He makes every little broken thing beautiful

He makes every little broken thing beautiful

I shoved my rear-end closer to the window as the plane prepared for take-off.  The passenger beside me stretched out to get comfortable. I tried to make myself smaller so that I would not be an inconvenience for the person wedged next to me in these impossibly small airplane seats.  Never mind that I had the right to occupy my entire seat.  In my mind, I had no rights.  The space that I occupied was space that I shouldn’t take up.  As I tried to become smaller so that the person beside of me could expand,  I realized that I held a core belief that was horribly faulty.  I could not change my system of thinking on my own.  It was too deeply embedded.  That plane ride was four years ago, before I became sick.

My belief that I was not allowed to take up space was birthed out of a great deal of trauma and abuse.  When a child is taught that she is evil and at fault for the evils that are committed against her,  she learns that she must try desperately to disappear in order to make the world a better place.  Before I learned the truth of my identity in Christ,  I held white-knuckled to this belief.  I held so closely to it that I tried to rid the world of my very existence.  When this type of reality is drilled into your head early in life, it seems nearly impossible to unlearn.

God has a masterful way of using horrible situations to help us grow in ways that we never thought possible. When I got sick, I started to take up more space.  I’m not talking actual physical space necessarily, but a wheelchair certainly takes up more space in a vehicle.  It is harder to hide when you are ill.  You have many more needs than a healthy person.  Those around you are more aware of you and the risks that come with your presence.  With food restrictions, you make a challenging dinner guest.  Often, your dietary limitations dictate the menu for the evening.  When you are a house guest, you quickly become aware of how high-maintenance you are.  Your special diet, need for rest, wheelchair requirements, and medications are front and center.

As my illness gets more severe, I seem to be ever-expanding.  I can’t disappear into the background like I once did.  In a recent church meeting, at each break,  many individuals turned to check on me: to see how I was feeling, if I needed anything to drink, if I needed to lie down.

I am so appreciative of the care that I receive.  I need it.  And I resist it.  God is using my illness, however, to show me that it is okay to take up space.  He is showing me how wonderfully loved that I am, and that He created me to take up a certain amount of space.  He designed me in such a way to make an impact on people, to leave footprints, to change lives.  I can’t do that without taking up space and owning my space.

So here’s the thing:  In God’s gracious, generous way of making every little broken thing beautiful,  He is transforming my illnesses and disabilities into powerful teachers.  He is using them to show me how incredibly valuable that I am.  He is teaching me that I am worth every square-inch of space that I take up.  He is showing me that I am worth the care that people give me.   Why am I worth it?  Because I am His child.  As a child of God,  I have a right to take up space.  Not only do I have a right to take up space, but my existence is important and cherished.

I do not need to try to shrink myself into a half of a plane seat in order to make someone else more comfortable.  I can lean over and start a conversation with my fellow passenger, and we can enjoy the gift of one another.  I don’t have to dismiss my dietary restrictions in order to make my hostess’s job easier.  I can graciously accept generosity and allow others to love and care for me.

Graciously receiving is a gift to the giver and the receiver.

I have lived a life dominated by the lie that I don’t deserve to take up space, and my illnesses have given me the opportunity to take a step back and realize the value of my existence and the space that I occupy.   God created me.  I wasn’t a mistake.  I am still not a mistake.  I don’t have to apologize for my existence.  I also don’t have to apologize for being ill.  I have always been and will be valuable because I am a daughter of God.

There may be those out there who are reading this and thinking, “Well, no duh, Sherlock. Of course you can take up space.  We all can.”  I am so thankful that you have never had to experience the torture of having to live apologetically, desperately trying to pay penance for your very existence.

For those of you who can relate,  please hear me:  You are valuable.  You are made in the image of God.  You can take up the space that you take up.  You’re worth it because God calls you worthy.

And He is making every little broken thing beautiful.

When Your Reality Seems Unreal

How does an adult child of abusive parents approach life and her perception of reality?  With great agony and skepticism.

