A Fools Spring

selective focus photo of green grass
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger

It’s been said that the American Midwest has eleven seasons, not four:

  • Winter
  • Fools Spring
  • Second winter
  • Spring of deception
  • Third winter
  • Mud season
  • Actual spring
  • Summer
  • False fall
  • Second summer
  • Actual fall

I was reminded of this saying this morning when ice and snow interrupted what had been a good stretch of sunny, mild, enjoyable spring weather. Perhaps our recent warm up was merely a Fools Spring. Either way, we are definitely now back to winter for a bit!

Last night we were sharing thoughts about what the current pandemic might mean for us as believers. How our lives might now be forever changed. And how quickly Jesus’ return appears to be.

I’ve also been listening and catching up on youtube sermons of ministers I follow, as I go about my day around the house. My favorites are Bill Randles and JD Faraq. I’ve also rediscovered Amir Tsarfati and find him interesting as well. Bill and JD are both cautioning that things will not be the same, the fallout from this will likely affect everything and we will likely not return to business as usual.

I was in complete agreement with that assessment.

However, in one of Amir Tsarfati’s recent videos (sorry that I no longer recall which one it was, or I’d share a link), he mentioned his feeling that this is not a tribulation type of pandemic, that the real tribulation will be much worse, and that after this passes, people will have such a zest for living they will want to go out and taste all they can (foodies), and travel as much as they can and seek out entertainment again and will likely do so with renewed fervor. Much like after 9/11 we saw a surge in church attendance which then dropped off to less than it had been prior. (paraphrasing here from memory, so I may not be getting this entirely as he said it–but the gist is similar).

And that really resonated with me and started me wondering if this could go a different way than ‘the obvious’ (and I mean ‘obvious’ to those of us believers, like me, who are watching for Jesus’ return.) While I have seen several people drawing closer to God as a result of this, and heard stories of new converts and friend’s wayward children returning to God (PRAISE GOD!), it doesn’t seem like a widespread revival is underway.

The things I see on social media are more along the lines of –this sucks, let’s get back to normal, or how can we have this quarantine be as normal to our old life as possible? Netflix binges and puzzles and sewing projects and books and home improvement projects are happening more than ever prior. I haven’t seen a lot of people turning to youtube sermons and Bible study; unless they were already doing those things prior.

So I actually think most of the world is expecting this to blow over and go back to normal as we once knew it. The projected death toll of this virus is likely not going to compare to the Spanish flu outbreak one hundred years ago. Therefore it does make sense to me that if this were a true tribulation event, the general mood, the casualties and our ability to limit them would be much worse than this pandemic is projected to be.

Therefore I feel compelled, now, to consider several possibilities of what this might mean, for my own self-preparedness, and to hopefully prepare my family and others if possible.

Know that these are just my thoughts. I am analytical by nature and I like to consider many sides of a matter. This is not a prophecy or me attempting to prophesy.

So here goes.

While right away, to me, it seemed obvious that this pandemic would be the type of event that could bring in a one world government and one world currency, I no longer feel as strongly about that. But, I can still see that happening, too, as a possibility. I can also see some sort of vaccine mandate coming about (but, also, I can see that NOT happening as not everyone, like the immune compromised, can even be safely vaccinated–and that is now also being reported by officials on the news).

Therefore, there could be a chance that this passes and somehow the economy gets further propped up and stays that way (this is hard for me to grasp, as I know that it’s already so falsely propped up that I am continuously  surprised it has not outright collapsed yet). But, nevertheless, it could be that there is a seemingly miraculous worldwide economic rebound.

If that were to happen, then I am pretty certain most of us will go back to more of the same old Babylonian ways –except with even more increasing fervor to spend and entertain and eat good food and LIVE life to the fullest. The peaceful and comforting aspect of these quiet days we are now having at home could be quickly forgotten. As many of us go on that quest to enjoy all the goodies and sights and pleasures we can find on this earth. In essence: we cast off our current isolated germophobia like a child with spring fever casts his coat off and goes outdoors to play after a long winter.

I hardly know eschatology well enough to opine on it. It is something I want to dig into further, while I now have the time. But could this crisis somehow set the stage for the coming three years of peace and prosperity which (in my limited understanding) is to precede the three and a half years of great global tribulation?

If so, perhaps we are in some sort of Third Winter season currently, where things are dire but not as dire as they seem–more like a major spring storm, not the beginning of a long winter season. Which, upon commencing, will then bring on another false season–a false spring, and a season of large scale deception– a season which might fool many into thinking that we have now attained ultimate peace and prosperity for a long time to come. If so, then that could mean an unprecedented time, globally, of people being intent on living the good life, traveling again and eating and drinking and giving themselves in marriage

Which seems as likely to me that it would be during such a time of seeming prosperity and peace that Jesus would return for His bride, and catch many unaware. Otherwise, why would He have told us the thief comes in the night to catch the owner of the house off guard? Why the reference to the days of Noah, when all but one family, believed what was actually coming upon the whole world?

But, having said all that, I could also see His return happening today.

The lesson I am taking in these thoughts and feelings that I shared around our table last night, only to seemingly be confirmed by an abrupt shift in the weather revealing a fools spring–is very simple.

Don’t be fooled.

By anything. Whether it is seemingly catastrophic or too good to be true.

To stay firmly on the rock of Christ, and all the more so in what could be either even worse, or seemingly ‘much better’ days to come. So I am making a note to myself to remember well this hour I am in, where I have found comfort in a quiet life at home; and do not forget to stay homebound and simple and trusting Christ should things return to ‘normal’ again ‘out there’ and once again tempt me to put down my eagerness to get out of here.

