Used, Damaged Goods, Trapped, Good for nothing but sex… all of it. I had to put those in a garbage can. Just get rid of all of them and move the can out to the street.

Only, I couldn’t move the can. It was too heavy, and I realized that I was never going to make it out to the street before the garbage truck came. I turned to Jesus, desperate, and He came and moved the can for me. I had my hand on it, but like a 4 year old without his parent helping, there was no way I could budge it or even guide it. Jesus helped me get it out to the street. Then He made me stand there, watch the truck pick up the can and empty it of all my junk, and drive it away. All I could do was cling to Jesus, feeling the stuff almost being pulled from me, off of me, out of me.

I remember crying. I don’t know whether it was out of relief, feeling lighter, or the pain of something that has been a part of me so long, finally leaving.

I was able to tell Tricia about it. I think I was still in shock. It’s taken a while to sink in. I am still letting it sink in and soak through me at how God worked things out for me to be able to let go the hold this situation had on me.

Tricia asked me to revisit the moment that had been so vivid, one more time. This time she wanted me to try to overlay the truths over the incident. The truths I want to become a part of me, even though this all happened to me:

I am free in Christ.
I am worthwhile.
And, in Him I am complete.

As I focused in on the moment that had so tortured me over the past weeks, and tried to think about the truths, I found it extremely hard to focus in on that memory. I found that my thoughts just kept jumping to my “safe place.” My safe place is a spot out on my in-laws farm, on a lake, under the trees, where I sat last fall, watching a blue heron in the water, hearing the wind in the trees, and the waves on the beach… resting in God’s presence. That is where my thoughts kept returning to every time I tried to focus on the attempted rape, with the positive thoughts.

All the while the words “free” and “worthy” were alternating with each other in my head.
When I told Tricia what had happened, it was a moment of victory. It meant I had finally made a break with this memory. Right then and there, she asked me on a scale of 1-7 (1 not at all, 7 totally know and believe it) how much I know and believe that I am free and worthwhile. I told her about a 5 or so. Another victory! At the beginning of session I told her a 2. That is the biggest jump up the scale I have ever had. Usually I don’t move up at all until later in the week.

Did I mention that God is so good?!

I can hardly believe just how much Jesus has changed my thoughts and feelings in this area. The memory is there, but the emotional intensity is gone, and the whole thing has sort of faded into the background, the color is washed out of the picture.

The healing that He has done in my life, in my heart, blows me away. Even though it is painful, it is so worth the pain of facing difficult memories, hurts, and situations to let Jesus into them. Let Him help you see things from His perspective. Let His healing love flow over it, and give you peace.

That is what He wants for all of us, we just have to let him do it.

Fighting Him just makes the pain worse. Stuffing it all down without working through it at all makes it worse. Worse is where the enemy wants us. He wants us limping, hobbling through life, wrapped in chains.

Then we will be so hampered by the lies we believe.

We will never step out and be the person God created us.

We will never take chances, follow where God is leading, especially when it seems to make no sense. We will never know the pure faith it takes to believe that He will do as He says He will do, because we will never experience Him intimately healing us. We will never fully trust God’s Word, because we will never see it worked out in our lives, tested in fires of trial, pain, difficulties.

There have been so many times where I have read over the promises of God, and never ever seen them. I have read them so often they became rote readings. Only in the last 2 years or so has God’s word become rich, alive, to me. Not since I was a new Christian have I gotten this much out of His word. He has opened my eyes to see how He is fulfilling promises He has made to me personally, and to all of us who believe. It is never in our time. It is always in His time. And whether we believe it or not, it is always for our good.

I pray that God will open your eyes, and hearts to see and perceive His word, His truth, and His active work in your life. I pray that He will do for you (and me) more than we could ever ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. Amen.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Turmoil and encouragement... What's in a name #5

It’s been rather silent on my blog.

I have made some comments on others blogs. But here, I have been quiet.

I guess it is because, not that I don’t have things to say, I just don’t know how to say them.
My sleeping has been off. Very off.

I was up and down last night until almost 4am. The past few nights it hasn’t been any earlier than about 1:30am. It makes for a long week.

I also feel like I am fighting a cold. A cold aggravated by allergies. Not sleeping is NOT helping. I have been trying to keep from drugging myself up on medication to get to sleep. Because, I don’t know what is worse. Getting to sleep and then waking up midway through the night and not being able to settle down again, or never getting to sleep in the first place. I can’t decide.

But deeper than all that, my heart is in turmoil.

Sometimes it is a good turmoil because I know that God is authoring it. He is working through it and causing me to stretch and grow.