She told me that I was a liar.  She taught me that I could not be trusted. She taught me that I was evil.  This schema that drilled into my mind about my perception of reality served them well.   If a child cannot trust her experiences, then she will never disclose the reality that she is living.  She will never trust herself enough to risk the reputation and lives of those that she loves.   If you teach a child self-doubt and extreme loyalty, then you will never risk exposure.  You can get away with anything.  If all that you care about in your narcissism is your own self-preservation, then this strategy is win-win.

But what of the life of that brainwashed child?  How will she grow up? How will she ever come to terms with reality?  She will for the rest of her life question the reality of your behavior.  Oh, but it goes so much farther than this.  The consequences of this self-distrust are catastrophic.  The ripples of this early teaching touch every single experience that touch the life of this manipulated soul.

My life is currently under the influence of medical restrictions.  I am at the mercy of  individuals who are helping and caring my family.   I cannot get a drink without the assistance of someone else.  Over the last two years,  I have been piled with medical diagnoses.  It started with hyperadrenergic Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (HyperPOTS), followed by Interstitial Cystitis. A few months down the road, Gastroparesis surfaced, followed by Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.  I fear that if I allow further testing, the list would get longer.  There are a few extra illnesses that I think have been confirmed, but I am not entirely sure, so for the sake of accuracy, I will not include them in my list.  Any rational person could look at my medical history, or glance at me physically, and conclude that I am very ill.   There is no question about it….and yet….I find myself asking the question “Am I actually sick?” Every.  Single. Day.

How can I question the reality of my illness? The self-doubt undermines every recovery effort, because I question the need for treatment every step of the way.  I ask if I really need my daily infusions, or if they are placebo.  I ask if my PEG tube is absolutely necessary.   I look at my 11 medications that I take daily, in my massive pill organizer, and I wonder if the doctors are just prescribing them to placate me.  I have an epinephrine shot in my medicine cabinet for anaphylactic reactions, and I haven’t bothered to read the instructions, because I am under the assumption that when my throat is closing up, it is probably just anxiety.  I allowed myself to fall asleep last night in the midst of a near anaphylactic reaction without bothering to even ask the question if my situation could be an emergency.  It is only today that I can look at it in retrospect and see that I should have taken more extreme measures.  How can I begin to assess my situation as one that needs to be managed with care and caution? How can I ever begin to validate my bodily experience?

I feel sabotaged.  I feel like someone removed my brain, took out my ability to believe myself, inserted it back in my head, and let me loose, saying “Go on, have fun trying to live your life under the assumption that you are always, without a doubt, a deceptive, manipulative, liar.”

Here’s the catch.  Since childhood, no one has ever echoed the message that my parents drilled into my head.  No one has ever questioned the validity of my word, my experience, or my perception.  People have trusted and believed me.  Even with rare, hard to understand diagnoses that are often questioned,  I have never experienced a doctor communicate implicitly or explicitly that it is “all in my head.”

Upon communicating my doubt to my specialist this week, she responded by stating her credentials, achievements, and specialties, all of which are in my areas of diagnosis.  After asserting her qualifications and skills set, she said, “I absolutely, without a doubt, am entirely confident that you have these illnesses, and that you are incredibly sick.” I responded with a skeptical, “Are you sure?”, to which she responded with a face-palm.

I am desperately trying to navigate this path toward truth and trusting myself.  We all have misperceptions at times, and we all need input from others to help ascertain that we have a firm grasp on reality every once in a while, but it becomes dysfunctional when we doubt, question, and test every perception we have as we walk through our day. It becomes a problem when no matter how much we are reassured by loved ones, professionals, and friends, we still cannot believe ourselves.  I am so tired of this self-doubt.  The consequences of being taught that I could not trust my perception of reality are extensive and crippling.

I take comfort in the idea that the Spirit of Truth lives within me, and that I can trust that Spirit to lead me into truth.  This is a promise delivered to us by Jesus.  Sometimes I feel like I am cycling around and around, making no progress at all in my pursuit of self-validation and trust, but I am reminded of how far I have come.  I have sought treatment, allowed doctors to prescribe medications and surgical interventions.  I have surrendered my driver’s license and allowed helpers to come into my home every day to care for my children and for me.  I have recognized the cost that my body pays for doing simple chores and have sacrificed my sense of household duty for meaningful connection and relationship with my children and husband.  I have moments when I trust myself and entrust myself to the care of others because I know that I am weak and need help.  I am not a lost cause.