 

 

 

Oh church, where have you gone?

silver imac near white ceramic kettle
Photo by MockupEditor.com on Pexels.com

You may have noticed my tag line by now – clergy abuse survivor. I hesitated to identify myself as such. It can be limiting. Plus it might open me up for presumptions and false judgements.

But by readily admitting something key (and ugly) that molded me and my faith — those of similar belief as I hold might give me more credit; not less.

Being a clergy abuse survivor means that I saw directly into the nest of at least one of the (evil) birds Jesus said would roost in that yeast-inflated mustard tree. I realize I just mixed parables there–but yeast represents sin, and I personally believe that Jesus’ mustard tree parable was more along the lines of the church growing through unnatural inflation; than it was a sign of robustness and good health.

I think that’s why I am a little disturbed by this new way of ‘doing church’ — where we sit in front of a screen and tune in to a sermon or a pared down Sunday service and think that we’ve just had church together. And I’ve actually felt this same disturbed feeling in my heart before– it’s actually brewing for at least a decade. Back when it first started, I sensed we were ill prepared for what lie ahead. And now I see just how right I was to feel that way.

About five years ago, a minister friend and I were chatting. He was sharing some of the burden he felt for the congregants under his care. I recall saying to him, some of what I had felt stirring my heart, which went something like this:

“If something causes the church to go underground, into hiding, is your congregation ready and prepared, do they know how to have church themselves in their own homes–alone or with one or two or three? Because the way I see it, the task of every minister should be teaching every person and family and home they serve how to survive and keep being and doing church when there is no longer a church building to go to. And I do feel that someday churches will be hit with something, and our only option might be our own homes.”

My friend went silent at that curveball which he hadn’t seen coming. Then he slowly nodded. I was not sure if he fully got my sense of urgency; so I continued explaining how at our house, we had been doing just that. We’d been practicing ourselves, confessing sins, praising in songs, doing our own communions, praying more, skipping church services so that we could figure out what it meant to be the church in our own home. That way, if and when the time came; we knew how to do it on our own if needed.

I’ve been out of touch with my minister friend since this virus hit, and last I heard he had moved to a new, small congregation from the one he was serving back when I shared an urgency I had felt so strongly on my heart. So I have no idea if he began implementing some changes to prepare others for a time like this. Or if he fell back into the same old routine; where the minister holds court at the front and most everyone else participates simply by showing up.

Unfortunately: I had lost touch with my own strong feeling, and had slipped back into the easy participation of sitting and listening, being polite and withholding, instead of fully participating, diving full in, to a church gathering of two or more. So when our small fellowship stopped meeting recently, my husband and I tuned in to an online sermon and church service the next Sunday morning.

And we sat in silence and listened. Speaking to one another a little bit, later, about what we’d heard.

But that isn’t church.

There is no intentional coming together of the living body, in watching a screen.

The following week everything inside of me seemed to go awry. I was irritable and unkind. Finally, the dam broke and I found myself crying out, though I tried not to yell,  — we are doing this all wrong; we need to have church ourselves! A time where we sputter and wing it and bake some bread to break just for us and cry out in prayers–and it’s awkward and messy and beautiful just the same. Because this thing we did last Sunday where we sit passive and listen is no different than watching Netflix or the news. That is NOT church. And my spirit needs church more than ever right now…

Not to say there isn’t value in listening to online sermons. There is. I am ever thankful for the internet connecting us to one another and the ready information we can still seek and share (it may not always be the case). And if someone is truly alone with no ‘two or more’ to gather with, then online fellowship has to suffice in this hour. But a screen in place of a person isn’t church. If we don’t physically gather, we are in danger of hardening our hearts. For it is all too easy to become passive watchers; rather than active partakers in worship and study. If by and large most of us tune in to a screen, and tune out the urgings of our own hearts for real contact, what does that say about the church in this hour?

Zoom and Skype may bring us closer to that real connecting point; much more like face to face. Which is important. Even the apostle Paul knew the value of meeting face to face thousands of years ago.

If we have two or more people in a home — we can still do church and we can still be church. Gather together. Open the Bible and study and expound, the Holy Spirit will be the teacher. Enter into the initial discomfort of singing worship without a worship leader’s guidance, and saying humble unplanned prayers together. For Jesus has promised us He is there wherever two (or more) are gathered. Believe it. Don’t forget it.

The reason I forgot all that once burned in my heart about how to ‘be the church in my own home’ is quite simple. It was some mixture of laziness and complacency and a yearning for an easy sense of comfort rather than temporary discomforts which bring a more lasting satisfaction.

Laziness, complacency, and seeking momentary comforts are a dangerous combination in this hour.

So this week the two of us muddled through our own thing. Coming together quite simply.

My week, so far, has gone about the same as last; lots of curveballs and weirdness and a few health scares too. There is no magic fairy dust exemption of reality; merely from gathering as a church. But my heart is much more settled now that I know we still have a true gathering church after all; and it meets with Jesus at my own table.

 

Soap Works Well Against this Virus

person washing his hand
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

In elementary school I learned that some of my friends had mothers who washed their mouths with soap for saying a ‘bad’ word. As a young child I listened, curious, to these strange new confessions of ‘soap in the mouth’. My eyes grew big and my cheeks red as my classmate’s seven-year-old eyes turned to quiet little me. Had I ever needed soap in my mouth?