Sometimes it is a bad turmoil because I know the enemy is using pain from my past to work me up and work me over. He is using it to try to hold me captive to pain, fear, hurt, depression.
You see, I am coming to the point now in my counseling where I feel like we have really hit some of the biggest issues in my past and present that have been holding be back from being who God wants me to be. It is good. It is wonderful! I am slowly learning to counteract the lies with Truth, almost every time they come up. I am learning to recognize when I am acting out of the lies rather than the Truth. It has made a huge difference in my life.

I am also at the point with Tricia, in our counseling, where we are working through a couple of lies that are really holding me captive.

I am dirty.
I am damaged goods.

The truth is that in Him I have been made complete. (Colossians 2:9-10)

I am facing issues of abuse that happened between the end of high school and through college that really ground those lies into the fiber of my being.

These are lies that were put in place through an abusive trauma when I was very young. Then after high school, each subsequent event built upon those lies. “Proved” them true in my mind and heart, I guess.

Now, Tricia is trying to help me get to the point of believing that I am complete in Christ, even though those things happened to me. I have to be able to not only acknowledge it in my head, intellectually, but I need to believe it in my heart. I have to know and believe it is the truth.

It is extremely hard for me, when I feel in some of the situations, I asked for what I got. Not only am I feeling pain from the abuse, but I am also feeling guilty from “my part” in it. Whether I really had a part in “making” it happen is open to interpretation.

The thing we worked through 2 weeks ago, an attempted date rape, was something that I never really dealt with before this. Not on any deep level. I never cried, I never showed my anger, never showed any emotion at all, and didn’t tell ANYONE until a few years ago.

As I have gone through these two weeks between sessions, I have let the emotions out some. They have come unbidden once, the day after my last counseling session. Every time I have let them out, I find that the images of what happened are so vivid, that I am almost re-living what happened. So I ran from the situation as well as facing it some these weeks.

Some of the memory is easier now. I mean, I know it happened, but when I think of it, it isn’t in the same, with all the emotional power still behind it. So I know that our therapy is working. However, I still can’t shake the intensity of specific moments in the encounter.
So that shows me that I am going to need to work through that a bit more with Tricia on Monday. I guess that is where the enemy is really working me over. The thought of having to face down more of those details is causing my heart to roll in turmoil… and by association, my stomach as well. Sigh.

I guess why I am sharing so much of this here is two fold.

One, I am asking for prayer, from anyone who will read this.

I need prayer to get through tomorrow and actually go to counseling. (My appointment is at 1pm CST) I need prayer to face my intense fears, feelings, and memories. The more prayer cover I have, the better off I will be. I know that God has carried me through some other tough sessions on the wings of the prayer support I had. There have been a couple of times where I seriously felt lifted, held, supported, and had such peace knowing that people were praying… even when I was scared out of my mind of the things I was facing. And God answered the prayers of my friends, by working in amazing ways.

Two, I guess I am sharing with this much transparency, because I know there are others out there who have experienced similar things. Similar hurts and traumas. That others have believed the lies that they are dirty, damaged good, unusable by God.

I am writing this to tell you what I KNOW to be truth, what I am struggling to believe. I am not there. I am still on the journey. But I am working at it… even through the turmoil in my heart.

God loves us. God cherishes us. We are His beloved. No matter how dirty we feel, or guilty we feel, Jesus has washed us with His own scarred hands. He has draped us with a robe of white to cover our nakedness and guilt. He has gently looked into our eyes and, if we dare to look back, we will see nothing but love and acceptance.

In our dear Savior, “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him [we] have been made complete, and He is head over all rule and authority.” (Col. 2:9-10, emphasis mine)
God fully lives in Jesus. Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Him, and we are in Jesus and He is in us. We have been made complete, whole, undamaged and clean in Christ… and Christ is the head… the King over all rule and authority… He was raised far above all powers and principalities, the rulers of this dark world.

But the ruler of this world does not want us to know that.

He doesn’t want us to live in that truth, and so he uses any and all painful things in our lives to hold us captive. He knows that if we live in the truth, we will will proclaim our freedom to all those who will hear… just because of the overwhelming joy and thankfulness coming from our Savior rescuing us as He said He would. The enemy doesn’t want you, doesn’t want me, to find that freedom. He doesn’t want us to use our voices to help others.
He wants to keep us silent out of shame and fear.

That is why I am being transparent here.

I want you to know. I have walked in paths of pain and shame. Things I have done, and have had done to me wrap me in chains of lies that are so thick and tangled, I don’t know where to begin. But God does. He has untangled me from so many already. I can see the light. I am starting to be able to breathe again. I can feel the fresh air on my face and feel the warmth of the Son. There are still some very thick chains tangled around my legs. But I know that Jesus will break those chains too.

