Abuse of Emotion

I often felt alone, even as a child, even though I had several siblings quickly added to our family.

I was a girl, three boys followed and it seemed that they were more special than me. I also have two much younger sisters that came later.

My mom didn’t  know how to cope with my frizzy mop, or my hyper-sensitive nature. I developed asthma and I think now that it wasn’t due to allergies (although there is a component of that) but that it was due to anxiety.

I was told just how much my medication cost a month and how they couldn’t afford it. What I heard was “You are an unnecessary burden to our family and we resent you for it.”

Ah, the travesties of childhood.

I would walk a mile home from school and I can remember dallying on the way. Spinning with my arms wide open and looking up at the sky hoping that maybe, just maybe, God could see me and that in spite of messages I heard, HE loved me.

I was told later by my family that NO ONE would love me. I picked scabs (probably an obsessive-compulsive behavior as a way to cope with stress). I was told no one would love me with those scars.

In puberty I gained weight. Potato chips were a comfort food given early on when my mom didn’t want to deal with my emotions. No human comfort was available but food soothed. Then I got messages like: “She would be really pretty if she weren’t so fat.” I would be called “bubble-butt” and “thunder-thighs” and led to believe that my weight made me unlovable. Ah, but this wasn’t bullying in school. This was my daily home life.

As I struggled with depression as a teen I was told, when I fessed up to my feelings, that I was being manipulative, trying to get attention.

With all that rejection, there wasn’t much motivation to try hard. No one cared about my grades, or my successes. Getting a top score in solo-ensemble I was still told by my mother that I didn’t support my voice enough. Nothing I ever did around the house was good enough.

I’m a flawed human. That much was clear from early on.

Sometimes I think back to that little girl with frizzy hair and two pigtails that curled in frizzy ringlets who looked up to heaven for approval and I cry. God? Can you see me? Can you hear me? Is my picture on your refrigerator? Does anyone think I’m special?

All these years later I still struggle. It wasn’t “safe” for me to share my emotions, much less my hopes and dreams then. It’s not safe to do so now. Sharing emotions and dreams only leads to abuse from people who were “supposed” to love me.

And I struggle to be a healthy person in the midst of an unhealthy, emotionally abusive marriage. I haven’t found the balance. How do I experience my emotions in away that is safe for me? Holding them in and feeding them potato chips or sugar doesn’t make the problem better. Sharing them puts me at risk of more abuse. S0metimes I feel so needy and I”m afraid to overwhelm friends with that lest I find that they too are put off by me.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Sometimes I avoid journaling because I’m afraid of my feelings. I get discouraged at the chronic nature of my difficult circumstances. Will I ever NOT grieve the loss of a dream of a man would love and cherish me? I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how thin I get neither him or my family will love me for who I am. It’s a losing battle to even try to curry their affection.

And God? He loves me just as I am. Right here. Right now. Muddied emotions, scars and flab. HE looks beyond it all and he values my hopes and dreams because HE placed them in my heart. He values my efforts to serve because HE called me and equipped me to do it.

Now if I could only get my head and my heart to live fully in THAT reality.

How about you? Have you struggled to deal with emotions in the midst of difficulties and lack of validation?

Lilly Grace

Accidental Living

I’ve had a few car accidents in my day and in every one I’ve suffered whiplash.  Other than the one that was my fault, they were unpreventable. The fact is, you can drive as carefully as possible, obey every rule of the road, and still end up an accident, because, well, they are accidents. In many of them, I was a victim.

But how many of us follow any kind of rule for life? We go about our days, we do what we need to do and react to people and events around us.  Sometimes those things are not preventable: cancer, death, losing a job.  Being a victim through all of life however doesn’t get us very far, does it?

Many companies have a mission and vision and goals. They use these things to evaluate where they invest time, money and resources (i.e. people). This can help a company be focused and hopefully, successful.

It hit me a few months back that I was not being proactive about my life. I was kind of reacting and not really getting anywhere. Now, I’m not a January 1, New Year’s Resolution kind of gal.  This past year I did choose a word for my year: Change. I had anticipated some major life events. Some happened (I lost thirty pounds and kept it off all year!), and others didn’t (we were supposed to move but didn’t and lost the house we had an offer on).

I had sat down to refocus my ministry goals and re-wrote all of them and really liked how they gave us direction and a sense of greater purpose.  Then it hit me: why not do that with my own life?  I wrote up a passion statement – a one or two sentences that describe the core of who I am. Then I followed it up with what I intended to do to live that out, each item having specific goals. I put this at the front of my journal so I could refer to it often.