Yikes. I was still trying to grasp the idea of a mom or dad putting soap into a child’s mouth. Still trying to figure out what my classmates meant by ‘bad words.’ I believe I just shook my head no. Hoping they thought that meant I hadn’t said any bad words and not that my parents were bad parents to me. Because the latter was something so unbearably shameful that I tried to hide it most of my life.

I started to learn the difference between bad words and good words sometime after I started Sunday school and Kindergarten. Words and phrases which earned open laughter at home, had a deafening effect in a classroom. One time at church I landed in really big trouble. That correction was doubly shameful for me; as the teacher was shocked and quite angry and the other children stared at me in a mixture of confusion and horror– then avoided me.

It is far better to learn such lessons from private applications of bitter soap than from a publicly bitter rebuke. The memory of the teacher’s scolding and my classmates responses can still bring me shame to this day. Meanwhile my peers return home to visit aging parents and likely now appreciate once getting ‘soaped’.

If we love others, we will remember this and quietly try to rebuke, to discipline, to ‘soap’ them in private, before they inevitably get soaped publicly.

Oh, were I to have known the joy of parents and close adult caretakers who actually cared enough to privately correct and discipline me as a child! I would have gladly tasted soap on my tongue for the chance to have known that kind of love.

But I have now learned to be glad for their lack of discipline. I believe what I missed actually helps me long for and embrace God’s discipline for those He loves. Now I often ask for, and WANT God’s discipline in my life. 

With all that’s happening in the world there is a frequently repeated statement from experts that ‘soap works well against this virus‘.

Which has me pondering the spiritual connotation of soap, including a wayward child getting his mouth washed out with it. Can our mouths/tongues be chock full of germs? Uh, YES, both literally and figuratively. Often with the things of God there is a direct spiritual correlation to what is happening in the natural world. Which is the reason I am pondering the strange fact that simple soap will work against this awful virus…

Surely that means something?

As shared above, my formative years were spent learning all kinds of uncouth utterances and then having to learn the hard way that was not acceptable in some places. I eventually picked up on how my adult caretakers, and the minister in my family (the same one who molested and assaulted me), said naughty words in ‘close’ or ‘select’ company; but did not talk the same at church or to the general public. My abusers chose their words depending on their audience. But in private it was clear that no real soap had been applied to their tongues.

This ‘pretend soap’ strategy worked. People in church and community thought highly of my adult caretakers, while they continued to do as they pleased privately.

So I began to do the same. I pretend soaped my own mouth too. Words laughed at, at home, were carefully restrained in church and in school. And while I felt wonderfully free with no sting whatsoever to my conscience, I know now that I was growing more rotten inside each time I unleashed profanity in private.

Then came teenage years when I thought openly cussing in public was cool! I already knew how to use swear words with ease. Whereas some of my friends had to practice and think about it. Plus they still had to hide their dirty mouths from Mothers and Fathers- who continued to threaten them with soap. Lucky me, I only had to tone it down in church and school!

In time it was the Holy Spirit who urged me to clean up my mouth. So it was never a ‘mother threatening to get the soap’ nor is it now my own hypocritical efforts to look like I am ‘clean’. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit which convicts me when I slip into old cussing habits (hard to break things that were a part of you since toddlerhood).

Growing up in that environment, and as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, I know well that the church can be full of leaders and people who ‘pretend soap’ themselves.

And now that it could be deadly to skip the soap in a public restroom, I think it’s a great time to talk about spiritual realities. I believe it has always been DEADLY to our spiritual life, to ‘pretend soap’ ourselves, particularly so as professing Christians. To gloss over those hypocritical areas we all have and to continue to resist the discipline of God is numbing to our conscience. Hopefully the current circumstances might be that wake up call for some. Because I sense we Christians are being urged to stop the pretense and to start truly living under Holy Spirit discipline.

Before this crisis hit I appreciated ministers who urged their flocks to ‘repent’ and I was leery of those who didn’t. Most of the ministers I still follow (it’s dwindled down to only a few now) were watching for signs of Jesus return and were urging repentance long before this virus occurred. Now that it has hit, I am even more leery of those ministers and leaders who are not giving a clear call to repentance. But I still listen to a wide variety of general Christian content as youtube often picks up the next sermon randomly and I’ll keep listening in; more now than ever.

And some of those fresh sermons are making me uneasy. I am taken back to where I was earlier in my therapy processes when certain ministers had mannerisms which triggered flashbacks and trauma to my childhood abuse at the hands of a minister. Some of that is still from past abuse, undoubtedly. As I know well what it is to be bound to a church leader who claims to use ‘the soap’ while he’s reminded unwashed; casting off germs left and right with all he touches. But before you dismiss this entirely as ‘just a trauma survivor response’. What do you think of the hour in which we now live? Do you, as I do, believe that any minister not clearly urging people to personal repentance in this hour is missing something so key that one begins to question if he (or she) is actually soaping up himself?

So if any church leaders are reading this, please, I urge you, if you feel led to tell us to do our Christian service and go check on our neighbors and to keep giving money to the needy and all that, great, those are good and noble things — but please at least add in some concern about CHECKING OURSELVES for unrevealed sin, SOAPING OURSELVES with frequent repentance and truly being ready and watching for Jesus’ return.

I also wonder if this virus and it’s unique consequences on church attendance is being allowed to reveal those who merely claim to be in Christ Jesus. I pray I am not among those who Jesus casts aside as false followers….as it is quite clear to me that the hour is late. Which makes anything I might try to hide from confession to Jesus– dangerous.