I want you to know you are not alone. There are others who know your pain. You don’t have to hide anymore. Come out into the light. Learn the names that God gives you. They are so much more powerful than the ones the enemy and world give you. Listen to God’s names for you, and one by one, you will feel the chains start to drop. Don’t give up until they are gone!
I encourage you with my whole heart… even through the pain I am facing this week… I know the pain of facing the lies is so worth the healing on the other side. The fear I feel is out weighed by my determination to get through this, to cooperate with Jesus in my healing. I refuse to let these chains suffocate me anymore.

Get angry, and let that righteous anger strengthen your resolve. Get mad at the enemy of your soul. Seek Jesus with all your heart and He will be found by you. Cooperate with Him in your healing. Do whatever it takes. Face whatever you have to. Join me in seeking freedom. It is a life long process, but it is so worth it.

I have seen the hope.
I have further to go.
But I have seen Hope and, oh He is so beautiful!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Leah and Rachel, and me...

As I have mentioned before, I have been working my way through a summer bible study by Kelly Minter, called “No Other Gods.” This past week we were working through the section about having people gods. Essentially, we talked about how we let other people or relationships become our gods because we long for something so much, when we find someone who seems to be or to have what we want, we make them our gods.

For instance, someone single and lonely, deeply desiring love and intimacy… they might be tempted to latch onto the first person that comes into their life that shows the slightest interest in them. Because they are so hungry for that love and acceptance, they are willing to do anything for that person to get it. They sacrifice themselves on the alter of the other person, perhaps for a promised love and attachment never fulfilled.

Kelly took us to the story of Leah, Rachel, and Jacob. I have read that story so many times. I always felt so bad for them. There was something about that story that pulled at me, and I didn’t know what.

I think now I do.

Leah was substituted in when Jacob was supposed to be marrying Rachel. He loved Rachel. He wanted Rachel. He didn’t love Leah. Yet, here she was, his wife. She kept bearing him sons, and with each successive son, she thought maybe this one will bring me his love, or attachment, or honor. Nothing worked. He never loved her. She kept bearing him children, because God opened her womb when He saw she was unloved. If she had stopped right there, seen that God was blessing her with children because He loved her, her life could have been so dramatically different.

All she wanted was to feel loved by Jacob. When she didn’t get that, she kept trying everything to get something that even felt like love. She gave Jacob everything. She sold her son’s mandrakes to Rachel for a night with him. She was so desperate to let him know, that she ran out to meet him as he was coming in from the fields.

Still unloved, she settled for a night with him, that felt like love, even if it was just for one night, even if it was for just a little while. And then she woke up, knowing that she was still not the loved wife.

If she had only given up the idol of her husband’s love, and exchanged it for God’s love. She would have been able to live in joy and peace, even without anything else. The drivenness that marked her life would have been gone.

And then there is Rachel. She had what Leah wanted. A husband who loved her. And yet… she was unhappy as well. She was barren. She was unable to have children, and saw her sister having them. She was jealous of her sister’s children, just as her sister was jealous of her husband’s love. She told Jacob that she would die if he didn’t give her children. And then in desperation herself, she gave him her servant to be his wife so she could build a family through her.

Once Rachel finally got pregnant and had Joseph, wouldn’t you have thought she would be satisfied? But as they left her father’s camp, she took her father’s household gods. Little “g.” She had Jacob’s love, her own son, but still wasn’t happy, still was hungry for more. Not knowing what that hunger was, the last real look we have of her was sitting on these idols, on her camel, hiding what she had done.

If Rachel had just realized God’s love for her, the jealousy and discord that ran through that household could have been laid to rest. She might have yearned for a child, but if she had known that God was enough, whether she had a child or not, she might have been happier.
Kelly asked us if we saw little bits of ourselves, or even big chunks of ourselves in either of the sisters, or both.

Leah wanted the love of her husband.
Rachel wanted children.

Leah didn’t get what she wanted, and was miserable.
Rachel did get what she wanted, and was miserable.

I have been in both of their shoes, and was miserable too.

When I was single, all I wanted was someone to love me. Even after I became a Christian, I went through a string of boyfriends. I found them all like one another in one thing. No matter what I gave them, or how much, it wasn’t enough to get them to love me. In public, they seemed considerate and kind, in private they seemed pretty selfish. I gave everything I had to give to them, for the crumbs they would let drop, for the moments of being held that felt like love… and then I would “wake up,” and see it wasn’t really love after all… and nothing I did or gave was ever going to be enough to earn the love I wanted.