So when opportunities come, I can evaluate them in terms of this passion and purpose statement. (mission and vision seems a bit odd for a personal thing). If I am going to commit to something, does that fit with my own stated purposes? If not, is it worth doing? For instance, I could be working on a novel right now, but my heart’s passion for ministry calls me to do the harder work of writing my non-fiction book and pursuing that with a bit more focus. The fiction will get its turn, but the non-fiction is more in line with my passion and purpose.

You don’t have to wait until January 1st to re-evaluate your life and put it on a more focused track. Being a victim of life however will leave you stuck at the at the starting gate. Can I suggest you pray about this and then put pen to paper and give it a try? When you are done, share it with a safe person – and then follow it as your road map into the future. If you sometimes feel like a victim of accidental circumstances, this can be the airbag and safety belt that keeps you from totally crashing and you may even feel empowered to reach higher than you thought possible for the dreams God has placed in your heart.

The dreams I have now are different than they were a few years ago because I’ve grown and changed and become aware of new strengths and a more refined calling of God in my life. New Year’s Resolution? Bah Humbug! Resolute and Intentional Living? Now that I can cheer for.

Blessings,

LGB

Dream Bigger

I often ask God for things that I want or think I need. New house, new husband (hahaha!), healed son, health, financial security. The list could go on. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly stressed my prayers simply become requests for help or rescue.

But for twenty years rescue hasn’t come.

What if my dreams and prayers are too small? Maybe a house, which could burn down, would not ultimately satisfy me. Or if my husband were Brad Pitt or better yet Gilles Marini! Still, he may not satisfy (looks ain’t everything, gals!).

What if my kids were perfect angels, obeying everything, picked up after themselves and helped around the house? Okay, wait. I cannot find anything wrong with that!

I struggle with this verse in Scripture:

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Mat 21:22 ESV)

Whatever? Really? But when? So I can ask for riches – and for my debts to be cleared away. Anything goes right? Does that mean that I can sin with abandon and ask God to clean up after me so I don’t have to face the consequences? See what I mean? It seems like there might be a limit to “whatever” even though even in the Greek it seems to mean exactly what it says. Oh, how easy to believe a false prosperity gospel based on that one verse!

Maybe the clincher is “if you have faith.” Maybe part of me doubts God’s willingness to rescue me in my difficult circumstances. That would be a sin of unbelief. Maybe my faith is misplaced in asking for things that are not in line with what God desires for me? That is probably the key. Faith means believing in what we don’t see. That God has some greater purpose and plan beyond my ability to know or understand. Even Abraham did not see the Promised Land and his descendants as innumerable as the sands on the shore or the stars in the sky. God promised and did it – but Abraham never saw it while he walked on this earth.

So maybe I simply don’t dream big enough. A house will burn or decay. My health doesn’t matter once I’m dead (and we all achieve that end at some point). Consider the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 which ends thus:

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. “ (Heb 11:39-40 ESV)

So we get whatever we ask – when we ask in faith – but even those who did, didn’t see the fulfillment of what God had promised. They got something better!

Maybe I need to pray bigger prayers. Maybe prayers that my children will overcome the generations of sin and spiritual bondage that have held our families back from impacting the world for the glory of God. Prayers that the work I do today, even in writing a blog, or a book, will in the long run, impact women, save marriages and strengthen the church in ways I might never see or fully understand. Maybe even one life will come to know Jesus in a real, powerful, life changing way and embrace Him as not only their Savior, but Lord, and in bending their knee and wholeheartedly following Him, they will have a great impact on people I will never meet this side of heaven.

Maybe instead of temporal things I need to dream of a bigger legacy of a way that God, right now, today, would reach down and through this blog and other words I might speak, or hugs I might give, extend His message of grace to a hurting world.

My circumstances might stink. Sometimes I truly do want to quit the fight. But then I think of things like this and feel emboldened to stretch a little further. To take just one more step today in faith, knowing that in heaven, I will see the fruit of my labor and rejoice because I will have received the commendation of God. That joy will far outweigh my sorrows here. Some days I need to be reminded of that, don’t you?

As I typed this, Chris Rice’s song “Deep Enough to Dream” kept going through my head. Maybe it will inspire you to dream bigger as well. Blessings,

LGB