Monthly Archives: February 2015

On the Flip Side of Suffering

The day I had been waiting for finally came.

It didn’t look like what I had seen in my dreams. It certainly didn’t feel anything like I had imagined.

I found the flipside.

Most of my process in the last three years has been about unearthing hidden and suppressed wounds so they may be brought into the light. Wounds that had been buried out of the necessity to survive. Wounds that had been masked by manipulated theology. Wounds that went far deeper than I could even imagine.

Turning to face the wounds was scary, riddled with fear. But they demanded their right to become a part of my story, to be integrated in rather than left behind to dwell in the dark. And so, Sorrow and Suffering became the companions to Much Afraid as she journeyed up the Mountain (Hinds Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard).

Would this turning and facing ever end?

When could I allow my companions of Sorrow and Suffering to go on their way, taking the hands of another soul bereft and wandering, hopelessly longing for release? I often wondered. I wondered and wandered my way right into 2014 and all the way to August where I landed in post-back-surgery recovery, at home, in bed, unable to do one single thing for myself.

I began to read Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown. I found myself in every single character, taking turns bouncing from one of the four leading women to another. “I wrestled with that same truth in my twenties,” “Oh yeah, I know what that feeling is.”

But I was blown away by the end of the book. The imagery shared was mine. I had seen those pictures before. My mind had witnessed those stories, that journey, her heart.

In a time of prayer Hannah (one of the four women in Sensible Shoes) had imagined herself as a child running in and out of the throne room with Jesus. He would hand her flowers and she would rush out to give them to another. She was a passionate runner of His goodness. But He stopped her and said, “These flowers are for you.”

In the story, Hannah was a pastor of a church for 15 years. But I think she symbolizes all of us who grew up in the church in the midst of immense personal suffering.

In a sense we have worn ourselves out serving others. The beautiful vice of busyness, often lauded by our church culture, is an acceptable numbing and addictive agent in the lives of those deeply wounded.

We end up like the Pharisees, internally recounting all the ways we have served others and then wondering why (in the quiet of life) we feel lost, empty and depressed. Rather than sitting long enough with the Spirit to discern these surface symptoms of a marred soul – we just keep busy.

Unlike the Pharisees, this pattern was not formed through conscious effort. We grew up in a Church culture that encouraged this attitude of serving, this becoming nothing so He may be everything. It still sounds right. It should. It is scripture.

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30 (NKJV)

There is a vast difference in living out the theology of serving from a place of wounded-ness or a place of whole-ness. When Christ flipped this theology, I found myself on the other side of my healing, the flipside of suffering.

While continuing to read Sensible Shoes many scriptures from the book of John kept popping up. John, the ONE whom Jesus loved.

The Spirit called up from my memories a sermon I heard in my youth. Each disciple had a theme to their writing and John’s was, The Beloved Disciple. Or in his own words, the one whom Jesus loved.

Yet John in particular was contrasted with the other Disciples. In the church setting of my youth, while others were extolled for identifying Christ as the Word made Flesh or for presenting irrefutable evidence of Christ’s lineage, John was reproached for his arrogance.

As if Christ would love one disciple MORE than another. John’s delight in knowing he was deeply loved was resented.

Suddenly, my mind remembered scenes from home, words spoken in that same resenting attitude.

  • You were Dad’s favorite.
  • You’re the one who will end up marrying well and have a husband who will dote on you.
  • Your life is ‘easy.’
  • Nicknamed ‘the brain,’ but the teasing felt laced with a sneer.

I grew up internalizing this: To be given favor, to be loved, to practice my gifts was arrogance.

Envy had flipped what was good and made it evil. My pride and arrogance became the source of every conflict. And at fourteen years old, I broke.

The lie was successfully engrained. I am only allowed to live in a certain amount of favor and grace, we call it salvation – to have more love than that is arrogant and prideful.

I was only worthy of the love that saved me but not the love that lavishes itself all over my soul. I was only worthy to carry flowers from His throne to another, never to take them home for myself.

I journaled once how God showed me the story of Mary breaking open her costly perfume to anoint Jesus. There was a song I once sung for church called “Broken and Spilled Out”

Broken and spilled out

Just for love of you Jesus

My most precious treasure

Lavished on thee.

Broken and spilled out

And poured at your feet

In sweet abandon

Let me be poured out and lavished on thee.

A beautiful song indeed. With a beautiful truth. The problem was that I internalized this message as though I was the oil and not Mary.