Where there is life, there is hope, and as long as I am living, I will continue to trust that God can rebuild and restore any and every area of brokenness in my life.  He will continue to do so until my final breath.  And as surely as the Spirit of Truth dwells within my heart,  I will continue to trust Him to re-write the messages of my childhood and to re-wire my brain.

Broken to be Free

Broken to be Free

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. What if I have packed away unsavory parts of my life in such airtight containers that I have not allowed the Spirit of the Lord to breathe freedom into the complete story of my life? My life hosts many hideous, unsavory, incredibly broken moments. In my pursuit of freedom from those atrocious moments, I erroneously decided that packing them away into oblivion would release me from their power.

I have lived a compartmentalized life. My childhood has been neatly packed away in an attic, stacked in locked trunks. According to my previously existing belief system, I have seen myself as an adult living an adult life, and my childhood has been of no value to my current existence.

This approach to life has been limited at best, and complete fragmentation at worst. I want to walk in truth regarding my entire existence. I desire integration and light, in all areas of my past, present and future.

I don’t want some chapters of my life hidden away in locked boxes, with the keys long destroyed. This is not real life. As a whole, integrated being, I want to carry a life narrative that is valuable and beneficial, as it informs my present and can benefit the narratives of those surrounding me. I want to allow the Spirit of freedom to breathe truth and light into my airtight boxes that house my unsavory past. In order for that to happen, I need to open them up to the Spirit.

I allowed the fog to obscure my past for a reason. I locked fragments of my life away in trunks in order to protect others and myself.

At least, I thought that protection would be found in hiding. I have discovered, however, that I can’t really hide from the truth. It comes rushing in like a tidal wave when my defenses are down: in the depths of the night, in my deepest REM dreams, in the moments when I am most vulnerable, in glimpses of my child-self in the faces of my beloved children. The fingers of the fog that obscure my past reach into my present to rob me of the life that God has designed for me to live. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I have been so afraid that in the process of breaking open the trunks of my fragmented past, I will break myself forever, beyond repair. I didn’t trust truth to set me free. I thought it would unleash a monster, instead.

I was wrong.

I am starting to tie a rope around my waist, securely fastened in the present, and with the guidance of God and his word, alongside the help of trusted friends, navigate the dense fog of my obscured past.

It has been vital for me to allow God to illuminate the hidden, secret places in the safety of a counselor’s office, or over coffee in my living room with a trusted mentor or friend. This is a delicate process, and there is no obvious time frame. It takes as long as it takes, and sometimes the heart can only handle a tiny step at a time.

I am learning, however, that shining the light bit by bit is not unleashing a monster, but knitting my fragments together. It is allowing me to see my story as a whole, and setting me free to enter into a more abundant, meaningful, comprehensive life.

We don’t need to be afraid of being broken open, because when we finally break open, our spirits can break free. Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

She’s carrying a million heavy burdens silently, wearing a brave mask. Knowing her well, I see past her mask and into her fear. I tell her about my struggle with resistance, brokenness, tears and healing, and I encourage her not to be afraid of breaking open.

She says, “But Megan, what if I break open and can’t be put back together?” And I wonder, what if breaking open and not being able to be put back together is what we all need in order to really be free?

What if in breaking open, we allow the Spirit of the Lord to bring freedom? In being unwilling to break open, we often avoid truth in our lives.

Truth and freedom are intimately connected. Have we built our walls high in order to protect others and ourselves from certain truths that seem to be too much to carry? Sometimes it is intentional, sometimes unintentional, but avoidance of truth places us in bondage.

The truth can be painful. Sometimes, we can only take it in tiny little bites, like with a toddler-sized spoon. Sometimes, we can only handle one bite a week, but we need to be pursuing the truth in our lives.

It can get messy. There are weeks when I let little bits of truth in, and it can feel overwhelming at times. I step into the unknown of the truth and hope that God can handle my shattering heart and broken-open life.

