The floodgates of writing have been opened once again. This time, the floodgate comes from Light rather than painful desperation.

While writing the last entry, I heard a new word in my head (But was it new to me? I’ll never know…) and I looked it up to find out if it’s real (because I sometimes make up words). Thankfully, this word is real.

transfixion

noun:  trans·fix·ion  \ tran(t)s-ˈfik-shən \

:a piercing of a part of the body (as by a suture, nail, or other device) in order to fix it in position

I was stuck on the definition for quite some time. I was “hearing” this word as a description for a particular character in my previous entry but all I could see when I read the definition was Jesus hanging on the cross.

This is a medical definition and I’m bombarded by images of the power of sutures, nails, and staples. The tasks they perform and the lives they save. I’m overwhelmed with images of nails hanging pictures of loved ones or life-changing phrases, of nails and staples holding housing frames together and keeping floorboards down. I’m captivated by the power that rests in the tiny nails that hold butterflies in hypnotizing positions while we marvel at the intricacies of their miraculous design, and by the magnificent bolts that hold the skeletal remains of ancient goliaths that once roamed earth. We’re surrounded and immersed in transfixion, by piercings holding things together and freezing a moment in time.

The transfixion of Jesus: pierced by nails in order to fix Him in position on the cross. The symbolism of this fixed position has me mesmerized, transfixed. Arms open welcoming His fate. Arms open welcoming the humanity He died to save. Nails holding his feet firmly planted as He goes against human understanding and against every other god. His transfixion was for all.

The beauty of Jesus’ transfixion creates a transfixion of my soul, holding me constant and steady in His Light.

My last blog entry was founded on a single word in a song. This entry came to me after watching a video posted on Facebook.

A stray dog was found, angry and alone. Skin squeezing through her rib cage, and dangerously close to strangling her heart. She was vicious, neglected, and starved. Starved from physical sustenance and starved from comfort, care, concern, and love. She was wretched. She was deplorable. She was me.

As it does whenever I see pain and anguish, my heart broke when I saw this video. But I could not watch it without personifying the dog. As strange as it sounds, I saw myself in her frightened gaze, snarled lip, and snapping teeth. I was immediately taken back to my teenage years. When I lived as a victim, fought with anyone that came close, and – in order to engage in rage – I chased down people trying to avoid me. I perfected the construction of the wall around me and had no idea how to respond to attempts at people trying to share grace and love with me. I couldn’t recognize pure attempts at love when there had been so many years spent with people taking advantage of me. The years I spent being victimized – and neglected of comfort, care, concern, and love – had turned me frightened, angry, and alone.

The absence of care, concern, and love does peculiar things to the living. Think about its effects on animals, on humans, even on plants.

What does life look like though when love remedies the hate? What happens to a life where acceptance is fully known and unconditional love is fully experienced and understood?

I saw my own transformation within the transformation of this dog.

I have only ever been able to reciprocate love once I fully accept pure and unconditional Love.

Transformation demands acceptance.

This dog had to accept love from her rescuer in order to be fed and shown a better way to live. She started eating, she gained weight, she played, and shared love and joy. My life change happened once I accepted pure, unconditional, and holy Love.

Only when I’ve accepted the Love of Jesus have I been able to share that with my husband, my children, my family and friends. The Love of Jesus doesn’t demand anything from me beyond acceptance. It doesn’t require I perform or jump hurdles. It happened with my life change in 1996. It happened again in 1997, when I could look my uncle in the face and tell him I forgave him for what he did to me when I was eight. It happened again when I chose to marry my best friend, and once again when I had our son, our daughter, and our youngest daughter. It happened yet again in 2009, when despair took over and I had to finally come to terms with all that was done to me and all that I had done to myself and others. Finally, and most profoundly and influentially, my marriage was healed and restored once my husband and I both accepted that we were loved UNCONDITIONALLY. It was only in that realization and acceptance that we are able to love each other and stay true to our vow of marriage.

Time and time again, the love I’ve shared with others has only been made possible by the Love I’ve accepted from the Creator Himself.

In what ways have you been transformed by Love? And how are you transforming others by that same Love?

 

 

Sometimes my titles take flight and land before the content has a chance to conceptualize. This entry is one such example. I heard a song by Wild Rivers and learned a new word today: fallow.

fallow

nounusually cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season

As life is in full brilliance and bloom around me and my family, the destruction and fallout that other people are living is very real.

How do I celebrate the milestones made in my marriage and in (finally!) singing again in church, when there is so much pain and sorrow around me? How do I tap into the space between?