To one who is abused – this is an incredibly important distinction.

–          To be the oil meant I had no being or identity of my own, I was a thing to be used – and my purpose was to be broken and spilled out. In my home it translated at submitting to the abuse – it was God’s purpose and plan. While in my relationship with God it meant my serving was what earned his favor. I was very clear I could not earn my salvation, but Favor? Blessing? Extravagant Love? I would have to prove I was worthy of those. Serving viewed from wounded-ness.

–          To be Mary means that I am deeply loved by my savior. This love is complete, deep, and often frivolous and is not based on anything I have done. It is out of this completeness I am able, and joyfully choose, to let my giftings and blessings be broken and spilled for His glory. Serving from a place of wholeness.

My experience reading Sensible Shoes was mystical. In this sacred space a fog settled between my present and my past. Only the presence of Christ could suspend time, recall the exact memories and weave them into my current reality.

The next words I read leaped from the page…

“The image I’m seeing is Mary of Bethany pouring out that costly ointment to anoint Jesus feet in this beautiful extravagant act of love. What If Jesus wants to pour out something totally extravagant into your life?”

I audibly crashed into weeping. What if Jesus has been wanting to lavish his love on me?

He had been! He had been wanting to for years now!

Twice, two years in a row, at Colorado Christian Writers Conference, Joy had prayed over me and both times she said out loud – “I just have this urge to dump this whole thing of oil all over you.” In those moments we laughed out loud at the outrageous thought.

But it happened again just a few weeks ago as Jill prayed over me – Only months before my back surgery did she prophecy that my physical body was manifesting the inward life-time of carrying burdens that were not mine to carry.  My body was done with the weight of it. She said it was time to lay them down.

And the burden I had to lay down was the belief that I am not worthy of God’s extravagant, beautiful, lavish and frivolous love.

A flood of His Holiness washed in and over and through me.

I am the one whom God loves. I am His Beloved.

To be lavishly loved is not arrogance.

It is intimacy

It is drawing nearer to the heart of God

I am worthy of more than an adequate love.

Jesus is adequate, he is enough to redeem my soul.

But he longs to be extravagant.

He desires to move from my Father who heals, to the Faithful Friend who walks beside never leaving or forsaking and move to become the passionate lover of my soul. If I would only receive.

In a sense I had to go through back surgery. I had to be down and unable to doing anything. For in this time of physical disability I could finally hear with my heart.

“If you never left this bed…I would still love you lavishly.”

And I finally let go. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more.

I don’t have to prove my love for Him to receive love from Him.

I am His Beloved.

I am the one whom Jesus loves.

And in this sacred space my companions of Sorrow and Suffering did not leave like I had longed for. They transformed into Joy and Peace. And Much Afraid? Well…she became Grace and Glory.

He longs to love you frivolously…fiercely…lavishly.

You are worthy of His love because He chooses to make it so. Period. The End. Nothing more to be added.

You are worthy of His love because He said so.

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Reprinted with permission from the author, Cheryl Meakins. From the blog, Wounded~Healer~Warrior

Leaving Training Wheels Behind

It’s discouraging riding with training wheels again.

But that’s how we saw it, learning to live from a new paradigm.

Even if the new thing is something that sounds easy, like learning to live as one who is ALREADY LOVED instead of as one EARNING LOVE.

A friend and I talked about that today.

She read me her beautiful post On the Flip Side of Suffering, and we sat in my living room, sipping decaf and asking why it is so hard to simply BE. To simply RECEIVE love.

Especially God’s love.

It’s like we believe He loves us enough to save us from hell, then we’re supposed to earn His love from there on out. If we perform well enough, work hard enough, serve others often enough. Then we’ll deserve another measured dose of love.

Only love doesn’t work that way.

Love is freely given, no hooks, or it’s not really love.

We love because He first loved us.

God who IS love initiates the love cycle.

Once I experience love, then I can give it.

A book I’m reading says to approach God from the position of being “BELOVED.”

I know this. It’s not brand new theology. I seek daily to practice this paradigm I discovered several years ago.

I approach God as His BELOVED. I expect acceptance. I expect conversation. I expect joy and all those good things that happen when two people who adore each other hang out.

Unfortunately sometimes the old paradigm creeps into my live. I forget God WANTS to love me. Be with me. Bless me.

So my friend and I talked about training wheels even in this. Even in resting in grace, learning to be loved, it was hard, learning something new.

Then the Lord suggested we see it differently.

That we get off the bike and into the boat.