He has yet to show himself to be unreliable with my intimate places.

Yes, being shattered and broken is terrifying. It can look ugly and messy and sometimes interrupts my day, week, month, or year. Sometimes it seems inconvenient and nauseating. I am convinced, however, that this path of brokenness is the path to healing and freedom. In breaking open, I make space for the Spirit of the Lord to invade, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I believe what the Bible says: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17, ESV

My Companion on my Time-Traveling Train

My Companion on my Time-Traveling Train

Please note:  This material may be triggering for some with histories of trauma or abuse. I am more detailed in this piece than I am in most of my pieces.  Please take care of yourself and only read it if you are in a stable place with ample support. 

I watched a child this morning, as if from a train window. A time-traveling train. I had a tour guide and a Faithful Companion along for the ride. As I looked out the window, I saw a little girl:

The sun is getting ready to set, and dusk settles over the little dead-end neighborhood street. She puts down the Barbies and says goodnight to her friends, climbs their basement stairs, and heads out their front door. She didn’t realize that it was so late. Her mother is worried sick, and it is her fault. Darkness encroaches upon her as she marches the quarter mile home, and with a shudder, she sees her mother at the top of the driveway. As the features of her mother’s grief-stricken face come into view, the child feels as if a bowling ball has been dropped into the pit of her stomach. She sprints as fast as her five-year-old legs can carry her to her mother who seems to be overflowing with equal measures of rage and desperation. Her mother reprimands her in the public of her neighborhood community, but the consequences that lurk behind closed doors remain dreadfully looming, as she grovels behind her mother into the “safety” of her house.  The child must pay, and she knows that darkness awaits. Terror grips her heart and her body as they prepare for bath time. She can’t stop crying. Her mother can’t stop crying. “I thought I had lost you,” her mother keeps repeating as she runs the bathwater. The little girl sobs. She has so much power, and she doesn’t want that kind of power. She is just a child. As the bathtub fills up, a switch is flipped in her mother’s brain, and the monster emerges. As her own power vanishes, the child surrenders to the monster. She submits to the punishment as monster-hands hold her head and face under the water. She waits for darkness to enfold her as the monster hands refuse to let up. Lungs burning for air, she succumbs to the need, and water floods her nose and mouth. As the lights fade out, she feels sensations that she assumes accompany the process of dying. The mother-monster of Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde is her daily experience, but she only allows for conscious awareness of the overly attached, doting mother. The darker side lurks in the shadows of her experience, nagging, haunting, chasing her down every dead-end street. She feels the “not-right-ness” of their relationship. She feels the ambivalence that seems to emanate from a mother that she is desperate to please, out of dependence as well as terror. That, however, is the extent of the awareness that she has of the dark places that her mother takes her in her twists of character. Because she doesn’t have a clear picture of her mother’s illness, she assumes that she is evil, broken, and needs to be eliminated.

From the window of my train, I saw the root of self-hate, shame, and fear in that child. I saw her mother behaving like a monster, and as a mother, I despised the abuse. I raged with fury and indignation. I watched Jesus help the child hold her breath as she was being nearly drowned, and I watched Jesus firmly jerk the psychotic mother back into reality, allowing the child a chance to survive. I saw that Jesus loved this child  and wept with her horrific circumstances and loved the mother enough to not abandon her in her destructive illness.

My Faithful Companion sat beside me in the time-traveling train as I looked out the window at five-year-old me and my mother of whom I have so much fear. As He showed me Himself in the scenario, He revealed His power, love, and goodness. As the train came back to the station, and we stepped off into 2016, He said, “My child, I am redeeming you. I never abandoned you. And it is okay that you stepped away from your mother. I have not abandoned her either. You never have to feel like you have to take care of her again. Rest in me. Let me handle her. I love both of you.”