As a Christian the most important thing is that I remain wholehearted toward God, myself, and trying to lead others closer to Jesus as is possible (without losing my own faith in the process). Which is why I listen soooo carefully to the message coming from that youtube screen.

I’m listening for the sound of soap bubbles…

As for me and my house– I hope to have cleaned my own doorstep and hands WELL before I hit the streets in service and/or evangelism. For whatever I am carrying WILL spread. Jesus is the soap. My sin is the virus. My efforts to hide my sins on my own and ‘appear clean’ in areas I am not; might be even more deadly than an ‘open kind of sin’– to myself and to others!

Now is not the time to be ‘fake clean’–to keep hiding the dirt and germs. Rather it is the time to wash them away by the blood of Jesus.

Remember: Soap works well against this virus. It doesn’t kill it, per say, but it does remove it until another exposure. Much like continual repentance works against our sin-state.

We are going through much more soap than usual in our home and at work. Today I want to start saying The Lord’s Prayer every time I wash my hands, as the length of time spent washing, and getting into a discipline of regular prayer, are both so important.

And indeed, around the world we are all having greater contact with soap. For those with eyes and ears to see and hear, I do believe that is revealing a spiritual warning and an urging to be in greater contact with the true and only purifier : Jesus Christ and His shed blood for all. Like bleach kills a virus; His shed blood kills our sin.

It is, perhaps, just a private warning for now. But eventually any lack of discipline and any failure to ‘soap up’ will become painfully public.

Few things bother me, after so much therapy to address my childhood traumas, and a lot of time devoted to healing — I am in a pretty good place now.

Yet the reaction of my Sunday school teacher and a room full of peers, to words I didn’t even know were ‘bad’ when I uttered them ‘at church’ as a small child, continue to bring a sense of shame and regret to my heart whenever my mind goes to that painful memory.

I have made peace with it because I see the lesson in it. I believe that memory needs to remain as a thorn of warning for me; and perhaps others. Because as a result of that experience I had, I can safely say that no one wants those things we do or say that we have no idea are ‘bad’–yes, nobody will want those things to be publicly disclosed. It’s unbearable when that happens.

How, then, do we avoid hidden shame being revealed, given that when we are blind, we don’t even know what it is which we cannot see?

We trust the scriptures which say there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. And we know that God publicly exposes us sometimes for our own good and learning; or with those who have resisted beyond all His efforts to discipline privately. We can ask Him to be the soap that reveals and kills any hidden germs we don’t even realize are hidden. We put the time in with ‘soaping our hearts.’ We read the Old Testament and the New Testament and let it work on our hearts to reveal our sins. If we have hard areas, we ask God to rip them open. If we need healing, we take time to stay home and heal. We make prayer and scripture a daily habit and practice as common as brushing our teeth and washing our hands. We take communion. We remember that ‘wherever two or more are gathered’…Church can meet at home, a married couple + Jesus counts as a gathering too.

Since I appreciate those who try to privately squirt some soap in my mouth, or eyes, or ears, I pray someone out there appreciates my effort to do that here.

As for me: I hope I do not run or resist or twist my head and shut up my mouth, but willingly open it and ask to be shown exactly where I am still in need of correction. And to then receive His efforts to correct me. Even if it tastes bitter.

Most soap does. It’s kinda the point.

How Social Distancing Triggers Survivors-(And why I’m Choosing a Quiet Life Instead)

since social norms and expectations have been so drastically altered—I feel emboldened to embrace what I wanted to be all along; before abusers got ahold of me; before authority figures felt they could tell me what I ought to be doing with my own body…

These are difficult times for all. Isolation ‘suggestions’ (rules) are being made and mandated by authority figures. Even ministers are developing new social norms for Christians; with the move to online church services and meetings. My own small fellowship has stopped meeting. My husband’s small Bible study has gone online. Most people are willing to follow these suggestions, believing it is for the greater good. My adult children are now working from their homes. They’ve mentioned coming to our home for a bit since they are working remotely anyway. But they have not done so; yet.

For a survivor of sexual abuse, this is a time that is rife with new fears and old traumas. As an abused child I was unable to develop internal guidelines about boundaries and personal space. ‘Go give your cousin a hug and kiss’ or the dreaded, ‘come sit on my lap’ were frequent commands. Child experts now stress how important it is not to force a child to touch someone if they would rather not.

But I didn’t have that choice as a child. If it was suggested that I sit on the lap of an adult relative; or go for a long drive with an adult family member, I knew I had to follow the suggestion. I felt powerless in the face of my perpetrators. My main caretakers had me in a state of helplessness. Extended family members further groomed and exploited me, long into adulthood. When I left my childhood home for one of my own, the perpetrators of my childhood continued to cross boundaries through harassing comments over the phone or unannounced visits to my home. Wherein I again felt, and believed myself to be, powerless to stop it.

Coming into the realization that I had personal space, and choice, and that I could choose who to let into that personal space (and that ‘family members’ didn’t get an immediate free pass to be there) was an ongoing and costly process. And I am still patching holes in those boundary walls around myself.

I can almost hear the voice of a former therapist as I type this: Remember that boundaries are walls with gates! We don’t want to wall ourselves in completely. Rather, we get to choose what and who to let in the gate!

As I see the current social distancing rules being implemented, it gives me pause. I once again feel powerless. Following the ‘rules’ as they are being handed down makes me uneasy, even as I know it is the right thing to do. I am once again fighting a familiar childlike fear— that I’ve done something horribly wrong and that this is all my fault somehow. That I shouldn’t have taken that airplane trip I felt it was still okay to take…because to disobey an authoritative suggestion, in any way, means I’m a bad girl. (Even if the authority suggesting it is evil.)