My marriage is better than it’s ever been, which is an absolute miracle and a gift. Simultaneously, two couples that I consider close friends, are going through separation/divorce.

I have so much to be grateful for, so much to rejoice about and shout from the mountaintops. But how do I do that after having walked through decimated homes in Houston and cried with the grieving families? How do I live in/with gratitude and joy as a dear friend was just diagnosed with rectal cancer? How do I join in the laughter and humor of group texts when I’m crying on the other side of the phone? How do I lead students well in our youth ministry when all I want to do is scream, “Be grateful for every single luxury you have because it can be taken in an instant!”

Is that Space Between witnessed in the bible? Was it when the Israelites roamed between slavery and the Promised Land in the desert for 40 years? Was it evidenced in the silence as Job’s friends sat with him in between his despair and reparation? Was it while the disciples waited three days between Jesus’ brutal death and glorious resurrection?

Is there Space Between or is it cohabitation? How do I go on date nights with my husband and listen to the passionate stories my children tell, while I still mourn the destruction I witnessed in Houston + my friend’s disturbing diagnosis + the demise of the marriage between four friends?

As a victim advocate we learned the power of self-care. An example of honoring trauma or processing grief would be to create time and space for it. Find a dish, fill it with sand and then light a candle in it. For as long as that candle burns, allow yourself to experience every feeling. Allow the anger, the sadness, the helplessness, and the fear to be felt. When the candle burns out, set those thoughts aside so that life can continue being lived. I had a friend that once explained her way of processing anger and sadness during her bitter divorce. At 5pm, every night, she told her little boy that it was her bath time. While in the bath, she experienced any and every feeling she had negatively associated to what she was going through. When her bath was over, she could go back to focusing on her son and giving him the love he needed.

I’m having a difficult time compartmentalizing the deep anguish I am feeling alongside the elation at my present life circumstance. Until I master that, I will continue to balance and manage life in the Space Between.

 

Why are we so afraid of the pain of others? Does it emphasize or enhance our own pain? Does it make us feel inadequate or ill-equipped to save or heal others? Or does it just make things better, more tidy, when we overlook it?

I was shaken to hear of the rape scene in Downton Abbey’s fourth season and my first thought was to skip over it. Our family recently became acquainted with this show and I really value the integrity and morals highlighted in it, especially when our options of family-friendly viewing have become so limited. To put it mildly, our family is addicted to this show. All five of us love it. What a lovely way in teaching our children about integrity and morals and taking pride and showing honor in our hard work, no matter our social class. Of course, there have been some indiscretions and horrors that we’ve blocked from our eight year old and discussed in detail as a family. But this rape scene was monumental to the storyline of the show and I’ve wrestled with allowing our family to view this together or skip over it and give the “safe” summary. After all, even an adult friend of mine admitted he couldn’t watch rape scenes in movies/tv shows and this scene was no exception. I’ve lived my life the same way: avoiding rape scenes in movies/tv shows. But is that not what was done to me when others learned of my sexual abuse? Is that not the normal response to pain, especially rape: to run and hide? How will my children ever know the world – without experiencing it firsthand (as I so often pray) – if I gloss over the horrible truths about rape and the stigma it has on the victim? Even to this day, the shame and expected silence enveloping victims is appalling. One of the greatest lessons I learned when being trained for victim advocacy with the local police department was in allowing the victims the space to suffer and mourn. To rid them of this, or speed them through this process would be detrimental to the healing that would eventually transpire. The place in which I felt most humbled and honored was when these families would allow me into their suffering – their most anguished, traumatized and painful moments – and I was invited to share in that with them. What a gift.

I decided to preview the rape scene and, hours later, I am still sorting through the many thoughts that rose to the surface. Of course it was triggering but not nearly as much as I had imagined. More so, I was bombarded by the fact that I was adverse to ever watching that scene or in having my children watch it. Do I not allow them to view the pain and struggle and death in this war we wage between good and evil? Why did I so easily fall for the glossed-over stigma? Did I feel my children would be better off if they never witnessed this horror? I know better. Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person” as well as “bodily marks or pains resembling the wounds of the crucified Jesus”. Very interesting. How very different we’d view our salvation without the “stigma”, the suffering and wounds, our Savior took on our behalf.