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you walk through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you… (Isaiah 43:1-2, NASB)

Created to Create

My husband is currently working through a sermon series about God making us in His image.  This week, even as I type,  He is preparing this week’s focus:  God created us to create.  We were designed with talents, giftings, and passions that make us unique and reflect the Divine nature birthed into our physical bodies and unleashed through the installment of the Spirit.  I have been given the privilege of helping Jordan prepare his sermons. I tend think like spaghetti.  My brain goes a thousand different directions, but they do (most of the time) lead to a complete thought.  His brain is like waffles.  He is very structured.   We are discovering that spaghetti sometimes tastes pretty yummy with waffles.  We make a good team as long as we aren’t getting too tangled up in knots or overly compartmentalized!  And sometimes we have to step away and take a few deep breaths. This is, however, a fun new facet of our relationship.

So lets talk about this whole idea of being created to create.  This resonates with me, since I really enjoy writing, and some would classify writing as a form of art. In writing, I find a deeper fellowship with God than I might feel in other situations.  Sometimes I write as a response to a glimpse of God’s face.  Other times,  I write in order to catch a glimpse of His face through the act of writing.  I write to share my God-sightings, and I write to catch some God-sightings.  I write because I feel my soul gravitate toward the pen and paper, or the keyboard.  I feel at home in this crazy, albeit limited world of words.  Writing is one of my creative callings.  I would love to engage it more frequently.  Maybe as I feel better and develop more discipline (or sacred time alone),  I can flex my writing muscles more often.  For now,  this is where I am.

God created us with gifts, passions, talents, and burdens.  Each of us has a unique set, and each of us has dominion in how we choose to use them.  Some of us start from a more mobilized position than others.  Some have to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to pursue their passions.  Some lay down and allow themselves to be beaten and crippled by the lies that they have nothing to offer.  I started to read Freefall to Fly by Rebecca Lyons on the plane ride home from Nashville last week.  I nearly threw the book against the seat back in front of me when I read of Rebecca’s experience of her childhood, her unfettered pursuit of her dreams, her insatiable hunger for books, and her belief that the sky was the limit.  She went on to talk about pursuing her dreams throughout college and beyond, only to find herself crippled in motherhood, questioning if her dreams had to die because of her new role as mother.  She is certainly on to something.  She has a lot of research to back up the reality that this often happens to women.  Her intended audience finds comfort in the resonance that comes from this sentiment,  I am confident.  I will also continue to read the book.  My anger is not at that sweet, Godly woman who is a talented author.  My anger emerged out of a deeply wounded and broken childhood.

While Rebecca traversed down memory lane, I tentatively crept down my own memory lane into a land of monsters, terror, and lies.  I was not told that I was talented.  I was told that I was evil.  I was not told to pursue my dreams.  I was told that I had nothing to offer.  I was not told that I could contribute to society, let alone pursue a God-given passion.  I was told that the world would be better off without me.  I remember in grade school,  I tested into advanced classes. My caregivers held me in regular classes, and I often complained of being bored, asking to be moved to the advanced classes.  They lied to me and told me that I was not smart enough, and it would be too hard for me. We took IQ tests during grade school as well, and my mother kept my scores from me, saying that she didn’t want me to feel bad about my low scores.  I steered clear of IQ tests as much as I could, until as an adult I was challenged to take an IQ test, which yielded results that were clearly above average.  At this point,  I can’t go into the question of why a parent would go out of her way to convince her daughter that she was unintelligent, untalented and worthless.  I can, however, recognize that my childhood was not necessarily typical, or worse yet, maybe it was more typical than we would like to realize.

For a solid two decades, I took it upon myself to do the most noble thing that I could conceive at the time in my brainwashed mind: To make myself smaller, invisible, less of a problem.  Not only did I have nothing to give, but I was a taker.  A relentless taker. Thus, I had to be eliminated.  This mindset is quite the opposite of the content of our Sunday sermon.  So I have wrestled.  I wrestled with the book and with Rebecca.  I wrestled with the scriptures about being God’s workmanship, created to do good works in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10), about being fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), about having spiritual gifts, about having talents, about being valuable.  Sadly, I wasted quite a bit of time trying to destroy myself while I could have been developing my gifts.

