Feasting in the Presence of Enemies

The 23rdPsalm has been a lifeline for me in my recovery from PTSD and anxiety disorder.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Inevitably the things which make me anxious or fearful are the very things I want to change, as if I were God and knew exactly what needed to go in my life.

I wish my family relationships were healthy; I wish this pain in my neck would go away; I wish I didn’t feel so much fear simply going into the grocery store.

Wishes are basically wants. Saying aloud: the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want prompted me to replace the thoughts above with acceptance, trust, and hope.

I accept that many of my family relationships are not able to be healthy. I have told the truth about past inter-family abuses and those responsible have not responded with truths of their own. That is not my fault, nor something I can control. I accept that I still have trauma effects, some body pain and various symptoms of elevated stress. This is how it is right now. I don’t like it. Yet, I do want to be in this present circumstance because it is what my Lord Jesus has led me to, in this moment. I shall not want it to be any different than it presently is, for I am not God and do not know all the reasons why I am where I am right now.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

Yes, even in this present circumstance of lingering physical and emotional pain and discomfort; I have been led to green pastures, led to refreshing waters. They are there before me; and they do soothe me.

In the past few years of ongoing recovery I have recited the entire psalm often, to center myself back in Christ. It has been so helpful, for me. Yet, I confess that this was so comforting that sometimes it became more palliative than truly heartfelt. So I have recited the psalm without fully realizing what I was declaring. Particularly this portion: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

Last week it finally hit me; hard.

A long wooden table spread with so many good things. Surrounded by loved ones. Laughter. Gaiety. Openly living. Freely sharing what is in my heart. Not hiding the truth. Not being ashamed of my past; nor my present failures. Because Jesus blood has washed me clean and there I sit white robed at a public place of honor. God’s table.

God’s table.

That He prepared just for me.

That table was not hidden away in an upper room or lit by candles in a darkened cave. It was out in the open; where anyone could view it. The giftings God had poured out for me were in full access to the very people whom the enemy had used to try and destroy them all.

All of which made it ok to live life in the wide open again. To feel joy. To laugh. And to trust.

These days, I’m rarely scared to go to the grocery store. I’ve returned to doing daily living things without even thinking about the fears which once overwhelmed me. But, in other ways, I still want to hide. That revelation about feasting before my enemies changed things. Inside things. Dark crevices of the heart things. It made me want to start sharing my writing again. It made it ok to live life again. To answer the doorbell every time instead of ignoring it sometimes because I have a bit of a headache. To feel joy. To laugh.

To know that all of this is by God’s design is staggering to me. For He is the one who sets the table and overflows it; right there in the presence of our enemies. Openly. In public. Like an original ‘internet’; thousands of years before electricity. It is His pleasure–to put the feast He prepares for us on public display.

Were it by my design, I would have just set the table up right there in the cave, and carefully selected the guest list, and kept near everyone who I didn’t fully trust away from even viewing any of it, let alone being within grabbing distance.

Thankfully; although my pride and fearful need to be in total control sometimes still acts like it— I’m not God.

For more on the subject of feasting before enemies, David Wilkerson has a great essay.

Stolen Flattery

My BHH (Better half of my heart) told me that some contraption he’d made was stolen right off our property. He has no idea when it was stolen, but he noticed it was missing today.

“I have a hunch they took it because they thought it was really neat. Maybe they admired it and thought it would be useful” He said. “So it is kind of flattering that it got stolen.”

While watering my potted flowers this evening, I pondered his reaction of being flattered that something he’d made was stolen. The flowers are struggling, now, in the August heat. The water coming from the hose, connected to the spigot, connected to the city’s tower of rusty reserves is just not the same as rain from above. (Especially when I took a day off from the watering chores yesterday.)

There is an element of flattery, yes, in something one has created, being admired to the point of coveting. But it ends there. Flattery may feel good. At first. In the end it’s hollow. Fake. Someone only said the flattering thing to further themselves in some way, or to sell you something, or to trick you into something. It is nothing at all like the true appreciation of a fellow brother or sister’s gifts and callings. That can actually restore life, like rainfall. Flattery which leads to coveting which leads to theft is like a hot August day, without so much as a hose of rusty groundwater to coax things along.

One of the biggest aspects of my recovery has been finding out who I am. Who I really am, as God knit me together to be. And realizing that for as many billions of people who have lived on this earth in six thousand plus years of existence: no two have ever been the same. And that is by God’s design. And that is to be celebrated. Evil would have everything look alike, assimilation through power-over and watering down until all the salt is gone. God adores making things that are similar in nature–but yet their very own. Like snowflakes. And seeds. Kittens; and babies.

I am learning how to embrace who I am, as a child of God, an individual. A lover of words and flowers and dirt under my toes. A lot of people tried to steal that away from me. Others tried to make it into something else, flooding me with insults and jokes and suggestions that were killing to my spirit. I still bristle whenever I think someone may be trying to do that to me. To tell me who I really am or ought to be. Until I remember the things I’ve learned in therapy and decide I do not have to feel that way inside; no matter what they may be telling me.

I can recall being looked at like I was an offering on a dinner plate, by many people, in my childhood. I found none of that to be flattering. It made me want to disappear. It still causes me to want to hide. That aversion to being looked at remains to this day. “Quit looking at me!” I sometimes want to scream; when I notice someone’s eyes on my person. It was like some of my abusers actually wanted to be me, even as they told me the me I was was worthless and dumb. In the end, they were content to try their best to ruin me. They almost did. But God is in the business of restoration, in between making new snowflake patterns to add to the zillions He’s already created.