Once I was married, I thought that would be it. Finally I was loved. But then I still felt dissatisfied. I decided that what was wrong is that we had no kids. So, I became desperate to have a baby. Less that 2 years after we were married we had our son. I thought then I would be happy.


Another year and a half or so, another baby, this time a girl. I was thrilled. I thought this would make me happy.

Stuff, buying things on whims, spur of the moment. Buying to medicate my heart. Getting involved in things at church, or keeping myself busy with work, or other things. Keeping busy with the kids, and family life…

Yet I felt trapped and dissatisfied.

None of it worked. I didn’t feel loved, I didn’t feel like my husband was enough, or the kids, or anything else was enough.

And I despaired.


He woke me up. He showed me again and again and again how much He loves me. As He is filling me with His love, I am finding that I can be content with what I have. I still struggle, but all these things aren’t my god. Jesus is. God is my God. I need to let these other things go. I am working on it. Sometimes it is a daily struggle.

There are many things that I have to weed out of my life. I still have some people gods in there. Maybe because I am such a people person.

But God is starting to weed those out. And fill in behind with His Spirit. I think that is what has been going on this past year or so. His waking me up, and starting to clear the temple… to make room for more of Him and less of the other gods. It is a slow process, but this year He has really been working on me overtime.

This clearing out won’t be complete until I am with Him in Heaven, but I pray that the process will continue and that I will be a willing participant in cleaning my house with Him through my whole life.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Looking back now... What's in a name #4

I look back on that time in Junior High with a different view now that I have processed through it. Now that Tricia has gently led me to confront it, and allowed God to heal it’s wounds.

I can see now that those other girls were acting out of their fear and pain and hurt in their own lives. I can see that God is using and has used that situation to help me understand other people’s hurts.

When I was in Tricia’s office looking back at the Gym class, and all that transpired there, I remember getting mad at myself, expressing anger at myself for how I handled it. Tricia asked me why I was angry. I told her that I didn’t handle things right, I didn’t stand up for myself. I just backed down and did what I was told to do by others. Others whom I perceived were stronger than me.

I remember being so angry and ashamed at the time, that I made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t cry in public like that again. Especially out of hurt, rejection, or anger and frustration. I wouldn’t let others see just how much they hurt me again.

Unfortunately (as I saw it for a long time) I wasn’t able to keep that vow without fail. I did cry in front of others, though sometimes I was able to hold it in until I was alone. When I did cry in front of others, rather than just accepting it, I got angry at myself for not having enough self-control. I felt like I did things wrong yet again, by showing weakness.
God has used Tricia to help me rethink that incident. Through her, I have started to be able to look at my seventh grade year in a new light, through His eyes. He has shown me that He knew what was going on and was with me the whole time.

When I was in the session with Tricia, as I was berating myself in my head for crying and not standing up for myself, I nearly heard the words in my head, “You did nothing wrong, Heather.” I knew it was the Holy Spirit impressing those words on my heart. When I tried to tell Him that I should have been able to control myself and my emotions, and I should have stood up for myself, He again said, “You did nothing wrong. You are not at fault.”

What a release for me! If God never had me on “the hook” for not standing up for myself, or not being able to control my emotions, I could let myself “off the hook” too. I was blown away to hear the very words I needed to. I blamed myself, and I was told clearly that I didn’t do anything wrong. Crying isn’t wrong. Being open about how hurt I was, wasn’t wrong. What is worse is trying to stuff the hurt and tears. It hurts me even more than if I let it out.

I can’t hold myself to standards that I, or anyone else, sets for me. I can’t go along with the thoughts of “Just suck it up and deal with it. Don’t let anyone know that they got through your armor.” I think and feel deeply, which means that I care deeply about others, and what others think about me. And when someone or something hurts me, I get deeply wounded. I feel it to the very core of my being, to my very heart.

I guess this is the way God wired me. I am emotional. I am always going to be emotional. I am going to cry out of hurt and frustration and pain and anger. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to stuff it, it is going to come out, one way or another. I just have to choose if I am going to let it out in a healthy way, or unhealthy way.

My choice, when I am deeply wounded, is how I deal with it. Will I cover it over and hide it? Will I stew and brew about it, until I am drinking bitterness and gall? Will I cry out my pain to God and give it all to Him to heal. Will I call out to Him in my anguish? Will I allow others to see my weakness and need? Will I allow others to see how they have hurt me, and through that, bring healing to the relationship if possible? Will I wallow in the pit of self pity? Will I run to God who is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I will trust?