Unlike Rebecca, my experience as a mother has birthed within me the idea that I may have some passions and gifts that could be meaningful to the body of Christ and beneficial to the world in general.  My marriage to a husband who loves me has brought me to a place where I was forced to face that I was actually someone’s SIGNIFICANT other.  Someone wants me.  This was only the beginning.  Until one find’s her identity in her Savior, it is on unstable ground.  God used these situations, however, to provide a platform from which I could emerge from my imploded existence.  I could carefully, tentatively, take a few steps out to see what happened.  I could pen a couple pages and share it with a close friend.  I could sing in our church in front of people and actually look them in the eye after the close of service.  I could consider the possibility that I don’t have to apologize for my existence.  Not only that, but I could, for a second, fathom that I could one day live boldly within my dreams and hopes.

I’m not entirely new to dreaming, but dreaming with the hope that it could be reality is a new concept.  As a child, I lived in my day dream.  It kept me alive.  I felt, deep down, however, that there was no hope that it could ever become reality. My value existed in my day dreams, and those were where Christ met me. Mercifully, through my following decades of self-destruction, He sustained me, continued to breathe life into my spirit and giftings. He strategically placed people along my path to encourage me to pursue my passions and talents.  He provided pockets of self-discovery. He has been faithful all along.  He knows the depths of brokenness and slavery that I have trudged through to make it to the other side.

Slowly, beautifully, I am beginning to see that I am valuable. One of God’s greatest mercies in my life is that He has given me a daughter who is undeniably my mini-me in personality and sass.  And I love her.  I don’t think that I could love her more.  I love every single ounce of her entire package.  One day, as I was wrestling with my identity, God pointed out how similar my three-year-old is to me.  He told me that He loves me even more than I love her, and He loves every part of my unique personality just like I love hers.  I realized that it is really incongruent to love my daughter, my likeness, and to hate myself.  She is dynamite.  She is brilliant. She is hilarious, deeply compassionate, intuitive and thoughtful.  She is made in God’s image.  So maybe I am also made in God’s image.  Made for good works that God has uniquely equipped me to perform.

Our Truth-Telling God

I have a unique opportunity this evening.  I am sitting in my husband’s office at the church, pretending to be professional.  The children are in the nursery, my husband is at the satellite campus working on technical issues for Sunday, and I have two hours to myself in a real office just to be an adult. (I am a giddy, excited, child-like adult right now.)  I am currently rocking out to the Mark Swayze band, and my mind is like simmering pot boiling over with ideas for writing.  Where to begin…

This adult time is excellent timing.  There is much to say. God is so incredibly at work, and I haven’t the foggiest idea where to begin.  Jordan (my husband) and I attended a conference last week. We boarded an actual airplane, just the two of us, slept through the night, and had the chance to finally go on our anniversary dinner (only a month late–our eyes were falling out of our faces and we were crying blood on our real anniversary–not an exaggeration, I promise!).

Jordan had to talk me into attending this conference.  I was set on attending one closer to home.  I relented after some cajoling, and I am so incredibly thankful that I did.  I knew it was going to be an awesome conference when we encountered many obstacles as we prepared to leave.  When one is on portable oxygen and has to fly somewhere, the process of flying is complicated.  The portable canisters are charged and pressurized.  They are not allowed on airplanes.  In my head, I picture massive explosions and bodies flying throughout the cabin . I don’t think that really happens, but you never know.  So instead of my normal oxygen canisters, I have to rent a portable oxygen concentrator.  If we were to purchase one, it would be thousands of dollars.  Insurance doesn’t cover these devices (they are considered a luxury, because, well, you know breathing is a luxury). So we had to rent one. Honestly,  I was not surprised that mine decided to malfunction before we boarded our first flight.  Every minute,  the blasted machine would alarm furiously until we shut it down.  Everyone around us would stop and stare.  Who knows what they thought we were harboring as we made our way through the airport.  The problem is that I need oxygen.  Thus, turning it off was not an option.  We finally found a way to outsmart the machine.  May I add that my husband is a genius?  In order to prevent the machine from alarming like it was about to explode, I was forced to push a button to change the flow about every thirty seconds for the entirety of our flights and layovers. Oh, and you can’t just trade it out at another oxygen supply company when you arrive at your destination. No.  That horrid machine has to be returned to the location where you rented it.  Thus, the process of pushing buttons every 30 seconds for six hours was repeated on our way home.  Snag one.