My husband keeps saying he doesn’t care if he gets sick himself. But he just doesn’t want to be responsible for making someone else sick. Which only makes me feel guiltier for being so concerned about myself. Traversing the recent thoughts in my head is like walking through a minefield.

Needless to say: Obeying these new social distancing commands doesn’t give me a senes of calm and peace.

And how can it? These are unprecedented times. We are sacrificing our relationships and our mental well-being in an attempt to protect our collective physical health. Something that can not fully be protected anyway.  Oh, I’m not suggesting that social distancing isn’t the correct response. Again: I’m practicing it myself. I haven’t left the house in days. I am simply pointing out that this action will also have consequences, and all the more so for the vulnerable amongst us- the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, the mentally ill and any of us who have already survived major traumas. Pray for these people. Check on them. Be there for them. Have patience with them in their fears.

Because this is a particularly difficult time for those of us who were already struggling. But as is often the case; those who have not suffered much themselves rarely stop to consider the plight of the already suffering.

It seems like this time of social distancing would be an introvert’s dream. In some ways, it is. As an abuse survivor, I shy away from people who like to draw in too close when talking to me. I need my space. I like to be alone. I like being in a grocery store where the other people in the aisle keep their distance from me (and then some). All the more so because I never had that sense of personal space growing up. But it also made me sad. Being told to isolate myself triggers old memories. Memories of a time when I was so isolated, as a child, that the frequent loneliness was a constant physical hurt in the back of my throat. Then I hardened myself, afraid to get close to people for different reasons. All because the choices with what to do with my own body were not my own to make.

My health has never been ‘good’; and that also gives me pause in the midst of a global pandemic. Many people who have lived through traumas end up with autoimmune issues and disabilities. I am no different. I’m still figuring out what, exactly, is wrong with me physiologically. I am no longer willing to be told by authorities in white coats that I’m ‘just an anxious’ person with psychosomatic symptoms. The biggest step I made for my own mental health came in realizing that there is something physical going on with my body; likely the result of past traumas, that no doctor has yet to be able to explain. Let alone diagnose and treat.

So to know that I am ‘amongst the vulnerable’ due to my physical maladies unleashes fresh grief for what was taken from me. A surge of fresh anger comes too; as I realize the full extent of damage my perpetrators caused me. How those early attacks against me left me vulnerable and weak in so many areas; including physically.

I realize all over again just how costly sexual abuse is to a child. How it remains crippling to a victim who was not given proper help or timely intervention. In order to try and protect myself physically— as a child stuck in an ongoing abusive situation— I harmed myself mentally instead. Believing I was a bad girl and keeping emotional distance from everyone was easier than believing the truth: that I was in constant danger from caretakers who were not actually caring for me.

I see the toll that that old manipulation of my body and mind took on my future relationships. Particularly those with my spouse and children. I see how it left me vulnerable to fear. Weak in times of national and global crises, and all too willing to quickly sacrifice my mental health and relationships in order to survive—to just physically get through it—whatever IT may be. In the past this has resulted in many moments of paralyzed inaction where I did what was expected of me by others. Instead of what was truly born of my heart and calling in life. I don’t know what it will look like for me, walking forward into a future where nearly everyone seems: a bit paralyzed.

All I know is that I’ve had so much time stolen, and, given my broken mindset, went on to waste a lot of time myself. Time that I could have been cultivating peace and joy instead of living a bit paralyzed by fear.

As a note I wrote to myself years ago, and still have posted on my fridge reminds me:

Triggers aren’t the problem. Avoiding pain is the problem.

This recent virus, and the worldwide social upheaval it has caused, has been like a grenade thrown into a giant barrel of triggers. I imagine it’s similar for other trauma survivors. If not, I’m glad to hear it! As for me: where do I even start assessing the pain? Sigh. I have to start with underlining and reaffirming my belief system and let it unfold from there.

And I believe what was meant for evil will be used by God for good. Perhaps God is using this time to show me the remaining hard areas of my heart, which weren’t as tender and soft as I’d thought. Hard areas which are ready to be ripped open, and must be ripped open for me to keep walking with Jesus. (Deuteronomy 30:6, Matthew 13:15). Well, even so: I am shocked at how many of hard spots remain. I thought I’d made more progress than I had.

Another way to put it: I am shocked at the size of the healing onion I’ve been peeling. I thought it was like a basketball.

It’s more like Pluto.

  • A ‘healing onion’ metaphor is something those of us in recovery, (from most anything), often talk about. There are so many layers to that onion! And each one hurts. The eight hundredth layer of onion makes me cry just as much as peeling back the first layer did.

And so as I look forward, to a future that on the one hand looks scary and isolated, I see how influenced I remain by ‘outside suggestions’ and how necessary it is to tune all those out and figure out what to let in, and out, the gate of my heart.

I also see an opportunity to do something that I’ve always wanted to do more than anything else; without a lot of social pressure to conform to something else entirely.

It has always been my desire to simply live a quiet life and to teach that to my children. But abuse and social norms and a desire for popularity, deep seated people pleasing, familial expectations and the need to make a living ($) kept me from doing what I wanted to be doing within my own properly walled life–back when the children were young. Now that they may descend back home for a bit-perhaps I can get a second chance to correct a few things.