Learning to live as the beloved looks more like this:

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Found this photo on this wedding photography site

 

We look in His face and let Him row the boat.

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From the Notebook

We journey as the beloved, enjoying the scenery, trusting He knows the way.

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

PS Tomorrow I’ll share my friend’s post, On the Flip Side of Suffering, in its entirety. It is lengthy but SO worth the read. You’re not going to want to miss it!

Movin’ Like Skinny (Weighin’ in on Wednesday)

It’s the old mindset, pure and simple.

The other day hubby told me I “moved skinny.” Then said, “You must feel skinny.”

And you know what? That day I did. My mood was light. I had music on. I felt healthy and energetic.

His words have me pondering.

Why, at my new weight, do I have days I DON’T move skinny?

Or feel skinny.

It’s been 2 years since I lost weight. But sometimes I still see myself as much heavier than I am.

Honestly, sometimes in my head I’m fifty or more pounds over weight. I feel sluggish. I feel the discouragement of weight gain. In the mirror of my mind sometimes I see this:

1 heavy

 

When I’m more like this:

1 thin

 

In reality, I’ve gained a little from my lowest point, but I still move skinny. I still live better and stronger. I still fit into my new clothes.

I think my husband hit on something important that day.

What happens to me when I start thinking heavy again? I am sluggish. I eat more. I move less and with greater effort.

When I remember I’ve changed and am changing, I have more self-control. I want to be active. I am more energetic.

I think that was as true as I was losing weight as now when I seek to maintain the weight loss. So much is in the MIND. What do I see THERE? What self-talk am I allowing?

Do I see an overcomer? Do I tell myself I CAN?

Or do I allow my past struggles to define me?

I’m shocked to be dealing with this issue again two years later. It’s easy to forget the hard-earned mindset of one who believes in who she is becoming instead of who she’s been.

But whether we’re losing weight or maintaining the loss, it’s imperative.

Thinking skinny helps me feel skinny which helps me move skinny which helps me BE skinny!

Until Next Time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

Heart Rambles

There are deep places I don’t know how to process my way out of. Or if I even should.

Longing. Uncovering. Unveiling. Questioning.

The seemingly unrelated intertwine, vines growing in and out of each other, connected inside of me in some kind of whimsical garden where fruit trees grow over tomato plants and pumpkin vines wrap 1athemselves around rose bushes and potatoes sprout underneath the daisies.

Everything blooms and produces at once, whether in season or out.

Longing for much.

To create.

To embrace.

To enter.

Beauty, writing, twinkle lights, family, weighty words, advent flame, laughter, celebration,

Magical and spiritual, a slow dance and a jig.

Joy.

How can depth come from jigging or jigging from plumbing the depths?

How do the seasonal rhythms I  crave relate to thanksgiving, creating, relationship .  . . God?

What are words?

Their place within me and without?

And how is joy both cotton candy and meat and potatoes. Short magical romance and long soul-digging?

Being seventeen in a snap of the fingers, embracing pumpkin pie aroma when life grows hard, seeing the good where others criticize. Rose colored glasses? Impossible?

Judged. And yet desiring more, not less.

Entering into the moment. Creating the moment. Embracing the moment. Believing in the moment.

Vulnerable and child-like. Rolling eyes ridiculed. Lauded and applauded. Strength in soft flannel baby blanket.

Not Pollyanna, but not beyond liking her.

Miracle on 32nd Street silly.

Departures deep.

Both. Not either/or.

Stretching means embracing what others judge fluffy meaningless. And yet stretching also encompasses the deep places where others dare not tread.

Stretching means believing where some can’t.

And in all things, where are the words?

Do I trust them to germinate, to take root, to grow into an oak even as they pop up in crazy Dandelion yellow, determined little things, white daisies and bluets and Virginia Spring Beauties? Both platypus and regal lioness, tiny fish-tank turtle and mighty grey elephant? Dancing kitten and elegant giraffe?

Faith.

All this joy-seeking, word-growing, rhythm-searching returns there.

Of course.

Letting go of confusion, ego, questions. Holding longing loosely, lifting to Hands wiser than my own, while allowing the tears to beg for their place, for understanding and release, for fulfillment.

And yet knowing some ache is only treated in glory.

Letting it stand. Without giving up.

Trust.

Until Next Time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

PS Found the rambling recently. I wrote it years ago, but it fits again as I re-enter my dreams to create. I let it go for a while, this focused writing thing. It was required, my time away. But now I return.