The other snags were somewhat expected.  My throat developed that telltale scratchy feeling that always results in a nasty cold the night before we flew out for the conference.  So began my cold that continues to this day.  Picture this:  Your oxygen is delivered through a tube that goes into your nose.  Your nose is a snotty mess.  You can’t breathe through your nose.  Bad news.  The day that we arrived I also got a stomach bug.  We are talking constant diarrhea.  I had no idea that a body could produce so much crap.  And now I know.  Totally bad for POTS.  It lasted the entirety of the conference.  True to form, however, I pushed through.  I attended all of the sessions, times of worship, and prayer meetings.  I’m not saying this is good.  It is in reality kind of crazy.  But I didn’t really consider staying back at the hotel and sleeping.  Not when I came this far and God obviously had a huge plan for this week, as evidenced by all of the obstacles that were jumping in our way. I was way too curious to stay in bed. Thankfully, He sustained me while I was being psycho.  Hopefully, I didn’t infect too many poor souls while being reckless.

So here’s what happened:

God affirmed me so beautifully.  He told me that He is proud of me.  He revealed to me more fully what I am passionate about:  Prayer, writing, and worship.  He told me that I didn’t have to try so hard.  I don’t have to try to exceed my body’s capacity.  He is using me in the here and now, in my broken body, to expand His kingdom.  He said that I am gifted and He delights in me. He said over and over again that He loves me.  I learned about what He is doing in the global church. Guys, it is MASSIVE.  He is totally at work, like all over the world.  I want to be in on it.   We can be in on it.  In order to be in on His work, we have to start with prayer.  Prayer is the starting point.  Without prayer, the church is dying.   With prayer, like true repentant, travailing, awe-filled, desperate prayer, we have hope for life.   We have to wake ourselves up.

I struggled too.  I have lived a life marked by weakness that is evident to others.  I find myself desperate to prove myself as strong and capable.  I feel chronically less than the other people around me.  It is almost like I have to look up to them from my stooped down position. This position does not lend itself well to symbiotic relationships and friendships.  I so want to feel equal to others.  I want to be able to keep up with them, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, but I have lived a life that has felt stunted and dwarfed.  We knew many people at the conference with whom we attended seminary.  I feared that they would see me this time as they saw me in seminary: limited, pitiful, not friend material.   With 1,600 people attending this conference, I was the only one walking around on oxygen,  clearly underweight, malnourished, sickly.  I got the pity-smiles, lots of sympathetic compliments on my glasses, and curious stares.  NOT WHAT I WANTED.  I wanted to scream, ” I AM TOUGH! I AM DOING AWESOME! DON’T YOU DARE PITY ME.”  People who knew me from seminary lovingly asked me or Jordan what was happening that I had to be on oxygen.  Jordan was excellent at presenting a concise and accurate story about my medical situation.  I, on the other hand, somewhat (ahem, totally) in denial, hemmed and hawed and tripped over my words, trying to minimize the situation and diffuse any concern that might arise from others. (Concern makes me squirmy).  This led to the blockage of real conversations.  I was just so desperate to be normal, for once. Not to be pitiful and weak.

So if you are tracking with me,  here I am, being loved and cheered on by my Lord while simultaneously wrestling with my core identity issues which really trip me up in my interpersonal relationships.  God obviously knows what He’s doing.  As I write this, it is clear that He was telling me exactly what I needed to hear.  I am enough.  I am complete. He is proud of me.  He is at work in me.  He loves me.  I am beautiful to Him.  I, in the mean time, am wrestling these lies that have followed me through the decades that scream that I am worthless, pitiful, and ultimately a black hole in the world.  What contradictions!  I’m pretty positive that God is a truth-teller.  I asked Jordan to fact check the messages that God was giving me.  He said that they are in line with the God he knows and with the Word.  And I got this cool book mark that also says all those things that God was telling me.  So it was legit. The bookmark proves it.