And since social norms and expectations have been so drastically altered—I feel emboldened to embrace what I wanted to be all along; before abusers got ahold of me; before authority figures felt they could tell me what I ought to be doing with my own body…

I am encouraged that some of what I did not freely give my own children, in their childhoods (when I was still blinded from the fog of abuse), might now be freely given. Somehow. Someway. But first I need to live it out myself.

Underneath the handwritten refrigerator note that reminds me:

Triggers aren’t the problem. Avoiding pain is the problem

I am posting two Bible verses. Meant to guide me into the future.

  • Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)
  • Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. (Luke 21:28)

I seek peace. Contentment. A quiet life. Wherein I can freely feel both pain and joy; as it comes and needs to come. Quietly peeling that Puto-sized healing onion and being okay with that task; day in and day out. A walled up and fortified home with a gate, and a door and a front porch that opens to the good and stays firmly shut against the bad. While the greatest source of hope, transcends even the hardest pains and the best moments of pleasure left on earth, and hinges entirely upon Jesus’ return for me.

For: surely, I now believe the hour of His return is quite near.

But if you are reading this, and it has triggered new fears: Please know there is still time to repent and be saved. Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Confess that sin state to God. And then call on Jesus. John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Not that I am suggesting anything here. I am offering up the Word of God as it was offered to me.

I freely choose to repent. I choose to believe. I choose to forgive those who have hurt me. In spite of many well meaning (I have to believe?) Christian suggestions to do just that, it was somewhere between the Holy Spirit’s leading and my own heart desiring Christ–that I chose, and continue to choose, those things–entirely on my own.

Because a forced choice, a softly suggested choice, a groomed choice, a vague feeling of obligation and guilt–all that is meaningless, and I believe, can even be meant for evil.

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear. And grace my fear relieved.” John Newton (a former slave trader).

That’s exactly what it was like for me in my own conversion. The fear of God gripped me and then calmed me.

My abusers, the minister who molested and assaulted me, the evil powers and principalities that rule this world– couldn’t, and still can’t, take away my simple free will choice to follow Jesus. I am affirming that choice in this writing. Because if ever there was a time for such affirmations–it is now.

Now that that’s been affirmed: I will continue to peel away at Pluto. And quietly work; hoping to fly under the radar until I either die or Jesus comes for me in the clouds.

Maranatha

 

 

 

“Even if the ground is icy, you can still plant tulips!”

Apologies for anyone who may have sought my blog in recent weeks and could not find it. It took me a while to privatize the original posts. I kept a few public. For those who requested access, you didn’t miss new content. Just access to old stuff I no longer wanted public.

I presumed my blog was going to be over. Now that I have safeguarded the things I once shared so freely: my anonymity feels secure again. Yet, I sense going forward that things around here will be more like the early winter out my window.

Colder. Less traffic than the little I received prior. But with more excitement for what could possibly be ahead. To quote a fellow Midwestern garden enthusiast, who was recently raving about tulips, “Even when the ground is icy, you can still plant tulips! The bulbs still bloom in the spring!”

…I am probably talking to nobody right now 😊. Or at best one or two. And that’s ok. I have pared down the blogs I follow. Conscience dictated that in so doing: I also remove the followers to my blog (if they belonged to any of the blogs I no longer follow). I hope it is not hurtful to anyone.

I am doing my best not to care about that. Recovery from people pleasing is not always easy. I wish I could say that I had the discipline and lack of eagerness-to-please-others to maintain a well trafficked blog.

I don’t.

Much has changed in my body and mind since I started looking into physiological reasons for what had been diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. I can’t get into that here as it’s too identifying. My body isn’t the only thing which has changed since I began exploring ways to heal it. My mind has as well. Gains I made in years of cognitive behavioral therapy were washed away by months of various toxins being released. Which can leave me so ridiculously irritable I could bite the head off a puppy at the wrong time of day. When it passes again, I find I have a boldness I’ve always wanted to possess. Wondering why I ever was so timid or afraid to say things simply and speak the truth. Confused as to why I once gave my money to a therapist telling me how to do just that.

The anxiety which occurs now is a passing physical type of anxiety and agitation, not one rooted in mental trauma. I know the difference, now, very intimately. I have no real idea how much of the ‘anxiety disorder’ and PTSD that I was diagnosed with was truly trauma or behaviorally induced or some combination of physiological, psychological, spiritual, and physical components.

I do suspect it was more physiological and physical than it ever was mental or spiritual. And I suspect that could be true for many people who are urged into medication or therapy (or told to JTJ- Just Trust Jesus) without someone looking carefully and deeply at their physical health.  I don’t believe I have seen a doctor, minister, or other professional who has come close to understanding any of it. Therefore I won’t pretend to either.

I will say, however, that now that some fog has lifted from my toxic brain, I see things clearer than ever before (even as my eyes are often blurry from vitamin deficiencies and toxins still leaving). I see that I was never a defect, or a reject. I know my childhood abuse affected me in every way possible, and knowing that is depressing even as it lets ME off the hook.

The childhood abuse affects how I approach receiving medical care, receive offers of friendship, and respond to the flames of narcissists. Had I not been mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually abused as a child — I likely would not have ever stopped looking for physical roots of illness. After my doctor stopped looking and wrote me off as a head case, I would have gotten a new doctor. Nor would I have been as willing to listen to ministers and Christian therapists giving me advice about how to fix my spiritual life–implying that I wasn’t doing something right or else I would be thriving instead of struggling. I would have said goodbye to many things much quicker than I did.

I have also encountered a staggering number of people who appear, in hindsight, to have had personality disorders. Those were the ones I usually let ‘help’ me the most.