So now that I am starting to put myself into the world–the real me, with all my uniqueness and all my quirks, I know that people will look. Some may admire. Others may dislike. A few may even covet, or try to flatter. In the end, how I react to that is what will matter the most. Because I am not going to be able to stop another from stealing from me, if that is their intention.

And so my BHH taught me a lesson tonight. (He often does.) Someone committed a sin against him, and he decided to see it as affirmation of his God given ability to make something really great, from scratch, with his own two hands. A gift he thoroughly enjoys and which he often uses for the benefit of many others.

I have no doubt he will remake the thing which was stolen; probably first thing tomorrow. I am thankful for that. People can steal the thing. Again and again. And there isn’t much we can do about that. But they can’t steal the gift without our permission.

The Vegas massacre.

This week has been one where I don’t have the words. And that’s ok because the images from this latest horror have triggered some of my own past traumas and present fears. Plus, others already have said it better than I could.

I hope to be salt. And light. The world needs us. Our children need us. Prayers to the families, friends, and loved ones of all affected by this horrific trauma.

 

I treated myself to therapy.

A big part of my child abuse included exposure to porn. Suggestive nude photos were taken of me when I was preschool age. I was in elementary school when porn showed up in the cupboard next to the doll dishes. The abuse progressed, or digressed, from there. Perversion and pornography have been a lifelong trauma trigger.

Even when I was in denial it affected me. Or I should say: back when I was in denial this stuff REALLY affected me. I either laughed along to, or stood silently enduring, off-color jokes in public. Then, in a private tornado of bitter rage, the disgust at the joke teller was dumped onto my BHH (better half of my heart). He was left sputtering and agreeing that the guy was out of line or the looks-like-porn-book was better left on the shelf. Yet he also wondered what he was supposed to ‘do’.  Shun the guy? Say something to the guy? Avoid anything with any bit of nudity or suggestive poses in it? Hmm.

All or nothing thinking is one of the cognitive distortions I’ve been working on eliminating. It’s a bugger.

I have only recently discovered the link to the Kinsey experiments and the explosion of porn in our culture. This video on pornography is disturbing but something I wish I had been aware of prior in my walk. Please use discretion if you watch it as the language is blunt and not appropriate for young children to hear. As Dr. Judith Reisman says near the end, “We’ve all been raped.”

Indeed. It’s been done. We can’t undo it now. We have all, to some degree, suffered from the trauma of having perversion normalized. What are we going to do about the damages? Or do we just do as I once did and laugh (or stay silent) in public. Then lash out in private on those who don’t deserve it. And thus keep pretending there haven’t been any significant damages?

For me, healing began with offering myself, with as much abandonment as my emotional state allowed me to give, at the cross of Christ. From there, He has led me through the wilderness, put countless people into my life to help me (after I made myself vulnerable and asked for help) and I know that He is with me as I soldier onward to the promised land.

So if you need help in the form of God, other humans, therapists, pastors, Stephen ministers, support groups, etc., there is no shame in asking for it. I am continually amazed and thankful at how often a simple asking has led to my needs being more than met. In fact, it is quite courageous to ask for help. And it’s also courageous to receive. To learn to receive is something I still work on now and then. But oh, the blessing, to receive help! I would merely caution that you find a therapist, minister, or support group that aligns with your religious convictions. I tried a local therapist but I could only go so far until the new age philosophy began to stall my progress. What has worked best for me is a Christian counselor via Skype. She understands my hesitation with anything ‘new age’ and respects it. She also gives me Bible verses and prayers.

Again, it is not shameful to ask for help. To paraphrase Dr. John Sarno “I suggest you treat yourself to therapy.”

 

 

 

 

What’s in this?

Ever eaten a gourmet meal which is expertly done, yet something is still missing?  After a bite or two you find yourself desperately looking for a salt shaker? Inevitably, those white-cloth-tables lack salt. And you don’t want to insult the chef by asking.

The truth is complicated for me. I dig into things deeply. I dislike subterfuge and being fooled. Yet I garnished my own story. Denial. It’s how I survived; at first. It was too painful to deconstruct my life. Someone once said : the truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable. I have lived that.

I am a writer. An artist. In love with the quirky and unique. A finder of beauty. A creative soul who adores picking basil from the garden; setting it just-so on top of a platter.

I eat my watermelon sprinkled with salt. Sweet things taste even better, to me, sprinkled in truth. As a writer I want to make sure I’m honoring the simplicity of story. As a servant of Christ I want to make sure I am sharing both grace and truth. Like sea salt on fresh- sliced, homegrown tomatoes. With or without basil garnish.

I am a survivor of sexual, emotional, physical, and spiritual abuse. I am overcoming the anxiety disorder and PTSD which resulted. I guard my privacy as I continue to heal. I also crave connection, and a place to create and share.

I am watching my grown sons adjust to life on their own as I adjust to life in a quiet house. The refrigerator slowly empties. I cook simply. The other night my BHH (better half of my heart) asked me ‘what’s in this?’ as he scooped a second helping of potatoes onto the serving spoon.

“Just salt.”

“It is really, really good.”

Umm hmm.

Pretense. Overdoing it. For too long, I tried too hard. The unadorned truth-applied with love-is what most of us crave. Like salt on food. Like Jesus preserves His own and His own preserve the world. In an age that’s garnishing everything–pretending evil is good and good is evil–I just want to be a little salt. That’s it.

Just salt.