I recently watched a beautiful video of Eugene Peterson and Bono discussing the Psalms and the necessity in sharing our honesty, even in – ESPECIALLY IN – pain, struggle and despair. I was inspired and filled with hope as Eugene spoke of the Psalms “It’s not smooth. It’s not nice. It’s not pretty. But it’s honest and I think we’re trying for honesty.” Bono added,

“… dishonesty… I find a lot of in Christian art, a lot of dishonesty…” and “Write a song about their bad marriage… write a song about how they’re, you know, pissed off at their government. Because that’s what God wants from you. That truth, ‘The Way, The Truth’. And that truthfulness, ‘Know the truth – the truth will set you free’, it’ll blow things apart. Why I’m suspicious of Christians is because of this lack of realism and I’d love to see more of that. In art and in life and in music.”

In the midst of all of this reckoning, Eugene Peterson’s perspective on the Cross came to mind. The interviewer, David Taylor, asked him, “Is there a way to read the Psalms, through Jesus’ eyes, that helps us understand violence or non-violence?” Eugene answered,

“Well, yeah, the crucifixion. Where there’s violence, there’s got to be some kind of response. And is it more violence or less? I’m glad we have crosses in every room in this house. When I look at those, I don’t think of decoration. I think this is the world we live in and it’s a world with a lot of crosses. And I just would like to spend my life doing something about that: through scripture, through preaching, through friendship. Now my, you know, years are getting shorter and I don’t have many left but I don’t want to escape that – escape the violence.”

Wow. How often have I looked at the cross and glossed over the blood and torn up flesh, looked past the suffering, to see only the glory in the resurrection? Of course, I do not discount that glory. Without that resurrection, there is no redemption. However, without that violence, the truth is, there would not have been a resurrection. Essentially, without violence, there is no redemption. To live my life under the motto of “Forgive and Forget” would be dishonest to the healing that my Savior delivered after that violence against me. To gloss over the suffering of others, would be to discredit the value of Jesus’ comfort and salvation.

So, the honesty in violence and redemption is the catalyst that points to Jesus. How very different that perspective allows me to view the suffering I’ve endured and the suffering I choose to walk through with others. I’ll end this with a passage that has brought immense peace and strength lately.

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. 2 Corinthians 1:2-3 (The Message)

I haven’t written here in over a year. Yikes. Evidence of grueling life-change and it’s all been good.

Remember Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign? I do and I’ve never lived it very well. I remember being a naive and ignorant child and feeling überconfident in those 3 words. And then… middle school happened.

As an outcast, I learned in middle school that saying yes increased the quantity of my “friends”. Saying yes had power in causing people to like me. Saying yes made me popular. Saying yes gave me “worth” and “value”. But I never realized that worth and value are relative. As I look back over years lived, I see that saying yes also opened the door wide to people walking all over me, to me feeling worthless and like a discarded piece of trash. Hindsight now shows me that although saying yes brought in quantity-by-the-truckloads of people around me, it failed to draw in the quality people I should have focused on growing. Although it was a small and narrow path, saying no would have deterred me from many, many mistakes. Mistakes that caused wounds I’m still treating.

I’m finally learning the incredible value of saying no. Surprisingly, it’s not without pain but it’s also remarkably freeing. I’m saying no to things that I said yes to years ago and it feels like I’m ripping flesh from my body. It’s painful and confusing and sometimes knocks the wind out of me. But, I’m regaining purpose and direction. I’m feeling empowered to be creative again and implement that creativity and freedom into my passions and goals in life. The rebel in me is strengthened and rising to the surface and I’m leading the charge in jumping off the bandwagon and away from the path, well-worn by robotic feet.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

– Alexander Pope

There is hope. Light always shines in the darkness. When I say I believe in God, that I follow Jesus, it means there is a Well of abundance — an overflow — of grace and mercy from which I glean. From this Well, there is also forgiveness that the world will never understand as well as kindness and joy that causes others to scoff and share about in gossip hell or to look on me with pathetic / patronizing eyes, as if I’ve been afflicted with The Naiveté.

Three months / ten appointments later, the marital counselor’s therapy is truly taking shape into something beautiful and powerful. I’ve been given glimpses into a marriage and life that Disney could never dream, one that I would never have been able to fathom over a decade ago.

Still, there is struggle. Sometimes it’s ten steps back after three steps forward. Confusion and anger, hot-blooded and cursing, as the selfishness, pride and conditional love bursts forth. Yet… there is perseverance. Endurance. Hope. Love.

Amongst the truth, hope can fly. Amongst the grace, love endures.

To God be the Glory.

… I wasn’t expecting that.

We’re in survival mode. It’s been about 7 weeks since our talk and the full disclosure. I’ve never thought more strongly and constantly about separation and divorce being the best option for us. I’ve been married to a liar and a manipulator for 14 years. My marriage is a sham and built on a foundation of deceit.