Had I not been so bound up — I would have looked at what I was eating, and also doing with my time, and dug deeper there. Instead I instantly went to navel gazing. I wouldn’t have been so ready to believe the people who kept telling me there was nothing really wrong with me (Except EVERYTHING important–like my belief system and basic thoughts and behaviors)…oh, the easy fuel that wide-eyed-me must have been for all those out there eager to restore me to Christ. Sigh.

But that was not the path God had set me on. There is a reason I spent the last five years going down so many rabbit holes labeled ‘this is actually your own fault’.  I was predisposed to blaming my own personality traits and character, first, rather than looking at all the physical and external causes as to why I might feel anxious, tired, and in chronic pain. My childhood set me up for people all-too-willing to tell me what else I was doing wrong and how to correct it. And that all started to lift earlier this year. Even as it continued, to some degree. I am a slow learner and I made another doctor appointment with someone following a restrictive diet who’d grown quite popular on social media. When he posted shirtless, a gym selfie, I finally started to wake up that something was off about him. His clinic called me to reschedule my appointment and I quickly blurted, ‘oh let’s just cancel it.’ The poor woman on the phone seemed confused by my eagerness to cancel an appointment I once was eager to make.

In the end: this world is fallen. There is no perfect pill. No perfect diet. No perfect lifestyle maintenance regime. No perfect church. If there were, then it would mean Jesus had returned and set the earth right again. We will all know it when that occurs. Until then, don’t be fooled*!

(*Note to self)

This has been the lesson of the last five years of bunny trail after bunny trail. Harsh, I know. But I need to say this for myself, so that I remember it going forward. Falling for the illusion of perfection from those who overly promote themselves is a weakness. So long as I remember I have such weakness, it will be more easily managed. It isn’t so much a weakness in my character, though, as it is in my experience. Growing up in an environment where so many people were claiming all the answers (even when they flew in the face of truth and reality) really messes up your ability to know and trust the truth. Truth is– again– there is no perfect way in a fallen world. It simply doesn’t exist. I do believe we can make gains, and get to a point of high function regardless of our limitations– and I will continue to try. But I am going to try not to fall for the perfection illusions that keep being put forth by oh, everything and everyone — from commercials for antidepressants to doctors who pose shirtless.

I do maintain that Jesus is the way. Beyond that — there’s a lot of ways to lay down your cross. The important thing is that we let it (whatever it is) go.

That is why I’m letting go of the idea that there is still something wrong with me that needs healing. Because I am ok just as I am, in some pain and with granny-size-underwear covering a butt full of cellulite. There is beauty in that; value in that. More than there is in something uncovered and overly promoted. This world is eager to tell YOU why you being you is giving you an anxiety disorder (or cellulite or diabetes). Or why your diet sucks and you need to eat the rainbow. Why pharmaceuticals are evil. Or why Trump is really a Russian spy operative. Most of the time, they have something to sell, or simply fuel to garner, by making such claims.

Very few are willing to navigate the overblown claims to try and find any nuggets of actual truth. The past five years were my training ground to do just that. To swim in that stream and not drown in it.

In the end — share what works for you, and tell me about you or your life. Care enough to dig into the claims others make, rather than dismissing or falling for them. That’s what I hope to do here. A bit more colder than prior, as I am still figuring out what I am doing myself — but hey, spring comes eventually. For now — I avoid a lot of foods and supplements too, as I have discovered that many of them were a root source of health issues plaguing me for life. They escalated into fibromyalgia, and a diagnosed anxiety disorder and PTSD the latter of which I’m not sure is even a thing anymore and the former of which I’m not sure is a root cause or a symptom of something else.

I’m saltier than I’ve ever been prior, too. The need to be nice is lifting, as the quest for real and true burns strong in me now that I am figuring this stuff out.

Furthermore: that ugly brown tulip bulb WILL turn into a thing of beauty after it’s been buried properly. Like blogs that were all over the place being put to rest in the cold earth. Like life after death. Like coming out of a lifetime of chronic pain syndrome culminating in a five year fog of anxious self blame… only to realize it was the abuse and abusers, combined with some food that doesn’t agree with me. Not, actually: me. There is the bloom after a cold winter. And it is beautiful. Truly Beautiful.

My arms hurt–as do about sixty seven other body parts. But I hope to plant more tulips in the icy ground regardless.

They’ll bloom eventually.

beautiful bloom blooming blossom
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

If you love someone set them free. But if you want someone to be tied to you forever: beat them up.

grayscale photo of rope on log

I am reading a book about trauma bonds. It was recommended to me by Lexicon Lover- a blogger/ commentor I admire.  ❤️

I am mid way through the book. It is so helpful. Hard. But helpful. Like most truth.

I can already better understand why the battered wife cannot leave her husband. Why the molested child a friend adopted feels so bad (for telling on her abusive grandpa) that she picks the skin on her arm until it is raw. And I also see more clearly why I had such a difficult time being honest about my own abuse and then separating myself, physically and emotionally, from my abusive family of origin.

The book theorizes that trauma bonds people in ways that peaceful circumstances cannot.

Indeed.

I have also realized things about love, and it’s flip side (extreme selfishness-dangerous levels of narcissism).

First: love.

Love is a verb. And one action it does is it releases. The old adage is cheesy but true (if you love something, set it free…if it comes back to you it was meant to be). True love does not WANT anyone being dependent on them, it hopes for a healthy relationship as two equals who choose it— therefore it detests bondage situations.