Sometimes I do all of the above. In different stages and at different times. God walks with me all the way. He walked with me all the way through the rough years of Junior High, High School, College, and post college years. He walked with me before I became a Christian, and He has walked with me since I turned my life over to Him. He has wooed my heart from the very beginning; planting seeds of longing and desire for something more, something better, something more beautiful, intimate, and adventurous than I have ever seen before. Anytime I get a taste of it in this world, it’s not enough, it leaves me longing for more.

So I need to keep pressing on for the joy set before me. I need to keep running towards that longing and desire, rather than stuffing it and burying it, because along with that desire and deep aching longing comes pain… pain of the not yet, the unfulfilled, the longing and loss, the not perfect.

But then come those moments of pure Joy when I know that I have done what my Savior wants. The Joy of knowing that in the deepest places of my heart He is healing me, and helping me have new perspective on old painful wounds. Perspective that helps me deal with the pain, and stop living out of that pain. Perspective that brings me to living instead in His healing and freedom.

New Names from God:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Seveth grade... What's in a name #3

When I started seventh grade, I had moved from my comfortable elementary school into the big Jr. High, where I was combined in the halls with all the other kids coming from 5 different elementary schools and all the 8th graders.

I didn’t have really any friends at that point. The friends that I did have from 6th grade were either in other classes, or we had drifted apart. But in my classrroms that didn’t matter. I was a good student. I excelled at reading and writing, I loved learning new things, and depending on where I was sitting in class, I could usually be overlooked by most of my classmates.

I also had a habit of getting to school in the morning, quickly grabbing my books for the first couple of classes for the day, and then heading to the library. I would check out several books to last me a couple of days, and then head to class. Before and after each class, I would sit with my nose buried in a book and try to ignore the other kids around me as played the games. Games to get social status and popularity, or to maintain it.

We lived just outside of a major city, and had what was called the 2/20 program. Essentially, the school system bussed in kids from the inner city to the suburbs for a better chance at a good education. These kids were tough. They lived hard lives. Some of them adjusted very well. Others didn’t and felt they had to prove themselves by beating down other people.

You guessed it. I was one of those beaten down. I could usually avoid the ones I knew were tougher, by the classes I chose, because I kept to the more advanced track courses, and they tended to stay in the general track.

But there were two classes I couldn’t avoid them in. Gym and General Music. Because Music was pretty well controlled and there was a smaller group of kids there, it wasn’t too bad. Gym and Music rotated through the first semester. It was 5 days of Gym, and then 5 days of Music. It just kept rotating through that the whole semester.

In Gym, we entered the volleyball unit. The Gym teacher had us in groups of about 10 or so students. It was our job to stand in a circle and practice volleying a ball back and forth, without missing for 25 repetitions. Once she tested us and saw that all the groups had passed this, she would allow all of us to start playing real games. If a couple of groups couldn’t do it, it held the whole class back. I think after a while she would have eventually let up on those groups and allowed the whole class to play, but honestly, I don’t remember.

I was in a group that had two of the toughest girls from the inner city. I didn’t realize it until I was in that group.

They were very competitive, aggressive, and vocal.

All things that I wasn’t.
They knew it.

They turned on me. It didn’t matter if I successfully managed to volley every ball that came at me. It didn’t matter if I missed. It didn’t matter if I cleanly set up the ball for someone else to hit, or if it went wild. If we didn’t get to 25, it was my fault. We would practice for about 20 minutes or so, then the whistle would blow. We all sat down in our assigned circles, and one by one the groups stood up and tried to make their 25 volleys in front of the whole class.

I don’t remember how long we were at it, but several of the groups had already passed. On our 4th day in the Gym rotation, one of the girls started in on me, worse than usual. She was egged on by a couple of other girls, and the rest either laughed or were extremely quiet, afraid they would be turned on next.

After taunting me for a while, she finally told me that they wanted to practice without me to see if they could at least try for the 25 volleys without me screwing them up. So, I sat out, to the side of the circle, and let them practice without me. When the whistle blew we all sat down, but I was the only person sitting against the bleachers near my group.

The Gym teacher noticed right away. She asked why I was out of my group.

And to my horror and shame, I started to cry.
In front of a class of 80 some other students.

I managed to communicate that one of the girls wanted me to sit out, and the teacher told me to get back in my group. Within a few minutes we had to stand up and get tested. Even though the other girls kept the ball away from me, we still failed.

At the end of the class, I just wanted to sink into the floor and disappear. But as she dismissed the class, she called me over, along with the other girl. She made me explain more fully why I was sitting out. The other girl tried to defend herself by back talking. The teacher made her apologize to me, and sulked away to the locker room to change.

I cried through the whole ordeal.