Interested in the Writer’s Journey?

I was asked to blog about free-lance editing. You can read that post, called Becoming an Editor Clients Trust, on the Writers Alley.

Releasing the Mom Dream Discovering the Me Dream

That thing in my throat.

I think I’m winning the battle with it, but it sneaks up too often.

Tears stuck in there.

Or maybe sobs.

Because there is water in my eyes.

I’m not really that sad, am I?

But it’s this perpetual lodging of emotion

A wall of it across my throat

Right at my Adams apple.

At least it is no longer all day, every day.

It’s mostly when I kiss the last goodbye.

For twenty-three years I’ve been home.

Rarely alone.

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Alone time a great gift.

But now.

Now.

Each moment with is the gift.

(And wasn’t it then, too?)

The long hours are empty of them.

Some far away. A phone call or pictures on Facebook the connection.

Others still here.

But not home.

Work. College classes. Friends.

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5

14er

As it should be, this.

I celebrate with and for them.

I celebrate for me, too.

Finding my rhythm.

Following my dreams now.

But I can’t avoid the grief journey.

Even when I try.

So I walk it honestly.

Letting go of that first, most treasured dream.

Staying home with them.

Teaching them to read.

Singing songs.

Hiking and field trips

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Building forts in the backyard and tents in the living room.

Snow days with shoveling and sledding and spaghetti for lunch.

snow day 4

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Cuddling together like puppies with our favorite read-a-loud.

Praying too long at devotions.

They started timing me.

I guess I didn’t have enough alone time to satisfy all I needed to say to Him in those days.

Then driver’s licences and first jobs and sports and speech competitions

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sarah spring tournament 2008

1536490_756832847671701_835925242_n hockey17

 

And friends

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Baby steps from home.

Medium ones, too Sarah smiles

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Preparing us all for the giant leave.

IMAG0052

Another car loaded for college

mom hugging s and d

One-by-one. Sometimes two or three at a time.

Moving on.

Strong. Ready. Joyful.

But not here.

Not here with me.

The emotion ledge in my throat doesn’t last as long today.

The house is quiet.

Excited to meet my goals.

As soon as the lump lodged in my throat allows.

Do I Have to Snack When I Work? (Weighing in on Wednesday)

He keeps warning me. My sweet husband.candy (2)

Reminding me that it got me into trouble in the first place.

It’s not just the hours of being sedentary.

It’s the mindless snacking when I get frustrated with writing.

For years my fingers sought out popcorn or chocolate or trail mix each time my brain hit a wall.

It’s like I thought eating would unlock creativity.

But in 2013 I typed a whole novel without (much) reverting to mindless munching. When I snacked I limited my options. Sliced an apple. Worked without needing something in my mouth.

But now.

NOW!

“It’s happening again, honey.” My faithful husband. I don’t like it that he notices. Even though I’ve asked to help me make good choices and maintain the weight loss. Even though I don’t want to return to bad habits.

I still hate it when points out what I’m doing.

Even though I need it I don’t want to hear it.

What happened between 2013 and 2015 that has me panicking, thinking I can’t think without food in my mouth?

Why do the habits of the past haunt me instead of the habits I fought so hard to establish the last two years?

At least today I returned the trail mix to the kitchen. Put the M & Ms back in their bag and closed it.

But not soon enough.

It’s not soon enough when I don’t even know how long I gave in to mindless munching.

If I’m going to be a write AND be healthy this has to stop.

Could use some prayer, my friends. I need a mindset change.

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

 

PS My thoughts led me to research a bit about food that actually do support creativity.

And just for fun:

cartoon about eggs

 

One more note–I wrote this post last week on a particularly bad day. There is something about public admission of the struggle that helps a gal be more intentional. A few tips that have helped me since writing this post:

  • Take time to make a real meal and take a break to eat so you don’t get hungry and graze all day
  • Take incremental breaks and make a cup of no calorie tea to sip on while you work. (Peppermint and licorice help curb sugar cravings)
  • If you choose to indulge, count out your snack and don’t bring the rest to the computer with you. (Today I counted out five M & Ms and only five.)
  • When you are tempted to combat your work frustrations with food, pray for help instead.
  • If you need a snack walk away from the computer, have something healthy and small.
  • A great pick-me-up is a small orange or tangerine. Today I peeled and ate a cutie. The citrus fragrance lifted my mood, and the bright flavor, low calories, and nutrition of the treat contributed to my craving AND my health.