Love wants to see others live in independence and autonomy. True love gives selflessly for the sake of the other so that that goal of mutual independence can be reached. Mentors, good ones, know that they are successful when their mentees no longer need them. The mentee may choose friendship at that point but the mentor, if he is a good one, doesn’t expect it going into it. Same with parents.

Abuse is the opposite. It is so selfish that it wants the other to be broken and dependent and tied up to the other—forever if possible. There is no release, no setting free. There is intentional bondage-making.

To me that is evil. And I believe evil knows that if you want to create a near-unbreakable bond you don’t treat someone with a combination of genuine care, affection, and freedom, letting them figure things out on their own. There is no setting free with evil. Never.

That would mean that person had no binding ties to anything, unless they chose to give themselves to God or others. (In spiritually abusive homes, believing in God is not a free will choice.)

Evil knows that if you want to create a tie that binds two people together greater than any other tie on earth, trauma needs to be involved.

So evil, and those given over to it, buys the neglected girl a bicycle and then sexually assaults her a few months later. Six months after that the evil one tells her how special she is to him and praises the bond they’ve always had. A day later the evil one mocks her pre-teen breast size.

That is how you create a type of bondage that lasts near-forever. That is how you hide your ugly deeds and create a slave to cater to your wishes for years, lifetimes if you get your way. You mess with their mind. You beat them up. You bring them to the lowest low of self hatred and then kiss their forehead and tell them they are still your special little princess. Because that’s all it takes to tie them up to you. A mixture of abuse and what seems like love but is just fake affection to hide and further the abusive bondage.

Evil forces a daughter to sit on its lap. And that night it beats her mom up in front of her.

Evil knows this works at trapping. It knows that is how it can make ties that bind, and blind. In such relationships there is no process of the child entering adulthood and being set free, not from homes like that. The child enters adulthood with every intention of breaking away from their family but finds she cannot do it. The pull is too great. She missed the highs and lows and returns for Christmas and another round of verbal battering and perverted uncles mixed with forehead kisses and photographs with linked arms because we just love our little princess so much!

To break such trauma bonds is arduous, exhausting, and, dare I say it: miraculous.

I am praying, that now that I see them for what they really are (incredibly powerful tools of bondage from the pit of hell) that  my own strong bonds with people who inflicted trauma on me, can finally be broken.

Inner Vows (and why I am renouncing them in my recovery).

close up of padlocks on railing against sky

Here are some examples of what an inner vow might look/sound like:

I will not let myself get hurt again.

I will not let someone catch me with my guard down again.

I will protect myself better next time.

I won’t find myself in that compromising position again.

You really can’t trust anybody!

When I first heard about breaking inner vows in therapy, I was confused. I also questioned if such a thing made any real difference. I mean even scripture says to guard your own heart, right??? I thought that’s what I was doing when telling myself to be on better guard next time…

Then I randomly came across the subject of vows and pledges on a Jewish blog. Once a year on Yom Kippur (Jewish New Year), ceremonies include renouncing all the vows and pledges which were made the prior year, including both intentional, and unintentional ones. Indeed, not making hasty vows, not swearing by God or anything in heaven or on earth, letting your yes be a yes and your no be a no — is clearly affirmed by Jesus Christ Himself! Without getting into a huge theology discussion here (feel free to do your own study–it’s a fascinating subject!), there is very real power in words. Particularly if we phrase them as promises, declarations, and/or oaths.

Therefore I began to see what my therapist was getting at. I noticed just how many intentional, and also unintentional, inner vows I had made over my lifetime. I was shocked. And I still ‘go there’ quickly as a defensive response.

In short: I couldn’t control what had happened to me in childhood and I still have very little real control over other’s actions toward me. In an effort to regain a sense of control I made oaths to protect myself. In so doing I also cursed and bound up my ability to receive and give love in relationship with others. Like putting a lock on my heart and tossing the key. The curse needed to be reversed by the one who made it (me), if I was to experience a fullness of heart and come out from the ‘numbing’ effects of abuse and anxiety disorder. I think I’ve been doing that, now. Plus I’m learning, and trying to put into practice, passively accepting hard things — without numbing out again, or, to use scriptural terms: hardening my heart in response.

I thought, myself, all of the above examples of inner vows, and more too numerous to write down. I even said many of these aloud in conversations with others. The issue being that even the quiet unspoken pledges I had made held very real power in my mind and heart. They shaped my relational behaviors. I know better now. But actually living life without making such statements and declarations is an ongoing process. Which is why I was so intrigued by the Jewish practice of erasing all the intentional and unintentional vows each new year!

Part of renouncing is sitting down and doing just that–admitting and renouncing the oath you once made to yourself. The other part is not relying on a simple statement you repeat once a year but actually working out a vow-free life; in real life–for me that means making myself vulnerable (easing into it–starting slow and letting trust build naturally), finding friends and loved ones who have already proven themselves to be ‘safe’ with a small amount and opening up more and more. It also means recognizing those who are not safe spaces and guarding my self around them. Then choosing better use of my time without feeling guilty about doing just that and without needing to make an actual vow (because I am fully trusting myself, and God, in that process).

It is a practice and a process to give and receive trust. To know who is trustworthy and to not feel guilty about ‘moving around’ those who have proven they are not.

Inner vows were binding me in so many ways. I’d give trust away too easily to all the wrong people and places (Social Media is generally not a safe place to share the depths of one’s heart, for instance) and then knee-jerk hole up all over again with a fresh litany of pledges and oaths to avoid this or stay away from that in the future.

Anyone else pondered this subject of making declarations and inner vows?

Please feel free to share any other examples of inner vows and ways to break them.