My husband called and made the counseling appointment. The counselor wanted to talk with me. [Me? Uhh, ok?] “Hello?” “I want to share two things with you before the meeting with you and your husband this Thursday. One, you’ve had a rough year and I’m sorry about that.” [Yes, you’re right I have had a rough year… and… that sucks. Thank you.] “Two, you need to know that the porn issues that your husband has are not your fault. Do you know that?” [Stuck words. Tears. Long pause.] “Um, I’m struggling with that right now.” “Nothing you have done or said, no amount of nagging or arguing or the way you look caused him to do this and you need to know that.” “Ok… thank you so much for that.” [More tears.] “So, in the next couple of days, when those thoughts come to mind, remind yourself that it’s not your fault.” “Ok… I will… thank you.” [more tears.]

I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting him to confirm our appointment and for him to tell me that he does not privately meet with wives. I was not expecting to immediately be released from my husband’s sin and to have a 500 pound of nasty horrible manure taken off of my shoulders. Sadly, the first thoughts that surfaced were What does he want from me? Does he just find me attractive? [Even though he’s never met me.] Is he just smooth-talking me? What the hell was that about?

We have a lot to work through but… hope springs while fall leaves tumble.

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Empathy is a good thing. Empathy is necessary. There’s not enough of empathy in this world. The fighting in the world would probably cease to exist if everyone had empathy. Right?

Well, I have a problem controlling my empathy. Yes, this is a bad problem.

I’ve never known empathy to ever be a problem. As a matter of fact, the world has too much apathy and indignation and self-righteousness. Not enough people care. There’s not enough grace and love and valuing of human life.

Empathy comes very easy to me and I know that that is a miracle in and of itself. In middle and high school, I used to just rage and fight, as I was living from a central force of anger. Now, I find it a little too easy to cry when others are sad and I feel physical joy for others when there is great news. Love and compassion seem effortless as I am drawn to those that are broken-hearted and hurting. I ache for suffering and want desperately to change it and change the way it stomps out humanity. I know that all of the love and joy and empathy that I have is from God and that if left to my own depravity, I would choose to be self-involved and not care about the suffering of people, especially strangers. This empathy-prone nature sounds like such a good thing but I’ve recently learned that I have a problem guarding it.

Like anything meant for good, empathy can also be used as a tool to bring about discord. I had no idea this was happening in my own life until this week.

I’ve done a LOT of soul searching and reforming and relinquishing (to God) in the past few years. This has been the longest and deepest stretch of emotional and spiritual growth that has ever taken place in my life. This change has been painful and rough but it’s been necessary and breath-taking and glorious. For some reason, though, I couldn’t shake the fact that there was still some very deep-rooted issues going on in my life and I was struggling to find the cause. There are countless times that I will walk away from a conversation and feel like the worst person in the world. Feeling as though I just let someone gossip my ear off and talk trash about someone and I never took the high road or shined any light into the conversation. There are times when I’ll walk away from the conversation angry and upset at the person being spoken about even though they never caused me any harm. There has also been times where I’d also share my own negative feelings about (and insecurities with) people so that the conversation isn’t awkward and heavily-sided and uncomfortable. It never fails that as soon as I walk away, I feel horrible. It doesn’t happen with every conversation and I don’t feel this empathy kicking into overdrive every single time someone mentions negativity toward or about another. However, for the times that I would find myself in this situation, I’d feel like a heartless hypocrite. In my core, I know that’s a lie because I don’t know another earthly being that is more in love with humanity than I am. I have forgiven people for trauma they’ve brought on me and resumed friendships (time and time again) despite the fact that they spread gossip and lies about me. I don’t just love the loveable, I love the unloveable as well.

This isn’t a pat-myself-on-the-back blog entry. I’m admitting the fact that I’m not feeling 100% loving and full of grace all of the time and trying to figure out why it seems to tie so closely to when I’m around others. I know that the love I have can’t come from anywhere other than God. I also know that the anger I feel toward someone, after a chat with someone else, is something that I am doing wrong and something that I need to change. This is all to explain that I’ve had some fierce battles going on and I’m learning their point of entry.

Feeling the same anger and hurt that other people feel, without ever having been hurt by the person being talked about, is showing me that I’ve let my empathy get out of control. Now that I know where this dichotomy of feeling loving but not responding so loving (even though I felt that my empathizing was loving) is coming from, I know where to bring about damage control.

With God’s help, I now know that I have to start working on guarding my empathy and using it ONLY for good.

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