I took my time going to the locker room to change back to my street clothes. I waited until the bell had rung, and the other kids were leaving the locker room. I had to push through them to get to my locker. Bumped and kicked and jostled all the way, I finally got to my locker and changed. I was given a hall pass by the teacher, so I wouldn’t be docked by being late to my next class without an excuse.

The rest of the day was a blur. I don’t even remember getting home. I just remember getting up for school the next day, knowing I was going to have to face that Gym class again. My stomach rolled at the thought. My mom had to get to work before I left for school. I was the last person to leave the house. As I started the five minute walk to the bus stop, my stomach got worse and worse. I finally got sick to my stomach along the way, and turned around and ran for home.

I talked to my mom at work, and she called me in sick for school. I went back to school the following day, knowing that we would be in Music for 5 days, and I wouldn’t have to face the Gym class until then. Still, I dreaded going back to school. I was sure that everyone in the entire school knew I was the girl who cried in front of the Gym class.

In Music that day, I remember asking someone next to me the numbers of the groups that had passed the volley test.

My heart sank when she mentioned the number of my group. They had passed without me there.

More Names, given and reinforced:

I had only been in the way after all.

I quietly went back to my work. I went back to my normal routine. I read to escape. I tried to hide, to be invisible, to walk along the walls of the hallways, and not touch anyone. I had to be on guard. I never knew when I was going to be hit, tripped, or pushed down stairs.
And I tried to prove to myself, by getting straight A’s in all my classes (except Gym), that I wasn’t a failure.

I wasn’t convinced.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fear not... What's in a name #2

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are Mine.”

How many times fear has ruled my life! I can’t begin to tell you. I never realized until recently that all the feelings that I was having as I grew up, and as I went through public school and then college was anxiety. I never realized that the knot in my stomach, the shaking, the pounding heart, and inability to concentrate, the overwhelming need to run away, was a panic attack. I never realized that the bouts I had with sadness and the feelings of tears that I stuffed down, the thoughts that no one would miss me if I just disappeared for a while, was depression. I didn’t have a name for it. I never had. Until recently.

When I married my husband, we searched until we found a church that we both liked, where we were comfortable, where we were welcomed and encouraged in our walks with God. Through a series of “coincidences,” God brought us together with a couple who formed a small group that met in our house. Our group swelled and ebbed as we went through life, and as people came and went, but the core group stayed the same. And we got close. Very close. We became a family in every sense of the word. We loved each other, started to learn what it meant to bear each other’s burdens and lift each other up and encourage one another. We also had fun together, laughed and played together, and worshipped our God together.

Through the first 3 years that we knew the founding couple of our group, our family, I was afraid. I was afraid that as they came into my home for a meal, I would be found lacking. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be a good hostess. I was particularly nervous because my husband does shift work at the hospital in town, and is unable to be with us some weeks, and so there were times I had to host alone.

Slowly, as I grew to know the group, I began to trust them. It took me a long time to trust them enough to start sharing prayer requests and things going on in my life that were more than surface. I was afraid of what they would think of me. For me the real breakthrough started to happen when we had been together as a group for about a year, maybe a bit more. I was able to start sharing a little bit about my past with my family, and some of the pain that I was carrying, some of the bitterness there.

When my son was about 18 months old, I started longing for another baby. Nothing we did seemed to work, and I was afraid that it would never happen. One night we were meeting at another couples house, and as it came time for prayer requests, I started to cry. I finally was able to express to them my desire, and some of the depression and mood swings I was going through, and how much I was hurting and longing inside.

With that, they prayed for me. They poured out their hearts before God, truly bringing me before the throne of grace. They prayed expectantly, hopefully, expecting God to answer them. I never knew of any one, or any group of people so willing to pour themselves into me, and into prayer for me. I had never experienced such family, such love.

Slowly through that group, God started to thaw my heart. He started to work on me, and show me how much I meant to him, by using those people. And the negative thoughts increased. The lies I had believed for so long seemed to become more entrenched in me. Maybe it was because the enemy saw that God was using these people to start to break the chains that bound me. Maybe it was because my fear took over. Maybe it was a combination of the two. I was afraid that this family would be taken away. I was afraid that I would be abandoned by these friends, this family, as I had been by others.

Now our family group is working on our 5th year together as I write this. We have been through many ups and downs. They have weathered some major storms with me. We are preparing to weather some major storms with another couple in our group. We have rejoiced to see someone in our family come to Christ. I have finally come to trust them. I find myself many times struggling against those other voices. I still hear the negative thoughts. I still see the bad things that have happened to me, or the bad things that I did, or the ways I backed out of some things, and pressed on in others, and I hear those names over and over.