Now I have a responsibility and a gift.  My mission is to be set free from the shame.  I am commissioned to begin to believe these truths about myself as a daughter of God.  He is re-framing my personal narrative and cleaning up my resume.   I asked Him in the shower this morning if I am a mistake, and He said that I am absolutely not a mistake.  He again said how much He loves me.  I am asking Him to show me what it may look like for me to be set free from the self-hate and shame.  He is providing glimpses.  In response to our shower prayer time this morning, God sent two people to tell me today that I look like Jesus.  Yep.  He’s pretty amazing.  And I believe that He is transforming my identity.  This is the healing that He has for me.  The dawn is coming, and the night will soon be over.

Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is in your midst. A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. 

Wonderfully Made

Ten years ago, On the evening of my first suicide attempt, I drove home from work to the house that I shared with three other roommates, rehearsing an apology. I had no intention of ending my life at this point; I just felt the need to apologize to one of my roommates for living it poorly. I felt that I had mistreated her, been unkind, and unfairly judged her. I wanted to make it right. Assuming that I was in the wrong, I planned to approach her and beg for her forgiveness. Surely, if I grovelled enough, she would relieve me of my guilt and accept me, the offender, back into relationship.

My schema that informed all of my interactions was this: I am in very nature wrong. I was not meant to exist. I am a mistake and have to pay for my life. I cannot earn my right to exist. The only thing that I can hope to achieve is some form of damage control.  

I have learned that this is the deepest, earliest, most core damaging belief from attachment abuse. It permeates into the heart of a person’s existence. It precedes the lie that I am unlovable (usually established age zero to one), and the lie that the world is not to be trusted (age three). This lie is what programmed me for self-destruction. 

Generally, the vast majority of the population may feel compassion or at least pity on the poor, beaten, grovelling dog. They would at least dismiss the pathetic creature while trying to avoid doing further damage. Others, for whatever reason, find some sort of fulfillment in beating the weak creature. My roommate fit the profile of the less compassionate portion of the population. 

I sat down with my roommate that evening,  three hours before trying to end my life, and she cut me off before I could even fully ask for her forgiveness. The venom that spewed from her mouth I can see now to be her own self-hate. That evening, I saw her accusations and hateful names as proof that I was unredeemable, a blight on the earth that needed obliteration. I retreated to my room, and decided that I needed to extinguish a fire that was doing irreparable damage to the planet. It seemed like the only choice. It seemed noble. It felt like my responsibility to right the wrong that I had started 24 years prior when I shoved my way inappropriately into the universe. 

At that time, I didn’t have words for this process. I couldn’t entirely conceptualize the belief that drove my actions or identify the source of my fatally flawed thinking.  I only felt that it was my duty to die. I was wrong, of course, but I was convinced that my place on this planet was one that really didn’t belong to me and that I had to give it up before I did more damage. The funny, infuriating, and utterly tragic thing about suicide attempts is that they are labeled selfish. I have no idea how many times I was told how selfish I was being. I was dumbfounded by this statement. In my deepest heart, I believed that I was loving everyone the best way that I could–by removing myself. I was only trying to help.

It took 34 years to come to the place where I could say that my life has value. God did not say “oops” when He made me. He never looked at me and said, “this one is evil.” My parents said that, not my God.  To believe that I am wrong to exist is entirely inconsistent with my theology. This is not a new cognitive realization for me. What is new is the experience of being valuable. 

For me, it took looking into the eyes of my children, bearing my DNA, flawless, beautiful, beloved, so unbelievably beloved. I carried them inside my body for almost ten months each. That body that I thought was too evil to dwell among humans was the body that housed the cherubic cherished humans, so obviously knit together by the hand of the Divine, loving Father God. I can’t be all wrong if they came out of me.

This is truly just the beginning of my re-orientation. I would love to see myself the way God sees me, or at least the way my husband, children, and friends see me. I still wade through self-hate daily. I still wrestle with my grovelling beaten dog syndrome, but even in my worst moments, I cannot be convinced that I am a mistake.  My heart is just softened enough, through scripture, prayer, healing relationships, and motherhood, to the voice of a loving God who whispers that He made me well and cherishes me more that I can even imagine loving my own babies. 

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God–you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration–what a creation!”

Psalm 139:13-14, The Message