And I find myself afraid. Even though I have a close family group, sometimes I go there feeling afraid to let them know how I am really doing, good or bad.

Other times, I am able to start seeing God’s light at the end of the tunnel. God is healing me. God is working in my life. Slowly he is building a testimony into my life of redemption, of calling, of hope, of joy. Such joy as I have never known. It isn’t always felt and known deeply in my heart, but it is there bubbling out of a small spring planted in me a long time ago. Sometimes it is faint and just barely a trickle. Other times it is an overwhelming flood, to the point where all I can do is get on my knees and cry before God with such immense thankfulness.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Psalm 118...

“In my anguish, I cried to the Lord
and He answered by setting me free.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:5-6

I ran across this verse in a bible study I have been doing. I am doing the study through the LPM Blog, and encouragement from Beth Moore there. The bible study pointed me only to verse 6. The study was talking about fear, and how fear can bind us to things that become our idols.

Here is an example from the bible study:
“I have always been afraid of being abandoned… I carried this fear of being left alone into my adulthood. If I’m not diligently guarding against it, I can allow others to control me because of my fear that if I don’t do what they want, I will lose them and ultimately be left alone… Whatever we fear is our god. Fear itself is not the god; the object of our fear is the god.” Kelly Minter, “Living Room Series: No Other Gods,” pg. 49

Kelly Minter gave us numerous verses to look up that talked about fear, relating to many different things. So as I looked up Ps. 118:6, I backed up to read it in context with a couple of the verses around it.

I realized that God has heard my cries coming out of my anguish and pain for years… and He answered me by setting me free. I used to think that freedom was a “one time” thing. I thought, once I started hearing more about freedom in Christ, freedom from my past, that I could do “one thing” and then I would be free from the depression and other things that plagued me for years.

I now realize that freedom is a bit more of a process. A friend of mine, who started me on this road to freedom, once said that the process of working on our freedom, and dealing with our past, is like peeling an onion. We spend some time on the surface stuff, and clear that out of the way. Then, once that layer is peeled away, we realize there is more under there to work on… we work through that layer, to reveal another… and so on.

So God is answering by setting me free.

And He is with me. That is really key for me. See, I fight with fear of being left alone alone too.. the fear of being abandoned. But that fear is binding me to a slightly different god. I end up fighting with a desire to get attention. Doing things, whether that is using my God-given talents or using my fight with depression, to get attention from others. So, my fear of being abandoned really leads me to be constantly asking myself, “What do others think of me? Oh, that was a really dumb thing to say! Do they still like me? Are they going to stick by me? Maybe I am too much of a drain on them…” and on it goes.

So, the reminder that God is with me is really important. No matter what goes on in my life, what friends move in and out, God is the constant. And I have a choice. “I will not be afraid.” That is a choice that is up to me. Sometimes it is daily, sometimes it is hourly, that I have to make a choice to not be afraid and to remember that God is with me.

No matter what people might do to me, God is with me and I need not be afraid.

I see this idol of others opinions of me carry over into every relationship I have. Seriously, with my husband, my friends, my family and in-laws, people at church, it doesn’t matter. I have, for years, twisted myself in knots trying to please people around me so that I wouldn’t be abandoned, and so that I would get the attention I craved.

It embarrasses me to even say that here. But, I suppose God is working with me through this, so that I can become more “me” with everyone. He wants to be the only one in my life. He wants to be the only God in my life, and the only One I turn to. When I try to satisfy my other gods, I end up finding out that no matter what I do, I can’t. Their hunger is never ending, and no matter the “sacrifices” I make to them, it will never be enough… there is always that critical voice saying that I didn’t do enough, or said too much, or whatever the case might be.

I think that without this study for the summer, I wouldn’t have faced this issue for a while. Now I will be hitting these idols in my life specifically this summer.

So, here’s a question for anyone reading this. What are things that are idols in your life? Is it opinions of others, TV, busyness, computer? There are so many things that can take the place of God in our lives. God calls us to be a peculiar people, set apart for Him. How can we be set apart and peculiar, and identified by our distinctive differences if we have the same idols in our lives just like everyone else around us?

These are ways that God has set us apart from the world. Ways He has said we are a peculiar people.



By, Heather Kudla, July 2008

Can we live in these truths? Can I? If I am to let God be God in my life, I need to.

“Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Mark 5:36

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Learning and hard work...

Well, It has been a long week.

How can that be? It’s only Wednesday, and it’s a short week. At least, I am considering it a short week, as it is the 4th of July on Friday.

I suppose it is because it has been a long week emotionally already. With going to the funeral, and having a long drive yesterday, talking with my friend on Monday and getting the scoop on what will be happening with her this next week as she goes into surgery… I think I am drained.

During my drive I had some time to reflect and pray. As I did, God brought several things to mind. One of them was how to deal with overwhelming emotions, especially negative ones, and come back to a place where I feel ok again.

When I was talking with Tricia the last time, we talked about how we need to teach babies to “self-soothe.” In essence, when they are screaming and crying, we need to teach them how to use their thumbs or pacifiers to soothe themselves. As the kids get older, they learn when to control crying and when is appropriate to let it out. If they have good models to walk them through negative emotions, they can learn to come back to a place of joy and peace from any negative emotion, like sadness, fear, disgust, shame, anger, hopeless despair.

Well, I have learned to soothe myself through the negative emotions in various ways. Some are good things, like reading, or writing, or playing on the computer, or journaling. None of these are wrong… until they are taken to the excess. If I start going overboard in these things, to the exclusion of my family or other responsibilities, then it becomes destructive.
Then there are other things that I know are self-destructive, that I can get caught up in, that I would consider more of a way of anesthetizing the emotions in my heart. Which I suppose is what I used those other things for as well… trying to get my brain to go somewhere else, rather than deal with the hurt and emotions that were coming from my heart.

As I have slowly been learning to deal with these emotions in my heart, and work though them, I have noticed a pattern. I will discuss some things in a session with Tricia. Then during the week, as my emotions rise in dealing with the issue, I find myself really using other coping skills, or self-soothing techniques, that keep me from thinking about it. I end up fighting the emotions and not dealing with them, without even realizing it until nearly 5-7 days later. It’s then that I suddenly see the pattern of the past days, and figure out that I have been avoiding things.

Finally I am able to start working through things, but it takes such an effort.

I did a little bit of work after my last session with Tricia, but I then left everything on the back burner for the rest of last week and early this week. It’s understandable because of the memorial service I went to. But I realize now, that I was avoiding dealing with my emotions. Leaving things on the back burner and not thinking about them ALL the time is ok. That doesn’t bother me. It is nice to be able to walk away from something that is bothering you, and just focus on the today things.

What bothers me is when everyone else is in bed, and I am taking a chance to unwind and have some time to myself before bed, and realize that I am doing things that, instead of focusing myself on Christ, are causing me to drift further away.

At least I am to the point of recognizing it. That in itself is progress. So many times in my past, I have just run, and never realized that I was running. I have hidden my emotions or deadened them and never even tried to see what was really going on.

This is huge for me! God is working. God is teaching me. I am learning the truth, about Him and myself. Now I have to start acting on it. That, as always, is the hard part.

I guess the things that I was leaving on the back burner, all connected up in my head without realizing it. The emotions I was going through seeing my aunt reeling after her sister’s death… and hurting for the whole family… connected to something going in my life more directly.
I almost hesitate to write this, but I want to be honest…

So, ok, my friend is dealing with colon cancer and will be having surgery this coming Tuesday, the 8th. Our brains have such marvelous ways of connecting things. I love it, and hate it. My brain has been connecting the pain of my family, with the situation with my friend. And it is a possibility that something bad could happen in relation to my friend and her fight with cancer.

I am trusting her to God. I am trusting that He knows what He is doing. I am praying for a clean bill of health after the surgery. I am praying that He would do a miracle. However, my emotions fear other results. My brain, or emotions, or heart have connected Lori’s fight with cancer to my friend’s fight with cancer, and it has brought all these other emotions to the surface. And so I have been running, and hiding. and avoiding all week.

I think it is starting to catch up with me.

So, I wrote a list in my journal of HEALTHY ways of “self-soothing.” All of these could be taken over board, but the goal is to do them in moderation when I can tell that my emotions are starting to get the better of me. They can be used to just leave the emotions alone for a while, and relax myself so that I am in a better place to deal with them later.

work in garden
read a fictional book (not to excess, obviously)
cuddle with kids reading or watching a movie
take a bath or shower (preferably bubble bath)
nap with Peter (my son)
go to Beatitudes (coffee shop)
go for a drive
have a fire in our firepit

Maybe those things will help me to start dealing with and soothing my emotions during the up coming days here. I know they are bound to be difficult. I just want to walk through this time, and grow from it, rather than go backwards. I know I am going to have emotions. I know I am going to want to cry, and I know that those emotions can get overwhelming. But I also know that I am going to have to deal with or not deal with those emotions, and need to do it in a healthy way.

Lord, I pray You will help me do Your will. I pray that You would help me to focus on You and learn and grow through all this process. Help me to lean on and trust You in all things, and in everything bring You the praise and glory. Amen.